Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Geeky Chef Cookbook

I've always been a bit of a geek and always a fan of science fiction, so The Geeky Chef Cookbook is right up my alley. Funny thing is that I wasn't totally familiar with all the foods covered in the book.

I knew the foods from Star Trek better than I should admit, and I was tickled to see the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I knew some of the foods from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but I guess I was more interested in the plot than the food, so I wouldn't have thought of them until the book reminded me - and then I remembered them. Oh yeah. Lembas.

And I was a tiny bit frightened by Soylent Green.

On the other hand, I know about Mario Brothers and other games of that era, but I really didn't play them, so I wasn't at all familiar with the names of those foods. But that's okay - there's enough that I'm familiar with and enough other recipes that looked like fun. I mean, 1Up Mushroom Cupcakes from Super Mario Brothers and the cake block from Minecraft are cute.

But here's the deal. The recipes are real recipes for real foods that pretty much anyone would be happy to eat. There are drinks, appetizers, stews, meats, and desserts that look good, and the ingredients aren't weird. A few of the recipes use food coloring to match the original versions, but most are completely natural.

Even the Soylent Green could be good. It's mostly spinach, but I'm still not tempted to make it soon. There are too many other recipes that I'd make first, like the Popplers from Futurama, or the Dragonbreath Chili from World of Warcraft,  or the Cheese Buns from The Hunger Games or Rock Sirloin from Legend of Zelda.

Maybe I'll wash the food down with some Ambrosia from Battlestar Galactica. And for dessert, maybe some Chocolate Salty Balls from South Park or Treacle Tarts from Harry Potter.

If you're a fan of any of the sci-fi or fantasy genres, this book is a real hoot. If you want to cook some good food for people who like those genres, I think you'll like this book a lot. And if you just want to cook some fun food with quirky names, this one is worth a look.

I received the book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Straight Up Tasty

At the beginning of the book Straight Up Tasty. author Adam Richman points out that while most people think of him as the guy who travels around and eats food, and while he's not a chef or restaurant owner ...

"These are the recipes I make, that my family makes, that my friends have made. They reflect the flavor combinations, techniques, and ingredients I've picked up on my travels these past few years, and all the wonderful and weird meals I have tried ..."

There are plenty of books written by people who aren't chefs. And to be honest, if you want a book that you'll cook from, a chef-driven restaurant-centric book might not be the best choice. Chefs and restaurants have access to ingredients that the average home cook might not easily find.

While I'm perfectly happy to hunt down fancy ingredients for "project" recipes, I cook every single day, and most of those days, I want to make things that are doable. I want to use ingredients I have on hand or that I can find without going to four different stores.

While Adam Richman certainly traveled a lot and sampled a lot, the recipes in this book are firmly planted in his kitchen at home. There are recipes for lemon ricotta pancakes, tortilla soup, a whole lot of interesting sandwiches, latkes, grilled shrimp tacos, chicken marsala, and even spaghetti pie.

Those are the kinds of foods that most cooks would be comfortable making at home. They're not super fancy, but they're solid. And of course, there are a few twists and turns that you might not expect, like the twice baked sweet potatoes that include some bourbon.

Overall, I'm happy with this book. There's not much here that I'm not familiar with - and for some of these I've made my own versions. But I'm always interested in trying someone else's recipes for things I make all the time. I have my eye on those latkes, for sure.

I received this book from Blogging for Books at no cost to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wild Drinks and Cocktails

I have a love-hate relationship with getting proof copies of cookbooks. On one hand, I like getting my hands on a book well before it's released to the public.

On the other hand, when I get an uncorrected proof, I have limitations as far as what I can say about it. I can't quote anything, because text could change during the correction process. And I don't think it's fair to write about recipes for that reason. They could change, so any evaluation of a recipe would be unfair.

I suppose it's also possible for a recipe to get deleted. I doubt it happens often, but with my luck I'd be telling you all about recipes I made that aren't even in the book any more.

Photos aren't always in their finished state. I've gotten some proof copies that had black-and-white photos, and others had photos that had notes about cropping. And often the index is missing or incomplete. If one recipe references another one, those page numbers might not be there, so it can be a bit of a hunt to find the those referenced recipes.

Right now I'm looking at an uncorrected proof of Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han. And I actually have a lot to say about it.

Note: the book has been released, but I haven't seen the final version.

While I have a few cocktail recipe books, this one has an interesting twist. When they're talking about "wild" recipes, they're not using it as a synonym of crazy ... they're talking about wild ingredients. Like needles or tips from certain evergreen trees, herbs, and fresh berries.

