THE COOKIES & CUPS COOKBOOK: 125+ sweet & savory recipes reminding you to Always Eat Dessert First by Shelly Jaronsky

PUBLISHER: Gallery Books, 4/2016
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Wildly popular Cookies & Cups blogger Shelly Jaronsky’s eagerly anticipated cookbook features all-new, mouth-watering, delectable sweet treats 100% guaranteed to make you want to eat dessert first.

Now you can bring Shelly’s signature style into your own kitchen with more than 125 no-fail recipes, including some reader-approved favorites and a special bonus section dedicated to the quick and savory side of cooking. Authored in the witty, intimate style of the blog that draws more than three million monthly page views and a social following of more than seven hundred thousand fans, The Cookies & Cups Cookbook is the go-to source for all things flavorful, accessible, and irresistibly tasty.

THINGS I’VE MADE

COOKIES AND CREAM COOKIES


I made half the recipe and got 28 cookies. I omitted the chopped Oreo’s and white chocolate chips. I added chopped lightly toasted slivered almonds and 1/4c. mini semisweet chocolate chips. My dough balls didn’t spread much at all during baking and were very thick. When they came out of the oven I flattened them with the back of a measuring cup. I flattened the rest of the dough balls before baking. These are bland-tasting, not sweet enough, and I’d never make them again. Dense too.

EPIC CHOCOLATE PUDDING PIE
This pie couldn’t have been easier to make. You bring ingredients to a boil on the stove, pour into prebaked pie shell and refrigerate for hours. I used a store-bought Keebler® shortbread pie crust and thawed frozen whipped topping instead of homemade whipped cream (I don’t like it). I made half the recipe. The pie is a little bitter and not quite sweet enough. I think it would still be bitter with less chocolate so next time I make it I’m going to use bittersweet chocolate in place of unsweetened to see if that helps.

CRISPY CHEWY OATMEAL COOKIES
These turned out great but needed a little more salt. I used unsalted butter when the recipe called for salted so I needed to add a little more salt than the recipe called for. I did but not enough. I omitted the coconut and white chocolate chips and added mini semisweet chocolate chips and finely chopped lightly toasted pecans. I’d definitely make these again. I made half and got 24 cookies. My first batch, pictured, were overbaked by about one minute and they got harder as they sat in a sealed container.

TACO PASTA
This was pretty good and required just one deep skillet to cook the pasta in then the meat mixture. It uses ground beef, taco mix, chili powder, cumin, corn, crushed tomatoes, salsa, shredded cheese.
I made half the recipe but used even less pasta than called for. I used about 1 1/2 c. dry (5oz) instead of 8oz. I omitted the black beans. The salsa almost ruined this as the flavors didn’t mesh with the other seasonings. I’ll definitely make this again, minus the salsa.

TEXAS SHEET CAKE
I made half of this chocolate cake in a 9″x1.5″ round pan*. The cake is made with equal parts butter and shortening, melted. It uses a small amount of unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s dense and very good. I added extra salt because I used unsalted butter, not salted like the recipe states. I made my own vanilla frosting for this, not the chocolate one in the recipe.
*An 8″x2″ round or square pan holds the same amount.

CATAGORIES: So You Think You Can Bake?, Eat Cake For Breakfast, Cookies, Brownies and Bars, Cake, Frosting, Pie, Party Snacks, Pizza and Pasta, Salads and Sammies, Family Favorites

MY THOUGHTS: I’m pretty disappointed in this book. I’ve made five things and there are only about six more I’d actually make and there’s no telling how they’d turn out.

Of the things I’ve made only two were what I’d call really great, the sheet cake and oatmeal cookies. The great thing about the oatmeal cookies is that you can add whatever you want to the batter if you’d like, like chocolate chips, chopped dried fruit or nuts.

There’s an attractive color photo for each and every recipe, which is very nice, and I love the cover. There’s maybe eight recipes that have silly childish sprinkles or cereal decorating the top or stirred into the batter, which is very unappealing to me as an adult.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

HOLIDAY COOKIES: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More by Chicago Tribune Staff

PUBLISHER: Agate Surrey, 10/2014
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking/Cookies
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: For nearly three decades, the Chicago Tribune has run its annual Holiday Cookie Contest, asking readers to submit recipes that are both unique and meaningful to them. Each recipe is accompanied by a brief description or story explaining why the cookie is special to the reader and their family. The Chicago Tribune’s award-winning food writers and editors carefully consider these essays, select the finalists, and then publish winning recipes.

