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)

Live Life Deliciously cookbook review

For all the recipe searches I do, I’m always surprised when I come across a cookbook author I don’t recognize and said person has an impressive portfolio.  Case in point, Tara Teaspoon is coming out with a new cookbook, “Live Life Deliciously”, in October.  She used to work for Martha Stewart, and I either don’t remember her or completely missed her tenure there.

Screen Shot 2020-08-30 at 1.03.29 PM

The book has a fair mix between familiar favorites (hello, yogurt marinated grilled chicken), and recipes that seem more refreshing.  At first, I wasn’t very impressed because I’m tired of those recipes I’m already familiar with.

The booked is divided into:

  • The chapters at work
  • New pantry staples
  • The right equipment
  • Bites, dips, and snacks
  • Salads, bowls, and dressings
  • Side love
  • Weeknight routines
  • Flavor-inspired dinners
  • Meals for gathering
  • Morning glories
  • Sweets to share

Here are the recipes that I’m personally interested in:

  • Tex-mex queso dip
  • Mile high buttermilk biscuits
  • Raspberry balsamic vinaigrette
  • Tangy tomato vinaigrette
  • Grilled pineapple and coconut rice
  • Ultimate steak rub
  • Jalapeno cornmeal waffles with carnitas and crema
  • Patsy’s pepperoni pizza pasta with ricotta
  • Savory romesco and almond tart
  • Whole wheat pancakes
  • Vanilla bean buttermilk syrup
  • Slow cooker almond and whole grain cereal
  • Pistachio cake with yogurt and citrus
  • Walnut cake with maple cream cheese frosting

I wasn’t sure what to cook out of this book.  Maybe it’s because when the book showed up at my house, Boston was in the middle of a heatwave so I wasn’t feeling strongly opinionated about anything.  I probably mulled over recipes for a good two weeks before I finally put myself to work.

Eventually, I picked out recipes based on what I happened to bring home from the market.  I made the New York Focaccia Sandwich which in turn has three recipe components: the Parmesan and Herb White Bean Dip, the Oven-Roasted Plum Tomatoes, and the Ultimate Focaccia recipe.  To make this a less insane cooking project, I made the recipes over a few days.

The tomatoes came first, and were pretty straight forward.  I cut and seasoned some plum tomatoes with oil, salt, black pepper, and dried oregano.  Then I slow roasted in the oven.  Easy peasy.  

 

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Oven roasted tomatoes

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The bean dip was a little more intensive, but still easy to execute.  I was instructed to cook some white beans with baking soda to soften.  Then I processed the beans with garlic, salt, ground coriander, olive oil, sherry vinegar (it should be lemon juice but I did not have lemons on hand), cheese, and fresh thyme into a puree.  It was the first time I’ve ever made a bean dip at home, and it was a bit of a revelation.  

 

I think it was the flavor combo that really sold me.  To me, the ground coriander was the strongest flavor, and I never considered using it with white beans and cheese before.  I was surprisingly impressed.

Now comes the hiccup.  I messed up the focaccia.  It was totally me and not the recipe.  I scaled it down and then gravely misjudged how well the yeast was rising.  (It’s also possible I used the wrong yeast measurement.)  When all is said and done, I should have let the final rise go longer, and not use the printed timing.  BUT!  I want to say that there is one thing about the recipe that I didn’t really understand – the step about oil.  When you first mix the dough per the instructions, there’s no oil in it.  Maybe Tara is going for an autolyse step without calling it autolyse?  I’m not sure.  It’s only after the first 30 minutes of rise time have passed that you are instructed to add a tablespoon of oil.  As far as I can tell, it basically gets folded in.  I’ve made focaccia before, and oil is usually mixed in at the same time as the other ingredients.  (Note – I’m talking about oil as an ingredient, and not the oil that you use on the pan during cooking.

 

But since I failed spectacularly on the bread, I ended up using some store-bought bread that I had stored in the freezer for sandwich construction.

 

I loved this sandwich.  All I could think was, “why don’t I make sandwiches like this more often?”  (Eh, probably because of the amount of time involved.)  It’s easy to scale down the bean dip and the roasted tomatoes if you want.  Personally, I thought the roasted tomatoes themselves made a good side for other meals, so I wouldn’t scale it down too much.  The bean dip, on the other hand, is really easy to cut in half.  In fact, I recommend doing so unless you’re making this for company.  

I felt so bad about messing up the focaccia that I decided to make the Garlic and Sumac Roasted Broccoli with Sweet Dates to redeem myself.  

 

I also liked this.  It reminded me that I should add dried fruit to my roasted vegetables more often.

Honestly, my overall results made me like this cookbook better than I thought I was going to.  I thoroughly enjoyed how things turned out.  Another thing that I like is that most of the recipes have a reasonable size ingredient list.  I think a lot of the recipes will be fun to make when Fall comes around and the temperatures inspire me to be in the kitchen more. 10/10 will make again.  

