For What It's Worth

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Bite Me by Julie Albert & Lisa Gnat

Bite Me: A Stomach-Satisfying, Visually Gratifying, Fresh-Mounthed Cookbook

There's not a single thorny artichoke, scrawny quail, or roasted chestnut to be peeled in this book. What you will find in BITE ME are 175 dependably delicious recipes created for the urban and suburban, the aspiring and well-seasoned home cook. You won't need an army of sous chefs, a pantry of guava paste, or a blowtorch in order to turn a bag of groceries into a satisfying meal. We're all about making you confident in the kitchen and relaxed at the table. (Cookbook)

I love, love, love buying cookbooks with pretty pictures and fun stories of how recipes came to be. The downside? I don't really enjoy cooking and I'm not very good at it. 
I bought Bite Me (Great name for a cookbook!) at the Border's closing sale for 60% off. It definitely filled my criteria for great food pictures and there is lots of witty banter and snark by the co-authors who are also sisters. Almost every recipe comes with a story of how it was created - whether to replicate a favorite restaurant find or to bring take out home. There are also fun little random quotes throughout - called "Bite Me Bit's" - "I believe if life gives you lemons, make lemonade...then find someone that life gave vodka to and have a party" - Ron White, comedian, for exampleI really appreciated the sense of humor because cooking stresses me out so it's nice to keep in mind that it's supposed to be fun.
I decided to try a few recipes and write a review rather than adding yet another cookbook to collect dust. I picked two that I was fairly familiar with (soup & shrimp), one I would love to perfect (scones) and one that seemed difficult (crackers). Here's the rundown on how I did. Your results may vary, of course, depending on your level of expertise.

Pictures of the results:

Honey Baked Coconut Shrimp - Shrimp dipped in honey then rolled in a panko crumb/coconut mix and baked in the oven. Super simple and baked so it's healthier than regular fried coconut shrimp. It was slightly messy dipping in the honey then the coconut mixture but no big deal. 
Nitpick - The panko crumb/coconut topping had very little flavor. I would add more seasoning the next time. The dipping sauce of apricot jam, Heinz Chili sauce and dijon mustard was delicious!
Karen's Kitchen catastrophe level: Low - I burned my finger after dipping the first shrimp in the honey (had to warm the honey in the microwave) but learned my lesson. 
Final verdict: Easy - a tad messy and needed some extra zing but good.

Restorative Roasted Vegetable Soup: A soup made with roasted sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, pepper, mushrooms and rosemary - add chicken and bowtie pasta. This was SOOOO good. Tasted really rich and flavorful despite only using some rosemary when roasting the veggies. Roasting the veggies makes the process a bit longer but it's simple - just chop and pop in the oven and walk away. Come back throw it all in a pot with the broth, chicken and pasta. Done!
Karen's Kitchen catastrophe level: Low. Soup is one of the few things I can cook. Basic chicken soup anyway... and I roast veggies all the time so I felt pretty confident with this one.
Final verdict: It's a keeper.

Spot On Chocolate Chip Scones: I love scones but they seem really daunting to bake for myself. I tried one recipe last month and they came out pretty good but these....mmmmmm! I used dark chocolate chips instead of the semi sweet and O.M.G. Uh-maz-ing!
Karen's Kitchen catastrophe level: Medium. The dough is very loose and crumbly so if you don't know what your doing (me) you may overwork it and make a tough scone. Also this made a much larger batch than the previous recipe I tried and I got a little panicky working with that large of a batch of dough. 
Final verdict: A definite keeper! These came out so tender and delicious. They were probably one of the best things I've ever baked. (I only bake a few times a year so that's not saying much - but still) This recipe might give newbies a little trouble until your used to the dough texture but it's well worth it.

Asiago cheese crackers: This recipe scared me the most. Crackers?? I can make crackers?? They came out really good and my hubby pronounced them a "high end cheeze-it" They look pretty much like the picture in the book but I should have cut them a little thinner so the were crispier. 
Karen's Kitchen catastrophe level: Medium to high. The dough was very dry and crumbly. The recipe calls for you to mix flour, grated cheese, butter and sour cream then roll into a log and refrigerate for two hours before slicing/baking. I wasn't sure if I should add more sour cream to bind it together more or try to maybe knead it together after it was mixed. I was afraid of overworking it. It did solidify in the fridge but I had trouble cutting the dough into 1/8 inch slices without crumbling. I mushed them back together and baked anyway. I admit that I started to stress and go into panic mode but they ended up tasting really good. The thicker ones weren't as crispy obviously and had to be baked a little longer.
Final verdict: Easy with very few steps but for a cooking newbie like me I wasn't sure if I was doing it right and it did stress me out a tad but I can't complain about the finished product which tasted great. The recipe also includes a Creamy White Bean Spread that I will make today to go with the crackers.

So - I would definitely recommend this one just to read because it's fun on that level but it also includes a lot of great recipes that are quick and healthy (favoring baked over fried & with lots of fresh ingredients). 
Sections are divided into Appetizers (Grab Me) Soups (Spoon Me) unDress Me (salads), Veggies (Respect Me), Pasta and Rice (Crave Me), Poultry (Gobble Me), Fish (Catch Me), Meat (Meet Me), Brunch (Join Me) and Dessert (Fork Me) so everything is covered.

I can't wait to try a few more of the recipes and see if I can push myself a little more when it comes to cooking.

Rating: 4 out 4 for fun cookbook reading and 3.5 out of 4 for actual recipes. 

Visit the Bite Me website:   (recipes, blog and fun stuff!)
 Twitter: @bitemebook


  1. Yummy! Gonna try the shrimp (dietary restrictions--insert grumble). Other cookbooks with pretty pictures: All of the River Cottage Cookbooks and anything by Nigella Lawson. These people also know how to make a very messy kitchen look appealing...

  2. @Natalie - I have a few Nigella Lawson cookbooks. I love reading them because she's just so in love with food and cooking. I will have to check out the other one.

  3. Honey baked coconut shrimp? I hope it tastes better than it sounds. :)

  4. Wow, what a GREAT cookbook review! I...really want the coconut shrimp now, too.

  5. LOL, I don't really like cooking either. But I love eating! My sister loves cooking and has tons of cookbooks. I'll keep my eye out for this book for her.

  6. Ok, I was scrolling through to see what I had missed here and I had to stop at this post!. What a great review. and that shrimp looks so amaing! Nom Nom Nom! I'm pretty sure that was improper to say but the Mad Scientist loves seafood! I've been on a self ban of seafood since the oil spill last year! :(

    Thanks for the Earth Day love, Hugs.

    I still have a giveaway open.  I will be closing it this coming Friday.  April 30th.  6 books are up for grabs if you are interested --->  Here  ;)

    Mad Scientist
    Steampunkery & Book Reviews
    For The L♥ve of Reading