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Sunday Supper Movement

{Book Review}

The Great Library Series

By Rachel Caine

Books
Book 1: Ink and Bone
Book 2: Paper and Fire
Book 3: Ash and Quill (To be published in July 2017)

Associated Short Stories:
Tigers in the Cage (Book 0.1) – Available for free online here
Stormcrow (Book 0.5) – Available for free online here

This series takes place around the year 2045. It’s a world that is unrecognizable to the reader, as this version of the future starts with a very different version of our history. The Great Library of Alexandria not only survives but rises to a position of power and protects knowledge from being lost from war and disaster that plague Earth’s history. While there are some technological advancements, the Library banishes all ideas that would challenge it’s existence to The Black Archives, essentially rewriting history.

In this version of history, electricity is non-existent, trains and vehicles run on steam. But more important to the plot, Johannes Gutenberg never invented the printing press, or rather, he did but his research was banished to The Black Archives. Instead of reading physical books, stories and books are read on “blanks,” or codices, preloaded with stories from the Library via alchemy. In this way, the Library can not just censor what is read but it can track what the user is interested in. It’s illegal to own handwritten books, with the exception of your own personal journal.

It is in this version of the future that Jess Brightwell lives. Son of a black market book trader, Jess grew up smuggling books and running from the Library. However, at his core, he loves knowledge and books. As he approaches adulthood, his father buys him the opportunity to test into Library service, with the intention that his son would serve the family business from within its enemy.

Ink and Bone starts off with a scene from Jess’ childhood, but is centered around his introduction to the Library, surviving the training and the elimination process, and building a relationship with a small group of fellow trainees. And in the middle of all of that? Jess and his friends are caught in a Library plot against their teacher, putting them into dangerous situations and testing their loyalty, not just to the Library but to each other.

Paper and Fire picks up where the first book left off. Jess and his friends finished training, but are caught up in some pretty dangerous Library plots. This second book is even more fast paced than the first, as the friends embark on a mission to save a friend and constantly run from threats from the Library.

Review/Recommendation: Although it took me a little while to get into the first book, I very much enjoyed the first two books in this series. I particularly enjoyed the historical references throughout the novels – to well-known authors, inventors, and scholars… even if the references in the books didn’t match up with our history. Although it’s supposed to be a young adult series, the historical contexts and general writing style made it feel like more of an adult novel, allowing it to appeal to a wider variety of audiences.

I did read the two short stories associated with this series. They were very short and quick. While interesting, they were so short that they didn’t add much to the general story line, even as background notes on the characters. You can read them or not. If you skip them, you won’t miss anything.

I’ll probably skip any additional short stories that come out, but I look forward to the third book (and any others that come out) coming out this summer.

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This spring has been crazy, so I’m a little late in finalizing my Easter menu this year. We’re looking forward to a quiet weekend with some of our closest friends. My plan is for us to dye Easter eggs and have my Little Helpers make the desserts on Saturday. The next morning, I’ll prep dinner before getting together with our friends to go to church, an Easter egg hunt for the kids, appetizers and games with the kids nap, followed by a dinner that’s easy to prep ahead, requires minimal time in the kitchen, and yet, still feels like something special.

If you celebrate Easter, I wish you and your family a wonderful weekend!

Happy Easter!

Menu:
Easter for 4

Fruit & Cheese Plate

Deviled Eggs

Crab Cakes with Creole Sauce (pictured above)
Wild Rice
Roasted Asparagus

Haystack Easter Nests
Love & Olive Oil’s Cream Egg Brownies

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Winter Happenings, 2016-2017 Edition

Winter is always a crazy time for us, with the holidays, travel, and family visitors. I didn’t blog nearly as much as I would have liked, both because I wasn’t able to make the time to sit at the computer as much as I would have liked but also because entertaining was the priority for me. I frequently missed out on opportunities to photograph some of the recipes that I made because I was focused on spending time with family and friends.

In the Kitchen

With lots of entertaining during the month of December, I made a mix of old and new recipes, mostly things that either could be prepped ahead or required minimal time in the kitchen so that I could spend time with guests. Some of my favorite recipes included beef and sausage lasagna (an old standby), a cocktail called a Sparkling Pamplemousse (new and easy!), crab cakes with creole sauce (a family favorite for holiday entertaining), and roasted beef tenderloin (another family favorite for special occasions).

