These Japanese candies are called kompeito, little constellations of pure sugar. They taste like rock candy with perhaps a slight flowery undertone. I have quite a lot left over from the Little K launch party (they didn’t fit in the piñata), and I’m not sure what to do with them, but they take me back to my childhood. My mom didn’t buy very many sweet treats when I was a kid. She made almost everything from scratch, and the ones I requested over and over were sliced, candied sweet potatoes fried to a crisp called karinto, and oshiruko, which is essentially a sugary azuki bean soup with small floating mochi balls. Because we ate mostly whole, unprocessed foods and dessert wasn’t a regular offering, I savored the homemade confections my mom would energetically whip up on special occasions.

I’ve noticed that when my schedule gets frenetic, the first thing that goes is nutrition. Overwhelmed by one thing or another, I’ll quickly assent to eating out or will resort to serving my family Mac n Cheese (the blue box which is not the kind found in the “Natural Foods” section that’s supposedly healthier). On some occasions, I forget to eat altogether. Worse, I’ll toss together a salad but because I’m tired and want to avoid the food-related skirmishes, I’ll douse K’s plate with cheese and let her dip everything in ketchup.

I want to return to my roots of whole, unprocessed eating. Every June, I buy a stack of reading materials as a birthday present to myself and this year, I focused on books about food. I’m really excited about these four:


Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal

By Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner: A Love Story (blog and book). It looks like a considered, wholesome meal plan for the entire family designed to encourage kids to eat better.

Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family’s Whole Health in a Busy World

By Sarah Kolman. Well, the title says it all, doesn’t it? The author is a nurse and takes a food-centric approach to health, which I absolutely advocate.

Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen

By Heidi Swanson. With her award-winning blog 101 Cookbooks, Heidi Swanson is the grand dame of food blogging, and I’ve listened to and read rave reviews about her cookbooks for years. I saw the paperback version at the bookstore and immediately snagged it.

The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: Over 300 Delicious Whole Foods Recipes, Including Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, and Egg-Free Dishes
The title of the book does beg the question, “What exactly can you eat?” I’ve already almost completely eliminated dairy from my diet, and I’ve seen some remarkable improvements with my skin and premenstrual bloating. Inspired by this, I’ve been toying with the idea of going gluten-free. There’s a lot of material out there about how thyroid conditions are exacerbated by gluten, and though my carb-loving body is rebelling at the thought, it might be worth an experiment. Also, one of my very good friends who is also a magician in the kitchen told me that the recipes are superb, and her endorsement is enough for me.

Do you have cookbooks to recommend? I love me a good cookbook!

22 thoughts on “Cookbooks

  1. Hi Sanae,
    Nourishing Traditions by Dr. Sally Fallon. While not necessarily a cookbook, it does have recipes that I use quite a bit. I’m over-simplifying here, but it compares the diet, food prep, health, & healthy benefits of the diets shared by many cultures throughout history. Of course its whole foods focused and provides recommendations on soaking beans, grains, & nuts and fermentation.

  2. What a lovely tradition! I love the idea of buying books for one’s birthday – and even better when the books have a theme, like this year. I am intrigued by the titles you’ve purchased. Perhaps somewhere down the line you can give us your thoughts on which ones you ended up liking the best and were most helpful. I also toy with the gluten-free concept, and in fact did it with my daughter for a year before throwing in the towel. Also having a thyroid condition, it prompted me to give it a try. But to be honest, I didn’t notice any difference. I”m glad for you that you noticed a health improvement with being dairy-free – otherwise, it just makes one discouraged and wonder why bother.
    Happy reading!

    1. I’m interested in finding out more about your gluten-free experience, Lucinda! I know someone who pretty much reversed her Hashimotos with a gluten-free diet…different approaches work for different folks. I hope to be able to get through a good sampling of the books and report back!

  3. Hey, kompeito seem to be related to kompete (a generic word for a simple bonbon) in Latvian, on the other side of the world from Japan!

    I’ d say the Cranks bible by Nadine Abensur is one of my favorite cookbooks ever. There are a few duds (Nadines Nicoise did not exactly work out for me), but overall it is full of good vegetarian food. I also have a special affection for Cupboard love by Tom Norrington Davies, which is about doing great stuff with mostly storecupboard ingredients.

