Straight Up Tasty: A Review

Straight Up Tasty by Adam Richman
Rating:  3 out 5 stars

Our family is a big Adam Richman fan.  We love watching old episodes of Man V. Food together.  So I was really excited to see that his cookbook was available from Blogging for BooksStraight Up Tasty is a collection of over 100 recipes ranging from breakfast and snacks & small plates to sauces & condiments and sweets.  I like that Richman is not a chef or claims to be one.  He’s a guy who loves food….and don’t we all?!!!  There isn’t a specific theme to this book of recipes.  Rather it’s a mix of recipes that Adam has grown up making and recipes of family and friends.  Interspersed through the cookbook are recommendations on where to get the best breakfast, the best burgers as well as a list of best restaurants based on the protein (beef, chicken, pork, shrimp and meat substitutes), based on his culinary travels.

I didn’t end up cooking any of the recipes from the cookbook.  I found the recipes were either similar to things that I’ve already made before (“Lemon Ricotta Pancakes,” “Easy Carbonara,” “Chicken Marsala,” and “Spaghetti Pie”) things that I’d just rather order out at a restaurant and not be bothered making (“Maple-Glazed Pork Belly Poutine and Sweet Potato Fries,” “Roast Pork and Broccoli Rabe Dumplings” and “Pulled Pork Egg Rolls”) and things that I already make and don’t need recipes for (“Latkes,” “Home-style Corned Beef and Cabbage” and “Grandma’s Egg Salad”).

The recipes cover a range of tastes and ingredients.  There’s simple recipes like “French Farmhouse-Style Simple Roasted Chicken,” “Easy Lemon Butter Salmon,” and “Smoked Paprika Onion Rings.”  None of the recipes called for difficult to procure ingredients, except for maybe the “Banh Mi Burger” which asks for pork pate.

So who is this cookbook for?  I’d say fans of Adam Richman will enjoy this cookbook as they get to know a little more about him and are able to cook some of his favorite recipes, including his “Mom’s Spinach Pie” and his “Grandma’s Home-style Brisket.”

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  However, all opinions are my own. 

Milk Bar Life – A Review

Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Christina Tosi is well-known for Milk Bar, the sister bakery of David Chang’s restaurant, Momofuku.  Prior to receiving this cookbook for review, I was unfamiliar with either Tosi or Milk Bar.  Warning:  this cookbook is NOT a collection of fancy desserts found at the bakery.  This is a collection of recipes that Tosi creates when she’s off the clock.  Some of the recipes featured are family recipes passed down from her grandmother or those that must make an appearance at family gatherings.  There are recipes that are made for “family meal” when her kitchen staff eats together before service begins.  There are supermarket-inspired recipes featuring corn flakes, Ritz crackers, boxed cake mix and refrigerated tubes of crescent rolls.  I’m not sure that some of the recipes can even be called recipes like Brown-Butter Cinnamon Toast and Blue Cheese Pretzels?!!  This is not a stuffy cookbook, but one that focuses on flavors, not fuss.  This book shows that chefs don’t always have the time nor energy to create fancy schmancy meals when they get home at who knows what hour after a long day in the kitchen.  Milk Bar Life reads like a conversation with your best friend.  Tosi’s writing is so down-to-earth and real.  I love her philosophy that we all deserve at least one cookie a day, or for her, more like five a day…and that’s not including work cookies!   This book has been in my possession for over a month now and I have yet to make anything from it.  While this is a fun read, it doesn’t have many recipes that are appropriate for my every-day repertoire.  On my to-try list though are a few of the desserts.  Nothing earth-shattering, but Crock-Pot Cake, Hershey’s Kiss Roll and Crackle all appear to be easy and tasty.

Since receiving this book, the Weekend Chef brought home cookies from Milk Bar which he got from their stand at pop-up UrbanSpace Garment District in New York City.  It was nice being able to read this book while sampling some of the deliciousness that Tosi is so well-known for.  Tosi is a judge on the sixth season of MasterChef, that premiered May 20.  This is not the last that we will be seeing or hearing about Christina Tosi or Milk Bar!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden: A Review

The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden by Karen Newcomb
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Spring is here and it’s time to start thinking about planting a garden!  If you saw the size of our backyard, you would know why I would need to request a book titled The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden from Blogging for Books.  My dream is to one day have a yard large enough to have a gigantic garden.  Until that day, which will hopefully come, I will attempt to garden…..AGAIN.

This book is actually a revised edition of a book previously published forty years ago, with added information on heirloom vegetable gardening.  It’s sold over 500,000 copies and I can see why.

In the whole scheme of gardening I am definitely a novice.  This book is a great resource for novice gardeners like myself.  Chapter 1 begins with planning out a garden.  It covers everything from where you should plant your garden to how many plants you will need based on the number of people you plan on feeding.  It also provides sample garden plans for different sized gardens using different types of vegetables, flowers and herbs.  Other chapters include creating an optimal soil mixture, when and how to plant different vegetables and watering the garden once you’ve planted it.  Newcomb also provides information on plants and herbs that work well together as well as pest and critter control.  The majority of the book consists of detailed information about specific vegetables.  Newcomb rates the vegetables, noting which ones work especially well in small-sized gardens.  She also gives information planting the specific vegetable, recommended varieties, typical problems you may encounter growing that vegetable, and harvesting and storage tips.

