Oven to Table

I love a good cookbook and the library is the perfect place to ‘test drive’ a new cookbook!

In order to be a ‘must have’ in my kitchen a cookbook needs to be loaded with recipes that I can make for my family – recipes that fit our tastes, are doable, use ingredients I can find in my local food store and don’t leave me elbow deep in sudsy water all evening.  With Oven to Table, Jan Scott gives readers 100 easy to make, tasty recipes, complete with beautiful and enticing colour photos, that use only one pot, dish or pan.

Scott’s writing style is approachable as she describes different pans, required utensils, foods to keep stocked in your kitchen and her tenets for ensure successful one-pot cooking. She clearly identifies vegetarian, gluten-free, kid-friendly and make-ahead dishes as well as those that are better suited when you have more time and don’t have to quickly feed your small humans before shuttling them to evening activities.

I made a few of the recipes in the book and all were fantastic. They included:

  • Smokey Corn and Cheddar Chowder with a side of Honey, Thyme and Cheddar Skillet Cornbread
  • Goat Cheese and Dill Hash Brown Quiche
  • Roasted Red Onion Party Dip

Overall, this is an impressive cookbook that I look forward to using often. One pot/pan recipes speak to the mom in me who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning up after a meal. I love cooking but washing dishes? Not so much. With its enticing colour pictures and clear instructions, this cookbook will inspire home cooks to whip up these delicious one-pot dishes for the important family meal.

— Laurie P.

NOTE:  I’ll be discussing this cookbook (and several more – including my favourite fiction and nonfiction reads) in my upcoming Books and Baking program on Monday, May 13th at 2:00pm at the John M. Harper Branch. Registration for this free program opens online May 6th.

Headin’ South

My Mum is a big fan of HGTV. Not that she is taking on any home renovations but she loves to see what other people are doing with theirs! As for me, I’m more apt to be watching something on BBC-Canada or a DVD borrowed from the library, so when I stopped by one day and Mum was watching a program starring Joanna Gaines, the name was new to me. Checking Instagram later, I discovered that I’m obviously in the minority as Gaines has 9.2 million followers!

In one of those funny happenstances, not long after this I was given a copy of Magnolia Table : a collection of recipes for gathering by Joanna Gaines with Marah Stets. I’d never heard of Joanna Gaines and now here she was, popping up in my life twice.

Gaines, who describes herself as “Wife. Mom. Renovator. Designer. Shop owner. Homebody.” has a number of businesses in Waco, Texas along with husband Chip. They opened their first “Magnolia Market” in 2003 but closed it later as they focused their energy on raising 5 children and expanding their construction company. In 2014, she turned her attention back to Magnolia.

The book looked just beautiful. There was a mixture of images taken around the Gaines’ farmstead and photos of delicious, traditional meals. Apparently this cookbook sold almost 170,000 copies the first week it hit bookstore shelves.

IMG_20181125_1548242I first tried the Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies. They were easy to make and pretty tasty although I have better shortbread recipes, I must say. I forwent dipping them in chocolate and instead used a little leftover icing from another bake and a bit of jam to create little sandwich cookies. My husband liked them…but didn’t love them.

I decided to try a second recipe. I had chicken thawing for dinner and thought I’d use Magnolia Table to create something different. I have to say, many of the chicken recipes were either fried or seemed to require cream cheese, heavy cream or Velveeta cheese. Now, I’m not the most virtuous eater but these rich dishes weren’t what I was looking for. The Almond Chicken Tenders sounded good and I had all of the ingredients in my pantry already.

I simplified the instructions, lightened up the amount of butter and oil, and ended up with a very tasty dish. The coating was light, the flavour from the almond flour was wonderful and the lemon juice added a brightness to the chicken.

While it is an attractive cookbook, I can’t say it’s personally a keeper for my own collection. Besides real BBQ (which I leave to the masters like the folks at Lancaster Smokehouse) I’m not a big fan of southern cooking. I am sharing Gaines’ recipe for the Almond Chicken Tenderloins below but with my own twists. However, if you want to go full-on Southern with this recipe, borrow the book from WPL (there’s just a short waiting list), buy it from your favourite bookseller or you could WIN my copy.

— Sandi H.

