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Simple Pleasures of the Kitchen: Recipes, Crafts & Comforts from the Heart of the Home (Simple Pleasures Series) by [Susannah Seton]

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About the Author

Susannah Seton is the author of Simple Pleasures of the Home, Simple Pleasures of the Garden, Simple Pleasures for the Holidays, and coauthor of Simple Pleasures: Soothing Suggestions and Small Comforts for Living Well YearRound. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and daughter. --This text refers to the paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Simple Pleasures of the Kitchen

Recipes, Crafts, and Comforts from the Heart of the Home

By Susannah Seton

Red Wheel / Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2005 Susannah Seton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57324-871-6


AcknowledgmentsForewordA Kitchen Love AffairSpring FlingsThe Savor of SummerAutumn's AbundanceCozying Up In Winter


Spring Flings

Blest be those feasts, with simple plenty crowned, Where all the ruddy familyaround ...

—Oliver Goldsmith

Other People's Kitchens

I love to travel for pleasure and need to travel for work, but I've spent enoughtime in hotel rooms. That's why, if I plan to be in an area for a week or more,I rent a place with a kitchen. Nothing relaxes me more after a hard day's workor a long day of sightseeing than to putter around a kitchen creating awonderful meal.

I once rented a house in Norfolk, England, because it was called "The MustardPot" and was shaped like a condiment container. The house was on an estate, anddelightful. In addition to a large, fully equipped kitchen, there was a glassed-inporch. The estate called it "The Conservatory." No matter how rainy anddreadful the weather proved to be, there was a glorious sunset visible from thatroom. A small dining table and chairs enabled us to eat all our meals and drinkour wine overlooking the beautiful fields as the colors changed from pastel tosaturated to the velvet tones of night.

In Cornwall, the large farmhouse kitchen was a welcome refuge from traffic lanesthat were little more than trails, with room for only one car at a time andhedges so tall one couldn't see past them. A simple trip to the pub or the newsagent's was enough to send me scurrying back to the warmth of the large oaktable and the nested metal mixing bowls. I was perfectly happy to stay in thekitchen. The long, narrow, well-equipped kitchen at Culzean Castle in Scotlandgave me the view over the cliffs toward Arran and Ireland through narrow,sparkling windows while rabbits scurried and pheasants strolled under the windowin the warm May sunshine. Cape Cod kitchens retained the pungent sea odors as Isautéed scallops or unwrapped fried clam strips. Suburban kitchens reeked ofLemon Pledge and Mr. Clean, while city kitchens often retained the aromas ofChinese takeout and Mexican salsa.

I venture into the kitchen at parties, offering to help prepare food. I wanderin and attack the pile of dishes that accumulate in the sink. Parties aredifficult for a shy person. But in the kitchen, I can participate in anactivity, and it makes it easier for me to converse with strangers. "'Can youhelp me find the dishwashing liquid?" is easier for me to say than, "I hear Nobuis still hot."

Time spent in a kitchen makes me feel included in the life of the community. I'ma participant instead of an onlooker. I can see, smell, taste, feel, and hearthe nurturing, nourishing aspects of the time and space I inhabit. That gives mean awareness and appreciation for the world around me. Kitchens make thepersonal universal and the universal personal. My own hearth is the heart of myhome. Other people's kitchens allow me to honor their hearts and hearths.

—Christiane Van de Velde

Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in thebasement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, becausecooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or woodcarving, or music.

—Julia Child

Easy Spring Decorating

• Brighten up your kitchen table with a new look—a piece of oilcloth in a brightfloral pattern or a few yards of gingham, both available at fabric stores. Ortry a flat single bed sheet.

• Buy a flat of wheatgrass at the health food store and place it in the center ofthe table for a patch of green in early spring when you are despairing of winterever ending.

• Bring in a budding branch—forsythia, pussy willows, plum, even a foliage onesuch as locust or maple. Cut the stem on the diagonal, place in a vase of warmwater, and put on the kitchen table.

• Make a spring herb basket to place in a sunny kitchen window. All you need is awicker basket, florist's foil, and some small pots of herbs such as basil,oregano, thyme, or chives. Line the basket with foil. Arrange the pots. Snip theherbs with scissors to use.

Mom's Meat Loaf

My mother was known for her meat loaf. Oh, she mastered the art of cookinggourmet dishes as well—always expanding her repertoire, always learning newrecipes, she was the master of all that she attempted, and she seldom suffered akitchen disaster. But, back in my growing-up years, she had not yet essayed thecomplex or esoteric dishes she learned to cook later in life. What she knew, andknew well, was how to make simple foods taste good. She never failed at any ofthem, from roast chicken to broiled fish.

In my mother's hands, meat loaf was a company dish. I don't know if it was herrecipe or her preparation. I believe it was both. I also believe that in part itwas her use of herbs, at a time (the 1950s) when herbs were not a part of everyhome cook's arsenal, as they are now.

My best friend, a boy (but that's another story), begged for meat loaf wheneverhe was invited to dinner. I begged for it pretty often myself. My dad scarfed itdown whenever we were fortunate enough that my mom made meat loaf for dinner.And the mere smell of it in the oven was enough to make us salivate worse thanall of Pavlov's dogs put together.

Even as an adult, when I was asked to have dinner at my mom's house, I hoped itwas going to be meat loaf.

Now, here's the funny thing: I'm a pretty darn good cook myself, but darned if Ican master my mother's meat loaf. I tried it following her recipe. I tried itfollowing her method without being a slave to amounts. Only once did I comeclose. And that, I must admit, was a fluke. I couldn't repeat the results in aplethora of tries. I finally decided to give up, admit defeat, and look at itphilosophically: My mother's meat loaf was just one more treat—beyond being inher company—to look forward to when we had dinner together at her house. And so,years ago, I gave up trying to duplicate her results.

My mother died a month ago. I don't have her meat loaf recipe, but I do know hermethod. And one of these days—soon!—I mean to try to make "Meat Loaf à la Mom"again. Maybe this time I can get it right. If it tastes anything like hers, I'mlikely to cry as I chew. Sadness will do that to you. But born of the sadnessthere will be a great degree of pleasure, as well, as I remember my mother andher famous meat loaf. Everyone loved my mother's meat loaf ... and everyone lovedmy mother. What a tribute if I can finally learn to master that one elusiverecipe I never could quite get right.

It's time.

—Cynthia MacGregor

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.

—Sheila Graham

Yvonne's Herbed Meat Loaf

Cynthia did figure out her mom's recipe. If doubling, she says, form two loavesrather than one huge one. "If there are any leftovers (unlikely!), this is greatcold the next day for lunch."

1 slice white bread, crumbed
¾ cup tomato juice plus scant ½ cup tomato juice
2 large or 3 medium cloves garlic, pressed
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried basil
1 pound ground chuck

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place the fresh white bread crumbs in a bowl, and addthe ¾ cup of tomato juice. Mix well. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, and fourherbs, and mix well again. Now add the meat, and knead with your fingers tillall is well blended. Shape into a loaf. Do not try to pack it together tightly.This is not supposed to be a dense meatloaf. Place in a loaf pan or any othersuitable pan. Pour the scant ½ cup of tomato juice evenly over the top. (Somewill collect around the meatloaf in the pan.) Place uncovered in the oven andbake for 1 hour. Serves 3–4.

Wild about Artichokes

On our first trip to the Greek island of Karpathos where we make our home, astranger in the street approached us and handed us two artichokes he had justpicked. He wished us Godspeed in our travels and disappeared, thus introducingus to this mar velous vegetable.

As luck would have it, our backyard is filled with artichokes growing wild. Wehadn't noticed any of the strange vegetables the first time we looked at theproperty. The second time we saw the house, some four months later, was when wemoved in. By then the backyard was a carpet of deep purple puff balls about thesize of a fist. The stalks were more than a foot high and bone dry, about fiftystrong. Our own artichoke field. Greece has poor soil conditions due to erosionand a shortage of trees, so the deep roots of artichoke plants play an importantrole in holding in the earth on hillsides.

Each year, deep green artichoke leaves show up, and the vegetable core becomesevident in February or March. Most plants have just one large artichoke, thoughsome plants sport two smallish ones. Both the stalks and the artichokesthemselves are prickly. In May we gingerly harvest this crop of ours. Withlittle intervention on our part, our crop increases year by year. This spring weexpect we'll have more than 200.

At the outset, we were unsure what to do with the buckets of artichokes we'dcollected, for our experience eating this vegetable had been limited to a pizzatopping.

Most of the first year's crop landed in salads. One spring day a kindly neighborinvited me into her kitchen for artichoke school. She showed me how to rub thefreshly cut and peeled heads with a lemon so they wouldn't brown. (Vinegar alsoworks.) She showed me a one-pot vegetable dish—potatoes, broad beans, andartichokes. The other important point, she told me, was to add generous amountsof sea salt and olive oil when cooking, and you can't go wrong.

We've completely given up on those artichoke salads, due to the overabundance oflettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and cucumbers in our garden. Ourfavorite dish is artichokes simmered with lamb, carrots, and onions, but halfour yield ends up in the freezer. Though we're wild about artichokes, two peoplecan consume only so many in one season.

—Roberta Beach Jacobson

LOVE: A word properly applied to our delight in particular kinds of food;sometimes metaphorically spoken of the favorite objects of all our appetites.

—Henry Fielding

Kitchen Quickies

• Garlic will keep for up to three months if stored in a cool, dark, dry location.It's okay if the cloves sprout—the sprouts can be used for salad.

• Cut parsley with scissors. Ditto chives.

• Keep artichokes covered with water while cooking or the bottoms will burn. (Iknow from experience!)

• If you don't like the odor of cooked broccoli in your kitchen, add a slice ofbread to the pot when cooking.

