Skinnytaste One and Done: 140 No-Fuss Dinners for Your Instant Pot®, Slow Cooker, Air Fryer, Sheet Pan, Skillet, Dutch Oven, and More by Gina Homolka

5 stars Cookbook

What a terrific book!  I love a good cookbook and Skinnytaste’s recipes are ones that I know are great on flavor and good on my health.  I don’t have all of the equipment that this cookbook pertains to (instant pot, pressure cooker) but that’s alright.  Some of the recipes give alternative ways to cook the dish, should you not have the proper kitchen cookware.  The recipes in this cookbook look amazing, the ingredients are typical items that I would normally buy, and these are dishes that I would normally prepare during the week.  Sure, there are some recipes that I could prepare for company or for a holiday but these recipes aren’t strictly for high heel and champagne occasions. 

At the beginning of this book, the author mentions each type of kitchen cookware featured in this book. In this one-pot cookbook, Gina covers the basics for each of these options from how to buy them to how to use them.  As I read this section, I thought it was very informative and I learned a few things.  I liked how she broke things down and it gave me an idea of what I should be looking for in the future. 

The cookbook is sectioned off, according to each of the different cookware.  It begins with the Skillet, then onto Sheet Pan & Baking Dish, Pressure Cooker, Air Fryer, Dutch Oven, Slow Cooker, and ends with Grill Pan & Grill.  Each section has an index at the beginning which I felt was very helpful.  I enjoyed seeing all the recipes for that section listed out with their page number and their corresponding-colored dots (see below). There has to be over 15 recipes for each of the different sections in this book. 

Each recipe comes with a brief note about the recipe, the serving size, how many this recipe will serve, the nutritional value of the recipe, an ingredients list, and step-by-step instructions.  There’s also a key on each recipe as to whether it’s: quick (30 minutes or less), vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, or freezer friendly.  Most recipes have 2-4 of these markers (little colored dots) on them.  If you need weight-watchers’ points for the recipes, you can get those on her website.  Most of the recipes get a two-page spread in this book where one side is the recipe and one side is a photograph of the prepared dish.  There might also be additional notes on the page about helpful suggestions or an alternative way to prepare the dish. 

The first recipe in this cookbook caught my attention, right away.  Fiesta Chicken and Carrot Rice sounded interesting and the photograph looked delicious!  The Lazy Veggie Lasagna, and the Spinach, Bacon, and Cheddar Hasselback Chicken looked super good in the photographs.  And yes, this is a healthy cookbook and I did say bacon.  Mom’s Skillet Chicken Pot Pie with 1/8 of a serving at 333 calories. I couldn’t get past the Carne Asada Fries – yum!  2 cups of fries at 19 grams of fat and 456 calories.  I’ll take fries any day. Let’s not forget the soup.  American-Style Cheesy Beef Goulash and Macaroni and the Creamy Cheddar-Broccoli Soup.  Did I mention the Stromboli, the chicken nuggets, or the calzones?  A fantastic index rounds out this book.  This book is a beauty, it’s definitely a keeper! 5 stars

Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor by Kate Messner

3.5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

The illustrations inside this book are what makes this book for me. I like everything about them from the color selection, to the details included in them, to how simple the designs really are.  I also liked how the book addressed Covid-19. When I think of Anthony Fauci, I think of Covid-19, for he was the one who talked to me on the news about this pandemic and he seemed to know what was really happening. Many pages of this book addressed Anthony’s part in the Covid-19 crisis.

I thought this book was okay.  I was hoping it would have a lot more personal or entertaining information about Anthony than it did.  I thought the book contained a majority of general information about him.  Information that seemed boring or trivial.  I did find a few pieces of information that I thought, gave me an inside look at who Anthony really was. 

The book mentions some of Anthony’s attributes that began when he was child which have helped him as an adult.  Anthony loved playing basketball but he was short individual.  Determined to play, Anthony found that his speed and his ability to communicate would be his way to contribute to this game.  Anthony’s determination was also a huge asset.  Having these qualities also helped Anthony survive in the tough neighborhood that he lived in.

The book in general, gives general information and walks the reader through how Anthony found his way working on some of the toughest diseases in our nation.  It’s a book that shows children where it all began for Anthony and that anyone, can reach for the stars, if you keep reaching.

