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.


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

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

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

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
  • 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.