Lots of things go well with books - everything from coffee and tea to blankets and arm chairs to beaches and lazy afternoons in the park. Ice cream and books is probably not a common pairing, but it's a genius one. This list from Book Riot suggests a book for every flavor of Ben & Jerry's and I, for one, can't wait to dig in!
I read Tana French’s first Dublin Murder Squad novel, In the Woods, about a year and a half ago. It reminded me of all the hours I had spent as a young girl reading Nancy Drew books and then, when I was little bit older, devouring Mary Higgins Clark mysteries. I read the second book about a month later, but until The Trespasser, I hadn’t picked up one of the series since then.
This time, the detectives are trying to hunt down the person responsible for killing a woman in her apartment. With a boyfriend who insists he’s innocent, the spotless crime scene doesn’t help, but Antoinette and her partner are seemingly being pushed into charging him. They have to follow their guts without raising any flags.
Unless it pertains to the crime, this genre of novels aren’t usually rich with descriptions of food. In this case, the victim’s table was all set and ready for a romantic dinner when she was murdered, but the dinner itself hadn’t yet made it to the table and it was ruined by the time anyone found it.
That wasn’t exactly appetizing, but with all of the late nights on the case, there was ample opportunity to make something for an after-hours snack. I seized the opportunity and made pizza. Having once made an unexpectedly delicious strawberry balsamic bacon pizza, I was interested in trying out one that similarly unique. In honor of Ireland, where the novel takes place, I scouted out a recipe using classic St. Patrick’s Day fare - corned beef and cabbage (and potatoes).
I used store-bought dough, but otherwise I followed this recipe from the Food Network.
First, I sliced my potato, covered the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and placed them in the pre-heated oven on a sheet pan.
While those baked, I chopped up the cabbage, so it could begin to cook down on the stove with the pickling spices (below, before I wrapped them in the cheesecloth).
Once the potatoes were done, I put the pizza dough into the oven to pre-bake for 8 minutes, as directed on the package. I also roughly chopped my corned beef and shredded my parmesan and combined the cheeses.
With the dough and toppings all ready, it was time to assemble the pizza. I sprinkled the dough with olive oil and covered it with the cheese. I then layered on the remaining toppings - the cabbage, the corned beef, and last, the potatoes. A sprinkle of salt and pepper and it was all set for the oven. After about 12 minutes, it came out all gooey and smelled amazing. We couldn’t wait to dive in!
Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza
Adapted from: Food Network
- Store-bought pizza dough, enough for 2 pizzas
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
- 3 cups sliced green cabbage
- 1 teaspoon pickling spices, tied securely in cheesecloth
- 1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¾ cup shredded monterey jack cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 6 ounces sliced corned beef
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Prep/prepare your dough according to directions or your own recipe.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, season with salt and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pickling spices and just enough water to cover. Simmer over low heat, covered, until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the cabbage and set aside (discard spices).
3. Place a pizza stone in the oven, if you have one, and preheat to 500 degrees. Toss the potato with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet until golden, about 15 minutes.
4. Place one round on a floured pizza peel (if baking on a stone) or a large oiled pizza pan (if using two regular pans, you can prep both pizzas together].
5. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Scatter half of each of the cheeses, corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully slip the pizza onto the hot stone, if using, or place the pan(s) in the oven. Cook until golden and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings, if needed.
One of my book clubs unanimously selected The Underground Railroad for our latest meeting, and I was really excited. I began reading with high expectations - Colson Whitehead’s novel was not only recommended by Oprah (a book club selection) and Obama, it had won the National Book Award for Fiction as well.
A piece of historical fiction, it re-imagines the Underground Railroad as an actual railroad that exists underground traveling from the south through various branches as it makes its way north. It was the idea that drew me in initially, even though on the surface it does seem like a real train would be a lot more difficult to run and much easier to find. In the end, the Underground Railroad wasn’t as much of a “character” in the story as I had expected; instead, our story revolved around Cora, a runaway slave from Georgia.
The structure jumps around quite a bit, and though I got used to it about a quarter of the way into the book, I found it difficult to follow in the beginning. Jumping back and forth also took away from my ability to connect with the characters, particularly Cora with whom we spent the most time. The lack of emotion combined with the mismatched historical events left me feeling a bit confused and mostly just glad it was over.
In a novel that mostly depicted the terror and hardship of American slavery, it still had some victories. And making it to the safety and splendor of Valentine Farm is a victory for Cora. There, on Saturday evenings, they all got together for a family-style meal - with “hogs [as] the first order of business” alongside “smoky collards, turnips, sweet potato pie, and the rest of the kitchen’s concoctions.”
Since the hogs made up the center of their meal, I decided to make Carolina-style pulled pork. Cora spends a great deal of time in both Carolinas, and her time there changes both her course of action and her outlook on the future.
Pulled pork needs to be cooked slowly over low heat so that it truly tenderizes. It can be made at low temperatures in the oven, in a smoker or in the slow cooker, which is how I chose to make mine.
First, I combined 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika, and 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and garlic powder. I rubbed the spice mixture onto my roughly 3-pound pork shoulder.
While that soaked in, I sliced a large onion. (I used Spanish, but a sweeter onion would probably work just as well.) Mine probably ended up being a bit on the thicker side, but knowing that these are going to cook down all day as the bed of the pork shoulder, you wouldn’t want to slice them too thinly either. We didn’t mind the more prominent onions in our sandwiches, but use your best judgement.
I covered the bottom of the slow cooker with sliced onions and set the spice-covered pork on top.
Next, I mixed together the wet ingredients - apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard and brown mustard - with cayenne pepper, crushed chili flakes and the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar. I poured that into the bottom of the slow cooker. I didn’t think I had quite enough liquid so I added some water as the recipe suggested.
I set my slow cooker to low and let the pork and onions cook for about 8 hours. Once it was tender, I used two forks to “pull” it into small flakes and stirred the pork and onions together with the cooking liquid.
We ate the pulled pork on sandwiches, but it can also be used to make sliders, pulled pork tacos or even quesadillas. This recipe makes plenty for two, so it helps to get creative!
Carolina-Style Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork
From: Plating Pixels
- 2–3 pounds pork shoulder butt roast
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar, separated
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- If pork roast is frozen, defrost in fridge. Trim off any large sections of fat.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of brown sugar along with all of the smoked paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Rub spice mixture all over the roast until it's soaked in.
- Place the sliced onions in a layer on the bottom of slow cooker with the roast on top.
- In small bowl, mix together remaining list of ingredients from apple cider vinegar to ground mustard, plus the leftover tablespoon of brown sugar. Gently pour liquid over roast. You should have about 2 inches of liquid on bottom; if not add a bit of water.
- Cook covered on low for 7–8 hours, until pulled pork is tender. Shred pork in slow cooker with a fork until flaked. Stir into liquid to incorporate flavor. Let sit for about 30 minutes, drain liquid and serve.
When my Book of the Month email came a few weeks ago with the January selections, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk immediately caught my eye because the description said it was “the perfect book to start a new year of reading and of living.” When I read further and saw that the novel was about the highest paid woman in advertising, my choice was clear. (For those of you who don’t know me personally, I work in advertising too.) I made my selection and anxiously awaited my BOTM delivery.
Kathleen Rooney takes us back to New Year’s Eve in 1984. Her novel centers around the formidable yet friendly 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish (based on the real-life copywriter Margaret Fishback who became the highest paid female in advertising in the 1930s) as she takes a walk around New York City before ringing in the new year.
An avid walker, Lillian had planned to celebrate the holiday the “same as always,” with a visit to her neighborhood Italian restaurant for veal rollatini and green noodles and then “early to bed with a book.” Her plans are spoiled, however, by her uncharacteristic and absent-minded consumption of half a package of Oreo cookies.
After only a glass of Chianti at Grimaldi’s, Lillian decides to take a walk to the legendary Delmonico’s steakhouse downtown to not only work up an appetite but to correct a mistake from many years ago. On her walk, she reminisces about her career in writing - both advertisements and poetry, her relationships and her decades of experiences in Manhattan. She has to confront some of the grittier aspects of the city but remains undeterred throughout her ambling journey.
In honor of the city Lillian so wholeheartedly loves and the package of Oreos she detests, I decided to pair this charming novel with an Oreo cheesecake. This recipe from Southern Bite claims to be the Easiest Oreo Cheesecake, which I think would suit Lillian just fine, and I have to say, it was quite less complicated than other cheesecakes I’ve made in the past.
First, I made sure my cream cheese was softened by leaving it at room temperature for a while. I find it goes a little faster if unpackaged, so I put all four blocks into my bowl and left on the countertop to soften.
I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F, greased my springform pan, and began crushing Oreos to make my crust.
I combined the now-softened cream cheese, vanilla and sugar with my mixer, before adding the eggs. Then I added some slightly less crushed Oreos (about a dozen) to the batter, folding them in with a rubber spatula. I poured the mixture into my pan, tapped it lightly and topped with the remaining chunks of Oreos (about six). Here is what it looked like before baking:
And after 50 minutes and plenty of cooling time, it looked like this:
This cheesecake is meant to be easy, not perfect, as Stacey explains. Yes, it’s a little brown on the edges and, yes, you may find a few cracks on top, but it was far less fussy than other cheesecakes, and honestly, it tasted just as delicious. No need to stress, just enjoy! And if you feel like you need to work it off afterwards, just take a walk like Lillian. 🙂
Easiest Oreo Cheesecake
From: Southern Bite
- 1 (14.3-ounce) package Oreos, divided
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1¼ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- whipped cream and chocolate sauce for topping, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place half of the Oreos (about 18) in a gallon size zip-top bag. Crush the cookies using a rolling pin. Pour the crushed Oreos into a small bowl and mix with the melted butter. Pour the mixture evenly into the bottom of the springform pan and press firmly to create a crust.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl using a hand mixer), combine the softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well-combined. Add the eggs and mix well. Roughly break up the remaining cookies and add them to the mixture, reserving some to sprinkle on top. Gently fold the cookies in and pour the batter onto the crust. Lightly tap the pan on the counter to get out any air bubbles. Sprinkle with the remaining Oreos.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center in almost completely set. Cool and then refrigerate overnight to allow the cheesecake to firm up before serving (or at least 3 hours for those impatient folks). Drizzle with chocolate suace and add a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.
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I don't usually read books with the intention of making a specific food for the blog (with the exception of Pumpkin because I was really craving pumpkin pie!), but this list I found on Book Riot might have me re-thinking that approach.
I have already read a few of these, like The Joy Luck Club for the blog and, of course, the Harry Potter series. A few of them are on my to-read list already, including Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman. So many more of them are about to be added to my to-read list! I can't wait to check out Idlewild (set in my own Detroit), Confused Spice, or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.
Well, now that I'm starving and excited about new books, I'm off to go find some dinner. See you all later this week with another review and recipe!
When given the choice to remain in an eternity of solitary monotony or to move into the dangerous unknown to marry a “savage” stranger, what would you do? Having been committed to an asylum for her promiscuity, May Dodd is seemingly stuck without recourse. When President Grant agrees to provide a Cheyenne chief with 1000 white brides in a peace deal, May doesn’t hesitate to join the ranks.
In his novel based on a proposed scenario in history, Jim Fergus explores what would’ve happened if President Grant had made a different choice. One Thousand White Women follows May Dodd and her fellow brides - nearly all of them some kind of outcast in society - as they head west on a long journey by train, each of them promised to a member of the Cheyenne tribe.
Told primarily through the journals May Dodd kept, the experience is unlike what anyone expected - Cheyennes and brides alike. All of the women are thoroughly changed in the end. May, a rich society girl turned working class mother turned asylum inmate, marries the chief of her tribe. She is looked to as much for her bravery as for her knowledge on how to please a man. Like her husband Little Wolf, she becomes a leader among the other women.
While still trying to find her footing in the beginning, her husband takes her on a so-called honeymoon to a remote part of the prairie. Unable to communicate effectively, May does her best to get her points across and makes herself useful by cooking meals for herself and Little Wolf, using his kill of the day. For one such meal, May finds some wild onions and herbs and uses them to stuff some grouse the Chief has caught.
In an attempt to recreate that meal, I got some Cornish hens (a modern-day city substitute) and, using other more ingredient-heavy recipes like this one as a guide, put together something a bit simpler that I hoped better aligned with what May might have made. I served them with simply roasted carrots (salt, pepper and oil) and corn.
I was only able to find frozen Cornish hens at my grocery stores, so if that’s the case for you as well, make sure they’re thoroughly thawed. Then, I trimmed off some excess skin, removed anything left in the cavity, rinsed them off and patted them dry. Next I stuffed each hen with half of an onion, chopped into 3 large chunks, and 2 garlic cloves.
I rubbed the outside of them with some olive oil (you could also use melted butter) and covered then generously in fresh chopped sage and tarragon. I placed them on a foil-covered baking sheet and placed them in a 375-degree preheated oven for an hour.
Once I checked the temperature to ensure they were cooked through, I removed them from the oven, loosely covered with foil and allowed them to rest for 10 minutes. They tasted just as good as they smelled!
- 2 Cornish hens
- 1 sprig of tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs of sage, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, halved and cut into 3 smaller pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- olive oil or melted butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Ensure your hens are fully thawed. Remove any access skin, particularly around the opening, and anything that may be in the open cavity. Rinse them with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.
- Stuff each hen with a half of the onion and 2 garlic cloves.
- Rub each hen with olive oil and cover with the fresh herbs, making sure to cover both sides of each hen.
- Place seasoned and stuffed hens on a foil lined baking sheet with edges, breast side up.
- Bake for 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer shows the hens are cooked to 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh or breast.
- Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables.