Monthly Archives

May 2017

of interest

Foodie Book Tag: Books + Cookies

I wasn’t tagged in this, but I came across a post from The Sassy Book Geek and loved the idea of this, so I wanted to get in on this book tag as kickstart to using them myself. Plus, it combines two of my favorite things – books and food!

The Rules:

  • In addition to linking back to the person who tagged you, it would be awesome if you link back to Nicole’s original post!
  • Pick a book that corresponds to the cookie’s ‘theme’.
  • Tag 1-3 people.
  • Have fun!

The Cookies:

  • Chocolate Chip: A Classic Book That You Love or Really Enjoyed (interpret classic how you want, it can be a classic written 100 years ago or 20 years ago)
  • Thin Mints: A Fandom That You Really Want to ‘Join’ AND/OR a Hyped-Up Book You Want To Read (your source(s) of a book being hyped can be from anywhere)
  • Shortbread: An Author You Can’t Get Enough Of
  • Samoas/Caramel DeLites: An Emotional Rollercoaster (this cookie was hard … so any book that made you feel more than one emotion, strongly. The choice of emotions is up to you)
  • Oreos: A Book Whose Cover Was Better Than The Story OR Vice Versa, Where The Story Was Better Than Its Cover
  • Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: A Book That Wasn’t What You Expected (good, bad, or just different, interpret how you wish)
  • Snickerdoodles: A Book You May Never Stop Rereading/ Loving
  • Bonus: Choose a cookie I didn’t list and make up a question!

My Books:

Chocolate Chip: Jane Eyre is amazing, and when I first read it I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did.

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Thin Mints: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee has been getting a lot of hype since it came out. I even got a free copy through a company book club, so I have no excuse not to dig in soon. Looking forward to it!

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Shortbread: Fredrik Backman. I’ve only read 2 of his books, but I loved them both! Looking forward to reading more, especially Beartown (which was almost my Thin Mints choice.)

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Samoas/Caramel DeLites: A Walk to Remember. This was before I realized how formulaic Mr. Sparks can be, but I literally laughed out loud reading this book and of course it made me cry too. Still one of my favorites.  bookcover-680x1020.jpg

Oreos: I thought Welcome to Braggsville had an awesome cover, and though we had a great book club discussion around it, the narrative style didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t a fan.

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Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this one (another book club selection), but I ended up really enjoying it! Really immersive story-telling, interesting world creation.

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Snickerdoodles: This is easy – I could read Harry Potter over and over again! In a world, where I rarely re-read books, I have re-read the HP series several times. (I don’t own this set below, but it’s my dream set!

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My Bonus Cookie (courtesy of the Girl Scouts) – Lemonades: A book that’s refreshing, whether it be a new outlook, a fun idea/concept, or just a breezy read to cleanse the palate

For me, Where’d You Go Bernadette fits this bill. Semple writes in a unique style, and I found it to be a humorous, quick read.

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My Tags:

Cinnamon Tangles

Book Hippie

Sophie at Blame Chocolate

Enjoy!

 

book review, of interest, recipe

Truly Madly Deeply + Grilled Shrimp and Corn

“It all began at a barbecue.” And so Liane Moriarty’s latest novel begins. It seemed innocent enough, but with a title like Truly Madly Guilty, I knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. I have been a fan of Moriarty’s ever since I read her best-seller Big Little Lies in 2015. With the HBO series adaptation recently wrapping up, I was excited for more when my hold finally came through at the library.

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For those of you who have seen or read Big Little Lies, the setup is similar. It becomes quickly apparent that something bad has happened, but it’s less clear who it happened to and what exactly it is. Over the course of a slow, every-other-chapter build, the consequences of a normal, spur-of-the-moment backyard barbeque become all too real.

I would consider some of Moriarty’s other novels to be quick-paced beach reads, despite her ability to sneak tough, sometimes dark subjects into an otherwise light, reality TV-style wrapper. Though the title Truly Madly Guilty definitely screams “get out your sunnies!” I didn’t get the same vibe this time.

The plot moved too slowly for me, and it’s real strength was in its character building. The relationships were messy and complicated in a way that felt authentic because it wasn’t over-the-top. By the end of the novel, I definitely appreciated its subtlety though it wasn’t what I expected going in.

But, since it all started with a barbecue, I used that as my recipe inspiration. And, since it took place in Australia, I couldn’t resist making (get your Aussie accent ready!) shrimp on the barbie. I was also mostly just excited to have an excuse to use our new grill on the deck.

I found a simple recipe for Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs from one of my faves Damn Delicious, and even though she bakes hers in the oven, I was easily able to adapt it to a grill. Alongside Grilled “Crack Corn,” this could easily impress at your next outdoor get-together! The best part about both of these recipes is that they don’t require a lot prep and they grill up in under 15 minutes.

To start, I shucked my corn and speared my shrimp and lemons onto the skewers. (I used metal, but if you’re using bamboo or wooden skewers, make sure you soak them first.) I chose to do a lemon slice on each end and 4-5 shrimp in the middle, but you can mix it up however you think it works best.

Then, Scott put the corn on the grill, since it took slightly longer than the shrimp, while I made the sauce for the corn and the shrimp.

To make sauce for the corn, I simply combined already melted butter with brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. I whisked it up really well and brought it outside to the grill. Scott began basting the corn and put the shrimp on.

Back in the kitchen, I made the sauce/glaze for the shrimp skewers. In a small saucepan, I melted some butter. To that, I added lemon juice, minced garlic and dried basil, oregano and thyme. I also seasoned it with salt and pepper – I used a generous pinch and a turn or two of freshly ground black pepper. After a couple of minutes, it was fragrant and ready.

We allowed the corn to cook while the shrimp finished up, even though it was basically finished – a little extra color never hurt anyone. Be sure your shrimp is fully cooked through, but be careful not to overcook it as it can be tough and chewy. The shrimp should be a nice pink color.

Both recipes were really delicious and really easy. Perfect for entertaining a small group, or a relaxing summer evening outside. I hope everyone has a safe, sunny Memorial Day weekend! See you next week!

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2-4 lemons, thinly sliced and halved
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Thread shrimp and lemon halves onto skewers. In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, melt butter. Stir in lemon juice, garlic, oregano, thyme and basil until fragrant, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. (If you have a side burner on your grill, you can do this while the shrimp cooks.)
  2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil grates and add shrimp.
  3. Grill each side for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
  4. Serve shrimp skewers immediately, brushed with butter mixture and garnished with parsley, if desired.


From: Damn Delicious

Crack Corn

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • 3 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • lime wedges, for squeezing

Directions

  1. Heat grill to high. Oil grates and add corn. Grill for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and melted butter. Whisk together until combined.
  3. Baste corn, while grilling, until totally slathered in crack sauce. Grill until charred and tender, approximately 5 minutes more.
  4. Squeeze with lime and serve.


book review, recipe

The Unbearable Lightness of Being + Raspberry Mousse

They say bad things come in threes, and maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m really hoping this latest read is the end of my little streak of three books in a row I didn’t like. One of my book clubs recently met to discuss Milan Kundera’s best-known work The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I’m sorry to say I suggested. At least I only had myself to blame.

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To simplify it, Kundera’s novel is about two couples (in a loose sense of the word) in Prague in the sixties and seventies. Tomas is a surgeon who leaves his wife for a young woman named Tereza, even though he continues to sleep around. He literally cannot help himself. One of the women he sleeps with is Sabina, whom the story also follows, documenting her bohemian life and her sort-of relationship with a professor named Franz. My favorite character in the whole book was Tomas and Tereza’s dog Karenin, who was named after the male character in Anna Karenina, even though she’s a girl.

I suppose the simple description of the book makes it sound more juicy and interesting than it is. Don’t be fooled. To keep you away from the main plot points, Kundera tosses in several chapters on kitsch, his thoughts on politics, and his philosophies on life. He makes for an interesting narrator, repeatedly pointing out that his characters aren’t real, which as a reader really pulls you out of the story (if the random bits of philosophy and politics didn’t do that already).

People seem to love this book – it has over 4 stars on Goodreads and is considered by many to be a classic – but for me, and most of my book club, it was truly unbearable. On the “lighter” side of things, however, it led to some delicious raspberry mousse.

The novel didn’t have many mentions of food, so I decided to play off the theme of lightness and create what is traditionally a light, airy dessert. I found a recipe from Fearless Dining for Easy Fresh Raspberry Mousse that seemed to easy to make and looked delicious. (If you look at her page, she has many, many mousse varieties to try out.)

First, I began boiling my half cup of water in tiny saucepan. Meanwhile, in a slightly larger saucepan, I added 2 teaspoons of gelatin (about 1 envelope, but measure just in case) to the quarter cup of cold water and allowed that to sit.

I washed my raspberries, extracted my vanilla seeds and combined the rest of the ingredients while the gelatin/water combination was becoming more jelly-like and the water boiled. Once that was all ready, I combined everything into my larger saucepan (with the gelatin mixture) and brought it all to a boil for 5 minutes.

I transferred the mixture to my food processor and blended everything together, though I would recommend a blender if you have one. It will likely breakdown the raspberry seeds better than my food processor did.

Allow that mixture to cool for 10 minutes (or longer). I let mine sit for about 15 minutes while I made the whipped cream. To do so, add the 2 cups of heavy / whipping cream to a large bowl and use a hand mixer, mixing until stiff peaks form.

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Once the raspberry mixture is cooled enough, gently fold that into the whipped cream a little bit at a time. (Despite what the original recipe said, I tried folding the cream into the raspberry mixture, since typically technique says you should add the whipped cream into the denser/wetter mixture to avoid losing air. However, because the raspberry mixture was so soup-y, it mostly remained at the bottom and proved hard to combine.)

Once the cream and the raspberry mixture were well-combined – the entire mixture was a light pink – I placed the bowl in the fridge to set/cool. After almost 2 hours, it was mostly set, but I think could’ve stood to hang out in there a little longer. The consistency was perfect they next day when we finished it up. Two hours was perfectly fine, but if you have the time, I would recommend allowing it to remain in the fridge a bit longer.

We served it in my grandmother’s crystal cut dessert dishes, which I hadn’t used before, and garnished with the remainder of the fresh raspberries.

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Unbelievably Light Raspberry Mousse

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (a 6oz package should be plenty, including garnish)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, add cold water.
  2. Mix in gelatin and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in boiling water, vanilla bean, sugar, lemon juice, and raspberries.
  4. Bring to boil on medium heat then turn down to low and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (This reduces the raspberry seeds.)
  6. Allow this mixture to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add whipping cream and beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently fold the raspberry mixture into the cream until well-combined.
  9. Allow the finished mousse to cool in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour.
  10. Serve garnished with fresh strawberries, if desired.

From: Fearless Dining

A blender may provide better results than a food processor as far as reducing seeds. I would recommend allowing to cool for 2-4 hours if you have the time – ours was also delicious when we finished it the next day.

Number of servings will depend on size. This recipe yields 4 generous helpings.


book review, recipe

The Round House + Indian Fry Bread

On an Indian reservation in 1988, a woman is attacked but the details are immediately unclear as Geraldine is reluctant to discuss what happened. Both her husband and thirteen-year-old son Joe give her space to recover while still determined to do what they can to bring her justice. Joe strikes out on his own investigation, bringing him and his friends to a sacred meeting place on the reservation, The Round House.

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Louise Erdrich’s novel has been highly praised and is award-winning, but I didn’t like it very much. I thought using the son’s perspective to tell the story was an interesting choice, creating more suspense surrounding the attack. Overall, though, while the central plot was gripping, there was so much extra going on in the story that I found it distracting and was ultimately pulled away from Geraldine and her family’s plight.

Often on adventures around the reservation, Joe and his friends were fed Indian fry bread – occasionally with jam or honey, occasionally in the form of tacos. In looking up the history of fry bread, I found that it also comes with a story of pain and suffering. (You can read more here.) It seemed like the perfect food to accompany this novel.

Allrecipes had a recipe for fry bread that many commenters hailed as authentic and the most like their grandmothers’. I also poked around and found one from The Pioneer Woman that had a few more ingredients and included details on making Indian tacos. I sort of combined the two when making my bread.

First, I combined my flour, salt and baking powder.

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Then, I slowly added my warm water, stirring it with a spoon until it was all added, and then kneading it with my hands. Once the mixture was well combined, I covered the bowl with a dish towel to let it rest for about 45 minutes.

I then separated the dough and rolled it into smaller balls, forming about 12 (which will depend on how large you decide to make your fry bread).

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In my cast iron skillet, I heated a little over an inch of shortening until hot. While it came up to temperature, I flattened each ball into a large disk and created a little hole in the middle of each to keep it from forming too much of a “dome” while frying.

I fried each piece of bread for about a minute on each side, until each side was a nice golden brown.

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When done, we ate them warm with some jam (and tried some honey too). I didn’t make Indian tacos this time but will definitely have to try them out in the future. Check out the finished product, plus a look at my new red kitchen – so happy it’s finally a reality!

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Indian Fry Bread

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1½ cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 4 cups shortening for frying (1-2 inches in the skillet)

Directions

  1. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in 1½ cups lukewarm water. Knead until soft but not sticky.
  2. Cover bowl with a dish towel and allow to rest for 35-45 minutes.
  3. Shape dough into balls of about plum-size and then flatten into patties between 4-7 inches in diameter (depending on how large you want them). Make a small hole in the center of each patty.
  4. Fry one (or two) at a time in 1-2 inches of hot shortening, until the bread turns golden brown – about a minute. Flip and fry for another 45 seconds to a minute.
  5. Allow to dry on a paper towel. Serve warm with jam or honey, or use as a base for Indian tacos.

book review, of interest, recipe

American Gods + Beef Pasties

I read American Gods hoping to create some personal excitement for the new series on Starz (which premiered on April 30), but I finished it feeling less than enthused. I’ve had a bit of a mixed reaction to Neil Gaiman – ultimately thinking that my first selection The Ocean at the End of the Lane was just okay, but enjoying both Coraline and Neverwhere.

