Tasty Thursday

Ready for a picnic or a hike this Memorial Day weekend? Take this tasty treat with you from Picnics by Hilary Heminway and Alex Heminway.

Goodness Gorp
1 cup mixed nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds)
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup diced dried fruits (apricots, apples, blueberries, cranberries)
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup sunflower kernels

In a ziplock bag, shake all ingredients. Breakfast cereal, granola, and chocolate chunks may be added, or substituted, according to preference.


Tasty Thursday

It's so nice outside! How about a picnic with the kiddos? Try this fun and tasty recipe from Packing Up a Picnic by Rick Walton and Jennifer Adams—one of our amazing children's activity books.

Italian Club Rollup
1 flour tortilla
2 slices ham
2 slices salami
2 slices Swiss or provolone cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano

Lay the tortilla flat on a work space. Place the ham on top, overlapping the ham as little as possible while covering the tortilla. Cover ham with the salami and then top with the cheese. Drizzle with the olive oil and then sprinkle the oregano over top. Starting on one side, roll up the tortilla like a wrap. Cut in half and serve, or place in a plastic ziplock bag to carry to your picnic.


Children's Book Week

Kids and parents alike have been raving about our new book Origami Toys That Tumble, Fly, and Spin. This is not your grandma’s origami! For example, have you ever built an Origami Catapult? You can set this up in a battle with your favorite army soldiers or Star Wars characters, or if you don’t have those lying around, simply take aim at some empty soda cans! (To order a copy of the book, click the cover image.)

~from editor Jared Smith

Origami Catapult!

First, get an 8-inch square of thick, strong paper.

Next, fold the paper in half down the middle. Unfold.

Now fold the edges to the center line. Unfold.

Fold in the bottom corners.

Now refold the creases you made in the paper.

Fold down the top edge of the paper just a little bit.

Turn your paper over.

Fold the bottom edge of the paper across so that it lies flat on the right-hand edge. Unfold.

Similarly, fold the bottom edge of the paper against the left-hand edge. Unfold.

Turn your paper over.

Now fold dot to dot, as shown.

Hold the model as shown. Gently bring your hands together, allowing the paper to fold in half and the V edge near the bottom to swing downward . . .

. . . like this. Open out the top edge until it is almost flat.

On the top layer only, make two valley (outward) folds in the shape of an upturned V . . .

. . . like this. This will open a white pocket in the paper.

Finally, crumple up a tight ball of paper and put it in the white pocket. To make the Catapult work, hold tightly as shown. Swing your hands quickly and the ball will launch into the air!


Children's Book Week

Today let's have some monsterous fun with a video from author Dan Reeder. His book is titled Papier-Mache Monsters -- a great book for crafty kids!

To order a copy of Papier-Mache Monsters, just click on the book cover.

Tasty Thursday

Is there anything better than cheese? This recipe for mac 'n' cheese is a fantastic version of the all-time classic and is from one of our newest releases, Cheese: Exploring Taste and Tradition by Patricia Michelson with a foreword by Jamie Oliver.

Mac 'n' Cheese
1 lb macaroni or elbow-shape pasta
4 tbsp unsalted butter, beef dripping or bacon fat, plus extra as required
4 tbsp flour
2 pints full-fat milk, warmed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped tsp dry English mustard
1 lb strong Farmhouse Cheddar such as Shelbourne, Lincolnshire Poacher or a mixture of Parmesan and Cheddar, grated
Dry breadcrumbs (1–2 day-old bread, dried—not toasted), tossed in a little melted butter, for sprinkling
Rashers of streaky bacon, grilled until crisp, to serve (optional)

1. Cook the macaroni until al dente, drain, toss in a little butter and place in a casserole dish. To make a roux, melt the butter over a medium heat. Turn down the heat slightly and add the flour then cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes until the rawness of the flour is cooked out but on no account allowed to brown.

2. Off the heat, pour a little of the milk into the roux and mix to a creamy consistency. Place the pan back on the heat, and in a steady stream pour in the rest of the milk, stirring to make a lovely thick sauce (you may not need to use all of the milk).

3. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, mustard and grated cheese, mix well, and return to the stove and heat, stirring continuously, until the cheese has melted. Pour the sauce over the macaroni in the casserole, and stir to ensure the pasta is coated.

4. Sprinkle the top with the buttery breadcrumbs, and bake in an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes. Serve topped with rashers of crisp streaky bacon, if liked.