There is a lot of other pages full of added material, in the back of the book.  There are some pages dedicated to “How Do Vaccines Work?” Are Vaccines Safe?’  “Dr. Faucis’ Five Tips for Future Scientists.”  There’s also a timeline of some of Fauci’s milestones, a page of recommended reading, and a sources page.  A few pages of black-n-white photos of Anthony with a short author’s notes and acknowledgements, rounds out this book. 3.5 stars    

The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner

5 stars Nonfiction

I’m not bat savvy so I needed this book.  I thought I knew a few things about them and I knew I had some “deceptions” about them but now, I feel knowledgeable.  In our neighborhood at night, you can see a few bats soaring in the sky come dusk.  I’m grateful that they’re eating the insects yet, I’m also thinking how dirty those little guys are and how I don’t want them to get tangled up in my hair.  At least now, after reading this book, I feel educated and grateful that they picked our air space to do their hunting.

I have to share this eye-opening moment for me first.  I never realized that bats pollinate. Bees, yes but bats?  It makes sense but I never really thought about it until I read about it in the book.  A few pages were focused on this topic and I guess looking back over the years, pollination was always about bees and birds. 

I enjoyed this book immensely as I do with most DK books.  The paper is the thick matte finish which compliments the illustrations/text.  I think the paper provides a richness to the book and will hold up better over time.  The illustrations are fantastic, with their convincing drawings that pull your eyes in to pagefuls of helpful information.  I liked the contrasting text colors and the use of graphs, text boxes, and the how everything is labeled and arranged. 

I found plenty of information inside this book which was presented in an easy-to-read format.   From different types of bats and their body types, to why they are so important, to myths about them, the author gives us plenty to think about.  A great book! 5 stars    

Every Minute is a Day: A Doctor, An Emergency Room and a City Under Seige by Robert Meyer MD

5 stars Nonfiction

I know, I know, I know.  People are tired of hearing about Covid but I really wanted to hear from someone different.  Someone who actually worked on the front lines, in an area different than my own and I wanted to hear his own words about what he experienced and witnessed with his own eyes.  I really enjoyed this book, in fact, the book exceeded my expectations.  At first, I hesitated on reading it, afraid it might contain difficult medical jargon but the book was very down-to-earth.

This book centers on Montefiore Health System in Harlem which serves about 1.5 million people annually.  With their staff including their medical students, their facilities including their modern equipment, they feel that there’s no better equipped hospital to serve Covid patients than their building.  Within one month of receiving their first Covid patient, the hospital gets control of the situation but there’s no end in sight.  They were able to manage the shortages that came with the demand of this illness while still providing what they could to their patients and staff.  The hospital experienced highs along with the lows while they provided care for their patients, those highs amongst all the chaos and despair provided hope and strength for another day. 

There were many references that I enjoyed in this book, remarks that stood out as I read them.  The first one referred to how the hospital dealt with the crisis.  This state of mind continues today as officials examine the booster vaccine.  The doctors learned as they go. They learned about the illness from others, they learned from doing something different, and they learned from going outside-the-box. This illness is new, it’s something our society has not dealt with before.  This is a new crisis- there are no set rules, there is no handout to follow, no set procedures in place.  We are creating the handout and the rules as the days on the calendar move forward and unfortunately, as people get sick, die, and refused to believe that this illness really exists.  The second comment that stuck with me was how the medical staff put everything on hold while they dealt with Covid. How will that effect our future?  What will happen if we encounter another untreatable illness?  I stop and think about the implications of this time?  What has this done to us as a nation and to us around the world? Has this united us or tore us apart?  According to a few surveys, our children’s education has suffered.  That’s our future.  How long will we continue to argue and battle what is “right?”

There was a wake-up moment in Harlem when other colleagues in other areas of the hospital started to offer their help.  Months earlier they’ve been too scared to help but now, they see how things are not letting up and they feel the need to pitch in but how? They don’t have the training to work in the ER.  The emergency doctors took them, they trained them on something/anything that they thought they could do, they needed another pair of hands, someone to provide some relief.  These newly trained ER staff members thought they were scared before, well working on the front lines now, they’re realizing just how bad Covid really is.

I didn’t expect a happy story and I found myself crying a few times while I read this book, the emotional toil and the personal stories hit me.  You never knew how things would turn out.  An image that stayed with me as I read this book was the person lying in the hospital, just waiting, all alone.  Imagine yourself lying there, alone, isolated, no TV or entertainment, all you hear is the constant beeping of the monitors all around you and the noises of the staff as they scramble to assist the others that are lying nearby.  How do you feel?  Sick, helpless, defeated, worried, deflated…..

It’s a crisis that’s hitting every continent and not everyone is able or willing to stop/control it.  You need to be able to live your life, not just survive but live.  We need to remember all of those who have died, what we have learned through these individuals, and we need to honor those who have helped us along the way. 

