Category Archives: weekend cooking

The Third Plate by Dan Barber

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Living in the age of more creates some unique opportunities.  While we are enjoying going out and eating larger than ever portions with meals that fill platter size plates and every fast food joint now not just offering you up the fries, but also asking you if you want to SUPER SIZE that, or more sneakily, “what size would you like?”

Mmmmmmm…

choices.

Do you know how hard it is it so stay “I will take the small” at that point?

Beyond the quite obvious obesity problem parts of the world is having there are other things to consider as well….

supply and demand.

The number of chicken, cows, pigs, and fish to sustain our every growing need to have it available at restaurants and at the local markets is not only staggering, but in this reviewers opinion… disgusting.  As Author and Chef Dan Barber says, that we are being fed (literally) a false promise of the future of food.

The First Plate is the classic meal most of us grew up with; the prime focus being on a large piece of meat, with very little vegetables on the side.  The farm to table movement reflects the current, and second plate where we are becoming more conscious of what we are putting into our mouths.  Looking for more local and organically grown choices, however as Dan points out in his book, is not long-term sustainable.

The Third Plate is based on a system featuring vegetables and grains and working with what the local farmers have at different seasons.

 

At the restaurant I serve a parsnip steak that was soil-aged for 14 months. We roast it like a steak, carve it like a steak and serve it with a rich bordelaise sauce made from beef bones. We flip the classic arrangement on its side. The anatomy of the first or second plate is there, but in keeping with what our landscape can provide. ~ Dan Barber

 

Dan Barber feels there is a healthy way to make this a win for our bodies, the farmers, and make it delicious.

 

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I am fascinated by foodie books.  I love to read about restaurants, cooking, chefs, and new ways to do things.  When I stumbled across The Third Plate while looking for my next audio I was intrigued.  We have local friends who gave up meat 2 years ago using the logic that some day, it will not be offered to us anyway as truly the world can not keep up n the ever-growing population and the ever-growing demand.

Seriously, kudos to them… but I am not ready for that day to come.  Sheila loves chicken!

Author Dan Barber is not proposing a non meat society, what he is offering up in The Third Plate is a radical change on how we look at the dinner plate.  His unique way of looking at the plate and how we can use local resources is fascinating.  He proposes how each area of the world uses the resources the land gives them to create delicious meals and support local growth and support.

I wish I took better notes when listening to this audio.  There are so many interesting facts as Dan visits sheep farmers, fisheries, and more.  The numbers are staggering… the supplies required to complete the demand are almost heartbreaking to me.  What people have learned about how a goose dies affects the taste of the meat is amazing.

This is one I will need to purchase the book because I hope to refer to this one time and again.  I was truly fascinated with everything I learned.  While at points it felt drug out in audio format, I imagine the book would not give the same feel.

Recommended for those who love foodie books like me, people interested in trying new things, and healthy eaters.  Dan Barbers thinking makes a lot of sense to me.

 

I am linking this post up to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.

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Weekend Cooking – Literacy and Food

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The bookies Book Club read and review Moloka’i by Alan Brennert this past week.  ,One of things I love about reading for book club is the opportunity to make something I probably never would have tried.  Miloka’i based in the late 1800’s Hawaii.  I made two things for this review, Sweet Potato Casserole and Poi.

For this weeks Weekend Cooking I will post both recipes.

 

Sweet Potato Casserole

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4-5 large sweet potatoes halved

4-5 bananas peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

16 oz. crushed pineapple in own juice

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 Tablespoon cold butter

2 tsp. salt

1 cup pineapple juice (saved off the crushed pineapple)

1 tsp. Lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons honey

 

Heat over to 350 degrees.  lightly butter bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.  Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Place the potatoes into a pan of water that covers the potatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Drain and let steam dry until you are able to touch, then peal the skin off the potatoes, rough chop and place in the 9 x 13 pan. 

Dot with the cold butter over the potatoes. 

Sprinkle the salt over the potatoes.

Arrange the bananas over the potatoes.

Sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon combo.

Top with crushed pineapple.

Whisk together the pineapple juice, lemon juice, and honey until honey is dissolved.  Pour over the top of casserole.

