Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

June 4, 2014

Eating on the Wild Side

If you’re ready to take a healthy lifestyle to the next step, Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, needs to be on your reading list. Robinson’s book will show you that a diet of fruit and vegetables is a good start, but it’s just the beginning of getting the most out of your food. Phytonutrients, natural chemicals found in plants, are what consumers should be looking for when they buy produce and grains.

Unfortunately, most of the vitamins, nutrients, protein, fiber, and healthy fats have been bred out of the food you buy at the supermarket. What’s a consumer to do? This is where the ‘meat’ of the book begins and the author instructs the reader on how to purchase the most nutritious vegetables and grains. The example that stands out in my mind is carrots! Baby carrots found on most supermarket shelves today are misshapen mature carrots that have been scraped and trimmed down so they are a uniform size. Scientists now know that shaving off the outer part removes the greatest concentration of nutrients, which are in the skin and tissue right below it. To get the most sustenance out of this vegetable you must cook carrots whole in some type of oil or fat and then cut them.

Each chapter is a food, for example, such as apples, beets, citrus fruits, and lentils. Within each, Robinson gives you a history of its evolution into our diet with helpful do’s and don’ts, ending with a concise review that includes a description and comment.

Since reading this book, I’ve added beets, canned artichoke hearts, and grapes to my diet.  And I now bring this book with me to the grocery store to help me make wise and healthy eating decisions.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 20, 2013

I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. But I still enjoy wandering the library stacks. Stumbling across a fabulous book is like finding a gem in a pile of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is fun and fleeting, but some books are treasures that become friends for life. These are some of the new friends I made this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. One day while lamenting I had read and reread all his books the title of this book caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked it up. I am so glad I did! I laughed so hard I was sore the next day. I found out Erma Bombeck had a syndicated newspaper column and was a well known humorist. Somehow she had flown under my radar. But no more! In this collection of humorous writings she describes her travels around the world with her family.  And a word of warning: I had this on audio book and had to pull over because the tears of laughter were blinding me.

Variant by Robison Wells
If you thought surviving high school was hard, then this book takes it to a whole new level. Benson Fisher thought he was escaping an intolerable foster care system when he made it into the elite Maxfield Academy. He arrives excited for his new future, but something just seems not quite right. And then students start to disappear.  At this boarding school breaking the rules can literally kill you and escape is impossible.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
When I think of dragons I imagine powerful creatures to be admired or possibly feared. This is the first of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, and these dragons are pathetic and sickly. They cannot survive without their human keepers and as sentiment grows against them they are driven out on a perilous journey. But will they reach safety? Or will the enemies surrounding them doom the dragons forever?

High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
Since I was heading into the mountains for a vacation, I thought what better book to take along then one set in the North Carolina Mountains. And I fell in love with Judge Deborah Knott. Not just because the books are well written, or because the setting was so perfectly described I felt I was there, but because she is so ordinary and believable I felt I was her as I was reading. Judge Knott escapes the pressures of a recent engagement by subbing for a fellow judge in Cedar Gap. There she stumbles into a murder mystery and danger, and what about that handsome DA Lucius Burke! This book is the perfect mix of action, mystery, humor, and romance.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
If you thought writing restaurant reviews was easy, just wait until you read this biography!  Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for most of the 1990’s. With humor and wisdom she draws you not only into the restaurant world, but into her world as well. This book is so well written you will feel you can close your eyes and be sitting in a top steakhouse, or a tiny Chinatown sushi bar, eating along with her.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, by Dinah Bucholz

October 25, 2013

This delightful book will take you deep into the world of Harry Potter through the art of cookery, which is at least one way we Muggles can do magic. The book is “unofficial” because it is not endorsed by J. K. Rowling or Warner Brothers, but the recipes are wonderful. Molly’s onion soup recipe has become a family favorite of ours, and the recipe for iced pumpkin juice turned out to be delicious. You can enjoy Harry’s favorite dessert of treacle tart, make your own knickerbocker glory, and guzzle your own homemade butter beer.

