Browsing Tag

coming of age

book review, recipe

Bridge Daughter + Zucchini Pancakes

Bridge Daughter came to my attention when a friend, who happens to know author Jim Nelson, recommended it. Based on the concept alone, I knew I had to read it. Once I got started, I finished it in less than a day.

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A short dystopian novel, Bridge Daughter describes a world very similar to our own, with one exception – when a woman gives birth, she always gives birth to a bridge daughter. Fourteen years later, the bridge daughter gives birth to her actual child.

Hanna is one of the lucky ones. Raised by caring parents and taught to read, she grows up hoping to attend college and start a career. These dreams seem possible, until she learns that she, too, is a bridge daughter. Hanna must decide if she wants to accept her fate or become the woman she always dreamed she’d be.

A strong character, I found myself sympathizing with Hanna and rooting for her until the very end. The morning her mother forces her to make pancakes for breakfast, it becomes clear things are shifting for Hanna. Later on, pancakes are on the table again as her life takes another unexpected turn.

I’m sure Hanna made traditional breakfast pancakes, but since I decided to make them for dinner, I opted for a more savory recipe – adapted from Wonderland Kitchen’s Pancakes with a Heart of Gold. An apt name, I think, as Hanna counts on the goodness of many along the way.

I began by finding my sifter so that I could get my dry ingredients together and shredding my small zucchini, so it would be ready to go.

After combining all of the ingredients to make the pancake batter, I heated my griddle and put the first one on. Here it is with some cheddar, pre-flip.

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I always find pancake-making a little precarious – a flip too early can create a mess, just as a misplaced turnover can end up folding the little guy in half…or off the griddle onto the stovetop. Fortunately, no pancakes were harmed in the making of this post, so I call that a success.

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Zucchini Pancakes with a Heart of Cheddar

  • Servings: 2 (Yields 8 pancakes)
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Adapted from: Wonderland Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini (about 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded)
  • 2 scallion, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 8 thin slices of cheddar (I used sharp white cheddar)

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Shred zucchini and blot well with paper towels to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
  3. Beat egg into the buttermilk and add this mixture, the oil, zucchini, scallions, and lemon zest to the dry ingredients. Whisk together until just incorporated. Allow to rest while bringing your skillet or griddle up to medium heat.
  4. When hot, grease lightly with a little butter. Drop batter by the roughly 1/3 cup onto griddle.
  5. When dry around the edges and ready to flip, place a slice of the cheese on top of the uncooked side and turn in over in the pan. Continue in this manner until all pancakes are made. I got eight 6-inch cakes.
  6. Serve hot topped with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey.


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book review, recipe

Once Upon a River + Cinnamon Bread

Confession: I’m probably in too many book clubs. My last post was about a novel I read for my book club, and this one is too. At this particular book club, we try our best to choose a restaurant we haven’t been to before that also reflects the culture or location of our latest selection. For August, we opted to vote on all Michigan-based books and ultimately went with Once Upon a River by Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell as our pick. (Our restaurant choice was a local brewery.)

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When I received this book as a gift about two years ago, I was initially excited. It’s a novel by someone from Michigan about characters in Michigan, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am nothing if not ridiculously proud of being a Michigander. That being said, I started it and couldn’t get past the first few chapters. So I set it aside, only to suggest it as a part of this vote. I don’t like giving up on books, and I wanted to give it another try (with some motivation to help me along).

Once Upon a River follows the journey of Margo Crane, a beautiful sixteen-year-old with a penchant for target shooting, a skill that ultimately changes the course of her life. As Margo sets off along the river in search of her mother, she does what she must to survive, both taking advantage of others and being taken advantage of by them. For me, Margo was a hard character to connect with – she wasn’t particularly personable and I questioned many of her decisions – but I warmed to her towards the end. She stumbles along the way, but she also grows stronger and more sure of herself.

Because of her ability to shoot a rabbit in the eye and her extensive knowledge of the world around her, Margo rarely goes hungry. She is able to hunt (and gut and skin) various game and to find edible plant-life along the way. Still, nothing beats the comforts of home, specifically her Aunt Joanna’s cinnamon bread.

Twelve times throughout the course of the story, Campbell mentions and describes this delicious bread. At one point, she writes, “Margo awoke dreaming of cinnamon bread and apple butter so vividly she could taste it.” I, too, found myself hankering for this delicious homemade bread.

So, despite it being 80+ degrees all week long, I decided to make some myself. (Thank goodness for central air!) I found a recipe for Amish Cinnamon Bread from Farm Girl Tails and got to work.

As I was assembling the ingredients, I realized my butter wasn’t softened, which is always the case when I am preparing to bake. Instead of making the mistake I usually make and softening (er, melting) it in the microwave, I remembered to use this handy Pinterest trick. I hadn’t tried it before, so I was a bit skeptical, but it worked like a charm! I left the butter sticks under the glasses for about 5 minutes, but 10 minutes would probably have been better.  

