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Sheet Cake: Easy One-Pan Recipes for Every Day and Every Occasion

Abigail Johnson Dodge. Clarkson Potter, $22.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-13610-2

“The goal of these cake recipes is not to create something perfect... what you baked with care will still taste delicious,” writes Dodge (The Everyday Baker), a James Beard–finalist for baking and dessert, in this delightful guide that relies on a single pan to deliver 50 delicious recipes and showcases her talent for tailoring pro advice to the kind of projects even a novice can master. Familiar flavors of chocolate and peanut butter, carrot, butterscotch, gingerbread, red velvet, and classic yellow that are baked and decorated in a single layer are also rolled with fillings and carved into rounds that stack to become layer cakes. Dodge cleverly transforms leftover bits into crumbs for toppings and coatings, and “croutons” for decoration, as with the artfully stacked cubes atop her ginger-apricot angel food cake. To keep the goods moist, she offers the option of soaking syrups—including cream, chocolate, and coffee variations—and sprinkles in “flavor swaps” and fruit curd recipes to mix up creations. Instruction comes by way of Dodge’s fuss-free best practices, such as preferring table salt for its fine grain and measuring consistency and providing foolproof tips for assembling a jelly roll (the “roll” should take place while it’s still hot). This is an all-around treat. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Maman: The Cookbook: All-Day Recipes to Warm Your Heart

Elisa Marshall and Benjamin Sormonte, with Lauren Salkeld. Clarkson Potter, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-13895-3

Marshall and Sormonte are the team behind the Maman mini-chain of eateries, and this frothy cookbook is as much an advertisement for their business as a collection of recipes—a feeling reinforced by blurbs from fans about their “quaint” cafés. They lean hard into the theme of motherhood, with introductions written by each of their “mamans,” and the importance of mothers cooking with children harped on by a diet book author and others. Paeans to the authors’ childhoods in Canada (Marshall) and France (Sormonte) occasionally verge on the saccharine, and many recipes come from or are named for maternal figures: their marketing director’s grandmother Marion contributes zucchini bread, while a tuna salad sandwich salutes the former head chef’s mother. Typical café fare, such as quiche Lorraine and fruit salad, alternates with surprises, including a savory yogurt loaf with olives and sun-dried tomatoes and a garnish of corn nuts atop pasta salad. Desserts are the strongest offerings—most notably, the café’s signature chocolate chip cookies with three types of nuts, and the pumpkin-maple madeleines, which combine North American and French traditions. (For pooches, there are dog biscuits with carob chips.) While loyal customers are sure to tune in, those unfamiliar with the brand may find this to be a collection in search of a binding culinary thread. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Lemon, Love & Olive Oil

Mina Stone. Harper Wave, $40 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-297326-9

In her latest collection of simple yet satisfying dishes, chef Stone (Cooking for Artists) shares more than 80 recipes “from different avenues of my life” that have influenced her cooking. Inspired by her yiayia (the Greek term for grandmother) and summer trips to Greece, the bulk of the dishes she shares are Greek staples—such as tzatziki and crispy octopus with oregano—but there are also unexpected selections such as latkes (a nod to her father’s Jewish heritage) and egg noodles with grated tomatoes and lemon zest (a creation of her partner, Alex). Throughout, Stone shares heartfelt anecdotes and cultural context: she recalls that koulourakia me tahini (tahini biscuits) is one of the “most revered recipes” her yiayia taught her, and then continues to explain that the biscuits are sometimes eaten during Lent when dairy and meat are prohibited. For home cooks who detest searching for hard-to-find ingredients, she encourages making substitutions based on availability and preference (“it’s OK not to have all the right ingredients”); her spigarello (an Italian heirloom broccoli rabe) with olive oil and lemon, for instance, is just as delicious made with Swiss chard, and while the olive oil–poached fish combines a sampling of her favorite ingredients, she suggests infusing the oil with different herbs and spices. Fans of Mediterranean cuisine will find a lot to like. Agent: Kari Stuart, ICM Partners. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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What Do You Say?: How to Talk with Kids to Build Motivation, Stress Tolerance, and a Happy Home

Ned Johnson and William Stixrud. Viking, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-984880-36-9