Makes 4 servings


Children's Book Week

Introducing Miss Annie McRae!
Hold onto your hats, 'cause there's a new cowgirl in town
whose pistols are packed with positive attitude!

Eight-year old Annie McRae is irresistible -- with her toothless grin, turquoise blue cowboy boots, and her upbeat twist on life, she spends most days surrounded by cheers of "hip, hip, hooray for Annie McRae!" from Mom, Dad, Mr. Garcia, and Grandma C.
But what happnes when the grownups are too busy to cheer? Don't you worry -- Annie pulls herself up by the bootstraps and realizes that the best "hip, hip, hoorays" come from herself and caring for others. This cheerful tale is sure to land you sunny-side up!

Hip, Hip, Hooray for Annie McRae! is written by Brad Wilcox and illustrated by Julie Olson. To order a copy of this great book, click on the cover image.


Children's Book Week

Continuing the childrens fun during this week, we thought we'd share a favorite recipe from Pink Princess Cupcakes, the newest childrens cookbook from best-selling author Barbara Beery.

Kiss Me Cupcakes
Favorite Vanilla Cupcakes (below)
Pink, green, and yellow paste food coloring
Buttercream Frosting (below)
1 bag (14 ounces) Wilton Candy Melts
Frog candy mold
Black and pink tube decorating gels

Make cupcakes according to directions, adding enough pink paste food coloring to the batter to make it bright pink.

Make frosting according to directions. Put one-fourth of the frosting in a separate bowl and add enough pink paste food coloring to make it bright pink. Add green and a little yellow paste food coloring to the remaining frosting.

Following the directions on the Candy Melts, make 24 candy frogs using the candy mold.

When you are ready to assemble the cupcakes, frost them green to resemble a lily pad and then set a candy frog in the center. Use black gel to make the frog’s pupils and pink gel to make his mouth. Pipe bright pink frosting around the edge of the cupcake and put one star of frosting next to the frog.

Favorite Vanilla Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups superfine granulated sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups self-rising flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray the inside of each cupcake liner or mold with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition until just blended.

Fill each liner or mold one-half to two-thirds full of batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Carefully remove cupcake pan from oven and place on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and place back on the rack to cool for 30 minutes before frosting and decorating.

Buttercream Frosting
4 cups powdered sugar, or more if needed
Pinch of salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond, coconut, strawberry, or raspberry extract (optional)
Paste food coloring (optional)

Place powdered sugar and salt in a large bowl and mix with a whisk to break apart any lumps.

Add half-and-half or milk and slowly mix with a hand mixer on low. Add butter and turn the mixer to high speed. Beat until fluffy. You may need to add a little more milk if the mixture is too thick or a little more powdered sugar if the mixture is too thin.

Turn hand mixer to low. Beat in vanilla and additional extracts or food coloring if using.

Makes 24 cupcakes

If you would like to order a copy of Pink Princess Cupcakes, just click on the bookcover.

King-Sized Anti-Bullying Help for Girls

Today it's time to share some great advice for girls to help combat cyber-bullying, a new plague that is running rampant throughout the country, resulting in serious injuries and even horrible deaths. Bullying does not have to happen!

Below is some advice from Bart King, the author of The Big Book of Girl Stuff.

Advice for Girls!

Where do Mean Girls come from? Do they wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and decide, “I’m going to be mean”? Or does a fairy come by and sprinkle magical Mean Girl fairy dust on them? Nobody knows.

But this excerpt from The Big Book of Girl Stuff is dedicated to the question: “Bad girls, bad girls, whatcha gonna do?”

Mean Girls are not exactly bullies. Of course, there are some Mean Girls who might actually punch you. (They are called “Cave-Girls.”) But since girls are different from boys, girl bullies are often different from boy bullies. For example, Mean Girls can actually be nice when someone is watching. But because they’re so sneaky and sly, it can be hard for an outsider to spot Mean Girls being mean.

One Mean Girl technique is to get all her friends to hate her “enemy.” To get everyone on her side, the Mean Girl might try to “scapegoat” her victim. (A scapegoat is someone who gets blamed for everything that is wrong, whether it is her fault or not.) Everything the scapegoat does is WRONG. If she has long hair, it should be short. If she raises her hand in class, she is a show-off. If she is quiet, she is stuck-up. Scapegoats get harassed with name-calling, cold-shoulders, rumors, and teasing. It’s so stupid.

* No Kidding! Don’t you hate it when a mean girl says something mean, and then adds, “Just kidding.” Like that helps!

