Six Ingredients with Six Sister's Stuff: 100+ Fast and Easy Family Meals

5 stars Nonfiction

Easy, fast, and great ideas!  I liked the ideas behind this cookbook.  All of these recipes are made with six ingredients or less.  This is a cookbook that should be looked at to get some new ideas and/or one to rethink the foods that you have made in the past or forgot about.

First off, the illustrations in the cookbook are impressive.  They just jump right off the page at you as they are bold and take center stage on each recipe as they get the full attention, as you get a close-up view of the dish being showcased.

There are 3 categories, to help you get started, in this cookbook: main dishes, side dishes, and desserts and a helpful index in the back. If you can’t find something in this 206-page cookbook, that’s tempting your taste buds, you must have overlooked some pages.

As I have mentioned before, these are easy recipes and I found a few new ones that I’d like to try and a few that I had forgotten about and/or the Six Sisters Stuff had revamped for me.  This cookbook definitely caught my attention (the illustrations helped!) but after reading over the ingredients for some of the recipes, there are some recipes that I would have adjust or skip as they’re not for me. 

I would definitely fix the Brown-Sugar Glazed Pork Chops, Enchilada Quinoa, Chicken-Parmesan Pasta Casserole, and Turkey Taco Meatballs.  There were so many other recipes that the illustrations looked so good, like the Easy Crab Cakes, Green Beans with Candied Pecans, Italian Roasted Vegetable Medley, and Golden Grahams S’Mores Bars, but I would have to adjust a few things before I could eat them.  

Some of the recipes are marked Kid-Approved which means they were approved by the Sisters own children.  Also, the ingredients that the Sisters used in the recipes are “normal” ingredients.  Like, chicken, canned condensed soup, brown sugar, or cucumbers.  They sometimes ask for fresh mint or fresh thyme or an optional item in the recipe but if you are like me, I sometimes substitute what I have in the jar and move on.

It’s a great cookbook if you are looking for something easy or quick.  If you’re looking for variety, step-by-step direction, simplicity and ease, this might be your answer.      

Mixtape Potluck Cookbook: a Dinner Party for Friends by Questlove, Martha Stewart

4 stars Nonfiction

I liked the idea about this cookbook and in the introduction, it is explained in detailed how this cookbook came about.  It’s a song inspired potluck. A song is selected and individuals are invited to prepare/cook something as the tune played.  The dish didn’t have to reflect what they were listening to, it was just a reflection of the person preparing the dish. This sounded like an entertaining way to prepare some food, get friends together and get to know one another.

I was entertained with the music choices for some of the individuals chosen for the book.  Martha Stewart’s Grape Focaccia’s was paired with Snoop Dog’s “Life of Da Party” and a cocktail prepared by Dave Arnold called Red Skies at Night featuring white run, wildberry honey, red chile flakes and vegetable glycerin that was paired with “Sounds of Silence” by the Beastie Boys.  This cocktail looked good until I read the ingredients, as it reminded me of a drink I used to drink, the Slow Comfortable Screw.  I guess I got tired of the orange juice.

It’s a very organized cookbook: with the recipes broken down into categories and there is even a list of guests that are included in the book. There’s an index and some tips on how to create your own playlist. Every recipe in the book has an illustration and I enjoyed reading the little paragraphs that accompanied each recipe about how the song was chosen.  It was an interesting and fun cookbook and I enjoyed reading the Afterward and Introduction.  Unfortunately, the recipes were nothing that I would fix.  Spinach Pie, Tuna Pasta a la Popowendy, Thit Kho Tau, Bourbon Raspberry Tea- those are just a few random pages of the book. I did enjoy the book; the idea was fantastic but the recipes were not of my liking.

Pasta, Pretty Please by Linda Miller Nicholson

5 stars Cookbook
Book Trailer

I do love my pasta and I was excited to see this cookbook about pasta.  This cookbook was more than I expected though. This was not a book for the pasta-maker in me, but was for a more advanced pasta maker. I did learn a great deal from this book and you really should see the pictures inside this book.  Who makes this pasta?!  It’s beautiful.

