Friday, July 25, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #4 (Part 2)

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #4 

Foreign Foods (Part 2)

The Challenge: Foreign Foods

The Recipe: German Pancakes No. 2
Note: makes 1 large pancake

The Date/Year and Region: The International Jewish Cookbook; 1919, New York

How Did You Make It: Exactly as the recipe says. I consulted a modern recipe to find out what a brisk oven meant. I heated the oven to 400 degrees initially and baked the pancake for a few minutes until the edges turned brown and pulled away from the pan. Then I reduced the heat to 350 and baked for about 20-25 more minutes until it didn't look wet. Just before removing from the oven, I stuck a plate in the stove to heat. When I took it out and removed from the pan, I sifted powdered sugar on top and added some sliced strawberries. 

Time to Complete: A few minutes to beat the eggs and mix the ingredients; 30 minutes baking time plus time to heat the skillet and oven.

Total Cost:
I had all the ingredients on hand at the time.

How Successful Was It?: 
Very! It tastes delicious, but a tiny bit salty so I would recommend reducing the amount of salt.  I've had Dutch pancakes at restaurants before and this one is similar but lighter. It was hard not to eat the whole thing myself. It got a thumbs up from the rest of the household but not rave reviews. I will definitely be making this one again, especially since I found the right pan later on.

How Accurate Is It?: Other than using a modern mixer and electric stove and oven, I substituted sweet strawberries for acidic lemons which I do not like at all! It made the pancake more of a dessert and that much more delicious. 

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #4

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #4 

Foreign Foods (Part 1)

The Challenge: Foreign Foods

By The First Presbyterian Church, Dayton, Ohio.
Dayton, Ohio: Oliver Crook, c1873

The Date/Year and Region: 1873, Ohio

How Did You Make It: 
I grated unsweetened chocolate and a bit of American Heritage Chocolate until I had about 2 T. While I was grating, I melted some sweet butter on the electric stove. Then added the flour, egg yolks, low fat milk (all I had on hand) and eggs. Then I realized I had added to many eggs to scrambled to add more of the other ingredients, which was probably a bigger mistake. Then I put it in the fridge to cool for half an hour. I beat the egg white until fluffy but couldn't get them stiff. I put the chocolate mixture back on the stove to warm it a bit and added the egg whites and sugar, buttered my mom's flan pan and poured it all in. The batter was lumpy and whisking didn't help. I didn't know what temperature to bake it at and a search for a modern recipe yielded nothing. I found a custard recipe that baked at 425 so I tried that. I baked for about an hour before removing from the oven. I refrigerated overnight and then tried to cook it again for about 40 more minutes the next day. The outside got crusty and the bottom stuck to the pan. The middle remained stubbornly wet but better than it was.

Time to Complete:

Total Cost:
I had all the ingredients on hand at the time.

How Successful Was It?: 
Not very successful. It didn't cook in the middle. After an hour, it finally puffed up but when I took it out of the oven it deflated. The middle was very soupy.  It tasted very eggy and not very sweet. I think my eggs cooked in the mixture on the stove. I should have used my heritage chocolate, but I don't have much left. My dad declared it was not the best thing I've made and no one has touched it since. It tastes much better with the raspberry sauce I made for challenge 2. 

How Accurate Is It?: (fess up to your modifications and make-dos here)
I used 1% milk and an electric oven. I also added more sugar and raspberry sauce.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What I Read in June Part VII

What I Read in June Part VII . . .

Dishing Up DeathDishing Up Death by Marie Celine -- Cozy Mystery

Kitty Karlyle is a celebrity chef, but not for humans, for their pets. She cooks and delivers gourmet meals to Los Angeles' most pampered pets. She thinks she's seen it all but when she discovers one of her clients, the former rock star Rich Evan, has been found face down in his puppy's food, she's shocked. She's even more shocked when she learns Rich has died and she's the chief suspect! She knows she didn't murder anyone on purpose, but what if she was accidentally responsible by cooking poisoned food? With her friend Velma as sidekick, she tries to find out what really happened. She tries to stay a step ahead of the annoying detective who keeps insisting he's going to marry her. Ironically, business is booming as Rich's best friend and ex-wife become clients and plan to recommend her. Can Kitty solve the mystery before she finds herself behind bars?

