It’s Finally Available – Cook This Book!


I have been working on a new book for quite some time.  Not everyone was excited about it.  By “everyone” I mean my publisher.  Rather than toss aside my idea and manuscipt, I decided to self publish with CreateSpace.  I had big help at home with illustrations.  While looking for a graphic artist, I discovered my own kids were able to draw my ideas.  (Thankfully they were less expensive too!).  I also discovered going overseas to hire freelancers is a great way to find expertise, meet deadlines and stay within budget.  Thank you to Dragan in Croatia!


To be fair to my publisher, Cook This Book! is a big departure from my other Petit Appetit titles for sure.  Rather than teaching parents, this book turns over the kitchen and foodie activities to kids.  Many of my clients’ children, (as well as my own kids) love being involved in the kitchen and take food and cooking seriously.  They are not alone, as we now have many kid contestant cooking television shows such as Chopped Jr. and Kids Baking Championship. There are even some pop up restaurants with kid chef’s under 18.


Cook This Book! Over 100 Ways to Imagine, Create, Cook, Eat, Share Dare and Play With Food, encourage kids’ love of food and cooking by giving readers over one hundred activities, games, quizzes, and challenges that kids can do with food. There are no rules and no right answers. Each kid will experience the book in a unique and interactive way. Have a fast speed scavenger hunt in the supermarket. Create your own recipe using only five ingredients. Challenge your brother to a chili pepper taste off. Kids can skip around or do the same challenge over and over with different friends and family members and new ingredients.  They can also post photos of their fun (#cookthisbook) to share and compare with other readers.


This book empowers kids to create, cook, eat, dare, and share their foodie fun, knowledge, and experiences. Those just starting in the kitchen will find recipes for some favorites such as spaghetti, pancakes, and brownies. With helpful tips for knife skills, restaurant etiquette, and more! By experimenting with food they just might become the next big chef, a food critic, or at least help you make dinner.


Vegan for Fun – Cookbook Review and Coconut Curry Recipe

America may not, at least I didn’t,  know German celebrity chef and cookbook author Attila Hildmann.  He’s big in Europe and started the vegan trend with his bestsellers, Vegan for Fun and Vegan for Fit.  We, Americans will know him shortly as his books have now been translated and published in English.  Attila lost his father to a sudden heart attack due to malnutrition.   Attila was motivated and converted to a vegan diet and lost 77 lbs.  His book Vegan for Fun, Modern Vegetarian Cuisine shares his favorite recipes which shows his passion for health and fitness and also for taste.  In addition to his story and over 200 tasty vegetarian and vegan recipes, he gives great tips about vegetable substitutions, stocking a pantry, getting motivated to change your diet, how to shop at the grocery store and kitchen tools to make your life easier.


I’m always looking for more vegetarian ideas and this book is inspiring with lovely photographs as well.  There are many simple, tasty recipes for everything from sandwiches and pastas to salads and desserts.  Many do not even require having to buy added vegan ingredients, which I like.  I’ve also found these recipes are easy to convert for all diets and tastes.  I made the Vegetable Coconut Curry (recipe below) vegan for myself and daughter but also added chicken for my husband and son.   My daughter who usually thinks curries are too spicy, loved this one.  We also enjoyed the Spaghetti Bolannaise both as written with tofu and also with ground turkey.  The only drawback is this cookbook seems geared for a single or couple.  You have to check the servings andy sizes if you’re making for a family or larger group.  I make sure I double the ingredients on many of these recipes to feed my four.  My kids are looking forward to trying some of Attila’s desserts next.  Chocolate croissants anyone?

