Saturday, December 3, 2016

Smithsonian Libraries Adopt a Book Program

The Smithsonian Libraries has a program to let you Adopt-A-Book. This helps conservation, acquisition and digitization books of historical and cultural note. If you adopt a book it's noted in either a digital or physical bookplate in the book. You can also adopt a book in memoriam for someone.  

There is even a list of books that yu can adopt and the price for adoption. Of course, the books stay at the Smithsonian. There are a wide range of adoption prices. 
Adoptable books include:

  • A Treatise on Brewing by Alexander Morrice, and apparently this was self-published in 1815 - donation $250
  • How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas, 1862 - this was the first book published with recipes for mixed drinks in the US - donation $3,000
  • American Fishes by Joseph F Cullman 1888 - donation $650

Friday, December 2, 2016

Holiday Eggnog with Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs

Best-selling author Laura Childs joins us today for Drinks with Reads. She's matching her new Cackleberry Club mystery with the perfect drink. 
First a little bit about the book...
Suzanne, Petra, and Toni—co-owners of the Cackleberry Club café—are back to track down another bad egg…   Maintaining good personal relationships with their suppliers is one of the secrets of the Cackleberry Club café’s success, so Suzanne doesn’t mind going out to Mike Mullen’s dairy farm to pick up some wheels of cheese. She’s looking forward to a nice visit with the mild-mannered farmer before heading back to their hectic kitchen.   But when she arrives, Mike’s nowhere to be found. The moaning of his cows leads her to look in the barn, where she discovers a bloodcurdling sight—the farmer’s dead body. Apparently not everyone was as fond of Mike Mullen as the Cackleberry Club.   Churning with grief and outrage, Suzanne, Petra, and Toni vow to find the farmer’s murderer—but as they get closer to the truth, the desperate killer gets whipped into a frenzy and plans to put the squeeze on them...

And just wait until you see the recipes for sweets such as Cackleberry Club Rice Pudding, and Toni’s Pumpkin Fudge, not to mention a scrumptious recipe for Egg Drop Dead Soup.
Welcome to the seventh Cackleberry Club book. If you are familiar with this series you know that Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, are three forty-plus women who have launched the Cackleberry Club café in a rehabbed Spur station in the town of Kindred. You can be sure that there is always something fun going on because the ladies have a book nook and knitting shop in the mix. When it comes to food, the main attraction at the Cackleberry Club is a wide variety of egg dishes.
And since it is December, well, Eggnog does naturally come to mind as the perfect drink to pair with EGG DROP DEAD. Although this recipe is not from the book, I think you will enjoy it.

Holiday Egg Nog 
2 cups milk
2 whole cloves
½ teaspoon vanilla extract  
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
1 cup light rum
2 cups light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (in addition to the ½ teaspoon above)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Slowly bring milk mixture to a boil.
2. In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until fluffy. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs. Pour mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves, and let cool for about an hour.
3. Stir in rum, cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight before serving.
4. If you prefer non-alcoholic Egg Nog, eliminate the rum, and serve immediately. Refrigerate any left overs, although I sincerely doubt you will have any.

Curl up in your favorite chair with your feet tucked under an afghan and a tasty cup of eggnog on the side table while you follow the adventures of the Cackleberry Club in EGG DROP DEAD.  Happy holidays to all.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Snowman Cheese Ball

We have a guest today from the Denver-based book club Crime & Beyond. Lorraine Masonheimer is here to tell us how to make a Snowman Cheese Ball that was inspired by the book The Snowman by Jo Nesbo.

Cheeseball ingredients:

2 (8 ounces) packages cream cheese, at room temperature  (2 Tbsp reserved to glue hat together)
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese
1/2 orange bell pepper, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green part
½t garlic salt
2 drops hot sauce
¼t cayenne pepper

Decoration ingredients:
3 slices pumpernickel bread (4 small circles, 1 large circle to assemble hat)
1 English cucumber (sliced the length of the cucumber with a vegetable peeler for scarf)
A dab of red food paste
pink nonpareils small pearl sprinkles (if desired)
2 wooden skewers
2 toothpicks
3 peppercorns (mouth)
1 clove (scarf pin)
2 black sugar large pearl sprinkles (eyes)
3 carrots with roots (nose & arms)

Step One: Creating the Cheese Balls

Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until mixed together well. Divide cheese mixture into two sections—one larger for the snowman's body and one smaller for the head. Wrap in plastic wrap and shape into balls. Refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

Step Two: Preparing the Cheese Balls for Decorating

Before removing cheese balls from plastic wrap, re-form cheese into round balls. This will be easier to do after the cheese has chilled.

