Review: The Chili Cookbook*


Book Info: Robb Walsh | Ten Speed Press | 15 October 2015 | 200 Pages | Hardback

Source: NetGalley 

You might be thinking that this may be a rather strange book for a non-meat eater to be reviewing, but you’d be mistaken. Chilli is something I always enjoyed making when I was a meat eater, and I still make it now, albeit a meat free version. Its a dish that, for me, is more about the flavours than the meat, and it’s highly adaptable. Added to which, there are plenty of meat alternatives out there, the challenge comes when you decide to experiment with a recipe, and that’s half the fun of cooking  after all, isn’t it?

There are plenty of recipes in this book that are vegan already. Stone-ground corn bread for example. Fairly easy to make and not a whiff of a dairy product. Fresh Corn Tortillas, which may not sound vegan when you first scan the list of ingredients and spot the creamed corn, but there are plenty of quick and easy recipes to make your own. There’s also a recipe for Frijoles Refritos or Refried Beans. Something I’ve only ever seen in a tin filled with lots of preserving nasties. So I was really excited to see this one, although I’ve yet to give it a try.

What’s nice about the book is that every recipe has a personal connection either to the author or it’s a family recipe that he’s been given permission to use. There’s a home cooked feel about it, which gives it a warm, comforting feel. Even better for the non-meat eaters. Most of the recipes only require very slight adjustments. Several recipes really stood out for me. Obama Family’s Chili, Cocoa Bird Chili (which I’d probably tweak by using carob, as it has a smoother feel to it than cocoa), Spicy Hungarian Goulash (a recipe that actually reminded me of a holiday in the Austrian Tyrol back in the early 90’s), and Goulash Cannon Chili; taken from a recipe created by German restaurant owner, Ken Weber. 

This is a book that showcases how diverse a bowl of chilli can actually be and I loved it for that reason. Now granted its target audience is the omnivores among us, but that shouldn’t deter you from considering dipping into it if you aren’t. Consider it a challenge. Flicking through the pages, I immediately found myself considering the different ways that I could adapt the recipes that I wanted to try. I’ve never been one for treating a recipe as being set in stone and the perfect cookery book for me, is one that inspires the user to put there own twist on the culinary ideas it presents. This is a book with much to offer.


Recipe: Asian Noodle Soup*


Recipe taken from The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook.


Makes 4 servings 


The ingredient list for this soup may look long, but the soup comes together quickly and is full of flavor.

4 cups finely sliced Chinese cabbage

10 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

6 cups vegetable stock

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari, more or less to taste

2 tablespoons brown rice syrup (optional)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground ginger

4 ounces whole grain noodles

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil or cilantro (coriander)

1 bunch green onions, sliced


1. Saute the cabbage, mushrooms, and red bell pepper for 7 minutes in a large stockpot. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking.

2. Add the vegetable stock, soy sauce or tamari, brown rice syrup, garlic, and ground ginger. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes.

3. While the vegetable mixture cooks, cook the noodles according to package instructions.

4. Add the basil or cilantro, green onions, and cooked noodles to the stockpot. Simmer for 5 minutes to marry the flavors.

*Recipe reproduced with the kind permission of BenBella Books

Book Review: The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook*


Book Info: Del Sroufe | BenBella Books | 4 June 2015 | 320 Pages | Hardback & Kindle

Source: NetGalley

If you’ve read the book, The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD, then you might just be aware of the spin offs that it has inspired. The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook, is the brainchild of top vegan chef, Del Sroufe. For British readers who may not be familiar with Chef Sroufe, he’s the author of Better Than Vegan, and the New York Times bestseller, Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook; based on the film of the same name, and he started his culinary career working in the restaurant industry, working for several businesses that specialised in vegetarian/vegan cuisine. In 1997, he opened his own bakery, serving freshly made bread alongside vegan pastries, calzones and smoothies. Besides teaching classes, he also speaks on the subject of vegan cooking and nutrition, particularly in relation to health and body weight.

The book is divided into 9 distinct sections, including; breakfast, salads, sandwiches, soups and desserts. There are also ideas for sauces, salad dressings, seasonings and snacks. Each recipe is not overloaded with ingredients, nor is it made up of long winded, complicated instructions. The aim is to give the reader quick ideas that the can make and enjoy in minutes. To help things along, not only does he list the pantry essentials the reader should ensure they always have available – most vegans will usually have the majority of them already, he also presents several different menu plans covering the entire week, and showing that some of the recipes can be used in more than one meal plan. It really is a mix and match kind of book that you can use however you like.

For me, there were several recipes that really stood out, although I have admit, this is a book that doesn’t have one recipe you won’t want to try. The Asian Noodle Soup, which I’ll be posting (with the kind permission off BenBella Books), is one recipe that you really won’t regret trying. Especially if you’ve ever made Vegan Tom Yum Soup (more about that in another post). It’s got bags of flavour and is one of those soups to keep in mind for a cold day, or when you’re looking for something comforting. Quinoa & White Beans with Lemons & Olives. Pure Heaven. If you need one recipe to showcase how much flavour you can bring to a dish without the need for meat, this is a pretty good example. Polenta Rounds with Saffron Cream & Wilted Spinach is another must try. 

The most important thing about this book is that it has something even the fussiest eater can’t turn their nose up at. Offer your kids a Red Bean Ice Pop, and I doubt many will refuse to try one. If you’re transitioning to a vegan lifestyle or thinking about it. Get this book. If you’ve got a busy lifestyle and your stuck for ideas. This could quite possibly be a lifesaver of a book to have on your bookshelf.

Review: Super Health With Food*


Book Info: Vincent S. Filingeri | First Edition Design Publishing | E Book | May 2015

Source: NetGalley 

Note: Although this book is readily available in the U.S., in the UK, it’s only available as a kindle download.

Vincent S. Filingeri, is a licensed psychologist with over 30 years experience in his field, specialising in weight control. It is a subject he has both written about and conducted research into.

Although Super Health With Food may not be the easiest of books to get to grips with when you first start reading, it’s definitely one of the most useful books you could ever have on your bookshelf. 

Over the past few months I’ve read various books on the subject of good health and diet. The premise is not a new one. There have been many books offering various diets promising health benefits. Not all of them living up to the promises they made, but this book isn’t one of them. It makes no promises, it just presents the reader with solid facts. 

Everyone knows Hippocrates famous quote. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food”. Many foods have long been known to have healing properties, such as garlic and honey, which are both natural antibiotics and antibacterials, but did you know that sauerkraut and other fermented foods are natural probiotics, which are beneficial to digestive health? Anyone who has watched the film, Forks over Knives’, or read any of Neal Barnard, MDs books on nutrition will be aware of the debate surrounding the studies that show how good health through diet can be achieved.

The first thing to note about this book however, is that it is more of a reference book than a sit down and read cover to cover type book. Each chapter covers a different topic, such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics and hormones. Breaking them down into their individual components. So, the chapter on vitamins, for example, focuses on each vitamin in turn. Under each, there follows an alphabetical list of all the dietary sources of the particular nutrient being covered. It then does the same thing with related health conditions, that would be greatly improved by adding these foods to the users diet.

As someone who has recently transitioned to a vegan diet, this book has actually turned out to be a godsend. Cutting out foods is one thing, but learning what to replace them with requires decent advice and reference material to guide you on the right path. 

There is only one downside to this publication, and this is a purely personal thing. The reading format. As useful as Ebooks have become. For me, this book would work better in hard copy. I don’t find digital books of this type particularly user friendly as it makes the book slightly awkward to navigate. 

Book Review: The Family Caregivers Collection*

Three books. One writer. I’ve decided to review all three books in this series together as they form a complete care package for anyone who provides full time care to a family member. 

Harriet Hodgson has written about various aspects of providing care within the family. From caregiving to a family member with Altzheimers, to coping with bereavement. When it comes to to writing about being a family caregivers, there is no one better placed to advise, than someone who is already providing that care, and has been doing so for a number of years.

All three of these books deserve a place on any family caregiver’s bookshelf. They are a powerful resource that provide assistance to help deal with most of the issues you’re ever likely to encounter. They also recognise the importance of not losing yourself behind the role you undertake.

