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

A post shared by @ awesomesauceeats on

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/

Almost No-Knead Sourdough, a Kitchen Conclusion

I haven’t done a “Kitchen Conclusion” post in a long time (oops) but I have a lot of thoughts right now, so I figured I’d share publicly so that others can feel better informed before attempting this recipe from a very well know food publication.

First of all, I don’t consider myself an expert bread baker.  Or an advanced bread baker.  Or an intermediate bread baker but I think everyone I know in real life would argue against that, so I’ll compromise and say that I’m a “beginner to intermediate” bread baker.  (Interginner?  Beginmediate?)

Simply put, I know just enough about bread baking to recognize when I’m doing something wrong or when there’s something wrong with the recipe I am using.

I have a sourdough recipe that I’ve made a couple of times and liked.  I still need to work on my shaping technique but that’s a user issue.  And even though I have a recipe I like, I still like to explore other recipes.  It’s how I learn.  So when I wanted to make sourdough bread this weekend, but realized that the timeline of my tried-and-true recipe wasn’t going to work with my schedule, I took that as an opportunity to experiment with a different recipe.

That was when I remembered that America’s Test Kitchen recently posted on Instagram their Almost No-Knead Sourdough.

I copied the recipe before it went behind a paywall.  I used the weighed measurements which are a little weird but anyone who bakes bread regularly should be using weighted measurements.  Honestly I don’t mind that the recipe is in ounces as opposed to grams since my kitchen scale can do both but WHO ON EARTH DEVELOPS A RECIPE WITH A THIRD OF AN OUNCE?!

Anyway, I’m reposting it for you even though I don’t like to repost things out of copyright respect.  But if I’m going to talk about this recipe in depth, then you need all the details.

18 1/3 ounces King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
12 2/3 ounces water, room temperature
3 ounces mature Sourdough Starter

Whisk flour and salt together in medium bowl. Whisk room-temperature water and starter in large bowl until smooth. Add flour mixture to water mixture and stir using wooden spoon, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until dough comes together, then knead by hand in bowl until shaggy ball forms and no dry flour remains. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 18 hours.

Lay 12 by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on counter and spray generously with vegetable oil spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam side down, to center of parchment. Pick up dough by lifting parchment edges and lower into heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Cover with plastic wrap.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and place loaf or cake pan in bottom of oven. Place pot on middle rack and pour 3 cups of boiling water into pan below. Close oven door and let dough rise until doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with your floured finger, 2 to 3 hours.

Remove pot and water pan from oven; discard plastic from pot. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 7-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Cover pot and place on middle rack in oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake bread for 30 minutes (starting timing as soon as you turn on oven).

Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

And here’s the clip of the recipe they shared on Youtube.  Skip to 4:15 to go to the recipe.  The first four minutes are about making your own starter, which I did not need to do since I was using my existing starter.

 

So…

No offense to ATK or to Dan Souza, but I have no idea which bread recipe they were using on the show because it DEFINITELY IS NOT the published version.  I wish I had photos or videos of my experience to show as proof but I had no idea I was going to have very strong opinions about this recipe.

To be transparent, there were two things that I did differently that would not have changed the experience for the worse.  I mixed my dough for 5 minutes with a dough hook in my KitchenAid at the start instead of mixing until shabby ball formed.   All this should have meant was that my dough would be ready in 12 hours, not more, and even possibly a little less time.  I swapped about 2 to 3 ounces of King Arthur all purpose flour with a whole grain flour from a local source.  Theoretically, it would make my dough drier than what the recipe intended because the germ and bran that are present in whole wheat flour can absorb more liquid.  For the record, I did not add any extra water.

After 12 hours, my dough had risen beautifully and was double in sized.  So far, so good.  Or so I thought.  When I turned the dough out to knead 10-15 times, I couldn’t!  The dough that came out of the bowl was nothing like what is shown on the show.  It was quite wet and stuck like crazy.  The only way I could knead it was to use the slap and fold technique.  It was my salvation.  It didn’t take long to shape a ball with this technique, but it’s outside the scope of the recipe.

If you need it, here is an example of the slap and fold technique, which I think was made famous by Richard Bertinet.  (At least, that was who I learned it from back in the days when his first book “Dough” was published.)  You can skip to 1:40 to see it in action.  You can see how sticky a Bertinet dough is.  It is nothing like the ATK video.  This is basically what I had.

