Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September Reads: Generation Chef, and new Herman Koch

In between all the craziness going on around my house this month, I've actually still managed to READ!  Here's the latest and greatest from 'round these parts lately:

Generation Chef by Karen Stabiner
Avery Books, 2016
copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Hey, remember how I love foodie nonfiction?  Yeah, you probably forgot, because it's been so long since I reviewed any!  But when Generation Chef was offered up to me for review, I absolutely could not resist.  Journalist Karen Stabiner shadowed up-and-coming New York City chef Jonah Miller as he embarked upon his life's dream: opening a restaurant of his own.  As Miller opened the door to his restaurant (Huertas), Stabiner bore witness to everything: the bureaucratic frustrations of real estate, investors, and liquor licenses; the continual management of both kitchen and service employees; the painstaking balance between making a menu that's true to the chef, and one that gets people in the door.  I was fully impressed by the depth of detail that she was able to include--this is one of those nonfiction books that almost reads like fiction, because so much emotion is embedded in the text.
The book stands out for another reason: Stabiner takes the story beyond Miller's journey with Huertas, and weaves in the journeys of other, more seasoned chefs, and how they did (or did not) find success.  All of these side stories compliment the central narrative perfectly, without taking away from the flow of the book.
Generation Chef will amaze you (with Miller's persistence and drive), amuse you (there's a fair amount of restaurant-style humor included), and make you incredibly hungry.  Seriously, if I didn't live 7 hours from NYC, I'd be at Huertas right now ordering nonstop pintxos.  Foodies and nonfiction fans alike will love this read!

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch
Hogarth, 2016
copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

I am doing a bang-up terrible job of turning down ARCs lately, especially those from authors that I've enjoyed in the past.  I know Herman Koch's The Dinner was not for everyone, but I was a huge fan, and Summer House With Swimming Pool worked equally well for me.  I couldn't wait to see what Koch had in store with this latest release, Dear Mr. M, which deals with the disappearance of a high school teacher after he has an affair with one of his students.
Since this is a mini review, the short version is that I did not enjoy this one as much as Koch's other two novels.  It started off in typical Koch fashion: narrator is a creepy, possibly psychotic?, stalker-type, and the constant flashbacks make the storyline continuously more mysterious.  However, about halfway through the book, the narration switches to the girl who had the affair with her teacher, and Koch lost me.  Her story was too drawn out and lacked the suspense of the earlier section.  By the time we switched to other, more engaging narrators, it was hard for me to jump back on board and enjoy the (admittedly twisty) conclusion.  This one definitely had a whiff of the Herman Koch I remember from his first two books, but didn't pack the same punch.

What are you reading this month?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

GIVEAWAY! Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin


Title: Life From Scratch
Author: Sasha Martin
Publisher: National Geographic
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It was a culinary journey like no other: Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother to a string of foster homes to the house from which she launches her own cooking adventure, Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

My Review:

If you like memoirs, and you like food, then look no further, reader friends!  I've got the book for you.

I was initially drawn to this book by that first line of the description.  Cooking food from all 195 countries of the world?  I'm drooling all over myself and I haven't even started reading yet.  If you have a penchant for good eats, you won't be disappointed--Martin peppers her narrative with many of the recipes she's tried over the years, and they sound DELICIOUS.  Especially the Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream--I will be dusting off my baking skills to try that out soon.

However, when you begin reading, the culinary delights of this book take a backseat to Martin's emotional retelling of her childhood.  She endured a long list of hardships as she grew up--being sent to foster care, the death of her brother, and the emotional abandonment of her legal guardians, just to name a few--but Martin has a way of telling her story that makes you feel like you are privy to not only the events of her childhood, but also to the emotional journeys that she endured during that time.  This is especially true as you watch Martin's connection with her mother unfold.  She really bears her soul as she attempts to figure out her mother's actions and emotions throughout their tumultuous relationship.  As a reader, I wrestled with my own emotions about their problems, and any memoir that can make you feel part of such a journey is well-written indeed.

Did I still get the satisfaction of reading about Martin's global culinary adventures?  Yes, but by the time that part of the book unfolds, it blends seamlessly into the poignant family history that's already been building throughout the rest of the memoir.  By then, the recipes are about so much more than the food that ends up on the plate.  As such, the last section of the book brings her past and present together perfectly.

I can't say enough good things here, readers!  Go read Sasha Martin's fascinating memoir.  Then cook her recipes and eat all the feelings that it made you have while reading.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Sasha Martin on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY TIME!
The publisher is giving away a copy of Life From Scratch to one of my lucky readers!  Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter.  US entrants only.  Ends 3/12.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beware the Cookie Aisle! Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss


Title: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
Author: Michael Moss
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

In the spring of 1999 the heads of the world’s largest processed food companies—from Coca-Cola to Nabisco—gathered at Pillsbury headquarters in Minneapolis for a secret meeting. On the agenda: the emerging epidemic of obesity, and what to do about it.
 
Increasingly, the salt-, sugar-, and fat-laden foods these companies produced were being linked to obesity, and a concerned Kraft executive took the stage to issue a warning: There would be a day of reckoning unless changes were made. This executive then launched into a damning PowerPoint presentation—114 slides in all—making the case that processed food companies could not afford to sit by, idle, as children grew sick and class-action lawyers lurked. To deny the problem, he said, is to court disaster.
 
When he was done, the most powerful person in the room—the CEO of General Mills—stood up to speak, clearly annoyed. And by the time he sat down, the meeting was over.
 
Since that day, with the industry in pursuit of its win-at-all-costs strategy, the situation has only grown more dire. Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year.
 
