Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse

by Mimi Thorisson
Published by Clarkson Potter

My first impression of this cookbook was "Wow! What a heavy book!". While the index begins on page 300, the book seems so much bigger than that maybe due to the oversize pages. This book is quite the volume of French cooking. When I opened the book, I got my second and most lasting impression ~ how beautiful! You'll be enthralled by the gorgeous photographs of the French countryside, farmhouse, food, and family.

Oh, yes, there is food, too. The cookbook is divided into four section by seasons, spring through winter, which takes advantage of seasonal foods. Each season is set up menu-style with starters, main courses & sides, and desserts. The recipes will take you on a journey to France making this cookbook perfect for anyone who has dreamed of making the trip. For those of us who may never be able to make that trip, we are provided with a beautiful alternative ~ bringing France into our homes through this cookbook.

About the Author (from the Random House web site):  MIMI THORISSON is the author of Manger, a blog devoted to French cooking that was named Saveur’s Best Regional Food Blog in April 2013. After a career in television and having lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Reykjavik, and Paris, she settled with her photographer husband, their five young children, her two older stepchildren, and the family’s fourteen dogs in a farmhouse in M├ędoc. She is the star of the cooking shows La Table de Mimi and the upcoming Les Desserts de Mimi, both on Canal+ in France.

Visit Mimi Thorisson's blog, Manger, to see her work. Also, for more information on the cookbook, visit the Random House web site.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this cookbook through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: Fish Market by Kathy Hunt

Running Press Book Publishers

Even though I live near the coast, I still think that there is something special about a seafood dinner. As we get closer to the holidays, many people in my area of southeast Georgia will gather around fires in their backyards to prepare Low Country boils and oyster roasts ~ boiled shrimp and steamed oysters. I'll take mine slathered in homemade cocktail sauce, please.

I am comfortable cooking certain types of seafood such as shrimp, scallops, oysters, and a small variety of fish. But, there is a whole world (or ocean) of seafood out there that still remains a mystery to me. If you're like me and need more guidance on preparing seafood, then you need Fish Market: A Cookbook for Selecting and Preparing Seafood by Kathy Hunt. This cookbook is a comprehensive guide to all types of seafood and is an invaluable resource for all home cook who wish to become more confident in preparing seafood.

As you can see by the table of contents below, no sea creature has been forgotten:
  • A Bevy of Bivalves: clams, mussels, oysters, scallops
  • A Collection of Crustaceans: crabs, crayfish, lobster, shrimp
  • Small, Savory, Oily Fish: anchovies, butterfish, herring, sardines, shad
  • Rich, Meaty, Oily Fish: bluefish, carp, cobia, mackerel, sablefish, salmon, swordfish, tuna
  • Firm, Flavorful Fish: char, croaker, halibut, mahi mahi, monkfish, snapper, striped bass
  • Mild, White-Fleshed Fish: catfish, cod, grouper, ocean perch, orange roughy, pollock, porgy, sea bass, turbot
  • Delicate, Flaky Delights: barramundi, flounder, haddock, sole, tilapia, trout
  • Fabulous, Sometimes Forgotten Seafood: abalone, eel, octopus, squid, whelk
  • Seafood Sides: salsa, salads (cold & warm), sides dishes (vegetables, rice, potatoes)
The cookbook begins with the author discussing the merits of incorporating seafood into your diet. She then tells readers two of the most important things to remember when cooking seafood: keep the preparations simple and don't overcook it. She teaches readers how to select seafood by look, touch, and smell. I know that I've spent long periods of time in front of the seafood case at my local grocery store trying to decide if a piece of fish was worth buying and eating. Finally, the author includes a tutorial on cleaning and preparing whole fish if you should ever find yourself in possession of one.

Each chapter includes several recipes for each specific seafood listed in the contents. While each recipe features a specific type of seafood that may or may not be readily available in your area, the rest of the ingredients are fairly common and easily attainable. The directions are uncomplicated continuing the "keep it simple" theme running throughout the book. Recipes are introduced with regional background information, menu suggestions, and helpful tips on preparation.

