flourlessHaving spent most of 2014 elbow-deep in gluten free cookbooks, Nicole Spiridakis's Flourless is a bright surprise.

Most GF cookbooks fall into one of two categories: those using nutritionally bleak wheat flour substitutes (like tapioca and potato starches or xanthan gum) and those emphasizing nutrition over fabulousness. Flourless is different.

The desserts in Flourless are inherently gluten free (flourless chocolate cake, pudding, meringues) or, if not inherently gluten free (muffins, cupcakes), stand-ins for flour are normal kitchen citizens like almond flour, cornmeal, or beaten egg whites. Moreover, and this is what makes Flourless such a thrill, the goal is decadence.

These are balls-out creations with plenty of butter, sugar, and heavy cream. They require no preamble prior to serving: try this gluten free crumble; it is almost like normal crumble. Instead, this perfect crumble speaks for itself, which is convenient, because my mouth is full of crumble at this time. This small shift in approach is huge for someone (I'm picturing a child at a potluck dinner) living in a state of constant vigilance (Is that gluten free? No?) and deprivation (I'll just have this weird, pale cookie).

Both Mixed Berry Crumble and Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars met my three requirements for dessert: 1. Easy to make; 2. Force voracious lunatics to pause and worship/thank mother; 3. Cause immediate requests for more. There you have it. Success! I like this book.

The cookie recipe below is reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

As ice cream sandwiches

OCCC, pictured here in ice cream sandwiches. Do this.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

MAKES 24 COOKIES

Oats whirled with peanut butter seems almost as natural a combination as peanut butter and chocolate, and indeed the addition of chocolate chips here sends these cookies into the realm of the sublime. Though it’s difficult not to eat them as soon as they come out of the oven, when cooled completely these cookies make great, sturdy cookies for ice cream sandwiches, particularly with vanilla ice cream.

¼ cup/55 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup/255 g creamy peanut butter

¾ cup/140 g packed light or dark brown sugar

½ cup/100 g granulated sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 cups/255 g rolled oats

1½ cups/255 g milk chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter, and both sugars on medium-high speed. Add the eggs, baking soda, and vanilla and beat well to combine. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips and stir until incorporated.

Using a small scoop or a teaspoon, scoop out balls of dough and drop them on the prepared baking sheets about 2 in/5 cm apart.

Bake until the cookies are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Details:

Flourless

by Nicole Spiridakis

2014 by Chronicle Books $28

View a sample in iBooks here.

Editor's note: Chronicle Books provided a review copy of this book. Kidoinfo publishes reviews of things we have tried and liked, and never accepts payment for reviews.

 

I stood in my pantry and felt bad. Things labeled in white I give a free pass.

I stood in my pantry and felt bad about pretty much everything.

One of my kids was diagnosed with celiac disease this year. Immediately following his diagnosis, I fell victim to celiac's often unrecognized sister syndrome, Reading Too Many Gluten Free Magazines. Now only five worry-free foods remain in my world.

Two of these grow in our yard: strawberries and kale. Nothing to worry about there except squirrel turds. Number three is eggs. Go for it. Number four: I've got no problem with avocados. Eat as many as you want. Finally, number five: the beloved sweet potato.

Throughout winter, we ate the orange bombs of goodness at least twice a week. How cozy, how snug. However, by the end of April, this had fallen completely out of tune. Other than making burned (still delicious) sweet potato "fries" on the grill, I've been lost.

Enter Sweet Potato Power.  This book kicks off with the science of why and how sweet potatoes are ideal nourishment for humans, especially those feeling inexplicably blah, fat, or who are athletes. It also dives into how a body uses and reacts to what it's fed. Very interesting stuff for people looking to make a change.

The best part of SPP for the already-dedicated sweet potato lover is the recipes. Inside are 30+ crazy-good recipes for every season: sweet potato noodles. Sweet potato popsicles. Sweet potato salsa. Sweet potato brownies. (Recipe below.) It also includes soups, hashes, latkes and more, and each recipe is illustrated with a big photo so you can see what you're getting yourself into. (Yum!)

My copy of Sweet Potato Power is bent and splattered, I love it so. This is one reason why:

Sweet Potato Brownies to Make Right Away

adapted by Katy from Sweet Potato Bars in Sweet Potato Power by Ashley Tudor.

photo16

I hope you won't write on your book with a Sharpie.

INGREDIENTS:

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter or coconut oil-up a 9 x 9 pan. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. (Or just blitz everything together in a powerful blender.) Pour and scrape into prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan. Bake for 5 - 10 minutes more, until set. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before slicing. Eat warm or at room temperature. Store at room temperature.

The details:
Sweet Potato Power: Smart Carbs Paleo and Personalized
by Ashley Tudor
2012 Victory Belt. $30.
Editor's note: Victory Belt sent us a review copy. Kidoinfo only publishes reviews of products we have tried and liked, and never accepts payment for reviews.

A few months ago, celiac disease shoved my family out of the GLUTEN FREE = GOSH, THAT SEEMS LIKE A TOTAL DRAG group, and into the GLUTEN FREE = US group. In general, it has been much less harrowing to eat food prepared at home. However, I've gathered the courage to take my child out for food prepared in foreign kitchens a handful of times (am I your hero?), and have been happily surprised by the thoughtful accommodations that can be found all over our region.

Sage owner Jill and her menu of amazing crepes.

Sage Cafe owner Jill.

Rhode Island-specific favorites:

Sage Cafe, East Providence, RI. The owner and pretty-much-always-there chef/barista Jill not only includes gluten free muffins and whoopie pies from Evaruth's (the dedicated GF bakery in Middletown) in her pastry case, but also offers (inherently GF) smoothies, and GF egg sandwiches and crêpes. For customers with celiac disease or gluten allergy, Jill cleans the crêpe thingies extra-well before cooking. (Just ask!)

Gluten free scones at Blue Kanagaroo!

Gluten free scones at Blue Kanagaroo!

Blue Kangaroo, Barrington, RI. This fun little cafe has cozy chairs and lots of GF offerings. Blue Kangaroo offers a giant menu of sandwiches, and every kind is available on a GF wrap or grinder roll. Sandwich makers don fresh gloves and lay out sandwich-wrapping paper without any hovering/reminding from the allergic person's overbearing mother. The celiac diet requires me to ask questions like, "Do you know if the oats used in your gluten free granola bars are certified gluten free?" At Blue Kangaroo, the answer to that question is yes and those GF granola bars are divine.

Beehive Cafe, Bristol, RI. Many, many items on Beehive's menu are, or can be made, gluten free; they make GF bread in house. A smoothie and a grass-fed local-beef burger on this bread is a delicious, safe happy meal. We love Beehive for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. Long before celiac disease, this was our favorite place to eat and I'm grateful we can continue to go.

Banana nutella crepe at Sage.

OMG: Sage's banana-nutella.

Wildflour Vegan Bakery & Cafe, Pawtucket. Wildflour has heaps of GF treats. All are vegan, and many are raw as well. The coffee is so good too. Ditto the smoothies. And the salads. And the almond yogurt parfait. Has anyone ever been disappointed at Wildflour? Currently, our very favorite might be a small but potent sandwich cookie named Raw-reo. Paradise. I think you should take your gluten free person out for a cookie, get yourself a cup of coffee, then get back in line and get yourself a cookie too.

Close-to-Rhode Island favorites:

Alice's Diner, Fall River, MA on the Tiverton line. Eponymous Alice is the chef, and has celiac disease, so she knows how to keep her GF cooking areas scrupulously free of G. Alice's menu includes gluten-full and GF versions of traditional diner fare: grinders, French toast, egg-bacon-cheese on English muffin, omelet and toast, and more. It's greasy in the yummy way and Alice is welcoming and friendly. If there's time for conversation, she'll share GF shopping tips.

Bliss Dairy, Attleboro, MA. The decor is Newport Creamery-meets-Shake Shack and there are lots of family-friendly booths in the large dining room. A giant binder outlining each ice cream flavor's relationship to the 8 common allergens is available, so you can order wisely. If you want more than sundaes, gluten free buns are available on Bliss's zillion-variety burger menu.

Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave, Guilford, CT. Isn't Connecticut HUGE? Driving from Rhode Island to New York always requires a pit stop. For us, Shoreline Diner at Route 95's Exit 59 is exactly halfway between home and Grandma's house. Shoreline Diner has a complete GF menu (it's traditional diner cuisine: all-day breakfast and old school lunch/dinner), and the french fries are cooked in a dedicated GF fryer. A prominently-placed certificate emblazoned with the seal of a celiac poobah testifies to the staff's knowledge of safe gluten practices.

Favorites in Rhode Island and beyond*:

Chipotle, Cranston. When you mention a food allergy or celiac disease in the Garden City Chipotle, a team member calls out "Yo, we got a food allergy!" Then everyone working the burrito assembly line dons fresh gloves and seamlessly returns to the task at hand. No confusion, no follow-up questions: they know how to take care of things. This is especially nice for the recently-diagnosed tween, who might feel self conscious as his mother describes (to a professional taco maker) how to make a taco.  I've heard on the celiac grapevine that Chipotle's loving care for the allergen-sensitive customer is a nationwide thing. Everything at Chipotle is gluten free, except for the flour tortillas. Easy!

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Seekonk and Swansea, MA. Everything at Five Guys is gluten free, except for the buns. That's a minor hurdle. We bring along an Udi's burger bun (these are conveniently available in the freezer aisles of the Seekonk & Swansea Target stores, each within minutes of a Five Guys); the cook warms up the bun on a protective sheet of foil, far away from the regular-people buns. They also offer large lettuce leaves for GF diners who prefer to use lettuce as a bun. BONUS: Five Guys fries are truly GF, because---thanks to this chain's extremely limited menu---nothing but potatoes touches the fryer oil.

PF Chang's, Providence. Yes, it's a restaurant in a mall. But whatever it lacks in street cred is completely compensated for by its strict GF food-safety policies. These reassuring policies include a complete GF menu and dedicated GF dishware so you can be sure your waiter is delivering the specially-prepared food to the right person.

*These chains are all over the place. Town names listed are the locations we can personally recommend.

And you?

Please add your tips and favorites to this list in the comments, below.

Bonus Content for the Newly Diagnosed!

Get a prize for having a disease:

For people recently diagnosed with celiac, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center offers a huge gift basket filled with coupons, information, and a gazillion samples of brownie mix and crackers. The gift basket is so large, it arrives in one of those boxes kids convert into a clubhouse. It is especially delightful to get a huge, fun thing (two huge, fun things if you count the clubhouse!) for free when you get somber medical news.

10 favorite GF cookbooks (of Katy Killilea):

photo-55Inside jokes:

Gluten is My Bitch, April Peveteaux. A hilarious introduction to living GF. Peveteaux makes you almost glad to be in the club.

App for that:

Find Me Gluten Free is Yelp for the GF set. So helpful when you're on the road, Find Me GF includes reviews, recommendations, and warnings from experienced GF diners.

Recently my family got really into a card game: Anomia. And I got kind of evangelical about it. It's easy to carry, so I brought it in my bag whenever we were invited somewhere, just in case I might find players.

anomia_red-cardsI have played this game with adults, schoolchildren, and college students. Everyone* loves this game. Adults can play their hardest and lose to kids, and it only takes a few minutes to play an entire round. The only required skill is a tiny bit of reading. [*That is not true. Some people are naturally bad at this game (my husband), and people like that do not love it.]

To win at Anomia, all you need is the ability to name (kind of bagel) things, and fast. Why is this fun? We do not know. There is something about being put on the spot that makes it very, very difficult to name (three letter word) a thing quickly, and it is somehow giddy fun to feel your brain stutter while you try to come up with (book title) a thing before your opponent does. Anomia repeatedly forces you into what is commonly known as a brain fart, and this is somehow amusing to people of all ages. SESAME, DOG, PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

To play, you'll need at least three players, and the more you add (the box recommends up to 8!), the faster and more fun it gets, and there's never any boring waiting-for-your-turn part because you have to be ready to blurt the whole time. Anomia is easy to learn, and the instructions are written in a way that invites you to learn to play while you are reading the instructions, so you don't have to suffer through any boring learning-to-play time.

