One: Simple One-Pan Wonders by Jamie Oliver

3.5 stars Cookbook

This is one terrific looking cookbook.  The pictures of the recipes look fantastic, almost too pretty to eat.  The recipes look like masterpieces that took hours to create but if you read the directions, most of them took under an hour to prepare.   Jamie wants to make cooking easy, practical,  and tasty. 

Let’s talk about why this cookbook is amazing.  I’m going to start with the layout of this book.  It fits many 2-page spread cookbook layouts with a recipe the left side of the page and a picture of that recipe on the right but I think this cookbook steps it up a notch.  On each of the two-page spreads, you will also find the nutritional value information in chart-like format, at the bottom of the page.  Along the side of the recipe, you’ll find pictures of the ingredients that you’ll need for the recipe.  So, you need some garlic, you’ll see a picture of garlic.  Need rosemary, there’s a picture of rosemary.  If you have 8 ingredients listed for your recipe, you will see 8 small pictures on the side.  I liked this little addition to an otherwise empty space.  The pictures of the recipes take center stage on the right side of this 2-page spread.  Nothing unnecessary competes with this space but the completed dish. Like I mentioned before, these pictures looked amazing.

There are a lot of interesting recipes in this cookbook. I’m not a fish eater but there were plenty of fish recipes in here and the pictures made me think that I could eat it.  The Upside Down Fish Pie, Teriyaki Shrimp, and the Shrimp Fried Rice, wow….they looked delicious! Jamie Oliver sure has presentation down perfectly!  The one issue that I found with this cookbook is that although the pictures of the dishes look fantastic, I only found a few of them that I would actually prepare.  Sure, there were a couple recipes that I might create but there were only a few that I knew that I would definitely try.  The Smoked Pancetta & Bean Pasta and Honey Roast Chicken looked like something that I would definitely eat. 

Jamie does make each recipe easy to prepare with detailed instructions and I found that the ingredient list is not complicated, he tries to use items that most individuals can find at their local grocery store.  Jamie doesn’t include anything personal, nor does he include any additional tips or ideas on these two pages, you just get the recipe and your picture. If you’re looking for something personal, you’re going to have to look at some of the other pages in the book where Oliver talks about each of the different sections in this book, his own personal journey and why this cookbook is so special.

If you like to try new dishes or want some easy recipes that’ll make you look as if you’re an award-winning chef – you need to check this book out.   3.5 stars.

The Snowy Cabin Cookbook by Marnie Hanel & Jen Stevenson

4 stars Nonfiction Cookbook

A cookbook?  This is more than just a cookbook, it’s a resource book and cookbook in one.   Who is this book for? Anyone who going to indulge in some cold weather activities.  Inside this book you will find some recipes (because this is a cookbook) and you will also find articles and helpful information on this climate.  Information on staying safe, what to pack for a trip, how to pick out your destination, keeping entertained, and much more.  I came across this book at the library and the book cover caught my attention.  Living in Iowa, it seems that the winters get longer each year and the snow never seems to melt fast enough for me and if there was anything inside this book which could make this season more joyous, I needed to know.

I wasn’t happy that all the illustrations inside the book were drawings, even the ones that accompanied the recipes. I like having realistic pictures of recipes that I have the possibility of making. The recipes were sectioned off into Slope Snacks, Sides and Salads, Mains, Desserts, Morning Meals, Fortifications (drinks), From Snowshoes to Slippers and a few closing sections (where to buy products, index, closing remarks). Each recipes states how many it will serve, the ingredients needed (listed in grams and cups). The instructions are listed in steps and there are also tips and a small paragraph about the recipe.  The titles of many of these recipes were long!!  Buttermilk Chicken with Roasted Lemons, Torn Sourdough, and Calabrian Chile Sauce.  That’s one recipe but it does describe the recipe.  Frosty Morning French Toast Six Tasty Twists, Chilly-quiles Rojos, Smokey the Pear, Oh, What a Nightcap, those are just a few of the recipes you will find inside this book.

Inside each of these recipe sections, you’ll find some articles which I found interesting.  From Build a Better Snowperson, Shotski, Why Can’t We Quit Thee?, Six Sweets Made with Snow, Ski Slang, Much Ado About Dumplings, etc.  I thought the Reindeer Game page was great as it gives some ideas for games to play in the snow.  I guess if you’re tired of sledding, building snow forts or making snow people or snow animals, or shoveling, these games would be fun to try.   I also liked the Six Sweets Made with Snow article and a bunch more that I found in here.  So, pick up this book if you live or are headed for a snowy climate, there’s a recipe or an article in here just calling your name.  4 stars.   

