Sage Spoonfuls By Liza Huber – Book Review

I became interested in the book, Sage Spoonfuls – Simple Recipes, Healthy Meals, Happy Babies when I saw the author, Liza Huber, and her mother Susan Lucci (All My Children’s Erica Kane) on a morning talk show. Liza was promoting her book, and she spoke about how important she thought it was to make your own homemade baby food.

I am not sure why I gravitated to her and this subject matter, seeing that I do not have any any children, nor will I in the future, but I am passionate about healthy food, and I agree that good nutrition has to start as early as possible, especially when we are seeing soaring rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in young children. Maybe the subject struck me because my niece recently had a little baby girl, and I am hopeful that maybe she could be raised with wholesome healthy homemade food.

So, long story short, I was fortunate to receive a review copy of Liza’s book, and I’m so glad I did!

Sage Spoonfuls by Liza Huber book review

Now, again, I can’t speak from personal experience, but Liza states that for only 1 hour every two weeks, you can have a freezer full of homemade healthy baby food!

She created Sage Spoonfuls as a complete homemade baby-food system, of which the book is part of. The “system” includes storage jars, blenders, freezer packs, coolers, totes, etc. and the book does promote her products, but her ideas are 100% doable without any additional purchases, unless of course you want to. Well, I should clarify that you will need to buy some sort of small storage containers or baggies if you want to freeze your baby food, which is the whole point of the book, but most of the other necessary tools are items you probably already have in your kitchen: veggie peeler, strainer, cutting board, knife, spoon, cooking pot with steamer/lid, skillet/fry pan, baking sheet, immersion blender or food processor, fork, glass bowl, spatula, & sauce pan.

So let’s start with what I liked about the physical aspects of the book. It’s spiral bound, so it lies flat on your counter; that’s so helpful when you’re trying to read while cooking. The pages are thick & glossy, which I assume could resist staining (again, so helpful in the kitchen!) There’s bold bright colors on every page, with easy to read fonts and graphics. Lot of big detailed photographs throughout.

There is a lot of information to read and if you are new mom, it might be a good idea to read it once then go back and read it at least one more time to really understand the process. I dog-eared many pages and highlighted text that I thought was important!

So, there are 5 chapters in the book: Food for Thought; the Essentials; Let’s Get Started; a Homemade Lifestyle; and Recipes. Each chapter is loaded with tips, hints and details that will give you all the information you need to feed your baby homemade food. There is a 2 page “index” at the back of the book, and it’s easy to find each vegetable or fruit, along with the general subjects she mentions in the book, like Foods to Avoid, Reheating, Infant CPR.

Liza covers every aspect of how to prepare homemade food for your baby, including nutritional facts (vitamins, minerals, fats, etc) and allergies. I love that she encourages adding herbs and spices to your baby’s food. Again, I might be totally experienced in this area, but I always thought baby food should be bland. Not so! In fact, she states that the more flavors your baby is exposed to, the more “adventurous” an eater he will be, and the less “picky” he will be later in life.

Sage Spoonfuls really is a A-Z book on EVERYTHING you need to know. What is the best way to reheat the baby food? How to quickly defrost the food from freezer? What do you look for when shopping for produce or meat? What to expect when going on an overnight trip to a location with a fridge? Liza covers that, along with other scenarios like day trips, and overnights without a fridge.

My favorite chapter is Recipes – it covers each stage in a baby’s life, starting with 4-6 months, then 7-9 months, and 10-12 months. I suppose you could say that these are technically not really “recipes”, but a directory of ingredients appropriate for that specific age group.

There is also a section on Family Favorites, simple recipes that the entire family, including adults, babies, toddlers, and older children, will enjoy.

The first three age-centered recipe sections each start with a FAQ, which answers just about every question you could have concerning feeding your baby at that particular age. Liza encourages you to keep trying if at first your baby doesn’t respond. She makes every “problem” sound completely normal and that you are not alone; there are other moms that went through the same, and it’s okay!

