Weekend Chef’s Book Review: Why We Get Fat

Book Review- Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It  by Gary Taubes

I included this book in my September favorites post a few weeks back. Nancy picked it up from the library and asked me to read it for a post. I thought I would battle through it as it certainly looked like a fad diet book, one which I had little interest in reading. I was certainly surprised to find that the format of the book is historically driven and scientifically backed, both good things. And it’s really not a diet book at all. Gary Taubes is a journalist and merely reports the facts as supporting evidence to a larger truth. He had previously written Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. As I understand, the book was as long and dry as the title suggests. He was inspired to cut the book down so more people could access the valuable information he presented. The first book was just too much for most people to dig through.

The follow up, Why We Get Fat supports the same basic argument: carbs and sugar are the root of obesity and a host of illnesses. He provides the science behind this claim and looks to dismantle the arguments against it:  Eating less food and increasing exercise is a popular however frustrating way to try to lose weight because it chemically just doesn’t work, eating fat has never been proven to increase belly fat, the list goes on. I know it all sounds pretty crazy. Just eliminate starch, carbs and sugars of all kinds and eat as much of the correct foods as your want, no calorie restrictions. The book has really hit home for me. After getting back from Disney World in August, I really felt like a mess and I blamed it on the excess calories as we’re taught to do. What I think the real problem was, in hindsight, was the desserts at every meal including the doughnuts at breakfast. My mom is diabetic and it’s a path that I’m trying to avoid. Looking back, she always had ice cream every night and started using Weight Watchers to get back on track 20 years ago.

The one ask I have is for everyone to read the book and make their own decision about food and the science of what really makes us fat.  In an upcoming post, I’m going to share some of the book-inspired changes that I’ve made to my diet for the long term, not as a quick fix. A little preview: I’m missing chocolate and ice cream but unlimited bacon makes up for it.

Please share any of your thought or experiences in the comments section.

-The Weekend Chef


September 2015 Reads

Life According to Steph

Yeah, it’s time once again to blow up my goodreads to-be-read list!  Today I’m linking up with Jana and Steph for their monthly Show Us Your Books link-up to share what I read in September. While I read a bunch of books this month, unfortunately, not many of them were really recommend worthy.  I’ve listed them by rating below:

5 Stars
No books this month  (Insert sad face here.)

4 Stars


Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin – I am a big fan Gretchen Rubin.  I loved The Happiness Project and enjoyed Happier at Home.  In this book, Rubin, using research and personal experiences, tackles the subject of habits.  She came up with “The Four Tendencies” framework, and provides a short quiz to help readers identify which Tendency they fall under.  I am an Obliger – while I hate letting others down (outer expectations), I have difficulty following through on things for myself (inner expectations).  Your tendency affects how you operate and how you can change your habits.  While I didn’t love this book as much as her first two,  I still enjoyed it and learned more about myself.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – This book is a recently published young adult novel.  It tells the story of Maddy, an eighteen-year-old who has a rare disease, and as a result has never left her house.  But then Olly moves in next door.  The two form an unlikely friendship and then eventually a relationship.  Maddy suddenly gets to really experience life and is willing to suffer the consequences. The book is told in e-mails, illustrations and diagrams which make for a quick read.

The Martian by Andy Weir – Thank you Lisa for recommending this book.  First she told me I had to read Ready Player One, which I was a bit hesitant to, but then really enjoyed.  This is another book that I would normally not read on my own.  Space, science, Mars….not really my usual reading interests.  But, knowing this was going to be out soon as a movie (which wasn’t out yet when I read it) I decided to give it a try.  This book was suspenseful and emotional.  Despite all the technical science and math talk which I kind of skimmed over,  it kept my interest and made me want to continue reading.  Now….to see the movie in the theater or wait for DVD?!!!


The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward – This book tells the very different stories of thirteen-year-old Carla and forty year-old Alice in alternating chapters.  It deals with issues of illegal immigrants in the United States, infertility and adoption.  It’s a sad but realistic story that made me appreciate what I have.

