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book review, recipe

Practical Magic + Apple Tart with Black Pepper

Maybe I watched Practical Magic a little on the young side (it came out when I was 12), but ever since then I’ve loved it. Even though it’s not exactly a traditional Halloween movie, I make it a point to watch every fall season. Next week, in fact, I have a movie date with Deanna to watch it together because she’s never seen it and she needs to. This post isn’t about the movie, though, it’s about the book, which I didn’t even realize was a thing until I heard about the prequel The Rules of Magic coming out a couple of months ago.

Excited about the prequel, I hunted down Alice Hoffman’s book Practical Magic, sure I would love it as much as I did the movie. I definitely enjoyed it, but it’s different than I was expecting. The movie’s plot is so ingrained in me at this point, that it didn’t occur to me that the book wouldn’t follow it as well. Obviously, movies change book plots all the time, often to the disappointment of the reader – it’s just that usually I don’t watch the movie (over and over and over) before reading the book. So I was a bit blind-sided, and the irony is not lost on me.  

All that being said, the book is worth picking up. (This NPR review of the prequel describes the differences in Practical Magic book vs. movie wonderfully, the journalist in a similar situation to me.) Hoffman’s writing style is lovely. She crafts a beautiful story of sisterhood and magic that’s perfect for cozy fall reading. I haven’t read anything else she’s written, but I’m looking forward to trying some of her other novels – I’ve heard good things. And, of course, I’m still excited to read The Rules of Magic too. 

Have any of you read or seen Practical Magic? I’d be interested to hear from those of you who read the book before the movie which you prefer. Any other Hoffman novels you’d recommend?  

At one point in the novel, one of the sisters, Sally, makes an apple tart with her secret ingredient, black pepper. And though it’s midsummer in the story, this recipe seemed perfect to make at this time of year. Local apple orchards are bursting at the seams, and I was itching to make an apple dessert anyway. Black pepper as an addition intrigued me. I found a recipe online that included it in an apple galette and used it as a basis for my own version, mostly so I would be able to better estimate how much black pepper to include.

To keep it simple, I used store bought pie crust. Feel free to make your own, if you’re so inclined. First, I prepped my apples, which Scott and I had picked up at a local cider mill the weekend before. I used Gala because I like those and we had also bought them for snacking, but any baking apple would work just as well.

I don’t have an apple peeler contraption and my vegetable peeler wasn’t getting the job done, so I opted to make my tart a bit more “rustic” and left the apples unpeeled. I sliced them pretty thinly and tossed them with lemon juice, some sugar and a bit of freshly ground black pepper (more on the coarse side).

I laid the pie crust on a parchment lined baking sheet, piled the apples on the middle of it, and folded the crust over around the edges. To help it become a more rich golden brown, I brushed the crust with an egg wash before baking.

I covered the tart loosely with a tented piece of aluminum foil and put the tart in a 375-degree oven to bake for about an hour. I set my timer for 45 minutes and checked it every 20 minutes or so. Once it seemed close to being done, I removed the foil and allowed it to bake for another 10 or 15 minutes without, so the crust would get some good color.

It smelled amazing, but I patiently allowed it to cool completely before serving. I cut into 6 slices (though it could certainly be cut into smaller or larger pieces, depending on the size of your family/party). We enjoyed it without any additions, but it would absolutely be delicious with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream while it’s still a bit warm from the oven.

What’s your favorite apple recipe in the fall?

Apple Tart with Black Pepper

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust (use your own recipe, or use refrigerated store bought)
  • 3 – 4 medium apples, cored and sliced (¼” – ½” thick)
  • 2 TBS granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 egg, mixed with a little bit of water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the apples and toss them with the sugar, black pepper, and lemon juice.
  3. Place dough on parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet. Arrange the apples in the center of the dough, leaving about an inch border. Fold the extra dough over the sides of the tart.
  4. Brush the crust lightly with an egg wash.
  5. Cover the tart loosely with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. After when there are about 15 minutes left (apples should be soft, dough should be mostly cooked), remove the foil to allow the dough to become golden.
  6. Let cool completely before serving. Best served at room temperature. Enjoy!

