Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Friday, November 28, 2014

Foodie Friday: Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake

It has been a seriously long time since I posted any thing up here for a 'Foodie Friday' and this week I  thought that the turning of the seasons and all the upcoming Christmas preparations would be the perfect time to change all that!

If cranberries are something that are relegated to your Thanksgiving table then its time to change that too! Bring the Cranberries to the front and center of your holiday dessert table with this delicious Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake!

One of my favorite fruits are cranberries so I was really excited to find and get to try this recipe. I was happy to find this recipe really works- the cake is dense and moist with a tender crumb, the top layer of cranberries is bright and flavorful without being overpowering or soggy, and the cranberry jam that sandwiches in between the layers is sticky and sweet and richly red- the whole thing just begs to be eaten! Top it off with a dollop of freshly whipped ginger cream and you have a sure winner!

This recipe was originally found over on Food52's blog but I thought the instructions were very poorly written and confusing so I will be sharing my rewritten version here instead. I hope you enjoy both the process and the final product as much as me and my family did!

Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake

For the jam filling

1 cup cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 T. fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves

In a small heavy bottomed saucepan combine all the ingredients
and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently. When mixture boils the berries will begin to pop their skins, and the mixture will gradually thicken. Once the berries are all fairly mashed and the mixture is thick remove from the heat and add the raspberry jam. Stir to combine and set aside in the fridge for later.

For the cake

2 cups AP flour (all-purpose)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

6 T. sugar
6 T. water
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts
3 T. candied ginger, chopped fine

1 cup butter, soft
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease (with crisco) and flour two 9 inch round baking tins and set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set to the side.

Combine the 6 tablespoons each of sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil stirring constantly. When the mixture boils remove it from the heat and pour it evenly over the bottom of one of the prepared cake pans being careful not to touch the hot mixture and to spread it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the sugar syrup evenly with the cranberries, then the nuts and ginger and smooth as necessary. Set aside.

In a stand mixer or with a hand beater mix the 1 cup of butter with the brown sugar. Beat this on medium speed for 3 minutes, the mixture will be light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.
Reduce speed and add 1/2 of the dry ingredients mixing until just combined. Add the milk and beat till combined and then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix till just combined. The batter will be thick.

Spoon about half of the cake batter over the top of the prepared cranberries and nuts pan and half into the second plain cake pan. The pan with the cranberries will take a bit less  batter as it has fruit in it already, just add this to the other pan, they don't have to be exactly even. Smooth the tops with a spatula and then give the pans a firm couple of taps on the counter top to settle the batter down into the pans.

Bake for 40 minutes carefully rotating the pans halfway through so they bake evenly. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, (remember though that the cranberry pan will be wetter so test the plain cake first). When the cakes come out of the oven, use a blunt knife to loosen the sides of both cakes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. After that time loosen the cakes again and turn out the plain cake onto the cooling rack. Invert the cranberry cake onto a plate and leave the pan in place for another 10 minutes before removing.  Cool both cakes to room temperature.

Assemble the cake by arranging the plain cake on a cake plate. Cover well with the cranberry-raspberry jam pushing it just to the edges (there should be a bit of jam leftover). With both hands, or two large spatulas carefully lift the cranberry cake off of its plate and on to the top of the jam layer with the cranberries facing up.

For the ginger cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger

Combine the cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, and ginger in a mixing bowl and whip for 3-4 minutes until medium peaks form. Taste and check the strength of the ginger- add more to suit your tastes. Serve dollops of cream with slices of the cake.


Friday, October 17, 2014

The Art of Book Publishing

Hello everyone! It's been a while since I had anything other than book reviews posting up here but rest assured, I have some stuff in the works for the coming weeks and months that I'm eager to share!

In the mean time, I saw this really great posting over on Bethany House Publishers blog that I wanted to quickly share because I thought it was soooo cool!

cr.From BHP's blog!
Have you ever wondered about how a book gets printed? Well I have! In this quick post from one of Bethany's own editors Amy Green (whom I've had the pleasure of corresponding with before), you will get a sneak peak in on that process!

I have to admit that that stack of covers sting there and waiting to be cut and bound is like the coolest thing ever and just gives me tingles all over! Ahhh! Books just give you the best kind of feelings don't they??

