Cookbook Gift Ideas from Local Female Portland Authors

Recently I highlighted some great food gift ideas created by women makers here in Portland. Today I wanted to highlight some awesome local female cookbook authors who recently have released cookbooks.

Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match

This cookbook Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning boasts 70 recipes that pairs together soups and breads. The book offers a lot of recipes, with inspirations from all over the world to really open new flavors in soup and bread combinations for your table. For instance, consider South Indian Sambar, or Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Soup, or Persian Yogurt, Lentil, and Bulgar Soup with Browned Herb Butter.

Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning

These are in addition to her takes on classics like Smoky San Marzano Tomato Soup, Creamy Cannellini Bean Soup with Gremolata, or Beef Barley Stew with lots of Veggies. Unique combinations for soup include Roasted Asparagus Soup with Cashew Cream,  or Pork and Hominy Stew with Roasted Anaheim Chiles, or Mussels Stew with Bacon, Cider, and Cream and more.

More then that, Ivy also just provides a lot of useful tips from all her 15 years of teaching experience, be it little tricks in prep, during cooking, for substitutions, or pairing suggestions. For instance, she put together Smoked Salmon and Celery Root Chowder with Pilot Biscuits, or try South Indian Sambar with Steamed Indian Idli.
Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning, Smoked Salmon and Celery Root Chowder with Pilot Biscuits Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning, Smoked Salmon and Celery Root Chowder with Pilot Biscuits Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning, South Indian Sambar with Steamed Indian Idli Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning, South Indian Sambar with Steamed Indian Idli

All the breads included in her book are quick-baking ones that can be made at the same time as the soups. The recipes are very clear and easy to follow. The only ding I can think of is I wish there were more photos since I feast with the eyes first and it would help inspire me towards a recipe. Plus, just look how photogenic these soups are and tell you what they are about from the image.

Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning
Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning – at a recent Feastly class featuring Ivy’s cookbook, we were greeted with her tasty and easy Blender Gazpacho. What a great way to greet guests at an event!

With winter here and the cooler weather, these soups and breads are a great investment to keep you cozy for the season and would be a great gift for yourself or others. Cool idea: gift it to a few of your friends, and then each pick different recipes and make a soup party where you all get together to share!

Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking

The restaurant Kachka has been one of my favorite in Portland for a while as I’ve shared before, and there are not many Russian cookbooks so when I heard that Bonnie Morales would be coming out with Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking, I was so super excited. It’s been incredible how the food of the Cold War countries that was once an embarrassment in the youth of many Soviet immigrants is now being celebrated and shared. I’m glad the traditions are being continued and recipes continue to live.
Kachka cookbook Kachka dumplings

The cookbook goes beyond what I hoped, including a section on how to shop at a Russian market (I love how she admits we can gaze at all the chocolates but not to buy any!) and gives instructions on how to infuse your own vodka (including their famous horseradish vodka) and more cocktail combinations such as beet gin, caraway rye whiskey, Bloody Masha (version of Bloody Mary including fun ingredients like caraway, coriander, dill and more), Black/White Russian, and more. Sure, there are lots of recipes (and some of them are a bit involved), but she makes sure to also wrap those recipes with lots of anecdotes and history to give context about the culture as well.
Kachka beet infused libation Kachka Bloody Masha with horseradish vodka, caraway, coriander, dill, garnish

For anyone who doesn’t have the ability to go dine at Kachka like I do, gift this to a few of your friends and put together a cookbook club to make these recipes happen, working on them together or bringing them together to make your own Russian feast.

Portland Cooks

The food scene in Portland had been captured by author Danielle Centoni in her book Portland Cooks. She has gathered interviews and recipes from 40 places in Portland, varying from stars like Gregory Gourdet of Departure, Tyler Malek of Salt and Straw and Earl Nissom of Langbaan, up and comers like Maya Lovelace of Mae or to classics from restaurants that are tried and true like Andina, Besaw’s, Mother’s Bistro, Park Kitchen, and The Country Cat and more. You’ll find Broder’s famous Aebelskivers, and Ataula’s Salt Cod Croquettes.
Broder for the aebelskivers with lingonberry Ataula Croquetas - salt-cod fritters, smoked piquillo aioli
It really is an impressive list, and great for a foodie friend or friend who loves to cook. If you have a friend who used to live in Portland and misses particular restaurants, this could also be a good gift to give them a taste of home.
Portland Cooks

Other books for your consideration:

What other cookbooks may I have missed that you would recommend me checking it?

