• 22

    Picture Book Highlights | Mmm, Mmm, Soup!

    by Monica C.

    It’s that time of the year. where winter has just started and with it more cold days and colder nights. Looking for something to warm up your heart and tummy? How about soup?

    Making soup together is a bonding experience: gathering ingredients, chopping and preparing the meal, waiting for it to get ready and then enjoying it together. Let’s get started!

    Every Color Soup by Jorey Horley
    We begin with the basics: all you need is a pot, a spoon, an adult helper, and vegetables of many colors to make a very special soup! Learn colors and vegetable names in this bright and colorful picture book with minimal text, perfect for the beginning reader. The bright, graphic art and simple text make this vibrant book a perfect read-aloud for budding cooks and their families. And it comes with a recipe!


    Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
    A mother and child spend a snowy day together buying and preparing vegetables, assembling ingredients, and playing while their big pot of soup bubbles on the stove. Includes a recipe for "Snowy Day Vegetable Soup."






    Freedom Soup by Tami Charles; illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
    Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from.



    Looking for more? Head to our Mmm, Mmm, Soup booklist. Do you have a favorite soup? Let us know in the comments. Mine is Black Bean Soup!

    Visit your neighborhood library to find these books and more!

    Children's books recommendations culinary literacy Picture Book Highlights

  • 17

    Michelle Obama Grows a Garden

    by Gennifer R.

    Today is the birthday of celebrated former First Lady and citizen of the world, Michelle Obama. A political figure in her own right, Michelle Obama is well known for her healthy eating campaign, Lets Move! The campaign targeted childhood obesity by focusing on nutrition and creating home-grown solutions to battle barriers of nutritional food access. The plan created 5 simple steps to engage parents, kids, schools, and broader communities in approaching a more holistically healthy lifestyle.

    Today we celebrate Michelle Obama’s leadership through literature, movement, and culinary literacy!

    Do you want your class to learn math, practice reading, and gain basic culinary skills all while having a great time? Check out Nourishing Literacy at the Culinary Literacy Center! Open to classes ranging from preschool to high school, Nourishing Literacy offers students a unique culinary experience, with tasty end results! Fill out the intake form to bring your classroom into the kitchen.


    Did you know the Free Library has books on gardening, recipe books, and picture books for young minds learning about a well-rounded healthy lifestyle?

    Want to garden, but feeling pressed for space? Check out Gay Search’s Gardening Without a Garden—a city solution to growing food when space is tight.








    Do you learn best through pictures and scientific explanation? See this field guide, Gardening: The Complete Guide, which details the how-to’s of efficient practices that maximizes yield but minimizes time. Consider it the houseplant you seldom have to water.







    Solo gardening isn’t the only way to dig in. Volunteering is a great way to get invested in a community garden, and the young leaders of this story are ready to show early readers what it’s like! The Garden by Gwendolyn Hooks takes kids through the process of planting and growing a garden, while working together.








    Once you get the garden going, you’ll need to do something with all that produce! Find a cookbook just for kids at your neighborhood library or browse our online catalog.





    Before you get started, learn about the history of Philadelphia’s community gardens! Our gardens grow our communities and expand the possibilities of what our Philly futures can look like.  


    Programs, plants, and people

    Eyewitness Nature with Bartram’s Garden at Queens Memorial Library
    Spend time with the Bartram’s Garden staff during this nurturing nature series for children ages 8-13.




    Hand Salve Making with Urbanstead at the South Philadelphia Library
    Do you like to play with your food? We do too! Learn how to make a natural hand salve, using herbal ingredients with the experts at Urbanstead.




    Rain Check Workshop at Andorra Library
    The main ingredient for life on earth is water! The Philadelphia Water Department and the Philadelphia Horticultural Society will be sharing insights on how to save up on rainwater to make your garden grow. 



    What’s the Buzz at the Free Library?
    Looking for more exciting ways to connect to the worlds of food and gardening? Visit the beehive at Richmond Library! We can’t BEE-lieve how lucky we are to get to spend time with these amazing pollinators.