WIN “Magnolia Table”

2018-THE-MAGNOLIA-TABLE-COOKBOOK-1_1024x1024To have a chance at winning my copy of “Magnolia Table”:

Follow WPL on Instagram @waterloolibrary

Like the post about “Magnolia Table” with the comment “I love my library.”

The random draw will take place on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

The winner will need to pick their prize at WPL. Good luck!

Almond Chicken Tenders

½ c almond flour
½ c all purpose flour
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 ½ lb chicken tenders, thawed
2 tbsp salted butter
4 tbsp olive oil
½ c sliced almonds (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
Dried parsley (optional)

Combine dry ingredients and put in large ziplock bag. Add tenders to dry mixture. Seal bag and shake until coated.

In no-stick pan (I used a deep, electric skillet and set it at 325F), melt butter and add oil.

Add chicken (throw away leftover coating) and cook until done. Remove to serving platter.

Add lemon juice and almonds to pan. Cook, stirring continually with spatula, scraping everything together, for 1 minute. Pour over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Boil, Boil, Toil, and Trouble

Preserving the Harvest Without all the Hassle

I grew up on a farm and by this time of year the shelves in our cellar were filled with colourful rows of canning jars while bushel baskets brimmed with apples, pears, potatoes, turnip and squash. Upstairs, our freezer was filled with family-sized bags of beans, peas, carrots and corn from the garden. My parents (and kids once we were old enough) worked together to make our harvest last longer. I loved hearing the “pop” of mason jars as they came out of the canning kettles and cooled on the counter, and watching cucumbers change into the pickles seemed like magic. However, preserving all these fruits and vegetables also seemed like a lot of work! Thankfully, WPL has a large selection of books that make canning, preserving, freezing, fermenting, and storing fruits and vegetables manageable and foolproof.

The canning books at WPL explain everything involved in food preservation, such as pectin, acidity levels, the equipment you need, and the steps to follow to prevent bacteria from ruining your efforts. Each of these books have different tips and recipes. Here are my favourites:

  • Ball is a huge brand name in canning supplies. Their book Ball Canning: back to basics: a foolproof guide to canning jams, jellies, pickles & more explains the whole canning process in simple terms. The book also includes chapters on fruit, fruit butters and sauces, and tomatoes. Each chapter begins with a list of what you will need, tips, and the steps to follow. There is also a “problem solver” and a chart for metric equivalents.
  • Preserving: the canning and freezing guide for All Seasons by Pat Crocker is a beautiful book containing over 500 pages of recipes and information. I especially like that this book is divided by season. You might think the season for many fruits and vegetables is over but there are more than 200 pages for fall and winter produce!
  • The Canning Kitchen: 101 simple small batch recipes by Amy Bronee has a colourful picture for every recipe. I really liked how the author explains the whole canning process in the first few introductory chapters.
  • Foolproof Preserving: a guide to small batch jams, jellies, pickles, condiments & more by America’s Test Kitchen is full of colourful pictures showing you exactly how the food should look at different points throughout the process.
  • Canning & Preserving: 80+ simple, small-batch recipes by Good Housekeeping also includes some recipes to use with their preserved items, such as “Sour Cream-Vanilla Pound Cake with Rhubarb Compote” or “Reuben Macaroni and Cheese.”
  • For those who prefer to watch someone else does canning before trying it themselves, check out the DVD Homestead Blessing: the art of canning. The West Ladies teach the basics of canning equipment and storage, offering advice, tips and tricks.

Freezing is another way to preserve your harvest. The Best Freezer Cookbook by Jan Main provides general tips for freezing, as well as what types of packaging to use, how long items keep, and how to better organize your freezer. It also teaches you how to freeze fresh fruits and specific types of vegetables. This book includes a chart for a whole month of meals, and all the recipes are included.

Fermented vegetables are not only another great way to preserve food but they are full of probiotics and nutrients, help digestion, and support our immune system. Fermented Vegetables: creative recipes for fermenting 64 vegetables & herbs in  krauts, kimchis, brined pickles, chutneys, relishes & pastes by Christopher and Kirsten K. Shockey teaches the science behind fermentation and the tools needed. The Shockeys also wrote Fiery Ferments: 70 stimulating recipes for hot sauces, spicy chutneys, kimchis with kick, and other blazing fermented condiments.

Karen Solomon’s Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It : and other kitchen projects goes beyond preserving just fruits and vegetables. Solomon’s chapter entitled “Spoon It” includes recipes for cornflakes and puffed rice. The “Stock It” chapter has recipes for vanilla extract and Worcestershire sauce.  And another chapter, called “Bake It”, has recipes for bagels, pizza dough, and cakes in a jar with “Stalk It” chapter shows you how to make corn tortillas and chips.

WPL also has books for keeping your harvest in cold storage. Root Cellaring: natural cold storage of fruits & vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel explains what types of fruits and vegetables keep well and at what temperature and humidity levels. The authors describe the different types of storage that are possible, how to plan your own root cellar, and how to prepare the items to help prevent spoilage. Recipes at the back of the book will help you use the inventory you’ve stored. The Everything Root Cellaring Book: learn to store, cook, and preserve fresh produce all year round by Catherine Abbott covers the same topics as Root Cellaring and also has lots of recipes. However, this book also includes information on how to dry foods and herbs, as well as chapters on canning, preserving, and freezing.

If you didn’t have time or space for an edible garden this year, don’t despair!  St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market always has plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables plus visiting the market is a great way to support our local farmers. I encourage you to take your favourites from the garden, market or store, and browse our collection to find the preservation recipes you will enjoy in the cold months to come.

— Sandy W.

 

Eat A Little Better

When a book promises a behind-the-scenes look at something I find it irresistible. If the author is telling me that the secrets they will provide will be about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue then I never miss reading that book. It’s a tempting mix – the White House and secrets. One of my favourite cozy mysteries is top of this list partially due to the way that the author made her series seem authentically set in an atmosphere that is notoriously hard to get any information about. It’s just too good.

The White House Chef series by Julie Hyzy is one of the most enjoyable cozy mysteries on our shelves. Her books are action-packed, funny, with a supporting cast of sous chefs, fussy West Wing staffers, and gruff secret service agents who make the White House feel like a real community you want to return to in each book, despite constant murders and kitchen chaos. Hyzy includes recipes for a “complete Presidential menu” at the end of each book and the details about the high pressure life serving the First Family make this one of my favourite choices to read or recommend.

However, I was truly thrilled when I read that a real White House chef for the Obamas, Sam Kass, was publishing his own cookbook. A chance to really learn about the daily work life of one of the White House chefs? Sign me up!

This cookbook, Eat a Little Better, is more than just recipes – it is inspirational. Sam Kass is gently encouraging us to try and eat better, adjust the way we shop for food, arrange our pantry and think about how this will change our world. And the very best part of his message is that he writes the whole book without using guilt or making it seem like his suggestions are easy to accomplish. I was relieved that Kass acknowledges that very few families can quit eating brownies altogether and that he, as a former advisor to the First Family, couldn’t make that happen. Even Michelle Obama wasn’t able to make her kids listen to her so how can we be expected to make magic happen when people walk into the house after school and work, claiming that they are ‘starving’? Instead Kass suggests that there be a balance between the healthy choices and less healthy choices for everyone and outlines how that can happen in his book. It’s the idea that we can all eat a little better that is so appealing.

t1larg.elmoThe recipes in the book vary in difficulty but there weren’t many that seemed overly daunting. Kass is realistic in his expectations of us. I like Sam Kass. He even spent time with the gang from Sesame Street – you can look this up. He did forget to include a chapter on desserts in Eat a Little Better which I found disappointing. He mentioned that Barack Obama was a fan of pie but neglected to include many stellar recipes for that favoured choice. Do you remember how Barack’s performance in the first presidential debate in 2012 was a little lackluster but in the second he seemed to turn up the heat on Mitt Romney? It seems that it wasn’t the days of reported prep work in Virginia that gave him the extra fire. According to the story in this book, Kass asked Obama what he wanted to eat (and he was ready for anything, having packed a variety of ingredients to take along and cook in a tiny kitchen on Air Force One) and made him exactly the right meal for crushing the competition. He liked it so much that he cooked it for him again on election night making it “lucky pasta”. If there is one recipe you try from this cookbook it has to be this one – not to mention it is chock-a-block full of wonderful stuff – garlic, spinach, basil, pine nuts, chicken – and then it will be your family’s lucky pasta. It also makes a tasty leftover so you can take it to work the next day and impress your friends by saying you are eating President Obama’s favourite pasta.

