Posts made in September, 2021

Book Blog: Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

Posted by on Sep 24, 2021 in Blog, book blog | 0 comments

I review everything I read and post reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing. That’s not enough. Good books are meant to be shared. Therefore, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite reads here on my site.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

out now in print and ebook; BookShopB&N, and Amazon [affiliate link]

I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

The skin around my eyes remains stiff from tears because this book made me SOB, but in the best of ways. This is a beautiful, extraordinary book that will crush your heart and put it back together, too.

Wallace is a jerk. He’s like Scrooge brought into the modern-day–a high-powered lawyer who is callous, cold, and not the slightest bit loved. When he keels over dead, he attends his own funeral and rages, unseen, at the way his ex-wife and law firm partners disrespect him. A reaper arrives–a young woman, Mei, who can see and hear him, and takes him to a strange tea house in the middle of nowhere. It’s a waypoint for the recently dead to come to grips with their new state of being before they move on through a door set in the fourth-floor ceiling. The purveyor is Hugo, a man with a knack to choose the right tea for anyone–and also, a ferryman, a person with a genuine, empathetic heart. He helps the recently-dead move on.

But Wallace doesn’t want to move on. He stays. He rages, he grieves, and slowly, he starts to change. And fall in love.

I fell in love, too, with every character. The deep feels of this book remind me of Becky Chambers’s novels–stories that truly capture the complexity and the goodness of people and somehow manage to reaffirm your belief in humanity. I like that this took the Scrooge trope and made it more realistic–there’s no overnight change. It’s gradual, it’s painful, it’s full of regret. Ultimately, it’s a queer love story, too, and again, one that feels realistic (because honestly, anyone and everyone can and will fall in love with Hugo).

This will be one of the best books I’ve read this year, and probably an all-time favorite.

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Bready or Not Original: Thin Mint Cake

Posted by on Sep 22, 2021 in Blog, Bready or Not, brownies, cake, chocolate, mint | 0 comments

Oh hey, it’s time for cake. A Thin Mint Cake that is neither too big or too small, something that keeps well stashed in the fridge, and looks as amazing as it tastes.

Bready or Not Original: Thin Mint Cake

If you love chocolate and mint, this is the cake for you. The cake is loaded with chocolate flavor, and a ganache adds a shiny finishing touch.

Bready or Not Original: Thin Mint Cake

The middle layer of the cake is essentially a peppermint or mint-flavored buttercream. Sweet but not too sweet, it gives good contrast to balance the prevalent chocolate flavor.

Bready or Not Original: Thin Mint Cake

I used this cake to try out a technique I’ve only read about and seen on TV before–I used four toothpicks to measure the halfway point on the sides of the cake, then tugged a piece of floss to cut the cake evenly in half! It worked out well.

Bready or Not Original: Thin Mint Cake

Of course, you can still use a knife to cut through. The toothpicks will still be a helpful guide.

Bready or Not Original: Thin Mint Cake

This is an ideal birthday or special occasion cake for a small group!

Greatly modified from Eating Well Magazine May 2020.

Bready or Not Original: Thin Mint Cake

This Thin Mint Cake is a glorious, not-too-big-or-small layer cake loaded with chocolate and mint goodness. It’s not hard to make, either. Cutting the cake in half is the trickiest bit, and a piece of floss makes that easy!
Course: Dessert
Keyword: cake, chocolate, layer cake, mint
Author: Beth Cato

Equipment

  • 9-inch cake pan
  • ruler
  • toothpicks
  • unwaxed floss
  • parchment paper

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar or other cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mint Filling

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar sifted, more as needed for consistency
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract or mint extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 drops green food coloring
  • 2 Tablespoons half and half or milk

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • pinch salt

Instructions

To prepare the cake

  • Preheat an oven at 350-degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside a 9-inch cake pan. Apply nonstick spray inside pan, place parchment inside, and spray it again.
  • Stir together all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  • In another bowl, whisk together water, oil, vinegar, and both extracts. Gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry until the batter is smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Tap and thump it gently on the counter to knock out as many bubbles as possible.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick in the middle emerges with few crumbs attached. Let the pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto the rack to cool completely.

