Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bookish Review: The Bucolic Plague

The Bucolic Plague is a memoir about a couple of New Yorkers who buy up a mansion in rural New York and try to start a farm, which they only tend on weekends. The Fabulous Beekman Boys also apparently have a reality show, but it comes on "planet green," which is a channel that I did not even know existed, let alone ever watched. The book is a very good read--funny and touching. This is not Kilmer-Purcell's first memoir, and I will probably pick up the other one--the guy has had a very interesting life, to say the least. In this one, readers get to experience the hard work that goes into running a weekend farm with goats and a vegetable garden whilst still working full time. The village depicted is quaint and homey, with an excellent cast of characters, including more gay couples than one might expect in a farming community in upstate New York (more than the author and his partner expected when they first stumbled upon the hamlet). The story probably would have been very different if not for the economic collapse and both Beekman Boys losing their high-paying Manhattan jobs. Though more fortunate than many, I think their plight is one many people can relate to, and the deterioration of their relationship, though hard to read, is very real. (Fear not, they bounce back!) You can read more about their projects and products on beekman1802.com. The book was quite enjoyable, and I wish I could watch the show.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bookish: A Feast for Crows

The fourth book in the Game of Thrones series, A Feast for Crows is an enjoyable read, if a bit more of a slog than the first three. Martin continues to introduce new characters and continues to have no compunctions about maiming, torturing, or killing off characters, no matter how beloved. Many of the most lovable, favorite characters are not even featured in this book. This book and the fifth actually encompass the same time period, so you're only getting half the story, which is rather frustrating, especially when you finish the book and the story feels so incomplete. Luckily for you and me, the fifth book is out now. The poor, unfortunate souls who read this when it first came out had to wait YEARS for the fifth one, which seems quite like torture. So, overall, a good read, though I was left with the feeling that I had to get through this one to get onto book five rather than really enjoying it for itself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cookish: Dinnertime

Spinach Pasta bake
Adapted from This Recipe from Rachael Ray Magazine


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 lbs. baby spinach (I used frozen--a bag and a half)
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • sprinkle of nutmeg
  • 8 oz. wide whole wheat egg noodles
  •  Bechamel Sauce (see below)
  • 5-6 oz. fresh goat cheese (1 pkg)
  • 3 tbsp. prepared pesto
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  1. Defrost the spinach and squeeze out any moisture. 
  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the spinach. Season lightly with salt and pepper and nutmeg; remove from the heat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook the noodles, stirring often, until al dente. Drain— but do not rinse—and return to the saucepan. Stir in the white sauce to coat.
  4. Lightly grease an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Layer in half of the noodles and press with a spatula. Dot with half of the goat cheese, spread the spinach on top and press down. Stir 3 tbsp. pesto into the remaining noodles and spoon over the spinach. Dot with the remaining cheese. Cover snugly with foil and bake until hot and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. sprinkle  the crumbs on the baked pasta.
    Note: I think you could just use some panko and brown the top of the casserole with the crumbs on at the end of baking. I did like the fresh crumbs--I'd suggest adding them directly to each serving, and storing any extra in a ziploc outside of the fridge so they don't get soggy. 

    Bechamel
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • finely chopped shallot
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 2 cups milk, warmed
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • Salt and pepper

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in warm milk; bring to boil and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cookish: Snacktime

I call this recipe Crack Corn, though Paula Deen has her own name for it. Click here for Paula Deen's caramel corn recipe

The recipe works really well. You need about 8 quarts of popped corn. I pop 3 bags of light butter microwave popcorn, because it is easy. I usually use 2 1/2 bags of it, approximately, which is a little less than 8 quarts, but it works out well. I also usually add some peanuts when I have them on hand. Fair warning: only make this when you have a crowd coming over. It's virtually impossible to stop eating this, so you really don't want to be the only one in the house--this is not exactly health food, folks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cookish: Something Sweet

It's fall; time for caramel apples! I adapted the recipe from Chow: http://www.chow.com/recipes/12223-basic-caramel-apple. Sorry for the odd measurements; I cut the recipe in half and had to make some substitutions due to what I had on hand.


INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large apples
  • 4 chopsticks or craft sticks
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 7/8 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup  corn syrup
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Wash the apples under hot water to get off any wax coating, then dry thoroughly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. Set the apples stem side up, and push the sticks down into the apple cores; set aside. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice and water.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the mixture registers 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. [I lost my candy thermometer, so I just went with the ice bath test: http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html You're looking for "firm ball" stage.) Immediately dip the bottom of the saucepan in the ice water bath and let it chill until the bubbles have subsided, about 1 minute. Stir until stiff caramel from the bottom is incorporated into the warm caramel on top. Remove from the water bath.
  3. Dip the apples one at a time into the caramel, rotating once to coat 3/4 of the way up the sides. Lift the apple straight up from the caramel, letting the excess drip back into the pot until the drips have slowed, about 10 to 15 seconds. Flip the apple so the stem is facing downward and let the caramel set, about 10 to 15 seconds more. Place on the prepared baking sheet, stem side up, and repeat with the remaining apples. (If the caramel gets too hard to coat the apples well, set the pan over low heat and rewarm, stirring constantly, until the caramel is loose and pourable.)
  4. Refrigerate the apples until set, at least 10 minutes. The apples can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day in advance.
NOTE: I was taking these to a party, so I wanted slices instead of the whole apples. First, I cut the apple and dipped just the slices. Don't do this. The caramel only sticks to the peel, not the inner part of the apple. So, dip the whole apple, and then slice it. That's your best bet. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bookish Review: The Magicians

I have mixed feelings about this book. I had read Grossman's previous work and I was not a huge fan. But, this came recommended by friends and got a lot of buzz and good reviews, so I thought I'd give it a short. There are definitely a lot of Narnia and Harry Potter allusions, as perhaps you'd expect. The book is about a teenager who's a bit obsessed with a Narnia-like series of books and then discovers that magic is real, but it's a lot harder than it seems in books. All hunky-dory so far. Grossman's writing of teenagers can be a little cliche, but it's not unbearable. My problem is, as we all know, I like a happy ending, especially with my magical realism/fantasy. There's no happy ending here--no ending, really, since there's a sequel (I'm not sure how many books are planned). The problem is, I didn't love the characters enough, so I probably won't read the others. If you're a Narnia fan who's grown up to hate saccharine endings and like a little darkness in your novels instead, you may enjoy this. Me, I'd rather read Harry Potter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bookish Review: Heads You Lose

If you've read other reviews on the blog, you probably know I love Lisa Lutz's Spellman series. This is a departure; it's a murder mystery written in alternating chapters by Lisa and David Hayward. The story is kind of odd, but the fun part is the snarky letters Lisa & David write to each other preceding each chapter (as well as the footnote comments when one reads the other's work). I didn't love it as much as the Spellman books, but it is still pretty entertaining, particularly if you enjoy the writing process or if you have ever had to collaborate with someone on a project and it didn't turn out quite as you hoped. They wrap up all the loose ends by the final chapter, don't worry. Overall, an enjoyable romp.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cookish: Something Sweet

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! Life has been very busy. But I have a special treat for you. Do you (like me) love Girl Scout cookies? Of course you do. And are Samoas your favorite? Of course they are; you have good taste. Do yourself a favor and make these: http://bakingbites.com/2009/02/homemade-girl-scout-cookies-samoas-bars/

It's really pretty simple and the result is delicious! (I know, I made them last night.) They recommended dipping the bottoms in chocolate as well as drizzling on top, which is probably the better way to do it, but I'm lazy. I just did the drizzle--delish!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cookish: What's for lunch?

Continuing with lunches to take to work or school, here's a dish that can be eaten hot or cold.

Peanut/Sesame Noodles
Ingredients
2 tbs peanut butter
1 tbs tahini
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tbs honey
1/2 pkg whole wheat spaghetti
up to 1 cup pasta cooking water
1-1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
1 pkg broccoli slaw
sesame seeds

Mix the first 9 ingredients together for the sauce. Boil the noodles, setting aside 1 cup of the boiling water before draining. Toss the pasta, chicken, and broccoli slaw together. Add enough water to the sauce to make it the consistency of heavy cream. Toss with the other ingredients. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and eat, or refrigerate for lunch the next day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cookish: What's for Lunch?

Well, I am back in school now, so I have been looking for things to make for lunch that are good to eat cold or room temperature (access to a microwave is now limited for me!). One of the first things I went to was pasta salad: easy to put together and eat for a week. Here is the latest incarnation:

Ingredients
2 ears of corn, roasted my favorite way, kernels cut off the cob
1 large, ripe tomato, chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed
sliced carrots
1/2 box rotini pasta, cooked & cooled
tomatillo salsa, to taste (1/4-1/2 cup)
salt & pepper

Toss all of the ingredients together and there you go! You can certainly add onions if you are a fan. I don't even really like tomatoes, but since I was going for a quasi-Mexican dish, I figured they were appropriate, and they really were delicious.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cookish: What's for dessert?


