The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila

Homemade Kitchen cover

Most days, sushi is the answer, even if you don’t know the question.

Remember that scene in the Breakfast Club? When Claire (or, Cuh-laire, aka Molly Ringwald) whips out that sushi in detention? THEN she gets teased by Bender…and she ignores him and keeps on eating it, because #GIRLBOSS.

When I first saw this movie, I was kind of siding with Bender on this one (mercury poisoning! gross smelling fish!). But what did I know of sushi? Raw fish? By now, I’ve had lots of time to sample the wonders of sticky rice and wasabi. Vegetarian sushi is so delicious, but I’ve always wondered how to make it myself- some veggies, rice, and nori- can’t be too pricey, right?

Alana Chernila’s book to the rescue! She includes a sushi rice recipe in her “grains” section, along with a general recipe for maki rolls (wet fingers with the sticky rice = magic). It tasted DELICIOUS and made for some nice giggles in the kitchen when I attempted to wrap the sushi into delightful, photogenic rolls (muahahaha, I laugh to myself).

Aside from showing this girl how to make sushi from scratch, Chernila focuses on the building blocks of good cooking and baking. How to Keep Fresh Herbs, Basic Pizza Dough, Reuseables in the Kitchen, Tools That Help Food Last Longer-don’t these headings sound amazing? Truly, this would make an amazing gift for a new college student, or a newlywed couple looking to build their cookbook collection (I will be coming into my marriage with multiple cookbooks, already!). Did I mention the photos are breathtaking?

However, the book is not just focused on foundation cooking. The recipes are build on from the basics.For example, Chernila shows the recipe for pie crust, followed by multiple filling recipes to fill up aforementioned crust, maximizing the pages of the book for full ideas. Chevre Cheesecake with Mint and Berries? Sounds complicated, right? Only if you make the chevre cheese from scratch. It’s optional, but the recipe is there, first, if you want to try it.

My favorite part of the book? This quote:

“Do Your Best, Then Let Go” 

My sushi became a sushi burrito- but I’m not going to take myself too seriously. I did my best, and I’ll do better next time.

side angle photo homemade

Expectations

oy vey sushi

Reality

Rating: 4/5 stars

Further Reading:

A copy of this title was provided to me by www.BloggingforBooks.com. All opinions are my own. This review is based on the print version of the book.

Current Wish List- October 2015

Andy and I get married in just 6 MONTHS! In the meantime, it’s a lot more window shopping, and a lot less real shopping. To satisfy my inner shopper, blogging will have to do!

Nail Polish

Work appropriate, and maybe a nice base for nail art or jamberry wraps.

tiramisu for two

Tiramisu for Two, OPI Venice Collection, $9.50

Handbag

I actually audibly gasped when I saw this bag. I make this pudding REGULARLY for office parties.

magnolia purse

(Check out the recipe for Magnolia’s Banana Pudding here!)

kate spade new york, Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding Container Handbag, $298.00

Sunglasses

A classic pair of cat eye sunglasses is always a great way to turn your winter outfit into an Elizabeth-Taylor inspired look. My cat-eyeliner skills are subpar, so glasses take care of the look for me!

cat eye

Cat Eye Sunglasses, J.Crew Factory, $13.99

What’s on your list?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

whynotmecover

Have you ever read a book so moving, so sad, so touching that it made you cry in public? I definitely have…many times (see this, this, and this).

A book that’s made me laugh out loud? A smaller list, but one that continues to grow. I read Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) during one day of commuting back and forth from the suburbs to the city for part-time retail work after graduate school, while I was still living with my parents. Let’s just say that laughter wasn’t coming to easy to me at that time.

This latest book was just as wonderful, but with a slightly more current spin. Mindy summarizes life since starting her own show, following from its inception to cancellation. The only thing I would’ve wished for more of is Mindy’s fictional writing. There is a vignette where she drafts a set of emails set in 2005, in what would’ve happened if she had become a Latin instructor at a Gossip-Girl-esque high school in New York. This was quite possibly one of the funniest things I’ve read in years, and it makes me hope that Mindy will start a new generation of humor fiction for women (oh please!).

