Tuesday, May 9, 2023

New Cookbooks As We Enter Spring & Summer Cookouts

This is a good time to look at some new cookbooks as we enter spring and summer, a season full of cookouts and picnics and a time to focus on wellness, and in this review we will look at: I'll Bring The Cake, by Mandy Merriman; Super Tonics, by Meredith Youngson; Your Super Life, by Kristel de Groot & Michael Kuech; The Dinner Party Project, by Natasha Feldman; and The Old El Paso Cookbook.

Butcher on the Block: Everyday Recipes, Stories, and Inspirations from Your Local Butcher

By Matt Moore

Harvest; hardcover, 352 pages; $40.00; available today, Tuesday, May 9th

Matt Moore is an entrepreneur, cook, host, pilot, and the quintessential Southern gentleman, and the award-winning author of five books, including Serial Griller, The South's Best Butts, and A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen.

The new, in-depth cookbook from Moore is Butcher on Your Block features recipes from butchers across the country, which showcase the versatility and creativity of those who work with them every day. 

Moore traveled across the country to profile local butchers and their stories that range from heartwarming to thought-provoking. He believes that "just about everybody had a butcher in their family tree" and that connecting to your local butcher is a path not only to better food, but to a closer community.

A lot of Moore's inspiration to unpack butchering foodscapes comes from his grandfather, who was a military veteran and butcher. Moore writes of his grandfather serving in World War II with his younger brother David, who is Matt's great-uncle, "My favorite story of his comes from his time in New Guinea, also serving in the Army Air Forces. Lucky Strikes and news from home provided a bit of respite from life in the foxholes, dodging the daily sorties from the Japanese Zeroes. One day, an airmail package arrived - light blue thirty-two ounce mason jars stuffed with newspapers and with lids pressure sealed. As David relayed, my great-grandmother Sophie had sent fried chicken across the Pacific, and David and his friends made fast work gnawing down on our family pride. My cousin Sam (David's son) and I often laugh over bourbons poured neat about the veracity of such a story, but when you've had our family's fried chicken, it can make you believe in the impossible.

"When both Abe and David returned as heroes from their time in service, life went much back to 'normal,' assuming family responsibilities while running the Dennis Food Store in Valdosta, Georgia. Both Abe and David built upon the business of their parents, my grandfather primarily serving as the in-house butcher while David took on an array of responsibilities, including a hobby shop within the store. My grandfather took much pride in his work, expanding the traditional butcher shop offerings with specialty cuts, dry-aging techniques, and meat sourced only from Kansas City - a city known for providing the best quality in those days. With his dedication to quality and experience, the store gained a reputation for having the best meats and steaks in town."

Butcher on the Block includes tips and tricks for selecting and preparing different cuts of meat, as well as anecdotes from butchers about their work and their communities. There are recipes for twists on classic dishes like The Hemingway Burger and Rib Eye Cap Steaks, and more adventurous fare, such as Bacon Boulevardier, Princess Rice, and plant-based grill hits like Corn Ribs.

Some of the butchers featured include Vincent DiSalvo of DiSalvo's Restaurant and Lounge in Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Simon Cheung and Eric Cheung of the Hing Lung Company in San Francisco, California, and Moore's local Kroger butcher Tommie Kelly in Nashville, Tennessee. Some of the recipes from Tommie include Thin-sliced Chicken Breasts and Honey BBQ Sauce; Planked Salmon and Smoked Hibachi Seasoning; and Smoked Pork Steaks, as well as the fascinating path he took to rise through the ranks within Kroger. There also is a detailed guide on how you can butcher at home from James Peisker, who is the butcher, business owner, and COO of Porter Road Butcher in Nashville.

Butchering is definitely an art, and this book will only deepen your appreciation of what goes into an American tradition.

I'll Bring The Cake: Recipes for Every Season and Every Occasion

By Mandy Merriman

Harvest/HarperCollins; hardcover; $40.00

Mandy Merriman is a food blogger-turned-cake baker and social media influencer, who is the creator of Baking with Blondie. Her recipes have appeared on Today.com, the Food Network, Country Living, Rachael Ray, and Hallmark Home & Family.

