“Harvest” by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis

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The pages of “Harvest” are full of striking and colorful photography.  The authors provide detailed descriptions and guides for planting, harvesting and utilizing the bounty from a home garden. Anyone who loves gardening with edible and medicinal plants and flowers, fruit trees and foliage will enjoy reading this book which is full of tips and even some recipes.  What I appreciate most about the book was the recommendation for the optimal variety of plant which will produce the best yield/flowers/etc.  For instance, I never knew the variety of poppy flower which produces edible poppy seeds is a pink flower.  I also never knew how to harvest the seeds, now I do.  I would love to add to a vegetable bed to my garden with rhubarb, and they smartly suggest the variety which yields stalks which grow year round as opposed to seasonal.

Now that we are officially out of the drought in Southern California, I would like to share this book with my husband in hopes to plan out adding trees and plants to our garden including many of the suggestions in this book.  I am now inspired and particularly interested in growing crab apple, guava, finger lime, bay laurel leaf, lemongrass, quince, poppies, herbs and more.

I received this book from the “Blogging for Books” program for my honest review.  I recommend this book for anyone who loves gardening.

“No Fear” Tony Perkins

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Tony Perkins does an excellent job of highlighting many examples of individuals who have taken a stand for their Christian faith.  These individuals all had something in common: they were in the midst of opposition and even faced the threat of persecution, ridicule and in many cases even incarceration.  Although this book is directed and written for teens and young adults, the message can apply to someone of any age. “No Fear” will resonate with anyone who shares deeply held convictions and has the courage to stand firm in their Faith in a modern day society which frankly has difficulty discerning truth.  I  was encouraged by the stories of individuals who chose to lose everything to stand for their faith and yet in the bigger picture, God had an even bigger plan.  What these individuals “gave up or left behind” to honor God ended up opening new doors and opportunities that could never have been imagined. And that is the Christian Faith, walking in step with God, choosing to honor and obey and love Him. By allowing Him to direct and work in and through the Christian He provides courage and strength to stand for Christ and make a difference. I was greatly encouraged by this book which I received book from the Penguin Publishing, “Blogging for Books” program,  and I would highly recommend this inspirational book to anyone who wants to strengthen their faith and live courageously for Christ.

“The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook”, by Helen You

dumplinggalaxylgAuthor, Helen You, was born and raised near Beijing China in a Northern Port City named Tianjin.  Helen brought her  cherished family recipes to the United States where she opened a small food stall in New York City.  In the food stall she made only a few traditional dumplings from her home land.  Popularity for her dumplings grew and customers were clamoring for more.  Helen’s answer to the high demand  was to open a restaurant named “Dumpling Galaxy” which allowed her to unleash her creativity in dumpling making and create over 100 dumpling recipes and flavor profiles, some authentic to her cultural heritage and others out of her wildly creative flavor pairings.  I was immediately curious about this book because I love mouthwatering Chinese style dumplings and I’m always up for learning new tips and tricks to perfect making them in my home kitchen.

The book is broken down into five main categories : Classic Dumplings, Green Dumplings (Vegetable/meat free), Faraway Flavors, Dessert Dumplings, Sauces and Sides. Included in the book are basic folding techniques, recipes for wrappers, and detailed instructions on how to create juicy pan fried, steamed and boiled dumplings.

First on my list to try will be the Classic Pork and Chive dumplings, Pork and Taro Shumai, Chicken and Thai Basil Dumplings, and Chile Oil.

I found the book to be easy to understand with the instructions fairly straightforward and thorough.  Even though there are written directions and several picture diagrams to help get a beginner started, I found myself wanting more descriptive pictures on the folding techniques. I was truly hoping to find a Taro dessert dumpling, but was sad to see no recipe as such, but there is a red bean dessert dumpling recipe which is another favorite of mine which I look forward to trying.  I am grateful for the opportunity to receive this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.  I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to try their hand at making classic authentic Chinese dumpling recipes and also push the bounds of creativity in the dumpling making arena.

 

The BEST Home Made Hot Cocoa

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A good cup of hot chocolate is so comforting, and I can easily spot a rich delicious tasting cup of hot chocolate.  This recipe happens to be in my top favorites of all time. Better than any coffee shop.  My favorite  hot chocolate memory was a cup that I had over 20 years ago in a café in Belgium.  This one though, definitely hits the spot and takes a strong second place.

