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I'm just now catching up from last week... one day of holiday, one day of volunteering at Kids Read Comics (where I fell madly in love in a non-creepy-stalkerish way with Raina Telgemeier.) I'll try to post more on that later, but in the meantime, catching up with some backlog...

Parents Need to Eat TooParents Need to Eat Too by Debbie Koenig “I feed my baby all right, but then it’s too much work to fix something for me, so I just eat toast or whatever is left over.” I’ve heard these kinds of comments distressingly often. It’s especially tough during the first months of parenthood, when this cooking around a baby thing is still so new and the baby is so demanding. Koenig’s book attempts to address this problem, with chapters of recipes designed to fill a multitude of specific post-baby cooking needs. Chapters include such themes as cooking from pantry staples if you can’t get out of the house, crock pot recipes, dishes to be eaten with one hand when you can’t put the baby down, nap-time cooking, fast recipes, big batch cooking, really simple recipes for non-cooking types, milk-boosting recipes, and nutritious snacks and desserts. Despite a preface with standard processed baby food feeding advice, all of the recipes happily assume that you’ll be feeding your baby real food and include comments on how suitable it is for babies of different stages. The chapter on nap-friendly cooking wasn’t quite what I was hoping for – more a way to split up cooking really complicated dishes into three parts to make them manageable with kids, rather than the “get it all prepped in one nap” that I was hoping for. I found recipes that I’d try in every other section, though, and especially liked the one-handed eating recipes, all individual portions wrapped in various types of starch holders, to make ahead for camping. (Can they be reheated without an oven, I wonder?) My husband, the major cook in our family, reads Cook’s Illustrated for pleasure and said that he found the recipes a little more simplified than he prefers. Despite that, he won’t let me take it back to the library and keeps cooking out of it. We’ve had a cauliflower curry, a tomato-mozzarella pasta salad, and the chocolate pudding, and contemplated many more. Really, the simplified recipes are the point. You can turn to any number of cookbooks or magazines for complicated recipe instructions; there are not so many that grasp the utter desperation that occurs when a new baby comes and throws a household into chaos. The recipes are straightforward, using mostly simple ingredients. Many of them are vegetarian or have alternate veggie/omnivore options. Koenig is a Weight Watchers devotee, and therefore many of her recipes are low fat. This was a little odd for me, as I think that nursing mothers need good-quality fat and plenty of it – but this is often easily fixed by just using regular fat versions where low fat is called for. I’ll note that I’m a fan of books for the completeness and portability and easy sharing aspects… but many of her recipes are also on her blog, linked above. Though it’s geared towards new parents, whether or not you are one yourself, if you’re in need of help getting real food on the table on a regular basis or want ideas for food to bring over to friends in need, this is an excellent choice.
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In early July, I went to Borders to pick up a couple of birthday presents. While there, the salesperson convinced me that based on my previous purchasing history, it would probably save me money to buy the premium membership. I’d even get coupons that would make back the whole $20. I knew Borders was in trouble, but I’d just read in Publisher’s Weekly that there was an offer in for it, so I didn’t worry. Two weeks later, Borders was going out of business. I hiked right out to see what I could buy – mostly things for other people, but I picked out this one book for myself.

book coverThe Knitter’s Home Companion by Michelle Edwards. Edwards writes homey essays about the role knitting has played throughout her life – as a student, first married, a young mother, and now a mother of teens; knitting for herself, for babies, for ill or bereaved friends, and for charity. The essays are interspersed with recipes – suppers to let simmer on the stove while you knit, or cookies to nibble on while you knit alone or with friends. In between these are knitting patterns, mostly relatively simple, for baby blankets, mittens, socks and hats. The patterns are all knit from Lion Brand yarn (though I’ve usually seen their acrylic, she does thankfully use mostly their natural-fiber offerings) and are the kind of pattern that you can embellish or just crank out multiples without needing to think too much – good basic non-fussy patterns. All three – essays, recipes and patterns - are grouped up into sections of knitting for home, for gifts, and for the community. There are also little “read-alongs”, book reviews of books from picture book to novels and memoirs where knitting plays a part. This is a book to warm the knitter’s heart, one that will stay relevant even when fashions in knitwear change.

