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The Container Victory Garden: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Groceries

Maggie Stuckey. Harper Celebrate, $28.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-7852-5576-5

Gardener Stuckey (Soup Night) delivers a simple manual on how to grow plants in containers. “Gardening is hope made real,” she contends, and offers guidance on how those short on outdoor space can develop their green thumb using pots and other receptacles. She explains factors to consider when planning, including how much sunlight the plants will require, which are best suited to one’s region, and which thrive during which seasons. Stuckey recommends readers acquire a trowel, cultivator, hand pruner, watering can, and gloves to get started, and she provides a rundown of the pros and cons of various container types (ceramics are “elegant” but break easily, while plastic planters are durable but “not especially handsome”). Step-by-step guidance describes how to plant seeds and nurture their growth, offering such useful suggestions as thinning out seedlings that have sprouted too closely together and transferring newly purchased plants into a watery fertilizer solution before placing them in their final container, so as to loosen up their roots. Ideas on how to make the most of limited space include stacking plants on a baker’s rack or fashioning a makeshift trellis out of fishing line. The thorough, no-fuss advice for growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers will get beginners started in no time. Urban gardeners will appreciate the recommendations on making the most out of limited space. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Fitter. Calmer. Stronger.: A Mindful Approach to Exercise and Nutrition

Ellie Goulding. Harper Horizon, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7852-9172-5

English singer Goulding debuts with a robust program for leading a healthy life that encourages readers to “ditch the comparisons,” “swap out perfection for flexibility,” and “be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend.” Personal stories illustrate the advice, as when Goulding urges readers to listen to their bodies and recounts how she took up exercise to cope with panic attacks brought on by her ascent to fame in her mid-20s. Emphasizing the importance of mental well-being, she recommends readers “calm your mind” by journaling, getting enough sleep, and enjoying the outdoors. Goulding’s personal trainer, boxing coach, and barre teacher each supply home workouts that require minimal equipment, such as her trainer’s early-morning workout that consists of squats, pushups, and reverse lunges, accompanied by instructions on proper form. To follow the principle “food is your fuel,” she suggests cutting down on meat and dairy and eating more fruit, vegetables, and nuts, and to that end offers 27 recipes that cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including a mouthwatering lentil-based shepherd’s pie. The author brings buoyant positivity and a welcome focus on holistic health that pays equal attention to exercise, diet, and mental wellness. Goulding’s fans will eat this up. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Gut Driven: Jump-Start Digestive Health to Nourish Body, Mind, and Spirit

Ellen Postolowski, illus. by Erin Hart. Frankie Mahwah, $17.95 trade paper (350p) ISBN 979-8-218-05071-9

In this approachable guide, health coach Postolowski (It’s Just Personal) provides advice on how to improve gut health. For resolving digestive discomfort, she outlines a two-stage plan that begins with eliminating foods that commonly cause inflammation, followed by a “maintenance phase,” during which foods are reintroduced one-by-one to determine which are irritants. She recommends cutting out such foods as sugar, eggs, and gluten, and offers scientific background on why they might be bad for one’s health, noting that caffeine disturbs hormonal balances and that many people have “insufficient lactase enzymes” to digest dairy. Drawing on her background as a private chef, she serves up dozens of recipes to get readers through the elimination stage, including buckwheat pancakes, sweet potato fried rice, and spaghetti squash with vegan cheese sauce. Her advice extends beyond food, encompassing exhortations to keep a consistent sleep schedule, reduce stress, and maintain supportive relationships. While the guidance is sometimes short on specifics (readers are encouraged to “stress less” and exercise “not too much or too little”), the science enlightens and the recipes will make it easy to follow the dietary regimen. The result is a solid take on eating right. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Sleep Reimagined: The Fast Track to a Revitalized Life

Pedram Navab. Countryman, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-68268-711-6

