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Click on the title to see the review, or scroll down to see all.

Miracle Mug Cakes and Other Cheat’s Bakes

Green Drinks

The Salad Bowl

Betty Crocker Birthdays

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

Christmas with Southern Living

Boozy Shakes

The Tomato Basket

Better Homes and Gardens Fresh Grilling: 200 Delicious Good-for-You Recipes

Deliciously Vintage

Grilled Cheese: Traditional and Inspired Recipes for the Ultimate Toasted Sandwich

Mac ’n’ Cheese: Traditional and Inspired Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food

Gluten-Free Holiday

Sunday Casseroles

Best Lunch Box Ever

Juice It! Energizing Blends for Today’s Juicers

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: All the Good Cookies

Super Healthy Snacks and Treats

The New Midwestern Table

Holiday Cupcakes & Cookies

Halloween Treats

Short & Sweet: The Best of Home Baking

Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking

Boutique Wedding Cakes

Waffles—Sweet, Savory, Simple

Sunday Brunch

Cake Simple

Gooseberry Patch Christmas, Book 13


The Fresh and Green Table

Mini Cakes and Other Bite Size Treats

Cooking Light Way to Bake

Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Home Cooking

Home-Cooked Comforts

Fabulous Brownies

Christmas All Through the House

Gluten-Free Made Simple

Skinny Dips: 60 Recipes for Dips, Spreads, Chils, and Salsas on the Lighter Side of Delicious

Popsicles and Other Frozen Fruity Treats

Easy Grilling—Simple Recipes for Outdoor Grills

Muffin Magic

Weekend Baking: Easy Recipes for Relaxed Family Baking

The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen

Decorating Cupcakes, Cakes, & Cookies

Whoopie Pies

In the Green Kitchen

Sundaes & Splits

Chocolate Cake: 50 Great Cakes for Every Occasion

All Cakes Considered

Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever

Stonewall Kitchen Breakfast

Christmas from the Heart

Fruits of the Earth

Cool Drinks for Warm Days

Fresh From the Farmers Market

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book bite: Miracle Mug Cakes and Other Cheat’s Bakes

Miracle Mug Cakes and Other Cheat’s Bakes

You know how it is. Sometimes you just need a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you make a cake, a batch of cookies, or a pan of brownies, you just might eat the whole thing.

Enter the concept of mug cakes. By using items you probably already have, you can create a yummy concoction with a coffee mug and your microwave oven. How easy is that?

You save time, energy, mixing bowls and beaters to wash. The kitchen smells great. And you get a goodie to enjoy. Yes, you’ll have a product with a slightly different texture than a regular baked item—more like a sponge cake—but you’ll get a treat in a short amount of time. You can do this.

Remember, too, that mug cakes will rise and then deflate when the microwave oven door is opened. When a mug cake is fully baked, it will have risen, started to come away from the sides of the mug, and will be slightly damp to the touch.

Author Suzy Pelta of the United Kingdom divides the recipes for easy reference. The first section, for kids, offers such ideas as Peanut Butter-Nutella Mug Cake, Sprinkle Sunshine Mug Cake (complete with sprinkles), and Cookie Dough and Oreo mug cake flavors.

The recipes take a grown-up twist with flavors such as Boozy Berry (a little brandy), White Chocolate and Lemon Drizzle, After-Dinner Mint, and Caffè Latte mug cakes.

The second half is full of ideas for family fun. It’s divided into cookies, cakes, and desserts recipes. Flavors featuring a marbled chocolate and orange creation and mug cakes incorporating crushed cookies, doughnut pieces, chocolate chips, s’mores ingredients, cream cheese, soda pop, and cereal offer ideas for using might be on hand in the kitchen. And don’t forget the Garbage Cookies—Rice Krispies, M&M’s, pretzels, chocolate chips, and potato chips. Whoa! (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2017, $15.95)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Green Drinks

The Salad Bowl

Everywhere you look, it’s a smoothie world. Smoothies help to detox, cleanse, nourish, and feed your body with good stuff. If kale’s not your deal, you may like it better if you put it in a smoothie.

A number of fresh green juices, smoothies, and blends are all together in this small green cookbook, full of recipes by Nicola Graines, former editor of Vegetarian Times.

Why focus on green only? Simple enough. Green drinks are naturally lower in sugar than other fresh fruit juices and smoothies. With a focus on kale, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, peas, arugula, basil, parsley, and celery, there’s a hearty choice. Sweetness in the drinks comes from pears, apples, melons, grapes, and other vitamin-rich fruits.

There are tips for juicing success to get you started:

  • Choose produce that is in season and at its peak of ripeness, which will also mean it’s at its nutritional best. With the goal of flushing out toxins from your body, avoiding foods full of unwanted additives makes sense.
  • Leave the skin on when possible to include the source of the nutrients.
  • For maximum flavor, texture, and nutritional value, drink smoothies and blends shortly after making.
  • If fresh juices are too potent for your digestive system, dilute slightly with pure or filtered water.

The book offers a discussion of various types of juicers and blenders. There’s also good explanation of various supernutrients, such as barley grass, protein, and wheatgrass, to add to your blends.

Recipes are categorized by purpose. You’ll find detoxifiers, such as Virgin Apple Mojito, Apple Zinger, Feeling Flush; energy enhancers (Popeye Special, Rocket Fuel, Ginger Spice); pick-me-ups (Melon Froth, Mint Lemonade, Apple Juice with Fennel); weight-loss aids (Cabbage Love, Minty Ginger Granny Smith, Magic Mushrooms); and ultimate beauty boosters (Green Goddess, Green Kiwi Juice, Skin Freshener). (Ryland Peters & Small, $16.95, 2015) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: The Salad Bowl: Vibrant and Healthy Recipes for Main Courses, Simple Sides & Dressings

The Salad Bowl

With farmers markets in full colorful bloom, home gardens blooming with Mother Nature’s finest treats, and grocery stores showing off their vibrant veggies and fruits, it’s a great season to love salads. In winter, salads might fall to side-dish status. But this time of year, they fight for center stage and main-dish billing.

We have come a long way from the wedge of iceberg lettuce drizzled with Thousand Island dressing. Now myriad lettuces and greens take turns vying for our attention. And while tomatoes, radishes, and carrots are fun additions to greens, these days the sky is the limit—grains, beans, lentils, quinoa, couscous, barley, pasta, rice, meats, seafood, leftover cooked potatoes, seeds, cheese, eggs, and dried fruit such as figs, raisins, soured cherries, and cranberries are fun to add.

This cookbook by Nicola Graimes, a former editor of Vegetarian Living magazine, offers primers on salad tools and sprouting your own salad seed add-ins, along with topping and spice mixes to add crunch and interest. She also offers ideas for dressings, especially three types of them. She prefers oil-based, such as classic vinaigrette; creamy, such as mayonnaise- or cream-based; and oil-free, such as Asian dressings based on rice vinegar, mirin, or soy sauce.

For inspiration, this book is full of extra-lovely salad photography. Recipes focus on various segments, with chapters on Meat and Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Dairy, Grains, Beans, and Fruits and Vegetables.

Little information boxes throughout the book help educate readers on extra details or about items that aren’t well-known.

Perusing The Salad Bowl offers some good ideas for tasty summer dining. How about New Potato, Radish & Chive Salad with Feta Dressing or Goat Cheese, Strawberry & Basil Salad for starters? (Ryland Peters & Small, $21.95, 2015) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Betty Crocker Birthdays

Betty Crocker Birthdays

For years and years, of course, the best thing to top off a birthday celebration has been—what else?—a birthday cake. This colorful book addresses festive cakes for kids and also for adults. Hey, we love a great cake, too, right?

The book, which is chock-full of ideas, starts out with Party Planning 101, focusing on picking a theme, setting the time and place, developing the guest list, invitations, activities, food, and decorations.

Themed parties are all the rage for kids. Ideas for party themes include a Princess Party with a castle cake; Cheerios First Birthday Party; Dinosaur Party with Rex the dinosaur cake; and a Pirate Party with an Oreo eye patch on the pirate-face cake. Superheroes are hot, hot, hot right now, so there are fun ideas for a party with a child’s favorite hero as a theme. For something different, celebrate a half birthday with a most delightful rainbow cake. This is a fun idea for kids with birthdays at busy times of the year.

Cakes in the form of a ladybug, train, piano, and a lion face with a cereal mane are sure to be hits. A novel shape such as a soccer ball, guitar, pony, monster, flip-flop, inchworm, and polka dots will make a festive cake extra festive. One chapter celebrates the specialness of party-perfect cupcakes in scrumptious flavors.

Grown-up cakes in special flavors are sure to draw compliments. Decadent Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce, Raspberry-Fudge Fantasy Torte, Cream-Filled Butter Pecan Cake, Chocolate Turtle Cake, Mojito Cake, and Rainbow Sherbet Cake are sure to be top-list considerations for the adult crowd.

If you want something different than regular cake, the chapter on alternatives such as Candy Bar Cookie Pops, Dainty Daisy Cake Pops, Watermelon Pops, a variety of whoopie pies, fondue, and cheesecake choices makes this a good book to have on the shelf. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, 2014)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman on her cooking show on the Food Network, is pretty popular with many Iowa cooks. The blogger, author, photographer, and “accidental country girl,’ as she calls herself, has created a little empire on the Oklahoma cattle ranch she shares with her husband, Ladd, and four children.

Her latest ventures are a line of vintage-inspired housewares, including tableware, glassware, cookware, and bakeware carried by Wal-Mart, and her newest cookbook all about her favorite meal, dinner. Her previous three cookbooks were No. 1 New York Times best-selling cookbooks. She also has a series of children’s books based on Charlie the ranch dog. This book hit the No. 1 spot shortly after it was introduced.

This hefty (380 pages!) handbook focuses on the gathering qualities of dinner, when families and friends gather to reward themselves for making it through the day. The author says coming up with a meal on short notice is often the hardest struggle for the cook. Yes, it’s OK to have breakfast, such as pancakes or waffles, for dinner. She also shares some of her blog favorites for 16-minute meals, a specialty.

Drummond’s time-saving Prep Tips involve looking ahead. “If you’re cleaning veggies, clean enough for the week to save time. The same is true for dicing veggies. Do a bunch at a time. By Thursday, you’ll be so appreciative that you did it. Mix dressings and marinades ahead, and if you’re browning ground beef or turkey for tacos, chili, or soup, double or triple the amount and have them done ahead in the fridge or freezer,” she says. Another coping skill involves mise en place, measuring and assembling all the ingredients for a dish ahead of preparation. Then the “kits” are ready to go in a hurry.

She also freely admits she hates going to the grocery store. Many of us identify with that. Buying in bulk cuts her time, and all she has to do is fill in with fresh items for shorter shopping excursions.

The book is chock-full of ideas and 135 recipes for busy cooks. The chapters highlight breakfast-for-dinner ideas, such as Greek yogurt pancakes; salads and soups, including ginger steak salad and hamburger soup; fill-the-freezer items, from sweet and sour meatballs to individual chicken pot pies; 16-minute meals, such as cauliflower stir-fry; pasta pronto, such as roasted red pepper pasta and zucchini noodles; comfort classics, including Italian meat loaf and red wine pot roast; new favorites, such as coconut curry shrimp and green chile chicken; veggie and starchy sides, including broccoli cauliflower casserole and butternut squash and kale; and quick desserts, such as mini blueberry galettes and dessert panini. (William Morrow, $29.99, 2015) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Christmas with Southern Living

Christmas with Southern Living

Tried-and-true holiday recipes and decorations are special traditions in many homes. They evoke memories of people and places. However, it’s always fun to add a new appetizer, cookie, or main dish into the mix just to see if it passes the unwritten test to make it a permanent part of the holiday scene.

