What’s on My Cookbook Shelf: Second Edition

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little old-fashioned. My organizing system is mostly paper-based, I like to send Christmas cards and handwritten notes, and I believe there’s some truth behind old adages. (That’s how they got to be sayings in the first place, right?!)

Cookbooks, too, seem like they’re becoming things of the past with the proliferation of cooking shows, recipe sits and foodie blogs. (Gulp.)

There’s something to be said, though, about the sheer pleasure of reading a physical cookbook. It’s not just about reading the recipes- it’s the layout, the photos and the stories that make reading a cookbook such a unique experience. They’re still my go-to source of inspiration whenever I’m looking to bake for the blog.

I share some of the titles that have a standing reservation on my bookshelf last year, but today I thought I’d share a few more recent additions that have been getting my taste buds going.

One of my favorite places in Toronto has finally published their first cookbook. Bobette and Belle, located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Leslieville, is famous for its fabulous cupcakes and French macarons. I’ve yet to attempt any of their classic recipes, but if they turn out even half as decent as the originals, I just might have to open my own shop.

Further north of the city of Toronto is the region known as Muskoka, or what Torontonians like to call “cottage country”. We Canadians live for our cottages and summer homes, so it’s not surprising that Marty’s World Famous Bakery, located in the heart of it all, would become just that- world famous. Chef Marty’s specialty- the butter tart- is a Canadian favorite, but I’m personally head over heels for his carrot cake. It’s about the best I’ve ever tasted.

Some of the pleasure of poring over a cookbook is the photography and Hello Cupcake! doesn’t disappoint. Of course, it’s easy to take good photos if you have amazing art direction, and the cupcakes featured in this book pretty much put every cupcake I’ve made to shame.

I do a lot of baking, but I like reading cookbooks just as much, if only to gain inspiration. (I’m not a very ambitious cook, I’m afraid.) However, I have attempted a few recipes from David Rocco’s La Dolce Vita and they’re surprisingly simple, delicious and oh-so-Italian. Some of these dishes have even made it to my own cooking repertoire (which is saying something)

But I wasn’t always so adventurous- when I was first learning how to cook I relied heavily on The Joy of Cooking (which contains recipes for just about everything, including possum) and How to Cook Everything (which is geared towards a more modern crowd and to the best of my knowledge contains no possum). They might not be the most fascinating reads, or are the prettiest of cookbooks, but these ones were valuable to my culinary education and I’d recommend everyone get at least one of them- even if it’s just to brush up on the basics.

I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company. Full disclosure: I do receive a small commission from Amazon when you choose to buy from my site. It keeps this blog running and food in my dog’s bowl, but rest assured I would never suggest you buy something I wouldn’t buy for myself. Enjoy!

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Come Fika with Me (Again!)

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we last had fika together.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it’s a Swedish concept not unlike high tea in England. Instead of tea though, we usually serve strong coffee, along with a bite to eat. This could include anything from simple bread and butter, to open-faced sandwiches but traditionally is something sweet. More than just your typical 3 p.m. coffee break, it’s a time to press pause and chat with friends, or to just contemplate the events of the day.

As a baker with a semi-Swedish background, I’ve incorporated fika as much as possible into my regular routine. It’s better for you than you think! Taking the time to sit, relax and focus on your sensory experiences is restorative for your mind and also for your digestive system- having a little bit of food with your coffee can counteract the acidic, sometimes inflammatory, effects that coffee has on your stomach. Plus, I’m kind of a stress baker, so I have to some way of getting rid of all those extra sweets in my cupboard!

Ever since I started writing about my baking back in 2014, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to share some of my favorite classic recipes with you, as well as new ones that I’ve been longing to try. Last year’s fika was a chance to feature some of my favorites from the blog, and it’s amazing how many more recipes I’ve added to my collection since then.

I even got together with some other bloggers (twice!) to round-up even more recipe inspiration, first focusing on cakes, and then sharing our most-loved cookies.

Last year’s fika also featured a listing of some the cookbooks that grace my shelves. You’d better believe my collection of titles has expanded since then!

If you find the concept of fika as appealing as I do, I hope you’ll join me this year for my second annual fika party. Today’s post is just the first of many goodies this week- I’ll also be sharing a little more about where I get my inspiration, how I develop and test my recipes for the blog, and some of the adventures I’ve had in baking along the way.

For now, though, your only task is to decide what you’re going to have for fika. Here are some of my suggestions from the past year:

These Cranberry-Almond Biscotti are perfect for dunking in your coffee, and they’re gluten-free which makes them good for you. (Kind of?)

Looking to fika but still stuck with the kids? These Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes, or these Rocky Road Sour Cream Brownies are certain to pleasure sweet-tooths of all ages. Just mind any nut allergies, please.

I originally made these Date Pecan Bars for Christmas, but they pair perfectly with any hot drink any time of year, plus they’re super easy to make.

Impress your friends with this minty version of a Nanaimo bar that eliminates your need to bake, although there is some assembly required. (For more no-bake wonders, try these Butterscotch Bars, this Chocolate Roll, this Marshmallow Roll, this Pineapple Log, this Butterscotch Confetti or these S’mores Squares.)

For those of you looking for something a little less sweet, search no further than this surprisingly delicious Zucchini Bread. (You’ll have most people fooled into thinking it’s carrot cake!)

You won’t ever have to choose between sweet and salty flavors again with these addictive Pretzel Shortbread Bars.

The baking on this blog doesn’t stop there. I like to try out a new recipe out every two weeks or so, and you can find all my work archived into the following categories: cakes and pies, cookies, muffins and cupcakes, squares and loaves, and “other” (think lots of fruity surprises, and yummy candy).

And if you’re planning on throwing a festive fika for a crowd, I’ve got tips on how I bake for the masses here.

Even if you’re not a baker and you just enjoy baking, I hope you’ll join me for fika this week. We may not know each other but we’ve bonded already over our love of food, and it’s always a good excuse to kick back, relax, and enjoy some great company. Thanks for joining me!

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Do you fika, or have you incorporated a particular aspect of it into your everyday life? Email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and tell me everything- including how you like your coffee.

Or maybe you want to join in on the party too so leave your comments below along with a link to your favorite recipe, or one of the best featured on your blog! The more the merrier!

What’s on My Cookbook Shelf

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I didn’t come by my fabulous talent for baking naturally. (Okay, so maybe I’m just an average baker who’s just the teensiest bit obsessed with her own work.) True, I started baking when I was very young but I honestly think it was my love of reading absolutely anything and everything I could get my hands on that made me a better baker. My mother, an actually fabulous baker (no exaggeration), had a secret mission to collect every recipe that was ever written so our kitchen boasted an expansive cookbook collection, and its shelves sagged with even more recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers, waiting to be filed.

Now that I’m an adult (so they tell me) I’ve got my own sizeable recipe collection, although admittedly it’s a little bit more organized. I’ve tried to cut down on a lot of the paper in my life by storing many of my recipes electronically but I still have quite a few cookbooks hidden here and there on my shelves.

In some ways, owning cookbooks is way more fun than having just a collection of typed recipes. Recipes suddenly come into their own being in real technicolor. Photographs, illustrations, text and graphics interplay to create a mouthwatering reading experience. Cookbooks are designed to be pored over and loved, to inspire and entice.

Here’s some that I can’t get enough of:

1) I was so in love with the photography and design of the beautiful Martha Stewart Living Magazine that I was a subscriber for many, many years. During this time I acquired Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and still remains an old favorite. Some may knock this homemaking guru for the unrealistic expectations that her elaborate work may set for housewives everywhere, but personally think she’s kind of great. Let her make her crazy cakes. They look gorgeous.

2) and 3) might be familiar to any Canadians in the crowd. Jean Paré got a similar start to Martha Stewart, catering brunches and party foods to small crowds out of her home kitchen until things got busy and Paré turned into a business. Her Company’s Coming line of cookbooks were published to meet her customers’ demands for recipes and the series boasts virtually hundreds of titles. You used to be able to find them in grocery stores everywhere and I still happen to have three of them: Most Loved Brunches (because it’s the best meal of the day), 150 Delicious Squares and Gifts from the Kitchen (not pictured here).

4) My mom is from Sweden so when I think of Sweden I think of baking, and I think of one of my most treasured cookbooks appropriately and succinctly titled Swedish Cakes and Cookies. It’s my absolute go-to guide for all of my Swedish baking traditions. (For example: did you know Swedes make seven different types of cookies at Christmas time? Check out mine from last year here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

5) So many people would grab 500 Chocolate Delights off of my shelf to read that I eventually just stuck it out in the open so that my guests could peruse it any time they wished. It’s so small and pretty and filled with so many delicious chocolate things that from time to time I find myself gazing at it as well.

6) Jamie Oliver‘s cookbook, Jamie at Home, may seem a little out of place in the midst of so many sweet, pretty baking manuals, but I just love this English chef’s conversational tone and this cookbook’s emphasis on good, fresh food (and how to grow it yourself!) It’s been a great resource for growing and cooking with a few herbs and vegetables of my own, so I had to include it here for those who may get their kicks from cooking more than baking.

I’m not one to work my way through a cookbook religiously- I’ll probably never make all of the recipes found in these pages, and the ones I do try will probably not be half as good. Hey, they may not even turn out to be my taste! But just because cookbooks weren’t necessarily meant to be read from cover-to-cover doesn’t make them any less valuable to my book collection, or any less enjoyable.

And the result of reading cookbooks? Delicious food- and that’s often the best part.

KBwB-BFlower-50If you liked books and baking, you’ve come to the right place. (Also, can I be your best friend?) For those of you who are new, here’s where you can find all the books I’ve been reading lately and here’s where you can see what’s been keeping me busy in the kitchen.

Recognize any of the titles on my shelf? What are some of your favorites? I’d love to hear your suggestions at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or spread the love (and the good cooking) by commenting below.