Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas -- Books for Him and Her (Review)

Welcome Books

I recently stumbled across Welcome Books when preparing for my upcoming "Welcome in Spring with a Good Book" feature, which will begin next week and run through the rest of Feb.  As I was looking at their selection of books, the following books caught my eye, as they would make for great gift ideas for Valentine's Day, and even Mother's and Father's Day coming up soon.  The following book are all available now to order, and are worth learning more about. :-)

Funny Food 

Hardcover, 7.5 x 7.5 in.
160 pages, 365 full color illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-59962-111-1

"They're easy. They're silly. They're healthy. They're clever. They're artistic. They're delicious. They're fun. They're a great way to start the day. One breakfast at a time, Bill Wurtzel is determined to make you laugh and eat and play and laugh some more. Riffing over the years with oatmeal, eggs, apples, and nuts, it is finally ours to share...

Not since Joost Elffers' Play With Your Food has food been so ridiculous and so endlessly diverting. Parents and children will giggle through breakfast. Teachers and students can laugh some more making snacks or desserts after lunch. This is a book filled with nothing but engaging spontaneity and simplicity that makes you say, "I can do that." And, you can...the consequences are yummy. Really, who doesn't like to play with food? Bill Wurtzel, a jazz guitarist, has been making these plates for his wife, Claire, for as many years as they've been married. Now he is turning a hobby into an art form with a social message. His goal is to discourage obesity by inspiring children—and adults—to improve their eating habits by creating meals that are not only nutritious, but also fun. It's your turn...

These are not your mother's smiley-face sandwiches. In Bill's world, carrots turn into airplanes; boiled eggs into jugglers, and pears into guitar players. As gracefully as Picasso's ceramic plates found endless form so do Wurtzel's portraits which seem to grow out of almost anything—cheerios and bananas; lox and bagels; oatmeal, blueberries, and strawberries. Sometimes you think he is portrait artist and you could swear you just saw Sigmund Freud emerging from a pear or Shakespeare growing out of an apple. Sometimes the plates are just plain fanciful. "Your breakfasts don't have to look like they'll hang in the Louvre," he says. "It's the gesture that counts." But it sure looks like he riffed on Matisse's paper cutout dancers with a papaya. Bill does snacks, too.
Funny Food will contain both recipes and how-to photographs where relevant.

The Wurtzels have also has been conducting workshops for children at Public School 188 on the Lower East Side, teaching them to use their imaginations to improve their health "rather than just putting lettuce and vegetables on their trays.""


Source: From Funny Food, by Bill & Claire Wurtzel. © 2012 Welcome Enterprises, Inc., 


My Thoughts:

Have you ever left your husband to prepare your children breakfast in the morning after an up-all-night with the children. Well, this past Saturday, I had down just that as our 1 yr. old is teething, and our 2 yr. was having tummy troubles.  So, it seemed like I was crawling out of bed every 20-30 minutes to get a bottle, change a diaper, or simply rock one of them back to sleep.  By the time the alarm went off, the last thing I wanted to do was crawl out of bed once again to make breakfast.  Now, my husband has handled breakfasts for the girls in the past, but not in a way that I would expect.  Instead of offering eggs and bacon or ham, cereal, oatmeal or yogurt and fruit -- my daughters' usual breakfast requests, he would offer up popsicles, pepperoni slices and cheese puffs.  Knowing this, I was hesitant to leave it up to him on this morning to make breakfast for the girls, but couldn't muster up enough energy to pull myself out of bed.  Before he left for the kitchen, I told him that they needed a well-balanced and healthy breakfast.  He told me not to worry and that he had it covered.  "Oh, boy," I thought to myself.  "I wonder what he has planned."

Well, it turns out he had stumbled across the "Funny Food" book I was in the process of reviewing, and wanted to try and re-create one of the funny faces made out of eggs.  As I laid in bed, all I could hear was his banging pots and pans, chopping things and going in and out of the refrigerator and pantry.  And, by the time he finally served up the breakfast (aka: his masterpiece/work of art), all I could hear was the girls giggling and saying, "ooh, aahhh."  Not knowing what was going on, I pulled myself out of bed to find my daughters admiring butterfly fruit my husband had made out of strawberries and blueberries, a penguin made from a hard boiled egg, and a funny face made out of oatmeal and cut up fruit. 


While my daughters had a smile on their faces, as they looked down at their breakfast plates, my husband was standing to the side admiring his works of art.  He asked me how long I had this book, and if I made funny food for the girls.  I told him I only recently had received it, but didn't have a chance to make anything yet.  But, thanks to my husband and his creative, fun renditions of the funny foods in this book, the girls had a blast that morning for breakfast, and for once ate everything on their plates.  I guess I should put my husband in charge of breakfasts more often. :-)  With 365 fun, healthy, silly and creative breakfast ideas through colorful photos in this book, he can be kept busy for an entire year. :-)

Even if you don't have children, this photo book of creative ways to dress up your breakfast foods, would also make for a great coffee table book, or gift for cooks who like to play around with foods and plate design in the kitchen.  Forget about your mother telling you not to play with your food.  With Funny Food, that is the whole idea. :-)


The Little Big Book for Moms 
 (ISBN: 978-1-59962-075-6)


"More than 440,000 families have treasured The Little Big Book for Moms since it was published in the spring of 2000 to an avalanche of praise! This beloved classic's tenth-anniversary edition features a fresh cover design, new vintage art, and revised introductions. Still the perfect book for every new mom, it is illustrated throughout with early twentieth-century art from artists like Jessie Willcox Smith, Maxfield Parrish, and Ida Waugh. Destined to sit on every little one's bookshelf, this timeless treasure is filled with things for moms to read and sing, make and do with their small ones. This companion for EVERY new mother includes:

*14 fairy tales including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk
*17 nursery rhymes such as Hey! Diddle Diddle and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
*14 songs including "Old MacDonald" and "Skip to My Lou"
*10 finger games such as The Wheels on the Bus and Five Little Monkeys
*14 activities such as Hand Shadows, Bubbles, and Potato Stamps
*14 of the best recipes for little kids including Rice Pudding and Applesauce Pancakes

AND, when they have finally fallen asleep, there are 24 excerpts and poems about childhood and motherhood from Maya Angelou, Lewis Carroll, Susan Cheever, A. A. Milne, Ogden Nash, Shel Silverstein, E. B. White, and others."


My Thoughts:

I wish I had known about this book when I was preparing to welcome our first daughter Savannah, as it would have come in handy when I was trying to remember nursery rhymes and songs I had heard as a child or had my mother sing and recite to me.  Out of the four books I was sent from Welcome Boos, to review for this feature, this was the book that caught my eye the most and the one I read cover to cover on the first day of receiving.  

Even though the book is small in size, it is chock full of fairy tales, recipes, songs, stories, finger games, and so much more that will make entertaining and soothing your children so much easier.  As new parents, my husband and I were worried that we would not be able to soothe our first daughter, Savannah, or know what she wanted when she cried.  Like many other first-time parents, we were dreading leaving the hospital and bringing her home to tend to her ourselves, without any help or support.  But, as time went on, things got easier and we found that parenting was the best job in the whole world.  Now 2 1/2 yrs. later, we have two daughters who are full of energy and learning new things every day.  

Thanks to this book, we have found some great recipes, including banana bread and rice pudding that even the pickiest of eaters enjoy :-), as well as fun activities that we can do to keep them engaged and entertained.  Who knew that my husband would become the bubble man in the house, and at bedtime wear another hat -- that of the shadow puppet man.  Even thought we both find ourselves drained at the end of the day, we would not change it for the world.  And, even though my husband was hoping for a boy to kick the soccer ball around with, he is happy to have two little princesses that always invite him to tea parties and want him to tell them stories and sing songs with them.  

I have found my husband sneaking this book to read at nighttime, hoping to learn new activities and games he can surprise the girls with.  And, like me, he can't get over how much wonderful information is found in this small book.  It definitely is a must have for any new or expectant mom, looking for prepare herself for the joys of motherhood and creating special bonding time and memories with their little ones.

Dads don't feel left out, as there is a book just for you, too --

The Little Big Book for Dads 


"The Little Big Book for Dads, Welcome's companion to the best-selling The Little Big Book for Moms, is back in an updated edition featuring a fresh cover design, a revised introduction and a new ISBN. This classic is a treasure trove piled high with stories, fairy tales, poetry, activities, recipes, and songs - all selected with the dad in mind. Featuring text by authors as diverse, funny, and profound as Bill Cosby, Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash, and Dr. Seuss, and illustrated throughout with early twentieth-century art from artists including Jessie Wilcox Smith and Kate Greenway, The Little Big Book for Dads makes for a special reading experience to be shared between dad and a little one. Filled with activities to while away the hours together, including making sandcastles and identification games; jokes, riddles, and great tongue twisters to laugh over; and even some fun stuff to try in the kitchen with the kids, like mac and cheese, sloppy joes, and chicken fingers. All in all, it's a book dads -and kids, too- will love and appreciate."

Cooking With Italian Grandmothers
(ISBN: 978-1-59962-089-3)


"American chef Jessica Theroux spent a year traveling throughout Italy, cooking and talking with Italian grandmothers, learning their secrets and listening to their stories. The result is a charming and authentic collection of recipes, techniques, anecdotes, and photographs that celebrate the rustic and sustainable culinary traditions of Italy’s most experienced home cooks.

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers features the histories and menus of twelve grandmothers, each of whom welcomed Ms. Theroux into their kitchens and pantries and shared both their favorite dishes and personal wisdoms. From the dramatic winter shores of Ustica to the blooming hills of Tuscany in spring, readers will journey through Italy’s most diverse regions and seasons, to discover the country’s most delectable dishes, from the traditional to the unexpected, and meet the storied women who make them.

Part travel diary, part photo essay, part cookbook, Cooking with Italian Grandmothers features over 100 time-honored recipes, from the perfect panna cotta to the classic meat lasagna."


My Thoughts:

If you follow my blog then you know how much I love cookbooks.  I have a whole closet in my house that houses my collection of cookbooks, from all nationalities and cooking levels.  It doesn't matter if I am baking sweet treats to surprise the family with, or looking to make a homemade pasta sauce or soup for dinner, I am always looking through my cookbooks to try and find a new recipe to try out in the kitchen. And, when I receive a new cookbook to review, I read it cover to cover, as if it were a novel, making sure to admire all the beautiful images of the foods that grace the pages of each cookbook.  

So, when I stumbled across Welcome Books, my first instinct was to check out their selection of cookbooks.  This led me to my last two reviews in this feature -- "Cooking with Italian Grandmothers" and " Afield".  I was excited to get my hands on this Italian cookbook, not only for the authentic recipes, but also to read the stories that Jessica Theroux shares throughout the cookbook about the grandmothers she met and talked to during her one year journey through Italy.  During her travels, she learned their secrets and had the chance to cook with these women.  What she learned from the twelve women she met make up this part cookbook, part travel/photo diary, which was a true joy to read.

My father's side of the family, starting with his mother and going back all originated from different parts of Italy. So, as you can imagine, we grew up listening to some amazing stories about Italy and food, all while dining on authentic Italian dishes.  Unfortunately, whenever my mother or I would ask my grandmother for her recipes, she couldn't give them to us, as they weren't written down, nor did she have exact measurements.  When she got in the kitchen, her hands became her measuring spoons, as she created delicious Italian cookies and biscotti, or whipped together a homemade pasta sauce that was out of this world.  

As the years went by, my mother and I tried to spend as much time as we could with my grandmother in the kitchen.  At times, we would try and guess how much of a particular ingredient went into the mixing bowl.  Never did we dare ask her to pour what she had poured into her hand into a measuring cup to measure, as we didn't want to offend her and question her cooking/baking methods.  Instead, we could only admire her skills and the tasty dishes and treats she was able to create from recipes she stored in her head.  Unfortunately, with age she spent less time in the kitchen and eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  Even though she no longer knows who we are when we go to visit her in the nursing home, there are a few breaks in the visit, where our grandmother returns and tells us of the beauty and wonder of Italy and describes some of our favorite dishes we were able to enjoy when she was in the kitchen.

