DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


May 8 2013

Let the flames begin!

by Dea Anne M

The month of May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month as well as Older Americans Month and DCPL will be celebrating both with many exciting special programs and presentations. What you may not know, is that May is also National Barbecue Month. I am by no means what you’d call the “outdoor type” but each year when spring arrives I feel myself irresistably drawn to cooking on the grill. Now I don’t know that it’s true that everything tastes better outdoors. A piping hot bowl of chili , for example, probably doesn’t gain in appeal when consumed in 90-plus heat but I do believe that there are certain delicious flavors that grilling enhances. There are the standards, of course, such as steaks, chicken, and burgers but I also favor vegetables like zuchinni, eggplant and peppers cooked to carmelized perfection. I like to grill slices of pineapple and serve them on vanilla ice cream. I’ve even grilled pizzas – a production to be sure and the pies never come out perfectly round – but the result is delicious and the heat of the grill produces a crust redolent of char and crispiness to rival that produced by a professional pizza oven.

Do you like to grill when the weather starts to warm up? Do you favor gas or charcoal? (Believe me, that’s a more than lively debate inbible some circles). What’s your favorite food to cook on the grill? Do you need ideas and inspiration? As always, DCPL can help.

Culinary writer Steve Raichlen is widely acknowledged as an authority on grilling and his book The  Barbecue! Bible is a 500 page plus guide to everything grilled. Raichlen provides recipes from around the globe for grilled dishes and their accompaniments. Grilled Snails might be a hard sell around my house but I suspect that Pancetta Grilled Figs followed by Lamb and Eggplant Kebabs would be met with enthusiasm.myron

The world of competition barbecue is certainly hot these days and throughout the country teams with names like “Squeal of Approval” and “Albert Einswine” vie for money, trophies, and glory at barbecue “opens” and on reality television. One of the best known names on the circuits is Myron Mixon and his book Smokin’ With Myron Mixon: recipes made simple from the winningest man in barbecue could be a good introduction to those who are new to grilling and barbecuing. Mixon’s motto is “keep it simple” and he follows through with clear cut instructions and techniques that will help anyone from grilling tyro to barbecue wizard turn out succulent ‘cue.vegan

Lest anyone brand me as biased toward meat, let me steer you toward Grilling Vegan Style: 125 fired-up recipes to turn every bite into a backyard barbecue by John Schlimm. Packed with recipes and color photographs, Schlimm’s book is definitely not just for vegans. I don’t know about you but Grilled Vegetables and Foccacia and Flame Kissed Eggplant with Hoisin Sauce sound absolutely scrumptious. For more great vegetable-centric recipes and techniques, be sure to check out The Gardener and the Grill: the bounty of the garden meets the sizzle of the grill by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig.pizza

Finally, you might want to give grilling pizza a whirl this spring and summer (I recommend that you do). Be sure to check out Pizza On the Grill: 100 fiesty fire-roasted recipes for pizza & more by Elizabeth Karmel and Bob Blumer. Filled with gorgeous photographs, the book includes a concise, and very useful, chapter on basic techniques and equipment. Many of the pizza bear names like “Magic Mushroom Medley” and “Lucy in the Sky with Pizza”, just in case that’s your thing. Even if it isn’t t you’ll find enough alluring recipes for pizza and the “go-withs” to keep you happily grilling for months to come.


Feb 6 2013

African food heritage

by Dea Anne M

We all know that February is Black History Month but did you know that during February we also celebrate African Heritage and Health Week? According to Oldways, the nonprofit food and education organization, February 1st – 7th is a time for celebrating African heritage by eating meals inspired by the traditional cooking of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the African American South. Numerous studies have shown that traditional diets that emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans help to promote good health. I urge you to visit this very interesting website and learn more about the traditional food of Africa. You’ll find the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, information about African Diaspora cultures, tips on grocery shopping and setting up your kitchen, and my favorite feature “African Heritage Dine-Around-Town.” This is a list (with links) of restaurants in every state that serve African cuisine. Though it is by no means comprehensive (for example, no Ethiopian restaurants make the list for Georgia) it’s still a fun tool for those who want to dine out on African foods.

cuisineAre you interested in exploring African foods in your own kitchen? Check out these resources from DCPL.