Adapted from: Earth Powered Family

Notes: It’s not much more work to make 2 tarts at a time, especially if you’re using store bought crust. Plan to use 6 medium apples and double the sugar, pepper and lemon juice. Divide apples evenly between both crusts. Baking time shouldn’t change.

You can peel your apples if desired, but with thin slices, it doesn’t affect the texture much to leave them on. Plus, it makes it much quicker!


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book review, recipe

The Heart’s Invisible Furies + Custard Slice

Generally, I do enjoy most of what I read. Sometimes I don’t, but luckily, sometimes the opposite is true and I love a book so much that I can’t shut up about it. John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one such book. Readers, my second 5-star book of the year is here, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you!

I first heard about this book on my new favorite podcast, All the Books. (Thank you, Liberty Hardy! You’re always full of excellent recommendations.) So, when I saw it in my August BOTM selections, I knew I had to select it. When it showed up in the mail, I was surprised at its heft – it’s nearly 600 pages – and set it aside for nearly enough, thinking I didn’t have time to get into a difficult, long book. I waited a couple of weeks, but when I finally picked it up, I was captivated in just the first few pages and by the end of the first chapter, I was hooked.

The novel follows Cyril Avery beginning when he is still an unborn child in his mother’s womb in a small town in 1940s Ireland. When she is cast out by a cruel priest, she finds herself in Dublin, where she must make it on her own. Her circumstances almost require her to put Cyril up for adoption, and he is taken by a hunchbacked Redemptionist nun to the home of Maude and Charles Avery, an eccentric couple who aren’t exactly cut out for parenthood. From there, Cyril’s life takes both heartwarming and heart-wrenching turns, bringing us to modern day Ireland in truly spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

This book may be 592 pages, but I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in a weekend and have been talking about it ever since. Furies is filled with complex and varied characters, all memorable in their own way. As entertaining as this novel was – it absolutely had it’s laugh out loud moments – I should probably mention that, like my last 5-star favorite, it tackles some sensitive topics and was hard to read in parts. But to me, that is the beauty of Boyne’s novel; he expertly captured all the nuances of humanity, from the mundanely everyday to unexpected tragedy in a captivating way.

Finding a recipe to pair with such a sweeping saga wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. Several key scenes throughout take place in a parliamentary tea shop where “cream slice” seems to be a popular menu item. After doing some research, I found it’s also known as custard slice. I was able to find a recipe from RTE, or the Raidió Teilifís Éireann in Ireland, which is a real television station where Cyril finds himself working at one point in the novel.

The recipe has quite a lot of steps, but the ingredients list is small and it’s not really that complicated, so don’t let the long recipe below fool you. It’s totally doable.

To start, I set out my frozen puff pastry sheets to thaw while I made my pastry cream. I poured the milk into a saucepan, added a vanilla pod split down the middle and let it come to a boil. In the meantime, I combined the sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch with a mixer, beating for a few minutes until it became pale and light.

Once the milk began boiling, I removed it from the heat and slowly added it to the egg mixture, whisking all the while. I added it back to the saucepan, bringing it up to a slow boil over low heat, stirring continuously. After several minutes, it thickened, so I removed it from the heat and added it to a wide bowl to cool more quickly. I covered it with cling wrap and placed it in the fridge.  

Once the puff pastry dough was thawed (able to be unfolded), I used a sharp knife to cut it down to an 8×8 square. (I don’t think this is entirely necessary, if you have a 9×9 pan, which I found I did after the fact. I’ve explained further in the recipe notes below.) Then, on two parchment-lined baking sheets, I baked them for about 10 minutes each, until they were lightly golden.

After they cooled, I placed one pastry in the bottom of my pan, which was lined with foil. Per the directions, I made sure to leave extra foil hanging out of the pan so the completed custard slice could be removed more easily later; this is definitely a big help. Then, I smoothed the cooled pastry cream over the bottom layer of puff pastry and placed the prettier looking pastry sheet on top. The assembled dessert went back into the fridge to set while I made the topping.

I combined powdered sugar with a small amount of cold water to create a drizzle-able icing. I also melted some dark chocolate (you could also use milk chocolate if you prefer) in a small bowl in the microwave, until it was thin enough to drizzle with a spoon.

First, I drizzled the icing diagonally across the top of the pastry. Then, turning the pastry 90 degrees, I drizzled the melted chocolate to create a criss-cross pattern with the icing.

I covered the completed custard slice and put it back in the fridge to set until we were ready to give it a try. Later that evening, I cut it into 8 rectangular slices and served as our dessert. We found it to be sort of messy to eat, and I would recommend using a fork and a knife, but it certainly was tasty. If you decide to give it a go, I hope you enjoy!

Have you read John Boyne’s novel yet? What did you think?

Vanilla Custard Slice

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • 13 fl oz whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split down the middle or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons, or 1 ounce, or unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup melting chocolate or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Make the crème pâtissière to begin: Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the split vanilla pod, if using. (If using the vanilla extract, add it in with the butter at the end.) Bring the milk mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat.
  2. Whisk the sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch together in a large bowl for about 2–3 minutes using a hand-held electric mixer until pale and light.
  3. Pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking continuously, and then return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook the mixture over a low heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture becomes thick. It should just come to a boil. If it boils unevenly or too quickly, it may become lumpy, in which case use a whisk to mix until smooth again.
  4. Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a bowl (push the mixture through a sieve if there are any lumps). Add the pinch of salt and the butter (and vanilla extract if using) and stir until melted and thoroughly combined.
  5. Leave to cool, cover with cling wrap and chill before using.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  7. If using frozen puff pastry sheets, these should already be approximately 9×9. If you have a 9×9 pan available, you can use as-is. If you only have (or prefer to use) an 8×8 pan, cut the puff pastry sheets so they will fit the smaller pan. Cut approximately 1 inch off two of the sides, forming an 8×8 square.
  8. Place each pastry sheet onto the lined baking trays, prick each piece a few times with a fork and chill for 10-15 minutes. Then, bake the pastry sheets for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Set aside to cool.
  9. While the pastry bakes, line your baking pan with foil, allowing plenty of extra foil at the sides to allow you to lift out the assembled slices. If you don’t have a square tin, it’s not the end of the world, just use the foil to make a base and sides.
  10. Place one pastry sheet in the bottom of the lined tin (reserve the prettiest piece for the top). Spread the crème pâtissière evenly onto the pastry in the baking tray before placing the other piece of pastry on top. Refrigerate while making the icing.
  11. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in 3-4 teaspoons cold water – just enough to give you a thick, drizzling consistency – and set aside.
  12. Place the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan with a few centimetres of water. Bring the water up to the boil, then take off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly. (Another option would be to heat in the microwave at defrost or 30% power in 30 minute increments, stirring until it becomes melted enough to drizzle. If using melting chocolate, follow directions on the bag.)
  13. Take the custard slice from the fridge to decorate. First, using a spoon, drizzle the icing diagonally across the pastry. Turn the pan 90-degrees and, using a different spoon, drizzle the chocolate across the pastry forming lines that criss-cross the icing lines. Repeat with icing and chocolate as desired/until you run out.
  14. Place the slice back into the fridge to set. Later, cut the finished custard slice into 8 pieces. Using the foil, carefully lift the portioned vanilla slices out of the tray and serve.

Adapted from: Rachel Allen, via RTE

Notes: This recipe was adapted for the US from a recipe created in Ireland. Measurements were converted when necessary to accommodate American cooks.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Summer of Impossible Things + Italian Rainbow Cookies

Imagine my surprise when a few months ago, I came across another Hungry Bookworm blog since that’s my blog’s name! We bloggers introduced ourselves and I found out that she’s based in England, and where my blog was named to evoke a combination of food and books, hers was named after the beloved children’s book The Hungry Caterpillar. We decided to try our hand at a collaboration, reviewing the same book and posting our own thoughts. If you’d like to check out her post on this novel, go here. (If anyone’s visiting from Julie’s blog, welcome!)

