Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls for Game Day!

It’s the first Saints’ game of the season, so like a lunatic, I let everyone have a pick for snacks/appetizers. Both of the boys came home this weekend, and since I’m still on the struggle-bus after sending Bear off to college, I went a little over-the-top by committing to this endeavor. Luckily, the drinks were strong and the “Who Dat” energy electric.

The Husband requested these Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls, and I made so many, the boys’ roommates will certainly be happy when they get back to campus. These egg rolls are bacon-y, cheesy, beefy delicious bombs, with a hint of dill pickle to cut through all that richness. Serve them up with your favorite burger condiments and enjoy game day. I sure did. Now I’m going to drink cocktails in the bathtub and decide how soon is too soon to decorate for Halloween. Spoiler alert: you already know the answer.

Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls

Meaty, Cheesy, Bacon Deliciousness Fried to Perfection.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Course Appetizer
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 6 slices bacon chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cubed
  • 3 tbsp dill pickle relish
  • 12-14 egg roll wrappers
  • vegetable, canola, or peanut oil for frying
  • ketchup, mustard, fry sauce, or favorite burger sauce condiments for serving

Instructions
 

  • Cook chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crispy. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet, saving it for another use.
  • Add ground beef to the skillet with the bacon grease, break it up with a spoon, and cook until browned. Drain any excess fat. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  • Add Velveeta to the skillet and stir until melted and evenly incorporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir in the cooked bacon and dill relish. Let beef mixture cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, heat a couple of inches of oil in a cast-iron skillet or pot to 325 degrees. Place an egg roll wrapper on a clean work surface so a point faces toward you like a diamond and set a cup of water next to your work area. Place 2-3 heaping tablespoons in the center of the wrapper, and using your finger, wet the top edges of your diamond with water. Fold the bottom section over the filling, fold in the sides, then roll it up toward the top (the wet edges will seal it up). There's plenty of tutorials online that are WAY better than these rolling instructions, FYI.
  • Fry the egg rolls in batches (about 5 at a time will fit in a 12-inch cast iron skillet with room to cook evenly), turning every 30 seconds or so until golden brown to your liking, roughly 4-5 minutes in total. Remove to a rack or a paper towel-lined sheet pan to cool.
  • Serve with your favorite burger sauces, like ketchup, fry sauce, mustard, etc. NOTE: these are like molten cheese volcanos fresh out of the frying. Let them cool off for a couple of minutes before consuming, unless you live for burnt taste buds and misery. You do you, Boo.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

Yearning for Italian Food and My Favorite Pasta Books Right Now

Well, in fairness, I was warned. When we started planning our trip to Italy, our friends explained to us that, once we had really good food there, it would haunt us (and possibly ruin us on the US versions). Ever since we got back, I have been dreaming of those meals. It doesn’t help matters that we are knee-deep in hell, otherwise known as August in Louisiana. Cooler weather will not hit until late October if we are lucky, but many a Thanksgiving have passed with shorts worn at the table as well. Yep, clutch those pearls. Anyway…

I had this truffle and mushroom pasta at Cafe Gilli in Florence, which showcased an obscenely decadent amount of truffle.

While it appears deceptively simple, this Sacchettini pasta was in the top three of my favorite dishes. It was stuffed with pears and covered in a gorgonzola cream sauce, and I cannot wait to replicate it at home. We found this at La Martinicca in Florence.

Here are some of the other amazing dishes we ate:

I loved learning more about each region we visited and their culinary histories and traditions. I seriously cannot wait to go back and discover more, because we barely scratched the surface of all we wanted to see and try.

So, naturally, as I’m pining for the many pastas that got away, I decided to get back in the kitchen and dust off my limited pasta cookbooks. Now, I have made fresh pasta in the past, but never really got too into it because, well, I’m incredibly lazy. But after leaving no carb behind in Italy, I realized it’s time to dive back into it, because I am yearning to recreate some of the dishes that captured my heart. I love cooking, and now that both boys are about to be off to college, I’m not juggling quite so many preferences/palates, schedules, and nuisances. And honestly, it really is worth doing, especially on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

So, I can’t remember if I blogged about it before, but a staple in my kitchen is The Ultimate Pasta and Noodle Cookbook by Serena Cosmo. She includes incredibly detailed instructions, for both by-hand and using the KitchenAid, and I think it’s a comprehensive resource for beginners and advanced cooks alike. I highlighted so much of this book, and it was perfect for my initial foray into handmade pasta. I also love her pierogi dough, and overall, the book is a nearly encyclopedic. Two thumbs up.

