5.16.2019

Recent Eats! Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman and Raddish Kids

Checking in after another long hiatus of cooking updates (since January)! As per usual, I was burning through cookbooks that didn't wow me or have more than one or two dishes to report back on - though Bittman's book has definitely turned the tide. 

But first I wanted to give a little plug for this awesome subscription service I got for the kids because they have become increasingly interested in getting into the kitchen. I got a few cookbooks geared towards children and we would help each kiddo make a dish of their choosing. This was fine, but they would inevitably pick meals like breaded chicken tenders or mac and cheese, not really broadening any horizons. I started searching for meal kits for kids (I mean, there are about one million options out there for adults) and came across Raddish - extra D not a typo, as in RAD dish! I got a six month subscription and it has been awesome. 
Each month we get a themed meal kit that includes a kitchen tool (pastry cutter, garlic press, silicone tart molds), a patch for their apron (which comes in the first box), dinner table conversation starter cards, and sturdy laminated recipes for a main dish, dessert and some sort of side or extra that fits the menu. 
I wasn't really interested in getting actual ingredients in the boxes, as I am already a weekly meal planner/grocery trip person, so this was perfect - and not terribly expensive. I also love that the menus are somewhat adventurous but still have kid appeal like mango sticky rice with chicken satay, or rainbow taco salad. Plus, there's no hemming and hawing about their choice - they get what they get and we help them make the meal. 
Not having the ingredients shipped also gives us a lot of flexibility. It's been a little busy around here with Spring Break and school sports, so I've saved the most recent delivery and might hold on to the next month's to break out over the summer. And, I do have a referral code which gives me some $$ off my next boxes if you are so inclined - you can use BB9H2W for $10 off a subscription. All this to say, that even if there was no referral code, I'd still be telling y'all about it! 
Okay, as for the rest of our meals, I have been over the moon about Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express. I don't think I've marked this many recipes in a cookbook EVER. Although there are over 400 recipes in there, so... He packs them in by eliminating pictures, long ingredient lists or step-by-step instructions. Just an easy paragraph explanation for each recipe. At first I was a little disappointed, because I usually look through recipe books based on the picture! But, I do cook in a more laid-back way, like the recipes are written. They are all so simple, obviously, but have unique ingredients. I can’t believe I’ve never used a Thai chili before, but I’ve used them twice already in recipes from this cookbook that appealed to me, such as fish with Thai pesto sauce.
And chicken in a basil coconut curry.
We've also used his simple spice rub and sauce for spicy chicken chipotle tacos, which I forgot to snap a picture of before gobbling them up. I look forward to trying at least a dozen more recipes from this book, so good!
I also picked up Milk Street: Tuesday Nights a few weeks ago and so far we've made the Lemongrass Tofu a half dozen times. DELICIOUS. Can't go wrong with America's Test Kitchen/Christopher Kimball.
And, folks inevitably ask about how our kids like these meals. And, I give my inevitable answer: they try it, but get a modified version such as chicken and rice without sauce, or chicken without the chipotle and a quesadilla, or fish sticks and a wee dip of pesto, etc. We might save tofu for a night they're eating pizza, though. Haha! They are coming around slowly but surely thanks to our modeling and their interest in getting involved in cooking!

5.07.2019

Books I Read in April


There There by Tommy Orange
I normally love a novel that reads like connected short stories, but this one felt somewhat disjointed. I lost the thread of characters that I wanted to spend more time with, though the ideas within are so important and should be talked about more. 
"The wound that was made when white people came and took all that they took has never healed. An unattended wound gets infected. Becomes a new kind of wound like the history of what actually happened became a new kind of history. All these stories that we haven’t been telling all this time, that we haven’t been listening to, are just part of what we need to heal. Not that were broken. And don’t make the mistake of calling us resilient. To not have been destroyed, to not have given up, to have survived, is no badge of honor. Would you call an attempted murder victim resilient?"
I did find the writing to be absorbing and unique. The plot that follows a dozen native Americans on their way to a Powwow, which you can see coming from the first pages, is still a gut punch in the end, which is no small feat. I’m glad I finally read it after it has garnered so much attention and acclaim since it's publication.

Sisters First by Jenna Bush Haeger and Barbara Pierce Bush
The audiobooks I listened to in March were on the heavier side, so I was searching for something a little more lighthearted but still interesting. Sisters First definitely fit the bill, although I'd say interesting does not equal informative. I didn't have any grand revelations about the Bush family after listening, but there were definitely a range of well told stories that were funny, sad and heartwarming. Also, worth noting, I was constantly distracted by Jenna's voice because I think she used her television speaking voice (always emphasizing the last word in her sentences) instead of sounding more conversational, like Barbara. Perhaps the hard copy of this one is the way to go!