I like looking at all the pasta varieties in the store.  It feels like every week, there is something new on the shelves.  This past week, I saw thick & hearty noodles, before that it was pasta made out of beans.  What’s next? A few years ago, I bought an attachment for my mixer so I could make pasta and I think I’ve only used it a few times.  Before that, I had my grandmother’s old pasta maker that attached to our table.  My husband used it a few times a year to make noodles.  I keep thinking that I want to make my own pasta and when I saw this book, I thought perhaps this was a “sign.”

If it was a “sign,” it was really telling me, “see if there is a beginner’s guide to pasta because this book is not for you, YET.”  I did like this book as it had lots of information for making pasta, packed with the different varieties and it was laid out with nice details. 

I like colored pasta and this book talks about creating them and how to achieve the right color.  We are talking 25 colors! From Red Beet Dough to Beet-Paprika Dough, they give you the lowdown on what ingredients you need to mix together, in step-by-step directions to get those rich colors. From there, they talk about how to roll-out and cut the dough.  We are talking techniques here, this is an art.   Should you freeze, store or dry your pasta?  “You’ll want to serve your pasta projects in this book when they’re at the peak of their beauty.” 

The author discusses the different types of pasta and I was drooling over the pictures of the fresh pasta in this section. From colorful farfalle, to hand-cut tajarin, to a six-colored fettuccine, the author gives you instructions on how to create these masterpieces.  There were stars (actual stars) on pappardelle, polka-dotted farfalle, 4th of July pappardelle and then, the argyle lasagna sheets were simply amazing! 

The book is set up in sections beginning with the basic dough.  It goes next into the sheeting section, then the advanced section where the pasta became a work of art.  Rolled pastas and gnocchi were in the next section.  There was a section of sauces and a final section of fillings for your works of art.  A conversion chart and index complete the book.    

This book is not for me YET but hopefully in the future, I will need it.  It does begin with the basics and progresses quickly with detailed information.  If I were to create these works of art, I would definitely make sure we savored every bite.   

Baking All Year Round by Rosanna Pansino

5 stars Cookbook

This is baking. In this book, Rosanna is creating themed desserts and other foods for the special holidays and occasions that are in her life. From a young child, Rosanna has been in the kitchen baking and she brings that love of cooking to us in this book as we celebrate with her, all these special days. I was on a sugar high just by looking at all these fantastic creations on these pages. If you’re looking for some ideas, she has them.

Rosanna has the book sectioned off into each holiday starting off with Valentine’s Day and ending with Special Occasions (birthday, school graduation, wedding, baby shower). Here are a few things that make this book special. All the recipes in this book are marked gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan, if they apply – there is an icon for each of these. Everything in this book is homemade, my friends. So, if you’re looking for a simple, quick recipe that calls for a tube of sugar dough, you will not find it in this book. There are also full-size, colorful photos of every recipe in this book. A few of the recipes also have detailed step-by-step photos, just so you get everything right. And, I found this kinda crazy but, she included templates of the shapes that she used in her creations, in the back of the book, so you could use the templates to create your own cardboard design.

The book begins with the all the tools and candy she used and the definitions of some of the words that she uses. A huge choice of frosting recipes (royal, vegan royal, vegan buttercream, champagne, honey buttercream, vegan caramel, white chocolate glaze, (just a sample). Then, the special day sections begin for which, there are between 4-9 recipes in each section. Ingredients, directions, how many the recipe makes are included with the recipe but no nutritional information is given. A conversion table, index, and resource list of the items she used, is in the back of the book also.

Valentine’s Day recipes looked really good and included homemade churros, pretzels, whoopie pies, ravioli and mini cakes. Father’s Day had donuts, whiskey caramels, cupcakes, pizza, and truffles. These recipes are interchangeable and those cupcakes would be a winner at a bake sale or a BBQ. The caramels could be wrapped up for a present and those donuts, use a different cookie cutter and the possibilities are endless. Are you hungry yet? Some of these creations are too cute, even to eat!