But that doesn't mean you need to go foraging. Most of the things you'll need (except those evergreen needles) are readily available at your local grocery store. And while fresh herbs are no doubt preferred, the book mentions when dried herbs can be substituted.

I have quite a few recipes bookmarked, including one that will have me trimming the spruce trees in front of my house. I also want to make orgeat. I've seen in used in cocktails, but I haven't found it for sale anywhere. Cherry bounce sounds like a lot of fun, too.

There are also recipes for sweet and dry vermouth (wow, I never thought of making my own), gin (starting with vodka and herbs), bitters, flavored wines, liqueurs, and all sorts of other concoctions.

Of course, there are cocktails I want to try, too, after I make the other ingredients.

It's not all alcohol, though. There's also a recipe for making homemade ginger ale and several for making flavored fizzy sodas, flavored syrups, infusions, and non-alcoholic drinks like the cherry balsamic shrub that I'm planning on making.

If you want to bring your cocktail-making to another level, I think you'll really like this book.

I received the book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Big Gay Ice Cream

I heard a lot about The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck when it was cruising the streets of New York, but since I'm really really far away from New York, I didn't pay attention to the fact that they opened two storefronts in New York and one in Philadelphia.

What I didn't miss, though, was that they had a cookbook coming out. No surprise, it's called Big Gay Ice Cream.

I like ice cream. I made a lot of ice cream during warm weather. Although I'm comfortable with creating my own ice cream flavors, I also like to try recipes that other people have created. So of course I was eager to get my paws on the book.

The first thing you need to know about this book is no, you didn't get a used copy of the book that people wrote in. That's part of the book design.

Second is that this book isn't all about making different flavors of ice cream. In fact, at the beginning of the book they note that it's perfectly fine to buy vanilla ice cream and dress it up with toppings. The book starts with information about the history of the business, and tidbits about ingredients, tools, flavor combinations, and more. 

The second chapter is about toppings and sauces, the third is how to assemble sundaes, floats, and shakes. And then come the ice cream recipes. The very first ice cream recipe (after the sorbets in the beginning) shows how non-snobby they are about ice cream - it's a cheater recipe for making a fake-out soft-serve ice cream using store-bought vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

Then come the ice cream recipes. There are the usual chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, but also some more creative ones.

I originally thought I would be making ice cream from the book, the toppings caught my eye. I already made the Whisky Walnuts and the Magical Shell. When those are gone, the Bourbon Butterscotch is next on the list.

Meanwhile, I'll need to buy some bananas so I can let one get a little brown so I can make the Dirty Banana ice cream. It sounds pretty darned amazing. And then maybe the milk chocolate. Just because I can never have too many chocolate ice cream recips.

I like the book but I think it's worth noting that if you're looking for a book that's mostly ice cream recipes, this isn't it. If you're looking for a fun book that will inspire you have fun with ice cream, this one's just right for you.

I'm sure I'll be making that magical shell often. If you're not familiar, there's a commercial product with a similar name, and this acts the same way - it's a chocolate sauce that turns hard when it comes in contact with cold ice cream. the great thing is that this one doesn't use any weird ingredients.

There will be an adapted recipe from the book on Cookistry soon - probably the magical shell. You really need to make it!

I received this book from Blogging for Books at no cost to me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sweet Art Creature Cookies

Photos courtesy of the publisher; used with permission
I like to bake cookies. Most of the time, they're drop cookies, like chocolate chips. Sometimes, though, I like making roll-out cookies and decorating them. I'm particularly fond of cookie cutters that emboss designs into the cookies, because that means I can color in the lines rather than freehanding the drawing.

I decided to review Creature Cookies because I know I can use some help with my cookie decorating technique.

The cookies on the cover are adorable, but that's just the beginning. Browsing through the book showed me just how far I need to go.

Yikes. the designs of some of these cookies are freaking amazing. Some look like fairly simple designs, but they have personality. Others are a little more complicated. Most of them are above my current abilities. Which is great. I wouldn't want a book that showed me exactly what I already know what to do.

Most of the cookies are flat, but some are layered, like the dinosaurs and polar bears where the heads are a separate piece, or the bumble bees and ladybugs, where the wings are separate pieces.

Swim, little fishes! SWIM!!!
And then there are the 3D jumping dolphins, where the dolphins are leaping out of a round cookie that's got frosting "water."

Besides decorating instructions, there are recipes for cookies and icing, as well as information about tools, tips, and techniques.

I haven't decorated any cookies based on this book yet, but I have a few favorites picked, including the fish and sharks.

These look fairly simple to do but they're still cute. And they'd look so great on a plate, with the sharks chasing the fish. Or the fish chasing the sharks.