All Posts By

Megan

book review, recipe

The Sisters Chase + Powdered Donuts

I’m a sucker for stories about sisters. I love the relationship between Elizabeth and Jane in Pride and Prejudice. Little Women is, of course, sister-centric and wonderful. I’ve never read the book, but whenever I watch In Her Shoes, I cry. So, it will come as no surprise that for my June BOTM I chose The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy. I probably would’ve chosen it on the name alone, but it had the added benefit of coming highly recommended in my online book group as well.

Mary and Hannah Chase grow up in a small beach motel owned by their mother, Diane. When a car accident leaves the sisters on their own, eighteen-year-old Mary becomes Hannah’s guardian and takes it upon herself to do anything in her power to protect her. While Mary is at ease living a life in flux as they travel the country, Hannah aches for a real home where she can attend school and make friends. All Mary wants is for Hannah to be happy, but giving in may mean exposing a long-kept secret and risking an unbearable loss.

As an older sister, I definitely related to Mary and her willingness to do anything for her little sister, even if it seemed to be to her own detriment. Healy’s pacing and familiarity with the characters – they felt so real – resulted in a well-crafted story that wasn’t at all what I predicted. When I finished, it had me wanting to go back for a re-read.

Instead, I made some powdered donuts, like those the sisters’ mother piled high on a plate each morning for the motel’s guests. I wanted to bake them, since it’s less messy and somewhat healthier, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to use the donut pans I’ve had since two Christmases ago (thanks to my new sister-in-law, Kelly!).

The last time I made donuts was in middle school home ec class, and I remember being freaked out by splattering oil and the cleanup being such a process. This was MUCH easier. So much so that I may start making donuts more often.

First, I mixed the dry ingredients together – flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, a combined the egg, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter. I added these to the dry ingredients and mixed together.

Then, using a spoon, I added the batter into my greased donut pans, filling them about halfway.

I popped them into a 425-degree F oven and let them bake for 12 minutes. I let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.

Then, I dropped them into a paper grocery bag two at a time with some powdered sugar and shook and shook until they were well coated. Honestly, this happened really quickly (a few shakes at most). It was the most fun part of donut-making by far.

Everyone at work loved them, and I can’t wait to try new and different flavors. I always love when a book leads me a recipe I can use over and over again 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

Baked Powdered Sugar Donuts

  • Servings: 10
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups cake flour (see notes)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, for coating baked doughnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease doughnut pan; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add all of the dry ingredients (cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt). Stir until well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla extract, melted butter and heavy cream.
  4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir until just mixed.
  5. Spoon or pipe the batter into the greased doughnut pan. (Tip: Fill each doughnut circle about half full of batter.)
  6. Bake at 425°F for 12-14 minutes, or until doughnuts begin to turn golden brown on the edges.
  7. Let doughnuts cool in the pan.
  8. Place powdered sugar in paper bag. Once doughnuts have cooled, shake doughnuts (one at a time) in the bag with the powdered sugar until well coated. Tap off any excess powdered sugar. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. Serve immediately. (Note: If you plan on serving these doughnuts later, store them uncoated in an airtight container. Shake them in powdered sugar just before serving.)

From: Spiced Blog

If you don’t have cake flour, which I didn’t, and don’t want to buy some just for this recipe, it’s easy to make your own with all-purpose flour. For each cup of flour you need, take 1 cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 TBSP and replace with 2 TBSP of cornstarch. Mix well to ensure it’s combined. I used 1½ cups flour with 3 TBSP for this recipe (and discarded the remaining ¼ cup).


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

of interest

Show Us Your Books – July Edition

It’s another edition of Show Us Your Books! This last month has been a pretty busy one, so you’ll see that my book list is much shorter than the first time I did it, which also really included about a month and a half (from beginning of May until mid-June) since I sort of arbitrarily chose a start date.

What have I been up to that’s been delaying my book-devouring, you ask? Well, obviously last week was the Fourth of July, which in Michigan means almost everyone goes up north, me included. Scott and I spent a handful of days camping (sort of) outside of my family’s cabin and enjoying all the things that come with lake life, which included some reading in a hammock but mostly hanging out and catching up with family. But before that long weekend, on the First Day of Summer, Scott and I got married (yay – I’m a Mrs. now!) and then celebrated with a trip to Mackinac Island, which is also up north, but farther.

All exciting things! But let’s get to the books…

Linkup Guidelines:
This linkup happens the second Tuesday of every month. The next is Tuesday, August 8, 2017.
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

 

Engrossing Reads (sort of…)

This time, sadly, I didn’t have any standout amazing reads. All of these may have suffered a bit from high expectations, and for me, were almost 4-stars but not quite.

The Sisters Chase – I’m happy I picked this as my Book of the Month selection for June. It was a quick read with a twist I didn’t see coming. Plus, it’s all about a big sister who does everything for her younger sister, and I can always get behind that. (Review coming Saturday!)

Beartown – Hockey hockey everywhere. I didn’t really get into this book until about 40% in, which is why it didn’t get outstanding marks for me. The character building was definitely needed and paid off in the end, but it didn’t stick with me the way Backman’s other books did.

This Is How It Always Is – This novel seemed like a fictionalized version of Becoming Nicole, which I talked about in my June edition of Show Us Your Books. I’m not sure if that colored how I felt about it at all, but I think it may have. It’s still a very important read, and I would recommend it.  

 

Passed the Time Just Fine

Jane in Austin – I haven’t read Sense and Sensibility (I know, I can hardly believe it myself), but I liked this modern adaptation. It was about tea, which I love, and I finally get to make ice cream, so I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Not Worth It

None this month!

 

Did Not Finish

The Country of Ice Cream Star – Guys, it didn’t work out with this one. I ended up getting 15% in and literally couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to stop torturing myself. This reminds me why I don’t buy books before I read them.

 

Currently Reading

Cloud Atlas – Phew, I’m almost done with this one! At about 500 pages, with a new location, time period and main character every chapter, it’s been a marathon. There are definitely parts of this book I’ve enjoyed and parts I’ve enjoyed less, but I’ll hold all judgments until I finish.

Until next month!

Life According to Steph

 

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Lilac Girls + Poppy Seed Cake

No matter how many WWII novels I read or stories I hear, I’m still astonished at the atrocities that took place and how many people were able to overcome and survive such horrifying ordeals. Though I usually devour these books, which are often natural page-turners, I find them hard to get through mentally. Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls was no exception.

Inspired by the real Caroline Farriday and a group of Polish prisoners called “the Rabbits,” this novel tells the story of three women whose lives intersect at the Ravensbruck, the only Nazi concentration camp for women. In alternating chapters, we follow Kasia, a Polish teenager who becomes one of the Rabbits; Herta Oberhauser, a German doctor stationed at Ravensbruck; and Caroline, a New York City socialite, who does her best to assist in the war effort from abroad.

Though I’d be interested in finding out more about the real Caroline, I found her chapters to be the least compelling. Honestly, her storyline was the reason I couldn’t give this book a full 4 stars on Goodreads. (I would’ve given it 3.5 if Goodreads allowed it, but they don’t – one of my pet peeves.) Kasia’s and Herta’s chapters, on the other hand, had me turning the page constantly. I liked that Kelly told the story from such different points of view.

In one of the bright spots at Ravensbruck, Kasia and her sister receive a package from their father and unwrapped it to find not only chocolate and a sign of hope, but some poppy-seed cake as well. As she put it, “Polish cake would be good medicine.” I hadn’t heard of poppy seed cake before, but I knew it was the recipe to make this time around. I found one from Jenny Can Cook and set to work.

Upon starting the recipe, I realized I only had half as many poppy seeds as I needed. I’d bought one 2.6 oz bottle of poppy seeds at the grocery store, because the pickings were slim. If you find yourself in the same situation, you may want to pick up two containers, or if you’re trying this for the first time, you may want to make a smaller loaf instead, like I did. When I made it, I adjusted the recipe and made a half-sized loaf instead of the full recipe (I included the full recipe below).

First, I ground the poppy seeds 2 Tablespoons at a time, until they were moist and looked a lot like wet coffee grounds. I added boiling water to a small bowl and stirred in the poppy seeds until they were all moistened, letting them stand uncovered. Then, using the same grinder, I ground up my toasted almonds.

In a large bowl, I combined the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. To that I added, the warmed milk (slightly less than 120 degrees F since I was using active dry yeast), followed by the oil and the egg. Using an electric mixer, I beat it on high for about 2 minutes, and then added in the extra flour, beating it until it formed a mass. Mine was slightly sticky when I transferred it to the board, so I ended up adding about a Tablespoon more of flour (to my halved recipe). I should’ve taken a picture of my messy dough fingers, but it wouldn’t have been safe to grab my phone to do so. Dough everywhere!

