My favorite Christmas gift every year is a box of books from my parents. This year, my box included several cookbooks, and Tom also got me one! I've perused them all in the last few days and yep, I'm inspired.

The book from America's Test Kitchen is great for standards; I made a buttermilk coleslaw recipe from it the other night, and it was tasty. You can always trust their recipes, as they have tested them so thoroughly. Tom and I are both interested in preserving food, hence Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry. Wow. This is an exhaustive resource for preserving; I can't even imagine using every recipe in this book. The Nourished Kitchen is a beautiful book filled with recipes using whole, nutritious, unprocessed foods. The Kitchen Ecosystem is set up in a systems-fashion and goes by ingredient, using a sort of flow chart for each one, with recipes for eating fresh, preserving, using the preserves, and using the scraps. It's a very different way of looking at recipes and ingredients. And finally, Fresh from the Farm is a seasonal cookbook - what's ripe is what you use to make dinner. This is helpful for those of us cooking out of our gardens, or from a CSA.

I also was the recipient of several mushroom books, yay! One I borrowed from a neighbor, one was given to me by a dear friend (Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America), and the last was in my book box (Mycophilia). Two are for identification and one is stories, history, and facts from the same author as Kitchen Ecosystems. I'm having fun going through these, too.

Speaking of cooking, it's hard to go back to normal eating after the holidays, isn't it? (It's in fact so hard that instead of typing 'cooking' just then, first I actually typed 'cookies.') My body is craving nutritious food, but my mind is craving sweet doughy things. Ack. So we've had simple dinners here at home the last few days. The aforementioned coleslaw with a vinegary pulled pork. Roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts and tiny potatoes. Italian Wedding Soup, using the stock from the chicken, greens from the garden, and meatballs. Delicious, plain food, geared to provide our bodies with what they really need.

However there is still leftover chocolate and a few stray Christmas cookies at dessert time. Hey! Moderation, right?

Today I've been reading Jacques Pepin's autobiography. It's full of what can only be described as fancy food! It does sound tasty. Maybe in a month, I'll be ready to try some rich French sauces.