Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Silent Sounds of Chaos by Kristina Circelli

*Disclaimer - I received an e-copy of the book through Promotional Book Tours in order to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.


The Silent Sounds of Chaos

TSSOCEbookAmazon (1) A silent call for help began the friendship between two children. A bond unlike any other kept them together. Finn was just a kid when he first heard Snow’s voice inside his head, two children in need of a friend and finding one in mysterious strangers. Never meeting in person, the pair grows up as opposites – Finn the boy who loves to get in trouble and works for the toughest drug lord in town, Snow the good, sheltered girl who wants to be a doctor.

The bond built upon a strange ability to hear each other’s thoughts is threatened when Snow is abducted, her screams for help consuming Finn’s mind until they disappear completely, submerging him in a terrifying silence he’s never known before. Now it’s up to Finn to save her, led only by Snow’s sporadic thoughts as she floats in and out of consciousness.

But the search for Snow leads him to a truth he isn’t prepared to face, a truth that has the power to unravel his entire world. The people he thought he knew, the life he thought he’d made, the best friend he thought he could protect – all point toward a brutal reality should he fail. And as Finn struggles to find Snow before she slips away, he must fight to keep that reality out, lest he let the chaos in.

Purchase Amazon  / iBooks /  Smashwords / B&N

This is not the first book I have featured by Kristina Circelli. A few years back I had the chance to review The Never.  Her newest book is definitely one I plan to add to my summer reading list!  Be sure to check out the excerpt below for a taste of what this book has in store, and check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

The Silent Sounds of Chaos – Excerpt 1
The boy huddled in the farthest corner of his tiny closet, bony shoulders pressed up against the
cheap, paneled walls of an already falling-apart trailer. In his hands he twisted the thin metal of
a paperclip, creating loops and shapes until they formed a stick man, just one of many he’d created to
distract himself from the sounds filling his run-down home.

Through the thin walls of his bedroom he could hear the source of his fear ‒‒ two voices
engaged in a verbal sparring match in the next room. One of them he knew, a shockingly thin woman with unwashed blonde hair and sunken blue eyes that, in the past, may have matched his own. The other he knew from many nights such as these, a tall and wide man with frightening pictures on his arms. Their shouts filled him with fear, the woman accusing the man of doing terrible things, the man ordering her to pay or else he’d do those terrible things again.

Their hate, their anger, sent him into the closet, where he often hid when his mother’s visitors
gave him those strange and calculating looks. His arms wrapped around a soft, yellow blanket almost
as big as he was, one he’d kept at his side for as long as his young mind could remember. Face buried in the yellow comfort, he tried hard not to be afraid.

Tonight his fear felt different. He felt different, so tired and scared and hurting from a night he’d
lived too many times in his young life. But, more than tired – he felt a part of himself fade away
into nothingness, only to be replaced by the same hate filling the voices outside his room.

One tiny hand pressed over an ear, the other holding the blanket to his chest, as his body
began to rock ever so slightly. He concentrated on the roaring in his ears rather than the thud of a body hitting the hollow floor, or the whimpers from a broken woman who’d given up long ago.

Make it stop.

In his head he whispered the silent plea to anyone who could help him, anyone who could hear
the unspoken words of a little boy trapped in his bedroom closet. No one had ever heard him
before, but maybe, just maybe, tonight would be different.

Please make it stop.

And then, by magic or miracle, his plea was answered.

I will protect you.

The voice whispered inside his mind, fluttering through his senses in a way that almost tickled.

The boy stilled, listening carefully for the voice again, a quiet, high-pitched tone he felt like he should know, but couldn’t quite place.

When he heard only the rushing in his ears, he reached out. Hello?

I will protect you, the voice said again, a girl’s voice.

He knew he should probably be afraid of a stranger magically talking to him, but he liked the
sound of this particular stranger. It sounded like music when she spoke, and distracted him from the
screeching and thudding going on outside the safety of his mind.

Who are you? he asked, and could almost feel the hesitation on the other end.

I’m not supposed to tell strangers my name … Are you real?

He huffed. Of course I’m real.

How can I hear you?

He thought about it, not coming up with an answer. Nor did he want to admit to silently praying
for help, help that came in the form of her innocent proclamation. Dunno.

I heard you, she insisted. I heard you crying in my head.

I wasn’t crying.

Well, if you say so … Are you sure you’re real?

Are you? he countered, trying to comprehend the fluttering in his mind amidst the shouting
through the walls.

I think so.

How old are you?


Me too. He felt a strange twinge of satisfaction that she wasn’t older, and that they had
something in common. Who are you? Again, he sensed hesitation. I’m not a stranger.

Are too.

Fine. He huffed again and squeezed his eyes shut. It was almost fun, blocking out the entire
world and focusing only on the person living in his brain. Then let’s pretend to be other people. I
wanna be … an explorer, and have lots of adventures and cause lots of trouble, and run away whenever I feel like it.

He heard her giggle in his mind, and instantly loved the sound. Who are you?

I wanna be … a princess! The prettiest princess in the world who makes friends with everyone
and talks to all the animals.

What a girl.


He grimaced at himself, forgetting that this strange new girl could hear all his thoughts. Sorry …
I don’t know what to call you. You need a name.

You think of one, she giggled at him.

He thought, long and hard. Okay. How about … I know! Can I call you Snow? Like the princess
all the girls at school talk about?

Can I call you Finn? Like the little boy I saw in a movie at school who ran away to live on the

They agreed upon their new names, and, with their introductions, the two children were no
longer strangers.

