Monday, April 20, 2015

The River Cottage Curing & Smoking Handbook by Steven Lamb

Fascinating, interesting, inspiring book! This is not just some cookbook, it is a handbook to teach you (me!) how to cure and smoke different meat items! This takes you from no knowledge about how curing and etc are done to where you think, "Hey, maybe I can do this!"

The book begins with a section of "Tradition and Science" which runs the reader through meat preparation and storage and how smoking and salting meats became a part of society as well as the author's personal history with meat curing. The "science" part steps through all of the important parts of the process, ingredients such as salt, fat, bacteria, molds, and so on.

The next section is an overview of equipment necessary for this type of meat processing. One encouraging part of this is that the author does not advocate only the most expensive and state of the art equipment, but invites readers of any economic level to get started in this field.

There is a section on ingredients, it is very thorough. The author introduces us to the different cuts of meat, different meats for different purposes, and goes through the necessary ingredients for curing--giving great explanations about the importance of each. (Side note -- great photos illustrating cutting/preparation of certain cuts of meat.)

The methods part comes next, curing, smoking, fermenting, etc. Again, the author makes it do-able, not emphasizing pricey equipment, but using what you have or can come up with (for some things) -- oh, and shows how to make some of it for yourself, such as different types of smokers.

The recipes are the second half of the book, each complete with photos, ingredients, directions, and explanations about the items.

Throughout the book is great narrative, stories, and encouragement. It is VERY well-written, interesting, entertaining. It's readable for even a novice. Honestly, I read this whole book through! Not just like looking through it, but reading it for interest. The author of this book is very talented, both in curing/smoking meats as well as in encouraging the reader to do it for him/herself as well. It actually makes you think that you can do this!

(Okay, I will admit that the thought of the raw meat, curing, etc. maybe grossed me out a little bit, but it's the realization of what it really is, and the cured, smoked. . .and its safety. It's not like you're just chomping into a plain old raw meat! It seemed a little scary, but as the book progressed, the idea grew on me!)

All in all, it's a great book. Well-written, easy to read, inspiring and encouraging. The author did a GREAT job, and the book is just FILLED with gorgeous photographs that illustrate nicely the written word. My husband wants to read it next. We're definitely going to try some of these methods/recipes!

I very much recommend this book if you are at all interested in homes preservation.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

Are you looking for a fun dramatic read? Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman is an enjoyable book to open up! The story line is that Kelli's parents (father and stepmother) have just died and as she's cleaning out her dad's house she comes upon a strange clue. All her life she has known that her birth mother and siblings were killed in a tragic fire when she was younger. The new clue brings up questions and frightening possibilities. Perhaps her family is still living? Does she want to/can she explore this more?

This book is the story of Kelli's exploration into her (supposed) past and finding out who she might actually be, and who/why her father left behind. Kelli becomes involved in small town life and . . .

I don't want to give away any more information :) Read it! The book is well written, written in a way that you will want to read right through it without putting it down :) It's one of those books that you will look forward to reading. It's a nice story, maybe a tad predictable, but that's one of the things that makes a good story, right?

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. It's a great story, a good, clean story, a little romance, a little mystery, and a community that you'd like to live in!

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Blessings for Morning by Susie Larson

Blessings for Morning by Susie Larson is subtitled "Prayerful Encouragement to Begin Your Day." It's a gift-ish book in my opinion. Like something you'd take to your grandmother in the nursing home, or give to a mom for mother's day.

The layout is a two-page series of 1 page of Bible verse with a "blessing" on the opposite page -- such as, "May abundant grace and profound peace be multiplied to you in every way. . ." and more. To me, it's not at all a devotional book or something to use to study Scripture. I'm not really sure what the purpose of this book is. I think it looks like a collection of greeting cards all bound together. There are pretty pictures and Bible verses and a "blessing" which I'm not really sure who the blessing is from, the author, I guess.

I really didn't care for this book and probably won't even use it as a gift to give.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy

This book, Cookie Love, is a book with beautiful photos, enjoyable to look through, and inspiring you to make some cookies! Oh yes, there are recipes as well :)

The introduction gives the author's story of why she is in love with cookies and why she is sharing her recipes through this book. She sounds like a very interesting person and gives a little intro narrative to the sections of the book and even for the recipes. Some of the cookies are variations on familiar recipes, others are very unique. The photos that accompany the recipes are gorgeous, just beautiful.

At the end of the book are sections such as "tools of the trade" and "tricks of the trade." There is also an author's pantry section, where we get to find out what some of these exotic ingredients mentioned in the recipes are and why they are important.

Overall, though I love the looks of this book, the recipes in it are pretty impractical for me. First of all, many use specialized ingredients and others require many specialized techniques. For me, a busy homeschooling mom of 3 kids, I love to make cookies, but one of the appealing things of cookie making to me is that there is minimal work/time and yummy outcome. I think that I will stick to easier recipes than those in this book.

Maybe this book would be for you if you like to bake special fussy-type recipes; if you have the time and artistic sense to utilize these recipes, have fun! For me, it'd make more of a coffee-table book :) Pretty to look at the pictures and talk about them, but probably won't make them. Maybe it'd make a nice gift for someone? Or inspiration?

For me, however, this book is not a practical recipe book :) I'd suggest taking a look through the recipes first if you are planning to use the book as a cookbook.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.