Have you been languishing waiting for Ireland to produce a chef as healthy and good-looking as Jaime Oliver? FINALLY that wait is over! Let me introduce you to the young, Irish chef/blogger Donal Skehan, aka “Ireland’s answer to Jaime Oliver” (as stated on the cookbook’s cover), who appears to be an expert at creating simple and cozy recipes that make me want to curl up in a country cottage and watch him cook for me. Just kidding! Actually, Good Mood Food is one of the few cookbooks that actually made me want to cook. I do not usually enjoy cooking, and probably only checked out this cookbook because I liked the rhyming words in the title, but within a few days of having the book on my kitchen table I discovered I had made Perfect Parmesan Parsnips! What happened?! I just don’t do things like that! Soon afterwards I found a Bacon Avocado and Sundried Tomato Sandwich in my hands. The recipes are so easy and the photographs so lovely that I couldn’t resist. Yup, this Donal Skehan guy is good. Check out his blog at: www.donalskehan.com.
In my quest to find all fiction books set in Savannah, Georgia and low country South Carolina, I have found Mary Kay Andrews. She is a wonderful author and these three books about Savannah are the funniest I have read. The characters are Eloise “Weezie” Foley and BeBe Loudermilk, best friends to the end.
Landing a catch like Talmadge Evans III got Eloise “Weezie” Foley a jewel of a town house in Savannah’s historic district. Divorcing Tat got her exited to the backyard carriage house, where she has launched a spite-fest with Tal’s new fiancé, the elegant Caroline DeSantos. BeBe owns a restaurant in town, and Weezie makes pies for her. An antiques picker, Weezie combs Savannah’s steamy back alleys and garage sales for treasures when she’s not dealing with her loopy relatives or her hunky ex-boyfriend. But an unauthorized sneak preview at a sale lands Weezie smack in the middle of magnolia-scented murder, mayhem . . . and more. Dirty deals simmer all around her — just as her relationship with the hottest chef in town heats up and she finds out how delicious love can be the second time around. There are not recipes in this book, but it does introduce you to Weezie and BeBe.
In this eagerly awaited sequel to Savannah Blues, Southern belle BeBe Loudermilk loses all her worldly possessions thanks to a brief but disastrous relationship with the gorgeous Reddy, an “investment counselor” who turns out to be a con man. All that’s left is a ramshackle 1950s motor court on Tybee Island-an eccentric beach town that calls itself a drinking village with a fishing problem. Breeze Inn is a place where the very classy BeBe wouldn’t normally be caught dead but, with no alternative, she moves into the manager’s unit, vowing to make magic out of mud. With the help of Harry and BeBe’s junking friend Weezie, she soon has the motel spiffed up and attracting paying guests.Then there’s a sighting of Reddy in Fort Lauderdale, and BeBe decides to go after him. She puts together a posse, and with the irrepressible Granddaddy Loudermilk snoring in the backseat of the Buick, heads south. The plan is to carry out a sting that may be just a little bit outside the law but that, with any luck at all, will retrieve BeBe’s fortune and put the dastardly Reddy in jail where he belongs. The recipes in this book are for Breeze Inn Crabcakes and Blue Breeze Cocktail… Yummy
It’s the week before Christmas, and antiques dealer Weezie Foley is in a frenzy to garnish her shop for the Savannah historical district decorating contest, which she intends to win. Weezie is ready to shoot herself with her glue gun by the time she’s done, but the results are stunning. She’s certainly one-upped the owners of the trendy shop around the corner, but suddenly things start to go missing from her display, and there seems to be a mysterious midnight visitor to her shop. Still, Weezie has high hopes for the holiday—maybe in the form of an engagement ring from her chef boyfriend. But Daniel, always moody at the holidays, seems more distant than usual. Throw in Weezie’s decidedly odd family, a 1950s Christmas-tree pin, and even a little help from the King himself (Elvis, that is), and maybe there will be a pocketful of miracles for Weezie this Christmas Eve. The recipes in this book are for Foley Family Irish Corned Beef Dip and Red Roosters, a Christmas-y cocktail.
