Category Archives: Cooking

Recipes, restaurants, ingredients, shopping

Cookbook review (Giveaway closed): Fresh Tastes

It’s Tuesday, it’s way too cold outside, and therefore (by the rules of logic) it’s time for another cookbook review. With a giveaway! To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below by Tuesday February 13th at 9am Central. If you need inspiration about what to say, here’s a question: what is your ultimate comfort food? I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner, and you’ll get a free copy of this lovely cookbook zipped off in the mail to you.

{Update: GIVEAWAY CLOSED. The winner is . . .

. . . comment #4! TWINKY! Congrats, Mama.)

Now: why do you want this cookbook? Let’s get down to it.

This cookbook is Lee Clayton Roper’s second. Here’s what I love about Fresh Tastes: it feels like a hug from your mom. Which makes sense, considering a lot of Lee’s recipes are from her mom.

To me, there’s a huge comfort food factor here. A blurb I read describes her recipes as “timeless classics,” and I couldn’t agree more. Her 170 recipes include all kinds of familiar dishes that I imagine on the table of a gracious, older Midwestern woman who has perfected the art of hosting and has prepared a spread to Feed Them All. What kind of offerings might you find on her table? Think Pimento Cheese Spread, think Chicken Pot Pie, think Potato Salad–all recipes Lee has included in her book.

(Also, I want to be this woman. At ease, confident, hospitable, and with plenty of food for everyone, always.)

A lot of her recipes include mayonnaise. Luckily, I love mayonnaise. Bring the mayo ON.

This soup looks particularly lovely:

Want to make it? You’re in luck, because I have the recipe right here in a nice printable format:

Italian Sausage Spinach and Orzo Soup

Also, though there’s no image to go with it, the mere name of this recipe speaks to me: Banana Caramel Baked French Toast. (Click to access the Word doc, and if you make it before I do, let me know how it turns out.)

Whenever I review a cookbook, I always try to make a recipe first, because that’s the proof in the pudding. For this go-around, I decided to make Lee’s meatloaf recipe, which if I remember correctly, came from one of her mother’s recipe cards. The ingredient list looked nice and traditional–milk, breadcrumbs, eggs, ground beef, sage, grated onion, with a ketchup-based sauce on top. And I was in the mood for traditional. Nothing fancy, nothing terribly innovative–just nice, plain, meatloaf.

And that’s exactly what it tasted like. And I mean that in a good way. Standard, good, meatloaf. I love a cookbook that has standard, good stuff in it.

On a side note, has anyone figured out how to photograph meatloaf in an attractive way? I have not.

As you can probably tell.

There’s something about comfort food that is just . . . ugly.

Ugly and delicious.

Anyway, I served it with brussel sprouts and potatoes.

Yum. I went back for seconds.

Now brussel sprouts–there’s a food that photographs well. Let’s have another look.

They almost make the meatloaf look good.



It’s a lovely cookbook for anyone who enjoys cooking traditional American fare. The recipes are simple, the ingredients easy-to-find, and it’s just one of those cookbooks that makes me feel warm inside. Because, as much as I sometimes want to make a complicated curry recipe with about a million steps to it and a level of spice that will burn a half dozen holes in my tongue, sometimes I just want a nice, warm spinach dip with crackers.

Or meatloaf with ketchup on top.

Here’s a link to the cookbook on Amazon:

And good luck to those of you participating in the giveaway!

Vegan Chia Mango Lassi

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love Indian food.

Okay, strike that. Anyone who has only slightly met me knows it, because I shout “I LOVE INDIAN FOOD!” sometimes, totally spontaneously, to strangers who look like they’re curious about what drives me in life.

(Now you know)

And Mango Lassis–have you heard of them? Ever had one? Well. WELL. Imagine perfect, sweet, ripe Mango pureed with yogurt and cream. Now make it a little more liquidy and add some ingredients I haven’t researched but are probably in there too, and bam.

So basically it’s an ultra-good mango yogurt drink.

The thing is, yogurt doesn’t sit so well in my stomach. At least not in super large quantities, and it’s impossible to have a Mango Lassi and not drink super large quantities. I’ve become more dairy-sensitive as I’ve gotten older, and while I’m by no means striking dairy from my diet, I can no longer ingest an entire wheel of Brie in one sitting.*

*Yes, I did. And paid for it with pain. Lots of pain. Though part of that could also have been the ENTIRE BAGUETTE I spread it on. I can only say that I was twenty years old and . . . yes.

Recently, my co-worker brought her homemade Vegan Mango Lassi to the office. And brilliantly, she put Chia seeds in it, which made it almost like a pudding. She offered me a taste and I was blown away. It was so good. And it was healthy too???? I had to make it myself. And over the weekend, I did.


The baby made me do it.

Do yourself a kindness and make it too. It is so creamy and wonderful that I feel no need to seek out any other Mango Lassi recipes. Ever.

Vegan Chia Mango Lassi

Serves 4

2 ripe mangoes

13.6 oz (1 can) coconut milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lime juice

2 TBS maple syrup

2 TBS Chia seeds (optional)

First, soak the Chia seeds in 6 oz of water for about 15 minutes (or follow the directions on the back of your package of seeds). Have you ever done stuff with these magical little thingies before? If not, today’s your lucky day.

Also, does anyone else feel the random need to capitalize the word Chia? It can’t be just me.

Next, grab yon mango.

Peeleth it. Chopeth it. Repeateth with the second mango.

Puree the first five ingredients in a blender.

Stir in the Chia seeds and soaking water. Then chill the whole beautiful mess in the fridge. When it’s nice and cold, drink it up or eat it with a spoon.

NOTE: If you’d like to go for the pudding experience, you can add the Chia seeds directly to the lassi instead of soaking them in water first. Let them lounge around in the lassi for a couple hours, then get your spoon out and dive in.

Does that picture gross you out? If you said ‘yes,’ you probably need therapy because of a scarring experience with baby food that you can’t remember but is secretly ruining your life.

I need therapy.

OTHER NOTE: The flavor of the lassi will be SO dependent on the flavor of your mangoes. Taste them! If they’re a little bland, you may need to amp up the lime juice and maple syrup. If they’re bursting with flavor, you may not need maple syrup or lime juice at all! Go with your taste buds on this one.

Here’s a picture of me showing how happy this lassi makes me.

And here’s a picture of me holding it in my claw.

Make it!

Click here for printer-friendly version: Vegan Chia Mango Lassi