Cookbook Review: The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook

My husband is “surprising” me with a stand mixer for Christmas. And I am so so so excited, because it means more homemade bread more often. I love making homemade bread, but hand kneading is such a pain. The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook, by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, owner of the New York bakery of the same name, is a gem of a cookbook with many wonderful bread recipes to try.

The cookbook is part social story, and part cookbook. The Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery employs immigrant women in their kitchen…leading to many family recipes from homelands around the world. This cookbook shares many of their favorite recipes, along with the stories of immigrant women finding new lives in the United States.

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook starts with the story of how the bakery came to be, the social vision of the owner, then onto the bread. First there is a useful section on bread baking, ingredient, and storage tips. Then the recipes.

The recipe chapters are:
-Unleavened Flatbreads
-Leavened Flatbreads
-Tortillas and More
-Lean Breads and Rolls
-Challah and Beyond
-Filled Doughs from Around the World
-Quick Breads and Holiday Breads
-What to Do With Leftover Bread

Each chapter starts with an introduction about the ingredients, the global story of the ingredients, and sometimes a spotlight on the woman who brought her homeland recipes to the bakery.

While the cookbook is about bread, not all the recipes are for bread. The Tortillas chapter gives recipes for various types of tacos, and even two variations on carnitas. There are recipes for soups, salads, side dishes, and sandwiches…even drinks, as well.

Some of the bread recipes include: Garlic and Green Chile Naan, M’Smen (a North African flatbread), New York Rye, Raisin Challah, and Banana Bread. There is a wide variety of recipes from all over the world, for all skill levels.

I loved how thorough and expansive this book is. I also loved how the ingredients were, for the most part, common and easy to find…not too many specialty ingredients needed. The only thing I would change about this cookbook would be to have more photos…the photos were beautiful, but there were many recipes I would have loved to have seen a photo of. I also would have liked to have heard more bakers’ stories about their homelands.

I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook from the publisher and Blogging For Books. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

30 Minute Chicken Tortilla SoupEven though I live in San Diego, and we never actually get cold weather, I love making soups this time of year to warm up (even if that means turning the AC down to 68 so it feels like winter!)

One of our favorite soup recipes is this Chicken Tortilla Soup. It comes together in half an hour, uses leftover shredded chicken, and the lime and cilantro make it fresh and bright, despite being hearty enough to serve on even the coldest winter evening. You could even substitute leftover shredded turkey from your Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the chicken!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
serves 4-6

  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 6 C chicken stock or broth
  • 1  (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 C black beans (either from scratch or one 14.5 oz can)
  • 2 C cooked shredded chicken
  • 3 limes (2 limes juiced, one lime cut into wedges)
  • 3/4 C fresh cilantro
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced for serving
  • Monterey Jack cheese for serving
  • Crushed tortilla chips for serving
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a stockpot over medium heat, heat the EVOO and add onions. Cook until softened, 3–5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and jalapenos, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, and black beans.
  4. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add cooked shredded chicken to soup.
  6. Add the juice of 2 limes and 3/4 C cilantro.
  7. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed
  8. Serve with crushed tortilla chips, sliced avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, and lime wedges.
  9. Try not to eat the entire batch yourself!

Because He Knew…


I don’t think I’ve shared this story before, but it’s really been on my heart lately, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning…

With both of my children, one hymn became “their song”, and I would sing that song frequently when I was pregnant with them. Tater’s song was Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. I still sing it to her, and it’s still the first song she requests when I put her to bed.

When I was pregnant with Junior, our family was going through some really tough things. I was on bedrest, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly, and my grampa was diagnosed with cancer. One day, the old hymn Blessed Assurance popped into my head. It soon became “Junior’s song.” I sang it frequently to the little one in my tummy, hoping that his life story would be one of blessings from God.

Once Junior was born, I stopped singing. He couldn’t hear me anyway, so we would both sit in complete silence as I held him and rocked him. My heart broken that he couldn’t hear my voice. That those months of singing blessings on him in my womb had fallen literally upon deaf ears.

This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.

I just couldn’t understand why God had put that song into my heart and upon my lips if Junior wasn’t going to hear it. Why even bother giving me a song? Didn’t he know that Junior was going to be deaf? It felt like a cruel joke.

Fast forward about a year. Junior’s cochlear implants had been activated recently, and he was on the road to hearing. We opted to get genetic testing done to determine the cause of his deafness. There was nothing definite or conclusive, but we did find out that he has a “variant of unknown significance” on a gene that causes progressive blindness. (Three years later and we are still in a wait-and-see mode about that.)

About a year after that, 2 year old Junior was hearing pretty well and was starting to say words. He enjoyed listening to our voices, and one day when he was dozing off in my arms, Blessed Assurance popped back into my head. His ears were still on, so I sang it to him. I sang that hymn for the first time in a very long time.

I reached the second verse, the melody having put him to sleep, and it clicked. The words made sense. I finally understood why God gave this song to Junior.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Visions of Rapture. Echoes of mercy. Whispers of love.

