Wednesday, 31 March 2010
My parents will be flying in from their long trip to Australia on Friday so they'll still be a little weary I suppose (being with their 10 grandchildren will either exhaust them or increase their energy ... we'll which happens!). Needless to say, Nanny and Papa have missed the kids!
Our family is all heading over to one of my sisters' for dinner. She's providing the bird, stuffing and potatoes and the rest of us bring everything else. I'm planning on trying out 2 new recipes on my unsuspecting family (truth be told, they now expect me to use them as guinea pigs for new recipes). I'm going to be making a Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip as well as a Lemon Cheesecake. Mmmm. If I get some thumbs up I'll post the recipes on here next week.
My other sister is bringing some homemade sugar cookies for the kids to decorate and a veggie tray (we need to keep up the appearance of healthy eating so that we can consume the desserts, you see!).
So, what is everyone cooking for this holiday weekend?? Do you have any family favourites? Traditions?
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Monday, 29 March 2010
1/4 cup olive, grape seed oil or vegetable oil
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 heaping tbsp mayonnaise (optional)
9 cups Romaine lettuce, torn
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup croutons
In a small bowl combine oil, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon, salt and pepper (and mayonnaise, if using); mix well. Set aside.
In a salad bowl, combine the lettuce, onion, mushrooms and Parmesan. Mix well. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat. Add croutons. Serve immediately.
Laurie's Knock You Down with the Smell 'o' Garlic Croutons
3 slices bread
2 garlic cloves, minced
Butter bread on both sides. Cut the slices into cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add some extra butter to the skillet; add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add bread cubes and saute until all croutons are nicely browned. Allow croutons to cool before putting them in the salad.
Note: This recipe has been adapted from "Taste of Home's: Quick Cooking" (Jan/Feb 2000)
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Author: Julie Garwood
Quick Review: Mushy
Series: 5th book in the "Clayborne Brides" series
1. For the Roses
2. One Pink Rose
3. One White Rose
4. One Red Rose
First Line: "But for the grace of God and an untied shoelace, she would have died with the others that day."
Synopsis: Previous books in this series have focused on the other Clayborne brothers: Adam, Travis and Douglas. This book now focuses on the restless brother of the Clayborne clan, Cole.
Cole has always been the black sheep of the Clayborne family. He's toyed around with living on the wrong side of the law while is brothers have settled down into married life. Cole is asked by U.S. Marshal, Daniel Ryan, to join him as a Marshal in order to capture an elusive band of men who have been terrorizing Montana. Cole is hesitant at first but quickly enjoys being on the right side of the law for a change.
Marshal Ryan has his own reasons for hunting the gang and is set on vengance. Ryan's quest to find this gang lead him to a small town and beautiful young woman who may have witnessed the last bank robbery and mass murder. When two other young women come forward and claim to be the witness to the murders the Marshals have to figure out who is telling the truth. As the story unfolds both Marshals get involved more deeply with the young women than they ever dreamed they would.
My Thoughts: If you're looking for a romance with a bit of gun slinging involved then this book is for you. Personally, I'd prefer more action and less 'Harlequin-type' romantic verbage.
Usually Garwood's "Rose" books are a very light read with slightly mushy overtones. This book is oozing mushy romance with lines like :
"His hand moved to the back of her neck, and he pulled her toward him. 'I want to kiss you. Is that alright?'. she loved the fact that he'd asked permission. 'Yes, Daniel. I want you to kiss me. I've waited for such a long time.'"
Umm, ya. Not my personal cuppa tea. Her books are pretty formulaic too so I wouldn't advise reading them closely together. They typically go like this: man doesn't want to fall in love but finds a beautiful woman. He struggles with loving her, his past and his duty.
Don't get me wrong. Garwood is great for a light, easy read with an uncomplicated storyline perfect for reading on a plane or sitting on the beach. While I liked this book, I preferred the first 4 books in the series which seemed to have better storylines and you got to know the other brothers better. I'd definitely read these books in order because the earlier books explain how the Claybornes became a family.
My Rating: 2.5/5
Friday, 26 March 2010
I was so please to see all of the responses to my "What Should I Read Next" posting. I had 18 books to choose from (I didn't include suggestions of books that I had already read). In order to pick something randomly I asked my husband to pick a number randomly between 1 and 18. He chose 14 which means I'm reading ....
wait for it
wait for it
"Cane River" by Lalita Tademy!!!! :) I'll pick it up as soon as I can and start reading it in early April! Thanks again for all of the responses. It seems like everyone was really into this kind of posting so I'll do this again next month. That way, you all can share various book ideas and get some new ideas for yourselves. I always find that the best books are those that are referred by other 'regular' readers (not critics).