I chose our first title, opting for a British book I had heard amazing things about: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. It wasn’t easy to find over here in the states for free (fair warning, readers), but since it wasn’t in the library and I really wanted to give it a try, I bit the bullet and bought it from Amazon, which did have a few copies available. As you all know, I don’t usually buy books before knowing I like them, but I’m glad I took a chance on this one!

This book is along the lines of other “realistic time travel” love stories, as I call them – books like The Time Traveler’s Wife and movies like the lovely About Time – though it’s not exactly a traditional love story. If you’ve seen the movie Frequency, it’s more akin to that. Coleman’s novel is about a daughter’s seemingly impossible quest to save her mother – with a will and power she didn’t even realize she had.

I found this book to be very immersive, and though it’s a concept I’ve seen (and loved) in many other stories, I thought it was accomplished in its own unique way. I didn’t expect the love story that develops, but I quite enjoyed it. And not to give it away too much, but it was the inspiration behind the recipe I chose to make – at some point in 1977, our main character Luna stumbles into someone who works in (and I think eventually owns) an Italian bakery.

Though they’re not mentioned in the book, when I think of Italian pastries, I often think of the popular tri-color, or rainbow cookies, and their pop of color reminded me of the seventies. Instead of finding a recipe online, like I often do, I turned to a good friend (and fellow food lover), who graciously shared their family recipe with me. These cookies intimidated me, but I was assured they were very easy. My friend makes them every Christmas, and he’s right, I had no reason to be nervous about them.

First, I began with the almond paste and sugar, crumbling them together in the food processor. This recipe was the perfect opportunity to use some almond paste that I’d made myself, primarily because I couldn’t find it in the store when I looked for a previous recipe, but I’m told it’s not that hard to find. (Perhaps I was looking in the wrong spot, but if you have the same problem, it is quite easy to make; recipe link below.)

Then, I transferred my almond paste and sugar mixture to a bowl and beat in the softened butter (2 sticks). I also beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, making sure it was well-blended before I stirred in the flour. It was time to color the batter, so I split my batter into 3 different bowls and, using food coloring, colored one of the bowls pink and one of the bowls green. The third bowl remained uncolored.

I spread each batter evenly in its own pan before popping into a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 11 minutes.

While the layers baked, I made the chocolate glaze by heating semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream in the microwave. I then set it aside to cool. I also heated the raspberry jam (my preferred flavor, but you can use apricot instead) in a small saucepan until it was smooth and spreadable.

I turned each layer out onto the cooling rack, and once it had cooled a bit and was no longer warm to the touch – about 10 to 15 minutes – I began assembling the final cookie. Green layer goes on the bottom.

I spread about half of the jam (I heated approximately a cup) on top of the green, added the white layer, pressed gently, and spread the rest of the jam on top of that.

Then, I added the final layer – the pink layer, pressed gently and topped with the chocolate glaze.

This does need to sit for about 30 more minutes, to make sure the glaze sets before slicing it into pieces, so I had to be patient. Once cooled, first order of business is to trim the edges and then they can be sliced, resulting in these little cookies as my final product.

Mine turned out a bit thicker than I remember them being when I had eaten them in the past. They’re still delicious, but more than a mouthful’s worth of cookie – mine are better eaten with a fork, like a tiny cake. (Please see my notes below on pan size.) These are a quite cakelike cookie, and more delicious than I recall as well, so they’re definitely worth a try. Thank you so much to my friend, for sharing their recipe with me and the blog! I hope our novel’s Italian bakery owner would be proud. 🙂

Tri-Color Cookies (Italian Rainbow Cookies)

  • Servings: 50-72 cookies
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can/tube (8 oz) almond paste*
  • 1 cup butter (no substitutions), softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 drops red food color
  • 4 drops green food color
  • For assembly and the glaze:

  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • Apricot or raspberry jam (seedless)

