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Cooking the Books | Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl

Welcome to Cooking the Books (where we try recipes found in, well, books!)

Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures from the Table, follows a burgeoning restaurant critic in the late 1970’s. Reichl, born in New York, starts her career as a chef in San Francisco with her artist husband. The memoir takes a frank look at relationships, occupational hazards, and of course, food. Reichl accounts meeting celebrities such as Wolfgang Puck and comedian Danny Kaye, details unusual experiences (like a 6 hour meal made entirely with garlic) and madcap adventures in the front (and back) rooms of restaurants far and wide. As would be expected in a memoir by a foodie, each chapter entails one or more extraordinary meals, and Reichl’s prose elicits the aromas, flavors and emotions (from sentimental to hilarious) of good food.

Recipes are sprinkled throughout the text – including sweet potato pie – that Reichl baked over and over again as therapy after being mugged near Berkley, California. It is this recipe that I brought to work for review by colleagues.

Sweet Potato Pie

From Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl

Ingredients

1 medium sweet potatoes (1.25 lbs)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 TB dark rum
1 TB flour
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and roast them in a shallow pan in the oven until tender, about 1.25 hours. Cool to room temperature. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack. Scoop the flesh from the potatoes into a bowl and discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar. Add the melted butter mixture to the sweet potatoes with the milk and eggs and beat with a whisk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients (will be quite liquidy). Pour the filling into the pie shell. Carefully transfer the pie to the heated cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and bake until filling is just set, about 40 minutes. Put on a pie rack to cool.

 

My colleagues’ reactions:  “This is utterly delightful. Sweet potato pie is one of my favorite desserts, and it reminds me of my grandma.” “OMG delicious.” “Reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but with a milder, more subtle flavor and wetter texture. 9/10”

Another colleague, originally suspicious of a sweet potato pie recipe from an east coast native, noted “I owe an apology to the New Yorker. The pie was quite delicious.”

 

My verdict: The pie came out a vibrant amber color, smooth on top and in texture, and I thought, absolutely delicious, if not a bit on the sweet side. I plan to substitute sweet potato for pumpkin pie for the foreseeable future, perhaps using less sugar depending on the flavor of the potatoes. The book was entertaining and educational – so I recommend both!

Pie: 5 stars. Book: 5 stars.

Book Review | Cascade Failure by L.M. Sagas

From the publisher: A high-octane, sci-fi adventure featuring a fierce, messy, chaotic space family, vibrant worlds, and an exploration of the many ways to be—and not to be—human.

Cascade Failure is a debut novel and the planned first book in a series set in space. A ragtag found family crews a wonky but space worthy vessel known as the Ambit. The beings aboard include Eoan, a sentient AI who captains the ship; Saint, a Guild member who has been around the block more than a few times; Nash, a handy engineer who can fix (and shoot) anything; a Guild deserter named Jal with body modifications and long history with Saint; and Anke, a brilliant hacker who is a complete unknown to the crew after they rescue her from a dead planet.

There’s nothing particularly original here, but if you like the TV series Firefly and works by Becky Chambers, you may enjoy Cascade Failure. This is about action, shooting, regrets, space, politics, computers, and not worrying too much that anyone important will die in the end. It was a fun read, and the kind of “first in a series” that might be better on a reread after a few more books have been added and I’ve gotten to know the world and the characters better.

I found the action scenes very hard to follow at times and might have enjoyed them more if I’d listened to the book on audio. So far there is no more than a hint of romance; the crew’s bond is based on friendship and shared experiences.

I read an advance reader copy of Cascade Failure. It is scheduled to be published in March and will be available through the Galesburg Public Library in print, as an ebook, and on audio.

Empowering Our Community: Inside the Galesburg Library’s Skills Lab Project

We are excited to introduce innovative spaces within the newly constructed Galesburg Public Library. Among them is the Skills Lab, which promises to redefine how the library engages with the community. This project is made possible through the visionary backing of the 100 Extraordinary Women© Campaign, creating a dynamic learning space that transcends traditional boundaries.

A Vision Unfolding: The Skills Lab, scheduled to open its doors in the summer of 2024, is a testament to innovation and community enrichment. It comprises six distinct stations, each tailored to various aspects of our patrons’ lives:

  1. Clothing and Fiber Arts: A haven for sewing enthusiasts and textile artists, offering resources for mending and creation.
  2. Food: A space for culinary exploration, providing skills in cooking, nutrition, and meal preparation.
  3. Transportation: Empowering patrons with basic vehicle maintenance, bicycle repair, and other transportation-related skills.
  4. Repairs: Equipped with tools and guidance for DIY repairs on appliances, electronics, and household items.
  5. First Aid: A hub for learning and practicing life-saving techniques, promoting community health and safety.
  6. Hobbies: Fostering creativity and leisure, from arts and crafts to various recreational activities.

Purposeful Design: The Skills Lab serves a threefold purpose, enriching the library experience for patrons:

  1. Problem Solving: Patrons can visit the library with specific problems and leave with the skills or information needed for immediate action—whether it’s sewing a clothing tear, repairing an appliance, or checking blood pressure.
  2. Training: The Lab provides a platform for patrons to acquire new skills, whether they come with intent or are open to discovering something new. From CPR training to navigating ATMs, the opportunities are diverse.
  3. Engagement: Beyond problem-solving and training, the Lab caters to those seeking interactive and engaging activities. Whether it’s dementia-related activities or a painting session, the Skills Lab is a space for community connection.

Save the Date: The anticipation builds as we look forward to the grand opening of the Skills Lab in the summer of 2024—a space that promises to redefine the library experience.

Stay Connected: Follow Galesburg Public Library Foundation on Facebook for updates or sign up for our newsletter.

We are eager to share this exciting journey with our community, and we look forward to welcoming you to the Skills Lab—an embodiment of our commitment to knowledge, skills, and community building.

 

Cooking the Books — Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments by Victoria Grace Elliot

Welcome to Cooking the Books, where we try recipes found in, well, books! This month, Children’s Assistant & STEM Specialist Ms. Meghan tried out a recipe from one of her recent favs: Back in September, I reviewed Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott. Now, food sprites Peri, Fee, and Fada are back (along with their new friend water sprite Naia) for Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments. This middle grade nonfiction graphic novel (once again suited for readers of all ages) traces the history of cheese, pizza, pickles, soda, easy food (like canned soup and processed cheese), and gelatin. The format for Tasty is the same as Yummy: the sprites introduce us to the story of a food through a combination of history lessons, scientific explanations (the mold in blue cheese is in the same family as penicillin!), interviews with historical figures, and recipes! There is a Read more »

YA Audiobook Roundup

This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham, audio version narrated by Sophie Amoss

This girl power-centric YA story features a group of friends in a slightly post-apocalyptic future where a disease has turned a bunch of people into flesh-eating ghouls. Though society has returned to mostly normal with the invention of synthetic human flesh, things go badly for Zoey and her friends when they attend a music festival and something starts causing ghouls to rampage uncontrollably. I love the LGBTQ rep in this book (main character Zoey is bisexual, best friend/love interest Celeste is trans, and friend Jasmine reads as gay), but was frustrated by all the male characters being unlikeable jerks. Sophie Amoss’s narration on the audio version is quality though, including distinct voices for each major character as well as several of the supporting cast.

What Stalks Among Us by Sarah Hollowell, audio version narrated by Amielynn Abellera

In this mildly spooky mystery horror, best friends Sadie and Logan ditch a class field trip and explore a supernatural corn maze together. Things get weird when they start finding dead bodies, including their own… several times! Sadie and Logan try to understand what’s happening, protect each other, and search for a way out of the maze, while also keeping a look out for whoever or whatever is killing people in the maze. The friendship between the two main characters is amazingly portrayed, as is the way they help each other process past traumas. However, I didn’t find the maze itself as scary as it was meant to be, and I didn’t care for some things about how the story ends, but overall it’s still a mostly fun supernatural mystery.

Stars, Hide Your Fires by Jessica Mary Best, audio version narrated by Natalie Naudus

This sci-fi story is full of action, intrigue, and just a little bit of mystery and romance. Think of it as like a mix of Star Wars and Knives Out, in a solidly YA container. Main character Cass is a petty thief and con artist who makes her living conning and pickpocketing travelers on the backwater moon she calls home. When she learns that the emperor will announce his successor at a fancy ball on a nearby world, Cass hatches a plan to infiltrate the ball, rob the guests blind, and make enough money to retire on. In so doing, she stumbles headfirst into an assassination plot where she is quickly framed for murder, falls in with a group of rebels (and a bit of sapphic romance as well), and has to solve the murder to clear her name. The action moves a thousand miles an hour, and while parts of it hold up better than others it’s overall a pretty fun ride.
All three of these are available on Playaway from Galesburg Library. This Delicious Death is available in ebook and eaudiobook format through the Libby app. What Stalks Among Us is also available in ebook form through the Boundless app.

Boost Your Career in 2024 with These 7 Steps

For many, the start of a new year means making New Year’s resolutions. In 2024, why not resolve to take some steps to develop your career?

Whether you are actively seeking new employment or are content in your current work situation, here are 7 steps you can take to help propel your career to the next level.

1) Optimize your “office.”

This is a great place to start! Physical clutter can contribute to mental clutter, which can hinder you from doing your best work. Whether you are working at a desk or the kitchen table, get rid of unnecessary items and organize the rest. This also applies to digital clutter. Delete unimportant emails, files, programs, and apps that can be clogging up space and slowing down your equipment. Furthermore, make sure you have all the materials and tools you need to do your best work. One you have decluttered, your work space and your mind are more prepared for the tasks ahead!

2) Set goals.

Define what you want in your career. Start by asking yourself what your ideal work situation looks like. Next, ask what needs to happen in order for you to obtain that. From there, determine what specific (and realistic) steps you would like to take this year to work towards realizing your ideal work situation. 

Examples: 

  • Dedicate two hours every week to developing a specific skill relevant to my career goals. 
  • Practice answering one new interview question each week. 
  • Ask my boss how I can improve my work performance and if there are any opportunities to take on more responsibility. 
  • Spend one hour weekly searching for new job opportunities. 
  • Get a second opinion on my resume by January 30; complete revisions and updates by February 15.

3) Polish your resume.

Your resume should always be current, even if you are not actively job searching. You never know when your situation might change or when an opportunity might arise that you cannot let pass. Your current job, responsibilities, and skills should be included. Take time to review your past experiences to see if anything needs to be updated, reworded, or removed. 

4) Clean up your social media.

Review all your social media outlets and make sure you are showcasing your best professional self. Without knowing it, you might be making a negative first impression even before meeting someone. Don’t let this happen. Help manage your professional image by maintaining a professional online presence. Not sure what to keep, delete, and make private? Check out my previous article, “Is Your Social Media Working Against Your Job Search?”

5) Fine tune your elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a clear and concise 30 second introduction to who you are, what you offer, and why this is important. It should be tailored to fit your networking goals. If you are seeking new employment, it should touch on your experience and what you could bring to the potential new position. If you are just looking to enlarge your network, it should touch on some interesting facts about yourself and why you would be a good addition to the other person’s network. A solid elevator pitch is essential in your efforts to build your network.

6) Expand your network.

When people know what you’ve done, what you are doing, and what you are capable of doing, they are more likely to think of you when an opportunity arises. Additionally, the more connections you have, the more likely you are to learn about new opportunities quickly. It is best to grow your network with people in different positions in a variety of industries and organizations.

And finally…

7) Prioritize your health.

Jobs are stressful. Searching for jobs is stressful. When you are not feeling your best, you are probably not performing at your best. Be sure you are taking care of yourself mentally and physically. Find time to decompress and do something relaxing. Read a book; watch your favorite show; talk to a friend; go for a walk; give yourself a home spa day. Whatever helps you recharge your battery, is what you should make time to do. Be sure you are also eating balanced meals, drinking water, and getting enough sleep. 

Book Review | Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down by Corey Keyes

From the publisher: Languishing—the state of mental weariness that erodes our self-esteem, motivation, and sense of meaning—can be easy to brush off as the new normal, especially since indifference is one of its symptoms. Languishing is a must-read for anyone tempted to downplay feelings of demotivation and emptiness as they struggle to haul themselves through the day, and for those eager to build a higher tolerance for adversity and the pressures of modern life.

I don’t read a lot of self-help books, but like a lot of people post-pandemic, I find that I am struggling to stay engaged and find energy and meaning. Languishing wants to take its readers from languishing to flourishing. Author Keyes hit home with me right from this passage in the Introduction: “The simple question ‘How are you?’ can feel like an unwelcome pop quiz, leaving you casting about for a socially acceptable response, not quite knowing the answer yourself.” Keyes includes a list of 12 symptoms of languishing, and all 12 of them rang true.

