I just finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. A friend had given me the book a few years ago, and I had it in my stack of books to read. I never have as much time to read as I’d … Continue reading
Have you ever made your own soap before? I really like the idea of using homemade soap with natural ingredients and have been interested in trying to make some myself. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to review the new book, The … Continue reading
I enjoy drinking tea and recently had the chance to try three chai flavors from Choice® Organic Teas. They sent me their Chai Spice Black Tea and two of their new Certified Organic and Fair Trade Certified chai flavors–Rooibos Chai and Masala Chai. … Continue reading
I know a little about some of the health benefits of essential oils, so I was really interested in reviewing a new book called The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness (Robert Rose, softcover). As the book mentions, essential oils … Continue reading
Some of you are devoted coffee drinkers, while some of you prefer tea. And then there are some who love both, which is the category I fall into. I’ve been drinking a little more tea lately, though, since coffee tends to … Continue reading
Have you ever heard of a “Dessert Mash-Up”? If you haven’t, it’s simply a yummy creation of two different desserts combined into one! It’s also the name of a new cookbook that has recipes like Blueberry Muffin Waffles, Pumpkin Cheesecake French Toast, Chocolate Cheesecake Sandwich … Continue reading
I took a short break from the internet at the end of August, and I can’t believe we are into September already! But it’s still officially summer and the weather is still warm for many of us, so I thought I’d … Continue reading
I have gone through lots of cutting boards in my time! :) They don’t seem to last very long for me before they start getting scratched up and worn out. But lately I’ve been using a wonderful new cutting board I received, … Continue reading
We all know tacos are made with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa, and maybe some sour cream on top, right? Well, apparently there is a taco revolution going on, and the traditional taco has been reinvented for breakfast, lunch, and … Continue reading
It’s always nice when you can make yummy snacks that are good for you, too! I found this recipe in a review copy I received of Keep Your Brain Young: A Health & Diet Program for Your Brain, Including 150 … Continue reading
Have you ever been to Provence? I have never been to France but if I have the chance to go, Provence will be one of the areas I want to visit! This region of southern France stretches from the Mediterranean to the hills of Haute Provence, and from the Rhone River valley to the Italian Alps. It was the site of the first Roman colony beyond Italy and today it’s known for fragrant lavender fields, beautiful beaches like Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and Nice, quaint small villages, and fine wines and food. The cuisine of this area includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts–basically the core of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
I learned these things and more about Provence as I was looking through my review copy of Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living, by François Millo and Viktorija Todorovska. This softcover book introduces you to the geography, history, traditions, wines, and recipes of the region. Here are some images of Provence you’ll find in the book:
Isn’t it beautiful? You’ll find more full color photography of picturesque Provence as well as many of the 47 recipes in the book, which are traditional favorites of the region…like Niçoise Salad, Fougasse with Tomatoes, Olives, and Peppers, Artichokes Barigoule, Tapenade, Swiss Chard Tart, Mediterranean Cod with Caramelized Onions, and Lemon Tart. The recipes are organized by the different areas of Provence that they’re popular in–Aix-en-Provence and Haute Provence, Marseille, La Cote Varoise, and Nice and the Riviera.
I decided to try the recipe for Tomatoes Provençal, because I love tomatoes and this is a simple yet delicious way to fix them–fresh tomatoes topped with a mix of breadcrumbs, chopped fresh parsley, and minced garlic. This makes a great side dish and would even work nicely for a spring or summer brunch. The book recommends serving “as a light meal with other Provençal delicacies and some crusty bread, or with meat.” For best results, use fresh, sweet, ripe tomatoes!
TOMATOES PROVENÇAL from Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living
Makes 4 servings
This traditional Provençial dish relies on the quality of the tomatoes used; they must be fresh and ripe. It’s best to prepare this dish in the summer, when tomatoes are at the peak of ripeness, sweet, and full of flavor….
- 4 small to medium ripe tomatoes, halved and stems removed
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (64 g) chopped fresh parsley (I used Italian flat leaf parsley)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (I used the very fine breadcrumbs you purchase, but I think fresh breadcrumbs would be even better!)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Optional: I added some additional chopped parsley for garnish
Lightly dust the cut sides of the tomatoes with the sugar.
In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, cut sides down, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until they caramelize.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the parsley and garlic.
Flip the tomatoes and distribute the parsley and garlic mixture evenly onto them, pressing down so the mixture adheres to the tomato. Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Distribute the breadcrumbs evenly among the tomatoes.
Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and fully cooked through. Remove from the heat. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Transfer the tomatoes to a serving dish and serve warm. Note: I drizzled the remaining olive oil from the sauté pan over the tomatoes and garnished them with additional chopped parsley.
I thought the blend of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and touch of sea salt made a great flavor combination as a topping for the tomatoes.
Have you made or tasted this dish before? And are you ready to take a trip to Provence now? :)
Cooking with a slow cooker is so convenient, and it’s even better when you can make healthy meals in it! I recently received a review copy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition, and found that it not only includes lots of healthy gluten-free recipes, but also has additional information about the health benefits of many of the ingredients. The book starts off with helpful tips on using your slow cooker, and then you’ll find recipes for Breakfast, Starters and Snacks, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Beef and Veal, Pork and Lamb, Vegetarian Mains, Sides and Sauces, and Desserts.
Some of the recipes include Warm Black Bean Salsa, Gingery Carrot Soup with Orange and Parsley, French Basil Chicken, Texas-Style Chili con Carne, Mixed Vegetables in Spicy Peanut Sauce, Creamy Polenta with Corn and Chiles, and Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce. All recipes include information on Calories and Nutrients per serving, too.
I decided to try the Down-Home Tomatoes with Okra because I’ve never made an okra dish, and thought it was about time! I don’t eat okra that often, but learned from this book that it’s very good for you. Okra “…provides glutathione, an antioxidant that supports the immune system and assists your body with eliminating toxins (pg. 291)….”
Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out! I was a little surprised to see that it had bacon in it, but the book points out which type of bacon is healthiest to use (see recipe below). I used turkey bacon because I already had some on hand.
DOWN-HOME TOMATOES WITH OKRA from The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition
Makes 6 servings
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil (15 mL)
- 4 ounces chunk bacon, diced (125 g) I used turkey bacon–the book recommends using bacon without additives and synthetic nitrates and made from pigs that have been pastured, which is higher in omega-3 fatty acids
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (2 mL)
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns (2 mL)
- 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes including juice (796 mL)
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 cups sliced (1/2 inch or 1 cm) okra, about 12 ounces (375 g)-I used a 12-ounce bag of sliced frozen okra, thawed
In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and peppercorns and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until hot and bubbly. Add bell pepper and okra. Cover and cook on High for about 30 minutes, until okra is tender.
Nutrients Per Serving: Calories 101; Protein 4.4 g; Carbohydrates 12.2 g; Fat (Total) 4.5 g (Saturated Fat 1.1 g; Monounsaturated Fat 2.7 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g); Dietary Fiber 3.0 g; Sodium 339 mg; Cholesterol 6 mg. Excellent source of vitamins C and K; Good source of potassium; Source of Vitamins A and B-6, folate, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and zinc; Contains a moderate amount of dietary fiber.
You may want to add some additional seasoning to taste before serving. Do you have a favorite way you like to prepare okra?
In 2007, Chef Alan Jackson opened what is now L.A.’s favorite modern cafeteria–Lemonade, serving up healthy comfort food Southern California-style. This popular eatery has 10 locations and is still growing. Like me, if you didn’t live in Southern California, you were missing out…until now. Chef Jackson and coauthor JoAnn Cianciulli have come out with The Lemonade Cookbook (hardcover, St. Martin’s Press), filled with 120 unique, easy-to-make, tasty recipes and lots of great full-color photos of many of these dishes.
I received a review copy from the publisher, plus a copy to give away to one of you! See the end of this post for details on how to win this book! I’ll share a little more about it here, along with a recipe I made.
In The Lemonade Cookbook, there are recipes for salads, veggie sides, unique sandwiches, soups and stews, and desserts. Some of the recipes include:
- Fingerling Potatoes with Dill and Lemon-Saffron Vinaigrette
- Heirloom Tomato, Crushed Basil, Fleur de Sel Salad
- Greek-Marinated Chicken with Tzatsiki
- Buttermilk-Baked Chicken
- Citrus-Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
- BBQ Brisket
- Turkey with Dried Cranberry and Sage Gravy
- Caesar Club (with Turkey, Ham, and Tomato)
- Egg Salad Sandwich with Bacon and Heirloom Tomato
- Creamed Cauliflower Soup
- Mac ‘N Cheese
- Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Lemon Drop Cupcakes
- Caramel-Butterscotch Pudding
So you see, there’s quite a variety of recipes to try! And there’s even a chapter of recipes featuring their popular lemonade concoctions including Peach Ginger, Pear Basil, Cantaloupe Sage, and Blueberry Mint!
