Monday, December 30, 2013

Bookish & Cookish: Cookbook review

I had heard a lot of positive things about the Canal House cookbooks but had not gotten my hands on one before Canal House Cooking: Pronto! I can see what the fuss was all about. The authors are not just great cooks, but great writers, and the book was really a joy to read. I could almost smell the garlic sizzling and felt like I was being transported, either to Italy or to the Canal House table, depending on the sect5ion. For someone who likes to really read and savor a cookbook, not just jump to the recipes, I think this would be a delightful one for you. From what I understand, the Canal House books usually focus on seasonal cooking, but this one focuses on a cuisine instead: Italian. And wouldn't we all like to be on an Italian getaway? Reading this book will give you a taste of that, and then you can try out the recipes and get another kind of taste!

I was provided an advanced e-copy of this title though NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher. Receiving a copy did not affect my review.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bookish & Cookish: Cookbook Review

Come Home to Supper is a cookbook aimed mainly at parents who need to get a good dinner on the table relatively easily. The recipes are not especially fancy or complicated; it's just about getting your family fed a quick and tasty meal. Accordingly, there are slow-cooker options, casseroles, but even breads, sides, desserts, and pantry tips in addition to main courses (divided by protein). I don't have children yet, but I think many of these recipes will be easy for me to whip up for myself and my fiancĂ© after we've both been working all day. The cookbook also contains family stories and memories mainly with the message to be thankful for what you've got and be in the moment--good reminders for busy families. I'm eager to try the lettuce wraps, Chinese chicken salad, and cornbread-topped chicken pot pie. Be aware, this is down-home cooking, and you're not going to find a lot of vegetarian meal options in here--lots of beef and pork! But for busy families, I think this book could be a help.

I received an advanced e-galley of this title from NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher. Receiving a copy did not affect my review.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cookish: Gingersnaps

I'm posting my Christmas cookie recipes late this year, but they are good ones! I am a big fan of gingersnaps, but I've only made gingerbread cookies or chewy molasses spice cookies at home. Well, this year I discovered America's Test Kitchen's gingersnap recipe. Perfection! I love ATK's recipes--they test them meticulously and the results are accordingly excellent, and this was no exception. A quick note: I cut this recipe in half because it says it makes about 80 cookies! But the cookies are small, and they go quickly, and I'm not sure I got 40 out of the 1/2 batch, so I think you'd be fine doing the whole shebang. Also, the dough freezes well and the baked cookies stay fresh for quite a while, so don't fear making a full batch.

Original recipe here:


  • 2 1/2cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 12tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4teaspoon pepper
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 1/4cups packed (8 3/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4cup molasses
  • 2tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1large egg plus 1 large yolk
  • 1/2cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar


  1. 1. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Heat butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until melted. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook, swirling pan frequently, until foaming subsides and butter is just beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer butter to large bowl and whisk in ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and cayenne. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, molasses, and fresh ginger to butter mixture and whisk to combine. Add egg and yolk and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
    2. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place granulated sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate. Divide dough into heaping teaspoon portions; roll dough into 1-inch balls. Working in batches of 10, roll balls in sugar to coat. Evenly space dough balls on prepared baking sheets, 20 dough balls per sheet.
    3. Place 1 sheet on upper rack and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, transfer partially baked top sheet to lower rack, rotating 180 degrees, and place second sheet of dough balls on upper rack. Continue to bake until cookies on lower tray just begin to darken around edges, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Remove lower sheet of cookies and shift upper sheet to lower rack and continue to bake until cookies begin to darken around edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Slide baked cookies, still on parchment, to wire rack and cool completely before serving. Cool baking sheets slightly and repeat step 2 with remaining dough balls.
    TO MAKE AHEAD: Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping. Let frozen dough thaw overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with recipe. Cooled cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cookish: Thanksgiving

Here's a favorite Thanksgiving side dish, introduced to me by one of my college roommates. Who needs marshmallows? This is the best sweet potato casserole you'll ever have.

Sweet Potato Casserole

1 40-oz can of sweet potatoes, drained.
1/2 stick butter, softened (original recipe called for 1 stick, but I think it is overkill)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 eggs, well-beaten
2 tsp vanilla
cinnamon, to taste

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup pecans (I rough-chop mine)
1 stick butter

Mix together filling ingredients (I use a potato masher for this). Spread in a 9 x 13 pan. Combine the topping ingredients with a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingers and sprinkle on top of the casserole. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

Easy and delicious!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bookish Review: Between Man and Beast

Between Man and Beast is a really interesting true story about the discovery of the gorilla. I had no idea that for many years the gorilla was considered a mythical creature. Paul Du Chaillu was the intrepid explorer who ventured into parts of Africa that had never been explored by non-natives before. The information and specimens he brought back shed light on the true nature of the gorilla, but even as he gained slight celebrity, he also faced intense scrutiny, and many questioned his tales and his findings. His discoveries came at the height of the evolutionary debate spurred by Darwin, and the discovery of the gorilla was feared by many for what it might mean for the debate. Since he was not really a trained explorer, he didn't have the precise measurements and pinpoint accuracy the scientific community demanded, and more and more people questioned whether he made it all up. Determined to clear his name, he ventures back to Africa once again. Monte Reel brings to life an extraordinary and under-appreciated explorer. It's a really interesting read.

Note: An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley, which was much appreciated, but did not affect the content of my review.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bookish Review: Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood is a re-telling of Sense and Sensibility for today's teens. When Hallie and Grace Weston's father dies, he leaves everything to their step-mother and half-brother and they--and their mother--are left with nothing. Luckily, their mother has a generous relative, so they find a place to live, but it is in LA, not their hometown of San Francisco. Everything seems to be turned upside down, and Grace is the only one taking their situation seriously. Can Hallie and Grace both find love and a way to start over in their new life?

Fun read, clever retelling. Teens should enjoy.

Note: An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley, which was much appreciated, but did not affect the content of my review.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bookish Review: A Bat in the Belfry

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I was expecting a typical cozy mystery, but this was less fluffy than I expected. The book has a lot of characters and multiple points of view. The main character is Jacobia--aka Jake--Tiptree. Her son Sam also plays a role, as does Sam's friend, who becomes a suspect for the murder of a young girl in town. The book is set in a small town in Maine, and the setting is almost a character in its own right. The ending was a little anti-climactic, but overall it was a very enjoyable read. It was more compelling than I predicted, and kept me turning pages. The book is part of a series, but I haven't read any of the others--you don't need to to read and enjoy this one. But I may pick up another mystery from Sarah Graves for my next vacation read.

Note: An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley, which was much appreciated, but did not affect the content of my review.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bookish Review: Homeward Bound

The subtitle of the book is "Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity," but the book is actually more balanced than that, as it explores why both women and men are feeling a pull to domestic life, moving away from the corporate life to homesteading, small goat farms, knitting, homeschooling, organic cooking--and blogging about it along the way. Emily gives a nice historical perspective of various women's movements and incarnations of feminism over the years and how some see some women's desire to stay home, cook, and take care of family as a step backward and how some of these women see feminism and the promise that women can have it all as a lie--and if we can't have it all, then maybe I want to choose baking a pie over trying to climb the corporate ladder. Emily nicely elucidates how laws in the United States do little to help working mothers--or working fathers--balance working and family and how, given how the economy is today, people don't see the security or the promise of a good future in their jobs, and some would rather scrape by doing what they love and have the time to spend with their families than make more money and have their whole lives be work. Emily covers Etsy, mommy blogs, the rise of DIY, homesteading, etc. I thought her analysis was nicely balanced, covering multiple sides of the issue. I thought it was a really interesting read.
Note: An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley, which was much appreciated, but did not affect the content of my review.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bookish Review: A Nearly Perfect Copy

A Nearly Perfect Copy by Alison Amend is an interesting book. The title refers to the books two topics: art forgery and cloning. An odd combo, right? The book is really, however, about just how far people are willing to go to get what they think they want or deserve and how going too far can lose them everything in the process. It's a book about loss, about what constitutes "art," and whether a forgery that is just as good as an original should be considered any less that art itself. The juxtaposition of the two stories doesn't always work, but for the most part it is an interesting read.

Note: An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley, which was much appreciated, but did not affect the content of my review.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bookish Review: Frozen Solid

Frozen Solid is Tabor's second book featuring heroine Hallie Leland. I didn't read the first, but Hallie is a strong and compelling character. Readers who enjoy thrillers, especially those involving secret government agencies and intrigue should enjoy this one. Hallie is sent to replace an old friend who has died suddenly while doing scientific research on the South Pole. Hallie is no stranger to dangerous places, but the South Pole is the most extreme setting she's ever ventured into, and when she discovers that her friend's death was no accident, she realizes she may be in over her head. Hallie's mentor and her boyfriend back in the States begin to realize that there is something happening on the Pole, but with communications down and weather restricting travel, is there any way they can help her before it is too late?

This is definitely a page-turner. I still have a question about the ending, but for the most part, a very enjoyable and exciting read.

Note: An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley, which was much appreciated, but did not affect the content of my review.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bookish Review: Keep No Secrets

Keep No Secrets is a sequel, and it absolutely reads like a continuation of a story, but the author does enough recapping that the reader does not feel lost even if she hasn't read the previous work. The main character is the DA, who is trying to rebuild his marriage after a brief affair that was splashed all over the media. This is made more difficult, however, when his son's girlfriend accuses him of rape and his former lover returns to town. The characters are not wholly likeable (though perhaps reading the previous book would have helped with that), and the escalation of his court case for rape, given that he is not guilty, and his accuser never intended the lie to go so far, seems a bit improbable, but the book really is a page-turner and kept me reading til the end. The revelation at the end is not as surprising as perhaps it was intended to be, but it was still a very entertaining read.

Note: An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley, which was much appreciated, but did not affect the content of my review.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bookish Review: Belladonna

Belladonna is historical fiction for tweens/teens. At least one of the characters is a real historical figure, but not one that I was familiar with. Set in 1757, a young Englishman stumbles upon a mysterious French girl in the English countyside. He is soon captivated by her and gets involved in trying to help her reccover her horse. As time goes on, she involves him in new opportunities and schemes and the path of his life is forever changed. An interesting and fun read, which horse lovers in particular will enjoy.

I got my hands on an ARC of this somehow, for which I thank the publisher, Candlewick Press, but the free copy did not affect my review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bookish Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Her  Fearful Symmetry is a book about secrets, ghosts, and twins. Elspeth and Edie are twins who have been separated most of their adult lives. Elspeth has never met her twin nieces, but nonetheless leave them her fortune and her London flat when she dies--but she stays in the flat, too. One twin desires to separate herself from the other, to discover her own life, whereas the other wants nothing more than for them to be together forever. Valentina decides the only way to escape her twin is to fake her death, and ropes her ghostly aunt and her aunt's former lover (also her current love interest) into going along with her plan. But all does not go as planned...

An interesting and fun read, but unsatisfying ending.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bookish Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl has recieved a lot of press and critical acclaim, and it was a great read. The book opens with Nick's wife disappearing, and is told alternatively through his and her point of view. About halfway through the book, you feel like you've about got it figured out, and then you realize you haven't got anything figured out. The second half of the book is definitely a page-turner. A great psychological thriller. I didn't love the ending, but it made for a much more disturbing book. Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bookish Review: Off Armageddon Reef

This book was recommended to me by my boyfriend, and was an enjoyable read. He loves sci-fi and historical fiction, particularly if it involves naval battles and swashbuckling, seafaring adventure. So, I could clearly see why he loves this, because it's kind of Horatio Hornblower in space. The beginning is a bit slow, but once it gets going, it's very entertaining. The book is set in the future, and humns are forced to start a new settlement on a new planet, hiding from alien enemies. To remain hidden, they need to eschew modern technology. To facilitate this, the founders start a new religion that forbids technology that is not wind or water powered and sets themselves up as archangels. Hundreds of years pass. However, there is one being that remembers why the humans have had to restart their civilization, that the religious dogma is not true, and who believes the threat of the enemy is not over. This being begins to orchestrate changes in the society and naval battles ensue on the new planet. At this point, it's an exciting read, with a fairly happy ending, but it's just the beginning of the fight. I haven't yet read more in the series, but I am looking forward to it.