13 June 2022

General Fiction on My June Reading List

June is one of the big publishing months of the year. What follows are general fiction titles that caught my attention. Some of these books are perfect for light reading on a hot day by the pool; some are heavier and will make you think.

The blurbs are taken from the publishers' summaries. I've also provided the names of the audiobook narrators.

The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter book coverThe Angel of Rome by Jess Walter (Harper): A stunning [short story] collection about those moments when everything changes—for the better, for the worse, for the outrageous—as a diverse cast of characters . . . [question] their roles in life and [find] inspiration in the unlikeliest places. First line:

Mother was a stunner.
Audiobook: Read by Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan

The Beach Trap by Ali Brady book coverThe Beach Trap by Ali Brady (Berkley): Two best friends torn apart by a life-altering secret. One Summer to set the record straight. First line:
There’s something unique about friendships forged between girls at summer camp.
Audiobook: Read by Brittany Pressley and Imani Jade Powers

The Catch by Alison Fairbrother book coverThe Catch by Alison Fairbrother (Random House): A story of the gifts we’re given over the course of a lifetime—the ones we want and the ones we don’t yet understand that we need. First line:
My father, a minor poet, celebrated holidays out of season.
Audiobook: Read by Julia Knippen

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro book coverDele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro (Knopf): The story of three once-inseparable college friends in Nigeria who reunite in Lagos for the first time in thirty years . . . about mothers and daughters, culture and class, sex and love, and the extraordinary resilience of female friendship. First line:
In the photo they are eating something out of frame, pounded yam, perhaps, or maybe eba.
Audiobook: Read by Tarlye Peterside

Gilt by Jamie Brenner book coverGilt by Jamie Brenner (Putnam): A luxurious and richly compelling . . . novel . . . about a famous family jewelry dynasty and the hidden past that could topple it all. First line:
She reached for her mother's hand, excited and just a little bit afraid.
Audiobook: Read by January LaVoy

Girls They Write Songs About by Carlene Bauer book coverGirls They Write Songs About by Carlene Bauer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): A thrumming, searching novel about the friendships that shape us more than any love affair. First line:
Rose and I moved to New York to be motherless.
Audiobook: Read by Cady Zuckerman

The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand book coverThe Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown): An immensely satisfying page-turner . . . about a summer of scandal at a storied Nantucket hotel. First line:
Nantucket Island is known for its cobblestone streets and redbrick sidewalks, cedar-shingled cottages and rose-covered arches, long stretches of golden beach and refreshing Atlantic breezes—and it's also known for residents who adore a juicy piece of gossip (which hot landscaper has been romancing which local real estate mogul's wife—that kind of thing.
Audiobook: Read by Erin Bennett

The Measure by Nikki Erlick book coverThe Measure by Nikki Erlick (William Morrow): Both heartbreaking and profoundly uplifting, [this] is a sweeping, ambitious meditation on life, family, and society that challenges us to consider the best way to live life to the fullest. First line:
It was difficult to imagine a time before them, a world in which they hadn't come.
Audiobook: Read by Julia Whelan

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan book coverNora Goes off Script by Annabel Monaghan (Putnam): Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, [this] is the best kind of love story—the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life. First line:
Hollywood is coming today.
Audiobook: Read by Hillary Huber

Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins book coverOut of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins (Berkley): A funny and surprising new novel about losing it all—and getting back more than you ever expected. First line:
Six months ago, if you had asked me what I thought I’d be doing today, the answer would not have been transporting a drugged skunk to the house where my soon-to-be ex-husband lived with his much-younger fiancĂ©e.
Audiobook: Read by Xe Sands and CJ Bloom

These Impossible Things by Salma El-Wardany book coverThese Impossible Things by Salma El-Wardany (Grand Central): A paean to youth and female friendship—and to all the joy and messiness love holds. First line:
"Do you think Eid sex is a thing? Like birthday sex, but just the Muslim equivalent?"
Audiobook: Read by Shazia Nicholls

Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrota book coverTracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrotta (Scribner): A pitch-perfect new satirical novel about ambition, coming-of-age in adulthood, and never really leaving high school politics behind. First line:
There was another front-page story in the paper.
Audiobook: Read by a full cast

The Truth About Ben and June by Alex Kiester book coverTruth about Ben and June by Alex Kiester (Park Row): This . . . novel explores the complexity of a modern-day marriage and motherhood, when a new mother vanishes one morning, and her husband must retrace events of their recent past to bring her home. First line:
On the day everything fell apart, Ben awoke to the sound of the baby crying.
Audiobook: Read by Brittany Pressley and Pete Cross

Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore book coverVacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore (William Morrow): A delicious summer read set in midcoast Maine, tackling family secrets, marriage, motherhood, and privilege. First line:
The Greyhound from Altoona, Pennsylvania, to Rockland, Maine, takes twelve hours and thirty-three minutes with three stops, all of them in the places where you don't necessarily want to use the bathroom but may find you have no choice.
Audiobook: Read by Stacey Glemboski

Who You Might Be by Leigh N. Gallagher book coverWho You Might Be by Leigh N. Gallagher (Henry Holt): A fiercely original debut that takes readers from 1990s Southern California to a UFOlogist holdout in Nevada, the graffiti playground of Detroit, and a self-important New York art scene in an unflinching examination of how life’s most unexpected turns—and the people we meet along the way—shape who we become. First line:
Two fourteen-year-old girls, one beautiful and one just okay, are running away from home on a northbound Amtrak.
Audiobook: Read by Aven Shore

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04 June 2022

Two New Vegan Cookbooks (Weekend Cooking)

As promised last week, today's post is all about two recent vegan cookbooks. Though they are both focused on plant-based eating, they have different perspectives.

Book cover of BOSH! on a Budget by Henry Firth and Ian TheasbyFirst up is BOSH! on a Budget, the newest cookbook by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, who are well know for promoting a vegan lifestyle in cookbooks and on their YouTube channel BOSH.tv. Thanks to the publicists for the review copy of this cookbook, which will be released next Tuesday.

Rather than define a certain money limit for what constitutes "budget cooking," Firth and Theasby take a broader view that isn't tied into local food prices and individual resources. Instead, they save money by engaging in batch cooking, eating in-season foods, opting for homemade over convenience food, and cutting down on food waste. The beginning of the cookbook includes several useful features, such as tips for cooking and using up the food you have on hand. Throughout the cookbook are recipes for homemade versions of common ingredients, such as sauces, tofu, and pasta.

My favorite recipes were the salads, soups, and stews, though I really liked the General Tso's Tofu and have several others (like Baked Ratatouille Rice) marked to try. All the dishes are 100% plant based, though many rely on vegan alternatives, especially vegan dairy products. I made and liked the Spanish-Style Stew but must confess that instead of the vegan sausages called for in the recipe, I used the real thing.

overhead photo of vegan shakshukaOther recipes in BOSH! on a Budget take a different approach to mimicking animal-derived ingredients. Look at the "eggs" in the shakshuka (see scan). They look real, but they're actually made from vegan yogurt and a tahini-pepper sauce. Very clever and fun.

I didn't bake from this cookbook, but vegans who are looking for yummy desserts won't be disappointed by the tray bakes, tarts, and cookies. Note that the sweet treats are plant-based but still have gluten.

Beginner and unsure cooks will appreciate the step-by-step detailed style of the recipe directions. Firth and Theasby have your back from prep to serving, guaranteeing that each element of the dish will be ready at the same time.

Recommendation: BOSH! on a Budget by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby will appeal to a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian cooks. The book is especially helpful to new cooks and, of course, anyone looking to save some money but still eat healthfully. Because I'm not a big fan of vegan meat and dairy substitutes, I'm inclined to adapt the recipes to suit our needs. On the other hand, those who are following a vegan diet for any number of reasons will appreciate having vegan copy-cat recipes in their arsenal.