In Salt Sugar Fat, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss shows how we got here. Featuring examples from some of the most recognizable (and profitable) companies and brands of the last half century—including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Lunchables, Kellogg, NestlĂ©, Oreos, Cargill, Capri Sun, and many more—Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous, often eye-opening research.
 
Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by manipulating its chemical structure. He unearths marketing campaigns designed—in a technique adapted from tobacco companies—to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as “fat-free” or “low-salt.” He talks to concerned executives who confess that they could never produce truly healthy alternatives to their products even if serious regulation became a reality. Simply put: The industry itself would cease to exist without salt, sugar, and fat. Just as millions of “heavy users”—as the companies refer to their most ardent customers—are addicted to this seductive trio, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.


My Review:

The other night at book club, I told one of the other moms (hi, Abby!) that I was planning to review this book soon.  She was interested, but expressed disdain at the overwhelming amount of information out there about how bad our food is these days.  I had to agree.  Every time you turn around, there's another news article or viral Facebook post telling you to cut back on food additives, or sugar, or carbs, or whatever.  As much as I want to eat healthier (and feed my family better food), it can all be a bit much.

(And the fact is, Small Fry just isn't going to live life without Goldfish, even if I have no desire to know what gives them that lovely orange hue.)

However--I do love books like this one in moderation (maybe once a year or so?) in order to remind myself of some basic principles to get my eating back in order.  For example, I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food in 2009, and spent the rest of that year trying to eat more vegetables and good fats as a result (if you like the Mediterranean diet, you MUST read that book. Yum). Last year, I read Pooja Mottl's The 3-Day Reset, and started trying to lower my sugar consumption.  Do books like this make me avoid processed foods entirely?  No, but I think I benefit from a little kick in the pants once in a while.

Enter Salt Sugar Fat.  I heard great things about this expose of the processed food industry back when it was first released, and given my resolution to eat better this year, it was high time for some food reading.  Despite the subtitle on this book, I wouldn't necessarily say that it's a war cry against the processed food industry.  Actually, the increasing consumption of salt, sugar, and fat seems to be based on a vicious cycle between what the public wants and what the food companies can profitably (for them) provide.  America wants more convenience foods?  The food companies gave it to them, but with lots of unhealthy ingredients to increase shelf life and make them palatable.  Now Americans are obese and need healthier food?  Some food companies do, in fact, want to provide that--but as soon as salt/sugar/fat levels in the food are lowered, taste is compromised, and the companies can't make money off a bland-tasting product.  So back to salt, sugar, and fat we go.

That's not to say that the food companies shouldn't be held largely responsible.  They created America's cravings for unhealthy foods, and they are doing little to reverse them.  (Not to mention, they are working hard to bring those cravings to other countries.)  In fact, they keep doing research to find out how to make us MORE addicted to their stuff.  But one of the most interesting things about this book was the interplay between what Americans want, and what the companies feel pressured to provide.  Many of Moss's interviewees were former industry employees who had tried to enact healthy change in their companies, but in the end, they were nearly always thwarted by the bottom line--companies are going to offer the things that sell.  And what sells is salt, sugar, and fat.

Moss also delves into the science behind our addictions to these three ingredients, which was super fascinating.  Between the revelations about the food industry and the biological details of our dependence on salt, sugar and fat, my first trip to the grocery store after reading this book felt like doing battle.  "I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO DO THERE WITH THAT PRODUCT PLACEMENT, GROCERY FIENDS!  Take your 'all natural' claims and shove 'em!"  But really, this is all good information to have if you want to be a more conscious and empowered shopper.

While the level of detail might be a bit overwhelming (towards the end, I was getting a little bored with the financial info about the food companies), this is an extremely well-researched look at processed foods, and a great way to start off your new year if you're looking to become an educated eater.

Confess it, readers: what's your greatest processed food weakness?  Mine is Oreos.  OREOS ALL DAY.  Bonus if they're the holiday White Fudge ones.

Monday, January 12, 2015

First 2015 book...OY VEY. The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley


Title: The Divorce Diet
Author: Ellen Hawley
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Abigail loves her baby Rosie, her husband Thad, and food. She takes great joy and comfort in concocting culinary delights to show the depth of her love and commitment to her family. Imagine her surprise when Thad announces, this whole marriage thing just doesn't work for me. Abigail can't believe he really means what he's said, but he does. Abigail and Rosie move back in to her parents house, where she regresses into her adolescent self. She diets, finds work, and begins to discover the life she really wants, and a man who really wants her.

My Review:

A little bit of chick lit to start off the year!  I wanted something lighthearted to kick off 2015, and this new release from Ellen Hawley seemed like just the ticket.  Because it's like FOODIE chick lit!  And we all know how I feel about food books!  WOOT WOOT!  Everybody get your elastic-waist pants on and let's do this!

...

However.

Peeps, this book just did not work for me.

(I know, bummer way to begin the new year!  Sigh.)

Let's start with the format.  The book begins with "Day 1", the day Thad tells Abigail he is leaving her.  Day 1 opens as Abigail decides to go on a diet.  She begins reading a diet book that she recently acquired, and tries to follow the advice within.  As such, each day/chapter in the book is formatted like the diet book, as she has a section for Snack, Exercise, Dinner, etc.  This gets increasingly fluid as the chaos in Abigail's life increases, because she never actually goes on the diet once Thad announces his intentions for divorce.  Okay, so question one: why does the book continue to keep this diet book format, even though Abigail never actually goes on a diet?  By the halfway point of the book, this format became highly annoying and pointless.  At the end, I wondered why the author chose to continue this format through the entire novel, because it felt like an idea that was cute at the beginning, but completely unconnected to Abigail's life by the end.  (In fact, when Abigail weighs herself at the end, it seems to convey that the diet was never really significant to her happiness to begin with--so again, why keep the diet book format?)

