Tag Archives: cooking

French Women for All Seasons (Mirelle Guiliano) – Book Review

French women for all seasons : a year of secrets, recipes & pleasureFrench Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets: Recipes & Pleasure by Mirelle Guiliano
Age: Adult
Genre: How-To / Cooking
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf, 2006
ISBN: 0307265234
350 pages

Published a year after French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mirelle Guilano returns with more insight into why the French woman is thin and healthy and why Americans are fat and lazy.

I know that’s a terribly mean synopsis, but I found Mirelle to be a little high on her horse based on the success of Why French Women Don’t Get Fat. The same elements that bugged me in French Women Don’t Get Fat, bugged me in this book. Why did I pick it up then? For the recipes. For the 10+ instructions and methods of tying a scarf. For getting another reminder of the simple changes I can make to my diet and my habits to live a healthier life.

The recipes in the book were well written, easy to follow using basic and simple ingredients. I did skim the sections of the book where Mirelle would go on and on about how the French are better than Americans. I am aware of how crappy our processed foods and addiction to high fructose corn syrup is. All I really wanted from this book was the recipes, but I was pleased to see the various sections of scarf tying. If French women are known for nothing else, it is their love of scarves. That was something I saw aplenty when in Paris in April. So many different methods of tying scarves too! I love the way the book is divided into different seasons, with a week’s worth of menu options at the end of each chapter.

Living in California, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, I tend to forget how different the rest of the nation is from my little hub. I love going to farmer’s markets, to experimenting with food, walking, exploring, etc. I sometimes forget that the rest of the nation doesn’t have all the same options and variety that I have here. It is something I shouldn’t take for granted. California is one of those special states with a plethora of climates that make it a fantastic place to grow fruits and veggies. My husband even has a garden growing on our apartment balcony: basil, mint, tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, parsley,  green beans, bell pepper, etc. We are always picking leaves and sprigs from the containers to add to our meals. It’s not difficult to eat healthier. In a little over two years, I went from eating corn dogs for dinner, to making crock-pot dishes, and eating game hen at restaurants. Food is supposed to be fun and nourishing, not something to worry about.

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Book 38 of 2011

 Book 4

Lunch in Paris (Elizabeth Bard) – Review

Lunch in Paris : a love story, with recipesLunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Location: Paris
Source: Public Library
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company,2010
ISBN: 9780316042796
324 Pages

Lunch in Paris is not your typical love story. Lunch in Paris is about the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of being an American living in France. We follow Elizabeth’s life from when she first meets Gwendal to their dates, the proposal, the wedding, and life afterward. Their romance is not the center of the story. Elizabeth butts heads with France, she has a love affair with the food, carefully honing in cooking skills from her daily trips to the market. Carefully and thoughtfully woven throughout the chapters are Elizabeth’s insecurities, hesitations, successes and problems with assimilating into the French culture.

I connected with Elizabeth from the very moment she described herself as a “bit of an old-fashioned girl. I feel good in old places.” (page 6). As well as someone who was “born in the wrong century.” (page 19). I can’t say I’ve never felt the same based on my tastes in music, hobbies, movies and art. I felt she was very honest with her struggles in Paris. It seems to be every girl’s dream to fall in love with a charming, dashing Frenchman who just happens to be a good cook to boot. To get married and live in a little bohemian love bungalow with the Eiffel Tower in view from across the distance. Elizabeth fills us in on what happens after that happily ever after moment. The truth about the struggles of living in another continent from your family and friends and trying to start a brand new life.

I could readily identify with Elizabeth’s torn self between American and Parisienne. Although she sheds  a certain amount of American traits (talking loudly everywhere, buying less than quality foods, rushing through meals, etc.) there are some habits and rights of Americans that are not available in other countries. The right to a second, third or fourth medical opinion, the ability to get married and work in the country without any restrictions, optimism and a can-do attitude, the ability to rethink and reuse objects for something other than their intended use. Although France is highly cultured, part of that is the strict adherence to the mentality of stasis.

At the end of each chapter, Elizabeth pens a couple of recipes that she had discussed during the chapter. Food and cooking very important to her, as they were the stepping stones of her entrance into the French life. From her first introduction to her then boyfriend’s closest family and friends, to her ability to improve her French and order meat like a pro at the butcher’s. What I like about the recipes is that I already own most of the ingredients in my pantry. They are regular pantry herbs and spices and only the proteins used would require any extra effort to locate, even that effort is limited. The recipes are a mix of traditional French, recipes of Elizabeth’s Jewish heritage, and sometimes a cross between the two styles, with a little American classic comfort foods thrown into the mix. She begins each recipe with a little paragraph explaining its origin as well as how to change certain ingredients to get a more personal and unique flavor from the dish.

