Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book 11: I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook

This book by Sarah Wilson is pretty much how it sounds.  It's a guide through quitting sugar, providing nutritional knowledge, recipes, and support along the way.  While I think that sugar = bad is a pretty well-accepted belief these days, I don't think her high-fat approach is yet the fully accepted medical perspective.  However, it makes sense to me (disclaimer: no scientific background here!).  Another disclaimer is that I did not attempt this diet!!

Sarah's perspective is that sugar causes many health issues, yet sugar-love is also part of our cultural belief system (and ahem the sugar industry).  And that sugar is hiding everywhere, even in "health" foods.  Her particular beef with sugar is against fructose.  This is the sugar found in all such delicious things as fruits, honey, root vegetables, not to mention the obvious granulated sugar (half fructose, half glucose).  Her 8 week program is not a cold-turkey quitting program, but a gradual reduction, then removal of all (even fruit, gosh forbid!), then a gradual addition back of a little sweetness, like low-fructose fruits or brown rice syrup / stevia.  I should caution here that I've read that just because a sweetener isn't fructose doesn't mean that is is not going to cause blood sugar spikes, and even fake sugars can have undesirable side effects.  

I love Sarah's detailed plan for how to accomplish this, the nutritional background, and especially the recipes.  I attempted a sugar free, low carb eating regime (I refuse to say it was a diet) two summers back, and I got many key recipes from this book.  Not to mention motivation!  Looking through it makes me consider that this is doable, beneficial, and even an adventure.  I am almost encouraged to try again!  

This book has beautiful photos (a requirement for me), interesting recipes and numerous ideas.  Since there aren't many cookbooks that focus on sugar-less recipes without other substitutes, I find that this is a key cookbook resource.  The focus is really on flavor while providing that nutritional balance, like proteins and fats.  Did I mention she is pro-fat foods?  You'd better agree with that if you want to use this cookbook!  And there are also a few "sweets" for special occasions, including Crunchy-Nut Cheesecake and My Raspberry Ripple, which looks like chocolate-berry-bark.

Not my photo!  I wish.  See Sarah Wilson's blog.

On a search for her blog, I found her post about the Sugar Research Advisory Committee citing her has a pseudo-expert.  Fascinating video targeting wellness bloggers!  She has pissed off the sugar people!  I agree that anyone on the Internet can appear they are as "expert"--here I am also, no nutritional qualification from me, true.  And I expect we will find nutritional concerns with some of her recommendations (I've seen conflicting recommendations on brown rice syrup) and the advice of many wellness bloggers.  But we have to take what we read with a grain of salt (or is that bad, I forget?). If you try something, does it make you feel better? (beyond the placebo effect of course ) I think there is much progress to go as far as nutritional recommendations go--if everything was known, the USDA food recommendations wouldn't change, they would just be.  I wouldn't have heard "DON'T EAT EGGS!"  To, a couple a week is ok.  To, one every day is ok.  And "DON"T EAT BUTTER, EAT MARGARINE!"  To, oops, stay away from saturated fats.  No, just stay away from trans-fats.  Or hydrogenated fats.  I don't know, but I'm keeping my butter!

Anyways, her mission is admirable.  I have trouble to see how anyone could argue that limiting sugar could be bad for you?  Or that being a successful blogger or business woman or sharing other interests means that you aren't knowledgeable on nutrition issues.

Anyways!  What did I make?  This time, two breakfast treats.  

Coco-nutty Granola--I have a go to granola recipe, but I wanted to try hers.  I love the crunch and quickness!  It includes chia seeds, nuts, butter/coconut oil, and a bit of brown rice syrup if you need that sweetener.  I enjoyed it with some yogurt!

The ingredients come together quickly!  That's everything except for the oil.

Delicious AND nutritious!

My second item was a little farther afield for me.  I am pretty sure I have had a package of amaranth waiting in my kitchen for this recipe for probably a year.  Why else would I have it?  This one is Pumpkin Pie "Oatmeal".  I think an original representation of breakfast.  I really enjoyed it!  Well, initially not so much.  I asked my husband to wait to get his usual morning cereal to see if he would want it.  At first taste, I said, "Nevermind, have your cereal!"  But with the addition of a little honey (a no-no in Wilson's book) and some of the previously made granola, it was a winning combination.  I am a bit disappointed it is gone today!