I'm still working out some kinks and I'm not sure of the colour scheme but, like I say, it's a work in progress. I wanted my blog to be more user friendly and clearer. Before there was too much stuff in the small column and I thought it was hard to find things.
Check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks for your patience - especially those (ie Jen S.) who don't like changes. :)
Thursday, 25 March 2010
The first thought that popped into my tastefully highlighted head was Terry's Chocolate Orange. You know what I'm talking about, right? Chocolate and orange never tasted so good!
So how could I combine chocolate and orange to subdue my craving? The first kind of recipe to pop into my head? Muffins, of course. So I went out onto the web in search of a nice, moist muffin. I found one but then tweaked it to make it mine. Instead of grating chocolate into the batter (I'm much too lazy) I just used chocolate chips. I also increased the orange zest A LOT. Go big or go home when it comes to using zest, I always say. To me, the smell of orange or lemon zest is up there on my list of favourite smells along with a freshly washed baby, freshly brewed coffee and Shemar Moore (or at least I'm assuming he smells as good as he looks!). Mmm, Shemar ........ but again, I digress. Back to muffins ...
Last Christmas my mother-in-law, as part of my gift, bought me a microplane (see picture on the right). It's perfect for zesting citrus fruits so that you get a nice fine consistency of zest, not the chunky, stringy kind. It also helps you just take off the 'zest' (orange part) not the underlying white 'pith' which is bitter. I highly recommend getting one.
These muffins smelled wonderful while they baked. Heck, the batter smelled wonderful. They came out and their texture was moist and light. I'm assuming that, if they survive my husband and children after school/work, that the flavour will only get better and stronger by tomorrow.
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup orange juice
zest from 2 oranges
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, combine butter and sugar. Mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring in between each addition. Add sour cream, orange juice and zest.
In another medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Slowly add to butter mixture, making sure not to overmix. Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill paper-lined muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins sit in tins for 5 minutes before removing them to completely cool on a wire rack.
Yield: 18 muffins
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Quick Review: Really good
First Line: "In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind"
Synopsis: In Katsa's world some people are born with extraordinary skills, called Graces. These Gracelings are both feared and exploited for their skills. Katsa is a Graceling and has a skill that even she despises ... the Grace of killing. She lives with her uncle, King Randa, who uses Katsa's skills to torture and murder people who disobey him. She has spent her entire life in service to her uncle. She has hardly any friends and sees no real future for herself except to do her uncle's bidding.
Secretly Katsa has started up an organization which tries to save people from injustices ... often times she has to thwart the desires of her own uncle. During one of these rescues, she saves an old Leinid King. During the rescue she meets a Leinid young man who is graced in fighting. When this man shows up at her uncle's castle, Katsa is surprised to learn that this young man, named Po, is the grandson of the king she rescued.
At first Katsa is very tentative to get to know Po but eventually they find that they have a lot in common and start to train together. Not only do her and Po become close friends but he helps her to truly understand her Grace. This knowledge comes in handy when she decides that she's finally had enough of killing for her uncle. She decides to follow her own free will. She and Po embark on a journey to eradicate a secret that could destroy all 7 kingdoms of their world with words alone.
My Thoughts: This is the first fantasy book that I've ever read. I wasn't sure what to expect ... but I really enjoyed this book. At first it was a little hard getting used to the various names and places. I wasn't used to reading a book that hasn't taken place in our world. Luckily the author had a map of the 7 kingdoms at the beginning of the book which made it easier to picture this new world. I would have loved to have a character reference listing too. Once I got into the story it became easy to keep track of which King belonged to which kingdom but for awhile it was a little confusing.
I enjoyed seeing how Katsa went from a fearless thug with hardly any emotional ties to others to a strong, independent young woman who, with the help of Po, learned how to feel and be more human. I loved the fact that Katsa is such a strong character especially since this book is aimed at young adults. No wishy washy damsel in distress ... Katsa can hold her own and then some. It was actually a little shocking at first to know that a young woman could be so violent. It was also great to see a male character like Po who wasn't intimidated by Katsa's strength but who taught her how to feel and be more than just a killing weapon for her uncle.
