NOTE: Central Library will close at 6 pm tonight to begin Summer Hours. (The library will reopen for tonight’s 7 pm author visit.)

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Staff Picks: Books

Christmas Joys: Decorating, Crafts & Recipes

Procrastination or planning ahead? I would love to say that I am already planning for next December’s holiday season but since those of you who know me are already laughing – let’s just say that I am enjoying looking through the book, Christmas Joys: Decorating, Crafts & Recipes by Country Living.

This book is divided into sections: Very Merry Decorating; Wonderful Gifts to Make; Recipes for Celebrations.

My favorite section is the decorating portion. Most of the homes are of course country in style and the decorations carry through on that theme. Natural greenery, pinecones, ribbons, candles and trinkets from the past add to the simple yet “just right” looks for the season. Decorating includes every room of your home plus outdoor spaces. There is something for everyone and you can do as much or a little as you like and works for your home.

Included with the gift section is how to wrap your gifts, an added plus. Recipes look amazing and not too complicated to make. The photographs are the draw to this book. Even if you don’t read the text, you’d be able to have a Country Living Christmas Joy. I love this book and plan to look at it more than once, especially since I have a least a few months before the holiday rush begins again!

 


Awesome desserts with 5 ingredients or less!

 Oh dear, dear, dear. I shouldn’t have opened this one! Lazy cake cookies & more by Jennifer Palmer (McCartney) is a fantastic little find! All desserts in this book are 2-5 ingredients and all nice basic things that you’ll either already have at home or can easily pick up. Plus, they all sound amazing…Oreo cheesecake cookies, Chocolate toffee cookie bars, Chocolate hazelnut pie…Beautiful color pictures showcase each tasty treat. A great book for someone who wants to make people-pleasing desserts without all the fuss.

 


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!