Author: cvegnad

Flavorbomb: A Rogue Guide to Making Everything Taste Better

If you live for wildly addictive Sensations that knock you off your feet, but can’t figure out how to make them at home, you have just found your kindred cookbook spirit. Welcome to Flavorbomb.

About Flavorbomb: A Rogue Guide to Making Everything Taste Better

You keep a running list of restaurants you go to for your favorite flavorbombs–a vibrant, pungent Caesar salad, extra crispy garlic fries, or a spicy puttanesca pasta maybe. You might even be able to articulate exactly what it is about those dishes that you find so addictive. But when you try to reproduce the same flavors at home, you find yourself falling short. If any of the above sounds familiar, this book is for you.

For the past 25 years Bob Blumer has eaten his way around the globe, traveling millions of miles in search of culinary adventures and inspiring foods for three TV series and six cookbooks. Along the way, he’s broken eight food-related Guinness World Records, competed in some of the most outrageous food competitions on the planet, cooked alongside countless amazing chefs, and sampled every local street food imaginable at ramshackle carts, hawker stalls, and night markets from Italy to India. These collective experiences have formed the backbone of Bob’s cooking in ways that culinary school can’t begin to teach. In Flavorbomb he channels everything he has gleaned into recipes and practical tips to help you you create bold, stimulating flavors, that will leave those you cook for in a state of bliss. Prepare to become a rock star in your own kitchen.

The first half of the book is the real “money.” It’s full of tips, strategies, ingredients, techniques, and gear that will help you crack the code–and gain the confidence to take the leap on your own and turn any dish into a flavorbomb. We’re talking developing the courage to season with wild abandon, brown your food to within an inch of its life, double down on the ingredients that can increase the pleasure factor, and taste and adjust on the fly.

The second half consists of 75 step-by-step recipes that use all the tricks in your arsenal to deliver the addictive, life-affirming dishes we all crave. And because Bob gets more excited by tacos than truffles, his outsider approach to creating addictive flavors won’t require you to buy frivolous top-shelf ingredients or use super-sophisticated techniques. Instead, every recipe starts by building the foundation, and then adding layers of flavors and textures at every step of the way. If there’s a hack or a simple trick that can save you time or up the ante–it’s in here. Every recipe was thoroughly tested and had to earn its place in the book.

My Thoughts

I love to cook but can admit that I am not always the best cook. I will try to re-create some of my favourite dishes from my youth or from our favourite restaurants but they always fall up a bit short. I am always missing that little bit of something or maybe I am a bit too afraid to try something different without following directions. This book encourages you to do that – develop the knowledge that leads to the courage to season, brown and use ingredients that explore in flavour.

While most recipe books provide a few pages of what you will need, ingredients and tools, I have never felt that it was enough. This book provides you with a comprehensive guide – almost eighty three pages of knowledge to guide you on this cooking journey. I had a good laugh when I came to the flavour building blocks (one that I cannot share with my husband). We constantly fight over how much salt he puts in food, so I stopped cooking with salt about two years ago. Salt is listed in the book as one of the ingredients that matter the most! It seems my concern over my husband’s arteries may have impacted my own cooking. All joking aside, you are provided with many tips and tricks to help get the taste and how to adjust taste with spices, acidity, and heat. Some you may know and others you likely will not. You are also provided with the techniques needed to achieve that amazing taste, how to caramelize in a pan, how to braise, deglaze and so much more.

One of my favourite parts in this section is:

“Season with strength and purpose. Suppress your inner voice of restraint. Trust yourself to mix, match and substitute ingredients” – Flavorbomb

You are given the trust and inspiration to not just follow a recipe but to own it and make it your own. You have all the tricks and tips that you need to make dishes full of flavour.

