Category: Cooking

A Thanksgiving Tradition

As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought I’d like to share a fun Thanksgiving tradition with you. This tradition started several years ago when I decided to make pancakes for Thanksgiving breakfast. I thought it would be fun to make pancakes decorated to look like turkeys for us to eat as we watched the parade on tv. Little did I know that the kids would love it so much that they asked if we were going to do it again the next year. (We’ve now incorporated the tradition to include Christmas and the Fourth of July too.)

Thanksgiving Pancakes:
2 cups Bisquick mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs
butter
a variety of fruit of your choice
scrambled eggs or bacon (optional)
small candies or chocolate morsels for decoration

1. Mix the Bisquick, milk, and eggs with a whisk until combined.
2. Grease a griddle or skillet with butter using medium-high heat.
3. Pour about 1/4 cup of combined mixture on the griddle or skillet for each pancake.
4. Cook until the edges of the pancake appear dry and flip to finish cooking.
5. Decorate the pancakes by using the fruit, eggs, and bacon as the turkey’s feathers and feet. The candies can be used as details for the face.

Obviously, the pancakes aren’t professional-grade in terms of my decorating or culinary skills, but this is something that the kids love and will be part of their childhood memories. In fact, I think that makes me love the pancake creations even more. It helps me to remember that not everything we do as mothers has to be “Pinterest-perfect”. It’s more important to just do things with our kids and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Book Review: “Eating in the Middle – A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook” by Andie Mitchell

9780770433277

I love the premise of this cookbook: one should not have to forego all desired foods for healthy food, but everything in moderation. I enjoyed reading the author’s story of weight loss and was encouraged to see her doing so well in maintaining that accomplishment through foods that appeal to me. I also enjoyed reading her introductions to each of the recipes.

The recipes in this cookbook are divided into the following chapters:

Starting Fresh (breakfast)
Lunchtime
Vegetables & Sides
Dinnertime
For Sharing
All Things Sweet

Each recipe has nutrition facts and serving sizes. There are lots of beautiful pictures. The recipes look fresh and appetizing to me. Most seem to be more sophisticated than an average family meal, but not overly fussy. I also like the binding of this hardback book that allows the pages to lie flat.

This looks like a good cookbook. I can’t wait to try many of these recipes. Specifically, I look forward to trying the Spice-Rubbbed Steak with Grilled Peaches & Blue Cheese, the Lemon Cream Risotto, and the Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “Healthy Fats, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook” by the American Heart Association (5th Edition)

9780553447163

With heart problems and high cholesterol plaguing many members of my family, I was very interested in this cookbook. Not only did I find a book full of heart-healthy recipes, but it also had a lot of educational information. The book starts with chapters detailing the connection between fats, cholesterol, and heart heath; another connecting healthy foods to a healthy heart; and another showing the relation between staying fit and heart health. The recipes are what I would consider regular, family-friendly food. Many of the recipes are heart-healthy versions of things I already cook. Each recipe has detailed, clear directions and lists the nutritional facts for each serving. The recipes are divided into categories covering everything from appetizers to desserts, including vegetarian entrees and breakfast. The book concludes with instructional appendices on healthy strategies for shopping, cooking, and dining out; the science behind nutritional recommendations; the risk factors for heart disease and stroke; and the warning signs for heart attack and stroke. The only thing missing from this book are pictures. If those were present, this book would be perfect for me. In any case, I can’t wait to cook my way through some of the 200 recipes of this book.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “5 in 5” by Michael Symon and Douglas Trattner

9780804186568

Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 For Every Season promises a lot. Given a well-stocked pantry, Symon provides recipes that only require five ingredients and can cooked very quickly, usually in around five minutes. In his book, gone are the complicated, tedious recipes that have ingredient lists a mile long that I have found to be the norm of celebrity chef cookbooks. Instead, he’s featured recipes for good food that is tasty, simple, and quick. The book is divided into seasonal recipes which will also be helpful in lowering the cost of the dish since a lot of grocery store specials can be found on items in abundance. I found it quite interesting how I was drawn to different seasons more than others since the recipes were grouped in this interesting way. The book has vibrant, uncomplicated pictures of most of the recipes. He gives an extensive example, in list form, of what a well-stocked pantry looks like. I was pleased to see that I had most of what he listed. You see, I love fresh, healthy food that doesn’t require tons of ingredients that I don’t already have on hand or will use more than once. The recipes have a good mix of foods for both simple and sophisticate palates. My only criticism of the book is that it does not provide nutritional facts for the recipes. Overall, I really liked this cookbook. I’m looking forward to trying more of these recipes.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “Grill It, Braise It, Broil It” by the American Heart Association

