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book review, recipe

The Astonishing Color of After + Matcha Belgian Waffles

When Leigh Chen Sanders finally kisses her longtime best friend Axel, she knows that her life is about to change. By the time Leigh arrives home, high on the magic of her first kiss, life as-she-knows-it really has changed — in a way she never could’ve imagined. In Emily X.R. Pan’s debut novel The Astonishing Color of After, Leigh goes on a journey that begins on the day she kissed Axel, the day her mother took her own life.

Leigh is half-Taiwanese and half-white, and following her mother’s suicide, her father decides it would be beneficial for her to meet her maternal grandparents and discover her heritage. Beginning at her mother’s wake, a series of signs lead Leigh to believe that her mother, in death, has become a red bird. As she travels to Taiwan, she becomes almost obsessed with finding her mother the bird and seeks her out wherever she goes.

As an artist, Leigh sees the world through a unique lens, describing all of her moods in colors. Her outlook allows her to get wrapped up in this magical realism around her – her mother the bird and her otherworldly experiences in Taiwan. As a reader, it’s easy to get wrapped up in it, too. The journey yields both pleasure and disappointment, as one would expect.

I was impressed by the originality of Pan’s storytelling and the care with which she handled the topics of depression and suicide. The novel is in no hurry to get to the end, a bit meandering and repetitive at moments, but it’s a beautiful and heartbreaking story worth a read.

Prior to her mother’s suicide, Sunday morning waffles were a family tradition in Leigh’s house; her mother was always the one to make them. After, Leigh and her father reminisce about her experimenting with Taiwanese flavors, making less appealing red bean waffles and matcha waffles (which were pretty good, actually), before settling on more traditional Belgian waffles with berries and cream.

The matcha waffles intrigued me. I found a recipe on the Matcha Zen Blog and set about acquiring some culinary grade matcha (available on Amazon) as well as a waffle iron (borrowed, again, from my coworker). The recipe should be pretty recognizable to anyone who regularly makes waffles or pancakes, with the exception of the addition of matcha powder.

I beat 2 eggs in a large bowl until fluffy and then added just 1 tablespoon of matcha powder, beating further to remove lumps. I added the rest of the ingredients – flour, milk, vegetable oil, a bit of sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla – and mixed until smooth. I ended up with a batter that was a lovely shade of green.

I filled the bottom of the waffle iron with 1 cup of batter, closed it, flipped it, and waited a few minutes until cooked. My first waffle cooked a little longer and browned, hiding some of the beautiful green of the matcha.

The subsequent waffles I cooked a touch less (about 2 minutes) so they retained their green color.

The matcha aroma was stronger than the flavor, which was more subtle than I would’ve expected. They were delicious with syrup; the original recipe also recommended serving with fruit.   

4 from 1 vote
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Matcha Belgian Waffles

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBS culinary grade matcha powder
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 TBS white sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Turn on the waffle iron. 

  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy. Add culinary matcha powder and beat until there are no lumps.

  3. Add other ingredients and mix until smooth (about two minutes).

  4. Pour into waffle iron and cook according to waffle iron's directions. Serve hot with syrup and fruit.

Recipe Notes

From: Matcha Zen Blog

of interest

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Palate Cleansers

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, a literary list with a new bookish topic every week. This Tuesday’s topic is a freebie, which means I get to do whatever I want! This week I’m going to focus on some of my favorite palate cleansers.

And while this means something in the food world (my other favorite topic), I’m actually referring to those in the book world. Book palate cleansers can mean be used for various reasons. You just finished an intense read and are looking for something easy or fun. You’ve been having trouble getting into everything you pick up and need a story that will draw you in. You’re a little stressed in real life and want a book that is the exact opposite, an escape.

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book review, recipe

Bel Canto + Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze

I read somewhere once that Bel Canto is the book you should start with if you want to give Ann Patchett a try. As a result, it’s been on my TBR and my bookshelf for a while now. You may recall that I actually read her newest novel Commonwealth first, but this is the novel that caused me to truly fall in love with Ann Patchett’s writing and storytelling.

