I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a wonderful start! With so many people making resolutions to get healthier, I thought this would be the perfect time to share a recipe that is as nourishing and healthy as it is delicious. It’s the kind of meal you’d get in a spa for lunch if you were taking the whole day to pamper yourself. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’
Holiday season is in full swing and you are going to love me – I have the perfect holiday gift idea, either for yourself or for any food blogger you know! You are in for a real treat today because I’m sharing my review of Nancy’s beautiful food photography eBook Yummy Pics!
Have you looked back through my archives at my first posts? Focusing in particular on the pictures? (Ironic that I use the word focus, since it seems like I didn’t know about that feature of the camera back then…true story, lol.) Take a look back, and you’ll be amazed at the evolution of my photos.
In large part I credit this to inspiration from my fellow food bloggers; there is no more talented bunch of people that I know of. Throughout my time blogging, I’ve come across many blogs with photos that are nothing short of captivating. These are the blogs that make me not only want to run into the kitchen and make their food, but first grab a cup of coffee and sit down and really delve into their blog because I just don’t want to leave!
Book Review: Ciao Italia: Five-Ingredient Favorites by Mary Ann Esposito, Host of Public Television’s Ciao Italia: I was excited to recently receive a copy of this cookbook to review. This book gave me a chance to take a deeper look at Italian cuisine, because even though I’m familiar with quite a few Italian dishes, I don’t have much experience cooking Italian food. While reading this book, I was happy to see that the cooking methods are straightforward and attainable for cooks of all experience levels.
Going through this book I discovered how refreshing it is that Italian dishes are mainly based on bringing out the flavor of a few high quality ingredients, which coincides perfectly with the theme of this book – delicious dishes with only five ingredients. I really love the concept of this book, and I think it works well for each recipe; I just want to say that in order to incorporate each recipe into a meal, you will probably need other ingredients. For example, you’ll probably want to make some sort of veggie to accompany a pasta dish, or some kind of protein dish to go with a salad of veggies. Even though this book is full of five-ingredient dishes, it’s not necessarily full of five-ingredient meals, which worked fine for me since I don’t mind making a couple of dishes for a meal.
This book is nicely organized into the following chapters: food for thought (which discusses food staples in the pantry, fridge, and freezer), antipasti, soups, pasta, sauces, meat and poultry, fish, vegetables, sweets, and seasonal five-course menus. Each chapter contains an introduction, which gives personal stories and background information related to the Italian dining experience. Directly after each chapter’s introduction there is a list of five useful tips that pertain to each chapter. I found the tips interesting and helpful; here’s one of my favorite tips from the soup chapter: Drop a slightly beaten egg white into boiling broth or stock; it will foam up and act like a magnet to attract the scum that forms on top. (I never knew that, but I can’t wait to try it!)
I know a lot of people prefer cookbooks with pictures of every recipe; I think that while cookbooks with pictures of every recipe make for nice coffee table material (and also help to visualize a recipe), you can really miss out if you forgo reading through cookbooks without pictures. This book only has a few pictures, which I didn’t mind because the recipes were amazing enough to stand alone…in this book there are two inserts of color photos, each insert containing four double-sized pages, for a total of 16 pictures of recipes. Even though I didn’t mind the scarcity of pictures in this book, the way the pictures were done was strange…there were a total of 16 pictures, but there were three recipes (cauliflower salad (pictured above), prosciutto and pine nut pizza, and chocolate, hazelnut, and banana tartlets) that had duplicate pictures so that only 13 pictures were of different dishes. In a book with limited picture space, I thought it was a little strange to see duplicates of three recipes.
The Recipes: The recipes in this book are fabulous, and right off the bat I noted at least one-third of them that I want to make. There are a few classics in here, such as creamy leek soup, Tuscan bean soup, little parsley gnocchi, and coal-miners’ style spaghetti (spaghetti carbonara). There are also a few twists on classics that I can’t wait to try, like cheesy stuffed meatballs and Italian cheese fondue. Many of the recipes are new to me, and sound phenomenal…one of the most interesting recipes I found is for paradise soup. In this soup, little “meatballs” are made from breadcrumbs, cheese, and eggs and cooked in broth. It’s called paradise soup because who would have thought that soup made of this would taste so divine!