As Bucholz points out, food plays a large part in the Harry Potter books, from the delicious dinner Aunt Petunia prepares for the Masons (and which is ruined by Dobby,) to the sumptuous meals that appear (courtesy of the house elves) in the Great Hall, to the mouth-watering concoctions of the amazing Mrs. Weasley. Each recipe begins with a quote or explanation reminding us how this food appears in the books. There are recipes for treats like the ones from Honeyduke’s, meatballs like Molly served at the Order meetings, and even mashed turnips like the ones that ended up on Percy’s face at Christmas dinner.

Bucholz provides helpful sidebars to explain to us American Muggles some of the unfamiliar terms used in British cooking. All of the 150 recipes have been tested and retested by Bucholz and other chefs. If you are in the mood for a magical treat, this is the book for you.

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Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz

June 27, 2013

“In our germ-phobic society, in which sterilization is considered healthy,” Sandor Katz reminds us, “microbes can be our friends.”  A long-term AIDS survivor, he believes that the friendly bacteria he ingests in fermented or “live-culture” foods deserves a great deal of the credit for his continued health.

Katz’s book is absolutely packed with information on and recipes for yogurt, cheese, krauts, kimchi, sourdough breads, miso, tempeh, beers, and wines, as well as a few lesser known forms of fermentation that could definitely be considered ‘wild.’ Would you like some mead such as Beowulf enjoyed in Hrothgar’s Hall and Dumbledore in Hogsmeade?  Mix some honey with water and watch it start to bubble—it’s magic!  Microscopic yeasts and bacteria are floating aboard particles of dust in the atmosphere, and when they find a suitable medium, they start to grow.   As Katz says, “It is not possible to eradicate culture!  Wild fermentation is everywhere.”

My favorite recipe in Wild Fermentation is the relatively mundane but delicious sauerkraut.  Its light, tangy flavor is the perfect accompaniment to heavier dishes, and it is easy to make with the help of our microbe friends.  All you need is chopped cabbage and salt, though I also like to inoculate mine with a little starter bacteria by adding a few tablespoons of whey, the yellowish liquid that separates from natural “live” yogurt.  Mix it all together in a large ceramic bowl, pack it down under a plate that just fits inside the bowl, and place a gallon jar full of water on the plate to weigh it down.  Leave it on your kitchen counter covered with a towel.  A few days later you have sauerkraut.

Why should you go to the trouble to make your own sauerkraut or sourdough bread?  Our health depends not only on eating nutritious food, but on being able to absorb those nutrients properly.  Healthy bacteria are essential for this process, and fermented foods are the best way to get them.  Besides, it’s fun and delicious!

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Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

January 14, 2013

Deep DishMeet Regina Foxton, host of Fresh Start, a local Atlanta public television cooking show. Gina is a by the book small town girl from South Georgia with superb culinary skills. Everything is going great in Gina’s world until the producer of Fresh Start, Scott does something that jeopardizes the show. Because of Scott’s actions, Fresh Start has lost their sponsor, Tastee-Town and without them on board it is next to impossible to keep the show running. Gina is furious that Scott has put their careers and relationship in jeopardy. Did I mention that Scott is also Gina’s boyfriend? When Gina’s world starts falling apart her wild card sister, Lisa and D’John, her stylist are there to give her much needed moral support.

With Fresh Start on the chopping block, Scott is working feverishly to secure his career and trying to find new sponsor s for Fresh Start. Luckily, Scott is able to land Gina an audition with The Cooking Channel, if she can wow the TCC people she could secure a spot on the popular cable network. Gina is excited about her TCC audition but it will include friendly competition from local cooking show host, Tate Moody. Tate Moody is the host of Vittles, a kill it and grill it style show. Tate is ruggedly handsome and possesses not only the skill to catch his food but he can also serve it up very nicely.

