Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Kitchen Confidence

Well thanks to the recent expansion of titles available through the Blogging for Books program I am now about to review (amongst other things) - cookbooks!!! Those of you who know me probably have an idea of the extent of ecstasies that I went into upon hearing this news- and for those of you who don't- prepare yourselves. :)

I am thrilled to be reviewing Kelsey Nixon's "Kitchen Confidence"! I have had my eye on Kelsey for a
number of years now, since her debut into the food TV realm as a contestant on Food Network's "Next Food Star" program. She stood out to me then as a recent culinary grad myself and for her infectious bubbly personality as well as eager passion and desire to teach. As the years went by I was pleased to see her turn up on the Cooking Channel with her own show and have been pleased to sit down and learn with Kelsey whenever I'm able!

I love happy books. I love happy cookbooks too. "Kitchen Confidence" definitely qualifies as a happy cookbook! As the reader first picks up the book they are greeted with a bright and punchy cover full of modern colors and eye catching graphics. Delving into to the book you will find a well ordered and graphically pleasing layout. The book is divided into recipe categories that range from 'Breakfast & Morning Treats', to 'Sandwiches & Soups', to 'Desserts & Sweets'- and offers everything in between too! Each chapter begins with a clear list of the recipes in that section and each recipe title is well highlighted with bold text at the top of every page.

As I read I enjoyed especially the sporadic technique blocks and sections that explained the way something was to be done or the why behind a particular instruction. I also think it is essential in every cookbook that the author includes 'cooks notes' at the beginning of a recipe. Kelsey's book lives up to that expectation and provides a wonderful insight to a recipe's history, usage, and/or possibilities! All of the book is written in a friendly 'over your shoulder' directional style and showcases Kelsey's warm and encouraging style well. This book is well suited to be used by a beginning cook looking to expand their skills, and by an experienced cook who desires to produce well flavored and executed home staples.

One side note that I feel the need to report however is that the cover of the book is not particularly well made. When I received my copy there was already a small tear in the top filmy layer of the cover which had a small section pealing back. In the weeks since I have had this book and been handling it frequently I have noticed that the top corner and side edge of this filmy layer (upon which the cover image is printed on) is also pealing. I own a good many cookbooks and never remember one of my volumes coming apart in this way! To stop the damage I am going to need to cover the edges with heavy duty packing tape or library binding of some sort and I'm really terribly disappointed that my cover is to be marred in this way so shortly after receiving it!

The only other complaint I have about this book is that content wise while there are a good many photos there is not a photo for every recipe. For me this is essential in any modern cookbook and I'm a bit puzzled as to why they were left out. Even if covered as multiple images on a single page this would still give the reader and cook a good idea as to how the recipe is to turn out- and give them incentive for making it in the first place!

As to the actual recipes: I have tried one so far and found it to be excellent! You can find a step by step walk through to the "Grandma's Banana-Nut Sheet Cake" on my blog along with further notes on how the recipes preformed. Suffice to say though I was very pleased and enjoyed the results! I have flagged up my book with mini post-it's and I am really looking forward to making more of these tempting and delicious recipes in the future!

Final Rating: 4.5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Foodie Friday: "Grandma's Banana Cake"

Recently one of my blogging programs opened up their selection of books available for review. This little development has thrilled me no end because I'm now able to review (drumroll please...) COOKBOOKS! 
Watch out world, here I come! 

LOL! Well maybe not the whole world...maybe just my little corner of the universe! ;) 

My first cookbook review will be up in a jiffy but before I post it I wanted to kick things off by sharing one of the recipes from the book! This recipe from Kelsey Nixon's "Kitchen Confidence" was really the perfect place to start!

"Grandma's Banana Cake" by: Kelsey Nixon

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
1 cup whole milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1) For the banana cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10.5 x 15.5 inch jelly roll pan.
2) Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed, until pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs, on at a time, followed by the lemon juice, mashed bananas, and milk.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour baking soda, and salt, Slowly beat the flour mixture into the banana mixture, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. 
4) Bake until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. 25-30 minutes. Let cool.

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ripe medium banana, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

5) For the icing: Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, banana, vanilla, powdered sugar, and salt and beat until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add a teaspoon or two of milk.
6) Frost the cake with the icing and sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Store the cake, covered tightly with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

My thoughts on the recipe and cake:

I am really pleased at how easy this recipe was to put together, how well it baked up and how yummy it turned out! Even with photoing my steps I think that I maybe spent an hour on it?? It wasn't long and it really was a simple old-fashioned recipe. I like that the bananas were used in both the cake and the frosting- it brings up the banana flavor nicely. The cake itself I really can't say enough about! It is light with an excellent crumb, and it has such a rich butter flavor and buttery mouth-feel that I felt like I was eating an oil based cake recipe with it's super moistness! I used salted butter and still added the salt in both portions of the recipe and like it that way. The added salt level is negligible and in the case of the frosting is actually a better contrast to the banana and cuts the super-sugary 'belch' many icing style frosting's can give. As my family doesn't like walnuts and particularly wouldn't like nuts on a cake like this I omitted them. 

All in all, this is the cake your grandmother used to make- and it's perfect for a crowd, be it a family gathering or a church social! I highly recommend you make it- and enjoy it!