Thursday, March 31, 2016

What do these three books have in common?

At first glance these books would seem to have nothing in common. I mean, there's one book dedicated to a high-end appliance, one that's meant for super-simple cooking and another that's written by a celebrity chef.

There are at least two things these books have in common, and it's certainly nothing you'd guess. I got all of them at the Housewares Show in Chicago, and they're all autographed. Yup. Scribbled upon by the authors.

The Vitamix Cookbook was written by Jodi Berg, and it's the first cookbook from the company that's more of a general book than one dedicated to (and included with) specific blenders. Of course, all the recipes take advantage of the power of a Vitamix. Judy Berg, by the way, is the president and CEO of the company, and the great-granddaughter of the founder. The book has some great-looking recipes and beautiful photos. And the recipes seem very approachable for a home cook.

Obviously, the book is written for folks who own Vitamix blenders, but I'm sure creative cooks could find a way to make these recipes using a different blender or maybe even a different piece of equipment. But still, I like my Vitamix, so that's what I'm going to use.

The middle book, Dump Meals, is written by pitch-woman Cathy Mitchell, who you might have seen on late-night television pitching her Dump Cakes cookbook. Whether you like her or not, she sells a ton of cookbooks. People like quick and easy recipes, and that's what this book delivers. Well, the easy part, for sure. But since they're made in a slow cooker, they can take a while to cook.

Since the point of this book is fast, easy, and few ingredients, there are a lot of shortcuts, like using spice or soup mixes for flavoring. If you're opposed to those, you could certainly use your own individual spices.

The book is written specifically for Crock-Pot slow cookers, but I have no doubt they could be adapted to other cookers or even stovetop cooking.

The final book in the trio, Essential Emeril, is of course written by Emeril Lagasse. The photos are mouth-watering, and based on my experience with other Emeril cookbooks, I'm quite sure the recipes will work. No doubt. I kind of want to make everything in this book.

Well, maybe except for the risotto with truffles, because I can't afford that kind of stuff. Fortunately, most of the recipes are more in my budget range. Although the book isn't promoting a particular appliance, Emeril has his own line of cookware, gadgets, and other cooking goodies.

So ... there we go. You'll probably see recipes from these books on my cooking blog, Cookistry, when I have a chance to browse through them. Time will only tell which one gets used the most.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lose Weight by Eating

I'm not a huge fan of diet cookbooks in general. Usually I find that some of the recipes are okay, but the overall diet isn't something I could live with, long-term. Or there will be a lot of substitutions that I don't care for.

Lose Weight by Eating by Audrey Johns got my attention because of the title. It sounded like it might be different.

The introduction talks about how the recipes are comfort food, but slimmed-down. I think that makes more sense than severe restrictions. So far so good. And then it talked about using real foods rather than processed. I'm all for that, too.

Browsing through the book, the recipes were very similar to things I make all the time. More good news. One of the common substitutions was using turkey or chicken (or turkey or chicken sausage) instead of beef or pork. That works, too. And there were other recipes that used beef or pork. So it's not like you have to give them up entirely.

The only slight quibble I had with ingredients was the use of 0-percent-fat Greek yogurt and nonfat cream cheese in some of the recipes. It's not that I don't like Greek yogurt, but I find that the 0-percent versions often have extra ingredients, like thickeners, that aren't in the higher-fat versions. If you're subbing yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise, then 2-percent or even full-fat yogurt offers a significant decrease in fat, And if you're trying to eat least-processed foods, then 2-percent or full-fat are probably a better bet.

As far as fat-free cream cheese ... well, I've tried it, but I just don't like it.

But my personal dislikes aren't a reason to avoid the book or the recipes. It's pretty simple to swap those ingredients, just like you could swap parsley for cilantro, if you wanted to. And of course some folks like the no-fat versions of yogurt and cream cheese - I'm just talking about my personal opinion.

As far as recipes, you'll find everything from breakfast to bread and from sandwiches to soup. And desserts and drinks, too. You certainly won't feel deprived!

I have to be honest and say that I probably won't launch myself into this diet, but I have bookmarked a few recipes, like the pesto chicken sandwich, stuffed shells, cilantro rice, stuffed baked potatoes, and salsa rice and chicken bake.

While the point of the book is to follow the diet, the book would also be handy for added some slimmed-down recipes to your repertoire. Like the barbecue turkey meatloaf instead of regular meatloaf.

I'm definitely going to try that one, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Simply Vietnamese Cooking

Pho from a recipe in Simply Vietnamese Cooking.
When I requested Simply Vietnamese Cooking by Nancie McDermott to review, I had exactly one thing in mind: pho. I'm by no means an expert in pho - I've only had it a few times in restaurants - but I loved it every single time. So of course, I wanted to know how to make it.

I'll admit right here that I didn't follow the recipe precisely. I had a beef broth made already, and didn't see a reason to make a similar one for the pho. So, I adjusted it with the flavors that it required, like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and ginger.

Then I followed the rest of the recipe.

It was pretty danged good. I couldn't stop eating it. I slurped down that soup so fast, it was crazy. And then I had it again for the next meal. Until it was gone.

It was that good.

Next time I might make the recipe 100 percent as written, but I might have to double it so I have enough to last.

