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Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day

Chocolate peanut butter mousse tart

Today is National Peanut Butter Day in the U.S. Yes, we have a "day" for almost every food known to mankind, but this one is especially fun because, well, it's peanut butter. From fond memories of childhood lunches to being the secret ingredient in a chili recipe, peanut butter holds a special place in our hearts. It's a pantry staple in over 90% of American households and the average person eats more than six pounds of peanut products each year.

Over at indexed blog Food52, they are trying unusual peanut butter pairings and making recommendations on which you should try. These range from peanut butter and jelly omelets (not recommended) to peanut butter on a burger (okay, but it's difficult to swallow), to a sandwich with peanut butter, mayonnaise, pickle, and iceberg lettuce (surprisingly not too bad). 

You don't have to try an unusual combination to celebrate the day. Instead, you can make one of these highly-rated peanut butter recipes from the EYB Library:

Chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream from Brown Eyed Baker
Chicken peanut butter stew from Vegetable Love
Peanut butter and fudge brownies with salted peanuts from The Epicurious Cookbook
Winter squash and tofu panang curry from Cooking Light Magazine
Peanutty vegetable noodles
from Tinned Tomatoes
Peanut butter squares from How To Be a Domestic Goddess
Chocolate-peanut butter mousse tart
from Leite's Culinaria by Rose Levy Beranbaum (photo above)

A cookbook conundrum

cookbooks

"So many cookbooks, so little time," laments Glenda Cooper of The Telegraph. EYB Members reading this headline might bob their heads in agreement at the phrase. After all, we love cookbooks and wish we had more time to try all of the delicious recipes found in their glossy pages. But Cooper isn't talking about that cookbook conundrum--rather, she is discussing the phenomenon of people buying cookbooks and watching cooking programmes but not actually cooking.

A recent survey of 2,000 Britons revealed that despite owning on average six cookbooks, most people tend to make the same meals over and over. Most EYB members are far above the six cookbook average and likely have in excess of nine dishes in their repetoire. But even though cooking shows and books are more popular than ever, many people still rely on takeaway, prepared meals, and a few tried-and-true dishes. Another UK study found that not only are people cooking fewer meals, they're spending less time in the kitchen. The research concluded that the amount of time spent preparing the evening meal has been cut in half over the last 30 years.

What are the causes behind this change? Cooper notes that people may be intimidated to cook because they were never properly taught basic cooking skills. She also notes the role of the food industry, which for decades has worked to convince people (mainly women) that cooking is difficult so they should use the food companies' shortcut processed products instead. Additionally, she posits that food contamination stories scare people out of the kitchen.

To combat the trend of cooking less (which Cooper believes is at least partly to blame for the obesity epidemic), she says "we have to rethink how to eat, as well as what to eat." Cooper believes we should "stop thinking of sustenance as another multitasking opportunity. Much as we love those brand-new recipe books and those seductive food programmes, it's time to switch off Bake Off - and go back to the kitchen table." Thankfully, she does not advocate having fewer cookbooks.

Grains of tomorrow

Amaranth and kamut

The popularity of whole grains continues to grow, and once exotic quinoa and farro have become quite mainstream. Food & Wine magazine highlights three grains that are poised to ride the next wave of popularity.  "I've always felt like I've been a little bit ahead of my time with my interest in health food," says chef Aimee Oxley of Philadelphia's Talula's Table. She believes that the future belongs to kamut, spelt and amaranth.

Of course these grains aren't "new" in an evolutionary sense; in fact, they're some of the oldest grains on Earth. And while they might not be as mainstream as barley and oats, each of these has been used by chefs for years, as evidenced by the showing in the EYB Library. In particular, spelt is quite popular with over 1,000 recipes.

Amaranth and kamut lag behind, with 108 and 35 recipes, respectively. What is interesting is how varied the recipes are. You've got everything ranging from Maple-cider popcorn balls from Tasting Table and Food & Wine Magazine to Kamut salad from Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2013 (photo top right) to Amaranth crackers with cheddar and pepitas from Crackers & Dips: More Than 50 Handmade Snacks by Ivy Manning (photo top left) and Vanilla amaranth with peach compote  from Cooking Light Magazine.

What's your favorite new (or old) grain?

