A Fine Dessert: a "treat" of a story!

What a charming and special new book! A Fine Dessert, by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall, tells the story of four families in four different centuries who are all making the same delicious dessert. The ingredients for the yummy treat, blackberry fool, remain the same over the years, but the methodology for getting the materials and making the dessert changes with the times.

In the 1700s, a girl and her mother collect blackberries and then whip cream by hand from the milk from their cow. In the 1800s, a slave family in Charleston, South Carolina, picks blackberries from the plantation garden and uses a whisk made by the local blacksmith to whip the cream. In Boston in the early 1900s,a girl and her mother buy blackberries from the market and use pasteurized cream delivered by the milkman that morning. And in modern day San Francisco, a boy and his dad buy blackberries and cream at the grocery store, print a recipe from the Internet and use an electric mixer to whip the cream.

The authors do an amazing job of depicting both the similarities and differences between the families and lifestyles over time. They manage to weave in some bigger topics (slavery, gender roles) in a subtle way and provide great historical portraits of each of the time periods. And, the best news is, the recipe for blackberry fool is included at the end of the book!

Yum!

The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes

Have you been dying to learn to cook authentic Italian food, but didn't know where to begin? The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes is a great way to introduce older children to the art of cooking. This book is specially adapted for kids from the famous The Silver Spoon, the "best-selling bible of Italian cooking" first published in 1950.

The first few pages of this simple and illustrated guide explain basic cooking and cutting techniques, as well as common kitchen equipment and utensils. This first section emphasizes safety above all else, which is essential for a young person who is somewhat new to cooking. The rest of The Silver Spoon for Children consists of easy and delicious recipes. Learn to make a beautiful mozzarella and tomato salad or a hearty minestrone soup. Try your hand at linguine with pesto, lasagna, or potato gnocci. You can even learn to make your own pizza dough and pizzas! Desserts round out this full collection, with recipes for delicious hazelnut cake, banana cream or fruits of the forest ice cream.

This book is recommended for older children looking to learn more about cooking. It includes easy-to-follow instructions and full-color photographs, as well interesting and artsy illustrations on every page. This beautiful book is a must have for any aspiring future chef.

Baked (and Unbaked) Delights for Everyone!

Tomorrow, March 20, is officially the first day of spring. And what better way to celebrate than baking tons and tons of sweet treats? Check out these recently added, dietary-specific cookbooks.

Sweet Eats for All, from popular blogger and cookbook author Allyson Kramer, is a lusciously photographed collection of vegan and gluten-free recipes that covers a huge range of desserts, from cupcakes, cookies, and pies to puddings, candies, and ice creams. While you'll find a few standard recipes here (classic yellow cupcakes; apple pie; chocolate pudding), there are many more unusual and creative ones that don't often show up in basic cookbooks: speculoos cookies, pistachio rose cheesecake, strawberry balsamic sorbetto, and hand-pulled taffy, just to name a few. There's also a whole chapter dedicated to no-refined-sugar recipes for those who want to cut out the processed junk.

Rawsome Vegan Baking's claim to fame is that it's not only gluten-free and vegan, but raw too! This book (called an "un-cookbook") by Emily Von Euw is probably not for people with nut allergies, as nuts are prevalent here (though there are a couple nut-free recipes). The photographs are gorgeous, and it's nice to have minimally-processed recipes on hand. One interesting twist to this book is that some recipes use GF-oat or buckwheat flour to cut down on the density (and expense!) of all-nut-based desserts while still being gluten-free. Some examples of what you'll find in these pages: cashew coffee vanilla creme cake with cinnamon chocolate crust; go-nuts donuts with frosting and sprinkles, and fresh citrus tart with lemon cream.

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking by Cara Reed is also not to missed. Within its pages you will find recipes not just for sweets like cookies, cakes, and pastries, but also savories like "Cheez-It" crackers and focaccia bread. Highlights: GF, vegan versions of Girl Scout cookies! Reed also shows you how to make your own natural food dyes.

Chef on DVD

Jon Favreau directs and stars in Chef. In the film, Chef Carl Casper loses his restaurant job with help from a public scene that goes viral. He is struggling with finding time for his son while dealing with his ex-wife. He longs to cook creatively and finds himself in a rut. Casper eventually gets talked into heading to Miami to open up his own food truck making his own food his own way.

The truck ends up on a road trip across America with Carl, his son, and his soux chef played by John Leguizamo. The film is funny, touching, and foodilicious! Bring on the Cuban street food! The film also stars: Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara, and Amy Sedaris. Fun!

Absolutely Oatrageous!

If you are looking to amp up your morning breakfast routine, then check out Kathy Hester's newest book, Oatrageous Oatmeals!

The book starts off with more conventional ways to use oats, including delectable and creative oatmeals such as Apple Pear Baked Steel-Cut Oatmeal and Pumpkin Coffee Cake Oatmeal. However, it also delves into other breakfast ideas such as muffins, granolas, coffee cakes, and breakfast bars. These are all great ideas for those snuggly winter mornings when a warm breakfast is welcome, but what about the summer months? "Oatrageous Oatmeals" also includes several recipes for overnight oats, which are cool and satisfying refrigerated oatmeals.

The most surprising part of this book is the addition of several savory recipes for lunch and dinner. Picky kids (and grown-ups!) won't even be able to tell that there are protein-packed oats in their Chickpea Veggie Soup or their Potato Gnocchi. Those with specialized diets can find something to love in this book too; all recipes have omitted the use of meat and dairy products, and included alternatives to omit gluten as well.

Kathy Hester is well-known for her contributions to the Key Ingredient blog as well as other online publications. She has written three other cookbooks.

Taco Tuesday!

It’s taco Tuesday! What are you making for dinner? Taco Tuesday has been around for a while, but it seemed to pick up steam with families after last spring’s Lego Movie. What’s taco Tuesday? It’s pretty much just making it a point to dine on tacos on a Tuesday. Pretty genius, if you ask me. Because tacos are awesome!

Tacos can be simple or elaborate. Nachos? They count. Walking tacos? They totally count. Burritos? Get on it!

Looking for some ways to spice up taco night at your house? Check out some of the cookbooks with oodles of taco recipes available at the library! So many tacos! And hey, tacos are good any day of the week!

Dos Caminos Tacos: Recipes for Everyone's Favorite Mexican Street Food

Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes

Vegan Tacos: Authentic & Inspired Recipes for Mexico's Favorite Street Food

Amor y Tacos: Modern Mexican Tacos, Margaritas, and Antojitos

Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales: Flavors From the Griddles, Pots, and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico

Here’s a quick list of additional taco-tastic titles.

Mastering Fermentation by Mary Karlin

We all know that eating fermented foods is good for the health of our gut microbiome. It is really surprising just how many foods and drinks assist those good bacteria to thrive in our guts, like the obvious ones: yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, vinegar, kombucha and creme fraiche. But add to that list sausage, sourdough bread, fruit chutneys, corned beef, gravlax, olives, chocolate, cheese, wine & beer. We have a long and richly varied association with fermentation throughout history, assisted by the world of bacteria, which turns our crops and animal-source products into very tasty, healthy and able-to-be preserved foods. The health, flavor and digestibility of almost any food can be enhanced by the working of good bacteria and Mary Karling can show you how.

Mastering Fermentation is an excellent resource to help you explore how to do this in your own kitchen, with very little fuss and at very little expense. You mostly need some salt, and sometimes some whey, a few crocks or Ball jars, basic kitchen equipment and a little patience (it takes time for the magic to work). Karlin covers all the basics and then walks you through fermenting vegetables, dairy, grains, meat and beverages. There is something here for all tastes and eating styles. Some recipes are more challenging than others (Hop Stoopid Ale, feta cheese or wood-smoked pastrami anyone?), but the majority are familiar and no-reason-not-to-start-today easy.

Besides being useful and full of intriguing experiments, Mastering Fermentation is also a handsome, well-organized, picture-laden book which is a delight to read. She includes a very comprehensive list of resources and websites for supplies and support, as well as a bibliography for further reading, if the fermentation bug strikes you!

British culinary history comes to life in Historic Heston

I was fascinated when I picked up the amazing new cookbook Historic Heston, by Heston Blumenthal. The book is a James Beard Award Winner for Cookbook of the Year 2014 and that prize was certainly well-deserved. In this fascinating tome, Blumenthal takes readers and chefs on a journey through the culinary history of Britain, from the middle ages all the way to modern day. “Alighting upon the most iconic and intriguing dishes, such as Meat Fruit, Powdered Duck, Tipsy Cake and Mock Turtle Soup, he delves into the story behind each one, before using them as inspiration for his own modern recipes,” reads the cover. I was particularly wonder-struck by the photography in the cookbook by Romas Foord: the image of a beautiful orange on one page is revealed to be constructed completely out of marzipan on the next. Later in the book, a close-up of meat stew is detailed enough to expose the individual spices in the broth. Seeing the ancient dishes as they would have been created in midieval times is a treat and Blumenthal’s adaptations to make them modern are completely usable. Historic Heston is truly a must-peruse for those interested in cooking, photography or British history.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #492 - “I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong... I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

Miracle in a Dry Season * by Sarah Loudin Thomas is set in the small town of Wise, WV. (First in the Appalachian Blessings series)

Rumors and speculations swirl around single mother Perla Long and her 5 yr.old daughter Sadie when she comes to live with her uncle and aunt. Casewell Phillips, a church elder and a confirmed bachelor is charmed when he meets beautiful Perla, and before long, he is crafting doll furniture for Sadie. But like the townfolks, he is cautious of her past that hints of sordidness, and suspicious of her singular talent of producing literally an endless feast out of meager rations.

When a severe drought hits Wise, folks are torn between gratitude for Perla's gift, small-town gossip, and a minister bent on judgment. Perla and Casewell must look deep into their hearts and faith for guidance if they are to have a future.

"Thomas's fiction debut offers sympathetic, wholesome protagonists seeking to live faithful, prayerful lives and engaging supporting characters in subplots that explore the overarching themes of forgiveness, redemption, and the wideness of God's love."

Fans of Ann Tatlock, Karen Kingsbury, and Lisa Wingate now have a new author to watch.

* = starred review

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