June Happenings

It’s that time of month AGAIN……(head’s up: this post has A LOT of Jane Austen/Jane of Austin gushing)

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on the bookshelf

I added more than a few books to the bookshelf in June. It’s going to be a busy summer! One fabulous just-because read being True to You by Becky Wade, others being Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, and a neat Jane Austen Memoir compilation by some of her relatives. Other for-review copies include Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo, High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin, and On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Dads in Literature + #BookDadQuotes
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)
  3. Book Spotlight, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
  3. The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

in the kitchen

I really, really want-to-make these olive oil chocolate chunk cookies I found on The Little Epicurean site. Soon.

20170626_150604 (800x450)did bake scones just this week from Hillary Manton Lodge’s recipe in Jane of Austin. Her recipe is for cranberries, but I happened to have fresh blueberries on hand and they worked just as well!

on the screen

Sense and SensibilityYet again, because of Jane of Austin, I re-watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie. It had been way too long since I had watched it, and I appreciated it all the more this viewing. It is brilliantly cast!!! And the acting performances are wonderful, particularly that of Emma Thompson (I ❤ her).

Recently, I discovered the weekly travel show Born to Explore with Richard Wiese on a local TV station. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the episodes on Morocco, India, Uganda, and Cyprus.

around the web

Continuing with all the Jane Austen love this month, here are 3 wonderful articles by Hillary Manton Lodge:

Thanks to a Tyndale House Facebook post, I found these adorable little Lender’s Library Bookmarks — a free printable library-ish bookmark to keep tabs on your lent books.\

If you like “armchair adventures”, or traveling through reading, this is a “reading list road trip” from Bethany House Publishers of 2017 releases and their locations across the U.S. and globe.

 

Family, a Film, & a French Apple Cake

Sometimes you have a family or culinary experience that’s just so delightful you wish it would last forever. In my case, it was a combination – an evening watching a movie followed by eating a yummy apple cake. It was so great I decided to blog about it 🙂

Last week, I enjoyed watching one of my absolute favorite movies The Ultimate Gift (2006) PosterThe Ultimate Gift (2006) – with my grandmother, aunt, and uncle. If you haven’t seen it, you MUST watch it immediately. It’s one of my go-to movies, the kind I love to watch or listen to any time. It is the perfect family movie with a message for everyone – one “take-away” is that life is a gift meant to be shared with others. Plus it has a great cast (Abigail Breslin, James Garner [one of my personal faves], and Drew Fuller).

So, back to my great evening. After watching this with my family, we devoured ate most of a DELICIOUS French Apple Cake with Almonds (Yes, I am a little biased because I baked it myself, but when my uncle wants seconds, you know it’s good). The recipe came from Hillary Manton Lodge’s fabulous novel A Table by the Window, which is full of recipes squeezed in between the chapters of the story (like Nutella mousse, pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon, pine nut couscous, and mini focaccia to name a few). The story alone was one I loved, but these recipes are a fantastic bonus. This apple cake was very moist and just sweet enough — and easy to make. It was the perfect end to an evening making memories and enjoying a movie with my family. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book, if only for the recipes.

By the way, Hillary is featured in August’s Book Fun Magazine with an interview and recipe for the Provencal Lavender and Honey Pound Cake from the novel.

French Apple Cake with Almonds (recipe by Hillary Lodge)

Here’s a pic of my cake. Doesn’t it make you want a piece?

 

Note: I did receive a free copy of this book from the publishers to review (Thank you!), but this post is just a “fun” one I wanted to share, not encouraged/required by the publishers.

Have you seen The Ultimate Gift? What did you think? What’s your family’s favorite movie?

I’d love to hear your comments – they don’t even have to stay on topic! 😉

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread Recipe -Another Extra from “A Beauty So Rare”!

Ok, ya’ll. Here’s another fabulous recipe from the oh-so-delightful Tamera Alexander, featured in her novel A Beauty So Rare!

Today, it’s character Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread recipe. I’ve already shared her recipe for a Savory Custard (Ham & Cheese Quiche), and told you about how this book made my mouth water. I’m so glad to be sharing this recipe today. Can we all just take a moment to imagine how this shortbread must smell, warm and buttery, hot out of the oven?

While you’re snacking on this shortbread, you should also have the best reading material – so go find A Beauty So Rare!  Trust me, it’s awesome.

From Tamera:

 

Hey friends,

Is there anything that smells as good as homemade shortbread baking in your oven? Oh so scrumptious, and a time-honored recipe. Shortbread is just one of the many recipes included in A Beauty So Rare, the second stand-alone novel in the Belmont Mansion series.

Since Eleanor Braddock (the heroine in A Beauty So Rare) is practical to a fault, she makes her shortbread in a cast-iron skillet, so I did the same. Gives you the best crunchy edges and buttery middles! Wish I could share some with you. But I’ll do the next best thing––share the recipe!

