book review, recipe

Guest Post: Jane of Lantern Hill + Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

Hello! My name’s Elsie, and I’m visiting from the Tea and Ink Society. The Society is where I share book lists and literary musings with a bent towards the classics. I also love to play in the kitchen, so I was excited for Megan’s invitation to share a literary recipe with you all!

For this post I chose to make a classic, old-fashioned potato salad recipe to go along with L. M. Montgomery’s 1937 novel Jane of Lantern Hill.

One of the things people love and remember most about the novels of L. M. Montgomery are her evocative descriptions of nature and the pastoral world of Prince Edward Island. Over the past two years I’ve immersed myself in this world again, going on a spree of reads and re-reads as I traverse the Island and the early decades of the 1900s with each heroine. Like many fans, I’m captivated by the Island’s natural beauty, of course, but this time I’m also noticing the food.

Food – and food preparation – are everywhere in Montgomery’s novels. Yes, there’s the liniment cake, the mouse in the sauce, and the raspberry cordial we all remember from Anne of Green Gables. But those are just a small sampling of the many food passages we’re treated to throughout Montgomery’s work. Montgomery provides us with entire menus as she recounts episodes of picnics, weddings, or guests coming to dinner. All of Montgomery’s heroines must learn to cook at some point or another. Mastering cookery is a sign of their self-determination and the increasing ownership they take of the traditions and rhythms of their respective homes.

Of all of Montgomery’s major heroines, Jane most longs to embrace the domesticity of Island life. Jane is an Islander by birth, but when her parents have a mysterious falling out, her mother takes her to Toronto to raise her, losing all contact with Jane’s father back on the Island. They live with Jane’s extremely wealthy and villainously tyrannical grandmother, who obsesses over Jane’s mother but holds Jane herself in contempt.

Jane has a natural inclination to be industrious and nurturing, but in Grandmother’s house she’s allowed to be neither. Jane wants to tidy and decorate and “do things” for the house, and “more than anything else Jane would have liked to cook.” When Grandmother is out, Jane sneaks into the kitchen to watch the cook preparing meals and sometimes gets the pleasure of helping out.

Jane is eleven when a letter arrives from her father out of the blue. He insists that she come spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Jane goes reluctantly, sure she will hate both the Island and her father. But as any kindred spirit knows, no true Montgomery heroine can resist the wholesomeness, mystery and allure of PEI. Jane finds herself more at home with her dad in their little house overlooking the sea than she ever has before. Lantern Hill is her new Eden and the genesis of her first flourishing as a person.

I loved the plot, characters, and narrative of Jane of Lantern Hill. The storyline is a little more tight and tidy than many of Montgomery’s other novels. This makes it a great standalone book, even if it’s your first introduction to Montgomery’s world. Reading it, I kept thinking how it would make an excellent gift for a preteen or teen whom you want to bless with quality literature!

When I was considering what recipe would go well with the book, I had lots of options to choose from. The novel mentions pies, biscuits, chicken, doughnuts…but I decided on potato salad. It’s the one of the first things Jane attempts – and succeeds at – making when she sets up house with her dad on PEI. Plus, a little internet spelunking revealed that potatoes are one of the biggest crops on the Island. In fact, PEI currently produces about 25% of Canada’s total potato crop!

I love this easy recipe because it’s perfect to serve to guests, as Jane does, or to take on a picnic when you go rambling. There’s no need to peel the potatoes, especially if you use baby (or new) potatoes, which have tender skins. Plus, the skins add a bit of color to the dish!

Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs baby yellow potatoes or another waxy variety, like fingerling or new red potatoes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 TBS white vinegar
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs chopped
  • 4 large green onions chopped
  • 1 stalk celery cut in half lengthwise and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-grated pepper
  • additional salt as needed

Directions

  1. Wash and scrub the potatoes.
  2. Put potatoes in a pot and cover completely with cold water and 1 tsp salt.
  3. Bring potatoes to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook potatoes 15-20 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a fork. (You can boil the eggs while the potatoes simmer.)
  4. Drain potatoes in a colander and let cool just slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together vinegar and 1 tsp salt.
  6. When the potatoes are no longer burning to the touch, cut into cubes and put in a large bowl. Using a rubber spatula, toss potatoes gently with the vinegar/salt mixture.
  7. Let potatoes cool to room temperature.
  8. When potatoes are cool, gently stir in chopped eggs, green onions, celery, mayonnaise, pepper, and additional salt to taste.
  9. Serve immediately at room temperature, or cover and chill in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

Created by: Elsie Callender

Personally, I think Jane is a literary Hufflepuff. If you love this book like I do or share her Hogwarts house, you might enjoy my list of 10 Books That Are Perfect for Hufflepuffs!

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested in Reading

Hi everyone, and happy Tuesday! Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Tuesday. This is an original weekly blog meme that was created at The Broke and the Bookish but is now hosted over at The Artsy Reader Girl. I participate about once a month, but each week there is a new, fun bookish topic for bloggers to create literary lists about. If you’d like to know more about it, check it out here.

This week’s topic is Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading, which is kind of a funny one. I’m warning you ahead of time I’m not going to have much to say about any of them…because I haven’t read them yet! If you stopped by for my list of Books I Really Liked but Don’t Remember Much/Anything About, I imagine this list will be similar.

I decided to participate in this topic because I thought it was a good opportunity to clean out my TBR list. Before I combed through, my list included a whopping 442 books! Surprisingly, this was only 10 books less than all of the books I’ve ever read (since I started keeping track). I managed to get my TBR down to a more manageable-ish 396, but let’s be honest, I probably need to keep culling it down.

 

Here are some of the notable ones I removed:

Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education by Sybille Bedford – I bought this novel at a library sale over two years ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since. It has over 4 stars on Goodreads, but I’ve always had something more pressing to read. Recently, I donated my copy to my new library for their used book sale. And so it lives on.

In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen – I’ve had my fill of WWII-based historical fiction for a while, and honestly, I don’t have any recollection of why I added this to my list.

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis – Looking at the description, this sounds really similar to My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and since that’s one of my favorites, I doubt this could live up to it. Plus, it’s been on my list for four years and I was surprised to find it there. Some books stick with you, and this one seems to have immediately left my consciousness once it went on my TBR.

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell – Bottom line, this book had the lowest rating on my TBR list.

Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America by Amy Ettinger – I probably added this book when I was in my “I must make ice cream for the blog” phase, but luckily I’ve been able to make ice cream (three times now!) without forcing it, so I’m good.

The Answers by Catherine Lacey – I don’t remember how this one got on my TBR, but it’s a shame I didn’t notice it sooner; it would’ve been a great fit for my Book Challenge by Erin as a selection for the “Characters with Debilitating Physical Illness” category.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman – I desperately wanted another series with the magic of Harry Potter, but ultimately, I wasn’t feeling it. I DNF’d this book back in the day, probably over six years ago now, but kept it on my TBR to try again later. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews on this first in the series, mostly in the negative, so I feel good letting it go. Besides, if I want some magic in my life, I don’t mind re-reading Harry… again. 🙂  

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry – I selected this as my BOTM sometime last year, and it just remained on my shelf. In the end, I swapped it for another book I was more excited about.

George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl – I think I first heard about this on NPR, and I actually remember being on the fence about adding it to my TBR at the time. Now that I see how low the ratings are and that 11 people categorized it as a “Did Not Finish” on Goodreads, I think I can give it up without worry that I’m missing out.

The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke – This concept actually sounds interesting, but considering that I still have almost 400 books in the queue (with more added all the time!), I’ll most likely never get around to reading it.

 

Have you read any of the above? If you think I’ve made a mistake, I’d love to hear your opinions! I’m absolutely open to adding a book back to my TBR with a compelling recommendation.

Interested in previous editions? All of my lists can be found here or by clicking on “Top Ten Tuesday” in top Reviews menu.

book review, recipe

Educated + Peach Cobbler

As I mentioned in this month’s edition of Show Us Your Books, I read Tara Westover’s memoir Educated in a whirlwind over the weekend. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year, so even though I was excited to get a free copy from NetGalley (and read it before it even came out!), a little bit of me was also nervous to read it and be disappointed. Luckily, it lived up to expectations; I couldn’t put it down.

Tara grew up in Idaho, where her parents were determined to be self-sufficient, teaching their children to be prepared for the end of days that were always just around the corner. They canned peaches and stocked up on other necessities, saved for solar panels and built a bomb shelter. The Westovers didn’t believe in government-sponsored education and insisted on homeschooling all of their children, though the education they received was more of the hard knocks variety than something akin to reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about Tara’s parents was their refusal to submit to the “Medical Establishment.” Every wound or injury – no matter the severity – was treated at home.

Despite growing up in such a stifling environment, Tara was determined to educate herself and live a different life. The ACT was her first standardized test, and through a lot of hard work, she was able to achieve a score good enough to get into college. Tara didn’t have an easy childhood, and even after deciding to leave Idaho to pursue an education, she struggled to truly separate herself from the oppression of her life at home. Still, she graduated from BYU magna cum laude and went on to earn a PhD from Cambridge.

Educated is a book that opened my eyes to an oft-unseen way of life. It was an uncomfortable but necessary read. I appreciated Tara’s viewpoint and courage in telling her story, and ultimately, it left me inspired.

Tara’s family spent a significant amount of time canning fruits and vegetables, and peaches were mentioned often. I found myself wondering, what does one do with so many canned peaches? I decided to make peach cobbler and went in search of a recipe that called for canned rather than fresh peaches (especially since peaches aren’t exactly in season in February).

At a glance, this one from OMG Chocolate Recipes seemed easy and also used ingredients I already had around the house. To start, I melted a stick of butter and poured it into an 8×8 glass baking dish.

In a medium bowl, I mixed together the batter – combining 1 cup of each of flour, sugar and milk along with a teaspoon of baking powder. I added this batter on top of the melted butter, but did not stir to combine them.

Finally, I added the drained canned peaches (one 15 ounce can) and popped the dish into a 350-degree oven.

The original recipe called for it to bake for a half hour, but I found that after 30 minutes, it wasn’t exactly close to being done. I continued to bake it and check it every 10 minutes, until another half hour had passed. Then, the crust was a much healthier golden brown color and it looked ready to come out of the oven.

I wish I remembered to pick up some vanilla bean ice cream because it definitely would have benefitted from the creamy, cool addition. If I made it again, I might make a few tweaks. Perhaps add a pinch of salt and a pinch of cinnamon to the batter to amp up the flavor of the pastry itself. I’d also probably double the amount of peaches.   

Still, as-is the recipe was tasty. It certainly makes an easy dessert to whip up on weeknight, and with some ice cream, it’d be a wonderful end to an outdoor meal in the summer.

5 from 1 vote
Print

Peach Cobbler

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 15 oz. can sliced peaches drained

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Pour melted butter into 8x8 baking dish.

  3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and milk in a medium bowl to make the batter. Pour the batter over the melted butter - do not stir!

  4. Place the peaches on top of the batter. 

  5. Bake for 60 minutes, until golden brown. 

Recipe Notes

From: OMG Chocolate Desserts

The original recipe calls for baking for 30 minutes, but mine was nowhere near finished at that time. I continued baking it for an additional 30 minutes, checking for doneness at 10 minute increments.

I received a free digital copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

of interest

Show Us Your Books – February 2018

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you’re somewhere warmer than I am! I don’t mind wintery weather – as I shouldn’t if I’m going to continue to live in Michigan for the foreseeable future – but sometimes it’s a little more than I can take. We were literally snowed in this weekend; Scott only really left the house to shovel and use the snowblower! (I supported him from the couch…under a blanket…with a book.) I was going to say I’m surprised at the amount of books I’ve read over the last month, but now that we’re talking about it, perhaps the snowy weather has something to do with it. Let’s get into this month’s book list, shall we? 

Linkup Guidelines:
This linkup happens the second Tuesday of every month. The next is Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
1. Please visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & Steph
2. Please display the button or link back to me and the linkup hosts on your blog post
3. Please visit a few other blogs who’ve linked up and get some book talk going!

Last Month’s Edition & What My Ratings Mean 

 

4-Star Reads ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (4.5) – I was initially hesitant to pick this novel up, but after countless recommendations in my online book club, I finally gave in. Wow, am I glad I did! So far, this is one of my favorite reads of 2018 (I know it’s early, but something tells me it’ll hold up for the rest of 2018…). Full post + delicious book-inspired drink recipes here.

Educated* – I read this memoir in a whirlwind over the weekend; it is both disturbing and inspiring, and I couldn’t put it down. Tara grew up in a family that was determined to be self-sufficient, constantly preparing for the end of days. They eschewed all forms of government-sponsored education and refused medical assistance, even for the most perilous injuries. Despite all this, she managed to get herself into college, travel the world and earn a PhD. I’m still processing, but I hope to wrap my head around it more for Saturday’s post.

 

3-Star Reads ⭐⭐⭐

Friendship Bread (3.5) – I read this as part of my participation in a greater social experiment, and I honestly didn’t expect a lot from a story about bread bringing a town together. I’m happy to report that I was more than pleasantly surprised – not only by the intricacies of the characters and the story Darien Lee wove together but by how delicious this shareable bread turned out to be as well! Full post + recipe here.    

Red Clocks (3.5) – This feminist dystopia ticked all of the right boxes. The female characters were strong and relatable, the setting was scarily realistic, and the story was thought-provoking. (Plus, since it had a red cover, it counted towards one of my reading challenges!) Full post + recipe here.    

Tell the Wolves I’m Home (3.5) – This debut novel tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who finds an unlikely friend while coming to terms with the death of her beloved uncle. I just finished this novel a few days ago, and it’s another one I’m still thinking about. Thankfully, it was a book club pick, which means I get to discuss at length with some wonderful women on Thursday. 🙂 I’m hoping it will help me formulate my thoughts a little better for my upcoming post.

The Two-Family House – In the middle of a blizzard, in the 1940s, two sisters-in-law give birth on the same night. As the families grow, they also grow apart, stemming from an irreparable turning point in the two women’s relationship. While I thought the premise of this one was strong, there were a few flaws in the execution that I couldn’t get over. Still, it was an interesting read, and I don’t regret spending the time on it.  

My Absolute Darling – This novel tells the story of a fiercely independent young teenage girl who finds herself in some really impossible situations. It reminded me a bit of Once Upon a River, and now that I think about it, it would probably make an interesting pairing with Educated. I respect the story Tallent crafted, but overall, the subject matter made it hard to read sometimes. As a debut novel, it’s received a lot of praise, and while I can absolutely see why, it’s probably not for everyone.

Snow Falling on Cedars – As a pick for book club, this novel felt like a great winter read. It was definitely a story that wasn’t rushed, despite that at its heart a man’s life is on the line in a murder trial. It was beautifully-written, but if I’m being honest, at times, I just wanted the author to get on with the story. I’m working on a longer post (and I’ve already made a delicious recipe), so check back for that next week.

Love & Gelato – I’m not ashamed to say that I picked this YA novel simply for the food in the title. It’s hard to resist gelato no matter what time of year! All that being said, Love & Gelato was delightful, just as expected. Full post + gelato recipe here.  

 

Books I Didn’t Finish

None!

 

Books I’m Reading Right Now

The Taster – I stumbled upon this book because of my library’s social media (New Book Tuesday!), and so far, I’m glad I did. This historical novel is the story of a young German woman who is assigned the job of being one of Hitler’s tasters, meaning she must try his meals before he does should one of them be poisoned.

This Could Hurt –  Based on some blurbs I’d read, I was expecting some sort of The Office in novel form, and at only 10% in, it’s not really meeting those expectations. That’s not to say it’s not good, but I will say that this might’ve been a DNF already had I not been able to renew it from the library (to read other books I’m more excited for first).

 

Reading Challenge Update

For those of you keeping track, I’m currently 7/10 in the Book Challenge by Erin 8.0 and 2/2 in The Literary Feast Reading Challenge. My original post has more details on each challenge and what my goals are. I’ll do a longer wrap-up post at the end of April when Erin’s challenge ends.

What did you read last month?  

*I received a free digital copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Love & Gelato + Stracciatella Gelato

Because of this blog, reading often leads me to delicious food. Most of the time, I go into a book without any idea what I’ll end up making, since I haven’t read the book before. Sometimes I’m able to orchestrate it just so and I’m able to make something specific (particularly when a title or description mentions food), though that works out a lot less often than you’d think. Thankfully, in the case of Love & Gelato, it worked like a charm!

This young adult novel by Jenna Evans Welch has been on my TBR for a while now – I probably added it so I could make gelato – and because I was in the mood to break out my ice cream maker again, I added it to both of my 2018 reading challenges. It worked for “a book with food in the title” and fell nicely into the category of “book title starting with the letter L.” I love a good two-for-one deal.