Vegetable Coconut Curry with Basmati Rice (pg 112. Vegan for Fun)

INGREDIENTS for 2 servings

¾ cup Basmati rice (150 g)

Sea salt

1 carrot1

1 ½ cups sugar snap peas (150 g)

1 red chili pepper

1 cup mung bean sprouts (80 g)

3 tablespoons canola oil

1–2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 onion

1 garlic clove

¹  ³–½ inch fresh ginger (1 cm)

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 cup coconut milk (250 mL)

1 teaspoon agave syrup

1/4 bunch cilantro


Cook the Basmati rice according to the package instructions in lightly salted water. In the meantime, peel the carrot and cut into thin matchsticks. Wash the sugar snap peas and blanch in well-salted boiling water. Wash the chili pepper, remove the seeds, and cut into thin rings. Wash the mung bean sprouts and allow to drain. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a skillet or wok and sauté the vegetables over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and remove from heat. For the sauce, peel and finely chop the onion, garlic, and ginger. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a skil let; sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger with the curry powder for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and agave syrup. Cook for 2 more minutes and season with sea salt. Wash the cilantro, shake dry, finely chop the leaves, and fold into the rice. Arrange the rice on plates with the vegetables and sauce and serve.



July WAS Ice Cream Month

Yes, July was National Ice Cream Month.   And yes, I know it’s August.  But that doesn’t mean ice cream season is over.  My family turned out the ceremonial first batch of homemade ice cream just after school got out in June.  Of course we always start with Mint Chip.  The real deal (see past blog) with real mint.  Not the fake colored, extract stuff.  This year we’ve also made a few new flavors, below.  When making ice cream remember to explain to your kids (and husband) it’s not a quick instant gratification process.  Be sure to read the recipe and see how much time (refrigerator, freezer, machine) you’ll need before you’re actually ready to scoop and enjoy.


Vegan Coconut Ice Cream

This was a huge surprise.  I received the Vegan Al Fresco Cookbook and went for this right away.  Overall I like this cookbook, and we love this ice cream.  The coconut oil gives this a great dense and creamy texture.  It has become my husband and daughter’s favorite flavor.  I even brought a batch to a friends’ for dinner and she served it with a homemade peach pie she had made.  It went together perfectly.

I made a few changes you’ll see noted below.  I don’t like the coconut texture so I didn’t add the shredded coconut.  I didn’t have the extract, so I didn’t use that either.  There’s still debate about confectioner’s sugar and whether it’s a “vegan” ingredient.  If you’re concerned buy the vegan brand.  (I explained “bone char” in an earlier post.)  And I didn’t see the need to buy arrowroot when I had cornstarch in my pantry.

Coconut Ice Cream from Vegan Al Fresco by Carla Kelly

Makes 4 cups

2 14 oz. cans full-fat coconut milk

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder – I substituted cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional) – I didn’t use

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional) – I didin’t use

Place 1 can of coconut milk in refrigerator overnight (to speed this up I put in the freezer for 2 hours).  Open can – do not shake – and scoop off 1/2 cup cream from surface.

In a blender, process coconut cream with contents of second can of coconut milk, melted oil, sugars, arrowroot and extract until creamy and smooth.

Transfer blender jar to refrigerator to chill overnight.  Stir in shredded coconut if using, and mix to distribute evenly.

In an ice cream machine, process mixture for 30 minutes, or according to machine instructions, until aerated and cooled.


Lemon Sorbet

My daughter requested this when she started her orthodontist expander.  I was happy to oblige.  Especially after realizing I already have the ingredients on hand.  Ice cream requires a trip to the store for cream and whole milk.  Sorbet is simple.  The recipe I used came with my ice cream maker.  I even had simple syrup in the fridge left over from making lemonade.  Next time I need to read the recipe more thoroughly as the one I used made a small quantity (maybe a pint vs our usual quart).

Lemon Sorbet from Allrecipes.scom


Original recipe makes 6 servings
  • 1 lemon’s peel, finely diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup carbonated mineral water
  • 6 strips of lemon zest, for garnish

Pina Colada Sorbet 

This was almost a merge of flavors from the coconut and the lemon.  It was bright and refreshing and we ate it with my daughter’s birthday cake.  Seemed very tropical as we enjoyed it during the Fifa World Cup in Brazil.

