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Joan Leotta, author, writer, performer, libraries, schools, food cooking, Italian, folklore, teaching
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Category Archives: Joan Leotta, children, performing, writing, food, recipes, creativity,
On Saturday, Aug 19, I read my book, Rosa and the Red Apron to a group of Girl Scouts at the Lowe’s Food in Monkey Junction in Wilmington, NC (Lowe’s obtained permission to use photo on FB) . Thank you, Alexandra , for inviting me!
It was a fun way to spend a morning.
We had such a good time! The girls enjoyed acting out the book with me as I read it. We did not have time to talk much about writing–Lowe’s had arranged a wonderful cookie decorating session for them–yummy!
I am available to speak to scout groups on writing, on cooking, on story performance and speaking! I have some dates left before the end of the year. More open in January and February!
175 Best Small-Batch Baking
Treats for 1 or 2
By Jill Snider
Robert Rose Press
Retail : $24.95
Review by Joan Leotta
Baking is not what I am known for. The careful chemistry of ingredients, exact measurements–all of this does not jive with my little of this, little of that style of cooking. I do bake–cookies mostly, and when I do, I am careful to follow the directions no matter how much my inner spirit wants to rebel.
Cookies are one of my favorite things to make and eat (if you check out my photos you will know the truth of that!). However, now that we are a family of two, cookie making is restricted to holidays, parties and church or community functions. Even then, I am often faced with a large amount that need to be frozen. When I pull them out months later, even if frozen in small batches, I feel as though it is a chore to eat them. I prefer fresh.
Cutting a recipe for 24, 36 or more cookies into batches of 6 or nine is more than an exercise in simple math. The chemistry of the cookie requires, adjustment of certain ingredients, a smaller pan, a different baking time. Jill Snider has done all of the experiments to make sure that the recipes she has included meet those criteria. These are not oddball cookies–oh no! She has many of my holiday favorites in this book and there are others, related to them, chewy and crisp, bar cookies, min pies, mini loaves and more that are perfect for a romantic dinner, afternoon spur-of-the- moment snack (without days of required eating or gifting of leftover cookies). My freezer is already smiling at not having to bear the burden of tiny bags of cookies that will be lost behind roasts and veggies until dried out. Many of the recipes are for things that are my personal faves–dream bars, apricot and fig pinwheels, and even pecan balls.
Author Jill Snider has decades of baking experience in her resume, including 25 years as a test kitchen manager for a major flour maker. This Toronto, Canada resident is the author of two other cook books as well. She has recalculated cooking times and pan size. She knows how to split an egg! (several of my cookie recipes call for one egg and to halve the recipe….) Snider’s recipes are calculated so this issue is resolved.
The 175 recipes in this book–well, this means I can pick up the book and find something I want to make any time I am in the mood for something sweet–and home-made, no chemicals.
Small batch also means lower cost and fewer sugary calories to be consumed at one sitting. Such calorie avoidance, by eating fewer cookies, does not make this a health cookbook, but certainly no one can argue it is good for mental health, providing the means for a small sweet treat when the psyche needs it. This book makes a wonderful gift for anyone who has a smaller household.
With permission of the author the publisher I am printing one of the recipes from the book. Try it, But try it at your own peril, because like all delicious things, once you try one, you will want more!
Raspberry Coconut Pinwheels
Makes 8 medium or 6 larger cookies
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line baking sheet with parchment
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons quick oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter ,softened
1/4 cup pack brown sugar
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 1/tablespoon raspberry jam
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, oats and baking soda and salt
In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together, butter, sugars, the egg and the almond extract until creamy, Add the coconut and the flour mixture.
Set aside 3 tablespoons of the dough for topping. Then drop by spoonsful onto prepared baking sheet. make an indentation in each cookie. Put the jam in the indentation and then partially cover with the reserved dough
Bake in the preheated oven, 10-14 minutes or until golden.
Let cool for five minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen
By Brittany Wood Nickerson
Suggested Retail: $24.95
It’s been a long time since I have been so excited about a cookbook! Not only is it replete with recipes I want to try, it also is full of information on herbs and how they infuse food with flavor and impact the health-factor of the dish. My rule of thumb is that a cookbook is worth buying if you find at least six you want to try and includes tips on technique that will enhance your abilities in the kitchen. This book more than exceeds in both categories. I have already filled the book with sticky notes and pieces of paper to mark recipes and segments about specific herbs I want to re-read.
The book avoids making extreme claims for the herbs, but carefully explains their historical uses for health and the way in which they work with other elements in a recipe to provide flavor and to enhance the flavors of the prime ingredients. In no way should you construe any of the health benefits listed as a substitute for seeing a physician for health problems.