• For sweeter carrots, keep them away from apples and tomatoes. These fruits giveoff higher amounts of ethylene gas that can turn carrots bitter.

• Tear lettuce; never cut it or the edges will turn brown faster.

• To help mushrooms last longer, store unwashed and covered with a damp papertowel inside a brown paper bag until ready to use.

• If you need only half of an onion, use the top. The root will stay fresh longerin the refrigerator.

• Always cut tomatoes with a serrated knife to avoid squishing them.

• When cooking vegetables, allow the water to boil for at least 2 minutes beforeadding food so that the oxygen in the water will be reduced. This ensures ahigher level of vitamin C in the vegetables, since oxygen depletes vitamin C.(This is also why you should drink fruit juice as soon as it is poured—if itsits around and interacts with the air, "the vitamins will pop out," as mymother put it to me as a kid.)

Passover Delights

The Passover holiday observed by Jewish people celebrates freedom. About 3,000years ago, the enslaved Israelites followed Moses out of Egypt and into theSinai Desert, where they wandered for forty years until they were prepared toenter the Promised Land.

There were no supermarkets along the way. As the story of Passover unfolds, welearn that the escape from Egypt was a very hurry-up affair. In those dayspeople baked their own bread, and since the journey started very early in themorning, the yeast prepared bread did not have enough time to rise. The flatdough was baked in the sun and became what we know today as "matzos." Stories ofthe Exodus tell us that whatever the people considered necessary for survivalwas taken along, which included water, wine, vegetables, fruit, nuts, andanimals.

When the people were finally settled in the desert after their hazardousjourney, they prepared a meal and rested. This later became known as the"Seder," the first night of Passover. Passover is traditionally observed for oneweek, and during that week only foods kosher for Passover are eaten. This meansno wheat, flour, or leavening.

Jews around the world have created recipes for Passover. Desserts areparticularly challenging. Since leavening is forbidden, recipes use nuts as amedium, although some bakers use matzo meal or potato starch, which makes for alighter cake, plus more than the usual number of eggs, which encourages theleavening process since baking powder can't be used.

I used to make a sponge cake with twelve eggs. If I was successful, and that wasa big "if," I would adorn my creation with whipped cream and strawberries.Before beginning, I would make sure that I would not be disturbed for three orfour hours. One hour for preparation, one hour to bake, and one hour for thecake to cool in the oven with the door partially ajar. Heaven help the personwho entered the house and slammed the front door. A sponge cake is fragile, anda sudden jarring could make it sink. It is very painful to see all of your hardwork collapse.

After years of experimenting, I discovered that nuts and egg whites could createa perfect cake that would not collapse. I found that if I did not overbeat theeggs, it allowed for a lighter cake. For the best results, whip the whites onlyuntil their peaks quiver and give a firm appearance, and add them to the otheringredients very slowly. I also discovered that if you don't want all thecholesterol in eggs, Egg Beaters work just fine too!

—Carol Greenberg

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made thema pleasure as well as a necessity.


Orange Nut Cake

1 cup sliced almonds
¾ cups matzo meal
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large whole eggs
6 large egg whites
Orange Soaking Syrup
3 cups orange juice
1¼ cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 × 13-inch baking pan. In a food processor,combine ½ cup of the almonds with the matzo meal, ½ cup of sugar, zest, andcinnamon, and pulse until the nuts are ground. Add the whole eggs to the foodprocessor and continue to pulse until they are incorporated. Carefully transferthe almond mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the remaining ½ cup of almonds.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and the remaining ½ cup of sugaruntil they are stiff. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture until justcombined. Scrape the batter into the greased baking pan, place in the oven, andbake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about25 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the orange juice and sugar andbring the mixture to a boil until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Remove cake from the oven, turn it out onto a cutting board, and cut into 24squares. Return the squares to the pan. Pour half of the syrup over the cakesquares and set them aside to soak for 10 minutes. Turn the squares over andpour the remaining syrup over them. Garnish each square with 3 almond slivers.Cover the squares and set aside at room temperature to soak for 3 hours. Serveat room temperature. Makes 24 squares.

Passover Walnut Cake

2 tablespoons margarine
3 tablespoons matzo meal
6 large eggs, separated
teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
2 ½ cups coarsely ground walnuts
½ teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan with the margarine; dustwith the matzo meal, and shake out any excess.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until they are stiff. Transferto a bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1½ cups sugar until the mixtureis thick and lemon-colored. Then mix in the walnuts, zest, honey, vanilla,cinnamon, and cloves until fully incorporated. In three batches, fold the eggwhites into the nut mixture.

Scrape the batter into the springform pan, and bake until a toothpick insertedin the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool. Unmold the cake andtransfer to a cake platter. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Makes 8servings.
(Continues...)Excerpted from Simple Pleasures of the Kitchen by Susannah Seton. Copyright © 2005 Susannah Seton. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel / Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

--This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07YHTR9DB
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Conari Press (February 1, 2005)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ February 1, 2005
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1587 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 228 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.1 out of 5 stars 9 ratings

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