Tasty Books & Film Club: June Edition

This is the first stack of books from the library.

Ok, I realize that it is now almost the middle of June but I think I’m a little late on choosing this month’s Tasty Books & Film Club selections because I just couldn’t make up my mind! I know from Facebook that several of you picked up a copy of at least one of the books either at the library or purchased through my site here. If you did and you’re not on Facebook, let me know in the comments what you thought of last month’s selections.

I found the The American Way of Eating to be a bit longer than I expected and had trouble reading it all. But it was interesting to see the author’s experience living and working in and around the food production industry that so many of us probably take for granted. My whole family watched the film and they found it to be a little sad to learn of the growing decline of the bee and it’s impact on our food supply. I heard recently that scientists now think it is attributed to a virus. Still much research to be done and hopefully help them recover.

Now on to this month’s selections! As usual, I’m going to include a little bit about what I thought about the book or film and then the publishers description for a general overview. Now that summer is here, I hope some more of you and your kids will have a little extra time to read some of the fiction books.

NON-FICTION

The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It by Robin O’Brien

I have been wanting to read this book for a couple of years now and once I started it I knew I must choose it for the book club! It is truly eye opening. The author, also a mom of four, has done some serious research into how our food system is possibly linked to the rise in health issues like asthma, food allergies and even ear infections! It is really easy to read and I can’t wait to hear your feedback!

Amazon Book Description:
Robyn O’Brien is not the most likely candidate for an antiestablishment crusade. A Houston native from a conservative family, this MBA and married mother of four was not someone who gave much thought to misguided government agencies and chemicals in our food—until the day her youngest daughter had a violent allergic reaction to eggs, and everything changed. The Unhealthy Truth is both the story of how one brave woman chose to take on the system and a call to action that shows how each of us can do our part and keep our own families safe.

O’Brien turns to accredited research conducted in Europe that confirms the toxicity of America’s food supply, and traces the relationship between Big Food and Big Money that has ensured that the United States is one of the only developed countries in the world to allow hidden toxins in our food—toxins that can be blamed for the alarming recent increases in allergies, ADHD, cancer, and asthma among our children. Featuring recipes and an action plan for weaning your family off dangerous chemicals one step at a time The Unhealthy Truth is a must-read for every parent—and for every concerned citizen—in America today.

FICTION

A Slice of Murder (Bk. 1) by Chris Cavender

What is it about food and mystery that makes for a good read? It’s one of my favorite genres for sure! This one is centered around a pizza shop owner—delish!

Amazon Book Description:
Not too much happens in the sleepy little town of Timber Ridge, North Carolina – which is fine with pizza-purveyor extraordinaire Eleanor Swift. The spunky owner of A Slice of Delight is trying to mend her broken heart and could use a little quiet time. But when a late night delivery customer turns up dead, she’s in for just the opposite in this delicious mystery series debut, featuring pizza as the prima character.

COOKBOOK:

The Locavore’s Kitchen by Marilou Suszko

Summertime seems to be prime time for farmer’s markets in most areas so eating local is easier than ever! When I saw this book at my local library I snatched it up and I was not disappointed. The author includes recipes for not only the expected fruits and vegetables but also for farm fresh eggs, grass-fed beef and more. What makes the book unique is the many details and descriptions of the ingredients as well as tips for choosing quality ingredients.
 Amazon Book Description:
More and more Americans are becoming dedicated locavores, people who prefer to eat locally grown or produced foods and who enjoy the distinctive flavors only a local harvest can deliver. The Locavore’s Kitchen invites readers to savor homegrown foods that come from the garden, the farm stand down the road, or local farmers’ markets through cooking and preserving the freshest ingredients.

In more than 150 recipes that highlight seasonal flavors, Marilou K. Suszko inspires cooks to keep local flavors in the kitchen year round. From asparagus in the spring to pumpkins in the fall, Suszko helps readers learn what to look for when buying seasonal homegrown or locally grown foods as well as how to store fresh foods, and which cooking methods bring out fresh flavors and colors. Suszko shares tips and techniques for extending seasonal flavors with detailed instructions on canning, freezing, and dehydrating and which methods work best for preserving texture and flavor.

The Locavore’s Kitchen is an invaluable reference for discovering the delicious world of fresh, local, and seasonal foods.

