Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets

This book should come with a warning label: May Cause Drooling and/or Hunger Pangs.

I will be the first to admit I have a problem passing up pastries. So it is my own fault I found it hard to put this book down. I grew up with a grandmother who baked and I miss her cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, Christmas bread, and pastries. Discovering this book is like wandering into her kitchen while she was in the throws of kneading the dough or forming the rolls. What a treasure!

If you haven't baked pastries or been around others who do, one thing that you may find surprising about this book is that several different creations can be made from each "master dough". The main difference in results comes from the fillings and the way the dough is formed or shaped.

Greenstein, and his off-spring who helped compile this book following his death, offers readers detailed instructions not only on each recipe, but also on things such as why measuring is most important in baking and how to "read" your oven and adapt your baking to maximize what's going on in your particular kitchen. (I found this insight most helpful!)

Two drawbacks I discovered while enjoying this book: 1) I began to feel sorry for myself for not having a stand mixer (this would make the job of producing yeast bread doughs infinitely easier!) and 2) I found myself hating the fact I live in the middle of Iowa in a place devoid of a bakery (other than what you can find at the local grocery store. Which is better than nothing, I know.) I found myself ruminating on what it must be like to live in New York or another metropolis where neighborhood bakeries abound, and you come to know what day the baker is going to have your favorite pastries fresh in the display case just waiting for you to stop in and pick one up. A girl can dream, can't she?

If you have the slightest interest in learning to bake, you NEED this book! It'd be crazy to pass on the lifetime of insights a professional baker is offering you! Many of the treats are of Eastern European or German descent, which is a plus in my book since that is a big part of my own heritage. I am going to pass this free copy (which I received from Blogging For Books for this review) on to my daughter (who does have a stand mixer and a love of baking!) in hopes she will bake me something, ANYTHING from it!

From the Publisher . . .

This follow-up to the author’s James Beard award-winning Secrets of a Jewish Baker is a charming collection of European-style bakery classics, such as coffee cake and strudel.

George Greenstein had a gift for teaching home bakers to think, work, and bake like the pros with his evocative and tactile descriptions of baking. In A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets, he crafts master dough recipes for Jewish holiday baking and European classics, creating a comprehensive set of building blocks for both beginners and baking enthusiasts. Greenstein’s expert guidance for making doughs like bundt, babka, strudel, gugelhopf, stollen, pressburger, puff pastry, and Danish create a jumping-off point for more than 200 variations of classic pastries, including napoleons, coffee cakes, and sweet buns. The book also offers an in-depth guide to ingredients and equipment, including both professional and home ovens, as well as basic recipes for fillings, icings, and glazes. With Greenstein’s steady guidance and familiar voice, home bakers and professionals alike will be encouraged to turn out flawless pastry creations for any occasion.

About the Author . . .

GEORGE GREENSTEIN is a third-generation professional baker, now retired. For twenty years he owned and operated a Jewish bakery, The Cheesecake King, on Long Island. He lives in Monroe Township, New Jersey. This is his second book.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Seven Sisters Is A Tease

My inexperience with the bold new world of publishing options in this day of e-readers comes to light with my reading of M. L. Bullock's serial novel, Seven Sisters. The site offering up the book lists the information you read below in "From the Publisher". It is listed as "Seven Sisters Series #1". What is more accurate, is that this the first installment of the serial, and NOT a complete book. It ends after a scant 100+ pages in the middle of a cliffhanger.

I was suspicious when the book downloaded and only had 122 pages. (Some of these final pages are the first chapter of the next "book"--which I can only guess is another installment as I suspect that each one is going to end in a cliffhanger.) The writing is mediocre at best. The characters, while believable, feel stereotypical and not very well fleshed out. It's unfortunate because the concept for the book seems good. A young woman has the "gift" (Carrie Jo would define it in other terms) of slipping into the past lives of people who inhabit the place she where she falls asleep/unconscious. This ability to see what happened long ago has impact on the here and now. Like I said, an interesting premise to run with.

It's truly unfortunate that the book feels like a bait and switch experience which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Had I paid for a complete work, I may have kept on reading despite the writing not being great. But I'm not going to keep paying for sections of one book distributed in serial fashion, not knowing how many times the author will be trying to lure me back to the paypal button.

Thanks, but no thanks. I won't be recommending this book to anyone.

From the Publisher . . .

