Showing posts with label cookies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cookies. Show all posts

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Christmas on the Island" by Jenny Colgan, Served with Shortbread Dipped in White Chocolate & Candy Cane Sprinkles

Happy Aloha Friday! We are on the downward slope to Christmas and it's the perfect time for a cozy holiday story and a visit to the Island of Mure in Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan. Accompanying my review of the third book in this charming series is an easy tea-time or cookie tray treat, Scottish shortbread, dipped in white chocolate and topped with a sprinkling of crushed candy canes. 


Publisher's Blurb:

On the remote Scottish island of Mure, the Christmas season is stark, windy, and icy—yet incredibly festive and beautiful…

It’s a time for getting cozy in front of whisky barrel wood fires, and enjoying a dram and a treacle pudding with the people you love—unless, of course, you’ve accidentally gotten pregnant by your ex-boss, and don’t know how to tell him. In the season for peace and good cheer, will Flora find the nerve to reveal the truth to her nearest and dearest? Will her erstwhile co-parent Joel think she’s the bearer of glad tidings—or is this Christmas going to be as bleak as the Highlands in midwinter?

Meanwhile Saif, a doctor and refugee from war-torn Syria is trying to enjoy his first western Christmas with his sons on this remote island where he’s been granted asylum. His wife, however, is still missing, and her absence hangs over what should be a joyful celebration. Can the family possibly find comfort and joy without her?

Travel to the beautiful northern edge of the world and join the welcoming community of Mure for a Highland Christmas you’ll never forget!

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 16, 2018)


My Review:

Jenny Colgan books are good for when the world overwhelms and you need a sweet and engaging escape. As this is the third book set on the Scottish island and quirky community of Mure, it is like visiting and catching up with old friends. (That's also why you really should read the first two books before this one--so you can come into Christmas on the Island knowing and appreciating all of the characters and storylines.) In this book, winter and the holidays are ramping up which is keeping Flora and her team at the Seaside Kitchen very busy. Flora finds out she's pregnant (not a spoiler, it's in the publisher's blurb) and is nervous about Joel's reaction with good reason of course as Joel is still recovering from his challenges in the last book while traveling for Colton, and his and Flora's relationship still tenuous. The supporting cast is back with continuations of their stories (I won't go into those as I don't want to give away anything) and although this one does wrap up without any real cliffhanger, it feels open enough to come back for more stories about the community (perhaps a Saif-centered plot line?) which I like.  

Jenny Colgan creates enjoyable, often quirky characters that you can't help but root for and fills her books with both humor and poignant moments. She also fills them with food and includes a few recipes at the end. If you are looking for something not too heavy and a holiday read that will tug at your heartstrings, this is a great book to snuggle up to with a cup of tea and a piece of shortbread or two.

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Author Notes: Jenny Colgan is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Bookshop on the Corner, Little Beach Street Bakery, and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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Food Inspiration: 

Jenny Colgan books usually have plenty of food and with the baked goods and foods that flora creates in the bakery, Fintan's cheeses and food-filled town events in Mure, Christmas on the Island is no exception. Food mentions include cakes, pies, pastries and slices of fruitcake, roast chicken, fish, toast with butter, mincemeat tarts, cheese scones, sandwiches, turnips, sausage rolls, a Cumbrae pinwheel (stuffed pork loin)  and bacon roll with a cranberry jelly, tea, Shepherd pie, gin & tonic, hot soup and a toasted sandwich, mince pies, hot dogs, spice cookies, pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, dusted cinnamon rolls, millionaire shortbread, fish and chips ("haddock and chips with extra crispy bits and plenty of vinegar and a large bottle of Irn Bru"), haggis, a saveloy (type of sausage), mulled wine, orange juice, a plain biscuit, vol-au-vents (puff pastry), porridge, Heinz tomato soup, vegetarian stuffing, chipolatas (sausages), shortbread Drambuie, turkey, red cabbage, bread sauce, venison, fresh vegetable soup, French toast, and shortbread.


