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Cookbooks: Dessert for Two

cover of Dessert for Two

There is just so much to like about Christina Lane’s new book, Dessert for Two. It’s got page after page of gorgeous photography. The book is hefty and feels good in your hands. And all the recipes it contains for cookies, cakes, tarts, bars are scaled to serve just two or three.

Dessert for Two contents

Released last month and bearing the same name as her very clever blog, Dessert for Two is arranged by kind of treat. There are cookies (never more than a dozen), bars (including, but not limited to several varieties of brownies), cakes (including a petite wedding cake), Southern delights (Christina is from Texas), and candy (because why not!).

, brownies for two

I’ve used her recipe for brownies several times since the book landed on my doorstep and I’m always delighted both by their flavor and the fact that there’s not a whole pan of them hanging around my kitchen. You bake them in a loaf tin and the yield is just two generous brownies (though I often cut them into thirds so that they stretch a little further).

blueberry mason jar lid pies

And then, there’s the novel way that Christina uses mason jar lids. She flips the flat lid upside and turns it into a tiny removable bottom pan. You’ll see her do this for both tarts and pies and the result is both practical and adorable.

chocolate caramel mason jar lid tarts

If you have a small household and you like homemade desserts, this would be a very good book to add to your collection!

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Cookbooks: New German Cooking

New German Cooking cover

When I was growing up, any time someone suggested eating at a German restaurant, my mother would immediately make a comment about the heaviness of the cuisine and offer Vietnamese or Thai as an alternative. I absorbed her words and spent most of my lifetime assuming that German food was something best avoided.

New German Cooking soup

However, in the years since I’ve been living in Philadelphia, I’ve discovered that the spectrum of German food is much broader I had previously understood. This education has come thanks to Brauhaus Schmitz and their Reading Terminal Market deli, Wursthaus Schmitz.

New German Cooking sprouts

Happily, the goodness of Brauhaus Schmitz is now available to people beyond the wilds of Philadelphia, thanks to New German Cooking. Written by the husband and wife team behind the restaurant, Jeremy and Jessica Nolen, with local food writer Drew Lazor, it’s a gorgeous book that will no doubt make you hungry (the photography by Jason Varney is also fantastic).

New German Cooking pickles

The book has nine chapters (guess which one I’m most excited by?):

  1. Breads & Spreads
  2. Salads
  3. Soups
  4. Fish, Shellfish & Poultry
  5. Meat & Game
  6. Vegetables
  7. Noodles & Dumplings
  8. Pickles & Condiments (though I must point out, in the picture above, a threaded mason jar has been topped with a lid from an old time jelly jar. I can see that texturally it looks good, but it irritates the canning stickler in me).
  9. Desserts

New German Cooking spine

I have a list of ten dishes I’d like to try, with the Pilsner and Pickle Brined Chicken (page 102) being on the very tip top of the list (leftover pickle brine haunts my dreams). I may just go for a two-fer and make the Potato and Sauerkraut Gratin (page 157) to go with it.

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Cookbooks: Brown Eggs and Jam Jars

cover of brown eggs

I met first met Aimée Wimbush-Bourque in person at one of the early Big Summer Potlucks. We’d known each other online for some time before that, so in many ways, that first encounter was like reuniting with a friend, just one I’d happened never to have met before. We bonded over our shared love of canning and have stayed in touch ever since.

brown eggs and jam jars Aimee

When Aimée announced that she was working on her first book, I knew immediately that it would be one that I’d add to my shelf for the long haul. There has been little that Aimée has posted on Simple Bites over the years that I didn’t want to cook immediately and so I was certain that Brown Eggs and Jam Jars would be full of just the kinds of things I would crave.

Maple Walnut Granola

This book has far exceeded my hopes and expectations. It is a gorgeous, hefty paperback, bursting with delicious words, recipes, and images. The book is organized by season, with each time of year broken down further by the special activities that time of year contains. I particularly want to crawl right into the Sugaring Off chapter which kicks off the meat of the book.

making canning work

In addition to the very useful recipes, you’ll find that the book is studded with essays that deal with topics like making your canning work for you, tips on urban homesteading, and how to thrive with kids in the kitchen. There’s also a great introduction that goes through equipment and basic ingredients to keep in the pantry.

Gingery Pickled Asparagus

A note for those of you without kids. This book has a strong family focus. That makes sense because Aimée and her husband Danny have three young children. If that fact makes you pause, worry not. There is plenty in this book for households of just one or two.

Baba's Sweet Mustard Pickles

All told, this is a lovely book, bursting with appealing recipes and a personable voice. There are so many preserves I’ve added to my list for the coming season, from Baba’s Sweet Mustard Pickles pictured above, to the Roasted Peach Barbecue Sauce and the Cranberry Pear Mincemeat. I am certain that this is going to be a well-loved and much stained book by this time next year.

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Cookbooks: Against the Grain

Against the Grain cover

I have no beef with gluten. I eat it happily and without any kind of gastrointestinal or autoimmune distress. Nonetheless, I have really enjoyed using some of the gluten-free cookbooks that have been published over the last few years.

The reason for my appreciate is simple. I like new ideas and opportunities to expand beyond my regular set of ingredients and these books are terrific at finding new, delicious ways to make things work.

peanut butter bars

What’s more, while I can eat wheat until the cows come home, lots of people I know cannot. I am always happy to discover novel recipes that I can share with friends and relatives who have to stay away from various grains or anything with gluten.

book and squares

A few weeks back, a copy of Nancy Cain’s Against the Grain appeared in my mailbox. I spent a few minutes flipping through and immediately identified a handful of recipes I wanted to try (Maple Flax Crackers! Cashew Chews with Cacao Nibs! Buckwheat Cheddar Puffs!). Later that night, I had a pan of her Peanut Butter Bars cooling on my counter.

peanut butter cubes

Made with just peanut butter, honey, an egg, baking soda, and a little bit of coconut, you might wonder how on earth these bars work. But work they do, whether you’re on a gluten-free diet or not. I cut them into small squares and ate most of the pan on my own, one or two at a time. They’re naturally sweetened, high in protein, and best when eaten at room temperature. Perfect for snack time or a late night nibble!

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My Other Favorite Cookbooks from 2014

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks | Food in Jars

Last month, I wrote about all the terrific canning, preserving, fermenting, and food books that had come out in the last year. In that post, I mentioned that I also had plans to write another post dedicated to all the other 2014 cookbooks that I had known and loved. Today is that day and here is that list.

Please know that this is an imperfect collection, gathered from the piles of books around my desk. Some I bought, some were sent to me by publishers. I am absolutely certain that were a number of excellent books that came out in 2014 that I somehow missed. But these were books I particularly enjoyed and think you might too.

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks Part 1 | Food in Jars

On the very top of the stack is Fully Belly. Written by my dear friend Tara Matazara Desmond (while she was pregnant with her twins), this book takes all the nutritional advice often given to pregnant women and translates it into usable, delicious recipes. Next time you hear that a friend is expecting, buy a copy of this book for them. (Amazon | Powell’s)

For those in search of healthy, flavorful food, look no further than Molly Watson’s Greens + Grains. You’ll find soups, salads, a few breads (green whole wheat flatbread!), and main dishes appropriate for every season. The recipes are wholesome, hearty, and were written by someone who has no time for nonsense and just loves food (Molly’s a friend, too). (Amazon | Powell’s)

A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus by Renee Erickson (and Jess Thomson) has gotten a lot of love lately and it is all well-deserved. It’s a beautiful book, full of stories, beautiful pictures, and the most stunning recipes. There are even a few perfect preserves, including a Pickled Fresh Plum Jam that I will be making when summer comes. (Amazon | Powell’s)

One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero is a kick. It shows you how to make 16 different kinds of cheese (with plenty of step-by-step pictures), all in no more than an hour. She also includes recipes that include your fresh cheeses. No book has demystified home dairy more. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Vegetarian for a New Generation is the third book in Liana Krissoff’s “New Generation” series (previous installments dealt with canning and whole grains). For those (like me!) who adore Liana’s writing and clever flavor combinations, this book will not disappoint. (Amazon | Powell’s)

I met Kimberley Hasselbrink in early 2012 at a book party in New York. In the course of our conversation, she told me about the book she wanted to write. It went from glimmer to reality and Vibrant Food even better than the vision she described. The food is clean but not precious, and the photos make me want to live in her world. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks Part 2 | Food in Jars

The only cookbook I sat down and read cover to cover in a single sitting last year was The B.T.C. Old Fashioned Grocery Cookbook. Written by grocery store founder Alexe van Beuren, it is a gorgeous book and a compelling story. Oh, and the recipes are pretty darn good, too. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Part cookbook and part travelogue, In Her Kitchen features grandmothers from around the world, in their kitchens, making their signature dishes. Written and photographed by Gabriele Galimberti, it’s a lovely way to get see food and home kitchens from every corner of the globe. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Flourless by Nicole Spiridakis is focused on gorgeous baked goods and desserts that all just happen to be gluten-free. What makes it particularly special is that she has managed to make every recipe feel like a treat instead of a sacrifice.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

I love everything that Jennifer McLagan writes, and Bitter is no exception. It celebrates foods like coffee, dandelion greens, orange zest, and even burnt toast to appealing effect. (Amazon | Powell’s)

I like a big, beautiful cookbook as much as the next girl, but when it comes daily cooking, there is no better handbook than Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner: The Playbook. It bills itself as a guide to the family meal, but it’s got plenty to offer for even the smallest household. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Much like the original Flavor Bible, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page is an incredible resource for home cooks. Every conceivable veg friendly food has an entry that offers a tremendous amount of detail. You’ll get its season, basic flavor profile, best techniques for prepping/cooking, relatives, and suggested flavors that would pair well. If you subscribe to a CSA or farm share and occasionally find yourself with new and unknown edibles, this book is invaluable. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Favorite 2014 Cookbooks Part 3 | Food in Jars

Nigel Slater is a master at writing about food and cooking in a way that is both inspirational and entirely approachable. His new book Eat offers up hundreds of simple recipes and ideas for quick, solid meals, with all his trademark appeal. Plus, the book just feels good in the hands. (Amazon | Powell’s)

As someone who has long played around with oat, teff, and millet flour, I’ve been totally delighted by the recent cluster of books dedicated with making the most from flours made from grains other than wheat. Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours is a new entry in this category and it’s just wonderful.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

Okay, so Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman didn’t actually come out in 2014. It was among the group of books that came out in the very last days of 2013 and I included it in this stack because I don’t think it got enough love last year. This is a glorious baking book for fall and winter, which is actually the time of year when you want to be running your oven. (Amazon | Powell’s)

If you live in the New York region, you’ve probably heard of Red Jacket Orchards. Owner Brian Nicholson teamed up with author Sarah Huck and created this gorgeous, seasonal cookbook called Fruitful. I like it because it includes some interesting preserves, but you’ll also find fruit-focused savory dishes, sides, and desserts. (Amazon | Powell’s)

We eat a lot of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and cauliflower in my household, and I am always on the lookout for novel ways to prepare all this cruciferous veg. Enter Laura B. Russell’s Brassicas. It’s got gorgeous, moody photography and more than 75 recipes for making the most of stalks, florets, leaves, and stems. (Amazon | Powell’s)

I dedicated a blog post to Megan Gordon’s Whole Grain Mornings last February, so I will be brief. It’s a beautiful, approachable book that will have you downright excited to get up in the morning an make a meal. I’ve continued to use it and love pulling it off the shelf with each change of season. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Last book on the stack is Ashley English’s Handmade Gatherings. This is a book-length love note to the art of entertaining casually and inclusively. If you’re looking to up your dinner party and potluck game, you will so enjoy it. (Amazon | Powell’s)

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Giveaway: Fresh & Fermented

Fresh & Fermented cover | Food in Jars

Over the last year or so, I’ve been getting more and more into making my own fermented foods. I’ve dabbled in sauerkraut for years, but more recently have added kimchi, kombucha, brined radishes, and other little batches of brined vegetables to my repertory.

One of the things that has been encouraging me along this path has been the wave of new books devoted to fermentation (as well as Amanda’s fabulous blog, Phickle).

Fresh & Fermented spine | Food in Jars

One such book that has been providing much inspiration in recent days has been Fresh & Fermented by Julie O’Brien and Richard J. Climenhage of Firefly Kitchens (I mentioned this one in my Class of 2014 round-up, but thought it deserved a little more attention).

What makes this book stand apart is that it’s not just about basic ferments. It focuses on drinks, dips, salads, casseroles, burgers, and desserts all made with a goodly portion of one of the eight basic krauts and kimchis featured in the first chapter. As someone who is always looking for ways to use up a cup or two of sauerkraut, it is proving invaluable.

Thanks to the nice folks at Sasquatch Books, I have a copy of Fresh & Fermented to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post. This time, I’m curious to hear if you made any preserving-related resolutions this year.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, January 10, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog by Sunday, January 11, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry!).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: Sasquatch Books sent me the review copy of this book I now have in my library and they are also providing the giveaway unit. However, my thoughts remain my own. It’s a good book. I think you’ll like it.