Cookbook Reviews

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beer-braised Shrimp with Louisiana Salsa and Rice

Adapted Rachel Ray

So, I have a bud by the name of Carol. Now, Carol doesn't only lead me to some great authors because she is my library's director, but also to some great cookbooks because we both enjoy cooking.

I must admit that Rachel Ray has never been a favorite of mine, but Carol loaned me her book, Look and Cook. I LOVED THAT COOKBOOK! Rachel had some of the freshest and most unique recipes in that book, including this one.

Now, I must admit that this recipe took a bit longer and was more involved than what I wanted in my weeknight meal, but it was FANTASTIC. It reminded me a bit of a gumbo. I loved that it warmed up nicely the next day for lunch, as well.

Another note: Regarding the shrimp, Rachel calls for the shell to be off the shrimp. I like my shell intact. I do have a reason for the method to my madness. During the cooking process, shrimp can go from delicioso to disgusting and rubbery in two shakes of a lamb's tail. I find that in having the shell on, it gives enough room for a slight mistake in cooking. While even I will admit that it was a pain in the rear-end to try to eat them, I was happier with the results, especially during the reheating portion of our lunches.

So, here we go!:


2 t. jarred garlic
8 celery stalks, chopped
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
2 T. finely chopped FRESH thyme leaves
4 T. butter
1. 5 cups uncooked white rice
2.5 cups chicken broth (I actually took this to 3.5 cups)
1 Jalapeno pepper thinly sliced
20 cherry tomatoes sliced in half
2 limes, juiced independently (very important)
2 T. olive oil
3 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined TAIL ON ( see my note)
1 T. Old Bay seafood seasoning
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup hot sauce
1 bottle beer
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced on an angle


1) In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, celery, bell peppers, onions and thyme.

2) In a large pot melt one third of the above veggies and 1 T. of the butter. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the veggies soften. Add the rice and "brown" for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, SIMMER for about 20 minutes.

3) To the remining veggies above, add the jalapeno, tomatoes, lime juice of ONE LIME and salt. Set aside.

4) Heat the olive oil in another large pan. Add the shrimp, Old Bay, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Cook for 2 minutes.

5) Add beer and SIMMER for 5 minutes.

6)  Remove from heat. Add in remaining 3 T. of butter chopped up, the scallions and the remaining lime juice. Cook only until butter is melted. This should take one minute.

7) To serve, place a scoop of rice on the platter. Top with rice/sauce. Then, top with salsa. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors and Hearty Portions by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise

Book: BOLD: A Cookbook of Big Flavors and Hearty Portions
Author: Susanna Hoffman; Victoria Wise
Narrator (if applicable): n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: From

Bold brings together the beloved American tradition of delicious, plate-filling meals with the lively global flavors that infuse our culture and cuisine.This is comfort food that s been given an exuberant 21st-century makeover slow-cooked roasts and braises, generous steaks, brimming soups, heaping platters of salads and vegetables, hearty pastas and grains, wild game, and rich desserts.This is Bold Stuffed California Pork Rolls. Buffalo Chili with Black Bean and Corn Salsa. Meat and Potatoes Korean Style with Quick Kimchee. Leg of Lamb with Spicy Pecan Pesto. Chicken Pot Pie Under a Filo Crust. Crowded Corn Chowder with Cod, Shrimp, and Corn. Lime Curd Coconut Meringue Pie with a Macadamia Nut Crust. The book boasts a vibrant design that complements the recipes. Sidebars throughout offer cooking tips and advice, highlight people and places, and explore food history and traditions. Bold is America on a plate.

My rating: 4 Stars
My opinion: This was a gorgeous cookbook with a variety of ethnic and cultural influence brought into the recipes. To boot, it had some awesome pictures included.

I found this to be a really unique cookbook with some interesting ingredient combinations. Some might not do well with the palate challenged. The book contained very different meat selections such as elk, buffalo, venison, rabbit,etc. A whole lot of lamb recipes that didn't do a whole lot for me. Some of these meats might be a bit more difficult to obtain without going to a specialty butcher.

