Made Whole Made Simple, a cookbook review

I’ve followed Cristina Curp, aka The Castaway Kitchen, on Instagram for several months now.  I was excited when I had the opportunity to review her latest cookbook, “Made Whole Made Simple”  For those who don’t know her work, she’s a nutritional therapy practitioner. Her recipes in this book are “free of grain, gluten, soy, and nightshades.  Minimal amounts of dairy and nuts are used, and many of the recipes are coconut-free, egg-free, and AIP compliant.” Personally, I’m neither paleo nor following an AIP diet, but I appreciate how approachable this book seems to be.  Nearly every recipe is weeknight friendly.

The book has the following chapters:

  • The House Won’t Fall If the Bones Are Good
  • Where We Get Our Fuel
  • Eating for Healing
  • Habits for a Healthy Life
  • Kitchen Handbook
  • Meal Makers (this is basically the condiments and DIY section)
  • Breakfast
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish+Seafood
  • Sides+Snacks
  • Sweets+Beverages

Here are some recipes that appeal to me:

  • Cauliflower Sour Cream
  • Stir-In Coffee Creamer
  • Sweet Onion Breakfast Bowls
  • Pumpkin Pancakes
  • Balsamic Braised Meatballs and Kale
  • Coconut Lime Spiked Meatballs
  • Tasty Mojo Pork
  • Crispy Ranch Wings
  • Salmon Noodle Soup
  • Tahini Cookie Cream Bites
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

The first recipe I made from the book was Breakfast Sausage Soup.  It ‘s easy. You brown up some breakfast sausage, set aside, saute some cabbage/celery/onions, add spinach, then finish up by adding back the sausage and adding some broth.  

At the time of preparing for this recipe, St. Patrick’s Day and COVID-19 self-quarantine were right around the corner.  This meant that I had to break my cookbook review rule of staying honest to the recipe. I ended up using green cabbage instead of the original red cabbage, and “made” my own breakfast sausage with some ground meat and spices.  

Overall, I liked the soup but you’ll have to keep in mind that most of the flavor is coming from the sausage.  So make sure you’re using one you like. I didn’t care for the spice blend I ended up using for my DIY sausage, but that’s my error.  On the bright side, I found that my sausage soup tasted better the next day. So thankfully nothing was wasted.

I love the methodology of this soup.  You’ve got your protein and your veggies in one bowl that did not require anything crazy.  I think my only real critique of the recipe is that, as written, 2 pounds of meat is for 4 servings.  That’s more meat than I typically eat in one sitting. So just be mindful that your mileage may vary.  

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Tuscan kale makes me happy

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The second recipe I made was the Charred Kale Soup.  Again, there aren’t a lot of ingredients in this soup.  The flavor mostly comes mostly from the broth, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and lemon zest.  Minor adjustments were made because of self-quarantine. I didn’t have bone broth, so I used some vegetable bouillon.  I didn’t have lemon zest, so I tried using some True Lemon (which is a lemon crystal product). Like the breakfast sausage soup, the ingredients are so few that the quality/flavor of your ingredients is going to give the biggest impact.  The bouillon I used was too strongly flavored, so that’s me and not the soup. I still enjoyed the outcome.  

I loved the way the kale was prepped in this recipe.  You brown the kale in a pot undisturbed for 5 minutes, stir, and then leave undisturbed for another 5 minutes.  Cooked this way, the kale reminded me a lot of making kale chips. It smelled so good when I stirred halfway. This method is definitely one I will reuse.  

I was slightly amused that the Breakfast Sausage Soup seemed to make a lot for 4 servings, but the Charred Kale Soup seemed to make so little for 4 servings.  It’s definitely a side dish.  

Overall thoughts?  This is a great book for someone who wants fairly easy recipes with a healthy ingredient list.  I like that some of the recipes are inspired by Curp’s Cuban heritage.  The style and format feels very similar to other paleo/whole 30 publications I’ve seen. There’s one recipe per page, regardless of length, and one large accompanying photo on the adjacent page.  The photos are more function than form, if you will. (Does this matter?  Absolutely not. It’s just hard for me to not notice when I compare it to the next book I am reviewing.)  All in all, I’ll cook from this book again.  (Especially the flourless chocolate cake.  It sounds so good.)

