I couldn’t stay long at the Boston Book Festival this year, so I missed most of the panel discussions and events, but I did get to listen in on a public conversation between Meg Wolitzer and Claire Messud — two of my favorite authors — which was a lot of fun. It was a gorgeous fall day again this year — especially nice after a week of rain — so I thought I’d share a few pictures.

The banner hanging on the corner of the Boston Public Library Central branch is the first sign that you have arrived, after coming up from the Copley T station.

The banner hanging on the corner of the Boston Public Library Central branch is the first sign that you have arrived after coming up from the Copley T station.

I arrived very early, before the official start of the festival, so I took photos from the steps of the library entrance in the morning and the afternoon, when it was much busier.

Massachusetts libraries have a booth every year, but this year I volunteered for an hour there, which was a lot of fun.

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People enjoyed putting their libraries on the map:

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Other photos I took walking around Copley Square and the Back Bay:

You can click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Of course, I bought a book…but only one! Claire Messud has praised Elena Ferrante before and mentioned her again in conversation with Meg Wolitzer, so when I saw her books at the Europa Editions booth, I picked one up.

photo of My Brilliant Friend by Elena FerranteMy husband and I are planning a trip to Rome next October, so I want to read some novels set in Italy before then. We’ll have to plan our trip around the Boston Book Festival, though!

 

 

 

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Weekend Cooking button

Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other bloggers’ Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.

cover imagePlant-Powered for Life by Sharon Palmer was a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter who works for the company that published the book – so this can’t be considered an unbiased review – but, still, if you’re looking to ease yourself into a more natural, plant-based diet, this is a great book to start with.

The subtitle of Plant-Powered for Life is “Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes;” Plant-Powered for Life is a follow-up to The Plant-Powered Diet, published in 2012. The three major differences between Plant-Powered for Life and my other vegetarian cookbooks?

  • The author is a registered dietician.
  • Gluten-free alternatives are provided for every recipe
  • No dairy or eggs are used in the recipes…

Yup, the recipes are all vegan! Does the word “vegan” scare you off? I admit I had to look up what “plant-based cheese was” (an ingredient in some of the recipes), and it turned out to be vegan cheese. (“Plant-based” does seem like a gentler, less polemical term than “vegan”, don’t you think?)

Sharon Palmer is a gentle guide into the world of recipes using chia seeds instead of eggs; cashew cheese instead of “regular” cheese, and no butter, (cow) milk, or meat (“animal-based protein”). Many of her plant-based recipes are similar to ones you could find in any vegetarian cookbook (e.g. Kiwi Herb Salad with Pistachios and Orange Dressing; Black Bean and Corn Chili; Red Lentil Soup with Root Vegetables and Sage, and Watermelon-Basil Ice).

Also, you don’t need to become a vegan to make healthful changes to your regular diet. Chapter One is titled “Create Your Own Plant-Powered Goal”.

 “No two people eat precisely alike. Some of us dine out twice a day; some of us rarely visit restaurants. Some of us eat meat every day; some of us never do. But we can all achieve sustainable health and well-being by focusing more on whole plant foods, and less on animal foods.
The first step is to create a personal goal on the plant-powered spectrum. You won’t be ‘going on a diet,’ but committing to make concrete, lasting changes that work for you. If your goal changes over time, that’s fine.”

Personal goals range from Plant-Powered Vegan –”Excludes all animal foods, including dairy and eggs – to Plant-Powered Omnivore Semi-Vegetarian – “Eats a small amount of animal flesh”. (“Animal flesh” doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? It’s not included in the recipes, but omnivorous eaters are encouraged to flip the habit of thinking of the meat as the main course and the vegetables as the side, and eat just a small amount of animal protein alongside a main plant-based entree.)

 The book is organized into short chapters by theme instead of the usual appetizers, salads, desserts, etc. method. These themes allow readers to tackle dietary changes in small, manageable ways, a little at a time. Some examples:

Shop Thoughtfully and Purposefully
Spice It Up!
Eat the Whole Plant
Love Your Legumes for Protein and Beyond
Foster Friendly Bacteria
Eat Well on the Run

Each recipe includes nutritional information and a list of “star nutrients”, in case you’re trying to increase intake of a particular vitamin or mineral. There are color photos of many of the dishes, and an index, as well as a seasonal recipe guide.

We had a plant-powered meal that looked like this last weekend:

photo of plate of food and bowl of soup

Tomato Buckwheat Soup with the French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, a garden salad, and a gluten-free corn muffin.

