Homegrown Truffles for A Paris Tea Shop

My book of the week is Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop, by Roselle Lim.  After reading her debut novel, Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune, which I very much enjoyed, her sequel was next on my list.  As in her earlier book there are sprinklings of clairvoyance, coming to terms with who we are and what we can be, romance and of course, lots of really good food.  Heck,  she goes to Paris, so of course!   Not too deep, but not shallow either.

Vanessa has had the gift, some call it second sight, since she was a child, but is definitely looking that horse in the mouth.  Doesn't want it, can't seem to be rid of it and at the same time is being hounded by her well-meaning family to marry, and get on with her life.  Unfortunately that idea has been  held up by the inconvenient truths she blurts out on dates, which sends them running.

From the Publishers: 

"Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people's fortunes—or misfortunes—in tealeaves.

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa has been able to see people's fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.

After her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa sees death for the first time. She decides that she can't truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric Aunt Evelyn shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to California and bonjour to Paris. There, Vanessa learns more about herself and the root of her gifts and realizes one thing to be true: knowing one's destiny isn't a curse, but being unable to change it is."

I thought a nice batch of truffles would be a fine accompaniment to the beverages at Aunt Evelyn's new Tea Shop, Promesse de The. Plus, I found out it's National Chocolate Day!  This recipe is a simpler way of using my cacao nibs than the long and involved process of making finished chocolate.  See this post for that step by step illustration. I still haven't bought myself a moulanger, and have been using my nephew's. But for this, no need.  

My Truffles

2 1/2 cups roasted cacao nibs, ground fine (liquefied in my Sumeet Grinder)
1 tablespoon lecithin (added at the end of the cacao grinding - optional)
1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup dates or figs, seeded, chopped (I used 1/2 cup dried pineapple for this batch)
1./2 cup honey or agave nectar, add more if you like things sweeter
1/3 cup peanut butter (or almond, cashew, etc.)
1/4 teas. almond extract

Mix all well and then form into balls on parchment paper.  Chill until firm, then wrap in cling wrap. Enjoy! So, now I won't have to purchase chocolate bars for awhile.  My fix is waiting.  No special excuse is needed, they're good any time of the day.  I brought one in for my granddaughter and she had it for breakfast.  Well, she did have a smoothie too. Personally, I like mine with a glass of wine. A good book on the side.

This post will go over to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marge the Intrepid Reader, and to Heather for her October Foodies Read Challenge. Be sure to stop by for a visit at these sites for some good food and book recommendations.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Scones for The Secret Book & Scone Society

The Secret, Book & Scone Society is our current bi-monthly pick at Cook the Books Club, hosted this time by Simona of Briciole. In my opinion this is a delightful novel, featuring not only tempting food, secrets and some magic (or call it inspired intuition), but healing and a bit of romance as well. On top of all that the new found friends solve a mystery.  From the Publishers:

"A quirky club in small-town North Carolina holds the keys to health, happiness, friendship—and even solving a murder—all to be found within the pages of the right book…

Strangers flock to Miracle Springs hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain. So when a visiting businessman reaches out for guidance, Nora knows exactly how to help. But before he can keep their appointment, he’s found dead on the train tracks.

Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to earn redemption by helping others. To join, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place. Now, determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cozy bookstore. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over..."


Death Below Stairs with Soup

I do believe Jennifer Ashley, a bestselling author with a few other series, has a hit with this new debut, Death Below Stairs.  I think we all love discovering a new author with an exciting, new series.  Then, many of us would add to that a good new recipe for even more enjoyment.  

In this tale reminiscent of the old Upstairs, Downstairs TV show, a youthful, though excellent chef, in Victorian London, finds herself stretched to her limits with cooking, shopping, (earning enough to support her little girl) all while helping solve the murder of her young assistant. I thought the ambitious and feisty cook was an engaging and well-drawn character.  From the Publishers:

"Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered. 


An Old Style Recipe for A Perfect Wife

This was our August/September Cook the Books Club selection, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  And, yes you read that right. Recipe for A Perfect Wife by Karma Brown.  When I first heard the title I was dumbfounded.  What??  But, after all this is the year of strange happenings, 2020, and we are not in a time machine.  Well, Karma Brown does take us on a little time switch, moving back and forth from the 50's to present with her main characters and their lives. She takes a look at the parallels between life as a wife in both eras. I especially loved her exhumation of some old recipes, harking back to my own childhood, and my mom's and mother-in-law's cooking.  Vintage cuisine I guess you could call it. And, an enjoyable, very worthwhile read.  In spite of which, truthfully, I didn't care all that much for the modern character, Alice.  A bit on the discontented whiney side. And she lies way too much for no really good reason.

From the Publishers:
"In this captivating dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband--and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society. 


Spicy Cold Noodles with Beef Slivers for Kitchen Chinese

We, at Cook the Books Club, are currently reading and getting inspired by Kitchen Chinese, a delicious, little debut novel by Ann Mah. Fairly light weight, but I very much enjoyed it, both for the storyline and an up close look at a country headlining the news lately, mostly in a negative way.

 Our protagonist, Isabelle, has come to a standstill in her life, with loss of job, no romance in sight and craving some new horizons.  She decides to explore the family connections in China, where her sister is working as an attorney in Beijing. One drawback being that her knowledge of the language is limited to a bit of "kitchen Chinese" picked up watching and helping her mother cook while growing up.

However, once there, Isabelle manages to land a job at a magazine for the expatriate community in Beijing and connect with a small circle of friends. The relationship with her high powered sister is not so smooth, and they circle one another warily at first.

