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Sunday Supper Movement

harry-potter-and-the-cursed-childDisclaimer: This review (as does the book) assumes that the reader is familiar with the 7-book Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

Book Review:

Happy Potter and the Cursed Child
Parts 1 and 2

By J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

The eighth Harry Potter book – a four act play – takes place 19 years after the famous series ended. The book focuses on the tumultuous relationship between Harry, now Head of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic, and his youngest son Albus, who enters Hogwarts and is sorted into Slytherian. Brief scenes show glimpses of Albus’s first few years at school and his relationship with his father during that period, but those scenes only lead up to the real story, which takes place during Albus’s fifth year at Hogwarts.

At that time, Albus and his friend Scorpius Malfoy (son of Drayco Malfoy) attempt to rectify one of the injustices of Harry Potter’s childhood – the death of Cedric Diggory. The pair go back in time – several times – with a stolen time turner and attempt to prevent Diggory’s death. The two realize that the actions they take and the alternate realities that they create are not always for the better. But can they undo the changes they made and return life to normal? Or are they destined to live in a new world that they inadvertently created?

Review/Recommendation: (But first, another disclaimer.) I feel like I’ve been living under a rock recently. I’d seen this book on displays everywhere, and my friends had started to read it, but I had not read or heard any reviews about it. I can barely keep up with reading everything coming in via my RSS feed and rarely have the time to sit down and read a real book lately. And the tv? Well that’s tuned into Paw Patrol the vast majority of the time I’m home.

Why do you care? Well, I thought it important to let you know that I really picked up this book with no expectations (but full of high hopes since I loved the Harry Potter series) and completely unaware of what the book would be about. It didn’t occur to me at all, that the latest Harry Potter book was actually a play. So with that said, it took me a little while to get into the book. It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through it that I got hooked on the story and really began to enjoy it.

I do have mixed feelings about the book in general. For one, I don’t feel the format did the story or the reputation of the Harry Potter books justice. It felt very… lacking in depth and detail. There were no real descriptions of the characters or the scenery, especially how Hogwarts changed in the 19 years that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were there. There were glimpses into some of the prominent characters from previous books but no sense of changes in character or relationships.  A lot was left to the imagination, with just hints of what Rowling and her coauthors wanted us to think. There was sooo much more that I wanted from this book.

I also have mixed feelings on the story itself. It starts off really depressing, with the very tumultuous relationship between Harry and his son Albus. I felt horrible for Albus because of how unhappy he clearly was but struggled because I had no context for how Harry and Albus’s relationship got to that point. Once I got past the format of the book and what I wanted the book to be, I started to enjoy the story a bit more. Albus developed a strong friendship with Malfoy’s son and that positive relationship in his life helped lighten the mood of the book. From that point on, the story itself was pretty good, but again, lacking detail due to the format.

I think knowing that the book was a play and missing a lot of context, I might have enjoyed the book a lot more. But billing a play as the “eighth” Harry Potter book (it says so on the book jacket) is misleading and left this particular reader feeling a bit disappointed. I know I would have regretted it if I had no read the book but I might have been more satisfied if this book had been a bit more… divorced from the series that I loved so much.

Grade: B-/B

 

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Avocado Corn Salad

Can you believe it’s football season already? I can’t. Football and baseball seem like the longest seasons in the world to me. To say I’m not a football fan would be an understatement – I’ll do just about everything I can to get out of watching a game, live or on tv. On the other hand, my hubby is a HUGE football fan, particularly college football. So I’m kinda stuck with having the sport on tv a good bit of the time as well as playing the occasional hostess when my hubby’s college team is playing.

Football entertaining in my house is all about super easy dinners or heavy munchies. Chili and buffalo chicken dip are two of our favorites, but really, if I put out some homemade chips and guac, my hubby is happy. This avocado corn salad is equally as easy but a nice change from those old standbys. We like to serve it as a chunky dip with tortilla chips (perfect for game day!), although it can also stand on its own as a side for burgers or tacos. I first tried this salad when my sister-in-law made it, and my hubby and I were instantly big fans. The fresh, ripe veggies shine. Below is our favorite way to make the salad, but adjust the quantities ingredients according to your tastes.

