The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook, a cookbook review

There’s quite the fascination online for minimal ingredient cooking, don’t you agree? If you’re unsure, you can navigate to Youtube and search for “3 ingredient recipes” or “5 ingredient recipes.” You’ll get quite the bevy of results! Even Food52 has a series called “Big Little Recipes” where the featured recipes typically only have 3-4 ingredients.

Cookbook author Toby Amidor tries her hand at it with her latest book release “The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook: 100 Fast and Easy Recipes for Everyone.” If you’re the type of person who is painfully, overly concerned with details, then none of these recipes are 3 ingredients. Pantry items of oil, salt, pepper, and water do not get counted. This is a guideline that I personally agree with. At every level of my cooking journey, I was using these very basic ingredients. Do you have to use pepper? No, and I don’t always use it. However, if you don’t have access to other spices, fresh black pepper can go a long way.

The chapter breakdown is:

  • Cooking Basics Using 3 Ingredients
  • Cooking Tips for When You’re in a Hurry
  • Smoothies and Breakfasts
  • Snacks, Sweets, and Treats
  • Soups and Salads
  • Lunches
  • Dinners
  • Vegetables and Grain Sides

A feature that I like is that all recipes are developed for 4 or 6 servings, but there’s a section for halved and double quantities printed so that you can easily scale up or down without doing it in your head or on paper.

Here are the recipes that I’ll be making in the future:

  • Lox scramble
  • Pumpkin oat pancakes
  • Black bean dip
  • Mini blueberry oat cups
  • Chocolate truffles
  • Chunky black bean soup
  • Chicken and rice bowl with vegetables
  • Thyme poached halibut
  • Lemon garlic shrimp
  • Ziti with turkey bolognese
  • Rosemary garlic pork loin
  • Barley with peas and carrots
  • Brown rice with mushrooms

There are a few recipes that felt a little like filler to me like the ricotta toast and the avocado toast with tomato, but I suppose that is bound to happen with most cookbooks.

I started off by making roasted grapes and yogurt because I really enjoy having a serving of Fage Greek yogurt for breakfast. (This is not an ad. Fage is the only commercial Greek yogurt I am willing to eat.) I also like roasted grapes but never remember to make them. I thought it’d be nice to change up my yogurt toppings as I’m often using cinnamon, granola, or even no toppings at all. Results? Thumbs up for me. It’s simply grapes, honey, oil, and yogurt, but I think you could easily skip the honey if you want. (Grapes are sweet anyway.) Since I was fairly sure I would like this, I went ahead and made the double batch. No regrets.

The second recipe I made was potato soup, made from potatoes, onion, broth, oil, salt, and pepper. I did make a substitution here but a minor one. I’m suffering from tenosynovitis in my dominant hand right now, which makes holding a knife somewhat difficult so I went ahead and used frozen shredded potatoes meant for hash. What I liked best is that this recipe is a great reminder that something simple can still be good. If you’re feeling like you want to add to it, you could easily throw in some cooked meat or some frozen veggies.

The third recipe I made was the roasted sweet potato-chickpea bowl. This recipe used sweet potatoes, canned chickpeas, tahini, salt, pepper, and oil. Out of the three recipes I made, this was my least favorite, only because I found the flavor to be a little dull. I am, for better or for worse, one of those people who think tahini is overused. There are applications that I really like it in, which is why I often have a jar in my kitchen, but this wasn’t it. But I’m not saying it was bad. I strongly think this recipe would benefit from even just one extra ingredient. I think the next time I make it, I’ll try adding some za’atar or some other spice to add a bit more oomph. Maybe? Hopefully? That is all it needs. Regardless, I think it’s a good option for a meatless meal. It’s also easy to make/pack for work lunches.

I enjoyed Amidor’s previous book, “The Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook,” and I like this release as well so far. I find the simplicity of this book inspirational while I try to cook around my wrist pain. (Going forward, I’ll probably add one or two more ingredients than what’s published – mainly spices or veggies – but nothing much more.) This is such a great resource for people in my situation but also for new cooks, and for anyone who hates cooking but wants to cook more for health/cost reasons. It doesn’t require a huge pantry. It doesn’t require a lot of money. It doesn’t require any specialty pans. If this sounds appealing to you in any way, check out Amidor’s book when it comes out next week.

Disclaimer – I kindly received a preview from Robert Rose for this review. I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Reference Links:

http://www.robertrose.ca/
https://tobyamidornutrition.com/

Live Life Deliciously cookbook review

For all the recipe searches I do, I’m always surprised when I come across a cookbook author I don’t recognize and said person has an impressive portfolio.  Case in point, Tara Teaspoon is coming out with a new cookbook, “Live Life Deliciously”, in October.  She used to work for Martha Stewart, and I either don’t remember her or completely missed her tenure there.

Screen Shot 2020-08-30 at 1.03.29 PM

The book has a fair mix between familiar favorites (hello, yogurt marinated grilled chicken), and recipes that seem more refreshing.  At first, I wasn’t very impressed because I’m tired of those recipes I’m already familiar with.