Note: Photo credit: Lizzie Mayson.

book cover of Body Harmony by Nicole BerrieThe second cookbook is Body Harmony by Nicole Berrie, who is the person behind the Bonberi website. Thanks to Abrams Books for providing me with the review copy of this cookbook as part of the Abrams Dinner Party.

Like many other people around the world, Berrie turned to a vegan lifestyle after years of dieting and general food confusion. In the first chapters of Body Harmony, Berrie talks about her lifelong struggles with eating as well as her journey to finding peace and balance in her body and soul. She clearly and frankly talks about her food philosophy and how she is able to "maximize digestion and energy" through food combining, intuitive eating, and making sensible choices, while still indulging and enjoying her meals.

Whether you have similar issues as Berrie's or not, you'll find plenty of delicious eating within the pages of Body Harmony. The recipes are incredibly appealing and easy to make. Few (if any) recipes rely on tofu or soy "meat" products, and almost all of the ingredients are readily available to everyone, even those in a small town.

photo of salad in a wooden bowlAs is often the case, I was drawn to the salads first. I love a good chopped salad and was thrilled to see several included in Body Harmony, such as Mexican Chop, Italian Chopped Salad (yum!), and Joe's Chopped Salad (from a Miami restaurant; see photo). I made the Spicy Roasted Broccoli, the Chickpea Tuna (no tuna involved and delicious), the Creamy Cilantro Rice, the vegan Chopped Liver (see recipe), and the Rigatoni alla Vodka. Recipes I've marked to try include Buffalo Cauliflower, Soba Noodle Salad, Spinach Dill Rice, Lemony Oregano Potatoes, and Simple Massaged Kale Salad with Beets and Avocado.

The recipes were all easy to make and 100% successful. So many of the dishes called to me and fit my tastes and eating style. I also liked that Berrie introduces each dish with a personal story or tips for substitutions or serving.

Recommendation: I like that Body Harmony by Nicole Berrie can be used on a number of levels. For me, it's a source of yummy plant-based dishes to supplement my omnivorous diet. Others will be taken by Berrie's personal health journey and her food philosophy. Vegans and vegetarians will likely give this cookbook a permanent place in their kitchen as a source for easy, delicious, go-to recipes.

Like Berrie, I grew up eating chopped (chicken) liver at almost every family gathering. My fraternal grandmother made the best chopped liver I've ever eaten. Because I have several vegetarian and vegan friends and family members, I was excited to try Berrie's vegan version of a childhood favorite. Note that I didn't have parsley in the house, so I used some torn basil in the photo. The spread is fabulous; the texture and flavor are perfect. Next time I make this, I'll cut the recipe in half or to a third; it made a lot for just the two of us (not that we had any trouble eating it all).

Chopped Liver
vegan pate on a square plate with crackersMakes about 3 cups

  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) avocado oil
  • 1 large yellow or white onion chopped, or 2 cups (420 g) chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 2 cups (150 g) brown lentils, cooked
  • 1 cup (105 g) raw walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and tamari and saute on medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until cooked down. Let cool. Transfer the onion mixture to a food processor or blender and add the lentils, walnuts, and remaining 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of the oil, the salt, and pepper. Blend until creamy. Serve as a dip with crudities or use as a "pate" spread.

Note: The recipe is used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photos are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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28 May 2022

Two New Cookbooks (Weekend Cooking)

book cover of For the Table by Anna StockwellI know summer officially starts on June 21, but here in the States, we consider Memorial Day weekend as the real start of the season. We don't have a lot plans for the holiday, but hamburgers and hotdogs are definitely on the horizon.

Today I want to introduce you to two cookbooks I've been enjoying this spring. Next week, I'll review two new vegan cookbooks.

