Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Weekends with Giada.." by Giada De Laurentiis ~ Quick Delicious Food=More Reading & Loving Time!

"Weeknights with Giada: Quick & Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner"
Published by:  Crown Publishing Group
Pages:  240
Illustrations: 95 with color photos

This book will not be released until March 2012
but is available for pre-order

Giada De Laurentiis is beautiful, and she hasn't let that stop her. She has a simple spirit that places its center firmly in love of family, home and food. Bravo, Giada!

With this new book, Giada offers only recipes that can be put together after coming home from a long day at work, when time is of the essence, and special moments spent with the ones you love are most important.  I found the recipes refreshing!  It was especially gratifying to know that I could use some otherwise "cheat" methods and still come up with gourmet meals that were quick, easy and drop dead delicious.

Versatility is the name of the game in this cookbook.  What I found surprising was the ease with which Giada slips into her mommy mode, giving us go-to ingredients that we can easily keep stocked for quick make up meals.  I've always been afraid to admit I use canned and frozen goods to plump up my gourmet dinners!  But, in this cookbook, Giada claims them proudly as time savers, and tells us how to use them to the best advantage, reassuring us all the way that every one's going to adore the results!  I have to love that girl for this affirmation alone.

Another thing I thought Giada blazed the trail on is recommending a "Meatless Monday" menu.  Her point is that it's an effort toward health; however, I'm taking it a step further in saying that it's an effort toward extending the food we share with our planet.  Giada recommends using "quinoa" as a main ingredient on these nights saying, "it's a nuttier texture than rice, higher in protein and works beautifully with "purple Peruvian" potatoes (who knew!), green peas, black olives, fresh herbs, lime juice and a little grave." Hmmmm   We can try, right?

What I mostly want to share with you about this book, which you absolutely must, must have in your cookbook collection, is that Giada doesn't skimp on the richness of her meals.  The flavors are there, the herbs, the cheeses, the sausages and seafoods, sauces, the thick breads and the gorgeous fruits and veggies...and the way she combines them is genius. Wait 'til you see these recipes.

I suggest a tall glass of beer and a couple of thick slices of sourdough bread smeared with EVOO and Feta (that's just me talking, of course) before you sit down to read this cookbook.  And have some back ups to go along with that; possibly some very choice salami and kalamata olives, because you're going to be hungry just looking at the pages of this book.

I appreciated that Giada's recipes are made to serve 4-6, which is about the right number of people in today's small family. Such easy recipes allow for doubling them if necessary. No matter how you choose to make them, these will result in gourmet meals that you and your family will keep forever.  Also, do you have an indoor grill pan? If not, better get one.  :]

Highly recommended.

5 so succulent stars


My favorite recipes:

Antipasto Calzone
Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese Soup
Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino Soup
Caramelized Onion, Chicken and Pink Grapefruit Salad
Couscous with Watermelon, Arugula (Watercress) and Feta Cheese
Grilled Pork and Fontina Sandwiches
Fried Smashed Potatoes
Black Forbidden Rice w/Shrimp, Peaches & Snap Peas
Pirate Pasta
Sweet & Spicy Greek Meatballs

I warned you!  :]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Emily Dickinson the Cook! She Wrote Poems Midst Chocolate Wrappers....

I saw this article in the NYTimes and thought you might like to read it.  It seems our dear Emily was not only composing poems about bees but she was also making good work of their honey!  Here's the article and a coveted recipe, as far as I'm concerned:

Emily Dickinson, Sweet Genius

Emily Dickinson in an undated photo.Amherst College LibraryEmily Dickinson in an undated photo.
Whatever you happen to think about when you think about Emily Dickinson, it’s probably unlikely that what first leaps to mind is an image of the Belle of Amherst stuffing her face with cake.
In the public imagination, at least, this spectral titan of American poetry comes across as a figure of austerity, mystery, luminosity, seclusion. Somehow it’s hard to envision her even eating a meal, let alone taking delectable pleasure from it.
But as with many things about her, the truth is richer and more fascinating than the cliché. Emily Dickinson, it turns out, was totally into baking.
In fact, at a reception on Thursday evening in Battery Park City, New Yorkers will get to sample a slice of one of her favorite treats. Manuscripts, letters and fragments from the poet’s life are going on display at the Poets House, many for the first time, and among them is her handwritten, bare-bones recipe for coconut cake, which a local poetry collector and avid baker named Carolyn Smith is conjuring up for the event.
Ms. Smith has made six of the cakes, which she baked at 350 degrees for a little over an hour. Admittedly, she didn’t have a whole lot of data to go on; the recipe itself is really just a list of ingredients: 1 cup coconut, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon soda and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar.
Emily Dickinson's coconut cake recipe. President and Fellows of Harvard College Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake Recipe.“It looked like it was probably similar to a pound cake, so I treated it like a pound cake,” Ms. Smith, 69, said on the phone. “It’s a very dense cake, and it’s not too cloyingly sweet, which is nice.”
Just hearing about that coconut cake leads to a fresh perspective on how Emily Dickinson lived and worked. Pay a visit to the Web site of the The Emily Dickinson Museum, and you’ll learn that the poet seemed to do a lot of her writing and thinking in the kitchen, even at one point scrawling stray lines of verse on a wrapper of Parisian baking chocolate.
“Emily Dickinson was known as quite an accomplished baker,” said Alexandra Mann, the publicity and marketing coordinator for Poets House. “She won a competition for her rye bread and was known to have often sent baked goods to friends and family for all sorts of occasions. In fact, some of the letters on view in this exhibition were sent along with baked delicacies that she made.”
Could it be? Did this woman whom we’ve been led to think of as a prim ascetic actually have a vibrant epicurean streak? “The tradition was that she and her friends would dip the coconut cake into a little sherry,” Ms. Smith said. “So that’s what we’re doing tomorrow night.”

