Time for Cranberries!

Next week Thursday is Thanksgiving.  We tend to associate cranberries with Thanksgiving and they do make a wonderful accompaniment to the turkey, potatoes and stuffing, but the tart fruit is delicious any time of year. Wende and Harry Devlin, authors of the charming Cranberry picture books starting with Cranberry Thanksgiving in 1971 all the way through to Cranberry Easter in 1993, seem to agree as each story has a cranberry recipe at the end (except for Cranberry Birthday because cranberries are out of season when Mr. Whisker’s birthday comes around).

Try one today!

Cranberry Autumn                  Cranberry Squares
Cranberry Birthday                  Strawberry Birthday Cake
Cranberry Christmas               Cranberry Cookies
Cranberry Easter                    Cranberry Cobbler
Cranberry Halloween               Cranberry Dessert
Cranberry Mystery                   Cranberry Pie-Pudding
Cranberry Summer                  Cranberry Punch
Cranberry Thanksgiving           Cranberry Bread
Cranberry Valentine                 Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

Happy reading and happy eating!

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A Fine Dessert: Blackberry Fool

What is a fool?  According to the Joy of Baking website (http://www.joyofbaking.com/EnglishFruitFool.html#ixzz3rVLWuwea), a fool is “a delicious mixture of lightly sweetened fruit that has been pureed and then haphazardly folded into whipped cream.”  The word fool derives from the French word “fouler” which means “to mash” or “to press” because the berries are mashed and pressed through a sieve to remove all the seeds.

The recent picture book, A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackwell highlights the changes in technology as four families over four centuries prepare this dessert and offers readers a recipe for making their own fool.

Blackberry Fool is simple, but tedious to make. The fruit, traditionally gooseberries according to what I have read, but in this case blackberries is pressed through a sieve, mixed with sugar then folded into whipped cream.

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The end result? Like the title says: fine. Tasty, but not really worth the effort, in my opinion. Not much on it’s own, just a fruit-flavored whipped cream.  I think it would be better mixed with whole fruits in a crepe or a parfait as an upscale whipped cream.  

If you make this dessert yourself, be sure to serve it the same day; it does not keep well.

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Happy Fall!

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‘Tis the season for apples and pumpkins and all things fall.  A humorous story for this time of year is Pumpkin Hill by Elizabeth Spurr.  When a farmer and his wife cannot decide on what crop to grow, a lone pumpkin spreads its seeds until years later, the side of the hill is covered in pumpkins, which leads to a pumpkin avalanche that inundates the town and causes the mayor to declare, “No more pumpkins!”

Includes instructions for growing your own pumpkins and how to roast pumpkin seeds for a “nourishing nibble.”

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I’ve been nudged!

This blog has lain dormant for almost two years.  Why?  No good reason except that I have found other interests that have captured most of my time.  (Genealogy, anyone?)  But today I was called out for my lack of attention to this blog, so here I am.

Today I present you with a recipe found in a children’s classic, Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang by Ian Fleming.  I have not made this recipe as I have been searching for a conversion for unsweetened chocolate, which comes in 1 ounce blocks and is measured by weight, not volume.  Well, according to Cardamommy’s blog Fleming meant cocoa powder, which is measured by volume.

Monsieur Bon-Bon’s Secret “Fooj”
1 lb granulated sugar
1 small can evaporated milk
1/4 lb finest butter
1 tablespoonful water
1 tablespoonful corn sirup
4 tablespoonfuls unsweetened chocolate

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan.  Melt slowly on a low gas until the mixture thickens slightly and is absolutely smooth. Turn up gas and boil very quickly until it forms into a soft ball when a sample is dropped into cold water.  Remove from heat and beat well with a wooden spoon.  Pour the whole mixture into a flat, greased pan, mark in squares, and leave to set. When cold, DEVOUR!

And for comparison, I give you my Grandma’s fudge recipe.  I have fond memories of my family receiving a pan of fudge every year at Christmas.  I have tried making Grandma’s recipe without success.  If anybody wants to attempt it and let me know the secret, I’d love to hear from you.

Grandma's (Lillian) Fudge

Happy reading and happy eating!

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ALA 2013

This year’s annual American Library Association conference was held in Chicago, so I took myself down to McCormick Place for three days to wander the exhibit halls, scope out all the new books, meet some authors and get some books signed.  I don’t know how anybody can find time to actually attend meetings and workshops because the exhibit hall itself is a full-time undertaking with over 800 exhibitors and over 300 authors on hand to sign their books.  Sourcebooks gave away a T-shirt that I sadly didn’t get that said “Authors are My Rock Stars.”  And this really sums up how all the librarians, teachers and other book lovers who crowded the exhibit hall and stood in long lines for photos and autographs felt.  It was so much fun going from booth to booth, talking to people who feel the same excitement you do about books.  As Anne Shirley of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series might have said, they were all “kindred spirits.”

