Tag Archives | cookbooks

Cookbooks: Power Hungry

Power Hungry cover - Food in Jars

These days, my brain is entirely occupied by thoughts of my upcoming book tour. Next Friday, I head to Boston for a weekend of demos and book signings at the Eat Boutique Pop-Up Market. Soon after that, I’m road tripping my way through Charlottesville, Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis.

I have page after page of to-do lists in my notebook, covering topics like demo supplies, book sourcing, day-to-day logistics, and even road snacks (because while I’ll have a back seat full of pickles and jam, preserves do not a filling meal make).

Power Hungry title spread - Food in Jars

Happily, thanks to Camille V. Saulsbury and her book Power Hungry my car snacks are in good hands. Released last fall, this book features recipes for granola bars, energy balls, and super healthy brownies that are the perfect thing to reach for when you’re driving from one state to another.

The book opens with an introduction to the pantry staples used in the recipes. From there Camilla moves into the section she calls “Super Natural Knock Offs.” If you have a favorite store bought bar, look here first, because chances are good that you’ll find a recipe that will get you something perfectly similar here.

Power Hungry Friend Bars - Food in Jars

From there, you move through chapters for Activity Bars (these are original recipes that are bursting with flavor to get you through a workout or a busy day), Endurance Bars (these are higher in protein and fat, for even more energy), Protein Bars (they get their protein from beans, or from whey or vegan protein powders), and Raw and Almost Raw Bars (these are the easiest bars in the book, because you just combine ingredients and pack them into shape).

So far, my favorite recipe in the book is the one for Friend Bars. They’re Camilla’s version of Kind Bars and the coconut almond variation has helped me kick my habit of picking up three or four at Trader Joe’s each time I grocery shop.

Power Hungry back - Food in Jars

This week, one of the things on the ever-lengthening to-do list is to make a couple batches of these bars, wrap them individually and stash them in the freezer. I’ll grab a few for next weekend’s trip and even more when I head south.

I’m so looking forward to the fact that I won’t be dependent on expensive store bought bars for all this upcoming travel. What’s more, there’s really nothing better than having something homemade when I’m on the road. It becomes an edible touchstone for home and the life I’m so happy to lead.

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Cookbooks: Baking Sourdough Bread

Baking Sourdough Bread cover

I acquired my sourdough starter just over two years ago. I was moved to get myself a bit of natural yeast thanks a cooking challenge laid down by Tara Austen Weaver on her blog, Tea and Cookies. I’d always been interested in learning more about how bread baking worked the old fashioned way and it seemed like just the opportunity to give it a shot.

The Mystical Sourdough

A friend gave me a bit of her starter and I began to feed it and bake with it. Thing was, I never quite got the hang of sourdough. I baked a couple successful loaves and made some good waffles, but had more clunkers than successes. I obsessively read blog posts and recipes from other bakers and it still never entirely clicked for me.

I had a vague inkling that my desire to add as much whole grain flours as possible caused some of my issues and that success would come with more practice. Sadly instead of persevering, I tucked some of the starter away in the fridge and just pull it out occasionally for a quick feeding to ensure it doesn’t die.

Oats, Potatoes, & Lentils

Happily, a new book landed in my mailbox recently that has given me hope that I am not destined to be a sourdough loser for all time. Baking Sourdough Bread has a number of recipes for breads, buns, and crackers that are clear and prescribed. This is not a book that waxes poetic about the beauty of sourdough. It spells out a simple recipe and tells you to get to work. It also includes a number of recipes that utilize sweets, treats, and whole grains, which pleases me.

Sourdough back

If you’ve been similarly perplexed by sourdough baking and need something a little more basic than Tartine Bread, this book is refreshingly straight forward. I am happy to add it to my bookshelf.

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Cookbooks: Whole Grain Mornings

Whole Grain Mornings cover

For weeks now, Whole-Grain Mornings has been sitting at the very top of my cookbook stack. I have read it cover to cover, been charmed by its friendly voice, and have even cooked several recipes from its pages (it is a sure sign that I’m in cookbook love if I manage to make more than one thing from it).

It is a book that embodies how I like to cook and eat and I have a feeling that it will appeal to a whole heck of a lot of you as well.

Whole Grain Mornings spine

Written by Megan Gordon (she blogs at A Sweet Spoonful, is a regular contributor to The Kitchn, and is the owner and head baker of Marge Granola), this volume contains recipes designed for the morning (though truly, many of them would also work perfectly well as a lunch, dinner, or snack).

WGM pantry section

The book breaks down into seven sections. Megan starts things off by sharing a little bit of her own story and how life led her to a career in writing and granola making. Then comes a section devoted to the pantry staples that will help you make these recipes, what exactly it means when you see the words “whole grain,” and even how best to store them.

