Review: A Recipe for Disaster, by Stephen Phelps – with Giveaway

About the book, A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking up a Big Italian Idea

A Recipe for Disaster is a cookbook, a travelogue and the companion to Cookucina, a six-part TV series available on Amazon Video, iTunes and Google Play – see www.cookucina.com .

It’s also the entertaining journey of an Englishman struggling with the ups and downs of living in rural Italy. After giving up a successful career in television, Stephen found himself dragged back into a world he had happily given up when his neighbour, Lia, persuaded him to listen to her Big Idea – making a TV cookery series. But Lia speaks no English.

And Stephen’s partner, Tam, can’t cook. So, much against Stephen’s better judgement, the three of them embarked on a six-part series set among the rolling hills of the little-known, but spectacularly beautiful, Italian region of Le Marche. In the Cookucina TV series Lia teaches Tam to cook alla Marchigiana, while Tam translates. A Recipe for Disaster follows their many encounters with the real Italy – a world away from the picture-book ideal of summer holidays in Tuscany.

As the team try to construct a professional series with no funding they come to rely on the generosity of the Marchigiana people, while attempting to overcome the constant difficulties thrown up by those whose stubborn adherence to their age-old way of life is rooted in their beloved fields and woods. A Recipe for Disaster is a goldmine of simple yet delicious recipes, while peeling back the veneer of television professionalism and opening the door to a world of Italian surprise and delight.

A Recipe for Disaster comes with unique access to Cookucina, the final six-part TV series, so you can see for yourself how the team cracked their problems and (just about) held it all together in a blistering heatwave. Experience this contradictory world of vendettas and kind hearts through the laughter and frustrations of Stephen and the team, as you follow A Recipe for Disaster slowly coming to its surprising fruition.

Buy, read, and discuss A Recipe for Disaster:

Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | iBooks | SmashWords | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Phelps

Stephen PhelpsEducated at Oxford University, I began working with BBC Radio, moving to BBC TV where I launched Watchdog and produced the investigative legal series Rough Justice. In Hong Kong for BBC World Service Television I oversaw the start of BBC World. I then spent twelve years running my own TV production company, Just Television, specialising in investigative programmes in the field of law, justice and policing. In particular, Trial and Error for Channel 4 which exposed and investigated major miscarriages of justice, winning the Royal Television Society’s inaugural Specialist Journalism Award in 1999. Recently I have been working as a consultant for Aljazeera English on major documentary projects.

In 2002 I took an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Writing credits include many plays for BBC Radio, my most recent being a drama documentary for the 30th anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. Books: The Tizard Mission published by Westholme Publishing in the United States, tells the extraordinary story of how Britain’s top scientists travelled in secret to America in the autumn of 1940 to give away all their wartime secrets to secure US support in WWII. A Recipe for Disaster is a book about living in Italy while trying to make a TV cookery series, Cookucina (now available on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes.

I have several other books and three screenplays in development.

Connect with Stephen:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Medium | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellI love travelogues and cookbooks and true stories about people undertaking bold things. Under the Tuscan Sun and Peter Mayle’s Provence series are some of my favorite books in this genre. I read them, and I imagine leaving my cushy suburban lifestyle and relocating to Guadalajara, MX, or somewhere in Scotland.

Agreeing to read and review A Recipe for Disaster: Cooking Up a Big Italian Idea was obviously a no-brainer for me. I expected that I would enjoy Stephen Phelps’ story about living and cooking in Italy, especially when he has a non-cooking partner. (My own partner has a limited repertoire of boxed pudding, soup from the deli, and pasta with pre-made sauce, and I still have to walk him through the latter.)

What I did not expect was to fall in love with the book so hard that I paid the $12 to buy the series from Amazon. What I did not expect was to spend page after page laughing, crying, and drooling over Stephen, Tam, and Lia, the process of making a tv show, the process of learning to cook, and the shared experience of living in such a surreal bubble in time.

Reading this book makes you want to get your grandmother’s recipe box and systematically work through every family favorite you’ve ever known, but it also makes you want to start a restaurant, make a tv show, and learn to cook a new-to-you kind of food, or speak a new-to-you language.

