Saturday, May 30, 2015

Anna Jones-- A Modern Way to Eat

 A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones came out in April, and it is my current cookbook crush.

I can't help compare the styling to Twenty Dinners, that I reviewed a few weeks ago. They are both matte, not a glossy page in sight. They both share a similar moody, sort of graywashed editing. I love the look of both cookbooks. A Modern Way to Eat has more feminine touches, vases of flowers and cute serving platters. I think the biggest flaw in A Modern Way to Eat is the cover. I know that Jamie Oliver is a big name-- and that having his praise boldly proclaimed on the cover might draw some readers. I thought the huge orange bubble really took away from the cover. It would have looked so much better on the back- with the picture spreading across the length of the cover. That is just my personal opinion. Anna really shines throughout the  book and I think she deserves shine on the cover too.

Now on to the food.... Oh the food. I am just a mom, a home chef who cooks for her family. Whether critics or chefs like the book, I don't know. I, however, love this cookbook. Big time. I don't know If I have ever planned on making so many recipes out of a cookbook- and there are over 200 here. As you can see, I couldn't contain my excitement and started putting tabs on all the pages I planned to make. I just continually found myself surprised and delighted by the book.
Most of the recipes are fairly simple and very accessible. It's likely you have all the ingredients needed to make these dishes-- maybe with an additional quick trip to the garden or farmer's market. The recipes are just so creative, she pairs things together in a way I would have never imagined.

The book has breakfast recipes, snacks or quick lunches, soups, salads, laid back suppers, hearty dinners, sides, desserts, bread and drinks. She breaks up the book with an occasional informative page like this one-- featuring ways to put a soup 
together. There are a few of these pages, where she gives additional recipe ideas- or insight into how she builds a recipe. I loved these informative little interludes.

One of my favorite sections of the book was her genius desserts. I love dessert. For the most part my family is refined-sugar and gluten free (to be real, we cheat occasionally) . This has been great for our health, but pretty depressing in the kitchen department. Baking is such a joy for me but now I feel like I spend most of my energy converting recipes into things I can actually eat. Sometimes it's a disaster, sometimes it's amazing but it's usually a pain. Anna has done all the hard work here. Most of these recipes require no tweaking from me. They are ready to make HALLELUJAH. For instance, the double chocolate cloud cake- sweetened by maple syrup and a banana, using spelt and almond flour- I have those things, I could actually make this recipe! There are many creative, delicious looking desserts I can't wait to make. 

I think those two words sum up this cookbook pretty nicely, creative and delicious. I plan on getting some serious use out of this cookbook. It has me daydreaming about the day when my garden is bursting with tomatoes and zucchini. A Modern Way to Eat is a tasty way to eat!

Book courtesy of Blogging for Books

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tryazon Gourmet du Village Dipping Party

This weekend I got the opportunity to host a Tryazon party with 

Gourmet du Village! They sent out TONS of dip packages and chips to go along with it. This was a super fun party. My husband grilled hamburgers and I made up the dip and sides.

I made two dips-- One was Chipolte Garlic and the other Bacon Cheddar. They were super easy to make, each recipe called for sour cream, cream cheese, mayo and cheese. All you have to do is add in the flavoring pouch and bake.
I put them in the oven for about 18m, and then under the broiler for just a moment to get the cheese extra bubbly. I made up a cracker tray and added some fresh vegetables to the mix. The dips were so rich, I thought the fresh veggies were a really nice addition. My favorite combo of the night was the halved mini peppers filled with the chipolte garlic dip! So good!! The romaine hearts were also really good as little dip boats.
It was fun to see people go back again and again to the dip table. These were a serious hit and perfect bbq food! We ate out on the lawn and enjoyed a warm evening. I had to ask myself "why don't I do this more often??" It's so easy with the bbq. I get a few things ready in the kitchen and then all the cooking is done outside. Kids and friends aren't packed in the house but can roam all around the property and play. I foresee lots of get-togethers this summer! The gourmet du village were a great low maintenance party food. I think they would work at different venues, as casual as a group of friends barbecuing or something more formal. A big thanks to Tryazon for this fun opportunity to party!

The day before the party I made a soup in the crock-pot. It had chicken, red pepper, zucchini, celery and carrots. The broth had a some cream cheese and heavy cream in it. The flavors were really good, but I felt like it needed a little something extra. I added a package of the caramelized onion dip-- The flavor was awesome. It really added a lot to the soup. I topped it with cilantro and bacon. I like that the dip mixes are so versatile. You don't necessarily have to use them in dip!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Twenty Dinners by Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor

I wonder when I stopped buying cookbooks? For the longest time I was constantly looking for new cookbooks to buy. New or used, each one was brought home and put to work. Somewhere along the line, I just stopped adding to my collection. I guess because they can be so expensive. Who needs the cookbook when thousands of blogs are full of recipes? But it seems all my favorite recipes are in my old cookbooks-- and when hours of scouring the internet for recipes fails me, I inevitably flip through my books.

