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

The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making

I have a new love. It’s called Hollandaise sauce. Velvety, lemon-butter, it partners with meat or fish, eggs, grains or vegetables. A very democratic sauce. One for all.

The only way to enjoy this delectable garnish is to make it yourself. You can be tres authentique and do it the long way, a la master chefs Jaques Pepin, Julia Child and Elizabeth David. Or you can totally cheat and follow the example of this brief Food Lab video. A stick blender and two minutes and you’ve got it.

But why stop there? Next up - homemade mayonnaise. For such a common condiment it is way more complicated. Which oil, whole egg or just the yolk, lemon juice or vinegar, arm-powered whisk or blender? That’s where a number of lovely books came to my rescue and taught me way more about sauces than I thought possible, especially this marvelous book, Modern Sauces: More Than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day. We have many, many others! You too can emulate the great cuisines of every continent with sauces and toppings which enhance flavor and presentation.

But my greatest discovery was this handy compendium to the self-sufficient and frugal gourmet, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. Very resourceful, inspiring, entertaining, and useful! Next up - homemade ketchup.

Happy National Kale Day!

Today is National Kale Day! How will you celebrate? Perhaps with a green pear-kale smoothie to start the day, followed by a nice massaged kale salad with dried cranberries and a balsamic dressing for lunch, followed by roasted veggies over garlic sautéed kale for dinner.

Kale is a much talked about superfood that can be eaten cooked or raw in a variety of ways in place of lettuce or spinach to spice things up a bit. If you’re still skeptical, there are many varieties to choose from as far as taste goes – curly, purple, Russian, dinosaur?!

For some recipes featuring kale and other greens, check out these leafy green books at the library. Also, local gardener Diana Dyer (garlic!) has a blog called 365 Days of Kale where she offers a ton of recipes, info, and insight on the health benefits of kale. Don’t forget to check out the site for National Kale Day to see how you can be a Kale Hero! Enjoy ~~

Ree Drummond: The Pioneer Woman

Ree Drummond’s memoir of how she met, fell in love with, and married her rancher husband is hilarious, romantic, and charming. Titled The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, A Love Story and published back in 2011, the entirely true story definitely made me want to find my own cowboy out there somewhere! Ree was born in urban Oklahoma and went to college at USC, where she fell in love with the city life. After a few years in Los Angeles, she moves back home temporarily before she plans to move to Chicago. When she meets “Marlboro Man” one night in a smoky hometown bar and he begins to woo her, Ree’s plans change somewhat and before she knows it she finds herself the wife of a down-home Oklahoma rancher, living over an hour from the nearest grocery store and surrounded by cattle rather than skyscrapers. Ree’s stories of her new country life are completely heartwarming.

After publishing this lovely memoir, Ree was inspired to write more and has produced several fantastic cookbooks complete with delicious, easy recipes interspersed with more stories of family life at the ranch. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: recipes from an accidental country girl, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: food from my frontier, and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: a year of holidays, are all beautifully photographed, adorably written, and extremely handy to have in any kitchen!

Most recently, Ree has branched out into writing children’s books about Charlie the ranch basset hound, who is based off of the basset hound that she and her family own in real life. There’s Charlie the Ranch Dog, Charlie the Ranch Dog: where’s the bacon?, Charlie and the New Baby, and Charlie and the Christmas Kitty, as well as several other picture books about the lazy, mischievous dog.

For more information about Ree, and for additional recipes, stories, and photos, check out her awesome blog The Pioneer Woman.

Barnes & Noble: Nonfiction Book Club

The Nonfiction Book Club at Barnes & Noble in Ann Arbor will discuss the book The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball on Monday Sept. 15 at 7 pm. The book is the author's memoir about working with her husband to set up a CSA (community supported agriculture) cooperative farm on Lake Champlain in New York. Barnes & Noble is located in Huron Village, 3235 Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor, near the intersection of Huron Parkway and Washtenaw Avenue. Library Journal compares this book with other titles including Ree Drummond's book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. All are welcome at the upcoming meeting of the Barnes & Noble Nonfiction Book Club.

I Can't Stop Watching YouTubers: Books and Media for YouTuber Fans

2014 is the Year of the YouTuber.

That's right, guys. Internet fame is now as easy as turning on your camera and doing whatever you do best, whether that's applying makeup with extra finesse, doing dance covers of K-Pop songs, or just generally being weird...and there's A LOT of weird out there on the internet. "YouTubers," as the famous video bloggers of YouTube are so cleverly called, have been around for years and years, but THIS year a number of them are putting down their cameras and throwing themselves into other media endeavors. Hence: The Year of the YouTuber. Catchy, right? If you're a YouTuber addict, here are a few dates (and titles!) to mark down on your calendars:

Hannah Hart, expert pun-maker, intrepid explorer of all the world's liquor cabinets, and creator of the YouTube show "My Drunk Kitchen," is putting out her first book on August 12, 2014. Aptly titled My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut, this book will contain pages, pictures....possibly even words! And of course, recipes, wisdom, and cooking tips from the Tipsy Chef herself. This book is sure to be a blast to read and use, both for those who drink and those who don't!

Next, we'll take a stroll outside the world of books. You don't mind, right? Libraries aren't just about books, you know! If any library has proven that, I'm pretty sure we have. Troye Sivan, 19-year-old Australian YouTuber, actor, and now singer-songwriter, will be releasing a new EP titled TRXYE on August 15, 2014. Troye officially announced his new endeavor at VidCon 2014 (causing the entire fandom to go insane and crash his website...typical) and released his first single "Happy Little Pill" on July 25, 2014. For those who are a big fan of Troye or of snyth-pop music, this'll be one to keep your eye out for.

Next up we have Grace Helbig. Comedian. Actress. Youtuber. Generally awkward person. Grace, has basically got it all. And she's willing to share "it all" with you! Formerly of "DailyGrace" and currently of the "ItsGrace" YouTube channel, Grace has been kind enough to share her infinite fake wisdom with the world in her upcoming book Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-up. This one is set to be released on October 21st and if you're a young adult looking for uncomfortable anecdotes or advice on doing a really good impression of a grown-up (mortgages and filing your taxes and....oil changes...look, I don't know how adults live) then this is the book for you! This is following Grace's debut into film-making earlier this year with the comedy film Camp Takota, made alongside fellow YouTubers Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart (remember her? From two paragraphs ago?).

Last, but certainly not least, Zoe Sugg (a.k.a. Zoella), British beauty vlogger and blogger, announced in June that she, too, would be taking the dive into the world of books with her fictional novel Girl Online. The novel follows Penny, who is known in the real world as a school-going, drama-having, normal girl with a crazy family. But to the internet she's "GirlOnline," a famous blogger and internet-personality. Over the course of the story Penny is dragged off to New York by her parents, struggles to maintain her online cover, and falls a little bit in love with a boy who has a secret of his own. Girl Online is set to be released on November 25, 2014, so it'll be a bit of a wait, but surely worth it to see what sort of writer Zoella will be off the screen. A blogger writing about a blogger? How meta is that?

The library has some of these but not all, so keep checking back as those release dates get closer! And remember, if there's something we don't have, The Michigan eLibrary is always a good back-up plan!

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Mark your calendars: Kathleen Flinn, author of Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: Recipes of love, loss, and adventure from an American Midwest family, is scheduled to visit Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor on Aug. 20 at 7 pm. The book, according to a description in the AADL catalog, "...Presents a recipe-augmented family history that traces the origins of the author's love affair with food to her Midwestern youth and her parents' San Francisco pizza parlor . . ."

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