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Dark Matter Book Review

Recently while traveling for work, I read a book by Blake Crouch (also the author of the Wayward Pines trilogy that the recent TV show was based off) and so here is my Dark Matter Book Review. I don’t want to spoil too much, but generally I can reveal it is about a man who is forced to explore the alternate path of life not taken. The description copy reads

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

I had a little impatience since I knew that was the setup for it to happen and it takes a couple chapters for the character, who is supposed to be smart and a background in science, but at the beginning seemed more like the average joe. He didn’t seem to do a lot of analysis, just guesses and gut reacts at first, and we’re left following along, thinking more critically then he is. Finally there is a snapping point which causes him to process and plan more proactively, and I think this is when the book hit its stride as he finally catches up to the audience of more actively evaluating his situation and trying to do something about it.

It is an interesting ride – and there is one twist I was not expecting that adds additional questions. It’s not a slow book – honestly in that regard it almost feels ready made to drop into a movie in it’s pacing that keeps you moving along. In fact, Blake is currently writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures for a movie version I heard. And, there’s some cursory sci-fi explanation that it doesn’t matter if you really understand or not but is there to make it all sound plausible enough.

The only slight disappointment I had was I expected the protagonist to explore the philosophical questions a little more deeply. Yet, I was also happy that it didn’t get bogged down into long discourse that belabors a point. The fact it at least acknowledges the thought provoking questions instead of just being straight action, and that the author takes time to add small anecdotes for the hero to reminisce (this helps to firmly establish his motivation that carries him through all that he must experience), both of these help make the protagonist someone anyone can relate to and root for.

It was great reading for travel since the short chapters gave me good break points but also kept me engrossed. It’s an intriguing premise and journey that the book takes you on as a reader, and even if it is not perfect it is worth it as both a thriller to entertain you, as well as opening you up to consider and ponder some of those questions about life paths even after you finish the read.

Disclosure: This book was provided to me as part of the Blogging for Books program, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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My Review of Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

My review of Cravings by Chrissy Teigen is that it delivers on exactly what it promises in it’s title and cover. There’s plenty of photos that look Instagram ready, per someone who has such a social media following. There’s plenty of her enthusiastic foodie voice – that is, Chrissy is not a trained culinary professional, or in the food industry – she just LOVES food openly and unabashedly. And, her writing on every page is evidence of that love of all things delicious.
Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

The recipes vary over a wide range except for dessert. She and I are alike in that way of preferring savory foods especially our love of cheese or cream and eggs to sweets. The recipes are very homey that are a combination of things you would expect in a family, inherited from various people and passed down because people like it for everyday meals.

  • 11 things for breakfast, and I think it’s completely Chrissy’s fault that for the past couple months I’m in a breakfast craving period – I usually go straight to dinner type dishes, but this summer I’m all about breakfast and brunch dishes and lots of eggs. You’ll soon see because starting next Friday I have a whole Best PDX Breakfast Sandwich series I’m kicking off!
  • 7 soups,
    Cravings by Chrissy Teigen cookbook, recipe for Pot Pie Soup with Crust Crackers
  • 9 hearty salads,
  • 14 recipes under noodles and carbs,
  • 6 recipes of homemade Thai stuff from her mom Pepper in a “Thai Mom” section, which I adore her mom-love and that thsi section includes some unusual Thai choices – not Pad Thai or Fried Rice but Jok Moo (Thai Pork and Rice Porridge) and Pepper’s Pork-Stuffed Cucumber Soup
    Cravings by Chrissy Teigen cookbook, recipe for Pepper's Pork Stuffed Cucumber Soup
  • 15 of stuff for parties,
  • 8 short recommendations for stuff on toast on a two page spread,
  • 9 vegetable dishes,
  • 6 “things that intimidate people but shouldn’t”,
  • 17 dinner entrees.

The recipes themselves generally focus on not being healthy, but being crave-worthy – often tasting rich. A recipe for Cheesy Cheeseless Scrambled Eggs with burst cherry tomatoes uses 12 eggs and 1/2 cup of cream and blistered cherry tomatoes to make a rich tasting egg but distribute it over a big dish for many people. Same goes for her party dish of Steak Bites with Melty Blue Cheese Butter that pairs 1/2 pound of NY strip steak and 2 ounces of blue cheese to serve 4-6, or a trick of substituting potatoes with Cauliflower Mash with Roasted Garlic and Ricotta so it is still creamy and garlicky.
Cravings by Chrissy Teigen cookbook recipe, Pull Apart Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Then there are the recipes that just don’t care. The same breakfast section yielded her Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs that are decadent with a cup of Parmigiano Reggiano and 1/2 heavy heavy cream for two servings of 2 eggs each for brunch. But damn if that wasn’t incredibly tasty. One of her soups is a Pot Pie Soup with Crust Crackers with multiple sticks of butter and 1/4 pound of deli ham and a pound of skinless rotisserie chicken meat. Her Chrissy’s Mac and Cheese with Cheesy Garlic Bread Crumbs boasts 3 cups each of grated cheddar and Gruyere or Swiss cheese *plus* 16 slices of American cheese.

