Why must some relationships end?

I discovered Blogging for Books toward the end of 2014.  For those who don’t know what it is, Blogging for Books is a website created 10 years ago to help bloggers connect with publishers to get access to books for review purposes.  For someone with such a small blog like my own, it was a boon.  Unless you have a minimum of 5,000 followers, most publishers don’t want to work with you.  Trust me, I’ve tried.  Back in 2014, I wished that I had found the website sooner.

As of this week, the closure of Blogging for Books was announced.  Saying that I was sad when I heard the news is an understatement.  I’m now back to floundering as a small time blogger.  And I am always going to be a small time blogger.  I did a weekend workshop once with people who all wanted to be food journalists (not necessarily food bloggers, so I was a bit out of place), and several people were amazed that I had absolutely no ads on my site.  Unlike my classmates, I was the only person who blogged purely for fun.  I don’t want to turn my hobby into a job.  I don’t want to churn out content everyday or every other day.  Food blogging has always been an outlet for me.  It’s a place where I can funnel my experiences and thoughts on this one subject that is important to me.

So here’s my good-bye to Blogging for Books.  Its value as a resource to me can’t be quantified easily.  I can only hope that I can find a replacement, or that publishers will one day take this little blog of mine more seriously.


Eating from the Ground Up, a cookbook review


There exists in history plenty of celebrities who have released cookbooks.  And there exists a lot of food bloggers in today’s world who have authored their own cookbooks.    I think the first cookbook that I was aware of that was written by a blogger was the Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.  I don’t have my own copy of it, but I do own my own copy of Chernila’s second book, Homemade Kitchen.  I thoroughly enjoyed both.  Most recently, she’s released her third book, Eating from the Ground Up.  I loved her first two books instantly that I really thought I’d feel the same about her third book.  

The truth is I’m actually not sure how I feel about Eating from the Ground Up.   

Something that I really appreciate about this book is the layout.  The book is broken down into the following chapters:

  • Barely Recipes
  • A Pot of Soup
  • Too Hot to Cook
  • Warmth and Comfort
  • Celebrations and Other Excuses to Eat with Your Hands

At the back of the book, there’s a handy reference by vegetables.  The listed vegetables are generally familiar and easily accessible.  (Or at least, easy to find in Greater Boston.  If you live in a small town or a village, your mileage may vary.)  

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Beets and beet greens
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli raab
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Collards
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Fennel
  • Frisee
  • Green beans
  • Green Chile
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Scallions
  • Shallots
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash And zucchini
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips and turnip greens
  • Watercress
  • Winter squash

The Barely Recipes chapter is full of basic recipes that remind me of the intentions of the earlier cookbooks.  The new book feels familiar overall, and the photography remains expertly styled and lovely.

The recipes I want to cook but it’s the wrong season right now?  (FYI, there are some things that I refuse to cook out of season.)

  • Napa Coleslaw with Pecans and Peas
  • Grilled Summer Squash with Basil Ricotta
  • Fresh Corn and Stone Fruit

The recipes that I might cook in the near future?

  • Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili
  • Whole Steamed Sweet Potatoes with Scallion Watercress Sauce
  • Scallion Crepes

So if I have such praise for this book, what’s keeping me from outright enjoying it?  Honestly, it’s a very personal opinion.  I’m not feeling inspired by it.  It’s like picking up a new album from a music artist you adore, one that’s solidly produced, but you find yourself hardly ever listening to it.  I can say that there are recipes that I want to cook, but realistically I’m not sure I ever will.  

Ugh!  I feel so bad for admitting this!  This book seems to be everything I like.  I like recipes that don’t have an ingredient list a mile long.  I like recipes that are approachable.  I like vegetables, and I’m always trying to be better about eating enough of them.

This review is being published a week late because I couldn’t decide how I felt about this book, and I couldn’t decide on a recipe to make.

I eventually made Chernila’s version for zucchini chocolate bread.  I chose this recipe because I like that there’s baking powder, baking soda, and yogurt.  I’m suspicious of quick bread recipes there’s only baking soda as the leavener, but there isn’t enough of an acidic element in the ingredient list.  In that case, you’re make a quick bread that just tastes like baking soda.  Yuck.

There’s also a reasonable amount of sugar.  I don’t want my zucchini breads to be cake.

What I didn’t consider was how much liquid there is in Chernila’s recipe.  She doesn’t have you squeeze the grated zucchini (which I traditionally don’t do anyway), but she’s also got plain whole milk yogurt and milk in it.  Now, I might have mis-measured something, but my loaf sank some after it came out of the oven.  A quick Google search came up with “be sure there isn’t too much liquid in your ingredients” and “don’t underbake” as possible culprits.  Even though I had mine in the oven longer than recipe suggestion, and it seemed to pass the toothpick test, the crumb does look undercooked.  

Chernila writes that the recipe “it’s not too sweet… it has a quite a bit more zucchini than the average loaf, so you can really taste it.”  Flavor-wise, I’m not unhappy.  I even had a second slice this morning for breakfast.  So I might try this again.  Maybe next time I’ll just forgo the addition of milk and bake for a full hour.  Or maybe I’ll try one of her other recipes in an effort to be fair.

Dear reader, do you have a copy of this book?  Is there a recipe in particular that you’d recommend?

Reference Links:




Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

Power Plates, a cookbook review

Let me be up front – I’m not vegan.  I’m not even vegetarian.  But I try to eat my vegetables and not overdose on meat as general principles of life.  (Not overdoing the meat, also means that my wallet can feel better about spending money on grass-fed and/or pastured raised meat.)  I’m vaguely macro counting (very vaguely… I was more serious about it last summer), which means that I’m often eating lunches with legumes or tempeh, and saving my meat proteins for dinner.  


When I came across the cookbook Power Plates by Gena Hamshaw, I was intrigued by the book’s summary which states “one hundred delicious and satisfying vegan recipes – each with a mix of healthy, fats, complex carbohydrates, and hearty plant-based proteins – that provide you with the macronutrients you need in every meal.”  

After taking a careful look at the book, things I’ve noticed:

  • There are no seitan recipes.  (This does not mean that the book is gluten free.  It is not.  However, it’s not heavy on bread or pasta centered recipes.)
  • There are no dessert recipes.   
  • There is a suggested meal plan section at the back of the book, with a week’s worth of food based on the seasons.
  • There’s a nice diversity of recipes, broken down by breakfast, salads, soups, bowls, skillets/stovetop, and bakes.  Some of the flavors are Asian inspired, Latin American inspired, Italian inspired, etc.
  • The photography is well executed.  There’s a lot of natural lighting, and none of the extreme HDR that I’m not personally fond of.  Every recipe has a photo of the finished product.


Recipes that I want to try:

  • Spelt biscuits with white bean gravy
  • Wholemeal muffins
  • Sweet potato salad with tempeh and maple mustard dressing
  • Protein packed Caesar (has tempeh)
  • Moroccan tagine with tempeh and chickpeas
  • Macro bowls with adzuki beans and miso glaze kabocha squash
  • Greek bowls with lentil keftedes and cashew tzatziki
  • Pasta and broccoli rabe with creamy roasted red pepper sauce
  • Black bean enchiladas with roasted butternut squash


The recipe that caught my eye to test out was 1) delicious sounding, and 2) used a lot of ingredients that I already had on hand.  That recipe was curried tomato stew with chickpea dumplings.  (Dumplings!  I love all forms of dumplings!)  The stew base is made from olive oil, onions, garlic, ground turmeric, sweet paprika, curry powder, canned crushed tomatoes, red lentils, vegetable broth, salt, red pepper flakes, and baby spinach (or kale… I ended up using both).  The dumplings, which Hamshaw says was inspired by Shelly Westerhausen’s Vegetarian Ventures, is made from chickpea flour, salt, baking powder, cumin, fresh parsley (which I totally forgot to use, by the way), scallion greens, and water.

I prepped ahead the spices (made my own quick version of curry powder), as well as the dry ingredients from the dumplings yesterday.  So, today’s cooking session went pretty quickly once I got off my lazy butt.

Overall review of the recipe?  It’s easy and pantry friendly, which is great.  I really liked the chickpea dumplings.  However, I think the spices could have been stronger in flavor in the stew base.  I felt like the tomato flavor overwhelmed.  It wasn’t bad or anything like that, I just thought the curry flavors would be bolder.   Oh, and there weren’t enough dumplings.  The recipe states that using about 2 tablespoons dough per dumpling, you should get about 12.  With my 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, I got 9 1/2 dumplings.  So next time, I will increase the curry powder from 2 teaspoons to 3 teaspoons, scale up the dumpling dough, and see what I think.

[UPDATE – I know why I didn’t have enough dumplings!  I forgot the parsley and I didn’t have enough scallions!  I’m a forgetful git.]

Overall cookbook review?  Compared to my other vegan/vegetarian cookbooks, I can see myself reaching for Power Plates regularly.  I thought I’d find myself using Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook often but never did because a lot of the recipes didn’t quite sound filling enough as stand alone recipes (like the beet and radiccio gratin).  It’s the same reason why I don’t cook from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day either.  Every recipe in Power Plates, on the other hand, sounds filling which really appeals to the way I cook and eat.  Some of the ingredients lists on the recipes seem long, but a handful of those ingredients are just seasonings or things I think I can prep ahead.  I’ll just have to keep in mind that I might want to go a little heavier on the spices to match my taste preferences.


