Tease your cook book fetish!

I love, Love, Love cookbooks…don’t you?  I have tons of them in my house (on shelves and in boxes) as well as on my Kindle and Sony reader.  I don’t necessarily use them, but I find it comforting to have them around for those just in case moments.  When I try to analyze why I have so many I can only come up with the reasoning that they remind me of family and those gatherings when I was younger and everyone from parents to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were in attendance.  It is a bit of nostalgia for me.  Aside from that, I do like to play in the kitchen and see what I can make.

I found several cookbooks to review and hope that you will find one or more of them to your liking.

Sweeter Off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season

sweeter off the vineimage

Publication Date: March 22, 2016

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/1TlD3Wr

Just as the title suggests, this cookbook is about foods off the vine.  I was captivated right from the beginning with the first recipe involving Chamomile (Chamomile Honey Panna Cotta).  The combinations used for the recipes I thought were refreshing, amazing and unique.  How does Pistachio pound cake with strawberries in Lavender sugar sound to you?  I have to admit I like Pistachio so the pound cake was sounding good; add the strawberries and it sounds great.  But then add the Lavender sugar and my curiosity has hooked me.  The recipes are separated in the book according to seasons and nearly each recipe has a wonderful color photo showing how the dish looks.  I believe the unique combinations are what truly attract me to this cookbook.  If you are looking for something new to do with the same old favorites, this is worth looking into.

Dishing Up Minnesota

dishing up minnesota

Publication Date: July 8, 2016

Amazon Link:  http://amzn.to/257LGGo

Each of our states offers specialties based upon where it sits regionally, the cultural background of its residents, and what foods are better supported.  This cookbook by an author known for foraging and using wild food explores those differences and celebrates them.  I also enjoyed the state facts that were included. The recipes are outlined using first a bit of information, the ingredient list and well written and easy to follow instructions.  The photos used whether showing the dish or Minnesota life are stunning!  My first impression on reading the names of the recipes made me think these were recipes more suited to bed and breakfast menus and not a normal household, but once I got into the book and read the recipes I realized I was wrong.  These are wonderful recipes and would give your normal home cooking a facelift.  Inspiring dishes!

Wanda E. Brunsteter’s Amish Friends Harvest Cookbook

 wanda brunstetters cook

Publication Date: August 1, 2016

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/1OFt8nq

For down home cooking, who can beat the Amish?  Wanda E. Brunsteter is known for her Amish Romances with quilting and cooking mixed in.  Here she has given us a great cookbook that has fabulous recipes that everyone will enjoy.

I really enjoyed reading the section of title Advice from Amish Gardeners.  There were many tips included that I had heard before but there where equal amounts I hadn’t which I found interesting to learn.   Mrs. Brunsteter has sectioned her book off into these areas: Salads, Soups, Main Dishes, Sides, Desserts, Snacks and Extras, and finally preserving the Harvest.  Very welcomed additions to the end are the Indexes of Recipes and Key Ingredients.  I have found many times I am scouring recipes because I just have a couple of things I want to use but not sure what to do with them, but having the key ingredients listed would really help in situations like that. There are not photos for every recipe, the color format of the book and the photos used are wonderfully colorful….reminding you of a garden in full harvest bloom.

The recipes are easy and sound delicious.  The ingredients I noticed are items that would be in just about everyone’s pantry, so there is nothing you would have to hunt for or special order.  You will be amazed at the recipes and how simple and delicious they sound.

Caramel, Caramel & More Caramel

caramel image

Publication Date:  September 6, 2016

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/27KHy15

I am not a chocolate fan, but give me caramel and I am in heaven.  Just the first “Caramel” in the title of this cookbook and I knew I had to have it.

For those who have never made their own caramel, the authors provide very thorough instructions on how to.  There is even a discussion on the differences between caramel, toffee, and Dulce De Leche for those who want to know.  There are recipes for caramel with fruits, caramel candies, and caramel in cakes, bars and cookies!

The recipes are laid out in a good format for understanding and following.  I wish there were more photos, perhaps showing some of the steps and not just the end product.  I really do like the selection of recipes that were chosen as I believe it gives the reader a variety to work with for any occasion.

Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebration

danielle walker

Publication Date: September 27, 2016

Amazon Link:  http://amzn.to/1XoMlRb

For those of us who eat gluten-free, dairy free, paleo and so on, this is a very helpful book to have in the kitchen.  Having recipes around for everyday is great, but what happens when you have a big dinner or celebration to go to and you need something different but still meeting your dietary needs?  This cookbook is great for that reason and many others.

The author shares in her opening how and why she began following the paleo diet and how troublesome it was in the beginning.  Her story is inspirational and not one to skip over.  This author is not one who came up with these recipes to fit into a book but one who lives daily preparing, eating and lastly sharing this lifestyle.

The author’s approach is informative to make it easy on the beginner but interesting to the advanced person who seeks to eat grain free.  Against All Grain Celebrations is focused on 12 holidays and enjoying them grain free.  I enjoyed reading how she broke down the ingredients and explained their use for a grain free lifestyle.  She offers tidbits that will definitely make your kitchen experience go more smoothly. The photos show delicious and tempting dishes.

Beyond the recipes and lifestyle of grain free, the author adds an aspect of presentation of a dinner or celebration with family and friends.  So if this is the first year you are hosting a family gathering, this book will not only give you some recipes to try but also will help you in your planning.


I hope you find these as interesting as I did.   I have tons of cooking to now!


Christmas in Vermont: A Very White Christmas by author Bryan Mooney



The story:

Marine Jack Reynolds and school teacher Hope Caldwell first meet in Iraq during a horrific experience trying to escape jihadists.  When they are trapped and wounded they refuse to let the other die and with a bond forged between them, closer than even their clasped hands, their lives are changed as if fate stepped in.

Jack Reynolds never stopped thinking of the woman who saved his life.  With Christmas approaching, Jack goes home while trying to decide what future he wants….Melissa his girlfriend who pushes for marriage and living in Florida or becoming a post master like his uncle and living in Vermont.  When he gets home he is thrown into the holiday celebrations and is surprised to see Hope there.

Hope could never give up on her Marine.  She never learned his name but their meeting came to hold such a meaning for her that she can’t form commitments or real attachments with anyone else.  Taking a temporary teaching job in Vermont, she is more than surprised to find her Marine there.  She is also surprised to hear he is engaged.

When a lost bag of last year’s Christmas cards are in need of delivery, Jack and Hope decide to do it together. While spending time with each other, their bond is deepening leaving each wondering what will happen to them.  They are each other’s best friend and love is strong between them, but will outside influences drive them apart? Will fate step in again and save these two soul mates?

My thoughts:

I truly was captivated by this story from the beginning.  From Iraq to Vermont the characters are strong, interesting and hold depth of emotion.  Not only are the main characters this way, but so are the various secondary ones such as Margaret Carroll and T.J. Dancer.  This small community that the author created was hit hard by the loss of their family and friends to the military and you can truly feel the emotions from these characters as if their pain where real.  Very impressive writing skills!

There were two issues I connected with in this story.  One of them had to do with the military.  In the story Jack takes on the project of renovating the local Veterans Hall.  I can’t speak to the halls around the country, but the ones I see locally are either closing or not used often.  Jack not only decides to fix up the hall for job fairs and gatherings, but he is able to lift the moral and build up the loyalty and community pride in the veterans and their sacrifices. I wish this could happen more often in real life and not just at times of fear.

The second issue is another close to my heart.  In delivering the cards, Hope is asked to read a letter to a young girl written by her father.  The letter was written in cursive and the girl, my take was late teens or early 20’s, could not read it.  The school systems are teaching our kids to print and not use cursive.  This is a disability that I just cannot fathom its justification.  When our children cannot read historical documents written in cursive or sign their legal names how can we say we did right by them?  Hope’s character has workshops she conducts to teach this skill and encourages all to attend.  This is a shameful situation our children will be the bearers of.  I was happy to see the author use this in his story to draw attention to this deplorable lack of education we are fostering.

This is the first introduction I had with this author, Bryan Mooney, and I was very taken with his style. I look forward to more of his books and in fact I am eyeing his previous book,  Love Letters.


Amazon Link:  http://amzn.to/1XLjjLS