I love a good Real Foods cookbook. If you checked out my bookshelf, you would see that I surround myself with cookbooks of all kinds. I might even be a cookbook
If asked, I will tell you that my perfect cookbook embodies the tenants of a real food lifestyle coupled with the inclusion of local, organic, seasonal ingredients. While there are certainly cookbooks of this type out there, the caliber is lackluster at best.
Enter Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny…
I realize that the majority of my extended Hybrid Rasta Mama family are not in the Sacramento, CA area. However, the cookbooks that these two talented women have crafted transcend geographic borders. If you would like to discover two resources that I firmly believe no real foods kitchens should be without, please read on. You will also have a chance to win your very own copy as well!
Let me first share a few tidbits with you about the authors of two of my most treasured cookbooks, Placer County Real Food and The Art of Real Food.
Joanne Neftopened the first Foothill Farmers Market 20 years ago, and within three years the market expanded to six markets throughout Placer County. Always an advocate for Placer County Agriculture, in 1994 Joanne shared the idea of starting the Mountain Mandarin Festival with the Newcastle Area Business Association. Today, almost 40,000 people attend the annual festival to celebrate the small mandarin orange that put Placer County on the map. Joanne's goal is to help people understand the benefits of eating in-season locally grown healthy food and to support the farmers who grow it.
Side note – I met Joanne last Fall during a day trip to Apple Hill (such a fun place) and we had a great discussion on how the art of real food is lost on this generation's children. She was quite moved that I was so committed to preparing and feeding my family a real foods diet while at the same time including Tiny in the entire food preparation and cooking process.
Laura Kennyattended California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. From there, she worked at Boulevard before moving to San Diego, where she was Sous Chef of Laurel Restaurant and Bar. While in San Diego, she had a small catering company and also worked as a personal chef. The Auburn native returned to Placer County for 1 1/2 years, she became Chef of Persimmon Cafe. After the Cafe closed in 2008, she teamed up with Joanne Neft to write a cookbook celebrating the abundance of farm fresh foods available year round. Laura's style of cooking is simple, yet elegant, specializing in fresh, local and seasonal foods.
Ok…so about those cookbooks I am raving about…
Let's start with Placer County Real Food.
Every Saturday morning, Laura and Joanne met at the local farmers' market to learn what kinds of fresh, local and in-season foods were available for that week. They purchased all the meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts to prepare a meal for eight on the following Monday. As each from-scratch recipe was prepared, careful notes were taken. The result, 52 delicious home-style dinners were held at Joanne's home that year. This endeavor set the stage for the creation of Placer County Real Food. With 360 recipes and 280 photos on 300 pages, the book is a powerhouse of guidelines for wholesome cooking and eating.
Placer County Real Food ignited an unprecedented conversation and movement around in-season food in Northern California over the past two years. So naturally, Joanne and Laura created another amazing cookbook. The Art of Real Food was born.
Imagine shopping for your week's groceries based on what's in season, not what's on a list. Imagine feeding your family the kinds of food that their bodies need and crave. Imagine delicious meals that feed your body and nourish your soul.
The Art of Real Food: Seasonal Recipes for Every Week of the Yearis an inspiration for anyone who's longed to connect with food and the farmers that grow it. It guides readers through the seasons by offering recipes, ideas and cooking tips for fresh, in-season food for 52 weeks (over 250 recipes in total). The Art of Real Food will not only walk readers through seasonal food, but also serves as a guide to what to do with an abundance of carrots or a mound of rhubarb.
Ok…so that is all fine and dandy but what do I think about these books? Hmmm….how much time do you have today?
I would like to focus my thoughts on The Art of Real Food since that is the book I will be giving away. But please don't take that to mean that Placer County Real Food isn't discussion worthy. Quite the opposite. I highly recommend it to any real foodie or inspiring real foodie both for the delicious, easy to prepare recipes but also for the journey the authors take you on through their anecdotes, quotes, and words of wisdom.
Back to my musings…
You know I love a good list so let's make one shall we? Here are the 8 reasons why I love The Art of Real Food and why it is should be in heavy rotation in everyone's kitchen.
- It focuses on one seasonal ingredient for each week of the year. It is almost next to impossible NOT to find that ingredient at your local farmer's market and as in the case with shopping in season and local, you will be able to enjoy that food item at the peak of freshness and flavor but also at a wonderful price. (Plus did you know that eating in season, local ingredients gives your body MORE of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs when it need them?)
- The recipes are lively, fun, and packed with flavor. While Placer County Real Food focused on main courses and more substantial side dishes, The Art of Real Food takes a lighter approach, offering an abundance of unique recipes that can be mixed and matched with some of your family's other favorites throughout the year.
- The photos and illustrations make it impossible NOT to want to create each recipe and share it with your family. The real food eye candy is inspiration enough although the mouthwatering ingredients certainly will motivate any level of cook to try out all of these recipes.
- Each weekly recipe section begins with a short, yet information packed, discussion of the particular ingredient being utilized that week. You will learn about the health benefits of that ingredient as well as which variety and size are the best for the recipes. The authors also offer up their own personal experience with the ingredient to help you make the best selection at your Farmer's Market.
- Each weekly recipe section is chalk full of little anecdotes, bits of advice, nuggets of interesting facts, quotes, and cooking tricks. This brings the recipes to life and connects the cook with the food he or she is preparing more so than a plain recipe on a page.
- The types of recipes and the flavors involved are diverse. They can also be tailored to meet specific dietary restrictions and food preferences. There will be something everyone can enjoy each week.
- The recipes are very easy to make and do not require oodles of preparation time. Yes, some are more complex than others but even the novice cook with little confidence in the kitchen will be able to follow along and create a nourishing, flavorful, beautiful dish.
- Did I mention the photos and illustrations? I know I did but I have to mention them again because they really do inspire you to make the recipe!
You might be wondering if I am all talk here? Well no, I am not! For the entire month of July I cooked from The Art of Real Food (I have been cooking from Placer County Real Foods for over a year in case you were worried about that). Here is what I created:
- Week of July 2nd: Dried Figs (super easy and incredibly tasty. Much better than any store bought variety).
- Week of July 9th: Ahi Poke Cucumber Boats (oh my gosh – wow – this is the holy grail of cucumber dishes! Enough said!)
- Week of July 16th– Tomato Braised Short Ribs with Pasta (I substituted with a gluten free pasta and while this dish does take a while to cook, it was well worth the wait. Incredibly moist with intense flavors!)
- Week of July 23rd– Seared Halibut with Tomato Peach Salsa (Easiest recipe on the planet! I have the hardest time making acceptable halibut and this came out perfect. The salsa is a beautiful medley of flavors!)
- Week of July 30th– Quinoa Corn Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce and Baharat Spice (While I had a little trouble pulling this off due to the oil splattering everyone, and my persistent 3 year old sous chef not keeping a safe distance from flying oil, it was well worth the adventure of it all. The middle eastern infused flavors are brilliant and go so well with the quinoa. The dill sauce offsets the intensity of the spice mix and actually is incredible paired with corn. Who knew – dill and corn!)
I know you are itching to see photos of my creations but let me tell you a secret. While I can cook up a storm, creating a delicious end product, my creations are by no means photo quality. What I'm trying to say is, my flavors all come together but the dish looks rather ugly when I get through with it! Everyone who has even eaten my cooking will tell you that. I'm not known for the presentation aspect.
Convinced that you should scoop up both of these cookbooks? Ok good. Don't waste another minute. Click the links and off you go to make THE purchase of the year. Scratch that, THE INVESTMENT of the year.
I know…times are tough and although I really do believe that these cookbooks are an investment in your continued health, I get that they might not be in your budget right this second.
I have TWO copies of The Art of Real Food for you to win!
Visit the Placer County Real Foods Blog, read a post, then tell me something you learned or that inspired you. Then come back here and leave a comment with your email address.
Yep – it is JUST that easy!
This giveaway opens today, August 11, 2012 and closes August 21, 2012 at 11:59pm PST. Winner will be selected via random.org. I will email you and you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is selected.
If you would like to connect with the wonderful ladies of Real Food, you can subscribe to their blog in RSS feed and follow Placer County Real Food on Facebook AND The Art of Real Food on Facebook.