Thursday, March 12, 2015

Beyond Gadgetry: Inspiralized is an interesting addition to the cookbook shelf

INSPIRALIZED is another cookbook based on a successful blog. Unlike others of that ilk, it is primarily based on using the 'spiralizer', a useful kitchen gadget combination of an old fashioned sausage-cranking machine and a multi-bladed mandolin. That being said, there are some nice recipes included especially if you like Italian food.

The more valuable section to me was the chapter on the best vegetables to use as well as how to cut them for maximum benefit for use in the machine. Maffucci also included tips on how to minimize the sometimes excess moisture using freshly-cut vegetables as pasta involves. I also greatly appreciated that most of the recipes include a section giving a list of other vegetables that could be used to make that dish, and all of the recipes include comprehensive nutritional information for each serving of the recipe.

I am not a huge fan of kitchen gadgetry. Even so I bought myself a spiralizer and tried it out using INSPIRALIZED and Ali Maffucci's tips.  Last night a dish that used to take 25 minutes prep took me ten minutes. Adding some delicious daikon to my ramen took less than a minute for lunch yesterday. Because of allergies in my household (allergies to dairy and citric acid) there are several of the recipes I can't use without modification, and there are other recipes whose complexity is a bit too fussy for my personal cooking style but overall, if you have any interest in using the 'spiralize' style vegetable processors available, INSPIRALIZED may be a significantly useful addition to your shelf, I certainly am glad to have it.

Author: Ali Maffucci
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Format: Paperback
Available From: Random House
Price: $19.99
Genre: cookbook, healthy, low-carb, gadget
Details: indexed

(Blogging For Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.) 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Healthy Recipes, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Based on thorough research drawn from reputable sources, Rebecca Katz's follow-up to her cancer-fighting cookbooks and longevity cookbook is a refocusing of information touched on in her earlier publications. Although she (and her co-author Mat Edelston) in no way advocate eschewing more mainstream treatment THE HEALTHY MIND COOKBOOK is most definitely a strong addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in more holistic tools for the prevention and treatment of diseases like dementia, depression, ADHD and the brain fog that often accompanies chronic pain.

After an introductory chapter on culinary pharmacopeia, she plunges into more than a hundred tempting recipes that even my allergy-challenged household can use as is, or easily adapt to our circumstances. The eight-page, double-columned index is quite useful and the extensive bibliography makes my geeky heart go pitter-pat but the best section in my opinion is the resource listings where even someone in a more rural setting can source the ingredients used in Rebecca Katz's creations.

As a kitchen dabbler, I have already used the culinary pharmacopeia as a starting point for some of my own recipes and look forward to exploring more of THE HEALTHY MIND COOKBOOK in the near future. Even people new to cooking will find it useful, though. There is a wonderful section on how to approach cooking from scratch and each of the recipes provides tips on substitutions that can work with what you might have on hand.  I highly recommend THE HEALTHY MIND COOKBOOK, it is one of the gems on my kitchen shelf.

ISBN: 978-1-60774-297-5
Author: Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelston
Publication Date:February 2015
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Format: Hardcover
Available From: Random House
Price: $29.99
Pages: 245
Genre: Cooking, Health
Details: Index, Bibliography, Resources

(Blogging For Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Q & A a Day: Short Attention Span Journaling

Five-year journals are nothing particularly new, I believe they were readily available in Victorian times, for example. The difference between standard journals and Q & A A DAY: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers and the rest of the pack is that each calendar day (including February 29th) has a writing prompt in the form of a question, request or fill-in-the-blank statement. Today's was 'The weather outside is _______" for example.  The book is fairly sturdy with nicely gilded page edges. I can see this lasting me five years. I think the enjoyment will kick in after the first full year, when I can begin to look back at previous year's answers.
I have had trouble keeping up a journal despite my love of writing. I tend to make a nice entry or seven, then lose them. When I find them later I enjoy reading my entries, but am frustrated by my lack of sticktoitiveness. I think keeping this small (roughly six by four inch) book beside my chair will be eminently doable. Time will tell.

Publication Date: November, 2010
Publisher: Potter Craft
Format: Hardback
Available From: Random House
Price: $16.99
Pages: 368
Genre: Non-Traditional Book

(Blogging For Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Provence, 1970: A Glimpse Into a Time of Transition

Whether you are a foodie familiar with all the characters who met that fateful winter, or just someone who recognizes a few of the names, Luke Barr's PROVENCE, 1970 reveals a glimpse into a time of transition during which the U.S. began to loosen it's desperate grasp on all things French and seek our own  sources of identity, especially in the world of food.