Although most herbs do not have side effects, if you have a compromised immune system, are pregnant, or have any other health condition, consult your physician before making any major commitment to a particular herb.
This afternoon, I am embarking on an experiment to make tarragon vinegar. Later this week I plan to make use of some fresh figs I was given in Nickerson’s chicken with figs recipe.
So many recipes, so little time—but so many leftover fresh herbs from supermarket packets that I will now be able to preserve in oils and vinegars. So many new ideas for pesto recipes!
Most people believe in the power of vitamins to help the immune system—why not get vitamins and stimulate your body’s natural healing powers directly from food and the herbs used to flavor them?
“Connect to the healing power in your foods”, is the advice on the back of the book. Certainly, her guidance in the use of herbs will enhance the quality of each dish so that each one works with the body to increase your health.
At the very least you will enjoy tastier meals and have a better understanding of how to use herbs in your cooking. At best you will enjoy improved health.
100 Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba
By Rebecca Coleman
Robert Rose Publications
Suggested Retail $19.95
Review by Joan Leotta
This is a book all vegans will want to have on their shelves, especially vegans who want to bake.
Making eggless meringue with bean juice and how to “bind” mixes without the addition of eggs. May not sound appealing on the face of it, but truly, Agquafaba is a godsend to those who want to make dishes that in the non-vegan world, use eggs.
As such, committed vegans have a strong ally in the form of the book Aquafabulous by Rebecca Coleman published by Robert Rose Press.—- A luscious looking photo of a cake slathered in meringue graces the aqua blue cover of this book, which according to its press release, “has blown open the world of vegan baking. Things that were once considered impossible, are now possible and the options are endless.”
As I have come to expect from any book published by Robert Rose, the first pages of this volume describe the element in question and tell us the why and how of it. The rest of the book is devoted to a stellar collection of recipes ranging from breakfast to desserts. Her baked goods selection includes such delights as French macaroons, strawberry shortcake and donuts
The recipe portion is a wonderful exercise in exploring the use of this ingredient—new to me, but oh so useful to vegans everywhere. Of course, it is no surprise that someone with Coleman’s credentials has created such delightful recipes with easy-to-follow direction and helpful hints. Coleman is a Vancouver BC food blogger and the author of a foodie blog, “Cooking by Laptop” that focuses on recipes and her love of cooking. In addition she loves to travel, enjoys eating baked goods (especially donuts) herself.
If you know any vegans, steer them toward this book or purchase it for them as a gift. They will thank you for it—if you are lucky, they will thank you with one of the baked goods she mentions.
Here is a sample of one of the recipes in the book
S’Mores Cups (from Aquafabulous by Rebecca Coleman. Used with permission of the publisher)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get out a 6-cup muffin pan, lined with paper liners
1-cup vegan graham cracker crumbs
¼-cup vegan butter alternative, melted
½ cup chopped 70 percent bittersweet (dark) vegan chocolate
3 TBSP unsweetened non-diary milk
2 TBSP granulated sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp vanilla bean seeds
In a small bowl, stir together, graham cracker crumbs and melted butter to combine. Place two tablespoons of the crumb mix in the bottom of each muffin cup, then pack down with a glass. Bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a wire rack/
Fill a small saucepan with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. IN a heatproof metal bowl, combine chocolate and non-diary milk. Set metal bowl on saucepan so that it fits tightly and does not touch the water below. Stir chocolate until melted and smooth. You want the ganache to be smooth, glossy, and fairly runny, not thick and lumpy. If it is too thick, add a bit more milk. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of melted chocolate over each graham cracker base, then shake pan to spread it around so that it forms an even layer. Transfer to freezer for at least 30 minutes.
In a mixer bowl, combine aquafaba, sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla seeds. Set mixer speed to low and beat for two minutes. Turn up speed to medium and beat for two minutes. Set to highest speed and beat mixture until fluffy and peaks form, about four to six minutes. It will have a similar texture to marshmallow fluff.
Spoon as much fluff as possible into each muffin cup, then return to fridge for at least thirty more minutes or overnight. You may have leftover fluff.
Just before serving, pop cups out of muffin tins, peeling back the paper liners. Use torch to toast the tops if desired, and serve.
Annual Meeting, my flash fiction mystery runs in Kings River Life on June 3!
Purposeful use of lower case to emphasize how “little” the mystery is. I wrote a flash fiction mystery for a class, revised it, sent it out and Lori Ham has picked it up in King River. It will run, as I noted, in the June 3 issue. Thank you, Lori!
Did you catch my ad on WOW? Or someplace else? If you purchase a copy of any one of my picture books this month, please tell me where you found out about the book, send me a copy of your receipt and I will enter you into a drawing to win one of the other four (my choice of book) in paper or eform (kindle, bn, other) according to the format you purchased.
email me at: email@example.com with your receipt!