new holiday recipe? check!

Sunday, December 12, 2010 | | 9 comments

This autumn has been interesting. I’ve changed jobs, had a blog hiccup, and have a lot of unanswered email in my inbox. On the flip side, I’ve cultivated friendships, read some amazing books and made a triumphant return to cooking. But I’ve known for a while that it wouldn’t be in my budget to get gifts for everyone on my list. Instead, I resolved to go the baked goods route for those lovely friends.

I’ve made up little confectioner’s bags of Christmas Fudge and this new (to me) recipe of Peanut Walnut Brittle – and I have to say that they’ll be perfectly sweet holiday treats. In the interest of full disclosure: I was scared to attempt the brittle. I’ve never done candy or anything (aside from fudge) that required a candy thermometer. Luckily, this is a simple, straight-forward recipe. If you have all of the ingredients ready to go beforehand, you should be just fine. At least, I was. Yay!

Peanut Walnut Brittle (adapted from this recipe)

peanut walnut brittle on the right. also in process: peppermint bark!


1 cup white (granulated) sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water

1 cup nuts (half cup peanuts and half cup walnuts)

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon baking soda

right after we'd poured the brittle into the pan


Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside.

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in nuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads.

it seemed like there was a lot of butter on the brittle, so i took a paper towel to it

my friend Greta takes a turn breaking up the peanut brittle with a wax paper-covered hammer

Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. With wooden fork, lift and pull peanut mixture into rectangle about 14x12 inches; cool. Snap candy into pieces.

I tripled this recipe and didn’t have any problems, although I waited a bit longer than the recipe called for to add in the nuts. If you DO triple the recipe, have two cookie sheets ready to go – it’ll fill them right up. OH! And most useful tip ever: have boiling water ready to pour into your cooking pot right after you finish with it. Makes cleanup about a thousand times simpler. Store in an airtight container for up to a month!

Recommended for: a not-too-sweet holiday staple, a versatile snack, and a challenge for anyone who wants to wander on the adventurous side of Christmas baking.

the kid table

Friday, December 10, 2010 | | 11 comments

I’ve said it here before, and I’ll probably rave again – I’m a fantasy geek. I love escaping the here-and-now and experiencing the only-in-someone’s-wildest-imaginings. BUT. Every once and a while contemporary fiction punches me in the gut. In a good way, if you can picture that. Well, never mind, I can’t either. I meant to infer that there’s something so very raw and honest and mirror-like about it that you can’t help but be caught up, moved, and possibly even changed forever. Andrea Seigel’s novel The Kid Table was a bit like that for me. Or a lot. You decide.

It's there at every family event. A little smaller, collapsible, and decked out with paper napkins because you can't be trusted with the good ones. But you're stuck there. At the Kid Table. Because to them- to the adults- you're still a kid.

Ingrid Bell and her five teenage cousins are in exactly this situation. Never mind the fact that high school is almost over. They're still eating mac and cheese with a toddler. But what happens when the rules change? When Brianne, the oldest cousin, lands a seat at the Adult Table, the others are in shock. What does it take to graduate from the Kid Table?

Over the course of five family events, Ingrid and her cousins attempt to finish childhood and send the infamous table into retirement. But as Ingrid turns on the charm in order to manipulate her situation, the family starts questioning her motives. And when her first love comes in the form of first betrayal, Ingrid is forced to consider how she fits into this family and what it means to grow up.

First off, you should know that I’m from a large family of VERY close siblings. I mean there are five of us kids, and only six and a half years separating us in age. So there’s that parallel with the story already. I could picture Ingrid’s family (albeit extended, while mine is immediate) so clearly that it startled. I felt like I’d lived the scenes. The ones where one relative does that THING or someone else has THAT quirk – it was just real, you know? I discovered a very rare and authentic connection. With a fictional family.

And then there was the narrator, Ingrid – who discovered (for herself) what she was really like over the course of the book, and if she was okay with that. I identified with Ingrid's psyche, and not always the good things, either. The Kid Table was seriously eerie in parts, because I found myself in it. I was tempted to write to Ms. Seigel immediately after finishing the novel to demand to know how she’d gotten in my head. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling necessarily, but it was true.

As for the novel on its own merit, it’s about coming of age/adulthood. In other words, it’s a universal story. It has real-seeming characters, making real mistakes, on a very real stage. I think it will appeal to a lot of young adults, and probably even more so to the older readers of young adult fiction – those of us a couple of years on, who are still wondering faintly if we did it right? If we’re there. Adults. Or wherever it is that we’re supposed to be. I really enjoyed The Kid Table. Go read it, find bits of yourself in it or perhaps bits of others. But I hope you’ll find that it’s as true and beautiful (in a hard-as-diamond sort of way) as I did.

“This book is the real thing—hilarious, original, and as true as your mother thinking your boyfriend's too good for you. Boy do I wish I'd written it.”

—Meg Rosoff, author of the Michael L. Printz award winner How I Live Now

Recommended for: older teens, anyone with a large family or a treasure trove of stories from family gatherings, fans of contemporary young adult novels, and those looking for honest fiction.

in which i haven’t abandoned my blog after all (+ giveaway)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | | 30 comments
November 2010 is going to go down as the month my blog (almost) died. December might seem like a close second, but I’ll fight that, starting right now.There’s no particular ‘reason’ I stopped writing – just a combination of factors that together add up to something called “real life.” The only thing left to do, I think, is to apologize for the interruption in service and get on with it.

Well, and offer a giveaway. It’s been a while, so if you’re still reading, I figure you deserve it.

[this lovely image is from aliette's etsy shop]

Prize: Two winners will receive $25 US to either Amazon or The Book Depository.


To enter:

Fill out the FORM. Giveaway is open internationally, and will end on December 22 at 11:59pm EST. I will notify the randomly selected winner via email.

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