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Monday, December 4, 2023

STOCKING STUFFERS for the Holidays

Stocking stuffer books should be at the very top of everybody's gift list: something affordable from under $10 up to $25 or so, and that can also double as a host gift, being something small and lightweight. And of course, they can all stuff an adult stocking.

Typical for food are:

--DINNER WITH JANE AUSTEN; menus inspired by her novels and letters (CICO Books, 2023, 64 pages, ISBN 978-1-80065-264-4 $19.99 CAD hardbound) is by Pen Vogler who has written many such historical British cookbooks (Tea with Jane Austen, Dinner with Mr. Darcy, Dinner with Dickens, et al). These are Regency menus and dinners that have been fully updated for modern times: the originals are next to the updates. There are five menus with notes about the times and about compelling dishes. For example, there is Mrs. Bennet's Dinner to Impress from Pride and Prejudice (fresh pea soup, partridges with bread sauce, spiced mushrooms, and everlasting syllabub). There is also a bibliography and an index. A top book for the top of your stocking stuffers. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures Writing.

--MAGNIFICENT MEALS IN A BOWL COOKBOOK; healthy, fast, easy recipes with vegan-and-keto-friendly choices (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2016, 2023, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-4971-0384-9, $18.99 CAD softbound) is by Gabrielle Garcia. It's derived from three other bowl books authored by Garcia. This makes for a good compilation at the entry level for a variety of 150 savoury dishes -- each in a bowl. The table of contents include preps for breakfast, combo salads, green salads, sandwiches, pasta and noodles, grain bowls, and rice bowls. Each is easy to make, starting with a basic bowl of bacon and eggs with kale, moving through chicken bruschetta salad, cabbage with eggs and lo main, shrimp and beet barley bowls, and sweet and sour items atop rice. A good choice for beginning or solo cooks. Nice rich close-up photos. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures Writing.

-- COMFORT FOOD ESSENTIALS; over 100 delicious recipes for all-time favorite feel-good foods (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2023, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-4971-0320-7, $22.99 CAD softbound) is by chef-owner Kim Wilcox (It's All So Yummy Cafe in Knoxville, Tennessee).
Her preps cover the basic three meals of breakfast, lunch, dinner, with other material on sides, soups, "childhood comforts", snacks, breads, toppings, condiments, et al. It is a good basic entry-level cookbook, useful for new families, college students, singles and solos beginning life away from home. The comforts of home can be replicated here. It's loaded with tips and advice. A good starter book, and a great stocking stuffer. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures Writing.

Other little books for beverages include those on beer, wine and spirits:

--IT'S NO FUN WITHOUT RUM! 50 fabulous recipes for rum-based cocktails from mai tai to mojito (Dog 'n' Bone, 2023, 64 pages, ISBN 978-1-912983-78-0 $12.99 USD hardbound) is a publisher's book with 11 different contributors: Ben Reed has largest number of recipes (15), followed by Michael Butt (13). It's a basic handy guide to a pile of delicious rum cocktail preps. We all know daiquiri, pina colada, planter's punch, cuba libre, and hurricane. But do we know officer's nightcap? Or tiki negroni? Or graham cracker crunch? We do now. Nifty photos. A good book to serve as a host gift or stocking stuffer. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures Writing.

--JUST A SPRITZ: 57 simple sparkling sips with low to no alcohol (Artisan, 2022, 176 pages, $25 hardbound) is by Danielle Centoni, with Eric Medsker as photographer. The Italian export, the Aperol spritz, with its classic (and simple) makeup of fizzy prosecco, sparkling water, and a splash of the bittersweet, citrus-flavored liqueur, is just the beginning. In Just a Spritz, Danielle Centoni shares a world of spritz variations. Add in sweet liqueurs and bitter amari, fresh juices, flavored kombuchas, and drinking vinegars to update the sparkling spritz. A spritz is quick to assemble and does not require a stocked pantry. Here there are more than 50 recipes (and numerous variations) organized by flavor profile and theme, including the Raspberry Beret, the Margarita Spritz, and the Cucumberbatch, as well as nonalcoholic spritz drinks. For a spritz newbie, a classic Negroni Sbagliato may be just the thing. Or the fruity-floral, scarlet-purple, picture-perfect Lady Lavender. Whatever the craving, from a sweet peach spritz to a slightly bitter and citric Cappelletti Shandy, there's a recipe to satisfy every thirst, along with colourful photos. Remember, these are all LO-AL or NO-AL concoctions. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures Writing.

Dean Tudor,  Prof Emeritus T'karonto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson) School of Journalism
Treasurer of Wine Writers' Circle of Canada

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