Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review - Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen

The 30th anniversary revival of Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen by Susan Branch, is truly a nostalgic step back to a much simpler time. Beautifully hand-written and illustrated with an emphasis on simple, fresh, homemade recipes, it's a celebration of the best things that truly make life sweet and perfect for gift-giving, even as a gift for yourself!
I love to read, always have for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a very modest household, however, and there really wasn't a budget for book purchases - though I have since made up for that about a bazillion percent! Bookshelves overflowing with books are a natural part of my home decor and they range from every type there is.

Back in the day the library was my second home and the bookmobile always a welcome vision for me as a young girl. They even came around the neighborhood during the summers! We couldn't afford family vacations, but I could certainly escape to anywhere within the pages of a book.

I'm a bit of an old-fashioned and sentimental person too, so I especially appreciate a book that is aesthetically beautiful and Susan Branch has some of the best. A self-taught artist and writer, who has penned more than 14 lifestyle books, Heart of the Home was Susan's very first book, written right at her dining room table in Martha's Vineyard. Many of her older books have been out of print for years, and I am lucky enough to own a few of them myself!

I am super excited to let you know that Susan is celebrating her Heart of the Home cookbook series with a brand new, re-release, 30th Anniversary edition of Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen. This edition, hand-written like all of her other works, while a re-issue of the original, includes some beautiful, new watercolor illustrations, recipes and quotes, and brand new classic Susan Branch cover art. It is simply a beautiful book. Available online at Amazon and at your favorite brick and mortar bookstores, as well as at Susan's website, this one is truly a collector's book.

Susan's calendars, day planners and books are so unique and different. They just have a delightful, old-fashioned, vintage feel to them and sitting down and thumbing through one, brings me back to that same delight I felt as a little girl at the bookmobile, and to much simpler times. Her books make me happy and frankly, who doesn't need that in the craziness of today's world?

Originally from southern California, I love Susan's story about how she ended up in Massachusetts following a heartbreaking divorce. It's truly very Under the Tuscan Sun-ish as she sort of ran away to Martha’s Vineyard, a place she had always dreamt of, with the intention of finding a temporary rental house to get away from it all and regroup. What happened instead, was that she ran across a perfect and affordable little one bedroom cottage - for sale. She bought it and sometime thereafter met and fell in love with a local fella, who is her life partner still today some 30 years later. Her story is inspirational and further proof that sometimes when things just seem hopeless, God might just have a better plan already in place.

Susan calls Massachusetts her home now, so while this may not be a "southern cookbook," it's certainly a country cookbook, and one that any southerner would love. Filled with classic, tried and true, easy, family-friendly recipes, and some perfect for entertaining too, all without complicated preparation. Susan calls it an homage to women everywhere, including her mother and sister, for all we do and how we inspire our own families and personally inject so much of ourselves and our talents in celebrations of birthdays, holidays and special days.

With handwritten and hand painted pages throughout, the original Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen cookbook began when Susan started hand painting recipe cards for gift-giving. She wanted the anniversary edition to have the same homespun feeling the original book from the 80s had, focused on living a life of being in the moment and everything homemade.

I encourage you to visit Susan's website, where you'll find a calming, lovely, homey and comfortable feeling, something that is sorely needed in this world of ours today. Be sure to sign up for her personal newsletter filled with recipes, artwork and stories, and be among the more than 50,000 loyal followers who already subscribe. Just a visit to Susan's website will make you feel cozy and nurtured and you'll soon find yourself immersed in her stories.

Recipes in the new Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen range from classic, everyday favorites to more elegant and impressive, company's coming, dinner party fare, but all definitely tried and true over and over. Susan said the mantra for her cookbooks is "quick, easy, elegant and delicious," and that still holds true.