The real highlight of the recipes for me was the last grouping, where he organized beans and grains into different seasons in an attempt to encourage families to add them into every meal of the year. His inventive suggestions for using up pantry staples will make so many busy weeknight meals (and lunches!) easier. I know that I am going to be checking this practical cookbook out so many times over the next few months and will love it even more when September hits.

Sam Kass began cooking for the Obama family long before they moved into the White House. It’s really hard to say which is a more challenging meal to cook – one for a family with a parent who is the leader of the free world or a meal for one who is working 24-7 trying to get that job. This cookbook is actually an opportunity to learn a bit about how the food that they ate and how they connected over meals was a part of what kept that family strong during challenging times. He started on the journey of being more conscious of the impact of food when he worked as a senior policy advisor for nutrition in the White House and as the executive director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and he includes that journey in this book making it a little bit like an autobiography.

Kass was an important part of the work that Michelle Obama did when she created a kitchen garden on the South Lawn. This was a controversial decision at the time but it allowed them to invite thousands of children and adults into the space and let them see how food is grown instead of seeing it come in glossy packages from the local supermarket. They chose to go even further by using that produce in state dinners, advancing to add honey production to the garden and eventually creating more than one White House beer while they were in office. Since leaving the White House Kass has continued to work on initiatives with Michelle and Barack Obama. If you wanted to fall into an inspiring Internet rabbit hole you could check out what he is up to now – he is hard to keep up with.

We might not all have kitchens with the same accoutrements as Sam Kass, have the opportunity to entertain heads of state (or Elmo) but we can all try some of his recipes, learn from his research, and enjoy reading about the real life of a White House Chef.

— Penny M.

It’s All About Pi(e)

We live in a great city for celebrating Pi Day (March 14). I’m not entirely sure when the idea to full-on celebrate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter began but any celebration is a good thing and I love this one.

Each year we are surrounded by celebrations of 3.14. The University of Waterloo marks the occasion in multiple faculties as do groups at Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College and our Main Library’s neighbours, the Perimeter Institute. It’s everywhere and it’s so much fun.

There’s no shortage of people in Waterloo who might feel inclined to get involved in the classic “How many digits of Pi can you recite?” contest and I’m sure that they don’t need to be convinced to enjoy sweet or savoury pies in a tribute to the day.

When I think of Pi I must confess that I think of pie and this in turn gets me thinking of some of my very favourite music. On the WPL shelves we have one of the most beautiful CDs from American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. It’s full of gorgeous songs that she created for the 2015 Broadway musical, Waitress. Just put it on repeat. Once you get started you won’t be able to stop singing along and thinking about friendship, family, love, heartache and baking. Great news too! The Mirvish theatre schedule includes a production of Waitress for summer 2019.

You can also borrow the 2007 movie that the musical is based on. The film has a fabulous cast – Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion – and seems like a standard Southern rom-com (one character is even named ‘Earl’) but it has so much more depth. Treat yourself to a generous slice of pie and some time watching The Waitress.

Should you actually want to learn how to bake your own delicious pie, we have many books to offer you recipes and guidance. You could select a classic cookbook like Joy of Cooking or pick something a little more modern like Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s The Home Cook: recipes to know by heart. I have read that she includes a personal favourite in there called “dark chocolate rum pie”. Oh. Yum.

So, whether you want to sing, eat, bake, or learn more about the magic of Pi, we will be happy to help you celebrate – and maybe we’ll sing you a song too.

— Penny M.

Beautiful coffee table books

Did you know that we have fantastic, monster-sized books that you can check out to take home and admire? This is not the technical name for the books, in fact, we tend to call them ‘oversize’ books around here because they don’t fit on the regular shelves very easily. We actually put them on special shelves that you can browse when you are in the mood to look at spectacular books like these – convenient! These books are gorgeous works of art and can feature a wide range of topics, like worldwide travel in Destinations of a Lifetime, lavish photographs and recipes in Thai Street Food: Authentic Recipes, Vibrant Traditions or contain amazing photographs of the galaxy in Cosmos. Don’t forget we also have an amazing assortment of huge atlases that you can take home to spend some time with when you are planning your next adventure or just reminiscing about one from the past. These books are beautiful ways to connect with the world, using your library card.

