Thursday, December 20, 2018

Tex-Mex Diabetes Cooking

I'm not usually a fan of diet cookbooks of any type, but when I was offered a Tex-Mex geared toward diabetics, I decided to give it a whirl. The book is Tex-Mex Diabetes Cooking by Kelley Cleary Coffeen.

As I browsed through the book, the substitutions to make them friendly for diabetics were pretty simple. Whole grain tortillas were used instead of white tortillas, for example. There were also quite a few lower-fat items that were used. I've got to say that some lower-fat cheeses are perfectly fine, but I've tried low-fat cream cheese and I doubt I'd use it again unless it was well hidden in a recipe.

But ... if you need the low fat versions for health reasons, it's great they exist.

There are recipes for everything from drinks (yes, even alcoholic drinks) to desserts. It even has recipes for making your own tortillas. But to be honest, I was more interested in the main dishes and sides. Chicken Tortilla soup sounded pretty good, as did the pork carnitas tacos. I adore tacos. And I'd be happy with pretty much any of the enchiladas.

The book also includes instructions and recipes for making tamales. I've made tamales, and it can be quite a project if you make them in quantity - which you should, because they freeze really well. The red chile tamales looked pretty familiar. On the other hand, the spinach and asparagus tamales were unusual. I'm still not sure I'd love them, but I'm pretty curious about them.

While there were soooo many recipes that looked good, the one that stopped me pretty quickly was the chopped Mexican salad with lime. It just looked so pretty in the picture. And I adore salad. I might make the dressing all by itself and use it with my usual clean-out-the-crisper salads that happen pretty regularly here, and when I happen to have most of the ingredients for the actual salad, I'll assemble it the way it's supposed to be.

To be honest, I'd probably skip the sweets in this book, since I'm not a huge fan of artificial sweeteners, but that's really the only thing I wasn't fond of. But if you don't mind the taste of those artificial sweeteners, you'll probably be happy with the selections here.

If you're cooking for someone who is diabetic, or you're just looking for recipes that are lighter and healthier, this book would be a good fit for your bookshelf.

Why yes, I did get this book at no cost to me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Basket of Books: Something Different to Chew on

If you're looking for ideas for books for gifting, these have recently landed here thanks to their publishers or publicists. Yup, free.

None of 'em are cookbooks, although some are food related.

The Devil's Dinner by Stuart Walton

This one is all about peppers, from mild to mind-numbing. It starts with the biology of the pepper plant and the fruit, then moves into the history of peppers.

There's a handy list of peppers would be useful for anyone who wants to use a wider variety of peppers, but who isn't sure what the varieties are. That was actually one of my favorite parts of the book, and I have to say that even though I cook a lot, I wasn't familiar with many of the peppers on the list.

Finally, we get treated to the cultural and symbolic aspects. There's a reason so many hot sauces reference the devil, right? While this wasn't as compelling a read as a novel, it did tell its story, and while it was the result of a whole lot of research, it wasn't a difficult read.

If you've got a friend or relative who's a chili head and likes to read, this could be a lovely stocking stuffer.

Grits by Erin Byers Murray

Although I was raised in the midwest and didn't event taste grits until I was an adult, I totally adore them, so it was fun to dive into the history of them.

While this does travel the history trail, the author is right in the midst of it, talking about the research and the people she met along the way so it's kind of a personal journey as well as a whole lot of information about corn and grits.

The grain itself doesn't get a whole lot of story time, with the book focusing more on the more modern history of the milling and the cooking. Although ... the different mills themselves include history of their own.

This book also has some recipes. It's not a cookbook by any means, but there are recipes using cornmeal and grits, so when you get hungry, you can stop reading and start cooking and eating. This was an interesting read, and I loved that a few recipes were included. I don't know if I'll ever make the sweet grits, but I'm always willing to try a new recipe for cheesy grits.


Wild Wine Making by Richard W. Bender

While this is essentially a recipe book, it's also kind of a hobby book, since you won't be making wine after work and serving it for dinner. The book assumes that you're fairly new at wine making (good assumption) and starts off with lots of information about the equipment you'll need. Fortunately, it doesn't assume that you're starting a winery, so the requirements are reasonable.

