SHEET PAN by Kate McMillan

March 26, 2017

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Delicious Recipes for Hands-Off Meals

Sheet pan cooking is the latest trend I’ve noticed and there are several new cookbooks out or coming out. Recently released are 150 Recipes in a 13×9 Pan by Gooseberry Patch; One-Pan Wonders from Cook’s Country; One Pan & Done by  Molly Gilbert; and Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark (Clark is one of the food writers for the NY Times, and I’m hoping to get my hands on this one soon for review.)

Sheet Pan is a smaller, hard cover cookbook with nice, heavy paper and great photos that are perfect for inspiration. The chapters:

Easy & Delicious One-Pan Meals
Sheet-pan basics

The first thing that caught my eye was “Garlicky Shrimp with Asparagus Fries and Meyer Lemon Aioli.” I didn’t have asparagus but zucchini, squash or mushrooms were suggested as substitutes. I had just gotten some zucchini in my CSA box so that was perfect.  I also had just picked up a bag of Meyer lemons at Trader Joes – when I see them, I buy them because they have a short growing season. I actually have a Meyer lemon tree in my yard but usually only get 2-3 fruit each year. It’s a baby tree, no taller than me yet so we are hopeful that as it grows it will fruit more. But I digress.

I was a little nervous about overcooking the shrimp and/or undercooking the zucchini so I put the zucchini fries in the hot oven for five minutes or so before I added the shrimp. It was a quick dinner to put together, about 10 minutes prep time and 12 minutes cooking and it was really delicious, my family loved it. And by lining the pan with parchment paper, cleanup was a breeze.

Not all the recipes are that quick. “Pork Chops with Apricots, Red Cabbage & Blue Cheese” takes about 15 minutes prep and cooks for 40 minutes or so. “Stuffed Eggplant Three Ways” takes about 25 minutes or so in the oven, “Roasted Caesar Salad with Salmon” only 15 minutes and “Vegetable Pizza Tarts” made with frozen puff pastry takes about 20 minutes.

I don’t mind if all I have to do is wait, that still seems like an easy dinner to me. And again, clean up is only one pan – and that’s why people are loving these sheet pan cookbooks. I work full time and I love to cook, but cleaning up is not fun so I really appreciate how easy it is to only have to deal with one pan.

This is a great cookbook for anyone who likes to cook but maybe doesn’t have all that much time or energy, especially after working all day. I made this tart but subbed green onion for the leeks, used creminis, and almonds for the hazelnuts. It was really good and really easy. Try it yourself — 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a 17.3-oz/490-g package), thawed
5 ounces (155 g) Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, white and pale parts thinly sliced
¼ lb (125 g) white mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced
4½ tablespoons (70 ml) olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg beaten with
1 tablespoon water
¾ lb (375 g) haricots verts, trimmed
¼ cup (11/4 oz/40 g)
hazelnuts, roughly chopped


1 Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

2 On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 121/2-by-15-inch (32-by-38-cm)
rectangle. Fold into thirds, transfer to the prepared pan, and unfold, positioning the dough so there will be
room for the haricots verts on the pan. Fold over about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of each side of the dough to create a border.

3 Sprinkle the dough with the cheese, leaving the borders uncovered. In a bowl, toss together the leeks,
mushrooms, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the cheese. Brush the borders with the egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.

4 In a bowl, toss together the haricots verts and the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on the pan next to the tart. Continue baking until the tart is golden brown and the haricots verts are fork-tender, about 15 minutes longer. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the hazelnuts over the haricots verts.

5 Let the tart cool slightly, then cut into slices and serve the haricots verts on the side.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SHEET PAN by Kate McMillan. Weldon Owen (January 3, 2017). ISBN 978-1681881379. 112p.


February 13, 2017

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115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life

So as every dieter in America probably knows, Oprah bought a chunk of Weight Watchers and is selling the diet like crazy. This cookbook (that has no other name on it!) is the 2017 early entry in the diet cookbook market.

This is part memoir, part cookbook with charming handwritten notes strewn throughout. Oh, and Weight Watcher points attached to every recipe.

