My Father's Daughter | Cookbooks By Lovely Ladies

My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the many cookbooks I received for Christmas this past year. It’s one of the almost two dozen cookbooks currently sitting on my bookshelf. This cookbook has gotten the least amount of attention from me since Christmas but the recipes I have made are quite tasty. Today’s menu to highlight the cookbook is a simple and quick pasta with salad. I made this on a Friday night for only me but it’s a great weeknight meal when you need to get dinner on the table quick.

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I put My Father’s Daughter on my wish list with apprehension. Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t someone who you’d think would have approachable recipes. She’s always talking about these crazy ingredients that are hard to find and freakishly expensive. All the reviews I’d read and previews I saw made it see like this particular cookbook was applicable to anyone. I’m not shy to new ingredients, I did cook through A Kitchen In France which had me using things I didn’t even know existed. However, I’m not fond of spending a thousand dollars for one week’s worth of groceries. Flipping through My Father’s Daughter, I realized that not only did Gwyneth share recipes for the everyday home cook, she shared options.

The beginning of the cookbook shares essential tools Gwyneth always has in her kitchen, directions for any kind of special technique, and my favorite...a substitution chart. There’s nothing worse than finding a recipe that looks divine and realizing you need a specialty flour or sugar for it. This chart includes common substitutions for things like spelt, barley and buckwheat flour, non-dairy milks, and meat alternatives. It’s handy for someone like me that might not have a ton of experience with those ingredients and doesn’t feel confident make the switch without guidance. I’ve taken a photo of this chart on my phone and saved it so I can use it with recipes in other cookbooks! It’s such a useful tool.

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Besides the special tools, My Father’s Daughter includes a personal note from Gwyneth, recipes for soups, salads, burgers & sandwiches, pastas, main courses, side dishes, breakfast and desserts, tips on how to use the book, and more. Many of the recipes include little notes from Gwyneth sharing tips, experiences or memories. Many of them also have substitution suggestions and recommendations for cooking like prepping the sauce ahead of time. I chose a few of her simpler recipes to spotlight for this post. I hope you like them!

The Menu:
Italian Chopped Salad
Penne Puttanesca
Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

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Fun Fact: Italians do not eat their salad as a starter or appetizer like Americans do. The salad is instead more of an in between course or final dish after the heavier meat course is served. Personal Fact: My (Italian) family has always served salad as an optional add-on to whatever meal we’re having. I enjoy having it alongside the main dinner course. Case in point, today’s menu! The Italian Chopped Salad from My Father’s Daughter is a light and veggie packed recipe that is both easy to prepare and a treat to eat. Leafy greens are tossed with scallions, tomatoes, tiny balls of Mozzarella (bocconcini or pearl Mozz - whatever you can find), green beans, and a light vinaigrette. Gwyneth’s recipe also calls for preserved artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and anchovies but I left them out for various reasons. It took no time to pull this salad together and it was the perfect accompaniment to the Penne Puttanesca.

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Penne Puttanesca originated in Naples, not far where part of my family is from. It consists of ingredients that are strong in flavor like anchovies, capers and olives. These three ingredients in particular can have a briney, salty flavor. The sweetness of a basic tomato sauce balances that acidity and saltiness well. Gwyneth’s recipe calls for her Basic Tomato Sauce recipe which I have not tried my hand at yet. But I did buy a jar of marinara from the grocery store. I know most people who are Italian cringe at the thought but I am not above convenience. A batch of gravy takes a day to make and lots of freezer space to store. The only tweak I made to this recipe was leave out the anchovies. I don’t mind using anchovies in cooking because they do add a great depth of flavor but if I’m not going to use the entire can or jar, I won’t do it. I feel like it’s a waste to open up a package for one or two. Not to mention they start to smell if you save them.

The Penne Puttanesca was in one word, delightful. I made this entire meal for myself one night. It was late, I hadn’t eaten a real meal in days and I needed to make the recipes for this blog post. I ignored my lazy - “It’s Friday night”- mentality and got to cooking. I don’t know what I was waiting for because the salad and the pasta together took hardly any time. It was a comforting, yet still light dinner and it reminded me of home (I was living in the city at the time). Another reason this meal was so great...the leftovers lasted for days!

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Finally, Gwyneth has this recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Brownies. They're as healthy as you can possibly get them without sacrificing flavor. Let me tell you, no flavor was sacrificed in the making of these brownies. One requires a giant glass of milk alongside it and they are crazy rich. Little confession, her recipe uses spelt flour and soy milk but I used regular white flour and lactose-free milk. So hers, in hindsight, are probably a bit healthier. I did not make these to go alongside my pasta and salad dinner but I did make them for Tapas Night with the girls and they were the perfect finish.