Neurologist Navab debuts with a sensible program for treating sleep problems. “When individuals sleep better... hopefulness extends to their waking lives,” he contends, discussing how to overcome sleep disturbances arising from insomnia, sleep apnea, and traumatic memories. Navab outlines the four stages of sleep, noting that brain activity slows down during the first stage and that REM sleep (stage four) is integral to memory consolidation. Fictional case studies illustrate how sleep disorders manifest, as when the author describes an imagined session with a successful Los Angeles chef suffering from nocturnal panic attacks, to whom Navab recommends the 4-7-8 method that pulls the body out of fight-or-flight mode by breathing in for four seconds, holding for seven, then breathing out for eight. The cases bring a novelistic flair, though the level of detail sometimes feels gratuitous given the clients are fictional, as when Navab describes a patient whose “dazzling blue eyes... were brighter and stronger before this pandemic that had stolen the person she once was.” The advice delivers though, whether keeping a sleep diary to identify habits that might be cutting into one’s rest or imagining oneself in a relaxing “halcyon scene” as a “distraction from your insomnia.” This solid manual will put readers to sleep, in a good way. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Recycling in the Garden: Reusing Everyday Items

Angela Youngman. White Owl, $26.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-399-00183-0

“In a world where climate change and sustainability is increasingly important, gardeners can make a major difference,” suggests journalist Youngman (The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin) in this pedestrian take on eco-friendly gardening practices. To save money, time, and energy, she encourages gardeners to adopt such sustainable practices as composting food scraps to make fertilizer and rigging gutters to collect rainwater in barrels. Other projects are smaller in scope, such as “upcycling” paper egg cartons to start seedlings, using solar-powered path lights, and repurposing empty wine bottles as path markers. Youngman recommends looking to the past for inspiration and tells how the Nunnington Hall estate in North Yorkshire practices the centuries old technique of placing manure-stained fleece at the bases of fruit trees to fertilize them, though it’s unclear how readers without sheep should make use of this information. Many of the other ideas are commonsensical (composting) or recycled from other sources (Jennifer Davies’s The Wartime Kitchen Garden pops up frequently), and some of the photos—including an amateurish snapshot of a running faucet, captioned “Water—a scarce commodity”—come across as unnecessary. Gardeners hunting for tips to boost sustainability would be better served elsewhere. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Knitting Wraps in the Round: 21 Inspired Shawls, Scarves, and Stoles

Andrea Brauneis, trans. from the German by Katharina Sokiran. Stackpole, $24.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8117-7045-3

The handsome English-language debut from designer Brauneis shows how to knit using steeking, a Norwegian technique for cutting through pieces knitted in the round to create new openings, transforming, say, a sweater into a cardigan or a sleeve into a scarf. Brauneis touts the benefits of steeking, which avoids “annoying purl rows” and complicated stitch patterns, and provides instruction to help get readers started, recommending they use wool yarn and create samples to determine the right needle gauge before beginning a wrap. Each project is categorized according to difficulty, with “easy” designs including a purple and gray triangular shawl and a fuchsia mixed-pattern stole. The bulk are designated “requires some practice,” such as the blue lace stole and the gray and purple shoulder plaid, while projects “for experienced knitters” include an apricot-colored shawl that makes use of a Japanese stitch pattern. Though Brauneis provides an illustrated rundown of the basics of knitting with double-pointed needles, advanced knitters will likely get the most out of these sometimes complicated designs. But the reward is worth the effort, as the colorwork on display in such projects as the yellow and white “fair-isle shawl with eyelet bands” delights. This stylish primer on steeking will please experienced knitters. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook

Melissa Thompson. Interlink, $35 (288p) ISBN 978-1-62371-801-5

Food writer Thompson celebrates her Jamaican heritage in her stellar debut. Inspired by her dad’s tales of growing up in Jamaica, England-born Thompson found herself transported through food to a country she had never visited and here offers a rich and deeply satisfying collection of recipes, some of her own creation and others from her family’s arsenal, all derived from island ingredients. Among the options are salty and spicy saltfish fritters (“one of the most addictive snacks known to mankind”) and ginger beer shrimp, born out of Thompson’s love for Japanese tempura and transformed with ginger beer in place of soda water for the batter. Mouthwatering photos bring the recipes to life, notably Thompson’s smoky eggplant rundown and macaroni and cheese. Readers will savor the less familiar but equally enticing dishes, including castleton janga soup (a rich seafood stew with shrimp, pumpkin, ginger, and crayfish) and curried goat. Thompson rounds things out with luscious grapefruit cassava cake and coconut mango panna cotta. Her attention to the history behind the food sets these recipes apart; she details major events and lasting influences on the island, ranging from Christopher Columbus and the slave trade to the Rastafarian diet. This abundant immersion into Jamaican culture will whet readers’ appetites. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Complete Modern Pantry: 350+ Ways to Cook Well with What’s on Hand

