Vegan Meal Prep, a cookbook review

Meal prep is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I’m often prepping 4 days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Sundays.  I try to go for meatless for breakfast and lunch, mostly because I know that I should amp up my vegetable intake in general.  You would think about after three years of meal prep (more or less) that I’d have it down to a science, but I really don’t.

Breakfasts tend to be the same recipe, week after week, until I can’t stand it anymore.  Lunches can go either way. They are variations of the same basic recipe or simple-but-new-to-me recipes.  Dinner is the one meal that I give myself more time and freedom for experimenting. I’m often flipping through recipes all week long, trying to decide what I am willing and wanting to make that weekend.  And sometimes, I end up in a mild panic and just use a tried-and-true recipe when I’m too indecisive and running out of time.

I’ve always wanted a cookbook that did all the thinking for me, which led me to pick up a review copy of Vegan Meal Prep by Robin Asbell.  Asbell’s latest cookbook is basically detailed step-by-step meal prep instructions, from start to finish.

The book is split into three major sections.  “Setting Yourself Up for Success: Five Weeks of Vegan Meals” is the first section.  The highlight in this section, in my opinion, is Vegan Nutrition Basics. Asbell is pretty detailed: listing sources of protein, omega-3, calcium, iron, and zinc.  It’s a pretty good one stop reference if you’re fully vegan.

The second section is “Meal Prep 101: Planning, Shopping, and Prepping.”  This is where you’ll find the overview of the five week meal plan, shopping lists, and the prepping instructions for each week.

The third section is “Let’s Get Cooking! 125 Vegan Recipes”, which is broken down into these chapters.

  • Vegan Staples
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Salads, Dressing, and Sides
  • Desserts and Snacks

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

  • Whole Grain Baking Mix
  • Lemon Pecan Muffins with Apricot Cashew Spread
  • Smoky Tempeh Taco Meat
  • Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes
  • Barley with Vanilla Apples and Spiced Sweet Potato
  • Blueberry Breakfast Squares
  • Farro and Kimchi Bowls with Kale and Sesame Dressing
  • Farro Salad with Apricots, Carrots, and Spinach
  • Tempeh, Brown Rice, and Roasted Veggie Wraps
  • Tempeh Pasta Salad with Tomato and Avocado
  • Black Bean and Sweet Potato Curry
  • Black Bean and Squash Chili with Dumplings
  • Matcha-Glazed Pistachio Blondies
  • Peanut Butter Raisin Cookies

The things I liked most upon first impressions were the tips, variations, and “to pack for lunch” blurbs that frequently show up on corners of the recipe pages.  I also like how the ingredient lists are generally not intimidating nor filled with hard to find items.

The only critiques I have are two.  I wish nutritional information were listed.  I’ve seen other meal prep books that do. But for the purpose of mixing and matching for people who might be trying to watch their sugar intake, etc., it would be handy to have.  The other issue I have is the order of the recipe section. The whole book is planned around the five week meal plan/schedule but the recipes are in order by course. At least within each course type chapter, recipes are back in order by schedule and marked with which week/day the recipe belongs to.  If you’re planning to mix and match, then recipes ordered by course type makes sense. But I think if you’re planning to use the book as written, then having the recipes ordered by course type makes less sense.

In neither a “pro” nor a “con” comment, all of the recipes are meant to make about 4 servings.  So while I had originally planned on following a full week of recipes for this review, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t feasible for me.  I am not trying to feed a family of four (But you might be!),

I ended up testing two recipes: Baked Marinated Tempeh, and Breakfast Protein Cookies with Dates and Pistachios.

