Disney’s Festival of the Arts

I just turned 50 in January, and my hubby did back in August when travel was right out, so we headed to Disney last week for a big celebration. 8 glorious days. Two in each park. Perfect! We didn’t realize the Festival of the Arts was going on at Epcot! Even better! There are little stands scattered throughout the World Showcase that generally have 2 entrees, a couple of beverages and a dessert. They are little taster plates and mostly in the $6-$10 range, so you can have fabulous bites around the world, kind of like global tapas. We had a fantastic time. Let me tell you all about it!

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Baked Ricotta and Roasted Grapes with Balsamic Drizzle (savory cheesecake!) recipe and cookbook review: Rachael Ray 50

#RachaelRay @RachaelRay #RachaelRayShow @RachaelRayShow

Rachael Ray. That’s one polarizing name.

When my husband handed me a gift on our first Christmas together, I unwrapped it to find a cookbook, looked up and glared at him, and he ducked a little, laughing, “No! Open it up!” Tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Five years later, when our baby was tiny, and we decided I’d stay home with her, I was suddenly responsible for all things domestic with absolutely zero interest in cooking or cleaning anything. None. Then everyone in the playgroup started watching Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals. She made everything look fun, doable, and yummy, and suddenly we were all cooking and doing a nice job of it. I’m so grateful that we all had her. I stumbled across this book and ordered it in a rush of nostalgia. I don’t watch daytime tv anymore so I had no idea what she’s been up to or what to expect. But now I can help you with that!

Rachael Ray 50 is filled with Rachael’s essays, a memoir of her life so far, and those are dotted with 125 recipes that mean something to her. Some of them are quick, but she’s not limiting herself to speed meals here. The pasta puttanesca was the only one that I remember from her early days. I flagged so many that I need to order more post-it notes! I’m really glad she made this one a hardcover, because it’s special.

The book is broken into three sections: Family, Friends, and Work.

I’m going to share her recipe for Baked Ricotta and Roasted Grapes with a Balsamic Drizzle. It’s like a savory cheesecake. It’s easy, delicious, and beautiful – perfect for all the upcoming holidays! Please note that there are two asterisked sub-recipes after the recipe that you’re going to want to deal with first, so that you’re just ready to go!

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Croissants recipe, Jen’s sandwich, and cookbook review: Tartine

#ElizabethPrueitt #ChadRobertson #Tartine @Tartine #ChronicleBooks @ChronicleBooks

Wow! I have been playing in the most lovely posh baking book! Tartine has some amazing and gorgeous projects to tackle when you’re feeling like something extraordinary and going the extra distance, when taking on the learning curve sounds fun. There’s also some much easier fare with a special spin when you’d just like to keep it simple, and enjoy a really nice treat.

They give measurements in both cups and weights where applicable, so you can work with whichever you prefer. Although it’s a little extra effort, I strongly prefer weights because it comes out perfectly every time.

The croissants in this book are the best I’ve ever made. The croissant dough, once you master it, is the base of other recipes in the book, so I’ll be making it again next week to make their breakfast rolls. They look way too tempting to resist. Thank you to Chronicle for letting me share the croissant recipe with you, and after that, I’ll share my most decadent croissant sandwich. It may seem horrifying to slice that beautiful croissant in half, but I promise it’s worth it! I’ve added in drawings of the folds and cuts for visual shorthand.

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Fig Cake with Dried Cherries recipe and cookbook review: The Forest Feast Mediterranean

#ErinGleeson @ErinGleeson #TheForestFeastMediterranean @TheForestFeastMediterranean #TheForstFeast #AbramsBooks @AbramsBooks

My dog eats earbuds. I put between 5 and 15 miles on my sneakers every day, and love listening to audiobooks while I’m out there on the trail. I keep leaving those earbuds on my desk, and find them fully munched when I go to grab them, so I’m usually trapped in my own head. When my mind wanders, it’s usually food-related. One day, my fantasy tv show popped into my head. The host would travel the world, and visit people’s gardens, and then follow them into the kitchen to see what they do with their produce. No 3 different dish segment. Nope. Just a slow paced visit with a lot of vegetables, chatting, and coffee. Or tea if that’s your thing. Sounds flippin’ wonderful, doesn’t it? I found that in book form! Well, at least the Mediterranean. She’ll have to work on the rest of the world later.

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Beef Patties in Grape Leaves recipe and cookbook review: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

#ReemKassis @ReemKassis #ThePalestinianTable @ThePalestinianTable #Phaidon @Phaidon

Do you watch Milk Street? Christopher Kimball had Reem Kassis on as a guest to discuss her book, The Palestinian Table. She was talking about a 9-spice blend that she loves and uses in everything. I tend to really enjoy food with a strong spice focus, and Christopher Kimball gushed about the book, so I had to get my hands on a copy. I’m so glad that I did! Every dish we’ve tried has been lovely, and the dishes are pretty relaxing to prepare. Her flavors are wonderful, and it’s mostly at the nice and healthy end of the spectrum. We haven’t tried any desserts yet, but if you have a sweet tooth, she’ll tempt you for sure.