I have to admit that I can't wait for that book to hit the shelves (or to show up in my review options!) but in the mean time head over to BHP's blog and check out the full article! 

Book Review: Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing

Chronic illness. Chronic pain. Debilitation. Paralysis.

These are hard words. Hard words that no one wants to hear. Words that sometimes we hear anyway when we want to hear words of hope instead.

This book, "Beyond Bethesda" by Joni Earekson Tada is a devotional book of hope. This slim padded volume has 31 daily entries meant to be read over the course of a month and are geared to lead the hurting towards a deep healing from the only one who can truly heal, who can truly understand, Jesus.

Each entry is about 3-4 pages long and can be read in about 5 minutes time. Coupled with prayer and meditation these bite sized pieces of daily bread are perfect for a morning reading! In preparation for this review I was reading several a morning but I really longed to be able to spend some more time and linger as I read through these entries. After a year of chaos in my life, and nearly 21 years on my own journey of chronic pain that is a day by day progression, I can tell you the passing days of pain can numb you, can make you feel that nothing will ever be different than it is now- or will perhaps be worse in the future. That is not the case. Reading Joni's words were- refreshing- and much needed. Joni begins your journey beside the titular pool of healing water- the pool of Bethesda and is a gentle but authoritative guide as she steers the troubled into calmer mental waters.

There were a number of entries that really called out to me throughout the course of the book but one of my favorites has to be Day 9 "The Day's First Battle" which is about connecting with the Lord in prayer before your feet even hit the floor. It was immensely encouraging to me that someone else deals with the same feelings that I do, that same unwillingness when in pain- or stressed, or facing a mountain of work- to even get out of bed. Joni however, reminds her reader that the victory is all Jesus' and that we are not to be defeated before the day begins! In the 'Deeper Thoughts' section following Joni pairs Psalm 142:6-7 with this entry and though I would have never thought to apply those verses to my illness, my disease, I was really struck with how fitting they felt. It reads:
Listen to my cry,for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.
There were many other entries that I really enjoyed in this book and it would be too long to mention all of them but my other top favorites really deserve a mention! Be sure to look for: Day 8 "As a Thousand Years", Day 16 "Abiding in Christ", Day 21 " Eager Anticipation", Day 22 "The Slowness of God", Day 27 "Weaving Straw into Gold", and Day 28 "Not Why but How".

This book is truly a gem! Though I enjoyed reading it once I really anticipate that as years go by it is going to be one that I pull off my bookshelf time and again! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is, or who has, suffered with one of those hope-draining diagnosis. I would also encourage you that if you know someone that is going through this pain journey that you don't just recommend this book to them  but go the extra mile to put it in their hands. I have no doubt that they will thank you for it as they too find a deeper healing in Christ.

Rating: 5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: God Gave Us Angels

This summer, my niece who is now 2.8 years old began dealing with a lot of fear. Her fears range from an utter terror of thunderstorms to a strong uncomfortableness with the dark. Normal fears for a small child yes, but still a quandary for the adults as to how to comfort and instruct her in dealing with them. All summer we have been teaching her to recite scriptures, trust God, and know that we can pray to Jesus about all the things that frighten us and He will care for us, and also to know that God sends His angles to care for us as well.
But how do you explain to a small child what an angel is, looks like, and does??

Enter "God Gave Us Angels" by Lisa Twan Bergren! I was very pleased to see this book show up in my selections for my next review and immediately put in my request.

This book is really charming! The art work done by Laura J. Bryant drives the simple narrative and in soft tones illustrates a 'day in the life' of a baby polar bear and his papa as they discuss the angels that the bunnies told Little Cub about. The doctrine on angles revealed by Little Cub's questions is solid and accurate. I found that the story itself however, was a bit lacking, and could have in fact, used a bit more story. I didn't notice it at first when I first read the book but in reading it to my niece I suddenly found myself adding little descriptions, helping phrases, and many 'papa said' and 'said Little Cub's' to the story because they weren't there to help the story along and smooth the imparting of the theme information.

Though my niece is slightly younger than the recommended 3-8 years old age range she usually does really well with books for many older age ranges. In this case she struggled to keep interest in the story and while I had hoped that this book would really illustrate for her, and capture her imagination as to what angels are like and do she missed a lot of what is great information- do to not being able to keep up with the 'just the facts' style of storytelling.

