Shimmer and Shine: Kitchen Magic

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 64 pgs.
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Shimmer and Shine: Kitchen Magic is a cookbook for younger kids to start learning how to cook simple meals with the help of an adult. The recipes come with a little bit of story from Shimmer and Shine and their friends, as well as an ingredient list and step-by-step instructions. These recipes are easy enough to read that early readers can follow along themselves. Some elements will require help, including pre-heating the oven and taking the items in and out of the oven, etc. I will caution that there are some odd recipes in here for Pizza and ice pops, but they do make for healthy alternatives.

My daughter loves helping in the kitchen with recipes and the Blue Apron boxes (which I have 5 free boxes to give out so if you want one, let me know — you can’t have been a previous customer or previously received a box before).

For her first recipe, she selected Sparkle Cakes from the book, though we did not have the ingredients to make the frosting. We did have some other store-bought frosting, which we used on the cupcakes and improvised with the fruit topping since we also didn’t have raspberries. The recipe for the chocolate cupcakes was easy to follow, though when we added the hot water at the end after everything was mixed, it took a bit to get the right consistency for the mix before putting it into the cupcake pans. Since I’ve baked before, I knew the consistency wasn’t right when we poured it in, so I had to help her mix it more thoroughly. For this recipe, I would have added the water earlier in the recipe.  Otherwise, the cupcakes turned out nice and fluffy and moist.


Our second recipe, Cheesy Noodle Flowers, was messy and fun to make, though we had no-bake lasagna noodles, which made it a little harder to roll our flowers up. Eventually we got them rolled up and ready for the oven, even though some noodles cracked and broke.  Despite the messy look of this one, I can tell you it was a big hit in the house and was nearly eaten in one evening with very few leftovers. My daughter was extremely proud of how well it tasted and how much everyone ate.

Shimmer and Shine: Kitchen Magic would make a perfect gift for kids who want to cook with their parents. It makes cooking more of a family activity and helps kids see how things are measured, how long they take to cook, and how much prep time is needed for some recipes. In today’s instant gratification world, kids can learn that taking our time and putting in additional work can lead to some great results.

RATING: Quatrain

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green

Source: Berkley
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is more than just a cookbook, it’s family dinner or a gathering of friends in which Green shares not only where her recipes come from, but some of the stories behind them or that churn up in her memory. The narrative accompanying each recipe is like sitting across the table from Green. Readers will picture her dinner parties and family gatherings happening in much the same way — Green mixing ingredients across the kitchen island while her guests munch, chat, and help out. These are the family and friend gatherings that are the most fun because everyone is not only enjoying the food but the company of one another.

“I realized quickly that for me, having people over is less about the food, and more about comfort, warmth, nurture. It is about creating the kind of welcoming environment that instantly makes people feel relaxed and cared for, that truly brings meaning to the concept of food being love.” (pg. ix)

I particularly loved her early advice about putting out nuts and cheese and fruit, rather than hors d’oeuvres that can make people full before the meal is even served. Many of my own family gatherings were this way, and we were all very hungry when the meal was served. And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh baked bread — Potato, Gorgonzola, and Sage Bread is one recipe I’ll be trying when I have more time.

What I did make from the cookbook was dessert — you knew it had to be dessert, didn’t you? Warm chocolate and Banana Cake, a recipe that was her mother’s special dessert, and like her mother, my grandmother kept many of her recipes in her head and what was written down is in some kind of code that needs a key to unlock. Despite these encryption techniques, Green has recreated a delicious and moist dessert that people will want seconds and thirds of! I know I did, even though our Confectioners’ sugar has somehow vanished!

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is a wonderful cookbook and my family enjoyed the chocolate cake. My daughter gobbled it up every chance she got, which is unusual as she generally doesn’t prefer sweets. For this cake, she made an exception.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jane Green is the author of seventeen novels, including sixteen New York Times bestsellers. She has over ten million books in print, and is published in over 25 languages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Sweets & Treats With Six Sisters’ Stuff

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 176 pgs.
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Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family is a fun book for the sweet-tooth in your family or for those gatherings, like book club, where you’re sick of making the same old treats.  The Six Sisters are masters at combining ready-made products in the grocery store with original recipes, as well as creating recipes from scratch.

