Cookbook feasting {Weeks 1 and 2}

Our resolution to try out new cookbooks and recipes is off to a great start!

{Week 1} Pure Flavor

We kicked off this cookbook and recipe challenge with a cookbook by Kurt Beecher Dammeier, mastermind behind some of my favorite Seattle-area spots: Beecher’s Cheese, Pasta & Co., Bennett’s, and Liam’s. During the first week of the challenge I even stopped by Beecher’s (they give free cheese samples!) and Bennett’s (it’s VERY close to my house and has an excellent happy hour!).

We made the tomato-cheddar soup (p. 21) and were only somewhat impressed by it. It seemed to be way too watery and the “semi-hard cheese” that I used wasn’t right. This made far more than 4 servings and we put the leftovers in the freezer for another day.

Beecher's Tomato Soup

Beecher’s Tomato Soup

We also made the Bennett’s Cobb salad (p. 54). We opted for an apple cider vinegar salad dressing instead of the recommended lime jalapeno dressing and I think that was a misstep on our part. It was too sweet for the curried crab. Speaking of the crab, everything about it was wrong. We followed the recipe to a tee and it wasn’t good. The curry clashed with the crab and they all clashed with the capers. I would not recommend this recipe. We were able to add chicken instead of crab for our lunches the next day and it was far superior.

Bennett's Cobb Salad

Bennett’s Cobb Salad

Brandon also made an apple crisp for my “A” party for my Pretty Little LiArs pArty. It was delicious!

Other recipes that piqued our interest, but we didn’t have a chance to try out: Turkey meatloaf studded with cheese curds (p. 111), Citrus-herb-marinated turkey tenderloins (p. 112), Slow-cooked orange chili pork shoulder (p. 130), Pan-seared broccoli crowns (p. 145), Broiled sunchokes (p. 147), Brussels sprouts with garlic bread crumbs (p. 150), Roasted parsnip puree (p. 152), Braised kale gratin (p. 157), Chocolate truffle cookies (p. 175), Corn, tomato and avocado frittata (p. 212), Blueberry buckle (p. 222), House herbs (my favorite!) (p. 233), and Breadzels (p. 244).

{Week 2} Dishing up Washington

I found Dishing up Washington while browsing the cookbook section at the library. We found a ton of great recipes to try and ended up actually trying several of them:

The Fall sausage minestrone with mushrooms and squash (p. 34) was good, however, I just need to come to the realization that I don’t like soup. Especially minestrone. Brandon really enjoyed this dish, so if you’re a minestrone-lover, do try this recipe!

Fall minestrone soup

Fall minestrone soup

RN74 is a French restaurant in downtown Seattle, near the Pike Place Market. I’ve only been there for happy hour, and the food that I have had there was good. Expensive, but good. If you find yourself there, you should definitely get some of their seasonal beignets. If you don’t find yourself there, you can pretend you are by cooking up the RN74 beef bourguignon (p. 166). Reserve the whole day for staying near the oven as this recipe is pretty intensive, and know that it’s worth it.

RN74 Beef bourguignon

RN74 Beef bourguignon

Hot Cakes’ original s’more cookies (p. 230). Must I say more!? We didn’t smoke our chocolate chips, and the cookies turned out great! If you’re in Seattle, you should definitely stop by Hot Cakes! Their s’more cookies are great, but I prefer their boozy shakes and molten hot cakes!

Hot Cakes s'more cookies

Hot Cakes s’more cookies

Other recipes that looked good: Seattle Winter Market Salad (p. 60), El Gaucho’s mashed potatoes (p. 86), Camp fire grits (p. 91), Egyptian-inspired chickpeas and couscous (p. 108), Winter market comfort casserole (p. 130), Honey-glazed ham with apricots, caramelized oranges and cardamom (p. 148), Skagit River Ranch pot roast (p. 164), Northwest Wild Foods’ blackberry bars (p. 209), free-form pear crostata (p. 214), and pimped root vegetable hash (p. 242).

This week we’re cooking from Dr. Weil’s True Food. Spoiler alert: we have lots of kale meals planned!


Library love: Party books!

As I mentioned before, I’ve got a thing for the library and my latest kick has included party planning books. I brought my stack of books to the cabin over the weekend, poured myself a glass of wine and dove right in.

2013-7-4 Party Books

And since I’m married to a soon-to-be accounting professor, I had to calculate the total value of the books and see what I “saved” by checking them out from the library instead of buying them: $142.88. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

Now, let me save you some time and share my recommendations on my latest library picks:

Around the Table: Easy menus for cozy entertaining at home by Ellen Wright (Retail: $27.95)

I had high hopes for this book and was moderately disappointed once I started reading. I was pleased to find out that Ellen and I have similar party planning philosophies and the same idea when it comes to keeping ingredients on-hand for surprise guests. I also liked how the recipes were laid out by ‘event’ and each menu was fully detailed. I did manage to find a couple of recipes that I’m really looking forward to trying: stuffed mushrooms with shallots p. 87, piroshkies p. 105 and Soni’s Chicken Provencal p. 150.