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Breakfast cookies

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Both were easy to make.  I’ve made breakfast cookies before but it never occurred to me to use dates and pistachios.  I tend to use a lot of raisins. (In fact, I didn’t have time to get dates for this recipe so I used golden raisins which I think are milder in raisin flavor than the more familiar thompson seedless raisins.  Please don’t hate me for substituting.)  The cookies have good protein content, due to the sneaky addition of tofu, and don’t taste too sweet.  Having said that, the cookies actually use more sweetener than my typical baked oatmeal, and I don’t think you can reduce it as the maple syrup acts as part of the wet ingredients.  (Well, maybe you could increase the tofu?  Maple syrup and tofu are the only wet ingredients in this recipe.  Vanilla doesn’t count.  And like I said, it doesn’t taste too sweet so would reducing the sweetener be a futile exercise?)  The portion size is 3 cookies, and it seems to mostly sate my morning hunger.  (But I have a really high appetite in the mornings.  Sometimes I want more food.  Your mileage may vary.)

I liked the baked marinated tempeh too.  It never occurred to me to use apple juice as part of the marinade before.  I decided to mix up the baked tempeh with leftover marinade (which I cooked with cornstarch thinking i could use it as a sauce) and some cauliflower rice.  The natural tempeh flavor was not too strong in this recipe, so I think I’ll use it again in the near future. (However, the cooked marinade plus cauliflower tasted like… fish?  It’s a subtle enough flavor that I will push through it, but yeah, I’m never doing that combination again. lol!)

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone who wants to do more meal prepping, want a reasonable food budget, and have more than one mouth to feed.  Oh, and if you’re just trying to up your veggie intake (like me). I do have the minor reservations as listed above, but that might not bother you as much as it does me.

 

Reference Link:

https://www.robertrose.ca/book/vegan-meal-prep-5-week-plan-125-ready-go-recipes

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

 

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One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, a cookbook review

I have a weird fascination with faux cheeses.  In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, I mean products made with nuts and nutritional yeast, and label themselves as cheese for people who are vegan or dairy free.  It might be because, while I like cheese, I am not obsessed with it. I have friends who can eat nothing but cheese for days and they’d be happy.  Me? Not so much. I like mozzarella and queso fresco, but I’m not interested in feta and really dislike goat cheese.

To be fair though, it’s less of an obsession and more of a “how close does this taste like the real thing?” curiosity.  Or maybe even, “could I like this better than the real thing?”  (I would love a goat cheese replacement that I liked.)

I’ve made faux cream cheese and faux grated parmesan, both of which were really tasty and I plan to make again.  But this time around, I thought I’d try a Claudia Lucero recipe.

First of all, Lucero is a cheese maker of the traditional kind.  I didn’t realize until I had a copy of her new book in my hands, One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, that she’s also the author of One Hour Cheese, a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of (and has been sitting on my Amazon wish list for over a year now).    I won’t lie, her background makes me want to experiment with her faux cheese recipes even more! In my head, I think if a cheese maker can make a faux cheese that she’s proud enough to put into print, then surely the recipe has some merit.

Here’s a quick rundown of the book.  The chapters are divided between:

  • Chapter 1 – The Basics: Equipment, Ingredients, and More
  • Chapter 2 – Wheels, Blocks, and Rounds
  • Chapter 3 – Melts and Dips
  • Chapter 4 – Schmears and Spreads
  • Chapter 5 – Shakes and Grates
  • Chapter 6 – Inst-Cheeses
  • Chapter 7 – Just for Fun
  • Chapter 8 – Make It Yours
  • Chapter 9 – Basic Fermentation
  • Chapter 10 – Bonus Cultured and Aged Cheeses
  • Chapter 11 – Cheese Platter Pairings

One of my favorite features of the book is that every recipe seems to include substitutions, variations, and follow-up recipes.  For example, the ingredients for the Lemon Garlic Feta are listed as blanched almond flour, water or dairy free yogurt, sauerkraut, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tapioca starch, red wine vinegar, sea salt, garlic, oregano, white pepper, lemon zest, and agar agar.  Don’t have almond flour? Lucero offers ideas for using almond slivers, cashews, macadamia, or sunflowers instead. No sauerkraut? Fake it with onion and lactic acid. No nutritional yeast? Still not a problem, because you can use garlic, tahini, or miso. Then, the recipe variations included are rosemary feta, and kalamata peppercorn feta.  Once the feta is made, you can use it in her recipe for Spicy Beet Salad.