 

By this time I was done with kneading, it was almost 9pm.  Rather than shape it, move it to a parchment sheet, and then letting it rise for the final time in the dutch oven, I chose to do my final shaping in a banneton and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  Because this was a very wet dough, I knew it was going to need the physical support of a banneton for any success. Also?  I wanted to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

On the plus side, it meant I got to work with my banneton.  The last time I used it, I screwed up my shaping which meant my dough stuck to the banneton like crazy.  I have since watched many videos from “Bake with Jack” and learned what I did wrong.

In the morning (aka “This Morning”), I took my banneton out of the fridge.  My dough hadn’t risen as much as I thought it would.  At this point, I let this sit in a “cold” oven for an hour with a pan of just boiled hot water next to it, much like the original ATK instructions.  When the hour was up, everything looked good to go.  I carefully turned the dough out onto a parchment sheet, and it looked lovely.  (THANKS JACK FOR THE SHAPING TUTORIALS!)  I scored it with the sharpest knife I had and proceeded with the rest of the recipe.

The thing I learned next?  Do not use a cold start oven method when using a wet dough.  That lovely looking dough I had?  Gone.  I wish I took a photo of it before it went into the oven.  It grew out instead of growing up, spreading out mostly where I had scored the dough.

Now, I know some modern ovens don’t lend to cold start oven method very well, but that is not my oven.  I have done cold start oven bread recipes before with standard instant yeasted doughs without issue.  I’m 100% positive it was the hydration level of the ATK recipe that caused my bread to not look like Dan’s loaf.

I also think that the cold start oven method with a wetter dough caused my crust to be softer and chewier than expected.  If you don’t like a crunchy crust, then this might be the preferred method for you.  But if you want the classic crust usually associated with a sourdough, this is NOT it.  You will be disappointed.

While my bread does look much like the one in the official Instagram post, it looks nothing like the bread in the video.  FYI, I baked for the full amount of time per the recipe instruction.

Last observation, when it comes to sourdough, people like their open, irregular crumb.  This is still not that recipe.  My crumb, while not dense like a standard yeasted dough, was not as open as I would have liked.

When all is said and done, the bread tastes fine.  But I’m still going to officially declare this as a recipe fail.  It did not work as expected.  It looked nothing like what was on the show.  Anyone with less bread baking experience is going to freak out trying to make this, and think they did something wrong.

Even though I know ATK will never notice my little blog, if they ever should:

Dear ATK, 

Please re-develop this recipe!  

 

Reference Links:

https://medium.com/@mattsamberg/and-now-for-something-completely-different-15edf4740de2

https://www.abreaducation.com/content/baking-bread-with-whole-wheat-flour

https://www.bakewithjack.co.uk/

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Start Simple, a cookbook review

I know we’re only into February but “Start Simple” by Lukas Volger might end up being my favorite cookbook of 2020.  I know, those are some bold words! But this is the first time in a very long time that I’ve come across a book and I couldn’t find a recipe that I didn’t want to make.

In this book, Volger presents recipes that are realistic for everyday cooking.  Some recipes are for four servings, but there are also a lot of recipes for one serving or two servings to reflect those readers who are not cooking for a family of four.  These recipes are generally great for weeknight cooking. The ingredient list is often 10 ingredients or less, and nothing very exotic.

The book is divided by eleven primary ingredients:

  • Winter squash
  • Tofu
  • Hearty greens
  • Beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Tortillas
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower or broccoli
  • Summer squash
  • Dessert (not a primary ingredient but who doesn’t like a little dessert?)

 

Here is a sampling of recipes:

  • Steel-cut oats with squash and tahini
  • Peanut butter and greens sandwich
  • Spicy beans and greens over polenta
  • Grilled eggplant, scallion, and white bean dip
  • Black beans with scallion-lime vinaigrette, avocado, and spinach
  • White bean, tomato, and dill salad with charred romaine
  • Cold sweet potatoes with spiced seeds and yogurt
  • Sweet potato and tahini soup
  • Broken pasta with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, walnuts, and pesto’d Ricotta
  • Cauliflower and kimchi sandwiches
  • Roasted broccoli sauce
  • Savory zucchini beer bread
  • Polenta and pine nut biscotti

 

For my preliminary recipe, I went with the kale-cabbage slaw with quinoa and brown sugar-dijon vinaigrette.  The recipe is pretty easy (to reiterate, nothing in the books seems to be complicated as the author promised in the introduction).  You make some quinoa. You salt and massage the kale and cabbage. You make a vinaigrette. Finally, you mix it all together.