I'll be honest here, I was going to make fish cakes or pancakes for my book-inspired dish so I could also work it into I Heart Cooking Clubs monthly dish/ingredient challenge but I taught several leadership classes this week and was tired and behind on everything. The recipes for Lanark Blue Scones and Shortbread in the back of the book caught my eye but I just couldn't bring myself to try to bake. I decided to cheat and buy some Walkers shortbread instead and jazz it up for the holidays with white chocolate and crushed candy canes. 


There isn't much of a recipe here. I just line a small pan with parchment paper, crush 3-4 small candy canes, heat the about 1 cup of good white chocolate chips carefully in the microwave, stirring until melted. I then brush any excess crumbs off of the shortbread pieces, dunk one end in the melted white chocolate and sprinkle the tops with the crushed candy canes. When finished, set the pan in the fridge for 10 minutes or so to harden and enjoy.



Notes/Results: Yes, I am a bit guilty about not actually cooking something to go with the book, but these little cookie treats are so tasty and fun and take such minimum effort that I was over that guilt pretty quickly. The shortbread is so buttery, but the cool flavor of the candy cane sprinkles keep it from being too rich or sweet. They took just minutes to make and set up quickly--ready to enjoy with a cup of tea (it's Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride by Celestial Seasonings in the pictures). I think they would be a fun gift or look cute tucked into a cookie platter. I will happily make them again.


I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Christmas on the Island is my twelfth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the December 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.    


Note: A review copy of "Christmas on the Island" was provided to me by the author and the publisher Harper Collins via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Another Man's Ground" by Claire Booth, Served with a Recipe for Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie

Happy Tuesday! I'm happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for Another Man's Ground by Claire Booth, the second book in a Branson, Missouri-set mystery series. Along with my review, I am sharing a recipe for a sinful Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie, inspired by my reading. 


Publisher's Blurb:

It starts out as an interesting little theft case. Branson, Missouri’s new Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to look at stands of trees that have been stripped of their bark, which the property owner had planned to harvest for the booming herbal supplement market. At first, Hank easily balances the demands of the investigation with his fledgling political career. He was appointed several months earlier to the vacant sheriff position, but he needs to win the fast-approaching election in order to keep his job. He thinks the campaign will go well, as long as he’s able to keep secret the fact that a group of undocumented immigrants – hired to cut down the stripped trees – have fled into the forest and he’s deliberately not looking for them.

But then the discovery of a murder victim deep in the Ozark backwoods sets him in the middle of a generations-old feud that explodes into danger not only for him, but also for the immigrants, his deputies, and his family. He must rush to find a murderer before election day, and protect the vulnerable in Branson County, where politicking is hell and trespassing can get you killed.

In Another Man’s Ground, her next novel featuring Sheriff Hank Worth, acclaimed author Claire Booth delivers a taut, witty mystery that will grip readers from the opening pages to the breathless conclusion.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (July 11, 2017)

My Review:

Last year I reviewed The Branson Beauty, the first book in the series and really liked the main character Sheriff Hank Worth and the Branson Missouri setting, and so I was excited to read Another Man's Ground which takes up shortly after the first book left off. (Note: It is possible to read this book without reading the first book as the author provides an update and the basic back story, but I would recommend reading The Branson Beauty first--it's good, you'll enjoy it, and you'll get to know most of the key players and supporting characters.) In this book, Hank goes to investigate a report of tree bark theft (it's slippery elm that was bringing the owner good money as it was sold to be processed as an herbal supplement) but the investigation takes a turn when a body is discovered on the neighboring property, and the body of a child is discovered soon after. As if the investigations aren't complicated enough, Hank is fighting a recent nemesis for his role of Sheriff--although he was appointed to the role, the coming election will determine whether he keeps his job. If Hank doesn't win, it could be difficult for him to stay in Branson where he and his surgeon wife and kids have come back to live with his recently widowed father-in-law.

Hank is a great character--he is steady, an overall good guy with a great sense of humor, a talented lawman and good boss, husband and father. I like that the two main women in his life, his wife Maggie and his Deputy Sheila are strong women. The supporting characters, especially Hank's team are well-written--even though we don't get to spend much time with many of them. Claire Booth does a good job with writing the cases and the investigations--they seem real and there are enough twists to keep it interesting. I never quite have everything figured out, which I value in a mystery. Although there is a lot going on in the book between the police work for the different cases and Hank's foray into the political arena, it never feels like too much and the pacing is good, especially as the action and tension ramp up to the conclusion. If you like good mysteries, police procedurals, and small town settings, this is a series you will enjoy. I look forward to the third book.   

