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young adult

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.

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book review, recipe

Love & Gelato + Stracciatella Gelato

Because of this blog, reading often leads me to delicious food. Most of the time, I go into a book without any idea what I’ll end up making, since I haven’t read the book before. Sometimes I’m able to orchestrate it just so and I’m able to make something specific (particularly when a title or description mentions food), though that works out a lot less often than you’d think. Thankfully, in the case of Love & Gelato, it worked like a charm!

This young adult novel by Jenna Evans Welch has been on my TBR for a while now – I probably added it so I could make gelato – and because I was in the mood to break out my ice cream maker again, I added it to both of my 2018 reading challenges. It worked for “a book with food in the title” and fell nicely into the category of “book title starting with the letter L.” I love a good two-for-one deal.

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book review, recipe

Everything, Everything + Vanilla Bundt Cake

Though it’s not my typical choice, I’m no stranger to YA fiction. I like to pick them up for a quick read, and often – as with John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down – they bring difficult topics to the forefront and make them relatable, which I always appreciate. My latest YA read, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, tells the story of Maddy, a girl who lives in a bubble, and was captivating from the beginning.

Like many YA novels, it centers around a love story. Maddy watches from her window as new neighbors move in – one of them, Olly, a distractingly handsome teenage boy. That part of the novel was pretty predictable, in my opinion, but well-done and entertaining. Aside from the consequences of Maddy’s precarious health problem, it is with Olly – and through the window – that this novel touches on some darker real-life situations.

What made the novel worth it for me was the twist that came about two-thirds of the way through. I definitely did not see it coming, but I’m glad that it did. I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t read it yet, but I thought it added some welcome heft to the story.

One of the funnier series of events comes early on in the book, when Olly’s mom sends him over to Maddy’s house with what he describes as an “indestructible” bundt cake, which comes to be known as The Bundt. Olly and Maddy bond over this seemingly rock-hard inedible cake, and I found the whole thing endearing.

Obviously, I had to make my own bundt cake. Because of her illness, Maddy can only eat limited pre-approved foods and since vanilla cake is her go-to birthday dessert, I knew mine had to be vanilla as well. As funny as the cake’s indestructibility is in the novel, no one wants to fail that badly at baking. To capture the rock-hard aspect of the cake, I bought a beautifully structured hard-edged bundt pan to bake it in. (And now I have a bundt pan! I had to borrow my mom’s for the Tipsy Chocolate Cake a few months ago…) If you’re interested, I found it on Amazon here.

Like most cakes, this one wasn’t too difficult to make, but the recipe I chose has a very specific order in which ingredients need to be added, so make sure you read it through before you get started.

I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F and began mixing the batter. To start, I creamed the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. To that, I added the baking powder and salt.

At this point, I measured out the flour by scooping it into a 1-cup measuring cup and leveling it off before adding it to a medium bowl (for a total of 3 cups).

I added the first 3 eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time. Then, I added 2 Tablespoons of the pre-measured flour to that and mixed until just combined. I added another egg, mixed, and then alternated 2 Tablespoons of flour with one egg until all 6 eggs were incorporated.

I happened to have almond extract on-hand, so I added both that and the vanilla extract to the milk. To the batter, I added one-third of the remaining flour, mixing on low until combined. Then, I added half of the milk, mixing again, and began alternating with the remaining flour and milk, until all ingredients were incorporated. Finally, with the beaters on medium-high, I mixed the batter for another 30 seconds, until it became smooth and fluffy.

I used shortening to grease the bundt pan, taking great care to make sure I got all the nooks and crannies. Then, I scooped the batter – which is thicker than many traditional cake batters – into the bundt pan and leveled it off with a spatula.

I checked my cake at 50 minutes, but it wasn’t fully baked until an hour had passed. I turned it out onto a cooling rack, leaving the pan on top as it cooled for 10 minutes.

While it cooled in the pan, I made the glaze – combining the water, granulated sugar and salt in a small bowl. I used the microwave, heating it at 30 second intervals and whisking until the sugar was fully dissolved. Then, I added the vanilla extract to complete the glaze.

I removed the pan from the bundt cake and used a pastry brush to cover the cake with the glaze. (Be sure to put a plate or something else underneath the cooling rack to catch any glaze that might drip.)

I am happy to report that the finished product was not rock-hard and was actually quite delightful.

Did anyone see the recent movie version of Everything, Everything? Did The Bundt make an appearance? 