Cross-posted to and .
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book coverCampfire Cookery by Sarah Huck and Jaime Young I have been a camper for as long as I can remember. But up until now, our camp cooking has consisted of one of three styles: something close to our regular fare cooked over a propane or butane burner, food of the type that can be stuck on a stick and held over the fire, or food that can be wrapped in foil and stuck in the coals. I thought that as we were using heat to do cook mostly fresh food, we were doing quite well. This book, however, strives to juxtapose the beauty of and simplicity of nature with the very best in cookery. Huck and Young advocate real cooking over or in your campfire, or, if you must, your backyard fire or grill. Their advice is a mix of practical and silly, told in an archly formal tone so funny that it made the book a delight to read whether or not I had any intentions of trying their recipes. Their packing list started off with essentials, all of which I agreed with (cast iron cookware, steel mixing bowls, three knives) and proceeded on to optional items – a parasol, swathes of lace for keeping flies off food, smelling salts. They include instructions on how to construct a safe fire area in the wilderness, how to build your fire without matches or fire starters, how to gauge the heat of your flame for cooking purposes, and how to return your fire spot to nature when you are done. The recipes seem mostly French inspired, with some English tea-time thrown in for good measure. They start off with recipes to make at home, including potted spreads, ketchup, and the homemade graham crackers and marshmallows shown on the cover. They move on to all the major meals, tea time, breads and dessert, with suggested beverages (alcoholic and non, but mostly alcoholic) for all of these. Many of the recipes include items they suggest you forage for, or perhaps purchase at a farmer’s market on the way in. They look delicious, though what’s sticking in my mind right now are the roasted figs with honey, and fresh biscuits baked in the fire.

Besides the recipes, which will make you yearn to have companions so devoted to the taste buds at your next camping venture, the book is filled with a multitude of other useful information. There are multiple single-page articles throughout, on such topics as the best edible wild plants and how to tell time without a watch. The final section, on evening entertainment around the campfire, includes star-gazing, songs to sing, how to write haiku, philosophical questions, tips for telling ghost stories with a mix & match ghost story table, and how to read tarot cards, and more. I will need to wait until my daughter is old enough to let me cook without trying to climb into the fire herself to try this style of cooking, and I think even then that I’d venture to do their full-scale cooking not more than once a day. But they are encouraging enough and complete enough in their instructions to make me feel both that I could undertake such a venture, and that it would be worthwhile.

Originally posted at .
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book coverHomemade Soda by Andrew Schloss Once upon a time, my love and I made a batch of ginger ale from scratch for a party, following a Vegetarian Times recipe. It was delicious and very popular, even among people (like me) who cringe at the ingredient list of commercial sodas. For those who, like my love, want or need to be health conscious, but crave crisp, cool, and bubbly, preferably with caffeine, this book is just the ticket. It’s full of mouth-watering recipes in lots of different categories, mostly simple, but some a little more complicated. Everything is thoroughly explained, from how the individual ingredients work to how to make changes to the recipes. It works its way up from light flavored waters and fruit-based sodas through cream sodas, egg creams and root beers to colas and coffee and chocolate sodas. There are even some naturally fermented drinks, like kombucha and fermented root beer. Most of the drinks, though, come with recipes for syrups sized either to make just a glass mixed with club soda or slightly larger batches just right to fit in a soda siphon. All of the drinks have considerably less sugar and icky additives than just about anything you can buy commerically. There are several different versions of such soda favorites as cola, root beer, and ginger ale. And after the deliciousness of these home-made recipes, you may never want to go back to grocery store sodas again.

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My love and I have been getting a farm share for about five years now. It’s always fun but a challenge for us, used to starting from recipes and then building a shopping list, to do it the other way around and try to craft a menu from ingredients. And it’s hard nowadays to find recipes that aren’t written assuming you have a whole season’s worth of produce available at the same time – calling for April asparagus and August tomatoes in the same recipe, for example. A recent celebrity cookbook I glanced at claimed to be seasonal, but lumped spring and summer recipes together – not really helpful if you’re trying to cook from your garden or the farmer’s market. This is why I put a hold on this book as soon as I saw it waiting to be processed on the new book cart.

book coverCooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing This is a cookbook of the kind filled with glossy, full-page photos of delicious-looking food. Reusing is the chef at Lantern, a local foods restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her focus in this book is easy but delicious food from seasonal ingredients, something between a foodie’s complicated recipes and someone who cooks primarily from cans and boxes and thinks that real cooking is too complicated. (As an aside: she uses foodie the way I’d use gourmet. I’d consider foodie to be the middle ground between a gourmet and someone who eats only from necessity, someone who appreciates good food but keeps it simple. What do you think?) Refreshingly for the local-cooking effort, the recipes are arranged by season and month, starting with late March. Of course, North Carolina’s spring starts a good deal earlier than Michigan’s, but plants still come up in the same order, so that’s easy to adjust for. She also uses a lot of seafood,all varieties that she considers sustainable enough to eat. While not exactly coastal, Chapel Hill is still a whole lot closer to the ocean than we are. We can get some lake fish, and maybe even treat it the same way, but “local” and “seafood” just don’t go together in my neck of the woods. While my web research showed Lantern listed as an Asian fusion restaurant, I didn’t get that so much from the book. Yes, quite a few Asian-inspired dishes, but also a lot of Mexican and European-American traditional. The treatments are generally very straightforward, designed for simplicity and relying on good, fresh food for flavor. My foodie husband says that he would see himself looking at it for inspiration and then using his own usual methods to put things together rather than actually following the recipe. I would leave out the chilies, cayenne, and/or red pepper flakes that are present in abundance in nearly every recipe. I really appreciated her discussions of what to do with the mountains of hearty greens like kale that tend to arrive with a farm share. There are also little essays with experiences for every season – what’s in at the farmer’s market, making fresh strawberry ice cream with her children to celebrate the last day of school, heirloom apple varieties and the efforts to classify and preserve them. This, too, is a kind of primer on finding your local food experts. All in all, this is a beautiful and drool-worthy book.

Originally posted at .
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book coverSneaky Fitness by Missy Chase Lapine and Laryssa Didio Everyone knows that kids need exercise, and that the only thing more certain to make a wiggle-worm hold still is to tell him or her that they need to get some exercise to be healthy. Lapine of Sneaky Chef fame joins with exercise therapist Didio to create this book of fun ways to make fitness a bigger part of your kids’ lives. The first part is an introduction on why kids need fitness and why it should be fun. For me, the best part of this was a list of equipment for active play that every kid should have, including some items that I need to look up as I’ve never heard of them. Then, the rest of the first half of the book is games for fitness. They are roughly organized by the age group they’re designed for (preschoolers, early grade-schoolers, tween and teen), and include when and where they should be played, equipment needed, time frame, and (rather unnecessarily in my view) the calories burned. In my opinion, the game ideas were not really earth-shattering – things like taking a parade through the house or jumping during tv commercial breaks. The book suggests a lot of activities for commercial breaks, which I notice particularly as we watch only dvds. I really feel that it’s better to cut down on overall tv time than to rely on commercial breaks. Still, the ideas sound like fun, and it’s often helpful to have a list of ideas to turn to when your brain inevitably freezes under pressure. The index lists the games organized by type – rainy day, beach, snow, inside, etc. The second half of the book contains new Sneaky Chef recipes. These seemed to focus on snacks and treats, with fewer regular meals. I would be especially interested in trying out the strawberry cupcakes, even if cupcakes are supposedly no longer the thing. I don’t think too many people need convincing that fitness is important for kids, and this is a good source for simple ways to keep kids active.

Crossposted to and .
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book coverThe Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross Our would-be heroine is Ansley, Dallas sorority girl and socialite. Her life has been perfect up until now, when she is dumped by her fiance in the middle of a fraternity party, for being mean. And, we discover, she is mean, the kind of popular girl whose status has always meant that she could do pretty much anything she wanted and have people smile at her. She decides that the only solution is a retreat masked as a deliberate life change: moving to New York City to live with her estranged grandmother. Despite the lack of any contact since Ansley’s mother was five, her grandmother welcomes her in, but tells her that she must find a job within two months if she wants to stay. Since Ansley had planned on never having a job outside of (nanny-supported) motherhood, this is a challenge. Instead, she turns to her real passion: cupcake baking. Well, yes, we will all figure out what Ansley’s new job will be before she does herself. The book is sweet and mostly predictable, as Ansley sweetens up and her fractured family reunites, except that the required romance involves the grandmother rather than Ansley, a nice twist. Every chapter concludes with a Waitress-like cupcake recipe: Hole in the Heart red chocolate cupcakes, for example. The recipes are very tasty looking, and seem like Ross is an experienced cupcake baker herself – these are not just regular cakes baked in a muffin tin, and have lots of fun flavors, like lime with ginger frosting or chocolate with chiles. This is a delightful summer read that will likely inspire you to take a trip to the kitchen or your local cupcake shop.
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I am back, with a large a healthy Baby Godzilla to show for my time away. Now trying to review a book that I read all the way back in September… but here goes.