If you're worried about the "wild" part of the title, you won't need to go foraging in a scary forest for suspicious fruits, leaves, and roots. Instead, you should be able to by your ingredients at a grocery store. However, some of the ideas are a little off-the-beaten-path when compared to the more usual grapes. There are recipes that include everything from apples to bananas to cayenne ... and most of the rest of the alphabet, too. And if you're really ready to be wild, there are wines that include cannabis, as well.

While these wines aren't going to be as easy as the ones you can make with a wine kit, they look like a really good next step for someone who wants to take off the training wheels and have a bit more fun.

The Art of Doodle Words by Sarah Alberto

I'll admit it. I doodle a lot when I'm writing. But I'll also admit that my doodles aren't quite like art. So I was amused by the idea of a book that could turn my crummy doodles into something a little better.

None of the letter doodles in this book are particularly difficult, but when the doodling added things that were supposed to look like something else, I decided that I really didn't need to embarrass a burger that way.

These ideas and techniques would be great for people who want to try their hand at crafty things, like making greeting cards, doing fancy lettering in scrapbooks, or even just to add something fun to store-bought cards.

While I don't know if I'll ever really get that crafty, doodling with letters is kind of fun, just for amusement.

Kawaii Doodle Cuties by Zainab Khan

When it comes to doodling, I'm not that great at drawing things that are recognizable as whatever they're supposed to represent, but this book might change my tune. A little bit. Maybe.

It starts out super-simple, like drawing a very basic kiwi fruit or macaron, then adding a cute little face that's pretty much just eyes and a smile. Yup, I can do that.

Each chapter starts with simple stuff, then the complexity increases. I can do a shamrock, but a cute Great Barrier Reef might be just slightly beyond my current capabilities. Although I agree it would be fun to try.

And that's kind of the point, right? It's fun. It's not art class, and there is no grade.

This would be a fun book for adults who want to do a little more than color in adult coloring books, but would also be fun for kids who want to learn how to draw more than stick figures and lolliop trees.

Although I make fun of my own drawing skills, I might actually spend some quality time with this book, just to see if I can draw the panda. Because it's freaking cute.

Why yes, I do get a lot of books for free from publishers. Yup.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (with recipes)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen might be a classic, but as I was reading the copy that just arrived here, I had no memory of ever reading it before. Maybe I read it in school. Or maybe my education was lacking.


Anyway, THIS particular version of Pride and Prejudice has recipes from Martha Stewart in it. Yup. You heard me. Recipes.

I previously reviewed A Christmas Carol, that was done in much the same way. It's an interesting concept.

So anyway, back to Pride and Prejudice. I must have read this in school, right? Eh, maybe not. In any case, I enjoyed reading it this time. It's old-fashioned enough to seem like a completely different world, which I guess it was. It was, as they used to say, charming.

And I didn't have to write an essay about it.

Like the previous book, this has artwork that on close inspection (or sometimes from afar) is actually food. The flowers would look right at home on a cake, and the cookies look quite tasty.

The included recipes are classics, and they fit well with the theme of the book. There are linzer hearts, macarons, petits fours, and my personal favorite, chocolate shortbread fingers. I haven't made that recipe yet, but it's on my must-do list for sure. Or maybe I'll do the fruit turnovers first. Those look pretty darned good too. Or the ginger icebox cake.

This would be a nice gift for any book lover you know. Even if they have a previous edition, this one has recipes. And that's never a bad thing.

I got this book at no cost to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution

What's one of the major differences between restaurant meals and the meals your mom or grandma served?

Okay, maybe your mom or grandma didn't cook like mine did, but mostly it was meat, potato, and one or two vegetables. If there was something like turkey for a holiday, there was gravy. but mostly it was three things with no gravy or sauce or condiments (well, except we had ketchup with meatloaf).

But if you go to a restaurant, there's a pretty good chance that you won't get a plate that doesn't include some kind of sauce, chutney or other flavorful element, even if it's something that's smeared or drizzled artistically over the plate.