For recipe testing though, I went with the simplest recipe in the book which was the One Bowl Ricotta.  It only has four ingredients and a fifth optional ingredient. I used blanched almond flour, sea salt, lemon juice, water, and miso for my batch.

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Faux cheese on cracker

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In some respects, while the easiest, this recipe could be the worst to start with.  I think for someone who has experimented with faux cheese before, this one might seem almost boring.  I tasted it straight, and I tasted it on a cracker. The flavor was quite mild. It probably would have tasted better with lactic acid and dairy free yogurt, but I didn’t have those on hand.  (And again, I was purposefully going as easy as possible.)  But for someone who hasn’t experimented with faux cheese before, it’s a fantastic beginner’s recipe.

While I don’t think it’s the best faux cheese I’ve made, it’ll probably be the one I’ll end up making the most.  It’s just so easy that I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it up, especially if I’m making something for my vegan or lactose sensitive friends.  It’s also given me momentum to experiment more with faux cheeses, and given me the inspiration to work with less familiar ingredients to make a more convincing product.  I am not saying this lightly.  I even ordered some lactic acid online this week just to make more faux cheese.

So, yeah, I highly recommend this book.  I’m not sure which recipe to test out next though as they all sound good.  (Oooh, maybe I’ll make the Margherita Pizza Melt once my lactic acid arrives at my house.)  If there’s a recipe in particular that you’d like to see me make, just drop me a line with your suggestion!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.urbancheesecraft.com/collections/cheesemaking-books/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

https://www.workman.com/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

Disclaimer – I 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.

Fit Men Cook, a cookbook review

I don’t watch a lot of traditional television anymore, but I do watch a lot of Youtube videos.  Some of the channels that I regularly keep up with are Bon Appetit, You Suck at Cooking, NPR Music, and (yes) Fit Men Cook.

I love Kevin Curry’s onscreen personality, and his content.  I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but the thing I love next to food is fitness.  I’m not a total gym rat, but I workout regularly for both general health and mental health. “Healthy cooking” at that point is a natural intersection of interests, which is how I found Curry’s Youtube channel.  I can’t remember if I was looking for a certain recipe, or just for meal prep ideas (most likely the later). And later when the FMC app was made available, I immediately downloaded it onto my tablet.

Hilariously, I never got around to making any of his recipes until the release of his new cookbook, which is also named Fit Men Cook.  I’m not sure why. A few of his recipes are on the to-do-list but I guess “out of sight, out of mind”? (This is the main reason why I will never give up my physical cookbooks.  I easily forget all the things I want to make if I’m just bookmarking a web page.  I’m more likely to flip through a cookbook when I’m looking for ideas.)

The recipe section is broken down into these chapters:

  • Breakfast
  • Poultry
  • Land and Sea
  • Salads, Soups, Sauces
  • Grass Fed AF
  • Comfort Food Makeovers
  • Sides
  • Sweets and Snacks


Every recipe has flags for:

  • Blender
  • Dairy free
  • Follower favorite
  • Gluten free
  • High Protein
  • Keto friendly
  • Low carb
  • One skillet/pot
  • Quick and easy
  • Slow cooker
  • Team #nowaste
  • Plant based

More importantly if you’re tracking your food, every recipe comes with nutritional information for calories, protein, carbs, fat, fiber, sugar, and sodium.

It also is comforting that, like his onscreen personality, none of the recipes sound intimidating.  

The recipe I was going to make for this review was his Chicken Crust Pizza (also available on his website at the time of this post).  But then the coldest week this season hit the Greater Boston area, and I quickly changed my mind. I tried the Lean Tex-Mex Turkey Chili as my inaugural FMC recipe.  

