Saturday, February 16, 2013

Eating Suburbia Cookbook Now Available!

You heard it right, there is a new cookbook by Mrs. B…and Brilliant Daughter. A loving collaboration between the two of us for friends and family, we’ve been able to make it available to the public on Amazon.

Named after this blog, Eating Suburbia is a follow-up to Eat · Drink · Merry, a cookbook that debuted in 2010. That first book—a compilation of family favorites—was a product of this blog and our love of food. Three years and hundreds of recipes later, this second book is following in those footsteps.

I had a blast working with Brilliant Daughter on recipe testing, formatting, design. And for those of you who have eaten in our home, you should easily figure out the impetus behind the cover design. This time around we made the cover very personal (and probably less commercial), paying homage to the 4x6’ chalkboard that hung in our kitchen for almost 15 years. Our “communications center,” this utilitarian wall d├ęcor served us well, keeping track of shopping lists, phone messages, chore duty, family contact information, and, during holidays, became an oversized greeting card for our guests. And although it was retired when we remodeled, the fond memories linger and became the inspiration.

The effort behind these cookbooks is to encourage cooks to break out of a cooking rut and spice up the kitchen with fresh ingredients and some foreign flavors. As I’ve said before, I believe that the world might be a better place if the canned veggies, packaged cookies, and oversweet jams were left on the shelves, and we spent a little time digging into the garden and flour bag and treating our families and ourselves to something better.

By sharing, we hope that someone will take the next step in the kitchen by trying to make mujadara, Guinness bread, a spicy tuna roll, or the perfect pecan pie, and know that it doesn’t have to be complicated and that the end result speaks for itself.

This book is comprised of eight sections: Breakfast, Appetizers, Lunch, Dinner, Sides, Quick & Easy, Desserts, and Odds & Ends. Sidebars contain tips on shortcuts, cooking ingredients and sources. There is a bonus section in the back that contains the 10 most treasured recipes from our first cookbook, Eat · Drink · Merry.

All recipes were tested in our suburban kitchens, without any fancy equipment (unless a candy thermometer and Kitchen Aid mixer count as fancy). All ingredients are easily sourced and the majority of the recipes take less than one hour. So what are you waiting for? Take a chance, make a change—your stomach will thank you for it.

To order Eating Suburbia, head on over to Amazon here.

If you don’t have our first book, it’s still available on Lulu here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thumbprint Cookies with a Twist

We are a household who will eat pretty much anything and we have few food allergies or intolerances, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try and please those who are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. We know quite a few people who prescribe to those diets and I think food should be just as tasty for them as it is the rest of the world.

For some time I have been hunting for a decent vegan cookie. One that I myself would eat and that wouldn’t take ingredients not already in my pantry. I finally found upon a recipe, that I modified slightly and am proud to blog about.

These thumbprint cookies use almond meal instead of flour. (Almond meal, as well as coconut oil, is available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.) The almond meal holds up well and provides for a sweetness that negates the use of traditional sweeteners. The small amount of maple syrup is just the right touch. Best of all, these are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Full Circle: A Thai Cooking Lesson

Many (many) moons ago, I worked on the very first book that Travelers’ Tales ever published, a travel anthology on Thailand. And while I’ve worked on over 100 books since that time, it remains my favorite. It was the first book to take me to a faraway exotic locale in a magical way that only really good writing can accomplish.

To celebrate the publication of that first book, and many more to come, I learned to cook Thai food. Inspired by a story by Kemp Miles Minifie about the cooking school at the famed Bangkok Oriental hotel, I went out and bought a wonderful cookbook by Vatcharin Bhumichitr and taught myself about galangal and nam pla, red and green curry, long beans and satay. This was back in 1992, before Thai food became mainstream, so I had nothing to compare it to.

Ten years later, the publishers wanted to update the book, and I found myself on a plane going halfway across the world to replicated Kemp’s experience. For ten days, my friend Jen Leo and I ate our way through Thailand. First at the Bangkok Oriental, where we had some supreme digs and I had 3 days of intensive cooking classes. (We floated on the Chao Phraya, wandered the streets, and had the opportunity to eat thai food at both street carts and fancy restaurants.) Then we went south to Phuket, to Mom Tri’s Boathouse, where we lounged on the beach, went sea kayaking, visited Koh Phi Phi (don’t you love these names?) and had another 2 days of cooking classes. I came away fat and happy.

Since that time, Thai cooking has been a part of my repertoire. And recently I had to privilege of sharing that with a friend. Jan retired two years ago, and as a gift I offered her a cooking lesson. Yes, she is of retirement age, and yes she can cook, but I was thinking of a fun activity we could share and bringing something new into her kitchen. So this week, we set to work and I was the teacher instead of the student.