I decided to make one of the veggie salads, Edamame Snap Pea Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette, which was wonderful! I don’t know of many ways to serve edamame, but this is a great one! It’s easy to make and very healthy! It’s a slightly crunchy, tangy salad mix of edamame and sugar snap peas, and has a great Sesame Vinaigrette mixed in. If you aren’t familiar with edamame, it’s another word for green soybeans-it’s best to use non-GMO edamame. Here’s the recipe so you can try it out!
EDAMAME SNAP PEA SALAD WITH SESAME VINAIGRETTE from The Lemonade Cookbook
Makes 4 cups
This lean green edamame and snap pea dish adds just the right crunch, while sesame, shallot, and chive add another level of texture by coating the vegetables. The best part about this dish is it’s so simple to whip up.
- 1/2 pound sugar snap peas (2 cups), ends trimmed
- 2 cups shelled edamame (green soybeans), frozen, thawed, and cooked
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 cup Sesame Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds (I just used regular sesame seeds)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding a tray of ice cubes.
Blanch the snap peas for only about 2 minutes; they become tender very quickly. Using a slotted spoon, remove the snap peas from the water and plunge into the ice bath to “shock” them, i.e., to stop the cooking process and cool them down right away. This procedure also sets the vibrant green color of the peas. Drain the snap peas in a colander.
Put the blanched snap peas in a mixing bowl. Add the edamame, shallot, chives, and vinaigrette, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, salt, and pepper, tossing well. Serve chilled.
- 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, mustard, soy sauce, canola and sesame oils; season with pepper. Whisk or shake to blend. Keep any left-over vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 1 cup.
Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The Lemonade Cookbook, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, November 23, at 11 p.m. (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, November 24. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.
First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite kind of side dish is!
Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.
This is a great book for anyone who loves trying unique recipes and using fresh, healthy ingredients! It would also make a wonderful gift! :)
You’ve probably heard about the bestselling book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, first published back in 2007. Because of its popularity, authors Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois have completely revised and updated their original book that revolutionized bread-making. Their new book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was just released on October 22. The publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, sent me a review copy, and I’m happy to say they are providing a copy for me to give away! They will send the giveaway copy directly to the winner, so see the end of the post for details on how to win this book! First, I’ll tell you more about the book and the recipe I made from it.
The New Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day is completely revised and updated with forty new full-color images, one hundred black-and-white how-to photos, an expanded “Tips and Techniques” section, a gluten-free chapter, and more than 30 new recipes for homemade breads and sweets, including…
- Gluten-free Cheesy Breadsticks, Pizza, Baguette and Sweeet Brioche
- Beer-Cheese and Crock-Pot Bread
- Pretzel Buns
- Apple-Stuffed French Toast
I decided to try the recipe for Oatmeal Maple Bread–that just sounded so good and healthy! I definitely am a novice bread maker, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I’m happy to say it turned out wonderfully! The bread has a great texture and rises nicely, and pure maple syrup gives it a delicious, slightly sweet taste. This recipe makes 2 loaves. I brought some of the bread in to work for my coworkers to sample and everyone loved it! I hope you get a chance to try the recipe out!
OATMEAL MAPLE BREAD from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2″ loaves
A note from the book: This high-fiber loaf is lightly sweetened with maple syrup and tastes great cut into thick slices and then slathered with butter (and marmalade)…. It also makes a great sandwich with smoked turkey and cheese.
- 2 3/4 cups (625 grams) lukewarm water
- 1 Tablespoon (10 grams) Granulated yeast
- 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons (17 to 25 grams) Kosher salt
- 3/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon (170 grams) Pure Maple Syrup (the 1 Tablespoon is for brushing on top of the loaf right before baking)
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) oil, plus more for greasing the loaf pans (I used olive oil)
- 3/4 cup (55 grams) Wheat bran
- 1 1/2 cups (140 grams) Old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup (130 grams) Whole wheat flour or White Whole wheat flour (I used White whole wheat)
- 4 cups (570 grams) All-purpose flour (I used unbleached all-purpose flour)
- Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast and salt with the water, the 3/4 cup maple syrup, and the oil in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
- Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
- Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
- The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate the container of dough and use over the next 7 days.
