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Guest Post: Seven Book + Drink Pairings to Cozy Up With

Happy Fall! I’m Grace from A Literary Feast, here at The Hungry Bookworm as a happy guest writer. Megan and I discovered each other’s blogs a few weeks ago and felt an instant kinship. Food in literature isn’t the most prevalent topic on the Internet, but we both love writing about it! I’m so honored that she wanted to introduce my work to you, her readers. I hope you enjoy this post with these fall-perfect book and drink recommendations.

Any time of the year is a good time for reading. There’s just something about fall, though. Cooler evenings, rainy days, falling leaves… doesn’t it make you want to curl up by the fireside with a warm drink and a cozy read? Me too. That’s why I’m giving you a list of the coziest books and drink pairings to carry you well into the winter.

1 The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery

As much as I adore the Anne of Green Gables series, I prefer to read it in the spring. (Don’t ask me why – maybe it goes back to my Spring Break binge-reads. We bookworms know how to party.) As a whole, though, I think that L.M. Montgomery’s books are so perfect for cozy fireside reading. If you haven’t read beyond Anne, you have so much to look forward to! I love The Story Girl for, yes, the stories, but also for the coming-of-age and turn-of-the-season themes. I haven’t met one her books that I don’t like, so here are a few more suggestions while we’re at it: Pat of Silver Bush, Emily of New Moon, Kilmeny of the Orchard, and Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side.

It’s been a few years since I read The Story Girl, but I remember two things that influenced my drink pairing: Felicity loved to cook and there was an orchard on their property. I’m sure she would enjoy a fancy fireside drink. To pair with The Story Girl, try this Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Cider from Tastes Better From Scratch. Can you just imagine how amazing your house will smell?

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” Although I can’t give you specific details because so much water has passed under the bridge since I read this book, I consider it one of the coziest books I have ever read. Everyone I know who has read it has felt that the book’s homing instinct is spot on. Written in letter form and celebrating the love of all things literary, this book will warm your heart on a chilly fall night.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is set in England on a small island. Islands are known for their fog, and England is known for its tea. I can’t think of a better drink to pair with this book than a warm London Fog. Although the directions aren’t proprietary, I chose this London Fog recipe by Yours Truly, G because of her custom infographic drawing. Super cute!

 

3 My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier.

This is a book that I just reviewed on A Literary Feast, and it fits into this list perfectly. It’s not a thriller nor is it scary, but it is a delicious Gothic mystery that should be read by flickering light. Set primarily in an old manor in Cornwall, England, this story is narrated by 24-year-old Philip who is green, arrogant and stodgy beyond his years but also utterly confounded and besotted by the first female to reside there in decades. A female who, incidentally, may (or may not?) be the cause of his beloved guardian’s death. You’ll change your mind more than once!

The food in My Cousin Rachel is traditional Cornish fare. Apples are prevalent, and their cider is prized. Pair this charming book with a mug of perfect wassail. Here’s a Mulled Wine Wassail recipe with a light buzz from A Spicy Perspective (non-alcoholic version also available).

 

4 The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

To be honest, this is the first book that came to mind when I was thinking of “cozy books.” It’s also the first book I read by this author, although I have since devoured them all. Sugary sweet without being saccharine, Allen’s stories transport you into a world with a sprinkling of magic, where food goes beyond symbolic. Need I say more? You’ll leave this book wearing glasses a shade or two pinker in hue.

You can’t curl up by the fireside with a book called The Sugar Queen without adding some calories to your drink. With the picture of peppermints on the book cover, this book begs to be paired with a Peppermint White Hot Chocolate (this recipe from Creme de la Crumb).

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Call me names, but yes, I do insist on calling it by the original title.)

If I read Anne of Green Gables in the spring, fall is when the world of Harry Potter beckons. Fall heralds back-to-school, and what school is more exciting than Hogwarts? Harry Potter needs no introduction, but I am excited to say that this link leads to a new version of the first book. Or should I say “versions,” because there is one for each Hogwarts House, with different covers and illustrations and extra content specific to each! (I may have a problem. I already own one boxed set as well as a set on my Kindle and already have plans to buy the new fully illustrated ones. Have you seen them? Look here! They’re gorgeous.)

You must know where I’m going with this one: let’s drink some butterbeer! I’ve tried making it cold before, and it turned out to be really good! We’ll try a hot version this time. Creamy and butterscotchy – my mouth is watering already. Here’s a Hot Butterbeer recipe courtesy of Feast of Starlight.