At the same time, makes you want to run far away from all those things because each one has its own frustrations.

Candid, funny, sometimes poignant, A Recipe for Disaster is one tasty piece of fiction.

Goes well with any of the food mentioned in the book with a glass of a good Italian table wine. Need not be fancy. (I really want to make the roasted tomatoes (with breadcrumbs, baked herbs and orange zest).)


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Review: Breakfast in Texas, by Terry Thompson-Anderson

Breakfast in Texas Blog Tour

Scroll down for Giveaway information!

About the book, Breakfast in Texas Breakfast in Texas

  • Genre: Cookbook / Southwest Cuisine
  • Publisher: The University of Texas Press
  • Date of Publication: April 18, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 312

Texans love the morning meal, whether it’s bacon and eggs (often eaten in a breakfast taco) or something as distinctively nontraditional as saag paneer omelets, pon haus, or goat curry. A Lone Star breakfast can be a time for eating healthy, or for indulging in decadent food and drink. And with Texas’s rich regional and cultural diversity, an amazing variety of dishes graces the state’s breakfast and brunch tables. The first Texas cookbook dedicated exclusively to the morning meal, Breakfast in Texas gathers nearly one hundred recipes that range from perfectly prepared classics to the breakfast foods of our regional cuisines (Southern, Mexican, German, Czech, Indian, and Asian among them) to stand-out dishes from the state’s established and rising chefs and restaurants.

Terry Thompson-Anderson organizes the book into sections that cover breakfast and brunch libations (with and without alcohol); simple, classic, and fancy egg presentations; pancakes, French toast, and waffles; meat lover’s dishes; seafood and shellfish; vegan dishes and sides; and pastries. The recipes reference locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and Thompson-Anderson provides enjoyable notes about the chefs who created them or the cultural history they represent. She also offers an expert primer on cooking eggs, featuring an encounter with Julia Child, as well as a selection of theme brunches (the boozy brunch, the make-ahead brunch, New Year’s Day brunch, Mother’s Day brunch with seasonal ingredients, teenage daughter’s post-slumber party breakfast, and more). Sandy Wilson’s color photographs of many of the dishes and the chefs and restaurants who serve them provide a lovely visual counterpoint to the appetizing text.

Buy, read, and discuss Breakfast in Texas:

University of Texas Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terry Thompson-Anderson Terry Thompson-Anderson

Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State, which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking.

Connect with the University of Texas Press:

Connect with The University of Texas Press:

WebsiteFacebook  | Twitter  | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m a bit of a foodie, and breakfast and brunch are my favorite meals, so when I was offered the opportunity to review a cookbook that was all about breakfast food, you can bet I jumped at the chance.

Subtitled “Recipes for Elegant Brunches, Down Home Classics, and Local Favorites,” this book, Breakfast in Texas is a treasure trove of recipes and commentary. In reviewing this book, I picked one recipe that I thought everyone in my house would eat, and would also teach me a new skill. I ended up making the Egg Breakfast Casserole from the A Place in Time Bed and Breakfast in Fredericksburg, where I’ve never been, but have a sudden yearning to go.

It’s a fairly basic sausage, mushroom, egg and cheese casserole, but the spin that makes it special is that you make your own whole-milk ricotta to go in it. Now, while I currently live near Dallas, I come from a New Jersey Neapolitan family, so the ricotta I grew up with is not from whole cow’s milk, it’s whey-based ricotta, usually made with goat or sheep milk. But the commercial ricotta most of us buy from the store is whole cow’s milk ricotta, so if you aren’t in the mood (or not great at planning far enough ahead) to make your own, you can use store-bought and no one will know.

Author Terry Thompson-Anderson doesn’t go into the chemistry of curdling milk to make ricotta but her instructions are simple, and the end result was a good deal creamier than what you can find at the store.

Similarly, the rest of the book is full of interesting twists on basic ideas, as well as elaborate suggestions for fancier menus. One thing I really appreciated was the first chapter, which was all about “libations.” I’ve recently been re-introduced to that old-school brunch favorite, the Bloody Mary, so you can imagine my glee to learn about breakfast cocktails featuring, not tequila or vodka, but legal Texas Moonshine.