It’s a great read and one that I highly recommend.  I appreciate the two cousins getting together and sharing this story with us and although, I haven’t witnessed it firsthand, I have heard enough stories from friends and loved ones that I don’t want to nor do I need to, to understand how serious this crisis is. Emergency medicine is constantly changing and you have to remember that no one has all the answers yet. Stay well everyone.  5 stars

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

4 stars Memoir

This memoir covered a lot of ground but there seemed to be one common thread: Michelle wanted to connect with her heritage. As her mother prepared her traditional Korean dishes, Michelle stood by, trying to comprehend everything that was playing-out before her.  Michelle wanted to please her mother, she wanted her mother to be proud of her and food was going to be her stage.  If only she could please her mother, the pieces would fit together and so she persisted. 

Michelle is Korean-White and we do meet her father in the book.  We hear more about him in the second half of the book whereas the first part of the book, he worked his job and he liked his drink.     

I didn’t know much about this book when I went into it, except that it was a fairly popular book.  I think the driving force about the book for me was how much Michelle, a bi-racial woman, was trying to connect with her mother. Michelle felt a void in her life, her mother would be the one to fill it.   

It was going well and then, they hit a road block.  Mom was diagnosed with a form of cancer and everything, I mean everything changes.  Time, energy, emotions, space, and values have to reevaluated.  What has the highest priority?  It’s not as if anyone’s desires have changed but now: new necessities have become the top priority.   

This was an interesting and honest story and I appreciate Michelle sharing her story.

The Bee Book by Charlotte Miler

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

Let’s talk about bees.  What do you really know about bees and what do you think you know about bees?  I think that most people know that bees make honey and that there’s a queen bee, a drone bee and worker bees in a hive.  Did you know that there’s hundreds of drone bees in a hive and that they only live a few weeks?  Did you know that the queen bee typically lives 5 years and that she’s the mother to most of the bees in the hive? I thought the worker bees were busy, but the queen bee, she lays about 2,000 eggs a day!  Welcome to just one page inside this fantastic book by Charlotte Milner.  With the bee population dwindling, reading about these fascinating creatures made me realize just how important they really are. 

With bright colorful illustrations this book is full and I mean, full of information!!  Upon opening the book, there is a Table of Content which consists of a list of comments or questions pertaining to bees with a corresponding page number.  Thumbing through the book, I love just looking at all the different illustrations on the pages and reading the text that accompanies them.  Some of these are just fast-facts about bees and some provided more detailed reading but they’re not long reports on bees that slow me down or overwhelm me.  At the back of the book, there’s a great index too.  Did I mention how wonderful the illustrations are and how bright and colorful the pages are?

I can learn about pollination, why pollination is important, what a honeybee is, where honey comes from, and tons of information on the honeybee’s hives.  I can learn about the different types of bees that are needed inside a hive, why the bee population is dying and what I can do to help the bees survive.  I can also read about bee swarms which sound like a horrible thing but according to the brief summary, they usually aren’t.

This is a wonderful book.  It’s a book worth keeping and definitely, one worth sharing.  I’m sure that everyone will learn something from this book unless of course, you’ve been studying bees for years.  So, where does a honeybee store the nectar that it collects before he goes back to the nest?  How many eyes does the honeybee have?  Why does he have so many?   Can the female honeybee sting you?  Better get reading to find these answers.

2 x 2 = Boo! A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories by Loreen Leedy

4 stars Nonfiction Picture Book

 A cute picture book about math featuring some Halloween characters.  I liked the way the math facts are presents in the book, the repetition of the same number so the child can see a pattern taking place and I liked how the illustrations reinforce that same scenario.  I like how each chapter is devoted to one specific number.   The way that the characters try to explain multiplication is not confusing but give the reader a visual, a number sentence and an explanation.   Great illustrations also.   This book only covers the multiplication facts from 1-5 so don’t expect something like 1 x 7 because the highest this book covers is 5 x 5.  This is not a scary book, if you are worried about that.

Rock Art! Painting and Crafting with the Humble Pebble by Denise Scicluna

5 stars Nonfiction

 The cover of this book caught my eye at the library so I picked it up and brought it home.  I love the idea of painting rocks and leaving them for others to find.  I think this would be a great activity to do over the winter and then leave them when the weather starts turning nice in the spring.  This book covers a lot of different ideas from animals, mandalas, portraits, monsters, hearts, mice, butterflies, trucks, feathers fish, lines, funny faces, sea things, fruit, ABC’s, balloons and even pets.  I liked that the book shows you step-by-step instructions on how to make each of the rocks. and what you will need to make them.  Each of the ideas is presented in a two-page spread. 

