Half Baked Harvest Cookbook ~ BRC

It’s been awhile.  Three months of summer hiatus and then September missed because of the craziness going on post-Hurricane Harvey. My boys had been back to school for a week when it hit and were subsequently out of school for TWO FULL WEEKS.  They were more than ready to go back after that (and I was more ready than they were.)  But I’m back, reviewing a cookbook, which is totally new for me.  For this one, I’m willing to make an exception.

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

halfbakedharvestThe book: Half Baked Harvest Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard

From Amazon:  Whether you need to get dinner on the table for your family tonight or are planning your next get-together with friends, Half Baked Harvest Cookbook has your new favorite recipe.

Tieghan Gerard grew up in the Colorado mountains as one of seven children. When her dad took too long to make dinner every night, she started doing the cooking—at age 15. Ever-determined to reign in the chaos of her big family, Tieghan found her place in the kitchen. She had a knack for creating unique dishes, which led her to launch her blog, Half Baked Harvest. Since then, millions of people have fallen in love with her fresh take on comfort food, stunning photography, and charming life in the mountains.
While it might be a trek to get to Tieghan’s barn-turned-test kitchen, her creativity shines here: dress up that cheese board with a real honey comb; decorate a standard salad with spicy, crispy sweet potato fries; serve stir fry over forbidden black rice; give French Onion Soup an Irish kick with Guinness and soda bread; bake a secret ingredient into your apple pie (hint: it’s molasses). And a striking photograph accompanies every recipe, making Half Baked Harvest Cookbook a feast your eyes, too.

My review:  I don’t own very many cookbooks, and my meal repertoire is pretty limited.  (I’ve got some seriously picky eaters at my house.)  I can’t quite remember how I came across the Half Baked Harvest blog–perhaps searching for a recipe for hula pork–but I have been hooked ever since.  I’ve made several recipes from her blog and have been delighted by almost every one.  (Springtime Chicken Pho, Sweet Corn Slaw, Korean Pineapple Pork Lettuce Wraps, Hawaiian Hula Pork Fajitas…)  I follow her recipes on Instagram and am always struck by how yummy they look.  Snapping up her first cookbook was a no brainer.

I have read two cookbooks in my life–this is the second one.  Tieghan has a charming way of injecting enthusiasm into every. single. recipe.  I seriously want to make virtually everything in this cookbook.  There are four reasons for this.

  1.  All of these recipes look and sound scrumptious–her photography is beautiful.
  2.  These recipes are LAYERED with flavors.  Most include a list of toppings or garnishes that you can choose to add or skip per your tastes.  But despite this, these recipes do not have a ridiculous list of ingredients.  Mobilizing 43 ingredients for one recipe is not in my wheelhouse.  I’m more of a 5-10 ingredient girl.  This cookbook is pushing my limits, but in a GOOD way.
  3. The beauty of Half Baked Harvest Cookbook is that Tieghan Gerard is able to come up with new and inventive ways to jazz up old favorites.  Things you may not have paired together (salad, topped with sweet potato fries, for example) seem suddenly to make complete sense.
  4.  This cookbook is not afraid of sugar.  Or butter.  Or full fat coconut milk.  But its focus is on eating healthy (at least most of the time.)

Let me tell you, I’ve been struggling to find a go-to recipe for homemade mac and cheese. (Being gluten free, it’s homemade or nothin’.)  I made The Cheese-maker’s Mac & Cheese from the Half Baked Harvest Cookbook (skipping the Ritz cracker topping and subbing out the smoked Gouda), and we all thought this version was delicious.  Next up, I’m making the Super Breakfast Mango Lassi and I. CANNOT. WAIT.  The kitchen is my oyster!

Seriously, if you’re looking for some fun, inventive, not-too-involved recipes, give this cookbook a try.  (Or experiment with a few gems from her blog first.)  I suspect you will be a total convert.

FCC: I purchased this book, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

Posted in book review club, cooking on 10/04/2017 12:10 am | 9 Comments

My Family and Other Animals ~ BRC

The last Book Review Club get together before the summer hiatus!  I admit I’ve been neglecting my reading in favor of binge watching Doc Martin on Netflix, but now I’m back to it, and this month’s selection is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

MyFamilyandOtherAnimalsThis little treasure, set in 1935 Corfu, is the basis for the Masterpiece production The Durrells in Corfu, which I happened to stumble over while avidly watching such gems as Indian Summers and Poldark.  I recommend all of them, but whereas most Masterpiece productions tend toward the dramatic, The Durrells in Corfu is lighter, but with an unexpectedly biting wit.  When I realized the series was based on the memoirs of the youngest son, Gerald Durrell, I was intrigued and snapped up a copy of My Family and Other Animals.  I’ve not been disappointed.

From Amazon:

The first book Gerald Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy: a bewitching account of a rare and magical childhood on the island of Corfu, now the inspiration for The Durrells in Corfu on Masterpiece PBS

When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrell’s family’s experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home.

This little volume is absolutely charming.  It’s a clever, whimsical treatise on the flora and fauna of Corfu, but also a keen, hilarious observation of the Durrell family life.  It will make you wish you’d grown up on Corfu, learning, as Gerald did, by daily observation of his older siblings (two brothers and a sister), his menagerie of animals, and the native Corfiotes.  Gerald was fascinated by all creatures, and his erstwhile tutor George had better success in teaching him when he “was able to give a more zoological tinge to the lesson.”

