[review + recipe + giveaway] Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom

As soon as I saw “flan” in the title, my mouth began to water and I smiled at the little girl’s joyous face as she peeked into the oven with her grandmother.

What could be nicer than spending the day with a loved one making a family recipe? What  could possibly go wrong? Well . . .

Most of us know that without some sort of conflict there really wouldn’t be a story worth telling, and in Abuelita and I Make Flan, author-illustrator Adriana Hernández Bergstrom cooked up a truly engaging, suspenseful, heartwarming tale that will likely resonate with everyone – unless you happen to be absolutely perfect and have never made a mistake. 😇

Young Anita is excited that her abuela is going to teach her how to make flan for Abuelo’s birthday. Not just any flan, mind you, but the best flan!

Before they even get started, Anita accidentally breaks Abuelita’s crystal flan serving plate – it’s from Cuba and she’s had it forever, before Anita was born.

OH NO.

 Anita has already ruined Abuelo’s birthday. 😦

“Maybe no one will notice?”

Anita knows she should tell Abuelita, but worries about angering or disappointing her, so she decides she will instead strive to be the best helper. After all, she’s usually good at helping Abuelita with things she has difficulty doing because of her arthritis (threading needles, opening jars, undoing knots).

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[soupy review + recipe] Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson and Ariel Landy

What is the secret ingredient that makes for a good soup and a happy family?

Just take a big slurp of Brand-New Bubbe, a brand new picture book by Sarah Aronson and Ariel Landy (Charlesbridge, 2022) to find out.

In this savory story, Jillian is happy to get a nice stepdad when her mom marries Michael. But who ever said anything about a new grandmother?

Jillian already has two: Noni and Gram. Nope, she definitely doesn’t need another one.

Yet here is this frizzy red-haired person asking to be called “Bubbe,” who just doesn’t get the hint. She smothers Jillian with “bright red kissy-lips,” makes plans for holidays Jillian’s never heard of, and is always “kvelling” (or is it “kvetching?”). 

This Bubbe even has the nerve to declare her matzo ball soup the best in the universe! Jillian can’t believe her ears! Nothing can beat Noni’s meatball soup – “except maybe Gram’s spicy gazpacho.”

This definitely calls for a protest!

No matter what Bubbe does, Jillian resists:  she ignores the teddy bear Bubbe gives her, refuses to shoot hoops with her, won’t eat the dinner Bubbe makes with all of Jillian’s favorite foods. 

Not surprisingly, Jillian’s petulance upsets her mother, who urges her – in no uncertain terms – to give Bubbe a chance. When Jillian asserts that she’s not technically related to Bubbe, Mom reminds her that “family is more than blood.” 

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[sippable review + giveaway] The Chocolate King by Michael Leventhal and Laura Catalán

What could be more comforting on a cold winter’s day than rich, velvety hot chocolate? Sip the steamy, frothy goodness from your favorite cup and all’s right with the world.

No matter how you get your daily chocolate fix – bar, bonbon, chip or cocoa – a good way to enhance your enjoyment is to learn more about chocolate’s fascinating history.

Like me, some of you fellow chocoholics are familiar with chocolate’s origins in Mesoamerica and how Don Hernán Cortés brought cacao to Spain after conquering the Aztecs in the early 16th century. But did you know Jewish traders played a critical role in popularizing chocolate around the world?

In his debut picture book, The Chocolate King (Apples & Honey Press, 2022), Michael Leventhal highlights chocolate’s little known Jewish connection. When Spanish Jews were forced to flee the country during the Inquisition, they took their chocolate making skills with them.

This tasty bit of historical fiction is set in early 17th century Bayonne, where we meet young chocolate lover Benjamin. Not only does he love to eat chocolate, he knows more about it “than most people in the whole of France.” 

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[mouthwatering review + recipe] The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips by Helaine Becker and Omer Hoffmann

“Fish ‘n’ chips!
Chips ‘n’ fish!
Such a crispy, tasty dish!”

It wasn’t until I moved to London in the late 70s that I tasted authentic fish ‘n’ chips for the first time.

Whether cod and chips from a neighborhood chippy, or a plate of divine lemon sole at Geale’s in Notting Hill, it was all so good. Nothing could compare to those golden brown fillets, fried up light and crispy in a beer batter, each crunchy bite yielding to tender, flaky fish inside. Is there any meal more quintessentially British?

Naturally, I assumed fish ‘n’ chips was invented by an Englishman. But after reading The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips by Helaine Becker and Omer Hoffmann (Green Bean Books, 2021), I surprisingly learned it was a Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin who opened the very first fish ‘n’ chips shop in the UK. Established in 1860, Malin’s of Bow in London’s East End remained in operation for over a century. Now that’s a lot of fish and taters!

In her flavorful fishtory, Becker surmises how fish met chips to become “one of the greatest and most popular dishes of all time.”

Young Joseph Malin loves everything about fish — catching, selling, and especially, eating it. Though his entire family works from dawn to dusk in their fish shop, they struggle to make ends meet. 

One day Joseph has a brilliant idea — what if they try to sell cooked instead of raw fish? After all, he loves his grandmother’s delicious fried fish — a special family recipe handed down through several generations. Her secret is coating the fish in flour, dipping it in beaten egg, then coating it with matzoh meal before frying it in hot oil. 

Because of its crispy crust, the fried fish is just as tasty the next day when families like Joseph’s, who are forbidden to cook on the Sabbath, can eat it cold.

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[tasty talk + giveaway] Cynthia Cliff on Pie for Breakfast: A Baking Book for Children

Good Morning. Please take a seat and put on your fanciest bib, because today we’re having Pie for Breakfast!

We’re so pleased to welcome Virginia author, illustrator and graphic designer Cynthia Cliff to talk about her debut children’s book — a beautifully illustrated picture book-cookbook featuring 13 scrumptious recipes for kids to make with their families.

Young Hazel, who loves to bake with her father, organizes a bake sale to raise money for the school library. She asks her friends to bake delectable treats to sell at the school’s fair, and they come through with international delights such as Pumpkin Empanadas, Basbousa Cake, Apple Custard Muffins, Mini Pineapple Truffles, and Nankhatai Cookies. YUM! 

Her friends and their families are a wonderfully diverse, multigenerational group working in their home kitchens, shopping at the grocers or farmers’ market, and harvesting produce from their own gardens. 

The recipes accommodate different skill levels and special diets (gluten-free and vegan), with directions laid out in easy-to-follow steps.

Cynthia’s charming illustrations are warm and folksy, brimming with details providing clues about the characters’ personalities and family dynamics. The final double page spread showing everyone at the bake sale gloriously celebrates the book’s overarching themes of food, friendship, diversity, and community. 

What a delectable reminder of how food connects and unites us — whether we grow it, shop for it, cook it, share it or eat it together.

Enjoy our chat — lucky us, Cynthia is also sharing a favorite recipe. 🙂

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