I liked many recipes in this book, yep again! The soft pretzels (I could make them for any occasion or just for book reading), those salted whiskey caramels (did someone say whiskey?), the blackberry cobbler, lollipop cookies, and Santa Brownies with the suit on them were so cute. I’m debating on purchasing this book. It’s definitely one to check out.

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes

5 Stars Cookbook

I do love my cookbooks! When a message about cookbooks, popped into my inbox, I immediately started looking at my local library to see if they had any of them, as I like to sample them before I actually buy them. They had 4 of them so I felt very lucky. The Tuscan Sun Cookbook looked promising but I wondered how complicated the recipes were and how exotic the ingredients might be, but I remained hopeful. After looking through the book though, I was surprised at my finding.

First off, let me say, that the pictures inside this book are beautiful. Imagine a nice summer day, you’re in the hills of Italy enjoying lunch with your friends. A photographer has stopped by to take some shots and now, those pictures are inside this book. Although there aren’t pictures of every recipe in this book, the ones that are there, look very appealing.

Each recipe does come with how many it serves, the ingredients list and step-by-step instructions. Accompanying each recipe, is a small paragraph or two that describes a bit about that recipe. The book consists of recipes that would actually be served in Tuscany according to the authors. The book is broken up into many sections. The Essential section had a few recipes that I enjoyed. Tomato Sauce (with bay leaves -I love bay leaves!), a Soffritto (looks delicious), Besciamella, a Brine, and Pesto. The Antipasti section contained appetizers. The Primi section was pasta and it began with making pasta and Giusi’s Ragu which looked nice and hearty. Angry Pasta? Oh yes, black olives and red pepper flakes made this recipe stand out. Lasagne with Ragu, using the same ragu, as mentioned before but adding it to a lasagna. Next was the Second section which was meats and I found Chicken Under a Brick and Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes. The Contorni section was salads and vegetables and the last section was Dolci which consisted of desserts. There is an Aperitivi E Digestivi section which is the closer for their meals: the bitter elixirs. There are 2 recipes in this section (Nocino and Riccardo’s Limoncello) which accompany the author’s comments on this topic

What I didn’t find in this book was exotic ingredients or complicated recipes. That was a win for me. I did come across some new words, such as Fascicles of Summer Vegetables but as the author pointed out in their paragraph, fasces in Latin actually means a bundle of iron sticks. The author continued on in their comments, talking about Emily Dickinson’s fascicles of poems. Strawberry Semifreddo? I’d never heard of Semifreddo before but I learned that this dessert is not gelato or sorbetto but that it’s easy to make and doesn’t require a fancy machine.

I did find some recipes that wouldn’t work for me but might for others. Recipes that included ingredients like fish, lamb, veal, and rabbit. All-in-all, this cookbook was a great find for me. If you’re into Tuscan dishes or want to try something different, this is one cookbook you should check out.

Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook

5 stars Cookbook

Let’s talk about some Halloween food, shall we?  I came across a Halloween display at the grocery store and picked up some fun decorations to go on top of some baking treats.  Growing up, I had just the colored sprinkles and if you got lucky, we got the colored little balls that rolled all over the place when you went to put them on anything and of course, they tasted so much better than the sprinkles.  Now the choices for decorations are endless. I ended up purchasing a creepy pack and not your normal sprinkles, my friend. I thought I needed a cookbook to go with these so I found a Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook at the library and voila, I now have more than I asked for.

The decorations I picked up were a candy pack of skulls, bones, gravestones, large eyeballs and bats. My other pack is a mix of orange, black and white sprinkles of ghosts, bats, pumpkins, moons, and bright Halloween tiny balls (of course). What to do with all of them was the question that I hoped this book would answer.

Boneyard Dirt Pops were chocolate cake pops with chocolate sandwich cookies on top (dirt) with bone candies on top (excellent idea!). Tarantula Treats were cupcakes that looked like the creepy spider that I could use the eyes on. Tombstone Cupcakes were, just what they said they were and another great idea.  I was coming up with some great ideas in this book and getting hungry. The Halloween Party Pops were another great idea and I could decorate them anyway I wanted although they had some great ideas especially the spider web one.  I think I had enough ideas here. I noticed the Scary ghost Pancakes (I love pancakes) as I was making my way to the treats section.  I wouldn’t be using any of my treats but I would be eating some special pancakes.   

There are recipes for having a feast in this book.  Lots of snacks, meals, drinks, and of course desserts. In the Mystifying Main Dishes, I liked the Chicken Enchilada Mummies and the Serpent Sub. They looked like fun and a simple idea to bring the holiday to the table.   Need some Bubbly Black Punch with a Wormy Ice Ring or Lemon-Slime Punch to wash it all down?  How about some Spider Bites out of jello, or Bugs in a Blanket, or the Spiderweb Deviled Eggs (which, of my heavens looks so cool with all the lines on them). 

I would say that about half of the recipes call for premade items.  Items like Pillsbury Grands biscuits, Pillsbury Sugar cookie dough, a box of chocolate cake mix, a spice cake mix, or Bisquick.  Using these items, they explain how to shape or create the Halloween item using brown sugar, milk, eggs, etc. until you have the finished item.  Other recipes have the cook taking baby back ribs, or ground beef, or instant pudding, or chocolate ice cream or whatever and creating the Halloween treat from scratch.  If you want to make it all from scratch, make your own sugar cookie recipe, make your own chocolate cake recipe, do whatever you want or make substitutes if you have allergies, the ideas and the fun is inside the book.

There are 200 pages in this Halloween cookbook complete with an index and the recipes broken down into sections.  I hate to ruin the fun but there is a calorie counter for each of the recipes, along with step-by-step directions, the time to completion them, and how many each recipe will make.  Are there illustrations/pictures? You bet, one for every recipe which are directly across from the recipe.

Another great book from Betty Crocker.  I was entertained and I will be making some of these tasty treats this year.  

Amazon has some great pictures of the inside of the book: https://www.amazon.com/Betty-Crocker-Halloween-Cookbook/dp/1118388941/ref=sr_1_1?crid=14T18TV5N9F9G&keywords=betty+crocker+halloween+cookbook&qid=1568588181&sprefix=betty+crocker+hallo%2Caps%2C175&sr=8-1

A Ghostly Good Time: The Family Halloween Handbook by Woman’s Day Special Interest Publications

4 stars Nonfiction

I liked how this book has a little bit of everything in it. From recipes to make, to costumes to throw together, to decorations for your little part of the world, this book is Halloween DIY. You can be a beginner or an intermediate DIY individual to be successful as the author helps you with great directions.

When I first picked this book up, I was looking for a couple easy crafts to make and after looking through it, my list of Halloween items is long. I started out just flipping through it and stopped. I decided to go page-by-page, writing ideas and instructions down, so I knew what to do later.

There are a few items that I’ve seen done already and that’s fine. There are also a few ideas that were way out of my league but hey, they’re cool ideas if you have that talent. I liked the paper witches. Tracing them, you enlarge them (as big as you want) and put them on kraft paper and place them in your window with tape. (They supply you with 3 witches on graph paper at the bottom of the page). The Unwelcome mat was fun too along with the Boo and Beware mirrors but I don’t think I’ll be making them but they look super easy to make. The costume section was really cute and clever. The crow and swamp girl were my favorites. I liked that they made using simple, cheap items that you’d be able to find and not something that you’d have to spend a lot of money on, tear it up and then get creative. The recipe section had some fun and festive ideas and if I wanted to get creative, I could make the Haunted Cookie House. I’m sure my granddaughter would love to help me. It’s mostly snacks and goodies here except for some stew, bread, and a Sand-Witch. Put that Sand-Witch in someone’s lunch and see what they have to say. Lots of fun, I say.

