When you’re about to burst

For all of March, we’re talking about books over at Kindred Grace, and on Monday my review of Rachel Jankovic’s new book Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood went up.  Rachel’s first book, Loving the Little Years, was a huge encouragement to me, and Fit to Burst is a continuation of that.

She got it. She knew the hard parts of being surrounded by littles always demanding your attention, but she also embraced the humor in those times as well. She knew how draining the constancy of mothering tinies can be, but she also fully recognized that amazing joy it brings as well.

And the best part: Canon Press, who published Fit to Burst and provided me with a review copy, also included a copy to give away!  So if you’re a mama in need of some encouragement, head over to Kindred Grace and enter the giveaway (open until March 18th).

Breast to Bib review and giveaway

Modern Alternative Mama, written by Kate Tietje, is one of my favourite blogs. I frequently share her posts to Facebook — and I’ve probably been guilty of clogging my friends’ feeds from time to time!  But I can’t help it.  So many of her posts are full of information that I think every mama should know…and since most of my friends right now are also young mamas, there you go!

Because I’m so passionate about mamas being informed in the decisions they make about their little ones, I was very excited earlier this year when I heard about Kate’s upcoming eBook entitled Breast to Bib: Modern Alternative Mama’s Guide to Nourishing Your Growing Family.  At the end of February, I wrote a testimonial about it to be included in the book.  It said:

“With a two-year-old and an almost ten-month-old, feeding babies is something I’ve thought about often in the last couple of years. Breast to Bib is full of great information regarding the all-important question of how and what babies should eat. And while when starting solids, our family’s general philosophy is to just feed the baby what we’re eating, the recipes included for babies and toddlers offer great inspiration and ideas to fall back on when what’s on the table isn’t the best for the littlest ones. I would recommend this book to any new mom!”

I’ve posted before about how we’ve gone about introducing our babies to solids and the resources I’ve found helpful — this book would definitely join them!  If it’s a subject that you’ve already researched pretty extensively, there may not be a lot of new information here.  But at the same time, it offers an easy way to brush-up on your knowledge: to be reminded of just what exactly baby-led weaning looks like or what to do if you’re struggling with low milk supply while breastfeeding.  And for someone just starting to research the best way to feed babies and toddlers, this eBook is full of good information.

Like I mentioned in the testimonial, we usually just feed our little ones whatever we’re eating and I’m not a big fan of making special foods for babies, but sometimes what’s on the table isn’t suitable.  This is when the multitude of recipes included in Breast to Bib can come in very handy!  With everything from baby custard to chicken nuggets, and even pate, nothing is very complicated to make and it’s all real food.

Modern Alternative Mama has offered to give away a copy of the eBook Breast to Bib to one Something Simple reader.  All you have to  do is visit Modern Alternative Mama’s store, then come back here and leave a comment telling me which of her eBooks appeal to you the most and why.  The giveaway ends Sunday, June 10th, at midnight PST.

If you want to get a copy of Breast to Bib now, you can get 25% off using the coupon code “SOJOURN25”.  But hurry, the code expires this Friday, June 8th!

This giveaway is now closed.  Congratulations to Brianna Graber for winning!

Real {Fast} Food review and giveaway

I love good food.  A lot.  And I love feeding my family food that tastes good and that is also good for them.  For us this is usually “real food” — i.e. food that is fresh and minimally processed.  This means using a lot of produce, good meats and dairy, healthy fats (like butter!) and whole grains.  It means trying to cook mostly from scratch.

Making and eating real food involves all these great things, but it also can involve something else. Time and lots of it.  And as a young mama to two little ones, that’s something I don’t have an overabundance of.  Enter Real {Fast} Food.  The eBook by my friend, Trina Holden.

Trina is another young mom who is passionate about feeding her family real, good food.  But since she has three little ones, she knows that it doesn’t work to spend oodles of time in the kitchen preparing meals.  So she wrote a book explaining all she has learned about making the most of your time in the kitchen and interspersed it with many yummy-sounding recipes.   She walks you through everything from menu planning to batch cooking to making your own mayonnaise and sour cream.  And along with recipes for everything from white lasagna to pineapple muffins, she also shows you how to make things like ranch dressing mix, whole wheat tortillas and vanilla ice cream to give you the tools to eliminate even more processed foods from your diet.

Real {Fast} Food is very informative and helpful, but I don’t “follow” everything in the book.  I don’t currently menu plan (though I can see it happening in the future) and we still occasionally eat white flour.  But that’s okay.  I’m doing what works for our family right now and adapting techniques and information to our situation.  And in her book, Trina recognizes that.  Unlike some other cookbooks I’ve read, there’s no condescending attitude of “you must cook exactly the way I do if you want to feed your family healthy food”.  Instead, Trina gives you the tools and recipes to help you prepare real food and then gives you the freedom to figure out how that will work for your family.

And the best part?  Making real food doesn’t have to take up half your day!  In other real food cookbooks I’ve read, the authors seem to assume that you have hours to spend in the kitchen preparing and cooking.  As a young mom, that’s doesn’t work for me since cooking is something I have to fit in between chasing toddlers and keeping my home.  And since Trina is in that place too, she understands and Real {Fast} Food is a clear reflection of that.

Real {Fast} Food is an essential for any young mom wanting to feed her family healthy food without spending all day in the kitchen.  It’s available on Kindle and Nook, but my copy is the PDF version that I printed out and put in a binder — that makes it much easier to reference with hands messy from cooking!

And Trina has graciously offered to give away a PDF copy of Real {Fast} Food to a Something Simple reader.  Just comment and answer the question: “What is one change (large or small) that you would like to make in your family’s diet?”  Giveaway ends Wednesday, May 2nd at midnight (PST).

Want to increase your chances at winning a copy?  Enter the other giveaways on the Real {Fast} Food Blog Tour:

from Homemaker’s Challenge (ends April  26th)
from Gretchen at From: the Little Pink House (ends April 30th)
from Chantel at A Beautiful Song (ends May 1st)

Read more reviews of Real {Fast} Food:

at the Young Ladies Christian Fellowship
at Homemaker’s Challenge
at Dandelion Haven
at Life in the White House

And be sure to “like” the Real {Fast} Food Facebook page for great real food photos and tips.

This giveaway is now closed.

Always grace

Yesterday morning I was able to have a much-needed time of refreshment.  Aaron was able to hang out with Cedar at home so Genoa and I headed to Trader Joe’s for our biweekly grocery shopping trip.  It’s about an hour away, and without her older brother to distract her, Genoa quickly fell asleep and slept the entire way to the store.  I took advantage of not having to answer a bunch of toddler questions and listened to some music (it’s not often that I actually get to listen to music…other mamas of young children with exploding vocabularies will understand why!).  I put the iPod on shuffle and waited with anticipation to see how God would use it.  It may sound silly, but many times the Lord has used “randomly” shuffled songs to show me things and teach me lessons.  This time was no different.

After a couple songs had played, Derek Webb’s “The Church” came on.  This is an incredible song about how the Church is “a harlot and a whore”, yet she is still our Father’s bride and, as the chorus states, “if you love Me, you will love the Church”.  I’ve always been very convicted by this song because I often get frustrated with the state of the Church today, but I need to be reminded that she is still God’s bride.  But this time, as I was softly singing along, I had the realization that I am a part of that Church as well…and as such, I too am a harlot and a whore in relationship to God.  And it’s true.  How many times have I been unfaithful to my heavenly Lover and sought fulfillment in things other than Him? But…there is always grace.  That’s what prompted those tears that made my voice break while singing along in the car.  No matter how many times I take my eyes off of Jesus, no matter how many times I fail, He will welcome me back with open arms.  Hallelujah.

As the different shuffled songs played during the rest of my morning, and as I was really able to listen to the words, this emphasis on grace continued.  On the drive down there was Caedmon’s Call playing their rendition of “Thy Mercy My God“, and on the drive back, Sandra McCracken sang the same song. There was Andrew Peterson’s line about “into the wild of this grace” (from his song “The Magic Hour”) and Josh Garrel’s reminding me that “we’re all castaways in need of rope” and that “even when I fall I’ll get back up for the joy that overflows my cup” (from “Farther Along“).  And Sons of Korah asking, from Psalm 116b, “How can I repay the Lord for all of His goodness to me?”.

Along with this song-prompted realization, grace is something that the Lord seems to constantly be teaching me about.  It touches every aspect of my life.  The book I’m currently reading is called Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and even though I’m only through the first two chapters, it has already been one of the best parenting books I’ve ever read.  Our Father has shown us so much grace, and we need to show the same to our children (though that grace is always combined with truth as Jesus came full of “grace and truth” [John 1:17]).

Another book on my to-read stack is Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman.  Recommended to me by a friend, it sounded right up my alley since my entire life I’ve struggled with accepting grace from God and others and trying instead of do it all on my own.

Last year too, with reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and receiving her message of eucharisteo and that “all is grace”, it seems that grace is something that God wants me to focus on.  Seeing grace in the everyday and realizing that all the gifts He gives are just extensions of His grace.  And after recognizing my Father’s amazing grace to me, viewing all others through that grace-filled lense.

And so, I’ve taken “grace” as my word for 2012.  Several different bloggers that I read and respect and am often encouraged by, after much prayer and thought, pick a word that becomes their theme for the year.  Being a word person, I always thought that was great idea, but never really thought to do it for myself.  For me, it wasn’t after a lot of prayer and thought — it happened in a couple song-filled minutes driving a car with a sleeping baby.  But I really feel that grace needs to be my theme for 2012.  And so it will be…and who knows where God will take it?!  I’m excited to see.

Grace to you.

From my cookbook shelf – Part Three

Read Part One and Part Two here.

Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant – by Moosewood Collective: I first discovered Moosewood cookbooks years ago when I stumbled across my grandpa’s copy of their first one (which I want to get someday).  The Moosewood restaurant was started back in the 70s and it is known for its amazing vegetarian cooking.  In my teens, I went through a period where I was considering becoming a vegetarian, and while my views on food have definitely changed since then (I love good meat!), I still really appreciate a good vegetarian cookbook and the Moosewood ones are certainly that.  Sundays at Moosewood is over 700 pages of meatless recipes from around the world.  Each chapter is devoted to the food of a particular country or region, with some that you don’t ordinarily find in general ethnic cookbooks…like Armenia, Finland and two regions of Africa (south of the Sahara and North Africa/the Northeast African Highlands).  If you love to try different ethnic foods, I highly recommend this one!

The Dancing Gourmet: Recipes to Keep You on Your Toes! – by Linda Hymes: A cookbook written by a ballerina, my parents got me this one as a birthday gift many years ago.  Sprinkled with photos of both ballet dancers and food, this cookbook contains a lot of very sophisticated recipes.  My food is usually, shall we say, more rustic, but all the same, it’s a fun book to page through for inspiration.  I made her recipe for pizza margherita sauce for several years and it’s still the base for any red sauce that I make.

The Easy Way to Artisan Breads & Pastries – by Avner Laskin: I’ve always enjoyed baking bread, and my husband absolutely loves almost any kind of bread, so I was excited when I received this cookbook at one of my bridal showers.  Basic bread can get kind of boring after awhile and I wanted to be able to make those crusty and chewy French and Italian loaves that you can buy, but I wasn’t really sure how to exactly go about it.  I’ve made a couple of the recipes in here and in general was pretty impressed with the results…it’s exciting when you pull bread you made out of the oven and it looks (and tastes!) like stuff you would get at a nice bakery.  However, my only reservation is that, in the few recipes I’ve tried, I’ve already found one major recipe typo (calling for one cup of yeast…and I pretty sure they meant something a lot less than that!).   Thankfully, it was a pretty blatant typo so I didn’t follow it, and it could be the only one in the book, but it does make me wonder about the editing and how it has affected the other recipes.  However, that aside, I definitely still want to keep trying some of the recipes in this book…especially now that it’s finally cooling off enough to bake!

The Irish Pub Cookbook – by Margaret M. Johnson – Knowing my love of pretty much anything having to do with Ireland or the Irish, Aaron found this cookbook at a local used bookstore and bought it for me.  And I’ll admit, I haven’t actually made anything from it, though I’ve several times just paged through it to look at the photos of Ireland and read about all the different pubs.  Pubs are fascinating places (and to all the American readers, they are very different from “bars” in the States) and Aaron and I really enjoyed the few that we went to during our trip to the UK several years ago.  Though honestly, the pubs that the author pulled these recipes from must be a lot fancier than the ones we visited since we never saw food like that!   The recipes do look very yummy and maybe I will try making some one day…if I can tear myself away from reading about one of my favourite places on earth!

