Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson

As you can probably tell by now, I have a great love for cookbooks and Blogging for Books (thank you!) keeps me in supply.

This time around, I chose an unlikely book for me in some ways because a traditional Southern kitchen is bound to be loaded with butter, milk, cream (hint: dairy products), flour and wheat derivatives, and all sorts of Crisco, something I tend to not use. However, in the spirit of my sister who lives with her beautiful family in the deep South, I chose this book, Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson.

Turtle Cake Roll
I watched about half of the inaugural (and only, I think) season of American Baking Competition, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy and a hefty panel of baking judges, including the famed Paul Hollywood. I distinctly remember Francine Bryson from the show. Her personality was as big as her apparently-amazing baking skills. She just shone bright and she was willing to take a risk without compromising herself or trying to tear someone else down - outside of just plain fun. I appreciated that in a contestant on a reality cooking show. There's always one who is bound to make you shake your head at their antics and Francine was not that one. She was strong, vocal, funny, and clearly, talented. She landed in the top three and impressed everyone.

And now, she has a new cookbook, right from her self-titled redneck kitchen.

The book is a really wonderful compilation of new and old recipes, either passed down to her from one of her grandmas, something she created due to a baking competition, or just to please her family. Francine is a skilled baking competitor. She started baking at a very young age with her grandmas (both lived right near her for most of her youth), then went on to experiment on her own. She started entering into baking competitions in her teens and, to her astonishment, won. She began collecting recipes and cookbooks, amassing a mere 3,000 books in all. (I would love to see her library or kitchen, wherever she has them stored.) And from all her years of competitive baking, she began to truly hone her skills and learn the ins and outs of true baking...under pressure.

World Famous Chocolate Bacon Peanut Butter Pie

As I pawed through her book, the first thing I noticed was the ease in which it was written. Each recipe starts with a story about Francine, where the recipe came from, or simply the love of baking that particular thing. There are lots of mentions of Granny, Nana, and Mama, her mentors in the world of baking; plenty of nods to her hubby and how she won his heart with her baking; and many stories about why she loves to bake. Her passion is clear and evident and so is her skill. Many of the recipes include a Blue Ribbon Tip about how to make each recipe come out just right and there are eight different pie crust recipes - and that's just for a start. There is plenty of wisdom for new bakers or experienced bakers wanting to tap into her many years of baking knowledge and prowess that comes from twenty-some years of competitive baking, which requires a whole other level of expertise and creativity. No ordinary cherry pie is going to cut it, not unless it knocks your socks off.

Francine's book is filled with pie recipes, cake and cookie options, cheesecakes, candies, and other assorted dessert treats. Some are simplistic and others have a twist that make them intriguing and clever. There are too many recipes in the book to mention that aroused intrigue (of which I spent 20 minutes describing in detail to a friend on the phone just awhile ago). So, I will mention two: Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Cake and Upside-Down Apple-Pecan Pie. Holy moly. These two are something out of this world. Both won competitions and by the looks of them, I can see why, if not for just looks and creative design alone.

The Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Cake is a four-layer moist pumpkin cake with a sweet cream cheese frosting and chocolate glaze, however, there is an interesting twist to this cake. A couple of interesting twists, in fact. One is that she uses lemon-flavored Greek yogurt in the cake batter. Fantastic. The other, however, is truly where the magic lies. In between the cake and frosting layers, she has added a layer called cookie crunch. She starts with butter, Oreos, a can of salted mixed nuts and some brown sugar, adds them to the food processor, then pulses. She layers this into four 9-inch buttered pans, then adds the pumpkin cake batter on top and bakes it. The result is this beautiful four/eight layer confectionary cake that is truly outstanding just to look at. I can only imagine how delicious it tastes. I might just have to try it one of these days. Part of what I love about her book is I'm pretty sure I can adapt just about any of her recipes. This one, for sure.

Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Cake

The Upside-Down Apple-Pecan Pie is the next on my short list of her amazing desserts. (And the list could go on - Slap-Ya-Mama Fudge Cookies, Good Ol' Raisin-Oatmeal Pie, Pretzel Pie, Keep-The-Hubby-At-Home Cake, Black Tie Strawberry Pie, Coconut-Pecan Sweet Potato Cheesecake, German Upside-Down Cake, and her World-Famous Chocolate Bacon Peanut Butter Pie.) Back to the apple pie. This pie is something of an ingenious creation. It's a pie, that's for sure. But it's also something a whole lot more. She takes your standard American apple pie and turns it on its head, literally. She starts by adding whole pecans, round side down, on the bottom of a deep pie dish, then up the sides. She spreads brown sugar all over the the pecans, then adds one of two pie crusts on top of that. Yep, she just sealed pecans and sugar into the bottom of a pie dish. She then adds all the apple filling and another pie crust on top, just like a standard apple pie. She bakes it all together, then flips it over. The inverted pie becomes a masterpiece of shiny, sticky, caramel-pecan goodness on top of an apple pie. Ingenious. And something I definitely want to try.

Upside-Down Apple-Pecan Pie

If I had to say one thing to her publisher and to all cookbook publishers everywhere, it would be, add more pictures, please! The pictures they did use are fantastic, but they are few and far between. I would love to see more images of what I might be making and this book has far too few for my taste. Nonetheless, this book has stolen my baking heart.

When I chose this book, I wasn't sure that I was going to keep it. I had thought I might send it down to my sister for her own redneck kitchen. However, I think she may be getting a copy from me via Amazon. This one is going on my shelf.

Happy eating!

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chunky Apple Snickerdoodle Bars - an gluten-free, dairy-free adaptation

Thank you, Pinterest. I am a big fan of Pinterest. Hours and hours of immersion into worlds of creation and positive challenges. I love it. How can you not? Unless, it sucks you in and you find you get nothing else done.

The lure of Pinterest.

However, in moderation, it can be a super fun experience - just as I had when I came across this amazing recipe for Chunky Apple Snickerdoodle Bars.

Let me tell the story:

I was on the hunt for something exciting and intriguing to make. A good friend and neighbor was hosting a Pictionary night filled with a homemade taco bar and cookie potluck. We were all told to bring our enthusiasm and some tasty cookies or bars for sampling - and for potential winning. My friend was going to dream up some wonderful prize and a few of the attendees would be selected to taste and choose a winning cookie.

Hmm. This is always a challenge.

See, my friend and most of her friends aren't gluten-free. I am. I knew I was going to bring something that I could eat, but I wanted others to enjoy it too and not be wary of the "gluten-free" cookie. I planned on making it dairy-free too, but that's a gingersnap with cookies. Vegan margarine or Spectrum shortening always do the trick. That's never been a issue. And I think my gluten-freedom has become fairly inspired and quite tasty, but not everyone is so willing to try something gluten-free - or once they learn it is, they begin looking for the differences.And she has kids. Kids are the hardest to please.

Oh, well, I thought! I am going to find something I like and the rest will be history. Her family has responded well to my gluten-free offerings in the past, but you just never know what everyone will like. So I decided to find something I wanted to eat and just dive in and do my best.

I started flipping through Pinterest one night and came across this recipe for Chunky Apple Snickerdoodle Bars. As I looked through the ingredient list, I realized I had everything I would need already in my tiny kitchen. So alright then! Cookie challenge accepted!

I got up early on the day of the game night, started baking and by mid-morning, my whole house smelled of apples, cinnamon, and delicious cookie yummy-ness. Mmm...they smelled so good.

As you will see, the recipe states that you let them cool in the pan - completely - or they will have a tendency to fall apart. With gluten-free baking, this is more than a good chance.

So I let them sit.

And sit.

And sit.

Oh, the waiting!

I scooped out a corner. I had to try them. Quality control. Yeah, that's it.

Mmm. They were so good. Soft, moist, dense, appley, cinnamony. Good.

Hurry up and cool!

It took a few hours and I could tell when I tried to pull them out early that the original creators of this recipe weren't kidding. Let. Them. Cool. These are a soft cookie with a tendency to fall apart. Just let them be. You'll be glad you did.

When I finally pulled them out, I cut them into tiny squares because I knew they were headed to a cookie sampling night, so I didn't want them to be too big. The small two-inch squares were perfect.

When I made them, I chose to use an apple called Elstar that I found at one of the orchards just north of Seattle. It's a sweet, small apple with an intense flavor burst! A few weeks prior, I had purchased a variety of the apples they offer (they produce a paltry 19 different varieties!) and had an apple tasting with some friends. It's amazing how different each apple variety is. Soft, sweet, tangy, tart, moist, dry. And that's just in one apple! (I'm kidding. But only kinda!)

