Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Essential Instant Pot Cookbook

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We are trying out new recipes each week and try to have a good rotation between oven/stove top/slow cooker/Instant Pot now that we have this handy tool in our kitchen. Hubby gave a wary eye when I told him I wanted an Instant Pot and he is now a believer! When I saw “The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook” by Coco Morante (#1 new release on Amazon!) I had to have it! We are doing a trial elimination diet for one of our kiddos (more on that to come) and there are a ton of recipes in this book that fit within our new restrictions. This book has a so many recipes that will help us add to our elimination diet meal planning schedule starting with the cauliflower mashed potatoes (because…vegetables, naturally), quinoa porridge with pepitas and honey (whole grains for the win!), beluga lentil salad with Italian vinaigrette, red lentil soup with sumac and some pulled pork adobo for the hubby!

We are following an elimination diet for at least six weeks so this book will be a life saver! Even though it isn’t designed to be, it is a book with many recipes that are free of wheat, eggs, dairy, nuts and artificial food coloring. Thank you, Coco Morante!

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Vibrant India

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I first fell in love with Indian cuisine when I was vegetarian circa 2004. I love the bright spices and tang of the yogurt sauces. Now that I am an omnivore I find myself missing vegetarian cuisine. I have been stuck in a chicken/beef/pork routine and Vibrant India by Chitra Arawal is just what I need to breathe some new life into my meal planning. My “must try” list goes a little like this: all of the raitas (page 72-76) with all of the stir-fries and curries (page 79-95), definitely the carmelized shallot, almond and red chile chutney (page 183), and life will not be complete without the spicy and sour tomato lentil soup (page 125). Thank you, Ms. Agrawal for sharing all of your recipes and traditions with us. I cannot wait to dig in…with my hands and some roti!
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Dinner: Changing the Game

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I’ve always loved meal planning and now that I have the new Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark I feel like I need more days to plan meals for!  Each dish is meant to stand alone and be dinner in itself so that eliminates the need to think of sides which makes life tons easier. Some dishes could use a salad on the side (like the many roast chickens that sound ahhhh-mazing). First on my list to try are the Anchovy Chicken with Lemon and Capers, Georgian Lamb Kebabs with Dill Sauce and Ginger Pork Meatballs with Cilantro and Fish Sauce!

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Book Review: Harvest

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Spring is almost here and I am so behind on starting plants from seeds…at least now I know what plants I need in my container garden this year thanks to Harvest by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis.  One of my favorite foods is rhubarb because my grandmother always had a ton of it growing in her backyard when I was little.  I have an embarrassing number of rhubarb recipes and am adding the Small-Batch, Quick-Pickled Rhubarb (page 10) to the list.

Harvest is great for so many reasons.  It gives a background on each of the plants, tells when in the season to harvest, and ways to use the plant.  There are some plants that I can’t grow where I live, but I love them so now I have a new way to use them…like lemongrass salt scrub when I have leftover lemongrass.  I recommend this book to anyone that loves gardening, cooking and making homemade floral arrangements or gifts.

Now I just need to figure out how to grow a pomegranate tree in Germany so I can make the pomegranate margarita.  Wish me luck!

I was provided a copy of this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Cook with your kids…with The Dumpling Galaxy Cook Book

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How is it almost February?!  Well, I suppose it is time to finalize my New Year’s Resolution (what, are those supposed to be finalized before the New Year?) which is to cook with my kids at least once a week.  That may not sound like much, but for me it will be a huge undertaking.  I love cooking with my kids, I just don’t do it very often.  Enter The Dumpling Galaxy Cook Book.  I wanted a new cook book that would make it easier for me to cook with my kids and this is definitely that book.  I love the idea of letting my kiddos squish together some dumplings and help me make the dough.  We love Chinese food and have not found good Chinese food where we live (luckily, there is great Thai and Japanese, though).  In The Dumpling Galaxy cook book the author, Helen You, gives recipes and instructions for making dumpling dough and pictures to guide the shaping of each type of dumpling.  I know my dumplings will not be nearly as pretty as the ones pictured in the book…but they should at least be better looking than my kids’, right? 🙂

Why I love this book:

  • the food pictures are incredible!
  • the recipes are exotic, but attainable
  • there are recipes for basics and ideas for mixing it up…the galaxy of flavors breaks down the “building blocks” of dumplings and makes me feel like I really could come up with my own combinations

All of the recipes in the book look and sound amazing so it is hard to narrow down the list of the ones I am planning to tackle first.  I am going to start with the dumpling wrappers (obviously, but I am going to try them the step by step way and also try to make the dough in my bread machine…I LOVE my bread machine), duck and shiitake mushroom dumplings, shrimp and celery shumai, pork and chive dumplings, the spicy beef and curry beef dumplings and all of the dipping sauces.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in trying something new and having some fun in the kitchen.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

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A weekend warrior’s dream book!

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When I was growing up I watched my Mom menu plan and prep ahead and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that her method of meal planning had stuck with me. She is what we would refer to as a “weekend warrior”: planning meals in advance and doing a lot of prep on the weekends to pull together weeknight meals quickly and easily. A New Way to Dinner: A playbook of recipes and strategies for the week ahead by Food52 founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs is the weekend warriors dream book. The book gives all the steps and instructions on making a meal plan and grocery list ahead so that you can spend several hours on the weekend preparing recipes that you’ll use throughout the week. I love when books have a section on what to keep on hand and this book’s list (on page 7) includes many of my staple ingredients (think avocado, good cheese, sausage and many tantalizing others) so I knew right away that the meals would fit well with the way my family normally eats. The book provides a glance at the week ahead with recipe lists, a description of how they come together including brown bag lunches, game plans and grocery lists. I love that the book takes some of the recipes and reuses them later in the week in a different way without much extra effort. This book is exactly what every weekend warrior needs! I am going to be gifting this book a LOT this holiday season. Now that dinner is figured out and gift shopping is done I guess I’ll have some time to watch Game of Thrones. Everyone needs more time to watch Game of Thrones!

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Book Review: All Under Heaven

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When I saw the description of “All Under Heaven” by Carolyn Phillips I knew it was a book I needed to have.  This book is perfect for me at the place I am currently with my Chinese cooking skills (read: novice) and I know this book will be one that challenges and inspires me for years to come.  This is the sort of book that becomes a family heirloom.  It is part encyclopedia of regional Chinese cuisine, part Chinese cooking instructor and part my new best friend that is sharing all of her best Chinese recipes with me.  I love the idea of introducing my family to cuisines of the world and this book is exactly what I need to share the cuisines of China with my kids and my hubby.  With so many enticing recipes it has been difficult to choose the few that I want to try first, but I have narrowed it down to Zhajiang Noodles (page 42), Crunchy Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp (page 105), Lemongrass Chicken (page 280) and Silk Road Fajitas (page 344).  This book is perfect for anyone that loves Chinese cuisine, loves learning about cuisine and not just cooking recipes and people that are looking for recipes that are fresh, new and something you just can’t find anywhere else.

I was provided with a copy of this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Around The Fire

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When I see daffodils I always think it is time to start moving cooking outdoors to the grill. I am not a very adept griller so I decided to try out a new grilling book that will give me some grilling prowess by Labor Day. Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant by Greg Denton, Gabrielle Quinonez Denton and Stacy Adimando is the perfect grilling book for me (aka, the perfect book for me to ease my way into grilling while learning from hubby’s mad skills). I found myself referring to the chef authors as “Greg and Gabi” while I planned our menu and worked on prepping the recipes. The book is written in a very warm and inviting way and it made me feel comfortable tackling a menu I probably wouldn’t usually attempt on a Sunday afternoon.

The book refers to the recipes as “black-belt grilling recipes” and I completely agree. The recipes focus on the grilling traditions of Latin America in an elevated way. This book is perfect for those looking to up their grilling game…and just in time for Father’s Day, to boot!  We will definitely be using this book more. With a big “thank you!!!!!” to Mark and Shasta (hi, guys!), here is our take on the recipes we tried:

Black Gold (page 15) basting oil. This didn’t turn black for us. I’m thinking it was probably because we didn’t use basil since ours had gone bad. Hubby basted this on our short ribs which gave the ribs a nice crust and was my favorite part about the ribs.

Grilled Flanken-Style Beef Short Ribs (page 89). Of all the recipes we tried this was our least favorite. The texture of the ribs ended up being tough and chewy, though this is likely more a result from the way our ribs were butchered rather than the recipe. The flavor of the not chewy bits was great. I think we may try this with a different cut of steak or a more expertly butchered short rib.

