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books about food

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Show Us Your Books – December 2017

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for this year’s last edition of Show Us Your Books, where I briefly recap what I’ve read since last time, giving you a sneak peek of what I might be reviewing on the blog next. I read a lot more than I expected to in November, and honestly a lot of that is due to my participation in the Thanksgiving Readathon, where I managed to tackle a surprising 5 books in 5 days. Since I already recapped those 5 in my wrap-up post, I won’t do it as much here, but I’ll still share a few brief thoughts on each. 🙂

Linkup Guidelines:
This linkup happens the second Tuesday of every month. The next is Tuesday, January 9, 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

Engrossing Reads

A Homemade Life – Molly Wizenberg’s food memoir was truly the only book I read this month where I was into it 100% and walked away loving it. Racing through it for the readathon may have compounded this love, but I’m standing by it. In the meantime, I’m still deciding what to make to accompany its review… For those who’ve read it, I’m open to suggestions! The recipes all sound seriously delicious.

Young Jane Young – Any book that makes me laugh out loud is usually a good one, and this novel by the author of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry did just that. The story-telling was surprising (in a good way), and I always appreciate a story that revolves around strong female characters. I don’t think I went in with any expectations – having only heard of it in passing – and I’m glad I picked it up.  

 

Passed the Time Just Fine

Everything Everything – I’m probably the last person in the world to read this popular YA novel, especially since it came to theaters over the summer. The story was predictable, until it wasn’t. I was totally surprised by an unexpected turn of events about two-thirds of the way through, which I thought gave the novel a little more heft.

Seven Days of Us – I read over Thanksgiving too, as a sort of kickoff to the Christmas season. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I still thought it was an interesting read. I’m looking forward to making mince pies in my upcoming blog post about the novel, so look out for that closer to the 25th.

How to Behave in a Crowd – The cover of this novel initially caught my eye when I was perusing in a bookstore one evening, so I made a note of it and found it later at the library. On a bit of a stories-about-family-dynamics kick, this made its way into the Thanksgiving Readathon too. The tale narrated by an eleven-year-old boy in a family of brilliant older siblings was both heartbreaking and charming.

My True Love Gave to Me – I don’t often read short stories, but I saw this collection on a list of Christmas-y books from Carly Blogs Here and it piqued my interest. I enjoyed more than half of the stories, disliked a few and was meh about others. The stories I liked I really liked and it was a relatively quick read since it’s YA. If you’re looking for something to get you in the holiday spirit, I suggest giving it a try!  

Hunger – Having been a fan of Roxane Gay’s other work, I didn’t hesitate to pick this up when I saw it on a shelf of new releases at a recent trip to the library. Every woman struggles with feeling comfortable in her own skin, and Gay’s memoir about her weight, her relationship with food and how she got here is deeply personal and raw. It’s also relatable and particularly poignant in today’s social/political climate.

 

Not Worth It

I read both of these during the readathon, and while the speed with which I read them and their close approximation to books I liked much better may have exacerbated my dislike, I just wasn’t a fan of either of these.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend –  Since my wrap-up post, I’ve met with my book club, and honestly, no one really enjoyed this book. In fact, the more we talked it through, the less I liked it. Characters felt one-dimensional, the setting and plot felt a bit absurd, and books weren’t as transformative as I think we would’ve hoped. Perhaps if it wasn’t compared to AJ Fikry my expectations wouldn’t have been as high, but either way, it fell flat.

The End We Start From – I think something I’ve learned from the few books I’ve disliked this year is that it’s not my favorite thing to be stuck in an unknown world and be unable to empathize or relate to the characters. This one lacked characterization and as a result the whole thing felt very far away and unrelatable. On a positive note, it was literally the quickest read of the year.

 

Did Not Finish

The Power – As you may recall from my last SUYB post, I was pretty determined to finish this book after having already read 200-ish pages, despite not being very into it. My lack of enthusiasm kept me from picking it back up, and I’m okay with that. I read a lot this month, most of it worthwhile, so I’m glad I didn’t let this one hold me back. (I’m not the only one who felt that way, and I too am looking forward to the release of Red Clocks to fulfill my feminist dystopia quota.)