The biggest highlight for me was getting to meet the authors and get my books signed.  I met Katherine Patterson, Kirby Larson, Brian Selznick, Blue Balliett, Jerry Pinkney, Brandon Mull (for my son) and Ally Carter (for my niece) and more.

Some of the authors I met at ALA 2013

Some of the authors I met at ALA 2013

Another exciting perk is the abundance of free books; some people seemed to indiscriminately take anything that was offered, but I tried to control myself and only take what I knew I or others in my family would read.  There seemed to be quite a few YA books on offer compared with books for other age levels.   And what do you do with all these free books once you have them?  You put them in the free tote bags offered by the publishers and other vendors.  The most coveted bags seemed to be the Ingram bags (because of its size) and the bags from Baker & Taylor, National Geographic, Kids Can Press and Capstone because of the cool designs.  If you didn’t make it to the booth first thing in the morning when the exhibits opened, you were out of luck.

Other highlights: the Cooking Stage where authors prepared recipes from their cookbooks–and then gave away signed copies of the books.  I got Indian Cooking Unfolded and Put ’em Up: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook.   Another session at the Cooking Stage had Amy Alessio, a local librarian (and vintage cookbook collector) talking about food fiction–exactly the kind of book I like to read.  She mentioned many of the the series I have read and introduced me to several more.  Luckily, she works at the public library one town over from me so when I run out of things to read I can go pick her brain.

Finally, I came home with three books that fit the parameters of this blog that I will be talking about in a future post.

I leave you with a vintage recipe shared by Amy Alessio:

Maple Apple Doughnuts
1 Gala apple cut in small pieces
2 C flour
3/4 C brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 beaten eggs
3/4 C milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Bake at 325F in baked doughnut pan for 10 minutes or until tops spring back to touch.

Happy reading and happy eating!

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Happy Easter!

This Little Bunny Can Bake

Today we celebrated Easter with the family and had a lovely day.  Even the weather cooperated!  And although the oldest grandchildren are nearly 21 years old they protested quite loudly when Grandma suggested ending the annual Easter Egg Hunt.  Since Grandma still enjoys preparing the hunt and the kids love searching, the tradition continues, but with a slight twist this year: instead of a treat, one of the eggs had a chore that needed to be done.  After a great deal of laughter, most of the kids were good sports and did their part by setting the table or helping with the dishes.  A few snuck out without following through, but Grandma knows who they are!

In honor of chocolate bunnies I thought I’d share This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein.  Little Bunny is not an Easter Bunny and he doesn’t deliver eggs, but he sure can bake!  And a lot of what he bakes involves chocolate, which is an Easter favorite.  Recipes adorn the endpapers.  Check it out if you are interested in making any of the following:

Frozen Banana Pops
Milk Chocolate Truffles
Petit Cream Cheese Tarts
Chocolate Salami
Crunchy Rice Pistachio Bricks
Crazy Coconut Lime Macaroons
Incredible Crepes

 

Happy reading and happy eating!

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The Winter That Wasn’t

So far this winter has really been the winter that wasn’t.  The Chicago area did not get its first one inch snowfall until this past Friday.  We went an incredible 335 days between one inch snowfalls.  And today it’s 60 degrees!

I’m not ready to say winter is over; I’ve witnessed flurries in May.  However, I won’t be sad if we don’t get any big accumulations.  I am OK with rain; I know the farmers need the precipitation, but I don’t have to shovel rain.

I would like snow better if I didn’t have to shovel it or drive in it.  If I could stay home with a book and a cup of hot cocoa and admire the glistening snowflakes through my window, I’d be fine with it.  But alas, that is not usually the case.

But in the spirit of admiring the snow through the window, I offer two cozy winter stories:

Uncle Phil’s Diner by Helena Clare Pittman tells the story of a cold, snowy Sunday morning when Ruthie and her father undertake the ten block walk to Uncle Phil’s diner.  As they walk they try to keep their mind off the cold by reminiscing about the fun they had over the summer and sing in anticipation of the yummy treats (including blueberry pancakes with blueberries they picked and preserved themselves the previous summer) that await them at the diner.  Includes the recipe for Uncle Phil’s Blueberry Pancakes.

Soup Day by Melissa Iwai tells the story of a little girl and her mother making soup from the visit to the market to buy the vegetables to sprinkling it with parsley at the table as they prepare to eat it.  Includes the recipe for Snowy Day Vegetable Soup.

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