In the new cookbook, I'll Bring The Cake, Merriman takes the guesswork out of delicious and beautiful cakes. Her secret is to start with a humble boxed mix, and then adds flavorful ingredients and creative decorations for occasion-worthy cakes any baker can make.

"Mastering a cake recipe shouldn't be intimidating," Merriman writes. "While there's so much that can go wrong (dry cakes, sinking cakes, overbaked cakes, underbaked cakes, crumbling cakes, flavorless cakes, anyone?), my recipes get great results because I've taken all the margin for error out of the experience. I don't just tell you what to do but why you should do it and what will happen if you don't. Bakers around the globe know that Baking with Blondie cakes are moist, flavorful, and rich. My doctored-up cake mix recipes taste the same as, if not better than, from-scratch cake recipes, and they are always reliable. I take all the guesswork out of baking, which leaves more time to explore the creative process behind flavor building and decorating."

Along with Merriman's whimsical, jaw-dropping decorating ideas, there are step-by-step photo tutorials accompanying special holiday-themed decorating projects, as well as an essential primer on stacking, filling, and frosting.

Some of the standout flavor combinations you will find are: Blueberry Shortbread Crumble Cake; Cannoli Cake with Cinnamon Mascarpone Buttercream and Ricotta Filling; Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake; Creme Brulee Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream and Custard Filling; Circus Animal Cookie Cake with Almond White Chocolate Buttercream; Carrot Cake with Almond Cream Cheese Buttercream; and Raspberry Lemonade Swirl Cake with Raspberry Lemonade Buttercream, Lemon Curd, and Raspberry Filling.

The cakes are divided into categories, with plenty of recipes in each, and they include Birthday Hits and Everyday Cakes, Summer Sweets, and Springtime Bakes, of which she writes, "In my family, spring is a magical time when we visit the tulip festival, admire trees bursting like popcorn with white blossoms around the Capitol building, fawn over the new baby animals at the local farms, and watch the lightning storms roll into our neighborhood while the sweet smell of our lilac bush fills the air around us. We snack on fresh berries and shred carrots into my favorite carrot cake for Easter dinner after our annual egg hunt in the year."

Super Tonics: 75 Adaptogen-Packed Recipes to Boost Immunity, Sleep, Beauty, and Wellness

By Meredith Youngson

Ten Speed Press; paperback, 192 pages; $18.99

Meredith Youngson is a holistic nutritionist, professional recipe developer, and founder of Lake & Oak Tea Co., one of the most talked-about tea companies in Canada. Her Superfood Tea and Latte Blends are enjoyed by celebrities like Miranda Kerr. Youngson's cooking and nutrition advice has been featured on Global News, CP24, and the Food Network, and her recipes have been featured on Buzzfeed. The Kit, and more. She competed and won her episode on Food Network's Wall of Chefs.

In the new cookbook Super Tonics, there are 75 recipes for delicious health-promoting lattes, smoothies, tonics, elixirs, and snacks that are perfect for any time of day. Youngson improved her mental and physical health through the teas and drinks she concocted for herself, and now she offers readers the opportunity to take that same journey.

The interest in nature's powerful superfoods is becoming mainstream, but the missing link for many is the ability to put the information into practice in our day-to-day lives. Youngson empowers the wellness-curious to make elixirs at home that optimize health and aid in everything from boosting energy, immunity, and mental well-being to clearing skin, relieving stress, and improving sleep quality.

This handy cookbook includes 75 fresh and accessible recipes such as Clean Green Energy Tonic, Cucumber Mint Hydrator, and Wind-Me-Down Golden Mylk; a clever framework to design your perfect morning; 10 ways to feel good right now; and healthy strategies for getting better rest. From your first sip of green tea in the morning to help you wake up to the last sip of chamomile at the end of the day to usher in a restful night's sleep, these elixirs provide comfort, nourishment, and pleasure. There are also five-minute self-care practices you can perform every day.