 

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

With COVID-19 self-quarantine, the recipes I tested for this review had to be modified based on what I had access to.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.instagram.com/thecastawaykitchen/

https://thecastawaykitchen.com/the-castaway-kitchen-home/my-books/

http://victorybelt.com/

Start Simple, a cookbook review

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

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

The book is divided by eleven primary ingredients:

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

 

Here is a sampling of recipes:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Reference Links:

https://www.lukasvolger.com/

https://www.lukasvolger.com/books

http://www.harperwave.com/

 

Simply Hot Pots, a cookbook review

Someone I know recently said to me, “Really, you need a recipe book for hot pot?? Lol just throw stuff in!”

Well, yes, I could do that.  At home hot pot (aka nabe)  with friends and family have always been chicken broth or dashi up until now.  But you know what? That gets a little boring sometimes. Just because it’s hot pot, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for creativity!

It is that creativity that caught my eye with Amy Kimoto-Kahn’s newest cookbook, Simple Hot Pots.  Maybe it’s because she’s a fourth-generation Japanese-American, but Kimoto-Kahn doesn’t box herself in with traditional recipes.  She doesn’t ignored them, but there’s a lovely collection of non-traditional recipes that I think deserve attention.

The book is divided into these sections:

  • Broth bases, sauce, and more
  • Pork hot pots
  • Chicken hot pots
  • Beef hot pots
  • Seafood hot pots
  • Spicy hot pots
  • Vegetable hot pots
  • Specialty hot pots
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts

As I said above, there are traditional flavors in the book like basic dashi and basic shabu-shabu broth.  But I think the stars of the show are going to be the sesame miso broth, creamy corn broth (see more on this below), Japanese curry broth, tomato broth, Thai coconut curry broth, and Vietnamese broth.  Other honorable mentions that aren’t traditional in Japanese cookery but I have seen in hot pot places are the Mongolian broth, Korean Kimchi broth, and Macanese broth.

I also appreciate the flavor pairings that Kimoto-Kahn puts forward to go with the broths.  That tomato broth? Use it for the mussels with spicy tomato nabe recipe. Kimichi broth? Match that with Korean short ribs, because that’s a tried and true pairing.  At any rate, they both sound delicious.

I legitimately love everything I’m reading in this cookbook!

To “test drive” the book, I knew I wanted to try one of the unusual recipes.  I ultimately decided on the Green Vegetable Nabe, which uses the creamy corn broth, the sesame miso sauce, asparagus, kale, bok choy, and broccoli crowns.  

The corn broth contains onion, corn kernels, nutmeg, chicken stock, milk, cream, and miso.  The result? It reminds me of mac and cheese… but without the mac or the cheese. lol! My favorite mac and cheese recipe to make is a Martha Stewart one and it includes making a roux and flavoring it with nutmeg.  It’s the same building blocks of flavor. So this broth recipe gets us part way there but without all the heaviness of a real mac and cheese recipe. It’s sweet from the dairy and the corn, but not overly so.

And pairing it with a vegetable nabe?  It was really delicious. I didn’t want to stop eating the broccoli except that I had to or else I’d have no veggies in the fridge for the rest of the week.  A worry I had while making the nabe was that maybe the broth would scorch the bottom of the pot from the natural dairy sugars. As far as I can tell, that didn’t happen.  (Though to be fair, it might be because I was making hot pot for one.  I’m not sure how the broth would hold up after longer simmering times.)

The sesame miso sauce was good too but I have to admit that I messed it up.  (Which is kind of amazing because it’s a simple sauce.)  I was having a bad kitchen day where I was constantly dropping things and just generally being a klutz.  On top of that I was trying to rush (because I was getting hungry), one will do things like miss the instructions that said to blitz the sesame seeds into a powder or suddenly forget one was making a half batch of sauce!  Even with all my stupidity, I manage to make it work. (But I’m think I’m going to blend up the leftover sauce so that it can at least look more like it’s supposed to.)

I can’t recommend this cookbook enough even though I’ve only tested two recipes.  (Well, one recipe and one inspired recipe.) I’m trying to decide what other things I want to use the creamy corn broth with.  (Sweet potatoes, mushrooms, ham, chicken? Not necessarily altogether.) I think I might be making the tomato broth next while it’s still winter in these parts.  

Kimoto-Kahn has done a wonderful job of making hot pot more interesting, offering a variety of styles and flavors.  And, I am all the happier for it.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.easypeasyjapanesey.com/

Amy’s website – I also recommend this.  A few of the book recipes are cross-posted on her blog.

https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9781631065675/Simply-Hot-Pots.html

 

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

Soup Swap 2019

Soup Swap 2019 has come and gone.  I’m currently unable to find online evidence but I think I attended my first swap in 2008.  Holy cow!

I haven’t managed to go every year but I’ve been to a lot of them.  And I think there was a year or two where there was no swapping to be had because the host was working on a master’s degree.  

This is the earliest mention on this blog that I could find:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/chinese-black-sesame-soup-dessert-soup/

 

But I know the first thing I ever made for Soup Swan was French onion soup.  I remember crying through 5 pounds of onions and vowed “never again!”

For those not in the know, Soup Swap is a gathering to boost our spirits in the heart of the winter season. All of the attendees bring six quart-sized containers filled with a frozen homemade soup/stew of their choice. If you’re really ambitions, you can bring twelve quarts and secure yourself two picks per round.  All of the soups are lumped together in a spot in the room. Attendees pick out a random number, and proceed, in their numbered order, to explain what they brought in. The dear host likes to call this the “Telling of the Soup.” You can also win bragging rights for best telling.  Once the telling completed, the guests then take turns, in same numbered order, picking out a new soup container to bring home. To be fair, the dear host likes to run backwards during the last two rounds. So, you bring over six quarts of your soup, and you bring home six quarts of someone else’s soup.  It gets a bit competitive and a lot of strategic after the first round because there’s usually 12-14 flavors available, only 6 quarts per flavor, and some flavors are extremely popular.

And true story, I’ve been enough times to soup swap that I printed out my own inventory sheet this year.

I am proud to announce that this was the very first year where I got ALL THE FLAVORS I WANTED!  This was probably definitely only made possible by my severe dislike for cilantro. (A couple of the very popular flavors had cilantro in the ingredient list.)

This year, I made a pumpkin curry soup with black beans.

And here were my “winnings.”

 

I’ve had the Green Monster and the Porq-ue soups so far.  Tonight, I’ll be having the Eatin’ Big Time. I can’t wait.  🙂

If you want to make the pumpkin curry soup that I did, it’s a Libby’s Pumpkin recipe.  The only difference was that I added canned black beans, rinsed and drained, at the end of cooking.  If you want to make six quarts of it, just multiple the recipe by 3.  I will say that I think your results will heavily depend on the quality of your spices.  I am personally fond of Penzey’s house curry blend.

https://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/28476/pumpkin-curry-soup/?recipeSortBy=Relevancy&keywords=pumpkin+soup

https://www.penzeys.com/online-catalog/penzeys-curry/c-24/p-3037/pd-s

Kenji’s Vegan Ramen, a Kitchen Conclusion (and a spice blend for you)

I’m a huge fan of Serious Eats.  Besides referring to it for general cooking questions I might have, I really adore their series “The Vegan Experience” (and I’m not vegan… heck, I’m not even vegetarian).

One of the vegan recipes that I bookmarked but was intimidated by the number of ingredients and steps was Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Ultimate Rich and Creamy Vegan Ramen With Roasted Vegetables and Miso Broth.  What does one do when they are not sure they can pull off a recipe on their own?  In my case, it was finding a friend who said “So when you want to cook together? I want to do something new and crazy.  Just something fun, y’know?”

New?  Check.  Crazy?  Check.

Let’s do this thing!