I never even knew that was a thing!

Of course, one of the bonuses of any cookbook is the art, and Breakfast in Texas does not disappoint. Sandy Wilson’s photographs are worthy of being framed, and give a good idea of what finished dishes should look like.

At 312 pages, this cookbook is pretty hefty – you’ll want one of those plastic cookbook protector-stands to keep it upright and clean while you use it – but I promise you, whether you want to create an intimate breakfast for yourself and your romantic partner, or host a brunch for fifteen, there is something in this book that will intrigue, inspire, and entice you into the kitchen.

Goes well with coffee, and a pen and notepad for meal planning and making a grocery list.


Giveaway

The publishers of this book are hosting a giveaway. To enter, click the image below, or follow the text link below the image.

Breakfast in Texas Giveaway

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This giveaway is open until June 13th.


Breakfast in Texas Tour Stops Lone Star Literary Life

5/30 Promo Hall Ways Blog
5/31 Review StoreyBook Reviews
6/01 Sneak Peek 1 Momma On The Rocks
6/02 Review Books in the Garden
6/03 Book Trailer 1 My Book Fix Blog
6/04 Promo Syd Savvy
6/05 Review Bibliotica
6/06 Book Trailer 2 Texas Book Lover
6/07 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/08 Sneak Peek 2 Forgotten Winds
6/09 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/10 Review Books and Broomsticks
6/11 Promo The Page Unbound
6/12 Author Interview CGB Blog Tours
6/13 Review Reading By Moonlight

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review: Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook, by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber with Chef John Okas

About the book, Signs & Seasons Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: HarperElixir (May 2, 2017)

Discover how to eat for your sign and nourish your soul in Signs and Seasons, the one-of-a-kind cookbook that pairs chef-driven seasonal recipes with deep insight into how astrology shapes our appetites, from iconic astrologer Monte Farber and artist Amy Zerner.

Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

Inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, home of the Greco-Roman cultures that named the planets after their gods, Signs and Seasons teaches you how to:

·         Feed friends and loved ones based on their signs and the season

·         Deepen your understanding of Nature and the Universe

·         Discover how astrology shapes our personalities, tastes, and appetites

Whether exploring the “Twin nature” and “Mercurial spirit” of ramps (a spring delicacy well suited Geminis) in a recipe for Ramps al Olio or the historical association of saffron with Venus in the recipe for Roasted Corn Orecchiette, Signs and Seasons is the perfect guide for eating in a way that emphasizes both sensual nourishment and psychic satisfaction. Beautifully photographed in full color by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, Signs and Seasons is a one-of-a-kind source of inspiration for astrology enthusiasts and home chefs alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Signs & Seasons:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Authors Amy Zerner & Monte Farber and Chef John Okas

Since 1988, AMY ZERNER, a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts award-winning fine artist, and her husband, author MONTE FARBER, have created what they call their family of “spiritual power tools,” including The Enchanted Tarot, Instant Tarot, Sun Sign Secrets, Karma Cards, Little Reminders: The Law of Attraction Deck, Chakra Meditation Kit, The Truth Fairy Pendulum Kit, The Soulmate Path and Quantum Affirmations. There are over two million copies of their works in print in sixteen languages. The couple lives in East Hampton, NY. They believe that adding love, light, and laughter to everything one cooks is essential to creating great meals and a great life.  More at www.theenchantedworld.net.

CHEF JOHN OKAS began his career in childhood, cooking alongside his Sicilian grandmother in their family kitchen. He has cooked at Paradox in Manhattan, Georgette’s in Easthampton, and the Captiva Inn in Florida. Under the pen name John Penza, he is the author of Sicilian-American Pasta and Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking. He currently lives in Bridgehampton, New York, where he is a personal chef and is also associated with the Highway Restaurant.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t really believe in astrology except as a form of entertainment, but I love to cook, and I was curious about this book would work, so I asked to review it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the actual book.

