Celebrate with Babs: The TikTok Grandma’s New Cookbook

              Barbara Costello didn’t do social media when she first helped her daughter by posting a cooking video on TikTok.

              “I thought TikTok was all about dancing,” says Costello, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is known as Grandma Babs. Her first post was in April 2020 during the pandemic. Nine months later she had 200,000 followers. Now it’s closing in on two million.

              “By the time we hang up, you’ll probably have 20,000 more followers,” I tell Costello who is in the car with her daughter, Liz Ariola, on their way to a book signing.

              I’m only half joking.

Soaring Numbers

              Besides TikTok followers on her Brunch with Babs site, Costello also has 660,000 followers on Instagram. In comparison, I have 1989. Not that I’m jealous.

              Costello, who is 73, is considered a granfluencer—a growing trend of older people who are kicking it on social media. And now she has a cookbook, “Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” featuring one hundred of her tried and true handwritten recipes that she pulled from her wood recipe box.

              “I started collecting recipes before the internet,” she says. “You used to go over to someone’s house for dinner and leave with recipe cards of what was served that night.”

              The book is divided by holidays and celebrations which are a big deal in the Costello family.

              “We’re Italian and we like big noisy get-togethers,” she says. “My mom was one of nine and I have 21 first cousins. Even after Bill and I got married there were so many of us that we still sat at the children’s table when everyone got together.”

              Originally from the Chicago area, Costello taught middle school in Schaumburg before the family moved, ending up in Connecticut where they’ve lived for decades. Costello opened her own pre-school (they called them nursery schools back then) in the basement of her house. She thinks the skills she learned as a teacher and administrator are part of what connects her to her audience. And she is all about connections.

              “I still get invited to the weddings of my preschoolers,” she says. “And many of them have remained friends with their pre-school classmates and they’re at the weddings. I think that’s wonderful after all those years.”

              Costello describes herself as having gone from zero to 60 miles-per-hour.

              “I never expected this,” she says. “People ask me if I have a business plan and I say what’s that? I’m making it up along the way.”

              It was Ariola who got her mom in the business. Social media savvy, Ariola writes the popular mom blog Mrs. Nipple blog (get it—aureole/ariola) and asked her mom for help during her pregnancy. Despite morning sickness, Ariola was trying to launch a TikTok channel and got her mom to agree to film three videos while her two grandchildren were napping.

              The first video showing Costello making her grandmother’s Greek chicken recipe garnered 100,000 views. Somewhere along the line, one of her viewers was a cookbook editor. The rest, as they say, is history.

              Even though the book is divided into holidays, each section with a special memory or anecdote, Costello says they recipes are good for everyday as well.

              “Recipes are recipes,” she says. In other words, you don’t have to wait until Easter to make marinated leg of lamb, apricot glazed ham, or Grandma’s Easter Bread.

Bonding Over Meals

              Even though she was a working mom, Costello always made family meals.

              “People didn’t do fast food like they do now,” she says. “And I think it’s very important for families to eat together.”

              Indeed, one of her hopes for her cookbook and her social media popularity is that it will encourage people to cook more and enjoy dinner together. In the meantime, she’s going to keep cooking.

              “My mom is always over the top when it comes to celebrations,” says Ariola, noting her mother’s tendency to make way too much food.

              “Being raised in an Italian family,” says Costello, “ I learned that the worst thing that could happen is that there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone.”

              That certainly won’t happen on her watch.

Smash Cake

“I always look forward to our grandkids’ first birthdays,” writes Costello. “My daughter loves showering her sons with smash cakes when they have that special birthday. She strips them down and lets them go at the cake. It’s a ton of fun to see how their little personalities shine in this moment. This is not only the favorite of my one-year-old grandson Scooter, but also a hit with my toddler-aged grandkids, too. Even I love it! I’ve made this recipe as just a loaf when not celebrating a special one-year-old in the family. The cream cheese frosting and the cake are the perfect combo.”

prep time

15 minutes, plus 2 hours to cool

cook time

50 minutes

yield

1 smash cake plus 1 loaf (serves about 9)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 (4 oz containers unsweetened applesauce
  • 1¾ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz  cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Natural food coloring (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 2 (4-inch) ramekins or cake pans, and 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and applesauce. Beat until well combined.

3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the wet mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins until three-fourths full. Pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.

4. Bake the smash cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake the loaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the side of the bowl once or twice during mixing. If desired, beat in a few drops of natural food coloring of your choice.

6. To assemble the smash cake, place the bottom half on a serving plate. Spoon frosting over. Add the remaining layer. Spread frosting over the top and side of the cake. Add decorations of your choice. To serve the loaf, spread the top and sides with frosting, and cut into slices to serve.

Broccoli Salad (from the Summer Barbecue chapter)

This easy, crisp, classic vegetable salad is a must at any summer barbecue, picnic, or pool party. This is an old recipe I’ve been making for over forty years. The flavors meld beautifully, and the fresh crispness of the veggies, the creaminess of the dressing, and the ease of making it ahead, make this recipe a winner in all categories.

prep time

15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill

cook time

none

serves

8–10

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of raw broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. crisp, crumbled bacon
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup golden or brown raisins
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, bacon, nuts, and raisins.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  3. Toss the dressing with the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavors

Chef/owner Deborah VanTrece takes the flavors and foods of her heritage and her travels to create the dishes served at her award winning restaurant and now shares them in her cookbook, The Twisted Soul Cookbook.

“My cuisine has always been at the intersection of food and culture,” said Chef Deborah VanTrece, owner of the Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta, Georgia. “Having traveled the world as a flight attendant, I experienced how different cultures have their own versions of what we would call ‘soul food.’ My approach to cooking revolves around taking a modern, global approach to soul food, combined with the food I grew up eating with my family. THE TWISTED SOUL COOKBOOK will take you on a journey around the world right from your kitchen.”

Across chapters filled with vibrant photography, her book offers 100 recipes for dishes ranging from fresh salads and sides, generous entrees, exciting seafood, rich desserts, and brilliant as well as practical pantry staples to amplifying everyday cooking, including dressings, relishes, preserves, and sauces. An engaging teacher and storyteller, VanTrece shows home cooks the way to use techniques both simple and sophisticated to ensure a delicious outcome every time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chef Deborah VanTrece opened the acclaimed Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in 2014, and since then, the award-winning soul food restaurant has appeared on numerous Best Of lists, including features in the New York Times, Bon Appetit, NPR, Eater, Essence, Thrillist, Buzzfeed, Kitchn, and Food & Wine, winning acclaim for her mastery of imported cooking techniques and delicious globally informed cuisine.

She is included in 2020’s Tasty Pride: Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community; this is her first cookbook.

RECIPES

Grandma Lue’s Spinach Rice

  • 3 cups cooked white rice, chilled
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 4 lbs fresh baby spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup chopped marinated artichokes
  • 12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously grease a deep casserole or 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the cold rice and beaten eggs.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, peppers, onions and spinach and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spinach is wilted.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and garlic. Cool for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese has melted and all of the ingredients are well combined.

Add the spinach-cheese mixture to the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir in the black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and salt.

Spoon into prepared baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Bacon-Praline Macaroni and Cheese

  • 6 cups elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
  • 1 tbsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tbsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups milk, warmed
  • 6 oz cream cheese, diced
  • 12 oz. American cheese, diced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 8 oz applewood-smoked bacon (8 to 10 slices), cooked and crumbled

Praline topping:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or pecan pieces
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Transfer the cooked macaroni to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together the seasoned salt, white pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Sprinkle half of this seasoning mixture and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese over the macaroni and toss to combine.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk for 3 to 5 minutes, until it makes a light roux. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the sauce reaches a simmer. Add the diced cream cheese and American cheese in batches, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and turn off the heat. Add the remaining seasoning mixture and stir well. Quickly whisk in the eggs until they are incorporated.

Country Captain Chicken Stew

This classic dish shows the influence of the Indian spice trade throughout the ports of the old South,’ says VanTrece about her recipe for a dish that dates back centuries.

  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp duck fat or unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (3 to 4 medium)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (13.5-oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Peanut rice noodles:
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 (8.8-oz package rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, tossed in a little vegetable oil to prevent clumping, and chilled for 30 minutes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts, plus more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces with the seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder and white pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours to marinate.

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt the duck fat. When hot, add the chicken pieces and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer to a platter and set aside.

Spring Pea, Bacon, and Radish Salad

“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” write VanTrece in the recipe’s introduction. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen peas (thawed, if frozen), blanched and drained, then chilled
  • 6 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus additional leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and ground white pepper

In a large bowl, combine the peas, bacon, radishes, red onion, chopped fresh mint, and lemon zest, toss gently with the mayonnaise and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with whole mint leaves. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 195 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 8 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 12 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 324 milligrams sodium.

Buttermilk Dressing

“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” writes VanTrece. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”

Buttermilk Dressing

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and pepper and process until smooth. Pulse in the fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, and chives until just combined. The dressing should be creamy but with a pleasing texture from the herbs.

Makes about 4 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 23 calories (percent of calories from fat, 70), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 75 milligrams sodium.

Aunt Lucille’s 7UP Pound Cake

About this recipe, VanTrece writes, “This is a pound cake, and the only cake I can ever remember my Aunt Lucille ever making. For me, it will always carry cherished memories of celebrations and good times. This is the kind of recipe that reminds you how good old-fashioned cakes were (and can be). Definitely use 7UP for this recipe because it has a high level of carbonation that helps the cake to rise, and gives it a brighter, fresher lemon-lime flavor than other sodas.”

For the pound cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted, divided
  • 3/4 cup 7UP, divided
  • For the 7UP glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons 7UP
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray (see note above).

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar for 5 to 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour one-third at a time and mix on low speed, alternating with 1/4-cup portions of the 7UP, mixing well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and lift the pan off of the cake. Let the cake cool on the rack.

While the cake cools, make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, 7UP, and lime zest until smooth.

Using a 6-inch wooden skewer or toothpick, poke holes in the top of the cooled cake. Slowly spoon the glaze over the cake, letting it run into the holes and over the surface.

Set the cake aside for 10 minutes before serving to let the glaze absorb into the cake and give it a lightly lacquered finish.

