I was even happier after I tasted it

Brooke Carey is an Editor at Gotham where she specializes in self-help, personal development, pop culture, and other non-fiction. She currently resides in Astoria, Queens but grew up in Nashville where she developed a deep, unyielding love for sad country songs and fried green tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

168hours

168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

I edited this book when I was still new to my career and had no clue how to manage my time. In fact, I had succumbed to the notion that time managed me. Laura changed all of that. This is not a book about how to make a to-do list or filter your inbox. Laura argues that, while we all say we “don’t have enough time,” we have exactly the same amount of hours—168 in a week—as anyone else. So how do some people manage to work full time, raise a family, run marathons and take up pottery while the rest of us feel like we’re constantly playing catch up? According to Laura, the first step to making the most of our hours is to look at exactly how we spend them. When we do, we realize that we waste a lot of time doing things that don’t improve our lives and are then empowered to focus on what really matters. If you don’t want to read a 270+ page book because, well, you’re pressed for time, I suggest Laura’s especial What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.

 

howtoHow to Be Richer, Smarter and Better Looking than Your Parents by Zac Bissonnette

This is another book I worked on, so perhaps I’m a little biased, but I truly believe every twenty-something should read it. It’s a guide for young people—those who are financially independent for the first time—on how to create financial habits that will set them on the path to lifelong prosperity. This is not a book about how to make a million dollars overnight, nor is it full of complicated investment advice. Zac argues that if you commit to good money habits—saving for retirement, paying off debt—while you’re young, you’ll set yourself on the path to lifelong prosperity. He also unpacks what wealth really means—that the people who have the biggest homes and fanciest cars are often up to their eyeballs in debt—and that real wealth is about security and not having to worry about money because you’ve been smart about it your whole life. But Zac isn’t preachy. He fills the book with references to pop culture and uses Teresa Giudice and Lenny Dykstra, among others, as cautionary tales. After editing this book, I immediately upped my contribution to my 401(k).

#girlboss

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

As soon as you look at Sophia, you want to be her. She’s gorgeous, poised, and hella cool. And then you learn that she built her $100-million-dollar online clothing retailer, Nasty Gal, from scratch without a college education all before the age of 30, and your head explodes. She is, in short, an inspiration, but a sassy one. #GIRLBOSS is about being awesome and not apologizing for it. It’s about finding success on your own terms, even if you’re unconventional, awkward, or have stumbled along the way (Sophia, for example, spent a good chunk of her early adulthood dumpster diving and shoplifting to get by). The book became an instant classic when it was published earlier this year, and it’s no wonder. Sophia is Jackie O meets Jack Welch. What’s not to love?

 

idon'tcare

I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated by Julie Klausner

On its face, this is a book of dating stories, but it’s so much more than that. I wish I’d had this book when I was 22 and first moved to NYC because I could have saved myself some of the drama—and trauma—that defined my dating life for the better part of a decade. Reading Klausner’s hilarious and horrifying tales of the man-children she’s encountered in her quest for true—or just functional—love is like listening to your bawdy best friend counsel and commiserate with you on what you should and should not tolerate from men (or women, or anyone, really). Read it with a bottle of wine.

 

julia

Julia Child: A Life by Laura Shapiro

Not a self-help book per se, but everyone can take a lesson from Julia Child. She was not only wildly successful but extraordinarily kind, level-headed, and full of joie de vivre. Plus, she and her husband, Paul, were deeply in love. This book made me smile, literally. I was so delighted while reading it that I couldn’t help myself. If more people lived like Julia, we’d be happier, healthier, and definitely better fed.

 

 

 

 

To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Budget Bytes, Beth MoncelWhen people think about saving money in the kitchen, images of slaving over the stove for hours to make their own food often come to mind. After almost five years of refining my kitchen into a money saving machine, I’ve found that the exact opposite is true. Time is money, so recipes and habits that save me both are key.

In my new book, Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, I’ve included several recipes and tips for saving both time and money in the kitchen. Whether you prepare meals ahead of time or opt for simple, fast dishes, you can eat well on a budget without spending all of your free time in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorite recipes that help save both time and money.

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal (p. 18) – It only takes about ten minutes to mix the ingredients together for this ultra-rich baked version of oatmeal and then into the oven it goes. After baking, just divide the oats into single serving dishes to have quick, microwavable, and filling breakfasts for the rest of the week.