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Cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

 

*This was pretty tasty.  The banana’s seemed odd but actually complimented the dish.  I thought it would be extremely sweet but it was not over the top.  I would make this again for a unique potluck dish.  ~Sheila

 

 

Poi

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You asked for the recipe… I am giving it but there is really not much to it. :)

2 pounds Taro Root (surprisingly I found this at my local grocery store)

water

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Taro

 

Bring taro root to a boil in 2 quarts of water.  Cook for about 40 minutes.  Drain, cool, and peal the root.  Rough chop taro into a bowl.  Blend in blender with 1 cup of water until smooth.  (There are more traditional ways to do this that involve a grass skirt, a smooth rock and a hollowed out piece of wood but I went “new school” and “got ‘er done”!) :)

 

A couple things about Poi.  There is one finger, two finger, and three finger poi.  This is because traditionally you scoop it up with your fingers.  The thicker the poi, the less fingers used.  I am happy to say, I made a one finger poi:

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Poi tasted like bland potatoes.  I was surprised when looking on line I could not find any variations of this recipe to jazz it up a bit.  I would have liked to have made three cheese poi, or fully loaded poi with garlic and sour cream and bacon… just saying ;)

And finally why is my poi white when traditionally it is purple?  I have no idea.  I was disappointing as I was looking forward to the bright purple I seen in pictures.  I Googled this question but came up with no answers. 

Bob Harper Skinny Meals / Weekend Cooking

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You know him from the show Biggest Loser when he is pushing contestants to their limits.  Bob is also a personal trainer, as well as some one who takes care of their own body and what they put in it.

As Bob says in the forward of this book, what he is sharing here is the same foods and meals he eats and encourages those he works with to eat.  Healthy eating habits and working out are the keys to a fitter, fuller life.

 

 

As soon as I seen this book on-line I knew I wanted to own it.  Lots of delicious looking recipes that did not seem to be above my cooking skills.  No recipe over 350 calories and balanced so your carbs are eaten by mid afternoon and your suppers are balanced with the fiber and calories you need for burning them through the night. 

 

The forward to the book are basic steps for balancing your meals and not over eating.  Bob says always drink a full glass of water before any meal.  Even take a glass of water by your bedside so first thing in the morning you can drink it.  Not only does it help you feel fuller before you eat, it also helps flush out the things your body does not need.  He also suggests no eating after 8 pm and go to bed hungry.  Your body starts to burn fat around 3 hours after eating.  Why not deal with those “hungry hours” while you are sleeping?  ;)

Since purchasing the book I have made several recipes out of it, planning to use it more in the future as well (there is a spaghetti squash recipe filled with vegies I have my eye on to try).

Here is the Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce I tried.  Or I would like to call it, “you had me at avocado!” 

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Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini (approx. 2 cups worth)

Avocado Cream Sauce

  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium broth (either veggie or chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 2 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz roasted, boneless, skinless chicken breast

Directions

  1. Slice zucchini very thinly lengthwise. Then cut each piece into thirds, lengthwise so that they are like thick noodles. Steam “noodles” for 2-3 minutes or until they are just cooked through.
  2. In the meantime, blend avocado, basil, broth, lemon juice, garlic, and Parmesan in a processor or blender.
  3. Toss “noodles” with sauce and cubed chicken, and serve.

Nutritional Information

  • 258 calories, 27g protein, 19g carbs, 11g fat

 

My thoughts – I love the use of strips of zucchini as the “noodle”.  It just felt fresher.  The avocado sauce was delicious!  I enjoyed this very much, it was easy to make and I will make it again. :)

This recipe was posted for Weekend Cooking.  Stop over and see what other people are cooking up!

 

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Literary Weekend Trip and a Tasty Recipe

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I thought this morning I would do a combo post between Saturday Snapshot and Weekend cooking… both memes that I love to participate in as I enjoy taking pictures and trying new things in the kitchen… but dont always have the time to write the posts. :)

 

Last weekend I ventured to the North Shore to our cabin… just me and my dog with the plan to do a little spring cleaning, a little reading and movie watching and just wind down… before spring really hits and life winds up and I go go go!

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Large left: the tunnel by Two Harbors Top two right: Just fun things between Duluth and the North Shore Bottom two right: Road as you drive into the rocky terrain, this road was actually blasted through the rock to be made, and the far bottom right is the outside wall of the famous Glensheen mansion, I have toured it many times.

 

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Sammy made the trip with me. We made a pit stop in Two Harbors for frozen custard.

 

While at the cabin in Finland Minnesota I read two books and watched three movies.  It felt great :)  I never have time to do things like that.

 

To post your own pics, or to see others and what they are posting this weekend… check out Saturday Snapshot.

 

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Switching gears, a friend of mine hooked me up with a tasty little recipe I would like to share for weekend cooking.  Like reubens?  This you will LOVE.

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Reuben Roll

1 tube Pillsbury Pizza Dough
1/4 cup thousand island dressing, + 2 tbsp for top
1/4 pound sliced corned beef or pastromi deli meat, chopped up (I used deli turkey as I am not a fan of corned been or pastrami)
3/4 cup Sauerkraut, drained and squeezed dry
2 cups grated Swiss cheese, + 1/2 cup for top

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Unroll the Pillsbury pizza dough on a greased baking sheet. Press to about 14 inches x 9 inches. Bake for 8 minutes then remove from oven. Spread the 1/4 cup of thousand island dressing over the crust, all the way to the edges. Top with the chopped corned beef, drained sauerkraut, and 2 cups of Swiss cheese. Carefully roll up the pizza into a tube. Place the pizza roll into a 9×5 inch loaf pan, seam side down.
Drizzle the top with the remaining thousand island dressing and shredded cheese. Continue baking for 10-12 minutes longer or until cheese is bubbly in the center. Carefully remove from pan and slice to serve. Enjoy!

 

It was delicious – I made it this past week for hubby and I and we both really enjoyed it.

See other fun recipes to try (and I have found more than a few!) by checking out Weekend Cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Runners World Cookbook edited by Joanna Sayago Golub

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If you have followed my journey, you know that the past year I have “dabbled” in running.  I still don’t think I qualify as a runner, but my cousin says that if I am not laying on the couch and I am out moving my body, I am a runner.

Ok… I guess that makes me a runner.

Right before Christmas I treated myself to a purchase just for me.  I bought this book.  Runner or not, I am always interested in working with whole foods and breaking the habit of the “fast food fix” that tends to occasionally plague my busy lifestyle. 

The Runners World Cookbook promotes eating well if you run 10 miles a week or one hundred.  (A hundred!)  It also encourages “eating the rainbow” a colorful array of fruits and vegetables every day.  Mmmmmm

The book starts out with explaining healthy antioxidants, carbs, grains, proteins and fats. Then the book breaks down into chapters:

  • Breakfast
  • Snacks and Smoothies
  • Salads and Dressings
  • Soups and Stews
  • Sandwiches, Pizzas, Burgers
  • Sauces and Pasta
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Desserts

The recipes look delicious!  They are submitted from runners, marathon winners, Olympians, doctors, test kitchens and more.  At the top of each recipe is a little paragraph of when is a good time to eat this (pre – run, after run, recovery…. daily….).  It also shares how long to prep, how many servings, and of course nutrition values.  I also like that each recipe is labeled : V: Vegetarian,  VE:  Vegan, GF:  Gluten Free, Many of the recipes are also accompanied by a photo which I love to drool over!

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I admit, I have not had a chance to cook out of this book yet although I have spent time over several days paging through and making note of the ones I want to try.  A few that caught my eye are:  Egg and bean burritos with avocado and yogurt lime sauce, banana oat energy bars, spinach bacon sweet potato salad, Asian Noodle Salad with eggs and peanut dressing, Thai Avocado soup, Smoked Salmon and Vegie Wraps, Jerk Shrimp with sweet potato and black beans… I could go on forever :)

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Tonight, I think we are going to try the Chicken Mango fajita.  Seriously, look at that tasty picture.  It is labeled as Fast, Recovery and Low Calorie.  Since I am planning on running a 5k today to keep up my motivation for the half marathon I signed up for at the end of this month as well as a walk with my dogs in snow shoes- it sounds perfect. :)  I think you may see recipes coming out of this book frequently this year :)

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I am submitting this post as part of Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.  It is true, I always have more time to make good tasty and healthy dishes on the weekends. :)

 

Weekend Cooking – Hibachi Time!