CHILDREN’S NON-FICTION/COOKBOOK

The Healthy Body Cookbook: Over 50 Fun Activities and Delicious Recipes for Kids by Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond

With the kids out of school for summer, what better time to get them into the kitchen and cooking? This book not only includes many easy-to-follow recipes but also tips and ideas for including more healthy food in kids’ diets.

Book Description:
Learning about health and science has never been so fun –and delicious!

What does a heartbeat sound like? How strong is my hair? Why do my eyes blink? What’s in a sports drink? With more than 50 safe and easy recipes and activities to try, you’ll discover the nutritious answers to these and tons of other scrumptious mysteries. And best of all, you get to eat the results when you’re finished! You’ll make carbohydrate-packed Blueberry Power-Snack Turnovers, protein-boosting Crunchy Chicken Fingers, calcium-rich Creamy, Dreamy Yogurt Orange-Banana Frozen Pops, and much more.

The Healthy Body Cookbook is a delightfully clever smorgasbord of hands-on lessons about the crucial role that diet and exercise play in the development of heart, blood, bones, muscles, skin, teeth, and the nervous and digestive systems. All activities are kid-tested and require only common ingredients and kitchen utensils. There’s also a helpful list of safety rules, an explanation of tools and skills, and nutritional values for each recipe.

MIDDLE GRADES/YOUNG ADULT BOOK:

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
With the feel of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this is a modern twist on that classic tale. This book is a big one, but I figured it would make a great summer read for the kids. Or it would be a good one to read together. It’s geared towards grade 4-8, so be sure to check out the link to see if it’s right for your kiddo if they are younger.

Book Description:
Children running amok in a candy factory, immortalized by Roald Dahl, is one story line that bears repeating. At the Life Is Sweet factory, four 12-year-olds gather to create new goodies for the annual Confectionery Association Conference. Logan, the Candymaker’s son, dreams of winning his family’s respect. Miles’s parents hope the experience will help him forget a tragic accident he couldn’t prevent. Daisy is fascinated by the factory, but for what reason? And Philip scribbles in his secret notebook, determined to win at all costs. When the factory’s secret ingredient is stolen, the children find a common purpose: to foil the plot by creating the best candy ever. The tidy conclusion has a few contrivances, but none that will bother children. Mass has crafted a solid mystery dipped in sweet candy-making details. Character development moves a lengthy story forward in smooth increments. As each child’s story emerges, the mystery becomes one bit clearer, making this a real page-turner. The characters are intricate, flawed heroes with whom readers will identify. The book’s subtle message of teamwork over greed and growth through friendship will resonate with readers and educators alike. A magical setting filled with conveyor belts, chocolate jungles, and beehives makes it clear what the youngsters are attempting to save.

CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK:

Pie’s In the Oven by Betty G. Birney

What a cute book for children to learn about not only pie making but the generosity that goes into sharing it as well.

Amazon Book Description:
A young boy and his grandfather bring home apples from the orchard. But most of the morning is spent with Grandma as she prepares and bakes sweet and spicy apple pies. Soon a variety of friends, neighbors, and family members gather to share the sweet treat hot from the oven. Just when it appears that the pie will run out before the boy can get a piece, Grandma comes with a small pie she made for him alone. The narration offers the exuberant younster’s perspective on the events. Although the text is not rhymed, it maintains a steady rhythm, with a cadence reminiscent of square-dance calls. Meade’s collages reinforce the country feeling. Leaves falling in many scenes remind viewers of the season, and the flat patches of color in clothing establish individual differences even in the crowd.

FILM:

No Reservations (starring Catherine Zeta-Jones)

So I’ve discovered there are TONS of films and documentaries about food! How to choose—it’s so tough! This time I decided to choose an entertaining film rather than a documentary. I borrowed a copy of this movie, but I noticed Amazon has a download option or you can also check your local library (ours has a pretty extensive selection of movies it seems!)