Directions

  1. Lightly coat three 8×8** pans foil baking pans with vegetable cooking spray and dust with flour.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the sugar and almond paste until the almond paste is crumbled and broken into small pieces. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
  3. Beat in butter, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, until smooth. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Stir in flour.
  4. Divide batter evenly into 3 bowls. Tint 1 bowl of batter pink (food color amounts above are a guide and can be adjusted as needed to achieve correct color) and tint 1 bowl of batter light green. The last bowl will remain uncolored.
  5. Evenly spread each type of batter onto its own prepared pan. Bake for approximately 11 minutes, or until the top springs back when gently pressed with finger. Allow each pan to cool slightly before inverting onto a cooling rack.
  6. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Microwave the heavy cream and chocolate in a small bowl on high for 1 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
  7. Heat the jam in a small saucepan on the stove, until it’s no longer gloopy.
  8. Once the layers have cooled for about 10-15 minutes, place green layer on a plate or serving tray. Brush the top with half of the heated jam. Top with the white layer and gently press. Brush remaining jam over the white layer and top with the pink layer, press gently.
  9. Spread cooled glaze over the top of the layered cookie. Let stand for at least 30 minutes so the glaze can set.
  10. With a serrated knife, trim the edges. Cut crosswise into six 2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip into 12 slices.
From: A friend’s family recipe

Notes: *If you prefer to make your own almond paste, that’s what I did for a previous recipe. It’s really easy and leftovers can be frozen for up to 3 months. Use this recipe from Taste of Home. **If you are doubling the recipe, use the larger foil pans, 11½ x 16½. However, if you still want to make only a single batch, I would recommend using 9×9 pans instead so the cookies are not quite as thick as mine ended up. 😛

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

When Dimple Met Rishi + Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza

In many ways, Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi follows the same formula as many time-tested and beloved romantic comedies. And, honestly, that’s part of what made it so enjoyable. It is unabashedly a young adult love story, and a clever, funny one at that. Dimple is a future-minded high school graduate, hoping to enroll in a web development program and forget about her mother’s matchmaking for the summer. Rishi is also a future-minded recent graduate, though he’s focused more on meeting and wooing his fated wife before heading off to MIT.

Rishi is traditional where Dimple is modern. He learned Hindi before English, strives to be a good son, and is willing to put his dreams of being a comic book artist aside to do so. Dimple wants to code apps and can’t wait to take a break from her traditional Indian parents to make her own way in the world. Rishi is looking forward to meeting the girl his parents have chosen for him to marry, and Dimple has no idea such an arrangement has been made.

In fact, when they do meet, it doesn’t go exactly as Rishi had planned. He’s a bit overzealous, to say the least. It’s hardly a meet-cute, but it’s hilarious. Somehow, Rishi recovers and gets another chance to make an impression. During their first official “hangout” at a pizza shop, a relationship between Dimple and Rishi doesn’t seem meant to be, but as we all know, some people are born to defy expectations.

In true rom-com fashion, the novel is full of ups and downs and obstacles the young couple must overcome to end up happily ever after. That said, it’s well-done, enjoyable and not as expected as you may think. As a bonus, the entire novel is quite amusing – funnier than I expected. I often found myself laughing out loud (even while Scott slept next to me, oops). I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone looking for something lighthearted and entertaining. It’s a lovely choice to wrap up the summer.

One other thing I found quite interesting was the fact that A Wrinkle in Time, which Dimple considers one of her favorite childhood stories, played such an integral role within the story. Funnily enough, I had just read A Wrinkle in Time before picking up this book. The constant mentions of Meg and her journey stood out to me a little bit more, and it was cool that I had so recently become familiar with the story myself. Since something like that had never happened to me before, I was excited to share the coincidence. Like Dimple and Rishi, it almost seemed fated that I read them in this order.

To accompany Dimple and Rishi’s story, I decided to make pizza with an Indian spin. I knew I wanted to use naan as a crust (something I’ve done in the past with leftover pieces) and wanted to bring in the flavor of chicken tikka masala. I found a recipe from Raya Malaysia to use as a base.

First, I created the marinade for the chicken, combining a half teaspoon each of ground cumin, cayenne pepper, garam masala and minced fresh ginger; a quarter teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; one Tablespoon of lemon juice; two Tablespoons of plain yogurt; and a pinch of cinnamon. Then, I tossed the chicken in the marinade until it was well-coated, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it in the fridge for about an hour.

It’s a lot of ingredients, yes, but I had all of them at home already. Most of the spices are common, especially if you cook any type of ethnic food with regularity in your home. Hopefully you won’t have to buy many to make this marinade, but then again if you do, you’ll have everything handy to just make it more often. 🙂

To cook the chicken, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees F. I lined a baking pan with foil and arranged the chicken in a single layer. I allowed it to bake for 6-7 minutes.

While that baked, I made the pizza sauce. First, I mixed cumin, paprika and garam masala in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, I combined the tomato sauce, yogurt and heavy cream.

In a small saucepan, I melted/warmed the ghee and added minced garlic and finely diced jalapeños, sautéing for a few minutes, until aromatic. Then I added my spice mixture and continued to heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring often.

I removed as much of the jalapeño as I could, per the original directions (see my notes with the recipe), before adding the tomato sauce mixture. I added some salt and allowed it to thicken a bit, cooking for about 2 more minutes.

At this point the chicken was finished cooking in the oven, so I took it out and began assembling my pizzas. To start, I brushed each piece of naan lightly with olive oil. Then, using a spoon, I dolloped sauce into the center of each piece of naan, and with a circular motion outward, spread the sauce until each piece was completely covered.

Then, I topped the sauce with a little less than half of the shredded cheese, before adding the chicken, thinly sliced red onion and cilantro. Finally, I added another layer of cheese, using the rest of it.

I baked the pizzas for about 10 minutes each. Since the chicken is already cooked, the pizzas are done when the cheese is melted and the naan is a bit more firm. For garnish, I added the remaining chopped cilantro to each pizza before serving.

These pizzas were absolutely delicious! If you’re a fan of Indian food and a fan of pizza, there’s no reason not to give this a try. It’s easy and so flavorful! This is definitely going down as one of my favorite recipes this year and it will absolutely be making some additional appearances in our kitchen. (I can’t wait!)

Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza

  • Servings: 3-4 personal pizzas
  • Print

Pizza Ingredients

  • 10 oz skinless and boneless (1 large) chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and marinated
  • 3 or 4 pieces of naan (traditional or garlic; I used traditional)
  • olive oil for brushing
  • pizza sauce, recipe below
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 to 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • handful of cilantro, chopped (plus some for garnish)

Chicken Marinade Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
  • pinch of cinnamon

Pizza Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ jalapeño, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (or butter)
  • salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 4 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

  1. In a bowl, cover the chicken with the prepared marinade and allow to marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking pan with foil and spread the marinated chicken in a single layer on the pan. Discard the remaining marinade. Bake for 6-7 minutes, turning halfway through if desired.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, begin to prepare the pizza sauce. Combine the cumin, paprika and garam masala in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the tomato sauce with 2 Tablespoons of yogurt and 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream.
  4. Heat a small saucepan and warm/melt the ghee (or butter). Sauté the garlic and jalapeño until aromatic. Pour in the combined spices from step 3 and sauté until fragrant over medium heat, stirring often, for about 1-2 minutes. Remove the jalapeño and discard. (If you prefer it spicier, you may leave in the jalapeño.)
  5. Add in the tomato sauce mixture and stir well to mix. Sprinkle salt to taste and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  6. To prep the pizzas, lay the naan on foil-covered cookie sheets. Brush lightly with olive oil. Spread the pizza sauce onto the naan “crust,” covering evenly. Sprinkle with about half (erring on the side of less) of the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the chicken, red onions and chopped cilantro on pizza and cover with the remaining cheese.
  7. Reduce the temperature to 425 degrees F and bake the pizzas for 8-10 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro.

Adapted from: Raya Malaysia

Notes: Pertaining to fishing the jalapeños out of the spice mixture, I don’t think this is entirely necessary – unless you’re extremely averse to spice. In that case, perhaps leave them out altogether, but if you do use them and want to remove them, it’s okay if you don’t get them all. This task can be somewhat annoying, based on my own experience. I removed about half before I decided we probably wouldn’t mind the jalapeños. Use your own judgment, based on your spice preference.