Each single ingredient is highlighted on two pages. The first page includes helpful tips for cooking/preparing along with nutritional data plus the appropriate age at which you should start feeding the particular ingredient. She also lists if the ingredient is suitable for freezer and/or fridge and how to store “on the go”.

sage spoonfuls sample pages

The ingredient’s 2nd page focuses on yummy food combinations, again, appropriate for that particular age group. This is my absolute favorite aspect of the book. I don’t know why, but these food combinations just thrilled me. I just love the knowledge that banana can be easily combined with apples or pears & parsnips – I mean, what commercial baby food manufacturer offers a jar combining potato, pea and pear? I guess that’s what makes homemade food so exciting. The endless possibility of yummy tasty combinations!

Another favorite part of the Sage Spoonfuls book was the realization that you can indeed make homemade baby cereal! Okay, it could be my lack of child rearing experience, but I think it’s so cool that you can easily make your own rice, oatmeal, barley and millet baby cereal and it will be tons better than anything you buy at the store!

My complaints about the book? I wish she shared more about the why’s of some of her tips. For example, why you need to peel vegetables and fruit? Is it because it is more difficult to puree or could it cause choking? And why she didn’t mention using a microwave to warm the food? I’m assuming her belief is that perhaps a microwave kills nutrients, but I would have loved to have read her official opinions on both.

I’m sure most of the book content can be found in various books or other “mommy” web sites, but it’s really handy to have ONE book that explains all aspects of preparing homemade baby food!

I recommend Sage Spoonfuls – Simple Recipes, Healthy Meals, Happy Babies to new moms, or moms without a lot of cooking or nutritional knowledge. I’d even recommend this for grandmas that want to give their grandbabies healthy homemade food when they visit.

This is the way I wish all children could be raised, eating wholesome homemade food! We could eliminate so many chronic illnesses and especially childhood obesity problems! If only parents would take the extra time to cook for their families! It is probably the best gift they could give!

(Disclaimer: Even though I received a free copy of this book, my opinions are truthful, and I tried my best to give an fair evaluation.)

Jamie At Home cookbook review

Jamie At Home cookbook review

I love the Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life cookbook! It’s not just a cookbook, it’s got great tips for growing your own a veggie garden and raising your own chickens! It’s also the companion cookbook to Jamie’s TV series of the same name (“Jamie At Home” on the Food Network and Cooking Channel)

It was so touching to read about his decision to take in flocks of abused chickens from egg factory farms and raise them with his free range chickens.

I also learned more about lamb and exactly what mutton is. Did you know that sheep over a year old are mutton and that the flavor is much more complex than younger lamb? Of course mutton must be cooked low and slow, but that’s how Jamie likes to cook!

He writes that mutton has gone out of style and that it would help farmers if more people requested it because mutton usually comes from breeding sheep. I don’t remember the last time I ate lamb and I don’t know that I like the flavor. But I keep wanting to try it especially when there’s chefs like Jamie Oliver inspiring me!

One complaint about the actual book is some pages are difficult to read due to pages with darker background colors.

And although his recipes are “dead simple” as he likes to say, with rustic homey ingredients, they aren’t always something I’d want to cook. But the recipes are always totally Jamie and you can hear his voice speaking through the words on the page. Very English! Very seasonal! BRILLIANT!

He works with a lot of ingredients that might be intimidating to some home cooks. Items like pork belly, rabbit, squash flowers scare me but it’s nice to know he’s on your side holding your hand inspiring you to try new techniques and ingredients.

No, I don’t know if I’ll ever seek out a partridge bird or cook up venison stew but Jamie was instrumental in bringing me to a deeper understanding and respect for animals and how it’s okay to hunt animals as long as it is done with total respect and without waste. No, I’m never going to kill my own food but I’m not so against others doing it anymore.

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

(review originally authored on Dec 17, 2010)

Almost Meatless – Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet – Book Review

I found the Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet by Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond book at the local library.

It is impossible to continue to feed ourselves and the world, unless we reduce our consumption of animal products. That includes local humanely raised animal products, as well as inferior cheaply-raised Big Food animal products.

Eating as a “flexitarian” is so much better for your health and especially good for the environment. AND it’s good for your food budget too!

almost meatless book review

We eat several meatless meals each week, but when I do cook meat, poultry or seafood, I really try hard to limit our portion to no more than 4 oz (raw) or 3 oz (cooked). It really helps to view animal products (including dairy, poultry, eggs, meat, and seafood) as an enhancement to the dish, not the main attraction. Adding more plant based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and nuts, to make those the centerpiece of home cooked recipes.

And this is where the “Almost Meatless” book comes in handy for inspiration. From inside the book’s dust cover: A little meat can go a long way…. So true!

Keep in mind, this is not a vegetarian cookbook, all the recipes include animal products, but they are not the main component of the dish. Meats are used sparingly, but wisely, to build layers of flavors in the recipes.

The book is sectioned by each animal product (chicken, turkey, seafood, pork, beef, lamb, eggs, and broths), not by recipe subject. While browsing through the book, like I love to do, reading it cover to cover, it’s wonderful to see all the chicken recipes or all the beef recipes together, but for the home cook, it might be confusing not to be able to find one chapter for all soups, or pastas, or sandwiches, salads, or side dishes, especially when meats can sometimes be used interchangeably with each other. It might be more difficult to find what you’re looking for unless you know how the recipe is categorized in the index in the back of the book.

But that is really a small price to pay for the benefits of the book. It’s packed with loads of inspiration and ideas! I especially loved the tips on making your own stocks and broths on page 130. They tell you WHY you need to use cold water and why you only want to simmer (not boil) and why you should skim the foam. Stuff I never really understood!

At the beginning of each “meat” section, there is a terrific explanation. What to look for when purchasing (ie labels like “free range” which mean nothing in today’s terms), why and how to avoid the factory farmed version and find a local farm that raises their animals with care and respect.

For instance, what do the terms organic or grass fed for beef mean? It’s on page 84!

The “Bring Home the Bacon” blurb on page 37 was an eye-opener for me! I don’t ever buy bacon (turkey or pork) from mainstream Big Food companies anymore, but if I did, I’d certainly not want to buy one that included “mechanically separated turkey” as an ingredient!

There are a lot of beautifully detailed photographs in the cook book, only a few recipes do not have an accompanying photo. On the negative side, some of the photos are useless; for example, page 127 displays a yummy bowl of seeded tomatoes instead of the actual finished Pizza Strata dish. Same problem on page 95, instead of showing the finished Chimichurri Fajitas, there is a lovely eggplant photograph. Lovely yes, but not helpful for those of us cooking the dish. For the most part though, the photos do compliment the recipes, and really show great detail on what to expect for the finished recipe.

One other small complaint, I wish they didn’t use so much white flour and/or white bread as ingredients. I’m NOT dead set against never using white flour or white sugar, but after all, we’re eating less meat for the health of our bodies and the planet, so give us more healthy whole grains.

But I loved that they really encouraged finding local food, especially local animal products! That’s so important!

I recommend the Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet cookbook. It’s a beautiful detailed book and even the more experienced home cook will find something inspiring in the recipes as well as the tips and information. I enjoyed reading through it!

Some favorite recipes that inspired me:

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Williams Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market Book Review

I borrowed the “Williams Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers Market” cookbook from the library. It’s a lovely hard cover book, with loads of colorful, high-qualtiy photographs.

williams sonoma cooking from the farmers market cookbook review

The book begins with tips for local seasonal eating and shopping at the farmers’ market. There is a 4 page “graph” listing each vegetable and fruit and its season. For instance, delicate lettuces are normally grown in the spring and autumn, while sturdy lettuces are grown in the winter. Garlic is a summer veg, while apples are found in the autumn and winter. It gives you a rough idea of what produce to expect at a given time of year.

The book is then organized by each vegatable/fruit “group” – for instance, Beans & Peas, Cabbages & other Crucifers, Leafy Greens, Roots & Tubers, Squashes, etc.

At the beginning of each veg/fruit section, there’s a quick “table of contents” listing which produce will be covered in that section and a descriptive summary. Onions & Cousins: onions, sweet onions, garlic, green garlic, leeks, green onions.

Then there’s more detail on each specific vegetable/fruit, like growing history, variations, growing season, and other helpful tips for buying and cooking it. Not unlike a quick encyclopedia reference for produce! There was also a fantastic photo available for each vegetable/fruit which is helpful if you aren’t sure what it looks like.

The produce are listed in two’s, with their specific recipes following. Recipes are grouped three to a page, with one fantastic photograph of a finished dish on the opposite page.