The Little Paris Kitchen | Cookbooks By Lovely Ladies

Spring might not want to show up in Chicago yet but let me tell you, spring flavors are taking over my kitchen whether they want to or not. I love today’s cookbook feature because it’s a menu using recipes with spring ingredients but it’s also perfect for colder days. The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo is one of the most approachable French cookbooks I’ve seen. Traditional French recipes are given a modern twist using ingredients that are accessible and not so intimidating. This particular menu is perfect for a weekend dinner with friends or family. The flavors are bright and it’s not a super heavy meal but it is comforting and satisfying. All qualities necessary for a cold spring night.

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I’ve only made a handful of recipes from The Little Paris Kitchen but what I have cooked through has been incredible. For example, who knew Mac n’ Cheese was French and that it could taste so good?! I mean, I guess we all know how fantastic Mac n’ Cheese can be, but not when you make it yourself! There’s also a recipe for Meatballs in Spicy Sauce with Alsatian Pasta that is to-die-for. She has salads, desserts, gouters (or snacks), and even breakfast recipes. It’s a well-rounded cookbook that touches a lot of different parts of French cuisine and that’s what makes The Little Paris Kitchen such a great cookbook.

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I know I can only complain about the weather so much on here without sounding like a broken record, but you guys. It was snowing today. I love cold weather as much as Snow Miser but it would be great to walk around without a coat. You know what I mean? On the other hand, I have a few extra winter pounds from all my “comforting” dinners I don’t want exposed just yet. So when I have recipes like the Spring Lamb Stew to give the best of both worlds, it’s a win. On another note, I hope you guys are enjoying these little peeks at cookbooks I’m in love with. It’s great sharing my own recipes with you but I also love sharing my experiences with cookbooks. It’s different and it also broadens my own perspective on ingredients and different cuisines.

The Menu:
Garlic Mayonnaise with Crunchy Raw Vegetables
Spring Lamb Stew
Citrus Fruit Cake

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The Garlic Mayonnaise is the real recipe for the starter. It’s more like a garlic aioli that acts as a dip for freshly cut veggies. It’s a light appetizer that pairs well with heavier dishes or mains that stand on their own like the Spring Lamb Stew. Like many other lamb recipes I’ve cooked through, I substituted beef. I know it’s not the same, I know using lamb is the whole point of this being a spring stew but it’s SO expensive. Buying a 3-pound lamb roast versus a beef cut is like comparing pennies to dollars. Using a beef roast doesn’t ruin this dish though so stick with me.

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Green beans, peas, and carrots brighten this stew and the beef is the perfect substitute for a still-winter-kind-of-spring meal! The flavors blend beautifully and the meat cooks for a few hours making it super tender. It is fantastic for leftovers as well (if there are any left). Serve with a little crusty bread and you have yourself a winning dinner!

Finally, the best part of this post: Citrus Fruit Cake. It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Fruit cake does not bring to mind happy feelings. Forget that. This is more like a citrus pound cake. It has a similar texture and consistency. It’s got a great citrus flavor because of all the orange goodness but it’s not too overpowering like lemon can get. You know what I mean? It’s easy to make and lasts for a few days if you can restrain yourself to just a slice or two. It’s wonderful by itself but also tasty with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some berries on top.

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Oh Gussie | Cookbooks By Lovely Ladies

Hey spring, where are you? This winter loving girl is ready for a warm up yet all we seem to get is rainy days and cold temps. It seems a little unfair since we’re in April now, don’t you think? Anyway, I have another cookbook written by a lovely lady to share with you today. A while back, I heard a song on the radio that I instantly fell in love with, “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. It was country through-and-through and their harmonization was on point. This band turned into one of my favorites in country music. Little Big Town just seems like a down to earth, approachable group of people. Little did I know, almost ten years later one of their members would release a cookbook!

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Kimberly Schlapman released Oh Gussie! back in 2015, 10 years after “Boondocks” hit radios. It’s a compilation of recipes divided into five sections: Family, Friends, Music, Home, & Away. The recipes in each chapter represent some kind of memory or tradition. For example, the chicken and dumpling recipe below was passed down by Kimberly’s mama and tweaked by her for a little personal twist. The apple cake is also in the family chapter and was inspired by a lady who taught her Daddy in school and was also a substitute teacher when she was a student. Finally, the fruit and cheese kabobs are in the music chapter and represent a tradition that Little Big Town has before every performance - squeezing a little honey into their mouths before going on stage. In case music and/or honey aren’t things you’re super interested in, honey is supposed to do wonders for the throat, and in effect, the vocal cords. The drizzle of honey-vanilla over the kabobs represents that tradition.

