Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden
by Karen Newcomb

Over the past year, I have increasingly become more and more interested in gardening. My husband plants a few things every spring, but I haven't always shown an interest in it. Last spring, I named our backyard the Edible Acre and designated one area an orchard and another area the berry patch. I've already started making plans for this year's garden.

I was excited to see that The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden was available on Blogging for Books. This is a pure gardening books. You won't find any recipes in here; however, you will find numerous ideas on how to turn any small space into a productive garden. I enjoyed looking through the postage stamp garden plans. It was fun to imagine these small gardens growing in my back yard. 

In addition to garden layout ideas, the book also includes advice on how to plant, water, and maintain your vegetables. You'll also learn which plants work well together in beds. Finally, you'll learn how to control pests and diseases. 

I'm looking forward to utilizing the plans in this book to create my own postage stamp vegetable gardens. I'm already envisioning these full yet condensed garden boxes scattered throughout my back yard. This is the perfect book to begin a collection of books in my newest area of interest - gardening.

For more information on this book, visit the Random House website.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cookbook Review: Supermarket Healthy

Supermarket Healthy
by Melissa D'Arabian
Clarkson Potter

Supermarket Healthy is a cookbook geared towards faithful fans of Melissa D'Arabian's cooking show on the Food Network. I found most of the recipes to be a departure from her the simple, $10 meal recipes that she features on the show. It is a dense volume of recipes that cover 11 chapters: breakfast, snacks, soups/stews, salads/wraps/sandwiches, veggie mains, pasta, fish/seafood, chicken/turkey, beef/pork/lamb, sides, and dessert. Each recipe features healthier alternatives for certain ingredients such as coconut or soy milk, low-sodium broths, quinoa and brown rice.
When I read the title of this cookbook, I assumed that the recipes would be highly approachable for the average home cook. However, my initial impression as I thumbed through the pages was that most of the recipes did not appeal to me as either a cook or an eater. Almost every recipe had a little twist to it (ingredient-wise) that made me shake my head and move on to the next page where the sentiment was repeated. Again, if you're a fan of Melissa's show or Food Network in general, you'll want to add this to your collection. If you're just a home cook looking for new, simple recipes that have easily attainable and affordable ingredients from your local grocery store, you may want to do a little more research before you decide that this is the cookbook for you.

Author Bio: (from the Random House website)

Melissa d'Arabian was a corporate finance executive before becoming the host of Food Network's Ten Dollar Dinners and Cooking Channel's Drop 5 Lbs with Good Housekeeping. She also developed the FoodNetwork.com seriesThe Picky Eaters Project, serves as lead judge on Guy's Grocery Games, and is the author of the New York Times bestselling cookbook Ten Dollar Dinners. Melissa has an MBA from Georgetown University, and lives with her husband and their four daughters in San Diego.

For more information on this cookbook, visit the Random House website.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Cookbook Review: The Recipe Hacker

The Recipe Hacker: 
Comfort foods without gluten, dairy, soy, grain or cane sugar
by Diana Keuilian
Front Table Books

Diana Keuilian writes the blog, RealHealthyRecipes.com. With this cookbook, she sets out to share her healthy take on classic, comfort food by recreating the recipes into healthier versions that are free of gluten, dairy, soy, grain or cane sugar. 

In the opening of the book, she explains that when you eliminate these ingredients from your recipes, you must fill in the gaps with healthier alternatives. Her favorite substitutions are flax meal, coconut flour, blanched almond flour, almond meal, coconut palm sugar, pure maple syrup, raw honey, coconut milk, and coconut oil.