The “Food Fight” will take place on Eutaw Island, a remote South Georgia island. Gina and Tate must prepare several dishes to be judged by famous restaurateurs. The catch is that Gina and Tate can only use the very basic staples supplied to them, they are responsible for scouting the island for the remainder of their ingredients. As if having to hunt and gather their main ingredients isn’t enough, Gina has bad blood with judge, Beau and Tate is not a favorite of judge, Deidre. While each contestant is trying their best to make sure they have a surefire plan for winning there is some obvious love/hate chemistry between them. Could love be in the air? With the help of lifetime Eutaw residents, Iris and Inez, Gina and Tate are able to put together some great dishes but which of these talented cooks will rise to victory?
This tale of two cooks and their mouth-watering dishes includes a good sprinkling of romance, drama, wit and southern charm. Mary Kay Andrews easily draws you into this story and introduces you to a number of great characters who keep you wanting more.

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The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

September 6, 2011

Knowing your fortune isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.  Holly Maguire is finding this especially true.  Her grandmother Camilla, the love goddess of Blue Crab Island, predicted that Holly’s big love would love sa cordula, a traditional Italian dish featuring lamb intestines.  Finding that man, however,  is proving to be pretty hard.

After breaking up with the man she thought she would marry, Holly moves home with Camilla to nurse a broken heart, but in turn loses her grandmother and inherits a cooking school.  Holly has to keep Camilla’s Cucinotta going; she’s going to forgot about men and love and focus on cooking and keeping the business alive.  Holly just wants to get through the first classes, but as she and her students come together over the pots and pans adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories they learn much more about themselves and each other.  Whether it is reconnecting with a child, mending a broken marriage, or finding true love, all of the students have come to this cooking class looking for something.  And all of them, including Holly, learn cooking does have a bit of magic in it.

Sometimes a book seems good enough to eat. Senate fills her book with enough tantalizing food and sweet romance to satisfy a hungry reader.   I picked up this novel because I am a sucker for any book with a title that promises tasty delights inside; sometimes all I need is a picture of some food on the cover.  This book did not disappoint. I enjoyed the gentle romance, the fun characters, and the delicious sounding food.  If anything, this book will leave you with a strong craving for Italian food but probably not sa cordula.

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Blood, Bones, and Butter; the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

August 22, 2011

Food is a universal need.  It is one of the three basic tenets of life.  Yet in the case of Gabrielle Hamilton, food is much more.  From childhood, food and cooking has served as a driving force in her life, although somewhat unintentionally. That is the idea that runs throughout Hamilton’s memoir; food is what anchors her to life, but she would never have chosen it to be that way.

Hamilton is the world renown and award-winning chef and owner at Prune in Manhattan, but her story starts many years before.  Starting in her childhood in bucolic Pennsylvania, the poignant moments of her life revolve around food and its creation, from her father’s lamb roasts to her mother’s apron and well-stocked pantry. From there food is, more often than not, the center of Hamilton’s life.  She jumps from restaurant job to job, slinging chili in a Manhattan bar, serving crepes in the south of France, making dinner for hundreds of campers in the woods of Connecticut. Then, while leading the frantic life of a freelance caterer, Hamilton stumbles upon the opportunity to start a restaurant of her own.

I can tell you one thing; if you weren’t hungry when you started read, you most certainly will be at the end.  Hamilton can write about a boiled potato with butter in a way that will make your mouth water.  But the more interesting aspects of the novel are her ideas of life and rebellion against the status quo.  Hamilton lives life how she cooks–with passion and on her own terms.  Blood, Bones, and Butter will leave you hungry; hungry for a good meal and certainly for a life as daring as the author’s.

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What Einstein Told His Cook: kitchen science explained by Robert Wolke

November 12, 2010

I never liked science when I was in school.  It was hard, and teachers kept sneaking math in there.  I was an English and History person, and excelled at those subjects.  But now I find myself drawn to books about science — especially books that explain, in an understandable way, the science of everyday life.  Because when you really stop to think about it, science is pretty incredible, and not so different from magic (in my view).  I mean, have you seen that Planet Earth stuff?  Wild!

A way that I have always enjoyed science, however, even as a kid, was in the kitchen.  After all, isn’t  baking the same thing as chemistry?  And how does all that work, anyway?  Baking soda, baking powder, what’s the difference?  Why, if I use water in place of eggs in cookies, will they be flat, with no lift to them?  (Protein!  Eggs  have it, water doesn’t.)

