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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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Southern Living's Christmas All Through the South

Published by Oxmoor House

Yes, we're right in the middle of the Christmas season. There's really something magical about this time of the year. I just want to freeze it and dwell in it for as long as possible. With the Christmas movies and music playing on the television and radio since the beginning of November, the season does seem like it is expanding past the Thanksgiving to Christmas time frame. Some people may think that it's too much, but I'm loving it!

One of my personal Christmas traditions is spending quiet time looking through my Christmas cookbooks by the light of the Christmas tree. I have several Southern Living Christmas books that I enjoy reading around this time every year. I was so excited to find out that there is a new book this season, Southern Living Christmas All Through the South, published by Oxmoor House. This is a massive book, close to 400 pages, that is filled with gorgeous photographs of Christmas scenes, decor, and recipes, and personal essays that touch on the true spirit of Christmas.

Christmas All Through the South takes its readers on a journey through some of the most beautiful cities and small towns that the south has to offer and shows them off in their full, holiday splendor. I am fortunate that I am able to easily travel to two of the south's most beautiful cities, Savannah and Charleston, and view this Christmas spirit for myself. However, you don't have to travel to view lovely Christmas decor. This book features beautifully decorated homes to inspire you to turn your own home into a holiday showcase.

When I think of the holidays, I always think of food. What am I going to bake? How much do I need to cook? The holidays are a time for special indulgences. The holidays wouldn't be complete for my husband without a cheese ball and crab dip. For me, the holidays are a time to pull out all of those dessert recipes that I've been collecting and go on a baking marathon.

Anyone who is a fan of Southern Living knows that the recipes featured in the company's magazines and cookbooks are top notch. I've made many of these recipes over the years and have always been pleased with the results. There have been times when I've unveiled a dish at a gathering and someone would gasp and say, "That's a Southern Living recipe; I saw it in the magazine." As you can imagine, the recipes in this book are especially designed to create awe-inspiring moments at your Christmas gathering.

There were so many gorgeous recipes that I had a hard time deciding which one to request to feature in this review. Yes, there were mouth-watering bowls of shrimp and grits and majestic Christmas cakes. But, how could one resist a plate of German Chocolate Pancakes? I can't even imagine...

Southern Living Christmas All Through the South is more than a book. It is now part of my Christmas traditions and I can't wait for all of the holidays to come when I will cozy up with this book to discover and rediscover all it has to offer year after year.

Photo and recipe provided by Oxmoor House

German Chocolate Pancakes
Makes about 20 pancakes • Hands-on 35 min. • Total 55 min., including syrup

2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup unsweetened cocoa
11⁄2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
2 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1⁄2 (4-oz.) sweet chocolate baking bar, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
German Chocolate Syrup
Garnishes: coconut flakes, chocolate curls

1. Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together milk and next 4 ingredients in another bowl. Gradually stir milk mixture into flour mixture just until moistened.

2. Pour about 1⁄4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, buttered griddle or large nonstick skillet. Cook
3 to 4 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked. Turn and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200° oven up to 30
minutes. Serve with German Chocolate Syrup.

Note: When using a griddle, heat it to 350°.

German Chocolate Syrup
Makes 11⁄2 cups • Hands-on 15 min. • Total 20 min.

2⁄3 cup chopped pecans
2⁄3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 (5-oz.) can evaporated milk
1⁄2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup butter, melted
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans and coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan  5 to 7 minutes or
until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Cook evaporated milk and next 3 ingredients in a heavy 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and stir in
vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

To reheat: Microwave syrup in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or just until warm; stir
until smooth.

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals

Do you have a stash of food in a drawer at work? Oh, I hope so. I know I'm not the only one. Most of my coworkers have a drawer that is dedicated to snacks and non-perishable meals. Obviously, we don't go out to lunch very often.

If you do have a food drawer and are looking for something new to add to it, you should try these ready-to-eat meals from GoPicnic. GoPicnic has a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snacks that come in convenient packages. You can get them as complete meals or buy single products. Here are just a few of the varieties they have to offer:

  • Breakfast Meals - Chocolate Almond Butter and Croissant, Cinnamon Spread and Multi-grain Bagel Chips, Maple Turkey Sausage and Fruit-Nut Mix
  • Lunch/Dinner Meals - Beef Cheese & Pita Chips, Blackbean Dip and Plantain Chips, Red Pepper Hummus and Pita Chips, Almond Butter & Crackers, and Salami and Cheese
  • Snacks - Almond Butter with Multigrain Crackers, Flexible Fruit, Cheese Spreads, Black Bean Dip and Tortilla Chips
In addition to a large variety of products, these products are also healthy and delicious. As stated on the GoPicnic web site: GoPicnic®’s palate-pleasing breakfasts, lunches and snacks are also available for a wide range of food diet restrictions including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, non-GMO and kosher options. All GoPicnic meals contain no artificial colors, flavors, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup or added MSG.

You may order these ready-to-eat meals and snacks directly from GoPicnic or you may purchase them at a retailer near you such as Target, Walgreens, Costco, Kroger, Whole Foods, Cost-Plus World Market, Albertsons, Sprouts, K-Mart, Hy-Vee, Giant Eagle, Paradies & Hudson News airport store.

Contents of the Almond Butter and Crackers Ready-to-Eat Meal

As described on the GoPicnic site: Get ready for creamy almond butter, crunchy multigrain crackers, a tutti-fruit-i fruit & seed blend, an organic strawberry flexible fruit strip, & a vanilla chewy rice crisp bar for dessert!

I thoroughly enjoyed the almond butter meal. The almond butter is all-natural so had to be stirred with the wooden spoon that is included in the box. I spread it on the Flatbed Crackers. These crackers had a hint of sesame flavor which I'm always a fan of and the sesame flavor worked well with the almond butter. I finished the meal off with the vanilla rice crisp bar and the strawberry fruit strip - both were fun, delicious treats. This meal is definitely drawer-worthy and I'm definitely going to search for more of these meals to bring to work.

 Contents of the Salami and Cheese Ready-to-Eat Meal

Per the GoPicnic site: Get ready for hardwood-smoked beef salami slices, creamy Asiago cheese spread, crunchy olive oil & sea salt cracker, Cashew Medley fruit & nut mix (with yogurt chips!), and chocolate pillows for dessert.

Since my husband is a fan of salami and cheese, I've saved this meal for him. However, I did sneak in and eat the chocolate pillows. This sweet treat was delicious! I hope he doesn't miss it...

Again, these are the perfect meals to keep in your food drawer at work, for your child's lunchbox, to take on road trips and to have available for camping and hunting trips. I'm looking forward to trying some of the other varieties that the company has to offer.

Disclaimer: I was provided product samples in exchange for an honest review.

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.

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

Gooseberry Patch Review and Giveaway: Slow-Cooker Christmas Favorites

Gooseberry Patch

Cooler weather is on its way. In fact, it has already arrived in many parts of the country. With the weather cooling down and the holidays on the way, now is the perfect time to pull out a slow-cooker (or two) and try out some new recipes along with your old family favorites. Gooseberry Patch wants to help you to discover those new recipes in this year's holiday cookbook, Slow-Cooker Christmas Favorites.

~Table of Contents~
  • The Magic of Christmas ~ Sweet & heartwarming memories
  • Brunch Open House ~ Hearty breakfast & brunch dishes
  • Festive Fuss-Free Party Food ~ Appetizers, sandwiches & beverages to share
  • Come In & Warm Up! ~ Satisfying soups, stews & breads
  • A Cozy Christmas Dinner ~ Best mains & sides for the season
  • Sweet Endings ~ Warm, scrumptious desserts
There were several recipes for side dishes that I was attracted to and am going to try out for Thanksgiving dinner, including the rolls I've featured here. Recipes such as Cornbread Dressing, Old-Fashioned Scalloped Corn, and Grandma's Cranberry Sauce should have my kitchen smelling like the holidays. Fortunately, I have more than one slow-cooker to put into action. Using the slow-cooker for my side dishes will free up space in the oven for the turkey, casseroles, and pies. 

When I was trying to decide which recipe to test out for the review, I wanted to do something a little out of the norm from your typical slow-cooker recipe. When I saw this simple "recipe" for Fresh-Baked Dinner Rolls, I knew that this would be the one for me. I would consider it more of a process than a recipe. I followed the directions precisely and the rolls turned out exactly as they should. Working with yeast rolls/breaks is not my speciality so I loved this easy method of making rolls. You definitely need to give this one a try!

Fresh-Baked Dinner Rolls
Submitted by Virginia Watson
Scranton, PA

Fresh-Baked Dinner Rolls
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.


Gooseberry Patch has generously provided me with a copy of Slow-Cooker Christmas Favorites to give away to one of my lucky readers. Enter at the widget below. Please be patient as it may take a few moments to load. Deadline: November 9, 2014.

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

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cookbook Review: The SkinnyTaste Cookbook

by Gina Homolka with Heather K. Jones, R.D.
Published by Random House

Confession: I sometimes turned up my nose at "light" cookbooks because I didn't think that I could identify with the recipes. However, when I received a review copy of The SkinnyTaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka, I was immediately impressed by everything this cookbook had to offer. I quickly realized that these recipes and cooking methods were much more closely related to the way that I prefer to cook such as using olive oil instead of butter. Since I don't eat cheese and very little dairy products, I always found myself  trying to remove these ingredients from recipes. It is wonderful to find a cookbook that has recipes that aren't drowning in cheese and cream sauces.

Whenever I pick up a new cookbook, I like to mark the pages that contain recipes that I want to try. There have been many times when I've gotten to the end of the cookbook and haven't marked one single page. That definitely wasn't the case with this cookbook. Every time I go through this book, I am more and more impressed with the recipes. There are just so many of them that excite me.

  • Pumpkin-Obsessed Vanilla-Glazed Scones
  • Summer Lobster Rolls
  • Loaded "Nacho" Potato Skins
  • Petite Baked Crab Cakes
  • Bangin' Good Shrimp
  • Buttermilk Oven "Fried" Chicken
  • Naked Persian Turkey Burgers
  • Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken
I could go on and on about these recipes. I am not exaggerating when I say how appealing these recipes are. The salad chapter in most cookbook is usually the chapter that I skim through with little enthusiasm. Why would I be interested in a salad? But, I've found myself drawn to Coconut Chicken Salad with Warm Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette, Buffalo Chicken Salad, and Turkey Santa Fe Taco Salad with Avocado Crema. I'm actually looking forward to making a salad now. I never thought I would say that...ever!

This cookbook contains recipes for breakfast, soups & chilis, sandwiches, appetizers, salads, main dishes (poultry, lean meat, fish, meatless), side dishes, and desserts. Icons throughout the book tell you whether the recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free, quick, freezer-friendly, or slow cooker-appropriate. Each recipe also contains nutritional information.

The SkinnyTaste Cookbook is one of my favorite cookbooks of 2014 and I think it will be one of yours, too. Buy it - you won't be disappointed!

Author Information: (from Random House)

GINA HOMOLKA is the founder of, the award-winning blog that's been featured on Fitness, Better Homes and Gardens,, and, among other media outlets. She lives on Long Island with her husband and their two children.

HEATHER K. JONES, R.D. is a registered dietitian, the author of several nutrition books, and the founder of, a weight loss resource that focuses on healing and hope instead of diets and deprivation. 