    Are you looking to keep your body moving in the new year? Check out what you can do with your library card, from birding backpacks, home gym kits, or the Health Lending Library—consider the Free Library a toolkit for getting up on your feet and moving in the streets!





    Thank you to Michelle Obama for putting healthy living on the national to-do list. Happy birthday to you!

    gardening culinary literacy Health community Black Women Authors

  • 3

    Food Insecurity, English Language Learning, and Community Conversations in North Philadelphia

    by Lindsay S.

    Edible Alphabet is a free English language learning program offered to adults by the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. The mission of the program is to teach English language and literacy skills through hands-on cooking and library projects. Students learn vocabulary and grammar, as well as practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English while exploring library resources and cooking delicious recipes.

    Edible Alphabet English classes have been offered at Lillian Marrero Library in the Fairhill neighborhood of North Philadelphia since 2018, shortly after the library reopened as part of the Free Library's 21st Century Libraries Initiative.

    For the fall of 2019, Edible Alphabet offered a food justice module of the English program. The goals of this course were to:

    • Increase the English proficiency of participants
    • Connect participants to library resources and services
    • Build a welcoming and inclusive class community that aids students in their civic and cultural integration into Philadelphia
    • Discuss and share people’s lived experiences around food access
    • Examine the way food systems (over individual choices) impact healthy eating and living

    Course topics included food deserts, transportation barriers to accessing healthy and affordable food, inflated food prices in lowest-income neighborhoods of Philadelphia and other cities, SNAP/ACCESS and stigma about public benefits, gentrification, community gardening, food policy, the minimum wage, Puerto Rico and the Jones Act, and food apartheid.  During each class, students learned new English vocabulary, watched videos, read and discussed articles, and shared their experiences around food access with their classmates. The class culminated in a community discussion between class participants and staff of the Food Trust on the topic of food access in the Fairhill neighborhood, with Edible Alphabet students sharing their experiences, priorities, and action recommendations. 

    This winter, Edible Alphabet classes will begin on Friday, January 24 and take place every Friday in the basement of Lillian Marrero Library from 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. For our first module of 2020, we will cook recipes from around the United States while learning and practicing English. Register today!

    For more information, please email kitchen@freelibrary.org or call 215-686-8664.

    literacy culinary literacy 21st century libraries social justice New Americans community adult learners English Language Learners

  • 18

    Learn to Make Delicious Meshabek on National Bake Cookies Day

    by Suzanna U.

    Here at the Culinary Literacy Center, cookies are a constant – over the years, we’ve offered science-based approaches to the sweet treat; a hands-on opportunity to make and taste a favorite family cookie recipe now in our Special Collections; and an introduction to community building through baking featuring delicious cookie bars made to taste with chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, and rainbow sprinkles, oh my!

    We are particularly thrilled to celebrate National Bake Cookies Day today, December 18, by sharing a unique approach that harkens back to the invention of cookies in Southwest Asia in 7th century AD with the cultivation of sugar. Rather than baking, this recipe for meshabek utilizes a fried method to create a funnel cake-like cookie. Meshabek, also known as jalebi or zulbia, is delicious when served cold or warm, accompanied by mint tea.

    The following recipe was shared by Samah Alkasab through our collaboration with Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary, and is offered in English and Arabic:



    • ¾ cup fine semolina flour
    • ½ cup all-purpose Flour 
    • 1 Tbsp yogurt 
    • 1 Tbsp cornstarch 
    • 1 Tbsp oil 
    • ¼ cup yeast 
    • ¾ cup water 
    • 3 cups sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • Oil for frying - At least three inches in the pan (roughly 4 to 6 cups)



    Dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Once the mixture is clear, remove it from the heat, stir in a small amount of citric acid and set the mixture aside to come to room temperature. 


    Mix the semolina flour, yogurt, yeast, and starch with water and leave the mixture to rest between 30 to 45 minutes. 


