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Cookbooks: The Perfect Blend by Tess Masters

The third book by Tess Masters, The Perfect Blend combines colorful produce, health-promoting boosters, and your countertop blender to create appealing, flavorful food.

I first met Tess Masters back in early 2013, when we were both guests on a Driscoll’s berries press trip. She was already The Blender Girl by then, but was just starting on her cookbook writing path. In the years since that first meeting, she’s written and published three cookbooks, the third of which came out just last week.

Called The Perfect Blend, this beautifully photographed book features 100 vegan and gluten-free recipes that all make good use of your countertop blender (don’t worry, it’s not just a book of soups and smoothies. There’s plenty here to crunch and chew).

I always like inviting a couple of vegetable-focused books into my library at the start of the new year. I never hew particularly close to any one eating modality, but I always appreciate being reminded that there is a rainbow of produce out there and that there are so many ways to make it interesting and delicious.

I’ve tucked nearly half a pad of sticky notes into this book by now, marking things like Kale Caesar (page 13), Cheezy Broccoli Soup (page 45), Sweet Potato & Macadamia Magic (page 97), and Thai Slaw (page 129). I do love a creamy soup made hearty and lasting with the addition of soaked and pureed nuts (I sometimes make this cauliflower soup and replace the cheese with cashew creme. So good!).

I also appreciate the chapter dedicated to promoting probiotics. Tess includes a salad dressed with a vinaigrette that includes fermented tofu, and offers her recipe for a finely shredded ferment that includes cabbage, leeks, carrots, apples, and parsley. I plan on picking up the necessary ingredients today and giving it a try.

My bottom line with this book is that it has inspired me to lever myself out of my regularly traveled cooking ruts and has me inviting more vegetables, seeds, and nuts into my kitchen. I’m looking forward to bringing a handful of the recipes to life. If you’re looking for a book to do something similar for you, I highly suggest you page through it next time you’re in a book store!

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The 2016 Class of Canning, Preserving, and Culinary DIY Books

In need of a new canning, preserving or DIY book for the holiday season? Look no further than this list of books published in 2016!

Oh friends, this last year was a very good one for canning and preserving books. I’ve done a thorough search of my shelves and stacks and have come up with 18 lovely volumes that came out in 2016. Let’s flip through the stack!

The Forager’s Feast – Written by Leda Meredith, this book contains everything you need to know about foraging wild edibles and transforming them into all manner of tasty things. If I can ever find enough rose hips, I plan on making the Rose Hip Freezer Jam. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – My third canning book, this volume features recipes sweetened with honey, maple, agave, coconut sugar, fruit juice concentrates, and dried fruits. It makes a fabulous gift for anyone who is looking to reduce the amount of refined sugar in their home cooking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

A Prepper’s Cookbook – While not specifically a canning or preserving book, this slim paperback by Deborah D. Moore is an incredibly useful volume for those of us who have a homemade pantry that we’re trying to put into better use.  (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Big Book of Kombucha – I’ve been a semi-regular kombucha brewer for years with mixed success. It wasn’t until a copy of this hefty book by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory came my way that I actually starting having consistent success with my finished product. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Preserving Italy – This book by Domenica Marchetti is the best one on the market about canning, preserving, curing, and infusing in the Italian style. If you’re looking to make jams, cured meats, pickles, and liqueurs like the ones your nonna used to make, this volume should be on your shelf. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Foolproof Preserving – Written by a team from America’s Test Kitchen, this book is a nice addition to the small batch canon. I don’t love that so many of the recipes aren’t safe for a water bath, but the flavor combinations are spot-on and recipe variety is appealing. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Art of the Cheese Plate – On the face, this book by Tia Keenan doesn’t much look like it belongs in this stack. But any cheese plate book worth its salt contains a trove of recipes for tiny batches of fabulous condiments and boy, does this one deliver. There’s sweet potato butter, apple chutney, pickled blueberries, and so much more. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Modern Preserver – This charming book by UK-based professional preserver Kylee Newton bursts with appealing recipes and beautiful pictures. There is nothing in this volume that I don’t want make and many things I wish I’d thought of first. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Food Swap – Whether you’re an active food swapper or not, there is so much in Emily Paster’s useful and clever book to like. It’s got jams, pickles, syrups, and baked goods, all that travel well, are easy to create, and make great gifts. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Beyond Canning – Smoky carrot coins. Banana ketchup. Hibicus lime jelly. You’ll find those things and so much more in this creative and varied book by Autumn Giles. If you’re tired of the same old thing, this book will breathe new life into your canning practice. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Cultured Club – I picked up this book while in Ireland in October. Written by fermentation expert Dearbhla Reynolds, it contains a wild range of ferments (fermented potato mash and lacto-fermented pestos!) and I can’t wait to explore it even more than I already have. (Amazon)

Batch – This massive book by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison is the most comprehensive preserving book that we saw this year. It contains more than 200 recipes for jamming, pickling, dehydrating, infusing, and fermenting as well as  cooking, baking, using, and serving those varied preserves. It’s a must-have for avid canners. More here. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Not Your Mama’s Canning Book – This book by Rebecca Lindamood is totally brilliant. When I first opened it up and flipped through the recipes, I found myself wished fervently that I’d thought of the Instant Hummus-In-A-Jar or the Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie filling first. The recipes are unusual, approachable, and unlike anything else you have on your shelves. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Canning for a New Generation – The updated and expanded edition of this now-classic book by Liana Krissoff was published this summer and it’s even better than the original. If you don’t have the first edition on your shelf already, make sure to seek out this new one. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The Joy of Pickling – Another new edition of an old favorite, this volume by Linda Ziedrich is another must-have for an avid canner. An earlier version of this book was my first pickling primer and I’m delighted to have this edition, with its expanded section on pickling theory. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving – This new giant Ball book is gorgeously photographed and exhaustively tested. I’ll confess that I didn’t manage to use any of the recipes this summer, but everytime I flip through its pages, something catches my eye and I add it to my to-make list. (Amazon | Powell’s)

The New Milks – It’s a tiny bit of a stretch to include this book by Dina Cheney on this list, but its sneaking through on its DIY cred. I like it because I dig the non-dairy milks and I appreciate all the ideas for how to use them in my cooking and baking. (Amazon | Powell’s)

Fermented Foods at Every Meal – You’ve got a fridge full of fermented foods, but you struggle to use them up. Hayley Barisa Ryczek is here to help you weave those ferments into every meal of the day. So smart! (Amazon | Powell’s)

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The Cookbook Stall + Food in Jars = Signed Copies for the Holidays

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars spine

We are firmly in the season of wish lists, gift guides, and holiday shopping. If getting or giving a signed copy of one of my books is on your mind this year, I’ve got good news. I’ve teamed up with my friend Jill Ross at The Cookbook Stall (Philly’s only cookbook-only book shop) to offer a way for you all to buy signed copies of my books.

To get a signed copy, head over to The Cookbook Stall’s online shop and put a copy of Food in Jars, Preserving by the Pint, or Naturally Sweet Food in Jars into your cart and head to check-out.

In step five of the check-out process, there’s a field where you can add comments about your order. Use that space to tell us to whom you’d like the book to be signed and if there’s a specific message you’d like me to convey in my note (Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Good Solstice! Happy Birthday!)

Deadline to order your signed book is December 9. I’ll head into the shop the following week to sign the books you all ordered and then she’ll get them into the mail for you guys, in plenty of time for holiday giving.

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My Imaginary 2016 Thanksgiving Menu

cookbooks-for-thanksgiving-inspiration

I’m cooking Thanksgiving this week. I’ve not gotten to make the whole meal since 2008, so I’m feeling pretty giddy about the whole thing. However, as I’ve planned the menu and made lists, I’ve realized that my fantasy Thanksgiving and the reality of the one I’m cooking are pretty far apart.

sriracha-pimento-cheese-recipe

In my fantasy, I’d make all sorts of fun, new things, taking inspiration from some of the new cookbooks I’ve gotten recently. However, I’ve come to realize that the classic are where it’s at for the crowd who will be gathering around my table. So I’m satisfying my urge for the new by sharing my dream menu here.

creamy-sunchoke-soup

For nibbling before the meal begins, I’d make the Sriracha Pimento Cheese from Kristin Donnelly‘s gorgeous book Modern Potluck. I’d serve it with baguette rounds and cucumber slices. And for the very start of the meal, the Creamy Sunchoke Soup from The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini.

herb-roasted-turkey

For the main event, I’d use the recipe for Herb-Roasted Turkey with Gravy from Jenny Rosenstrach‘s book, How to Celebrate Everything (I love this book. There’s nothing that I like more than a good food tradition).

cranberry-and-persimmon-relish

I confess that I like a traditional cranberry sauce (we’ll have a honey-sweetened one on the table this year), but this one combining cranberries and persimmon from Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore by Anna Thomas speaks to me.

triple-threat-celery-mash

My husband would be very sad if I omitted traditional mashed potatoes, or did anything to them that made them “interesting,” but if I had my druthers, I’d make a batch of this celery root, potato, and celery stalk mash from the book Mashed by Holly Herrick.

roasted-sweet-potato-pudding

This roasted sweet potato pudding from Rebecca Ffrench‘s Whole Protein Vegetarian looks awfully good and might be something I make for Christmas at my sister’s house. I like that it’s minimally sweetened with maple syrup.

healthy-root-vegetable-gratin

If the table could hold one more root vegetable dish, I’d call on the Healthy Root Vegetable Gratin. It’s another one from Modern Potluck and is something that is on my to-make list this winter.

roasted-and-raw-sprout-salad

No meal is complete without a green vegetable (at least, so says my mother) and the Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad from Modern Potluck looks a good, seasonal one.

normandy-apple-cake

For dessert, the Normandy Apple Cake Tatin Style from French Desserts by Hillary Davis. Served with vanilla ice cream, of course!

wild-rice-and-turkey-muffins

Now, a bonus recipe. This one for Wild Rice and Turkey Muffins, from Cooking Wild by John Ash and James O. Fraioli seems like a really great one for using up leftover turkey and would be far more inspired than my typical pot of soup.

