BOOK: The Camping Life

Title: The Camping Life: Inspiration and Ideas for Endless Adventures
Author: Brendan Leonard; Forest Woodward
Release date: April 28, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reading this book in February is like deeply inhaling the smell of French fries while you’re on a strict diet. I am absolutely ravenous with my need to go camping now. In fact, between chapters, I was researching places near me that could maybe, just maybe, be warm enough this weekend for a good old-fashioned trip to the woods.

The Camping Life is just plain fun. It has a little bit of everything—beautiful photographs, fun illustrations, how-tos, some history, packing lists, tips for camping with kids (and dogs!) and inspiration galore. The photos are absolutely stunning. They really take you there and make you want to get outside—right now.

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BOOK: Help Wanted, Must Love Books

Title: Help Wanted, Must Love Books
Author: Janet Sumner Johnson
Art: Courtney Dawson
Release date: March 2, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was pure happiness to read. It’s a great concept: a young book lover who’s fed up when her reading buddy, her father, is suddenly too busy to enjoy bedtime stories with her. But she does not despair–she puts out a “Help Wanted” sign with an ever-changing job description, in search of the ideal bedtime storyteller. Her room is suddenly full of applicants night after night, all of which happen to be characters from her favorite bedtime stories. While that may sound like a dream come true to a young book lover, she soon learns that these applicants possess less-than-desirable qualities.

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Balsamic Chicken, Brussels Sprouts & Cheesy Risotto

This was a stroke of genius one night that took me by surprise and made my boyfriend say, “You could make this every day and that would be acceptable.” Oh, I should mention that we once walked into a massive suite at the Bellagio in Vegas with three separate bathrooms, a lounge, and curtains that opened and closed by a switch on the wall, and Joe nodded and deemed it “acceptable”.

If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, there are a few possible scenarios:
1) You have never had Brussels sprouts, but have heard people talk mad sh*t about them being gross since you were a child
2) You have tried Brussels sprouts, but they were cooked in a boring way that didn’t let them truly shine like they absolutely can, or
3) You’ve tried them multiple ways and genuinely dislike them, and that’s fine, you’re allowed.

I only tried Brussels sprouts for the first time a few years ago when I was obsessing over Cravings by Chrissy Teigen and decided to make hers for a family dinner. They were such a hit! I think Brussels sprouts have more flavor than many vegetables, so I experiment with them a lot. I made this recipe while using up a bag of fresh B. sprouts that had been in the fridge for a while and needed eaten. I’m about to make it again… and again…

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One-Pot Warm-You-Up Beef Barley Soup

I opened up Pinterest today in search of something totally unrelated to beef barley soup, but when I saw the picture of this deliciousness, I forgot what I was doing and started adding to my grocery list. This is the perfect warm meal for a cold night in January.

There was something that just called to me about this, and I changed my plans to run to the store so I could make this immediately. I’m so glad I did. This is exactly the kind of warm comfort food I needed. It’s easy to make, and I love that it only needs one pot. Like all soups, it’s also ideal for using up random ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry. For example, the recipe called for frozen corn, but I had two cobs of corn leftover from last night’s dinner–so you bet I cut the kernels off the cobs and tossed ’em in the pot.

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[Healthy Meal Prep] Turkey Meatloaf I Make Weekly

Honestly, I’m waiting for someone to sit me down and have an intervention one of these weeks when I make this turkey meatloaf for the hundredth time. It’s just that it’s the perfect recipe for meal prepping–a way of life around here that ensures we’re eating well no matter when or where.

You see, this meatloaf is pretty darn healthy, made with ground turkey, veggies, and just enough seasonings to give it good flavor. My favorite part is the drizzle of barbecue sauce on top, which is unexpected but just the right touch. Not only is it healthy, but it reheats beautifully because of the moisture in the turkey, and pairs with nearly any combination of veggies or other sides you like.

Chrissy approves.

Sorry for rambling about meatloaf, but I insist you try it and then tell me I’m wrong.

I actually got this recipe originally from my brother, who started making it each week to meal prep during his very intense regimen of jiu-jitsu training/being healthy/judging others for eating processed foods… (love you, Pat) But when I tried it, I realized he was right. I could actually eat this for lunch or dinner every day and feel good about it. If you’re looking to meal prep, eat healthier more often, eat more home-cooked meals, and make your co-workers jealous, pack this for lunch.

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Best (No, Really) Homemade Barbecue Sauce

We make another batch of this barbecue sauce about once a month around here. It’s flawless. I know what you’re thinking… Why the heck would you make your own barbecue sauce when there are so many good ones at the store? And the answer is partially because it’s really fun to tell people you make your own special blend of barbecue sauce–especially while they’re eating it.

But mostly, it’s because this is honestly the best one I’ve tasted. I didn’t grow up as a dip-all-the-things-in-BBQ kind of kid, because ketchup was my champion. But now that I’ve traveled, tried all the foods I’d never eat when I was younger, and grown to appreciate the barbecue traditions across the south, it’s become clear that barbecue sauce is kind of a big deal. There are so many varieties, textures, flavors, and heat indexes, and people are really serious about defending which city has THE BEST OF THE BEST when it comes to BBQ.

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If Coffee and Tea Had a Delicious Baby: Fast Lane

I have sung the praises of Fast Lane tea for the past couple of years now, since I first discovered it via my brother. He was into tea before me, so when I started my foray into tea that later turned into obsession, he gave me some pointers.

“Try Fast Lane,” he said. “It’ll be fun,” he said.

I’ve been hooked ever since. This cup is the perfect middle ground between coffee and tea. It has such good flavor, something a recent convert I know couldn’t get over. “I don’t usually like tea because it tastes like dirty hot water to me,” he said. “This stuff is out of this world.”

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Tomato Basil Chicken

This is a favorite dish of mine, adapted from I’ve made it countless times because it is simple, made of fresh ingredients, tastes great, and doesn’t take long. There aren’t many ingredients or fancy tricks to it, but it’s absolutely one of those dishes that you taste and think, I made this?! Another plus is that these are ingredients I often find I already have in my kitchen, so it’s perfect for those “oh crap, what are we having for dinner?” type of situations.

Make this the next time you have a craving for Italian and/or want to look like you know a thing or two about cooking in front of your person.

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Monster Pudding Chocolate Chip Everything Cookies

These cookies are kind of my everything. I’m not even a huge cookie fanatic, unless it’s Girl Scout cookies… because you know my mom was Cookie Mom and we had them stacked up floor to ceiling so I could just smell those Thin Mints from the other end of the house…

I digress. These are the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. They’re giant, soft (but not too soft), chewy, can be full of any of your favorite flavors (or whatever you have in your pantry), and I cannot believe they came out of my oven. Are they chocolate chip cookies? Peanut butter cookies? Oatmeal cookies? Yes. Exactly. They are all of those things.

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Recipes and Ramblings

I’ve been struggling to come up with a cohesive name and idea for a blog that might make some sense of all my varied interests. Finally, I’m accepting that such a thing just doesn’t exist–or the URL would be entirely too long.

So here it is: The Paperback Cook.

That phrase has been in my head for years now and keeps making me smile. Worried others wouldn’t understand my wordplay entirely, I’ve put this off, but I like its connotation. I enjoy the way those simple words bring to mind perusing aisles of paperbacks at the bookstore (my heaven), plus cooking (my sanity). And yeah, maybe I use paperback cookbooks sometimes.

Please enjoy my adventures in book-hoarding, cooking, traveling, learning to fly an airplane, housewife-ing without a ring, gardening, tea drinking, and whatever else I suddenly take up.