Tuesday, June 30, 2015

99 Favorite Amish Recipes by Georgia Varozza (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

I am always game to thumb through a book full of Amish recipes. I have looked through plenty over the years and sometimes I am thoroughly disappointed in the overuse of convenience items.  When I think of the Amish, I think of times gone by where people made real food and those are the types of recipes I want to find in Amish cookbooks. There are a couple of recipes in 99 Favorite Amish Recipes that use convenience foods (it seems that in almost every Amish cookbook I have read there is at least one recipe featuring Velveeta, so I guess we "English" people do not have a monopoly on the addicting fake cheese!) but overall I was very satisfied by the recipes. There are very few recipes in this book that I wouldn't try and I think my entire family would happily devour each and every recipe happily. Many of these recipes could utilize leftovers from a previous meal, which just screams "Amish" to me- how resourceful! If you like comfort food and easy, wholesome meals you can effortlessly make at home, this is definitely a cookbook that you will want to check out!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Miracles From Heaven by Christy Wilson Beam (Book Reviews)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

In a remarkable true story of faith and blessings, a mother tells of her sickly young daughter, how she survived a dangerous accident, her visit to Heaven and the inexplicable disappearance of the symptoms of her chronic disease.

Annabel Beam spent most of her childhood in and out of hospitals with a rare and incurable digestive disorder that prevented her from ever living a normal, healthy life. One sunny day when she was able to go outside and play with her sisters, she fell three stories headfirst inside an old, hollowed-out tree, a fall that may well have caused death or paralysis. Implausibly, she survived without a scratch. While unconscious inside the tree, with rescue workers struggling to get to her, she visited heaven. After being released from the hospital, she defied science and was inexplicably cured of her chronic ailment. 
Miracles From Heaven will change how we look at the world around us and reinforce our belief in God and the afterlife.

My thoughts-

The last few years have seen an influx of stories about people having near death experiences and their stories of visiting Heaven and coming back. I have read several of them and they are always captivating. Miracles From Heaven was enthralling as well, but for other reasons. Beam's young daughter Annabel also had a near death experience, but her story is  little different. There are mentions of her seeing Heaven, but it is a very small part of her story. This story is more about miracles here on Earth. Beam takes us through their story by interweaving the day of a freak accident with the many years of dealing with a chronic illness. It is crazy to read exactly the Beams went through prior to the accident and what happens afterwards. Miracles From Heaven is a captivating and heartwarming story on a family's journey to healing. I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys reading uplifting memoirs. 

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

When high school senior Kelsey's identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn't know about the tragedy is Michelle's boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can't bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.

As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want.

Lara Avery delivers a breathtaking story of love and loss that is guaranteed to break your heart and sweep you off your feet.

My thoughts-

The premise of A Million Ways was just so interesting, I absolutely had to know what happened. I am a mother of twins, although they are many years younger,  so stories about twins are intriguing to me. I liked the aspect about Peter being in the military and deployed to Afghanistan as well and kind of wanted to see how the thing with Kelsey would play out. I couldn't put the book down and read it in just a couple of days. It is a very quick read and I can empathize with Kelsey to some extent, but the deeper in she got, the more I didn't understand why she would let it get that far. Grief does crazy things to people though, and I imagine especially to an identical twin. Overall, I thought it was a good story, but I thought it wrapped up a little too neatly to be believable. It wasn't at all what I would have expected to happen.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Young Adult fiction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Franklin Barbecue- A Meat-Smoking Manifesto

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are 100% my own. 

About the book-

A complete meat- and brisket-cooking education from the country's most celebrated pitmaster and owner of the wildly popular Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue--winner of Texas Monthly's coveted Best Barbecue Joint in Texas award.