Complete Outdoor Living Cookbook – by Williams-Sonoma: Picked up for a couple dollars at a thrift store, but missing the cover, this is my only Williams-Sonoma cookbook…though I hope it gets some relatives someday!  Divided into food categories that are then divided into seasons, I love just paging through this book to look at the photos.  There’s a lot of delicious-sounding breakfast ideas in this one and quite a few out of the ordinary picnic dishes.  Other than maybe not requiring a whole lot of intensive prep, I’m not really sure how this cookbook is specifically for “outdoor living”, but that’s no matter because the recipes still look and sound scrumptious!

More to come…

From my cookbook shelf – Part Two

Read Part One here.

Cooking Outside the Box: Easy, Seasonal and Organic: The Abel and Cole Cookbook – by Keith Abel: This is another of my recent acquisitions and such a fun cookbook to read!  I first came across it in a Barnes & Noble several years ago (I go there and look through their cookbook section and then come home and add the ones I liked to my Amazon wishlist…they’re always so much cheaper online) and immediately liked how laid-back it was in regard to measuring.  Many things are measured by mugfuls, glugs and dashes, which is exactly how I cook!   The author is British and he is the one who made CSA-type boxes popular in England…and Abel and Cole is the name of their company.  According the author, this cookbook came about as a result of their customers asking for good ways to cook this or that vegetable, and the farmers sharing their favourite recipes.  So yes, it’s focused mainly on produce recipes though there are a good many meat recipes too.  This cookbook is divided by seasons (spring, fall, summer and winter), as obviously a big part of their company is using seasonal ingredients.  Do note though…in regard to the “fun to read” part, this cookbook is full of British humour and British slang, which I greatly enjoy!   However, if you’re not familiar with that humour and slang, some of it may be confusing.  Also, because it’s written by a British guy, there’s obviously quite a few British food and cooking terms in this book so you may want to brush up on some of those before reading it.

Super Natural Cooking – by Heidi Swanson: I’ve followed Heidi Swanson’s cooking blog, 101 Cookbooks, for a long time and have found many yummy recipes on there.  When her first cookbook came out several years ago, I was very excited and added it to my wishlist.  I ended up receiving a copy at one of my bridal showers and finally got around to reading through it after all the wedding excitement died down and I finally had my own kitchen.  One of my favourite parts of her cookbook are all the pictures…she a photographer for a reason.  I also love all the different grains she incorporates into her cooking since that’s something I want to do and am not always very good at.  Her section on building a natural foods pantry has lots of great information and is very accessible.

The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook – by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins: This is an older cookbook (published the year before I was born!) that I discovered through my friend Heather when I lived with her and her family in New Zealand.  Heather cooks very similarly to the way that I do (I learned so much from her!) and the fact that this cookbook had a spot in her collection said a lot to me.  The French onion soup recipe in here is so good that Aaron remembered it from when he visited me in NZ and it is actually a big reason why I finally bought this cookbook after we were married.  I also really appreciate the different food and cooking tidbits scattered throughout the book, most are quite helpful and informative.

Jimmy Schmidt’s Cooking Class: Seasonal Recipes from a Chef’s Kitchen – by Jimmy Schmidt: This is another one that was a gift from Aaron’s foodie brother and I’ve found it quite helpful.  Like several of my other cookbooks, this one is divided into seasons.  In each season part, there are listed 20-30 different ingredients specific to that season, with several pages dedicated to each.  Along with a couple of recipes for each ingredient, there are tips on selection and preparation and how to get the most of out of that ingredient.  I’ve really liked how each little chapter focuses on just one ingredient because it gives you the base to expand on and get creative with that ingredient after you know what it goes best with and how best to prepare it.

Mediterranean: Over 300 Sun-drenched Recipes – by Lorenz Books: Early this past spring, Aaron told me that he would like to start eating more Mediterranean food.  Eager to find some good recipes along that line, I ordered this cookbook that had been recommended to me by my friend Heather from NZ.  It was a rather hard one to find as it’s British and supposedly out-of-print, but once again, Amazon came through.  When it arrived, I had Aaron page through all 512 pages and mark (with little sticky notes) all the dishes he would like me to make at some point.  Needless to say, there are lots of sticky notes!  For his birthday, I made him what we called our “Mediterranean Feast” and prepared five or six different dishes from this book…so it’s one of my few cookbooks that I’ve actually made something from its recipes!  The feast was a big success and Aaron loved everything that I made…so big points for this cookbook.  From an actual cooking standpoint, I found the recipes very easy to follow (all of the recipes are illustrated with several photographs) and pretty adaptable too.  As already mentioned, this is another British cookbook, so learning some British food and cooking terms would be helpful.