When I got this book out of the library, we went through and selected recipes we all wanted to try.  My husband chose Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches for a gather we had with several kids, and the kids loved making them.  I’d recommend this for hot summer days when you have cookies and ice cream on hand or you could make your own cookies.  I chose to make Oatmeal Scotchie Blondies, which we shared with our daughter’s preschool class, since it made more than a dozen.  These were more like bars and something happened with the recipe that made these harder than expected.  Perhaps it was because I had to substitute some brown sugar for white sugar.  I’m not a culinary expert.


The final recipe we made, and one we’ll likely make again, was shared with book club in June.  Mint Oreo Brownies were easy to make, using brownie mixes and Oreo cookies, as well as marshmallow creme.  The recipe called for food coloring and mint extract to make a light green colored marshmallow and frosting.  These were such a hit with book club that we only had two left, and I also cut the recipe down to one box of brownie mix.

Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family has recipes that are so easy to use, and as long as, users know how many people they are feeding, the recipes can be adjusted.  The cookbook includes recipes for other brownies, cakes, cookies, and bars, as well as pies, no-bake treats, and ice cream.  It’s definitely a cookbook to keep on hand.

RATING: Cinquain

Other reviews:


Cooking With Amar’e: 100 Easy Recipes for Pros and Rookies in the Kitchen

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Source: It Books
Hardcover, 272 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Cooking With Amar’e: 100 Easy Recipes for Pros and Rookies in the Kitchen by Amar’e Stoudemire and Chef Maxcel Hardy III is not only 100 easy recipes that are well balanced, but also the recipes are broken down from easiest to hardest.  Moreover, this is a journey — the journey of NBA pro basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire learning how to cook for his own family, from learning what basics he should have in his pantry to how he should hold a knife with his large hands and chop vegetables to meet the needs of a recipe.  Recipes are labeled with basketball terminology, with the easiest recipes called layups, those that require a little bit of skill are considered jump shots, and the most challenging recipes are called slam dunks.  Each recipe also includes tips on storage, serving suggestions, and how to streamline preparation.

This cookbook also outlines what equipment essentials are needed in the kitchen, but cautions that good equipment can be purchased within the household budget.  And Chef Hardy III cautions that fancy gadgets should be considered on an as-needed basis, such as a superb blender for those who have shakes and smoothies on a regular basis.  Another cool tidbit is the inclusion of a special blend of spices that the chef uses in quite a few recipes, allowing users to make a bunch ahead of time and store it for use in later recipes.

For my husband’s birthday, I made The Ultimate Burger recipe, with a few modifications.  The recipe was easy to gather ingredients for — scallions, onion, the special spice blend, 2 pounds of ground beef, egg, garlic, kaiser rolls, cheese, and pickle spears.  It calls for the ground beef to be mixed with onion and the spices thoroughly before making the patties that you can either grill or in the pan.  This recipe is considered a jump shot, perhaps because of the preparation it takes for the meat, but I found the recipe relatively easy.  Only modification I made was to use provolone and Swiss rather than the Muenster cheese the recipe called for — we also didn’t use the mayo for the buns, but these are all personal preferences.  Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy the burgers I made for my husband’s birthday dinner.  Anna’s husband said the burgers were “moist, flavorful, and delicious.”  He also said it was one of the best homemade burgers he’s had.  Anna and her daughter both liked the burger, calling it juicy.

Cooking With Amar’e: 100 Easy Recipes for Pros and Rookies in the Kitchen by Amar’e Stoudemire and Chef Maxcel Hardy III is an excellent cookbook for those looking for new twists on American staples like hamburgers, but also looking to get a little more adventurous in their cooking.  From homemade sweet potato fries to fried okra and baked brie.