God knew that we would be worried about Junior’s vision. He knew that our little boy’s ears wouldn’t function the way they should. He knew this path we were going to walk, because he gave me this song before our son was even born. He knew that eventually Junior would be able to hear sounds, whispers, and voices.

Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Junior can hear my whispers. Sometimes I whisper across the room, “I love you”, and he whispers back, “I love you too, momma.” That song was a foreshadow. A reminder. A promise.

God knows your journey. He has always known the path you were going to walk. The ups, the downs, the valleys, and the peaks. The road you are traveling was not a random, luck of the draw event. He knew. He knows where you’re going, where you’ve been, and He just wants you to rest in the promise of His whispers of love.

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Book Review: The Bishop’s Son

I’ve read and reviewed my share of Amish novels. Most have glorified the Amish lifestyle, creating a desire to “simplify life” from their readers, while the antagonists are usually the modern Englisch characters that go against Amish way of life. The Bishop’s Son, sequel to The Beekeeper’s Son by Kelly Irvin, turns this assumption about Amish novels upside down.

Leila Lantz is a young Amish woman who has recently moved to Texas from Tennessee after her father’s death. Her mother has just remarried, and her oldest sister has also married, and now expecting a child. Leila falls in love with Jesse Glick, the Amish Bishop’s son, but Jesse is hiding a secret that could pull Leila away from her family should she choose to let him pursue her. Jesse has claimed her heart, but is she able to give up everything for him?

Will, Jesse’s cousin, is also interested in Leila. He is a strong Amish man who desires to be baptized into the faith, and live the rest of his life simply with a wife and children. Will can give Leila the life she is used to and a secure future. But, Leila is unsure which man God has planned for her. Comfort and security vs. risk and reward.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. It was refreshing to see the other side of the coin…that sometimes the Englisch aren’t all bad, and that Amish life isn’t always the utopia that some novels make it out to be. I also really liked the writing…it was very descriptive. When I entered a scene, I knew what it looked like, smelled like, and what the characters were thinking about it. The only thing that wasn’t overly satisfying was the ending. On one hand, the ending was good, and it’s what had to happen. But on the other hand, you knew at least one person was going to end up with a broken heart. I will be reading more novels by this author; her descriptive language really pulled me in.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Publishers and BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

“It’s Not a Big Deal”

Baby Junior

I really grieved when Junior was first diagnosed as being profoundly deaf. I cried, I moped, I thought about how the life I envisioned when I set out to have children was suddenly so much different than the life I now had and it just wasn’t fair. I thought about his future, the challenges he was going to face, the bullies he would have to ward off, and the stares he would have to endure.

What was worse than a few months of grieving, however, were the well-meaning people who made me feel guilty for grieving…made me feel like deafness just wasn’t “bad” enough to be upset about. One morning a few weeks after Junior was born and had already failed three hearing tests but hadn’t yet been diagnosed, I was really struggling with my postpartum emotions. I went to my doctor and explained the added stresses I was facing on top of the normal hormones of a recent birth, hoping to hear some encouraging words, but do you know what she said to me?

“So what if he’s deaf. It’s not a big deal. Just learn a little sign language.”

It’s been 3 and a half years since she spoke those words to me, but they are still as fresh as the moment she opened her mouth. I didn’t have the wherewithal to protest at the moment, but those words burned. I didn’t need someone with typical, healthy children telling me that I wasn’t allowed to grieve because it was “no big deal”.

As I told friends about Junior’s recent diagnosis, I heard many of the same sentiments:

“It’s not like it’s cancer or anything bad.”

“At least he’s not blind too.”

“He’s just deaf. He’s fine!”

“It could be worse.”

Yes, I knew things could have been worse. There were plenty of people in more difficult situations than us. But, that didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to grieve. It didn’t mean that his deafness was “no big deal.” Especially when those comments came from people who had never been in the special needs world, had never experienced the pain of knowing their child was going to have added struggles in life.

I had to grieve before I could move on. I had to accept the reality before I could become his loudest cheerleader, biggest supporter, and strongest advocate. I had to go through all those emotions, because it was a big deal. It was my child, and I was scared of an unknown future.

At just a few weeks old, we were making decisions for Junior that would affect him for the rest of his life. When I was supposed to be settling into the hectic, sleepless world of having a newborn and toddler, I was spending 20+ hours a week at or traveling to doctors or therapy appointments. We were planning his life weeks, months, and years down the road. It was a big deal.

The comments that were said to make me feel better, only served to make me feel worse. Not only because I felt guilty for grieving, but also because I realized that compassion and empathy is rarely found in those who have not traveled the special needs path.

Looking back, the grieving process was a short but crucial part of our journey. Without it, I wouldn’t have forged lifelong bonds by reaching out to others who had walked this path, and I wouldn’t have realized that the valleys make the peaks that much more triumphant.

I realized that no matter what they’re going through, our beautiful children are a big deal.

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