 

6 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

A magical circus spun into existence by two dueling magicians. This book transports you into worlds of fancy among the highest stakes imaginable. You’ll have to think existentially at times, but never fear – the author weaves the plot seamlessly, and you’ll be as captivated as the members of the circus audience. If you love books that paint pictures in your mind, you will love the images that The Night Circus creates. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

What to drink with such a magical book? I know what you’re thinking, and I’m not going to do it. Whatever that crazy Unicorn Frappuccino thing was, that you can now find copycats for all over Pinterest, has to go AWAY. I get a sugar coma just looking at pictures. Such overkill. Blech. I have something else in mind. Here’s a hot drink that (hopefully) isn’t quite as sickeningly sweet, and looks like something that would be served at a fairytale night circus. I think Savor and Savvy has nailed it with this recipe for Pink Velvet Hot Chocolate.

 

7 Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

I saved my favorite for last. If you were to ask me what my favorite Disney movie, fairytale, or Broadway show was, I will mostly likely tell you that it’s Beauty and the Beast. Belle is the perfect heroine: bookish, brainy, and adventurous. And this book by Robin McKinley is my favorite version of the story. Before I had kids and my reading time shrank down to the size of a “poor, provincial town,” I reread this book every year without fail. Until I can resume that lovely tradition, I am passing it on to you! Be my guest.

For such a special book, let’s take the time to make a special drink. Give a nod to the book’s most familiar symbol with this Spiced Rose Latte from Brit and Co. You may have to plan ahead to have these ingredients on hand, but I think that the results will be well worth it! (Invite me over, too, because I would travel far for an evening of reading Beauty by the fireplace with a Spiced Rose Latte!)

 

Hopefully this list has offered a few ideas for a blissful evening in. If you liked this post, I’d love to invite you back to my blog, A Literary Feast, for more food-and-book combinations you may enjoy! And, please add your own favorite fireside reads (or beverages) to the comments below.

 

book review, recipe

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child + Exploding Truffles

As though magically conjured, the library book I placed a hold on back in July finally became available last weekend – just in time for Halloween! I wasted no time starting (and finishing) the long-awaited Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, better known to some as “Harry Potter #8.” As with all the others, I read it as quickly as I could, though thankfully this was much shorter than Deathly Hallows.

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For a moment, it was nice to be back in Harry Potter’s world. But I quickly realized it wasn’t the world I know and love. Yes, there was Harry and Ron and Hermione. There was Hogwarts and Professor McGonagall. There was even Draco Malfoy. What was missing was the actual intricacies of the world that J.K. Rowling created, the details that immersed me from the very first chapter of the very first book.

True, this is the script of a play rather than a book. I’m sure a lot of the magic comes across in the costumes, in the acting and on the stage. I can understand that and forgive that it’s just the nature of a play to have less description than a novel.

What makes me wish I hadn’t read it is that being an adult is relatively unmagical – even, oddly, in a magical world. Our famous trio is all grown up. They have jobs and children. They have bad eyesight. It was weird to read, and not just because their adulthood felt pretty much like it does in the muggle world. I think I would’ve been happily comfortable leaving Harry, Ron and Hermione right where we left them (before the final book’s epilogue) – in a magical world full of possibility.

Upon finishing, I decided that the only cure for how I was feeling was chocolate. Everyone knows it has mood-enhancing properties, even in the wizarding world. And, in true Halloween (and Weasley) fashion, I thought it would be fun to make something that was both a trick and a treat – Exploding Truffles.

Since this was my first attempt at making candy, I was a little nervous but mostly excited. Surprisingly, finding the Pop Rocks was the hardest part of the task; it turned out to be a very easy recipe to make. ( if you’re having as much trouble as I did finding Pop Rocks, even at the height of Halloween candy madness, I suggest a trip to Party City.) You can choose whichever flavor you like. I chose strawberry, which worked really well with the chocolate.

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I began by chopping my chocolate into smaller chunks, while my heavy cream simmered on the stove top.

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Once the cream is hot, pour over the chocolate pieces and whisk to melt it until together they form a well-combined and smooth mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 3 hours to firm up. (You could probably read the entirety Cursed Child while it’s chilling.)

After it’s chilled, scoop the ganache into small balls (about ¾ inches) and then roll them between your palms to round them out. This doesn’t really get as messy as it seems like it would.

Pour 4 of the Pop Rocks packets onto a plate or into a bowl, leaving one packet for decorating with later. Roll each truffle ball in the candy until it’s well-covered, setting each completed one on a baking sheet covered in aluminum. It’s best to work quickly so that the Pop Rocks are exposed to the air as little as possible (especially if it’s humid). Mine began crackling as soon as I took them out of the package!  