Beyond the format, I also had some issues with Abigail's narrative.  There is very little dialogue from other characters in the book.  Abigail generally gives her side of the conversation, but rarely fills in the dialogue of the people she is speaking with.  This is insanely annoying, especially at crucial moments (like when Thad breaks up with her--the whole crux of the book!!) because you never get a well-rounded look at the story.  I felt entirely disconnected from Abigail's problems for much of the novel, largely because it took me so long to understand why Thad broke it off with her.  This could have been easily explained in the very first chapter, if only the narrative was structured differently.  This was a pattern throughout the book (I felt similarly about her relationship with her parents, because you so rarely ever hear them speak), and made the connections between characters feel extremely flat and one-sided.

Final complaint (with a tiny bit of a spoiler)...I was exasperated by (or as the kids say, SMH at) one of the eventual job offers that Abigail receives.  She spends much of the novel putting together a poorly-worded resume...makes fliers for a home business that are written as if a third-grader made them...can't figure out the computer system at her waitressing job...but then suddenly, miraculously, it turns out she can write a pithy, hilarious, well-crafted cooking column for a magazine?
I know, I'm really lacing into the book here, but the GIF was too appropriate to not happen.
I cannot get behind that.  The Dude does not abide.

I'm done with the lacerating review, I promise.  At it's heart, this book has a good story.  I know it.  I just don't think it was given the best opportunity to shine.

Even though this book was not a win for me, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me (even though I will likely not be used for publicity purposes here, which I'd say...is quite understandable).
Hey, don't just take my word for it.  The Divorce Diet has 4 stars on Goodreads, so there must be many that disagree with me!  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Ellen Hawley on her blog, website, and Twitter.

Friday, May 9, 2014

It's Teaser Time! The 3-Day Reset by Pooja Mottl

I know what you're thinking.  "Uh, Kelly's doing a teaser tour?  She never does those." (True.)  "And for a cookbook?  Has she ever even reviewed a cookbook?"  (Only one.)  "Does she even know how to cook?" (Ummm...kind of?)

Yes, I've shaken things up a little here, doing a teaser (which I don't normally do) for a cookbook-ish book (thought it's not really).  But The 3-Day Reset has a pretty awesome premise, so a little shaking-up is called for!

Why did I pick this book for review?  Top reason: I know FO' SHO' that I have a chocolate addiction.  No use denying it!  If I go without chocolate for a day, I get insane cravings.  I always have chocolate in the house for that reason.  (Luckily I also have really good self-control with portions, otherwise I'd be in disaster status over here.)

Here's the thing: Pooja Mottl claims she can cure me of that.  IN THREE DAYS.  Say whaaaaat!

Here's the full description:
Eating healthy can be a struggle. It’s hard to choose broccoli and brown rice instead of hot, cheesy pizza. And diets often ask you to cut out different foods all at once, leaving you feeling deprived.
In The 3-Day Reset, Pooja Mottl outlines 10 simple ways you can change your cravings and start eating whole, healthy, delicious foods—three days at a time. Each reset takes only 72 hours to complete, which means you’ll be able to stay focused on healthy eating from start to finish.
Resets include: sugar, wheat, salt, chocolate, yogurt, chicken, beverages, breakfast, salad, and takeout.
Accessible, fun, engaging, and packed with over 30 delicious recipes, pantry makeover lists, shopping guides, tidbits on food history, and other smart tools, The 3-Day Reset will set you on the course to healthy eating… and help you stay there for good.
So I read that, and I was like, HOLD THE PHONE, she can get me to eat something other than giant bowls of cold cereal for breakfast too?  This I must see.

Mottl's book is all about helping us harness "the power of WAMP" = Whole And Minimally Processed food.  And a big part of that is pinpointing what exactly these processed foods are...and how their ingredients hide within foods that we might otherwise think are healthy.  Here's an excerpt from the Sugar Reset chapter, to give you an idea:

1)  Beware of the various names that “ADDED SUGARS” masquerade under on ingredient lists. Here are some that commonly pop-up on a broad range of packaged, bottled, and boxed foods and beverages:

·         Corn-syrup solids
·         Dextrose
·         Fructose
·         Crystalline fructose
·         Glucose
·         Sucrose
·         Evaporated cane juice
·         Fruit juice concentrates
·         Demerara

2)  Don’t forget that added sugars aren’t just in sweet foods and drinks, they can also be found in a broad range of savory foods such as cured meats, almond milk, ketchup, tomato sauce, and chicken broth. Attached is an infographic to help guide you when you’re grocery shopping!

3) Try to eat whole, unrefined sources of sweetness, in moderation, about 80% of the time. The best sources for healthy sweetness are:

·         Whole, ripe, fresh fruits
·         Dried fruits and vegetables such as dates, pineapple, and tomatoes
·         Raw, unpasteurized honey
·         100% maple syrup
    Whole dried cane sugar or coconut palm sugar granulated crystals

So here's the dealio.  This month, I'm going to read the book and try a few of these resets.  At the end of June, I'll be back here with a full review (and hopefully less chocolate in my house).  In the meantime, you can find out more at these links:
Book Trailer
And yes, we have a GIVEAWAY!  One SIGNED copy of The 3-Day Reset for a lucky winner (US or Canada only please).  Just enter using the Rafflecopter below!  Contest ends May 16.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Review: Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear


Title: Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture
Author: Dana Goodyear
Publisher: Riverhead
Publication Date: November 14, 2013
Source: ARC received from the publisher for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

A new American cuisine is forming. Animals never before considered or long since forgotten are emerging as delicacies. Parts that used to be for scrap are centerpieces. Ash and hay are fashionable ingredients, and you pay handsomely to breathe flavored air. Going out to a nice dinner now often precipitates a confrontation with a fundamental question: Is that food?