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I love a great cookbook but I love when the cookbook has some sort of story or memory attached to it. Oh Gussie! is all that and more. Each recipe has a little story or reason for why Kimberly included it. It allows you to get to know her through food, and what a treat! I always say that food is so much more than a necessity for our bodies. Food feeds our soul, it feeds our memories. It comforts us when we’re upset, it brings us joy when we’re celebrating. Food is an easy way to find common ground with another human being. So if you love Southern cooking or great food, Oh Gussie! is exactly what you’re looking for.

The Menu:
Fruit & Cheese Kabobs
Kimberly’s Chicken & Dumplings
Fresh Apple Glazed Cake

I used a whole vanilla bean for the first time to make the Fruit & Cheese Kabobs, well, I used half of one. This is a simple appetizer that can substitute a traditional fruit and cheese board if you want something a little more approachable. Fruit, cheese and mint leaves spear onto a skewer getting a drizzle of honey mixed with fresh vanilla. Next time I make these, I’ll leave the honey-vanilla mixture in a little bowl on the side for people to drizzle with a spoon if they’d like. I’m not a fan of honey by itself, and the vanilla was a very powerful flavor. The combination was almost too sweet for me. I’d eat that fruit and cheese kabob any day though. Who doesn’t love muenster cheese and nectarines?!

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With this weird transitioning weather, comforting dishes are still appropriate. Kimberly’s Chicken & Dumplings was one of those perfect comfort meals. If you’re willing to put in the work that this dish takes, the reward is incredible. Creamy chicken soup is made even more hearty with homemade dumplings. It was a dish that fed the soul as much as it fed the stomach. My whole family enjoyed this recipe and it was even better for leftovers the next day. The catch? It does take time and patience. I will not play that down. The soup needs to cook first which doesn’t take much time but afterwards, the chicken needs shredding and the dumpling dough needs kneading. Afterwards, the dumplings need to cook. Once you factor in labor, the amount of time the pot takes to boil, the time everything takes to cook through...this is a good 1.5 hour - 2 hour prep. I was not prepared for that when I originally made this recipe. We didn’t eat until 7pm and we had family coming over for a party at 7:30pm. Let’s just say, everyone enjoyed the soup but I got some nasty looks.

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Finally, the Fresh Apple Glazed Cake may be one of my favorite recipes out of Oh Gussie!. It’s a really light, moist cake (don’t try and determine the nutritional facts though...yikes!). It’s a pretty simple apple cake that bakes in a bundt pan. After it’s done baking, a bunch of holes get poked into the cake before three-quarters of the glaze gets poured all over. This allows the glaze to seep into the cake making it even more moist and decadent. After it sets for about 30 minutes, the cake flips and the remaining glaze gets drizzled all over. I don’t want to know how many calories and how much fat is in this recipe but I’d like to think it’s somewhat healthy since there are apples! Regardless, it’s a fantastic dessert any time of the year.

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Do you have Oh Gussie! by Kimberly Schlapman? How about Eat Like a Gilmore by Kristi Carlson that I featured a few weeks ago? She’s working on her second Gilmore Girls inspired cookbook! If you haven’t heard the news, get out of the rock you’ve been hiding under and check it out! I’m so excited, I can’t even tell you.

Eat Like A Gilmore | Cookbooks By Lovely Ladies

Happy Saturday! I hope you’re all enjoying your day as much as I am. While you all know that I am not a morning person in the slightest, I have been up since 5:30am. I’ve staffed a work thing, had breakfast at one of my favorite places (Le Pain Quotidien), and now I’m sitting in a coffee shop working on the computer to pass time until someone meets me for coffee. Normally my Saturdays consist of dozing till 9am, catching up on the Food Network until Noon and casually going through the rest of my day. Not a bad life but I have to admit that I’m enjoying the early start I got to today. Strolling through Chicago in the early hours on the weekend is an experience I don’t enjoy often but savor when I do. It’s a brief period of time when the city is at its most peaceful and everything feels so fresh. Now, as I sit here ready to introduce you to a new cookbook series for this month listening to the Beatles on vinyl, I can’t help but be grateful for being able to live in this gorgeous city. But enough about my morning...let’s get to the good stuff.

