Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook by Albert G. Lukas and Jessica B. Harris

Cover image for Sweet Home Cafe cookbook : a celebration of African American cookingBook – Not all cookbooks are created equal. The Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook is published by the Smithsonian Institution, so you will be educated as you cook. Cooking and becoming smarter go hand-in-hand! Most of the recipes are accompanied by a beautiful color photo and are elegant enough for the seasoned chef, but are also reader-friendly: easy to follow, concise, and do not scare off cooking newbies.

Recipes from the cafe fall under three categories: classic, regional, and modern. And in each corner of the page, we are unobtrusively informed of what area or region, such as the Agricultural South, the food originated from. Black and white photographic images of subjects ranging from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at a restaurant in Georgia, to a full-service vendor standing in front of his sign serving Po-Boy fruit and the ‘Best’ shoe shine in New Orleans, or an owner and a patron in his barbecue joint in Harlem, enriches readers and/or would-be cooks of the Black Diaspora.

One of my favorite characteristics of this cookbook is how recipes call for a “pinch” of this or that. My favorite recipes? Fried Green Tomatoes, Grilled Snapper with Creole sauce, and Son-of-A-Gun Stew. For the health-conscious, try recipes for: Baby Kale Salad; Collard, Tomato & Cashew Stew; or Pan-Roasted Rainbow Trout. Bakers can’t go wrong with Bourbon Pecan Pie or Fried Apple Hand Pies. What long days (or weeks) or hot summer afternoons (or nights), couldn’t be cured by a Hibiscus & Ginger Sweet Tea, or a Sparkling Watermelon & Lemon Verbena drink?

Macaron Mayhem: Conquering the French Dessert 1 Batch at a Time

Books & Recipes – French macarons are my guilty pleasure.  I love the light, crispy yet chewy texture of the delicate cookies, and the sweet, buttery filling ranging from buttercream to chocolate ganache.  Intimidated as I was, I decided to give the fanciest of French desserts a shot.

Naturally, my first stop in my macaron adventure was our library, where I collected some cookbooks, including: The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer, Bake it, don’t fake it! by Heather Bertinetti, and Bouchon Bakery by Sebastien Rouxel.

The Art of the French Pastry and Bake It, Don’t Fake It were both very helpful in introducing me to the world of French pastries, including detailed baking guides as well as helpful hints for novice bakers.  Bouchon Bakery is a beautifully photographed cookbook that made me believe I too could create Instagram worthy delicacies.  Additionally, I requested Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes by Cecile Cannone through Interlibrary Loan,  which features a ton of recipes for both macaroon shells and fillings.

The first batch was an absolute failure and did not reach fruition.  Anyone who has made macarons will tell you how  crucial it is not to overbeat your egg whites; and mine ended up looking like a pile of soapy egg suds.  Yuck.

The batter was still fairly lumpy in my second batch but I persevered, hoping everything would magically work itself out, which somehow, it did!  My third attempt went 1,000 times better.  With the assistance of my sous-chef (aka: Mom), I managed to whip the egg whites into shiny, perfectly stiff peaks.  With the grace of an experienced baker, she showed me how to gently (so as not to collapse the fluffy batter) fold in the dry ingredients.

Three more batches and 12 hours (yes, TWELVE hours) later, I could bake no more, with over 100 macarons.  With some fancily piped Vanilla Buttercream (recipe courtesy of Cecile Cannone’s Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes), even I was impressed by my handiwork.

 

Taste of Home Contest Winning Annual Recipes 2013

Taste of Home1Book – The Taste of Home Contest Winning Annual Recipes 2013 cookbook is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. The book features the best of the best contest winning recipes and all the entries have  easy  to follow step by step directions and are accompanied by a beautiful photograph of the finished product. The book features over 350 recipes and tips. There are recipes for everything from snacks & appetizers to a variety of desserts and everything in between, plus soups, salads, sides and main entrees including vegetarian dishes. There are also recipes for holidays and special occasions and different cooking methods are also featured such as using a slow cooker or grilling.

Some of my favorites from the book include: Chicken Stew with Gnocchi, Tiramisu Cheesecake Dessert, and Tomato Cucumber Mozzarella Salad. Are you hungry yet?

The Library has other series of the Taste of Home cookbooks including Holiday & Celebrations, Weeknight Cooking Made Easy, Quick Cooking, and others.

Taste of Home also publishes magazines and the Library has these available for check out. Taste of Home, Taste of Home’s Simple & Delicious, and Taste of Home Healthy Cooking.

It’s a delicious treat!