The ingredients are fairly common for a a chili: garlic, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, a can of chopped green chilies, broth, and tomatoes.  This particular recipe uses ground turkey, but Curry mentions 95% lean ground beef, ground chicken, or TVP as substitutes. I did not make any substitutions.

It was very easy to make and the results were tasty.  I do think that it was more watery than what I was accustomed to in a chili, but it proved to be a minor detail for me.  I chose to bulk my bowl up with half of a roasted sweet potato… and consequently made it less healthy by adding queso fresco.  (Ooops?) But in all seriousness, the sweet potato and cheese paired great so I don’t have much by way of regrets. That is to say that this chili is more on the basic/fundamental side of things but it’s easy to tweak it to your liking and with little extra effort.

Then in a rare move, I made another FMC recipe during my following meal prep day.  This time, emboldened by the chili results, I made the Chicken Crust Pizza. (Also, the weather isn’t as miserably cold this week.)   

It smelled amazing when it was cooking. It looked kind of amazing too when it was done. However, I’m not sure this recipe is really my thing as I generally despise (DESPISE) chicken breast which is used as the crust in his pizza recipe.  I think it has a lot of potential and I think I need to experiment some more.  My chicken crust was too dry.  (For this recipe, I did not follow strictly as I wasn’t intending to add it to the review.  Next time I will add more sauce and hope for the best.) But if you’re counting macros or just trying to meal prep a healthier version of pizza, then I would recommend this recipe.

 For me, I’m glad I started off with the chili recipe as it was the better of my two results.

Other recipes that I want to try (probably after the holidays… when I’m trying to get off the junk food wagon):

  • Quick protein granola
  • Slow cooker banana chai oatmeal
  • Thyme cheeseburger breakfast casserole
  • Pulled chicken mole
  • Spicy un-Texan black bean chili
  • Cold coconut curry in a jar
  • Tempeh and butternut squash ginger fry
  • Red coconut Dahl
  • Mac and chili bachelor(ette) bowl
  • Chocolate-crusted strawberry cheez-cake
  • Nut butter cookies

 

Overall, I’m really enjoying this book and wish Kevin Curry continued success with his Fit Men Cook brand.  I highly recommend the book to anyone who looking of meal prep ideas, or anyone who needs to be a bit more careful with their eating habits.  I’m not sure if I’d recommend this book to someone who is a complete beginner in the kitchen, but with a few basic skills, all of the recipes are very accessible.

 

Reference Links:

https://fitmencook.com/

https://www.youtube.com/user/fitmencook

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Fit-Men-Cook/Kevin-Curry/9781501178726

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

 

Cook90, a cookbook review

Have you heard of the #cook90 challenge?  I hadn’t until very recently. It’s a cooking challenge put forward by David Tamarkin and Epicurious.  I’m not 100% sure, but I think this was Tamarkin’s first post on it:

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-cook-every-single-meal-in-january-article

The rules, as stated online, are:

1. COOK EVERY MEAL YOU EAT THE ENTIRE MONTH
If you’ve transformed raw ingredients with heat, you’ve cooked. Likewise, if you’ve taken two or more raw ingredients and combined them to make something greater than the sum of their parts (a salad, a sandwich, etc), you’ve also cooked. On the flip side, heating a frozen pizza in the oven, or warming a can of soup on the stovetop—these things are not cooking.

2. NEVER COOK THE SAME THING MORE THAN TWICE…
That’s right, you can’t make cacio e pepe night after night (though that does sound sort of nice). Forcing yourself to cook new recipes is exactly the thing that will earn you new skills, new favorites to put in your repertoire—and maybe even some new accolades from your family.

3. …EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO BREAKFAST
Breakfast is its own beast—you can eat the same thing for breakfast for the entire month. As long as you’re preparing your own breakfast and not buying it—no BECs from the corner deli, no McMuffins—you’re good.