The first cookbook is perfect for those of us who like to host friends and family for casual dinners but need to figure out how to accommodate a variety of eating styles, allergies, and so on. Anna Stockwell's new cookbook For the Table is full of advice and menus to help you make all your guests feel well fed and cared for, no matter their diet. Thanks to Abrams for providing me with a review copy as part of the Abrams Dinner Party.

Besides recipes, Stockwell offers advice on how to prepare for dinner guests, gives us ideas for conversation starters and games, and provides timeline and prep advice for each menu. Note, too, that every recipe in For the Table is clearly marked as gluten-free, vegan, meat-free, dairy-free, and/or pescatarian. As an added bonus for those of you who are gluten sensitive, every recipe in this book is safe for you to eat because Stockwell herself must avoid gluten.

Photo of chicken on platter and bowls of saucesTo be honest, I'm not generally a fan of menu cookbooks, but For the Table is an exception for a couple of reasons. First, her menus are based on two principal dishes, either of which could stand as the main, though one is generally more protein heavy than the other. Stockwell suggests options for sauces and side dishes and provides a quick recipe or two to accommodate what she calls "other dietary restrictions." Of course, you need not follow the menus to a tee, and I swapped dishes to suit our tastes and needs. Finally, Stockwell tells us when a recipe can be halved or quartered to serve fewer people, so the recipes can be adapted for everyday use.

Here are a couple examples of menus: For winter, serve red wine-braised short ribs with Gorgonzola baked polenta. Round out the menu with a salad and a gremolata. Stockwell offers quick pantry and freezer alternatives for vegetarian or pescatarian guests. One of the summer menus stars za'atar grilled eggplant and zucchini served with a blue cheese and tomato salad. Add-ons include sauces for the veggies and chickpea scocca. Serve a different salad if you have dairy-free and vegan guests.

I made Crunchy Winter Salad (see recipe below), Spring Greens with Fried Dates, Grilled Paprika Chicken with Garlic Vinegar (see my photo), and the grilled zucchini and eggplant mentioned above. I have plenty more dishes marked to try, especially for later in the season when the farmer's markets are in full swing.

Recommended for pretty much everyone. I think gluten-free cooks will especially like For the Table by Anna Stockwell, but really it's a cookbook that most of us will find useful. The subtitle says it all: "Easy, adaptable, crowd-pleasing recipes."

The second cookbook is for all you carb lovers. That Noodle Life by Mike Le and Stephanie Le (of the blog I am a Food Blog) is your guide to all things pasta, from Asian-inspired noodle bowls to lasagna, to mac and cheese. Thanks to Workman for providing me with a copy of this cookbook as part of their Workman Ambassador program.

Stepping beyond just noodle recipes, the Les provide a guide to all the different kinds of available noodles, instructions on properly preparing noodles, and how to top and serve your finished dish. I especially like the features, which are riffs on a type of noodle or noodle dish. For example, the authors give us ten ideas for using various kinds of instant noodles in soups, a section all about laksa, and a fun feature on using lasagna noodles.

The recipes themselves are easy to follow and are fairly inventive. That Noodle Life tells us how to make Oven-Roasted Yakiudon Al Pastor (taco-inspired noodles), Philly Cheesesteak Noodles, Spicy Sesame Chili Oil Noodles (really easy, really good), Garlic-Butter Bucatini with Oyster Sauce, Pumpkin Sage Mac and Cheese, and Wonton Noodle Soup Like They Do in Hong Kong.

photo of a bowl of pasta, a wine bottle, and glassI've made several noodle dishes from That Noodle Life. I admit I was drawn to the quickest, easiest dishes, but ambitious cooks will find plenty of recipes to keep them occupied. Those who are able to get fresh seafood or have a local well-stocked Asian market will find new ideas for serving their favorite ingredients.

