Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Book in Review: Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had such high hopes for this book. As an art teacher, I was curious how Monet would be presented. I know this is fictional, but I was left curious if any of the events really happened. There was a good use of some of the painters' work embedded in the book. However, these were the only good things in the book, to me.

Camille is a big whiny brat and the book evolves around her fits and Monet trying to please her. Monet was often selfish and did not think about his family... only his painting and his want to be famous. He also says merde so often that I don't ever need to hear it again in my life.

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A Book in Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just read two really boring and not so great books, before finally taking The Girl on the Train off of my bookshelf. I had been wanting to read it for a while, so I am extremely happy that the book did not disappoint me.

Rachel is a hot mess. She gets in her own way over and over again throughout the book. She made me so angry. Any time that she would remember a perhaps vital piece of information, she would wash it away with alcohol.

The three women in this book are all a bit certifiable in their own ways. One is still hooked on her ex-husband. One once a mistress, now a wife and one trying to flee her past, but not ever really happy. Yet, they have one common thread. What or who could it be?? Hmm...

I've got to say, that I did not know what to expect at the end and I was a little surprised. Go Paula Hawkins! I love a good mystery! I love a good twist! (I had a pretty good idea as to who the culprit was, but what goes down at the very, very end is what surprised me.)

This book may not be for everyone, but it is just what I needed!

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A Book in Review: Till I Kissed You

Till I Kissed You Till I Kissed You by Laura Trentham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won this book through Goodreads giveaways! Thank you!

I have to say, over the last couple of years, I have developed a like for the romance novel. I know. I never saw that coming, but alas, here I am.

'Til I Kissed You' is a fun, light read. I enjoyed the characters. I liked that they had a history, it gave a nice backstory to what was happening in the present day, within the book. I never really appreciate when the characters hit it off straight away. It is always so much more exciting when they have to work for their love. This book is filled with miscommunication and assumptions, which string you up and down emotionally as you read along.

The setting is in two quaint little southern towns, separated by a river. One side supposedly represents all that is classy and the other... trashy. The characters are brought together (despite past grievances) in order to solve some crimes that are threatening festivals that are to take place in both towns.

Can the main characters be reconciled? Can the towns work together to pull off successful festivals? I suppose you'll have to read to find out!

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Bon Appetit Desserts: Walnut-Orange Cake

This walnut-orange cake can be made in an absolute flash! Made with ingredients that you have on hand, you will be eating this nutty cake before your load of laundry is done. I think that the olive oil makes this cake really delicate and light. It reminds me a bit of a great breakfast muffin. I do not want to admit how much of this cake that I personally ate, but I did share it with my friend (the other art teacher on campus).

Bon Appetit suggests that the cake would be delicious  with just a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, and that it can be served for breakfast, brunch, or tea, or after dinner. So... basically you can eat it all day, every day!



Walnut-Orange Cake 8 to 10 servings


1-1/2          cups chopped walnuts

1                 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1                 tablespoon baking powder

4                 large eggs

1-1/2          cups sugar

1/2             cup fresh orange juice

1                 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

1/2             cup olive oil


                  Powdered Sugar

                  Nonstick olive oil spray


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray 9-inch-diameter springform pan with nonstick olive oil spray. Place parchment paper round in bottom of pan; spray parchment.

Grind walnuts in processor (or little hand operated grinder... I do not have a processor) until finely ground but not powdery. Combine ground walnuts, flour, and baking powder in medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs in large bowl until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until thick, and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add walnut-flour mixture, then orange juice, orange peel, and olive oil, beating until just blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Carefully invert cake onto platter and remove parchment. Sift powdered sugar over cake.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Filling that Christmas Box of Goodies for Your Fighting Lad

Many years ago, I happened upon one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. This may seem like an exaggeration, however, I am obviously really into baking, but I am also extremely into history!  Additionally, when I discovered this really cool item, I was baking for American soldiers every month (I did this for three years and my mom still does it to this days... it's been like 8 years!).

When looking through one of my mom's cookbooks, I found this paper...




It is from 1944 and was geared toward the families of all who were serving during WWII. I couldn't believe what I had found. I bonded with this paper. I know that that must sound silly, but I was doing the same thing for service men and women, as many did in 1944! I just found that really neat and I know that there are tons of you out there that are doing the same exact thing. So, I say well done!

Here is what the article states, before listing the recipes:

The cookies you bake for the serviceman's gift package should be the kind he's sure to like and the kind that keep and travel well.

Cookies that contain fruits and nuts are not practical unless they will arrive within three or four weeks.

If the cookies are on their way too long or if sent to hot or moist climates, the nuts are apt to become rancid and the fruit may cause the cookies to mold. Cookies that are very rich or tender are not recommended at all, because they will break and crumble in transit.

Honey and molasses cookies are among the good ones to keep in mind. They're always fine flavored and they keep well. You'll do well to include some of these especially if you need to economize on sugar.

Quite as important as selecting the right kind of cookies is their packing. Each cooky should be wrapped separately and the spaces between them should be filled with bits of crumpled up paper or small hard candies so they cannot move about in the package.



(My grandpa was 10 when this came out and now he is 82! I love them mentioning the rationing of sugar and how that was an important factor at the time. I do not often think of rationing anything in my life... if at all. History!! It is so great. Also, how fun that they spell cookie as cooky.)

Here are the recipes, in the same order as they are presented in the article:


















Surprisingly, I have yet to make any of these recipes... but I will make them all eventually! I hope that you try some out and that they are just as delicious as their history!













Review: All the Winters After

All the Winters After All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won this book through Goodreads giveaways. I tried and tried, and tried again and I finally won! Thank goodness, because, Wow! What a story!

Thank you for the opportunity to read this novel!

