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.


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.  

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:

Mighty Salads, a cookbook review

Wow, this post is a long time coming.  And by a long time, I mean an entire month because of shipping issues that were out of my control.  My Instagram account gets more regular activity than my blog (in case someone is interested), but that’s because it’s easier to post a photo than to collect my thoughts and try my best to jot it down in a manner that doesn’t make me sound like a rambling idiot. (Note, I am not always sure I succeed.)


But about two weeks ago, my review copy of Food52’s Mighty Salads finally arrived at my doorstep.  People who know me best know that I don’t make salads much at home.  When I do make them, they are very simplistic.  My usual salad is arugula, tomatoes, and salad dressing.  This is not a joke.  My cooking in the last year has become about simple and functional recipes since I’m pretty much cooking every meal in advance.  In the last two months though, I’ve started to play the macro game.  (I’m trying to count my protein, carb, and fat amounts.)  And in playing the macro game, I’ve found that I’m terrible at it and often need inspiration.

I almost didn’t get Mighty Salads, but I found that other reviewer comments made me curious.  And I don’t refer to the positive reviews.  I wanted to know if I agreed or disagreed with the few negative reviews I found.  

The summation of the negative reviews I found is basically that the recipes were too complicated or used less common ingredients.  Really?

Here’s a sampling of recipes:

  • Grilled Peach and Apricot Salad with Kale and Prosciutto
  • Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux
  • Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Tomato-Cucumber Salad
  • Slow Roasted Duck and Apple Salad

Admittedly, I’m picking on the recipes that might sound less accessible based on title.  But here’s the thing: every recipe has a simplified subheading.

Food52 mighty salads

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Grilled Peach and Apricot salad with Kale and Prosciutto is essentially a six ingredient recipe if I don’t count salt, oil, and some bread to serve with.  The subheading is “sturdy greens + cured meat + grilled fruit + crumbly cheese”.  Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux?  It’s “charred greens + charred alliums + bacon + cream dressing”.  But what if you don’t want to pick out your own greens and alliums to brown?  Looking at the ingredients list, we’re talking about bacon, sugar, paprika, romaine lettuce, and green peas for the salad portion.  The accompanying creme fraiche dressing is mayo, creme fraiche OR sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice.  Creme fraiche could be difficult to get a hold of depending on your location, but, in the US, mayo/sour cream/buttermilk/lemons are pretty standard items at your local market.

Meanwhile, the lamb salad is broken down as “kebabs + vegetable chunks + herbs + yogurt dressing.”  And the duck?  “Fall apart tender meat + warm fruit + hearty greens + nuts + vinegar.”

When simplified to its basic building blocks, none of these salads sound that exotic.

What about in practice, how do these recipes turn out?

Well, that’s harder for me to answer.  I did “cook” from the book.  I say cook in quotes because I was strict about keeping to the amounts and ingredients for the Grilled Mushroom and Fig Salad recipe.  Here’s what I actually used:

  • 1 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • About half a bag of Trader Joe’s semi-dried green figs
  • About 4 cups of baby arugula
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese, amount unknown
  • Possibly two handfuls of regular almonds that I toasted

For the dressing, I actually kept to the recipe except for the minced shallots.  1) I got lazy.  2) I didn’t want onion breath while at work.

The original recipe was meant to serve 4, but my version was good for two lunches.  Overall reaction?  I liked this.  I should not have used Parmesan but I didn’t have time to pick up ricotta salata which was the cheese my heart really wanted to use.  (It was supposed to be Pecorino Romano but that’s not a cheese I use much.)  It was filling and good.  I wish I had marinated the mushrooms for longer than 30 minutes but I was assembling this salad at around 9pm.  And for a 9pm “OH MY GOD I NEED TO ASSEMBLE LUNCH FOR WORK TOMORROW” session, it wasn’t difficult or too time consuming at all.  (To be fair, I made the dressing earlier that day.)  Another plus for me personally?  Portabello mushrooms and cheese are decent sources of protein.