Anyway, onto the story: Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany because her dying mother wanted her to get to know Howard, who she’s just found out is her father. It’s really a lot to handle for anyone, but when Lina is given her mom’s old journal, it gives her a renewed sense of purpose.

As she gets to know more about her mother and her own origins, she makes friends, explores Tuscany, and of course, falls in love with gelato. In her words: Take the deliciousness of a regular ice-cream cone, times it by a million, then sprinkle it with crushed-up unicorn horns. [He] stopped me after my fourth scoop. I probably would have kept going forever. Stracciatella, which is a heavenly vanilla speckled with chocolate flakes or shavings, ends up becoming Lina’s favorite. Coincidentally, it’s mine too. (I told you this worked out well!)

I decided to use a recipe from Love and Olive Oil because it just seemed to fit so nicely. First, I put my ice cream bowl in the freezer, so it could chill overnight. Then, I got to work on the gelato mixture.

In a saucepan, I combined 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of heavy cream, granulated sugar, corn syrup and a pinch of salt. The difference between gelato and ice cream, if you’re wondering, is that gelato contains more milk than cream – whereas ice cream is the opposite – and contains less egg yolks, or none at all. This recipe does include a few egg yolks, but definitely less than when I made traditional ice cream.

Once the milk-cream-sugar mixture was steaming, I turned off the heat, added vanilla seeds as well as the entire split pod, and let it sit covered for 30 minutes. I brought it back up to steaming, whisking together 3 egg yolks in a small bowl in the meantime. I added a bit of the milk mixture – about ¼ cup at a time – to the yolks, whisking constantly. It’s important to do this slowly so that the eggs temper rather than scramble. Once I had added about a cup and a half of the milk to the eggs, I poured the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan. I cooked the ice cream base over medium heat for around 5 minutes, until it reached 170 degrees F.

Then, I strained it into a medium bowl and placed that into a larger bowl filled with ice water to bring it down to room temperature. Once it was cooled, I covered it with plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge. I allowed it to set overnight while the ice cream bowl chilled in the freezer.

I poured the vanilla base into my ice cream maker and let it get to work. While it was churning, I broke up the dark chocolate and put it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of butter. I melted it in the microwave, stirring every 15 seconds to ensure it didn’t burn. I added the chocolate to a ziploc bag and then put it into a bowl of warm water to keep it drizzle-able until the ice cream was further along.

Drizzling the chocolate ended up being a lot messier than I anticipated, and a lot of it got onto the scraper/stirrer attachment within the ice cream maker. I was able to scrape some of that off into the ice cream as I transferred the finished product into the freezer container. To finish it, I drizzled some of the remaining chocolate on top, closed the container and put it in the freezer so it could firm up.

After a few hours, we were finally able to eat the gelato! It was as delicious as I had hoped. For a moment, I was transported back to my trip to Italy, where all I did was eat and eat (and sightsee…a bit). Now, I want to go back – and eat more gelato, of course!

Stracciatella Gelato

  • Servings: 1½ quarts
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split and seeded
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook gently over medium heat, stirring regularly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture just starts to steam. Stir in vanilla bean seeds and add the whole bean pods. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks.
  3. Return milk to medium heat until it starts to steam again. Slowly whisk some of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, 1/4 cup at a time, until about half of the milk has been incorporated and yolk mixture is warm to the touch. You want to do this gradually; doing so will temper the egg yolks rather than cook them.
  4. Pour yolk mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spatula, about 5 to 7 minutes, or until it reaches approximately 165 to 170ºF. Do not allow it to boil.
  5. Pour mixture through sieve, discarding any solids and what’s left of the vanilla bean. Cool to room temperature in an ice bath, or in a zip-top bag submerged in ice water. Cover and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 3 hours or overnight if possible.
  6. Churn ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. While ice cream is churning, melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave in 15 second bursts. When chocolate is melted and smooth, transfer to a zip-top bag and seal well, pressing out as much air as possible. If necessary, place bag in a bowl of warm water to keep warm while the ice cream finishes churning.
  8. When ice cream is the consistency of soft serve, 1-2 minutes before being completely done, cut 1/4 inch off the corner of the bag. Slowly drizzle most of the chocolate into churning ice cream, allowing the chocolate to swirl throughout.
  9. Transfer to a freezer safe container, drizzling a bit of remaining chocolate on top, and freeze 2 to 3 hours or overnight until firm.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.