I love sauces. I really do. But they seem like they can take more time than the rest of the meal. They seem complicated. They seem like ... not something I'm going to make on the average weeknight. I mean, yeah, I'll pull out the bottle of ketchup for meatloaf, or I'll make a simple tartar sauce for fish. But that's about where I stop unless I'm making something that creates its own sauce. Like when I braise stuff.

So, when The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution by Elizabeth Bailey landed with a light thunk on my doorstep (free to me), I was intrigued. The general idea is that these are sauces that you make ahead and then freeze for later use. Like, you could have a sauce-making day and be set for a month. Or you could make a batch that goes with dinner, then freeze the rest for later meals.

These sauces (61 of them) aren't necessarily designed to go with particular meals. Instead, there are suggestions on how much sauce you should use for different dishes. For example, the Chorizo Garlic sauce would use 2 cups of sauce per pound of pasta; 1 cup of sauce per baked potato; 1/2 cup of sauce per cup of cooked rice, or 1/2 cup of sauce per sandwich. Serving instructions are also included, like you'd spoon the sauce over your rice, then top with grated cheddar cheese. For a sandwich, you'd use it like a sloppy joe, along with cheese.

Then again, you could go completely off the rails and use your sauce any way you want to. A couple spoons of chorizo garlic sauce could be awesome on a chicken taco, when you're dealing with leftover rotisserie chicken.

Then we have the Vodka Cream Sauce that should be slathered over, or smeared under, pretty much everything, from pasta to shrimp to chicken to pizza.

I wasn't sure about this book before I arrived, but I have to say that's it's giving me inspiration. I can see making a few of these, freezing them in small hockey puck sizes, then using them during those weeks when I cook a bunch of chicken thighs to save dinner prep time. Then I could pick a different sauce every night when I heat up my leftovers. It's kind of genius, really.

Needless to say, larger families would plow through much more sauce than me, but that's kind of the beauty of the concept. You freeze in quantities you're going to use. Or, if you freeze flat in zipper bags, you can break off chunks. One caveat. It's probably a good idea to label all the bags, lest you mistake barbecue for mole or curry for dijonnaise.

Did you miss the part about me getting the book for free. Yeah, that happened.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Every time I see the title of this book, I can't help but think of Build-a-Bear. Let me assure you, no bears were built or harmed in the making of this post.

This is a cookbook (sent to me at no cost) about assembling meals in bowls. They're just so trendy these days, right? Basically, you start with a grain and then top with stuff that works together. And you get bonus points if the stuff is colorful so you can post it to social media.

When I make things like this, it's usually that I have leftover rice and random stuff that sounds good in the moment. I don't actually plan bowls.

Seriously, though, arranging food in a bowl can be a cool way of serving things that would look a whole lot more boring if you plunked them on a dinner plate or served them family style. Thus, a book called Build-a-Bowl by Nicki Sizemore exists. So you can learn about the bowl formula and about get some great ideas for meals you might not have thought of before.

The recipes all include the suggested grains for each recipe, but let's face it - if you like white rice and hate quinoa, it's perfectly fine to use whatever you like in these recipes. The grains aren't the star of the show, anyway. The stuff on top is where you'll find most of the color and flavor.

The one recipe that caught my eye was the Huevos Rancheros. They suggest millet as the grain, but I'd probably use rice, simply because I always have rice on hand. Which also means I'm likely to have leftover rice from another meal so this could be a super-easy recipe when I don't want to cook anything super complicated. The ingredients includes the grain, beans, salsa, cheese, avocado, and a some garnishes. Those are all things I usually have on hand, so this is the kind of meal I could make pretty much any time. Well, okay, there's a recipe for salsa included, but you could use your own, if you had it on hand.

The Greek Goodness salad also sounded amusing. It's got a lot of the same ingredients that I use for Greek salads, but this time it was all on top of some cooked grains in a bowl. I can see how that would make the salad more filling and dinner-like for people who wouldn't want a salad all by itself as a meal.

Chicken Burrito Bowls had a lot of the ingredients you might find in or on a burrito, including lettuce and tortilla chips. But again, served over a grain.

If you like the idea of food in bowls and need ideas, there are 77 recipes, plus a lot of information about grains and the bowl "formula."