    Place the batter in a pastry bag. Heat the oil in a deep pan on medium high-heat until it is to temperature. Once the oil is hot enough to fry, pipe the batter directly into the oil making the traditional circular buckle design, or any other design you like. Fry each piece until golden brown. Remove the pieces from the oil to a paper or cloth-covered plate. Coat each piece with sugar syrup and serve. 



    ٤/٣ كاسة سميد خشن  

    ٢/١ كاسة طحين ( يفضل ماركة كولد - اختيار الشيف)

    ١ ملعقة لبن 

    ١ ملعقة نشاء

    ١ ملعقة زيت 

    ٤/١ كاسة صغيرة خميرة 

    ٤/٣ كاسة ماء 

    سكر لعمل القطر ( سكر مع الماء)

    زيت للقلي 




    خلط  السكر مع الماء


    نقوم بعمل القطر (محلول السكر مع الماء) والذي يتم عمله من خلال خلط السكر مع الماء على النار وتحريكه حتى يذوب السكر، ويمكن اضافة القليل من ملح الليمون لجعل المحلول كثيف، بعد ذلك يتم تركه جانبا ليبرد وتعتبر الخطوة الاولى.


    ونبدأ بعدها بخلط المواد مع بعضها السميد والطحين والخميرة واللبن والنشاء والماء ونتركه للتخمير مدة تتراوح مابين 30 إلى 45 دقيقة.


     بعدها نقوم بصب المزيج في كيس خاص بعمل المعجنات، ثم تبدأ عملية القلي بضغط الكيس ونعمل الشكل الذي نريده في الزيت وبعد ذلك يضاف فوقه القطر الذي أعددناه مسبقا.


    Looking for more connections to history and cookie-making? Join us for a very special hands-on family baking class on January 11, when we’ll be learning more about the origins of writing and make cuneiform tablet-inspired cookies! This program is open to children ages 7 to 12 and their caregivers; tickets are $14 per person and pre-registration is required via Eventbrite. SNAP-eligible participants are provided with a free ticket, with advance communication.

    Please call the Culinary Literacy Center at 215-686-5323 to receive one of these reserved tickets. For more information, email kitchen@freelibrary.org

    Holidays culinary literacy Recipes

  • 13

    You Scream, I Scream . . . for Vegan Ice Cream!

    by Clare F.

    Yes, you heard that right: ice cream in December—and vegan ice cream, at that!

    Though you may be familiar with National Ice Cream Day, which is celebrated annually on the third Sunday in July (thanks to Ronald Reagan, who inaugurated this holiday in 1984), did you know that December 13 is simply . . . Ice Cream Day? Its origins are murky, even per the internet's standards, but we at the Free Library are happy to observe any dessert-based event.

    Since going vegan three years ago, I've discovered that of the many nostalgic sweet treats I associate with childhood, ice cream is one of the easiest to create without animal products. The rich taste and texture of cow’s milk is paralleled or even exceeded by non-dairy milks such as those made from coconuts, almonds, and cashews, and because of the natural fat found in all three, eggs are no longer needed, either. (Some non-dairy ice creams add a stabilizer to take on the binding work that eggs traditionally perform, but depending on the recipe, it's not always necessary.)

    It's not just home chefs who have picked up on the remarkable simplicity of making ice cream without cow or chicken products—there is a veritable abundance of vegan ice creams out there in the world, ready and waiting to be enjoyed. National chains like Ben & Jerry's and grocery-store brands like Breyers make great dairy-free ice creams for everyone, whether you're vegan, lactose intolerant, a fan of the taste of non-dairy milks, or just plain curious. Even the Franklin Fountain, that old-school Philadelphia favorite, usually has at least one non-dairy offering on hand.

