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 & JalapeƱo 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.