Tag Archives: Cook by the Book @ WPL

Stress-less Cooking

cookbythebookWhat will we do when we find ourselves, stumble over ourselves, encounter ourselves, once again, in the kitchen?”   Dana Velden

Eating is something we all have to do, but in order to eat, we must cook – or get take out! But really, who can afford that everyday? Everyone’s lives are so busy these days, and cooking often becomes a tedious and stressful activity. If you’re feeling uninspired in the kitchen, check out Dana Velden’s book, Finding Yourself in the Kitchen; Kitchen meditations and Inspired Recipes from a Mindful Cook. The author recounts her time living in a Buddhist monastery and working in their Zen kitchen, where she re-discovered the simple joy of being in the kitchen, creating a meal. If that doesn’t work, have a look at the Cook by the Book’s latest cookbook reviews!

Harriet Chicken dishHarriet liked the straight forward and easy approach of Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking by Jessica Gavin. Harriet Buttermilk biscuits #2The book provides the science behind slow cooking which was helpful in making the Honey Hoisin Garlic Chicken. The Flaky Buttermilk biscuits turned out really well and were very tasty.


kerry2Kerry discovered that deep frying a Reuben sandwich is a terrible idea! The Spicy Hot Russian dip that accompaniedKerry1 the sandwich was really good, though, and so was the Tangy Lemon Chicken from Bruce Weinstein’s The Kitchen Shortcut Bible.

Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients Quick & Easy Food cookbook has lots of pictures of all the ingredients you need, which Sandra really liked. She tried the Lemony Zucchini Linguine recipe, which was so easy to make and delicious!

Jackie kungpaoEasy Chicken Dishes by Addie Gundry uses a lot of prepared foods and dairy and very little seasoning, which Jackie didn’t like. Jackie lemonThe Kung Pao Chicken was easy, but required a lot of chopping and could have been spicier, although the heat did build when it was sampled the next day. Unfortunately, they couldn’t taste the lemon in the Lemon Chicken.

Anita pastaAnita loved the gorgeous pictures in Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry and appreciated the simple recipes that all take under 20 minutes to prepare. This book is all about comfort food and the Rigatoni Pasta was the BEST THING EVER!


The New Easy by Donna HayPrasanna pork contains a lot of unusual ingredients, but Prasanna would recommend this cookbook. She liked that the author shows how one recipe can be revamped and used for other occasions. The Sticky Korean pork with apple and cucumber pickle took 20 minutes to put together and was really good.

Shirley scallopsShirley enjoyed the little jokes that The Best of Bridge are known for in their latest Weekday Suppers cookbook. With new writers on board, you’ll find this cookbook is more adventurous than their previous books. The Thai Scallops Stir Fry turned out very well.


Tatiana dipTatiana drinkAlton Brown’s Everydaycook features what the chef likes to cook for himself. Tatiana tried the Sardine dip and the Barley Water, which is purported to be very good for you. She didn’t like that you discard the barley at the end, which seemed a bit of a waste.

Joanne lasagnaJoanne loved Uncomplicated by Claire Tansey and would gladly pay full price for it! It contains the best Bran muffin recipe she has ever had, as well as this delicious Ravioli Lasagne, with a tasty tomato sauce.


Cathi2Cathi dessertAll New Fresh Food Fast has beautiful pictures, but called for a lot of ingredients Cathi didn’t have on hand. She tried several recipes, including the Steamed Halibut with Leeks (fabulous!) and the Peanut Butter Truffles with Ritz Crackers (not so fabulous!)

Sherri turkey soupSherri tomato soupThe Turkey Spaetzle Soup and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup from Fast From Scratch Meals by Betty Crocker, were simple to follow, with ingredients on hand and they were both delicious. The cookbook has tasty recipes that are simple to follow.  It’s a great cookbook for preparing after work meals with fresh ingredients and kitchen staples. Sherri also tried the Greek burgers, which were a big hit with her family.

Lynda Tofu Bahn Mi cutLynda Fideos with Chickpeas2The recipes in Dinner Illustrated from America’s Test Kitchen all take 1 hour or less to prepare and were really easy to make. Lynda and Maureen pickled their own vegies for the Tofu Ban Mi and declared the recipe a keeper. For the Fideos with Chickpeas they toasted the pasta first, giving it a nutty flavour. This recipe is a close cousin to Paella.

Cathy udonCathy shrimpCathy liked that The Smart Dinner by Betty Crocker used ingredients she already had at home and gave lots of substitutions. The Udon Noodle Bowl was a little too spicy for her taste, but the Spicy Chili Garlic Shrimp Pasta was excellent.

carole turkeyThe Eggplant and Turkey Stir fry from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy was full of flavour and is definitely a dish I would make again. The cookbook is a typical celebrity cookbook with lots of pictures of Gwyneth and her family, but I have to say I liked all of the recipes I tried.

Happy cooking!



Cook by the Book: Soup’s On!

Vegetables and cheese“To feel safe and warm on a cold, wet night, all you really need is soup.”
Laurie Colwin

Soup: the ultimate comfort food. It warms you up on a cold winter night and even has the power to fight the common cold. You can make it as simple or as complex as you like and it’s very adaptable. You can also throw it in the slow cooker or let it simmer on the stove all afternoon, while you attend to more important things – like that book you just picked up from the library.

Some very creative people have come up with great ways to share their love of soup – from Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers, providing care and comfort with hot bowls of soup to women and children in shelters, to “Soup Nights” popping up in neighborhoods across the country. Soup Night is all about building community, through soup. Once a month, one house on the street hosts a soup night, making large quantities of soup. The neighbors provide the salad, bread and dessert and also their own bowls and spoons. It’s a wonderful way to get to know your neighbours and helps people feel less isolated: “Soup night has become a way for people to come together when it’s cold outside, and it’s created a community on this block in ways that no one could have anticipated.” (Jessie Mindlin, Portland).

There’s also the Soup Peddler, David Ansel, from Austin, Texas, who started delivering soup on his bicycle and became so popular that he had to hire a whole fleet of bicycle peddlers to keep up with demand.

One of our own Cookbook Club members has been working on soup recipes for two years, with her sister. They want to create a compilation of 52 soups – a different soup to try each week for a year. Here is Tanise’s favourite French Onion soup recipe:

FRENCH ONION SOUP – makes 6 servings

1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 ½ lbs. onions, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. sugar
6 ¼ cups beef stock
1 ½ tbsp. all purpose flour
2/3 cup sherry
Salt & Pepper
Gruyere cheese, shredded
Day old bread slices or sliced baguette (optional)


  1. Melt butter with oil in a large pot. Add onions and stir to coat them.  Cook over medium heat until onions begin to soften (20 or more minutes depending on the size of the pot).
  2. Stir in thyme. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook the onions for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and golden yellow.
  3. Uncover pot, increase the heat slightly and stir in the sugar. Cook until the onions start to brown (15 to 20 minutes).
  4. Increase heat slightly, stirring frequently, until onions turn a deep, golden brown (30 minutes).
  5. Bring stock to boil in another pot. Stir the flour into the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the hot stock and sherry. Season soup. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. For those who like the bread slice in their soup, put a piece of day old bread or baguette slice into the individual onion soup bowl. Cover with the soup and top with shredded gruyere cheese. Put under broil and broil until cheese is bubbling and melted.

Additional Comments:

  • This soup yields a thick soup. Those preferring more broth in their onion soup are advised to use 7 cups of broth.
  • A large soup or stockpot is needed for this recipe.  Vegetarians can replace the beef stock with a hearty vegetable stock that has a deep flavour (attained through somewhat caramelizing the vegetables before adding the water).

If you’re interested in the history of soup, check out An Exaltation of Soups by Patricia Solley. It has soup recipes for just about every occasion you can think of – from celebrating marriage to honoring the dead, and is also full of interesting stories, poetry and quotes.

Here’s the rest of the cookbooks that Cook by the Book tried for Soup’s On night, with our photos of the finished product. Mmmmm!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And the links:


Cook By the Book: My Berlin Kitchen

Vegetables and cheese

“Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home”

This month we decided to take inspiration from Luisa Weiss’ My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes). Weiss is the creator of the Wednesday Chef blog, based on her experience cooking her way through her large collection of recipes clipped from the newspaper. As a child, Weiss spent the school year with her father in Boston and summer vacations with her mother in Berlin, always missing the other parent. As an adult she lived in Paris and New York until she finally settled in Berlin. Through cooking, Weiss found she was able to close the distance between her family and friends. By re-creating her father’s “Depression stew” or her Italian Uncle’s pizza, she was able to connect to her memories of home, wherever she might be. The book is full of simple, heart warming food that will make you think of your own cherished family recipes.

All of our chosen cookbooks are connected to My Berlin Kitchen in some way. The selection focused on Italian, German and French cooking, as well as chefs mentioned in the book. One good book often leads to another! Madeleine and Audrey chose French cookbooks and made classic dishes, such as crepes and Salad Niçoise. Lynda has been a long time fan of Valerie Bertinelli, so she selected her Italian cookbook and found it was a very fun book to read. Elaine also went with an Italian cookbook and had mixed results with her dishes. The soup was a success, but the gnocchi was not worth the amount of work and dirty dishes required. Jackie and Tanise went with the German theme, making hearty dishes like red cabbage and a traditional Raspberry jam roll. Shelley will never buy canned black beans again after trying Deb Perelman’s recipe for Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout. Virginia made the beautiful lemon preserves for her Spicy Potato Tagine and declared the recipes are “keepers.” Jacques Pepin’s massive collection of his 700 favourite recipes was compared to The Joy of Cooking, by Ed, who focused on a poached trout dish. If you’re planning any weekends in the Hamptons, Mary has the perfect cookbook for you, The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook.  It features New York Times food writers and their favourite dishes to make, while relaxing at their second homes.

I really enjoyed Melissa Clark’s stories that accompany each of her recipes and I think it’s the first time I’ve liked a cookbook without pictures. Clark claims that Kate’s Impossibly Fudgy Brownies with chili and sea salt will change your life. I’m not so sure about that, but they are definitely one of the best brownies I’ve ever made and have already become one of my family favourites.

Cook by the Book: Local Summer Fruit

With summer approaching and a bounty of fresh, local fruit to look forward to, we invited Getty Stewart to speak at our Cookbook Club. Getty is the energetic founder of the Fruit Share program in Winnipeg and the author of the Prairie Fruit Cookbook. Fruit Share harvests and shares surplus fruit, with one third going to the homeowner, one third to the volunteers and one third to Community Groups.


Getty’s love of fruit led her to start the Fruit Share program in 2010. That year, with just 10 volunteers, they harvested 1,694 lbs of fruit. Last year they were able to harvest 10,108 lbs with 240 volunteers and they have expanded to Brandon and Steinbach. Getty is very active in her community and has received several awards for her work including the Oxfam Female Food Hero award and The Golden Carrot Award for Media Community Food Champion. Her cookbook was voted #1 on CBC’s Cross Country Cookbook Shelf, and it was also listed on McNally Robinson’s Best of the West Non-Fiction for 2012.

Getty never set out to write a cookbook… it started out as a simple handout with a few recipes using local fruit. After many hours of research and recipe testing on family and friends, it grew into a 226 page cookbook featuring 11 different prairie fruits. It’s a wonderful cookbook that provides useful information on harvesting, storing, preserving and cooking local fruits. All of the recipes use ingredients that most cooks will already have in their pantry. Everyone was really pleased with the recipes they tried, especially the Chocolate Pear Tart in a Chocolate Almond Crust. Here are just a few of the recipes that we tried:

If you’ve never tried canning or preserving, why not make this the year you do! The Library has a great collection of books on the subject, including Getty’s, so drop by your local branch and have a look.



Cook by the Book is a book club for foodies! Based on the monthly theme, members choose a cookbook available at the library and then make one or two recipes at home. We all take pictures of our culinary creations and then get together to share our experience – good or bad – with the group. Registration is full for this session, but we’ll start up again in the Fall. Watch for details in the September issue of @ the Library.

Cook by the Book: CAKES!

“A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life.” – from Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

Eat CakeLike Ruth in Eat Cake, I love to bake. Measuring ingredients, mixing them up and creating a delicious treat for others can be very satisfying. May’s cake theme led to some interesting discussions about the differences between cake flour and regular flour. (Cake flour has less protein, so it absorbs less moisture, resulting in lighter cakes). We also learned that animal bone char is sometimes used in the processing of sugar, a fact that was confirmed on the Rogers Sugar website.

Fortunately, the beet sugar available in Manitoba appears to come from their Alberta plant, so it is free of bone char.

If you’re a novice baker, you might want to try Piece of Cake by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Judy served three cakes to guests and their favourite one was the Five Spice Mandarin cake. Robin also chose a cookbook by Saulsbury and was similarly pleased. The Pumpkin Pound cake was so good, she and her husband managed to eat half of it in one sitting – no icing necessary. If you are an icing lover, try the easy icing for the Lazy Daisy Sheet cake. It’s a yummy combination of coconut, whipping cream, and pecans.

For Vegans, try the silken tofu icing from Have Your Cake and Vegan too by Kris Holechek.  And if you’re not ready to give up your dairy products try the Mojito Pound Cake – it has one pound of butter in the icing! Lynda really liked the flavours in this rum and mint infused cake. Mary enjoyed the old time recipes from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson and shared her lemon streamliner cake with the group – delicious!

Baking gluten free can often be a challenge, as Tanise discovered. She wasn’t impressed with the coconut cupcakes from Gluten Free Cupcakes by Elana Amsterdam. She even made them twice, thinking maybe she had made a mistake the first time, but they still didn’t turn out. Ingrid also went gluten free, adapting her recipe with quinoa flour. Step-by-Step Cakes by Caroline Bretherton has great pictures and easy to follow instructions, but Elaine found the British measurements a little frustrating to use and also noted that British cakes tend to be denser and sweeter than we’re used to.

Ready to get out your mixing bowls? Drop by your local branch to check out any of these titles.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cook by the Book is a book club for foodies! Based on the monthly theme, members choose a cookbook available at the library and then make one or two recipes at home. We all take pictures of our culinary creations and then get together to share our experience – good or bad – with the group. Registration is full for this session, but we’ll start up again in the Fall. Watch for details in the September issue of @ the Library.

Our newest Book Club: Cook by the Book

Vegetables and cheese

Welcome to Winnipeg Public Library’s newest book club & blog – Cook by the Book – a book club for foodies!

Here’s how it works: members of Cook by the Book choose a cookbook available at the library, based on the monthly theme, and then make one or two recipes at home. We all take pictures of our culinary creations, and then we get together to share our experience – good or bad – with the group.

The theme for our first meeting was Favourite Food Network Stars. Most of us were pretty happy with our results, but there were a few flops – skip Guy’s Caesar salad! Our discussions ranged from trying truffle oil for the first time to lusting after Michael Smith’s pantry. I also discovered there’s a great butcher in St. Vital and that you can get hard-to-find Mexican ingredients on Sargent Ave.  I think we were all impressed that Tanise did her own “throwdown” with her friends,  using the Philly cheesesteak recipes from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown. We finished off the evening with pear cake with bacon caramel sauce – I know it sounds weird, but really, how can you go wrong with bacon?

Here’s the pictures we took and cookbooks we tried:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Food Network Favorites
Cooking from the Hip
Fresh with Anna Olson
Kitchen: recipes from the heart of the home
Guy Fieri food: more than 150 off-the-hook recipes
Weeknights with Giada: quick and simple recipes to revamp dinner
Sandra Lee semi-homemade cooking made light
Diners, drive-ins, and dives: an All-American road trip– with recipes!
Lynn Crawford’s Pitchin’ in: more than 100 recipes from simple ingredients

All of these titles are available at Winnipeg Public Library, so check at your local branch if you’re interested in trying out some new recipes.

Registration is full for this session, but we’ll start up again in the Fall. Watch for details in the September issue of @ the Library.