The booked is divided into:

  • The chapters at work
  • New pantry staples
  • The right equipment
  • Bites, dips, and snacks
  • Salads, bowls, and dressings
  • Side love
  • Weeknight routines
  • Flavor-inspired dinners
  • Meals for gathering
  • Morning glories
  • Sweets to share

Here are the recipes that I’m personally interested in:

  • Tex-mex queso dip
  • Mile high buttermilk biscuits
  • Raspberry balsamic vinaigrette
  • Tangy tomato vinaigrette
  • Grilled pineapple and coconut rice
  • Ultimate steak rub
  • Jalapeno cornmeal waffles with carnitas and crema
  • Patsy’s pepperoni pizza pasta with ricotta
  • Savory romesco and almond tart
  • Whole wheat pancakes
  • Vanilla bean buttermilk syrup
  • Slow cooker almond and whole grain cereal
  • Pistachio cake with yogurt and citrus
  • Walnut cake with maple cream cheese frosting

I wasn’t sure what to cook out of this book.  Maybe it’s because when the book showed up at my house, Boston was in the middle of a heatwave so I wasn’t feeling strongly opinionated about anything.  I probably mulled over recipes for a good two weeks before I finally put myself to work.

Eventually, I picked out recipes based on what I happened to bring home from the market.  I made the New York Focaccia Sandwich which in turn has three recipe components: the Parmesan and Herb White Bean Dip, the Oven-Roasted Plum Tomatoes, and the Ultimate Focaccia recipe.  To make this a less insane cooking project, I made the recipes over a few days.

The tomatoes came first, and were pretty straight forward.  I cut and seasoned some plum tomatoes with oil, salt, black pepper, and dried oregano.  Then I slow roasted in the oven.  Easy peasy.  

 

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Oven roasted tomatoes

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The bean dip was a little more intensive, but still easy to execute.  I was instructed to cook some white beans with baking soda to soften.  Then I processed the beans with garlic, salt, ground coriander, olive oil, sherry vinegar (it should be lemon juice but I did not have lemons on hand), cheese, and fresh thyme into a puree.  It was the first time I’ve ever made a bean dip at home, and it was a bit of a revelation.  

 

I think it was the flavor combo that really sold me.  To me, the ground coriander was the strongest flavor, and I never considered using it with white beans and cheese before.  I was surprisingly impressed.

Now comes the hiccup.  I messed up the focaccia.  It was totally me and not the recipe.  I scaled it down and then gravely misjudged how well the yeast was rising.  (It’s also possible I used the wrong yeast measurement.)  When all is said and done, I should have let the final rise go longer, and not use the printed timing.  BUT!  I want to say that there is one thing about the recipe that I didn’t really understand – the step about oil.  When you first mix the dough per the instructions, there’s no oil in it.  Maybe Tara is going for an autolyse step without calling it autolyse?  I’m not sure.  It’s only after the first 30 minutes of rise time have passed that you are instructed to add a tablespoon of oil.  As far as I can tell, it basically gets folded in.  I’ve made focaccia before, and oil is usually mixed in at the same time as the other ingredients.  (Note – I’m talking about oil as an ingredient, and not the oil that you use on the pan during cooking.

 

But since I failed spectacularly on the bread, I ended up using some store-bought bread that I had stored in the freezer for sandwich construction.

 

I loved this sandwich.  All I could think was, “why don’t I make sandwiches like this more often?”  (Eh, probably because of the amount of time involved.)  It’s easy to scale down the bean dip and the roasted tomatoes if you want.  Personally, I thought the roasted tomatoes themselves made a good side for other meals, so I wouldn’t scale it down too much.  The bean dip, on the other hand, is really easy to cut in half.  In fact, I recommend doing so unless you’re making this for company.  

I felt so bad about messing up the focaccia that I decided to make the Garlic and Sumac Roasted Broccoli with Sweet Dates to redeem myself.  

 

I also liked this.  It reminded me that I should add dried fruit to my roasted vegetables more often.

Honestly, my overall results made me like this cookbook better than I thought I was going to.  I thoroughly enjoyed how things turned out.  Another thing that I like is that most of the recipes have a reasonable size ingredient list.  I think a lot of the recipes will be fun to make when Fall comes around and the temperatures inspire me to be in the kitchen more. 10/10 will make again.  

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received a preview from Shadow Mountain for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

With COVID-19 still in effect, my scope of recipe-testing might be limited.  Even though Massachusetts is doing a great job fighting against COVID-19, I’m still trying to stay home as much as possible.  So if I’m missing an ingredient on cooking day, I will substitute it.

 

Reference Links:

https://tarateaspoon.com/turkey-wraps-white-bean-spread/

(This is not the same recipe as the one in the cook but it is similar.)

https://tarateaspoon.com/

https://shadowmountain.com/ 

https://tarateaspoon.com/live-life-deliciously-cookbook/

(book is set to be released Oct. 6, 2020)

Unofficial Slow Cooker Summer Challenge

For the last couple of weeks in the Boston area, it’s been a little hot and a little humid.  It hasn’t been bad enough to be considered a heat wave.  When I take my late evening walks, it’s actually quite comfortable.

But when it’s that time of day to cook a meal, the stove is the last thing I want to use.  This makes me a little sad as making soups and baking things in the oven tends to be my default cooking style.

(Grilling is not something I’ve done on my own.  However, I’m determined to change that this year.  I’ve dug out an old charcoal grill left by a previous housemate that I will finally clean out and use.)

So, I’ve been playing with my slow cooker some more and I’m going to try using it as my main cooking method this summer.  I might as well.  I’ll be working from home for the rest of the summer (and likely for the rest of the year).

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

I’ve done a sweet Italian sausage/tomato sauce/bell pepper recipe.  Most of this batch went to some friends, but I kept what I couldn’t fit in the container.  It was pretty good, and something I’d like to re-visit with some changes.  While I like Italian sausages, I am health conscious, and try not to eat a lot of sausages in general.  (Having said that, I do several pre-cooked sausages in my freezer right now because I can’t afford to be picky shopping during a pandemic.)  I think the next version will be to make my own meatballs and cook in the same sauce.

Quick breads actually do pretty well in a slow cooker.  The cornbread in the photo was a slow cooker recipe.  And this weekend, I made my favorite sourdough discard banana bread in the machine – it was delicious.

If you’d like to make my sourdough discard banana bread, take a 6 quart slow cooker and line it with parchment.  Drop the whole batter in.  Cook on high for 2 hours, with a tea towel lining the lid.  The towel makes a huge difference for making baked goods in a slow cooker.  It keeps any condensation from falling onto your product.

I’ve actually been slowly working on a rotisserie-style chicken in a slow cooker for the past year.  I think I’m finally getting the hang out it.

I have a lot chicken bones in the freezer waiting to be turned into stock.  I think I’ll try my sourdough recipe in the slow cooker (yes, the texture will be altered COMPLETELY but if it still yields a tasty bread, I won’t complain).  I’ll have to figure out a good vegetable side dish to make because I don’t always want a salad even though it’s the summer.  I will NOT be braising any cabbage though.  It’s fine in the colder weather but the one time I made braised cabbage in the summer, several flies found their way into my apartment.  I think that’s the one downside of slow cooking in the summer.  Flies will find their way to you depending on what you’re cooking.  The last two times I made chicken, a fly found its way into the house (although, one fly is still better than the several from the cabbage round).

I’ll also take this opportunity to revisit cookbooks I have (Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker and The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers), but I’ll probably draw most of my inspiration from whatever I have available.

I guess we’ll see how it goes.

In case you missed it, my favorite banana bread recipe can be found here:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/how-to-stop-wasting-flour/

Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook, a book review

Did you know the average rotisserie chicken has 4 cups of meat on it?  This is a thing I learned from “The Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook” by Toby Amidor.  I think it’s a fun cookbook.  The whole premise is focused on buying a rotisserie chicken, breaking it down, and using it for a variety of recipes.  Some of the recipes seem obvious, while others are recipes I would have never thought of.

Every recipe has a key for less than 5 ingredients, 15 min or less, freezer friendly, meal prep, and/or or one pot/pan.  Depending on your cooking style, this is really handy information.  The breakfast, appetizers, and snack recipes come in a variety of serving sizes, but it seems like all of the entree recipes are made to serve 4, so it’s fairly easy to reduce the serving size to 2 if need be.

The chapter breakdown is:

  • Breakfast
  • Appetizers and snacks
  • Soups and sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Easy Mains
  • Even easier mains
  • Everyday sides
  • Dressings, sauces, and condiments

 

Things to I want to try:

  • Not Your Mama’s Chicken and Waffles
  • Simple Cassoulet Soup
  • Mulligatawny soup
  • Grilled apple, gouda, and chicken panini
  • Cajun chicken melt
  • Loaded chicken pasta salad
  • Brussels sprouts salad with chicken, cranberries, and pecans
  • Chicken parmesan casserole
  • Chicken and mushroom baked risotto
  • Easy chicken and sausage paella
  • Garlic smothered chicken
  • Chicken loaf
  • White bean and chicken chili
  • Herbed chicken meatballs
  • Skillet balsamic chicken
  • Cranberry almond farro (from the sides chapter)

 

The biggest challenges I had with this book?  I only had about a cup of chicken with which I could use for recipe testing, and I had to cook from my pantry.  (My location is under quarantine advisory at the time of working on this post.)  That’s pretty much it.  The recipes themselves all seem friendly for everyday cooking, and nothing looks intimidating.

 

There were a handful of recipes that fit my ingredient restrictions, but in the end, I kept coming back to Amidor’s recipe for chicken almond soup.  The published recipe calls for slivered almonds, chicken broth, almond butter, oil, leek, butter, flour, rotisserie chicken, frozen peas, unseasoned rice vinegar, dried tarragon, dried thyme, salt, and pepper.  I had to forgo the slivered almonds.  Then, I made two minor substitutions.  I used onion instead of leek.  I technically ran out of thyme and tarragon, so I used an equal amount of herbs de Provence, since it has both thyme and tarragon in the blend. 

I loved how easily this came together.  It also smelled really good while cooking.  The almond flavor is subtle but complements the herbs.  I imagine that if you didn’t want to use chicken, you can easily use cannellini beans instead.  Button mushrooms might work well too, but I think cremini or portobello might be too distinctive for this recipe.