I liked the hand & spider cutouts and I am planning on using them on a few pumpkins this year. They work the same exact way as the paper witches, only you trace them on a pumpkin and a hand is illuminated. There are lots of other fun ideas on carving pumpkins too. As far as the crafts, which is what I got the book for, I only found one that looked promising to me. There were no directions for it, as it was used as a prop but I think I can make it. There were some recipes that caught my eye especially the cookies and the cupcakes.

This is a super cute Halloween book that I’m sure you will find something inside to try. Could I get these ideas from a magazine? Sure, probably but I like how this book is set up and it’s all put together for me. Like I mentioned before, you can try something easy like the pumpkin carving or go extreme and attempt the Colorful Cushions. Did I mention the bird skeleton in the antique bird cage? Great book to find some neat ideas.

Link to some pages in the book

Real Life Dinners by Rachel Hollis

5 stars Nonfiction

I bought this cookbook after checking it out at the library.  This is another great book by Rachel Hollis.  So, why did I buy it?  Because I liked the recipes and the illustrations that accompanied them.  The recipes inside were for things that I really would make, things that aren’t too fancy and the ingredients I can find in my supermarket.

Let me walk you through this beautiful book and tempt you with one of my latest cookbook purchases.  This last week, I received/bought 3 cookbooks in the mail.  With temperatures in the 90’s this week, I might make something but likely, I will be eating strawberry lettuce salad (I could live off this), watermelon, oranges and just cold sandwiches. I don’t like to eat a lot when it’s hot out. 

There are 4 sections before we even get into the food sections in this cookbook: intro, table manners, kitchen essentials, spices.  Table manners: yep, she lists out some table manners from no electronics, to passing food, to eating. Kitchen Essentials: things you should have on hand.  Spices: four blends she created.

In the food section, there are 8 sections: Breakfast for Dinner, Kid-Friendly Dinners, Make-Ahead Dinners, Dinner on the Grill, Soup for Dinner, Salad for Dinner, Sides for Dinner, and My Favorite Dinners.  Each recipe consists of a two-page spread complete with a short story about the recipe, an illustration, ingredients list (optional ingredient list, if needed), directions, prep time, cook time, serves #, and 3 or 4 step-by-step illustrations for the recipe. She also begins each section with a intro about that section and her thoughts/memories.

Looking at the Make-Ahead Dinners section: her intro talks about being prepared and prepping.  She discusses what she does and how to use these recipes in your own life.  There are 9 recipes in this section.  I would eat any of them as they all look good.  From Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork, Homemade Frozen Burritos, Hawaiian Chicken, Mexican Casserole, Chicken Potpie, Tex-Mex Fiesta, Spaghetti Sauce, Ranch Beef Stew, and Lemon-Pesto Chicken.  I thought I might have to cut back on the lemon on that Lemon-Pesto Chicken but it’s not that much and hey, it has green beans in it! The Tex-Mex entre looks super good and so does the Hawaiian Chicken (and I don’t normally do Chinese food) but the ingredients look like something I can handle.  I’m super excited to get this cookbook and guess what?  I also picked up Rachel’s other cookbook at the same time, Upscale Downhome: Family Recipes, All Gussied Up.  That cookbook is a keeper too.

The illustrations in this book look very appetizing and real.  They don’t look all glamorous, as if someone spent weeks, spraying and angling the camera, trying to get the right shot of the bun, to make it look perfect. They look delicious and they look like something that I could make.  Thanks Rachel, for keeping it real.

Weber’s Ultimate Grilling by Jamie Purviance

5 stars Nonfiction

Meat it is, inside this book with its gorgeous pictures. I picked this book up from the library as I saw it on a cart for the cover and the name Weber caught my eye. Looking at that steak over those coals and knowing that Weber knows a thing or two about grilling, I wanted to know the latest.