The vinaigrette was very sweet.  I know… that’s a really obvious thing to say when it’s got “brown sugar” as part of the name.  But I’d say start with half the amount of brown sugar, and then add as needed. The amount you want is going to depend on the punch of your mustard.  I was using a homemade mustard (my first attempt at mustard so it could have been better) that didn’t have much punch, so I only needed 4 teaspoons instead of the full 2 tablespoons.

I enjoyed this.  It preps ahead really well.  Because kale and cabbage are really sturdy greens, this slaw made for great work lunches.  But as much as I liked it, I didn’t love it. Which is totally ok! It doesn’t mean that I won’t make it again.  It just means that I’ll try out some of the other salad/slaw recipes in this book before I go back to this one.

I felt compelled to make another recipe almost as soon as I finished the slaw.  Since I had some cabbage left from the slaw (and I happened to have cheese in the fridge), I made the cheesy cabbage and white bean soup.  I’m glad I did too. It was another easy recipe to put together, and perfect to eat on a February day in Boston. It was really cozy and had a lot of good flavor.  (To be fair, since I’m not vegetarian, I was using a homemade chicken broth for it.) I like it so much that this soup is definitely going into the regular rotation.  

“Start Simple” is available as of this week.  Definitely pick up this book whether or not you’re vegetarian.  (Yes, the book is vegetarian but it doesn’t feel like the intention of the book is to necessarily espouse vegetarianism.)  The collection of recipes here are just great ideas for incorporating more vegetables in your everyday diet without being overwhelming or complicated.

 

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

 

Reference Links:

https://www.lukasvolger.com/

https://www.lukasvolger.com/books

http://www.harperwave.com/

 

Rustic Joyful Food – Generations, a cookbook review

Recently I received a copy of Danielle Kartes follow up cookbook, “Rustic Joyful Food – Generations.”  It’s got the same look as the first book, and the recipes sound very homecook friendly. The chapters are a little different this time around:  

  • Supper
  • Soup and Stews
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Snacks
  • Breakfast
  • Drinks
  • Sweets

 

The first book had an appetizer section that I feel could have doubled as unintentional lunch prep recipes.  Now that I think about it, I did use it as lunch prep.  I forgot that the spiced hominy recipe I made last time was from the appetizer section.  Meanwhile, the second book feels a lot more like dinner and weekend cooking to me (with a breakfast chapter to make up for the fact that the first book didn’t have one).  I say that because “Generations” feels a bit more indulgent to me.  If I counted right, “Generations” has five recipes that involved deep frying.  I couldn’t find one in “My Heart’s Table.” That’s not necessarily good or bad.  It’s just one of the first things I noticed.

Technically the difference between books is that “My Heart’s Table” focuses more on cooking things from scratch – building up your pantry and your repertoire.  “Generations” focuses on the recipes Kartes grew up on.

Here are the recipes in “Generations” that sound most interesting to me:

  • Stuffed shells
  • Homestyle meatloaf sandwich
  • Herby peas
  • Butternut squash polenta
  • Dilly potatoes
  • Pepita caesar dressing
  • Peas and orzo
  • Cream cheese polenta
  • Rosemary and Parmesan popcorn
  • Cinnamon vanilla ricotta pancakes
  • Chocolate chip and rye pancakes
  • Carrot cake
  • Applesauce Bundt cake
  • Coconut cream lemon bars
  • Walnut pie (with shortbread crust)
  • Peanut butter and jam cookie bars
  • White cake with raspberry jam and coconut

The recipe I ended up making was a one pot recipe for mustard chicken thighs and cauliflower.  (Mostly because I wanted to use some of the mustard I made recently.  My DIY mustard was only just ok so I’m not going to bother writing about it.)  It’s a straightforward recipe.  You make a vinaigrette. You mix the vinaigrette with cauliflower florets and chicken thighs.  Arrange this in a pan and then cover with foil, or put everything in a dutch oven, and you bake.  I went with the dutch oven, and cooked 6 instead of 8 thighs. (The market I went to this time around did not have the thighs packaged in 4 or 8.  In the long run, this was to my benefit as my 5.5 quart dutch oven only had enough space to lay out 6 thighs over the cauliflower.)