Instant hot cocoa mix is one of those things which is now so readily available to be purchased, and some of them are quite expensive, it is shocking to see how many will doll out a lot of money to buy a good hot cocoa mix.  It makes me sad to think that many revert to store bought versions (sometimes with gums, stabilizers, preservatives, etc.)  instead of a simple and good recipe.

So my husband and I, through testing, came up with this recipe.  Sure, you can use any unsweetened cocoa powder, but for those with discerning tastes, you may not get the same depth of chocolate flavor unless you use a brand from Holland called “Droste”, pictured above.  Droste is among the best tasting quality cocoa powder, and it is worth finding.  It can be purchased at Cost Plus World Markets, Bristol Farms markets in So California, in bulk through WalMart…it may take some searching on the internet or at a specialty store but it will be worth it.  We paid between $6.99 a box at Cost Plus World Market, to $10.99 a box at Bristol Farms.  Regardless, the 8.8 oz. box makes 25 servings of hot chocolate so when you break it down, it is much less expensive than the mixes out there, but it tastes like a million bucks, super rich and chocolaty.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. unsweetened Droste Cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 Tbls Cold Water (just enough to make a paste)
  • 6-8 oz cold or warm milk (we use whole fat milk)
  • Whipped cream or marshmallows for topping, or even a drop of vanilla extract stirred in at the end (optional but recommended)

Directions:

Mix together the cocoa powder and sugar.  Add 1/2 to 1 Tbls. cold water and stir until ingredients come together to make a paste.  Add Cold or hot milk, stir and enjoy!

“Inspiralize Everything”, by Ali Maffucci

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One of the newest food trends is the use of a spiralzer kitchen gadget to create thin to thick noodle style ribbons made of fruits or vegetables to use in salads or as a replacement for traditional pasta.  Spiralizing is a way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into recipes with the goal of consuming less carbs and eating healthier.  Ali Malfucci’s book contains a wide index of recipes categorized by over 20 fruits or vegetables. Some of the more familiar produce such as zucchini, apples, beets, cucumber, sweet potato, butternut squash are highlighted but also some of the less often used vegetables are also featured such as celeriac and kohlrabi. For those meat lovers out there, not to worry, there are plenty of recipes which contain pork, beef, lamb, fish, and poultry but include vegetables or fruit either served on the side or incorporated into the dish.  There are also plenty of gluten free and vegan recipes, so really there are recipes to please almost anyone’s palate. On the top right page of each recipe there is a box which highlights whether or not the recipe is suitable for Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, etc.

Some of the recipes which are intriguing to me include: Butternut Squash noodles with Almond Ricotta and Coconut Bacon, pg. 73. I am particularly interested in preparing almond ricotta which I have tasted before and enjoyed, it’s surprisingly satisfying.  Winter Lasagna with Brussels Sprouts and Chicken Sausage, pg. 78, also looks like a winning dish as the butternut squashed/sliced with a spiralizer is a substitute for traditional lasagna noodles. I love all of the ingredients in the recipe so I am anxious to try it out. Buffalo Wings with Celeriac Slaw, pg. 112, also looks and sounds very appetizing. Other recipes include inspiration from cuisines around the world including  Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, and Greek.  If you are looking for a fresh new way to cook, this book may just “inspiralize” you!  I received this book from “Blogging for Books” for my honest review.

Note:  This is a traditional style paperback cookbook with the integration of spiralized fruits and vegetables into the recipes which means in addition to a spiralizer you will still  need basic kitchen ware gadgets such as a knife, food processor, and pots and pans to prepare some of the recipes in this book.

 

More Info:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/538428/inspiralize-everything-by-ali-maffucci/

Author Bio:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/304550/ali-maffucci/

Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables, by Peter Meehan

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Power Vegetables will get you thinking about preparing vegetables in ways you may have never dreamed.  The “Power” stands for powerful bold flavors that will make these vegetarian dishes (yes, there are many recipes which include dairy, eggs, and cheese) hold their own in the flavor category. The goal of the author is to create more weeknight vegetable centric cooking and make the flavors sing. Many of the recipes are inspired from popular USA restaurants or chefs.