One caveat might be that Anomia can get loud. People who can't think of a word to say usually wind up going oh, oh, oh at increasing volumes as they try to churn something up. For us this was part of the fun. But being neither quiet nor subdued, a round of Anomia might not be a good choice for the Amtrack quiet car or strict old-fashioned library.

I'm still carrying Anomia around with me, in case I find myself in a situation with a table, some people, and some time. The basic set comes with two decks of cards. You need only one deck to play, but it's nice to alternate decks so your answers soak back into the depths of your brain before they're required again. Otherwise, whenever your opportunity to name some specific thing (article of clothing) comes up, you'll be screaming SOCKS before you have the chance to fall back into the thrilling, mysterious, wordless part of your brain.

Heading to the Farmer's Market with kids is fun, sure, but sometimes the little chickens could use a kick of extra motivation. I feel like I have read a zillion farmer's market books; regardless these two caught my eye.

Mix-and-match Deep-dish fruit desserts from At the Farmer's Market with Kids

Mix-and-match Deep-dish fruit desserts from At the Farmer's Market with Kids

At the Farmer's Market with Kids is a book filled with recipes for delicious food kids can make themselves, or with a some help from a parent. The recipes are organized by season, so your group can get all psyched up to find ingredients before you head out to the market. These aren't just regular old kid-cookbook stand-bys like fruit kebobs. Fun recipes for raisins, ketchup, almond milk, and blackberry T-shirt dye are all here, in addition to kid favorites like mix-and-match pesto and fruit cobblers. Fun and yum!

That chubby strawberry is the bag!

That chubby strawberry is the shopping bag!

Let's Go to the Farmer's Market is an adorably packaged kit, practically begging to be a birthday present for the spring- and summer-born. It includes fruit and vegetable info cards (grapes and tomatoes are technically berries--your young Cliff Clavins will be informing everyone they meet), a sweet little pad of grocery list paper, a booklet about what your local farmers might be offering, and perhaps the most cunning shopping bag the market will ever see. It folds up into itself to make a fat, red strawberry. Unfolded, it is a full-size grocery bag that parents will most likely swipe for themselves. The set manages to be super-cute without being twee, and will get any young child eager for the weekly shop.

The details:

At the Farmer's Market with Kids
by Leslie Jonath and Ethel Brennan
2012 Chronicle Books $23

Let's Go to the Farmer's Market
2012 Chronicle Books $15

Editor's note: Chronicle Books sends review copies for our consideration. Kidoinfo never accepts payment for reviews and only runs reviews of things we've tried and liked!

katrinandoskar

Katrin and Oskar

To enter a raffle for a box of Katrin's Father's Day Cookies, leave a comment about the sweetest dad you know in the comments below. Deadline for entries: May 31st.

What inspired you to start Eye Cookies?

Katrin: I was always baking and loved to bring baked goods to friends. Then friends began asking me to bake for them and insisted on paying me. Next it was friends of friends, and suddenly I was being asked by strangers. At that point, I thought it would be a good idea to get a food license and look for a commercial kitchen.

How did you start?

emmawithaward

Emma with her mom's Smackdown award.

Katrin: I was dragging to get my papers ready for the health department, but once I really set my mind to it, it was not as bad as it seemed and all fell into place. A friend came up with the name Eye Cookies and another friend created my logo. I rent a commercial kitchen space in Barrington, and find myself officially in business.

How do you balance work and family?

Katrin: I mostly do custom orders and ask for 7-10 days notice. This gives me enough space to work around my kids’ schedules or school-free days. I usually bake on Tuesdays or late in the evening when my husband can be with the kids. I love the quiet of the night and get most creative there. I am constantly sleep deprived and drink way too much coffee.

Psy (1)

The award-winning Cookie PSY

How has being a parent prepared you for running your own business?