I used the gluten-free alternative of buckwheat groats in the recipe for Tomato Barley Soup, and also the slow cooker alternative method of throwing all the ingredients into the Crock Pot and cooking it on high for four hours. It worked well, but seemed a little more starchy than it might have been if I had cooked and drained the buckwheat separately and added it at the end. I also needed to add salt, because I used homemade vegetable stock from the freezer in place of the reduced-sodium vegetable broth the recipe called for. I also used five cups of stock and two cups of water, instead of the other way around, because I only had a can of tomato puree on hand, not tomato sauce, and didn’t have any low-sodium herbal seasoning blend, either. I added fresh, minced parsley at the end. Another substitution I didn’t realize until I had made until later was using toasted buckwheat (kasha) in the soup instead of uncooked buckwheat.

photo of bowl of soup with fresh parsley sprinkled on top

Cooking from Plant-Powered for Life will definitely get me trying new ingredients and using ones I only use infrequently, but many of the recipes do use only whole foods that the average home cook is likely to buy or already have on hand. The recipe I’m going to try next is Spaghetti Squash with Pomodoro Sauce and Pine Nuts. Also, I believe we may have used the author’s recipe for Savory Grain and Nut Loaf with Mushroom Sauce for the vegetarian alternative to turkey last Thanksgiving, and will do so again this year!

The recipes for the author’s Tomato Barley Soup and French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes aren’t available online, but you can get an idea of how the author’s recipes sound from her Web site, Sharon Palmer, RDN and a look at how the recipes and beautiful photos are laid out here.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Cook-it-up-Challenge

Click on image for other posts related to the Cook It Up! challenge from Trish @ Love, Laughter, and Insanity for cookbook-collecting bloggers to use them or lose them.

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cover imageAs fall slips into New England, Snowblind – a 2014 horror novel by Christopher Golden about Massachusetts blizzards – may increase residents’ already-growing dread of winter tenfold.

The fictional town of Coventry, Massachusetts, is the type you probably think of when you hear “New England town”. A commuter town with at least one white church with a tall steeple, white Colonial-style homes with black trim, big trees that have been there a long time, etc.

What makes the town of Coventry notable are the mysterious deaths during a blizzard twelve years before. Memories of that blizzard make residents of Coventry dread any call for snow in the weather forecast, especially the residents who lost family members. Jake Schapiro has some vivid memories from that storm but has almost been able to convince himself that his 12-year-old eyes played tricks on him at the time, and that what he saw happen in his backyard in the driving, swirling snow didn’t really happen.

Twelve years later, another blizzard is in the forecast. Jake and his mother, along with the other residents of Coventry try to convince themselves they have no cause for dread as they brace themselves for power outages and slippery roads, but they have no idea what (or who) is really coming their way in the storm.

This horror novel won’t win any literary awards, but it succeeded in creating an atmosphere of horror and I thought was pretty scary, even though I read it in warm weather and daylight!

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Art credit to Abigail Larson

Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other bloggers’ Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.

It’s pumpkin everything from now until Thanksgiving. I’ve had pumpkin coffee and pumpkin ice cream. The pumpkin coffee I liked well enough, but the pumpkin ice cream I hope to get again soon! photo of pumpkin ice cream in a sugar cone

Yesterday, I decided it was time for some fall baking. If you’ve been following my Weekend Cooking posts for a while, you may know that we converted our kitchen to gluten-free so it will be safe for our daughters with celiac disease to use on family visits and I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free baking.

I pulled out my favorite gluten-free baking cookbook, Nosh on This, which I’ve posted about before. This cookbook is a definite keeper, but although I purchased the extra-fine brown and white rice flours the author recommends for baking a while ago, since then then didn’t haven’t done much baking. So in the interests of science and economy, I pulled out the cookbook yesterday to bake something pumpkin-y.

Author Lisa Standel-Horel, who blogs at Gluten Free Canteen, isn’t kidding when she says “no cookie, strudel, brownie, tart, or treat left behind”. I found a few pumpkin recipes to choose from and decided on the Pumpkin Cupcakes with Honey Buttercream. The recipe is on Gluten Free Canteen here.

Cookbook and 3 cupcakes arranged artfully with small pumpkin

G/F Pumpkin Cupcakes with the recipe from Nosh on This by Lisa Stander-Horel.

I mixed up a batch of the flour mix using my fabbity-fab, new(ish) kitchen scale and also weighed out the other ingredients instead of using volume measurements, except for teaspoons and tablespoons. (It was much easier than I thought it would be to use grams instead of cups!)

The recipe called for finely diced dried apples, which I didn’t have, so I substituted minced golden raisins, and for the frosting, I went with cream cheese frosting instead of the honey buttercream, but otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly and they came out just right. Although you can still tell from the texture that they’re gluten-free, I think, they come pretty close!

Mini cupcakes cooling on rack

Mini pumpkin-walnut cupcakes fresh from the oven

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All frosted and ready to go!

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Tastes like fall!

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Cook-it-up-Challenge

Click on image for other posts related to the Cook It Up! challenge from Trish @ Love, Laughter, and Insanity for cookbook-collecting bloggers to use them or lose them.

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