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Pleasant Hill Grain Blog

Helping you achieve your culinary dreams.

Living Bread – A Cookbook Review

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Title: Living Bread

Author: Daniel Leader

Publisher: Penguin Books

Recipes: Traditional and innovative artisan bread recipes

Level: Beginner to Professional

Cover: Hardcover

Pages: 367


Living Bread is described as “…a beautiful cookbook worth reading…” (Seth Godin),  “…a gold mine for lovers of real bread…” (Andre Soltner), and “…a visually stunning homage to land, grain, history, craft, tradition, and travel…” (Zachary Golper). We couldn’t agree more! Daniel Leader’s third book, Living Bread, is a passionate and personal guide to bread baking. Its pages are thick with wisdom, personal anecdotes, candid stories about his personal experiences, informative guides to baking technique, and recipe upon recipe for the finest of bread. Leader begins by recounting the story of when he first stumbled upon the bakery at age 22 that sparked his passion for the art of bread.

Leader opened his bakery Bread Alone in 1987, and since then it’s become one of the most beloved artisan bread companies in the country. Today, professional bakers and bread enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Bread Alone’s headquarters in the Catskills to learn Leader’s signature techniques and baking philosophy. Now you can learn from him too, through his new book, Living Bread.

The first, nearly 100 pages lay a foundational understanding of historical bread practices and wheat, tells Leader’s journey of bread baking, his understanding of artisanal flour, a short commentary on wheat sensitivity, the process of mixing and proofing dough among other essential baking practices, and so much more! We’ve read through many bread books over the years, and we must say, the organization of this book’s instructional section is exceptional. The layout is easy to follow, and the instructions are clear and straightforward. This book is both helpful for beginners and a great refresher for advanced bakers.

The recipe section of Living Bread is also refreshing. Rather than split into bread types, flavor, or use, the recipes are divided by the baking process. His recipes are divided into seven sections:

  • Straight dough
  • Yeasted preferments
  • Sourdough
  • Simple sourdoughs
  • Complex sourdoughs
  • Sprouted breads
  • Leftover starter

Several pages are devoted to forming a deeper understanding of how to cultivate and maintain sourdough starters. Leader offers often-overlooked advice, such as how bread influences cultures, and how to maintain a liquid vs. firm starter. If you’re fluent in the language of sourdough or only know the basics, Leader’s wisdom and experience is an excellent resource for all!

Each recipe includes a quick summary that describes the start-to-finish time and a short break down of the process. The recipe description offers Leader’s insight on the history, use, or ways he has seen that bread used through his travels.

Nestled between recipes are featured baker profiles, and origins of recipes. Leader includes a feature of the baker, their baking process, and a detailed description of the recipe, adding a personal analysis to the method of the recipe. The photography throughout the book is breathtaking. Capturing the heart and soul of the bakers behind the flour, water, salt and yeast. It captures the process, art, and beauty in an exquisite way.

Living Bread offers an exquisite inside look into bread bakeries around the U.S. and Europe. If you want to understand the ins-and-outs of artisan baking, we assure you, this book will open that door and give you a narrated view of the world of artisan baking. You’ll see that artisan baking is, indeed, an entire world, not simply recipes to follow. Daniel Leader’s Living Bread is a helpful resource for any bread baker, and we highly recommend it!

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Drink the Harvest — A Cookbook Review

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Title: Drink the Harvest

Authors: Nan K. Chase & DeNeice C. Guest

Published By: Storey Publishing

Recipes: Juices, Wine, Mead, Teas and Cider 

Baking/Cooking Level: Beginner to intermediate 

Cover: Softcover

Pages: 232

Drink the Harvest is a delightful book with bright colors and delicious recipes. We especially like the layout of this book; Chase and Guest have laid it out with clear, simple instructions and strong visual appeal.

Concerned about knowing how to make drinks because you’ve never canned, juiced, or fermented? No problem! The authors delegated the first third of their book to instructions on these very topics, making Drink the Harvest the perfect beginners’ guide. They encourage readers to make do with what works for their garden, kitchen, appliances and life.

As they say in the introduction, this book is for parents, gourmet cooks, urban homesteaders, suburban gardeners, farm families and conscious eaters. Most importantly, these recipes and techniques are for anyone looking to boost their nutritional intake and avoiding the added high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, and sugar in store-bought juices. 