The recipes that are included in the second half of the book are divine, and include drool worthy pictures that will make your stomach rumble. We didn’t even know where to start because they all looked so delicious! We started simple (for us) with the puttanesca pasta. The recipe was easy to follow, we had everything already that we would need (apart from the olives) already in the house. We had no problems following the instructions and I loved how we learned how the ingredients added to the different taste – anchovy oil, harissa, aged balsamic vinegar and even the fried breadcrumbs.

Flavorbomb is the perfect gift for the cook in your life or even the more timid cook that wants to learn more but may be afraid. The book is full of encouragement to explore, learn and gain the trust you need to create extraordinary dishes at home that everyone will love.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Gastronaut, author, artist and eight-time Guinness World Record holder BOB BLUMER is best known as the creator and host of Food Network’s award-winning shows Surreal Gourmet and Glutton for Punishment. In his six cookbooks and appearances around the globe, Bob transforms ordinary ingredients into wow-inspiring dishes. Bob is an ambassador for Second Harvest in Toronto, and Love Food, Hate Waste, a national zero-waste initiative. He lives in Los Angeles, with his wife, under the D of the Hollywood sign.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Take a Bite Out of the Holidays with Dino Crunch!

Looking for something exciting, different and fun to do this holiday (especially with the looming lockdown)? Check out Dino Crunch – featuring a hungry T-Rex that is ready to attack.

About Dino Crunch

Dino Crunch features one hungry T-Rex and a nest full of stolen eggs. Players have to roll the dice and try to rescue as many eggs as possible. But be careful – you never quite know when the T-Rex will attack! The game is suited for two to four players, aged 4 and up.

The game comes with one T-Rex, one dinosaur nest, twenty dinosaurs eggs and a pair of tweezers. The game requires 2AA batteries that are not included.

Our Thoughts

We were not quite sure what to expect with this game when we opened it up but we ended up loving it. The game literally comes to life with dinosaur themed sounds that come from the nest which really puts you on the edge of your seat (it also gave our Yorkie quite the scare when she decided to get close up to check out where those sounds were coming from). We would each take a turn rolling the dice to rescue the corresponding egg from the nest. My years of tweezing paid off for this game – I was the pro at getting an egg out quickly! Our youngest found it a bit harder but it definitely helped encourage those fine motor skills that are so important.

We loved the suspense of the game, you could never tell when the T-Rex was about to pounce. You could accidentally knock the nest a bit and he wouldn’t attack or as my youngest loved to do, give him a pat on the back in the hopes that he would attack his brother. It really was the luck (or unlucky) of the draw when it came to when he attacked, which ensured no fighting among the kids because no one could cheat to win.

Dino Crunch is a fun, interactive game for the whole family. Each one of us loved the excitement and suspense of the game, and it made for the perfect addition to game night for all members of our family (young and old).

You can purchase the game at Walmart and Amazon.

Disclosure: We received this game in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America Book Review

An exploration of American feminist history told through the lens of the pageant world.

About Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century, but they are thriving. Miss America will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement’s signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them to become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them a voice in the age of #MeToo.

Using her unique perspective as a NOW state president, daughter to Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar, Friedman explores how pageants became so deeply embedded in American life from their origins as a P.T. Barnum spectacle at the birth of the suffrage movement, through Miss Universe’s bathing beauties to the talent- and achievement-based competitions of today. She looks at how pageantry has morphed into culture everywhere from The Bachelor and RuPaul’s Drag Race to cheer and specialized contests like those for children, Indigenous women, and contestants with disabilities. Friedman also acknowledges the damaging and unrealistic expectations pageants place on women in society and discusses the controversies, including Miss America’s ableist and racist history, Trump’s ownership of the Miss Universe Organization, and the death of child pageant-winner JonBenét Ramsey.

Presenting a more complex narrative than what’s been previously portrayed, Here She Is shows that as American women continue to evolve, so too will beauty pageants.

