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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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Book Review: The Indian Family Kitchen

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The Indian Family Kitchen is such a beautiful book it will probably take an intermittent home on my coffee table when it is not in use in the kitchen (so it may not be in the coffee table much!). The pages of the book are so colorful and comforting and the food styling is drool-worthy. I love the sections between recipes that make me feel transported to India. This book is perfect for everyone. Really. If you want something light or hearty, quick to prepare or simmers for hours, something traditionally Indian or a delicious burger this book is for you. Pathak has such an encouraging voice in her writing of the recipes that this book could be used by novices but will satisfy the adept home cook, too.

I have a handful of purely authentic Indian cookbooks and after researching The Indian Family Kitchen by Anjali Pathak I decided to give it a try because I love Indian flavors and was looking for more of an Indian-fusion cookbook. The author has some serious street cred with Indian cuisine being the granddaughter of the founder of a huge line of Indian grocery products. These recipes are fresh, creative, healthful and most importantly they are incredibly delicious.

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I have to disagree with another review of this book that questioned the use of the word family in the title of the book. As a mom of three young kids and a husband with a discerning palate I viewed the recipes through a family lens and with every page I turned I found another recipe that we would be able to gather around the table to enjoy. My husband says, “if your kids are picky little snots that is not this book’s fault.” I would go one further and say even if your kids are picky they would still like these recipes with just a tweak on the spicy ingredients.

Here is my take on the recipes we tried:

Sizzling steak and cumin paprika wedges (page 50) with mixed herb salad with honey pecan dressing (page 78). The flavors in these recipes were amazing! The timing listed in the recipes were accurate, both for prep and cook times. We loved pairing flavors that we typically have on chicken with steak. The aromatics really gave the steak and potatoes great flavor. The kids thought some of the bites of the potatoes were spicy so next time we may add a little less paprika. The salad was so refreshing and light. We used a combo of mint, cilantro and basil for the herbs and it was delicious!

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Mini tortillas with chickpea salsa (page 24 and 25). We omitted the chipotles in the pork and used the tip to reduce the sauce and add it back in with the pork. The pork has a subtle sweetness from the orange and lots of savory yumminess from roasting with all of the spices. The salsa has a mild flavor that is so unexpected with tortillas but the lime, herbs and chickpeas just work so well together. This recipe is absolutely family friendly, but you may want to double it.

We are going to have the crispy sumac okra (page 18, Light Bites chapter) today and the coconut shrimp later this week and I can’t wait! This book is one I know we will love and use for many years to come. I highly recommend it!

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

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