There are a good amount of traditional recipes such as Quiche Lorraine, Carrot Cake, Zucchini Bread, Caesar Salad, French Onion Soup, Hummus, Salsas, Dips and Dressings but new takes on some traditional recipes such as adding red miso to hummus for an unexpected flavor punch. With categories such as starters, pies and the like, ensemble players, soups/soupy, mains, breads and cakes, this is definitely a book for the adventurous cook. Get ready to stock your panty with spices or condiments you may not frequently use in the kitchen, a trip to your local Asian or spice store may prove to be helpful. If not as adventurous to pick up “all” the ingredients called for in the recipe, the bare bones of the recipes are solid enough that even if you were to leave out a hard to find ingredient it would still be good but just not have that extra pop of flavor the author intends.

I found many recipes I am eager to try-many of which may be a good overall guide to play with. I will try the Hummus, pg. 42. I am not sure if I will add the 1 Tbls. of red miso though, it is so untraditional and I would not purchase red miso just for this preparation. I am willing to try method and use the ratio of other ingredients to make a smooth hummus. XO Sauce,  is one I have made before and the version on pg. 94 looks tempting if I can find a small amount of dried scallop and shrimps (my Asian grocer sells large bags of dried seafood)-if not, I may still make it sans the dried seafood and I am sure it will still be fantastic. The Torta di Ebre, pg. 108, really caught my eye, a traditional Roman style pie made with Swiss chard and parmesan. Another recipe which was picture perfect but so simple to make is the BBQ Carrots with Homemade Ranch, pg. 152. I am always searching for the perfect Ranch Dressing recipe, maybe this will be the one!  Elote, pg. 156, would also be perfectly made on the BBQ-grilled corn with mayo, parmesan, and chili powder and lime juice.  There are plenty of butternut squash, and sweet potato recipes such as Butternut Squash with Piquillo Crema, pg. 184, Roasted Squash with Pipan Rojo, pg. 195,6, Sweet Potato Burrito, pg. 198 to get me excited, and even  Cauliflower Chaat, pg. 227, Naan, pg. 209, and Falafel, pg. 216, recipes.

I received this book for my honest review from Blogging for Books.  I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to experiment with new and modern flavors and wants to add more vegetables into their weekday cooking.

Brussels Sprouts with Dates, Cashews, Lemon

 

 

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A recent visit to Red Herring, in Eagle Rock, CA has me dreaming about a return visit as soon as possible.  We were wowed with new flavors, textures and flavor combinations that really have inspired me to hit the kitchen to experiment.  One of my favorite dishes of the night was a side to an absolutely delicious chicken and waffle dinner.  I ordered the Brussels Sprouts with Dates, Cashews, and Lemon (pictured above) which made me think about this vegetable goodness in a whole new way.  The sprouts were not charred at all as is customary these days in so many restaurants,  but rather sautéed delicately with a sauce that was sweet and slightly sticky from the dates yet buttery and rich. Finished with morsels of cashew, this dish was a knockout for me. I even found myself dipping my chicken and waffle in the goodness of the sauce.

Tonight I attempted the dish and came up with something similar.  I found a recipe from Gjelina as a guide and then slightly adapted it with the flavors from the Red Herring version.  If I make this again, I will make an emulsion in the blender with the chicken stock and the dates to make a slightly smoother sauce.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Dates, Cashews, and Lemon

Adapted from Gjelina, Cooking from Venice, California, by Travis Lett, further adapted by Dawnie to create this version:

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
¼ cup pitted dates
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Handful of cashew pieces at the end to finish

Method
Heat a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat and add the butter.  Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan cut-side down and cover without stirring about 5 to 7 minutes. The idea is to get a light sear, keep them relatively green inside and soft. Reduce the heat back to medium, flip the sprouts, and season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Add the dates , and toss well. Add the stock to the pan, a little at a time, using a wooden spoon to smash the dates into the stock, breaking them into smaller pieces as the stock reduces into a sauce. (note:  I will experiment next time and puree the dates in a blender with the chicken stock to get a nice velvety sauce-my dates dissolved but there were some slight pieces of the skin left in the sauce).  Once the dates are incorporated, add the lemon juice and cashews.

Continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the sprouts, but be careful not to reduce it too much or the sauce will become cloyingly sweet and sticky. (If you do over reduce it, add a splash of stock or water to get it back to where you want it.) Finish with a Tablespoon or so of butter. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.

Here is the version I  used as a guide. I have not tried it but adapted my recipe from the recipe below…this one has bacon, and does call to char the sprouts.

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dates

Adapted from Gjelina, Cooking from Venice, California, by Travis Lett

Ingredients
3 ounces bacon, cut into ¼-inch wide matchsticks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup pitted dates
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Method
Heat a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon and olive oil. Cook until the bacon has rendered most of its fat but is still juicy, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a bowl and increase the heat to high. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan cut-side down and sear hard, without shaking the pan, until well-charred and beginning to black (see photo above), about 5 to 7 minutes. The idea is to get a deep, penetrating sear that nearly blackens the sprouts, but keeps them relatively green inside. Reduce the heat back to medium, flip the sprouts, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the dates and cooked bacon, and toss well. Add the stock to the pan, a little at a time, using a wooden spoon to smash the dates into the stock, breaking them into smaller pieces as the stock reduces into a sauce. Once the dates are incorporated, add the vinegar.

Continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the sprouts, but be careful not to reduce it too much or the sauce will become cloyingly sweet and sticky. (If you do over reduce it, add a splash of stock or water to get it back to where you want it.) Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.

Fluffy Buttermilk Waffles

 

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For years I’ve used a Martha Stewart waffle recipe as my go to until one day I realized they are sort of dense and not as light and cloudy as the light as air but substantially soft delicious waffles I tried at a newly opened restaurant named Red Herring, in Los Angeles, CA.  Eating those waffles, with perfectly amazing fried chicken I might add, made me realize I’ve been making waffles which could be much better.  I scoured the internet for a recipe using the search word “light” and I came up with this one.  Beating the egg whites separately and folding them into the rest of the batter is a technique I’ve used before, but the end result never wowed me enough to warrant the extra mixing bowls…until now.  I love this recipe because it really does create a light an airy waffle, with a slightly crunchy exterior…not exactly like the waffles I had a Red Herring, but a darn good substitute.  I really like that the recipe yields 12 waffles, I’ve had the batter in the fridge for 3 days now and the family just makes waffles when the mood strikes.

Here is the recipe.  I’ve provided the link to it but also listed the instructions below: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/fluffy-buttermilk-waffles

Recipe yields 12 waffles or it says 24 pancakes (which I have not tried the pancakes). Recipe adapted by Dawnie.

Ingredients

2 cups cake flour (I used regular All Purpose Flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Syrup

Preparation

1. Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together egg yolks and buttermilk in a small bowl. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.2. Using a fork, stir yolk mixture into flour mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in butter and vanilla. (Batter will be lumpy.) Fold in egg white mixture just until incorporated. (Do not overmix.)3. Pour about 1/2 cup batter for each waffle into a preheated, oiled Belgian-style waffle iron; cook according to manufacturer’s instructions until waffles are golden brown and crisp. Keep warm in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 200° oven up to 30 minutes. Serve with syrup.

Note:

Batter will also make 24 pancakes

YUM!

The London Cookbook, by Aleksandra Crapanzano

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I enjoyed reading The London Cookbook which is essentially a compilation of recipes from some of the best restaurants in London. The photography in the book is beautiful. I like the overall look of the font and layout of the pages of the book. The white colored page background gives the pages a clean crisp feel and the dark font contrast makes reading the book easy on the eyes and enjoyable. I look forward to cooking some of the most famous restaurant dishes in London without having to get a passport or plane ticket!  And yes, you will most definitely find recipes like British Fish and Chips and Indian Curries which are common staples in London, but also many more dishes that showcase the best of what modern London restaurants have to offer.

The only major commitment to replicating the mouthwatering dishes will most likely require some effort to source the ingredients for the average home cook, or have a very well stocked pantry.  For example, I usually don’t have Chestnut Flour on hand, but the Chestnut Straccetti with Mushrooms and Chestnuts, pg. 63, from Bocca Di Lupo sounds and looks too good to pass up.