Lately, I’ve also been cooking with Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy’s Greatest Food, With Recipes by Missy Robbins. I made her egg pasta and Bolognese this weekend. The unbelievable amount of egg yolks for her basic dough (24 for one batch!) was a head-scratcher, but it worked up beautifully (after some struggles during the kneading). Despite my initial learning curve, the flavor and texture of the cooked pasta won everyone over. I also appreciated the combination of regional classic recipes and modern spins in this book. While I will probably stick to the basic pasta recipe from UPNC for everyday use (and reserve the 24-egg dough for special occasions), I’m eager to work my way through this one and experiment with new-to-us dishes.

Overall, I think what I’m missing most about Italy is just the quality of ingredients, and how that quality elevated the simplest of dishes into an entirely new experience for us. It’s really got me thinking about how we, as a family, shop/source and cook. That’s going to be a post for another day, but it’s sparked some small steps that are yielding delicious results.

So, that’s a snapshot of some good grub, and the cookbooks I’m using for inspiration. I’m thinking pasta for dinner, tonight?

**Usual disclaimer: This blog is not monetized in any way. The links I provide ARE NOT affiliate links, they are just for your convenience. All reviews are of products I pay for with my own money, and I have no problem telling you the truth about them. If you see an ad on my site, that comes from WordPress, my site host, as the toll of free blogging. I have no control over the targeted ads they display to you**

Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday–Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

After spending a lot of time in Utah last year, my husband got really into what he calls “fry sauce.” While I usually just throw a bottle of ketchup on the table when I make fries, I decided to be less lazy and up my burger-night game.

This recipe comes from Pirate’s Pantryfirst published by the Junior League of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and was submitted by Mrs. Edwin DeWeese. It was originally listed as a salad dressing, but I modified the recipe a bit so that it ended up being a perfect sauce consistency (see notes below). This sauce offered a great balance of creamy, slightly sweet, tangy, and savory. I whipped it up, and the entire crew gave it a resounding thumbs-up.

Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

Prep Time 10 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cloves garlic pressed
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 2 tsp prepared mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 6 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup Wesson oil
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or small mixing bowl. Will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Serve on green salad or head lettuce.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

As always, I am posting the recipe as it was published, but I did make a few modifications to make it more fry sauce and less salad dressing.

  • I did not use the vegetable oil at all. That kept the consistency of a sauce, instead of diluting it to a thinner dressing.
  • As such, I adjusted the seasoning to about 3/4 of a teaspoon and pepper each. Even if I did use the oil, one tablespoon of salt would probably have been way too much in my opinion.
  • I only used half a small onion.
  • I think this sauce tastes a lot better after it has time for the flavors to meld, so I suggest making it ahead if you can.

Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday–Spicy Sausage Balls

Breaking with tradition, we decided not to host anything for the Super Bowl this year. I hosted a LOT of parties last year, and I’m still just kind of burnt out. While I love entertaining, I was just not up for a party on a school night. I wanted to watch the game and relax, preferably with PJ pants and a cocktail.

Despite it being just us, I planned on a small scale spread so we still had a special occasion feel. While I was looking up a dip recipe, I stumbled across these sausage balls and since I had everything on hand, I decided to give them a try.

This recipe comes from Revel, a cookbook from the Junior League of Shreveport/Bossier Louisiana (1980) and was submitted by Edie Broyles Williams. These were super quick to make, and the sauce showcased a really good balance of sweet, savory, and (a very mild) sour. The boys devoured them, and considering the incredibly low effort, it was a winner all around. For a pantry pull recipe, you really can’t beat this one for fast and easy. It’s safe to say that Spicy Sausage Balls will definitely remain in the appetizer rotation.