Good Eating’s Holiday Cookies is a comprehensive collection of the best holiday cookies as curated from nearly three decades worth of reader submissions. These delicious recipes represent an eclectic mix of traditional and modern recipes from diverse cultural background and skill levels, such as Tropical Nuevo Latino Cookies, Dorie’s Dark and Stormies, and Grandma Grump’s Peanut Butter Drizzles.

Complete with full-color photography and helpful baking tips, this gorgeous compilation brings the warmth and expertise of a cross-generational baking community home for the holidays. From cookie classics to twists on old standards, Good Eating’s Holiday Cookies provides the home baker with a plethora of possibilities for any holiday party.

THINGS I’VE MADE
JOAN’S LITTLE JOYS

I’m not impressed with these cookies at all. This baked cookie looks nothing like the one in the book. Based on the appearance of these cookies while they were baking, the way they were getting very brown around the edges before the minimum baking time was up, I realized the dough was exactly like a Linzer cookie, which is basically like a shortbread cookie; no egg, baking soda, or baking powder in the dough. The photo of the finished cookie in the book shows a very pale cookie that’s decorated with a green-tinted glaze. That’s why I decided to make it- because it looked nothing like a Linzer cookie. This type of cookie softens up soon after baking and makes for a terrible sandwich cookie. They taste good, though.

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES WITH DRIED CHERRIES

This is a good-flavored sweet cookie that has ground oats in the dough. They’re a little dry. I omitted the white chocolate and added lightly toasted chopped slivered almonds, almond extract, and cherries to half the dough. To the other half I added mini semisweet chocolate chips and finely chopped almonds.

I used a 1T. cookie scoop/1 1/2″ diameter and got 36 dough balls. My cookies didn’t spread out like the ones in the photo did. If I ever make these again I’ll form the dough into a log that’s wrapped in plastic wrap, chill/freeze it and make slice-n-bake cookies out of it.


MY THOUGHTS: This is an attractive book, inside and out, but I’m very disappointed in it. I only like one of the two recipes I tried and there’s only about three more recipes I’d try.

 

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

FROZEN IN FEAR: A True Story of Surviving the Shadows of Death by Jane Carson-Sandler

PUBLISHER: True Directions, 6/2014
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir/True Crime
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: Jane Carson-Sandler, a native of Northern New Jersey, entered the US Air Force Nurse Corps in 1969 and retired in 1999 after serving 30 years of active and reserve duty. Seven years after entering the military, she was raped in her own home while her three year old son was lying beside her. Thirty eight years have passed. This notorious rapist and serial killer, known as the East Area Rapist (EAR), has raped 50 women and has murdered twelve people including men and women in California. He still has not been caught. With raw emotion, Jane’s story entails how she survived not only this trauma, but some other bruising encounters with death such as her battle with alcohol and other serious health issues. Through the Grace and love of God, Jane went from being a victim to a survivor. She describes her God inspired journey in making this transition in hopes of helping and inspiring others.

MY THOUGHTS: This book is very condensed yet very informative about Jane’s life. She survived a prolific California serial rapist in October 1976 (50 known victims) who went on to become a serial killer (The Original Night Stalker/ONS) of at least 10 people.

Jane’s had a very interesting life. She’s the daughter of a sometimes violent alcoholic electrician father and a mother who’s a nurse. She became a nurse herself and has lived throughout the U.S. and Europe and now resides in South Carolina with her third husband.

I really wish she had expanded on her experience with talking to prison inmates about being a rape survivor. I’d love to know what they had to say about her story, especially since some of them are rapists themselves.

She’s been a recovering alcoholic since 2003. I take issue with her comment, “God removed my addiction”. An addiction doesn’t get ‘removed’ by anything or anyone.

Jane’s known as victim #5 in this case. You can see her interviewed on The Original Night Stalker episode of I.D.’s Dark Minds, season 2, episode 1.

MISTRESS OF MELLYN by Victoria Holt

PUBLISHER: Doubleday, 1960
GENRE: Fiction/Gothic Romantic Suspense
SETTING: England, 19th Century
PSEUDONMYS: link
MY GRADE: B-

FROM PUBLISHER: From the moment Martha Leigh first glimpsed the cold, brooding manse high on the fog-shrouded Cornish cliffs, she felt a chill of apprehension.

