Category Archives: Recipes – Entrees

Holiday Menu Ideas and Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes Recipe

This past Thanksgiving was a very special one for me because it was the first holiday that SensitiveHusband and I hosted, and the menu was free from yeasts and refined sugars. My family members were so kind by making sure that the foods they brought did not contain those sensitive foods, which resulted in one of the most delicious dinners! Plus the love and camaraderie around the table made for a very enjoyable holiday. The picture shows all of the wonderful dishes at our meal, and below lists the menu. Over the next few blog posts, I will share the recipes with you in case you would like to incorporate one or all of the foods at your next holiday celebration meal.

Holiday Dinner Menu:
Roasted Turkey with Gravy
Mashed Potatoes with Cauliflower
Golden Raisin and Apple Stuffing
Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Walnuts
Green Beans with Almonds
Spinach Au Gratin
Pumpkin Raisin Bread

And for Dessert…
FIL’s Deep Dish Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie

Is reading the menu making you hungry? I know that I could use a snack right now!

Let’s get started with the recipe for mashed potatoes and cauliflower. They are seen in the picture above, on the far side of the table, in a big bowl with a blue rim. What is great about them is that they tasted just like mashed potatoes, although with the moisture in the cauliflower you don’t have to add lots of cream. The result is a hearty mash with lots of vitamins and less fat. Even people who don’t really care for cauliflower (I loosely fall into this category) will enjoy this dish. My MIL made them for thanksgiving last year and we requested them again! Here is the recipe:

Potato/Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large cauliflower, stems removed and chopped
1 stick butter
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
milk to desired consistency (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
sprinkle of garlic powder
salt and pepper

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, and cook for 20-25 minutes or until very tender. Add the cauliflower to the potatoes when there is about 10 minutes left so they can also cook. Drain well. Add cauliflower, butter, sour cream, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Start to mash, then add about 1/2 cup milk and mash until desired consistency. You may want to add another 1/2 cup milk, depending on how much moisture is in the cauliflower. The 1 cup milk total will create a consistency that is a little chunky; add another 1/2 cup milk (1 1/2 cups total) for a smoother consistency. If you wish, sprinkle a bit of paprika on top for a festive finish.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday and Cybele Pascal Allergen Free Cuisine.

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Exclusive! Interview with Wholesome Creations Founder

Last week I met the founder of Wholesome Creations, a company that makes a very special line of salad dressings. The dressings are 100% natural, vegan, and gluten free. I tried the Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean flavors, since both are void of vinegar, sugar and mustard, and I must say that they are delicious! I left our meeting with a new bottle of salad dressing under my arm! Below is a Q&A between Ani Tirpan and me about her company, how she has had success, and a few other topics including how you can get involved with an upcoming event. I think you will really enjoy her story; it is truly inspirational.

–When did you start Wholesome Creations, and why?
I started the company in 2008. I’d been making my Lemon Paradise dressing for my family since my children were old enough to eat ‘people’ food. I developed it based on their own tastes to encourage them to eat vegetables. It soon became a staple in our home and we used it on everything. As the kids got older, friends and family regularly pushed me to market the dressing but I didn’t take them seriously. And one winter Sunday, while I sat in my apartment on the 18th floor flicking through 1000 cable channels with nothing to watch, my daughter thought it would be a perfect day for me to take some time and check into how one goes about marketing dressing. I started to surf the internet to see about the feasibility of adding yet another dressing to the ridiculous selection that was already on the shelves. After a short search, I chose the brands that would be my competitors and realized that my dressing was the only recipe that called for all fresh ingredients that didn’t include any preservatives, added colors or flavors. It was delicious just as it was. After a little more research, I found that our dressing was gluten free, all natural, vegan and antioxidant rich. This combination added to a fresh squeezed lemon juice base just didn’t exist out there. I realized that I had a recipe to be able to create a niche within the specialty dressing market. Once I decided that we had a good chance for success, we began to do some market analysis. I wanted to make sure that the general public would love the dressing as well. So we went to street fairs every weekend during the summer of 2009. And the dressing was a HUGE success. 90% of the people who tried it loved it and purchased it. But they all had the same question: Is this your only flavor option? So I set about creating other dressings with the same healthy attributes. I was still working full time as COO of a textiles importing company so it was a night/weekend effort at that time. Meanwhile, my brother worked with me to find our current office/manufacturing location in North Haven, CT and set about getting all the necessary permits and licenses. I quit my job at the end of 2010 and decided I was ready to put all my efforts into growing the business. We didn’t sell anything to anyone until March 2011 to one Whole Foods store in Hingham, MA. From there, it’s just history.

–What has inspired you to create the salad dressing flavors?

I chose ingredients that were in line with today’s health trends: pomegranate, cranberry, green tea, ginger, chick peas and sesame paste. It took time to develop the recipes that would coordinate well with the Lemon Paradise. I wanted the first 4 flavors to cover the pallet spectrum. After thousands of trials (with my kids as guinea pig taste testers), we ended up with Mediterranean (chick pea based and a little on the spicy side), Green Tea/Ginger (unique and light) and Pomegranate/Cranberry (like a smoothie for your salad).

The inspiration for everything I do in my life are my children. I work hard every day to be an example for them and make them proud of me. Up until now, my goal was to raise good, caring human beings who would make a positive impact on the world. I am proud to say that I couldn’t be prouder of any of them. My daughter Taline in completing her residency for a doctorate in Psychology. My son David will be graduating from Medical School in June and beginning his residency. My son Eric is currently working with me but once the business is strong enough, he plans to join the New Haven Police Department. Both my sons have been volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Having reached my goal as a mother, I felt that I was ready to do what I wanted to do: follow the American Dream of being a business owner.

–What has been one of the best outcomes of starting your own business? What is a challenge?
The very best outcome of starting this business was the fact that I get to work with my son Eric every day! There is no way that we would have come as far as we did in such a short time without him. He’s the power behind my dream. When I lose my motivation or get a setback, he’s right there to put be back on track. Each and every day, I feel blessed to have him by my side, tirelessly pushing forward. He works several overnight shifts driving a tow truck to make some extra money so that he doesn’t have to be a financial burden to the business. He’s amazing and I adore him!!

I was tired of working 80 hour weeks for the success of other people’s businesses. Now I work that hard for my own business and get the satisfaction of knowing that my own family will reap the rewards of all that hard work. And creating products that are healthy and affordable is the greatest satisfaction of all. I knew that I could make the company successful without cutting corners or being greedy. Using chemicals of any kind is not necessary to succeed. That was the easy part. Getting into the food industry was nothing like I thought it would be. There are huge financial hurdles to overcome. Unlike other retail industries, the supermarkets want tremendous amounts of money to put your product on the shelves, kind of like purchasing the shelf space. But other large retailers, like Whole Foods are very supportive of local businesses and we were not required to pay any slotting fees to them. Because of these fees, we’ve not been able to pursue large placements.

–Where are your salad dressings available for purchase? How can someone get your dressing in his/her local store?
You actually can’t purchase the dressings on line any more. The shipping charges makes the internet sales unfeasible. But today, we do have a good selection of stores where they can be purchased. We are in most of the Whole Foods in the North Atlantic Region (MA, RI and Northern Connecticut), King Kullen on Long Island, McQuades Stores in the Mystic, CT area, Donellan’s in MA, Camomille Natural Store in Danbury, CT, New Morning in Woodbury, CT, Thyme and Season in Hamden, CT, Haggen’s in Washington State and New Seasons in Oregon State. There are several other smaller independent stores in CT and MA. Anyone interested in having their local grocer carry our dressings should speak directly with the grocery buyer or team leader in their stores and request that they carry our dressings. That’s the fastest and best way to get us into the stores and co-ops.

–What is one of your favorite recipes using your salad dressing?
The dressings are all so versatile that we call them ‘Meal Magic in a Bottle’. They can be used for marinating anything from fish to tofu, as a mayonnaise substitute for your sandwiches, as a dressing for your vegetables and a million other things. But my personal favorite is Salmon, marinated and baked with the Lemon Paradise. It’s the easiest and most delicious dinner ever! Marinate the salmon in a ziplock bag with the Lemon Paradise dressing overnight in the refrigerator (or you can keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it). Place it on a cookie sheet, including all the dressing from the ziplock bag and cook it in the oven on low heat, 275-300°F for 30-35 min (for about 1 lb) until it’s tender and juicy. You can make some coordinating garlic bread by slicing your favorite baguette or Italian bread down the center, spread the Lemon Paradise dressing and toasting it. A little tomato and arugula salad with some Mediterranean dressing, you’ll be licking your plate clean and sorry that the meal is over. If you prefer a vegan meal, replace the salmon with a healthy slice of tofu. Instead of putting it in the oven, you can fry it on the stove top, a few minutes per side until it’s a golden color.

Our dressings are all made without any yeast or dairy products. Our Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean have NO added sugar at all. The Pomegranate/Cranberry and Green Tea/Ginger have only small amounts Agave Nectar and NO cane sugar at all.

–Is there anything else you would like to share with this blog community?

It’s NEVER too late to follow your dreams. Life is short and when you leave this world, you want to leave looking forward to the next step in your journey, not back to what you wish you had done. We all arrive in this world butt naked and we are going to leave butt naked (except for our funeral garb). Don’t be afraid to lose it all for a CHANCE at it all. It’s more rewarding to reach your dreams when they are for YOURSELF and YOUR pleasure, not necessarily to make loads of money; that should just be a fringe benefit of living your dream. Each day that passes that your dreams stay only in your thoughts is one less day that you could have made the dream come true.

I’ve followed my dream of owning my own business and making it successful. It may not be a huge financial success yet but I’ve accomplished the goals I set for myself for 2011. To help me fill my next dream, Wholesome Creations has just begun a non-profit organization, Wholesome Creations Cares dedicated to raising awareness about the many benefits of healthy eating and living and eco-friendly lifestyle. We are hosting the First Annual Connecticut Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival on April 28-29, 2012 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. All money raised will be used to help fill local food banks, homeless shelters and continue to promote healthy eating and living. We are currently looking for volunteers, sponsors and vendors. We are in the process of developing our websites, http://www.wholesomecreationscares.org and http://www.CTVegFest.org but until they are ready, we are happy to send a vendor/sponsor packet to anyone who is interested in being a sponsor or a vendor. We would love all our vegan/vegetarian and Healthy living friends to contact us to be on our committees to make this event like no other, anywhere. For the time being, you can email your inquiries to CTVegfest@wholesomecreations.com. We need all the help we can get our hands on I promise that you will be proud to be part of this event.

An Economical and Delicious Meal: Baked Chicken with Rice

Looking for a tasty dish to serve guests that doesn’t break the bank? Try this recipe for baked chicken thighs with rice from the October 2010 edition of Cooking Light. It is a little time consuming although the result is great and the leftovers are even better! I substituted the onion for celery (since I am sensitive to onion) and made my own chicken stock (since most store bought varieties contain yeast, sugar, onion or all of them). I also used whole grain wild rice instead of the white rice for a little extra nutrition, although this may alter the cooking time and you may want to add extra water into the pan (since brown rice uses more water to cook than its white counterpart).

As you can see in the photo, we served this meal with butternut squash cooked with a touch of maple syrup. I hope you enjoy this economical recipe, and let me know what you think!

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add 4 chicken thighs to pan; sauté 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat with remaining chicken.
3. Add carrot and celery to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add rice; sauté 1 minute. Spoon rice mixture into a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish coated with cooking spray; stir in broth, 1/4 cup water, and cream. Arrange chicken over rice mixture; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until chicken is done.

I am sharing this recipe with Everyday Sisters.

Marinated Chicken Thighs with Roasted Tomatoes

This recipe for grilled, marinated chicken thighs with roasted grape tomatoes caught my eye when I first saw it in the June 2008 issue of Cooking Light Magazine. Since the summertime weather is back in the Northeast portion of the U.S., I am inclined to make this again!
I prefer marinating the chicken for at least 1 hour, and will leave it all afternoon in the refrigerator if I have the time to incorporate more of the lemon and garlic flavors. To make this yeast free, I removed the capers from the tomato recipe because they are often stored in vinegar. This meal will have you enjoying picnic food all year round.

Ingredients
Chicken:
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Tomatoes:
2 cups grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation
1. To prepare chicken, combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour (or longer if desired), turning the bag occasionally.
2. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken on grill rack covered with aluminum foil with holes poked throughout. Grill 5 minutes on each side or until done.
3. Preheat oven to 425°.
4. To prepare tomatoes, combine tomatoes and 2 teaspoons oil in an 8-inch square baking dish; toss gently. Bake at 425° for 18 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Combine tomato mixture, parsley, and remaining ingredients, stirring gently. Serve with chicken.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, This Chick Cooks, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage and Food Trip Friday.

Grilled Wild Salmon Creates a Quick and Delicious Meal

Just because summer has drawn to a close and autumn is upon us does not mean that one has to hang up the grill tools. SensitiveHusband grills year-round, much to my delight. One of his masterpieces is grilled salmon, which is really easy and quick to prepare.

Start with a good fillet, season with kosher salt and pepper, and wrap the fish in aluminum foil. SensitiveHusband has developed a trick: he puts the fish skin side up on the foil, and he folds it over the skin, making sure the foil is flat against the skin. Then seal the foil around the edges of the fish.

He has a grill trick too: he puts the skin side on the grill first, flips once, and then when he opens the foil the skin is on top and peels right off!

Grilling times vary by fish type: wild-caught salmon needs less time to cook than a farm-raised fish because it is less fatty. Wild-caught takes approximately 6 minutes per side while farm-raised should be grilled for 8-9 minutes per side. Start the grill on high heat and once the salmon is on the grill, turn it down to medium heat.

If you are debating whether to purchase wild or farm-raised salmon, the wild is a healthier choice. The wild salmon does not contain pesticides, antibiotics or artificial coloring; has less fat and more protein; and is more concentrated in omega-3 fatty acids.

Fresh, wild salmon is available nearly eight months of the year, with high quality “frozen at sea” (FAS) available during the other months. According to the George Mateljan Foundation (GMF), a nonprofit that provides information about healthy foods, when buying salmon, opt for line-caught Alaskan fish first because the healthiest populations and habitats exist in Alaska. My favorites are the Alaskan Sockeye and Coho; the King Salmon is a real treat during the summer.

Another note from GMF is that fresh “Atlantic” salmon is generally farm-raised, so the name refers to the species rather than the origin.

If you are also looking for sustainable fish choices, the Marine Stewardship Council has a searchable database of products that adhere to strict sustainable fishing practices.

So fire up the grill, cook some couscous, and enjoy some wild salmon throughout the year!

Creating a Yeast-Free, Sugar-Free Hamburger – Part 2: The Ketchup

In Part 1 of my hamburger saga, I had successfully created a yeast-free, sugar-free bun. Now I just needed some ketchup without vinegar (being yeast-free includes avoiding vinegar), onion or cane sugar in it because a burger just isn’t a burger without that condiment. First I started by checking out supermarkets and health foods stores…although I struck out with finding a brand that met my criteria. So back into the kitchen I went. I started with a recipe without vinegar and gave it a try although the consistency did not turn out the way I wanted. So I tried again, changing the amounts of liquids yet keeping all of the flavors. My second attempt was successful!
That night SensitiveHusband grilled us each a hamburger. I loaded mine with lettuce, tomato and ketchup, all sandwiched between a fresh, homemade bun. My meal tasted so good, and I was proud of myself for not letting these food sensitivities get in the way of my summery treat.