There are a wide variety of recipes, from several soups including tomato, Mulligatawny and Turkey Chili to fun things like Skinny Cornbread and Art Smith’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken. There’s even a version of Daniel Boulud’s famous potato crusted sea bass; in Oprah’s world, Daniel isn’t mentioned but then again that’s not unusual.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: When I know Better, I do Better
Soup is Love
What are You Really Hungry For?
The Faith of a Mustard Seed
A World of Possibility
A Healthy Indulgence
Greens, Glorious Greens
Epilogue: Finding a New Path on My Journey With Food
A note about Weight Watchers SmartPoints
Meet the Chefs*

*So this was my ah-ha moment! Oprah is known for many things but cooking is not one of them. So while she is listed as the only author, and none of the recipes would lead you to think anyone other than Oprah created them, this page near the very back of the book, Meet the Chefs, tell a slightly different story. So let’s meet them:

Eduardo Chavez (sexy drinks)
Rosie Daley (previous author of another Oprah diet cookbook and contributor of the Peppered Tuna recipe)
Taryn Huebner (Turkey Burger)
Mei Lin (Top Chef winner and Turkey Lasagna recipe)
Art Smith (Unfried Chicken & Fried Chicken)
Sonny Sweetman (Halibut a la Grecque)

And that’s all the credit anyone is given, which irritates me just the tiniest bit. But I digress.

The recipes are all interesting and mostly healthy. Along the bottom of each recipe is the prep time, cook time, number of servings, the Weight Watchers smart points, and calories, making it easy to figure out whether or not you want to make something.

The best part of the book, to me, is the personal stuff. The pictures of Oprah and her family and friends, especially sitting around the table, and all her handwritten comments (in teacher perfect handwriting?) make this book worth buying. The healthy recipes are a nice bonus.




2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FOOD, HEALTH & HAPPINESS by Oprah Winfrey. Flatiron Books; 1 edition (January 3, 2017). ISBN 978-1250126535. 240p.

COOK KOREAN! by Robin Ha

January 28, 2017
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A Comic Book with Recipes

I loved Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley, which came out a few years ago, but never really expected to find another graphic novel with recipes. I was wrong. Apparently graphic novel cookbooks are now a thing.

There was a really interesting article on about it, Why Cookbooks are Looking More Like Comicbooks. They point out:

But comic cookbooks can do something for home cooks, too — make recipes less daunting and easier to follow. Cookbooks are still in demand, but many — with their overly aspirational food photography — wind up as coffee-table books for the kitchen.

An interesting point, for sure. And click through to an older article, The Golden Era of Food Comics is Happening Right Now. Also interesting.

When I heard about Cook Korean!, I knew I had to take a look at it. I don’t know a lot about Korean food. Korean BBQ restaurants are around, and kimchi is hugely popular pretty much everywhere now, so it seemed like a good time to learn. And learn I did.

Table of Contents:

Kimchi and Pickles
Vegetable Side Dishes
Meat and Poultry
Soups and Stews
Noodles and Rice Cakes
Snacks and Street Foods
Cocktails and Anju
Korean Fusion

I included the introduction because it’s not your typical “here’s why I wrote this cookbook page.” Instead, it’s 20 pages or so of ingredients used in Korean cooking, the Korean refrigerator, the Korean pantry, Korean meal guide, Bap: Cooked Rice, Rice and its delicious by-products, Korea’s regions and foods and finally Dengki’s dress. In other words, lots of super useful information. With illustrations.

All the chapters are heavily illustrated, thus the graphic novel genre. I mean if you just picked it up without knowing it was a cookbook, it probably wouldn’t occur to you as you glanced through it. No, it’s not a novel, it’s cookbook/memoir and nonfiction while we usually call fiction books novels. But what I called comic books as a kid are now called graphic novels, regardless of whether or not the books contain fiction or nonfiction. My library shelves them in the nonfiction. I have noticed that some graphic novel memoirs are shelved in biographies, and I’m not sure who is making that distinction (Library of Congress? The Online Computer Library Center, better known as OCLC?) or why that distinction is being made. Congressman John Lewis just won a bunch of awards for the third book of his graphic novel trilogy memoir, March: Book Three (congrats!) which is shelved in biography. But I digress.

Other things I noticed when looking at the table of contents. I admitted up front I am pretty ignorant about Korean food. I didn’t know there were stews or porridges, for instance. Now I do. Kimchi Stew, for starters. And a Spicy Fish Stew. I learned that pine nuts are not just for pesto and are used in Pine Nut Porridge.

So kimchi. There is a little gastro pub near my house that makes killer kimchi. And by killer I mean they warn you if you try and order it that it is very hot, so I haven’t tried it. A kimchi loving friend (hi Dave!) has had it and really enjoys it. So everything I know about kimchi is that historically, it was made from cabbage in clay jars and buried in the dirt. The smell was supposedly horrific. And very, very spicy. But after reading this book, I learned that my suppositions were correct, but there are ways to make it much more palatable for my delicate American taste. Use less Korean chili, for starters. I also learned that kimchi can be made from a variety of vegetables, not just cabbage – radish, cucumber and green onion, just to name a few. I feel kimchi educated now.