I really wanted to like this book. I loved the idea of a gourmet pet chef. I love animals just as much as Kitty and was excited to see her recipes, but she clearly doesn't love them as much as I do because she doesn't seem to know that many cats and dogs can't tolerate dairy and grapes and onions can cause liver damage. Kitty is the perky, perfect girl you love to hate. My feelings didn't go that far because she does love animals, but I found her a little too naive and a little too perky to be truly sympathetic. She wants to believe the best in everyone. The animals were much better characters, especially the puppy Benny. Her best friend Velma is an odd character. I couldn't quite like her either but I appreciated how she had her best friend's back. All of the secondary characters are stereotypes. All of the men are disgusting pigs, even the detective who I could not stand.

This book is a first novel and it reads like one. The writing is simplistic and not very good. The plot is downright dreadful. The story is full of dated 90s references. They're subtle but it's surprising how much technology has changed. (i.e. leaving a message on an answering machine). I liked the inclusion of a research librarian using microfilm instead of Google but that actually dates the story a bit too. The characters all seem to accept the sex, drugs and rock n' roll culture of LA. One character is a sexual predator who nearly rapes the heroine and it's glossed over! She didn't even think to tell the police and apparently it's OK for a male rock star to trick a girl into sleeping with him. He is a downright nasty character. The mystery is impossible to figure out. It goes somewhere random that I never expected. Plot points don't exactly come together and the end is very rushed. I filed this under clean romance because there's some weird random romantic plots tossed in at the end for no real reason.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who likes good literature.

What I Read in June Part VI

What I Read in June Part VI . . .

Miss Quinn's QuandaryMiss Quinn's Quandary by Shirley Marks -- Regency Romance

Miss Larissa Quinn is traveling from the young ladies' seminary where she has spent most of her life to stay with her aunt in the wilds of Westmoreland. When she arrives at an over-booked inn, she declares she is married to ... a stranger, Lord Randall Trent, who was traveling up the Severn on the same boat. Lord Randall knows he's a gentleman and she's safe with him, but what if he wasn't? He can hardly resist the beautiful young woman as it is so when she seems eager for a kiss, he can hardly help himself. Larissa is afraid of living her life without experiences. She is unprepared for how the kiss makes her feel. She's determined to never forget it for it will likely be the only she she ever experiences. He travels on to his Uncle Cyrus, the Earl of Rushton, who decides to sweep Randall up into the world of the haut ton in order to find a new wife. He finds the woman of his dreams, but she needs someone to look out for her ward. Imagine Randall's shock when he discovers that the ward is none other than Miss Quinn! She's a forward little piece of baggage and Randall thinks someone should teach this chit how to go on but it won't be him. He's too busy trying to court the lovely Lady Dorothea Brookhurst. That's fine with Larissa because she is trying to win a kiss from Lord Fenton, who is very slow to come up to scratch. If only she could get the memory of that earth shattering kiss out of her mind. Then, some enemy seems determined to hurt Randall and he is sure to hang if Larissa can't come up with a scheme to save him and bring about a happily every after for all.

This story could have been a funny Heyeresque piece but it failed to meet expectations. The relationship is based purely on feelings and the narration doesn't dig deeply into the characters' heads. I don't really see anything honorable about the way Randall treats Larissa. Despite her forward behavior she is an innocent. The romance is slightly more sensual that I expected from Avalon. I didn't really get Randall and Larissa's relationship. Their story changes from hot to cold and back and forth. I didn't like them together. Larissa is an idiot who innocently breaks almost all the rules and Randall knowingly breaks some of them, yet no one seems to care. The older adults are silly and dim-witted. I figured out who one of the villains was but there were enough red herrings so that I couldn't be completely sure. I wasn't surprised but I was surprised that a certain minor character didn't play a larger role because so much was made about them. 

The Abandoned Rake (Signet Regency Romance, AE 8269)The Abandoned Rake by Emily Hendrickson -- Regency Romance

Joanna Winterton is in mourning for a fiance she didn't love. She feels the ton's sympathy is a little too stifling. The only one who isn't offering kindness and platitudes is the rakish Sir Lucas Montfort. He knows her fiance didn't deserve her. Joanna thinks he's one to talk, for he is engaged to a milk and water miss barely out of the schoolroom. She thinks he needs a bold wife who will stand up to him. Joanna decides to escape London until the gossip dies down. She rents a cottage in the Lakes District with her eccentric, spinster aunt Caroline. When Lucas is publicly humiliated, his pride is wounded and he can't stand the gossip. He decides to go rusticate in the Lakes District, where he hopes for a dalliance to take his mind off things. There he encounters the lovely Joanna. He can't help but tease her but he knows not to dally with a gently bred lady. Lucas's kisses are delicious and Joanna could easily become abandoned if she isn't careful. She knows he isn't serious so she must not refine too much on his actions. He just can't understand why she doesn't dote on him like every other woman he knows. He enjoys the cozy home Joanna and her aunt have made and are kind enough to include him. Then mysterious accidents begin to happen whenever Joanna and Lucas are together. Someone is out to kill one of them, but who would want to kill Joanna or Lucas and why? The pair work together to solve the mystery, coming closer by sharing an experience but Joanna may have to take matters into her own hands if this story is to have a happy ending.

I loved the unique setting for this story. The Lakes District is described so well that I really felt like I was there. It makes the typical plot into something different. The description makes me want to go there. I liked the way the hero and heroine get to know each other. It bothered me at first but as the plot goes on, the relationship develops nicely. The mystery was a bit obvious but kept me wondering why and how it would turn out. It was a little random though. The last third of the novel drags on too long and the ending is a little rushed.

What kept me from really enjoying this novel was the hero. He doesn't have a good opinion of women, which is understandable given his past experiences, but he continually thinks badly of Joanna and assumes things about her that are obviously untrue given what he knows of her. He can't bring himself to think anything different, yet he's constantly teasing her and kissing her and obviously falling in love. His negative thoughts are repetitive and last too long. I can see what Joanna sees in him but I think if she knew what he was thinking, she may not like him so much. 

I really liked Joanna. She's smart, witty, strong and brave. Though she's in constant need of rescuing, she doesn't have hysterics and she knows how to save herself if she needs to. I felt sympathy for her because of her father and she shows readers how difficult it was to be a woman at that time, even for a woman with a moderate fortune. Though I didn't really understand that part of the plot because it didn't seem plausible without some explanation like she's so desperate for attention and praise from her father or he'll withhold her fortune or something along those lines. 

The secondary characters are great. I especially loved Rex, the Border Terrier. Bonus points in my rating are due to him. He needed more scenes and more to do but I'm a sucker for an animal companion and I am obsessed with terriers, so I loved him. I also loved Aunt Caroline. She's a good influence on Joanna and a good role model. She has a disability but doesn't want or need sympathy or pity. I liked her subplot but I'm not sure that was the right direction to take her in. I could have done without Mary. She didn't serve much purpose unless Joanna was going to end up a copy of her aunt.

What I Listened to in June

What I Listened To In June . . .

One Came HomeOne Came Home by Amy Timberlake, read by Tara Sands -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Thirteen-year-old Georgie Burkhart can shoot as straight as can be without missing, do anything else her grandfather taught her like tracking and hiding, and tend the family store account books. She wants nothing more than to run with family store with her older sister Agatha by her side. In 1871 Wisconsin, that's about all a woman can expect to do with her life if she doesn't marry, and Georgie is NEVER getting married. Agatha, however, has other ideas. She is passionate about natural and would love to go to college and study natural science. She's fascinated by the hoards of passenger pigeons who flock to Placid, Wisconsin to roost. So, when Agatha disappears with some pigeon hunters, everyone assumes she's run off to university. Then the sheriff returns home with bits of a body with auburn hair wearing a blue/green dress - a ball gown Agatha's Mama made. Everyone assumes Agatha is dead, except for Georgie. The one thing she can not do is accept her sister's fate. So she sets off on a journey to find her sister accompanied by the onerous Billy McCabe, Agatha's former beau. Georgie experiences many adventures along the way and lives an entire lifetime in only a few days. will the truth remain buried or will Georgie find out what happened to Agatha?

This is a gripping mystery novel that I had a hard time putting down. At first I kept falling asleep in the car while listening, but I was interested enough in the story to rewind and start again a few times. Once I got into the story, I had to know what happened to Agatha! I thought I knew but the clues kept pointing in so many other directions, I wasn't sure. The last third of the book, after the journey, drags on too long. It's all telling and not much action. It seems kind of tacked on. It takes too long to wrap up the loose ends. There is a lot of humor in the story to balance out the sadness. The violence is a little bit graphic but nothing that really bothered me too much.