4. RELY ON LEFTOVERS, BUT NOT TOO MUCH
#Cook90 is all about fitting home-cooked food into a hectic, busy life. Leftovers—and nextovers (more on that here)—are key to the strategy (half the point of making a killer chicken parm is so you can eat it again for lunch the next day). But also key to #cook90 is branching out and really flexing those cooking muscles. So eat leftovers once. Eat them twice if you need to. But after that, it’s time to move on.

5. TAKE 3 BREAKS
You get three passes on #cook90—three meals that you can eat at a restaurant, order in, or just have somebody else cook for you. You don’t have to use these, of course, but #cook90 will probably go easier if you do.

6.COOK WITH OTHER PEOPLE!
Making dinner with friends and family totally counts, and it can prevent you from feeling isolated in the kitchen. So plan a few dinner parties , or just invite a friend or two over on a Tuesday night. As long as you cook a reasonable amount of the food (we’re working on the honor system here), it counts.

Much like Bon Appetit’s Food-Lovers Cleanse, the challenge and its curated recipes were popular enough and printed into a book.  The book is divided into three main sections:

  • Part One – Welcome to Cook90 (Introduction, Rules, Fatigue, 12 Questions, etc.)
  • Part Two – The Four Part Plan for Cooking Everyday (Meal Planning, Shopping, Pantry, “Nextovers”)
  • Part Three – A Month of Cooking Everyday (Suggested Meal Plans, Recipes, Breakfast, Lunch, Weeknights, Weekends)

There is also a front recipe index is divided into 30 min or less, 15 min or less, and main ingredients, which makes recipe perusal easy when you’re not sure what you want to make.

Things to I’d like to try:

  • Blueberry – Tahini – Oatmeal Smoothie
  • Ricotta with Tomatoes, Lemon, and Mint
  • Savory Yogurt Bowl
  • Mojo Chicken with Rice and Beans
  • Quick Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Quick Sesame Chicken with Broccoli
  • Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo, Mushrooms, and Lime Cream
  • Braised Rotisserie Chicken with Bacon, Tomatoes, and Kale
  • Vietnamese Port Patty Salad with Rice Noodles
  • Smoky Beans and Greens on Toast

I can’t comment on any recipes that I’m not interested because the review copy of the book I have is not the final copy.  There might be misprinting, and there is a little bit of missing content. So, I cannot make any criticisms in good conscience.

For the purpose of this book review, I made the grain bowl with spiced squash, mushrooms, and curried yogurt.  (I did not realize until just now that the same recipe is available on the Epicurious website.)  I used some quick cooking Trader Joe’s farro for the grain portion, acorn squash (because I couldn’t find delicata), and used arugula over watercress because it was already in my kitchen.

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Pre-oven

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It was a simple recipe but not boring.  My kitchen smelled amazing the whole time the veggies were in the oven.  Regarding the final results, I found the flavors to be a little busy.  I felt like the mushrooms, arugula, and curry yogurt dominated all other flavors.  But still, I feel like I won some random non-scale victory here. I’ve used the curry yogurt on other things, and I’m now tempted to cook acorn squash with onions and cinnamon more often.

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Post oven

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Do I think this is a fun book?  Yes. I’m not sure I’d ever do the real challenge, but aspects of it appeals to me.  I cook all my own meals Sunday through Friday, and have done so for the last couple of years. I pretty much eat the same thing for breakfast everyday because Tamarkin is right on the mark – breakfast can be a beast!  I technically don’t cook the same thing in one month, but I have been known to cook the same protein twice in a row with different dry rubs (just enough of a difference so I don’t get completely bored).  I go out to eat maybe only twice a month. Probably against the rules, my family likes to meet up once a week for dinner and it’s typically my mother who does the cooking. Sometimes, family meals is take out from Chinatown.  lol!

