New Serengeti, Ngorongoro bird book published

Birds of the Serengeti

Birds of the Serengeti

A good bird field guide is a superb addition to a safari. Many game viewing destinations offer optimum bird viewing. While the feathered creatures are often overlooked by first time visitors to Africa who are preoccupied with the ever popular search for the Big Five, bird viewing presents its own worthy challenges and rewards worth exploring. 

Travelers to Tanzania interested in bird viewing may want to have a copy of Birds of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Princeton University Press, $20.93) by Adam Scott Kennedy. The 224-page softcover book published last month features 480 color photos, many of them by the author, of 264 species of birds. Images include breeding and non breeding plumage.

The book is divided into: Birds of the Plains; Birds of the Marsh and Water; Birds of Woodland, Scrub and Garden; Birds of Acacia Scrub; Village Birds; Forest and Crater Highlands Birds; Birds of the Air; Night Birds; and Lake Victoria Specials. Some of the sections, such as Village Birds, feature only two types of birds.

Kennedy and his wife, Vicki Kennedy, are private wildlife and photography safari guides. Prior to that they were managers of remote luxury safari camps in Tanzania and Kenya. They are coauthors of Animals of the Masai Mara (see New Masai Mara bird book available).


Birds of the Serengeti

Click to buy Birds of the Serengeti


Exploring leafy greens recipe book

By Elena del Valle
Food photos by Gary Cox

The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook

The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook*

According to many reputable sources, leafy greens such as collard greens, kale, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard and their kin are at the heart of a healthy and nutritious regime. For us, purchasing, identifying and eating greens has proved challenging at times. Becoming familiar with the different varieties and how to buy them was a first step. Next, knowing how to eat them to their best advantage requires additional effort and knowledge. Sometimes they are bitter, chewy or tough in their raw state. Other times they're boring. Some leafy greens need preparation to become palatable. We turned to The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook 67 Leafy Greens & 250 Recipes (Robert Rose, $27.95), a newly published cookbook by Susan Sampson, for information and recipe ideas. 

Kale leaves cleaned and ready to make crisps

Kale leaves cleaned and ready to make crisps

Kale crisps with sesame seeds

We made kale crisps with sesame seeds following a recipe in the book

The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook is a softcover 480-page book filled with nutritional information, easy to read recipes and color photos. The leafy greens we wanted to learn more about were collard greens, baby bok choy and kale.

Susan Sampson

Susan Sampson, author, The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook*

For example, we had been eating kale crisps for a while when we first came across the Cookbook. Its kale crisps recipe was similar to the one we were using. One of the options suggested in the book was to add sesame seeds. We tried it and liked it. The sesame seeds add a crunchy nutty flavor to the crisps and a twist to the everyday plain crisps.

Grilled bok choy and soy glaze

The grilled baby bok choy with soy glaze

Collard greens cooked in beef broth

The collard greens cooked in beef broth while not pretty were delicious

We also sampled the Kaleslaw recipe. It required relatively little time and offered yet another way to supplement our diet with nutritious kale. The Old School Collard Greens were delicious (we used beef broth). Next, we tried the Baby Bok Choy with Soy Glaze recipe which required Shaoxing cooking wine. We grilled the baby bok choy on the barbeque grill instead of cooking it in a bowl as the recipe indicated. It was quite nice although the leaves were a bit chewy. Next time, we'll slice the large ones into quarters instead of halves. The soy glaze seems promising to use in other dishes to add a dash of flavor. Although we excluded pepper, chili paste and spicy hot condiments from the recipes we prepared we liked them. They were all worth repeating.

*Photos: robertorse.ca


The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook

Click to buy The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook


New raw foods book recipes worth repeating

By Elena del Valle
Photos: Watermarked photos by Gary Cox, book cover and author photos by Trevor Lush

The SimplyRaw Kitchen

The SimplyRaw Kitchen

We're always on the lookout for healthy, flavorful and nutritious recipes to expand our meal options. The SimplyRaw Kitchen (Arsenal Pulp Press, $21.95), an all-vegan, gluten-free 206-page softcover cookbook and lifestyle guide due to be released October 2013, by Natasha Kyssa of Ontario, Canada promised new ideas.

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

In the first quarter of the book she explains the reasons she prefers a raw vegan lifestyle, outlines the kitchen tools she uses and defines ingredients she favors in her recipes. The remainder of the book is divided into Beverages; Breakfasts; Soups, Salads and Salad Dressings; Pates, Dips, Spreads and Cheezes; Mains; and Desserts & Sweet Treats.

Ingredients for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

Ingredients for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

We sampled two recipes, one from the Mains and another from the Desserts & Sweat Treats chapters, with very satisfactory results and plan to try more. The first recipe we tried was for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce. While we had most of the ingredients the rice wrappers and tamari were challenging to find in our suburban town. In the end, a thoughtful neighbor shared her rice wrappers and we used soy sauce in lieu of tamari. I used shredded carrots to complete the red cabbage necessary for the recipe. We made the dish the same day we bought the produce. We chilled the six rolls and the bowl of sauce for about 45 minutes in the refrigerator to cool them down from our subtropical temperatures. The combined flavors of the rolls with the sauce were excellent.

Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

A Vietnamese Salad Roll with Dragon Dipping Sauce

There was some leftover sauce which we sampled the next day in a simple salad of greens, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and red cabbage. While it was acceptable the sauce had changed; the garlic flavor was more pronounced as was the ginger, making the sauce too pungent as a dressing. In future we'll plan to eat the sauce the day we make it.

Ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

The next day, we were in the mood for something sweet at the end of the afternoon. We had most of the ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting except the coconut flour which we procured easily. The brownie part, mixed in a food processor, still had some chunks when we molded it into the pan. The frosting, mixed in the blender, was smooth and liquid, easy to pour over the brownie. A few minutes in the refrigerator did little to keep the frosting from running. It was rich, creamy, crunchy (from the brownie chunks and the cacao nibs), chocolaty and mildly sweet. While not a replacement for oven baked chocolate and nut brownies the Righteous Brownies were surprisingly filling and satisfying.

Natasha Kyssa, author, The SimplyRaw Kitchen

Natasha Kyssa, author, The SimplyRaw Kitchen

We are planning another meal of rolls as soon as we find some tamari. The brownies have been well received and we plan to continue sampling recipes.

Kyssa, who wrote the book with her mother Ilse, runs SimplyRaw, a healthy lifestyles consulting company, and SimplyRaw Express, a vegan restaurant in Ottawa, Canada. The recipes in the book, she says in the Introduction, are contemporary interpretations of traditional Eastern European comfort foods. She strives to guide others to achieve a healthy and wellness oriented lifestyle through workshops, her café, and detox program. A past speaker at TedX she also hosts professional seminars and workshops. Her first book, The SimplyRaw Living Foods Detox Manual, was published in 2009.

Cookbook expanded our nutrition food horizons

Article by Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox (except book cover and author courtesy of Sterling Publishing)

 Superfoods Kitchen book cover

Superfood Kitchen book cover

When we first looked at the recipes in Superfood Kitchen Cooking with Nature's Most Amazing Foods by Julie Morris (Sterling Epicure, $24.95) we were taken aback by the number of ingredients we were unfamiliar with and the difficulty in finding them in our suburban area. In the end, we had to shop at a number of stores and order part of the ingredients online. What we liked about the recipes we tried was their taste, simplicity and nutritional value. Morris is executive chef for Navitas Naturals, a superfood seller.

Energy bars use a lot of intgredients

The energy bars required ingredients we had to buy

Energy bars are tasty and made with healthy superfoods

Our energy bars, made with superfoods

The 237-page hardcover book published in 2012 is peppered with color photos and divided into four main parts: Understanding Superfoods, Creating a Superfood Kitchen, Recipes, and Extras. Morris beings by defines superfoods as nutrient rich and beneficial for health and well-being. The idea behind her book, she explains, is to combine flavors and textures in a nutrient rich way toward a "collection of some very super parts." She goes on to list and define the ingredients of the superfood kitchen and their nutritional benefits. Morris, a natural-food chef, advocates whole plant-based foods and superfoods.

Our Dynamite Fudge

The Dynamite Fudge has become a favorite dessert

Cacao, she explains, is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods. It also offers "useful quantities" of iron and calcium as well as phytochemicals and amino acids that aid in elevating mood brain chemistry. It tastes like strong chocolate without the sweetness, she goes on to say, and improves when served with mesquite powder, carob, dates or ingredients with caramel flavors to soften the bitter edge.

She says maca is a root from the Peruvian Andes, and that Inca warriors relied on it for stamina and strength in battle. As an adaptogen, she says, the plant food may counter the different stresses of the body. It provides energy and combats fatigue, according to the book, without stimulating. It also offers sixty phytonutrients including sterols believed to help block cholesterol.