Cashore did get a little wordy in the middle of the book which, in my opinion, really slowed down the storyline. I personally don't need so much description of the environment ... but that's just me.
Overall, I was really pleased with my first foray into the fantasy genre. As for the young adult genre? This book didn't feel as YA as many other YA books that I've read (Twilight, House of Night ...). It had much more action, the storyline was much more complex and the characters were nicely layered and not cut out of the typical cookie cutter YA mold.
My Rating: 3.5/5
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Genre: Canadiana, feel-good???
Synopsis & My Thoughts: Like other "Chicken Soup" books, this book is filled with 'lift-me-up' type short stories. Personally, I don't think this kind of book is my thing.
At first the stories made me go "awww" and have pride in my country (not that I needed help in that area!) ... but after a few stories (MANY of which were hockey based) it got old quickly. I think a big part of my not liking the book was the fact that I didn't know the authors of the stories.
I did read ahead a bit so that I could read Kurt Browning's story. It was the best story that I read from this book. I don't think I'll be picking up another Chicken Soup book. I guess I'm just not a fan of chicken soup.
My Rating: 0/5
Sunday, 21 March 2010
This lasagna was a simpler version than the lasagna I typically make. By simple, I mean that there weren't lots of chopped veggies (mushrooms, onions, peppers etc) ... which is probably why the kids gobbled it up! I loved the texture of the ricotta cheese and the fact that it wasn't a really thick lasagna -- this leaves more room for salad and garlic bread!!
The next time I make it I think I'll add some finely diced mushrooms and onion and see if I can still fool the kids. Also, instead of the fresh parsley, I"ll finely dice up some spinach for some added vitamins .... and so I can chuckle when my spinach fearing kids ask for seconds of a dish with the dreaded spinach in it!
By the way, 2 of my kids gobbled this lasagna up (amidst all of the giggles coming from the kids table I wasn't sure how much food was actually being eaten) so it's two thumbs up for this lasagna!!
1 lb lean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated (divided)
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (divided)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 (700mL) jar spagetti sauce
1 1/2 cups water
approx. 12 oven-ready lasagna noodles
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large skillet, cook meat and garlic until meat is no longer pink. Drain off grease. Stir in pasta sauce and water. Mixture will be fairly runny.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan, parsley and egg. Mix well and set aside.
Spread 1 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Top with approximately 4 lasagna noodles then 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Repeat layers two more times. If you don't get the same number of layers, don't worry. As long as you have at least 2 repetitions of each layer you're fine.
Top with last 4 noodles and remainder of meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1 1/4 cups of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Cover with a piece of greased tin foil (greased side down!) and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes then serve. Enjoy!
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Author: Maggie Barbieri
Genre: Mystery, Humour, Romance
Quick Review: Loved it!
First Line: "Your ass looks great in that dress."
Series: First book in the Murder 101 Mystery series
Synopsis: Alison Bergeron is an English professor at St Thomas, a Catholic college just outside New York city limits. Alison considers herself "Queen of the Nerds" -- in her thirties, 5 foot 10 inches tall, an intelligent woman who is also clumsy and often finds herself saying whatever inappropriate comment pops into her head, faints, cries or pukes when under stress ... she may be right about her self-imposed title.
Alison's life is anything but quiet -- dealing with her recent divorce from her philandering husband, Ray, to having her car stolen are just the tip of the iceberg. One evening she gets a visit from two NYC detectives who tell her that a student, Kathy Miceli, has been found dead in Alison's car. To add fuel to the fire, Kathy's family has mob connections.
Suddenly Alison finds herself as the main suspect in the murder. Alison decides to take matters into her own hands in order to clear her name ... which leads to tension between her and Detective Crawford.
My Thoughts: I had picked up this book at the library based on the book cover and title alone. I'm very glad I did. This debut book by Barbieri was a really good read that has a great blend of romance, humour and some suspense.
Barbieri was able to have a main character that is smart and a regular sort of girl who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many main female characters seem to be made from the same cookie cutter ... but not Alison. She's a quirky gal complete with real emotions and doesn't see herself as 'anything special'. She's just a woman trying to get over her recently finalized divorce and have a normal life. The fact that Alison handles her stress by often vomitting, fainting or crying can get a little old at times but it can also be viewed as how some people would handle what Alison is facing (and it makes for some humourous situations).