The book is divided into sections for Light Fare, Vegetables, Soups, Pasta Rice and Grains, Seafood, Fowl, Meat, Desserts and Cocktails.  Some of the recipes which I would like to try from the Soups section include: Ginger and White’s Sweet Potato, Bacon, and Savoy Cabbage Soup, pg 42.  From the Seafood:  Fish and Chips, pg. 111 from Tom’s Kitchen, and the Ivy’s Sugar-Brined Salmon with Radish, Cucumber and Pea Shoot, pg 113. The Modern Pantry’s Ginger and Cilantro Spiced Cod with Cauliflower “Couscous”, looks stunning and I am sure tastes fantastic-again a Baharat spice mix which can be home made with a little research, but something I don’t typically have in the pantry-even so, sourcing the spice mix will not hinder me from trying the recipe .  In the Fowl section, another Bocca Di Luppo recipe has caught my eye, Chicken Scaoppine with Mushrooms and Marsala, pg. 132.  Tramshed’s Indian Chicken and Pumpkin Curry, pg. 136 also sounds like it would make a warm and comforting dish for winter.  In the Desserts section the Chocolate Nemesis, pg. 190 from the River Café seems awfully indulgent for a time when you want a decadent rich chocolate experience.  Other Desserts like Barfina’s Santiago Tart, pg. 209, and Bread Ahead’s Ginger Steamed Pudding with Rum Syrup, pg 229, are ones that veer from the “average” dessert and that I would like to try.

I would recommend this book for anyone who appreciates fine food and loves to cook.  I received this book from Penguin Publish through “Blogging for Books”.

More Info:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/247526/the-london-cookbook-by-aleksandra-crapanzano/

About the Author:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/225821/aleksandra-crapanzano/

BIG BAD BREAKFAST by John Currence

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My favorite meal of the day is breakfast so naturally I would embrace the new book about all things breakfast written by the James Beard Award Winner, John Currence. BBB is also the name of one of John’s restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi and if I am ever in that neck of the woods I am sure to see how breakfast is done right.

It’s hard to find a restaurant that makes a truly good breakfast.  My standards are high.  Just like John suggests, a great breakfast starts with important things like scratch made items, lots of black pepper, and butter to name a few.  Most often I find myself making breakfast at home versus eating out because of my extreme pickiness for a high quality breakfast.

BBB has no shortage of interesting breakfast recipes from Pastries, to eggs, pancakes and waffles, condiments and even drinks.  All of the basics and then some are covered including how to cook and egg.  Some of the recipes which immediately caught my attention are the Sausage Cinnamon Rolls pg. 9, Banana Pecan Coffee Cake pg. 13, Honey Buns, pg. 18, Potato Hash, pg 88, Toasted Oatmeal Pancakes, pg. 107, Spicy Bacon Jam, pg. 192, Raspberry Butter, pg. 209, Blackberry Marscapone, Pg. 210, and Breakfast Sausage, pg. 213.

So far I’ve made the Potato Hash on pg. 88 and I must say I love the technique of par boiling the potatoes, it eliminates the starch and really creates a great hash.  I used the hash to fill some breakfast burritos with eggs and salsa, avocado and sour cream, it was one of the best breakfast burritos I remember making in a long while.  My added secret was to use a little Toronto Seasoning for the potatoes.

I also made the Breakfast Sausage on pg. 213 and I must say this is a fantastic recipe, and probably one of the most satisfying breakfast sausages I’ve tried.  I asked my butcher to grind the pork shoulder and did not add additional fat as suggested.  I mixed in my spices of crushed sage, fennel, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, fresh garlic, cayenne, black pepper, and salt to the ground pork and hand formed the patties and fried them up in a skillet.  I plan to serve them on a hot biscuit with scrambled egg for an ultimate breakfast sandwich. My only recommendation for this recipe is to cut the salt in half, otherwise it’s perfect!

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I received this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.  Despite some crude language peppered throughout the book, I would highly recommend this book for any breakfast lover!

More Info:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/240966/big-bad-breakfast-by-john-currence/

Author Bio:  http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/222833/john-currence/