The Healthy Mind (starts with what's on your plate)

As a huge fan of all things that manage to overlap in the tasty and healthy categories, The Healthy Mind Cookbook was a joyous addition to this blogger's collection.

The first three chapters delve into some fascinating areas that are typically not cookbook fare.  Firstly, we are presented with new knowledge on our brain chemistry and making mindful choices about healthy eating.  Once your neurons have been stimulated by the first chapter, we're led to the next -- a veritable catalog of "the culinary pharmacy" of various spices, herbs and produce.  Cardamom, I learned, is rich in a trifecta of minerals: potassium, calcium and magnesium.  The entire chapter covers such a wide gammut of foods you will appreciate in a new light.  The final "pre-recipes" chapter deals with the fun stuff, taste and flavor.

Unique to The Healthy Mind, is a whole section named "Dollops", and rightfully so, these are the powerhouses of flavor that will transform your great plates to amazing.  Minted chimichurri and the Pomegranate Olive Mint Salsa are both on the short list of MMDs (must make dollops, naturally).

Not to leave out the sweet toothed amongst us, Rebecca Katz covers the treats that both brain and body will approve -- Pumpkin Tart in a Cashew Crust & Meyer Lemon Pudding with Fresh Strawberries are two sweets that will need to be given a whirl.  As the weather slowly begins to warm from icy to mild breezes, lighter and nutritious plates have a confirmed place at our table.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

the kitchn cookbook

When a blog is named "the kitchn", you can't help but think there's an unassuming, humble nature to those behind the advice dished out (pun so adorably intended).  A quick glimpse through the site and you are quickly surrounded by useful bits about food storage, making the best use of your ingredients to plan meals.  Essentially it's more than just recipes.

The same formula holds in this artfully composed cookbook.  It feels different from the traditional style that comes to mind when I think of the word cookbook.  I had to pore over the contents over a few sittings to be able to summarize what sets it apart in this regard -- accessibility.  You don't need to be the Culinary Institute's A+ pastry chef to successfully transform these pages into meals.  There is something soothing, warm and comforting about the mix of both recipes/ingredient guides and a sort of "kitchen-hacking" where you may find the sweet spot of organizing, designing or streamlining that special room known to some as "the kitchn".

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Flour + Water = Gorgeous Pasta

Wonderland.  If I had to sum up what Flour + Water is in one word -- wonderland.  Of pasta.  To call this a cookbook would be to err on the simplistic side.

I attempted to make the Ravioli dough, referred to as "Rav dough" to add extra pasta cred.  It is a very exacting recipe, which calls for spritzing the dough with water to add the final balance of moisture.  Without a spray bottle on hand, my improvisation yielded a drier dough than I had experienced in prior pasta making sessions (i.e. not this recipe).  The precise nature of the recipes serve as a great learning experience which will undoubtedly improve your pasta making game.

Chef McNaughton of San Francisco's flour + water restaurant spent considerable time in Italy learning from the best on how to serve up gorgeous arrays of pasta shapes.  Tagliatelle, tortelloni, farfalle and many more grace the pages of over 70 creative dishes that showcase the magical metamorphosis of flour and water.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

You're The Butter To My Bread

Peter Reinhart has build up a reputation for being a bread expert.  A bread baking expert -- not to be confused with being a master at something far more common, a master bread eater.

In his latest work, Bread Revolution tackles a gnawing guilty thought about bread -- is it healthy?  Sprouted grains are abundantly utilized throughout these glutenous (and non-glutenous) edible artisanal delights.

Sprinkled across its pages are guiding wisdoms in the form of Q&As.  "Can I substitute...." is one of my favorite questions for any recipe, and Reinhart knows I'm definitely not the only one.  Cooking is a far more safe zone for subs, in baking it's more tricky, better left to practice and expertise.

Inspiring & innovative are two of my marks of a resourceful cookbook - Bread Revolution has you covered like flour on a counter.  Sprouted wheat in bagels sounds like a challenge requiring lox at the finish line.  Save the rest of the wheat for sprouted croissants and the real challenge may be waiting until company arrives to share them. 

