Thursday, March 28, 2013

Amazing Grace by Megan Shull

4 out of 5 stars

Excellent, clean young adult fiction that gently covered issues of mental health, teen drinking, and environmentalism.  And it's set in Alaska!  I don't know why but I love Alaska books.  This is weird even to me.... One less than 5 stars because of the requisite teen angst (it is young adult fiction) I'm very very thankful to be past at this point in my life.

The Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox

5 out 5 stars

This book is basically a collection of briefly presented ideas for making memories and rituals out of both every-day and special occasions. I especially appreciated the ideas for memorializing a child's first day of school, giving a child both a new privilege and a new responsibility every birthday, and the section for traditions specific to adopted children. I also really like how easy to find event-related ideas are in this book. This one's been permanently added to our family bookshelf.

No Escape by Shannon K. Butcher

3 out of 5 stars

I think anyone who likes romantic suspense will enjoy this book, but I personally thought the suspense levels were too high due to too many people trying to kill the heroine. Because of this, I couldn't appreciate any romantic tension between the hero and heroine. I do like that the author brought up the issue of foster care and the children in it - I just hope readers with less exposure to it than myself come away convinced that good foster parents are desperately needed and can make a world of difference rather than that foster kids will possibly grow up to be murderous psychopaths.

Better Than Peanut Butter & Jelly by Marty Mattare & Wendy Muldawer

4 out of 5 stars

The most useful parts of this book to me were the chapters on the nutritional needs of vegetarian children, list of animal-free protien options, and "quick substitutions" chart.

Clean Food by Terry Walters

3 out of 5 stars

There are numerous unusual ingredients used in this cookbook but the author doesn't tell you where to get them or what they look like and I don't see how using imported specialty items is eating close to the source. Also there are no photographs of either ingredients or finished dishes. I was happy with how many of the recipes were gluten-free and most dishes do sound yummy, like Tofu Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust which we added to our very small list of dairy- and gluten-free Thanksgiving pie options (our local grocers carries gluten-free gingersnaps).

Sticky Fingers' Sweets by Doron Peterson

3 out of 5 stars

It was fun to read about her Cupcake Wars win, but I didn't see a single gluten-free recipe in this collection - something plenty of vegan baker offer.

Good Housekeeping Christmas Joys by Good Housekeeping

3 out of 5 stars

Mostly recipes (with lots of meat, dairy, and gluten) - I was hoping for more decorating ideas. The few ideas that are in here are pretty good but instructions on their creation are minimal.

Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley

4 out of 5 stars

All but a few of these recipes are gluten-free. Four stars so far just on presentation and how good the recipes sound. Will re-rate when recipes are tested.

Allergy-Friendly Food for Families by Kiwi Magazine

5 out of 5 stars

Lots of vegetarian & vegan recipes - we especially like the "Polenta Mini Pizzas", "Greener Sloppy Joes", and "Coconut No-Cream Pie". I also appreciate the sections for "Party" (with finger foods and cake & ice-cream substitutes) & "Snack" recipes. My favorite feature of this cookbook is the "Cooking with Kids" pages sprinkled throughout the book on how to get your smaller children involved in the cooking process.

Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes by Mollie Katzen

This is one of those books I wish I could give two ratings. The clarity of recipe instructions is wonderful and they could easily be followed by a preschooler if read aloud. However there were may be 3 recipes in the entire book that my family could use due to our lactose- and gluten-free requirements. So while I would recommend this book to friends with budding young chefs, it's not a cookbook we'll be using.

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern

I'd actually give this book two different ratings. The (true) love story is five stars all the way - engaging, funny, touching, and well-written. The recipes on the other hand I'd give between three & four stars for their difficulty, long ingredient lists, and the frequent use of lactose (something plenty of people who have Celiac are unable to eat in addition to gluten). As a working mother, these recipes were fun to read and dream about, but impractical to add to our repertoire.

