I usually just tell you about the cream of the crop cookbooks I review, but there were a few other books that came across my desk in the past year that are outstanding and totally giftable for the right person. Truly special pieces.
Need a gift for a lit lover, dog person, mythology fan, or wine enthusiast? I’ve got you!
When my husband handed me a gift on our first Christmas together, I unwrapped it to find a cookbook, looked up and glared at him, and he ducked a little, laughing, “No! Open it up!” Tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Five years later, when our baby was tiny, and we decided I’d stay home with her, I was suddenly responsible for all things domestic with absolutely zero interest in cooking or cleaning anything. None. Then everyone in the playgroup started watching Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals. She made everything look fun, doable, and yummy, and suddenly we were all cooking and doing a nice job of it. I’m so grateful that we all had her. I stumbled across this book and ordered it in a rush of nostalgia. I don’t watch daytime tv anymore so I had no idea what she’s been up to or what to expect. But now I can help you with that!
Rachael Ray 50 is filled with Rachael’s essays, a memoir of her life so far, and those are dotted with 125 recipes that mean something to her. Some of them are quick, but she’s not limiting herself to speed meals here. The pasta puttanesca was the only one that I remember from her early days. I flagged so many that I need to order more post-it notes! I’m really glad she made this one a hardcover, because it’s special.
The book is broken into three sections: Family, Friends, and Work.
I’m going to share her recipe for Baked Ricotta and Roasted Grapes with a Balsamic Drizzle. It’s like a savory cheesecake. It’s easy, delicious, and beautiful – perfect for all the upcoming holidays! Please note that there are two asterisked sub-recipes after the recipe that you’re going to want to deal with first, so that you’re just ready to go!
If you love Ree’s other books, you’ll love The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier, too! It has a great mix of comfort food and healthy fare, frequently with thoughtful ideas of how to make subs to suit to your eating style. She’s got some recipes for everybody’s favorite personal appliances like the Instant Pots and slow-cookers, but also gives instructions on how to cook it if you’d rather stick with the oven. For the most part, she uses economical ingredients, but there’s a special surf and turf dinner with lobster tails and beef tenderloin. I love this one! But I’m most definitely already a big fan. 😊
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It was tough to decide which recipe to ask permission for. The Giant Cinnamon Roll is so good that it’s replacing the monkey bread I normally make on Christmas morning with Jacque Pepin’s quiche, bacon, and fruit salad, so I finally picked that one! And, you can make a lot of it ahead of time (Yeah, I marked it. Through step 8!) so it’s a great one for an easier morning! I love Scandinavian flavors at Christmas, so I may play with a little cardamom and orange in the icing then. Anyway, go make this and brighten your weekend! If you’re an espresso head like me, use espresso instead of coffee. Sooo good! A huge thanks to Ree Drummond for letting me share the recipe with you!
I always make crème brûlée for Christmas and Valentine’s Day dessert. I’d been playing in a bourbon cookbook, The Bourbon Country Cookbook, and the crème brûlée in it sounded fantastic, so we gave it a try. Oh my gosh! Bourbon Caramel Crème Brûlée is hands-down the best crème brûlée I’ve ever made. There’s just a smidge of bourbon in it, and it doesn’t overpower it at all. It enhances it beautifully! I prefer the laziness of sous vide crème brûlée, but the flavor on this one is a knockout!
Have you tried your hand at the lovely spiced cookies, Speculaas? I love the Springerle recipe from King Arthur Flour. I just use 1 1/2 times the spices they call for for a really flavorful cookie. My adapted version is below.Read More
All across the state of Texas, tamales and queso are on every Christmas Eve table. I thought I’d start off December with a big tamalefest! I’ve been playing in Alice Guadalupe Tapp’s book, Tamales: Fast and Delicious Mexican Meals. This has been a very fun, yummy experiment, and it gets easier every time. Those fresh, delicious tamales are quite a treat!
I’ll tell you all about the book in a minute, but first, let me share the recipe for Refried Bean and Chorizo Tamales with you! A big thanks to Ten Speed Press for permission! Read More
It was Christmas morning. There was a few inches of snow blanketing everything and big fluffy flakes were still falling from the sky. There was a fire blazing in the fireplace. <Okay, ours is a gas fireplace with a switch to flip on the wall next to the mantle, so it’s not exactly a production.> Christmas music was blasting. The dining table was decked out to the nines. I’d made fabulously fragrant monkey bread, and Jacques Pépin’s quiche, and gotten those onto the table along with nice strong coffee and kicked-up mimosas. I just had to finish up my strawberry Santas. I’d taken a shortcut and bought whipped cream in a can. It comes with its own dispenser. Genius, right?! Read More
We have a glorious brunch place in Fort Worth, Texas, that I adore. It’s called Bird Café. It’s a wonderful place, and you must go if you’re ever in town. Their brunch cocktail menu is inspiring. My husband’s favorite thing there is called the Mother and Child Reunion. It’s fried chicken, a poached egg, and jalapeno gravy on a bed of grits. <I know!> But you will forgive their sick sense of humor the second you taste it. My favorite is called The Badass Waffle. It’s a waffle covered in berries, caramel apples, bacon, brie fondue, and maple syrup. It’s why I have a mouth.
I should probably explain why I’m telling you about that amazing waffle. We’re doing a traditional Texas Christmas Eve this year. That’s tamales, queso, and margaritas. I thought it would be super fun to decorate in an understated cowboy glam. Then I wondered to myself what the best Texas Christmas Eve breakfast would be. Well, migas are my favorite, but I make them constantly. We’ve always cracked up at the Texas shaped waffles that you see in hotels all over the state. I have a killer double waffle maker, so I couldn’t justify buying The Texas Waffle Maker. Well, I can think of no better excuse than Christmas Eve morning! Now for a waffle that’s special enough. I had to try to recreate that Bacon, Berry, Brie, and Caramel Apple Waffle with Warm Maple Syrup. Sounds like a delicious challenge to me! Giddy up!
I love yeasty waffles with a bit of exterior crunch from Belgian pearl sugar. I adapted a King Arthur waffle recipe as my jumping off point.
Vegetarian friends, go ahead and skip the bacon, and go to your happy place. Swine-enthusiasts –scale up the bacon as needed. You do you.
My Amazon affiliate links to the waffle irons are below the recipe if you need one.