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An indulgent cocktail of rich dark chocolate and sweet caramel that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Disclaimer: Thank you to #Choctoberfest Sponsors  Barleans, The PinterTest Kitchen and our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar for providing prizes for #Choctoberfest free of charge. These companies, as well as sponsors Rodelle and Davis Chocolate also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #Choctoberfest . All opinions are my own.

When I signed up for #Chocotoberfest this year, I knew pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be sharing all dessert recipes. It’s not that I don’t enjoy chocolate desserts, but I wanted to ensure that there was some good variety. And I really wanted an excuse to shake up my usual cocktail routine and experiment with something new. 🙂

Experimenting with my cocktails  came at the perfect time, as the past 6 weeks have been ridiculously stressful both at home and at work. Work has been frustrating, the kids have been cranky, the house always seems to be a mess no matter what I do, and the chores don’t go away. There may have been a lot of stress eating (damn you perfectly salted and perfectly crispy Cape Cod Potato Chips!) and more evening glasses of wine than I care to admit. I know I need to figure out how I can take a day off, a day to myself. to get some stuff done and relieve some of the stress. But the work and chores won’t do itself and I can’t seem to find time to make that happen.

So during naptime recently, I made this recipe. I savored the 45 minutes of quiet that I got while writing this post with the television turned to something that wasn’t a cartoon. Toys still covered the floor, dishes and laundry were still piling up, but the quiet I got was essential. Reinvigorating. And my martini? It was like dessert in a glass. The perfect marriage of rich dark chocolate and sweet caramel. Indulgent but not so much that I couldn’t finish it. In fact, I could have had a second and been quite happy.

If you haven’t checked out the #Chocotoberfest giveaway, you can do so here. There’s a prize package from our sponsors worth more than $450 and multiple ways to enter. Rafflecopter below the recipe, followed by a linkup that includes more #Chocotoberfest recipes shared today.

Dark Chocolate Caramel Martini

Yield: 1 Martini

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Godiva Dark Chocolate Liquor
  • 1 oz. Caramel vodka (i.e Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka)
  • 1/2 oz. dark Creme de Cocoa
  • 2 oz. milk, preferably not skim milk
  • Dark chocolate shavings and/or caramel for garnish

Instructions

  1. If using caramel as a garnish, drizzle caramel along inside of a martini glass. Set aside.
  2. Add liquor and milk to a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  3. Strain into prepared martini glass. Garnish with dark chocolate shavings.
  4. Serve immediately.
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Recipe Notes:

  • I used 2% milk for this recipe. The higher the fat content, the creamier it will be.
Dark Chocolate Caramel Martini

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Welcome to #Choctoberfest!

#Chocotoberfest is the third annual food blogger celebration of all things chocolate, made possible thanks to our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar and the other sponsors listed below. This is my first year participating, and I’m excited to share a couple of great recipes with you. And don’t worry – they’re not all desserts!

 

#Choctoberfest 2017 Giveaway

Disclaimer: Thank you to #Choctoberfest Sponsors  Barleans, The PinterTest Kitchen and our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar for providing prizes for #Choctoberfest free of charge. These companies, as well as sponsors Rodelle and Davis Chocolate also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #Choctoberfest . All opinions are my own.

Over 70 bloggers are participating in #Choctoberfest 2017 and will be posting 200+ chocolate recipes over the next week. Keep your eyes peeled, visit any of the blogs listed below, or use the #Choctoberfest hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to follow along. You can also check out our #Choctoberfest Pinterest board, where we post chocolate recipes all year long.

You can also enter to win our #Choctoberfest prize pack. Thank to our amazing sponsors who are contributing the following items for the prize:

    • $100 gift card to Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table from our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar
    • 1 case of granulated white sugar (40 pounds), 1 case of light brown sugar (24 pounds), 1 case of dark brown sugar (24 pounds), and 1 case of powdered sugar (24 pounds) from our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar – search social media for #88lbsofsugar to see just how much this is!
    • 16 oz Barlean’s Butter-Flavored Coconut Oil, 9.52 oz canister of Chocolate Silk Greens, and 8oz bottle of Essential Women Omega-Swirl Chocolate Mint from our silver sponsor Barlean’s
    • 300-piece Lindt LINDOR Truffles gift bag (you choose the flavors!) from blog sponsors The PinterTest Kitchen

This prize pack is valued at over $450! To enter, simply follow participating sponsors and bloggers using the below giveaway widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stay tuned to see the delicious recipes bloggers have cooked up using Imperial Sugar and Barlean’s products. Thank you also to Davis Chocolate and Rodelle for being #Choctoberfest shoutout sponsors! Watch Instagram and Facebook to find out more about about their chocolate products.

