Archive for the ‘Cookbooks’ Category

IMG_0091Those of you who know me, know I am a maniac when it comes to baking cookies for Christmas. My baking frenzy begins right after Halloween and, by mid-December all the freezers in my home are filled to the brim with dozens of varieties of cookies.

The rest of the year, I am on the look-out for new recipes, so I was happy to find this gem of a book through NetGalley. There are plenty of tips here for beginning bakers, covering baking, decorating, and storing cookies. The author divides the recipes into classics, cookies suitable for a cookie exchange, spiced cookies, cookies from around the world, cookies suitable for fancy decorating, and confections.

The recipes are simple and straightforward. If special equipment is required, it’s noted clearly. These are tasty, good-for-the-soul cookies that don’t require tons of special ingredients, equipment, or talent. The recipes are accompanied by tasteful and colorful photos of cookies that look like even a beginner could make them. The writing is warm and casual, inviting the reader to give the recipes a try without judgement. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this and saved some recipes to try this year.

Recommended for all bakers.

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kitchenIs there anything better than food cooked by your grandma? Not likely, but the dishes you’ll find in this lovely book are not your typical Sunday gravy.

Galimberti shares a story early in the narrative about how his grandmother, who lived her entire life in the same small Italian village, was worried about what he would eat during a two-year assignment traveling the world. He realized then that he had an opportunity to explore the concepts of food and family by seeking out people just like his grandmother and looking for common ground. His journey begins with his grandmother, Marisa Batini of Castiglion Fiorentino Italy, and concludes with his mother, Paola Agnelli, a new grandmother herself. In between are the stories and recipes of women, of grandmothers, the world over.

We meet grandmothers from Brazil, Armenia, Canada, Alaska, Morocco, Albania, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, Malta, Norway, Bolivia, India, Zambia, Fiji Islands, Japan, Sweden, Haiti, and many others. We meet grandmothers who cook over open fires and high-tech ranges, who have all the amenities of the modern world or no running water or electricity, who buy their food in a supermarket or hunt and kill it in the wild. The common thread that ties all these women together is the reason they cook, and it is always family. Grandmothers who cook for their children and grandchildren, whose task is to nourish the family and make them strong. We learn about favorite recipes that have been handed down in the families for generations, treasured plates and bowls that belonged to long dead grandmothers, food and ritual that has great meaning.

Galimberti’s format here gives great honor to the grandmothers. Lovely, full-page color photos of each grandmother in her kitchen or cooking space, followed by photos of the food and then the recipes makes this an easy, pleasant book to read. What lifts this above an ordinary book are Galimberti’s short essays about each grandmother, her country, her recipes, and her family. We learn about his experiences cooking with these women and how the project changed him and many ways. What comes through so clearly is the love in the households of these women. I have many favorites throughout the book, but one that spoke out loud to me is Natalie Bakradze of Tbilisi, Georgia, whose special recipe is Khinkali (traditional pork & beef dumplings). Her photo shows an ordinary woman wearing a mischievous, somewhat self-conscious smile, as though she is thinking “why is this boy taking my picture?” Galimberti’s essay about her says “Everybody in the family wears sweaters and scarves that she knitted for them, and everybody – including her daughter-in-law – brags that she is the best cook in town.”

The admiration, respect, and love shown these women is truly touching and heartwarming. They all welcomed Galimberti into their homes and kitchens, cooked with him, and shared their food – all extremely personal actions. He, in turn, has captured the universal essence of family and food in a readable, very accessible book.

Highly recommended.

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American Heart Association Go Fresh: A Heart-Healthy Cookbook with Shopping and Storage TipsMy typical routine when reviewing books is to read them, then place them near my computer so I have them handy when writing the review (and so I *remember* to write the review!) In this case, I *did* forget to write the review because this book hasn’t left my kitchen! Go Fresh by the American Heart Association is packed with tasty, healthy, and easy recipes that can satisfy even the most reluctant healthy eater.

Beginning with short, easy to read sections on how to build healthy eating habits, this book includes everything from how to buy and store fresh foods, to kitchen & cooking tips, to lucid, straightforward advice on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle, to dozens of delicious recipes. I really appreciate a cookbook that is written in a simple, consistent style, and Go Fresh is definitely that. The recipe layout is uncluttered and includes clear, step by step directions. Boxes listing serving sizes, prep time, cook time, and standing time appear in the upper corners of each recipe page. In addition, there are numerous “Cook’s Tip” boxes throughout the book, offering useful advice for the novice to the experienced cook.

A center section of lovely, full-color photos adds a nice touch to the book. Every recipe I tried came out beautifully and all were well-received by my family. Some new favorites include: Parmesan-Spinach Soup, Citrus-Soy Tilapia, Espresso-Rubbed Flank Steak, and Broccolini with Toasted Walnuts. It was a special treat to have this book during the summer harvest season, when so much fresh food is available.

I have tried many, many healthy eating cookbooks over the years and always seem to come back to those from the AHA. There are no gimmicks, no strange foods that cost the earth, or special cooking utensils required here – just good, fresh food. I highly recommend this book.

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The Pickled Pantry

The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman

Last summer, on a whim, I bought a bushel of mini cucumbers at a local farmers’ market. I reasoned that my husband, who loves cukes, would eat them, which he did – for about a week. Then I found myself with two thirds of a bushel of lovely little glossy green cucumbers that I could not bear to see go to waste.

Tired of hearing me moan about what to do with this bounty, my husband uttered a phrase that changed my whole summer.

“Why don’t you make pickles?”


So, I searched the internet and found an abundance of recipes for bread and butter pickles, brined pickles, garlic pickles, refrigerator pickles, dill pickles, basil pickles, even kool-aid pickles. While the recipes seemed like something I could manage, I found the lack of good directions a big problem. So, I headed to the library and spent a lovely afternoon browsing through cookbooks on pickles and canning, but came away feeling very intimidated. I eventually tried the simplest refrigerator pickle recipe I could find and they turned out okay. Nothing special, but certainly edible.

The Pickled Pantry has changed all that. This is the book I wanted last summer. Chesman writes in an engaging conversational style, and isn’t afraid to talk about her successes and failures in pickle making. She explains why it’s important to take certain steps, but also offers alternatives for various ingredients or processes. Recipes for a variety of pickles, from cucumber to cauliflower, are presented in clear language that can be understood by a novice. As an added bonus, Chesman also profiles famous pickle makers (who would have thought there were so many!?) in appealing inserts throughout the book.

The Pickled Pantry is one of those rare cookbooks that you can read straight through like a novel. I sincerely hope Chesman has other culinary expertise and will be writing more books like this one!

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