Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I Read This Year

Since I have all of the time in the world now (no more school, forever!)... I decided that I would try to read 52 books this year. The most books I have read in one year is 36. This was a challenge that I did not think I could meet, at several points throughout the year.

I would go from reading 5 books in one weekend, to reading zero books in 5 weeks. It was a constant forcing myself to read, but also feeling a bit stressed about meeting my goal. At times, I began to feel like reading was a job, which I most definitely did not like, because I love reading! At some point in early October, I finally caught up to and surpassed the amount of books that I should have read at that time, according to the Goodreads Reading Challenge tracker.

So, what did I read? Did I complete the challenge?  See below!

1. You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt

2. The Dreamer by E.J. Mellow

3. The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

4. Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage by Lisa Boalt Richardson

5. Neanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance by Penny Reid

6. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

7. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

8. The Hooker and the Hermit by L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid

9. The Player and the Pixie by L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid

10. Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

11. The Mothers by Brit Bennett

12. Neanderthal Marries Human: A Smarter Romance by Penny Reid

13. Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid

14. Rancher's Refuge by Linda Goodnight

15. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

16. Love Hacked by Penny Reid

17. Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid

18. Frommer's EasyGuide to Iceland

19. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

20. Independent People by Halldor Laxness

21. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal

22. Happily Ever Ninja by Penny Reid

23. Dating-ish by Penny Reid

24. The Animal Under the Fur by E.J. Mellow

25. Attraction: Elements of Chemistry by Penny Reid

26. Heat: Elements of Chemistry by Penny Reid

27. Capture: Elements of Chemistry by Penny Reid

28. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

29. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

30. The Selection by Kiera Cass

31. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

32. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

33. Sarah's Key by Tataina de Rosnay

34. Bear in Mind by Penny Reid

35. The Elite by Kiera Cass

36. The One by Kiera Cass

37. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

38. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

39. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

40. A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady

41. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

42. Paper Princess by Erin Watt

43. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

44. Love and Gelato byJenna Evans Welch

45. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

46. Six of Hearts by L.H. Cosway

47. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

48. Nobody Looks Good in Leather Pants by Penny Reid

49. Tapping the Billionaire by Max Monroe

50. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

51. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

52. Yiddish Wisdom: Humor and Heart from the Old Country by Christopher Silas Neal

Though I own these books, I suggest your local library or borrowing from a friend... unless you want to have your very own library, like I do!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bon Appetit Desserts: Chocolate Decadence

Decadent is an understatement. This cake is almost pure chocolate!

This cake comes together quite quickly. It is sure to impress your co-workers... or anyone for that matter.

Chocolate Decadence
Although the pan is buttered and floured to prevent sticking, the cake itself is flourless. The decadence comes from a generous dose of bittersweet chocolate and butter, accented with Grand Marnier, Cognac (or Brandy), and espresso powder. 12 servings

1          pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped

10        tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

2          tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1          tablespoon Cognac or brandy

1          tablespoon instant espresso powder or coffee powder

6          large eggs

3/4       cup sugar

            Lightly sweetened whipped cream

            Fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2-3/4-inch-high sides. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in Grand Marnier, Cognac, and espresso powder. Cool to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Fold 1/4 of beaten egg mixture into chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs still attached, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack (cake will sink as it cools). Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand still at room temperature.

Cut cake into wedges. Serve with whipped cream and berries.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thank You

Hello! I am doing a quick shout out to all of the countries that my readers come from. I don't know who you readers are, but I hope that you are enjoying the delicious recipes I'm posting and perhaps, even reading the books that I review, from time to time.

I don't need any recognition, I am happy knowing that you are eating well and reading well!

I started writing down the countries of my readers, a few years into this blog, so this is in no way and exhaustive list. It is extremely neat to see this list of countries represented!

In no particular order and certainly not alphabetical:

United States (You are my home.)
Ireland (I've visited you and loved everything I saw!)
United Kingdom (I've visited you, too. Also loved everything!)
Poland (I've visited you as well. What a great place for history! Love!)
Czech Republic (I lived here for a while and would live here again. One of my favorites!)
Mexico (As a bordering nation, I have visited you many a time! <3 )
Tunisia (My cousin is named after you!)
Saudi Arabia
Australia (A family member is married to an Australian man, so connection!)
Panama (I spent a few hot days in Panama and loved it there!)
South Africa
New Zealand
Hong Kong
South Korea
Sweden (I have Swedish ancestors... still needing to research this! Can't wait to visit!)
Brasil (I once stayed here for one month. I have fond memories of Sao Paulo!)
Domenican Republic

So many places on this list that would love to visit for the first time, and many I'd love to see again!

Happy baking my friends!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bon Appetit Desserts: Tarte au Sucre

Hello!  Here is a new Bon Appetit Desserts Cookbook recipe for you all.  About time!

I am just starting to get back in to the groove of things. I've got to tell you, living that grad school life for two years really took a lot out of me. I hope that I can get back into baking, for reals this time.

I got pink slipped at my school this year, but luckily, I was hired at a new school about two weeks after the school year ended. So, I'll have funds still coming in... baking supplies will still be able to be purchased. Hooray!

About this tarte au sucre. My friend Rachelle loved it. Loved. It. I however, am not a huge fan of eggs or custards. As in, I do not eat them. I did try the tarte, it has good flavor, but I could not get over the texture of the custard. So, if you love eggs and you love custards, this dessert is for you. If you do not, I'd say skip it.

Tarte au Sucre

Similar to a rustic coffee cake, this Belgian classic is a light and fluffy yeast-risen treat with a custardy brown sugar topping. Often served with fresh berries as dessert, the tart is also lovely for brunch or as an afternoon snack with coffee or tea. 10 to 12 servings.

1-1/2          cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/4             cup sugar

2                teaspoons active dry yeast

1                teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1/2             teaspoon salt

6                Tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4             cup whole milk

3                large egg yolks

2                large eggs

2/3             cup heavy whipping cream

2/3             cup (packed) dark brown sugar, divided

Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2-3/4-inch high sides. Mix flour, 1/4 cup sugar, yeast, lemon peel, and salt in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. (I do not have a food processor... I just mixed with my hands.) Add milk and egg yolks; using on/off turns, blend until soft dough forms. (I just used a wooden spoon.) Using wet fingertips, press dough over bottom and 1 inch up sides of prepared pan. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise in warm draft-free area until light and puffy (dough will not double in volume), about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Whisk whole eggs and cream in small bowl to blend. Sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar over bottom of tart. Pour cream mixture over. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar. Bake until dough puffs and browns and filling browns in spots, about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cut around pan sides to loosen tart. Release pan sides. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bon Appetit Desserts: Year Three

Wow... well, as you can see, I did not get much Bon Appetit baking accomplished over the last year. In fact, I didn't even update a few of the recipes. So, I am going to get to that, right now! Who could have guessed that it would take three years to get through the first year of recipes that I had planned. Thirteen still to go!

1.  Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

2. Walnut-Orange Cake

3. Cinnamon-Sugar Plum Cake

4. Raspberry Cake with Marsala, Creme Fraiche, and Raspberries

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Earl Grey Cake and Chai Tea Cupcakes

This weekend I had family and friends over to celebrate the fact that I got my MA degree.

I made some tea flavored treats and they were both big hits!

Earl Grey tea is one of my all time favorites and this cake is good, but I have got to give 1st place to the chai tea cupcakes, they are so flavorful. I think I could eat one everyday!

My mom and I made the rosettes in my school's colors.

Earl Grey Cake + Honey Buttercream Frosting From : Hey Modest Marce

1          teaspoon stash brand loose leaf earl grey double bergamot tea
            (I used Earl Grey Strong from Teapigs)

1          cup whole milk

1          cup unsalted butter, softened

1-1/2   cup raw sugar (turbinado)

3          eggs

1          teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4       cup vegetable oil

2-1/2    cups all purpose flour

2          teaspoons baking powder

1          teaspoon salt

1          teaspoon stash loose leaf earl grey double bergamot tea, finely ground

For the buttercream frosting

1          pound unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3       cup raw honey

3          cups icing sugar, or to taste

1          teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 325º F.

2. In a saucepan over low heat add the milk and loose leaf tea. Let simmer for five minutes to infuse tea into the milk. Do not let the mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain out tea.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream cutter and sugar.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract and oil. Mix until light and fluffy.

5. In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder, salt and finely ground tea. Gradually add to stand mixer at low speed.

6. Once flour is JUST combined into the wet ingredients. add infused milk.

7. Evenly distribute batter amongst two greased 8-inch round cake pans.

8. Bake each layer for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (I had to bake my cakes for 40 minutes.)

9. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting

Add butter, honey, icing sugar (confectioner's/powdered sugar), and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until light and fluffy, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Frost as desired!


I made these graduation cap cake toppers, too.

Chai Tea Cupcakes From: Lady Behind the Curtain

For the cupcakes

1/2       cup butter, softened

1          large egg

2          large egg yolks

1/2       cup brewed vanilla chai tea (such as Bigelow brand) * two vanilla chai tea bags, see directions below

1-1/2    cups all purpose four

1-1/2    teaspoon baking powder

1/4        teaspoon salt

3/4        cup granulated sugar

1-1/2    teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Chai Butter Frosting

3/4       cup butter, softened

1/2       teaspoon cardamom

1/4       teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of ground ginger

pinch of ground cloves

seeds from 1 vanilla bean (I left this out and frosting was still delicious!)

4          cups confectioners' sugar

2          Tablespoons reserved brewed vanilla chai tea

Instructions for the Cupcakes

1. Allow butter, egg, and egg yolks to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Line muffin cups with cupcake liners.

3. Preheat oven to 350º F.

4. Brew tea by adding 1 cup of hot water to a mug with 2 vanilla chai tea bags.

5. Set aside.

6. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

7. In a large mixing bowl beat butter on high until creamy.

8. Add sugar and beat until well combined and fluffy.

9. Add egg, egg yolks, and vanilla... beat until combined.

10. Alternate the 1/2 cup of brewed vanilla chai tea (reserving the rest for the frosting) and flour mixture, beating on low after each addition just until combined.

11. Fill cupcake liners to 3/4 full.

12. Smooth out batter in cups.

13. Bake 20 minute or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.

14. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire rack for 5 minutes.

15. Remove and cool completely on wire rack.

16. For Crunchy Chai Topping: **See recipe below

      Spoon chai sugar into bowl

      Melt butter in a small bowl

      Brush melted butter on tops of cooled cupcakes

      Dip the tops into the chai sugar

17. For the Chai Butter Frosting:

      Cream together the butter, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clover, and seeds from 1 vanilla bean.

      Add the sugar and cream until well combined.

      Add brewed vanilla chai tea 1 tablespoon at a time until the frosting reaches piping consistency.

      Pipe on cupcakes.

Crunchy Chai Tea Topping

1          cup sugar

2          teaspoons ground cardamom

1          teaspoon cinnamon

1/4       teaspoon ground ginger

1/4       teaspoon ground cloves

1/8       ground black pepper

1          vanilla bean split lengthwise and seeds scraped and reserved

Instructions for Chai Tea Topping

1. Large jar or bowl, combine the sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, vanilla bean         and seeds.

2. Cover and place in a cool dry place for at least a week or up to 6 months.

3. Discard vanilla bean.

4. Divide sugar mixture into small jars.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review: Neanderthal Seeks Human

Neanderthal Seeks Human Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In December 2016 I had just learned about Penny Reid, at a book signing that my friend took me to. Now, I've read the first three books of her Winston brother series and Neanderthal Seeks Human! I love Penny. I'm so glad she is alive, that she is so funny, and that she has chosen to write books that are also so funny and make me laugh!

Neanderthal Seeks Human

Janie. What a nerd! I love her. Every bit of her. Except her being scared of the commitment with a good guy... only because I see this quality in myself. The feeling of being inadequate. Why would someone want to date ME? I'm just me, nothing special. It's scary. I understand her perfectly well.

This book is a wonderful example of how we are not perfect. We all have quirks and eccentricities that make us who we are. We also have things in our past, big or small that contribute to our personality and character.

AND we all have a family member that we'd quite like to forget! Am I right?!

I enjoyed this book from the beginning. I've got to be honest, Penny has a way of getting me to laugh out loud in all of her books. Neanderthal was no different.

When you get to this part, I hope you laughed as much as I did:

"am going"
"-to fuck-"
"-you up-"

This seems quite out of context, but trust me, it's funny!

Over all, I like that Janie and Quinn are two people who have stuff to work through and perhaps that is why I enjoy Penny's books so much. The people seem real. They seem like me or a friend. They go through things that real people go through.

Give this book a try. It's a good and fun read! Then promptly go and read all of Penny's other books!

View all my reviews