Then she met her employer, the arrogant master of Mellyn, and his spoiled, headstrong daughter, Alvean, and knew why the three governesses before her had left the eerie mansion.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Martha began to be aware of an atmosphere of menace. There had been whispers of past horrors, warnings of violence yet to come–and now there were strange accidents. It was madness to stay on.

But Connan TreMellyn’s dark charm had over-powered Martha’s natural caution. Against her will she felt irresistibly drawn to the handsome, enigmatic master of Mellyn.

Now, even as she found herself being pulled deeper and deeper into a frightening web of unseen terror, she knew she could not, would not leave…


MY THOUGHTS: This story was interesting enough but the plot was very slow moving the entire way through and fairly tame. There have been a few suspicious happenings at Connan’s home lately; mysterious letters, falling boulders, ect. I never once guessed who the culprit was. I don’t like that the tiny bit of action this story had took place during the last thirteen pages. I didn’t get a gothic feel from this story either, not once.

Every single character was underdeveloped and I didn’t feel as if I’d gotten to know any of them. With Connan I’m not seeing any ‘charm’, dark or otherwise. He wasn’t around all that much. I don’t understand where his attraction and ‘love’ for Martha came from at all. They’re hardly ever together and all of a sudden he wants to marry her. I don’t know why he didn’t just marry Lady Linda Treslyn since they were involved with each other.

HER LADYSHIP’S COMPANION by Evangeline Collins

PUBLISHER: Berkley Sensation, 5/2009
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England and Scotland, 1816
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: In the Scottish countryside of Selkirk, Lady Isabella Stirling resides at Bowhill Park, serving penance for a sin that nearly ruined her family. For five years she has been condemned to a loveless marriage and confined to the estate where she does little more than tend her rose garden. With her husband absent for months at a time and few visitors, Bella lives a lonely existence, denying the passions that burn within her very soul.

Then her cousin comes for a visit and makes an outrageous suggestion: what Bella needs is a lover. A hired lover. Despite her need, Bella says no. But soon Mr. Gideon Rosedale arrives-and he is at her service for two weeks. Indulging in what she intends to be a harmless flirtation, Bella is overcome by Gideon’s intoxicating presence. And when she at last permits him to satisfy her desires, she discovers she’s done the unthinkable-she’s fallen in love.

MY THOUGHTS: The story takes place in England and Scotland in 1816 and spans about ten months. The heroine is Isabella ‘Bella’ Stirling. She’s 24 and has been married to Lord Stirling, 34, for almost five years. He’s impotent and they have no relationship of any kind with each other and he’s rarely at home. He’s both physically and verbally abusive toward her. Bella is 5’8″ and has pale blond and violet eyes. She’s terribly unhappy. Her parents are dead and she’s got two brothers and two sisters who have never come to visit her.

The hero is Gideon Rosedale. He’s twenty-seven, 6’1″ and has dark brown hair and brown eyes. He’s a prostitute and has been for ten years. His mother was one and he doesn’t know who his father is. He was raised up in a brothel. Bella’s cousin, Esmé, hires him to ‘service’ Bella for two weeks. That’s how the hero and heroine meet.

Bella is so lonely and isolated. I think she became a bit obsessed with Gideon, especially after their original two week stay was over. She was so starved or affection that once she warmed up to him, she was not emotionally prepared to let him go. To me, she showed signs of being mentally unbalanced and seemed a bit immature. She also seems hypersexual. That combined with her overall emotional state made me wonder if she was bipolar. I feel she was a bit of a weak character, pretty passive with things that had nothing to do with Gideon.

Gideon seemed a little bland to me. I’d have liked to have known a bit more about his upbringing. I don’t think his character was developed quite enough. Bella’s surely wasn’t. We weren’t told a thing about her past; childhood, upbringing, nothing. I want to know why her siblings never came to visit her.

The sex scenes were very explict but ordinary and there were plenty of them. I was a bit surprised by one scene near the end involving something the hero did to the heroine. I’d give the sex an A-.

Overall, there wasn’t much going on in this story but sex. No real plot at all except toward the end when Bella’s husband pays her a visit. Though the heroine is married to another, she and Gideon have their happily-ever-after. How? You’ll have to read the book to find out! I grade this book 3.5 stars/B-.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

BOUND BY THE HEART by Marsha Canham

PUBLISHER: Avon, 10/1984
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: Caribbean & Barbados, 1811/12
BODICE RIPPER? Yes
PURCHASE: link
AUTHOR SITE: link
MY GRADE: D

FROM PUBLISHER: Rescued from the stormy waters of the Caribbean, Summer Cambridge, daughter of the British governor of Barbados faced a new threat aboard the American ship Chimera. Captain Morgan Wade, the notorious buccaneer, brazenly ordered the young beauty to his cabin to be held for his own pleasure!

Summer fought him with the ferocity of a wildcat, but held by his insistent passion, she was swept by waves of desire she had never known, and was powerless to resist him.

Even as she returned to Barbados and the marriage that had been arranged for her, she still trembled with memories of those days and nights of forbidden passions, and of the man whose love would forever hold her heart captive.

MY THOUGHTS: I’m reviewing the out of print paperback from 1984, not the rewritten e-book, which has the rape scene removed.

Summer is blond with gray-green eyes. Her age was never given so I’ll assume she’s in her early twenties. She’s a typical, slightly boring heroine. Not very feisty like I prefer, especially in these older books.

The American hero, Morgan, is thirty-four years old and has long black hair and blue eyes. He buys cargo and guns legally then sells them to the French, then transports them to America. In typical bodice ripper fashion, he rapes Summer aboard his ship once or twice (page 35 of print book) and makes no apologies for it. That’s pretty much where his abuse of her ends.

I liked her terrible husband Bennett Winfield. He lost interest in her right after they married. He suspected her of harboring feelings for Morgan and a secret, and forbade her ever seeing him again and threatened to ruin her and her family if she did. He’s shown violence towards her too. I like him much more than I do Morgan.

The story spans about a little over a year, beginning in June 1811. This just wasn’t a good story at all. It fits my criteria of a mild bodice ripper; it had the typical arrogant hero, rape, a decent amount of time apart from each other (over a year), and evil secondary characters and lots of action involving ships.

Morgan’s slightly younger half brother, Stuart Roarke was just pointless in this story.

I liked the first 119 pages when Summer and her ten year old brother Michael were on Morgan’s ship then island, Bounty Key, but once she returned home about a third of the way into the story, boring throughout the rest of the novel. The last fifty pages or so was nothing but one ship fighting against another and I truly forced myself to finish the book. It majority was so uninteresting to me. I really feel like this historical romance turned into purely historical fiction. The only good thing I can say about this is that I love the cover.

Same review here.

 

ALYX by Lolah Burford with Author Image

PUBLISHING INFO: Signet, 1977
SETTING: Jamaica, 1790s
HEROINE: Alyx de Vere
HERO: Simon
BODICE RIPPER? No
GRADE: A
DATES READ: 1/04, 5/04, 11/06, 10/07

FROM PUBLISHER: They were enslaved in a place where lust knew no bounds-and only love was forbidden… They were two white slaves thrown together in the darkness of the breeding hut. She, Alyx de Vere, a virginal, sixteen-year-old beauty carried off to nightmare captivity on a Caribbean sugar plantation. He, Simon, handsome, young, once heir to a noble title. He felt no desire for this anonymous woman who was forced upon him. And she knew only fearful hatred for this stranger who was about to violate her youthful innocence.

But as night after night of tremulous, fevered mating passed, something forbidden grew between these two desire-damned lovers-a rapturous passion that drove them to dare any peril to free each other from this savage world of bondage and brutal submission. And it was then that Alyx and Simon swore that no power-even death itself-would ever overcome their eternal bond of flaming, all-conquering love…

MY THOUGHTS/SUMMARY: This is is the story of 27 year old Simon and 16 year old Alyx de Vere, both British. Simon was sold at auction to August, owner of a plantation in Jamaica, 10 years earlier when he was 17. This story takes place in the late 1790s in Jamaica.

Here’s how Simon ended up in Jamaica. Simon was in line to inherit his fathers estates and all that came along with it when his father was injured in a horseriding accident. Simon’s jealous uncle Phillip came up with a horrible plan; to kidnap and ship Simon off to a place far away for life so that he would be next in line to inherit his brother’s title and estate. But there was one little problem; what to do with Simon?

Simon’s father was out riding one day while Simon was away at school. His father fell off the horse as went into a coma. Uncle Phillip put his plan into action. He went to see Simon at school, told him his father was hurt and his mother sent him to come get him and bring him home. Later that night, Phillip gave Simon some drugged coffee, which made Simon sick, then he passed out. He was taken to his own room to recover.

When he awoke, he was bound and gagged. Phillip was standing beside him, he removed Simon’s gag and forced him to drink more drugged rum. Simon and Phillip then traveled by carriage. Phillip told him they were traveling ‘towards’ Simon’s father’s. The carriage was then attacked by men who kidnapped Simon for ransom, Phillip watching all the while.

Simon awoke on a bed, bound in a hut, being taken care of by some men for about a week. He was blindfolded one day, put into the floor of a carriage and covered by a rug, so as not to be seen by anyone. After traveling for awhile, the carriage stopped, multiple gunshots were fired and the men who helped Phillip with Simon were killed. Simon knew Phillip did it because he heard his voice. Phillip then forced Simon to swallow some kind of powder.

He was later put on a ship with other captives, they sailed to Jamaica and he was put on an auction block naked, examined by a man who ended up buying him. That man was Simon’s master, August. Simon was sold under the name Aston Smith.

Simon was forced to share August’s bed for five years. When Simon would resist, he’d get whipped. After five years, Simon stopped sharing August’s bed but the rapes continued. Soon after Simon stopped sharing his masters bed, he became one of four *studs*. The studs were to get the female slaves, both black and white, pregnant. After they’d gotten one pregnant, they were given a one month break. Studs were treated better than other slaves.

After being a stud for five years, Alyx arrived. She was sent to Jamaica because she’d gotten caught stealing Simon’s uncle Phillip’s horse. One of her friends dared her to do it just for fun, so she did it then got caught. She’d been there a few months when she’d been put into the breeding hut with Simon. August put those two together until Alyx got pregnant because August wanted those two to have a son that August and his wife could raise as their own, since they couldn’t have their own children.

So Simon and Alyx met in the breeding hut. That’s how the book opens. They were in total darkness every time so they couldn’t see each other at all. The reason for that is so that if they pass by each other, they won’t recognize each other and won’t know who they’re pregnant by or who has fathered whos child.

Just about every night, Simon and Alyx were put in the hut together. They talked and got to know each other. Alyx told Simon how she came to be there and Simon told her his story.

Alyx knew she was pregnant and even threw up once while they were together. She hid the dirty sheet under the bed because she knew if anyone knew she was pregnant, she wouldn’t see Simon again. After a short time, it was discovered that she was pregnant so she didn’t see Simon for a long time. Though they didn’t know what the other looked like, since they’d only been together in total darkness, Alyx recognized Simon one day while they were working. Alyx dropped her bucket of water, Simon looked at her but continued on, she whispered his name and in that moment he knew she was Alyx, since she’s the only one who knows his real name. They talked, he felt her stomach and saw that she was pregnant. They made plans to meet by the fountain later, they met and had sex and were caught by August’s wife. She wanted to have him castrated, whipped and hung. After he was whipped and was about to be hanged, August arrived and saved Simon.

They made plans to escape the plantation together. They met, Simon has his master’s keys, they met the priest who married them, then as they were boarding a ship that Simon had arranged for earlier. As they were boarding it, gunshots rang out and August and his men shot the captain and another man, and made Alyx and Simon return home. Simon was whipped 200 times.

He was then put to work in a field with a man who’d had his tongue cut out. He was also raped by the man from time to time. He then became ‘stud’ to Alyx again. They were told not to talk to each other, so they didn’t. Then he didn’t see her again for three years. One day someone came to the hut Simon lived in and told him his master wanted to see him. When he got there, August told him he’d checked out his story about being an earl and that Simon had been telling the truth. He tore up Simon’s ‘paper of purchase’, introduced him to his son and daugher, then Alyx and allowed them both to sail home to England. They were finally free; Simon, after 13 years, Alyx, after 3.

When Simon arrived at his mother’s home after a few months of sailing, she was surprised to see him but didn’t seem happy. He told her that Phillip had abducted him but she didn’t belive him. All of them then traveled to see Phillip, who was very sick and in bed. He told Phillip that he and his family was going to have to find some place to live, since they were living in Simon’s house. Neither one mentioned the kidnapping.

