Friday, February 22, 2013

Vacation Reads

So...Foodie February is going to be cut short because I'm taking a last minute girls beach vacation with my momma!

Despite FF being shortened, I promise when I get back I will host my Foodie Feb giveaway (I'm super excited for someone to win one of my fave foodie gems)!  In the meantime...these are the books I'm taking with me to the beach:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (the Btown Booksters pick this month!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Towering TBR: Foodie Edition

I know many of us suffer from the problem of out-of-control TBRs...but when I saw that my Goodreads TBR list now tops 900 I had a slight freak-out moment. 

This time, since it's Foodie February, I want to go over the latest additions to my crazy-long foodie TBR list.

Here are the latest additions to my foodie-wanna-reads:

Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel by Eli Brown...foodie/adventure/pirate story - I'm sold!

Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson - lots of hype surrounding this title.

Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky...a memoir of a clueless gal learning to cook (includes recipes)!

How Lucky You Are by Kristyn Kusek Lewis...recommended cozy/foodie chick-lit.

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson...who doesn't like a good foodie history?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Fave Characters in Foodie Fiction

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's topic: Top Ten Characters in Foodie Fiction (to go along with my Foodie February month)!

1.  Josh from Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler...*super swoon*!

2.  Josey Cirrini in The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen...such a loveable character!

3.  I liked all of the characters from The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister but especially restauranteur Lillian.

4.  Fiery Gertrudis from Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel was a great secondary charadcter.

5.  Young Mia in The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate

6.  Jessamine from The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

7. Andy from Dinner, A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach...I'm cheating since Andy is a real person and not a character - but what can I say?  I love it when a man cooks!

8. Rose in The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender...this book wasn't without some issues, but it still stays with me due to the unique premise of tasting people's emotions in food.

9.  Bay from Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

10.  Finn from The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister...who could resist an orphaned gentle giant who collects stories??

Monday, February 18, 2013

Latest Review: The Homemade Pantry

Goodreads Summary:
In her debut cookbook, Alana Chernila inspires you to step inside your kitchen, take a look around, and change the way you relate to food. The Homemade Pantry was born of a tight budget, Alana’s love for sharing recipes with her farmers’ market customers, and a desire to enjoy a happy cooking and eating life with her young family. On a mission to kick their packaged-food habit, she learned that with a little determination, anything she could buy at the store could be made in her kitchen, and her homemade versions were more satisfying, easier to make than she expected, and tastier. 
Here are her very approachable recipes for 101 everyday staples, organized by supermarket aisle—from crackers to cheese, pesto to sauerkraut, and mayonnaise to toaster pastries. The Homemade Pantry is a celebration of food made by hand—warm mozzarella that is stretched, thick lasagna noodles rolled from flour and egg, fresh tomato sauce that bubbles on the stove. Whether you are trying a recipe for butter, potato chips, spice mixes, or ketchup, you will discover the magic and thrill that comes with the homemade pantry.
Alana captures the humor and messiness of everyday family life, too. A true friend to the home cook, she shares her “tense moments” to help you get through your own. With stories offering patient, humble advice, tips for storing the homemade foods, and rich four-color photography throughout, The Homemade Pantry will quic
kly become the go-to source for how to make delicious staples in your home kitchen. 

My Thoughts:
So, I have to say...this was a major disappointment.  I was SUPER-excited about this book but it just didn't live up to my expectations.  Usually, when I read a cookbook, the darn thing is just filled with paper scraps to mark all of the recipes I want to copy/use.  This time...three.  I marked three measly recipes (two of which are syrups for soda and the third was the adorable toaster pastries from the cover).  That's pretty pathetic.

My main complaint is that The Homemade Pantry is too basic and, welp, boring.  Making food from scratch isn't really a novel idea.  If the book is going to center around this premise then show some creativity with the recipes.  For example, there was a condiments section that I was really excited about.  I thought "Oooh!  Maybe there'll be some unique vinaigrettes or other different sauces and dressings."  The reality was homemade: ketchup, mustard, salsa (oh please!), hot sauce, Italian dressing, ranch dressing, and other basics.  Yawn!

I already know how to make lasagna, and soups from scratch - so those portions were completely skipped over.  Then there were some things that the time/results ratio was just way too low (but I'm sure there are some folks out there who would disagree with me).  Sorry, but putting in the time to make ricotta cheese from scratch...not gonna happen.

Overall, this just wasn't for me.  If you want to learn the fundamentals of making food from scratch...and are willing to put the time in to make basics by hand, then maybe this is your book.  However, I really don't think that this book will appeal to a large population of folks.  Too bad...because I thought The Homemade Pantry had real potential.

2/5 stars :(

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Swoon Stories

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's topic: Top Ten Romances. 

1. Any of the books from The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig...gotta love Victorian-era caper romances!