Following Christmas, the start of the year passed in a bit of a blur. I’ve been making a lot of 30-minute meals and sandwiches as we attempted to get back into a rhythm after the holidays. I was super excited to make blondies for the first time, a recipe I love when I have it but for some reason, never seem to think about making myself. As you see above, Miss. Hazelnut and I made a Valentine’s Day version with holiday M&Ms, which was a hit.

But there were a lot of great recipes that I tried this winter and didn’t blog. Below are a couple of my favorite recipes that I tried this past winter, both from a holiday brunch with friends.

  1. Apple Streusel French Toast Muffins from Emily Bites – Easy and diet-friendly, I didn’t feel guilty about this being one of the “sweets” at our holiday brunch.
  2. Breakfast Enchiladas from RecipeTin Eats- a bit labor intensive (I prepped ahead of guests) but we were blown away by these enchiladas. I ended up making a bit too many and ended up freezing a bunch. They froze beautifully. I’ll be making these again soon, adjusting the ingredients a bit to make them vegetarian, and so that I don’t have quite as much leftover tomato-bean filling.

On My Bookshelf

I spent most of winter finishing up The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani and reading through The Chronos Files, a young adult series of novels, novellas, and short stories by Rysa Walker. The Shoemaker’s Wife is a historical fiction novel set in Italy and the U.S in the first half of the 1900s while The Chronos Files is fiction, about a girl who travels through time to stop her grandfather from changing history and the future. I’d highly recommend both (links above to my full reviews).

Since finishing up The Chronos Files short stories a few weeks ago, I’ve taken a bit of a break from reading. I don’t know about you, but when I finish a series that I really enjoy, I tend to need a week or two before I’m about to pick up and get engaged in another story. Friday, as I sat at home with a sick almost-2-year-old clinging to me,  I started Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. I’m not far enough in to comment on it yet. I’ll probably read that one and I’ll pick up The Little Paris Bookshop again, which I had just barely started before The Chronos Files novels started arriving at my local library. (I needed a book on my iPad to read while coddling Little Man, or I would have resumed The Little Paris Bookshop this week.)

Crafting

I’ve been knitting and scrapbooking quite a bit lately, but no finished projects to show off.

On my needles, I have a baby blanket (yes, another!), a shawl, and a pillow… all at various stages of completion. My goal for spring is to finish these projects and perhaps get started on the sweater or wrap I have picked out for myself.

I’ve done a little bit of scrapbooking this winter. I finally finished Mr. Nutterbutter’s 3-6 month digital scrapbook this weekend, at a scrapbooking day held at a friend’s house. I’m struggling to catch up with my digital photo management, so I expect that the next album will take a while to work on.

 

As always, you can keep up with what I’m currently reading and what I’m adding to my TBR pile by following me on Goodreads. You can also get a few more updates on not just reading lists but also what what I’m cooking, crafting, and what’s going on in my life by following me on Facebook and Instagram.

I hope you all had a wonderful winter and enjoy the start of spring.  This morning, I’ll be raising my mug of coffee and toasting to a spring filled with warm weather and healthy kiddos. Cheers!

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Prosciutto Wrapped Salmon and Brie

It feels like spring has been approaching for weeks. Apart from a freak storm (that actually ended up being a bit disappointing) this past week, there’s been no snow for us this year, and very few really cold days. Instead, this winter has been filled with the kids running in the yard, trips to the playground, and happy hours on patios. The season for warm soups, stews and comfort foods was pretty short this year. With the warm weather, I’ve been switching to lighter meals with fresh ingredients. Spring foods are making an appearance just a little bit earlier than usual.

Prosciutto Wrapped Salmon and Brie and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

My hubby and I don’t eat a lot of seafood – for me, even less since I had Miss. Hazelnut (the aversion of seafood never completely disappeared after she was born) – but this recipe has a special meaning for us. It was the first meal my hubby ever cooked for me, what we consider to be our first date. My hubby laughingly told me the story of getting the recipe from a friend and calling with numerous questions. What’s prosciutto? What’s a zester? Do I have to do that? All of this to impress the new girl in town. The unexpected meal was delicious, the perfect first date.