In the end, I would recommend this book. It is a lovely storyline, and the pictures are beautiful and engaging. Just be aware that this might be a bit easier read for an older child. I hope that as my sweetie grows she will better grow into the story and be able to learn more about how to trust the Creator of all things- angels included!

Final rating: 4

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Kitchen Confidence

Well thanks to the recent expansion of titles available through the Blogging for Books program I am now about to review (amongst other things) - cookbooks!!! Those of you who know me probably have an idea of the extent of ecstasies that I went into upon hearing this news- and for those of you who don't- prepare yourselves. :)

I am thrilled to be reviewing Kelsey Nixon's "Kitchen Confidence"! I have had my eye on Kelsey for a
number of years now, since her debut into the food TV realm as a contestant on Food Network's "Next Food Star" program. She stood out to me then as a recent culinary grad myself and for her infectious bubbly personality as well as eager passion and desire to teach. As the years went by I was pleased to see her turn up on the Cooking Channel with her own show and have been pleased to sit down and learn with Kelsey whenever I'm able!

I love happy books. I love happy cookbooks too. "Kitchen Confidence" definitely qualifies as a happy cookbook! As the reader first picks up the book they are greeted with a bright and punchy cover full of modern colors and eye catching graphics. Delving into to the book you will find a well ordered and graphically pleasing layout. The book is divided into recipe categories that range from 'Breakfast & Morning Treats', to 'Sandwiches & Soups', to 'Desserts & Sweets'- and offers everything in between too! Each chapter begins with a clear list of the recipes in that section and each recipe title is well highlighted with bold text at the top of every page.

As I read I enjoyed especially the sporadic technique blocks and sections that explained the way something was to be done or the why behind a particular instruction. I also think it is essential in every cookbook that the author includes 'cooks notes' at the beginning of a recipe. Kelsey's book lives up to that expectation and provides a wonderful insight to a recipe's history, usage, and/or possibilities! All of the book is written in a friendly 'over your shoulder' directional style and showcases Kelsey's warm and encouraging style well. This book is well suited to be used by a beginning cook looking to expand their skills, and by an experienced cook who desires to produce well flavored and executed home staples.

One side note that I feel the need to report however is that the cover of the book is not particularly well made. When I received my copy there was already a small tear in the top filmy layer of the cover which had a small section pealing back. In the weeks since I have had this book and been handling it frequently I have noticed that the top corner and side edge of this filmy layer (upon which the cover image is printed on) is also pealing. I own a good many cookbooks and never remember one of my volumes coming apart in this way! To stop the damage I am going to need to cover the edges with heavy duty packing tape or library binding of some sort and I'm really terribly disappointed that my cover is to be marred in this way so shortly after receiving it!

The only other complaint I have about this book is that content wise while there are a good many photos there is not a photo for every recipe. For me this is essential in any modern cookbook and I'm a bit puzzled as to why they were left out. Even if covered as multiple images on a single page this would still give the reader and cook a good idea as to how the recipe is to turn out- and give them incentive for making it in the first place!

As to the actual recipes: I have tried one so far and found it to be excellent! You can find a step by step walk through to the "Grandma's Banana-Nut Sheet Cake" on my blog along with further notes on how the recipes preformed. Suffice to say though I was very pleased and enjoyed the results! I have flagged up my book with mini post-it's and I am really looking forward to making more of these tempting and delicious recipes in the future!

Final Rating: 4.5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Foodie Friday: "Grandma's Banana Cake"

Recently one of my blogging programs opened up their selection of books available for review. This little development has thrilled me no end because I'm now able to review (drumroll please...) COOKBOOKS! 
Watch out world, here I come! 

LOL! Well maybe not the whole world...maybe just my little corner of the universe! ;) 

My first cookbook review will be up in a jiffy but before I post it I wanted to kick things off by sharing one of the recipes from the book! This recipe from Kelsey Nixon's "Kitchen Confidence" was really the perfect place to start!

"Grandma's Banana Cake" by: Kelsey Nixon

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
1 cup whole milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1) For the banana cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10.5 x 15.5 inch jelly roll pan.
2) Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed, until pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs, on at a time, followed by the lemon juice, mashed bananas, and milk.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour baking soda, and salt, Slowly beat the flour mixture into the banana mixture, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. 
4) Bake until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. 25-30 minutes. Let cool.

