Friday, November 27, 2015

Review of Michael Symon's 5 in 5 for Every Season Cookbook

Nutshell: One of the co-hosts of ABC's The Chew has a new cookbook out! Michael Symon's has paired beautiful pictures with quick recipes in his new cookbook 5 in 5: 5 fresh ingredients and 5 minutes of heat. Each season of the year is featured in this book that include ingredients privy to that season. Each recipe in turn is quick to fix and on your table in a matter of minutes. You will find over 100 recipes in this packed cookbook with something to please everyone's pallet.

Pro's: The pictures! I'm a very visual person and the pictures definitely caught my eye right away. I love to cook and was excited to try this book. I poured over each recipe and read through the book a couple times, ear-marking recipes I wanted to try. I also enjoyed the little intersects of personal tidbits through the book about his life growing up and memories/places related to recipes.

Con's: As with any cookbook, not every single recipe will be a keeper. There were some recipes I knew I needed to skip over either due to cost, the items not being available in our area, or knowing my kids would eat one bite and be done.

Recommendation: If you are a fan of Michael Symon's, you will like this book. Great pictures, easy recipes for the beginner chef to intermediate/brave chef who is up for a challenge.

The recipe I tried was in the Spring section and was titled Pork with Broccoli and Cashews.

1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced 1/8 inch think
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups broccoli florets (from 1/2 large head)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cashews
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Put a large skillet over high heat. Season both sides of the pork with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the pork in an even layer and cook, without moving, for 1 minute. Flip the pork and add the broccoli to the pan. Continue cooking until the pork and broccoli begin to brown, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cashews, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mustard, 2 tablespoons water, and the cornstarch.

3. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan, over, and cook for 1 minute until the sauce thickens. Serve hot.

Adjustments I made: I did not add red pepper flakes due to sensitive taste buds in the house. I added the cashews as a side as not all members under our roof enjoy nuts.

*Outcome: I would make it again (my kids loved it) and would use a higher quality soy sauce as it was pretty salty even with the low sodium brand I used. I will add more broccoli next time as our youngest went back for seconds and I heard "ahhh...never mind...I wanted more broccoli" (words to a mother's ears!). I almost missed the w2 tablespoons of water in step 2 as water wasn't one of the ingredients up top and it caught me off guard a bit.

WaterbrookMultnomah sent me this complimentary book to review for them. Opinions expressed are
my own.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review of Vendetta by Lisa Harris

Nutshell: This is book one in the Nikki Boyd Files series. Nikki Boyd is in charge of her first case on the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force. A teenage girl has come up missing after leaving her cabin to go on a walk. When Detective Boyd finds out she had been chatting on-line with a boy of whom she was secretly going to meet, and that boy wasn't who he says he was, the case takes on the form of an abduction. When clues start surfacing that mimic the abduction of her still-missing sister from 10 years ago, Nikki's mission now becomes personal. Will this case lead her to the answers she has been searching for surrounding her missing sister?

Pro's: I enjoyed how the author kept you guessing throughout this book. It made it that much more appealing to read all the way to the end. It wasn't excessively over-the-top bloody and gory which is nice, especially if you're reading before going to sleep! Good plot and story-line.

Con's: Even though this was the first book in the series, I felt like I should've known who the main characters were. They way they were introduced throughout the book left me a little puzzled as to where they came from. It took a bit in to the book to learn back stories before feeling like they all made sense in my head.

Recommendation: If you enjoy mystery suspense, then you may enjoy this book. I've enjoyed previous books by Lisa Harris and you may as well if you like this book.

Revell Books sent me a complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are mine alone.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Review of Grill It, Braise It, Broil It by the American Heart Association

Nutshell: A cookbook filled with 175 heart healthy recipes that feature 12 different ways to prepare your main dishes. This book contains recipes for your crockpot, the grill, broiling and even microwaving along with many more options.

Pro's: The color pictures! I love cookbooks with pictures as I am a very visual person and like to see what dishes look like. There was a variety of cooking styles that may suit those looking for a different slant of how dishes are prepared.

Con's: Not many recipes were appealing. We are not a tofu family and the majority of recipes use tofu. I found very few healthy sweet recipes and very few recipes that contain main staples in the kitchen. I may be more tempted to prepare some of the recipes if it was just my husband and I, but with two growing kids, I know they may not particularly care for the unusual recipes. (Yes, they do try everything I cook). My pantry does not contain a lot of the buy-once ingredients, not would my budget fit the unusual assortment of items I would need to buy for one recipe.

Recommendation: If you are an adventurous cook, this is the book for you. If Beets with Orange Gremolata to Stuffed Chayote Squash make your fingers itch to get cooking, get this book and you may just enjoy some of the interesting dishes it has to offer.

The recipe I tried was Stuffed "Baked" Apples. The recipe is found below:

2 T light brown sugar
2 T sweetened dried cranberries
2 T gold raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
4 small Granny Smith, Fuji, or Gala apples, halved, cored scared
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 T chopped walnuts, dry roasted.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, oil, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

Put the apples in a shallow 1-quart microwaveable baking dish with a lid. Spoon the stuffing in the apples. Pour the orange juice around the apples.

Microwave, covered, on 100 percent power (high) for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the apples are soft.

Carefully transfer the apples to serving plates, leaving the juices in the dish. Microwave the remaining juices, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced by half (to about 1/4 cup).

Just before serving, drizzle the juice mixture over the apples, Sprinkle with the walnuts

*I served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. I also omitted the walnuts as they are not a favorite in our household. This tasted really good, but hard to eat the skins - they were used more as a bowl to hold the softened apple in.

Waterbrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary book to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own, as is the photo of the dessert.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Review of A Reason to Stay by Kellie Coates Gilbert

Nutshell: This is book 3 in the Texas Gold Collection. Faith Marin has it all. The perfect job. The perfect husband. The perfect life. Or so it seems.  She is climbing the ladder at the TV station she has dedicated her life to. Her sights are set on being a news anchor at a national station. But with her dedication to work, her marriage comes in second place and not long after saying "I do" things start to become strained and fall apart. In the blink of an eye, tragedy strikes and Faith now has to reevaluate her life, her marriage and her priorities.

Pro's: What a great book! It was a stand alone book even though it is in a series. I loved the story line, how the characters were portrayed, the battle put before Faith, the deep love and of course, the outcome. Kellie Coates Gilbert did a fantastic job keeping the reader engaged and hungry to read until the wee hours of the morning just to finish the book. What a heart string pulling book that takes you through the past of the main character and weaves it in to the present.

Con's: I wish it was longer! The only thing that could've been different was the cover. But what was behind the cover was amazing!

Recommendation: Read this book! There are not a lot of books that I will stay up late reading. This was one of them. Such a heart warming, heart wrenching good book that you won't be able to put down!

Revell Books sent me this complimentary book to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review of Deadlock by DiAnn Mills

Nutshell: This is book 3 in An FBI: Houston Novel. Two completely different FBI special agents are put together as new partners. They hit their first day together with a horrific murder that needs to be solved immediately. In a race against time, these two opposite personalities need to come together as one to stop this murderer who is wreaking havoc on the city of Houston. Agent Bethany Sanchez is not only trying to bring down a murderer, but keeping an eye out for her brother, who just got out of jail himself. Agent Thatcher Graves is trying to turn around his reputation and live life in a new way. With twists and turns, leads that turn to dead ends, murders on the rise, and two opposites learning how to partner with each other, this book will have you trying to figure out what in the world is going to happen next.

Pro's: DiAnn Mills does a great job in keeping the reader sucked in to this book! I thought I had it all figured out halfway through and then a wrench was thrown in to keep my guessing as to who the murderer was. The storyline kept me turning every page all the way to the end. Even with it being the third book in the series, it does very well as a stand alone novel. You didn't feel as though you were trying to play catch up from previous books. It was a great clean slate from the first page.

Con's: The romance was a bit much. I think it could've been toned down a bit. Other than that, a great book!!

Recommendation: If you like murder suspense, this is the book for you! A great read that keeps you locked in all the way to the end.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me this complimentary book to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Review of Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart

Nutshell: Start with a quiet town, add a nosey busy body, throw in a stranger, a wandering, angry teen and a dash of murder and end up with a cozy mystery that needs to be solved. The citizens of Hidden Springs, KY are thrown for a loop when the town busy body finds a stranger dead on their courthouse steps. Not only are the citizens thrown for a loop, so is the law enforcement where the most excitement they encounter is a traffic ticket. Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane is assigned to the case and is in charge of finding out who this stranger is and who killed him. The case leads him on some unexpected turns and down roads that he doesn't understand.

Pro's: If you can call a book a refreshing mystery, this is it. It wasn't a bloody gory murder suspense, but a snuggle up and feel good murder mystery. Gabhart does a spectacular job of keeping the reader engaged throughout this light hearted story line. I enjoyed this book very much! The flow, the style of writing, the plot, the lightness.

Con's: It took a few chapters to wrap my brain around the characters (more so the law enforcement characters between deputy chief, chief, deputy, sheriff, deputy sheriff etc).

Recommendation: Need a book to snuggle up on a rainy fall day or a bitter snowy cold evening? Choose this one! A great read! I look forward to the second book in this series!

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review of The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White

Nutshell: Brooke Eden knows she's not who everyone says she is, but doesn't know exactly who she is. She entrusts her friend, Justin, to find out what her identity is. After it is revealed, everything shifts  around her and she finds herself in an unknown land with unknown people trying to stay afloat with a new identity. She soon finds out why she was hidden away for so long and the reason could turn deadly.

Pro's: I love the description of the setting of this book. I could smell the ocean, feel the sun on my skin and hear the lilt of accents in the voices of the characters.

Con's: Hard to remember all the characters and keeping them all apart. I feel like these characters may have been introduced in a previous book and I'm coming in the middle of a story. It was hard to stay focused while figuring out who went with who. The character list at the beginning helped, but several times I needed to stop and refer back to this list. The story line was a bit slow in the middle section, but then picked up the pace the closer the book came to a close.

Recommendation: A pretty good book that would be one to pick up on a rainy day. If you enjoy historical fiction, you may enjoy this book set in the early 1900's.

Bethany House Publishers sent me a copy of this to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review of The Sea Keeper's Daughters by Lisa Wingate

Nutshell: Whitney Monroe is meeting herself around corners. She is fighting to keep her restaurant alive with people breathing down her neck who are ready to snatch her business right out from under her. Life abruptly stops when she receives a message that her step-father has ended up in the hospital and she needs to travel hundreds of miles to take care of him. Her journey takes her so much further as she finds letters written by an unknown family member which tie her heritage to legends from the past. Follow Whitney on an exploratory journey that crosses the sands of time, faith and family.

Pros: I loved, loved, loved this book. What a magnificent story with the perfect splash of faith, finding love and learning about forgiveness. Her style of writing captivates the reader and sucks him/her in to the story from the beginning. I also love how she intertwined characters and storylines from pervious books she has written and tied them in to this book. If you had never read any of her other books, it still made sense. I just loved how she unobtrusively added them in.

Cons: None. One of the best books I have read!

Recommendation: Read this book! Or any of Lisa Wingate's books. She is a master at writing and has been blessed with a very special gift.

Tyndale Publishers sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.