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Books that cook: Good Bite Weeknight Meals, Intoxicated Cupcakes, Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking

,Title: Good Bite Weeknight Meals: Delicious Made Easy (Wiley, $29.99, 272 pages)

Generally speaking: School is back in session and with that comes sports practices, games, music lessons and more, making weeknights busier than ever. Good Bite Weeknight Meals to the rescue. Good Bite is a website that showcases videos from some of the Web's most influential bloggers. Many of the recipes included will appeal to a variety of tastes. There are main courses as well as sides that make menu planning easy.

For: People looking to get meals on the table quickly. I watched the video for the slow cooker beef bourguignon, and the dish looks easy and delicious. Even better, it's ready when you get home from work.

Recipes: Orzo with spinach and peas, Mexican polenta casserole, slow cooker beef bourguignon, wild mushroom soup, warm and hearty taco soup, pasta carbonara, sweet and crispy chili tilapia, grilled lamb chop lollipops with spinach and tomato couscous salad, grilled steaks with onions, roasted potatoes and bacon, Korean barbecue beef skewers, Italian sausage soup, blueberry pulled pork, roasted chicken thighs with mango chutney sauce and Greek-style pork pitas.

Note: The nice feature about this cookbook is that there are videos on the companion website (goodbite.com) to help if you are stuck on a technique or need a confidence boost. It is difficult to know if all the videos for the recipes are still on the site because names of recipes don't all match. The recipe featured below is called Sweet Chili Glazed Tilapia. So if you search for a recipe, try a few keywords rather than the recipe title as published. You may have more success.

,Title: Intoxicated Cupcakes: 41 Tipsy Treats by Kate Legere (Running Press, $15, 128 pages)

Generally speaking: Cupcakes are hot right now. So hot, some brides are foregoing a traditional wedding cake for cupcakes. The cupcake grows up in the new cookbook Intoxicated Cupcakes. Spice up your next dessert party with spiked cupcakes. Your guests will be surprised after the first luxurious bite.

For: Cupcake-lovers, dessert-lovers and sweet-lovers. You don't need to be an experienced baker to make these recipes. Many of the cupcakes start with a cake mix, and some of the icings start with canned icing. If you're a from-scratch baker, there are recipes for you, too.

Recipes: Everything's gonna be all white chocolate cupcakes, mango margarita cupcakes, white chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, tootie-fruity sangria cupcakes, Bellini belle cupcakes, rum and cola cupcakes, Belgian beauty cupcakes, fuzzy navel cupcakes, mint grasshopper cupcakes and champagne party cupcakes.

,Title: Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking by Pamela Sheldon Johns (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $21.99, 185 pages)

Generally Speaking: This is fresh Italian food at its best. There are more than 60 peasant-inspired recipes using the philosophy of not wasting anything edible. These are budget-conscious dishes utilizing local and seasonal ingredients for optimal flavor. Many of the cooking techniques, such as braising and roasting, bring out the best flavors as well.

For: This cookbook has a broad appeal. It is perfect for budget-conscious cooks, those who enjoy using fresh ingredients and families that try to have a meatless night. The selection of vegetarian recipes is nice.

Recipes: Tortelli with potato filling and melted butter and sage, farro soup, spinach and ricotta dumplings, grilled porcini mushrooms with mint and garlic, roasted tomatoes, beans and onions, ricotta cake, Tuscan ring cake, sautéed wild greens, freshwater fish stew, roasted chicken with vin santo sauce, pork rolls stuffed with ricotta and spinach, tomato bread soup, farmyard crostini, baked winter squash and chestnut cake.

>>Moderate

Sweet & Crispy Chili Tilapia

3 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons water

¾ teaspoon chili powder, divided

1 ½ cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning

4 skinless tilapia fillets

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place the honey, water and ¼ teaspoon chili powder in a small bowl; whisk to combine and set the honey glaze aside.

Place the panko, kosher salt, pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon chili powder in a shallow dish, and stir to combine. Season both sides of the tilapia fillets with pinches of Kosher salt and pepper. Brush both sides of each tilapia fillet with the honey glaze, then press each fillet into the crumb mix; turn to coat both sides.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the panko-crusted tilapia fillets, and cook until the crush is golden-brown and the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and serve warm.

Serves 4.

>>Moderate

Fuzzy Navel Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 (18-ounce) box orange cake mix

3 large eggs

¾ cup orange juice

½ cup peach schnapps

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup chopped peaches, fresh or canned

For the icing:

1 (16-ounce) can lemon icing

1 tablespoon peach schnapps

½ cup chopped peaches, fresh or canned

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 18 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, orange juice, peach schnapps and vegetable oil. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the ingredients just until combined. Stir in the chopped peaches by hand. Pour the batter into the prepared cups. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool completely.

For the icing, mix the canned icing, peach schnapps and chopped peaches in a small bowl. Smooth the icing onto the cooled cupcakes.

Makes 18.

>>MOderate

Roasted Tomatoes, Beans and Onions

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 2- inch pieces

2 pounds cipolline onions, about 1 ½ inches in diameter, trimmed and peeled

1 bulb fennel, cored and cut lengthwise into eighths

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups cherry tomatoes

3 cups cooked cannellini beans

3 springs fresh thyme for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the potatoes, onions and fennel in a roasting pan. Add the olive oil, and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and roast another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and cipolline are fork-tender and golden-brown. Add the beans, garnish with thyme, and serve at once.

Serves 8 to 10.

Books that cook: Good Bite Weeknight Meals, Intoxicated Cupcakes, Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 4:30am]
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