Oooh, this might work lovely as a side dish if you omit the chicken completely and add something like butter lettuce.  (Yes, I cook my lettuce sometimes.  In the right applications, it’s delicious.)

But even as I’m pondering chicken substitutions, I love the recipe as is.  The chicken almond soup is going into my cooking repertoire.  I just want to let you know that even if you’re not a fan of eating chicken, you don’t need to disregard this book.  The recipes all sound flexible.

I’m already looking forward to getting my hands on more chicken.  It doesn’t have to be rotisserie chicken from the store either.  Honestly, I’m in a mood where I want to roast whole chickens at home.  And as the weather gets warmer in New England, I’ll probably pull out my slow cooker instead.  But as I’m a regular meal prepper, I expect to get a lot of use out of this book.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Previously, I was unfamiliar with Toby Amidor, but she’s written five cookbooks already, two of which are meal prep books.  “The Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook” is her sixth.  I guess I have more reading to do in the near future!

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received a preview from Robert Rose for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

With COVID-19 self-quarantine in effect, my scope of recipe-testing was limited.  Some modifications may have been made.  I apologize that I could not recipe-test better.  

 

 

Reference Links:

http://www.robertrose.ca/

https://tobyamidornutrition.com/ 

http://www.robertrose.ca/book/best-rotisserie-chicken-cookbook-over-100-tasty-recipes-using-store-bought-bird 

Weekend interlude

For anyone not following my IG, I’m experimenting with making dosa for the first time.

I saw the Bon Appetit video where Sohla and Brad make some, and realized that I technically had all the ingredients.  In fact, I have a lot of rice and lentils, courtesy of my grandmother.  So, this might be a regular thing I do during quarantine.

I’m working on cleaning out my pantry, so this batch is purple because some black rice was used.  I’m not mad at it.  🙂

Reference Link:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/05/a-dosa-delicious-how-to-make-the-savory-south-asian-crepes-your-own.html

 

How to Stop Wasting Flour

How to Stop Wasting Flour (when making sourdoughs)

This is something that’s been bothering me since the beginning of quarantine when everyone couldn’t find yeast to buy and started their own sourdough projects. So much so that I felt a need to write about it.  People are making a sizeable quantity of sourdough starter and then throwing away the discard because they’re following a recipe exactly.  Or getting so overwhelmed by discard that they give up making sourdough completely.

So, there’s the obvious solution – googling recipes for sourdough discard.  This is fine.  This is great!  I do it all the time.  But there are still a couple of suggestions I have that further stretch your sourdough discard, and you’ll have no waste at all.

 

Suggestion #1 – Stop being pedantic

The world of sourdough is a lot more flexible than you realize.  If you don’t want to do the experimentation, there’s a good chance someone has already done it for you and even documented it on the internet.  

For example, I love the Foodgeek Youtube channel.  He often posts experiments that I hadn’t realized I needed answers to.

 

 

Suggestion #2 – Make less starter

The recipe I was originally given makes 400g of starter, and the bread recipe needs 160g of starter.  It’s a lot more starter than I need for one loaf of bread.  So, if I’m going to make a loaf of bread, I only make 200g of starter.  And that gives me 40g of starter to seed my next loaf.  Realistically, I only make bread about once a month.  I feed my starter every week and store in the fridge between feedings because that’s the flavor I like best.  So, if I’m not planning to make bread, I only keep 100g of starter on hand.  That’s 300g of flour and water that I am not wasting.

Another Youtube channel I like is Bake with Jack.  Jack prefers to use the “scrapings” of his starter which would mean no discard at all.  I don’t trust myself to do this but I’m also not making bread regularly enough for this method.  But you do you.

 

Suggestion #3 – Freeze your discard

This has been game changing for me.

If I’m keeping 100g of starter on hand and only need 10g of starter for each feeding session, I still have 90g of starter that becomes the discard.  Guess what?  I freeze it.  I have a spare jar where I’ve marked where 1 cup is.  Every time I have discard, I’ll stir to knock out the extra air, and place it in my discard jar.  This jar lives in the freezer.  When I accumulate 1 cup of starter, I can then make my favorite sourdough banana bread recipe.  It takes me about 4 weeks to build up 1 cup of discard.  This way, I don’t get annoyed at feeding my sourdough starter.  And I don’t get tired of making sourdough bread, or making any recipe using discard.  

You don’t have to make banana bread.  In general, the discard recipes I’ve seen use .5 cup, 1 cup, or 1.5 cups of discard.  I say make markings for all three on your discard jar if the jar doesn’t come with its own volume markings, and then bake with the discard whenever you see fit.  If you have a favorite recipe using discard, then just tailor your freezer storage around it.  

And bonus, if anything should happen to your starter, you will always have a backup plan safely stored in the freezer.