The cake can be made well in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic, and frozen for up to 4 months. It will keep moist and can be pulled out to thaw several hours before serving. It’s great served alone or with ice cream or fresh fruit compote. Serves 12 to 16.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 12: 598 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 6 grams protein, 89 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 25 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 138 milligrams cholesterol, 36 milligrams sodium.

All the above recipes and images are excerpted from The Twisted Soul Cookbook by Deborah VanTrece. Copyright © 2021 Deborah VanTrece. Photography by Noah Fecks. Published by Rizzoli. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved

Short on time? Sarah Copeland has a recipe for you

              Want a dinner that tastes like Saturday night when you’ve had all day to putter around in the kitchen on a Wednesday? Don’t despair. Sarah Copeland, author Feast, has a new cookbook out that’s just right for you.

              In Every Day Is Saturday: Recipes + Strategies for Easy Cooking, Every Day of the Week (Chronicle, $29.95), Copeland, a former food director of Real Simple magazine, restaurant chef and mother of two young children as well as a New York Times contributor, zeroes in time management, maintaining a well-stocked pantry, and cooking dishes that do double duty. She also emphasizes healthy.

              Her recipes with prep time and total cooking time help you decide what fits in with your busy day.

              Reprinted from Every Day Is Saturday by Sarah Copeland with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019

MIGHTY YOGURT BOWLS WITH CURRANTS AND PEACHES

PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES

TOTAL TIME: 5 MINUTES or overnight

SERVES 4

·      ¾ cup whole milk, or almond, coconut, or
hazelnut milk

·      2 to 3 tsp pure maple syrup

·      1 tsp pure vanilla extract

·      2 to 3 Tbsp chia seeds

·      Plain yogurt, for serving

·     Currants, peaches, berries, honey, or maple
syrup, for topping

Quick-to-make chia pudding, with the right touch, can turn an everyday yogurt bowl into something beautiful and irresistibly creamy.

The secret is to keep the chia mixture loose, and treat it like a condiment, rather than the main event. (Chia thickens as it sets in liquid, so you’ll need to add fewer seeds if you plan to let it sit overnight.) Serve this creamy, coconut-milk goodness with loads of fresh fruit, as a quick morning breakfast bowl that’s nearly ready to go when you wake up.

Combine the milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons chia seeds in a mason jar or any glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Give it a shake or a stir and refrigerate up to overnight, or stir in the remaining chia to thicken if you plan to use right away. Spoon the chia mixture over yogurt, and top with fresh fruit and honey or maple syrup.

Tipsy Scoop: New Book Takes Ice Cream to the Next Level

It’s been beautiful these last few days and I’m already thinking of warm weather and ice cream.  But Melissa Tavss of Tipsy Scoop has taken it one step farther. Instead of just ice cream, she’s adding artisanal spirits and creating boozy sweet treats.

Her ice creams such as Dark Chocolate Whiskey Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Vanilla Bean Bourbon Ice Cream, and Raspberry Limoncello Sorbet have been available at many retail stores for several years now. And last summer, she formed a partnership with Williams Sonoma enabling Tipsy Scoop to be shipped to customers nationwide through the Williams Sonoma website. Tavss has also released her first cookbook, “Tipsy Scoop: Latest and Greatest Recipes.”

You can use the cookbook to make your own Tipsy Scoops. Also available are a variety of Tipsy Scoop kits such as their Spring Fever Cocktail Kit featuring 1 pint Strawberry White Sangria Sorbet. 1 pint Vanilla Bean Bourbon ice cream, 1 bottle cherry hard cider, 1 can spiked strawberry lemonade,  1 mini cherry preserves,  1 bag cherry gummies, 1 bag fruit gummies,  1 fresh lemon, and recipe cards, paper straws, and hashtag flags (for posting your creations on social media sites).

The kits are also available without alcohol as well and include Tequila Lover’s Cocktail Kit and Mother’s Day Cocktail Kit among others.

The following recipes are courtesy of Melissa Tavss and are from “Tipsy Scoop: Latest and Greatest Recipes.”

Note: Though some of these recipes call for specific brands of alcohol, you can substitute your own.

Ice Cream Mix

This recipe freezes well.

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 8 egg yolks

Makes 1.5-2 quarts of ice cream mix

In a medium-size heavy duty saucepan, add milk, heavy cream, and vanilla. Over medium-high heat, scaled the mixture, removing from heat once bubbles begin to form.

I a large bowl, add sugar and egg yoks and whisky until the turn a lighter yellow, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Slowly pour half the scaled milk and cream mixture into the gg yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Add the egg and mix mixture back into the saucepan.

Saucepan. Warm over low-to-medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula or spoon. The custard is thick enough once it can easily coat a spatula or spoon which takes a few minutes. (Note: Overcooking will scramble the eggs so proceed with caution.)

Transfer custard to a heat proof container, cover, and let cool for 1 hour before adding in alcohol and additional ingredients.

Maple Bourbon

6 cups Ice Cream Mix (see recipe above)
1 cup Four Roses Bourbon
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup bacon, cooked and chopped (about 8 to 10 strips of bacon)

In a large mixing bowl, combine ice cream mix, bourbon, and maple syrup and stir.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

While mix chills, cook bacon until it is crispy and set aside on a paper towel to drain and cool for around 30 minutes. Chop into quarter-inch pieces using a sharp knife. Refrigerate in airtight container until ready to add to ice cream.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions until it has a gelato-like consistency.

