“Everyday Watercolor”, Jenna Rainey


Jenny Rainey’s 30 day guide to watercolor is a great book for beginners or anyone who would love to pick up where they may have left of after an introductory/high school course to painting.

For me, it has been 25 years since my high school art class which covered many mediums. Although I have dabbled with watercolor here and there over the years, I have truly never taken a formal class in watercolor and I’ve always been curious.

This book introduced me to new concepts and theory exercises which were quite foreign to me such as blending and shading. Some of the concepts were easy to understand, and some of them harder, especially with just reading but not practicing along which may help.  I’ve always just jumped right into painting and have not taken the time to train my hand in practicing brush strokes and blending colors. I look forward to practicing the 30 day lessons and seeing how the lessons change how I view color and painting.

This would be a great book for anyone interested in a DYI guide to watercolor painting.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.


“The Cottage Kitchen” by, Marte Marie Forsberg


Marte Marie Forsberg shares time honored and treasured family recipes in her book, “The Cottage Kitchen”.  With family roots from an Island off of the coast of Norway and now living in the English country side, Marie’s cooking style is rustic yet refined, classic yet with some modern twists, making the best use of seasonal herbs, produce and meats from farms and local farmers markets.  In the cookbook, Marie shares stories of her childhood when times were more simple and people foraged in the forest or garden for meal planning creating warm and memorable meals.  She shares many of her mother’s recipes who sounded like a cook who just knew how to pair ingredients to make memorable meals.  I am sure that was the author’s inspiration in creating winter, spring, summer and autumn menu’s, and of course, afternoon tea.  I was hoping to see some sandwiches in the afternoon tea section, but instead found many elevated and decadent desserts.  I enjoyed reading the book although found very few recipes I can cook given my plant based eating style as the book relies heavily on dairy, poultry, and meat products.  Nevertheless, I will be sharing this book with a family member who loves to cook and lived in England for many years.  I think he will thoroughly enjoy the book, recipes, and pictures.  I received this book for my honest opinion from “Blogging for Books”.

“The Grand Central Market Cookbook” by, Adele Yellin and Kevin West



Food Halls are a Foodie’s Dream…and The Grand Central Market in Los Angeles is one of those places where you can find lots of options for ethnically diverse cuisine or gourmet treats under one roof.  Whether you are from Los Angeles and have experienced the market first hand, or you live miles away and want live vicariously through this book, either way the book will transport you to the food stalls and the recipes will share a taste of what makes this food hall so great.

The recipes span from breakfast, tacos, carbs, happy hour, meat and fish, vegetables, and sweets.  Just like The Grand Central Market, the book also provides a little something for everyone including some vegan dishes which I was most interested in!  The pages are colorful and the read on the history of the Market is rich.  It is great to have “inside access” to so many great recipes!  This book is a gem for anyone who loves food history, and cooking.

I received this book for my honest review from “Blogging for Books”.

“How to Set a Table”, Potter


A paperback covered in a textured fabric that feels like linen, “How To Set A Table” is a great small sized guide to how to set a casual to formal table as well as entertain in a variety of settings.

I love that the author does not assume that everyone knows the proper etiquette of where to place flatware, glasses, and napkins on a table.  Yes, the book covers all of the basics, and it is a great reference to have on hand or share with a newlywed or someone interested in entertaining.

I loved the pictures of the different table settings and floral arrangements, and I was inspired to add more linens to my table, as well as decorate my breakfast bar area for my next gathering.