Crawford is a regular sort of guy who isn't just a hunk with a nice face. The romance between them isn't over-the-top either but still happens at a nice pace. I loved the banter between Alison and Crawford and made me giggle out loud in several parts. Also, the romance between Alison and Crawford seemed very believable and I liked the fact that it wasn't rushed.
The one character I wasn't thrilled with was Max, Alison's best friend. Her character, to me, came off as more annoying and self-centred. I couldn't picture Alison being friends with a person liked Max.
Barbieri was able to finish the book with TWO cliffhangers that make me want to run out and read the next book in the series. While this book is labelled as a mystery I think that it's more of a funny romance with a splash of mystery thrown in. I'd love to see a bit more mystery in the next book ... which I'm definitely planning on reading.
My Rating: 4.5/5
Order of Series:
1. Murder 101
2. Extracurricular Activities
3. Quick Study
Friday, 19 March 2010
What I've just described happens every year. It is a phenomenon here in Canada I'd like to call "Winter Denial". Even though we Canadians are very intelligent people, each year at the first sign of warmer weather we all whip off our coats, put away our mitts and snow shovels and start talking about the fact that Spring has arrived. When will we learn? Spring is not here ... it's just playing with us. Toying with our emotions only to tear us down a notch when it leaves and sends back the old curmudgeon Winter to give us some more snow.
Maybe this happens so that we appreciate Spring even more? Perhaps. Do I wish that this warm weather continued? You bet your faux fur-lined toque you do! Don't get me wrong. Canadians, for the most part, love their winter. We do! Admit it! If we could only get it to snow from December 20th to February 28th that would be great. Perfection would be for it not to snow on roads or sidewalks but we can't have everything, right?
So, take off your shorts - yes! - I saw several people out in their shorts this week (notice that I did not say "out and about" because here in Canada we do not say that term and I don't know who started that rumour). But I digress .... those Canadians who had shorts on today can put them away for a few more weeks because, like clockwork, Mother Nature is playing with us good natured and highly humourous Canadians because she knows we can take it.
Enjoy this good weather while you can my fellow Canucks .... because there's snow in the forcast for Monday.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
I've been focusing lately on supernatural and Young Adult books but I'm open to any genre. I love historical fiction, biographies, modern fiction, mysteries .... I figure I'll randomly pick one of the books suggested. There's a good chance that I may have already read the book that is suggested. In that case, I'll let you pick another suggestion. This request may be harder than you think ... I've read a lot of books! Once I pick a book to read I'll read it then I'll post my review and let you all know what I thought about it.
So, will you help me?? What do you think I should read next?? I'd love to see lots and lots of suggestions!!!
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
This recipe takes a bit of patience. Putting the filling onto the chicken breasts then rolling them up takes a bit of time ... but the end result is worth it. Not only is the filling beautiful with the colours of the spinach, tomatoes and olives but it tastes wonderful too!
Serve with garlic mashed potatoes (because you can NEVER get enough garlic!) and steamed green beans. Yum!
Yield: 4 servings
4 chicken breasts, pounded into 1/2-inch thickness
1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach, stems removed
237g (1/2 container) ricotta cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 strips of bacon, cooked and diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil packed), drained well and finely diced
1/8 cup black olives, finely diced (optional)
1/2 cup cheddar or mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium glass bowl, microwave spinach on high for 3 minutes (stirring after each minute). Press spinach between some paper towel to remove excess water. Chop finely. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, garlic, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, olives (if using), cheddar cheese, oregano and basil. Mix well and set aside. (Tip: Make this mixture ahead of time to allow the flavours to blend - preferrably 1 hour).
Pour olive oil in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, pour bread crumbs.
Place a large spoonful of the ricotta mixture onto each chicken breast. Roll so that the mixture is covered by the chicken; secure with toothpicks if necessary. Carefully dip each chicken breast in olive oil, then bread crumbs. Place seam side down in a large baking dish. If there is extra ricotta mixture, sprinkle over each chicken breast before baking.
Bake for 40 minutes. Increase heat to 450F and broil for a few minutes or until browned. Keep an eye on it while it's broiling!
Tip for Pounding Chicken Breasts: Place chicken breasts in between two pieces of plastic wrap. Place on a cutting board and pound until desired thickness.