More to come…

From my cookbook shelf – Part One

(These aren’t even all of them…just the pretty ones!)

I’ve always loved cookbooks.  From my first one (Sunset Best Kids Cook Book…which I still have and is one of Cedar’s favourite books to look at), a gift from my parents at the tender age of eight, until now with a collection of over twenty, cookbooks have always been something I’ve enjoyed.  Maybe it’s the combination of food and books, but they’ve often been something I could just sit and read for a long time.

Because yes, I read cookbooks.  As many of you probably guessed from the “recipes” I post on here, I rarely ever actually cook from a written-out recipe.  I get an idea and start throwing in whatever sounds good and it usually turns out pretty yummy.  As such, cookbooks serve as inspiration for me, and in reading them I can glean little tidbits of info on processes and ingredients that will hopefully continue to improve my cooking overall.

Recently I went through my cookbook shelf and got rid of the few that I didn’t like anymore, and added a few courtesy of some birthday money (the “Cookbooks” section of my Amazon wishlist always has something in it!).  And in the long process of trying to decide which cookbooks to buy with my birthday money, I thought about cookbooks a lot (ask Aaron how long I obsessed over it…or maybe don’t!).  And after I made my decisions and added them to my shelf, I decided that I should blog about my cookbooks since their shelf is one of my favourite parts of our house (I have many).  So, in this post and several more to come, I’m planning on going through my cookbooks and telling you a little bit about them and what each have contributed/are contributing to how I cook now.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order…my cookbooks!

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution – by Alice Waters: If I had to choose just one cookbook to have for the rest of my life (other than my massive black binder full of recipes I’ve collected over the years), this would be it.  Aaron gave it to me for my birthday the first year we were married, but that’s not the only reason I love it.  Compared to many of my other cookbooks, it doesn’t really have a lot of recipes, but it makes up for it in the notes and lessons.  From this book, I learned how to roast a chicken properly.  But it didn’t just show me how to roast it for their particular recipe for roast chicken, it taught me how to roast one in general so then I can take that knowledge and expand on it and come up with all sorts of delicious possibilities.  And all the recipes are like that.  The book is divided into two parts: first are the seventeen chapters of  “Lessons and Foundation Recipes” and then part two contains more recipes that build and expand on the ones from the first part.  Definitely a cookbook I would recommend to anyone, regardless of their cooking expertise and ability.

The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes + Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life – by Tom Hudgens: This is one of my recent acquisitions and my current read.  And even though I haven’t even finished it yet, I put it right up there with The Art of Simple Food.  Another of those cookbooks with lessons along with the recipes, in this first reading I’ve already learned many different things that can help my cooking even if I never cook specifically from this book.  I think I’ll be using this book often…several the recipes I read last night made me anxious for things to start to cool down so I can cook and bake more.  Also similar to The Art of Simple Food, this cookbook doesn’t contain any photos, but you don’t find yourself missing them since there’s so much good info in what you read.

Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Famers’ Markets – by Deborah Madison: This one was a thank-you gift from one of Aaron’s brothers for helping him with a meal he was catering and I’m so thankful he picked it out for me.  While I haven’t ever actually cooked anything from it, I’m often inspired by the myriad ways she prepares vegetables…and all the different combinations too!   And I’ll admit, sometimes I just page through it to look at the pictures…the photography of the vegetables and the farmers’ markets they came from are just beautiful.  And sprinkled throughout the book are little essays on the different farmers’ markets that she’s visited around the country, very fun to read.

Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes – by Caroline Jeremy: It’s no secret that Green & Black’s is my absolute favourite brand of chocolate (we even had them for favours at our wedding!).  And so I was very excited when one of my best friends gave me this cookbook for Christmas several years ago.  I haven’t actually made anything in it yet (mostly because any Green & Black’s chocolate I have gets eaten quickly and not cooked with!), but all the different ways they use chocolate are delicious to see.  And throughout the book is information on how cacao is grown and Green & Black’s chocolate is made (it’s fair-trade).  A book that will definitely make you drool and then go and eat a handful of chocolate chips!

More to come…