Breakfast Parfaits (p. 22) – When it’s too hot outside for a warm breakfast, I’ll mix up a few of these parfaits on Sunday night to prepare for the rest of the week. It only takes a few minutes to layer the yogurt, oats, nuts, and fruit into jars and then I’ve got a delicious, nutritious, and portable breakfast that I can take with me to work.

Easy Pad Thai (p. 112) – Ordering take out may seem like it saves time, but you can have a homemade meal that’s delicious, fresh, and probably more nutritious in less time than it takes the delivery guy to get to your door. This Easy Pad Thai is ready in about the amount of time that it takes the noodles to boil, and there’s no tipping required. View the recipe here.

Microwavable Apple Crumble for One (p. 218) – Single serving microwavable desserts have been a huge hit for food manufacturers over the past few years, but you can make them at home for pennies on the dollar using basic pantry staples. Just take whatever apple you have on hand, chop it up, and top it with a quick cinnamon oat crumble topping. Minutes later you have just enough dessert to satisfy without any leftovers to taunt you into ruining your diet.

Better Than Mom’s Chili (p. 134) – Cooking in large batches and freezing the leftovers is a habit that has saved my budget. Soups, casseroles, and stews, like this hearty chili, are great for preparing on your day off and then freezing in single serving portions. On busy weeknights, just microwave one or two portions until heated through and you have an almost instant homemade meal.

Hungry? Check out the book trailer.


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigI made the baked oatmeal recipe on a Sunday morning, looking forward to eating it over the week. It seemed like a healthy and easy option and a little bit of a switch from my usual breakfast. I opted to make them into muffins, as the recipe notes give as an alternative, and I used frozen chopped peaches. It all came together in less than fifteen minutes, with ingredients I had ready in the pantry, and couldn’t have been easier to do. I also liked that this recipe uses no white flour, since I’m trying to cut back like everyone else and their gluten-free mother. The mixture pretty much filled a dozen muffin cups, but they do bake down some. They smelled wonderful, with the peaches, cinnamon, and vanilla. The measurements for the cinnamon and vanilla might seem like a lot, especially to experienced bakers, but you really do need them since there is (naturally) not much sugar in the recipe. To eat, I mixed Greek yogurt with a little honey and then crumbled a muffin into it. This is definitely not sweet (sorry to all the flavored oatmeal lovers out there), but the oats and fruit have a nice flavor, which I found improved the day after baking, and I enjoyed it with the yogurt.
BAKED FRUIT OATMEAL
Ingredients:
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats2 teaspoons ground cinnamon2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1. cups unsweetened soy milk (2 percent milk is also OK)

1 pound sweet apples, diced

2 tablespoons rice bran, coconut, or safflower oil

2 large eggs, or 4 large egg whites (save the yolks for another use)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

STEP 2: Spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking oil.

STEP 3: Combine the rolled oats, cinnamon, baking powder, brown sugar, if using, and salt in a medium-size bowl.

STEP 4: Combine the soy milk, apples, oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey, if using, in a large bowl. Add the oat mixture and mix well. Pour the oatmeal batter into the prepared baking pan.

STEP 5: Bake the oatmeal on the middle rack until the center is set and firm to the touch, 45 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes, cut and serve. Can be served at room temperature. Covered, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

VARIATIONS:

• Make muffins using a nonstick muffin pan that makes 12. The baking time will be 25 minutes.

• Use fresh or frozen chopped peaches, about 2 fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen, in place of the apples.


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

This weekend I made two recipes from Rob Lustig’s new book THE FAT CHANCE COOKBOOK. It’s not as cold as the polar vortex right now but it’s still chilly and I was happy to test out Old-Fashioned Beef Stew and Quick Chicken Tikka Masala. Both recipes were very easy to follow with simple ingredients and I was lucky enough to check out the new Brooklyn Whole Foods in Gowanus to stock up. The stew took longer to make than I expected – all the chopping of the vegetables added up to about an hour but the rest of the evening I spent letting it simmer (for three house) while catching up on Game of Thrones, so I can’t complain!

The Tikka Massala came together very quickly and the spices were delicious – I was a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out as vibrant and red as the chicken tikka masala I usually order in from a nearby Indian place but I felt good about the ingredients and as Rob points out I’m sure it was much healthier! Hardly any fat and I used chicken thighs to add flavor – they are so much more delicious than the chewy bits of chicken that come in fast food Indian orders. And the best part is I’ve been enjoying the many leftovers from both dishes for lunch all week.