I've browsed through the rest of the book, and there are plenty of other recipes that look just as good. Loaded with flavor. While some of the recipes require ingredients that might require some searching, most of the recipes don't need anything harder to find than fish sauce.

And that's a huge plus.

I have a pretty well-stocked kitchen and pantry, and I don't mind hunting down an odd spice or a weird noodle. But if recipes require strange varieties of fresh fish or vegetables ... well, those are a lot harder to source. I don't mind reading cookbooks like that, but when it comes to cooking, I prefer a book that has recipes I can make with a simple trip to a local grocery store. And then if those work, I'm fine with ordering the more exotic ingredients.

Overall, I like this book. It's not the prettiest one in my collection, but it's one I'll cook from again.

I received Simply Vietnamese Cooking from the publisher for the purpose of a review.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Italian Diabetes Cookbook by Amy Riolo

Photo from The Italian Diabetes Cookbook;
Used with permission.
I don't usually publish recipes here, but in this case, I think it's the best way to show you the type of recipes you'll find in this book.

I know that when a lot of folks think of diabetic recipes, they first think about what they'll miss, or they expect that the recipes will be dull or uninspired.

But, hey, if I didn't know that this was a diabetic cookbook, I might not realize it. You might think that you wouldn't find any pasta recipes, but ... they're there. Using whole wheat pasta.

Another pasta recipe - and the one I have bookmarked to make next - is actually spaghetti squash. Okay, it's not pasta, but it's good stuff. The one I have bookmarked has shrimp, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes, among other things. Doesn't that sound good?

What's different about this book is that each recipe includes a wine suggestion that goes with each dish. I think that's a great idea. For those of us who don't drink a lot of wine, it's nice to get suggestions for what to serve.

Overall, it's a nice book, particularly for folks who are diabetic, particularly if they love Italian food. Besides the wine suggestions, each recipe has what are labeled "Italian Living Tradition" as well as nutritional information.

There aren't a ton of photos in this book, and they're all in two sections rather than being next to the recipes. Design-wise, it's not the prettiest book you'll ever see, but the information and the recipes look solid.

Lemon-Scented Shrimp (Gamberi al limone)
From The Italian Diabetes Cookbook

All of the bodies of water that border Italy—from the Adriatic to the Ionian, Mediterranean, and Tyrrhenian seas—contain multiple varieties of shrimp, making shrimp popular everywhere. If you’ve never prepared shrimp before, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is. In my seafood cooking classes, I often tell students that, if they’ve had bad luck making shrimp in the past, it’s because they’re doing too much, not too little. The key to preparing good shrimp is choosing the freshest shrimp possible and cooking them until just done—not a second longer. Baby, regular, and jumbo shrimp all work in this recipe, so feel free to use whatever is freshest.

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: Approximately 4 ounces shrimp
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: 5 minutes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Crushed red chile flakes, to taste
Juice and zest from 1 lemon

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

2. When olive oil begins to release its aroma, add shrimp, salt, black pepper, and crushed red chile flakes. Cook shrimp on one side just until the tail of the shrimp is bright pink, approximately 1-2 minutes.

3. Turn shrimp over and squeeze lemon juice over top. Cook shrimp until all gray color is gone and they are pink and cooked through, approximately 1-2 more minutes. At this point, shrimp should be coiled slightly tighter than when they were raw. Shrimp will continue to sizzle in the pan.

4. When they are cooked completely through, transfer shrimp to a serving platter, garnish with lemon zest, and serve immediately.

Italian Living Tradition
In addition to serving this as an appetizer, you can toss these shrimp into pasta with fresh parsley or add into a finished soup or salad. They also taste great on top of the Crostini with Chickpea Cream.


Exchanges/Food Choices:
2 1/2 Lean Protein
1/2 Fat
Calories 130
Calories from Fat 25
Total Fat 3g
Saturated Fat 0.0g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 140mg
Sodium 110mg
Potassium 245mg
Total Carbohydrate 1g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 18g
Phosphorus 190mg

Recipe copyright © 2016 American Diabetes Association. From The Italian Diabetes Cookbook. Photography: RenĂ©e Comet Photography. Reprinted with permission from The American Diabetes Association. The Italian Diabetes Cookbook is available at, in bookstores nationwide, or by calling 1-800-232-6733.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Mi Comida Latina

There are a couple of interesting things about Mi Comida Latina by Marcella Kriebel. First, all of the after-tax profits from this publisher are donated to culinary education, hunger relief, farmland preservation, and other food-related causes.

Second, the book is hand lettered and has drawings instead of photos. It sort of reminds me of a children's book because of the colors. It's just fun. Even though it's hand-letter, the text is very readable, which is pretty important. Considering the way I scribble, it's pretty impressive.

The beginning of the book has information (and drawings!) about food items, equipment, and techniques. The recipes are from all over Latin America inspired by the author's travels, as well as original recipes inspired by friends and family.

There are recipes you've no doubt heard of and probably have eaten, like tamales and sangria, and others that might be a little less familiar, like a salad made with nopales. Some are quite unusual, like a salsa with cinnamon, while others will no doubt seem very familiar, like cornbread with cheese and chiles.

Overall, this is a very lovely book. It's fun to browse through. If you want to see one of the recipes, check it out on Cookistry.