Editors of America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, $34.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-954210-16-5

The staff at America’s Test Kitchen (Desserts Illustrated) find all the potential of the humble pantry in this excellent outing. “Thinking about your pantry in terms of categories can make it easier to improvise your next dinner” they write, applying their signature “why this works” approach to uses for pantry staples: kecap manis (a salty-sweet soy sauce) layers in deep flavors to stews, glazes, and umami-packed dishes such as nasi goreng, and the surprising use of warming Arabic spice blend baharat is suggested for dishes like tacos and french fries. Expert tips enhance even the simplest preparations, such as microwaving chopped onion in a little oil to release more flavor or hydrating garlic powder to activate its flavor enzyme. Possible substitutions underscore the notion that a well-stocked pantry “doesn’t mean having everything,” so balsamic or sherry vinegar can stand in for Chinese black vinegar, while mayonnaise replaces eggs and dairy in a moist chocolate cake. Perhaps most helpful even for experienced cooks is a quick list of essential techniques, including pan-searing frozen vegetables and toasting panko bread crumbs in the microwave. The bountiful, smart advice makes this an invaluable kitchen companion. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 12/16/2022 | Details & Permalink

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A Table Full of Love: Recipes to Comfort, Seduce, Celebrate & Everything Else in Between

Skye McAlpine. Bloomsbury, $35 (320p) ISBN 978-1-63973-049-0

Recipes are organized not by ingredient or by season, but “by mood and by sentiment” in this rewarding exploration of love and the meals that sustain it. The opening chapter, focused on caregiving, risks cliché by starting out with the healing power of chicken soup, but is saved by McAlpine’s (A Table for Friends) earnest prose and clever cooking techniques (one must strain the soup’s broth four times). Carb-filled comfort foods appear—mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, risotto—but each is elevated. The risotto, for example, is seeded with saffron and lemon zest, and mashed potatoes are gussied up with preserved lemon. Pivoting to romance, McAlpine offers a couple of cocktails to set the mood then whips up a variety of shareable dishes for two, among them pork tenderloin with peaches and fennel, and buttery mackerel with roasted rhubarb. Hot and heavy desserts, like Toblerone fondue, pour on the chocolate. A section on cooking for, and with, children features fast “everyday jeans” cooking and plenty of pasta, as befitting the author’s Venice upbringing. For those whose love language involves giving presents, a bounty of food gifts runs the gamut from strawberry and vodka preserves to rose and cinnamon shortbread. And the concluding chapter, entitled “Cocoon,” puts the emphasis on self-love with a sampling of single-serving salads and a simple salmon en papillote. Love means never having to say you’re hungry in this soul-nourishing collection. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Prefabulous for Everyone

Sheri Koones. Gibbs Smith, $37 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4236-6359-1

Journalist Koones (Bigger Than Tiny, Smaller Than Average) delivers a convincing overview of the merits of prefabricated homes. Pushing back against those who “think of prefab construction as tacky and plain,” Koones tours 24 homes that “demonstrate the variety and beauty of houses that can be prefabricated.” She highlights the different prefab construction methods, showcasing a Wisconsin house built from a kit (using materials that were pre-cut and numbered at a factory), and a light-filled Los Angeles modular structure built from “modules or boxes” assembled off-site. Environmental considerations feature prominently, including a desert retreat in southern California built from reclaimed lumber and recycled metal, a houseboat in northwestern Washington with eco-friendly concrete moorings, and a Vancouver home that achieved energy efficiency by using airtight insulation. Blueprints, gorgeous interior and exterior photos, and descriptions of building materials provide a detailed look at each entry. However, Koones’s contention that prefab homes can help alleviate the affordable housing shortage is undercut by her focus on lavish homes whose costs are seldom discussed. Still, this makes a solid case for the high-end possibilities of prefab home design. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2022 | Details & Permalink

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