Southern Living’s annual book, called “the ultimate guide to holiday cooking and decorating,” dishes up some of those new ideas in a lovely package each year. This year’s version is chock-full of recipes and decorating ideas to mix with your standards.

For decorating, the annual has ideas for new tree trims, table runners, door decorations with boughs and blossoms, stockings to hang, and wreaths to decorate and display. It offers ideas for trimming tables, personalizing the backs of chairs, and decorating packages with embellishments.

To warm the spirit, there are recipes for Peppermint Swirl Hot Chocolate, Classic Dirty Martinis, Bourbon-Glazed Sausage Balls, and Meatloaf Muffins with Mashed Potatoes. There are directions and ideas for hosting a high tea just for fun, complete with Strawberry Peach Champagne and Salted Chocolate Bourbon Truffles.

There’s a complete menu for a ’Twas the Night Before Christmas dinner, as well as for Christmas morning breakfast. How do Cinnamon Roll Waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce sound? The main event, Christmas dinner, comes with a variety of choices. Holiday breads, from Bacon Jalapeño Buttermilk Scones to Sweet Potato Biscuits with Rosemary Pecan Butter, will warm your spirit and your kitchen, as will festive desserts, such as Raspberry Swirl Icebox Pie.

For those of us who enjoy giving food gifts, a section offers some good ideas: Chocolate-Dipped Graham Crackers, Salted Butterscotch Caramels, Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix, and Pear-Apple Chutney.

If you have ever wanted to go all out on a New Year’s Eve party, details await for special libations such as Bee’s Knees Cocktails and Prohibition Punch, along with a variety of elegant canapés.

As Violet Crawley on Downton Abbey was heard to say, “All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite.” (Oxmoor House, $29.99, 2015) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Boozy Shakes

Boozy Shakes

Ice cream just isn’t for summer, and it certainly isn’t just for kids. This new book by author Victoria Glass, a professional cook and food writer, takes a look at “hard shakes,” those that add a little, um, adult flavoring and kick.

As she notes, “As deliciously ‘dirty’ food has taken its place on gourmet menus, a new style of milkshake is needed to keep up the pace. And what better way to fuel this milkshake evolution than by unlocking the drinks cabinet?”

Yes, of course, there are Drunken S’mores shakes with a little vanilla vodka and crème de cacao. And you’ll find a Marzipan Milk Shake with a bit of amaretto and Cookies & Irish Cream with a little Bailey’s Irish Cream.

The Lemon Meringue Pie milkshake includes limoncello, of course, for a little tang and a Bananas Foster shake with crème de banana for a classy retro dessert. A Mudslide goes all out with a little vodka, Bailey’s, and Kahlúa. For a touch of elegance, there’s a recipe for Amaretto Sour with maraschino liqueur and amaretto.

For the old rocker in many of us, the “Shake, Rattle & Roll” chapter takes a vibe from the inner “king.” The Elvis combines peanut butter ice cream, crème de banana, vanilla vodka, a banana, and chocolate shavings—“Love Me Tender”!

For a St. Patrick’s Day party, make Three Sheets to the Wind Shamrock Shake. Main components are peppermint ice cream, crème de menthe, and whiskey.

For other festive times, there’s a Piña Colada with pineapple, coconut oil, coconut cream, and golden rum. For a party finale at the holidays, the Jingle Bell Rock shake combines homemade honey ice cream, whiskey, Pimento Dram (allspice-flavored liqueur), and Angostura bitters. Cheers! (Ryland, Peters & Small, $16.95, 2015) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: The Tomato Basket

The Tomato Basket

One of the best perks about living in Iowa at this time of year is a pretty simple pleasure—tomatoes fresh from the vine.

Sliced and plain as a side dish is standard fare. And how do you like them? Plain with salt and pepper? Sprinkled with a little sugar? Your preference seems to depend on where you grew up. I truly never knew about the sugar deal until I started being around northeast Iowans.

There’s so much more, of course. Do you just love homemade salsa, deliciously sauced pizza, and sun-dried tomatoes? Do you like soups, sauces, and curries, or other international dishes that are tomato-based? When you preserve tomatoes for winter stews and chili, do you freeze them or can them?

Although tomatoes are the fruits of the plant, we call them vegetables. Go figure. Besides that, they are good for us, full of vitamins A and C and lycopene, an antioxidant that’s known for its excellent healthful properties.

This colorful new cookbook by Jenny Linford shows off the tomato’s versatility. She takes readers through the maze of varieties, from red, yellow, orange, green, pink, and purple-black, and through the various tomato sizes, ranging from cherry tomatoes to hefty beefsteak varieties. Tomatoes come sweet, acidic, juicy, or dry-textured and firm-fleshed or soft.

Many of us violate the most important tomato tip: So they will continue to ripen, store fresh tomatoes at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator. If you do chill them, allow the tomatoes to reach room temperature for better aroma and flavor.

The book offers over 75 recipes for celebrating tomatoes, everything from Classic Gazpacho to Tomato Blinis and Plum Tomato Tartlets. There’s also the satisfying taste of homemade Tomato Ketchup and Fried Green Tomatoes.

For heartier fare, you’ll find Tomato and Roast Squash Soup; Tomato, Melon and Feta Salad; Chicken Cacciatore; and Tomato Bacon Gratin. Meatballs in Spiced Tomato Sauce, Greek Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes, and Tomato Parmesan Frittata give a hearty vibe. Tomato Risotto and Tomato Macaroni Cheese dress up some favorite flavors. You can also celebrate the season with a Summer Tomato Tart and Blush Tomato and Feta Muffins.

The book also discusses preserving methods and growing tips and lists tomato festivals. (Ryland, Peters & Small, $21.95, 2015)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Better Homes and Gardens Fresh Grilling: 200 Delicious Good-for-You Recipes

Better Homes and Gardens Fresh Grilling: 200 Delicious Good-for-You Recipes

If you can’t stand the heat, you know what to do—get out of the kitchen and grill. Grilling these days is about so much more than meat. We want to enjoy the seasonal freshness of fruits and vegetables, and that means more items to grill. With the back-to-basics approach to home gardening, farmers markets, and CSAs (community supported agriculture), we’re becoming more adventurous and putting produce at the head of our menus, not just as side dishes.

This cookbook takes a fresh approach by making sure fresh produce in some form is part of each recipe in the book. From apples to zucchini, there’s a produce guide to help you in selecting, storing, and preparing fresh items.

There is, of course, discussion on grill types and temperature control, along with a most helpful graphic on the prep, precooking, and grilling methods and times for veggies and fruits. There are sauces, salsas, marinades, and rubs to enhance flavors, plus a get-the-party-started section on beverages and appetizers, from Serrano Ham and Grilled Tomato Toasts to Grilled Radish Crostini and Smoky Pineapple Guacamole.

The comprehensive book offers tasty ideas for your favorite meats—beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, and fish or shellfish. Southern Spiced Flat Iron Steaks with Grilled Green Tomatoes and Grilled Peach-and-Pistachio-Stuffed Lamb Chops offer whole meals on a platter, as does a recipe for Grilled Mango-Glazed Pork Chops with Watermelon Salsa. Lime-Marinated Chicken and Tomatillo-Corn Salad and Grilled Strawberry, Tomato, and Chicken Wraps give new ideas for a flavorful lunch or light dinner.

Orange Pistachio-Stuffed Grilled Scallops offer some seafood flair. And you won’t miss the meat in the vegetarian section with dishes such as Smoky Grilled Vegetable Torte, Portobello Fajitas, and Vegetarian Spiedini.

For casual fare, the pizza, burgers, and sandwiches chapter offers selections such as Turkey Burgers with Grilled Pear Slaw and Muenster, Cabbage, and Apple Sandwiches. Smoked Tomato Po’Boy Sandwiches add some Southern vibe. Pork-Wasabi Tacos offer some fusion flavor. Pizza lovers can enjoy Grilled Endive, Apple, and Bacon Pizza and Fresh Tomato Pizza with Oregano and Mozzarella.

Side dishes offer more grilling options, and a Quick Smoke section contains 30-minute meals with wood chips or grilling planks for the taste of long-smoldering preparation. Included are ideas for sea bass, smoked trout, and planked salmon.

Desserts? You bet. How about Grilled Berry Crumble, Grilled Strawberries with Sweet Corn Shortcakes and Limoncello Whipped Cream, and Grilled Skillet Peach Pie?

This book offers a new look at pairing your grill and your produce. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99 softcover, 2014)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Deliciously Vintage: Sixty Beloved Cakes and Bakes That Stand the Test of Time

Deliciously Vintage: Sixty Beloved Cakes and Bakes That Stand the Test of Time

Everything old is new again, from vintage clothing to retro furnishings to repurposed items. For many, food is part of the experience, too.

It’s fun to remember what kind of cake Mom made for a birthday (lemon or chocolate chiffon) or a favorite pie she took to the church social (that would be chocolate meringue).

This new book by Victoria Glass tugs at those heartstrings. She’s British, so recipe names might be a little different. Linzertart cookies in the U.S. are two layers of cookies with jam in the middle and a heart cut out of the top cookie. In the U.K., those are known as Jammie Dodgers. Same difference. Chocolate Chip Cookies and Gingerbread Men are the same. Black and White Cookies are half black and half white, like a half moon in a night sky. And Snickerdoodles, cinnamony favorites for many of us, label the American and British classic.

Whoopie Pies have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with good reason, of course. Cinnamon Rolls never really went out of style for even a short while.

Hummingbird Cake from the American South combines banana, pineapple, cinnamon, and nutty pecan crunch with cream cheese frosting. Well, yes! Kugelhopf (Bundt cake) is a sweet yeast cake with dried fruit and nuts and is popular in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the French region Alsace. Boston Cream Pie, Devil’s Food Cake, and Mississippi Mud Cake conjure up good memories for many.

So do Pecan Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, and Eclairs. Apple Brown Betty, similar to the British crumble, has fans on both sides of the pond. This is a fun book of from-scratch memories. (Ryland, Peters & Small, $24.99, 2014) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Grilled Cheese: Traditional and Inspired Recipes for the Ultimate Toasted Sandwich

Grilled Cheese: Traditional and Inspired Recipes for the Ultimate Toasted Sandwich

When you think of comfort foods, one near the top of the list likely will be grilled cheese. Ooey, gooey, and, oh, so fine, the grilled cheese sandwich offers good taste and soothing comfort. It’s simple, to be sure, and it’s pleasing to kids and adults alike.

People have their favorite choices, of course. Type of cheese, type of bread, type of cooking utensil (griddle vs. pan)—they’re all personal and all important.

This cookbook by Laura Washburn shows the importance of the subject. She’s a graduate of a prestigious Paris cooking school and now lives in London, yet she made a whole cookbook about grilled cheese. A peasant meal? Yes, perhaps, but Washburn elevates it to a new plane.

Beyond the basic sandwich (with tomato soup, of course), the author has fun with flavors. You’ll find Red Onion Chutney & Cheddar; Three Cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, and Swiss); Leek & Gruyère; and Mozzarella Puttanesca, halfway between pizza and pasta sauce.

Just for fun, she offers Brie & Apple-Cranberry Sauce; Welsh Rarebit; Monte Cristo, complete with a slice of ham; and Avocado, Refried Bean & Monterey Jack.

For international flair, try Tandoori Chicken & Mango Chutney; Chipotle Chicken, Roasted Green Peppers & Queso Fresco; and Chili Bacon Swiss Cheese for something different.

To add some high-brow drama, the gourmet section dishes up Roasted Butternut Squash, Ricotta & Parmesan with Sage Butter; Avocado, Tomato, Baby Spinach & Smoked Chicken; and Marinated Artichoke, Olive & Provolone. (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2014, $16.95)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Mac ’n’ Cheese: Traditional and Inspired Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food

Mac ’n’ Cheese: Traditional and Inspired Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food

Macaroni and cheese—mac ’n’ cheese—has come a long way from the little blue box that is a staple with kids. Now high-falutin’ restaurants serve up variations that have taken the eternal comfort food up a notch.