Super Spaghetti by Rebecca Donnelly

3.5 stars Children’s

I, for one, could eat spaghetti 24-7, so when I saw this title, I knew I had to read it. Is it really wonderful to be a super hero?  Is being the fastest the best?  I liked the idea of the super hero, Super Spaghetti and how he helped others.  I laughed when his mother, the inventor, created the Spaghetti-Tronic Electro-Spaghetti Zapper as I know that kids will love that machine’s name as it sounds remarkable and powerful.  Fred discovers that being Super Spaghetti is great at first but later he beings to realize that being a super hero isn’t all the terrific.  Did his mother put a reverse button on this amazing machine?

Fred loves spaghetti but cooking it takes forever so his mother, an inventor, invents a machine that cooks spaghetti super-fast. The Spaghetti-Tronic Electro-Spaghetti Zapper complete with flashing lights, loud noises can give Fred a plate of spaghetti in ten seconds.  Now, that’s amazing! Forgetting to shut the machine off, Fred returns home from a walk and as strange noises come from the machine, somehow Fred becomes Super Spaghetti.  How he becomes this super hero, I just do not know.  I feel that his attitude starts changing as now, he begins to care about others and he starts to help them. Where once he walked past the poor cat stuck in the tree, now Super Spaghetti is helping that same kitty.  It’s interesting how others start to see this new super hero.  Here is a person wrapped up in spaghetti trying to help others and they’re saying: “It’s a superhero!” “It’s a monster!” “It’s spaghetti!”  Everyone has their own perspective of him as he tries to do good. Super Spaghetti is put to the test when he hears a loud BOOM!!  Will he answer the call or try to find a reverse button on the invention and go back to being Fred?

The illustrations in this book are fantastic as they’re bright and they fill up the page.  I like how some of the pages are constructed like a graphic novel with boxes to section off different scenes without devoting a whole page to each scene.  The use of text bubbles gives the characters personality and the using of a variety of fonts and the varying of their sizes, make this book a fun book to read.  There were a few instances in the storyline that I couldn’t follow but otherwise, it’s an entertaining story.  3.5 stars 

Sunday Pancakes by Maya Tatsukawa

4.5 stars Children’s Picture Book

That’s what friends are for.  I loved how Cat’s friends helped her out when she needed them in this entertaining picture book.  It’s Cat’s tradition to have pancakes on Sunday morning but she doesn’t have all the ingredients to make them.  Calling up her friends, moonbear and rabbit, she asks if they have the missing ingredients and invites them over for breakfast.   They’re so excited to come as they arrive with what Cat needs plus other food they want to share.   They quite comical making pancakes so be ready for some fun as the three friends prepare the breakfast.  It’s a cute, sweet book to read and the simple, pastel illustrations work nicely with the story.   Don’t forget to look at the back flap of the book, for it has a recipe for pancakes.  4.5 stars   Sunday Pancakes

Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking

5 stars Cookbook

I don’t know anything about Cheryl Day but her name got positive reviews when I brought it up online.  When I think about Southern food, I think comfort food, flavor and food that I normally want more of.  There are some Southern dishes that I could do without but most of them, don’t give me a sliver, I want a full piece!

I noticed upon opening this cookbook that not all the recipes have pictures which is not good BUT this cookbook is packed FULL of recipes.  I mean packed!  So packed, that it does one of the things that I don’t like in a cookbook: the recipes flow across pages.  I know that this is probably my own pet peeve but I don’t like it when a recipe flows over onto the next page and then, this behavior continues and continues … after page.  It’s not that the recipe flows onto the back page but that a recipe flows onto the page beside it. Anyway, back to this cookbook.

There is plenty of variety in this cookbook and the illustrations are beautiful.  Cheryl organized this book to include an introduction, Southern baking rules, baking tools and equipment, hot breads and crackers, coffee cakes, loafs and Bundt cakes, muffins and scones, slow breads (breads that need time to rise), gathering cakes, layer cakes and cupcakes, pies, cookies, brownies and bars, grits and grains, custards, puddings and cobblers, jams and preserves, and basics.   This is baking, there is nothing but special goodies in here.  This is one thick book to contain nothing but sweet goodness.  I’m pretty excited to take this all in as I’m not much of a sweet baker. 