I would recommend this little guide as a bridal shower gift, or a gift for anyone who loves to entertain.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

More info:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/547883/how-to-set-a-table-by-potter/


Vegan Oatmeal, Date and Walnut Scones


I have adapted one of my favorite traditional Irish scone recipes to a completely vegan recipe!  I adore Noel McMeel’s, “Irish Pantry” cookbook, and I’ve been making his “Orange and Oat Scones”, pg. 107,  for years.  Now that my husband and I have transitioned into plant based eating, we missed this cherished Sunday or weekday morning treat!  On a recent trip to Whole Foods I found a Vegan Oatmeal, Date and Walnut Scone in their pastry case, the ingredient list reminded me of McMeel’s recipe, but at $2.25 a scone, they are expensive! Whole Foods Scones are quite rich and sweet, I’ve cut down a lot of that fat and sugar, and still came out with a great scone.  The recipe is quite simple to pull together, especially if you have a stand mixer… a good arm, a large bowl and wooden spoon will also do the trick.  This is a great make ahead recipe because the scones taste great baked straight from the freezer to oven.  Freezing gives the coconut oil time to get cold and create a slightly lighter texture.  If time is a constraint, bake them right away and they will be great.

Makes 8 large scones or 16 small scones


  • 2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup turbinado or raw sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 cup water (may need a few extra tablespoons to moisten the dough)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup chopped pitted dates

Method:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Combine flours, turbinado sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or use a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.
  2. Add coconut oil, orange juice, and vanilla extract and mix about 15-20 seconds or until you see large pea sized to sand like crumbs and the oil has been properly mixed into the flour.
  3. Lightly mix in oats and orange zest.
  4. Stir in water, dates and walnuts until just moistened.  If the dough is crumbly or dry, add more water, if the dough is too moist add a dusting of flour. Do not over mix or the dough will be tough.
  5. Turn dough out onto a clean surface or parchment paper and gently form into an 8 inch round for 8 large scones, or divide the dough in half into two- 6 inch rounds.  Be careful to press the dough together so it stays in a uniform circle, but not so much so that it is overworked.   Cut the circle(s) of dough into 8 triangular wedges as you would a cut a pie.  Sprinkle the wedges with turbinado sugar and place them on a parchment lined sheet tray until frozen, or bake right away.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 12-15 minutes or until bottoms are deeply golden brown.  Follow the same baking instructions for frozen scones just add a few extra minutes but look for the same signs for doneness, slightly browned tops and golden brown bottoms.  Serve warm or store covered for up to 5 days. This makes a great grab and go snack and they are delicious with a cup of coffee or tea.  Enjoy!

“Sweet Potatoes” by, Mary Frances Heck


The hardcover book measuring at just 8.5 inches tall, has about 60 recipes and may just have you wondering what to make first. From basic recipes like baked and fried sweet potatoes, to main dishes-even a sweet potato burger, and desserts like sweet potato ice cream, the book is packed full of ideas of how to use your next bag of sweet potatoes.  I was hoping to see more plant based/ vegan recipes,  although there are a few which piqued my interest such as “Thai style Noodle Curry” pg. 51 and “Sweet Potato Tacos”, pg. 102.

I was also truly hoping for labeled and pictured potatoes showing the outside skin and inside flesh so that I would finally know the visual difference between a Yam and a Sweet Potato. I also was really interested in learning about all of the different sweet potato varieties, nuances, pairings, etc. Even though the book does have an intro which describes some differences, the labeled pictures showing the varieties, which I wanted so desperately, were not very plentiful.

While this is a fun and somewhat basic guide with plenty of recipes on how to use Sweet Potatoes, it left me wanting more plant based recipes and I did not feel it was comprehensive enough, especially given the title.  I was ultimately left somewhat uninspired and no recipe grabbed my attention enough for me to make it right away.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for my honest opinion.

Amazing Cashew, Almond, Coconut and Flax Seed Granola



Granola is so easy to make but most store bought versions are full of sweeteners and oil.  People are amazed when they hear I make granola but it is ridiculous how simple it is and how much better it is than store bought.  I love this recipe because it is relatively low on sweeteners and oil, and if you want you can even lower the honey and brown sugar quantity to make it less sweet.  This is a little expensive to make with the premium nuts, but it makes a batch which lasts us several weeks in our household.  Eat this with milk, use as a topping for frozen fruit acai style bowls https://wordpress.com/post/dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com/3349 , https://wordpress.com/post/dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com/3392  or just eat it plain.  Either way, this will be a hit!

