0
Browsing Tag

suspense

book review, recipe

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore + Cider Donuts

I suppose I expected a book about books when I chose Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore for the Book Challenge by Erin bonus round, but beyond that I didn’t have much background. Everyone else who’d previously read it for the challenge had nothing but good things to say, so if nothing else, I had high hopes. Matthew J. Sullivan’s novel is a low-key thriller — and yes, a book about books — but it’s also about choosing your family and finding out where you belong.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J Sullivan

Lydia, who has my dream job as a bookstore clerk, works at Bright Ideas, where she does her best to blend into the background. For the most part, she’s successful, but to the lonely regulars known as the BookFrogs, she’s special. When Joey, one of the BookFrogs, commits suicide in the store just before Lydia’s closing shift ends, her life takes a series of unexpected turns. He’s left her all of his possessions — mostly books full of coded messages — and she begins to unravel the mystery around his death. Lydia is alarmed to discover that it’s mystery that entwines with her own childhood trauma.

Continue Reading

book review, recipe

The Trespasser + Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza

I read Tana French’s first Dublin Murder Squad novel, In the Woods, about a year and a half ago. It reminded me of all the hours I had spent as a young girl reading Nancy Drew books and then, when I was little bit older, devouring Mary Higgins Clark mysteries. I read the second book about a month later, but until The Trespasser, I hadn’t picked up one of the series since then.

29430013.jpg

This time, the detectives are trying to hunt down the person responsible for killing a woman in her apartment. With a boyfriend who insists he’s innocent, the spotless crime scene doesn’t help, but Antoinette and her partner are seemingly being pushed into charging him. They have to follow their guts without raising any flags.

Unless it pertains to the crime, this genre of novels aren’t usually rich with descriptions of food. In this case, the victim’s table was all set and ready for a romantic dinner when she was murdered, but the dinner itself hadn’t yet made it to the table and it was ruined by the time anyone found it.

That wasn’t exactly appetizing, but with all of the late nights on the case, there was ample opportunity to make something for an after-hours snack. I seized the opportunity and made pizza. Having once made an unexpectedly delicious strawberry balsamic bacon pizza, I was interested in trying out one that similarly unique. In honor of Ireland, where the novel takes place, I scouted out a recipe using classic St. Patrick’s Day fare – corned beef and cabbage (and potatoes).

I used store-bought dough, but otherwise I followed this recipe from the Food Network.

First, I sliced my potato, covered the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and placed them in the pre-heated oven on a sheet pan.

While those baked, I chopped up the cabbage, so it could begin to cook down on the stove with the pickling spices (below, before I wrapped them in the cheesecloth).

img_2544

Once the potatoes were done, I put the pizza dough into the oven to pre-bake for 8 minutes, as directed on the package. I also roughly chopped my corned beef and shredded my parmesan and combined the cheeses.

With the dough and toppings all ready, it was time to assemble the pizza. I sprinkled the dough with olive oil and covered it with the cheese. I then layered on the remaining toppings – the cabbage, the corned beef, and last, the potatoes. A sprinkle of salt and pepper and it was all set for the oven. After about 12 minutes, it came out all gooey and smelled amazing. We couldn’t wait to dive in!

Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza

  • Servings: 4 with 2 slices each
  • Print


Adapted from: Food Network

Ingredients

  • Store-bought pizza dough, enough for 2 pizzas
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spices, tied securely in cheesecloth
  • 1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 ounces sliced corned beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

[/recipe-directions]
1. Prep/prepare your dough according to directions or your own recipe.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, season with salt and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pickling spices and just enough water to cover. Simmer over low heat, covered, until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the cabbage and set aside (discard spices).
3. Place a pizza stone in the oven, if you have one, and preheat to 500 degrees. Toss the potato with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet until golden, about 15 minutes.
4. Place one round on a floured pizza peel (if baking on a stone) or a large oiled pizza pan (if using two regular pans, you can prep both pizzas together].
5. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Scatter half of each of the cheeses, corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully slip the pizza onto the hot stone, if using, or place the pan(s) in the oven. Cook until golden and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings, if needed.
[/recipe-directions]

book review, recipe

The Couple Next Door + Coffee-Glazed Banana Bread

From serious memoir to childhood favorite to suspenseful thriller – my last three books have been a little sporadic. The Couple Next Door is certainly more adult than The Secret Garden, but secrets still abound. After a shocking ending to a dinner party with (not surprisingly) the couple next door, Marco and Anne’s seemingly perfect life begins to unravel.

51qI2RzRlzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door was fast-paced, with new revelations at nearly every turn of the page. With a cast of characters that included an inappropriately flirtatious neighbor, a stay-at-home mom with a questionable past, and a power-hungry stepfather, no one’s motives were clear but everyone was suspect.

As the plot twisted here and turned there, food didn’t play much of a role. Despite starting with a dinner party, nothing much was mentioned aside from coffee. Uncertainty breeds sleeplessness, and the best cure for that is caffeine. In one instance, Lapena points out that the two main characters were “both living mostly on coffee and despair.”

In an effort to impart some comfort on a decidedly uncomforting storyline, I opted to make banana bread – with a coffee glaze. Comfort meets caffeine, thanks to this recipe from A Latte Food.

Like most quick breads, this one is pretty easy to get together. The really hard part is waiting for the baking (and cooling!) before you can finally eat it.

I had already-brewed coffee ready to go, but if you don’t, I suggest starting that process before you make the bread. I began by mashing up the bananas, which is always fun to do first thing in the morning. (Make sure your bananas are ripe. See them pre-mashed below; and mashed, with Beta looking on, wondering why she can’t have some of her favorite fruit too.)

I creamed the softened butter together with the sugars, adding the eggs and vanilla extract once the mixture was light and fluffy. To the wet ingredients, I slowly incorporated the flour, salt and baking soda. Once all was well-combined, I added the mashed bananas, stirring until just mixed.

Once in the prepared loaf pan, I let it bake in the oven for about an hour. With a few minutes to spare before the bread came out of the oven, I began the glaze so I could pour it over the loaf before it cooled completely. I whisked together the powdered sugar, brewed coffee and vanilla extract to form a light coffee-colored glaze.

I drizzled it over the still-cooling banana bread, with a plate underneath to catch any sugar-y drips.

img_1497img_1499

For those of you who don’t know me, I have a confession to make: I don’t like coffee. (Rory Gilmore would be horrified, I know.) I do, however, love banana bread. I thought the glaze tasted exactly like coffee, but Scott – who loves coffee – thought it tasted more like sugar. When I brought it to work, consensus all around was that it tasted good. If you actually like coffee, and prefer a more coffee-flavored glaze, I would suggest adding the espresso powder.

Or just enjoy it with a cup of coffee.

img_1498

Coffee-Glazed Banana Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Print

Very slightly adapted from: A Latte Food

Ingredients

    Bread

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 to 4 medium or large bananas
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Coffee Glaze

  • 2 TBS strong coffee, brewed
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp espresso powder (optional)

Directions

    Bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mash bananas. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter sugar, and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in vanilla extract, and mix.
  5. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined.
  6. Add in mashed bananas, and mix until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
  7. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs stuck to it.
  8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Move to a wire cooling rack.
  9. Glaze

  10. While bread is cooling, mix together powdered sugar, vanilla extract, espresso powder (if using), and 2 TBS brewed coffee. If the glaze is thicker than your desired preference, add in additional brewed coffee. [I used 2 TBS of coffee and no espresso powder and it was a perfect thickness; according to many, however, the flavor was not enough like coffee. Additional liquid may be required if adding the powder, but taste as you go to ensure a flavor you like.]
  11. Pour the glaze evenly over the loaf. Allow the glaze to harden completely before cutting into slices.