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Guittard Chocolate Cookbook Review

Guittard Chocolate Cookbook: Decadent Recipes from
San Francisco’s Premium Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Company

by Amy Guittard
(Chronicle Books, 2015)

Review by Kristina Sepetys

If you love chocolate, and it’s the rare person who doesn’t, and you also love to cook, it’s going to be hard to pass up a cookbook with cakes, bars, cookies, ice creams, and other treats celebrating the dark-brown, sultry sweet. And when that cookbook comes from Guittard, the company making a line of deeply flavorful and nuanced chocolate favored by many of the world’s best bakers, confectioners, and ice cream makers, why resist?

Author Amy Guittard oversees all marketing activities at the Guittard Chocolate Company. Her great-great-grandfather Etienne migrated from France during the California Gold Rush to mine for gold, packing chocolate to trade for supplies. As it turned out, his chocolate trade was a more lucrative venture than panning for gold. So he moved to San Francisco and founded Guittard Chocolate, the oldest continuously family-owned and -operated chocolate company in the United States. Guittard produces bean-to-bar chocolate, which means they source their own beans and process them into the bars or chocolate pieces you find in stores.

Not surprisingly, given the author’s personal tie to the chocolate, the Guittard Chocolate Cookbook contains a lot of family history, together with 60 of the Guittards’ favorite recipes using a variety of different chocolate grades and products.… Read More

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Lunchbox Solutions

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet:
Make Lunches Your Kids Will Love with
More than 200 Deliciously Nutritious Meal Ideas 

by Laura Fuentes
(Fair Winds Press, 2014)

With seven chapters, recipes to suit every age, and sections to record likes and dislikes, Fuentes presents nearly a full school year’s worth of simple, healthful recipes for lunches and breakfasts. Recipes include entire lunch meals that are gluten-, soy-, and/or nut-free. The author, founder of the healthy school lunch site MOMables, shares recipes like Smashed Chickpea Sandwich, Baked Raviolis, and Oatmeal Raisin Granola Bars.


Best Lunch Box Ever:
Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love 

by Katie Sullivan Morford
(Chronicle Books, 2013)

Quick and simple solutions for wholesome, balanced meals developed by a registered dietitian, mother of three, and award-winning blogger. The 65 recipes are easy, delicious, and packed with nutrients for well-rounded lunches and snacks like Deconstructed Caprese Skewers, Easy Cheesy Thermos Beans, Pesto Pita Pizza, Cinnamon Wonton Crisps, Parmesan Kale Chips, and Crispy Applewiches. Colorful, close-up photographs will appeal to children and adults.

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Sustainable Picnic!

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Long, warm summer days are a great time to load up your picnic basket and head out to the seashore, mountaintop, or woodland glade to celebrate with friends or enjoy a quiet meal alone in the beautiful outdoors. These three new titles will help you to plan and pack a sumptuous and waste-efficient en plein air feast using the abundance of wholesome, colorful produce on offer at local markets.


The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Blanket to Basket
by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson
(Artisan, 2015)

The authors are friends, food writers, and founders of the Portland Picnic Society in Oregon. In addition to practical planning advice (innovative uses for reuseable Mason jars, how to find the perfect blanket, must-have items in the basket to accompany each dish), you’ll find dozens of delicious recipes for dishes made to travel. Enjoy inspired combinations like Rainbow Carrots with Smoky Paprika Vinaigrette, Kale Panzanella with Burnt Lemon Caesar Dressing, Blue Ribbon Tomato Pie, Smoky Tea-Brined Fried Chicken, Petite Pavlovas with Limey Roasted Rhubarb, and Strawberry Shrub Sparklers. Charmingly illustrated with drawings by Emily Isabella.


Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook:
A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money by Wasting Less Food
by Dana Gunders
(Chronicle Books, 2015) 

Berkeley resident Dana Gunders is a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council working to reduce food waste.… Read More

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Kitchen and Garden Inspiration Book

review by Kristina Sepetys

The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook:
Fresh-from-the-Garden Recipes for Gatherings

by the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and Olivia Rathbone
(Chelsea Green, 2015)

Out along the Bohemian Highway, on twisting, bucolic Coleman Valley Road in West Sonoma County you’ll find the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. Established in 1994, the 80-acre Center works with schools, public agencies, Native American tribes, social justice organizations, and others to develop ecological literacy and to promote sustainability and community living. The owners and their children live communally on site.