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Gilmore Girls was one of those coming of age shows that I grew up with. I saw Rory through high school, college and the beginning of her career. I watched her go through heartbreak in three serious relationships and I couldn’t help but notice each one was with a completely different type of guy. There are hardly any similarities between Dean, Jess, and Logan except for the fact that every single one is H.O.T. Am I right or what? When I heard about Eat Like A Gilmore, I knew without any certainty that I had to have that cookbook. Kristi Carlson brought a little piece of Stars Hollow to all of us by sharing recipes that are attached to a memory from the show. I’ve been working my way through this cookbook (along with the million others I have), and I haven’t found a recipe that I’ve been disappointed with yet! That’s why I wanted to premier this cookbook series for March with Carlson’s book. Last month, I shared cookbooks that featured recipes from different cultures around the world. This month, to celebrate some kick ass women, I’m sharing my experience cooking through books by ladies-only. So let’s get started.

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Meal #1: The Classic Cheeseburger from Luke’s Diner and Rocky Road Cookies
If you don’t know about Luke’s Cheeseburger, get out from whatever rock you’re living under. The cheeseburger from Luke’s Diner is basically a food group when it comes to Gilmore Girls. That and his pancakes...blueberries or chocolate chips optional. Gilmore Girls has successfully made a diner burger look so fantastic that any burger I have at real life diners doesn’t add up and I don’t even have anything to compare it to! Do you know what the trick is?? Absolutely nothing. The recipe for Luke’s Cheeseburger is a giant meat patty seasoned with salt and pepper then either grilled or cooked over the stove. That’s all. There are no secret ingredients, no hacks. It’s just ground beef and a stove. And let me tell you, it’s a damn good burger. Add a slice of cheddar cheese on top, whatever fixings you like and that’s all she wrote! There’s also an option to caramelize some onions to include on top. I did that the first time I made these burgers and it was fantastic. The second time, I kept it simple and it was just as good. My biggest tip, don’t skimp on the meat. This recipe calls for ½ lb. burgers. Use a ½ lb, of beef per patty or you will have sliders, not burgers.

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The Rocky Road Cookies might not ring a bell for you as much as the burger. I know they didn’t for me. When Rory and Dean started going out, she had Sookie make him his favorite cookies and she took a container to wait for him at the bus. It was a sweet moment for Rory and Dean and one of annoyance for Lane. And really, I feel like I relate to Lane on so many levels...sometimes more so than Rory. These Rocky Road Cookies are GOLD. Normally, I don’t like marshmallows at all. They work really well with these cookies though. They were a hit with my family too. I made them for Christmas and then my cousin’s birthday and they went quick. You might notice that my cookies look a lot darker than the ones in the photo. There’s a perfectly good reason for this. I didn’t realize that the cocoa powder we had was dark cocoa instead of the typical semi-sweet. So we ended up with extra dark chocolate rocky road cookies. Still tasty, I might add. I also omit the pecans because of our nut allergy so they can be nut-free.

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Meal #2: Warm Potato & Chorizo Salad with Cornbread
Nothing is better than cornbread. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and savory all in the form of bread. It’s even better when made from scratch and paired with something that complements it well. Kind of like the Warm Potato & Chorizo Salad which sounds healthy because it’s a salad but doesn’t taste healthy. Is it healthy? We’ll never know! It sure is tasty though. It’s also really simple. Chorizo is browned and tossed with blanched asparagus, boiled potatoes and spinach before dressed with this Creamy Avocado dressing. It’s hearty enough to serve as a main course with a side of the cornbread. If I haven’t sold you on the cornbread yet, will you believe me that it’s amazing if I told you it’s made with cheese? Yes, you read that right! A little cheese gets mixed into the batter before baking and it is divine.

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If you haven’t picked up Eat Like a Gilmore yet, do so. Even if you’re not a Gilmore Girls fanatic like me, it has a ton of great recipes from muffins to wedding cakes. There’s even a recipe for deep fried turkey...the whole thing! I don’t have the confidence, or equipment, to try that one out but I’ll eventually work my way through quite a few of the recipes. I’ve even featured the pancakes from Luke’s Diner in a recent #FoodieFriday post!

Ottolenghi | Around the World with Cookbooks

Happy Monday! It’s a beautiful, sunny, 50 degree day here in Chicago. While I love winter and the cooler months, there’s something about these first few warm days between winter and spring that make me happy. Feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin is almost therapeutic. Kind of like your body is soaking in vital nutrients it’s been missing for so long. As we’re about to turn the corner into March, I can’t help but think of how quick the month has flown by. Didn’t January feel like it lasted for a year and February was a mere minute? If it weren’t for all the snow we had, I’d almost feel like we completely missed out on winter! While today and tomorrow are going to be warmed up, nights and days on average are still pretty cold which makes this final cookbook feature in our Around the World series perfect.