There is also a section of how to find rocks, what you will need to paint them, how to make your own clay rock, how to even help shape up the rocks that you found, how to use the rocks that you have created, and there is a nice index in the back.   If I look at one idea of this book, the pets: I see I can make the 3D animals and it shows the step-by-step directions for the hedgehog.  The page also shows illustrations for a lion, a bunny, and a sleeping cat.  These really are 3D as you painting the whole rock.

I see that Denise has some other rock painting books available that I’m going to try to hunt down as now, I have some great ideas and I want more!  I’ve bought a bag of stone rocks at the garden center so I think I’m on my way to decorating some rocks when the time comes.  This is a fun, detailed book and I’m glad that I stubbled across it! 

Growing Up: Caterpillar to Butterfly by Stephanie Fitzgerald

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

I have no idea why my library chose to put this book under the Easy section of the children’s library.  This is definitely a non-fiction book with a capital N and I will definitely bring this to their attention.  There was a lot to love about this children’s nonfiction book and being a newly butterfly nature lover, I’m all over this book.

Within the past couple years, we have planted butterfly bushes and have witnessed the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly firsthand.  I can tell you; this has been a truly remarkable and rewarding experience.  I never thought in my 50+ years of life, I would be having sleepless nights over aphids and buying ladybugs in the mail but now, I can say I have.   I like to find children’s books that talk about incredible process as I think children need to understand this process and if possible, witness this journey firsthand, as it’s part of nature unfolding.

I liked that this book is 32 pages of some incredible illustrations and the variety of text fonts makes this book fun to read.  The book begins with a Table of Contents listing exactly what you’re going to be reading about, from what a butterfly is, to the life cycle of the butterfly, to butterfly facts, and a glossary and an index in the back.  The text is big and bold and the illustrations give great captions of interesting information. 

This is one book that can be used as a great reference over and over again as you learn about butterflies and one that will never get old.    This is definitely one that you need to get a hold of and read – I highly recommend it!

” A caterpillar has 4,000 muscles in its body. People have about 650.”

“Threats to the butterfly change depending on the stage of its life cycle.”

Kate the Chemist: The Awesome Book of Edible Experiments for Kids by Kate Biberdorf,

4.5 stars nonfiction children’s

I was all excited about another Kate, the Chemist book but I felt confused as I looked inside to see what types of experiments, she was featuring this time.  I hoped it wasn’t filled with slime recipes but I wasn’t expecting tomato sauce, chocolate chip cookies, defrosting berries, and creating pretzels bites.  Perhaps the title of the book threw me off and reading her last book which had another edible experiment.  To me, these weren’t experiments, they were recipes that turned into experiments based on how you went about preparing them. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horrible book, it’s just that I was expecting something totally different.  This book focuses on why something works in a recipe.  While doing this, it also provides alternative methods (more experiments) to achieve this result.  Take for example the Banana Bread Experiment.  To make great banana bread, you usually need overripen, sweet bananas, but what if you only have yellow bananas?  Kate has an experiment for this recipe that has the reader doing 3 different methods for ripening your yellow bananas, so you can make the bread.  You’re recording your results as you perform the 3 different experiments. Once you get your results, you can continue on with the rest of the Banana Bread Experiment.

For each of the chapters, Kate provides a brief note about the project, a messiness level (most were 2 out of 3), a list of materials needed, whether you need: oven mitts, latex gloves, an adult, wonderful step-by-step instructions with fantastic illustrations, a What Do You Think? Section, and a How It Works: section. 

Each chapter is its own experiment (recipe).  I can’t say enough about how organized and detailed each chapter is.  That is what I love about Kate’s books, she is very detailed-oriented.  The illustrations are in color and the directions are detailed, with easy-to-understand language.   The What Do You Think? section asks the reader a handful of thought-provoking questions about what they have done and has them think about what might happen had they done something else.  I really enjoyed the How It Works section as it goes into detail about why this experiment does its job.  This section is quite lengthy which is why I like it also.  This section is not a bunch of scientific words but it explains the science behind why the reaction occurred which might be overwhelming to some young readers.  You could have an older individual read this section and explain it to a younger child so they could understand it.    

I liked reading why these experiments worked as I found it interesting and cooking can be fun, if you make it fun.  I feel that some children will be like me and be shocked when they open the book and see what each chapter is about.  I’m afraid they will see the book as a cookbook and they’ll want to pass on it while others will love it.  If you haven’t seen Kate before, I suggest you check her out.  She’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and online.  This is a great book; I just wished the title was something else.  4.5 stars