Archive for the ‘Cookbooks & Reference’ Category

BookSwim: Did You Know The Library Now Delivers?

December 22nd, 2010 No comments


BookSwim, known to some as the Netflix of books, is a fabulous last-minute printable gift idea that delivers thousands of New York Times bestsellers to your giftee’s door!  You rent, read and return, cutting down on clutter and amping up time curled up on the couch.  You can purchase Gift Certificates in any denomination, but BookSwim is offering a holiday special right now — Any $50 Gift Card purchase comes with a $50 Gift Certificate to, and you even choose which greeting card to send.  It’s a great deal for the readers and eaters on your Christmas list, or for any time of the year.  I have it and still want it. 🙂

For the past month, I’ve been testing out BookSwim — It’s been all cookbooks for me and I love it!  When my first three cookbooks arrived, I was a little taken aback that the books are indeed used.  Unless purchasing through Ebay, I think most people are accustomed to receiving new books and items in the mail.  I have no complaints, as they are certainly in fine readable condition, just not pristine, but who cares — I’m borrowing them until done. 

Just like Netflix, you select your desired books (instead of movies) ahead of time and then they arrive in the mail.  My BookSwim plan allows me to keep three books at a time and return two or three to receive more.  All are shipped with a postage paid envelope for easy returns and the next delivery arrives fairly quickly.  Some books are so good that I now want to buy ’em and others I’m glad I can return for others.  It’s quite terrific actually and highly recommended by me and Nibbles of Tidbits.

Above is my current favorite I haven’t been able to give up — It has the most amazing Cupcakes, ideas and photos.  I just keep sending back two books at a time.  It’s all good.

We’re Ready For A Throwdown With Bobby Flay’s New Cookbook.

October 16th, 2010 1 comment

Bobby Flay was at Williams-Sonoma South Coast Plaza yesterday signing his new cookbook — Bobby Flay’s Throwdown!: More Than 100 Recipes From Food Network’s Ultimate Cooking Challenge.  Since the line was way too long and my patience and available time too short, Jennifer provided her adorable photo for posting above.  Thanks Jennifer (and Bobby).

Just a fraction of the line going in to Williams-Sonoma to see Bobby Flay.

Since the book includes recipes from Bobby Flay and a few hometown challengers, we’ll soon be hosting our own Throwdown!  We plan to make competing recipes and have a blind taste test to see if we agree with what went down at the Throwdown.

Check back to see Nibbles of Tidbits Testdown! results.

Many Years Of Knowing Taste Of Home Magazine And Cookbooks.

October 11th, 2010 1 comment

Circa 10+ years ago, I was subscribing to all the popular gourmet cooking magazines — Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Saveur, Cook’s Illustrated, etc.  And for Christmas my Grandma got me a subscription to Taste of Home.  I hadn’t known of it and remember her saying… “It’s not a fancy gourmet magazine, but I’ve liked it for a long time.”  She was indeed on to something, because it turned out to be one of my favorite magazines too.  My Grandma (now 89) and I have enjoyed many recipes from Taste of Home magazines over the years.  Thanks Grandma.  And now Taste of Home is having a CONTEST you could possibly win.  It’s a Win-Win Contest, as you’ll learn by reading below.


Bake sale blockbusters, popular potlucks, teachers’ lounge favorites, fabulous finger foods, delicious desserts, good for you goodies… The stomach often rules the mind at school. Now, Taste of Home, the world’s most popular cooking magazine, and Books are Fun™ have teamed up to put some money where that food goes with the Taste of Home Teachers Recipe Contest.

Books Are Fun will award more than $70,000 in cash and prizes for the best original submitted recipes chosen by the staff at Taste of Home, with $20,000 awarded to BOTH the grand prize winner and the affiliated school.

Taste of Home is thrilled to work with Books Are Fun to celebrate our teachers and all the wonderful people who help make our schools so special,” said Catherine Cassidy, editor-in-chief of Taste of Home. “We’ve all heard the news stories about budget cuts. This is a chance to do something positive for schools.”

The Taste of Home Teachers Recipe Contest has six categories for submissions: 

  • Appetizers & Snacks – Finger foods are always popular in the teachers’ lounge.  Pick the spreads, snack mix, and other savory bites that keep the staff happily munching!
  • Soups, Salads and Sides – What recipe do you grab for your potluck?  We’re looking for dishes that travel well and steal the show, like salads and pasta creations among others!
  • Entrees – What’s your best main course outside of school?  We want to see your bubbling casseroles, slow-cooked specialties, family-favorite main dishes and even party subs!
  • Desserts – Enter everything from cakes and pies to trifles and tortes in this tooth-tingling category!
  • Bake Sale – Send us your favorite cookies, cupcakes, bars, brownies, spiced nuts and home-made jams, whatever clears bake-sale tables the quickest!
  • Healthy Recipes – Healthy is huge in school these days.  Submit your favorite recipe that is so good, no one ever guesses it’s lower in fat and calories.

 The Taste of Home tasting panel will pick three winners from all of the submissions. The grand prize winner will win $20,000 and $20,000 for the school affiliated with that winner, plus a free one-year subscription to Taste of Home magazine for all paid full-time teachers and staff at the school. The second-place winner will win $10,000, plus $10,000 for the school. Third place will take home $5,000 plus $5,000 for the school. 

Entry forms and rules can be found at or  Completed entries must be received by 11:59pm (CT) on November 30, 2010.

CPK In A California Kitchen: BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad.

July 30th, 2010 No comments

Everyone I know loves California Pizza Kitchen’s BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad, including myself, especially the Garden Herb Ranch Dressing.  I’ve had CPK’s Cookbooks for a few years now and have made several dishes from them (pre-blog), but hadn’t yet made one of their best Salads, mostly due to the number of ingredients — But since I happened to have Buttermilk on-hand (a rarity and ingredient in the Dressing), I took another look at the recipe and determined it was finally a good time to make it.  I’ve now had this Salad three days in a row.  The recipe makes a lot of Dressing and since all ingredients are finally in the house, I might as well keep enjoying them.  If I close my eyes when I eat it, I’d guess I’m at CPK.  It tastes just like it.  To simplify a little, I use chunks of a Rotisserie Chicken lightly tossed in BBQ Sauce, rather than make the Chicken in their recipe.  It doesn’t seem necessary to capture the full flavor of the Salad.

Classic Southern Desserts: Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting.

June 2nd, 2010 No comments

I discovered the best Strawberry Buttercream Frosting in Southern Living’s Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook.  And the interesting thing about it is… I don’t even like Buttercream Frosting.  All my life I’ve dumped Cake slices upside-down on the plate to have the Frosting stick to it — That way I’d eat the Cake and the Frosting would be left behind.  After making the pictured Strawberry Cake, I’m converted, at least with respect to Southern Living’s recipe.  It yields a perfect balance of fresh pureed Strawberries, Powdered Sugar and Butter.  I brought this Cake to the office and everyone raved about the Frosting.  The Cake is a different story, since I used my own recipe that wasn’t that terrific.  Fortunately the Strawberry Buttercream Frosting made up for it.  Did I just write that? 

The amazing Strawberries came from the Strawberry Tour at Tanaka Farms.  To see other recipes we’ve made from Southern Living’s Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook click here.

Book Recommendation: Substituting Ingredients.

May 28th, 2010 No comments

Nibbles of Tidbits highly recommends Substituting Ingredients, The A to Z Kitchen Reference, by Becky Sue Epstein.  We’ve only had it a few days and already love it.  It’s clear and concise, easy to use, and so far it includes everything we’ve ever wanted to find a substitution for.  Wish we had this book years ago — We had marked several ingredient substitution pages in certain cookbooks, but it’s nice to have all the information (and more) in one crisp book.

We’re HAPPY to have this necessary book as an important part of our cookbook collection.

Banana Split Three Layer Cake Challenge.

May 12th, 2010 No comments

Our Banana Split Cake started out as a fun idea, but unfortunately it didn’t quite cross the finish line.  Good thing we’re testing out recipes before entering ’em into the 2010 Orange County Fair Culinary Arts Competition — This one certainly wouldn’t win a ribbon.  The concept is entertaining and it tasted really good, but one can’t submit a Cake looking like this. 🙂

With ripening Bananas and Strawberries on hand and the recent receipt of Southern Living Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook, we created a Banana Split Cake.  We started with a prepared White Cake Mix evenly divided into 3 round baking pans — Then mashed a Banana, pureed a few Strawberries and got out the Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.  As shown below, we added each respectively to the divided mix. 

We baked the Cakes, then set them aside to cool completely — We did get that part right, although it may not look that way.  We made an amazing Cream Cheese Frosting from the Southern Living Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook.  It’s called Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting (p. 37).  Before adding the Pecans that are called for in the recipe, we reserved and divided a portion of the Frosting to mix pureed Strawberry into one and Chocolate Syrup into the other, and then added Pecans to the remainder and chilled all in the fridge.

To build our Banana Split Cake, start with Chocolate Cake on the bottom, then add a layer of Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, followed by Banana Cake, Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting, and ending with Strawberry Cake on top.  We then smothered the assembled Cake with Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting.  It held together at first, but then you see what happened.  We ultimately separated the layers and frosted each separately with the Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting.  Office co-workers usually don’t care what it looks like.

Next time we’ll add less Strawberry puree and Chocolate Syrup to the Frosting and less Frosting in between the layers.  We might also want to chill the Frosting a little longer or make more Cake, so the layers aren’t as thin.  Perhaps we’ll add sliced Strawberries and/or Bananas in between the layers to avoid sliding Cakes.  Again, it tasted pretty good, therefore it’s worth another try.

Note: So far we like what we see in Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook by Southern Living and look forward to making the recipes we’ve tabbed in it.

California Avocado Commission & Too Hot Tamales Interactive Lunch.

May 1st, 2010 No comments

Nibbles of Tidbits was recently invited by the California Avocado Commission to attend a gourmet, interactive lunch and cooking demonstration with chef partners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of the Too Hot Tamales.  Since I was unable to attend, but didn’t want to miss it, Nibbles of T sent its resident Guest Blogger, Bonnie of Bonnie Joy Designs.  She always provides an interesting angle to a story and was excited to receive a personally signed copy of Cooking With Too Hot Tamales (below). 

Ahhhh – Those Avocados were Awesome!

Avocado advocates Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (a.k.a. The Too Hot Tamales) along with the California Avocado Commission hosted a rousing, festive Food Blogger-only event ahead of Cinco de Mayo at their downtown L.A. restaurant, Ciudad, last Saturday. The afternoon began with a surprise. Actually, it was the “interactive” portion of the show, which turned out to be a “Top Chef” style competition featuring the Food Bloggers themselves as the chefs along with California Avocados, and a very long table full of potential accoutrements.

The Food Bloggers were given only seconds to pair up (I assume none of the Bloggers had ever met one another before, which made what came next even more amazing), then they were given just 3 minutes to flesh out (pardon the pun) their best recipe for guacamole. Then they got a mere 5 minutes (yes, there was a timer!) to execute their dish and 2 more minutes to give it a definitive name. I can report that the Food Bloggers took this competition very seriously, even if it was all in fun.

And I don’t think I need to tell you who the judges were… But what I can tell you is that even they were impressed at how well all 10 recipes turned out. Bravo! (Sorry Susan, that’s actually not a plug for the network you are on as one of the final “Top Chef Masters” on May 5th…or… maybe it is). I think I got to sample all ten dishes, and they really were all tasty and creative, so everyone was a winner.

The next hour featured the Too Hot Tamales doing what they do best – whipping up a four course meal with each one featuring avocados as the core ingredient. If you want to see poetry in motion, then you need to experience Susan and her long-time business partner Mary Sue as they whirled and twirled their way through a menu that included a Crispy Avocado Taco, an incredible salad with fried (yes, fried) capers, Chicken and Avocado Chilaquiles and for dessert, Avocado and Mango Slices with a Creamy Yogurt Dressing. They even managed to blend an Avocado and Orange “Liquado” to drink. Needless to say, each dish was a masterpiece.

Ciudad Executive Chef Jeremy Tummel and Jan DeLyser from the California Avocado Commission also joined in the fun that happened at this invitation only event. If you came away from this afternoon hungry, then you did not attend the same event that I did. The attention to detail was impeccable – from the beginning Margarita to the personalized cookbooks at the end – and was well appreciated by the interior designer in me.

I now have a fresh appreciation for a fruit that is locally grown and nutritionally packed. So be sure to add Avocados to your daily diet, and not just on special occasions or on Cinco de Mayo!

Thanks Bonnie.  I love Avocados too and my parents eat ’em almost daily.  It looks like I missed a pretty cool event, but I’m happy to have the exciting report and photos.

Note:  Bonnie bought a new camera for this event — As I write this, it’s in the process of being returned.  We like what was captured, but weren’t happy with the graininess of the photos.  What’s posted here is the best of the worst.  Click on the Blogger links above to view better photos.

Stay Tuned Daily — There’s Always Something Food Related To Report.

April 26th, 2010 No comments

Nibbles of Tidbits has a lot of exciting posts coming up.  We’re reviewing a couple Cookbooks from Southern Living.  We recently attended an amazing event sponsored by the California Avocado Commission and just hosted a few small parties we need to report about.  Network Solutions, our hosting provider is currently updating its server, thus we’ll be posting photos of all once the maintenance is complete.  At that time, we’ll resume the feast(s) for your eyes.

Zucchini Potato Soup From The Farmer’s Market Cookbook.

March 29th, 2010 No comments

Farmer's Market Soup Ingredients

Zucchini Potato Soup is the first recipe we made from Southern Living’s Farmer’s Market Cookbook.  We got all ingredients (except Bacon) from the Corona Del Mar Farmer’s Market, since that’s what it’s all about.

                   Homemade Chicken StockFryin' the BaconCookin' the Soup

We made Chicken Stock from a leftover Rotisserie Chicken, a leftover piece of El Pollo Loco Chicken and a leftover piece of Boston Market Chicken — We just so happened to have all on hand, ha.  It turned out great and made the Zucchini Potato Soup more flavorful.

Final Soup with Bacon and Sour Cream

Overall, the Soup was good and easy to make.  The recipe is pictured below, if you can see it.  We added a little Lemon Juice to the Soup, and Sour Cream as a garnish to go with the yummy Bacon on top.  Since the recipe was inspired by Vichyssoise, it’s to be served cold.  My friend loves it that way, but I prefer it warm.  This Soup is flexible that way.

Farmer's Market Cookbook Recipe

The recipe is well written, like many we’ve read in this Cookbook — In other words, the order of instructions make sense for optimum freshness and flavor.  However, whenever sauteing Onions with Garlic, we always caramelize the Onions and add the Garlic at the very end, no matter what the recipe states, because we think it ultimately creates the best flavor.

Farmers Market Cookbook: Harvesting A Fresh Look At Local Flavor.

March 24th, 2010 No comments

Farmer's Market Cookbook

We’re already liking this Cookbook and haven’t made a recipe yet.  We’ll be heading to one of our local Framers’ Markets soon — It’s in Corona Del Mar at PCH/Marguerite and will be reported about on

Lime Ice Cubes

We look forward to sampling several recipes from this Southern Living Cookbook and will report about all here.  We’ve got to see what looks best at the local Farmers’ Market and take it from there.  Until then, we think these Lime Ice Cubes (above) are worth mentioning.  They’re so simple to make and memorable at a party, brunch, BBQ or just for fun.  Kids like ’em too.

* Nibbles of Tidbits is happy to be trying this Cookbook — Check back for future reports.

‘It Ain’t Pretty’ Goat Cheese Terrine From Williams-Sonoma Starters.

January 30th, 2010 No comments

Christmas Cookies 2009 006

Christmas Cookies 2009 014You can probably skip this Cookbook — It’s Williams-Sonoma New Healthy Kitchen: Starters (2006).  I’ve finally gotten around to utilizing it.  The colorful recipe photos are beautiful and offer so much promise, but when gettin’ down to wanting to make any of them, the pickings are slim.  Some recipes are impractical, others don’t even sound good, and ingredients should be altered in the pictured recipe I made.  It’s the Purple Bell Pepper & Goat Cheese Terrine (p. 33) substituting Red Bell Pepper, since Purple Bell Peppers are hard to come by.  Other than that, I followed the exact recipe and thought my unveiled terrine to be too runny and salty.  If you still want to make this recipe after this report, it’s recommended that you use half the Salt and Milk that’s listed, and possibly replace the Shallot with chopped Green Onion or Chives.

* I also have Williams-Sonoma New Healthy Kitchen: Desserts and will post what we ultimately make from it.  I hope it’s better than this Starter.  If you cannot view the enlarged recipe well enough to prepare a better version of it, tell us in a comment.

Comfort Food: Orange Roughy Chowder Quick From Scratch.

November 9th, 2009 2 comments


I love my Quick From Scratch Food & Wine Cookbooks — They seem to have the best recipes.  Today I made the Corn and Cod Chowder with Orange Roughy instead of Cod, since it was the freshest Fish at the market.  I like Cod in this recipe too, but Orange Roughy is a tasty substitution.  All other ingredients are the same, except I used Chicken Stock in place of the Clam Juice.  It’s usually a seamless replacement I prefer in recipes.  I like Clams, but have a mental problem adding Clam Juice to a recipe.  When called for, I’ll generally substitute Chicken, Vegetable, Shrimp or Lobster Stock.

Chowder 011

As you can see from the cookbook stains, I’ve had Food & Wine’s Quick From Scratch Fish & Shellfish for quite sometime and everything I’ve made from it has turned out great.  That can’t be said about all cookbooks, thus I highly recommend this one and Food & Wine’s Quick From Scratch Pasta.  I’ve made many fabulous meals from both.

Chowder 019Chowder 015Chowder 003

It’s Soup season and time to make comfort dishes that fragrant the house.  They’re cozy, convenient and ready to be warmed up for lunch or dinner throughout the week.  All I need tonight is a piece of Sourdough with (real) Butter, a bowl of this New England style Chowder and a blankie.  The work is done and now it’s pure enjoyment time.

Vegetable Moussaka, It’s Back To The Drawing Board.

October 13th, 2009 2 comments


The Vegetable Moussaka Recipe in The Olive and The Caper had such promise — I’m not quite sure why it wasn’t as good as it should have been.  An assembly line of baked Eggplant, blanched Potatoes and sliced Tomatoes was prepared, as well as homemade Bechamel Sauce.  All was layered as instructed with Bechamel and Cheese poured over top.  It looked terrific going in and coming out of the oven, but unfortunately didn’t become the fluffy cloud of Bechamel with goods underneath that I’ve previously enjoyed at a few Greek restaurants.  Instead it was dry throughout and curdled in places, not a desirable combination.


I like the cookbook, but will be moving past the Vegetable Moussaka.  Until choosing the next tasty Greek recipe to make, I’m sticking with the Greek Fried Egg and heading to Papadakis Taverna for a luscious Moussaka fix.  Opa!

The Olive And The Caper: Greek Fried Egg.

September 10th, 2009 1 comment


misc-022Did you know that many in Greece start the day with an Egg fried in Olive Oil?  It’s true according to The Olive and The Caper.  The recipe for one Greek Fried Egg in this books calls for 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil.  I’ve always used a pat of Butter, but gave the Olive Oil a try.  I was unsure about using the entire 1/4 Cup, but did it anyway.  And the cooking instructions require the Olive Oil to be HOT to brown the Egg to a crisp around the edges.  I was a little afraid of that too, but complied.  And just before turning out to a bowl, you’re to spoon the hot oil over the top of the Egg.  All is then transferred to a bowl to eat.  The Greeks enjoy the Egg while sopping up the Olive Oil with a crusty loaf of Bread.  The book says that you’ll love it — I liked it a lot.  The author reports that her hair and skin never looked as clear and shiny as it did when she was living in Greece and eating hundreds of Greek Fried Eggs — That can be a good incentive to eat ’em.

Cookbooks, Magazines & Phony Photos.

June 1st, 2009 No comments


Shown above is a third of my often referenced Cookbooks.  This block of photos was posted in an unnecessary page, but now finds its final place in this quick post.  For some background on the post title, I once won a contest that landed my recipe and face in Bon Appétit and Gourmet Magazines, blah, blah, blah.  It’s been reported on here previously.  The point of retelling it now leads to the ‘phony photos’ above.  A few friends found it funny to add my milk moustache face to a Chef’s body.  They made a poster board using another photo from the same magazine, HA.  I look like Man Hands on Seinfeld — Good thing it’s my favorite show.

Man Hands Episode Excerpt: