With a slight kick from fresh garlic, homemade hummus is an easy, healthy munchie for snack or entertaining. Pair it with veggies, pitas, or pretzel chips for an irresistible snack.
Ok folks. Who out there has a New Year’s resolution to eat better or lose weight? <Raises hand.> It’s soooo hard to eat well when weekdays are so busy – I walk in the door and the kids are immediately asking to eat or demanding other things…
I know that the months of January and February are crazy for us, due to some travel and houseguests, so I’m doing my best to position myself for success. Lists of healthy options to expedite planning, lots of weekend prep, and as much help from the grocery store as possible (hello pre-chopped veggies!).
One of my favorite go-to snacks for healthy eating… or even when I’m not being my best… is hummus. I love it with veggies, pretzel crisps, pita slices and pita chips. Great for easy entertaining or snacking. This homemade version only took a few minutes to make and is bright with flavor. The Tabasco and garlic give it a bit of heat, which is evened out by fresh lemon juice.
What is your favorite snack (bonus points for a recipe) for healthy eating?
- 1 14-oz. can chickpeas
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/3 c. tahini
- juice of 1 lemon
- 8 dashes Tabasco sauce
- paprika (optional)
- Drain the chickpeas and reserve liquid.
- Place chickpeas, salt, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and Tabasco in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10 times. Add 2 Tbs. of reserved liquid and continue to pulse until desired texture, adding additional liquid 1/2 tablespoon at a time if needed.
- Transfer to a serving dish and, if desired, dust with paprika (optional).
- Serve within an hour, or store in refrigerator until serving.
This recipe was adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (p. 46).
I hope you all had a wonderful New Year. 2017 felt like it flew by in the blink of an eye. There were a lot of ups and downs, with lots of downs towards the end of the year, so I’m kinda happy 2017 is over. The new year is starting off with some great excitement and a welcomed break from life (Disney this month!!!).
Before jumping into a recap of your top 10 recipes on Books n’ Cooks in 2017, I just wanted to thank each and every one of you for reading, commenting and sharing this year. Even after year of blogging, I still get giddy when you leave a comment, share your experiences making one of the dishes or pass on a recipe to a friend. So THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart.
Without further ado, the most popular recipes published in 2017 are…
- Cranberry Pistachio Bark (most popular!)
- Mom’s Apple Cake
- Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- Churro Chex Mix
- Pomegranate Grapefruit Martini
- Chicken Caprese Bites
- Christmas Sprinkle Cookies
- Mom’s Zucchini Bread
- Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup
- Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Salsa Verde
Also among the top recipe this year was Chicken Scaloppini Saltimobocca, published years ago but rephotographed this year. The updated photos really made a difference! This recipe is an old family favorite, so I was thrilled to see it get some love.
And, like last year, my top recipe of the year – although not published this year – was The Frenchy.
You guys picked some awesome recipes this year, but I do want to call out a few of my favorites, that didn’t make your list.
In addition to the two slow cooker dishes you liked (btw, my slow cooker has been a savior this year), one of my favorite new entrees this year was Spicy Shrimp & Zucchini Lo Mein – a filling, healthy 30-minute meal that’s bursting with flavor. Great for busy weeknights.
In addition to the Christmas Sprinkle Cookies you loved above (which we make all year round with whatever sprinkles we have on hand), Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies (your runner up at #11!) were a couple more of the stand-out desserts made this year. No fancy pies or cupcakes this year. Cookies ruled the dessert table in our house.
I’ve got a couple of new recipes already lined up for you in 2018 but I’d like to hear from you. What do you want to see on Books n’ Cooks in 2018?
I surprised myself with more time to read this year, than I did last year. Young adult/fantasy books and short stories – all series – were the most popular genre this year, but my favorite books read in 2017 are a good mix of young adult/fantasy, historical fiction, and fiction novels. This list is in the order in which I read the books, with each linked to my book review.
I’m currently putting together the first stack of books to read in 2018. If there’s a book that you loved from this past year, that you’d recommend, please leave a comment with your recommendation. I’d love to check our your most recent favorites, as well as any books you’re looking forward to being released in 2018.
And if you don’t want to wait for me to publish my book reviews or annual list of favorites, you can follow me on Goodreads to find out what I’m reading.
The Shoemakers Wife (By Adriana Trigiani) – I couldn’t put this historical fiction novel down. Set in the first half of the 1900s, the story takes place in the Italian Alps, New York City, and the Midwest. It follows the story of two Italian immigrants as they adjust to life in the United States, provide for family back home, and create a new life for themselves in the U.S. It’s a beautiful story, with beautiful writing. I may or may not have gushed a little bit in the review.
The Chronos Files (By Rysa Walker) – A young adult series of 3 novels, 3 novellas, and a handful of short stories, The Chronos Files is about a teenage girl traveling through time to save the past as she knows it, as well as the future. Walker did a great job of using the novellas and short stories to provide additional perspective and additional detail to events that were only referenced in the novels, although the novels are certainly enjoyable on their own.
The Freedom Broker (by K.J. Howe) – The debute novel for Howe, this mystery/suspense novel starred a kidnap-and-ransom expert searching for her kidnapped father. The book was fast-paced and had some unpredictable twists. It was one of the few mystery/suspense novels that I read this year, but it set the bar pretty high for what I picked up in that genre.
The Women in the Castle (by Jessica Shattuck) – A historical fiction novel set predominately during WWII and during the recovery period, this novel tells the story of 3 German resister wives and their families. Each woman has a very different history which shapes how she survives the war and rebuild her life after the war.
Sourdough (by Robin Sloan) – A cute little fictional novel about a software engineer-turned-baker, thanks to a feisty sourdough starter that she is tasked with caring for. The quirky book was a quick read that will be relate-able to anyone who finds solace in the kitchen.
Six of Crows Duology (by Leigh Bardugo) – This two-book set includes Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, two fast-paced, action-packed young adult / fantasy books that follow a group of criminals who are tasked with kidnapping a scientist whose discovery threatens they way the world works.
Six of Crows Duology
By Leigh Bardugo
A duology in the young adult genre, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are a mix of action and fantasy. It all starts when a group of thieves and criminals is hired by a wealthy merchant to kidnap a scientist, who was kidnapped and hidden away in the unbreakable Ice Court. Six of Crows starts the story, but of course, things don’t go exactly according to plan, so the story continues in Crooked Kingdom.
Review/Recommendation: This duology was enjoyable and a quick read. I bought it for vacation and couldn’t put it down. When I finished it, I promptly passed it to my husband, who read it even quicker than I did.
I realize that the above description doesn’t give you much, but I did want to avoid spoilers. So I’ll start here: Although this series was published after The Grisha Trilogy, which comes first chronologically, I actually read this series first. If you skip The Grisha Trilogy or opt to read the books out of order, you’re not missing much. It might take a little more time to grasp the gangs and nationalities of the various peoples and who/what all of the Grisha are, but that’s not a big deal. Additionally, there are a couple of characters that make a cameo, and you’ll miss some historical connections. All of that being said, I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing anything when I read it. It was only in retrospect that I realized that I missed a tiny piece of the story.
To be honest, I enjoyed the duology more than the trilogy. The two books were super fast-paced, filled with action, intrigue and mystery, emotional turmoil (but not the teenage angst you’d expect from a young adult series) and sprinkled with sarcasm and wit. The characters were all likeable and unique, with intense histories that emerged throughout the series, which make you like them even more.
Like The Grisha Trilogy, this set had vaguely Russian undertones to the people’s cultures, the locations, etc. As someone who’s always been drawn to Russian culture and history, it was slightly odd to see those connections but something I enjoyed. Those references made me reminisce a bit about the culture that I experienced through school. (Oh, how I long for blini!)
Given how much my husband and I enjoyed the books, I’m glad we bought the sets. I can see our children reading these in the future. I can even see myself rereading these in the future.
This duology is available on Amazon
By Robin Sloan
Lois is a software engineer for a San Francisco robotics company, but she is isn’t particularly happy. She works long days, subsisting on takeout and a meal replacement ‘drink’ (a nutritive gel) called Slurry. Her anxiety lives in an ever-present knot in her stomach.
Lois’ world starts to change when a Mazg takeout menu is slipped under her door. She orders the Spicy Combo, a Spicy Sandwich and Spicy Soup, and becomes hooked. The Spicy Combo becomes her daily dinner in order to quiet her anxious stomach. That is, until the brothers that own the restaurant (which, come to find out, is their apartment kitchen) leave San Francisco. When they go, the brothers leave Lois with a parting gift – an opinionated, feisty sourdough starter that was the base of their Spicy Sandwich – which Lois is tasked to care in their absence.
