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Recent Adventures in Library Cookbooks, Vol. 2

One of the ways I keep my menus fresh and my cooking skills sharp is to check out cookbooks from the library. Here’s a look at some of the recent happenings in my kitchen:

Dark Chocolate Stout Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Ice cream…with beer in it. Does it get any better?

Ample Hills Creamery:  Secret and Stories from Brooklyn’s Favorite Ice Cream Shop by Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna
What I made:  Dark Chocolate Stout Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Breakfast Trash ice cream
What I want to make: The Dude (White Russian) Ice Cream, Caught in the Rain (Pina Colada Ice Cream), Nanatella Ice Cream, Cookie Au Lait Ice Cream & the list goes on.
Quick Review: I had never heard of Ample Hills before I picked up this book while browsing the stacks, (My pretentious ice cream of choice to-date had been Jeni’s), but I’m not sure why because these people know what they are doing. The ice cream recipes call for nonfat milk powder, something I’d never seen used in ice cream before, but the authors promised it would make everything creamier and more scoop-able. Guess what? It did!  If you’re an at-home ice cream geek like me, pick this one up.

chiaquionakaleChia, Quinoa, Kale, Oh My! Recipes for 40+ delicious Super-Nutritious Superfoods by Cassie Johnston
What I Made: Greek Quinoa Salad, Rosemary Grapefruit Popsicles.
What I want to make: Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter, Coffee-Rubbed Ribeye, Bok Choy and Apple Slaw with Gogi Berries
Quick Review: There are two kinds of people: those who see the title of this book and are interested, and those who see the title of this book and kinda roll their eyes. I tend to be the former, while my husband tends to be the latter, but both of us were able to find something appealing inside. Besides recipes, this book features one-pager profiles of over 40 superfoods, breaking down the nutritional content, health benefits, and seasonal availability.  The recipes are very simple, so this would be a good choice for someone who is new to cooking.

reinventingtheclassicsReinventing the Classics – Simple and creative ways to rethink recipes America love best, with wine to match. Edited by
Dana Cowin

What I made: Roasted Garlic & Lemon Lamb Chops, Broccolini with Toasted Breadcrumbs, Roquefort Soufflé, Green Curry Chicken Wings, Parmesan-Crusted Rigatoni with Cauliflower
What I want to make:  Chili with Hominy, Quinoa salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Butterscotch Sticky Buns
Quick Review: This is another book I picked up on a whim, and I was happy I did, because it contains exactly what the title promises. This book won’t blow your mind with overcomplicated flavor combinations and hard-to-find ingredients, but it will offer you some simple changes and twists on recipes you probably already know pretty well. I recommend this book for intermediate-level cooks who don’t know what they’re having for dinner tonight. Bonus: it includes the best chicken wing recipe I’ve ever made, and trust me, I’ve tried many.

Afro Vegan by Bryant Terry

This spicy sauce has a secret ingredient: a mashed up banana!

Afro-Vegan: farm-fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Re-mixed by Bryant Terry
What I made: Smashed Potatoes with Peas, Corn, and Chile-Garlic Oil; Chipotle-Banana pepper sauce
What I want to make:  Tropical Fruit Salad with Mango Lime Dressing, Fig Preserves with Thyme, Couscous with Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Currants, Grilled Corn on the Cob with Pili Pili Sauce and Spicy Mustard Greens
Quick Review:  If the title alone didn’t grab you, I’m not sure what else I can say except that this book is chock-full of great, well-researched recipes, beautiful photography, and each recipe comes along with a suggested soundtrack and reading material.  Oh, and did I mention the flavors are amazing? Don’t miss this one.

Fiesta at Rick’s – Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends by Rick Bayless and Deann Baylessfiestaatricks
What I made: Roasted Garlic Guacamole, Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce, Mango Guacamole, Coconut Hortchata, Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion
What I want to make:  Tequila-Infused queso fundido, Frontera Grill’s Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Mexican White Rice with Sweet Plantains, and, well, let’s be honest, most of the cocktails and guacamole variations.
Quick Review:   To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the format of this one, but the deliciousness-factor of the recipes is pretty hard to deny. My friend and I cooked up most of the dishes listed above in one night, and then I went back for this book a second time. If you’re into party planning, this will provide some good hosting tips and preplanned menus. If you’re just into good Mexican food, flip past the table setting and mood lighting sections and dive straight into the high-quality recipes.

