Did somebody say "veg out"?!

It's Veg Week! Ann Arbor Veg Week 2013 is brought to you by VegMichigan, the state’s largest vegetarian organization promoting awareness of the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of a plant-based diet. The campaign encourages people to take the 7-day pledge and eat vegan or vegetarian for a week, and features a variety of events around the community.

Things kick off tonight at Downtown Home & Garden with special guests John Salley & Ann Arbor Mayor John Heiftje. There are special events happening every day this week, including a viewing of the Award-Winning Documentary Vegucated at the Downtown Library on Tuesday. Local restaurants are also featuring special vegan dishes this week! Be sure to check the schedule to see what's happening where. It’s a great week for seasoned vegans and vegetarians and for those who are pondering a plant-based diet to give it a whirl and ask questions.

And to cap it all off, the library has a ton of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks to entice you with yummy recipes beyond this week.

Nationally-Known Cooking Experts Marilynn & Sheila Brass Return To AADL to Discuss Boston Food, A New England Melting Pot

Thursday March 14, 2013: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

AADL joins with The Performance Network Theatre for a delightful evening of Boston lore and cooking tips with the return of Boston television stars and heirloom cooking experts Marilynn and Sheila Brass. This event is designed to give colorful insight into the food and lore of Boston - the setting for the Performance Network's March production of the play, "Good People”.

Boston's Brass Sisters are cookbook authors, television personalities and culinary historians. They also won a Throwdown on the Food Network with Bobby Flay (with their heirloom recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake)! Their cookbook, "Heirloom Baking” also received a James Beard nomination in the Dessert and Baking Category. This event will include a book signing and books will be for sale.

Essential Pepin

Are you confused about what to eat? Many people are. One person who is not confused is Jacques Pepin. As you can see from the title of his newest cookbook, Essential Pepin: 700 Favorites from My Life in Food, there are a lot of things he likes to eat, and he hopes you will too, and there is no fear in him. Sugar, chocolate, gluten, grains, red meat, salt, butter, wine, fruit, shellfish: bring it all on! He cooks like he learned to growing up in France, at his family’s restaurant. His exuberance about cooking and his pure enjoyment of food is refreshingly captured in the companion dvd series of the same name.

Watching Jacques cook is pure fun. Though he has lived in the US for ages, and speaks perfect English, he is so French. And he is an expert. With knives flashing (sharp ones at that), and one dish in the oven and two on the stove, he is masterful in the kitchen. Food obeys him. Sauces hold together and omelets flip and onions practically chop themselves. (How does he do that? I have a feeling taking notes doesn't help.) He is always sipping the ubiquitous glass of wine, a la Julia, and carrying on an amusing narrative while he creates his numerous, delectable dishes. He exhorts all cooks, all fear aside, to have a love affair with good food. His motto: “Happy cooking!”.

January is Hot Tea Month

Is there anything better than a cup of hot tea on a cold, snowy day? (Besides hot chocolate, that is!) January is Hot Tea Month, so celebrate by brewing up a pot and reading about this perennial favorite drink.

Culinary Tea: More than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition from Around the World
Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West
The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide
Tea Chings: The Tea and Herb Companion

If you're looking for something fun for your little ones to do during vacation or on snow days, how about throwing a tea party? Check out Fancy Nancy Tea Parties or Come to Tea! for tips, games, and menus, and if you feel inspired, throw a tea party for yourself with Victoria, the Essential Tea Companion!

Rockin' for the Hungry 2012

Volunteers and radio personalities from annarbor's 107one will be "freezin' for a reason" at the Food Gatherers' largest annual outdoor food and fund drive through December 9th. Broadcast live from Kroger on South Maple Road, you can participate by dropping off food or cash donations, purchasing food to donate, or by making a donation at the register of any Washtenaw County Kroger store location.

Your Guide to Buying Local This Holiday Season

Where will you shop for holiday gifts this year? It’s buy local week! In the recent years, local businesses in Michigan cities including Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have been participating in several “buy local” themed holiday sales in order to take some of the spotlight off of the big box stores. This growing trend to “buy local Michigan” is a great way to support our state’s economy. If you’re looking for gift ideas that will support southeast Michigan, or just the state in general, here are some ideas:

-Farmer’s Markets are on the rise! According to a study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Michigan has been leading the country in the percentage growth of farmers markets over the last two years and also “ranks fourth among the states in the number of farmers markets.” There are several local farmer’s markets that are open year-round, such as The Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and The Detroit Eastern Market. Pick up a locally made loaf of banana bread for a stocking stuffer. Or, for the more adventurous, cook your own gifts to give from the fresh foods found at the markets. The AADL’s catalog has several local-themed cookbooks for you to draw ideas from.