Mindy has a way of capturing the current pop culture climate in a way that doesn’t shove it down your throat. Her insight both into women’s issues and her own weaknesses is not only refreshing, but also inspiring:

“When you are entitled, you are the most insufferable person ever. If you are entitled and hardworking, which I am, you are still pretty insufferable but at least you somewhat earned your entitled behavior.”

Sounds pretty spot-on to me.

Rating: 4/5 stars

I was provided a free copy of this book from http://www.BloggingforBooks.com. All opinions are my own.

Bailey and Mindy Kaling

Bailey, my cat/spirit animal

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

blackout cover

Getting motivated for exercise has always been a struggle for me. One of the “techniques” that has helped me at least get out more is loading book-related podcasts onto my iPod, then restricting my listening for when I’m doing something more active. I am distracted by the upbeat conversations about books, and by the time I’m finished, I’ve been outside for 1-2 hours. Even if it’s just walking, I feel refreshed and energized, with more books for my to-read list.

I got the idea to read Sarah Hepola’s book from an episode of NPR’s Fresh Air (podcast link below).The interview was so captivating, I knew I had to read her book stuff.

If you’ve ever studied Motivational Interviewing, the evidence-based therapeutic technique often used to treat substance abuse, you know that it is just as important to talk about how your life is “bettered” by your addictive tendencies as it is to talk about its hindrances. In Hepola’s case, alcohol soothed her inner critic, and unleashed the fiery, sexual being inside of her (or at least, what media was telling her was inside of her). Why would she quit, with all of these wonderful doors being opened?

We need more memoirs written like this, as women’s motivation to drink seems to have a different look with each generation. How does online dating contribute to disclosure of addiction? Do you email people to tell them you’ve stopped drinking? Alcohol memoirs are not new, but the background is ever-changing.

I will say this. I finished the book without having a firm understanding of Hepola’s opinion about Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and other supports to stop drinking. The role of AA and a therapist was peppered throughout the story, but nothing that led me to know concretely what her opinion was of the two. Obviously, something worked because she has stayed sober….but how did these supports work for her? What does she feel she have done differently? A woman like myself might be struggling, and not know where to start.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I’m glad it joined the overall conversation about addiction- the more information the better!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Further Reading:

A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan

Ms. Egan’s debut novel holds promise for a new wave of fiction, published to address the question of “Can Women Have it All?,” in a way that is unexpected, optimistic, and approachable.

Alice Pearse lives in New Jersey, in a picturesque suburb of New Jersey, with her husband, three children, and one dog. When a troubling incident (involving a thrown laptop across a conference room) prompts her husband to end his full time job at a successful law firm, she is forced to reconsider her part time job as a book reviewer for a plush women’s magazine, and look for full time opportunities elsewhere. She is swept away by Scroll, a new bookstore hoping to model a new chain of digital lounges to become the bookstore answer to Starbucks.

Alice is all at once carried away by the promise of this new model of book-selling, while trying to balance her responsibilities with her family and friends. She has to navigate her ideological conflicts (support mainstream bookstores vs. independents, read paper vs. read digital), all while trying to learn the new language at work (everything is abbreviated).

One of the strongest and, for me, most relatable conflicts is the never-ending pressure to stay connected to your phone (and, by default, your work life). We know that this kind of constant connection is unhealthy, but in certain work environments, trying to revolt against leaving “work at work” is look down upon more than tardiness or poor hygiene. This is a modern issue, with modern technology, for a modern protagonist.

Egan does a great job covering the child-as-caregiver experience, as Alice witnesses her father’s struggle with throat cancer. A complicated life is more than just balancing playdates and long commutes. For all of history, women have had to balance everyday demands, with chronic conflicts and stressors. Some days you’re putting out fires with a spray bottle, sometimes with an extra large hose. Fiction badly needs a dose of hose-worthy fires.

I did, however, take issue with some of Egan’s loose ends. There were a few spots in the novel where conflict arose, but was never resolved. This model can work very well in a mystery, adding to suspense and throwing in a few red herrings. It doesn’t really work in fiction, though, unless you have an alternative resolution or ironic twist. Tying up these loose ends would have made for either a longer book (if these conflict points were resolved) or a shorter book (if she had scrapped these mini-plot points altogether). Either option would’ve made a more satisfying read.

Alice’s goal for “having it all” looked very different from what my “having it all” would look like. That being said, I would still recommend this book to read.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Further Reading:

I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The edition reviewed here was an e-book.