Pan Seared Scallops with Sherry Vinegar Reduction

I chose to test the recipe for Pan Seared Scallops with Sherry Vinegar Reduction. Scallops can be a little expensive in our area so when I do splurge on them (or find them on sale), I like to prepare them in a special way. This recipe was delicious! The tangy sweetness of the reduction worked well with the natural buttery sweetness of the scallops. It was definitely a celebration-worthy dish. Fish Market: A Cookbook for Selecting and Preparing Seafood is a cooking resource that I am glad to add to my collection.

For more information on this cookbook, visit Fish Market by Kathy Hunt.

Disclaimer: The author provided me with a review copy of this cookbook; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Publisher Spotlight: Pelican Publishing Company

Pelican Publishing Company

I have been fortunate to work with some generous cookbook publishers over the years. Occasionally, the company will ask me to participate in a blogger program which affords me the opportunity to review their newest cookbooks as they are released. While I've reviewed different genres of cookbooks over the years, my heart is always with those that feature Southern cuisine. Pelican Publishing Company features cookbooks that have a rich, Southern heritage.

Pelican Publishing Company is one of the largest independent trade book publishers in the South. They are based in Gretna, Louisiana. The company offers a vast selections of books in different genres including children books, history, regional interest, holidays, and, of course, cooking. Let me share of few of their cookbooks that will appeal to all of you Southern food fans out there.

First of all, how could I resist the Johnny Harris Restaurant Cookbook? The restaurant is located in a town that is nearby to me, Savannah, Georgia. While I haven't been to the restaurant all that often over the years, my family and I did enjoy a meal there over the holidays last Christmas. The restaurant's history and menu provided us with a wonderful experience. If you're ever in the Savannah area, you'll want to try Johnny Harris Restaurant.

This cookbook featured many of the recipes that has made the restaurant famous. I was surprised to see that the barbecue sauce recipe was included. Johnny Harris barbecue sauce is my absolute favorite bottled sauce and now I can make it at home. The book combines the best features of the restaurant - its significant history in Savannah and the recipes that made it famous. There is a broad range of recipes from appetizers, soup/salads, sides dishes, seafood, meats, and desserts. Oh, and there's a section on sauces, my favorite!

My first thought when I read Southern Thymes Shared was that it had a vintage feel to it. In a world that now features cookbooks and blogs with food so over-stylized, it's nice to see a cookbook that is a throwback to simpler times: recipes highlighted with photos. The cookbook is set up menu-style which features full course meals including wine suggestions.

This cookbook offers a large selection of classic Southern dishes. I am always drawn to dessert recipes so I've drooled many times over the lime cake. Finally, a use for all of those limes on my lime tree! This cookbook is perfect for those readers who want to get back to the basics of cooking.

Field Peas to Foie Gras is one of the newest additions to the Pelican Publishing family. With her training at the Le Cordon Bleu Paris, chef Jennifer Hill Booker takes classic Southern ingredients and gives them a French twist. Two of my favorite recipes were Hickory-Smoked Chicken Croquettes and, always a favorite of mine, Caramel Cake. 

This cookbook which features lovely photos is perfect for experienced cooks who are looking for something out of the ordinary but want to stick with familiar ingredients and kick them up a notch.

Unfortunately, I have never been to New Orleans. However, based on the culinary experiences that my two co-workers have enjoyed there, I feel like I've been there in spirit. Now, with New Orleans Creole Recipes, I can bring New Orleans into my own kitchen.

This is a small but powerful cookbook that covers all of the city's classic recipes that are shared by some of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans such as Brennan's and Arnaud's. Fortunately, you don't need to work in a professional kitchen to bring these recipes to life. Each recipe is designed to work in your home kitchen. The photographs of the completed dishes made my mouth water. I can't wait to have my first taste of NOLA right here in GA.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with review copies of these books; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review: The Kitchn Cookbook

The Kitchn Cookbook
By Sara Kate Gillingham & Faith Durand
Clarkson Potter Publishers

The Kitchn Cookbook is more of a culinary textbook rather than a cookbook. In addition to recipes which cover breakfast, appetizers, drinks, main dishes, sides & salads, and desserts, the book is rich with information on how to set up, stock up, and maintain your kitchen. This book is perfect for beginning and expert cooks. Even if you've been in your current kitchen for a couple of decades, you will still be able to find inspiration in this book.

