Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review- "The More-With-Less Cookbook" by Doris Janzen Longacre

Except for being proficient at a couple types of cookies, I didn't even begin to learn to cook until I was in grad school. I lived in a co-op in which I was assigned to a "cooking team" and the head of our team sourced all our meals from the "More-with-Less Cookbook." When I moved on, I bought a copy of the book because it contained the recipe for my new favorite dinner. It would be a full 12 years before I read beyond that recipe!

My husband and I joke about it, now, but when we got married I was comfortable cooking two thingss: lasagna and boxed macaroni & cheese. And my husband didn't like boxed mac & cheese. I spent the first summer we were married devouring every cookbook I could find, and I started with More-with-Less. The book is a gold mine, but I should quit here and let our guest reviewer tell you the rest. Here's what Joyce from tallgrassworship has to say about it...

As our economic crisis deepens, and frugality has become the mode, I've thought more and more that I should post a review of "The More-With-Less Cookbook", by Doris Janzen Longacre.

As a young mom, living on a shoestring budget, and trying to learn how to cook from the large vegetable garden I grew to help feed my family, I came to rely on this remarkable little volume, with it's garden-to-table recipes, and instructions that emphasized cooking "from scratch". As a Christian, trying to align my lifestyle with the doctrine of justice for the poor, I loved it's emphasis on consuming only our fair share of the planet's resources, so that we could not only control our own budget, but have enough to give and share with others.

Amazingly, it's still in print, and available through, though Doris Janzen Longacre died of cancer in 1979, shortly after the publication of her second book, "Living More With Less". Both of these books were very influential for me, and have continued to color the way I look at homemaking over the years.

Longacre was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee to use her background as a dietitian to collect recipes and ideas from the world-wide Mennonite community and adjust those recipes to reflect contemporary nutritional research and food justice issues. Many of the recipes submitted by the mostly agrarian Mennonites were heavy on sugar and fat. Longacre experimented to readjust them so that the well-loved family dishes could be enjoyed just as much, but with healthier ingredients. She collected many meatless dishes, reflecting our growing understanding of the impact of raising livestock on our environment. She gave good, clear teaching regarding moving away from a meat-heavy diet while maintaining good nutrition. At the same time, she managed to celebrate the Swiss-German and Russian culture at the heart of the Mennonite denomination, and elevate the custom of unpretentious hospitality.

I practically wore this book out! It was my essential guide for learning to cook for my growing family for years. In pulling it out to reread the other day, I was flooded with memories of days in our kitchen, surrounded by small children who always wanted to stand on a chair next to me and "watch" as I worked with produce from the garden, or bulk items from a foster parent's food co-op we were part of, or the bags and bags of apples from a second cousin's orchard. Many a dollar was stretched, many a tummy was filled, based on the information and recipes found in this wonderful cookbook.

I hope that you will find a copy of "The More-With-Less Cookbook" and read it, really read it, and absorb the wonderful spirit of Longacre and the Mennonite cooks who submitted recipes to this collection. It has a place in every kitchen where the cook(s) are focused on meals made with love. I'd give it a 5 out of 5, for sustainable and frugal living.

Monday Roundup

I recently started Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses. It is a fantastically frightening read though I admit that I'm having trouble finding time to read it.

How have you spent the holidays thus far? Baking cookies, wrapping presents, celebrating with friends and family or huddling by a fire with a good green book? Are you reading or reviewing anything these days? Please share if you are.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Review: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

OK, so this is childrens' Christmas book reviews week. :) I haven't had time to do much other reading.

"If You Take a Mouse to the Movies" is the Christmas book in Laura Numeroff's delightful series that began with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." Those familiar with the books will recognize the enthusiastic, tireless mouse who demands so much of his little host. He reminds me a little of my son...

The "If You Give a..." books are worth reading for Felicia Bond's illustrations alone. This one is pure fluff, but the little ones in your house will love it. Warning: After reading the book, your kids will probably beg to make popcorn chains. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Readers: Parents of small children. If you have small children in your house and you have never read them one of Numeroff's books, get thee to a library!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Book Review: The 24 Days Before Christmas

"The 24 Days Before Christmas" by the late Madeleine L'Engle is a Christmas story about L'Engle's "Austin" family. L'Engle wrote numerous middle grade chapter books about the Austins, but this shorter book is for younger children. "24 Days" is hardly your classical "green" read, but it's a wholesome, charming story about a family who lives the simpler life many of us would wish for. It's also one of my favorite Christmas story books. It's a little long (my copy is 42 pages with only occasional pictures), but my preschooler wouldn't let me quit until I read him the whole thing. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Readers: Parents with primary grades age children and all those who love a good childrens' book.

