Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Review of The Chopped Cookbook by Food Network

Nutshell: Have you ever seen Chopped on the Food Network? This book revolves around the show, pairing items together to make a meal. Items that you will most likely find in your pantry. But think of your pantry like the baskets the chef's open on the tv show. Sometimes quirky items, like on the show, but mostly normal, every day items.

Pro's: I loved this cookbook. Many pages are ear-marked of recipes I would like to try. Each chapter also has pages of suggestions of quick put-together's, based on the subject of the chapter. Like different pan sauces, playing with pasta, and different types of grains and how to cook them, just to give a few examples. I also really liked the bright, colorful pictures and easy to follow steps.

Con's: Some recipes were a bit "out there" and I wouldn't necessarily make for my family. Some items I can't find here in Michigan (like flat iron steak), so learning what to substitute made it a bit challenging, but a good learning experience.

Here are two recipes I tried from this book:

Shrimp Ramen 

8 ounces bacon, chopped
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups slices stemmed shiitake mushrooms (about 6 ounces)
7 cups chicken broth
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles, flavor packets discarded
12 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp halved lengthwise (about 20)
2 Tbs 1-inch-long pieces chives

Cook the aromatics: Put the bacon in a cold medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Stir in the garlic and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the shiitakes and cook until well browned, about 6 minutes more.

Make the broth: Stir in the chicken broth, soy sauce, and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Stir in the ramen noodles and boil until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp and serve: Remove the broth from the heat and stir in the shrimp. Let stand until the shrimp are cooked, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve topped with chives.

Serves 4

What I did different: I halved the recipe and it made one bowl for each of us, which turned out to be enough (as the kids were not huge fans of this). I also used white mushrooms as the store didn't have shiitake mushrooms. Still tasted pretty good.

Butter Basted Flat Iron Steak with 
Tomato Butter Sauce and Parsley Noodles

Kosher salt
2 Tbs vegetable oil
4 (1/2 inch thick) top blade chuck steaks (flat iron steaks), 1 1/2 pounds total *
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 ounces egg noodles
2 Tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Start the water: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Sear the steaks: Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour in the oil. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper and sear 2 steaks until browned on one side, about 4 minutes. Remove the steaks from the skillet. Add the other 2 steaks and sear until browned on one side, about 4 minutes. Flip these steaks and return the first 2 steaks to the skillet, raw-side down. Add 2 Tbs of the butter and the thyme. Once the butter melts, tilt the skillet slightly to pool the liquid, then constantly spoon the butter over the steaks until the meat is medium-rare, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the steaks to a rimmed plate to rest. Keep the skillet handy.

Cook the noodles: Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain. Return the noodles to the pot and toss with 2 Tbs of the butter and parsley.

Blister the tomatoes (I did this while the noodles were cooking): Put the tomatoes in the same skillet and blister over medium heat until blackened in spots and softened, about 4 minutes. When the tomatoes are very soft, remove the thyme sprigs and carefully mash the tomatoes with a slotted spoon or potato masher. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs of butter and the vinegar until incorporated, thinning out with the reserved cooking water if necessary to make a smooth sauce. Season with 1/2 tsp salt.

Serve: Slice the steaks thinly against the grain and add any juices that accumulate to the tomato sauce. Divide the noodles among 4 plates, set the sliced steak on top, and finish with the tomato butter sauce.

Serves 4

Vegify It: Instead of egg noodles, use strips of raw zucchini (shave them with a vegetable peeler) to get a double dose of veggies in.

*I could not find flat iron steak, but the butcher suggester sizzler steaks. I used 2 thicker ones and they turned out amazing.

All of us were huge fans of this recipe (my kids love steak), so I will definitely be making this one again! The sauce was delish and this was a fast meal to make!

Waterbrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. All opinions are my own, as are the food pictures used in this post.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review of Blind Trust by Sandra Orchard

Nutshell: Kate Adams is back in the spotlight as her trouble continues. Someone seems to be out to still keep her silent with new accusations and behind the scenes secrecy to take her down. Another who-dun-it in the Port Aster Secrets Series.

Pro's: This book keeps you guessing! With every turn of the page you still don't know who's out to get the main character.

Con's: If you pick this up without reading the first book, it may be a bit more difficult to understand what is going on. It can be a stand-alone fiction, but better to go in reading book #1. The "what-ifs" got a bit weary to keep reading throughout the book. The characters coming up with different scenarios as to why someone said one thing, or why another person came from the basement, or why another's wallet was empty at one time of day and bulging later in the day. I understand it goes along with the detective work, but it seemed to be in abundance in this book.

Recommendation: Read book #1 first. If you like mystery, you may like this book. It wasn't my favorite, but also, that's my opinion.

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review of All Right Here by Carre Armstrong Gardner

The Nutshell: Family. Ivy Darling is the main character. This book is centered around her. Her struggling relationship with her husband, her foster kids, her family, her in-laws and finding her voice amidst all of them.

The pro's: I loved this book. It wasn't suspenseful in the least, but you wanted everything to turn out for the best by the end. And it doesn't wrap up with a nice bow. The word that kept floating through my head while reading this was: messy. Messy relationships with family. Messy results of choices made that weren't the best. But very real messiness. This book exposed, I think, how the majority of families and marriages are. Messy. It was very down to earth and real.

The con's: None.

