Sunday, September 1, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT

Hey! you guys!

I've got a new blog address. I'll be posting the same awesome stuff but in a new place, so go check out

www.madeinchinacooks.com

Update your book marks, your blog loving accounts, your readers and head on over. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Books: Stiff, And The Mountains Echoed, Interpreter of Maladies

Stiff by Mary Roach

You've been dying to learn about cadavers? (pun intended) This is the book for you! Mary Roach writes a hilarious and informative account of what happens to bodies that are donated to science. She includes the history of how people went from grave robbing to get subjects to study to having science labs at school where future and current surgeons learn the latest techniques. There are many laugh-out-loud moments where she includes personal narratives about things she smelled and people she met along the way. I've already added her other books to my to-read list, including Bonk, her book about sex. Informative! 4/5 stars. 

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini 

Confession: I haven't read Hosseini's other two books. I know, I should. Anyway, I started with this, his third novel. Starting in Afghanistan in 1952, a family is torn apart and their story is told over the coming decades by various narrators, including their uncle, a Greek plastic surgeon volunteering in Kabul and a few others. At a few moments I was sort of confused by the way the story was told but in the end it all comes together and weaves a beautiful story of love and family. Hosseini really is an excellent writer and I would definitely recommend this book. 4/5 stars. 

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Mindy Kaling recommended this book. She says its her favorite book, so I decided to pick it up. From Amazon: "Navigating between the Indian traditions they've inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations." She starts the book with the story of an Indian-American couple dealing with the still-birth of their first child and just writes these incredibly touching, and so real, anecdotes of life. I am normally not a huge fan of short stories as the character development is much more challenging and it seems like the stories just isn't as good, but Lahiri does such a excellent job. I've thought about a few of the characters in the book since finishing it last week. Its a quick read and just a really solid book. 4/5 stars. 


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins



Guys! I've got big news/blog changes coming soon, like next week (I hope). New address, new look! Get excited. On to the muffins slash my life. 
This past weekend was the first "normal" weekend I, personally, have had since the middle of June. Which seems insane. I actually had Saturday and Sunday off and wasn't traveling. Besides my husband working, it was so close to being a perfect weekend.
What makes a perfect weekend you ask? Reconnected with friends, yoga, the farmers market, fresh flowers, a great dinner out, karaoke (busted out with Vanilla Ice and Maroon 5 obvs), church and paddle boarding and a lot of cooking. I still feel so refreshed and already it's Wednesday!
Thanks for letting me gush. Anyway, you'll be getting to see some of what I made this weekend later on (hello, thyme lemonade!) but until then let me woo you with these cinnamon rhubarb muffins.
The last time I used rhubarb I made this rhubarb compote ice cream amazingness. Lets be honest, that was a lot of work. Totally worth it... but this time we took the rhubarb recipe down a notch on the prep work.
By the way, shout out to my mom (and dad) for the rhubarb! THANKS! I picked it out of their garden when we were there.
Here we combine the basics, flower, eggs, butter, etc. with some greek yogurt and rhubarb. We also add cinnamon to the batter and cinnamon sugar to the top to really jazz it up. JAZZ HANDS.
Here's a secret, I made two batches of these in one day. Both were awesome. But, time for a secret, in the second batch I ran out of plain greek yogurt so I used this lemon honey greek yogurt I have and it was still totally delicious. Work with what you've got!
Also, I brought these to work and got some compliments so I'm not the only one that thought these were light, fluffy and delicious.
 Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins
makes 12 muffins
(from Fine Cooking)
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups diced rhubarb (1/4 inch pieces)
Topping: 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon

To Make:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups or spray with non-stick spray.

2) In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. 

3) In another bowl combine the greek yogurt, butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until combined, it will be fairly thick and sticky. Fold in the rhubarb.

4) Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. They should be pretty full when using all the batter, which is recommend. Top each muffin with 1/2 tsp cinnamon sugar topping (too much and it doesn't settle in while baking and just comes off when you get them out of the pan). 

5) Bake about 20 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in plan for about 5 minutes then let them cool on a rack. 

I enjoyed it served with butter and a little extra cinnamon sugar. Will keep for several days in airtight container. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Observation Tuesday: Volume 62

Things you CAN'T do when you're NOT in a pool. Hilarious.

36 Things you obviously need in your new home. I (obviously) love the library staircase, the sleepover room, and the stairs you can walk under.

Ideas that will make your life saner. Proud to say I already did a few of these but there are some great suggestions. 


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Snapshot Sunday: August 25

Hey! Normal snapshot sunday is back. Probably not every week but today, it is.

Husband bought me flowers. 
Not sure why there was one brown egg, but I liked it.
Hike to Lake Annette. 
Start. Thanks, inspiring sidewalk chalk. 
We went to Montana. Can't wait to get back to this view. 
An oregano flower on top of deviled eggs. My mom is so fancy!

Hike to Grinell Glacier
The Glacier
I love fires, for these reasons. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Reviews: The Handmaidens Tale, A Spot of Bother, the House Girl

The Haindmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I'd heard of this and it was a dollar at Half Price Books so I bought it having no idea what it was really about. It a futuristic dystopian novel set in the future Republic of Gilead, a theocratic dictatorship in what was formerly the USA. Told from the first-person perspective of Offred, a concubine, kept for the purposes of reproduction. In the book she is exposed to various illegal activies; the commander she lives with begins a relationship with her in which they play scrabble and she is allowed to read, the commander's wife starts a sexual encounter between Offred and their driver, Nick, and she is exposed to an underground movement by another Handmaid she encounters. I don't normally like science fiction, or dystopian novels (really didn't enjoy 1984 in school) but halfway through the book I found myself pretty engrossed in Offred's story. Atwood's writing is intriguing and the flashbacks Offred has of her prior family and training really help you get in her head. 3/5 stars
The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Conklin tells the intertwining stories of Josephine Bell, a slave girl, who decides to run away from the plantation where she works for the ailing mistress and of Lina Sparrow, a first year associate at a law firm in NYC. Sparrow's firm takes up a case for an important client of theirs which will sue the government for reparations for descendants of slaves. As Sparrow begins work on the case she seeks to find the "perfect plaintiff" of their case. Through her father, a famous artist, she learns of a scandal in the art world involving paintings of Lu Anne Bell, Josephine's owner. At the same time Lina is working through the childhood loss of her mother and we're reading about Josephine's life on the plantation. I thought the book was good (I read it mostly in one morning because it was due back at the library and I felt compelled to finish it). However it seems a bit bland, like typical story of a slave on a plantation and a young woman working hard and finding out about herself by the end of the book. There are other, better books about life on plantations and strong female characters I would rather read. 3/5 stars.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

This is Haddon's second novel, after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, written about the Hall family, including George and Jean, and their grown children Katie and Jamie. George begins to go slightly mad over the course of the book, beginning with a spot on his hip he determines is skin cancer. All the while his wife, Jean, is having an affair with a former co-worker. Katie is getting married to Ray, a man the whole family disapproves of. And Jamie, fails to invite his partner Tony to their wedding, which leads to the end of their relationship. Over the course of George having anxiety attacks and making rash decisions; Jean's lover asking her to leave the marriage, Katie and Ray deciding if they love each other and Jamie attempting to fix his own life their lives intertwine in incredibly dysfunctional ways as families sometimes do. There were some unnecessary inappropriate parts (I'm not totally against sex scenes just when I feel they're not integral but just thrown in to some part of the story I get annoyed). I was drawn into their relationships and struggles and my heart ached for them but I wouldn't recommend the book. 2/5 stars. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Coconut Cream Cheesecake with Mixed Berry Topping

Confession: I ate two pieces of this cheesecake about eight hours apart during one night shift. Thank goodness for my coworkers who were there who kept me from eating more. It got rave reviews from everyone who ate it so it's definitely on my favorite dessert list.
This is a no-bake cheesecake recipe that is excellent. It's pretty quick to come together (minus the refrigeration time) with just food processing required and a little stove top time for the berry topping. If you're not a huge coconut fan (like me), don't worry, the coconut flavor is really subtle and lightens it up just a little.
The crust skips the processed graham crackers and goes with dried dates, almonds and butter. No sugar! WIN. It's also gluten free.
Here you see the processed roasted almonds, butter, dates and salt. Use your hands to press it in the bottom of a spring form pan. You could use a pie pan but it needs to have high sides because there is a lot of batter.
Now, I know this picture below is poor quality but I want to show you how I do the double broiler method of combining the gelatin and lemon juice. Over simmering water, you whisk the two until combined. 
The secret ingredient here is the coconut creme. I got mine at Trader Joe's. If your store doesn't have coconut creme you can buy two cans of regular coconut milk from the store, refrigerate before using then skim the cream off the top of the coconut milk (which solidifies when chilled).
The only sweetener used is this honey.
Here you have the honey, vanilla extract, seeds from vanilla bean, Greek yogurt and coconut creme.
And processed.
Now this goes back in the refrigerator overnight.
To make the topping, mix the ingredients, stir over medium heat until thickened. You could substitute the flour (just 1 tbsp) for something gluten free, like corn starch, for thickening. Then the whole recipe works for those of you not eating gluten.
I used a hand mixer to make the topping a little smooth. Refrigerate overnight, then the next day before serving warm it up a little then put it over the cheesecake.
The next time I make this I'm going to freeze it before eating a piece because I think it would be amazing. Enjoy!
Coconut Cream Cheesecake with Mixed Berry Topping
(from Bare Root)

For the crust: 
  • 2 cups almonds
  • 6 pitted, dried dates
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
1) Roast almonds for 10 minutes at 425. Set aside to cool. Soak dates in water while almonds roast, then drain.

2) In bowl of food processor, combine almonds, dates, sea salt and melted butter for a few minutes. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Refrigerate until cool.


For the filling:
  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 cups full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut creme
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp salt
3) In a small heat proof bowl, combine gelatin and lemon juice. Place on top of a small pot of simmering water and whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside.

4) In a food processor, mix Greek yogurt, coconut creme, honey, vanilla extract, seeds from vanilla bean and salt for 1-2 minutes. With food processor running, drizzle in lemon and gelatin mixture. Process for 30 seconds. 

5) Pour cheesecake into pan with cooled crust and refrigerate overnight.


For the topping: 
  • 2 cups frozen mixed berries
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp flour
6) In small saucepan combine mixed berries, lemon juice and zest, honey and flour. Heat mixture over medium heat. stirring occasionally until mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Blend using a hand mixer (or once cool pour into stand blender) until mostly smooth. Refrigerate overnight.

7) To assemble: bring fruit mixture to room temperature, or heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Spread over cheesecake. Serve like this or put back in the refrigerator for another hour for a more solidified look. Remove side of pan, slice, serve and enjoy!