Have you ever been constantly reminded of something in your past, that you know you need to confront, in order to move on and fully live? But, you haven't the courage to do so. You think about confronting, but never actually meet it head on. And then one day you just go for it 100%... That is what characters in this novel are working through. Some share a tragedy and feel guilty for it, even though they could never be to blame. So, for 20 years they have distanced themselves from a life of love and closure.

A young woman is also fleeing her past. Her's is a different one than what most of us people today would think of. She's been so afraid, that for 10 years she has secluded herself, with no chance of interacting with any human soul.

An old woman is reflecting on life and the choices she has made. However, without her and without her choices, none of the characters in this novel would have been connected.

A wonderful story is weaved as these characters bump into each other and react and interact with each other. Bonds are formed. Deep bonds. Their lives begin to change for the better as they let others and light into their lives. Yet, with this new understanding and zeal for life comes sadness.

The story ended and I had a bit of a heavy heart. You know that slight aching, when things are sad, and you wish that things would have ended a different way?? I know that the young woman needs to explore and I know that the other characters still need to fully work their way into their new reality. It all seems good. It has to end this way.. but it also seems wrong. I want a few more pages... chapters to tell me how things turn out!

Ugh! Good read! Life certainly can be a delicate dance at times and this book highlights that beautifully.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bon Appetit Desserts: Cinnamon-Sugar Plum Cake

We're plum lucky to get two plum recipes in a row! I mean... I really like plums! I was happy to find another recipe that utilizes their amazingness!

This cake comes together in two shakes. It is so simple. It looks beautiful as you pull it from the oven. The plums half hidden, half exposed in the cake. As I took the cake from the oven I was filled with joy. There is something to be said about mixing a few common ingredients and getting a different and glorious result every time. Baking is something that I can continually come back to and nothing has changed. I know it and it knows me. We are old friends and whenever we get back together, it is like no time has passed.

This cake to me, looks like a little art piece. I did not want to cut into it... but alas, I did.

(I think the baking process was really enhanced by the music of Agnes Obel playing in the background. You should check her out!)



Cinnamon-Sugar Plum Cake 6-8 servings

1-1/4       cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1             teaspoon baking powder

1/4          teaspoon salt

1/2          cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4          cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar

2             large eggs

1             tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1             teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

5             large plums (about 1-1/4 pounds), pitted, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1/4          teaspoon ground cinnamon



Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in 3/4 cup sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time, then lemon juice and lemon peel, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in flour mixture. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Press plum wedges halfway into batter in concentric circles, spacing slightly apart. Mix remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over plums.

Bake cake until browned on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cut around cake; release pan sides. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bon Appetit Desserts: Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

There is something about plums. I have been patiently waiting a year, for plum season to come, so that I could make this recipe. When I arrived at this recipe last year, I had just missed the plums. It was a darn shame, I tell you!

Perhaps the wait has made this cake even more desired. It is a little bit tart, a little bit spicy, and completely delicious.

This is quite a quick cake to whip together, which is great, now that you'll be making it again and again for all of your friends and family members who will undoubtedly love it!

Side note: If you live in Southern California, serving the cake warm or at room temperature is the same exact thing... it's that hot out right now/ in my apartment!


Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake 8 servings


Topping

1/2          cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2          cup (packed) dark brown sugar

4             plums, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1             1/2-pint container blueberries


Cake

1-1/2       cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2             teaspoons baking powder

3/4          teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4          teaspoon salt

1/4          cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1             cup sugar

2             large eggs, room temperature

1             teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2          cup plus 1 tablespoon milk


               Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)




TOPPING: Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Add sugar; whisk until well blended. Pour syrup into 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides, spreading to cover bottom evenly. Lightly press plums into syrup in circle around edge of pan. Spread berries in center.


DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.


CAKE: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into medium bowl. Beat butter in another medium bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar to butter and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Stir dry ingredients and milk alternately into butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Spoon batter over topping in pan.

Bake cake until top is golden and firm and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Run sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Place platter over pan. Using oven mitts or pot holders as aid, firmly grasp pan and platter together, then turn over. Let stand 3 minutes, then gently lift pan off cake. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bon Appetit Desserts: Raspberry Cake with Marsala, Creme Fraiche, and Raspberries

Well,  I could not think of a better way to kick on my summer break, than with this cake.  It is tart and just sweet enough to have me dreaming of sunny days reading books and going on little adventures and late morning wake up calls.

This cake is pretty simple to pull together and the sprinkling of sugar on the top, half way through the baking process gives it a pretty sparkle.

If you are looking for a quick way to impress at your next dinner or tea party, this cake will fit the bill.




Raspberry Cake with Marsala, Creme Fraiche, and Raspberries
10 servings


1-1/2          cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1                teaspoon baking powder

1                teaspoon salt

1/4             teaspoon baking soda

1/4             teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2             cup Marsala

1/4             cup fresh orange juice

14              tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

1                cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar, divided

2                large eggs

1                teaspoon vanilla extract

1                teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

4                cups fresh raspberries, divided

2                cups creme fraiche or sour cream



Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400ºF. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2-3/4-inch-high sides. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg in medium bowl to blend. Combine Marsala and orange juice in small bowl. Beat 12 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and lemon peel. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with Marsala mixture in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1-1/2 cups raspberries; reserve remaining for serving.

Bake cake until top is gently set, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375º (I forgot to do this and my cake still turned out well). Dot top of cake with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue baking until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack. Release pan sides; transfer cake to platter. Cool to room temperature.

Mix creme fraiche and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in small bowl.

DO AHEAD: Cake and creme fraiche mixture can be made 8 hours ahead. Let cake stand at room temperature. Cover and chill creme fraiche mixture.

Cut cake into wedges. Top each with dollop of creme fraiche and fresh respberries and serve.