Not everyone is going to like this book, especially if they are in the low-fat camp or the sugar is life camp.  However, if you're looking to reduce sugar or even try to quit it, then it is a key resource with inspiration and gotchas to boot.

Not everyone is going to like this book, especially if they are in the low-fat camp or the sugar is life camp.  Actually, I do agree that sugar is life.  However, if you're looking to reduce sugar or even try to quit it, then it is a key resource with inspiration and gotchas to boot.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Book #10: The Tante Marie's Cooking School Cookbook by Mary Risley

I received this book a few years back as a gift from my mom.  Since it did not have the eye candy photos that I have come to drool over, I put it aside for a bit.  Without photos, I must imagine how the foods would turn out...and while I can do that to an extent, my imaginings would just never be as delicious to be in any way motivational.  I need all sorts of help to encourage me to get off my duff and make something.  Those pictures are crucial!

Anyways, last week I received a KitchenAid mixer as a much anticipated early Christmas gift.  Being that I've recently started working at an unnamed, hoity toity culinary store (ahem with a hefty discount) we had to jump on it before they figure out my ulterior motives and kick me to the curb!  So with this new purchase, I looked for a fitting start to my mixing career.  
As I perused my cookbooks for bread recipes, I found this book.  I realized then that I had missed that it was from a cooking school ( a secret longing of mine), and not even so far away, in San Francisco!  Much to my dismay, my research then showed me it had recently closed.  So I'm a little late to this party, but nonetheless, the recipes should still be good!  Although...if the school is closed...?  Just Kidding Tante Marie!
For this recipe, I attempted the walnut bread.  There is a walnut bread I adore at some store (Trader Joe's?) so that is the vision I had in my mind as I began the bread.  The first batch was going well until I noticed little gray bits in the batter.  My mind went back to mixer reviews of oil leaking into the batter.  I picked out the flecks and kept going.  A couple more...ok, that has to be about it.  I finished the dough, turned it off.  And then three fresh dots.  And I finally found the source of the oil in one of the screws above the dough hook!  At that point I decided I had no idea how much oil was in the dough, and decided to scratch it. 
But not without a little experimentation!  At that point, I was thinking I should add more flour, but was on the fence.  So I decided to live on the wild side, and skip adding more flour and see what happened, since I didn't plan to eat it anyways.  It was super sticky, suggesting it really did need more flour.  It went through three raises and it did rise well! One of those raises you are supposed to add more walnut oil.  Rather than waste costly oil, I then pulled the experiment even farther--I have a lot of molasses hiding out in my cupboards, so even though it's nothing like oil, I thought maybe it would still add moisture, so in it went!  (Please, no comments on what molasses would do to dough and why that was a silly choice, sometimes you just gotta find out for yourself, you know.  Ok... I still don't know.)
The Blob

This was certainly the silliest looking loaf I've made.  It seemed a bit like the blob.  I figured it was inspiration from the movie of said name.  I worried my dough-blob would glide right off the cookie sheet before it set enough in the oven.  Once baked, I just tried a teeny bit so as not to die from unknown oil ingestion, and honestly can't remember much about it, but it was a bit hard, without the standard airy texture.  To the trash it went!  Please note the blackness is probably just molasses.
Ahhh bread.

The next batch was completely different.  Ahhh, that's what dough is supposed to be like!  A nice squishy ball.  How I love dough!  It was a seamless operation.  In addition to not adding enough flour the first time, I suspect that I may have over-kneaded the first batch (since no self-respecting person would read a manual before using a new product).  While there was huge improvement over the first loaf, I did still find it too oily (you will be glad to know I kept my eye on the oil leaking screw hole so that I can vouch that the oily was all walnut and none of that machiney oil).  My hub on the other hand was ecstatic with the finished product.  Maybe he was trying to make up for his lukewarm response to the kung pao chicken from the other day?? :/
Why is there a finger in this photo.  Really?