Grilled Sweet Onion (page 161).  These were by far the favorite of all the recipes we tried. Each ingredient required a little prep but it was definitely worth it.  Sweet grilled onions topped with blue cheese and buttery roasted beets and crunchy toasted walnuts all with a drizzle of reduced balsamic and some chive.  It just works perfectly.
Grilled New Potato and Onion Skewers (page 166).  I think it is widely accepted that everything is better with bacon and these skewers are no exception.  This was another recipe that required a bit of prep but was well worth it.  The potatoes were skewered with onion and bacon and then there was a bacon cream sauce (I know!!! BACON!) that was drizzled over them.  I die.  It was SO good.

Simple Green Salad (page 177).  This salad was very simple, as promised.  I have a slight addiction to avocado so I could have probably eaten the whole salad myself.  It is so super easy and light.  I will add this to our regular salad rotation.

Vanilla Bean Tres Leches Cake (page 214).  This cake looked unassuming at first with just a smidge of ingredients, but as with other recipes in this book the ingredients are coaxed to perfection so you don’t need a lot of ingredients to make a great dish.  I decided before I made the cake that I was just doing the cake and whipped cream and not the ice cream (though it looks and sounds delish and I will probably make that soon).  I loved “playing” with the eggs and the cream in the KitchenAid.  I guess I am more of a food science nerd than I thought!  Everyone liked the cake and some of the kiddos even had seconds!

Roasted Beets (page 249).  This was one of the basic recipes included toward the back of the book and we used the roasted beets on our grilled onions.  The beets turned out great and were really highlighted in the grilled onions.  Yum!

What is your favorite thing to grill?  Thanks for reading!  I hope you come back soon!

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Book Review: The Whole Coconut

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“I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” has been playing in my head on a loop since the first time I read about The Whole Coconut. We love coconut milk and have some unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut oil in our pantry so I decided to give this book a try to find some new recipes for them. I made it to the end of the book with only a handful of recipes I wanted to try, but I was incredibly excited about those few and hoping that they would be delicious and make me want to invest in the harder-to-find ingredients.  After watching as much Survivor as I have I never envision myself breaking down a coconut myself, but the section on this in the book (page 5) is interesting and thoroughly explains the coconut ingredients.  Some of the recipes sounded good, but without any recommended substitutions for the more obscure ingredients I didn’t want to bother.  Some of the recipes just didn’t seem like something new or exciting.  Most recipes contain hard-to-find ingredients, though there is a Resources section at the back of The Whole Coconut to help in locating them.

When I finished reading this book I felt irked by it and it took me a little while to figure out why. The feel of this book is very different from my approach to healthy eating and I think that is why it left me feeling unsettled.  The tone of the text is preachy rather than helpful.  The layout of the recipes was distracting with titles of recipe mid-page.  It felt as though the author was trying too hard to be “healthy” based on current health trends and not longstanding evidence-based nutrition science. You don’t need to use brown rice flour, coconut sugar or nutritional yeast in order to be healthy. This book struck a nerve with me in that regard. I like books that make healthy eating attainable for everyone and this book makes it feel elitist and inaccessible.  On a more serious note, the author discusses when she underwent an elimination diet and recommends them and I want to urge caution.  Elimination diets should not be attempted without consulting your primary care provider and/or a registered dietitian to avoid nutritional deficiencies.coco prep

Now, on to the recipes. We ended up trying two of them and here is what we thought:

Creamy Red Lentil Stew (main courses, page 45).  This was good, but felt like something we have had before.  When I asked hubby what he thought he said, “it was good, but not really my thing.”  My five-year-old (I left out the jalapeno) and I loved it and I would definitely make this again.  It was quick to prepare, flavorful and felt light, yet hearty. coco corn

Ginger Creamed Corn (salads and sides, page 70).  This was my favorite of the two recipes we tried. We used frozen corn and it felt so fresh with the combination of coconut milk, lime juice and cilantro.  This was also very easy to prep and tasted great. I am still looking forward to trying the Black Bean and Chard Quinoa with Tomato Salsa (breakfast, page 20). After that I will likely leave this book on the trading shelf at the library.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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