book coverSecrets of Feeding a Healthy Family by Ellyn Satter This is a companion book to Child of Mine, reviewed earlier. This time, though, the focus is on the whole family, starting with adults. Satter defines a family as anyone old enough to be feeding themselves, and begins with what she considers healthy eating habits for adults. She’s starting from the assumption that many adults don’t take time to feed themselves properly and includes a progression towards a positive relationship with food. Current society has a food culture often focused on the negative, and Satter believes that eating should be one of life’s greatest joys. So, start with set mealtimes and concentrating on enjoying your food – no eating while driving or watching TV or even (gulp!) reading. If you’re living with a family, make sure you’re eating together, even if it’s microwave dinners or chips and soda. Once you’re really noticing your food, you might get bored with junk food, so she includes a large recipe section including three-week menu plans. The recipes start with tuna noodle casserole mostly out of cans and progress towards beef stew – nothing really time-consuming to cook, but designed to ease people into cooking. Every week’s menu includes both two-night dishes that use differently food made earlier in the week as well as some vegetarian meals and a variety of meats. For everyone, kids and adults, put out good food and eat until you’re done, whether that’s more or less than you think you “should” be eating. She wants you to focus on your enjoyment and what your body tells you it needs, even if you then end up with a figure slightly larger than the current highly restrictive guidelines suggest.

Detailed appendices go over the research supporting her conclusions, once again highlighting the very tenuous studies upon which the most highly publicized nutritional advice is based – there is very little evidence to support low-fat diets, or to link cholesterol consumption conclusively heart disease. She’s a moderate, she says and the country has been taken over by radicals. She is certainly much more moderate than Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions. Where Fallon wants every family to have a stay-at-home parent spending hours in the kitchen cooking only fresh organic food in slow, traditional ways, Satter says that if canned vegetables are all you can afford or have time for, they’re much better than none and you should eat them without guilt. Similarly, both Fallon and Satter point out the dangers of phytates (a form of fiber), which interferes with mineral absorption. Fallon believes that we should all be making our own long-soaked sourdough starter wholegrain bread to deal with this. Satter suggests eating about half whole grain and half white, to provide a balance of fiber and easy nutrient digestion. This is practical and approachable advice, good for anyone who wants a positive relationship with food for themselves or their children.

French Milk

Jul. 8th, 2009 12:25 pm
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I went to a lovely convention, Kids Read Comics, a few weeks ago. I learned lots about graphic novels (mostly for kids, but still) and met several lovely librarians. At least one of whom I referred to this blog, and in the process discovered that “graphic novels” is a pretty teeny tag in my cloud, and I hadn’t reviewed any gns recently. Pretty pitiful given the amount of time I spend picking out what to buy for my collection. So I thought it was time for me to actually read a few more.

book coverFrench Milk by Lucy Knisley This memoir in graphic form has been getting some good press. Knisley and her mother, both celebrating birthdays – 22 for Knisley and obviously older for her mother – decide to spend a month together in Paris. While there, they look at lots of art, do a fair amount of shopping, and eat lots and lots of good food. Some reviewers commented on the nuanced portrait of the mother-daughter relationship; I didn’t really notice this much. There was good commentary on the art, which I should have expected from someone enough into art to be drawing a memoir. Somehow I was surprised anyway. I was less surprised by the loving commentary on the food, given that the book is named for her love of the milk in France – many, many meals and snacks drawn out, with written descriptions. I put this in adult again because I wasn’t sure how many teens it would appeal to; the most graphic it gets in terms of actual sex or violence is a mention of missing her boyfriend with a drawing of a wrapped condom. There is also some humorous nudity in the art references, as Knisley talks about how tired she is of the female nude as a traditional art topic, showing a couple pages in a row full of sketches from museums. This is worth looking at for the lover of France or food.
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Oh, noes! I haven’t mentioned cooking recently! Quick, time for another cookbook.

