Category Archives: Review

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!

Cookbook review (giveaway closed): The Healthy Jewish Kitchen

The giveaway winner is . . . comment #2, which is Layla! Congratulations!


I recently received a copy of Paula Shoyer’s new cookbook The Healthy Jewish Kitchen for review. So (as you may have guessed) I’m not Jewish and I don’t eat Kosher–but I was intrigued anyway. I like eating healthy, and I’ll cook anything that’s delicious-looking. And roasted carrots, which she features on the cover, speak to me. Bright green mush also speaks to me. And no, I’m not being sarcastic. Like, I want to be eating it right now. And maybe dip a French fry in it.

If they speak to you too, guess what? You have the chance to get a free copy! *imagine a really cute animal doing a really cute dance at this moment* *thank you*

I just love doing giveaways–it gives me the warm fuzzies. To enter to receive a free copy of this cookbook, just comment below on this post by Tuesday January 30th, 9am Central. Any comment! Like, “I imagined a Preying Mantis doing an adorable Fox trot.” Or “I loathe sharks” (so do I!! We should be best friends).

Anyway. Leafing through the cookbook, I loved the variety of recipes, with everything from Paula’s take on Pho to Fish Tacos (YUM) to Tuna Poke (yes, I love fish, the rawer the better) to Sourdough Challah bread (with a cool explanation on why sourdough is way healthier). I love the focus on health, which is present but not taken to the extreme either. (There’s a way, apparently, to reduce the calories in your rice by 10% which I find slightly mind-blowing.) I love that Paula marks which recipes are Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, etc.–and that there are so many recipes that fit those qualifications. I also think her substitutions to make a recipe Kosher (like switching out the ham in her Split Pea Soup recipe for pink beans) are smart and appealing to those of us who don’t do the whole Kosher thing. (I’d still like to try it with pink beans!)

Overall, the photography is lovely and homey-looking. I seriously can’t get over the Fish Tacos. I mean, look at ’em, people.

Photography by Bill Milne; Copyright owned by Sterling Publishing under a work-for-hire contract;

It was also wonderful to get a bit more educated on what it means to eat Kosher.

If I had one complaint, I’d say it was related to the Pho recipe. The recipe is called “Vietnamese Pho.” But then, in her explanation, Paula says she basically took her chicken soup recipe and added “Asian ingredients” for an “Asian-flavored broth.” One of those ingredients is dark miso. Well, miso is a Japanese ingredient. Don’t get me wrong–I have no problem with taking a recipe, upending it, and putting in whatever the heck ingredients you want–but maybe you shouldn’t call it “Vietnamese Pho” if nothing about it is Vietnamese. Maybe call it Miso Chicken Soup? Or Pho’s Distant but Delicious Second Cousin? Or something like that?

Okay, maybe I’m getting a little cray-cray about this Pho thing.

Yes. Getting off my soap box and moving on.

I’ll counteract the negative with a positive–Paula has a super playful take on Spaghetti and Meatballs that I just found delightful. She does spaghetti squash instead of pasta and little balls of red quinoa rather than meatballs. I don’t know why that tickled me so much. But now I really want to try it. And I’m imagining, from a Kosher perspective, that allows you to put cheese on it.

So! When I have the time, I like to make something from a cookbook before reviewing it. Because that’s the most important part–are the recipes delicious? And you can’t know til you taste them.

I decided to make the Moroccan Lentil Soup. Here it is in its beginning stages:

And . . . *whaddabam, whaddabam, whaddbimbambop* . . .

It was super yummy, guys. Simple (and vegetarian), hearty and lovely. We had it for dinner with sliced pieces of buttered Turano bread (our absolute FAVORITE bread) and an awesome Spanish soft goat cheese.

And I get the share the recipe with you! Woohoo! (my note: I added bouillon cubes and lots of extra salt)


Moroccan Lentil Soup

Parve, Gluten-free, Vegan Serves 10

PREP TIME: Lentils soak 6 hours to overnight; 8 minutes • COOK TIME: 55 minutes • ADVANCE PREP: May be made 3 days in advance or frozen • EQUIPMENT: Measuring cups and spoons, cutting board, knife, vegetable peeler, garlic press, large bowl, colander, large saucepan or soup pot, immersion blender

1 pound (450g) dried lentils, soaked in water to cover for 6 hours or overnight, and then drained

¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped into ¼- to ½-inch (6- to 12-mm) pieces

1 large or 2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, quartered the long way and sliced (see Tip, page 25)

2 stalks celery, cut into ¼- to ½-inch (6- to 12-mm) pieces

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼- to ½-inch (6- to 12-mm) pieces

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper, divided

8 cups (2L) water

  • In a large bowl, cover the lentils with water and cover for 6 hours or overnight. Drain the lentils and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the thyme, cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Add the drained lentils and 8 cups (2L) of water to the soup pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Let the mixture cool for 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup for 10 seconds, so that just about one third of the soup is thickened. Add more salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Click here for the printer-friendly version: Moroccan Lentil Soup


Thanks Paula for a great cookbook!

If you want to add this cookbook to your collection, here’s a link to the book on Amazon:

The next recipe I want to try from her cookbook are those fish tacos. Just look at that picture again and tell me you don’t want to make them yourself. I dare you. Unless you don’t like fish, in which case, I NEVER KNEW YOU.

Okay, that was a little extreme. Life’s too short to let a piece of fish divide us. Oh, and you might not eat fish because you’re vegetarian or vegan which I TOTALLY RESPECT. In conclusion, ignore everything that I ever said and let love reigneth supreme.

But I will add that because the publishers were nice, they also shared the fish taco recipe. Here it is in case you want to join me:

Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice

Good luck and see you on the other side of the giveaway!