3.5 Stars

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica – I wish goodreads let us give half star ratings because this book I rated 3.5 stars.  This psychological suspense book is told from multiple points of view.  In a very condensed summary of this book, Heidi sees Willow on the train platform, holding a baby and eventually ends up helping the girl.   It was suspenseful and had me reading to see how it would end, but it didn’t wow me.  I’ve heard Kubica’s previous book The Good Girl was better, so I plan on eventually checking that one out.

3 Stars


Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead – This book was a recommended read from The Skimm.  It is about ballet dancers and, while not aimed towards ballet lovers, I think it might appeal to readers who have an understanding of the dance world.  It was slow in parts for me and I wasn’t a big fan.


Mosquitoland by David Arnold – When I think of one word to describe this young adult novel, “quirky” comes to mind.  This book follows Mim Malone as she embarks on a journey to find her mother.  It’s a coming-of-age novel in which Mim discovers things about herself and her family.


Paper Towns by John Green – I read this young adult novel in anticipation of eventually watching the movie…on DVD.  While I loved The Fault In Our Stars, this one was just okay for me.
Summer Secrets by Jane Green – I’ve read and enjoyed a bunch of Green’s other chick lit type books.  This one was just eh for me though.  This book revolves around Cat and her struggle with alcohol.  Not sure if it was the subject matter or that I couldn’t relate to any of the characters, but this wasn’t a favorite read of mine.

2 Stars


Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont – This is a recently published debut novel from Pierpont.  Jack cheats on his wife but his children end up find the box of letters proving his infidelity, which results in his family coming apart.  Very “eh” read for me.  There are much better books out there worth reading.


The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George –  This book was on the New York Times bestseller list for what seems like forever.  While I don’t read everything on the NYT list, I often use it as a guide when I’m looking for something new to read.  I decided to give this book a try and wanted to like it.  A book about a bookseller sounds like my type of read.  But I’m not even sure I made it to the 50 page mark with this one.  It was wordy and just didn’t capture my interest.  That’s not to say that I won’t give this one another try.  Just not in the near future.


Children’s Monthly Entertainment Review {September Edition}

Children's Monthly Sept

Happy first day of October!  The days are flying by!  Yesterday the Weekend Chef shared some of his September favorites. Today we thought we’d share what our children were reading, watching and playing this past month.  With school and activities starting, there has been more reading going on and less movie watching and playing with electronics!

All of these movies were borrowed from the library and watched on DVD.

Disneys Descendants.jpg

The Descendants – Summary from Disney: A present-day idyllic kingdom where the benevolent teenage son of King Adam and Queen Belle offers a chance of redemption for the trouble making offspring of Disney’s classic villains: Cruella De Vil (Carlos), Maleficent (Mal), the Evil Queen (Evie) and Jafar (Jay).   This is a musical film which the kids loved!  The movie focused on the children of classic Disney villains.  They have been singing songs and watching music videos from the movie ever since they watched this.  I’m not sure how we had missed hearing about this when it first debuted on the Disney channel this past July.   I enjoyed the lessons from this movie that you don’t always have to follow in your parent’s footsteps and that you can make your own decisions and be your own person.  The kids and I talked about this after watching the movie.


Lemonade Mouth – Summary from IMDb: Five high school kids, Olivia, Wendall, Stella, Charlie, and “Mo”, meet in detention and start a band based off the lemonade vending machine outside the detention room. This is another musical drama that had originally premiered on the Disney Channel in April 2011.  The kids were excited to see Bridgit Mendler starring in this, as they are familiar with her from the Disney Channel show Good Luck Charlie.  While the kids enjoyed watching this movie, their favorite of the month was definitely The Descendants.

