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book review, of interest, recipe

Truly Madly Deeply + Grilled Shrimp and Corn

“It all began at a barbecue.” And so Liane Moriarty’s latest novel begins. It seemed innocent enough, but with a title like Truly Madly Guilty, I knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. I have been a fan of Moriarty’s ever since I read her best-seller Big Little Lies in 2015. With the HBO series adaptation recently wrapping up, I was excited for more when my hold finally came through at the library.

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For those of you who have seen or read Big Little Lies, the setup is similar. It becomes quickly apparent that something bad has happened, but it’s less clear who it happened to and what exactly it is. Over the course of a slow, every-other-chapter build, the consequences of a normal, spur-of-the-moment backyard barbeque become all too real.

I would consider some of Moriarty’s other novels to be quick-paced beach reads, despite her ability to sneak tough, sometimes dark subjects into an otherwise light, reality TV-style wrapper. Though the title Truly Madly Guilty definitely screams “get out your sunnies!” I didn’t get the same vibe this time.

The plot moved too slowly for me, and it’s real strength was in its character building. The relationships were messy and complicated in a way that felt authentic because it wasn’t over-the-top. By the end of the novel, I definitely appreciated its subtlety though it wasn’t what I expected going in.

But, since it all started with a barbecue, I used that as my recipe inspiration. And, since it took place in Australia, I couldn’t resist making (get your Aussie accent ready!) shrimp on the barbie. I was also mostly just excited to have an excuse to use our new grill on the deck.

I found a simple recipe for Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs from one of my faves Damn Delicious, and even though she bakes hers in the oven, I was easily able to adapt it to a grill. Alongside Grilled “Crack Corn,” this could easily impress at your next outdoor get-together! The best part about both of these recipes is that they don’t require a lot prep and they grill up in under 15 minutes.

To start, I shucked my corn and speared my shrimp and lemons onto the skewers. (I used metal, but if you’re using bamboo or wooden skewers, make sure you soak them first.) I chose to do a lemon slice on each end and 4-5 shrimp in the middle, but you can mix it up however you think it works best.

Then, Scott put the corn on the grill, since it took slightly longer than the shrimp, while I made the sauce for the corn and the shrimp.

To make sauce for the corn, I simply combined already melted butter with brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. I whisked it up really well and brought it outside to the grill. Scott began basting the corn and put the shrimp on.

Back in the kitchen, I made the sauce/glaze for the shrimp skewers. In a small saucepan, I melted some butter. To that, I added lemon juice, minced garlic and dried basil, oregano and thyme. I also seasoned it with salt and pepper – I used a generous pinch and a turn or two of freshly ground black pepper. After a couple of minutes, it was fragrant and ready.

We allowed the corn to cook while the shrimp finished up, even though it was basically finished – a little extra color never hurt anyone. Be sure your shrimp is fully cooked through, but be careful not to overcook it as it can be tough and chewy. The shrimp should be a nice pink color.

Both recipes were really delicious and really easy. Perfect for entertaining a small group, or a relaxing summer evening outside. I hope everyone has a safe, sunny Memorial Day weekend! See you next week!

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp Kabobs

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2-4 lemons, thinly sliced and halved
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Thread shrimp and lemon halves onto skewers. In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, melt butter. Stir in lemon juice, garlic, oregano, thyme and basil until fragrant, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. (If you have a side burner on your grill, you can do this while the shrimp cooks.)
  2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil grates and add shrimp.
  3. Grill each side for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
  4. Serve shrimp skewers immediately, brushed with butter mixture and garnished with parsley, if desired.


From: Damn Delicious

Crack Corn

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • 3 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • lime wedges, for squeezing

Directions

  1. Heat grill to high. Oil grates and add corn. Grill for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and melted butter. Whisk together until combined.
  3. Baste corn, while grilling, until totally slathered in crack sauce. Grill until charred and tender, approximately 5 minutes more.
  4. Squeeze with lime and serve.


book review, of interest, recipe

American Gods + Beef Pasties

I read American Gods hoping to create some personal excitement for the new series on Starz (which premiered on April 30), but I finished it feeling less than enthused. I’ve had a bit of a mixed reaction to Neil Gaiman – ultimately thinking that my first selection The Ocean at the End of the Lane was just okay, but enjoying both Coraline and Neverwhere.

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Gaiman’s novel is interesting enough at the outset. It follows Shadow as he is released from prison after serving three years. On his way home, he meets a mysterious man called Wednesday, an old god, actually. Wednesday enlists Shadow to help him recruit other old gods, traveling back and forth across the United States attempting to convince them to join the fight against the new gods.