Notes

  • Remember, I publish the recipes for CCTT as written. I write these notes to clarify how I interpreted the recipe or streamlined it.
  • For this recipe, I used red wine vinegar and ginger powder (which is what the author most likely intended).
  • My broiler resembles a fire-breathing dragon, so instead of smoking us out of the house, I baked the sausage balls at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
  • I was in a hurry, so rather than rolling out 80 balls, I used my one-inch scoop which resulted in about 30 balls.
  • Next time, I will use one pound of sausage and one pound of ground beef, rather than straight sausage. I think the sausage seasoning flavor can be pretty strong depending on the brand and cutting it with some ground beef would balance things out perfectly.

Spicy Sausage Balls

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds hot sausage
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ginger

Instructions
 

  • Roll sausage into balls about the size of pecans. Broil in oven 10 minutes. Turn while broiling. Drain. Mix sauce in a saucepan and heat until bubbly. Add sausage balls to sauce. Serve in chafing dish. Men especially love this.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Spicy Tamale Meatballs–Stupid-Easy & Delicious Party Food at Its Best

If you are looking for a new, easy, and delicious snack for your big game party, have I got the recipe for you. These tamale-inspired meatballs combine the sweetness of cornbread with the spice of enchilada sauce, while the cumin comes in to punch up the flavor. My family devoured these meatballs at the Christmas party and have already requested them for our game-day spread.

Recipe Notes

  • While this recipe calls for ground beef, you could use ground pork or a combination of the two. I have not tested these with ground chicken or turkey, but commonsense tells me that, should you attempt it, I think they would end up on the dry side so take that for what it’s worth.
  • If you want more spice, use the spicy enchilada sauce, or add some hot sauce. I stuck with mild to make sure the gaggle of kids at the party could eat them, but will use the medium this weekend since it’s just the five of us.
  • To make portioning easier, I use my one-inch cookie scoop, and spray my hands with a little non-stick spray, but that’s because I truly suck at eye-balling portions.
  • I whipped up a box of the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix in an 8×8 pan as a shortcut, which was the perfect cornbread portion for this recipe.

So, overall, this ended up being a stupid-easy recipe that wowed the crowd, and I’ll take that kind of victory any day (especially one that gets me out of frying some damn wings come Sunday). Whip up a batch of these this weekend and you will become everyone’s new best friend.

Spicy Tamale Meatballs

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups cornbread crumbled
  • 2 10-ounce cans mild red enchilada sauce divided
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it lightly with nonstick spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce, and salt, stirring lightly to combine. Add the beef and mix well, but not to death. Shape the beef mixture into one-inch balls and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are baking, spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, and cumin, stirring well to combine.
  • Remove meatballs from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Transfer meatballs to prepared casserole dish, and pour sauce mixture over them, being sure to coat meatballs evenly. Place casserole in the oven and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • Top meatballs with cheese, and return to oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Creamy Garlic-Herb Tomato Tartelettes

It’s no secret I was on the struggle bus this holiday season. By the time I hit New Year’s Day, I was so dang tired of cooking, while also trying to balance menus for various events. When I was planning on what to bring to the family Christmas party, I knew I was sick of the usual dishes and wanted something different. However, when I bring food to large parties, I have to follow the basic rules of etiquette: nothing that requires reheating, an electric outlet, or assembly in the host’s kitchen. They already have their hands full, so commandeering counter space or a stovetop burner is a big no-no.

So, in my abject laziness and apathy, I dove deep into my fridge and came up with a super-simple, yet tasty and beautiful appetizer. These Garlic-Herb Tomato Tartelettes combine ready-made garlic-herb cheese spread with a touch of cream, which is scooped into frozen phyllo tart shells. The mixture is then topped with sliced cherry tomatoes and parmesan and baked until nice and hot. A drizzle of balsamic glaze finishes them off. These can be served warm or at room temperature. If you need a quick, easy appetizer, this fits the bill.

Creamy Garlic-Herb Tomato Tartelettes

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1.9 ounce boxes of frozen phyllo tart shells (approx. 15 shells per box)
  • 1 6.5 ounce container garlic & herb soft spreadable cheese (such as Alouette brand) room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 to 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup botted balsamic glaze
  • chopped basic for garnish, if desired

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place tart shells on a baking sheet.
  • In a medium bowl, combine cheese spread and whipping cream until smooth. Spoon about a heaping teaspoon of cheese mixture into tart shell and top with two of the tomato halves. Sprinkle tarts with parmesan cheese.
  • Bake tarts for 12-15 minutes, until hot, being careful not to burn the tart shells. Remove tarts from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Lightly drizzle tarts with balsamic glaze and garnish with chopped basil if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

This may make more or less tarts depending on how heavy-handed you are when distributing the filling. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Book Review: Finding Freedom by Erin French

I’ve been plowing through my to-be-read pile lately, and just finished this memoir by acclaimed chef Erin French. A few years ago, I heard about a restaurant in a tiny Maine town that not only opened for a few short months a year, but also booked up for the entire season within minutes of the of the phone lines opening (and has since going to a postcard lottery method that has tens of thousands of entries). I totally forgot about it until I checked out the new series, “The Lost Kitchen” on the Magnolia Network (via Discovery+).

The show itself is produced by Joanna and Chip Gains, and follows Erin and her crew as they create a nurturing space and stunning culinary experience, as well as the ingredients and purveyors she uses to do so. The show reminds me of the PBS hit “A Chef’s Life,” and is beautifully shot and produced. If you liked that show, “The Lost Kitchen” is definitely for you.

When this book came across my suggested reading, I jumped right in. Erin’s memoir weaves through the places and relationships that forged the foundation for the person and chef she became. Readers get immersed in her life in the kitchen, her love of food, and her ability to envision both the spaces and sensations she wants to create for others. However, those memories are intertwined with her tumultuous relationship with her father, an abusive and toxic marriage, and a battle with addiction and its consequences. Throughout it all, her descriptions draw readers in so much so that we can perfectly envision the landscape of her memories.

Overall, this is an incredibly well-written book that showcases the breadth of Erin’s creativity, and also serves as a satisfying triumph-over-adversity tale. If you love cooking, food, small towns, or creator origin stories, this book is worth a look. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and definitely recommend.

**Usual Disclaimer: My blog is not sponsored nor monetized. I’m not that cool, y’all. Any reviews you see are things I’ve purchased with my own money and reviews are just my personal opinion.**

Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday: “Tamale and Chili Pie”

I’m deep into my summer cooking rut. So, to break out of it, I’m dusting off the Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday inspiration. I wanted something quick and easy, so I turned to my collection of old-school Junior League Louisiana cookbooks.

If you are familiar with community/church/Junior League cookbooks from the 50’s through the 80’s, you know that measurements were questionable, the contributors assumed brand-names would last forever, and that they expected you possess an intuitive knowledge of whatever the hell they were talking about with their minimal instructions. So, with that disclaimer, let’s dive into the experiment of the Tamale and Chili Pie.

This recipe was submitted by Mrs. Alan Thigpen (Catherine Lagrange) in the Pirate’s Pantry Cookbook, which was published by the Junior League of Lake Charles in 1976. This book, along with The Revel and Cotton Country, are staples in our house. Yes, they are dated, but they are also amazing.

Now, here’s how it went. First, ingredients:

Check. Obviously, the brands have changed, but I think I got pretty close. I misread the size of the casserole, so I probably set myself up for failure in terms of the intended tamale-to-chili ratio.  However, I think my alterations and notes may land this one as a win for a fast family meal or for hangry teens. Here’s what I did:

First, I bought the 28oz can of tamales, hoping to stretch the recipe for the five of us. Despite being slightly alarmed by the reality of canned tamales (do you seeee that????), I recovered and realized that, after cutting them up, I really needed two of the 28oz cans to cover the bottom of my 9×13 casserole. My cutting hack was a failure, and I think the original chili to tamale ratio was not optimal al all. So, moral of the story? If you want to make a 9×13 casserole, just get 2 28-oz cans of tamales to line the bottom of it.