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This past week for book club I was in charge of one of the main dishes for our group.  We love to theme the food to the book.  In Reconstructing Amelia, there is a part in the book where her mother was going to take Amelia out to her favorite Hibachi restaurant.  This was a chance for Amelia to share with her mom what was going on in her life, but then the doorbell rang and the neighbor was reminding Amelia that she had agreed to babysit that night.  This would have been the last meal that Amelia and her mom shared together.  (Want to know more?  Read the book!  ;) )

SO Hibachi.  My first attempt but it wasn’t that difficult and it sure was delicious!

Here is my modified recipe that I made for book club and now share here for  Beth Fish Read’s, Weekend Cooking:

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Chicken Hibachi

4-6 skinless chicken breasts

1 large onion sliced

3 -4 Zucchini Squash

2 yellow squash

3 cups mushrooms (I bought the pre sliced from the produce area of the grocery store)

2 cans drained bean sprouts ( or 3 cups fresh)

2 colored peppers (I used red and yellow – these are optional)

soy sauce

butter

salt and pepper

lemon juice

sesame seeds

olive oil

Slice chicken into bite size pieces and set aside. 

Take the mushrooms and slice into bite size pieces and set aside. 

Slice the onion, squash, and peppers into strips of bite size pieces, keep separate from the mushrooms.

Place a tablespoon of olive oil in two separate large fry pans.  Over medium high heat heat the oil in both pans.  In one pan place the chicken, in the other pan place the vegie mix of onion, squash and peppers.  Place 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of butter over the chicken.  Add salt and pepper. Place two tablespoons of soy sauce and a tablespoon of butter over the vegies.  Saute the vegie pan while occasionally stirring the cooking chicken pan.

When chicken is done (about 8-10 minutes), vegies should be done as well.  Take the vegies off the hot burner and set aside.  Take the chicken and slide it to one side of the pan sprinkling it with a little lemon juice and then sprinkle on sesame seeds over the chicken.  In the other half of the pan place a tablespoon of butter and as it melts stir in the mushrooms.  Put a little soy sauce over the mushrooms.  When mushrooms are cooked, mix it with the chicken and add the rest of the vegies from the other pan.  gently toss the mixture over medium heat for a couple of minutes. 

Place chicken vegie mix into a large serving pan. 

In the pan you just used for the chicken and vegie mix, place a tsp of olive oil and toss in the bean sprouts until they are hot.  place the bean sprouts on top of the chicken mix in the serving pan. 

Serve hot with the Hibachi Sauce.

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Hibachi Sauce

15 oz jar of mayo

1 Tbls sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp Katsup

3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce

1 1/2 tsp ground mustard

1 1/2 tsp Paprika

1 tsp ground pepper

1/8 cup water

Place the mayo into a bowl.  Stir in all the other ingredients.  Pour into a resealable container.  I used a canning jar as this makes quite a bit of sauce.  Chill until time to serve. 

Thank you to the book Reconstructing Amelia which caused me to look up how to make Hibachi style food.  It is an easy recipe to change to the vegies you prefer as well as adjusting quantities to serve larger groups.  It was fun to try and my book club enjoyed it, as did my hubby the next night.  Delicious with the sauce.

Weekend Holiday Cooking: Homemade Caramels

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Recently my husband and I were at an annual Christmas Party at a friends home.  She is an amazing cook and baker and as usual was handing our her delicious (dangerously so!) home made caramels.  Now this is something I would have never tried at home assuming that the gift of caramel making would never be something my fingers could do… but then, our host said something in conversation “They are so easy to make, its just having the patience to do all that stirring!”

Within a few short days, in preparation for our book club Christmas gathering where our theme this year was “home made”, I thought I would try my hand at caramels. (Don’t worry -I also had home made ornaments so I had not put all my hope in the caramels)  To my amazement – they turned out delicious and were one of the coveted items at our gathering.

This weekend, today actually, I made more.  We have our office party this week, and I thought they would be a wonderful treat for our mailman, and others as well.  This time I recorded the process so you an see how it is done and maybe make your own if you like.