 

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Sourdough banana bread ☺

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On that note, here’s my favorite banana bread recipe…

  • ½ c sugar
  • ½ c oil of choice (I use avocado oil for its mild flavor) 
  • 3 large ripe bananas (does not need to be fully ripe with a black peel, and you can even use under-ripe if needed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c sourdough starter (thawed if previously frozen)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ c unbleached all purpose flour  
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 6 Tbsp chocolate chips, semi-sweet or dark

 

In a mixer, beat your egg and bananas.  If your bananas were slightly under-ripe, let this sit for 30 minutes.  Why?  I learned from Stella Parks that there is an enzymatic reaction where egg yolks will convert starches into sugar thereby ripening your banana for you.*  So I now like to make this my first step.  You don’t have to use a mixer, you can do this by hand but I like how well the mixer mashes the bananas for me.

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Prep a loaf pan.  I will usually use a piece of parchment inside a 9×5 loaf pan.  You could use butter or non-stick spray.  You can probably use a slightly smaller loaf pan if that’s all you have.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Mix in the sugar and oil into the banana mixture.  Then mix in the vanilla.  Mix in half of the sourdough discard.  When it’s mixed in, add the other half and mix.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  When it’s almost combined, turn the mixer off and switch to a spoon/spatula.  Add in the nuts and chocolate chips, and handmix until combined.

Bake this for about 60 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely, and then serve.

* = https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/how-to-rapidly-ripen-a-banana-without-baking.html

 

Please note, this post is about sourdough discard from a starter that is past its infancy stage.  I have not fermented my own starter completely from scratch.  All the sourdough starters that I’ve worked with was discard from an existing starter, and I was just perpetuating it.

I hope you find this post to be helpful.  Let me know what you think or if you have a favorite sourdough discard recipe that I should try out.

Healthy Eats, a cookbook review

“Healthy Eats” is the latest cookbook from Six Sisters’ Stuff.  I’ve reviewed one of their books before, with some mixed feelings.  I loved their pulled pork recipe, but wasn’t into the amount of pre-made stuff being employed.  (To be fair, the book was called “Six Ingredients”, and cooks often have to cheat an ingredient to get the best flavor when they’re not working with much.)  Since healthy eating is a different concept than minimal ingredients, I was curious about the contents of this new book.

Chapter breakdown is much like their previous book:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Main Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Snacks and Desserts

 

Things to I’d like to try:

  • Hearty breakfast cookies
  • Red potato turkey bacon bake
  • Protein packed egg salad sandwiches
  • Shredded beef and sweet potato tacos
  • Honey lime grilled chicken
  • Avocado sour cream
  • Salisbury steak meatballs
  • Garlic lime sweet potato fries
  • Healthy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
  • Skinny frozen strawberry bites
  • Flourless banana bread

 

Initial impression?  The recipes are straight-forward.  Most of the ingredient lists are 8 ingredients total.  Some are more.  Some are much less.  None of the recipes are exotic, all are fairly familiar North American fare.  In fact my mom, who is an excellent home cook but not very adventurous, really liked the look of the recipes here whereas she’s shown much less interest in some of my other cookbooks.

Since my location is still under self-isolation/quarantine advisory, I was limited at what I could recipe test with little to no changes.

The original recipe I picked out was the egg rolls in a bowl.  Ingredients consist of sesame oil, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, ground chicken, black pepper, coleslaw mix, and scallions.  I didn’t have coleslaw mix per se, but I had green cabbage.  And honestly, coleslaw mix is mostly cabbage with some carrots.  Not a major ingredient replacement in my opinion.

How did it turn out?  Initially under-seasoned.  I also thought the cooking instructions were odd.  I like the idea that you make the sauce directly in the pan, and then add the meat but the recipe has you cook the ground chicken on low for about 12 minutes.  And then you add the veggies and cook for about 3 minutes more.  That is overcooked chicken in my opinion.  I added my cabbage earlier.  However, that wasn’t enough to improve on the dish.  There’s no garlic.  Not even onions.  If you’re going to use ground chicken, you really need more flavor.  I tried not to fuss with the recipe but, in the end, I added garlic powder and onion powder to make this edible by my standards.  At least it tasted better the next day, but I’m still going to give this particular recipe as it stands a failing grade.

I try to be a fair person, so I decided to test a second recipe.  This time, I went with peanut butter protein bars made of quick cooking oats, shredded unsweetened coconut, peanut butter, honey, apple sauce, chocolate protein powder, chia seeds, vanilla, and semisweet chocolate chips.  I had to make two substitutions in this due to my kitchen inventory.  I swapped the chocolate protein powder with vanilla protein powder, and chia seeds with hemp seeds.  I’m happy to report that my results were tasty!  I don’t think the flavor of protein powder is very important as the dominant flavors are peanut butter and coconut.  

But then how does one go about reviewing a book when the scorecard is 1 pass and 1 fail?   I kept mulling this over when I decided that there was still one more recipe that I could try with very little change.  On a whim this past Sunday, I decided to make the blueberry protein pancakes.  This time my ingredients were rolled oats, banana, eggs, baking soda, vanilla protein powder, milk, and frozen raspberries instead of blueberries.

The pancakes were good, but not great.  Solid passing grade.  I liked that they were easy to put together.  This particular recipe is a blender batter recipe.  I recommend letting the batter sit for at least 5 minutes if you can.  I found that my first pancakes were quite thin but my last pancakes were fluffier.  Flavor was pretty good.  They are just sweet enough to eat without syrup if you want but it won’t be disgustingly sweet if you add syrup.  My only issue was general texture.  They are on the dry side, probably because of the protein powder.  The recipe doesn’t specify a whey protein powder or vegan protein powder, so I wonder if one would do better than the other.  Most likely though, the texture would benefit from cutting back on the protein powder some.  Syrup would definitely help cover up the dryness, but if you don’t want to use syrup then maybe some fresh fruit?  I’m not sure.

Overall, I’m recommending with reservation.  Like all cookbooks, some recipes are better than others but I think the home cook using this book should heed their instincts, and treat the recipes more like guidelines.  Having said that, this is probably also a good book for someone who wants to cook healthier but doesn’t want to stock a large pantry of ingredients.  Because while I might be willing to use more effort in a recipe, I recognize that not everyone may feel the same.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Shadow Mountain for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  The book is available for sale now.

With COVID-19 self-quarantine in effect, my scope of recipe-testing was limited.  Some modifications may have been made.  I apologize that I could not recipe-test better.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.sixsistersstuff.com/

https://shadowmountain.com/

Simply Laura Lea, a cookbook review

“Simply Laura Lea” is the second cookbook by certified holistic chef, recipe developer and writer Laura Lea.  I remember perusing her first book and thinking that it looked gorgeous and sounded delicious, but I’ve never used her recipes before, not even from her website.  So I was happy to take the opportunity to cook from her newest book.

The book is divided into:

  • Beverages and Smoothies
  • Breakfasts
  • Bakery
  • Snack-itizers
  • Sides
  • Lunch and Dinner Entrees (subdivided into red meat, seafood, poultry, and veggie)
  • Soups and Salads
  • Desserts
  • Spice Mixtures, Dressings, and Sauces

 

Recipes get a helpful symbol to show if they are vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, keto-friendly, gluten-free, and/or paleo.  Another feature that I like is that the recipes mark if there’s a “secondary” recipe in it. For example, in the Breakfast chapter, there’s a recipe for Grain-Free Biscuits with Miso Mushroom Gravy.  The gravy is the secondary recipe. The ingredients for it and its instructions are still on the page, but if you’re ever interested in just making the gravy, you don’t have to look in the Breakfast chapter.  You can go straight to the Spice Mixtures, Dressings, and Sauces chapter. I think it’s a handy reference as sometimes I don’t like making a recipe where half of it is completely listed elsewhere in a cookbook.

Here are some recipes I’d like to try:

  • Coconut Lime Macadamia Smoothie
  • Miso Mushroom Gravy
  • Oil-free Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bars
  • Gooey Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
  • Blueberry Peanut Butter Crumble Bars
  • “Hot” Honey Cheddar-Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins
  • Sun-dried Tomato and Walnut Pate
  • French Dip Calzone
  • Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil Falafel with Green Tahini Sauce
  • Buffalo Tempeh Wraps with Avocado Ranch Dressing
  • Sweet Potato, Peanut, Black Bean Burgers
  • French Onion and Kale Lentil Soup
  • 5-Layer Magic Bars

 

Seeing as my state was (and still is) under Stay-At-Home policy because of Covid-19, I was limited in what I could actually make.  It narrowed my scope down to the BBQ “Baked” Lentils recipe. The quotes is because the recipe gives instructions to cook in a pressure cooker or in a slow cooker.  There is no baking.

You start by mixing your own BBQ spice rub from coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener, and spices like paprika and cumin. For the rest of the recipe, you use dried lentils, ketchup, molasses, and vegetable stock.  I did not need to make any substitutions for this recipe, but since I was running low on coconut sugar and I had some monkfruit sweetener randomly on hand, I went half-half.

I chose the slow cooker route as I do not have a pressure cooker, electric or stovetop (but if anyone wants to send one to me, I won’t say no – I’m open to do product testing).  It’s essentially a dump and cook recipe that takes about 3.5 hours to 4 hours on low.

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Gonna slow cook some lentils

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When it first finished cooking, I thought it was flavorful but a little too sweet for my liking.  But then as it sat, it somehow lost all its flavor. It was really bizarre.

I haven’t used monkfruit sweetener much so I don’t know how it behaves in cooking.  To be honest, most monkfruit sweeteners are erythritol with monkfruit extract blended in.  I bought it on a whim to make some diabetic friendly desserts and just never did. (FYI, the small bag in my kitchen is Lakanto.)  Real monkfruit, aka luo han guo, is a bit pricey and therefore harder to get. Lea does not make any mention about monkfruit sweetener affecting food flavor,  only that it’s been tested as safe, has no effect on blood sugar, and that she uses it in cooked foods as the heat helps with dissolving.

Since the other ingredients in this recipe are fairly normal and I’ve cooked with coconut sugar plenty of times, I think it was the monkfruit sweetener that ruined the dish for me.  At some point I’d like to try this recipe again with just coconut sugar and see how it tastes. (But that’s not going to be right now. There are more important things in life right now than restocking my coconut sugar.)