OLD-FASHIONED BEEF STEW AND VEGETABLES

Ingredients

½ cup oil: olive, safflower, or rice bran

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped and peeled onions

1 cup chopped carrots

1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat

8 cups liquid (water, wine, stock, or a mixture)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

2 cups 1-inch pieces scrubbed carrots or parsnips

2 cups scrubbed diced potatoes

STEP 1: Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a cast-iron or stainless steel pot. (Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid.) Saute the celery, onions, carrots, thyme, and garlic in the pot until brown and tender. When aromatic vegetables are brown, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve in a small bowl.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

STEP 2: Place the flour in a bowl. Dredge the meat, shaking off the excess flour. Add the remainder of oil to the pot and cook the meat over medium-high heat, quickly browning but not cooking. Do this in small batches. Take the meat out and reserve on plate.

STEP 3: Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil while scrapping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. While it dissolves it will add flavor to the gravy.

STEP 4: Reduce the heat to low and return the meat and the aromatics to the liquid. It’s very important that the stew must simmer and not boil. Slowly cook the stew over low heat so the liquid barely simmers.

Cover and cook for 2 hours.

STEP 5: After the meat has had a chance to cook for a while, add the 1-inch pieces of carrot and the potatoes. Cook until the meat is fork tender, about an hour. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve.

QUICK CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

Ingredients

4 teaspoons garam masala*

1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ cup unbleached all-purpose fl our

1 pound chicken tenders

4 teaspoons canola oil, divided

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 large sweet onion, peeled and diced

4 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger,

or 1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes with their juices

1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

* Garam masala is a blend of spices used in Indian cooking. Usually includes cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, fennel, cumin, and coriander.

STEP 1: Stir together the garam masala, salt, and turmeric in a small dish. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle the chicken with ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture and dredge in the flour. Reserve the remaining spice mix and 1 tablespoon of the remaining flour.

STEP 2: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

STEP 3: Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and ginger and cook, stirring often until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the reserved spice mix and cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sprinkle the reserved 1 tablespoon flour and stir until coated.

STEP 4: Add the tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a simmer, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and the onion is tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

STEP 5: Stir in the cream. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro.

—Caitlin O’Shaughnessy, Viking Adult


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to cook more and another is to eat healthier, so the timing of Robert Lustig’s “Fat Chance Cookbook” was perfect.

I am by no means a cook; and I actually sort of hate cooking. Things always seem to go horribly wrong when I do try to cook, and I have absolutely no patience (or timing). As a result, my culinary skills involve heavy microwave use and a lot of takeout. So for the first recipe of the New Year, I decided to go with something easy. I chose “Green Pasta” (p. 226-227) of The Fat Chance Cookbook.

 

 

Recipe:

Makes: 4 cups

Serving size: 1 cup

Active time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

½ pound whole-grain angel hair pasta or spaghetti

1 cup packed fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup basil leaves, packed

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup low-fat milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Step 1: Cook the pasta according to package directions. In a blender, or food processor if you have one, blend the spinach and basil until mixed.

Step 2: In a large saucepan, sauté the garlic in olive oil. Add the milk and spinach mixture to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stir occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Add the pasta; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately.

Sounds easy enough, right? 8 ingredients and 2 steps. I think even I can handle this one.                  The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigI already had all the ingredients except the spinach and basil, so I headed to the store to pick them up. Problem number one: the grocery store didn’t carry fresh spinach, so I had to buy frozen. Make that three steps! Frustratingly, I had to cook and drain the spinach, and it was soggy and warm. I figured it wouldn’t hurt the taste of the pasta, but I’d highly recommend driving around and finding fresh spinach to cut out this step.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig drain

I then moved on to cooking the pasta. I prefer angel hair because I like my pasta soft and it cooks pretty quickly. I dumped a whole box of angel hair into a large pot and let it boil. Step 1 down! On to the next one.

“In a blender…” And here we encounter problem number 2.  (See? Bad luck). At the time of this cooking adventure I was staying at a friend’s house—a lovely friend, but a friend without a blender. After digging through her cupboards, I found a food processor. Or really, parts of a food processor. After trying for about ten minutes to put the thing together I gave up. Plan B? I threw the soggy spinach and basil leaves on the cutting board, grabbed a huge knife, and just went at it.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigI then sautéed the garlic (smelling good!) and added the milk and spinach mixture. While that was cooking, I drained the pasta. I let the sauce cook for about 5-7 minutes and then added it to the pasta.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

Mistake #3 (you knew it was coming) I cooked double the amount of pasta the recipe called for, so the sauce didn’t go very far! However, I tasted the spinach/basil mix on its own and it was fantastic.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

Voila!

Despite my inevitable mishaps, the pasta turned out great. Even the most inexperienced cooks can pull this one off. And I didn’t feel guilty for eating it! I also had some as leftovers the next day (this time I cooked an egg over-easy in a pan and then tossed the leftover pasta in) and they were DELICIOUS. This dish would also go well with chicken. It’s a fast, easy recipe that tastes great!

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

Now that I have a blender and fresh spinach I may just try again!

—Amanda Oberg, Publicity Assistant, Plume and Hudson Street Press


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigIt was like, fifteen degrees outside all this weekend in New York.  I just want you to appreciate that.  Fifteen degrees is cold.  Very cold.  When I remembered that I was supposed to make this recipe and blog about it, I was a little disappointed to see that all I had in my fridge was a tub of possibly questionable creme fraiche and a bag of carrots.  So I had to go outside in the ridiculously bitter cold to buy potatoes, cheese, and broccoli.  I lost a toe to frostbite all in order to bring this recipe to you, Penguin blog readers!  Well, ok, that’s not really true, but I could have.

However, if your fridge is reasonably well-stocked (by “well-stocked,” I basically mean that you have other groceries beside hoity-toity expired dairy and rabbit food), then this is a great recipe for you because it’s easy, healthy, and very tasty.  It really doesn’t even feel like health food, which is why when we were divvying up recipes for these blog posts, I jumped on it.

Potatoes? Delicious. Cheddar cheese? Delicious. Broccoli covered in cheesy potatoes? Delicious. Cheesy broccoli potatoes topped with a dollop of creme fraiche that is a little bit….off?  Still delicious.

Recipe from Fat Chance Cookbook:

Broccoli-Cheddar Cheese Potatoes

3 baked russet potatoes

2 bunches of broccoli, steamed until just tender

½ c. milk

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground pepper

12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

Toss broccoli, milk, salt, pepper and 10 ounces cheese with scooped out baked potato flesh. Stuff skins and sprinkle remaining cheese over all. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Posted by:  Ashley Pattison McClay, Associate Director of Marketing, Plume and Hudson Street Press


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigA lot of people assume being a vegetarian means I am a healthy eater. While I’m sure there are plenty of vegetable-loving vegetarians out there, I do not happen to be one of them. I stopped eating meat at the age of eight, and constant lectures from my parents about protein and fiber never really stuck until a few years ago. In college, I would often eat half a can of Pringles and call it dinner. I know you’re reading this, Mom, and I’m sorry.

Now that I am a semi-adult, I manage to incorporate vegetables in my diet on a fairly regular basis. I wouldn’t call my diet a tragedy, but I am still a die-hard frozen yogurt addict, and the occasional (okay, frequent) bag of Smartfood graces my kitchen cabinet. I have loved to cook since I was a little girl, so I was eager to test out some of the recipes from The Fat Chance Cookbook. It isn’t filled with diet recipes disguised as real food. It has recipes that would sound great to me anyway, and, fortunately, they have little or no sugar. While visiting my parents recently, I cooked us dinner using recipes from the Cookbook, and it was a definite success.

Tofu crusted with oregano pesto, cheese, and bread crumbs. This was a little time-intensive, but it really was worth it. I substituted walnuts for pine nuts and they worked well. I can never have too many tofu recipes, so I’ll be sure to add this delicious version to my repertoire. Even my dad, a stubborn carnivore, conceded that it tasted good, although he still doesn’t like the texture of tofu.

“Almost risotto” brown rice pilaf with veggies. My semester in Florence in college made me fall in love with risotto. Even though I enjoy cooking, I’ve never actually attempted to make it on my own. This recipe is godsend: easy, vegetarian, and very yummy. Since it is not the right season for zucchini, I used twice the amount of mushrooms suggested as a substitute. The result was a creamy, cheesy, fragrant dish. I really couldn’t tell the difference between this and real risotto, and, from what I gather, it is much quicker rendition. I could see nearly any other vegetable working well in it, and I definitely plan to try some out.