Mean Girl: Everyone who thinks that Samantha should change her hairstyle, raise your hand!
Samantha: Please stop it.
Mean Girl: Oh my gosh, I was just kidding. Can’t you take a joke, Samantha?
Samantha (with a sweet smile): Sure. Is that new lip-gloss you’re wearing or did you just eat another pork chop? Just kidding.

But why do some girls get picked on? It might just be because they are different and they dare to be themselves. It’s like the Mean Girls are the Perfection Police, and they decide what is OK and what isn’t. They will pick on girls who are too smart, or not smart enough, or too pretty, or not pretty enough, or overweight, or really funny or whatever. A girl who really is herself might annoy a Mean Girl who kissed her brain goodbye just to be “popular.”

Someday you may find yourself the victim of a group of Mean Girls. They might say nasty things about you or write anonymous notes that put you down. Sure, we’ve all been told that “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” Mean Girls have proven what a load of baloney that is! If someone says something mean, it can hurt for years.

BTW, when Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) found out who had published a nasty pamphlet about her, she had the authors’ right hands cut off.

For the moment, let’s say that a Mean Girl is treating you badly. You can just silently take her abuse, which isn’t very healthy or satisfying. So here’s some strategies for your action plan:
1. Tell an adult and get help. Sure, he or she would have to be pretty “with it” to know how to help. But still.
2. Avoid the Mean Girls when possible. (Duh!)
3. Be patient and wait for the Mean Girl to either move to another state or to stop being mean. (It’s fun to wish.)
4. Let your own sense of humor help you.

Having a sense of humor about life might not solve your problems, but it will make things better. If you can laugh at the Mean Girl (and yourself), somehow it relieves the tension and makes the world a better place. Your humor may be shown when you smile to yourself at how lame the Mean Girl is when she is nasty.

What about BOY bullies? Well, they tend to be insulting. Boy bullies are usually easier to spot than girl bullies, because they are not as bright. They may THINK they are smart, though.

Jerks can be just as cruel as mean girls. He usually wants to hurt your feelings or get you angry. Whatever a Jerk says to you, try to keep your cool. If you get upset, that’s exactly what he wanted. After all, consider the source: A boy who doesn’t know anything about you? Please. His opinion shouldn’t count for anything.

Special Note: There is a special kind of Jerk who might be mean to you because he has a crush on you. He’s just too immature to know how to deal with his feelings. (We know this sounds like a lame movie idea, but it’s true!)

So how should you deal with a Jerk? If a Jerk says something mean to you and you just blush and walk away, that encourages him. He has no reason to leave you alone because you’re an easy victim!

All of us fantasize about what we WISH we said to the mean person who insulted us. Maybe it would be better to just SAY it and not wish we had.

Of course, there are always adults that might be able to help. Aside from the usual parents, teachers, and counselors, if you can find a way to speak to a Jerk’s mother, your problems may be solved. The odds are that if she finds out her little Junior is being mean to girls, he’ll be in BIG trouble. If you need to talk to a teacher or your parents to get word to the Jerk’s mom, then talk to a teacher or your parents.

Follow-Up Activity: Want to get the last laugh? Move to Russia. Women there live an average of 13 years longer than men!
~Bart King


Children's Book Week!

In celebration of Children's Book Week, we thought we'd share a week's worth of fun children's books, activities, features and more! And first up ... Let's learn some ABCs with a little help from Alphabad by Shannon Stewart with illustrations by Dusan Petricic.

To complete the entire alphabet and order a copy of Alphabad, just click on the cover image.

Deborah Madison on The Early Show!

Author of "What We Eat When We Eat Alone," Deborah Madison, was featured on The Early Show, Monday, May 10. Here is the clip from the program.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

To order a copy of the book, click here.

King-Sized Anti-Bullying Advice for Boys

Cyber-bullying is running rampant throughout the country, some resulting in serious injuries and even horrible deaths. Bullying does not have to happen!

Bart King, best-selling author of The Big Book of Boy Stuff offers some fun, yet wise advice about bullying, how to avoid it, how to overcome it, and what to do when you're in a sticky situation.

Advice for Boys!

When I was a kid, everyone was always trying to convince me that bullies were actually cowards. If you just stood up to the bullies, they would chicken out and leave you alone. What a bunch of baloney.

Bullies CAN be cowards, but don’t bet on it. They can also be over-confident jerks with an itchin’ to pop you a good one upside your head.