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Once finished, plate the truffles in the freezer while you prepare the dipping chocolate (I chose dark chocolate). When that is melted and ready, lower each truffle into the bowl of chocolate using a fork and coat well. Be sure to remove any excess chocolate, which can be done by tapping the fork against the side of the bowl.

Place each truffle back on the foiled baking sheet. While the chocolate is still melted – it dries quickly, so I would do it immediately – sprinkle a few Pop Rocks from the last packet on top.

The original recipe suggests letting them sit in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set, but I was impatient and they tasted great as soon as they were covered in chocolate!

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These delicious truffles would be an excellent addition to any Halloween party, Harry Potter-themed party, or Harry Potter-themed Halloween party. They are also fun to spring on unsuspecting coworkers in October, or just enjoy them on your average weeknight at home!

Exploding Truffles

Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 15 mins
Inactive Time3 hrs 15 mins
Total Time4 hrs
Course: Dessert
Servings: 24

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate about 1 cup chopped
  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • 5 .33-oz envelopes popping candy, like Pop Rocks [I recommend 6 to be on the safe side]
  • 12 ounces chocolate candy coating [I recommend dark chocolate]

Instructions

  • Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a medium heat-safe bowl. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer.
  • Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to soften the chocolate for a minute. Use a whisk to blend the cream and chocolate together. Stir until you have a smooth, homogenous mixture. Press a piece of plastic wrap on top of the ganache and refrigerate it until it is firm enough to scoop, about 3 hours.
  • Scoop the ganache mixture into small balls, about 3/4" in diameter, and roll them into circles between your palms. If the ganache starts to melt and stick, use a little cocoa powder on your palms to prevent sticking.
  • Once they're rolled into balls, open 4 of the Pop Rocks envelopes and pour them into a small bowl. (Do not open them early, as the humidity in the air will start to make them sticky once the package is opened.) Roll a truffle ball in the Pop Rocks, then roll it briefly between your palms to embed the candy into the ganache. If the rocks don't stick, briefly roll the truffle between your palms to soften the chocolate, then roll it in Pop Rocks.
  • Set the coated truffles on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil, and repeat with remaining truffles and Pop Rocks. At this point you want to dip the truffles as quickly as possible, to avoid exposing the Pop Rocks to air for an extended amount of time. However, the ganache might be a bit too soft for dipping, so I recommend putting the truffles in the freezer while preparing the dipping chocolate.
  • You don't want to freeze them, just chill them quickly for about 5-10 minutes. If you do not plan on dipping them immediately, do not put them in the freezer, just wrap them well with cling-wrap and refrigerate until you dip them.
  • While the truffles chill in the freezer, place the coating chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent overheating.
  • Once the coating chocolate is smooth and the truffles are firm enough to dip, it's time to dip the truffles. Use dipping tools or a fork to submerge a truffle in the chocolate. Remove it from the chocolate and tap the fork against the bowl several times to remove excess chocolate. Replace it on the foil-lined baking sheet, and, while the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle popping candy from the remaining envelope on top. Repeat with remaining truffles and chocolate.
  • Allow the chocolate to set in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Store Exploding Truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but for best taste and texture, serve at room temperature. Because the popping candy does absorb moisture, these are best eaten within 24 hours of making them, although they will still pop up to 3 days later.

Notes

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book review, recipe

Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon + Pumpkin Pie

Last fall, my cousin Nora and I campaigned hard for Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon at our Good Reads & Good Eats book club – primarily so we could pair it with dinner at The Jolly Pumpkin. We were the only two who voted for it.

Still, the book stayed on my mind, and this fall, I decided to buy a used copy of it – primarily so I could make my very favorite dessert for the blog. Not that I didn’t want to learn the history and virtues of pumpkins; I just really wanted an excuse to make pumpkin pie.

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As the title promises, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon is chock-full of facts about pumpkins. In fact, as someone’s Grandma Jane wrote in the note that fell out when I opened my new-to-me copy of the book, it contains “absolutely more than you’ll ever remember about pumpkins!”