But the one rule I know I’d have trouble with not breaking is no. 4 for “don’t rely on leftovers.”  I cook just for myself, so I’ll typically cook a standard 4 serving recipe and eat it throughout the week.  Tamarkin might call it leftovers but I prefer to call it meal prep. A lot of nights, I’m starving and not getting home until 6:30p.  I can’t wait to cook and then eat. Getting “hangry” is not an option.  So, food has to be re-heated quickly, which means employing some help from Chef Mike (“Mike” as in microwave).

Overall though, the recipes aren’t intimidating and they shouldn’t be because the authors want you to succeed.  The recipes are also good meal prep recipes.  Tamarkin and the Epicurious team isn’t totally against meal prep. They just call it “nextovers.” That is to say that “the portions you don’t eat are your nextovers—ready for you to turn into something different than tonight’s dinner the very next day.”  I’m just… unlikely to do that.

Pick up a copy of Cook90 if the challenge is something you want to tackle.  Or pick up a copy if you’re just looking to expand your arsenal of “everyday friendly” recipes.

The book is officially released on December 11th but, in the meantime, you can and should check out the related content on the Epicurious website.

 

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

 

Reference Links:

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/grain-bowl-with-spiced-squash-mushrooms-and-curried-yogurt

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/cook90-2017-week-1-article

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/the-official-cook90-2018-meal-plan-gallery

https://www.littlebrown.com/titles/david-tamarkin/cook90/9780316420136/

 

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a cookbook review

Bread is something I dabble in regularly but not with any mastery and I’m ok with that.  But maybe because I’m an average bread baker that I have very, VERY few recipes that I remake.  I’m always experimenting.

And while I’ve made no-knead breads before, I never got around to making anything from the “Bread in Five Minutes a Day” books by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, even though I remember their first book on the best seller list.

Well, that’s finally changed.  I recently received a copy of their newest book, “Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day.”  While the book focuses the more decadent breads (think ricotta-stuffed savory doughnuts and king cakes), it starts with the basics (like a white bread master recipe and Pullman sandwich loaf).  Here are the chapter titles to give you a better idea:

  • The Master Recipe
  • The Basics
  • Small loaves, rolls, and buns
  • Flatbreads
  • Challah and babka
  • Gooey, sticky goodness
  • Doughnuts
  • Christmas breads
  • Easter Breads
  • Celebration and Brunch breads
  • Fancy stale bread
  • Flaky dough
  • Quick jams and fillings

The recipes I really want to take a closer look are in the challah chapter: whole grain challah, tahini swirl bread, and coconut chocolate twist.  I would have made some challah as my first recipe out of the book except that I’m completely without eggs in the house, and I keep forgetting to pick some up.

For the purposes of this review, I made the buttermilk bread recipe.  Overall, it was very straightforward.  I chose to use my mixer instead of hand-mixing just to get everything mixed well.  Then, I let it sit on the counter, covered, for two hours before popping it in the fridge.

I chose to halve the recipe so I didn’t have to cut off half of the dough for baking.  Also, two loaves of bread is too much for just 1 person (and I still have challah to make in the near future).  When it came time to bake, I pulled it out of the fridge, shaped it, and let it sit for 90 minutes.

So, the method (not the concept) is new to me.  I’ve made no knead breads where you use a scant amount of yeast and just let it sit for 16 hours.  Francois and Hertzberg are using a fairly normal amount of yeast, and letting it develop gluten on its own at two different temperature ranges.

The buttermilk bread recipe was pretty sticky, even when cold, which I feel is common for no-knead breads but feel free to correct me.  But I’m not sure if the other recipes in the book are just as sticky.  While I recognize the benefits of a high hydration dough, I personally find it a little intimidating to work with.  I’m pretty bad at shaping dough to be begin with, and a sticky dough just makes it harder.

Having said that, I really do like the general ease of this method.  It just requires some forethought.