Yeast-free, Sugar-free Ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari sauce)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

I am also sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Everyday Sisters, This Chick Cooks, Lady Behind the Curtain, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage and Food Trip Friday.

Creating a Yeast-Free, Sugar-Free Hamburger – Part 1: The Bun

This story is filled with twists and turns, emotions, suspense and a happy ending. So sit back, pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy this story about a girl and her hamburger.

As I have mentioned before, I really enjoy a good steak or hamburger, especially grass-fed beef – I have wonderful memories of celebrations, picnics and other gatherings where I have shared deliciously grilled items with people I like and love. So last fall when I figured out I had sensitivities to yeast and sugar, I remember thinking about how I was supposed to enjoy a hamburger without the accompanying tasty bun. I had no answer because I could not find any bread in the supermarkets that did not contain yeast, let alone one without yeast and sugar. The winter passed without me eating a hamburger. As the springtime weather emerged I began to worry – what would I do come summer when I am at a picnic and am forced to eat a (gulp) bun-less burger? (Pause here for dramatic effect.)

What is this I hear about steam-risen bread? A friend’s sister-in-law who was in culinary school said it was mentioned in a class. I scoured the Internet for recipes and found information on the theory behind the bread: a steam-risen batter has more moisture relative to a yeast bread so that when it bakes in the hot oven, the steam forces the flours to rise. Ok, this sounds promising – I went to the kitchen and preheated the oven.

Bun Attempt #1: Disappointment
I could not find a steam-risen recipe, so I put my understanding of the theory to the test starting with a recipe for gluten and yeast free bread. I removed the sugar and replaced with honey. The batter was kind of runny, and when I scooped it onto the baking sheet, it just kept running away. SensitiveHusband and I tried to contain the oozing scoops with our hands without much luck. Oh well, into the oven they went. The result was the strangest looking flatbread loaded with bumps and divets although it tasted good. However, I would not be proud to serve it at a picnic.

Bun Attempt #2: More Disappointment
Our friend, Stever, suggested using bread flour because it has more protein and would rise more than the all purpose and whole wheat varieties. So for my second attempt I just used bread flour.

Wow, bread flour sure is strong! The batter was the thickest I have ever dealt with, and it took two of us to wrestle it onto the baking sheet. It also took us awhile to prepare the buns for the oven – alas, the result was another flatbread, although it was thicker than the first attempt. At this point I thought about Julia Child who sometimes had to tinker with recipes before getting them just right. Could I bake a bun that was tasty and pleasant to look at? I would have to keep trying.

Bun Attempt #3: Hope for a “Batter” Future
Not to be outdone by a batter, I strategized about how to change my recipe. I decided that I would invest in a muffin top pan. That way my batter would have a better chance of rising up rather than spreading out. I searched high and low for a muffin top pan and struck out in a number of stores. I had success online and ended up purchasing this pan by Chicago Metallic. I adjusted the flour mixture again, adding all purpose and whole wheat flours for some texture and bread flour for maximum lift. Success! The muffin top pan kept the batter from running out and the moisture in the batter allowed the buns to rise enough so I could split them in half! Now I just need some ketchup…tune in for Part 2 of this exciting tale.

Here’s my recipe for now, I’ll keep working to refine it…and welcome any suggestions on flours, steam-risen bread recipes, or other alternatives.

Yeast-free, Sugar-free Hamburger Buns
Yield: 6 buns
1 cup bread flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk (or water)
Sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:
1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 1 muffin top pan.
2 In your electric mixer, beat the flours, salt, eggs, honey and milk on high speed for 7-10 minutes. This should produce a batter with a consistency between soft butter-cream icing and cookie dough.
3 Working quickly, spoon this mixture by 1/2 cup portions onto prepared muffin top pan. Allowing the batter to sit for more than a minute will result in deflated buns.
4 If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds or coarse salt.
5 Place in heated oven and bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and puffed.
6 Allow to cool completely before slicing. As the buns cool, you will see a slight deflation of the buns.

I am also sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, This Chick Cooks, Lady Behind the Curtain, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday and Cybele Pascal Allergen Free Cuisine.