I made the “chili” as directed, using canned chili beans, ground beef, and a packet of chili seasoning. My other deviation from the recipe was to sauté the onion with the beef, as these clowns need their onions cooked into submission.

Finally, I spread the chili on the tamales, added a wee bit (your discretion) more Fritos than the recipe called for, and sprinkled cotija cheese on top in addition to the cheddar. Baked as directed.

The verdict? I hacked this recipe a bit for our tastes, but dang if it’s not an easy, cheap, teenage guy friendly dish. It’s a Frito pie on steroids. I think the original had a much heavier chili-to-tamale ratio situation, but by adding more (really inexpensive) canned tamales, you can stretch that fresh ground beef to feed a ton. However, if you like chili, double that part for the 9×13 casserole. I paired this with a southwest chopped salad, but grilled corn would also be awesome with it.

No, this is not gourmet food, nor is it something I would serve to company. But you know what it is? Meaty, cheesy, crunchy, spicy food that was quick, easy, and satisfying for kid/teen tastes. Perfect for a movie night, horrid Tuesday, or a pantry-pull situation. Now, I’m going to go back to dreaming of cooler weather and Halloween season.

Roasted Tomato-Lime Salsa (For Canning) the Attack of The Garden Tomatoes

Ohhhhh y’all. After I came back from vacation, I found myself staring down about 30 pounds of tomatoes that were ready right-freaking-then. Thus ensued days and days of canning.

Though I also made vats of marinara and vodka sauce base, the majority of that week’s harvest went toward Bear’s favorite recipe: Roasted Tomato-Lime Salsa. This recipe comes from one of my top four canning resources, Foolproof Preserving from America’s Test Kitchen. I love this book for clarity of instruction, and the “whys” of the steps. And, in general, any ATK recipe has thorough research behind it.

Some quick notes before I share the recipe:

  • If you need a basic knowledge of canning, the ATK book, and the Ball Blue Book are excellent guides. The Ball Blue Book is where I started, and I think it’s a staple resource that belongs in every kitchen. If you are a canning newbie, get your mitts on one. Also, America’s Test Kitchen’s site is a treasure trove if you need tested techniques on pretty much anything.
  • This recipe calls for commercially bottled lime juice. Don’t clutch your foodie pearls, there’s a reason for that. Fresh limes can vary wildly in their pH, while bottled juice remains consistent. The pH is what keeps the food safe, so unless you want to become a human science experiment, follow the recipe.
  • Speaking of which, FOLLOW THE DANG RECIPE. Canning recipes are literally science-based, tested procedures that safely preserve food. This isn’t the time for “a little of this…some of that…”
  • This recipe can be doubled. Just broil the veggies in batches, and simmer it a little longer, like 20-25 minutes.
  • Remember that all broilers and stovetop burners vary astronomically in output. This is the time you need to be a wee bit more observant, rather than trusting a recipe time range. Never leave a broiler unattended, unless you are hell-bent on meeting your local firemen.

Roasted Tomato-Lime Salsa (Canning)

Servings 4 half-pints

Ingredients
  

  • 2-1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes cored and halved
  • 1 onion sliced into 1/2 thick rounds
  • 5 jalapenos stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1/3 cup bottled lime juice
  • 2-1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Instructions
 

  • Get your canning set-up arranged with jars sterilized and simmering in your water bath canner, lids hanging out in warm water, and all your gear together.
  • Cover a sheet pan with foil and place tomatoes and onions, cut side down on it. Broil the veggies until the tomatoes are well charred (anywhere from 10-15 minutes). Remove the pan from the oven and offload the veggies into a bowl. Add the jalapenos, cut side down, and garlic to the empty sheet pan and broil until jalapenos are also charred, 8-10 minutes.
  • Transfer the jalapenos, garlic, half of the tomatoes, and half of the onions to food processor and pulse until it's a thick puree. Transfer to Dutch oven. Transfer remaining broiled tomatoes and onions to the food processor and pulse into ½-inch pieces, 2 or 3 pulses; add to Dutch oven.
  • Stir in lime juice, salt, sugar, cilantro, and cumin. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, until salsa has thickened slightly, probably 8-15 minutes depending on your stovetop.
  • Ladle the hot salsa into the hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Use a wooden skewer or popsicle stick to remove air bubbles. Wipe rims clean, top jars with warm lids, screw on bands until fingertip tight, and return jars to canner.
  • Bring water in canner back to a boil. Process jars for 15 minutes for up to 1,000 feet, 20 minutes for 1,001 to 3,000 feet, 25 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 feet, or 30 minutes for 6,001 to 8,000 feet. Remove jars to a cooling rack and let sit undisturbed for at least 8 hours. Check seals and store. If any failed to seal (hey it happens to even the most experienced canner), grab some chips and have a movie party. Don't forget to label them, and you can decide yourself if sharing is caring. According to Bear, that would be hard no.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Cookbook Review–“Come on Over” by Jeff Mauro