Avocado Corn Salad

Avocado Corn Salad

Inspired by Live Dine Party

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe avocados, large dice
  • 2 plum tomatoes, small dice
  • 1/4 red onion, small dice
  • 1 c. corn kernels (from 1 ear of grilled corn, or use canned corn, drained)
  • 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • kosher salt
  • pepper

In a medium bowl, gently toss avocado, tomato, red onion, corn and cilantro to mix.  Add lime juice, olive oil, and honey and toss again. Vegetable should be just barely coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Add more cilantro, lime, honey or salt/pepper to taste.

Serve with tortilla chips for a quick dip or as a standalone side.

Avocado Corn Salad_Pint

Serve at room temperature within an hour of putting together.

Check out what my #SundaySupper friends are serving for game day. And big thanks to Coleen at The Redhead Baker for hosting!

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Appetizers

Main Dishes

Side Dishes

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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Honey Thyme Gin & Tonic

For me, summer time is all about fresh fruit, cool beverages, and as much relaxation as possible. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve really been enjoying making cocktails this summer, instead of my usual glass of wine. I’m enjoying the range of different flavors from bursts of bright fruit flavors to more subdued refreshing beverages.

When Drizly reached out to me to create a recipe on their behalf, I immediately knew I wanted to do a spin on a gin and tonic. For those of you who have never heard of Drizly, the company is an alcohol delivery service operating in roughly two dozen cities throughout the U.S. For a busy, working mama of two, you can imagine how excited I am about the possibility of having one less errand to run. Seriously. Genius idea.

So if you don’t have gin in your house, head over to Drizly now to order up a bottle and mix yourself up a refreshing honey thyme gin and tonic. The sweet honey in this version is balanced by the savory thyme. If you’re worried about it being too sweet, don’t – the honey doesn’t completely dissolve in the room temperature alcohol, so there’s just a touch of sweetness.

What are your favorite gin and tonic variations?

Honey Thyme Gin & Tonic with Drizly

Honey Thyme Gin & Tonic

By Books n’ Cooks

Ingredients:

  • ice
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided
  • 2 oz. gin
  • 3 oz. tonic water

Muddle 2 sprigs of thyme in a cocktail shaker. Add honey and gin, shaking well. Top with ice and shave vigorously to chill.

Strain chilled gin mixture into a glass (I recommend a highball glass or a rocks glass) about halfway full of ice. Top with 3 oz. tonic water. Garnish with remaining sprig of thyme.

Serve immediately.

Honey Thyme Gin & Tonic

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Drizly. All opinions are my own.

Drizly

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This week, the #SundaySupper tastemakers are all about preserving summer harvest. My main method of preserving summer bounty is freezing (fresh herbs, pesto, blackberry chia seed jam) but over the past couple of years, I’ve begun to get into canning. Making strawberry jam with my daughter and mom is a favorite for early summer while I turn to homemade apple butter in late summer or early fall.

Apple season is just starting near me and will continue for the next couple of months and I’m super excited about going apple picking again. While apple butter is definitely on the list to make, so is homemade apple sauce, which the little ones and I eat in huge quantities and I then freezer for winter months.

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Apple Sauce

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Apple Sauce

by Books n’ Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. apples (~12 apples), peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 orange, juiced and zested
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon

Combine apple pieces, orange juice, orange zest, sugar, and cinnamon in a slow cooker. Set on high and cook for 4 hours,  stirring every hour or so to ensure that all of the apples cook completely.

Allow to cool slightly before mashing or pureeing to desired consistency.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

For long term storage, freeze in airtight containers.

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Apple Sauce_Pint

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For more ideas on preserving your summer produce,
check out the recipes below.

Condiments

Main dishes

Sides

Snacks

Dessert

Beverage

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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Why Not MeThis one is going to be a short summary and a short review!

{Book Review}

Why Not Me?

By Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling, executive producer, writer and star of The Mindy Project as well as writer, executive producer and actress on The Office, shares tales of her professional and personal life – from receiving feedback on her writing and on-scene kissing etiquette to dating, love and weight loss – in this collection of essays.

Review/Recommendation: This light, funny book was a great read, or in my case, listen. I was constantly chuckling, if not wholeheartedly laughing at Mindy’s stories. Mindy mixes lightweight stories with more serious stories (i.e. her thoughts on body image and her own struggles with self-confidence) that are full of wit and sometimes dry humor. With every chapter I listened to, I felt like I was listening to the real, genuine Mindy – not a character in a book.