When Aaron Franklin and his wife, Stacy, opened up a small barbecue trailer on the side of an Austin, Texas, interstate in 2009, they had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into. Today, Franklin Barbecue has grown into the most popular, critically lauded, and obsessed-over barbecue joint in the country (if not the world)—and Franklin is the winner of every major barbecue award there is.
In this much-anticipated debut, Franklin and coauthor Jordan Mackay unlock the secrets behind truly great barbecue, and share years’ worth of hard-won knowledge. Franklin Barbecue is a definitive resource for the backyard pitmaster, with chapters dedicated to building or customizing your own smoker; finding and curing the right wood; creating and tending perfect fires; sourcing top-quality meat; and of course, cooking mind-blowing, ridiculously delicious barbecue, better than you ever thought possible.

My thoughts-

If you live in the south, chances are you take your barbeque very seriously! If you live in Texas, Franklin Barbecue is likely your mecca of barbecue establishments. People line up in the early morning to eat this guys stuff, that is how good it is! Those of us that don't live nearby in Austin, but like to visit the city, will make it a point to include Frankllin Barbeque as a food stop on their trip. As you can imagine, my husband and I were stoked when we saw that Aaron Franklin decided to share his bbq secrets in a book! This is not a book full of typical backyard bbq recipes, although there are absolutely plenty of recipes to be found here- Franklin Barbeque- A Meat-Smoking Manifesto is a book full of thorough information for someone who has mastered typical backyard barbequing and is ready to perfect their barbeque game. There are tips for what kind of equipment you need, as well as the best way to smoke your meat and instructions (pictures included) on how to cut and season everything. There is also some back story on the king himself, Aaron Franklin. This book would make a fantastic gift for the man in your life who loves to grill. If you aren't able to make a trip to Texas to taste Franklin's barbeque (although I highly recommend you do!) then you can make it in your own backyard!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-


Dine like Draper and Drink like Sterling with More Than 70 Recipes from the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants Seen on Mad Men
Ever wish you could mix an Old Fashioned just the way Don Draper likes it? Or prepare Oysters Rockefeller and a martini the way they did fifty years ago at one of Roger Sterling’s favorite haunts, The Grand Central Oyster Bar? Ever wonder how Joan Harris manages to prepare a perfect crown roast in her tiny apartment kitchen? Or about the connection between Jackie Kennedy’s 1962 White House tour and Betty Draper’s Valentine’s Day room service order?

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook serves up more than 70 recipes to satisfy a Mad Men appetite! From the tables of Manhattan’s most legendary restaurants and bars to the Drapers’ Around the World dinner, this book is your entree to the culinary world of Man Men-era New York.

Packed with period detail, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook provides invaluable historical and cultural context for the food and drink featured in the show, tips on throwing a successful ’60s cocktail party, and even a guide to favored Mad Men hangouts. Every recipe inside is authentic to the time.

Whether you’re planning a Mad Men-themed dinner party, need to mix up some authentic Mad Men cocktails, or just can’t get enough of the show itself, this is your essential resource, a guide to all foods and drinks Mad Men. So hang up your coat, pour yourself a cocktail, and get ready to dine like Draper and drink like Sterling with The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.

Includes a color photo insert of 16 dishes, plus additional black and white photos and other images of bars, restaurants, and food advertisements from the 1960s.

Sample Recipes:

* Playboy Whiskey Sour
* Sardi’s Steak Tartar
* Connie’s Waldorf Salad
* Sal’s Spaghetti and Meatballs
* Pat Nixon’s Date Nut Bread
* Lindy’s Cherry Cheesecake

My thoughts- 

When Mad Men first aired, I was so excited that there was a show set in a really cool time period. I enjoy historical settings and the 50's and 60's are a little under-represented in contemporary television. Mad Men made a huge impact on people and i think that is part of the reason. Many of our grandparents grew up during this time period and, for me, that makes this cookbook even cooler. I could imagine my grandma making some of these recipes in her youth. The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook if full of great recipes that might have been mentioned on the show or that could have been consumed by the Draper family. There is also a great section at the beginning full of classic cocktails with tons of information on what kind of glasses you would need and how to mix drinks. This cookbook is full of everything you need to through a Mad Men themed party or even just a 50/60's themed dinner party. Even if you are not a fan of the show, if you have any interest in cooking or cocktail making or just the time period in general, you will enjoy The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

Monday, June 15, 2015

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

From the acclaimed author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do comes a breathtaking new novel about a young woman whose fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame; in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results.

