Tacos: Not Just for Tuesdays

As my long time love for Mexican food has reached a higher level, this path led to making corn tortillas from scratch.  Armed with masa harina and a lovely-but-heavy cast iron tortilla press, Taco Tuesday in our house was never the same.  Sure, you can buy a tortilla in the grocery, but take a gander at the ingredient list.  What else does it list in addition to corn, water and salt?  And so the DIY taco tradition began.

I was thrilled to see I'm not the only non-native who loves fresh tacos enough to bust out a tortilla press.  Chef Alex Stupak of the 3-star Empellón Taqueria in NYC penned a beautiful tribute to the taco's tasty glory.  

Stupak's Tacos: Recipes and Provocations dives into the variations on doughs, just when you thought corn was the only way to go.   Tacos also delves into some unique salsas, from the basic tomato-based types to moles that may remind us of a "Sunday sauce", simmering for hours and continuing to brim with amazing flavor days later.  Chef Stupak worries little about the purists, breaking away from traditional mexicano and goes quite modern taco, featuring one with pastrami and mustard seeds.  Perhaps Tacos takes the street food status of this fan favorite and elevates it to an esteemed status, but without turning Taco Tuesday into fussy taco time.

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

Crowning A Smoothie Queen

A year ago, I fell in love again.  Is it weird that the object of my affection lives 24/7 in my kitchen?  It's my Vitamix blender, naturally.  He (yes, he) is the workhorse of this place, keeping us on track when the richer foods get the better of us, making us all sorts of green concoctions that actually taste quite palatable.  Having tinkered with so many variations of smoothies on my own, my interest was piqued when I spotted The Blender Girl Smoothies featured on two of my favorite food blogger's sites.

For many a breakfast over the past few months, I toted a smoothie on my commute to the office.  I wanted there to be variation in the smoothie flavors so I would stay motivated to continue my morning ritual.  The time spent to make one in the harried morning is well worth it -- the nutrition gleaned is without a doubt tremendously helpful to push you through your day with more energy and vigor than the usual coffee.

Often reaching for the same classic ingredients in smoothies, I was happy to see The Blender Girl Smoothies features tons of fruits, veggies and add-ins I hadn't previously considered.  Red bell pepper?  It's in the Pomegranate Slam It Smoothie.  After bringing home a beautiful case of pomegranates, I've got this one on the short list of what to make soon.  The Chai Tai smoothie sounds like a refreshing spin on the classic warm spiced drink, with regular milk swapped out for protein packed almond milk.

Those following a paleo, vegan and/or gluten free regimen may find many inspiring smoothie ideas to give a whirl, and share with someone who can't believe a blender could be so swoon-worthy.

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

Getting to the Root of What's Tasty

Simplicity can be beautiful.  Getting to the root of what makes food delicious will inevitably lead us down the simple path.  Food that is unadulterated, raw, fresh, unprocessed.  In today's era of questionable foods, Sarah Britton's approach is refreshing and inspiring to me.  I share her passion for natural, wholesome foods.  It's safe to say vegetarians and flexitarians alike will enjoy the styling and array of gorgeous recipes that grace My New Roots.
Stumbling upon Sarah Britton's blog, the mouth-watering choices were impressive, and up until recently, we anxious awaited seeing the full portfolio of creative dishes she showcases in this cookbook.  Some of the ingredients are off the beaten path, providing a new discovery into nutritious flavors.

One item to note for those who adhere to a vegan diet, My New Roots does contain some recipes with egg and/or dairy.  However, the overall majority of recipes are vegan-friendly and serve for a great inspiration for those looking to expand their breadth of cooking and preparing more plant-based dishes.

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

Genius is 1% inspiration & 100% tasty.

Genius.  It's a lofty word, a high expectation for any cookbook.  Food52, one of my beloved sites for all things culinary can swing it.  They know a thing or two about what constitutes a genius recipe, so much so that they filled a whole delicious book full of them.

Bread that requires no kneading, was my first pick amongst the mouth-watering choices found here.  It was a new discovery, to find a slow fermenting dough that didn't require multiple rises, albeit very watery.  I would recommend adding less water than this recipe suggests, but yet it still managed to "rise" to the occasion of turning out bakery quality.

Another stroke of pure genius is the hummus, a huge favorite of mine from Yotam Ottolenghi, author of a number of amazing cookbooks such as Jerusalem, Plenty and Plenty More.  Having made his hummus recipe for countless parties and for indulging on my own, I can attest that the inclusion of this recipe gives Food52's cookbook total genius level bragging rights.

No matter how many years of experience cooking we have, it's always reassuring to have a solid set of recipes within our repertoire.  Eliminating the risk of a flop that could require ordering pizza, this set of hits will keep you looking ahead to what else you can tackle, and may even try or the first time to serve at your next dinner party.

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

Getting Your Masters in Pastalogy

Pastalogy, the new major for those who aren't afraid of the infamous g word that ends in -luten.  Marc Vetri's Mastering Pasta is a beautiful throwback to the simple, or not so simple art form of flour meeting water and egg to develop into one of my favorite carbs.

Having dabbled into the world of making my own gnocchis, I was thrilled to see a whole chapter dedicated to those pillowy soft bites of heaven.  He even tinkers with non-potato gnocchi, bringing squash into the fold, a creative twist that sounds well worth attempting in your kitchen.

In addition to gnocchis and fresh pastas, this guide to all things deliciously homemade and Italian gives you the inside edge on perfecting risottos, as well as making your own broth (a.k.a. brodo) along with other knockout sauces to adorn the homemade delicacies strewn across the pages of Mastering Pasta.

Turning inspiration into reality just involves hunting down some tipo 00 flour, or perhaps a little semolina, and selecting a page out Vetri's arsenal.

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

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.