Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: Forever Faithful

Forever Faithful

Have you ever finished a book and wished you didn't have to wait to get the sequel? Or picked up a book from your favorite author and realized a few chapters into the book that it was a sequel, and you wished you would have re-read the previous book first to refresh your memory? It happened to me just this morning. I picked up a new novel from the library and realized it was a sequel to something I read months ago. I should leaf through book one and refresh my memory before I keep reading...and I admit, I have gone so far as to post on an author's Facebook page "Hurry up and write quickly! You can't leave us hanging like that!"

"Forever Faithful" by Karen Kingsbury solves both of those problems by taking all three of her books in the trilogy and putting them into one volume!

The series begins with "Waiting For Morning," a story of painful loss, bitterness, forgiveness and rebuilding. Hannah Ryan's husband and daughter are killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver. She focuses on avenging the deaths of her family, almost destroying her relationship with her surviving daughter in the process. While it was a difficult book to read due to the very emotional issues, it was very thought-provoking, making me examine areas where I might be less forgiving than I should be.

In the second book, "A Moment of Weakness," Jade and Tanner are inseparable as children. Tanner says he's going to marry Jade. They lose touch when Jade's father moves her across the country. When they are reunited, they discover the closeness they shared as children, and look forward to a lifetime together, until their "moment of weakness" slowly but surely pushes them apart. They are drawn together again nearly a decade later as Jade fights for her faith and for custody of her son.

The third book brings follows the story of Jade and Tanner and their good friends Matt and Hannah (of "Waiting for Morning") as they struggle with life-threatening health and heart-breaking loss. After reading the first two books, you are drawn into the lives of these two couples, and it can be very emotional to "see" them suffer through the trials of life, but there is encouragement in the way they stay true to their faith and depend on God to carry them through.

If you are a fan of Karen Kingsbury's stories, don't miss the chance to get all three books wrapped up in one!

Click this link to read the first chapter!

I received this book free from the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Battle of the Salads

A couple of days ago, Ron mentioned at the dinner table that he wouldn’t be home for dinner on Tuesday. There was a Christmas party for his division at a country club, so he would be there through the dinner hour. That meant I would have to pick Bethany up from basketball practice, and she and I would eat dinner by ourselves.

My first thought was “Where could we go out to eat?” After thinking it over for a while, that option had three downsides: the expense, the fact that it would be hard to stay within my Weight Watchers points for the day with a restaurant meal, and the time involved—it might not have left Bethany enough time for her homework. Oh, and there was the fact that she would be wearing her gym clothes when I picked her up… not exactly the kind of outfit you wear into a restaurant.

Sometime this morning, probably when I was doing the mostly-mindless task of sorting $100 in change into piles to be counted (trying to come up with enough money to pay for tomorrow’s Pepsi order), I came up with an idea: Bethany and I would make salads for dinner, post a picture and description on Facebook, and have people vote on whose salad looked tastier. Sounded like a good idea to me, but would Bethany think it was hokey?

When I picked her up from practice, she had a funny story to tell me… so I didn’t get to bring up my idea until we were pulling out of the school parking lot. She knew something was up by which way I turned… we weren’t going home the usual way. As soon as I told her the idea, she was all in.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and wandered through the produce section. I told her she could pick up any fruits or vegetables she wanted for her salad. We got a cucumber, some romaine and butter lettuces, and some tortilla strips (although the croutons were considered for a while). Fresh blueberries were on sale, so I picked up a little container of them (just in case I wanted to get really adventurous with my salad), and I had a coupon for a 12-ounce Odwalla beverage, and they were on sale, so I let Bethany pick out one of those. I almost bought a bag of seedless red grapes, because they looked so good, and they were “on sale”, but when the produce scale showed that the bag would cost $10, I put them back. We had a great time at the self-checkout, paying for $12.89 groceries with all coins. (I figured it would be easier to “buy” the nickels and dimes than to try to get them all stuffed into coin wrappers. I had about $20 in coins in my purse!)

The ride home was fun… Bethany was planning her salad, and doing a bit of trash talking… how she was going to win, hands down. She was having more fun with this than I imagined.

So, here are the finished products:

Bethany’s salad, on the left, has cucumbers, sweet banana peppers, black olives, feta cheese, tortilla strips, grape tomatoes and a crumbled Gyro patty, with Greek dressing. My salad has alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, blue cheese, chicken, slices of Bartlett pear, candied pecans, and strawberry vinaigrette.

So, who do you think won the “Battle of the Salads”? Place your vote with a comment below… I’ll tally the votes next Wednesday morning (December 21st). We haven’t figured out what the winner actually wins, other than bragging rights. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Nutella Bread Experiment

Last week, I got an invite to "Bread of the Month" at the Artisan Bread Bakers group on Facebook. The bread this month? Nutella Bread. As soon as I saw the title, I knew I had to try to make a gluten-free version. I looked up the original recipe and found out that the measurements were all metric. I racked up a few Bing points doing searches like "500g flour = how many cups?" and got an approximation of all the ingredients. I bought a jar of Nutella. I misplaced the recipe and ended up searching for half an hour before I found it in my piles of paper. Then, today, when Bethany decided to make a Key Lime Cake for dessert, I decided to give the Nutella bread a try.

Gluten-Free Nutella Bread
3/4 c Tapioca flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c white rice flour
1/4 c brown rice flour
1 tsp Xanthan gum
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup Nutella
1 large egg
3/4 c warm water
2-3 Tbsp Nutella for filling

Combine flours and xanthan gum in a small bowl (not your mixer bowl). In mixer bowl, beat egg and Nutella until well-blended. Slowly add water while mixer is running. Add flour mixture a little at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Dough should resemble a thick cookie dough in consistency. Way too sticky for the usual "roll out the dough on a floured surface" routine...
Put about 18" of Saran Wrap down on your work surface and spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Put your dough down in the middle, using the spatula to shape it into a rectangle. Spray another piece of Saran Wrap and put that on top of the dough, then roll it out into a long rectangle, about 8" wide and 18" long. 

If the dough starts to get too wide in a section, you can lift the top Saran Wrap, fold the extra width in toward the middle, replace the Saran Wrap, and keep on rollin'. 

Take off the top Saran Wrap. Put your Nutella for the filling into a Ziploc bag, make sure it is zipped... completely zipped, and use it to make stripes on the dough about an inch apart, but don't go all the way to the edges... leave about 1/2" of blank dough at the ends of the stripes.

If you don't make sure your bag is completely zipped, you get rather messy... here's photographic evidence: 

Carefully lift one end of the dough off the bottom Saran Wrap and start rolling it up tightly. Place it in a greased loaf pan, smoothing down any rough edges. Let rise in a warm spot for 60-90 minutes, then bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

The finished product:

It's good, but I think it needs a little something. I think I'll try again, adding about 1/4 cup of sugar to the flour mixture, to make the dough a little sweeter, and hopefully help it to rise more. I think I should do a few less stripes, too, to make the bread toastable. It has so much Nutella in it, I think it would run out in the toaster. All in all, I think it turned out well for the first try.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Christmas Singing

Looking for a new novel to give somebody who loves Amish stores?

Looking for a new book to read in front of the fireplace this winter?

Here's a quick video that describes Cindy Woodsmall's book  "The Christmas Singing".

You can even read a sample of the first chapter here.

If you'd like to pick up the book at the WaterBrook-Multnomah website,  you can get a great deal - 30% and free shipping. Just tell them I sent you. On second thought, maybe you'd better use the code CHRISTMAS11 at the checkout. That would probably work better!