Kale crisps taste way better than they photograph

We often have kale crisps in between meals

To date we have tried four recipes: Chocolate Energy Bar from the Breakfast section, BBQ Sweet Potato Fries from the Sides section, Cheesy Kale Crisps from the Snacks section, and Dynamite Fudge from the Sweets section. On more than one occasion we adjusted the recipe to the ingredients we could find or to our preferences. For example, we left out the chili powder and cayenne pepper powder in the fries recipe.

The first time, we tried the fudge we substituted the maqui powder with additional quantities of the other ingredients in the recipe because we had been unable to find the maqui powder in our area. Eventually we received the maqui powder in the mail and made another batch of the fudge. We liked both fudge types, with and without the maqui.

Julie Morris, author, uperfoods Kitchen

Julie Morris, author, Superfood Kitchen

The recipes we have tried have become regulars in our dietary rotation. We keep energy bars and fudge in the refrigerator and make fresh sweet potato fries and kale crisps the day we eat them. As time allows we plan on sampling additional recipes.

New Masai Mara bird book available

Birds of the Masai Mara
Birds of the Masai Mara book cover

In 2010, after arriving in the Masai Mara, Kenya’s famed national reserve, Adam Scott Kennedy, a private safari guide, discovered information and photos about birds in the area were hard to come by. He began taking photos of birds he saw daily to share with guides and before he realized it a book was born, Birds of the Masai Mara (Princeton University Pres, $27.95), this year.

“The biggest challenge in producing this book was completing the species accounts while running a busy luxury camp in the Mara (Naibor), but thankfully my wife Vicki offered to take on the lion’s share of the office work during that period which freed several hours of time for me each day to write,” said Kennedy who already had an extensive image library before the concept of this book came about, from Kenya. “That image library contains around 25,000 images (offline) and our website has around 3,000 images that can be perused at leisure. When we refined the species list for the book, I realised I was missing a few species so had to put myself ‘on assignment’ to get the images required.”

The 176-page softcover book full of color photos mostly taken by Kennedy (some of the photos are from WorldWildlifeImages.com) is divided into Birds of the Plains; Birds of the Marsh and Water; Birds of Woodland, Scrub and Garden; Birds of Acacia Scrub; Village Birds; Forest Birds; Birds of the Air; and Night Birds.

“I began birding at the age of 4 so I guess the biggest reward for me is the response from my friends and family, who are seeing me achieve, what I guess, they always expected me to do with my life,” said Kennedy.

Each bird listing is accompanied by at least one photo and a description. The book lists 300 bird photos and 200 bird species in the area known widely for its wildebeest migration.

Kennedy, also author of Animals of the Masai Mara, and his wife Vicki specialize in photographic and wildlife safaris. According to his website bio, he has seen a third of the world’s 10,000 known bird species.


Birds of the Masai Mara

Click to buy Birds of the Masai Mara


Sommelier writes about well priced wines

Unquenchable book cover
Unquenchable book cover

Following the success of her book Red, White and Drunk All Over Natalie MacLean, a sommelier and writer, set about finding well priced wines in several countries. Five years later, the results of her travels and research were outlined in Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines (Penguin USA, $15.99) first published last year in hard cover and most recently in paperback just in time for the end of year holidays. In the 344-page book, written in a conversational style MacLean insists good wine can be found at affordable prices.

She shares wine appreciation and food pairing tips and favorite value wines and wineries from eight regions: North America, Germany, Australia, southern Italy, the Mediterranean, Argentina, Chile and South Africa. She also includes a list of resources for the regions and a list of her notes, wine picks and top value producers in the back of the chapters. In each region she visited between 30 and 40 wineries and tasted thousands of wines. Wine can be complex without being complicated, she says in the book.

Natalie MacLean, author, Unquenchable

Natalie MacLean, author, Unquenchable

“I’ve spent the past several years traipsing around the world, visiting wineries, tasting their offerings, and searching for the world’s best inexpensive wines,” said MacLean in promotional materials. “The narrative is as familiar as Arthur’s quest for the grail and as naïve as the little bird’s plaintive search for the affirmative in Are You My Mother?”

MacLean, named the World’s Best Drinks Writer at the World Food Media Awards in Australia, won the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation and the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Her wine columns in print reach 5.1 million readers, her complimentary wine e-newsletter has a following of 145,000. For 15 years she was a competitive Highland dancer.

Author photo courtesy of Natalie MacLean, book cover photo courtesy of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.


Unquenchable book cover

Click to buy Unquenchable!