Heavenly Zucchini Bread

My first attempt at starting my own garden this past summer was a little hit and miss. It took a long time for my onions, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes to take off and it seemed the bunnies got more of the produce than I did. I did, however, get a large batch of salsa and one very good-sized zucchini that I was able to turn into zucchini bread. Zucchini bread was always a treat when I was growing up: my sister and I even called it “heaven bread.” Rich and sweet, nothing said summer like sitting outside in the backyard eating thick slices slathered in butter. Zucchini may not be in season in October, but zucchini bread is still a delicious treat that even my kitten gets excited for (even though I refuse to share!) Continue reading

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Worth the Wait: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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Back in April, I went to see Les Miserables on stage with my sister and our friend, Morgan. My sister cried throughout a significant amount of the time and I teared up a bit, as well. Although this is the second time I have seen the musical performed on stage, I have never read the book on which it was based. Watching the musical was the push I needed to pick up Victor Hugo’s huge novel. Because it is so very long, I have interspersed reading chapters with other short stories, comic books, and novellas, which lengthened the reading process even more, so ultimately it took me several months to finish.

Les Miserables is the story of Jean Valjean (formerly imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread and now a released convict who has difficulty re-integrating into society) and his adopted daughter, Cosette. With notorious historical detail, Victor Hugo shows the underbelly of Parisian life in the 1800s: the criminals, prostitutes, street orphans, the starving poor, and the young students scraping by. He thoroughly examines their lives and backstories, their beliefs and desires, even their street slang to create a meticulous picture of the most wretched poor in Paris leading up to the June 1832 Rebellion. All of these characters and their interconnected lives support Hugo’s meditations on politics, religion, and justice throughout the novel. Continue reading

Chana Masala From The Pantry

Lunch buffets at Indian restaurants are among my favorite things. Or dinners at Indian restaurants. Or even the odd brunch. Basically, if you suggest going out for Indian food, my answer will be yes. One of my favorite dishes to get is chana masala, or chickpea curry. I have been wanting to learn to make it for myself for a long time, but was always a little intimidated. Today, I was hungry and set about to make it with only the ingredients I already had in my home. Although the spice list is long, it is astoundingly easy – just heat, stir, and eat. Continue reading

Even a Master Has to Start Somewhere: A Book Review of The Summer Tree

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Guy Gavriel Kay is an author I admire. Most of his books are historical-fantasy adjacent. That is, the stories take place in another, more magical world, but these other places are analogous of a real time and place in our world, often with characters who are 1:1 representations of their real counterparts. (For example, Under Heaven is a fictionalized version of the An Lushan Rebellion, except full of ghosts and wolf spirits.) Kay has a skill for creating compelling characters and for writing moments that take your breath away.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to read Kay’s first trilogy of published books, The Fionavar Tapestry which is comprised of The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road. The Fionavar Tapestry is different from Kay’s other novels in that it is a high fantasy that takes place in a completely fictional world – “the first of all worlds” – that is connected to our own. There are no historical counterparts, but the Tapestry draws deeply on mythology and folklore. It is also heavily inspired by Tolkien’s works, particularly The Silmarillion; this is not at all surprising as Kay had only recently finished helping Christopher Tolkien compile the Silmarillion when he sat down to write Fionavar.

Unfortunately, this is clearly Kay’s first novel. Continue reading

Quick and Easy Zucchini Soup With a Side of Corn Fritters

This is the time of year in the midwest when everyone with a garden is starting to give away zucchini because their plant is producing so many you can’t possibly use them all up – even with a kitchen constantly churning out zucchini bread, zucchini noodles (I just fell in love with these in the past year!), ratatouille… you name it. Oh, unless it’s my garden we’re talking about, which so far has only produced a handful of tomatoes that refuse to ripen. Luckily, zucchini and corn are still easy to find, because I always crave it when it gets hot outside and the cicadas start to sing.

The soup recipe I love because it is incredibly quick and easy to make. Although very good, it’s flavor is a little one-note, so I feel it needs a strong side – I like making corn fritters to go with it. Continue reading

Publish and Perish: A Book Review of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

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I picked up The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith a couple weeks ago as a bit of light reading to break up the chapters of Les Miserables, which I have been slowly working through for quite a while, now. The Silkworm is the second of the Cormoran Strike novels – the series of private detective books written by J.K. Rowling under her Robert Galbraith pseudonym. I wanted to read something quick, something I knew I would devour in a weekend, and The Silkworm delivered. By the time I reached the halfway point, I didn’t put the book down and continued to read until the very end.

The Silkworm begins with Cormoran agreeing to find an author named Owen Quine who’s gone missing. There’s nothing unusual in this, his wife insists, he does this all the time. She just needs help taking care of their disabled daughter and he’s been gone long enough this time. Before long, though, Cormoran finds Quine gruesomely murdered in the same manner as one of his own characters from his unpublished book. Cormoran must discover which people have read the manuscript in order to find the killer. Continue reading

Friendship Soup (In A Jar)

Several years back, shortly before Joe and I were married, my co-workers threw me a wedding shower. They even surprised me by telling me we had a lunch meeting in one of the conference rooms and getting there before me to greet me! I was much more pleased with cake than I was with the prospect of a lunch meeting. One of my co-workers (the nutritionist, who else?) gave me a “meal in a mason jar” – some soup mix, bread mix, and brownie mix that she had put together in jars for me to make at a later time. I made it for my parents one weekend when they were visiting and loved the soup so much I asked Sarah for the recipe. Last year at Christmas, I made a similar set of meals for some of my friends. Just because you can make the soup mix ahead of time in a jar, doesn’t mean you have to, though! This soup would be delicious to make any night and serves a crowd. Continue reading