I remember being excited about Shoba Narayan’s memoir when I first heard about it because I added it to my list of most anticipated books for the year. I got re-excited when Liberty Hardy recommended The Milk Lady of Bangalore on the All the Books podcast, and at that point, I was already on the library waiting list. Funnily enough, I hate milk, so I’m not sure where all the excitement came from.
In her memoir, Shoba shares her experience moving back to India with her husband and two daughters after twenty years in the United States. Upon moving into their new apartment building, they encounter a cow in the elevator. It’s destined for a neighbor’s housewarming ceremony, and thus begins Shoba’s cow-centric journey in modern-day India. She befriends the local milk lady, visiting her every morning for fresh milk and learning more and more about cows as the days go on.
Because of this blog, reading often leads me to delicious food. Most of the time, I go into a book without any idea what I’ll end up making, since I haven’t read the book before. Sometimes I’m able to orchestrate it just so and I’m able to make something specific (particularly when a title or description mentions food), though that works out a lot less often than you’d think. Thankfully, in the case of Love & Gelato, it worked like a charm!
This young adult novel by Jenna Evans Welch has been on my TBR for a while now – I probably added it so I could make gelato – and because I was in the mood to break out my ice cream maker again, I added it to both of my 2018 reading challenges. It worked for “a book with food in the title” and fell nicely into the category of “book title starting with the letter L.” I love a good two-for-one deal.
I was surprised and delighted to find that there was a whole book about friendship bread; naturally I had to check it out for myself. Before even starting the book, I was researching how to make starters and went down a bit of a rabbit hole, but I was already intrigued enough to make my own. It felt like a natural fit for this blog – it would just take a few ingredients and a little patience.
When I picked up Gee’s book from the library, in fact, the cover alone was enough to prompt the librarians to start up a conversation about previous friendship bread crazes and wonder aloud if “any of those starters from the 70s were still hanging around.” I made a mental note to bring them a loaf when I returned the book.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the novel – the cover evokes “chick lit” (and looks delicious), and I wasn’t sure that a story revolving around a baked good could have much substance. Happily, I was wrong about it lacking substance. For the most part, Friendship Bread follows Julia, who discovers friendship bread when a mysterious gloopy bag appears on her front porch; Madeleine, the owner of a tea salon; and Hannah, a former concert cellist who’s new in town. The three of them form an unlikely bond as the town is overtaken by its own friendship bread craze. On the whole, it was uplifting and optimistic and ends pretty neatly tied up, but it also explores the trials of loss and maintaining relationships quite realistically.
I began my starter the day I brought the book home, January 9. It was simple enough – dissolve a packet of yeast in warm water for 10 minutes before adding 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of milk. (These three ingredients are key in starter care.) Then, let it sit for 10 days, mixing each day. It’s important not to use a metal bowl or a metal spoon, but otherwise caring for a starter is pretty forgiving. (I forgot to stir it for two days and it turned out fine!) You add the foundation ingredients on Day 6 and again on Day 10, when you divide up the mixture to give to friends – keeping some for yourself, of course.
I tried my best to divide the starter wisely – opting to spread it out rather than releasing it in a concentrated area. I connected with fellow Michigan-based book blogger Kerrie at Comfy Reading, who lives about an hour away from me, and bestowed a cup of starter on her. (Here is her post on the experience.) When she saw I had read the book, my mom (who also lives about an hour away, in a different direction) requested starter, so I saved some for her as well. I gave a cup to a supportive coworker, Cheryl, who’s excited to care for it and bake together with her daughter. Finally, after a lot of research, I mailed a quarter cup to one of my best friends, Katie, who lives in Pennsylvania. Apparently, if you don’t want to dry it and send flakes (I didn’t), it’s best to send in small quantities so there is still room for it to expand as it ships. I’m hoping the cooler weather and 2-day shipping will keep the starter from expanding too much within it’s box.
Admittedly, this was my first experience with a starter, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the novel Sourdough, which I read last fall. I kept my starter in the oven, where it could keep cozy and grow with abandon. Thankfully, the friendship bread starter wasn’t as rambunctious as Lois’ sourdough starter, but mine still ended up yielding just under 7 cups, instead of the typical 4 cups. (I kept the extra for myself, not only to bake, but to keep feeding for another batch.)
Like most quick breads, the recipe for Amish friendship bread isn’t too difficult. It’s also quite flexible, as you can incorporate a variety of add-ins to suit your tastes. I had an abundant supply of dried cherries on-hand, so instead of making the traditional cinnamon-sugar bread, I wanted to make something with cherries and chocolate. I found a recipe on the Friendship Bread Kitchen site close to what I was looking for, so I adapted that recipe a bit to be more like what I had in mind.
I began with 1 cup of my starter in a nonmetal bowl. To it, I added the ingredients as listed in the recipe. I only used 1 box of instant vanilla pudding, deciding to save the second box I bought for my second batch, but you can leave it out altogether if you don’t want to use it. I mixed everything together using a wooden spoon and then divided the batter between the two loaf pans.
After baking, I allowed them to cool for a bit in the pan before moving them to a cooling rack and dusting with a bit of sugar (because I forgot to do it before I put it in the oven).
Being from Michigan, I already love cherries, and I thought the cherry-chocolate combination in this bread was delicious.
Well, that’s it for today – I’m off to return my book to the library, along with a loaf of the bread for the librarians. I hope they like it as much as we did!
Have you ever made friendship bread or received a starter? I’d love to hear about your experience!
Though I read this last book about a month ago, I thought it would make the perfect post to kickoff the new year. If you love food as much as you love books, like I do, Molly Wizenberg’s food memoir – which I gushed about during the Thanksgiving Readathon – is an absolute treasure. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table is full of so many mouth-watering recipes that I had an extremely hard time deciding what to make for this post.
I became familiar with Molly through a funny food podcast called Spilled Milk, which she co-hosts with fellow foodie Matthew Amster-Burton. Little did I know, she also writes a well-loved blog, Orangette, which she started in a moment of self-discovery because “whatever [she] did, it had to involve food and writing.” We’re somewhat kindred spirits in that way. Not to give away any spoilers, but one of my favorite parts of the book was discovering that Molly actually met her husband through her blog. (I met mine well before creating my blog, but I’m lucky that he has always been extremely supportive of my efforts.) Since the book is mostly food, coupled with lovely personal stories of course, let’s get right to meat of it.
I snuck Molly’s father’s French toast recipe into a blog post late last year, partially because I didn’t think one recipe did this collection justice and partially because I’m indecisive. But, as I combed back through the pages, the perfect recipe for this post jumped out at me. I decided to choose the Mediterranean-style turkey meatballs from her friend Doron because they were one of the first recipes Molly wrote about on her new blog in 2005.
The ingredient list is a bit intimidating – I didn’t have pine nuts or golden raisins on-hand – but because it’s meatballs, the grocery shopping is really the hardest part.
To start, I made the yogurt dipping sauce because in the book she recommends leaving it at room temperature while you do the rest so the flavors can develop (here, the blog version of the recipe varies). I combined all of the ingredients – plain yogurt (I used Greek, full fat), lemon juice, minced garlic, ground cumin and salt – in a small bowl with a whisk. I set it aside while I made the meatballs.
To make the meatballs, I combined the majority of the ingredients in a large bowl – minced yellow onion, fresh cilantro leaves, pine nuts, golden raisins, bread crumbs, an egg and salt, cumin and freshly ground black pepper.
To that, I added the pound of ground turkey and used my hands to gently incorporate all of the ingredients, taking care not to overwork the meat.
Then, I rolled the meatballs, doing my best to keep them somewhat uniform in size – about 1½ inches round.
I heated a couple Tablespoons of oil in my skillet and added about half of the meatballs to begin cooking. Now, obviously it’s important to make sure poultry is cooked through and I’ll admit that the cooking part of the process gave me a touch of anxiety because it felt like it was taking forever. (Molly offered no rough time estimate in her recipe or notes.) That being said, I cooked each batch for approximately 20 minutes, checking for doneness as I went.
They turned out to be really delicious – no surprise there – and the yogurt sauce was the perfect complement.
The only thing left to do is to try more of Molly’s recipes, and see if I can work them into other future blog posts 😉 Have you read A Homemade Life? Do you have a favorite recipe I should try? Let me know in the comments!
Doron’s Turkey Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Cilantro and Golden Raisins
½ cup golden raisins (halved or coarsely chopped if large)
½ cup fine bread crumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp salt
⅛ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. ground turkey, chicken or lamb (see notes)
about 4 TBS olive oil
yogurt sauce, for serving (recipe below)
Mix all ingredients combine onion through black pepper in a large bowl.
Add the ground meat, and using your hands, break it up into small chunks. Then massage and gently knead the meat to incorporate the ingredients. Mix until combined, but do not overmix; meat gets tough easily.
With damp hands, gently pinch of hunks of the mixture and roll into 1½-inch balls. Set aside on a large plate.
Warm 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add about half the meatballs, taking care not to crowd them. As they begin to color, turn them regularly so that they are golden on all sides. They should be done when they are evenly browned and feel medium firm—but not hard—to the touch.
Transfer the finished meatballs to a plate lined with a paper towel. If the skillet looks dry, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil. Cook the remaining meatballs.
Serve hot, warm, or cold with yogurt sauce.
From: A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, pages 168-169; an earlier version can also be found on Molly’s blog Orangette
Notes: Particularly if using chicken or turkey, make sure the meatballs are fully cooked before serving. You can cut one or two of them in half, if you like, to make sure they’re cooked through. Each batch of mine (using ground turkey) cooked for approximately 20 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
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!