- On baking day, grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch nonstick loaf pans. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and divide dough in half. Dust each dough half with more flour and quickly shape each of them, one at a time, into a ball by stretching the surface of each piece of dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
- Elongate each ball of dough to form an oval loaf and place into the prepared pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. A baking stone is not required, and omitting it shortens the preheat.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the top crusts with the remaining 1 Tablespoon maple syrup (use 1/2 Tablespoon on the top of each loaf).
- Place the loaves on a rack near the center of the oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until browned and firm (my baking time was 50 minutes). Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.
- Remove from the pans and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.
I let my loaves cool before slicing one of them and put the other in the freezer for later. But you may not be able to resist eating this bread warm right out of the oven! :)
Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, November 9, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, November 10. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.
First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite kind of bread is or if you have ever made homemade bread!
Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.
This is a great book for bread lovers, so if you’re one, be sure to enter the giveaway! :)
When I think of summer treats, I think of S’mores around a campfire. But when I looked through my review copy of The S’mores Cookbook by Susan Whetzel, I realized that you can enjoy the great taste of S’mores all year round in lots of different ways! This hardcover book is filled with lots of wonderful full-color photos of the many recipes you can make. And the publisher, Adams Media, has offered to send a giveaway copy directly to the winning commentor on this post! See the end of the post for details.
So S’mores are not just for summer anymore…you can make a great S’mores dessert whenever you crave it! And actually, S’mores are not just for dessert anymore, because this book also includes breakfast recipes, too! Some treats from this book that I’d like to try out are:
- S’mores Stuffed French Toast
- S’mores Popovers
- Mini Dark Chocolate S’mores Muffins
- S’mores Coffee Cake
- Dark Chocolate S’mores Pie
- S’mores Mousse Cups
- S’mores Dip
- S’mores Cupcakes
- S’mores Chocolate Chunksters
I decided to make the S’mores Popcorn first because it’s been really hot and humid lately, and I wanted to do a no-bake recipe. Plus, this is a great recipe to give as a food gift, packaged in a cellophane bag–and with Christmas just 4 months away, I’m on the lookout for some tasty and easy food gift ideas! :) It’s really kind of addicting, so you’ll want to either have lots of people help you eat it up or share with your friends! The two kinds of chocolate mixed with the caramel corn and marshmallows make a really rich and yummy treat! It’s also a great snack to make in the fall if you’re having a tailgate party or watching the games at home. Store-bought caramel corn works great in this, or you can use homemade if you like.
When I melted the chocolate, I added just a little bit of coconut oil, about 1 teaspoon per cup, to make the chocolate a little smoother for drizzling. If you do this, the chocolate will take a little longer to dry or set, and it may not package as well since the chocolate will be a little gooier, so it’s definitely an optional thing. If you decide to add some oil when melting the chocolate and if you’ve used an extra large sheet pan to spread your popcorn mix on,* you can put your pan of S’mores popcorn in the fridge, after everything is mixed together, for at least a half hour or until chocolate is set.
Here’s the recipe…
S’MORES POPCORN BAGS from The S’mores Cookbook
Yields: 10 gift bags
Feel free to make your own caramel popcorn for this amazing treat, but store-bought works amazingly well and tends to hold up and look nicer in the gift bags. Either way, it’s a win-win situation!–Susan Whetzel
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (Note: I used an extra 1/4 cup later in the recipe)
- 1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
- 8 cups caramel popcorn
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
- 2 cups mini marshmallows
- 10 cellophane gift bags
- Ribbon, to tie bags, as needed
Cover the counter with parchment paper (*I lined an extra large sheet pan with parchment paper instead). Drizzle the parchment with melted semisweet chocolate and immediately sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and popcorn, making as even a layer as possible.
Drizzle the white chocolate over the popcorn; allow to dry. (NOTE: I melted an additional 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips and drizzled this over the popcorn, too, for an extra chocolatey taste). Once chocolate is dry, pour the popcorn from the parchment into a large bowl; add marshmallows.
Divide evenly into cellophane bags, and tie with decorative ribbon.
This makes a great game snack or food gift and it’s so easy to make, so keep it in mind for football season and gift- giving at the holidays!
Now for the Giveaway….if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The S’mores Cookbook, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Sunday, September 1, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! Winner will be chosen ramdomly via Random.org and announced on Monday, September 2. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway is limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.
First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me if you make S’mores often or if you’ve made any S’mores-inspired recipes this summer.
Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following!
Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away–because of spam, I need to approve all the comments before they show up! Hope you all have time to enter, and enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!