10 out of 10, would make again.  I liked the ease of cooking, and the end result wasn’t boring.  My critique of the recipe is minor. The recipe lists 8 chicken thighs but doesn’t specify skin-on/bone-in which is what I think Kartes intended based on the cook time.  The cook time was my other and less small quibble. Had I baked for the full 90 minutes per the instructions, the thighs would have been terribly overcooked. I decided to pull them out 10 minutes early, and even that was still a few minutes too long.  (But not necessarily too long for the cauliflower.  I’m not sure if I want to do any adjustments on that but I did wish my cauliflower had some browning on it.)  And now that I’ve made it, I’ll probably try it with other vinaigrettes and other vegetables.

Overall, I still had fun with “Generations.”  (I’m thinking about making the cinnamon vanilla ricotta pancakes this weekend.  But I’ll halve the recipe probably as I get too impatient when it comes to cooking any kind of pancakes.  I have a habit of chucking the batter in an 8×8 and baking it.)  Michael Kartes’ photos are still very drool-worthy, and the book might be worth it for photos alone.  If you liked her first book, then you should definitely pick up her second one. I’m fairly confident that you’ll like it.

 

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

Reference Links:

http://www.rusticjoyfulfood.com/

https://www.instagram.com/rusticjoyfulfood/

https://www.sourcebooks.com/

Half the Sugar All the Love, a bookbook review

I know this doesn’t happen with everyone, but my tolerance for sweets has declined with age.  For example (and this is a true story), I drank chocolate milk every morning for probably 75% of my life. For most of those years, it was Nestle Quik.  Once I thought it was tasting too sweet, I started making my batches with cocoa powder and experimenting with things like black walnut bitters. And then, one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I still like the occasional hot chocolate but it’s just that… occasional.

On top of that, I have a close family member with type 1 diabetes, so I try not to bake sweets for my family anymore.  (Instead, I’ll hoist my baking adventures onto my work colleagues.)

So with a title like “Half the Sugar, All the Love”, the latest cookbook by Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel really got my attention.

The book is sectioned into:

  • Breakfasts
  • Snacks
  • Lunches and salads
  • Dinners
  • Desserts
  • Beverages
  • Basics and Condiments

 

I like that the book makes a distinction between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar.  There are nutritional guidelines, and explanation about the different kinds of added sugar.

Personally, I focused more on the recipes for breakfasts, snacks, and desserts.  I feel like they are the area where added sugar is the biggest culprit. The lunches/salads, and dinner chapters almost felt like “filler” chapters.  Don’t get me wrong, all the recipes sound good. Some of the recipes you’ll find in the lunches/salads, and dinner chapters are:

  • Salmon yaki onigiri
  • Alphabet soup
  • Fall harvest mason jar salad with creamy poppy seed dressing
  • Romaine and cherry tomato salad with miso dressing
  • Vietnamese chicken noodle soup
  • Beef and broccoli teriyaki bowl
  • Pineapple teriyaki salmon burgers with sriracha mayo

 

If you ate these dishes out, there probably would be added sugar.  But since these are all savory dishes, if you cook them at home, they don’t have much added sugar.  I think the only exception would be the teriyaki sauce.

I really wanted to make something from the dessert chapter.  The chocolate and peanut butter snack cake speaks to me personally, but I’ve been doing more baking more desserts than usual, so I ended up picking Blueberry Oat Muffins as my introductory recipe.

The muffin recipe does not use any granulated sugar.  It gets its sweetness from homemade date syrup. I also liked the amount of whole grain being used, which is a blend of oat flour, whole wheat flour, and flaxseed.  It’s actually quite a bit of ground flaxseed – a whole ½ cup! This is not something I see a lot of in muffin recipes, so I was quite curious.

I made a few minor changes that I don’t think had much of an impact on overall flavor.  I used raspberries instead of blueberries (because I had them and I’m trying to clean out my food stores right now), spelt flour instead of wheat flour (because commercial wheat flour generally tastes like cardboard), and I baked this in a dish instead of making individual muffins (I’m just lazy).  

