blueberry muffinsI love breakfast. Sundays are really the only morning my vegan husband and I can prepare and enjoy a long, lazy breakfast together. As the non-vegan, I have two strict rules of our vegan breakfast: it must be tasty, and it must not be recognizably vegan.

Most of the books I check out from the library are cookbooks. I like to flip through them and find recipes that we can both enjoy. Usually, I’ll need to convert baking recipes to a vegan format. Replace eggs with Ener-G. Substitute soy milk for regular milk. Create my own vegan buttermilk with soy milk and vinegar.

flour tooMy friend and colleague, Debbie, brought to my attention the cookbook Flour, Too by Joanne Chang. Ms. Chang is an accomplished pastry chef and owner of Flour Bakery in Boston, MA. She has quite of a number of recipes that are vegan, but not labeled as such. One recipe labeled as vegan, the Vegan Vanilla Mixed Berry Muffin comes with a short personalized story about how this muffin was created to serve her vegan customers- and that it has many fans who are not vegan. The beautiful photograph of the muffins in their tarnished silver muffin tin is gorgeous. Now, I love vanilla. (I even tried it plain once, straight out of the bottle, because I loved it so much. I never did that again.) I love blueberries. I love raspberries. Although my own garden grown blueberries and raspberries were exhausted (I wish I had found this book earlier in the summer when they were abundant), I knew this was one recipe that I had to share.

“Honey? Let’s go to the grocery store. I need to get some fresh blueberries and raspberries.”

Now, I did forget to add a few things to the recipe. I forgot to add salt, and I didn’t add the sprinkling of sugar on top of the muffin.

My hubby really liked the muffins. I added a few extra berri es to the batter because I love berries and because I thought the recipe could have used more berries. Next time, I think I’ll just plop extra berries on the top of the muffins. These muffins were not dense at all, but rather on the light side (probably because of the mixture of the vinegar and the baking soda).

The next time I’m in Boston, I’ll be heading to Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery and possibly enroll in one of her baking classes.

Oh, I’m almost forgot! I had some leftover blueberries and raspberries (even after using more than called for in this recipe) and made myself a chocolate raspberry sandwich.
I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the leftover blueberries.

Anyhow, here’s how you can make your own chocolate raspberry sandwich snack:
Cut the raspberries in half so they’re flattened. Spread vegan bread with vegan chocolate spread. I used Dark Choco Dream spread because it’s vegan.
Place flattened raspberries on top of the chocolate spread and finish with another plain slice of vegan bread. Yum!

Mio Higashimoto is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She has a background in history and spends much of her spare time knitting, reading, hiking, and watching Star Trek reruns.

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Howard County Library System has so many good books on all kinds of subjects; I was sure that I would find lots of help researching how to eat for good health. Sure enough, the cookbook shelves are full of wonderful new books on how to cook healthful foods for all kinds of conditions.

Diabetes is the elephant in the middle of the room as far as special diets are concerned. If you need to cook for a person with diabetes you will find many trustworthy sources. The Healthy Carb Diabetes Cookbook (2008) by chef Jennifer Bucko and nurse Lara Rondinelli, is published by the American Diabetes Association. It teaches what constitutes healthy complex carbohydrates and promises “favorite foods to fit your meal plan.”

Another helpful book is Diabetes Meal Planner (2010) from the American Diabetes Association’s “Month of Meals” series. The result is over 500 meals, over 600 recipes and snacks giving you unlimited menu combinations. There are 167 meal suggestions with accompanying recipes in each of the sections—breakfast, lunch, and dinner, followed by snack suggestions and recipes grouped by calorie count. Special meals follow, including picnics, holiday meals, and vegetarian meals. The nutrition information will be invaluable for diabetes patients, but it does make the pages look “busy” and rather daunting.