I got to know Cheryl in the introduction and this book is amazing.  I never even thought about making crackers, who makes crackers?  There is a recipe for buttermilk crackers, benne crackers, sea salt crackers and crispy cheese crackers, I’ve never even thought about making crackers, for the Keebler Elves make them for me but after seeing this recipe, I think I could try it as they look really good and they keep in the freezer up to a month!  There’s even a recipe for Red, White, and Blue Muffins, now doesn’t that sound like something fun to make.  I’m not a fan of fruitcake but Boozy Fruitcake…..I think a few people might be willing to at least try that one.  What about Strawberries and Cream Cake? Oh, yum!  Now, there is Sweet Potato Pie but Peach Lattice Pie, Blueberry Icebox Pie, and Chocolate Chess Pie, I’m liking the sounds of them.  There are recipes for making jams, marmalade, apple butter, salted caramel sauce, brown butter, and a variety of other butters too.

With each recipe, there is a paragraph about the recipe, how many the recipe will serve, an ingredients list, and step-by-step instructions.  No nutritional information is given nor do you get how much the whole recipe yields.  There are some pictures of the recipes included in this book but like I said, not every recipe.  The ones that you do get, look fresh and authentic.  There are some pictures where the food looks very realistic.  Where everything isn’t all perfect, where there are crumbs lying next to the finished dish, where the nuts have fallen off the muffins, and the food hasn’t been polished to shine.  These pictures tell me that this book has recipes that I can attempt.  With so many recipes inside the pages of this book, I’m bound to find something I can create.  What a gem!

Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

4 stars Cookbook

This is the second Barefoot Contessa cookbook I picked up and I thought this one looked a bit better than Barefoot Contessa at Home.  I noticed that this cookbook didn’t have as much fluff as the “at Home’ cookbook did and I was hoping that the Family Style would provide me more realistic dishes to prepare.

In the Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook, I found that the “everyday recipes you’ll make over and over again” were not everyday recipes for me.  Her everyday recipes were too fancy for me. My question when I opened up this cookbook was, are Ina’s “easy ideas and recipes that make everyone feel like family” actual recipes and ideas that we will use and like?  Are they family-time meal recipes or will they fancy meal recipes that we’ll make for company?  (These quotes were taken from the front of the cookbooks)

This cookbook has a bit of everything in it.  There is the simple dishes for individuals like me who like chicken stew with biscuits, oven-fried chicken, real meatballs & spaghetti, deep dish apple pie, string beans & shallots, and parmesan chicken just to name a few.  Yet, there is also garlic sauteed spinach, tiramisu, run raisin rice pudding, arugula with parmesan, lobster cobb salad, Sunday rib roast, saffron risotto with butternut squash and linguine with shrimp scampi for those who like something different. 

This cookbook has lots of different sections: Welcome Home, Planning the Meal, Starters, Salad for Lunch, Dinners, Vegetables, Desserts, Breakfast, Kids, Nine Ingredients, Ten Kitchen Tools, Menus, Credits, Index and Recipe Index.  Ina includes some personal information in the Welcome Home section and each of the recipe sections contains around 10-12 recipes.  In the Nine Ingredients section, Ina lists nine ingredients that are her favorite.  In Ten Kitchen Tools, Ina lists ten pieces of kitchen equipment that she feels individuals will use over and over again on a regular basis.  Ina puts together some of the recipes in this cookbook and creates menus for different occasions under the Menu section.  From a Winter Breakfast, to a Summer Brunch, to a Spring Lunch, Ina puts the dishes together for you.  There are 2 indexes which I like in cookbooks.  One is the general index and one is the recipe index.  Another big plus for me in this cookbook.  

For each of the recipes you will find, how many the dish will serve, a small paragraph describing the dish, a list of ingredients and step-by-step directions.  There is a picture to accompany each recipe which to me is a big plus. Sometimes she adds additional information to the recipe at the end, like additional cooking information, what to serve with the recipe, additional ingredients, etc. You will not find any nutritional information nor how much the serving size is or many total cups the whole recipe yields.  I really wish cookbooks would include either the total cups or the serving size per person as that really helps me when I am cooking.  Sometimes I can tell by looking at the list of ingredients but sometimes, it’s hard to tell.  The pictures make the recipes look delicious!  I liked that this cookbook has more recipes and these recipes looked appealing.  There were a few that looked out of my range but a majority of them were something I would try. 4 stars

Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

3 stars Cookbook

This cookbook has about a handful of recipes that I’d be willing to try but the majority of recipes are for dishes that I typically wouldn’t eat or even prepare for others at my house.  They didn’t seem everyday to me. I’m not an adventurous eater nor do I stick to a routine when it comes to recipes but I guess you could say, that I have some limitations when it comes to food.  Here are some of the dishes that I think sound delicious: Caesar club sandwich, maple baked beans, summer garden pasta, honey white bread, garlic & herb tomatoes, old-fashioned potato salad and tomato, mozzarella & pesto panini.   That left is plenty other recipes that someone else might find appealing, recipes such as parmesan-roasted cauliflower, peanut butter & jelly bars, blue cheese coleslaw, stuffed cabbage, fresh pea soup, shrimp bisque and lemon fusilli with arugula.  These are just a few examples of the many recipes that are included in this book.

