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The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Montali, $29.95 (330p) ISBN 978-0-9906272-0-3

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Patrick-Goudreau (On Being Vegan) presents a compassionate and reasoned approach to vegan living and eating in this volume. Her stated goal is to help readers navigate the first 30 days of a vegan diet, providing support and guidance and answering questions along the way. Patrick-Goudreau covers the basics of what to eat, includes an assortment of healthful vegan recipes, and also addresses the ethical and health issues underlying the vegan choice. She defines veganism (i.e., no animal flesh or products), and explains the benefits of a plant-based diet in fighting heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other problems. She also argues that compassion toward animals is reason in itself to follow the vegan path. Readers on the fence or just starting the vegan journey will appreciate the intelligent discussion of issues they will face (eating out, baking without eggs, finding protein sources, living cheese-less, etc.), and seasoned veganistas will enjoy the recipes and interesting factoids (how to make coconut bacon; Skittles no longer contain gelatin). Patrick-Goudreau helps vegan newbies navigate the choppy waters of social situations, celebrating holidays and “finding harmony in mixed households” as well. While clearly a devout vegan—even honey is nixed—Patrick-Goudreau stresses that intention is more important than perfection. With an earnest but level tone, she provides all the tools one needs for making the switch to vegan cuisine, values, and lifestyle. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Puglia

Editors of ‘The Silver Spoon.’. Phaidon, $39.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7148-6888-2

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Like others in the series (Tuscany, Sicily, etc), the latest edition from the editors of the Silver Spoon, often called Italy’s Joy of Cooking, gives readers a gorgeous travelogue combining artful photographs of the region with classic local dishes. Even if readers have never ventured into Puglia or its sister region, Basilica, both located in the “heel” of Italy’s boot, they’re sure to find a dish begging for a try in this well-crafted collection. Since the region is so close to the Adriatic and Ionian seas, dishes like baked squid and potatoes are natural choices and sure to spark appetites. The editors give readers a sense of place by including a number of dishes served around Christmas, such as zuppa di natale, a traditional soup of bread, turkey, and cheese; Christmas Eve pie, a savory pie incorporating salt cod, cauliflower, and escarole; and pasta di mandorle con faldacchiera, a cross between bread pudding and a bundt cake that incorporates a marsala-infused cream sauce with sponge cake, chopped almonds and pear jam. There’s also the impressive and labor-intensive Timballo, immortalized in the film Big Night. Readers will find a comfortable mix of familiar favorites as well as inventive riffs, such as rafanata, a simple potato gratin of sorts that incorporates a generous amount of fresh horseradish and can be served as a side dish. The majority of the book’s recipes are fairly simple to source and yield terrific results as long as home cooks use the best ingredients possible and follow the techniques to the letter. This is a warm invitation to the region and its breadth of cuisine. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Trisha’s Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced Life

Trisha Yearwood. Clarkson Potter, $29.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8041-8615-5

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In an increasingly health-conscious world, even celebrity cookbooks must adapt and offer wholesome recipes, and in this third volume from Grammy-winning country singer Yearwood, the emphasis is squarely on lighter options. Yearwood herself notes she’s not a nutritionist, but this collection relies more heavily on fresh produce and less sugar. That means some requisite trendy blog favorites like kale chips, raw power balls, and quinoa burgers. Some alternatives show more invention, like a sweet potato salad with Greek yogurt and angel-hair pasta with avocado pesto, and she takes a decidedly more contemporary approach than in her previous books. There are plenty of full-on indulgences for her “20 percent” days: cinnamon orange rolls, slow-cooker Georgia pulled pork, and key lime cheesecake with raspberry sauce. Yearwood’s relatable personality and down-to-earth culinary sensibility make for positive encouragement—she won’t force you to rid your pantry of gluten, but she will gently advise you to try tofu in place of cheese in your lasagna. This is a solid offering that can add variety to the home repertoire. Color photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Deliciously Ella: 100+ Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes

Ella Woodward. Scribner, $19.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9328-3

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Health-minded home cooks of the world, who have a seemingly bottomless appetite for gluten-free and vegan recipe hacks, will devour this accessible and inventive compilation. Drawing from the eponymous blog by the London-based author, this cookbook offers 120 dishes that are plant-based, gluten-free and dairy-free. Woodward explains that swapping out wheat for quinoa in her pizza crust and beef for lentils in her Bolognese helped her fight a serious health issue into remission. Beetroot carpaccio, stuffed chestnut mushrooms, and fresh spring rolls are virtuous choices with big flavor, but the cookbook really shines with its remixed treats such as sweet potato brownies, double-layered hazelnut cake, and berry cheesecake, with nary a pat of butter in sight. The frequently pictured author is also a model and the epitome of wholesome beauty, which may boost sales. What makes her book a valued contribution to the genre, however, are her easy-to-follow instructions and relatively straightforward ingredients that together deliver satisfying results. Color photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook

Maangchi, with Lauren Chattman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-5441-2989-4

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Born and raised in South Korea and now living in New York City, Maangchi is the founder of a popular Korean cooking website. In this delightful collection, she showcases the variety and breadth of Korean cooking. She begins by detailing typical Korean meals, with ever-present rice and kimchi served in a multitude of ways. She also provides comprehensive ingredient and equipment lists that help orient first timers. Recipes start with numerous types of rice—fluffy, toasted, multigrain—that serve as the building blocks of Korean-style curry rice, seaweed rice rolls, and bibimbap. Maangchi also offers an appetizing selection of noodles, including spicy, chewy cold noodles and noodles with black bean paste. Soups and stews, two of the cornerstones of Korean cuisine, are amply represented by dishes like spicy beef and vegetable soup, seafood stew, and kimchi stew with tuna. She dedicates one chapter to kimchi and pickles and another to snacks, with offerings such as spicy stuffed cucumber kimchi and fried kelp. Side dishes steal the show, including braised beef in soy sauce, stir-fried kale with soybean paste, blanched spinach with scallions and sesame, and stir-fried pork. In addition, she provides chapters on pancakes, special-occasion food, desserts, and more. Maangchi has written an essential cookbook for anyone who wants to learn to prepare authentic Korean cuisine. (May)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Living Passionately

Edited by Maria Blon. Two Harbors, $19.99 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-1-63413-138-4

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In this essay collection, Blon and 21 others examine times of great adversity and how those experiences taught them valuable life lessons. The opening chapter exhorts readers to examine who they are and why they matter, and several poignant stories follow. A young mother whose eight-month-old child died from a congenital heart defect eventually learns to see “challenges as opportunities.” Blon’s daughter, Carina, volunteers in Haiti after the tragic 2010 earthquake, where she sets up a school and learns the importance of “observing and listening.” Shad St. Louis, who emigrated from Haiti to the U.S. as an infant, returns to his homeland to help with Carina’s project, discovering in the process that hope and perseverance can change anyone’s life. Financial planner Charles Yarnold learns his father hid his Parkinson’s from his family for years, which he takes as an illustration of the importance of relationships. Bradley Nelson, after originally planning to get an M.B.A., instead becomes a holistic chiropractic physician; this teaches him to listen and then act. Sue Keane, whose 32-year-old son functions at the mental level of a three-month-old, discusses how even in the darkest of situations, it’s important to enjoy life. Blon and her coauthors tug at the heartstrings while teaching readers to follow their own passions. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Home with Henry: A Memoir

Anne Kaier. PS Books, $15 trade paper (108p) ISBN 978-0-990-47151-6

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This endearing pet memoir begins in 1997 when copy writer Kaier encounters a cat in the middle of the road on her commute home from work. She proceeds to pull the car around, park on side of the road, and stop traffic just long enough to scoop up the poor orange fur ball and rush it to the veterinarian. Little does Kaier know that adopting this cat, a frightened, untrusting ball of orange fur with great green eyes who she names Henry, would prove to be an exercise in patience—the early days of his adoption are spent with him hissing and spitting at her from underneath her guest room bed. In direct contrast, Kaier’s other cat, Lucille, an affectionate feline rescued in a rainstorm, is curious to meet her new cat companion but must be content with momentary glimpses through the slightly ajar door. One day, Henry gathers the courage to explore the author’s Philadelphia townhouse and slowly integrates himself into Kaier and Lucille’s lives. This sweet little book lovingly recounts the journey of trust both Anne and Henry take together and in their own time. Readers who have rescued pets and have given them the grace and love they needed to learn to trust again will see themselves in Kaier and will cheer for Henry when he finally allows his rescuer to reach out and pet the soft fur behind his ears. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Bad Dyke: Salacious Stories from a Queer Life

Alison Moon. Lunatic Ink, $9.99 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-0-9838309-7-9

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Moon’s (Girl Sex 101) voice is clear, frank, and refreshingly without shame as she recounts her winding and often-confusing path toward discovering her sexual identity. While at first these descriptions of vaguely connected sexual adventures and awakenings seems profoundly personal and even self-indulgent, messages quickly begin to emerge, shining a sly light on issues like bi erasure, elitism within the lesbian community, and the challenges of living with shifting and fluid sexual identities. This series of vignettes illuminates the life and path of one “dyke,” and at the same time it offers a positive example for others who are still trying to find their own voices and their own way. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Three Kinds of Motion: Kerouac, Pollock, and the Making of American Highways

Riley Hanick. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-936747-90-0

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Two coinciding exhibits at the University of Iowa Museum of Art in 2005—the display of Jackson Pollock’s sprawling canvas Mural and the manuscript scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road—are coupled with the museum’s endangerment by a highway-channeled flood in 2008, inviting a tangle of philosophic reflections in this convoluted essay on art, commerce, and the building of America’s interstate highway system. As interpreted by journalist and essayist Hanick, Pollock’s development as a leading abstract expressionist, Kerouac’s efforts to give voice to the restless spirit of his generation, and the Eisenhower administration’s systematic plan to impose order on America’s roadways were all boundary-pushing explorations of new frontiers. Though Hanick draws interesting parallels between these and other mid-20th-century cultural phenomena, his presentation of them in fragmented bursts of insight never coheres into a pattern with deeper meaning or significance. Hanick’s narrative is a mix of fascinating historical details about his main subjects and sometimes frustratingly opaque flights of fancy. He alternates illuminating observations such as “the highway replaces space with motion,” with indulgently abstract reflections: “The highway is a mediating skin. A place where our long daydream of ourselves might still be sustained.” With its introduction of extraneous details from the author’s personal life, this book is more a portrait of an imagination engaged than of the subjects that engaged it. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Ordinary Light: A Memoir

Tracy K. Smith. Knopf, $25.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-307-96266-9

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This somber memoir by Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Smith (Life on Mars; Duende) reaches around the deep Christian piety of her Alabama-born mother to the author’s own questions about faith and her black identity. The work opens with the death of her mother from colon cancer shortly after Smith graduated from Harvard; then it looks back to the 1970s, when Smith and her four siblings were growing up in Northern California near the Travis Air Force Base, where her father was stationed as an engineer. The memoir is episodic; each chapter takes a memory of Smith’s youth and holds it to the light for scrutiny: her visit to her mother’s hometown of Leroy, Ala., when she was in first grade; her enrollment in a “mentally gifted minors” school that put her on the accelerated education track and led to years in majority-white schools; a lecture on sex education from her older brother Conrad; and her exchange of ardent love letters with one of her high school teachers, who was married at the time. Throughout the book, there is the strong sense that Smith’s mother’s love and faith held the family together. And, though God could not cure her mother, Smith finds her own way back to her faith by searching for a less circumscribed, more expansive way to understand her relationship with her mother, which she found in writing poetry. This is a nuanced memoir with a quiet emotional power. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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