Ovenly (2nd ed), cookbook review

I haven’t had the pleasure yet of eating at NYC’s Ovenly bakeries.  My introduction to Ovenly was watching Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, the founders, on Food52 making their accidentally vegan chocolate chip cookies (which I have made several times, and I like quite a bit).  I knew they had a cookbook but I never got around to reading a copy of it.

Well, that changes now!  Harper Collins was kind enough to send me a review copy of the 2nd edition, which is releasing today.  The second edition is updated and includes a few new recipes.  

The chapters are:

  • Essential tools and ingredients
  • Scones and biscuits
  • Quick breads and coffee cakes
  • Muffins
  • Cookies and shortbreads
  • Pies and tarts
  • Brownies and bars
  • Cakes and cupcakes
  • Baking for the holidays
  • Fillings, frostings, and sauces
  • Bar snacks
  • Bakeshop favorites

I believe that the new recipes are in the last chapter, so that’s

  • Lemon raspberry loaf
  • Apple oat muffins
  • Chewy ginger molasses cookies
  • Minty crinkle cookies
  • Hot chocolate cookies
  • Nutty toffee bars
  • Lemon lavender cake
  • Erin McDowell’s black bottom pecan pie

Since this book already exists in the wild, I thought I’d look up some of the poorer reviews online to see if they had any validity.  Here’s what I found:

“This wasn’t the cookbook that I had seen before. It was more of a “how to” lifestyle book for family life. With some recipes thrown in.”

Nope, this is definitely not a lifestyle book.  Unless your lifestyle heavily involves butter and sugar.  This is a cookbook through and through.

“I can’t imagine why a modern baking cookbook wouldn’t make weight rather than volume the standard measurements…I want a fair chance at success. This means weights. So I won’t buy a baking cookbook that doesn’t include weights for measurements and neither should you. I know I sound cranky, but there it is.”

Yes, you do sound cranky.  I like metric measurements too, but most of my cookbooks are from American writers and therefore do not have metric measurements.  It’s really not that big of a deal.  Maybe it’s because of the way I bake?  I tend to use grams for flour and sugar, but I’ll use volume measurements for nearly everything else.  (Hybrid method is where it’s at.)  Regardless, I’m not about to score a cookbook with one out of five stars because they went with American measurements.  What I will say is that the conversion chart at the beginning of the book is completely unhelpful if you want to convert the recipes.  Some ingredients in the book are listed in ounces so you can use the conversion chart to grams.  But the main ingredients in the book are in cups, and there’s no chart to tell you how to convert it.  

“Imagine my surprise when I gave Ovenly’s biscuit recipe a serious look. The recipe starts with 5 (FIVE!) cups of flour plus 21 tablespoons of butter (that is about 3/4 of a pound of butter!) to make a mere 8 biscuits! Just EIGHT!”

This review makes me laugh a little. Let me be honest up front and admit that I’m not great at making layered biscuits.  Having said that, I’m dying to try Fox In the Snow’s (aka Lauren Culley’s) recipe for biscuits.  I saw a video for it during quarantine, and it’s a behemoth.  And guess what?  It’s got 5 ½ cups of flour and 3 sticks of butter for 7-8 biscuits.  Professional baking is not like home baking.  Skimming through it, there is nothing wrong with the Ovenly biscuit recipe except that your body may hate you for consuming it.

I was originally planning to bake a recipe that someone said had failed, but I could not find a review that mentioned a specific recipe that didn’t work out.  So, for my test recipe, I’ve decided to make the Apple Oat Muffins because it’s from the Bakeshop Favorites chapter.  (But also, I really love muffins.)

The batter comes together pretty easily.  The recipe is vegan, and made with vegetable oil, almond milk, sugar, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, flour, rolled oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest (optional), chunks of apples, and ideally puffed quinoa and turbinado sugar for the top.  I had to skip the topping because I didn’t have puffed quinoa.  There is a note that you can sub the puffed quinoa with more oats, but I didn’t have turbinado sugar either so I didn’t really see the point.  In the long run, it didn’t matter because I’m an idiot.

I made these first thing Saturday morning… and I initially forgot the apple chunks.  I know, I know!  How does one forget the apple in an apple muffin?!  I am not perfect.  Then, I made the executive decision to pull the muffins out of the oven, and push some apples in.  (Good thing I skipped that topping, yeah?)  A questionable life choice to be sure, but darn it!  I wanted apples in my muffin!  Despite my clumsiness, these muffins are really good.  10 out of 10, will make again.

Other recipes that I look forward to baking?