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Author Notes: Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways.
 
For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit www.clairebooth.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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Food Inspiration:

There is not a focus on food in these books, but there is food to be found--examples include: mentions of sassafras and ginseng, coffee, lasagna, green beans and vegetables, tri-tip steak, granola bars, a luncheon with dry chicken and limp salad, iced tea, soda, a peanut butter sandwich, a Ruben sandwich, bacon, cereal, biscuits and gravy, homemade raisin bread, tossed salad, ham and cheese sandwich, chocolate chip cookies and grape soda, pork chops, cookies, carnitas, chile verde, beef jerky, a Sonic burger, candy bar wrappers, a Snickers bar, iced raspberry Danish, protein bars, and lemonade. 


For my review of the first book, The Branson Beauty, I made a vegan version of the Pecan Delight candies that Hank loves. I was going to go another direction for this book but I kept coming back to those candies and thinking about how I could do something different with the ingredients. I thought about a milkshake or ice cream but then I thought about a Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie


When I was growing up, I used to melt ice cream and stir in sprinkles and put it in a pie plate--calling it ice cream pie. This is a few steps up from that with a Pecan Sandie cookie shortbread crust, chocolate ice cream, caramel, toasted pecans and chocolate drizzle. Rather than make a large pie, I made 4 small pies in my mini tart pans.  


Pecan Delight Ice Cream Pie
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 4 Individual Tarts or 1 9-inch Pie)

Crust:
1 1/2 cups of Pecan Sandies cookie crumbs (about 14 cookies
2 Tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter

Filling & Garnish:
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and separated for filling & garnish
5 cups chocolate ice cream, softened enough to be stir-able
1/3 cup caramel ice cream sauce + extra for garnish
1 cup whipped cream
chocolate sauce or melted chocolate to drizzle

To Make Crust: In a small bowl, mix together Pecan Sandies crumbs, sugar and salt and add the melted butter. Stir to combine well. Press mixture evenly into (lightly greased) pie tin or mini tart tins--making sure the bottom and sides are covered with a thin layer of the cookie mixture and chill for 1 hour before using.

To Make Filling: Reserve about 20 or so of the best-looking pecan halves for garnish and chop the rest. Put the softened ice cream into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the chopped pecans and caramel until well mixed. 

To Assemble Pie: Spread the topping evenly on the chilled crust. Freeze pie for 2 to 3 hours before serving. When read to serve, top pie with whipped cream and reserved pecans and drizzle with the caramel sauce and chocolate sauce or melted chocolate if desired. Enjoy!


Notes/Results: I am not going to claim that this is the prettiest pie, but it is decadent and delicious between the Pecan Sandies in crust, the caramel topping, chocolate ice cream, pecans and chocolate drizzle. I should have been a bit more patient with my crusts and pressed them down so that they were thinner--so I could have fit more ice cream in them, but overall, I am pretty happy with the flavors in this and how it turned out. They are pretty rich--I could only eat half of one but I am happy to keep the rest in the freezer and pull them out when a craving strikes. I would happily make them again--especially the crust which was delectable.


I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

 
Note: A review copy of "Another Man's Ground" was provided to me by the publisher Minotaur Books and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Searching for John Hughes" by Jason Diamond, Served Up with Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
-Ferris Bueller's Day Off

So, take a minute and stop and look around this post because you won't want to miss today's TLC Book Tour review of Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know About Life, I Learned From Watching '80s Movies, a memoir by Jason Diamond. And you especially won't want to miss the recipe I have paired with this book, Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding.  


Publisher's Blurb:

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir.

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story.

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (Nov. 29, 2016)

"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all." 
-Andrew, The Breakfast Club

My Review: 

It's pretty impossible not to have been entertained, influenced, or both by the movies of John Hughes if you fall into the Generation X world and even if you are younger or older and don't immediately recognize the name, you are bound to recognize many of the titles from his teen films--Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Pretty in Pink and his many other movies such as Mr. Mom, National Lampoon's Vacation and Christmas Vacation, Uncle Buck, the Home Alone series, Miracle on 34th Street, 101 Dalmatians, Planes, Trains and Automobiles... the list goes on and on. I walked into my local coffee house carrying this book and my favorite barista asked me what it was about. As I explained it was the memoir of a writer who was trying to write a book about the filmmaker John Hughes, she wrinkled her (barely 21-year-old) nose and said, "I have no idea who that is!" It only took about three movie names for her to decide that she loved John Hughes's movies. But, as much as I could go on and on with my fondness for Hughes and his films over the years and I begin to quote good sections of them, this book is definitely not a Hughes biography--instead it's the coming-of-age story of writer/editor Jason Diamond, in which his obsession with Hughes's movies and the man behind them shaped his life

If you took time to read the Publisher's Blurb about the book, I want to object to the fact that they called this a "hilarious memoir." It has funny moments for sure but for me, Jason Diamond's story leans firmly to the poignant side rather than the funny. This guy had a pretty crappy childhood with two people who did not deserve to have children. His father was both physically and mentally abusive and although his mother did gain custody of him and stop the visits with his father, she was distant, refused to speak to him as punishment, and ended up moving away and leaving him virtually homeless and hanging out in diners all night or sleeping in friend's closets and on couches while he was in high school. Diamond used John Hughes movies as a way of escaping, relating to their suburban Chicago backdrops and tending to identify with the more quirky and misfit characters in the films. "I wanted to live in a John Hughes film. I wanted everything to turn out just right, and I wanted to feel as though no matter what, if my parents forgot my birthday or if a principal was trying to hold me back, that everything would be fine."  Ultimately his English teacher gives him a place to live and helps instill in him a love of books, reading, and writing. Later, Diamond leaves Chicago for New York, intending on becoming a writer and comes up with a plan to write a biography about Hughes, a process he spends years on that while not resulting in the book he planned, helps him sort and clarify his life and do some growing up. 

Although I signed up for this tour mainly for the John Hughes angle and the humor, I found myself pulled in and often deeply touched by Diamond's story. There are enough quotes, stories, and facts about John Hughes, his films and the complicated man that he was to keep me entertained, along with firmly rooting for Diamond to stop writing what was sounding like the worst biography ever and find his way. Even when bogged down with depression and struggling to get by, Diamond preservers and there is a good message in that. A great book if you grew up in the '80s and '90s and are a fan of John Hughes work, but also just a good, touching (but with some humor) and relatable memoir overall.
 
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Author Notes: Jason Diamond is the sports editor at Rollingstone.com and founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn. His work has been published by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Vulture, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Pitchfork, Esquire, Vice and many other outlets. He was born in Skokie, Illinois, but currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, his two cats and his dog named Max.

Find out more about Jason at his website, and connect with him on Instagram and Twitter.

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There is some food in Searching for John Hughes, including a depressed Jason Diamond teaching himself to cook from old cookbooks, but I found my inspiration for my book-inspired dish within the first dozen pages. When we first meet Diamond, he is the "cupcake bouncer" who guards the door and monitors the line at the Magnolia Bakery in New York. A Sex and the City episode in 2000, made the bakery a popular destination for visitors looking for cupcakes like Miranda and Carrie ate in a scene filmed in front of the store. Having stopped there myself for a brief SATC pilgrimage in 2008, and being pretty unimpressed with their cupcakes (sorry to any fans), when a branch opened in the Ala Moana Shopping Mall here, I felt no urgency to visit--but a friend gave me a container of their banana pudding and I will admit, it was damn good pudding!


The Magnolia Bakery banana pudding scene takes place when Diamond runs into an old classmate and makes up a lie about working there to write an article on cupcakes and why people wait in line for a cupcake they could easily make at home and he is feeling depressed and bitter about his life. 

"As I boarded the already crowded L train at its starting 8th Avenue stop, I looked down at the pint of banana pudding I'd taken with me and all I could think about was how if John Hughes had written this scene, things probably would have gone a lot differently. That was usually how I comforted myself, but it wasn't really working this time. I started spooning the banana pudding into my mouth as the train pulled out of the station. Within five minutes, thanks to a sudden stop and a passenger's bag hitting me at the same second, I was covered in the stuff. Best night ever."
-Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond


Turns out that the Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding recipe is in their cookbook and a bunch of places online and it pretty much is only 5 store-bought ingredients + water. It takes minimal effort and some chilling and setting time to get this popular bakery treat at home.  


Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding
From Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, via PopSugar.com
(Makes 12 Servings)

1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 (12-oz) box vanilla wafers
4 bananas, sliced

Mix together the water, pudding mix, and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight until it sets up.

Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Working in thirds, fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until well incorporated.

In a trifle bowl, layer vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and pudding mixture; continue until you've used up all the pudding mixture. Refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes before serving.


Notes/Results: This will win no awards in the healthy-eating department but it is quite delicious--light and creamy pudding, the vanilla wafers softening to a cake-like consistency and the bites of juicy, ripe bananas--you can see why its their top selling item. They even have a chocolate version, although I think the original appeals (slight banana pun intended) more. I looked up the prices online--at least here in Hawaii, a small serving is $3.75, medium $5.50, large $6.75, and single bowl that serves 10 is $38.00. So, making it at home is a bargain (even if heavy cream is expensive, like it is here), especially if you catch sales on the ingredients. I made a couple of individual portions and put the rest in a glass bowl/pitcher. I didn't top the larger bowl yet as I need to find it a home so it doesn't live on my hips. ;-) Someday maybe I will attempt a vegan version but heck, I will probably just make this recipe again when I need some pudding comfort and indulgence. 


I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

 
Note: A review copy of "Searching for John Hughes" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "How To Bake a Man" by Jessica Barksdale Inclán Served with Nut Butter Cereal Crispies (No-Bake Cookies)

The office candy dish, morning meeting pastries, and the occasional cake for birthday celebrations are hard enough to resist--imagine if someone came by your office twice a day with a cart piled high with delectable homemade baked goods. It might be a recipe for some extra pounds, but it's also Rebecca Muchmore's idea for a small business so she drops out of grad school to start Becca's Best. How To Bake a Man is a funny food-filled novel by Jessica Barksdale Inclán and a review is being served up along with some no-bake Nut Butter Cereal Crispies as part of this TLC Book Tour.   


Publisher's Blurb:

When 27-year-old Becca Muchmore drops out of grad school, all she has left to fall back on is her baking. Ignoring her mother’s usual barrage of disapproval and disappointment, she decides to start a small business hand-delivering her wares. A friend introduces her to an office of hungry lawyers, who agree to give her a try. Her lizard-booted neighbor Sal is happy to help out when he can, and almost before she knows it, Becca’s Best is up and running. 

Before she can settle into a routine, things get complicated. The office ogress could easily be Becca’s sister and has absolutely no patience with cookies or other frivolities. Even worse, her boyfriend is the man of Becca’s dreams – kind, funny, successful, and brain-meltingly gorgeous. As the dark undercurrents threaten to pull her down, Becca swiftly finds herself neck-deep in office politics, clandestine romance, and flour. Saving her business (and finding true love) is going to take everything she’s got, and more.

Packed with charm, sparkling humor, and a genuinely unforgettable cast, this delicious tale of a woman struggling to find her path might just be Jessica Barksdale Inclán’s finest novel to date.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Ghostwoods Books (October 21, 2014)

This is definitely a chick lit book for food lovers with a sweet tooth--it is fun and as light and fluffy as an angel food cake. It will also make you crave a chocolate chip cookie, blueberry muffin, cinnamon roll or a slice of rum cake--maybe even all of them at once. I had not read anything by Jessica Barkdale Inclán before, but it is clear she writes food really well--each chapter starts with a recipe description that made me hungry, even for baked goods that aren't particular favorites of mine like gingerbread and cheesecake. (Many of these recipes can be found at the back of the book.) It did take me a while to warm up to the main character Becca--for a 27-year-old, I thought she lacked maturity and was quite the drama queen. At times it was amusing, at times her all-about-me-all-the-time focus got a bit old. More likable right away were the male leads--Jeff, the handsome attorney boyfriend of Jennifer, Becca's evil-acting doppelganger, and Sal, Becca's supportive and funny neighbor. Becca does grow through the book and her character becomes more appealing as she does (plus, you have to like someone who makes magic in the kitchen and takes the time to give her leftover products to the homeless each day). A quick and entertaining read--chick lit fans, lovers of foodie fiction, romance readers, and those looking for a cute story that comes with some mouthwatering recipes will enjoy this book.