The setting is interesting but Wisconsin wasn't exactly the wild west in 1871. I could picture Georgie and her journey easily from the descriptions. I thought there was a bit too much history tossed in randomly. The pigeons are fine but the author's note contains too much about the pigeons. The history tossed in at the end doesn't fit with the story. I know what the author was trying to do but it seemed forced and made the message heavy handed. I also found lengthy passages with metaphysical and philosophical pondering too long and too heavy for the novel. Otherwise, the plot was great.

Tara Sands does an excellent job reading this book. She uses a country twang sort of voice of Georgie, not quite Annie Get Your Gun but close. She sounds like a young teenager. She pitches her voice lower for Billy and uses different voices for the adults Georgie encounters. She's not as diverse as Jim dale but I really enjoyed the voices.

The characters are very memorable, especially the hoydenish Georgie. I can't help but love Georgie. She's so earnest and innocent in the beginning. I didn't understand why she didn't do what she did at the end in the first place but she needed the journey to grow as a character. I really liked her character development. She changes a lot as a result of all she's been through. I liked her best when she was acting stubborn and hoydenish. She was very mean to Billy but I can understand her feelings. She's still a child and thinks like a child at times. I don't know how I feel about Billy. He's a difficult character. In some ways, he's as childish as Georgie and not as smart, but in other ways, he's a responsible adult. Agatha is selfish. I can relate to her dreams and desires and the ambition to go after what she wants, but she didn't behave very well by running off without word to her family. They would have worried even without the body.

I really enjoyed this book that I downloaded from the library without even reading reviews. I definitely recommend this book for people 12+. I think young boys would like this as much as girls. Georgie is a tomboy and there's plenty of action to keep boys interested. Though there's a bit of secondary romance but Georgie isn't interested in boys yet. She does admire Billy's figure as he strips down to his union suit but it's very innocent.

What I Read in June Part V

What I Read in June Part V . . .

Althea's Grand TourAlthea's Grand Tour by Emily Hendrickson -- Regency Romance

I was traveling and downloaded this book from the library. There are a number of typos, including exclamation points for I and sometimes no spaces between the words. Terrible e-book!

The Honorable Miss Althea Ingram is too tall and hearty to attract a suitable husband. She wishes she were delicate and small like her companion Cecily. When she overhears the rude comments of the London gentlemen, she decides to leave London. She plans a grand tour of Europe with her companion to see the sights her Papa remembers so fondly, but everything that could possibly go wrong does. First, her stepmama's odious cousin Jemima Greenwood invites herself along though she doesn't approve of Althea or her itinerary; next they run into a spot of trouble and are rescued by the one man Althea hopes never to see again, John Maitland, Earl of Montmorcy, who once called Althea an Amazon to her face. John can't believe his eyes when he comes across the one woman who drove him away from London. He can't understand why he gets to flustered and tongue tied around her and what this strange feeling is he experiences whenever he sees her. Althea has no choice but to rely on John's wisdom and connections, but that doesn't mean she has to like him. In fact, he would make a good husband for her friend Cecily, much better than the Italian Comte who insists on following them. Why does that idea not fully appeal to Althea? It's not that she liked the Earl, for he is so infuriating!

I liked the idea of this book but the plot was pretty stupid. All manner of crazy things happen to Althea and she is ALWAYS being rescued by a man. She's strong and capable but she can't see what's obvious. She doesn't confide her feelings and wishes to her good friend/companion, so how is the hero supposed to know what she wants? She's downright rude to him, despite how kind he is to her. He's a perfect paragon except for calling her an Amazon once or twice. I can see how that would wound her pride, it would mine, but she holds a grudge and continues to misinterpret his intentions. Some of the secondary characters are more appealing than the major characters. The story would have been a lot better without the obvious villain plot. It was a bit too out there and silly. I suspected a totally different villain at first and thought of a different but better plot for the villain. The story could have been a good opportunity to showcase how difficult it was for women at that time. I did like the travel narrative though felt there could have been more description of the scenery and less of fashion.

