Read-through Reviews: New Gluten Free Cookbooks

Earlier this week, I posted about my library loot: four new gluten-free cookbooks!


I check out a lot of cookbooks from the library. When I get them home, I do a quick read-through of each one to make sure that it’s something that fits my family’s tastes and needs. In the area of gluten-free cooking especially, some books may rely on a flour or ingredient that we don’t use. Do I want to spend my time making substitutions in an unfamiliar cookbook, or move on to something that’s a better fit?

1. Bread & Butter by Erin McKenna

Written by the author/owner of BabyCakes, this is no simple bread cookbook: It’s all about everything bread – first the recipes, and then what you can do with what you’ve made. Loaves, sandwiches, pizza, crackers, pastry, dips and spreads, and sweet breads (but no muffins or cupcakes). It does have a few odd entries like kale chips – are those just obligatory now? – but overall presents a comprehensive collection of bread recipes, from a basic white loaf to puff pastry to Ethiopian bread.

My family’s take: We don’t eat yeast, so bread books are tricky. Some, but not all, gluten-free bread cookbooks include yeast-free loaves: Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread gives it a good try; Celeste’s Best is a lot more successful. Bread and Butter doesn’t even go there. But I am eager to try some of the cracker recipes: imitation cheez-its, Ritz crackers, and wheat thins look promising. Since most of the recipes include gluten-free oat flour, we’ll have to add that to our repertoire before trying anything out.

2. Gluten-Free Flour Power by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot

This thick cookbook covers much of the same turf as Bread and Butter, plus adds in pasta and desserts. It looks – and reads – like a more serious cookbook, with lots of detailed instructions and pictures. The format reminded me of the America’s Test Kitchen series, and some of the recipes – kimchi cavatelli with bulgogi sauce – were too ambitious for my purposes.

But can I find some good recipes in it for my family?: The first thing I noticed is this is one of those “flour blend” cookbooks. They offer you three possible flour blends up-front. One, the low-allergy blend containing tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, arrowroot, sorghum, potato flour, and golden flaxseed meal, will work for us. Once again, though, the yeast bread section is just that — all yeast breads, followed by yeasted flatbreads and puff pastry. They’ve even got yeast in the bundt cakes (which are numerous).

I was almost ready to set this book aside, when I found the microwave sweet rice cakes. They’re based on traditional Japanese mochi, but made from sweet rice flour. They look so easy and delicious, and can be served with sweet or savory accompaniments. The authors suggest grilled shrimp or fresh berries and ginger ice cream.

From there, it gets better: peanut butter blondies, chocolate piecrust, and banana butterfinger cream pie all sound good.

Final Haul: A few recipes to try (Ritz crackers and microwave sweet rice cakes)  before putting these two books back in the library bin. I’ll review the other two books in a later post.

Remember, I haven’t tried any recipes from these cookbooks yet. Have you? If so, please post here and add your recommendation!

Library Loot: Four New Gluten-Free Cookbooks


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries


For some reason, I got a huge haul of gluten-free cookbooks this week. I’m especially excited about Bread and Butter, which is by the author of Babycakes. I’m hoping I can sneak some Gluten-Free Vegetarian Family Cookbook recipes by my husband, who is a meat-and-potatoes guy. Gluten-Free Flour Power is the thickest book of the bunch, and Let Them Eat Cake is a regular cookbook with GF variations.



What did you pick up this week?

Five Bingeworthy Fantasy Series to Read This Summer

boneWhat’s better than finding a good book? Finding a book that is part of a really strong, consistent series. Knowing you can lose yourself in that world for weeks or months as you gallop through book after book.

If you’re looking for that kind of read this spring or summer, here’s five good recommendations. These are all mature fantasy series that have a strong narrative from beginning to end (as opposed to really excellent series like Her Royal Spyness, which have the same set of characters but not necessarily a continuous storyline.)

  1. The Tawny Man trilogy by Robin Hobb – A slow-starting, but totally worth it, series about a 30-something man who has retreated into the forest to live in anonymity. He possesses a rare combination of magical skills and slowly is called back into service for his kingdom. This is a continuation of the Farseer trilogy, but I picked up with Fool’s Errand, no problem.
  2. The Tamir Triad by Lynn Flewelling – A princess trades places with her twin brother at birth by use of magic, to hide her true self until she can come into her own as future Queen. A beautiful story about gender and identity.
  3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Katsa was born with a special skill, or Grace, for killing. In service as the king’s assassin, she learns the true nature of her gift and finds friendship and her true place in the world. This was remarkable as YA for avoiding stupid love triangles and focusing instead on a strong female protagonist.
  4. All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness – A scholar in Oxford’s Bodleian Library finds a long-lost and magical manuscript that has the potential to unite – or undo – a complicated secret underworld of daemons, vampires and witches. For some reason this series reminds me of Outlander, if only in scope and romantic awesomeness.
  5. Small Change by Jo Walton – in an alternate 1949, postwar Britain has an uneasy truce with the Nazis and is feeling their influence. A few heroes fight to rescue Jews, homosexuals, and other ‘undesirables’ from persecution, and maybe save British society from themselves at the same time.

Readers: Now I need a new bingeworthy series for summer. What are some of your favorites?

Library Loot: This Book Doesn’t Like That Book


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries


This week I had two great pieces of library loot:

The first was Prudence, the first in a new adult series by Gail Carriger. As much as I’ve enjoyed her YA series, they didn’t quite scratch the same itch as the Parasol Protectorate (Changeless, Blameless, etc.) I snatched the  beautiful shiny new purple-and-red book off the hold shelf, and then saw what else was waiting for me.