I am eager to try out some more of these recipes on my friends in the city. Dinner party at my place coming soon!

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigTOFU CRUSTED WITH OREGANO PESTO, CHEESE, AND BREAD CRUMBS

= Serves: 4

= Serving size: ¼ recipe

= Active time: 15 minutes

= Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 carton (12 ounces) fi rm tofu

. cup dry cornmeal or quinoa

. cup fresh oregano leaves, or 3 tablespoons dried oregano

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped almonds or sesame seeds

. cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup grated Parmesan, Manchego, or pecorino romano cheese

STEP 1: Drain the tofu on paper towels. Slice crosswise into 6 pieces.

Cut each piece into triangles.

STEP 2: Put the quinoa or cornmeal into a small bowl.

STEP 3: In a blender, or food processor if you have one, add the oregano, garlic, and nuts. Process until all are fi nely chopped. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Process until a paste forms.

STEP 4: Season the dry tofu lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Rub the pesto mixture over the tofu triangles. Toss the cheese and the quinoa or cornmeal together in a small bowl. Press this into the tofu.

STEP 5: Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu pieces and fry on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig“ALMOST RISOTTO” BROWN RICE PILAF WITH VEGGIES

= Serves: 6

= Serving size: 1 cup

= Active time: 20 minutes

= Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup peeled and chopped onion

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon peeled chopped garlic

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup diced mushrooms

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 cups cooked brown rice or barley

1 cup water or vegetable stock

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

STEP 1: Saute the onion in the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to soften and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the zucchini, mushroom, and rosemary and continue to saute 5 more minutes. Add the brown rice or barley to the pot. Cook until the grain begins to brown a little.

STEP 2: Stir in the water or vegetable stock and Parmesan cheese to the pot. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes, melting the cheese and allowing the flavors to meld. Turn off the heat, and let it sit until ready to serve.

Posted by: Laura Berlinsky-Schine, Marketing Coordinator, Plume and Hudson Street Press


Kombucha!: The Amazing Probiotic Tea that Cleanses, Heals, Energizes, and Detoxifies, Eric Childs & Jessica ChildsWhat do you get when you put a couple of love-blinded kombucha brewers into a tiny Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment?  The same thing you get when you put yeast and bacteria in a nutritious broth of sweetened tea:

Transformation!

Just like the kombucha microbes whose purpose in life is to break apart, rebuild and reproduce, Eric and I found ourselves breaking down our expectations of what kombucha was and rebuilding it as it should be: exquisitely malleable, infinitely delectable, robustly healing and dependably useful in a wide variety of applications. What began as simple tinkering with the mechanics of kombucha brewing to make an even tastier healthy beverage, wound up being a full-fledged company sustaining the lives of our employees and an adventure into every room of our house to see just how useful kombucha could be. From the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the wet-bar and into the bedroom, we have tried kombucha in every application we could conceive of. To this day, kombucha is a marvel to us all bringing health, balance, fun and possibility.

Here it is mid-autumn and what would naturally be a time of winding down, sticking closer to home and preparing for a cozy winter cuddled up together as a family, is more like a 24/7 dance-a-thon as we gear up for a whirlwind winter at KBBK. Between the increase in sales of kombucha home brew supplies leading up to the holidays, the launch of our new 12-oz bottles and the release of our first-ever book, this fall is all about getting out and shaking things up!

With our lives growing in complexity and with things like seasonally enforced restoration being diminished, we are moving away from simplicity, wholesomeness and balance. I believe wholeheartedly in the awesomeness of human ambition and I am elated to benefit from all of our advances (medicine! 24-hour taco joints! electric guitars!). I also want that progress to be made with our balance intact and with the awareness that simple and whole is often better (we don’t really need two-necked guitars, but it would be cool to have a simple, ingenious, zero-impact air conditioning system!).

And this is where my points converge.  Kombucha and Kombucha Brooklyn are not only the embodiment of this vision, but are also the perfect catalysts to exact this change. All-natural kombucha is known for its energizing, healing and detoxifying properties; thus it is the perfect beverage to fuel human progress with wholesome balance.  Kombucha Brooklyn not only provides our customers with delicious and convenient kombucha in bottles, but we also have a kombucha on tap program so kombucha drinkers can declutter their lives by having one refillable ‘buch bottle.  And why stop there? We’ve also gathered up everything the home-brewer needs to brew ’buch at home.  Our complete line of brew supplies further reduces waste, brings people in touch with the art of brewing, makes kombucha available to people who cannot access kombucha either geographically or financially, and educates the world about the beneifts of kombucha.