I have tried countless recipes over the years from Italian cookbooks I have collected, but none seem to come close to how my grandmother used to cook.  That was until I read this book and tried a few of the recipes.  As I read though a handful of the recipe ingredients and directions for the sauces and pasta dishes, I recalled some of the same ingredients and steps my grandmother would use, and hoped that when I made these dishes they would taste close to hers.  So far, I have only had a chance to make a few of the recipes in this book.  And, even though they are not the identical recipes that my grandmother learned from her mother and grandmother and made over the years for us, they had similar flavors, which made my heart sing.  Even though I am slowly losing my grandmother to Alzheimer's and old age, I will never forget her stories, which are similar to those of the twelve women Jessica Theroux had the pleasure of talking with.  And, maybe in time, I will have Italian recipes I can pass down to my children, as a way to carry on our Italian heritage. 

If you love preparing or enjoying Italian food, or love reading travel diaries, then you will love this book by Jessica Theroux.  It would make for a great gift to share, or a cookbook to pick up, to try out a few recipes out for that special Valentine's Day dinner. 


Hardcover, 8" x 10" in. 272 pages, 335 Full Color Photographs including 175 step-by-step Images
ISBN: 978-1-59962-114-2


"Born from the principles of the local food movement, a growing number of people are returning to hunting and preparing fish and game for their home tables. Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish is at once a manifesto for this movement and a manual packed with everything the new hunter needs to know. Wild foods, when managed responsibly, are sustainable, ethical, and delicious, and author Jesse Griffiths combines traditional methods of hunting, butchering, and preparing fish and game with 85 mouthwatering recipes.

Afield throws open the doors of field dressing for novice and experienced hunters alike, supplying the know-how for the next logical step in the local, sustainable food movement. Stemming from a commitment to locally grown vegetables and nose-to-tail cooking, Griffiths is an expert guide on this tour of tradition and taste, offering a combination of hunting lessons, butchery methods, recipes, including how to scale, clean, stuff, fillet, skin, braise, fry and more. Fellow hunting enthusiast and food photographer Jody Horton takes you into the field, follows Griffiths step-by-step along the way and then provides you with exquisite plate photograph of the finished feasts. Filled with descriptive stories and photographs, Afield takes the reader along for the hunt, from duck and dove to deer and wild hog."

Game and fish include:
Doves, Deer, Hogs, Squirrel, Rabbits, Ducks, Geese, Turkey, Flounder, White Bass, Crabs, Catfish, and more.

My Thoughts:

I remember seeing this cookbook in a magazine feature recently and wondered what it was about.  Now, even though my husband does not hunt, he oftentimes bring home wild game and fish his hunter friends give him.  And, each year, when the Superbowl rolls around, we end up serving up rabbit and other wild game that the neighbors bring over.  

Not being a hunter or knowing how to properly clean and prep this game and fish, I was excited to learn with this chef's guide to preparing and cooking wild game and fish.  Usually when my husband brings home the game, it is ready for me to season and cook up.  I don't have to worry about pulling out feathers or preparing the meat for cooking - which I have to say I like.  But, I always wondered what steps it took someone to prepare what I was given to cook up.  Now, after reading through this cookbook, I know and appreciate the time they put in to prepping the game for me.

Even though I have a few family recipes that are tried and true for cooking rabbit and some fish, I have continued to look for ways to tweak the recipes, or new recipes to try altogether.  This was one of the main reasons I requested to review this cookbook, and am so glad that I did.  Not only is this book filled with easy to prepare recipes that wlil have your mouth watering just reading the recipe name and seeing the prepared dish, but chef and avid hunter, Jesse Griffiths shares his love of animals, hunting and cooking with you through his stories, with absolutely stunning photographs of picturesque Texas and nature by Jody Horton.  I found myself first flipping through this cookbook simply to admire the photography.  Then, as I sat back to read the stories and each of the recipes, I felt like I was being treated to a unique artistic cookbook while taking joining Jesse on his hunting expeditions through the photographs -- simply breathtaking and awe inspiring. If you or someone you know loves hunting and preparing wild game and fish, then you will want to pick up a copy of "Afield" to have on hand.  It is like a bible of sorts for chefs who enjoy cooking wild game.

Disclosure: I was sent copies of these titles from the publisher in order to write up an honest review  The views above are mine and mine alone.

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