Here is a complete list of all the bloggers participating in #Choctoberfest 2017, so you can see the recipes they are posting throughout the week:

The PinterTest KitchenFix Me a Little LunchSavory MomentsCrumbs in my MustachioHouse of Nash EatsBake It With LoveThat RecipeHardly A GoddessCooking With CarleeA Kitchen Hoor’s AdventuresBody RebootedCindy’s Recipes and WritingsThe Redhead BakerFaith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered AccompliceSweet CoraliceSeduction in The KitchenCooks&Books&RecipesEveryday EileenUnder My Apple TreeFamily Around The TableBottom Left of the MittenThe Spiffy CookieFairyburgerJoin Us, Pull up a ChairJonesin’ For TasteJane’s Adventures in DinnerTake Two TapasJennifer BakesThe Unlikely BakerHostess At HeartKaren’s Kitchen StoriesKate’s Recipe BoxKelly Lynns Sweets and TreatsWildflour’s Cottage KitchenChocolate SlopesLittle House Big AlaskaMakes, Bakes and Decor2 Cookin MamasThat Skinny Chick Can BakeBooks n’ CooksMildly MeanderingLiving IdeasRestless ChipotleGet the Good Stuff!The Weekday GourmetAn Affair from the HeartWest Via MidwestCookie Dough and Oven MittThe Bitter Side of SweetCookaholic WifeDaily Dish RecipesFor the Love of FoodThe Saucy SouthernerCook’s HideoutBy the PoundsTramplingrose: Cooking, Baking & Ranting in Small-Town South DakotaSarah Cooks the BooksChef Sarah ElizabethFantastical Sharing of RecipesSarah’s Bake StudioThe Pajama ChefFrankly EntertainingLong Distance BakingPalatable PastimeThe Freshman CookThe Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine ♥ A Day in the Life on the FarmWendy PolisiTampa Cake GirlMy Southern Sweet ToothCanning and Cooking at HomeFull Belly SistersSuperSizeGuy.comOur Good LifeThe Jolie Life


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This review covers the three books in The Grisha Trilogy: 

1 – Shadow and Bone
2 – Siege and Storm
3 – Ruin and Rising

This series also consists of a number of short stories (you can find the list on Goodreads). I did not read any of the short stories prior to writing this review.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

Book Review: The Grisha Trilogy

Book Review

The Grisha Trilogy

By Leigh Bardugo

The Grisha are a people endowed with special powers, a people who are considered Masters of the Small Science. Each Grisha is able to manipulate a certain type of matter to achieve extraordinary results. Some, Corporalki, work with what’s in the human body. Others, Etherealki or Summoners, are able to manipulate nature’s elements (wind, fire, water). The final set, the Materialki, are gifted scientists and builders, working with elements such as steal.

Many Grisha – persecuted, experimented on, sold as slaves in some parts of the world – make their way to the land of Ravka, where their unique gifts are nurtured. Here, the Grisha, considered to be part of the country’s elite, learn how to use their gifts and then serve in Ravka’s Second Army, led by the Darkling. The Darkling is the only known Grisha who is capable of summoning darkness, a leader with no equal. That is, until Alina reveals herself. Alina is the Darkling’s opposite – she is the Sun Summoner, a woman who can manipulate light.

This trilogy is largely centered around Alina and the Darkling. In the first book, Shadow and Bone, Alina’s powers are revealed. Throughout the book, Alina struggles to find her place among the Grisha and how to summon light. She is unsure of who to trust, feeling very alone. By the end of the book, Alina comes to realize that the Darkling’s intentions are not what they seemed; that her destiny was not to lead along side him, uniting a country ravaged by war, but rather to oppose him and defeat his plans to rule Ravka.

The second two books in the series, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising, chronicles Alina’s fight against the Darkling. She’s helped by both new and old friends as well as amplifiers, magical items intended to strengthen her power. She still struggles with who to trust, as everyone seems to have a hidden agenda and multiple sets of loyalties. Will Alina and her group of friends be enough to defeat the Darkling and rebuild a war-torn country?

Review/Recommendation: Although a couple of the books (particularly the third) was hard to get into, the trilogy was an enjoyable, quick read. This young adult series (fantasy genre)  has something for everyone – love stories and love triangles, action and deceit. For the most part, the story was fast-paced (I found the beginnings to be the slowest part) and kept me wanting to turn the page and read just one more chapter.

As a former student of Russian language and culture, I’d be remiss if i did not mention the similarities to the Russian culture throughout the series. For starters, the word “grisha” is the diminutive of Gregory, which means watchful. (Bardugo states in the Q&A in the back of book 1 that the word also visually and aurally evokes the word “geisha,” enforcing the sense of beauty and secrecy that surrounds the Grisha people.) The names of people (Nikolai, Morozova, Misha, Aleksander, Sankta Alina) and places (Tsibeya, Novyi Zem, Dva Stolba) were some of the most obvious examples that will resonate with those familiar with the Russian culture. But certain scenes in the snow, of the characters drinking kvas, the troika arriving with holiday gifts to the orphanage etc. reminded me of my Russian studies.

If you like young adult/fantasy books, this series is worth a read. While  I didn’t love it as much as I loved Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Daughter of Smoke and Bones or Divergent books(to name a few), it’s an enjoyable read if you’re looking for another series in the genre.

Available on Amazon.

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With crisp edges and a moist, flavorful center, we enjoy this sweet apple cake for breakfast, snack, afternoon tea, or dessert.

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

Mom's Apple Cake

To finish up #AppleWeek, I’ve brought you a family recipe. I’m not sure where it from, but I don’t think it’s an uncommon recipe. It was pretty similar to another recipe in the cookbook my mom made me, called the Merryfield Apple Cake, but different enough that I have a strong preference towards this particular recipe. Neither my mom or I make it often, so I actually had to call her to ask which recipe I liked. Needless to say, she remembered incorrectly and the first version of this cake – that Merryfield Apple Cake – got nibbled on and then thrown out.

When Mom made this cake, I ate it cake for breakfast, snack and dessert. I remember my mom making it with chocolate chips, but I always loved it plain, so that the sweetness of the apples shone. And they will, especially if you use Rainier Fruit Honeycrisp Apples, which are one of my favorites. To entice my kiddos into eating the cake, I added a generous half a cup of toffee pieces for a bit more sweetness (but don’t worry, in no way did the toffee overpower the apples!). This cake has crisp edges but a soft, moist center.

If you haven’t already seen the giveaway from our fabulous sponsors, head over here to read about the prize packs. Then scroll to the bottom of this post – leave a comment on this post (and any other #AppleWeek post published today) to get an extra entry. Share the giveaway via Twitter for another extra entry.

Mom's Apple Cake

Recipe Notes:

  • While I made this by hand, you can certainly use a handheld or stand mixer. However, I’d recommend folding in fruit and toffee with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula so that the fruit doesn’t get bruised or squashed.
  • Be sure to wash your apples well before using. I used Veggie Wash – an all-natural spray that removes waxes, soil, and fertilizers – to ensure that the apples were well-cleaned
  • Ingredients:
    • Feel free to leave out toffee pieces all together, or swap them for chocolate chips, nuts, or even raisins.
    • I used Rodelle vanilla extract for this recipe. Rodelle vanilla extract has one of the highest percentages of vanillin (a natural flavor element found in vanilla beans) on the market. You can find Rodelle products in several large grocery stores, including Giant, Super Target, Wegmans, Costco, and Sam’s Club. And if you can’t find it there, there’s always Amazon.
    • I used Rainier Fruit organic Honeycrisp apples in this recipe. This is the second time I’ve worked with Rainier Fruit apples – last time, Rainier’s exclusive variety, Lady Alice – and I cannot understate how much we love these apples. Like last time, I had to slap away little hands from eating the apples, before and while we were baking the cake. These sweet apples are a great source of soluble fiber that strengthens the immune system, so I’m more than ok with my kids loving these apples as much as I do. Plus, they’re packed with antioxidants that play a role in reducing the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Mom’s Apple Cake

Yield: 9 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Rodelle vanilla extract
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced (preferably Honeycrisp apples)
  • 1/2 c. toffee pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x9 glass dish with cooking spray. Lightly flour, tapping out excess. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, oil and egg until thoroughly combined. Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla. Stir until combined. Fold in diced apples and toffee pieces.
  3. Pour into prepared pan, using a rubber spatula to spread evenly. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until top is starting to brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool (at least a little bit) before serving.
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Store covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 5 days.

