Vegetables, Schmegetables!

I’m not a fan of vegetables. I blame this on my mother who, bless, mostly fed us green things that came in a can or were previously frozen. Her preparation methods included throwing them into a huge pot of boiling water, or…wait, that was pretty much it. No wonder my aversion to the green stuff carried over into adulthood.

I must say that my husband has done wonders to turn my hatred of produce into something closer to toleration. I’ll probably never love vegetables, but I’ll eat them when they’re steamed, broiled, sauteed or roasted. It turns out, the way you make them really changes how they taste.

Lately, I’ve been trying to add more veggies to my diet for a variety of reasons. But sometimes, when I’m in the grocery store, I see vegetables I either don’t recognize or I have no idea what to do with the ones that seem vaguely familiar.  I’d like to expand my repertoire (I’m sure my husband wishes for that, too), so I’m going to take out a bunch of magazines and cookbooks to find some inspiration. We have plenty of great items at the library to look through.  Maybe someday I’ll even be able to claim that I “love” veggies. Cross your fingers.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in knowing more about in-season vegetables, I came across a great website that has everything clearly laid out. And Then We Saved not only shows you what to buy right now, but to understand that by buying in season, you’ll save money!

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Now, if I could have someone come to my house to make everything for me!

Eat Your Book!

With all the controversy around ghost writers  and cookbook authors, this is timely.  How about a cookbook you can eat!

Photo by Korefe

Gerstenberg Publishing House has come up with an edible cookbook. Each page is a sheet of pasta, embossed with the idea that using the book will make a delicious lasagna.  Since this is in German, people are saying it doesn’t actually include the instructions on how to make it, but the idea is fun. (The goodness really is baked right in!)

It’s really quite pretty, each page designed with art in mind (and hopefully, food), and you can see the entire group of photos right here.  Would you buy this book for yourself, or someone else?

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

For all of our Canadian followers and patrons of the library, Thanksgiving weekend is just around the corner.  Don’t forget that we have plenty of magazines with great ideas for decorating your table, new recipes and fun crafts for the kids while the adults sit and chat over pumpkin pie.  If you’d like to try something new at your dinner, there are so many wonderful cookbooks available….desserts, gluten-free recipes, vegetarian, pot-luck ideas and more!

If you drop in now, you’ll have time to prepare your shopping list and get everything ready for next weekend.   I made these little pilgrim hats and bonnets for one of our display windows, but you could make life-sized versions to hand out to the kids before dinner. Fun!

Gobble gobble!

Will it look like the picture?

A lot of people enjoy reading cookbooks.  Yes, I’m one of them.  I read them from cover to cover and if I never make a recipe from a pretty new cookbook, it’s okay.  I just enjoy going through the recipes and looking at the pictures. But sadly, not all cookbooks have pictures. However, I came across a wonderful website that incorporates both drawing and cooking, if you can believe it.  It’s called They Draw & Cook.

The brother and sister illustration team of Nick Padavick and Salli Swindell have done countless magazine layouts, but the idea to illustrate food came out of Padavick’s love for cooking and Swindell’s chance drawing of one of his recipes. They realized how fun it was to draw food and put together this great website. 

You can search by random recipe, or choose something based on ingredients.  Each recipe is creatively illustrated and makes you want to give it a shot. You can submit recipe ideas yourself, or just follow their blog to see the things they’re working on.  This is a fun site that you’ll want to return to over and over.

What’s that flavour?

This past weekend, with all the snow falling, it felt like a great time to make some comfort food.  I happened across a recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine for Beef Bourguignon Soup and I dashed to the store and bought the ingredients.  While the soup was tasty (after several additions to bring in some more flavour), it wasn’t what I had expected.  Would I make it again?  Probably not, although it was the perfect type of meal for the weekend, it got me thinking about another book that I read about  recently, The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit.