Each vegetable/fruit has a color reference, and the recipes are color coordinated. For instance, there is a section for Brussels Sprouts (orange) and Broccoli Rabe (blue) – the recipes that follow are highlighted in either orange for Brussels Sprouts or blue for Broccoli Rabe.

The recipes themselves are inspiring and creative. I’m not a big recipe follower, but I love gaining knowledge by reading through cookbooks, learning new techniques, and how to put different flavors together. There are some unique ideas in this book and some classic! I think everyone can learn a little something, whether you’re a newbie cook or experienced.

If you don’t need a permanent reference, then consider borrowing the “Williams Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers Market” cookbook from your local library.

If you are new to healthy cooking and need a general Vegetable & Fruit guide, then this would be a great addition to your cookbook collection. It’s also helpful for inspiration if you frequent your local farmers markets or receive a hefty share of veggies from your local farm CSA.

One issue to keep in mind, recipes are not categorized by type, so if you’re searching for a soup, you won’t be able to browse through a chapter of soups. You’ll need to refer to the detailed index at the back of the book, to find all “soups” of which there are plenty!

But if you return from the market with some eggplant, and don’t know what to do with it, open the book to the eggplant section and you might energized with an idea, like Rolled Eggplant with Sausage and Mozzarella (a recipe I’m looking forward to trying)

A few of the other recipes that jumped out at me were

  1. Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Champagne Grapes
  2. Sauteed Spinach with Feta & Pine Nuts
  3. Avocado, Bacon & Tomato Tartines
  4. Baked eggs with spinach and cream
  5. Blueberry-Vanilla Panna Cotta

Note: I noticed most of the recipes that included a photograph in the cookbook, were indeed available online at the Williams Sonoma web site. Plus a few recipes were available from other bloggers.

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Cooking from the Garden Cookbook Review

I borrowed the book Cooking from the Garden: Best Recipes from Kitchen Gardener from the library, and was thrilled to find so many fun unique recipes I was dying to try.

The cook book is based on the many recipes and tips that were published in the magazine “Kitchen Gardener” during 1999-2001. (You’re able to find many recipes online at Vegetable Gardener.

It’s surprising, but I mean, really, how can you make vegetables new and exciting? But yep, they do, at least for me! Even though the recipes are not fancy and exotic, I learned so much, which is one of the main reasons to love a cookbook or not. If I can be inspired by a cookbook, then I’m hooked!

And the details! The details for each recipe is outstanding. There’s no question how high (or low) your stove heat should be, or what type of cooking vessel you should be using. It’s in the recipe details!

Unfortunately, there are no photos in this cookbook, but I understand they need to keep costs down. There are chapters for appetizers, breakfast, sauces, salads, sandwiches, soups, side dishes, pastas & grains & beans, main dishes, desserts, preserving along with seasonal menus.

It’s very helpful that basic nutritional data is included with every recipe, calories, fat and sodium are listed. Yes, a lot of recipes are higher in fat that some would like, actually some are too high even for me, but the oil can be easily reduced if necessary.

I think this book is perfect for someone that wants to get out of a vegetable rut and experiment with something different. I know it’s difficult to keep coming up with new ideas for the vegetables I’m picking up at my weekly CSA share. It’s given me a lot of inspiration! For instance, I need to use more bread crumbs, which are so easy to make with my day-old homemade bread!

It’s great when you want meatless or vegan meals too! Instead of a conventional meal of meat, starch and vegetable, it might be refreshing to prepare 3 different vegetable or grain “side dishes” that don’t necessarily work as a whole meal on their own, but put together, they could nicely blend into a complete meal!

I’m going to be disappointed to return the book to the library. It was one of my favorites for sure!

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Heirloom Beans Rancho Gordo Cookbook Review

Book review: Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo

I’m really loving cooking my own beans! And I’ve been learning more about wonderful heirloom beans. There’s a well-known highly regarded California heirloom bean company named Rancho Gordo. They sell their beans locally at farmer’s markets as well as through online orders.

It got me thinking about finding my own local stash of heirloom beans and I think I did find one! Baer’s Best Beans is one of the last heirloom bean growers in Massachusetts.

But anyway, I digress. This post is a review of the Rancho Gordo heirloom bean cookbook!

