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The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz

March 19th, 2017 No comments

The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices by Lior Lev Sercarz

There comes a time in every cook’s life when you start to move beyond simply following recipes and begin to experiment more and more within those recipes. After that, more advanced cooks will reach for the next level — the graduate level, if you will. It is books like The Spice Companion that become part of your graduate food studies. Instead of dealing in the generalities of a specific cuisine or specific dishes, you go into the details of specific ingredients in your food. You dive deeper into more and more detailed levels of knowledge, so that, at the end, you emerge with a deeper understanding of how those ingredients come together in a recipe. With this deep knowledge, you can begin to create our own unique recipes.

The Spice Companion begins with some extensive and excellent information on the author’s personal spice philosophy, the history and origin of various spices, and how to source, blend and store spices. At its heart, though, The Spice Companion is an amazing reference book for spices of all types. A few random flips through the largest part of the book turned up spices I knew — like cinnamon and cloves — spices I had heard of but never used — like za’atar and wasabi — and spices entirely unknown to me — like Urda chiles and Sansho.

The detailed spice section are amazing in their depth and include a photo and/or drawing of each spice, a description of its flavor and aroma, it’s geographic origin, its harvest season, which parts of the plant are used — like leaves, stems, seed pods, etc –, and an extensive About section that provides even more information about typical uses and dishes that can be made with the spice.

The author then uses a graphical icon-based system to show which dishes might use this spice, other spices that can be paired with it, recipes for spice blends with this ingredient and finally, a recipe that uses this spice blend. Wow! It is almost overwhelming.

There is so much information to be found within the pages of The Spice Companion. I can foresee reading in a random fashion, jumping from one spice to another, but also then revisiting it later for a full cover-to-cover read to deeply enhance my spice, blends and overall food knowledge. This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices

This is a book that should find a place alongside your regular collection of cookbooks to offer more specific information on spices while also giving your great ideas on how recipes might be “dressed up” or enhanced by the use of alternative spices. It is the equivalent of a writer having a great dictionary or encyclopedia at hand when they work. There are times when you simply NEED to look something up and The Spice Companion would be a great place to turn.

Categories: Books, Cooking, Food, In the kitchen Tags:

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs by Julia Turshen [Book]

March 13th, 2017 No comments

Small Victories
Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs
Julia Turshen

When reading a cookbook I don’t tend to make grand proclamations that this book is good and that book is bad. Cookbooks are all about what you take away from the book and one person’s favorite is another’s failure. For me, my like or dislike of a cookbook directly relates to how well it works for me. Does its message resonate? Are the recipes actually something I would consider making? Can I put my new found knowledge to immediate use? With those criteria in mind, Small Victories certainly worked for me on a variety of levels.

First, even though I am a bit of a fussy eater, I found many recipes I want to try out as soon as possible. Each recipe is well described and also includes several variations you might want to try. Turshen includes old standards like her take on biscuits (Everything Biscuits), roast chicken (Roast Chicken with Fennel, Rosemary + Lemon) and desserts (Berry + Buttermilk Cobbler) while also exploring further afield with Roasted Salmon with Maple + Soy, Jennie’s Chicken Pelau, and Crisply Hominy + Cheddar Fritters.

In Small Victories, you’ll find sections dedicated to Breakfast, Soups + Salads, Vegetables, (maybe even a few that I would eat) (LAUGH), Grains, Beans + Pasta, Meat + Poultry, Shellfish + Fish, Desserts, A Few Drinks + Some Things To Keep On Hand and Seven Lists — which gives some great ideas on small bites to serve with drinks, 7 Things To Do With Pizza Dough, Leftover Roast Chicken and more.

Another reason I found Small Victories so enjoyable are the excellent stories attached to each recipe. Even when I wasn’t particularly interested in a recipe, I still made a point of reading each of these descriptions almost like I would read a regular book. These descriptions also contain the “Small Victories” which are the namesake of the book. These are small tips and hints are a great addition to the cookbook and provide yet another level of value.

As Turshen writes, “Think of small victories as the corners of the puzzle, the pieces that help us become inspired, relax cooks who know how to fill in the rest.

I found my copy of Small Victories at my local library and you might find it there, too. It’s always a great place to start when looking for new books in your life. However you get your hands on Small Victories, I highly recommend you do. I think you’ll find some interesting recipes, tips and maybe even the next step in your cooking adventures.

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

Do It 2017! #8: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered [Book]

March 6th, 2017 No comments

From the author of Steal Like An Artist (see my previous blog post) comes Show Your Work, another excellent book for anyone who seeks to gain more visibility for their work — especially those in creative fields.

