Saturday, November 29, 2014

Book Thoughts - JoJo's Num Num's by Joanna Baltzly

JoJo's Num Num's by Joanna Baltzly
published 11/13/14
154 pages

Synopsis from Amazon -

This is a cookbook like no other one on the market!!! Included in this delightful book is a complete 8 week (2 month) menu plan section at the back with menu lists with grocery lists for that week that you just copy, check off pantry items you already have and take the rest of the list with you to the grocery store to purchase remaining ingredients needed!!! Easy to use! This book is also filled with 150+ recipes to use for your loved ones!

My thoughts -

I'm just going to be honest at the beginning and say that I know this author - her sister was in my class from kindergarten through 12th grade; her mom was one of the piano teachers in the music club I was involved in; we went to church together, I spent nights at her house - she's one of the people I feel like I've known all my life. Needless to say, when I found out that she was publishing a cookbook, I was pretty excited.

Not only was I excited in the general sense - Hey, someone I know is publishing a cookbook! I was also specifically excited because I have tried some of her recipes in the past that she has posted on her blog, and they have been delicious! So the idea of supporting someone I know, while also getting a bunch of new, yummy recipes was pretty fantastic. And I'm happy to say the cookbook has been well worth the investment.

I've had the cookbook for a little over a week, and have tried 5 recipes - Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells; Grandma Jeanie's Swiss Steak; S'mores Bars; Salted Caramel Mocha; and Creamy Cocoa. There has not been one that hasn't been delicious. In fact, when I pulled the stuffed shells out of my oven, I honestly couldn't believe that something that delicious had been baked at my own house. This lady can cook, and the recipes she shares are incredible. Now, I should note that these are not diet recipes, or "clean eating" recipes, so if you have a specific diet there might be some difficulties. This is good, old comfort food at it's finest, and we've been loving them.

This cookbook is self-published, so it does not have the lovely staged food photos that you would find in a cookbook from a famous author or restaurant. What it has that makes it special is author notes - at the end of at least 2/3 of the recipes in the book, Joanna tells a story about the recipe's origin, or when she remembers trying it for the first time, or how she came to develop it. This makes the book seem almost like sitting down and having a cup of coffee over a yummy treat at a friend's house, and is a delight to read.

I should also briefly mention the meal-planning section in the back. Joanna has taken the recipes in her book and divided them in to 8 weekly meal plans, giving grocery lists and recipe page numbers for each week. So you could just print out the list, hit the grocery store, and have 5 days of suppers already planned out for you. This is basically a genius idea, and I can't imagine the time it would save.

Joanna has graciously agreed to let me share a couple of recipes - I've personally tried both recipes, and they were hits with everyone in my family. If you are looking for a new cookbook filled with comforting, family-friendly recipes, it would be hard to go wrong with JoJo's Num Num's. Highly recommended!



S'mores Bars

1-12 oz box Golden Grahams
1-10.5 oz bag miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 c. milk chocolate chips
1/4 c. corn syrup
5 T butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. miniature marshmallows (separate from above)

Butter or coat a 9 X 13 pan GENEROUSLY!! Melt all but 1 c. marshmallows, chocolate chips, corn syrup & butter in a microwave safe bowl until melted together completely. Immediately add vanilla, and stir in completely. Pour over the Golden Grahams and coat completely. Stir in the last cup of marshmallows. Spread in buttered pan refrigerate! Wait at least 30 minutes until they are cooled before eating.



Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells

1 package (12 oz) jumbo shells
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cubed
2 T olive oil, divided
1 egg
1 carton (15 oz) ricotta cheese
3 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
1 c. (4 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tsp parsley
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 c. butter, cubed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 c. heavy whipping cream

Cook pasta al dente. In a large skillet, brown the chicken in 1 T olive oil. Remove and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the egg, ricotta, 1 1/2 c. parmesan, mozzarella and seasonings. Add the chicken and stir again. Stuff each shell with this mixture. Lay each of these stuffed shells in a 9 X 13 greased pan. If there is extra stuffing, spread it over the top. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic, cook for another minute. Add the cream. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the other 1 1/2 c. parmesan cheese and stir until it has all melted and the sauce thickens. Pour this sauce over the top of the shells. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 c. parmesan cheese. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover, then bake an additional 10-15 minutes until it starts to bubble.







Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Thoughts - Life Could be Verse by Kirk Douglas

Life Could be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters by Kirk Douglas
128 pages
publishing 12/2/14

Synopsis from Goodreads -

For his 98th birthday, Kirk Douglas offers us an intimate look into his life. Through a collection of poetry, prose and photographs, he pulls the curtain all the way back exposing the bombs and blockbusters of both the personal and professional aspects. From uncomplicated poems written for his beloved wife, Ann, of 60 years, to poems written for his four boys when they were still small, Douglas' words are comical, sentimental, romantic, and sometimes painful. He chaperones us through the stages of his life, including the untimely death of his youngest son, and shares nostalgic pictures of the other 'leading ladies' in his life like Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall, and Bridget Bardot. Kirk Douglas is an American legend crowned as one of the greatest male screen legends in American film history by the American Film Institute. And, at 97, he is the highest ranked person on the list alive today. Life Could Be Verse's beautiful design makes it a keepsake for the myriad of Kirk Douglas' fans who have adored "Spartacus" for many, many decades."

My thoughts -

I read this book purely for the novelty of it - a famous actor writing poetry? Who doesn't want to know what THAT sounds like? And let's be honest - I don't expect him to be a contender for Poet Laureate any time soon. But the poems are sweet and heartfelt, and each carries with it a snapshot of what has been a fantastically complex and interesting life. My only real complaint is that I wish the book had been longer - Douglas comes across as warm and funny, and I would have enjoyed hearing more stories from his 97 years. Recommended for Kirk Douglas fans or Hollywood fans.

Finished - 11/16/14
Source - review copy from the publisher via NetGalley
MPAA rating - PG
My rating - 3/5



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Thoughts - Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmenn

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmeen, illustrations by Kerascoet
published 2/25/14
96 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Kerasco√ęt’s and Fabien Vehlmann’s unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny. Join princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization's heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience.  The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerasco√ęt’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann's story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over.  Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society.

My thoughts -

I don't think anything I've read for RIP this year has felt as perfect for the challenge as this slim graphic novel. This is Lord of the Flies in a fairy-tale world, it is eerie and creepy and unsettling and challenging. This is much less about the plot and much more about the layers of horror, unwrapping before the readers' eyes. This is a gorgeous piece of art, wrapped around a completely terrifying story.

Like all good graphic novels, there is much to uncover behind the first glance, and this is the type of story than can be read many times, with the reader finding something new upon each subsequent visit to this dark world. I know I'm being vague, but part of the impact of the story, for me, was not knowing very much about what I was getting into when I started. More than anything I've read in the past couple of months, this is the book that has stayed in my mind, lingering in my thoughts, popping up in my dreams. It's good, scary stuff. Recommended for readers who can deal with dark.


Finished - 10/22/14
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - R. This is not for young kids. Scary stuff.
My rating - 4/5


And with this, I have completed



Hooray for me! My first year to complete my RIP challenge. It feels pretty good, I have to say! And now I'm looking for recommendations for next year - what perilous reads have you enjoyed this season?