Recommendation: This book would be great for anyone who enjoys reading. A light read for more in-depth readers. A book full of emotions and real-world scenarios for the realistic reader and for the reader who likes a good story.

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

Review of A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

The nutshell: A famous model reluctantly returns home after her fast-paced, soul-sucking career runs dry. A photographer who wants to forget his past mistakes. An aunt/step-mom who brings them together which starts the healing process for the two wandering souls. 

The pro's: What a great story! Full of redemption, whole acceptance of God's love, and understanding true friendship and forgiveness. 

The con's: It took a bit to figure out who all the characters were and how they fit into the story. Some relationships took a good chunk of time to figure out, and how specific people fit with others. 

Recommendation: I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a book that is chalk full of redemption and how God cleans up some very messy lives.

Click here for the synopsis of the book.
Interested in reading chapter one? Click here.
Want to learn more about the author? Go here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review of Fatal Exchange by Lisa Harris

The nutshell: Meet Mason, an undercover cop, who is on limited time in trying to find Emily Hunt's niece who was kidnapped by the drug cartel which has dirty cop's working for them. Join their journey in relying on God during a stand-off, a kidnapping and just trying to stay alive long enough to rescue a family member.

The pro's: Quick paced, action packed and keeps you flipping the pages. Not graphic by any means.

The con's: A bit heavy on the romance, of which I can leave behind. It may be a bit harder reading as a stand-alone as this is the 2nd book in the series.

Suggestion: Like suspense and action packed pages? Then you'll like this book.

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

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Review of One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon

The nutshell: A single mom with an 11 year old daughter, a neighbor diagnosed with cancer, and a letter that changed the trajectory of their lives forever. A die-hard, workaholic single guy with a boss whose life became more clear after the passing of his wife and the same letter that intercepted into their lives and collided these four people together.

The pro's: What a sweet story of forgiveness, choosing to move forward and living life to its fullest no matter the past. This is a feel-good story that leaves you wanting to live life better, to not miss the little things that God has placed in your path and to love others despite their flaws.

The con's: Not much to say against this book. It felt like the relationships moved pretty quick-like, but overall, a great read.

Suggestion: If you like books with more depth and meat on them, this is not for you. If you like books with a light, sweet storyline...then this is your gig.

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

Monday, April 07, 2014

Review of A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

The nutshell: Juliette is the youngest in her Italian/French crazy family and is in love with food. She is a food critic, which she loves, but she feels like there is more out there for her to conquer. Her life begins to turn upside down when her close-knit family enters a tumultuous time, she is offered a position at her brother's new restaurant and is also trying to keep up a long-distant relationship that is going much faster than she expected. Journey along with Juliette as she navigates through life's ups and downs.

Pro's: The center of this book is around family. I love this. It all comes back to family, no matter how quirky, dysfunctional, stress-laden and messy. This family is always there for each other, and in the Italian way, honest and very open with each other. It was a light read laced with a rich love woven through the storyline. You felt a part of the family, sitting at their table, conversing and eating with them. And the recipes! I'm a sucker for them! A bonus at the end of most chapters was a recipe that correlated with the chapter. A cookbook AND great novel in one? It's a win - win!

Con's: The ending. It came up so fast and ended so abruptly that it left me a bit perplexed as to what to think. Seeing that there is a 2nd book coming helped, but if this was a stand alone novel, I would leave feeling disappointed.

Suggestion: If you enjoy recipes and good light read, this a book worth picking up!

Would you like to learn more about Hillary Manton Lodge? Check out her website here.
Interested in reading the first chapter in this book? Click here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. Opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review of The One Year: Did You Know Devotional 2

The Nutshell: A devotional with lots of trivia and stories to make each day's devotional come a bit more to life.

Pro's: Easy for kids to read and understand. Geared more for elementary age kids.

Con's: There didn't seem to be much guided discussion for each day. Also, I think more delving into scripture would be beneficial, like offering more verses to look up after each devotional. Of course, parents can guide this and take it much further than what is on the page.

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

Review of A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley

Meg Moseley is a new author to me and she did not disappoint.

The Nutshell: Laura Gantt heads back to her hometown to settle the household of her recently deceased mother. Memories swirl around her as well as rumors that her father, who drowned years before, has been seen around town. With the help of her high school sweetheart, Sean and her best friend Cassie, her heart and life intertwine her past and present in the town she just can't shake. Filled with heartache, compassion and a melodic lilt, Meg Moseley weaves a sweet story of friendship, forgiveness and moving forward in life.

Pro's: When I think of the South, I think of warm, cricket sounding, hazy days. Swinging slowly on a porch swing with a cold glass of ice tea that has condensation dripping down it. And I think, now, of this book. While reading it, it was the South. Just the right amount of pace, not too fast, not too slow. It had a lilt to it of crickets that keep you going. Page after page after page. Meg Moseley not only wrote a sweet filled story of friendship and forgiveness, but a story that came to life and took you along side the characters. Their heart aches. Their deeply rooted history in a little town that was dredged in tradition.

Con's: None.

Suggestion: If you like light hearted, but yet full of sweetness and southern charm books, this one is for you!

Want to learn more about Meg Mosesly? Visit her website.
Want to get a little taste of A Stillness of Chimes? Go here to read the first chapter.

WaterBrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions are my own.