There is just something about the look and feel of a good cookbook and ascetically, this one ranks among the best. The cover and pages are all matte, which I think gives the book a richness. The color palette throughout is sort of moody and dark, but it doesn't lack vibrancy. The experience of flipping through it, touching the sturdy pages, you just can't recreate that online.

It isn't just beautiful either, the book inspires in many other ways. I loved the introduction by both of the authors and I thought it gave one a good sense of what they were about. Ithai and Chris encourage the reader to "tear the book apart- write in the margins, cross things out, change things around". I love that.  Don't just belabor over every direction, make the food your own.

The book is separated in four sections, meals for fall, winter, spring and summer. Each section has seasonally appropriate ingredients and cooking methods. Some meals are more complicated than others, but all have a main dish, a variety of sides and a simple dessert. They also have a paired drink with the meals. The serving size varies sometimes only 4, but other times up to 14.

Some recipes I felt were outside my reach. I don't have a good source for duck, so I doubt I will ever make the pan roasted duck breast. For the most part, whenever a ingredient that is not easily accessible is called for, a substitution is suggested as well. My favorite recipes were the sides. Many were simple but very creative. For instance the carrot, parsley and pomegranate salad, something I would never think of- but so easy to make.

There were also sections about things like the home bar and coffee. Just little extra tidbits for the reader. Also included in the back of the book is a section on techniques, terms and handy advice. Here you will find practical advice like how to blanch or what arroser means-- and that failure is an option and not the end of the world.

I found the book very inspiring and a good reminder of how important it is to gather, cook and eat. This is the sort of thing I live for. Cooking with friends can be magical, creating memories and not just food. I cook often with a close friends and we always reminisce, 'remember that time you made all those pies at midnight? Remember when we grilled that tuna or the cake disaster?' I love that now my kids can make those memories with me. This book has given me some new recipes to share with those I love. I know that I will be flipping through it time and time again. I am so pleased to own it and have it in my collection.    

book courtesy of Blogging for Books

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Contours Bravo 3-in-1

My daughter is beginning potty training.

Armed with cute underpants, chocolate chips and determination--- all we needed was a good potty chair. After potty training my son I quickly got rid of our other chair. It was a pain to clean and pretty much useless. Along came the Bravo. The Bravo 3-in-1 potty is well thought out and designed. The potty chair disassembles and can be used from the earliest potty training days, to well beyond. Beyond the main potty chair the seat can be used as a trainer and the base as a stool. We have the aqua color, which I think is great for a girl or a boy. The color also works well in our bathroom

For me, ease of cleaning the chair is a HUGE deal. This chair comes apart easily and fits together seamlessly. There is even a soft splash guard you can attach for little boys. I am sure this helps keep the spray down. The chair is made of a soft, smooth plastic. It cleans easily and doesn't hold onto odors.

The trainer fit perfectly on out toilet seat and easily clipped on. I like that it gave a little extra support for littles. If you have a child who is nervous on the potty, this would certainly add a sense of security. The back comes up higher and gives them something to rest on and hold onto.

The step stool is simply the white base of the potty. When you turn the base upside-down there is a non-slip surface. I thought this was well designed for both the potty and for use as the stool. It is both functional and attractive.

My least favorite part about the potty is how large it is. It really does take up a lot of space. We live in a one bathroom home, when the potty is out it is really in the way. At first I was a little disappointed about this, however in the long run it will take up less space. When my daughter is ready to move to the toilet seat feature, we can use the base as a step stool. An individual potty chair, seat and step stool would take up much more room. Plus when you think of the additional cost, the Bravo saves you both space and money.

I was sent the product to review by Contours, but I can say with confidence, this one is a winner.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Just Add Watercolor-- A Book Review

Just Add Watercolor is a pint sized book by Helen Birch. With its punchy orange endpapers and distinctly modern artists, this book is a lot of fun.

There are many artists featured in this book. Despite its name, the book focuses on more than just watercolor. Birch has sections on gouache, digital, mixed media and other media. I thought the artwork selected in the book all flowed very nicely. Even with a variety of mediums, the art all had a specific feel. It is obvious that the author took her time curating the book.

Each piece is given a full page spread. The specific art showcasing one side of the page, while Birch's description is on the other. At the end of each brief description of the work is the "tip". The tips included are all relevant to the methods the artist used. Each tip is one or two sentences.

In the back of the book there is a section on watercolor fundamentals. Types of paint and paper are explained in more detail. There is also an equipment list that focuses more on brushes and other tools. Birch provides a lot of helpful information and tips. I certainly wouldn't classify this as a "how to" book though. There are no tutorials or step-by-step instructions. I wish she had perhaps gone a little more in depth with how to achieve certain looks. It's nice to have the information but after reading it I don't feel inspired to try the "tips" out.

I do, however, feel inspired to research some of these artists! Lucky for me the very back of the book includes the websites for the artists. One of my favorites from the book was Becca Stadtlander. She had a few pieces in the book, my favorite was "Lily Pads".

This is a fun little book to flip through and peruse. My children have enjoyed marveling at the images inside. This is not a book to put on the shelf and gather dust. Rather, one for the family to enjoy and gather finger smudges.

Book courtesy of Blogging for Books