B is for Baking

If you happen to feel like eating cake for breakfast but want something healthier than say chocolate whiskey bundt cake, I recommend Oscar’s Applicious Cupcakes from the Sesame Street B is for Baking cookbook. These are great as muffins plain and warm from the oven or for dessert with the frosting (cream cheese, maple syrup, Greek yogurt, and brown sugar). I like that the cupcakes use whole wheat flour, applesauce, and olive oil.

My 3-year-old son, of course, is a big fan of Sesame Street and was so excited when I brought this cookbook home from the library. I was pleasantly surprised by how healthy most of the recipes are and how many of them actually looked really good.

I’m thinking about trying Abby Cadabby’s Disappearing Strawberry Muffins, Rosita’s Beefy Enchilada Pie, Bert’s Sausage Pockets with Tomato Dipping Sauce, Cookie Monster’s Pumpkin Pudding, and okay really I would happily eat everything in the cookbook. I think I am having a Cookie Monster moment.

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I Like Big Bundts

Inspired by The Food Librarian (30 bundts in 30 days!), I decided to make a bundt cake tonight for National Bundt Day. I glanced through all the cookbooks in the house and found a recipe for Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake in Gourmet Today. While my 19-month-old danced around the kitchen, I threw this together and had it cooling by bedtime. Put the kids to bed and then enjoyed the bundt cake by the fire with my husband. We pronounced the cake delicious. The cookbook warns that you should choose a whiskey you enjoy because the flavor really comes through in the cake. They were right. I used Jack Daniels because that’s what we had in the house, but I’m wishing we would have had some of our usual Woodford Reserve bourbon on hand. That would have been even better.

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The Language of Flowers

I want to be Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s friend after reading this today. I still have that Rainer Maria Rilke quote that I wrote out in high school during my obsession with his Letters to a Young Poet, and I still own a very well worn copy of A Little Princess, one of my favorites throughout childhood. Then there’s the fact that Vanessa herself has written an amazing book.

I was able to attend the book heaven that is Book Expo this year and scored a galley of The Language of Flowers, which had me riveted for the entire plane ride home. This is the best book I have read yet this year. But why else should you read this debut novel? Because you need to know how someone can communicate through flowers and how this broken foster girl makes a life for herself out of nothing and because her story is told so well that it will leave you sobbing even at the happy ending. Or maybe that’s just me, but really this is a good book. Look for it on Tuesday!

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Ooey Gooey Brownies

“Who made this chocolate?” asked the 2-year-old, who was happily cramming more brownie into his mouth. I’ll take that as a compliment.

My friend Rachel, who is an awesome librarian and also happens to be vegan, was recently in town and gets the credit for inspiring me to make these vegan brownies. Her visit necessitated a dinner party of course. I am quite omnivorous, but the dinner party was a night of vegan deliciousness. Asparagus with horseradish mayo dip; spicy coleslaw; roasted corn seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and spices; freshly picked greens with strawberries; fingerling potatoes; grilled veggie and marinated tempeh kebobs. So good.

My contribution was the pan of ooey gooey brownies from the Vegan Diner cookbook. Since the recipe only makes an 8×8 pan of brownies, I decided to double it and make them in a 9×13 pan. I knew I’d have to bake them a little longer than the recipe called for, and I think I overbaked them just slightly. Everyone, including my vegan friend, liked them, though.

Since I had to buy a few ingredients I don’t normally have in the house (soy milk, soy yogurt, and non-dairy chocolate chips), I thought I’d use them up a few days later and try making the recipe as called for in the 8×8 pan. Also, I’ve got my staff working on a dreaded project right now, and I promised chocolate as an incentive. I didn’t overbake the brownies the second time around and believe I achieved the proper ooey gooey consistency. The ground coffee and almond extract add a really nice depth and richness to the chocolate too. Recipe officially recommended whether you’re vegan or not.

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Fantabulous Design

Libby VanderPloeg designs fabulous things, including this book and my blog logo. Check out more of her wonderful work on the Paper Statements blog.

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Little Princes

My mother-in-law is heading to Nepal later this month, and I told her she had to read this. You should read it too!

Conor Grennan, a 29-year-old American, decides to quit his job and travel around the world for a year.  In order to seem a bit less self-indulgent (and to impress women), he also adds a short volunteering stint at an orphanage in Nepal to his itinerary.  The brochure mentions there’s a civil war going on there, but they have to be exaggerating, right?

Turns out there really is a civil war, and the children at the orphanage are mostly victims of trafficking rather than actual orphans.  These resilient “orphans” quickly capture Grennan’s heart.  A failed attempt to help some of these kids haunts Grennan after he’s returned to the U.S., and he becomes driven to start a non-profit with a mission to reunite the Nepalese children with their families and to open another orphanage.  His story of how he lives out this mission against all odds, trekking across war-torn, mountainous Nepal with injuries and avoiding Maoist rebels, is heartbreaking, inspiring, and even funny.

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The Apotluckalypse

My department has kitchen duty this month, which means we’re also in charge of planning the monthly birthday potluck. My staff are incredibly creative and very entertaining, and so inspired by the book Apocalypse Cakes, we had The Apotluckalypse! Decoration highlights included the four horsemen of the apocalypse, dangling, google-eyed Mayan calendars, and jello brains. Lots of delicious food from everyone and even a reading of Neil Gaiman’s poem “The Day the Saucers Came.”

Next time you need to plan a potluck, consider taking it to a whole new level…

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