This recipe is my version of that dish – almost 10 years later.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Salmon with Brie

By Books n’ Cooks

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 6-6 oz. salmon filets, with skin removed
  • 6 oz. brie
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto

Preheat oven to 450F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Place 1 oz. brie on top of each piece of salmon. Wrap each brie-topped salmon piece tightly in two slices of prosciutto, overlapping the slices slightly. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until salmon is cooked throughout.

Serve immediately with your favorite side dishes. (I served it over couscous with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts, pictured above.)

Prosciutto Wrapped Salmon and Brie by Books n' Cooks

And here are some more easy, spring recipes for you!

Breakfast

Cakes, Pies, and Sweets

Cookies and Bars

Main Courses

Pastas

Seafood

Veggies and Sides

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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My hubby and I ate very differently when we started dating. With me being raised in New England and my hubby from the deep South, we grew up on different foods. My family ate a lot of comfort foods (meatloaf Mondays anyone?) and from my Italian and Polish roots. My hubby grew up on casseroles, catfish, and whatever game came home from hunting trips.

So when we started dating, it was easy to impress him with what I considered old-standbys, like pasta with meat sauce and chicken parmesan. He was not quite as open-minded about trying new vegetables, however. To this day, I still remember making him these Roasted Brussels Sprouts and hearing the doubt in his tone when I served them. It’s a Brussels sprout, and you know those have a bad reputation. He was convinced that they were going to be terrible.

Hubby didn’t expect to love roasted Brussels sprouts as much as he did. Today, he not only requests this side dish, but he peeks into the oven to see how much longer until they’re done.

Brussels sprouts really do get a bad rap. But when you roast them perfectly, they’re amazing. Crispy on the outside, just under al dente on the inside. The recipe below is my favorite way to make them – very simply, seasoned only with a healthy sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper. If you want to get fancy, you can throw a few slices (probably 6-8 for the recipe below) of diced, raw bacon in there when cooking. My hubby loves it when he finds a bacon surprise in one of his favorite vegetable dishes. 🙂

These Roasted Brussels Sprouts are just one of the healthy, green recipes the #SundaySupper tastemakers have put together for you, for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for more inspiration on healthy options for your St. Patty’s Day.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

By Books n’ Cooks

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, halved, with outer leaves discarded
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat an oven to 450F.

In a large Pyrex or baking dish, toss Brussels sprouts with oil until mostly coated. Sprinkle with half of the salt and half of the pepper. Toss. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Toss.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Brussels sprouts should be cooked throughout but not be soft, and leaves will be beginning to get crispy.

Serve immediately.

Check out more fabulous healthy, green recipes for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations below, from the #SundaySupper tastemakers.

Best Breakfasts

Must Make Main Dishes

Scrumptious Salads

Stunning Sides

Dreamy Desserts

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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{Book Review}

The Chronos Files

By Rysa Walker

Comment on the Review: This is a multi-part series, composed of 3 main books, 3 novellas, as well as a handful of short stories.  The main books were readily available at my local library, but I did not see any bound versions of the novellas or short stories when I looked there and online. I did read all of the novellas and almost all of the short stories through Amazon Kindle Unlimted (a month-free trial version available for Prime members). This review is an overview and a review of the entire series.

The Chronos Files: Novels & Novellas
1 – Timebound
1.5 – Time’s Echo
2 – Time’s Edge
2.5 – Time’s Mirror
3 – Time’s Divide
3.5 – Simon Says: Tips for the Intrepid Time Traveler

The Chronos Files: Short Stories
Splinter
Whack Job
The Gambit
2092: A CHRONOS Files Story*
Kate Down Under**

What if you had the ability to travel through time? What if you had to time travel, to save the future and most of the world’s population?

One day, Kate Keller-Pierce discovers that was her destiny. Her dying grandmother appears one day, and with a glimpse at an old medallion, Kate’s world unravels. The medallion, emitting a bright blue light for Kate, is the key to traveling through time. The medallion is called a CHRONOS key and it only works for those with the CHRONOS gene, passed on ancestors came from the future and got stranded in the past. Kate inherited the gene is able to do something her grandmother hadn’t been able to do for years, travel through time.