Youngson writes, "Self-care isn't selfish. I remind myself of this when pangs of guilt set in for taking the afternoon off work for a mental health date, for clearing my weekend for some me time, or for stacking my bookshelf with personal development books.

"Self-care belongs to everyone. Marketing and social media can have us believing that taking care of ourselves means splurging on a vacation or indulging in an expensive smoothie bowl. But my most satisfying days of self-care don't involve time at the spa; rather, the satisfaction comes after setting boundaries in my relationships or doing little things that positively impact my mental health (like taking a walk in nature of having a phone-free evening).

"My passion for self-care is rooted in the experiences I've had and the lessons I've learned on my mental health journey. As a young adult, the anxiety and depression I was struggling with for the first time left me feeling alienated, embarrassed, and unworthy. After reaching out to a therapist and speaking openly with friends and family, I began to explore ways I could feel empowered in my mental health and wellness. Developing a self-care routine has had a profound effect on my life, and yet, the journey isn't over; in fact, it's ever-evolving."

Your Super Life: 100+ Delicious, Plant-Based Recipes Made with Nature's Most Powerful Superfoods

By Kristel de Groot & Michael Kuech

Harvest; hardcover, 320 pages; $35.00

Powerhouse husband-and-wife duo Michael Kuech and Kristel de Groot are the visionaries and reality-makers behind Your Super, which is one of the biggest superfood brands in the United States and Europe. In just over eight years, Your Super has grown into a company that makes $200 million in revenue. They are business-savvy entrepreneurs and sought-after industry leaders, speakers, authors, and e-commerce experts, whose story has been featured in Forbes, People Magazine, and Cheddar TV.

Your Super Life is their first cookbook, and Michael and Kristel will share everything they have learned in the past 10 years. After Michael, a former pro tennis player, was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 24 years old, he knew he had to radically alter his diet in order to heal his body after chemo. Michael realized that there is a powerful connection between food and health, and worked with his college sweetheart, certified nutrition coach, and now wife, Kristel, to adopt a plant-based diet infused with powerful superfoods.

The experience changed his life, as Michael quickly regained his health and rebuilt his immune system, while Kristel healed her lifelong eczema, balanced her weight, and improved her energy and mental health. 

This cookbook will show you how to tap into the natural healing power of nature's superfoods, with 100+ easy and delicious plant-based recipes, as well as the Your Super way of eating, weekly meal plans, and how-to sections to learn how to make your own recipes. Some of the dishes featured include Berry Overnight Oats, Sweet Potato Toast, Eggplant Pasta, and Turmeric Bounty Balls, while improving your health in meaningful and targeted ways.

Part of Kristel and Michael's vision is built on ways for people to optimize their health and feel their best, which includes their fierce belief in plants. Some of the things they will teach you in this detailed cookbook are that you need to stop dieting and counting calories, and counting plants instead; that superfoods improve skin/hormone health, reduce inflammation, or boost immunity; how to eat plant-based recipes through pregnancy and new motherhood, based on Kristel's own experience and the benefits she discovered; how they have led the plant-based movement over the last decade by sharing easy, accessible superfood recipes; and three recession-proof tips that you can do every day that improve your health.

"Our biggest tip for transitioning to a more plant-based and superfood-enhanced way of eating is to keep it simple," Kristel and Michael write. "You'll see this philosophy reflected in our recipes and the guides throughout this book. We want to make it as easy as possible to bring more healing superfoods and plant-based goodness into each moment of your day. This is what helped us make the shift, and we want you to have our best tips and support on your own journey.

"You may be skeptical that plant foods can truly offer so much healing and nourishment, and that's understandable. But think about your own health and how you feel day to day. Do you struggle to have enough energy to get through your daily to-do list? Lack the motivation to exercise? Have trouble sleeping? Have difficulty staying at or achieving a healthy weight? Struggle with negative thinking? Find it difficult to concentrate? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then we encourage you to rethink what you eat on a daily basis. Yes, there could be other reasons besides diet for these symptoms, but feeding your body a variety of nutrients in their most natural states (in other words - eating plants!) is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to drastically improve how you look and feel. Even if you don't have any of these symptoms but just want to feel more alive, plants are your answer."