The great pie debate

Rhubarb pieYou might not think that the definition of pie would cause controversy, but you'd be wrong. As British Pie Week approaches, there's an online debate raging about how to define pie. The Telegraph explains that the feelings run so high one irate pie lover "launched a Government e-petition to "make wrongly describing a casserole with a pastry lid a criminal offence". The petition currently has around 5,000 signatures, falling somewhat short of the 100K needed to be considered for a debate in Parliament." Judging by the strong opinions expressed on the subject, it's clearly something that many people in the UK take quite seriously.

The dictionary definition of pie fluctuates depending on which dictionary you use and which version of the dictionary. The creator of the "pie-tition," who goes by 'Bill T Wulf', claims that the Oxford English Dictionary defines a pie as "a baked dish of fruit, or meat or vegetables, typically with a top or base of pastry". However, the article's author notes that the 6th edition of the OED describes a pie as "encased in or covered with pastry." The online version of the OED says a pie "frequently also has a base and sides." The Oxford Companion to Food, explains that the meaning of the word pie has evolved over the years and has regional variations.

If a pie has to have both top and bottom pastry crusts, many of the world's great pies would no longer be considered such, like lemon meringue or shepherd's pie. Interestingly, the British Pie Awards only allow pies with 'a filling totally and wholly encased in pastry'. When asked why they don't allow other types of pie, chairman Matthew O'Callaghan said "We had to stop somewhere otherwise any dish with a bit of pastry or potato might have been entered. The awards are about celebrating the craft of pie making. It's a lot easier to put a bit of pastry on top of a dish and call it a pie. A real pie encased in pastry means getting the ingredients right, making the pastry, and ensuring an even bake throughout."

So what to call the likes of lemon meringue, pumpkin, or shepherd's pie? O'Callaghan suggests that pies with only a top crust be called "pastry-topped casseroles." Mash-tops are "potato-topped casseroles." And open-faced pies are simply tarts. "We don't want tarts anywhere near the British Pie Awards," he says.

So far the online poll at The Telegraph does not agree with this assessment. What do you think? Is a pie with only has a pastry lid still a pie?

Photo of Rhubarb pie and a spot of pie art! from The Pink Whisk by Ruth Clemens

February 2015 cookbook roundup

Every month Susie Chang reviews new cookbook releases and notes trends in the United States. And she may also occasionally throw in a review of a "not-quite cookbook." And for our non-U.S. members, Jane and Fiona provide similar reviews for new Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand releases.

US

February is the usual prolific jumble of in-between season books: diet books, fast books, ethnic books, any books that don't have an obvious season and don't need a massive media blitz to launch.  One odd new product is popping up in the books - the "spiralizer," a device which turns vegetables into noodles and has become a darling of paleo and gluten-free followers.  I saw at least three spiralizer cookbooks this month, and I'm sure that's not the end of it.

Cookbook collageThe Cabot Creamery Cookbook: Simple, Wholesome Dishes from America's Best Dairy Farms, by Cabot Creamery (Oxmoor House, $22.95)  The Vermont-based cooperative releases a cookbook chock-full of cheddar.

The New Passover Menu by Paula Shoyer: Shoyer's innovative collection of 65 recipes celebrates culinary freedom while still honouring the holiday's dietary rules.

The Great Big Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough: The intrepid pair of cookbook veterans explore a universe of recipes under pressure.

How to Braise by Michael Ruhlman: The popular author is back with the second volume of his "how to" series.

Cookbook collageInspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals by Ali Maffucci: The appliance of the month gets some star treatment by a Big Six publisher.

Make it Paleo II: Over 175 New Grain-Free Recipes for the Primal Palate by Hayley Mason and Bill Staley (Victory Belt Publishing, $34.95)  A sequel to the very popular and successful 2011 book.

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong: A Culinary Journey from China to Vietnam by Luke Nguyen: A personal exploration from a fervent exponent of Southeast Asian foodways. This is a US release of a previously published Australian book.

Mastering Homebrew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer by Randy Mosher: A thorough and well-illustrated handbook for the aspiring brewmeister.

Cookbook collage

 

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque: The "Simple Bites"  blogger and urban homesteader releases a highly anticipated first book.

Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil by Nancy Harmon Jenkins: The Mediterranean-cooking expert focuses in tight on the primary staple of her craft.

Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams: A mother and daughter go on a mission to make a delicious heritage a healthier one.

Against the Grain: Extraordinary Gluten-Free Recipes Made from Real, All-Natural Ingredients, by Nancy Cain: Cain does away with the xanthan and guar gums and crafts a gluten-free world out of natural ingredients.

The Land Where Lemons GrowAnd just for reading...