What is this book exactly?  It’s not a cookbook, but rather a book that explores flavour pairings.  Segnit realized one day that she always relied on recipes while she was cooking and was never adventurous enough to come up with new ideas (and didn’t really know how). We’ve all seen chefs on TV whipping up fantastic creations with items that we’d never think to pair together, and it often makes me wonder how they know.  Do they learn this is cooking school?  Is it just instinct?  Or is there some scientific formula that makes for great pairings.  Seems that it is a little of everything.

When I first read an article on this book, a seasoned chef reviewed the work and praised its simple ideas.  He raved about how this could transform everyday cooks into world-class chefs if they gave it a chance, and claimed that he would have breezed through his Cordon Bleu cooking school classes if he had known even half of these pairings.  so what exactly does Segnit do here that is so new?  She takes 99 basic flavours (strawberry, coffee etc) and researched just what would pair with them best.  Sometimes, the pairings are traditional ( bacon and egg) but more often, she explores the nontraditional pairings like mango & avocado.

This isn’t a cookbook in the traditional sense, although there are recipes intertwined throughout the pages (many complaints about this being confusing, but she doesn’t market this as a cookbook). It’s a reference book, done in the non-traditional fashion with plenty of anecdotes and history about her choices.  It might be a great book for someone who likes to cook, but be warned that it isn’t for someone without some cooking knowledge.

If you’d like to read more about the book, you can stop here.

There are plenty of links to articles about this book and reviews, so surf around if you are interested in finding out more.  I’m going to order myself a copy, I think.  If it revolutionizes my cooking, I’ll be sure to gift this book to several of my foodie friends.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jun/27/flavour-thesaurus-niki-segnit-review

Cookbooks…do you like them?

I read a lot of cookbooks.  Yes, from cover to cover, for the most part.  There is nothing like a shiny new cookbook filled with beautiful glossy pictures of the food you can create with the recipes inside. To me, it’s almost like Christmas going through the pages.  What will I find?  Will I discover a new recipe that I just can’t live without?  The possibilities are wonderful!

So, when I came across a blog entry today from the Allen County Public Library in Indiana, I was fascinated!  A book club for cookbook lovers! The group meets and discusses one new cookbook a month and the results are posted on their blog right here. They talk about what they liked and disliked about the cookbook, the photographs and even how the author writes.  They also sampled a couple of recipes from the author’s blog (although I’m sure they were also found in the cookbook). This is a nice change from regular book clubs, who probably don’t do much more than a bowl of chips for their refreshments (okay, I’ll probably get a few arguments here, but you get the point.)  This form of book club also offers a variation on a cooking club where members meet and bring (or make) several recipes and discuss what they liked or disliked.

If you’d just like a few new cookbooks to look at, we’re always putting out new ones on our shelves (cookbooks are some of the most popular books in the library!). Some of the more recent ones that I’ve looked at and enjoyed, either for the recipes or the pictures or both, are:

Araxi : Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant by chef James Walt

This cookbook is a new Canadian offering and has wonderful pictures and exotic recipes (although I think many of them could be made at home). The pictures here are clean and well presented, making the food enticing!  You can also see more of this cookbook here or visit the Araxi website here.

Ghoulish Goodies by Sharon Bowers

Here’s a fabulous idea cookbook for that one special night! I’d purchased this book for the library quite some time ago, but I made myself wait until just recently to catalog it so I’d be in the mood. I’m working on Halloween Craft Night ideas, so this was perfect to take home and devour!  The recipes are simple and extremely creative and there are lots of ideas for your Halloween party or just dinner on that night.  The fun thing about this is the section at the back which gives you a few ideas about what to do with recipes once Halloween is over (fall themes etc.).  They also have a great website with many of their recipes posted.  I especially like the idea of candy corn pizza (not really candy corn) but they have a few really great ideas!

And finally:

Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum

I have been thinking about Christmas baking, merely thinking about it, but I took this cookbook home for a little inspiration and I think I’ll take a few recipes from the book and try them this year.  Most of the recipes in here are very standard, so you can’t go wrong but there will be something for anyone who is looking for a new idea. Traditional is always best at Christmas, or so my husband tells me. Beranbaum has a super website filled with recipes, videos and lots of great ideas!