This cookbook has five chapters which cover every meal of the day:
  • Breakfasts - Recipes for pancakes, waffles, and other baked goods along with hot cereal and egg recipes. Since I enjoy making homemade sausage patties, my favorite recipe in this chapter was Roasted Pepper Sausage
  • Appetizers - Vegetables appetizers, meatballs, pulled pork sliders, and dips
  • Main Dishes - Several pizza recipes featuring homemade pizza crust, numerous fish, chicken, beef, and pork recipes
  • Sides - A recipe for cauliflower rice that is featured in different "rice" dishes, numerous recipes for breads including tortillas, cornbread, flatbreads and biscuits just to name a few, vegetable dishes, and sauces
  • Desserts - The final chapter covers all of your favorite desserts - cakes, pies, cookies, and brownies
If you have decided to eliminate ingredients such as gluten, dairy, soy, grain or cane sugar from your life, you may want to investigate this cookbook to get ideas of foods you can continue to enjoy with just a few substitutions of ingredients.

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

{Giveaway} Dessert Mash-Ups

Published by Ulysses Press

The holiday baking season is in full swing. My list of goodies that I intend to prepare gets longer and longer. Just when I think I've finalized my list, another recipe catches my eye and begs to be baked.  Then, a cookbook like Dessert Mash-Ups by Dorothy Kern comes along and I have to start editing my list to add another treat or two. You are probably already familiar with Dorothy Kern. She writes the dessert blog, Crazy for Crust. While I don't know Dorothy personally, I have followed her blog for a few years now and have always been impressed with her work.

What is a dessert mash-up? A dessert mash-up combines two desserts to make one unique treat. Dorothy has certainly created some unique combinations in this book: Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, Strawberry Pie Cupcakes, Cinnamon Roll Cookies, Lemon Meringue Pie Fudge, and Snickers Cake Rolls just to name a few. The cookbook is divided into eight delicious chapters:
  • Breakfast but Better
  • Candy Concoctions
  • Cookies, Brownies, and Bars ~ Together at Last!
  • Pie Surprise
  • Cake & Cupcake Creations
  • New Takes on Cheesecake
  • Double Dips
  • Holiday Mash-Ups

This is a user-friendly cookbook which is perfect for all level of home cooks. Each recipe features common ingredients, clear directions, enticing photographs of completed dishes, and helpful hints from the author. Even if you're not familiar with Dorothy's blog, you'll appreciate the creativity that went into this fun cookbook. Why eat one dessert when you can have two?

As I work on my Christmas baking and prepare treats for the last week of school before Christmas break, I have decided to add these Sugar Cookie Dough Cups to my line-up. These will be a delicious and surprising departure from classic peanut butter cups. I'm going to follow Dorothy's advice below and prepare them in a mini muffin pan. I have jars of sprinkles at the ready!

Photo and recipe provided by Ulysses Press

Sugar Cookie Dough Cups
Recipe and excerpt from Dessert Mash-Ups by Dorothy Kern

My father-in-law was a sugar-cookie fanatic. Every Christmas I’d make our family sugar cookies and I’d have to make him his own extra batch so he wouldn’t eat all of ours (and he would have!). Over the years I started making lots of other sugar-cookie treats, from bars to candy, to give him for every holiday and birthday. I made these in his memory, and I know that he would have loved them (and eaten them all without gaining an ounce).

Yield 12 Prep Time 45 minutes Chill Time 1 hour 15 minutes

1⁄4 cup (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons whole milk
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
12 to 16 ounces vanilla-flavored melting chocolate
Sprinkles (optional)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla, milk, and flour.

2. Form the dough into a disk. Place between two sheets of waxed paper on a cutting board. Roll out to 1⁄4 inch thick. I like to peel the waxed paper off the top, then flip the dough over and peel it off the bottom after every few rolls so that it doesn’t stick. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

3. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut 24 circles of dough, rerolling as necessary. Place half the dough rounds on top of the other half, for a total of 12. Refrigerate until ready to assemble cups.

4. Melt the melting chocolate according to the package directions. (See Candy Dipping Tips.)

5. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of melting chocolate into the bottom of each liner, enough to coat the bottom. Tap the pan to settle the candy and release any air bubbles.

6. Place one cookie dough round in each muffin liner. Top with
1 to 2 tablespoons more melting chocolate, spreading as necessary to make sure that the two edges of chocolate meet. Tap the pan again to release air bubbles. Top with sprinkles. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. These can also be frozen.