I’ll tell you all about the other dishes we tried, but first I’d like to share with you her recipe for Beef Patties in Grape Leaves. It’s a fabulous comfort food bake that will fill your home with glorious fragrance. And that fabulous 9-spice blend is part of the recipe, so you can taste that, too! Thanks to Phaidon for letting me share it with you!

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Fesenjoon – Chicken (or eggplant) with Walnuts and Pomegranates recipe and cookbook review: The Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan

#YasminKhan @YasminKhan #TheSaffronTales @TheSaffronTales #BloomsburyPub @BloomsburyPub

I flipped through The Saffron Tales, pasting little post-it notes on all the recipes I wanted to try. So many. She had four different variations on tahdig for her Chelow. Have you tried it? Chelow is Persian rice, and tahdig is the crispy layer that cooks in olive oil and butter right against the pan. So good. It’s one of those things that makes lovely manners rather difficult. I flagged all of them, and went back to flipping through the book. Then I saw it – Chelow filled with all sorts of herbs. When we lived in New York, my friend Firoozeh and I would take turns hosting family dinners on weekends, and that’s the rice she always used to spoil us with. Since we’ve moved to Texas, there are about 1600 miles between us. This isn’t a Firoozeh hug, but its as close as I can get without a plane ticket, so I had to make that one. It was perfect. Warm fuzzies all around.

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Spicy Pepperoncini Beef recipe and cookbook review: No Crumbs Left by Teri Turner

#hmhco @hmhco @TeriTurner #NoCrumbsLeft @NoCrumbsLeft

I found the foodie’s Whole30-ish book! No Crumbs Left is such a delicious, beautiful, and interesting one! A lot of the recipes follow the Whole30 rules. You’ll see labels along the margin for Whole30, gluten-fee, dairy-free, paleo, and grain-free. Many have all of those. Melissa Hartwig and Michelle Tam compare Teri Turner’s food skills to Julia Child. I found myself wanting to try almost everything in the book, especially the super healthy ones. If you’re looking for really nourishing dishes with total foodies in mind, I think you’ll love it! She’s a strong flavorist!

There are a few base recipes that she makes at the front of the book that are ready-to-go ingredients in other recipes, like marinated red onions, garlic confit, and tomato confit. Yeah, they’re totally worth it.

I’ll tell you all about the dishes we tried, but first I wanted to share a fabulous recipe from the book, Spicy Pepperoncini Beef. Sweet and hot peppers with garlic, onions, and basil. It tastes phenomenal, yet it’s weeknight easy-breezy, and super good for you. Perfect!

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Gorgeous and Super Refreshing Grilled Watermelon and Feta Salad recipe and Cookbook Review: Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook by DJ BBQ

QD_Fire Food_CVR_9781787131545Mmmmmm. I love a killer salad. And Watermelon and Feta Salad is just that. Grilled watermelon. Yeah. It totally wants to be grilled. It is soooo good that instead of the polite, “No. You go ahead. I insist.” people will will avoid eye contact to grab an extra spoonful. The recipe is out of Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook. It’s coming out this Tuesday! A big thank you to Quadrille for letting me share the recipe with you! My review of the book is right after the recipe.


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Jen’s Strawberry Spinach Salad with Raspberry Poppyseed Vinaigrette and Grilled Orange Rosemary Chicken

Summer’s on its way! I saw a recipe for a strawberry spinach salad in a Penzey’s catalog years ago. I loved it. It’s the most friendly salad ever. I’ve played with it to make the dressing a little lighter, added grilled orange chicken, and changed the pistachios to candied pecans. It’s perfect with Pellegrino with lime if the kids have talked you into playing outside after dinner, or with a lovely Pinot Grigio if you’re planning to relax.

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Cookbook Review: Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World by Sam Kass

I was just listening to the end of Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes, Chef, when he mentioned that Sam Kass introduced him to the Obamas, and that’s how Marcus got to cook dinner for them, when this book, Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World, came across my desk. I was very excited to thumb through it and see what a president gets to eat, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. Beautiful book. I was surprised by the simplicity of the dishes. Kass’ style is simple preparations of nourishing food, with easy, perfect techniques that develop a lot of flavor. It’s good for you, feel good food, and it’s yummy. It’s all family pleasers. The kids have enjoyed the dishes as much as my husband and I.

Who’s this book for? I’d recommend it to anyone that wants nice healthy, nourishing food without cutting anything out. The recipes are on the easy end of the spectrum, and my kids love them, so I think it’s a good fit for anything from someone’s first apartment to the experienced cook. Continue reading “Cookbook Review: Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World by Sam Kass”