And so it begins – the time of year when, at every opportunity, we find an excuse to eat something special and delicious, a time also known as “the holidays”. (If you’re really serious about this, you start at Halloween and extend it at least until Super Bowl Sunday, maybe Valentine’s Day!) Food is often a popular theme of many books and movies, from Julie and Julia to Like Water for Chocolate. This week our blogging librarians clue us into some of their favorites. Lexie gets us started with a movie that’s sure to become a classic.
Not only are the holidays a great time for food, they’re also a great time for family togetherness. In that spirit, I highly recommend the Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille. It tells the story of a rat named Remy who loves food and coming up with new concoctions made from whatever he can find lying around. When he stumbles into his cooking idol’s restaurant, he strikes up an unusual friendship with the garbage boy, and together the two cook up amazing creations and bring the vitality back to the failing restaurant.
I might be an adult, but Pixar can still do no wrong in my eyes. You definitely don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this movie. It’s really an inspirational story about achieving your goals despite your shortcomings and the things that stand in your way. It’s got comedy, a little romance, and….well, a rat cooking, which sounds gross but is done in such a cute way that I don’t mind. As long as it’s not happening in any restaurant I eat in, of course.
Those of us of a certain age (ahem) can remember the last time fondue was all the rage. Suddenly fondue pots were the hot gift and fondue parties the way to entertain. Like most fads, this one faded away and the fondue pots disappeared into attics and the back of cupboards. Well, you might want to go looking for that nearly forgotten relic – fondue is back and this time it intends to stick around.
Of course, fondue never really went away – it’s a traditional meal in Switzerland dating back maybe as far as the 16th century (there is some disagreement on this) – but partly due to the returning emphasis on “slow food” and the importance of sitting down to a meal with family and friends, fondue is popular again. Not Your Mother’s Fondue by Hallie Harron is just the book to reintroduce you. The basics – cheese, sauce, oil, broth and dessert – are all covered, many with fresh, fun twists and a wide range of dippers are suggested. There are also some thinking-outside-the-box ideas such as Minnesota Corn Dogs on a Stick Fondue and even a Thanksgiving Day Fondue! Of course, the best part about fondue, even beyond the delicious food, is the way it brings people together. Start a new tradition with your family and friends with great fondue meals!
I’ve always struggled with trying to lose weight while still eating the delicious (and often fattening) foods that I love. It got a little easier when I discovered the Hungry Girl cookbooks, written by “Hungry Girl” Lisa Lillien. Her books Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World and Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories contain recipes for the foods we already love, but made in a more healthy way. They’re also pretty easy to make; Hungry Girl’s recipes don’t contain a ton of ingredients or steps, so they’re not too difficult for someone like me whose preferred cooking steps are 1) Preheat oven 2) Insert frozen pizza. I’ve tried out a few of her recipes so far, including the Krispymallow Treats and the Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla, and they were great! I even made her recipe for a cupcake baked inside an ice cream cone for my family and they didn’t realize it was a “diet recipe”.
The Hungry Girl books contain more than just recipes. Lilien has also made lists of products to use to make your cooking lighter and a series of “Survival Guides” for how to eat out at restaurants without gaining 10 pounds per meal. Now that I’ve tried a few recipes and trust Hungry Girl’s directions, I might even try some of her more ambitious recipes, like the Kickin’ Chicken Tortilla Soup and Fiber-ific Fried Chicken Strips. If you want to lose weight but don’t want to give up your favorite foods, I suggest checking out the Hungry Girl books to see if she has a solution. I’ll bet she does!
Hey – here’s an idea! Let’s combine two great party ingredients – alcohol and cake – into one! The result is the fun-filled Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine and Beer by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone and a guaranteed good time for everyone.