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.

My thoughts-

My family and I had the wonderful privileged of taking a week long vacation on the gorgeous shores of Cape Cod. We enjoyed a lot of time on the beach and as a result, I got a lot of reading in. Maybe in Another Life was the first book I reached for during our beach vacation and it didn't take long at all for me to read it. I was quite taken with the premise, I loved the idea of two alternate realities that stemmed from one single decision because it is so true, every decision we make could possibly alter the path of our futures. As I was reading the two stories, I found myself rooting for one story in particular, but I also liked how the other one turned out. I loved how each story had some of the same things happen and all of the same cast of characters show up! Maybe in Another Life is the perfect summer beach read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction.

Maybe in Another Life will be available July 7, 2015. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.com.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

The Plain Choice by Sherry Gore (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book- 

Raised in a broken family and emotionally overlooked, Sherry Gore grew up without a solid foundation, a prisoner of her own poor choices, and at times without hope. A series of terrible mistakes left her feeling wrecked and alone and a sudden tragedy threw Sherry into an emotional tailspin too powerful to escape.
Sherry hangs by a thread, unable to see how she can go on living, until it happens: on a morning of no particular significance, she walks into a church and BAM- the truth of Jesus' forgiving love shatters her world and cleaves her life in two: She goes to bed stunned; she wakes up a Christian.
Unwilling to return to the darkness of her former life, Sherry attacks her faith head on. Soon the life Sherry Gore remakes for herself and her children as she seeks to follow the teachings of the Bible features head coverings, simple dress, and a focus on Jesus Christ. Only then does she realize, in a fit of excitement, that there are others like her. They are called Amish and Mennonite, and she realizes she has found her people.
The plain choice that Sherry makes is not easy – and life still brings unexpected pain and heartache - but it changes everything for her, as she becomes one of the few people on earth to have successfully joined the Amish from the outside.
She has found her place. And her story proves that one can return from the darkest depths to the purest light with the power of God.
My thoughts- 
I find the Amish to be simply fascinating. I think we could learn a lot from their deep rooted sense of community and their strong faith. It isn't often that you hear of an outsider deciding to join the church with no familial Amish ties, but Sherry Gore did just that. Her story is equally as interesting. She shares her testimony and what led her to the Amish church and community beginning with a troubled childhood from a broken home through a tumultuous time as an adult living homeless on the beach, Sherry is open and honest about where she has been and where she is now. I found it intriguing to read Sherry's story and how she made her way into the Amish community she now lives in. Sherry lived a lot of her young life feeling unwelcome, even among her on family, so it makes sense that she would seek out a community that is there for each other, family or not, they lean on each other. It is always encouraging to read testimonies of people coming to faith, but Sherry's testimony will take you beyond that feeling. As you read her biography, you will feel sad for her in times of loneliness and peril, but as she realizes she has found exactly where she belongs, you will rejoice with her over the pure joy of finding God and knowing exactly where she is meant to be. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about other people, who like reading biographies or who are interested in the Amish. The Plain Choice will be available for purchase on August 25, 2015. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Blue Ribbon Canning by Linda J. Amendt (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Blue Ribbon Canning takes readers on a canning journey and celebrates two American traditions--preserved food and state fairs--with more than 140 prize-winning recipes for jams, preserves, pickles, vegetables, fruit, and more, plus tips and methods for making delicious--and safe--blue ribbon recipes at home.

My thoughts-

Last summer when the canning stuff went on clearance at Target, I bought a lot of stuff! I have always wanted to can, but the whole idea of it is so overwhelming to me. I love Blue Ribbon Canning. It breaks down all of the information you need to know to safely can food. I am most excited about all the jams, jellies and preserve recipes- many of them are not your typical recipes and sound delicious to me. In addition, the book also includes all other types of canning recipes you could possibly think of- vegetables, condiments, fruit butters and syrups, and salsas. Another aspect I loved about this book were the little spotlight pages of different people throughout the United States who participate (and many times, win) in canning competitions at their local state fairs...As a Texan, I was excited to see several people highlighted from my area, but it was also fun to read about people from other parts of the country. I am hoping to get started on my canning adventure soon, I still think I might try to take a class before I begin, but I think Blue Ribbon Canning is filled with every bit of knowledge you need to get starting with canning.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Virtious (Movie Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the movie from Edify Media in exchange for my honest thoughts. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the movie-