Drink the Harvest makes incorporating fruit and vegetable juices into your life so doable. The book explains the best fruits, vegetables, and herbs to use, and tips on how to grow or purchase them. They’ll explain how to prep, juice, ferment, and label your preserves. All kinds of questions are answered, and a wide range of processes and equipment is described. 

The recipes are separated into sections by fruit and vegetables; wines, meads and specialty drinks; and garden syrups.  Each section begins with a description of the processes needed to can, ferment or create each product.

Then detailed recipes for peerless pear cider, garden mint wine, mixed berry mead, peach-rosemary syrup will have you inspired to make your own. Whether if you have your own orchard and fruit press or just a food processor and a local farmer’s market, you’ll find the instruction you need to make delicious juice preserves in Drink the Harvest.

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Blue Ribbon Preserves — A Cookbook Review

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Title: Blue Ribbon Preserves

Author: Linda J. Amendt

Publisher: The Berkley Publishing Group

Recipes: 200+ recipes for jams, jellies, preserves, butters, marmalades and more!

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Cover: Softcover

Pages:  368

Highlights: Linda Amendt is an award-winning canning preserver. Her book Blue Ribbon Preserves carefully outlines the processes, equipment, safety precautions and recipes to make delicious jams, jellies, marmalades, and more. Her book is a tool for anyone to help revive the tradition of old, preserving fruits and vegetables for nutrition all year round. 

Linda begins her book with chapters on how to find quality ingredients, the correct equipment, and instructions on canning principles. She covers finding ingredients from local stores, Farmer’s Markets, Homegrown, and more as well as how to select and prepare them. Linda covers the science behind canning, talking about pectin and citric acid, as well as the safety precautions necessary for pressure canning and food safety. Finally, Linda discusses tips on entering your canning into Fair competitions from personal award-winning experience. Even if you aren’t interested in entering your creations into World Fair competitions, you’ll learn how to have the best tasting jams, and enjoy her stories from experience along the way. 

If you’re new to the canned preserves world you may be wondering, What’s the difference between all those jams, jellies, and marmalades? Thankfully, Linda divides her book in just that way. Each chapter is separated by canning type and begins with a section explaining the unique qualities of the product. She covers selecting ingredients, what equipment you’ll need, how long it is good for, and the process to can each different product. This introduction is followed by several delicious recipes with a variety of flavors and detailed directions.

Recipes like fruit jams, salsa jam, apple cider jelly, bartlett pear marmalade, pomegranate preserves, tropical peach conserve, pumpkin butter, barbecue sauce, applesauce and so much more!

We never realized how useful canning can be! You can even learn how to can pickles, flavored vinegars and syrups, pie fillings and cordials. The possibilities and flavor combinations are seemingly endless!

Linda even includes a helpful troubleshooting guide at the back of the book for consultation if you fear something went wrong, and a metric conversion chart. The layout of Blue Ribbon Preserves has the comforting look of traditional cookbooks, and may remind you of your grandma’s instruction while you work to pickup a traditional craft. With this book by your side, you’ll be making blue-ribbon-winning preserves in no time!

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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – A Cookbook Review

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Title: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Author: Jeni Britton Bauer

Publisher: Artisan

Recipes: Ice cream, ice cream, and more ice cream! Just kidding, it has sorbet, frozen yogurt and other treats too. 😉

Cover: Hardback

Pages: 218

Level: Beginner to advanced! Ice cream made easy at home.

Highlights: Making rich and creamy homemade ice cream during the warmest summer months is a splendid memory for families. Jeni Britton Bauer started her journey with ice cream after working in a French bakery when she was young. There, she discovered flavor! Flavors using real ingredients that could be combined in the most delicious ways. The perfect base for all these flavors? Ice cream! After chasing her dream for years, in 2002 Jeni finally opened her first scoop shop in Cleveland, OH. It is now a thriving chain of 34 shops and counting!

Jeni begins by giving readers a short overview of how to make ice cream, with step-by-step photos and directions. She then explains the type and quality of ingredients that are widely available and provide the best flavor, even her favorite brand of cream cheese that comes from any market. Jeni also has a complete list of the equipment you’ll need, many of which you’ll already have! The only appliance you might need to purchase is the main accessory to this book, an ice cream maker! Jeni finishes the intro by discussing the craft of ice cream making, covering how to balance ingredients and flavor, get the perfect taste, texture and finish, along with how to go about creating your own flavors.

Because Jeni draws much of her inspiration for ice creams from the seasonal produce and flavors, her book is organized by season, beginning with spring. You’ll find fresh lemon, earl grey, roasted strawberry, and even ice cream macaron sandwiches! The Summer section brings fresh and fruity flavors like ‘Backyard Mint,’ ‘Sweet Basil & Honeyed Pine Nut Ice Cream,’ or ‘Cucumber, Honeydew & Cayenne Frozen Yogurt.’ The autumn section brings comforting and toasty flavors with nutty flavors and creamy textures for recipes that will rival your favorite pumpkin spice latte. Jeni’s included a variety of flavors that blend beautifully with winter flavors too, including ‘Ugandan Vanilla Bean,’ ‘Gooey Butter Cake,’ ‘Brown Butter Almond Brittle,’ ‘Wild Berry Lavender,’ and more eclectic flavors that will be cool yet cozy in the winter, and delicious additions to holiday meals!

In addition to ice cream recipes, Jeni includes recipes for sorbet for a dairy-free treat, frozen yogurt for a lower fat option, and many ways to make other frozen treats we all know and love. Push-pops, homemade waffle cones, sandwiches, butterscotch sauce and more! Her book is easy to understand, colorful, to the point and concise, perfect for a novice ice cream maker to learn the craft, without becoming overwhelmed. The book is conveniently sized and would be a fantastic gift for any occasion!

Recipes from the book: Banana Ice Cream with Caramelized White Chocolate Freckles

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Fluffy Quinoa Side Dish

Naturally gluten-free and high in protein, quinoa is one of the most popular health foods. It’s rich in essential vitamins, minerals and much higher in fiber than most grains. Beside being nutritious, quinoa is versatile, easy to prepare and can be quite delicious too!

Fluffy cooked quinoa with vegetables is the perfect side dish for a quick and healthy dinner. It comes together in just 30 minutes. You can also make a big batch of it for meal-prep for the whole week! It’s perfect to serve with grilled chicken or fish.

Healthy Gluten-Free Quinoa Side Dish

It’s best to rinse quinoa well before cooking. Rinsing it removes quinoa’s natural coating, which can taste a little bitter. Simply place the quinoa in a mesh sifter and rinse under running water. This way quinoa will cook softer and taste much better!

For vegetables, I used onion, carrots and kale. You can swap these out for whatever you have on hand! Bell pepper, asparagus, zucchini or anything you’d like! Quinoa is very adaptable and takes on the other flavors in your dish very well.

Healthy Gluten-Free Quinoa Side Dish


Posted: January 10, 2019
Recipe by: Natalia Wrobel Katz
This hearty and flavorful warm quinoa side dish is made with onion, carrots, kale and garnished with fresh parsley. Healthy, plant-based and gluten-free!
Active Time
10 minutes
Total Time
20 minutes


  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 c. uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 c. chopped red onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 c. vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 c. kale, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt or more to taste
  • black pepper
  • handful fresh parsley to garnish, chopped


  1. 1. Rinse your quinoa under cold running water until water runs clear. Drain using a mesh strainer.
  2. 2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the oil is hot. Add onion and carrots. Cover with a lid, lower the heat to medium-low and cook about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until soft.
  3. 3. Add the garlic, quinoa, vegetable stock, 1/2 tsp. tsp. salt, pepper and bay leave.
  4. 4. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until quinoa absorbs all of the water and is tender (about 15-20 minutes). Remember to stir occasionally. Stir in chopped kale and remove bay leave.
  5. 5. Remove from the heat, allow to rest a few minutes and then stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Serve as a side dish.


Simple Quinoa with Vegetables
Simple Quinoa with Vegetables
Simple Quinoa with Vegetables

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Natalia Wrobel

Natalia’s blog "Natt Wrobel, Wholesome & Healthy Living," highlights a plant-based diet for eating what makes your body feel best. Originally from Poland, Natalia draws from her childhood as well as her world travels to influence the flavors of her cooking.

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