Transfer the ice cream to a large mixing bowl and stir n bacon crumbles. Transfer the ice cream into a freezer-safe containers and freeze for a least eight hours before serving.

Hot Buttered Rum

“What could be better than that last bite in your bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?” writes Tavss in her description of what she describes as a cinnamon-y sweet cereal milk bite turned into a spiked ice cream.  “Not only will it give you that taste of nostalgia, but will bring you that festive, comforting, holiday party in your mouth feeling all year long.”

6 cups Ice Cream Mix
1/4 cup Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Melted Butter
1 cup Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients and stir.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions,until it has a gelato-like consistency.

Transfer the ice cream into freezer-safe containers and freeze for at least 8 hours before serving.

Makes about 2 quarts.

Serving suggestions:

Caramelize sliced bananas and make a bananas foster split. Add extra toppings like hot fudge, caramel sauce, toffee, walnuts and anything else that sounds good.

Non Dairy Ice Cream And Sorbet

“You’ll notice in the chapters following that not only do we have milk-based ice creams, but also have a few options for non-dairy boozy ice creams and boozy sorbets,” writes Tavss in the introduction to her chapter on non-dairy ice creams and sorbets. “Our non-dairy ice creams are made with a coconut milk base and our sorbets are made with different fruits, so they have a water/fruit base.

Puree recipes vary fruit by fruit, but our sorbets all start with fruit purées- raspberry, mango, watermelon, peach etc. Since there is so much variation fruit by fruit, you’ll see instructions for each fruit purée included within the recipes in the following chapters.”

What all sorbet recipes do have in common is the need for simple syrup. Here is a very simple, simple syrup recipe:

How to make simple syrup:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar.

Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow it to cool.

Watermelon Mint Margarita Sorbet

“Watermelon. Mint. Margarita. Is there a more mouthwatering combination of words in the whole English language?” writes Tavss, describing this sorbet to be like sitting on the back porch with a juicy slice of watermelon dripping down your forearm or cutting out of work early for a happy hour margarita on that first really hot day of summer.”

Watermelon Purée:

2 cups simple syrup

3 cups fresh watermelon chunks

Sorbet:

4 cups watermelon purée

1 cup tequila

1/3 cup mint syrup

(we recommend Monin)

1/4 cup lemon juice

Make Purée:

Remove seeds from watermelon and purée in blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine watermelon with simple syrup and stir.

Make Sorbet:

Combine watermelon purée with tequila, mint syrup, and lemon juice.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer the sorbet into freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 8 hours before serving.

Makes about 2 quarts

Serving Suggestion:

Recreate our Watermelon Mint Margarita Sundae by using an ice cream disher to scoop the sorbet into a pink cone bowl and garnish with fresh mint, Watermelon Jelly Belly seeds and sour watermelon Gummies.

Grown Up Sundae Station

“Now that you know how to make some of our most popular boozy ice cream treats, it’s time to

Oversized Martini Glass

Oversized Margarita Glass

3 Rocks Glasses or Mason Jars

Small Serving Spoons

Maraschino Cherries

Rainbow Sprinkles

Gummy Bears

Cookie Crumble

Sour Fruit Slices

Place beverage tub in the middle of a 4-ft table and fill with ice.

Fill oversized martini glass with sprinkles, oversized margarita glass with cherries, and three rocks glasses with other toppings.

Insert servings spoons in toppings and arrange on the table around the tub.

Fill a quart-sized container with water and two ice cream scoops and place to the left of the beverage tub.

On one end of the table put out small bowls, spoons and napkins.

Spilling the Beans: Abra Berens Dishes on Legumes, Beans, and More in Her Latest Cookbook

         A much maligned vegetable belonging, along with peas and lentils, to the vegetable class called legumes, beans are about as low on the food chain as you can go in terms of respect. Kids snicker at rhymes about beans and the gas they produce and sayings like “not worth a hill of beans” signifies their, well, insignificance.

         Once Abra Berens, the former co-owner of Bare Knuckles Farm in Northport, Michigan and now the executive chef at Granor Farm in Southwest Michigan, was like most of us. She didn’t give a bean about beans. That is until she became intrigued by the bean and grain program at Granor, a certified organic farm in Three Oaks, a charming historic village with its own burgeoning food culture.

         Now she’s all about legumes and grains and for anyone who knows Abra that means a total passionate immersion in the subject which resulted in her latest cookbook, a 464-page door stopper with 140 recipes and over 160 recipe variations titled Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes. Just published by Chronicle Books on October 26th, the demand for Grist is so high it was hard to get a copy at first.

         Now, that’s worth more than a hill of beans.

         Berens, a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes, also authored  Ruffage. That book, which came out in 2019, was named a Best Cookbook for Spring 2019 by the New York Times and Bon Appétit, was a 2019 Michigan Notable Book winner, and was also nominated for a 2019 James Beard Award. She puts the same energy into her Grist.

         “We are told over and over again to eat a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based protein,” writes Berens in the book’s introduction. “The science is there—high in soluble fiber, low glycemic index, healthy fatted protein—but the perception of whole grains seems to still be of leaden health food, endless cooking times, and cud-like chewing at the end of it all.”