Dana Goodyear’s anticipated debut, Anything That Moves, is simultaneously a humorous adventure, a behind-the-scenes look at, and an attempt to understand the implications of the way we eat. This is a universe populated by insect-eaters and blood drinkers, avant-garde chefs who make food out of roadside leaves and wood, and others who serve endangered species and Schedule I drugs—a cast of characters, in other words, who flirt with danger, taboo, and disgust in pursuit of the sublime. Behind them is an intricate network of scavengers, dealers, and pitchmen responsible for introducing the rare and exotic into the marketplace. This is the fringe of the modern American meal, but to judge from history, it will not be long before it reaches the family table.Anything That Moves is a highly entertaining, revelatory look into the raucous, strange, fascinatingly complex world of contemporary American food culture, and the places where the extreme is bleeding into the mainstream.


My Review:

2013 is clearly my year for foodie nonfiction.  So much good food-related writing out there right now!

If you've tried some food-related nonfic before, and found it a little too serious or technical for your taste (I know that can happen, especially with authors like Michael Pollan, even though I ADORE his work), I think Dana Goodyear's debut might be a better place for you to start.  In Anything That Moves, she gives us a glimpse into the alternative, rebellious side of foodie-ism.  The food bloggers in LA that spend their time searching for the perfect hole-in-the-wall diner; people who insist that eating insects is the sustainable-eating wave of the future; and even a young chef who hosts an underground "restaurant" (of sorts) in his apartment, off the grid of health inspectors.  This book is a great way to get your foodie fix, without too much technical jargon.

As a whole, I did really enjoy this book, though I found some parts slower than others.  For example, the section at the end about Wolvesmouth (a culinary "experiment" hosted by young chef Craig Thornton) was awesome, made me salivate with hunger, and had me wishing that I lived in LA so that I could get on the list to try out his culinary experience.  However, much of the second section (about the raw/unprocessed food movement) was a tad boring for me...perhaps because I had already read about a lot of that in Michael Pollan's Cooked?  I suppose the thing about this book is that if you are already familiar with some of the topics covered within it, you may not find it quite so captivating...but if many of these culinary concepts are new to you, it will probably keep you hooked from cover to cover.

As far as writing style goes, Anything That Moves takes a much more informal approach to the foodie discussion than other culinary-inspired books I've read.  This is good, in some respects--it matches the rebellious nature of many of the people described within the pages.  However, it was also a little disorienting at times, because Goodyear has a tendency to jump around from anecdote to anecdote, making her train of thought occasionally difficult to follow.  Even so, she has a much different approach to the food discussion (even compared to someone as off-the-cuff as Anthony Bourdain), so it was refreshing to get a new perspective on the topic.

Added plus: Goodyear actually manages to write an "ending" that's a bit of a cliffhanger, which you don't often see in a nonfiction book.  Part of me is dying to call her up and demand to know how that last food experience ended.

Even though a few parts dragged for me, overall I definitely give a thumbs-up to Anything That Moves.  At best, it will have you reconsidering your food options...and at worst, it will make you gag a little.  You know, in the name of edible ant pupae.

Readers: what's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?  Despite my love of foodie-ism, I'd have to say I've only gotten as adventurous as escargots...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: Hungry by Darlene Barnes


Title: Hungry
Author: Darlene Barnes
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject. But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to "Asian Surprise" and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped off by a catering service. And she also sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: "I was the new girl and didn't know or care about the rules." 

Naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds a more exasperatingly challenging environment: The kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative. Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent--but also funny and sensitive--guys. Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners. 

Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Hungry offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman's determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.


My Review:

My interest in this book was twofold.  First, FOOD!  FOOD MEMOIR!  YES!  Always a winner for me.  Second, cook in a fraternity house.  I was not affiliated with Greek life while in college, but my husband was in a fraternity.  He went to a different university than I did, so I didn't see his experiences first-hand, but I've heard an awful lot of stories--including those about the food.  So I was very interested to read this and compare notes with him afterwards.

Hungry is a fun, witty memoir that also requires you to concentrate on not salivating on the pages while you read.  I sometimes have a hard time with memoirs that are written too soon after the events that they describe, because they give me the sense that the author lacks enough self-awareness to write about the subject with any sort of distance.  However, that is not the case here.  Barnes is unflinchingly honest about both her triumphs and mistakes throughout her tenure as cook to the Alpha Sigma Phi brothers, and her appealing candor is laced with a humor that makes it even more entertaining to read.  Barnes has been blogging about her adventures in the fraternity house for a while already, and her comfort in writing about the subject shines through in this book.

I was impressed by her determination to bring fresh, local ingredients to the Alpha Sig house.  Barnes's typical menus for the brothers are NOT what you would ever expect to see on Greek Row.  And it was not at all easy for her to produce these creative, delicious meals--between picky eaters, stubborn food suppliers, and unreliable kitchen help, she had her work cut out for her.  But she never lost sight of her ultimate goal, and I found that admirable.  (And by the way, based on the number of stories my husband has shared about the deep-fryer in his fraternity kitchen...no, he was not eating like this when he was in college.  Sadly.)

My only noted downside to the content of this memoir came near the end.  I felt like things got a little rushed in the last chapter or two as it began to wrap up.  I started to get confused about the timeline and whether Barnes was still the cook at the fraternity or not.  I can see how she probably didn't want to get repetitive at the end (since she had already related so many similar stories by that point), but the last section just felt slightly less polished than the rest.