I originally served the lentils with some bell pepper and grana padano because I had them, but also because I thought the flavors would pair well enough.  But it was really messy to eat, so I’m not doing that again. And then, since I had leftover BBQ seasoning, I roasted some cabbage wedges lightly seasoned with it.  This worked out much better. I still thought the lentils were blah, though.

Not willing to admit defeat or give this book a bad mark based on one recipe, I went through the book again to see what I could make quickly with what was in my pantry.  Enter Lea’s recipe for Chamomile Ginger Turmeric Latte. Technically, I didn’t have almond milk in my house, but I went with the hack of 1 Tbsp almond butter blended with 1 cup water, and proceeded with the recipe.  And, OMG, I loved this drink. Somehow it never occurred to me that the flavors of almond and ginger pair really well together. The chamomile tea is to help tame the turmeric flavor, which I also approve of. (Am I the only one who thinks that the internet’s use of turmeric is excessive?)  

I loved this flavor combination so well that I’m trying to decide what other dishes I can use it in.  It also made my lentil disappointment an easier pill to swallow.

Overall book impression?  If you’re into healthy eating, I recommend it. I like that it’s not purely paleo, not vegetarian, not keto, etc.  It has a little of everything. It’s just approachable cooking to cooking with whole foods.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Blue Hills Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

With COVID-19 self-quarantine in effect, my scope of recipe-testing was limited.  Some modifications may have been made. I apologize that I could not recipe-test better.

 

Reference Links:

https://llbalanced.com/

https://www.simplylauralea.com/

https://www.bluehillspress.com/shop/simply-laura-lea-signed-edition

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/nut-milk-hack

Fresh from Poland, a cookbook review

I don’t know much about Polish food.  That’s the thought that drove my interest for “Fresh from Poland: New Vegetarian Cooking from the Old Country” by Michal Korkosz.  I also didn’t know much about Korkosz to begin with, and had no idea he won the 2017 Saveur Blog Award for best food photography (both Editors’ and Readers’ Choice) at the ripe age of… 19!  

So it stands to reason that the photos in this book are lovely.  There’s a lot of natural lighting, cozy backgrounds, and the overall feeling of finding pleasure in home cooking.

The main chapters are:

  • My Polish kitchen
  • My Polish pantry
  • Breakfast
  • Breads and Baked Goods
  • Soups
  • Main Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Perogi and Dumplings
  • Desserts
  • Preserves, Jams, and Pickles

 

Things I’d like to try… when I’m not following Stay-At-Home/Self-Quarantine orders because of a pandemic:

  • Parsley root and walnut spread
  • Rye crumble with honey fruit
  • Creamy oatmeal with kajmak, apple and walnuts
  • Whole wheat challah with almond streusel
  • Sweet blueberry buns with streusel
  • Almond soup with floating clouds
  • Lentil, butternut squash, and zucchini stew
  • Buckwheat stir-fry with kale, beans, and goat cheese
  • Pierogi with buckwheat, bryndza, and mint
  • Pierogi with lentils and dried tomatoes
  • Blueberry pierogi with honeyed sour cream
  • Yeast rogaliki with rose petal preserves
  • Yeast-buttermilk cake with berries and streusel

 

But I am doing my best to stay indoors because of covid-19 which means that I was very limited in what I could make.  

The first recipe I made was for oatmeal buns.  The main ingredients are quick cooking oats, butter, all purpose flour, instant yeast, old fashioned oats, and honey.  These were all things that I already had in my pantry. Having said that, the all purpose flour I was using was of mysterious background.  Some months ago, I transferred it from its original bag to a Cambro bin, and put it in the freezer. I didn’t label the bin with the brand of flour. Not long after, I wasn’t baking much and forgot about the flour in the freezer.

Like… really forgot about it.  When I started making sourdough bread again back in January, I bought some King Arthur Flour all-purpose and had been using that for all my cooking/baking.

Anyway, long story short, I had some trouble working with this recipe most likely because of my flour.  But I managed to bake something closely resembling the photo. (Except that my oatmeals buns lack color.  I forgot the egg wash.  *sigh*) And I liked them! I gave some to my mom to share with my grandmother, and they both approved.

The second recipe I tried was the tomato apple soup with poured noodles.  The main soup ingredients are butter, garlic, dried marjoram, a sweet apple, vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and sour cream.  The poured noodles are made from egg, sour cream, and all purpose flour. I enjoyed this too, and it was quick to put together. It’s less decadent than the creamy tomato soup recipe that I like from Jill Winger (which makes it a better “everyday” recipe), and the use of marjoram was new to me.  I’ve only used basil in the past for tomato soup. I’m not sure the apple did much for the recipe but maybe it’s because New England is not in apple season.  (Translation, my Gala apple did not taste like much to begin with.)

As for the “poured noodles, I like the idea but my execution was lacking.  And by lacking, I mean I only made about 5 or so solid pieces of “noodles” (they’re more like dumplings) and the rest just disintegrated into something looking like soft scrambled eggs.  I’m not sure if I perhaps mis-measured something or if maybe I just needed extra flour. But I’m willing to give it a go one more time as I really like the idea of putting dumplings in tomato soup.  (Ooh, maybe I should do a recipe mashup next time. This tomato soup with Gena Hamshaw’s chickpea dumplings. It should work.)

