Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cookbook Review & Giveaway ~ How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman

It seems that for the most part everyone is just too busy these days and in order to continue to get food on the table and eat well we need food that is nutritious and delicious but in record speed. I’m not talking about every day because there are days (weekends especially) when I like to slow down and really take my time to cook, but during the week there are definitely days when I need something delicious for dinner that doesn’t take long to prepare and cook and will keep everyone happy. I’ve tried using my slow cooker which is ultimately long slow cooking (where you do nothing) with fast and easy preparation but so far have yet to be wowed so How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman seems like the perfect solution…Good food fast.

When I received my copy of How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman it was like Christmas had come early! The doorstopper of a book (and I mean a doorstopper) has over 1000 pages and is packed with 2000 recipes and lots of invaluable advice on ingredients, cooking techniques and plenty of other information that is both important and very helpful. When you flick through the book the first obvious downfall is that there are absolutely no photographs. It’s probably just as well since it is already a monster book and photographs would just add to it but if you are someone that has to have photographs you will be disappointed. Ordinarily I am that someone but for some reason it didn’t really bother me with this book once I had gone through it…. Maybe because it seems more like a culinary encyclopaedia ….regardless, with this book I was ok without the pictures.

The book has 14 chapters devoted to recipes including Soup and Stews, Pasta and Noodles, Beans and Tofu and Meat as well as additional chapters on how to prepare your kitchen for speed, how to shop for speed and lots of others fast strategies.

So what about the recipes?! Well the downside to reviewing a book with 2000 recipes is that it is virtually impossible to narrow down that many recipes and pick only a handful to test, especially because there were so many I wanted to try. In the end however I had to pick what really appealed and I finally chose 5 recipes which admittedly doesn’t do the book much justice when there are so many other hundreds and hundreds of recipes I want to make! Still time restraints and a limit to how long this review could be was of major importance so 5 recipes it was!

Monday, January 12, 2015

A New Year and a New Direction......

Happy New Year!! Sorry it's a little late but I've been on the down low for the last month as I was back in Scotland staying with my family for Christmas and New Year. I had the most amazing time (as usual!) but unfortunately the time flew by and we're now back home in Canada. That being said I am excited to get back into things, especially where this blog is concerned.

For those of you that read Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops on a regular basis (well as regularly as I update!) you will notice that last year I didn't post nearly as much as I wanted to or had initially planned to. It was all down to time I'm afraid and a lack of it. I'm still cooking as much (and still loving it as much) it was just hard to find the time to develop new recipes, test them a few times and then photograph them and write the post. You may also have noticed that what I was posting, especially the last few posts, were book reviews which I really enjoy, and so for the time being I will be focusing on that. If I get the opportunity to post a new recipe then I absolutely will but for now I want to concentrate on reviewing and testing out cookbooks.

For me, reviewing a cookbook takes some time. To truly test and review a book I think that you have to test the recipes. It's all very well saying a cookbook looks great, is filled with mouthwatering photographs and that the recipes sound good but what if they don't work? In my opinion it's a major fail because honestly why would you want that book?! Therefore I go through each book several times, reading the introductions and initial chapters and bookmarking the recipes that appeal to me. I then test as many as I can but for the point of the review always 3-4 which are tested by following the recipe exactly. If you have read any of my reviews you will know they tend to be quite lengthy but again that is because I am really testing the book and trying to provide as much information to you as possible.

Pros and Cons I see within the book are always top of the list, whether you need Specialty Ingredients that are difficult to buy and if I have learned anything new all feature in my reviews. Basics like whether there are photographs to accompany the recipes are always included and by providing a list of recipes that I have bookmarked I try to share a range of some of the recipes included and not just the ones that I have tested.

As well as that though I am always open to suggestions of anything else you consider important when deciding whether you want to buy a book or not, so please feel free to comment on what you want to see from a cookbook review.

I hope that despite a lack of my own new recipes (all my existing recipes can still be found in the Recipes Page) and rather a concentration on reviews you will continue to read Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops and enjoy the reviews that I do. With that being said I am really excited as I am currently reviewing three cookbooks (with more on the way) and can't wait to share them with you!

Happy New Year again! Let's hope 2015 is a wonderful, happy, healthy and safe year for everyone.