As for the buttermilk bread itself, I really liked it.  It gave me a sense of Wonder Bread nostalgia (the bread my mom used to buy), even though I know it’s not like Wonder Bread at all.  To be fair, I can’t do a side by side comparison, as I haven’t eaten Wonder Bread since I was probably in high school (… and high school happened a long time ago.  lol!)

Overall impression of the book?  I highly appreciate the variety of recipes.  The recipe layout is easy to read – it’s a grid with volume, weight in ounces, and weight in grams.  The photos look appealing – really clean, soft light, no weird HDR, and no weird retro photos.  I fully recommend this book to anyone who wants to make bread at home.

In fact, I think I’ll peruse the previous books in the series.  I bet I missed some fantastic sounding breads.

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

 

Reference Links:

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/holiday-and-celebration-bread/

https://artisanbreadinfive.com/

https://zoebakes.com/

Waste Not, a cookbook review

Being earth friendly is something that makes me anxious or angry.

I really don’t understand people who litter.  It’s an eye sore.   It’s a complete disregard for the community.  And it’s pretty much going to stay there forever unless someone threw away something like a banana peel.  I can’t tell you how many pieces of plastic, glass, and foil I see walking down just a few blocks on my street.  I swear that there’s someone out here who likes tucking in empty potato chip bags in the nooks and crannies of trees and fences consistently.  That’s when I get angry.

But a more complicated relationship between me and the earth happens in the kitchen.  To start, there were two summers where I shared a vegetable CSA with my sister and I had trouble getting through my share.  Sometimes, I had items that I didn’t like (fresh gooseberries and fresh currants for example).  But more often I had vegetables that I just didn’t cook soon enough and they’d start to rot.  So I don’t participate in CSAs anymore.

But I feel guilty even over normal kitchen waste like apple cores, bell pepper seeds, etc.  It makes me anxious.  I installed a composter in my backyard just to help alleviate my guilt.  But half of the time, I don’t even make it to the composter.  And it’s only good for vegetable scraps.  I can’t compost animal products.  

Oh, and whey!  Since I make my own yogurt, I like to strain it sometimes, but I don’t know what to do with the leftover whey.

So, my new experiment is to try to use up food scrapes whenever possible.  I recently received a copy of Waste Not by the James Beard Foundation.  The book is a collection of recipes and tips from different chefs on how to be less wasteful.

The book is sectioned into five chapters:

  • From Stem to Stem
  • Meat, Bones, Skin and Scales
  • Tops and Bottoms, Pits and Peels
  • Second-Day Solutions
  • Prolonged and Preserved

There is a recipe for leftover whey and that is whey cooked heirloom grains (specifically grits).  I’m really looking forward to trying that.  Other recipes that I’d like to use in no particular order:

  • Rainbow Chard Noodles
  • Squash Seed Tahini
  • Baked Potato Stock
  • Schmaltz Mashed Potatoes
  • Chicken Liver Dumplings (don’t worry, the liver is mixed with dark meat and lots of seasoning)

The only thing I don’t care for in this book is the photography.  It’s like someone went crazy with Instagram’s Lo-Fi filter and then some.

For recipe testing, I picked out the kale stem crackers (because my mother unexpectedly gifted me with a bunch of kale… like a mother does).

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Prepping kale stems

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It was very easy to put together, but my crackers didn’t firm up at all.  I rolled them out by hand to 1/4” which is what was the thickness in the directions, but I think I should have made it thinner.  Or maybe bake halfway, cut, and then bake again like you would with biscotti.  Not sure.

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Kale stems in a dough

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More importantly, they were surprisingly tasty and very savory!  I’m now thinking I should try dinner rolls with kale stems and garlic.