         Indeed. Consider this. A cup of cooked black beans has 245 calories and contains approximately the following percentage of the daily values needed in an average diet—74% folate, 39% manganese, 20% iron, 21% both potassium and magnesium, and 20% vitamin B6.

         “But we all know that they’re good for you,” says Berens, who describes herself as a bean-evangelist.  “I want people to understand these ingredients and you can’t understand these ingredients until you know them.”

         And so, she introduces us to 29 different grains, legumes, and seeds. Some like lentils, lima beans, split peas, quinoa, rice, and oats we know something about. Others are more obscure such as cowpeas, millet, teff, fonio, and freekeh are mysteries. That is until you read her book and learn not only how to cook them but also about their history. There’s a cheat sheet of the health benefits of each. Berens also conducted interviews with farmers  including her cousins Matt and John Berens, third-generation farmers in Bentheim, Michigan who have transitioned into growing non-GMO corn and edible beans and Jerry Hebron, the manager of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments. Hebron has been raising crowder beans for almost a decade.  

         We also get to meet Carl Wagner, a farmer and seed cleaner in Niles, Michigan. Berens said she wanted to include “invisible” farming jobs and this certainly is one. She didn’t know what a seed cleaner was until a few years ago and figured that most of us don’t know either. Wagner, with his wife Mary, run C3 Seeds, a company that provides seed cleaning for grains and seed stock.  When Berens asked him what he’d like people to know about his job, his response was that they would know that seed cleaning “is part of buying a bag of flour or a bottle of whiskey.”

         “The biggest thing is that if people are interested in cooking with beans, it’s an easy entry point it’s not like buying $100 tenderloin,” says Berens.

         Of course, you can buy beans in the grocery store. Berens recommends dried beans not canned. But Granor Farm also sells black, red, and pinto beans at their farm store which is open Friday and Saturday. For information on the times, visit granorfarm.com

         Berens is already working on her next book, tentatively titled Fruit, due out in 2023. When I ask her how she does it all, she laughs and replies, “I don’t have any hobbies.”

         And she takes things very seriously.

         “Every author has to think about why they’re putting something in the world,” she says, “and what is the value of it and makes these books worthwhile.”

         With Grist, we’re learning the value of tasty and healthy foods that taste good.

The following recipes are reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Seared Chicken Thighs W/Buckwheat, Smashed Cucumbers + Tajín Oil

The angular mouthfeel of the buckwheat plays well with the crunch of the cucumber and against the crisp of the chicken thigh. Serve the buckwheat warm or chilled, depending on your preference. If you aren’t eating meat, the salad is a great lunch on its own or pairs well with an egg or fried tofu.

  • 1 cup buckwheat groats, toasted or not
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium cucumbers (about 1 lb. total), washed
  • 1/4 cup Tajín Oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, Greek or traditional
  • 1 lemon (about 1½ oz) zest and juice
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • Any additional herbs you want, roughly chopped (mint, tarragon, thyme, cilantro)
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Toss in the buckwheat groats and give the pot a stir. Return to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook the grains until tender, 8 to 15 minutes.

Drain the groats, toss with a glug of Tajín oil, and set aside.

Trim the ends of the cucumbers and place on a cutting board. Using the widest knife (or frying pan) you have, press down on the cucumbers until their skin cracks and they break into irregular pieces. Dress the cucumbers with the Tajín oil and a pinch of salt.

Combine the yogurt with the lemon zest and juice, chopped herbs, chili flakes (if using), a pinch of salt, and two big glugs of olive oil. Set aside.

Blot the chicken skin dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat until the pan is starting to smoke. Add a glug or two of oil, lower the heat to medium, and fry the thighs, skin-side down, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the

chicken and sauté until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more.

To serve, dish the buckwheat onto serving plates. Top with the chicken thighs and then the dressed cucumbers. Garnish with a thick spoonful of the herbed yogurt.

Tajín Oil

  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 Tbsp Tajín

In a medium sauce or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the Tajín, and let steep for 5 minutes.

Whole Roasted Leeks w/Chickpeas, Lemon Vinaigrette, Ricotta + Chard

  • 4 large leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cleaned of dirt
  • 4 sprigs thyme (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange (about 3 ounces), peel stripped, juiced, or ¼ cup white wine or hard cider
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 bunch chard (8 ounces), cut into ribbons (or spinach, kale, or arugula)
  • 2 lemons (about 3 ounces), zest and juice
  • 4 ounces ricotta

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the whole, cleaned leeks, side by side, in a roasting pan.

Scatter the thyme (if using), chili flakes (if using), and 2 large pinches of salt evenly over the leeks.

Scatter the orange peel strips over the leeks and drizzle them with the orange juice and ¼ cup of the olive oil to coat.

Cover with foil and bake until the leeks are tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

Combine the chickpeas, chard ribbons, lemon zest and juice, and remaining ½ cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

When the leeks are tender, transfer from the roasting pan to plates or a serving platter. Top with the chickpea and chard salad. Dot ricotta over the top and serve.

Spoon Pudding with Pork Chops and Cabbage Salad

For the spoon pudding:

  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For the salad:

  • About 1 pound red cabbage, shaved into thin strips
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt

4 pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled

To make the spoon pudding:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an ovenproof baking dish or frying pan that can hold 2 quarts total volume.