-Michigan is famous for its vineyards and wineries. Take a friend or loved one who enjoys wine on a tour of Michigan wineries by following this guide. Or pick up a bottle from a local winery.

-Speaking of local drinks, Michigan is also well-known for its local breweries. Ann Arbor Brewing Company, Bell’s, and Arcadia are among some of the most popular Michigan breweries holding holiday sales this year.

-Within the last few years, there have been several “Michigan” themed retail stores popping up that stock Michigan-made products. Among these include The Michigan General Store in Ypsilanti, The Dixboro General Store, The Produce Station in Ann Arbor, and the website “The Mitten State” which sells vintage-inspired Michigan themed t-shirts and other Michigan-themed gifts. Buying gifts from Michigan retail stores is a great way to support your local and state economy.

-Over the next few weeks, Friday, December 7th, Friday December 14th, and Friday December 21st, Main Street in Downtown Ann Arbor will be hosting “Festive Fridays” which include live street entertainment and extended hours for Main Street retailers! This is a great opportunity to enjoy and support your local economy.

-Connect with local crafters and support them at DIYpsi, coming up December 8th & 9th in Ypsilanti. Other local DIY craft events and holiday bazaars coming up include Tiny Expo in Ann Arbor on December 8th, the 7th Annual Holiday Baar Bazaar in Detroit on the 14th, The Detroit Mercantile Merry Market on the 15th & 16th, and The Detroit Annual Food Bazaar on December 10th.

-If you’re into crafting yourself, check out some of the craft programs coming up at the AADL to make your very own gifts to give!

-Do you have an avid reader to please this holiday season? Check out the AADL’s Friend’s of the Library Book Shop, located on the basement level of the Downtown branch. The shop’s holiday hours this season are: Saturdays, 10-4 and Sundays, 1-4 through December 16th, 2012. Then closed until January 5th and 6th, 2013. The shop includes a wide variety of gently-used books, CDs, DVDs, sheet music, and jigsaw puzzels.

Happy local holiday shopping!

JAMIE'S 30-MINUTE MEALS

I love to cook. However, one of my biggest obstacles is combining foods that compliment each other. My dinner table often looks like potluck out of the United Nations or a potato growers convention (I have been know to serve tacos, spaghetti, mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes in the same meal!) I was delighted when I ran across Jamie's 30 Minute Meals. The goal of this book is to show how to cook a whole meal in a short amount of time. The key to being able to successfully use this book is to have a well equipped kitchen as many of his recipes call for the use of a food processor and a blender. Fortunately, I have both and was able to whip up a few of his delicious and simple recipes. Admittedly, I wasn't able to cook my meals in 30 minutes or less, but that wasn't really my goal. Most of the meal plans are basic and don’t require expensive or hard to get ingredients. Best of all, the foods compliment each other nicely to create a whole meal from main course to dessert. One of my favorite meal plans is the tomato soup and guacamole platter. Yum!

It was the Night Before Thanksgiving

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and I was intent on a search, for a free Thanksgiving Dinner at the Ypsilanti Free Methodist Church. The flyer tacked to the telephone pole did assert "Come enjoy turkey and the the fixings, including pie for dessert! At 1800 Packard Rd., 4:30-6:30 pm, across from Ypsilanti High athletic fields, the feast will commence. So if you are planning to join us Nov. 21 on Wednesday, call 734-482-2055 to reserve a seat for the number attending. Happy Holidays!

Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto

Imagine taking a cooking course at Le Cordon Bleu-Paris. What might you learn ? You would, undoubtedly, become familiar with the foundational cooking techniques which are universal to all cuisines and begin to master the use of basic ingredients which are common to many recipes. So, while you can’t necessarily skip over the ocean on a whim to improve your cooking and baking abilities, you can check out Ruhlman’s Twenty and read the book that will make you a better cook, by introducing you to these very things.

Michael Ruhlman has distilled all the possibilities of cooking techniques to the twenty he deemed the most fundamental. Number one technique: think. “Thinking in the kitchen is underrated”, he instructs. ”Before you begin. Stand still. Think.” Another technique: braise, which he calls, “a kind of emblem of the true cook”. Also: sauce. "Sauce completes a dish, adding succulence, seasoning and color...that's how you turn something good into something fantastic". And: soup. "If you've got chicken stock, you've got a meal". His instructions for all these various procedures are clear, concise and de-mystifying and, in addition, beautifully illustrated and demonstrated with pertinent recipes.

Releasing the untapped potential of key ingredients qualifies as technique as well, and he orients you to the best and most essential: onion, salt, egg, butter. “Butter. Give me butter. Always butter!” (Look here to see who said that.) Ruhlman is opinionated (do not use iodized salt; making bacon is easy; the egg is divine) and almost religiously devoted to the experience of preparing and presenting good food. The recipes he includes could be the essential canon of eating; you could own this ‘cookbook’ and never need another.

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