The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit by Helena Attlee: A culinary and cultural history of Italy's relationship with citrus..

February trends include diet books marketed towards men, ethnic Paleo, smoothies, juicing, raw vegan sweets, and DASH diet books.

 

 

UK

Cookbook collageRachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook by Rachel Khoo: A tie-in with Rachel's latest TV series, this book has Rachel moving back to her native London from Paris.  The book combines recipes, travel notes and her own sketches.  See our excerpt from the book and enter our contest to win one of two copies of the book.

Tea & Cake With Lisa Faulkner by Lisa Faulkner: Celebrity MasterChef winner Lisa wants you to sit down and relax with a cup of tea and something yummy to eat.  But first you have to make the something yummy and Lisa provides the recipes.

The Hummingbird Bakery: Life is Sweet by Tarek Malouf: The latest book from the popular London bakery, which specialises in American-style home baking.  This book contains re-worked classics plus old favourites.

Gennaro: Slow Cook Italian by Gennaro Contaldo: Gennaro shows you how to prepare good Italian food with minimum effort by letting the oven or hob do the work. Slow cooking draws out flavours and softens the texture of food to create delicious, impressive, often inexpensive meals with little fuss.

Cookbook collageMary Berry's Absolute Favourites: It can seem like there is a new Mary Berry book every couple of months, with reissues and GBBO tie-ins.  This one is a new book, a tie-in to her new 6-part BBC2 TV series.  These are Mary's most favourite recipes - for family meals, entertaining and of course, baking.

My Busy Kitchen: A Lifetime of Family Recipes by Alex Hollywood: We have seen cookbooks from Great British Bake-Off winners, runners-up, judges plus numerous show-related GBBO books.  And now here comes a book from the wife of a judge, Paul Hollywood.  This book isn't about baking but everyday family cooking - quick & simple for weeknights and slow & simple for weekends.

White Heat: 25 by Marco Pierre White: A new edition to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the classic cookbook from the brilliant and fiery chef. Contains new contributions from many other chefs plus new photos. Read an interview with the enigmatic White via The Guardian.

Kew on a Plate with Raymond Blanc: A tie-in with a new TV series, Blanc explores how British vegetables arrived in the country, how they are grown and how they are used in cooking.  He uses a new kitchen garden at Kew Gardens as illustration and draws on his own three deciades of experience in the kitchen garden at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons.

Cookbook collageSesame & Spice: Baking From the East End to the Middle East by Anne Shooter: Inspired by her Jewish family and by Middle-Eastern ingredients such as cinnamon, honey, dates, almonds, apples and pomegranate, Anne Shooter produces recipes for modernized classics and her family favourites.

Secrets From my Indian Family Kitchen by Anjali Pathak: Anjali is from the family who make the well-known Indian sauces and chutneys so her family kitchen saw a lot of experimentation and testing.  Her recipes cover authentic Indian dishes and modern creations.

Dim Sum by Helen & Lisa Tse: Sisters Helen and Lisa are also producers of sauces, their's being Chinese. In this book they offer everyone a chance to experience the popular Sweet Mandarin Cookery School dim sum masterclass in their very own kitchen.

The 5 O'Clock Apron by Claire Thomson: Claire has become well-known in the UK, through her blog and Guardian column, for providing solutions to the daily dilemma of what to feed the kids.
Sweet & Simple

 

Canada

Canadian Living: Sweet & Simple: The Canadian Living Test Kitchen has rounded up 100 of their easiest Tested-Till-Perfect desserts, treats and snacks.

 

 

 

Australia & New Zealand

Cookbook collageMy Abuelo's Mexican Feast: A Life and Love of Mexican Food by Daniella Germain: Following the successful My Abuela's Table, Daniella's latest book is an illustrated journey back to Mexico's past, tracing the life of her Abuelo (grandfather) and his love affair with food. The chapters of based (chronologically) around the different stages of her Abuelo's life. From Street Food to traditional Ranch Food to Mexican Sandwiches, providing an authentic look at the food of Mexico, going beyond trendy tacos and to the soul of Mexican cooking and family life. 

Amina's Home Cooking by Elshafei Amina: MasterChef favourite Amina Elshafei is draws on her family ancestry of both Korea and Egypt to take you on a unique culinary adventure, exploring the best cuisine from both cultures. You'll find recipes for traditional Middle Eastern dishes such as Lamb, Prune and Fig Tagine and Korean staples such as Kimchi, as well as exciting new recipes, such as Sumac-crusted Trout with Heirloom Tomato Salsa and Harissa Chicken.

Taking You Home: Simple Greek Food for Friends & Family by Helena Moursellas and Vikki Moursellas: My Kitchen Rules finalists, Identical twins Helena and Vikki take you home to the simple Greek food they love to eat with their friends and family. From simple recipes for tzatziki and marinated olives, through to a slow-roasted pork belly and a twist on a classic Greek dessert like Sticky Baklava Fingers.

Two Dads: Food for Family and Friends by Blair Tonkin and Paul Bullpitt: Another cookbook from My Kitchen Rules contestants to share simple and healthy recipes, many with an Indonesian influence, that the whole family will enjoy and without breaking the budget.

One dish dinnersOne-Dish Dinners: Easy all-in-one meals by Penny Oliver: Using just one pot, pan, bowl, baking dish or casserole, Penny shows you that cooking fabulous meals doesn't require complicated recipes and a multitude of pots and pans. Using aromatic spices and fresh herbs, she shows you how to prepare a slow-cooked hearty casserole that can be prepared a day ahead, a simple one-tray bake or a last-minute tossed-together summer salad, arranged according to the single cooking vessel you'll prepare them in.

White Pages & Glossy Photos: A Rubric for Titling Cookbooks

"Well, this is lovely,"  I thought as the new cookbook slid out of its padded envelope.  "Rose Water and Orange Blossoms," it read, in a curling thick cursive.  I scanned downward to see what kind of Middle Eastern food we were talking about - Lebanese, it turned out.

Inside, the format didn't seduce me as readily - double-columned, unnumbered steps, wide leading but tight kerning.  But each time I closed the book, that title just pulled me right back in again.  "Now that's some powerful marketing,"  I thought.

There is something just instantly evocative, for me, in titles that use the formula XY & X'Y', where X is an adjective and Y is a concrete noun.  You instantly start visualizing, and once you've done that your senses are trapped.  Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - another juicy-looking book from this season using the same ploy.

In fact, when I think about it, there have been many cookbooks that have trapped my senses and caught my attention - Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones, the terrific ice cream book from Bi-Rite Creamery.  Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume, Silvena Rowe's well-received title from a couple years before that (by "Purple Citrus" she just means "sumac," but doesn't "Purple Citrus" sound better?)

The farthest-back one I can recall off the top of my head is Blue Eggs & Yellow Tomatoes, from 2008 (though I'm sure there are earlier instances).  It's a gorgeous book, and it was popular too, yet I can't recall a single recipe from it that's gone into regular rotation for me.  Do I really only love it for its title?

Have you, too, ever been a sucker for this kind of title?  And how did it work out, in the long run?

Challenging conventional wisdom on peanuts

Peanut butter & jelly parfaits

Peanuts can be found in many foods ranging from appetizers to main dishes to desserts. A rise in peanut allergies in recent years has put a damper on the legume's popularity. As a result of this rise, many pediatricians and allergy specialists advised against feeding peanuts to babies. However, a new study carried out by King's College London suggests that feeding peanut products to infants as soon as they eat solid foods may actually prevent peanut allergies.

The study, named Leap (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy), "enrolled 640 children aged 4-11 months from Evelina London children's hospital who were considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy because they had severe eczema and/or were allergic to eggs." Half the children received foods containing peanuts three times per week, while the other half avoided peanuts. The results defied conventional wisdom. By the time the children were five, less than 1% of the children who had regularly eaten peanuts throughout the study were allergic to them versus 17.5% of the others.

The study's authors believe it is important to get most babies eating some form of peanut snack or food as early in their life as possible. "We believe the window of opportunity to intervene is a very narrow one," said lead study author Professor Gideon Lack. He stressed, however, that it should be done safely. Babies should not be given whole peanuts, but they can have smooth peanut butter or peanut snacks that will not cause choking. Children at high risk of developing peanut allergies because of other allergies or conditions should also be tested prior to introduction to peanut products.

The researchers are now beginning another study to determine if other allergies are also caused in part by the avoidance of certain foods. The Eat study (Early Acquisition of Tolerance) at St Thomas' hospital in London "aims to prevent children from becoming allergic to eggs, milk, sesame and fish as well as peanuts."