Serve it up with spicy beef or fancy ham. Or combine it with butternut squash and sage or mushrooms and tarragon or feel free to experiment.

A new cookbook by Laura Washburn offers ideas. After all, she studied at the famous Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. She offers a primer on the individual parts that make the dish so endearing, from pasta to sauce to cheese. She prefers cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses because they are readily available and melt well.

From a classic recipe, she takes off on a number of variations to stir your emotions. For vegetable choices, she considers tomatoes and goat cheese; roasted asparagus and pecorino; caramelized onions and smoked cheese; spicy corn; and even jalapeño, tomato, and Monterey Jack.

Washburn suggests mixing mac ’n’ cheese with salmon, basil and Parmesan; crab gratin; tuna and mushrooms; smoked haddock and spinach; shrimp and feta; and even with lobster thermidor.

For meat varieties, she goes with Greek lamb; frankfurters, onions, and mustard; chorizo and sweet pepper; mini meatballs with mozzarella; ham hock and smoked mozzarella; chicken Alfredo; and barbecue chicken. Who knew? (Ryland, Peters & Small, $16.95, 2013)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Gluten-Free Holiday

Gluten-Free Holiday

Delicious cookies, cakes, pies, stuffings, and sauces are perfect for the festive table.

More and more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease. Still others are choosing to avoid gluten from their diets for health reasons. That can make the year-end holidays less than fun because many traditional foods contain wheat or gluten. Even items like shredded cheese contain gluten to prevent the cheese pieces from clumping together.

This new book by Hannah Miles encourages cooks to check ingredients carefully before serving items to guests. As she explains, gluten gives elasticity to cake and bread doughs. Gluten-free substitutes lack this elasticity and need to be handled slightly differently. Also, avoiding cross-contamination is paramount in your food preparation.

The author, a lawyer and a finalist on the BBC version of Master Chef, has developed a second career as a cook and cookbook author. For holiday parties, she offers a selection of canapés and party bites, including cheese straws, dill and mustard blinis, and mango salsa in pastry tarts. For cookies and small treats, she has devised snowcap cookies, Black Forest cups, cannoli, and Christmas tree gingerbread cookies.

In a chapter on large cakes and desserts, she offers pumpkin and pecan chiffon pie, spiced stollen, and sherry trifle. For sauces and stuffings, she dishes up cranberry sauce, gravy, and chorizo dressing. (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2014, $16.95)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish

Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish

We’re into the season when comfort foods sound, well, really comforting. There’s a nip in the air and a change underfoot. It’s not time to hunker down and hibernate just yet, but hearty foods take on new importance.

A new book, Sunday Casseroles by Betty Rosbottom, offers cool-weather inspiration in 60 recipes. She uses fresh, whole ingredients to get you started on Sunday-evening classics.

Casseroles bring to mind classic tuna and noodles, lasagna, and tasty macaroni and cheese. Stratas, scalloped this and that, and baked stews also fall into this category. One-dish meals are popular with cooks and with eaters because they are convenient and versatile. Besides, with any luck at all, you’ll have leftovers for another lunch or dinner. And the leftovers often taste even better than the first serving. Depending on the recipe, casseroles can be made ahead of time and frozen before baking or after baking.

You won’t find a can of mushroom soup, the staple in our “growing-up” casseroles, in any of the recipes.

The author divides the casserole categories into sections: chicken and turkey, meats, seafood, vegetables, under-cover dishes (under biscuit, potato, or pastry toppings), pasta, and breakfast.

Here’s a sample from each division—Creamed Turkey, Fall Vegetables and Wild Rice Bake; Cider-Baked Pork, Red Cabbage and Apples; Fish and Chips Casserole; Individual Broccoli and Cauliflower Cheddar Gratin; After Thanksgiving Turkey Shepherd’s Pie; Wild Mushroom Lasagna; and Baked French Toast with Apples, Apricots and Cherries. (Chronicle Books, $24.95, 2014) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love

Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love

After July 4th, kids and parents pretty much gear up for school mode. With schools starting earlier than in decades past, the daily routine of schedules, practices, and events clicks in early and fills calendars.

What all that does is increase the importance of an energy-filled school lunch. Some students eat school-prepared foods each day; others pack a lunch from home. That's where dietitian, mother, and author Katie Sullivan Morford goes into action, offering a toolbox of fresh and fun ideas in this new book. Her recipes can be tweaked to your family's tastes and needs. For more inspiration from her, check out her blog, Mom's Kitchen Handbook.

In her dietitian role, she discusses the basics on good nutrition, what to include and what to avoid. She gives lunch a makeover, pointing out the upside of improving some lunch basics. Instead of strawberry yogurt and a granola bar, for instance, opt for a Greek yogurt parfait with sliced strawberries, honey, and crunchy whole-grain granola.

From inventive sandwiches (try using waffles as "bread") to stringing sandwich makings on a skewer for fun, Morford offers ideas for pinwheels, pizzas, wraps, and roll-ups. Her fruit and veggie sides are tasty and colorful, and she sends guacamole, peanut dip, and hummus with her three daughters. For crunch, she dishes up items such as granola bark, homemade cheese straws, and flavorful wonton crisps.

For after-school snacks, she often makes hard-cooked eggs, applewiches with apples as the outer part of a sandwich, or lettuce wraps. Morford also presents a lineup of storage containers and lunch boxes that work well. (Chronicle Books, $24.99, 2013)

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book bite: Juice It! Energizing Blends for Today’s Juicers

Juice It! Energizing Blends for Today’s Juicers

A whole lot of people have added juicers to their small appliance arsenal. Blenders work well for juicing, too, if your counters can’t hold another gadget.

Juicing is part of a revolution of sorts. People enjoy juicing to add energy, to improve their general well-being, and to easily add numerous fruits and vegetables to their daily food intake.

What’s so wonderful is that all fruits and veggies and their accompanying nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can work to your advantage.

This nice-size new book by Robin Asbell, a food author who has specialized in vegan and vegetarian subjects, offers 60-plus recipes to perk you up and to quietly soothe you down. She helps you get started by discussing various kinds of juicers and how to buy and use them, along with the important question: What do I do with the pulp after I have juiced? She offers some tasty suggestions.

A helpful tip: Kale, broccoli, and peppers are intense on their own, so you need some milder and possibly sweeter juice to make them palatable. Try apple, orange, or cucumber. And some juices taste flat without a shot of citrus, so keep lemons and limes on hand for the occasion.

Asbell offers energizing juices (Salsa Stinger, Juicy Lime Green Tea, Mango-Green Tea Booster), healing juices (Mood Lifter, Melon Collie, Tart ’n’ Green, Skinny Hot Lemonade), and relaxing juices (Grape Night’s Sleep, Potassium Soother, Berry Melon).

And just for fun, she offers pure pleasure juices, such as Chipotle Mary, Cucumber Mojito, Ginger Piña Colada, Strawberry-Vanilla Spritzer. (Chronicle Books, $18.95, 2014) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: All the Good Cookies

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: All the Good Cookies

No doubt about it. Cookies are the best. They are easy to make, easy to eat, and easy to share. Just the right finishing touch for meals, to be sure. But they also can DO good things. Author Gretchen Holt-Witt shares 60-plus yummy cookie recipes and the stories that accompany many of them. This cookbook is purpose-driven.

Her “mom on a mission” effort, started in 2007, was to encourage cookie sales to benefit research funding for pediatric cancer, the top disease killer of children in the United States. Her own son had cancer. She and her husband founded Cookies for Kids’ Cancer ( She personally sold 96,000 cookies and raised $420,000 for research.

Besides wonderful recipes, the book gives ideas on selling cookies, from a basket at the office with a tip jar to Election Day and Halloween full-scale bake sales and sales by schoolkids to help other kids. Another suggestion is giving cookie gift bags as shower favors and then making a donation in the name of the honoree.

There are tips for displaying, packaging, and marketing cookies, along with hints for dealing with allergy-free cookies. Then there’s the whole fun aspect of making cookies and also making a difference. (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013, $19.99) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Super Healthy Snacks

Super Healthy Snacks

OK, the resolutions we all made at New Year’s seem so yesterday. If you have been good about them, pat yourself on the back. If you’re like many of us, it’s time to look in the mirror again. This cookbook by Jenna Zoe can help. She offers 60-plus recipes for easy, energizing, and tasty snacks that are free from dairy, gluten, refined sugar, and eggs.

She replaces refined sugar with natural sweeteners, such as agave syrup and maple syrup; wheat flour with wheat-free alternatives; and dairy and soy with nut milks and health-giving oils. And, as she writes, “There are more ‘healthy’ convenience foods available to us than ever before, but it has become more difficult to figure out how healthful they truly are.”

At the same time, more and more consumers are becoming allergic or intolerant to components such as gluten, dairy, and eggs. This is primarily because gluten, for example, is being added to more and more products as a preservative, and modern wheat has been genetically transformed to increase its yield per acre.

Zoe focuses on fresh plant foods—fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds—and she uses them in a variety of tasty recipes. Back to the resolutions!

(Ryland, Peters & Small, 2013, $21.95) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: The New Midwestern Table

The New Midwestern Table

Author Amy Thielen, a Minnesota native, takes a good hard look at us. With an English degree under her belt, she went to culinary school in New York City and worked at some top restaurants before coming back to the Midwest in a cabin in northern Minnesota.

The book’s recipes showcase what Thielen calls food that’s rustic, gutsy, and simple. And it follows the seasons. Each recipe is introduced by an essay on the food at hand, from a Friday night fish fry to wild rice to Nebraska runzas.

She breaks baking down into two chapters. “There are sweets, and then there is baking.” Sweets, she says, are an after-dinner dessert. Baking is what you do early in the day to take the chill out of the house or just to get your hands in the dough, and it’s more often served as a snack or given as a gift.

Thielen now hosts a show on Food Network, Heartland Table. Oh, and the book’s photography is wonderful, too. (Clarkson Potter, 2013, $35)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Holiday Cupcakes & Cookies

Holiday Cupcakes & Cookies

We know. There are certain holiday treats you must make during the holidays. They have sentimental meaning because Mom or Grandma or Aunt Margaret made them every year. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

But we also know shaking things up a bit by adding some new ideas and some fresh recipes is fun. This new little cookbook of ideas might just fill the bill. The 25 recipes and ideas are fresh, fun, colorful, and easy. Add them to holiday party trays or give the treats as gifts to neighbors, colleagues, and friends. They’ll think you're so, so clever.

The book’s four categories are cupcakes, cookies, gingerbread, and brownies. Basic doughs—vanilla cookie dough and gingerbread cookie dough—can carry you far at this season. Icing recipes and directions for outlining cookies and for adding polka dots, bows, and stripes will make your skills shine and sparkle. For ideas, check out Holly Berry Cupcakes, Red-Nose Reindeer Cupcakes, and Snowmen Cupcakes trimmed with coconut “snow.” For spiced cupcakes, there are directions for making tiny Gingerbread Men for garnish. Want to decorate with holiday-appropriate Peppermint Bark? There’s a recipe for that.

Little Christmas Fancies or gift packages, made with hazelnut butter and fondant icing, are too pretty to eat. So are Advent Wreath Cupcakes. Christmas Tree cakes are fashioned over ice cream cones to get the right holiday shape.

Bauble cookies can be cut to be used as ornaments on trees or as treats at a party. So versatile. Gingerbread Christmas Tree cookies are trimmed with garland and stars at the top. Elegant Snowflake cookies made of gingerbread also can be used as tree or package trims. And one of the cutest cookie recipes, sure to draw raves, is the Jolly Penguins with their red hats.

