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book of the month

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
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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).


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book review, recipe

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk + Oreo Cheesecake

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.

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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.

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I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F, greased my springform pan, and began crushing Oreos to make my crust.

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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:

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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

  • Servings: 8-12 slices
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Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
book review, recipe

Sleeping Giants + Mini Cinnamon Rolls

Sleeping Giants was the first book I received as part of Book of the Month. I joined the club towards the end of June, primarily because I like books but also because I love getting mail and they were doing a summer promotion, which meant discounted books plus sunglasses plus a must-have tote bag. (Score!)

Anyway, I picked Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, which was selected as an option for July by Liberty Hardy of Book Riot. It was supposed to be The Martian (which I loved) meets World War Z, and Liberty’s description touted “action, science, adventure, romance, and intrigue,” so naturally I was excited to receive my copy.

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It was as page-turning as promised. Jumping from interview to interview, Neuvel weaves together a story of very dedicated (if not flawed) characters as they uncover and retrieve giant robot body parts across the globe. Together, the top secret team must decipher an unknown language and superior technology to determine how it works.

With every breakthrough, a new obstacle arises and questions remain. What is the robot’s purpose? Who left it here (and when)? Why are we finding it now? What should be done with it?

Neuvel’s interview style leaves very little room for much description beyond the immediate action of the story, and so food is barely mentioned in Sleeping Giants. In one instance, however, it makes an appearance; surprisingly, cinnamon rolls show up in a pivotal scene, with the potential to change one of the character’s outcomes.

While BOTM opted for cocktails when looking for a perfect food pairing – and to be fair, alcohol plays a more prominent role throughout the story – I went with the cinnamon rolls. Le Creme de la Crumb’s Mini Cinnamon Rolls may not seem like an obvious choice, but I disagree. Eating mini versions of regular food always has a way of making me feel just the littlest bit like a giant. (And now you can too!)

The best part about this recipe is that it’s easy and quick, especially for cinnamon rolls. (Most take at least twice as long in my experience.)

To get started, I let the yeast do it’s thing while I assembled the rest of my ingredients. After it was bubbling (a little over 5 minutes), I began incorporating the flour and salt, wishing I had a standing mixer but thankful at least for my new (and improved) hand mixer. Those dough hooks worked their magic and I ended up with a lovely little ball of dough.

dough

It hung out for about 10 more minutes, while I greased my muffin pans and whisked up the cinnamon mixture. Once I rolled it out, there was more than enough dough, which I dutifully cut into a 9 x 15 rectangle and covered in butter and cinnamon-sugar goodness.

topping

Then came some rolling and cutting (and a little re-rolling) until I formed these 24 little beauties.

finished rolls

They baked. I whipped up the frosting. When the oven timer went off, I pulled a few out of the pans right away and drizzled on the frosting. I was hungry, and these looked delicious!

rolls

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: Yields 24
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From: Creme de la Crumb [Annotations from me]

Dough Ingredients

  • 1⅓ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, completely softened
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Frosting Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • milk

Directions


1. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease a muffin pan. Add water, yeast, and honey to the bowl of a stand mixer fitting with a dough hook and stir to combine. Allow to rest for 5 minutes (mixture will rise and foam).
2. Add flour and salt to bowl. Turn the mixer on low and allow to mix until ingredients come together, then increase mixing speed to medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and allow to rise for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
3. While dough is rising, prepare the filling by whisking together sugars in a bowl.
4. Use a floured rolling pin to roll dough into a 9×15 inch rectangle. Use a pizza cutter to trim off the sides if it isn’t perfectly rectangular. Spread softened butter over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over the butter.
5. Tightly roll one 15-inch side (the long side) of the dough toward the other 15-inch side to create a long log. Pinch the seam so it closes off the log. Use a very sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut the ends off and then to cut the log into 24 equal parts. Place each cinnamon roll in the greased muffin tins. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
6. While cinnamon rolls are baking, prepare the frosting. Cream together butter and cream cheese. Mix in the vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time [I ended up using 6 tablespoons] until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. When cinnamon rolls are finished baking, drizzle or spread frosting over rolls and serve.

[This recipe made a considerable amount of frosting – at least double the amount you need to cover the cinnamon rolls. I would recommend cutting this portion of the recipe in half, or planning something else delicious to use it for!]


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Sleeping Giants is the first novel in a series called Themis Files, and even though Neuvel does a good job of wrapping it up so you don’t have to read further if you don’t want to, his unexpected prologue left me wanting more. (The follow-up won’t release until 2017.)