I think what really opened my eyes wider to how little Americans really know and understand about food was what he wrote in his Introduction. The author, Steve Sando opens with the line “Are these beans vegetarian?” and proceeds to tell the story of a woman who actually asked him that question (presumably at a Farmer’s Market). He thought he misunderstood her, that perhaps she meant to ask if the beans were organic. Nope, she wanted to know if they had “no meat, vegetarian?” – he had to assure her that yes, his heirloom beans were vegetarian.

Wow, can our country really truly be in that bad of shape, not knowing that dried beans in a bag were actually vegetarian!?? It’s very sad that so many people have no idea where real food really comes from!

But that’s what made me love this book even more! That story made me laugh and want to eat more beans!

Beans are a tremendous super food! High in protein, and loaded with fiber. And don’t forget the iron, vitamins B & A, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. And cooking them yourself instead of buying a can is not that difficult!

To be truthful, I wasn’t always a bean lover! I always aspired to be a bean lover though, and I think that is what kept me working at it.

It’s definitely an acquired taste….if you start off gently and slowly, you can grow to enjoy and even love beans! My DH is living proof as well. He was dead-set against beans, and no, he doesn’t ADORE them now, but he does like them. He enjoys the food that I prepare with beans, and cookbooks like this with interesting and inspiring recipes are very helpful in getting to that place.

So anyway, the Rancho Gordo cookbook is loaded with all kinds of recipes. From appetizers, soups, & salads to side dishes & main dishes. There is a section that lists some of Steve’s favorite heirloom bean varieties with a short description of each. Lots of incredible photos too.

Then there is the section for “Basic Cooking Techniques for a Simple Pot of Beans”, which covers everything you need to know about soaking, flavoring, and cooking beans, along with several variations.

There’s tips on storing, along with tips and techniques on other cooking methods, ingredients, and equipment.

I’ve already read it once, and now I’m going back and reading it a second time! It’s really a great encyclopedia of beans! And it’s not just about heirloom beans, because not everyone has access to them. The tips and recipes can be applied to most any type of dried bean.

Oh it’s making me hungry for beans! Going to have to cook up a little pot tomorrow!

And for those that want to learn more about growing their own heirloom beans, Steve Sando has also written another book called “The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide: Steve Sando’s 50 Favorite Varieties

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

If It Makes You Healthy By Sheryl Crow Cookbook Review

I borrowed the new Sheryl Crow cookbook If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons from the local library.

I always thought Sheryl Crow was healthy, I mean just look at her! Killer body, great hair/skin, gorgeous. That’s why when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was so surprising. But she realized that she really WASN’T eating as healthy as she thought and that needed to change pronto!

So, she consulted a nutritionist, Rachel Beller, and she learned more about health, wellness and nutrition. After radiation, she was heading out on a summer tour. She didn’t want to revert back to an unhealthy lifestyle on the road, so she hired a professional chef, Chuck White, who became her personal chef while on tour and while at home at her farm. He is also the co-author of her cookbook.

So, onto the cookbook.

It’s separated into two main seasonal sections: spring/summer (on tour) and fall/winter (in the studio). And within each seasonal section, there are chapters for each type of dish: appetizers, soups, salads, main, sides and desserts. I don’t normally like “seasonally” separated cookbooks, I find it’s more difficult to quickly find recipes when cookbooks are separated this way, but since it’s only in two parts, it’s not too bad.

The recipes are simple and fairly easy to prepare. Lots and lots of vegetarian recipes. But is there anything new? Eh, not really. There are a few golden nuggets like:

  • Sesame Shiitake Grit Cakes
  • Sofrito Rice with Green Chiles and Mango
  • Quinoa-stuffed poblano peppers with salsa romesco
  • Braised winter greens with fried pumpkin and feta
  • Chocolate-Avocado Mousse with Fresh Raspberries
  • Sticky Cashew Rice
  • Vegan Chocolate Mint Brownies (too much sugar though!)

The book is sprinkled with many healthy tips from nutritionist Rachel. I like that!

The photos of finished dishes are detailed and very helpful, but I thought some of the “other” photos seemed a tad awkward and too “posed”, like the one of Sheryl standing over the stove stirring soup in a Le Creuset dutch oven pot, while Chuck looked on.

It’s wonderful that they highly encourage sustainable “seasonal” eating, but what was very disappointing but there are many contradictions. For instance, on page 45 “Ceviche Savvy”, there is a suggestion to use firm fleshed white fish like flounder, cod, or halibut. Cod and halibut can be two of the very worst sustainable seafood choices! And flounder is not much better, especially since it could contain higher levels of mercury or other toxins.

Another example from the Fall/Winter section is Barley & Vegetable Risotto. The recipes includes asparagus, which is usually considered a springtime veggie. And fresh raspberries are way too expensive in the winter months, so it seems careless to suggest using them for the chocolate avocado mousse recipe. Why not frozen raspberries?

Bottom line, I don’t recommend the book. Borrow it from the library, to see for yourself, but there are so many much better choices; especially since Sheryl Crow admits she is not a cook, so why is she writing a cookbook?

I apologize, but here is where I get a little mean. Would this book have been as popular without her name on the cover and her media promotion on all the daytime talk/news shows? In reality, you’re really buying a cookbook authored by her chef Chuck White. Sheryl adds a few comments here and there, describing how much she liked how a specific recipe tasted, but there is not much cooking input from her.

If you are talking about celebrity cookbooks, I think Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter cookbook is a better choice. Gwyneth is an experienced home cook and you know she is really cooking the recipes for her family.

I have nothing against Sheryl Crow personally, and I wish her continued good health. I really can’t fault her for trying to spread the word about healthy eating for cancer prevention; it’s such an important message! But there are just so many other cookbooks with the same message that stay true to local sustainable cooking.

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Gwyneth Paltrow “My Father’s Daughter” Cookbook Review

cookbook - my father's daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

I borrowed a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness” from the library. I was a bit skeptical, not that I wasn’t a fan, but I just figured it was one more celebrity cook book. And in a way, it is “same ole same ole”, but for a home cook that doesn’t own a lot of basic cookbooks, it could be a good choice.

No, there is nothing earth-shattering new, but there are a lot of great recipes and ideas, especially helpful for someone just beginning to cook from scratch using fresh, healthy, whole ingredients. The only big criticism is that even though Gwyneth rallies against using refined sugar, she is a bit heavy handed with other sweeteners like maple syrup.

Gwyneth used to be a strict macro-biotic vegetarian for many years, but now she enjoys a balance of healthy organic plant based foods with occasional meals featuring poultry, cheese, butter, and eggs. I was surprised to find so many duck recipes in the book!

I found a new respect for Gwyneth after reading this book. She didn’t just throw her name on a cookbook, while allowing another chef ghost write the recipes. You know she is a true home cook. I like that!

From her book’s 150 recipes, these are some I found intriguing and would like to try:

  • Maple Dijon roasted winter vegetables – I suggest reducing the maple syrup, mustard, and olive oil to 2 Tbsp each, as per her Goop newsletter version of this recipe.
  • Portobello burger – yum
  • Corn chowder
  • Tuna & ginger burgers
  • Lee’s homemade sriracha – this one I will definitely try!
  • Roasted peppers
  • Slow roasted tomatoes
  • White bean soup – my version of this recipe
  • Salt scrub for clams – I used this method for the littleneck clams I bought, and it was really helpful! She suggests soaking, then sprinkling with coarse salt, scrubbing clams gently against each other, then rinsing and soaking again.
  • Fried rice with kale and scallions
  • Kale chips
  • Lalo’s Famous Cookies
  • Savory & Sweet Rice Bowls
  • Fried Rice with Kale & Scallions
  • Crispy potato and garlic cake
  • Grandad Danner’s favourite peanut butter cookies

My suggestion is borrow the book from the library, read it, then decide if it is a worthy addition to your cookbook collection. Personally, I wouldn’t choose this for my collection, but it’s not because the book isn’t valuable. It’s just that with so many other choices, it wouldn’t be my first pick.

Keep in mind many of her specific recipes can be found online, especially over at the Daily Mail web site and from her online Goop newsletter.

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

A Cook’s Journey to Japan – Cookbook Review

I found the most wonderful book at the library, and it’s started up a new obsession with Japanese cooking! The book, “A Cook’s Journey to Japan: Fish Tales and Rice Paddies 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens” is awesome! I’ve borrowed a couple Japanese cookbooks previously, and none of them struck me so profoundly as this book!