Some recipes you can only trust must be incredible because how else would you come up with combos like Cheesy Jalapeno Tuna Casserole with Potato Chip Topping, or Yellow Cake Baked Oatmeal (with yellow cake box mix and oats and raspberries and peaches) or French Toast Casserole with Salted Frosted Flakes.
Cravings by Chrissy Teigen cookbook recipe, Yellow Cake Baked Oatmeal

The best part of this cookbook is her voice in how she isn’t afraid to be dorky about her food love. If you are into that type of voice rather than a knowledgeable one with lots of tips and tricks or history to a dish, and into a mix of recipes that are a bit all over the place, then you will think this cookbook is fun and enjoy it.

And, I really appreciate how amazing some of the food porn photos are. I eat with my eyes a lot and so it really encourages to make so many of these recipes.

Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs Recipe

Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs Recipe adapted from Cravings cookbook by Chrissy Teigen. I like it as sobering up food/get over a drinking night food over leftover rice like shown here
The recipe I’ve made most often from her book is the  creamy parmesan skillet eggs that are decadent with a cup of Parmigiano Reggiano and 1/2 heavy heavy cream for two servings of 2 eggs each for brunch. The change I made is that I took out her call for salt, as I think the cheese already adds a level of saltiness to it. This is currently my new hungover/drinking night recovery breakfast meal. The whole thing takes only 15 minutes so that relief for an upset stomach of alcohol is fast.

My favorite way to serve this is generally on top of leftover rice from some Asian delivery (usually Chinese – soften the rice, usually about 2-3 cups worth, in the pan for a few minutes with a sprinkling of water over it and set aside before making the eggs). She recommends dividing the recipe in half to make it in two 6 inch skillets to serve two people, mainly because it looks cute presentation wise. I don’t care about presentation and just make it all together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup finely grated or shredded Parmigiano – Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspooon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste as desired
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  • In a bowl, combine the 1 cup of grated or shredded Parmigiano – Reggiano, and 1/2 cup heavy cream, and teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and mix. I’ve done this with both the grated and shredded Parmesan – if you want it a bit more creamy, the grated Parmesan is the way to go. If you want a more solid almost like a soft cheese crispy, use the grated. You’ll be able to see both photos shortly of what it looks like finished…
  • In a 12 inch pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, add in your cheese and cream mix and wait until the mixture is bubbling all the way through.
    Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs Recipe adapted from Cravings cookbook by Chrissy Teigen. I like it as sobering up food/get over a drinking night food over leftover rice like shown here
  • Crack the 4 eggs into the skillet and cook a few minutes until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. I use a silicone spatula to loosen the bottom to make sure it is firm – you should see a bit of a caramelized crust from the cheese and cream under the eggs.
    Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs Recipe adapted from Cravings cookbook by Chrissy Teigen. I like it as sobering up food/get over a drinking night food over leftover rice like shown here
  • Remove from heat and serve in the skillet or pour the entire hot mess over rice on a platter. Top with more black pepper and chopped fresh thyme.

To the left, you can see the recipe with grated Parmesan, to the right is my version with grated Parmesan which you see has a more solid cheese layer that is a bit crispy at the edges.
Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs Recipe adapted from Cravings cookbook by Chrissy Teigen. I like it as sobering up food/get over a drinking night food over leftover rice like shown here Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs Recipe adapted from Cravings cookbook by Chrissy Teigen. I like it as sobering up food/get over a drinking night food over leftover rice like shown here

Do you know who Chrissy Teigen is? What do you think of some of the dishes she includes are recipes in her book that I have mentioned? What’s your go to food in the morning after a big drinking night to settle your stomach?

Disclosure: This book was provided to me as part of the Blogging for Books program, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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Book Review of Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

This is my book review of Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, her second book after Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Most of you might have recognized Mindy from her show The Mindy Project, which had a 3 season run on Fox before being canceled/saved by being picked up by Hulu.

