Archive for the ‘Book review’ Category

In the September issue of Better Homes and Garden’s they featured an article about how their classic cookbook has connected lives and generations. 40 million copies have been sold since it came out in 1930. They specifically feature young cooks and what the cookbook means to their lives and relationships.

It reminded me how my mom gave me a copy on my 22nd birthday when I was truly living on my own. My sister ended up with a neighbor’s copy that had a gold cover and looked just like the one my mom had when she got married.

The article prompted me to get out my, which is falling a part from use. It is the cookbook I go to when I don’t know how to do something, or if I need a recipe for a standard. I remember going to the 1950’s favorites section to learn how to roast BBQ ribs in my apartment oven.

It also made me cook something—one of the recipes from the September issue:

Slow-Baked Tomatoes with Garlic and Mint.


  • 1-1/2 lb.  cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup  extra virgin olive oil
  • 7 cloves  garlic, peeled, split lengthwise and green shoot removed
  • 1 bunch  fresh mint, trimmed
  • 1 to 2 tsp.  coarse or flake salt
  • 1 tsp.  freshly ground black pepper
  • toasted slices of rustic bread
  • Goat cheese (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Wash and drain tomatoes well. Pat dry with paper towels.

2. In a nonreactive (such as earthenware) 2-quart baking dish place tomatoes in a single layer. Pour on olive oil so they are very well coated and there should be a thin layer (1/8 inch) of oil on bottom of dish. Toss in garlic, mint, salt and pepper.

3. Bake, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes or until tomato skins split and soften but tomatoes still retain their shape.

4. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Spoon or mash over slices of toasted bread and serve with goat cheese. Makes 8 servings.

Yum. We ate it with homemade bread, cheese and salad.

Thank you once again Better Homes and Gardens. I am indeed mad for plaid.

Check out the article on-line at:

Mad for Plaid.

Let’s start our first of many discussions on cookbooks. What are your favorite cookbooks? Who gave them to you? Do you give them to others? Are you mad for plaid?


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Learning to Cook in 1898: A Chicago Culinary Memoir

By Ellen F. Steinberg with recipe adoptions by Eleanor Hudera Hanson

“Irma began her cookbook in 1898 during the moths preceding her marriage to an impecunious young medical doctor named Victor S. Frankenstein.”

(Yes, that really was her husband’s name).

Irma Rosenthal’s cooking life was found hidden in a box in a Chicago bookstore. These scraps of newspaper, handwritten notes and pages from a book title “First Cook Book,” were pieced back together by the book’s authors, reconstructing Irma’s story through recipes she saved while preparing for her new life as a married woman. In these recipes are Irma’s heritage, her hopes for her soon-to-be-family and a glimpse into the realities that came later (Did they ever really eat all those oyster recipes?)

What hasn’t changed since Irma’s time is that we learn beloved family recipes first, note the latest trends to sweep the nation (and “all red party anyone?”), and rediscover the big secret that cooking provides more nourishment than we could ever dream possible.

Irma grows from a schoolteacher who doesn’t know how to make coffee to a woman who writes poems about the things she loves to cook. For her food, family and love are all on the same recipe card.

“I like a freshly ironed gingham apron with a big pocket in it so you can fish out a recipe or put a freshly made poem into it…”

This charming history book is peek into the past, showing us a world where promoting good hygiene while cooking was considered a new idea and butter was sometimes measured by comparing it to size of egg. Learning to Cook in 1898 is filled with updated versions Irma’s recipes so you can cook with Irma too.

Now where did I put that gingham apron….

I did make Irma’s Grape Pie. It was good! I thought it would taste like jelly, but it didn’t. I also had no idea how to skin a grape, but come to find out, their skins just pop right off. I had never heard of grape pie until I read this book and felt very validated when I saw it on a diner sign in North Carolina. We were driving at 6:30 in the morning, so there was no stopping for a taste test.

Irma’s Grape Pie Recipe

For one 9 inch pie (double crust)


4 cups of concord grapes

1 cup of granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons quick-cooking tapioca

1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 tablespoon of butter

double pie crust


* Slip skins from grapes and reserve skins. Bring pulp to a boil and cook until seeds loosen from pulp; remove from heat and cool slightly.

(Stephanie note: I also picked most of the seeds out of the grapes while removing their skins so the next step wouldn’t be difficult — I have a little sieve)

* Press through a colander or sieve to remove seeds.

* Combine grape pulp, reserved skins, sugar, tapioca, salt, and orange and lemon rinds.

* Let stand for 20 minutes to thicken.

* Spoon into a prepared pie crust and dot with butter (the step I always forget!)

* Top with lattice crust or regular pie crust. You will need vent holes if you are not doing lattice.

* Bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Reduce to 350  and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Our dear friend Josh got to sample the grape pie…here are his feelings about it.

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