So, it’s no secret that I am a cookbook hoarder, so I figured I might as well start sharing my reviews so  you can make up your mind whether a potential purchase is worth the cabinet space.

This week, I picked up Come on Over by Food Network personality Jeff Mauro. Now, as part of a mini-disclaimer on this review, you should know I love watching the show “The Kitchen” every Saturday, so that definitely influenced my purchasing decision. I’ve made many of Jeff’s recipes from the program over the years, so I was especially interested in seeing this book. I’m going to break my review down based on the key components that I look for in a great cookbook. To start, just know the premise of the book is geared toward entertaining, or get-togethers as we say here in the south. The chapters fall into the category of occasion, rather than course.

The Real Disclaimer: Before you even read this review or purchase the book, you need to know that several of the recipes in this book are dishes that have already been featured on “The Kitchen” or “The Sandwich King.” Now, some have small tweaks since their Food Network debuts, but if you watch the shows and are expecting all new recipes, yes there are some, but a few are not.

Appearance/Layout: This book gets a “thumbs up” in this category. First, the images are well-shot, and nearly every recipe has a picture, which is a big plus for me. I’m not a fan of books that are all flat-print with a limited photo page insert of a few recipes in the middle. Additionally, the pictures are beautifully styled, but not in the so-over-the-top manner that plagues a lot of popular food bloggers nowadays. The images are appealing but not unrealistic. As for layout, it’s clear, concise, and makes sense. The chapters are divided into themes/occasions, and the page layouts are comfortable to read and navigate. You won’t have to flip back and forth a bunch.

Readability/Story/Context: I enjoyed reading this book, as Jeff is a seasoned storyteller with a wonderful sense of humor. So, rather than skipping over the recipe intros and anecdotes, I took the time to read them with pleasure. I enjoyed the family stories and history. The sprinkles of nostalgia help showcase a slice-of-life of an Italian-American family, but also how Jeff merges past, present, and various travel inspirations in his recipe development and food life.

Recipes and Cookability: This book embodies great variety and broad appeal, even for picky eaters. I don’t feel as if any of the dishes were too complicated. If I had to rate it for cookability, I can safely say that an advanced beginner would have no problem with any of the recipes. From past experience, the Greek Lemon Chicken and Orzo Bake and General Tso’s Chicken Sandwiches are already staples in our house. I’m going to try his dry-brined turkey for “Friendsgiving” next weekend, which, if it works, would be a welcome change from my gallons-of-brine-ordeal that is my traditional Thanksgiving turkey. I also placed the Citrusy Honey-Tequila Shrimp on deck this week as well. I think that the words “tasty” and “accessible” dominate my opinion of the majority of these recipes, though the dessert/baking chapter was not my favorite.

The Verdict: If you don’t watch The Kitchen, this is a definite buy. If you already watch the show, it’s worth flipping through at your local bookstore to evaluate if you are going to be bothered with a few of recipes being repeats (even with the small tweaks). As a fan, it still was a good addition to my library, so final verdict is a “thumbs up” all around. Worth the time and dinero.

**Remember, my blog is not sponsored or monetized in any way. No link in my posts is an affiliate link, and these ideas are all my own. None of these companies know who I am, and all of this is crap I buy with my own dang money. I’m just not that cool, y’all**