First, it’s gorgeous. There are great pictures of the recipes included, the paper is good quality, and each section (beginning with Spring) is laid out with a table of contents divided by type (starters, salads pasta, seafood, meat, vegetarian, sides, and desserts), each labeled with the sign that is most likely to be represented by each dish. (I take issue with a watermelon dish being assigned to Leo only because I’m allergic to watermelon.)

Then, it’s well-written. It has a pleasantly spiritual tone, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a section before the actual recipes that gives a breakdown of how each sign likes to cook, eat, and entertain. I read it out loud to my husband and a couple of friends and we all nodded and smiled (and sometimes grimaced) and admitted it was fairly accurate.

But of course, the real interest any of us have in a cookbook is the food, and this cookbook did not disappoint. While I did not have time to try every recipe, I’ve read through many, and marked them for future meals (there’s a red snapper dish I’m dying to try – this Leo is half mermaid and likes meat and fish in equal measure).

I’m an intuitive cook who thinks of cooking as “kitchen improv” and recipes as mere guidelines, and I love that these recipes are designed to give you a foolproof result if you follow them to the letter, but also serve as excellent jumping-off points.

Even though it’s not yet summer, I live in Texas, so I skipped ahead and made the Frittata Caprese, which everyone loved but I also had great success with a Spring selection: Couscous & Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh. I’ve only ever used the Near East boxed tabbouleh, or ordered it at restaurants so making my own – and loving it – was a pleasure and a thrill.

Whether or not you believe in astrology, if you’re a home cook looking for inspiration, I recommend Signs & Seasons. The recipes are fairly healthy (most of the desserts include fruit) and reasonably easy to prepare.

Your family and friends will thank you.

(And if you’re a Leo, like me, they’ll give you the applause you rightfully expect.)


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 2nd: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, May 2nd: I Brought a Book

Wednesday, May 3rd: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 8th: Mother’s Kitchen

Tuesday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 10th: Becklist

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 15th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, May 16th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, May 18th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, May 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 23rd: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, May 24th: Books & Tea

Thursday, May 25th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

An Old-Fashioned Christmas, by Ellen Stimson (@ellenstimson) #review #giveaway #TLCbooktours

About the book, An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Sweet Traditions for Hearth and Home An Old-Fashioned Christmas

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Countryman Press; 1 edition (November 2, 2015)

With its snowy streets, pine forests, sleigh rides and woodsmoke curling from the chimneys, Vermont was practically invented for the Christmas postcard. And no one celebrates the season better than Ellen Stimson, author of the best-selling Mud Season, and now the author and home cook behind this cozy new collection of holiday magic.

From warm drinks for the first snowfall to treats for furry friends, from indulgent snacks for carolers to a traditional menu for Christmas day, An Old-Fashioned Christmas will keep you and your loved ones eating, drinking, laughing and baking all through the holiday season.

Anyone who loved Mud Season will remember Stimson’s hilarious and heartwarming stories of life in her small Vermont town—and An Old-Fashioned Christmas brings her trademark touch to holiday memories new and old. Readers will be inspired to begin their own family traditions like the Stimsons’ annual Christmas Adventure, the collection of nostalgic tree ornaments, and of course, the legendary Christmas party attended by friends and family from all over. This is a book you will return to year after year.

A guide to celebrating Christmas in proper Vermont style—from sleigh rides to country stores—rounds out this deeply personal and completely delicious collection. The 98 homey recipes in this book will soon become annual favorites for your family too, including:

Maple Pecan Cookies

Root Beer Pulled Pork

Maple, Fennel, Sausage and Cheddar Meatballs

Chestnut Mousse

“I’ve been a little uneasy about Christmas for a long time and now I shall stop. ‘A festival of debauchery’. I like that idea. A big party. Cut out the stuff you don’t enjoy. And a whole raft of stimulating recipes. And a good snowstorm. Wonderful——Garrison Keillor

Buy, read, and discuss An Old-Fashioned Christmas

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Ellen Stimson Ellen Stimson

Ellen Stimson is a bread-and-butter homecook…possibly more butter than bread. Her table is usually overflowing with friends, family, and folks who have come just to listen to her stories. Some of those tales made it into her bestselling memoir, Mud Season. She cooks and writes from a farmhouse in Vermont.