For any occasion during the winter season, serve Gingerbread Whoopie Pies, inspired by soft iced gingerbread called Lebkuchen. (Ryland Peters and Small, 2013, $16.95)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Halloween Treats

Halloween Treats

Halloween fun is for kids of all ages. In fact, next to Christmas, Halloween is the most decorated and the most party-filled holiday. And why not? It’s creepy, crawly, colorful, and downright fun. Halloween is the perfect time to let your inhibitions fly away on a broom.

This festive little book by Annie Rigg is full of ghoulishly sweet treats. For kids’ or adults’ parties, she offers simple foods that can add to the fun and the decorations. And you don’t have to be an accomplished pastry chef or cake decorator to complete them.

Find recipes and instructions for decorating spider cookies, ghostly cupcakes, mummified cupcakes, pumpkin whoopie pies, and a bubbling cauldron cake. To set the Halloween mood, let your creative spirit run wild with creative holiday items from supermarkets, party stores, candy shops, and mass merchandising spots. You might want to stock up on Gummy Worms, too.

For jack-o’-lantern cookies, you don’t even need cookie cutters. Just cut out simple round circles and take it from there. Any other time of the year, thumbprint cookies are jam- or frosting-filled little delicacies. But on Halloween, they easily become eyeball cookies. Experiment with your own version of eyeballs or purchase sugar eyes. Glittery Ghost cookies take on an ethereal air, perfect for a party platter. Add some licorice legs to sandwich cookies with colorful icing in the middle to make instant spiders.

For cupcakes, you might want to add cobweb tops in the icing. Or how about mummy faces for a simple cupcake topper? Ice cream cones dipped in chocolate make superior witches’ hats for topping cakes.

To serve a crowd, how about a cauldron cake? Fill a cake’s center with spooky candies. For a really ghoulish treat, try filling baked donuts with blood-red jam. (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2012, $16.95) – Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Short & Sweet: The Best of Home Baking

Short & Sweet: The Best of Home Baking

It often seems that people either love to bake or they don’t. They might say, “Yes, I love to cook, but I don’t like to bake.” Perhaps it’s the mystique or the often very long, involved recipes.

This new book by Dan Lepard might give you a different perspective. With 280 recipes, the author says he will guide you through the ins and outs of baking, no matter if you are a novice or seasoned baker. Lots of helpful explanatory text offers tips for success.

He is British and writes a much-loved column in the U.K.’s Guardian. Don’t be intimidated by that fact either. The recipes in the book have wide appeal, from items such as Sour Cream Sandwich Bread, Bourbon Pecan Brownies, Swedish Almond Cake, Cardamom Peanut Brittle, and Sugar-Crusted Pear Turnovers.

Keeping up with current foodie trends, the author gives good space to cupcakes, whoopie pies, and French macarons. “Small cakes are not all about gluttony. When you have that cupcake on a plate, all yours and beautifully decorated, maybe there’s less of a temptation to eat half a dozen in a panic or a careless moment,” he writes. “You know, when you let your concentration slip and find you’ve eaten half a 12-portion layer cake. With a small cake, it’s easier to enjoy it slowly in a carefully ‘deconstructed’ manner until the last crumb is squished with the back of the fork and eaten.”

He helps you tackle such treats as Chocolate Custard Muffins, Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes, Chocolate Whoopie Pies, Banana Blondies, Toll House Yo-Yos, Lemon Curd Cookies. And on board with today’s health concerns, he offers gluten-free recipes for Sweet Gluten-Free Shortcrust Pastry and Gluten-Free White Bread.

There are savory choices, too, such as Chorizo and Tomato Tarts and Spinach and Ricotta Pasties. Plus, the recipes really are short and sweet, not long and cumbersome. (Chronicle Books, 2013, $35)—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking

Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking

It seems that Mexican is quite the appropriate cuisine for summer; well, anytime, really, but summer seems especially right. It's made on the spot, it uses fresh ingredients, it's convenient, it's easy, and it tastes good. Indeed, Mexican cooking has a lot going for it.

This cookbook by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee might seem unusual. Yes, she's Korean and has written on that cuisine as well, but her hands-on education began when her parents bought a Mexican grocery store in California when she was a teen. And, after college, she lived in Mexico.

She takes cooks on a journey from a glossary of Mexican ingredients—ancho chiles, annatto seeds, and cumin to masa, plantains, tomatillos, and wonderful Mexican vanilla. She breaks down Mexican cheeses, including queso blanco, panela, and queso fresco.

She gives a hefty chapter to salsas and writes, "Salsas are the heart and soul of Mexican cooking. Can you imagine a hot pile of tortilla chips, fresh from the fryer, with nothing to dip them in? And think of how naked the tray of enchiladas would be without a fine coat of red or green sauce to cover them."

The author takes salads way beyond the usual taco salad with recipes for Cactus Salad, Jicama Salad, and Avocado Salad. She delves into soups (Yucatan Lime Soup, Chicken and Hominy Soup, and Tortilla Soup); vegetables (Spicy Corn on the Cob, Black Beans, and Fried Chayote Squash); and a wide variety of dishes using poultry and eggs, beef and pork, and fish and shellfish.

Her dessert and snack ideas cover dishes such as Mango Pudding, Plantains with Vanilla and Cinnamon Cream, Mexican Wedding Cookies, and Churros. Beverages go beyond margaritas, with Mango Refresher, Hibiscus Punch, and Cinnamon Rice Drink. And, of course, there's Mexican Hot Chocolate. To make things easier, she sets up Mexican menus using the book's recipes and also offers a reading list of books focusing on Mexican cooking and culture. All in all, this would be a good book to grab off your shelf. (Chronicle Books, 2012, $22.95) – Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Boutique Wedding Cakes

Boutique Wedding Cakes

It’s the season for lovely weddings. And, of course, today’s elegant cakes are the piece de résistance at most such events. Not that long ago, couples and their guests enjoyed cake, punch, and mints in the church basement. Needless to say, weddings have come a long way since then. However, cakes in many forms, from elegant, tiered lovelies to cupcakes to petits fours, still offer a sweet finish to a special occasion.

As traditions have changed, so have cakes. No longer staid and predictable, they now reflect the couple’s personalities in shape, color, flavor, and design. Boutique Wedding Cakes by Victoria Glass, a London-based cake decorator, shows how to create your masterpiece at home. Or, of course, you can show a cake baker her beautiful designs.

What’s your pleasure—bold and distinctive or classic and elegant? This book offers myriad choices to get you started and extras, from royal icing to marzipan to tempering chocolate to leveling and piping.

In the Classic Elegance section, there are lovely ideas for cakes that exude tradition—Grace Kelly, Broadway Melody, White on White, Versailles, and Antique Lace. If Chic and Sophisticated is more your style, how about Royal Ballet, Victoriana, Film Noir, Midnight Lotus, or Art Nouveau?

If you’re into A Splash of Color, the author offers blue Something Borrowed mini cakes in pistachio and orange blossom flavors, Vintage Rose cupcakes, whimsical Love Birds carrot cake, striped Brighton Rock peanut butter and chocolate chip cake, and a bright Jade Garden orange polenta cake.

For Changing Seasons choices, there are step-by-step directions for Spring Flowers green tea cake, Summer Fete lemon drizzle cake, Autumn Hedgerow torte, and Winter Wonderland chestnut cake with snowflake trim.

This elegant idea book, complete with directions and recipes, is a lovely way to start your planning. (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2012, $24.95.) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Waffles—Sweet, Savory, Simple

Waffles-Sweet, Savory, Simple

Waffles are right for any time of day—breakfast, brunch, lunch, and even dinner. Didn’t you find it special as a kid to have breakfast fare on a cold winter night? This book, which came out at the end of 2012, just in time for winter, offers a collection of 30 recipes and a dozen toppings to gild the waffle.

The author, Dawn Yanagihara, surmises that people usually fall into one of two categories, pancake people and waffle people. Some of us, of course, enjoy both. She offers waffles plain and simple and also those dressed to the nines. There are Classic Waffles and Spicy Pumpkin Waffles with a hint of smoky chipotle. There are dessert waffles featuring a waffle parfait with layers of rich vanilla gelato and peppered strawberries. And how about Malted Waffles with sweet goat cheese, almonds, and cherries in port syrup?

Savory waffles are dressed up with herbs and Emmentaler cheese or dressed down with a piece of fried chicken and a ladleful of bacon gravy. Have you ever been to a chicken and waffle restaurant in Los Angeles or elsewhere? Interesting, huh?

While many of us might think that Belgian waffles are made in a waffle iron with extra-large pockets, this little book points out that a proper Belgian waffle is leavened with yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda. Just for fun, think of the waffle as an art canvas, just right for incorporating fruit, nuts, grains, sweeteners, spices, liquids, and even bacon. There are Wild Blueberry-Buttermilk Waffles, Coconut Waffles, Banana-Nut Waffles, and Toasted Oatmeal Waffles with a Hint of Cinnamon.

On the savory side, there are Ham and Gruyère Waffle Tartines and Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche on Buckwheat-Sour Cream Waffles. On the dessert side, how about S’Morish Waffles, Summer Berry and Waffle Puddings, or Chocolate Stout Waffle Sundaes? A chapter on toppings dishes up the wonders of Honey Butter with Orange Essence, Maple Cream Cheese, Lemon Curd, Blueberry Compote, Burnt Caramel Sauce, and Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce.

And while it’s not in the book, I remember a fun high school experience with my late friend Linda, when we made Chocolate Waffle Cookies. Watching that chocolate icing take its place in the individual waffle squares was so much fun and so, so good. (Chronicle Books, 2012, $16.95) –Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch

Let’s face it. Breakfast is breakfast, but brunch is just a cut above. A brunch takes bacon and eggs to new heights and serves up a lovely menu of company-special dishes—waffles, soufflés, gratins, omelets, tarts, and popovers.

Cookbook author Betty Rosbottom, a cooking teacher, PBS host, and author, offers more than 50 recipes in her quest to showcase beautiful brunches in her latest book.

We might think that brunch is a relatively new invention—a substitute for an old-fashioned Sunday dinner—but it’s not. This quote from 1895 in Hunter’s Weekly proves otherwise: “Brunch is cheerful, sociable, and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” Yes, it does.

Rosbottom covers the basics of brunch equipment and secrets for various types of eggs, baking hints, and griddle secrets. In her eggs section she shows their unending versatility and offers recipes for poaching, Eggs Benedict, scrambled, pan-fried, baked, and omelets. Her all-in-one section offers dishes that could be the whole meal in one dish: Caramelized Shallot and Ham Tarts; Souffléd Eggs with Ricotta, Spinach, and Pancetta; and Spicy Shrimp and Grits, and more.

Her Hot off the Griddle section focuses on pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Recipes include yummy selections such as Spiced Pancakes with Warm Maple-Butter Syrup, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce, and Golden Pecan Waffles with Warm Salted Caramel Sauce and Bananas.

The Bread Basket section includes recipes for Cranberry-Pecan Scones, Twice Ginger Gingerbread Muffins, Mike-High Popovers, and more delicious baked items. With fruit essential fare for a brunch, the author offers fresh fruit recipes, compotes, parfaits, and gratins. Complements for brunch dishes include potatoes, bacon, sausage, hash, and seafood. Drinks for toasting and sipping include Fresh Citrus Spritzers, Classic Mimosas, Bellinis, Bloody Marys, and autumn cider.

To make preparation easier, Rosbottom offers a Brunch Planner, where she combines the recipes in various groupings. (Chronicle Books, 2012, $19.95.) &emdash;Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Cake Simple

Cake Simple

Call them retro if you will, but Bundt-style cakes keep on keeping on. Food history says they’ve been on the scene since the early 1900s. And here we thought they entered the cooking Mecca in the 1960s, when the Tunnel of Fudge took second place in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Nordic Ware, which trademarked the decorative Bundt pan in 1950, knows how popular the cakes have been over time. The pan with the tube in the center and curved sides gives a dressed-up look to nearly any style of cake.