It appears that "24 Days" is currently out of print. I found a link (above) that leads to several used copies. I don't think this was one of L'Engle's best sellers, but it should have been.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Roundup

After concluding that the weather forcasters were all nuts with their snowy predictions last weekend, we awoke this morning to 4 inches! We don't get snow very often, so this was a big deal, especially to the preschooler in the house. What a beautiful way to disrupt all the crazy business of December! I had to throw out almost my whole to-do list for the day!

It has been the craziest December I can remember and so I've done very little reading. "Green Collar Jobs" is still half read (it's good, I just can't get to it!) and I don't have any others going right now, either. Most of what I've done consists of reading Christmas books to my son. I'll post about my favorite later this week.

What about you? Does anybody out there have time to read, or are you busy nibbling on treats you baked to give away and playing in the snow with your kids?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Books For Christmas

Forget reading, forget reviewing and let's talk about presents.

I want to know if the books we talk about here are making it as gifts to friends and family, non-profit organizations or even gifts to ourselves.

For two seconds I considered gifting my copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to a family member. I couldn't do it but I could buy a copy and wrap it up. It would be a great gift.

Last Child in the Woods may be good for some Mom's I know. I'm considering it (how many more days do I have?).

My Uncle needs a copy of Bottomfeeder and my Aunt a copy of Mountains Beyond Mountains.

I'd like to give each of my girlfriends a copy of An Unreasonable Woman.

Mom is out. She only reads mysteries.

I could go on but I want to know what books are on your list. Give us some ideas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From Australia - Bottomfeeder

I literally got a huge smile the other day when I found a review of Bottomfeeder at Kathryn's blog, Limes & Lycopenes. It was one of my top five books this year.

One of the things that made me smile about this review is Kathryn found three different covers for the book. And then of course I smiled because she liked the book and I liked the review. If you give Bottomfeeder a read, I hope you do too. In any event, big thanks to Kathryn in Australia for sharing the review.
I’ve been buying some books recently. All sorts of volumes. Books about food, nutrition and cooking. As well as some meaty stuff on sustainability and the ethics surrounding what we eat.

And the first one is Bottomfeeder.

While it seems like one of those worthy books, the sort of thing you know you should read, but don’t really want to, Bottomfeeder is an absolute beauty.In it Taras Grescoe goes on a world tour, eating fish as he travels. He interviews restauranteurs and marine biologists, visits fish markets and joins fisherman out on their boats. All the while looking at the effects we humans are having on sea life.

Each chapter tells a story. About a location and a specific fish. From oysters in Chesapeake Bay, cod sold at the local chippy in Britain, through to sardines in the Med, shrimps in India and bluefin tuna sashimi in Japan, Taras Grescoe examines how what we eat impacts the local fish stocks. And the local environment.

It’s an alarming book. Grescoe’s account of our declining marine environment is worrying reading and he doesn’t shrink from the complexities and difficulties we face.

However, it’s beautifully written: full of humanity, a sense of history, humour and smart commentary. Plus wondrous descriptions of the actual fish themselves: the often bizarre creatures from the deep we catch and eat, yet know so little about.Taras Grescoe is a fish eater and after writing and researching the book, he is determined to keep on eating fish. However he wants to choose fish that is managed and caught sustainably. Therefore at the very end of the book, separated into the three groups No, Never; Depends, Sometimes and Absolutely, Always, is a list of what fish to eat and what to avoid.

W‎hile there is an increasing amount of information available on many aspects of eating sustainably, I’ve found good, smart information on fish hard to find. Taras Grescoe’s book fills many of these gaps.

If you’re interested in climate change, sustainability and where the food you eat comes from, then Bottomfeeder is an important book.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Round Up

Is anyone out there reading a green book? I've been reading the same one for the last month, Coming Home to Eat by Gary Paul Nabhan. It's not the books fault it's taking so long; it's all me. There's too many good blogs to read, petitions to sign, walks to take, meals to cook, friends to see, shadows to watch.

Most days I read a few pages on the bus coming home but that's it. I like Coming Home to Eat and will review it here next year.

Any books you'd like to give a shout too, or a new review we can add to our reference list of reviews? Let me know and I'll add a link.

In any event, be well.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

And The Winner Is . . .

M of the Maritimes - you win Superbia.

Jen - you win Blue Frontier.

Gals, please email me with your contact information at greenbeandreams(at)gmail(dot)com so that I can get your books out. That wraps up our Gratitude Giveaway. Thank you to everyone for participating. The worms are grateful.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Book Review: Green Goes With Everything

This review originally appeared over at Passionate Green. It seems that we are all thinking about the affect of toxins not just on the environment but on ourselves. Thank you for sharing the review, Passionate!

With the witty and pleasant familiarity of friends at lunch, Sloan Barnett lets us in on human’s dirtiest (literally!) secrets. The nine chapters in this handbook, each named with a variation on the word “clean,” uncover the nasty health hazards of our seemingly simple everyday actions, including what we put on our bodies, what we use to fuel our cars, and what appliances we use in our homes.

None of the information in Green Goes With Everything is new; the facts on our environmental impact have already been well published. This book is unique and important, though, in that it includes so many facts all in one place, making it a great starting place for anyone who desires a greener lifestyle but doesn’t know where to begin. As each product and chemical is discussed, it is appropriately suggested that while it may or may not be hazardous – the EPA and FDA don’t have the money or manpower to do enough testing to reach a conclusive result – it is not worth risking our health and we should err on the side of caution. Suggestions for safer alternative products are made, mostly from Shaklee. There is a sizeable resource guide at the end of the book, listing companies, their websites, and what they do that can help the consumer.

Why didn’t this author use a green publisher? The book is about being green and yet, oddly, the book itself is not green. Secondly, why ignore the ill effects of the meat industry on the environment? Every meat eater contributes hugely to global warming, pollution, and water and energy waste, and yet the author mentions eating steak quite heedlessly. She also divulges the fact that she wears leather, while implying that people who do not are not normal. Even if no one cares what the manufacturing of leather does to animals, it is impossible to deny the dangerous chemicals that seep into our water supply whenever leather is made.

Those omissions are not enough to keep one from reading the book, however. It is an excellent resource and should be required reading for every inhabitant of our Earth. Parents and teachers especially should reference the accurate, up-to-date facts and figures to pass on the vital message that we need to think green in everything we do.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Review: The Green Beauty Guide

This book review comes to us from JessTrev, aka Olive S. Oyl, aka MamaBird, who blogs over at The Green Phone Booth. Jess has x-ray eye sight when it comes to toxins and can spot them in virtually everything. Even she, though, learned a few things from this gem!

This handy reference guide by Julie Gabriel's been making the rounds of some blogs I love. The funniest thing about the reviews? Take note that none of the bloggers are coughing up their review copies. That's as good a sign as any that a book has some gravitas.

Here's your basic lowdown on Gabriel: she's not a doctor, she's a beauty and fashion editor who saw the (organic, non-toxic) green light when she had a baby. I can empathize with that! But what she's got that I don't (besides perfect skin and years of swag bags containing all the latest in skincare to review) is an almost-encyclopedic grasp of potential toxins. While she refers us all to EWG's Skin Deep database (which I have great fondness for as well), I have to say that I think Gabriel's info is more accessible. In addition to in-depth information about specific toxins (not just synthetics but also organic ingredients of concern), she created a master list called "100 Toxic Ingredients You Don't Want In Your Beauty Products." I am so totally copying this and keeping it in my back pocket when I go to the grocery store. Pshaw! You have room for a 4 page document in your purse. Hey, maybe you already vigilantly access Skin Deep on your PDA so you don't need the hot list. Personally, I used to buy products with no parabens and then hold my breath. No more!!

Anyhoo, in addition to the toxins info which is more thorough and balanced than I have seen anywhere else (including a red flag for my personal least fave in many organic and crunchy products, those troublesome tea tree and lavender oils, the Guide also provides numerous recipes for homemade beauty products. These are beyond fun, and there's a wide range of options for different skin types. Finally, she does include some specific product recommendations for those times when you can't whip up some cucumber puree on the fly. I appreciate that she provides lower-cost yet safe(r) options as well as higher-end perfect options.

If you live in my neighborhood, I'd be happy to loan you the book! This one really is a keeper. Kind of like a really want to have access to one but it could really be in a local lending library...I have the same sense about this book. Once my initial rush of beauty-product making subsides I'm really going to want to use this like a reference guide.

Until then? I'll be in the supermarket picking up fresh and delicious products to slather on my body's largest organ, courtesy of Julie Gabriel. Check out her website at for more recipes and tips.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommended for: anyone trying to figure out safer and healthier personal care consumption choices.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Roundup

I must admit that with a December birthday and Christmas breathing down my neck, I'm not reading much of anything - except cook books. I did, however, finish up The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones and will post my thoughts on it later this week.

But how about you? How are you spending the busy days of December? Are you sneaking any reading in?