About the Authors:

Amar’e Stoudemire is a power forward for the New York Knicks and a six-time NBA All-Star. A married father of four, Amar’e is dedicated to helping children learn. Along with his wife, he founded the Alexis and Amar’e Stoudemire Foundation to creatively inspire youth to get an education and avoid poverty, and he authored a semiautobiographical children’s series, STAT, to inspire young readers. Amar’e is also an actor, producer, motivational speaker, and co-owner of Hapoel Basketball Team of Jerusalem.

Chef Maxcel Hardy III is a chef to the stars and the personal chef for NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire. With more than thirteen years of culinary experience, Chef Max has created for award-winning musicians, actors, athletes, and dignitaries. Outside of the kitchen, he created Chef Max Designs, his chef apparel line, and in 2011 he founded One Chef Can 86 Hunger. The foundation’s mission is to fight the hunger crisis in America and educate people on a healthy lifestyle cost-effectively; the foundation has also created culinary programs for inner-city communities.

41st book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

A Year With Six Sisters’ Stuff: 52 Menu Plans, Recipes, and Ideas to Bring Families Together

Source: Shadow Mountain
Paperback, 242 pages
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A Year With Six Sisters’ Stuff: 52 Menu Plans, Recipes, and Ideas to Bring Families Together is a selection of 52 menus with recipes for main meals, desserts, appetizers, salads, and side dishes.  These menu plans can make the busy family life a little bit easier when you have a plan for every evening meal of the year, thanks to these ladies.  Each menu plan includes the ingredients, the steps for creating the meals, and pictures of the final product — and these pictures will make your mouth water.  Although there are some recipes you’ll have to modify if you have allergies — which is easy enough with some ingenuity — for the most part these recipes will allow you to use what ingredients you have on hand or in the cupboards.  For those who like to plan ahead, they can map out a week’s worth of meals and shop accordingly.

For instance, in menu 45 — Parmesan Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms, Spinach Lasagna Rolls, and Garlic Breadsticks — I used the ingredients I had in the house to make the lasagna rolls, but not the other elements in the menu plan.  Making the stuffing for the rolls was as easy as mixing the cheese ingredients with egg and chopped spinach, but rather than use traditional lasagna noodles, I used my no-boil lasagna noodles.  Here’s the crazy part — I boiled them, but just long enough to make them pliable for rolling purposes — and that took less time that it would have if I used normal lasagna noodles, though these no boil noodles are shorter.  The recipe does make exactly 9 rolls and if you run out of sauce from a jar, you can always do what I did and used diced Italian-seasoned tomatoes from a can.  Here’s a picture of what they looked like before they went in the oven for 40 minutes:

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

And I can tell you, my husband is not a big spinach eater, but he gobbled these right up.  My next attempt at using the cookbook was for my daughter’s belated birthday bash with Anna and her family.  We used Menu # 27, which included Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese, and Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies.   Everything from this seemed to go over really well, though the cookies came out very cake-y and Anna and I prefer more crunchy cookies.  Also, my daughter selected her own dessert — rather than birthday cake — from a Menu # 48, Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Parfaits, which were really easy to make.

The chicken nuggets took the longest to make because of all the steps with cutting the chicken breast and preparing the breading, but you could cut out some steps by purchasing Kabob-ready chicken pieces.  The slow cooker mac-and-cheese took the next longest amount of time, and we wondered if cooking the pasta beforehand was necessary, but we did shorten the timing in the cooker because 2 hours seemed way too long.  The parfaits were easy to do once you made the box pudding and the brownies — all that was left was assembling them in dishes.  We also took from Menu # 1, the strawberry lemonade slush, which just needs lemonade from frozen concentrate, frozen strawberries, water, and some lemon-lime soda.  Check out the rest of the photos.


After a big day at the house with friends, I hopped back into the cookbook to make something for breakfast that I’ve never made before — Egg Souffle from Menu #26. if you’re like me and get freaked out by large words like Souffle…this cookbook is for you. It made this so easy. After preparing the souffle and cooking it in the oven, I made bacon to go with it, rather than the French toast and strawberry sunrise drink — that will be for another day. Delicious, light, and moist.

