Navigating you through the best of our library collection, via the recommendations of one very opinionated librarian.
By Rebecca Colbert
Head of Collection and Bibliographic Services @ The Library District
Recipes, crafts, and endless possibilities await this fall in our catalog
Pinterest. Tasty. Buzzfeed. Whenever I search for a recipe or craft project on the internet, I risk falling down a rabbit hole of oohing and aahing over gorgeous photos of dishes and projects that I’ll never be able to recreate in my home, with my hands and supplies and limited free time. You’re far more likely to see my web-inspired work on Pinterest Fail than on my Instagram story. I prefer to turn to my favorite source for all information and inspiration – the library. In autumn, the season of cooking and crafting and all things cozy and delicious, the library is here to help with wondrous adventures in achievable cuisine and doable projects.
Cooking Up Wonderful
Cookbooks are always some of our most popular items at the library, and I have some theories as to why. Browsing the internet for a recipe is quick but never easy. I get lost reading comments about how to fix the recipe or what didn’t work when someone tried a low-fat version, when really, I do better just following directions from the professionals. I think another reason that people love our cookbooks is you get to dip your toe into some wonderful, sometimes weird culinary adventures and – win, lose, or draw – you get to return the cookbook to our catalog, no commitment! And personally, I find that the experience of sitting down with a great cookbook lets me dive into the author’s thought process, and I can always find something new and fuss-free to try that my kids and husband will love.
Within our voluminous catalog of possibilities, you will find well-known authors, such as “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” series by Ree Drummond and “Giada’s Italy” by Giada De Laurentiis, both of which offer deep dives into their delicious cultures. We also offer books as beautiful as the food they offer. “Ottolenghi Simple” by Yotam Ottolenghi features Middle Eastern flavors, most made in 30 minutes or less, with 10 or fewer ingredients, in a single pot, using pantry staples. “Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker” unlocks the potential of this simple appliance, while maximizing flavor and making life a whole lot easier.
A Dash of Pop Culture & Chiles
I always enjoy a little pop culture twist and these are some favorites. “The Last OG Cookbook: How to Get Mad Culinary Skills” by Tray Barker shares soulful recipes inspired by the hit TBS comedy starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish. Morgan plays Tray, a recently released ex-convict who relies on his cooking skills to start over in a city that has gentrified since he left. For more pop culture-inspired cuisine, check out YouTube star Rachel Fong’s “Kawaii Sweet World Cookbook: 75 Yummy Recipes for Baking That's (Almost) Too Cute to Eat,” which features easy-to-follow recipes for truly original and delicious cakes, candies, cookies, cupcakes, and more. You’ll also find some sweet and spicy flavors in “Chinese Takeaway Cookbook: From Chop Suey to Sweet 'n' Sour, Over 70 Recipes to Re-create Your Favourites” by Kwoklyn Wan, who grew up in his family’s Cantonese takeout restaurant.
When it’s 8 p.m. and you have a craving for chocolate chili cupcakes (featuring actual chiles as a key ingredient … trust me, you’ll love it) you can always search our website 24/7 at LVCCLD.org. A quick search for “chocolate chili cupcake recipe” delivers over 1,000 possibilities from our vast magazine and database collection. If you prefer a book, try “My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages & Frozen Treats” by Fany Gerson. I especially like Fany’s spicy Mexican chocolate cake recipes. Next time you enter a chili cookoff, you’ll be uber-prepared to bring dessert.
One browse of our digital magazine stand and you will never again be tempted by one of those foodie mags at the grocery store. We have everything a foodie could want in our Overdrive magazine collection from “Food Network” to “Clean Eating” to “Cook’s Illustrated” to “Taste of Home.” Our OverDrive magazine collection is equally diverse, including “Cocina Fácil" en Español, where you’re sure to find more delicious ways to spice up every meal, including dessert!
Do Try This at Home
In my house, sometimes crafts and cooking overlap. I am guilty of once making an edible Easter basket out of sugar cookie dough (which went well) and finishing it with spun sugar Easter grass (which did not). My son has inherited my love of cooking crafts and insisted his working volcano for science class be made of cake. It was delicious if a bit messy, which just added to the fun. Your kids will have a blast with this and other wild recipes from the “Nerdy Nummies Cookbook” by Rosanna Pansino.
If you’re looking for more creative stunts, let our CreativeBug database be your guide. CreativeBug content comes straight from the wizards at Joann’s Crafts, who will dazzle you with limitless options. You’ll find over 1,000 guided courses (from 10 minutes to 10 hours) for all interests, plus clever daily projects designed to teach one quick craft at a time. Just a simple search for “Halloween” in CreativeBug will lead to a burst of possibilities, from felt costume instructions and party décor ideas to pumpkin carving patterns and my favorite, a how-to video for making spooky heads in jars (you’ll be the talk of the neighborhood!).
Holiday Jump Start
And yikes, if we’re thinking about Halloween, can the holidays be far behind? As I contemplate yet another year zooming past me, I’m also thrilled to start making my holiday projects list. A true crafter knows that the Christmas gift-making season starts just after kids head back to school. You’ve got to plan the projects, map out the materials you’ll need, organize your workspace, factor in some start-over time and materials, then head over to the crafts store.
And yes, we have books for that! I like to start the fall craft season with “Back-to-School Projects for a Lazy Crafternoon” by Stella Fields, to give my kids a fun break from homework, help them organize their desks, and get them thinking about grandma’s handmade gift this year. I especially love “Half Yard Gifts” by Debbie Shore, which shows you how to use those leftover fabric scraps for useful and adorable gifts. “Homemade Holiday: Craft Your Way through more than 40 Festive Projects” also brings the magic and memories of handmade gifts to your home. You can tap your inner Amish with “Making Inventive Wooden Toys: 33 Wild & Wacky Projects Ideal for STEAM Education” or explore “Totally Awesome Tie-Dye” for vibrantly colorful shirts, dresses, socks, bags, or fabric surface, both by Fox Chapel Publishing. Crocheting is enjoying a surge in popularity and “100 Little Crochet Gifts to Make” by Search Press Studio is perfect for both beginners and pros, featuring beautiful crocheted flowers, beanie hats, Christmas projects, cute bears, lovely hearts, and stylish purses. And I can't resist “Literary Yarns: Crochet Projects Inspired by Classic Books” by Cindy Wang. Her pint-sized Anne Shirley from "Anne of Green Gables" is positively delightful. There is a crocheted character for everyone on your list from Sherlock to Shakespeare.
So get cooking, crafting, and I wish you happy holidays in advance!