Because every bully is a little different from the last one, you can’t deal with them all the same. Some bullies just want you to avoid them. If you do avoid them, life is good. Other bullies will notice that you are trying to avoid them, and this makes them look for you.

So what should you do? Use your head and use your feet. Use your head to keep away from bullies. It is useful to “tell on” some bullies. Once they get in trouble with an adult and/or their parents, they know that you will stick up for yourself, and they leave you alone.

The more hardcore the bully is, the less this strategy works. Decide how tough your bully is before turning them in. Use your head.

Don’t put yourself in situations where you are by yourself or in areas where there is nowhere to escape to. What if it comes down to a fight? It’s you and the bully! Use your head.

Is this kid your age or size? Do you think a fight will solve the problem? Are you ready to stick up for yourself? If it doesn’t look like fighting is a good idea, don’t wait around to get pummeled. Use your feet.

This is a martial art called nogethitsu. Your best weapons in a fight are your feet. Not to use for kung fu kicks! Use your feet to run away.

Let’s say someone sees you running fast: By the way, everyone asks themselves this question when bothered by a bully: “Why me?”

Remember, although bullies may not always be cowards, they are almost always jerks with personal problems. If it wasn’t you, they would be bothering someone else. Try to think of it that way; you are providing a valuable service to society by keeping your bully off of someone else’s case! Just don’t take it personally.

And by the way, experts agree that if you can remove a bully’s lungs, he will be less likely to bother you.

Follow-Up Activity: Make friends with the toughest girl at your school. If a bully ever messes with you, politely ask the girl to pull out the bully’s lungs. When she is done, keep the lungs in your locker as a souvenir.

~Bart King
*Tomorrow: Bart gives advice to the girls*


"What We Eat When We Eat Alone"

From “What We Eat When We Eat Alone” by Deborah Madison with Patrick McFarlin (Gibbs Smith, 2009)

Foods for Me and Me Alone
Greg O’Byrne, who runs the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta, is not embarrassed to admit that he spoils himself on nights when he’s home alone. He doesn’t cook the mac and cheese he usually makes for his kids, but opens a bottle of wine, “maybe not a Grand Cru Burgundy, but a good bottle,” he says, and he fixes himself a thick steak au poivre. He’s likely to make his own pommes frites, too.

More frequently, though, foods intended for solo consumption tend to be modest, sometimes crude, and often downright bizarre. They’re very personal foods, that special category of edibles that are tailored by oneself for oneself, and they are not easily shared. They’re the foods that work for one individual in a deep and maybe even psychological way. Personal foods are likely to be those that simply gratify. They might have nourished us as children and now they feed us as adults, regardless of their content, because our body knows and remembers them.

Take Dru Sherrod, for example, a tall, elegant man with whom we’ve enjoyed many well-cooked meals and fine bottles of wine. Only the faintest trace of his Texas accent remains. Here was his response when we asked him what he eats when his partner, Arden, is out of town.

“Back in Dallas,” Dru says, sliding into his accent, “my mother used to serve me fried Spam with grape jelly. Well, after eschewing it for forty years, I’m beginning to find it a great comfort again. I throw slabs of Spam in a skillet. Thick units. No oil or butter or anything. Fry it on both sides. Slice some tomatoes. Spoon out cottage cheese. It’s salty, porky, strong, greasy, and delicious. A perfect meal.” And now he’s talking Texan.

Or consider Robert Brittan, a journeyman winemaker. We’re driving one morning over the winding roads of the coast range near Napa Valley, and he’s waving his arms madly as he answers our question. Fortunately he’s not the one behind the wheel.

“Fritos!” he cries. “Take chili-cheese-flavored Fritos, microwave them with grated cheese. Fantastic! Or, have them with chopped green tomatoes. Chopped, not sliced. Slicing is overrated—it implies care. You can chop these tomatoes with a dull knife—just beat ’em up.This is fantastic when you first eat it. It’s only after you’ve eaten too much that you realize Fritos are nasty and ugly. The good thing is you can drink lousy beer with them. Doesn’t matter. Anyway, it’s about what you’ve got.”

It’s hard to see this wildly gesticulating Frito maniac as the same man who meticulously crafts exquisite Pinots and Syrahs, but that’s the thing about eat-alone food: it’s not consistent with those sides of ourselves that the world, including close friends, sees.

