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Life from Scratch: Family Traditions That Start with You

Vanessa Lachey with Dina Gachman. HarperOne, $29.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-303176-0

Actor Lachey shares tips for creating traditions, hosting friends and family, and cooking delicious meals in her heartfelt debut. She encourages parents and hosts to be “perfectly imperfect” and reflects on the importance of family memories in her own life. The advice is broken into four sections, each focused on a season—spring sees Easter cocktails and a template for organizing a potluck; summer has no shortage of pool party ideas, plus a cookout playlist; fall features plans for Halloween and Thanksgiving that will help one pull off a memorable event and not “lose your sh*t” (start prepping in early November); and winter offers suggestions for a New Years Eve at home (get dressed up, even if you’re staying in). Along the way, Lachey includes personal anecdotes, crafts, games, and activities, and her recipes (such as Lachey Lobster Rolls, a jalapeño popper spread, and a cozy beef stew) are simple but special enough to stand out at a gathering. Though she can come across as being out of touch (“If you’re having a pool party, hire a lifeguard!”), her can-do spirit will nonetheless leave readers ready to host. Parents in search of a how-to for family fun will find inspiration here. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/01/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Cajun Vegan Cookbook: A Modern Guide to Classic Cajun Cooking and Southern-Inspired Cuisine

Krimsey Lilleth. Blue Star, $29.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-950968-47-3

Louisiana native Lilleth, whose now-shuttered L.A. restaurant Krimsey’s Cajun Kitchen touted itself as the world’s first to offer vegan Cajun cuisine, debuts with an uninspiring collection that claims to marry the “deep flavor” of New Orleans favorites with fresh ingredients. Far from fresh, many of these recipes simply insert replacement products: pistolettes are hollowed rolls stuffed with vegan beef crumbles, vegan cheddar cheese, nondairy milk, and broccoli, then brushed with vegan butter and baked. Meanwhile, corn dogs are battered and fried vegan sausage links. Her more successful dishes translate lusty Cajun flavors less literally—such as a salad that incorporates shredded kale, “blackened Cajun corn,” and coconut flake “bacon” bits. Disappointingly, the po’boys call for store-bought rolls, and two of the recipes are virtually identical. A section on seasoning and caring for one’s cast-iron skillet is useful, while another on equipment could be in any cookbook. The tone can be juvenile: the author calls eating boiled artichokes “zany and quirky,” and confesses she hates “squishy foods,” but that she “love[s] eating rainbow foods.” Though everything is free of animal products—down to the fat used to season cast-iron cookware—that isn’t enough to make the dishes feel modern, as she promises. This feels like a missed opportunity. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/01/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Hot Little Suppers: Simple Recipes to Feed Family and Friends

Carrie Morey. Harper Horizon, $35 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7852-4161-4

“Making an event out of cooking and eating food makes life more fun,” writes Morey (Callie’s Biscuits & Southern Traditions), founder of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, in this rich collection of kitchen creations and tips. To “figure out which recipe is perfect for any occasion,” entrees are helpfully tagged with icons that indicate which is a crowd pleaser, a one-pot meal, a quick fix, vegetarian, family fave, or a “weeknight or weekend” option. The dishes—pot stickers, chicken tikka masala, cacio e pepe, pork al pastor—draw on various world cuisines. In her tasty riff on shrimp toast, she uses grilled Royal Red shrimp—instead of the traditional dim sum dish’s deep-fried topping—laid on slices of multigrain bread. Preceded by a helpful “grocery list” of ingredients she always has on hand (including fish sauce and White Lily flour), dishes are organized by season, and paired with menu options for desserts, sides, starters, and drinks. And to round out her chapter on biscuits, she provides recipe ideas for leftovers, such as a toasted maple biscuit casserole and biscuit crackers (whizzed-up biscuit crumbs even form the crust for a cheesecake pie). This promises to deliver dinner solutions year-round. Agent: Amy Hughes, DCL. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/01/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Cookie Bible

Rose Levy Berenbaum. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35 (448p) ISBN 978-0-358-35399-7