Connect with Ellen

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts: MissMeliss

The vast majority of the books I review for TLC Book Tours (and other publicity companies) come to me as digital copies, by my request. I was a quick convert to the joys of Kindle-reading, and love having an entire library in my hands all the time. When I was offered the opportunity to review this book, An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Sweet Traditions from Hearth and Home, however, something in my gut told me to request the hardcover version, and I’m glad I did, because even though I live in North-Central Texas where we had winter on a Thursday last year, we do have a cool and rainy season that would be made so much warmer and cozier with a lot of these recipes. (Coffee Encrusted Skirt Steak is already on the must-try list, as is Curried Cauliflower.)

I was in Mexico when the book finally arrived at my door, and that saddens me only because I didn’t have time to play in the kitchen before writing this review. Like Ellen, the author (I hope it’s okay that I call her Ellen – we’ve never interacted in any way, but I feel a kind of kinship with her) I’m a homecook who doesn’t measure. I call my cooking style Kitchen Improv. For this reason, I was nodding and smiling while reading her notes about the recipes being guides rather than strict rules. Cooking should have room for personal taste and flair, and I love that she acknowledges that.

I also really responded to her stories about her personal traditions – this book is as much memoir as cookbook – and her comment that her ornaments would be among the first things saved from a fire really hit home for me. My own ornaments have been collected, one at a time, throughout my entire life. I’m 45, and have been married almost 21 years, and to this day, my mother says that one of her saddest experiences was the year she packed MY ornaments separate from her own.

My personal response aside, however, this wonderful book is a treasure of recipes and ideas. The book itself manages to evoke Vermont with a sturdy cover with red and white as predominant colors. The pages inside are the glossy paper one expects of high-quality cookbooks, and the photos of both the ornaments and the food are exquisite. The recipes range from main dishes (Winter Suppers) to pastries, from side dishes to savory breads, and while some of them are quite rich hearty, if you use fresh, real ingredients they’re really not unhealthy. (Well, the loaded mashed potatoes are not an everyday food, but…)

The tone of the book is also quite accessible. Ellen Stimson writes in a voice that makes you feel like you’re swapping recipes and stories with your best friend or (depending on your age) a favorite aunt.  I haven’t read her memoir, Mud Season, but you can bet I just added it to my Amazon wishlist (along with one of those French rolling pins that are a solid cylinder rather than a dowel with handles).

If you love winter, the holiday season, family traditions, or just cozy cooking, you will love this book.

Goes well with: homemade sugar-glazed doughnuts (p 254) and freshly brewed coffee.


Giveaway An Old-Fashioned Christmas

One lucky winner in the US or Canada can win a copy of An Old-Fashioned Chistmas: Sweet Traditions for Hearth and Home.

To enter:  Leave a comment on this entry (include a working email address – only I will see it) telling me about your favorite ornament or favorite holiday tradition. (It doesn’t have to be Christmas – if you have a Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Yule, or secular winter tradition, tell me about that).

You can also find my tweet about this review (I’m @melysse on Twitter) and retweet it (make sure I’m tagged).

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CST on Tuesday, November 17th.

Winner will be notified by email (or Twitter), and must provide their mailing address, which will be forwarded to the publicist for fulfillment.


Ellen Stimson’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, November 9th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, November 10th: (Never) Homemaker

Wednesday, November 11th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 12th: Under My Apple Tree

Friday, November 13th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

Monday, November 16th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Wednesday, November 18th: Majorly Delicious

Wednesday, November 18th: Open Book Society

Thursday, November 19th: The Things We Read

Monday, November 23rd: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 24th: Time 2 Read

Wednesday, November 25th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, November 27th: Joyfully Retired

Monday, November 30th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, December 2nd: girlichef

Friday, December 4th: A Chick Who Reads

TBD: Reviews from the Heart

TBD: Full Bellies, Happy Kids