 

Currently Reading

The Boat People – I’m only about a fifth of the way through this book, which I’m reading courtesy of NetGalley before it releases on January 9, but so far, I’m a fan. It’s a debut novel inspired by real events and follows a group of refugees who flee their dangerous homeland to find safety in Canada. It already promises to be more like what I was hoping Exit West would be, and let’s hope it continues to be worth the read.

 

What did you read this month? Which books did you enjoy most? Least? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

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book review, recipe

Bread & Wine + Bacon-Wrapped Dates

It’s wonderful to have someone so enthusiastically recommend a book to you one day and then, because they know you’ll love it, present it the next day for you to borrow. I am forever recommending books to others, and often pushing my own copy on them unbidden at the next opportunity, but it’s rare that I have someone do the same to me. I am forever grateful to my new coworker, who upon learning about my loves of reading and cooking (and subsequently my blog), shared one of her favorite books with me during her first week on the job.

Aside from recipes – admittedly, the cover looked delicious – I had no real expectations when sitting down with Shauna Niequist’s popular food memoir, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. As the title suggests, Niequist’s essays are overflowing with rich descriptions of food and the community it can help create. The memoir touches on not only her family and friends, with whom she loves to share meals, but also on her relationship with God and how that nourishes her in other ways.

In a memoir peppered with meaningful recipes, it can be challenging to choose the one that most represents it. While so many of them sounded appetizing, I went with the one Niequist had me wondering about from one of the very first chapters. She mentioned bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with goat cheese, at least twice (and maybe more) before she finally revealed the recipe on page 171. The book is only 288 pages, so I was starting to get nervous it would never appear…when suddenly, there it was!

Niequist herself says in her introduction to the recipe that this appetizer is not the most practical thing to choose, if you’re only going to make one recipe from her book. Thankfully, since my heart was already set on them, she goes on to say that “practicality has never been my strong suit, so I think you should make these.” With her blessing, I did.

She describes them as a “go-to, serve-at-every-gathering, take-to-every-party treat” that people adore, so I decided to share them at Thanksgiving dinner this week. With only 3 ingredients and a strong suggestion to serve at room temperature, they were the perfect no-fuss thing to bring to my in-laws’.

On Thanksgiving morning, I gathered my ingredients – pitted dates, goat cheese, and bacon.

I started by slicing the bacon in half and then slicing the dates open to make little “date books” (pun intended).

I stuffed each date with a proportionate spoonful (using the teaspoon from our flatware set). I recommend using the date itself to help scrape the cheese off the spoon as you close it up.

Finally, I wrapped each date with a half-slice of bacon and placed each one seam down on a foil-lined baking sheet (with sides).

I placed the pan in a 400-degree oven and let them bake for 25 minutes, until they were crispy and brown. I let them cool for a moment before transferring them to a paper-towel lined plate to drain off a bit.

Before we left for our Thanksgiving dinner, I put the still warm bacon-wrapped dates into a serving dish to bring along. Of course, they were served on a much prettier platter (thanks to my mother-in-law), but here they are just before we left the house – looking delicious and tantalizing.

Thankfully, they were as delicious as promised and everyone enjoyed their addition to the appetizer selection. I would absolutely recommend adding these to your repertoire.

I’d also recommend picking up a copy of Niequist’s memoir, so you can read about all of the other recipes that had me drooling as I read. I can’t wait to try more of them myself.

Last but not least, I hope all those celebrating had a Happy (and food-filled) Thanksgiving! If you’re following along with my Thanksgiving Readathon, I’ll be wrapping that up with a post on Monday.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

  • Servings: approximately 32 pieces
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. package of pitted dates
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 16 oz. bacon

Directions

  1. Slice alongside one side of each date, from the top to the bottom, so you can open it like a tiny book. Scoop a small amount of goat cheese into the center of each one, and then close it back up.
  2. Cut the whole package of bacon in half, so that each long strip is now half as long. Wrap a half-slice of bacon around the outside of each date.
  3. Arrange seam side down in a baking dish or on a baking sheet with sides to catch any grease. A foil pan is really nice for no cleanup.
  4. Bake at 400-degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until well browned and crispy. Drain on a paper towel, and serve warm or at room temperature, but definitely not hot, unless you want to burn the roof of your mouth so badly you don’t taste anything for days.


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of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Yummy Food Mentioned in Books

Hi everyone! It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time again for my monthly Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme that was created at The Broke and the Bookish. 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.

Usually the topics each week are very book-focused, but today’s is right up my alley! Combining food and books, we have Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned in Books – yay! It actually took me a little while to compose the list because I wanted to try to pick foods that are more integral to the story or iconic because of their inclusion within the book, rather than just something mentioned in passing (as is often the case with my typical posts). I think I did a pretty good job coming up with this list, but what do you think? Anything you would’ve added?

1. Raspberry Cordial from Anne of Green Gables: This is my second Top Ten Tuesday mention of Anne in a row (I told you she made an impression), but I think it’s apt. The scene in the book where Anne mistakenly gets her BFF Diana drunk off not-raspberry-cordial is one of the more memorable in the book, and I remember the scene very vividly from watching the mini-series when I was a kid too. Though the actual drink never gets drunk within the story, Marilla’s raspberry cordial is famous in Avonlea and apparently quite delicious. I’ve always wanted to try it.

2. Fizzy Lifting Drinks from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: This is the only food (or drink) I’m including where I can’t remember if I’ve actually read the book rather than seen the movie, but either way this scene is so iconic. As a kid, thinking that there might be a drink out there that lets you fly was the most amazing thing I could think of. It’s such a fun concept, definitely the most imaginative food on the list.

3. Pumpkin Pasties from the Harry Potter series: You show me something made with pumpkin, and I can guarantee it’ll be gone before you know it. Ever since I started reading this series (which somehow makes it onto almost all of my lists…), I have been itching to try a pumpkin pasty. If I could only take a ride on the Hogwarts Express, my dreams could come true. Writing this little blurb prompted me to see how doable it was to make them myself, so I found this wonderful post with recipes for them (two ways!) – excuse me, while I run to the kitchen.

4. Cinnamon Bread from Once Upon a River: This recipe for cinnamon bread was one of the first ones I made for the blog, after reading Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Michigan-based story for one of my book clubs. I remember the description of this bread being so vivid it made me hungry. It was a much-loved recipe, perfect for this time of year, so I should probably revisit it.

5. Boeuf Bourguignon from My Life in France: Picking just one food from Julia Child’s memoir wasn’t exactly easy, but this dish is so indicative of French cooking and whenever I hear or read about it, I instantly think of Julia. I knew it had to be the one. It’s also a dish I have yet to tackle, though every winter I think to myself I should give it a try. It’s not hard, just time-consuming. Maybe this will be the year that I break out my Mastering the Art of French Cooking and finally make it… maybe.

6. The Fat Burger from 11/22/63: This historical fiction/time travel story is one of my favorites, and it all starts with a questionably cheap burger in a diner. The secret to it’s price lies in a closet that leads back in time – to September 9, 1958, to be exact. It’s there that Jake starts his journey to rescue JFK from his impending November assassination. Though this book is really long, I was riveted when I read it forever ago and it went by much more quickly than I expected. The burgers sound really delicious, and wasn’t food better in the good ol’ days anyway?

7. Dumplings from The Joy Luck Club: When I got the opportunity to make dumplings because of this novel early on in my blogging career, I was super excited. They may not have turned out as well as I hoped, but that doesn’t mean the ones Amy Tan is referring to in The Joy Luck Club aren’t absolutely delicious. After all, they’re made by experts for their weekly Mahjong game.

8. Minny’s Fried Chicken from The Help: While Minny’s “special” chocolate cake is probably more entertaining and memorable, I opted for an actually edible option instead – the scene where Minny teaches Miss Celia to make fried chicken for her husband is touching and makes me hungry every time.

9. Potatoes from The Martian: Truly, the potatoes in The Martian are a matter of life-or-death, and while they may not be served in the most appetizing manner, due to the culinary limitations on Mars, they are so clearly an important part of this novel. Cook yourself some yummier potatoes – mashed with butter, baked with all the fixings, or cut into delightfully crisp and salty french fries – and thank your lucky stars you’re here on Earth instead.

10. Swedish Dream Cookies from My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry: These cookies are mentioned often in this wonderful Fredrik Backman novel, usually referred to as just “dreams.” Until I did the research, I wasn’t sure they were an actual thing, but it turns out they’re quite common in Sweden. I made them for a blog last year, and as it turns out, they’re as easy to make as they are delicious!

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of interest

Food in Fiction + Recipe Inspiration

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!