Ingredients
  • 1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1½ c. packed brown sugar
  • ¾ c. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. chopped walnuts (optional)

- See more at: http://simplykierste.com/2013/10/best-homemade-caramels.html#sthash.qtKJOoDN.dpuf

Ingredients
  • 1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1½ c. packed brown sugar
  • ¾ c. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. chopped walnuts (optional)

- See more at: http://simplykierste.com/2013/10/best-homemade-caramels.html#sthash.qtKJOoDN.dpuf

You will need:

  • two sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (or a different flavor of extract to jazz it up)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • wax paper

some people add nuts, since mine are for gift giving and some people have allergies, I opt out from using nuts

Put all ingredients except for the vanilla into a large saucepan.  Cook over medium heat stirring fairly constantly until the mixture reaches a temp of 245 degrees on a candy thermometer or passes the hard ball test using a cup of cold water for testing.

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The beginning…. ingredients in saucepan over medium heat

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Heating and stirring to 245 degrees.

Remove from heat and add the extract (as I mentioned above, while vanilla is standard I have tried it with both cinnamon and orange extract as well and it is delicious, giving it more of a special occasion flavor).  Beat in the extract well and then pour the entire saucepan into a 9 x 13 BUTTERED pan immedietly before it starts to harden.

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Remove from heat and stirring in the extract

Place pan somewhere to cool.  This time of year is ideal in Minnesota as I set my pans outside in the garage to cool.  It does not take long, and once mixture is cutable (mmm hmmmm…. my word) cut into 1 inch by two inch squares, roll in fingers to make an oblong shape and roll up in wax paper.

*Note – if you do live in a cold area like me and you happen to cool the caramels too long and they become hard in the pan, place in a warm over for a few minutes until they reach the desired hardness.

Place in a bag or fancy container for gift giving or a cute bowl for your own holiday gatherings.  As you can see here, I tried mine in jars.  This would make a great thank you gift, teacher gift, or just “Merry Christmas” to a friend!

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Thanks to Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking, which inspired this post.

Have a SWEET week!

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

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Ruth Reichl was happy with her job at the Los Angeles Times as Food Critic.  Yet when an opening came at the New York Times for a food critic the buzz was that it was going to be her they would pursue…  while Ruth was thinking, “No… I don’t want to move to New York”, her husband, television producer Michael Singer was putting in for a transfer figuring the move was inevitable.

Michael, as it turns out was right.

After an interview with The New York Times that Ruth did not try very hard at, she started to allow herself to say dream a bit of what it would be like to take the position id offered…. then she became a little unsettled when they did not call…. had she blown it?  When the call did finally come Ruth said “Yes” and she, her husband and young son made the move to New York.

What Ruth did not realize was that the restaurants were waiting for her.  Her picture hung in ever highly notable kitchen so the staff would know when she came to their resistant and they could be sure to give her the best service so they would get the best reviews.

What they didn’t know was that Ruth was not about to let it play out that way.  She wondered how she could give people honest reviews of the restaurants if they were catering to her because of who she was.  The answer, as it turned out, came in the form of a petite friend of her mothers who was a make up artist… Ruth would go these restaurants in disguise.

Garlic and Sapphires is the true memoir of a critic in disguise who took on the personalities of who she dressed as and learned all too quickly which restaurants only cared about who were you were and what you could do for them.  Her reviews were cut throat and made a lot of people angry, but they were honest… and the average person who made a reservation (or not…) would know exactly what to expect.

 

 

I read Garlic and Sapphires once before a few years back.  At the time of this typing, I believe I reviewed it here at Book Journey but I am not sure and I refuse to look until I have finished writing this review so one opinion does not affect the other.  Does that make sense?  When my book club chose it last month to be our April read with the idea that is we read it we would all dress in disguise for the review I was in… all in.  I love it when we go the extra mile.  :D

SO this second reading of Garlic and Sapphires went something like this… I really enjoyed it.  I loved Ruth’s disguises and how each one transformed her.  She became the character and no one was the wiser.  She could walk by people she knew and they would not even do a double take.  No one knew who she was and with that she could walk into any restaurant and see how the “unfamous”, unadorned, were treated.  But that wasn’t all… Ruth would dress older, she would dress poorer,  and on some occasions she would dress as more confident and sexier….  and of course, she would also show up as herself – actually visiting a restaurant many times before writing her review.