I’d save your money and recommend checking this book out of your local library rather than buying it.

Easy Entertaining at Home by Sandra Lee (Retail: $14.99)

I sort of love Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade philosophy. I have not-so-secret hopes of being the Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade of the crafting/DIY world, since no one has much patience these days. I used to subscribe to Sandra Lee’s magazine until they stopped publishing. Anyway, back to the book.

This book really focuses on cocktails which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not really my thing. I did mark at lot of booze recipes (sorbet shooters, p. 16, Sandy’s spiced wine, p. 41, ‘Born this way’ tequila-limeade-raspberry slushy, p. 49, ‘Pear bella’ pear brandy-peach belllini-champagne drink, p. 114, so that’s a plus.

Some other soon-to-be favorites that I marked include: prosecco cake, p. 12, maple cakes, p. 42, pear puffs, p. 46, and ‘Blushing berry cupcakes,’ p. 138.

I’d save your money and recommend checking this book out of your local library rather than buying it, although there were quite a few great ideas!

Party Confidential by Lara Shriftman and Elizabeth Harrison (Retail: $29.99)

I had no idea what to expect with this book, but I was intrigued, the cover included some classy parties and some tacky parties and a photo of Serena Williams. I really liked how each party theme is detailed and they discuss the menu, lighting, playlist, favors and “steal it” ideas for DIY’ing the parties for yourself.

Party Confidential also lists some themes for parties and one of them I think was stolen from me: Come on Barbie, Let’s go party! Here is a gem of me from my Barbie party, circa 2008. I was Birthday Barbie and I had a great time. Best party ever.

There were interesting sections about giving toasts and hostess gifts, but other than that, I was less than impressed. Save your money on this one too and pick it up at the library.

Celebrate: A year of festivities for families and friends by Pippa Middleton (Retail: $50)

This book was heavy (400 pages). Lots and lots of good information, most of which didn’t apply to me since I don’t have kids. However, Pippa does keep a dress up box, crafting toolbox and party cupboard, p. 174, so maybe we are meant to be friends. I really liked the ‘creepy cocktails,’ p. 34, including blackberry collins and the blood and sand. I also thoroughly enjoyed Pippa’s countdown to Christmas and edible gifts, p. 92. I’m looking forward to making her Christmas truffles and gingerbread stars this holiday season. (Yes, I’m already planning the holidays…) It appears as though Pippa also plans a great Valentine’s Day. Her chocolate truffles and rose-petal martini, p. 197, may make it to our house come February 14, along with the nutella madeleines that she has slated for ‘afternoon tea.’

Brandon is a chocoholic so Pippa’s “the chocolate game” caught my eye. This game includes a large chocolate bar, some winter layers, and dice. You roll the dice and when a six is thrown, the player puts on their ‘winter layers’ (including mittens) as fast as they can and then they cut and eat a square of the chocolate bar. You keep on going like this until all of the chocolate is gone, or something. This game was on page 301, so I was tired of reading at this point.

Should you buy the book? I wouldn’t. $50 is a lot of money! But there are some good haggis recipes. (Ick.)

Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade gatherings by Sandra Lee (Retail: $19.95)

I had really high hopes for this book (see my ode to Sandra above) but this one was pretty disappointing. I really liked the idea of party themes and had hoped for some great ideas but instead I found a daisy-themed party and a wine and cheese party with ROOSTERS. Some people really like faux roosters. I’m not one of those people. Plus I’m highly critical of wine and cheese parties, so I was pretty let down.

I did find a recipe that I will use come the holidays: a gingerbread martini, p. 118. I also thought the avocado shrimp salad, p. 242, looked pretty tasty. I also was a fan of the napkin folding instructions and place setting examples in the back of the book, of course, those are easy to find thanks to Google Images and Pinterest.

Definitely don’t buy this book and instead check it out of your local library.

Phew. Long post! A special shout out to the Seattle Public Library for having such a great catalog! Based on my above research, it’s clear that you should really pop by the library to check out books before committing to buying them. (Literally! Get it? Check out. Heehee.) 

Library love on Megan’s Island!

2013-7-Library2If you’re a regular reader, you’re very familiar with my healthy addiction to spray paint, cats and all things wine. I wanted to let you in with another addiction I have: the library.

I’ve always been a library user, in fact, I’ve managed to keep my same library card for the past 25+ years! Here it is. What great penmanship, right?

Anyway, my library use comes in spurts and lately I’ve been on quite a kick. Of course I use the library for the typical fiction and non-fiction books, but recently I thought to expand my search a little bit: movies, CDs and COOKBOOKS! I also have been a big fan of checking out business, marketing and branding books for my small business, Little Britches Bakery.

2013-7-Library1My latest series of library holds focuses on party planning, cookbooks involving wine and books having to do with pizza, all things pizza. We’re still in the process of designing our backyard pizza oven but I’m researching dough and sauce recipes and topping ideas now.

I’m planning on reviewing my library finds for you in the upcoming weeks.

Happy reading to you and I’d love to hear your library stories and favorite books!

(Just as I was writing this I got an email from the library. I have Beasts of the Southern Wild waiting for me!)