I will say that I have one issue with Mighty Salads.  I found some of the tips to be random.  For example, on the page for Freekeh, Fennel, and Smoked Fish Salad, there’s a “genius tip” regarding crunchy crumbled tempeh.  It give a gives a quick blurb on what tempeh is, and one method of cooking it.  It has absolutely no relation to the recipe on the page.  I’m mystified as to why the tempeh note is on this page.  And then I was mystified as to why there wasn’t at least one recipe that used tempeh, or at least mention in a recipe as a good substitution.

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So is this a perfect book?  No.  But I will get some use out of the recipes this summer.  It also doesn’t hurt that the photos in this cookbook are gorgeous.

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

Reference Links:



Milk Bar Life (cookbook review)

I can’t lie.  I jumped at the chance for a review copy of Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi.  I thought Momofuku Milk Bar was a fun cookbook, albeit one that I was unlikely to ever bake from.  (Good thing it was a library book.)  Many of the recipes had more steps than I was willing to follow.


Milk Bar Life is a very different book, even though it’s still a bit quirky.  Actually, it’s very quirky.  There are many recipes that I’m unlikely to use, not because they are complicated, but because they’re not my thing.  At the same time, there are a handful of recipes that I really want to try out sooner rather than later.

The first section is dedicated to Hand-Me Down recipes.  Overall, they are very doable.  I’m eyeing the oatmeal cookies and the bread recipe.  Many of the recipes are very retro which just doesn’t appeal to me personally.  Examples?  The cocktail meatballs, the seven-layer salad, and the cheesy onions.

Of course, since this is a Christina Tosi cookbook, there is a chapter on cookies.  There are a couple of sugar cookie recipes, banana cookies, molasses-rye cookies… nothing with a long ingredient list like her compost cookie recipe.

The third chapter is supermarket inspirations.  It is, if you will pardon the expression, semi-homemade recipes.  Again, not really my thing.

The fourth chapter is filled with recipes that the Milk Bar staff has eaten during their breaks.  It brings me back to recipes I want to try like the tex-mex curried chili with avocado raita, or the jerk chicken recipe.

The fifth chapter brings us recipes that are quick to prepare but not all that healthy for the most part.  I really have to question the inclusion of tang toast.  It scares me a little?  haha.

The sixth chapter are “weekend recipes.”  They are recipes that take a bit more time and dedication.

The seventh chapter are cookout recipes.  It starts with lemon bars, includes a couple of delicious looking burger recipes, and finishes with a few cocktail recipes.

The eighth chapter is called “craft night/sleepover.”  I guess it’s more snacks and party food.  The jellies and jams sound really interesting to me.  I think blueberry miso jelly might be the first recipe I give a test drive from this book.

The final chapter is called “going out.”  They are recipes adapted from other restaurants.  I don’t think I’ll ever give the mac and cheese pancakes a go, but the arepas de pabellon sound good to me.

I’m hoping to make a couple of recipes in the near future but I should probably learn to stop making cooking/baking announcements.  I never get anything done in the time frame that I think I will.  But, let’s hope that I do.  And when I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.


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


Reference Links:

First grilling session of the season

My brother-in-law and I grill together a few times a summer. We’re a bit too lazy to do it more often than that. Or maybe we’re just influenced by family members. My niece doesn’t like grilled food (she’s 10) so I guess there’s less incentive.

But July 4th weekend is usually when we break out the grill. I’m more experimental than the rest of my family, so I brought over my own meat to grill. BIL did some BBQ-sauced chicken and some teriyaki chicken. Meanwhile, I took some inspiration from “The Big-Flavor Grill” by Chris Schelsinger and John Willoughby. The whole book runs on the idea of “grill it, and flavor it afterward.”

I made pork tenderloin skewers, and then tossed them with the fresh herbs, garlic and lemon sauce recipe (the original published recipe paired the sauce with grilled chicken). My fresh herbs were oregano and tarragon from my garden. The original instructions has you keep the ingredients separate until you’re ready to toss but I don’t know why. I preferred dumping everything in a large mixing bowl so that I had an easier time bringing it outside.

Overall, we really liked it. I think my mom was the only person unimpressed but that’s only because she found the lemon juice to be too sour. I could barely taste it. I plated my pork with some stir-fried watercress (made by my mom) and some white rice. It was delicious.

I think I need a copy of the book for myself (I know… I have too many cookbooks) since the copy I was working from came from the library. There are lots of other recipes in the book that I would like to try before summer ends.