Review: Katie Brown Celebrates

Every weekend, I review a cookbook in an attempt to lend some guidance in a field that has become overrun. These days everyone is writing cookbooks and it is incredibly upsetting to buy a dud and have it sit on your shelf for years – staring at you, mocking your poor judgment.

I had never heard of Katie Brown before I picked up a copy of “Katie Brown Celebrates.” I had no idea that she has her own TV show and is often tagged as the next Martha Stewart. I had no idea that she owns a bunch of stores around the country, used to have a catering company (maybe still does?), and has written a number of books.

I found out all of this stuff after reading the book. While reading the book, I found myself thinking more than once: “Who does this woman think she is? Martha Stewart?” But she isn’t Martha exactly. I think she is a cross between Martha and Sandra Lee but without the jail time or mild alcoholism.

A Year of Parties

The tag line for this book is “Simple and spectacular parties all year round.” I interpreted that to mean you could make the recipes and have the parties, but actually Katie presents different parties for different times of the year, which I guess makes much more sense. There are twelve different parties presented in the book, one for each month. Sometimes the parties are centered around a specific holiday, like Thanksgiving, but others are centered around an event important to Katie like her daughter’s birthday in April. I found it to be a good way to organize the book.

Katie is Crafty

For each of these twelve parties that she walks us through, there are two basic parts: The food and the decoration. Honestly, I was more interested in the food because I’ve never really thought of myself as a crafts kind of guy. That said, it was interesting to see some of the stuff she made for each event. Some of the items seem easy like her coffee-stained cork menus. Others were, like, way out of my league like the strange cardboard monkey creatures she made for a safari themed party. (In a week or two I’m going to make a cool macaroni and cheese recipe from the same party.)

I can see how some of these elements could really add to the general atmosphere for a party, especially for the kid-themed parties. Some of the ideas seemed a bit ridiculous to me though like buying cartons of fresh, very edible vegetables and then pinning them to a piece of Styrofoam to create a centerpiece. Seems like a huge waste of some really good food to me. So, did I enjoy reading these parts of the book. Sure, they were fine. Will I make anything from it? Probably not.

The Recipes

These were what I was really interested in for the book. I found a lot of them to be pretty unique and a good number of them had kind of a semi-homemade feel to them. Using prepared pie crusts, doughs, and other time consuming items, but then enhancing them with flavorful additions. For the most part, the recipes are pretty simple. There are recipes that almost anyone could cook in this book, but there are a few challenging ones as well if that is your thing.

In general, all of them look really good though. Each recipe and party has absolutely beautiful photographs along with it so it is easy to get your mouth watering for these. Also, she does a great job of pairing recipes with event. This is something that I’m not always the best at and I will definitely refer to this book for ideas for food that goes with the mood.

The March Welcome Wagon

I thought I would run down an example of one of these parties so you can get a better idea of what she tries to do with this book. I picked March just because, well, it is March. The party for March is one centered around welcoming new neighbors.

For the crafts she makes some address specific skewers which are kind of cute but also seem like they would be some work. Keep in mind that I’m incredibly lazy. They might not be that hard actually. Also, she makes a centerpiece out of a mailbox and magnets with interesting facts about each neighbor on them. The magnets are a cool idea.

The menu looked like this:

Prosciutto and Asparagus Melts (like mini grilled cheeses)
Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Lemon-pepper Yogurt Sauce
Bibb Wraps with Orzo Salad
Cucumber Salad with Marinated Red Onion and Fresh Herb
Herbed Feta Puffs
Chocolate-spice Cake

Most of the items are bite-sized because I think the goal is sort of a mingle, meet-and-greet type party. Looks like a pretty good menu to me though! I would be happy to be her neighbor.

This book is not a traditional cookbook and if you are just looking for recipes it might not be the best investment for you. If, however, you are interested in hosting and throwing some parties of your own it might be worth picking up, especially if you are a crafts person. You can learn more about Katie at her website. There’s info there about her other books, her TV show, and even some of her craft workshops.

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