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After I was done creaming the (mostly) softened butter with the eggs and sugar, which I decided to do by hand rather than with a mixer, I added the remaining ingredients. The final mixing process was a bit slow-going, but I managed to work up the strength to get through it. Ta-da!

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I filled each loaf pan with 1/4 of the batter and sprinkled with 3/4 of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. It felt like a LOT of cinnamon and sugar. I covered it with the rest of the batter and cinnamon-sugar, swirled, and tossed it into the oven. Here’s the before:

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And, following 65 minutes of baking and 20 minutes of cooling, here’s the after:

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It was definitely best served warm from the oven. I personally wanted it to be more cinnamon-y, but everyone else who ate it didn’t seem to have the same complaint, so that was probably just me.   

Amish Cinnamon Bread

  • Servings: Yields 2 loaves
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From: Farm Girl Tails [Annotations from me]

Batter Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture

  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions

  1. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans. Set aside until needed.
  2. Cream together butter, 2 cups sugar, and eggs. Add milk, flour, and baking soda. Mix well.
  3. Put 1/4 of batter in each greased loaf pan.
  4. Mix the 2/3 cup sugar and cinnamon in separate bowl.
  5. Sprinkle 3/4 of the cinnamon mixture on top of the batter in each pan. Add remaining batter to pans; sprinkle the remaining cinnamon topping. Swirl with a knife.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until tester comes clean. [I had to bake them for 65 minutes before they were finished.]
  7. Cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing from pan.


Excellent if eaten warm out of the oven [yes!] but great toasted with a little butter or cinnamon butter. [Margo would recommend it with apple butter.]

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book review, recipe

The Age of Miracles + Pineapple Salsa

The Age of Miracles is the first book I’ve reread in a long while, and I’m really glad that I did. There is only so much time in a day, and with an ever-growing to-read list, I’m normally not much of a re-reader. As time is something this book calls into question, it seems a fitting choice.

book cover

When I originally read Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel three years ago, I truly enjoyed it. I suggested it to friends, and I bought a copy of my very own. (I tend to buy books pretty selectively, preferring instead to borrow from the local library.) Its place on my bookshelf brought it top of mind when my book club was looking for suggestions, and so we chose it as our most recent selection.

In The Age of Miracles, the world changes suddenly and inexplicably – the earth experiences a “slowing” and time as we know it begins to shift. Normal begins to look very different. Narrated by Julia, an insightful preteen living in California with her parents, we experience the smaller struggles of her family and her community and witness the larger struggles of society as everyone tries to adjust to this new concept of time, and ultimately, the impending end of the world.

I first read this novel in the winter, when days were short and nights were long. This time, in the height of summer, the opposite is true – the sun rises early and sets late, days are hot and bright and stretched out. None of this compares to the lengths of the days and nights within Walker’s novel, of course. She does an excellent job of taking an overwhelming concept and keeping it simple and human.

For a book with very little plot – something that tends to be a negative for me – I found it a pleasure to read because Walker’s prose paints a vivid picture of the characters as they figure out their new world. So many of her lines had me reaching for a pen.

As I was thinking of what to bring to our book club potluck, one such line struck me: “They were the last pineapples we’d ever eat in our lives.” If my memory serves, it’s the first time Julia mentions a specific food that they never have again.

I ultimately decided to make pineapple salsa because it was something I could prepare the night before, but mostly because it didn’t require turning on my oven in the middle of a heat wave. I went with a recipe from Barefeet in the Kitchen for The BEST Pineapple Salsa and didn’t alter it at all. I was nervous enough about tackling a pineapple for the first time.

Due to that worry, I almost didn’t even buy a real pineapple and went up to the cashier with two cans of them pre-sliced. I had glanced around the produce section, saw none, and thought, “Well, this will be easier than I thought.” But, as I stood in line, I noticed a tuft of pineapple leaves sticking out of the bag of the man in front of me. I was stuck – they had real pineapples and I knew I had to suck it up and figure it out.

Here is a picture of us (I’m trying to hide my terror with confidence):

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Thankfully, I thought to ask my friend and fellow foodie Scott who texted me some simple directions and encouragement to set me on the right path. It wasn’t as hard as it seemed! I ate some to celebrate before dicing the rest (perhaps a little less “finely” than suggested). I followed suit with the jalapeno, cilantro and green onion, making sure those dices were more appropriately sized. (I’m a little obsessed with cilantro, see below.)

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After adding the salt, pepper and lime juice, I tossed it all together and taste-tested. It was delicious! And here it is:

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The BEST Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

  • Servings: yields about 3 cups
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Ingredients

  • 1 small pineapple, peeled cored and very finely diced, about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely minced, about 2 tablespoons, add more for a spicier bite
  • 1 small lime, juiced, about 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 handful cilantro (leaves only), finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
  • 3 green onions, very thinly sliced, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, adjust to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, adjust to taste

Directions


Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover with lid or transfer to an airtight container. Chill until ready to serve. This will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week. Enjoy!


Excellent with tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.