9780307888099
I was drawn to this book in search of healthy recipes since I’m trying to learn to cook for my family in a more healthy way. There are over 175 recipes contained in the book, along with some basic information regarding healthy eating. The book is divided into twelve different techniques (slow cooking, microwaving, blending, grilling, stir-frying, braising, stewing, steaming, poaching, broiling, roasting, and baking). Each section lists the recipes, tips, and tricks associated with that specific cooking method. Being more familiar with some of these techniques than others, I’m looking forward to changing up my cooking methods more often with the help of this book. Each recipe contains a complete nutritional profile and some have really useful cook’s tips (such as how to freeze extra pesto). Another interesting section lists serving recommendations by calorie levels and even includes some sample sizes for specific foods. My only complaint is that there are almost no pictures. I’d love to see what the end result should look like. However, the book seems to be full of scrumptious ideas for healthy foods that are also appetizing.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Finally, fun vegetables!

A review of Inspiralized:Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals by Ali Maffucci

This book starts with an introduction to spiralizing, the cooking method that uses a spiralizer tool to cut vegetables into spaghetti-like shapes. The recipes cover breakfast to snacks to desserts and everything in between. The book is filled with lots of beautiful pictures with such vibrant colors. Each recipe has a difficulty rating, number of servings, cook and prep times, and nutritional information. It also provides extra information that identifies a recipe as gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or paleo. I also appreciate that the author lists alternative vegetables in case you don’t care for her selected vegetable.

I was intrigued by the idea of spiralizing vegetables. This book gives you ideas on how to turn comfort foods, such as pasta, into healthier versions. I’m not sure exactly why, but the vegetables just look like more fun in a spiralized form. It maybe that it reminds me of a childhood favorite of spaghetti. Anyway, I also enjoy the texture of spiralized vegetables. This book would be a great addition to the library of someone who wants to enjoy fresh and healthy eating!

I received this book for free from BloggingforBook.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “Against the Grain” by Nancy Cain

9780385345552

As I stated before, I am interested in good-tasting gluten-free (GF) foods because of a family member who has to eat GF. Against the Grain is written by the owner of Against the Grain Gourmet. As with most GF chefs I’ve read, she was inspired to create GF recipes because a family member need to eat GF. I enjoyed reading the backstory of her company.

This cookbook was a substantial addition to my GF shelf. There are a couple of hundred recipes in this book, most of which what I consider to be “normal” food. So often in GF or healthy cookbooks, it seems that a lot of the recipes seem either unappetizing or unfamiliar. Just picking random pages left me with recipes for Classic Peanut Butter Cookies, Basic Yellow Cake, and Sourdough Soft Pretzels. A lot of the recipes also include pictures. One interesting feature of this cookbook is the inclusion of sidebars for each recipe which give the reader more information. It could be related to information about ingredients, or about the author’s experience with an recipe, history about a recipe, or other story. I enjoyed reading many of them.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that all of the ingredients are real, all-natural ingredients. In this book, you’ll find nothing calling for obscure chemicals that are often expensive and hard to find. I personally think that the all-natural approach is healthier anyway. Thank you Ms. Cain for making a great cookbook that will be used a lot thought the years in this family!