Katrin: Being a mom trains you in being shocked by nothing, staying calm and extremely flexible. Those things come very handy in any situation life throws at you later. I am very good at multitasking. I never just watch the dough being kneaded - I do 10 different things in the meantime: unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner, helping kids with their homework, listening to TED talks, making a doctor's appointment, and setting the table.

originalsquidsWhat do you enjoy most about your job?

Katrin: Coming from an office job at a big corporation, I enjoy most of all the process of creating something happy. My cookies put smiles on people's faces when I deliver them. That makes me happy. It's very rewarding!

I also like the variety of cookies I get to make. People have such interesting cookie ideas, and that gets my creative juices flowing. One order was a get-well-soon gift for someone who had dropped a knife on her foot. I made cookies illustrating this theme. One birthday boy loves squids–I had a great time shaping and decorating the squid cookies. Wedding cookies are a lot of fun to make too. I also love the challenge of creating an over-the-top cake. It's impossible to choose a favorite.

bloodyfoot

Cookies for any occasion, for real. Katrin has also had requests for cookies commemorating a vasectomy.

Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?

Katrin: When it comes to baking, I have three: 1. It is very time saving to roll fresh dough between two sheets of parchment paper before putting it in the fridge for cooling and resting. You don't have to knead the dough again or deal with sticky dough. You can start using your cookie cutters right away. 2. Everything I use is very organized and has a place. There's no searching for anything, I can grab it without even looking. 3. It's not really a time-saving trick, but if you bake cookies you might want to invest in Silpat mats for better results.

When it comes to saving time at home:  limiting food & drinks to the kitchen table; kids put away what they have used; never go anywhere with empty hands; cook big meals and freeze half for another day; and car-pooling.

Starwars (2)What is your favorite children's book or music?

Katrin: We are from Germany and keeping the German language alive is very important to us. Via books or music we easily incorporate German into our kids’ lives. We have exposed them to a lot of Otfried Preussler, Erich Kaestner, Michael Ende, Cornelia Funke and Astrid Lindgren (Swedish). We love everything from Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. The "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" was a big hit in our house and I remember standing 3 hours in line waiting for an autograph at the Convention Center a couple of years ago.

hedgehogs

Katrin admits to having a cookie-cutter addiction, and makes her own forms when commercially available shapes won't do.

What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved?

Katrin: I recently saw Jeff, Who Lives at Home and liked it a lot. It's all about things that are meant to be. I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason. And who doesn't love Breaking Bad?

What's next for you and your business?

Katrin: I would like to expand and make Eye Cookies more available to retail. I am planning to write a book about cookie decorating in German and am already talking to some editors. Maybe I’ll have my own bakery one day–until then, I will be making tons of cakes and cookies!

On May 19th and June 2nd from 4:00-6:00pm, I'll be teaching cookie decorating (one class is for kids, the other is exclusively for adults) at Stock Culinary. To register for one of Katrin's cookie decorating classes, register in advance at Stock Culinary, 756 Hope Street, Providence. You may also register by phone: 401.521.0101 or via email: jan@stockpvd.com.

To get in touch with Katrin about cookies, cakes, cupcakes, classes, or just to ogle more of her creations, visit Eye Cookies on Facebook or go to the Eye Cookies website.

Alphabet soup: solved.

Alphabet soup uncluttered

This must be the feeling that keeps the niche porn industry afloat. What fun–and what a relief!–to see your private psychopathology transformed into beauty. We love Swiss artist Ursus Wehrli's new book The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy.

Anyone on the rigid order-lust spectrum (with mild interest in The Container Store on one end, and clinically diagnosed OCD on the other) will get sucked right into Wehrli's work. He alphabetizes his alphabet soup (above); dismantles a Christmas tree into a pile of needles, bundle of sticks, coil of tinsel, and precise rows of ornaments; and arranges laundry on a clothesline in Roy G. Biv order. Parking lots filled with cars, beaches filled with people, and other messy situations are divided into components and arranged according to Wehrli's intoxicatingly soothing rules. There's no text. Each situation includes a before shot and an after, the ordinary jumble of life made manageable within each double-page spread.

Wehrli tidies up Paul Klee's mess

Fruit reorganization

These images are funny, surprising (even the stars and planets in the night sky get organized into tidy rows), and deeply peaceful.

klee

Wehrli tidies up Paul Klee's mess. I'm sure there's a reason why the yellow isn't between the orange and the green.

Wehrli tidies up what Paul Klee left a mess.

A better branch.

After our first reading of The Art of Clean Up, my ever-so-slightly OCD son was inspired to take apart a Lego model and arrange the pieces by size, then by color, then by color and size. Gorgeous. I was moved to gather up every disembodied Minifigure head I could find on a small tray. My not-at-all OCD son thought the book was fun; however, immediately after reading it he went down the street to play basketball, so–not to worry–The Art of Clean Up does not appear to turn an unaffected person into an obsessive-compulsive.

Ursus Wehrli's very funny TED talk on tidying up modern art is here.

The details:
The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy
by Ursus Wehrli
March 2013 by Chronicle Books $15

 

ddn101412lifebooknookThis short film of a walnut-eating snake* is what inspired me to Tiger-Mom my children into claymation supremacy. So far that effort hasn't really blossomed, but once I got my hands on a copy of the filmmakers' recommended text UNBORED: the Essential Guide to Serious Fun, claymation became a less urgent calling. This book opened my eyes to a parallel universe filled with people doing all kinds of tantalizing, crazy, and fun stuff I'd never considered.

In UNBORED, stop motion animation is the merest whisper of tip of iceberg. Between its Sriracha-red covers are 350+ gorgeous pages, plastered with ideas for playing, building, fixing, creating, and exploring---outdoors and in. Circus tricks, using Foursquare to explore your neighborhood, farting games, the history of mayonnaise, and how to train a grown up to curse without cursing are among the things the kids I know will be investigating immediately. It's also a fun book to read and just ogle. There are interviews, lists of the best graphic novels and best musical movies, "gross facts about bedrooms," and even a profile of Dr. Bronner. (It's much more concise than the label on his famous soap.)

Unbored_page 113Books in this genre usually break my heart, with their promising covers and meh insides. (Vinegar/baking soda/food dye. Pipe-cleaners/googly eyes/a tissue box. Enough.) I love that this book incorporates the technologies we're so immersed in, giving us license to play with screens in ways we hadn't considered, instead of scolding kids (and parents) to unplug and build things with toilet paper tubes. In one of UNOBRED's more harrowing projects ("High and Low-Tech Pet Search"), we learn to employ a winning combination of signs, walking around/yelling, strategic phone calls, spreadsheets, and Google Maps to locate little Piney. And UNBORED includes traditional childhood favorites as well, like knotting ropes for assorted purposes, and short-sheeting a bed for the sole purpose of irritating someone.

UNBORED is a perfect addition to any creative/kind of creative/wants to be creative family's life. I'm grateful that I don't have to navigate another season of cabin fever without it as my guide. As Mark Frauenfelder says in the introduction, "This book is a powerful antidote to those forces that constantly try to shape us into passive consumers of pre-made reality." Right. What he said. Plus it's insanely fun.

*(Spoiler alert!) The snake eventually poops.

The details:

UNBORED: the Essential Guide to Serious Fun
by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen
2012 by Bloomsbury, $25

 

Welcome back

Joy to the world, soup season is back! Served with bread, fruit, and cheese, soups are my favorite dinners–both for cooking and eating. Bonus: most (i.e. my) children like soup. And this: you might get a few good lunches out of the leftovers. Also: the price is right. Also: you can make soup well in advance, and come home from the cross-country meet/soccer game/football practice to dive into dinner and feel cozy, even if your legs are still muddy. Also: these dinners make your house smell fantastic.

I realize I'm kind of advanced in my motherhood journey to be excited about my kids eating vegetables–they're 11 and 9. Shouldn't they be eating everything by now, without the glib commentary? Yet I still feel hugely relieved when I see vegetation going into their bodies. That's why I am evangelical about these soups. These are the two soups I'll be making all season long.

For our family, these recipes serve a mixed-age group of 4 for dinner and 2 for lunch the next day.