The Betty Crocker Diabetes Cookbook is a team effort with the International Diabetes Center. This 2012 revision is an update of the 2003 edition, with USDA’s MyPlate food symbol instead of the pyramid in the opening pages. There is much wise advice here, followed by eight chapters taking us from breakfast to desserts. The new edition includes 40 new recipes with all new photos.

Another choice, America’s Best Cookbook for Kids with Diabetes (2005) by Colleen Bartley, doesn’t carry the same institutional support as the previous titles, but each recipe has nutritional information and most are followed by a “Dietitian’s Message.” There are a few photos scattered rather randomly throughout the book. And to be frank, nothing about this book yells “kids will love these recipes!” However, it does offer well-thought-out nutrition for a child with diabetes.

Nutrition for a person undergoing cancer treatment is a daily struggle. The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook (2012) by Jean LaMantia, RD with Dr. Neil Berinstein, MD, begins with over 100 pages on the ways cancer therapies can affect ones nutrition and how to manage side effects. The recipes are one-to-a-page and easy to follow, if not colorfully illustrated. Tips, survivor wisdom, and make-ahead advice are included where appropriate as well as notes on what symptoms each recipe is recommended to help.

The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen (2009) by Rebecca Katz, features “150 science-based, nutrient-rich recipes” that stimulate appetite and address treatment side effects. The nutrition information is there but unobtrusive and the photos alone will speed recovery!

And once treatment is done? Barbara Unell and Judith Fertig offer a beautiful book to celebrate recovery after treatment for breast cancer. In their 2012 Back in the Swing Cookbook 150 healthful recipes are interspersed with segments like “Who knew” (followed by a quick Q & A) and “Did you hear the news?” offering quick factoids, and “Professor Positive’s” affirmations. The book itself is just beautiful and uplifting and would make a wonderful gift for a friend in recovery.

Allergies are the biggest health challenge for many families. Try Cybele Pascal’s 2012 Allergy-free and Easy Cooking, “recipes for 75 everyday favorites…30-minute meals without gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and sesame.” Yes, you will have to be careful to purchase ingredients that don’t contain your specific allergen, and search for special ingredients, but the recipes look easy and appetizing. Nutrition information is not included.

For those who need to eat for a “healthy heart” (and who doesn’t?) there’s the American Medical Association Healthy Heart Cookbook. Complete nutrient analysis and fat count is included for each of the 60 well-photographed recipes.

The American Heart Association’s Diabetes & Heart Healthy Cookbook (2nd edition 2014) looks plain vanilla and no-nonsense, inside and out—even the beautiful heart-shaped white bowl on the cover—but
the recipes are planned to tackle diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease and they don’t need embellishment.

The many books at Howard County Library System should keep you supplied with healthy ideas for whatever your cooking challenges, but do be sure to choose information that is backed by credible research.

  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
  • 6 Cookbooks for Better Health from The Farmers' Market Chef
Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch. Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.


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I want to be healthier, I want to make healthful choices, and, doggone it, I will eat nutritious foods! Okay, all Stuart Smalley affirmations aside (does anyone remember Stuart?), I do not always eat the best foods for me. I try to feed my family well, but when I’m on the go, like many people, I often go for the quick and easy. In fact, when my hubby travels for work, I’ll often make dinner for my kids and then eat something quick (often while standing over the sink like a stereotypical bachelor or college student) after the kids have gone to bed.

I know, I know, this is not good. My doctor has been brutally honest, “Eat better, exercise more, lose weight because now that you are {AGE MYSTERIOUSLY DELETED}, it’s only going to get harder to keep the pounds off.” Darn it, I hate her! (Okay, not really, but the truth is not a pretty one and it makes me cranky and want a candy bar.)

See what I’m up against? I am my own worst enemy and resort to comfort eating too often. So, maybe the first baby step I need to take is to change the foods I associate with comfort. I am trying to take a page from my dear and wonderful colleague who recently wrote about her coming around to Brussels sprouts. I do happen to like a lot of vegetables, but I’m not always as creative or varied.

Again, this is where working for the library comes in super-handy. (Have I mentioned recently how I have the best job?) I did have to leave my comfort zones of Fiction and Teen and venture upstairs to the Nonfiction books. There are a ton of books in the recipe section focused on healthful foods.

the sprouted kitchenThe one that happened to catch my eye this time was The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte, in part because Hugh Forte (Sara’s husband and the book’s photographer) has captured how gorgeous his wife’s recipes turn out, a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The other reason, I’m ashamed to say, is that any book that promises to be a “tastier take on whole foods” and has chapters entitled “Snacks to Share,” “The Happy Hour,”(!)and “Treats”(!!) can’t be all bad. And it certainly is not. The directions are simple to follow, there is a nice balance of recipes with easy-to-find ingredients and a few on the exotic side (although with the abundance of organic and fresh markets, exotic is not that hard to find these days), and the recipes seem to celebrate the taste of the whose-food ingredients (not try to hide healthful foods in “fun” recipes some like books. In short, this seems to be a “health cookbook” for people who actually like food.

At my home, we tried the mango guacamole with baked corn chips, and it was a huge hit. It felt like a much naughtier and more indulgent snack than it was. Next on our “to try list” are: heirloom tomato stacks with bocconcini and kale pesto, beer bean-and cotija-stuffed poblanos, polenta squares with raw corn and blueberry relish, two-bite grilled cheese (brilliant!), and cocoa hazelnut cupcakes. There is not a lot in this book I wouldn’t be willing to try, and I’m happy to report that Sara Forte has an award-winning blog, so I can keep trying her wholesome-yet-satisfying creations. The Sprouted Kitchen has really given me hope for adopting a completely new approach to comfort food. I may never be a health-food expert, but at least I can feel better about using the best ingredients to make slightly more healthful yet still delicious meals and snacks. (Take that, candy bar!)

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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5216891238_228367e57b_zI love Halloween! I love dressing up, handing out candy to neighborhood kids, and attending as many costume parties as I can. I’ve already worn three different costumes this year, and I still have one more chance to be something else this weekend! Most of all, I love Halloween because of the candy. It’s not just the candy, it’s the way we share and indulge in all that sugary goodness. I know it’s bad to eat 30 mini Twix bars or 25 bite sized Snickers bars in one sitting- I mean, it’s not like I downed a bag of sour gummy worms or maybe about 45 squares of Starburst fruit chews…

Well, I actually didn’t this year, I only ate an entire bag of mini Kit-Kats and a bag of mini Twix bars over a 5 day period sometime in September. I know, I got the bug early this time around, but I can’t say the same for years past. This year, my Halloween candy intake allowance is going to be small, maybe one or two chocolate treats versus an entire bag.

Too much candy is bad for you. There! I said it.

eat this not thatI spent the last two days reading every Eat This, Not That! book that Howard County Library System (HCLS) owns and I learned a few things:

(1) America is fatter than ever.

(2) Labels lie, but nutrition facts don’t.

(3) A couple Twix candy bars have the fat content equivalency of 12 strips of bacon. I’m surprisingly both intrigued and disgusted by that. Also, I feel like there’s probably a Pinterest pinned recipe or something on Reddit about bacon-wrapped-Twix hors d’oeuvres. (Update: I did find something “Twinkie” not “Twix” related and I think my arteries just clogged)

(4) Food products that use beloved characters, movies, etc. to market to children usually have terrible nutritional content.

(5) Eating healthy isn’t always cheaper, but it’s worth it.

(6) Just because something is “low-fat” or “low/zero-sugar” doesn’t mean you can eat more of it.

(7) Knowing is ⅓ the battle. Practicing good food swaps is ⅓. Exercising is (at least) the last ⅓.

(8) These books aren’t an excuse to eat whatever you want. These are practical guides to navigating your daily food choices in not-so-ideal situations. It’s imperative to read these titles cover-to-cover to benefit from the information therein.

(9) What constitutes as “food” these days is kinda scary.

