food, Non-Fiction

Thumbs up…because I don’t need them while the Instant Pot does the cooking

I can’t remember a recent kitchen appliance trend more popular than the Instant Pot. But as far as practical kitchen items that real people purchase, Instant Pot is high on the list (w/the Air Fryer quickly on its tail – I’m sure I’ll be reviewing that cookbook soon). “The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook” arrived on my doorstep for free via a promotional giveaway. It covers everything from the parts, process, preferred ingredients, tools, and actual recipes for every category of meal. It also contains a useful description for converting regular recipes to instant pot recipes.

On to the recipes…breakfast covers yummy recipes from lemon-poppy seed breakfast cake to Florentine omelet. I was pleasantly surprised to find the recipe for a honey-turmeric tonic the day I first picked up the book. My head cold had been killing me and this find was enough to keep me going. In addition to breakfast, there are sections on beans & gravy, soups & chilis, poultry, beef & pork, veggies & sides, dessert, and pantry. It is this last section that changed my mind from a 4 to a 5 star review. Having a soffrito, quick mayonnaise, or apple sauce ready at hand is a great way to take a semi-homemade meal to a fully homemade one.

In terms of quality of publication, the thick hard cover and heavy matte pages are perfect for a book in a well-used kitchen. While you could likely find many of the recipes or similar online. The utility of this one stop shop would be perfect as a holiday gift for the budding Instant Pot cook.

This review may be found online at Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. A hard copy of the book was also placed in a Little Free Library for others to enjoy.

bilingual, children's, Fiction

English-Chinese Children’s Book Done Right

I am a huge fan of bilingual children’s books. I love them for languages that I work with my child to learn or for other languages, just for exposure. A common pitfall for these books is that they fall into two unhelpful categories: flashcard style books that just show vocabulary with pictures or story books showing the story separately in both languages, with no way to intermingle them unless you repeat the story in the other language. If you’ve ever sought out bilingual English-Chinese children’s books, they usually have the added issue of only having either the characters or the pinyin (and sometimes worse: a third pronunciation form).

Brandon Makes Jiǎo Zi (餃子) is one of those rare exceptions that incorporates both pinyin, characters (traditional), and a delightful story. The best part is that the pinyin/character elements are woven into the story, so you aren’t just either reading in Chinese or English but all together, like you would if both languages are used in the house. This was such a pleasant surprise that I bought a second copy of the book, so I could keep the first to read with my daughter and still give away the second to a little free library.

The story itself covers familial relations with a loving grandmother and her grandson, the passing of culinary traditions, and also how to be resilient in the face of mistakes. The illustrations are simple, but compliment the story well. The publishing style leaves a lot of blank space on the page, but it’s not particularly distracting. Looking forward to more books like this from the author.

This review may be found online at Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. A paperback copy of the book was also placed in a Little Free Library for others to enjoy.