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.