I see now the sub-title of this book is "More than 250 recipes for the passionate home cook."  Passionate home cook, eh?  Passionate eater, yes.  But passionate home cook?  That sounds like I'm going to have to work a lot!  If I were to base it on this recipe I would agree.  This one had three rises, which just seems excessive.  Let's just do one and be done, okay?  I'm not sure I'm that passionate.  What about "occasionally inspired home cook"?  Or "passionate eater that would rather someone else cook"?  Either of those might be a more apt title for a book that calls to me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Book #9: Jamie Oliver's Everyday Super Food

I wouldn't say I'm on a health kick, but I'm alway open to cookbooks which make healthy things look delicious.  I think Jamie's health focus is pretty inline with my current food belief system (although not necessarily what I eat)...more protein, less carbs, fats are ok!  He certainly has one admirable mission after another, changing kids' on the streets lives by restaurant training, healthifying school lunches, spearheading a food revolution.  And now he's just recently turned 40!  I will skip mentioning what birthday is upcoming this year for me, and so let's not compare us and our accomplishments or lofty goals!

This book has interesting twists of many dishes.  It's fun to find the Britishisms in there as it reminds you how we speak the same language but sometimes sure do talk differently.  Things like "brekkie," marmite, "Vegeree not kedgeree"  (I still don't know),  AND most especially, "Chicken Penicillin." I don't even think that's British.  I am however inspired by "Sexy Stewed Prunes"  (HA!)  and "Roasted sweet Potatoes / Black Beans & Jalapeño Tomato Salsa," and "Super-Tasty Miso Broth / Chicken, Mushrooms & WIld Rice."

I think this book is not for everyone.  If you say "Super squash lasagne / Spinach, Cottage Cheese & Seeds" and wonder what the heck is wrong with the traditional lasagne noodles, bolognese sauce, and cheese cheese cheese it might not be for you.  Or if you say "Why is there kiwi in my fish tacos??"  However if you want to make your own nut butter, energy balls, or spring squid, then go for it.  These are not your basic healthy recipes.  Probably tons of ingredients that you don't have that you will make an extra trip to the store for.  I feel like these are meals you might get at your nearby pop-up farm to table restaurant.  Which in no way suggests that these aren't delicious or inspirational, or something to strive for.  

What seems like a key staple and representative of this book is "Awesome Granola Dust."  The idea is if you take all the the ingredients of a healthy granola (recipe included), and grind it up like crazy, you get a protein & whole grain focused base for many upcoming meals.  It avoids the sugar-"riddled" morning cereal.  I made it (all 13 or so cups of it!!) and I am experimenting with all his suggestions.  The dried fruit really brings a bit of sweetness and surprise to it.  He does have at least 10 suggestions for it.  

One of the combos I tried was dust w/ milk, like a porridge.  Be careful not to put too much milk!  I followed the amounts and it was a watered down milk bowl.  

Yogurt w/ dust and blueberries.  Sure, it's a breakfast off to good start!

Granola dust based pancakes was also an intriguing one.  They turned out just fine.  My struggle was that they called for one banana per serving.  Which turns into a lot of bananas if you're serving friends, or um, are overeating those pancakes.  I tried instead to use it as flour (with some other self-rising flour, as Jamie did) in a Better Homes & Gardens pancake recipe.  Not sweet enough, as then it didn't have the sweetness from the bananas even, and tasted like a very whole grain meal.  So I did like Jamie's pancakes better, but both variations really needed something else to go with it to be fully enjoyable.  But pancakes are really just a vehicle for the syrup anyways, right?  (Maybe against Jamie's low sugar approach...)

Some other options I look forward to trying are the granola dust smoothie and the fruit soups w/ yogurt & granola dusts.  While I secretly do like regular granola better, I like that he presents it as a base to experiment with.  Sort of arming us with a tool to have a healthy breakfast with, and we get to choose how to use it.  And I sure will be experimenting a lot more because I seem to have about 10 cups still left!

This is another site that shows granola dust: Milk and Honey  Nothing like some glamour shots of oats to make them look tasty!  I can use some photo lessons.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book #8: Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

Back after a hiatus of a few years!  Where does the time go?   And was I really the one to write those blogs??  At this rate, it will take me... (8 blogs, 4 years, that's 2 blogs a year...)..500 years to get to 1000 cookbooks.  I'd better speed it up!).

For my return book, I'm highlighting Chrissy Teigen's debut cookbook, Cravings. You may know her as being a Sports Illustrated model (I did not).  I think she's one of those models that is in so many places that you recognize her and say..."Where do I know her from?"  Most recently, I knew her as a cohost from Lip Sync battles, (which is pretty hilarious and over the top, if you haven't seen it).  