My Thoughts

I have to admit that I have never watched nor participated in a pageant. I don’t think I have ever seen them here in Ontario (or perhaps I have just never looked) nor have I watched the Miss America or Miss Universe on television. I am not sure why they have never appealed to me, but as I read through Here She Is, it dawned on me that perhaps I felt that they were the opposite of feminism (especially the bathing suit competitions) and that I was bias against pageants based on my own assumptions, but this book made me see pageants from a new perspective.

Hilary explores the history of pageants from their unique beginnings to their current model and how they have evolved. She has matched each phase of the pageants to each feminist movement and shown how each are related. We watch as woman are empowered to take a step out in public, to be proud of their bodies and to not feel the need to hide who they are, their bodies and their role in society (and how different this is in each time period). We are shown how pageants evolved and what was considered to be allowed (how much skin could be shown, weight/body size, marital status, etc..). We are exposed to the good and the bad in this book, Hilary touches on all topics and explains them thoroughly.

What I found really interesting was how the idea of pageants can be seen in many other aspects of daily life – our obsession with some reality shows like the Bachelor. I would never have made that connection before without reading this novel. I also loved how she highlighted a key point in this book – education. So many contestants use pageants to fund their education, receiving degrees in a variety of fields. These are well educated young women who are prepared to take on some of the toughest roles in our workforce.

Here She Is opened my eyes to some of my own unconscious bias against pageants and helped me to understand the important role that they have played in empowering women throughout history. It was a great, eye opening read that I truly appreciated.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Hilary Levey Friedman is a sociologist at Brown University, where she has taught a popular course titled “Beauty Pageants in American Society.” She is a leading researcher in pageantry, merging her mother’s past experiences as Miss America 1970 with her interests as a glitz- and glamour-loving sometime pageant judge, and a mentor to Miss America 2018. Friedman also serves as the president of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women. Her first book, Playing to Win, focused on children’s competitive afterschool activities. Connect with her at hilaryleveyfriedman.com and on Twitter (@hleveyfriedman).

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

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The Story Orchestra: Carnival of the Animals

Discover the world of Carnival of the Animals in this musical reimagining of this celebrated suite for children – push the button in each scene to hear the sounds of an orchestra playing from Camille Saint-Saëns’ score.

About The Story Orchestra: Carnival of the Animals

One day, two brothers discover a magical animal kingdom behind their bookcase. They are greeted by the royal lion with his shaggy mane; ask for directions from an old lonely tortoise; take a ride on some lumbering elephants; topple a skeleton of dinosaur bones; and swim among a school of shimmering fish. If only they could take them all home!

The book includes extracts from ‘The Swan’, ‘Aquarium’, ‘Fossils’, and ‘Finale’ (From Disney’s Fantasia) along with a new story to link the pieces together.

As you journey through the magical scenes, you will press the buttons to hear 10 excerpts from the suite’s music. At the back of the book, find a short biography of the composer, Camille Saint-Saëns, with details about his composition of Carnival of the Animals. You can replay the musical excerpts and read a discussion of the instruments, rhythms and musical techniques that make them so powerful. A glossary defines the musical terms.

The Story Orchestra series brings classical music to life for children through illustrated retellings of classic ballet and program music stories paired with 10-second sound clips of orchestras.

Our Thoughts

When you first glance at this book, you have a strong suspicion it is going to be a treasured keepsake, a special journey for you and your child. Carnival of the Animals does not disappoint.

It has been a long time since I have read a book with my child that has accompanying sounds and music. I forgot how important this sense is when it comes to bringing to life a story. Each sound clip that is associated with a two page spread is a perfect representation of the story – from the Swan (the two pianos sounding like the swans feet paddling along) to the Aviary (with the flute that brings to life a little bird). The back of the book explains each sound that we are hearing in each part of the story.

The story itself is an amazing journey that two brothers take – one that you can easily imagine a child coming up with. They explore the wonders of the animal kingdom – meeting lions, tortoises, elephants, coral reef inhabitants, birds and so much more. The illustrations are rich and colourful, complimenting the story perfectly.