Disclaimer: A review copy of this cookbook was provided to me through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cookbook Review: Mason Jar Salads

by Julia Mirabella
Ulysses Press

Food is art! If you don't believe that then just pick up a copy of Mason Jar Salads and More by Julia Mirabella and you'll become a believer. Just look at the book's cover. Aren't those jars filled with layered salads absolutely gorgeous? How jealous would your co-workers be if you pulled a Mason jar-filled salad out of the refrigerator for lunch? I would probably have a couple of people circling my desk...

This cookbook begins with the author introducing the idea of Mason jar meals and the benefits to preparing your meals in these iconic jars. These benefits include portion control, saving time and money, easy cleanup, and, most importantly, the safety that glass provides such as being easily sterilized in the dishwasher and not transferring toxins into your food. The top of the Mason jar also provides an airtight seal to prevent spillage. The author also demonstrates how to assemble the salads in the jars beginning with the dressing, adding ingredients that won't soak up the dressing, and finishing with salad greens.


Recipes are not limited to salads although you will find over two dozen salad recipes. The book is divided into five categories of recipes:

  • Breakfasts: featuring smoothies and oatmeal recipes
  • Salads: from classics such as Caesar Salad, Fruit Salad, and Cobb Salad to modern combinations such as Corn and Blueberry Salad and Pomegranate and Pear Salad
  • More Lunch Ideas: pasta salads, chicken salads, potato salads, vegetable side dishes, rice dishes, and soups
  • Snacks and Dips: salsas, guacamole, and hummus
  • Salad Dressings: featuring ten different vinaigrette recipes


Mason Jar Salads and More opened my mind to the beauty and possibility of serving food in jars. I have several cases of Mason jars that I have only recently started using in my every day prepping and cooking. They're perfect for mixing up dressing and sauces. This cookbook will inspire anyone to pull out those jars and start layering tomorrow's breakfast, lunch, or snacks. The full-color photos are a feast for the eyes. See my favorite salad from the book, the Southwestern Salad, in the photo below. I want to eat it right now.

Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press

Southwestern Salad

Colorful with lots of protein and antioxidants, this hearty salad will keep you satisfied until dinnertime. You can step it up a notch with a little hot sauce in your salad dressing if you want to make things interesting.

Makes 1 serving

3 tablespoons Lime Vinaigrette
1⁄2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1⁄2 red vine-ripened tomato, diced
1⁄4 red bell pepper, diced
1⁄4 yellow bell pepper, diced
1⁄2 cup diced avocado (optional)
1⁄2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 cups mixed salad greens
1 ounce Cheddar cheese, grated
1 quart-size Mason jar

Start by pouring the vinaigrette dressing into the Mason jar. Then layer in the black beans, tomato, bell peppers, avocado, and corn. Finish with the salad greens and, finally, the Cheddar cheese. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lime Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of hot sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk together the lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Slowly add the olive oil, whisking, until the dressing thickens.

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

Gooseberry Patch Review and Giveaway: Slow-Cooker Fall Favorites

Gooseberry Patch

I can't believe it, but it has felt like fall all week here in Georgia! Will these cool days last? Unlikely, but I am so enjoying them right now. Besides the fall weather, I am also in love with other aspects of fall such as this Gooseberry Patch cookbook, Slow-Cooker Fall Favorites. The fall line of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks are my favorites. Whenever I want to get myself in the mood for the season's festivities, I always pull out all of my fall cookbook collection and spend the evening reading through the memories submitted by readers and imagining how all of the recipes taste.

If you're a fan of slow-cooking, you'll love this latest fall edition of Gooseberry Patch. As you can see from the table of contents below, every recipe from breakfast to appetizer to dessert is cooked in a slow cooker. So, break out your slow cooker (or two) and get ready to put some comforting dishes on your table.

While I didn't test a breakfast recipe for this review, I do love the idea of waking up on a Sunday morning and finding a warm breakfast ready for me in the kitchen. Maple French Toast Casserole, Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Casserole, and Blueberry Coffee Cake would be a great way to start my day.