 I did not just choose this book because she is hot and hoping I could learn from her.  I mean, if she can be sexy and eat all this crazy stuff, I can too.  She may have started with some different materials though.  So from the show, she is quite charismatic and funny.  This comes through in her book.  It's really hilarious.  (and it's a cookbook!)  She shares a little of herself in each recipe.  I have to say that there definitely are some gratuitous photos of her feeding her husband John Legend, or just showing a whole lotta leg.  Who is this book for???  Is W going to start making these recipes for me??

But seriously, these are some great staple recipes.  It is an American comfort food focus, like potato salad, Dutch Baby's (did we decide that maybe those really aren't American, based on the name?) but with a modernized focus, like Pot Pie Soup w/ Crust Crackers OR Yellow Cake Baked Oatmeal.  (Wait, what?)  But also includes such classics as "Sh*t on toast" and Zucchini Lasagna Bolgnese.  Chrissy is half Thai, so it also has a Thai influence, like Chicken Satay.  Yumm!  And umm...this is not a health book.

For my first attempts at her book, I tried out the Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Ok, prep time is NOT 15 minutes.  But still worth the time.  They went quickly, and the flavor was sweet and complex.  If I were to compare them to lettuce wraps I have had elsewhere (I am embarrassed to say PF Chang's), I didn't like the flavor balance quite as much, but that may just be tweaking the ingredients.  The water chestnuts provided a perfect crunch, the scallions also a nice variety.  A solid recipe!

My personal learnings while making this recipe...did you know about mother of vinegar?  I had an old bottle of rice vinegar I thought I might use, but it had this crazy thing inside which looked a bit like a potato sliced up and ready for potatoes au gratin.  It was not.  From my main encyclopedic source, Wikipedia (don't tell my students!), " Mother of Vinegar is a substance composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteriathat develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids....[It] can also form in store-bought vinegar if there is some non-fermented sugar and/or alcohol contained in the vinegar."  Apparently you can still use this vinegar, but since the mother was really taking over (Mom!!), I bought a new bottle and saw instantly (ok, smelled) that the new one actually smelled like vinegar and the old one smelled like...not vinegar.  

Also, don't be thinking you have Thai sweet chili sauce at home, when actually it is the Vietnamese Chili Garlic sauce.  It's all about the sweet!

I also made Chrissy's Creamy Potato Salad with Bacon.  I have been looking for a go-to potato salad recipe, and based on the rave reviews, this may be it.  A good mayo base, scallions ( I think they are in all her recipes), hard boiled eggs, BACON, red onion, gave lots of variety to the salad.  A slight variation on a classic, but a good one.

If this blog is showing me nothing else, it's saying I need to work on my photography skills.  These dishes looked perfectly delicious when I photographed them.  They even looked ok on my phone.  Now they look some sort of mush--except for the bacon of course.

I'd give this cookbook 4.5 stars.  Humor (completely unnecessary in a cookbook), beautiful food photos, solid recipes, and some great variations on your typical home cooked meal.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book #7: Créme Brülée The Bonjour Way

By Randolph W Mann

I really enjoy this cook book as a source for not just the typical créme brulées.  A huge variety include s'mores créme brulée (ok, what dessert book doesn't have a s'mores variation these days...) , espresso, orange praline, etc..

For the second family Thanksgiving (with W's family) I wanted something not quite the typical pumpkin pie.  Enter pumpkin créme brülée.  Wow, it was delicious.  It is quite similar to pumpkin pie, but even smoother.  The crunchy sugar on top is the perfect touch--I'd be tempted to add that to every pumpkin pie.  

A surprising discovery--I know it says to serve immediately, but a couple ramekins I decided to torch even though they wouldn't be eaten right away.  When I ate one two days later, lo and behold, the crunchy sugar crust had disappeared!!  It was like a light sugar syrup on top.  In the trend with unflattering photos, here is one without the crust!

I searched on this recipe and found many others enjoyed his recipe also as the go-to pumpkin créme brulée.  