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Ottolenghi was lent to me by a friend specifically for this series. I have more than a dozen cookbooks but the only cuisines I was able to pull out of them were Thai, Italian and French. I couldn’t believe that I had all these cookbooks and only three cultures to show for it. If you saw how many French and Italian cookbooks I had, you’d understand though. It appears I have a life mission to master French cooking through as many cookbooks as possible. So to add one more culture to the cookbook part of the series, a friend lent me Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi featuring recipes inspired by the Mediterranean.

Both Ottolenghi and Tamimi were born and raised in Jerusalem which is where their culinary roots are heavily based. They’ve since transformed their traditional dishes to include influence from California, Italy, North Africa and other destinations but at the heart, the recipes are true to their origins. Like any new culture or language, decoding the recipes to imagine what they would turn out to be was a bit difficult at first but a challenge I accepted with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Ottlenghi uses a lot of ingredients that are hard to find or expensive in my Midwestern suburban town so narrowing down which recipes I was going to feature turned out to be pretty easy. The end result ended up being a flavorful chicken dinner with a rice pilaf type side. It was a meal that everyone enjoyed (surprisingly considering the new spices I introduced my picky eaters too).

Kosheri is a lentil and rice dish traditionally from Egypt served both hot or cold. It’s not difficult to prepare but there are several parts and steps that need attention at the same time. It takes more concentration than anything. Since it can be served both hot or cold, you don’t have to feel bad about serving it room temperature! It takes a bit of the pressure off. There are a lot of variations to this recipe both in its home country of Egypt but also as a similar dish in other cultures such as Indian and even English. This particular recipe uses a spicy tomato sauce that adds another layer of depth to an already well-rounded dish.

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Kosheri is a mixture of lentils, basmati rice, and vermicelli noodles all cooked separate before brought together for the end product. The rice is seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon giving it a warm flavor that contrasts beautifully with the tangy and spicy tomato sauce. I prepared the Kosheri in about 40 minutes or so. It was enough time to clean up after the chicken dish and get the kosheri prepared before the chicken finished cooking. Because of the combination of spices, I won a few over with dish and lost a few. Turns out tang and warm spices are not an ideal combination for some people.

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and Lemon
For the main course to serve along the Kosheri, I chose an easy roasted chicken recipe. It calls for one whole chicken cut up. To save money but also because I didn’t want to butcher my own chicken and the store was out of whole cut up options, I used only chicken quarters. Everyone prefers dark meat anyway, right? This recipe is a basic roast chicken recipe with an intense marinade and lots of spices. I love it because it’s hands off too. The chicken marinades all day or at least for a few hours in a plastic bag with a myriad of spices, lemon and a few other ingredients. Once it’s time to roast, dump the bag onto a baking sheet or into a roasting pan and pop it in the oven. While the chicken roasts, prep the Kosheri and if you’d like, a side salad for a touch of freshness. The chicken becomes super tender and flavorful thanks to the long marinade and it pairs perfect with the Kosheri.

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I’m sad to see this series come to and end but we’ve got a ton of great stuff coming to you in March! If you missed any other posts in the Around the World series, check them out. If you’re interested in a specific culture or cuisine, besides Jerusalem we covered FranceGreeceItalyMexicoNorth AfricaPoland and Thailand. Happy eating!

French Country Cooking | Around the World with Cookbooks

Remember French Cooking Fridays? It was my journey cooking through A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorisson - my first true experience working with French recipes. While it had its frustrations, it also had its accomplishments. It was rewarding making it through some of those harder recipes and eye opening to whiz through the easier ones. For example, there was a chicken recipe that took hardly any time at all and was one of the best chicken recipes I’d ever made in my life. Who knew French food could be so easy? I’ll tell you, no one who is familiar with stereotypical French cuisine.

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As I continue reading Julie & Julia, I’m seeing that the majority of the recipes included, or at least the ones she writes about, are expert level recipes. Is that the truth about any cuisine though? Regardless of the country, everyone needs easy weeknight recipes every once in a while. I mean, what about a croque madame or croque monsieur? That’s hardly a major time commitment. A Kitchen In France did more than expand my cooking skills, it expanded my mind when it came to French Food. Not only does it have the traditional laborious dishes that are decadent and rich, it also has dishes that are light, simple and come together in no time. That was one of the reasons I loved sharing my experiences cooking through A Kitchen In France. I wanted to open the definition of French cuisine and show that it’s not all 8 hour cooking sessions and heavy meals. It’s versatile and seasonal like any other cuisine.

When I found out Mimi had come out with a second cookbook, I knew that I needed it for my cookbook shelf (now shelves). French Country Cooking is organized a little different than A Kitchen In France. While AKIF was organized by season, FCC is organized by course: sides, starters, main courses, staff meals, Sunday suppers, desserts, gouter (snacks), and drinks. Mimi was inspired by the pop-up restaurant her and her husband had taken over in the Medoc region of France. Main courses are dishes you’d see in the restaurant. Staff meals are less complicated, quicker options to feed workers on breaks. Sunday supper dishes are meals you’d cook for your family, something very important to Mimi and her family. The others explain themselves except gouter. A little background info...the French do not eat between meals. They hardly even drink. Because dinner is so late (no earlier than 7:30pm and as late as 10pm), to keep hunger at bay they’ll have a little gouter in the late afternoon to tide them over until dinnertime. A gouter is sweet or savory, sometimes a little of both!

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The meal I chose to showcase French food for our “Around the World” series is classically French. From onion soup to pears with chocolate, these dishes showcase the finesse of French cuisine, the decadence of French cuisine, and the simplicity. Each dish has a different level of work involved and each dish has a different number of ingredients required. I was hoping to show the versatility of the culture. You tell me if I did it justice.

Plantia’s Onion Soup
French Onion Soup is one of those dishes that are without question French. Mimi’s recipe, by coincidence, mimics the same recipe the woman who owned the restaurant before her used to serve. Her name was Plantia so Mimi named the recipe after her. The secret to both of their soups is duck fat and using comte or gruyere cheese on the toasts. I did not use duck fat but I did use gruyere cheese! Onion Soup is super simple to make. Onions cook down until soft before chicken stock, wine and a few other ingredients get thrown in the pot. Everything simmers for a bit before placing cheese toasts on top for a delightful bowl of soup. This recipe may lack ingredients but it lacks no flavor. It’s a recipes that feeds the soul.

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Poule au Pot
I recently read the part in Julie & Julia where Julie makes Pot au Feu for a group of friends. Pot au Feu and Poule au Pot are similar in that they’re both boiled dishes. Pot au Feu is several types of meat all boiled in a large pot with veggies. Poule au Pot is a stuffed whole chicken boiled in a pot with vegetables. Similar, right? Another thing they have in common is that they are not visually satisfactory. They’re actually kind of gross. I wanted to share a photo of the Poule au Pot once it finished cooking to show the stuffing and all that but it was gag worthy. I was not putting a photo of that on the blog.

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Poule au Pot is one of those traditional go-to French dishes made for comfort. It’s also one of those dishes that can be made a million different ways. The prep is a little intense for this one with the stuffing but other than that, it’s not too bad. A creamy mushroom sauce finishes the dish using some of the homemade stock from the pot. That’s the biggest pro for this recipe. The water that the chicken and veggies boil in transitions into a beautiful, rich stock that you can use later in the week. I had about 3-4 quarts of stock leftover that I used all week long. So while Poule au Pot may not be visually stunning and translated to English (boiled chicken) might not sound scrumptious, it’s actually a very tasty dish and it’s also comforting. Whip it up on the weekends when you have a little extra time on your hands.

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Baked Pears with Chocolate
What comes to mind when you think of French desserts? Macarons? Souffle? Chocolate Mousse? How about a baked fruit drizzled in dark chocolate? Because that’s exactly what this is. Four (five if you use mint) ingredients come together for an indulgent dessert that tastes more sinful than it actually is. Melted butter drizzles over halved pears followed by a hint of honey. They’re baked until tender before finished with a healthy drizzle of melted dark chocolate. It’s a dish where the fruit shines but does not taste one bit healthy. The best part is that you don’t feel guilty or gross after indulging. You feel satisfied, satiated and ready for a glass of bubbles. Might we suggest strawberries in prosecco??

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We have a one recipe and one cookbook feature to go! In case you missed the others, see our stops around the world cooking in ItalyThailandGreeceNorth Africa and Mexico.


Cravings | Around the World with Cookbooks

Chrissy Teigen has got everything going for her. She’s successful, a great mom, hilarious...and a cook?! It’s almost hard to believe that she’s a pro at so many things. As someone who can understand her love for food, her cookbook went to the top of my wishlist when she released it. Cravings has a little bit of everything from tasty brunch dishes to elegant dinners. A section I wasn’t expecting but glad she included was one dedicated to traditional Thai recipes she grew up with. It leaves plenty for me to experiment with, that’s for sure.

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Living with picky eaters does not make embracing Asian food easy. I don’t know what it is with the two kids I live with but if they think we’re eating any kind of Asian food, they immediately start moaning. I think it’s the soy sauce. Anyone else have this issue? Me. I love Asian-American food. Let’s talk Thai for a second since that’s the culture of choice for today’s post. Living in Chicago introduced me to Pad Thai, one of my favorite restaurant dishes of all time. I literally crave Pad Thai when I go without it for long periods of time. Suburban life does not offer many different cultural dining options so I had to teach myself how to make it. Life. Changer. There are several other dishes I fell in love with over time but the two I decided to spotlight from Cravings I’ve never had before. It's supposed to be a challenge, right? They’re also not particular crazy so if you also live with picky eaters, these are good starters to introduce to Asian, or more specifically, Thai flavors.

Pad Grapow Chicken (Basil Chicken)
Confession time. Thai Basil is the recommended basil of choice for this dish but it wasn't in the cards for me. Regular basil works too, it’s just not as authentic. I also had to omit the oyster sauce thanks to my annoying allergy. In simpler terms, this is Stir Fried Basil Chicken. It’s light, tasty and a perfect weeknight dish as it comes together in less than 30 minutes. Serve with rice and call it a day! It’s so simple and so tasty and because there are only a few common ingredients, it doesn’t feel exotic. That way, the picky eaters don’t complain much at dinner! I call that a win.

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Pounded Thai Papaya (or Green Bean) Salad
This recipe has two variations to it: papaya and green bean. It caught my attention when I flipped through the cookbook for the first time but I wasn’t sure what I would make it with. It’s a vibrant side dish and I felt like it needed a meaty main to complement the freshness. Enter, a non-Thai recipe also from Cravings: John’s Marinated Steaks. It was also the perfect time for me to break in my brand new Ayesha Curry Porcelain Enamel Grill Pan. Before you judge, the most exciting part about receiving kitchen gadgets for gifts is using them for the first few times. At least, it’s exciting for foodies and avid home chefs like myself.

Because the marinade has a little bit of lemon in it, as well as a few other ingredients that do the same trick, the meat is naturally tenderized and even starts to cook a little while marinating. I could get into the details of a chemical reaction but I wouldn't want to bore you :P That's why the meat looks somewhat cooked on the uncooked side.

Because the marinade has a little bit of lemon in it, as well as a few other ingredients that do the same trick, the meat is naturally tenderized and even starts to cook a little while marinating. I could get into the details of a chemical reaction but I wouldn't want to bore you :P That's why the meat looks somewhat cooked on the uncooked side.

Anyway, the grill is currently in storage during this snowy winter and the steak recipe requires grilling. I think I achieved those beautiful grill marks just as well in the pan, wouldn’t you say so? I love this steak recipe because the marinade is out of this world. It has a bit of an Asian flare to it to it was the perfect pairing for the Pounded Green Bean Salad. Why green bean and not papaya? Papaya isn’t a fruit that I’ve worked with before. I wouldn’t even know how to pick a good one out in the store and the idea of shredding it up wasn’t appealing. I also knew the previously mentioned picky eaters would lose their minds. While this might seem like an elegant dinner that takes time to prepare, it actually whips up super quick. The steaks only need a few minutes per side so I’d recommend prepping the salad first and then grilling the meat.

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I’ll be honest, when I saw fish sauce in the ingredient list, I was tempted to omit it. A friend of mine insists on reminding me that fish sauce adds an extra depth of flavor and umami (which I can never resist) but more importantly, it doesn’t make the dish taste fishy. So I finally caved and bought a bottle of fish sauce. I only used one of the two required tablespoons but I think I’m officially a convert! There was NO fishiness to this salad. In fact, it was incredible. I served it over healthy serving of jasmine rice with the steak alongside. The juices from the steak and the salad managed to mix together on the plate and the flavor combination was mind blowing. It turned out to be a satisfying, delicious dinner that everyone enjoyed (for the most part...I live with picky eaters, remember).

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Do you have Cravings by Chrissy Teigen? Have you made any of these dishes? Tell me your favorites. Stay tuned! Later this week, we have a North African breakfast dish that tastes even better than it looks.


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The Tucci Table | Around The World With Cookbooks

Remember the first time I cooked my way through a cookbook? It was The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci. I got it for Christmas one year, along with a few others, and came up with this grand idea to cook my way through (almost) every recipe. It was a way for me to connect with my ethnic roots and improve my kitchen skills at the same time. It was also timely. I had recently left a corporate gig that led me into a low period in my life and I needed something to feed my creativity and restart a passion. Sound familiar? If you are one of the many people who read or saw Julie & Julia, I am only now learning that it’s a similar story.