This book was sent to me at no cost. Because, yeah, I get a lot of cookbooks to review.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Death in a Mud Flat

Taking a little detour from cookbooks here, with a mystery novel, Death in a Mudflat by N. A. Granger.

But ... it's not totally devoid of food. While the main character, Rhe, is a nurse and her husband is the chief of police, Rhe likes to cook, as does her best friend, so people actually cook things, serve dinner, and discuss events over food. Kind of like real people.

That's not a huge part of the story, though, it's all about a murder. Rhe, besides being a nurse, also consults with the police department, so she's in the thick of things, from the very beginning, when a dead body is discovered near the beach wedding of some friends.

Yup, that'll put a damper on the festivities.

Like many characters in mysteries, Rhe has lots of time to investigate murder, even though she has another job. But that's okay. It's not a medical mystery novel, and we don't need to know how many times she took someone's blood pressure during the day. Her medical knowledge does come in handy though.

As mysteries go, this was complicated enough to be interesting, the characters were likable, and the end was satisfying. What's not to like?

I received this book at no cost to me.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Christmas Carol with recipes

So, this is interesting.

Again, a book landed on my doorstep, asking to come in. Hello, book, who are you? Ah, it's A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Huh? Wha? Why?

You've probably read A Christmas Carol at some point in your life. Or you saw the movie or maybe even a play. But this version is different. It includes recipes by Giada de Laurentiis, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Trisha Yearwood.

Yup, recipes.

There's no roast goose, but there is a roasted turkey breast and a baked ham, so you'll be all set for the holidays. While this is far from being a full-blown cookbook, there are appetizers, side dishes, and desserts, too.

I'm quite tempted by the Cran-Apple Crisp for dessert, if I'm being honest.

Besides including recipes, the illustrations are also food-related, which is kind of cute. Makes the whole thing more fun.

I have to say this would make a lovely gift for someone who likes to read and likes to cook. Add a few extras, like a set of biscuit cutters, a zester, and a pretty pie plate, and it would be really adorable.

As I'm browsing through the book, I'm wondering when I actually read it last. I mean, I've watched it recently. I think it's time I read it again. Right after I fix a nice mug of hot chocolate.

Like many books here, I got this from the publisher at no cost to me.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Savor You

This is not the usual sort of book I read, but it landed with a thump on my doorstep, so I brought it in and gave it a go.

The cover says it's a fusion novel - but fusing what? The people on the cover say it's probably a romance novel. The background is a kitchen. The title is Savor You.

The plot thickens. Or maybe it's just the lemon curd.

Did I mention that I don't usually read romance novels? I think the last one I read was when I found out that a grade school classmate had written a few of them, and I figured I'd check them out. That was ... a loooong time ago.

The fusion here seems to be lots of romance with a smattering of food. There's no murder, so it's not a murder mystery. No aliens, so it's not sci-fi. Lots of talk about restaurants, food, cooking shows, and more food.

The plot revolves around Mia, a restaurant owner and chef, who agrees to do a cooking show with Camden, a guy she was married to for a couple days when she was in her 20's. He's a celebrity chef. She's overweight (although that's not how she's depicted on the cover). And there's tension. Lots of tension.

The book's point of view shifts from Mia to Camden and back again with each chapter. That could be problematic, but author Kristen Proby handled pretty well. There are a couple of sex scenes, so maybe don't hand this to your youngest kids. And at the back of the book are recipes for apple pie and cheesecake that are mentioned in the book.

Since I don't read a lot of romances, I have no idea how this stacks up against others of this genre. But overall, it was a light read on a summer day.

I received this book at no cost to me.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Death al Fresco

No, this isn't a dangerous cookbook - it's a mystery novel. The plot involves not one, but two restaurants, but even without that food tie-in, I would have enjoyed the book.

This is one of a series, so it left me wondering about a few things. Like, Sally owns a restaurant of her own, but she seems to spend more time at the "family" restaurant that her dad runs. I have a feeling that previous books explained this quirk, but I kept wanting to nudge her over to her own restaurant to do more than act as a line cook once in a while.

