What I’m Reading Wednesday

This week I do not have much to share because I have been reading articles about things for school research and not reading so many “for fun” things.

But here’s what I have read in my spare time that I enjoyed:

For starters, I think it is important to know where the letters come from.

I mean, how are you supposed to read anything before knowing that? :)

P.S. Did you know that Count from Sesame Street died recently? Ah, AH, ah. (That would be so much better if read out loud in your best Count voice, trust me.)

Now that we’ve moved on past the basics of letters and numbers, let’s get real.

I am sure you have all heard of “pop-up” restaurants like my favorite Rice Paper Scissors. And, you may have read my posts that mention the Underground Market, but have you heard of a pop-up restaurant that is literally underground?

Now that we are all on the same page about these restaurants, what they know about you.

That’s all the reading I’ve been able to do lately. I hope that’s enough to tide you over ’til next week! If not, I am working on editing my photos, and there will definitely be a post on Friday, and hopefully some more over the next few days.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

Last week, I started this series about what I am reading. I started things off with the cookbooks I am reading and grabbing inspiration and recipes from. This week, I bring you my most recent novels I’ve read.

How To Eat A Cupcake

(photo credit: Bookin with Bingo blog)

  1. How To Eat A Cupcake; By Meg Donohue. I first heard about this book on a blog I read, Cakespy, when she wrote out this blurb in the book: “I had, I’ll admit, effected a certain style–a method, if you will–of cupcake eating. To begin, you remove the cupcake liner carefully so as to not unnecessarily crumble the cake, and set it aside. You then turn the cupcake slowly in your hand, taking bites along the line where cake meets icing, your mouth filling with the perfect combination of both components. Once you’ve come  full circle, you gently twist off the bottom half inch of cake, a move that takes considerable finesse and leaves a delicate sliver of cake–the ideal size for lying flat on your tongue and allowing it to slowly dissolve, building anticipation for that final bite. To finish, you are left with the center cylinder of cake and icing, the cupcakes very heart, sometimes filled with a surprising burst of custard or jam or mousse, sometimes not, but always, always the most moist, flavorful bite of the entire cupcake. Take a breath before diving into that final, perfect bite; it is to be savored for as long as possible. Finally, of course, you scavenge the crumbs from the cupcake liner you set aside during step one, then ball the liner into your fist and overhand it into the nearest receptacle. Make the shot? You get another cupcake.” I was intrigued, and then I saw that Joy the Baker also read the book, and I knew I had to read it. I am still finishing it up, but it is definitely a good read. I would even say it is a good beach read. You know, of the “not needing to pay much attention to details” books. A quick read.
  2. Eat The Document; by Dana Spiotta. A couple’s story about their radical protests in the 1970s and what the outcomes are in the 1990s. It is a book my sister sent me, and therefore one I might not have picked up on my own, but it was a good book. A little bit of history, love story and mystery rolled into one. My sister also recommends her new book, Stone Arabia.
  3. The Book Of Salt; by Monique Truong. Another book from my sister, and a book I would be more likely to pick up on my own, about the Vietnamese cook who worked for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris in the 1930s. A great way to learn about these greats and about Paris in this era.

    Cover of "What the Dog Saw: And Other Adv...

  4. What The Dog Saw and Blink; by Malcom Gladwell. These books I read back-to-back so I get confused about which articles I read in which since they are similar in some ways. I picked up What The Dog Saw and started reading it before realizing it was the same author. Actually, I read this book first and then I read Blink. After seeing everyone reading Blink, as if part of the book itself, I figured I should read it, too. They are both insightful reads, but if you do decide to take on both, I recommend reading them at different times, and not back-to-back; it’s just too intense that way.The Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

What I’m Reading Wednesday

I get a lot of inspiration to write this blog and make recipes from the cookbooks I read, the other blogs, and food related articles that I find online. I also want to have a weekly feature on my blog and I think this is the best way to do that. If you know this blog, you know I tried doing it before, with just links to articles, but I am older, more mature, and beyond just writing lists of article links, and onto writing more about what I am reading. (If you do a search on “links” you will find a long archive of posts like the ones I mentioned)

To start things off, I would like to tell you about some of the cookbooks I am reading that have been inspiring me lately.

  1. Baking; by James Peterson. I have mentioned this before and have shared the things I have made with this book. It is a great book full of basics and could even be used as a guide to teach yourself how to bake.
  2. Ratio; by Michael Ruhlman.I believe there is also an app for the iPhone that is related to this book. This book is a great tool to learn the basic ratios of everything including cookie dough, pie/tart dough, stocks, bread, pasta dough, and everything in-between. A great way to learn how to create your own recipes.

    Cover of

    Cover via Amazon

  3. Ruhlman’s Twenty; by Michael Rulhman. Yes, the same chef as Ratio. This is also a great tool to learn the basics of cooking and baking. It goes through twenty techniques/ingredients that are required to make just about anything you want to in the kitchen. It builds upon itself, and yes, “thinking” is chapter one, but you need to think about what you are making before you make it and add ingredients to the mix. Trust me, it makes perfect sense once you get into the rest of the book.
  4. Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes; by Alice Medrich. A wonderfully smart women and beautiful and sweet. I met her at the book signing (after the bake sale) where I bought her latest book (the one I speak of) and she is simply delightful. This book is about keeping it simple. Whether you are the cook who is scared to bake, or the baker with no time to make a pie for tonight’s party, this book is for you. One bowl is all you need for most of the recipes in this book. Totally approachable from all angles.
  5. The Joy the Baker Cookbook; by Joy Wilson. This is one of my favorites. Both in blog form and in cookbook writing, Joy brings you her witty self and her greatest baked goods. She also hosts this super awesome podcast. Coffee bacon for breakfast. Carrot cake pancakes for lunch. You heard me. What?! There’s carrots in there! It’s healthy!

Those are the (top) five cookbooks I am reading/using recipes from/getting inspired by. For now. What are your favorite cookbooks right now? Let me know what you are reading in the comments!

Yummly: “Foodie Facebook” UPDATED

(This was originally posted on Apr. 21, 2010. I have updated this to reflect the changes that have been made to the site as of today, May 22, 2010.)

There is a new website that just launched today called Yummly.

It is a recipe website, which promises “The best recipes on the web in a (much) better package.”

The “FoodFinder” brings you to a recipe search page that has multiple drop down menus including selecting ingredients to be included in the recipe (or what you do not want), taste slide bars, time and price slide bars, a place for type of cuisine, nutrition, diet, and allergies information, such as calories, and fat. There is also a way to select which source your recipe comes from, including Martha Stewart and Allrecipes.

Yummly  could be compared to Blogher, a website made for women who blog, and a way to find blogs with similar interests. It could also be compared to such sites as Foodbuzz, another recipe site that also has a way to find people with similar tastes, as well as food blogs that you might want to read. These websites are great because they are easy to navigate and are easy to understand.

At first glance, Yummly looks promising, but after a while, it can get confusing and hard to use. It invites a new way to look at recipes, with the option of finding a recipe based on salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and savory. However, I am not sure who rated the recipes, but there are some “tastes” I disagree with. For example, I looked at moved the slide bar for “sour” up all the way (kept everything else in the middle) and got recipes that I think of as more “tangy” than “sour”, including recipes for potato salad and guava barbecue sauce. Maybe I am being a bit picky, but the only “taste” that they seemed to get right was “sweet” and that is only because when that slide bar is brought all the way up, I am given dessert recipes. I also did not find much difference between “sour” and “bitter”, but that could just be the lack of recipes, and will hopefully improve as more recipes get added to the website. (Though I am not sure how new recipes are added, or if you can add some of your own recipes.)

Being a baker, I am concerned with time, so I checked out that feature next. This seemed to be an accurate feature, when I slid the time bar all the way down, I got recipes that took 5 minutes at the top of the list. The price feature is a bit tricky to understand because it only shows price per serving. How many cookies is a serving? This question presented itself again, when I actually looked at the cookie recipe. The cookie recipe said serves 8. This website is great, and allows (registered) users to change the recipes as they please (removing or adding items from the ingredients list, changing quantities) but there is no indication as to how many cookies I get when the serving size is set to 8 people. I like my baking recipes to have a yield count, rather than a serving count. This might be “one 9-inch pie” or “24 cookies”.  I can then decide how many servings this gives me. This is not a problem that only applies to Yummly, I find it on the other recipe sites as well.

I am not a person generally concerned with calories or any other dietary issues (allergies, salt intake, etc.) so I did not play around with those options, but I did see one comment saying that the vegan and gluten-free recipes were not labeled properly.

You need to be a registered user to use one of the best features of the website, the way to change the recipe around to your liking (remove those nut from those cookies!) So I registered, and realized that there was a profile page. I thought “that’s right, this is supposed to be a foodie Facebook.” A place where people can share recipes and find people with similar tastes. Their “friends” are called “tastebuds”. However, as of right now, there was no way for me to find other users. There should be a way to find people that I may know that are already on Yummly, or to search for people with similar tastes and/or recipes that they have posted that I might want to try.

Yummly has a blog, that features recipes, but there was no way (except for the small print on the bottom of the screen) to get to that blog. This was also the only place where you could find more information about the Yummly team and how the website was created.

There was a place on the Yummly website (after much searching) for feedback, including adding ideas, problems, and questions, and comments. This was nice, but you needed to sign up or connect either through google (gmail), facebook, or twitter. I could not believe that a website (especially a new one) would have a feedback feature that was almost not accessible. I wanted to see exactly what the “summertime dinner” idea was, but did not seem to be able to.

Overall, I think Yummly has potential to be a great website to find recipes specific to your diet, taste, even your budget. However, there are glitches to fix, and little things to add here and there to make the site more user friendly. The “bells and whistles” are supposed to be added on May 18, so I will update this post with (hopefully) the improvements that they’ve made to make Yummly a better site.

UPDATE: I have been back on the Yummly site (as of May 22, 2010) and I have found some minor improvements.  I noticed the much needed “reset all” button for the slide bars. I also noticed a little part of the side bar that included other people that liked the recipe you clicked on and a place with similar recipes. There was also a way to share the recipe on Facebook. I also saw that there are little changes to the slide bars, under which there are words that come up as you slide them left or right. For example, in the taste section, they all start in the middle and say “no preference” but when slid all the way to the right it says “love”. Or, under the time slide bar, it says the time it takes. This helps me understand the way the recipes are rated a bit better, but I still disagree with some of that, but that is just my personal palate. I like the improvements they have made (and to see a complete list of these improvements, click here for their site update page.) I think I will try the site some time in the future when I need a savory recipe, because I do not have a lot of those. Also, I do recommend the site to people with specific diets, and/or to people that do not cook a lot and like to follow recipes. Thanks again to the Yummly team for creating such a great way to look for recipes online.

***Note: I am not getting paid by Yummly, or anyone else to post this review. ***