I don't know what you'll be doing this weekend, but I can tell you that I'll be attempting to make Miss Dickinson's Coconut Cake, and I'll be dipping into as fine a sherry as I can purchase.  Or, as fine as I can send my Hub to purchase, as the case may be!

And, I'll be reading her poetry.


"Last Minute Knitted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson ~ Simplicity Made Beautiful

Published by:  Open Road Media/Abrams
Pages:  107
Release Date:  September 13, 2011
Now in Ebook format


Today's knitters are chic, smart-and busy. Although they love to knit and enjoy making gifts for family and friends, they're constantly faced with the challenge of finding enough time to actually finish what they've started. Last-Minute Knitted Gifts solves this problem. Joelle Hoverson, owner of Purl, the hip knitting supply store in downtown Manhattan, has designed more than 30 fun, fresh, beautiful patterns, most of which can be made in less than ten hours—some in as little as two! Known for her keen sense of color, Hoverson includes instructions for classic gifts like baby booties and bonnets, sweaters, and scarves, plus imaginative options like a cashmere tea cozy, a felted yoga mat bag, floor cushions, and a poncho—surely something for everyone on the gift list. And to make each present extra-special, Hoverson offers easy tips on how to incorporate knitting and other yarn embellishments into the gift wrap.

Perfectly awesome video of Joelle and her work:  Found on Open Road Media at:

The Dame's Review :

This is a book radiant with color.  How I would love just to spend a few days in Joelle's shop, wandering around, touching the yarns, pulling colors and learning to knit a couple of her patterns.  The way she's written this particular book gives it not the urgency one might think is needed if you're making a "last minute" gift, but a kind of serenity and assurance that all is well.  So, that makes it just plain entertaining.

Oh, just kill me now, Sleeping Beauty!  I'm going for the sharp needles!
Because time is spent here helping us understand color, color relationships, substitutions of color and yarns; and about which needles will produce the product we hope to achieve.  We get a good idea about felting, fluffing and fancy yarns, along with the basics of knitting from a pattern.  While this book is easy on the eyes of any stage knitter, it's also filled with good, solid information that can be a reference any time.

I have to say that I had a hard time resisting the precious bonnets and cotton caps in this book.  Oh, my, they made me want to call my children and beg for new grandchildren!!  But, the color crunched big kids caps are just as delicious and are perfect for all ages.

The drawstring pouch on the cover of the book is simplicity and beauty in one.  It can be used as a bride's purse, a gift bag, a jewelry pouch and a place to store secret, small treasures or memorabilia.  Joelle suggests stitching it with alpaca and silk, "a soft, luscious drape and a lustrous sheen."  But, I can also see beads, pearls, silk ribbons accessorizing...  Leave it to me to take the simplicity away!

Without putting too fine a point on it, this book is a good little addition to your knitting and crafts collection.  The directions, glossary and darling designs make it a keeper for reference and to "go to" often.

5 multicolored blended stars


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Maman's Homesick Pie" isn't all you'll find in this moving memoir and recipe book!

Published by:  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Pages:  250
Genre:  Memoir


For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.

Donia Bijan graduated from UC Berkeley and the Cordon Bleu.  After presiding over a number of San Francisco's acclaimed restaurants and earning awards for her French-inspired cuisine, she ran her own restaurant, L'Amie Donia, in Palo Alto for ten years.

The Dame Savors This One:

This is a memoir to savor.  It's a breath-taking account of a young woman who lived the life of a cherished and richly encompassed child of the world at large.  I became spellbound by Donia Bijan's life story immediately, and found myself holding my breath as I grasped her book, not wanting to read it slowly, but speeding through its pages like a delicious crepe filled with Turkish coffee ice cream.

While Ms Bijan's memoir is captivating in and of itself, her exotic recipes included at the end of chapters are both slightly tipped with the savory and screaming to be tried in one's own kitchen.  I can hardly wait to try her Cardamom Honey Madeleines.  Proustians everywhere know of his love affair with Madeleines to begin with, so her distinctive twist of cardamom with trying out farmers' market honeys makes this recipe irresistible to me. We have a great farmers' market in Naples.
Not to mention that I have a fabulous Madeleine pan I've never used!

What I found intriguing among so many things about this memoir is the tone of her literary "voice."  I suppose I expected a lilting celebration of food and family...a "warm and inviting kitchen" experience as expressed on the cover review.  Instead, Ms Bijan's telling of her past life as a refugee from revolutionary-torn Iran, to the shores of a hip and culturally shocking San Francisco, and an unimaginably glorious but difficult training in the bowels of kitchens in Paris, France, is somewhat maudlin.  It's reflective.  I found it a surprise, and a powerful memoir for that reason.

Food, studying the art of food preparation and restauranteering isn't what's important in her memoir, it seems to me.  What is important is the underlying story of trials, family obligations and examples of dedication to others, of loving and sharing gifts through food, of finding wholeness within the simplicity of homemade and close-to-home foods and ingredients that are discovered.  Food was the life-blood of Donia's family. It is also the foundation of her heritage,where she is today, and where her son and future generations are going.

It was significant to me that her mother was not only a central figure in Donia's learning the importance of food and cooking, but she was a strong role-model: a midwife, a women's liberation advocate, a tireless volunteer in wartime, a teacher, a woman of grace and celebration, a needlewoman, a mother and devoted wife.  Her mother didn't show her the example of taking the easy road in life, of failing to show up and give ones best efforts.  It's obvious in Donia's life.

I highly recommend this book of many trips through a life that's magical and meaningful.  There is much I've left out because there's so much in this memoir, beautifully told, never boring--quite the opposite--like a teatime set with Brussels lace on a silver tray holding lemon tea steeped in a china pot draped in a knitted cozy...side served with a plate of freshly baked cardamom Madeleines; this book will be in your hands until the last perfect word is read.

5 delicious stars


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shepherd's Pie~Haunts of New England/Boston Visiting Me!

Absolutely, New England must have been giving me a haunt tonight as I was craving a taste of Shepherd's Pie and sent my poor hub off to shop for fresh lamb!

He came home and ground it for me giving this pie a fresh and yummy flavor that hit the spot while I watched the 2nd episode of "Once Upon A Time."

Recipe As Follows :

Ingredients~ The mashed potato topping:
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. half and half or almost 1/4 c. milk
3 Tbsp. butter (or more if you dare!)  Often, I dare... :P
Salt to taste

The Pie Ingredients~
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to coat pan
1 3/4 to 2 lbs. combination of ground lamb and ground sirloin  ( I err on the side of more lamb)
1 carrot peeled and chopped into pea-sized pieces
1 onion chopped
Mediterranean seasoning spice ~ a shake
salt and Montreal Steakhouse Pepper  (I know, it's too specific...)

Create a roux:
3 Tbsp. butter
2 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 C. beef broth (hot)
1/2 can Tomato soup (Campbell's)

1/2 C. or a couple of over-flowing handfuls of frozen peas
A handful of cheddar or Jarlsberg cheese if you like

Boil and mash potatoes including the ingredients above.
Set aside to keep warm. If they thicken too much in the waiting, add a little warm milk.

While potatoes cook; put EVOO in pan to med. high heat and brown meat combo.  Season accordingly.  Spoon away fats if they get too much.  Add chopped carrots and onion and keep browning mix.  Cook veggies w/meat another 5 mins. stirring frequently. 

In a second skillet make your roux from heating butter over medium heat until melted, then adding flour and mixing until you get a fairly thick, light brown "gravy."  Using a whisk, swirl in the broth and tomato soup.  Allow the roux to thicken as you whisk it about a minute and then pour it into the meat mixture and blend. You want the roux to be the consistency of a heavy cream. Toss in the frozen peas and blend.

Fill a lovely casserole with the meat mixture, spoon your hot mashed potatoes on top, covering the meat like a blanket.  Then broil until the potatoes are browned on top.  You can put cheese on the potatoes if you like.  My children loved it with  melted cheese, but I don't bother.

Time required:   Prep to Oven~ 20 mins.
Serves:             5-6  if you have bread and dessert
Beverage:         Good w/ Burgundy or
                         non-alcoholic Cranberry/Gingerale Fizz

What's haunting your dinner table right now???


Friday, October 21, 2011

"Classic Elite Quick Knits" ~Royal Empress Shawl knit w/ 30% silk & 70% merino yarn is Lucious!!