Our observations:

The ingredient list isn’t all that bad.  It would have been nice if there had been a condensed shopping list.  It’s essentially this:

eggplant
onion
garlic
ginger
oil*
fresh shiitake
fresh maitake
kombu*
dried porcini
dried shiitake*
napa cabbage
leek
scallions
sweet potato
shichimi togarashi*
mirin*
soy sauce*
miso*
tahini*
noodles

Everything with an asterisk were things already in my pantry.  Well, except for the shichimi togarashi but we’ll get to that later.  And for the ramen noodles, Jared and I decided to be extra experimental and try the pasta with baking soda trick.  Several times, we asked each other if we had forgotten something because our shopping cart seemed like it didn’t have nearly enough ingredients waiting to be paid for.

One hurdle done.

But the doing?… ah, this was the real challenge.

And half the challenge was matching the ingredient list with the ramen component we were working on.  We both really wanted to reformat the whole recipe for easier reading in the kitchen.

On my own, I had read the recipe through a couple of times but I wish I had studied the photos in the blog post more.  We didn’t notice that the sweet potatoes and the maitake were not mixed on the baking sheet.  It made for a slight inconvenience to pick out sweet potato chunks for the blender.

For the soy-tare, I would leave the ginger and scallions in large identifiable pieces because you have to separate it from the quartered shiitake caps when done.

We also recommend upping the eggplant from 1 small to 2 small.  We had very little eggplant compared to the number of servings when all was said and done.  Also, you don’t get a lot of cooked liquid from 1 small eggplant.  Spinning out said liquid felt fiddly.

But more importantly, how did it taste?

The components of the ramen are their own were good but nothing I felt impressed by.  The baking soda noodles were really interesting!  The baking soda made the noodles a bit chewier, and taste very eggy.  The sweet potatoes baked in the spice blend gave a nice heat that quick dissipated.  But, altogether, the dish was very lovely and satisfying.  Jared’s wife got a gluten free version for health reasons.  We replaced the soy sauce with GF tamari in the recipe, and made a separate pot of rice noodles just for her.  Her reaction was “This is amazing!”  We also fed a friend of theirs who is vegetarian and planning to go mostly vegan.  The friend thought it was one of the best things she had had in a very long time.  In short, those with dietary restrictions are probably going to enjoy it best.

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Making flavored oil

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I can definitely see myself making parts of the recipe for other noodle and soup recipes.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever make the whole recipe on my own (but if I do, I think I would spread it over two days).  Jared and I may make it again, but not for at least 6 months and we’ve had time to recover from the amount of steps this ramen involved.

I will definitely make the sweet potatoes again.  I never thought to bake them with shichimi togarashi before, and I like the idea blending some of it to give the broth more body.  True story, I’ve never cared for shichimi togarashi before.  So I didn’t have it in my pantry, nor did I see the point in buying it for just this recipe.  So I made it with ingredients I did have in my pantry.  The spice blend is supposed to be a blend of seven spices.  (Shichi means seven.)  I used five, so I’m going to start calling my blend “five-mi togarashi.”  It is not traditional but I was quite happy with it.  (I suppose I could also call it go-mi togarashi since go is five in Japanese).

FIVE-MI TOGARASHI (GO-MI TOGARASHI)

1 tablespoon mandarin orange dust
4 teaspoons gochugaru
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Mix altogether, and store in a tightly fitted lidded jar.

Reference Links

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/how-to-make-the-ultimate-vegan-ramen-rich-and-creamy-vegan-experience.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/02/vegan-ramen-miso-creamy-vegan-vegetarian-food-lab-recipe.html

http://penandfork.com/recipes/cooking-tips/mandarin-orange-dust/

A (mostly) white vegetable soup recipe

What do you do when you’ve got a small cabbage head and a bunch of small carrots from your CSA? Not to mention that your mother bought you half a nagaimo (Japanese mountain yam) and a couple of chayote squash for no reason?

Soup!

And I must be absolutely mad to be making soup on a hot summer Sunday evening (a little humid and 90F!). It was only made possible by the lone air conditioner in my apartment which was strategically placed in the kitchen.

I was inspired by two driving forces: by the memory of the shiso-white wine-chicken recipe in “Ancient Kitchen, Modern Wisdom,” and by my belief that chayote squash doesn’t pair well with traditional herbs. (I roasted chayote squash once with dried basil, and discovered it was one of the worse pairings I could have done.  It generally tastes good with spices.)

Here’s how the (mostly) white vegetable soup went:

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