  • Strawberry basil loaf
  • Feta, basil, scallion muffins
  • Harvest muffins
  • Cinnamon and ancho chile brownies
  • Salty super dark chocolate brownies
  • Boozy fig blondies
  • Flourless chocolate cake
  • Hot chocolate cookies

If you like baking, I highly recommend this book.  If there was a recipe in the original edition that did not work out for you, let me know.  I can try to test it out from the new edition.  (Hopefully, not first thing in the morning so that I’m less likely to forget major ingredients.  Sigh.  I’m not going to let myself live this down for at least another month.)

Disclaimer – I kindly received a copy of this book from Harper Collins 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, I’m trying to stay home as much as possible.  So pardon me if I choose to skip an ingredient or substitute it.

Reference Links:

https://www.foxinthesnow.com/more-fox-in-the-snow/

https://www.oven.ly/

https://www.instagram.com/ovenly/

https://www.harpercollins.com/

Nom Wah cookbook review

I love dim sum.  In the “before times” (as my friends refer to life before COVID-19), I didn’t actually go that often, maybe a handful of times during the year.  And since COVID, I haven’t been at all, not even for take out.  “The Nom Wah Cookbook: recipes and stories from 100 years at New York City’s iconic dim sum restaurant,” by Wilson Tang with Joshua David Stein, helps to fill the dumpling shaped void in my life.

I have not been to Nom Wah (but I’ve walked past it during my visit to NYC last year) so I can’t speak to the brick and mortar location.  But I am having fun reading its cookbook.  It’s a blend of traditional recipes, untraditional recipes, and an ode to the faces of NYC’s Chinatown.  So far, this book is proving to be one of the very few cookbooks that I am interested enough to read through from start to finish.  I’m not done yet, but I’m enjoying the stories that are included so far.  (There’s even a story from Paul Eng/Fong On tofu store.  You might recognize him from a Buzzfeed Tasty video published at the beginning of this year.)

The main chapters are:

  • Bao
  • Dumplings
  • Rolls
  • Cakes
  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Balls
  • Chef’s Specials
  • Feast
  • Vegetables
  • Desserts

Things I want to make:

  • Mantao (with EBTB seasoning)
  • House Special Roast Pork Buns
  • Pork Master Filling
  • Shrimp Master Filling
  • Sweet Potato Kale Wontons
  • OG Egg Rolls
  • Turnip Cakes
  • Taro Hash Cakes
  • Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage
  • Garlic Eggplant Noodles
  • Stuffed Eggplant
  • Cantonese-styled Taro and Pork Belly Casserole
  • Steamed Red Bean Buns

In terms of recipe testing, I was really limited with what I could make.  The one day I made it to Hmart, it was really busy.  There were a lot of customers which made it hard for me to keep the COVID 6 feet distance, some things were hard to find, some things were sold out.  And there were lots of boxes around as employees tried to restock.  Honestly, I found it very stressful.

But that’s ok!  Because the recipe I ended up making was still one that I wanted to make.  I made a half batch of the shiitake mushrooms and lettuce recipe.  It was very simple to put together, just needed patience.  You rehydrate your mushrooms, and make a braising liquid from garlic, ginger, chicken broth, oyster sauce, sugar, black pepper, and Shaoxing wine.  It braises for an hour.  You lightly boil some iceberg lettuce, and then you assemble. 

Flavor-wise, I loved everything about this dish.  (Although, I was admittedly a bit heavy handed on the black pepper.  Ooops.)  It definitely reminded me of the banquets my mom would force me to attend as a child. The only thing I can’t figure out… is why my dish looked nothing like the photo.  lol!  I know the photo has been stylized and enhanced, but my results were very dark and not nearly as glazed.  I re-read the instructions three times as it was cooking to see if I had missed something, or gotten something wrong.  I really couldn’t figure it out.  But like I said, it was quite tasty so I don’t think I did anything wrong.  It might be something as simple as the quality of ingredients were different.

If you’re in quarantine and missing dim sum as much as I am, go pick up this book!  I just hope you have better luck getting ingredients than I did.  There’s so much more I want to make.  I might break down and try some substitutions and ingredient omissions.  For now though, I guess I’ll just finish reading all the interviews and imagine that I’m hanging out in NYC.

Disclaimer – I kindly received a preview from Ecco (an imprint of Harpers Collins) for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

With COVID-19 stats increasing again in Massachusetts, my shopping options were limited.  I apologize that I could not recipe-test better.  

Reference Links:

https://nomwah.com/

https://www.harpercollins.com/products/the-nom-wah-cookbook-wilson-tangjoshua-david-stein?variant=32208084205602

https://youtu.be/zPwX5Fj08Oc
(the Paul Eng Tasty video)

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/

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/

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