Cookbook Review! Super Foods Every Day

Blueberries, salmon, kale, chia seeds . . . No one who is responsible for the grocery shopping, menu planning, and cooking for a family of any size can really escape the attention these ingredients have each shared . They are just part of the larger group of super foods, a term that for many years has been used in the food and wellness industries for foods that provide our bodies with high levels of much-needed vitamins and minerals or that are sources of antioxidants, which are substances that help protect us from cell damage disease.

While understanding the role of super foods is easy enough, creatively incorporating these foods into our daily diets is often a whole other issue. Super Foods Every Day: 65 Recipes for Optimal Health offers 65 easy and appetizing recipes for adding such important nutrients as watercress, bok choy, lentils, artichokes, cauliflower, cranberries, mackerel, and other super food fruits, legumes, fish, and vegetables.

After easy-to-read infographics on the different super foods and their nutritional values and benefits, author Sue Quinn offers chapters on Breakfast, Soups & Salads, Side Dishes, Main Dishes, and Baked Goods. She wraps the book up with “Sweet Things.” Each recipe offers photography of the ingredients and the finished dish, nutritional content, and potential benefits. Before shopping for ingredients, be sure to note number of servings. Many of the recipes only serve one person. Most recipes are relatively quick to make, and happily, no one ingredient dominates the book. [With a vehement dislike of quinoa, I was thrilled that the little grain was limited to one recipe.]

I’ve purchased multiple super food cookbooks, only to return them or give them away after finding them impractical. That won’t happen with Super Foods Every Day. I’ve already made a delicious slaw, lentil braise, and eggplant dish. The compact books is well worth its $14.95 sticker price.

Super Foods Every Day: 65 Recipes for Optimal Health
Sue Quinn
160 pages (paper)
Hachette Livre, 2015
Published in the United States by Ten Speed Press
$14.95 | ISBN 978-1-60774-940-0
Available through Super Foods Every Day: Recipes Using Kale, Blueberries, Chia Seeds, Cacao, and Other Ingredients that Promote Whole-Body Health

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Super Foods Every Day through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for my opinion. All of my opinions are mine and mine alone.
Posted in Food & Cooking, Health & Wellness, Product Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Cookbook Review: Justin Smillie’s Slow Fires

Justin Smillie's Slow Fires

Justin Smillie’s Slow Fires

For experienced home cooks interested in learning or refining their skills in braising, roasting, and grilling, Slow Fires would be a valuable addition to their cookbook libraries.

Arranged by sections on braising, roasting, then grilling, Slow Fires features detailed, step-by-step recipes for about 18 to 20 full meals per technique (about 60 meals overall). Justin Smillie, chef of New York’s Upland restaurant, kicks off his book with an informative over-all introduction to braising, roasting, and grilling, then offers focused introductions at the beginning of each new section. Each meal is accompanied by stunning photography that captures the mouth-watering beauty of every dish.

An experienced chef, Smillie worked his way up the ranks at Mercer Kitchen and Grammercy Tavern. He worked with Jonathon Waxman at Barbuto and was chef at il Buco Alimentari e Vineria before opening Upland as chef-partner. Most meals are Italian in inspiration and feature a wealth of fish, pork, and red meat cuts, from braised oxtails and roasted Pancetta-Wrapped Halibut with Grated Tomato & Summer Squash to grilled Kaffir Lime Octopus with Perfect Chickpeas and Blistered Peppers. Vegetable entrees make appearances in the roasting and grilling section, including a Caramelized Caponata with Caper Vinaigrette and Herbed Mozzarella and Coal-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crème Fraiche Pomegranate, Olives, and Herbs. A Caramelized Five-Onion Soup with Spinach Salad is offered in Braising. Interestingly—and rather disappointingly–chicken is limited to only three entrees, one recipe per method.

Slow Fires also features a final, fourth section, Foundations and Finishes, which wraps up the book with homemade recipes for many ingredients used in the book, such as Parmesan-Pecorino Broth, Preserved Lemons, Fresh Ricotta, and DIY Semi-Cured Salt Cod.

Like the title says, these are not quickly prepared meals. The majority employ multi-day brining and extended cooking times. These are recipes that should be start mid-week for a Saturday or Sunday leisurely meal with friends and family in mind, when you have time to sit back and savor the meal and the results of your work. Happily, a boxed How to Plan This Meal accompanies each and every meal and is essential for the planning and cooking process.