Baked Cod with Olive Oil and Garlic

For a healthy and quick weeknight meal, baked cod is a great option. Its mild flavor allows you to add a variety of seasonings. My favorite is a simple recipe using olive oil and garlic.

Ingredients:
2 cod fillets, about one pound total
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon parsley

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly pour a thin coating of olive oil in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish and then arrange the fillets. Drizzle with the lemon juice and oil, and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper, and parsley. For extra flavor, sprinkle with thyme or paprika.

Bake until the flesh is flaky but still juicy, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with roasted potatoes, rice or couscous, and your favorite vegetable.

Surf and Turf Salad

Last week sensitivehusband and I went out to dinner with some good friends. There was a filet mignon special on the menu and I just had to indulge. The steak was served with asparagus and lobster mashed potatoes. That’s right – there were actual pieces of lobster in my potatoes! As I enjoyed my meal, I thought about some words of wisdom that my mom used to say – when at a restaurant and you start to get full, focus on eating the most expensive thing on your plate so you get your money’s worth. What a great dilemma to have – should I finish the steak or lobster? Well, I decided to keep eating both and ended up taking home some of my meal.

The next day a great idea struck me – why not transform my leftovers into an enjoyable lunch? I started by making a big salad with green leaf lettuce, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and the leftover asparagus. I then sliced the filet mignon into strips and separated the lobster from the mashed potatoes. I heated the filet and lobster on low heat in the microwave for one minute and placed them on top of the salad. For the dressing, I drizzled olive oil, spritzed on the juice from half a lemon, and added freshly ground pepper. Voila! I had a great lunch, finished every last bite, and didn’t let the expensive part of my meal go to waste.

I am also sharing my recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, This Chick Cooks and Food Trip Friday.

Julia Child, as Always an Inspiration

I decided to take a break from my usual novel to delve into a collection of letters written during the 1950s and 1960s by the wife of a popular journalist and a woman who had completed studies at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and was writing a cookbook.

In As Always, Julia, Bernard DeVoto penned an article about American knives for Harper’s, and Julia extended her support for his findings by mailing him a letter along with one of her favorite chopping utensils. His wife Avis first responded to the letter, which marked the beginning of their friendship that would last decades.

The two wrote back and forth fairly regularly even though the Childs moved quite often – to France, Germany and Norway. Once the DeVotos and Childs met while Julia and Paul were in the U.S., the friendship was solidified as evidenced in the increased depth of emotions described in the writings.

It is fascinating to read, in this collection of letters, the range of topics covered including food, no doubt, and also the struggles of obtaining a publishing contact, opinions on the political climate in the U.S. and abroad, details about parties and fashion, trying and retrying recipes, and the ups and downs of family events. I was inspired in my own cooking trials to know that even Julia Child tried recipes over and over again before getting them just right.

The economics of book publishing was discussed at length. Houghton Mifflin, the first company to discuss a possible contract, eventually turned Julia and her collaborators down because they could not make a business case for publishing a how-to guide for French cooking. However Knopf, the company that eventually gave Julia a contract, thought there was a market for such a book, and projected that 20,000 copies would be sold in the first year. In fact, between October 1961 and August 1962, 100,000 copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking were sold.

By reading letters one is also allowed to better understand people’s personalities. And wow, Julia Child was funny! In one letter from 1954, Julia described how her German studies were progressing. She wrote, “German. It ain’t easy…However I impressed the nice woman in the post office twice, after having carefully practiced two sentences each time…[and] I telephoned a German oculist and have made an appointment for tomorrow afternoon (I believe!).”

As Always, Julia is a unique collection of letters between good friends that provides a first-hand account of the beginning of the celebrity career of Julia Child while combining a historical picture of political and economic situations along with countless recipes and tips such as defrosting a turkey and stuffing a goose. In addition, I now have a risotto recipe that can be modified and tested in my kitchen. Where else can you find that combination of food, humor, world travel and book publishing in a good read?