Reference Links




(The above link is the author’s blog which I recommend taking a look through.  There are recipes on it!)


Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.


Cardamom and loaf pans, a Kitchen Conclusion

Another Kitchen Conclusion post to start off 2018!  This time, I’m highlighting two recipes from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine.  Both just happen to involve ground cardamom and loaf pans.

Not a resolution per se, but I want to be better about cooking and baking from my plethora of cookbooks and magazines in general.  And let’s not forget all the cookbooks that I take out of my local library.  I also like to cook with people, and for people.  It makes for a better incentive than just cooking for little ol’ me.

When my sister proposed that we bake the Milk Street Magazine’s pistachio cardamom cake on New Year’s Eve, I easily agreed.  She had most of the ingredients while I had the flour.  It went faster with two people.  I handled the grinding of the pistachios and the other dry ingredients.  She prepped the wet ingredients.  We skipped the glaze because (1) we weren’t presenting this cake to anyone, and (2) neither of us needed the extra sugar.

Pistachio cardamom orange cake #milkstreetrecipes

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The only criticism I have is the bake time printed.  It said 325ºF for 50-55 minutes.  As we were sliding the loaf pan into the oven, I had huge doubts about the bake time.  It’s hard for me to say how long it took in total since I had to keep adding time, but it was probably about 70 minutes in my oven.  No, my oven doesn’t run under-temperature.  If anything, it’s usually running a few degrees higher than the displayed temperature.

Overall impression of the cake itself?  Maybe we didn’t toast the pistachios long enough.  The dominant flavors seemed to be orange and cardamom.  I think I even tasted the tang of the Greek yogurt more than any pistachio flavor.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The cake was still very tasty.  But for my sister who is a big fan of pistachio, it was a slight let down.

And then last week, while I was enjoying a day off from work, I decided to try the Milk Street Magazine recipe for brown butter cardamom banana bread.  I’m generally not a huge fan of standard banana bread.  I have a version with chocolate chips and cinnamon that I like, but that’s probably because the chocolate and the cinnamon tend to distract from the banana flavor.  (Oddly enough, I love fresh bananas on their own.)

Brown the butter!

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mixing the wet ingredients

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I did like the cardamom and banana combination.  Ok, not more than chocolate and cinnamon, but I’m definitely willing to bake this one again.  I also gave a few slices to a friend.  Their reaction came back as favorable.

Having said that, I couldn’t taste the brown butter.  Maybe I didn’t brown it enough?  I mean better to under brown than to burn something, but maybe this is a theme in my kitchen.  I don’t know.  I guess I’ll just have to try again sometime.

In general, I find the Milk Street Kitchen recipes to be unintimidating and delicious.  I like their use of bolder flavors.  I have also made their savory sweet potato gratin with happy results, lest you think I only make desserts.

I definitely recommend giving them a try if you haven’t already.

Reference Links:  Warning, depending on when you are reading this post, you may hit a paywall.  If you want to see the recipes in full, I believe that they are both in the book Milk Street: The New Home Cooking.  Chances are that your local library carries a copy! 



Kristen Kish Cooking, cookbook review

This post is going up later than I had intended.  My copy of Kristen Kish Cooking came in the mail while I was out of town.  You have no idea how much this was driving me crazy while I was away.  lol!

Here’s another true story:  I have never watched Top Chef.  I don’t watch a lot of traditional tv shows in general.  So, I didn’t know who Kristen Kish was at first.  What happened was that I was perusing upcoming cookbook titles on a couple of food/cooking platforms.    Kristen Kish Cooking was listed as a book to keep an eye out for, and I really liked the description that was published.

I don’t remember which website I was on, so here’s the official blurb the Penguin Random House website:


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Reference Links
Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Cherry Bombe, The Cookbook, a cookbook review


When I first saw the cover for Cherry Bombe, The Cookbook, my first thought was “is this just a collection of cherry recipes?”  A quick look proved me very, very wrong.

From its website:

Cherry Bombe celebrates women and food through our biannual magazine, the weekly Radio Cherry Bombe podcast, and our Jubilee conference. What rocks our world? Sharing the stories of everyone from industry icons to notable newcomers, encouraging creativity in the kitchen, and bringing the Bombesquad together whenever possible. Our first cookbook, featuring 100+ recipes from 100+ of the most inspiring women around, will be out this October from Clarkson Potter.