A Year With Six Sisters’ Stuff: 52 Menu Plans, Recipes, and Ideas to Bring Families Together is not just a menu planning helper or cookbook, there are fun activities for the family to do together — like having a night where you shop for anything for dinner and end up with a smorgasbord of everyone’s favorites from cookies to bananas and pizza. Everyone at my house loved the food and it was something we’d definitely try again, and I cannot wait to try out more of these recipes.

About the Authors:

The Six Sisters—Camille, Kristen, Elyse, Stephanie, Lauren, and Kendra—grew up in Utah, but a few of them have lived in other parts of the country since moving out of the house. Between them there are five nieces and three nephews, and all of the sisters love playing “aunt.” The sisters started the blog in February 2011 to keep in touch while they were apart, but it has since gained popularity, garnering more than 9 million viewers per month and more than 307,000 followers on Pinterest. Check out their Facebook page.

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Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and Much More & 4×4 Dinner Giveaway/Challenge

Six Sisters’ Stuff:  Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More! is a flexible paperback cookbook that not only includes gorgeous photos of entrees, appetizers, and desserts, but also a variety of crafts to keep your kids occupied and to dress up the table.  Camille, Kristen, Elyse, Stephanie, Lauren, and Kendra are biological sisters and know what it means to have a busy life, but they still make time for family dinners and this book includes 100 easy-to-follow recipes using ingredients commonly found in your pantry.

The full-color photos in this cookbook will make your mouth water even if you’ve just eaten dinner.  From the main meals to the slow cooker meals, these women have made cooking for a family incredibly easy and simple with these recipes.  There are salads, sides, and breads, plus dessert — oh, the dessert.  (I made one for book club, see photos and reaction below)  But this book is not only about the food and having family meals together, but it also is about spending time with family whether it’s on a road trip or inside on a rainy day (I’ll be testing these out in the coming weeks).

There are projects ranging from creating simple decorations like a snowman out of blocks and felt bows to more complex projects like bookshelves made out of pallets.  These projects are sure to occupy family members and make the house look more beautiful.  The sisters also offer advice on spring cleaning, which may seem like common sense but for a first time homeowner with a new kid the task can be overwhelming.  There also are healthy snack ideas, fun date ideas to keep the romance alive, and a weekly breakdown on how to build a 72-hour emergency kit for the entire family.

Six Sisters’ Stuff:  Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More! is appealing to look at, create from, and learn.  It’s not only about cooking a healthy meal in a short amount of time with the ingredients on hand, but it’s also focused on ensuring that family time becomes a priority.  Readers will have no choice but to dig in and start creating.  Delicious family recipes ready to fill watering mouths and simple crafts to spruce up any busy home.

My baking experience with Mom’s Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies:

As is usual with me, I was pulled in a hundred different directions and had to improvise the recipe, though I do plan to make this recipe the way it is written at some point.  I wanted to make these for book club in February, but with little time, I turned to my favorite box brownie mix, Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie mix, which never fails me.  And I quickly found the brownie pan I chose would require me to use 2 boxes, which met the hubby had to run out and get a second box.

But then I made the Chocolate frosting from the recipe for on top of the marshmallows.  The recipe called for 2-3 cups of powdered sugar, but I found out quickly that 2 cups was too little because the frosting was soupy, so I had to make it 3 cups for the right consistency.  Once I got the frosting made, i spread it on top of the marshmallows (which I really didn’t need the whole bag of).

The pan must have still been a bit warm because the frosting melted a little too much over the marshmallows, making it an even gooier mess than I expected, but it didn’t seem to matter to the book club members who were eager to try it.  I just had to have the first piece, and one of the corners, since those are my favorite!  I took a close up of one piece to share with everyone.  YUM!

Six Sisters photoAbout the Six Sisters:

In February 2011, we started our blog SixSistersStuff.com. After years of living close to one another, we were being pulled in many different directions- one sister moved to the West coast, another sister followed her husband to medical school, one moved away to college, and another sister had just lost a baby. We needed each other now more than ever and we used our blog as a way to stay in touch.

Before we started blogging, we were constantly calling each other for recipe ideas, craft projects, and ways to keep our children entertained during those long winter days. The blog was the perfect way for us to share those ideas with each other and we were having so much fun doing it. We are all busy, whether it’s with our kids, jobs, school, husbands, community involvement, or something else eating up our time, so all the recipes and projects you will find on this blog are quick and easy! Our recipes are family favorites that use ingredients that can commonly be found in your pantry and our crafts and home decor projects can be made with little or no money. We don’t claim to be amazing chefs- we just know the importance of feeding your family a home-cooked meal and sitting down to eat it together.


This is my 12th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.



About the 4×4 Dinner Challenge:

4X4 dinner challenge

  • Pledging to accept the 4×4 Dinner Challenge means the family will eat together at least four times per week for four weeks.
  • Families are encouraged to register online, and they will receive meal tips, ideas for family activities, and helpful recipes to make meeting the challenge easy.

To win a copy of this colorful cook book, do the following:

  1. Like the Six Sister’s STUFF Facebook page and join the 4×4 Dinner Challenge
  2. Click the 4×4 Family dinner banner on the Website (on the right sidebar) and leave a comment joining the challenge.
  3. Come back here and leave a comment on this post about what you’d like to check out in Six Sisters’ Stuff.

Deadline to enter is March 10, 2013, at 11:59 PM EST.

The Book Club Cook Book (revised edition) by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

The Book Club Cook Book (revised edition) by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp is a second edition that includes more book recommendations from book clubs across America and recipes from the authors of those books.  The book is the brain child of two voracious readers who love to share their reading and the recipes they pair with their own book club selections.  After surveying more than 500 book clubs, including some contacted for the previous version, Gelman and Krupp filled out the cook book with some of the latest books being discussed, while retaining the ones that remain book club picks.

Additionally, they sought to include some vivid, color photos to demonstrate the breadth of new recipes included in the latest version of the cookbook.  If there were one nitpick with this cookbook, it would be that each recipe or most should include a photograph of the food created from the authors’ recipes — either from book clubs or the authors providing the recipes.

What’s unique about this cookbook is that each book is described in detail, complete with publisher and publication information, and information from one or more book clubs about the recipe used to accompany the book club discussion of the book.  Following the recipe, “Novel Thoughts” offers up a bit more from book clubs about what they felt and discussed about the book and how it inspired them to cook or read another book they found to be related, and more.  In “More Food for Thought,” book clubs offer full menus for certain books or how books generate culinary creativity.

In the back of the book, there are ideas about what makes book clubs successful and how books can be selected, etc.  Moreover, the authors include ideas on where to look for food inspiration in books that don’t explicitly mention meals, such as paying attention to the time period, the setting, or culture.  The Book Club Cook Book (revised edition) by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp is an excellent cookbook for book clubs and those just looking for new recipes to try out, and paired with the Website even novice cooks can wow their families.

***I had the joy of meeting both these passionate readers and cooks at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in May, and I’m eager to check out their other books.

About the Authors:

Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, are cooks, book enthusiasts and friends. Seeking to combine their passion for books, food, and book clubs, they met over stacks of books and endless cups of coffee at a local sandwich shop, where The Book Club Cookbook was born. The revised edition of The Book Club Cookbookwill be published in March, 2012.

They were motivated to write their second book, The Kids’ Book Club Book, after librarians, parents, and teachers who attended their talks asked for a similar book for the growing number of youth book clubs across the country.

Table of Contents features book related recipes from fifty of today’s most popular authors.

Their latest book is the revised edition of The Book Club Cookbook, featuring 20 new book club titles and recipes.

Judy and Vicki enjoy speaking about book clubs, and appreciate their ongoing conversations, both in person and via their websites, with book and food enthusiasts across the country.

They live with their families in the Boston area.

This is my 55th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.