I will admit that my slow-cooking experiences have really focused on appetizers or party food. I am always drawn to the slow cooker at parties - little smokies and meatballs swimming in sauce always call my name. The tailgating (appetizer) chapter of this book is filled with a variety of recipes for said sausages, meatballs, chicken wings, and dips. I chose to feature Ginger Thai Wings below from this chapter of the book.

Of course, there are recipes for soups and stews as well as a large selection of recipes for main dishes and sides. That's why I suggested getting out a slow cooker or two. Ideally, you could have a main dish in one cooker and a side or dessert in another. Oh, yeah, desserts...Slow-Cooker Apple Pie, Blueberries & Dumplings, Chocolate Cappuccino Bread Pudding and Fall-Favorite Apple Coffee of these could be waiting on you when you return home from work and from a weekend at your local pumpkin patch.

Ginger Thai Wings
Submitted by Regina Vining
Warwick, RI

Ginger Thai Wings

2-1/4 lbs. chicken wings
3/4 c. water, divided
1 T. lime juice
3/4 t. ground ginger, divided
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
2 T. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t. red pepper flakes

Place wings in a slow cooker. Add 1/4 cup water, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon ginger to wings; stir to coat well. Cover and cook on low setting for 5 to 6 hours. Meanwhile, whisk together peanut butter, remaining water, remaining ginger and other ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Remove wings to a serving bowl. Drizzle peanut sauce over wings. Toss to coat well. Serves 12.


If you would like your own copy of Gooseberry Patch's Slow-Cooker Fall Favorites, please enter to win in the widget below. Please be patient as the widget loads. Deadline: October 11, 2014.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: The Banh Mi Handbook

by Andrea Nguyen
Ten Speed Press

What is banh mi? The term banh mi means "sandwich" and also means "bread". It is a Vietnamese sandwich created by Vietnamese street vendors over a hundred years ago. These sandwiches start with a baguette or homemade banh mi roll (recipe included in book) and are filled with condiments, pickles, and various meats. If you don't have a restaurant in your area that sells banh mi (the sandwich), then you can easily make them at home with the help of Andrea Nguyen's The Banh Mi Handbook.

The cookbook begins by helping you to stock your banh mi pantry. Don't be afraid! There is no need to go to a specialty Asian grocery store. The ingredients can be purchased in the Asian food section of your local grocery store. I keep fish sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and Sriracha chile sauce in my pantry anyway so the only other ingredient I had to search for was Maggi Seasoning Sauce. I found it at my local Kroger.

Once you have your ingredients gathered, you can use this cookbook to go on a culinary journey with recipes for specialty condiments such as cilantro maggi mayonnaise and garlic yogurt sauce and various homemade pickled vegetables. When you're ready to assemble your sandwich, you'll find recipes divided into cold cuts which includes sausages and pate. If you're not a meat eater, you can try edamame pate and baked maggi tofu.

I was particularly attracted to the chicken sandwiches such as the one featured on the cookbook's cover, Hanoi grilled chicken. This year, I've started making my own sausage patties. A recipe for chicken sausage patties seasoned with green onions, Thai chile, fish sauce, and oyster sauce sounds absolutely delicious! Another chapter features seafood - shrimp in caramel sauce and herbed salmon cakes. We then move into the pork and beef chapter with Chinese barbecued pork and Korean beef and kimchi. The book closes with chapters featuring vegetarian sandwiches and alternatives to banh mi (the bread) such as lettuce wraps and salads.

My son and husband are sandwich lovers. If you can put it between two pieces of bread, they'll eat it! So, this cookbook is the perfect way to experiment with different flavors and unique combinations of ingredients and serve them in a form that is familiar to my family - a sandwich. This is definitely a cookbook that I would recommend to anyone who wants to broaden her cooking horizons.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this cookbook was provided to me through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.