The book was entertaining, well-told (because, of course, Mindy read it to me and she’s awesome), and gave me a glimpse into the actress herself. Even if you don’t know who Mindy is or aren’t familiar with her work, I think you’ll enjoy this collection of light, humorous essays on one woman’s life.

Grade: A

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Have you noticed that I’ve been MIA for the past month or so? If you have, I appreciate your patience and am glad you’re still reading.

As my mom will tell you, I’m the queen of over-committing. I want to do everything but there’s only so many hours in the day. So last month, I made the decision to take a little break from blogging. During that time, I focused on work, spending time with family and friends, and some of my other hobbies – reading, knitting, and scrapbooking. I continued to read and cook some, but not nearly as much as earlier this year.

Cookies & Coconut Cream Popsicles

In the Kitchen

Since Nutterbutter turned 1 this spring, I’ve spent a lot more time chasing him around and cooking stuff I can pack into his lunchbox. While my daughter ate like a bird when she was little (and still does), Nutterbutter is a tank (they don’t call him Meatball for nothing!). Italian-style meatballs and zucchini bread muffins are two staples in his lunchbox. I can’t keep up with stocking the freezer.

With all the crazy that’s been going on this summer, most of my activities in the kitchen have been quick, simpler recipes. Some highlights include:

  • Testing out cocktails from my new book, Mix Shake Stir. The pomegranate gimlet and Hang Thyme (coming to Books n’ Cooks soon!), a citrus-based cocktail, quickly became two of my favorites.
  • Simple desserts like Oreo and Coconut Cream Popsicles and a Cookies & Cream Ice Box Cake (which I hope to share soon)
  • Overflowing antipasto trays – with assorted cheeses, fruits, and a few select meats – have been my go-to appetizer for summer entertaining
  • Dinners have consisted of LOTS of grilling, which I love – it’s light and generally something the whole family will eat. (We’ve been working on Hazelnut’s pickiness, but it’s been a very slow process!). I haven’t tried a lot of new recipes, but we did have a win this summer, with this Honey Garlic Shrimp. You’ve probably seen several variations on Pinterest. This particular variation was great. We loved the flavor, and it was a super quick meal, perfect for a busy weeknight. We’ll be making it again for sure.

As summer winds down, I’m getting excited to get back in the kitchen with both new recipes and old favorites. I’ve been bookmarking and pinning recipes like crazy – time to start making some of them!

August Reading - Riordan

On My Bookshelf

Although I’ve had less time to read, I still managed to squeeze in several books. I’ve mostly been binge-reading light series, as they’re easy to pick up and put down while I cater to the demands of The Munchkins. You can follow what I’m reading at any time on Goodreads, but here’s a quick summary of what I’ve been reading this summer.

  • The Max Revere Series by Allison Brennan – mysteries/suspense
  • Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling – humorous autobiographical; a good listen on audiobook
  • The Kane Chronicles Trilogy by Rick Riordan – young adult/fantasy. I had read the first two when they first came out but reread them in order to finish the series

I’m still binge-reading Rick Riordan books, having recently started The Heroes of Olympus series. I tried to put it off, since I know I’m going to be sucked in and will be much less productive around the house, but I gave in.

The Bullet Journal (BuJo)

In addition to reading books, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest and blogs. In particular, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with reading about journalling, especially bullet journalling. I initially learned about the BuJo on Pinterest (before Pinterest started all of these awful althorithms where the only thing they seem to show is their own recommendations, which aren’t very good), and quickly became captivated by all of the pretty, creative layouts.

If you’re interested, I’ve been doing most of my reading on the BuJo on Boho Berry and Pretty Prints and Paper. For my own part, I can’t do without my planner (currently using an Erin Condren planner), but earlier this year, I started my own take on a BuJo. While most of what I’ve read emphasizes list-making (daily, weekly to-do lists, movies to see books to read, really whatever floats your boat), I’ve been using mind as a habit tracker (healthy lifestyle and Books n’ Cooks social media presence – which I’ve been trying to be more consistent with), actual journalling – to highlight some of the memories, quotes, etc from my kiddos (with the idea that these details will be used in their scrapbooks, whenever I finally get around to finishing them), and planning, brainstorming, and creating a strategy for Books n’ Cooks. I do have the sporadic brain dumps of to-do lists, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, but those are few and far between.

