Tag Archives | cookbooks

Cookbooks: Fika

fika cover

I have always been drawn to the coffee and tea rituals of other countries and cultures. When I was seven or eight years old, I tried to convince my mom that we should take up the practice of afternoon tea a la Great Britain (of course, I was mostly in it for the promise of cake).

fika spine

So, you can understand that when I heard that a book called Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break (by Anna Brones & Johanna Kindvall) was coming out, I was all in. I pre-ordered a copy for myself, but before it shipped, a review copy from Ten Speed landed in my mail box. Within 24 hours of its arrival, I’d read it cover to cover and was dreaming about instituting my own daily fika.

what is fika page

Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking a daily break in which one takes the time to have a coffee (or tea, if that’s your thing) and nibble a baked good (homemade if you can manage it). As a born and bred United States person, who has been conditioned to believe that coffee is best drunk in transit or while working (as I’m doing right now), the idea of a cultural imperative that requires you stop in order to enjoy a cup and a snack hugely appeals to me.

fika rye bread

If you also feel drawn to the idea of fika, this book will help get you oriented and ready. It begins with an introduction to fika and then proceeds to address the history of Swedish coffee. In that chapter, you’ll find also find recipes for the seven traditional fika cookies.

They’ve also included sections on modern fika treats, things to make during the summer months when time can be spent outside, fika for celebrations, and finally breads, sandwiches, and ways to turn fika into a full-fledged snack.

fika jam thumbprints

I marked a number of recipes to try, including the Jam Thumbprint Cookies pictured above (I love that they are more like tiny tarts than the thumbprints we’re used to), the Almond Tart on page 58, and the Quick Buns on page 70. There are also a few jam recipes tucked here and there throughout the book, and they are sensible, non-nonsense takes on preserving which I appreciate.

fika back

Instead of using photography to depict the recipes, this book relies on Johanna Kindvall’s charming illustrations. I love this element, but if you buy cookbooks for the images, this might not be the right book for you.

I predict that this is a book that I’ll keep in regular rotation, both for the approachable recipes as well as for the reminder to take step away from the phone/computer/camera/stove for a little while each day.

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Cookbooks: Better on Toast

Better on Toast cover

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that I’m a big fan of putting things on toast (though lately, I’ve been on something of a soft boiled egg kick). I think that toast is an equally good vehicle for pickles and kraut as it for jams and butters and I have made many a meal over the years out of a slice of toast topped with a few scraps of cheese and a goodly layer of relish.

toast picture from Better on Toast

So when I heard that there was a book coming out called Better on Toast by Jill Donenfeld, I made a point of searching out a copy. I figured it would contain some good inspiration for my own toast practice, and also might offer some ideas for those of you who looking to use up your preserves in fresh ways.

salmon rillettes Better on Toast

The book opens with a introduction that goes deep into Jill’s love of toast and the many ways you can transform a humble slab of bread into toast (traditional toasting, grilled, pan toasted, or oven toasted). Then, it proceeds into sections devoted to breakfast, hor d’oeuvres, non-veg toppings, veg toppings, and finally things to do with your extra bread.

Pesto Swirl Better on Toast

I think the beauty of this book is that while it offers a number of actual recipes, it should be used more as an inspirational guide. Because Jill’s ideas can easily translate to the specific contents of your own pantry without too much issue.

Grilled Cheese Better on Toast

For instances, the recipe above for Grilled Cheese with Romaine and Bosc Pear (page 123). When pears aren’t in season, you could just as easily make this with canned pears from your pantry, or even with a couple dabs of pear vanilla jam. A few pages later, she’s got you heaping golden beets on a piece of toast topped with yogurt that’s been spiced with vadouvan. Steal the idea and use your own pickled beets instead.

Better on Toast spine

If you struggle how to use up your preserves and love toast (I realize it’s an endangered species these days), this might be a good book to add to your wish list or library queue.

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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: 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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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.