Book 29 of 2011

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  Book 3

Weekend Cooking 5/28/2011 – Substituting Ingredients

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Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: For more information, see the welcome post. 

Substituting ingredients : the A to Z kitchen reference

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite and most frequently used book on my cookbook bookshelf. Although by no means comprehensive, this A to Z guide does offer appropriate substitutions for the most basic and frequently used food items in recipes.

This is a $10 resource that I bought at Borders when they were going out of business at the mall. I always beeline straight for the cookbooks when bookstore go out of business because those are some of the most expensive, reusable books in the industry. This inexpensive find is definitely a great resource. I can’t tell you how often I have to leave food on the hot stove to look up substitutions on the Internet. Usually in that time, something either burns, or overcooks. This way, if I stumble upon an ingredient and come short, or am missing altogether, I can quickly assemble a respectable substitute without much haste. This is also a great way to use up the less frequently used items in my pantry.

Here are a few examples of the substitutions listed in this book.

Cloves, Ground
= allspice
= nutmeg
= mace
Oats, in baking 1 cup
= 3/4 cup white flour
Sour Cream
= 1 tbsp white vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using)
= 1 tbsp lemon juice plus enough evaporated milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using)
= 1 cup plain yogurt, especially in dips  and cold soups
= 7/8 cup cottage cheese blended to break up curds, mixed with yogurt if desired, and 2 tbsp milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice, blend well. 
= 6 oz cream cheese plus 3 tbsp milk
= 1/3 cup melted butter, plus 3/4 cup sour milk, for baking

This book is also reviewed as part of the Foodie’s Reading Challenge.
Book 1
Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z Kitchen Reference
Becky Sue Epstein
Sourcebooks, 2010
ISBN 9781402239243
191 pages


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Weekend Cooking 5/21/2011

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Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

This is my first Weekend Cooking post, a fantastic meme run by Beth at Beth Fish Reads. 

For today’s post, I want to cover breadmaking. I am a novice to baking breads, although I excel at zucchini breads. Anything that involves using yeast, kneading and other methods is usually hit or miss for me.

My first attempt at bread making, I followed the New York Times No Knead Bread Recipe that I had read about in Cathy Erway’s Book: The Art of Eating In.

This is the result of that recipe:

It was delicious, light and fluffy and above all, it was well made bread.

So, being on a bread kick, I attempted to make more bread. Well, the next three batches ended up as bricks because the yeast wouldn’t rise. I have up on the No Knead Bread Recipe and found this wonderful book that has really been beneficial to my breadmaking experiments.

The bread book : the definitive guide to making bread by hand or machine

The Bread Book by Sara Lewis,  is an easy guide for breadmaking. It covers everything from loaves to bagels to non-yeast breads. What I really appreciate about this book is that each recipe is written for baking bread by hand, and for baking bread via a bread machine. I do not have a bread machine, but if I ever get one, I am already set.

The instructions are easy to follow, and the first section of the book covers has photographic instructions of how-to certain instructions; such as kneading the bread, folding it, and the different types of flour used in the book. Most recipes take about 4-5 hours (that involves all the hours that the bread has to sit on a shelf and rise). I’d say total prep time is usually about 30 minutes (mixing the ingredients, kneading the bread) the rest of the time is letting the bread rise, then putting it into the oven for another 30 minutes. Most of the recipes involve multiple ingredients that may be difficult to find at normal grocery stores, and by this I mean all the various types of flours and powders used.

From this book, I have made: A Quick White Loaf, Feta and Spinach Twists (big hit!) and plain baguettes.

Do any of faithful yet silent readers bake? What are some of your favorite bread making recipes, or books?

My Life in France – Review

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My Life in France by Julia Child

Age: YA – Adult

Julia Child’s transformation from wife, to internationally known chef bringing French food and life to America with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and with her hit TV show The French Chef began in 1948 during her first year of marriage to Paul Child.

The memoir traces her life from her first steps onto French soil, through her explorations of the French food markets, to her classes at Le Cordon Bleu,  and finally through the path of creating and collaborating a French how-to manual for women in America. The memoir continues even after Julia Child moved back to the United States and how her passion for good food became a lifelong part of her world.

