4 Cookbooks That Feed Your Family In More Way Than One

Cookbooks aren’t the standard fare of this blog, I know. But these all have something extra, something that makes them fun to read and that feeds your family more than just food. They contain fuel for dinner table discussions, incentive to take time out with your spouse or to invite your kids into the kitchen as you cook.

4 Cookbooks That Feed Your Family In More Ways Than One | Little Book, Big Story

My copies of these four books are heavily annotated and dog-eared beyond the point of respectability. And, really, that is the best endorsement I can give any cookbook.

The Family Dinner, by Laurie David and Kristin Uhrenholdt

The Family Dinner, by Laurie David | Little Book, Big Story

Some books travel through circles of friends, like parenting books or North and South. I encountered The Family Dinner while standing at my friend Jessie’s kitchen island, flipping through it while she chopped peppers for dinner, and resolved to buy my own copy as soon as I got home. I have since passed my copy to friends as we chat over cutting boards and cold beer in my kitchen and have seen it spring up on their own shelves later.

Vietnamese Noodle Soup (from The Family Dinner) | Little Book, Big Story

This book is part cookbook, part treatise on the whys and hows of the family dinner. Laurie David is passionate about encouraging families to come back to the table and, to that end, includes everything from celebrity interviews on the importance of family dinner to tips on decorating a table, growing your own food, and cooking with kids. Two whole chapters at the back are filled with ideas for starting after-supper conversations and approaching meals with gratitude.

And then, there are Kristin Uhrenholdt’s recipes. I have come awfully close to cooking my way through this book multiple times, and I have yet to find a recipe that I didn’t like. There was one I made the night I felt queasy—I’m reluctant to revisit that one. But the recipes here get a lot of flavor from a few simple ingredients and run the spectrum from comfort food to fresh, inventive, healthy food. I miss beef when I cook from this book too regularly, but that’s an okay problem to have.

Peanutty Noodles (from The Family Dinner) | Little Book, Big Story

Favorite recipes:
Vietnamese Soup in a Teapot (p. 73)
Moroccan Chicken Tagine (p. 87)
Greek Meatballs (p. 98)
When You Need Chocolate Pudding Fast (p. 213)

Date Night In, by Ashley Rodriguez

Date Night In, by Ashley Rodriguez | Little Book, Big Story

Ashley and I were, for a time, members of the same church body. She had a baby, I did not (was there ever a time when I did not?), and I loved spending time with her in her sunny kitchen, learning to butter papery folds of phyllo while making covert mental notes on how to care for both phyllo and babies.

I don’t remember just how it happened, but eventually I ended up working with her as a sort of apprentice/minion in her dessert catering business. From her learned how to make a pristine meringue, a sunny lemon curd, and a life-changing chocolate chip cookie. (I never mastered the lemon curd; I still make the cookies almost weekly.)

I also learned that a broken salted caramel macaroon is a good thing for the minion, because she gets to eat it.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies | Little Book, Big Story

I tell you this because you should know that I have a definite bias toward this book. But you shouldn’t let it color the way you read the rest of this sentence: this cookbook is one of my top two cookbooks (the other one is listed above). I bought the book because I know Ashley and I know Ashley’s food and I would gladly pay $20 to have a little more of either Ashley’s company or her food.

But I love Date Night In because I have cooked my way through over half of the recipes and have yet to find a dud. I have found, instead, a pulled pork recipe that has taken precedence over all other pulled pork recipes. I have found the inspiration to make my own hamburger buns, my own pickled peppers, my own cream soda. I have found a recipe for brownies that I can only look at on days when I feel prepared to eat half a pan of them by myself.

Date Night In, by Ashley Rodriguez | Little Book, Big Story

The book is a collection of menus based on Ashley’s weekly at-home dates with her husband, Gabe. They feature drinks, appetizers, entrees, salads, and desserts, and while they’re a little fancier than our usual mid-week fare, they’re easily adapted to suit tighter schedules, smaller budgets, and larger families. In their full form, they’re perfect for special occasions—like dates with my husband.

So many of these recipes have become staples in our home that choosing between them was painful. But here is the shortest list of favorites I came up with (of course, every other recipe mentioned in this post qualifies, too). They may not sound fancy, but they taste fancy. And that is enough:

Favorite recipes:
Olive oil pizza dough (p. 14)
Rhubarb Sour (p. 27)
Creamy Shallot Vinaigrette (p. 28)
Our Perfect Burger with Special Sauce (p. 154)
Baked Beans (p. 224)
Chocolat Chaud (p. 274)

The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson

The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson | Little Book, Big Story

When you buy a new cookbook, you don’t expect your six-year-old to run off with it before you can read it and return the book two hours later, having read it from cover to cover. But that is what happened when I bought The Forest Feast, and given the beautiful illustrations and my daughter’s affection for food I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

The emphasis of The Forest Feast is on entertaining, so the recipes are quick to put together and simple—few have more than five ingredients. They’re vegetarian, but easy to corrupt with a little prosciutto or sausage, and they’re great fare for birthday parties, quick dinners, and potlucks.