Do It 2017! #: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered [Book]

My reading copy of this book came from the Los Angeles Public Library in eBook format

Reading Show Your Work was like listening to my own frequent talks on career topics. Much is exactly the same message I have preached to people for years. That is, the only way to get your work noticed is to share it as widely as possible. Music must be heard. Art must be seen. Writing must be read. Otherwise, it is a wasted effort.

Share, Share, Share

One message I share deeply with the author is the utmost importance of sharing your work via blogs and social media. As the author puts it, “It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” If your work can’t be discovered, stumbled upon, ran into, seen in passing, found in a Google Search, etc, you are severely limiting the exposure and discovery of your work. I don’t frequently use the word “MUST”, but I will in this occasion. You MUST make your creativity discoverable, through social media or other methods, or it simply doesn’t exist. Of course, you can ignore this if you are only creating for yourself, but most who create want their work to be seen, to be cherished, to be sold, to be understood, to be an important impact on the world. Don’t let your work languish. As the Bible says, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” Show Your Work!

Make them come to you!

Another dream I often talk and write about is the upending of the current job search market. I envision a world where job and life opportunities comes to you instead of you going, hat in hand, begging, for your next job, you next commission, your next opportunity. Imagine what an amazing world that would be/

Kleon says, “Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your résumé because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted online. Imagine losing your job but having a social network of people familiar with your work and ready to help you find a new one. Imagine turning a side project or a hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you.

I doubt that I will see this as commonplace within my lifetime, but it is an admirable goal we should all be trying to bring to fruition. We need to move beyond the norm of job search and turn it into a world were people go seeking new collaborators from the huge stockpile of great, interesting, talented people they already know. Of course, it is up to you to share “what you do and how well you do it” so that people clearly know the type and quality of work you do and you can be in the forefront of their mind when they need someone with those talents. If not, they’ll simply — and quickly — find someone else.

Show your work page

What do you have to share?

It might be more than you think. Sharing the process of your work is just as important as sharing the final product. Human beings LOVE to see “behind the curtain.” They love to feel like they are getting a special, closer, deeper, more intimate look into your work. This is something only you can provide. when friends and clients bemoan “What do I have to blog/post/status update/Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr about?”, this is my first recommendation. Share what you are doing. Share your successes. Share your challenges. Share your failures. Both you and those who follow you will both be better for it. Does this mean share everything? Maybe not, but most of us share far less than we might…or should.

If you need a good kick in the seat of your pants, Show Your Work can provide it. You’ll find yourself making notes, lists and todo items continuously as you go through it — I know I did. While your at it, check out Kleon’s other book, Steal Like An Artist (see my previous blog post on this book). I think you’ll find it enjoyable and greatly useful, too.

What do you have to share? What should you be showing off to your friends, family and the world? 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

Noted: These 7 Books Are Necessary Reading for All Creatives – Product Hunt

February 27th, 2017 Comments off
I’ve read nearly all of these and highly recommend them. I need to read Bird by Bird again and also check out Big Magic and Creative Confidence, which are new to me. — Douglas
 
 
 

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 


An interesting link found among my daily reading

 

New Cookbook: The Short Stack Cookbook

February 14th, 2017 Comments off

The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients That Speak Volumes

Another new cookbook I came across in my reading. I was able to quickly and easy download the cookbook as an ebook from my local library — and perhaps you can, too. Don’t forget this excellent source for new books of all sorts.

The Short Stack Cookbook is an interesting complication — selecting 18 “essential ingredients” and then finding some of the best food writers available today to select their best and favorite recipes for that ingredient.

I found a few recipes to check out here in my own kitchen and most of the ingredients were something that I would normally cook and eat — being a bit fussy about my food choices. Brussel sprouts and squash aren’t going to show up on my table unless I am making them for family or guests, but there are plenty of other ingredients to choose from including lemon, apples, cheddar, honey, rice, tomatoes and more.

A few of the recipes I found interesting include:

  • Cheddar Obatzda (Beer Cheese)
  • Cheddar-Walnut Shortbread
  • Lemon-Cornmeal Poundcake
  • Lemony Ricotta Pancakes
  • Smoked Mozzarella & Sage in Sourdough Carrozza
  • Pappardelle wth Bacon & Root Vegetable Ragu
  • and many more!

From Amazon.com…

The first cookbook from Short Stack Editions, an artful collection of 150 new and original recipes organized by ingredient from IACP and James Beard Award–winning cookbook authors, chefs, food writers, recipe testers, and editors.