Noodles are big in Asian cooking and Korean food is no exception. The recipe for Handmade Knife Noodles is about as close to pasta as you can get. Rice cakes are called Tteok and there are dozens of different kinds, mostly eaten as snacks or dessert.

The cocktails chapter includes a lesson in Korean Drinking Culture, including the admonishment to “always pour your elder’s drink with both your hands,” to never refuse a drink from your elders and “always refill drinks for others and never refill your own drink. You must wait for others to fill it up for you.”

The recipes are all explained and illustrated so that even someone as ignorant of Korean food and customs as I am, could successfully prepare anything in this book. I loved the watercolor type paintings that illustrate each chapter title page, and the drawings throughout the book really added to my understanding of technique. It’s funny, I never really cared for illustrations in cookbooks, for instance the beloved Silver Palate Cookbook, as I much prefer photographs. But for some reason, I love the illustrations here and didn’t miss the photos at all.

Finally, I was trying to figure out how many recipes there are but it was difficult as so many have variations included. The author does mention in her acknowledgements that her mother helped with 64 of the recipes though. Always nice to acknowledge your mom!

If you are curious about Korean cuisine and culture or you love Korean food and want to try making some yourself, this is the book for you.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COOK KOREAN! by Robin Ha. Ten Speed Press (July 5, 2016). ISBN 978-1607748878. 176p.



January 2, 2017
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A New World of Israeli Baking–Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka

Raquel Pelzel, contributor

This is an intriguing and unusual cookbook, aimed at the bread baker. If you’ve never baked bread, start with Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread and leave this cookbook aside for a bit, but if you love baking bread and would like to expand your repertoire, this is an excellent book to turn to. While there is a chapter on Sweets & Cookies, and they are unusual and like the rest of the recipes, clearly laid out and easy to follow for a baker with some skills, the emphasis of the book is on specialty breads.

Scheft opened his first bakery in Israel but is best known in this country for his beloved Manhattan “Breads Bakery” (3 locations,) where people flock for his amazing chocolate babka (and Nutella!) and chocolate rugelach. As the subtitle intimates, Middle Eastern and especially Israeli influences abound. But Scheft also trained in Europe as a pastry chef, so he has some serious skills that he is able to simplify for the home baker.

The chapters:

A Few Classics & New Discoveries
Stuffed Breads
Sweets & Cookies
The Baker’s Pantry
The Baker’s Toolkit

The chapter titled “With…” includes recipes for Hummus, Tahina, Babaghanouj, Kalamata Tapenade, and other savory tapas like dishes. These are used throughout the recipes in this book but can certainly be used on their own. Set a table with a few of these delicacies, and your guests will clamor for more.

The pictures are stunning and really add a lot to the book. Like most serious bakers, Scheft uses metric weight for his recipes, so break out your digital scale and slide it over to grams. Be sure to take a good look at the Baker’s Pantry before attempting these recipes – I bake a lot, and I didn’t have a lot of these things; apricot kernels, bitter almonds, dates, dried chickpeas, nigella, marzipan, labne, etc. Scheft also prefers specific brands like Plugra butter, King Arthur flour, Valrhona or Callebaut chocolate, etc. The Baker’s Toolkit consists mostly of items bakers will tend to have on hand like bench scrapers, digital scale, parchment paper, rolling pins and so forth, but even here there are a couple of unusual items like a kugelhopf pan and couche.

I have to say this is not a cookbook for a new baker or the feint of heart. Many of the recipes are complicated but again, clearly laid out so if you are familiar with baking bread and understand how dough needs to be handled, then you will love this book. The babka recipes alone are worth the price of admission and come two ways, with a Basic Babka Dough and an Advanced Babka Dough, which is a laminated dough. If you’ve never attempted a laminated dough, the pictures are positively inspirational and make the whole process look completely doable.

Scheft offers a basic challah recipe, then takes it further with all sorts of ways to braid and seed it that you have to see to believe, then takes it another step further with a Whole Wheat and Flax Challah, Chocolate and Orange Confit Challah, and next on my list, Sticky Pull-Apart Cinnamon Challah Braid.

