[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. ūüôā



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.”

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[review + giveaway!] taking a peek at The Forest Feast for Kids by Erin Gleeson

If you want to get your kids to eat their veggies, ask them to feast their eyes on Erin Gleeson’s gorgeous photos of¬†Carrot “Noodle” Salad, Kale and Black Bean Tacos, Bay Potatoes, and Pesto Pepper Pizza.

They’ll marvel at the stunningly showcased variety of colors, shapes and textures, then ask to see more. Grazing through the sweets, they’ll drool at the divine close-ups of Fried Banana Split, Plum Tartlets, and Melon “Cake.” You’ll likely hear cries of “I’m hungry!”, “I want some!” and maybe even,”What’s edamame?”

A quick glance at the illustrated recipes and they’ll be anxious to make some of the dishes themselves. And yes, before you know it, they’ll be happily eating their fruits and their veggies, eminently proud of their newfound skills. ūüôā

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‚ô• love me some latkes, part one ‚ô•

Oy! It’s Hanukkah already and though I’ve been waiting patiently for a nice Jewish grandmother to adopt me, she hasn’t come forward yet. Cornelius suggested we should just go ahead and make our own latkes while we’re waiting.

Mmmm, latkes — the mere thought of crisp, golden potato pancakes with dabs of sour cream and applesauce makes my mouth water. I can picture mothers and grandmothers busy in the kitchen preparing their special recipes for loved ones, happy families gathered around the table eager to try the latkes first despite all the other delicious dishes being served. And why not? Latkes are irresistible and so comforting, a perfect ode to oil for the Festival of Lights!

Since I really wanted to impress any grandmotherly prospects, I decided to forego the classic white potatoes recipe in favor of something a little different. Actually, I got a special request from poet friend Gail Gerwin to share the Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes recipe from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook which I reviewed recently. I was only too happy to oblige, despite the fact that Gail is too young to be my grandmother (she’s a terrific cook, though, if you remember the delicious Stuffed Cabbage she made for Passover Seder this past April).

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winter balm: soup day by melissa iwai

Why, hello. You’re just in time. We saved a place for you at the table.

Here we are in the depths of winter, when snow, sleet, ice, and slush are the order of the day. As we try to brave the elements, stave off cabin fever, and satisfy our color-starved cravings for something to nourish our bodies and warm our hearts, we realize the immense power and magic of SOUP!

Yes, we love soup. We want soup. We need soup NOW!

Well then, put on your bibs.

In Melissa Iwai’s Soup Day (Henry Holt, 2010) — clearly a story with my name written all over it — a little girl describes step-by-step¬†how she and her mother¬†make¬†a hearty batch of soup together.

One snowy day, they set out for the Green Market, where they select the freshest vegetables with the brightest colors — celery, onions, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and parsley. At home, the girl helps to wash the veggies while her mom chops everything into different shapes — squares, circles, cubes, and confetti. Everything is sauteed in oil (sizzle!), and then stock is poured into the pot (sssssss!).

While the soup simmers gently on the stove, the girl and her mother pass the time playing games and reading. “Before long, our home smells like yummy soup.” Mmmmmmmmm.¬†The mother adds some spices, and then the little girl gets to select what kind of pasta to include (from 9 different varieties). Guess what she picks?¬†Alphabets!¬†(I love this girl!) Once her father gets home, they all sit down and enjoy every drop of their soup together.

I¬†love the charming simplicity of this story, and the subtle way little teaching moments are incorporated into the narrative. Hungry munchkins will be eager to help with soup-making from start to finish. The grocery store affords untold opportunities for recognizing colors, counting items and ingredients, and learning to make wise choices. Watching an adult¬†slice veggies into various shapes is fun, too, and if old enough, a child can try cutting soft veggies like zucchini and mushrooms with a plastic knife. Of course there’s also the fun of identifying the different types of pasta (fettuccine! farfalle! rotini!).

The satisfaction and pride of eating something one has helped to prepare, as well as¬†quality¬†time spent together, are equally important seasonings for this nutritious,¬†heartwarming soup.¬†Iwai’s bright, cheerful acrylic and¬†multi-textured collage illos clarify the process and capture all the warmth and¬†coziness of this special soup day, where mother and daughter bond, new skills are learned, and good memories are forged.

This gentle story, perfect for preschoolers,¬†is Melissa’s first self-illustrated title, and was¬†inspired by her own¬†experiences cooking with her son Jamie.¬†It’s received glowing reviews, including a starred review from Kirkus, which praises Soup Day as “Ordinariness made extraordinary.” When the winter blues set in, or any time you need an extra dose of comfort and joy, reach for this uplifting, feel-good book. A recipe for Snowy Day Vegetable Soup (which I’m going to try very soon)¬†is included. S – L – U – R – P ‚ėļ!

Here’s a video of Melissa making it.

SOUP DAY by Melissa Iwai
published by Henry Holt, September 2010
Fiction for ages 4-6, 32 pp.
Cool themes: Family, sharing, cooking, togetherness, mastering new skills, counting, colors, shapes, nutrition, vegetables.

‚ô• Be sure to visit Melissa’s official blog for more spreads and¬†to learn about her other books.¬†You’ll also find activity sheets, crafts, and more soup recipes! You can also learn about her process when illustrating a picture book.

‚ô• Don’t miss Melissa’s delicious blog, The Hungry Artist, where she shares easy, health-conscious recipes you can make with your children. Melissa is a self-taught chef, who won Cooking Light’s Ultimate Reader Recipe Grand Prize in 2010!

‚ô• Click here for Melissa’s guest post at Cynsations.

‚ô• A few blog reviews: Brimful Curiosities, Great Kid Books, Booking Mama.

‚ô• Quick!¬†For a chance¬†to win a copy of Soup Day, there’s still time to enter this contest at Val’s Kitchen (deadline:¬†Sunday, February 6).

*Spreads from Soup Day published by permission, copyright © 2010 Melissa Iwai, published by Henry Holt. All rights reserved.

Copyright ¬© 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.¬†