Review of Small Victories Cookbook

First, let me tell you a little something about my love of MOST cookbooks, food writing and more. I even love the old-fashioned 80s badly written, run-on sentence overly descriptive --- stuff. I also am not (currently) being sent/or asked to review any of these cookbooks. It's rather, something similar to me sharing reasons I love these cookbooks I review. I also am a vegetarian (moderately strict), so I won't be making anything with animal meat products. This can sometimes be restrictive in cookbooks, but I like to think that it actually gives me a great point of view.

As a foodie, and food blogger - I am that meld of food obsessed, and well-versed in most techniques, but I am not working out of a professional kitchen - but a pretty nice one for an apartment. I do sometimes pop over to a friends house or my parents house for a nice gas stove, or to borrow some equipment, but I don't always own everything requested. I will disclose when that happens.

Introduction: Ok, so I mentioned quickly on instagram that my waistline was the only thing that was unhappy about this cookbook - which is probably true, but it's not really my waistline - more my cholesterol. These recipes aren't necessarily unhealthy, but use a few ingredients I don't usually keep in the house... at the same time - if I hadn't eaten this first recipe below of the onion dip, I'd have probably eaten cheese and crackers for dinner - so not SO much harm.

Now, let's discuss how much MORE I would like to be Grace Bonney right now. If you didn't know, Grace Bonney is other half of the amazing author of this wonderful cookbook, Julia Turshen. Short side story. Before I got my FIRST job out of grad school, I almost got a job on a big blog. You guessed it - Design Sponge. Yes, the same Design Sponge that Grace Bonney runs. I wanted so much to be a blogger, and back in 2011 (was that even the year?) I would have done just about anything to get that job. I made it through the first few rounds -- thousands down to just a few of us, but I am SURE someone had actual experience in blogging (which I did not at the time).  SO. Why did I tell you this random story? Because now I am not only jealous of her incredible career, but the food her spouse makes. Umm hello? I'll take a Julia Turshen in my Kitchen and a Design Sponge quality blog readership! Ok, enough weird stalkerish information.


Roasted Scallion and Chive Dip

OOOHEYY. I cannot tell you the last time I had onion dip. Like seriously, when was it? Did the year start with 199_? Or maybe a strange college party with the packaged kind? I actually am not sure. I am sure that I LOVE good onion anything, and a variation on a home-made classic will surely get me excited. This was such an easy recipe. I used my hand-blender for the blending, and forgot to leave chives for on-top, but this onion dip while only made for one person - wasn't wasted. I used it the next day on sandwhiches, on avocado toast, and the rest I had as a snack with carrots since the chips were gone. 

A few things to note on this one, "rough chop" probably meant more than I cut the scallions before roasting them. That was probably my mistake, not thinking about the process. If I had a cuisinart it probably wouldn't have been such a problem. 

And secondly, when (not if) I make it again, I'll probably cut a bit of the mayo, and add a bit more acid, for personal preference.

carrot and avocado salad with tahini 

This recipe changed something HUGE about my life with sesame. I forgot how delicious toasted sesame seeds were. In fact I had some in the pantry for almost six months without touching them, I felt they were bland and over-used. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! 

I feel this is the kind of salad that you can make when you are confused how to add a salad to a specific already vegetable centric meal. OR you want a secondary salad to go with. The simplicity here was really wonderful, in that you think - oh a salad recipe is just a filler in a cookbook, but no, this genuinely took ingredients I had in my fridge already and made me use them in a new way.

Chocolate Cake

I have to disagree with Julia on this recipe. I preferred it the NIGHT of making it vs. the next day. That being said, this is the kind of cake you can make after work and have done by dessert time that evening, which is pretty freaking remarkable. Props to Julia on this one for also writing a recipe where she includes her inspiration (Deb Pearlman - who isn't right?) for the frosting. Yes, that is a frosting I can make without feeling like I just poured sugar on butter. The genius is in the pungently awesomeness of mixing melted chocolate with sour cream... I WOULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED! 

I did vary a bit on this recipe, seeing that raspberries aren't my fav. combo with chocolate, and I was out of jam all together. I knew my marmalade wasn't going to cut it, so I took my fresh strawberries and a stalk or two of rhubarb I had and made a quick Strawberry Rhubarb Chia Jam. It was much more my style than raspberries.

Avocado Kimchi Toasts

Another reason to use toasted sesame again. YES. 

Vegan Kimchi is SO different than that with shrimp paste and/or fish sauce. I have vivid memories of Kimchi being too "odd" but I think this is they difference for me, that one ingredient. While those who are Kimchi purists might say "that's not real Kimchi" you can suck it. Whatever this fermented cabbage with spicyness is... I am a new huge fan. 

First, let's just all be proud here that this bread being used here as the toast shown above is HOMEMADE SOURDOUGH. Yes, ok we can move-on now.

I do have to say, I tried this again after the first time, and I want to say - DON'T SKIP the SALT, and keep your proportions pretty similar to the recipe. I might actually share this one here on the blog, since it's not like selling state secrets. The sauce on top btw is half mayo/half kimchi "juice". Next time I'm also probably going to add a little lime to that for a better acid kick, as I think sometimes Kimchi lacks in acidity - esp. this kind.

I like that this could be breakfast, lunch or a good appetizer for a party. They are super versatile and lend themselves to being that "other variety" of stuff on toast that you can really fill out a meal with. Like, can you say some fried eggs with this please. YUP.



You know those cookies that are your go-to base cookie? Yeah, this is it. I am actually probably going to do some of the alternative recipes here with my next try. They were a little "meh" for my personal cookie taste. I kind of like them a little more gooey and then crispy. So I'll probably try the peanut butter ones next as the added fats in the alt. recipe will help get that variety. This is the kind of recipe however that you memorize and use for the rest of your life.


Everything biscuits

Ok, so I technically made these in March, not February - but I had the ingredients ready to go in Feb. What I was waiting for, is completely unclear btw. These were so easy! I had made biscuits before, but for some reason, after cooking so much from Julia's book - I felt very at ease knowing her recipes come out AS expected when you actually do them. I knew these would as well. I did cut the recipe in half, since one person cannot eat 12 biscuits. I also thought that the flavor wouldn't be enough with just some seeds in the mix for the "everything" part, but they were really fragrant. Don't skip the chilling, becauseI think it helps the flavor really soak in. This is a five star recipe in my book. And don't regret buying those expensive poppy seeds at all!


Final Thoughts:

Oh man, this was such a lovely cookbook, and knowing I am doing three other books right now that are not as lovely and perfect as this one. I only found one small typo, which was completely harmless btw - usually I find 3-4 and then have some critiques about the recipes- which I have none! In this case, I really have to thank Julia, to bring me back to what I love about cooking and food is that it doesn't have to blow your mind and be crazy complicated to be really good. Good food, can be as simple as a lovely easy chocolate cake on a Friday night, or adding everything flavoring to a good home-made biscuit recipe. Basically, I'm her biggest fan now! Congrats on one of the best written cookbooks. I think this will have lots of flagged pages, worn edges and loved recipes for years to come.