A centerpiece of the organization is the organic “mother garden,” a living collection of more than 3,000 rare food crop varieties and multi-use plants. The garden produces enough organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers for thousands of meals each year. One of the favorite offerings is the 100-ingredient Mother Garden Biodiversity Salad Mix, made of heirloom lettuce, specialty kales, edible flowers, and common garden weeds.

Growing and eating food is one of the best ways to build and celebrate community, so it’s not surprising that these activities are an important part of life at the Center. Stories about people and activities there are woven throughout the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook, a beautifully photographed collection of 200 seasonal vegetarian recipes.… Read More

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 Photo by Ed Anderson

Photo by Ed Anderson

Twelve Recipes

Twelve-RecipesBerkeley resident and longtime Chez Panisse chef Cal Peternell’s book Twelve Recipes (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2014), is a New York Times best seller and the recipient of the 2015 IACP Award in the General Cookbook category. It’s earned these accolades because it’s a thoroughly charming, personal book and a very useful and accessible introduction to the kitchen and cooking. Peternell wrote the book for his son when he was leaving for college. The 12 recipes of the title are for basic dishes he and his son had prepared together over the years, like eggs, beans, pasta, rice, potatoes, salads, soups, and toast, together with the innumerable ways these simple dishes and ingredients can be reworked in equally simple ways. Thick, soft toast with white beans or braised greens, for example. Or kedgeree, an eggy “leftovers masterpiece.” In addition to excellent recipes, colorful, creative illustrations and photographs of food, family, and home provided by Peternell’s artist-wife, Kathleen Henderson and his sons, all artists, complement the recipes. As Alice Waters says in her introduction, the book is “a celebration of family and home and deliciousness.”

—Kristina Sepetys

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How to Save Water Inside and Outside Your Home

We’re all well aware of the drought conditions plaguing California by now, but learning more about how to use water in a sustainable way, minimizing waste, is a higher priority than ever before in many of our lives. Here are two books that provide ideas and instruction for using the valuable resource more efficiently inside our homes and in our gardens, whether we want to begin with small changes or tackle more comprehensive water system transformation.


The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture,
and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape

by Laura Allen
(Storey Publishing, 2015)

“Do you want to use less water? Capture rainwater falling from the sky? Redirect water from your shower to irrigate the landscape? Improve the health of rivers and creeks in your community? If so, this book is for you,” begins Laura Allen, founder of Greywater Action, in her comprehensive how-to handbook, which explains how to use water to avoid waste, save money, reduce wear on your septic system, and meet your home and garden needs. Allen describes proven conservation techniques, explains how to create a water-wise landscape, and provides illustrated, step-by-step instructions for setting up a waterless composting toilet as well as systems to reuse greywater and harvest rainwater.… Read More

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What’s Old is New Again: Beyond Whole Wheat and Back to Ancient Grains

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Shopping around the East Bay, you may be noticing more whole-grain choices like quinoa, Kamut (a long-cultivated Iranian wheat, Khorasan, that’s been trademarked), teff (a highly nutritious Ethiopian/Eritrean gluten-free grain), three farro wheats (einkorn, emmer, and spelt), freekeh, millet, and a host of others. Many are called “ancient grains” because they’ve fed people in their current form, unchanged by breeding or modification, for millennia. In fact, not all are truly grains. Some, like quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice, and amaranth, are seeds from grasses, but can be prepared like grains. Many varieties of grains and seeds are gluten-free and rich in fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, a welcome option, particularly to people seeking to avoid gluten and replace empty, refined carbohydrates with more nutritious alternatives. Some cooks maintain that traditional practices of soaking, fermenting, and sprouting increase the bioavailability of nutrients in grains, making them easier to digest, faster to prepare, and generally better tasting. Traditional grains bring new textures and flavors to dishes. More information and a great variety of recipes incorporating these tasty, healthful staples can be found in these new titles.


Simply Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes
for Living Well
by Maria Speck
(Ten Speed Press, 2015)

Food journalist, author of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, and grain-guru Maria Speck has a new collection of recipes for nourishing breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, most of which are gluten-free and vegetarian.… Read More

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Eating Plant-Strong!

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

The choice to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet might be for health reasons, such as to control weight, blood pressure, or cholesterol. For some, it might be to honor personal commitments to living sustainably. Many people who follow plant-intense diets are interested in choosing varied and balanced ingredients to ensure proper nutrition and maintenance of good health. The cookbooks below share different personal approaches to nutritious, satisfying, plant-based eating. Visit our bookshelf for additional reviews of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks.


My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season
by Sarah Britton
(Clarkson Potter, 2015)

Sarah Britton, a holistic nutritionist and popular blogger, is a strong proponent for cooking with fresh, locally grown produce. Her debut cookbook shares 100 of her favorite plant-based recipes, all beautifully photographed. Britton and her blog have attracted legions of followers—vegetarians, vegans, paleo practitioners, and gluten-free gourmets alike—eager to try her creative, adaptable, easily managed, and healthy dishes. In My New Roots, Britton assembles many of these recipes and describes the preparation techniques that are best in drawing out the most healthful and delicious properties of these foods. Follow the rhythms of the growing seasons with dishes like Freekeh Pancakes with Wilted Swiss Chard and Poached Eggs; Shaved Turnip and Radish Salad with Poppyseed Dressing; Dandelion Greens with Ghee-Poached Radishes and Smoked Salt; Black Lentil Salad with Tzatziki, Avocado, and Pea Shoots; and Apricot Rhubarb Clafoutis.… Read More

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Wild Local Flavor

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

We’re enjoying an exceptionally lovely springtime, especially for a drought year. Tender new shoots and colorful flowers are pushing themselves up through the ground on area hillsides, pathways, and even between cracks in the sidewalk cement. You might be surprised to discover how much of what you’re seeing is edible. There’s a lot of good eating to be had out there, but be mindful not to take too much and harvest sustainably.

California Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles
from Evergreen Huckleberries to Wild Ginger
by Judith Larner Lowry
Timber Press, 2014

In the latest entry in the excellent foraging guide series from Timber Press, Judith Larner Lowry, proprietor of Larner Seeds and wild foods expert and nature writer, has assembled a well-photographed, alphabetized guide to foraging along the coasts, mountains, deserts, and everywhere else in California. The guide includes tips for finding, identifying, sustainably gathering, and preparing wild foods. You may recognize many of the 120 plants profiled, like the angled onion, with its subtle garlic-onion flavor and edible white flowers, that spreads profusely in overgrown yards and along roadsides in the spring; or the lovely, dainty vetch that grows in local parks and other open spaces, looks a bit like a sweet pea, and can be used in salads or sprinkled on soups.… Read More

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Books for home gardeners

How does your garden grow?

Reviewed by Kristina Sepetys


Companion_PlantingThe Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting:
An Easy, Organic Way to Deter Pests, Prevent Disease, Improve Flavor,
and Increase Yields in Your Vegetable Garden
by Josie Jeffery
(Ten Speed Press, 2014)

Companion planting places two or more plants in close proximity to use their synergies to optimize pest control, pollination, habitat for beneficial creatures, use of space, productivity, and to avoid the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizer. It’s a time-honored concept, practiced in the cottage gardens of England, home gardens of Asia, and ancient fields of Mesoamerica. Jeffery’s handy, easy-to-follow wire-bound book includes a split-page, mix-and-match system with lots of photos, to allow readers to quickly determine which vegetables, fruits, and herbs grow best with one another.




Straight_from_the_EarthStraight from the Earth: Irresistible Vegan Recipes for Everyone
by Myra Goodman and Marea Goodman
with photographs by Sara Remington
(Chronicle Books, 2014)

Authors are the mother and daughter from the family that raised Earthbound Farm from humble beginnings on a 2.5-acre backyard raspberry farm into one of America’s largest growers of organic produce, a company Michael Pollan recognizes as “industrial organic farming at its best.” Myra is a devoted home cook.… Read More

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