It’s Still Summer: Pay No Attention to that CrockPot in the Corner #weekendcooking

At the library, I put out a display of summertime cookbooks over a week ago and have only had to replace a few titles since. The rest are still sitting there, as pretty and appealing as can be, but no takers.

Come on, people! There are still farmers’ markets and farm stands overflowing with all sorts of produce! Let’s keep cooking with the fresh corn, tomatoes, melons, peaches, greens, peppers, and berries. There’s time enough to move on to apples and pumpkins later.  Yes, I saw the Halloween displays in the stores on August 1st, but I’m treating them like ads on the Internet and pretending they’re not there.

That said, I did use the slow cooker a couple of times recently and made these Slow Cooker Enchiladas. I made them first for a potluck with corn tortillas, following the recipe pretty closely using chicken, corn, and black beans in the filling, and they came out great, although slightly burned on the bottom. The next time I made them, I planned on the shorter end of the suggested cooking time range, but was in a big hurry and skipped the chicken and black beans and forgot the corn and decided to use the gluten-free teff tortillas instead of corn ones, and they came out a gloppy mess. (Lesson learned: Teff tortillas dissolve if you cook them for extended periods covered in salsa.)

I have no photos from the successful or unsuccessful versions of the recipe, so you’ll have to look here for the recipe and the photos.

In celebration of its still being summer here in New England, I did make these drinks last night from an improvised recipe of my own devising. We have been eating peaches from the tree in our yard and even though we didn’t get many this year, I squandered a few small ones in this blender drink, including one that I had frozen whole as an experiment and chopped up to put in the blender frozen.

two drinks with bookcase in background
Peach-Watermelon Limoncello Coolers: Put chunks of fresh watermelon and fresh or frozen peaches in the blender to about two-thirds full. Add limoncello and a few ice cubes. Blend. Pour into glasses and garnish with fresh mint.

For other gluten-free CrockPot recipes for late summer and early fall, check out my Pinterest board: So Fast in the Slow Cooker.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click for more Weekend Cooking posts.


Weekend Cooking: The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy #weekendcooking

cover imageMaybe it’s all the fresh cilantro around, or maybe it’s the new store in our town with the great avocados, but we’ve been craving Mexican food and margaritas around here lately.

For my last Weekend Cooking post, I wrote about Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless. Update: I did make the Peach-Basil Margaritas, but without the basil in the salt on the rims. (I got as far as drying the fresh basil leaves, but didn’t have time to grind them and mix the basil with the salt before I needed to serve the cocktails.)

I’ve left The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy out for weeks but, as usual, the recipes haven’t made themselves, so the only one I can report on so far is Pollo en Ciruela Pasa (Chicken with Prunes and Sweet Red Peppers) which was delicious, even without roasting and charring my own red peppers and skinning my own tomatoes. (I resorted to jarred and canned to save time; dinner was already looking to be quite late.)

Compared to most of the recipes in this comprehensive and detailed cookbook, Pollo en Ciruela Pasa seemed short and relatively simple, but deceptively so, as it involved not only  roasting red peppers and peeling and chopping tomatoes, but also sauteing seasoned chicken pieces in olive oil a few pieces at a time until golden. (What a mess that makes!)

From Frontera, I also tried the recipe for Watermelon-Ginger Guacamole, but when I went to take the cut-up watermelon from the fridge, someone had already eaten it, so it was actually Cantaloupe-Ginger Guacamole. (Still tasty!)

The recipe for Pollo en Ciruela Pasa is online here.

The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy was a gift, and although it’s the kind of cookbook I love – heavy on recipes and notes on ingredients, etc. and no photos, color or otherwise – it has been a little daunting. We live in a place where only a couple of varieties of hot peppers are found in the produce aisle (or only one) not dozens. Plus there are a lot of meat recipes, and my meat cooking needs a lot of work. The recipe section on pork is headed by a page listing all the parts of a pig in English and Spanish.

Also, Mexican food varies by region; it’s not just Tex-Mex, as the chain Mexican restaurants around here would make you think. Diana Kennedy’s cookbook is a comprehensive introduction to authentic Mexican cuisine; it’s perfect for someone who wants to learn how to make the real thing, has access to a good butcher, and is willing to spend a fair amount of time chopping up and crushing stuff to make one recipe. It’s definitely a weekend cooking type of book. Many of the recipes are going to require a trip to the butcher or a well-stocked grocery store.

Just sitting here with a fan on, the cookbook pages blew open to a recipe for Rellena de Pollo and the first two ingredients are:

1 cup (250 ml) chicken intestines
2 cups (500 ml) chicken blood

The recipe notes say rellena means “stuffed.” (So this “popular market food” is chicken intestines stuffed with chopped coagulated chicken blood, along with chopped onions, tomatoes, seasoning, etc. See what I mean?)

I just culled my cookbooks last weekend instead of writing a Weekend Cooking post, and I’m definitely keeping this one, which is great quality and still in pristine condition! It may be a while before I attempt another chicken recipe, but there are numerous salsa recipes that look more my speed.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click on the image for more Weekend Cooking posts.

Pitch-Perfect Wry Charm: All Together Now by Gill Hornby

cover imageSome novels put the quirky charm front and center and try to win the reader over too quickly, but Gill Hornby’s All Together Now plays it cool in that stiff-upper-lip, British, deadpan way. The author wins over the jaded reader with irony, wit, humor, and a bit of pathos before getting the feel-good vibes really going.

The suburban, commuter village of Bridgeford is losing its small-town charm and identity to chains, superstores, and outside developers. At the same time, the members of this novel’s ensemble cast find themselves individually in flux – whether by their children growing into independent adults; their unhappy spouses asking for divorces; or their employers making them redundant. As a reader, I rooted for caustic Tracey, steady Lewis, do-gooder Annie, and bemused Bennett, while also seeing their annoying sides and sometimes wanting to shake them – because that’s what you do when you fall in love with a story and its characters!

The title comes from the Bridgeford community choral group that Lewis and Annie are in, which needs an influx of new voices and enthusiastic support to keep it from dying the death from attrition that seems imminent. Enthusiasm is in extremely short supply, but most of the characters are overflowing with guilt and self-reproach, so that works almost as well to keep them coming to rehearsals.

The author (wife of novelist Robert Harris and sister of novelist Nick Hornby) focuses on the personalities and drama within the community chorus/choir, much as she did with a group of school mothers in her first novel, The Hive. The St. Ambrose School and a couple of characters from The Hive make cameo appearances here, but this isn’t a sequel or even really a companion novel.

If you like novels by Anne Tyler, Ann Leary, Rachel Joyce, JoJo Moyes, and other wry observers of human nature you will enjoy spending time with the good (and not-so-good) people of Bridgeford.

All Together Now
Hornby, Gill
Little, Brown
July 21, 2015
336 pp.
$26.00 US/$29.00 CAN

Disclosure: I received a free advance reader’s copy for review from Library Journal, where I also gave it a rave review.

Other opinions:
Tales from the Reading Room

Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian


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