Ina gives us plenty of personal information in this book beginning in the intro and at the beginning of each of the sections.  Ina has included 6 food sections in this book, an intro, a credits sections, an “if you’re visiting the hamptons” … section, a menu section, and two indexes.

The food section consists of: soup & sandwich, salads, dinner, vegetables, dessert, and breakfast.   There are 14-17 recipes included in each section.  For each recipe you will discover a picture of the prepared dish, how many the dish will serve, a small paragraph describing the dish, a list of ingredients and step-by-step directions.  There is a picture to accompany each recipe which to me is a big plus. You will not find any nutritional information nor how much the serving size is or many total cups the whole recipe yields.  I really wish cookbooks would include either the total cups or the serving size per person as that really helps me when I am cooking.  Sometimes I can tell by looking at the list of ingredients but sometimes, it’s hard to tell.  The pictures make the recipes look delicious!

In the “if you’re visiting the hamptons…” section Ina highlights some of the places in the Hamptons that are her favorites.  From farmstands, places to eat, to places to visits, there are pages listing the establishment, the address and what makes this business so special.   Using this cookbook, Ina puts together some of the recipes and creates menus for different occasions under the Menu section.  From a holiday dinner, to a birthday breakfast, to a summer BBQ, Ina puts the dishes together for you.  There are 2 indexes which I like in cookbooks.  One is the general index and one is the recipe index.  Another big plus for me in this cookbook.  For content, I would give this cookbook a 2 for me but for the other aspects that I look for in a cookbook, I would give it a 4.5.    

Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten

4 stars Cookbook

I’ve always liked Barefoot Contessa recipes and this cookbook was one that missed my radar.   After looking through the recipes, reading some of the articles and recipes, I’m glad that I picked it up from the library.  It was interesting to read how Ina got into cooking and to know that this is her 10th cookbook.  I don’t think I have read all of them yet so I’ll need to check into that next.  I liked her comment, “It doesn’t really matter what the occasion is – big or small – but it’s the connections that we have with people we love that nourish our souls.  Entertaining isn’t just about making dinner parties.  It’s about celebrating those connections and I think that’s what makes life worth living.” 

In essence, I feel this cookbook is not for me.  It recipes felt too fancy and/or the ingredients just didn’t hit my tastes.  I found only a few recipes that I would actually make.  The rest seemed to elaborate or had ingredients that I don’t care for.  Dishes like Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta, Vanilla Cream Cheese Pound Cake, Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables, Perfect Poached Lobster & Corn or Kasha Varnishkes with Wild Mushrooms are just a few of the recipes that were included in this book, that I realize I would never make.  I will say though, that the pictures in the book look very appetizing.  If I didn’t see and read the recipes, that are located on the opposite page of these pictures, I might be tempted just to try a sample of that dish.

This cookbook consists of 6 different categories: cocktails, soups, salads & lunch, dinner, vegetables & sides, bread & cheese, and finally dessert.  The book begins with a thank you and an intro and wraps up with two different indexes, a list of Jeffrey’s all time favorite dinners (which could come from outside sources) and a resource page.  All of her recipes have a picture attached to them and how many the recipe will serve.   There is a short paragraph about the recipe before the ingredient list and the instructions are listed out in paragraph form.  Ida does include some little suggestions and ideas on the margins of the recipes.  There is no nutritional information provided.

I liked the layout of this book and the text fonts that were used.  The book image inside and out is crisp and sharp and it doesn’t look cluttered.  I wished there would have been more recipes that I liked though.  4 stars  

Big Love Cooking: 75 Recipes for Satisfying, Shareable Comfort Food by Joey Campanaro and Theresa Gambacorta

5 stars Cooking

I loved the cover of this cookbook from the moment my eyes caught a glance at it.  That dish on the cover was definitely calling my name and the title caught my eye.  The title never promised me anything, in fact, the author was giving me something personal and I had to see if they were really something I wanted.

I liked immediately how the book was printed on bright white, heavy paper. To me, the heavy paper and the bright paper give off an upscale and elegant appearance.   Although there weren’t as many pictures of the recipes as I would have liked, those that were present, looked fresh and delicious.  I felt as if there were about 1 picture for every 4 recipes in this book which was disappointing. 