From the Publishers: "Kitchen Chinese, Ann Mah’s funny and poignant first novel about a young Chinese-American woman who travels to Beijing to discover food, family, and herself is a delight—complete with mouth-watering descriptions of Asian culinary delicacies, from Peking duck and Mongolian hot pot to the colorful, lesser known Ants in a Tree that will delight foodies everywhere. Reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s runaway bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, Mah’s tale of clashing cultures, rival siblings, and fine dining is an unforgettable, unexpectedly sensual reading experience—the story of one woman’s search for identity and purpose in an exotic and faraway land."


A New Sort of Monkey Bread

I'm going to share a recent read, The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, and a recent food creation, with a very loose          connection. Well, maybe connections would be that the ingredients in the Monkey Bread were all essential, and that both the book and the recipe were delicious. I loved them both.  And, I just noticed that this is actually book 1 of a series, so looking forward to reading her next, The Lost art of Mixing.

The novel is about a basically self taught chef and restaurant owner who opens up her premises once a month, on Mondays, the day the restaurant is closed, to a small group cooking school.  Of course, all of the students, in the manner of a Maeve Binchy story, are revealed in their unique characters and situations, and come together, helped by the learning experience and the creating of good food.

From the Publisher's Weekly:

"In this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence. Respected chef and restaurateur Lillian has spent much of her 30-something years in the kitchen, looking for meaning and satisfaction in evocative, delicious combinations of ingredients. Endeavoring to instill that love and know-how in others, Lillian holds a season of Monday evening cooking classes in her restaurant. The novel takes up the story of each of her students, navigating readers through the personal dramas, memories and musings stirred up as the characters handle, slice, chop, blend, smell and taste. Each student's affecting story--painful transitions, difficult choices--is rendered in vivid prose and woven together with confidence. Delivering memorable story lines and characters while seducing the senses, Bauermeister's tale of food and hope is certain to satisfy. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"


A Blue Zones Kitchen in June

I was happy to finally arrive at the top of our library's list for The Blue Zones Kitchen, by Dan Buettner, having been curious as to what that sort of cooking would involve.  The recipes presented, from each zone are all very simple and easily prepared.  No fancy cooking involved here.  A back to the elemental basics, plain food.  So far, I've made three of the recipes, was quite happy with them all, and am looking forward to trying a few more before the book goes back.  A summary from the Publishers:

"Building on decades of research, longevity expert Dan Buettner has gathered 100 recipes inspired by the Blue Zones, home to the healthiest and happiest communities in the world. Each dish-- uses ingredients and cooking methods proven to increase longevity, wellness, and mental health. Complemented by mouthwatering photography, the recipes also include lifestyle tips (including the best times to eat dinner and proper portion sizes), all gleaned from countries as far away as Japan and as near as Blue Zones project cities in Texas and Hawaii.. Innovative, easy to follow, and delicious, these healthy living recipes make the Blue Zones lifestyle even more attainable, thereby improving your health, extending your life, and filling your kitchen with happiness."


Fat Cakes for Precious and Grace

 I have posted twice on the books of Alexander McCall Smith, both times from his 44 Scotland St. series, here: The Bertie Project, and here: A Time of Love and Tartan.  However, McCall Smith is really best known for his wonderful African, Botswana set series, featuring The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, headed up by Precious Ramotswe.  In them we clearly see his deep and abiding love for the country where he spent so much of his life.

This novel, and my most recent read in the series, Precious and Grace, has inspired a long overdue review.  Smith is a writer, unafraid to take his time, sometimes meandering, with deep thoughts and insightful meditations on the times, the people and morality, serious, yet with humor throughout.  His main character, especially true in this book, is often way more patient and understanding than I would be in a given situation.  A very good prod for my soul.  And his novel is particularly apt in our current National crisis - on forgiveness - so needed for healing.  Coincidentally, it was our Pastor's sermon topic last Sunday.  From the Publishers:
"Forgiveness is often the solution," observes Precious Ramotswe toward the end of Smith's warmhearted, humane 17th No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel. Mma Ramotswe is referring to the book's main case, which involves a Canadian woman in her late 30s, Susan, who spent her childhood years in Botswana and now wants to find Rosie, the nursemaid largely responsible for raising her. Mma Ramotswe places an ad in a Gaborone newspaper, which brings a woman who claims to be Rosie to the detective agency. Grace Makutsi, the agency's prickly co-director, suspects this Rosie is a fraud, while Mma Ramotswe senses something not quite right about Susan's quest. Meanwhile, the ladies deal with a couple of minor cases: their assistant Fanwell rescues a stray dog that needs a home, and Mr. Polepetsi, their sometime helper, becomes an unwitting pawn in a pyramid scheme involving cattle. As ever, Smith adroitly mixes gentle humor with important life lessons."


May Highlights In My Kitchen

 I left you with the brining  ham last time, so here it is cooked up

The highlights of May. My version of In My Kitchen! Sprinkled through the various meals I fixed are a few books, and I read some very good ones in May; several on my new Kindle and a couple from our newly re-opened public library.  Actually the ones I got through Kindle were via the public library Overdrive program. We now book an appointment at the library, then go to the front doors, wearing a mask, to collect our books.:)  These last two months have been just hilarious. Ha ha.

 A Roots Soup, which was absolutely delicious!

I read a couple of Martha Grimes' novels, her books are always enjoyable, several by C.S. Harris with her Sebastian St. Cyr, English Regency period mysteries, and a new favorite author, Donna Andrews, who has an iron-mongering artist sleuth, with a totally hysterical family, whose Crouching Buzzard Leaping Loon was my most recently read. I heartily recommend these for any of you who want less angst and dread in your lives, to be replaced by humor.