Book Review : Foraged Flavor


Many months ago (too many, I think) I received a copy of this book to review.  Foraged Flavor by Tama Matsuoka Wong with Eddy Leroux by Potter that came out last August, 2012.

First things first.  I love knitting, and if you are a knitter you also probably enjoy  “looking” at yarn with your hands.  When I get in a yarn store, I’m touching all those beautiful skeins laid all very organized… so when I got the book, I love how it felt in my hands.  The perfect size.  It fits in most of my bags without being cumbersome, and the cover, I love. The photos, the font, but mostly that book spine, the perfect green with the cloth for the spine.  I love how it feels.


At first I wasn’t really attracted to the content, because, being a visual person, I felt it didn’t have a lot of color and pictures, for a cookbook or a ‘field guide’ of sorts.  Maybe that’s why it was left in the pile of books for later.   Also, I think it was that I was in the swing of things, and cooking and preserving when I received the book and felt I didn’t have time to learn and go out in the wild to get some wild plants, with everything else happening in the fall for us.

Now, with a fresh eyes, I found the book, and I sat down and looked and read through it some more, and have really enjoyed it.  It says “Finding fabulous ingredients in your backyard or farmer’s market.”  It’s true!  So much we can find out there.  We did a little bit of foraging last spring, and we all really enjoyed it.   The getting out there to harvest, and also the eating of what we found.


I really like that it’s divided by seasons.  It makes it easy, for us non-experts, to start with what we can find now.


The drawings throughout the book are simple but detailed, and very lovely.  I really enjoyed the layout.  I am looking forward to a few more weeks getting out there to find what we learned to identified last year, and get some new plants to try and identified. 


Look at the drawings… they are so pretty.  They have a drawing and a colored photo of each featured plant, which really helps for when you are out there.



I like it that they focus on just a few plants, so it’s not a field guide per se.  It’s perfect to get to know a few wild plants, and try some recipes at home.

Tama Matsuoka Wong writes in the introduction:

When I am walking a wooded path on an early spring morning, the ground carpeted with wildflowers, I smell the dew and moist earth beneath me.  On a summer evening, dusk falling, the breeze in my hair also bends the tall, vibrantly colored meadow wildflowers, and all else falls away.

She stopped doing financial services work, her day job when she was learning about wild plants and foraging, to do this full time now.  She brings wild plants to Eddy Leroux, the chef at Daniel Boulud’s restaurant in New York, to create new plates with them.


Though I have not gone out and harvested any wild plants, I haven’t made this Sheep Sorrel Risotto, but it sounds really good.

DSC_0020-smallSo does this Scrambled Eggs with Wild Garlic Greens.

These will be the first recipes to try when we get out there, as soon as our wild walking feet get ready.  We are almost running out of stinging nettle, but are still enjoying the last of the frozen batch I use in some of the soups and egg dishes.  And have a bit dried nettle left that we are enjoying in teas, hoping to keep us a little healthier.

There is so much to learn out there for me.  Out in the woods, as well as at home when we have the plants.  And I’m hoping this book will help me try few plants we find here in Oregon, and use them in meals we all enjoy.

I like the descriptions she gives in the book, one page per plant.  It’s not very “field guide-y” but perfect to help you identify them.  I also have enjoyed reading about how she’s learned about wild foods, and how she’s worked together with Eddy in trying new dishes. Very personable and you get a sense of how and why they’ve come up with the seasonal dishes.

If you are interested in wild plants, you should check out this book and see what you think.  Also, let me know what recipe you’ve tried!  I’m looking forward to some new flavors this spring.




Book Review :: Grow Cook Eat

I received a copy of Grow Cook Eat : A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening from the publisher.   Written by Willi Galloway  and published by Sasquatch Books.  I am loving it.

Do you see all these sticky notes?

It’s one of those books you can go through it, enjoy the photography (amazing! By Jim Henkens), open any page and learn something fun.  Either a new recipe or about a plant you might already have in your garden, or something new.   And I must confess I also love the feeling of the cover and the pages… it just feels good to hold in your hands, every way you look at it, I’m really enjoying it.

Do you see the type they used for the name of the plants?  I like it!  They used the same type for Willi’s name in the front cover too.  I find it friendly and playful, and personal.  I wish I had it to write maybe the heading of my blog, or the title of each post… it’s easy to read, and different.

Now… the content.  Did I mention the photography?  It is just gorgeous! (I’m going to come back to this, here in a minute.)

This is Mark and I 16 years ago, our first garden, in our first home.

We’ve been gardening for a while now (18 years, I think that’s a while, right?)  Not to say that we are master gardeners or anything close, but we’ve been doing it for a while, and learning as we go.  Always learning.

When we moved to the US after getting married in Chile (18 years ago), we rented an apartment here in Portland.  That first spring we found a dresser drawer from some furniture or something, and filled it up with dirt.  It was our first little garden, a garden box of sorts.  We planted radishes, arugula, and maybe something else (I don’t remember what else we had.  Maybe lettuce?)  It was a tiny apartment, and we didn’t really get ready for much more, and didn’t have the space or money to rent a plot.  We were young and newly wed, trying to figure out our new lives together, in a new country, with everything new.  A small box seemed to be the perfect first garden for that year. I hadn’t thought of our first garden probably since that year.  That’s funny.