Julia Child’ voice is friendly and entertaining as she takes you through the story of her life. She is an inspirational woman, who is fully accepting of her faults as well as her virtues. Finding love late in life, standing taller than most men and women of her time, Julia found it hard to really fit in anywhere. Rebelling against her father’s conservative Republican views, she did not follow the tradition of settling down to marry a rich Republican man and becoming a simple housewife in quiet Pasadena, CA. Instead, she worked in government, traveling to India and China, where she met her artist husband to be Paul Child.

Reading the book was like sitting in a room with Julia Child herself. Her voice is endearing, full of the charm and friendliness that helped her became so loved around the world. The book is full of little jokes and quips about her experiences. Funny anecdotes accompany even the most minor of character introductions.

To be truthful, I enjoyed the first half of the memoir much more than the second half. I loved reading about Julia explorations of French food, and seeing her passion develop over time and learning about all the hard work she put into becoming one of the best chefs of her time. As the book progressed, I got a little bored as she talked about traveling and promoting the book. I preferred the sections of her experimenting with a recipe hundreds of times to perfect every single notation and instruction, or researching and talking to experts of recipes she wants to include in the book. Her troubles collaborating with Simca and Louisa on both books as well as initially introducing a book like this into the publishing world.

Also, reading this book made me feel a number of emotions: 1. constantly hungry because of her talk of good food, 2:  guilty because one should not eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger while reading about Julia Child’s French recipes, 3. Excited for next Spring, when Chris and I go to France for our honeymoon. We want to sign up for a single class at Le Cordon Bleu and learn how to make, well, anything!

This is a great summer read, although you might end up overheating your homes by wanting to cook more often after finishing!

The French Chef
by Julia Child w/ Alex Prud’Homme
Anchor Books, 2006
ISBN 9780307474858
352 pages


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Bon apetite!

August is shaping up to be quite the foodie month for me. It all started when I picked up French Women Don’t Get Fat on a whim. That book inspired me to be more creative with my food and to really enjoy what I eat and seek out fresh, whole foods. In this respect I was lead to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, where he discusses the history and presence of processed food in our grocery stores. This leaves me paranoid of all substances in my supermarket that is not fruit!

Add to the mix watching a documentary on Hulu called “The Future of Food” where the topic is genetically engineered food, and then seeing Julie and Julia in the same day, my head is swimming. I want to eat healthy, enjoy my food, and cook more. but then with so many imitation products and genetically modified junk out there stealthily hidden on the shelves, I’m not sure if what I’m picking up at the grocery is really food.

I feel like I’m either going to starve or go broke trying to eat healthy. =/

I’ve been exploring different farmer’s markets in my area lately, trying to find one with the best and most varied products (the one that is in walking distance is really lame). I have been digging through my cookbooks to meet my goal of cooking a meal once a week (and not the usual chicken & rice or chicken & pasta combo).


Julie and Julia is a really cute and inspiring movie. Meryl Streep is adorable as Julia Child, she is by far one of my favorite actresses. You could tell she took a lot of glee being in that role. The premise of the movie is that a young women living in Queens as well as being stuck in a rut, decides to take on a challenge of cooking all 524 recipes from Master The Art of French Cooking in one year. She wrote a blog about it, which gained in popularity, and eventually landed a book deal which turned into the movie.

Julie Powell doesn’t update the blog anymore, but if you can’t find the book at either the bookstore or library, well here is the blog still intact.

The School of Essential Ingredients – Review

Have you ever walked into a waiting room, classroom, or office and wondered about all the different people that were in that room with you? The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister examines that concept.

The School of Essential Ingredients Lilian teaches a Monday night cooking class in her restaurant kitchen. This being the second book I read about cooking classes, I’ve been experimenting more in the kitchen, to mixed results. This book does have better cooking tips though.

Each chapter tells the background story of one of her eight students. The stories are beautifully interwoven to the theme of food, and cooking. Each story is told as a flashback, going back and forth between the cooking class. Erica Bauermeister did a fantastic job tying everything together and creating a colorful and realistic set of characters. I really enjoyed this book, its a very quick read. I was able to finish it in about 2 hours.


The School of Essential Ingredients
Erica Bauermeister
Putnam, 2009
ISBN 0399155437
240 pages


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