[review + recipes] Cooking with Bear by Deborah Hodge and Lisa Cinar


When the snow begins to melt and early morning bird song fills the air, everybear knows spring is coming. Time to yawn, stretch, wake up from long winter naps and get cooking!

Loud whoops and hollers erupted in the Alphabet Soup kitchen when Mr Cornelius and the other resident bears first saw Cooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest, by Deborah Hodge and Lisa Cinar (Groundwood Books, 2019).

They were certain Ms. Hodges had written the book just for them, and with the fist pumps, prancing, drooling, and yes, page licking, it was all I could do to get them to pawse for a minute to take a breath. πŸ™‚



Cooking with Bear is the companion book to Bear’s Winter Party (2016), where we are first introduced to amiable, good-hearted Bear. Since the other animals in the forest are understandably wary of him (sharp teeth, long claws, so big!), he spends most of his time alone. Bear decides to change that by throwing a party.

After sprucing up his den, he whips up some huckleberry tarts, honey-ginger cookies, and spiced cranberry tea. Deer, Beaver, Fox, Hare, Chickadee, and Squirrel all have a great time singing, dancing, and getting acquainted with Bear over his homemade treats. At party’s end, they leave Bear to settle down for his winter’s nap. Now he’s content that when spring arrives, he’ll have “a forest full of friends.”

Cooking with Bear continues with Bear awakening to bright sunlight and an appetite. He’s anxious for spring to officially arrive and wonders if his friends are warm and have enough to eat. He will check on them after making a pot of Watercress Soup. Its savory aroma draws Fox to Bear’s doorstep.



They are happy to see each other again, and Bear invites Fox to join him for lunch. With the soup, they have seed bread and herb butter; and for dessert, warm maple-apple crisp topped with honey ice cream. Yum!

Fox gobbles up every morsel; he’s thrilled to be eating something different for a change, and asks Bear to teach him to cook some new dishes. Bear is happy to oblige and invites Fox to accompany him on a walk through the woods, so he can show him where he gathers his food, and together they can visit their other friends.

They first meet Squirrel, who offers to share some of the nuts he’d stored for the winter. Bear happily accepts, since now he can show Fox how to make some of his favorite nut dishes.



Bear and Fox then meet Chickadee, who shares some of her extra berries and seeds, the perfect addition to Bear’s honey-roasted granola. Beaver has exciting news — three new kits! He also mentions how he’d been dreaming of wild apples and fresh watercress, and finally, Dear and Hare offer some of the tender green herbs and leaves they’re munching on.



Bear and Fox return to the den and spend the afternoon cooking with all the ingredients they gathered. As they nibble a little of each dish, Fox is delighted with the variety of delicious foods available in the forest. They then decide to reciprocate their friends’ generosity:

On the way back to Fox’s burrow, they dropped off a nut burger for Squirrel, a bag of honey-roasted granola for Chickadee, a dish of maple-apple crisp for Beaver, mini blueberry muffins for the baby kits, and a spring greens salad for Deer and Hare.

Fox promises to invite Bear over for dinner after he’s had time to practice a little more, and when Bear returns to his den, he writes all his recipes down for Fox, so that he’ll never “have to eat the same old thing again.”

There are 15 vegetarian recipes in the book, six interspersed with the narrative, and nine at the end, included in Bear’s cookbook for Fox, “Best of Bear.”




Though Bear uses wild herbs, seeds, greens, fruits, and nuts from the forest for his recipes, young readers are encouraged to look for the same types of “non-wild” ingredients (locally grown apples, berries, veggies) at their grocers and farmer’s markets — and they may even be inspired to plant their own gardens or learn how to forage for wild foods.

Lisa Cinar’s exuberant, free-flowing ink, watercolor, and digitally enhanced illustrations are rendered with thick outlines and bold strokes. Colorful and strongly emotive, they effectively capture Bear’s and Fox’s joy, energy, and enthusiasm, as well as everyone’s excitement at being reunited after a long winter. It is obvious Bear and Fox are having great fun in the kitchen as nuts, berries, and wild greens are tossed in the air, and what a great double page spread of the two proudly sampling a table full of their creations!



Kids will enjoy this delectable story of friendship, kindness, sharing, and community. They will learn about the foods the different animals eat in the wild, and just like Fox, they may be encouraged to try new foods. With its gentle nod to locally sourced natural foods, the book is a good prompt for discussions about healthy eating and where food comes from.

Bear himself, with his thoughtfulness and genuine caring, is a wonderful role model. Though we first saw him as a solitary creature in Bear’s Winter Party, we see how he took the initiative to dispel the smaller animals’ fears by inviting them to his den, and in this new book, he continues to be a supportive friend who expresses his love for others through food.

Seriously, what could be better than a bear who likes to cook? Well, a BLUE bear who likes to cook! You noticed, right? πŸ™‚



Easy to see why Mr Cornelius is wild about this book and was anxious to try a couple of the recipes. Are you as hungry as a bear?






Like Bear, Mr Cornelius has a sweet tooth and enjoys fruity recipes of any kind — especially those containing berries. He decided that after a long winter’s nap, he’d love to feast on Blackberry-Raspberry Parfait and Blueberry Muffins — the makings of a healthy, delicious breakfast. πŸ™‚

So the furry Alphabet Soup kitchen chefs made quick work of both recipes. For the parfait, actually any combination of mixed berries will do – so we used blackberries, strawberries and blueberries with coconut milk yogurt (Blue Bear prefers non-dairy). We layered the berries and yogurt in jelly jars and sprinkled homemade granola on top.