On making maps:

“Our maps were works of art.  The principal volcanoes belched such flames and sparks one feared they would set the paper continents alight; the mountain ranges of the world were so blue and white with ice and snow that it made one chilly to look at them.  Our brown, sun-drenched deserts were lumpy with camel-humps and pyramids, and our tropical forest so tangled and luxuriant that it was only with difficulty that the slouching jaguars, lithe snakes, and morose gorillas managed to get through them.”

Older brother Larry (a serious writer):

“Isn’t it laughable that future generations should be deprived of my work simply because some horny-handed idiot has tied that stinking beast of burden near my window?” Larry asked.

“Yes, dear,” said Mother; “why don’t you move it if it disturbs you?”

“My dear Mother, I can’t be expected to spend my time chasing donkeys about the olive-groves. I threw a pamphlet on Christian Science at it; what more do you expect me to do?”

Gerald was a prolific writer, and eventually his earnings were sufficient to allow him to open a zoo, its emphasis on breeding endangered species.  Further work of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust led to the establishment of the International Training Centre for the Breeding and Conservation of Endangered Species.

My Family and Other Animals is a delightful, escapist read that highlights the fun in dysfunction and the astounding, delightful variety of the natural world.

Be sure to click the typewriter for the rest of this month’s reviews before you head off to the beach, the mountains, or your own backyard.

In other news, my latest novel, Just Say Yes is on sale through Mother’s Day for 99 cents!  As a friend recently joked, “I’m buying your book! Even if I don’t like it, I’m only out ninety-nine cents!”  EXACTLY.


Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy
Posted in book review club on 05/10/2017 12:10 am | 5 Comments

Rejected Princesses ~ BRC

Here we are on March 1st…my boys have just left on their band trip to California, and the weather here is less crisp spring, more balmy, sticky pre-summer.  Ugh.  Things are busy and my reading time is limited, so this month’s Book Review Club pick has been the perfect antidote to otherwise lost reading time.

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

rejectedprincessesRejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath started as a blog.  A DreamWorks animator, he spent his spare time browsing Wikipedia, feeding his curiosity for amazing women that had never made the history books.  When it became clear his coworkers had never heard of any of them, he used his enthusiasm and skills as an illustrator to tell their stories graphic novel style.  A book deal sprang out of those efforts, resulting in the substantial, royal purple tome that is currently sitting on my nightstand.  In the book, each princess has a page or two of text and a single full page illustration.

From Amazon:

Blending the iconoclastic feminism of The Notorious RBG and the confident irreverence of Go the F**ck to Sleep, a brazen and empowering illustrated collection that celebrates inspirational badass women throughout history, based on the popular Tumblr blog.

Well-behaved women seldom make history. Good thing these women are far from well behaved . . .

Illustrated in a contemporary animation style, Rejected Princesses turns the ubiquitous “pretty pink princess” stereotype portrayed in movies, and on endless toys, books, and tutus on its head, paying homage instead to an awesome collection of strong, fierce, and yes, sometimes weird, women: warrior queens, soldiers, villains, spies, revolutionaries, and more who refused to behave and meekly accept their place.

An entertaining mix of biography, imagery, and humor written in a fresh, young, and riotous voice, this thoroughly researched exploration salutes these awesome women drawn from both historical and fantastical realms, including real life, literature, mythology, and folklore. Each profile features an eye-catching image of both heroic and villainous women in command from across history and around the world, from a princess-cum-pirate in fifth century Denmark, to a rebel preacher in 1630s Boston, to a bloodthirsty Hungarian countess, and a former prostitute who commanded a fleet of more than 70,000 men on China’s seas.

The beauty of this book–beyond the fascinating tales, the funny, witty, conversational style, and the cleverly detailed illustrations–is that each “princess’s” story is only a couple of pages long.  This allows me to read five, or even ten, pages each night before bed and it’s always the perfect amount.  I could see this making a great book for bedtime reading with kids too. In a genius move, the stories are rated with a maturity level 1-5, and marked with flags if they contain violence, rape, sex, abuse, or self-harm (or any combination thereof), which makes steering clear of certain topics a cinch.  To put things in perspective, I’m only about a quarter of the way through the stories (there are a LOT), and I don’t think I’ve read a single one above maturity level 1 yet.

The author’s experience as an illustrator really shines.  He’s made a lot of thoughtful choices with regard to the elements included in the illustrations, and it isn’t difficult to imagine any of these stories potentially being made into an unexpected “princess” movie.  The first story includes art notes, outlining the choices for the illustration, and I loved reading those.  I admit to being a little disappointed that not all of the stories include these notes.  But, it’s a minor complaint of an otherwise impressive book.  The author also maintains a girl-power Tumblr, and a recent post indicates that he is in talks for a Rejected Princesses web or TV series.  That would be very cool indeed.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who thinks women are underrepresented in history books (ALL of us), anyone who likes a bit of humor with their history..ahem, folklore…ahem, mythology, and anyone who is impressed by an author thinking outside the box.

Be sure to click through for the rest of BRC’s reviews!

FCC: I purchased a copy of this book on the recommendation of Deanna Raybourn.


Posted in book review club on 03/01/2017 12:10 am | 14 Comments