I’m curious. What are you guys making come Thursday?

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Cookbooks: Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti

preserving-italy-cover

Over the last several months, I have done a truly terrible job sharing the wonderful preserving books that have been published recently. I’m going to try to do a better job, because there are some exceptional new books out there that you should be checking out of the library and putting on your holiday wish lists.

preserving-italy-infused-oils

First among these excellent books is Domenica Marchetti’s Preserving Italy. Focused on preserving food in the traditional Italian style, this gorgeous paperback neatly fills a void in the canon of food preservation writing. I often get questions from people wanting to preserve tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and garlic in the same manner as their grandparents once did, and this book deals with all of those topics (as well as many more).

preserving-italy-quince-jelly

The recipes are divided up into eight sections. They deal with foods preserved in oil, food preserved in vinegar, sweet preserves, tomatoes and sauces, infused oils and vinegars, fresh cheeses and basic cured meats, syrups and boozy things, and confections. In addition to the recipes focused on preserving, Domenica also tucks recipes into each chapter that are designed to help you use what you’ve preserved.

preserving-italy-vinegar

One of the things that I most appreciate about this book is that fact that it balances tradition with safety. Domenica includes a section on pressure canning and addresses the issues that exist when you preserve foods in oil (the start of that section includes some safety tips that should be required reading for anyone thinking about using this method of preservation).

preserving-italy-back-cover

As we head into the holiday season, this becomes an even more vital addition to our collective food preservation libraries. I am considering making a batch of the Coffee Cream Liqueur for gift giving and the Pear Mostarda would be so fabulous for a New Year’s Eve cheese board.

If you haven’t checked this book out yet, please do! It’s very much worth your time!

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Cookbooks: Batch

The cover of Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison

I think of myself as minor expert on canning and preserving books. In addition to having written three of my own, I have a working familiarity with nearly everything that’s out there and so whenever I’m asked to recommend books for specific purpose, I flip through my mental file and offer up a few options.

The spine of Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison

Need help with small batch fermenting? Amanda Feifer’s Ferment Your Vegetables is the best option. Looking for thoughtful recipes with a modern, Southern twist? Kevin West’s Saving the Season is for you. Domenica Marchetti’s Preserving Italy will help you recreate your Italian grandmother’s pantry. And Karen Solomon’s Asian Pickles is brilliant and self explanatory.

The waterbath preserving spread in the cookbook Batch

I’ve also found myself suggesting Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison’s new book Batch a great deal lately (if their names sound familiar, it’s because they are the bloggers behind the website Well Preserved).

This book is essential for anyone who wants a huge, exuberant, smart, gorgeously designed, and vibrantly photographed book that deals with seven styles of food preservation, offers recipes for using the food you’ve preserved, and helps you make the very most out of every scrap of food you grow, buy, and forage.

The introduction to the fermenting section of the cookbook Batch

I particularly like how they’ve structured this volume. The first quarter of Batch is designed to help you build the skills you’ll need in the balance of the book. It’s here that you’ll learn about waterbath canning, pressure canning, dehydrating, fermenting, cellaring, salting & smoking, and infusing. Joel wrote the bulk of the book’s text and his writing telegraphs calm knowledge and reliable expertise.

The introduction to the Peppers chapter of the cookbook Batch

The remainder of the book is organized around 25 ingredients, laid out in alphabetical order. Starting with apples and ending with tomatoes, each ingredient chapter helps you make the very most of seasonal produce with recipes to preserve, store, and consume.

A page featuring Batch-It recipes in the cookbook Batch

One of the brilliant elements in this book is the Batch-It approach. The recipes are grouped so that it becomes easy to make two or three things in concert with one another rather the traditional approach that silos each project. I find that having read my way through this book, I now am constantly thinking about how I can couple my preserving activities.

Falafel lettuce wraps in the cookbook Batch

Another thing that makes this book so uniquely useful is the way in which the recipes for using the preserves are nested into the ingredient sections. Some put the preserve to work as an active ingredient and others demonstrate how a side of sauce or chutney can easily enhance a simple plate.

Back cover the cookbook Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison

Along with being a reliable and useful resource, Batch is a pleasure to glance through. Dana is an artist and designer, and both her creative eye and her work are found throughout Batch’s pages. Every time I open it, some new element catches my eye.

If you’re an avid canner and you’ve not added it to your bookshelf yet, I highly encourage you to add it to your wish lists and shopping carts!

Disclosure: I bought the copy of Batch you see pictured above. I count Joel and Dana among my friends, but the opinions offered here are offered on the basis of their exceptional book, not our friendship.

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