A sampling of recipes range from appetizers, to soups, to salads and vegetables, main dishes, desserts and breakfast. Appetizer recipes include some favorites - artichoke dip, cheese bites, oysters rockefeller and stuffed French bread. In the soup category, old familiar favorites include bean soup, tomato soup and gazpacho. Salads present you with a number of homemade salad dressings, homemade mayonnaise, chicken salad in edible crunchy bowls, shrimp and crab salad, stuffed artichokes, potato and pasta salad and bean salad.
For sides you'll find favorite recipes like glazed carrots, green beans and onions, cream cheese potatoes and twice-baked potatoes. Main dish recipes include herb roasted chicken, pork chops with sweet potatoes and apples, pan-fried chicken with cream gravy, beer-butt chicken, cheese stuffed chicken breast, chicken enchiladas, chipped beef on toast, cornish game hens, hearty dinner stew with buttered noodles and grandma's turkey stuffing recipe.
For desserts you'll find banana cream pie, apple crisp, grandma's homemade piecrust, blueberry pie, lemon ice, rice pudding, three layer carrot cake, bread and butter pudding, chocolate cream puffs and pink grapefruit splash. For breakfast Susan brings us recipes for biscuits, applesauce, cornmeal muffins, crispy potato pancakes, baked apples, granola, popovers, beer bread and eggs in tomatoes.
More unusual findings include a tutorial on how to make sushi, a coconut, ginger and lime soup, zucchini soup, how to make ceviche, eggplant salad, sides like onion pudding, spinach souffle, filet mignon in phyllo with madeira sauce, oriental fish, poulet au poire creme, basil limeade, German pancakes and blueberry corncakes to name a few.
Interspersed throughout this book, you'll find Susan's beautiful watercolor artwork, poems, inspiring quotes, and a wide variety of tips on subjects like establishing family traditions, how to prepare for overnight guests to make them feel at home, menu ideas for the beach, how to host an Easter egg coloring party, a guide on apples and how to use them, a piecrafting guide, and even how to host a come as you are breakfast party

This 176 page, full color, hardcover book even comes with a classic red ribbon bookmark - a sure sign to me of a very special book. Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen will truly add a bright spot to the heart of your home. Perfect for gifting (hate to break it to ya, but Christmas is just around the corner y'all - yikes!) for that someone special, even if that someone special is yourself. Signed copies are available directly from Susan's website. I really love that her book is printed right here in the U.S. of A. too.
A note for my Amazon customers - I am assured that they do have books available even though the site may show a slight delay in shipping or temporarily out of stock. Go ahead and place your order and they will be filled soon!
Disclosure: I received one free review copy of Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen, however all opinions stated here are voluntary, authentic and my own.

Material Disclosure: Unless otherwise noted, you should assume that post links to the providers of goods and services mentioned, establish an affiliate relationship and/or other material connection and that I may be compensated when you purchase from a provider. You are never under any obligation to purchase anything when using my recipes and you should always perform due diligence before buying goods or services from anyone via the Internet or offline.

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  1. The book sounds WONDERFUL!! I can't afford one now, but if my hubby gets this job and we can get back on our feet, maybe by Christmas santa will bring me one! :D Saving it to my favorites!! (LOVED when the bookmobile came, too!!! I grew up poor, guess I always will be! And it was always such a treat when that navy blue bus - library on wheels!! - full of books came!!) Thanks for the memories!!!! :D <3

  2. Mary, this is Sara Foster from Facebook Thanks for posting this! The book sounds so wonderful. I'd never heard of this author before, but I just checked with my library and her book about her move to Martha's Vineyard is available and I've just requested it. Like Kelly above, I can't afford this new book right now, but it is definitely going on my "to read" shelf in Goodreads.

    1. I know you will enjoy getting to know Susan. Be sure to pop over to her website sometime too!!

  3. I have Heart of the Home and the Christmas Heart of the Home - I can't believe that it has been 30 years that I have enjoyed her work - Her blueberry pie recipe is my favorite

  4. The South is your neck of the woods and the Vineyard is mine. I've seen some of Susan's books, they are truly a work of art.

  5. Oh Mary I absolutely love my Susan Branch books! She certainly leads a charmed life now with Joe! Her cookbooks are so beautiful and entertaining! I think "Autumn" is my favorite and that's just probably because I love everything about that season! While I don't really get much Autumn her in Houston, Texas I break her book out every year about this time and soak up her autumn!

    I highly recommend anyone who hasn't done so to check out this 30th anniversary copy of Heart of the Home's Notes From the Vineyard and her other books!

  6. I still have the original of this wonderful book - and her recipe for Roast Chicken is THE most asked for dinner in my family - for decades! It is wonderful news she is bringing out an anniversary edition and I definitely will buy. And I completely agree - anything and everything she designs or writes or shares really does provide a respite from the increasingly chaotic everyday world we are all trying to survive as best we can. It's people like Susan Branch who make it more bearable.


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