When people brew their own kombucha at home, they have the freshest, most robust beverage possible. In fact,  why not overferment a little and have fresh kombucha vinegar whenever you need it? Instead of keeping a bottle of chemical-laden windex on hand at all times, why not wash your windows with kombucha for an all-natural, streak-free shine? You can even wipe down your counters and clean your bathtub with a nice strong batch of kombucha. There’s no need to stop there, kombucha is great for your hair, skin and nails and it makes a mean mixer at the bar.  Talk about simplifying things! Using versatile all-natural products like kombucha around your house keeps your waste low, your respect for life high and prevents your life from becoming overcomplicated with clutter. In short, it restores balance.

Taking cues from our beloved kombucha beverage, Eric and I have built Kombucha Brooklyn with the same key values in mind. Our decisions are guided by health for ourselves, our employees and the world. We are always seeking out better and more efficient uses of our resources, especially our natural ones (compostable disposables, organic ingredients, re-using everything we can in-office, recycling, etc). We are committed to providing a healthy and nourishing work-environment (KBBK midday yoga classes, bartering opportunities for our employees with other healthy food companies, fresh kombucha on tap!). We also seek out and support other organizations that are advancing their goals in health, environmental stewardship and the arts.

Like kombucha itself, as Kombucha Brooklyn continues to grow, our goal is to restore the world and the lives we touch to a state of balance.  Through our products, through our people and through our company, this is the mission that we are committed to.  I can’t tell you how excited Eric and I and the entire KBBK team are to do our part in making this world a wonderful place for mankind to LIVE, SIP and THRIVE!

Happy Brewing,

Jessica Childs, co-author of Kombucha!

 


Robicelli's: A Love Story, with CupcakesI’ve been reading cookbooks obsessively since I was a child, and having the chance to write one of my own has been a lifelong dream. I knew that I’d never write a “plain cookbook” — if you want recipes, check the internet.  The ones that always appealed to me were the ones with stories of distant lands, or elegant parties, or at the very least multipage instructionals on how to fold a napkin into a swan.

Unfortunately the only thing I can turn a cloth napkin into is a wad.

And being from Brooklyn — not the trendy side, mind you — this means my “elegant parties” usually involved a keg of Miller High Life and a six-foot-hero.  As for distant lands…does New Jersey count?

But this would not be something that would dissuade me from writing a cookbook.  I’ve worked hard in in my decade long career to become one of the most respected people in my profession. I’ve built a well-known bakery in New York City, the most competitive food market in the country, during the Great Recession. I’ve become, dare I say it, a Q-list food celebrity.

I’ve also become mainly associated with our most popular item — cupcakes. You know, the dessert that was “over in 2001.” The one there had been 10,000 books written about. The one people were, to put it mildly, not remotely interested in publishing yet another book about.  Hell, I’m not sure if I even wanted to see another cupcake book on the shelves of my local bookstore.  I knew I wouldn’t end up being one of the countless Brooklyn “artisans” who just got handed a book deal by some random person walking down the street who knew there was a market for a tome about fish-pickling at home. There would be actual work involved.

I began writing anywhere that would have me. First on my blog, then on other people’s blogs, and always shooting my mouth off on Twitter. This last one got me my agent, who probably has a smarter mouth than I do.

And the first place I took her to illustrate my point was the cookbook section of Barnes & Noble.

“Look at that wall of books. See if you can pick out the baking shelf.”

“Let me see…is it the one that’s all pink?”

“Bingo.”

My agent and I began to make a list of what we did and didn’t want the book to be. We didn’t want it to be pink, or baby blue, or kitschy, or a novelty, or a “humor” book.  What we did want was to write was a serious baking book, for, well, chicks like us. And by that, I mean really, really awesome chicks. And some dudes, too, but mostly chicks who like snarky, sassy, funny writing, who have brains and crave information that’s presented in a fun and accessible way.  There are millions of women in this country who are smart, like edgy, sophisticated humor, and yes, also like to cook and eat. Girls who like sports and movies like Dumb & Dumber, who can quote episodes of The Simpsons, wrote ‘zines when they were teenagers, were or wished they were in a band, and feel sexy as all hell in jeans and a t-shirt but can still put on a short skirt and heels and KILL it.  Where was our cookbook with lots of curse words and comic strips mocking the French?

