Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review: Happy Cooking by Giada De Laurentiis

I have a heart-felt space in my life for cookbooks. Cookbooks of any kind. Old, new, used, gifted. I love them all. I think I love looking at how people get creative in their cooking, even the fundraiser cookbooks. It's amazing what people come up with or re-invent.

I am so happy I got this book. I wasn't sure because I passed up the last few of Giada's books - not because they weren't great with amazing recipes, but because I wasn't sure I would actually make any of them. I look at all the pretty pages and I think, "I would eat that." But, will I make it? Meh. Not always.


I think when it comes to cooking, we have to feel inspired. At least, I do. I have to feel that I can play with it, get a great deal of joy out of it and plenty of leftovers. Particularly, if I am going to be in the kitchen for hours. I love the experience and the outcome - not one over the other. And, sometimes, I feel lackluster about recipes.

But, Happy Cooking, Giada's new cookbook, inspires me. At first, I was leafing through and I just wasn't so sure. I thought, "Beautiful. Delicious. Yum." But, I couldn't find the inspiration. And then, some recipes stood out.

Superfood Fudge Torte

Giada has been the queen of Italian cooking since her first cookbook and her first show on Food Network, Everyday Italian. Pasta, sauces, culinary comfort that meets California fresh. She's done it all and we've watched her transformation.

Her new book is more than that. Giada lives in California, the land of makeovers, make-betters, and make-mores. And, while her background will always lie in traditional Italian cuisine with California flare, her newest book is starting to transcend some of the California kitsch.

Happy Cooking includes many of her most popular things like pastas, sauces, and Aunt Raffy recipes, but there is an element of searching and creating true health that is inspiring to me. Giada is surpassing the typical "We have to eat this way to be healthy and perceived popular" California attitude and going straight to "Here are some great ideas for things that taste great, are easy to make, and some ideas about feeling great."

Yep. I said great three times in that last sentence.

Banana Tea that promotes restful sleep and calms the nerves
There are quite a few collaborative recipes in this book, including Alex Guarnaschelli, her daughter Jade, sleep experts, and other chefs and physicians. As most of us do, we spend our lives running, creating, doing, and being - when we have time - and, eventually, it catches up to us. I think this book is Giada's newest offering to help counteract that in her own life, as well as her readers' lives. There are recipes for detox soup, green smoothies, banana tea (helps promote sleep - who knew?), and more veggie-inspired recipes than I have ever seen her put in one book. Of course, there is no lack of meat, fish, and holiday meals, including a fabulous-looking Persimmon-Pumpkin Pie. But, as she says in many of her tips and suggestions dotted throughout the book, there's an overall theme: Be Good To Yourself.

I'm excited to start making and baking from this new delight. Beautiful imagery, pictures galore (a must for me), well-written recipes that always turn out, and choices upon choices upon choices. Giada is showing the world that it is not about sacrifice, it's about choices. And she's giving them.

A delectable sampling of some of the delicious divinity included in Happy Cooking (and things I plan to make): 

  • Spring Pasta Timbale
  • Superfood Fudge Torte
  • Banana Tea
  • Smoky Candied Carrots
  • Citrus-Chile Acorn Squash
  • Lemon-Roasted Fennel
  • Bacon Bourbon Brussels Sprouts Skewers
  • Peas, Pancetta, and Prosecco
  • Smashed Root Vegetables
  • Polenta Plank with Frank's Bolognese
  • Raffy's Polpettone Two Ways (braised in milk and marinara)
  • Persimmon-Pumpkin Pie
  • Old-Fashioned Buttercrunch

Smoky Candied Carrots

*This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I loved it. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Book Review: The Time Chamber by Daria Song

The coloring book craze.

What an amazing thing this has become.

I love to color. Who doesn't?

Like most four-year-olds, I find the greatest pleasure in just applying whatever color I choose to a host of black and white characters begging to be filled in. I can use crayons, colored pencils, markers, watercolor pencils or markers, or even plain old acrylic paint, if I so choose. It's a bevy of choices.

But, adults are returning to their childhood fancies, not to make choices, but to escape from them. Our lives are inundated with choice after choice after choice. And there is something so simplistically wonderful about just picking up a green pencil and filling in some lines.

Meditative, they call it.

I call it splendor.

My newest selection from Blogging for Books is The Time Chamber by Daria Song. This beautifully illustrated coloring book comes with a short, albeit full, magical story - a sweet fairy trapped inside a clock is freed when the clock's keeper, a sweet little girl, goes to bed.

Fanciful, artistic, colorful - and yet, the pages are only black and white. It's amazing how art can transform. There is a small part of me that really doesn't want to color any of the images. But, the louder four-year-old beckons otherwise.

The book tells a sweet story with plenty of places to add your own sweet tune (by way of whatever color you choose and the many places to apply it), including a colorable coverlet. Ingenious. This coloring book has taken the craze one step further - you become the author, illustrator, and reader - all in one, even though the story has been told. Again, ingenious.

And, lastly, the author and editors have included a visual key at the end of the book, presumably for reference and detail in miniature. Ingenious. A whole new perspective.

Absolutely a fun find. Highly recommended for soothing nights, cups of tea, and four-year-old fancies.

*This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Review: Martha Stewart's Appetizers

Apps. Mmm...

Not the kind that you download to your phone and use to stare at all the gorgeous foods that you can make, like Pinterest.

No. Straight-up appetizers. Or appeteasers, as some might call them. Something to whet the appetite and get you going, wanting more.
Pan Tomate

We all know Martha Stewart as the queen of TV, home entertaining, and pretty much everything else crafty and delicious. She's a mega-queen. Some of her most ingenious ideas are simplistic and beautiful. Now, she has a team of experts helping her dream up the impossible. And this time, that team headed by the big Gouda herself, created a new book - all about appetizers.

From Snacks like broiled feta to Stylish Bites like mini quiches, Martha and her team have created more than 200 mouth-watering recipes that catch your eye and your desire to entertain. From family affairs to tailgating parties, this book has tips, techniques, simple instructions, and beautiful photos - all with recipes just waiting to be concocted. Simple, elegant, fast to prepare - this book has it all and will please even the most picky eater.

Puff Pastry Cheese Straws
Some ideas to just get you started:

  • Pigs in Blankets - simple gourmet-style: puff pastry and sausages cut at an angle with mustard dipping sauces
  • Hot Artichoke Dip - artichoke hearts, cheese, herbs, and more cheese
  • Antipasto - a simple, yet elegant spread of all things Italian
  • Chicken Wings - four different flavors complete with dipping sauces
  • Mezze - a Mediterranean smattering of delicious spreads, whole grain salads, and dolmades
  • and Deviled Eggs - the all-American ubiquitous version of finger different flavors. 

And the list goes on...

            ...even cocktails.

A beautiful book with a delectable array of dishes, small plates, and tiny tastes. Fun for everyone!

Fried Macaroni-and-Cheese Bites. Yum.

**This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I chose to be honest because they can't really make me.