The ethos behind Short Stack Editions is simple: Pair honest, common ingredients with trusted voices in the culinary world for inspired recipes home cooks can actually use. And for their first cookbook, Short Stack founders Nick Fauchald and Kaitlyn Goalen call upon their acclaimed contributors to extend their love letters to favorite ingredients. Exclusively created for this cookbook, these recipes–from all-star chefs, food writers, editors, and stylists–are destined to become favorites.

Categories: Baking, Books, Bread, Cooking, Drinks, Food, Recipe Tags:

New Cookbook: Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA by Mario Batali

February 9th, 2017 Comments off

I came across mention of this new cookbook in a magazine recently and quickly requested it from my local library as an ebook. I am still working my way through it, but wanted to offer my initial response so that you could make a point to check it out as well.

Mario Batali–Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA

I have been a follower of Mario Batali for years since I religiously watched Molto Mario years ago on Food Network. I have several of his recipes in my kitchen “rotation” including a gnocchi and sauce recipe we typically serve to new guests to the house. Having cooked his recipes and then visited our Sicilian relatives several times, I can attest that his recipes are quite respectful of their Italian heritage if changed a bit by their immigration to America.

Unfortunately, over the years — and one would expect, due to his increased development of high-end restaurants — Batali’s recipes and taste had left me behind. I am a rather fussy eater and while I appreciate good food, his use of odd or high-end ingredients in his recipes left my own food sensibilities behind.

That is why it is so refreshing to find this new cookbook, Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA,  which focuses in some of the most traditional and historical foods from throughout the US. Sure, most of these recipes are familiar to us in name, if not taste, but having a definitive collection of them can lead me down some interesting food avenues.

As usual, all the recipes are well written and the layout of the book is excellent. My favorite parts, though, are the short historical notes on where and how the food originated and the short endnotes where Batali offers up ways in which he might add or change the recipe to suit a particular occasion or simply to dress it up a bit.

On first reading, I quickly flipped through the book and found myself bookmarking many recipes along the way. In some cases, these recipes were a reintroduction to old favorites, an introduction to midwestern classics I had missed during my childhood and college years or classic regional foods I knew by name only, but now sound intriguing enough to try here in my own kitchen.

I’ll be working my way through several of these recipes in the next few week and hope to find several that I can add to my family “Recipes in Rotation.” I think you’ll find something to love here, too.

Some of my favorites included:

  • Corn Muffins from the American Northeast
  • Tourtiere from French Canada and imported into the Northeast and Midwest
  • Black and White Cookies from New York City
  • Winchester Beer Cheese from Kentucky
  • Biegnets from New Orleans
  • Swedish Pancakes
  • and much more!

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

Noted: ‘1984’ Tops Best Seller List, but You Can Get the eBook and AudioBook for Free!

January 27th, 2017 Comments off

Noted: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries visual novel out this year

January 12th, 2017 Comments off

I’ve been a big fan of the Miss Fisher’s Mysteries series out of Australia and watched and re-watched all three seasons. (You can see them all on Netflix). I love mysteries a lot — from Poirot to Maigret to Midsomer to Foyle — and Miss Fisher ticks all of my mystery lover boxes. I think it could be very interesting to see a game with the characters. Series 4 of the Miss Fisher’s Mysteries might not happen — although there has been some talk of a reduced series of longer movies to carry on the story. I certainly hope it returns — Douglas

Noted: Library Extension Finds Books At Your Local Library While You Shop On Amazon via Lifehacker

January 12th, 2017 Comments off

What a great idea? Whenever I recommend books on my blog I usually link to Amazon as it is convenient source of book info and I can make a few pennies if people purchase through those links. That said, I also usually include a reminder that those same books might be available at your local library and highly encourage people to take a look there.

This extension for Chrome integrates that idea right into Amazon book pages. Once you select your local library or libraries, you see an up-to-date count of how many paper and ebooks are available at your library for a given book title. It will even link you directly to the book detail page at the library, ready for you to place a hold and, in my case, have it delivered right to my local library branch. Cool! — Douglas

Noted: Library Extension Finds Books At Your Local Library While You Shop On Amazon via Lifehacker

Read Library Extension Finds Books At Your Local Library While You Shop On Amazon via Lifehacker

Some light reading over dinner – Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

January 4th, 2017 Comments off

Some light reading over dinner - Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

Some light reading over dinner

I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series and was very happy to find the latest installment on the New Books Shelf in the library this evening. We had walked up to pick up some books we had on hold and then to stop at Farm Table — a new nearby restaurant — for dinner. We both spent the dinner reading and sharing our favorite sections of our books. Very fun!

If you like light mystery novels set in England, check out this series. It is quite fun!

Find other books by Rhys Bowen

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

#book #reading #mystery #series #royalspyness #rhysbowen #story #dinner

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