The five Guardians, sporting various weapons, arrayed in front of a backdrop of a planet in space.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Summary from IMDbA group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe.  Our son had been asking to see this movie but we had said no, due to the PG-13 rating.  Several weeks ago, the Weekend Chef watched the movie (yes, on his own, this is one that I wasn’t interested in watching!).  Besides some bad language and fighting, he deemed it okay for the kids to watch.  On their most recent day off from school they watched this and liked it.  And yes, I sat there on the couch with them (reading) while they watched.  I had no clue what was going on, but the kids enjoyed the movie.  My daughter did note that she didn’t like Rocket Raccoon because, “he used a lot of bad language.”

Apps/Video Games:

Crossy Road icon.jpeg

Crossyroad (ipod app) I’ve mentioned this app on a Friday Favorites when my son first got into this game.  Weeks later and he is STILL obsessed with it!  It’s basically a modern version of the classic Frogger game where you try to get your character to cross the road without getting hit.  There are a lot of different characters that you can collect, with different characters having different scenery.  His highest score is 259 and he’s really proud of himself!

Minecraft logo.svg

Minecraft  (ipod app)- This past Valentine’s Day we got the kids Minecraft for their ipods.  Yes, we were late to the Minecraft game and they have been making up for it!  This is still a favorite game of theirs.  While I was a bit hesitant in the beginning, not knowing much about it, I am seeing the educational benefits of this game.  This game reinforces creativity and problem-solving.  My son has created amazing worlds with portals and buildings that even have me impressed!

Wipeout The Game (Nintendo Wii game) –  The kids sporadically play the  Nintendo Wii.  Way back when we still had cable television, we used to DVR Wipeout and watch it together as a family.   What’s more fun than watching contestants embarrass themselves attempting ridiculous obstacles?  At a recent visit to a local, used children’s clothing and toy store I found this Wipeout game for the wii for only $5.  The kids have been having lots of fun playing this game.

My kids are constantly reading!  Neither they nor I track all the books that they read…..but I know it’s a lot!  This is a summary of mostly picture books that we’ve read together at bedtime or chapter books that both my son and I have read.  My daughter is reading multiple books at any one time and there would be too many to list here!  The below ratings are out of 5 stars.

These books have been borrowed from either our town library or the school library.

Picture Books:


Blown Away by Rob Biddulph (3 Stars) This picture book, told in rhyme tells the story of a penguin who is taken on a journey when he is blown away by a kite.  He ends up in the jungle but eventually makes his way back home.  This was an okay read for us.


The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt  – (4 Stars)  This is the sequel to the picture book The Day The Crayons Quit, which is also worth checking out!  This book is told through postcards and letters and contains humorous illustrations and text.


Fright Club by Ethan Long – (3 Stars)  A new Halloween book in which the Fright Club is practicing their scare plan for Halloween night.  When some “cute” little critters try to join Fright Club they must prove themselves to the veteran members. This was an okay Halloween read.


Monster Day At Work by Sarah Dyer – (3 Stars)  Monster is going to work with his dad.  The colorful, humorous illustrations add to this story which overall was an okay read.


New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer – (4 Stars) This picture book deals with segregation during the 1950’s when Ella Mae goes to get new shoes but can’t even try them on because she’s African American.  She and her cousin Charlotte come up with a plan to make buying shoes easier for the members of their community.  The Weekend Chef and I enjoyed this story as much as the kids.  I didn’t realize that during the Segregation period African Americans couldn’t try on shoes before buying them.


One Word From Sophia by Jim Averbeck – (4 Stars)  Sophia wants a giraffe for her birthday and in this book tries to convince different family members why it’s a good idea.  I enjoyed the racially mixed family, the colorful illustrations that include Sophia’s drawings and charts, the advanced vocabulary (that is defined in the story and in a glossary at the end) and the surprise ending!  A cute read worth checking out!


The Perfect Percival Priggs by Julie-Anne Graham – (4 Stars) Percival and his parents are perfect.  One day, Percival makes an error and worries that his parents won’t love him.  His parents help him realize that it’s okay not to be perfect.  I enjoyed how this book taught the lesson that you should do what you enjoy and not worry about being perfect.


Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder – (4 Stars)  This book told the story of dancer Anna Pavlova through beautiful pictures and text.  While younger readers probably won’t enjoy the beauty of either, this book is a treat for adults!


Tell Me a Scary Story by Carl Reiner (3 Stars) A father tells his son a scary story about a little boy who meets his neighbor Mr. Neewollah and has an adventure.  Our book came with a CD in which Reiner reads the story.  While I was unfamiliar with comedian Carl Reiner, my husband is a fan.  This was another okay Halloween story.

Chapter Books:


The Escape of the Deadly Dinosaur (Secret Agent Jack Stalwart #1) by Elizabeth Singer Hunt (3 Stars) I am always on the lookout for new books for my son.  This is the first of fourteen books in the Secret Agent Jack Stalwart series.  This chapter book stars Jack Stalwart, a 9-year old secret agent.  This particular story involves Jack being assigned to find a missing dinosaur bone.  Readers must remember this is a sci-fi/fantasy book for entertainment purposes, when they read about all of Jack’s secret agent gadgets and a dinosaur coming to life.  The book interested my son enough that he’d like to read the next book in the series.


Race The Wild #1: Rain Forest Relay by Kristin Earhart (4 Stars)  See our full review of this book here.



New Children’s Chapter Book Series: Race The Wild


Rain Forest Relay (Race the Wild series #1)  by Kristin Earhart
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Rain Forest Relay is the first book in the new Race the Wild series that was published this past April.  This series is like the Amazing Race for kids.   (On an aside, the Weekend Chef and I have always been big fans of the Amazing Race, and at one point might have even contemplated applying for the show!)  In this series teams of four are competing in The Wild Life, a race around the world, with a million dollar prize for the winning team.  As they race, the teams (and the reader) learn all about the animal kingdom and different habitats.  This first book, and the first leg of the race, takes place in the Amazon Rain Forest.  Russell thought that he was going to be on a team with four of his friends, but is ends up being teamed up with strangers, while his friends get to be a team.  Every chapter begins with facts about the rain forest, including information on animals, endangered species, and what life is like in the rain forest.  Information about the rain forest is provided in a fun and entertaining way.  The book also focuses on friendships, both new and old and the importance of working together.

According to the back cover this book is at a Grade 4 reading level, targeting readers in 2nd through 4th grade.  My 7 year-old son (who is an advanced reader for his age) read this book and liked it enough that he is interested in reading the next book.  I read it and really enjoyed it!  My only criticism is that I’m not sure how realistic it is to have kids racing around the world without their parents.  I don’t recall the ages of the kids being provided, regardless, I wouldn’t be sending my child off on their own.  We are looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Great Reef Games soon!

*We borrowed this book from the library.

Food Trucks!


Food Trucks! by Mark Todd
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This picture book is a timely one, as food trucks are so popular.  Todd introduces readers to all different types of food trucks beginning with “Mornin’ Joe” a breakfast truck to “Cheddar Chuck” a grilled cheese truck to “Dutch” a pretzel truck and many more.  Each truck has a descriptive poem accompanying it.  The illustrations are colorful and detailed with interesting and themed trucks as well as appropriately themed menus.  Each page also includes interesting facts and information relating to that particular food truck’s theme.  While I googled some of these trucks, it appears that they are fictional, but based on actual food themed trucks out there.  This was a fun read for both the kids as well as us parents.  After reading this book you will probably want to go visit some food trucks!

*This book was borrowed from the library.

We highly recommend watching the movie Chef, though not child-appropriate, it will make you want to open a food truck and travel the country!  Check out our past review.

Depending on where you are in the country, check out the sites below to find food trucks in your area!

If you are in New York City, you can visit NYCTruckFood.com to track food trucks in the area.

If you are in the DC area, you can visit Foodtruckfiesta.com to track food trucks in the area.

If you are in the Boston area, you can visit CityofBoston.gov to find a food truck schedule.

If you are in the LA area you can visit FindLAfoodtrucks.com to track food trucks in the area.

If you are in the San Diego area you can visit SDfoodtrucks.com to track food trucks in the area.

If you are in the Seattle area you can visit Seattlefoodtruck.com to track food trucks in the area.

Atlanta has a Food Truck Park & Market!

If you are in the Miami area you can visit Miami Food Trucks for information on the trucks and to track their locations.



Lunch Will Never Be The Same


Lunch Will Never Be The Same (Phoebe G. Green series #1) by Veera Hiranandani
Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Phoebe G. Green is a relatively new chapter book series, with this first book published in October of 2014.  Phoebe is a third grader who likes to make lists.  She meets a new girl in her class, Camille, who is from France.  Camille’s father is a pastry chef and Phoebe becomes intrigued with the interesting lunches that Camille brings to school:  beet salad with goat cheese, butter lettuce salad with duck, chickpea salad with red peppers and cilantro and more.  Phoebe’s family eats the same thing every week: spaghetti on Mondays, baked chicken with boxed mashed potatoes on Tuesdays, etc.  Seeing the lunches that Camille brings to school, Phoebe only imagines what dinner at her house must be like.  So, she comes up with a plan to get herself invited to Camille’s for dinner, so she can find out for herself.

This book will introduce your child to all different kinds of food from goat cheese and pakoras (Phoebe’s best friend Sage is Indian and she loves the pakoras that his mom makes) to Beef Bourguignon and Baked Alaska.  This is a book not just about food (though there’s a lot of it mentioned in the book!).  It’s also a tale about friendship and that it’s okay to make new friends and still keep your old friends.  I enjoyed that it was the child in this book trying to get her parents to cook new things, versus the usual parents getting their kids to try new foods.  Both of my kids each read this book on their own and thought it was an okay read.

This book is geared towards readers in early elementary school (grades 1-3) with short chapters and lots of illustrations.

*This book was borrowed from the library.



Bon Appetit Pizza

As a member of BzzAgent, I was recently able to try Bon Appetit pizza.   We rarely eat frozen pizza.  The very few previous times that I have attempted to feed my kids frozen pizza I got comments from them like “This doesn’t taste as good as your pizza!” and “I don’t like this.”  So, I was a bit hesitant to try this Bon Appetit frozen pizza.  However, I’m always on the lookout and game for trying new food products.  With the kids in tow, we visited our local Shoprite to choose our pizza.  These pizzas come in five different flavors including Mozzarella & Pesto, Spinaci, Pepperoni & Pesto, Roasted Vegetable and Trio Bacon.  Of course, our store didn’t have the Trio Bacon in stock, because I know that would have been a unanimous pick.


Instead the kids settled on Pepperoni & Pesto after much debate, comments and questions including “What’s pesto?” and “But I don’t like pepperoni” (from my daughter, where my reply was, well you can pick it off).  If I got to choose I would have first opted for the Trio Bacon of course, but the Spinaci and Roasted Vegetable also peaked my interest.


With the kids home for the summer, I saved the pizza for a recent rainy afternoon and had a special movie and pizza lunch.  I have to say this pizza was surprisingly small.  The box says it is three servings.  The kids each had a quarter of the pizza and I ended up eating half of it.  However, if I was really hungry, I could have totally eaten the whole thing!


I cooked the pizza on my pizza stone, which I preheated in the oven.  I’m not very familiar with frozen pizzas, so not sure if it was the stone, but the pizza had a nice, crunchy crust.  I was surprised that the kids didn’t complain, but did comment, that the pizza was a bit spicy.  I wish the pesto flavor was more pronounced.  When my daughter commented “This isn’t real pizza” I corrected her and told her that it wasn’t home-made pizza.  Overall, the kids ate their pizza without any other negative complaints.  I will be on the lookout for the Trio Bacon pizza to have on hand in the freezer.  While I prefer making our own pizza, this is perfect for those busy nights when I just don’t feel like cooking but don’t want to order takeout.  I will need to make two to feed the family, but served with a salad I think it would make a decent dinner. Have you tried Bon Appetit pizza?  What’s your favorite variety?

