New Cookbook Review

The Homemade Pantry – 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making is a book I wish I had written and really wish I’d had back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was a stay-at-home mom. I did a lot of home cooking in those days, making my own bread, cereals, muffins, biscuits and all sorts of other things.

The writer, Alana Chernila, writes the recipes in a conversational tone and each chapter is begun with an anecdote from her own life experiences, as a child, a young woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, and when you put it all together you have quite a life story all mixed in beautifully with the recipes. I loved her honesty in discussing her family life. She is not a supermom with perfect children who eat every exotic and/or healthy thing she places in front of them. She deals with real life, real time constraints and very real (normal) strong-willed children. I felt like she could have been my friend and I’d have been happy to commiserate with her over child raising and cooking, while we grabbed a few minutes to have a cup of tea in a lovely cup.

The recipes…I have not tried a single one yet, but they all look fantastic and doable. “Pop Tarts” are the first on my list to try, and graham crackers, both chosen for the simple reason that I’ve never made either of them. I’ve made a number of her other items over the years – homemade bread, butter, granola, jam…..I’m not new to this party, but I’m eager to try her versions. If you ARE new to home cooking and baking, try a simple one and see how good it feels to cook something where you know all the ingredients that are in it because you put them there yourself!

Alana is also honest in recognizing that some of these things are NOT cheaper to make yourself, nor are they quick, but that the rewards are great. Each of us has to decide, on any given day, what is worth our time and the extra effort it takes to measure, pour, chop, slice, stir, whisk, mix, whip, fold, saute, roast and bake. Some days we can get ahead and make good things that will help get us through the days when we can’t keep our heads above water. We all have those.

This book was an enjoyable read for me and I read it straight through like a novel, instead of skipping all around looking for my favorites as I normally do with a cookbook. I am really looking forward to trying some of the recipes SOON.

I’m also enjoying Alana’s blog, “Eating From the Ground Up.” You will find the link on my Blogroll on the right side bar. Please go check out her entries about food and life. Enjoy!

Addendum: I got a chance to try Alana’s graham crackers and they were a success! The only thing I need to do is practice more even rolling and then get a fix on how long to cook for that thickness. I like them to be crunchy and some of mine weren’t because they were thicker. I also don’t care for having to measure them for cutting, which you need to do for consistency of cooking, as well as fitting together for peanut butter sandwich-ing purposes. ūüôā I might just cut them with round cookie cutters in the future to help with that. I definitely think they need the cinnamon sugar for the extra sweetness. But yes, they taste like the store-bought kind and even have the same texture. Bingo!


Book Review: The Green Beauty Guide

I don’t think I’ve done a real review before–only a mention once or twice of a book that really impressed me; but I am so rocked by this book (by Julie Gabriel) that I want to share it.¬† The author is described on the back cover as a “registered nutrition specialist, writer, and editor of beauty and fashion.”¬† She is also the mother of a very young daughter.

She begins by talking in general about the worst of the toxins, carcinogens and petroleum products¬†in some of our most popular types of products.¬† There is much clarification of what the terms “natural,” “organic” and “green” can mean (or not.)¬† Very often the only thing green about the product is the color on the packaging.¬†¬†In the individual chapters Ms. Gabriel¬†talks about specific product groups and the unsafe chemicals in each one.¬†¬†¬†We won’t go into¬†all the scientific names here, but our shampoos, cleansers, moisturizers, makeup and baby products (!) are loaded with junk that our skin absorbs.¬† People don’t realize that our skin, scalp and nails soak up most of the stuff we put on¬†them. ¬†Shampoos and cleansers are bad enough, but we wash those off rather quickly.¬†¬† However, things like moisturizers, hair conditioners, makeup and nail polish¬†stay on and put us at even more risk.

Daily we are slathering, sudsing, brushing on and rubbing in chemical toxins.  We are also breathing in the fumes from many.  Whatever we put on our bodies needs to be as safe as the food we eat, because ultimately, it all winds up inside. 

Happily, there is a way out–several options, as a matter of fact.¬† Julie lets us know what products are safe, safer and safest (many are available in our health stores, but some need to be purchased online) and whenever possible and within the realm of the average consumer, she also gives us great recipes for making our own very safe and customizable green products at home.¬†¬† You don’t need to go broke to use safe products on yourself and your child(ren.)

I don’t plan to go through my bathroom today and throw out all my products and buy new ones (although I thought about it!)¬† But I can tell you that as I use them up, I will be replacing them all with safer ones.¬† I plan to try a lot of the recipes, as I get the time and inclination, though this will take some advance planning, as I don’t currently keep a lot of the items (like essential oils) on hand.¬†

One of the chapters that really upset me was on hair coloring.¬† She had some great ideas for safer color enhancing¬†for brunettes and red heads, but she didn’t really have anything on covering the grey hairs for blondes.¬† I may have to consider going natural ala Jamie Lee Curtis, though I have sworn I would NEVER stop covering my grey.¬† Blondes don’t get pretty silver greys; we get ugly yellow stuff.¬† So I don’t know about this, but the list of what I’m putting on my scalp and its long term effects was pretty damn scary.¬†

This book is worth reading for all women, but particularly for moms of little ones.¬† Check it out in your local library if you don’t want to buy it on my say so.¬† I bet if you read it, you’ll go buy your own copy so that you can keep the lists of chemicals to watch out for handy.