I had two Elstar apples left that were best to be made into something baked, so a cookie recipe was perfect. I knew the apples would provide a ton of apple flavor and wouldn't get lost in all the cinnamon Snickerdoodle goodness. The Elstar is also a slightly meatier apple variety, so I thought they would work best at keeping the moisture level down. This was supposed to be a cookie, after all. I decided to dice them small and left the skin on for the extra texture and fiber (which by the way, seemed to melt right into the cookie).

The cookies turned out perfect. And I guess the judges agreed because my little apple cookies won the contest unanimously. On a funny little side note, there were five different cookies brought by various individuals and couples that night and four out of the five happened to be gluten-free! One was vegan and gluten-free, one had dairy, and the other was sort of an accidental gluten-free - it was a no-bake cookie that is naturally gluten-free. It was a surprise to all of us how many gluten-free cookies there were, but they were all delicious in different ways. It's such a treat to go to a gathering and find out that you are no longer in the food minority.

Enjoy this recipe adaptation! Happy eating!

Chunky Apple Snickerdoodle Bars - the gluten-free, dairy-free adaptation

Original recipe by Shelly of

Makes 12 big squares or about 24 minis

Double recipe and bake in a 9x13 for more goodness and some to share! 

  • 1/4 cup butter or dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour plus 1 tsp xanthan gum (I used 1/3 cup each millet flour, brown rice flour and cornstarch) 
  • 1 cup diced apples
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Line an 8x8 pan with foil and spray slightly with cooking spray. 
3. In a large bowl, combine melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon. Once mixed, stir in egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate small bowl, combine salt, baking powder and gluten-free flour, making sure no clumps are left. Add flour mixture to egg and sugar mixture. Stir until combined and dough forms. 
4. Stir in apples and spread in pan. 
5. Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of batter. 
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden brown and center is set.
7. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Product Review: Dua Dua Coco-Caramel Syrup and Topping

I went dairy-free many years ago. It took some effort because as most people do when they transition into a something-free lifestyle, they lapse. I lapsed into various cheeses. Then cream cheese. And on occasion, ice cream. But above all, I love caramel. I love it. It's soft, sweet, tantalizing, and goes with all sorts of things. It's sweet and a little bitter, rich and robust. And a truly delectable caramel is hard to stop eating.

So, you can imagine my horror when I went dairy-free.

Now, I went dairy-free the first time when there was little to no selection of dairy-free options. There was no Daiya cheese company; no vegan cream cheese substitutes; no dairy-free sour cream. Only rice milk, and in limited options. That was it. That was a long time ago.

We now have so many, many options for those of us who eat no dairy in our lives, but caramel is still somewhat elusive. It usually takes some butter, depending on the recipe, and a healthy dose of heavy cream to round it out. The heavy cream has been the hardest to replace with true accuracy.

I've tried many different kinds and ways to reproduce the effectiveness of heavy cream in caramel. It's a challenge. Making caramel is a challenge. It requires patience and patience and more patience - if you are making a true caramel. It can take up to half an hour to get the sugar to caramelize properly and then, if you add the cream or cream substitute in and it's not just the right temperature, the sugar will seize. Most caramel recipes just have you add all the ingredients together and use the cream and butter to give the caramel all its flavor, but once you've had the deep rich beauty of truly caramelized sugar, you won't want anything else.

I've made my share of different versions of vegan caramel sauces. Some I really liked, some were sort of bland (which the richness of heavy cream usually adds this beautiful depth to caramel sauces), some just didn't thicken properly. And above all, they take time. And did I mention patience?

Most dairy-free recipes suggest the use of coconut cream, the nice, thick, rich, and heavy cream substance that rises to the top of a can of whole coconut milk once chilled. Which, by the way, makes a lovely, soft whipped cream if chilled long enough, then whipped into a fervor. The very same stuff (which Trader Joe's carries in a can and is awesome!) is what Dua Dua Coconut Products uses to make their vegan coco-caramel topping.

I found this little gem at a meat store (strange, right?) that happens to carry a large number of dairy-free and gluten-free items. Who knew? I grabbed it off the shelf and eagerly ran home to dip some of my orchard-picked honeycrisps right into it.