For our second spring, we felt like we really wanted to get out in the dirt, so we started a garden in one of Mark’s co-worker’s house.  They had some land, and didn’t have a proper garden.  So we broke the ground for them, and planted a garden, with many rows, and many vegetables.  For us and for them. We fell in love with the dirt and those tiny plants growing.  It was lots of fun. I remember the huge zucchinis and cucumbers we ate that summer… I must have those pictures somewhere…  I’ll keep looking.

That was our second summer.  Then we found our own first home that autumn and were excited.  Now, we could have our own garden, right in our own back yard!  This photo above and here below are of our backyard.  We are getting rid of some of the grass, and turning into a garden.

We worked on it, made vegetable beds, dug out the grass and cleaned out garbage that was there from many, many years ago.  It turned out perfect.

We’ve changed the position of our beds in these 17 years of home and garden ownership.  And of course, the plants we’ve had have also changed, which makes it exciting every winter and spring to think of what we’ll have for the season.  Now there’s four of us to decide.  I like that.

Even though I received this book after we had planned and planted our garden this year, I want to try some of the recipes Willi shares.

I am excited.  Every time I see the book around the house (it’s been by my bedside for a long time, in the living room, on the coffee table, the floor next to the gardening magazines and library books, in the kitchen) it makes me want to get out and garden.  The colors, the photos, the plants, the recipes… all of it! It’s so inspiring.

So, yesterday I made pasta with Willi’s pesto.  Last time I made pesto was with the nettle we had just picked.  This time, was with basil from our garden.  It is so good!  I could eat it with everything.

Pine nuts, garlic, cheese, basil…. a beautiful mix.

The great folks at Sasquatch Books let me share the pesto recipe here with you, so here it is for you to try now:

Nona’s Pesto

3 plump garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup pine nuts

4 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup packed finely grated parmesan (about 1 ounce)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Pulse the garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the basil and Parmesan and process into a smooth paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the blade running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Process until the oil is thoroughly incorporated and the pesto is smooth. Taste and add salt if desired.

To keep refrigerated pesto from turning black, lay plastic wrap coated with olive oil directly over it, and seal the container with a lid. It will keep for at least a week refrigerated and several months frozen. Bring it to room temperature and stir thoroughly before using. When using frozen pesto in pasta, thaw it and stir in 1 tablespoon pasta water before tossing with cooked pasta—this helps distribute pesto evenly.

The only problem I had was that I don’t have a food processor, so I used the blender, and it was harder to get it all mixed.  I had to scrape and mix with a spatula more often, and stop and mix.  And I ended up adding a little more olive oil than the recipe says, but I think it turned out really good anyways!  I’m definitely making it again, and see how it looks (and tastes) freezing it.

As you can see (from my sticky notes collection in the first pictures), I have lots of other recipes I want to try, and some tips and ideas for harvesting and using some of the plants we have in our garden.  Since our raspberries seem to be done producing for their first year, I was reading about how to trim them now.

And Willi also has some ideas for drying herbs for teas, and a sandwich that looks delicious!  Check out her book, I think you are really going to like it.   And have I said the photography is so amazing that it makes you almost smell the plants and the food?  It does!

Book Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

What a beautiful book.

Few weeks ago I received this book from the publisher, Sellers Publishing.  The book just came out in March 2012.  Naturally Fun Parties for Kids: Creating Handmade, Earth-Friendly Celebrations for All Seasons and Occasions by Anni Daulter and Heather Fontenot.

The title of course, made me think it was going to be a great book! It had me with the first two words, of course!  Once I had the book in my hands, it was as beautiful and fun as its title suggested.

Heart-shaped cherry-strawberry pie pops and mini pies.
Heart-shaped cherry-strawberry pie pops and mini pies.

I had seen Anni Daulter’s other book (Ice Pop Joy) but haven’t tried any of those recipes yet. But reading Heather’s blog, and the other publications she’s part of, I was really curious to have this book in my hands.

This table… I find it dreamy.

As are these beautiful felted wands.

Those of you who know me, you know I love organizing things. Events of all sorts. Get togethers, gatherings of friends and friends-to-be, and especially I love planning Lucas’s and Siena’s birthday parties.

Flower pot cheese breads.
Flower pot cheese breads.

I love making special things, making presents for our family and friends, I love planning and looking for fun games they would enjoy playing with their friends.  I love looking for fun foods we could eat, both of these birthdays being in very different seasons.  I really enjoy planning birthday parties so I wanted to see what we could find inside these pages.

Naturally Fun Parties for Kids, shows decoration ideas to make, activities and games to play, recipes, invitation ideas, for parties throughout the seasons.  And what I love the most about the book is that all the ideas shown are to help celebrate and enjoy everything handmade!

I love the book.  It combines my love for planning, making things out of recycled materials, making beautiful decorations, and having fun all along.  It is so pretty.  The photos are beautiful.  It’s fun to read and look through.

We’ve browsed the book lots of times now, and Siena is going through it herself to get ideas for her own party coming up in…. well, at the end of next month.  You know, we love planning!

If you want some fresh ideas for parties for your little love ones, I’d recommend you check out this book.  It is a beautiful inspiration. Enjoy!