Aside from that little oddity, the book was pretty engaging. Being a murder mystery, someone died, and Sally managed to insert herself into the investigation. Of course she did. And of course she found a major clue. And of course she got into trouble.

This was a fun, easy read, and to be honest it made me want to go find the previous books in the series to find out more about the back story.

Did I mention the recipes? The back of the book (where they're easy to find, all in one place!) are recipes for some of the dishes mentioned in the book. I haven't tried any of them, but I do appreciate that they're included.

Overall, a nice read.

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How to Taste

I have to say that this was one of the most informative books I've read in a while, and at the same time it was pretty engaging. And it comes in a compact size that's easy to travel with.

Yes, there were a few recipes, but that's totally not the point. The point is to learn how to taste things so you can adjust your cooking for the best result. Which is maybe why Becky Selengut named it How to Taste.

Of course, "best" can be a bit subjective. But even so, when you taste your soup and you know there's something missing, this book can help you unravel the problem so you can add that pinch of salt or splash of lemon juice that takes it from "Okay for lunch" to "Yeah, I'd serve this to company. Fancy company."

The book starts with salt and explains things like where on your tongue you should taste things when the salt amount is correct, and it wends its way through acids and texture and pretty much everything that goes into making a dish the best it can be.

While the recipes here are designed to illustrate particular points about cooking and eating, there is one recipe I've bookmarked to make later, because it sounds so interesting: Mustard Caviar.

If you're interested in learning how to use your senses to improve your cooking and adjust recipes that are a little out of whack, this is the book for you.

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

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Cook's Atelier

Hey, look! I'm catching up on the books that I've gotten for participating in the Abrams Dinner Party. I get free cookbooks, I post about them, and then I try to find room on my bookshelves (AKA those piles of books in every corner) where I can keep the safe from harm.

This one is a monster. The Cook's Atelier by Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini isn't just a cookbook. As the tagline says, it's Recipes, Techniques, and Stories from Our French Cooking School.

If you like some reading matter along with your recipes, this is definitely the book for you. The first 60ish pages are about techniques, tools, and all sorts of kitchen wisdom. Even when the recipes start in earnest, there are stories interspersed, so you'll have plenty of prose to curl up with as you search for recipes to make.

The book is arranged by season, which makes sense for this sort of book. And it makes browsing a little more productive, since you won't be looking at heavy stews when summer is beating down on your head.

The recipe that I have bookmarked for a definite yes is the Almond-Cherry Galette, It's a simple thing, really. Just the galette dough (we're sent to another page for that), plus sugar, vanilla bean, lemon juice, cherries, butter, egg, and cream. If you've noticed that there is no almond, that's because it's in the galette dough. And that's one of the reasons I'm smitten with this right now. I usually make galettes with a basic pie dough, but that almond flour is intriguing. I must make it.

Of course, it's noted that any seasonal fruit can be used, but the combination of cherries and almond is one of my all-time favorites, so I'll be waiting for cherries to come into season.

As I mentioned, this book is big (about 400 pages), and it's heavy. This isn't something that you'll tuck into your bag for some reading on the train. Well, maybe you will, but I don't take a train to work, and I'm not fond of carrying heavy books to and fro.

But it's packed with information. And recipes. Lots of recipes. While it's doubtful I'll be making the roasted pheasant any time soon, I just might use the same recipe for the next chicken I find that needs roasting. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other recipes, from simple to not-so-simple to keep me out of trouble.

As I mentioned at the top, I got this book at no cost to me as part of the Abrams Dinner Party. They still haven't sent me dinner, but I'm having fun with the books.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Foreign Cinema Cookbook #AbramsDinnerParty

This cookbook season, I've been lucky enough to be involved in the Abrams Dinner Party, which is a clever way of saying that I get a whole lot of cookbooks for free.

Some of them, I was drooling over. Some, I'd never heard of, and probably would not have taken a second look at. But that's fine, because some of the ones that I wasn't originally fond of turned out to be pretty good.

One of the most recent books to arrive was The Foreign Cinema Cookbook by Gayle Pirie and John Clark. The subtitle of this one is Recipes and Stories under the stars.

I'll have to admit that this one wasn't on my radar at all. I didn't know the authors, and even if I had seen it in passing, I probably would have passed, since I know very little about foreign films.

Turns out I was a bit wrong in my assumptions. Foreign Cinema is the name of a restaurant in San Francisco. Oopsie. So, instead of finding recipes dedicated to movies I'd never seen or recipes by stars I never heard of, this is a book full of recipes from the restaurant. There's everything from Strawberry Bourbon to Crab Cakes with a Curiously Scented Butter Sauce (I just love that name!) to Creme Fraiche ice cream.

Like a lot of cookbooks written by folks near a coast, there are quite a few recipes featuring fresh fish that isn't available to us folks in the middle-ish of the country. And like many cookbooks based on restaurants, there are ingredients you might not find at your local grocer. But that's okay. It's a big book ... and heavy - did I mention that it's heavy? ... so there are plenty of recipes to choose from that can be made with common ingredients.

And of course you can substitute. If you don't have that fresh fish available in your market, you can always pick up the bag of frozen white-looking fish from the freezer bin and make sure that the rest of the recipe is done right.

Even if you skip past the full recipes, this book has a pretty darned good selection of extra things that you'll find very handy. There are spice blends, condiments and pickles, sauces, vinaigrettes, and some simple things like stocks breadcrumbs, and other things that can dress up an otherwise plain dish.

Photos in this book are pretty, yet achievable. The ones on baking pans or in pots certainly are what you should see, but even the plated dishes look doable - if you choose to do them that way. And, I have to say, I really appreciate that.

It irks me to no end when I see a recipe that calls for (for example) avocados to be mixed into a salad and the accompanying photo has pristine cubes of avocado. I mean seriously, either that avocado is rock-hard and not pleasant to eat, or the photographer cut it and placed it into position without mixing it in, as the recipe says you're supposed to. Yes, it's a pretty photo. But no, that's not what it's going to look like when served. And sometimes that matters. Like when the inlaws are coming over.

But ... I digress. The Foreign Cinema Cookbook is not a book of foreign recipes, folks. It's from a restaurant right over there in California, making American-ish food.

In case you missed it up top, I got this book for free. Gratis. Nada cost.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Katie Lee's Easy-Breezy Eats #AbramsDinnerParty

Whoop, whoop, another free cookbook for me from Abrams for participating in the Abrams Dinner Party. Don't get too excited. There's no food, but I do get cookbooks sent to me to review.

This time, we're looking at Katie Lee's Easy-Breezy Eats by (please tell me you guessed it) Katie Lee. This is the kind of book where you look at the cover and immediately assume a few things.

First, the tagline the endless summer cookbook and the basket of produce leads you to believe there will be a lot of fresh ingredients and not too many cans of soup. Second, Katie looks relaxed and happy and she's standing in a field holding that basket of produce. So, I'd assume that the recipes are somewhat easy, fresh, and relatively healthy.

Turns out that the assumptions are pretty much correct.

One of the first recipes I bookmarked was a grilled zucchini, corn, black bean, and avocado salad. Sounds simple enough, and the ingredients are basic. Like, you'd have no problem finding them in just about any grocery store if you didn't happen to already have them. To make the recipe easy, the black beans come from a can, but then we have fresh zucchini, avocado, and scallions. I could eat this as a side dish, as a salad, or a lunch.

Next on my hit list was fish tacos, where the recommended fish is any flaky white fish. That's simple. A recipe for chipotle sauce is included, as well as garnished. This is the kind of recipe where you could prep the sauce and garnishes the night before and cook the fish right before serving and dinner would be on the table in just a few minutes. 

Another one that caught my eye was corn fritters. I'll be making them for sure when corn is local and plentiful and I've (as usual) bought more than I needed. The recipe is simple, but you can dress them up any way you like.

Some of the recipes do sound just a little fancy or complicated, like the Kiwi Blueberry Pavlova, but when you read the recipe, it's actually not that hard. But it would look awfully pretty as a summer dessert when you have company.