Gingerbread for Liberty


Gingerbread for Liberty:  How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

This picture book was released earlier this year.  It tells the story of Christopher Ludwick, a German-born American patriot who helps feed George Washington and his hungry troops during the American Revolution.  Prior to reading this book, I had not heard of Ludwick.  Throughout the book, Ludwick is only known as “the baker”  who loved his country and who wanted to help his country during the war.  He helped by doing what he did best, baking.  Washington had him bake loaves of bread to feed the soldier.  The story is told using short, simple text that is engaging for even young readers (or listeners).  The illustrations in this book are eye-catching and meant to look like decorated gingerbread cookies.  There’s an informative author’s note at the end of the book with more detailed information about Ludwick.  A recipe for simple gingerbread is also printed on the front and back inside covers of the book.  We read this book during bedtime story time and the kids enjoyed it.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Four Kitchens – A Review


Four Kitchens:  My Life Behind The Burner In New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv and Paris by Lauren Shockey
Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

If you have ever wondered what it was like working in the kitchen of a restaurant, this book is for you.  After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, author Lauren Shockey apprentices in four very different restaurants around the world.  The book is broken up into four sections documenting her experiences at each restaurant.  Starting at chef Wylie Dufresne’s wd-50, in New York City, she then travels to Hanoi, Vietnam to stage (apprentice) at La Verticale.  After three months in Vietnam, she travels to Tel Aviv, Israel to apprentice at Carmella Bistro.  Finally, she ends her last stage in Paris, France at Senderens.  Each kitchen is very different and so are her experiences in each.  What we do see is the hierarchy of the kitchen and the tedious jobs that apprentices are assigned.  These workers put in twelve plus hour days, sometimes spending hours cutting Brussels sprout leaves or shelling pounds of crabs, only to get up and do it all over again the next day.  Having eaten at wd-50, I found that chapter to be the most interesting.  While many famous chefs don’t tend to be very hands-on in the kitchen, as seen in Shockey’s apprenticeships in Israel and France, Dufresne cooks most nights on the fish line along with his staff.  I enjoyed reading about the molecular gastronomy that went into the preparation of food that I had eaten at wd-50, like the everything bagel and the cold, fried chicken.  Even with language and cultural barriers in Vietnam, Israel and France, Shockey seemed to have successful apprenticeships and forge new friendships with fellow co-workers, roommates and friends of friends.  I found those chapters to be insightful to the culture and food of the respective countries. Shockey provides recipes throughout the book inspired by each restaurant that she staged at.  She also noted that apprenticing taught her more about being a chef than culinary school.  While culinary school may teach you how to cut a carrot, when you work in a restaurant, you will have to learn how to cut the carrot the particular way that chef wants it done.  I found it somewhat difficult to understand how she could afford to spend a year working four, unpaid apprenticeships around the world after spending $40,000 at culinary school.  Then after the whole worldly experience, she realizes that she doesn’t want to work in a kitchen for a living.



Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, & Wonderful Foods


Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, & Wonderful Foods by Andrew Zimmern and Molly Mogren
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

My nine year-old daughter found this book during one of our weekly library visits.  She’s watched a few episodes of Bizarre Foods and recognized Zimmern on the cover.  This book is organized in alphabetical order, beginning with alligator meat and ending with wildebeest.  The first page of each food gives a basic summary of what the food tastes like, where it may be eaten, whether Zimmern likes the taste of it and more.  But then, the book somehow goes off-tangent.  Depending on the food topic, like circus peanuts,  Zimmern then writes about elephant facts and famous clowns.  Similar tangents are featured for almost all of the foods.  You will either find it interesting or off-topic.   Regardless, there’s a wealth of information in this book that was new to me.  In our library, this book is filed under the “Teen-non-fiction” section.  This is a good book for reluctant, older readers with lots of interesting facts and a high “eww, gross!” factor that may keep them reading.

*This book was borrowed from the library.