Monday, 15 March 2010
Sunday, 14 March 2010
When my first child, "Cub" was born I told my husband that one of my goals as a mother was to instill a love of reading in my kids. Since my husband cannot be considered a "reader" (he's read 2 books for entertainment in our almost 13 years of marriage) I knew that the responsibility of creating a future generation of readers in our family fell squarely on my shoulders. That's fine ... I was up to the challenge.
Reading has been an important part of my life since I was about 11 years old. Up until then I wasn't a diehard reader but once I got a hold of Nancy Drew I was officially bit by the Reading Bug. Even today, seeing those yellow spines gives me very fond memories of reading. I want to be able to hand down that feeling to my kids.
It was important to me for my kids to see that I loved reading. I clearly remember many, many night feedings when I'd pull out a book to keep myself from nodding off half way through a feeding. I was astounded at how many books I read in the wee hours of the morning while feeding my children!
During those early years I'd read children's books to my kids even when they were very young babies. They didn't understand the words that I was reading but they saw me holding a book and I liked them listening to my voice. I could have read a cookbook to them and they wouldn't have known the difference. It was time on Mommy's lap for a snuggle and some listening.
Thankfully, the reading bug bit my kids very early on. At the age of only 2, "Cub" would insist on either my husband or I reading the same 2 books to him at naptime and at bedtime. Those books were "Hilda Crumb's Hats" and the classic Dr Seuss "Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You?". At the time I'd inwardly groan because there were so many other books that I personally wanted to share with him but read his favourites we did!! Even now, 8 years later I can still recite both books almost perfectly! "Missy Moo" loves books about Christmas ... even in June. Bring it on. At least she's wanting to read!
So how do get your kids to be readers??? The simple and easy answer is - daily reading. Starting at an early age parents can set up daily times to read to their children. In our family we especially liked right before bedtimes because it was a way to calm the kids down for some quiet time and it was nice to get some cuddle time in too.
As kids get older, you can get them to read to you. Local libraries have oodles of beginner reader books for kids to sink their teeth into. Even if they read one page and you read the next it helps. Usborne has great books that help young readers share the reading with their parents. The kids read the writing on the top of the page (about a sentence or so that is easy reading) and the parents read the bottom of each page which is more difficult.
It's also vital that kids see their parents reading for their own pleasure. Kids copy what they see (good and bad). My kids know that reading is something that I love to do and is something that I feel I need to do daily.
Some days I feel like I overdid it instilling a love of reading in my kids. When I have to tell "Karate Guy", who is 8 years old, to "PUT DOWN THE BOOK or you'll be late for school!!" my husband just chuckles and says that I was the one who wished my kids to be avid readers. Touche! Oh well, I think the obvious benefits of having 3 avid readers outweighs the occasional rush to school in the morning. :)
Question for you: So .... have you been able to instill the love of reading in your kids? How did you do it? Have you been a book lover since you were a child?
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Title: The Trouble With Magic
Author: Madelyn Alt
Series: Book 1 in the "Bewitching Mystery" series
Synopsis: Maggie O'Neil decides to change things up in her life and leave her collections job. She takes a job at the local antiques shop and enjoys the quieter pace of the shop. Even though Maggie really likes her new boss, Felicity Dow, she still has a hard time accepting the news that Felicity is a witch. When Felicity becomes the centre of attention during a local murder Maggie decides to help prove her boss's innocence.
My Thoughts: This was a decent mystery and a nice easy read. I enjoy some supernatural books and I think I was hoping for more supernatural content. There were little teasers but not a whole lot of magic goin' on.
The book gave the feeling of the author setting up future smaller storylines and relationships between the characters. It will be interesting to see how the relationships pan out especially between Maggie and the two men in her life. It has a Stephanie Plum feel to those relationships -- one black leather wearing 'bad' boy and one 'good guy' who's the cop. Overall a good read. I'll read the next book in the series and see how I feel about the series after the relationships are more developed.
My Rating: 3/5 (a good read)
3 or 4 large bananas, mashed (I used 4)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and melted butter together. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Mix wet and dry ingredients together (making sure not to mix too much or your muffins will be dense). Gently fold in chocolate chips or walnuts, if using. Pour into greased or papered muffin tins and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until tops of muffins are golden.
