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Pinch of Nom: 100 Home-Style Recipes for Health and Weight Loss

Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-26955-3

In this hit-and-miss outing, restaurateurs-turned-food-bloggers Allinson and Featherstone (Pinch of Nom Everyday Light) translate their approach to lighter eating to American audiences, though with a decidedly British feel. For example, they offer recipes for Full English Wraps (a burrito-esque take on the traditional English breakfast of sausage, eggs, baked beans, bacon, and tomatoes) as well as Yorkshire Pudding Wraps (the roast beef, mushrooms, and arugula are sautéed and placed on the “pudding,” a baked pita-like bread of flour, eggs, and skim milk). Basing their light approach solely on calorie count (neither author is a certified nutritionist or dietician), and using substitutions (margarine for butter, reduced-fat cheese, etc.) the duo offers pages of lighter riffs on favorites like oven-baked chicken fingers with DIY breadcrumbs; doner kebabs (made with low-fat beef, and served with low-fat yogurt); and chicken breasts and leeks in a sauce of blue cheese and low-fat cream cheese. Not all swaps are appetizing—crème brulee calls for skim milk and subs artificial sweetener for sugar to achieve its signature caramelized crust, and eclairs employ margarine, artificial sweetener, and self-rising flour for the classic choux dough and reduced-fat whipped cream in lieu of custard. Diners interested in incorporating lighter dishes into rotation may find a few winners here, but those serious about sensible, healthy weight loss will find better guidance elsewhere. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Walk, Jog, Run: A Free-Motion Quilting Workout

Dara Tomasson. C&T, $24.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-61745-915-3

Tomasson, who blogs about and teaches free-motion quilting, fills this auspicious debut with instructions on the craft of using sewing machines to stitch something other than straight lines onto a quilt. She suggests that quilters “think of free-motion quilting as doodling on fabric with thread” and, to emphasize this point, provides worksheets throughout to practice drawing possible quilt designs. First, though, she provides basic information about sewing machines, their power, speed, and throat size (the distance between the needle and the base of the machine). She wants quilters to profit from her experience but also from her mistakes, so she offers tips, such as using a finger to trace where one is going before putting needle and thread to fabric. Her other preferences include a topstitch needle and a clear darning foot, while design elements range from plain old straight-line quilting to paisleys and circuit boards; the projects she suggests include place mats, checker boards, and table runners. This helpful primer is largely for beginners but would well serve, as Tomasson says, veteran quilters stuck in a rut. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The M Word: How to Thrive in Menopause

Ginni Mansberg. Murdoch, $19.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1911632382

In informative, scientific, and often humorous language, physician Mansberg (How to Handle Your Hormones) presents a frank discussion of a variety of menopause symptoms and the many choices women have to relieve them. Measured and professional, Mansberg sets the record straight on the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that the media misinterpreted to say that hormone replacement treatment (HRT) caused breast cancer and which resulted in pharmaceutical companies abandoning menopause medication. Today, Mansberg notes, a reexamination of HRT reveals it as a viable treatment for some women. Mansberg passionately urges women to reject unproven treatments, such as detoxing, and to empower themselves through self-education on how the body changes during menopause. She also discusses the function of estrogen and progesterone; lifestyle changes that can reduce hot flashes; vaginal dryness and libido; incontinence; and the link between hormones and mood. Anecdotes from patients and friends provide real-life examples with appropriate treatment options. Perimenopausal and menopausal women, as well as health-care professionals, will appreciate the wealth of evidence, advice, and topics covered in Mansberg’s candid guide. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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See You On Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends

Sam Sifton. Random, $35 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6992-7