It makes a lot of batter!  I can usually swap a 12 muffin recipe with my favorite baking dish and estimate the oven time without a problem.  This time I had to cook for a lot longer than I was anticipating. So, I think there’s a really good chance you’ll get more than 12 muffins out of this recipe.  That’s not a bad or a good thing. It’s just a comment.

The batter itself came together pretty easily.  Expect to take a little longer to put this together than other muffin recipes because you’re making your own date syrup and your own oat flour.  As for final results, I really liked this but it does taste very healthy. The sweetness from the dates is really mild. I wouldn’t be surprised if other people don’t like this muffin much.  I ate mine with some Fage Greek yogurt, and it made for a great breakfast.

Other recipes that I am interested to make are:

  • Cherry-oatmeal breakfast cookies (I love breakfast cookies)
  • Fruit and nut granola
  • Overnight French toast strata with raspberry sauce
  • Blueberry scones
  • Maple brown butter corn bread
  • Blondies with white chocolate and almonds
  • Double chocolate brownies
  • Pecan pie bars
  • Chocolate and peanut butter snack cake
  • Double chocolate layer cake with whipped chocolate frosting
  • Hot chocolate blocks

 

The book isn’t being released until Christmas Eve, so it’ll be difficult to gift it for the holidays but I think this is a great book for someone is health conscious or someone who is just looking for a good all-around family cookbook.  I look forwarding to baking from this book and feeling like it’s ok to share with my diabetic family member.

 

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

 

Reference Links:

https://www.52newfoods.com/half-sugar-cookbook/

https://www.workman.com/products/half-the-sugar-all-the-love

 

 

Power Spicing, a cookbook review

One skill that I constantly feel like I am trying to develop is flavor combining.  Growing up, the flavors I was most familiar with were soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and scallions.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves only made their appearance in a spiced apple cake that my mother would make on occasion because it was my favorite.  Anything beyond that can easily feel alien to me.

I think it’s the main reason why I am a tad obsessed with spices and spice mixes.  Power Spicing by Rachel Beller would have been the perfect book for me when I was getting into cooking.  It’s a cute cookbook with only about 60 recipes, and an overview of 25 spices. This is not Spice Master Lior Lev Sercarz level of cooking.  But that doesn’t mean that this book doesn’t have any value. One could argue that maybe it has more relevance to the average home cook.  

In the spice introduction, Beller mentions potential health/medicinal benefits of the 25 spices she chose to highlight.  For example, “studies show that cinnamon may help regulate blood sugars, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce hemoglobin A1C levels.”  She also includes some general helpful information on each spice that varies from where you can find a certain spice to flavor substitutes.  She also offers from spice pairings based on absorption enhancers, synergistic actions, or doubling potential health effects.  

The book has seven main chapters:

  • DIY spice blends
  • Daily power beverages
  • Spicy and sweet breakfasts
  • Mains that pack a punch
  • Sizzling up your sides
  • Dressings and dips
  • Snacks and sweets

A lot of the recipes are plant based, but not all of them.  Some recipes that were of interest to me are:

  • Red-hot chili cocoa
  • Butternut squash and apple bake
  • Apple-zested muesli
  • Tzimmes oat crumble
  • Lentil salad with spicy vinaigrette
  • Vegan creamy brussels sprout Caesar
  • Warm fennel salad
  • Green goddess fenugreek tahini sauce
  • Spiced nut and date bars

Since the temperatures are dropping here in New England, I was mostly interested in the spiced warm drinks.  I made three of them (but only remembered to take photos of two). The first one I made was the golden choco-latte. The purpose of this drink is to help soothe inflammation and to balance your blood sugars.  Honestly, I just thought that it was pretty tasty.

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spice blend 🙃

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The second drink I tried was the saffron and cardamom latte.  This was the recipe that caught my eye first when I initially received the cookbook.  Made with saffron, green cardamom, cinnamon, and fennel, it’s supposed to boost your mood, strengthen your immune system, and help with bloating.  I was mostly curious about using saffron and cardamom as a blend. (I use cardamom today when I’m making masala chai.) Sadly, I was disappointed in this one.  Also, my efforts looked nothing like the photo. It just didn’t taste interesting enough to me. Maybe the fennel is a little too strong? I think I would have preferred just plain fennel tea (which is something I do from time to time).  Maybe I’ll play with the ratios of cardamom and fennel next time (if there is a next time).

