Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In The Garden of Beasts

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

After reading this book, I want to read Larson's other books.  My only complaint about In The Garden of Beasts was that the pace was just a little too slow for me at times.  I was tempted to skim chapters and breeze through lengthy descriptions.  That being said, I feel as though I learned a lot and believe I could gleam more and more each time I read it again.  Very interesting read.

Book description from Amazon:

Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance--and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

“Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes.”—New York Times Book Review

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

At Home in Mitford

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

This is a light read about the day-to-day life in the town of Mitford; the first book in a series called The Mitford Years. From the reviews I've gotten from friends of mine, it seems that after reading book 1, you will either abandon the series or continue to read each and every one.

Book description from Amazon:

A heartwarming portrait of the mysteries and miracles of everyday life in a small town introduces the charming North Carolina town of Mitford and its colorful inhabitants, including Tim, a bachelor rector, who is falling in love with his neighbor.

Monday, December 19, 2011

3 Christmas Cookie Favorites

3 Christmas Cookie Favorites

I love baking at Christmas.  Love.  And if you haven't gotten around to it yet, there is still time.  Try one of these three... they are some of my favorites.  And they are all very easy (although, be warned, cut-out cookies are always the most time-consuming...

Mimi's Butter Cookies

Chinese Almond Cookies

Peanut Blossom Cookies

Friday, December 16, 2011

Honey Glazed Ham

Honey Glazed Ham

Serves 15.

Who needs to pay for Honey Baked Ham when you can make it yourself? Plus, you can make this up to two days ahead of time and save yourself the fuss of preparing on Christmas day.  Leftovers are wonderful too.
Adapted from: AllRecipes

1 (8 pound) ready-to-eat ham, presliced
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. honey
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place ham in foil lined pan.

In the top half of a double boiler, heat the brown sugar, ground gloves, honey and butter. Keep glaze warm while baking ham.

Brush glaze over ham, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Baste ham every 10 to 15 minutes with the honey glaze. During the last 4 to 5 minutes of baking, turn on broiler to caramelize the glaze.

Remove from oven, and let sit a few minutes before serving.

A Note From The Little Lady: Double check baking times with suggested directions on your ham, and make adjustments as needed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Christmas List

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

Looking for a quick seasonal read?  Here you go. It's no award-winner, but it's an easy read and all about Christmastime.

Amazon book description:

Dear Reader,  
When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, gave our class the intriguing (if somewhat macabre) assignment of writing our own obituaries. Oddly, I don't remember much of what I wrote about my life, but I do remember how I died: in first place on the final lap of the Daytona 500. At the time, I hadn't considered writing as an occupation, a field with a remarkably low on-the-job casualty rate.
What intrigues me most about Mrs. Johnson's assignment is the opportunity she gave us to confront our own legacy. How do we want to be remembered? That question has motivated our species since the beginning of time: from building pyramids to putting our names on skyscrapers.
As I began to write this book, I had two objectives: First, I wanted to explore what could happen if someone read their obituary before they died and saw, firsthand, what the world really thought of them. Their legacy.
Second, I wanted to write a Christmas story of true redemption. One of my family's holiday traditions is to see a local production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. I don't know how many times I've seen it (perhaps a dozen), but it still thrills me to see the change that comes over Ebenezer Scrooge as he transforms from a dull, tight-fisted miser into a penitent, "giddy-as-aschoolboy" man with love in his heart. I always leave the show with a smile on my face and a resolve to be a better person. That's what I wanted to share with you, my dear readers, this Christmas -- a holiday tale to warm your season, your homes, and your hearts.
Merry Christmas --Richard Paul Evans

Monday, December 12, 2011

Buttermilk Pancakes

Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes a ton... probably about 4-5 dozen?

Looking for something to make Christmas morning?  How about some deliciously traditional buttermilk pancakes?  Serve with butter and syrup, obviously, but also some powdered sugar... that's what I like.  :)
Source: AllRecipes

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, eggs and melted butter. Keep the two mixtures separate until you are ready to cook.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. You can flick water across the surface and if it beads up and sizzles, it's ready!

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or fork to blend. Stir until it's just blended together. Do not over stir! Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/2 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

A Note From The Little Lady: You can easily add chocolate chips or blueberries to these pancakes; just drop into batter after you've poured it onto the skillet.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Serves 8-10.

The reviews for this cake on All Recipes are great.  It went over well at The Mister's grandmother's birthday party.  I, personally, thought the cake part was a little too dry.  How to fix that?  I'm not sure.  Any ideas? 
Slightly adapted from: AllRecipes

1/2 stick butter
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
8 maraschino cherries
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain pineapple and reserve 1/2 cup of the juice.

Melt butter in a 9" round pan. Arrange cherries in the pan according to how many servings you want. Sprinkle with brown sugar, and then pineapple.

Cream together shortening and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add alternately with reserved pineapple syrup, beating after each addition.

Spread batter in pan over pineapple. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto plate. Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pasta with Marinara, Veggies, and Chicken

Pasta with Marinara, Veggies, and Chicken

Serves 4-6.

Here's an easy meal for you.  It takes your grocery store's fast fixes (boxed pasta and jarred marinara), combines them with a few fresh favorites (chicken breasts and veggies), and wa-lah! dinner!

1 box penne pasta
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 jar your favorite marinara sauce
Olive oil
One small zucchini, chopped
One tomato, chopped
1/2 c. shredded carrots
One green bell pepper, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a saucepan, cook veggies in a few teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Add marinara sauce and heat through.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook chicken breasts in a few teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat until no longer pink in the middle, flipping halfway through.  Remove chicken breasts when fully cooked and set aside.

Transfer cooked and drained pasta to bowls, top with marinara/veggie mixture, and lastly top with sliced chicken breasts.  Serve with garlic bread.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen.

I must've been in a Thanksgiving coma last week.  Sorry for the lack of posts!

I was trying to find a cookie recipe that could be made dairy-free, hence the shortening.  I don't typically bake with shortening (besides these amazingly amazing cookies), but these turned out great!  The whole batch was devoured.
Source: AllRecipes

1 cup shortening
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or 1/2 chocolate chips and 1/2 raisins, as shown in photo)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In a large bowl cream shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add eggs and mix thoroughly.
Combine the baking soda, salt and flour and stir into creamed mixture
Add oatmeal and chocolate chips and stir until well blended.
***If you want 1/2 half the batch to be oatmeal raisin, split dough before adding chocolate chips and add 1 cup raisins to one of the haves, decreasing chips to 1 cup as well.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.