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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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The Nourishing Homestead

Review by Kristina Sepetys

As springs bursts out all over, thoughts turn to gardens, new baby chicks, the delights of young spring produce, and hand-crafting specialty foods. Some may wonder how to dig more deeply into these pursuits to honor the seasons, and to live and eat closer to the earth and in community. A new book by Ben and Penny Hewitt describes the resourceful, interdependent life they’ve built on their small farm in northern Vermont, shares lessons learned, and encourages others to find balance and joy in their work and lives.

The Nourishing Homestead:
One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Souls and Spirit

by Ben and Penny Hewitt
(Chelsea Green, 2015)

Writer Ben Hewitt was raised in northern Vermont in a two-room cabin on a 160-acre homestead in Cabot, a dairy farming part of the state. He eventually bought 40 acres of his own with his wife, Penny, not far from where he grew up. They built their own house, powered with a windmill and solar photovoltaic panels, and carved out a small-scale hill farm. They homeschool their sons, keep cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens, and maintain extensive gardens. They also keep a small orchard with nut and fruit trees, forage for wild edibles, and make the most of their harvest by processing meat, making butter, and fermenting, drying, and canning produce.… Read More

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Food: The Best Medicine!

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Deliciously Ella: 100+ Easy, Healthy,
and Delicious Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes
by Ella Woodward
(Scribner, 2015)

London-based Ella Woodward writes the food blog Deliciously Ella. At 19, Woodward was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, a breakdown of the autonomic nervous system, a condition she attributes to a poor diet. Bedridden, in chronic pain, and plagued by heart palpitations and headaches, Woodward decided to change her diet when conventional medicine offered no relief. The self-taught cook stopped eating meat, gluten, dairy, refined sugar, chemical additives, and processed foods, and taught herself to make plant-based meals from unprocessed ingredients. The effects were immediate. Symptoms disappeared, her energy returned, and she was able to stop medication. Her cookbook shares her story and many of her most popular recipes, like Beetroot Carpaccio and Sweet Potato Brownies.


The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body
by Sarah Ballantyne
(Victory Belt Publishing, 2014)

Dr. Sarah Ballantyne has trained in immunity and inflammation-related health problems. She was herself plagued by serious health issues, which led her to the paleo diet, avoiding carbohydrates, glutens, refined sugars, grains, and other irritants. She now blogs as “Paleo Mom” and is a bestselling cookbook author, in addition to being widely published in the medical literature.… Read More

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Hungry for Satisfaction

by Kimber Simpkins

I wrote my memoir out of a desperate desire to stop feeling empty all the time. I knew I had no good reason to be hungry, but that didn’t stop my belly from wanting more. I’d finish every bite of steamed greens, rice, and roasted vegetables—and even a bowl of hearty miso soup—so why did I feel like ordering a second round? The food was fresh and nourishing, arranged to please my eyes and taste buds. Why didn’t I feel satisfied?

I was friends with the Full Belly farmers at the market where I bought my lettuce and tomatoes. I’d even slept in the walnut orchard, listening to the coyotes talk to each other across the valley. Eating some of the most delicious, most thoughtfully tended produce on the planet, it was clear my lack of satiety was not the fault of the vegetables that filled my weekly CSA box.


Author Kimber Simpkins

Somehow I had missed out on the idea that pleasure needs to be invited to the table. The heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil piled high on the market tables deserved my full appreciation—in fact, they demanded it. I could pile the tomatoes, basil, goat cheese, and olive oil on the bread and do the same old thing of tuning into the distractions of my mind while my mouth automatically chewed and swallowed, while my inner critic honed its objections to all the fat and carbs.… Read More

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Fabulous Ferments and Delicious Dried Foods!

By Kristina Sepetys

People have been drying and fermenting foods for flavor, storage, and good health since time immemorial. Food preservation techniques offer inexpensive, easily managed ways to avoid letting food go to waste. Find yourself with more greens or fruits than you can use this week? Put ’em up! Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Preservation and Phyllis Hobson’s Making and Using Dried Foods are two seminal how-to books on the subject, but here are some new books that make excellent companions to your dog-eared copies of those classics. You’ll find recipes, tips for success, and updated resource lists.

The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods: Preserve Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, and Meat with a Dehydrator, a Kitchen Oven, or the Sun
by Teresa Marrone
(Storey, 2014)

Make your own nonperishable pantry, lunchbox, and backpack staples, and avoid the sulfites typically found in dried foods that can provoke migraines. Food writer Teresa Marrone is author of many field guides and cookbooks. She’s also an avid camper, which helped hone her dehydration skills. Her comprehensive guide is chock full of useful instructions for dehydrating just about every kind of fruit and vegetable using your own oven (preferably convection), a dehydrator, or the sun.… Read More

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Good Food, Great Business

Good Food, Great Business: How to Take Your Artisan Food Idea from Concept to Marketplace
by Susie Wyshak
(Chronicle Books, 2014)

Review by Kristina Sepetys

Susie Wyshak

Oakland Author and Food Strategist, Susie Wyshak
Photo Courtesy of Chronicle Books

Home cooks are often told their homemade sweet or savory specialty item is so amazingly delicious they should consider selling it. For those who let their imaginations travel down that path, the initial prospect may seem exciting. But the scene can quickly turn daunting when faced with the reality of sorting out the particulars. Where do I start? How do I raise money? Price products? The devil is in the details, and those details can seem overwhelming and quickly lead would-be entrepreneurs to give up their vision and stick to cooking for friends and family.

Enter Susie Wyshak, a business strategist in Oakland, California, who spent many years working in the artisanal food industry. She’s also a connector who likes to help fledgling entrepreneurs and businesses. Realizing her background and experience gave her a unique perspective on how to help food makers navigate the path to taking a food product to market, Wyshak wrote a relevant and informative how-to book explaining the startup process for food crafters, featuring expert advice and dozens of case studies (many of them local East Bay businesses).… Read More

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Drink Up! Books that take you way beyond soda


Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

drink the harvestDrink the Harvest
by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest
(Storey Publishing, 2014)

Many fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be concocted into delicious beverages that are healthier and more economical than their store-bought counterparts. Drink the Harvest shows you how to create juices, ciders, wines, meads, teas, and syrups to drink now or put up for later in the year. From strawberry juice to pear cider, dandelion wine to spiced apple mead, citrus peel tea to kombucha, the book offers instruction for growing a beverage garden and harvesting ingredients for maximum flavor and quantity.

by Michael Dietsch
(Countryman Press, 2014)

Shrubs, Victorian-era drinks which rely upon vinegars for their tart edge, are enjoying a renaissance of sorts. The history of shrubs, described in this new book, is as fascinating as the drinks are refreshing. These sharp and tangy infusions are simple to make and use. Mix up some Red Currant Shrub for a Vermouth Cassis, or Apple Cinnamon Shrub to mix with seltzer, or develop your own with Michael Dietsch’s directions and step-by-step photographs.

JuiceJuice: Recipes for Juicing, Cleansing, and Living Well
by Carly de Castro, Hedi Gores, Hayden Slater
(Ten Speed Press, 2014)

The founders of Los Angeles-based Pressed Juicery explain how juicing and juice cleansing can be part of a fit and healthy lifestyle.… Read More

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New Cookery Titles

By Kristina Sepetys

These new cookbooks are full of comforting, seasonal treats. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between, you’ll find sweet, savory, and creative ideas to inspire your meal-making!


Brown Sugar KitchenBrown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home
Recipes from Sweet West Oakland
by Tanya Holland with Jan Newberry
(Chronicle Books, 2014)

If you don’t already know her, it’s time to meet Tanya Holland, chef and co-owner (with her waffle-wrangler husband Phil Surkis) of Oakland’s beloved Brown Sugar Kitchen. Holland describes the Mandela Parkway spot as “a soul-food restaurant on an isolated corner in West Oakland.” But geographic isolation is offset by the enthusiastic crowds of regulars who gather there for good company and Louisiana-style comfort foods like chicken and waffles, macaroni and cheese, barbeque shrimp and grits, Andouille gougères, pulled pork sandwiches, and oyster po’boys. With her cookbook, you can try 86 of Holland’s signature dishes at home and read about the regulars who frequent the Kitchen.



Will It WaffleWill it Waffle? 53 Irresistible and Unexpected
Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron
by Daniel Shumski
(Workman, 2014)

Anyone who has a waffle iron squirreled away in a kitchen cupboard (most of us?) will be intrigued by this book that offers dozens of recipes to make use of the appliance.… Read More

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