Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Put ‘Em Up! Fruit

As author of Put ‘Em Up!, the guide to canning and preserving your harvest, Sherri Brooks Vinton knows how to work magic with fruits and vegetables. In her latest book, Put ‘Em Up! Fruit, Vinton focuses on fruit and shows how easy it is to have fun while preserving the fresh flavors of delicious fruits to be enjoyed year round. While this isn’t a strictly vegetarian cook book, it is packed with enough delicious vegan recipes to make every cook (and guest) happy. Put ‘Em Up! Fruit is a well laid out book that allows even a beginner to grow enthusiastic about canning and preserving. By walking readers through the steps of preserving and explaining all sorts of definitions and techniques, even the most novice of cooks will feel confident venturing into the field of preserving with Vinton as a guide. Beginning with breaking down all sorts of fruit preserves (for example, clarifying the difference between a chutney, a compote, a fruit cheese, and jam), and moving on toward exploring techniques for every step of the way (seriously, the wrinkle test to determine ‘done-ness’ of a preserve may be the coolest cooking test I have heard of), Vinton communicates in a way that is part loving neighbor, part farmer’s market expert, and a tad of kitchen scientist. Plus, one of the things that really sets this book apart from other preserving books is that there are dozens of recipes to “put it up” (preserve the fruit), and then recipes to “use it up” (make delicious recipes with the preserved fruit). As a result, this book is a perfect addition to any kitchen, especially for creative types who are willing to try healthy, delicious recipes and have fun doing so. With recipes like Aprisauce (applesauce made with apricots), Wild Rice Salad, Berry Vinaigrette, Sweet Potato Oven Fries, Blackberry Fruit Leather, Savory Cranberry Relish and Broiled Grapefruit Marmalade, there are recipes to suit every palate and every need.

100 Animals on Parade

Cute goes a long way in a children’s book and Masayuki Sabe’s 100 Animals on Parade definitely wins points for being one of the most adorable children’s books I have seen in a long time The book focuses on a little parade involving hundreds of animals, and along the way, readers do a kind of “Where’s Waldo?” type search, looking for certain things in the pictures. The pictures are bright, fun, and cheery, so the level of difficulty is low, but the pages are so packed with cute little animals that even if your child is too young to “find the bear with the bunny hat”, they will still enjoy turning the pages to see the parade progress. One of my favorite parts of this book, though, is that as the bears, bunnies, and beetles (among others) are wandering by on the page, they are broken down into groups of 10 with the number clearly stated, making this a perfect book for transitioning to counting bigger numbers.

Hocus Pocus Hotel: The Return of Abracadabra

Story time isn’t quite the same when your little ones get bigger, but Hocus Pocus Hotel: The Return of Abracadabra by Michael Dahl is the perfect book for reading with your elementary schooler. The second in the Hocus Pocus Hotel series, this book follows Charlie and Ty, two residents of the Abracadabra Hotel, as they prepare for an exciting magic show 50 years after the namesake master magician disappeared. The Great and Powerful Theopolis has come to establish himself as a magician at the hotel, but Charlie and Ty are eager to find the truth behind his tricks. After solving that mystery, they must rush to prepare for Abracadabra’s amazing return – the first time he has performed in 50 years! Adventure surrounds Charlie and Ty, two middle-school opposites, as they must get ready for one of the biggest nights of their life. This book, which is packed with full-color pictures and has little chapters that help build confidence in young readers, is a great read and is perfect as a read-along with your “big kid”.

A Dose of Tia

A Dose of Tia by Dina Mauro tells the story of the author’s decision to bring her rescued dog, Tia, to volunteer in hospitals so that they both can brighten the days of the people who need it most. After looking for just the right facility, Dina finally finds a place that allows her to make a difference in the lives of many; Tia, an incredibly gregarious dog, comforts patients, entertains children, and soothes families in each visit. While reading the book, I realized that even little things can make a difference in the lives of those in need. A Dose of Tia isn’t a heavy read and really isn’t very formal. It is like having a conversation with a friend – it is very casual and filled with inspirational little gems. It is definitely the read of choice if you are looking for a little pick-me-up.

Amish Cooks Across America

Amish Cooks Across America by Lovina Eicher and Kevin Williams is exactly what you need if you are wanting to make simple, delicious meals that are truly comfort food. This book, which is packed with beautiful photos, features recipes from across the country that are traditionally Amish. Although this book is not a vegetarian cookbook, there are a number of recipes that are perfect for vegetarians or vegans, and many more which can easily be adapted (by substituting non-dairy milk for traditional milk, for example). With recipes like Potato Chowder, Rhubarb Bread, Wheat Bread, Snitz Half-Moon Pies, and Rhubarb Tapioca, there is no lack of delicious flavor. Plus, Amish Cooks Across America features profiles of various chefs and eateries across the nation, highlighting the Amish traditions and specialties. This book is as much of a historical gem as a culinary one, even going so far as to give a recipe for traditional Amish lye soap. This is definitely worth adding to your shelf if you are looking for some cooking inspiration.

The Action Bible

As a Catholic, and a teacher who covers The Bible as Literature in my classroom, I am always looking for resources that will allow my students to connect with the Bible as a powerful and influential work. Naturally, when I discovered The Action Bible and The Action Bible Handbook as well as the devotional, I was thrilled, and delighted to be offered the chance to review them. This series focuses on telling the stories of the Bible in graphic-novel format, with comic book style captions and brightly colored illustrations. The Action Bible is a beautifully bound comprehensive work that is broken down according to story (with references to where those items can be found in the Bible) and features over 700 pages of Biblical stories, plus a comprehensive index. The format is so approachable that some of my students decided to read The Action Bible rather than the traditional version. The Action Bible Handbook, however, is what really made this series amazing. It is a great reference that is encyclopedic in nature so that students can look up a character, location, or other key detail, and find a well-detailed entry as well as citations for where it is located in the Bible. My students found this incredibly helpful as they work (with varying levels of Biblical background) to understand the connection between the Biblical text and contemporary culture, and were eager to use this as a resource. I loved the fact that the content was strong and well-researched, but also featured the bright, beautiful pictures that truly set the Action Bible series apart from similar resources. The Action Bible Devotional is another powerful resource which has 365 days of reflections and questions for teens to evaluate passages from the Bible as well as their own faith. I honestly found the entire series to be incredibly powerful, especially for reluctant readers or students who assume that the Bible is filled with dry, dull stories. The approachability of the texts drew me in, but the content and quality kept me (and my students) engaged. These are powerful resources which can help anyone better understand the Bible.

Banana Vanilla Bean Pancakes

I am a huge fan of pancakes, and the bananas in these ones are the perfect way to wake up. These pancakes are light and fluffy, and not too sweet (so that you can drench them in as much syrup as you want). To get the most flavor from your vanilla bean, soak it in hot water for 5 minutes before removing the vanilla. If you do not want to deal with the hassle of using a vanilla bean, you can just substitute in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Banana Vanilla Bean Pancakes 2 cups whole wheat flour 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseeds 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 very ripe bananas, mashed 2 Tablespoons golden brown sugar 1 2/3 cup plain non-dairy milk 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 vanilla bean, cut in half and scraped on the inside to remove all seeds 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1. Mix whole wheat flour, flaxseeds, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Slowly whisk together the wet and dry ingredients in the large bowl. 2. Cook pancakes on an electric griddle, flipping once and cooking until both sides are golden.