I enjoyed the story behind the review, and then reading her review.  I loved the description of the foods she ate as my mouth watered in anticipation… could I taste it simply through her words? 

I enjoy reading foodie books.  I don’t know why I am so fascinated by them, by the life of a critic amazes me – at first thought I think, what a great job… tasting the best foods, in the best restaurants, but when I really think about being a critic must really be hard work.  You feel with the pressures of getting it right and the backlash of those who disagree…. 

If you are a foodie reader as well, I think you will really enjoy this fun twist on food critiquing. 

 

The Bookies….

Oh…. how I love my book club…..

When this book came up in the vote last month, Kaydi who nominated it added in that it would be fun to dress up as Ruth does in the book.  YAY!!!  I love bonus book club events!  :D

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7 of us the 12 of us who were there the review did dress up.  Brenda (back row – hot blond) said her husband told her as she left her house, “I think you really enjoy these dress up events…” 

Truth is, I think we do :D

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Having a little fun with it….

I think personally what I love about the dressing p is you really get see some fun personalities come out and I have to smile thinking these are memories in the making. :)

The Bookies over all rated the book an average read, while everyone seemed to enjoy it, a few brought up that it seemed to get tedious after a while.  We had a fun discussion of who we thought was Ruth’s best dress up and we mostly agreed that Brenda was her best as it really seemed to bring out the best in Ruth – and in others.  A line from the book was…

Is it possible to be jealous of yourself?

Of course we had food…. we were food critics after all….

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Chicken wraps with grapes and apples

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Spaghetti Carbonara as the recipe on page 139

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Thai noodles

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“Sapphire” Cheesecake!

Delicious food… fun conversation and then, Angie pulled out a chocolate tasting board… asn we all were able to try our own hand at being critiques:

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I think this was a fun book to review as a book club and would recommend it for other book clubs as well.

A am adding this to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

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The Language Of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Bookies Review)

Victoria was one of those kids who fell through the cracks of the foster care system.  Placed time and again in homes that did not fit for her, or were flat-out… abusive.  The Foster Care program felt it was Victoria, she was labeled as difficult and uncooperative… and so Victoria continued moving home to home until at 18 years of age she outgrew the foster care age -

and then was on her own.

One home however, haunts her dreams in a painful loss sort of way and if filled with the “what if’s” of life.  When Victoria was placed with Elizabeth a woman who grew up surrounded by flowers and their meanings , Victoria soon learned the secret language as well…. aster meaning patience, honeysuckle for devotion, plum meaning keep your promises….

But a poor decision leads to an unthinkable tragedy and Victoria once again shuts down, holding within her secrets and not trusting anyone with her heart.  She finds herself in a world of flowers and in almost an unreal way she flourishes, knowing exactly what those looking for the right bouquet want and need… and while this keeps her busy and is fulfilling…

she still longs for what she came so close to having if not for her secret, and Victoria is about to learn that your past has a way of finding you… and that isn’t always a bad thing…

 

My book club the Bookies chose this book for our November read.  On synopsis alone, I wasn’t sure about this one… I had some sort of 70’s flower child image in my head, however the girl who recommended this one is usually spot on with her book suggestions and she had already read it and said it was wonderful. 

The Language Of Flowers, as it turns out is wonderful and an incredible discussion book for reading groups.  The beauty we found within the pages of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s story line here was well worth discussing.  While Victoria is not always likeable, that makes the story even deeper.  She is flawed.  She will annoy the crap out of you (and did).  AND her decisions do not always fall back on her child hood and the “oh look what she has been through though!”  My response to that is, “yeah well, we have all been through stuff.”

However….

Victoria is three-dimensional, while you can not put her on a pedestal, you also can not fully dismiss her.  She makes you want to know more about the way she thinks and the underlining flow of flowers and their language is not only fun but interesting.  I highly recommend this read not only for flower lovers but also for discussion groups as there is so many ways to discuss this book further.

 

BOOKIES THOUGHTS

The Bookies over all rated this one a steady 4 out of 5.  While we differed somewhat on how we felt about Victoria, we still enjoyed the read and the characters.  The flower discussion was good and I had printed out lists for everyone of Victoria’s Dictionary Of Flower, found on-line and created by the author.