In some circles, mini Bundt cakes are striking out on their own and giving the trendy cupcake a run. Indeed. A recent spot in a Williams-Sonoma store proved that to us. The mini pan, much like a cupcake or muffin tin, had its own little display.

Cake Simple: Recipes for Bundt-Style Cakes by Christie Matheson offers 50 recipes of lusciousness. The classics chapter brings up good memories: Lemon-Poppy Seed, Lady Bird Lemon from Lady Bird Johnson, Orange Pecan, Cherry Walnut, Mint Chocolate, and Marble.

The decadence chapter offers ideas for Apple Butterscotch, Salted Caramel, Triple-Chocolate Banana, Tunnel of Fudge Redux, S’More, and Boozy Chocolate Bourbon Cake with Drunken Bourbon Sauce.

The chapter dedicated to food snobs shares recipes for Lemon Basil, Mojito, Kumquat-Coconut with Tarragon, Saffron Almond, Vanilla-Pink Peppercorn, and Earl Grey, among others.

In the “Cuter Than a Cupcake” chapter, Matheson dishes up neat variations: Coconut Minis, Chocolate-Peanut Butter Minis, Red Velvet Minis, Carrot Minis with Maple-Cream Cheese Icing, and Blueberry-Buttermilk Minis with Lemon Glaze. There are baking tips, and most of the book’s recipes include glaze suggestions.

So dig out your Bundt pan and hop on board this tasty, new-old dessert train. (Chronicle Books, 2011, $19.95.) —Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Gooseberry Patch Christmas, Book 13

Gooseberry Patch Christmas, Book 13

Lovers of all things Christmas—foods, crafts, and decorations—collect ideas from lots of sources. But in the Gooseberry Patch Christmas, Book 13, all those new holiday ideas are wrapped beautifully in one book.

The Gooseberry Patch brand took off in 1984, when two neighbors with small children put their ideas together in their small town in Ohio. Some 25 books later, they're still going strong. With cookbooks and holiday-themed books, they combine their love of cooking, decorating, and creating. Their loyal fan base loves the ideas and original artwork that define their publications.

This one entices cooks with a Sweet and Savory Gifts chapter, including recipes for Blueberry Cream Coffee Cake, Rustic Apple Tart, Cranberry Scones, and Marshmallow Popcorn Balls. For a holiday open house, there are ideas for Ham & Swiss Rolls, Zesty Corn Salsa, and Chocolate Fondue. For traditionalists, the Christmas Dinner Classics chapter entices with Rosemary Pork Roast with Tangerine-Cranberry Relish, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry Broccoli Salad, and Tiramisu. For feeding visitors, there's an assortment of comfort casseroles, from Golden Chicken Divan and Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole to Trim-the-Tree Turkey Tetrazzini and Cheesy Baked Spaghetti.

For crafters, there's a section on natural trims for porches, personalized ornaments for holiday trees, and jar miniscapes for detailed decorations. A section called Woodland Gathering focuses on easy acorn and pinecone centerpieces, napkins, tablecloths, and package trims. There are homemade games to design and felt flower ornaments and aprons to sew. (Oxmoor House, 2011, $29.95)
—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: CelebraTORI


Many remember Tori Spelling as one of the pack on Beverly Hills, 90210 or as the daughter of Aaron Spelling, who created about every TV show we ever loved. Now that she's older and married, she has produced reality programs for cable TV and has written a variety of books on weddings, motherhood, storytelling, and other topics.

Her newest one, CelebraTORI, focuses on easy ways to put on parties for special events. Even though she lives a little more opulently than many of us, she knows as well as anyone that style and elegance don't mix always well with budget.

The book zooms in on the elements of creativity, passion, and smart planning to get the results for the occasion you are celebrating. She does it all with a do-it-yourself spirit for everything from decorations to flower arrangements to food. Her firm belief is that the cornerstone of a great party is the dessert table. She admits to being a nervous wreck before a party, but she calms down when she sees her guests having fun.

She shares her favorite picks: favorite flower, peony; favorite food, mac and cheese; favorite color combo, canary yellow and charcoal gray; favorite dessert, any fruit pie; best tip that she always does, make everything a mini; and best tip that she never manages, leaving time to get dressed before guests arrive.

She offers recipes, step-by-step designs and photos of DIY projects, and timelines for getting everything done for a great party. (Gallery Books, 2012, $25.99)

Tori Spelling's Practical Tips for Home Entertaining
Sometimes renting a spot for a party makes sense, but Tori truly believes that your home is the best place to entertain. Some of her practical tips:

  • Buy drinks in liter bottles, not cans. People take a sip or two from a can and don't finish it.
  • Collect mismatched dinnerware and glassware at tag sales and garage sales. They are so much fun to use at a party.
  • Just for fun, coordinate the color combination of your nvitations, tables, flowers, napkins, and desserts.
  • For ease, set up stations, such as for the bar, for the main food table, and for the dessert table.
  • For an outside party, consider moving some of your inside furniture outside.
  • Have little signs or chalkboards to tell your guests exactly what they are eating to help avoid confusion. It's just a kind thing to do.
  • Never scrimp on dessert. When all else fails, it will save you.

—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: The Fresh and Green Table

The Fresh and Green Table

If, like some of us (she said, looking into the mirror), you made a New Year’s resolution to eat more veggies, there’s help at hand for a second chance. Second chances are good.

A new cookbook, The Fresh & Green Table—Delicious Ideas for Bringing Vegetables Into Every Meal, might be just the inspiration we all need for a little kick start. “Veggies are ready for their day in the limelight—they’re not just for vegetarians or vegans, but for all of us. And while veggies are perfectly comfortable hanging out on the side of an entrée, they can move to the center of the plate with amazing agility,” author Susie Middleton writes.

Plus, with farmers’ markets and roadside stands in full swing, this is the perfect time to experiment with vegetables. The book isn’t about replacing meat. Instead, it’s about making vegetables sing.
Middleton dishes up a tasty variety. She offers Grilled Zucchini, Bell Pepper, Goat Cheese & Grilled Bread Salad and Southwestern Spiced Butternut Squash and Apple Soup. You’ll find Fall Farmers’ Market Minestrone and Fried Corn, Zucchini, Onion & Basil Frittata. And there’s everything in between—Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata, a variety of bread puddings, Potato Galette, Roasted Ratatouille Tart, and Pizza Margherita, for example.

The chef, author (previous book was Fast, Fresh & Green), and editor at large for Fine Cooking magazine also offers a “Mastering the Basics” chapter about “the little stuff that counts.” She guides cooks through the notions of making their own custom mix of greens and their own vinaigrette. She encourages readers to make their own crunch for salads, from toasted nuts to homemade croutons and crostini. There are side dish ideas for salads and soups, from Buttery Popovers to Rice Pilaf and 5-Minute Polenta. (Chronicle Books, 2012, $24.95).
—Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Mini Cakes and Other Bite-Size Treats

Mini Cakes and Other Bite-Size Treats

We try to be so, so good, but sometimes we just need a little bite of sweetness at the end of a meal or during a special occasion. We don’t need to chow down half a cake or a huge piece of pie, even though we might like to. But just a little morsel might be OK, don’t you think?

This little book by Hannah Miles might be perfect for satisfying sweet cravings. As you travel, you might notice that bakeries and patisseries have big displays of tiny treats and little bites that used to be served only at tea parties and wedding and baby showers. Now mini desserts have gone mainstream and are showing up at dinner parties, where you can probably talk yourself into a couple varieties to make your hostess feel good about her dessert offerings.

Each chapter focuses on one specialty item, such as cakes, pastries, tartlets, and desserts.

In the cakes section, how about Strawberry and Cream Layer Cakes, Peach Melba Scones, Rocky Road Slices, Mini Blueberry Bundts, and Mini Carrot Muffins? The pastries chapter presents Baby Eclairs, Chocolate Profiteroles, and Glazed Pear Galettes with Hazelnut Praline. How can you go wrong?

Move to tartlets and try to choose from Summer Berry Tartlets with Vanilla Bean Cream, Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tartlets, and Pecan Pielets. Then there’s the desserts section, full of Pistachio Macarons, Pineapple Pavlovas with Rum, White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecakes, Mini Lemon and Lime Meringue Pies, and more.

Focus on one, if you must, but just think how pretty a tray with a variety of dinky desserts will look at your party. Who can turn down “just a little bite”? (Ryland Peters & Small, 2011, $15.95) — Carol McGarvey

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book bite: Cooking Light Way to Bake

Cooking Light Way to Bake

It’s summertime and the baking is lighter. With this handsome new book, Cooking Light Way to Bake: The Complete Visual Guide to Healthy Baking, bakers can celebrate the satisfaction of baking and the pleasure of healthier baked treats. There are 600 photos showing step-by-step directions for techniques.

The handbook begins with a techniques and principles section focusing on details for using leaveners, fats, and eggs. There are glossaries with photos of the various types of sugars and flours used in baking. There are how-to discussions on types of essential pieces of equipment, from pasty blenders and whisks to baking sheets and sifters.

When it comes to baking specific items, there are inspirations and enticements for muffins, quick bread loaves, biscuits and scones, and waffles, pancakes, and crepes. There are ideas for cookies and biscotti, bars and squares, cakes and cupcakes. And there are oh-so-yummy recipes for pies, tarts, cobblers, custards, puddings, soufflés, and yeast breads (including calzones and pizza dough).

Throughout the chapters are helpful troubleshooting tips, such as avoiding overmixing and hints for freezing. There are discussions about light vs. dark brown sugar, using beer in yeast bread, selecting a waffle iron, grades of maple syrup, and shaping homemade fortune cookies.

There are directions for frosting a layer cake, zesting fresh citrus, choosing types of chocolate, freezing fresh berries, and using a kitchen blowtorch.

This comprehensive book would be a great gift for a newbie baker or a good reference on the shelf for an experienced one. (Oxmoor House, 2011, $29.95) — C.M.

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book bite: Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Home Cooking

Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Home Cooking

When the market is so full of cookbooks focusing on one subject —cake pops, decadent brownies, wholesome soups, gluten-free baking—it’s fun once in awhile to take a walk through a large book
on home cooking.

An all-in-one look at the sum of everyday cooking inspires us to celebrate food with a home-cooked theme. Each big book offers a wealth of information on everything from soup to nuts (literally!).
Some celebrate our nation as a whole; others focus on a particular region.

What’s also fun is that you can pick a season, any season, and find inspiration in a big cookbook. Whether you’re planning holiday meals or autumn favorites, they are there. If it’s a hot summer and you don’t feel like preparing a lot of food, lighter fare is there, too.

As we inch toward spring, just as the hostas and other perennials are pushing their way out of the ground, there are dishes and treats galore in this Gooseberry Patch book to get you started on
a tasty spring.

You’ll find a dish for every occasion. How about Daffodil Banana Crush Punch, pretty enough for a spring party, such as a wedding shower? Flavors of orange juice, pineapple juice, bananas, and lemon juice make a refreshing blend.

For a deck or patio party to celebrate the new season, there’s chunky Gazpacho Dip, full of veggies, and just right for serving with tortilla chips. For a weekend brunch, there’s Farmhouse Quiche, topped with tomatoes for good taste and color.

A casual lunch group might call for Turkey-Veggie Bagels served with Apple-Broccoli Salad. Cornbread Salad, full of veggies, garbanzo beans, and shredded Cheddar cheese, can stand alone as a main dish.

Dessert recipes offer refreshing spring flavors—Orange Chiffon Cake, Peaches and Cream Cheesecake, Rhubarb Custard Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, and Strawberry Pizza. Watermelon Slice Cookies are just for fun.

Numerous photos and menus for a variety of occasions will give you a planning head start.

(Oxmoor House, 2011, $29.95) —C.M.

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book bite: Home-Cooked Comforts

home-cooked comforts

This time of year, it’s not a stretch to say that on bitterly cold days we would just like to hibernate with some extra blankets and a stack of movies and books. Oh, and comfort food.

The food that makes us feel good often comes out of the oven as casseroles and hearty fare. This new cookbook by Laura Washburn gives a nod to stews, gratins, and other one-pot meals that serve a double purpose. They can warm the tummies of our families in a no-fuss manner, but they are yummy enough to serve to guests. When it comes to winter, it’s even more important to savor the simple things, such as enjoying a get-together with friends.

In the Meat section, consider some choices such as Steak, Leek, and Mushroom Pie; Asian Beef Braise; Black Bean and Chorizo Chili; Meatball Tagine; and Spicy Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes.

From the Poultry section, choose from such recipes as Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie, Farmhouse Chicken Casserole, Ginger and Star Anise Braised Chicken, and Chicken Tetrazzini.

Lighter fare from the Fish and Shellfish area includes Salmon, Broccoli, and Pesto Gratin; Seafood Lasagna; Smoked Haddock, Potato, and Wild Mushroom Bake; and Tuna Noodle Casserole, which doesn’t include a can of mushroom soup.

Vegetarian options help you cover all the bases. There are recipes for Vegetable Enchiladas; Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash and Corn; Spinach and Sweet Potato Curry; and Root Vegetable Gratin.

Great photos give inspiration to busy cooks. Besides good taste, home-cooked recipes add warmth to a winter kitchen.

(Ryland, Peters & Small, 2010, $24.95) – C.M.

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book bite: Fabulous Brownies: Cute and Creative
Ideas for Decorated Brownies

fabulous brownies

This time of year is something of a dichotomy, isn’t it? We’re trying to keep our resolutions for more healthful eating. At the same time, it’s good to turn on the oven to take the chill out of the house.
Brownies have been a yummy treat forever. But now, with fun cake decorating touches being added to everything, brownies are ripe for embellishing, too.

What’s your pleasure for brownies—gooey or cakelike, rich or plain, nutty or not? This new book by cookbook author and baker Annie Rigg covers all the bases.

In her “Simple” chapter, she dishes up a bevy of brownies, including Deep Dark Chocolate, Fudge Crumble, Salted Caramel Swirl, Peanut Butter and Jam, Marbled Cheesecake, and many more.

In the “Pretty” chapter, she kicks it up a notch with Cherry and Coconut, Petits Fours, Apricot and Almond, and Love Hearts, a fun variety. For an “Indulgent” take, she bakes up Coffee Blondies, Rocky Roadies, Hazlenut Praline, German Chocolate, and Gingerbread versions. In the “Kids” chapter, there are Brownie Whoppers (whoopie pies), Brownie Wheels, Brown(ie) Owls, and Brownie Cupcakes.

For toppers, there are icings galore. Take your pick from White Chocolate Buttercream, Chocolate Ganache, Milk Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Glaze, and others.

Numerous photos give both simple and elegant ideas for jazzing up your brownies. Seasoned bakers and newbies alike will find some fun take-aways in this book.

(Ryland, Peters & Small, 2011, $15.95) – C.M.

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book bite: Christmas All Through the House

gluten-free recipes

Many cooks are familiar with the numerous Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, which are chock-full of tasty and practical recipes. This Collectors’ Edition book covers “everything Christmas” to help you sail through the holiday season.

The book features more than 400 recipes, plus home decorations, crafts, and food gifts for everyone on your list. You’ll find food ideas for hosting an open house, a family dinner, a soup supper, and casual snacks and drinks when friends stop by for some holiday cheer.

To help you keep your cool during the busy season, the back of the book offers a holiday guide for easy decorations and for 12 days of Christmas menus:

• To add sparkle to a centerpiece, use sugared fruit. Brush apples, pears, and plums with a thin mixture of meringue powder and water; roll fruit in coarse sugar and let dry.

• Throughout the year keep your eyes open at tag sales and flea markets for interesting tins and containers to package your holiday goodies to give as gifts. Vintage pie tins, mugs, jelly jars, and enamelware work beautifully.

• Turn cookies into edible place markers; just use frosting to write each guest’s name.

• For Christmas brunch, the menu includes Savory Ham and Swiss Breakfast Pie, Warm Spiced Fruit,
Citrus Coffee Cake, and Cinnamon Hot Chocolate—all the recipes are in the book.

Flavor is paramount, but so is convenience. The slow cooker section offers meal ideas to fix and let go while you do other things. A recipe sampler includes Shredded Beef BBQ, Smothered Steak, Jalapeño-Chicken Chili, Artichoke-Chicken Pasta, Chow-Down Corn Chowder, and Slow-Cooker Potato Soup (using instant mashed potato flakes).

For festive touches, there are ideas for Peppermint Candy Cheesecake, Cookies & Cream Cake, Soft
Gingerbread Cookies, and Chocolate Truffles. If you need a gift for a Christmas elf or for yourself, this
500-page-plus, one-stop holiday inspiration might be a good choice. (Oxmoor House/Time Home
Entertainment, Inc., 2008, $24.95) – C.M.

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book bite: Gluten-Free Made Simple

gluten-free recipes

This new, useful cookbook focuses on one of the fastest-growing segments in nutrition, preparing nutritious food for people with celiac disease, and gluten’s effect on the immune system. The
real trick comes in trying to produce gluten-free meals that the whole family can enjoy.

A trio of creative family members—author and editor Carol Field Dahlstrom of Ankeny; her daughter, Elizabeth Dahlstrom Burnley, who teaches nutrition classes at Iowa State University in Ames; and her daughter-in-law, Marcia Schultz Dahlstrom, who lives with celiac disease—have produced a user-friendly book dealing with the issue. A principle was that the recipes would not call for odd and expensive ingredients.

The colorful book features step-by-step photos for help in creating successful dishes, tips for preparation and storage, and tips for using various flours—from bean flour, tapioca or rice flour, and a combination of various flours. Specific brands are recommended where necessary, along with directions for ordering them online. Brands of gluten-free flours vary widely.

There’s a helpful section on products containing gluten and a listing of specific items that are gluten-free. The back of the book includes helpful information for living gluten-free: tips and lists for eating out, including national restaurants that offer gluten-free choices; food safety tips; celiac websites; and helpful glossary of cooking terms.

Recipes the whole family can enjoy include a broad mixture—veggie pizza, potato-egg bake, beef stroganoff, lemon chicken with pea pods, stuffed pork chops, asparagus risotto, sweet potato fries, scalloped corn, fruit pasta salad, chicken salad, Waldorf salad, pineapple muffins, banana bread, cranberry-applesauce muffins, cinnamon rolls, chili, French onion soup, split pea soup, blonde brownies, peanut butter cookies, homemade marshmallows, spicy hummus, cheese quesadillas, apple crisp, strawberry pie, pumpkin custard, cake donuts, chicken nuggets, and buckwheat pancakes.
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011, $24.99) – C.M.

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book bite: Skinny Dips: 60 Recipes for Dips, Spreads, Chips, and Salsas on the Lighter Side of Delicious

appetizer recipes

Remember when we were growing up and we had chips. Just. Plain. Chips. It was a royal treat to purchase some dairy dip for a special occasion.
     These days, however, it’s the rare chip, cracker, baby carrot, or broccoli floret that gets eaten without a dip of something attached to it. Dips come in myriad flavors and salsas in even more choices. 
     The danger, of course, is in overindulging when you aim to just be grazing. This book by Diane Morgan, who has written 14 cookbooks, takes a decidedly skinny approach to dipping with 60 recipes for dips, dunks, spreads, tapenades, salsas, and hummus.
     The book has a party planning section and a guideline with each recipe so that you know how far ahead you can make it and how to store it. For example, for a perennial favorite, Skinny Artichoke Dip, she says it can be prepared (without the bread crumb topping), covered, and refrigerated for up to two days before serving. So that you get maximum flavor for your efforts, Morgan offers a favorite chip and dip pairing for each recipe.
     The book covers the gamut of yummy dips, including vegetable and herb dips; salsas, guacamoles, and tapenades; cheese and tofu dips; bean and legume dips; and meat and seafood dips.
     To round out the equation of skinny dips, there’s a chapter on skinny dippers. There are recipes and tips on making your own crudités, roasted cauliflower or fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus, bruschetta, crostini, as well as creating your own chip-style dippers: herbed cheddar cheese straws, baked pita chips, bagel chips, wonton crisps, tortilla chips, and marbled rye toasts.
     And, yes, to keep you in line, the dips and spreads have nutritional details in information boxes right alongside the recipes. (Chronicle Books, 2011, $18.95) —CM


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book bite: Popsicles and Other Fruity Frozen Treats

popsicle recipes

Certainly one of the joys of pre-air-conditioned summertime was the treat of having a Popsicle. It still is. You don’t have to be a kid or even have a kid to enjoy one. You don’t even have to pretend. Really, it’s OK.

Of course, you can purchase a big-chill treat in the frozen food aisle at your supermarket. But you can make customized treats at home, too, another memory of growing up in a steamy climate. This new book offers some down-home and some upscale concoctions that are sure to cool you.

You’ll find classic ice pops made from juices and fruit purees. Or you can take your cues from some other tasteful combinations:
Sorbets—simple flavored sugar-syrup bases lightened with egg whites.
Granitas—more granular than sorbets because the mixture is beaten, not churned.
Sherbets—like sorbets, but with yogurt added.
Water ices—similar to sorbets, but denser and more intensely flavored.
Frappés—flavored fruit and sugar mixtures frozen and then pulsed in the food processor to make them smooth but thick.

You’ll need some classic or some new frozen pop molds with sticks and a freezer large enough to hold them. Today’s treats aren’t just the basic orange, grape, and cherry. The combinations seem endless.
There are lovely lickable recipes for Cranberry and Orange Juice Lollies; Mango, Berry and Passionfruit Lollies; and Maple Peach Frozen Yogurt Squares. Other grown-up treats include Mini Honey Kiwi Cups and Mixed Berry and Citrus Cones. How about a Pomegranate Granita, Watermelon Granita, or Blood Orange Water Ice? Upgrade your sherbet/sorbet repertoire by making Blueberry and Lemon Sorbet or Apricot and Grape Sherbet.

Other interesting combinations include Rhubarb and Ginger Frappé, Pink Grapefruit and Basil Frappé, and Mint Julep Sticks. Bottom line: new ways to chill! (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2011, $15.95) – C.M.

