We’re lucky here in the Quad Cities to have one of the best ice cream makers in the country right on our doorstep, but there’s nothing quite as sublime as homemade ice cream – sweet and creamy, mixed to your taste with your favorite ingredients. Learn how to take your ice cream up a step into artistry with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. You’ll never look back.

Each recipe in this book has been repeatedly tested by Jeni at home using only¬†readily available home equipment. She shows that unique flavor combinations and creamy consistency are easily in reach. Lots of yummy pictures, friendly practical advice and personal stories make this book a pleasure to read. As well as ice cream, there are recipes for frozen yogurt and sorbets and suggestions for decadent desserts – such as a “Tuscan Sundae” made up of Salty Carmel ice cream, honey and vin santo sauce, biscotti and whipped cream.

Just reading through the names of the flavors is addicting and fun. Who could resist “Baked Alaska Pie Ice Cream”, “Watermelon Lemondae Sorbet” or “Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream”. And though I think I”ll pass on the “Cucumber, Honeydew and Cayenne Frozen Yogurt”¬† and the “Celery Ice Cream”, call me the minute you make “The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World”. I’ll bring my own spoon.

Making Artisan GelatoGelato. If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know how special it is. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about eating it at least once a day during her stay in Italy in Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a bit exotic and deliciously decadent but now, thanks to Making Artisan Gelato by Torrance Kopfer, you can make it at home as easily as ice cream. If you’re concerned about details, gelato is similar to ice cream, but contains less butterfat and has more air whipped into it. The important thing to know is that it’s sweet and incredibly delicious.

The first half of this beautifully photographed book covers all the basics – history, how to choose the best ingredients, equipment (gelato can be made in your ice cream maker), techniques and ideas for combining flavors. Then comes the fun part – recipes! They range from easy (raspberry, pistachio, French vanilla) to moderate (macadamia nut, dark chocolate-orange, espresso) to challenging (caramel, peanut butter cup, chocolate-cinnamon) There are familiar flavors – cookies and creme – and there are more exotic flavors – blueberry lavender. There are also recipes for sorbets and granitas and several decadent toppings and toppings. Through it all Kopfer guides you with a steady hand and friendly voice. Go ahead and treat yourself!

No, we’re not trying to push the start of the Christmas season even earlier than it already is (Halloween is plenty early) We’re just reminding all crafters out there that if you’re going to make any presents this year, the best time to start making them is now. Handmade gifts are probably the nicest, most thoughtful gifts you can give, but they take time. Here are some great resources for ideas and inspiration.

Closely knitHandmade home

Closely Knit: Handmade Gifts for the Ones You Love by Hannah Fettig

Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Soule

Crafty chicaMartha Stewart craftsCrafty Chica’s Guide to Artful Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts by Martha Stewart

pillowcasebag bazaar

Bag Bazaar: 25 Stylish Bags to Make in an Afternoon by Megan Avery

Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase by Suzanne Tourtillot

pizza-grill-it-bake-it-love-itWho doesn’t love pizza? An Italian staple that has been embraced by America and made our own, we consume, on average, more than 46 slices of pizza a year. From deep-dish to exotic toppings, loaded with meat or vegetables only, the pizza can be adapted to any taste, any whim and still be delicious. Now Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough take it up another notch in Pizza : Grill It, Bake It, Love It when they show you just how easy – and scrumptious – homemade pizza can be.

The authors first cover the basics – including in-depth descriptions of different cheeses, recipes for eight crusts and three basic sauces – and then launch into ideas for putting together your masterpiece. Pizzas range from the classic Pepperoni to international Tandoori Chicken to modern Prosciutto and Arugula as well as ten variations of Deep Dish pizza. Weinstein and Scarbrough also provide inspiration for “appetizer” pizzas (including Artichoke, Olive and Feta) and “salad” pizzas (such as Chicken Ceasar Salad)

Our own Frugal Librarian will soon be posting his own tips for making this dinnertime favorite that is both economical and fun – watch this space!

Still looking for the perfect gift? Try making something handmade – it doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming, it simply needs to come from the heart.

You’ll find lots of inspiration in Stitches in Time by Alicia Paulson. Alicia gently encourages you to keep memories alive and part of everyday life through your own handcrafts. For instance, after going to see The Nutcracker ballet with her niece, she created a Clara doll (seen on the cover of the book) Other ideas include taking a child’s artwork and creating a stuffed toy (such as the adorable Molly the horse), making a pillow using family photos or creating a baby’s mobile using cards given at the baby shower. Alicia encourages you to take her ideas and projects and inject your own special touches; for instance, she shows several versions of the Clara doll and suggests that you create your own doll to look like a favorite book character or family member.

Alicia celebrates the domestic and the homemade, urging you to look for alternatives to manufactured perfection. Basic sewing and embroidery skills are all that’s required and clear and detailed instructions are included. The writing in this book is fun too – Alicia writes with a warm and personal voice and you’ll soon feel like she’s a close friend.

Be sure to check Alicia’s popular blog at Posie Gets Cozy where you can follow her ongoing stories of her family and crafts.