Monthly Archives: January 2012

Four Seasons, Four Stories


There is no better time than now to start making some great food memories.


Childhood memories. If you were ever a child, and, I’m assuming you were, then you have them. A smell, a taste or a sound, immediately drags you back to a different time in your life. There’s nothing you can do about it.

Many of these memories revolve around food. Funny how that happens. The people, places and circumstances vary, but, most of us have fond food remembrances from when were young.

There isn’t enough room in this post to start a recitation of the food memories from my youth. Suffice it to say there are lots. From a bowl of Chuckle-like fruit gels that sat on my Grandmothers coffee table, to my Mom barely simmering a big pot of chicken soup for hours on the stove. Those memories and more are easier than you would think to conjure up.

Children’s book author Litsa Bolontzakis has food memories too. The difference between her memories and mine are that she has memorialized them in a great series of books aimed at the younger set. Four books in all, one book for each season.

Winter: A Season for Chestnut, tells the story of Litsa’s love for this underappreciated nut with a Greek background. It’s a tale of her childhood and the foods that helped to make it special. It is part story and part cookbook. A great combination for kids.

I have to confess my chestnut knowledge is a little on the thin side. My only chestnut experience is probably similar to many peoples. Being in New York City, smelling the aroma of roasted chestnuts emanating from vendor’s cart, but, being too busy with the bustle of my day to stop and have a taste. Next time for sure!Chestnuts

If you would like to start making some chestnut memories of your own, it’s pretty easy to do. Here’s the way Litsa does it:

Roasted Chestnuts

1 lb. chestnuts

Preheat oven to 425. Cut a large X with a sharp knife all the way through the skin of the nut. Place the chestnuts in a shallow baking pan. Place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Shake the pan several times during roasting so the chestnuts will cook evenly.

As soon as the nuts are cooked, remove from the oven. Peel the roasted chestnuts once they are cool enough to handle. Once they cool completely they will become difficult to peel.

You can also roast your chestnuts on an outdoor grill. Or, over an open fire (think Christmas and Nat King Cole) using one of those fancy chestnut roasting pans with the long handle.

Litsa says the roasted nuts are great dipped in chocolate. I don’t doubt that.

The Bottom Line: Reading someone else’s childhood memories stirs up a few of your own. That in itself is fun. Litsa’s series is a great way to get kids interested in food and cooking. The illustrations by Daniela Zekina are beautiful and add a warm, nostalgic, dreamy feel to the book.

Now, feel free to go out and make a few food memories for someone in your life.

BUY IT - Winter: A Season for ChestnutAuthor: Litsa Bolontzakis
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Hummingbird Publications
ISBN-10: 097315991X

Recipe adapted, Roasted Chestnuts, Litsa Bolontzakis, Winter: A Season for Chestnuts, Hummingbird Publications, 2010

Three Vegan Cookbooks


When something is not part of your everyday life, things get interesting.

Three Vegan Cookbooks

Vegan. The word has a semi mysterious tone to it. Even though a meatless lifestyle is already part of Main Street and the mainstream, many people still get a glassy look in their eyes when they hear the word. It’s not like these folks have never eaten a salad or pasta before. Right?

Obviously, a vegan or vegetarian existence is a lot more than just salads and side dishes. It includes a wide variety of delicious meals that will make your taste buds and your body smile. We’re talking about everything from appetizers to desserts.

In my view, the biggest problem with the promotion of a meat free existence is ignorance. People seem to equate the food choice with an entire life choice. I’m not certain that there isn’t something to that, but, the two are certainly different things. I know there is vegan junk food, but, it does appear that vegans/vegetarians live their lives with a different outlook on the food they consume than carnivores. It might just be a crazy coincidence, but, I don’t think so.

I’ve got three great cookbooks on my shelf that bring out the best in a no meat regimen. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

BUY IT! - The Tipsy Vegan: 75 Boozy Recipes to Turn Every Bite into Happy Hour

Author John Schlimm has set out to make vegan dishes with a little something extra. John, who is a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the U.S., brings his alcohol expertise to the vegan table.

His book, The Tipsy Vegan is filled with tasty dishes that pack a punch. Each chapter starts with a cocktail recipe designed to keep the cook happy while they’re working.

This book is loaded with delicious recipes that are easy to prepare and fun to serve.

It is separated into eight amusing sections. Plastered Party Starters, Boozy Soups, Staggering Salads, The Guzzler’s Garden of Side Dishes, Brunch Buzz, The Lush’s Lunch, Sloshed Suppers and Drunken Desserts. You’ll love browsing and cooking through them.

Amy Beadle Roth provides great mouth watering images to accompany many of the dishes.

BUY IT! - Vegan Pie in the Sky: 75 Out-of-This-World Recipes for Pies, Tarts, Cobblers, and More

Vegan bakers delight! If baking is your thing, then Vegan Pie In The Sky is a must for you. It’s packed with seventy five great recipes for pie lovers of all stripes.

Award winning vegan chefs, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero have teamed up to bring us a nice collection that you will return to again and again.

I have to admit, I am not a dessert person. That said, these pies even had me drooling. If you’re thinking about making one and sending it my way, I’ll put in an order for the Chocolate Galaxy Banana Cheesecake please. It’s on page 92 in case you’re interested (just trying to be helpful).

With numerous vegan cookbooks to their collective credit, it’s obvious from the first page that the these ladies can really bring it.

BUY IT! - The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour

Last, but, certainly not least, is Kim O’Donnel’s fantastic cookbook, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook. The recipes in this book are not vegan like the previous two, but, it’s touted as “vegetarian recipes that carnivores will devour”.

Kim’s recipes are easy to prepare and full of flavor. She has even included one of my favorite vegetarian dishes, the super delicious, Egg In A Hole. I think every kid growing up may have eaten a variation of this easy to prepare breakfast (or dinner) dish. Looking back on it now, it could be used as an early introduction to a vegetarian lifestyle. You’ve got to start this kind of thing at an early age.

I love the fact that the book is divided into seasons. As you would guess, summer has some lighter dishes, while winter sports heartier fare. Most of the recipes have special tags so you can have a little extra information at a quick glance.

You’ll have to admit, those are some excellent cookbooks. All three were published by Da Capo Press, who has made a serious commitment to the vegan/vegetarian cooking community. Hats off to them. It’s a healthy cooking (and eating) style that deserves to be actively promoted.

BONUS – Since you’ve made it this far, I’ve got a nice reward for you. I have one copy of each of these great books to give away to our readers. And, best of all, you don’t have to really do much to get one. Just click here, send us an email expressing your love for meatless meals and we’ll pick three at random. That’s it. We’ll even pay the shipping.

If we don’t select yours you can still grab a copy of any or all of these books by clicking the book cover images above.