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sour cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt
1/2 cup whipping cream (35% MF)
6 tsp granulated sugar, for caramelizing
Preheat oven to 300º F.  In small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for the hevy cream.  Stir the pumpkin mixture with a small whisk or spoon for a full minute.  Set aside.
Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into a large measuring cup or another bowl. Place 4 (4-ounce) shallow ramekins in a hot water bath. Fill with the pumpkin mixture and place on an oven rack slightly below the middle of the oven.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or less if centers are softly set.
Cool the ramekins in the hot water bath until comfortable to handle. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate from 1 hour to 2 days before using. When ready to serve, remove from fridge and sprinkle 1 1/2  tsp sugar on top of each ramekin and torch to caramelize.
Serve immediately.

Book #6: Fleischmann's Yeast: Best-Ever Breads

I love any Fleischmann's book.  Really it comes down to loving bread, and that fragrant yeast smell that reminds you how fantastic fresh bread can be, not to mention poring over the pages and salivating over all the different forms that most delicious bread can take.  

buy from Amazon.

For Thanksgiving, I made the Classic Dinner Rolls, which can be shaped into a variety of shapes.  I chose knots.  I had just previously that day tried my hand at some whole wheat rolls and they were rising very badly, so I was quite tentative and concerned with this attempt.  Talk about paranoid.  These rolls  turned out fine and my need to rise them extra long was unwarranted.  

I love that the link on the image takes you to an amazon page offering the cookbook for $1000.  A worthy price!

Unfortunately, as always, the Thanksgiving prep was a rush, and when finally sitting down to lunch, did not take the time to take a quality photo--but at least I remembered one.  Here is my artwork, resting atop the rest of dinner.  Not necessarily a flattering shape, but I'm not picky when eating bread!

The recipe is pretty similar to what I found here, but somehow slightly different, I guess modernized?  Like, who needs more than a dozen rolls?  (ME!  If you're going to the trouble to do something as antiquated and time consuming as bake rolls, it had sure better make dozens and dozens!!)

Classic Dinner Rolls

Makes: 11/2 - 2 dozen rolls 
4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 envelopes Fleischmann's® Active Dry Yeast ( 4 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk  (105° to 115°F)
3/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
2 eggs
Poppy or sesame seed, optional

In large bowl, comine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, undissolved yeast, and salt.  Gradually add warm milk, warm water, and butter to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally.  Add 1 egg and 1/2 cup flour; beat 2 minutes at high speed.  With spoon, stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Grease top; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

Remove from refrigerator.  Punch dough down.  Remove dough to lightly floured surface. Shape as desired. Place rolls, about 2 inches apart, on greased baking sheets (or in other pans as directed). Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 20 to 40 minutes.

Beat remaining egg; brush on rolls. If desired, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seed. Bake at 375ºF for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from sheets or pans; let cool on wire racks. 

KNOTS: Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece to 9-inch rope. Tie loose knot in center of each rope.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book #5: The Ultimate Slow Cooker Book: Pulled Pork

This is Better Homes and Gardens' version of a slow cooker book.  This time, I tried a Pulled Pork recipe.  It was an interesting idea.  There is a master recipe which cooks the pork with chili sauce and some seasonings.  Once you've made that, there are six other recipes which you can do to mix it up.  For instance, mole pork and green olive quesadillas, shredded pork salad, spicy pulled pork, etc.  It's not clear if the original recipe is meant to be eaten as is or ONLY as a base for the other recipes.  Rather than risk it, since I was preparing for a group, I did one of the add on recipes (apricot pulled pork hoagies to be specific).  I like the idea, for those that actually prepare ahead, and cook for a whole week, they can do one main recipe and then eat it in different ways throughout the week.

The net of the pulled pork was that I was impatient.  After being in the slow cooker for 10 hours (it asked for 10-11 on low), the pork was still not easily pulled.  Since I was counting on it being ready, and I was only able to pull about a third of it, I ended up cutting the rest.  The taste was still great.  Some debate over whether it was too sweet or just right, but I enjoyed the flavors.  I love a good pulled pork and thought it was a good starting point.  I ended up with a ton of liquid left in the slow cooker--I probably should have kept more of it with the meat rather than dump it out.

A fun find--I found a coupon for a free year of Better Homes and Gardens at the back of the book.  Hmm, it expired in 2012, I wonder if I can still swing it.  However, with my love hate relationship with magazines, maybe it's a sign I shouldn't even try!