What I Read in June Part IV

What I Read in June Part IV . . .

Service With a SmileService With a Smile by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Fiction/Romantic Comedy

Poor Lord Emsworth is beset with problems: he has a new horrid secretary Miss Biggs who makes Baxter look nice; the castle grounds are full of camping boys causing noise and mischief and the Duke of Dunstable has invited himself to Blandings and still thinks the Empress is making Lord Emsworth potty. The Duke has a buyer interested in the Empress and he's willing to do whatever it takes to get his hands on that money and rid Lord Emsworth of his problem. There's the usual pair of star-crossed lovers, this time Myra Schoonmaker (the real one this time) and her penniless suitor plus the third party in the love triangle, Archie Gillpin (brother of Ricky, nephew of the Duke). Fred, the Earl of Ickenham discovers his friends' problems and aims to deliver service with a smile. In order to do that he has to use some underhanded methods to make things come out right.

This book was too long on thwarted lovers and too light on pigs. It lacked a serious screwball scene and a glorious scene with the Empress that made some of the earlier books so delightful. I'm tired of the star-crossed lovers. They're all the same. There's nothing to distinguish this pair from any other pair. Their circumstances are the same, even if the details are different. There is an unexpected plot twist I didn't see coming. I still don't like Fred. He's not like Gally, he's much crazier. I don't like how he lies and manipulates people into doing what he wants, even if it is for good. His nephew Pongo was smart to stay out of it this time. It's amazing Lady Constance didn't press charges. The new secretary is unlikeable and supposed to be. I wanted to like her because she's a strong female character. She knows what she wants and goes after it, but her methods are devious and she's a frightful snob. Another new character is Emsworth's grandson George. He's an annoying little kid who thinks adults are his friends and the more they rebuff him, the more he clings to them. (Much like my oldest niece). He's a minor character but has an important role in the story. I found he complicated things unnecessarily. 

Galahad At Blandings: A Blandings StoryGalahad At Blandings: A Blandings Story by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Fiction/Romantic Comedy

Wow there's a lot going on in this book - more than usual. Tipton Plimsoll, fiance of Lord Emsworth's niece Veronica, finds himself locked up with Wilfred Allsop who just so happens to be in love with Monica Simmons, Lord Emsworth's pig girl. Tipton rings up Lord E for bail money, causing a misunderstanding. Poor Lord Emsworth goes to New York for Constance's wedding and is woken up in the middle of the night; then he returns home to enjoy his peace and freedom from meddling sisters when his brother reveals Lady Hermione is currently in residence. Hermione makes Constance seem kind. Not only is there one annoying woman in residence, there are three: Hermione, her widowed friend Dame Daphne (who brought her horrid son) and Sandy Callender, Lord E's new secretary. Dame Daphne has set her sights on marriage to Lord Emsworth and Sandy is crossed in love by her fiance Sam Galahad Bagshott, the son of Galahad Threepwood's old buddy. Lord Emsworth accidentally causes a misunderstanding causing another pair of lovers to be star-crossed. Leave it to Galahad to set everything right. 

Old characters return and a few new ones are introduced. There are several pairs of star-crossed lovers but none of them show any personality. Tippy can be charming when he's not drunk but he's a bit of an idiot. He does provide a lot of the humor though. Wilfred doesn't have much personality. He's rather boring. Sam seemed like an interesting character but when he was faced with difficult situations, a bad side of his personality came out. I didn't like the way he dealt with his problems. Sandy is supposed to be more efficient than Baxter, but she isn't idiotic which doesn't make for an appealing character in terms of comedy. I don't like how the girls are attracted to caveman like behavior. Veronica manages to not be so annoying in this novel, mainly because she isn't in it directly that much. Rounding out the characters is Lady Hermione, frightful as always, and her husband Edgar, who manages to grow a personality. I actually liked him. 

P.G. Wodehouse ramped up the comedy/drama in this novel. Galahad was amazing - getting up to his old tricks and then some. He veers into Uncle Fred territory with lots of deception, law-breaking and lying, which I didn't quite like, but it was pretty funny. the Empress back in full form. Fans of the series will never believe what she imbibes this time. It's truly outrageous! This is one of my favorite Blandings Castle novels. I'm sad I'm almost done with the series but looking forward to reading more Wodehouse soon.