On the way home, a rider came up to the carriage and told Simon that his uncle wanted to see him. Simon returned alone to the house. When Simon went into the bedroom, Phillip asked Simon if he knew what Phillip had done to him and Simon said yes. Phillip said that he wasn’t sorry for what he’d done and that he’d do it all over again if he could.

Simon wrote up a statement saying that Phillip was retracting his statement about Alyx stealing his horse then got Phillip to sign it. He was going to use that to have the charges against Alyx dropped. Next, he asked Phillip if he ever wondered about him or regretted what he’d done and Phillip said ‘no’. Simon went home, told Alyx she could leave him if she wanted, since they hadn’t been getting along much during the whole voyage back home to England. She said she wanted to stay with him; that’s how the book ended.
________

What I find very interesting is the author’s note at the end of the book about who the character Simon was based on. It says, “In the eighteenth century, the Sixth Earl of Anglesey (uncle Phillip) “is notorious as having procured the kidnapping and bondage in America of his nephew, James Annesley, rightful Lord Altham”.

The girl Alyx’s character was based on was a 14 year old girl who stole a horse and was ‘condemned to transportation’ to Australia and ended up married to the ships captain.

If you want to read more about the real Simon, you can go here.

I read somewhere on the internet years ago (in an obit that I can’t find) that Lolah died in 2002. Below is an image from her, taken from the back of the hardcover edition of her book Vice Avenged (see my review). Image came from the internet.

SALLY’S BAKING ADDICTION: Irresistible Cookies, Cupcakes, and Desserts for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix by Sally McKenney

PUBLISHER: Race Point Publishing, 3/2014
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A-

FROM PUBLISHER: Named by Huffington Post as one of the “Top 10 Food Blogs to Watch” in 2013, Sally’s Baking Addiction has skyrocketed in popularity since its inception in late 2011. Baking addict and food blogger, Sally McKenney loves to bake. Her famous Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies won Nestle’s Dark Chocolate contest in 2013, and now, in her first cookbook, Sally shares her baking secrets with fans everywhere.

Try her No-Bake Peanut Butter Banana Pie, her delectable Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cupcakes, or her yummy Marshmallow Swirl S’mores Fudge. Featuring a brand new selection of desserts and treats, the Sally’s Baking Addiction Cookbook is fully illustrated and offers 75 scrumptious recipes for indulging your sweet tooth–including a chapter of healthier dessert options for those who follow a vegan or gluten-free lifestyle. With dozens of simple, easy-to-follow recipes, you get all of the sweet with none of the fuss!

THINGS I’VE BAKED

DARK CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CAKE

This isn’t moist at all. It’s dense and very dry. This went into the trash can after eating just one piece. I made half the recipe in an 8″ square pan and it baked in 18 minutes. The toothpick came out with moist crumbs on it so I know the dryness wasn’t due to overbaking. The full recipe only has three tablespoons of milk in it. I followed the recipe and I’m convinced the lack of milk in the recipe is what ruined it. The frosting is good but that’s the only positive thing about this. I made half the frosting and used just 2 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, which was about three tablespoons less than called for, and less milk. Anymore and it would have been too bitter for my liking.

PEANUT BUTTER CHUNK OATMEAL BARS
These are pretty good. They use chunky peanut butter, old fashioned oats, mini semisweet chocolate chips, milk, and a few other things. No egg. They’re not too sweet. They’re made in an 8″ square pan. I cut mine into six bars, not twelve. I didn’t make the chocolate peanut butter drizzle for the top. I think I’d like these better with creamy peanut butter instead of crunchy because the peanuts fall out when you take a piece off with the fork.

FROSTED SUGAR COOKIES

I wish you knew how good these are. I added about 3/4 teaspoon of lemon extract to the dough because I’m obsessed with lemon sugar cookies. I didn’t make frosting for these but rolled the dough balls in granulated sugar instead. I got 25 dough balls using a 1 1/2″ diameter/1 tablespoon scoop. I chilled the dough an hour, stirring once halfway, which is how long it took for the dough to be firm enough to scoop out without the dough sticking to the scoop.

These are excellent with lemon added. I baked the first batch for 10 1/2 minutes and the next batch for 11 minutes because the first batch wasn’t crunchy enough. The dough spread out nicely and produced a cookie that’s got some thickness to it. They’re crunchy on the outside and chewy, not cakey, on the inside. The bottoms are a deep golden color. I have nothing bad to say about these. This alone is truly worth the price of the book. You could roll the dough in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar too.