Using obscure letters and journal entries as source material, Barr does a skillful job of building his narrative from the various points of view involved. He appropriately weaves the food and setting into the broader dynamics of strong personalities with the sometimes too-cozy world of gastronomes.

Anyone interested in the locavore and other food-centric movements that appear to be so fresh and new will be fascinated at the relatively long history that led to the current state of awareness of food and how it infuses our lives.

Author: Luke Barr
Publication Date: November, 2014
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Format: paperback
Available From: Random House
Price: $15
Pages: 320
Genre: Non-Fiction, Culinary History

 (Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gramma Nancy's Animal Hats Provides All You Need to Know to Create Nineteen Shades of Adorable

The first inkling of the idea that became Nancy Nielsen's GRAMMA NANCY'S ANIMAL HATS was conceived initially as a way to give a small gift to the families of servicemen, through her son in law in the Navy. It became closer to reality when her hats won the Grand Prize in the Vanna's Choice Contest in 2013. It became a book when the editors at Potter Craft encouraged her to get her method down in writing.

Nancy's adorable patterns are based on nineteen variations of two hats (rolled-brim and earflap), two booty and two mitt patterns. Her mitts include a closed thumbless version for babies, fingerless mitts with a thumb for older kits, and even a glove-based fingerless mitt. Her booties are shaped to suit the animal represented on the hat, and are cunningly crafted with or without toes, flippered and clawed and even include a flat-bottomed elephant foot. 
Her critter creations represent jungle animals, farm animals and forest creatures. The textured details on the turtle and toad are very intriguing but the beaver and owl hats might be first on my list. I don't have enough children in my life to use all the patterns that I want to try, thank goodness there is a nearby pediatric hospital who will welcome donations. The hat patterns are written to fit from 13.5 to 22 inches, so those who are children at heart no matter their age can also have their own. The mitts are written to fit from 6 to 8 inches circumference. The booties are in pre-walking size.

GRAMMA NANCY'S ANIMAL HATS (and Booties Too) has an index to help you find your way around and has a very thorough section on how to use Nancy's methods to create the details that make each set very special, as well as a basic but well-illustrated collection of instruction in knitting techniques. About those methods: purists be warned, Nancy suggests styrofoam and hot glue gun among her tools as being a sure and swift way to produce sturdy hats full of character. You can of course use more traditional sewing and embroidery techniques to add features to faces and those cunning paw prints to the booties but after reading her book, I am considering whipping out my dusty glue gun to attach plastic animal eyes to acrylic yarn (hot glue does not work well with animal fiber) as it is much safer and longer lasting than using the standard post eyes in a knitted fabric.

Whether you stick with your tried and true techniques or give Nancy's a try, I highly recommend GRAMMA NANCY'S ANIMAL HATS as an addition to your library. The care she has taken with making each hat represent the animal it is based on is very informative (the grumpy owl construction is sheer genius!) and I will be glad to have this on my shelf as a source of gifts that will be welcomed and loved for years. 

Title: Gramma Nancy's Animal Hats (and Booties Too)
Author: Nancy Nielsen
ISBN:  978-0804185190
Publication Date: October 2014
Publisher: Potter House
Format: Paperback and Ebook
Available From: Amazon
Price: $14.45
Pages: 159
Genre: Crafts, Knitting
Details: Indexed, with basic skill tutorial.

(Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Zippers, Rods, Loops and Lamb's Tails Explode Amidst More Traditionally Knitted Blocks

Nicky Epstein's books range from Knitted Hats back in 1996 (with Marcus Tullis) to felted projects, doll clothes, flowers (both crocheted and knitted) and of course her series of edging books. She has also published geographically-themed knitting books (Knitting on Top of the World and Knitting from Tuscany) and last year (2014)brought an intriguing book called Knitting Reimagined where whimsical shapes and details add extra punch to garment patterns.  In 2010, she published KNITTING BLOCK BY BLOCK where some of those intriguing details are introduced, and some of the sculptural details from the edging books gain another stage on which to shine.

