Sunday, 27 November 2016

Cookbook Review: Cuba! Recipes and Stories From the Cuban Kitchen by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy

With the warming of  the  relationship between Cuba and the USA I find this book especially timely and interesting. Goldberg, Kuhn and Eddy actually traveled to Cuba to explore it's cuisine and culture. The recipes range from staples of the Cuban diet to updated versions of classics. The book is divided into ten main chapters. It begins with cooking the basics-beans, rice, sofrito. and them moves on to different sin categories of Cuban food- including a section for Cuban Chinese, and my favorite-desserts!

I made the Cuban fried chicken recipe  and it was fantastic. It will most likely be my "go-to" recipe for fried chicken. The one thing I didn't like about the recipe was that it didn't give a time estimate. It just assumed you knew what to do. Other recipes that have made it onto my "must make" short list include Mojito Cake,  Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Shredded Beef with Fried Eggs, Mojo and Yuca.

While the recipes seem like winners, this book does have a few downsides. The (stunning) photography is clearly the focus of the book and because of this the recipe text is too small, I have average eyesight and have to bring the book close to my face to read it. Also, the book tries to explore the lives of the people behind the food but falls short. The writing about the people and culture is done in a "tell" vs. "show" style and it made me not want to continue reading. I would have loved to had more background on the people the culinary trio met and had it told in a more narrative style, rather than this is what we did, this is what he said. I much preferred the writing style found in Victuals than this one.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Book Review: My Brother's Keeper by Rodd Gragg

My Brother's Keeper chronicles the actions of 30 Christians who risked everything to save others during the Holocaust. School teachers, men, women, business owners, doctors. The people profiled  ranged in profession, social class and income level yet they all chose to selflessly follow their heart. Some saved children, friends, co-workers or strangers. Others died trying.

The profiles are in narrative style and are easy to follow. The stories are woefully gripping. You want to keep reading, yet you almost cannot bear to continue. Gragg writes about a time period in history were it seemed many were faithless yet the faithful come to light in this book.

 This book is especially timely as it reminds those who do believe to stand up for what is right and to leave the consequences to God. It is a very convicting, emotional read. What would you do when faced with the decisions these 30 faced?

I highly recommend My Brother's Keeper and will be reading some of  Gragg's other works as well.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Book Review: Teaching Others to Defend Christianity by Cathryn S. Buse

Teaching Others to Defend Christianity comes from NASA engineer Cathryn Buse. Buse noticed that many of her colleagues had deep doubts and criticisms about Christianity. Searching for a way to communicate God's love to the logic minded, Buse wrote Teaching Others to Defend Christianity to fill a gap she felt lacking in most ministries. Eventually, Buse founded Defend the Faith Ministry to help others learn how to better explain their faith in Jesus.

In Teaching Others  Buse moves the critical thinking reader from a belief in an absence of any god to belief in the Christian God and the redeeming love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in six logic based lessons. Buse expertly applies the laws of logic, philosophical principles and  scientific facts to lead the reader down a path of realizing the Christian truth. She breaks down proven or everyday sceanarios using logic principles and then applies those same principles to faith. A lesson I found particularly interesting was lesson 5 which proves the validity of the New Testament through internal evidence, external evidence and bibliographical evidence. At the conclusion of each chapter is a series of thought provoking questions designed to further reinforce the lessons learned in the chapter.

The book is designed to be a teaching tool to for those wanting to teach people how to lead their friends and colleagues logically from atheism to to belief in Jesus. However, I think it is a great tool for those wanting a better understanding of the "whys" and "how comes" behind their faith or deal with the questions and criticisms presented by the media and/or atheist friends.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review: Finding Father Christmas/Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

Gunn richly paints the story of Miranda Carson's search for a father who doesn't know she exists. Miranda travels to England at Christmas time with only a photo and the name of a photography studio. She meets a cast of characters who help her along the way, one of which follows her into the next novel as a love interest. In both novels, Gunn uses delightful imagery to pain quaint and cheery Christmas scenes and lovable characters. It is easy to see why her books were chosen to become a Hallmark movie. I thought both stories were lovely and I have high hopes for Kissing Father Christmas, although it doesn't star Miranda as the protagonist.

I was glad that Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas were bound in the same volume. It makes a lovely stocking stuffer. Also, I think I would have been disappointed if  I had to purchase the novels separately as I believe they were originally attended. Separately, I feel as they are more like novellas than novels. I think Finding and Engaging work together perfectly as one story.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

ATM Favorite Cookbook: Victuals by Ronni Lundy

I was thrilled the moment I unearthed this book from its packaging. The cover is beautiful. The recipes are delicious. The research is well done and the stories beautifully told. It wonderfully explains the food of the past and present NC mountains. Can we just say that I am in love with this book?

This is one beauty that will not be leaving my shelf. Victuals is what you get when a well written history books and a delightful cookbook come together as one.

I made a huge list of recipes that I wanted to try from this book but thus far I have made:

Remembrances of Jerry's Past Chili- This chili was fabulously meaty. I can see why it inspires memories. My husband would have preferred more heat but I think it can go either way.

Doorbell Pork with Hominy and Greens. I subbed spinach for this but it turned out just as I imagined. My pork chops looked pretty much like the picture. This recipe is a prime example of how well written the recipes are and how simple they are to follow.

Cornbread- My cornbread turned out gritty. This is most likely user error. It smelled heavenly, thanks to the bacon grease.

Cornbread Soup- I thought this soup was a brilliant idea but I didn't really care for it. I thought the combination of buttermilk, leeks and celery was just too tangy for my liking.

Chipped Ham with Bigger Isn't Better Buttermilk Biscuits- The gravy is delicious. The biscuits are superb and simple and I will definitely be adding them to my repertoire.

Chicken and Dumplings-These are all the way from scratch y'all. And they are banging. Good flavor and the chicken was so juicy. I didn't have a lemon so I used an orange. Perfection. I'd make the roasted chicken again as a standalone main. It was so easy! I still can't get over how tender and juicy the chicken was.

I think I loved this book so much because, I, too, am from the porch sitting people that Lundy shares stories about and I dream of being a porch sitter in the hills of North Carolina. Victuals has inspired me to check out Mr. Lundy's other books.

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Opinions are 100% mine and 100% honest.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Try the World Box 3: Italy

My 3rd Try the World box came last week!

For those new to Try the World, it's a subscription service where each month you receive a box with 7-8 products from that month's featured country. Boxes cost $39 a month. You can read about my other Try the World boxes here.

This month's featured country was Italy. I was so excited when I made this discovery as I love to eat Italian food but don't cook it very often because...nerves!

Here's what came in this month's box:

From left to right: truffle zest (retails at $12.90), balsamic vinegar, hazelnut cream (retails at $10.50) and pesto (retails at $8.90) 

From left to right/back to front: pappardelle (retails at $8.00), coffee, amaretti (retails at $6.90), and mushroom risotto (retails around $13.00)

I didn't search prices on all of items and we already hit over $40 in value. I have gotten more than my money's worth with every box. Also, I love that Try the World sends items I may not think to try on my own.

This is my 3rd box and each box has had a healthy mix of ready to cook items (risotto), pantry staples (vinegar) and treats (amaretti).

Out of this book, I think I will make:

  • Pesto pappardelle (pesto and pasta)
  • Risotto (risotta and truffle zest)
  • Tiramisu (with the coffee)
  • Hazelnut Zabaglione (hazelnut cream)
If you'd like to give Try the World a whirl, you can sign up HERE. I will get $15 store credit for anyone who signs up with that link.

Any questions? Or recipe ideas?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Mila's Story

When we were in Korea we came across a Facebook ad trying to find a home for a Husky. An American sailor was being deployed to Spain and huskies are on the aggressive dog list there so he couldn't take his dog with him.

We debated and we agonized but we eventually send the sailor a message. We agonized a bit more and then they brought Mila to see us.

My husband met the sailor at the McDonald's and they drove back to our apartment together. He said as soon as Mila saw him, she licked his face.

When they got to our apartment, Mila strode right in and plopped down on a chair. Like she'd been there all along.

We adopted Mila and slowly adjusted to a routine with her. She loved going for walks at the track in the park. Children loved coming up to her. They thought she was a wolf but once they realized she would play they were delighted. Mila was too, she loves children.

Once, we came across a toddler wearing squeaky shoes and Mila couldn't decide what to do! She couldn't decide if the wee one was a child or a giant squeaky toy.

Some adults and older children were mean to her, throwing stones or trying to kick her. Pets are still are relatively new thing in Korea and most people saw her as dirty and scary.

Mila was very well trained. When we first adopted her she was trained to ring a bell when she wanted to go out to pee. We quickly ended that ritual when we realized she was ringing the bell when she wanted to go play outside.

She would play with a giant tug of war rope, she'd "dig" in her giant blanket and play keep away. She had a tiny stuffed giraffe that we called her baby. She couldn't sleep if the giraffe was in a different room and she was always trying to take it out to pee with her.

Mila came at the perfect time as my husband and I were both struggling with different issues. Mila taught me about love and about sacrifice and I'm sure she taught my husband some things too,

One morning we woke up and our electricity was off. I walked the dog and left Mike to sort it out. When Mila and I returned, I let her off the leash. Mike took me out into the hallway to show me the fuse box and to explain what had happened to the electricity (long story short on that one- we lived next to a divorced women whose drunk ex husband would show up late at night and bang forever on the door. We think he shut off our electric, thinking it was hers.)

During this process, Mila came and stood in the hallway with us.

And in the blink of an eye, she was down the stairs and out the door to the apartment building (Another long story short: our downstairs neighbor liked to go crank his car and then  go back inside to wait for it to warm up. He always left the apartment building door open in the meantime. Between me going up and Mila coming down, he'd gone out, started his car, came back in and left the door open)/

We searched, we papered, we called. We posted. We hiked around the river with her treats, her toys, her bells. My husband hiked with one of our flyers posted on his back.

We cried and we searched some more. Our dear Korean friend, Vanessa, drove us for hours around the city, around the river where we'd gotten a report of sighting.

A military friend reported that the security guards at her apartment complex had tried to catch a female husky but she was too fast. It had to be Mila.

And then Animal Rescue called Vanessa. They had received a call from someone who reported that their neighbor was keeping a husky locked in an outdoor closet. The man was famous for eating and selling big dogs for meat.

We went to his house with Vanessa and Animal Control. They yelled at each other.

He had another dirty, big dog chained up outside. The dog flinched whenever the man approached.

The man showed his empty closet. Vanessa translated that he did have Mila but that one day when he opened the closet door she bolted and he couldn't catch her.

My Mila. My sweet, smart Mila. I hope he was telling the truth. I hope she ran. I hope she ran and ran until someone kind found her and helped her. I hope someone with children found her and took her home. And that she has beautiful children to play with.-children who don't have  squeaky shoes.