Tip: These are a big dose of sweet! To make them more bite-size, use a mini muffin pan, with mini muffin liners and a 1-inch round cookie cutter. You can also make these with your favorite flavor of cookie dough. Just substitute 1 tablespoon of milk for each egg called for in the recipe to make an eggless cookie dough, and you can omit any leavening that is called for. Use vanilla or chocolate candy melts, depending on your cookie dough flavor.

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


Good news! The publisher has been generous enough to offer one of my readers a copy of Dessert Mash-Ups. Enter to win in the widget below. It may take a few moments to load. Deadline to enter is December 18, 2014. Good luck!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

{Giveaway} Southern Living Community Cookbook

Published by Oxmoor House

The first cookbook that I ever read was a community cookbook that my mom owned. It was published by a local church and is one of the only cookbooks that she still has to this day. I vividly remember its pink glossy cover, black plastic spine, and yellowed interior pages. There were no photographs, but I didn't need them. I had no trouble imagining what the outcome of each recipe would be.

As I became an adult and my love for cooking grew, so did my collection of community cookbooks which were given to me by family and friends. Tea Time at the Masters was gifted to me by my late aunt from Augusta, Georgia. Later, I received Savannah Style as a wedding gift. I still cherish both of them. These two community cookbooks along with many others are celebrated in The Southern Living Community Cookbook by Sheri Castle, an author who fully understands the fellowship of food.

The Southern Living Community Cookbook has a traditional layout which I always prefer, being old school and all. The recipes begin with appetizers and move through main dishes, sides, soups, desserts and baked goods and end with beverages and preserved foods. Being familiar with Southern Living, I recognized a few of the recipes here and there because I had prepared them in the past. I can personally attest to the quality of the Sausage, Bean and Spinach Dip and the Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole. There is not enough room here in this review to list all of the recipes that I want to try. Just trust me when I say that this is the perfect cookbook for fans of southern cuisine.

I won't keep you in suspense any longer. I absolutely loved everything about this book from the cover and interior art work to the selection of recipes and photographs to the incorporation of vintage recipes from cookbooks past. If I were to publish my own cookbook, I would want it to look just like this one, a visual masterpiece. What an impressive character it has!

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, my husband decided that he wanted to add Brunswick Stew to our Thanksgiving menu. I thought it an odd choice, but I knew where to find the perfect recipe. We smoked, chopped, assembled, and simmered ~ a real labor of love. But, in the end, my husband ended up with the large pot of stew that he desired. We may have a new Thanksgiving tradition on our hands.

Photo and recipe provided by Oxmoor House

Brunswick Stew
Makes about 6 qt.

Hickory wood chips
2 (2 1⁄2 lb.) whole chickens
1 (3-lb.) Boston butt pork roast
3 (14 1⁄2-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
6 cups frozen whole kernel  yellow corn, thawed
6 cups frozen butter beans, thawed
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups ketchup
1⁄2 cup white vinegar
1⁄2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1⁄4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. hot sauce

1. Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Prepare charcoal fire in smoker; let burn  20 minutes. Drain wood chips, and place on coals. Place water pan in smoker; add water to depth of fill line. Remove and discard giblets from chicken. Tuck wings under; tie with string, if  desired. Place chicken and pork on lower food rack; cover with smoker lid. Cook chicken 21⁄2 hours; cook pork 6 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 155°. Let cool. Remove chicken from bone. Chop chicken and pork.

2. Stir together chicken, pork, tomatoes, corn, butter beans, onions, broth, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, 2-1⁄2 to 3 hours or until thickened. Stir more often as stew gets thicker.

From the kitchen of Tim Smith
Birmingham, Alabama 

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


Oxmoor House has been generous enough to provide me the opportunity to host a giveaway for my readers. One of you lucky readers will win a copy of the Southern Living Community Cookbook. The deadline for entry is Sunday, December 14th. Enter the giveaway at the widget below (may take a few moments to load). Good luck!

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