Picture Books, Farmers Markets, and a Peach and Blueberry Crumble

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Until I became a parent, picture books were definitely not on my list of interesting reads. I think it’s because as a so-called grown-up, I assumed that books that depended largely on pictures to tell their stories were dull and simplistic, appealing solely to the youngest among us.

And then I had children, and like most of my prior assumptions about being a parent, my assumptions about the appeal of picture books flew right out the window. A picture book, I quickly learned, is a magical combination of words and art that can stir the imagination of any age.

One picture book that I especially loved to read to my daughters was Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew. It features Katie, a little girl of about six, who decides to visit the art museum with her grandmother after rain washes out their plans to spend the day gardening. Upon entering the building, Katie is immediately drawn to the warmth and sunniness of paintings by the artists Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne. In fact, Katie is so captivated by their works that she soon climbs inside several of them. The charm of Katie’s antics as she plays with, and runs from, the characters in the paintings is matched only by the beauty of the book’s illustrations. Its pages glow with the reds, yellows, blues and greens that were so beloved by the artists whose paintings Katie unabashedly explores.

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Cranberry Almond Shortbread Tart

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As much as I love the holiday season, the constant temptation to indulge in all manner of sweet and savory special occasion foods can be overwhelming. Rich fare at holiday parties, homemade baked goods brought to office and school events, cookie swaps among friends — I’m nearly in a food coma just thinking about it.

One way to keep the temptations in check is to find ways to lighten your holiday desserts. That’s what I’ve done with this cranberry shortbread tart recipe. I saw the original version a few years ago in an issue of Fine Cooking. As you know, I absolutely love cranberries, and this tart, with its mixture of cranberries and almonds, seemed a perfect addition to my holiday dessert list.

But it also has 550 calories per serving, which is about one-quarter of a day’s worth of calories for most people. That’s huge! So, about a year ago, I made a new version with less sugar, fat, and calories. Read More