If you’ve ever wanted to attempt to make an apple strudel like grandma used to, or hamentaschen or rugelach, then this is your cookbook. I know I will be working my way through it for years to come.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BREAKING BREADS by Uri Scheft. Artisan (October 18, 2016). ISBN 978-1579656829. 352p.

DORIE’S COOKIES by Dorie Greenspan

December 17, 2016
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Photographs by  Davide Luciano

If you are not familiar with Dorie Greenspan, suffice it to say she is an award winning (James Beard, IACP) pastry chef who has worked along side of Julia Child and Pierre Herme. I’ve been a fan since Baking with Julia and I was delighted to see she devoted an entire cookbook to cookies. What’s not to like?

Dorie’s recipes are always straightforward and easy to follow, but never ordinary. If you are looking for Toll House Cookies (not that there is anything wrong with those classic cookies) try the chocolate chip cookies in this book instead. Then try the Brownies, Sweet Potato Pie Bars, Popcorn Streusel Tops, Shortbread, and Coconut-Lime Sablés. Then move on to the savory cookies. Yes, I said that.

This is a cookbook to treasure. I’ve seen reviews call it an “instant classic” and I agree. Just in time for the holidays, do yourself a favor and buy this book. And if you don’t like baking, buy it for the stories that go along with the recipes. Then give it to someone who bakes.

From the Publisher

lemon-poppy-shortbreadEvery-Way Shortbread: The Lemon-Poppy Seed Version from Dorie’s Cookies
Makes 12 Cookies

There are so many reasons to love shortbread as much as I do and among them are its almost universal appeal and almost infinite variability. Oh, and the ingredients are ones you’ve almost always got on hand. The cookies are quick to put together — you can have them in the oven in about 15 minutes. And they’re easy.

The shortbread clan is a big one, and each branch of the family is different. Some shortbreads are made with eggs (like the French Vanilla Sablés, page 332); some are made without (like these and the Fennel-Orange Shortbread Wedges, page 415); some are made with rice flour (like the Rose-Hibiscus Shortbread Fans, page 191); some are rolled and cut; and some are pressed into a pan, pricked, baked and sliced into wedges. These are of the press-and-poke variety and they’re beautiful; even more beautiful with a little icing.

I’m giving you a recipe for lemon–poppy seed shortbread, but take a look at Playing Around for a few other ideas, and forage in your pantry. Next time, you might want to use cinnamon or cardamom, sesame seeds or chopped walnuts, chocolate chips or espresso, butterscotch bits or candied orange zest.

1⁄3 cup (67 grams) sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon pure lemon oil or extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (151 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1⁄2 cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or freshly squeezed lemon juice
Poppy seeds or sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan, dust the interior with flour and tap out the excess. Or lightly butter a 9-inch glass pan or pie plate, line it with a parchment paper circle and dust with flour.

Toss the sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer. Add the lemon zest and rub the ingredients together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. If using a stand mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment. Add the butter to the bowl and beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon oil or extract. Turn off the mixer, add the flour all at once and mix on low speed. When the flour is incorporated, add the poppy seeds and continue to mix on low until you’ve got a bowl of soft, moist curds and crumbs, about 2 minutes. Squeeze a few curds, and if they hold together, you’re there. (You don’t want to mix the dough until it comes together uniformly).

Turn the crumbs out into the pan and pat them down evenly. To smooth the top, ‘roll’ the crumbs using a spice bottle as a rolling pin. (You can also tamp down the crumbs with the bottom of a small measuring cup.) There’s no need to be overly forceful; the point is to knit the crumbs together and compress them. Using the tines of a dinner fork and pressing straight down so that you hear the metal tap against the pan, poke lines of holes in the dough to create a dozen wedges. Finish by pressing the bottom of the tines horizontally around the edges of the dough, as though you were crimping a piecrust, to create a decorative edge. Alternatively, you can make shortbread fingers by pricking a cross in the dough to divide it into quarters and then, working from the top down, pricking vertical lines — the edge pieces will be odd-shaped, but that’s just fine. Or you can make squares or diamonds; again you’ll have a few odd pieces.

Bake the shortbread for about 25 minutes, rotating the pan after 12 minutes, or until the top feels firm to the touch and the edges have a tinge of color; the center should remain fairly pale. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow it to rest for 3 minutes. If the holes that defined the wedges or other shape have closed, re-poke them. Carefully run a table knife between the sides of the pan and the shortbread and even more carefully turn the shortbread over onto the rack; peel away the paper, if you used it. Then invert onto a cutting board and, using a long sturdy knife or a bench scraper, cut the shortbread along the pricked lines; lift the pieces back onto the rack and allow them to cool before icing or serving.