While Slow Fires is not for inexperienced cooks, do not be intimidated by the long recipes, here or in any other cookbook. Study the recipe, make notes, create a grocery list. In addition to learning or improving braising, roasting, and grilling techniques, many of Smillie’s recipes also help home cooks learn other kitchen techniques. For instance, Crisp Pork Belly Braised in Milk discusses how exactly to clean and portion pork belly.  Salt-Roasted Bass with Green Grape Smash details how to clean and fillet a whole roasted fish prior to serving.

I will certainly get plenty of use out of Slow Fires. Living in a near-Chicago suburb, I am spoiled by easy access to neighborhood produce markets, ethnic grocers, and fishmongers, as well as to several butchers, including those offering sustainably and humanely raised meat and poultry. If you live in a more sparsely populated or less diverse area, some substituting of perishable specialty ingredients and/or online purchasing of non-perishables may be required.

Slow Fires: Mastering New Ways to Braise, Roast, and Grill
Justin Smillie with Kitty Greenwald
Photographs by Ed Anderson
320 pages (hardcover)
New York: Clarkson Potter, 2015
$40 | ISBN 978-0-8041-86230
Available through Slow Fires

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Slow Fires by Justin Smillie through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for my opinion. All of my opinions are mine and mine alone.
Posted in Books, Food & Cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best-Ever Corned Beef Brisket


Corned Beef Brisket with mashed potatoes.

For more than 20 years, I have simmered my corned beef on the stove top.

Yesterday, after some reading, I decided to change things up and cook the brisket in the oven. I wish I had done this 20 years ago. This was the best corned beef brisket I have ever made.


For the brisket, I used a 5-pound kosher corned beef. Years ago, we could buy large 6-pound Vienna Beef or Harrington’s corned beef briskets at the supermarket. Over the years, though, the corned beef selection has deteriorated to the point that all that is offered are little 3 pound, no-name corned beef cuts that can’t qualify as a brisket. Because the last thing on my mind in December is corned beef for January, I didn’t order a brisket from the butcher, and our neighborhood market doesn’t carry them.


Raw Kosher corned beef brisket

After staring in disappointment at those pathetic little corned beefs, I pushed my cart over to the kosher section of the supermarket and beheld a beautiful 5-pound corned beef brisket, which was shockingly less expensive than two of the non-kosher briskets put together.  I was thrilled!

The following is the recipe that I developed for what I consider the best corned beef brisket I’ve ever made.

Best-Ever Corned Beef Brisket

The brisket is started on the stove and then cooked for about 4 hours in the oven. It’s almost an imperative to serve this with mashed potatoes. The cooking liquid at the end is perfect for spooning onto the mashed potatoes as an au jus gravy.

5-6 pound corned beef brisket
3 bottles of dark beer
1 medium onion
1 head of garlic cloves
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tbsp pickling spices (see below for a suggested homemade blend)

1. Preheat oven to 300˚ F.
2. Peel the onion and garlic but leave whole. For the onion, you want to leave the bottom intact. Chop the top third off the onion. Then chop the top third or so off the garlic—enough so that most of the cloves have their tops chopped off.
3. In a large Dutch oven, add the onion, garlic, the 3 bottles of beer, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Stir to distribute the brown sugar.
4. Rinse your corned beef, then slide it carefully into the Dutch oven. Turn the heat on to bring the pot to a slow boil.
5. Pickling spices
Here you have some choices:

a) If your corned beef came with a spice packet, you could add that to the pot;
b) You can use 2 tbsp of high-quality store-bought pickling spices. I love Morton & Basset’s line of spices, including their Pickling Spice, which is available on; or,
c) You can quickly throw together your own spice blend. I chose “c” because my brisket didn’t come with a packet and I am out of store bought. I’m very happy I chose “C” because I didn’t need the red pepper that is usually in store-bought pickling spices. Remember, corned beef is already basically pickled. If you choose “C”, here is my custom spice mix for corned beef:


Mustard seed

6 whole cloves
2 tbsp whole mustard seeds
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
2 bay leaves, crumbled

Mix the spices in a little glass bowl and add 2 tablespoons to the corned beef pot. I did not add salt since I am using it for corned beef brisket, which has been salted plenty during the corning (preserving) process.

6. Once the pot has come to a boil, turn off your burner, put the lid on the Dutch oven, and put it in the oven. Set your timer for 2 hours and leave it alone.
7. When your timer goes off, use a long carving tine or other large fork to very carefully flip the brisket over. Re-cover your pot, put it back in the oven, and set your timer for the last two hours.

Your brisket will be done when you can easily slice into it with a knife. When carving, be sure to slice across the grain of the beef.



Posted in Beef, Food & Recipes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment