Monday, August 24, 2015

Cookbook Review: Bowl + Spoon

Bowl + Spoon
Sara Forte and Hugh Forte
Ten Speed Press, 2015

Flipping through cookbooks and "reading" them is something I do to gain new inspiration and just plain pass the time. It's fun. When a cookbook is about something I already enjoy, even better! I've talked about our "bowl" approach to meals before, so when I saw a cookbook that promised mea-in-a-bowl recipes, I sensed a perfect fit.

Sara Forte comes up with new recipes on her blog, Sprouted Kitchen, and her husband Hugh turns them into delectable photographs. With their background, this new cookbook promised to be inventive and beautiful. In that sense, it fully succeeds. On a first "flip through," I dog-eared several recipes that sounded especially delicious. Coffee table book success.

But for a "simple," weekday approach to meals, it doesn't work as well. Forte may believe these are simple, ordinary meals, but for me (and most of my friends), they are too complex for a simple weeknight dinner. I love vegetables, and I'm certainly not averse to the chopping and prepping a reasonably healthy and fresh meal takes. But when a recipe calls for multiple ("simple") steps, it's still multiple steps. Add in multiple dishes to wash, and I'll keep flipping the pages. I think of "bowl" meals as simple fair.

My goal is to try at least 3 recipes before rating/reviewing a cookbook. However, even though I've had this cookbook for a couple of months, I have only tried two. Both were delicious, and the oatmeal has changed the way I cook oatmeal! (Forte combines both steel cut oats and regular, old-fashioned oats for a delightfully creamy, hearty concoction.) I'm sure the rest of the recipes will be just as delicious when I get around to them. For now, though, I find myself trying new things from The Great Big Pressure Cooker Cookbook and others on my shelf.

Thanks to blogging for books for a review copy of this book in return for my fair review.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cookbook Review: The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book

The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Machine, Both Stovetop and Electric
Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough
Clarkston Potter, 2015

If you've never tried one of the modern, electric pressure cookers, you're missing out! I got an Instant Pot for Christmas (2013), and it quickly became a workhorse in my kitchen. Brown rice is perfect every time, frozen chicken breasts become pulled chicken in a matter of minutes, and I can even program it to cook while we're out.

Not all pressure cookers are the same, so I was skeptical about a cookbook that could work for every machine. But The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book has worked like a charm for me every time so far!  Contents include Breakfast, Soups, Meat, Poultry, Fish/Shellfish, Vegetables/Beans/Grains, and Desserts sections. Some, like the Vegetables/Beans/Grains chapter are broken down into subsections.

The pressure cooker really shines in cooking whole grains (like the aforementioned brown rice), dried beans, and meats that benefit from long, slow cooking. So I eagerly tried some of those recipes; they worked well. And then I ventured into unknown territory: hard-boiled eggs (amazing!), ground turkey ziti casserole (kids loved it!), and mashed potatoes (yum!).

Each recipe comes with clear, specific directions for both stovetop and electric pressure cookers and testers' notes for possible substitutions, go withs, and tips. My biggest complaint is the binding of the book: it doesn't hold up well which is frustrating in a "working book" that needs to be able to hold its place and stand up to wear and tear.

All in all, if you're beginning to dabble in the vast pressure cooker trend, this is a worthy book to check out.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass

Back when we lived in the same city (many years ago!), my sister and I attended a cooking class at our local Williams-Sonoma store. Such fun! We came away with a few great recipes, one of which has been on this blog for a while (Chipotle Cheddar Chicken Cakes). It's time to put the other one I still make on this site so I won't lose it. The lemongrass in this is KEY. We serve this with sticky rice. If you want to pin this, head on over to the Williams-Sonoma site and pin theirs because they have a lovely photo of it.

Chicken Coconut Soup with Lemongrass

  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 8 large slices peeled fresh galangal or 4 slices peeled fresh ginger*
  • 1 large lemongrass stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces and crushed
  • 16 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn in half, or grated zest of 1 large lime*
  • 2 (14-oz.) cans coconut milk
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 2-3 T. Thai fish sauce**
  • 2 T. light brown sugar
  • 1 T. red chili paste
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced (I don't use)
  • 5 small fresh red or green chilies, sliced cross-wise paper-thin
  • fresh cilantro for garnish
*I use the more ordinary of these ingredients
**a strong taste--if you're new to this, use the smaller amount
  1. Cook chicken in water to cover (season with salt and pepper) just until it's barely done (a step our instructor added).
  2. Bring broth, galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute.
  3. Reduce heat to low, stir in coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Add lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, and chili paste; mix well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add chicken pieces and simmer until tender (a few minutes). Add mushrooms, if using, and simmer for 1 more minute.
  4. Float chili slices and cilantro leaves on top of each serving.
Serves 4-6