Photo of Peanut butter and jelly parfaits from indexed blog Bake at 350 by Bridget Edwards

Grade inflation

pancakes with maple syrup

Last month, a USDA rule change went into effect with relatively little fanfare. The agency adopted rules that change how maple syrup is graded in the United States. Part of the reason for the change was to bring the US in line with international standards, but consumer preferences also played a significant role.

Consumers have been gravitating toward dark syrup, formerly known as Grade B, which connotated that it was inferior to Grade A. "We've seen a real interest in the dark, strongly flavored syrups using a system that downgraded that by calling it Grade B, just didn't make sense anymore," said Matt Gordon, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association. Vermont adopted the new grading system a year before the USDA made it mandatory for all states.

Canada, which is the world's top producer of maple syrup, is still holding onto it's number 1 and 2 grading system. However, change is on the horizon there as well. The provinces of Quebec and Ontario are currently working through the process of changing to the international system, and Gordon believes "they're looking at probably a two year phase in for the new grades."

We found a link to a handy infographic that explains the new system. All retail grade maple syrup is now Grade A, but with descriptors for variations in color and strength. For example, what was formerly Grade A Light Amber is now Grade A Golden Color, Delicate Taste. The maple syrup formerly known as Grade B is now called Grade A Very Dark Color, Strong Taste. It seems a little fussy to me, but perhaps this will clear up any confusion over the quality of maple syrup variations. 

Photo of American style pancakes with bacon & maple syrup from Eat Like a Girl by Niamh Shields

Warm up with hearty soups

Vietnamese pho by Martha Stewart Living magazine

Spring might be right around the corner, but for most of the Northern Hemisphere it seems like it may never arrive. Frigid temperatures, mountains of snow, and harsh winds have dampened spirits and chilled us to the bone. If there is any upside to this weather it's that it is a perfect excuse to make hearty, warming soups.

Bloggers and chefs have been busy creating new soups to stave off both the cold and the winter doldrums. The Telegraph just published an intriguing cauliflower soup with hazelnuts and parsley by Diana Henry that combines familiar ingredients in an unexpected way. Cauliflower must be the ingredient of the moment, because Food & Wine is also using it in this cauliflower-and-cashew soup with apple.

Indexed blog Great British Chefs has several new entries including a vegetarian hot & sour soup that is simultaneously bright and warming. Tinned Tomatoes features a hearty winter vegetable soup. Another meatless option is Serious Eats' fully loaded vegan baked potato soup.

If you're looking for something a bit more meaty, the Kitchn offers a tutorial on how to make French onion soup in the slow cooker. Indexed magazine Better Homes and Gardens has this lovely-looking rosemary and ravioli chicken soup, while Martha Stewart Living magazine looks to southeast Asia for inspiration with Vietnamese pho, pictured at top.

This barely scratches the surface of what's available in the EYB Library. There are currently 7,400 online soup recipes available to all members. We're sure you can find something that will pique your interest and warm your belly.

Oscar party foods

chicken pot pie by Wolfgang Puck

The Academy Awards, more commonly known as the Oscars, arrive this Sunday. Along with all of the Hollywood celebrities at the many pre- and post-Oscar events you will find a lot of food, much of it catered by celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck. The star chef shared what will be on Sunday's Governors Ball menu this year.

The Governors Ball, which Puck's catering company has handled with aplomb for years, is no small affair. Chef Puck has 300 chefs and 600 waiters lined up to serve over 1,500 people, including many of the evening's winners and presenters since the party is held right upstairs from the Academy Awards ceremony. There are some signature items that make the rotation every year, like spicy tuna tartare in sesame-miso cones (they'll be making 3,500 of those tiny bites).

Other offerings include caviar-topped baked potatoes, chicken pot pies, Puck's famous pizzas, a massive seafood bar, and plenty of drool-worthy desserts. While most of the nibbles are passed, each table will feature a platter of "cocktail bites" that includes items like aged Gouda, roasted nuts, and crab deviled eggs.

You might think that much of the food would be prepared days in advance, but Puck likes to keep things fresh. "We really buy ingredients and prepare everything at the last moment," he says, adding that his kitchen receives most of its fresh ingredients on Friday. "Then we start to prep everything. The chicken pot pie, for example, we cook the chicken Saturday morning and then we make the sauce and then we put it together on Sunday morning and then we just have to bake them."

If you are planning an Oscar party and want to feature food that will be at the Governors' Ball, the EYB Library has recipes for Wolfgang Puck's famous California pizza dough and chicken pot pie (pictured above). What will you be eating during the Oscars?

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!

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