Archives for posts with tag: cookbooks
Photo of Sharyn Dimmick's illustrated cookbook (aka The Kale Chronicles cookbook)

Photo shows cover of Sharyn Dimmick’s cookbook, Seasonal Recipes with Paintings, developed before the beginning of The Kale Chronicles blog.

Long before The Kale Chronicles blog began I frequently wrote about what I was cooking each week. In 2010 I assembled a limited edition cookbook called “Seasonal Recipes with Paintings,” featuring a recipe for each month of the year with an original painting. I gave these for holiday gifts. For half of 2010 and half of 2011 I lurked about on the A-List Blogging Club, learning about blogging and what I did and did not want to do with my maiden blog.

Then one night I was talking to my friend Neola on the phone and she said, “Why don’t you write about food? Everyone always likes it when you write about food — I even like it and I don’t eat vegetables.” It’s true: whenever I wrote about food my writing friends said things like “You should do a cookbook” and “I can’t read your writing when I am hungry.” Neola suggested that I write about what I got in my produce box each week and what I did with it. Then I happened upon a post called “The Kale Chronicles” on the net and I knew I had my blog title because I frequently struggled with making kale edible, despite the  fact that it had been showing up in my box regularly for the past several years. I painted a “cover painting” for the blog, now in a private collection in Florida and chose an image of it for my gravatar — that little signature picture box you will see in the Comments section. And I decided I would paint for the blog, rather than take photos because I enjoy painting more. The lurking, the phone call, the writing, the produce box, the inspiration for the title, all came together to create The Kale Chronicles, which is a year old today. I thank Neola, the A-List Blogging Club, the practice of writing as taught by Natalie Goldberg and every single one of the 106 subscribers and 15,699 visitors who have taken the time to read the essays, cook the recipes, look at the paintings, buy the music, wish me well when I was ill, encourage me to go on and be or become my friends online and in the real world. I am deeply grateful for your company and support.

One of the things that I am most grateful for in my adult life on a daily basis is that I can eat whatever I like. When I was a child I had to eat everything on every dinner plate no matter how I felt about it — I don’t mean I had to try things or taste them: I had to eat “a reasonable portion.” If I served myself a portion that my father did not deem reasonable, he would serve me twice as much. When I grew up I vowed that I would never eat a long list of foods again: mayonnaise, avocado, English peas, asparagus, tuna, liver, etc. I learned to eat some formerly despised foods, including cauliflower and eggplant by preparing them differently than my mother did. But the big deal is that I get to decide what I eat now.

Some people do not get to decide what they will eat. Some people are poor enough to eat whatever they can get. Others have restrictions due to illness or sensitivities. My friend Lauren, one of my writing pals who studies with Natalie Goldberg and was with me in France, follows a restricted diet due to a poorly understood autoimmune disease. She was happy in France, eating a wide variety of non-chemical, non-genetically modified foods, but then she came back to the United States and was finding it hard to get quick, tasty healthy meals on her table.

And then I had an idea: I had seen her food list in France and my blogging anniversary was coming up. What if I let the food blogging community see her lists of what she could and could not eat and then let bloggers send in recipes for Lauren? So, today, on The Kale Chronicles’ first anniversary I am pleased to announce The Lauren Project, a recipe contest that keeps to the foods Lauren can eat. Below you will find 1) a list of foods Lauren can eat and 2) a list of foods Lauren cannot eat. It is important that you look at both lists when designing your recipes for her because using a restricted food will mean that she cannot try your recipe.

Lauren's chile potholder prototype.

Lauren’s chile pepper pot holder in process — the real thing is way cuter.

Prizes. Yes, there will be prizes. Lauren and I conferred on this. Lauren will award a homemade chili pepper potholder for a winning recipe. I will award 1) a signed Kale Chronicles’ cookbook (made before I started the blog, featuring fourteen recipes and thirteen prints of my watercolor paintings) 2) an original painting (winners’ choice) 3) a “Paris” CD (full-length folk music CD, featuring songs by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Shelley Posen and yours truly, which includes a booklet of original paintings and all of the lyrics to all of the songs). Also, anyone within the U.S. or Canada who enters a recipe in The Lauren Project will be eligible for free shipping for any painting he or she purchases from me in 2012.

Here are the ingredient lists. Please read them carefully.

1)”Yes” Foods:  Grains: White rice, brown rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice, quinoa, cornmeal, millet, gluten-free oats

Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lettuce, kale, collards, chard, mustard greens, sorrel, summer squash, winter squash, beans (except pinto and lima beans), peas, corn, asparagus, artichoke, fennel bulb, leek, garlic, shallot, turnip

Fruit: apples (tart varieties only), blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, currants, lemon, lime

Dairy: eggs, cows’ milk yogurt

Meat and fish: Buffalo, lamb, game meats, beef and chicken in moderation, some fish (see exceptions on other list)

Nuts and legumes: cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds (in moderation), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, black beans, mung beans, cannellini beans, lentils, adzuki beans, red beans, black-eyed peas, white beans

Seasonings: salt, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, anise, rosemary, sage, cloves, vanilla.