When I baked the last six, for some reason they didn’t spread out as much as the two other batches though they were baked on the same temperature, in the same oven, and the dough sat at room temperature for fifteen minutes like before. Go figure!

OATMEAL SCOTCHIES

Theses cookies taste very good but mine didn’t spread out much, only by about 1/2″-3/4″. I used mini semisweet chocolate chips in place of butterscotch and I omitted the cinnamon. I made just half the recipe and got 27 dough balls using a 1 1/2″ diameter/1 tablespoon scoop. They baked in 10 minutes. To the rest of the dough, I warmed it slightly in the microwave and spread each dough ball out slightly with my fingers on the cookie sheet. They baked up nicely that way and looked normal. They need more salt.

CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

Excellent recipe. I didn’t press down on the cookies with the tines of a fork to make the criss cross pattern before baking. The recipe uses salted butter and no added salt. I used unsalted butter and added 1/4 teaspoon of salt but they needed a bit more. I didn’t add peanuts either. The cookies are very sweet. I got 31 dough balls using a 1 1/2″ diameter/1 tablespoon scoop. I had to chill the dough for 2 1/2 hours before it was firm enough to use the scoop.

With the first batch I flattened the dough balls slightly because I was scared they wouldn’t spread out. I baked them for ten minutes. They spread out too much for my liking. I wanted the second batch crunchier so I baked for eleven minutes and I didn’t flatten them at all. The cookies were crunchy on the outside and chewy inside and they looked great.

BROWN SUGAR MARBLE POUND CAKE

This is very, very moist. It’s made with vegetable oil and equal parts sugar and brown sugar. It tastes a bit off and I can’t taste the chocolate much. I made my own chocolate frosting for it. I made half the recipe in a 1 qt. loaf pan. It baked in 53 minutes. I also doubled the salt to 1/4 teaspoon but it’s not enough. I also used less vanilla extract. I wouldn’t make this again. It looks good but doesn’t taste so great.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

These muffins are made with vegetable oil, yogurt, and cocoa powder and require no mixer, just a large bowl and spoon. I made half the recipe and got nine standard size muffins using a 1/4 c. measuring cup to measure out the batter for each. I used muffin liners and the muffins didn’t stick to them at all when I peeled them off.

I didn’t bake these at a very high temperature for five minutes then lower the temperature like I was supposed to do. I just baked them on 350 degrees F for 18 minutes. They’re very moist and not too sweet. I did add vanilla extract though the recipe called for none. I used mini semisweet chocolate chips. These needed a pinch more salt. I love the way they look, with the cracks on top and I would definitely make these again.

MY THOUGHS: This is a very nice hardcover book that has a photo of every recipe but not always one of the finished product, with the oatmeal scotchies being an example of that. At the time of this review I’ve made seven recipes. All but two of them turned out good. The sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies are truly great recipes with the sugar cookies being the most versatile since you can add anything to the dough- nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, ect. There’s a great variety of flavors too, like peanut butter, apple, chocolate, caramel.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

BAKING STEP BY STEP: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO START BAKING NOW! by Better Homes and Gardens

PUBLISHER:  BHG, 3/2015
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A-

FROM PUBLISHER: Better Homes and Gardens Baking Step by Step is the ultimate guide and idea-generator for anyone who wants to learn to bake or hone their technique. This stunning book uses clear, step-by-step photos—more than 900 of them—to illustrate essential skills from folding batter to forming a lattice pie crust. Home bakers can make 350 classic and modern treats, both sweet and savory.

Learn to roll and bake the perfect flaky tart or frost and decorate a celebration-worthy cake—or start simple with Peanut Butter Blondie Bars or Blueberry Crisp; Skill Level icons flag recipes easy, easier, or easiest to make. Complete with an Intro to Baking covering everything from stocking the kitchen to using a rolling pin, this colorful book makes baking fun and accessible for everyone.

Review with photos here.

