Monday, January 16, 2017

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: Week Two #12mos12rals

Welcome to the second week of discussions for our new 2017 project, #12mos12rals!!  Be sure to be watching for a fun little surprise coming later this week!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman:  Week Two
Chapters 10-18, Pages 86-170

Before we begin, please note that this conversation only covers the noted chapters/pages above.  Please do not share any spoilers beyond this point!

At the end of last week's chapters (through chapter 9), I was not sure if I wanted to keep reading.  I was scared to know what would become of dear ol' Ove.

I was not aware when I began this book that a trigger warning may have been warranted.  Suicide recurs again and again, or at least attempts too.  And, suicide for me can be a difficult topic to come across unexpectedly in a novel.  Were you affected by this in any way?  How do you tend to react when you experience triggers while reading a book?

Ove's wife, Sonja once said, "You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away" (p. 108).  This quote really struck a chord with me.  Do you notice it while reading?  If not, what are your thoughts reading it outside of the story?

Comment on your reaction to the interaction between Ove and Beppo the Clown.  How did this exchange transform the relationship between Ove and the neighbor girls?

Was there anything else significant that you would like to discuss within this latest bout of reading?  Anything that stood out for you that I have not yet addressed in my discussion questions.

That's it for this week! Share your thoughts below in the comments section and/or feel free to link up in the linky below. Next week, we will chatting about chapters 19-29, pages 171-257.

In case you missed last week's discussion, click here.




Monday, January 9, 2017

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: Week One #12mos12rals

Welcome to the first week of discussions for our new 2017 project, #12mos12rals!!  Let's get to it!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman:  Week One
Chapters 1-9, Pages 1-85

Before we begin, please note that this conversation only covers the noted chapters/pages above.  Please do not share any spoilers beyond this point!

A Man Called Ove is a book that I have found to be surrounded by lots of hype.  Everyone that I have talked to that has read this book has raved about it.  Going into the book with such high expectations can sometimes result in a not-so-great rating by the time you read the last page.  Within the first 85 pages and/or 9 chapters, what are your initial thoughts about this book?  Does it live up to the hype?

The main character, Ove comes across as a grumpy old man.  The neighbors do not follow any of the policies, despite the many notices posted.  The customer service rep at the tech store has no clue about selling computers.  The new tall lanky neighbor cannot even back up a trailer.  It appears that no one can meet his standards or do anything right in his eyes.  Have you ever met a grumpy old man like this?

Speaking of a man with set expectations in life, this quote appears on page 37, chapter 5:
He was a man of black and white.
And she was color.  All the color he had.
Comment on this quote.  

And, the final quote I want to share is from page 78, chapter 8:
"Men are what they are because of what they do.  Not what they say."  said Ove.
In this quote, Ove is sharing a moral code that was passed down from his father.  In your own words, what exactly does this mean?  Do you see this code as being a bit old-fashioned, or do you still see it carrying over into our modern world?

That's it for this week!  Share your thoughts below in the comments section and/or feel free to link up in the linky below.  Next week, we will chatting about chapters 10-18, pages 86-170.  


Monday, January 2, 2017

Introducing 12 Books, 12 Readalongs! #12mos12rals

Here at Book Bloggers International, we like to change things up a little each year to keep things interesting.  In 2017, we have decided to go to the heart of book blogging and spend more time with the books.  Each month, we will be hosting a readalong for a different book.  We are hoping to span all different genres and formats, and to really bring all of you book bloggers together around one great book every month.

At the beginning of each month, we will be announcing the book for the month and we will be spending all month reading and chatting about the book.  If you have already read the book, stop by and join in the conversation.  If you have not, but want to, then join in and read along with us.  You can even follow along on social media with the hashtag #12mos12rals.  If you would like to see a book read or would like to host a readalong for a month, let us know by emailing us at bookbloggersintl (at) gmail (dot) com.

Now for the month of January!!  We will be reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman!  The reading schedule is below.  Please note that I have included both pages and chapters for those who may not have the same copy of the book as I do!

  • January 9:  chapters 1-9 or pages 1-85
  • January 16:  chapters 10-18 or pages 86-170
  • January 23:  chapters 19-29 or pages 171-257
  • January 30:  chapters 30-end or pages 258-end

On each of the days listed, questions and discussions will be posted.  We encourage you to stop by and chat it up, leave your own links, and more.  Throughout the week, you are also welcome to contribute to and follow the conversation and thoughts via #12mos12rals.  