The Recipe I Made Right Away: When you read through few of the recipes, you might think they sound delicious but could use another ingredient or two (don’t fall into this trap!). This is what I thought when I saw the recipe for linguine roman style. The recipe calls for linguine, ricotta cheese, butter, cooking water from the linguine, and pecorino cheese. When I first read the recipe I thought it sounded great but could use maybe just a little garlic. I didn’t give into temptation though…I followed the recipe as written (except I used fettuccine instead of linguine because that’s what I had on hand) and I was glad I did! It was fabulous and I didn’t miss the garlic at all. Even though I didn’t have to add any other ingredients to this recipe, to make this dish a meal I made a big green salad to serve alongside the pasta.
This dish was deliciously cheesy and tasted similar to fettuccine alfredo. The only thing qualm I have about this dish is that it tastes much better served right after making. If there are leftovers that are reheated, the ricotta takes on a lumpy, cottage cheese-like consistency (don’t get me wrong, I like cottage cheese, but it was not a pretty sight). To solve that, I recommend only making enough at a time for what you plan on serving; be forewarned, this recipe uses a pound of pasta and it says that it makes four to six servings…if you consider it four servings that means that one-quarter pound of pasta is a serving, and this is a LOT of pasta! To avoid leftovers and stick with a healthier serving size, I consider the entire recipe to be about six to eight servings.
Linguine alla Romana (Linguine Roman Style)
(Yield: 4 to 6 (or about 6 to 8 to avoid leftovers) servings)
1 lb linguine (I used fettuccine because it’s what I had on hand)
1/2 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
1 stick (8 TB) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c cooking water from the linguine
1/2 c grated pecorino cheese
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring 4 quarts of water up to a boil, then add 1 TB of salt to the boiling water. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. When you drain the pasta, reserve 1/4 c of the pasta water to add to the sauce and return the pasta to the cooking pot.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the ricotta cheese and butter and heat for 8 minutes (stirring constantly) until it forms a smooth, creamy sauce.
Heat the pasta over low heat, and stir in the ricotta sauce and the reserved pasta water. Stir in half the pecorino cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and serve with the remainder of the cheese to pass around to sprinkle on top.
Book Review: The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.: Recently I received a copy of this book to review. With its wonderful insight and knowledge regarding health and nutrition, this book had me hooked right from the beginning. The first paragraph of the Foreword is profoundly thought-provoking; it reads in part:
Today we are faced with unprecedented challenges for the health of our bodies and of the planet. And the most powerful tool we have at our disposal to change our health, our environment, our politics, and our economics is our fork (emphasis added)…Putting six ounces of meat on our table from a commercial livestock feeding operation takes sixteen times as much petrochemical fuel and produces twenty-four times as much greenhouse emissions as growing a cup of broccoli, a cup of eggplant, a cup of cauliflower, and a cup of rice.
That right there made me want to put down my fork to think about that for a minute! While this book is focused on bone health, it’s no surprise that bone health and overall health are inextricably linked. This book is helpful no matter what your age, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
In this book, Dr. Colbin discusses risk factors leading to bone fractures and the causes of osteoporosis, the nutrients need for bone health, and the factors that deplete calcium and other minerals. I thought it was very interesting to learn that factors such as sugar consumption, caffeine consumption, lack of (or excessive amounts of) exercise, and even consumption of some vegetables (those known as nightshade vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, chile peppers, and tobacco) can lead to depletion of calcium and other necessary minerals!
Dr. Colbin goes through the standard suggestions for strengthening bones (such as milk and soy consumption, bone density testing, medication, and hormone replacement therapy) and explains what works and why. It’s fascinating to learn what the most nutritious foods are for bones…and believe me, you might be surprised!
Something I’ve always thought was interesting is that many people believe eating large quantities of meat is necessary for bone health, and health in general. This book contains quotes at the beginning of each part, and at the top of Part I was the following quote, which I thought was pretty enlightening:
One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
This book provides a fantastic explanation as to how various aspects of health, including physical (such as diet and exercise), mental, emotional, and spiritual all come together to affect our health. Through a case study, Dr. Colbin even shows how it is actually possible to regain lost bone.
The Recipes: While this book isn’t primarily a cookbook, it does contain 85 nutritious, well-rounded recipes for good health. I was surprised to see that very few of the recipes include dairy products…this really helped to dispel the idea that I had that dairy was the best source of calcium. I think this really goes to show that nutrition for good bone and general health may be different from what is expected!
There are quite a few recipes that I’m familiar with (like basic garlic greens, baked buttercup squash, simple roasted chicken, French tart with greens and leeks (this looks similar to quiche, but without milk or cream), chicken soup, and creamy polenta), but I was very excited to see so many recipes and ingredients that are new to me. There are quite a few recipes that call for Asian ingredients that I’ve never cooked with before (but am excited to try!), like agar (a flaked, colorless seaweed product), kombu (another form of seaweed), and shoyu (a sauce similar to tamari, except that it contains wheat).
Looking through the recipes, there were quite a few that I’m interested in making: stir-fried bok choy with shrimp, salmon frittata with fresh dill, portabella beef stroganoff, Mediterranean herbed chickpeas, tempeh in coconut milk curry, cilantro egg drop soup, miso soup with wild mushrooms and garlic, oat-dulse crackers, coconut cream, cashew cream, and sardine spread.
The Recipe I Made Right Away: I decided to try the sardine spread first. Let me first tell you that in general I am not a big fan of sardines. Actually, I don’t like them at all…they’re just so fishy (I know, what do I expect considering they’re fish, right?…ironically, I really enjoy most other types of fish). Also, to be 100% honest, the looks of them scare me a little…and by scare me, I mean they make me shudder just to think about them.
Anyway, I really wanted to push out of my comfort zone and give them a try because my husband loves sardines and eats them regularly. Plus, I thought that all of the other flavors in the recipe might help to mellow out the sardines’ flavor. I’m happy to say that once this recipe is made, the spread looks quite appetizing (it looks like a tuna fish and mayo salad more than anything else). Since there are quite a few other strong ingredients in this recipe (like the grated onion, lemon juice, and tahini), the sardines’ flavor is definitely mellowed (hubby said that this spread is much less fishy tasting than plain sardines). I wouldn’t say that I now love sardines, but I would say that I did enjoy eating this spread and at least I got to try something new!
Sardine Spread (Adopted From The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.)
1 can (about 4.5 oz) sardines (packed in oil or water)
1 TB grated onion
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB tahini (optional)
1 1/2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp sea salt
About 1 TB chopped black olives (optional; this is my addition)
Crackers, for serving
Drain the sardines and transfer them to a bowl; add the onion, lemon juice, tahini, parsley, and salt and mash with a fork until blended. Serve on top of or alongside crackers, with a grinding of pepper and the olives (if using) on top.
Check out Brandy’s fantastic recipe for Pear Crisp with Vanilla Brown Butter…don’t forget to get your Thanksgiving-themed recipes ready to submit to All Through the Year Cheer later this month. There will be a great prize!
Book Review: Eat Clean Cookbook by Tosca Reno: Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook to review. The book is nicely organized by recipe type, and it even includes a chapter called “Baked Goods and Treats” (oh yes, you can eat clean and still enjoy delicious confections like tofu crème brûlée, carrot cake, chocolate walnut brownies, and rice pudding!).
This is a really gorgeous cookbook to read through, with beautiful color photos of every recipe. There is a short narration for each recipe, which is typically a personal story related to the recipe or more detailed information pertaining to certain ingredients in the recipe; I enjoy reading these anecdotes and I think they help to give a more complete view of each recipe. I love how for each recipe the prep time, cook time, and nutritional information are listed.
There is one small thing that I would change about the format of this book to improve its functionality (it’s really a very small thing!)…the ingredient amounts are listed in fractions, which are shown very small. It’s no big deal really, but when the cookbook was on the counter while I was making something, it was hard to just glance down to see the amount listed (and I have good eyesight…I don’t wear glasses or contacts). The fractions are that small that I had to stop and go in for a closer look. That being said, everything else about the layout/format of this book was completely user-friendly.
The Eat Clean Recipes: On to my favorite part…the recipes! Many of these recipes are basic (and beginner-friendly) recipes for healthy cooking. If you already cook healthy, there will probably be several of these recipes that you are familiar with. I found that there are quite a few recipes that I make fairly regularly, such as everyday breakfast porridge (love my oats!), roasted plum tomatoes, no-cook colorful bean salad, roasted summer vegetables, homemade polenta, beef barley and vegetable soup, chickpea stew, and sautéed garlic spinach. On the other hand, if you rarely cook or are just starting to cook healthy, then each and every recipe in this book will be a lifesaver for you.