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received a preview from Shadow Mountain 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, my scope of recipe-testing might be limited.  Even though Massachusetts is doing a great job fighting against COVID-19, I’m still trying to stay home as much as possible.  So if I’m missing an ingredient on cooking day, I will substitute it.

 

Reference Links:

https://tarateaspoon.com/turkey-wraps-white-bean-spread/

(This is not the same recipe as the one in the cook but it is similar.)

https://tarateaspoon.com/

https://shadowmountain.com/ 

https://tarateaspoon.com/live-life-deliciously-cookbook/

(book is set to be released Oct. 6, 2020)

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

Start Simple, a cookbook review

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

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

The book is divided by eleven primary ingredients:

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

 

Here is a sampling of recipes:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Reference Links:

https://www.lukasvolger.com/

https://www.lukasvolger.com/books

http://www.harperwave.com/

 

Rustic Joyful Food – Generations, a cookbook review

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Reference Links:

http://www.rusticjoyfulfood.com/

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

https://www.sourcebooks.com/

Half the Sugar All the Love, a bookbook review

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

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

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

The book is sectioned into:

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other recipes that I am interested to make are:

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

 

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

 

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

 

Reference Links:

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

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

 

 

Power Spicing, a cookbook review

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

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

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

The book has seven main chapters:

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

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

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

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

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spice blend 🙃

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

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Matcha, cinnamon, ginger

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

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

 

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

 

Umami Bomb, a cookbook review

Umami…  One word with so many expectations!  Or rather, I tend to have high expectations when I see it thrown around.  The last time I reviewed a cookbook with the word ‘umami’ in it, I was underwhelmed by the recipe testing result.  Would “Umami Bomb” by Raquel Pelzel be equally underwhelming or will it pass expectations with flying colors?

The chapters are sorted by the main umami ingredient of the recipe.  The chapters are:

  • Parm and Other Aged Cheeses
  • Soy Sauce
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Miso
  • Smoke
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Fish

What sets this book slightly apart from other umami focused cookbooks is that this one is (lacto-ovo and pescatarian) vegetarian.  For better user experience (ok, that’s the nerdiest thing I’ve said on this blog), recipes are marked if they are vegan, vegan-optional, and with a rating system based on the number of umami ingredients.  What makes this book possibly better than the other umami book I’ve reviewed in the past (based on appearance only) is how approachable these recipes are. Pelzel’s book isn’t asking for any specialty ingredients if you’re living in an urban area.  It’s not asking you to build a pantry of DIY pastes, seasoning, or sauces.  

And… there’s a wealth of recipes I want to try.  I just didn’t have time to make more than one in time for this review.

  • Killer Chocolate Cake (just because I want to put soy sauce in frosting)
  • Grilled Pan Con Tomate with Miso Butter
  • Tomato ‘Nduja
  • Sick Day Tomato Soup
  • Savory Mushroom Breakfast Porridge
  • Veg and Cornbread Bake
  • Falafel-Spiced Grilled Mushrooms with Miso-Tahini Dressing
  • Mushroom Gravy
  • Caramelized Onion Korean Pancake 
  • Miso Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Polenta with Smoked Cheddar and Kale
  • Eggplant “Meatballs”

In the end, I decided to make Toasted Sesame Granola with Coconut, Orange, and Warm Spices.  I’ve never tried using sesame oil in my granola before or fresh ginger. Or soy sauce for that matter.  I try not to meddle with recipes for review, but I had to leave out the orange for this. I forgot to pick it up at the store.  Another note, cinnamon is one of the ingredients, but Pelzel suggests smoked cinnamon if you can get your hands on it. And now that I’ve made this granola, I’m seriously considering sourcing some smoked cinnamon.  The flavors in this recipe are really bold, some of the other ingredients are sesame seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut, ground ginger and ground coriander. My taste buds couldn’t really taste the sesame flavors but the amount of saltiness from the soy was perfect.  For me, the main flavors were ginger and coriander so smoked cinnamon would have matched really nicely.

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Mmmmm granola

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Unadorned, the granola is almost overwhelming but I couldn’t stop eating it anyway.  (Isn’t that kind of the point of umami anyway?) But when I topped my plain yogurt with it, it was perfect in every way. Pelzel also suggests pairing it with chocolate ice cream so obviously I need to go pick up some chocolate ice cream, sooner rather than later.

Overall, I really appreciate how unique the granola recipe is.  It makes me excited to experiment with the other recipes.

The book doesn’t have photos for everything, but that’s ok.  The photos that are there are bright and appetizing.  I think the array of recipes nicely covers a little of everything from breakfast to dessert.  I also appreciate how approachable and functional the book appears to be.  It’s all very appealing.  I definitely recommend giving this book a try if you can.

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.  The book is released September 3, 2019.

Reference Links:

http://www.raquelpelzel.com/recipes/

https://www.workman.com/