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book bite: Easy Grilling—Simple Recipes for Outdoor Grills

book reviews easy grilling for outdoor grills

Kitchen Central in many Iowa homes moves outdoors this time of year. Many of us don’t have a complete outdoor kitchen, but that’s OK. The grill will do. It works on a patio, a deck, even a balcony (if it’s allowed).
     Most outdoor cooks have a definite preference when it comes to charcoal or
gas. Do you love the convenience of gas, or do you favor the smoky taste of
cooking over coals?
     There’s something primal about food and fire, and it’s hard to ignore the
wonderful aromas of cooking outdoors. This new book by editors at Ryland, Peters & Small offers more than 100 easy recipes, from burgers to chicken wings and from lamb to sea bass.
     For small or large groups, the sky is the limit, of course. Stay comfortable with brats, burgers, pork chops, and chicken breasts. Or take a grilled trip around the world with Moroccan-style Chicken Kabobs, Vietnamese Pork Balls, Sicilian-spiced Sea Bass, or Mexican-style Cornish Hens.
     To enhance your main-dish choices, the book offers a variety of marinades, sauces, butters, and salsas to add some flavorful pep to your meals. For meats, choose steak, ground beef, sausages, chicken, tuna steak, monkfish, ribs, shrimp, clams, scallops, and more.
     Experiment, too, with vegetable kabobs, falafel burgers, grilled corn, and
potato packages (regular and sweet potatoes). There are also lots of side dishes to accompany your grilled main dishes. You’ll find recipes for creamy coleslaw, salad with roasted sweet pepper and asparagus, pita salad, tabbouleh, couscous salad, and grilled polenta.
     And don’t forget that you can grill dessert, too. Besides s’mores, favorites of kids of all ages, there are recipes for grilled fruit packages, grilled figs, grilled pears, and banana packages with chocolate and rum. For beverages, try homemade fresh lemonade, peach and strawberry sangria, and cosmopolitan iced tea.
     Summer’s here. Get grilling! (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2011, $19.95)C.M

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book bite: Muffin Magic

book reviews muffin magic

This might be a little book, but it’s huge on flavor. As it points out, there’s just something magical about blending a few basic ingredients. Voila! The result that happens can keep you going all day.
What’s your pleasure? Scrumptiously virtuous or scrumptiously decadent? That’s exactly the beauty of muffins—they’re so simple and so complex. They can stand alone or accompany lots of other food. They’re great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacks, and dinner.

We usually think of the fruit-filled, sweet version of muffins, right? This book offers lots of that category. There are Blueberry & Apple Muffins, Berry Crumble Muffins, Apple Spice Muffins (with cream cheese frosting), Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Muffins, Jam Donut Muffins, and Triple Chocolate Chip.

If savory flavors are more your style to pair with soups and salads, you’re covered here, too. You’ll find Bacon, Onion and Cheddar Mini Muffins; Zucchini, Cheese and Herb Muffins; Chorizo and Cheese Muffins; and Cornmeal, Bacon and Herb Muffins. Not all muffins have that down-home flair. Add a bit of sophistication to a tea or party with Gingerbread Mini Muffins, Warm Chocolate Muffins, or Pear and Chocolate Muffins. (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2010, $9.95)—C.M.


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book bite: Weekend Baking: Easy Recipes for Relaxed Family Baking

book reviews weekend baking

Warming your space with the aroma of baking is fun, isn’t it? A winter weekend, when the stresses of the workweek can perhaps go on the back burner for a short time, is the perfect baking time. If you can bring a family member along for the tasty ride, then all the better.

Author Sarah Randell packs this colorful cookbook with a variety of 60 classic and original recipes that will help create memories in the kitchen. There are small cakes, muffins, tartlets, cookies, brownies, bars, and cheesecakes to get you started.

The baking experience gives small hands a chance to measure and mix, to taste-test and decorate. If you are new to the baking arena or a longtime baker, you’ll likely find a number of choices to try.

While the types of the baked goods might seem ordinary, the recipes themselves are not. Who could resist Crunchy-Topped Raspberry and Banana Muffins, Coffee and Pecan Cupcakes with Praline, Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Nutmeg Icing, and Mini Peanut Butter and Maple Refrigerator Cookies?
Just for fun for kids or for a party, try Bright-As-A-Button Cookies, complete with two holes in the middle for running colorful ribbon. You’ll find Pecan Cheesecake Swirl Brownies, too. Subtle Almond Cake is great for any occasion, as is Apple and Amaretto Cake. There’s even Really Lemony Gluten-Free Cake. The photos make the finished desserts look delicious. 
Treats such as Cinnamon Blueberry Cake or Chocolate Chestnut Brownie Torte seem to cry out for a dinner party or a neighborhood coffee to share the good taste.
As the author points out, “I’m not suggesting that children should eat cake every day, nor that we adults should, but quiet interludes in the kitchen can be just as absorbing for them as for us and highly rewarding. The time it takes to bake a cake is, in my experience, as enjoyable as eating it.” (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2010, $24.95)—CM

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book bite: The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen

book reviews farm chicks in the kitchen

Serena Thompson and Teri Edwards, the Farm Chicks, can identify with lots of cooks. They love baking, junking, family life, and good, wholesome food. As frequent contributors to Country Living magazine, they share and live their mantra-Live Well, Laugh Often, Cook Much.

The book came out last year and just went into paperback, right on the heels of their new Christmas cookbook, The Farm Chicks Christmas: Merry Ideas for the Holidays. The pair got their start nationally with The Farm Chicks Antique Show near Spokane, Washington, where their homemade mini pies captured the hearts and palates of those attending. Needless to say, the entrepreneurs were born.

Both stay-at-home moms, they love spending time in the kitchen, and the book reflects their passion. Their down-home approach turned into easy, simple, and tasty recipes. A sampling includes Pumpkin Waffles, Tangy Cucumber Cups, Sweet Potato Soup, Asian Quinoa Salad, Pecan Chocolate Chip Shortbread, Toasted Turkey Melt, Orange Meringue Pie, and Grilled Cumin Chicken with Apricot Dipping Sauce.

In addition to 52 recipes, there are more than a dozen craft projects. How about aprons made from vintage sheets, a scone cozy, a magnetic message center fashioned from an old TV tray, yo-yo trims for just about anything, and vintage vases from all kinds of containers? There's also the lovely garnish of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book. (Hearst Books, 2010 paperback, $12 on; Christmas book, $27.95)-CM


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book bite: Decorating Cupcakes, Cakes & Cookies

book review: cupcakes

If there’s ever a time of year when special occasions and holidays call for a little embellishment, it’s now. Festive year-end holidays, when families and friends gather, call for extra touches.

This book by author Annie Rigg, who has cooked for the likes of famous singers and bands such as Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, and the Rolling Stones, offers colorful inspiration.

Even if you have never whipped up some buttercream icing or used a piping bag, Rigg takes you through the process in a step-by-step fashion. The Basics section addresses cookie doughs, cake batters, and decorating techniques. How about Chocolate Meringue Buttercream, Ganache, or Mascarpone Frosting?
The Cookies section walks readers through some basic everyday-style cookies,
such as Macaroons and Sugared Refrigerator Cookies, through some elegant Decorated Sunflowers, Russian Dolls, Stained Glass Cookies, and Monogrammed Wedding Cookies.
The selections in the Small Cakes chapter, such as Carrot Cake Cupcakes, can brighten a friend’s day, and marzipan hearts can decorate Red Velvet Valentine’s Cupcakes. Just for fun, there are Animal-Faced Cupcakes and Snowflake Cupcakes. Summer Berry Cupcakes and Snowmen in Scarves celebrate
the changing seasons and add whimsy to a party table.
Rigg’s Large Cakes, of course, can double as centerpieces. Embellishments such as sugar-paste roses can dress up even the plainest of cakes. Or crystallized berries can add pizzazz to a High Summer Cake. (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2010, $19.95) —CM

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book bite: Whoopie Pies

book review: whoopie pies

If you grew up in the Northeast, you are perhaps more familiar with whoopie pies than those in other parts of the country are. The lovely confections—the most popular is chocolate cake with vanilla marshmallow filling—also were known in various areas as scooter pies, round dogs, cream cakes, gobs, and moon pies.

While their history is a little murky, they are believed to have originated in Germany. They supposedly came to this country by the lovely baking hands of various German religious groups, such as the Amish, the Mennonites, and the German Brethren.

When children opened their lunch boxes at school and found these confections inside, they supposedly yelled “Whoopie!”

This fun and padded little book celebrates all that is whoopie pies. It is divided into two sections. One is cakes, and the other is creamy fillings. Please know that the combinations are almost endless. As examples, there are the Happy Pilgrim (pumpkin whoopie with maple filling), Fat Elvis (banana whoopie, salty peanut butter filling, with edges rolled in crumbled bacon), German Chocolate (chocolate whoopie, coconut cream filling, with edges rolled in toasted coconut and chopped pecans), and Piña Colada (lemon whoopie, coconut cream filling, with drained crushed pineapple and a maraschino cherry).

The cookbook, by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell, offers all kinds of decorating options and sprinkles ideas. There are also vegan and gluten-free options, so no one has to feel left out of the fun. While whoopies are generally small, there are directions for a big, cake-size whoopie for a special occasion. And lest you think all fillings are sweet, how about bacon-chive goat cheese filling?
If you are taking a nostalgic look at whoopies or exploring a newfound interest in the treats, this cookbook will offer inspiration. (Chronicle Books, 2010, $$16.95) —CM

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book bite: In the Green Kitchen

book review: in the green kitchen

The table of contents of this new book, In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart, reads like Culinary 101. The sections offer lessons in such techniques as Dressing a Salad, Flavoring a Sauce, Whisking Mayonnaise, Poaching an Egg, Boiling Pasta, Shucking Corn, Roasting a Chicken, and Baking Fruit.

When you realize that the teacher is renowned chef Alice Waters, you know you’re in for
a great class. She opened Chez Panisse in 1971 and has continued to create dishes in her various restaurants by building meals around fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients long before farmers’ markets were the norm. In 1996 she created the Chez Panisse Foundation to create models of edible education in the public school system.

In this book she dishes up 50 essential recipes that use minimal equipment and focus on seasonal ingredients. She showcases recipes from such celebrated chefs as Rick Bayless, Lidia Bastianich, Charlie Trotter, Scott Peacock, and Thomas Keller. Waters introduces the cooking technique with easy instructions, chef portraits, and full-color food photography.

She emphasizes the basics. “The basic techniques of good cooking do not require a lavish kitchen or a lot of specialized equipment,” she writes. “Far from it. At home in their own kitchens, even the most renowned chefs do not consider themselves to be chefs; there, they are simply cooks, preparing the simple, uncomplicated food they like best.”

Earthy recipes in the book run the gamut from Guacamole and Potato & Leek Soup to Southern Buttermilk Biscuits and an open-face Apple Galette.

Proceeds from the book will benefit the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California, which engages children in growing a garden and learning where food comes from. (Clarkson Potter, 2010, $28) – C.M.

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book bite: Sundaes & Splits

book review: sundaes & splits

Summer is the perfect time for this sweet book. After all, who doesn’t love cones, sundaes, splits, shakes, malts, and all their trimmings—whipped cream, syrup, sauces, fruits, sprinkles, and, of course, a cherry on top.

You can, of course, purchase your favorite brand and flavors at the supermarket or a specialty ice cream shop. Or, just for the fun of it, you can make your own concoctions in old-fangled and new-fangled ice cream freezers and makers.

One chapter on fruity recipes offers classic Peach Melba Sundae, a tropical Hawaiian Sundae (yes, with little umbrellas), and a Melon Ball Sundae. If you’re feeling thin, try some indulgent variations—Chocolate Brownie Sundae, Peanut Butter Sundae, and Rocky Road Sundae.

If you have a retro bone in your body, relive the past with a classic Banana Split, Lemon Meringue Pie Sundae, Neapolitan Sundae, or Strawberry Shortcake Sundae.

And if you are an ice cream-loving kid at heart but an adult in your tastes, never fear. You can dip your spoon into Rum Raisin Sundae, Egg Nog Sundae, or a Black Forest Sundae laced with kirsch.

And we don’t know about you, but we just love all the fun ice cream glasses and long-handled spoons. (Ryland Peters & Small, 2010, $15.95)—C.M.


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book bite: Chocolate Cake: 50 Great Cakes for Every Occasion

book review: chocolate cakes

Chocolate cake is the perfect finale for a summer picnic. It has that classic quality of being the “just right,” all-American sweet treat. Come to think of it, though, it’s also the perfect ending to a holiday meal, a wedding or baby shower, a book club meeting, a bridge party, birthday or anniversary party, or a graduation gathering.

In this new cookbook, author Elinor Klivans covers all the bases. You’ll find 50 recipes for cakes in all shapes, sizes, flavors, and colors. There are rolled cakes, layer cakes, sheet cakes, loaf cakes, tube cakes, ice cream cakes, and tiered chocolate masterpieces filled with peanut butter mousse, frosted with truffle ganache, and topped with fat chocolate curls.

The author covers a wide swath in the world of chocolate cakes. There are cakes easily mixed, baked,
and assembled in a short time. There are others that take longer, and testers and tasters will agree they are worth the extra flourish.

She also thoroughly discusses types of chocolate and techniques for working with various kinds, along with tips on other ingredients. If you want to know how to make perfect shavings and curls, you’ll find directions here.

Apropos for a summer gathering is S’mores Cake, complete—of course—with graham crackers, broken chocolate bars, and a marshmallow topping. Perfect for a festive holiday buffet or sit-down meal is a Peppermint Patty Cake with a crushed candy garnish.

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, don’t panic. There are alternatives, including a Salted Caramel and Pecan Chocolate Cake.

For parties, Klivans offers interesting combination cakes: Affogato Ice Cream Cake, Fudge-on-Fudge Raspberry Ice Cream Cake, Coffee-Toffee Ice Cream Sandwich Cake, Mint Chocolate Crunch Ice Cream Cake, and Heart’s Desire White Mocha Tiramisu.

Cakes that don’t even look chocolate come through in Lemon-Coconut White Chocolate Cake and Deep-Dish White Chocolate Peaches-and-Cream Cake.

Other classics such as Devil’s Food Cake and interesting variations (take a look at Chinese Five-Spice Chocolate Chiffon Cake) make this a good reference to have on your shelf. (Chronicle Books, 2010, $22.95)—C.M.


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book bite: All Cakes Considered

book review: all cakes considered

Let them eat cake. That’s exactly what Melissa Gray, producer of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered program, did. Her cookbook, All Cakes Considered, chronicles her experiences of taking a cake to work every Monday for her co-workers. The subtitle says it all: How to Keep Your Co-Workers Happy, Friendly, and Fatter Than You.

She didn’t take up baking until she was 35 because she was busy going to school, working, and raising a son with her husband. She has never let her tiny galley kitchen get in the way of what she wanted to do.
Gray adapted recipes from her Southern upbringing and those from renowned cooks and chefs—such as Ina Garten, Paula Deen, Stephen Pyles, and Dorie Greenspan—into user-friendly recipes.

“There’s something about having cake at work that makes everybody happy, even the dieters who proclaim that you’re doing this just to torture them. It’s a communal thing and a sensory thing.”
Gray dislikes such analysis, so she says (a la Forrest Gump), “Momma says cake brings people together.” Besides, she says, “I can do without cake. What I’m hooked on is basking in the joy of simply giving people something delicious to look forward to.”

The book includes a cake for each Monday of the year; it’s part memoir and part how-to cookbook. Gray talks about the practicality of proper equipment, reading your recipe before you begin, and preparing a pan. There are step-by-step photos and techniques for getting a cake out of a pan, any pan. There is a glossary of types of flour, sugars, fats, and “other stuff”: cream of tartar, liquids, and leavenings.

Just for fun, Gray adds narratives for many of the cakes, such as what went wrong, what went right, or how the office mates seem to break into “favorite cake” groups—the People’s Pound Cake Coalition, the Chocolate Cake Caucus, or the Spice-and-Vice Alliance.

Some of the cake names will pique your interest: Procrastinatin’ Drunken Monkey Banana Bread, the Barefoot Contessa’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Tunnel of Fudge Cake, the Naughty Senator, Honey Spice Cake with Rum Glaze, Coconut/Not Coconut Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Angel Food Cake, Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pattie Cake, Heaven and Hell Cake, and a host of others.
Gray encourages readers to “bring some homemade happiness into someone’s harried, modern life, and be not cowed by flour, butter, eggs, and sugar ever again.” (Chronicle Books, 2009, $24.95) —C.M.

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book bite: Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever

book review: slow cooker

It’s easy to take the slow cooker for granted. We might use it for several standard recipes that we turn to on extra-busy weeks or during a long weekend when we love the aromas wafting through the house. This super-thick cookbook by Diane Phillips is full of recipes for tasty dishes from soups to roasts to cobblers and puddings.

How about Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie, Butternut Squash Soup, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Tortellini Casserole, and Tamale Pie? Not satisfied with just one version of classic Mac and Cheese, the book dishes up four varieties, including this one: Applewood Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and White Cheddar Mac and Cheese.

Main dishes aside, take a closer look at your slow cooker when it comes to side dishes. This often underutilized appliance is great for risotto, rice dishes, stuffing variations, and even grits. As for vegetables, choose from Refried Bean Casseroles, Ratatouille, Eggplant Parmigiana, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Stuffed Onions, Stuffed Peppers, and Zucchini, Tomato and Leek Gratin among other great choices.

The collection doesn’t forget sweets. Consider a treat of Mexican Hot Chocolate Lava Cake. Yum. Other desserts offered range from Brandied Peaches and Amaretto Poached Pears to Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble and Apple Cranberry Cobbler. There are numerous bread and rice puddings to whet your sweet tooth as well.

As comforting as these dishes are in cooler weather, slow cookers take the heat out of the kitchen when it’s warmer as well.

For gatherings, put the slow cooker to work on Mulled Red Wine, Mulled Cider, Warm Cranberry Punch, or Wassail. For the appetizer table, there are versions of Artichoke Spinach Dip, Hot Broccoli Dip, Southwestern Chili con Queso, and Hot Bloody Mary Dip for Shrimp, and many others designed for the slow cooker.

Throughout the book, look for tips on choosing a variety of ingredients and spices, along with “savvy tips” at the bottom of many pages for easy ways to get the results you want on various dishes. (Chronicle Books, 2009, $24.95)C.M.

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book bite: Stonewall Kitchen Breakfast

book review: stonewall kitchen breakfast

Tummy-satisfying breakfasts seem to mean a little more in the winter, when the windchill index numbers cause us to face reality on a daily basis. Whether you’re a breakfast grabber on the way out the door or you have time to warm the kitchen with wonderful aromas, this new book has something for you.
     Stonewall Kitchen, of course, is a restaurant and cooking school in York, Maine, known for its line of jams, sauces, and baking mixes, available at its own retail shops on the East Coast and in other specialty shops around the country.
     For grabbers, there are recipes for Coffee Cake Buttermilk Muffins, Perfectly Good Granola Bars, and Peach, Sour Cream, and Crystallized Ginger Muffins. When there’s more time for a sit-down meal, Good-for-You Whole-Grain Blueberry Pancakes or Spinach, Feta, and Tomato Frittata might fill the bill.
     If you are planning a weekend brunch for friends, the options are many. How about Berry Salad with Minty Syrup, Chocolate Waffles, French Crepes, Breakfast Corn Fritters, Breakfast Crab Cakes, or Greens, Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Strata?
     Throughout the book are tips for poaching eggs, setting up a yogurt bar, and other useful information. There’s also a section on serving beverages, such as Stonewall Bloodys and Blood Orange Mimosas. To make planning really easy, there are a number of menu plans for ideas. The book is by Jonathan King and Jim Stott, founders of Stonewall, and by cookbook author Kathy Gunst. (Chronicle Books, 2009, $19.95) – C.M.

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book bite: Christmas From the Heart

book review: christmas from  the heart

It’s easy to get caught up in the food of the special holiday season. For favorite candies, cookies, bars, and breads, we rely on tradition, those goodies that remind us of holidays when we or our children were younger. It just isn’t Christmas without some of those special treats.

     This new book, Better Homes and Gardens® Christmas From the Heart, is like a Christmas stocking filled with holiday treasures. If you agree that chocolate and the holidays go together like trees and tinsel, you’ll love the chapter full of tasteful ideas: Brownie Surprise Cupcakes, Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Sauce, Coffee Mallow Torte, Merry Mocha Pound Cake, Chocolate-Peppermint Pie, and Triple-Orange Nutty Fudge.

     If you need to add some new recipes to your cookie repertoire, you are in luck. Classic and contemporary choices are easy to incorporate into your baking style.

Spicy Ginger Hearts and Spritz give a nod to tradition, while Orange Crouton Cookie Bites, Butter Pecan Stars, and Cherry-Pistachio Spice Shortbread encourage you to try some new ideas.

     The book, edited by Carol Field Dahlstrom of Ankeny, is chock-full of holiday trims to add festive touches to your table and your entire home. Chapters on gifts take you through step-by-step instructions for thoughtful gifts you can make for friends and family.

     To order, call 800-627-5490. (Meredith Books, 2009, $15.96 plus tax and shipping) – C.M.

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book bite: Fruits of the Earth

book review: fruits of the earth

This time of year it’s easy to blend Iowa’s four distinct seasons. Take the fruits and veggies of summer and fall and turn them into good tastes for winter and into next spring. And don’t forget holiday gifts, always better when they’re special homemade goodies.

Our foremothers, of course, put up pickles, preserves, chutneys, and cordials out of necessity. With no freezers at home (remember the trips to the family storage unit at the local locker plant?), mothers, grandmothers, and aunts met to can and preserve nearly everything on hand for the larder for winter.
This new book, Fruits of the Earth, offers 100 recipes for flavorful jams, jellies, pickles, and preserves. Make them to hoard as the jewels of summer. Or tie on a pretty ribbon and give them as a lovely gift. Perhaps you harvest from your own garden; if not, don’t worry. Late-season farmers’ markets still offer some choices to work with. If you are lucky, perhaps you froze some of summer’s berries or other fruits that you can work with now.
Besides the satisfaction of seeing a beautiful row of jars of food you have preserved, what’s better on a cold winter morning than warm toast slathered in your favorite jam or jelly? Or how about this—lemon curd over pound cake or ice cream or as filling for little tarts?
In these parts, it’s all about preserving summer and autumn in a jar, especially when we know what’s ahead. (CICO Books, 2009, $24.95) – C.M.

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book bite: Cool Drinks for Hot Days

book review: cool drinks for hot days

In these parts, we know all too well just how hot and sticky the dog days of summer can be. Is it the heat or the humidity? Many days it is hard to tell where one stops and the other starts.

A tall frosted glass of (you fill in the blank) is the best way to approach the situation. In this new book, Cool Drinks for Hot Days, author Louise Pickford makes an interesting point: Many cold drinks came about as a refreshing alternative to their hot counterparts, such as tea and coffee. One of the first references for iced tea appeared in the Kentucky Housewife in 1839.

Because their main purpose is cooling us down, many refreshing drinks have no alcohol. That opens up the field to mocktails, cordials, fruit syrups, slushes, smoothies, and granitas.

In this cool-looking book, you and your blender can tackle such refreshing concoctions as Melon Frothy, Blueberry Cordial, Iced Pear Sparkle, Passion Fruit Rum Punch, Mint Juleps, and Classic Margaritas. Be adventurous and try a Mojito Slush, Brazilian Mule, Long Island Iced Tea, or a Lemon Cheesecake Shake. The possibilities seem endless. (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2009, $16.95)—CM

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book bite: Fresh From the Farmers' Market

book review: fresh from the farmers market

Central Iowans are well aware of the charm and good tastes to come from farmers’ markets. They are not only social events but also the source of wonderful homegrown produce and goods. This new book, broken down by seasons, celebrates the fruits and vegetables that are available at weekly markets. Janet Fletcher’s update of her previous one makes an easy case for choosing the freshest, tastiest, and most beautiful food available.

As chef Alice Waters from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, writes in the introduction, “To my way of thinking, the proliferation of farmers’ markets is the single most important and heartening development in this country in my lifetime.”

The book celebrates fresh bounty, purchased directly from the growers, in 75 recipes. Where else can you likely find 20 different tomato varieties, a dozen different apples, or a wide variety of cucumbers? The diversity of produce is a delightful draw, and where else can you sample before you buy? (Chronicle Books, 2008, $19.95)—CM

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