The first thing I noticed was the separation. I wasn't sure what to do with this, but on the label is says separation is normal. No other instructions. So, I just stirred it up and hoped for the best. And the best sure did come. On the separation note, once I stirred it all together, just like organic peanut butter or almond butter, and put it in the fridge between eats, it stayed combined. That was great! I didn't think too much about having to stir it, but it sure was nice to have it stay combined for all the later ingestions.

Dua Dua uses pretty simplistic ingredients to make their coco-caramel sauce - brown sugar, 100 % coconut cream, corn starch, and soy lecithin. When I put my spoon in (I wanted to taste if solo before adding the sweetness of the apple), I noticed it was thick and creamy. Not quite the same as a typical dairy caramel sauce, but it had a great texture to it. The coconut flavor was apparent, but I haven't had a coconut cream-added caramel that wasn't. It added a nice tang to the flavor. But what impressed me most was the richness of the caramelized sugar. I don't know if the makers take the time to make a true caramel by caramelizing the sugar first or if it's the richness of the molasses in the brown sugar they use, but either way, this was a full-bodied caramel. Not too sweet, yet really deep and rich and caramely. Very nice flavor. I ate this with the apples, placed some in a peanut butter swirl for peanut-butter-caramel apple dip, and on other occasions, would just take a small amount on a spoon for a snack. So good.

This is a great find for anyone who loves caramel and doesn't mind the flavor of coconut added to it. It makes me think of goat's milk confections - the basis of the recipe is the same, but it just adds this whole other dimension to the flavor and texture. I love that the ingredients are simple and for those who are seeking a dairy-free caramel sauce, but don't want to take the time, effort and patience to make it, this is a worthy companion to apples, vegan ice cream, or just a silver spoon.

Happy eating! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More by the Editors of Food Network Magazine

For those who know me, I'm a huge fan of Food Network. I watch it all the time and try to learn as much as I can. It's amazing how much you can glean from watching educational TV.

I learned the basics - food prep, handling, and lots of techniques - from my mom. We used to bake in the kitchen all the time and she showed me some of the most useful things I've ever learned about cooking. The basics of a good sauce, how to clean and store cast iron skillets, the fundamentals of baking bread. All these things from my sweet mama. She's a whirlwind in the kitchen.

However, her expertise only took me so far. Once I ventured into gluten-free and allergen-free baking, I had to branch out on my own, taking her advice and many years of practice with me. Thank goodness for that foundation because from there, I've been able to build quite the cute little cooking cottage.

And all around inside this baking essentials cottage, I've decorated and flared it out with the help of many cooks and chefs on Food Network.

Back in the day, Food Network was just that: a network all about cooking, preparing, and eating food. The basics and the highlights of being food-friendly. Everything from kitchen essentials, to lifestyle, to a few simplistic competitions. Nothing like the Food Network now.

I still love Food Network. And on occasion, I enjoy some of the competition shows. But my first love of Food Network will always be how they taught me so much. I know many home cooks that feel the same way. And even though they are rolling with the market and the television atmosphere, they still add in the basics of cooking whenever they can. Or you can just tune into their sister channel, Cooking Channel, who is sort of like the Cinderella of the food television world - the one who puts her nose to the grindstone and cooks and cleans and mends and teaches all about the world of food. Food Network has become sort of the atmosphere of the ball - all about entertainment. But there's room enough for both.

Caramel Apple Cake (Fake-Out Cakes)

Add to that glorious repertoire, the little mice helpers who keep everything running behind the scenes and you'll find Food Network Magazine. I love getting that rag in the mail. It's colorful, insightful, interesting, and chock-full of ideas and cooking intrigue. So, when I saw Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More by the Editors of Food Network Magazine as a choice on Blogging for Books, I couldn't hit the purchase button fast enough.

This book did not disappoint. It's full of beautiful pictures, exciting creations, and all sorts of tantalizing sweet treats. I've seen many of these recipes in the magazines I've gotten over the years, but it is so nice to have them in one place. The choices the editors made are exquisite. The twelve sections - which include Cupcakes & Whoopie Pies, Cookies & Bars, Candy & Snacks, Pies & Crumbles, Fake-Out Cakes, Show-Off Cakes, Frozen Treats, and Holiday Desserts - each have a conglomeration of treats that range from simple to advanced, in terms of preparation and expertise. A wide range to choose from! I was impressed that each section had a nice variety of different desserts, but not too many, preventing the overwhelm factor. It was a lot like reading one of the magazines, just a heftier tome.