“It’s about experimentation,” says Robert, not yet finished with the subject. “Do you know, you can boil a hot dog in cheap beer or wine? Once I got this Hebrew National Hot Dog and cooked it in Riesling. Any Riesling will do.” But other experiments fail. “Chocolate chip ice cream in root beer makes an okay float. But beer in a milk shake? I can tell you it’s a horrible, horrible thing.”

People who don’t normally put a lot of stock into recipes can be extremely precise about their personal foods, such as how milk should look when poured over hot cereal (“It should just puddle around the edges, no more, or it will cool down the cereal and thin it out”), or the kind of bread used for a sandwich (“It must be white bread, like Wonder Bread, not a sturdier variety like Pepperidge Farms”), or the potato chips used to scoop up cottage cheese (“Only use Ruffles”), or how long eggs must be cooked (“Six minutes, not five or seven, but six”).

However strange, these foods do accomplish the work of getting a body fed.

When we began our survey with men, we secretly took pleasure in uncovering those nasty true confessions, the crude stuff, the so-called recipes that make any decent eater cringe—in short, the strange foods of the solitary eater. We got them from both men and women. Things—we can’t really call them dishes—like bread soaked in margarita mix, or sardine oil poured over cottage cheese. Who would do this, you may ask? Well, relatively normal people, it turns out. Perhaps even your own friends.

Cliff Wright, the author of many good cookbooks and one of the best cooks we know, has this tactic for feeding himself. “Sometimes when I’m on a recipe-testing roll, I end up with six
Tupperware containers filled with leftover god-knows-what. I’ll take them all, dump them in a bowl of pasta, and start tossing. If the taste isn’t quite right, I add one or all of the following: fried pancetta, butter, cream, olive oil, prosciutto, egg, or cheese.”

I especially like the flourish of “one or all” of those fatty additions, and nothing in between, like butter and cheese. Of course, Cliff has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing, so he’s likely to end up with something that’s more than merely edible despite his slapdash approach. (Not always slapdash, Cliff has been known to use an otherwise spacious Sunday afternoon intended for reading to whip up a batch of crepinettes, a sausage-like affair that involves three kinds of meat, vegetables, and caulfat—and these just for himself.)

Personal foods may not be shareable, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t good to eat or aren’t enjoyed by more than just one or two odd souls. More than a few of our respondents mentioned stirring oyster crackers, saltines, matzo, or some other crumbly dry thing into cups of tea, coffee, milk, and cocoa. In Cheri and The Last of Cheri, Colette writes about just this sort of thing, but in a way that makes you want to go right into the kitchen and try it for yourself— or at least recast the description of your own personal concoction in a more poetic way.

Take a small soup tureen—the individual soup tureen you would use for a soupe gratinée, or a sturdy bowl in fireproof china. Pour in your milky coffee, prepared and sugared according to taste. Cut some hearty slices of bread—use household bread, refined white will not do—butter them lavishly and lay them on the coffee, ensuring that they are not submerged. Then all you have to do is place the whole thing in the oven and leave it there until your breakfast is browned and crusty, with fat buttery bubbles sizzling here and there on the surface.

Finally, Colette advises, “Before breaking your raft of roasted bread, sprinkle on some salt.” Even a small trace of salt counteracts the sugar and makes everything sharp and bright.

I copied this passage from a book in someone else’s library over twenty years ago because it spoke to me, but I never thought to write down the translator, who remains a mystery still. In the attempt to find this translation, I started reading various others. A less lavish version turned the same breakfast into something so prosaic that I read through practically the whole paragraph before recognizing the raft-crusted bowl of coffee. Perhaps the tender attention to detail in the first translation is what turned a somewhat rough and personal dish into nothing less than a morning sacrament. If so, with the right words, oyster crackers in coffee might be equally sacramental.

Oyster crackers in coffee, yes, but perhaps our woman in the kitchen uses a cup with an especially wide mouth and enough cream to turn the black filtered coffee the color of ivory. I wonder if the oyster crackers cover the surface, so that they just touch one another, or not. Does she take a sip of coffee with a cracker from a spoon? Is the cracker soft below and crisp on top? As she goes along, does she add more crackers? One by one or by the handful?

I’ve never had coffee with oyster crackers so I don’t know the nature of its particular charms, but surely there would be those minute particulars that say why coffee and why oyster crackers and not some other kind, the very details that make personal foods so important.

Largely, though, personal foods are stunningly strange. The following examples are offered for your amusement only, as these aren’t things we could make into recipes, and we don’t think you should either.

Five Bad Ideas
1. Mustard Sandwich with Reworked Coffee: “Use Yellow Heinz Mustard. Slather the mustard on a flour tortilla and eat accompanied with reworked coffee, which means add a few new grounds to the top of a paper filter of morning coffee and pour in boiling water.”

2. Potato-Sesame Bread with Tequila Mix: “Toss an old loaf of potato-sesame bread on a wood-burning stove. Tear into hunks and eat with tequila mix right out of the plastic bottle.”

3. Organic Goo Goo: “Get Green Giant small whole peas and one package of any Green Giant rice mix—Asian, Mexican, and so forth. Make a small cut in the top to prevent an explosion, and microwave them in their own microwavable pouches. During the six or so minutes they’re cooking, look in the spice closet and find some less-than-a-year-old spice, a young spice. Any spice will do. Cut open the two hot pouches with a knife and pour on a plate with the rice on the bottom, the peas on the top. Sprinkle with spice. This fits right into the Asian diet pyramid. It’s a good dish if you don’t have a maid or a dishwasher, since it uses only a fork, a knife, and a plate.”

4. Leftover Spaghetti Sandwich: Usually in cooking, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Here, it is less. The day after a big spaghetti feed, a friend—who is most of the time a good and lusty kind of cook—uses the leftovers to make spaghetti sandwiches.

“I rewarm the garlic bread in the toaster and the tomato sauce and the pasta in a pan, then make a sandwich adding whatever soggy salad kind of thing I have left over, usually tomato, onion, and translucent lettuce.”

5. Farm Workers’ Food: A farmer in Texas talks about how his workers cook when they’re out in the country on an isolated farm, cooking and coping for themselves. Try to hear the slow drawl, the chili-thick accent, and a liberal sprinkling of expletives. Although it was winter when Larry Butler reported to us, I think the word “cold” means raw.

“They take sardines, cold Romas, cold onions, chop and mix, and put it on a hot corn tortilla. Or they start with some Top Ramen noodles, scramble up an egg and put it in the pot along with a can of green English peas. They also boil pork rinds until they’re disgusting and terrible looking and throw them, with fried onions, into scrambled eggs, then put it all in a hot tortilla. And they eat this stuff like it’s good!”

In self-defense, Larry, who’s a vegetarian, retreats to his outdoor kitchen. “Up front I sauté wheat berries with garlic in olive oil on high heat. Wheat berries give you something to chew on. I put garlic in all foods. Chop turnips, onions, carrots, and beets and add to the sauté, then add cold tomatoes if I have them. About the time it’s going to catch fire and explode, I put in tomato juice and nutritional yeast—the yeast gives body, flavor, and B vitamins—add more water, then cook for 30 minutes.”

To order a copy of What We Eat When We Eat Alone, click here.

Hand-Crafted, Unique Mother's Day Bouquet

Mother's Day...
is Sunday and every mother deserves a beautiful arrangement of flowers on this special day! But don't fret if you haven't ordered a bouquet, because the authors of Southern Bouquets, Melissa Bigner and Heather Barrie, have some wonderful tips for making your hand-crafted arrangement one that will delight and amaze your beloved mother.

After you've selected your flowers (whether from your own flower garden or your local flower market), the next step would be selecting the perfect vessel and where the arrangement will be featured. Here are some great, cost-effecive tips:

If you’ve already gathered your fl owers and greens, let them lead you to the right container and showcase spot. For example, a handful of short-stemmed, laid-back zinnias might just beg for a Mason jar and a kitchen windowsill. On the other hand, you might want to decorate a specific mix of spaces: something for the entry, something for the mantel, something for the dining table, something for the powder room. In those cases, Heather says, let the location dictate the bouquet. “If you’re doing something for a dining table,” she says, “the vessel and arrangement need to be low enough for people to see over, but if you have an entry table in a hallway with a large mirror behind it, it’s better to have a tall bouquet.”

When it comes to matching containers with bouquets, almost anything goes. Yes, ensure that the materials work together visually, that the colors don’t clash and that the flowers—not the vessel—are the star, but beyond those guidelines, have fun. Here is a list of handy containers:
• adapted vessels (gourds, metal tubs, wooden boxes)
• baskets (metal and wicker)
• bud vases
• vases (in a variety of scales, shapes and materials with a range of mouths)
• cups and glasses (bistro glasses, kitchen glasses, cut crystal, mint julep cups, mugs)
• repurposed containers (jelly jars, milk bottles, tin cans)
• serving vessels (bowls, creamers, gravy boats, pitchers, sugar jars)

Build a collection of vessels by exploring local flea markets, yard sales,thrift stores, and estate sales. Be sure to test that a container is watertight before you purchase it (if possible) or before you fashion a bouquet in it. If it leaks, use a plastic liner or floral foam.