Looking forward to having you all join us!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December Food Fest: Chicken In Milk

chicken in milk
Image via Flickr, because I completely forgot to take a photo myself.
Bonjour, kittens! Today, me myself and I, Tasha from Team BBI, is here to share a chicken recipe perfect for winter. It's rich, comforting, and tasty. You'll want to try it immediately, and you can thank me afterward. You're welcome.

Say hello to your new favorite comfort food: Chicken in milk.

I first ran across this strange-sounding recipe by accident, when I spotted a post titled, "Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk Is Probably the Best Chicken Recipe of All Time" at The Kitchn. The recipe is basically a whole chicken braised in milk. The Kitchn wasn't the only blog enthusiastic about the recipe: others called it the best chicken ever, the most tender roast chicken, and "amazing." So naturally I had to try it.

As I was looking Oliver's recipe over, though, it reminded me of a similar recipe I'd seen on America's Test Kitchen, except this one was for milk braised pork loin. ATK had a few different techniques from Oliver's recipe, mainly to keep the milk from curdling. I hadn't tried ATK's recipe yet, but I decided to incorporate some of their tips in Oliver's basic recipe. Specifically, I didn't dump the fat out and used whole milk. Everything else was the same.

chicken in milk
Image by danebrian via Flickr


The results were delicious! This recipe really is ridiculously easy, and leaving the fat in the pot left the sauce just slightly curdled. The picky eaters in my family didn't even notice it.

But I kept thinking, what would have happened if I'd followed ATK's recipe more closely? Is their version superior to Oliver's? So I decided to make their milk braised pork roast as a comparison.

Unfortunately, I was HUGELY disappointed in ATK's milk braised pork. The pork was extraordinarily bland and the sauce never thickened, despite the fact that I boiled it nearly 10x longer than the recipe called for. I did about double the work in this recipe as I did for Oliver's, and got only about a quarter of the flavor out of it.

When I returned to Oliver's milk braised chicken, I wanted to see if I could get the smooth sauce ATK promised with all the flavor I'd previously had with Oliver's recipe. And I did! The sauce was rich and savory, with a ton of umami flavor, and the chicken was tender and moist. My family loved it.

But...

I think ATK tends to try to "solve" problems that aren't really problems, and the curdled sauce in these milk braises is a classic example of that. No, the sauce doesn't look pretty curdled, but it tastes DIVINE. There really isn't any good reason to do backflips just to make a smooth sauce when the curdled sauce tastes so effing good (unless you live in a house full of picky eaters you know will turn their nose up at such a thing, of course).

That said, here's my recipe for chicken in milk with the smooth, uncurdled sauce. If this is a little too much work, just use whole milk and don't dump out the fat when you're making Oliver's original recipe. Definitely try either or both, though!

chicken in milk
Image by thatturtle via Flickr

Chicken in Milk


Active time: 1 hour (includes standing around drinking, playing with the dogs, doing dishes, etc.)
Total time: 2.5 hours

Tools:

  • Whisk
  • Dutch oven


Ingredients:


  • 1 whole (approx. 3 lb) chicken
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • Handful of fresh sage leaves (MUST be fresh, otherwise it tastes too Thanksgiving-y)
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled or not
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)



Directions:


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degs F.
  2. Rinse the chicken, pat dry, and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper.
  3. On the stovetop, heat the Dutch oven to medium-high heat. Melt butter.
  4. Brown chicken on all sides in the butter until golden. Remove from pot and set aside on a plate.
  5. Add milk, garlic, sage, baking soda, and cinnamon stick to pot. Stir and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot until the milk comes up to a boil, then lower heat to medium and keep stirring and scraping until milk has thickened slightly.
  6. Return chicken and any juices on the plate to the pot. Cover and cook in oven for 1 and half hours, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.
  7. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from pot and allow to rest under aluminum foil.
  8. Meanwhile, put the Dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stove and add the wine and lemon zest, whisking vigorously to smooth out the sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer until sauce is the consistency of thin gravy.
  9. Once thick, remove pot from heat and add parsley, if using. Stir in any accumulated chicken juices and serve with with your favorite starch and veggie.


Notes:

  • Oliver says not to peel the garlic cloves, but I'm not a fan of finding garlic skins in my sauce, so I peel them before hand.
  • I cover the pot while cooking, but if you like your chicken skin crispy, by all means leave the lid off and baste occasionally with the milk.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December Food Fest: Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

hoosier sugar cream pie recipe

No one can imagine a holiday without pie, and J. Doe from Sprung At Last is here today to talk about one of her favorite classic–and cheap!–pie recipes for Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie, as well as the difficulties of dieting while being a food blogger. Onward and pie-ward!

No one can hide from the truth forever, so here is my truth: I am a very poor excuse for a food blogger. Some of this may be due to the fact that I’m not really a food blogger, I’m just someone with a blog who happens to enjoy cooking.

Mostly, though, this is due to another truth: I gained a lot of weight during my unfortunate marriage, and gained even more since its abrupt end.

I tried lying at first, telling myself I hadn’t really gained that much. But my pants never lie, and they told a different story. Lose it, they said, and after a while, I listened.

Dieting is hard, and being a food blogger on a diet is harder still.

A better person than the one I am would probably write about healthy food and low-calorie eating, but not me: I am in deep denial that anyone could find kale edible under any circumstances, and furthermore, I don’t want to be anywhere near a kitchen when I am trying not to think about the kind of food I actually do want to eat.

When I’m not on a diet, the kitchen is place of memories, inspired by the comforting smell of roast chicken, or the astonishingly light weight of my grandmother’s beloved cast iron skillet. When I am on a diet, the kitchen is simply a room full of reminders of things I’d rather be eating: A hundred or so cookbooks, many of them devoted to cakes, pies, and cookies.

Like most people, I like the idea of healthy eating. I own a juicer. It was a gift, and I’ve never actually plugged it in, but I dedicate valuable countertop space to it, and I feel like must surely count of something.

My pants disagree.

I start my diet in the early fall. By the end of fall, I’ve lost some weight, by which I mean, more than twenty pounds. Three pants sizes.

I donate my disagreeable pants to charity, and take myself shopping for a happier pair.

The holidays roll around, and though I begin the season worried about the upcoming buffets and potlucks, it turns out it is not that hard to just eat a little bit of everything, when that has become the habit. I find I’m relaxed - enjoying myself, even. I look forward to baking the things I will contribute. I look forward to writing about them on my blog.

The stars seem to align for the return of my blog, but my friends have other things in mind: They all have their favorites, and with each invitation comes a request for something I’ve made before. Tradition! That pie!

That pie is sugar cream pie, a dessert I researched especially for a poverty-themed party last April 15. I discovered it in Paula Haney’s wonderful cookbook, Hoosier Mama’s Book of Pie, in the chapter of Depression-era recipes titled Desperation Pies. (Other entries in this chapter include Vinegar Pie, something I’ve not yet been personally desperate enough to make.) I tried to keep to the party’s theme with every step of the pie-making process. I resisted the urge to buy the cookbook online, and checked it out of the library. My plan might have been a frugal one, too, if I had not then left the book where my dog could get at it and chew off half the cover before I noticed.

I should probably mind the fact that I ended up paying full price for a heavily used and damaged cookbook, but I don’t. The pie was a hit at the poverty party, and was a hit again at the holiday potluck.

It is easy to make, especially if you do as I do and cheat a little by using a ready-made crust. Just prebake the crust and let it cool, then fill and bake to set the filling. Remember to leave a couple hours – at least four – to chill the pie completely before serving, or it won’t set correctly. You can reduce this time somewhat by resting the pie dish in a pan of ice water once it has cooled a bit, but you will get the best results by chilling it thoroughly before serving.

And if you forget, the pie will still be tasty, just a bit messy.

hoosier sugar cream pie


Recipe: Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

Adapted from Paula Haney, Hoosier Mama’s Book of Pie

Ingredients


  • 1 single-crust pie shell of your choice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • two vanilla beans


Instructions


  1. Cut vanilla beans open lengthwise, and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds out. You will have about ¾ tsp of vanilla bean seeds, put in a small bowl and set aside. (Save the bean pods for some other purpose, like vanilla sugar.)
  2. Pre-bake the pie shell according to the directions, and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Whisk the sugar, brown sugar, flour, and salt together in a medium bowl. Use your hands to break up any clumps, if needed.
  5. Gently whisk in the heavy cream; taking care not to beat too much, as whipping the cream will prevent the pie from setting. Stir in the vanilla seeds.
  6. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pie, and bake another 20-25 minutes.
  7. When the pie is ready, the top surface will be beautifully browned and bubbling vigorously; it will not look set.
  8. Set the pie on a wire rack to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least four hours before slicing.