Place larger cheese ball onto serving tray in desired spot. Position the head to lean slightly forward in a menacing stance by inserting two wooden skewers slightly forward of center angled forward. Secure the head to the bottom cheese ball.

Step Three: Decorating the Snowman

Using a toothpick, dig two evil eyes similar to the photo. Insert a black sugar pearl for each eye.

Cut a crooked root off the small end of a carrot and insert it for the nose.
Cut two crooked roots off the small end of a carrot for the arms or use broken pretzels. Place one arm slightly forward for a menacing stance.

Place 3 peppercorns to one side of face for an evil smile.

Step Three: Creating the Top Hat & Scarf

Cut 3-4 small circles from the pumpernickel bread and 1 larger circle for the hat.  Use the reserved cream cheese to glue the pieces together and secure to the head with 2 toothpicks placed slightly forward on the head for a menacing tilt.

Paint the cucumber slice with a dab of red dye to create a pink scarf. Dry the cucumber with a paper towel. If desired, sprinkle with pink small pearl nonpareils and drape around the neck.  Attach with a clove.

If desired, dab red food paste onto the snowman body or pour a little cherry jelly onto the plate for blood.

Serve with crackers, bread or vegetables. The Snowman is soft enough that you won’t break your crackers if you dig right in. This appetizer tastes great with red or white wine.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Picks with Matthew FitzSimmons

Yay! We're in the middle of the holiday season and after all the hullaballoo, you might have a moment to dig into some good books. Every Wednesday until the end of the year we will feature three favorite book recommendations. Today our book recommendations come from Matthew FitzSimmons, author of The Short Drop and Poisonfeather. Matthew was born in Illinois, raised in London and now lives in Washington, DC. Let's see what books he loves. 

Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
It wasn’t always the case, but American literary novels rarely indulge in high concept. Quite the contrary, there seems to be a preference for familiar, basic storylines. The elegant simplicity of Colson Whitehead’s central conceit – that the underground railroad, the network of southern abolitionists who shepherded runaway slaves out of the South was not metaphoric but a literal subterranean rail service – is why I love novels. With one audacious choice, Whitehead takes a piece of our familiar history, turns it on its head, and makes it new. Yet somehow it remains true. A brilliant book.

Dark Matter –  Blake Crouch
Science fiction and fantasy were my first loves as a kid, but they have long been niche genres that rarely made much impact on mainstream audiences. That’s been changing in recent years as the success of authors such as George R.R. Martin and Andy Weir can attest. Blake Crouch’s latest novel, Dark Matter is another great addition to that list. It’s exciting for me to see a novel steeped in quantum mechanics and the dangers of meddling in the multiverse find such crossover success. And it’s well deserved, because Crouch does a masterful job of making his subject accessible and comprehensible to a lay audience. And more than that it’s a great ride – some of the late story twists and consequences are so wonderfully unexpected yet undeniably right. It reminds me why science fiction remains a vital genre.

Before the Fall – Noah Hawley

Noah Hawley came onto my radar through his work adapting the Cohen Brothers’ Fargo for television. It seemed like a thankless, doomed project but he’s done the impossible – channel the Cohen’s sardonic tone without aping it. His recent thriller, Before the Fall – a character study set around a private plane that crashes into the Atlantic shortly after takeoff – shows exactly why Fargo has been so brilliant. Hawley has a terrific eye for detail about his characters; he turns one hell of a phrase; and his nonlinear plotting and structure add so much complexity to the story. This is what a thriller should be.

Come on back next Wednesday for more book recommendations and don't forget to check out Matthew's Drinks with Reads post. The drink is super interesting.