Vanilla Bundt Cake

  • Servings: 20
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Cake Ingredients

  • 24 tablespoons (1½ cups or 3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • ¾ cup milk

Vanilla Glaze Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 teaspoons water
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat together at medium speed until the mixture lightens in color and looks fluffy. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  3. Add the baking powder and salt, mixing just to combine.
  4. Measure the flour by gently spooning it into a measuring cup, sweeping off any excess with a straight edge. Set it aside.
  5. With the mixer running at medium speed, add the first three eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time. Wait until each egg is absorbed into the mixture before adding the next.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of the measured flour to the bowl after the third egg, and mix until combined. Add the fourth egg, mix until absorbed, then mix in another 2 tablespoons of flour. Continue in this fashion with the fifth and sixth eggs, alternating the addition of the egg with 2 tablespoons of the flour from the recipe.
  7. Add the vanilla (or vanilla bean paste) and almond extract (if using) to the milk.
  8. Add one-third of the remaining flour to the batter, beating gently to combine. Gently beat in half the milk. Mix in another third of the flour, then the remaining milk. Stir in the remaining flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat until the batter is smooth and fluffy, about 20 to 30 seconds at medium-high speed.
  9. Thoroughly grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan, using non-stick vegetable oil spray or shortening (not butter; butter tends to increase sticking). Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  10. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until it’s starting to brown, appears set on top, and a toothpick or long skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (If you’re baking in a dark-interior pan, start checking at 45 minutes.) If the cake appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with foil for the final 15 minutes of baking.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven, and gently loosen its edges using a heatproof spatula. Turn the pan over onto a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, lift the pan off the cake, and allow it to cool completely.
  12. While the cake is cooling in the pan, make the glaze. Combine the sugar, water, and salt. Heat briefly, just to dissolve the sugar; a microwave works fine. Stir in the vanilla. Once you’ve turned the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool, gently brush it all over with the glaze.
  13. Just before serving, sift a shower of confectioners’ sugar over the top, if desired. A garnish of fresh berries is lovely and tasty. Store leftover cake, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.


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book review, recipe

My True Love Gave to Me + Chex Mix

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With Christmas and New Years just around the corner, if you’re looking for that special holiday-themed book, I recommend seeking out the YA short story collection My True Love Gave to Me. I don’t often read short stories (I’m not sure why), but this was exactly what I was looking for. It was quick with a wide range of stories, perfect to put me in a holiday mood.

I didn’t love every story in the collection but there were several that made picking this book up worth it. The first one I enjoyed was “Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Peña which follows Shy, who’s at NYU on scholarship and cat-sitting for a professor because he can’t afford to go home for Christmas. A blizzard strands him in the apartment building with a neighbor, Haley, and the story can’t help but turn romantic. Still, it remains realistic and ends up being heartwarming. I also liked Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” about Santa’s adopted daughter, a human living among the elves. It was like the beginnings of a less goofy version of Elf, had we hung out with Buddy the Elf as a teenager.

“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins was probably my favorite. Marigold Moon lives across the street from a Christmas tree lot and it’s there that she heard the perfect voice for a video she’s producing; it happens to belong to a boy named North. In trying to get him to agree to narrate her video, Marigold walks away with a Christmas tree and ends the night a lot more hopeful than she started it.

Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” was also charming. Sophie is stuck alone at a school where no one else is celebrating the last day of Hanukkah. As she tries to fit in, she stumbles into fellow outcast Russell and they embark on a memorable evening together. The surprisingly titled “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire reminded me a bit of one of my favorite novels, A Walk to Remember. Bad boy Vaughn’s antics land him a job helping out with the church nativity play, whether he wants to or not. He brings a unique point of view to the task, something both the pastor and his daughter are thankful for. Though both of these were a bit cliche, the combination of a little romance alongside a little something deeper made them satisfying reads.

Lastly, “Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White about a Californian town that takes the meaning of its name to a whole other level. The story’s originality was an unexpected breath of fresh air in this collection. A diner in the middle-of-nowhere isn’t the most likely setting for a holiday story, but White managed to infuse it with plenty of holiday spirit and it definitely left me feeling Christmas-y!

I didn’t make a recipe today but wanted instead to share a recipe my mom’s been making for years. She makes it every year around Christmas, often giving it as an extra gift to friends and family. It always tastes delicious when you want a snack on New Years Eve, if it lasts that long. I thought it would work well with this short story collection because it’s mentioned on literally the first page in the first story:

Now, no offense, to Alicia’s mom – who I’m sure makes a fine Chex Mix (certainly better than the store bought bagged stuff) – but I like to think my mom makes the best Chex Mix. My mom claims her recipe is straight from Chex cereal itself, but when I tried looking it up, I couldn’t find one that matched exactly.

So, without further ado, here is my mom’s version of Chex Mix… the actual best Chex Mix.

Chex Party Mix

  • Servings: 20 (½ cup servings)
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Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 4½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2⅔ cups corn Chex
  • 2⅔ cups wheat Chex
  • 2⅔ cups rice Chex
  • 1 cup salted mixed nuts
  • 1 cup pretzel rods

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Heat butter in large shallow roasting pan in oven until melted (or melt in microwave and add to pan). Remove.
  2. Add seasoned salt and Worcestershire sauce to butter and stir. Add cereal and nuts. Mix gently until all pieces are coated.
  3. Heat in oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  4. Spread on absorbent paper towels to cool. Once cooled, store in airtight containers.


From: Mom’s recipe, based on Chex Mix Original Recipe

Notes: You can use whichever combination of Chex “flavors” (or Crispix or similar cereal) you prefer, as long as they add up to 8 cups. You can also reduce Chex by 1 cup and add in 1 cup of Cheerios instead if desired.


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book review, recipe

They Both Die at the End + French Toast

Imagine a world where you knew exactly which day you would die but not how – on the morning of your death, you get a phone call with the warning and are instructed to make the most of it. That’s the premise behind Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, a young adult dystopian novel. I devoured it in a single day.

On the morning of September 5, a representative from Death-Cast calls both Mateo and Rufus – two teenage boys – and informs them that their End Day is here. They each set off to live their best life on their last day on Earth, not knowing exactly how or when it will come to an end. Interestingly (and one of the things I loved most about Silvera’s concept), a whole economy has grown up around this knew End Day phenomenon, and it is through the app Last Friend, that Mateo and Rufus find each other.

Together, they set about tying up loose ends, experiencing new things and enjoying a last meal to fuel them through their adventures. Some may not appreciate knowing how it all ends before even picking up the novel, but don’t let that hold you back. The ending was not what I was expecting, and I found that the anticipation of the end-point kept the momentum going as I read. If you enjoyed the movie Stranger Than Fiction, which I very much did, that’s the closest approximation I can think of to knowing a plot point and not having it ruin the rest of the experience for you.

Of course, knowing a recipe would end up tagging along with my review, Rufus and Mateo’s most memorable meal on their End Day was important to me. At a hole-in-the-wall diner, they order what I can only hope was an amazing grilled chicken salad (which wouldn’t be my first choice, to be honest) and French toast with a side of French fries (now we’re getting somewhere…).

The French toast obviously stood out to me – yes, grilled chicken salad can be very delicious, but I would really rather not endure a last day without carbs. For those of you who followed my Thanksgiving Readathon, you’ll know I adored Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Coincidentally, in it, she included a recipe for her father’s French toast, alongside a whole chapter describing its deliciousness. I knew this had to be the recipe I used here, because a last meal absolutely has to be the best. It did not disappoint, and I can only hope the boys’ French toast was just as amazing.

To start, I dug out my cast iron skillet and glugged in some canola oil, making sure to completely cover the bottom, per Molly’s instruction. Then, I cracked 3 eggs into a Pyrex pie dish, which I would ultimately use to coat the bread.

To the eggs, I added milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and nutmeg, whisking it all together. While the oil heated up, I added two slices of bread to the egg mixture, letting it soak for about 45 seconds or so on each side. (I unfortunately was unable to find a loaf of bread that wasn’t pre-sliced, so they weren’t cut diagonally, but I still think it worked well.)

Then, carefully, using tongs, I placed each slice into the hot oil. It bubbled as it should’ve, which was a good sign. I let it cook for between 1 and 2 minutes on each side.

When each pair of slices was finished, I placed them on a plate lined with paper towels. We had these for a quick dinner one night after work, but they were so easy, that I wouldn’t hesitate to make them on a sleepy weekend morning. I haven’t made a lot of French toast myself, but I have eaten it quite often at restaurants, and this was probably the best I’ve ever had. I can definitely see us adding it to the rotation, especially when we’re looking for a little simple indulgence.