Neuropsychologist Stixrud and test prep tutor Johnson team up again (after The Self-Driven Child) for this on-target guide to talking to children. “Focusing on effective communication with our kids is a powerful way to grow our relationship with them,” they write, and across nine chapters make a convincing case that, while talking with kids can be hard, doing so is key to their well-being. The authors cover such topics as cultivating closeness (one-on-one time is crucial) and setting healthy expectations (pushing kids hard doesn’t always work). There’s guidance, for example, on how to “parent as consultant,” a low-emotion way to help kids reach goals they set for themselves, and Johnson and Stixrud show readers how to foster in kids an “intrinsic motivation,” or behavior driven by curiosity and desire rather than reward and punishment. On the thorny issue of limiting screen time, they write: “Your job is not to control your kids, but to help them learn to control themselves.” The authors are steadily encouraging: “Isn’t this what we want our parenting to do—to help kids learn to run their own lives?” Full of easy-to-implement tips, this is a resource parents will return to. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Healthy Vegetable Garden: A Natural, Chemical-Free Approach to Soil, Biodiversity and Managing Pests and Diseases

Sally Morgan. Chelsea Green, $29.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-64502-064-6

“There are no short cuts when you are trying to create a healthy garden,” cautions Organic Farming editor Morgan (The Climate Change Garden) in this comprehensive look at Earth-healthy gardening. Focusing on regenerative gardening practices that eschew weedkillers and pesticides and instead enrich gardens with organic matter, Morgan begins with soil, which, she writes, needs a diversity of organisms “from bacteria and fungi through to nematodes and earthworms.” Improving soil requires not disturbing the soil’s “food web” and making use of livestock manure. Second to soil maintenance is understanding pests and predators, and the ways bugs—from sapsuckers to defoliators—attack plants. “The key to keeping pests and diseases under control is observation,” Morgan writes. “Beneficials” such as spiders, beetles, wasps, and even hedgehogs, make their homes in gardens, and Morgan shows readers how to use the good ones to help keep the ones that do damage to a garden in check: provide desirable predators with “bug hotels” to keep them returning to fight the enemy. Rounding things out is an A–Z index of pests and diseases that makes for easy reference. Morgan’s detailed advice will be a boon to climate-minded gardeners. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Digital for Good: Raising Kids to Thrive in an Online World

Richard Culatta. Harvard Business Review, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-64782-016-9

Culatta (Stuttering Therapy), former head of the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, examines the promises and perils of the digital world in this stellar survey. It’s time to move beyond strict limits on screen time, he writes, and instead details how children at any age can learn to become responsible digital citizens. To that end, he offers “five practical digital citizenship skills that all kids need to learn: being balanced, informed, inclusive, engaged, and alert.” Culatta suggests parents ensure their children use technology to do more than simply “watch content,” balance recreational time with time spent building skills or maintaining personal connections, and help children to intelligently assess the vast amount of information on the web. Parents are also encouraged to make a list of “do’s,” not “don’ts,” for online time (such as being kind and honest), be more specific than “you’re addicted to your phone” if screen time becomes a problem, and facilitate nonpunishment technology breaks. His advice is easy to implement and leavened with humor: “We also found that without some structure, our well-intentioned Sunday family time quickly turns into fight-with-your-brothers-all-afternoon time (shoot me now).” The result is a trenchant and hopeful guide for parents anxious about the impact of technology on their children’s development. (July)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

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How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen: Whining, Fighting, Meltdowns, Defiance, and Other Challenges of Childhood

Joanna Faber and Julie King. Scribner, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-982134-15-0

Parents are presented with the tools they “need to deal with the inevitable conflicts between adults and children” in this encouraging guide from educators Faber (How to Talk So Kids Will Listen) and King. Working from a foundation of compassion, the authors walk parents through the best ways to deal with “all those everyday pull-your-hair-out moments,” with such basic communication tools as acknowledging feelings with words and telling stories. They also suggest responses to common scenarios: when a child makes a dramatic overstatement, for example, parents should accept their feelings instead of countering with a harsh dose of reality. They advise on kids’ relationship to technology (parents can offer a choice about when screen time will be permitted), name-calling (encouraging parents to let children know how a bad word makes them feel), and punishment (problem-solve together). A section dedicated to “Touchy Topics” lays out strategies for helping children cope with divorce and learn about sex. The authors’ light tone is enhanced by illustrations and catchy headlines, keeping things from getting too heavy. Full of ideas worth returning to, this guide will leave parents feeling prepared for when things go south. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Happy Sandwich: Scrumptious Sandwiches to Make You Smile