Have you ever made shortbread? It’s so easy.Eleanor Braddock's Shortbread

 

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread

(from A Beauty So Rare)

 

3/4 cup butter at room temp (1 1/2 sticks)

1/2 cup powdered sugar*

1/3 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, then spray a smaller (8-9 inch) cast-iron skillet very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. You don’t need that much spray. Trust me, the butter in the recipe will take care of that.

 

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Next, work in the flour. You can either mix the flour in with an electric mixer, or you can get into the 1860s way of doing things and knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s nice and smooth.

 

Press the dough into the iron skillet (or you can use a pretty shortbread pan too). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes then flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. Cut the shortbread into pieces while still warm. It “sets up” as it cools. Or serve it warm. Serves 10-12. And it really does. This stuff is rich and delicious. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

And just for fun, a bit of history:

*Did you know that in 1851, Oliver Chase (of NECCO Wafer fame) developed a mill for powdering sugar which he used in his candy making process? But if a cook wanted powdered sugar back then, refined loaf sugar was pounded into a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. So much easier today, huh?

 

 

For more recipes and to watch the novel trailer

for A Beauty So Rare, visit www.TameraAlexander.com

Savory Custard (Ham & Cheddar Quiche) Recipe from Tamera Alexander’s “A Beauty So Rare”

Today, I’m so excited to share about two of my favorite things: books and baking. How could it get any better?

Here’s a recipe for a Savory Custard, or Ham & Cheddar Quiche, from Tamera Alexander’s latest book. The main character, Eleanor Braddock, makes it in A Beauty So Rare. Plus there’s a recipe for Old-Fashioned Pie Crust… I’m sure it would be great with a sweet filling, too!

I’m currently reading this novel and am happy to be a part of a blogging team that shares fun things like this recipe with you all. (Trust me, there’s more goodies to come, plus a review!) I’m enjoying Eleanor’s story so far – her hardworking and sweet spirit is coming to life on the pages.

 

Okay, let’s get on to the recipe and info from Tamera:

Savory Custard Recipe from Tamera Alexander 3
Eleanor Braddock
s Savory Custard

(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

www.TameraAlexander.com

 

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as “savory custards” in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is “a cook with a dream.” But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or “receipt” as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit www.TameraAlexander.com.

 

Ingredients

1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)

1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)

8 large eggs

1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)

1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

Sautéonion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.Savory Custard Recipe from Tamera Alexander 2

 

 

Eleanor Braddocks Old-Fashioned Pie Crust

(makes two large crusts)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

www.TameraAlexander.com

 

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust “freezes beautifully ” as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!

Ingredients

1 ½cups Crisco (or lard)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

5 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form the 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then “unfold” it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at http://www.tameraalexander.com/contact.html.

Owl Birthday Cake

After seeing Anita’s cute little owl cake over on Leave Room for Dessert, I was inspired to make one for my birthday. (Yes, for my own birthday…don’t worry, I had some help).

I didn’t have two 9 inch cake pans, so I made mine out of 10 inch pans, and the cake batter ration evened out nicely. I followed her example of cutting and arranging my layers in this format:

Owl Cake

I then proceeded to do a thin crumb coat with my chocolate buttercream icing. I refrigerated it for about 30 minutes to set before piping on the rest of my design.
Owl Cake with a crumb coat

I used a petal tip for frosting the feather design, starting with the bottom and layering feathers up, leaving a round space for the belly and eyes. I used plain vanilla frosting for the eyes and belly, filling in the yellow details with a star tip. For the eyes, I sliced thin sections of black licorice.
Finished Owl Cake

 

I had so much fun making this cake! Enjoy!

Courtney

Pinterest Find: Homemade Thin Mints

Pinterest is one of the greatest websites ever designed (in my opinion, at least). If you are looking for inspiration, for anything from cooking, crafting, home remodeling, art, lesson plans, to funny quotes and useful tips, you can find it on Pinterest. (check out my boards and pins here

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this blog post featuring a recipe for homemade thin mints (yes, like the Girl Scout cookies).  Immediately this caught my attention. I LOVE chocolate-mint anything. After a mouth-watering review of the pictures Sue posted, I was determined to try the recipe.

The original recipe was posted by the Chicagoist. Access it here. It’s so simple, yet is tastes exactly like real Girl Scout Thin Mints.

I used unsweetened cocoa powder for the recipe, as called for by the Chicagoist. On the first blog post I saw with the Thin Mint recipe (the one with the mouth-watering pics), Sue said she used dutch-processed cocoa powder. You might be able to use either one, but the consistency of the cookie may not be the same.

If you are wondering about the difference between regular unsweetened cocoa powder and dutch-processed, you are not alone. I confess, I had to Google it myself. I found this awesome website with a great explanation. Dutch-processed is neutral (as opposed to normal cocoa powder which is slightly acidic), and is typically used in recipes with more baking powder or another acidic compound.

Also, when I made these cookies, I used bittersweet instead of semisweet chocolate to coat them. This gave them a richer, less-sweet taste, which I loved because I am a big fan of dark chocolate. If you prefer, you can use semisweet or even milk chocolate for the chocolate coating.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and I would love to hear how your cookies turn out. Happy baking!   -Courtney