To finish, I dusted the slices with some powdered sugar, which is something I love from years of ordering French toast at restaurants. I’m actually always disappointed when it appears on my table without a white dusting. Of course, we also covered them with syrup and dug right in.

Last Meal French Toast

  • Servings: 6-8 slices
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Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • canola or other flavorless oil, for frying
  • 6 to 8 slices day-old bread, cut on the diagonal, about ¾ inch thick
  • pure maple syrup, for serving
  • powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Break the eggs into a wide, shallow bowl or an 8-inch square Pyrex dish. Whisk the eggs to break up the yolks. Add the milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and nutmeg and whisk to blend.
  2. Place a heavy large skillet – preferably cast iron – over medium-high heat, and pour in enough oil to completely cover the bottom of the skillet. Let the oil heat until you can feel the warmth radiating from it when you hold your hand close over the pan. To test the heat, dip the tip of a finger into the egg mixture – not the oil! – and flick a drop into the oil. If it sizzles, it’s ready.
  3. Meanwhile, when the oil is almost hot enough, put 2 to 3 slices of bread into the egg mixture, allowing them to rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. They should feel heavy and thoroughly saturated, but they shouldn’t be falling apart.
  4. Carefully, using tongs, place the slices in the skillet. They should sizzle upon contact, and the oil should bubble busily around the edges. Watch carefully: with hot oil like this, the slices can burn more quickly than you would think. Cook until the underside of the each slice is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until the second side is golden, another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel, and allow to sit for a minute or two before serving.
  5. Repeat with remaining bread. If, at any point, the bread starts to burn before it has a chance to brown nicely, turn the heat back a little. You want to keep it nice and hot, but not smoking.
  6. If desired, dust with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup.

Slightly adapted from: Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, featured on pages 39 – 40 as Burg’s French Toast

Recipe Notes: Bread should always be a day or two old. Make sure it has a soft, light crumb and isn’t too dense. When pouring in the oil, make sure it completely coats the bottom of the pan.


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book review, recipe

Turtles All the Way Down + Spiral Mac ‘n’ Cheese

John Green has written many young adult novels, including one of my favorites, The Fault in Our Stars. He has a unique way of tackling both the everyday and the unexpected parts of the lives of teenagers. His latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down, is no exception. Like other teenagers, Aza tries her best in school, has an understanding best friend, and doesn’t know exactly what to do when she finds herself in a relationship. Aza also lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder and an often crippling level of anxiety, much of which was drawn from Green’s own experiences.

Because of that, Turtles tells an excellent, unique story. Admittedly, some of the scenes where Aza is having obsessive thoughts were hard to read. It almost felt like I was in her head, and in those moments, I read as if hiding behind split fingers – not wanting to go on but wanting to know what happened all the same. I admire Green’s willingness to not only discuss his own mental health issues but to write about them too, in a way that’s real.

Stories like these help to make mental health something that’s okay to talk about. The existence of a likeable character that readers can connect to and empathize with can help teenagers (and adults) realize that mental illness is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. In Green’s own words, “it’s important for people to hear from [those] who have good fulfilling lives and manage chronic mental illness as part of those good fulfilling lives.” And because of that, it is absolutely a book worth picking up – even if you aren’t familiar with John Green, even if you don’t usually read YA.

Honestly, the first thing I thought of when I looked at this book’s cover was spiral macaroni and cheese. I think they eat it once over the course of the story, but in the end, I couldn’t get it out of my head and no other foods really stood out to me. So, no surprise, that’s what I decided to make. I found an easy recipe from Famished Fish and set to work for a quick, easy dinner one night.

To start, I brought my water to a boil and cooked my noodles according to the package instructions. The original recipe called for rotini, but I also think cavatappi would work great here.

While the noodles cooked, I made the sauce. I melted butter in a pan and then added flour to create a roux. To that, I added the dried mustard and paprika, slowly stirring in 1 cup of milk, so that it could fully incorporate with the roux and remain thick.

Then, I added in the remaining 2 cups of milk slowly, along with the salt and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I continued cooking the sauce, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes more or so, until it thickened. I stirred in three-quarters of the cheese so it melted and became incorporated.

I drained the finished noodles and poured the cheese sauce on top, stirring until the noodles were fully covered. To serve, I spooned the mac ‘n’ cheese into bowls and topped each with a sprinkling of shredded cheese.