So – what have you been cooking lately?



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Recent Adventures in Library Cookbooks (Vol. 1)


Homemade Decadence : irresistibly sweet, salty, gooey, sticky, fluffy, creamy, crunchy treats

  • What I made:  Peanut Butter Cream Pie (pictured)
  • What I want to make: Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies, Honey Brown Butter Cupcakes, Breakfast Nachos
  • Quick Review: The title of this book is not a lie –  the dishes are over the top in all the best ways. If this pie is any indication, the recipes are easy-to-follow and well-tested. I didn’t love Joy Wilson’s first book, but she more than made up for it with these offerings. I wanted to renew this one and whip up more treats, but sadly the book was due back because another foodie library user requested it. I’ll be revisiting as soon as the wait list goes down!

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Martha New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for old-fashioned and modern favorites

  • What I made: Chocolate Cream Pie with Chocolate Crust (pictured), Classic Pumpkin Pie, Pâte Brisée
  • What I wanted to make: Pretty much everything–it’s a whole book of pies!
  • Quick Review: No matter what you think of her persona (and her egregious perpetuation of the word “tablescape”), you have to admit that Martha Stewart has a lock on good recipes. She rarely lets me down. This book’s recipe for Pâte Brisée, a French pastry crust, was so easy and so delicious it had me considering turning my back on my go-to pie crust recipe. I also loved that this book had recipes for beginners and more advanced pie-makers. This is definitely one you could renew a few times and learn a lot from.

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Pies and tarts : the definitive guide to classic and contemporary favorites from the world’s premier culinary college

  • What I made: Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie (pictured)
  • What I want to make: Raspberry Mascarpone Tart, Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust
  • Quick Review: I had this checked out at the same time as the Martha Stewart book, and I definitely thought the Martha Stewart recipes were better. However, if you already have a pretty good sense of pie-making, this book does offer some yummy ideas and flavor combination, but you might have to make some adjustments to the recipes.

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The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

  • What I made: Sweet Peas & Shells Alfredo (pictured), Artichoke Heart-Stuffed Shells with Lemon Béchamel, Brownie Roll-out cookies
  • What I want to make: Broccoli Rabe Panini with Mozzarella,  Whole Lemon Bars, Tomato Scallion Shortcakes with Whipped Goat Cheese (pictured on the cover)
  • Quick Review: If you’re already a fan of the Smitten Kitchen blog, you’ll know and love Deb Pearlman’s unfussy recipes for delicious, fresh food and special, homemade desserts. I loved the clear, understated photography and concise directions.

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Sugar and Spice: Sweets and Treats from Around the World

  • What I made: Lemon Shortbread (pictured)
  • What I want to make: Pistachio and Almond Brittle, Chili and Vanilla Truffles, Mango Moons
  • Quick Review: Pluses:  This book offers a nice variety of sweet treats, from quick-to-make candies to more elaborate baking projects, and I loved that it converted every recipe into both metric and American units. Minuses:  I wasn’t a huge fan of the layout and design, and I wished the amount of information about each of the recipes was consistent – in a cookbook billing itself on showcasing food from around the globe, there was a surprising lack of information about where many of the recipes came from.

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Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People who Totally Love Food

  • What I made: Autumn Crostini (pictured), Grilled Feta Flank Steak with Sriracha Crema, Jalapeno-pineapple pizza with BBQ Bourbon drizzle (yes, seriously), Vanilla-Ginger Mojitos, Greens & Beans Burgers
  • What I want to make: Breakfast Risotto, Blue-Cheese Avocado Dressing, Brussels-Chorizo Nachos, Coffee & Donuts Ice Cream
  • Quick Review: Skip the recipe pictured here, it was a total dud, but everything else was so fantastic and fun it didn’t take me long to decide I wanted a copy of this for my home cookbook library. Bonus: every recipe was developed and photographed in the author’s home right here in Pittsburgh.

Happy cooking!



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Things Librarians Look At.


When I started as a clerk at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh- East Liberty, I had no idea that being a librarian was a thing. I just needed a job. I didn’t even care about libraries!

It is totally a thing. We do things like this. And there are lists like this. Even Legos!

Here are some funny yet  informative things librarians look at (during lunch breaks of course.)

Awful Library Books

Sometimes books need to be thrown away. Sometimes a librarian can’t do it. These are the (often unintentional) hilarious results.

Pretty awful, yes?

Pretty awful, yes?