Fresh flowers of course adorned our get together as well as flower book marks.  Our food for the review looked like this:

 

The foods served were some mentioned in the book.  I went with Zucchini Linguini because Zucchini starts out as a flower. ;)

The Language of Flowers makes for a wonderful discussion book for book clubs. 

Also submitted to Beth Fish Reads, Weekend Cooking Meme.

Yes, CHEF by Marcus Samuelsson

Born in Ethiopia, Samuelsson was three years old when his mother walked him and his sister 75 miles to be treated for Tuberculosis.  Once they arrived at the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Adapa, Marcus’ mom died on the disease, but Marcus and his sister were treated and recovered.  Now orphans, they were both adopted by a middle class family that lived in Sweden.

And this is where Marcus started to learn about food.  His new Grandmother Mormor took Marcus under her wing and showed him how to cook and to use everything.  She made everything herself and taught Marcus that nothing went to waste.  Fresh baked bread was served the first day with lunch and dinner, on the second day it was good for toast, and then after that it was good for croutons and breading for battered fish.

As a teen Marcus first applied to work at a McDonald’s but was turned down for employment due to his color.  (How funny to think that now one of the most famous chefs in the world was once denied to flip burgers and shake salt in fries…)

As years went on Marcus worked in restaurant after restaurant learning the kitchen as well as the back of his hand.  He loved to try new things together and soon Head Chefs were looking to his for new menu ideas and new flavors.  Eventually Marcus was given opportunities to travel back to Ethiopia to learn the flavors of his home land.

When he was Head Chef at Aquavit he earned a coveted three star rating for his cooking in the New York Times that sent him forward in huge strides, including being on several Top Chef TV shows, and cooking for the White House.

Marcus’s story is not all up hill, there are times of career crisis, emotional happenings, law suits, and eventually he is led to opening his current Restaurant the Red Rooster in Harlem. 

Marcus first hand lets the reader know the price of ambition, the cost of wanting perfection, the battle to be respected by his peers, and ultimately his road to finding the restaurant of his dreams.

Fish Tostadas

Why did I want to read this book?  I first seen this book in a Shelf Awareness email.  Oddly, although I do not have the patience to cook, I love reading about those who do and succeed.  Marcus’ story from Ethiopia as a lost boy to the Big Apple as a household name was one I wanted to know more about.

Yes Chef delivered everything I hoped it would.  Marcus tells his story in an honest and humble tone from beginning to end.  My copy of this book is covered in little post it arrows where I marked how he prepared truffles (you add them to the sauce at the very end so as not to cook all the flavor out), and his Spanish breakfast (ripe tomatoes peeled and then crushed on toast adding a grind or two of black pepper), and how to make a lobster lasagna.  When curing duck breasts Marcus would soak then in a large pan of salted water with a plate weighing them down for 6 hours.

Mouth watering yet?

And in between pages of mixing seasonings and different flavors is Marcus’ story.  Growing up and moving out… restaurant experiences that are detailed from where he got it right, and from when he should have been fired and by grace he was not.  And then into Marcus’ life as the one doing the firing and trying to find kitchen held that understood the demands of a kitchen, one employee even telling him,

“You can ask me to be on time, iron my shirt, shave or not to wear sneakers, but you can’t ask them all of me… it’s too much.”

~Page 309 Yes CHEF

 

Yes Chef was interesting and a fun book to read that I will refer to again and again.  Marcus is a true story of battling against the odds, fighting prejudices and coming out on top.  His tips on food throughout the book are things I want to try, things I would have never considered, but when I read Yes CHEF, I felt inspired.

Highly recommended to lovers of memoirs, cooking related books and success stories… I loved this book.

 

Marcus’ fried chicken served at Red Rooster

marinate chicken in coconut milk (I would use chicken breasts not whole chicken, but that’s me)

cure in lemon

steam it and bone it

fry in day old oil

serve with greens, sweet potato fries, buttermilk dressing and hot sauce and pickled watermelon rind

 

This review is part of Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

 

Purchased from Amazon

Amazon Rating

Goodreads Review

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