Oh yes, these happened. I call these SugarBomb Cupcakes. These are the Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes from Joy the Baker. Her photos are much better than mine--go check them out. Also, I had an issue with the frosting. You'll see that hers stays in a nice swirl. Mine started in a swirl, but quickly collapsed. Once you toast them, they form a crust on top, so they don't drip anymore, but it was impossible to frost them and get them in the oven before the swirl collapsed. I'm not sure why. I don't have an electric stand mixer, so I put the whisk attachment on my hand mixer, and it took much longer than 5 minutes, and maybe I should have beaten it even more. The whisk is definitely smaller than the one on a stand mixer, so maybe it didn't incorporate the air as quickly? They were still delicious, but I wanted them to look like Joy's! And they are a LOT of sugar. Next time, I think I will do the cupcakes with the frosting and leave out the cookie dough. And beat the frosting longer, maybe with the regular hand mixer beaters and not the whisk attachment. The cupcakes are awesomely decadent and impressive, though. Highly recommended!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bookish Review: A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords is the 3rd book in George RR Martin's Series. I must warn you, this one is very infuriating at times. Martin kills off some beloved characters in really terrible ways and gets other embroiled in terrible situations. A lot of it is tough to read. There are triumphs as well, of course. Dany, the dragon queen, gains a lot of strength in this one. Another exciting addition to the series.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bookish Review: A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings is the sequel to A Game of Thrones. In this book, the king is dead, as is his Hand, who was labelled a traitor for exposing the truth--that the queen cuckholded her husband with her own brother, so the king's supposed children are not legitimate heirs to the throne. The kings brothers are battling to take over, lords of the other kingdoms are declaring themselves king and/or dividing their loyalties among the contenders. The last remaining heir of the original ruling family has rediscovered how to awaken dragons and magic is reawakening in the kingdoms. In short, all hell is breaking loose and more characters are going to die along the way.

Martin introduced even more characters to keep track of, but this one is another page turner, for sure.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Thai Noodle Bowl with Shrimp
*adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine
Ingredients
  • 4 oz. rice noodles
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. thai green curry paste
  • 1 lb. peeled, deveined medium shrimp, cut in half
  • 1 pkg of stir-fry veggies*
    hot sauce to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook noodles; drain. In same pot, bring 1 cup water, coconut milk, soy sauce and curry paste to a simmer. Add veggies and shrimp and cook until shrimp are opaque and veggies are crisp-tender. I cut the shrimp in half to make them cook faster and make it seem like there are more shrimp! (but you can leave them whole if you prefer.) Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce. Divide noodles among bowls and ladle soup on top. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

    *I used a package from the refrigerated section that contained broccoli slaw, sugar snap peas, carrots, and broccoli. But you can use any veggies you like.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bookish Review: Why We Broke Up

I picked up an ARC of this book at a conference. Let me say this: they put some money into this project. The book is quite heavy for its size, which means they used really nice paper. They've also got this awesome marketing campaign: http://whywebrokeupproject.tumblr.com/
The book is the story of a girl returning to her ex-boyfriend all of the mementos of the relationship, explaining to him why she saved each one and why they broke up. Towards the end, when you discover the main reasons they broke up, the book lost a bit of its satisfaction for me because the reversal seemed to come out of nowhere. Given that the entire story is told by the girl, however, and that she was completely blindsided by what happened, I suppose it makes sense for the reader to be blindsided as well--except that the whole story is her looking back, and you would think she'd point out a few more things that should have been red flags (she does point out some, but most are minor). Still, it was an interesting read, though I think I find the tumblr page more intriguing than the book itself.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bookish Review: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones has been getting a lot of press lately because of the HBO series based on the book. That would not normally be enough to get me interested in a book, since I don't even have HBO. It had been recommended to me by several friends, though, so I decided to read it.

The book is the first in a series. It is long, and complex. Martin switches perspective every chapter, there are lots of characters, and it is highly detailed. SO, it takes a little while to get into it. The characters are nicely fleshed-out, though, and you'll begin to care about them pretty quickly. The book is low fantasy, set in a kind of medieval world made up of 7 united kingdoms, as well as a few others. The king who is currently on the throne took it by force, overthrowing the mad king, who had inherited the throne, and killing or banishing his offspring. The new king is pretty well-loved, but not by his wife, and if something should happen to him, what will happen to the kingdom?

A few things to be aware of: the book contains sex, violence, and incest. Martin also has no problem killing off characters--even main characters, so don't get too attached. Despite being so long, the book really is compelling and a page-turner. You'll want to have the 2nd one waiting in the wings for when you finish.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cookish: Party Time


Desserts at my cousin's bridal shower

I threw a bridal shower for my cousin J. We were going for finger food, so cake balls seemed like the perfect dessert. This was my first time making them, and they were a huge hit!