What first grabbed me was when I was briefly leafing through the intro chapter, I found the Miso description in “Essential Japanese Ingredients” on page 21. I never fully understood exactly what Miso was, and this book explained 5 different types of Miso: soybean (Hacho), red (Aka), white (Shiro), yellow (Shinshu) and barley (Mugi).

I then went back and re-read the prior pages more carefully, to see what I missed.

The book’s photos are not just gorgeous to look at, they are wonderful representations of finished dishes as well as many instructional steps. So much great detail! I think my favorite photo was on page 71 at the start of the Rice and Noodles chapter. Oh yum, I could just dive into that bowl of fried soba noodles and rice!

I haven’t tried any recipes yet, but I have several new intriguing ingredients on my grocery list: bonito flakes, konku kelp, and white miso. I’m dying to make a batch of miso soup! Plus, I already have Nori in my cabinet, and I’d love to try rolling up some basic rice and veggie sushi with it. Oh my mouth is watering just thinking about all this awesome food!

So, after googling to learn more about sushi, I found a cool Japanese recipe web site, Just Hungry, which led me to info for packing healthy simple Bento box lunches – Just Bento and another awesome book “The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go” – I’ve requested this book from the library, and I’m on the wait list!

So bottom line, I highly recommend the A Cook’s Journey to Japan: Fish Tales and Rice Paddies 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens by Sarah Marx Feldner; and I’m looking forward to experimenting with so many creative ideas from the book, like Golden Egg Threads, Miso Soup variations, and all the noodle and rice dishes. Oh yum!

One last word before I end this post, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Besides the destruction of the natural disasters, they have to deal with the scary reality of radiation contamination. I can’t even imagine what some are going though, and I hope that they can eventually find some sort of peace and normalcy. It feels so petty and selfish to be blogging about a Japanese cookbook while some citizens of Japan have lost their family, friends, homes, businesses, possessions, etc. I can only pray and hope that their lives will heal!

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

The Essential NY Times Cookbook

I love finding cookbooks that open up a whole new world of food, recipes, chefs and authors to me, and that is what the book The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century did for me!

The Essential NY Times Cookbook

Except for an occasional Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” column, I never bothered to read much at the NY Times web site. That has changed after browsing this book. I borrowed a copy of this massive book from the library, and was thrilled to find some great classic recipes, plus learn a bit about food history as well as food authors I never knew. Besides the author, Amanda Hesser (Her Food52 web site was where I initially learned about this book), I was introduced to names such as Craig Claiborne, Julia Moskin, Mollie Katzen, Molly O’Neill, and Melissa Clark.

The book includes 1400 recipes, and is divided into 18 chapters by food type, ie: Soups, Vegetables, Pasta & Grains, Seafood, Breakfast, Cakes, etc.

The recipes inside each chapter are ordered by date, with the oldest recipes first. Each recipe includes a reference to the original publishing date plus the title of originating article. I loved that there were very old recipes from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Just to clarify, this isn’t just a rehash of old recipes. Amanda spent years researching and testing recipes, picking the most “essential” ones. On most recipes, she adds her own commentary and sometimes even a quick historical summary of the recipe. It is truly a wonderful recipe reference book, and is recommended for every type of cook, be it newbie or experienced.

I virtually read the book cover to cover and found so many fascinating recipes, and can’t wait to try about 100! A lot of recipes can be found online at the NY Times web site, along with the many original food articles.

I’m dying to try making my own Ricotta Cheese, Amazing Overnight Waffles, Pepper-Cumin Cookies, Spelt-flour Crackers, German Toast, Katharine McClinton’s Foursome Pancakes, Rhubarb Ginger Compote, just to name a few.

This large hard cover book is beautifully bound, but unfortunately my only complaint is there are no finished dish photos.

If I were to recommend an all encompassing, basic cookbook for a newbie home cook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century would definitely be on the Top 10 list. I would consider purchasing a copy myself, but I already have a few basic home cookbooks. I’m sadly returning my copy to the library on Monday! Hopefully my review will inspire someone else to borrow it, or purchase a copy of their own!

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.