Tasty Thursday

What a fun and wonderful way to cook! Fire up that wood-burning oven and make something yummy from The Art of Wood Fired Cooking by Andrea Mugnaini. You won't be disappointed! (P.S. If you don't have a wood-burning oven, try baking this in a regular oven.)

Limoncello Bread Pudding with Fresh Blackberries
Bake Oven Environment

1 (16-ounce) loaf brioche, crust removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups half-and-half
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Limoncello
2 tablespoons lemon juice
10 ounces frozen blackberries, or fresh if in season (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Limoncello Topping (see below)

Limoncello Topping
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon Limoncello
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Divide the bread between two sheet pans. Toast in the oven until dry and lightly browned. Set aside to cool and then put in a large bowl.

Butter a 10 x 10-inch ceramic baking pan. Place the half-and-half, 1 cup sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a medium saucepan and heat just until the sugar is dissolved.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm half-and-half mixture into eggs. Whisk until fully incorporated and then add the vanilla, Limoncello, and lemon juice; stir to combine.

Pour the custard mixture over the bread cubes and gently press bread to submerge into custard; let soak for 30–60 minutes.

Place the berries in a medium bowl. Toss with the remaining sugar and cornstarch and pour into mixing bowl with the bread cubes. Gently stir the berries into the mixture, being careful not to break up the bread. Pour entire contents of mixing bowl into buttered baking dish.

Place in the oven and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until browned, puffed, and set in the middle. Serve with Limoncello Topping.

Limoncello Topping

Place all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate or serve immediately with warm bread pudding.

Serves 8


Treat Mom to a delightful, decadent cookie this year

Any mother would love a break from the kitchen for Mother's Day this year. So why not give her a baking break and whip up a batch of these Rosemary Blonde Brownies, from Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year by Julia M. Usher with photographs by Steve Adams, and surprise Mom with a delicious, dainty snack.

Rosemary Blonde Brownies

Makes about 4 dozen (1½-inch) squares or 4½ dozen (1¼ x 1½-inch) ovals
To morph these simple bars into stylish petits fours, cut the cookie block into small ovals or rounds and pipe florets of Rosemary Ganache (see recipe below) on top. Note: For kids, omit the rosemary in both the brownie and the ganache topping and boost the quantity of chocolate chips and other mix-ins to taste.

Prep Talk: Cool the bars completely (about 2 hours) before topping with ganache. Decorated bars should be stored in the refrigerator. (The topping is perishable.) If the brownies have not been decorated, they are better stored at room temperature. Bars will stay fresh longer if kept in the pan, tightly wrapped in foil, and cut just before serving. For the most potent flavor, serve at room temperature within 4 to 5 days.

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves (4 to 5 rosemary sprigs, stems removed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3⁄8 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, chopped into tablespoon-size pieces
2¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1½ cups pecan halves, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
1 cup premium milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Rosemary Ganache (optional)
¾ recipe Ganache (recipe below)
¼ cup loosely packed fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
(4 to 5 sprigs, stems removed)
Decoration (optional)
About 4 dozen small (½-inch) rosemary sprigs (1 per brownie)

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 10 x 15 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan with foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang around the top edge of the pan. Smooth out any big wrinkles in the foil and then lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine the flour, rosemary, baking powder, and salt together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until the rosemary is reduced to very small pieces. (Note: If the rosemary isn’t chopped before going into the processor, it will be harder to finely grind.) Set aside for use in Step 4.

3. Place the butter in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over low heat. Once the butter has fully melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, mixing until smooth. (Note: Don’t be surprised if the butter and sugar do not completely come together at this point; some separation is normal.) Cool a few minutes and then add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.

4. Stir in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour mixture, whisking all the while to keep the batter lump-free. Cool before stirring in the pecans and chocolate chips. (Otherwise, the chips will melt.) Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan and level with a small offset spatula. (The batter will be less than 1 inch thick, but it will rise to the top of the pan.)

5. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs on it and the brownie is just starting to pull away from the edges of the pan, about 22 to 24 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan.

6. Remove the brownies from the pan in one block by gently pulling up on the foil overhang. Place directly on a cutting board. Remove all foil and trim any uneven edges before cutting into 1½-inch squares (or ovals).