This book provided a wealth of information to me, as a beginning gardener.  Although not necessary, I think photographs would have enhanced the enjoyment of this book.   After reading this book, in lieu of an actual garden, my goal this year is to have success with container gardening.  Stay tuned for updates as I start planning!

*Disclosure:  I received this book from Blogging for Books.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Supermarket Healthy

Supermarket Healthy  by Melissa d’Arabian
Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

I first became acquainted with Melissa d’Arabian when I saw her win Season 5 of the Food Network Star.  As a mom of young kids, I could relate to her.  Being budget-minded I also appreciated her show “Ten Dollar Dinners.”  So I was excited to see her new cookbook Supermarket Healthy on the Blogging for Books site.  For those unfamiliar, Blogging for Books is a site that gives bloggers free books to review on their blogs.  (You can check out the site and sign up here.)

Supermarket Healthy starts with an introduction of “Hot-Button Issues” like GMO’s, eating organic and allergies.  d’Arabian then provides a “Pantry Must-Haves” list.  The cookbook has eleven chapters including Breakfast, Snacks, Soups and Stews, Salads, Wraps and Sandwiches, Veggie Mains, Pasta, Fish and Seafood Chicken and Turkey, Beef, Pork, and Lamb, Sides and Dessert.  I like that d’Arabian offers several “Blueprints” throughout the cookbook, in which she gives an outline of a recipe and different variations to make it.  For example, for a frittata, she outlines a way to make it with meat or without, different preparations of vegetables and different cheese variations.

Prior to receiving this cookbook I had never cooked any of d’Arabian’s recipes.  I first tried the Moroccan Slow Cooker Chicken Legs and Chickpeas, since I love using the slow cooker on busy days.  The recipe called for ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend), which I did not have and didn’t plan on buying for this one recipe.  An alternative spice blend is provided, but no measurements are provided.  Overall, this recipe was just okay.

I then tried making the Raspberry-Banana Morning Boost Smoothie for the kids for an after dinner “treat.”  They have given up treats for Lent, so I’ve been trying to come up with healthy alternatives.  I think this recipe included too much of the healthy stuff.  These smoothies had old-fashioned rolled oats and chopped cucumber.  And I didn’t even add the white beans!  I do not like smoothies, but the kids love them.  They did not enjoy these though.  I agreed with their complaint that the smoothie tasted overwhelmingly of cucumber, even though there was only 1/4 cup.  The oats also didn’t break down very well in the blender, so the smoothie wasn’t exactly smooth.

Overall, I thought this cookbook was just okay.  Not many recipes jumped out at me as being new and interesting and I felt like the ingredient lists for many of the recipes were rather long.  I’d recommend this cookbook to beginning cooks who would like to eat healthier.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  However, all my opinions are my own. 


My Perfect Pantry Cookbook Review

My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian
Rating:  3 stars (out of 5)

We recently received My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian to review from Blogging for Books.   We are familiar with Chef Zakarian from the Food Network television show Iron Chef and were looking forward to receiving this cookbook.  The concept of the cookbook is great.  Zakarian takes 50 ingredients that most people already have in their kitchens and then provides three recipes using each ingredient.  The only ingredients that we didn’t have in our kitchen out of the 50 were anchovies, dried lima beans, pine nuts, and gelatin.  Before the recipes, Zakarian gives a brief introductory description of each ingredient, as well as tips for storing and cooking them.  He also provides a variety of recipes using the ingredients including drinks, appetizers, salads, snacks, main dishes, side dishes and desserts.  We made the “Sweet and Spicy Popcorn” which we posted here.    We made the “Mushroom Soy Turkey Burgers” but found that they lacked flavor and weren’t worth posting.  We started to make the Elbow Macaroni with Crispy Bread Crumbs and Broccoli, but were going to substitute cauliflower, and then didn’t feel inspired to make it and ended up making a cauliflower macaroni and cheese instead.   There’s a decent amount of family friendly recipes in this cookbook including “Magnificent Meatballs” and “Family Chicken Fingers.”  My daughter was browsing through the cookbook and bookmarked the “Cinnamon Cupcakes, “Apple Cider Doughnuts” and the “Maple Candied Apples”…….all treats of course!

We’re not sure who exactly the targeted audience is for this cookbook.  While it appears that the goal of the cookbook is to use ingredients from your pantry, we found the majority of the recipes called for other ingredients that one would have to buy.  Most of the recipes also called for some type, if not multiple types, of fresh herbs. Overall, we were not impressed with book. Although the recipes seem promising, the concept falls short. Having all of the 50″essential ingredients” doesn’t get you very far toward actually cooking the dishes.

We received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  As always, all opinions are our own.