I thought some of the supplemental ingredients might be difficult to obtain as well. 
Source: Publisher for review
Would I recommend? : Although I would not purchase this cookbook, I did recommend it to people with a bit of a more expansive palate than mine. 
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Do Ahead Dinners: How to Feed Friends and Family Without the Frenzy by James Ramsden

Book: Do Ahead Dinners: How to Feed Friends and Family Without the Frenzy
Author: James Ramsden 

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Mr Ramsden shares 150 "make ahead" recipes to make entertainment and daily living a bit easier. Recipes include such dishes as Scotch Quail Eggs with Homemade Brown Sauce, Fennel Soup with Brown Shrimp and Dill, Pig Cheek Salad with Pickled Shallot and Buttermilk Dressing, Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream, and Raspberry Gin and Tonic. 
My rating: 2 Stars
My opinion: This definitely was not a favorite cookbook of mine. I didn't see this book as being family friendly as it was very heavy on foods that would never see the tops of my plates such as pigs cheek, pigs belly, venison, rabbit, etc.. I think I am a pretty open eater, but couldn't see the foods on other friends' plates either.  To boot, most recipes have heavy prep time so not sure of the "do-ahead".
I must admit that it did have a very interesting selection on vegetarian selections that I would focus on.

Breads for "make ahead" would be easier to actually make the day of, esp with the yeast being so temperamental.

From an ingredient standpoint, I did feel some ingredients could be very difficult to obtain in the US, particularly in the Midwest rural area where I am from. They might be easier in urban areas, but I had my doubts on some of those too.  

All in all, I could count on two hands the number of recipes that I would make.
Source:  Publisher for Review
Would I recommend? : No
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mozzarella Chicken

Adapted: Kay Robertson

So, here is another simple, simple yet tasty recipe from Kay Robertson's new cookbook, Duck Commander Kitchen. This recipe went into the oven so quick after a very busy day in the Blackburn house. My husband thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of a Chicken Parmesan without the crust.  I do have to add that there is no salt in this recipe. I enjoyed that, but if you don't, simply add one teaspoon of salt to the tomato mixture.

I partnered it with garlic bread, salad and angel hair pasta coated with olive oil and a VERY small amount of crushed red pepper. Ohhhhh, so tasty!

I loved the freshness of the tomato flavor in the sauce, but I did tweak the seasonings in the sauce as it seemed it could have been pretty flavorless.  I also increased the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

So, here we go:


2 T. butter
1/2 t. garlic powder
4 small boneless/skinless chicken breasts
2 cups diced tomatoes
1/2 T. Italian seasoning
2.5 cups Mozzarella cheese
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) In a skillet, melt butter with garlic powder. Add chicken and brown for 2 minutes each side. Place in a 9x13 prepared pan.

3) In a blender, puree the tomatoes and Italian seasoning until smooth. Pour over chicken.

4) Top with cheeses and cover with foil. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more until cheese is browned.

5) Serve over pasta.  

Willie's Famous Chicken Strips

A couple of weeks ago, I popped into my library and was perusing the cookbook section. I started laughing when I saw a cookbook by Kay Robertson from Duck Dynasty and started to tease my librarian about ordering it by comparing it to a book written by Snookie from The Jersey Shore.

I figured I would have a further chuckle by reviewing it, so I took it home. I LOVED THIS COOKBOOK!! It had some great down home comfort foods in it. Now, I will say that I bypassed the "game" section because I just won't eat squirrel.

I have a number of recipes to feature from the cookbook, but this is one of my favorites. I loved the spiciness of these strips, but it was a perfect spicy. Not too weak-not enough to make one choke while grabbing for water! I partnered them with the the easy macaroni and cheese recipe from the book  for a light dinner. Serve along side a dip of ranch dressing mixed with hot sauce. Yum, even  the lil' munchkins will love this dinner.

Kay recommended cast iron pan frying these chicken strips, but I used my deep fryer and it was easier, plus the crust stayed in place.

So, here we go:


1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 T. Cajun seasoning
1.5 t. garlic powder
1 t. black pepper
1 t. salt
Vegetable oil (The recipe calls for one cup, but I used a whole bottle for my deep fryer.)
1 lb chicken tenderloins


1) In a bowl, combine buttermilk and egg. Add chicken tenderloins

2) In a large Ziploc bag, combine flour, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

3) Shake off extra buttermilk marinade and shake to coat with the flour mixture.

4) Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees. When heated, fry the tenderloins approximately 10 minutes until cooked through.

5) Serve with your choice of dips.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Smothered Filet Mignon

Every New Years Eve I prepare some type of filet for my family to celebrate the upcoming New Year. I was going to make my standard dish when I found this one. This is a restaurant quality dish that is super easy to prepare at home. 

I partnered with my garlic roasted mashed potatoes and just a simple veggie trio. Can't forget my Drunken Crab Pot for that surf and turf feeling.