    On this Ice Cream Day, why not try out non-dairy ice cream and see what you think? For those of you who are home chefs, the Free Library's got you covered. Check out the ebook edition of The Vegan Scoop: 150 Recipes for Dairy-Free Ice Cream That Tastes Better Than the "Real" Thing, or a print copy of Vegan à la mode: More Than 100 Frozen Treats for Every Day of the Year. The more ambitious among you may be interested in Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches: Cool Recipes for Delicious Dairy-Free Ice Creams and Cookies—two kitchen projects in one! (I'm definitely not one of these ambitious folks . . . sign me up instead for the So Delicious–brand mini ice cream sandwiches made with coconut milk that a coworker recently brought to the office.)

    Have a favorite non-dairy ice cream flavor, recipe, or tip? Let us know in the comments below—and happy Ice Cream Day!

    Holidays culinary literacy Recipes

  • 20

    Serve Up This Apple Cranberry Jam at Your Harvest Feast!

    by Liz A.

    Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated farmers' market shopper who lives in Center City Philadelphia. She is the author of Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round and Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. She has written for the Vegetarian Times, USA Today, the Food Network, Saveur, Fine Cooking, Serious Eats, The Kitchn, Grid Philly, and Table Matters. You can find more of her jams, pickles, and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at foodinjars.com.

    Marisa was one of the first cookbook authors and local Philadelphia food celebrities to throw her enthusiastic support behind the Culinary Literacy Center. She has taught a number of classes here on everything from sauerkraut to jam...

    Speaking of, here's one of her tasty recipes that you can add to your Thanksgiving feast this year!

    Apple Cranberry Jam

    Makes 6 pints


    • 8 cups of peeled and diced apple (approximately 5 pounds)
    • 6 cups of whole cranberries (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
    • 7 cups sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 lemons, zested and juiced


    • Prepare a boiling water bath and 6 pint jars (or some combination of pints and half pints). Place lids in a small saucepan and bring to a bare simmer.
    • Combine the apples, cranberries, sugar, and cider in a large pot (use a big one, this jam will bubble) over high heat.

    • Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam that develops on the top of the fruit. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the cranberries pop and the apples soften.

    • Add the lemon zest and juice and simmer until the liquid in the pot begins to thicken (because both apples and cranberries are naturally high in pectin, you won’t need any additional pectin to help this jam set, as long as you cook it until thick and syrupy).

    • Test set using a cold saucer or spoon, or by looking carefully at the way it runs off a spatula. When it seems nice and jammy, turn off the heat.

    • Ladle jam into jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.



    • This recipe can be halved if 6 pints seems like too much. I don’t recommend increasing the size of the batch though, as it will be hard to cook down with any more volume in the pot.

    • If you are above 1,000 feet in altitude, adjust your processing time accordingly.

    • Choose a variety of apples for the best depth of flavor. Make sure to include a few under-ripe ones if you can, as they will help boost the amount of natural pectin in the jam.

    • Feel free to add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves to this recipe for a more autumnal flavor.

    culinary literacy Recipes

  • 30

    The Pumpkin on the Plate

    by Gennifer R.

    Squash is one of those wonderful, hearty foods that last throughout the colder seasons, and comes in many intriguing shapes and sizes. It serves as a point of literary intrigue, a cultural cornerstone, and a hot topic for cookbooks. Check out what the Free Library has in our cookbook collections—all in celebration of squash!


    The Classic Zucchini Cook Book by Nancy C. Ralston
    Cook it, bake it, whisk it, and taste over 225 recipes all about squash!






    A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash: Seasonal Recipes by Lou Seibert Pappas
    Complete with crisp and delightful pictures, this cookbook infuses squash into every kind of dish. Find recipes for your sweet side or a cold night by the fireplace.





    Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things: A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes by Lois M. Landau
    A hearty guide to the nightshade life, when the garden overflows. Keep the food waste out of the kitchen with sweet, savory, and soupy recipes that last all season long.







    Wild Drinks and Cocktails: Handcrafted Squashes, Shrubs, Switchels, Tonics, and Infusions to Mix at Home by Emily Han
    Throw out the mug! Throughout the world, gourds have served as utensils for warm and cold beverages, soups, and elixirs alike. This recipe book is rich with sweet and earthy drinks to fill your cup. Use it as a field guide, complete with necessary tools, information about animal habitats and plant usage, and helpful descriptions of spices and sweeteners.


    Inspiralize Everything: An Apples-to-Zucchini Encyclopedia of Spiralizing by Ali Maffucci
    Have you ever had zucchini noodles? If not, get ready to spiral into a world of noodles, without the flour! Great for people with dietary restrictions or intrigue in alternative culinary lifestyles.






    Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla
    Flip to chapter 7 to learn about the many uses of squash, corn, quinoa, and beans throughout Latin America. Find recipes for the beginner chef or the experienced cook!






    All of these cookbooks and more are available in our catalog and at your neighborhood library! What are some of your favorite fall recipes? Let us know in the comments!

    gardening culinary literacy Recipes Cook This Now DIY Crafts & Hobbies

  • 25

    Cook Up a Sweet Recipe with the Free Library This Fall!

    by Kate C.

    Somehow, November is just days away and we can't help but start to think about Thanksgiving. Here at the Free Library, we’re thankful for YOU! It’s true! No matter how you use the library or how you support it, you make a difference in our community, and we are so appreciative.

    In the spirit of fall, we’re sharing this delicious recipe for Sweet Risotto, created by chef and food educator Dolores Peralta for programming at Fumo Family Library, one of many neighborhood libraries where the Culinary Literacy Center offers cooking classes. This colorful and tasty treat is kid-friendly and sweet – perfect for sharing with friends and family this holiday season!


    • 7 cups of reduced-fat (2%) milk
    • ½ to 1 cup of sugar, depending on preference
    • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
    • 1 cup of arborio rice
    • The zest and juice of 1 orange
    • ½ cup of half-and-half creamer
    • ½ cup of orange marmalade
    • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
    • ¼ teaspoon of salt
    • 1 cup of dried cranberries


    1. Heat milk and sugar in a medium-sized pot, until just simmering.
    2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
    3. Add the rice to the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly translucent.
    4. Add the orange zest and juice, stirring constantly until the juice is absorbed.
    5. Add 1 cup of milk at a time to the rice, stirring constantly and allowing the liquid to absorb completely before adding more milk. Repeat this process until the mixture is thick and creamy. (You may not need all the milk.)
    6. Remove the mixture from heat.
    7. Stir in the half-and-half creamer, orange marmalade, vanilla, and salt.
    8. Top with dried cranberries and enjoy!

    *Serves 4

    Holidays culinary literacy Cook This Now neighborhood libraries

  • 4

    Nourishing Literacy 2019/2020 Registration Now Open to School Classrooms!

    by Shayna M.

    Nourishing Literacy is the Culinary Literacy Center’s set of programs that connect youth, teachers, and caregivers to the library through educational cooking opportunities. We offer school year and summer programming for youth, intergenerational programs, career development, and teacher trainings.

    We are so happy to announce the opening of the 2019/2020 registration for hands-on cooking classes at the Free Library! Preschool through high school groups are invited to participate in programs that link food education to academic learning standards and library skills. These programs take place in the Culinary Literacy Center’s kitchen classroom, in the Parkway Central Library. We will additionally offer limited cooking classes at selected neighborhood libraries for school classrooms beginning in the winter.

    A cooking class and an accompanying in-school classroom visit are offered for free to Philadelphia public and charter school classrooms. We currently have three lessons to choose from, modified for each grade level. Teachers are encouraged to select the lesson that is a fit for their class’ needs and schedule. We will do our best to meet teacher requests as much as possible. Modifications with a focus on life skills and accessibility are offered to school groups with special needs.

    Better Together focuses on community, roles, and systems. Students practice constructive communication as they contribute toward the completion of a shared goal. Understanding the parts that the students play in the greater whole of their communities, as well as the parts that different foods play in overall wellness are concepts that are explored throughout the cooking activity. Students have the opportunity to learn about the USDA recommended food groups that make up a balanced plate. Better Together is offered in November, 2019 through January, 2020.