Combine the cornmeal, salt, 1 cup of boiling water, and the melted butter and whisk out any lumps. Combine the eggs, milk, and baking powder and add to the cornmeal batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until the edges of the spoon bread are just set and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the salad: Combine the cabbage with the olive oil, chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, chili flakes, paprika, and a couple pinches of salt. Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Serve the spoon bread alongside the grilled pork chops and cabbage salad.

Tiffani Thiessen Wants Us to Pull Up a Chair and Enjoy Home Cooking

          Only six or so when she started helping out in the kitchen, Tiffani Thiessen grew up in a family where dinners were a gathering time to enjoy great cooking and conversations. She upped her game from traditional American fare when she and other stars from “Saved by the Bell” toured in Europe.

          “It definitely impacted me,” says Thiessen who played Kelly Kapowski on the hit TV show and was 16 at the time. “I learned all about wine, cheese and all types of different foods when we traveled in France, Italy and Holland.”

          This love of food and conviviality was so intense that though Thiessen continued with her acting career (she was Valerie Malone on “Beverly Hills 90210” and starred for four years in the series “Alexa & Katie”), she also segued into cooking, hosted both the long running “Dinner at Tiffani’s” on the Cooking Channel and now“Deliciousness,” the MTV show that looks at food blunders, restaurant fails, and other funny food and drink moments. As if that wasn’t enough to keep any mom of two young children busy enough, Thiessen spent three years writing Pull Up a Chair: Recipes from My Family to Yours (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $30), which was released several years ago but remains as fresh and innovative, warm and inviting as ever.

          Describing cooking as therapeutic as well as artistic and creative, Thiessen’s recipes include new dishes, those she collected through the years and family favorites, some that she tweaked including her mom’s beef stroganoff which the family ate once a week when she was young.

          “I wasn’t a big fan,” says Thiessen, adding that her mom’s stroganoff was very traditional and included stirring sour cream in at the end so that it took on the appearance of dog food—her words not ours, Mrs. Thiessen. Tiffani’s tweaked it into a beef and mushroom Stroganoff with creamy polenta, spinach and a touch of brandy. The sour cream is served on the side.

          Did that hurt you mom’s feelings? I ask.

          “No, I have one of the most supportive families,” she says.

          There’s also a cowboy twang to some of her dishes such as the short rib beef enchiladas and three cheese queso, since husband Brady Smith is a meat-loving Texas boy. Her son Holt gobbles up her mac and cheese and Thiessen says Harper her eight-year-old daughter loves to decorate pizzas.

          “I don’t think of myself as anything but a home cook and my recipes are easy but everything I cook is with love and passion and that’s what Pull Up a Chair is all about,” says Thiessen, who, during our phone interview, calls me sweetheart and dear.

          That friendliness as well as the sumptuousness of her cookbook—125 recipes and lots of full page color photos of both luscious-looking food and family (and yes, her husband is handsome and her children adorable), makes me long to get an invitation to dine at her house.

          Since that won’t be happening, I did a little pre-interview stalking watching videos of Thiessen cooking in her kitchen and then displaying part of her cookbook collection.

           “I love cookbooks, I love the look, the aesthetics of them” she says when I mention my sleuthing. “Most people I’m close to would say I have a problem.  I don’t use some of them that much, as my husband points out, but there’s just something I like about having them around.”

          I can identify with that having heard similar comments from both my husband and daughter. Another reason to get that dinner invitation. But until then, I have the cookbook and can create the recipes in my own home.

Pickle & Potato Salad

Serves 6

  • 1½ pounds tricolored small potatoes
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for the potatoes
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup chopped sweet pickles
  • 3 tablespoons pickle juice (from the jar)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Paprika, for garnish

Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them rest until they’re cool enough to handle. Cut each one in half.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sweet pickles, pickle juice, mustard, salt, and pepper.

In a separate large bowl, combine the halved potatoes, eggs, and red onion and toss with the dressing. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and garnish with the parsley and paprika.

Honey-Ginger Chicken Wings

Serves 6 to 8

  • ½ cup honey (preferably wildflower or mesquite)
  • ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime, plus more zest for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 chicken wings (about 4 pounds), tips removed, drumettes and flats separated

In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, tamari, sesame oil, ginger, scallions, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Reserve ¾ cup of the mixture in the fridge.

Pour the remaining marinade into a 2-gallon zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage the marinade into the wings. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Before cooking, let the wings stand at room temperature for about 2 hours.

When ready to cook the wings, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the wings from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Season the wings with salt and pepper and place them skin-side down in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spoon some of the marinade over them; discard the remaining marinade. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the wings, basting with the pan drippings. Rotate the pan and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the honey has caramelized and the skin is a dark amber color.

In a small saucepan, bring the reserved ¾ cup marinade (from the fridge) to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the liquid turns into a thick, syrupy glaze, about 4 minutes.

Coat the wings with the glaze, arrange them on a serving platter, and garnish with scallions and lime zest.