I got the recipe from Bakerella. It's a box of cake mix and a tub of frosting and some coating. Ooh, tough, right? ;) I used red velvet cake + cream cheese frosting + white coating and chocolate cake + chocolate frosting + chocolate coating. I purchased CandiQuick candy coating to coat the cake balls. It worked okay, but here's the thing: it's not less expensive than chocolate chips, you'll need more than one package, it's not that easy to work with, and it doesn't taste that good. SO, when I ran out of coating, I melted some white chocolate chips with some vegetable oil (per package directions). Worked like a charm. Easier to work with and hardened up just fine.

These are so easy. Do yourself a favor and make some!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

UnCookish: Eating Out


Next food place review: Blue Dot Donuts. Blue Dot is located on Canal St in Mid-City in New Orleans. I have been to Blue Dot twice now, and I have not been disappointed. My overall favorite may be the red velvet doughnut, which is only available sometimes, but is supremely delicious. I have also had the Dulce de Leche, which was good, but was really too rich for my taste. I've had the chocolate frosted cake doughnut topped with coconut, which is supremely tasty, as well as the chocolate-frosted cake doughnut with sprinkles, which was very good, though I prefer the chocolate-frosted yeast doughnut with sprinkles. I just prefer yeast doughnuts to cake. I had two others today, which were really awesome. First the PB&J doughnut. See below for close-up. Mmmmm. You need some milk with this one. I also had a chocolate-frosted buttermilk doughnut, which was great. (That's the one on the bottom left in the top picture.) Blue Dot is owned by some NOPD officers--how awesome is that? It has not been open long, but has been getting great coverage, both locally and with upcoming features in Martha Stewart magazine and on the Food Network. The doughnuts really are great. You can also get a doughnut ice-cream sandwich--I haven't had one yet, but they sound awesome. I usually go by after yoga at Balance Yoga & Wellness, which is right nearby. I recommend going to yoga there (the Anusara class is great--Laura is phenomenal), and then stopping by Blue Dot for a chocolate milk (the ultimate after-workout drink) and a doughnut. That's the way to start your day off right!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cookish: Snacktime

Hummus

Hummus is really easy to make and the last
time I did it, I think I perfected it! Here's what you need:

3 cloves of garlic
1 can of chickpeas
1 lemon
3 tbs tahini (sesame paste)
olive oil
salt & pepper

I make my hummus in a food processor. First, chop up the garlic finely. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. You don't have to drain them all that well--a little water will help. put the chickpeas in the food processor with the juice from half the lemon and the tahini, and blend well. Add some olive oil until you get a thick, smooth paste. Add salt and pepper. Taste. At this point, I added the juice from the other half of the lemon and then enough olive oil to get the consistency I like--not too thick, and not too thin. It was awesome.

I think one of the important things for this hummus was that I bought a new brand of tahini at a local Middle Eastern market. It's made in Lebanon, and the s
tore carries several brands, but they recommended this one called Al Nakhil. It was easy to shake up (tahini tends to separate) and really made a delicious hummus. I recommend it!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cookish: Side Dish!

Corn.

'Tis the season, folks. Let's not get into how corn is in nearly EVERY SINGLE THING we eat and is kind of evil...fresh corn on the cob is still delish.

My new favorite way to cook it? Courtesy of Tyler Florence.

You just stick the cobs in their husks in the oven and roast away. That's it. No boiling a pot of water. You don't even need a pan, people. It's a beautiful thing.

It comes out so delicious. You can make yourself a fancy compound butter, or use some lime and chile, or just slap some butter on there and eat it. Use the husk as the holder once you peel it back.

That, my friends, is the taste of summer.

Monday, July 4, 2011

UnCookish: Eating Out


Welcome to a new feature of Bookish & Cookish: Restaurant Reviews!
First up: Patois, a restaurant in uptown New Orleans. Someone was kind enough to give me a gift certificate as a show of appreciation (a habit I'd like to encourage). So I decided to have a girls' night with my good friend J. We managed to snag a 9 pm reservation on a Saturday (I felt very European). I do encourage you to get a reservation; the restaurant is small--a converted house, which is not uncommon uptown--and it is popular.

We started with the gnocchi and the moules frites. Both were delish, but I have a weakness for mussels, so I give them the edge. The fries were insanely tasty. Oh, I should also mention the bread they serve is buttery brioche, which is tasty, but if you are getting either of the apps I mentioned, I recommend saving it until your appetizers arrive because both have very tasty sauces and you might like the bread for soppage. I ate mine as soon as it arrived, unfortunately. Buttery as it is, I would have spread some butter on it, given the opportunity, which I was not because they don't bring you any butter. Probably a good thing for my arteries!

Next, I had the almond crusted Gulf fish, which was not your typical trout amandine, but was insanely good. They go heavy on the black pepper, which I found delicious, but not everyone is as fond of pepper, so be aware. J had the seared scallops, which is slightly different on the menu now than is described on the website. It's served with cold glass noodles, and the sauce on them was a little odd, but overall the dish was delicious. The scallops were huge and perfectly cooked.

Finally, we had dessert. J ordered the Almond bread pudding (the dessert menu on the website does not match what they were serving when we were there), which was like a cupcake on a pool of creme anglaise and a scoop of ice cream on top. Tasty, but no match for what I ordered.

I had the "Snickers." O.M.G.
I would come to Patois just for this. It's a layer of cake, topped by chocolate mousse, a triangle of toffee, and a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream. On the plate is chocolate sauce, salted caramel, and peanuts. Insane.

J had a cappuccino, which came with a tiny biscotti, and I had a cup of coffee. The perfect end to a truly excellent meal.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a collaborative book by John Green and David Levithan. The authors write alternating chapters, each narrated by a different Will Grayson. I am a big John Green fan (Google Vlog Brothers if you want to know why), so I was excited about reading this book.

I enjoyed it from the beginning, but it definitely gets stronger as the book goes on, particularly after the two Wills meet. The chapters have distinct voices (surprise, surprise, given they are written by different authors), and I laughed out loud a few times. My favorite part wasn't the humor, or even the vocabulary (though weltschmerz is my new favorite word)--my favorite part was the truth, the angst, the authentic voices, and the fact that I think this book could have a positive impact on the life of every teen, everyone who has been a teen, and especially every gay teen, or friend or family member of a gay teen. It's such a positive look at gay life--the characters definitely have issues and problems and depression--but it's not because they are gay or their friends are gay, and that was a wonderful thing. I liked this better that John's Paper Towns, though I liked that, too. I highly recommend it--it fully deserves the kudos it has received.

DFTBA

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bookish Review: Dominance

Dominance is a literary mystery. A class of college students uncovers a murderer by discovering the true identity of a reclusive writer, but years later, the murders start happening again. Is it a copycat, or did they get the wrong man the first time around?

I enjoyed this book--I had a inkling about the ending, but I didn't completely figure it out. Nice twist at the end, too. The book also goes into literary criticism to an extent and what happens when you really tear apart a book and what happens when you lose yourself in it too completely. The class gets involved in the Procedure--a "game" that involves reenacting the book. Interesting concept, but I felt like it wasn't explained quite fully enough. Interesting book, though. Bibliophiles should enjoy


Disclaimer: I received an advance electronic copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of review. Free access to the book did not affect my opinion. For more information on Simon & Schuster's eGalley program, please visit www.galleygrab.com.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bookish Review: Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy Tree was recommended to me by several of my Southern belle friends. The book is about growing up in a small Georgia town in the early 1900s. I really enjoyed this book. Some of the plot points seem a little abrupt and odd, but overall, I found it a nice portrait of small-town Southern life, with all of its nosiness, pettiness, class struggles, and family strife. When cars come to Cold Sassy for the first time, it creates quite a stir. But not as much of a stir as when the owner of the town's general store marries his milliner--who is young enough to be his daughter--just days after his beloved wife dies.

Recommended wholeheartedly for Southerners.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cookish: What's for dessert?

This recipe is slightly adapted from SmittenKitchen. If you do not currently read that blog, please do. Deb is fantastic, and I completely trust her recipes.

Deb's recipe is for a 9-in tart pan. I adapted it for my 11-in tart. I did not increase the filling, so mine is not as full as hers, but I liked the filling-crust ratio.

Crust:

42 gingersnap cookies, coarsely broken
1/3 cup salted butter, melted

Filling:
1 10-oz bag, plus 1/4 cup, Nestle dark chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs all purpose flour
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

For crust:Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor. Add melted butter and process until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.Use a measuring cup or glass to help press in the crust. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

For filling:
Combine chocolate and heavy whipping cream in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour,and spices in medium bowl to blend. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crust.

Bake chocolate tart until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely.

Cut tart into thin wedges and serve. Delish!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bookish Review: The Paradise Prophecy

Dutton was kind enough to send me an ARC of this book. It is about a world where God has ceased to care about humanity and fallen angels (now demons) are plotting for the rise of Lucifer and the enslavement of the human race. There's lots of Paradise Lost involved, as well as a government agent and a religious scholar (who is also a psychic) from Louisiana. The archangel Michael (who is also a fallen angel) is working against the demons, trying to help the humans redeem themselves so God will give them another chance.

This was not the worst book I've ever read, but I didn't really enjoy it, either. I can't recommend it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cookish: What's for dinner/party?

The following is adapted from This ReciAdd Imagepe on CookingandMe.com.

Chickpea Patties

(I am reluctant to call these falafel because they didn't really have the texture I associate with Falafel. I think that is because falafel is made with chickpea flour, but I am not sure.)
Makes 16-20 small-ish patties

Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder1/2 tsp chilli powder
4-5 cloves minced or crushed garlic
small bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp plain flour + more for dredging
Salt to taste
Oil for pan-frying
Transfer the drained chickpeas with rest of the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth and dry. You should be able to shape them easily into small discs. If the mixture is too moist or sticky at this stage, add more flour. Mine stayed kind of loose and I was not sure how they would fry up, so I scooped small balls with my cookie scoop and rolled in flour before flattening into patties, but next time I think I might just add more flour when blending.

Preheat your oil. Deep-frying frightens me a bit, so I just pan-fried, adding a good bit of oil to the pan and frying one side, then flipping and frying on the other. Drain on paper towels and serve with Tzatziki sauce (see below)

These were pretty good, but I would have liked them a bit firmer and with a bit more zip. I think I will add some cayenne or more chili powder next time. I am also curious if I could bake them instead of frying.

Tzatziki sauce (adapted from this recipe on allrecipes.com)
  • 32 ounces plain yogurt
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and shredded
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Place a strainer lined with a paper towel over a small bowl. Place yogurt in the strainer and drain at least two hours (up to overnight). Peel the cucumber, cut in half, and use a spoon to scrape out seeds. Grate on the medium holes on a box grater. squeeze out the liquid before adding to the yogurt with the other ingredients. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bookish Review: Sweetly

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce is a follow-up to her lovely YA novel Sisters Red. It;s not really a sequel, because it is not the same characters, but it is another twisted fairytale. Pearce's website is calling it a "companion novel," so let's go with that. When they are children, brother and sister Gretchen and Ansel venture into the woods with Gretchen's twin...but only Gretchen and Ansel make it out of the woods. Gretchen saw the eyes of the "witch" that snatched her twin and grows up wondering why she wasn't taken, too. Gretchen and Ansel are scarred by the loss and watch their parents completely fall apart as a result. Once Gretchen turns 18, their step-mother kicks them out of the house, and they drive cross-country in search of a new start. When their car breaks down in a small South Carolina town, they are taken in by the lovely young Sophia Kelly, who runs a chocolaterie in the woods. But something is not quite right, and Gretchen fears the witch may lurk here, too.

It's another fun fairytale twist, and very enjoyable. Fans of Sisters Red will enjoy this one, for sure.

I received an ARC of this book at a conference this spring. The book is available in HC this month.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bookish Review: The Devil's Punchbowl

The Devil's Punchbowl is a hometown thriller by Greg Iles, set, as many of his books are, in Natchez, MS. The book stars Iles's recurring protagonist Penn Cage, who has gone from being a lawyer to an author and now mayor of Natchez. Iles's books often contain disturbing sexual violence, and this one is no exception, featuring rape and prostitution in addition to torture, gambling, and dog fighting. Iles writes finely-crafted suspense novels, but I will confess that some of his in the past have made me feel almost physically ill as well as just plain dirty after reading them. They are so well-written, though, that I keep reading them despite their disturbing nature. In this one, Penn gets himself wrapped up in some international intrigue thanks to a childhood friend who is murdered by those he is trying to investigate. Soon Penn's daughter and whole family are in danger and he must weigh their safety versus doing what he thinks is write--namely stopping a bunch of criminals who are engaging in all kinds of reprehensible activities in Natchez as well as cheating the city out of thousands of dollars of tax revenue.

Iles is a Southern boy, so his Southern thrillers give a remarkably accurate view of life in Dixie. The crimes and situations are often outlandish, but the motivations and reactions and settings ring true. Another well-written volume in the Cage saga (and good to see Caitlin back!), but be prepared to read about very disturbing things.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Spinach and mushroom quiche

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out
1/2 pkg (4 oz) mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic
oil
salt
pepper
5 eggs
1 cup milk (I used 1/3 heavy cream and 2/3 skim milk, because I needed to use up the heavy cream, but use what you have)
1/2 cup-1 cup mozzarella cheese (or shredded cheese of your choice)
parmesean cheese, for sprinkling on top
1 pie crust.
You'll need these
And this.

Blind bake your pie crust at 375 for about 20 minutes.
This picture should be rotated the other way. It is a pie crust filled with pie weights for blind baking. (I use dried black beans as pie weights--just don't try to cook them after!)

While this is baking, saute the mushrooms and garlic, adding the defrosted spinach when the mushrooms are nearly done. Season with salt and pepper.
Saute it up!

Mix up 5 eggs and milk.
Can't make quiche without breaking eggs.
Add cheese to egg and milk mixture.

Remove crust from oven. Add mushrooms and spinach.

Pour eggs on top. Sprinkle with parm.
Turn oven down to 350 and return quiche to oven.

Bake about 30 minutes or until center is set; Eat up!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bookish Review: The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear is the sequel to the awesome The Name of the Wind and picks up the story exactly where the last one left off. Kvothe continues to tell his life story to the Chronicler and Bast continues to worry that his master has forgotten who he truly is. If anything, this one is even more of a page-turner than the first. We get more of Kvothe's adventures at the University, but even more exciting is when he leaves the University for a while after being brought up on charges of violating the Iron Law (he is acquitted, but he needs some time for the memory to fade if he is going to be assigned a tuition he can actually pay). He leaves town in the hopes of gaining the patronage of the Maer, a very powerful and rich man. He performs many important services for the Maer, gaining some important knowledge along the way, and even enters the Fae and learns of fairies and learns the secrets of Ademic mercenaries. He does return to the University, where everyone thought him dead, newly equipped to pay his tuition, but not with everything he'd hoped to gain. We see again the weakness of the present-day Kvothe in comparison to who he used to be, but the story is not yet over, so how it all came to pass is still a mystery. I was fortunate enough to read the two stories back-to-back, which was wonderful, but also terrible. Because now I have to wait a year for the end of the story. Which isn't that long to wait for a new book from a beloved author, all things considered, and it would be longer, except that it is already written. Still...grrr.

Read these books!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Kraft was kind enough to send me a coupon for a free container of their new Philly Cooking Creme, made with Philadelphia cream cheese. I purchased the garlic version and modified one of the suggested recipes that came with it.

Philly Cooking Creme Pot Pie
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped carrots (about 2 small carrots)
1/2 pkg (4 oz) mushrooms, chopped
oil
black pepper
red pepper flakes
1 pkg Philly garlic cooking creme
1 refrigerated pie crust

Pre-heat oven to 400. Saute the carrots and mushrooms in oil in a medium skillet until mushrooms are cooked and carrots are softened. Season with pepper and red pepper flakes. Set aside. Saute the chicken until nearly cooked through add the peas, corn, carrots, and mushrooms and cook until warmed through. Add Philly cooking creme. Pour into a pie pan and cover with pie crust, fluting the edges and cutting a few vents in the middle. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Verdict: The flavor was actually really good--garlicky and well-seasoned. Do Not add salt--it doesn't need it, honestly. The cooking creme has enough. My problem is that it thickens up a lot, and the cream cheese really coats your tongue--so it tastes great, but I would like the sauce to be a little looser and creamier--not as thick. I think next time I might try to thin it with a little water or milk. It is easy and tasty, though!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bookish Review: The Name of the wind

I picked up The Name of the Wind at a conference where the author was signing after someone recommended the book to me. Patrick Rothfuss weaves an elaborate fantasy world complete with fictional languages, magical creatures, mythology, and demons. In this world, some learned men know the true names of things, and can call them to do their bidding (hence the title). The book focuses on an innkeeper, who is no ordinary innkeeper, but a fabled hero in hiding. When the Chronicler arrives looking for the true story of the hero's exploits, he agrees to tell the tale. The person who recommended the book to me warned that it takes a while to really get into it, and I think she was correct, but once Kvothe, the main character, gets to the University, things really start to pick up, and the story is pretty compelling. Of course it is a nod to the power of words, which I always find enjoyable, and there's some magic thrown in as well (though it is a science-y magic). The second book in the series (I'm not sure if this is meant to be a trilogy or a series) is available, and I will be reading it next because I really want to know what happens! A good read for fantasy fans.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

UnCookish: Snacktime

Jell-O sent me a coupon for a free package of the new Temptations by Jell-O, which is the new Jell-O they are marketing as being just for adults. (Have you seen the commercials where parents terrorize their children so the kids won't eat their Jell-O?) I went for the Double Chocolate flavor, of course! Three pudding cups come in a package, and the flavor I tried consists of about 2/3 dark chocolate pudding topped by 1/3 of a lighter chocolate "mousse" on top. The pudding cups do make a tasty snack, but I think I'd rather have a regular pudding cup--I'm not the hugest fan of the texture of the "mousse" on top. There are other flavors as well, which I think consist of pudding on the bottom and gelatin on top. That didn't appeal to me, but I can give the chocolate flavor a thumbs up, if you're looking for a little twist to your usual pudding cup.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cookish: What's for lunch?

How do you feel about eggs?

I love eggs. I didn't always, but now I do. They are so cheap, easy to cook, and versatile--what's not to love? Oh, and they're delicious. And good for you. Eat some eggs.

I always have eggs on hand, so when I am at a loss for lunch, I make egg salad. Simple. Tasty. Maybe not the healthiest lunch, but at least you're getting some protein. Pack some fruit, too--you'll be fine.