At first glance, this wouldn’t seem like a novel I would enjoy. Not much happens by way of plot – in the beginning, a group of rebels interrupt a birthday celebration in order to capture the unknown South American country’s president and take on a whole mansion-full of hostages. That is sort of where the plot gets stuck, until the very end. The real story is in the growth of the characters – all of them so rich and well-developed. The setting, too, is unique, and it’s one that really lets the characters come to life, almost unexpectedly.

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book review, recipe

Life of Pi + Dhal Soup

I rarely re-read books, primarily because there are so many new ones I want to read. My TBR list never stops growing – and it’s only gotten worse since I started blogging. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to make it a point to re-read more of my favorites. Or, more specifically, books that I enjoyed so much I bought a copy (with the intention of reading them again or lending them out for others to read). Anyway, when the Book Challenge by Erin included a category of “books that take place on a mode of transportation,” the first book that came to mind was Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The challenge only allows for one re-read, and this was one I owned – and remember liking, so I decided to give it another go.

For the majority of the story, 227 days worth of it to be exact, Pi survives on a lifeboat with fellow passenger Richard Parker, who happens to be a Bengal tiger. Pi and his family were traveling from India to Canada with a cargo ship full of zoo animals when it shipwrecked, stranding Pi with an unusual boatmate. Though the premise promises adventure, it took a little bit to get into – the narrator describes how he stumbled upon Pi and learned his story. Pi also goes through a bit of a spiritual exploration prior to their scheduled journey, which slows things down even while providing some humor.

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book review, of interest, recipe

Fandom Foodies Linkup: #MagicalRealFood

Starting today and all April long, I’ll be hosting #MagicalRealFood, a link up through Fandom Foodies dedicated to food found in and inspired by magical realism. According to Wikipedia, magical realism is “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”

When magical realism is done well, it’s absolutely one of my favorite types of fiction. But magical realism can also be found in other types of art outside of literature – movies, television shows and video games can all have elements of magical realism as well. It’s more common than you may think!

If you’d like to participate, here’s how:

#MagicalRealFood is open to everyone, seasoned fandom foodies and novices alike!

Create a recipe post (this can be on a blog, Tumblr, Instagram – anywhere you can type up a recipe with a photo) and share your link on the official linkup page (below). When sharing your creation on social media make sure to use the custom hashtag! I’ll be checking all month and sharing some of my favorites, so be sure to remember to include #MagicalRealFood when posting.

Note: The recipe post must be of your own creation (meaning don’t link-up to someone else’s recipe/post). If the food you made was adapted from another source or a variation on an existing recipe, make sure you give proper credit!

Alright, let’s dive into some #MagicalRealFood!  

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.

Because it’s so like a rom-com (in setup and plot), it was as light-hearted as I expected. What I didn’t expect was the subtle and realistic ways Jasmine was able to work in issues of race and (male) white privilege. The relationship issues also seemed realistic, particularly those that arise due to long distance, but in some cases, I’ll admit, the rom-comminess seemed to prevent a quicker solution to problems that probably just required some honest communication.

Still, while it’s light, it’s not “fluffy.” A book like The Wedding Date makes a wonderful vacation read because it’s amusing and easily devoured. As a bonus, it may inspire you to make some fancy cheese plate, and that’s never a bad thing.

A lover of all things cheese, I have eaten more than my share of cheese and crackers. I’ve enjoyed cheese platters at parties, but I’ve never made my own. I was excited by the prospect. When Alexa and Drew meet in the elevator, they are limited by a lack of utensils and can only eat whatever cheese they can break off the block, accompanied by crackers straight out of the sleeve.

