Comfort Foods

It’s back to school and that means bag lunches. Or maybe like me, you don’t have school age kids, but still want to start packing lunch to take to work. It’s easy to get in a rut, but these three cookbooks offer many ways to jazz up your lunchbox.

bahnmiThe Banh Mi Handbook is the latest book from Andrea Nguyen. In the past she has written about Vietnamese food, dumplings and tofu, perhaps convincing you to make your own. But I had to wonder, when I can get a terrific banh mi sandwich for just a couple bucks, would I want to make my own? The answer is YES because Nguyen goes well beyond what you might find at a Vietnamese sandwich shop.

What I absolutely love the most about this book in addition to the versatility is the focus on ease and simplicity. There are lots of shortcuts and no shame if you choose to buy bread or mayonnaise or doctor some liverwurst to make a tasty pate. The book offers the basics and traditional recipes for fixings like carrot and daikon pickles, headcheese terrine and Chinese barbecue pork but also offers tons of non-traditional options too to keep things interesting. Go vegetarian with coconut curry tofu or an edamame pate. I know I’ll be making the warm sardine and tomato sauce sandwich and the oven fried chicken katsu. These are sandwiches that will make your mouth water!

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yummypotatoesWhat a great thing for the fall, a potato cookbook. -ae

Last week I went through a box of recipes I had clipped from the San Francisco Chronicle. I found recipes dating back to the late 90's! I wish I was as good at organizing as I am at hoarding. Reviewing all those clippings, I can safely say I had saved more recipes written by Marlena Spieler than from anyone else. Spieler has been a writer for the Chronicle for ages and has written tons of cookbooks to boot. 

So imagine my pleasure at receiving a review copy of Marlena Spieler's latest book, called Yummy Potatoes 65 Downright Delicious Recipes. And on the same day I posted one of my yummy potato recipes! Potatoes on the brain. I cannot tell you how delectable most of her recipes look! There are Breakfast Potatoes, Tapas, Meze and Antipasti, Soups, Salads, Mashes, Baked, Fried, Sides and a category called "Potatoes for Dinner!" I swear the exclamation point is hers, not mine, but it might as well be mine.

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serve-yourself-cover1.jpgThis quick book review will most likely be biased. I’m cool with that. And I’m owning my bias in a big way, here’s why:

1. My husband works out of state several weeks a month.
2. I am from Texas. Mr. Yonan is from Texas.
3. Mr. Yonan is affable, sweet and smart, and has a chapter on tacos.
4. Tacos.

While 1 through 4 are major reasons why I love this book so much, they’re not the only reasons why Joe Yonan’s Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One is currently rocking my kitchen. I met Joe, the Food & Travel editor for The Washington Post, in person last year at IACP when I was presenting a talk on food photography. You can imagine my surprise when we started chatting about being from small Texas towns, and if you’re from a small Texas town there are some things that only others could from Texas could understand and appreciate. Plus Joe spent time in Austin, my 2nd hometown, so you can see the affinity I have for Joe.

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