I think what surprised me most about this book was that I forgot it was technically a vegetarian cookbook.  The variety and appeal of the recipes don’t leave you wanting for meat recipes.

Overall, yes, I recommend this book, and I can’t wait for stay-at-home orders to end so that I can explore this book better.  

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from The Experiment Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

With COVID-19 self-quarantine in effect, my scope of recipe testing was limited.  Some modifications may have been made.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://rozkoszny.pl/en

https://theexperimentpublishing.com/ 

https://www.workman.com/products/fresh-from-poland

Made Whole Made Simple, a cookbook review

I’ve followed Cristina Curp, aka The Castaway Kitchen, on Instagram for several months now.  I was excited when I had the opportunity to review her latest cookbook, “Made Whole Made Simple”  For those who don’t know her work, she’s a nutritional therapy practitioner. Her recipes in this book are “free of grain, gluten, soy, and nightshades.  Minimal amounts of dairy and nuts are used, and many of the recipes are coconut-free, egg-free, and AIP compliant.” Personally, I’m neither paleo nor following an AIP diet, but I appreciate how approachable this book seems to be.  Nearly every recipe is weeknight friendly.

The book has the following chapters:

  • The House Won’t Fall If the Bones Are Good
  • Where We Get Our Fuel
  • Eating for Healing
  • Habits for a Healthy Life
  • Kitchen Handbook
  • Meal Makers (this is basically the condiments and DIY section)
  • Breakfast
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish+Seafood
  • Sides+Snacks
  • Sweets+Beverages

Here are some recipes that appeal to me:

  • Cauliflower Sour Cream
  • Stir-In Coffee Creamer
  • Sweet Onion Breakfast Bowls
  • Pumpkin Pancakes
  • Balsamic Braised Meatballs and Kale
  • Coconut Lime Spiked Meatballs
  • Tasty Mojo Pork
  • Crispy Ranch Wings
  • Salmon Noodle Soup
  • Tahini Cookie Cream Bites
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

The first recipe I made from the book was Breakfast Sausage Soup.  It ‘s easy. You brown up some breakfast sausage, set aside, saute some cabbage/celery/onions, add spinach, then finish up by adding back the sausage and adding some broth.  

At the time of preparing for this recipe, St. Patrick’s Day and COVID-19 self-quarantine were right around the corner.  This meant that I had to break my cookbook review rule of staying honest to the recipe. I ended up using green cabbage instead of the original red cabbage, and “made” my own breakfast sausage with some ground meat and spices.  

Overall, I liked the soup but you’ll have to keep in mind that most of the flavor is coming from the sausage.  So make sure you’re using one you like. I didn’t care for the spice blend I ended up using for my DIY sausage, but that’s my error.  On the bright side, I found that my sausage soup tasted better the next day. So thankfully nothing was wasted.

I love the methodology of this soup.  You’ve got your protein and your veggies in one bowl that did not require anything crazy.  I think my only real critique of the recipe is that, as written, 2 pounds of meat is for 4 servings.  That’s more meat than I typically eat in one sitting. So just be mindful that your mileage may vary.  

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Tuscan kale makes me happy

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The second recipe I made was the Charred Kale Soup.  Again, there aren’t a lot of ingredients in this soup.  The flavor mostly comes mostly from the broth, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and lemon zest.  Minor adjustments were made because of self-quarantine. I didn’t have bone broth, so I used some vegetable bouillon.  I didn’t have lemon zest, so I tried using some True Lemon (which is a lemon crystal product). Like the breakfast sausage soup, the ingredients are so few that the quality/flavor of your ingredients is going to give the biggest impact.  The bouillon I used was too strongly flavored, so that’s me and not the soup. I still enjoyed the outcome.  

I loved the way the kale was prepped in this recipe.  You brown the kale in a pot undisturbed for 5 minutes, stir, and then leave undisturbed for another 5 minutes.  Cooked this way, the kale reminded me a lot of making kale chips. It smelled so good when I stirred halfway. This method is definitely one I will reuse.  

I was slightly amused that the Breakfast Sausage Soup seemed to make a lot for 4 servings, but the Charred Kale Soup seemed to make so little for 4 servings.  It’s definitely a side dish.  

Overall thoughts?  This is a great book for someone who wants fairly easy recipes with a healthy ingredient list.  I like that some of the recipes are inspired by Curp’s Cuban heritage.  The style and format feels very similar to other paleo/whole 30 publications I’ve seen. There’s one recipe per page, regardless of length, and one large accompanying photo on the adjacent page.  The photos are more function than form, if you will. (Does this matter?  Absolutely not. It’s just hard for me to not notice when I compare it to the next book I am reviewing.)  All in all, I’ll cook from this book again.  (Especially the flourless chocolate cake.  It sounds so good.)

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Victory Belt Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

With COVID-19 self-quarantine, the recipes I tested for this review had to be modified based on what I had access to.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.instagram.com/thecastawaykitchen/

https://thecastawaykitchen.com/the-castaway-kitchen-home/my-books/

http://victorybelt.com/