I also had You Learn by Living (1960) by Eleanor Roosevelt. I picked this up as a recommendation from Modern Mrs. Darcy, when she recommended book flights that go together. I skipped the flight and just went with what interested me from her list. She says: “You Learn by Living is Roosevelt’s memoir/advice manual about living the good life. You’ll appreciate just how hard-won that advice was when you read No Ordinary Time (warning: it’s 800 pages).” So, I put You Learn By Living on hold and skipped the other one.

At the library check-out, the librarian saw these two books and started laughing. Not a quiet little librarian chuckle, either. She actually laughed out loud, then lined the two books up side by side, like this, so that the two ladies were looking at each other:

prudence Eroos

“What do you think SHE [Eleanor] would have thought of HER [Prudence]?” the librarian asked, still laughing.

I answered, “Oh, you might be surprised.”

What did you pick up this week? Did it make your librarian laugh?

Library Loot: with mini-reviews


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

My most recent library haul included The Girl on the Train (300+ wishers at my library), Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs (just released!), and Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon (also a new one). It’s been a good week!girltrain

The Girl on the Train is a suspenseful mystery with an unreliable alcoholic narrator who is both slightly repulsive and yet a sympathetic character. As her backstory unfolds, we start rooting for her to solve the mystery: not only the surface mystery of what she saw from the train, but the mystery of what happened in her life. The resolution was fast-paced and exciting, as I’d read from other reviewers. I’m just not sure whether alcoholism and depression is really so easily resolved.dhbriggs  leaveberlin

I’m now halfway through Dead Heat, and it’s wonderful. Briggs has managed to change the setting, the characters, and the rules, all while satisfying my need for more Charles and Anna. The couple has traveled to an Arabian horse farm in Scottsdale, Arizona to visit an old Navajo friend that is tied in to local werewolf and witch culture. There is a deep distrust between the Navajo and witches, but (I’m guessing here) they will all have to learn to play nicely together in order to defeat a greater evil.

Finally, I haven’t cracked Leaving Berlin yet, but it’s a post WWII suspense novel. I’m not familiar with the author. I was just looking for something outside my usual. If you’ve read it, please leave a comment!

What did you pick up this week?

What I Loved in Blogs This Week

imageI want to write about things I love in my everyday life. But I want to read about them, too, and connect with other bloggers who are writing about the same topics.

This week, it’s all about books.

So Many Books talks about Books I Won’t Read… and asks what topics you tend to avoid in books. (For me, it’s books about sisters.)

Meanwhile, in my own reading: I was going to give up after the first 50 pages of Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb. But I had a good feeling about it, so I looked up some reviews. Adventures in Reading straightened me out with a spot-on explanation of why the first hundred pages are so slow, and he was right: it was worth the wait. Now I’m in the middle of one of my favorite activities: binge-reading a completed trilogy all at once.

Not really a blog post and definitely not something I love, but news anyway: I’ve been a Paperbackswap member for eight years, so naturally it shook me up a bit this week when they announced that they are moving to a fee-only service and closing the forums to non-members. For me, it’s not that I mind paying a small fee myself; I just think the overall quality of the service will be diminished due to reduced membership. After the closure of my local used bookstore earlier this year, this is a tough blow…

Readers: What was your favorite blog post (not your own) from this week?

Review: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

peaceriverI’ll admit it: I’m already getting cabin fever.

Winter is the time of year I look forward to. The reading! The blogging! The crafting! When it gets here, I find that as much as I love all of those things, I need a balance in my life. I’m missing sunshine. I’m missing exercise. There are only so many treadmill runs a girl can do.

Luckily, I have had a few really good books to keep me company lately.

One in particular is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. After Modern Mrs Darcy recommended it again and again and again and again, saying wisely

The jacket description didn’t sound interesting to me, so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound good to you either. – See more at:

I finally gave in and opened this not-my-usual read. 11 year old boys don’t always make the best narrators when you’re reading as an adult woman. Set in the 1960’s in rural Minnesota and North Dakota, it had very little regional appeal to me. Also, the book echoes (parallels? parodies? uses as metaphor?) classic Westerns. And finally, almost all of the goodreads reviews I read carry on about how this is a great Christian novel – which I don’t object to in the abstract sense, but let’s face it: Christian fiction has a long and glorious history of being really boring.

I opened the book and all of those stereotypes and judgements fell away. Right away, it’s clear that we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. Not the really hardcore kind that is lying to you or crazy (or is he??…)  It’s just that as an 11-year old kid, Reuben has a bad case of hero worship for his dad, who he believes is a modern day prophet and miracle worker, and for his older brother, who he views as a Western-style hero. He views his kid sister Swede as very ordinary and down-to-earth, even though she may be the most extraordinary character in the book.

The reality comes out more slowly, and due to the limited viewpoint, you really have to look for it. For me, that’s part of the magic of this book: on top of the obvious mystery/manhunt plot, there’s also this question of what is really happening all around Reuben. Who is his dad, really? What happened to Swede? Who shot those two teenage boys, and why? In the end, although we have some answers and a few good guesses, we also realize that some questions will never be answered.

In the same way, I think you have to read this book for yourself and see what you get out of it. For those who either loved or hated the Christian theme: that’s a very literal reading where you’re buying into Reuben’s 11-year-old, near-magical viewpoint. And that’s OK, if that’s what works for you. But if you approach the limited narration with a little bit of skepticism, I think the novel you end up reading will be a lot more cynical, and perhaps more realistic, too.