Pina Colada Sorbet from


  • 3 cups cubed fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water $
  • 1/2 cup sugar $
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup cream of coconut


  1. 1. Place first 3 ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth and sugar dissolves. Combine pureed pineapple mixture, coconut milk, and cream of coconut in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  2. 2. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 2 hours or until firm.


My son just asked what flavor is up next.  My daughter and husband said coconut.  But he wants something new.  Stay tuned…


Year of No Sugar, A Memoir by Eve O. Schaub

Over spring break I read Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub.  Ironically I finished on Easter (which she talks about as surely one of the biggest sugar holidays).  In the book Eve takes her family on a sugarless journey after hearing esteemed obesity expert and pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Robert Lustig‘s YouTube video, Sugar, The Bitter Truth talk about the dangers of sugar.  It is great that Dr. Lusitg’s research and words can reach so many (over 4.5 million view and counting) and empowered this family to take on this challenge.  And the challenge is not only to avoid sugar but also agave, syrup, fruit juice, and any other added sweetener.  Eve is also empassioned by, and  meets David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat.  Because of this research on the dangers of sugar, and specifically fructose, are so important to this family’s project and the book I wish I would have seen the Dr. Lustig talk and/or read the Gillespie book before reading Eve’s book.  But remember I was on break and actually poolside.  Now that I am home and back to my computer, I will.

I liked Eve’s writing style – honest, warm and witty.  I especially enjoyed reading her 10 year old daughter’s journal entries about her thoughts on the no sugar project.  When I unwrapped my copy of the book and my 10 year old son saw the title he was very concerned and immediately asked “Are we going to do that?”  So I can imagine what Eve and her family went through to survive this challenge and year.  I already seem to some as the health food nazi as I cook,pack, order, and of course, teach, about healthy foods.  This would likely send my children over the edge.  And actually Eve wondered about whether her kids would then resent her and go for sugar overload as soon as they had the chance.

It was interesting to read about the challenges and changes that happened over the year of no sugar.  By no sugar, this also means no agave, no syrup, no fruit juice, or any other added sweetener.  Eve talks about everything from poop (more frequently), and absentees from school (fewer sicknesses), to changing palates and tastebuds.  There were also lots of discussion, and agonizing over the no sugar rules and what was an exception.  One dessert per month.  Kids could make choices at school functions and birthday parties.  Dad still got to drink Dr. Pepper.  (That one baffled me).  Then there was their italian vacation.  (What no gelato?)  While the project and book is about no sugar, really what the family found out is that it’s hard to avoid.  There were  many hoops they had to go through to make food without sugar, and even harder to eat food without sugar while at a restaurant or any venue or house outside their own home.  The book certainly made me think.  Our family does not eat what I consider an excess of sugar by any means.  However I do like to bake with my kids and I find it healthier than buying processed baked goods.  And I teach my kids to go for quality over quantity or quick satisfaction for all foods.  Such as skipping a carnival ice cream for a handmade cone of gelato at the local shop after.  But I also don’t always make my own marinara sauce or condiments.  And our family does like real maple syrup on pancakes.  And let’s not talk about our house specialty…s’mores.

I was a bit surprised by the recipes as a few have sugar and others have dextrose.  Obviously I need to listen to Dr. Lustig’s talk.  But I understand these were recipes they used to get through the year.  So those with sugar were for their monthly dessert, such as Great Grandma’s Hotchkiss’s Sour Milk Chocolate Cake.  Others were no sugar versions using dextrose.  Which by the way is not found in supermarkets.  I only found for purchase online for about $6 per 2 pound bag.  I must admit I have no desire to make any of her recipes.  Sorry.  I have some great no sugar recipes of my own.