That said, I don’t feel like this book presented me with a clear path to change. I agreed with a lot of what I was reading (much of which I’ve read elsewhere but not all in one place), but I don’t feel inspired to run out and act on the Action Plans. I guess that’s the real challenge though, if you aren’t feeling inspired, to find inspiration and change.

Some of the sad but true areas the author covers are an epidemic of loneliness, the need for a certain amount of adversity to find a high life satisfaction, the necessity of finding purpose in life, and the joy of play. The chapter on play especially resonated with me. He writes about how many people these days are so obsessed with documenting whatever they are doing that they forgot to live in the moment. A lesson for everyone: “Don’t let your smartphone and your obsession with social media remove all the joy from your joy, okay?” (chapter 9)

This book is part memoir and part self-help. The author lived through an abusive childhood and continues to struggle with his own mental health. This helped me feel that this person at least understands what he is writing about. I also agree with him that we need to spend more time, money and effort on mental health, not just mental illness.

This is a gently encouraging book that I continue to think about. If you are feeling worn down and are struggling to find meaning, you may find Languishing worth a read. I read an advance reader copy of Languishing. It is scheduled to be published on February 20, and Galesburg Public Library will own it.

Cooking the Books — No-Bake Cookies: More Than 150 Fun, Easy, & Delicious Recipes For Cookies, Bars, and Other Cool Treats Made Without Baking by Camilla V. Saulsbury

With it being the end of the year, many people are pressed for time–me included. With activities nearly everyday outside of work, Camilla Saulsbury’s No-Bake Cookies: More Than 150 Fun, Easy, & Delicious Recipes For Cookies, Bars, and Other Cool Treats Made Without Baking came in handy for my Cooking the Books article this month. As the title suggests, Saulsbury includes more than 150 recipes for creating quick and easy snacks without the need for baking. Saulsbury includes notes on how to prepare for each type of treat including drop cookies, shaped cookies, cereal bars, cookie bars, and icebox bars.

As the holidays approach, I chose her “Gingerbread Chews” recipe. Preparation was fairly simple and I was able to complete the treats in less than 30 minutes! Be careful not to cook the brown sugar and peanut butter too long, as they may start to evaporate. You’ll need as much of this sticky liquid mixture as possible to coat the crisp rice cereal. It may even be worth adding a little extra of these two ingredients. There was no indication as to whether you should use your hands to ball up the chews before placing them in your wax paper lined container, but I found that this step was necessary in keeping all of the ingredients together. I’ll admit that I may have left a little too much time between taking the pan off the heat and adding the other ingredients which could have contributed to the evaporation. I suggest doing this and forming the balls as quickly as possible so that they don’t dry out too much.

My coworkers’ reactions:

Pros:

  • “I love the light and airy texture. The spice is flavorful without being overpowering. Very tasty and seasonal.”
  • “I could eat these all day!”
  • “Delicious! I would like a copy of the recipe.”
  • “I love rice crispy treats. I love gingerbread. So… obviously, I love these! They are great as is, but I would also like more chewiness. I guess that means add marshmallows?”

Mixed Reviews:

  • “It’s not exciting to me, but I like it. I like the texture and it tastes like a candle.”
  • “Perhaps a tad too much spice, but still delicious!”
  • “As a gingerbread hater, these are the perfect balance of sweet and ginger-y.”
  • “The scent of peanut butter threw me a loop–and eventually the spices became more pronounced on the tongue–the spicy ginger hit. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite like this before! Not bad, but ‘unusual.’”

Cons:

  • “I enjoyed the flavor and chewiness. Nice texture, but I think I would prefer it without the spices. Perhaps a simple peanut butter or chocolate flavor would be better.”
  • “It’s not my thing. I like the texture. It’s nice and crunchy, but the ginger is reminiscent of a curry and I don’t know why you would want that in a sweet treat.”
  • “Huh. I’m not sure what to make of the peanut butter with the spices. The ginger is a bit too much for me, I’d reduce it by ¼ teaspoon.”

Overall, I am pleased with this recipe in that it didn’t take much time to prepare. It seems that for the most part, people either loved the gingerbread chews or they didn’t. Personally, I was a fan of the flavor and texture, but the taste of ginger didn’t make sense to me with this particular style of cookie. I will definitely try other recipes from this cookbook, but I don’t think I’ll revisit the gingerbread chews again.