Armed with the sourdough starter, Lois learns to bake amazing bread that takes her from programmer to baker-programmer at a new farmers market, selling her bread while teaching a robot arm how to help in her new bread-baking business.
Review/Recommendation: I absolutely devoured this short little novel – super cute, and relatable for those that find time in the kitchen as a place of relief, a place to recharge from work or life in general. It definitely hit home with me, since I work with a bunch of tech-savvy computer guys but am a liberal arts major (who loves crafts) that would be quite content working in a kitchen instead of an office.
Sourdough is filled with fun, quirky characters – from the farmer’s market crew to the Slurry club (a group a the robotics company who subsist on Slurry, to various degrees, instead of food), to the Lois Club (a group of old woman, all named Lois). This varied cast of characters, along with research and determination, help Lois find her way to happiness.
As the book progresses, following Lois’ journey, the weird comes out. The story behind the Lois Club was cute, although a bit unlikely. The idea that a sourdough starter has personality, never mind one so feisty, is definitely out there. At the height of weirdness, the end of the book has a scene that’s completely unrealistic, but that’s ok. All of this weird somehow works, and doesn’t seem quite so odd or outlandish as your read. At least not for this reader.
In summary, this book is light, funny, and definitely worth a read. I’ll be watching the bookshelves for Sloan’s next release, as he’s 2 for 2 in my book.
Sourdough is available on Amazon.
Leftover cranberry sauce or relish from Thanksgiving is turned into a quick sweet appetizer, Cranberry Brie Bites, for Thanksgiving weekend entertaining. Don’t want to wait until Thanksgiving leftovers? Make my 5-minute Cranberry-Orange Relish for this recipe and freeze the extra for appetizers, lunches or dinners later on.
Thanksgiving Day came up on us unexpectedly this year – work, my husband changing jobs, and travel leading up to (and following) the holiday meant that I was completely unprepared this year. Thankfully, we were once again able to crash the Thanksgiving celebration held by our Family Away From Family, so prep for me was minimal. I was in charge of cranberry sauce (check! Cranberry-Orange Relish made and frozen ahead of time), wine (check!), and dessert (check? Does store-bought the night before count?).
We had a lovely day with a few of our closest friends. I’d say that it was a small, quiet Thanksgiving, except there were 2 2-year olds and 2 4-year olds running around with an abundance of energy. So while it was small, it certainly wasn’t quiet.
Nor was our mid-afternoon meal particularly small. It’s really hard to scale back on the Thanksgiving classics, don’t you think? There was quite a bit of leftovers, despite the scaled back menu and portions. We came home with a sizable doggie bag that we’ll be eating for a few days, and that’s nothing in comparison to what our hosts still had left at home.
While many love Thanksgiving leftovers, sometimes there’s just SO MUCH. It becomes necessary to make those leftovers into something new to keep things interesting. With that in mind, Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is hosting today’s event – repurposing Thanksgiving leftovers. Check out these great ideas for how you can reinvent your Thanksgiving leftovers.
- Cranberry-Orange Brie Bites by Books n’ Cooks (Below!)
- Cranberry-Topped Baked Brie by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- (Leftover) Turkey and Cranberry BBQ Sauce Pizza by Kate’s Recipe Box
- Prosciutto & Asiago Stuffed Mushrooms by Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice
- Spicy Turkey Quesadillas by Jolene’s Recipe Journal
- Turkey Croquettes by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Turkey and Sausage Gumbo by Palatable Pastime
- Turkey Pot Pie by Making Miracles
For my part, I took my 5-minute Cranberry-Orange Relish (although you can use any other leftover cranberry sauce) and used it as topping for a simple appetizer – Cranberry Brie Bites. The sweet and tart relish is a bright contrast to the crispy phyllo crust and rich, creamy cheese. Yum!
Don’t have leftover cranberry sauce? Make a batch of mine and stash it in the freezer – for this recipe, sandwiches, a breakfast topping, or your next roast turkey or chicken dinner.
What’s your favorite way to reuse Thanksgiving leftovers?