I kneaded it and let it rest for 10 minutes while I combined the filling. To the poppy seeds, I added the ground almonds, lemon and orange zests, sugar and vanilla extract.

I rolled the dough out to about 5” x 6” (again with the halved recipe) and spread the filling on the top, almost to the edges.

Then, I carefully rolled it, placed it seam-side down, and tucked the ends under, placing it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I covered it with a cloth and left it untouched in a warm place (aka my upstairs on an 80-degree July day) for about an hour and a half.

I opted to top it with an egg wash and poppy seeds before baking, thinking the glaze might make it too sweet. It also didn’t seem like Papa’s bread for his girls would’ve included a glaze, but I could be wrong. If you prefer a glaze, see the recipe notes.

I baked it for slightly less than the recipe called for due to size, but even with halving the recipe, I think it could’ve used maybe 5 minutes longer (or 30 minutes total) in the oven. It was hard to let it cool for a long time once it came out of the oven, but trust me, it’s much better when it’s fully cooled. I also personally like the outside thirds of the bread better than the middle third.

I hope you enjoy! Have you read the Lilac Girls? What did you think?

Poppy Seed Cake

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Print

Dough Ingredients

  • 1½ cups bread (or all purpose) flour
  • 1 packet (2 tsp/7 gms/1/4 oz) yeast – instant or active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup 1% milk heated to 120-130° F for instant yeast (or 110-120°F for active dry)
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg
  • about ¾ cup extra flour

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • ⅓ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup ground toasted almonds (20 count)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of ½ a lemon and ½ an orange

Directions

  1. Grind poppy seeds (see note below). Place in a small bowl, stir in boiling water & let stand uncovered.
  2. Grind almonds and set aside.
  3. Place flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in large mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in milk followed by oil and egg.
  5. Beat on high for 2 minutes. Stir in extra flour until dough forms a mass.
  6. Place dough on floured board and knead 100 turns (about 2 minutes). Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
  7. Meantime, add ground almonds, sugar, vanilla and zests to poppy seeds.
  8. Roll dough into a 10 x 12 shape. Spread filling almost to edges, roll starting at 10-inch end and place on parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Pinch and tuck ends under.
  9. Cover with a towel and rise in a warm spot for 1½ hours or until double in size.
  10. Before making, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with additional poppy seeds.
  11. Preheat oven to 350° F and bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool fully before slicing and serving.

From: Jenny Can Cook

Instead of coating the top with poppy seeds, if you prefer a sweeter bread you can add a glaze. Allow baked cake to cool for 10 minutes and drizzle with glaze, made using 1 cup powdered sugar and about 2 Tablespoons milk, added slowly.

If using a spice grinder, grind seeds slowly, about 2 Tablespoons at a time, until they feel moist – about 10 seconds per each portion. Scoop out any that stick to the bottom of the grinder as you go. Once they are all ground, use the same grinder to grind the almonds.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Best Books You’ve Read in 2017 So Far

Hi everyone! It’s Tuesday, and it’s my first time participating in a Top 10 Tuesday list, which I’m super excited about. This is an original weekly blog meme that was created at The Broke and the Bookish. I only plan to participate once or twice a month, due to other scheduled meme posts, 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. Now let’s get to it!

These are in no particular order except that the first one was my absolute favorite:

One. Small Great Things 

This has been my only 5-star book so far this year, and while I’ve really enjoyed others, I loved loved loved this one. I have also recommended it like a million times. It’s a tough read, but it’s worth it – one that gets you thinking and provides a great jumping off point for discussion and future learning.

Speaking of which, this article was brought to my attention by Tanya from A Mindful Migration. I found it so interesting. If you’ve read the book, definitely check it out. If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ll get something out of it too. 🙂

Recipe Pairing: Trio of Bite-Size Appetizers

 

Two. Dark Matter

This fast-paced sci-fi book is another one that will get you thinking. Both Scott and I loved it, so it definitely has broad appeal! Recipe Pairing: Spanish Bean Stew with Chorizo

 

Three. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Ah, Lillian! This BOTM pick was one of the first books I read this year, and it was a lovely way to start 2017. I hope to be as vibrant and open-minded at the age of 85 as Lillian. Recipe Pairing: Oreo Cheesecake

 

Four. The Boston Girl 

This book was happy and hopeful, even though the lives of the characters were not at all easy. The first person narration drew me right in, and the simple, heartfelt story kept me interested through the end. Recipe Pairing: Chinese Fried Rice

 

Five. The Handmaid’s Tale

This book is a classic, and everyone should read it if they haven’t. I read it once a few years ago and liked it, but when I read it again this year, I loved it. So relevant right now. Recipe Pairing: Strawberry Pie

 

Six. The Royal We

Mostly this was a fun read, and I haven’t had a lot of those lately. It makes every girl think maybe one day they could be a princess. Recipe Pairing: Tea Sandwiches

 

Seven. Becoming Nicole/This is How It Always Is

I’ve read two books this year revolving around transgender children. Both were profound, and though the subject matter was similar, the stories were each unique. Both are very relevant today and are bound to lead to excellent discussions. This Is How It Always Is Recipe Pairing: Still deciding…any suggestions?

 

Eight. Lilac Girls

Set in WWII, this novel revolved around three characters following very different paths, all interesting in their own way. I’m always drawn to stories about this time period, and I couldn’t put this book down. Recipe Pairing: Poppyseed Cake (stay tuned!)

 

Nine. The Sisters Chase

Another BOTM selection, I started reading this book with high expectations, which it mostly lived up to. The twist towards the end made me want to go back and start reading it all over again. Recipe Pairing: Powdered Donuts (stay tuned!)

 

Ten. Kitchen House

Phew! I’ve been reading a lot of difficult novels this year. Another one for that list, this novel really blew me away with it’s intricate story and character development. Recipe Pairing: Cracklin’ Cornbread

 

Bonus. Beartown 

I don’t know if this truly belongs in my Top 10. I know everyone loves it, which is maybe why I’m on the fence. So much hockey, so much heartache. There’s no denying it was good, so it might be worth a second read down the road. Recipe Pairing: Almond Bear Claws (stay tuned!)

book review, recipe

The Royal We + Tea Sandwiches

Happy Summer, everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve read a rom-com-type book, and I forgot what a breath of fresh air they can be. I was unable to resist the cover of The Royal We, which is clearly depicting a couple so like William and Kate that it’s surprising that it’s not them, and the novel ended up being an excellent way to kick off what promises to be a busy summer of reading.

This is totally fan fiction about everyone’s favorite British royal couple, with the major exception being that Rebecca Porter isn’t British at all – she’s American. She also has a twin sister who keeps things much more interesting than Pippa ever did. I wasn’t expecting an American girlfriend – expecting William and Kate as I was – but it was a nice surprise. Sort of like The Prince & Me, it gives American girls hope that they too can have a prince one day. There’s no denying it, I probably liked this book so much because the hope of a royal meeting was part of the my decision to study abroad in London too. 😛 No such luck, but lots of fun adventures, nonetheless! It brought back memories

Overall, the book was a tad drawn out, maybe a little bit longer than it needed to be, but the struggles Bex and Nick went through during their long courtship seemed pretty realistic. The story was really dramatic and entertaining, an (almost) endless will-they-or-won’t-they propelling it forward. I’m not sure I’d read a sequel (princess movies sequels are never that good…), but I certainly enjoyed this one.

When choosing a recipe for this book, it was a hard decision between Pimm’s Cup, which was not only a favorite of Nick and crew but also my favorite British drink while abroad, and tea sandwiches, which of course were ever-present throughout the story. Because England. In the end, I had to go with the tea sandwiches because while cocktails are a pretty big part of American life, high tea is something that comes along less often, and I love high tea.

I decided to make three different kinds – the classic cucumber, an egg salad with watercress (one of my favorite sandwiches while in London), and the tasty combo of ham, brie and apple.

I started by prepping the eggs, and while they were hard-boiling, I whipped up the cream cheese mixture for the cucumber sandwiches. The majority of tea sandwich-making is the actual assembly and, of course, the removing of the bread crusts.

To make the cream cheese mixture, I combined 1 package of cream cheese and ⅓ cup of mayonnaise in my food processor until smooth. To that, I added garlic salt and fresh dill. I don’t think you should be shy with the dill – I used around a tablespoon, while the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon.  

When eggs were finished boiling, I let them cool in an ice bath, peeled them, and used my egg slicer tool to chop them into small pieces. I combined the egg with mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and Lawry’s seasoned salt.

With the two main spreads done, I began prepping the rest of my sandwich ingredients. I sliced the cucumbers into thin slices, I rinsed the watercress and removed the leaves from the stems, and I sliced the green apple and brie for the last sandwich. Last but not least, I removed the crusts from my bread. For the cucumber sandwiches, I made the bread into rounds using a large cutter (no need to remove the crusts first if you’re doing this).

When it was time for the assembly, I set out the bottoms on a large cutting board and got to work. First, I spread the cream cheese mixture on the rounds and topped them with sliced cucumber.

Next, I spread a thin layer of dijon and butter on half of the remaining squares, topping it with ham, sliced brie, and thinly sliced apple halves.

Finally, I carefully put the egg salad atop the rest of the bread and placed some watercress on top.

Then, each sandwich got a lid and we were ready to go!

It’s really too bad I didn’t read this for book club. An afternoon tea theme would’ve been perfect for the meeting. Instead, Scott and I got to enjoy them ourselves, which wasn’t bad either.  

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

  • Servings: 20 rounds
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or to taste
  • 40 slices of thin sandwich bread

Directions

  1. Process cream cheese and mayonnaise in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides.
  2. Combine cream cheese mixture, garlic salt, and dill.
  3. If creating rounds, use a 2- to 3-inch round cutter to cut bread, discarding the edges. Or, if you prefer triangles or squares (which makes 80 sandwiches), cut the crusts from the bread and discard and cut into quarters.
  4. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly onto half of the bread slices. Place 3-4 cucumber slices per round on top of the mixture. Lightly coat the top slice of bread, just enough to keep the bread in place over the cucumbers and place on top.
  5. Serve immediately, or you may store cucumber sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 1 hour before serving.

Adapted from: Southern Living, by way of MyRecipes.com

You may use whichever type of bread you prefer. Traditional tea sandwiches are usually made with white bread. I used wheat bread, and the original recipe calls for one slice of each per sandwich.


Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches with Watercress

  • Servings: 12 halves
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • ⅛ teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt, or salt and pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 12 slices of thin sandwich bread
  • Small bunch watercress

Directions

  1. Roughly chop your hard-boiled eggs, or use an egg slicer if you have one. First, slice the egg horizontally, carefully flip the egg to the vertical position and slice again. (If you don’t have your own preferred method for hard-boiling eggs, please see notes below.)
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard and seasoned salt. Gently fold together.
  3. To construct the sandwich, remove the crusts from the bread and cut in halves, forming triangles (or your preferred shape).
  4. On half of the bread, add the egg salad and top with watercress leaves. Add a slice on top of each to complete the sandwich.

Adapted from: Serious Eats

To make hard-boiled eggs: Bring a pot of water to a boil, make sure there is enough water to completely cover the eggs. Once boiling rapidly, carefully add each egg using tongs. The eggs should be still cold from the fridge. Allow to boil for 12 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and allow to cool in an ice bath for 5 minutes, or until cool to the touch. Peel.

A note on sandwich size: I specifically used a loaf of “sandwich bread” from my grocery store, which were smaller and more square than a usual loaf of bread. These formed small halves, as you can see from my photos. If your bread is larger, or you want smaller sandwiches, feel free to cut into quarters.


Ham, Brie and Apple Tea Sandwich

  • Servings: 12 halves
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ½ lb deli ham of your choice (I used Virginia Ham)
  • 6 large slices of brie
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • dijon mustard
  • softened butter
  • 12 slices of thin sandwich bread

Directions

  1. Remove the crust from the bread.
  2. To assemble the sandwiches, spread half of the slices lightly with softened butter and dijon mustard. Place 1-2 pieces of ham on top of each, followed by 2 slices brie side-by-side lengthwise, and finally place 3-4 slices of apple on top. Finish with an additional piece of bread.
  3. Cut each sandwich into halves lengthwise to form rectangles.

Inspired by: The Food Network

A note on sandwich size: I specifically used a loaf of “sandwich bread” from my grocery store, which were smaller and more square than a usual loaf of bread. These formed small halves, as you can see from my photos. If your bread is larger, or you want smaller sandwiches, feel free to cut into quarters.