Joji Cowl

Crafting

While I don’t talk about it much on here, I do love to craft. I used to be really into scrapbooking and while I still enjoy it, I just don’t have the time to do as much of it anymore. I have started to work on my scrapbooks again, starting with the one I began when Hazelnut was a baby. I’m making slow progress, but at least it’s progress.

I’ve also begun knitting again, pretty regularly. For the past year or two, I’ve been making a lot of baby blankets, but this summer, I finally got to work on a project for me! I purchased a kit for this gorgeous 3 Color Cashmere Cowl by Joji Locatelli this past spring, and quickly started knitting it up. I love the way it turned out! Now I just need the weather to cool off so that I can start wearing it! (PS. I suck at selfies.)

Having finished the cowl, I’ve started on a couple of Christmas gifts for my daughter and niece – both saw me knitting and asked for scarves and hats. I’m enjoying the quick projects but am already itching to start one of the other projects I have picked out for myself.

 

The hiatus this summer was a much needed break for me, a good chance to recharge. Now, I’m happy to be back to blogging. Reading and cooking remain passions of mine, and I enjoy being able to share my passion with you.

Now that you’ve heard a bit about my summer, please leave a comment and tell me a bit about yours. What have you been up to? Read or cook anything worth sharing? Or have you been spending time on other things important to your life?

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For the past couple of years, I have taken July to highlight some of frozen treats – ice creams, popsicles, drinks and desserts – that have caught my eye. I share some of these recipes here on the blog as well as on social media (if you’re not following me on Twitter, Facebook, or G+, please take a minute to do so!). In honor of this, my contribution to this week’s #SundaySupper Piña Colada theme is a popsicle.

The coconut milk flavor is subtle to nonexistant thanks to the heavy dose of vanilla extract and the abundance of Oreos. However, the use of coconut milk instead of cow’s milk creates a creamy popsicle that I find sometimes lacking in homemade popsicles.

Don’t forget to check out the other Piña Colada-inspired recipes that the #SundaySupper tastemakers have put together for you, below the recipe. I’m loving this week’s contributions, and will be making coconut everything for quite some time!

Cookies & Coconut Cream Popsicles

Cookies and Coconut Cream Popsicles
Adapted from The View from Great Island
Makes 6 Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (5-6 oz.) coconut milk
  • 14 Oreos – 6 whole; the remaining 8 crushed
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract

In a medium, mircowave safe bowl, heat the coconut milk for 30 seconds, or just long enough for the fat to be able to be evenly distrubuted into mixture. Stir in crushed Oreos and vanilla extract.

In a popsicle mold, add 1-2 tablespoons of the coconut milk mixture. Add whole Oreo. Fill to almost the top, leaving about 1/2-inch room. Insert popsicle stick into the center. Repeat until finished with the Oreos and coconut milk mixture.

Freeze until solid.

Serve: To remove from mold, run the popsicle under hot water for 10-15 seconds, until the popsicle will wiggle out of the mold.

Don’t forget to check out these other Piña Colada-inspired recipes.

Great Starts

Dive in with Sides and Appetizers

Coco-Nutty Main Dishes

“Col-lots-a” Desserts

Sweet to Sip Beverages

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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Monkey-Bread-Ice-Cream-from-Culinary-Concoctions-by-Peabody

Monkey Bread Ice Cream by Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

For the past couple of years, every July, I share some of my favorite frozen treats that have caught my eye. I have tried very few of the recipes, if any, but the innovative recipe and/or drool-worthy photo had me saving the recipes at a pace there was no way I could keep up with. To kick things off, here are 25 ice cream and sorbet recipes that are sure to entice you to skip the store-bought stuff and make something homemade this summer.

If you try any of the recipes below, please be sure to come back and tell me how it turned out! And if you liked it, show a little love and leave a comment for the blogger as well!

 

 

{Frozen Fridays}

Ice Creams, Sorbets, and More!