book coverThe Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift There is this thing that happens with supper, which is that it’s easy to get into a rut. And the rut will either be cooking the same few dishes over and over again or else giving up cooking altogether for microwaving boxes or “fixing food” (as a former roommate used to call it. Here we have a noble offering by NPR’s The Splendid Table’s host and producer to make supper both interesting and easy. That means a lot of dishes that are either quick or long-simmering but low effort. Cooking is a lot of technique plus flavor, they say, so they offer many very different flavor variations on a basic recipe to help things taste different but still have the ease of a familiar recipe. There are discussions on things like what kinds of tomatoes to use where, how to improve store-bought broth, and which pots should be the expensive ones (the ones that are always dirty in your sink). There are both veggie and meat recipes, for those who care about such things. There are lots of glossy, full-color photos, making this a book to drool over. Alongside recipes of different cuisines, there are sidebars of seminal cookbooks exploring those cuisines, along with an excellent idea for a New Year’s resolution: pick a good cookbook and cook your way through it. We’ve renewed this cookbook to give us a little more time to play with it ourselves. Go ye and do likewise.
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book coverIn Defense of Food by Michael Pollan After Michael Pollan wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he apparently got a lot of questions from confused readers about what they should actually eat. This is his answer: no recipes, but a lot of research and thoughts. He starts with his basic philosophy, shown on the cover: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Then he goes through it all. First, a detailed critique of the American food philosophy that he calls nutritionism, which is basically the idea that we can break food down into its basic components, figure out what we need, and feed ourselves based on those ideas. We’ve been trying this for over a hundred years now, defining new things as good or bad, but it hasn’t worked. The more we try, the unhealthier we get as a nation. Humans have been proven to thrive on any number of diets, he says, but the modern Western processed food diet is not one of them. Pollan argues that it’s time to stop eating nutrients and start eating cuisines, real food proven by tradition. In this section, he also talks about the work of Weston A. Price and other nutritional theorists of the 1930s whose research – pointing as it did towards organic farming and traditional food preparation – fell into disfavor in the 1940s when chemical farming and industrial food came into fashion. As a counter to nutritionism, Pollan suggests that we eat food that doesn’t come with health claims and that our grandmothers or great-grandmothers would recognize as food, both in its finished form and in the ingredient list. All in all, I have read nearly all of his advice other places, but rarely with such engaging presentation. This is a good choice if you’re fascinated with the topic, like me, or if you haven’t been reading the newer thinking on nutrition and want a good place to start.
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book coverSneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine Lapine starts the book with a rather lengthy argument for hiding veggies rather than forcing kids to eat them undisguised. She then gets down to business, explaining the theory of hiding unpopular nutrition inside favorite foods, matching color and texture and adding whole grains without being obvious about it. Next come recipes for several purees – white, orange, green, purple, bean, as well as several juices. Most of these use multiple veggies for added nutritional punch. If you're handy in the kitchen, you can stop right there – just read the theory, and start adding her purees to your food. Or, go on to the recipes. These look quite solid. Yes, she uses veggies purees and whole grains, but they are mostly real food. She will mix butter and olive oil for a buttery taste without all the cholesterol, but not call for trans-fat free margarine, or separate the eggs to cut down on the fat. I'm still of the opinion that kids need cholesterol and natural saturated fats, but her approach is both easy to substitute full-fat items back in, and moderate as far as the low-fat crowd goes. The recipes that we've tried have gone over very well – macaroni and cheese was actually creamier after the addition of white puree, and went down like a charm. Mr. Froggie Pants is also excited about trying breakfast ice cream and cookies, and any of the desserts. I'd use the theories for adults as well as kids, because couldn't we all use a little extra veggie power in our meals? And don't we want it to taste yummy, too?
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This one comes recommended by my doctor. Complicated enough to think about that I've been putting off this review for weeks. But, finally, here it is.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Our modern diets, both the typical bad American diet and the USDA food pyramid diet, constitute a major change from the way humans have eaten over thousands of years. According to author Fallon, the change is not for the better. The book draws heavily on the work of 1930s dentist Weston A. Price, who traveled all over the world looking at native peoples and their diets and finding correlations between the diets of those peoples who were strong, healthy and didn’t get cavities or other dental problems. (You can visit for more information on him.) This book includes both his observations and lots and lots of more modern studies, leading to some startling conclusions.
Read more... )
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Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll This is the easy cheese cookbook that was mentioned in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (reviewed September 7). Carroll is obviously in love with milk in general and cheese in particular. She starts with a short history of cheese, outlines the cheese-making process, and goes over ingredients and equipment. We learn that there are three levels of milk pasteurization – regular, high heat, and ultra. Regular, which you can do at home with raw milk, kills your ordinary pathogens. High heat can’t be used for cheese. This isn’t labeled, either, so you just have to experiment. Finally, ultra pasteurizing, the results of which comes in tetra packs, destroys both the proteins and nutrients in creating a shelf-stable product. Her instructions are clear, if filled with cheesy puns. Soft cheeses can mostly be done fairly quickly, some needing overnight draining, but not a lot of hands-on labor. The equipment starts at a low-temperature thermometer and cheesecloth, both easily available. Citric acid is supposed to be in grocery stores seasonally, for tomato canning. Some of the soft cheeses also require a bacterial starter (like yeast for bread making) which would need to be bought on-line. Mostly, though, they look doable and yummy – I’d say weekend level, as opposed to weeknight or holiday weekend. The 30-minute mozzarella [ profile] amnachaidh tried was truly fabulous. Hard cheeses, by contrast, look hard – more like a full day to weekend of work to start with, plus daily attention for a week or two, and a couple times a week for a couple months. They nearly all require the special starters, as well as cheese presses and mats. They still look delicious. After these recipes are some for other dairy products – buttermilks, yogurt, kefir, etc. There are also recipes for dishes in which to use your homemade dairy products, and profiles of small American cheese makers. If you can make bread or beer and like cheese, give this a try.
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I feel a little guilty reviewing books on the bestseller list. After all, anyone can read the bestseller list; these books maybe don't need more people promoting them. But here it is. I read it, I loved it, and now I will share the love.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver Kingsolver, her husband, and two children set out in this vivid nonfiction adventure to spend and document a year spent eating only locally produced food. After years spent living in suburban Arizona, the family moves to rural Appalachia, with the intent, Kingsolver says, of living in a place that contains more than one of the three basic necessities of life. Starting the year with the first asparagus and some trepidation, they head to the farmer's market to see what they can find. What they end up with is delicious bounty – different things at different times of the year, to be sure, and no bananas – but always good, varied food in the peak of flavor. Trying for the first time to raise enough to eat year-round rather than a small vegetable garden provides room for meditation on the loss of vegetable varieties and the fragility of farmers' livelihoods, while harvesting their turkeys and chickens brings up the issues of carnivory and the difficulties with both CAFOs and vegetarianism. An early autumn trip to Italy shows a culture where food and culture is still deeply connected to the land. As Kingsolver narrates the year, Hopp steps in as "Dr. Science", with factual sidebars, while teenaged Camille provides a week's worth of meals with recipes for each month. It can be a little preachy, but if you already believe that the earth and our diets are in need of some help, it's inspirational rather than disturbing. All the authors are clearly passionate in showing that eating locally is delicious and doable by anybody with a will and a local farmer's market or garden. After listening to the audiobook, with Kingsolver's gently twangy voice, [ profile] amnachaidh and I were both inspired – I to tomato canning, and he to trying home cheese making, as well as more frequent trips to the farmer's market. For anyone who cares about good food, this is an essential read.
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The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson This cookbook is full of yummy recipes aimed at the pregnant or nursing vegetarian mother. While that group may be small, the recipes are really good, with appeal well beyond the target audience. They are designed for maximum nutritional benefits, with balanced protein, fat, and whole grains, and includes nutritional profiles for all the recipes. (Adding vitamin-rich seaweed mix to nearly everything seemed strange at first, and then we discovered that seaweed is also one of the biggest natural sources of umame – the flavor that MSG recreates without the health benefits.) I was first impressed by the book when, after the usual trope on the importance of breakfast, she actually devoted a full third of the book to breakfast recipes designed to work for busy mornings, including porridges, whole-grain pancakes and waffles, granolas, and breakfasts on the go. Then there are recipes for dinners, snacks, teas, and baked goods and sorbets that will satisfy your cravings without throwing your blood sugar out of whack. The dinners especially include advice on which recipes freeze well and how to bake in small stages throughout the day around baby duties. This is the rare book that we actually bought, because there were so many recipes that looked really good, even to my carnivorous husband – better than beef stew, many variations on lasagna, nori rice balls, and more. And while meatless entrees might not be for everyone, the careful attention to sugar balance makes this an excellent choice for anyone who wants good food that doesn’t compromise on flavor or nutrition.
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Why is it that a librarian who works weekends finds herself so attracted to weekend books? I remember raving in the past about The Weekend Garden Guide and The Weekend Baker. Probably with less weekend to go around, I am intensely attracted to the idea that I might still be able to do something fun and soul-satisfying like baking, gardening, or knitting. I’m not so sure about The Weekend Mechanic, which came up when I was checking on the last two titles…

Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick I checked this out mostly for knitting porn, and also for a chance to chat with my friend the clerk who only works on Wednesday evenings. The bad news about the book is that, to my eye, many of the projects looked like fast projects only for an experienced knitter. (Lace socks on size 2 needles in one weekend? When it took me the better part of a year to knit a single plain sock?) The good news is that they were really, really cool projects and I now want to try approximately half of them. I have a previously undiscovered need for turtleneck sweater egg cozies and am heart-broken that the curly-toed elf slippers are only in children’s sizes. [ profile] amnachaidh wants the lace chair bottom, knit from hardware store twine. Plus assorted socks, sweaters, mittens, hats, scarves and finger puppets. I guess that makes it the very best kind of drool-matter, that inspires me to try to knit better than I do now. Oh, I forgot the lists of books and movies about knitting, for your further weekend enjoyment.

Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson We were getting in a rut with my weekly no-chop bean soup, and saw this. It is beautiful inspiration – not just soups, not just beans, but also vegetarian roasts, cheesecake, granola, and lots more. I still want to try the granola, ‘cause it’s way too easy to burn granola in the oven. [ profile] amnachaidh didn’t like the pho recipe, but I think that’s more to do with pho being a beef-based soup that doesn’t translate well to a vegetarian version. The author has had very different experiences cooking beans than we have – she wants you to first soak beans overnight, then put them on high for 12 hours or so, then put them in the rest of the recipe on low for 6 to 8 hours. I usually put my dry, unsoaked beans in the slow cooker on high for 6 to 8 hours with everything else, and they cook just fine. I followed her recipes using my regular procedure and the recipes worked fine, though. All in all, this is a fine book for inspiring good day-to-day cooking, with some yummy special stuff thrown in.
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This summer we’re getting a large bag of produce from a local farm every week – an assortment of whatever they have in season. I’m sure we’re eating better than usual, and we’re getting better at using up our share every week, except for the herbs. It’s a cooking adventure – how can one use up a two-gallon bag of basil without overdosing on pesto? I checked out two cookbooks just on vegetables. One of them I regret to say that I’ve forgotten the title already, but you don’t need to read it anyway. It was by some celebrity chef and had big, pretty photos of difficult-to-make recipes using obscure ingredients. No, we can’t really afford truffle oil on a regular basis. It was nice food porn, but food porn is pretty easy to find, so I’m not going to feel guilty about forgetting the title already. Here’s the one I didn’t forget:

Fresh From the Garden: Cooking and Gardening throughout the Year with 250 Recipes by Perla Meyers I quite enjoyed this book. It’s broken up first by season, then by vegetable. Each veggie starts with a little introduction on what it’s good for, gardening and storage tips. Then, a few recipes featuring the vegetable, and probably using some other things in season at the same time. The recipes are pretty straightforward, and seem geared towards the traditional cook. That is, they didn’t seem to take huge amounts of time, but they also assume that you have more than fifteen minutes to put dinner together. Also (and my biggest problem with the book), most of the dishes are either side dishes or include large amounts of meat, or both. Many of the dishes said how marvelous they would taste with veal. I’m a big fan of one-dish meals without meat. I probably won’t buy the cookbook, but the structure was brilliant, and the recipes worked well with some tweaking.

And finally, just a note on
New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated I really only glanced at this myself, but [personal profile] amnachaidh spent six weeks reading through it. As it says, it's recipes from the magazine, where they try to make the ideal whatever it is – tomato soup or blueberry pie or whatever – and talk you through all the variations they tried and what they did before giving you the final recipe. It's also not particularly vegetarian friendly, but if you cook like [personal profile] amnachaidh or [personal profile] spacemice, you will want this book to promote deep cookery thoughts.
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It has been just over a month now since Mr. Froggy Pants started on solid foods, for which occasion [personal profile] amnachaidh asked me to check out a baby food cookbook. I hadn’t really expected to find more than a couple books on the topic, but there were more than a dozen, so I found myself unable to get away with just one. So, here they are, along with a couple of useful Web sites.

Homemade Baby Food Pure and Simple by Constantina Linardakis This is the most comprehensive of the books I checked out, and toes the official medical line. It starts out with a detailed discussion of infant and toddler nutritional needs (including the advantages of breast milk) before proceeding to recipes. Starting with infant cereal (for which she recommends only iron-fortified packages stuff) and proceeding to more advanced recipes, all the recipes follow guidelines on when to introduce foods and include the major nutritional value of each dish. There is also a section of contributed recipes, which don’t include the nutritional profile, and one of recipes for supplies like homemade wipes and play-do. I don’t see us ever feeding Mr. FP liver, in spite of its high nutritional content, though. It’s a little on the dull side, and includes really cheesy little stories of fictional mommies happily breastfeeding or making baby food, but the advice and basic recipes are solid and useful.