Allergy Free Cooking For Kids by Antoinette Savill

If I lived in England I might like this book more and have actually attempted some of the recipes. Clearly written for a UK audience, measurements are in kilograms, grams, and mls and used ingredients I'm unfamiliar with. I figure soya milk is soy milk, but I've never seen soya cream (maybe if I lived near a Whole Foods?) nor can I buy quail eggs anywhere around here. Still, I appreciate the kid-friendliness of the recipes, especially all the allergy-free desserts with holiday themes.

Moosewood Restaurant New Classics by Moosewood Collective

This cookbook has more vegan & gluten-free recipes than the other cookbooks I've read. My husband and I were both impressed with their diatribe on the worthlessness of quick oats and instant oatmeal, so we finally cooked that free sample of steel cut oats we had. Moosewood is right - steel cut oats are complete worth the 20 min. cooking time and not remotely mushy. We did not share our oatmeal with the kids. :-)

I'm cautious about trying anything too unusual from this cookbook though after making the Savory Congee recipe - I followed it exactly and the result was only just okay, and the next day much too salty to be edible.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

4 out of 5 stars

A comprehensive how-to cookbook – this is the perfect alternative to your non-vegetarian Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook or Betty Crocker Cookbook. Similar to the aforementioned classics, the most helpful parts of the cookbook are not the recipes themselves (which are relatively basic), but the cooking time charts, illustrated techniques, in-depth ingredient descriptions, serve-with lists, and many, many tips, tricks, and how-to’s between the recipes. Randomly opening the book a few times, I get: a 2-page chart on “Types of Vinegar” with columns for acidity, best uses, and substitutes; a half-page blurb on “Tips for Making Asian-Style Noodle Bowls”; and a list of “6 Simple Additions to Cooked Beans”.

My personal favorite feature of this cookbook is the Menus appendix, especially the Summer Southern-Style BBQ Dinner & Superbowl Buffet Dinner menus – two party styles that aren’t so vegetarian friendly.

One disappointment – there are no allergy-free ingredient finders or markers. If you do have food allergies, you’ll have to read through every recipe’s list of ingredients.

Recipes we tried:

Espresso Black Bean Chili – ***** - a new family favorite this makes a huge pot, perfect for make-ahead lunches. Very good the first day, fantastic the second.

Spicy Autumn Vegetable Burger - *** ½ - the first home-made veggie burger we’ve tried, this is a pretty good base recipe but it could use some adjustments. We thought it needed more flavor and some way to make it less mushy – next time we’ll try baking them first then grilling or broiling. High fiber ingredients include sweet potato, kale, and white beans –the next day we joked they should be re-named “The Easy Flow Burger”.

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

5 out 5 stars

While I feel strange giving a book by Alicia Silverstone the same rating I gave, say, To Kill a Mockingbird, this book alone out of dozens I read in a two week period convinced me our family could go vegan and be healthier for it. Since the night my enraged preschooler passionately declared he hated "bad people who eat dead animals" in the middle of a steak house (think Jesus cleansing the temple of moneylenders meets Rosemary's Baby), I’ve read every book our library has on children & vegetarianism and while a few of them gave some good recipe ideas, The Kind Diet was the only one that got me excited and confident about this life-style.

Because of the limitations already on my family’s diet due to Celiac disease, the thought of my son cutting out an entire food group terrified me. Alicia’s book reassured me we’re getting so much of the protein and other vitamins & minerals we need through the foods we already eat because of our dietary restrictions, such as soy milk, almond milk and the high-vitamin content of our various wheat-free alternatives to bread & pasta. Her detailed break-down of the various nutrients a carnivore gets from meat and how vegans can get those same nutrients was extremely helpful and exactly what I was looking for but not getting in all the other books I read. I even handed the meat chapter over to my barbecue-loving, skeptical-but-indulgent husband – after reading it, he stared off into space for a while and said, “Well…that was convincing. I think she’s right. Ok, no more meat.” And that is why this book on veganism gets 5 stars.