    Flavor Finders encourages students to keep an open mind about food, place, and people through curiosity, discovery, and non-judgement. Philadelphia neighborhoods are featured as students identify different ingredients and gather information about where these foods can be sourced. Maps, storytelling, and the senses are used as tools for learning more about each other and our environment. Students practice low sodium cooking techniques through the use of spice, flavor, and texture. Flavor Finders is offered in February through April, 2020.

    Powerful Plants celebrates the variety and value of plants that can also be food. Students gain information about the life cycle of a plant, conditions for growth, and the parts of the plant. Sequencing, problem solving, and information organization are included in the learning process. The cooking activity features a range of colorful produce rich in textures, tastes, vitamins, and minerals. Powerful Plants is offered in April through June, 2020.

    To begin the registration process, please complete our online intake form for classroom teachers. Please contact Nourishing Literacy Lead, Shayna Marmar at marmars@freelibrary.org or 215-686-5323, for any additional information needed. Updates about Nourishing Literacy’s set of programs will be uploaded to our webpage throughout the school year, with key information added in late fall/early winter.

    While Nourishing Literacy is free to Philadelphia public and charter schools, a fee of $200 per class is charged to private schools, schools outside of Philadelphia county, homeschool groups (minimum 15 students), as well as Philadelphia public school classrooms interested in visiting for a second time within the school year.

    children's programs Teens Pre-K school culinary literacy STEM STEAM Teachers students

  • 10

    Summer Thyme Camp In Review

    by Shayna M.

    The Culinary Literacy Center has been cooking up summer fun for youth over the last five years through the Summer Thyme Cooks program. This past summer, the Nourishing Literacy team piloted week-long camp sessions for youth. Summer Thyme Camp was a success!

    We ran three weeks of programming—one week for students between the ages of ten through twelve, one week for students between the ages of thirteen through fifteen, and one week for the children of our Free Library of Philadelphia staff colleagues, between the ages of six through elevenwith an awesome thirteen-year-old assistant who joined us during staff week!

    Each week, students visited the library from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Summer Thyme Campers spent the first two-thirds of their day in the kitchen classroom with the Nourishing Literacy teachers, practicing kitchen skills, cooking together while making new friends, and preparing celebratory, summer-inspired recipes using fruits and vegetables. Students ate what they cooked for their lunch and it worked out well!

    For the remainder of their day, students visited a rotating library department, spending time with our Parkway Central Library colleagues, and learning more about what the library has to offer. Thank you to our friends in Rare Books, Enrichment & Civic Engagement, One Book, Field Teen Center, Art, and Music for welcoming and hosting our youth! An extra thank you to Naquawna Letman, Culinary Literacy Center team member, for providing the Summer Thyme Camp crew with the opportunity to engage in the new program that she has developed, Exploring Music and Food Through the Senses.

    Offering full-week Summer Thyme Camp sessions was meaningful to the Nourishing Literacy team and to the Culinary Literacy Center as a whole. During the school year, the Nourishing Literacy team works with a different school class each day a program is offered, allowing us to welcome as many students to our kitchen classroom as possible. Seeing the same youth every day for a week, observing the students come together as a group, and having the opportunity to work with them on skill-building over a period of five days was special and unique for our team.

    Thank you so much to the Nourishing Literacy team for all of your work and care. You are so appreciated! A huge thank you to all of the students and caregivers who participated in this year’s program! We appreciated so much your time, effort, and enthusiasm. Working with you was awesome!

    During the 2019/2020 school year, Nourishing Literacy is providing pre-K through high school classes with hands-on cooking programs beginning in November. Details about our schedule and how to register will be available in early October.

    Until then, happy cooking, and wishing all students, teachers, and caregivers a wonderful beginning of the new school year!

    children's programs culinary literacy


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