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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guacamole Two Ways: Bacon and Tomato + Toasted Pepita

What would you say if you had to name your favorite dip?  Your favorite spread?  On most days, my answer to both of those questions is the same.  There's just something about avocados that I find irresistible.  You can moosh 'em up until they're chunky.  You can take it even further and make them creamy and smooth.  Slice them to add beautiful green layers to a sandwich or salad.  Chunk and sprinkle them over tacos or nachos.  Puree them and turn them into dessert.  Or, for one of the best dips and/or spreads of all time, smash 'em up with some lime juice, salt, chiles, garlic, onion, tomato, and cilantro to make a simple guacamole.

That last sentence is true.  I go fairly straight-forward with everyday guac, but it's always fun to shake things up a little and try some fun variations.  Rick (Mr. Bayless if you're nasty) has a few pages of variations in the front of his latest book.  I decided it was high time to knock some of them out.  I wound up with a new favorite (I didn't doubt it by the ingredients) and one that was just sort of meeeeh (good for themes or special occasions, perhaps).

Can you guess which was which?
My new favorite that I unapologetically ate the whole bowl of by myself (relax, I only made a half batch) was the Bacon and Tomato Guac.  BOMB!  Seriously.  Thick, smoky bacon combined with the smoky heat of chipotles accented by tomato and enrobed in glorious avocado.  Per. Fec. Tion.

Bacon and Tomato Guacamole

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 20 minutes +
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Keywords: appetizer condiment side sauce avocado bacon tomatoes Mexican

Ingredients (~3 cups)
  • 5 strips thick bacon, cut into julienne
  • 3 medium-large (~1¼ lbs.) ripe California avocados
  • ½ medium onion, ¼" dice
  • 3 chipotles en adobo stemmed & finely chopped
  • 1 medium-large ripe tomato, cored and ¼" dice
  • ¼ c. loosely packed fresh cilantro + more for garnish
  • salt
  • 1-2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
Cook bacon until just crisp, ~10 minutes. Drain on paper towel.
Peel the avocados and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh and place into a large bowl. Mash using a potato masher (or large fork or spoon) until you have a coarse puree.

Place onion in a small strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off excess water and transfer to the bowl, along with the chipotles, tomato, cilantro, and most of the bacon. Gently stir to combine everything.
Taste and season with salt. Add lime juice to taste.

Serve immediately, garnished with remaining bacon and some cilantro or cover with plastic wrap (directly on surface of guac), until ready to serve.
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My not-so-favorite was the toasted pepita guac.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad.  It was just not my favorite.  The ground pepitas (pepita butter, if you will) lend this crazy, unexpected, extremely pungent flavor that borders on overwhelming the delicate avocado.  So again, good...just not my favorite.  I'll probably make it again in the Autumn, when I'm feeling the whole pumpkin thing.  Don't let me dissuade you from trying, though!  Never know, it could be your new favorite.

Toasted Pepita Guacamole

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Keywords: appetizer condiment side sauce avocado pepitas Mexican

Ingredients (~3 cups)
  • 3 medium-large (~1¼ lbs.) ripe California avocados
  • ½ small red onion, ¼" dice
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded, stemmed, & finely diced
  • 2 Tbs. loosely packed chopped cilantro + more to garnish
  • 2-3 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¾ c. pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), toasted and salted + more to garnish
  • salt
Pit and peel the avocados. Scoop the flesh into a large bowl and mash up. Place onion in a small strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off excess water and then add to avocado along with serrano, cilantro, and lime juice.

Place pumpkin seeds into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Scrape down sides of bowl and run processor again until you have a chunky paste. Add paste to avocado mixture.

Stir everything together and then season to taste with salt. Serve immediately garnished with some extra pepitas and cilantro. Alternately refrigerate (w/ plastic directly on surface of guac) until ready to serve. Best eaten within a couple of hours.

slightly adapted from Fiesta at Rick's
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How do you like your guacamole?  And if you don't like guac (I'm sure there's somebody out there...), what is your favorite dip or spread?

