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Staff Picks: Books

The American Plate

Here I am again, the library's non-cook, writing about a cookbook. But, this one is so much more than a book of recipes. As the subtitle indicates, it's 'a culinary history in 100 bites.' Not only are recipes included, but also background information on the ingredients and on the way the people who prepared and ate these foods lived. Bite 59 is celery, and Kalamazoo is mentioned for its role in the early production of that commodity. Bite 41 is entitled 'Lincoln's Favorite Cake' and has the recipe for 'Mary Todd Lincoln's White Almond Cake,' which is to be served with cherry ice cream. Now doesn't that sound tasty for a warm August day? Not only does this 2014 book cover historic foods that I wouldn't even consider eating, like eel (even though my ancestors did eat it), but more recent developments such as TV dinners and microwave popcorn. It's obvious that an incredible amount of research went into this book, and it's good for reading straight through or casual browsing.

5 ingredients 15 minutes: 125 speedy recipes


Summer makes me think of wonderful things to eat, with all the fresh local produce available to us. There are so many summertime activities to participate in, though, particularly outdoors, that I don’t want to spend a lot of time inside cooking and preparing food.

That’s why a new title, 5 ingredients, 15 minutes; 125 speedy recipes caught my eye. The title uses recipes from sources like Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and Country Living. There are quick and delicious ideas for salads, sandwiches, pasta, desserts, and chicken (including already prepared rotisserie chickens.)

So- you can eat well, and spend less time in the kitchen this summer. (or anytime, for that matter!)

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

Full disclosure, I am far from a vegetarian. But I do like good food, have passing interest in eating healthier, and I’m a big fan of everything that America’s Test Kitchen does, so when I saw that America’s Test Kitchen had released a new cookbook, The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: a fresh guide to eating well with 700 foolproof recipes, I put my bias for animal products to the side and checked it out. There are recipes here to suit any mood, time, or flavor interest, and having them vetted by the impossibly thorough cooks at ATK means that you can basically turn to any random page and find something great. What I truly love about this cookbook is the “why this recipe works” section that is included with each recipe and offers the home cook some pointers about technique, ingredient selection, or intangible things that the ATK testers discovered are helpful in executing the recipe as designed. I’ve only made one of the recipes so far, a curry lentil soup, but I’m happy to report that it was easy to follow, the tips offered made total sense, and the soup itself was delicious.

International Cooking @ KPL

Peru : the cookbook is one of the most beautiful books I've seen come across my desk here in the cataloging department at KPL. The recipes inside are as beautiful and mouth-watering as the rainbow-colored cover. If you are adventurous in the kitchen and like to try cooking foods from other cultures, check out KPL's international cooking section, call number 641.59 (2nd floor). The numbers are further divided out by country/region.

Some popular ones are:
French, 641.5944
Italian, 641.5945
Greek, 641.59495
Chinese, 641.5951
Japanese, 641.5952
Indic, 641.5954
Middle Eastern, 641.5956
African, 641.596
Mexican, 641.5972
American, 641.5973
African-American, 641.59296

To find in the catalog, search the subject heading “Cooking” with a comma, then the region -- for example, "Cooking, French" or "Cooking, Japanese."

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Here's a 2014 book that I probably would have passed by if I hadn't seen a review of it which told of the author's connection to Michigan. Subtitled 'A Memoir of Food & Love from an American Midwest Family,' it's a collection of brief stories and recipes by Kathleen Flinn, who grew up near Flint. The stories are about her rural upbringing as half Irish and half Swedish, but the food descriptions and recipes she includes would transcend several nationalities. Some of the recipes are for foods I grew up with as well, such as the apple crisp and oatmeal cookies. For a retrospective on Michigan rural culture and cuisine, try this one.

Chickens in the Road

This Spring I read Farm City by Novella Carpenter, one of two titles that were picked for the “Reading Together” program that the library sponsors with several other organizations in the community. The book was thoroughly enjoyable and told of the author’s attempt to become an “urban farmer,” as she lived in downtown Oakland, California. Since I liked this topic so much I decided to seek out other books where people are doing the same in going back to the land and becoming self-sustaining.

My next choice was a book entitled Chickens in the Road by Suzanne McMinn. The author was previously a romance writer who after a divorce moved with her three children to rural West Virginia where some of her other relatives had lived and she had visited the area many times growing up. She depicts her struggle in adjusting to being a full time farm owner where everything she raised, crops and animals, were either eaten by her family or sold at the market.  Of course there were many struggles along the way; a partner who stopped paying his share, building a brand new home on a rather precarious piece of land, many roads that continuously flooded, and the overwhelming amount of nonstop work. When that farm was no longer manageable, she sold it and bought one more suitable to her. Through her can-do attitude and a great sense of humor, she is now not only a successful farmer, but conducts workshops at her farm for others wanting to learn all the skills connected with farming, and she writes an almost daily blog, also called Chickens in the Road, as to what’s going on in her farm life. An extra plus is that there are many wonderful pictures of the farms and her family. This book was thoroughly enjoyable and you find yourself pulling for her to succeed. And succeed she did!

Carla's Comfort Foods:Favorite Dishes from Around the World

I love looking at cookbooks. A new one, Carla’s Comfort Foods, caught my eye recently. The author, Carla Hall, is currently a co-host on the ABC talk show “The Chew” and is owner and executive chef of an artisanal cookie company.

Especially with fall and cooler weather approaching, comfort foods sound particularly appealing to me. The author has found inspiration from flavors from around the world, incorporated them into new takes on standbys like meats, seafood, soups and grains. She includes a section on vegetarian entrees and desserts, too. Wonderful photos add to the book, and provide incentive for the aspiring cook.

How could you not want to try Dijon Tarragon Salmon, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Black Bean Empanadas, or Salted Peanut Chocolate Pudding Tarts? Let the cooking and eating begin!

Isa Does It Again

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a familiar name to many vegans; she’s written a number of vegan cookbooks, including the classic Veganomican, an essential recipe collection and culinary guide for those who avoid cooking with animal products, and she has a popular website focusing on vegan baking and cooking, Post Punk Kitchen. Her latest cookbook endeavor is Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildy Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, and let’s just say I’m in love. Isa Does It is chock full of over 200 delicious and easy-to-make recipes, highlighted by beautiful photos and charming illustrations. As with all her recipes that I’ve made, I’ve found them to be fairly quick (between a half-an-hour to an hour to make) and layered with complex flavors. This is a great cookbook for people who aren’t vegan, too; as a vegetarian, I find I’m occasionally disappointed by vegan cookbooks because they use a lot of uncommon ingredients or dairy replacements that I wouldn’t want to buy. Isa Does It relies on fairly common ingredients, making it a great choice for not only vegans, but also for vegetarians and for omnivores looking for ideas for “Meatless Mondays.”


Isa Does It


Some Good, Some Not

Here I go again. The library's non-cook is writing about a cookbook. But, the historical aspect of this book is what attracted me to it. There are 100 recipes here, one for each year from 1901-2000, included by 100 different chefs. To give the readers of this blog a flavor (pun intended) of what's in this book, I'll list a few of the recipes: 1909 - Baked Alaska; 1910 - The Comet Coupe (in honor of Halley's Comet that year); 1932 - "The Sun Also Rises" Punch; 1945 - Original Brain Tapioca Ambrosia (not the brain one thinks with, but because of the invention of the ENIAC computer); 1952 - Geraldine's Maryland Crab Soup; 1976 - Firecracker Fourth of July Beef Ribs (to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial); 1979 - Meatball and Potato Pizza. Some of the 100 sound delicious; others I would never consider touching. But I think that's how it would be for anyone looking at any recipe book, not just me. Clever and fun idea - yes. Good photos - yes. Bon appetit - maybe.


The way we ate : 100 chefs celebrate a century at the American table

The heart of the plate: vegetarian recipes for a new generation

I love cookbooks. I just enjoy looking through them, even if I never make any of the recipes. With Mollie Katzen’s newest cookbook, though, I can almost guarantee that you will want to try some recipes. The book is called “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a new Generation”.

The recipes I tried were delicious and used ingredients that are easily available. The pictures alone are enough to make you want to get started ASAP, and you really don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate the recipes. I don’t usually buy cookbooks, but this just may be an exception!


The heart of the plate: vegetarian recipes for a new generation