Marcus Samuelsson is a world famous chef who was born to Ethiopian parents and adopted by a Swedish couple after the death of his mother. Raised in Sweden, he trained and apprenticed in Europe before coming to New York where he became the youngest chef to receive a three star review from the New York Times. His newest restaurant is Red Rooster in Harlem and his cookbook The Soul of a New Cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa (with Heidi Sacko Walters) was selected as the “Best International Cookbook” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006.

africaAlso take note of:


Dec 12 2012

A short personal history of fruitcake

by Dea Anne M

Most of my childhood Christmas holidays were spent with my paternal grandparents and my large, boisterous clan on that side of the family. For us kids, most of the excitement revolved around waking up Christmas morning to see what Santa had left us then (as if we weren’t greedy enough) opening presents later in the morning. Christmas dinner was usually served around 2:00 pm and featured the eagerly anticipated turkey with cornbread dressing as well as my favorite glazed, baked ham. Having been reared mostly in the Northeast and Central Florida, I was unaccustomed to the country style cooking of the South. It was, shall we say, exotic. My mother, an excellent cook with an adventurous palate, usually prepared what she thought everyone would eat and by “everyone” I mean me and my even pickier younger brother. Christmas dinner green beans cooked just about forever with a piece of salt pork were more than acceptable but giblet gravy? Forget about it! Most alien of all perhaps was the once-a-year appearance of the edible substance known as fruitcake. In my grandmother’s house there were two kinds, “light cake” and “dark cake”, and neither one in any way suggested cake to me. First of all, they were loaf-shaped and bare of embellishment.  I knew good and well that a proper cake consisted of two or three round layers heavily frosted. Even worse were the weird red and green pieces studded throughout the cake which I now know were candied cherries. I’m sure I would have liked fruitcake just fine had I deigned to taste it, but there were always cookies and banana pudding both of which settled the dessert question just fine for us persnickety youngsters.

You may already know that Georgia boasts the Fruitcake Capitol of the World, Claxton GA, home of the Claxton Fruitcake Company but did you know that Corsicana TX can make the same claim as it is equally famous for the fruitcakes produced by the Collin Street Bakery? Fruitcake is by no means unique to the U.S. In the Bahamas, dried fruit and nuts are soaked in dark rum for up to 3 months and then more rum is poured on top of the baked cake while it’s still hot. That recipe wouldn’t have passed muster with my grandmother, a strict teetotaler, but everyone might have eaten more fruitcake if it had. Italians eat a highly spiced fruitcake at Christmas time called panforte. In Romania fruitcake goes by the name Cozonac, in Switzerland it’s Birnenbrot, and the people of  Trinidad enjoy a boozy confection called Black Cake which is similar to the  Bahamanian fruitcake.

If you bake fruitcake for the holidays, you likely already follow a trusted family recipe. If not, you could do worse than picking up a copy of  The All-American Christmas Cookbook: family favorites from every state by Georgia Orcutt and John Margolies and baking the “Fabulous Fruitcake.” Inspired by the fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery (the actual recipe is apparently a closely guarded secret) it contains a wealth of dried fruit, nuts, and Calvados and looks pretty delicious to me. As promised by the title, the book features a holiday recipe from every state in the union (Georgia’s contribution is Cranberry-Pecan Chutney) and features adorable vintage illustrations. If the idea of Caribbean Black Cake appeals, you’ll find recipe in for it in Warm Bread and Honey Cake: home baking from around the world by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. For a proper British fruitcake, check out Nigella Christmas: food, family, friends, festivities by Nigella Lawson. Lawson presents a really delicious looking “Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit Cake” as well as “Gorgeously Golden Fruitcake” which she describes as “the fruity blonde sister of the brunette temptress” (meaning the chocolate version). Anyway, both look wonderful and well worth baking plus the golden fruitcake is gluten free.