Recipe

Ingredients:

½ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup dark corn syrup
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups crisp rice cereal

Directions:

  • Line cookie sheets with wax paper.
  • In medium-sized saucepan combine the brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring mixture to a boil, cooking and stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until blended and smooth.
  • Add the cereal to the peanut butter mixture, stirring until well coated. Working quickly, drop the mixture by heaping teaspoons onto the wax paper. Let stand in cool place to harden. Store tightly covered between layers of wax paper.
  • Makes about 24 cookies.

Staff Picks — Kaitlin

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Tony Morrison is my favorite author and I would honestly recommend any one of her novels! Morrison is known for examining the complexity of the legacy of racism in America and Song of Solomon is no different. First published in 1977, this novel has won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1978. The book details the life of Macon “Milkman” Dead III. In 1931, Milkman is the first Black baby to be born in Mercy Hospital in an unnamed suburb of Michigan. As a young man, Milkman travels to Virginia to search for his father’s gold where he discovers the truth about his family. Spanning four generations, starting with Solomon, Milkman’s great-grandfather who escaped slavery by flying to Africa, Morrison uses magical realism to examine the “flights” of her characters. Through his journey, Milkman reconnects with his family, community and cultural roots.

Stranger Things

I would watch Stranger Things over and over! It is by far one of the best series that I have watched in recent years. Combining science fiction, horror, and drama this show tells the story of a group of young friends in 1980s rural America. In fall of 1983, a scientist is attacked by an unknown creature at a U.S. government laboratory in Hawkins, Indiana. When 12-year-old Will Byers goes missing after an encounter with the creature, his friends Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson and Lucas Sinclair set out to find him. Along their journey they uncover a mystery involving secret government experiments, supernatural forces, and a peculiar young girl named Eleven.

The Buddha in Your Mirror by Greg Martin, Ted Morino, and Woody Hochswender

This is a book that I go back to again and again. You can literally open to any page and find practical encouragement for your life! The authors explain how to realize the ancient Buddhist teaching that true happiness comes from within, using real-life examples. Specifically, it gives a quick overview of the basic principles of Nichiren Buddhism and hits all the key points on how to make this practice a part of one’s daily life. This book also gives insights into international concerns of peace including environmental and social issues. The overarching message is that you yourself are a Buddha. You are in the driver’s seat of your life and you can absolutely tap into the infinite potential that already exists within you, while making a positive impact in your community and the world at large! If you want to learn how and why Buddhism might be useful to you, this is the book to start with.

Matilda 

Matilda is my favorite movie from childhood! This story is centered around a young girl who loves to read. Through books she can escape her difficult home life. Matilda soon discovers that she has magical powers and begins to use them to help not only herself, but also her school friends and beloved teacher, Miss Honey.

Sarah’s Scribbles: Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Anderson

I simply adore the Sarah’s Scribbles series of cute, yet relatable comics about young adult life! Sarah Anderson originally released her comics online, but has since had several books published featuring her webcomics and illustrated personal essays. Big Mushy Happy Lump is the second in her series of comics which depicts the ups and downs of becoming an adult. If you enjoy frank, self-deprecating humor with inspiring undertones, these are the comics for you!

Gift Ideas for Library Lovers: Show Your Bibliophilic Spirit!

As the holiday season approaches, it’s time to celebrate the bookworms and library enthusiasts in your life with thoughtful gifts that resonate with their love for literature and knowledge. Here’s a curated list of delightful presents that will surely bring joy to those who cherish the magic of Galesburg Public Library:

1. Card Catalog Cards — 25 Cards for $1

Take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with our bundle of 25 authentic card catalog cards. Perfect for jotting down notes, creating unique bookmarks, or adding a touch of library history to your personal collection.

2. Exclusive Library T-Shirts — $25

Wear your love for libraries proudly with our exclusive T-shirt. Featuring a stylish design that capture the essence of bookish charm, these shirts make a perfect fashion statement for any literature lover.

3. Library Tote Bags — $10

Stay organized and show off your bookish flair with our library tote bags. Practical and stylish, these bags are ideal for carrying your current reads, notebooks, and all your library essentials.

4. Library-branded Notebooks — $5

 

Capture your thoughts, inspirations, and reading lists in our library-branded notebooks. With enchanting covers inspired by classic book designs, these notebooks are a must-have for any avid reader.

5. Local Literary Treasures — Various Prices

Explore our curated collection of books by local authors, delving into the rich history and captivating stories of Galesburg. From tales of the past to insightful narratives by community writers, these books make for unique and meaningful gifts.

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