James Beard Award winner Berenbaum (The Baking Bible) revisits her old favorites and shares recipes for new ones in this thoroughly scrumptious collection. She leaves no question unanswered, advising on how to prepare butter before making the dough (it needs to be cut into tablespoon-sized pieces and left on the counter to soften for at least half an hour for her lemon poppy seed cookies, or cubed into half-inch pieces and refrigerated for 30 minutes for the holiday cookie cutouts) and how to set up baking sheets (an aluminum foil–lined sheet is needed for the candied pineapple biscotti, while a plain sheet will suffice for the raspberry Linzer hearts), and she even includes the shelf-life for each cookie after baking (her Dream Chocolate Chip Cookies can be stored in a container at room temperature for two weeks, refrigerated for a month, or frozen for three months). Following every recipe are “baking gems” that provide tips (for the chocolate caramel candy bars, adding cream of tartar to caramel will prevent it from crystallizing) and helpful techniques (to make superfine sugar for dacquoise meringue puffs, process granulated sugar in a food processor, until it’s “the consistency of sand”). For home bakers of all levels, this is a no-brainer. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/01/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Free-Motion Combinations: Unlimited Quilting Designs

Christina Cameli. C&T, $24.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-64403-120-9

Designer Cameli (Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting) offers expert guidance in this enthusiastic guide to free motion quilting. The technique requires practice in manipulating a quilt by hand under a needle to create a design, and, as she focuses primarily on combining designs rather than teaching the basics, the projects here will be best suited to quilters with some familiarity with the method. She leads quilters through a variety of approaches to combining designs whether they’re sitting at a sewing machine or standing at a long-arm machine, and a motif library, including leaves, flowers, pebbles, and spirals, serves as a reference. Her combinations come in two sections: simple (which showcases a swirly “starry night” and leafy “fern grove”) and fancy (with swirly “fossils” and a loud “kitchen sink combo”). Along the way, Cameli offers tips and tricks (consider making one pattern the largest, and have one “filler” motif), and encourages crafters to follow their intuition. Photos and drawings for each combination will leave quilters well-prepared, and her steady encouragement is a plus: “I hope that you will embrace little inconsistencies and imperfections as evidence of your humanity and adventurousness.” Seasoned quilters looking for free-motion inspiration are sure to find it here. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/01/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Small Changes: A Rules-Free Guide to Add More Plant-Based Foods, Peace & Power to Your Life

Alicia Witt. Harper Horizon, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7852-4031-0

I Care a Lot actor Witt debuts with a showstopping guide to making healthy changes to one’s life. Eschewing crash diets, Witt suggests one can improve one’s life with a simple routine of exercise (she favors yoga), journaling, and meditation, and eating a plant-heavy diet. Though she is mostly vegan (aside from the occasional piece of salmon or egg), Witt doesn’t proclaim it as the only way to eat. Instead, she encourages readers to incorporate more plant-based foods into their meals. Tips include how to order plant-based meals when eating out and they aren’t on the menu, how to build a well-stocked pantry, how to shop on a budget, and how to find the best exercise for one’s body and lifestyle. Witt also shares recipes for cilantro hummus, zucchini lasagna, a “sea-free” crab melt, and other dishes that will keep readers from missing their meat and dairy. Her peppy and empowering writing reads like a good friend giving advice, and her suggestions are practical and easy to implement. Readers thinking of making some positive changes should take a look. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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How to Grow a Baby: A Science-Based Guide to Nurturing New Life from Pregnancy to Childbirth and Beyond

Amy J. Hammer. Roost, $24.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-61180-870-4

“Knowing some of the why behind the sensations in my body and my baby’s behavior helped me foster tolerance, respect, and patience,” writes nurse Hammer in her encouraging debut. With the perspective that “information acts as a gateway to change and self-advocacy,” Hammer offers tips on pregnancy, dividing her counsel into three parts. There’s “getting ready to grow your baby,” in which she explains reproductive hormones and how to cultivate a healthy microbiome (move often, avoid starchy fried foods and sugar). In “conception, growing your baby, and birth,” she covers whole food nutrition (suggesting folate-rich foods) and how to avoid toxins (urging readers to swap vinegar for other typical cleaning product). “Growing your baby on the outside,” meanwhile, covers the physiology and social dynamics of breastfeeding, plus mental and emotional changes postpartum. Hammer’s frequent descriptions of her own pregnancy can feel awkwardly shoehorned in, but her explanations are empowering and easy to follow. And Michelle Lassaline’s color illustrations are a real treat; the small drawings, chapter frontispieces, and full-page infographics will catch readers’ eyes and do a great job of supplementing the text. Holistic-minded readers, doulas, and midwives will find this a resource worth returning to. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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This Must Be the Place: Dispatches & Food from the Home Front