Notes


  • If you have vanilla paste, you can substitute 1 tsp for the vanilla bean seeds.
  • If you are pressed for time, cool the pie for 15-20 minutes on a wire rack, then set it in a pan of icewater, as high as you can get without touching the rim, and place in the refrigerator to cool. This will reduce the time needed to cool the pie by about half. (Or, make the pie a day ahead, and save yourself some stress!)
  • This recipe was originally included in this blog post.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

December Food Fest: Do You Cookie Exchange?

christmas cookie exchange

It wouldn't be the holidays without cookies, and Candace from Beth Fish Reads is here today to discuss the plusses and minuses of a Christmas cookie exchange. Bonus: she's sharing one of her favorite Christmas cookie recipes! Take it away, Candace.

christmas cookie cookbooks

One of the holiday traditions I look forward to is our annual cookie exchange. On the first Sunday of December, a friend of mine hosts a boozy holiday brunch and get-together that also includes a cookie exchange. It's a fun tradition and a nice moment to relax before the holiday season descends in full force.

Truth be told, though, I have a love-hate relationship with cookie exchanges. What's the good? Although I bake only one kind of cookie I end up with at least eight different kinds, all baked by other people. That lets me put together a pretty platter for guests with just a minimum amount of work.

christmas cookie exchange boxes

What's the bad? Oh the temptation of having all those cookies! I'm not much of sweet eater, but a plate full of homemade goodies is so hard to resist. Every year I promise myself that I'll sample just one of each kind. That's all. The rest are for holiday visitors. Well, yeah, the best laid plans and all of that.

Still, despite the threatening sugar coma, I can't wait for the festivities--and cookies--to start! Here's the recipe I used this year. I cut three dozen cookies from each pan.

jan habel christmas cookie

Jan Habel

From Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

My notes: This is a Dutch cookie. I used pecans, because that's what I had in the house, and increased the amount to 1 cup. The cookies will seem very soft but they firm up after cooling. I cut 36 cookies per batch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts


Directions:
Heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 15-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch jelly roll pan. Mix butter, sugar, and egg yolk. Blend flour and cinnamon; stir into the butter mixture. Pat into pan. Beat water and egg white until frothy; brush over dough; sprinkle with nuts. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cut immediately into finger-like strips. Yield: 50 (3 by 1-inch) strips.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Food Fest: Send Out 2016 with the Comfort You Need

favorite holiday cookbooks

Our December Holiday Food Fest continues with a post by Serena, who blogs at Savvy Verse & Wit, runs Poetic Book Tours, and is also a fantastic poet herself. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize!

Today Serena's here to share some of her favorite holiday cookbooks and comfort food recipes. Take it away, Serena!

The year wraps itself up in December. Although 2016 may not have the shiniest paper and sparkly bow, December is the time for reflection, giving, and, yes, eating. On the east coast, the weather can be rainy or snowy, but almost always, it is too cold for me. My cousin keeps telling me to move to Florida, but that hot weather would leave little room for some of my favorite comfort foods – soup, chili, and shepherd’s pie.

Book bloggers who love to cook gravitate toward cookbooks like children to candy. You can’t get enough. And look out if the latest cookbook also happens to be written by one of our favorite authors – Jane Green. What we really want is good food to warm the body and food that’s easy to prepare and share with family, friends, or even book club.

Some of my favorite recipes are so easy that you just throw the ingredients into a crockpot, set the timer, and go read! Six Sisters’ Stuff cookbooks have a number of easy recipes, but one of our favorites is macaroni and cheese for the crockpot. It does require some prep; you’ll have to cook the elbow macaroni and melt grated cheddar with butter in a saucepan. Spray the crockpot with non-stick spray and add the ingredients. It only takes two hours to cook, so it can be made quickly in a pinch. It is so creamy thanks to the sour cream, milk, and cheddar cheese soup.

My daughter would tell you that her favorite food is chicken nuggets, and Aviva Goldfarb’s SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue has a super easy recipe with some healthy side dish suggestions. Buttermilk-bathed chicken nuggets are easy to make once you prep the buttermilk wash with garlic and the batter of bread crumbs, Parmesan, and seasoning. They take between 15-20 minutes to bake in the oven. But don’t forget to cut the chicken breasts in smaller sizes. We ended up using pre-cut chicken. It was delicious, and there were no complaints from a girl who thinks most food comes from a bag or box.

What are some of your comfort foods? I'm always looking for new cookbooks and recipes to try.