I’ve tried salvaging kale stems before by pickling them but this was much more my speed.  (I’m not a huge fan of pickles.  Kimchi, yes.  Pickles, not so much.)  So I can safely say that this book as a lot of good ideas on how to use up those items in your fridge that you might not realize are edible or were going to toss in the trash.  Since the recipes were written by different people, it’s hard for me to gauge if other recipes may need tweaking like I think the cracker recipe needs.  Regardless, it’s a great place to start if you want to move to a more zero-waste lifestyle or just need some inspiration.

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

Reference Links:

https://www.rizzoliusa.com/book/9780847862788/

Home Made Christmas, a cookbook review

If you haven’t noticed, I love cookbooks.  Sometimes I like them to be cute like Cook Korean!  Sometimes I like them to give me warm and fuzzy feelings of yum like Martha Stewart’s Cookies.  So I got really exciting when Abrams was kind enough to send me a copy of Yvette Van Boven’s Home Made Christmas.  Van Boven is an acclaimed cookbook author and host of Holland’s cooking show Koken Met van Boven.  In the US, her previous books are Home Made, Home Made Winter, Home Made Summer, and Home Baked. 

I remember Home Made and Home Made Winter when they were first released, but I never really got around to doing a deep dive into either of them.  Probably because I wasn’t cooking as regularly as I do now.  I certainly wasn’t doing cookbook reviews back then.  I forgot how whimsical some of Van Boten’s illustrations are.  It reminds me a little of doodling in the margins of a notebook.

Home Made Christmas is divided into these sections:

Christmas Stress-Relief Tips

  • The Morning **
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Soups
  • Small Plates
  • Main Courses
  • Side Dishes **
  • Desserts **
  • Pantry
  • Menus

** = the chapters I’m personally most interested in.

And these are definitely holiday recipes, meant for celebration.  I wouldn’t say any of them are intimidating, but a lot of them are a little too decadent for everyday eating.

Here’s a sample of the recipes I’m most interested in trying out:

  • Brioche and Red Fruit Swirls with Ricotta Glaze
  • Savory French Toast
  • Squash, Feta, and Sage Pull Apart Bread
  • Cauliflower Creme with Coconut, Cumin, and Pine Nuts
  • Mincemeat Fudge
  • Blood Orange-Meringue Tartlets

The recipes that I am not interested in but you, dear reader, might be:

  • Spicy Goat Cheese Spread with Home Made Melba Toast
  • Cream of Gorgonzola and Poached Pears on Toast
  • Terrine of Tender Leek with Smoked Salmon and Mascarpone
  • Mackerel TartletRum-cured and Smoked Wild Salmon

For my first recipe from the book, I chose apple cranberry Christmas rolls.  It was pretty easy to put together that I was willing to do this at 8pm on a Thursday night even though I had work the next day.  As I was making it, I kept thinking that I was doing something wrong.  There’s no leavening agent!  But I carried on and put my faith in Van Boven.  She wrote that “the dough should be nice and soft, not too dry.”  I ended up with something that was extremely sticky.  Was that the same as nice and soft?  Can I blame this on a translation issue?    I had so many questions.

Once put together, it reminded me a lot of Amazing Raisin Cake which is a mayo based cake with apples and raisins.  (It’s one of the few things my mother would bake during my childhood but that’s a different story.)  I chose to scoop them onto a parchment line baking sheet, and made eight rolls.

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waiting to be baked #food

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I feel like calling them rolls is bad representation, but I’m not sure what a better description would be.  They are substantial and denser than a typical yeasted roll.  But I still really liked them!  Even though there’s applesauce, sugar, diced apples, and dried cranberries, it’s not too sweet.  My only disappointment was that my rolls didn’t brown prettily.  They don’t look like the book photo.  (Granted, I feel like the book photos have an intentional brown tone to them overall.)

I enjoyed the book, and I’m happy to put it on my bookshelf.  I think others will too.

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

Reference Links:

https://www.abramsbooks.com/product/home-made-christmas_9781419732386/

https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/dessert/cake/amazin-raisin-cake-1974.html