Each recipe includes a picture (something I treasure in a cookbook) and sometimes a layout of how-to pictures, if the recipe is a little more complex. And just as with the magazine, the first few pages are dedicated to pictured recipe indexes that make finding what you'd like to make fast, simple, and easy.

This book is a delight! I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves making treats, wants to eat treats, or just loves to look at photographic art of treats. It's a stunning book that is just as functional as it is beautiful.

Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels (Candy & Snacks)

For those with allergies to the most common ingredients in desserts (wheat, casein, lactose, gluten, and nuts), there are many, many treats in here that would be very easy to adapt. Most of the recipes are simplistic enough that a simple one-to-one ratio ought to be enough. As I try some of the recipes in the near future, I will post my suggested substitutions for various allergens.

This would make a great holiday gift for pretty much anyone you know who likes sweet things. Wrap it up with something you made from the book and you are set for a gift that will keep on giving!

Happy baking!

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cone Cake

*Original recipe from Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More by the Editors of Food Network Magazine. Allergen-free adaptations included - many of the ingredients can be purchased at Whole Foods or another natural grocer or ordered online. 

Serves 6 to 8

  • Unsalted butter or dairy-free margarine, for the pan
  • 14 pizelle (thin Italian waffle cookies) or thin butter cookies (here's a recipe for making your own gluten-free/dairy-free pizelles) 
  • 3/4 cup chocolate fudge sauce
  • 1 qt vanilla-caramel swirl ice cream (use dairy or vegan), slightly softened
  • 1 qt chocolate ice cream (use dairy or vegan), slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche or caramel sauce (use dairy or vegan version) 
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 5 sugar cones (use gluten-free/dairy-free sugar cones)
  • 1/4 cup toffee bits (use dairy-free or make a vegan brittle)


1. Cut a 24-by-6-inch strip of parchment paper. Butter the sides of an 8-inch springform pan, then line the sides with the parchment; the paper will extend above the rim of the pan so you can build a tall cake. 

2. Cover the bottom of the pan with half of the cookies, breaking them into smaller pieces as needed to cover the surface. Spread 1/4 cup fudge sauce over the cookies. 

3. Pack about half of the vanilla-caramel and chocolate ice cream into the pan, alternating scoops of each flavor, until the bottom is covered. Drizzle with 1/4 cup dulce de leche (or vegan caramel sauce) and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp sea salt. Top with the remaining cookies, pressing gently to pack in the ice cream and create an even surface. 

4. Spread 1/4 cup fudge sauce over the cookies. Top with scoops of the remaining vanilla-caramel and chocolate ice creams. Drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup dulce de leche (or vegan caramel sauce) and fudge sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 tsp sea salt. Arrange the ice cream cones, point-side up, on top. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or overnight. 

5. Remove the sides of the springform pan and the parchment. Press the toffee bits into the sides of the cake. Serve immediately or freeze for up to 2 days. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review: The Kitchn Cookbook by Sarah Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand

Based on a very popular blogsite, The Kitchn (and the accompanying Apartment Therapy), this just-out cookbook is really an interesting piece of art in the food world. The first half of the book consists mainly of how-tos, whys, and what-fors. All encompassing with a plethora of knowledge, these sections of the cookbook really will leave a beginning homecook breathless and ready to get started!

As I read the first part, as the book was offered to me as part of Blogging for Books, I have to admit, I picked it up, then put it down. I picked it up again, then put it down again. And I really love to cook. On the one side, there are some incredibly gorgeous photographs of different kinds of kitchens, features of the owners of those beautiful kitchens, and a whole array of layouts of what to put in any kind of kitchen, how to organize it, why you should have it and what to do with it. I think I had a hard time getting into it because it was a little more than someone like me would need, as an experienced homecook. My kitchen is well-stocked – maybe a little too much for my tiny 7x7 kitchen; I have quite a bit of cooking experience under my apron belt; and I know what grains require what amount of water, by heart. However, I would say this vast array of tidbits and knowledge would come in handy for someone just starting their own kitchen or really wanting to get into the culinary experience deeper. I found this part a little pedestrian for anyone with any kitchen experience. At this point, I almost thought the title would have been better suited as, The Kitchn's Cook’s Book, as I had yet to have seen a recipe and I was more than 100 pages in.