I am sharing this post with:
Join Dine & Dish and Cookin’ Canuck for the California Avocado 4th of July Blast, sponsored by the California Avocado Commission.
IHCC theme: June Potluck!
Rick Bayless @IHCC button rounded weekend cooking gallery of favorites

Foodie Penpals - June '12

This month, I was paired up with the incredibly sweet Jaren from Kiwi Fit as a Foodie Penpal.  This was my second month participating in this foodie swap...and let me tell you, it never gets old getting goodies in the mail.  Plus, every once in a while you meet some really cool people, too.  That was definitely the case with Jaren, who lives in Texas...and has a heart just as big!

She sent me a box loaded with homemade goodies...and a little backstory on each.

First up was a giant bag of these Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, and Walnut Cookies chock-full of delicious add-ins and toppings, including those awesome sprinkles (which were lovingly applied by her nephews with hopes of impressing the ladies).  Totally worked, guys...totally worked.

The next bag I opened contained a batch of this Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola (recipe can be found here).  How did she know I love granola?  A girl after my own heart.  Of course Jaren says maybe loving granola is a prerequesite of being a girl.  I'll go with that.

As I mentioned, Jaren lives in Texas, so of course her family has their very own steak rub.  That's mandatory for being a Texan, no?  I think this was what I was most excited to pull out of my box, a jar of her family's Famous Steak Rub...the recipe of which she could not disclose due to fear of being disowned.  I understand.  My guess is coffee, salt, dark brown sugar...perhaps a bit of cocoa powder?  Hmmm.  It smells awesome and tastes the same.  I'll enjoy the jar while I have it!

Tried it.  Loved it.  This was what I served the hubs for his Father's Day dinner.  Perfect!  Thanks so much to Jaren for the heartfelt box of foodie-fun.  I hope you'll take a minute to go over and visit her, if you don't know her already!
foodiepal large reveal day
Not familiar with Foodie Penpals?  Here's a little explanation from its creator, Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean:
     -On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
     -You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
     -The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
     -You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
     -Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
     -Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re interested in participating for July, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.  
You must submit your information by July 4th as pairings will be emailed on July 5th!

*If you'd like to browse all of the other Foodie Penpal reveal posts for June, click here.  And if you want a peek at what I sent my Foodie Penpal, Amanda (aka Ms. Giggles), you can see that here!*
Friday, June 29, 2012

Presto Pasta Nights #270 {roundup}

It's no secret that people love their pasta.  Heck, people love noodles in all sizes, shapes, and forms.  Comfort food.  Simple meals.  Versatile.  Delicious.  Sweet and Tangy.  Colorful.  Life-Saver.  Hearty, yet light.  Creamy.  Zippy.  Nutricious.  Dependable.  Just a few of the words and phrases used to decribe the pasta in this week's Presto Pasta Nights submissions.   And each and every sentiment is true.

Contributions range from semolina-based favorites like rigatoni, macaroni, orzo, fusilli, and spaghetti to quinoa and kelp noodles to soba noodles to zucchini noodles.

We have hearty, meaty main dishes, veggie-laden dishes in creamy sauces (one just may include avocado), dishes with tofu, vegan dishes, and dishes that can be eaten as sides or piled high to make meals.

We have a raw dish.  We have gluten-free dishes.  There's even a salad in there.  And the chile peppers were not forgotten this week, either.

Cheese sauce? Creamy sauce?  Tomato-based sauce?  Almond Butter based-sauce?  Oh yeah, they're all here.

If you're ready for some pasta...for some noodles...for some inspiration for what to make in your kitchen this week -- look no further!  Okay, a little further.  Because that inspiration lies below...


First up is a visually stunning Sweet & Tangy Almond Noodle Delight from Gluten Free Happy Tummy that isn't only easy on the eyes, but also on the tummy as it is gluten-free, vegan, & body ecology diet friendly.

Next up, from Warteg Gaziantep is this Cheesy Rigatoni that some lucky soul received in their lunchbox.  I only wish it had been my lunch box.

I have a real weakness for any dish with pressed and glazed tofu in it.  And if you coat it and some soba noodles in a luscious sauce like this one from Truth Personified, my knees just buckle.  Check out these Hot and Sweet Glazed Tofu with Soba Noodles.

Color and crunch and the flavor of basil.  Pasta in a creamy white sauce with mushrooms.  That's what's happening over at Cooking Escapades with this mouthwatering Pasta in Mushroom Sauce with Basil Flavoured Spicy Vegetables.

Cooking My Way through my CSA cooked up a delightful pasta salad her way - with whole wheat orzo, rapini, cannellini beans, almonds, lemon zest, and feta (for a start).  I know I'd be delighted to try her Rapini and Orzo Salad ...along with a glass of "knitting juice" please!

Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen is up to her usual shenanigans again.  And by shenanigans, I mean veganizing a dish I already love and still making me want to eat it.  Though I'm a happy carnivore, I'd be ecstatic to try Deb's Salsa Mac-n-Cheeze (Vegan) . Seriously?  YUM!

And for my next meal, I'll be heading over to Baker's Corner because I, too love beating this insane heating by making a tempting all-in-one meal, like this Pasta with Zucchini and Ricotta Polpette.  It may even make me forget that heat for while...

Culinary Adventures with Camilla julienned her way to an amazing gluten-free pasta option that includes not only zucchini, but also almonds, thyme, and mint.  This  Zucchini "Pasta" Salad w/ Almonds {raw} is another great idea for the dog-days of summer!

My first time hearing of kelp noodles was this week over at The Taste Space.  I am so intrigued to try them, especially if they include a sauce that is both light and creamy.  And contains avocados like this Creamy Green on Green Pasta (Raw Kelp Noodles and Broccoli w/ a Creamy Lemon-Basil Whipped Avocado Sauce).

Nearing the end, we have this incredibly mouthwatering skillet full of Chicken & Kale Pasta - Asian Style from PPN creator Ruth from Once Upon a Feast.  She was inspired to make it from many a different source...including detectives eating chinese takeout, Pinterest, a trip to the market, and a pantry scour.  My kinda meal.

And to bring things full-circle, take a gander at this delicious mingling of Mexican and Italian all in one bowl, my Pasilla Bolognese Spaghetti that I posted here at girlichef to kick things off a week ago.  The chiles lend an earthy, almost raisin-esque note that when combined with a tomato base and finished with some crema is meal-time bliss.


Thanks so much to everybody who sent their noodle-filled dishes my way this week, it was a pleasure hosting Presto Pasta Nights for the third time!  Be sure to send your noodle and pasta dishes over to PPN creator Ruth at Once Upon a Feast next week (ruth @ 4EveryKitchen . com), as she will be hosting the next round...round number 271!

And if you're looking for more pasta inspiration, you can check out ALL of the past Presto Pasta Nights roundups.  Ummm, yeah.  That would be 269 roundups before this one.  Literally, THOUSANDS of dishes.  Insane!
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

200 Fast & Easy Artisan Breads by Judith Fertig | cookbook review

200 Fast & Easy Artisan Breads by Judith Fertig | cookbook review
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Trio of Tropical Pops ...inspired by The Mistress of Spices {food 'n flix}

As a young girl in India, Tilo's parents were murdered by bandits, but she escapes and (literally) washes up on the shore of a hidden group of mistresses led by First Mother.  First Mother teaches Tilo and the rest of the girls in the ancient art of spices.

When she is ready, Tilo is dispensed to San Francisco where she runs Spice Bazaar.  Her mission: to help clients achieve their desires; but never her own.  She must never leave the store.  And she must never touch the skin of another.  Tilo has the ability to see the future.  Using her clairvoyance, she dispenses spices and food as curatives...and to help others get what they need.

All is well until a mysterious stranger appears and caused Tilo to question the ways that she was taught and lives by.
This is a fun flick laden with rich, visual imagery of both food and spices, but also clothing and landscape.  It has romance.  And plenty of opportunity for a belly rumble.  It definitely brings out my inner witch.  It's not the deepest of films and I thought it was lacking a lot.  I'm betting the book will answer my desire to delve deeper into the story.  (It's on order.)  Oh, and as another foodie aspect, Padma Lakshmi has a little part in the film...though it has nothing to do with food.

The Mistress of Spices is our Food 'n Flix pick for this month, chosen by our host Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  There's still a couple of days left for you to watch and post something inspired by this film, if you like.  Since I am in hard-core popsicle mode lately, it probably comes as no surprise that I chose to make some that were inspired by this film.  Afterall, it's hot in India.  And in San Francisco.  Go with it.  And all three are laced with the mysterious properties of their choose wisely when sharing them.

Vanilla for... its power to bring love, its lust-inducing properties, and its ability to restore lost energy and improve the mind.
Paletas de Coco (Creamy Coconut Ice Pops)

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes for toasting coc
Keywords: dessert side coconut coconut milk popsicles American Mexican summer

Ingredients (6-8)
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ⅔ c. half-and-half
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ c. unsweetened, shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 325° F. Spread coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Place in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring it around every few minutes for even toasting. Alternately, you could place coconut in a nonstick pan and toast on top of the stove (my preferred method because it's quicker), but you need to watch it at all times. Toast and toss constantly until golden and toasty and beautiful smelling.

Place coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, salt, and vanilla in blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the toasted coconut.

Divide among popsicle molds and freeze until hard, inserting popsicle sticks at the correct time for your molds.
slighty adapted from Paletas
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Chiles for... their ability to bring and reveal love and fidelity, and also for their hex-breaking properties.
Spicy Pineapple Ice Pops (Paletas de Piña con Chile)

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes + time to freeze
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: dessert snack vegan chiles pineapple popsicles American Mexican summer

Ingredients (8-10)
  • 1 c. water
  • ½ c. superfine sugar
  • 1 serrano chile, split lengthwise
  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled & cored
  • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ tsp. ground chiles de árbol (or piquín or guajillo)
  • ½ tsp. salt
Cook water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high until mixture comes to a boil and sugar dissolves. Add the serrano and lower heat; simmer for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and then strain.

Finely dice 1½ cups of the pineapple. Mix with ground chile and salt; set aside.

Coarsely chop the rest of the pineapple and place in a blender with the cooled syrup and lime juice. Blend until smooth.

Divide mixture among your popsicle molds, leaving about ¼ - ⅓ of the mold empty. Freeze until slushy, ~30 minutes.

Divide the pineapple-chile mixture among the molds, in the space that you left, pushing it down a bit with one of the popsicle sticks.

Freeze pops, adding sticks when appropriate for your molds, until solid.

How many ice pops you get really depends on the size of your pineapple. Try looking for one that is medium in size.
slightly adapted from Paletas
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Cinnamon for... increased spirituality, overall healing, increased psychic powers, protection, and its ability to manifest lover, gain knowledge, and be a friend-maker.
Roasted Banana & Cinnamon Popsicles

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes + time to freeze
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: roast dessert snack vegetarian nut-free bananas cinnamon popsicles American Mexican summer fall

Ingredients (8-10)
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • ¼ c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • ¾ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbs. dark rum (optional)
Preheat oven to 400° F. Wrap unpeeled bananas individually in foil. Roast until soft, ~25-30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from the peels and place in a small bowl.
Add both sugars and smoosh together with a fork until the sugars have dissolved. Place in the jar of a blender along with milk, cream, vanilla, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, and rum (if using). Blend until smooth. Refrigerate until cold.

Divide mixture amongst popsicle molds and freeze, inserting popsicle sticks at the correct time for the type of mold you have.
adapted from Paletas
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I am sharing this post with:
Food 'n Flix hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla
The Summer of the Popsicle 2012 at Tasty Tuesdays 33 shades of green tasty-tuesday-larger-logo1 hearthnsoul150 a little birdie told me rook no. 17

Monday, June 25, 2012

Apricot Chamomile Popsicles (Paletas de Chabacano y Manzanilla)

Paletas de Chabacano y Manzanilla (Apricot Chamomile Popsicles)
It's that time again.  Time to play the Picnic Game! Every year, Louise announces her annual Picnic Game on International Picnic Day (June 18) and gathers participants dishes into her giant virtual picnic basket to share on the first day of National Picnic Month (July).  It's something I look forward to every year...this is my fourth year participating.

Taking that peek into the basket...lifting the virtual lid...spreading the blanket and loading up my plate.  Did you have any doubt that I would bring a popsicle this year?  I mean, even if my blanket was occupying space under a giant shade tree and a pleasant breeze was blowing, it's still sizzling out there.
Sunday, June 24, 2012