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Grandma Jane was right! There is way more information than I could ever remember, or that I ever needed to know. I’ll share a few:

In the very early days of farming, pumpkins and squash were basically interchangeable, in name as well as use. They were prized for their ability to grow abundantly in almost any condition and were often fed to livestock. Sweet pumpkin pie originated in the late eighteenth century and  was included in the first American cookbook by Amelia Simmons. By the time manufactured products became widespread, canned pumpkin made using fresh pumpkins in the kitchen seem like “an old-fashioned novelty.” And, even though canning made it possible to eat pumpkin year-round, Americans continued to prefer to eat it in the fall, particularly as part of the Thanksgiving meal.   

That’s probably why I was so looking forward to making pumpkin pie. The fall harvest has arrived – just look at all of the beautiful pumpkins and squash on display at Eastern Market this past Saturday!

I dug up my trusty pumpkin pie recipe, which I love because it’s well-seasoned. There’s nothing worse than a pumpkin pie that tastes like straight-out-of-the-can pumpkin. Though it’s called Scratch Pumpkin Pie, I’ve never actually made it from scratch because I’m way too impatient to spend 4 hours prepping and baking a pie before it’s ready to eat, and this time was no different.

For the crust, though, I shirked my usual go-to (the store bought frozen kind) and decided to go the homemade route. Despite my fear of additional prep time, the homemade crust really didn’t add more than 15 minutes or so. Plus, it tasted better. I used a recipe from one my very first cookbooks (courtesy of my mother, while I was in college), Anyone Can Cook.

I stirred the flour and salt together and then used my pastry blender to cut in the shortening. I filled a small prep bowl with cold water and grabbed a fork and tablespoon to begin moistening the dough.

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I probably ended up using closer to 6 or 7 tablespoons, but the recipe suggests 4-5 tablespoons. Use your best judgement – it shouldn’t be wet but should definitely be well-moistened.

I formed the dough into a ball and flattened that into a thick disk before rolling it out. As directed, I used the rolling pin to help lift the dough into the pie dish. I trimmed the edges where needed, folded any overhang underneath, and pressed the dough to fit the scalloped pattern of my dish.

When not using fresh pumpkin, the prep for the custard filling is easy. I use only 1 can of pumpkin puree (15 ounces), then add in the sugar, salt, spices and eggs. Once that’s combined, stir in the can of evaporated milk. I usually just use a wooden spoon, but you could use a whisk or hand-mixer if so desired.

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If you’re using store bought frozen pie crust, this makes too much filling. Fill the pie to almost the top of the crust; put any leftover filling in a small oven-safe bowl to bake separately in a water bath like a custard. (This is an excellent way to test your filling before you serve it, though I’ve never had any complaints with this recipe!) You’ll also need to watch the cook-time on the smaller portion, as it may not take as long as the whole pie.  

Because I used homemade crust in a larger pie dish (10-inch), this amount filled the pie up perfectly. I covered the edges in foil, so they didn’t brown too quickly and put it in the oven for about 80 minutes. (If using a smaller pie dish or a frozen crust, cook-time will be closer to the original recipe at an hour.)

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I did want some color on my crust, so I removed the foil with about 20 minutes left. You’ll know the pie is done when a knife or cake tester comes out clean. Allow it to cool, and enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pie

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Print


Adapted from: Cheri B’s Scratch Pumpkin Pie, Food.com

Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pie shell, 9-inch deep dish up to 10-inch (homemade or store bought)

Directions

  1. In medium bowl, add pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, spices, eggs. Mix until combined, then carefully add evaporated milk and stir.
  2. Pour into pie shell, foil edges, and place on foiled, cookie sheet and bake 350°F for 50-60 minutes. Give knife clean test. If not clean, bake longer. [Larger pie dishes will require longer baking times. My 10-inch pie baked for 80 minutes.]
  3. If using a smaller pie crust/dish, pour leftover pumpkin pie mix into a greased oven-safe dish (up to 1-quart) and bake in a water bath like custard. [This may take less time to bake than the pie.]

Pastry for Single-Crust Pie

  • Servings: 1 pie crust
  • Print

From Better Homes & Gardens Anyone Can Cook (Book 20, published in 2007), page 470

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup shortening
  • 4-5 tablespoons of cold water

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together all-purpose flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea-sized.
  2. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cold water over part of the flour mixture, gently tossing with a fork. Push moistened dough to one side of the bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the flour mixture is moistened.
  3. Form pastry into a ball.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. [Or larger, if needed to properly fill/cover your pie dish. Mine was closer to 15 inches.]
  5. Wrap pastry circle around the rolling pin to transfer it; unroll circle into a 9-inch pie plate. [Mine was a 10-inch dish.] Ease into pie plate without stretching it.
  6. Trim pastry ½ inch beyond edge of plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edges as desired.