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

New goal - Becoming a Pizzaiola

Living in NYC has its advantages.  Access to omg-level pizza being one of them.
Which begs the question -- when such attainable deliciousness is a seamless delivery away, why would I venture to make my own pizza?  Because I can.  And I know exactly what's in it.

Enter The Pizza Bible.  It's beautiful red and white debossed cover reminiscent of the pizza box I would carry home in my youth from the neighborhood spot.  Chef Tony Gemignani's new cookbook is no shy foray into the decadent journey of pizza making. As a World Pizza Champ -- 11 times a champ no less, a jury of his peers would agree this cookbook title is totally legit.

Chef G believes pizza is simple but you must "respect the craft".  He even has this motto tattooed onto his hands.  How do I know this?  Exhibit A photo on first page of the first chapter.  Theory, my pizza loving friends, is key before you can master the savory recipes that follow.

"The Master Class" section is exactly what is needed, whether novice or (almost) ninja.  The section covers a wealth of pizza 411, divided into Theory & Practice: equipment recommended, everything you ever wanted to know about why this flour brand vs that one (protein % vary greatly), and dough making by hand...until that wish-listed Kitchenaid mixer arrives.  You'll also learn why starters will deliver more flavor, along with the science behind the magical sugarplum-esque dance of flour, water and yeast.

As a culinary nerd (and all-around nerd), I knew I was in love with the Pizza Bible when I saw the "Theory of Pizza Relativity".  Einstein would definitely approve of this one.  The generous sprinkling of step-by-step photos, demonstrating the techniques are 100% culinary nerd approved.  Following these guides while practicing on a couple of batches of dough paves a tasty path towards becoming a pizzaiolo/a.  That's italian for pizza ninja.

The "Ten Commandments of Pizza" are both entertaining and educational.  Smartly done is the breakdown by chapter for regions/styles.  The whole pizza gamut is on display - regional American, Chicago (Jon Stewart, please disregard) Sicilian, California, Napoletana, regional Italian, Global (Barcelona/Muchen/Dubliner/Parisian/Greco), grilled, wrapped & rolled, focaccia & breads.

For the true DIY chefs, the regional American section even features how to make your own sauce/gravy and sausage.  Just don't forget to post those gorgeous homemade slices with a dash of #imadethis, sprinkle of #yammy and splash of #BuonAppetito.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Slow Cooked Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I saw an inspiring recipe for Butternut Squash soup in a cookbook called The Italian Slow Cooker.  I wanted to enhance the squash by roasting before slow cooking, similar to my Roasted Pumpkin Soup. This one serves 6 and can be easily doubled for 12.

1 medium onioncoarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. 
extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic clovesunpeeled
1 large butternut squashpeeled, seeded & cut into 2-inch chunks
2 medium potatoespeeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tsp dried sageor 3 fresh leaves
4 cups chicken broth

salt & pepper, or Goya Adobo to taste

Peel butternut squash and remove seeds.  With a sharp knife, carefully cut into sections to make 2-inch cube of uniform size. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coarsely chop onions. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.

On a foil-lined baking tray(s), place the butternut squash, potatoes, onions and unpeeled garlic cloves.  If using two trays, place onions and garlic cloves on one tray, separated from squash & potatoes.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on all vegetables and mix with hands, coating well.  Place trays in oven.

Roast onions and garlic for 20 minutes then let cool.  Let butternut squash and potatoes roast for an extra 20 more minutes.  Unpeel garlic cloves and chop into a few coarse pieces.  Add onions and garlic to slow cooker insert.

Add roasted butternut squash and potatoes on top of onions and garlic.  Add sage to mix, crushing between fingers if using dried.  Pour in chicken broth and season with salt & pepper (or use Goya adobo).

Cook on low for 4 hours.  Let cool slightly, then puree mix in blender.  Serve hot with a little sour cream or a drizzle of olive oil.