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chick lit

book review, recipe

Life on the Leash + Cran-Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Prior to Victoria Schade’s Life on the Leash, I’ve suffered through two 1-star dog-centric reads.* Thank goodness this light-hearted rom com of a novel has broken my mini-streak of disappointing books about dogs!

Life on the Leash by Victoria Schade

Cora is the owner of a successful dog training business in D.C. She loves filling her days with tricks, treats and training before coming home to her own loveable pup and an amazing supportive roommate. In growing her business (and smarting from a painful breakup), Cora isn’t exactly looking for love.

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book review, recipe

The Hating Game + Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

I went into Sally Thorne’s novel The Hating Game without much research. I’d seen some chatter about it in my online book club – most people loved it. If anything, it seemed like a fun, quick read, and summer is always the perfect time for something on the lighter side. It’s the story of two executive assistants at a publishing company who loathe each other (hence the title), but then, in true romantic comedy fashion, feelings begin to change and they find themselves in an entirely different kind of relationship.

The Hating Game Book Cover

As with our characters, Lucy and Josh, it wasn’t love at first sight for me. Somewhere along the line though, my feelings changed. I began to find their interactions endearing, the other characters got a little more detailed and things fell into place. Yes, the plot was a bit predictable, but that shouldn’t be unexpected for this type of book.

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book review, recipe

The Wedding Date + Cheese and Crackers

If anyone recalls the early 2000s rom-com, The Wedding Date, starring Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney, that is the first thing that came to mind when I heard the title of this book. Liberty Hardy praised it last month in the All the Books! podcast. It sounded like a light-hearted read and when I noticed it was available on NetGalley, I put in a request.

Jasmine Guillory’s novel The Wedding Date has a setup that is reminiscent of the movie – someone is invited to attend a wedding in which a former lover is significantly involved and they can’t bear to do it alone, so they find a complete stranger to accompany them. But, the similarities end there. Rather than hiring his date, Drew gets stuck with her in an elevator. The two of them bond over “the perfect snack” of cheese and crackers, which Alexa (a woman after my own heart) was carrying in her purse. He decides to see if this chemistry means something – not to mention the aforementioned dreaded wedding – and asks her to be his date.

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book review, recipe

The Devil Wears Prada + Fashion Week Grilled Cheese

In the Literary Feast Reading Challenge, March’s task was to read a book that was made into a movie I’d already seen. Choosing the book was a lot more difficult than I expected. In most cases, I’d gone the traditional route, reading the book first and then watching the movie (and complaining about the discrepancies). In a few cases, there was a book I wanted to read that would’ve qualified…except I hadn’t seen the movie yet either.

So, when I was perusing a used book sale recently, I noticed Lauren Weisberger’s novel The Devil Wears Prada, and thought “I’ve seen that.” I grabbed it. But, like most people are hesitant to see a book they love ruined by a poor movie adaptation, I was instead hesitant to have a movie I knew maybe a little too well ruined by a book that I’d heard was nothing like it. I eventually decided to forge ahead, and here we are.

Whether you’ve read the book or seen the movie, the plot is similar. Andy, a recent journalism graduate, moves to NYC, determined to write for the New Yorker. She struggles to find a writing job but is ultimately granted “the job a million girls would die for” as the junior assistant to Miranda Priestly, the editor of Runway. Though she knows nothing about fashion, Andy is assured that putting in one year of work as Miranda’s assistant will all but guarantee her a job anywhere in publishing, and she takes it. At her best, Miranda is exacting and unreasonable, and it probably goes without saying, the job is anything but a dream.

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of interest

Valentine’s Day + A Trio of Unexpected Love Stories

Valentine’s Day is just one week away, and while I’m usually not much of a romance gal, I do love a good love story. As it so happens, I’m not alone in that! In honor of the holiday, I’m collaborating with four other book bloggers to bring you plenty of romantic inspiration from some of our favorite books.

We each chose recommendations suited to our own reading styles and tastes. If you frequent my blog, you may not be surprised to see that I opted to share some of my favorite unconventional love stories. (If you’re stopping by The Hungry Bookworm for the first time, welcome!)