Vanilla Honey Sesame Milkshake for the Great Shakes 2012: Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes Virtual Party {cookbook review}

title: Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes: 100 Thick and Creamy Shakes You Can Make at Home

author: Adam Ried
publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
photos: yes
soft cover (also available in hard cover): 208 pages

chapters/sections: Introduction - Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Equipment and a Key Ingredient or Two - Your Father's Oldsmobile: Basic Shakes - Vanilla Shakes - Chocolate Shakes - Tea and Coffee Shakes - Fruity Shakes - Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Unconventional Shakes - Shakes (and Other Frosty Affairs) from Afar - Index

fun features:  Aside from being a fascinating, pages eleven through thirty-seven are a fantastic primer for stepping into the kitchen and getting friendly with your blender.  Those pages begin with Ried's Introduction in which he sells us on the modernization of the milkshake.  If you weren't already standing at the cash register, that is. The Building Blocks of Milkshake Modernization in which the arsenal that you'll need to modernize those shakes follows close behind. From the ingredients that go in to a word about the recipes within the book to tips and pointers Ried learned along the way.  He also talks about the differences between shakes and smoothies and includes a fun Soda Fountain Beverage Family Tree.  I particularly loved learning the what exactly fun sounding drinks from the soda fountain's of old, such as Cabinet's Concrete's, Egg Creams (no eggs!), Phosphates, and Fre3zes (among others) actually were.  And then settle in for A Brief History of the Milkshake nestled between those building blocks.  I love a good history lesson.  Especially when it's foodie history.

(a few of the many) recipes destined for my kitchen: Mexican Chocolate Shake w/ Chipotle & Almond, Chocolate-Guinness Shake, Chocolate-Earl Grey Shake, Mocha-Cardamom Shake, Triple Peach Shake, Raspberry-Rose Shake, Pineapple Ginger and Lime Shake, Tamarind Shake w/ Sugar & Chile, Lemon-Buttermilk Shake, Peanut-Molasses Shake, Malted Caramel Shake, Cholado, Malted Ballistic Vanilla Shake, Serious Malted Chocolate Shake

my thoughts/review:  A couple of things.  Number one: can you really go wrong releasing an amazing book full of frozen treats at the beginning of a hot, HOT summer?  Number two:  can you really go wrong believing in the amazing Adam Ried (yes, I'm an America's Test Kitchen fan)?  The answer to both of those questions is a resounding NO.  No you can't.  I love everything about this book.  From the brief history of a milkshake in the front of the book to the tantalizing photographs that leave me wanting to go shopping for not only enough ice cream to fill both of my freezers, but also quirky glasses, spoons, and straws in which to serve from and slurp from, I can't stop staring at the pages.

You'll find not only the basics and their amped up versions (extra rich and malted) like Ballistic Vanilla, Classic Chocolate, Serious Chocolate, and Strawberry on these pages, you'll also find a plethora of tempting and unexpected flavor combinations.  See the recipes destined for my kitchen above for a sneak peek at some of those combos.

This book will keep me cool and satisfied for many summers to come.

recipe(s) I have already tried:  I am completely enamored with this milkshake and if I didn't have restraint, I would make myself one daily.  It reminds of some of my favorite desserts: Pastelli and Sesame Seed Toffee Snaps.  Oh.  Yes.
Vanilla Honey Sesame Milkshake

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Keywords: blender snack dessert ice-cream summer

Ingredients (3½ cups/28 oz./850 milliliters)
  • ½ c. cold milk
  • ¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs. (1½ oz./43 g) honey
  • 8 medium scoops (~1 qt./24 oz./680 g) vanilla bean ice cream, slightly softened
Combine milk, vanilla, sesame oil, and honey in a blender and blend thoroughly, ~15 seconds.

Add the ice cream and pulse to begin combining. Scrape down the sides with a rubber scraper and continue pulsing, stopping, and mashing until the mixture is well-blended, thick, and moves easily through the blender jar, 30-90 seconds.

Pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately. Garnish with some toasted sesame seeds, if you wish.

slightly adapted from Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes
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photo by Andre Baranowski
about the author:  Adam Ried is the cooking columnist for the Sunday Boston Globe Magazine and a contributor to Cook's Country, Fine Cooking, Hannaford fresh, and other publications.  He is also the kitchen equipment specialist on both the top-rated PBS cooking show America's Test Kitchen and the new PBS series Cook's Country from America's Test Kitchen.  As an editor for Cook's Illustrated Adam developed and edited recipes and feature stories and was responsible for the highly respected kitchen equipment testing and ingredient tasting programs and features.  He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

further info: twitterwebsite

For more Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes, click on the banner below.  You'll find more about the book, Adam Ried, recipes tried by other bloggers, and #GreatShakes!

*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

I am sharing this post with:
Scrumptious Sunday @ Addicted to Recipes
Cookbook Sundays at Couscous and Consciousness gumbobadge fr2button