Finally, I can’t leave the subject of cake without mentioning two of my favorite cake-centric books (although fruitcake doesn’t make an appearance in either). One is Vintage Cakes: timeless recipes for cupcakes, flips, rolls, layer, angel, bundt, chiffon, and icebox cakes for today’s sweet tooth by Julie Richardson. This book features beautiful photographs and boasts a truly impressive array of delicious sounding cake recipes. Just reading about such creations as  Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake, Blackout Cake, and Watergate Cake with Impeachment Frosting make me want to get out my mixing bowls and beaters right now. Also highly recommended is The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. I’d be the first person to admit that I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to mixes and culinary short cuts but Byrn really understands what she’s doing. I know people who swear by this book and always produce cakes both beautiful and delicious. Allow me to recommend the Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. This spectacular cake is one that my mother pulls out for special occasions and, for a strawberry lover like me, it comes close to cake heaven. Be sure not miss Chocolate from the the Cake Mix Doctor and The Cake Mix Doctor Returns! also by Byrn.

What’s your opinion on fruitcake? Do you have a beloved recipe?


Oct 17 2012

Soup of the evening

by Dea Anne M

Beautiful soup so rich so green,

Waiting in a hot tureen

Who for such dainties would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup!

Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup!

– from Lewis Carroll

The Mock Turtle recites the poem quoted above in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. John Tenniel’s classic illustration reveal a very odd creature who has the shell and front flippers of a sea turtle and the feet, head, and tail of a calf. The Mock Turtle baffled me as a very young child but its absurd appearance becomes obvious once you understand that Carroll was spinning a visual joke on the typical British Victorian’s extreme fondness for soup made from the meat of the sea turtle. Almost as popular as that concoction was a much cheaper, and more readily available, version made from the “lesser used” parts of a calf. The Mock Turtle is described as a melancholy creature and the speculation among the other characters is that this is so because he used to be a “real” turtle. My opinion is that he may feel gloomy about his ultimate fate. When the Red Queen asks Alice if she has seen the Mock Turtle yet, Alice says that she doesn’t know what a Mock Turtle is. The Queen replies: “It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from.”

I’ve never tasted turtle soup or its mock counterpart and, as Alice might say, shouldn’t hope to. I do like soup though, both cooking it and eating it, especially this time of year. Once the weather turns cool, there’s just something about a hot bowl of soup that makes me feel secure and comforted, especially if it’s wet outside as well. Recently, a co-worker who was in need of some comfort asked me to give her a few soup recipes. “Easy ones,” she said. I suspect that by “easy” she means “quick” and, for me at least, soup-making is a puttering sort of activity—enjoyable but hardly speedy. I hope that I can encourage her to take her time and sink into the process. In any case, I’m going to pass on two of my favorite recipes—Leek Potato Soup and Lentil Soup with Garlic Sausage. Both take time but reward the effort many times over.

Would you like to explore the pleasures of soup-making? Check out these resources from DCPL.

The Daily Soup Cookbook by Leslie Kaul showcases recipes from the Manhattan restaurant (now closed) by the same name. Offerings include Peking Duck Soup and Jamaican Pumpkin. There are even ideas for leftovers.

The Soup Peddler’s Slow & Difficult Soups: recipes and reveries by David Ansel presents such delights as Alaskan Salmon Chowder and Smoked Tomato Bisque. In 2002 Ansel, a former computer programmer, started vending soup to his grateful customers out of a cooler strapped to his bicycle. Full of stories about the often eccentric residents of Austin TX, this promises to be as fun a read as it is a useful cookbook.

My mind often turns to thoughts of soup on a leisurely Sunday afternoon and Sunday Soup: a year’s worth of mouth-watering, easy-to-make recipes by Betty Rosbottom looks capable of delivering plenty of inspiration. Recipes like Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cider Cream and Gulf Coast Shrimp Gumbo look perfect for this time of year and the beautiful photographs make me want to want to get to the farmer’s market as soon as possible (on the way to my kitchen, of course).

Finally, I have to mention a charming book about sharing and friendship. Not a cookbook, it is, nonetheless, well worth seeking out and has my favorite title of all the books that I mention here. It is The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup by Terry Farrish.

What’s your favorite soup? Do you like quick recipes or would you rather take your time?


Aug 22 2012

Cooking the books

by Dea Anne M

I am just one of a legion of fans who love George R.R. Martin’s series of novels collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire. Halfway into the first book, A Game of Thrones, I knew that I was hooked. Martin’s work inspires a great deal of admiration and devotion in his followers and has been, in fact,  the subject of several posts on this blog ( for example here and here).  One of the latest Martin-inspired creations is the wonderful cookbook A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Leher. Truly a labor of love, this book is compiled from the authors’ clever blog, The Inn at the Crossroads (featured in this post by my fellow blogger Jesse). A prominent feature of Martin’s series is his detailed descriptions of meals enjoyed (or not) by his characters. Monroe-Cassel and Leher’s blog project recreates dishes from the different regions that Martin has invented for his books. One of my favorite aspects of both the blog and the cookbook is that there is often a medieval version of the recipe on offer as well as a modern version. The authors have clearly done their research regarding the cooking and flavors of medieval Europe and their notes on the recipes are fascinating to read. Plus the recipes sound delicious!  I for one can’t wait to try cooking the Quails Drowned in Butter and the Almond Crusted Trout.  If you too are a fan of Martin’s work, I encourage you to check out this very interesting work. I promise you don’t have to be a cook to enjoy it!

DCPL has other cookbooks inspired by works of fiction that you may want to look into. Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader edited by Martha McIntosh includes recipes for dishes mentioned throughout Karon’s much beloved Mitford series. Joanne Fluke, who writes a mystery series featuring bakery owner Hannah Swensen regales fans with Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook which features new recipes as well as those from the books. For the younger set, don’t miss The Little House Cookbook: frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic stories by Barbara Walker if you’re a fan, as was I, of the Ingalls/Wilder saga. Finally, check out Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: recipes inspired by Dr. Seuss! by Georgeanne Brennan. Included are recipes for (among many others) Pink Yink Ink Drink, Glunker Stew, and yes, Green Eggs and Ham featuring guacamole, cilantro, and parsley.

Do you have a favorite cookbook inspired by a work of fiction? Is there a book that you’d love to see inspire a cookbook?

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Mar 7 2012

Concocting the Past

by Dea Anne M

Maybe it was inevitable, but our sometimes food-obsessed culture combined with a growing interest in genealogy might be leading to a new-found passion for recreating “lost” family recipes. That, anyway, is the contention of this recent WSJ article.

Mentioned in the article is Ruth Clark’s fun blog The Mid-Century Menu. Clark’s intent is to select what are admittedly bizarre recipes from circa 1950’s and 60’s cookbooks and test them out. The names alone of some of the recipes (Ham Banana Casserole and Jellied Stuffed Eggs are two) are enough to cause shivers while other dishes sound and look surprisingly tasty.  The images of Clark’s husband Tom tasting, and reacting, to these experiments are a special highlight.

Sometimes recipe recreation requires the equipment of years past. Also mentioned in the WSJ article,  Laura’s Last Ditch will help in the search for the tool of your dreams (or memories). From vintage ice-trays (what?) to donut cutters to manual cherry pitters Laura has what you’re looking for.

Do you have a beloved family recipe that you want to recreate? While contemplating the question, you might want to check out these offerings from DCPL. Any one of them might inspire you…or at least allow you to indulge in a little nostalgia.

Some best loved recipes come from community cookbooks. These are local collections of recipes, often bound with a plastic “tooth” spine, offered for sale by garden clubs, women’s clubs, and the like. I especially love these cookbooks when they feature stories about local families and individuals. Southern Foodways Alliance community cookbook by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge and America’s Best Loved Community Recipes from the Editors of Better Homes and Gardens magazine are two collections that provide great stories along with interesting recipes.

Many of us crave the tastes of our childhood and that childhood is often tied to a particular region or ethnic heritage. One of my favorite books that explores taste and memory is The Taste of Country Cooking. Written by the late great Edna Lewis, this book is a  beautifully written memoir that evokes Lewis’s childhood spent in Freetown, Virginia, a small piedmont farming community. Lewis, who has sometimes been called “the South’s answer to Julia Child,” provides a treasure chest of recipes, all tied to the seasons. I loved reading about the special menus her family prepared for such events as Wheat-Threshing Day and Emancipation Day. Highly recommended! Some other memoir/cookbooks that you might enjoy include Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood by Ken Hom, You’re Cookin’ It Country: my favorite recipes and memories by Loretta Lynn, and The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber.

Finally, if you want to take a real trip in the time machine, check out Square Meals: a cookbook by Jane and Michael Stern and Fashionable Food: seven decades of food fads by Sylvia Lovegren. Each chapter in the Sterns’ book features a theme like the World War II era (victory garden vegetable plate suppers and spam recipes among others) or the cooking of Suburbia (1950’s). The writing highlights the Sterns’ trademark witty and tongue-in-cheek style as well as their genuine love for Americana in all its kitschy glory. Lovegren’s book is more of a true culinary history spanning the decades from the 1920’s through the 1990’s and concerns itself with food fads more than it does with what actual people were regularly cooking at home and includes such new-to-me things as the Depression era toast supper and the marshmallow craze of the 20’s. Both of these books make fun reading, and you actually might come across a recipe that you want to try. By the way, pictured to the right is a molded gelatin salad which features what seems to be a mixture of peas, corn, and maybe carrots. That’s not my kind of thing, but who knows, maybe someone, in some kitchen somewhere, is recreating it right now as a beloved flavor from the past.


Growing up the only time the slow cooker came out of its resting place was when we were having chili. Recently, I have been wanting to use my slow cooker for more than just for chili.  So I’ve been checking out a variety of cookbooks for more recipes. Did you know that you can cook oatmeal in the slow cooker? It is great. You can put the ingredients in before you go to bed and have breakfast waiting for you upon waking.

I have learned so much from the books I’ve checked out  from the Library about slow cookery. Did you know that you can make risotto in the slow cooker? No more standing at the stove and constantly stirring. You can even make polenta in the slow cooker.

The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone has several recipes for making polenta and risotto. There are even a few dessert recipes.

Another book that I thoroughly enjoyed was the 1001 best slow-cooker recipes cookbook you’ll ever need by Sue Spitler with Linda R. Yoakam. There is a great recipe for cube steak stew. It was delicious and I’ve been spreading that recipe around. This cookbook also has recipes for drinks, sides and even a few salad selections.

The Library has several more books on the subject of slow cookery. To see the other cookbooks, go to the catalog and under the keyword subject box, type in slow cookery. As the Italians say…. Mangia! Mangia!


Dec 9 2011

Learning from an Iron Chef and others

by Amanda L

Recently, I have been hooked on those contest cooking shows that seemed to have exploded on to the scene. You might know the ones I’m talking about… Iron Chef, Top Chef, Chopped, etc. It fascinates me that these chefs can make a delicious meal out of those most unusual ingredients. I mean who has ever seen an uni? (If you want to learn more about this ingredient check out this article from Star Chefs online magazine.)

Growing up, I always thought that you had to have a recipe in order to make specific dishes. These shows have shown me that you can make delicious food without a recipe by just knowing some basic techniques, principles and  food parings. When I watch these types of shows, especially the judging, it has reinforced that while cooking uses science to understand the interaction of ingredients it truly is an art in that it is in the eye of the beholder… I mean taster.

The library has several books written by the stars and participants of these shows. While the shows have enabled me to be creative in many of the dishes I make, I still enjoy books that not only inspire me but enhance the information I gather from watching these shows.

Mission Cook by Robert Irvine

Trained by the best European chefs, Robert also shares his cooking philosophy, his best recipes and tips on how to add that special twist to any dish.

The Soul of a new cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson

In The Soul of a New Cuisine , Marcus returns to the land of his birth to explore the continent’s rich diversity of cultures and cuisines through recipes and stories from his travels in Africa.

New American Table by Marcus Samuelsson

From the winner of Top Chef Masters An affectionate, thoroughly diverse tribute to the modern American table “I’ll introduce you to friends I’ve met along the way who have shared their foods, told me their stories and inspired me with their passion.

Good Eats: the early years by Alton Brown

Contains more than 140 recipes and close to 1,000 photographs and illustrations from the Peabody Award-winning TV show, “Good Eats”, along with explanations of techniques, lots of food-science information (of course!) and more food puns, food jokes and food trivia than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

Michael Symon’s Live to Cook by Michael Symon

Michael tells the amazing story of his whirlwind rise to fame by sharing the food and incredible recipes that have marked his route.

Cooking from the Hip by Cat Cora

Iron Chef America, Cat Cora is used to improvising exciting dishes on a moment’s notice. In this book she shows you how to do it too, whether you want a spur-of-the-moment supper or a spectacular dinner that doesn’t require spending your whole Saturday in the kitchen.

Top Chef: the quickfire cookbook

Everything the home chef needs to assemble an impressive meal and channel the energy of the Quickfire kitchen is collected here, including advice on hosting a Quickfire Cocktail Party and staging Quickfire Challenges at home

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Nov 30 2011

Baking up memories

by Dea Anne M

I will never forget the Christmas Eve that I arrived home from college at about 7:30 pm. After hugging me, Mom said “You can start baking the cookies while the rest of us trim the tree!” Now I know that some folks actually do put up the tree the night before, but even for my “let’s do everything at the last minute” family this was a little extreme. Anyway, I put my stuff down, pulled out the bowls and pans, and got to work. I think my head hit the pillow just before Santa arrived but I got those cookies baked and another family holiday tradition was preserved.

I started doing the holiday baking when I was still in high school and it was always a happy task for me. My family’s taste (or maybe just mine!) veered more towards the buttery end of the goodie spectrum than the sugary, and the cookies I baked were invariably rich. Dad’s favorite was a shortbread-like toasted pecan bedecked bar known as Jan Hagel. I also baked a cookie that we called Jingle Bells—a complicated affair that involved making a rich, buttery dough, setting aside about a third of it, dividing the rest in half, and using food coloring to dye one half green and the other half red. I would then form each dough half into a log and then shape the log into a form approximating that of a bell. I’d then divide the uncolored dough in half, roll out each piece into a rectangle, and wrap the rectangles around the bell-logs. After chilling, I would take the dough, slice it, and bake the bells. Right now, you might be thinking that no cookie could possibly taste good enough to be worth that much effort, and you might be right. Still, Jingle Bells were one of those “wouldn’t be Christmas without it” items for my family and, for me, time more than well spent. As if Jingle Bells weren’t enough, I also always made my own favorite, Christmas Spritz. These little labors of love involved filling a cookie press with a…you guessed it…buttery dough and carefully pressing out tiny Christmas wreaths which I would then painstakingly decorate with sprinkles and nonpareils.

I still do holiday baking, although these days my choices involve cookies of the “drop ’em and bake ’em” variety. I have for several years now baked the same two cookies—one a chocolate and chocolate chip flavored with peppermint and the other an orange flavored drop stuffed with dried cranberries and orange zest. I usually spend the better part of a day baking dozens and dozens to give to friends, co-workers, and family. Every year, as I consider baking a different variety, someone will tell me how much they loved the orange-cranberry last year or drop some not-so-subtle hint about looking forward to the chocolate-chocolate mint, and so my own holiday tradition remains preserved.

Are you looking to change up your own holiday baking tradition or start a new one? If so, DCPL has resources to help.

You’ll find a stunning collection of cookie possibilities in The Gourmet Cookie Book: the single best recipe from each year 1941 -2009. As the title promises, the editors of Gourmet magazine (which ceased publication in 2009) have selected a “best” recipe from each year. The selections range from the homey (Aunt Sis’s Strawberry Tart Cookies) to the exotic (Grand Marnier Glazed Pain D’Epice Cookies). You’re sure to find a tradition-worthy recipe or two here.

Say what you will about Martha Stewart, she’s still a woman who knows her way around a kitchen. The DVD Martha’s Favorite Cookies from the folks at Martha Stewart Living Television will provide you with one-on-one instructions for baking 33 different cookies including Fig Bars and Coconut Pinwheels. Yum!

Of course, holiday baking is about more than cookies. Holiday Baking: new and traditional recipes for wintertime holidays by Sara Perry includes not just recipes for cookies, but also pastries, savory tarts, oven baked omelets, and other delicious sounding treats. As the title promises, the recipes run the gamut of holidays that we celebrate this time of year and include Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Boxing Day.

And of course the winter holidays are never just about Christmas. If your family celebrates Kwanzaa, be sure to check out Eric V. Copage’s Fruits of the Harvest: recipes to celebrate Kwanzaa and other holidays. This book offers a global wealth of recipes from people of African descent. I don’t know about you, but Jerked Pork Chops and Fresh Papaya Chutney with a side of Garlic-Cheddar Grits Souffle sounds pretty good to me. For Hanukkah celebrations, you couldn’t do better than Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook. This impressive volume offers history, lore, and 400 fabulous recipes from the woman who is considered by many to be the reigning expert on global Jewish cuisine.

Here’s hoping that your holidays are filled with happiness! Do you have a holiday cooking tradition?


Oct 5 2011


by Dea Anne M

As an enthsiastic home cook, I love it when I have a leisurely several hours to spend in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.  As a working person who can’t—and doesn’t want to—eat out every night,  I want to have a delicious dinner at my own table at a reasonable hour. Delicious. At Home. On Time. Some nights all that can feel like “mission impossible,” so to speak, and I wind up falling back on a sandwich or pasta. There’s nothing really wrong with those options, but most evenings I crave something that’s more like the family meals that I grew up with.

I’m only cooking for two so I don’t have the added pressure of getting dinner on the the table for children. Still, some of my favorite current reading matter is the blog Dinner: A Love Story. The bloggers, Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward are working parents of two daughters ages 7 and 9 and while some of the writing centers around issues specific to feeding children, much of it involves great tips for getting dinner on the table quickly and inexpensively without sacrificing flavor and without the use of a lot of processed items.

Some nights, I know what ingredients I have on hand but I can’t figure out what to do with them or don’t want to cook the same old thing. A handy Internet tool that I’ve found for just this situation is SuperCook. You plug in your ingredients, one by one, and the site pulls recipes from tons of online sources. You can limit your search to exclude any undesirable ingredients like meat, gluten, and others. I admit that I will often “tweak” the recipes that I find, but all in all it’s a great everyday tool.

If you need help with dinner, DCPL has resources for you.

One of my current favorite books is The Stocked Kitchen by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins. The “revolutionary” concept espoused here is one that was probably quite familiar to our mothers and grandmothers and that is…keep a list, shop the list, cook from the list. Kallio and Krastins include their own master list which is admirably compact, in my opinion, and doesn’t include a preponderance of exotic or heavily packaged ingredients. The rest of the book is devoted to recipes that use the master list ingredients, and only those ingredients, to provide a solid core of standards as well as dishes to make for company or just for fun. I have my own set of recipes that I make on a regular basis so I use the book more as an inspiration than anything else. However, I now have my own prepared “checklist” that lives on the refrigerator door and is always ready when I go shopping. For me, it makes shopping simpler (and less expensive!) and daily cooking much, much easier.

…and speaking of simple, I’ve been a big fan of Real Simple magazine for years. Real Simple: Meals Made Easy by the editors of Real Simple is a great example of the clean, modern design aesthetic of the magazine which I so admire. The book is easy to use, lavishly illustrated (always a big plus for a cookbook, I think), and doesn’t call for any hard-to-find or heavily processed ingredients. My one reservation about the book is that it presupposes a certain level of kitchen knowledge, particularly in the area of knife skills. If you’re a cook who is already comfortable in the kitchen though, this might just be the cookbook for you.

Another of my more recent favorites is The City Cook by Kate McDonough. The sub-title kind of says it all Big City, Small Kitchen. Limitless Ingredients, No Time. More than 90 recipes so delicious you’ll want to toss your take out menus.  Focused mainly toward urban dwellers, this book has a lot of good advice for those cooking in tiny spaces, and in spite of  the  “limitless” tag  the ingredients involved are mostly simple and easy to find. I particularly appreciate McDonough’s common-sense advice such as her tips on getting fish smells out of apartments and her caveat that you really only need 3 knives, a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife. As an added plus, the well-edited collection of recipes don’t demand hours of prep work. If you want to start cooking more meals at home, but don’t want to feel overwhelmed, this could be a very helpful resource.

Finally, let me offer two of my own tips that always help me start cooking dinner when I’d really rather just flop on the couch:

1.  Don’t sit down (yet).

2.  Get out the pots and pans before you change your clothes!