This book is heavy and is more than a cookbook. This book begins by giving you lots of information about grilling, from temperature (and maintaining), the techniques of grilling (indirect, direct, smoking (doing that in a smoker and in a regular grill), timing (for all different types of grills and food), and tools for grilling. There are lots of graphs and illustrations to look at and refer to in this section.

The book has seven chapters devoted to food: starters, beef & lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, vegetables & sides, and desserts. The last section of the book is The Pantry. It you don’t get hungry looking at this book, there is seriously something wrong with you.

In each food section, they begin with a Q&A section, which answers a few questions about that section of food. So in starters, the questions pertain to appetizers, the pork section pertain to cooking pork on the grill, etc. What I love about this cookbook is the illustrations, how easy this book is to look at and follow, and the step-by-step illustrations that accompany EACH recipe in this book. Each recipe takes up 2 pages and is accompanied by a small intro about the recipe, an ingredients list, step-by-step directions with an illustration for each step, prep time, how many it serves, time required on the grill, marinating time (if any), stove time (if any, for additional ingredients for the recipe), any special things you might need, variations printed with them (if any) , and some have tidbits to help with the recipe.

You’re not just getting the recipes within that section either, you’ll get some information regarding that food too. Useful information to make cooking that food, fun and entertaining. In the beef & lamb section, there some information about putting together different flavors of burgers with wonderful illustrations (I thought they all looked good but after reading about them, I would have to substitute some of the ingredients in a few of them). There was another Q&A section about steaks and then a beautiful section of 4 toppings for steaks. Wow, there were two more sections on different type of steaks, a section about more toppings, a couple sections discussing brisket, a section about what to do with leftover prime rib, and that my friend is amongst all the recipes (18) dealing with beef and lamb, in just one section.

Lets talk about the illustrations, they are gorgeous. I really don’t need a step-by-step illustrated version of a recipe, but these illustrations are beauties. The browned chicken with its light brown skin and the grilled potatoes stuffed full with nacho goodness just needed my fork. The only issue I had with this book is that the book had trouble lying flat and I think that is because it is new, it needs a good press of my hand on the pages while I get down to some serious cooking.

Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook by Oxmoor House

5 stars Cookbook

Another great Slow Cooker favorite which I found at a school book sale.  I don’t know what possessed me to pick this up many years ago except that I was starting to use my crock-pot and now, I am obsessed with using it.  This book has more recipes in it than I have explored but the ones that I have tried, are fantastic.

Not every recipe in this book has a picture but each recipe has serving size, diabetic exchange information and nutritional information along with step-by-step instructions and a list of ingredients   There are five different food categories inside this book: beef, poultry, pork, meatless main dishes, and other meats (shrimp, swiss steak, veal, venison, lamb, cloppino, bouillabaisse, fish,.  There is also an index and extras sections which includes desserts, butter, sides, equivalent weights/yields and a Q & A section. The pictures that are included are bright and look delish (even for dishes that I don’t think I would eat).

The ingredients inside this cookbook are not hard to find.  Some of these dishes are not ones that I would make but again, I am picky but they are dishes that are simple, use everyday ingredients and the meal you are preparing are for dishes that you could have at home any night/day, it’s not a meal that you’d only prepare for a special occasion.  The dishes that I have prepared out of this book were prepared for friends, family, get-togethers, and/or just my husband and I.   

 I have made the Basic Pasta Sauce (like the fresh tomato flavor in this one), Beef Stroganoff, Hungarian Goulash, Pork Chops and Gravy, and Spicy Apples and Pears.  What else looks good: Rio Grande Meat Loaf, Homestyle Potato Soup, Mexican Black Bean Chili, Apple Grunt, Cuban Rice and Red Beans, and Chili Cheese Spuds.  In some of the recipes the author tells you how to prep the day before so it’s easy in the morning to put the ingredients together in your slow-cooker.  I enjoy this cookbook and the recipes that I have tried, always came out great.