I admire Eve’s family’s commitment but felt a little let down at the end, as did Eve herself.  What was going to happen after?  They made changes and the kids are well educated about the dangers and presence of sugar.  However the family’s diet like many other restrictions also had them feeling left out of life.  Funny how sugar plays such an important role in socializing when you think about celebrations, holidays and gatherings.  I was hoping for more of a revelation, and I think Eve did too.  But they had to get back to life.  Also focusing and living this project seemed very all consuming.  It’s easier to do and not think and write about 24/7.  In the end it’s all about moderation and picking your poison.  This book sheds light on our American obsession and hopefully makes readers want to learn more about avoiding sugar, making thoughtful food choices, and searching out the experts on the topic.

Here are a few of the things (excerpted below) Eve’s family took away from our their Year of No Sugar project.  (I know I’m definitely rethinking any juice in my house.)

Number one: don’t drink sugar. If we change nothing else in our culture, we should do this one thing. Not only will we be far healthier, but we’ll begin to realize what we are up against in the Sugar Wars: the ubiquity of sugar, the elevated degree of sweetness we’ve been trained to expect. Tellingly, this cuts out most of our society’s popular options: soda, juice, sugared teas, sports drinks, vitamin waters. What’s left? Water. Lots of water. More water. Milk. Unsweetened tea and coffee. And, due to its vanishingly small percentage of fructose, I hereby give you permission to include wine. You’re welcome.

Number two: read ingredients, always. We have come to a point where it has become all too clear we cannot trust the food industry to have our best interests at heart. The more packages, boxes and bags you read, the more amazed you will be at the number of things you buy, things that are not even sweet, that contain added sugar in all its myriad guises and aliases. Think you know your favorite tomato sauce? Chicken broth? Salad dressing? Cold cuts? I’d be willing to bet if you look closely, you’re going to be surprised. The good news is there’s almost always another brand, further down the shelf, thatdoesn’t contain that sneaky ingredient, if you take the time to find it.

Number three: order simply in restaurants and don’t be afraid to ask. Once you start to ask, you’ll be amazed at how much restaurant food has added sugar in it. And that’s assuming the staff even knows what’s in their own food, which is not always the case. The usual suspects? Dressings, glazes, broths, marinades and always,always the sauce.

Number four: make sugar special. Skip the crappy cookies someone brought to the office. Try having oatmeal with bananas and raisins on top instead of brown sugar. Save your sweet tooth for that oh-so-special something that’s really worth, you know, consuming a little bit of poison for.


The 250 Best Brownies, Bars and Squares – Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Recipes are everywhere – magazines, cookbooks, online, etc.  However I just can’t turn them away.  And there’s always some reason for another book – even if it’s just to discover one great recipe.  I received a review copy of The 250 Best Brownies, Bars and Squares by Esther Brody and I’ve already found my one favorite new recipe – Chocolate Chip Granola Bars.  If I only try 1 of the 250 in this book I am satisfied.

This book certainly has a variety of brownies, bars and squares.  Everything from quick dress ups for store bought mixes to layered and frosted homemade treats.  There are just enough full color photos in a center spread to make your mouth water.  And tips about baking, storing, cooling and cutting are always appreciated.  This is a good one to have for a holiday gift for someone that likes to bake or to use as inspiration to get yourself baking and gifting.  Yesterday I gave some of these yummy  bars to my daughter’s teacher on her birthday (yes, she’s 40 and fabulous), and she’s already asking for the recipe.

Warning that while these granola bars have healthy stuff like nuts, seeds and oatmeal they also have sweetened condensed milk (aka milk  with 40% sugar) and butter.  However there are some healthy and low-fat recipes in here too.

What I like about this recipe is that it can be easily changed and customized to your family’s tastes.  Cranberries or dried cherries could be substituted for raisins.   And various nuts could be substituted for peanuts.  I think next time I’ll make these nut-free by substituting some dry cereal for the peanuts so my kids can take them in their lunchbox or to a playdate.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars,

page 131, Specialty Bars & Squares

Makes 36 bars

Preheat oven to 325° F (160° C)
13- by 9-inch (3.5 L) cake pan, lined with greased foil


3 cups          old-fashioned  rolled oats 750 ml

1 cup           raisins 250 mL

1 cup           sunflower seeds 250 mL

1 cup           chopped peanuts 250 mL

1 cup           semi-sweet  chocolate chips  250 mL

1                 can (14 oz [398 mL])  sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup     butter or margarine, melted   125 mL
1.  In a bowl mix together oats, raisins, sunflower seeds, peanuts and chocolate chips. Add condensed milk and mix thoroughly. Stir in melted butter until blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

2.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Place pan on a rack to cool slightly, then transfer cake, with foil, to a cutting board and cut into bars.