These recipes are excerpted from Pull Up a Chair © 2018 by Tiffani Thiessen. Photography © 2018 by Rebecca Sanabria. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Mark Bittman: Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal

          Mark Bittman never does anything in a small way. His cookbooks typically run some 600 pages and have titles like “The Best Recipes in the World,” and his ten-book “How to Cook” series such as “How to Cook Everything Fast,” “How to Bake Everything” and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” They’re so pack full of recipes that just five of Bittman’s books take up a whole shelf in my bookcase.

          But Bittman’s latest book, “Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2021; $16,80 Amazon price) isn’t a doorstopper tome. It doesn’t even have recipes. But what it lacks in size—though it is over 300 pages–it more than makes up for as a call to arms about what’s wrong with our food system and how dangerous it is to both our health and also our planet.

          “Big Ag has a huge role in greenhouse gas emissions, even rivaling those of the oil and gas companies,” says Bittman talking about the impact of emissions on global warming. “The top five meat and dairy companies combine to produce more emissions than ExxonMobil, and the top twenty have a combined carbon footprint the size of Germany. Tyson Foods, the second-largest meat company in the world, produces twice as much greenhouse gas as all of Ireland.”

          Bittman, who recently founded The Bittman Project with the ultimate goal of creating a road map that leads us to a healthier food system, says he can envision a positive way for us to go forward. But first he explains how we got to where we are and how deadly it is.

          Junk food, born in America, has spread throughout the world and though Bittman, who has written 30 cookbooks, says he doesn’t typically like to use statistics, he offers some whoppers. Two-thirds of the world’s population lives in countries where more people die of diseases linked to being overweight than ones linked to being underweight.

          “The global number of people living with diabetes had quadrupled since 1980, and since 1990 deaths from diabetes-caused chronic kidney disease have doubled,” he writes, adding that both global sugar consumption and obesity have nearly tripled in the past half-century.

          American fast food chains increased their international sales by 30% from 2011 to 2016 and the international fast-food market is expected to approach $700 billion dollars by 2022.     

          In all, it sounds depressing, particularly when you realize that as far back as the early 1900s,  Upton Sinclair, author of “The Jungle,” was also warning about our unhealthy food system.

          It’s essential,  says Bittman, that we have a just food system, one ensuring everyone has access to nourishing, wholesome, sustainable, and affordable food.

          He points to the President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the benefits it still provides us today including Social Security. We can do the same with food, he says.

          “Food needs to be grown in a way that’s sustainable and protects the land,” says Bittman. “And that the industries that involve food provide more dignified and well-paying jobs in food and farming.”

Watch Mark Bittman’s Book Event: “Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, From Sustainable To Suicidal” at https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/academics/departments/health-policy-and-management/news-and-events

Author Sonali Dev’s new novel is an Indian twist on Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Sonali Dev’s newest book, “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors,” is an Indian take on Jane Austen’s classic, “Pride and Prejudice.”

In the 300-room Sagar Mahal, the Ocean Palace built by her great-times-four grandfather on the Arabian Sea, 13-year-old Trisha Raje is coached by her father not to be overwhelmed by the sorrow she sees at a school for the blind but instead find a solution, so she doesn’t feel badly.

And so, she does. Before long, Trisha has created a global charity that performs eye surgeries on the needy and then becomes San Francisco’s premier neurosurgeon, a woman with immense skill but so lacking in social graces that many in her family are not talking to her, as she once inadvertently jeopardized her older brother’s fast-track political career.

But that isn’t Trisha’s only difficulty in Sonali Dev’s newest book, “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors,” an Indian take on Jane Austen’s classic, “Pride and Prejudice.”

Dev switches up the focus between Trisha and DJ Caine, a rising-star chef whose cancer-stricken sister is a patient of Trisha’s. Trisha is a descendent of Indian Royalty, while Caine, a Rwandan/Anglo-Indian, belongs to a much lower social class — the classic Austen-style mismatch.

To paraphrase Austen, Dev writes, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian-American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep,” and the book reflects classic Austen, with its subtle ironic humor and the structured setting required in any well-to-do aristocratic English or Indian milieu.

Trisha has broken the three ironclad rules of her family: Never trust an outsider, never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations and never, ever, defy your family.

Trisha must cope with falling in love with Caine, saving his sister and ensuring that she will not somehow disgrace her family again.

Dev, who is married with two teenagers and lives in Naperville, says she’s been entranced with Jane Austen’s book since watching the Indian TV adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” called “Trishna,” in the 1980s when she was a middle-schooler.

“I went straight to the library and checked out “Pride and Prejudice” and read it over and over,” she says.

As for writing, Dev says she wrote before she could even read, making up stories and characters, noting she wrote and acted in her first play when she was 8. “Writing has always been with me,” she says.

She grew up in Mumbai though the family traveled a lot as her father was in the military.

“I was always the new kid on the block with a book,” she says.

She continues to read and write at an amazing speed.

“I am in fact waiting to get the edits back for my new book,” she says, noting that writing is an escape, a way of putting yourself in the shoes of someone not like you.

F*ck Your Diet and Other Things My Diet Tells Me

“Our food choices and our image of ourselves are part of our culture.,” says Chloe Hilliard.

        “I didn’t come out of the womb  craving Oreos,” says comedian and journalist Chloe Hilliard, who is launching her new book, F*ck Your Diet and Other Things My Thighs Tells Me, this Monday and Tuesday at Zanies Comedy Night Club in Chicago. “Our food choices and our image of ourselves are part of our culture.”

