Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Reading

"No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty look." Summer is finally here!

For us, school is always in because we're homeschoolers. We do take a break with the actually textbook learning now and then. To keep my boys busy this summer, I've thought about doing crafts and some baking activities with them. We also planned to travel, a short family road trip up north of Texas. Brek signed up for a music camp in July, learning to play a drum. So we're busy bees!!!

The one activity we always do every summer is joining the summer reading program at our local library. Brek started the library summer reading activity since he was three years old. Back then, I had to read him twenty books to receive prizes like a pencil, a trophy, and a certificate. Now, he enjoys reading chapter books like the Killing Species or the Percy Jackson series. Two years ago, he read so many Magic Tree House series that he decided it would be his birthday party theme. We even rented a camel for everybody to ride on around our home. That was a blast. I'm super happy that he's into read. Last year, he won a stuffed penguin for Camden when there was a weekly drawing for those who signed up for the program. That was a fun surprise.

Camden prefers coloring and solving puzzles like mazes. Well, he's only four years old and is still learning the alphabets. I read to him like I did with Brek. He enjoys reading anything about the Transformers or the Power Rangers.

What about me? I read too. Every day. I scan cookbooks and constantly searching for recipes that I can play with. Of course, I have my favorites as well. I prefer reading cookbooks about baking, from breakfast treats to scrumptious desserts. The bread making and candy making are my favorite too.

For baking breakfast or sweet treats, I always go back to William Sonoma Collections. The ones I have are Cookies, Dessert, and Fruit Dessert. Here are the recipes I modified from these collections and added to my blog: Brek's Better Brownies, Chocolate Chips Cookies, Quinoa Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies, Elmo's Birthday Cake, and Ninjago Cake Pops.

I luv cookbooks with a lot of photographs or illustrations. How am I suppose to get that inspiration to bake if I can't see what the sweet treats look like. The Step by Step Cakes is that kind of cookbook. It not only has beautiful photographs of the sweet treats, but photographs of step by step for some recipes. Easy ingredients to find and easy instructions to follow.

Last year, I ventured into candy making. Just decided to give a lollipop and gummy snacks a try. The Candy book is probably the one of the books I found to be super helpful. I also had good luck with Brittles, Barks, and Bonbons by Charity Ferreira, including modifying her recipes to dairy free.

For savory cooking, I luv to look for appetizer recipes, especially with Asian flavors. I personally luv the Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder. The recipes are super easy to follow. I made steamed bao successfully because of her recipe. Any cookbook by Martin Yan is also my favorite. He is actually my dad's favorite chef. When my dad retired and moved to Thailand, he gave me all of the Yan Can Cook VHS tapes that he recorded. 

The Food Substitution Bible is a must-have for those who have food allergy or intolerance. I've used this book often as I always modify the recipes I'd like to test.

I'm pretty sure your local libraries carry the books I mentioned here. If not, request them. Come to think of it, I need a library for all of the cookbooks I've been collecting. Seriously, I have tons!!! I usually buy cookbooks when they are on sales. There is a local book store called Half Price Books that carry a large collection of cookbooks for 50% off, even more during the holidays or with coupons. Amazon sometimes sells cookbooks with discount prices. I luv bargains!!!

If you find yourself with nothing to do this summer, why not check out the books from your local library and just scan the food photographs for inspiration. Who knows. You might end up having a food blog too. Let me know if you do, so I can share your blog.

Happy baking something sweeter!!!

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