Other: olive oil, coconut (including coconut milk), organic non-genetically-modified sugar (must use sparingly). Maple syrup (also use sparingly — Lauren needs to limit her intake of all sugars).

2) “No” Foods: Must avoid — DO NOT USE IN YOUR RECIPES — : grains containing gluten — no wheat, rye, or products made of them. No mushrooms or fungus of any kind. Nothing containing mold — no blue cheeses, moldy cheese rinds, etc. No goat cheese or goat’s milk. No cheddar cheese. No yeast, vinegar, mayonnaise, alcohol, caffeine, honey, agave, cocoa, chocolate or artificial sweeteners. Nothing fermented. No soy or soy products. No basil, oregano, paprika, chili, sesame, cinnamon or mint. No beets, cucumber, eggplant, bell pepper, chili peppers, potato, tomato, cabbage, onion, avocado or tomatillo. No blueberries, strawberries, melon or peaches. No pork, turkey, ostrich, tilapia, shellfish or mollusks (mussels, clams, etc.). No hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pinto beans or lima beans.

A few words from Lauren:

i am so excited! 

one of my biggest issues is breakfast. i just can’t seem to manage cooking that early in the morning which means i usually just skip breakfast and go straight to lunch (or eat breakfast at 11:30). my favorite breakfast is beef and butternut stew – i do best with heavy protein and very few grains – but i can’t eat it every day. i’m also hungry for one-pot meals that i can cook in bulk and freeze. my last request is for a simple way to get more veggies into my diet. I don’t do well with raw, so things that i can cook quickly with minimal prep (maybe also some good pre-prep tricks for processing veggies when i buy them so they are ready to cook at a moment’s notice). oh, and one more thing… eggs are best cooked in things or scrambled really well. i don’t always do very well with whites. if anyone has questions regarding items not on the lists i’m happy to answer inquiries (mostly they are borderline foods that are okay sometimes or when prepared in certain ways.
thank you so much for doing this and for even thinking of me. it means a lot.

Because we are being kind to Lauren, we ask that you get your grains and organic sugar from reputable gluten-free and non-GMO sources. Organically grown things are less likely to cause less trouble than conventionally grown products. But you can experiment with what you have in your cupboards and then write the recipe for organic, gluten-free products.

Photo of cover of Paris CD by Sharyn Dimmick.

Photo shows front cover of Sharyn Dimmick’s music CD, “Paris.”

Deadline: You must submit your recipe(s) to The Kale Chronicles by midnight Pacific time on August 31st, 2012. You may submit them in the Comments field here, or post them in the Comments field of The Lauren Project page. (Look above and click on it). We will announce the prize winners in a September blog post. You may also post your recipes on your own blogs with the tag “The Lauren Project” and a link to this contest post, but if you don’t send them to me here as well I might miss them (and we wouldn’t want that).

I was working on a recipe for Lauren this week, but then I felt the irresistible urge to go to another music festival in Sonoma County, stay up till 2 AM, flirt with some men, sing some songs. To do that, I had to bake a Gravenstein apple pie, make a Greek salad, cough up twenty bucks, wash my hair and spiff up. I came back tired and happy with my hair full of campfire smoke. I will keep working on the recipe and post it by the deadline, hoping to inspire you to create recipes for Lauren as well, but I might inspire you to run off to folk festivals and flirt with guitar-players. Oops. C’est la vie.


Sharyn (aka The Kale Chronicler)

List update. We have just added “coriander” to the Yes list as of 8/23/12.


The Kale Chronicles’ Food Manifesto: Ideas I Try to Live By

painting of foods for four seasons

Seasonal Food 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

1)   Eat fresh, locally-grown food in season.

Fresh food tastes good. It has more vitamins and minerals in it than preserved food. If you can grow your own food, go for it. If you can’t, seek out farmers’ markets or a community-supported agricultural program. Familiarize yourself with what grows in your area when.

2)   Adapt recipes to use local resources.

For instance, pesto recipes often call for pine nuts. Here in the Bay Area of Northern California, pine nuts are currently selling for thirty or forty dollars a pound. I make my pesto with walnuts, which grow in California and can be found at my local farmers’ market in bulk. If you live in an area that produces almonds, hazelnuts, black walnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, substitute them for pine nuts. Eat pine nuts when you go to Italy or visit New Mexico.

3)   Use what you have on hand.