Yield: This recipe makes 12 good sized muffins. They also freeze really well.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Title: The Sleeping Beauty Proposal
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Type: Chick Lit
Synopsis: Genie Michaels has a comfortable life. She is 36 years old has a good job as a college admissions officer, a decent apartment that she shares with her diabetic cat and has been dating her boyfriend, Hugh, for 4 years. When Hugh suddenly proposes marriage to the 'love of his life' while on a radio programme you'd think that Genie would be thrilled. Except that he didn't propose to Genie, but to another woman. All of Genie's family, friends and colleagues assume that Hugh proposed to Genie. Now that Hugh is going off to England for the summer how will Genie handle telling everyone the truth?!?
Genie's best friend Patty has an idea. Why not let everyone keep thinking that she's getting married to Hugh? In the meantime, she can rake in the shower gifts and enjoy being engaged for awhile at least.
Up until now, Genie's life has been on hold. As Patty say's it's like Genie's been sleeping through her whole life waiting for her prince to come save her. Genie doesn't need saving anymore. Suddenly she's doing the things that she should have done years ago. She gets out of her cramped basement apartment and buys a house, gets a better job and even gets herself a pretty diamond engagement ring (it's cubic zirconia, but still!). She learns that she never needed her Prince Charming to come to her rescue ... but what happens when her Prince does show up and tells everyone the truth?
My Thoughts: After reading "The Cinderella Pact" from Strohmeyer (and really enjoying it) I was excited to read this book. "The Sleeping Beauty Proposal" was a good read ... but not great. While I liked the message the book gave (that women don't need to be married or with a man to have a fulfilling and enjoyable life) the storyline itself fell flat. It was predictable (like most Chick Lit) but it still lacked some oomph.
Maybe it was because there were a lot of different characters and it felt like you never really got to know most of them well enough. I would have liked to see more from Patty, Genie's brother Todd, her ex-boyfriend Steve or even her quirky family.
If you're looking for an easy read, this book is good but if you want a really good book from Strohmeyer you have to read "The Cinderella Pact".
My Rating: 3/5
I thought that title would get your attention.
You know how some recipes you make taste good ... then there are others that knock your socks off?? Let's just say that after I made these squares this afternoon, I was barefoot. Man, these were good! My kids even finished their dinners in order to get another taste of these squares! Practically unheard of!
I originally found the basis for this recipe on another blog. That blogger found it in a cookbook by Esther Shank called "Taste of Home Holiday Get-Together 2006". The original recipe used more of a cake base but I prefer a lighter base with a simple crumb mixture since this is such a rich dessert. The recipe below has all of my tweaks added to it. If you have someone in your family who is allergic to peanuts (like we do) look at the note below for the safe substitutions.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs
6 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
4 cups miniature marshmallows
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter (** See Note below **)
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispie cereal
Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9x9-inch baking pan with foil.
Mix together the crumbs and the melted butter. Pour into prepared pan and pat down. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
Set oven to broil. Sprinkle marshmallows over crumb base. Return pan to oven until marshmallows have softened (remember to watch carefully! It doesn't take long for the marshmallows to start to brown). Remove from oven. Using a knife dipped in water, smooth down the marshmallow, if it's too puffy.
In a double boiler, add chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Bring water in lower part of boiler to a boil and stir chocolate mixture constantly until it is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in Rice Krispies. Pour over marshmallow layer. Chill squares. Do not be tempted to cut the squares until the chocolate has set or it will make a huge mess.
NOTE: Since we have a severe peanut allergy in our family I made necessary adjustments to make this recipe safe. Instead of peanut butter I used Freenut Butter (the BEST peanut butter substitute out there - the closest to peanut butter you'll get!) and I also added 2 pinches of salt.
SUBSTITUTE: The original recipe used 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs instead of the mixture of Oreo and graham. I ran out of graham cracker crumbs so I added the Oreo crumbs to make up the difference. Turned out quite well, if I do say so myself! You can't go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate!
Just make sure you give yourselves enough time to make this treat. There's a lot of drying involved and takes over 24 hours to make. But they are worth it if you have a serious sweet tooth! I promised this recipe to my friend Kelly. Hope you all enjoy it.
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp salt
4 tsp vanilla
1 can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
10 cups icing sugar
1 tsp yellow food colouring
1 lb semi-sweet chocolate
In a large bowl, beat butter, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add condensed milk; mix. Beat in sugar and blend until stiff. Knead until smooth.
