Category Archives: food

Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

1st July 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

The smell of a bakery is home to Issy Randall, who grew up in her grandfather’s bakery. Now that he’s ailing and in a nursing home, Issy asks him to transcribe her favorite recipes while he still can. Baking isn’t Issy’s job, but she fills her evenings experimenting with recipes, and her coworkers at an estate agent company reap the rewards.

When the company announces redundancies, especially hard as Issy has been in a relationship with her boss for nearly a year, Issy is despondent. The only thing that perks her up is the thought of her own bakery in the sweet little shop at Pear Tree Court. Plus, it diverts her attention from the fact that Graeme, the ex-boyfriend/former boss hasn’t called.

When Issy decides to try her hand at owning a business, she meets several influential people – Pearl, an out-of-work single mom who knows her way around a catering shop; Austin, a charming banker with a complex home life; and Caroline, whose raw food restaurant lost out to Issy’s cafe. With their help, Issy might just have a chance at making it; that is, if she can stand up for herself when Graeme shows back up with plans of his own.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan is as full of charm as the cover suggests. Though Issy seems intentionally dense when it comes to her ex, I know many women who have fallen into that same trap, and Issy still manages to pull herself free when it matters most.

Her relationship with her grandfather and her fond memories of his shop are warm and endearing, as is her relationship with her roommate Helena. Though chance has much to do with Issy’s success (but doesn’t it so often happen that way?), it was fun to read about Issy setting up shop and carving out a successful life for herself.

A couple odd insertions near the end kept this from being as good as I would have liked, but I mostly loved this fun, lightweight novel and spy what looks like a sequel on the way.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Thoughts: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

10th January 2013

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

I am not a foodie. I am the exact opposite of a foodie. I don’t plan out restaurants when I travel. I love food; however, I’m one of the pickiest eaters you’ll meet. But I love love love Anthony Bourdain and his show No Reservations. I guess because, unlike some foodies, he genuinely seems to enjoy what he eats – without reservation.

Medium Raw is just what you’d expect from Bourdain: a series of rants, raves, and love notes to the food, its industry, and its people, and I loved every second of it. The essays range from his thoughts on the unexpected success of Kitchen Confidential, to his storied past and his more domestic present.

Most of the time I was out of the loop when Bourdain discusses famous chefs, restaurants, and meals, but I never once felt patronized or excluded. Bourdain loves food in the way I love books, talking about certain dishes as transcendent, and damn, even if it included some random thing I would never eat, I was tempted as I flipped the pages.

Obscene in the best of ways, heartfelt, and yes, raw, Bourdain’s writing is a treat to read, and if you are at all interested in the man or what he loves, you will absolutely want to own a copy of this one.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

P.S. And thanks to Cassandra at Indie Reader Houston. Two years ago at BEA, she went to Bourdain’s signing at Union Square and bought me my own signed copy. ๐Ÿ™‚

NYE Readathon is here!

30th December 2012

Grab this for your own #nyereadathon post!

Grab this for your own #nyereadathon post!

The readathon is coming! The readathon is coming! Guys, I can’t quite tell you how excited I am about our NYE Readathon. We drove my brother back to the airport for his flight home yesterday, and all the family fun is just about coming to an end, with people going back to work next week, and let’s just not talk about it…

All that to say, I have been so looking forward to tomorrow. Lazily getting up to a lovely stack of books and snacks and reading with all of you sounds like the most perfect way to spend the last day of 2012.

Rules: There are no rules! It’s New Year’s Eve. Who wants to worry? All I ask is that you post once, either tonight or at some point tomorrow to let everyone know you’re participating. You can link up below. I’ll have an intro post up tomorrow morning, and I’ll also have some other fun break topics. But the point is to read, so I’m not going to overdo it on the posts.

I do have some tips, though, to make it a bit more fun:

  • If you take any photos throughout the day, use the hashtag #nyereadathon on Instagram. And let us all know your handle!
  • If you tweet throughout the day, use the hashtag #nyereadathon. We’d love to hear from you and share the fun.
  • Don’t stress if you have to run out to a party or go grab more bubbly. The goal is to have fun, not restrict your fun.
  • Holler if you’re feeling lonely/rushed/stressed/whatever. Half the fun of the readathon is knowing others are out there reading too.
  • Take a chance to check out the other bloggers participating. Tweet them, comment on their posts. Because this is laidback, I didn’t organize any specific cheerleaders, thinking we could cheer as needed. May be a big mistake. May be heaven.
  • READ. What you want. When you want. At whatever pace you choose. In the bathtub. In bed. Outside. With green eggs and ham.

If you have questions or suggestions, let me know. If anyone wants to host a giveaway, just email or tweet me, and I’ll make sure to post here.

I’ll be back later to post my preparation plans.

Happy New Year’s Eve Readathon eve! ๐Ÿ™‚

Weekend Cooking: Apple Pie in the Apple

27th October 2012

First, a little story. I was sitting one night a few weeks ago, eating a pint of Talenti Mediterranean Mint gelato, wondering why I was gaining so much weight and watching Matthew Perry’s new show Go On, about a radio sports reporter who has lost his wife. His boss asks him to seek counseling, so he goes to a life change group. Every member is…quirky, but there’s also something endearing about them, and the particular episode I was watching was called “Grief Eating.” Ding ding ding! We have a winner, folks. I realized that ever since my grandmother went into the hospital and then into hospice, that I had been eating like a madwoman. As I added the empty gelato container next to the…ahem…others, I realized how self destructive I was being.