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Before you call me a copycat, hold on a second. People have been cooking their way through cookbooks for a long time. Second of all, while I had known about Julie & Julia when I started, all I knew was that it was a movie about a woman who cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking while also sharing a look into Julia Child’s life. I still have not seen the movie, thanks to my stubbornness of wanting to read the book first. I am about 100 pages into the novel though and loving it. The beginning dives into Julie's life at the moment. She's disappointed in her job and where she's at versus where she thought she'd be. It was at that time she started to cook through MTAOFC. It gave me serious flashbacks to when I decided to cook through The Tucci Cookbook. There were a lot of parallels in our lives emotionally. I find it interesting now as I look back. Like MTAOFC and Julie, The Tucci Cookbook saw me through lots of challenges. Cooking mussels for the first time, angrily rolling gnocchi, re-rolling pasta dough about five times until finally getting it right, and much more. It was a journey that I needed at the time and one I’m glad I took.

A week ago, I shared the first of four original recipes in our “Around the World with Recipes” series. I mentioned it was only half of a two-part series we were doing this month celebrating foods from different cultures around the world. The second part which I haven't introduced yet is four different cookbook features. While I won’t be sharing any original Italian recipes, I did want one of the posts to embrace my roots. Who better to do that than Stanley Tucci?! I received his second cookbook for Christmas back in 2016, The Tucci Table, and I’ve been slowly cooking through it since (along with about 11 other cookbooks!). The dishes in today’s feature are classic dishes you’ll most likely recognize along with simple ones you can make in a flash.

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Bistro & Green Salad with Simple Vinaigrette
For the most basic of salad recipes, this is it. Butter lettuce gets drizzled with a simple vinaigrette that lives up to its name. Most of the ingredients you’ll find in your pantry: shallot, white wine vinegar, salt, Dijon mustard, olive and vegetable oils. This is the kind of vinaigrette to whip up whenever company descends unexpectedly for dinner or you need a quick and easy vegetable side. It coats the lettuce well so that you get great flavor in every single bite.

Bolognese is one of those dishes I always find myself explaining to people. It’s not a red sauce with meat but it’s also not to be mistaken with carbonara which is egg, cheese, pepper and ham. Bolognese is a straight up meat sauce and by that I mean a lot of ground beef cooked with wine and cream or milk. It’s a heavy, hearty dish made for bone-chilling winter nights. It takes all day to whip up for maximum flavor and you feel about ten pounds heavier after eating it. Even so, it’s worth every single calorie. Bolognese is closer to a ragu than an actual sauce or gravy. You’re essentially eating fettuccine with meat and tomatoes. Amazing, right?

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Another misconception about Bolognese is that it’s hard. Erase that thought immediately. Bolognese is simple. It just takes several hours to simmer. You are free to go about your day as it simmers though. I don’t get why it’s gotten such a bad rep. Because Bolognese is such a hearty dish, I recommend letting it stand on its own for a meal. The Bistro & Green Salad was the perfect complement providing a fresh, light accompaniment to a rather hearty dinner.

TIP: Don’t make the same rookie mistake that I did the first time I made this recipe. Stanley does not drain the meat in his recipe and it’s cooked after the celery, carrot, garlic and onion. He must have been using an extra lean ground beef. I used about 80/20 and the beef definitely needed to drain. Play it safe and follow my lead. Brown the beef first. If it doesn’t need to drain, remove to a plate until the veggies have softened. If it does need draining, do it carefully and then remove the cooked beef to a paper towel lined plate. The result if you have greasy beef? An oily, greasy Bolognese and no one likes that.

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Strawberries in Prosecco
As if the Bolognese and salad weren’t enough, here comes dessert! Strawberries in Prosecco is exactly what it sounds like...strawberries in a glass of prosecco. Do you know bubbly wine is my favorite? It makes no sense because I don’t enjoy carbonated drinks but wine with bubbles does the trick. Here’s a fun tip to make this even better. Let the strawberries sit in the prosecco for at least an hour before serving. The prosecco gets infused with the strawberries, drawing out not only more flavor but the color. By the time you serve, it looks like you’re serving rose prosecco and it takes berrylicious!

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So far, we’ve visited Mexico and now Italy. Come back tomorrow as we venture to a whole other continent courtesy of one of my favorite ladies, Chrissy Teigen. Stay tuned...