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Confession: I haven’t read Liane Moriarty since I read Big Little Lies, years before the tv show (which I thought was an EXCELLENT adaptation). The buzz around Truly Madly Guilty wasn’t great, so I never picked it up. Then I had the chance to catch Moriarty on tour for her latest, and absolutely loved hearing her talk about Nine Perfect Strangers. And STILL, I took forever to pick it up because of mixed reviews. I finally read it and absolutely tore through the pages. Yes, it’s a little kooky. No, it’s not Big Little Lies. But she writes such fast paced, wholly engaging stories. This one was also exceptionally hilarious, and I often barked a “HA!” out loud. Perhaps I saw Liane in the main character Frances, whom she said she identified with most, and I was able to invest in her journey. Either way, I definitely recommend this book for a fast, fun and crazy ride. Now maybe I’d better pick up Truly, Madly, Guilty...

The One by John Marrs
This book was CRAZY! What if genetic testing existed to find your true biological soul mate, your perfect match?? Marrs explores a whole host of chaotic scenarios that were really thought provoking. I was in the mood for a thriller and this one has a little sci-fi, a little romance, and a lot of food for thought. And of course, it’s coming to Netflix as a series in the near future - I definitely plan to tune in!

You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
I was flailing for awhile this month, choosing an audiobook - starting and casting aside several that just weren’t doing it for me after feeling just so-so about Sisters First. I’m SO GLAD Annie Jones mentioned You’ll Grow Out of It on a recent episode of her From the Front Porch podcast! Indeed, this was HILARIOUS and made me guffaw repeatedly. Klein tells the most relatable stories about her career, motherhood, marriage, dating, friendship and just being a woman in the world. ‘Ma’am’ was probably my favorite chapter- highly recommend!

The Farm by Joanne Ramos
This was full of moral dilemmas to chew on, but not full of depth. Full review here!

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? Alyssa Mastromonaco
I love hearing Mastromonaco on Pod Save America and finally picked this one up on audio. This is exactly what I wish From the Corner of the Oval had been! I loved the inside look at the White House, the personal dramas and funny moments that shone through the truly fascinating inner workings of the government. While I found Beck Dorey-Stein frustrating, Matstromonaco comes across as humbled, hard working and full of wisdom from her experience. 

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Oof. Home Fire is really well done and so tragic. Going in, I knew it was an interpretation of Antigone as a way to tell a story about immigrants and radicalism. I didn't remember much about it from my college mythology class, though it just so happened that my son was recently on the school production team of Antigone, refreshing my knowledge of the story. Still, knowing the bones of the plot and the ultimate fate of certain characters, it was gut wrenching. Shamsie brilliantly shows how shockingly easy it is to make Antigone relevant thousands of years later.

5.02.2019

The Farm by Joanne Ramos (ARC Review)


The Farm by Joanne Ramos
Publisher: Random House (May 7, 2019)
Description from the publisher:
Nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley is a luxury retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, personal fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you’re paid big money to stay here—more than you’ve ever dreamed of. The catch? For nine months, you cannot leave the grounds, your movements are monitored, and you are cut off from your former life while you dedicate yourself to the task of producing the perfect baby. For someone else.
Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, is in desperate search of a better future when she commits to being a “Host” at Golden Oaks—or the Farm, as residents call it. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her family, Jane is determined to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on the delivery of her child.

The premise of this novel was gripping from the get-go. It certainly mirrors The Handmaid's Tale, and could very well be a precursor to how our society might easily fall into that particular brand of dystopia. The themes are also similar: power struggles between the wealthy and privileged vs the poor and desperate. With a more modern day take, the ethical and moral dilemmas abound, giving the reader a lot to chew on. Ramos' world building of Golden Oaks and all it entails was vivid and thought provoking. 
”Because in America you only have to know how to make money. Money buys everything else.” 
I also thought that there was a lot of food for thought about feminism, misogyny and racism. Yet it felt like more breadth than depth was given to these themes. Ramos utilizes archetypal characters rather than ones that really stand on their own as a fully fleshed out individuals. There was quite a large cast of characters in the book and I felt as if they could've been pared down significantly so that Jane could have been given a bit more oomph. Though she was somewhat unlikeable, Jane's cousin Ate has the most dynamic and full character arc. Alas, she is not who I wanted to be invested in, to be the hero of the story. I also felt frustrated by the ending, Jane's ending, even though it was probably the most plausible outcome for her and I turned the pages pretty furiously to get to the conclusion.
Overall this was an entertaining read that was driven by plot and juicy 'what if?' scenarios. It would make for an good summer read, and definitely a book club pick - lots of moral choices to dissect.
Many thanks to Random House for the complimentary advance copy in exchange for my honest review!