Recommendation: If you like noodles, you should give That Noodle Life by Mike and Stephanie Le a try. Vegetarians will find a number of appropriate recipes; vegans and gluten-free eaters will want to look through the cookbook before buying. Visit I am a Food Blog to learn more about the Les and to try some of their recipes.

The following recipe is from For the Table. As one of my fellow Abrams Dinner Party participants said, "It may be called a winter salad, but it's good all year round." I used both daikon and watermelon radishes because the little bit of pink was pretty.

Crunchy Winter Salad
Serves 6; can be halved

  • 1 large or 2 small daikon radishes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 4 ribs celery, thinly sliced on a bias
  • 2 green apples, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup (40 g) loosely packed fresh basil leaves
Place the radish, fennel, celery, and apples in a large bowl of ice water and let sit until ready to serve, up to 3 hours. This keeps everything safe from oxygen exposure, which would cause browning, but the ice also makes everything extra-crispy, so don't skip this step even if you're serving in 30 minutes. When ready to serve, drain and spin dry in a salad spinner if you have one, or spread out on a clean dish towel and pat dry. Transfer to a large salad or mixing bowl. Season with salt, and toss to combine. Then drizzle with the vinegar, and toss to combine again. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the basil to serve.

Note: The recipe and scan are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photo is my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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21 May 2022

Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food by Colu Henry (Weekend Cooking)

cover of Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food by Colu HenryToday’s cookbook made me excited for summer and the prospect of having friends and family over for dining on the deck. Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food, by Colu Henry (which I received from Abrams Books) isn’t just for entertaining, though. I found most dishes will work just fine for the two of us on a weeknight.

The style and feel of Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food is simple elegance. In fact, Henry notes in her introduction that she was inspired by the classic years of Gourmet Magazine. I’m not surprised, since she’s no stranger to food writing. You can find her work in the likes of the New York Times and Food & Wine.

As the title suggests, many of the finished dishes in this cookbook are indeed fancy sounding and plate up beautifully. Still, at the same time, the recipes themselves are true to author's promise: almost all of them are fairly easy to throw together.

It’s interesting that Henry admits she’s no baker, so for the sweets chapter, she called on her friends to “bring a dessert” to the party. I love that she’s confident enough to know her weaknesses as well as her strengths.

overhead shot of cake topped with an orange sliceSome of the recipe and chapter names reflect Henry’s personality: Pretending I’m Vacationing in Italy Salad (cucumbers, mozzarella, prosciutto, fresh herbs, olive oil); Seven Fish, No Feast (the fish chapter); and More Shrimp Than You Think Pasta (shrimp, fennel, chile peppers, herbs, mezzi rigatoni). Others, of course, are straight to the point: Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Asparagus and Charred Scallion-Sesame Salsa, Steak Sandwiches on Buttered Toast with Aioli and Spicy Greens, and Broiled Mussels with Panko and Pecorino.

I’ve made several recipes from Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food, and all were successful and simple to make. For example, we make beans quite often, but found her Pot of Beans, with its fresh herbs and garlic, a welcome change from our usual Tex-Mex versions. We also liked her Sausage, Pepper, and Onions with Melty Caprese, which is a kind of sheet pan dish. Alexandra Stafford’s Orange, Olive Oil, and Almond Torte, which had the perfect balance of tart and sweet, was delicious for afternoon tea and for dessert (see my photo).

The winning dish was the Gingery Lamb Meatballs with Tomato Confit Broth and Seeded Yogurt (though I didn’t make the yogurt; see the scan). I’ll make these meatballs again and again. I used the called-for ground lamb, but I’m sure they’d be just as good with beef or chicken. The Cherry Tomato Confit (see recipe below) was so easy to make, and, according to Henry, it can be popped into the freezer. I plan to make a big batch this summer when the cherry tomatoes are abundant at the farmer’s markets.

overhead shot of meatballs in a tomato brothSome of the recipes I hope to try are the Roasted Squash Soup, Indian-Spiced Yogurt Chicken, Citrus-Braised Short Ribs, Summer Corn Salad with Shrimp, Blistered Green Beans and Tomatoes with Harissa Butter, and Rice Salad for a Screened-In Porch Dinner.

Recommendation: Colu Henry’s Colu Cooks Easy Fancy Food is recommended for cooks looking to spark up their dinner table with not too much effort. This cookbook is also great for those of us who like to use recipes as inspiration, tweaking main ingredients or herbs and spices to use what we already have on hand. While the book includes a number of meat-free recipes, I suggest vegetarians and vegans look before buying. Gluten-free eaters will find many recipes to suit their needs.

The following recipe for tomato confit can be frozen for up to 6 months. The author suggests using it as a base for pasta sauce, to enhance soups and stews, to add to beans, to spoon over cheese on toasted bread, and to turn into a broth by adding stock. Note that I cut the recipe in half and used both thyme and rosemary.

Cherry Tomato Confit
Makes about 6 cups (900 ml)
Time: 50 minutes

  • 3 pounds (1.4 kg) heirloom cherry tomatoes, in a variety of shapes and colors
  • 1 cup (240 ml) virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • kosher salt
  • 8 sprigs thyme or rosemary, or a combination of both
Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Place the tomatoes in two 9 by 13-inch (23 by 33 cm) baking dishes in one layer. Add the oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic and season well with salt. Stir to make sure the tomatoes are well coated in the oil. Nestle in the herbs.

Roast, stirring a couple of times, until the tomatoes begin to burst and the skins begin to look pleasantly wrinkled, 40 to 50 minutes.

Allow to come to room temperature, remove the herb sprigs, and then store in an airtight container, pouring any residual liquid over the top. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

Note: The recipe and scan are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photo is my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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14 May 2022

A Kitchen Miscellany (Weekend Cooking)

Happy Saturday! In today's Weekend Cooking post, I talk about two books and a some delicious bread. Let's start with the bread.

Photo of a box of baked goodsLast month, the company Wildgrain reached out to me to see if I wanted a review box of their artisan sourdough breads and pasta. I did a little research, and saw nothing but positive reviews about Wildgrain's products and services. Now that I've worked with the company and baked their breads, I couldn't agree more.

Here's how their delivery subscription works. For $89 a month (which includes shipping), you receive a box of frozen goodies. A typical box includes three loaves of sourdough bread, two packages of hand-cut pasta, a bag of sourdough rolls, and a bag of croissants. Everything arrives frozen, ready for the freezer. The products are non-GMO and vegetarian, use unbleached flour, and contain no artificial colors.

photo of a sourdough bread loafMy box contained a plain sourdough loaf, a sourdough sesame seed loaf, a sourdough cranberry pecan loaf, fresh fettuccine, fresh tonnarelli, chocolate croissants, and sourdough rolls. One of the really great things about the Wildgrain products is that you bake directly from the freezer. No thawing required. You simply preheat the oven as directed, place the bread directly on the oven rack (croissants go on sheet pan) and wait about 25 minutes for the magic to happen. The hardest part of baking Wildgrain bread is letting it sit for 10-15 minutes so it can cool a bit and finish baking. The bread smells sooooo good, you want to eat it immediately. Okay, so I confess, we did eat the rolls pretty much right away.

photo of chocolate croissantsThe breads and rolls are everything you want from a sourdough: crusty crust with a tangy soft interior (see my photo). The chocolate croissants (see my photo) were to die for. Seriously good and not overly sweet. Both pastas cooked quickly and were every bit as delicious as any fresh pasta I've had.

When I did a price comparison with local artisan bakeries and vendors at our farmer's markets, I found the cost for Wildgrain to be competitive both for the sourdough bread and fresh pasta. The advantage of a Wildgrain subscription is that you have the breads on hand for spontaneous baking.