Lynds x

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cookbook Review ~ Eat Yourself Pregnant by Zita West

I’m not going to lie, when I was asked if I would review Eat Yourself Pregnant by Zita West I was a little hesitant, because to be honest I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to broadcast on my blog that we are trying to get pregnant, but then I thought why not because it’s not exactly a secret, even if I don’t talk about it that much. The reality is that my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for the last 3 years and are dealing with Secondary Infertility. I’m not going to get into all of the specifics with you but it’s a long, emotional and very difficult journey that we never saw coming and so I will take any advice I can (within reason!), so considering  that I love food, cooking and cookbooks and I am trying to get pregnant I decided why not?!

Zita West is a fertility expert and midwife based in the UK. During her career she has also worked as a nutritional advisor and then as an acupuncturist so she is more than qualified to be writing this book! The recipes however come courtesy of Christine Bailey an award-winning nutritionist, food and health consultant, chef and cookery teacher.

The 160 paged paperback is packed with information about getting your body ready for pregnancy as well as 65 healthy recipes to ensure you get all of the vital nutrients required for conception in your diet. There are questions to help you assess your overall health such as ‘How healthy is your digestion?’ ‘How toxic are you?’ and ‘How stable is your blood sugar?’ and a recommended fertility cleanse if you think you need it. As it turned out everything seemed good for us so I skipped the fertility cleanse and opted to pick and choose my own recipes from the book (the fertility detox is just a detailed meal plan with all recipes taken from the book).

The recipes are divided into chapters including ‘Boosters & Breakfasts’, ‘Light Meals’ and ‘Main Meals’ and the majority are accompanied by beautiful photographs. They literally all sounded so good so I really had a hard time narrowing down which ones to test and in the end have so far managed to test 6 recipes (with more made outside of the testing and more to come!). Since I did test so many I’m keeping the information about the recipes shorter so that I don’t have a novel on my hands!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cookbook Review ~ Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook by Nancy Vienneau

The second Southern Cookbook to be added to my collection, Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook by Nancy Vienneau is a treasure of recipes and stories that celebrate local, seasonal food with family and friends.

What started off as a couple of friends wanting to get together once a month to share good food and company turned into a hugely successful monthly gathering and a cookbook to boot! The book features just over 150 recipes (taken from their monthly potlucks) and the chapters are divided into months which I know I have said before but I personally love! There are quite a lot of photographs throughout the book however a lot of them are for ingredients rather than the recipes which is worth noting. The theme is potluck but this is no ordinary potluck….Instead it is a group of friends getting together to celebrate the local bounty with new and innovative dishes. What each guest brings is a total surprise as there is no RSVP, no assigned dishes and absolutely no rules!

Quite honestly I didn’t even know where to start with this book because I bookmarked SO many recipes (the book was literally a sea of yellow post-it notes!!), however I finally managed to narrow things down and in the end I tested 4 recipes.

Tested Recipes:

Silky Butternut Squash Bisque
Fresh Dill-Feta Quick Bread
Cara Cara Cashew Chicken
Italian Meatballs in Hearty Italian Tomato Sauce

The first recipe to be put to the test was the Silky Butternut Squash Bisque since it looked delicious and I love Butternut Soup. The recipe was straightforward and I really liked the idea of roasting the vegetables first which added another level of flavour. I tasted the soup after each stage (and each new addition of the final ingredients) and I’ll be honest, for me it tasted best before the Greek Yogurt and Vanilla was added. I was definitely hesitant about the vanilla and in all honesty I wouldn’t do it again. It was a nice soup, definitely a bit different from any type of squash soup I have made before but I didn’t love it. It’s unlikely that I would make it again.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Shopping with Ten Thousand Villages

Unless you are one of the super organised, chances are you, like me, are trying to get organised for Christmas! I still can’t believe that we’re already in December and the official countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun, but it has!

I’m always on the lookout for something different for presents and so I was delighted when I was asked if I would review some food products from Ten Thousand Villages. Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit organisation and is the oldest and largest Fair Trade organization in North America. The website is packed full of beautiful artisan gifts, home d├ęcor, jewellery, stationery and of course my favourite - food products. But it’s not only an online store, Ten Thousand Villages Canada has many shops across the country. What really makes it stand out however, is the fact that the mission behind Ten Thousand Villages is “to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair-trading relationships”.

The products I was sent included a bottle of Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Palestine, a bag of Za’tar spice mix and a beautiful square serving plate which could be used for multiple purposes. Both the Olive Oil and the Za’tar came from a company called Zatoun which is a volunteer-run organisation that provides marketing aid to olive farmers in Palestine.

Photographs courtesy of Ten Thousand Villages
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