But here is what I love best about this book: because of the beautiful format and simple instructions, this has become a favorite for Lydia and me to use together. When planning parties, I can hand it to her and say, “Pick out five things you’d like to make. They can’t be too expensive or too time-consuming to make, and we can’t use forks to eat them. Go!” It’s like a scavenger hunt, except she’s learning party-planning life lessons like “More than one kind of cheese makes a recipe expensive,” or “Mom will only cut so many leeks.” And we get to eat the reward.

The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson | Little Book, Big Story

After she’s chosen, more often than not, there’s at least one recipe that she can tackle alone, like dipped strawberries or apricot bites. And she often pushes me to try something just a little fancier than I might have otherwise, because her beautifully child-like lack of foresight is good for my tendency to overthink things.

And the book’s design? Beautiful. Stunning. So pretty it merits a few extra pictures.

The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson | Little Book, Big Story The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson | Little Book, Big Story

Now you know why Lydia absconded with it.

Favorite recipes:
Gorgonzola grapes (p. 42)
Eggplant Brie “Tacos” (p. 158)
Quinoa Pecan Frittata Muffins (p. 178)
Rosemary shortbread (p. 202)

The Silver Spoon for Children

The Silver Spoon for Children (a cookbook) | Little Book, Big Story

We have a few cookbooks made just for kids. They’re fun and the recipes in them aren’t terrible, but they lack some quality that The Silver Spoon For Children has in spades.

Besides the charmingly illustrated recipes, this book has a clear intent to teach kids to cook—to savor food, to prepare it well, and to know their way around a kitchen. None of the recipes here are intended to make food shaped like animals; not a single one calls for sprinkles. But there is a recipe for homemade pasta, and there is one for chicken breasts stuffed with mascarpone.

The Silver Spoon for Children (a cookbook) | Little Book, Big Story

Perhaps I’ve made The Silver Spoon For Children sound like a serious tome meant to turn kids into somber creatures, dithering between this spice and that one. It’s not. The illustrations bring a bit of wit and playfulness to each recipe, and the visual layout makes it fun to work through with kids. Many of the recipes are still too advanced for my young chefs, but I love asking them to pick a recipe for the week’s menu (consequently, the book falls open at the recipe for macaroni and cheese) and calling out the recipe’s steps while I make it.

The Silver Spoon for Children | Little Book, Big Story

Favorite recipes:
Polenta Gnocchi (p. 64)
Beans with Sausages (p. 68)
Chicken Stew with Olives (p. 74)
Fruits of the Forest Ice Cream (p. 98)

The Family Dinner
Laurie David, Kristin Uhrenholdt (2010)

Date Night In
Ashley Rodriguez (2014)

The Forest Feast
Erin Gleeson (2014)

The Silver Spoon for Children (2009)

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The Light Keepers Series | Irene Howat

I did not grow up reading missionary biographies. I have no old favorites to pull out for my daughters, no women who inspired me to do great things for God—only books I’d rather they never read. Christopher Pike. That sort of thing.

So I’m thankful for collections like Light Keepers that curate biographies for me, bundling them ten at a time under compelling titles like Ten Girls Who Made History or Ten Boys Who Changed the World. Each chapter in Irene Howat’s series tells a short story about one of ten figures in Christian history. She writes in a simple, narrative style, usually focusing on the subject’s youth (hence the title Ten Girls not Ten Women) and following the story with a brief collection of thoughts on the person’s historical context or on their major contributions to history.

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

These books are not meant to be a comprehensive biography of any one person, but serve as a sort of sampler platter that will, I hope, whet my daughters’ appetites for stories of women who were great not by the standards of this world but by the standards of the next. I hope that having met Corrie ten Boom as a child, they will recognize her name when, as women, they come across The Hiding Place. Or that having learned about Elisabeth Elliot as a child in these books, they will go on to read even a few of her many, wonderful books.

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

While the world around us tells my daughters to emulate Elsa or some rich, pretty actress, I want to lean heavily on the other side of the scales and fill their childhood with stories of women who loved even when that love came at a great cost, who gave more than they thought they had to give, and who trusted in the One who made them to supply their strength when they felt it failing.

At seven, a princess in a gorgeous dress will probably always have more appeal than a nurse tending the wounded on a battlefield—I don’t expect Florence Nightingale to win out over Elsa now. But I am sowing seeds: when they grow old enough to consider what sort of life they want to live, what they hope their own contributions toward history will be, I hope my daughters look toward Edith Schaeffer, Susannah Spurgeon, or Amy Carmichael. And I hope they have these books handy when they do.