Organic Baby Food by Lizzie Van This is a DK book, full of gorgeous, full-color pictures of yummy-looking food and adorable babies. Unfortunately, the pictures are the only aspect I can recommend about this book. The author seems to have no idea of current food recommendations for babies, although she is free with advice. The book includes not one single-food recipe, even though you’re supposed to start with single-ingredient foods. The first recipe has five or six different vegetables, oil and salt – and includes corn, which most experts say not to introduce until 10 or 12 months. I was horrified by one of the sidebar Q & As (paraphrased here): Q: I’m going back to work soon. Should I wean my baby to formula milk? A: No, don’t do it all at once. Wean your baby a couple of weeks before or after you go back to work. Pardon??? Not even a suggestion that returning to work might not necessitate weaning at all? Even looking at the recipes for toddlers, who have fewer restrictions, the recipes didn’t seem anything special. Not recommended.

The Baby Bistro Cookbook by Joohee Muromcew There’s no pediatrician panel backing this book, like Homemade Baby Food Pure and Simple and line drawings rather than the fancy full-color photos in Organic Baby Food. But this was our favorite. It starts out with simple single-food purees, as you might expect. Some of the early recipes are indeed overly simplistic. But move on, and there are lots of delightful recipes and suggestions for variations on standard food. It’s nicely multi-cultural, with simplified versions of ethnic cuisine – Mexican, Indian, Korean. Interestingly, where other people say not to give spicy food to babies, she says they often enjoy it, and to let your baby try. Maybe we could avoid Mr. FP having my spicy food handicap! Finally, in a Foods for Special Occasions section, she presents low-sugar recipes for treats, including some fruit drinks that look absolutely scrumptious. I especially appreciate that these are naturally low-sugar recipes – not using sugar substitutes, but made to taste yummy with less sugar. In general, the recipes look easy to follow, don’t seem to use obscure ingredients, and would be tasty for everyone, not just babies. - While this web site doesn’t have a whole lot of recipes for older babies, for instructions for do-it-yourself cereals and purees, this is the place to go. It also has tables of when to introduce foods, sample menus for a week of meals for different age ranges, and discussions of baby-food-related topics like, “Does my baby need iron-fortified cereal?” I’m very pleased to note that the site has recently been updated to reflect the new AAP guidelines for delaying solids until six months. All of the cookbooks above say to start solids at 4-6 months – the old recommendation – but really assume that you’ll be starting at four months and ready to move on to more frequent and more advanced foods by six months. The newly updated advice on this site is wonderfully helpful. If all you want is the basics, this site has it covered, for free. They’ll even answer your emailed questions. - This site isn’t strictly about baby food, and doesn’t have any recipes. Kellymom has evidence based information breastfeeding, sleep and parenting, though I have mostly only looked at the breastfeeding information. Evidence based means that they cite literature and medical studies for all the advice they give – very helpful, and very refreshing. For the purposes of this discussion, it also has articles on iron supplementation, and schedules on introducing food with the intention of keeping breast milk baby’s primary source of nutrition during the first year. This is helpful, since a lot of information still follows older recommendations of weaning or seriously cutting back breastfeeding by six months. It also has lists of medicines and herbs that affect breast milk, both positively and negatively – so helpful if you need to know if you can take something while breastfeeding. This is a site I reference frequently.


Feb. 9th, 2005 07:33 pm
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So this baby thing has really been killer on my baking. If I'm honest, I was usually too busy to get much baking done anyway. But now, I decide I'm craving fresh homemade bread or chocolate pudding... no sooner do I start than Mr. Froggy Pants decides that he's also craving goodies, of the sort that only I can provide. Fortunately for me, my beloved [ profile] amnachaidh has always taken over for me, leaving tummy satisfied, if not creative impulses. I only flipped through this book on the new book cart, but I will be checking it out as soon as it's available:

The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge This book features yummy recipes for people who are really too busy to bake. It includes tips on baking faster, and how to stash your weekend-made goodies so you can enjoy them throughout the week. The recipes are divided into three sections: Section 1, recipes that can be made in a hurry, including Blender Cupcakes, for when you discover you need them for tomorrow morning at 10 pm. Section 2, recipes that can be made in stages, in between your errands and chores. Section 3, for when you have a little more time and want to make something Really Impressive (but still, she assures, not too difficult.)

I'm still drooling.


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