Harriet Hodgson | WriteLife Publishing | Paperback & Kindle


Book 1: The Family Caregivers Guide

Published: 7 September 2015 | Pages: 170

Family caregiver, it’s a role many people find themselves in without warning, and in most cases without preparation. It’s not always possible and even if you do get a few warning signs, how on earth do you prepare yourself!? The one thing that strikes you when you accept this new challenge, is how little advice is immediately available to you. Or so we have found.  Unless you’re fortunate enough to plug into a resource that is willing to help without wanting to know your financial status first. For us, it’s our local mobility shop, run by a former nurse and her husband, and their guidance and friendship has been invaluable. This book gives you a new ally in Harriet, who acts as your guide through this new world.

Although written from an American perspective, it is still wholly relevant and the services transferable to those we receive her in the UK. The other thing to note, is that the focus is caring for someone with an illness or permanent disability that needs managing, which may not be your situation, but again, it’s still helpful as circumstances can change without warning and it’s better to be prepared. In our instance, an elderly relative with mobility issues. The key thing is that the book is written by someone who actually provides care for a family member. In Harriet’s case, her husband, who is disabled as a result of a series of mini strokes. She knows every aspect of caregiving and she has much to teach. The book doesn’t just deal with day to day issues. It also raises points you may not have considered. For example, being on the ball about ensuring any medication is regularly ordered. Here in the UK, most local chemists will have repeat prescription arrangements with local doctors surgeries, which means they can take over dealing with that side of things for you. Believe me, this is a blessing. She also deals with legal issues, which you may not have considered but may need to make provision for , at some future date. Also, the importance of journaling about your daily caregiving routine and your relatives day to day wellbeing. This is essential in being able to monitor any changes, difficulties and improvements they may be experiencing. It also helps to have the information handy when the doctor or community nurse is due for a visit.

This book isn’t just a guide about how to care for a family member, it’s also a reminder to care for yourself. Its not an easy job. The hours are long and it can be hard going. My day always starts with the jobs I need to do before my caregiving begins, and ends with jobs I need to get done after my caregiving duties are finished. The guide provides a whole section on the ways in which a caregiver can take some time to care for themselves.


Book 2: Affirmations for Family Caregivers

Published: 7 October 2015 | Pages: 120

The book is organised by topic. Each of which is split into subtopics dealing with the various issues a caregiver has to deal with on a daily basis. The book is designed to be read in small, bite sized portions, to make it more accessible. Many carers don’t always have enough time to sit and read for much time. All of the affirmations are based on Harriet’s 18 years of experience. Whilst some of the affirmations in the book may not be relevant to your particular situation. All of them will provide the support and encouragement that only another caregiver can give. Some are intended to be goals. Reminders that it’s ok to plan for the future and set yourself targets outside your present daily obligations. Then there’s something of a challenge directed straight to the reader. Have a go at writing a few of your own affirmations. The final chapter focuses on the benefits of writing your own affirmations, and top of the list, is that it helps you to think positively. Think of it as taking time out to practice a little mindful relaxation. The chapter concludes with some hints for writing your own affirmations. 

When you need to take I’ve minutes to relax. This is a really good way to spend that time. It’s also useful to jot down some of your favourite affirmations from the book in your diary or a notebook. Maybe even create an affirmation jar/bowl and write them on pieces of paper. Pick one at random each day and let your mind focus on it throughout your day.  Particularly during those moments that are difficult or stressful.


Book 3: A Journal for Family Caregivers 

Published: 15 March 2016 | Pages: 120

This book is essential as its. A more  practical resource that can be used on a daily basis. It’s the caregiver’s private space. As Harriet suggests in the introductory section to the journal. This is something that should be kept where only you can find it. Call it your daily therapy session. 

The journal draws on points made in The Caregivers Guide and uses some of the affirmations in Affirmations for Caregivers, and is possibly one of the most essential pieces of kit any carer could have because it’s your personal manual for caregiving and a stress reliever rolled into one. Now it goes without saying that the best format to use is the physical journal BUT even in digital format, it’s still very useable as a template. Buy a blank notebook and pick a page to use at random. In fact you could use the journal year on year, using the same format but creating your own content.