So there I was, browsing through the cookbooks, when I stumbled on this title, and a light went off — aha!  This is the kind of science I can handle.  And trust me, dear reader, you can handle it too.  This book is broken up into small chapters based on common kitchen questions, and you will be amazed at the answers!  At least, I was, but then, I’m easily amazed.  (The earth is moving!  Right now!  Isn’t it amazing?)

Sample chapters:  Why do recipes call for unsalted butter, and then salt?  What’s so great about a cast iron skillet?  If something is “smoked”, is it still raw?  How does a microwave work, anyway?  This book has nothing really to do with Einstein and whoever cooked for him, it was just a clever title to describe the concept of the book, and it won me over.  If you enjoy being in the kitchen, or being in the laboratory, or are just curious about the science of cooking, this book (and its sequel) are must-reads!

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Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

October 15, 2010

My curiosity was piqued by this book because it is about the oldest trends in healthy eating, rather than the most recent.  Fallon bases her cookbook/nutrition text on the first-hand observation of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the world in the 1930s researching primitive peoples who, despite having no access to dental care, had near-perfect teeth.  Not surprisingly, he also found that these same people had very few of the other disorders that plague modern society.  He isolated diet as the primary causative factor, because in each society the native peoples who abandoned their traditional diet in favor of the “western diet” began to suffer the same ills as modern society, including rampant tooth decay.

Price studied peoples on six continents, and from their very different diets isolated a number of nutritional principles that he laid out in his landmark book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  Many of these principles directly contradict our cherished notions of a healthy diet.  For example, no civilization that he looked at was thriving on a purely vegetable diet—all made use of animal products, with the native peoples of Alaska as well as certain African tribes enjoying splendid health on a diet of almost exclusively animal products.

Fallon brings Price’s time-tested principles into a practical context by explaining how to apply his findings on a daily basis.  She presents simple ways to locate in our own society many of the “nutritionally dense” foods of these native peoples enjoyed.  She stresses the importance of the source of your food—pasture-fed and drug-free animal products, for example—and also the importance of the preparation.  For example, Price found that every society which ate grain did so in some kind of soured, fermented, or sprouted fashion, such as sourdough bread.  We now know that such preparation breaks down the phytates in whole grains which are difficult to digest and may contribute to grain allergies.

Carnivores and vegetarians alike will learn a lot from the wide variety of information and recipes in this book.  It is a great resource that has an honored place in my kitchen.

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Heat : an amateur’s adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

June 2, 2010

Okay, I have to admit to being a total food Junkie! I watch more food TV shows than could ever be considered healthy. Though I’ve never seen an episode of American Idol, I’ve never missed an episode of Top Chef or Hell’s Kitchen. My cookbook collection is always threatening to take over my house, and don’t even get me going on how many cooking magazines I subscribe to. There I feel much better!

When I first read the review for this book I was salivating to get a look into what I considered to be the glamorous life of working with a star chef like Mario Batali. Wow was I ever wrong about the glamorous part, working in a professional kitchen sounds like one step away from Dante’s basement.

2006’s Heat is Buford’s account of working for free in the kitchen of Babbo, a New York restaurant owned by Batali. Buford’s premise is that like many of us foodies who consider themselves to be a capable home cook and have wondered if we had the skills to work in a busy restaurant kitchen. He met Batali at a dinner party and asked him if he would take on Buford as his “kitchen bitch”. Buford begins his time at Babbo in a variety of roles including dishwasher, prep cook, garbage remover and any other role demanded of him. Over the course of the book his skills improve and he is able to butcher a hog and work any station in the restaurant. Buford travels to Italy to meet cooks and chefs who were critical to Batali’s early culinary development, as Buford works and lives in some of the places Batali honed his craft.

What really surprised me about this book was Buford’s no holds barred approach to writing, there are no disclaimers that we are used to seeing in Biographical works and Buford dishes the gossip with abandon. I was expecting a thorough trashing of Batali, but instead was treated to a look at the behind the scenes world of a star chef, who really has the training and heritage to be as good as he is presented on TV.

Great book to read on vacation, but be warned this book will make you ravenous!

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