2.   Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park - adorable modern day quirky romance.

3.  Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey...cute pretend engagement romance.

4.  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley...combo historical fiction and modern day romance.

5. Any story by Sarah Addison Allen...Southern (often foodie) magical-realism swoons!

6.  You Don't Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning...move over Bridget Jones!

7.  The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips...combo historical fiction and modern day romance.

8. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie...I also love The Cinderlla Deal by Crusie.

9.  A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness...supernatural swoons!

10.  Fools Rush In by Kristan contemporary with really well-drawn characters (I also recommend Until There Was You and All I Ever Wanted).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Latest Review: The Lost Art of Mixing

Goodreads Summary:
National bestselling author Erica Bauermeister returns to the enchanting world of The School of Essential Ingredients in this luminous sequel.

Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

My Thoughts:
Never before have I felt like I could taste an author's descriptions of food. mouth watered throughout this book!

The Lost Art of Mixing is a sequel to Bauermeister's delicious The School of Essential Ingredients and picks up right where last left the characters.  For those who haven't read the first novel, you will still find this book to be appealing; however, you will be more invested in the characters and their stories if you read The School of Essential Ingredients.  I love that we got to catch up with Chloe, Lillian and Isabelle and look at the next chapter of their lives.  This book also introduced some new and incredibly endearing characters who have engrossing lives. 

The Lost Art of Mixing focuses on the intertwining of food and memories.  The overarching theme in each of the character's stories is overcoming past memories that are obstacles to a more fulfilling future.  If you like cozy, character-driven foodie fiction, then this book is for you!

4/5 stars

Other Reviews:
Book Chatter
Life in the Thumb

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Food and Book Pairings

Food and book combinations (especially fun for a themed book club get-together)!

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Go for a New Orleans theme with these menu ideas: Jambalaya with Red Beans and Rice - paired with Cajun Cake for dessert!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

My book club just read this last month and the host had the following appetizer menu: "Murdered dogs" (pigs in a blanket with sword skewers for toothpicks...she also used red food dye as blood!), red punch, strawberry chocolate chip cookies, and red hershey kisses (since the MC has an affinity for red).

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

A menu using the recipes from the book - of course!: Northern Style Chorizo, Champandongo (pictured below), and Cream Fritters.

And lastly...for the foodie who avoids their kitchen:  Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

A menu consisting entirely of take-out (Indian and Thai to be specific): Samosas, Pad Thai, Gang Kiew Waan (Green Curry), and Mango Lassies.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Latest Review: Dinner a Love Story

Goodreads Summary:
Jenny Rosenstrach, and her husband, Andy, regularly, some might say pathologically, cook dinner for their family every night. Even when they work long days. Even when their kids' schedules pull them in eighteen different directions. They are not superhuman. They are not from another planet.

With simple strategies and common sense, Jenny figured out how to break down dinner—the food, the timing, the anxiety, from prep to cleanup—so that her family could enjoy good food, time to unwind, and simply be together.

Using the same straight-up, inspiring voice that readers of her award-winning blog, Dinner: A Love Story, have come to count on, Jenny never judges and never preaches. Every meal she dishes up is a real meal, one that has been cooked and eaten and enjoyed at least a half dozen times by someone in Jenny's house. With inspiration and game plans for any home cook at any level, Dinner: A Love Story is as much for the novice who doesn't know where to start as it is for the gourmand who doesn't know how to start over when she finds herself feeding an intractable toddler or for the person who never thought about home-cooked meals until he or she became a parent. This book is, in fact, for anyone interested in learning how to make a meal to be shared with someone they love, and about how so many good, happy things happen when we do.

My thoughts:
You guys, I LOVED this book!  It is unique in that it is part memoir, part cookbook.  I found this format amazing in that it really promotes each of the recipes by making you think things like "if she could do this as a cooking newbie, so can I!" or "if she could find the time to put this on the table with two young kids, surely I can make this with only a hubby to feed."  I really appreciated that she organized the book into three main sections: before kids, with young kids (AKA close to 0 cooking time), and eating as a family.

One thing that made me feel awesomely vindicated about my recent dinner organization craze (see my monthly dry-erase meal planner below) was that Rosenstrach does this exact same thing (excepting that hers is in journal form)!  Glad to know that I'm on the right track for making family dinners with ease.

I soooo want to do this once we own a house - behold, the painted cabinet recipe door of awesomeness:

After reading this I wanted to go out and buy several copies to give as gifts.  I can't think of one person who wouldn't benefit from all of the tips, stories, and recipes in this book.  Highly recommended!

5/5 stars

**UPDATE: I have made several recipes from this book now and holy cramoly...did I mention this book is awesome???  Because it is.  Seriously.  Go get it.  And then make the Pork Shoulder Ragu with Pappardelle!