Preheat oven at 325 degrees F before assembly.  The recipe only takes minutes to combine.  Place first 5 ingredients: oats, almonds, cashews, coconut, flax seed, in a large bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl and mix until combined.  Toss the sugar mixture onto the oat mixture and stir gently till combined.  Spread mixture in a thin layer on 2 parchment paper lined sheet pans.  Toss every 15 minutes till golden brown approximately 30-40 minutes total.  Let cool and store in sealed container.  Will keep for weeks.


  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded or large flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup flax seed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar depending on how sweet you want it I usually use a “loose” unpacked 1/2 cup just shy of the top
  • 1/2 cup honey (use pure maple syrup if you do not like honey)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, I use coconut
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbls vanilla


EASY and QUICK and YUMMY Plant Based/Vegan Breakfast Swedish Style Pancakes


This is my favorite no egg/no dairy/no flax egg pancake recipe! Within the last several months I’ve tried many pancake recipes since adopting a plant/based vegan diet but none of them seemed to satisfy my pancake craving.  Some were dense, dry, and hockey puck like. Some were made with too much banana and tasted too banana forward. I almost resigned myself to thinking I would never enjoy this breakfast treat again until I saw this post on the internet and it all changed  http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2015/09/24/swedish-pancakes-recipe-healthy-vegan/comment-page-2/#comment-3791645 .  I have adapted the recipe below for these spongy morsels of goodness.

The ingredients are so simple: oat flour (you can just blend rolled oats in a food processor or blender if you don’t want to buy oat flour-this is what I do), water, vanilla, mashed banana, salt. I love that you can not detect the taste of the banana, its just there to create a moist texture. Seriously it does not get easier than this. I just made the entire recipe using rolled oats in my blender, and that worked great as well and took seconds to blend. Don’t have vanilla? skip it!  If you like cinnamon and nutmeg, add a pinch of the ground spices to the batter, it will add a nice warmth of flavor.

The recipe makes 3 medium sized thickness pancakes which is how I recommend making them or 6 thin Swedish style pancakes (1 serving). The recipe doubles and triples beautifully.


  • 1/2 cup oat flour (can be made by blending rolled oats into flour in blender or food processor
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbls mashed banana or applesauce (I’ve always used banana)
  • 1 Tbls maple syrup, brown sugar, or sweetener of choice (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • pinch of cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • oil for the pan such as coconut oil (optional depending on pan/cooking method)


The original instructions say to mix all ingredients together until well combined using a fork or whisk. (I use a glass measuring cup with pour spout for the “mixing bowl”) and let sit for 10 minutes.  Alternatively, you can use a blender and skip the 10 minute sitting time because the blender incorporates the ingredients so well. Note: This whole recipe can be made in the blender and you can use rolled oats since they will blend up with the water until you see a batter like consistency and the oats are fully ground.  Meanwhile, heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet or non stick style pan to medium high heat.  Add a little oil such as coconut oil if you think the pancakes might stick, the key is to start with a very hot skillet ( I use a well seasoned cast iron pan and coat it with a very thin layer of coconut oil to create a non stick surface, about 1 Tbls.). Once pan and oil is hot, pour the batter into desired pancake size.  Initially I made thin Swedish style pancakes and they were hard to flip and stay together.  For me I found the key was to use a hot skillet, let the pancakes cook till bubbly and set, and THEN flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or two.  Even though the original recipe suggests making 6 thin pancakes, I like to make fewer pancakes that are thicker so I do not swirl the batter as you would for a Swedish pancake.  As long as you let the pancakes fully set on the first side before flipping (1-3 minutes depending on heat of pan) you should be good to go.  The thin Swedish style are harder to manipulate, I go for less flipping and I like the thickness of a traditional pancake as pictured above.

Optional: Some of the toppings I love serving these with are, Miyokos cultured vegan butter from Trader Joe’s, sliced bananas, almond butter, maple syrup, slivered almonds and Ikea Organic Blueberry Jam….YUM!!!  Finally a breakfast pancake I can enjoy and feel satisfied when eating!




