One of my favorite things about this time of year are all of the best-of lists and year end reviews. Novels, movies, cookbooks, news reviews – I love them all. Given the focus of With Two Spoons, it should be no surprise that both Lane and myself are total cookbook addicts. We read them like novels, devouring the pictures and plotting our way through the recipes. Thus, when the year end lists of the best cookbooks come out, I scour them for a new treasure I might not have seen yet….
Happy Wednesday, friends! I don’t know about you, but I’m smack in the middle of holiday preparations around here. Christmas is coming and with it – lots of food and fun (and presents to wrap!). While I’m busy planning our holiday menu contributions, I’ve also got a family to feed each day and this week I want festive but easy things to fill our table. This week’s Good Food Reads are a little selfish because they’re all things that I want to cook this week! I’ve got some healthy-ish things on my list as I like to save room for those Christmas cookies that inevitably find their way into our home. Also included are some appetizers and a great chicken salad dip as well as a recipe for gorgeous linzer cookies. Finally, I’ve got a great list of cookbooks, perfect for gifting. I hope you enjoy this week’s Good Food Reads as much as I do! …
Is it just me, or do the holidays really sneak up on us every year? I feel like I was literally just celebrating the arrival of fall and pumpkin-spiced-everything season and now here we are, a few days from Thanksgiving and the fun, crazy holiday season. As much as I love all of the fun gatherings with friends and family this time of year, finding the perfect host/hostess gift can be a little stressful. …
I don’t know about you guys, but I have a complete addiction to cookbooks. I blame my habit on my grandmother (hei hei, Bestemor!), whose home is always filled with the smells of something wonderful baking and whose pantry is overflowing with cooking tomes. She tends to favor old, local, home-style cookbooks, often bought at church fundraisers or garage sales – ones that over the years have been peppered with priceless notes and anecdotes. My mother has a similar love of cookbooks, though with a slightly more modern, photo heavy bent to her collection. Personally, I love them all.
With the rise of cooking blogs, Pinterest, and digital food magazines, we are surrounded by recipes and beautiful photos of food with just the swipe of a finger. It is a wonderful thing and the ease of web-based resources is something I really appreciate in the midst of the every day life hustle and bustle. There is something so wonderful though, about a slow afternoon with a cup of coffee and an actual book. One that you can hold in your hand, and read cover to cover, savoring the recipes and stories their authors have put down. Over the years, I’ve managed to collect a respectable assortment of wonderful cookbooks and in the process, compiled a list of favorite recipes that I return to again and again. It is a few of those recipes (and their books!) that I want to share with you today.
Since we have been talking a lot about breakfast and baking the past week, I’ve put together five of my favorite cookbooks for baking bread and sweet treats:
- The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois). The title of the book talks about the “discovery that revolutionized home baking” and it’s not just hyperbole. Their basic boule or bread recipe contains only four ingredients and is so simple but wonderful. I like to eat it straight from the oven with some honey butter and salt but it’s also wonderful served along side pasta or stews, to soak up all those sauces.
- The New Best Recipe. This book is an update of the original Best Recipe, first published in 1999. From the genius editors at Cooks Illustrated, you really can’t go wrong with any of the recipes in it. My personal favorite are the lemon bars and the molasses spice cookies.
- How To Be A Domestic Goddess (Nigella Lawson). Also an older book, this is essentially a collection of decadent treats. Make the chocolate loaf cake and you won’t regret it.
- Date Night In (Ashley Rodriguez). A newer addition to my shelf, I can’t stop making the Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies. It’s a problem.
- The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. The version I have is slightly different, but I’m assuming the recipe for blueberry muffins (with lemon!) hasn’t changed. With it’s thick, buttery dough with yogurt and lemon, it’s almost more of a cake than a muffin. And that’s just the way I like it.
What are your go-to books when it comes to baking? Are there recipes your family asks for again and again? Let us know!
I spent the weekend making Peanut Butter Cup Bars. Simple ingredients, simple recipe, no oven involved. This is one of my very favorite recipes, not only because of its simplicity, but because of the fact is that it gets my kids into the kitchen every time. In the interest of full disclosure, these particular peanut butter cup bars pictured above were actually made by my 4 year old with only some minor help from me. My journey to the kitchen was so much later in life, that I’m hoping that by getting my kids into the kitchen early in their lives, I will spark their interest in cooking.
I have 2 kids, currently aged 13 and 4, and when it comes to food and kids in the kitchen, I have learned a lot of lessons between number 1 and number 2. When my now teenager was tiny, I was in the throes of my education and training. That meant long days, long nights and meals that involved the path of least resistance. Our then toddler wanted butter noodles for dinner 7 nights a week? Sure-we could handle that, we had a fast casual Italian joint down the street. I’m not sure I knew where my kitchen was back then, and I’m pretty sure that even if I could have found my kitchen, I wouldn’t have known how to make noodles anyway! No surprise that food rapidly became an issue with my firstborn, as her preferred menu involved very few types of foods and none of them could be considered nutritious.
When I started my full time job, one of my new colleagues asked me what we liked to eat for dinner. Unfortunately, my honest answer did not impress her, to say the least. Who would be impressed by our crazy array of fast food dinners? From that day forward, my colleague (now one of my great friends) vowed to teach me how to do better. She encouraged me to cook, encouraged me to try new recipes (even if they were simple desserts like these Peanut Butter Cup Bars) and encouraged me to do a better job of feeding my family. In my free time, I took some demonstration cooking classes, tried tons of new recipes and read cookbooks like novels (I’ve actually developed quite a cookbook addiction, but that it is a whole other conversation). I rapidly improved my skills and discovered a true passion for cooking.
When I had my second child, many years after the first, I was in a different place in my life. I had more time, more energy (it’s all relative, right?) and much more in my repertoire. I got smart, and fed my youngest child whatever we were eating, and what we were eating had vastly improved by then. He greedily ate everything including the garlicky pureed beef stew I fed him, the beet borscht his Polish nanny fed him, and the various vegetables we insisted he have at every meal. I also learned that getting my kids into the kitchen with me was a great way to get them enthusiastic about trying new foods. There was so much they could help with-dumping, mixing, spreading, crushing. My 13 year old, initially very finicky, is now exploring her own talents in the kitchen and her palate has greatly expanded (she now orders salmon everywhere we go-and together we can make a fabulous salmon at home!). My 4 year old tells people he’s going to be a “daddy chef” and asks me to put his apron on him so he can help me cook. Now, this Peanut Butter Cup Bar recipe certainly isn’t a healthy recipe, and it certainly won’t give your kids any nutrition, but it is so easy and gives my 4 year old such a sense of accomplishment to be able to make a dessert that everyone enjoys. It is a great recipe to start getting your own kids into the kitchen with you! And who knows, maybe if you get them interested in making dessert, helping you make vegetables will soon follow!
- 1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
- 1 Cup Butter
- 2½ Cups Powdered Sugar
- 2 Cups Crushed Graham Crackers
- 1½ Cups (12 ounces) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
- Mix peanut butter, melted butter and powdered sugar in a large bowl.
- Stir in crushed graham crackers.
- Spread peanut butter mixture in a 9 x 13 pan.
- Melt chocolate chips, stirring frequently to ensure the chocolate doesn't burn. (This can be done using a double boiler over low heat, or using a microwave on medium power, stirring every 30 seconds until melted)
- Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter mixture.
- Refrigerate until chocolate is hardened.
- Cut into squares, serve and enjoy!