Instead of running out to get ingredients, practice cooking with what you have on hand. Develop a regular routine for food shopping and stick to it. You will save time and money if you are not always running to the store and you will develop your creative cooking muscles. Mom shops for groceries once a week at a variety of places (Safeway, Grocery Outlet, Food Maxx or Country Cheese). I pick up a box of vegetables in Berkeley on Wednesday afternoons and often go to the Saturday Farmers’ Market.

4)   Do not waste food.

We spend money for food and then we throw it away when it is less than perfect or past the pull date. Many people frequently throw away food that can be eaten. A routine throw-away is sour milk (or half and half, or cream), or, worse, milk that has just passed its pull date. Sour milk, cream, etc. can be substituted for buttermilk in recipes that involve cooking or baking. Sour milk can also be “sweetened” with baking soda and then used in cooked or baked recipes meant for fresh milk.

painting shows dehydrated and canned food for winter

Food for Winter 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

5)   Find simple ways to preserve foods for winter.

I bought a dehydrator a year and a half ago. Now I make my own dried tomatoes which I use during the winter in soups, pastas and salads. I have also dried apples and pears and I’m just getting started. With trepidation I learned how to put up dilly beans, a baby step into home canning. When I make pestos or curry pastes, I put part of the yield in the freezer for later.

6)   Develop a personal pantry based on what you like to eat and ingredients you use frequently.

For example, I am a baker as well as a cook, so I stock a baking pantry with flours, sugars, molasses, honey, maple syrup, vegetable shortening, oils, nuts, coconut, dried fruit, yeast, and leavening agents. I cook Chinese food so I keep soy sauce, peanut oil and chili paste with garlic, fresh ginger. I cook Thai food so I keep fish sauce. A pantry rich in canned tuna and white beans would do me no good because I am not going to cook with those ingredients, or canola oil, which tastes like fish to me, but I do keep lots of pasta, polenta, rolled oats, dried tomatoes, kalamata olives.

7)   Stock your pantry when you find good deals on things you use often.

We are infamous for buying canned sour pie cherries by the case. We like cherry pie. Sour cherries make the best pies. Canned cherries keep. So when Grocery Outlet features canned cherries we buy a case at a time. We keep them in the garage. We have learned the hard way that inexpensive pie cherries are hard to find, so when we see them we buy them. We also stock up on sugar, flour, butter, pastas, and miscellaneous canned goods when they are on sale.

painting shows stock pot, skillet and ingredients.

Making Stock 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil . Sharyn Dimmick.

8)   Learn to make stocks.

You don’t have to go to cooking school for this. You don’t have to roast bones (although roasted bone stock is supposed to be good). The Greens Cookbook has wonderful recipes for vegetable stocks, which I recommend. But any old person can plunk a chicken or turkey carcass into a pot of water with some vegetables or vegetable trimmings (the ends of carrots, tough ends of celery, celery leaves, cilantro roots and stems, the skin of roasted winter squash), simmer it, strain it, skim of the fat and, voila, a base for soups, sauces, chicken pot pie, Chinese stir fries. For me, chicken stock is indispensable. We keep it in pint containers in the freezer.

9   Develop your cooking resources.

I learned to cook by cooking with my mother and asking questions about what she did, but I also learned by tasting lots of foods, watching cooking shows on PBS, reading cookbooks and having conversations with others about food, especially people whose cooking I liked. We keep an old Betty Crocker picture cookbook as our cooking Bible. I have bought the cookbooks of several of my favorite restaurants: Ajanta, Henry Chung’s Hunan, Greens, and Chez Panisse (I really like the Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook, which taught me how to make fruit caramel and variations on fruit curds and has a good section on seasonal fruit in California). I keep a large binder of recipes from the food sections of two newspapers, organized by main ingredient or type of food: Carrots, Chocolate, Cookies, Corn, Fennel, Fish, Lemons, Pancakes, Pasta, Peppers, Pumpkin, Soup, etc. I browse through it when I’m trying to remember what I cook with savoy cabbage or looking for that fabulous Polenta Pancakes recipe from Mark Bittman. I also search online when I need more ideas and subscribe to more than a couple of food blogs.

10) Don’t be afraid.

Remember, cooking is fun. It is a sensual experience standing in front of a cutting board with the smell of fresh basil wafting through the air, hearing the snap of green beans as you trim them, seeing the colors of eggplant, peppers and peaches sitting on the counter. If you are not sure how to do something, you can always consult a cookbook, watch a video online or call another cook on the phone. If you tackle a technique or dish you have never attempted you might want to follow instructions carefully the first time around, but once you learn some cooking principles and the rules of substitution you will be freer to cook what you have and turn it into what you like.