Shadow’s story, when we were following it, kept my attention. It was the detours Gaiman took at the end of each chapter that I found distracting, as the story peeked in at the goings-on of various other gods we usually hadn’t met yet (and sometimes never saw again). The plot took a lot of twists and turns, and had I been fully invested, I would’ve been at the edge of my seat so I can see why people really enjoy it.

When he wasn’t with Wednesday, Shadow took refuge in a small town called Lakeside, Wisconsin. It was there that I found my recipe for American Gods – Mabel’s famous pasties. Pasties are baked pastries filled with meat and vegetables, said to have originated in Cornwall, England. They are also quite popular in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and while I have had them in England, I’ve never had them close to home – until now.

Scott’s mom had actually made them before and shared her recipe with me. (Thank you!) I made my own dough, which she said would be easy with a food processor – and it was.

My food processor didn’t seem to be able to handle such a large amount of ingredients, however, so I ended up splitting the dough into two batches. I also needed slightly more liquid to get it to come together, so use your best judgment, but make sure not to overdo the liquid because you don’t want the dough to become sticky.  

I formed the dough into two smaller disks and stored them in the refrigerator in plastic wrap to chill. I allowed mine to chill overnight but a couple of hours should be sufficient.

While the dough chilled (or in my case, before I took it out to roll it), I prepared the vegetables for the filling. First, I diced the carrots, doing my best to keep them relatively small so they would soften well while baking.

Having never even eaten rutabaga (to my knowledge), I certainly had never made it, so I was a little unsure how to tackle it at first. Ultimately, I just hacked off a chunk of it, peeled off the skin and then cut the piece into smaller pieces that would fit in my food processor spout. I used my grating attachment to grate it quickly.

Then, I peeled and diced my potatoes, trying to keep their size in line with the size of my carrots. About 2 medium potatoes yielded the 1½ cups I needed. After so much prepped I decided to just use minced dried onion out of my cupboard. Fresh onion might impart a bit more moisture into the meat, but it turned out well with the dried version, so use whatever works best for you.

I combined all of my filling ingredients – about a pound of ground beef, the carrots, potatoes, rutabaga and minced onion. I also added salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Lastly, I melted the butter and poured that over the filling, making sure to mix it in well.

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As I took my dough out to roll and shape, I turned on my oven to 350 degrees F to preheat. I rolled out the dough and used 8” saucers as a guide for my circles, yielding 4 large pastry circles. I filled half of each circle with as much filling as I could, making sure it could still be closed and sealed.  

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Note: I had a bit of filling leftover as well as a bit of pastry, so I probably could’ve made each one a bit bigger.

Finally, I cut 3 slits into each pasty and brushed them with an egg wash before putting them in the oven on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. After about an hour, they came out a lovely golden brown.

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Thinking it seemed similar to meatloaf (and after some online research), I decided to eat mine with some ketchup – which seems to be a popular choice – as well as a little spicy brown mustard. Scott enjoyed his with sour cream (another online hit). Serve with whatever condiments you enjoy, but make sure you allow them to cool before digging in! 

Beef Pasties

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

    For the Dough:
  • 1 cup Crisco or lard
  • 3½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • ½ TBS vinegar
  • ½ cup ice water
  • For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup grated (or finely diced) rutabaga
  • 1 ½ cup diced potatoes
  • 1 or 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced or 1 TBS dried minced onion
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 stick butter or margarine, melted
  • egg wash: 1 egg and 1 TBS water

Directions

  1. To make the dough, put the dry ingredients – shortening/lard, flour, salt and baking powder – into the food processor. With it on low, drizzle in the liquid ingredients – 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and ½ cup of ice water.
  2. Once dough is well combined, form into a disk (or two smaller disks) in plastic wrap and allow to chill for a few hours, or overnight. When ready to create the pasties, roll out the dough and cut into circles with a small saucer (8” or 10” diameter).
  3. Combine the filling ingredients, adding the melted butter last.
  4. Add filling to one half of each pastry circle. Fold over and crimp the edges.
  5. Brush with an egg wash and make 2-3 slits or use a fork on the top to allow the steam escape while baking.
  6. Bake on parchment paper-lined baking sheets at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes before turning down to 325 degrees F for 45 minutes, OR just bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.