When I made my pizza sauce, I doubled amounts of tomato sauce, yogurt and cream within the pizza sauce because typically store bought cans of tomato sauce come in 8 oz and the recipe said it made up to 3 pizzas but I planned to make 4. I had quite a lot of sauce leftover after covering the pizzas to our liking, so I think as-is should be sufficient for 4 pizzas, but if you like your pizzas on the saucier side, this may be necessary.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Goodbye, Vitamin + The Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake in the World

I finally got around to reading my July Book of the Month selection, a debut novel by Rachel Khong titled Goodbye, Vitamin, and it was such a quick read that it felt like I barely had it open before I was finished. It is both funny and touching, following a year in the life of 30-year-old Ruth as she quits her job and moves back home to spend time with her father who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Khong’s writing style is unassuming, and the results are comical and endearing. Ruth’s struggle isn’t one that I personally relate to, but it felt truthful and hopeful at the same time. When she arrives home just after Christmas, Ruth unhappily discovers that her mom has become afraid of cooking at home, convinced that her husband’s memory loss was caused by not only the packaged ingredients but the pots and pans themselves. After taking some time to get her bearings (and get over the heartbreak of her recently called-off engagement), Ruth throws herself into caretaking and doing whatever she can to help improve her father’s memory.

At one point, Ruth attempts to make a jellyfish-centric meal to help stave off further dementia, and while it’s not a success, it doesn’t stop her culinary adventures. In an email forward, she stumbles across THE MOST DANGEROUS CHOCOLATE CAKE IN THE WORLD, so-named because “from the moment you decide to make it until you sit down to eat is above 5 minutes!” Armed with a mug and a microwave, she makes it one day and sends a picture of the results to her forward-happy friend. I knew I wanted to make it too.

I can’t be sure, but I may have found the exact recipe Khong references in the novel. Both the one in Goodbye, Vitamin and the one I found online from the lovely Ree Drummond require 3 Tablespoons of chocolate chips, and I knew I was on the right track. Though I suppose it’s entirely possible all mug cakes have the same requirement, I was still pretty excited about it.

I actually brought all of the ingredients (and mugs) over to my sister’s house last weekend to try it out. We were belatedly celebrating her birthday together, and I thought chocolate cake was the perfect addition to our already fun-filled Sister Day.

I used a separate bowl to combine all the ingredients before scraping them into each mug, but the recipe calls for them to go straight into the mug, so do whatever you think works best. I wanted to make sure everything was well-combined (no lumps), but on the other hand, I had slightly more cleanup.

First, I mixed my dry ingredients – 3 Tablespoons each of all-purpose flour and sugar, 2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt – using a mini whisk. Then, I added the wet ingredients – 3 Tablespoons each of milk and vegetable oil followed by a splash of vanilla. I made sure those were well-combined before adding 3 Tablespoons of chocolate chips.

I poured the mixture into one of the waiting mugs and put it in the microwave for 90 seconds. As Ruth remarked in the novel, “they look[ed] like beautiful souffles fresh out of the microwave.” I made 3 all together, one for each of us (my brother-in-law included), and after snapping some pictures while they cooled for a few minutes, we dug in.

They were delicious, and yes, absolutely dangerous. We finished them in a hurry!

I’m not normally a huge chocolate cake fan, but this wasn’t too decadent nor too much. It would go great with a scoop of ice cream, and it’s super easy to make for just the 2 of us – no tempting leftovers! Also, if you’re craving some chocolate in the summer, there’s no need to heat up the whole house with the oven.

The Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake in the World

  • Servings: 1
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Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a 12-ounce microwave-safe ceramic mug. Blend thoroughly with a fork or small whisk. Add the milk, vegetable oil and vanilla and blend until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Microwave on high for 90 seconds. Do not overcook or the cake will be dry. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes before eating.

From: Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

If you like your cake a little less rich, feel free to reduce the chocolate chips to 2 Tablespoons instead.


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