(10) Candy is a terrific!

And when3000245257_9d3416db69_b I say “terrific” I mean massively intense, terror-inducing “terrific.” After reading through the statistics and comparative nutritional facts, I ran the gamut of emotions. I felt validated and then, duped. The pendulum swung from “I already knew that!” and “That’s so obvious!” to “How can we fix ourselves if we’re so deep in it?”

Candy cravings seem to intensify the moment you say you can’t have it or it’s just a “once in a while treat.” Also, candy is so cheap and accessible- and it makes us feel good. The pleasure centers in our brain get over-excited and the cravings for more “feel good” edibles takes over like an addict’s yearning for an abused substance. With just hours before welcoming kids onto my patio and giving them handfuls of sugar & fat laden bombs also known as Kit-Kat and Snickers bars the guilt settles in…

Has the annual Halloween candy haul turned into a slow, painful death-march of candy-drenched-diabesity? No. Truly, we are responsible for what we eat and put into our bodies. Having a few bite sized candy bars isn’t going to kill you, but if you can’t pass up the candy, or find yourself sneaking around for that taboo junk food- there’s a problem and it needs to be addressed. Recall our friend, Sugar Addict Anonymous.

All I want to impart with you is this: Halloween candy may be something you and your children struggle with over the next week or so. Be strong. Be prepared. Make good real food choices, and don’t be so hard on yourself if (when) you mess up.

Zinczenko’s books basically say three things:

(1) Be aware of and eat healthy foods when you’re truly hungry.
(2) Treat yourself once in a while, not once an hour, and not after every meal.
(3) Change is challenging and may feel time consuming, but it’s not impossible. Making one or a few healthier exchanges each day will help you trade up to that healthy, balanced diet you know you need.

Happy Halloween and good luck! I know I’ll need it!

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.


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halloween_pumpkin_apple_webThe truth of the matter is, “healthy Halloween treat” is an oxymoron. The words just don’t go together.

When kids go out trick-or-treating in their witch and goblin costumes, they are not hoping to come home with a bag full of apples or mini-tubes of toothpaste. (Remember the neighborhood dentist who gave away little toothbrushes emblazoned with his name?) The apples get tossed in the refrigerator for someone else to eat. The pennies and nickels will be used to buy more candy.

What kids want (and don’t we all?) are chocolate bars—full size and lots of them. The goal is to hit as many houses as possible, bring home bags of goodies and then gorge on candy until passing out from a sugar high. Of course, none of this is healthy, but it’s a lot of fun. And no matter what, kids are going to have chocolate on Halloween.

However, knowing what we do today about sugar and childhood obesity and diabetes, is there a way we can take some of the sugar out of Halloween without taking out all of the fun?

Some healthy Halloween treat giveaways might be mini boxes of healthier drinks—100 percent juice, low-sugar drinks or flavored low-fat milk. Little bags of peanuts or low-salt veggie chips are another idea. Pre-packaged popcorn balls with Halloween wraps provide a lot of fiber with much less sugar than a candy bar. Kids also like mini boxes of raisins or cheese crackers. Trail mix fortified with chocolate chips or M&Ms is both healthy and a little sweet.

Another idea is to start with a party at home and fill them up on some healthy food before they go foraging for candy. There are lots of spooky and fun, but healthy, treat ideas for parties or even to be offered to eat at the door.

Carrot fingers
Cut the flat edge off (on an angle) the top of baby carrots to make nail base. Use cream cheese for glue and stick on an almond slice for nails. Serve with hummus or your favorite dip.

Pretzel broom sticks
Glue (cream cheese again) thin strips of cheese onto the end of pretzel sticks and wrap the top of the slices with the green ends of cooked scallions.

Apple teeth
Take apple slices and cut a notch out of the back side to make the mouth and then stick in almond slivers for teeth. (Dip the apples in lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.)