Have you read any great cookbooks lately?


Let’s all write a cookbook!

A short editorial article in a magazine I read recently was written by a self-professed foodie.  She considered herself a foodie way back in the 80’s when foodies weren’t even really foodies as we know them now.  She was amazed that back then, you could host a dinner party and make “duck a l’orange” and you’d impress your guests with your unbelievable cooking knowledge.  These days, as she noted, you have to be MUCH more skilled in the kitchen and use many exotically paired foods in order to impress because everyone seems to have a bit of culinary knowledge. (As she puts it, even the kid working at the hardware store knows something about goji berries.)

She went on to describe the fact that these days, not only must you have some great culinary skills and be knowledgeable about many types of food in order to truly consider yourself a foodie, but you must also now be environmentally skilled, growing your own herbs, raising your own fowl and buying only free-range, grass-fed, organically produced meat.  Essentially, you must now be a farmer as well as a chef.

This article was funny, if only because I have been thinking this more and more lately as well.  Anyone who knows me understands my love for the Food Network and all things food related.  But I have also been noticing this strange fact that just merely purchasing food these days is not enough, even if you use all the ingredients and make something from scratch.  (Okay, so I didn’t quite make it to the local farmer’s market this summer at all and one of the organizer’s pointed that fact out to me a week ago at the grocery store!)

One of my favourite TV chefs is Gordon Ramsay.  I know that he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but my husband will watch him with me and that makes him great in my books!  He has three different types of food-based shows on tv and they are all a little different and may appeal to various types of people. Hell’s Kitchen is your typical reality show, with a group of chefs who compete to see who will earn a job in one of Ramsay’s restaurants.  This is by far the most brash of the shows, and he uses a lot of profanity, but you get the sense of how difficult it must be to work in a restaurant.

His 2nd show is called “Kitchen Nightmares and this one finds Ramsay traveling to various parts of the world to rescue restaurant owners who are floundering.  He can still be quite harsh here, but the sheer spectacle of some of these restaurant owners and workers is worth it.

And last but not least, The F Word, takes us into the workings of a restaurant, but you also learn a lot about his life, family and food itself.  It is creative and light and usually quite fun.  This is where it gets me thinking though.  In the first season, he raised turkeys into the fall in order to use them in his restaurant for Christmas dinner.  Now, he is raising pigs.  Pigs?!  Really, who could do this?  Not your average person, and it makes you feel a little inferior that you aren’t trying when it seems so “easy” and makes for the best food.

Of course, Gordon Ramsay has many cookbooks, and the latest one to arrive in our library is called Cooking For Friends.

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I must say that I tried a few recipes out of this cookbook and while they were good, they weren’t anything spectacular.  If you eat peanut butter sandwiches every day for every meal, then the recipes in here will blow you away.  But if you like to cook and go to restaurants with good chefs, this cookbook will probably only just please you.

And now his wife Tana has her own cookbook!  I don’t think my husband would want me writing a book about fiber optics, no matter how much research I did on the subject because it would only make me look like I was trying to ride his coattails.  So why has she written this cookbook?  It is her third actually, and she uses recipes that she cooks in her home.  This book is for the home cook with easily found ingredients and easy instructions. Her motto is that you shouldn’t cook separate food for children, but rather, make the same food you would for adults, only on  a smaller scale and on a simple level.

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So, even though she is not a trained chef, she does most of the cooking in her household and wanted to share her skills with the rest of the world.  What makes her special?  Why couldn’t anyone write their own cookbook?  Time and cost, more than likely.  It takes a lot of time to develop new recipes and it costs to purchase the ingredients each time you run a trial.  Of course, you could always publish your own cookbook of favourite family recipes through a site like Shutterfly and give copies to everyone at Christmas, but it just isn’t the same, is it?

What do you think of all these cookbooks flooding the market?  Which ones do you like best?