A crispy edge and a moist center, sweet Honeycrisp apples are the star of Mom's Apple Cake. #appleweek @rainierfruit

Enter to win one of our awesome #AppleWeek prizes:

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To finish off #AppleWeek, we’ve got apple recipes for every occasion. Check out this collection of breakfasts, beverages, appetizers, savory-sweet meals, and desserts.

Apfelstrudel Recipe (Apple Strudel from Scratch) from House of Nash Eats
Apple and Onion Cornbread from A Day in the Life on the Farm
Apple Butter Cheesecake from The Redhead Baker
Apple Chicken Stew from Jolene’s Recipe Journal
Apple Cider Dark & Stormy from The Crumby Kitchen
Apple Mincemeat Pie from Palatable Pastime
Apple Pie Bread from Sew You Think You Can Cook
Apple Pie Pancakes from 4 Sons ‘R’ Us
Apple Praline Bread from Family Around the Table
Apple Stuffing Crusted Pork Chops from Caroline’s Cooking
Battered Chocolate Caramel Apple Slices from The Freshman Cook
Caramel Apple Pull Apart Bread from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Apple Crack Slaw Eggrolls from Dad What’s 4 Dinner
Cinnamon Apple Donuts from Daily Dish Recipes
Diminutive Caramel Apples from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Easy Caramel Apple Butter from Grumpy’s Honeybunch
Fast and Easy Peanut Butter Yogurt Fruit Dip from Cooking With Carlee
Mom’s Apple Cake from Books n’ Cooks
Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins from Amy’s Cooking Adventures
Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples from Simple and Savory
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples from Feeding Big
Savory Apple Turkey Brie Galette from Bear & Bug Eats
Swiss Vegetarian Autumn Lasagna With Apples & Squash from All That’s Jas

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

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A sweet apple butter BBQ sauce comes together in minutes, and is generously applied to a pork tenderloin for an easy and flavorful weeknight dinner.

Grilled Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

If you haven’t already seen the giveaway from our fabulous sponsors, head over here to read about the prize packs. Then scroll to the bottom of this post – leave a comment on this post (and any other #appleweek post published today) to get an extra entry. Share the giveaway via Twitter for another extra entry.

Grilled Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin

Weeknights seem to constantly be crazy in my house. No matter how much I manage to prep on the weekend, the hustle around getting home, getting dinner on the table, the kids bathed and ready for bed always feels like a bit of a frenzy to me. Someone always wants or needs help with something, someone is upset about something (I won’t pick them up, they can’t have fruit snacks for dinner, etc), I can’t remember what I was doing…. it’s always something.

While our slow cooker helps make dinner times easier, our other go-to is the grill. When in a pinch, it takes only a minute to season a piece of meat with salt and pepper or use a store-bought rub or marinade. This recipe increases my prep time by only a few minutes – the apple butter BBQ sauce comes together in under 5 minutes and makes for a sweet, flavorful dinner in under 30 minutes. This recipe also rocks because it uses minimal dishes – two small bowls for the apple butter sauce and one large Pyrex (isn’t the one above, from their Watercolor collection gorgeous?) that I use for prep and after a quick wash, for serving. #Winning

Grilled Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. homemade or store-bought apple butter
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. molasses
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder or minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. sriracha
  • 2 lb. pork tenderloin
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. minced chives (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine apple butter, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, molasses, garlic, and sriracha. Whisk gently with a fork. Set about 1/3 of the mixture aside.
  2. Heat grill on a medium setting. While grill is preheating, trim extra fat from pork tenderloin. Place in a large glass baking dish (i.e. a large rectangular Pyrex) and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Keeping 1/3 of the sauce on the side, brush pork tenderloin with some of the remaining.
  3. Place pork on hot grill. Grill for 10 minutes, apply more sauce and flip. Apply additional sauce as needed, cooking until the pork reaches 150F in the thickest part.
  4. Remove pork tenderloin from grill and transfer to a clean Pyrex or cutting board. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, covered with foil.
  5. With a clean brush, brush pork with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with chives. Slice and serve hot.
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This recipe was adapted from Eazy Peazy Mealz.

Enter to win one of our awesome #AppleWeek prizes, immediately below and then scroll down to find more sweet and savory #AppleWeek recipes. (And again, thanks to Carlee of Cooking with Carlee for hosting!)

Grilled Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin. A sweet apple butter BBQ sauce comes together in minutes, and is generously applied to a pork tenderloin for an easy and flavorful weeknight dinner. books-n-cooks.com

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Appelflappen from Palatable Pastime
Apple Butter Cream Cheese Spread from Tip Garden
Apple Cinnamon Roll Pie from Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids
Apple Cranberry Galettes with Caramel Drizzle from Family Around the Table
Apple Oat Quick Bread with Caramel Sauce from The Chef Next Door
Apple Yeast Coffee Cake from Jolene’s Recipe Journal
Easiest Ever Applesauce from A Day in the Life on the Farm
Grilled Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin from Books n’ Cooks
Grilled Veggie Tacos with Apple Pico de Gallo from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Honeycrisp and Gouda Grilled Cheese from The Redhead Baker
Italian Apple and Fig Polenta Torta from All That’s Jas
Molasses-Mustard Glazed Pork Chops with Apple Butter from Sew You Think You Can Cook
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Apples from House of Nash Eats
Roasted Pork with Apple Puree from Simple and Savory
Savory Apple Bacon Pizza from Cooking With Carlee
Slow Cooker Honey Apple Pork Roast From Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

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Apple cider slowly simmers away with spices that remind you of fall, for a wonderful beverage to savor while you enjoy the beautiful cool weather this fall.

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

Mulled Apple Cider

Welcome to #AppleWeek, hosted by Carlee of Cooking with Carlee! If you haven’t already seen the giveaway from our fabulous sponsors, head over here to read about the prize packs. Then scroll to the bottom of this post – leave a comment on this post (and any other #appleweek post published today) to get an extra entry. Share the giveaway via Twitter for another extra entry.

One of my favorite things about the fall is enjoying the cooling weather. I truly love being about to enjoy being outside and doing fall-ish things with my family – apple picking and pumpkin picking, watching the hounds at one of the local farms, or playing on the playground while bundled in sweatshirts. All of the kids in our neighborhood are suddenly outside again, after being holed up away from the heat (or at the pool) for the summer, and they all run a muck between the various houses with the parents chatting nearby. I love summer, but fall may be my favorite season because of all of this.

While spending time outside if wonderful, my guilty pleasure is finding a quiet moment to to cuddle up under the humongous wool afghan my mom made for me with a warm drink and a book. With this in mind, I knew that one of the first recipes I’d be making for #AppleWeek is a mulled cider.

Mulled Apple Cider

This particular recipe has a wonderfully subtle orange note from the orange extract. I think that makes it one of my favorite mulled cider recipes to date. This cider recipe takes minutes to put together and then simmers away on the stove for as long as you’d like to leave it. It’s a great recipe to bookmark for fall and winter entertaining, or to take with you on those fall outings.

Mulled Apple Cider

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon of apple cider
  • 1 tsp. orange extract
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 small cinnamon sticks
  • 12 cloves
  • 3 cardamom seeds
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • apple slices, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients (except apple slices) in a medium pot set over medium heat. Heat until simmering. Stir and lower heat. Continue cooking over low heat for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.
  2. Serve hot, garnished with apple slices.
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Recipe Notes: 

  • Feel free to spike with your preferred liquor. I enjoy it with a shot of spiced rum or Fireball (cinnamon) whiskey, but use whatever you’d like (one friend used to enjoy caramel vodka in her warm cider).
  • Cider may be made or kept warm in a slow cooker, if desired.
  • I  garnished mine with apple slices, but you can certainly play up the orange notes with an orange slice as the garnish as well.

Enter to win one of our awesome #AppleWeek prizes:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And before you go, check out the more #AppleWeek recipes that went live this morning, from a group of very talented bloggers:

Apple Bacon Turkey Burgers from Jonesin’ for Taste
Apple Brickle Mini Tarts with Oatmeal Crust from The Freshman Cook
Apple-Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal from Amy’s Cooking Adventures
Apple Cobbler French Toast Casserole from Tip Garden
Apple Fritter Yeast Bread from House of Nash Eats
Apple Oatmeal Coffee Mug Cake from Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids
Apple Oatmeal Muffins from A Day in the Life on the Farm
Apple Pie Steel Cut Oatmeal from Cooking With Carlee
Caramel Apple Nut Bars from Family Around the Table
Cinnamon Apple Cider Sangria from The Redhead Baker
Creamy Maple Gouda Apple Soup with Pecan-Oat Granola from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Healthy Apple Muffins from Caroline’s Cooking
Mulled Apple Cider from Books n’ Cooks
Oatmeal Crusted Apple Stuffed French Toast from Jolene’s Recipe Journal
Salted Caramel Apple Cake from Grumpy’s Honeybunch
Savory Apple Sausage Tart from The Crumby Kitchen
Vanilla Brined Pork Chops with Applesauce  from Bear & Bug Eats
Swedish Apple Oatmeal Pie with Vanilla Sauce from All That’s Jas
Torta di Mele Sicilian Apple Cake from Girl Abroad

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

Mulled Apple Cider - Apple cider slowly simmers away with spices that remind you of fall, for a wonderful beverage to savor while you enjoy the beautiful cool weather this fall.

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Welcome to #AppleWeek 2017!

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

I’m excited to be participating in this year’s #AppleWeek – a week featuring recipes made with all things apple (fresh apples, apple sauce, apple cider, etc.) hosted by Carlee at Cooking with Carlee. Be come back all week to see what I’ve made for you, as well as what recipes our #AppleWeek bloggers have created to share with you. You can also search social media for #AppleWeek, or follow the event’s official Facebook page or on Twitter for more great recipes featuring my favorite fall fruit.

We had some truly amazing sponsors this week that not only shared products with the #AppleWeek bloggers but have generously donated some awesome prizes for YOU to win. Below you’ll find a list of prize packs available as well as the Rafflecopter for you to enter – and you can do so a number of times both today and throughout the week. Good luck!

Prize Pack #1 from Rodelle:

A baker’s dream come true! This delicious prize pack includes premium vanilla products, gourmet dutch-processed cocoa and specialty extracts.

Items include:

Pure Vanilla Extract
Gourmet Dutch-Processed Baking Cocoa
Gourmet Vanilla Extract
Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans
Organic Vanilla Extract
Organic Chocolate Extract
Almond Extract
Vanilla Paste
And some fun baking supplies to whip up your next batch of goodies with!

Prize Pack #2 from Dreamfarm and Casabella:

Items include:a 2 ‘n 1 veggie brush
a clip n strip shears
a set up levups
a set of levoons

Prize Pack #3 from Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal:

Prize Pack #4 from Pyrex and Chicago Cutlery:

Prize Pack #5 from Rainier Fruit:

A prize pack from Rainier Fruit including a box of freshly farvested Rainier Fruit apples, a stainless steel apple slicer, apple corer, “Baked with Love” ceramic pie pan, copper apple loaf pan and a $25 Williams Sonoma gift card!

Prize Pack #6 from Veggie Wash:

A prize pack from Veggie Wash

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Disclaimer: Thank you to #AppleWeek Sponsors: Rodelle, Dreamfarm, Casabella, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Pryex, Chicago Cutlery, Rainier Fruit, and Veggie Wash for providing prizes for #AppleWeek free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #AppleWeek. All opinions are my own.

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Lean shrimp is tossed with zucchini, Asian egg noodles, and a spicy Sriracha sauce to create a quick weeknight dinner.

Spicy Shrimp and Zucchini Lo Mein

When I left for vacation late last month, I knew my garden wouldn’t last much longer. The tomato plants were still bearing fruit but the fruit seemed to be getting eaten more quickly than it did earlier in the summer, and the plants looked wilty and sad. Even the zucchini plant looked like it was slowly dying, even as it continued to get larger and continued to flower.

My predictions weren’t far off. When I returned from vacation, I started to pull my tomato plants. The herbs were still thriving, so those got pruned back (hello, pesto and sage leaves for my freezer!) with hopes that I’ll continue to get fresh herbs for another month or two. The zucchini plant isn’t looking great, but I’m still harvesting at least one zucchini each week so it’s going to stay a little bit longer. But while I love grilled zucchini and baking with it, I badly needed a change.

Spicy Shrimp and Zucchini Lo Mein

Enter this lo mein dish. While spicy enough that I had to tweak the recipe a bit, it was a hit in the house. I will warn you that even after tweaking the recipe, it’s still has a bit of kick from the sriracha, so if you can’t handle the heat, don’t bother trying it. That being said that even the spicier of the two versions, my husband and I enjoyed enough to know that we’d be making the recipe again and again. Bursting with flavor, it’s a quick weeknight meal.

 

Spicy Shrimp & Zucchini Lo Mein

Serving Size: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 8-10 oz. package of lo mein or other Asian egg noodle
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 small to medium or 1 large zucchini, cut into pieces about 1 inch wide and 1/2 an inch thick (will half moon shaped or triangular wedges depending on the size of your zucchini)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 4 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh chives (or scallions), divided

Instructions

  1. Cook egg noodles according to package, while preparing the stir fry.
  2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When melted, add red pepper flakes and eggs. Whisk eggs until cooked throughout and thoroughly scrambled. With a slotted spoon, remove eggs from skillet and put in a bowl on the side.
  3. Add 1 Tbs. of the olive oil to the skillet. When hot, add shrimp, cooking for 2 minutes on each side until browned on the outside and cooked throughout. Use a slotted spoon to move shrimp to the bowl with egg.
  4. Add remaining olive oil to skillet. When hot, add zucchini and garlic, sauteing for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is beginning to brown on the outside but isn't soft.
  5. While zucchini is cooking, make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, Sriracha, and ginger.
  6. When zucchini is browned, increase heat to medium. Add shrimp, egg, and cooked (drained) noodles to the skillet with the zucchini. Toss with prepared sauce. Saute mixture for 3-5 minutes, tossing every minute or two to ensure that everything is coated in sauce. In the last minute, stir in half of cilantro and half of chives or scallions. Saute for one more minute.
  7. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and chives.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Recipe Notes:

  • This recipe has been tweaked to add more shrimp and a bit more zucchini as well as to reduce the heat. I also swapped out the scallions for chives, which I had in my garden. I prefer the subtle flavor of chives to the scallion’s stronger flavors anyway, but use whichever you prefer.
  • I’ve made this recipe with both lo mein noodles as well as a thinner egg noodle (seen in these photographs) and both came out well, although I preferred the thinner noodle to the lo mein noodle. The key here, however, is that both varieties are egg noodles – not rice noodles. Look for that on the package.

This recipe was adapted from Baker by Nature

 

Spicy Shrimp and Zucchini Lo Mein on Books n' Cooks

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A soft chocolate cookie stuffed with peanut butter, these cookies are hard to stop at just one (especially if you try them while they’re still warm!).

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Oh goodness… football season is coming. Are you excited about it?

If you’ve been following along with me, you know that I am not a football fan. Not even Superbowl. I enjoy hanging out with friends and munching on snacks and appetizers. Buffalo chicken dip? Hellz yeah! Soft pretzels? You bet! Old-school Mexican seven layer dip? Don’t mind if I do.

Football weekends are perfect for serving your favorite finger food, to make mixing and mingling, watching (or not watching) the game easy. There’s not a particular sweet that stands out as a classic for a football party, but you can’t go wrong with cookies. I had bookmarked these cookies years ago, but for some reason, never got around to making them. That was a mistake. They’re awesome. These cookies stay soft and are rich flavor. They’re addictive at room temperature but they’re definitely trouble if you eat them just slightly warm. Soooo good!

I may have made these cookies twice in one week, which is pretty much unheard of for me..

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Looking for more inspiration for fall and winter football games? Check out the collection of recipes from the #SundaySupper tastemakers below my cookie recipe.

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies #SundaySupper

Prep Time: 10 hours

Cook Time: 9 hours

Yield: Approximately 2 Dozen Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. creamy peanut butter (not natural peanut butter), divided
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar, with extra for rolling
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 c. confectioners sugar

Instructions

  1. Prep: Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place 1/4-1/2 c. Granulated sugar in a small bowl and set that aside as well.
  2. Make the Cookie Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugars, and 1/4 c. peanut butter on medium speed. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Beat in vanilla and egg. Sift flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda into bowl. Beat on medium-low until dough begins to come together, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Make the Peanut Butter Filling: In a separate bowl, cream together (use either the stand mixer or a hand held mixer) remaining 1/2 c. peanut butter and confectioners sugar.
  4. Assemble the Cookie: Using a 1 1/2 Tbs. ice cream scoop, portion out dough into equal sizes. With clean hands, roll each into a ball. Flatted between your palms. Pinch off pieces of the peanut butter filling - about the size of a dime (adjust more or less depending on whether you can seal the peanut butter inside the dough). Place in center of the chocolate dough. Fold dough over and pinch together at seams to seal. Roll into a ball. Roll ball in a small bowl of granulated sugar. Set onto prepared baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough, placing cookies about 2 inches apart. When baking sheets are filled, flatten each cookie slightly, with the palm of your hand or the flat bottom of a juice glass.
  5. Bake for 7-9 minutes (mine were 8 minutes exactly), until cooked throughout but not yet browned. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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Adapted from Seeded at the Table

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies on Books n' Cooks

Football Party Finger Food #SundaySupper

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Flavorful Football Party Finger Food

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The Forgotten Garden chronicles the efforts of two women to uncover pieces of their own family history.

Book Review: The Forgotten GardenDisclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

Book Review
The Forgotten Garden
By Kate Morton

A little girl is found alone with a small suitcase of clothes and a beautiful book of fairy tales on a dock in Australia in 1913. The little girl has no memory. The dockmaster is unable to find her family, or even figure out where to begin looking for them. He takes the little girl home and she is quickly adopted as the first child of the dockmaster and his wife. Named Nell, the little girl grows up knowing nothing of her past, the eldest child of a large family. But when Nell turns 21, her father tells her the truth of her origins – that she was not his biological daughter and that he had no idea of where she came from or who her family might be.

The Forgotten Garden is a story of Nell’s life through multiple sets of eyes during multiple time periods. First, there is Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra, who journeys from Australia to England after Nell’s death, to uncover the truth about Nell’s past (2005, the present of the book). The second set of stories is that of Nell’s own journey to England in 1975, when she attempts to identify her parents and learn about the first few years of her life. Third is set in the early 1900s, following the lives of the Mountrachet family, believed to be Nell’s family. And finally, interwoven in the above, there are short stories from Nell’s book of fairy tales written by The Authoress.

Review/Recommendation: This book was enjoyable throughout, but I really got hooked about halfway through, when I got caught up in the story and started reading at an almost feverish pace. I was thoroughly invested in all of the characters and plot lines, so the switching back and forth between characters and time periods was seamless to me. Additionally, Morton did an excellent job threading the pieces of Nell’s story through each part – showing the reader exactly what happened in the chapter from the early 1900s and then how those particular pieces of the story were brought to light for Nell and/or Cassandra. Amazingly, it felt like the story was packaged into a nice, neat bundle by the end of the book, both satisfying and slightly surprising at exactly how neatly things came together (I actually found myself rewinding the book a bit to make sure everything was covered).

The writing in the book was beautiful; the characters showed depth and evolution. In fact, after finishing the book, I couldn’t stop feeling sad for a couple of the characters. They weren’t the most likeable characters, but their life circumstances evoked such empathy for them. If their life were a bit different or a certain person did not have such a strong influence on those characters, things could have turned out so very differently for them. And no, that sadness didn’t grip me as I read the book but it was something I thought about after I finished it, as I started thinking about writing this review. It’s not often that sentiments about a book stay with me for a little while after finishing, so for that, kudos to Morton!

I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads for two reasons. First, I found the “mystery” a bit predictable – I was pretty easily able to guess the ending, both because it was a bit predictable and because Morton so clearly laid out the clues surrounding Nell’s childhood. Secondly, one piece of the novel left me slightly unsettled as I read it – I was bothered by the strong parallels in several of the fairy tales to other fairy tales and stories that I grew up knowing. I suppose that my feelings about it may be a bit irrational, because so many fairy tales and stories are based on something else, but the parallels were a bit too obvious for me to feel completely comfortable with. That being said, if the fairy tales were absent from the book, I probably would have been curious and wished that they had been included. So it may be an imperfect solution either way.

The Forgotten Garden was an enjoyable read, a great book with which to finish my summer reading.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If not, you can find this book on Amazon.

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