Carrie Jo has a secret—she dreams about the past. The handsome and wealthy Ashland Stuart has hired her to uncover the history and the secrets of Seven Sisters, an aging antebellum mansion in sultry downtown Mobile, Alabama. A series of dreams, an untimely death and the betrayal of someone she loves lead her back in time to uncover the truth about a missing young heiress and a web of secrets.

Will Carrie Jo slip into the shadows of Seven Sisters, following in the ghostly footsteps of the lost young woman, or can she solve this tragic mystery and find her own happiness?

About the Author . . .

Author M.L. Bullock enjoys the laid-back atmosphere and the spooky vibe of the Gulf Coast, especially the region's historic districts and sites. When she isn't visiting her favorite haunts in New Orleans or Old Mobile, you can find her flipping through old photographs or newspaper clippings in search of new inspiration.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Healthier Eating Is Possible With Everyday Detox

"Dear Food,
It's not you. It's me.
I've just discovered I've had a dysfunctional relationship with you all my life."

So begins my imaginary letter to one of my life's great loves after reading Megan Gilmore's new book, Everyday Detox: 100 Recipes to Remove Toxins, Promote Gut Health, and Lose Weight Naturally.

I found the introduction and premise behind the book to be both fascinating and insightful. I had never considered that there might be a different experience other than feeling gassy & bloated after eating. Also, I have a very difficult time sticking to any plan that asks me to give up my nearly 50-year desire for something sweet. Gilmore states at the outset that her plan does NOT make you give up those sweet indulgences, nor the pasta or potatoes, nor any other food that you might enjoy. She simply asks that we begin to rethink the need to consume ALL the things we love at every meal. (What? I can still have some chocolate now and again? A muffin? Mac-n-cheese? That's HUGE!)

Gilmore suggests that so many of our digestive and weight issues stem from the fact that we are eating the wrong foods together. She presents some "new rules" for putting meals together which ultimately bring more good news: these meals are simplified, quick and easy, and made from better ingredients (which lend more nutrition, taste, and ultimately satisfaction to the experience). She suggests that we eat meals focused on one food type (think animal protein, nuts & seeds, starches, etc.) with a host of supporting "neutral" cast members (typically, non-starchy vegetables) on the side.

After laying out the method and philosophy, Gilmore then presents a host of recipes from smoothies to packable lunches, satisfying dinners and even sweet treats. She lists out how to stock your pantry and kitchen to make her plan a lifestyle and not a passing fad. She advises that even if you don't want to follow the well laid out plan for a full week of detoxing, taking her advice on what foods to avoid eating at the same time and eating more whole foods (versus processed foods), you are sure to feel better (no more bloat! less gas! higher energy!) and possibly lose some weight at the same time.

I for one am very stoked to dive in and put these ideas into practice. I would love to come away from the table feeling satisfied and full of energy rather than ready to curl up on the couch and nurse the pain under my ribcage. I can't wait to try some of these recipes. (The chia cereal/pudding is at the top of my list!) I'd like to thank Blogging For Books for the review copy I received in exchange for this review!

From the Publisher . . .

A healthy guide to detoxing naturally, all year round–no dieting, juice fasting, or calorie counting required–to lose weight, improve digestion, sleep better, and feel great, featuring 100 properly combined recipes for every meal of the day.

Most diets and cleanses have all-or-nothing rules that encourage unhealthy cycles of intense restriction followed by inevitable bingeing. In this healthy guide to detoxing naturally, nutritionist and blogger Megan Gilmore shares 100 delicious, properly combined recipes that will leave you feeling satisfied and well nourished while promoting weight loss and improving digestion and sleep.

Because the recipes were developed with digestion mechanics in mind, detoxers won’t feel bloated or uncomfortable after eating. And crowd-pleasing recipes for every meal of the day—such as Banana Coconut Muffins, Chocolate Chia Shake, Broccoli Cheese Soup, Mediterranean Chopped Salad, Skillet Fish Tacos, Cauliflower Flatbread Pizza, and Peppermint Fudge Bars—are packed with all-natural, whole-foods ingredients designed to stave off feelings of deprivation. With helpful information on how to stock your detox-friendly kitchen plus a handy food-combining cheat sheet that demystifies this cutting-edge health principle, Everyday Detox makes it easy to start eating this way today.

About the Author . . .

MEGAN GILMORE is the creator and recipe developer behind, a website that makes healthy living easier and more accessible. Though she wasn’t raised as a healthy eater, Megan credits her former junk food habits—and a penchant for baking—in helping her re-create healthy favorites using whole-foods ingredients, without sacrificing taste or texture. Megan is a certified nutritionist consultant and health coach, and her recipes have been featured in The Guardian as well as Shape and Clean Eating magazines. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and son.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Medicine Walk

I really enjoyed this book which centers on the heart-rending moments of a young man's journey through the dying and burying of his biological father, and that man's attempt to share who he is with a son he does not know.