New York Times food editor Sifton delivers a lush and fun guide to creating memorable Sunday dinners for large groups of friends and family. Advising readers not to take Sunday dinners “too seriously” because they are “simply special occasions that are not at all extraordinary,” Sifton provides enhanced takes on such classic recipes as chicken Provençal, barbecued pork ribs, and calzones. The recipes are straightforward, and their introductions are both entertaining, thanks to Sifton’s lyrical prose (“The onion leaves a sweet whisper”), and helpful (he lists crab and pheasant as alternatives to chicken for his gumbo). Some of the less familiar options include roast goose with potatoes, sweet and sour brisket (the two key ingredients are soy sauce and Coca-Cola), and shrimp pizza with bacon and artichokes. Readers will also relish the advice Sifton offers, including how to keep plates warm (e.g., put the plates in the dishwasher and use the “plate warmer” function) and how to save money when purchasing meats (he suggests buying cheaper cuts that still pack lots of flavor, like pork butts). This is an excellent resource for family meals that readers will turn to time and again. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Fix-It and Forget-It Family Vacation Cookbook: Slow Cooker Meals for Your RV, Boat, Cabin, or Beach House

Hope Comerford. Good Books, $26.99 (284p) ISBN 978-1-68099-585-5

Home cooks on the road with limited storage and prep space are the intended audience for food blogger Comerford’s (Fix-It and Forget-It Holiday Favorites) collection of 150 simple recipes for the slow cooker solicited from fans. The slow cooker’s ease of use—the very definition of “fix-it and forget-it”—makes it a terrific choice for preparing dishes while traveling, as Comerford’s followers show time and again with dishes that often call for fewer than five ingredients, among them honey chicken thighs, chili-lime corn on the cob, sloppy joes, pulled pork, and a chocolate peanut butter swirl dump cake. This simplicity occasionally borders on the ludicrous, with “recipes” for Sweet N Sour Meatballs, consisting of frozen meatballs, grape jelly, and chili sauce; barbecued cocktail sausages (four packages of cocktail sausages and a bottle of barbecue sauce); chili-cheese taco dip (a pound of Velveeta, browned beef, and a can of chili); and hot dogs, in which readers are instructed to fill their slow cooker with as many hot dogs as they’d like and cook, then “serve in hot dog buns with your favorite toppings.” While the recipes themselves are thin, this volume just might be the answer to those traveling on a tight budget. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Chocolate Is Forever: Classic Cakes, Cookies, Pastries, Pies, Puddings, Candies, Confections, and More

Maida Heatter. Voracious, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-46014-9

A greatest-hits culled from the long career of the late Heatter (1916–2019) is collected in this enjoyable cookbook. Included are Heatter trademarks such as her favorite birthday cake (two flourless chocolate layers sandwiching whipped cream and topped with coffee-chocolate icing) and her famous Palm Beach brownies with Peppermint Patties. Instructions are solid and specific (readers are admonished, for instance, not to overdo the zigzagging when marbling a loaf cake), though the slightly amateurish drawings sometimes don’t capture Heatter’s precise finishing instructions. A retro feel is inevitable—Heatter recounts tracking down a chocolate soufflé cake recipe on the Upper East Side in 1980—but there’s sweet nostalgia to be found in three variations on chocolate fondue and old-fashioned fudge. Treats such as chocolate icebox cookies studded with almonds, and pots de crème are classics for good reason. Still, it might have been nice to have historical background on some of her recipes, such as when “the newest cheesecake,” based on Craig Claiborne’s, was actually new. Heatter remains an important figure in the American baking world, and reading her firm-but-friendly voice is like visiting with an old friend. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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How Babies Sleep: The Gentle, Science-Based Method to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

Sofia Axelrod. Atria, $16 trade paper (202p) ISBN 978-1-9821-1257-8

Axelrod, a biologist who studies sleep at the Rockefeller University, debuts with a straightforward manual for getting babies to sleep at least seven hours nightly at 16 weeks of age. Drawing on current research into circadian rhythms, Axelrod recommends a disciplined schedule from birth, with red lightbulbs (which don’t trigger the circadian system) and blackout curtains installed in the bedroom; prompt wake-ups that “make it clear—the day starts now!”; and shortened naps to ensure babies are sleepy by bedtime. Her method calls for letting babies, at three or four months, to cry for at least 90 seconds at night before parents respond, and for parents to soothe but not pick up or feed them throughout the night. Though Axelrod notes that research into why babies cry is still inconclusive, she asserts that, through concerted application of her system, babies can be taught to self-soothe after just a few days. Parents, especially first-time parents, may have a hard time buying her constant reiteration that this method is “gentle” despite being temporarily hard on parent and baby alike. Nonetheless, those exhausted by the vagaries of baby sleep will appreciate having a clearly explained and reassuring guide from an expert in the field. (May)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Garden Alchemy: 80 Recipes and Concoctions for Organic Fertilizers, Plant Elixirs, Potting Mixes, Pest Deterrents, and More

Stephanie Rose. Cool Springs, $22.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-7603-6709-4

Gardener Rose (Home Apothecary) offers up a fruitful assemblage of botanical knowledge, DIY project plans, herbal recipes, and tips for making one’s garden grow. Adopting an attitude that plants are the best teachers any gardener can have, Rose encourages readers to undertake their own course of observation, investigation, and experimentation to better understand their garden’s natural processes and what growing methods will work best in it. Rose introduces soil identification, propagation techniques, composting, fertilizers, and various garden friends and pests, using photos and well-organized charts to complement her concise explanations. Rose includes recipes for various soil mixes, birdseed, and garden “teas”—liquid fertilizers. Her pest repellents, tests for soil composition and pH levels, and other creations rely mostly on inexpensive household products. In the name of making plant propagation fun and easy, Rose provides creative ideas for seed-starting pots and seed bombs. Bursting with down-to-earth advice and imaginative concoctions, Rose’s comprehensive yet compact book will profit beginning and advanced gardeners alike. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Darning: Repair Make Mend

Hikaru Noguchi, trans. from the Japanese by Camille White. Quick Thorn, $29.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-912-48015-9

Knit designer Noguchi presents a helpful guide to darning aimed at environmentally conscious consumers who lack the know-how to repair worn-out clothing. She starts by describing the importance of this technique in the era before fast fashion, then introduces important supplies, such as darning mushrooms (so called for their bulbous appearance) and sticks (required for mending gloves and socks), and various threads. Twelve darning techniques are covered, from the most basic seed stitching over an area of fabric, to the more elaborate triangular darns and applique. Noguchi doesn’t show how to hide stitch fixes, and instead emphasizes an aesthetic of leaving mends obvious, in order to celebrate the darner’s handiwork. Some of these darning solutions are beautiful in their own right, such as the beaded, appliquéd rounds that mend tears at the back of a delicate dress, and the “spiral tambourine darn” using Japanese paper yarn on a straw hat. A few fixes look a little awkward, but for the most part, Noguchi’s tips are on point. With the onset of the slow clothing movement, Noguchi’s clearly explained and gently encouraging manual will find an enthusiastic readership. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Showstopping BBQ with Your Traeger Grill: Standout Recipes for Your Wood Pellet Cooker

Ed Randolph. Page Street, $21.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-62414-983-2

In this approachable, though brand-specific cookbook, pitmaster Randolph (Smoked) focuses on Traeger grills, which allow the griller to “smoke, grill, and even bake with a turn of the dial.” Randolph illustrates the use of the grills (the outdoor grill/smoker is plugged into an outlet and fueled by wood pellets, which can be automatically fed into the flames from an attached dispenser), and, as for the recipes, Randolph offers classic barbecue fare that is easy to assemble and prepare: bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos, beer can chicken, coffee-rubbed tri-tip steak, brisket, grilled Mexican street corn, and candied bacon among them. Experienced grillers will appreciate Randolph’s inclusion of dishes that benefit from the smoky treatment, with recipes for citrus-brined Cornish hens; cheesy smoked grits; blackberry-glazed pork tenderloin; coconut-caramel sweet potatoes; grilled sardines with garlic, lemon, paprika, and parsley on ciabatta; and sweet-and-spicy smoked pecans. While gas and charcoal barbecuers might pick up a new trick or two here, this volume will be of most use to Traeger owners. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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