Rachael Ray. Ballantine, $32 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-35721-7

Emmy Award–winning TV host Ray (Rachael Ray 50) gets personal with enticing recipes and stories from her home. When the 2020 pandemic forced people around the world to hunker down indoors, Ray’s only choice was to “let the world into my most private space, and record our show from my home.” Out of that time came some delicious recipes, but also the devastation of losing her home in upstate New York that summer to a fire. “This book,” she writes, “offers dispatches from what felt like the edge of reality.” Luckily for readers, there’s plenty of comfort to be found in Ray’s lighthearted stories—from moving into the guesthouse to enjoying Zoom “cook-alongs” with friends—and resourceful recipes: “What can you do with canned tuna or beans?” she asks. “The answer is, lots and lots!” Among the star dishes are popcorn chicken with white cheddar popcorn (perfect for a date with the couch), eggplant schnitzel with whipped honey, and halibut with creole sauce. Peppered in are helpful notes, prep hacks (to halve the cherry tomatoes for her steak niçoise in bulk, she slices a cup of them at a time laid out between two deli cup lids), “foodles” featuring recipes charmingly illustrated by Ray, and cocktail recipes (including a “filthy, dirty martini”) by her husband, John. Fans are in for a real treat. Agent: Celeste Fine, Park & Fine Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss: Hope and Healing When You’re No Longer Expecting

Kate White. Mayo Clinic, $18.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-893005-74-7

“This taboo against talking about pregnancy loss has gone on for way too long,” writes White, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Boston University School of Medicine, in her comprehensive and comforting debut. Despite how rarely discussed miscarriages are, she writes, they’re common, citing that around one in four recognized pregnancies doesn’t reach term. White takes readers through four stages of miscarriage: preparing (which features information about understanding one’s diagnoses), experiencing (in which she offers pain-management ideas such as wearing comfortable clothing and eating a light meal), healing (with grief-management tips), and moving forward—there’s a section for “special circumstances,” such as ectopic and molar pregnancies, too. Each chapter opens with a patient story, includes straightforward definitions of medical terms, and ends with a checklist of questions to ask health care providers. White walks readers through various procedures, and keeps the science accessible. Her gentle yet precise language will be a balm: “If you don’t want to see the baby after delivery, if you feel like it will just break your heart even further, there’s no reason to.” For readers who have experienced pregnancy loss, this is sure to be a welcome resource. Agent: Rita Rosenkranz, Rita Rosenkranz Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Under Coconut Skies: Feasts and Stories from the Philippines

Yasmin Newman. Smith Street, $35 (256p) ISBN 978-1-925811-68-1

“Food is [a Filipino’s] cultural language, crossing boundaries and imparting meaning not possible through words,” writes Newman (7000 Islands) in this inspiring cookbook filled with the flavors and history of her mother’s ancestral home. Here she peels back the layers of the land she loves with more than 60 Filipino recipes, and considers the rich cultural background of the internationally influenced food, “a cuisine characterised by a set of techniques” including preserving, steaming, roasting, and boiling. Each chapter includes a blend of personal stories from Newman and an appetizing offering of condiments, salads, main dishes, and desserts—all created using a flavor palate that leans heavy on coconut, ginger, turmeric, mint, rice, seafood, and pork. Highlights include sizzling wild mushrooms, a vegetarian take on a regional pork dish served as “beer food”; pumpkin curry with young coconut & snake beans, where freshly pressed coconut cream is the star; tropical pavlova with burnt vanilla and lychees, a stunning dessert blending European sensibilities with island ingredients; and lechon with shiitake and black rice stuffing, Newman’s reimagining of the whole roasted suckling pig (“there are few greater pleasures in life”) that serves as a traditional centerpiece for holiday meals. Whether readers are world travelers or adventuresome eaters, this is sure to enlighten and enchant. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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