Cakes range from the traditional that your grandmother might have made (well, your grandmother maybe, not, unfortunately, mine) such as English Trifle and Black Forest Cake, to cakes based on cocktails. The emphasis here is on fun – cake shots! – and tasty. Recipes are easy to follow and most include 2-3 variations. Also, each cake includes information on how much alcohol remains after baking – lightweight, feeling it and totally tipsy – as well as suggestions for appropriate special occasions and accompanying cocktails.
Of course, you will need to bake responsibly when including alcohol – you’d have to eat a lot of cake to get tipsy (although I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility) but you should be considerate of teetotalers and those with alcohol issues. The real goal here is to have fun, in the kitchen and with friends.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks is an unique combination of cookbook and sociological essay. Ree Drummond got sidetracked on her journey from L.A. to Chicago, when she stopped in Oklahoma and met the cowboy who was to become her husband.
The photographs of horses, dogs, cowboys and rainbow straddled fields are sometimes cute and funny, sometimes striking and romantic. They alone make you want to pack your bags and move to a ranch out West.
The recipes are clear and simple, and each step is accompanied by a photograph. They are not definitely not for someone looking for low-fat or low-cholesterol meals. However, if you go to her blog, http://thepioneerwoman.com, you’ll find a “Cowgirl Food” category with dishes like lettuce wraps and sundried tomato pasta salad. Drummond actually got her start as a blogger, and both the book and blog are breezy, personal and easy to digest.
By now, if you planted a garden this spring (perhaps with a bit of help and advice from the library), your kitchen counters are beginning to overflow with tomatoes and zucchini. Even if you didn’t put in a garden (or had some bad luck with the weather or pests), the Freight House Farmer’s Market is a treasure trove of gorgeous, fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Here are some new cookbooks to help you get the most out of the harvest.
Homegrown by Marta Teegen. This charming book is loaded with lots of information, clearly and concisely presented. Not sure when to pick the eggplant? Wondering what to do with all that Swiss chard? Reach for this book. Recipes and practical growing tips make this a winner.
More Vegetables Please! by Elson Haas and Patty James. Squeezing more vegetables into your diet can be fun and delicious. You’ll find lots of kid-friendly recipes here that are packed with nutrition and flavor.
Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison. OK, maybe your tangerine tree hasn’t started producing yet, but the Farmer’s Market is filled with the summer bounty of peaches, raspberries, melons and apples. Fruits of all kind take center stage in dozens of tempting recipes.
Part travel guide, part cookbook, the best word to describe this gorgeous book is “stunning”. Koto: a Culinary Journey Through Vietnam is filled with beautiful photography, mouth-watering recipes and an eye-opening look into this complex and distant land.
Beginning with a thoughtful overview of the long history and diverse cultures of this beautiful nation, the authors then bring us to contemporary Vietnam where they lived and taught for two years. Divided into seven main food regions, the book provides a dish by dish journey through the long, skinny country. Recipes are relatively simple – very few take up more than a page – and where necessary have been adapted to the Western kitchen with ingredients that are available in most Asian supermarkets.
To page through this book is to immerse yourself in another culture on a delightful – and delicious! – journey of discovery.
Admittedly, we’re probably a several weeks away from harvesting from our gardens, but it doesn’t hurt to start planning early. And what better (or more fun) way than to look through cookbooks? After all, you might never have even considered planting brussels sprouts until you see Keith Snow’s “Brussels Sprouts with Mornay Sauce” in his Harvest Eating Cookbook. OK, maybe you’re still not considering growing brussels sprouts, but you get the idea – grow what you like to eat.
Taken in part from Snow’s PBS series, this book features delicious, simple recipes – none takes longer than a page to describe – using seasonal local ingredients. Some of those ingredients – avocados, mangos – aren’t exactly locally grown here in Iowa, but there are plenty of fresh ideas for local favorites – asparagus, butternut squash, tomatoes, corn, etc.
Don’t have a garden? There’s a huge variety of beautiful, locally grown produce at the Freight House Farmers Market here in Davenport, held every Saturday from 8am to 1pm and every Tuesday 3pm to 6pm, year round.