Jason Goldstein. Familius, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-641-70460-1

The humble sandwich gets an elevated twist in this creative debut from Chop Happy blogger Goldstein. Organized by cooking method—with chapters offering slow cooker sandwiches, as well as grilled and no-cook options—the recipes take on global flavors, including a noteworthy Thai curry meatball sub (which serves as the perfect “leftovers on a busy day”); a flavorful Mexican chicken, sausage, and peppers sandwich; and a sheet pan Greek pita stuffed with shrimp, feta, and cucumber salad. Goldstein even ventures further outside the conventional sandwich with a chapter of “No-Bread” creations, making use of avocados, latkes, and pickles to corral a host of ingredients. Directions are straightforward, and headnotes include solid planning tips, such as prepping the filling for the spinach artichoke grilled cheese sandwich on Sunday for a quick and easy Monday night dinner. Nostalgic comfort food such as at a hot dog grilled cheese may not suit some readers, but Goldstein’s lobster gruyere grilled cheese will sate those craving more extravagant fare. An ideal gift for students headed to college, as well as cooks looking to bring some variety to their day-to-day meals, this down-to-earth collection delivers. Agent: Lisa Hall, Coombs Moylett Maclean. (June)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Quick Fix Kitchen: Easy Recipes and Time-Saving Tips for a Healthier, Stress-Free Life

Tia Mowry. Rodale, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-23282-8

Actor Mowry (Whole New You) gathers the best recipes from her “Quick Fix” YouTube series with the goal of making it “easy (and enjoyable) to put dinner on the table even with a crazy life.” Her guidance is upbeat and thorough, beginning with a tutorial on culinary basics, organizing tips, and coping skills for cooking with children that’s so extensive it takes up about half the book. A rundown of global spices is especially helpful, as is a list of kids’ kitchen tasks grouped by age (and attention spans). Snacks are kept simple, as with her homemade Cheese(It) Crackers—baked sharp cheddar slices with garlic salt—dipped in a puree of applesauce and white beans. She also includes a sample meal plan with three weeks’ worth of options, some of which incorporate shortcuts, such as cooking an entire package of bacon in advance so that strips can be pulled from the fridge as needed. Dinner recipes have playful, comfort-food appeal, evident in meatloaf cupcakes topped with mashed potatoes, and a four-ingredient Lazy Mom Lasagna that alternates layers of frozen ravioli and broccoli florets, jarred tomato sauce, and shredded mozzarella. Entry-level cooks with young families can rely on Mowry’s help to sharpen their skills in the kitchen. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Weekday Vegetarians: 100 Recipes and a Real-Life Plan for Eating Less Meat

Jenny Rosenstrach. Clarkson Potter, $32.50 (256p) ISBN 978-0-5931-3874-8

“With a little planning... it’s possible to cut back on meat and not eat cornflakes every night,” writes Dinner: A Love Story blogger Rosenstrach (How to Celebrate Everything) in this inviting guide to going meatless five nights a week. Most of her riffable recipes come in “the format of a pizza, bowl, taco, pasta, salad, sandwich, or soup—all vehicles for dishes I know my family will like,” and each is prefaced with a mix-and-match meal chart organized around various veggies. Canned beans, store-bought pizza dough, and packaged corn tortillas and cooked beets are staples she employs to keep cooking times in check. Of her “Seven Rules to Remember When Going Vegetarian,” the most strategic is the use of “hooks” to enhance what’s on the plate; this can be warm yogurt flatbread to accompany curried red lentils or Rosenstrach’s oregano and olive oil pizza dressing for topping salads and savory pies. Recipes are often accompanied by tips and tricks, such as adding a quick side of marinated beans to her Greenest Pasta “if you are missing a protein hit,” or stirring porcini powder into fried rice for some “meatiness.” This mightily proves that vegetarian cooking is not only approachable, but fun. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

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