Beyond the memoir itself, one of the best additions to this book is in the RECIPES.  Barnes scatters some relevant ones throughout the text, and that's where the salivation comes in, my friends.  I am moving this book to the "cookbooks" section of my Kindle, in order to remind myself to make every darn creation that she included.  If she doesn't inspire you to get in the kitchen, nothing will.

So, do I want Darlene Barnes to be my BFF?  I dunno, this lady has got a sass-mouth on her that I'm not sure I could handle.  But does this memoir make me want her to be my chef mentor for life?  You freakin' bet.

Much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Darlene Barnes on her website and Twitter.


GIVEAWAY TIME!

TLC Book Tours is offering up a copy of Hungry, which is pretty awesome of them, I'd say.  Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter.  US/Canada residents only please.  Giveaway ends the night of September 4, 2013!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Cooked by Michael Pollan


Title: Cooked
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius "fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.


My Review:

You've all heard me wax poetic about Michael Pollan in the past.  I find his nonfiction works about food to be endlessly fascinating.  If you've never read any of his stuff, probably his two most well-known books (other than this one) are The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.  The Omnivore's Dilemma takes a close look at where our modern-day food comes from: everything from our organic (or is it?) produce, to the Cheetos in Aisle 5.  It's eye-opening (and somewhat disturbing) for sure.  On the flip side, In Defense of Food is about how we decide what to eat.  What does the American diet consist of, and is it really good for us?

I highly recommend reading those two books before jumping into Cooked.  Cooked is a great follow-up because as Pollan states in the intro, it bridges the gap between those other two subjects: he already wrote about where food comes from, and what we choose to eat, but what about the way that food gets to the table?  How do we prepare it...and why?  That's what Cooked attempts to examine.

The book is divided into 4 chapters: Fire (grilling/barbecue), Water (braising/pot meals), Air (bread making), and Earth (fermentation, such as pickling and beer brewing).  Pollan argues that lot of our meals these days are ready-made by corporations: frozen dinners, boxed cereals, instant mashed potatoes, etc.  What people define as "cooking" these days is iffy at best...and I'll admit it, I say that I "cooked" dinner on a night when I boiled up a pot of pasta and threw a glop of Ragu on top.  Is that really cooking though?  Wouldn't cooking be a more apt description if I made the noodles, or crushed up the tomatoes for the sauce?  Pollan attempts to get back to the basics with these four methods of cooking--methods that a lot of us have outsourced to the food service industry in the last 50-ish years.

I was enthralled by every chapter, but unexpectedly, the one that got most of my attention was the last  (Earth, or fermentation).  I honestly thought this one would drag a little bit for me.  I'm not particularly interested in pickling, and I'm familiar with brewing already because my husband has done it, so I figured I wouldn't glean much from that section.  However, Pollan includes a deep discussion about how "fermentos" (a subculture of fermenters that believe in using natural (ie not sanitized) fermentation processes to make things like sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, etc) are adamant about the health benefits of their products.  In the world of antibacterial hand soap and throwing out any cheese with the smallest dot of blue fuzz on it, many of us have lost the "good" bacteria in our GI tracts that we need in order to digest things well and ward off infections.  He makes some really great, well-researched points, and I found myself reading half the chapter aloud to my husband ("listen to THIS part, OMG you will thank me later for enlightening you!").

The book as a whole will make you feel smarter, while also providing some entertainment.  Pollan found a person (or several people) in each chapter to help him try his hand at their cooking techniques, often with unexpected results.  (And often with delicious results...prepare to feel voracious after reading.)  His personal experiences, paired with the historical and scientific information he has gathered, makes for an excellent read.

Have I hooked you yet?  Cooked is an awesome nonfiction pick for anyone interested in the food they prepare.  At the very least, it will inspire you to look at your oven in a whole new way.  You do have to be prepared for some history lessons, as well as some food science, but they're mixed so seamlessly into the rest of the narrative that I doubt you'll be bothered.

Now then...off to perfect my braising technique.

Have you read any of Pollan's books?  What did you think?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

(Cook)Book Review: Weelicious by Catherine McCord



Title: Weelicious
Author: Catherine McCord
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads:

Every parent knows how difficult it is to get to get kids eating happily and healthily. Catherine McCord has the answer: Weelicious. Creator of the wildly popular blog Weelicious.com, Catherine, who honed her cooking skills at Manhattan's Institute of Culinary Education, strongly believes in the "one family/one meal" idea--preparing a single, scrumptious meal the entire family can sit down and enjoy together rather than having to act as "short order cook" for kids who each want something different. In Weelicious, she offers dozens of recipes and tips for creating quick, easy, healthy, and fun food that moms, dads, and young children of any age will absolutely adore--from the most persnickety infants to the pickiest grade-schoolers.

My Review:

When I started this blog, I never thought I would review a cookbook.  Mostly because I don't read cookbooks--I may look through them for a good recipe now and then, but I don't read the intros or pour through all the recipes or anything like that.  Also, let's remember that I am, for the most part, utterly hopeless in the kitchen.

However, after continuous battles with Small Fry (aka World's Pickiest Eater), someone mentioned Weelicious to me and I decided to read it, back to front.  Because I'm willing to try anything at this point.  I had never been to weelicious.com, but I knew about it and had heard a few raves.  Catherine McCord is supposed to be the guru of curing Picky Toddler syndrome, and I hoped she could help me out.

Small Fry cheerfully dismantles the Huevos Rancheros I made for him.  Mother is not pleased.
The philosophy of Weelicious is that you should get your kids involved with food/cooking in your house as early as possible.  You would hate it if you never got to choose what you ate for a meal, right?  If it was just plunked down in front of you three times a day?  That's what most kids experience with their parents (something that never occurred to me before, but yes, I'll concede that point).  Catherine McCord suggests fixing this dynamic in a few ways.  For example, letting your kids assist with grocery shopping, or press the button on the food processor, or choose between two different meal options for dinner that night.

McCord does NOT advocate the philosophy that a lot of other parents have suggested to me:  hiding vegetables in other food (like making brownies but mixing carrots/broccoli/whatever in the batter).  She says that this is deceitful and that we should treat our kids with more honesty than this method suggests.  Okay, I get that too, and I'll admit I've tried this a few times (rarely with favorable results anyway).  I also like her reminder that just because YOU don't like a food, doesn't mean your kid won't--so add variety to their diet by letting them try everything.

Also (I know, I'm recapping everything for you here, but there is so much to share!), McCord has a section debunking the "my kid only eats chicken nuggets!"-type myths.  Your kid only eats those things if you make them available.  I will admit I have totally fallen into this trap before, with things like mac n cheese and fish sticks.  The book reminded me that Small Fry WILL eat other things, as long as I don't resort to these easy options every time he gets persnickety.

Before the recipes, McCord has a large section that talks about the importance of buying organic as much as possible, something that I understand and believe in, but I continue to maintain (despite McCord's claims otherwise) that it is near-impossible to feed a family affordably if you buy all organic.  However, I like the spirit of her message and I do think it's good to keep it in mind as much as feasibly possible.

So what about the recipes?

Well, I made a point of trying quite a few of them during my 4-week loan of the book from the library. Some went over GREAT with Small Fry--others, not so much.  He was a particular fan of the Stuffed French Toast, as well as the pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Pesto (which is REALLY FREAKING DELICIOUS and easy to make).  Hubs and I loved the Shrimp Tacos, but Small Fry was not a fan (picked out all the shrimp...sigh).
Stuffed French Toast = NOMS
Some of the recipes were okay, but lacked flavor, in my opinion--the Brown Rice and Veggie Casserole was good, but a little bland.  Same goes for the Slow Cooker Apple Streusel Oatmeal, and the Oatmeal On The Go Bars.  They were good, but in McCord's quest to keep extra sugar out of the recipes, you get kind of a bland outcome.  I ended up adding some brown sugar to the streusel oatmeal, and topping the oatmeal bars with some raspberry preserves to liven them up.

Overall: Weelicious did not completely cure Small Fry's finicky food preferences.  He still picks everything green off his plate with brain-surgeon-like precision.  And I don't necessarily think that all of McCord's suggestions for rehabbing your kid's eating habits are as easy as she makes them sound.  However, this did give me some great suggestions for how to include him in the kitchen, and add more variety to his diet.  I've been really good about not running to the mac n cheese every time he throws a fit, and that alone is a win for me.  I'd say that if you have a picky eater in your household, Weelicious is worth a perusal--you might find a few new, healthy go-to meals for your kiddos!

Other reviews of Weelicious:
Reading For Sanity
Fed Up With Lunch
Cafe Johnsonia

Do you have any favorite cookbooks?  Or really smart ways to get my son to eat green things?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson


Title: Yes, Chef
Author: Marcus Samuelsson
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.

Marcus Samuelsson was only three years old when he, his mother, and his sister—all battling tuberculosis—walked seventy-five miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Adaba. Tragically, his mother succumbed to the disease shortly after she arrived, but Marcus and his sister recovered, and one year later they were welcomed into a loving middle-class white family in Göteborg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus’s new grandmother, Helga, sparked in him a lifelong passion for food and cooking with her pan-fried herring, her freshly baked bread, and her signature roast chicken. From a very early age, there was little question what Marcus was going to be when he grew up.

Yes, Chef chronicles Marcus Samuelsson’s remarkable journey from Helga’s humble kitchen to some of the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France, from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a coveted New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four. But Samuelsson’s career of “chasing flavors,” as he calls it, had only just begun—in the intervening years, there have been White House state dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs and, most important, the opening of the beloved Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fufilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room—a place where presidents and prime ministers rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, bus drivers, and nurses. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home.


My Review:

You all already know how much I love food memoirs.  I fell in love with them after I tore through most of Anthony Bourdain's.  So it's no surprise that when I heard Marcus Samuelsson was releasing a memoir in 2012, I knew I would have to push it up my reading list.

For those of you unfamiliar with Marcus Samuelsson, he is one of the so-called "Food Network Stars".  He is often a judge on shows like Chopped, and he also competes in other shows (like Next Iron Chef, which he totally got booted from too early, in my ever-so-humble opinion).  I have always loved watching him cook on TV, because he brings some extremely unique international flavor to his dishes.  This book gave me the opportunity to delve into the origins of those skills.

As a memoir, I think the tone was perfect.  There are parts of the book where Samuelsson sounds a bit too cocky--but, he admits as much partway through it anyway.  And you'd probably be pretty cocky too, if you had the rise to food stardom that he did.  He's earned his swagger.  However, despite the arrogance that occasionally leaked through, it didn't turn me off because Samuelsson also spends large sections of the book admitting to his life's mistakes.  He may be near-perfect in the kitchen, but that has not translated to all areas of his life.  He has cheated on girlfriends, been a terrible (though trying to reform) father, and had one restaurant venture that was a total flop.  His ability to frankly tell all areas of his story (personal and professional, success and failure) brought a strong sense of honesty to the text.  It also helps you envision Samuelsson's journey toward maturity throughout his life, which is crucial in a memoir that spans so much time.

One aspect of Samuelsson's personal journey that particularly fascinated me was his racial identity.  He is truly a "man of the world": born in Ethiopia, adopted and raised in Sweden, culinary training in the US, Austria, France, Switzerland...the list goes on.  In each situation, his racial identity was challenged and reshaped.  For example, in Sweden, he says he is often seen as part of the "new Sweden", a more modern and multicultural population in that country.  On the flip side, in the US, he is grouped either as an African American, or an immigrant, which carries different meaning than it does in other countries.  He has taken these various histories and made them a part of himself.  That is best illustrated in his latest restaurant creation, Red Rooster, which is based in Harlem and attempts to bring together the enormous variety of cultures there.  Samuelsson places a high importance on helping black culinary students find success in the kitchen, and his passion for this shines through on the page.

And the food?  (This IS a food memoir...I have to talk about the food!)  The food will make your mouth water.  Reading the descriptions of his various menus and kitchen experiments will have you running to the phone to make a dinner reservation, ASAP.  Samuelsson's creativity with international ingredients is truly amazing, and it is intriguing to see how that skill developed as he moved to new restaurants and lived in different countries.

Overall: this is a fantastic memoir, for foodies and non-foodies alike.  Even if you've never seen a single second of Marcus Samuelsson on TV, I guarantee that his personal journey will be enough for you to delve into his book.  And the next time I'm in NYC, you better believe I will be trying to make a reservation at Red Rooster.

Other reviews of Yes, Chef:
A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
Black Girl Lost...In A Book
Buckling Bookshelves

Have you read any good food memoirs lately?  If foodie nonfiction's not your thing, do you think you'd give one a try anyway if the personal side of the memoir was interesting?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas



 
Title: Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)
Author: Amy Thomas
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Source: personal purchase (e-book)

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Part love letter to New York, part love letter to Paris, and total devotion to all things sweet. Paris, My Sweet is a personal and moveable feast that’s a treasure map for anyone who loves fresh cupcakes and fine chocolate, New York and Paris, and life in general. It’s about how the search for happiness can be as fleeting as a sliver of cheesecake and about how the life you’re meant to live doesn’t always taste like the one you envisioned. Organized into a baker’s dozen of delicacies (and the adventures they inspired) that will tempt readers’ appetites, Paris, My Sweet is something to savor.

My Review:

Finding my first book for the Around The World in 12 Books challenge was a cinch.  This month's country (France) has been written about from top to bottom, so the recommendations were endless.  However, the one I eventually went with was Paris, My Sweet (mentioned to me by Andi from Estella's Revenge--thanks Andi!).  I thought this was a perfect choice, because it doubles as a book for the Foodies Read challenge (nom).

Paris, My Sweet is the nonfiction account of advertising copywriter/food blogger Amy Thomas during her yearlong stint working in Paris.  After a semester of study abroad in the City of Light during college, she dreamed of eventually returning.  She got the chance at the age of 36 when her job temporarily relocated her there from her longtime home in New York City.  During that year, she experienced all aspects of the city, but especially the ah-may-zing pastries and desserts.  Amy recaps how she ate her way through Paris, while also connecting her food experiences to her personal ups and downs as an expat in France.

I feel like I have to review this as two separate books.  Because first, there's Paris itself: the history, the ambiance, and the food.  OH, THE FOOD.  Amy Thomas pulls no punches when she's describing the positively decadent chocolate, croissants, macarons, cupcakes, et al throughout the city.  I was ravenous before the end of the first chapter.  Each section usually focuses on one type of food (the chocolate chip cookie, madeleines, French toast, etc) and how she experienced it in Paris--along with how it has (or has not) taken off in the NYC restaurant scene.  The contrast between the two cities makes this better than your average food or travel memoir.  (Plus, she provides addresses for every bakery and restaurant she mentions--major score.)

And even beyond the descriptions of the food itself, I felt myself falling in love with the French method of cuisine.  "Fresh, local, and delicious was not the marketing mantra du jour in Paris.  It's just the way it was."  Thomas emphasizes how her Parisians neighbors treasured high-quality ingredients and freshly-prepared dishes, something that is unfortunately undervalued in the US.  It made me yearn for a 3-hour lunch and some local wine.  GAH, divine.

So yes, as far as Paris and the food--this book gets a major thumbs up.

However, then there is the OTHER part of the book: Amy's personal experiences.  To put it plainly, Thomas is just awful at expressing her feelings in a relateable way for readers.  Is she a poor writer structurally?  No.  But she has a complete lack of self-awareness that ends up making her sound spoiled, whiny, and outrageously stuck-up.  She spends the first few chapters recounting how phenomenal her life is: awesome apartment in NYC's East Village, hoppin' social life, amazing job.  Then she gets transferred to the city of her dreams, where she lands a ridiculously perfect apartment (which she doesn't have to pay rent for), gets to work on the Louis Vuitton account, and spends her downtime eating copious amounts of chocolate and jetsetting around Europe.  At one point, she says, "It was almost stupid how picture-perfect my new life was."  And all I could think was, EXACTLY.  Thomas shows positively no humility in these descriptions, and as a reader, I lost all interest in her as a result.  (Best part: when she complains about how she had to work SO MUCH in the summer (wait, like the rest of us?)...but oh yeah, she did have time to vacation in the Loire Valley and the Cote d'Azur.  Oh, and she got to watch the Tour de France from her office.  Please excuse me while I cry all the tears for you.)  Later in the memoir, she starts to talk about some relationship and health problems that she encountered, but by then I found her so eyeroll-worthy, it took me a long time to sympathize.

Also, Thomas breaks a well-known rule of Girl Law: if you're a skinny girl, you don't tell the world about how fat you feel.  I can say this, because I am a somewhat skinny girl, and I know better than to complain publicly about a fat day.  I will not get sympathy.  I keep that sh*t between me and my husband and/or BFF, who are the two humans who will listen to me about it without punching me in the face.  Thomas, however, spends the entire book complaining about how "fat" Parisian chocolate made her, when it is plain from every Googled photo of her ever that that is not the case.  Again, she loses reader sympathy here.

So, overall--as a food memoir (especially a dessert memoir), this book rocks my socks.  I am really glad that I bought a copy, because I'd love to take it with me if I ever visit Paris--all the best foodie spots are mentioned!  And Paris, as a setting, is gorgeously described.  It made me want to hop a plane ASAP.  However, as a personal memoir, Paris, My Sweet falls on its face.  Thomas needs to re-think how she presents herself to her audience.  She had some good stories to tell, but she just doesn't go about it with the right tone.

Foodies--rejoice!  This one is a hit.  But memoirists, you may want to take a pass.

What are your favorite books set in Paris?  How about food memoirs?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Well-Read Redhead's 2013 Resolutions

Happy 2013, readers!!  Here's hoping for a fun and exciting new year!

It's time to review my resolutions for 2012 and see how I did.  These were the resolutions that I posted on my old pre-book blog.  Many of them are not book-related, but hey, that just means you get to know me a little better.  Who doesn't want that, AMIRIGHT?

The Well-Read Redhead's 2012 Resolutions: Pass or Fail?

1. Read at least 50 books: PASS!
According to Goodreads, I hit 59 books this year (not including kid books).  Sa-weet.

2. Run a 5k and a 10k: PASS!
I ran a 5k (with my personal best time for the course at 28:10) in June, and a 10k (first time ever, time of 57:17) in September.

3. Keep up with Small Fry's baby scrapbook through his first birthday: mostly PASS!
When I'm not reading, I'm scrapbooking.  I created Small Fry's own first-year scrapbook, rather than buying a pre-printed one at the store.  I'm happy to report that I only have 5 pages left (out of like 40 pages, I am not joking, so this is a big deal).  I am hoping to finish them in January, which means I will have it done only 6 months after his 1st birthday.  **pats self on back**

4. Be a level-headed momma: semi-PASS?
On the spectrum of anxious people, I am somewhere between your mom and this SNL skit:
And motherhood is an easy place to ride the anxiety train, which is why I set this goal for myself.  I think I did just okay with this resolution.  Being a mom has its inevitable stressful times (OMG SMALL FRY, NO MORE FOOD ON THE WALL, FOR THE LOVE), and overall my crying-freak-out episodes were pretty spread out.  I think I managed so-so.  Could be better.  Will continue to work on this.

5. Do as many fun family activities as possible: PASS!
I am obsessed with finding fun activities for the three of us to do, especially because I am home with Small Fry 2 days a week in addition to the weekends.  I think I did pretty well with this.  We did a Music Together class, as well as swimming lessons.  We did a really fun family vacation to the Outer Banks, and lots of good weekend activities like apple picking, playing at the park, farm trips, playdates, library story time, etc.  Small Fry is at a fun age and I want to keep active with him as much as possible!

6. Attempt to complete the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge: mega FAIL!
Yeah, this sounded like a great idea last January.  Three weeks in, I had a clean pantry and junk drawer and I was DONE.  I should have seen that coming...52 weeks of organizing?  Was I insane?

And now...

The Well-Read Redhead's 2013 Resolutions
both book-related and not

1. Read at least 60 books, and complete the challenges I signed up for.
If I did 59 this year, I think this is an attainable goal.

2. Mix in some varied content with my book reviews.
I started this blog mainly for reviews, but I want to mix it up a little more this year.  Some discussion posts, interviews, etc.  Still mainly reviews, but with some fun stuff mixed in.  (Feel free to email me if there is something specific you'd like to see!)

3. Manage my computer/phone time better.
Ever since I started the blog, I've found it increasingly easy to check my email, sift through my Google Reader, edit a review, etc. at random times of day...yes, sometimes inadvertently cutting into family time.  Which I don't want.  So I'm going to be better about making specific computer/iPhone time, rather than doing it randomly throughout the day.  Damn you, technology, for being so accessible.

4. Eat (and cook) with more variety, and more healthfully.
I am a horrible cook.  Like, really horrible.  Which I know is weird, because I am a bit of a foodie and love reading about food.  I just can't make it myself.  My parents' favorite story is when I was 12 years old, and I called my mom at work to ask her what boiling water looked like.  (I was making mac n cheese and had literally no idea.)  Things have not gotten much better since then.
My husband's cooking skills have carried us up to this point, but I need to do better here.  Especially because Small Fry seems to be becoming a picky eater.  I really want to be able to make a wider variety of (healthy!) food for him, so that he isn't stuck eating the same things over and over.  This is going to be an insanely hard goal for me, but I'm going to try to both become a better cook, and add more variety to our diets.  Pray for me.

5. Print photobooks of our past family photos.
I used to print actual prints and put them in photo albums, but I haven't done that in years.  I would like to print photo books from 2009 on, but I haven't taken the time to sit down and choose the pictures.  Really want to make a dent in that this year.

6. Work on my upper body and ab strength.
Every past year, my workout goals have been about running.  But I'm in a good groove with running now, so my new goal is to focus on strength.  I just started 30 Day Shred, and it showed me how spaghetti-like my arms have become.  Plus, my abs never really recovered their strength after Small Fry was born.  So these are two areas I want to work on this year.

Okay, that's it!  You heard 'em here first.  Now, what are YOUR resolutions for 2013??
 
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