Set aside 2/3 of the mixture. To the remaining mixture add the yellow food colouring. Blend well. Divide yellow and white mixtures into either 16 or 24 pieces (depending on how large you want your eggs to be). Shape yellow pieces into balls. Mold white mixture around yellow balls and create an egg shape. Dry on paper towels, at room temperature, for 24 hours.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Dip eggs in chocolate. Paraffin was may be added and melted with the chocolate to prevent the chocolate from melting in your hands. Once dipped, cool at room temperature. Refrigerate after cooled.
Sunday, 7 March 2010
Usually when I mash bananas I just use a fork. It works fairly well but the bananas tend to shift all over the bowl and I end up chasing them around.
Tonight I had a better idea pop into my head. Instead of using a fork I used my pastry blender. Worked like a charm! I was able to mash the bananas quicker and they were just as smooth as if I had used a fork. Plus it's a good use for your pastry blender which isn't a kitchen tool that gets used enough.
Saturday, 6 March 2010
If you choose to bake this bread in a 9x13-inch pan instead of loaves I highly recommend topping this cake with the Maple Icing recipe here on my site. It sounds a little odd but bananas and maple are a match made in heaven.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9x5-inch loaf pans. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mix and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in bananas. Add flour mixture, alternately with buttermilk to the creamed mixture. Stir in nuts, if using. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of each loaf comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Tip: You can also make this recipe into two 9-inch round cakes OR a 9x13-inch can -- just decrease the baking time to approximately 30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean).
Originally from: Allrecipes.com (A-Number-1 Banana Cake)
1/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup icing sugar
In a medium saucepan, combine butter, milk and brown sugar. Bring to boil. Boil for a minimum of 3 minutes; stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and icing sugar; with a small whisk, beat until smooth. Allow icing to cool before icing cake.
Thursday, 4 March 2010
Title: The Wives of Bath
Author: Wendy Holden
Type: Chick Lit
Published April 2005
Synopsis: This book tells the story of two couples, Hugo & Amanda and Jake & Alice, who have escaped their busy lives in London to live in the quieter town of Bath. The two couples are polar opposites but happen to be part of the same prenatal group. There is no love lost between the two women who had worked together in their previous jobs.
Spoiled celebrity journalist Amanda loses her job (thanks to Alice) in New York and decides that trendy thing for her to do would be to go home to her husband, Hugo, and start a family. She sees a new baby as the 'must have' accessory. Hugo and Amanda deal with parenthood the same way they deal with everything else ... they throw money at it in the form of private hospitals where Amanda can have an elective C-section (she's much too posh to push!), to baby nurses and everything money can buy.
Then there's environmentalist Jake and his wife Alice who married suddenly after having a quick fling at a wedding. Living with this 'eco-facist' has proved to be very difficult for easy going Alice who is not used to being so environmentally aware. It takes some getting used to sharing bath water, having toilet planters in her front yard or dealing with her worm farm which is filled with anorexic worms!
Hugo learns the hard way that his wife is not cut out for motherhood when he is left to care for their child on his own. When Hugo and Alice meet up again by chance, Alice offers to help Hugo overcome some of his parenting obstacles which leads to a whole other set of issues for these two couples.
My Thoughts: This was a very good and easy read even if the storyline is fairly predictable. Holden made some of her main characters into stereotypes (the career woman who hates kids, the eco-facist ...). At times the characters seem to be stuck in their respective sterotypes a bit too much. Two of the characters (Jake and Amanda) were so maddening and steamrolled over their spouses that I honestly started to hate them. Whether you're a first time dad who can't put a diaper on his own child, to the guilt a new mom faces when constantly being asked "you mean you DON'T make your own organic babyfood??" I think many people will be able to relate to some aspects of the characters (I shudder to think if anyone totally relates to Jake or Amanda!).
My Rating: 3.5/5 (a very good read)
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
I have always had a fondness for a good, moist bran muffin. As a child I felt like I had to hide this hankerin' from other kids because ... what kid loves bran?!?! My Nana loved bran ... but she was old and was supposed to, right?? ;)
Well, I still love bran muffins (and I'm now no longer embarassed to say so!). There's something about a muffin that can still taste good even without any spices added. I do have some stipulations though. I do not like recipes that use Bran cereal as the base. They seem heavy and using wheat bran is just as easy ... and cheaper than using an expensive cereal. I just keep it in a large Ziploc in my freezer and use it as needed.