Even if you’re familiar with healthy cooking this book is still a wonderful asset. It can help you give your favorite recipes (such as vegetable lasagna, chili, fajitas, 7 layer bean dip, and brownies) a healthy makeover. There’s also a multitude of recipes that are unfamiliar, new, and exciting, such as nasi goreng, hollandse rooie kool, and Persian beef. Not to mention all the healthy ingredients that might be unfamiliar (even if you’re a healthy eater) but are definitely worth trying, like bison, wild rice or manmoomin, and kefir.
Thumbing through the cookbook, right away I knew I wanted to make a few things…lifestyle bars (more on those in a minute), sunflower seed spread, oat tea (!), Moroccan pumpkin soup, tagine beef stew, cream of wheat pudding, and hazelnut espresso cookies (these cookie actually look like almond lace cookies!). I decided to start with lifestyle bars…
And of course, since it’s less than two weeks away and I’ve got Thanksgiving on my mind, I noticed that so many of these recipes would be absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving (or any holiday) dinner. Here are just a few: breakfast corn pudding (I know it says breakfast, but it’s savory and I bet would be fabulous as part of a dinner spread!), herb and garlic roasted baby potatoes, baked deep-dish butternut squash (this is topped with a mixture of apple butter, pecans, and breadcrumbs…it looks incredible!), lemon and cinnamon sweet potatoes, and baked cranberries and apple.
The Recipe I Made Right Away: When I was looking through this cookbook, I was immediately drawn to these “lifestyle bars” because of their interesting name. As you probably guessed, the name of these bars comes from the fact that these days everyone leads such busy lives and from time to time we all need help with meals. Instead of ordering fast food, why not have healthy fast food waiting for you in your fridge?
I love how these bars contain the components of a healthy breakfast: protein and fruit. Plus there’s even coffee in them for a little kick, and who doesn’t enjoy that with breakfast?! These bars are so delicious it’s hard to believe they’re healthy. Although their consistency isn’t chewy, the density of these bars and all the mix-ins actually reminded me of peanut fudge.
Let me give you a little notice though, these bars are very calorie dense. Tosca recommends getting 9 bars out of this recipe, each with 419 calories (and be careful if you’re watching your calories because the actual portion size for the 419 calorie bar isn’t nearly as large as it appears in the cookbook’s photo). I decided to cut this recipe into 16 bars, each bar with slightly over 200 calories. That way, I figured I could use these bars as a snack when I need a little pick me up, or I could incorporate them into a healthy breakfast by pairing them with yogurt or cottage cheese and a piece of fresh fruit.
I made a few changes to the original recipe (I noted my changes below) just to utilize ingredients that I already had on hand. Despite all the changes I made, I have to say that this is a very forgiving recipe…the bars came out perfect!
In the photo in the book, these bars were wrapped so beautifully in waxed paper and twine…since the holidays are nearly here I thought waxed paper and ribbon would be festive and pretty!
Lifestyle Bars (From Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook)
(Yield: 9 bars)
½ c raw, unsalted slivered almonds (I used sunflower seeds)
½ c pecans (I used walnuts)
¼ c coconut butter, or 1 TB butter + 1 TB olive oil (I used coconut butter)
½ c natural almond butter
2 TB unsulfured blackstrap molasses
1 tsp honey
Pinch sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 TB instant coffee granules
¼ c ground sesame seeds (I used golden flaxseed meal)
½ c golden goji berries (I used a mix of dried cranberries and sultanas)
½ c chopped dried apple slices
8 by 4-inch baking pan (about the size of a bread loaf pan)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the almonds and pecans on the sheet in an even layer. Toast the nuts in the oven until just golden (about 8 minutes), stirring halfway through. Allow them to cool slightly, then coarsely chop the nuts either by hand or in a food processor. (Instead of toasting the nuts in the oven you can do it in a dry pan on the stovetop.)
In a mixing bowl, combine the coconut butter, almond butter, molasses, honey and salt. Heating this mixture slightly (either over a double boiler or in the microwave) helps to combine everything. Stir in the vanilla and coffee granules, then stir in the nuts, ground sesame seeds, goji berries, and chopped apple.