A high school friend has, for the last year, switched to the primal lifestyle (and has a neat FB page), and after much skepticism, I started doing my own research. It isn’t for everyone, but after I’d read several stories of people with autoimmune disorders (of which my mom has Lupus) and diabetics (my dad) who had drastically changed their lives, I decided to go all in. Today is Day Seven of eating primally, which is essentially no grain or wheat products, including all those sneaky wheat byproducts in processed foods, and no refined sugar. The former, not so much an issue. The latter…well, I’ve got a sweet tooth. But then I remember this great recipe I made a lot last fall [from Testado, Provado e Aprovado!] and decided to share, particularly as mine is different.

Ingredients:

Apples (I prefer Pink Lady or Honey Crisp)

Cinnamon

Vanilla

Walnuts or Pecans (chopped)

Agave

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut one apple in half, top to bottom

3. Cut out the core (or use one of your run-of-the-mill de-coring thingamajiggies).

4. With a spoon, scoop out the meat of the apple, leaving only a thin layer next to the skin.

5. Put the scooped-out meat into a small bowl or measuring cup.

6. Mix a dash of cinnamon, vanilla, a sprinkling of pecans, and agave. (This is why I am not a baker; I do not measure.) But seriously, you don’t need much.

7. Scoop the mixture back into the apple “shell” – like so:

8. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees (I have a convection oven, so they cook super fast). Wait for the edges of the apple “shell” to brown.

Now, what is apple pie without some sort of topping? Instead of using the fake stuff, why not make your own whipped cream? This recipe is super easy. I found it on thekitchn.com.

1. Take out a can of chilled coconut milk.

2. Open the can, and scoop out just the solidified part at the top. Put it in a bowl and beat on high with hand mixers.

3. Put in any empty container as it will keep in the refrigerator. Me? I put mine in an empty gelato container. Poetic, I know.

4. Serve.

Enjoy!

Weekend Cooking: Grab and Go Smoothies

16th September 2012

So Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature that Beth Fish Reads hosts over at her blog. You can post about basically anything food related, or you can combine food and books and talk about food memoirs or cookbooks.

I never participate because what is the name of my blog? The Picky Girl. You guys know I’ve proved to you over and over again how much that is true, but it’s particularly true with food. I cook the same things over and over again because I’m so picky I have a very specific roundup of meals. But, I tweeted about my smoothies, and Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity asked for a post. See, Internet? This is how accommodating I am! ๐Ÿ™‚

On to the smoothies. I’m not a morning person. At all. I can stay up until the wee hours, but in the morning, it takes a good half hour for my eyes to fully open. Breakfast used to consist of protein bars grabbed as I walked out the door. Recently, though, I’ve been trying to cut out additional grains and still boost my protein levels because I don’t eat much meat. I love smoothies, but they’re too much work in the morning. (And for all you who say “It only takes a few minutes!” – tell that to bleary-eyed me, running around trying to remember mascara.)

Three weeks ago, I wondered if I could freeze smoothies in advance. Would they still taste good? Would the nutritional benefits still be there? I discovered this post at The Yummy Life. Now, I knew I didn’t want to use oatmeal (see, cut out grains), and I certainly wouldn’t use fruit jams or anything loaded with extra sugar. But, I did learn it was ok to freeze them. All I really wanted was someone to say “No! They won’t taste like mildewed fruit!” Or something like that.

Here’s my new regimen:

  • First, buy freezable mason jars. [I considered using other reusable drink containers, but they’re expensive, easily $7 a piece. A whole flat (12) of mason jars was $7.]
  • Next, ingredients. Whatever your little heart desires. Here’s what I buy:
  1. Dannon Oikos vanilla yogurt 4 pack.
  2. Frozen fruits – or buy and freeze yourself.
  3. Almonds – for added protein and as source of good fat.
  4. Baby spinach/kale/chard – good way to get in extra veggies.
  5. Juice/almond milk – I usually buy organic or something with less sugar
  6. Cinnamon -natural appetite suppressant and blood sugar stabilizer

  • 4-6 pours of juice – I put it in first because it helps to blend everything more smoothly.
  • Then frozen fruit/veggies (frozen also blends better): 3 strawberries, several tablespoons pineapple chunks, small handful of berries, handful of spinach.
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup yogurt (or one Oikos container)
  • 1 tbsp almonds
  • BLEND!

  • Pour into mason jars. This amount usually fills 1 mason jar and half of another.
  • Repeat process. You can switch up your fruits or amounts of fruit here as well without needing to wash the blender. Just gives your flavors variety. I make enough for one week at a time.
  • Freeze!

  • Clean up! The biggest complaint I hear from people about smoothies is cleaning the blender. Well, making enough smoothies for the entire week means I use it once, clean it, and I’m finished. I can’t complain about that!
  • Defrost: There are a couple of different ways to do this. Since I made this batch this morning, I will simply take one jar out of the freezer and put it in the fridge overnight. It will be ready to go in the morning. If I had waited and made them tonight, they would all go into the freezer, and I would take one out tomorrow morning and put it in the microwave for one minute. Last week, I defrosted one overnight and took a frozen one to school because I knew I wouldn’t have time for lunch.

For someone like me, who doesn’t have much time in the mornings but wants to eat healthy, these smoothies are perfect. Lots of variety so you don’t get bored and healthy* ingredients to keep you going all day. Enjoy!

* Nutritional info: approximately 200 calories, 20 grams protein. Caloric/sugar/protein content varies depending on type of juice, type of yogurt, etc.