Book Porn

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Sexy pictures of all things book-related. Unlike regular porn, this will lead to DIY projects.

Book Riot

Book review websites can be so pretentious. As a voracious reader who will read anything, I love that Book Riot covers everyone from J.K. Rowling to Dave Eggers to James Patterson. Plus, they have a pretty awesome “mission” statement:

We create. We always prefer the book to the movie. We riot as a team. We geek out on books, embarrassingly so. We’re leaders. We practice charity. We miss our subway stop cause the book is that good. We are non-traditional. We believe in family (bookshelves and cats count).


Books That Changed Me

I love these lists. I love the reasons people give for loving their top ten or twenty or thirty. I’m amazed at how many books show up over and over again. Good is good.


I Work At A Public Library

Working with the public can be…challenging. It’s also inspiring, funny and fascinating. 


Librarian Problems

Problems. We got ’em. Books are for nerds!? You cut our funding?!?!


Librarian Shaming

Like dog shaming but for bad librarians. Billed as a “place for those of us in libraryland to come clean” Librarian Shaming has confessions ranging from the awful to the sublime. My own confession? I dropped a Bestseller in the tub. My very first week of work.


Your Librarian Hates You

Your librarian really doesn’t hate you. She hates someone else. Like the guy cutting his toenails at the computer desk.


suzy, who has never cut her toenails in public and tries to be good.


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Completely random book reviews.

Some blog posts have clever themes; others are just lists of cool things. This post is of that second kind. Please enjoy.


Abbott, EdwinFlatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions – This is my favorite book. It looks like a nice little fable about a two-dimensional world full of talking shapes, but it’s really a scathing criticism of Victorian society. Flatland is in the public domain now, so you can go get yourself a free ebook version. (Bonus: book on CD!)

Adams, DouglasThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Travel through space with Marvin the paranoid android and learn how you should react when someone calls you a “hoopy frood.” This may be the book that taught me how to be sarcastic. (Super Bonus Jackpot Bonanza: book on CD, ebook, original radio scripts, movie, television show!)

Cabot, MegAirhead – Average girl has brain transplant and wakes up in supermodel’s body. First in a trilogy, and yes, I’ve read them all. Don’t hate. It’s amusing fluff, despite the “only my boyfriend can help me now” crap that turns up now and then.

Dunn, MarkIbid – The fictional biography of a three-legged man told entirely in footnotes. What more can I possibly say? (Except perhaps that another of his books, Ella Minnow Pea, will do wonders for your vocabulary.)

Dutch, DanaRomance Without Tears – 50s comics about young women falling in love but not acting like morons or putting up with jerks. Amazing stuff.

Fforde, JasperShades of Grey – In a society that’s short on spoons, social standing is based on the ability to see colors. Also, no one can see at night. That’s a big one. And sometimes the roads eat people. That’s kind of important, too. (Bonus: ebook!)

Higashino, KeigoSalvation of a Saint – A man with a plan is murdered by someone with an even bolder plan. One of a series about a detective and his physics professor pal that’s being translated into English. (Bonus: book on CD!)

Ozeki, RuthMy Year of Meats – A Japanese-American documentary maker finds herself producing a television show designed to sell American meats to Japanese housewives. Surreal and alarming.

Timm, Uwe The Invention of Curried Sausage – This one’s part war story, part messed-up love story, and part sausage story. It was published in Germany in the  late 90s, but it’s set in the late 80s and reaches back to the mid 40s. Sort of a time-travelling sausage frame narrative thing going on here.


Colquhoun, KateMurder in the First-Class Carriage – Quite possibly the most gentle book about a vicious beating that you’ll ever read – features an oddly boring Trans-Atlantic chase and an awful lot of information about hats. But it is chock-full of amusing British spellings.

Gonick, LarryThe Cartoon History of the Universe – It’s possible that you’ll learn more from this series than you did from all of your high school teachers combined. It’s also very funny.

Johnson, StevenThe Ghost Map – A little bit about medicine, a little bit about plumbing, and a lot about bodily fluids. Ew. But in a good way. Or at least in an educational way. (Bonus: book on CD, eaudio!)

Shirer, WilliamThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – On one hand, you’re learning about Hitler’s income taxes. On the other, the author keeps using the phrase “homo-sexual perverts.” But you could say that in 1960, when this book was first published. (Bonus: really long book on CD, eaudio!)