In the old days we would call this kind of book a coffee table book because people would leave them scattered about on their coffee tables so that when someone would visit their home would look extra impressive. I do know, from the world of Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, that decorating with books has become a sensitive topic lately. Many, many librarians and bibliophiles that I follow online took to picking on poor ‘Lauren’ because of an image that circulated indicating that ‘she’ shelved her books with the spines facing inwards. This, naturally, would make it very hard to find the book anyone wanted on a shelf, but it seems it had a uniform look that suited her decor. Well, people were not kind to Lauren online and the hashtag of #backwardsbooks was born and I spent a fair bit of time looking at the funny comments and articles. Here is the original image of ‘Lauren’s shelves that I scooped from someone I follow on Twitter.  I don’t think she would be able to find anything in a hurry.

Neutral bookshelf

I just purchased a wonderful new coffee table book after being swept away by one we have in the collection here at work. Actually, it isn’t the first time I’ve fallen for a book on this topic or even the first time I’ve written a blog post about the topic either, because my beautiful oversized book is about Barack Obama. Other books I have loved about him include his own – Dreams from My Father: A story of race and inheritance (I loved hearing about his early years as a community organizer) – one from his former deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco called Who thought this was a good idea? : And other questions you should have answers to when you work at the White House and Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years which was written by a chief speech writer who never truly won me over but I did find his behind-the-scenes access riveting.  So, why would I break down and actually purchase a book when I can just take one from the shelves of this grand public institution whenever I like (well, as long as the book isn’t currently checked out by another customer)? Well, Obama: An Intimate Portrait is, page after page, an inspiring look at eight years of moments that inspired and changed the world. The author, Pete Souza, was the official White House photographer and had access to every moment of this incredible presidency. He was present for each of the hills and valleys that Obama, his staff and family were living through. It’s a time capsule his time in office – of the situation room, the Rose garden, the Oval office, landmark meetings with international leaders – but it is also filled with personal moments and small kindnesses. When we had the library’s copy at home we would pore over each page and look at it like a photo album (which is really what it is) with lovely captions written by a man who was there, by Obama’s side, every day. We would say things like “I remember this!” or “Hey, come look at this one!” and then look at the photographs together. So, I think it’s worth spending the money to have this book on our coffee table because as decorative as it may be it is also inspiring and extraordinary. You can be sure that we won’t be displaying it with the spine facing in.

-Penny M.

 

In good health

One of my favourite things about working in the library is the treasures I find shelving or among the returns in the book chute. Many times, my interest is captured by an item I would never have thought to search the catalogue for on my own. Hot Detox, by Registered Holistic Nutritionist Julie Daniluk, is new to the library and one of my latest finds. The title hooked me right away, and when I quickly flipped through the book I found lots of beautiful photographs and healthy-looking recipes.

Later, at home, I discovered whole chapters dedicated to cleansing toxins from your “gut”, liver, lymph system, kidneys, lungs and skin. Julie Daniluk, who is also the author of the Meals that Heal Inflammation and Slimming Meals that Heal cookbooks, explains how she suffered from colitis and joint pain for years until she began to experiment and eat foods that reduced inflammation in her body. In Hot Detox, Daniluk takes her experience and learning even further, by using warming spices in all the recipes, traditional Ayurvedic practices from India, and medicinal techniques from China. Hot Detox provides a 3 day, 10 day, or 21 day detox plan, each complete with suggested menus.

I decided to try the 21 day detox. In the first 9 days of the plan (Phase 1) you are weaned from gluten, dairy, refined sugar and caffeine. This sounds way worse than it is!  I did have a bad headache for a couple of days, which Daniluk suggests could be caused by shifting hormones or toxins, dehydration, or caffeine withdrawal. Phase 2 of the detox (days 10, 11, and 12) eliminates animal products and relies heavily on liquids. Phase 3 allows you to choose whether you want to remain vegan or reintroduce animal products again. There is also more of a focus on rebooting and nourishing all the systems in your body.