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book review, recipe

How to Find Love in a Bookshop + Gingerbread Books

I think fall may be officially here (weather-wise), and I’m pretty excited about it. Fall is the best time of year for baking and soups and comfy sweaters and cozy books. Bring it on! Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop is one such cozy book, and as chance would have it, an excellent conduit for baking as well.

From the description, Nightingale Books is an idyllic bookshop – one I definitely wouldn’t mind spending a few hours in! Set up in the Cotswolds by Julius Nightingale and now passed on to his daughter Emilia, it’s a charming little store, one that is everything to the townspeople. As the story unfolds, we discover more about Julius, Emilia, the employees of the bookstore, the local chef, the lady of the manor, and so many more.

It really is as if we’re welcomed into the town alongside them. In its entirety, it reminded me a bit of Stars Hollow crossed with Love Actually. The end wraps up quite neatly but that didn’t bother me at all. Quite the opposite, I may have been disappointed if this wonderful story didn’t leave me feeling as cozy at the end as it had throughout.  

A heartwarming novel like this one definitely deserves something welcoming to accompany it, and though the story features a magnificent chef who makes mouthwatering food throughout, the recipe that stuck out to me most was the gingerbread (cookie) books she created near the end. It just felt so perfect to create cookie books to go along with a novel about a bookshop.

I’m not the best decorator, so the descriptions of the beautiful, intricately detailed cookies made me a bit nervous, but I decided to push along anyway. I found a recipe for soft gingerbread cookies from Bless This Mess, ordered a couple of adorable book-shaped cookie cutters – an open book and a stack of books – and got to work.

To start, I put my softened butter in a large bowl and creamed it, adding the sugar gradually. Then, I added an egg, the molasses and white vinegar, beating until well-blended.

I used a mesh colander to sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Because the one I have only holds about 1 cup, first I did 2 cups of flour, followed by all of the spices, salt and baking powder, and then the remainder of the flour.

Once the cookie dough was well-blended, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and allowed it to chill in the fridge for about 45 minutes. (Note: I ended up needing an additional cup of flour because my dough was too sticky to properly roll and cut out. I realized this after refrigeration and several attempts to roll it and cut it. I then added the additional cup of flour, allowed it to chill again.)

Since I prefer my gingerbread cookies soft, I followed the suggestion from the original recipe and kept the dough approximately ¼” thick when I rolled it out. Using my adorable book-shaped cookie cutters, I ended up making just under 30 cookies. The amount of cookies you get will depend on the size of your cutters. Mine were about 3-4 inches.

I baked each batch for about 11 minutes, allowed them to cool, and set to decorating. After a few practice cookies, which Scott was only too happy to help taste-test, I decorated some cookies worth photographing. I created a tribute to this week’s book, and of course, one for the blog. 🙂

Soft Gingerbread Cookies

  • Servings: approx. 2 dozen (3-4 inch cookies)
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

  1. Cream butter, adding sugar gradually. Beat until well combined and light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Beat in egg, molasses, and vinegar.
  3. Sift all of the dry ingredients together and then blend sifted dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  4. Divide the dough into two even pieces, wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 90 minutes.
  5. When the dough is done chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Working in sections, roll the dough 1/2″ thick on a floured surface; cut into desired shapes. Place shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack.
  7. Repeat with remaining dough. Decorate cooled cookies with royal or buttercream icing, or eat them as they are.

From: Bless This Mess

Notes: If you like your gingerbread on the crispy side, roll it 1/4″ thick and bake for 11-12 minutes. If you like it nice and soft (though still very sturdy), roll the dough 1/2″ thick and bake for 10 minutes. If you play around with the thickness of the dough and the baking time, you’ll discover a cookie that meets your liking.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Jane of Austin + Earl Grey Ice Cream

Though I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and loved it, I haven’t explored Jane Austen beyond that. I own copies of both Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, but have yet to crack them open! (I know, I know…) So, when I was given the opportunity to read Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility through Blogging for Books, I didn’t want to pass it up. After all, it’s about tea, which I love, and it seemed like it would be a nice modern dip into another Austen classic.

Jane and her sister Celia own a successful, adorable tea shop in San Francisco. But after being forced out, they head to their cousins in Texas with their younger sister Margot in tow, hoping to start afresh and recreate their tea shop magic there. Of course, Texas brings new men and intrigue, triumphs and defeats. I can’t compare it to the original, but I recognized a lot of Austen-style plot points, and of course, the sisterly bond can’t be missed. It was a breezy, enjoyable read, perfect for summer.

Probably the best of all was that this is the novel that finally led me to ice cream, completely unexpectedly. It was sheer inspiration! Definitive proof I shouldn’t try to force it, and excellent news that I can officially-officially forever be done with The Country of Ice Cream Star.  Though the book included several recipes throughout, none of them were exactly what I was looking for. I really thought a tea-based dessert would be lovely, and given the heat of the summer, I settled on Earl Grey Ice Cream.

First, I combined the whole milk, half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan. Once that seemed heated through – but wasn’t boiling, I added my 6 Earl Grey tea bags and allowed them to steep for 20 minutes with the cover on. I stirred it approximately every 7 minutes, though you may not need to be that precise.

I removed the tea bags and turned the heat up again. In a small bowl, I whisked together 5 egg yolks and vanilla extract. When the milk mixture was warmed, I took 2 Tablespoons and added it to the eggs, whisking constantly. After about 10 seconds, I added another 2 Tablespoons, whisked and repeated. After the ratios were roughly equal (or four times), I added the milk mixture into the eggs and whisked until it was all combined.

Then, I returned the mixture to the saucepan, cooking it over medium heat, while stirring constantly. I was slightly terrified it would burn, but with constant vigilance (and scraping the bottom and the sides), it all worked out. Once it thickened somewhat – and could coat the back of a wooden spoon – I poured it into a large, wide bowl through a fine strainer. I set the bowl in the fridge to cool, uncovered.

After it had sat for a little while and was no longer steaming, I added plastic wrap. It might not be necessary, but I didn’t want to create condensation.

This was the first time I got to use the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer – woo hoo! The directions require you to have it freeze for at least 15 hours beforehand, which I maybe should have read prior to letting my custard mixture chill for 8 hours. Good to know for next time!

Once the ice cream bowl was frozen enough, I set to work. (You should follow your own ice cream maker’s instructions from this point forward.) I turned the mixer to Stir and began adding the custard-y liquid to the bowl, which was a little more complicated than I would’ve liked, but luckily, spilling was minimal.

The whole process after that was very easy. I let it Stir and work itself into ice cream over the next 30 minutes, only checking in on it out of curiosity and for pictures.

Once it was finished, I scraped the ice cream into my insulated ice cream container and allowed it to freeze for another 2 hours. (Seriously, ice cream making is not for the impatient… If you want ice cream in a hurry, run to the store instead.)

It looked pretty good coming out of the freezer after (almost) two hours (if I’m being honest), but my patience was undergoing a major test, and after two days in the making, I was ready to dig in!

I took two scoops and couldn’t be more excited to give it a taste. It’s definitely tea-flavored, so if you’re not a fan, this probably isn’t for you. But I loved it! The ice cream did my favorite tea justice, and I think Jane Woodward would be proud.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

  • Servings: 3-5
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups half and half
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 6 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk, half and half, and sugar over medium-heat, stirring occasionally. Once the milk is steaming (but not boiling), remove pan from heat. Place the tea bags into the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove tea bags, then return to medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla until frothy. Once the milk mixture is rewarmed, add 2 TBSP of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, and quickly whisk in until combined. Repeat 2-3 more times with more of the milk mixture, then gradually pour in the remainder of the milk mixture into the egg yolks and whisk quickly until combined.
  3. Return the new milk/egg mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Immediately strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and then refrigerate until completely cooled (at least 6-8 hours).
  5. Freeze with an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

From: Gimme Some Oven

I prefer Twinings Earl Grey flavor, but feel free to use whichever brand of tea you like best. If you’re unable to make the ice cream within 6-8 hours of refrigerating the custard, it will last for up to 2 days. Be sure to keep it tightly covered.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.