Each page of the journal has three features. An affirmation for the day, a writing prompt based on the affirmation with a space for you to add your own thoughts, and a blank section marked ‘Action’. This is the important part as you can write whatever you want. A to do list, your shopping list, any issues that may need consideration or action. Whatever seems important at that particular moment. Always write something. Even if it’s just exercising a frustration, as it could relate to something that requires some form of action.

The good thing about the journal, as Harriet points out, is that at the end of th the year, you’ll have a complete record of how far you’ve come, the skills you’ve used/developed, the knowledge you’ve acquired. Each day is a new learning opportunity and this book gives you the chance to write about it. A definite must have.

Source: NetGalley


Useful Links:

Book Review: Mary, Queen of Angels*

Doreen Virtue | Hay House | 7 May 2012 | 224 pages | Kindle

Source: NetGalley


Doreen Virtue is the author of more than 50 books covering a variety of New Age themes, including, Oracle Cards, Angel Therapy, Indigo Children, and Ascended Masters. A qualified psychotherapist. For many years she specialised in healing eating disorders. Her early books covered topics within the fields of psychology and self-help, before she changed the focus of her work and writing to healing through spirituality and new thought therapies. Virtue writes solely for Hay House; a specialist new thought and self-help publishing house. She also leads spirituality orientated workshops and classes, and is the host of a regular phone-in show on Hay House Radio.

Mary, Queen of Angels, is intended to be a non-denominational book. It opens by highlighting the importance of Mary, not just to Christianity, but also within the Orthodox traditions, and the fact that she is not only discussed in Islamic literature. She is also the only female to be mentioned in the Qur’an. As the mother of Our Lord, she is venerated within the Roman Catholic tradition, she has two months of prayer dedicated to her (May and October), and her Assumption into Heaven, is marked by a holy day of obligation on 15 August.

The purpose of this book is to deepen the reader’s understanding of Mary in our everyday lives. Regardless of our denomination, and in the process, to strengthen our relationship with her. Or, for those who have yet to know her, an introduction to potentially one of their greatest allies/supports. Virtue has previously written two similar books relating to the archangels, Raphael and Michael.

Each of the twelve chapters that make up this book, focus on the many ways Our Lady has made herself known to people, and answered their calls/prayers for her help/intercession. This book is not an analysis of the stories she shares, but a collection of experiences that she has gathered together with the hope that the reader will be inspired by them. Ultimately, it is up to the reader whether they choose to accept what this book has to offer, and a certain degree of faith/openness does play a large factor in this.

The best way to describe this book is heartwarming. Be prepared to experience a variety of emotions as you read one story after another. Many of which describe personal hardships and terrible tragedies that have been endured by the people who submitted them, and cannot help touching you. What stands out most is their own deep convictions that at no point were they alone. Even though they may have experienced great pain and suffering. In some cases, losses that may have have rocked their beliefs, but didn’t. Knowing that through all this they were never alone, actually helped to make their faith in the Blessed Virgin much stronger. Each story speaks volumes not just about deeply held beliefs (some of the stories come from individuals with differing faiths), but also a deep trust in the fact that she would come to their aid. Regardless of whether or not it altered the situation they were going through, the important thing was her presence, love and guidance.

At this point I really should declare an interest, and it was the main reason I chose to read and review this book. Curiosity. Having been brought up in, and still practicing the Roman Catholic faith. I’m always interested to hear how others perceive various aspects of the things I’ve grown up believing, and perhaps taken for granted. For me, Doreen writes with great sensitivity and understanding. She doesn’t judge or criticise, and that’s makes this book all the more spiritual. It’s a book that will or should make you thankful for the many blessings we have in our own lives, and perhaps wonder about certain things that may may have happened at times when we’ve experienced our own troubles and sadnesses. It does have a very Catholic feel to me, but I suspect that’s probably due to the fact that I’ve grown up hearing similar stories, and it affirms my belief that anyone who asks for help won’t be denied.

The book concludes with a number of prayer dedicated to Mary. Some taken from the Catholic tradition and are instantly recognisable. Whatever your belief system, the power of prayer/meditation, can be extremely grounding and brings a great sense of peace and wellbeing. At 224 pages it’s a relatively short read but definitely a worthwhile one.

