Cookbook review: Cooking for Jeffrey

Ina Garten’s tenth book was released at the end of last year, and it was dedicated to cooking for her husband Jeffrey.  Beginning with the introduction to the book and continuing with each chapter, Ina shares photos and stories of her love of cooking, her business, and her life with her husband. Included in the book is a list of Jeffrey’s all time favorite dinners, suggestions for items to stock in a pantry, as well as selected tools for a starter kitchen or for a professional kitchen.

As with any of Ina’s books, the colorful food photography is lovely and her down to earth instructions are charming. So many of the dishes just beg to be prepared, as the ingredient combinations sound delicious.

Thankful to receive this book as a Christmas gift, I will be cooking this year from the pages and sharing with my family and friends. Like Ina, I agree that cooking for others is what cooking is all about–sharing the love and the community of meals.

Cookbook review: The Forest Feast

One of my favorite gifts this past Christmas, The Forest Feast cookbook, is a vegetarian book filled with photographs and illustrations by the artist/author.  This is a very creative book and not a standard cookbook.  I love the character of the drawings and the colorful large photographs that cover the pages of this book. In 240 pages, the author covers appetizers, cocktails, salads, vegetable dishes, and sweets.

I look forward to making purple mashed potatoes, polenta portobellos, strawberry cucumber ribbon salad, butternut caprese, polka-dot focaccia, and even asparagus straws.  Each unique recipe is beautifully and simply presented.  There are only a few ingredients to each of these recipes, with mostly every recipe to be completed in just three steps.

This New York Times bestseller by Erin Gleeson is one to check out and enjoy.  I can’t wait.

Cookbook review: Big American Cookbook

For the past few weeks since Christmas, I have been reading and studying several new cookbooks that I received as gifts last year.  I was thrilled to receive Mario Batali’s latest book.  This tome contains 250 recipes from around the United States. In nearly 500 pages, this book catalogs basic recipes from throughout the country, including the Gulf Coast, the Pacific Coast and the Deep South.

Photographs in this book are full color for every recipe and full size covering the pages with brilliant photographic representation.  The food stories and presentation is nothing less than spectacular.  Each regional section of the book includes a nice summary of the history of the locals foods with highlights of the roadside treasures.

Not one of these recipes looks complicated.  Not one of these recipes looks pretentious. These are down to earth classics from regional home cooks that participated in state fairs and local neighborhood clubs.

Some of the most interesting recipes to me include: broiled rock shrimp cocktail, black and white cookies, pralines, and Trenton tomato pie. There are more than a dozen other recipes that I can’t wait to experience. The Bananas Foster recipe reminds me of the year we lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. And, we have so many wonderful food memories from living there.

If you enjoy down home cooking and like to sample foods from around the country, this is the perfect book for you.  Not too many ideas taken from any one region, and such a variety to put together a delicious meal for guests and family members. It would be fun to plan a “trip around the country pot luck meal” for a book club or other couples group using this book.  So many ideas!

creamy tomato pasta with shrimp

another one of my favorite cookbook authors is Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.  this recipe come from her New York Times bestselling cookbook–The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  in this book, Ree shares a recipe from her sister, which is truly delicious.  i love the creamy tomato taste, along with the shrimp and herbs.  the ingredients were simple, and the cooking process comes together very easily.  i substituted traditional penne pasta with a vegetable pasta for added nutrients and flavor.


to make the recipe:  boil 2 cups of penne pasta and drain. peel and devein about 8 ounces of shrimp. in a large skillet, add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of oil, and cook the shrimp.  remove the shrimp to a plate.



next, chop one white onion. add one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon oil to the skillet.  next, add the onion and minced garlic to taste.  cook about three minutes on medium heat, and add 1/2 cup white wine. cook another minute, and add one 14.5 ounce tomato sauce and stir.  reduce heat to low and simmer.  add one cup of heavy cream. ( i used fat-free half and half) whisk to incorporate. while it is cooking on low, remove the tails from the shrimp, and if large enough, cut into segments.

next, add parsley and basil to taste, along with salt and pepper.  i used dried herbs, but fresh would be even better.  add the shrimp to combine.


add the cooked and drained pasta.  stir to coat. if sauce is too thick, add some milk and additional seasonings if desired.  serve with shaved Parmesan cheese on top, along with crusty bread and a salad.  your guests will love this dish.



cookbook reading on a cold day


winter is here to stay.  however, over the years i have been collecting a library of cooking and gardening books that i treasure.  i would have to say that i truly enjoy my book collection.  and when the weather is frightful, i simply resort to reading.  yes, i do read cookbooks.

i heard Martha Stewart answer a question recently, with this response.

“what have you been reading lately?”  and her response, “seed packets.”   i loved that.  i am not a fiction reader, i do read food, garden and home magazines.  but, i don’t favor novels. and i read cooking, gardening and home decorating books.

my collection covers books written in the eighties to today.  i have Martha’s first entertaining book and many books that are no longer in print.  the books are filled with ideas that i have used over the years in my home, and many recipes that i have tried with my family.  i keep notes in all of these books, with comments on how the recipes actually worked out.  some books have other information that i have saved to compliment information in the text.

if you don’t have a library yet, start one today.  i don’t think a kindle library is the same.  my books are kept in my library on the first floor of my home, but other rooms also contain various collections of books on display.  they are beautiful decorations to the home, and i promise you will enjoy them over the years.

i certainly hope our modern technology will not eliminate the production of good quality books for our home shelves.  i just love them so.


New Orleans cookbooks


New Orleans is known for restaurants, food, cooking, and of course their cookbooks. since i am a cooking enthusiast, i was enamored by the selection of specialty cookbooks. each store had a different selection.  the books were filled with recipes from the gulf coast. seafood chapters with recipes on crab dips and soups, crawfish fettuccine and jambalaya, stews and catfish gee gee were highlighted.

shrimp dips and gumbos, barbecued shrimp and shrimp molds–boiled crab and crab Mornay were featured. it seems that every restaurant is willing to share their secrets in a book.  i already have a personally signed book by Emeril, probably one of the more noted chefs from New Orleans. his book is filled with bayou recipes and even expanded entrees of quail, lamb and duck.

i must admit that i have made many recipes over the years from his book, but not from his seafood chapter.  however, i have made his buttermilk biscuits, corn muffins, and sesame vegetables.

regional cooking in America has always fascinated me and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. with this recent trip, i have decided to be a bit more adventurous and am contemplating my next recipe experiment.

roasted carrot fries


OK, so it is the beginning of the new year 2014, and once again we are being really conscious of our eating patterns.  however, this recipe from MAD HUNGRY CRAVINGS is one that fits into my usual healthy cooking style.  these carrots are not fried in any way, shape or manner.  they are simply sliced thin, and by using very hot oven temperatures become sweet and delicious.

i used about three average sized carrots for this recipe.  i sliced them as thin as possible by hand, and placed them on a baking sheet with about two tablespoons olive oil at most.  i also sprayed the tops of the carrots with cooking spray.  next, i seasoned the carrots with sea salt and a bit of red pepper flakes.  the carrots were in a single layer on the baking sheet, and roasted at 400 degrees in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes.  i did check on them part way through the cooking process, and i recommend doing that based on your own oven performance.

Lucinda Scala Quinn recommends also trying parsnips for this recipe, which i did not have available this past week.  if you are not familiar with Quinn, she has been a chef and is the executive food editor of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.  i have come to like her style of cooking and will share more of her recipes in the coming weeks.