To make the icing and finish the cookies (optional): Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon milk or lemon juice and stir to blend. If the icing is too thick to brush, spread or drizzle smoothly and easily, add more milk or juice drop by drop. You can just drizzle the icing over each wedge or, using a pastry brush or a small icing spatula, you can ice each wedge, covering it entirely or leaving the borders bare. Sprinkle a few poppy seeds or grains of sugar on each fan, if you’d like, and let the icing set.

Storage: Packed in a tightly covered container, the shortbread will keep for at least 1 week. If you didn’t ice the cookies, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

Playing Around
Vanilla Shortbread. Omit the lemon zest, oil or extract and poppy seeds and increase the vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons. Ice as directed, if you’d like, but use sanding sugar, not poppy seeds.

Espresso Shortbread. Omit the lemon zest, oil or extract and poppy seeds and beat 11⁄2 teaspoons ground espresso into the butter-sugar mixture. When the shortbread is cool, dust with a combination of cocoa and confectioners’ sugar.

Orange Shortbread. Omit the lemon zest and oil or extract and add the zest of 1 orange or 2 tangerines or clementines and 1⁄4 teaspoon orange oil or extract. Keep the poppy seeds, if you’d like — they’re nice with orange — or add some very finely chopped candied orange peel (page 474).

Shortbread with Nuts or Chips. Flavor the dough as you’d like and then add 1⁄2 cup toasted chopped nuts and/or 1/2 cup chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips. Or, if you use an add-in like toffee bits, chop them first — the shortbread isn’t really thick enough to handle chunks.

melody-cookiesMelody Cookies from Dorie’s Cookies
Makes about 55 cookies

Once upon a time, the Nabisco company made a cookie called Melody. They were large and round — I’m told by a cookie-dunker that they were just the right size to fit into a glass of milk — had scalloped edges and were topped with sparkly sugar. They were thin, crunchy and more cocoa- flavored than chocolatey. They were beloved. But evidently not enough, because sometime in the 1970s, production ceased. Search — I did — and you’ll find eulogies to the Melody, but no recipe. Until now.

After I’d made many cookies using the Do-Almost-Anything Chocolate Cookie Dough, my husband said, “There’s something about these that reminds me of Melody cookies. The flavor is so similar, but the texture is off. If they had some snap, maybe,. .. “ Turns out, he was right: Crunch was the missing note!

Are they just the same as the Melodies of childhood? I don’t know. However, these deliver the childish delight of a Melody and the possibility of more grown-up pleasures. My smaller cookies are still a good size for dunking into milk, but they’re also right for dipping into a shot of espresso. And if you love cookies and ice cream (and of course you do), you might want to use these to make ice cream sandwiches. They not only make good sandwiches, they make pretty ones.

A word on the cocoa: I’ve found that cookies made with dark cocoa, such as Valrhona, come closest to tasting like the Melody of memory.

2¼ cups (306 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (see headnote)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg white
Sanding or granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and salt together on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes; scrape down the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and blend in the vanilla, followed by the egg white, and beat for 1 to 2 minutes. The white might curdle the dough and make it slippery — keep going; it will smooth out when the flour goes in. Turn the mixer off, add half the flour-cocoa mixture and pulse the machine to get the blending going, then mix on low only until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and repeat with the remaining flour-cocoa mixture, this time beating just until the dry ingredients disappear and the dough comes together.

Scrape the dough onto a work surface, divide it in half and shape each half into a disk. Working with one piece of dough at a time, sandwich the dough between pieces of parchment paper and roll out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Slide the dough onto a baking sheet — you can stack the slabs — and freeze for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Getting ready to bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. I use a 2-inch-diameter scalloped cookie cutter, but you can make the cookies smaller or larger if you’d like; the baking times will be almost the same, though the yield, of course, will change.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel away both pieces of paper and return the dough to one piece of paper. Cut out as many cookies as you can. Place them on the lined baking sheets, leaving a generous inch between rounds; reserve the scraps. Sprinkle the cookies with sanding or granulated sugar.

Gather together the scraps from both pieces of dough, re-roll them between paper until 1/8 inch thick and chill thoroughly.

Bake the cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom at the midway mark. The cookies are done when they feel firm to the touch around the edges and give only the least little bit when poked in the center. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheets for about 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide spatula. Let cool completely.

Cut out and bake the remaining dough, always using cool sheets.

Storage: The best way to freeze Melodies is unbaked: Cut out the cookies, wrap them airtight, freeze for up to 2 months and bake them straight from the freezer, adding a minute or so to the baking time if needed. The baked cookies will be good for a week or more kept at room temperature. They can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, but the sugar topping might melt.

Playing Around
Peppermint Melody Cookies: Chocolate and crunch are peppermint’s pals, so you might want to add a drop (or two, at most) of pure peppermint oil or extract to the dough when you add the vanilla.

12/16  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

DORIE’S COOKIES by Dorie Greenspan. Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 25, 2016). ISBN: 978-0547614847. 528p.






FOOD52 A NEW WAY TO DINNER by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs

November 23, 2016
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A Playbook with Recipes & Strategies for the Week Ahead

When I first received this cookbook, it reminded me of Rachael  Ray’s Week in a Day cookbook. It’s for those working moms or anyone who likes to plan their week’s meals ahead, do a bunch of cooking on the weekend and minimal fuss during the week to get dinner on the table. It’s a great concept, and I know people who have been doing this sort of thing religiously for years. I’m not one of them, but I can appreciate the thought behind it.

The book is divided by seasons and by authors, and the chapters reflect that. The chapters are Merrill’s Spring, Amanda’s Spring, Amanda’s Summer, Merrill’s Summer, and so forth. Each chapter has two weekly plans with menus, grocery lists, what needs to be cooked ahead and what needs to be done day of. Lots of substitutions are easily available and tips for saving more time abound. And of course, the recipes.

Looking through it I soon realized that Amanda’s food was more to my aesthetic, but both have interesting ideas. I love that they also suggest leftover lunches that will work with the menus, and tips like how to use up leftover herbs or cheeses make planning even more specific.

Since we are in the fall season, here’s an idea from Merrill’s Fall:

Baked Pasta, Chicken Thighs, Zucchini, Applesauce Cake

That turns into 5 meals and 9 recipes, including Rosy Chicken, Roasted Zucchini with Chile and Mint, Warm Chicken Salad, Boiled POtatoes, Baked Pasta with Sausage Ragu, Baked Sweet Potato with Sausage Ragu, Applesauce Cake with Caramel Icing, Roasted Applesauce, & Apple Fool

And since we are heading into winter, here’s an idea from Amanda’s Winter:

Bolognese, Blood Oranges, Potatoes, Chocolate

That turns into the 5 meals and these recipes – Blood Orange Salad, Avocado and Blood Orange Salad; Luciana’s Porchetta; Bolognese; Oven-Roasted Polenta; Garlicky Greens; Spinach Salad with Pancetta, Wheat Croutons and Egg; Porchetta, Pickled Onion, and Garlicky Greens Sandwich; Chocolate Rosemary Pudding

If you like to plan ahead, this is the cookbook for you. Virgos, I’m talking to you here. One of these ladies is a Virgo, FYI, and I’ll let you figure that out!

11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FOOD52 A NEW WAY TO DINNER by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs. Ten Speed Press (October 18, 2016). ISBN 978-0399578007. 288p.

OUTLANDER KITCHEN by Theresa Carle-Sanders

November 22, 2016
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The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook

Diana Gabaldon wrote the forword for this unusual cookbook, thus granting it legitimacy for fans of the books and Starz TV series.  Carle-Sanders has a blog, also called Outlander Kitchen, and contributed a chapter, “The Diet and Cookery of 18th Century Highlanders”, to The Outlandish Companion Volume Two by Diana Gabaldon. So she definitely has some authority here. While most Outlander fans might expect to find a Scottish cookbook, Carle-Sanders explains in the introduction that it is not the case, neither is it historical. She says, “It’s an Outlander cookbook, meaning we have two centuries and several different countries’ cuisines to explore, along with a diverse cast of characters, many of who scream their kitchen inspiration to me from the pages of Diana’s books.” So now you know why there is a chapter on Pizza and Pasta, which frankly, had confused me.

The chapters:

Basic Recipes
Fish and Seafood
Pizza and Pasta
Side Dishes
Breads and Baking
Sweets and Desserts
Drinks and Cocktails
Preserves and Condiments

The first chapter is actually called “My Outlander Kitchen” and is about the pantry: “A time-traveling kitchen requires a versatile pantry…you won’t find a lot of exotic ingredients [here.] So the pantry includes things like butter, oats, oil, salt and pepper, flour, and so forth.