Kate’s grandmother enlists her to help travel through history to stop her grandfather, Saul, from rewriting history and wiping out most of world’s population. During her quest, she must be careful of two things – not to change history herself and not to tip of the Cyrists, her grandfather’s followers in the new religion he created, to her task at hand. She has very few people she can rely on for help – only her grandmother, her grandmother’s friend, her boyfriend Trey, her friend (sometimes more) Kiernan Dunne, and on occasion, her parents. Kate relies on this small, trusted group to help work through the details of time travel, as a sounding board for her plan to save the future, and for physical help accomplishing her mission.

Review/Recommendation: I picked up this series after reading a review online, and I was immediately sucked in. I couldn’t put it down, reading through the novels, novellas, and most of the short stories in roughly 6 weeks – a reading binge I haven’t had the desire or time to indulge in for years.

I enjoyed the main story line quite a bit. It wasn’t predictable, had intricacies related to time travel that kept me thinking, and in general, was well-crafted. Kate’s struggle to deal with the new path in her life was well done. It wasn’t just about the idea of suddenly having this huge responsibility on her hands, but also seeing her struggle with sorting out her past, present, and future; her conflicting feelings between Trey and Kiernan; and her relationship with her parents and grandmother.

I was particularly impressed with the way Walker wove in the novellas (which I read in their appropriate spot in the story) and the short stories (which I read after completing the novels and novellas). While I chose to read the novellas in line with the novels, this certainly isn’t required. Both the novellas and the short stories filled in gaps in the novels, places that I certainly didn’t miss but enjoyed getting to read for further detail and perspective. For instance, several of the novellas and short stories were told from the point of view of secondary characters (most notably, Kiernan, but also Saul and his henchman Simon), giving the reader a glimpse into their lives separate from Kate.

If you enjoy young adult books and a little bit of fantasy and sci-fi, then I would definitely recommend this series to you. It is a well-crafted, well-written series that appeals to both young adults and adults alike.

Notes on The Chronos Files

* At the time this post was published, I had just started this short story, and it’s unclear exactly how it’s connected to the rest of the series.

** I was unable to figure out where to acquire this short story, at the time of writing this post. It was not available on Amazon, as far as I could tell. It does look like it’s possible to download short story for free on Walker’s website, when subscribing to her newsletter. You can select one story, including this one.

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Wow. Ok. So February was a bit more hectic than I had guessed. Not only was work busy and we had family visiting, but most of our household was sick at least one, if not twice, during the month.

Things are starting to settle down now. The house is almost put back together after visitors, birthday presents for Miss. Hazelnut, and a number of sick day sick days stuck in the house. The end to my big project at work is in sight, so hopefully no more long days and weekends in the office. I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy the nice weather with the kiddos, get back in the kitchen, and resume blogging and crafting.

This past weekend, I savored an hour to myself. After working all morning, the naptime hour was glorious. I made myself a cocktail – a glass of this Blood Orange-Sage Vodka Soda – which I photographed just for you, and enjoyed a whole, uninterrupted hour savoring the cocktail and watching Fixer Upper. It was amazing.

I’ve got one more week to go until my big deadline, and I’m counting down the days until I have free time again. I’ve got a whole list of recipes to make for you, and I’m counting on this weekends to get blogging again. In the meantime, enjoy this very simple cocktail recipe.

I saw this recipe – or a similar version – online a few years ago and have been making it ever since. It’s made with ingredients I always have in the pantry and the freezer. (Tip: If your sage plants grow wild every year, freeze the whole leaves for use later in the year. The frozen leaves work particularly well in this drink.) And I love the use of sage to contrast to the sweet soda. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cheers!

Blood Orange-Sage Vodka Soda

By Books n’ Cooks

Makes 2 drinks

Ingredients:

  • 6 large sage leaves, plus more for garnish (if desired)
  • 4 oz. good-quality vodka
  • 1-12 oz. can Blood Orange San Pellegrino
  • ice

Place 3 sage leaves at the bottom of two old-fashioned glasses. Muddle. Add 2 oz. vodka to each glass. Stir gently and allow to sit for a minute so that the vodka absorbs some of the sage flavor.

Fill each glass halfway with ice and top with San Pellegrino. Garnish with a fresh sage leaf, if desired.

Serve immediately.

 

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You guys, I have a confession to make. In all of my years of baking, I’ve never made a blondie. It’s not that I don’t like them – I do! I do my happy dance every time The Cookie Man (as we affectionately call a friend) brings them to monthly game night. I pin and bookmark loads of blondie recipes, but somehow, they always get overlooked when I plan my baking.

So a week or two ago, as my daughter was started to get stir-crazy one weekend, I finally made a batch. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I supervised the making of a batch. Miss. Hazelnut – 4 in just a few weeks – did almost everything herself. I was super impressed with how well she did cracking eggs, measuring and pouring, and stirring everything together. Really, the only help I provided was leveling some measuring cups and helping her scrape the bottom of the bowl. I love that she’s getting older now and actually able to help in the kitchen. And she loves that special time with me (or with my mom, who visits often), when we can keep her little brother distracted with something else.

These blondies were a hit with everyone, especially the kiddos, who were quite generous with the M&Ms. But I’m not surprised. It’s a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so of course we loved it!

Recipe Note: I used a spatula and hand-mixed the batter for the blondies, but feel free to use a hand or stand mixer.

Valentine’s Day Blondies

Adapted from How to Cook Everything via Smitten Kitchen

Makes a 9×13 Pan

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted; plus more for pan
  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c. Valentine’s M&Ms (a little less than a 10 oz. bag)

Butter a 9×13 pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and stir until combined. Stir in salt and flour. Finally, fold in about half of the M&Ms, adding more if desired.

Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining M&M, more or less, as you’d like. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until middle is set and edges are beginning to brown.

Allow to cool before cutting.

Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

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We’re having unseasonably warm weather this year, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not craving your typical winter comfort foods, like pastas and stews. A very busy month has had me looking towards recipes that require little extra work from me and meals that make large quantities so that we’re set for leftovers for a couple days (or in this case, almost the entire week). This stew recipe, heavily adapted from my uncle’s recipe, fits that bill. It makes 14 HUGE, filling servings and with the exception of a few minutes chopping of some veggies, the dish can be set and forget to cook all day long.

I know I’ll be making this recipe a couple times over the next two months. Not just because we enjoy it, but because this week, both my hubby and I got hit with some craziness at work. Over the next 6 weeks, we each have a week of training, which tends to equate to long days with the other parent doing the majority of the kid-duties. Add that to a looming deadline for me on a huge project at work… life is going to be busy and a bit rough until mid-March.

I plan to do my best and continue posting as much as possible, but please forgive me if there’s a lack of posts on here or on social media. Please send positive thoughts that everything goes smoothly!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

By Books n’ Cooks

Makes 14 2-Cup Servings

Add the following to a 7-quart (or larger) slow cooker and whisk to combine.

  • 32 oz. low-sodium beef broth
  • 32 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 6 Tbs. homemade stew seasoning (or 2 packets, if purchasing store-bought)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Then add the meat, potatoes, and vegetables:

  • 8 oz. sliced white button mushrooms
  • 7-8 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/2 an onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 lbs. lean stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (trimmed of fat, if needed)
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours, until potatoes are soft and meat is tender.

A couple tablespoons at a time, whisk in:

  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

and allow stew to cook and thicken with the lid cracked another 15-30 minutes.

Serve hot, with a side salad and/or dinner roll.

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This feels a bit like a cheater post – a list of ingredients with one line of directions. But I couldn’t fit it nicely into my stew post (coming Sunday), so you get two. It makes up a little for my light posting schedule this month, right?

Anyway, homemade stew seasoning takes just minutes to whip up and I’m willing to bet that you have everything in your pantry already. But more than being quick, homemade seasoning means that you know exactly what’s in it – no preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Don’t make stew much? Simply halve the recipe for an even smaller quantity.

Homemade Stew Seasoning

Adapted from Epicurius and Rachel Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 Tbs. basil
  • 1/2 Tbs. parsley
  • 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 Tbs. celery seed
  • 1 Tbs. onion powder
  • 1 Tbs. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

Use 2-3 Tbs. mix per pound of meat used.

Yield: This recipe makes enough for 2-3 batches of stew, when 2 lbs. meat are used per batch.

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