Amazon Summary:
Achieving balance in one’s life can be a difficult process, but master chef Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) leads a regimented, very ordered existence running the kitchen of an exclusive restaurant and revels in the sense of power and control her career affords. When Kate’s sister is unexpectedly killed in an automobile accident and her 9-year old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin) comes to live with Kate, Kate’s life is turned completely upside down and she is suddenly forced to split her focus between work and family. Enter a newly hired, fun-loving, opera-singing sous chef Nick Palmer (Aaron Eckhart), whom Kate perceives as a serious rival, and thus begins an impassioned struggle on Kate’s part to rein in Nick’s exuberance and maintain control over her kitchen staff. Even as they clash, Kate is inexplicably drawn toward Nick, eventually coming to the realization that Nick offers something that she needs both in her restaurant kitchen and her new life with Zoe. Based on the screenplay for Mostly Martha, Catherine Zeta-Jones carries the lead well in this romantic comedy and there’s a nice chemistry between herself and Aaron Eckhart as well as a poignant performance by Abigail Breslin. And, of course, and the food looks simply scrumptious.

I hope you’ll find one of these selections to strike your or your children’s fancy and read and watch along with the rest of us!

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation for this post however I am an Amazon Associates Affiliate. What does that mean? Well, if you decide to purchase any of the titles shown above and click through using the links here, I’ll receive a very small percentage of that sale. And I thank you!

Let’s Get Reading (And Cooking and Watching!) {Tasty Books Book Club}

I have a little problem. I LOVE books and especially books that are food related. Non-fiction, cookbooks, novels. You name it and they call my name. So it’s probably no surprise that my kids like them too! You see, I go a little crazy at the library sometimes getting books and just can’t stop! It doesn’t help that a new library branch opened up near my house (7 minutes door-to-door–I timed it!) and they have lots of shiny new books!

This is the first stack of books from the library.

And then there's this stack.

Yep, this pile too..... (at least one of those belongs to me though!)

And, this one. Yes, it's crazy and I went a little overboard. I promise, there were still plenty left at the library!

I think if they ever imposed a limit on the number of books you can check out it would probably be because of me!

September was the last update for the Tasty Books Book Club. I had originally intended for it to be a summer only club but there are just so many great food-related books out there that I just want to share and hopefully we can all share our thoughts on them too!

Starting this month I’m also adding films. For now, I’ve mostly chosen documentaries but if you have any others to suggest, please let me know!

So I’m bringing it back and kicking things off again this month. I hope to post Q&A’s about at least a couple of the books (not sure if I can keep up with all of them) but I want to offer a variety for everyone so choose what strikes your fancy month-to-month. As usual, I’m going to include a little bit about what I thought about the book and then the publishers description for a general overview.

NON-FICTION

The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan

I picked this book up on the recommendation of a friend and it is fascinating! Author, McMillan went undercover to live the life of Americans from different walks of life to determine if touting the “eat local, eat fresh, eat organic” option is realistic for the average American. It reads like a novel and is a page-turner! But in the end, you take a step back and hopefully ask the same questions and come up with your own answers. I’ll check back with y’all later to see what you think!

Amazon Book Description:
What if you can’t afford nine-dollar tomatoes? That was the question award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan couldn’t escape as she watched the debate about America’s meals unfold, one that urges us to pay food’s true cost—which is to say, pay more. So in 2009 McMillan embarked on a groundbreaking undercover journey to see what it takes to eat well in America. For nearly a year, she worked, ate, and lived alongside the working poor to examine how Americans eat when price matters.
From the fields of California, a Walmart produce aisle outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a New York City Applebee’s, McMillan takes us into the heart of America’s meals. With startling intimacy she portrays the lives and food of Mexican garlic crews, Midwestern produce managers, and Caribbean line cooks, while also chronicling her own attempts to live and eat on meager wages. Along the way, she asked the questions still facing America a decade after the declaration of an obesity epidemic: Why do we eat the way we do? And how can we change it? To find out, McMillan goes beyond the food on her plate to examine the national prio-rities that put it there. With her absorbing blend of riveting narrative and formidable investigative reporting, McMillan takes us from dusty fields to clanging restaurant kitchens, linking her work to the quality of our meals—and always placing her observations in the context of America’s approach not just to farms and kitchens but to wages and work.
The surprising answers that McMillan found on her journey have profound implications for our food and agriculture, and also for how we see ourselves as a nation. Through stunning reportage, Tracie McMillan makes the simple case that—city or country, rich or poor—everyone wants good food. Fearlessly reported and beautifully written, The American Way of Eating goes beyond statistics and culture wars to deliver a book that is fiercely intelligent and compulsively readable. Talking about dinner will never be the same again.