“Peppers of the Americas” by, Marisel E. Presilla

lg peppers of americas

“Peppers of the Americas” is an invaluable and exhaustive resource for anyone who loves to cook, garden, or study the history of plants.  The photography and drawings are vivid and stunning, and each of the almost 200 peppers discussed in the book are photographed for reference.

An in depth history of peppers is given including their origins a regional break down of where they are found in the world.  The anatomy of the pepper, what makes them hot, nutrition are also included.

The encyclopedia style alphabetical list of fresh and dried peppers is included with excellent color photographs to help the reader know what each pepper looks like.  There is also a description of each pepper, flavor profiles and preparation suggestions.

Finally, a diverse recipe section is included for dried seasonings, condiments, vinegars, and hot sauces, pickles, and entrees made with vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood.  If you love to explore ethnic cuisine, you will love this book.  I am particularly interested in the author’s use of unique ingredients such as using the leaves of plants such as pepper and avocado leaves.  The “Miracha” pg. 260 (author’s version of Sriracha), “Pepper Steaks with Pepper Leaf Chimichuri” pg. 280, “Refried black beans with Chile de Arbol” pg. 284 are just a few of the recipes which have me intrigued.  I recently transitioned to a plant based diet and I was happy to find plenty of recipes which I am able to try out.

Often times I am interested in purchasing peppers but have no idea what to pair them with, or how to cook with them.  Thanks to this resource, I will be able to expand my horizons and open my culinary world to new global flavors.  I own many cookbooks and this is among my favorites. I know I will get a lot of use out of this book.

I received this book from “Blogging for Books” for my honest review.

Author Bio:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/105585/maricel-e-presilla/

More info:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/545207/peppers-of-the-americas-by-maricel-e-presilla/




Best Breakfast Green Bowl


pictured above: a Green Day bowl from Sejuiced, in Newport Beach, CA

Just when I thought the Acai bowl was my favorite new plant based frozen treat, along came this Green Bowl to satisfy my sweet tooth/summertime frozen treat craving!  The color is green, but the taste is like a soft serve tropical ice cream, think pineapple, mango, banana…and I promise you the green does not get in the way of the incredible fruity flavors!  This is thicker than a smoothie, so grab a bowl, a spoon and get ready for a great breakfast, lunch, or anytime treat. Topped with fresh fruit, shredded coconut, goji berries, and even a spoonful of almond butter or peanut butter, this treat will make you smile and dive in for more!

For easy prep, purchase pre washed and packaged baby spinach and kale OR instead of kale just use a * “power greens” mix which has a combination of spinach, kale and chard.  I used a combination of baby spinach and power greens because I wanted more spinach.

Just like the Acai bowl, the green bowl blends best in a high powered blender such as a Vitamix.  I have not tried the recipe in any other blender and it probably wont work as well, especially if you do not have a tamper.  The slimmer tapered container works better than the low profile container because it takes less ingredients to fill up the bottom and maximize the power of the blade.  I use my 48 oz. container, especially when just making one serving.

Ingredients for one serving but this recipe doubles beautifully:

  • A handful of baby spinach and a handful of kale (or instead of kale a handful of “power greens” *see note above)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/4 cup liquid of your choice, suggestions to choose from include: water, flax water (1/2 Tbls. flax and 1/4 cup water), coconut milk, almond milk


Place all ingredients in blender in the order listed.  Start blender on low and ramp up to high using the tamper to tamp the ingredients down until a smooth consistency is achieved and all of the ingredients are blended well.  Remove contents from blender using a spoon or spatula and layer with granola or top with sliced banana, fresh blueberries, granola , shredded unsweetened coconut, goji berries, almond butter or peanut butter, or other toppings of choice.  Consume immediately or freeze for later consumption.  Enjoy!

Please see my blog for a great home made granola recipe: https://wordpress.com/post/dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com/3648