When a young woman, Simone Burner (singer/songwriter, Brandy Allison), is accused of murdering the man who assaulted her, she seeks out the help of attorney Jack Evans (Erik Estrada) to prove her innocence. A ruthless and corrupt prosecutor engages her in a trial that brings the past she has longed to escape to the forefront of her defense. Virtuous will inspire and ignite you to live the principles of Proverbs 31 faith, integrity, wisdom and honor.

My thoughts-

Virtuous begins with the assault and subsequent murder that takes place that Simone stands trial for. Throughout the movie, little pieces of her past are revealed and the trial for the man that was murdered takes place. Even though the movie focuses on Simone, we get to know several of the other characters and the things going on in their lives. It was a fast paced movie that focuses on faith and honesty. Fans of Erik Estrada will be thrilled to see him here as Simone's lawyer. The rest of the movie is rounded out with an equally talented cast. I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys faced paced movies or stories about redemption.

Virtuous is available now at retailers nationwide.

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Watch the Virtuous movie trailer below-

The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Apple Cookbook features 140 recipes, sweet and savory, easy and delicious, featuring America's favorite fruit in dishes perfect for every meal. Try Apple Cheddar Crepes, Apple Ring Fritters, Apple Banana Bread, Iced Apple Tea, Curried Chicken Salad, Grilled Tuna with Apple Chutney, Cider-Braised Chicken, Pork Chops with Apple Cream Sauce, French Apple Tart, Apple Turnovers, Peach and Apple Pie, Apple Lemon Cake, Apple Blackberry Crisp, and Pumpkin-Apple Pie.

My thoughts-

One of my absolute favorite foods to bake with is apples. There is just something about an apple that is versatile and translates well to so many different dishes. I will admit that I haven't ventured far beyond the usual baking when using apples in my dishes, so the idea of an apple cookbook really intrigued me. The Apple Cookbook is full of 125 delicious recipes ranging breakfast to dinner to, of course, dessert. There are dishes in here I never would have thought of but absolutely work (spinach, with leek, bacon and apple as a side dish? Yes, please!). There really isn't a recipe in here that doesn't sound mouth watering to me. My family loved the curried chicken salad and enjoyed the homemade applesauce recipe.  I also can't wait to make the apple kabobs for a sweet summer treat for my kids very soon! If you enjoy cooking and want to add a healthy does of vitamins and fiber in your diet, this cookbook my be just the book for you!

Chowderland by Brooke Dojny (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Creamy Clam Chowder. Portuguese Caldo Verde Chowder. Northwest Salmon Chowder with Leeks and Peas. Double Corn Summer Chowder. Brooke Dojny offers 57 recipes for chowders of all kinds -- some made with seafood, some with meat, and some with just veggies -- plus side dishes, salads, and desserts to round out the menu. Whether you’re looking for a hearty meal on a cozy winter evening or a fresh gumbo perfect for a summer lunch, you’ll turn to this delicious collection again and again!

My thoughts-

I live in the south, so coming across chowder is a rarity, but earlier this year while my family and I were at Costco, we came across a sample of clam chowder. My 7 year old daughter fell in love, so I bought a couple of containers of it for her and soon had to by another couple of containers. Then one day, a few months later, the chowder was gone! I have never seen it at Costco again. Ever since then, I have been on a mission to find a good clam chowder recipe so I can satisfy my daughter's hunger for this northern staple. Chowderland not only has a recipe for clam chowder but so many other chowders that I had no idea even existed. My extent of chowder knowledge begins and ends with  clam chowder and corn chowder so this is an exciting cookbook for me since I am always looking for new things to try! I love that there are many different types of chowder, and also some side dishes, salads and desserts to go along with them. There are so many good recipes waiting to be made, I absolutely can't wait to try so many of them!