FICTION

Catering To Nobody by Dianne Mott Davidson
This is the first in a series of caterer turned sleuth. I first read this book many years ago but it’s a great one that I love! The bonus? There are recipes included in every book!

Amazon Book Description:
Catering a wake is not Goldy’s idea of fun. Yet the Colorado caterer throws herself into preparing a savory feast including Poached Salmon and Strawberry Shortcake Buffet designed to soothe forty mourners. And her culinary efforts seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered…until her ex-father-in-law gynecologist Fritz Korman is struck down and Goldy is accused of adding poison to the menu. Now, with the Department of Health impounding her leftovers, her ex-husband proclaiming her guilt, and her business about to be shut down, Goldy knows she can’t wait for the police to serve up the answers. She’ll soon uncover more than one family skeleton and a veritable stew of unpalatable secrets–the kind that could make Goldy the main course in an unsavory killer’s next murder!

COOKBOOK:

Vegetables Every Day: The Definitive Guide to Buying And Cooking Today’s Produce by Jack Bishop

I figured this title was appropriate since I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for the Eating The Alphabet series and lots of farmer’s markets are starting back up for many of you all (if they haven’t’ already!) and there are so many yummy spring vegetables to choose from like those I mentioned in the Produce for Kids article I wrote on the Top 10 Spring Fruits & Vegetables.

Book Description:
The fresh vegetable sections in most supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and gourmet groceries are overflowing with an amazing range of produce, both familiar and exotic. Consumers are tempted by kale and kohlrabi, taro and tomatillos, bok choy and burdock, along with all the familiar choices. Now acclaimed cookbook author and food writer Jack Bishop offers a comprehensive A-to-Z guide to this bounty of produce, complete with selection tips, preparation instructions, and hundreds of recipes for more than sixty-six commonly available vegetables. With Bishop’s expert advice, you’ll learn how to coax the very best flavor from every vegetable, whether it’s a carrot, cauliflower, or cardoon. Wondering how and when to buy the sweetest green beans? Bishop suggests buying at the height of summer, and selecting beans that are crisp and slim (older, thicker beans will be mealy and bland). Confused about how to cook the spring’s first sorrel? Bishop offers such unique and delicious dishes as Sorrel and Potato Soup and Sorrel Frittata. These recipes — like all 350 in the book — are clear and uncomplicated, ensuring success for even the novice cook. So whether you are looking for a salad or side dish, a vibrant main course, or simply great mashed potatoes, you are sure to find it in this essential kitchen companion. We all know that vegetables are the key to healthful eating — now it’s time to discover how great they can taste, each and every day!

CHILDREN’S NON-FICTION/COOKBOOK

Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story by Linda Glaser

I picked up a copy of this book at our local library recently and I thought it would be great for kids to help them understand composting and how it can help inspire them to help their gardens grow AND help our environment at the same time. What kid doesn’t like digging in the dirt?

Book Description:
What is that garbage doing next to the garden? It’s not garbage. It’s compost! Amazing things happen inside a compost bin. In go banana peels, grass clippings, and even an old jack-o’-lantern. Out comes compost. The compost goes into the garden to make the soil rich for new plants. Compost is good for the earth. Composting also helps us make less garbage. In this book, you can watch as one family makes compost for their garden and also learn how to start your very own compost bin!

MIDDLE GRADES BOOK:

The Cupcake Caper by Gertrude Chandler Warner

My kids love the Boxcar Children series! And what a fun twist with a cupcake theme.

Book Description:
It’s a delicious new mystery with the Boxcar Children as they help catch a cupcake thief! Mama Tova’s shop in Greenfield is so famous that every day, people line up around the block to buy her cupcakes. But when someone breaks into her kitchen, it’s clear that her secret recipe is in danger. The Aldens follow the suspects to a bake-off where they must find the culprit using their mystery-solving skills – and their taste buds, too!

CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK:

A Cow, A Bee, A Cookie & Me by Meredith Hooper
This is a cute picture book that takes the reader on a journey of how the ingredients for making honey cookies are made and where they come from. And the bonus? There is a recipe for honey cookies at the back of the book!