7. Make the Rosemary Ganache (optional). This topping will set if made too far in advance, so make it no sooner than you intend to decorate the cookies. Prepare ¾ recipe Ganache, following the instructions (below), but add the rosemary to the scalded cream in Step 2. Let the herbs steep in the warm cream about 30 minutes. Reheat the cream to the scalding point before proceeding to Step 3. (Note: The rosemary will be strained out in this step.) Chill as directed in Step 4 for piping ganache.

8. Decorate (optional). Fit a pastry bag with a medium (3⁄8-inch) 6- to 8-pronged star tip and fill with the ganache. Pipe a small floret of icing on top of each brownie and garnish with a sprig of rosemary, if desired. Serve immediately or store as directed.

Makes about 2½ cups
This decadent chocolate and cream blend easily morphs from satiny glaze to creamy filling simply by setting it in the fridge. It can also be made with either dark or white chocolate with only minor adjustments.

Prep Talk: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week or in the freezer up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature before using.

12 ounces premium semisweet chocolate finely chopped or ground in a food processor
1½ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1. Place the chopped (or ground) chocolate in a large bowl so it forms a shallow layer. Set aside.
2. Pour the cream into a medium (3-quart) nonreactive (stainless steel or coated) saucepan. Place over medium to medium-high heat and scald the cream. (That is, heat the cream to just below the boiling point. The cream will put off steam, but no bubbles should break on its surface.)

3. Immediately strain the hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly onto the chocolate. Let the mixture sit 1 to 2 minutes without stirring, and then gently whisk until the chocolate is entirely melted. (If the chocolate does not completely melt, set the bowl over barely simmering water in a double boiler and stir regularly until smooth. Do not overheat, or the ganache may break.) Stir in the corn syrup.

4. To use the ganache as a glaze, pour it while lukewarm. Alternatively, for piping ganache, pour it into a shallow pan to a ½- to ¾-inch depth, cover, and refrigerate 20 to 25 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally during chilling to maintain a uniform consistency. (Hard, overchilled pieces of ganache should be broken up, as they can easily clog pastry tips when piping.) Chilling time will vary with starting ganache temperature, refrigerator temperature, and depth of the ganache. Watch the ganache closely, as it can quickly overchill and become difficult to pipe.


Healthy Summertime Food

With concern growing over the eating habits of our nation's children, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution has become a huge television hit and a startling, eye-opening experience for parents everywhere as he point out the awful things youth are eating on a regular basis.

Stephanie Ashcraft, best-selling author of 101 Things to do with a Slow Cooker, 101 Things to do with a Cake Mix and many other cookbooks, offers these five tips for how she and her family will be eating healthier this summer:

We are counting the days until summer vacation in our house. This summer I am focusing on finding creative ways to encourage healthy eating in our household. My kids and I need to be eating more fruits and vegetables.

Here are a few of the ideas and/or recipes that I plan to use for lunches this summer to sneak more vegetables and fruits into my kids diets:

1. Cucumber Canapé from 101 Things to do with Rotisserie Chicken by Madge Baird is at the top of the list.

1/2 cup minced rotisserie chicken
2 scallions, minced to make 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon horseradish
pinch garlic powder
2 cucumbers

Mix all ingredients except cucumbers until well blended. Peel cucumbers and slice into 24 thick rounds (at least 1/4 inch thick). Spoon 1 teaspoon chicken mixture onto each cucumber slice. Serve cold. Makes 24 canapés.

2. Mango Fruit Salad, Melon Delight Salad, and Almond Cran-Apple Salad from 101 Things to do with Salad are all healthy fruit dishes I plan to make this summer for my kids.

3. Hummus Dipped Veggies and Whole Wheat Crackers is a summer poolside favorite lunch for my friend Jen and her family. Whole wheat crackers (they like TLC brand) and veggies such as baby carrots and sliced cucumbers are dipped in hummus. Wash it down with ice cold water with lemon and lime wedges and all-fruit popsicles.

4. Cracker Stackers are a favorite for my friend, Kendra, for late summer when gardens are producing. She purchases the multigrain Club crackers and cuts up all kinds of veggies (snap peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc) and cheese slices to stack on the crackers.

5. Whole Wheat Stuffed Pitas have to be one of my favorite summertime treats. Pitas can be stuffeded with tomatoes, lettuce, and tuna or chicken salad.

Here's to healthy eating this summer!
~ Stephanie Ashcraft