What I love about this book is that all the recipes include a quote from one of the books that inspired that recipe. And all that said, Scottish recipes abound if that is what you coming here for. Pumpkin Seed and Herb Oatcakes, Fergus’s Roasted Tatties, Cherry Bounce, Jocasta’s Auld Country Bannocks, and the ubiquitous Scotch Eggs are all here. But there are French dishes like Conspirators’ Cassoulet and Cheese Savories (Gourgeres,) standard British fare like Shepherd’s Pie, and meatballs and spaghetti and pizza.

There are beautiful photographs throughout. The recipes are clearly laid out and explained, and many have notes at the end to help as well.

A perfect gift for the Outlander fan, or treat yourself.

11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

OUTLANDER KITCHEN by Theresa Carle-Sanders. Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (June 14, 2016). ISBN 978-1101967577. 352p.

EAT LIKE A GILMORE by Kristi Carlson

November 21, 2016
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

The Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of Gilmore Girls

Bonnie Matthews, Photographer

When my daughter was in middle school, we used to watch the Gilmore Girls together. That lasted a season or two, probably 5 & 6. When it moved to the CW, we stopped watching.

With all the excitement about Netflix picking it up, I decided to go watch them all, beginning to end. It took a few weeks of not reading or watching anything else – back in the day, a season was 21 episodes, not like today’s 6-10 episode seasons. And I got completely hooked, I loved it. So when I heard about the cookbook, I was like, yes please! It is adorable.

So like many of us, Kristi Carlson is a big fan. But lucky girl lives a few blocks away from Stars Hollow – the real one, on the Warner Brothers lot. She even finagled an invitation to watch them filming once.

Kristi came up with the idea for a cookbook and put it on Kickstarter where it generated  quite a bit of excitement. Next thing she knows a real publisher comes calling and voila, a book is born. There are lots of contributors and recipe testers  and you can read all about them in the book, including their favorite episodes, a very nice, much appreciated touch. Testers are the unsung heroes of most cookbooks. Kudos, Kristi – you are a class act.

The chapters:

Feature: Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!
Cocktails, Mocktails & Other Assorted Beverages
Pancakes, French Toast, Omelets & Cereals
Muffins, Rolls, Breads & Scones
Soups, Sauces & Butters
Burgers & Sandwiches
Pasta & Rice Dishes
Appetizers & Side Dishes
Meats, Seafood & Main Dishes
Cookies, Cakes & Ice Creams
Feature: Cakery

There is also an author’s note, reference guide, index, conversion charts and a recipe guide.

The best thing about the book is how every recipe is related to something in the show. Chilaquiles are on the menu, as they were when Caesar served them up at Luke’s Diner while Luke was away. Emily’s famous Salmon Puffs, served at every one of her events, Rory’s favorite, Parker House Rolls, Sookie’s guilt induced Ratatouille, made with Jackson’s competitor’s vegetables, and even Butter – yes, really, a recipe for butter along with a nod to Emily kicking Richard out to the pool house because he didn’t ask her if she wanted any.

If none of this makes sense to you, you are not a Gilmore Girl fan and there is no use trying to explain. If you understood the previous paragraph, you probably want to buy this book, and you should.

There are many cookbooks based on TV shows and I’m not talking about actual cooking shows on Food Network or Cooking Channel or even PBS. I mean TV shows like the Gilmore Girls, Game of Thrones, Modern Family, Orange is the New Black, and Outlander (soon to be reviewed here.) Some are much more successful than others, and I’m happy to report that Eat Like a Gilmore is a good one. And (click on the book cover above) has some of the recipes on the website, so you can take a peek.


11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

EAT LIKE A GILMORE by Kristi Carlson. Skyhorse Publishing (October 25, 2016). ISBN 978-1510717343. 288p.

MAD GENIUS TIPS by Justin Chapple

November 19, 2016
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

& the Editors of Food & Wine

Over 90 Expert Hacks and 100 Delicious Recipes

This may be the most useful kitchen book/cookbook you’ll ever read. I am completely enthralled with Justin; I’ve been watching and sharing his videos for years, so I was delighted to see they gave him his own book.

I learned to halve cherry tomatoes and grapes between two plastic container lids, to pit cherries with a wine bottle and a chopstick, and to cut the corn off the cob in my Bundt pan (don’t scoff, try it once and you’ll never do it any other way.) Plus he includes recipes for a variety of terrific dishes, like taking that corn and making Corn-Studded Corn Muffins with Honey Mascarpone Whipped Corn Dip with Chili Oil. Yes, I said that. That same Bundt pan is used to make a terrific Buffalo-Style Roast Chicken with Potatoes.