Author Notes: Jessica Barksdale Inclan is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including the best-selling Her Daughter’s EyesThe Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. She has also published several ebooks and a women’s studies textbook, Diverse Voices of Women. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Czech. Inclán teaches composition, creative writing, mythology, and women’s literature at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, and online novel writing courses for UCLA Extension. Find out more about Jessica at her website, jessicabarksdaleinclan.com.

There are of course plenty of delectable baked goods mentioned in the book--all manner of cookies, sweet and savory muffins, brownies, pie, bread, and cake. There are sixteen recipes in the back of the book, tried and tested by the author and her family. There are even a few non-baked goods food mentions--spaghetti, hamburger casserole, oysters, arugula and pecorino salad,  but, I really wanted to make something sweet and cookie-like. My challenge--I am currently ovenless. It hasn't been great for baking for a few months now, but it totally went out recently and I have yet to get in gear and get a replacement.  Since no oven = no bake, I decided to go with a batch of my favorite no-bake Nut Butter Crispies.


These cookie treats are quickly made in one bowl and full of goodies, so although they are actually pretty healthy in terms of ingredients, they taste like they should be bad for you which I like. They are also very adaptable to whatever you have on hand. I love using puffed millet for the crispy texture but I subbed in an easier-to-find brown crispy rice cereal instead. Can't have nuts? Use sunflower butter or soy 'peanut' butter and swap the almonds out for sunflower seeds. Want them vegan? Use agave instead of honey and vegan chips. Gluten-free? Use gluten-free oats and chocolate chips. Add coconut, chopped mac nuts, and dried mango or pineapple to give them a tropical feel. I make these a lot for cooking classes and demos and they are always a crowd pleaser. So I suppose they are an easy way for how to no-bake a man! ;-)


Nut Butter Cereal Crispies (No-Bake Cookies)
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 18) 

1/2 cup rolled / old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup crispy brown rice cereal, or puffed millet cereal
1/3 cup dried fruit pieces (I used cranberries)
1/3 cup dark chocolate mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup sliced almonds or other nuts
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp seeds (or ground flax seeds, or wheat germ)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups natural peanut butter or nut butter of your choice) + more if needed (I used peanut butter and almond butter)
1/3 cup honey or agave (eye it, it's easier than messing with a measuring cup) + more if needed
.


In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla extract, nut butter, and honey and mix thoroughly. 

(Mixing Note: You can start mixing these with a big heavy spoon but you'll probably need to get down and dirty and use your hands towards the end to get everything mixed together. Nut butters vary in consistency, the mixture should be a “moldable” texture and not too crumbly--add extra peanut butter or honey if needed to get it to the right texture. You can also heat the nut butter and honey if it is too crumbly to mix well--just make sure to let the mixture cool before adding the mini chips or they will melt. If mixture is too 'wet'--add extra oats.)

Shape mixture into small balls with your hands and place on a wax paper lin
ed cookie sheets. With your palm, flatten each ball slightly into a disk shape. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to firm.

Keep stored in an airtight container in fridge.

Nutritional Info: Per 1 Crispie: calories 145; total fat 9.8g; saturated fat 1g; carbs 10.6g; sodium 10 mg; sugars 5.8g; fiber 3g; protein 4.8g.
 

Notes/Results: Like a peanut buttery-rice crispy crunch, these are fun little treats best enjoyed right out of the fridge as they hold their shape best when chilled. They have a good texture--chewy, crisp and creamy. You can use any combination of dried fruit, nut butter and healthy grain cereal you like. Using freshly ground nut butters rather than jarred brands reduces the sugar and sodium counts. These are rich enough that one or two are very satisfying. I will make them again. 


Note: A review copy of "How To Bake a Man" was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

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