This is the kind of book that I might use for inspiration as much as for the recipes. Cornbread Panzanella, for example, is something that I probably never would have thought of. And it's genius. But if I made it, I probably wouldn't fuss with using exactly the colors of bell peppers she suggests. Yeah, I'm a radical like that.

If you didn't notice the blurb at the top, I'm telling you, again, that I got this book for free. Yup, it's good to be me today.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

First We Eat #AbramsDinnerParty

I love ethnic and regional cookbooks, mostly because I like seeing how other people eat. Because everyone isn't from Chicago with a midwestern accent.

First We Eat by Eva Kosmas Flores is all about Pacific Northwest cooking, which happens to be a part of the country I'm not all that familiar with. I spent a few hours in the northwest corner of the country on my way elsewhere, but that's about it.

I imagined a lot of fish, considering there's that nearby coast. But other than that ... uh ... not really sure.

The book is arranged by seasons, which is very handy for those of us who live where seasons actually exist. (Side-eye at you, California and Florida.) On the other hand, a lot of what used to be very seasonal foods are now readily available for much more of the year. Still, there are some foods that are simply better in season. (Glaring at you, strawberries and tomatoes.)

As usual, my first step was thumbing through the book, looking for recipes I might want to make. I thumbed right past the way-too-popular kale and arugula recipes (not too many of them, to be honest) and bookmarked Summer Squash Fritters with Cucumber Tsatziki (yes, it's not summer, but zucchini are forever), Hazelnut and Maple Crusted Pork Loin Chops with Apples and Sage, and Caramel Apple Tarte Tatin.

Oh heck yum. Sign me up for those. They could even be a whole meal with perhaps a salad on the side, or perhaps the refreshing sounding Green Bean and Lemon soup.

The great thing about this book is that for the most part, the ingredients will be easy to find. Fresh morels will be expensive, but I'd probably substitute with another mushroom and call it a day. Fresh lilac blossoms could be hunted down in neighbor's yards, but the season is short. I might sub dried lavender (this is for a tea, so it would work) when lilacs are not around. But otherwise, pretty much everything can be had in a normal grocery store.

Besides recipes, there's information about ingredients, a whole list of pantry basics that you can make for yourself, and seasonal information about gardening. And lots more. If you like reading cookbooks as well as cooking from them, you'll have plenty to browse through here.

And then we have the photos. They're pretty without looking unattainable or unrealistic. So, if you're making one of these recipes, there's a good chance it will resemble on of the photos. That's always a plus, in my opinion.

I got this book for participating in the #AbramsDinnerParty, where I get cookbooks for free. Because there's always a little extra room on my shelf.

Monday, March 5, 2018

I Love My Rice Cooker Recipe Book

Poor rice cookers. They used to be so trendy, but now there are all those multi-cooker, slow-cooker, pressure-cooker gadgets that claim to be able to cook absolutely everything. Including, possibly, rice.

This cookbook takes the opposite tack. It attempts to give you multiple reasons to keep your rice cooker on your counter. It's not just for rice, the cookbook says. You can make soup in it, too.

The interesting thing about The I Love My Rice Cooker Recipe Book (no author listed) is that it's designed for use with very basic rice cookers - the ones with on/off/warm settings and nothing else.

Surprise, surprise, that's not the sort of rice cooker I have. Mine will cook Gaba rice and has multiple settings for white rice, but it's not the sort of cooker that this book is aimed at.

But that's okay. I'm resourceful. All of the recipes in this book could easily be converted for slow cooker or stovetop recipes. I mean, seriously, you just need basic higher and lower heat. It's not that hard to convert them. And, if your kitchen is being remodeled and you have to rough it with your rice cooker, you can use this book to make everything from meatballs to crab cakes to pasta in your rice cooker.

And yes, there are rice dishes, too.

While this is probably not an essential book, it could be really handy for college students armed with rice cookers in their dorm rooms, or anyone who happens to have one of those old style rice cookers that needs more use.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food #AbramsDinnerParty

The Abrams Dinner Party continues with more fun cookbooks being sent to me to peruse, cook from, and tell you about. I get the books at no cost.

If you've ever been to New Orleans (or you've watched enough episodes of NCIS New Orleans, you probably realize there's a unique food culture. And when there's a unique food culture, there are recipes.

Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food is all about that food culture. If you're craving alligator, you'll find a recipe here (although I'm not sure where you'd find the alligator). If you want beignets, those are a bit more accessible, since the ingredients aren't as exotic.

If you want gumbo or creole creations, the recipes are here.

While some of them include ingredients that might be hard to find (hello, alligator), it's pretty simple to substitute one fish for another, shrimp for crawfish ... and for that alligator, to me it has the texture of chicken with a slightly fishy flavor. Chicken might be a good substitute there.

Of course, the majority of the recipes can be made using ingredients from your standard grocery store. Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Brandy Cream Sauce would make a lovely dinner for company or a special occasion. Poached Fish with Cranberry Hollandaise sounds different and lovely. Dirty Rice and Lyonnaise Potatoes and Corn Macquchoux would be great side dishes pretty much every day.

If you've been to New Orleans and want to recreate the food vibe, or if you just want to change up your everyday cooking, this book would be a great addition to your book collection.

Note: This book is a revised edition. I'm not sure what was changed from the previous version.


While MOST of the books I'm getting from Abrams are cookbooks, they sent along two other books as well - Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson and The New Farm by Brent Preston. I haven't had a chance to dive into these yet, but on first glance, they look like the sorts of books that food lovers would be interested in.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

One Knife, One Pot, One Dish #AbramsDinnerParty

When I got the latest cookbook for the Abrams Dinner Party (where I get a bunch of free cookbooks from the publisher) I was curious about the concept.

The book is called One Knife, One Pot, One Dish, and the subtitle is Simple French feasts at home.

Well, hmmm. When I think of French food, simple is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Wandering through the book, the titles didn't sound simple. Like Pork with Green Peppercorns and Shiitakes, Rabbit with Lemon Thyme and Almonds, Cauliflower with Lemon Mascarpone, or Salmon with Beets and Chocolate Mint.

There were others that sounded simple, like Chili, One-Pot Carbonnade, and Hot Dogs with Cheese.

But ... titles can be deceiving. All of the recipes are designed to be simple to prepare, no matter how "fancy" the ingredients are. First, you peel or slice or chop. Then it goes into a pot. Then you plate it. Boom! All done!

I decided to try the concept with a dessert - Apples with Salted Butter. Mostly because I had plenty of leftovers for the next few dinners, and I didn't want to pile on yet another dinner-like food.

This was a super-simple recipe that required a whopping three ingredients. Just apples, butter, and sugar. First, the apples are peeled, cored and thinly sliced on a mandoline. Then some butter and sugar go onto the bottom of the pot and the apple slices are layered into the pot with sprinkles of sugar and dots of butter between layers. Then it's baked for a while with the lid on the pot, and later the lid is removed so the sugar has a chance to caramelize.

It all went well except that when I got to the store, I had forgotten which apples were recommended, so I played apple roulette (seriously, how many apple varieties are in season now?) And I grabbed a few of each.

When I took the lid off the pot, the apples were swimming in juice. My goodness, I had juicy apples! It took much longer than recommended to get the apples to caramelize to a point that was even close to what was in the photo. Then, when I tried to unmold it, it kind of flopped out of the pan so it was useless for a photo.

Oh, but the flavor! Warm or room temperature or chilled, this was a-freaking-mazing. The amount of sugar (just about one tablespoon per apple) was enough to add some sweetness, but overall they were more tart than sweet. The butter added richness. I get grabbing and nibbling more and more. So good.

I'm going to be making this again, for sure. Possibly with different apples.

As far as the book, the techniques are pretty easy. Some of the ingredients would be a little difficult for me to find. Like the rabbit. I can't recall the last time I saw that at the grocery store. But you know what tastes like rabbit? Yup, chicken.

As far as other ingredients that might be less common (chocolate mint is available at the garden center; less so at the grocery store) they'd be pretty easy to substitute. Regular mint for chocolate mint. One mushroom for another. One fish for another. One cheese for another. The results might not be exactly the same, but they'd be darned close. And pretty easy, too.

I got One Knife, One Pot, One Dish by Stephanie Reynaud from the publisher at no cost to me.