Make the filling

  • Beat the butter until it is creamy and light. Add the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, to fully incorporate; if the mixture is still too soft and loose, add more sugar. Add mint and vanilla extract, followed by the salt. Add a few drops of food coloring to achieve the desired tint. Add the half and half and beat to make the filling fluffy and light.

Slice the cake and fill

  • Stick a toothpick into the halfway point at each side of the cake; four toothpick markers work well. Use a knife to barely slice into the cake above each toothpick. Continue to use a long-bladed knife to slice all the way through, or use a long piece of unwaxed floss with the toothpicks as a guide to divide the cake evenly in half.
  • Place the base of the cake on a serving plate. Spread the filling over the cake. Place the top of the cake over it, cut side down.

Make the glaze

  • Microwave the half & half in a microwave-safe bowl for about a minute, until hot. Stir in the chocolate chips and salt. Stir, stir, stir until the chocolate is smooth and glossy. Let cool about 5 minutes to thicken, then slowly pour and spread glaze over the cake. Let sit at room temperature or in fridge to set, then slice in and enjoy!
  • Store cake in fridge. Exposed sides of the cake will dry out more, but it will still be tasty. Keeps for at least 4 days.

OM NOM NOM!

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    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    Posted by on Sep 15, 2021 in Blog, Bready or Not, yeast bread | 0 comments

    These Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns are as delicious as they are beautiful, and that’s saying a lot.

    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    This enriched dough is light and luscious, and almost melts in the mouth. It’s also somewhat tricky to work with as the dough warms quickly as the rolls are formed. I was dismayed as the dough became tacky as I did the final rolls, but you know what?

    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    These rolls are beautiful as they are. Sure, Paul Hollywood would criticize them for not all being the exact same, but I’m not on Great British Bake Off–and neither are you. Embrace the wabi-sabi of these rolls, the perfection in imperfection.

    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    Plus, when it comes down to it, the flavor and texture are fantastic. The buttery crumb is perfect with a likewise buttery center swirl that’s packed with cardamom and cinnamon.

    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    These buns taste best when slightly warm. Eat them fresh, and after that, give them a quick toast in the oven to wake up the flavor.

    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    The buns will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature, but be sure they are in a sealed container. They can also be frozen and thawed later, no problem.

    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    Make these buns to really impress guests–and yourself. Like me, I bet you’ll find this recipe to be a keeper.

    Modified from Saveur Magazine Volume 4 2018.

    Bready or Not: Swedish-Style Cardamom Buns

    These incredible buns take a day of wait and effort, but are so worth it! The bread is light, buttery, and luscious, gently warmed by spice.
    Course: Breakfast, Dessert
    Keyword: yeast bread
    Servings: 10 buns
    Author: Beth Cato

    Equipment

    • stand mixer
    • parchment paper
    • kitchen brush

    Ingredients

    Dough

    • 1/2 cup cold milk or half & half
    • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
    • 3 large eggs room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
    • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more as needed
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter (16 Tablespoons) cold, cut into cubes

    Filling

    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 1/4 cup light brown sugar packed
    • 1 Tablespoon ground cardamom
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 Tablespoons) softened

    Instructions

    • In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, 2 of the eggs, and the vanilla. Set aside.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment affixed, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix in the chilled butter cubes until they are broken down to the size of peas, which will take a minute or two. Keep the mixer running as the milk mixture is drizzled in. Everything should come together as dough.
    • Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Chill it in fridge for at least 6 hours, or a full day.
    • About 2 1/2 hours before the buns are to be served, prepare to shape them. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the filling’s two sugars, cardamom, and cinnamon. In another bowl, beat the remaining egg with a splash of water and set it aside.
    • Lightly flour a large, clean work surface and a rolling pin. [Note for bakers who have hot kitchens: you may need to move fast here, as high-butter content dough can be finicky as it warms.] Roll out the dough into a 12×16 rectangle. Use an uneven spatula or the back of a spoon to evenly spread the softened butter over the surface, leaving a 1-inch border along the top and bottom edges.
    • Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture over the butter. Brush the edges with the beaten egg; set aside the egg to use again for a wash in a short while. Fold the dough in half so that the two egg-washed edges meet. Then use a knife, pizza cutter, or bench knife to make ten even slices perpendicular to the fold.
    • One at a time, pick up a strip at the two short ends and twist them each in opposite directions while pulling and stretching gently. Coil the strand to make a bun, tucking the outermost end underneath the round. Set on prepared sheet and continue to form more with several inches of space between them.
    • Cover formed buns with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until puffed, about 1 1/2 hours.
    • Preheat oven at 400-degrees and situate racks inside to have five inches of space between them.
    • Remove the plastic wrap and brush the buns with the remaining egg wash. Bake for 12 minutes, then swap the pan positions in the oven, then bake another 8 to 12 minutes. Buns should be a consistent brown, and a digital thermometer discreetly plunged into a center roll should be over 190-degrees.
    • Let rolls cool slightly before indulging. Rolls will keep for up to 3 days in a sealed container at room temperature, and will taste best warmed slightly in an oven or toaster oven. Rolls can also be frozen for later enjoyment.

    OM NOM NOM!

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      Come to the Online Book Club Meeting this Sunday!

      Posted by on Sep 14, 2021 in Blog, public speaking, red dust collection, Uncategorized | 0 comments

      Red Dust cover

      On Sunday September 19th, my collection Red Dust and Dancing Horses will be discussed in a virtual book club meeting on Facebook that is conducted by the wonderful Madame Askew. The event will happen at 4:30 MST. Buy the book ahead of time (if you don’t have it already) and join in on the discussion! I’ll be there to answer questions.

      #SFWAPro

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      Bready or Not Original: Easy Italian Meatballs

      Posted by on Sep 8, 2021 in beef, Blog, Bready or Not, cheese galore, main dish | 0 comments

      Everyone probably has their own take on classic Italian Meatballs. This is mine!

      What I love about the recipe is that it, 1) tastes good, and 2) is convenient. I can mix the meatballs up ahead of time and stash them in the fridge or even the freezer. They can be cooked straight from the freezer, too! Just cook them a little longer.

      Bready or Not Original: Easy Italian Meatballs

      I always go with 93% lean ground beef, but use whatever kind you want–even do a meat of beef and pork or ground sausage. Consider this recipe a template. Mix it up, switch out or increase seasonings, whatever.

      Bready or Not Original: Easy Italian Meatballs

      These are great with all kinds of dishes, too. Use them with the standard spaghetti or other Italian pasts, or on zoodles, or with sauce on some submarine sandwich bread. They are even good heated up, eaten by themselves!

      Bready or Not Original: Easy Italian Meatballs

      These gigantic meatballs are easy to make. If you want, form them early in the day and stash them in the fridge. Meatballs can also be frozen, cooked or cooked, and heated up later–and they can be taken straight from the freezer, too; just add a few more minutes to the cook time. This is also a great recipe to double to feed a crowd.
      Course: Main Course
      Cuisine: American, Italian
      Keyword: beef, cheese
      Servings: 8 meatballs
      Author: Beth Cato

      Equipment

      • food scale
      • 9×13 dish or large rimmed baking pan

      Ingredients

      • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for pan and hands
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1 1/2 cups panko
      • 1/2 cup milk or water
      • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
      • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
      • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
      • 1 ounce Parmesan or Grana Padano, freshly grated, roughly 1/2 cup
      • 1 pound ground beef

      Instructions

      • Move rack to top third of oven and start to preheat at 425-degrees. Rub or brush a 9×13 casserole pan or rimmed baking sheet with oil.
      • In a large bowl, use a big spoon to mash together the 2 Tablespoons oil, eggs, panko, liquid, salt, pepper, seasoning, garlic powder, and cheese. The goal is to create a smooth paste. Add a handful of meat. Mix in, and gradually drop in the rest of the meat to thoroughly combine.
      • Use a food scale to weigh the meat, then divide that total by 8 (or any other desired increment). With oiled hands, press together meatballs, weighing each to create ones of equal size.
      • Bake meatballs for 20 minutes. Use a metal spatula to carefully flip over each for the browned-bottom is on top. Bake for another 6 to 10 minutes, until meatballs are fully browned. An instant read thermometer plunged into one should read over 160-degrees.
      • Serve as desired. Leftovers are great to refrigerate or freeze.

      OM NOM NOM!

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