The more we talked about it, about our story, about the kind of book we’ve wanted to see for ages and didn’t, we realized there were lots of voids in the cookbook market that we wanted to fill. I was going to write a book for:

● People who love to bake but want to know more about HOW the process works rather than just a book full of recipes and pretty pictures

● People who have never baked, or really suck at it and want to learn not only how to do it, but to understand what they’ve been doing wrong in an entertaining way.

● Dudes who want to learn to bake something to help them get laid, but can’t make it past the back cover of most baking books.

● People who are interested in getting a behind the scenes glimpse of such exciting things as: owning your own business, working with your spouse without murdering them, juggling a business with your marriage while raising two children under the age of five without a nanny or trust fund, trying to keep your head above water during a recession, bouncing back after you lose everything and still managing to become one of the most buzzed about brands in the internationally known Brooklyn food scene, growing up and surviving in New York City, being a professional chef, and learning about the various conspiracy theories I have about the Catholic church and robots.

I worried it would be a hard sell, that no one would believe in our scrappy little book, that if I got any interest at all, they’d make me scrap all my jokes and four-letter words and write something traditional and gooey and oh-so-cutesy-wootsey.

Penguin didn’t want cutesy.  They have understood from the very beginning that this wasn’t a “Plain ol’ cookbook.”  From the language to the boundary pushing jokes, to our supremely odd cookbook trailer, we’re pushing way past the point of merely a collection of recipes, and into something different.

In their words: a cookbook like none you’ve ever seen before.


mastering_the_art_of_french_eatingI was making a quiche, rubbing butter and flour between my fingertips, and thinking about the French immersion course I took before I moved to Paris, about the lessons and my classmates, and a poem that we learned by heart. It’s a slight poem, and mournful. I can still recite the words.

Chanson d’Automne de Paul Verlaine

Les sanglots longs
des violons
de l’automne
blessent mon coeur
d’une langueur
monotone.

Tout suffocant
et blême, quand
sonne l’heure
je me souviens
des jours anciens
et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
au vent mauvais
qui m’emporte
decà, delà
pareil à la
feuille morte

(Translation: The long sobs of autumn’s violins wound my heart with a dreary lethargy.

All stifled and lifeless, when the hour strikes I remember days gone by and I weep.

And so I go on an ill wind, which carries me here and there like a dead leaf.)

Pretty mournful, right?

The cadence of Paul Verlaine’s autumn song swam in my head as I squeezed water from defrosted spinach, and chopped some steamed broccoli, and whisked together eggs, milk, and cheese. When the quiche was in the oven, I sat down at my computer and Googled “Chanson d’Automne.” And I made a discovery.

During World War II, the BBC and the French Resistance developed a code to signal the start of Operation Overlord, aka D-Day—and they used the first three lines of Chanson d’Automne as an alert. When repeated twice—“Les sanglots longs/ des violons/ de l’automne”—meant that operations would start within two weeks. The lines were broadcast on June 1, 1944. When the poem’s next three lines were transmitted twice—“Blessent mon coeur/ d’une langueur/ monotone”—it signaled that the action would take place within 48 hours and that the Resistance should begin sabotage operations. These lines were broadcast on June 5, 1944.

It turns out that Paul Verlaine’s despondent poem—part of an 1866 series that he oh-so-cheerfully entitled Paysages Tristes, or “sad landscapes”—was actually a symbol of hope.

I leave you with a recipe for quiche and the wish that cooking it may bring you many insightful, heartening, and inspiring contemplations.

quiche_ mastering_the_art_of_french_eatingSpinach and cheese quiche

1 recipe pâte brisée dough
1 lb frozen chopped spinach
1 cup grated cheese (Comté, Gruyère)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk or cream
Salt and pepper

With clean cool hands and a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough on a floured surface and fit it into a 22-cm/10-inch tart pan. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Chill for one hour (allegedly this reduces the shrinking). Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the tart crust until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven.

While the shell is baking, defrost the spinach and squeeze it dry (I usually use my bare hands. It’s very satisfying). Combine with the milk, cheese, and beaten eggs. Season well. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared crust. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, or until the quiche is puffed, set, and lightly golden.