    1. These sound great, thank you Pepija! Thank you so much for the recommendations, I will definitely take a gander!

  4. Oh I love cookbooks! What a great idea to treat yourselves to books each birthday, Sanae! I would recommend Homemade with Love by Jennifer Perillo. It has become my favourite since its publication in 2013. Recently I bought Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady and that looks to be very good too. Tried a couple of recipes already!

    As to Japanese sweets, there is one I like which has red bean paste inside and surrounded by that sticky rice dough. I buy that from the Japanese store once in awhile. I love the gooey texture. Not sure what they are called. OK. Now you’ve made me really hungry for some!

    1. Oh, I’ve heard of Jennie’s Kitchen, but didn’t know she had a cookbook! And Seven Spoons looks gorgeous! Mmmmm….my cookbook collection is going to increase exponentially, it seems! 🙂

  5. These look interesting, will have a look! I love A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones. It’s vegetarian with a separate vegan and gluten free index. The Proper Chilli is amazing and already a favourite. And the Double Chocolate Cloud Cake is stunning, and has no butter, refined sugar or white flour.

    1. Double Chocolate Cloud Cake sounds irresistable! I’m loving all the recommendations! A Modern Way to Eat sounds right up my alley, thank you, Denise!!

  6. This is a wonderful tradition. I’m particularly interested in these books as I’m working hard to change my health through a food centric approach. I’m in month 3 of gluten and sugar free, and I’m about 80% dairy free. It’s transformed the way I feel. I’m hoping it’s having an impact on my long term health, but I have much more energy and more stable moods. I’ve also got clearer skin and sleep better. All good signs I think.

    1. Fabulous, Evie!! Congratulations, what a powerful achievement. I’ve been pretty good about reducing sugar, but gluten is my Kryptonite…Now I’m inspired to redouble my efforts! 🙂

    1. Brilliant! I love this idea so much because making lunch is something that gets sidelines all too often. Thank you, Kitty!

  7. I love Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson! The rye soda bread is easy and delicious. And I crave the white bean and cabbage recipe all the time (in the lunch section).
    I am getting 100 Days of Real Food cookbook this week. There is a blog with the same name and I’ve gotten great whole foods/no processed foods/whole grain recipes from there. And the author has two kids and that’s helpful for family friendly meals.
    I can tell a big difference when I’m spending just a bit more energy into healthy eating. Sugar is what gets me.

    1. The excellent suggestions keep coming!! I better get cracking on emptying out my pantry and re-stocking with the good stuff :-). Sugar is a tough one for me too, though I’ve noticed that I can’t handle the super sweet stuff anymore and most of the time, fruit satisfies my sugar cravings. Thank you, Anna!

  8. Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetatrian. We bought it in 2000 when it came out I think and we sill use if almost twice a week even today. I love her cooking, and not just the Indian stuff in it and would recommend it highly.

    1. I LOVE Indian food, this is so great, Asmita! Thank you so much and a cookbook that stands the test of time is always a winner! 🙂

  9. I’m with you on the healthy eating…. and if you want a good vegetarian one, you cannot beat the Rebar cookbook. It’s not pretty or fancy but every single thing in it is DEEEEELICIOUS! I just bought a crazy Ninja blender and have been drinking smoothies every day. I’m obsessed. Trying to lose the 5 pounds i gained this winter so I’m hoping it will help. Also, putting like 5 servings of fruit or veg in and then drinking it in a few gulps is insanely satisfying.

    1. Oh, this looks like such a fun cookbook, thank you Heather Lou! I’m a huge proponent of green juice/green smoothie. I started making them about two years ago, and with few exceptions, I have one daily. 🙂 My day doesn’t feel complete without my kale-cucumber-celery-apple smoothie!

  10. “Against all grain” is a wonderful blog for removing gluten from your diet without missing out on yummy things…she has recipes for almost any great you can think of and they as easy to cook. I also love the cookbooks by bloggers at “my darling lemonthyme” and “my new roots”, they are both vegetarian and whole foods based and mostly gluten free…such yummy inspiring food. I avoid gluten, not sure if it helps my thyroid, but it does feel better 🙂

  11. I love Heidi Swanson’s book. So great – surprising combinations that work so well and are delicious. The black rice back is yum yum yum.

    I haven’t actually got Emma’s book, but her blog is amazing and I think the first print run sold out in Australia and has now be reprinted:

    Her style reminds me a little of Heidi and you actually; lots of lovely ingredients combined with musings on family life. Highly recommended!

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