Next is a section called the basics which offers up staple recipes for homemade yogurt, Megan’s very best oatmeal technique, a whole grain pancake mix, infused honeys, and a nut milk how-to.

Honeyed Tangerine and Lemon Marmalade

After that, we get into seasonal sections (this is a good two-thirds of the book). Each of these sections is carefully balanced to include recipes that are good for busy weekdays, some that are perfect to serve friends at brunch, others for slow sundays, and finally some spreads and toppings to enhance the other recipes.

January 23

So far, my very favorite thing from Whole Grain Mornings is the recipe for the Vanilla and Cream Steel-Cut Oats. I’ve long been a fan of steel cut oats and back in my days as an office worker, would regularly make up a big batch on Sunday nights to portion out and eat for breakfast throughout the week.

steel cut oats porridge

However, the way I made them in those days was incredibly bland and more about workday survival than flavor and satisfaction. If I’d known to toast my oats in a bit of butter, cook them with some milk added to the water, and finish them with a handful of golden raisins, I’d have enjoyed those breakfasts a good deal more.

The bottom line on this book is that I am enjoying it a great deal and I have a hunch that you would too!


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Cookbooks for Canners, Picklers, and Preservers

preserving books spine

I am something of a last minute holiday shopper (I am deeply motivated by deadlines). It’s only in the last week that I’ve truly started applying my brain to the collection of gifts for my family members (thank goodness for the ease of online shopping). And so it makes sense that I’m only now getting around to sharing this list of books. Think of it as half gift guide, and half round-up of the recent good books that deal with preserving.

first five books

  • The first book in this pile came out in 2012, so including it in this list is a bit of a cheat. However, there is no better volume than Elizabeth Field’s book Marmalade on the topic of, well, marmalade. If you have a citrus lover in your life, I can’t imagine a more perfect gift than a copy of this book paired with a box of Meyer lemons (I order ten pounds from the Lemon Ladies every January).
  • If you’re curious about homemade hot sauce, The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh should be your starting point. This book has quick salsas, long-fermented sauces, pungent pickles, and lots of recipes to help you put those spicy condiments to use. And if the predicted sriracha shortage comes to be, don’t fear, just turn to page 109 and make your own.
  • For small batches with a Southern twist, seek out Southern Living’s Little Jars, Big Flavors. It’s a handy book bursting with dependable, heavily tested recipes. I devoted an entire post to back in July.
  • I make a goodly number of apple-based preserves each year, but Amy Pennington’s Apples: From Harvest to Table has me thinking about this autumn fruit in a whole new way. Think fresh apple relish spiked with kimchi brine and pickled apple slices with star anise.
  • Mayonnaise. Mustard. Steak sauce. Vinegar. Nut butters. The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook has it all. Written by Erin Coopey, this volume is destined to become a kitchen essential for home cooks who are committed to making instead of buying.

second four books

  • Emma Christensen’s True Brews is the best book available for people who want to start brewing their own beer, wine, mead, cider, and kombucha at home in small batches. I tested several of her recipes last summer for a Table Matters piece and was so impressed with the quality of instruction and the relative ease of the projects. It is a winner of a cookbook.
  • For devoted home canners who have moved beyond the basics of preserving, Kevin West’s gorgeous book, Saving the Season, is the way to go. It has depth, good storytelling, and deliberate pace that is rare in cookbooks these days. I find it a lovely book to read for inspiration, illumination, and pleasure.
  • So many canners fall into the same trap. They spend a summer and fall making exotic preserves like chokecherry jelly and zucchini relish. Once winter hits, they have a full pantry and no idea how to use what they’ve canned. Happily, that’s where Sherri Brooks Vinton comes in. Her book, Put ‘em Up! Fruit, will show you how to use up what you’ve put up. It’s genius and should be on your shelf.
  • Fermentation is all the rage these days. Between beer making, sourdough baking, and tangy brined pickles, everyone seems to be doing it. However, for those who can’t seem to move past a basic batch of kraut, Mastering Fermentation, is a fantastic volume for upping your game and making fermented foods a more regular part of your culinary life.