This is a spectacular book that will easily become a family treasure. It is visually stunning (you can’t help but run your hands over the illustrations and cover), the sound clips are a great introduction to classical music and the story will entertain.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Jessica Courtney Tickle​ is an illustrator who graduated from Kingston University in July 2014. Her absolute favorite thing to draw or paint is nature, finding a focus on foliage of any kind as well as children’s stories about adventure and exploration. She also has a penchant for drawing theater from music makers to dancers and even singing animals. Jessica is most influenced by vintage picture books, travel posters, and folk art as well as numerous painters and printmakers.

Katy Flint is an author, editor, and musician, based in London. She studied violin at the University of Southampton, before moving into children’s books. She is the author of the best-selling sound book The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker, and has worked on many other non-fiction titles—from human bodies to dinosaurs. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Illumisaurus Book Review

Journey back in time to the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods with Illumisaurus, come face-to-face with prehistory’s most spectacular dinosaurs, plants and animals. Bring this lost world to life with your magic three-color viewing lens.

About Illumisaurus

Journey back in time to the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods with Illumisaurus, come face-to-face with the most spectacular dinosaurs, plants and animals. Bring this lost world to kaleidoscopic life with your magic three-color viewing lens.

With your lens in hand, discover amazing places and the creatures that roamed them.

  • Your green lens reveals a location, spanning 9 land masses across millions of years. Learn how these places transformed to become the habitats on Earth.
  • Your red lens brings to life the dinosaurs. Meet a T. Rex, run with packs of velociraptors and marvel at the gigantic brachiosaurus as you discover how these animals came to rule the Earth.
  • Your blue lens uncovers the wildlife that lived alongside and after the dinosaurs, including dragonflies, woolly mammoths and fungi taller than trees.
  • Fact pages fill in the details and guide you through a world bursting with life and color.

The latest in the bestselling Illumi series, Illumisaurus is a hidden-world adventure with a scientific angle, and the perfect gift for dinosaur enthusiasts. Innovative illustrations from award-winning design duo Carnovsky make this a book like no other, with hundreds of places, plants and creatures to discover on three layers of detailed artwork.
 
How many dinosaurs will you find on your prehistoric journey?

Our Thoughts

Wow – this was the first thought that went through my head when we opened this book (my son – this is so cool!). The book is dedicated to dinosaurs but told in such an unique manner – using three lens that explore and reveal dinosaurs, the place and the plant life all on the same page.

While the book is visually stunning, it is also full of amazing information about dinosaurs around the world during this time period. We explore Western Europe, Central Asia and Russia, East and Southeast Asia, Middle East and India, Africa, North America, Australia, Antarctica and South America. For each place, we learn about the history (climate, time period, fossils and so much more) while using the green lens to visually bring the place to life. We use the red lens to bring to life the dinosaurs of this region and the blue lens on that page to bring to life the plant life. We turn the page to learn about each of the species, meaning behind their name and how many million years ago it lived. They also include a dinosaur discovery guide (our kids found it amazing that there was a dinosaur discovery close to where we visited family in Zimbabwe!).

Illumisaurus is a stunning, well written book for children (and their parents) to explore and learn about these incredible creatures that roamed our Earth so many years ago. There is so much to learn and explore in this book, your child will spend hours on each page with each lens discovering new dinosaurs and plant life.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Milan-based design duo Carnovsky was started by Silvia Quintanilla and Francesco Rugi in 2007. They have gained wide recognition for their RGB project, first displayed in 2010. Their work has been published in magazines around the world, such as VogueWiredFrameWallpaperElle Decor, and Whitewall. Their wallpaper ‘Jungla’ won the 2012 Wallpaper Magazine Design Award for Best Wallpaper.

Lucy Brownridge is an author and editor of children’s books based in London. She writes books for children about history of art, history, animals, and science. She has an MA in history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art and a BA in history of art from the University of Bristol. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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