I noticed on the Wildgrain website that they're currently running a special (free extra croissants for life) for people who subscribe by the end of May. Note that I get no commission if you subscribe. I did get my box for free, but my thoughts are completely honest. We loved our Wildgrain products and also loved the convenience of home delivery and knowing we could have fresh bread, even when I didn't feel like baking myself.

For more information visit the Wildgrain website and read their FAQ. Thanks again to Wildgrain for the opportunity to try their products.

book cover of Good Eats: The Final Years by Alton BrownNext, I want to alert you to Alton Brown's new cookbook: Good Eats: The Final Years. (Thanks to Abrams for sending me the review copy.) I loved Brown's Food Network shows Good Eats and the spin-off shows subtitled "Reloaded" and "The Return." This cookbook is very much an offspring of the television series, with each chapter linked to a specific Reloaded or Return episode.

As you would expect from Alton Brown, the Good Eats cookbook covers practical advice (like how to spatchcock a chicken), food history (all about dates), food science (how milk fat foams), and so much more. The book is amply illustrated with photos from the television set, drawings, step-by-step photos of techniques, and the like.

There is an incredible amount of information in this 400+-page cookbook. I'll turn to Good Eats: The Final Years for answers to my culinary questions and to revisit the special zaniness that Brown brings to his kitchen lessons. I haven't yet cooked from this book, but I want to point out some things of interest. Good Eats includes a recipe for a Gluten-Free Flour Mix (see below), a thorough section on immersion cooking (kind of like, but not really, sous vide), a chapter on sourdough, and a chapter on rediscovered grains (like chia, quinoa, and amaranth).

Alton Brown's Good Eats: The Final Years is recommended for fans of Alton Brown and anyone interested in the nitty-gritty of culinary techniques.

book cover of Home Ec for Everyone by Sharon and David BowersFinally, I've been enjoying Sharon and David Bower's Home Ec for Everyone: Practical Life Skills in 118 Projects, which I received as a member of the Workman Ambassador program. When I was in junior high and high school, girls took home ec and boys took shop. At my school, home ec focused on cooking and sewing and not too much on the other adulting skills. Home Ec for Everyone provides a more well-rounded approach to general life skills.

Each short section of the book explains a specific skill or a useful household bit of knowledge, complete with charming drawings by Sophia Nicolay (see the cover). For example, in the kitchen chapter, you'll find information on equipment and appliances, on basic cooking skills, on how to properly prepare and store food, and even cleaning advice. The laundry chapter includes a chart for deciphering laundry labels in clothing and helps you figure out whether your "dry clean only" shirt can actually be thrown in the washing machine. Besides recipes, activities include simple sewing projects, how to remove stains, how to make a household budget, how to make a household first aid kit, and how to fix a broken zipper.

Whether you're an experienced domestic god or goddess or you're new to taking care of yourself and your living quarters, Home Ec for Everyone deserves a place on your bookshelf. It's a great resource to have on hand next time you have to hem something or need to launder a down comforter or your curtains. I have to note, however, that in the 21st century, much of the information in Sharon and David Bowers's Home Ec for Everyone can be found via a quick internet search. Still, I like the idea of having a basic print resource.

Now for the promised recipe. According to Alton Brown, the following mix is for cookies and "cookie-like baked goods." This is not for bread. This mix will last 6 months in an airtight container. Brown, of course, encourages you to weigh the ingredients instead of using volume measures.

Gluten-Free Flour Mix
Makes about 7 1/2 cups (1000 g)

  • 250 grams (1 3/4 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons brown rice flour
  • 250 grams (1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) white rice flour
  • 150 grams (1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons) tapioca flour or starch
  • 150 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) cornstarch
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon) potato starch
  • 90 grams (1 cup) nonfat dry milk powder
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon) xanthan gum
Combine all of the ingredients in a large airtight container.

Note: The recipe is used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photos of the breads are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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