In this book, you will find a Foreword, Introduction, Big Love Pantry (flours, spices, cheeses, pasta, etc.), Big Love Cooking Essentials (kitchen tools & gadgets), 8 Chapters of recipes, Afterwards, Acknowledgments, and an excellent Index. In each chapter, you’ll find some personal information about that chapter’s topic and a list of recipes with page numbers at the beginning.  I have to say, this book is very personal and I enjoyed reading about this famous chef and his various topics.  Opening up his family pictures to us, we’re allowed to get a look inside at his family and see how they inspired him and what their life is like today. There are 8 chapters in this book: Brunch, Soups and Salads, Vegetables, Pasta, Meat and Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Sunday Supper, and Dessert. 

Each recipe has a list of ingredients needed, how many it was make, and how to prepare it, in paragraph form.  The ingredients are listed in metric also (1 cup (140 g) whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup (45 g) fresh blueberries).  Looking over the ingredients for these comfort dishes, I see that they’re not complicated, “there’s no wild goose chase here,” for what the author states is true.  They’re made from “fresh ingredients that are readily available at the supermarket,” which I see is true, for the most part.  Some of the items may be seasonal and some items may depend on where you shop, but most items I can find at my local store. 

I thought the commentary before each recipe was interesting.  These personal stories felt as if he was actually talking to me, giving me advice about the recipe. Sometimes his personal touch continued into the recipe when I read the recipe and he’d mention why something was done a certain way or he’d mentioned options and tell me the difference between the options.  I liked that. So, what did I find? Snickerdoodles with Salted Carmel, Monday Baked Ziti (I love pasta), Little Owl Gravy Meatball Sliders (I have to try these as he mentions them a lot), Little Owl Pork Chops with Parmesan Butter Beans, Chicken Cacciatore, Fontina Sausage Biscuits, (there’s a bunch more).  This cookbook looks doable, I can’t wait to get started.  5 stars    

Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for providing a copy of this book for me to review in exchange for an honest opinion.           

Good for You: Bold Flavors with Benefits. 100 recipes for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets by Akhtar Nawab

4 stars Cookbook

What I notice first about this cookbook is the cover.  The cover is a thick cardboard with a slick glossy cover.  I thought this was different and I liked that.  This cover is thick, I mean really thick, there is no way that I would be able to fold a corner of this cover without realizing it and I hope that the slick cover would keep stains off it. 

I noticed that all the pictures included in this cookbook look fantastic.  Bright and detailed, these pictures popped off the page and had me searching to see what ingredients were lying on that plate.  I had no idea what Mojo de Ajo was or what I would do with My Mexican Marinade but the pictures made me want to figure it out.  Not every recipe had a picture to accompany it, I’d estimate about half or 1/3 of the recipes had pictures.  It’s a shame though because the pictures just might get someone to try something new.

Upon opening this book, you’ll find a detailed Table of Contents. There are 8 sections: Foundations (marinades, sauces, pastes, etc.), Breakfast, Sandwiches & Salads, Soups & Stews, Dinners, Sides, Desserts, Aiolos, Dressings, Salsas, & & Chutneys in this book.  In this index, each section is listed, with corresponding recipes under it.  There are between 7- 18 recipes per section.  It states what page the recipe is on and they marked each recipe with an abbreviation if it falls within one of their special categories.  The special categories are GF = Gluten Free, DF = Dairy Free, VG = Vegetarian, V = Vegan.  All recipes have at least 1 special category attached to it while some have 2 or 3 of them.  

All of the recipes have some information about the recipe, how many it serves, an ingredient list, and paragraphs on how to prepare it (not step-by-step directions (1)(2)(3)).  Some of the recipes include Good to Know information about the recipe which will help you understand more about the dish that you are preparing. There is no nutritional value information for the recipes.    

The Mexican Roast Chicken with Crispy Skin looked amazing and I can imagine with the My Mexican Marinade, the oregano and the other ingredients, I’d be adding this one to my menu.  My Mexican Marinade is a recipe that I’m going to have to try. Garlic, oregano, chilies, pepper, and a few other ingredients, I think I could use this on chicken and pork.  The Chicken and Black Bean Chili is another one that quickly caught my eye.  There are quite a few healthy dishes in this cookbook, dishes made with cauliflower, fish, vegetables, and nuts. 

This is a personal book as Akhtar tells us a lot about himself in these pages.  From the Foreword to the Introduction, to the other pages where he adds detailed information about his life, he lets us all in on his little secrets.  If you’re into healthy cooking, this would a cookbook to check out.  I saw this cookbook on NetGalley and the cover caught my attention.  I wished that it had more pictures as I would have liked to see more of the recipes.   4 stars