I have to say I really surprised myself!  Not only did I stick to the plan, but I didn’t feel hungry or have cravings. I tried lots of new-to-me foods, such as hemp hearts, chia seeds, coconut flour, and coconut milk. My whole family found the supper recipes to be especially good, and some even provided leftovers for another meal. I think the only recipe I really didn’t like was called Detox Rocket, which was a smoothie that included boiled beets. Other members of my family, who are counting calories, didn’t like the fact that the detox recipes do not include a nutritional breakdown. To save money, I went to Bulk Barn to get only the amounts I needed of ingredients I wasn’t sure I would use again after the detox, rather than buy them in big bags at Goodness Me or the grocery store. Some of the recipes also require additional preparation time, so I either chopped up ingredients in advance, or tried the recipe on a day that wasn’t as busy.

I lost 12 pounds on the 21 day detox plan. People ask me, “But how do you FEEL?”  Other than the obvious answer, “I feel great!  I lost 12 pounds!” I think the biggest change happened after the detox was over, when I ate a cookie a friend had made. One small taste of refined sugar and I felt very sick for several hours. This has only given me more incentive to carry on, and I have now borrowed Meals that Heal Inflammation and Slimming Meals that Heal. All three of Daniluk’s books are available at the Main Library, and the John M. Harper and McCormick branches.

Hot Detox has been shortlisted for the Taste Canada Cookbook Awards 2017.  Daniluk, who lives in Toronto, has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, is a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show, and hosts The Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).  Daniluk’s blog, free recipes and video cooking classes can be found on her website at http://www.juliedaniluk.com.

-Sandy W.

 

Best school year ever

I’ve stopped actually saying these words out loud, “this is going to be the best school year ever”, but I still secretly think them.  And every year I start planning for making it the best school year ever by looking at books from the library that will help me to better organize our home or cook the perfect meals and snacks that will  help to tamp down the chaos.  This year we will have two kids in high school so you would think that I have either pulled my act together by now or raised the white flag and given up.  I have not.  Every July I begin again with fresh enthusiasm and new books – I just don’t say the words aloud any longer as I have teens at home and they make fun of me.

Although I didn’t use this book for planning for the new school year it did turn out to be a real treat to have at home over the summer.  When the kids were just hanging around it was nice to have this one on the kitchen counter for them to flip through.  They never did grab a cutting board and try any of the more ambitious chicken recipes but the ones that involved ingredients we have in the pantry or fridge were popular, like DIY Hummus (so much less expensive and delicious than the one from the grocery store) and the variations on plain cheese quesadillas.  It also inspired  them to request a few trips to the store for meals that we hadn’t tried before which is what I always ache for – someone please suggest something new for dinner.  This kind of inspiration for a quick and easy meal can come in handy during the busy school season.  A book like this looks like it is made for kids but it can be a perfect choice for anyone.  Give it a try.  We loved it – maybe your kids will use it too.  Or just look at it for a few minutes and give you some moments of peace while you are cooking.

Some years I have become too caught up in making a system out of the back-to-school planning and that has been my downfall.  Well, one of the things that led to my downfall.  There are several problems in trying to make it the best school year ever and one is taking the fun out of it.   In times of trouble like this it is always a good idea to turn to Jenny Rosenstratch, blogger and author of three lovely books about food and life.  Her most recent book, How to celebrate everything, reminds us that there are little moments to treasure in the busy days of getting meals on the table, even on Thanksgiving.  She also gives great tips on how to cope with all of the regular events that come at you in a school year – bake sales, Halloween, sleepovers, birthday parties and making the perfect celebration cake.  Jenny’s book will give you the inspiration to cook beautifully when you can manage it, love your family, enjoy your home and sneak in a few treats once in a while.  And, she reminds everyone to give yourself a break during the school year so you can rest easy with less pangs about what might have been.  Good-bye guilt!  Oh, and if you are having trouble sleeping any night, just turn down the brightness on your device and spend some time with Jenny on her site right here – http://www.dinneralovestory.com