Cheesy creatures
Use cookie cutters in the shape of cats, witches, ghosts, etc. to cut out spooky shapes from slices of square cheese (sliced thick).

Decorated apples
Put popsicle or craft sticks in the stem end of small apples. Dip halfway in melted white chocolate bits (you can make it orange with a little red and yellow food coloring) then decorate with chocolate chips or Halloween sprinkles.

Pizza mummies
Roll out pizza dough and cut mini pizzas with cookie cutter. Add favorite toppings (tomato sauce, sausage, green peppers) and then use thin strips of mozzarella cheese to make mummy wrap with black olive slices for eyes.

Search the internet for healthy Halloween treats and you’ll find an abundance of photos and recipes to make Halloween a little bit healthier and a lot of fun.

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groundbreaking food gardensI hope you have gotten some great produce from your garden this summer. Our garden is beginning to wind down, as yours probably is unless you have made great plans for a fall garden. This is actually a good time to begin thinking about next year’s garden! Now, when your “failures” (no, scratch that) “disappointments” are decomposing in the compost heap, is a good time to record what you would do differently. Do you really want your bean plants that close together? Your carrots that far apart? And what a disappointment that new variety of tomato was! Now, the good variety—let’s save some seeds!

It apparently is a good time to introduce new books on vegetable gardening as well. Here are some shiny new additions to Howard County Library System‘s shelves.

timber guideTimber Press has published several guides to gardening with advice specific to the climates of various parts of the U.S.–the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain States, the Northeast, and, luckily for us, the Southeast. The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast (2013) is by Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I was happy to see her association with a seed exchange group since the gardener at my house is looking for advice on saving seeds from the best of our tomatoes. I really like the organization of this book. After a brief introduction to our climate, we have Gardening 101, and a section on garden planning. Following these are chapters for each month, covering “To do this Month,” what to “Plan, Prepare, and Maintain,” what to “Sow and Plant,” and “Fresh Harvest.” Each month is closed with a “Skill Set” project like staking or drip irrigation or starting a compost heap. The final 50 pages are an alphabetical guide to “Edibles A to Z.” There are some gems of advice in here—I want it for my home bookshelf!

Jean-Martin Fortier, in his The Market Gardener: a Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming (2014), demonstrates how a “micro-farm” of only one and a half acres can produce enough to feed 200 families in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in Canada, no less! In their 10 years at the business Fortier and his wife have developed some clever techniques and devised special equipment, shared here in clear line drawings. His chapters on pests, starting seeds, fertilizing, and more are enhanced with sidebars giving tips and advice. In spite of the author’s Canadian home-base—cooler by far than our climate—very little of his advice would not be useful in Maryland!

Do you like to browse through magazines to see how other peoples houses look inside? Do you like to see how beautiful their gardens look and long to replicate their successes? Take a look at Niki Jabbour’s Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden (2014). The gardens vary from “Wildlife Friendly” to “Critter Control,” from “Eggs and Everything,” built around a chicken coop, to the “Edible Campus” planted between buildings at McGill University. You won’t find gorgeous photos here, but colored sketches that I find more instructive. There is truly something for every gardener in these 250 pages.

year-round vegetable gardnerNiki Jabbour’s previous book, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener (2011), is a similarly useful guide, especially for the gardener who does not want a break from planting and harvesting. She promises to show “how to grow your own food 365 days a year no matter where you live.”

Josie Jeffery’s new book, The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting, promised great things— “an easy organic way to deter pests, prevent disease, improve flavor, and increase yields in your vegetable garden,” but was a mild disappointment to me. I really liked the short introductory chapters, but got lost trying to use the colored dots to mix and match the strips (three to a page) that represent the central crops, aboveground companions, and belowground companions. Maybe with a little more study I could appreciate it more, but it seemed like too much work. Still it’s a useful directory of plants—and pretty to look at!

Maybe these garden planning books will help you decide to become a year-round gardener—or just a better summer gardener! Good luck!

Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch. Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.

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