Love Chinese food but are intimidated by the thought of cooking a cuisine so different from what you grew up with? Looking for some family-satisfying meals that go beyond chicken and hamburgers? Kylie Kwong provides just the help you need with Simple Chinese Cooking.

Starting out with detailed descriptions of equipment and ingredients unique to the Chinese kitchen, Kwong presents recipes by ingredient – beef, pork, chicken, tofu, vegetables, noodles and wontons, etc. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful color picture; if more detailed preparation techniques are required, the recipe is accompanied by a series of step-by-step black and white photos. The book finishes with a chapter on “Eating Chinese-Style” (just exactly how do those chopsticks work?) and menu planning.

This lovely, encouraging book will have you enjoying Chinese food right from your own kitchen in no time.

The “breath” of a wok is the steam that rises from a sizzling hot finished dish. This charming cookbook takes a slightly different approach to Chinese food by focusing on the wok and its recipes. In addition, there is a history of the wok and it’s importance (central to so much Chinese cooking), the construction and manufacture of woks and advice on buying and seasoning a wok.

While many of the recipes are familiar, there is also a wide range of fresh ideas, gathered from a variety of people including chef Michael Yan, writer Amy Tan and Young’s own family, and range from beginner friendly to master lessons.

Practical, smart and fun, The Breath of a Wok will have you cooking confidently with a wok in no time.

Stepping beyond the familiar Chinese cuisines, Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid explores the flavors and foods of the outlying areas of China, including Tibet and Xinjiang in the far west of the country. Authentic recipes, gathered by the authors over a series of visits to China over the past 20 years, are “translated” for the Western kitchen (no need to go looking for camel meat!)

However, this is much more than a cookbook; stories of the adventures and people that were met along the way are scattered throughout the book. The photography is spectacular – there are the usual mouth-watering close-ups of delicious dishes, but there are also sweeping views of the landscape, intimate portraits of the people, and a careful recording the customs and practices of this distant land.

Part cookbook, part travel book, part cultural education, Beyond the Great Wall will feed the soul as well as the body.

Eat better, help save the planet and support your local economy – you can do it all in one place, all at the same time simply by visiting and shopping at your local Farmers Market.

You’ll eat better because you’ll know exactly where you food comes from, often the food is organically grown, and usually it has been harvested within the last 24-48 hours so it’s incredibly fresh. You’ll help save the planet by buying locally, cutting the use of fuel (and the resulting pollution) caused by transporting produce hundreds of miles. And you’ll support your local economy by buying from area farmers – people who are probably your neighbors.

Lucky for us, the Quad City area is home to a lot of Farmers Markets making it easy to find one close by. This week (August 3-9) is National Farmers Market Week, a reminder to get out there and see what your local growers have to offer. August is a great time to shop at the Farmers Markets – corn, tomatoes, zuchinni, beets, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, onions, herbs of all kinds not to mention gorgeous flowers such as sunflowers and zinnias – are all in great abundance now.

Not sure what to do with all of that bounty? Check out these books for fresh, easy recipes designed to make the most of this wonderful season.

Outstanding in the Field: a Farm to Table Cookbook by Jim Denevan

The Farm to Table Cookbook by Ivy Manning

Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes by Jeanne Kelley

Summer on a Plate by Anna Pump

Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets by Deborah Madison

Sometimes non-riders will ask, “How much weight did you lose on RAGBRAI?” They’re missing the whole point! Probably a more accurate question is “How much weight did you gain?” If nothing else, RAGBRAI is a food-fest. To really experience it, you have to sample it all. If you’re riding, or if you’re just looking for some vicarious enjoyment, here’s the top five RAGBRAI foods:

1) Corn on the cob. It’s put on a stick and dipped into a crock-pot of melted butter. This is Iowa – we grow corn. Those cornfields aren’t just for emergency potty breaks!

2) Grilled pork chops. These are at least an inch-thick and freshly prepared over huge grills made from livestock watering tanks. They can be served at any time of th day. I’ve eaten them as early as 8:30 in the morning – they actually make a pretty good breakfast!

3) Fresh, cold watermelon. Okay, we do eat some things that are healthy. This is a real treat on a hot afternoon. It is kind of messy, but fellow bikers don’t mind when you spit your seeds.

4) Beer. Kegs are readily available and a cold one really does taste good at the end of the day’s ride. Yes, there’s a party atmosphere, and some do overdo, but most riders want to make it to their destination first!

5) Pie. My favorite! I learned on my first RAGBRAI that if you didn’t hit the first town before 10am, the homemade pies would all be gone. Trust me, when you’re cycling this long, you deserve some extra carbs and nothing tastes better than a slice of freshly made apple pie. Or cherry, or peach, or….

Mmmm, sounds like the perfect picnic. If you’d like other ideas for good old-fashioned Iowa farm food, try these country cookbooks available at the Davenport library:

Prairie Home Cooking by Judith Fertig

Up a Country Lane Cookbook by Evelyn Birkby

Favorite Recipes from Iowa’s Bed and Breakfasts by Ann Crowley