From: The Kitchen of Scott’s Mom, Karen

You could also make more smaller pasties, by cutting smaller circles of dough and using less filling. This may affect baking time. Mine were quite giant, but worked well as a main course (or full meal)!


book review, of interest, recipe

The Handmaid’s Tale + Strawberry Pie

Is everyone else looking forward to Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale as much as I am? The trailer gives me chills. I had read the Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about three years ago, but anticipating the upcoming series, I was excited for the chance to re-read it with one of my book clubs.

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The first time I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I thought it was interesting, but I don’t think I fully appreciated it. This time around, I was able to read it through different eyes; it felt more relevant to me than it did a few years ago, and frankly, it was a little scary.

In Atwood’s imagined Republic of Gilead, Offred is one of the Handmaids placed with a Commander and his barren wife for the sole purpose of having his child and giving them a family. In her red dress, she is limited in who she’s allowed to communicate with, and even more so by the restrictions forbidding her to read or write. When Offred is not alone in her room, she runs errands with her partner Handmaid and occasionally attends birthings and special ceremonies designed to remind her and every woman of their place in this new totalitarian society.

Offred’s diet, and presumably that of all Handmaids in Gilead, is controlled in its amount and restricted to that which is nourishing. Though Offred is the one to pick up the household’s groceries, it seems she has no say in what she eats. When shopping one day, she muses on the smell of fresh strawberries and the memories of summers past they recall.

Living in a society so much like the one Offred used to live in – where women work outside of the home, have freedom of movement and choice, and can make their own decisions to have children or not – it was hard to see how easily it was all taken away. Many American women believe we have come a long way. And we have. But until we are truly equal and are equally represented in society, women are not in control of their own destinies. For me, the fact that these rollbacks are not inconceivable was the most eye-opening part of reading this book.

In the end, Offred’s story left me with more questions than answers, but it was one that sparked a lively conversation with my fellow book club members and one that I heartily recommend.

Capitalizing on their bright red color, strawberries seemed like an excellent choice to represent The Handmaid’s Tale. I found a recipe for Fresh Strawberry Pie that looked too good to resist.

Using a storebought crust proved to be a lifesaver for me as I had some issues and had to bake it three times before I got it right (don’t forget your pie weights!). While that was a bit frustrating, I was happy I didn’t have to re-make crust from scratch just as many times. Before it went into the oven each time, I made sure to scallop the edges to create a pretty design.

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While it baked, I washed, hulled and quartered the fresh strawberries – I used 4 cups in the end, though I had prepared 6 cups. It will ultimately depend on how deep and wide your pie dish is, but I don’t think it hurts to have some extra prepared strawberries around.

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When my successful crust was finally cooling, I got to work on the glaze. I combined 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and some cornstarch in a small saucepan and brought it all to a boil. Then, I whisked until the glaze began to thicken, about 3 minutes. Last, I added the box of strawberry Jell-O and whisked that for another minute or so. The finished glaze also had to cool about 15 minutes before filling the pie.

When assembling the pie, I first added the prepared fresh strawberries to the cooled crust. I did my best to keep the top relatively even, but you could certainly create a thicker middle if you wanted to. (That option might require additional glaze to get good coverage.) Then it was time to pour on the delicious glaze, again doing my best to get even coverage over the strawberries.

The finished product was absolutely beautiful – and SO red. I couldn’t wait to dig in. This pie will definitely be making future appearances over the summer.

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Fresh Strawberry Pie

  • Servings: 8-12
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Ingredients

  • 9 inch pie crust (homemade or storebought)
  • 4 to 6 cups fresh strawberries, quartered and hulled
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 3oz. box of strawberry Jell-O
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Directions

  1. Bake pie crust in 9-inch deep pie dish and set aside to cool.
  2. Put the water, sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly until it becomes thick, about 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the Jell-O and cook for a minute longer. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.
  4. As the glaze cools, place strawberries straight into the pie crust.
  5. Pour the glaze over the strawberries.
  6. Refrigerate until set. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

From: Sugar Apron

When baking the pie crust, be sure to use pie weights or dry beans to ensure that the sides of your crust doesn’t fall. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork, add weights or beans and bake according to directions. After half the baking time, remove weights and allow to bake for the remaining time without them.

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of interest

Lemony Snicket on Netflix + Unfortunate Recipes

The movie in 2004 was my first exposure to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I still haven’t read the books, but after this latest article from NPR about all of the delicious food to be found throughout the series – “often [as] a supporting character,” I may just be tempted to give them a try too! At the very least, these recipes for pasta puttanesca, chilled  cucumber soup and coconut cream cake are worth a taste.