Ten Girls Who Changed the World, by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

Ten Girls Who Made History
Irene Howat (2003)

Ten Girls Who Changed the World
Irene Howat (2004)

Ten Boys Who Made a Difference
Irene Howat (2004)

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Starting a new notebook

Remember our family notebooks? I’m starting a new one!

A few months ago we learned that our family is going to grow bigger by one! We have been thinking (and speaking) in exclamation points since then. I mean, Mitch and I are excited, but the enthusiasm of these two knows no bounds:

Little Book, Big Story

Phoebe has no idea what’s coming.

Little Book, Big Story

It’s too early to tell yet whether this will be our fourth daughter or first son, but the girls have put their vote in for a little brother, to be named either Robin Hood or Peter (as in, Peter “The High King of Narnia” Rosenburg). We, on the other hand, have only seriously discussed girl names. Whether they get their wish or not, we do know that this baby will be well-loved by not one, not two, but three big sisters.

To celebrate, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite books about babies:


How to Be a Baby (By Me, the Big Sister), by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Sally Lloyd-Jones writes a charming manual on how to be a baby—from the perspective of a six-year-old girl. So funny, you’ll laugh a little too hard when reading it aloud (I’ll say only this: “baby jail”). (Read the full review.)


How God Makes Babies | Little Book, Big Story

If you, like me, are a chronic over-explainer who dreads those “How did the baby get in there?” questions not because you fear you’ll say the wrong thing but because you fear you’ll say too much, this is a great book to have on hand. Jim Burns says just the right amount about babies: how they’re made, why they’re made, and what life will be like when they’re born. (Read the full review.)

GOD GAVE US YOU, by Lisa Tawn Bergren

God Gave Us You, by Lisa Tawn Bergren | Little Book, Big Story

On the other end of the spectrum is this sweet book. Perfect for little kids who don’t need a biology lesson, just a lesson in where they came from, God Gave Us You is a keeper. (Read the full review.)

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The Biggest Story | Kevin DeYoung

Every now and then an author best known for writing nonfiction tries their hand at writing for children. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Authors accustomed to writing for adults sometimes think that writing for children means “say it slowly and simply” and so they distill big concepts down into pre-digested bits. Madeleine L’Engle thought differently. In Walking On Water, she wrote,

“When I am grappling with ideas which are radical enough to upset grown-ups, then I am likely to put these ideas into a story which will be marketed for children, because children understand what their parents have rejected and forgotten.”

The best authors understand this, whether they make it their business to write specifically for children or not.

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

But Kevin DeYoung gets this. The language in his first book for children is simple, but the story is grand: in the “Note to Parents,” he shares that the book began as a sermon series shared with his whole congregation, not as a Sunday school lesson aimed at kids. He acknowledges that some of the images and allusions will be difficult for children and parents to grasp, but he doesn’t apologize for it.

Instead he aims high and presents a book that is not based on a particular Bible story, nor is it a story bible. What it is, I suppose, is a picture book about the entire Bible. DeYoung breaks the story into chapters and covers many of the best-known Bible stories, but he shows how they each have a place in the story that the Lord is, even now, unfolding.

The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

The illustrations in this book deserve extra praise: Don Clark’s work is phenomenal. Every page is gorgeous—beautifully designed and vividly illustrated—but I want to give him extra credit for illustrating some of the more abstract elements of Scripture in a way that is striking. Take, for example, the picture of the world after the entrance of sin:

Before the Flood, from The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

Or this one of the Resurrection:

The Resurrection, from The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

His renditions of familiar stories give the stories new life. Look at his interpretation of David and Goliath:

David and Goliath, from The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

And of the Nativity:

The Nativity, from The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

But while the addition of a book so beautiful in both form and content to our family’s library is something to celebrate, the real celebration at our house this week is in honor of Sarah, who has gone from this

Little Book, Big Story

to this

Little Book, Big Story

in what feels like a matter of moments. Don’t tell her yet, but this book is one of her gifts! We’ll celebrate her birthday by eating ice cream sundaes in our pajamas, riding bikes crazily around the block, making pancakes and mac-and-cheese, curling up on the couch and reading book after book after book—in other words, living the dream life of this particular five-year-old. It’ll be great.

One last thing

I know there are a variety of opinions out there on how Jesus should be depicted in illustrated books, and this book deals with that subject gracefully. The Spirit is shown as a dove and God the Father as a blazing light, while Jesus remains compellingly just off stage. Whatever your convictions, this book should suit them.

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark (2015)

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The Gospel Story Bible | Marty Machowski

Today’s summer rerun—and this is the last one!—originally appeared on May 31, 2013.