Published by:  Taunton Press
Pages: 213 with Pictures
Genre:  Home and Garden, Crafts

Sharing a historical perspective:

I have to share with you one of the side-bar interesting things about Classic Elite Yarns.  It's now owned, managed and staffed for the most part by women!  How refreshing, and how appropriate for a company whose focus is to put beautiful yarns into the hands of women who then create gorgeous fabrics, gifts and home goods from them.  

In addition to being focused on the distribution of yarn purchased from international and domestic mills, Elite writes and manages pattern designs; and, most interestingly, it's still housed in the historic, original mill site in Lowell, MA, beside the Merrimack River.  I've been there, and contrary to what the mind may imagine, this is a relatively small mill building considering, with a mixed history of manufacturing, toil and hardship.  I'm glad the Lowell mill has evolved to some good in the hands of women.

As an aside, a really memorable and gothic book about New England mills and a young woman working in them is: "The Madness of A Seduced Woman" by Susan Fromberg Schaefer. 

My Review of "Classic Elite Quick Knits":

More than all the excellent directions, pictures of models and patterns that grace the pages of this book, I want to talk about some of the yarns and items knitted.  If you're a knitter, the quality and timelessness of Classic Elite Yarns is already familiar to you.

This book is divided into sections having to do with small projects, but they are so beautifully detailed that nobody would imagine they have only taken a few hours to produce.  Using the most exotic of yarns, coupled with easy patterns that only look difficult, the results are amazingly quick knits worthy of bragging rights! 

Here are some of my favorites, though you'll have to get the book to see them and choose your own.

The "Royal Empress Shawl" knitted from Magnolia a yarn comprised of 70% merino and 30% silk in the color "Persian Orange." (A soft persimmon color, actually) is for me. This is a rather small shawl with  primary structure and design. It's classic and sophisticated. This was a difficult choice to make!

Capelets: Gorgeous patterns in such unbelievable yarns.  I'm a sucker for capelets as it is, so this book of so many easy to intermediate designs and supple yarn choices is killer. Couldn't we just make capelets all day for everyone we know? Seeing is believing where these are concerned.  Check out the blues!

The hats and mittens are made in designs I haven't seen so beautifully
worked in 40 years of experience. The colors of these hats and mittens are keenly selected for contemporary use. The most attractive of all to me is a pair of fingerless mittens that harken back to the historic ones in the Old Sturbridge Village Shop in MA. Obviously, this design was one worn in historic New England for many reasons.

From blankets and bags the stand-outs to me were the "Irresistible Blanket" for babies cabled in pink Posh a cashmere and silk blend yarn.  I want one for every single one of my grandchildren!  And, the absolutely fabuloso "Sunshine Bag" in 5 colors featured on the cover of this book. Wonder if it would be gorgeous felted!?

In conclusion, I found this book exceptionally good.  It's one I would love to have for my knitting library. Wish I could give you some visuals have to go to your nearest book shop and see them yourself!  

5 stars


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tattered Cover Book Store's ~ Joe E. Recommends "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" by Jennifer Reese

Title:  Make the Bread, Buy the Butter:  What You Should and Shouldn't Make from Scratch-Over 120 Recipes for Homemade Foods
Published by:  Free Press
Pages:  304

A Note From The Dame :

Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, CO, is one of the USA's best loved shops not only for cookbooks and craft books, but also for all literature.  One of their healthy staff there, Joe E., has recommended this book to everyone.

Here's Joe:

A Snippet From His Recommendation :

"There are a few things Jennifer Reese does in this book that make it particularly indispensable: before each recipe, she tells her story of why she wanted to tackle it. I mean, who has really thought of making their own pop tarts? Once she's done that, generally with the voice of a friend sitting in your kitchen over coffee, she then tells you whether you should make it or buy it, breaks down the cost difference between the homemade and the store bought, and lists whether this project is going to be easy or difficult (often one of the funniest parts of the recipe...) Her recipes are easy-to-follow, and often include diagrams and pictures to get through the more difficult parts.
I would highly recommend this book if you are thinking about embarking on the adventure that is backyard chicken raising. Here, Reese offers a humane and very funny look at what that project brought to her family. I would recommend this book if you, like me, spend a lot of time thinking about what goes into your body and wondering where did so many of these so-called "conveniences" come from, and are they really worth it? I've suspected making my own bread is the way to go for a long time, but in this book, Jennifer Reese cements it for me. Her recipes are tried-and-true, her reasoning makes sense to me, and her personality makes it believable. Buy this book, give it to a friend, make these recipes and watch your world get a little better...."

Please visit Tattered Covers on your next book browsing trip.  It's phenomenal!

And, say "hello" to Joe E. from The Bookish Dame when you stop by!

Thank you for reading my blog.  Please leave any suggestions you have for good cookbooks or craft books you've read lately!