I received this book for free from BloggingforBook.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “The Paleo Chef” by Pete Evans

9781607747437

I was drawn to this book after a doctor recommended trying the Paleo Diet to my mother, and I was searching for new recipes for her. Learning how to eat a new way is always an overwhelming and daunting task. I’m constantly looking for information in these situations to help me understand the new diet better. Mr. Evans takes on this challenge within the first few pages where he outlays the basic of the Paleo diet. He then fills the book with about 200 pages of delicious-looking recipes. Each of these recipes are accompanied by colorful pictures that will make your mouth water. The recipes run the gamut from breakfast to dessert (yay…dessert!). While the recipes do tend to be on the more sophisticated side, they will appeal to everyone except really picky eaters. There are recipes that contain exotic and hard-to-find ingredients. However, I have found this to be more of a limitation of the diet itself rather than the recipes. I must also mention that I absolutely loved the binding of this book! The thick, glare-free pages lay flat easily and are simply perfect for cooking.

All in all, I found this book to be a good recipe book for flavorful recipes for those following the Paleo Diet. I’m anticipating cooking lots of these dishes for my family so that we can work on eating more of a healthier, cleaner diet.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBook.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Trying to be more healthy

I know, it’s unusual to be trying to be more healthy at this time of year. However, I’ve recently had an appointment with my doctor and realized (again) I need to be more intentional in leading a healthy lifestyle. In this season of my life, it seems I’m always on the go. That lends itself to going out to eat a lot, sometimes out of a drive-thru window. However, that’s taking a toll on not only my health, but my pocketbook as well. So, I’m committing to eating more at home where I can control what is in my food. I’m also committing to setting an example for my children on what to eat to fuel their bodies. You have to know that I LOVE to eat. It comforts me when I’m sad or nervous, it’s the center of celebrations, and is used to show love to others. I remember several years ago, my obstetrician once told me that I shouldn’t always eat to enjoy my food, but to fuel my body. Too many times I’m guilty of indulging in yummy, unhealthy foods and not worrying about the long-term consequences. However, I also realize that if I don’t draw a line in the sand, nothing will change.  So, join me in my quest to do better if you aren’t already doing so. I fully intend on enjoying my Christmas get togethers (within moderation), but just stopping the late-night snacks and junk food is a start. So, I would love your help. Please share any healthy (low-fat, low-carb, low-sugar) recipes that you or your family love. I know I can search Pinterest, but I’d love to know what you’ve tried and loved. Here’s one of my family’s favorites to get you started:

Oven-Baked Salmon

4 Salmon Fillets

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Cajun’s Choice Creole Seasoning

Dried Dill

Preheat oven to 325.  Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil in an oven-safe dish to grease the bottom.   Place salmon in the dish and season with salt, pepper, seasoning, and dill to taste.  (The seasoning isn’t very spicy, but I apply less to the children’s portions.)  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the salmon. Place in the oven and cook until the salmon is opaque and flaky, about 20-25 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Note:  In the past, I have cooked this recipe in an oven as hot as 400 or 450 because I was in a hurry. However, I’ve recently learned that this increases that white mystery substance that sometimes appears on salmon. According to America’s Test Kitchen, this can be decreased by simply cooking the salmon at a lower temperature and also results in a more moist fillet.

 

Book Review: “flour + water pasta” by Thomas McNaughton

“flour + water” is a book detailing both the basics of pasta-making along with recipes for sophisticated pasta dishes. It is written by the chef and co-owner of a restaurant by the same name. After reading this book, I would love to visit the restaurant the next time I visit San Francisco.

For a long time now, I have wanted to learn to make my own pasta. I received a pasta machine as a wedding present years ago and haven’t used it often because I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. A whole new world of possibilities have been opened with this book. This book contains details on how to make many different pasta shapes using basic dough recipes. The step-by-step instructions with numerous accompanying pictures are great!

The first part of the book covers how to make and cook pasta. The second half of the book lists recipes that are separated according to the seasons. The gorgeous pictures deliver portrayals of vibrant colors you would expect from each season. For instance, the Stradette with Leeks and Fava Beans on page 208 captures that intense green associated with the new growth of spring.

Other features of the book cover the backgrounds of the author and other chefs, a source page, and ingredient highlights. I was particularly interested in the section that talked about how Parmigiano Reggiano was produced. I also noticed that the matte pages will be easy to read while cooking because you won’t have to struggle with a glare on the page. I am excited to try many of the recipes, starting with Asparagus Caramelle with Brown Butter and Meyer Lemon!

I received this book for free from BloggingforBook.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.