Do you know how to boil an egg? You've got to master that to make egg salad. Here's what you do:
Take as many eggs as you want to boil. Even if you're only making egg salad for yourself, you want at least two. Put in a pot that will just accommodate as many eggs as you have to boil in one layer. The smaller the better, so they don't have to bump around too much. Cover the eggs with cold water. Put the eggs on the stove and cover. Turn to high. When the pot comes to a boil, turn off the burner, and leave the eggs, covered, for 10 minutes. When the time is up, pour off the hot water and run cold water over the eggs until they cool. This will make them easier to peel. Bam! You've got boiled eggs, with no gray-green ring.

Now that you've got boiled eggs, it's time to make egg salad. You need:
Boiled eggs
mayonnaise
mustard (sometimes I use Dijon, sometimes I use Creole, sometimes I use Durkee's)
garlic powder
pepper

I use an egg slicer when I'm making egg salad--slice one way, then the other. You can also chop by hand. All the other ingredients are to taste. You want to make sure you add enough mayo to completely moisten the eggs and get a nice consistency. How to serve? I like to eat it just with crackers (Triscuits), but it's also mighty tasty on a sandwich of toasted whole wheat bread, with some lettuce.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bookish Review: Sunshine

This book was recommended by my friend S. It reminded me a bit of the series upon which True Blood is based, but I enjoyed it more. It's set in a world where vampires, witches, were-animals, and other mystical creatures are real, and humans are fighting for survival against the dark creatures, particularly vampires. Rae (aka Sunshine) is abducted by vampires, and manages to escape alive--which never happens. In the process, she makes a tentative friendship with a vampire--which also never happens. The vampires aren't likely to let her go easily, and the ppolice in charge of keeping the vampires in check aren't either--since no one escapes vampires and Sunshine did, they want her help. Rae just wants to make cinnamon rolls.

The book is enjoyable and funny. There's not much sex in it, but a few sexual situations (parennts of vampire-loving teens, just wanted you to be aware). The book is clearly a set=up for a series. Vampire fiction fans should enjoy this one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Several years ago, my dear friend the Free Market Mommy made portobello sandwiches for dinner one night when I was visiting--so delish! And very easy. So, I'm going to give a general outline of how to create your own.

Ingredients
portobello mushrooms (1 per person)
cheese slices (1 per mushroom. I recommend provolone)
olive or veg oil
bread or buns (I used multigrain toast, but they're also tasty on hamburger buns)
lettuce
mayo
mustard (I used creole, but you can use your favorite)
salt and pepper

What to do.

Use a spoon to remove the stems and gills from the portobellos. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, with enough oil to coat the bottom. (Or use a grill pan, ora real grill, or a George Foreman grill--you get the idea.) Cook the mushrooms for a few minutes per side, seasoning with salt and pepper once they are cooked (the salt will draw out a lot of juices, so they will cook faster if you salt them after cooking instead of before). Once they're about ready, top each with a slice of cheese (the provolone works well because the slices are round, like the mushrooms) and heat until melted. (You can cover the pan to speed the melting.) If you're using sandwich bread, toast it. spread one slice with mayo & mustard, top with a lettuce leaf, and your cheesy 'shroom. Top with the other slice of bread, cut it in half, and enjoy your sammie!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bookish Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I had heard a lot about The Memory Keeper's Daughter (maybe you have, too?) before reading it, but it was again a situation where I had beard a lot of positive buzz, but I didn't really know what the book was about.

The book is well-written, but it is a tough read--it focuses on how a lie and a secret can poison a marriage and destroy lives. Not exactly a light read, but it does have a hopeful ending, so hang in there.

Dr. David Henry tells his young wife that their son is born healthy (true), but that his twin sister died shortly after birth ( a lie). When the baby girl was born, he recognizes that she had Down's Syndrome and orders his nurse to take her to an institution. The nurse absconds with the baby instead, unable to leave the baby at the institution. His wife drops into a depression, and he lies to her for the rest of their lives together, eventually poisoning the marriage so completely that they get a divorce.

The book is an interesting examination of what secrets and lies (under the guise of "protecting" someone) can do to a relationship, as well as a look at how people with Down Syndrome were treated in the 1960s-1980s.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bookish Review: Chocolat

I am a big fan of the movie version of Chocolat, so I finally decided to pick up the book. The book has the same magical feel as the movie, and the early chapters seem to follow it pretty closely. There are some differences, including that the kangaroo called Pontouf in the movie is a rabbit named Pantoufle in the book. Also, Roux has a different romantic involvement than in the book and the ending is not quite as concrete or quite as happy. Overall, I enjoyed the book, which tells the story of Vianne Rocher and her daughter and how they use their own brand of magic and chocolate to turn a small French town on its ear. I must say, though, that I like the movie better. I'm a sucker for a tidy, happy ending--what can I say?