        Hilliard, who writes about Hip Hop culture and has been featured on C-Span, CNN Headline News, ABC News and Our World with Black Enterprise, has long had an adversarial relationship with food.  Over 6-foot tall at the age of 12, she also wore both a size 12 dress and shoe at that time. In other words, she was different and she knew it.

        “Fitting in was never an option for me,” Hilliard said in a phone interview, noting that she was the loser of the fat trilogy—someone with a slow metabolism, baby weight that didn’t go away and big bones. “Growing up, it was unfair that people said just do this or that to lose weight. But now I understand it’s about acceptance, to be comfortable and to be healthy and okay with who you are.”

        It was a truth that Hilliard came to only after a long time of trying to change her body with the help of fad diets, intense workouts, starving herself and consuming diet pills. Now she looks at her body image in a different way and understands how much our culture negatively impacts the way we perceive ourselves, how corporations including the diet industry also reinforces our image of ourselves. It was enlightening and freeing. But it wasn’t easy.

        “I thought the book was going to be way more lighthearted,” says Hilliard. “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to write. But it helped me understand where I was at different times in my life.”

        But being Hilliard, who made her national TV debut on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” the book is not only informative but laugh out loud funny as well. Afterall, she has a message for readers—you’re okay.

        “I use a lot of facts and figures,” she says. “I didn’t want the book to be voyeuristic, I wanted it to be about how culture effects our relationship with food and our waistline and teaches us that we are nothing without a perfect body. I want to help people get away from that. Be healthy, be fit. It’s a new year but you don’t need to be a new you, just yourself.”

Ifyougo:

What: Chloe Hilliard is launching her new book and performing at Zanies Comedy Night Club.

When: Monday, January 6 and Tuesday, January 7 at 8 p.m.

Where: Zanies Comedy Night Club, 1548 N Wells St, Chicago, IL  

Cost: General admission is $25.

FYI: 312-337-4027;chicago.zanies.com

Save Me the Plums: Ruth Reichl’s Memoir

            A decade ago, out of all the food magazines published, the most famous was Gourmet, which offered a sophisticated look at culinary trends and cookery. And Ruth Reichl, who formerly had been the food critic for the New York Times, a job that entailed wearing disguises because her photo was plastered on a large number of kitchen walls in the city’s restaurants, was the editor-in-chief of the magazine. It’s a story she recounts in her latest book, Save Me the Plumst (Random House; 2019 $27). You don’t need to be a serious foodie to enjoy her take on what she calls “the golden age of magazines.”

            Reichl didn’t want the job and though she had collected Gourmet magazines starting when she was eight, she saw it as old fashioned and stuffy and at first said no. But the publisher wanted to take the magazine in a different direction and saw Reichl as the person to be able to make that happened. So, she signed on to a job that included a limousine service, first class airfare and a lavish expense account. The selling point after turning it down the first time was that she would be home in the evenings with her son, not critiquing restaurants.

            “I never wanted to become that person,” says Reichl about the luxuries and perks. She recalls flying coach and seeing two of her colleagues boarding the same flight as they were going to the same place and they looked at her in wonderment as they headed to the first class section. She took the bus until a limo driver shamed her into using his service on a regular basis.

             Despite being the food editor and restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times, the experience of being Gourmet’s editor-in-chief made Reichl quickly learned how much she didn’t know. She recalls freaking her first day when the staff started talking about TOCs and she had to desperately call a friend and ask what that meant as she didn’t want to look ignorant in front of her employees.

            “Table of Contents,” she was told. How simple but it shows the type of learning curve Reichl was encountering in her new career.

            Being Reichl, multiple James Beard-winning and bestselling author, she also includes a few recipes in her book.

            “All of my books have recipes, so I had to have some,” she says. That includes the turkey chili she and her staff used when the gathered in the Gourmet test kitchen on 9/11 and cooked for the first responders.

 “I still love cooking and get an enormous amount of pleasure from it,” she says. “And I like to cook for other people. Every morning I ask my husband what he would like to eat.”

Indeed, for Reichl, food is such a sensory experience that she often likes to eat alone so she can savor every mouthful, letting it take her back to the source of what she’s consuming.

            From the magazine folded and everyone went home, Reichl knew she’d write a book about her time at Gourmet and kept copious notes and saved emails. “But then my editor had to torture me into actually writing it.”

            She wants readers to come along for the ride when reading her book.

            “I want them to get the sense of what it was like,” says Reichl. “I want them to enjoy themselves as much as I did.”

Ifyougo:

What: Ruth Reichl in-conversation with Louisa Chu, a Chicago based food writer.

When: Wednesday, April 24 at 6 pm

Where: 210 Design House, 210 West Illinois, Chicago, IL

Cost: The cost of on ticket is $56 ($58.95 w/service fee) and includes a copy of the book, wine, and tastes made from Ruth’s book My Kitchen Year. 2 tickets include one book, wine and tastes for $80 ($83.79 w/service fee). To purchase, visit brownpapertickets.com/event/4102551

FYI: The event is sponsored by the Book Cellar. For more information, (773) 293-2665.

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