The Dinner Party Project: A No-Stress Guide To Food With Friends

By Natasha Feldman

Harvest; hardcover, $40.00; eBook, $16.99

Natasha Feldman is a cooking show host, culinary instructor, and private chef based in Los Angeles. When she traveled to London to study Shakespearean acting, Natasha found herself spending more time trying to find ways to save money by making simple stews and shopping at Borough Market, than memorizing her lines. When she returned to the U.S. in 2014, Natasha decided to pursue cooking full-time and since then, she has been in front of and behind the camera on shows such as Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped U, and Craving Healthy. She also is the Webby-nominated host known for her YouTube series turned TV show Nosh With Tash.

The Dinner Party Project is Natasha's debut cookbook, and it is witty and playful, with bright illustrations of how to put a dinner party together. Its aim is to revive and simplify the process by providing easy-to-follow tips and recipes for throwing enjoyable and stress-free gatherings. 

There is a flow chart to help readers pick a menu that fits a specific vibe for any given day, a detailed and color-coated timeline to guide readers through the entire dinner party process, and 80-plus vibrant recipes inspired by her home state of California and Eastern European heritage.

Feldman writes, "This thing should be fun, low-stress, and leave you feeling connected, relaxed, and excited to eat your leftovers. If not, scale back your efforts: your mid-'90s Martha is showing. No matter what, you gotta have a few gatherings before it feels like second nature...

"If you want to freestyle, the recipes in this book are divided into four categories: noshes and apps; main events; sides and salads; and sweet things. Pick one recipe from each category, and - BAM! - you've got a full-blown dinner party.

"More than anything, The Dinner Party Project is about helping you establish a central point of connection and belonging in your life. It'll ensure you get quality time with all your friends, new and old. Let this bring you joy, friendship, and a place where you can let your freak flag fly."

Three of Natasha's dinner party ideas that highlight her creativity include: Pizza Party - Honey Drenched Pepperoni Pizza; Wine Drunk Onion & Fennel Pizza; Pizza Sprinkles; Spicy Honey.

Tacos Get Their Own Chapter - Fish-Fry Tacos with Smoky Mayo; Smoky Spicy Seared Fish Tacos; Sort of Kind of Cochinita Pibil; Spicy Pickled Radishes; Honey Jalapeno Black Beans.

Cocktails - Sparkling Ginger Lemonade; Xtra-Limey Pina Colada; Not-So-Sweet Strawberry Daiquiries; Extra-Fun French; Campari Lemonade.

The Old El Paso Cookbook: 20-Minute-Prep Mexican Style Meals

Harvest; paperback, 304 pages; $30.00

Old El Paso has been spicing up meal planning since 1917, and it is one of the most recognized brands around the world, with nearly 1 million visitors to their website each month, with 78 percent of them viewing their recipe content. They have 1.2 million followers on Facebook and an ongoing partnership with basketball superstar LeBron James.

In The Old El Paso Cookbook, you will find 125 quick and easy family recipes to make modern Mexican-style meals at home, made with their yellow-labeled meal starters, and which take 20 minutes or less to prep. There are recipes for taco and enchilada favorites, eye-opening breakfasts, and desserts.

The Editors write (bold is theirs): "Check out the 5-ingredient recipes, which call for 5 ingredients - or less (but not including water, salt, pepper, cooking spray, or 'if desired' additional ingredients) - as well as slow cooker and multi-cooker recipes. Look for make-ahead directions too: Dinner is ready to devour, even on your busiest nights. But these recipes aren't only for party guests! Look inside for ways to change up and fun up your morning scrambled eggs, quesadillas for snacking, and taco fillings for dinner. Try a twist on salsa, Mexican rice, or a refreshing and oh-so-simple agua fresca. And when friends drop in, our Game Day Ultimate Nacho Bar will bring the smiles."

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