Painting of a To-Do List

To-Do List. 6″ x 6″gouache, watercolor pencil and ink. Sharyn Dimmick

What if you come to visit and there is nothing new to read?

On days when I don’t post, I invite you to:

1) Read the About page (there’s a lot of information there).

2) Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Home page and click on various links. In the links section, you can find links to other artist’s sites, food blogs, sites for writers and cool participatory events like NaNoWriMo, which will begin soon.

3) Cruise through all of the illustrations on the site. I’ve added archives at the bottom of the home page, which should make this easier to do now.

Think about which is your favorite painting. Tell me.

Even think about buying one.

Which would you like to see in a future give-away?

Or would you rather have the last copy of my homemade illustrated cookbook made before I started “The Kale Chronicles?”

4) Check out the food blog links in the Apple Cake with Caramelized Fennel and Dark Rum post — you may find a new favorite or two.

5) Visit the Go-To Cookbooks post and think about your favorite cookbooks. Leave comments if you want.

6) Learn to make your own pie crust: follow the directions given under “Gravenstein Apple Pie.”

Painting of cookbooks on bookshelves

Go-To Cookbooks 8″ x 8″ Gouache and Watercolor Pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

When I am not cooking or blogging or writing, I am singing or listening to music. I am departing for a few days for San Francisco’s jewel, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. But before I go, my friend Robin asked me a while back how I learned to cook. I learned in all of the usual ways: helping other people with kitchen tasks, asking for recipes, having conversations about food, watching food shows on T.V., cooking from books , recipe cards and newspaper columns, reading the food section, tasting food and trying to recreate it in my kitchen and, now, suddenly, from the brave new world of food blogs. But the first cookbook I ever consulted was my mother’s copy of

1)  Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, Revised and Enlarged, published by McGraw-Hill. This is a classic old cookbook with useful sections on substituting ingredients. This edition (1956) is in a ring binder format and features basic recipes for simple foods: how to roast a turkey, bake cinnamon rolls, make an apple pie. All of the standards are here: corn bread, biscuits, waffles, cookies, baked custards. Hmm. I probably use this more for baking then cooking, but I still use it frequently. I was delighted to find my own copy in a used bookstore some years ago.

2)  Bittersweet by Alice Medrich taught me a lot about high cacao chocolates. I make her Tiger Cake (an olive oil marble cake) often with variations and her cacao nib whipped cream must be one of the best things on the planet. I also like her Marble Cheesecake made with quark that I get at the farmers’ market.

3)  Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club has yielded recipes for good breads. My top two are Finnish Cardamom Bread and Bittersweet Chocolate-Ginger Bread.

4)  The Cheese Board Collective Works taught me how to make homemade sourdough and to bake it by throwing ice cubes into a hot oven. I may have rusted out one of our ovens, but I learned how to make baguettes and wolverines (a whole wheat sourdough bun filled with dried fruit and walnuts). Day to day, I use their (non-sourdough) pizza dough recipe with all its tips for pulling the dough and their basic whole wheat bread recipe (which I cut with unbleached flour). The Cheese Board is a local treasure for area residents.

5)  Chez Panisse Desserts taught me all about fruit caramel and fruit curd variations. Thanks, Lindsey and Alice! Eating at Chez Panisse is a treat and this is the most accessible of their books.

6)  China Moon Cookbook. The late Barbara Tropp cooked wonderful new Chinese food and left this book behind for the rest of us. The book features homemade condiments and many recipes. I go there most often to make her cookies and the ginger ice cream with bittersweet chocolate sauce.

7)  Coffee by Charles and Violet Shafer. I keep this book around for the Oatmeal Bread recipe on page 105. Sweetened with maple syrup and made with a sponge method, it makes the best toast.

8)  Henry Chung’s Hunan Style Chinese Cookbook. I used to live in San Francisco and go to Hunan to eat Henry Chung’s Hot and Sour Chicken. Then a friend gave me the book so I could cook it at home, which I do — often. I also make use of Chung’s Chicken and Cucumber Salad and hot and sour dressing recipes.

9)  Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India by Lachu Moorjani. I covered this in my post on Indian Eggplant, but in case you missed it, Ajanta is another local treasure of a restaurant and Moorjani’s cookbook lets you recreate some of his recipes, especially if you get it with his spice box (and he always has a special deal going).

10) The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and Edward Espe Brown. This is a great resource for vegetable stocks, such as their wild mushroom stock, and seasonal menus. I often flip to the index if I don’t have any inspiration for a given vegetable.

This is not a “Top Ten” List, but a list of books I use frequently and what I use them for. I’ll add more of my favorites in future posts. I’ll be back next week with a recipe, perhaps based on something wonderful I eat at the festival.

If you would like to share favorite cookbooks of yours, please use the comment section to tell us all about them.

Painting Note: for more information about paintings, please contact me here