KNITTING BLOCK BY BLOCK has a fairly simple premise: 150 different blocks can form the basis of projects ranging from the expected afghans or bags to shawls, simply constructed garments and even toys.  There are a plethora of stitch dictionaries and block-based knitting books out there; what makes Nicky Epstein's different is the deeply dimensional nature of some of the blocks she presents. This is most often accomplished by knitting embellishments (sometimes as simple as a length of i-cord or as complex as nested curving ruffles) and fastening them to a basic knitted block. She also has a number of more traditionally created blocks using intarsia, stranded knitting or textured stitch patterns.  Although she has traditionally-knitted cable blocks, the blocks with cable effects created by interweaving i-cord into stitch-defying shapes are stunning, and pretty much impossible to achieve by standard cabling methods.

If you are a comfortably prosaic knitter you will find plenty of delightful ideas without unduly challenging your skills  (the Sanquahar block for example is a deliciously stranded expansion of very traditional techniques) but if you seek an edgier knitting experience you will be enthralled by KNITTING BLOCK BY BLOCK.  Nicky Epstein's squares explode with corkscrews, dots and three-dimensional stuffed cherry blossom shapes; zippers rods, loops and lamb's tails.  A quick flip through the book had my fingers itching to pull out my scrap bag and start working some of the embellishments while a more thorough read has ideas for projects of my own based on her seminal patterns cascading through my mind.

Title: Knitting Block by Block: 50 Blocks for Sweaters, Scarves, Bags, Toys, Afghans, and More
Author: Nicky Epstein
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Potter House
Format: Hardcover, Paperback and Ebook
Available From: Publisher,
Price: $29.99 USD
Pages: 240
Genre: Crafts, Knitting
Details: Indexed, with basic skill tutorial.

(Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Elementary Hats by Leslie Gordon

Leslie Gordon's new collection of hats is charming. The collection as a whole is just shy of quirky but with a timeless fashion sense that never loses the element of fun. It is a difficult balance to create, but one well-achieved by Leslie.
The hats are sophisticated, but with touches of fun and flair.
Even the Pre-K bobble hat could be done with an edge of grown-up style through color choice, but the others are fashionable rather than precious making this a collection you can use for years to come.
Each of the hat patterns is in worsted weight yarn (Craft Yarn Council weight 4/medium), knitted in the round and bottom up. They lend themselves well to being stash busters, using at least two colors with possibilities in two of the patterns of using even very small amounts of yarn for accent.
 The styles are gender-neutral, but could be tailored with color use to either girls or boys. Each of the seven patterns has appropriate sizing for its titular grade level, but guidelines are included for sizing any of the designs up or down.

I like that Leslie has structured her ebook in a way that an individual pattern can be printed off complete with abbreviations to carry with you wherever you knit.

When I tried to pick a favorite, I found myself with a bit of a quandary. I like the possibilities of personalization hinted at with the Kindergarten ABC123 hat (just substitute a readily available chart and spell out a child's name, team name etc), but the Second Grade thinking cap would suit my own personality well with it's combination of subtle striping topped with optional triple pom-poms.
The simple weaving technique (done after completion of the rest of the hat) in the Fourth Grade leaves lots of room for color play. If you don't like your first choices, it is not difficult to change out colors until the hat is perfect for it's intended participant.

Given the knowledge of working in the round, the hat patterns are suitable for intermediate knitters but have a sprinkling of interesting techniques throughout to keep even an advanced knitter happily stitching. The skills used are the bobbles in the Pre-K hat, the First Grade and Third Grade with their simple stranded color work, the Kindergarten with its duplicate stitchery and corrugated rib, and the sophisticated Fifth Grade hat with it's disappearing cables and reverse stockinette. Beginners would be pleased with the simple and effective technique of weaving in the Fourth Grade hat and the varied stripes found in the Second Grade hat pattern.

With a price point of just under $1.30 a pattern, ELEMENTARY HATS is a bargain and a good investment in future gift knitting whether you have children or not.

Title: Elementary Hats
Author: Leslie Gordon
Publication Date: 2013
Publisher: Self
Format: Ebook
Available From: Ravelry LinkCraftsy Link
Price: $9 USD
Pages: 22
Genre: Crafts, Knitting

Seven hat patterns, includes charts

"These seven hats will keep your child warm and stylish from pre-K all
the way to middle school! The designs are gender-neutral and feature
easy-to-execute techniques like simple cables, colorwork and duplicate
stitch. In the spirit of the school theme, all charts are created with
crayons, markers and highlighters!"

Leslie Gordon has published a number of patterns, many of them hats available HERE (Ravelry Link) and HERE (Craftsy link). She also published her first novel, Cheer (link to Goodreads) in August 2012 under the name Leslie A. Gordon. Her blog is More With Les