Speaking of great sites you might want to puruse here is a sensational Canadian one to love.  The Sweet Potato Chronicles authors (former magazine editors) have spectacular images and recipes on their site and came out with a cookbook in 2013 that just rocked my world.  I can’t keep track of the times I have checked out this cute cookbook with the image of a little plastic giraffe toy on the cover.  Well, just in time for the 2017-2018 school year they have given us their version of a best school year ever cheat sheet.  It is a little thin on the planning side of things but it more than makes up for it in valuable recipe suggestions broken into sections that work for most families – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and treats.  Within those sections they have been sensible enough to know that every family has challenges in a busy week so they include make-ahead meals.  Snacks are broken into two sections – one that can be enjoyed at school another for those that need to be enjoyed at home where food allergens are not a concern.  However, their Chocolate snack balls are incredible, look like Timbits but are filled with pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, sunflower seeds, oh my.  Not a nut in sight so eat them at home and at school.   It’s a colourful cookbook with practical suggestions that are relevant to the Canadian market.  I just love it.  They might be a little impractical in suggesting that we will all clean out our pantries and replace the containers with lovely matching jars but they are magazine editors so we can forgive them for thinking that we might ever find that possible.  I am trying to get through a school year here,  I don’t have time to find matching jars.

One simply gorgeous book I found when I was trying to streamline our planning for the ‘new year’ is this 2017 release from a former recipe tester from Saveur magazine.  Personally, I would like to be a taster at Saveur, but I don’t think that is a real job and I looked very carefully at their web site just to be sureIn any case she has put her skills to good use in One pan and done : hassle-free meals from the oven to your table and the title does not lie.  She provides some of the best instructions I have ever seen and, something I rarely see in cookbooks, she does this with a fantastic sense of humour.  The recipes are diverse, from cozy classics to things you would see in a hipster café, but she admits that some of the things she has included weren’t popular with her family at first or that she had to tweak them as she went to make them more family-friendly.  This sounds familiar.  We have made several of the meals in this book – including the cover recipe – and, they looked nothing like the pictures but were so popular at our house that I have actually written them onto recipe cards so that I can make them again.  Just imagine.  This doesn’t have the cachet of being a book marketed to families – there are no toys displayed on the cover – but it will make the cook in the family happy and save you time.  That makes everyone happier, I think. 

Okay, I’ve changed my mind.  I’ve read some fantastic books, I’ve made some good plans, sourced some new ingredients, tried many great recipes and I have the weight of hundreds more on the shelves to back me up.  I’m saying it – this is going to be the “best school year ever”.

-Penny M.

To Buy or Not to Buy

I very rarely buy books.  Why ever would I? Every book I want to read is here in the library so I just check it out or put it on hold and then check it out.  When my loan period is up I bring it back to the library for safekeeping and I know I can come and get it again when I need it.  It’s just the best system ever.

I am occasionally tempted to buy a book though if it is particularly beautiful to hold in my hands.  For example, just a few weeks ago there was a fantastic book about the history of card catalogues, called The Card Catalog : books, cards and literary treasures, published with a foreword by Carla Hayden (you should really check out her Twitter account – she is @LibnofCongress – it will make your day), and I so enjoyed reading that book and then flipping through the gorgeous pages again that it seemed like it might be worth having to keep.  But, I didn’t buy it.

Once in a while I find a book so charming that I check it out of the library more than once and then I think that it might just be worth it to buy a copy to save myself the trouble of coming in to check it out over and over again.  Then I remember that it isn’t really that much trouble.  It’s fun to come and find it on the shelves again and really, since I am reading it for the second or third time, is it really a rush job anyway?  No.  So I don’t buy that book even though it meant so much to me. This has happened a few times, especially with novels written about books or booksellers.  Like with Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  Really sensational books.