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- Roughly 1 c. leftover Cranberry-Orange Relish (or other cranberry sauce)
- 1/3 lb. brie (about half a wedge), cut into 1/2-inch cubes (no need to remove the rind)
- Preheat oven to 400F. Place a silicone muffin pan on a baking sheet and set aside.
- Sprinkle a clean counter top lightly with flour. Roll out one sheet of puff pastry dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 12-15 square pieces. Place each square in a space in a silicone muffin pan, pressing down slightly so that bottom and sides line the space, with extra puff pastry hanging over top.
- Place a cube of brie in the center of each piece of puff pastry. Top with 1-2 tsp. of cranberry-orange relish.
- Bake for 8-12 minutes, until brie is melted and top of puff pastry is beginning to brown.
- Remove from oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a serving dish.
- Serve hot.
Dark Chocolate Bark is studded with sweet dried cranberries and salty pistachios, and finished with a sprinkling of sea salt – perfect for dessert to an elegant wine and cheese pairing or for a holiday gift.
I’ve been trying really hard to keep our schedule free and clear. I’ve failed miserably. Somehow, over the past two weeks, we ended up attending 4 potlucks, hosting friends for an evening 3 times, and hosting overnight guests for a long weekend. Add this to school Halloween events, prescheduled doctor’s appointments, and work crazy and I’m seriously ready for a vacation.
A couple of weeks ago, I attempted to get ahead of all of these events. I spent an epic weekend cooking and baking to get us through the busy week and the numerous events. That weekend, not only did I make Kahlua Truffle Triangles, but I made a Cranberry-Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bark – a sweet perfect for an evening out without the kids (potluck!). Bonus? Like most candies, bark keeps pretty well at in at a cool room temperature, so I didn’t need to spend that Saturday baking (in between family photos and a Halloween potluck party) before heading out to the party, an hour away.
This chocolate bark – or at leas some variation of it – will definitely be included in my holiday baking this year. Because it keeps so well, I can make it a bit ahead of time instead of stressing out at the last minute and the recipients won’t have to consume it immediately, along with all of the other holiday goodies they’re sure to make and receive.
Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for more #CranberryWeek recipes! Thanks again to Caroline at Caroline’s Cooking for hosting!
- 3 lb. good-quality 70% cocoa chocolate, divided
- 1 c. Dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
- 1 c. Pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 2 tsp. Sea salt flakes
- Lay out two baking sheets. Line each with parchment paper, taping paper to the baking sheet in each corner. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine chopped cranberries and pistachios. Toss to mix and set aside.
- Take 2 lbs. of the chocolate and chop into small pieces. Place in the top bowl of a double broiler set over medium heat and allow to melt, stirring occasionally. Continue until chocolate is melted and the temperature (taken with an instant read thermometer) is between 115 and 120. Turn off stove and remove bowl from double broiler. Wipe bottom dry with a dish towel.
- Place 1/2 lb. of the remaining chocolate into melted chocolate. Fold melted chocolate around solid chunk, which will begin to melt. Continue folding and mixing until mixture reaches 95F. Remove solid chunk from mixture, setting onto a piece of wax or parchment paper to harden and save for later use. Add remaining 1/2 lb. chocolate piece and repeat until mixture reaches 90F.
- Quickly pour half of the chocolate onto one of the prepared baking sheets.
- Recipe by Books n’ Cooks, but I followed the tempering technique outlined in Fine Cooking, issue #144. Fine Cooking also recommends using the largest blocks of chocolate you can find for making bark, in particular for the tempering, as the larger blocks are easier to remove. (When removing the blocks from the chocolate, place on a piece of wax paper and pop back in the fridge to set again. Store in an airtight container or baggie and save for use in another recipe.)
- If you choose to use milk or white chocolate for this recipe, please be sure to read the above Fine Cooking article, as the temperatures listed in this recipe will be different.
- I used Scharffenberger chocolate for this recipe.
See all the other recipes being shared for today’s final Cranberry Week post – we hope you’ve enjoyed following along and will try some of the many cranberry creations!
- Cranberry Bliss Bars (Starbucks Copycat) from Family Around The Table
- Cranberry Clementine Gin from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Cranberry Clusters by The Freshman Cook
- Cranberry Cream Cheese Bars from Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Cranberry-Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bark from Books n’ Cooks
- Panettone from Caroline’s Cooking
- You Make Me Blush Cocktail by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Warm Cranberry Punch from Everyday Eileen