Excerpted from The 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares by Esther Brody © 2013 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with publisher permission.





Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries – I Heart Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook

Sometimes I heart Trader Joe’s and sometime I do not.  This week I was not happy as TJ’s discontinued my kids’ favorite spicy spinach pizzas.  These were pizza bread rounds with a spicy cooked spinach on top.  They were great to dress up with cheese or wrap around veggies or just toast and eat plain for a quick lunch or snack.  Well they’re gone and I’m bitter.

However I do heart their vegetarian cookbook.  This is great for quick meals using their products.  Everything from breakfast items such as Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes (made quick by using their precut pineapple), to creating hearty dinners including a Classic Pot Pie (using their artisian puff pastry).  The recipes use Trader Joe’s products as short cuts however you can use your own ingredients just as well.  Not only are the ingredients bent towards a plant based vegetarian and vegan items but also are touted as budget conscious.  Who doesn’t heart that?

My family’s new favorite side dish is the Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries.  Next time I’ll try some different herbs such as sage and rosemary salt.  They were good in a quick aioli I whipped up using Veganaise, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil.  They could also be dipped in tomato sauce, pesto or catsup.


Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries

(page 46 from I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook)

1, 18 ounce log Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta (find near pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Prepare the polenta slices by cutting into 1/4 inch discs, then strips (about 3 – 4 strips per disc).  In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, garlic powder and oregano to combine.  *Gently toss the polenta with the olive oil mixture and spread in an even layer on the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake until slightly browned and crispy on the edges, 35 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Serve the fries warm with aioli.

Makes 4 servings.

*I found it easier to lay out polenta strips and use a brush to coat the oil and herbs.


200 Easy Mexican Recipes – Cookbook Review for Cinco de Mayo


Happy Cinco de Mayo!  I received 200 Easy Mexican Recipes: Authentic Recipes From Burritos to Enchiladas by Kelly Cleary Coffeen just in time.  It’s full of a variety of mexican favorites I’m sure we’ll be making, as Mexican food is very popular at my house.  I love how with a few key ingredients you can make a wide array of Mexican favorites and it easy for me to adapt these recipes to my family’s tastes and my daughter’s vegetarian needs.

I decided to make the Chopped Mexican Salad (recipe below) and while I was glad I did, the name didn’t fit the preparation.  I was expecting a salad of chopped items all mixed together.  However the recipe calls to lay out the lettuce and layer veggies and beans on top – which I’m sure is a beautiful presentation.  Since it was a “chopped” salad I chopped the lettuce and and mixed it together.  I’m sure it’s tasty either way, but I was going for speed and ease.  In order to make it more hearty I added some grilled shrimp.   I think next I’ll try the making the homemade tortillas with my kids. Stay tuned….


Pros: Lots of easy recipes for a variety of tasty, vibrant mexican classics.  Useful recipe tips of substitutions and additions to alter recipes.  Good intro of Mexican cooking techniques, equipment, ingredients and spices.

Cons: If you like colorful photos you’ll wish there were more.  Only about a dozen.  Recipe instructions may differ from others.

Chopped Mexican Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Fresh goodness and color are at the heart of this chopped salad.  A citrus marinade refreshed these chopped vegetables.  This is a wonderful vegetarian meal but can be topped with chicken or steak as well.


1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey


6 cups chopped romaine lettuce

1 can black or pinto beans rinsed and drained

1 cup chopped, peeled jicama

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 yellow or red pepper, seeded cored and diced

2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (you could substitute feta or goat)


To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, hot pepper flakes, garlic and honey.