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Gaiman’s novel is interesting enough at the outset. It follows Shadow as he is released from prison after serving three years. On his way home, he meets a mysterious man called Wednesday, an old god, actually. Wednesday enlists Shadow to help him recruit other old gods, traveling back and forth across the United States attempting to convince them to join the fight against the new gods.

Shadow’s story, when we were following it, kept my attention. It was the detours Gaiman took at the end of each chapter that I found distracting, as the story peeked in at the goings-on of various other gods we usually hadn’t met yet (and sometimes never saw again). The plot took a lot of twists and turns, and had I been fully invested, I would’ve been at the edge of my seat so I can see why people really enjoy it.

When he wasn’t with Wednesday, Shadow took refuge in a small town called Lakeside, Wisconsin. It was there that I found my recipe for American Gods – Mabel’s famous pasties. Pasties are baked pastries filled with meat and vegetables, said to have originated in Cornwall, England. They are also quite popular in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and while I have had them in England, I’ve never had them close to home – until now.

Scott’s mom had actually made them before and shared her recipe with me. (Thank you!) I made my own dough, which she said would be easy with a food processor – and it was.

My food processor didn’t seem to be able to handle such a large amount of ingredients, however, so I ended up splitting the dough into two batches. I also needed slightly more liquid to get it to come together, so use your best judgment, but make sure not to overdo the liquid because you don’t want the dough to become sticky.  

I formed the dough into two smaller disks and stored them in the refrigerator in plastic wrap to chill. I allowed mine to chill overnight but a couple of hours should be sufficient.

While the dough chilled (or in my case, before I took it out to roll it), I prepared the vegetables for the filling. First, I diced the carrots, doing my best to keep them relatively small so they would soften well while baking.

Having never even eaten rutabaga (to my knowledge), I certainly had never made it, so I was a little unsure how to tackle it at first. Ultimately, I just hacked off a chunk of it, peeled off the skin and then cut the piece into smaller pieces that would fit in my food processor spout. I used my grating attachment to grate it quickly.

Then, I peeled and diced my potatoes, trying to keep their size in line with the size of my carrots. About 2 medium potatoes yielded the 1½ cups I needed. After so much prepped I decided to just use minced dried onion out of my cupboard. Fresh onion might impart a bit more moisture into the meat, but it turned out well with the dried version, so use whatever works best for you.

I combined all of my filling ingredients – about a pound of ground beef, the carrots, potatoes, rutabaga and minced onion. I also added salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Lastly, I melted the butter and poured that over the filling, making sure to mix it in well.

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As I took my dough out to roll and shape, I turned on my oven to 350 degrees F to preheat. I rolled out the dough and used 8” saucers as a guide for my circles, yielding 4 large pastry circles. I filled half of each circle with as much filling as I could, making sure it could still be closed and sealed.  

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Note: I had a bit of filling leftover as well as a bit of pastry, so I probably could’ve made each one a bit bigger.

Finally, I cut 3 slits into each pasty and brushed them with an egg wash before putting them in the oven on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. After about an hour, they came out a lovely golden brown.

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Thinking it seemed similar to meatloaf (and after some online research), I decided to eat mine with some ketchup – which seems to be a popular choice – as well as a little spicy brown mustard. Scott enjoyed his with sour cream (another online hit). Serve with whatever condiments you enjoy, but make sure you allow them to cool before digging in! 

Beef Pasties

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

    For the Dough:
  • 1 cup Crisco or lard
  • 3½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • ½ TBS vinegar
  • ½ cup ice water
  • For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup grated (or finely diced) rutabaga
  • 1 ½ cup diced potatoes
  • 1 or 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced or 1 TBS dried minced onion
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 stick butter or margarine, melted
  • egg wash: 1 egg and 1 TBS water

Directions

  1. To make the dough, put the dry ingredients – shortening/lard, flour, salt and baking powder – into the food processor. With it on low, drizzle in the liquid ingredients – 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and ½ cup of ice water.
  2. Once dough is well combined, form into a disk (or two smaller disks) in plastic wrap and allow to chill for a few hours, or overnight. When ready to create the pasties, roll out the dough and cut into circles with a small saucer (8” or 10” diameter).
  3. Combine the filling ingredients, adding the melted butter last.
  4. Add filling to one half of each pastry circle. Fold over and crimp the edges.
  5. Brush with an egg wash and make 2-3 slits or use a fork on the top to allow the steam escape while baking.
  6. Bake on parchment paper-lined baking sheets at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes before turning down to 325 degrees F for 45 minutes, OR just bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.


From: The Kitchen of Scott’s Mom, Karen

You could also make more smaller pasties, by cutting smaller circles of dough and using less filling. This may affect baking time. Mine were quite giant, but worked well as a main course (or full meal)!