Very simple for kids to make — they will enjoy spooning the goodies into the jars.


Fox loves the berries and yogurt parfait!


Next, we tackled the Blueberry Muffins. It’s a pretty standard recipe, one that is universally enjoyed. The grated lemon rind adds a bit of texture to the batter, and with only 3/4 cup sugar, the muffins are not overly sweet.



Mr Cornelius asked Le Lapin Rotund to bake some mini muffins especially for him and his tiny bear friends. This was a welcome treat for Cornelius’s cousin Claude (the little blue bear on the left), who recently moved in with us. He is keen on helping us spread the true blue love this year and beyond. πŸ™‚



Just like Fox smelled Bear’s Watercress Soup cooking, big bear Winkler smelled those muffins baking and invited himself to breakfast. He made the rare trek from the great room to the dining room and all were happy to see him (he made fast friends with Fox). He was quite polite and even though he very well could, he didn’t eat all the muffins himself.



We hope you score a copy of Cooking with Bear soon. Your munchkins will enjoy the heartwarming story, and will need no convincing to scarf down today’s recipes, as well as the Maple-Apple Crisp, Hazelnut-Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Wild Strawberry Smoothie. As for the Watercress Soup or Nut Burgers, they will likely be willing to taste these if they have a hand in cooking them.


Blackberry-Raspberry Parfait

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup blackberries*
  • 1 cup raspberries*
  • 2 cups Greek-style yogurt (plain or vanilla), or dairy-free yogurt
  • handful of granola (optional)


In a bowl, gently toss the blackberries and raspberries together.

Spoon a layer of yogurt into 4 small jelly jars, parfait glasses or individual glass bowls.

Next, add a layer of berries.

Top the berries with a layer of yogurt.

Repeat the layers.

Top with a layer of granola, if desired. If you make your parfait in a jelly jar, you can screw on the lid and have a tasty lunch or snack to go. The parfait keeps well in the fridge overnight.

*Bear says any combination of berries is delicious, including blueberries and sliced strawberries. Mix and match berries to make your favorite parfait!

~ from Cooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest by Deborah Hodge and Lisa Cinar (Groundwood Books, 2019), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.





Bear's Blueberry Muffins

  • Servings: 12 large muffins
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print


  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)


Preheat the oven to 400Β° F.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the milk, melted butter and lemon rind and whisk until well mixed.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just blended. (Don’t over-mix!) Gently stir in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing the batter equally between them.

With an adult’s help, bake at 400Β° F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool slightly before serving.

Jama’s tip: Spray the paper baking cups with nonstick spray before adding batter to make the muffins easier to remove.

~ from Cooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest by Deborah Hodge and Lisa Cinar (Groundwood Books, 2019), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.






COOKING WITH BEAR: A Story and Recipes from the Forest
written by Deborah Hodge
illustrated by Lisa Cinar
published by Groundwood Books, April 2019
Picture Book/Cookbook for ages 4-7, 48 pp.

*Includes Author’s Note
**Starred Review from Kirkus**

β™₯️ Enjoy this interview with Deborah and Lisa at Open Book



* Interior spreads text copyright Β© 2019 Deborah Hodge, illustrations Β© 2019 Lisa Cinar, published by Groundwood Books. All rights reserved.

** Copyright Β© 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

32 thoughts on “[review + recipes] Cooking with Bear by Deborah Hodge and Lisa Cinar

  1. These recipes sound perfect for me – I am trying to teach my husband to cook, ha ha! I think we definitely need “Cooking with Bear.” The recipes look so easy (just right for husbands as well as forest animals), as well as delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember that earlier book and now a delectable cookbook with more “Blue Bear”. It couldn’t be nicer on this St. Pat’s Day like no other in the past, Jama. I love the illustrations and the storyline of Bear’s trek through the forest to greet those old friends and to create some goodies contributed from each. Thanks for the smile and good wishes to you during this tough time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love both books, and was so happy when Cooking with Bear came out. Happy St. Pat’s to you, too, Linda. Trying times for everyone. Thank goodness for our online community!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear from you, Margo. Glad you enjoyed this post. We all need a lift, and a little breakfast never hurt. Take care and stay healthy!


  3. what a delightful book i can’t wait to get my hands on it? and where did you get the new little bear? he is such a cutie. Not that the other critters are not also.

    thank you for such a nice distraction from everything else that is going on right now.

    Stay well and safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Claude was adopted via eBay. πŸ™‚ He’s getting along especially well with Le Lapin Rotund, since they both speak French. πŸ™‚ Take care and stay healthy!


  4. Well, at this point we can only dream of making some of those goodies, since supplies are running low at the stores. But it’s fun to read your descriptions and especially to see you great photos.

    Be Well! … mae at maefood.blogspot.com


  5. I have frozen blueberries in the house … I may have to use some for these muffins! Love this post — we all need some good cheer.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fun post and the book sounds adorable. I always like seeing the pics of your furry friends, πŸ˜‰ I’m now craving blueberry muffins!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What an absolutely lovely book and your review is stunning as per usual! Now I’ve got blueberry muffins on my to do list, and all necessary ingredients. But I’m also hankering for a bowl of Watercress Soup!

    Liked by 1 person

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