I knew I had to do better. I bought a slate cheese board specifically for the occasion, and now I have an excuse to make cheese platters more often (if I need one…). I researched all of the elements that should go into a delicious, effortless-looking cheese board, and it came out pretty wonderfully, if I do say so myself. Here’s what I learned:

How to Make the Perfect Cheese Board

First, determine which types of cheese you’ll be including. Typically, four kinds of cheese are enough and you should choose one each of the following: soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard.

Soft cheeses include mozzarella and brie.

Semi-soft cheeses include blue cheeses like Stilton, Gouda, and Jarlsberg.

Semi-hard cheeses include Manchego, Comte and provolone.

Hard cheeses include aged cheeses, such as cheddar, parmesan, or asiago. I opted for Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar, which is a delicious cheddar that has parmesan in it.

Once you’ve settled on your cheeses, you should choose crackers, meats and other accompaniments that go well with each cheese. I used the Cheese Pairings chart at the bottom of this article to help me choose.

I went with prosciutto and water crackers (to accompany the brie and mild-flavored comte) and salami and whole wheat crackers (to accompany the more-strongly flavored cheddar and blue cheese). I also included apricot jam for the brie, which I have to say, I had never had together before – I wholeheartedly recommend it. Lastly, I bought mixed nuts to fill in the gaps and provide another snacking option.

What are some of your favorite things to include in a cheese plate? I’d love to hear in the comments below – as I’m sure there will be many more of these in my future! 🙂

_____________________

I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

 

book review, recipe

Rainbirds + Japanese Curry Rice

I love being a part of the Book of the Month Club for many reasons, including that I love getting mail and I love when that mail is books. I love BOTM even more when it introduces me to a wonderful novel I haven’t heard of before. (Some of my recent favorites from BOTM have been The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and The Heart’s Invisible Furies.) Clarissa Goenawan’s debut novel Rainbirds caught my eye because of the beautiful cover, and I ultimate chose it for the description.

It takes place in a small town in Japan, where Ren Ishida goes to get his older sister’s affairs in order after her murder. They shared a special bond, taking care of each other when their parents were otherwise occupied. He struggles to make sense of her sudden death, wondering if he could’ve done anything differently. Ren seeks solace in answers and soon finds himself slipping into her life, accepting her teaching job and moving into her old rented bedroom.

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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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book review, recipe

The Mothers + Fish Taco Bowls

Every reader has something they look for in a book, something that makes it worth it for them. I enjoy a well-crafted plot, and I love memorable characters. I’m not usually the type of reader who gushes about writing or writing style. To me, in most cases, I’d rather not notice it. If it’s good, it’s seamless, enhancing the other elements of the book that normally stand out to me; if it’s bad, it can take away from an otherwise good story and becomes more annoying than anything else.

However, in the case of The Mothers, what did stand out to me was the writing. Brit Bennett sure has a wonderful way with words, and I ate them right up.

Her story about a contemporary black community in Southern California is narrated by the female elders at the church or “the Mothers.” When we begin, Nadia is seventeen and about to graduate high school, destined for great things. She begins dating the pastor’s older son, Luke, and the relationship progresses how you would probably expect. Determined to not let anything get in her way of her ambitions, Nadia makes a decision that will impact everyone far beyond their youth. Continue Reading

book review, recipe

The Book of Unknown Americans + Mexican Buñuelos

In The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henríquez gives a voice to the millions of immigrants in the United States – how they got here and why, where they come from and what they’re searching for. While her story focuses primarily on the Riveras and the Toros, many of the chapters are told from the perspective of other immigrants in their apartment complex in Delaware. Each hailing from a different Spanish-speaking homeland, each giving us a glimpse into their lives today.

When their teenage daughter Maribel suffered a near-fatal accident, the Riveras did everything in their power to help her heal and come back to herself. Her father, Arturo, secured a job in Delaware and with it, visas for all of them to come to America, where Maribel would be able to enroll in specialized classes and receive a better education. She eventually meets Mayor, a fifteen-year-old whose family came from Panama; he has lived here nearly his whole life. He and the other residents help the Riveras navigate the language and cultural obstacles they face.

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