The book is set in the mountains of Canada and features strong influences of issues surrounding Native American which play a major part in the novel. The writing reminded me of Kent Haruf's Plainsong triology, which I also loved. Who we are, where we come from, what makes a family: these are the things so many of us struggle with since each family has its struggles, difficulties, and dysfunctional moments. Wagamese taps into these essential questions in a very poignant way which drew me in from the beginning. My heart immediately went out to Franklin and the old man, and eventually came to embrace Eldon and the other characters we meet.

Those who say that Wagamese is a natural storyteller speak the truth. It should be no surprise then, that this novel revolves around the stories that the characters have to tell and the importance of sharing our selves through that medium. That the two most influential women in Eldon's life had been natural storytellers was no surprise. That the old man and Franklin value words so highly that they use them with economy and purpose is a marvelous flip-side of that coin.

I love the title Medicine Walk because it works on so many levels with the story. Franklin mentions that this is what the old man called their forays into nature to live off the land and all that the Earth provides. It also serves as an apt description for the journey Franklin and Eldon are on as they rely on Becca's medicine to see them through to the journey's end. Finally, the time spent together and the stories shared along the way provide the medicine each man's soul needs through the reconciling of lives.

I am so thrilled to have been introduced to this author and I offer thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this review. You can be sure I will be getting my hands on more of Wagamese's writing in the future!

From the Publisher . . .

When Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, he has mixed emotions. Raised by the old man he was entrusted to soon after his birth, Frank is haunted by the brief and troubling moments he has shared with his father, Eldon. When he finally travels by horseback to town, he finds Eldon on the edge of death, decimated from years of drinking.

The two undertake difficult journey into the mountainous backcountry, in search of a place for Eldon to die and be buried in the warrior way. As they travel, Eldon tells his son the story of his own life—from an impoverished childhood to combat in the Korean War and his shell-shocked return. Through the fog of pain, Eldon relates to his son these desolate moments, as well as his life’s fleeting but nonetheless crucial moments of happiness and hope, the sacrifices made in the name of love. And in telling his story, Eldon offers his son a world the boy has never seen, a history he has never known.

About the Author . . .

Richard Wagamese is one of Canada’s foremost Native authors and storytellers. Working as a professional writer since 1979 he’s been a newspaper columnist and reporter, radio and televison broadcaster and producer, documentary producer and the author of eleven titles from major Canadian publishers with a new novel, Indian Horse, coming in early 2012.

He has been a success in every genre of writing he has tried. The 56 year-old Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in Northwestern Ontario became the first Native Canadian to win a National Newspaper Award for Column Writing in 1991. As a published author he was won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction for his third novel Dream Wheels, in 2007 and the Alberta Writers Guild Best Novel Award for his debut novel, Keeper’n Me in 1994. Addititionally, his memoir One Native Life was one of The Globe and Mail’s 100 Best Books of 2008 and the memoir One Story, One Song was awarded the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature in 2011.

He published an anthology of his newspaper columns, The Terrible Summer in 1996 with Warwick Press and his second novel, A Quality of Light, in 1997 from Doubleday. A critically acclaimed memoir entitled For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son arrived in October 2002, Dream Wheels in 2006, and the novel Ragged Company and his acclaimed and bestselling memoir One Native Life in 2008. He published the follow-up to One Native Life, the acclaimed memoir, One Story, One Song in February 2011 and his first collection of poetry, Runaway Dreams, in July 2011, followed by The Next Sure Thing, a novel in Orca Press’ Rapid Reads Series in October 2011.

He has twice won the Native American Press Association Award and the National Aboriginal Communications Society Award for his newspaper columns. Currently, his series One Native Life runs as a radio commentary and newspaper column in both Canada and the U.S. and was a weekly television commentary on CFJC-TV 7 in Kamloops, BC from 2007 to 2010.

Richard continues to lead writing and storytelling workshops in communities across the country. He was honored with an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops in June 2010 in recognition of lifetime achievement in writing and publishing and was the 2011 Harvey Stevenson Southam Guest Lecturer in Professional Writing at the University of Victoria. Richard has also been honored with the 2012 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications.

An esteemed public speaker and storyteller, he lives in the mountains outside of Kamloops, British Columbia with his wife, Debra Powell, and Molly the Story Dog.