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Max Revere Series

{Book Review}

The Max Revere Novels

By Allison Brennan

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Book .5: Maximum Exposure
Book 1: Notorious
Book 2 :Compulsion
Book 3: Poisonous

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maxine Revere, Max, is an investigative reporter specializing in cold cases. After a couple of hit books to accompany her journalism career, her college friend talks her into hosting a television show focused on criminal justice, Maximum Exposure.

This series follows Max and her sidekick – assistant/bodyguard David Kane – as they investigate cold cases through their employment at NET. Max is outspoken, righteous, and a firm believer in the truth. In fact, she pursues the truth relentlessly, viewing the idea of ‘knowing the truth’ in black and white terms. The truth is always better than not just a lie but also the unknown, a view that frequently puts her at odds with friends, adversaries and sometimes, the people she’s trying to help.

Review/Recommendation: This series (so far) is a light, quick read. The first four parts of the series have been published recently, beginning in 2014, with the most recent being released in April of this year. Max’s role as a reporter makes the series stand out from others in the genre, who favor law enforcement personnel as leading characters.

I enjoyed the characters in the series. Max was referred to numerous times as a “bitch,” but the truth is that she’s blunt, honest, and determined. She’s a strong protagonist and while she may not see eye-to-eye with others, she stands firmly behind her beliefs, for better or worse. The supporting characters add some lightness and depth to the series – Max bickers constantly with her friend-coworker; her love interest flits in and out of the books and reveals a bit of a playful side to Max.

The plot lines are entertaining but not generally too deep, which is pretty much what I expect for books in this genre. Overall, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an easy, light book (beach-read anyone?).

Grade: B+

 

 

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What's_Baking_BadgeEvery month I think things are going to settle down, and every month seems to get busier and more chaotic than the last. I can’t tell you how many times I earmarked a day on the calendar to make bars for this month’s What’s Baking? theme, how many times I pulled butter out of the fridge to soften only to put it back in the fridge later that day.

Thankfully, this month’s hostess, Nichole from Cookaholic Wife, was completely understanding when I emailed her this past weekend to see if I could get this post out a few days late. My in-laws, husband and daughter had just went to the movies and my Little Man was down for a nap, so I was going to whip up the bars, start this post, and hope the photos came out well. Nichole had agreed to to my plan just minutes before and the butter was melted… and Little Man woke up.

Needless to say, I managed to get the bars baked, photographed them before the family could eat them, and here I am, night before it’s due, writing my post. Big thanks to Nichole for letting me submit late!

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

These bars are part of my Operation Clean Out Freezer. Spring cleaning. My two freezers is in desperate need of it. (There’s inspiration for ya!)

Every year, I stash an extra bag of cranberries in my freezer for some recipe that is sure to strike my fancy during the year. As I was baking this, I couldn’t help thinking that this would be a great recipe for fall. The tart cranberries have a touch of sweetness from the sugar (and of course, the slightly sweet shortbread crust and streusel). This recipe is halved from the version in Fine Cooking Magazine, and rewritten, but not heavily adapted.

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Adapted from Fine Cooking, Dec 2006 (p. 75)

Makes 16 Bars

Ingredients:

  • 11 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 c. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 c. + 1 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries

Make Crust: Line an 8×8 inch pan with aluminum foil and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine unsalted butter, 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbs. sugar, and salt. Whisk in egg yolk. Transfer 2/3-3/4 of it to the prepared pan, pressing along the bottom to cover. Use a fork to prick all over. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.

While crust is in fridge, move a baking rack to upper third of the oven and preheat to 325F.

Bake the Crust & Prep the Rest: Remove from fridge and bake crust for 18-22 minutes, until crust is set and edges are beginning to brown.

While crust cooks, combine remaining dough with 2 Tbs. sugar, crumbling with clean fingers. Set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, combine remaining 1/2 c. sugar, cranberries, and 2 Tbs. water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn. Lower heat slightly and continue to simmer until cranberries break down and mixture becomes a thick syrup, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

When crust is ready, remove oven and allow to cool slightly. Increase temperature on oven to 350F.

Assemble and Bake the Bars: When crust has cooled slightly, top with cranberry mixture, spreading to cover. Crumble streusel topping throughout.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and set. Do not overcook.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before cutting.

Serve at room temperature.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Cranberry Shortbread Bars_Pint

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