It was delicious! And so easy that I’ll definitely be adding it to my repertoire.

Creamy Spiral Mac 'n' Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 16 oz uncooked spiral noodles (rotini or cavatappi)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp mustard
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups milk, divided
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

  1. Add uncooked pasta to a large pot of boiling water. Cook 9-11 minutes, according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. When butter has melted, stir in flour to create a roux.
  3. Slowly stir in 1 cup of milk along with the mustard and paprika. Stir and cook until the mixture thickens. Add the remaining 2 cups of milk and the salt and Worcestershire sauce. Cook and stir 5 minutes until has thickened.
  4. Stir in 1½ cups of the sharp cheddar cheese. Stir the sauce until the cheese has melted.
  5. Drain the pasta and return to large pot. Carefully pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta. Stir gently to combine the cheese sauce and pasta.
  6. Ladle the macaroni and cheese spirals into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of sharp cheddar cheese.
  7. Serve immediately.

Adapted from: Famished Fish

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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.


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book review, recipe

The Age of Miracles + Pineapple Salsa

The Age of Miracles is the first book I’ve reread in a long while, and I’m really glad that I did. There is only so much time in a day, and with an ever-growing to-read list, I’m normally not much of a re-reader. As time is something this book calls into question, it seems a fitting choice.

book cover

When I originally read Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel three years ago, I truly enjoyed it. I suggested it to friends, and I bought a copy of my very own. (I tend to buy books pretty selectively, preferring instead to borrow from the local library.) Its place on my bookshelf brought it top of mind when my book club was looking for suggestions, and so we chose it as our most recent selection.

In The Age of Miracles, the world changes suddenly and inexplicably – the earth experiences a “slowing” and time as we know it begins to shift. Normal begins to look very different. Narrated by Julia, an insightful preteen living in California with her parents, we experience the smaller struggles of her family and her community and witness the larger struggles of society as everyone tries to adjust to this new concept of time, and ultimately, the impending end of the world.

I first read this novel in the winter, when days were short and nights were long. This time, in the height of summer, the opposite is true – the sun rises early and sets late, days are hot and bright and stretched out. None of this compares to the lengths of the days and nights within Walker’s novel, of course. She does an excellent job of taking an overwhelming concept and keeping it simple and human.

For a book with very little plot – something that tends to be a negative for me – I found it a pleasure to read because Walker’s prose paints a vivid picture of the characters as they figure out their new world. So many of her lines had me reaching for a pen.

As I was thinking of what to bring to our book club potluck, one such line struck me: “They were the last pineapples we’d ever eat in our lives.” If my memory serves, it’s the first time Julia mentions a specific food that they never have again.

I ultimately decided to make pineapple salsa because it was something I could prepare the night before, but mostly because it didn’t require turning on my oven in the middle of a heat wave. I went with a recipe from Barefeet in the Kitchen for The BEST Pineapple Salsa and didn’t alter it at all. I was nervous enough about tackling a pineapple for the first time.

Due to that worry, I almost didn’t even buy a real pineapple and went up to the cashier with two cans of them pre-sliced. I had glanced around the produce section, saw none, and thought, “Well, this will be easier than I thought.” But, as I stood in line, I noticed a tuft of pineapple leaves sticking out of the bag of the man in front of me. I was stuck – they had real pineapples and I knew I had to suck it up and figure it out.

Here is a picture of us (I’m trying to hide my terror with confidence):

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Thankfully, I thought to ask my friend and fellow foodie Scott who texted me some simple directions and encouragement to set me on the right path. It wasn’t as hard as it seemed! I ate some to celebrate before dicing the rest (perhaps a little less “finely” than suggested). I followed suit with the jalapeno, cilantro and green onion, making sure those dices were more appropriately sized. (I’m a little obsessed with cilantro, see below.)

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After adding the salt, pepper and lime juice, I tossed it all together and taste-tested. It was delicious! And here it is:

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The BEST Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

  • Servings: yields about 3 cups
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Ingredients

  • 1 small pineapple, peeled cored and very finely diced, about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely minced, about 2 tablespoons, add more for a spicier bite
  • 1 small lime, juiced, about 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 handful cilantro (leaves only), finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
  • 3 green onions, very thinly sliced, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, adjust to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, adjust to taste

Directions


Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover with lid or transfer to an airtight container. Chill until ready to serve. This will keep well in the refrigerator for about a week. Enjoy!


Excellent with tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos.

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