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ripe medium banana, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

5) For the icing: Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, banana, vanilla, powdered sugar, and salt and beat until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add a teaspoon or two of milk.
6) Frost the cake with the icing and sprinkle the top with the walnuts. Store the cake, covered tightly with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

My thoughts on the recipe and cake:

I am really pleased at how easy this recipe was to put together, how well it baked up and how yummy it turned out! Even with photoing my steps I think that I maybe spent an hour on it?? It wasn't long and it really was a simple old-fashioned recipe. I like that the bananas were used in both the cake and the frosting- it brings up the banana flavor nicely. The cake itself I really can't say enough about! It is light with an excellent crumb, and it has such a rich butter flavor and buttery mouth-feel that I felt like I was eating an oil based cake recipe with it's super moistness! I used salted butter and still added the salt in both portions of the recipe and like it that way. The added salt level is negligible and in the case of the frosting is actually a better contrast to the banana and cuts the super-sugary 'belch' many icing style frosting's can give. As my family doesn't like walnuts and particularly wouldn't like nuts on a cake like this I omitted them. 

All in all, this is the cake your grandmother used to make- and it's perfect for a crowd, be it a family gathering or a church social! I highly recommend you make it- and enjoy it! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: Murder at the Mikado

So dear reader, Julianna Deering is back again with another installment in the "Drew Farthering Mysteries"! reviewed it last summer. Finally getting to sit down and read this book was something of a monumental effort but once I was settled and dug into the book it fairly rolled along and I quite enjoyed it over the course of an afternoon!

This book "Murder at the Mikado" is the third volume in this series and quite lives up to all the hype I gave the first book when I reviewed it last summer. Finally getting to sit down and read this book was something of a monumental effort but once I was settled and dug into the book it fairly rolled along and I quite enjoyed it over the course of an afternoon! 

Drew and Madeline are now engaged and are fast approaching their wedding date when in whirls a past flame of Drew's. Actress Fleur Landis may be married with a child now but that's no damper to her personal dramatics as she is accused of murdering the lead actor- and her former lover- from her old troupe! When Fleur and her husband Landis, Drew's new business manager comes begging for help Drew- who never wished to see Fleur again- relents and takes on the case.
The case progresses though not all is what it seems. Not all is okay at home either as Madeline begins to feel the pressures of their impending marriage set under the specter of charming bombshell Fleur. Soon enough the chase quickens and as more bodies start dropping the hunt for the killer is in full force! But what goes on behind the scenes and behind the public eye is the most important- for both the case and for Drew and Madeline!

So as I said at the beginning I really enjoyed this book! I grew up on mystery novels but as I got older that genre really dropped from my rotation, partially because I thought I'd grown too old for them and partially because I wasn't finding that genre written in Christian fiction. I am ever so glad that that is changing now with Deering's "Drew Fathering Mysteries"!
     In particular I appreciated that the book is well paced and written, and also that the mystery is well concealed until the end- I may have had my suspicions as to who the guilty party was but right up until the end Deering held all her cards tightly! Also, I really liked how this read as straight up clean cut mystery. The mentions of God or spiritual themes are hard to come by in this book but I didn't feel like that detracted from the character or story being told. It has been previously well established where Drew and Madeline are with God and I didn't think it needed to be re-addressed with club-like agility. (But that's just me!) If you are looking for something super-spiritually laced look elsewhere because this is nearly pure mystery/adventure! Additionally, I appreciated that some of the elements present in the first book, like social drinking, were dropped from this installment. While they may be period appropriate, and may be useful tools in characterizing the baddie, fiend, and rogue in a novel I don't find them appropriate for the hero of a Christian novel and I was glad to see them gone!

Something that I loved to see in this book was the full attention that Deering gave to working in references to Gilbert and Sullivan's works. The title of the book comes from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" as this is one of the two plays that the theater troupe is preforming when the murder takes place. Personally, though I have not listened to all of their works I have a great fondness for The Pirates of Penzance and was charmed to find bits of it scattered throughout the book!

All in all I have no complaints about this lovely period mystery novel that Julianna Deering has produced and I am happy to recommend it to all of you!

Final rating: 5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.