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Matcha, cinnamon, ginger

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So then I made the stabilizing matcha in hopes that it would make up for the latte.  The stabilizing matcha says that the “combination of ginger, cinnamon, and matcha has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of diabetes.”  I was a little worried that the cinnamon and ginger would completely overwhelm the matcha, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The spices hit the tongue first, but I think the matcha lingered afterward the most.  Final review? Yeah, I think this made up for the latte. I’m normally a plain green tea kind of person, but I think I can make an exception for this recipe from time to time.

While I recommend taking health claims with some skepticism, I don’t think there’s any harm in experimenting with whole and natural foods to try to increase benefits.  Especially if those experiments are tasty. Anyone with an interest in general spice blending or looking for a starting point in spice blending will find Power Spicing to be useful.

 

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

 

Home Made in the Oven, a cookbook review

I got excited when I first found out that Yvette Van Boven was releasing a new cookbook in the US.  I had the pleasure of meeting her about a year ago during her book tour for Home Made Christmas. She and her husband Oof are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  I really believe that her endearing personality comes across in her cookbooks: in the little recipe sketch drawings, and in the little stories she writes. I often skip recipe introduction when I flip through a cookbook, but I won’t skip hers.   

The latest book (available Oct. 15th) by Van Boven is “Home Made In The Oven: Truly Easy, Comforting Recipes For Baking, Broiling, And Roasting.”  There’s over 80 recipes, I believe, all meant to be cooked in the oven. The book is simply broken down by:

  • Vegetables
  • Fish and Meat
  • Baking

Each of these sections have recipes that are categorized by month, but don’t assume there’s an equal amount of recipes for each month. There are five January recipes in the Vegetables chapter, and nothing for July or August.  To be fair, those are hot months in the Northern Hemisphere and therefore turning on the oven is the last thing anyone wants to do. The reality is there are only three July recipes and one August recipe in the whole book.

Each recipe comes with a sketch of how to make it, and a little photo in the top right hand corner.  And I do mean little.  Without grabbing a ruler, I estimate the photos are a little more than an inch by an inch and a half.  The sketches are cute, and the recipes are fairly simple and straightforward (that does not equate to boring).  

Here are the recipes that I’m most interested in making:

  • Sweet potato and spinach gratin
  • Leftover focaccia
  • Cupboard cannelloni
  • Smoky butternut squash and papaya salad
  • Oven asparagus with cashew cream
  • Stuffed autumn portobellos
  • Comforting meatballs (I’ve never seen a beef meatball with shrimp in it before)
  • Salmon, fennel and lemon with spinach miso-mayo
  • Apple almond crumble
  • Clementine yogurt cake
  • Almond apple cake
  • Baked apples with blueberries
  • Royal carrot cake muesli bars
  • Peach scone pie
  • Blackberry ricotta cake
  • Yogurt cake with lemon and ginger
  • Chocolate nut cake

 

For now though, I made the veggie filo pie (which is technically a May recipe even though it’s currently October – but it’s fine!  There’s nothing very seasonal in this dish). I’ve never bothered making a filo pie on my own before so recipe testing seemed as good a time as any.  It has leeks, garlic, spinach, chickpeas, egg, ricotta, nutmeg, smoked paprika, and crumbled feta. You make the filling, pile some filo dough strategically in a pan, and then bake.

It was so easy to make!  It’s not unhealthy either, since Van Boven’s point to this dish is to eat more vegetables.

It seems pretty easy to customize.  Since I have some leftover ingredients, I plan on making a second time this weekend.  But I’m tempted to change the spices. While I love nutmeg and smoked paprika, I felt like nutmeg was the dominant flavor.  I have an overwhelming urge to try curry powder or ras el hanout? I haven’t decided yet. (Your comments will be considered if you have other ideas.)

In general, the whole book is very approachable.  I can’t really think of a recipe in it that’s too intimidating.  If you’re picky about high quality glossy cookbook photos, then maybe this book isn’t for you, but I think everyone else will enjoy it through and through.

 

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

https://www.instagram.com/yvettevanboven/

https://yvettevanboven.eu/

https://www.abramsbooks.com/