May Happenings

Annnnd, it’s time for the May monthly wrap-up!

textgram_1496017093

on the bookshelf

Added to the bookshelf this month, other than review copies, were a few for-fun ones! Life After by Katie Ganshert (after all the amazing #bookbestie reviews), Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano (yay for giveaways!), and finally a paperback version of The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall (now my Everstone Chronicles series is complete on the shelf!).

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Moms in Literature
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)
  3. April Happenings

cover - Unraveling by Sara EllaMost popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan
  3. Right Where We Belong novella collection
  4. Unraveling by Sara Ella (review + excerpt)

in the kitchen

One of the new things I made this month was this “healthy” flourless almond butter chocolate muffin recipe. Of course, I added extra chocolate chips. It was awesome!

This sorta fits in the kitchen category. I found myself drooling over several Instagram accounts one evening and stumbled upon this mostly-vegan Instagram account! It’s just SO PRETTY I want to stare at all the yummy food.

on the screen

LIONI’ve seen a few movies this month, but the very best was Lion. A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia. 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family. (summary from imdb.comTo say this is an excellent movie is an understatement. It is an emotional rollercoaster of the very best kind that exhibits the powerful love of family, whether related by blood or by choice. It was even more special to me because I have close family members who are adopted from India.

Oh, and another epic thing I finished this month was the PBS-aired American Experience 3 part documentary The Great War, outlining America’s role during that awful war, including fascinating profiles of individuals and a ton of footage and photographs. I’ve since added several of WWI-era books to my TBR (thank you, Rachel McMillan, for starting that list for me!). If you have any to recommend, please do so in the comments!The Art of Us (from imdb.com)

On the small screen, I enjoyed the new Hallmark movie The Art of Us. It took the “My Fair Lady” plot basis and turned it into a sweet romance and lesson in honesty. The characters were portrayed in a genuine manner by their respective actors. I thought the chemistry and flirty banter between the two leads was adorable! And, the way the ending was (and wasn’t) neatly wrapped up felt realistic. If I haven’t convinced you, check out this review of it on The Silver Petticoat Review.

around the web

Thanks to awesome author e-newsletters (I’m talking about you, Hillary Manton Lodge), I heard about this article touting Emma Watson’s acting skill and Oscar-worthy performance. It’s fun.

Rachael and Meghan have started a new blog series titled “Love Life & Literature: Romance in Real Life”, with new posts up each Friday. They are discussion relationships and singleness from a romance-loving, Christian worldview. Start with the first installment, On Meet-Cutes & Settling.

If you aspire to write or plot a story, you might find this Novel Rocket article by author Dawn Crandall helpful. I thought it an interesting way to plot the plot beforehand :).

 

 

 

April Happenings

I can’t believe it’s already time for the April monthly wrap-up!

textgram_1493599096

on the bookshelf

Two of the MOST EXCITING titles added to my collection this month included an ARC of Sara Ella’s second novel, Unraveling, and the lovely novella collection Right Where We Belong with small-town stories from authors Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh. Both of these should be reviewed on the blog this May.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Novels with the Most Unique Settings
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 things that will make me instantly want to read a book
  3. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-bashamMost popular book reviews:

  1. Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham (plus author interview)
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald (plus book snippet)

in the kitchen

20170415_120919-1The most notable “new” recipe I made this month was this version of dairy free Hot Cross Buns for Easter weekend. They turned out great! I used a combination of dried currants and raisins because I like both.

on the screen

The Zookeeper's WifeI had the privilege of seeing The Zookeeper’s Wife on the big screen…. And let me just say it was a fabulous production! It tells the fascinating inspired-by-a-true-account story of a zookeeper’s family sheltering Jews in occupied Poland during WWII. It appropriately portrayed the harshness of life for the Jews and the sacrifices of people who risked everything to help them. The quality of this film is very prominent, with the acting top-notch (especially Jessica Chastain!) and everything from the zoo animals to the furniture/clothing period-appropriate. This is one to see if you’re a fan of historical dramas or WWII.

around the web

Pepper Basham featured one of my favorite book heroes (ahem, book boyfriends) on one of her “Swoony Saturday” posts. It is Dr. DAVID ROSS. Enough said.

I ’m not planning a wedding ANY time in the near future. You kinda have to plan a groom first. But, if I were, I’d be all over this wedding entertainment option recently in the news: ALPACAS and LLAMAS!!!! This little animal therapy place in the OR/WA area offers options to book llamas and/or alpacas to be a part of a ceremony or to entertain guests. I’m thinking it needs to be extended to any social or family event. Wouldn’t it be fun to show up to a family reunion or birthday part to find alpacas to play with?! 🙂

March Happenings

March Happenings

Welcome to my new feature, a monthly wrap-up of sorts!

textgram_1490893065.png

Having seen several blogger friends’ takes on a month-end post, I have decided to attempt such a summary or fun little recap at the end of each month. So, here goes!

on the bookshelf

I added SEVERAL books to my TBR shelf, most ecopies and a few paperbacks. Out of all of them, I think I’m most excited about reading With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall and The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan over the next weeks.

on the blog

textgram_1488839984.pngMost popular posts:

  1. 4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid!)
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
  3. The Message in a Bottle Romance Novella Collection

in the kitchen

Thanks to a Facebook post by author Hillary Lodge, I tried this amazing recipe for a pan baked lemon almond tart. It’s naturally gluten free, if you’re conscious of that, AND I made it dairy free by using full fat coconut milk in place of the cream and earth balance “butter”. I’ve already made it a second time.

I’ve also discovered the brilliance of overnight oats. Mix together oatmeal and your favorite add-ins, like nuts, flax, coconut, cinnamon, etc., add milk, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Instant breakfast! It’s even better if you throw in some fresh fruit. This recipe on my local news station convinced me to try it!

on the screen

I wrapped up the premier season of Victoria on Masterpiece Classic. My mom and I LOVED this series. It is worth a watch for the costumes and architecture alone. On top of brilliant acting and a well-structured script, the growth of Victoria as she adjusts to her role as queen and the love story between her and Albert is all the more enjoyable because it is true. History is NOT boring, people!

Force_of_Arms_FilmPosterI happened upon the classic movie Force of Arms (1951) this month. It’s a WWII drama/romance starring William Holden and Nancy Olson reminiscent of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Considering its era, I thought it a very well made piece of art, even if the romance was a *little* fast moving and melodramatic. Somehow that made it all the more entertaining with William Holden’s sappy declarations of love amidst army advances in Italy. The wit and sometimes fast-paced dialogue of the script reminded me of the banter that’s more often found in rom-com novels. It is as much drama as love story, though, and does a decent job showcasing the perils of fighting, sometimes featuring real-life footage of the army or city scenes. If you have a chance to watch it, do so!

 

Until last week, I had not seen the 2006 biography/drama Miss Potter. I don’t know how I went this long without seeing it or really knowing more of the story behind Beatrix Potter’s life. (She’s the one who wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, etc.). It is all kinds of sweet and poignant with a fantastic cast (Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson). Fans of children’s literature and period drama enthusiasts alike will enjoy it!

around the web

I’m still sporadically participating in the #WishfulWonder book photo challenge on Instagram (AKA #bookstagram for we book-loving photo enthusiasts). The prompts are curated by Tressa and Rissi each month. See Rissi’s post here for the April schedule!

Author Pepper Basham has begun a blog feature called “Swoony Saturdays“, complete with ratings on a Jane Austen- inspired hero scale AND a kissing level. It’s terribly fun. She’s featured 2 of her own fictional book heroes so far with plans for more.

I recently saw and LOVED Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. From the costumes, sets, casting, and MUSIC it was gorgeous. My little girl heart was happy. There were a couple things, though, that I was slightly disappointed in. This blog post by Sarah Cinnamon sums up my feelings perfectly and shines a light on the love that can be seen in such a story.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who Cook/Bake

April 28 It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who _____ (Cook/Bake)

Today’s topic is one of the fun fill-in-the-blank kinds. Anyone who knows me well knows I LOVE to eat cook or bake. So, what better thing to share some of my favorite books which feature prominent characters who bake or cook – often for a living?!? These characters’ culinary creations have made me hungry at times. But, one of them doesn’t exactly cook well…. let’s just say I won’t be caught eating at Glynna’s table (from Fired Up)

TTT Characters who Cook or Bake

In no particular order, here goes:

1. The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Quaint small house-turned-fine-restaurant/foster transition home with a sweet romance

2. A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

So many beautiful dishes – and actual RECIPES in the book! My favorite so far that I’ve tried is the French apple cake from the book.

3. When I Fall In Love by Susan May Warren

A cooking competition in Hawaii. Enough said.

4. Fired Up by Mary Connealy

This one is rather comical…. Glynna is not a very good cook. But she does have some people who help her remedy the situation 🙂

5. Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Two opposite sisters, brought together, in some ways, by food.

6. Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann

It’s been a while since I read this one – I remember character Tia Manning worked at a bakery. I think some of her muffin combinations sounded delicious!

7. While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad

Another light and fun read, with the main character stirring up trouble!

8. A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Eleanor Braddock selflessly cooked for a wonderful cause – to support war widows and orphans. (I got to feature a recipes from this story in these posts: savory quiche and shortbread)

9.-11. “The Michelli Family Series” by Kristen Heitzmann

Secrets, Unforgotten, Echoes

Romantic suspense with an Italian family who loves to cook.

How about you? Do you like to read books that feature a main character who cooks or bakes? Have you read any of these?

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.