CHOCOLATE CHIP SWEETS: FAVORITE RECIPES FROM CELEBRATED CHEFS by Tracey Zabar

PUBLISHING: Rizzoli, 9/2015
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
AUTOR SITE: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: Chocolate chip cookies, bursting with melted bits of chocolate, are the perennial favorite of many Americans. For this compilation, Zabar has reached out to the celebrated icons of the baking world to collect an amazing array of user-friendly recipes beyond the classic cookie. There are the signature creations of such top restaurants as Manhattan’s Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, and Betony, and California’s the French Laundry, while others are treasured family recipes. Chefs such as Jacques Torres, Daniel Boulud, Lidia Bastianich, Dominique Ansel, and Sherry Yard share such classics as shortbread cookies and angel food cake studded with chips. Some reinterpret the cookie and make giant variations, such as Florian Bellanger’s Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies, while others include add-ins like fresh fruit and nuts, or fold in pretzels and candied orange rind. Puddings, pies, ice-cream sandwiches, cakes, doughnuts, brownies, marshmallows, and waffles, oozing with chocolate, are part of the mix. In this beautifully photographed volume, Zabar discusses how to bake with the variety of flavorful chocolate bits available—ranging from traditional chips and pistoles (or coins) to pearls. Chocolate Chip Sweets will appeal to discriminating chocolate chip lovers who crave this satisfying taste sensation.

THINGS I’VE MADE
JACQUES TORRES CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

This cookie is the one on the books cover. It looks a lot better than it tasted. It’s very buttery. It’s attractive but I don’t care for the flavor of them and wouldn’t make them again. The dough balls spread out nicely and I love the crackle top. The ones in the photo were from my first batch. They were baked on 325 degrees for 15 minutes but that was too long. 13.5 minutes is the perfect time for 1 tablespoon of dough.


RASPBERRY MUFFINS

These miniature muffins are actually called’ chocolate chip berry muffins’. I left out the chocolate and used whole milk in place of cream. They’re supposed to be made with cake flour but I used all-purpose and just left out two tablespoons of it. I made half the recipe and got 23, using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to measure out the batter. They baked in 14 minutes, six minutes less than the recipe stated. The full recipe (using 1 1/2 c. flour) states you’ll get about 24, which is clearly wrong. You’ll get double that amount, or 12 regular size muffins. I added vanilla extract and a bit of almond extract to the batter but it needed more almond.

These are incredibly moist, almost too moist because of the raspberries. The tops were gummy the next day. They’re not quite sweet enough. Despite those things this is a very good recipe. The muffin cups are almost 2″ in diameter. The baked muffin tops are flat like in the photo in the book.



PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

These are beyond great and worth the price of the book. They have oats in them and only three tablespoons of peanut butter. I was positive I wouldn’t be able to taste the peanut butter but I was wrong. I can taste and smell it. I think someone experimented with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe by adding a little peanut butter to it and that’s how this recipe came to be. Just for the heck of it I’ll add an extra tablespoon of peanut butter to make 1/4 cup/4 tablespoons.I used a 1 1/2″ diameter/1 tablespoon cookie scoop and got 35 dough balls. The dough is soft and took ninety minutes to be firm enough to scoop out without sticking to the scoop. The cookies in my photos were baked eleven minutes and were too crunchy after they cooled but ten minutes was perfect for the other batches, at 350 degrees. My cookies actually look better than the photo in the book.

 

OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES

These turned out great. I made half the recipe. I left out the chocolate chips and added chopped pecans and cinnamon. We were told to let the melted butter cool ‘slightly’ so I let it cool for just ten minutes. The temperature dropped 30 degrees, from 136 down to 106 Fahrenheit. I got 38 dough balls using a 1 1/2″ diameter/1 tablespoon scoop. It took eighty minutes for the dough to be firm enough to scoop out. The dough spread out good and these baked in 10 1/2 minutes. My only complaint is that the dough needed more salt. I think I’ll use 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon next time, not 3/4 teaspoon. I’ll definitely make these again and maybe divide the dough in half, adding chocolate chips to one half.

MY THOUGHTS: The four things I baked turned out great in appearance and I liked the taste of them all except for the chocolate chip cookies, the first thing I baked out of this. There are still quite a few things I want to make out of the book, including several more chocolate chip cookie recipes. There aren’t enough photos of the finished products and I wish publishers would understand the importance of them. I prefer to see what I’m baking before I actually bake it.

There’s a good variety of recipes, like cookies, cakes, muffins, pies, and so on. I like that you can omit chocolate chips and substitute other things in place of them, like dried fruits and nuts, and create your own recipes.

I’m pretty happy with this book and can’t wait to try more recipes.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

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