Spread lettuce evenly across a large serving platter.  Arrange beans, jicama, corn , bell peppers, and avocado sie by side on top of lettuce. Garnish with cheese. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, for at least one hour before serving.

Drizzle with dressing before serving.






Tortillas to the Rescue Cookbook Review with Southwestern Caesar Salad Recipe

My family eats tortillas quite a bit.  Usually corn or a wheat/corn blend that we use for tacos and burritos.  However after receiving the new Tortillas to the Rescue Cookbook by Jessica Harlan, I’m definitely branching out.  Who knew tortillas could make a good spicy crouton or a cup for mexican chocolate pudding?  This is a handy guide for new foods with tortillas.  Recipes are good for quick mid-week breakfast, snacks and dinner.  Who doesn’t eat tortillas?  Tortillas are so accessible, my kids also enjoyed going through the book and getting ideas.  They were even able to help with making and assembling lots of the recipes.

My family made our own vegetarian version of the book’s Chorizo and Cojack Taquitos.  Because taquitos are generally fried I don’t think my kids have ever eaten them.  And I’ve never made them.  But these were rolled and placed on a baking sheet with a light brush of oil – so no frying.  I don’t usually buy flour tortillas so the kids were very excited.   You could stuff these with anything.  We substituted the recipe’s chorizo for vegan sausages – which worked great.  You could pick veggies or chicken or change the cheese – and they’d all be great.  These were a big hit.

With the taquitos I made the Southwestern Caesar Salad with tortilla croutons (see recipe below).  The croutons were such a hit everyone was wanting to eat them like chips before the salad was even dressed.  Kids for some reason usually like caesar salad.  I guess it’s the cheesy dressing.  This dressing was lighter and leaned toward the southwestern flavors which was nice.  I substituted veganaise for the mayonnaise.  The quantity of dressing was probably double what I needed but coincidentally we were invited to friends for a tamale dinner later in the week so I saved the dressing and made a new salad and croutons to share.


Book Review

Pros: easy recipes, creative ideas with a basic and accessible ingredient, tortilla info for storage and nutrition

Cons: no photos, may be too simple for some


Southwestern Caesar Salad from Tortillas to the Rescue by Jessica Harlan

Serves 4

Smoky Tortilla Crouons

4 small (6 inch) flour tortillas

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika teaspoon kosher salt


juice of 2 limes (about 4 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 head romaine lettuce


1. To make the tortilla croutons: Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Brush the tortillas with oil on both sides.  Cut the tortillas with a knife or pizza cutter into 1 x 2 inch strips.  Place them in a bowl and sprinkle lightly with paprika and salt, using a spatula to toss and coat evenly.  Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp about 10 – 12 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.

2. To make the salad: In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, mustard, garlic, mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese until smooth.  While whisking drizzle the oil until dressing is smooth and emulsified.  Just before serving, tear the lettuce by hand into bite size pieces and place in a serving bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing and toss to coat.  Top with tortilla croutons.


Sprinklebakes by Heather Baird – Cookbook Review (Dessert Porn)


Did that get your attention?  The best way I can describe Sprinklebakes, Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist is dessert porn.  I am not kidding.  The cover is not exciting or sexy, but the images inside are beautiful and sinful and I can’t stop looking at the book.  These are all the beautiful things I wish I could make but don’t have the creativity, time or patience.  Although I am inspired and there are some approachable recipes and ones which I hope to build my confidence and venture deeper into Heather’s artistry.  Heather has a sprinkle bakes blog, but unfortunately I can’t get any of the photos to load, so you’ll have to visit another time.

In looking at some of these pictures such as hand painted cookies (literally Mehndi Hand Cookies), sugar sculptures (Dale Chihuly-Inspired Candy Bowls) and outrageous “mixed media” creations (Anatomical Heart Cake) I try to make myself feel better in knowing that the author was a painter before turning her creative skills to sweets.  Thus her artistry may never be mine.  However I can aspire and learn from her text and instructions on color theory, brush strokes, sculpture molds, candy making and more.   In the meantime I’ll practice on her more simple but delicious recipes for tart shells, pastry creams, cupcakes and candies.