Book Review: Steeped, Recipes Infused With Tea*


There’s nothing quite like a decently brewed cup of tea. Us Brits love nothing better. According to the UK Tea & Infusions Association, the United Kingdom is the second largest consumer of tea, just behind the Republic of Ireland. On average, 80% of the population consume tea everyday. With 165 million cups being drunk daily. In contrast to 70 million cups of coffee.

Now some of the tea drinking purists among you may be shuddering at the mere suggestion of using tea as a cooking ingredient, but with so many different varieties readily available, it’s not surprising that some of them could be used to enhance a dish. After all, we already use coffee and cocoa in our baking and desserts!? You never know, it may even get you using some varieties of tea you wouldn’t normally drink. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Lapsang as its smoky aroma is a little too strong for my palate, but I’m intrigued by the idea of using it in savoury dishes.

I’m not a milk drinker, so I tend to go for teas with a more subtle but not an overpowering flavour, like green tea and rooibos, and I’m not averse to throwing another flavour into the mix. Green tea with Earl Grey is lovely. I’ve also drunk green tea as a smoothie ingredient before now, so seeing  the Ginger-Mango Green Tea Smoothie recipe in the book immediately grabbed my attention. It’s not full of weird and whacky taste combinations, it’s a well thought out collection of recipes.

The recipes are easy to follow and lend themselves to certain minor adjustments. So if you’re allergic to dairy/lactose, just replace the milk or dairy products with your usual alternatives. Although, I would suggest using unsweetened versions for the recipes containing sugar as it could make your food/drink a little too sweet. If you’re UK based, you’ll notice references to Kosher salt in some of the recipes. This is a product you can get here. It’s definitely available online and I’m pretty sure some of the larger supermarkets stock it in their speciality sections. If you can’t get it then an alternative might be Himalayan Rock Salt or Maldon Sea Salt!?! I’m going to give both a go to see which works best, so watch this space for an update…

I think what most appeals to me about this book is that it encourages you to experiment with something we all have readily available, and perhaps don’t make enough of. It’s more than just a drink it’s a new set of flavours to be explored. The recipes I’m really looking forward to trying are the White Bean Walnut Spread, Swedish Mushroom ‘Meatballs’, and Chocolate Earl Grey Custard with Kumquats, as I don’t think anyone would ever dream they contained tea.

Book Info: Annelies Zijderveld | Andrew McMeel Publishing | 9 April 2015 | 126 pages (HB)

Source: NetGalley


Book Review: Hand-Stitched Home*


Susan Beal is a freelance crafts writer based in Portland, Oregon. Besides being the editor of Stitch Magazine (a U.S. title) and blogger at West Coast Crafty, she has also written for titles such as, ReadyMade, BurdaStyle, and CraftStylish. She is the author of several craft books covering subjects including, quilt making and beadwork.

Hand-Stitched Home is her most recent collection of patterns, ranging from bags and cushion covers to table runners and an Ottoman. It’s an eclectic mix of projects aimed at every level of proficiency. The projects give detailed lists of the materials needed for each project, together with step by step instructions to guide you (although no pictures, which may have been helpful).

Several of the patterns did stand out, which I will definitely be having a go at, although I may need to make a few slight adjustments when it comes to my fabric choices, due to availability. The projects that would be top of my list included; Plaid and Wool Cross Pillows, Soft Baby Blanket, School Days Messenger Bag, and the ultimate challenge… the Jacquard Cube Ottoman.

I do however have one gripe about this book. The constant advertising. The author uses fabrics provided by Pendleton Woolen Mill Inc throughout. It’s clearly a fabric she enjoys working with, and is passionate about (some of it is rather attractive), but it did feel like hard sell to use only Pendleton fabrics for the projects in the book as every page contained some form of advert. Now I know that pattern books generally recommend certain products in order to achieve the same finish, but in this instance, I actually found it a tad off-putting, especially as, being a UK based reader (and the book is available to buy here), it is advertising products that are unavailable over here, as the company does not dispatch outside the U.S. There were no suggested alternatives, which is a minor issue, as it wouldn’t be too difficult to source similar types of wool material.

The book is rounded off with a timeline history of Pendleton Woolen Mill and the development of its fabrics, which is an interesting read, but I would suggest reading this first and just diving straight into the patterns. If you’re a novice sewer then you can’t go wrong by checking out one of the many free online sewing classes, such as, Professor Pincushion, if you run into any problems, or just want to be shown how to do a particular step, before you start work.

Nice book, shame about the adverts.

Book info: Susan Beal | Taunton Press Inc. | 7 October 2014 | 160 pages

Source: NetGalley

Book Review: Pure Pork Awesomeness*


 Pork is a meat I’ve only really eaten as sausages and bacon. Maybe the odd chop with apple sauce on the side. Growing up, beef, lamb and chicken were always the main joints on the Sunday dinner menu. So when I saw a copy of this available for review, I just had to take a peak, and I wasn’t disappointed. Awesomeness is an understatement. This book had my mouth watering with every new recipe. 

As the authors are based stateside, all of the ingredients are listed giving the U.S. weights and measures, which isn’t too problematic as it’s easy to find a metric conversion chart online. If you’re UK based, then you may not be able to source one or two of the additional ingredients in some of the recipes, but you might be able to source them online or find a close alternative. Some of the joints used in the recipes may require a trip to your local butcher, rather than the supermarket.

The book is divided up into sections, each part covering a different cut of meat. Not only do the authors take the time to familiarise the reader with each cut; where it’s located, it’s flavour and uses. They have also chosen recipes that are appropriate for each cut and many of the recipes have an international feel to them. In short, it’s a pork recipe bible.

Some of the recipes are more complicated than other, as they require a certain degree of advance preparation, but the instructions are clear and methodical. It’s fair to say that there are more recipes you will want to try than not. The thing I liked most about the book was the fact that it taught me about a meat I’ve never tried properly and gave me ideas for a fairly fuss free menu of food that would be perfect to serve on a Saturday afternoon watching the rugby or an informal dinner party. 

Watch this space to see which recipes I decided to give a whirl…

Book info: Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim | Andrew McMeel Publishing | 26 March 2015 | 240 pages

Source: Netgalley 

Book Review: The Authentic Amish Cookbook*

This book was very much a curiosity read and turned out not to be quite what I expected. The Amish are a religious group I know very little about, beyond the fact that they dress modestly, and live a simplified life, free from the shackles of modern technology.

The book itself is a mixture of recipes supplied by members of this community,  passages from the bible and spiritual quotations. In many respects, it’s designed to be more than your average cookbook. It’s very much food for the soul not just the body.

There are two hurdles for the non-US reader to face when using this book. Firstly, the U.S. weights and measures system, which you will need to convert to the UK system. The second, is the use of certain ingredients that aren’t readily available here in the UK. This latter issue just means finding the nearest equivalent ingredient. However, some products are available online, if you want to be truly authentic. Although they can be a little pricey.

The recipes themselves are fairly straightforward to follow and in some instances offer several variations of the same dish by a different recipe donor. Possibly the most surprising thing to me throughout the book was the use of processed and synthetic ingredients, such as, instant potato flakes, Graham crackers and Jell-O. Ingredients I’d never expected to see as I’d always assumed that the recipes would be very traditional. Basically, I’d assumed it would be full of ideas that had been passed down through the family line, but in many respects, it has a very modern feel about it.

This book was very much a mixed bag. I liked the uniqueness of its style – scripture and religious snippets intermingled with the recipes. It’s a book that stops you and gets you thinking. It has the feel of a book that wants you to interact with it. Maybe even add your own thoughts and notes to it in the margins.

Although there were one or two recipes I did want to try, I have to admit, I’m quite a fussy cook. I like to know exactly what I’m eating, and although I’m not averse to using the odd shortcut ingredient, some of those used in the book just made those recipes sound unappetising. In that sense, I was a little disappointed with the book. Would it have a place on my bookshelf? To be honest, I’m not sure if it would. As much as I enjoyed its originality, it’s not a book that would get an awful lot of use in my home. For all its variety there just wasn’t enough in it I’d actually want to try.

Book info: compiled by Norman & Marlena Miller | Harvest House Publishing | March 2015 | 256 pages

Source: Netgalley