Part I of the book includes three chapters on setting up the kitchen, focusing on kitchen tools, and caring for your kitchen. Advice is given on working in any kind of kitchen from extra-small, rental kitchen, one-drawer kitchen to the too-large kitchen. As someone who cooks in a small kitchen, I can't even imagine having a kitchen that is too large. The book is filled with gorgeous photos of kitchen gadgets and layouts. Yes, I love looking at photos of kitchens. The book also invites us into the personal kitchens of various chefs, artists, and designers. 

Part II offers suggestions on stocking the pantry, planning meals, and mastering essential skills in the kitchen. The section of the book contains the recipes. Everything in the book leads to the final chapter, gathering, which incorporates everything you've learned into creating a welcoming and stress-free event for family and friends. 

The Kitchn Cookbook is a wonderful addition to my cookbook collection. It is so dense and rich with information on every aspect of cooking that I'm sure that I'll find something new every time I open its cover. I can't wait to explore it in more depth. 

For more information on the book and authors as well as a sneak peek inside, visit the Random House website here:

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Hamilton Beach's Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid

Hamilton Beach's Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid

Until I received the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid, I had never owned a programmable slow cooker. My other slow cookers have basic settings- low, high, and keep warm. So, despite the fact that slow cookers are designed to be a worry-free cooking method, I didn't feel like I could throw ingredients into the slow cooker and let them cook for the nine-plus hours that I am away from home because of the possibility of overcooking my food.

With the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid, I have numerous cooking options: first, we have the manual option that I'm used to, next is the programmable option which cooks to a certain point and then automatically switches over to the keep warm mode, and, finally, the probe option for large pieces of meat. Before cooking, insert the probe into the meat and set the desired internal temperature. When the temperature is reached, the slow cooker will move into the keep warm mode so you don't overcook your meat. This is perfect for people like me who are away from home for long periods of time. I once came home from work to find a hockey puck instead of a roast in my slow cooker. Overcooking won't be a problem now.


I've owned several Hamilton Beach slow cookers in the past but this is the only one in my collection that includes a latch and spoon. I'm always hesitant about carrying a slow cooker of food to events because of the threat of it spilling in my car. One of my co-workers had the misfortune of having her slow cooker spill chili all over the front floorboard of her car as she was making her way to one of our work events. Those accidents won't happen with these latches.

To test this slow cooker, I wanted to try something a little outside of the norm of slow cooker meals by testing a bread recipe. First, I lined the slow cooker with parchment paper that was then sprayed with cooking spray. I added ten frozen yeast rolls and programmed the slow cooker on low. The rolls needed to thaw and rise for 1-1/4 hours.

At the end of the rising period, the rolls were fully risen and ready to be baked in the slow cooker. I set the slow cooker to the high setting for another hour and 15 minutes.

At the end of the cooking period, you can see that the rolls had browned around the edges while the tops were still pale. As a person who always burns the bottom of my bread, I was happy to see that the bottom of these rolls were not burned but a nice, golden brown. The rolls were fully cooked at this point, but I chose to brown them in the oven. I picked up the rolls using the parchment paper and put them on a baking sheet. I spread on a little butter and put them under the broiler of my stove for a minute or so to brown the tops.

I was so pleased with the results of "baking" my rolls in the slow cooker. It will definitely be my go-to method for baking bread as it frees up the oven for other dishes especially on busy cooking days over the upcoming holidays. I'm looking forward to many more delicious experiments with my Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid.

Fresh-Baked Dinner Rolls
from Gooseberry Patch's Slow-Cooker Christmas Favorites

8 to 10 frozen dinner rolls
Garnish: softened butter

Line the bottom of a large slow cooker with a circle of parchment paper. Lightly spray with non-stick vegetable spray. Arrange frozen rolls in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low setting for about 1-1/4 hours, until rolls have thawed and risen. Turn slow cooker to high setting. Cover and cook for 1-1/4 hours, until set. For a more golden finish, remove rolls to a baking sheet; broil for 90 seconds, or until golden. Makes 8 to 10 rolls.



Would you like to have a Hamilton Beach's Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid of your very own? You're in luck because Hamilton Beach has generously offered to let me host a giveaway for one of my lucky readers. Enter in the widget below. Please give it a few moments to load. Deadline: November 02, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received this product for review through the Hamilton Beach Ambassador Program. However, the opinion expressed here is my own.