I also love to add some fruit, dried cranberries or raisins (aka 'nature's candy') for some extra flair. One of my favourite muffins at our local coffee shop is their Blueberry Cranberry Bran. Mmmmm. Maybe next time I'll tweak this recipe to make those!
So, I went on a search for a good, moist bran muffin ... and I found it! I just ate one (ok, maybe two) of my test batch and they are g-o-o-d! One of the reasons Cub doesn't like eating bran muffins with raisins is because sometimes the raisins are too hard or chewy. It's hard pushing 'nature's candy' when they taste and look like petrified brown things. This recipe combats that issue by simmering the raisins in a liquid mixture of brown sugar, lemon juice and water.
Raisin Mixture Ingredients
1 to 1 1/2 cups raisins (I used 1 cup)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup hot water
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice (fresh is best)
3 tbsp butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cup natural wheat bran
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium saucepan, combine raisin mixture ingredients. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow time for it to cool down a bit.
In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, egg and salt. Add the slightly cooled raisin mixture then stir in bran.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Add it to the bran mixture but do not stir. Pour buttermilk over flour mixture and gently fold into the bran mixture until combined. Do not overmix!!!
Pour batter into paper lined muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes.
Makes approximately 18-21 medium-sized muffins.
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Title: Made To Be Broken
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: 2nd book in the Nadia Stafford series
Published: February 2009
Synopsis: Nadia Stafford seems to be a typical Ontario lodge owner to those living in her small town in eastern Ontario. She brought a lot of fodder for the local gossips when they found out that she is an ex-cop who left the force in disgrace years ago. What they don't know is that Nadia (aka Dee) earns some extra money as a hitwoman for a New York mob.
When a local girl and her baby goes missing in the woods no one in Nadia's small town seems to care. They figure the girl was up to no good since she was from a 'no good' family. Everyone seems content to think that she just ran off. The missing girl brings up bad memories for Nadia about a loss she's never gotten over. With the help of her mentor, Jack, she starts to investigate the case and quickly becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened.
My Thoughts: I'm a huge Kelley Armstrong fan (loved her Women of the Underworld series). This Nadia Stafford series is good but doesn't seem to have as much oopmph as her other series. It seemed to take awhile to get going (which I'm not used to when reading a book by Armstrong. Usually you're hooked by page 10!).
I LOVE the fact that Kelley has written the book to be based in Canada and frequently mentions areas like the Kawarthas. Good to show some Canadian pride! I also was intrigued by the 'will they, won't they romance' between two of the characters and it will be interesting to see how that pans out in future books.
I hope that, in the future, Armstrong will put a bit more action in the book. I know that statement seems odd because the book deals with hired killers! The first 2/3 of the book was good but I wanted the storyline to move along at a faster pace. You kind of knew all along why the girl disappeared and I suspected the motive right away. I would have wanted more mystery and plot twists surrounding why this girl and her baby went missing in the woods.
My Rating: 3/5 (aka a good read)
Monday, 1 March 2010
I was perusing through my latest Taste of Home magazine (pg 16 - March/April 2010) and found this recipe that I put on my 'have to try' list. It's like a frozen yogurt pie with an Oreo crust. Very creamy, simple to make and I love that you can prep in in advance if you have company coming. By the way, the picture I used for this posting is from the Taste of Home website. Our family dug into ours before I could get a good picture of it!
This is a nice, mild dessert but for my tastes I prefer a bit more flavour. Next time I'd fold in about 1 cup of frozen fruit to give it some more punch. This is a very versatile recipe and can easily be changed depending on what juice concentrate you decide to use. Strawberries would be great with the Oreo crust ... or what about using orange juice concentrate with small chunks of mandarin oranges?!?!? Mmmm. Orange and chocolate together. Maybe I'll have to make another pie later his week to give it a try ;)
1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 can (11 1/2oz) frozen raspberry juice concentrate, thawed
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, cubed and softened
2 tbsp icing sugar
4 cups whipped topping (I used a whole container) ** thaw it first **
Chocolate curls or grated chocolate for garnish
In a small bowl, combine Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the concentrate, cream cheese and sugar. Cover and process until smooth; pour into a large bowl and fold in whipped topping. Pour over crust. Cover and freeze for 4 hours or until firm.
Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chocolate curls or grated chocolate. Run a knife around the edges of the pan before removing the sides. Freeze leftovers (if you have any!).