Press this mixture into an 8 by 4-inch baking pan and refrigerate until set. Cut into bars, wrap in waxed or parchment paper, and store in the fridge.
Along with the ushering in of fall come so many lovely things…cooler days and nights provide a welcome relief from the heat of summer, the trees turn gorgeous shades of crimson, orange, and gold, and make for gorgeous afternoon drives through the country side, comfort foods abound, and I start to feel like the holidays are right around the corner! Another thing for me to look forward to about fall is that along with it comes my birthday. If you’re wondering how old I am, I’m older than some and younger than others…I think a lady should never have to reveal her age. ;)
I realized that I haven’t done a blog giveaway yet, and I thought how better to celebrate my birthday than to give you a gift?
A Brief Review of The Comfort Table by Katie Lee Joel: What’s the prize? A cookbook that’s absolutely perfect for this time of year…The Comfort Table by Katie Lee Joel. This book is nicely organized, with each chapter devoted to a different meal, course, or type of food. For each recipe, Katie gives a short narration or anecdote about the recipe or where it came from, which I think helps to paint a fuller picture of the recipe. There are several classic American recipes (beef stew, meat loaf, and creamy mashed potatoes), but there’s also a good mix of recipes with a Southern flare (fried green tomatoes, layered pea salad, sausage gravy, and Grandmother Paul’s red velvet cake).
But it doesn’t end there…Katie has quite a few dishes with international flavors that bring a lot of variety to this book. To name a few: Asian-influenced recipes (Asian-style tuna meatballs with mango chutney and Asian chicken noodle soup), European-inspried recipes (bistro salad and quiche with broccoli, peppers, and goat cheese), and Mexican/Tex Mex-flavored recipes (Mexican cornbread and guacamole).
I think it can be really helpful to have a photo of what you’re making, and the recipe photos in this book are really gorgeous. The only thing I would change about this book (and it’s really a very small thing…I’m only sharing it because I want to be 100% honest with you all!) is to have fewer pictures of Katie and more pictures of recipes. That being said, this is still a fabulous book, and I think will make a valuable contribution to anyone’s cookbook collection!
To Participate in the Giveaway: This giveaway is open to everyone everywhere, and you don’t need to have a blog to be eligible! Just leave me a comment on this post telling me one of your favorite comfort foods. You can leave one entry a day as long as your answers are different. The contest closes on October 7th at 9PM EST. If you want, feel free to mention the giveaway on your blog!
I wanted to make something from this book to inspire you all. The recipes in it are all so fantastic I actually had trouble deciding what to make. I finally decided on flat pies, which turned out to be scrumptious! I made a few slight changes to the recipe to customize it for my own taste. I think my next choice out of this book will be chicken and dumplings…
Mushroom & Thyme Flat Pies (Inspired by Katie Lee Joel’s The Comfort Table)
(Yield: 6 pies)
1 TB butter, plus 1 tsp to grease the baking sheet
1 TB olive oil
8 oz button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ c cream
2 sheets puff pastry
4 oz Gruyère, Emmental, or Swiss cheese, shredded
1 large egg beaten with 1 TB water (for egg wash)
In a large pan, melt together the butter and olive oil; add the mushrooms and sauté on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the onions and sauté another 5 minutes, then add the garlic and thyme and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the cream, salt, and pepper and let the mixture cook for 2 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Let the mushroom mixture cool to room temperature.
Cut each sheet of pastry into 6 equal pieces. There’s no need to roll it out…since the pastry comes folded in thirds, I find the easiest way to cut it is to cut along the fold lines of the pastry, then cut right down the middle; you’ll end up with 6 equal pieces (see picture below). Spoon 1/6 of the mushroom mixture onto a piece of puff pastry, leaving a border of about ½ inch all around; top the mushrooms with 1/6 of the cheese. Brush the border with egg wash and lay a second piece of puff pastry on top (you might need to stretch the pastry a little so it fits over the filling); press lightly on the edges to seal, then crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat this 5 times until all 6 pies are made.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter, and transfer the pies to the baking sheet. Let the pies chill on the baking sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes, then lightly brush each pie with egg wash and cut 2 1-inch vents in the top of each (be careful not to cut through the bottom layer of dough). Bake, rotating once, about 25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Let the pies cool slightly on the pan before removing.