last four books

  • For people who want to preserve without much additional sugar, or who want to sweetened with honey or fruit juice concentrates, there’s no better tool than Pomona’s Pectin. The recent release of Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy has made it even easier for canners to explore low sugar jam and jelly making. I highly recommend the Ginger Vanilla Rhubarb Jam on page 58.
  • Preserving Wild Foods is a delightful book for foragers, hunters, people who fish, and those who like their food to taste just a little bit wild. You’ll find things like geranium-scented tomato jam, blueberry maple spoon fruit, and black walnut chutney. It’s a glorious volume that didn’t get nearly enough love when it came out in late 2012.
  • For those of us who like a bit of charm and twinkle with our recipes for red raspberry jam and traditional treacle bread, look no further than Irish Pantry by Noel McMeel. It came out just a few weeks ago and is already a welcome and oft-reached for addition to my library. The recipes are for sturdy baked goods that are so satisfying this time of year. If you crave warmth and cheer, this book should be yours.
  • Last on this list of books for canners, picklers, and preservers is Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese by Tenaya Darlington (disclosure – Tenaya is a dear friend). Some might find it strange to include a book about cheese here, but I firmly believe that every homemade preserve has a cheese soulmate just waiting to be found and this book can help in that search. For those canners who are intimated by the cheese counter, there is no better guide to bellying up to the cheese case than this excellent volume. It also has a carefully selected assortment of recipes and some truly stunning photography.

Disclosure: Many of the books listed here came into my life as review copies (there are a few that I bought). All the links are affiliate ones, I get a couple of cents if you click through and buy a copy. All that said, I only recommend books that I think are beautiful, useful, and well-written. These are my true opinions and nothing more. 

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Cookbooks: Who Wants Seconds?

Who Wants Seconds? Cover

I do the bulk of my day to day cooking without recipes. Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly reliable set of dishes and cooking techniques that I call on and adapt on the fly. However, the one problem with cooking in this manner is that no matter what I make, much of what I eat on a regular basis tastes very much the same. I regularly find myself deeply weary of my own food.

Who Wants Seconds?

Once of the reasons I love going to potlucks so much is that it’s a chance to get a break from my food and eat something prepared by home cooks working in other kitchens. And when there’s no potluck on the horizon, I turn to cookbooks that feel friendly, familiar, and like the author might well bring a dish to share at my table someday.

Who Wants Seconds?

Who Wants Seconds? by Jennie Cook appeared in my mailbox, it immediately felt like the kind of book I’d turn to for a home cooking palate cleanser. It’s bright and feels more like Jennie’s personal kitchen notebook than the highly designed cookbooks we see so much these days. Obviously, both book styles have their places, but it’s refreshing to see something that feels like a modern Moosewood in a world of perfectly styled images.

Who Wants Seconds?

Jennie is lifelong cook, former restaurant owner, and currently runs a plant-based catering company in the Los Angeles area. This book is imbued with her personality and character, and I want to eat everything she writes about.

I’ve only had the opportunity to try out a single recipe from the book, but it did everything I want from a friendly potluck-style cookbook. I made the Sunshine Ginger Soup (the recipe follows) and it was a happy change from my regular versions of carrot and squash soups. I will be employing the combination of coconut milk and citrus again in future soups, as it tastes fabulously alive.

Sunshine Ginger Soup

If you’re located in or around Portland, OR, Jennie is going to be in your area in about a week, offering cooking classes. She’ll be at In Good Taste on, talking about Holiday Appetizers on November 5 (click here for more info) and at the Whole Foods Market at Bridgeport Village on November 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm (sign up by calling 503-639-6500. For even more of her events, click here.

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The Little Book of Home Preserving

The Little Book of Home Preserving

On first glance, The Little Book of Home Preserving might not catch your eye. It’s a tiny book (truly, no bigger than the size of my hand) and could easily get lost in a larger display. However, missing this book would be a huge mistake. Written and photographed by Rebecca Gagnon (author of the blog CakeWalk), it is bursting with interesting, creative recipes.

intro to The Little Book

For a little book, this volume packs a serious punch. It opens with the basics of preserving, including safety tips, the equipment you’ll need to get started canning, and even instructions on how to strain whey from yogurt in order to follow the lacto-fermentation recipes in the book. Rebecca also touches on the inherent art of making preserves, which is a section I particularly like and relate to.

Persimmon-Vanilla Jam

Once you get into the meat of the book, you see that it’s organized by season. I’m hoping against hope that my CSA will still have a few ground cherries left next week so that I can make a batch of the Citrus Chai Ground Cherry Preserves. I’ve also got my sights set on the Grapefruit Jam with Vanilla and Poppy Seed (the picture of that one in preserve is so gorgeous).

The Little Book spine

Rebecca sent me an extra copy of her book to share with one of my readers, so we’re having a super special weekend long giveaway. One lucky person will win a copy. However, no matter whether you win or not, I highly suggest picking up a copy. It’s size makes it perfect for slipping into Christmas stockings and at $6.57 on Amazon, it won’t break the bank.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share what you’re preserving this weekend.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Sunday, October 13, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted on Monday, October 14, 2013.
  3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Rebecca sent me two copies of her book, one to keep and one to give away, at no cost to me. However, my opinions are entirely my own.