Amazon Book Description:
Ages 4-7. Cookies don’t come from packages, they come from nature, as this jaunty picture book shows. Ben is baking honey cookies with his grandma. Each time Ben asks, “What do we need?” Grandma has the real answer: a cow and grass to make the milk, sugarcane growing thick and tall, a thousand buzzing bees, even dried bark from a tree. Bark? Yes, cinnamon bark. Grandma explains everything: how the bees pack flower nectar into waxy cells to turn into honey and how to cream the butter and roll out the dough. The childlike art is sunny with lots of yellows, greens, and blues coloring the two-page spreads or those featuring one large picture of a cooking ingredient in its natural state and two smaller ones that show what the products look like when processed. Once in a while the text raises more questions than it answers (how, a child might wonder, does the cow turn grass into milk?), but in general this is a happy introduction to the ways nature provides cooking ingredients. Recipe included

FILM:

I’m excited to add the film element to our review and discussion. There are so many food related films that it’s a great option to learn more and be entertained without the full commitment of reading a book. I recently discovered that I can get just about any documentary and films I could ever think of (and then some) via my Netflix live streaming subscription. Awesome! But if you don’t have this option, check your library for a copy as well—I found lots of them at our library as well.

The firsts film I’ve chosen is NOVA: Bees – Tales From the Hive
Why have I chosen this to be the first film? Well, partly because many of you have or are setting up your home gardens and bees are an integral part of the pollination process that probably a lot of us don’t understand. And with the Bee Colony Collapse Disorder a concern for the future of our food supply, it’s important to start at the beginning and learn how these little creatures are huge contributors to the future of the way we eat.

Amazon Description: 
Spend a year in this hive and experience life as a bee.
Amazingly up-close footage filmed with specially developed macro lenses brings you the most intimate- and most spectacular- portrayal of a working bee colony ever filmed. It’s not frightening- it’s fascinating. See things you never imagined. Hear things only bees hear. Discover new found facts about the strange and complex life of bees.
Did you know it takes nectar from 10 million flowers to create a single liter of honey? No wonder they’re called worker bees! Tales from the Hive exposes a bee colony’s secret world- detailing such rarely seen events as the life-or-death battle between a pair of rival queens, a bee eater’s attack on the hive, a scout bee’s mysterious dance that shares special “nectar directions” with the rest of the hive. Also, watch the high-speed mid-air “wedding flight” of drone and queen. See the colony’s defense against a honey-loving bear.

So which book will you be reading first? Or will the film be more your thing to start off with? Feel free to add title suggestions in the comments below for future months. And if you’re not already following me on Facebook or Twitter, be sure to do so as there’s always lots of conversation going on there! And spread the word to your friends and family–the more the merrier!

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation for choosing these books and film for the Tasty Books Book Club. I am, however, an Amazon Affliate, so if you choose to order any of these titles through my blog I receive a (very) small portion of the sale. And I thank you.

Tasty Books Book Club-September Edition

So, I sort of dropped the ball big time in August for the Tasty Books Book Club. We were on vacation the first part of August and I did not plan a post before we left. And then we got caught up in getting ready to go back to school. Before I knew it we were nearly at the end of the month and it didn’t make sense to post August selections. And I’m really not sure if anyone is even reading these books (feedback, people, I need feedback!) but I since I’m reading them anyway and I love to share new titles with my friends, I’m happy to share them here too! I had intended for this to be just a summer reading club but since there are SO many books out there to share and read it’s just too fun not to continue!

So here goes with September’s selections. I’ll include a little bit about what I thought about the book and then the publishers description for a general overview.

NON-FICTION
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children by Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes.

Brenda’s Notes: While this book was published over five years ago, the message is clear: what we are feeding our children, whether coming from home or through the school lunch program, we need to care about providing nutritious options for our kids. The approach is clear and easy to understand. The first chapter is an overview of basic child nutrition and includes tips on how to get your kids helping out in the kitchen. Next is an overview of several school lunch programs around the country followed up by a big recipe section full of yummy sounding things like Yogurt-Honey Health Muffins, Peanut And Jelly Power Muffins, Mediterranean Chicken Wrap and Vegetable Fried Rice. The last section includes a Wellness Policy Guide prepared by the Center for Ecoliteracy in collaboration with Slow Food USA and the Chez Panisse Foundation. A great way for you to take action making changes in your own schools.

Amazon.com Summary: In prose both straightforward and practical, Cooper and Holmes cleverly avoid the depressing air of many of current nutrition manuals in their charge against the school lunch status quo; though they do note in the foreword that “thirty to forty percent of children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes,” they’ve largely jettisoned scare tactics in favor of practical, easy-to-follow solutions for the daily school lunch pail. The book is well documented throughout, giving authors’ claims that their advice will lead to “increased ability to concentrate, increased cognitive development…and less moodiness” a solid foundation. Clarifying which foods are truly hazardous to children, the authors offer readers a litany of substitutions and positive options. Avoiding trans-fats and processed foods is only the beginning of advice that includes “trusting your children’s appetites” while keeping in mind that “you are the boss” where food choices are concerned. Perfect for working parents who believe they’re far too busy to pack a school lunch for their child, this well-organized manual offers a host of surprisingly simple meal changes and easy-to-follow recipes. Other sections offer tips on getting involved locally to transform school lunch programs; the end of the book boasts a valuable resource guide with helpful websites.


FICTION:
The Glazed Donut Murders by Jessica Beck
Brenda’s Notes: I haven’t read this one yet—I’ll be reading along with you all. But who wouldn’t love donuts and a mystery? And the bonus: it includes recipes!

Amazon.com Summary:
This delicious new mystery/recipe series will give readers some serious doughnut cravings. When a dead body is unceremoniously dumped in front of her smalltown doughnut shop in the wee hours of the morning, Suzanne Hart knows it’s not going to be an ordinary day. The deceased is Patrick Blaine, a friend and loyal customer. Against advice from her overprotective mother and hunky state police investigator Jake Bishop, Suzanne decides to try to track down Patrick’s killer, but her investigation makes her a target. Beck turns a somewhat predictable plot into a light, fun read filled with entertaining characters—Suzanne’s two-timing ex-husband, her wacky best friend, and an ex-cop pal who gives her the inside scoop—who have the potential to transcend the cozy mystery formula in future volumes.


COOKBOOK:
30 Day Gourmet by Nanci Slagle and Carol Santee
Brenda’s Notes: Ok, this is probably my bible of freezer cooking. I’d have to say that pretty much everything I’ve ever made from it my family (and freezer meal exchange group) has loved! You can read my full review of the book here. I’ll pick a few of my favorite recipes for us to try in the follow-up discussion!

Amazon.com Summary:
Best of the freezer cookbooks! 30 Day Gourmet’s comprehensive cooking system teaches busy cooks how to fill their freezers with nutritious and great tasting foods! Spend a few hours or spend a whole day. 150 great-tasting recipes include color photos and step-by-step instructions that will make stocking your freezer with delicious foods as simple as our 3 easy steps Step #1 – Choose & Plan Step #2 – Shop & Prep Step #3 -Assemble & Freeze *150 Delicious Recipes *Nutritional Analysis *Color Photos of all Recipes *Time-Saving Worksheets *Step-by-Step Instructions *Freezing Information *Online Support *100 s More Recipes Online

MIDDLE GRADES BOOK:
Grandma Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech
Brenda’s Notes: We haven’t read this book yet, but it’s been on my daughter’s to read list for awhile. I don’t think it includes recipes but the message that food and stories can help make meaning of life is something to be enjoyed by all.

Amazon.com Summary:
Tastes and smells emerge along with wisdom and insight as a grandmother and grandchild reveal experiences past and present in the warmth of the kitchen. Rosie and Bailey are neighbors, born only a week apart. They are like sister and brother, only better “because I chose him and he chose me.” She has always been his helper as he was born visually impaired. But now they have had a falling out. As Rosie tells Granny, Bailey is acting spiteful, all because she tried to be just like him. To be just like Bailey-her buddy, her pal-Rosie secretly learned to read Braille and unknowingly took away the special thing only he could do. When the two of them come together with Granny Torrelli in the kitchen and make cavatelli, the rift between them heals. Stories and wisdom continue as sauce and meatballs are made, helping to clarify feelings. As family and friends raise a glass of water to toast the cooks, Rosie realizes that her world is indeed bigger as is Bailey’s; that tutto va bene-all is well! Twelve-year-old Rosie’s narration seamlessly integrates Granny Torrelli’s stories and fleeting conversations in short chapters. Her authentic voice gradually reveals what has happened and the accompanying emotions ranging from anger and angst to happiness and contentment. The integration of the Italian kitchen and Granny’s family stories from the old country add flavor just like the ingredients in her recipes. This is a meal that should not be missed.

CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK:
Gator Gumbo: A Spicy-Hot Tale by Candace Fleming
Brenda’s Notes: We picked this book up from the library recently and we love it! It’s a Cajun twist on the Little Red Hen story with an even bigger twist at the end! The kids especially love it when I read it using my Cajun accent.

Amazon.com Summary:
This is a classic tale of contemptuous characters getting a well-deserved comeuppance, with a few interesting twists to spice up the dish. Poor Monsieur Gator is too old to catch his dinner, a fact that has not escaped his former prey–a possum, an otter, and a skunk. As he barely scrapes by on vegetables, the cruel animals tease him endlessly. Finally, Monsieur Gator decides to cook up some gumbo, “just like Maman used to make,” and in a sequence straight out of “The Little Red Hen,” he asks his tormentors to help him gather the ingredients. Of course they refuse to participate until the fragrant stew is ready and they gather around hoping for a taste. The wily old predator obliges by tricking them into the pot. Although Lambert’s watercolors capture the general mood of the swamp, the absence of anything resembling palmetto fronds or moss-hung cypress trees is telling. Also, anyone who has ever cooked gumbo will immediately recognize that Monsieur Gator’s recipe is way off base. Fortunately, the story flows well in spite of these slips and Gator ultimately accomplishes his goal. Both the story and the illustrations are well executed.

Won’t you join me reading this month?

Tasty Books Book Club – July Selections

I realize we’re nearly halfway through July but I still wanted to send out these book selections for this month’s edition of our Tasty Books Book Club. I’ve included the summary of each book from Amazon website. The first selection, Tomatoland, is a book that was sent to me by the publisher but I found to be quite an intriguing subject given the focus lately on eating “green” and eating locally. You can read my review by clicking on the picture of the book and it will bring you to the Amazon page. Wow! What an eye opener. I hope you will check it out!

The second selection is the first in a series that I just discovered last summer called the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanna Fluke. I love mysteries and those that include recipes so this was a perfect match for me! While this book was published several years ago, the author has published seventeen books in the series so you’re sure to be able to keep on reading for awhile. They’re a fun, light read with twists and turns that will surprise you! The bonus? Recipes in every book–yum! And the good news? a cookbook that includes recipes from ALL of Fluke’s books is due out in September 2011!

The cookbook selection is The Family Kitchen: Easy and Delicious Recipes for Parents and Kids to Make and Enjoy Together by Debra Ponzek. This book is chock-full of yummy sounding recipes that will appeal to parents and kids! You can read a review that I did for this book by clicking here.

Our children’s picture book selection this month is Cook-A-Doodle-Doo by Janet Stevens. It’s a book I picked up at the library for my own children and what a fun read it was! Lastly, there’s the middle grades fiction book, The Dazzle Disaster Dinner Party by Sharon Draper. We’ve not yet read this one but it looks fun!

And the middle grades novel is The Dazzle Disaster Dinner Party book! What kid won’t love reading about planning a fabulous party and the craziness that comes when things go wrong. Young readers will enjoy this book.

Below are the descriptions of each book. Remember, if you purchase a book by clicking on the links below it helps me out as I am an Amazon affiliate. But I am also a big fan of my library. So if you are too and are able to find these books there, I won’t know either way!

I hope you enjoy these books. Be sure to let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. Happy reading!


Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook
Supermarket produce sections bulging with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright. But in Tomatoland, which is based on his James Beard Award-winning article, “The Price of Tomatoes,” investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry. Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and tomatoes that have fourteen times more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States. How have we come to this point?

[Read more...]

Tasty Books Book Club-June Selections!

It’s the first week of June and time to get thinking about some great summer reads for our Tasty Books Book Club! (details on how it will work and how to order books are here). Below is the June 2011 book selection list with a description of the titles (from the publisher or online site–they say it just as good or better than I can!):

NON-FICTION SELECTION:

American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) by Jonathan Bloom
From Publishers Weekly-
Since the Great Depression and the world wars, the American attitude toward food has gone from a “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” patriotic and parsimonious duty to an orgy of “grab-and-go” where food’s fetish and convenience qualities are valued above sustainability or nutrition. Journalist Bloom follows the trajectory of America’s food from gathering to garbage bin in this compelling and finely reported study, examining why roughly half of our harvest ends up in landfills or rots in the field. He accounts for every source of food waste, from how it is picked, purchased, and tossed in fear of being past inscrutable “best by” dates. Bloom’s most interesting point is psychological: we have trained ourselves to regard food as a symbol of American plenty that should be available at all seasons and times, and in dizzying quantities. “Current rates of waste and population growth can’t coexist much longer,” he warns and makes smart suggestions on becoming individually and collectively more food conscious “to keep our Earth and its inhabitants physically and morally healthy


FICTION SELECTION:
The Bake-Off by Beth Kendrick
Suburban soccer mom Amy has always wanted to stand out from the crowd. Former child prodigy Linnie just wants to fit in. The two sisters have been estranged for years, but thanks to a series of personal crises and their wily grandmother, they’ve teamed up to enter a national bake-off in the hopes of winning some serious cash. Armed with the top-secret recipe for Grammy’s apple pie, they should be unstoppable. Sure, neither one of them has ever baked anything more complicated than brownie mix, but it’s just pie-how hard could it be?


COOKBOOK SELECTION:
Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois
Two years ago, the authors published Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, presenting European-inspired loafs and baked goods, relying on traditional baking ingredients. After the authors started a blog based on that book, they responded to readers requests for recipes for healthy breads, including those made with less white flour, lower refined sugars and gluten-free options. Relying on the same five-minute, no-knead method, a master recipe is the base for most of the 100 recipes. The book’s strength lies in the unusual selections inspired from around the globe including Turkish pear coffee bread; tabbouleh bread with parsley, garlic and bulgur; and Indian-spiced doughnuts. A chapter entitled “Sneaky Breads” cleverly incorporates fruits and vegetables into doughs, resulting in tasty and healthy creations such as brown rice and prune bread and beet-red buns. A selection of pizzas and an entire chapter dedicated to gluten-free baked goods round out the title. The friendly tone, including headnotes and stories behind recipes, keep this from becoming a didactic diet book. Though traditionalists may shy away from the method and ingredient substitutions presented, others will find inspiration within the pages of this unconventional baking title.


CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK SELECTION:
The Greatest Potatoes by Penelope Stowell
In an effort to serve the perfect fried potato dish to the famous but fussy Cornelius Vanderbilt at Cary Moon’s Lake Lodge House Restaurant, fry cook George Crum accidentally invents the potato chip. This story is based on true events.


YOUNG/MIDDLE GRADES FICTION BOOK:
President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston
From Booklist- Brianna Justice plans to be a millionaire when she grows up, just like her hero, celebrity chef Miss Delicious. When Miss Delicious credits her rise to the top to the experience she gained as fifth-grade president, Brianna knows what she must do. With the support of her best friends, Brianna strategizes her worldwide domination, starting with a successful run for president of her own fifth-grade class. But unexpected and underhanded competition from new girl Jasmine Moon threatens not only to ruin Brianna’s ambitions but to knock Brianna’s moral compass out of whack as she loses sight of herself and her purpose in a win-at-all-costs race. Although Jasmine’s villainy seems over the top and Brianna’s peeps turn on her unconvincingly, Brianna’s struggle to run a clean campaign is believable and entertaining. Cupcake recipes and a fair amount of U.S. history are worked into the book.

Each week I’ll further highlight one (or more) of the books and we’ll get the discussion going! For the cookbook selection, choose a recipe that looks good to you and then we can all share our experiences. Leave a comment if you have any questions. Happy reading!

Tasty Books Summer Book Club: A Place for Foodies (or Foodie Wannabes!)

The first day of summer officially kicks off for us today as school is out! Whether your children are not yet in school, you have grown children or none at all, summertime usually means fewer things on your “to-do” list, visits to, from and with family and friends and generally a more relaxed time of year.

For me, it also means I’ll have more free time.  So I’m excited to introduce the Meal Planning Magic Tasty Books Summer Book Club! Being lover of all things food related, I’m naturally drawn to books about, well, food. And since discovering several years back that books written about food don’t necessarily mean they need to be cookbooks, I was hooked.

Since we’re all on a different part of the journey towards preparing healthy foods for our families that also save time and money, I thought it would be a great idea to share books with my readers to help us all learn to think about the foods we love (or will come to love!) on many different levels.

So, let me get down to the details! [Read more...]