In the show, Mindy plays a character living in New York who is a ob/gyn doctor – smart, urban, and single. She’s looking for love and getting herself into situations through her charming but strong and slightly overbearing drive to be liked and impress people. She’s found a career that suits her and that she enjoys, and is confident enough to be independent and make choices. But like most any woman, she also feels a need to over-analyze herself and the world around her and still search because she doesn’t feel like she has enough to be happy yet. Unlike any woman though, she doesn’t filter herself so that we can hear her say some of the crazy things that sometimes may come to our mind but we never voice, and she will actually act and carry through to it’s conclusion some hilarious or sarcastic interpretation taken seriously.

Now, the Mindy on the show is a character – it’s not actually Mindy Kaling’s personality. But, you can definitely feel some of the inspiration as you read her voice in the essays comprising the book. There is a chapter on the pressure to constantly look good and the funny extremes that might be taken to make that happen, a chapter on the frustration of dating a man sending mixed messages, a chapter on how she is being very reasonable on what she is looking in a man and shares her list of what she hopes for but then adds lots of qualifiers to each characteristic that started off so laid back.

On the other hand, Mindy also reveals some parts about herself that her character has never expressed. There’s a chapter devoted to how women become fast very close soulmate friends and then the drifting apart, and another chapter on the other side where you are phased out suddenly. Although there’s humor in the way she treats the subject, there are also clever observations about this reality.

There’s a chapter covering the story of the journey she experienced to get her show, and another chapter on what it is like to be her for 24 hours as she’s working. There’s commentary on the main hot tropes for TV network shows. And there’s a fun back and forth pretend correspondence telling the story of her favorite kind of romance with a Mr. Darcy type and her own version of a cross of Elizabeth Bennett and 21st century neurotic Northwest US urban woman in the setting of them being teachers at a private school.

What makes this book work is that there is heart behind the cheerful banter and jokes as well. She strikes a great balance between exaggeration and humor with sincerity and some truth, all without making it sound like she’s trying too hard. Mentions of fretting if all the hair in the shower drain means she’ll need a wig, and then where will she keep them because of all her shoes needing space are listed… Those are in the same couple pages as her worrying about forgetting the sound of her mother’s voice, whether she really has anything to say, or if she has too much to say and not enough time. As she jokes that a great thing to bring to her dinner party would be an enormous vintage diamond engagement ring that you use to propose to her, she also mentions simply ” an old picture of us you found.”

The energy in her chatty writing balances a lot of confidence with self depreciation but not too much of either.  Each chapter is short and a fast read, and even if they are not laugh out loud funny, they are all entertaining.

Disclosure: This book was provided to me as part of the Blogging for Books program, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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Book Review of Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

For October the book club selected reading is Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson and Veronica Chambers (chosen by Amanda of Omar Niode Foundation).

I found this Chef memoir surprisingly different in that Marcus from the start had such a unique perspective. His journey starts with the circumstances of becoming an orphan in Ethiopia to his adoption and warmth of his family in Sweden to his journey in joining the culinary kitchen world through Europe and then his immigration to the US via his entry point of New York City.

His viewpoint is different from other chefs in that he doesn’t come off as a work hard party hard type of person, even as a young man. He does hang out with friends and there are mistakes –  including life changing ones. He humbly works hard –  he’s extremely driven all his life to strive to be the best – and pays his dues as he learns and strives. You often will find yourself more frustrated for some of what he goes through in obstacles then it seems he does  –  from the screaming chefs above him to paying his life savings to own his name again.

His start as an aspiring athlete in his youth keeps him off of drugs and gives him an incredible discipline and ethic I don’t often see in Chef memoir –  maybe because he can remember more clearly than others. At the same time, Marcus has always during his life been aware of his outsider status –  both railing against it and discrimination against his skin while also accepting and embracing it.

Marcus is great in particular in being able to step outside a situation to see the why behind the actions of people, good and bad. As he travels and explores new cities and new kitchens, he is always observant of the patterns and connections.  He does talk about food, but even more so he shows how food is a connector to all people and it echoes his own desires to communicate himself and cultures of people through the food he creates.


My only minus is that the book seemed to putter out at the end –  maybe the events are too recent and fresh to have gotten as much reflection as earlier in the book. He spends a lot more detail about people from his earlier days than those in his current such as the surprising lack of story of falling in love with his wife versus during kitchen peers during his apprenticeships in his youth.

But overall, my book review of Yes Chef cam be summarized as that his stories of his struggles and efforts –  the journey to success when he became his own man after Top Chef and opened his own restaurant –  are a worthwhile stories to know about finding your place in the world and perseverance.

If you are interested in the online book club the Kitchen Reader, the gist of our casual club is there is a new book selected for every month, each book is related to food, and members write a review on their blog during the last week of that month.

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