We live in an exciting time, folks. Say what you like about information overload or environmental threats or the public school system—when it comes to story Bibles, we live in a great time. There seem to be new story Bibles published each year, of such a depth and quality that we, as adults, are blessed by them! Kids like them, too, of course, but when I sit and read to my children and know that I’m not only hearing old tales retold but am being reminded of the One who originally authored them, I know that something fabulous is happening in my heart and in the little hearts beside me.

We have many story Bibles, but find ourselves returning to a proven few: The Jesus Storybook Bible, The Big Picture Story Bible and today’s guest of honor, The Gospel Story Bible.

In his introduction, Machowski says, “It’s possible to simplify Bible stories so much that you edit out important gospel connections to God’s larger plan of salvation . . . Old Testament stories point forward to Jesus. New Testament stories point to the cross. The goal is to thread each of the 156 stories like beads on the silk thread of the gospel, creating one picture with them all.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

What we love best about this Bible is the fact that it represents a vast swath of Scripture, including stories that are often glossed over or ignored by other authors. I mean, there are six stories about Jacob alone, whose questionable choices leave him somewhat under-represented in children’s literature, as well as passages from the prophets and a few of the less savory moments from Israel’s exile.

Even the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is included, in a graceful telling that leaves out details of the cities’ explicit sins and focuses instead on the fact that the people rejected and despised God—in the same way that we all have. “We want to stay in our world of sin,” Machowski writes, “so God reaches down and gives us the faith we need to believe. Then God draws us away from sin to the safety of his Son Jesus.”

I respect an author who doesn’t shy away from the more challenging parts of Scripture, but who tells them well and uses those stories to display, again and again, the goodness and grace of God and his unswerving plan to redeem his creation, no matter how far we fall, or how fully we deny him. These challenging stories give rise to interesting discussions, so be prepared to engage with your kids: you can’t get away with reading one story, snapping the book shut and bundling them off to bed. Your kids will ask questions.

In fact, Marty Machowski seems to anticpate that, and at the end of each story he includes three simple questions, usually based on the story’s illustration. Our girls love these, and this allows us time to discuss the contents of our reading at its close. In fact, one daughter knows that there are three questions, and if we ever skip one, she is quick to call us out.

The illustrations, by A.E. Macha, are unlike anything I’ve seen: simple and intricate in turns, they hold our daughters’ attention and embellish each story well. Personally, I’m not always sure that I like the style of the drawings but I am consistently drawn to them, if you know what I mean. And I love the overall palette of the book: bright, strikingly bright, but with deep, dark accents as well.

If you find that your family is ready for a new story Bible, I heartily recommend this one. It takes time to read the whole thing through (there are so many stories!), but as you do, you’ll find yourself getting a clearer picture of the whole of Scripture, bead by shining bead.

The Gospel Story Bible | Little Book, Big Story

Do you have a favorite story Bible? I’m always on the look out for others!

The Gospel Story Bible
Marty Machowski, A.E. Macha (2011)

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The Prince’s Poison Cup | RC Sproul

Today’s summer rerun first appeared on June 14, 2013.

My daughter once told me, “When I’m at a friend’s house, I go straight for the books.” I loved this, because I do that, too: when invited to a friend’s house for the first time, I gravitate toward the bookshelf (especially if they have bookshelves, plural), and scan the spines for familiar titles.

I know that friendship will come easily when I see certain books lining their shelves, or better yet, when this new friend follows me to the bookshelf, leans over my shoulder and says, “You like that one? Then you have to read this.” Before I know it, my arms are full of new books.

I met The Prince’s Poison Cup at a just such a new friend’s house. As we chatted, I flipped it open carelessly and found myself confronted with an illustration so beautiful that it moved me to tears at once: a father, a king, holding his son in the deepest of embraces, both of them radiant with light.

The Prince's Poison Cup | Little  Book, Big Story

I didn’t care what the book was about—we needed our very own copy. And when we did get our copy, I found that it was an allegory of quality and depth, written around the verse, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11b). R.C. Sproul puts his Bible knowledge to good use as he weaves the gospel through this story of a prince who rescued his Father’s people by . . . but wait. I won’t give the story away.

I will tell you that Justin Gerard’s illustrations do more than display the story–they interact with it, advancing the plot in beautiful double spreads. This is a story that will appeal to heroic little boys, but that has also captured the hearts of my girly girls, perhaps because it is full of the elements of the Best Story Ever (you know the one).

The Prince’s Poison Cup
RC Sproul, Justin Gerard (2008)

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An Interview with Gloria Furman | Deeply Rooted

I had the privilege of interviewing Gloria Furman, author of Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full (among others), for the Deeply Rooted blog! While writing a review of Glimpses of Grace and preparing to interview her, I really got to bond with Gloria Furman’s books—and that’s an experience I recommend. Her answers to the interview questions are just as lovely and life-giving as her books. You can read the interview here.

Glimpses of Grace, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

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