So, here we go:


4 (6 ounce) filet mignon steaks
seasoned salt to taste
cracked black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups onion slices
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon white sugar
4 ounces blue cheese,

1) In a small bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, dried rosemary.
2) Salt and pepper steaks and place in a glass 9x13 pan. Pour marinade over steaks and allow to sit for one hour.
3) Prepare grill. Grill steaks to desired doneness.
4) While steaks are grilling, prepare onions by melting butter in pan. Add onions and bacon. Fry until soft and translucent.
5) Remove steaks from grill and top with onion/bacon mixture. Top with blue cheese and place under broiler until cheese melts to desired doneness.

Slow Cooker Five-Spice Pot Roast

I am in love. I didn't see it coming, but I am in love.

Recently, I was turned down to review the cookbook BEATING THE LUNCHTIME BLUES: FRESH IDEAS FOR LUNCHES ON THE GO by JM Hirch. I put it out of my mind until I saw it on my library's shelf, so I went ahead and grabbed it.  I loved that cookbook and rated it 4 stars UNTIL I started trying the recipes. It is sitting in my Amazon cart waiting for my next order.

The first one is this dandy and easy crock pot roast. It is unlike any other roast I have tried with its Asian flare. The flavors were soft with a hint of the 5 spice powder. The gravy on this roast was fantastic. It was rich and smooth. I put it in the slow cooker at 7 am and we were eating by 4 pm. I will admit that the author was off in his cooking times. As promised, not only did we have enough for dinner last night, but plenty for lunch today.

I partnered it with my Fried Rice side. At first, I was concerned, but it paired perfectly. Next time, I might even try some cinnamon mashed sweet potatoes.  A second lesson that I learned from this recipe is to greatly increase the carrots. The baby carrots fit this beautifully and next time, I will use a full bag of them.

So, here we go!:


1 T. Olive Oil
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 8 oz bag baby carrots
5 lb Chuck Roast
2 T. Cornstarch
1 T. 5 spice powder
1 t. kosher salt (original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons)
1 t. black pepper
1t. garlic powder
6 oz can tomato paste


1) In a 6 qt crock pot, drizzle olive oil on the bottom. Add onions and carrots. Put roast on top.

2) In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, 5 spice powder, kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder and tomato paste. Spread over roast.


3) Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with a side. See my recommendations above.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Drunken Crab Pot

Adapted: Food Network and Emeril Lagasse

Every New Year's Eve, I celebrate with my family by going whole hog on dinner. Dinner is usually some kind of filet with seafood. This year, I found a recipe for a drunken crab pot and I knew it was for me.

Now, I had grabbed crab claws instead of the crab legs that the recipe called for and I will never make that mistake again. I also added shrimp and those lil morsels were T-A-S-T-Y! I will make this again. It was simple, quick and enjoyed by my boys.

Make sure your crab legs are split and don't overcook!

So, here we go!:

2 bottles premium ale ( I used Sierra Nevada)
2 lemons, cut into quarters
5 garlic cloves, peeled and split in half
2 pounds crab legs, split (or a combination of 1 lb crab legs and 1 lb shrimp)
1 t. Old Bay Seasoning
Drawn butter, for serving
Lemon Wedges


1) In a very large pot, place beer and Old Bay Seasoning and bring to a boil. Place strainer in pot.

2) On top of strainer, place crab legs,shrimp,  lemons and garlic.

3) Steam for NO MORE than 5 minutes. Shrimp will be pink.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Naomi's Perfect Chili

About mid Fall, this recipe becomes a staple in the Blackburn home. It warms the soul with a bit of a bite, but not a bite you in the butt bite. Like your chili a bit hotter? Add the cayenne. I did it once....ONCE!

In my humble opinion, the toppings really make this chili-restaurant quality. I love the melted cheese, sour cream and onions. I grab the tortilla strips from the salad section of our grocer to give it the crunch. They give a pretty color to the chili, as well.

When I make a pot of this chili, I can count on the fact that it will be gone in one weekend. I never have enough to freeze!

Just a note, the Blackburns are really trying to cut down on the salt, so I don't really add salt to mine. If you would like, I wouldn't add more than 1 tablespoon of salt and save it for your "chowers" to add their own salt.

So, here we go.


2-2.5lbs ground beef (I like the lower fat)
1 large onion, chopped roughly
2 green peppers, chopped roughly
1 T. jarred garlic
48 oz tomato sauce
2 cans mild chili beans (like it with heat, use hot chili beans)
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
1 can diced chilis (4oz)
1/2 cup chili powder
1 T. pepper
1 T. Cayenne (if you want it hot...I added it once)

Mexican cheese
sour cream
chopped green onions
tortilla strips


1) Brown ground beef, onion, garlic and green pepper.

2) Add the remaining ingredients

3) Simmer 2 hours

4) Garnish as desired.