And per the book’s index, there only appears to be six recipes with cherries in them.  (Just in case you were dying to know.)

So then… what is in this book?  That’s the real question, isn’t it?  I’m happy to report that I literally got the last review copy available from Blogging for Books to satisfy my curiosity and yours.

The thing about this book:  It’s pretty diverse in terms of recipe selection and sophistication.  It makes me really look forward to cooking from this book.  (No recipe testing yet at this time.  My attention is still held by Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker book.)

The chapters are standard: Mains, Soups and Salads, Sides, Apps/Snacks/Sips, Cookies/Cakes/Pies, and Sweet Treats.

Here’s a sampling of what I’m looking forward to and why:

  • Pink Spaghetti with Beet and Ricotta Sauce – I like beets but rarely cook them.  Plus, this recipes has only 10 ingredients, two of which are salt and boiling water.  It seems very approachable.
  • Filipino Vinegar Chicken – What Filipino food I have, has always been pretty delicious.  I would love to become more familiar with it.
  • Shroomy Cheeseburgers with Maple Thyme Caramelized Onions – Just the title alone sounds amazing.  While more complicated than the burgers I normally make, nothing immediately looks scary or impossible.
  • Chicken Meatballs in Roasted Lemon Broth – The broth is nothing that readily makes sense to me.  Broth ingredients are lemons, olive oil, shallot, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, chicken broth, dried mint, potatoes, cipollini onions, and spinach.  I can’t imagine how this tastes, so I feel the need to make it.
  • Roasted Asparagus and Scallions with Burrata – I recently had dinner at The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck, NY.  My plate was fish with grilled bok choy, grilled scallions, and green goddess dressing.  I was surprised at how mild the grilled scallions were.  I imagine that roasted scallions will the same, and I bet it’s delicious with asparagus and burrata.
  • Best Friend Cheesecake – Overall, it’s a straightforward and basic cheesecake recipe.  That’s not a bad thing.
  • Dad’s Perfect Sweet Potato Pie – Submitted by Joy Wilson, aka Joy the Baker.  Also, sweet potato pie will always be my favorite pie ever.
  • Irish Soda Bread – Interestingly, this falls into the Sweet Treats chapter.  I think it appeals to me just because this recipe is baked in a 9×5 pan.  I like baking in my loaf pan.  I bake a lot of recipes in it that were meant to be muffins and such.

#cherrybombe #cookbook

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Other comments about the physical book, and not the content:  I suspect that the cover will be prone to wear and tear.  I haven’t even owned this book for 24 hours yet, but the corners of the front look like they’ve seen better days.

Every recipe has an accompanying photo.  The general style of the photography reminds me of current day Bon Appetite – a bit more HDR looking, a bit too brightly lit.  It’s not my favorite style, but I know it appeals to others.

As I ponder which cookbooks to cull from my collection, I feel confident that Cherry Bombe will stay in it.  There’s just too many recipes I legitimately want to try.

Related Links:



Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker, a cookbook review

My most recent cookbook acquisition is Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker, which I was pretty dang excited about.  I appreciate a good slow cooker recipe, but the only other slow cooker cookbook I have is America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution.  I have used the ATK book, but probably not as often as I should.  Amazingly, I feel like the recipes in each book are different enough that the books complement each other in my cookbook collection.


The good things about Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker:

  • Good variety of recipes.  The book is divided into these sections: meat, poultry, seafood, meatless, side dishes, breakfast, sweets, and stocks/sauces.  There is a decent global feel to each of the sections.  For example, chicken section includes the following recipes: chicken tagine, Tex-Mex chicken and beans, chicken mole, Hainanese Chicken, and Ethiopian Chicken Stew.
  • Every recipe comes with a photograph.
  • Most of the recipes are not intimidating.

The (possibly) bad things about this book:

  • Some of the recipes require stove top cooking as part of the prep work.  In the boullabaisse recipe, you have to soften in a skillet the vegetables, aromatics, and then cook down diced tomatoes.  After all that, then you get to load up the slow cooker.
  • This might just be me being greedy, but I’d prefer if most of the sections had a few more recipes.  The meat section has a little over 30 recipes.  The poultry section has 18 recipes, 4 of them are duck recipes, and only 1 recipe is turkey related.  The breakfast section only has about 9 recipes.

Honestly though, I have high hopes for this book.  I made the chicken korma recipe this past weekend.  Overall, I was very pleased with the results.  It was a little unusual for a chicken korma recipe since it involves cashew butter and almond butter (it does mention that you can blend up nuts instead of getting the nut butters), but I think it does add to the texture of the korma sauce.

My attempt at chicken korma #marthastewart #slowcooker

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Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Reference Link: