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Four Cookbooks I’ve Been Enjoying This Summer

four cookbooks July 2015

I’ve fallen very behind in sharing some of the terrific new cookbooks that I’ve liked recently. In an attempt to get some of them off my desk and into the blog, I’m going to post them in groups. This first group consists of four books that I think are useful, interesting, and delicious.

Steeped by Annelies Zijderveld – This slender volume contains recipes designed to help you see tea as more than something to drink hot or iced. Annelies was in Philly back in the spring and I saw her give a presentation about this book and it started my brain buzzing about all the ways to use tea to add flavor. I’ve made her Lapsang Souchong salt and love using it to add smokey flavor to tomato salads.

Summer Cocktails by Maria Del Mar Sacasa – The title might lead you to believe that this book starts and ends with liquid refreshment, but that’s not true. Sure, it’s got plenty to offer in the beverage department, but it also contains frozen treats, pickles, and even a recipe for fried chicken. A more descriptive title might have been, A Love Letter to Summer.

Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule – This genius book will make you deeply hungry. Cheryl spent years researching and experiencing the ways in which yogurt is made, used, and eaten all over the world, and then brought all that knowledge together. She shows that there is no time of day when yogurt is not an appropriate thing to eat. So complete is her excitement for yogurt that this book could not fully contain it. Find her continuing yogurt passion over at Team Yogurt.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood – This deeply personal book features the food of Maureen’s Lebanese family. There are spreads, salads, vegetable-heavy main dishes, pastries, and a most glorious selection of pickles and sweet preserves. Nearly every other page of my copy is marked with sticky notes and if I didn’t have to head out soon to teach a class, I would be making her Garlicky Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Lemon (page 136) for dinner tonight.

What have you been cooking out of this summer?

Disclosure: All four of these books were received as review copies. However, I still mean every word I said! 

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Giveaway: New Edition of the Ball Blue Book

Ball Blue Book cover

The Ball Brothers started making canning jars as we know them in Buffalo, NY in 1884. In 1888, production began in Muncie, Indiana (thanks mostly to an abundance of natural gas and a friendly cadre of local businessmen). And in 1909, they published the first edition of their canning guide and recipe pamphlet.

Ball Blue Book intro

Initial printings bore the title The Correct Method of Preserving Fruit. A few years later, it was called The Ball Preserving Book. And in 1915, the first edition was printed that included the name The Ball Blue Book.

Ball Blue Book contents

When I first became aware of the Ball Blue Book, I wondered briefly about how it came to bear that name. Soon after, I read somewhere that originally the cover was blue and so people gave it that nickname for ease. However, the term blue book (think Kelley Blue Book) has also long been a phrase used to describe an authoritative handbook or reference book, so chances are that’s how it acquired the name.

Ball Blue Book pH info

The Ball Blue Book has gone through a multitude of editions and revisions in its 106 year history and 2015 marks the release of the 37th edition. It is 200 pages long, features more than 500 recipes (75 of which are brand spanking new), and is a really great resource for anyone who cans.

I own several editions at this point in my canning career and have often reference them when looking for both hard facts and canning inspiration.

Ball Blue Book Pickles

This new edition has much to offer. The authors have streamlined the recipe language to make it as clear and straightforward as possible. The recipes are organized by style of preserve (whole fruit, jams and jellies, pickles, etc.). They indicate clearly places where you can safely adapt and personalize recipes. And for those of you who itch to get more use out of your pressure canner, pages 97 to 119 will please you mightily.

Ball Blue Book tomatoes

This week, I have three copies of this new edition of the Ball Blue Book to give away. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share a story or memory of the Ball Blue Book. Did your grandmother can from a copy? Did you learn to can from an earlier edition? Was your family loyal to a different canning bible? Or, is this the first you’re hearing of it?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, June 27, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 28, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The PR team for Jarden Home Brands (parent company of Ball Canning) sent me a review copy of the Ball Blue Book that you see pictured here. They have not compensated me for this post and all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Cookbooks: Real Sweet

Real Sweet cover

Despite the spotlight we’ve all been shining on them lately, naturally sweeteners are still something of an undiscovered country. I’ve spent the last year finding ways to use these flavorful sweeteners in preserving, and I’m always excited to see how other authors use them in baking, cooking, and canning.

liquid sweeteners

One recent book that takes on a wide swath of natural sweeteners is Shauna Sever’s Real Sweet. It’s an engaging look at baking using coconut sugar, muscovado, turbinado, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, and more. As someone who regularly pulls apart recipes for things like quick breads and muffins in order to make them with these natural sweeteners, having this book on my shelf has been wonderful.

homemade graham crackers

The recipes in the book are organized by the events where each item might be most appropriate. This means that instead of classic categorizations like cakes or cookies, you’ll find sections that are entitled Bake Sales and Edible Gifts, Picnics and Potlucks, and Dinner Party Fancies. I think this is a brilliant method, because it ferrets out how most of us are really cooking and baking.


Because I am someone who is always dashing out the house without planning ahead for the next meal, I like to have a few quick snacks tucked into a jar in the fridge or freezer. Shauna’s Breakfast Cookies on page 29 (sweetened with date paste and maple syrup!) are on my list of things to make this weekend.

maple and vanilla roasted fruit

I hear that stonefruit are going to be coming into season any day now around these parts and I’ve got the recipe for Maple and Vanilla-Roasted Fruit on page 236 marked with a sticky note for the moment I have some in my hot little hands. I can’t wait to stir a freshly roasted apricot or peach half into a bowl of yogurt.

Real Sweet back cover

And next time I’m asked to bring a dessert to dinner with friends, I’m making the Maple Chocolate Cake on page 101. It’s a one bowl cake that can be frosted or served with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream. I’m ready for a slice right now!

If you’re someone who is looking to use less refined sweeteners in your baked goods, make sure to seek out a copy of this book. It’s a worthy contender for space on your bookcase.

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Be a Recipe Tester for my Natural Sweeteners Book

plum jam

Friends, I am delightfully honored and just slightly overwhelmed by your excitement and interest in being recipe testers for my new book. Over 300 of you have signed up since I published this post earlier today. Thanks to this abundance in volunteers, I am closing the tester sign-ups.

If you missed your chance, please know that I will be sharing a few new, naturally sweetened recipes here on the blog this summer, so you’ll get a chance to preview some of the types of recipes you’ll see in the book. 

One of the things I came to understand while I was writing the recipes for my next book is that they were going to need more external testing than I undertook with my first two books.

Because there’s been so little work in the area of naturally sweetened preserves, I didn’t have nearly as deep a well of knowledge on which to draw when developing these recipes. Additionally, just because something works in my kitchen doesn’t always guarantee that it’s going to work in yours.

So I’m asking for your help. There’s a form at the bottom of this post where you can sign up to be a recipe tester. Tell me what sweeteners you’re interested in working with, how many recipes you’d like to test, and if there are any fruits you avoid. In about a week, I’ll send you some recipes to try.

Recipe testing is a volunteer gig for which you purchase the supplies (but also get to keep the results). When I send you the recipes, I’ll also include a short questionnaire that you’ll complete for each recipe you try. Of course, I will thank all the recipe testers profusely in the acknowledgements of the book!

I have no idea what kind of response I’ll receive to this request, but I will do my very best to include as many people as possible. All recipe testing will need to be completed by August 15, 2015, so please do take that into account before signing up!

Thanks to you all!

Giveaway: Candy in a Jar eBooks

Book Mill

One of the things I most appreciate about technology is the fact that it gives people the opportunity to share their creative works with larger audiences without having to go through the traditional channels. Musicians can get their music out to appreciate ears, photographers have unlimited methods for disseminating their work, and writers can sidestep the publishing industry with ease.

One such writer who has taken great advantage of ready online distribution is Jennifer Kitchens. She is the author of a quartet of ebooks dedicated to sweet spreads and preserves. They are called Candy in a Jar, More Candy in a Jar, Candy in a Jar: Tastes of Summer, and Candy in a Jar: Fall Flavors (you can also buy all four in a single edition, if you prefer).

Jennifer took the time to answer a few questions about herself. Read more about her and her work after the jump!

For this week’s giveaway, I have three copies of Jennifer’s books to share. The winners will get to choose which they’d like to have and cook from. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell us about your favorite sweet preserve.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, May 30, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog soon thereafter.
  3. Giveaway open to all. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Continue Reading →

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Cookbooks: Seven Spoons

Seven Spoons cover

If you follow the food blog scene, you may have heard that long-time blogger Tara O’Brady recently released her first cookbook, Seven Spoons. I have seen this beautiful book everywhere lately, coupled with glowing praise and pictures of delectable food.

Seven Spoons chia pudding

Tara’s book landed in my mailbox during that crazy phase when I was finishing my own book draft and while I took a cursory glance, I didn’t pay it the attention it merited. However, since turning in that document, I’ve been clearing out the piles and turning my focus to the neglected pile of review copies that gathered in an unwieldy stack next to my desk.

Seven Spoons spiced candied nuts

Friends, this book deserves all the love it has received of late. I’ve spent many an hour falling into these glorious pages and my copy is now riddled with hopeful Post-Its. It has that perfect balance of inviting story telling, appealing recipes, and spare, beautiful photography.

Seven Spoons soused tomatoes

I also love that in a world where cookbooks seem to require increasingly narrow lenses to be salable, this one simply features Tara’s favorite recipes. This means that you’ve got recipes for seeded bread alongside braised beef. I so appreciate the diversity and inspiration these pages deliver.

Seven Spoons pickled jalapenos

In addition to the recipes I’ve pictured here (which I very much want to try), I’m also hoping to make the Fennel and Chard Puff (page 95), the Pickled Strawberry Preserves (page 111), and the Rhubarb Raspberry Rye Crumble (page 219) as soon as is reasonable.

Seven Spoons spine

What cookbooks have been delighting you of late?

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