Not having been familiar with the blogsite prior to this, I wasn’t really sure what The Kitchn was all about. It’s an amazing website. I spent quite a bit of time reading, perusing, and enjoying page after page of foodie wisdom. There are articles about new trends – like the oldie, but goodie shrub coming back onto the scene – and recipes galore, tips on shopping and space-saving, and features on different cooks around the world. The first half of the cookbook fits this perfectly. Now, I understand why they created it that way. It’s a skillful homage to their beautiful website and some of the fantastic knowledge they spread every day.

After flipping through the many pages of information, I finally got to the meat of the matter – my favorite section…the hands-on application. RECIPES!

Yeah. That’s really why I get cookbooks. I love the pictures, the temptation, the creativity of creating something new. I love the idea of just making something!

And here is where this book sold me.

Not knowing what to expect since I wasn’t very familiar with the website except as of recent, the recipe section was just as vast as the information section. Cocktails, spreads, soups, meats, foods beloved around the world. Fascinating selections of different concoctions ready to be made, pretty much in any kitchen with very little effort.

I’m not really sure what to make of the way the book is laid out. It is organized and categorized, mind you. And I can see the method to the really-not-so-much madness. But it surprised me a little to flip through the large main dish section finding pastas, pizzas, meatballs, steaks, then pho and pad thai interspersed. Sort of like a trip around the world in one section without a specific order.

I suppose none of that really matters if the recipes stand on their own, regardless of how a book is organized. That’s really about personal preference and editorial handiwork, anyway. But as a reviewer, I do like to offer my thoughts about my experience with each book. What I like, what strikes me, what makes me drool and run to the kitchen with a must-have, must-cook look in my eye.

(I must say, the Green Papaya Pad Thai just about did this to me. The beautiful picture, the mouth-watering recipe, and the ease of the written instructions…hang on…I’ll be right back.)

Smack-smack. *Finger-lick*

Okay, ready to write again.

Let me explain partially why the Pad Thai caught my eye, beyond the obvious of it’s Pad Thai. I’m a sucker for Pad Thai, but oftentimes, the sugary-sweet sauce is too much for some or it’s bland or lacking in anything, but noodles and bean sprouts. I’ve tried my share and yours at most of the Seattle restaurants. And sometimes, it’s just easier to let the professionals cook delicate and intricate Asian cuisine. Sometimes, that is true, sometimes, it’s not. With this particular recipe, the simplicity outranks any fear of making the notorious hard-to-find multi-ingredient recipes. The sauce is a simple three-ingredient make; the rest of the ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen or at the neighborhood market; and they offer substitution suggestions if you can’t find what they call for; and above it all, it’s incredibly healthy – there are no true noodles in it. They call for green papaya noodles made from shredding a green papaya (which can be found at pretty much any Asian market), but in substitution, you could use standard rice noodles, rice itself (which is technically no longer Pad Thai, but would still be tasty), or something like zucchini noodles, if you want to keep it low-carb or Paleo. All of that sounds great to me!

And the majority of the recipes seem to follow this formula: simplicity meets gourmet. Nothing is strikingly complex, albeit, the recipes sound complex. Intriguing enough for a foodie, but simple enough for a beginner cook. Brilliant.

I have now seen The Kitchn light. They are bringing the beauty of amazing food to pretty much any homecook or chef – no fear, no cowering, just brilliant delivery. Makes you feel like glamorous Williams-Sonoma, but in truth, you are functional and radiant Sur-la-Table. Ingenious.

Speaking of Sur-la-Table, another thing I love about this book belongs back to the information section – that hefty first-half. The geniuses who created The Kitchn and its cookbook want people to feel comfortable, confident, and inspired in their own home kitchen, so they often suggest where to find ingredients (or suitable subs) and equipment, including places like IKEA. I love that they keep it in perspective. IKEA may not be in every corner of the world, but the authors are trying to make each item they suggest for a home kitchen easy to find and affordable, helping people understand that cooking at home isn’t always a pricey choice.

This book is for the every cook. Beautifully written, easy to follow recipes, fun ideas with great sounding names to impress your friends (if that’s what you are into and why not? The dinner party sounds great when the food has a fun name), and delectable diversions through the cascades of information and knowledge that you can fall into for a lifetime in either the book or on their site. A definitely interesting read!

Happy creating!

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.