Use your box grater to DIY Your Bread Crumbs, then make Braised Leeks with Fennel Bread Crumbs. It’s as good as it sounds. Loved the grilled cheese hack where you end up with Stuffed Grilled Cheese just using a fork. Learn to pipe using a Ziploc bag then make Frozen Yogurt Dots with Strawberries and Pistachios.

This book is laid out by kitchen tool, for lack of a better word. But what I love most is that the whole idea here is not to go out and buy a multitude of one-job kitchen tools. Justin uses stuff you already have. The chapters:

Aluminum Foiljustin-chapple
Baking Rack
Box Grater
Bundt Pan
Cookie Cutters
Food Processor
Mason Jar
Muffin Pan
Plastic Baggie
Plastic Lids
Waffle Iron
Wine Bottle


There’s a workable index and lots of great photographs, including many with Justin’s irrepressible smile. I love this book and hope you will, too.

11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MAD GENIUS TIPS by Justin Chapple. Oxmoor House (November 1, 2016). ISBN 978-0848748425. 256p.


October 25, 2016
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Click to purchase

A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Ina and Jeffrey have been captivating our attention for years via her Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa show. I am a huge fan and many of her recipes have become staples in my home. I was at the American Library Association Annual Conference this summer, and was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of this cookbook. (Thanks, Sharon Parker!)

Jeffrey doesn’t cook, like some TV cooking show husbands, but he often makes appearances; he goes shopping (at times a bit hesitantly, remembering occasions when he bought the wrong thing,) or meets up with Ina at restaurants or the beach or best of all, at home.

Ina dotes on Jeffrey, and he on her – their relationship is one of the things I like best about the show. Me and a gazillion other fans, to be sure. I, too, have a husband who doesn’t really cook (okay, he makes incredible pizza but I generally make the dough, the sauce, shred the cheese and then he puts it all together and cooks it in the pizza oven he built in my backyard.) But what I really relate to is Jeffrey’s appreciation for everything Ina cooks because that is how my husband makes me feel. too.

Garten proclaims herself a home cook, but someone who owned a gourmet food shop for twenty years feels like a bit more than just a home cook to me. I do understand what she means; she doesn’t make fussy or difficult food, she prepares food that people actually like to eat at home. All of her cookbooks are wonderful and prior to this one, I would have been hard pressed to pick a favorite, but this book is truly outstanding.

It’s more than just the recipes, which are always fabulous. This book is her love letter to her husband and it shows on every page. The pictures are enchanting, including a wedding photo (they’ve been married more than 40 years!) I loved all the stories about their lives together, too.

The only quibble I have is a recipe for Roasted Meatballs, which cook for half an hour in the oven and then are transferred to a pot of marinara sauce FROM A JAR. A good jarred sauce, Rao’s is recommended, but I’m sorry, I really object to this. In the time those meatballs are cooking, you could easily make your own sauce with scarcely more work than opening a jar.

Slam a couple of cloves of garlic with a knife, thrown them in a bit of olive oil until you can smell them, dump in a can of tomatoes, a little salt and crushed red pepper and if you like, a pinch of dried oregano and you are off to the races. If you want to get fancy, dice a small onion and sweat it first, then do the garlic and tomatoes. Throw in some fresh basil when you’re ready to serve and trust me, you’ll never open another jar of sauce again. This is really a pet peeve of mine, I just don’t understand why anyone buys sauce in a jar. There seems to be some sort of fear about it and the feeling that you have to cook sauce for hours, but that’s just silly. You can make a really simple, delicious sauce in the time it takes you to cook your pasta. Or your Roasted Meatballs.

Also included are some really terrific staples like Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken, Brisket with Onions and Leeks, and Peach Cobbler. Then there are some newer dishes, like Roast Chicken with Radishes, Kale Salad with Pancetta and Pecorino, Salmon Tacos, and Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschettas, which are incredible.

I’m sure there will be some people who feel like Ina has stepped back to the 1950’s housewife here, and maybe she has a little, but let’s not forget that Cooking for Jeffrey is her tenth cookbook and Garten has never been “just a housewife.” She is a superstar, and I am happy to admit that I am a fan.

ina-garten-filet-mignonina-garten-parmesan-roasted-zucchini ina-garten-frozen-hot-chocolate


10/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COOKING FOR JEFFREY by Ina Garten. Clarkson Potter (October 25, 2016). ISBN 978-0307464897. 256p.