Book Review

Pros: amazing photos, comprehensive dessert cookbook for many creative and tasty recipes, thorough instructions

Cons: some recipes may be intimidating and overwhelming for some while inspirational to others,  time consuming, some items require much planning and purchasing online

I used Heather’s tart crust and pastry cream recipes and combined them to make a wonderful berry fruit tart on Memorial Day.  See my photo below.  I liked that this was using her recipes to make my own creation because I didn’t have to compete with one of her images.  And it was a big hit for looks and taste.

So my kids asked me to make it again last weekend for a friend’s dinner party and it didn’t work as well.  I don’t blame the recipe, I blame myself.  It was one of those days when there’s too much to do and you try to squeeze in making a dessert.  Do you do that too?  Yes, I was a bit ambitious for the events of the day.  I wasn’t as patient with cooking the cream, so when I went to take it out of the refrigerator it had not set properly and was quite runny.  This of course I didn’t discover until I was going to assemble the tart 15 minutes before leaving for said friends’.  We ate it anyway.  That’s what friends are for.  Kind of a shortbread cookie with berries and cream.  Still tasty, but not as lovely as Memorial Day.

Here’s the tart crust recipe which is very versatile and I will use over and over with various fillings and fruits this summer.

TART CRUST page 89 from Sprinklebakes

YIELD: Approximately 2K cups, enough for 8 to 10 small apples, 20 crab apples, or ½ pound grapesor cherries

This tart crust is remarkably easy to make and comes out perfectly every time. It takes just a couple of spins in the food processor to have beautiful buttery pastry dough.

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

3 tablespoons sugar

K teaspoon salt

½  pound (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼ -inch cubes

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 egg yolk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon water

1. Generously grease a tart pan with vegeta­ble shortening.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.

3. Add the butter and zest and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small pea-size butter lumps.

4. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and water and pulse until just incorporated and the dough begins to form large clumps.

5. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Gather the dough together and form into a ball. Flatten into a disc or rectangle, depending on what shape pan you are using.

6. Press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan in an even layer with well-floured fingers. Chill the shell for 45 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

8. Lightly prick the bottom of the shell many times with a fork, and bake until the sides are set and the edge is golden, about 20 minutes.

9. Cool the shell completely in the pan on a rack.


Chocolate Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with cooled liquid chocolate ganache. Refrigerate until set and serve with fresh whipped cream and raspber­ries.

Lemon Blueberry Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with freshly made lemon curd. Refrigerate until set. Top with fresh blueberries and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Tropical Fruit Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with vanilla pastry cream. Top with slices of kiwi, pineapple, and mango and sprinkle with toasted coconut.




Talking with My Mouth Full by Gail Simmons

Last month I went to a book signing for Top Chef judge, Gail Simmons.  She really seems like a lovely person.  In person she’s quite warm and friendly.  And now after reading her book “Talking With My Mouth Full” I feel like she’s a friend.  This is not an expose about restaurant life, ala Anthony Bourdain (though I like those too).  But it is full of cute stories and Gail’s positive attitude to create a job for herself that hadn’t yet been invented.  Remember when chefs were just the people that cooked your food?  Food didn’t become exciting (or certainly didn’t have it’s own network) until chefs became celebrities and food was elevated to art form.  Gail’s done everything in food:  cooked on the line, recipe tested, graduated from culinary school, organized major food events, journalism, and now certainly, judge and host on Top Chef.  It’s a quick and easy read that jumps around to her experiences growing up in a foodie household, to working with some of the best chefs and cooking mentors, to 2 a.m. discussions at judges table.   There’s even a few of her favorite recipes included.  Now that I read the book, I’m moving it from my bedside table to the kitchen and I’ll report back when I’ve made something…