Summerscale, KateMrs. Robinson’s Disgrace – A good book, though not nearly as salacious as the title would lead you to believe. It’s more about Victorian intellectual life and the early days of British divorce courts. (Bonus: book on CD!)

– Amy, who apparently enjoys sarcasm, history, and fluffy teen fiction

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Simon Winchester: a man who gives his books excessively long titles*

And yet, I enjoy them all the same. Here’s a rundown of the ones that I’ve read or listened to over the years.

This island no longer exists, alas.

Krakatoa: the Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 – The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Sure, it starts out slowly with some insanely dense geology lessons, but it all pays off when the volcano erupts, levelling the island of Krakatoa and killing nearly 40,000 people. There’s a lot of neat colonial and scientific history here, along with first-hand accounts of the eruption. Available as a book or book on CD.

(Oh, and here’s an amazing article about the eruption from The Atlantic, published in September of 1884!)

It looks like a head but it's really an arch.

The Man Who Loved China: the Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom – The tale of a British biologist, happily married and minding his own business in Cambridge, who falls hopelessly in love with a Chinese exchange student. He then starts to wonder why China seems so scientifically backward compared to the West, and sets out to unearth the history of science in China, cranking out a definitive encyclopedia in the process. Available as a book or book on CD.

book jacket

"The Map That Just Hung There" wasn't as good a title.

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology – Our hero, the son of a blacksmith (and thus decidedly not among the upper class scientific elite) notices the patterns in layers of rock throughout England and Wales, produces a lovely map, and is promptly ripped off by the Geological Society. But fear not; happy endings prevail. I’ll admit that I didn’t find this book nearly as interesting as the others, but that may be because I was listening to it while trying to repair opera CDs. Available as a book or OverDrive downloadable audio book.

book jacket

They really knew how to grow beards back then.

The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary – An American surgeon goes rather batty during the Civil War and offs an unfortunate bloke while vacationing in London. He’s put into Broadmoor for his crime, where he spends many many many years contributing to the illustrious OED. Contains one particular scene that may cause you to drive off the road if you’re listening in your car. Available as a book or book on CD.

(Did you know that the OED is now only available electronically? You can access it in the library. We have an old print version, too!)

Well, that should keep you keep you busy for a while. And if you need more, check out Simon Winchester’s website or look up his other books in our catalog.

Remember kids, learning can be fun!

– Amy, from the land of Film & Audio

* Neither Simon Winchester nor HarperCollins bribed me to write this post; I just like unusual histories. But if they’d care to stop by and say howdy or throw a little blog traffic our way, that would be fine with us. Really.


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Pittsburgh reads.

Congratulations, Pittsburgh: you’re the ninth most literate city in America. I knew Steve Jobs was wrong when he said people don’t read anymore. He just doesn’t know you like I know you, Pittsburgh.

You see, I see you everyday at the library, with your arms, briefcases, and backpacks full of books. I know you check out other things too, and believe me, I’m thrilled.  But this morning, I want to talk about books.  Because we’re number nine, Pittsburgh.  And I think Atlanta hears us knocking.

What’s all this about, you ask?  You can learn more about the CLP Main blog project in the FAQ and About Us sections of the site. But enough about us for the moment: let’s look at some recently released books.

The plot of Without Mercy is an interesting twist on your typical murder mystery: somebody’s got it in for the cast of Kissing Cousins, a faux 70s sitcom, and is bumping off the B-list celebrities one by one. A Boston journalist with a passion for cheesy movies and TV is on the case. First in a projected series, this could be interesting for readers who like mysteries, but are tired of the same plots and set-ups.

If you prefer history to mystery, take a peek at Mona Yahia’s fiction debut. When the Grey Beetles Took Over Baghdad draws on the author’s own childhood experiences to create a vivid, disturbing portrait of Iraq in the 1960s. A topical coming-of-age novel with poignancy and passion.

Want something lighter?  Try The Fortune Quilt, a gentle chick-lit pick with a paranormal twist.  For a more down-to-earth take on relationships, try She’s Gone, in which two damaged people try to love themselves, and each other, despite their cultural differences.

If I didn’t find your book this morning, don’t worry – we have about two million in the building, and ten more bloggers to hear from.  In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment or send an e-mail to eleventhstack@carnegielibrary.org  if you have suggestions for future entries.

Tune in tomorrow when you’ll hear from another librarian with another point of view…

 –Leigh Anne

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