Well, in this summer’s list of Featured Titles I have found a book that is making me think I might change my ways.  This might be the beginning of a whole new me.  Feast: recipes & stories from a Canadian road trip is an outrageously beautiful cookbook that extends beyond that genre into coffee table book-style with photography that will knock your socks off.  Maybe you will put it in your kitchen or maybe you will leave it artfully displayed in your living room to impress visitors?  It is that stunning.  The authors, Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller, decided that they would spend the summer of 2015 traveling across our country to write about Canada’s food, culture and the wonderful people they would meet.  They have done this in a way that includes recipes, of course, but also has a warmth and sense of spirit that you don’t expect in a cookbook.  The idea of ‘road trip’ comes across just as strongly as the food does.  They are in love with our country and they write about it with such passion.

downloadThe recipes in Feast are wonderful, of course, and are broken down into regions and also into sections like “grazing” and “cheers”, and the instructions included with each one are very clear.  I like clear directions with my recipes and they have done so every time.  It’s comforting and encouraging, it’s absolute perfection.  They photograph each recipe and also include images from the places that they visited to source those foods and that is where the true beauty of our country shines.  This is one of the rare cookbooks where you won’t skip a single page.  Say you find that an individual recipe doesn’t suit your family, maybe you are vegetarians and you won’t be interested in the Slow Cooker Moose Stroganoff, but you will want to read all about how they came to meet chef Roary MacPherson, who gave them that recipe.  It’s 304 pages of great reading and it just happens to have beautiful photographs and incredible recipes.

I brought the book home, slowly turned the pages and called out to my family about the things that caught my eye like “bannock!”, “sausage rolls!”, “come look at these chickens!”, “holy cow, they went to Churchill and had apple fritters!”  Generally my kids don’t love it when I do this but I did wear them down and they had to come to see what these two cookbook authors were up to.  It’s beautiful from the first page, from the cover.  You can, by the way, read the whole story of how they got to the final decision on the cover of their book on the website that they maintained as they traveled across the country.  Check it out at edibleroadtrip.com

Their adventure began on their blog and they continue to update it with lovely posts about food and travel.  It’s inspiring, vibrant writing and a wonderful way to get to know more about the two women who created this incredible book.  I’ve seen many Canadian-themed cookbooks before, as I am sure so many WPL customers have, but this one stands out because they aren’t just talking about food, they are talking about our country with humour and cheer.  They cover many of the foods that you think that someone might in a typically Canadian cookbook and introduce you to people in bakeries, restaurants and communities across the nation while they do it.  I’m going to buy my copy and return this one for the shelves now.  I hope that this doesn’t start a new personal trend and I just keep buying more books for my home.  Perhaps I should start looking at bookshelf designs? I know that we have some great books on that topic (one nice choice that I’ve found on the shelves is called Bookshelves & Cabinets) if I do.

— Penny M.

 

The truth about food

One of my favourite ways to find new-to-me books and authors is word of mouth. There’s nothing like finding a book based on a friend’s recommendation. The New Farm by Brent Preston is one of those books that a friend strongly recommended I pick up. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader but I liked that the book is set in our local(ish) area and I was intrigued by a big city couple trying to make their mark on the food industry.

I won’t lie, I went into this book humming the theme song from Green Acres but The New Farm is so much more than a story about a couple leaving the big city to start a farm. Preston’s writing is engaging and humorous and he isn’t afraid to show his missteps or naive notions about what it would take – financially, time-wise or personally – to run a successful, organic farm.

He shares the hard truth about where much of our food comes from, how we can and need to do better for ourselves and our environment and how good quality food should be available for everyone, no matter their socioeconomic standing. Throughout the book he weaves in the social, economic and environmental aspects of the food we eat. He stresses that it’s important to know where our food is coming from and how it has been treated from the very beginning and that we need to insist on better food for our health and the sustainability of our food industry and environment.

This book is well paced and you find yourself learning about sustainable farming, the good food movement, immigrant workers in Canada and so many other important issues all within the framework of a humorous and entertaining read. You don’t have to have an interest in organic farming or know the difference between a rutabaga and a turnip to enjoy this book. This is a story about a family who wanted to do better and did. The Prestons challenged the food industry, small farming, who has access to organic food and much more.

I have a new understanding of our current food industry and a greater expectation for quality, safe food for my family. I now wander the food store and wonder where and how this head of lettuce or potato was grown. I want better food and plan to take better advantage of the local farmer’s markets near me and even inquire about a local Farm Share.

I’m so happy that I picked up this book. It is inspiring, educational, funny, honest, important and has helped to remove the blinders I’ve had about the food that I buy. Even though the issue of successful, sustainable organic farming feels like a huge challenge Preston shows that it is possible.

–Laurie P.