GOCWJ Tomato Soup

GARDEN (OR CANNED WITHOUT JUDGMENT) TOMATO SOUP

Chop very finely three shallots, a handful each of parsley and basil leaves, and three fat cloves of garlic. In a heavy soup pot or dutch oven, warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the finely chopped vegetables in the oil with 1-2 tsp. oregano and rosemary (use a larger amount if your oregano and rosemary are fresh). Add salt and pepper---start with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. You can add more later.

Once the shallots are soft and translucent (that'll be after about 5 minutes), add 1/4c tomato paste and stir until blended and lump-free. Add 1/3 c vermouth, a 28 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes OR 2 pounds of hacked up tomatoes from your garden, and 3 1/2 cups of vegetable stock (or water with Rapunzel bouillon, Better than Bouillon Un-Chicken, or whatever quick stock substitute you like.) Bring this to a moderate simmer.

Pop on the pot's lid and turn the heat way down. Cook for about 20 minutes or transfer to a slow cooker and cook for a few hours or all day on the low setting. At some point before eating, purée the soup with an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Decorate with parsley. Pretty!

Note: do not bother making this soup without vermouth.

ROASTED BROCCOLI SOUP FOR CHILDREN WHO HATE VEGETABLES

In a 450-degree oven, roast the bejeebers out of two sheet pans of olive-oil drizzled chopped broccoli and shallots (leeks or onions work too). The vegetables will become dark brown in spots. The broccoli florets might get crispy. That's good.

Transfer the roasted mess to a big soup pot. Add water to cover and Better than Bouillon Un-Chicken, approximately one glob. (Or use some other bouillon, or use vegetable stock instead.) Simmer until soft and purée with an immersion blender. A few remaining broccoli lumps are kind of nice. After the soup is the consistency you like, throw in 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese. It will melt. Stir, but don't purée or things could get gloopy. Add salt to taste.

Note: this soup is not pretty. Light a candle.

This is not trick photography! The apple is almost as big as the loaf of bread.

ADD-ONS

In terms of bread, with either of these soups, something crusty is best. I pretty much always make the Jim Lahey bread. This couldn't be simpler, but does require some advance planning. And while your house won't smell as fantastic if you buy a loaf of bread, even a cruddy old baguette from an unfashionable grocery store will do. If you live near a good bakery, well, lucky you.

For the fruit, I recommend a Mutsu apple–they're often as big as a baby doll's head, so one will suffice---sliced to order at the table for that warm, communal feeling humans get from carving up some single thing to share.

For the cheese, I like a glob of chevre in the tomato soup or a wedge of sharp cheddar on the side. The broccoli soup is already way cheesy, but it's nice to have some grated cheddar to plop on top.

Reviewed by Katy Killilea

I haven't been this excited about a board book since---ever. Hippopposites is the international literary debut of French designer Janik Coat, and brings heretofore unseen sophistication and graphic punch to that esteemed genre: opposites books.

Using one red, square-ish, cankled hippo to illustrate pair after pair of opposites, Coat has created a book that's enchanting for the eyes and fun to read. Even groggy parents will be entertained, for at least the first ten readings. In the same way the suspense of an ABC book builds as readers wait to see how author handles letter X, I was anxious that Hippo might not be able to demonstrate concepts like thin or small with her signature panache. But she does it! And beautifully.

All of the basics: small/large, in front of/behind are here, as well as the zingers: clear/blurry, visible/invisible, dotted/striped. There are also some special tactile features---a die-cut full/empty and a soft/rough duo that chubby hands will reach out to stroke again and again. The last pair (spoiler alert!) illustrates alone/together, as a skinny little bird lands on the hunk of hippo. Aw, a friend! This leaves the reader with a glad feeling, as it's a relief to know that this very worthwhile hippo we've grown so fond of winds up with someone.

Although I was initially disappointed that this isn't a book about the Hip-hop-opotamus from Flight of the Conchords, Hippopposites is equally brain-tickling and clever---and much more appropriate for preschool.

The details:

Hippopposites by Janik Coat

May 2012 by AbramsAppleseed $15

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