He talked to her through the night, the menacing sounds around him disappearing as he
listened to her talk in her youthful, high-pitched voice. She told him about her life living by the beach, with a mother and father who were very nice to her. She liked to read, and watch movies with princesses, and wanted to learn how to swim. It was a happy life, he could tell, and yet, he sensed loneliness in her tone, though he couldn’t identify its source.

She listened to him until morning, wondering why he sounded so scared when his words first
filtered through her mind, enjoying the way his tone relaxed as the night wore on. He told her about his life in a run-down trailer park, with a mother who paid more attention to strange men and things with weird smells. He liked to skateboard, and hang out with his friends, and hoped to be on a football team someday. It was a hard life, she imagined sadly, and yet, she knew he faced each day with the kind of mischievousness only boys could cause.

When she grew quiet, no longer responding, he worried she had grown tired of his stories.

“Don’t leave me,” he whispered out loud, not wanting her to hear his childish plea. Deep down
he hoped she was only tired, that he’d kept her up too late. Her, the voice in his head, a stranger
who probably didn’t really exist. But he didn’t want to give her up, because giving her up would mean
accepting the reality around him. And so, instead of saying good-bye or goodnight, the boy now
named Finn decided to make her his.

Just before they both drifted off to sleep, one in a closet, and one in a bed an unknown number
of miles away, he needed to hear her voice one last time.

Will you be my friend, Snow?

Forever, Finn.


Meet the author:

kristina-2Night owl, Dorito lover, and quiet eccentric – Kristina Circelli is the author of several fiction novels, including The Helping Hands series, The Whisper Legacy, The Never, and The Sour Orange Derby. 

Her latest series, The Whisper Legacy, features Beyond the Western Sun. This book is what all fantasy adventures must strive to be: a complex, intricate examination of human emotion set within the context of worlds known only in our imagination.

Melding fantasy and legend in an epic quest, this series signals the arrival of Kristina Circelli as a master storyteller and an important voice in Native American literature.

A descendent of the Cherokee nation and niece of a Cherokee elder, Circelli holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from the University of North Florida, where she teaches creative writing. She also heads Red Road Editing, a full-service editing company for independent authors and commercial clients. She currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, Seth, and cats, Lord Finnegin the Fierce and Mr. Malachi the Mighty.

Follow Kristina on

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Literary Addicts | GoodReads

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Summer Strawberry Tote DIY - With the Silhouette Mint!

Are you looking forward to summer?

Are you ready to haul all of your necessities around? There are the glasses, a reusable water bottle, sunscreen and either a tablet or good book... but, what will you be using to lug it all around in? Whether you are popping out for some groceries, heading to the berry patch for U-Pick, or just taking your kids to the park, a fun and personalized tote is perfect for summer.

This month for the Silhouette Challenge, I wanted to use my newest addition from the Silhouette line, the Silhouette Mint. The Mint is a stamp lover's dream! With thermal printing, I can design a stamp in the Mint Studio on my computer, print it onto a stamp blank, then use their line of inks to stamp my design.

For my daughter's Valentine's Day cards we created a custom stamp with her image. I just love how it turned out and it made her cards unique and memorable.

But only recently did I hear you could use the stamps along with Silhouette's ink to stamp on fabric.

That was a really exciting moment!

So when I was planning out my "summer" themed Silhouette Challenge project, I knew it had to involve fabric and stamping.

Summer here on the farm starts with strawberry season. Right now we are up to our ears in planting and transplanting vegetables, even cutting the year's first hay, but the farm really comes alive with the first strawberries. This year we have been lucky enough to already have found a few early berries... those hidden gems are always the best!

To commemorate our favorite red berries, I wanted to create a simple stamped tote. It is the perfect bag to haul my water bottle, book of the week, as well as all my other necessities into the strawberry patch while I pick. I will probably also take it along to the park, or the beach and personalizing it makes it all mine.

Let me show you how easy it was to create.

First start by choosing or importing your design. I purchased this simple strawberry from the Silhouette Design Store. It doesn't matter whether it is in color, or already black and white. It is easy enough to preview and adjust as necessary like I did with the photo of my daughter above. Simple graphics are much easier to use for creating a stamp though.

Choose the size stamp you want to create and the software will change your working area. That white square is a 30 x 30 mm stamp size.

I played around with a few different strawberries till I found one that was easy to modify. Please tell me I am not the only one who buys several similar images and plays around forever till I get it ...just, right.  I decided to separate the stem and strawberry for other projects. 

I just used the eraser tool to delete the portion I didn't want. You can add different color ink to the different sections if you want.  I wanted the parts separate, and I was worried about the ink bleeding around the edges of the stem.

At any time you can click on stamp filters to see what your image will look like and play around with different options. I used the comic outline for this project.

After your image is ready, when you go to create your stamp, the software automatically mirror images the design for you. I really enjoy this part being automatic. I can't tell you how many times I have messed up a project because I forgot to reverse the lettering!

So in the case of my "Berry Nice", I used the curved text option to create it...

Then when I clicked to send it to the Mint, it gave me the mirror image of the text so my stamp would stamp the words correctly.

This stamp is a 30 x 60 mm size which was perfect for my saying.

If you already have used a Silhouette Mint, you know how easy it is to print. Once you send it to the machine, you feed the stamp blank through the back and it stamps it and rolls through.

Break open the sheet and peel off the printed stamp. Then adhere it to a stamp mount which slides onto a changeable stamp grip. Then you can stamp a label to mark your stamp lid for storage.

Once the stamp is ready, I covered my image in Silhouette Mint Ink. Let it soak in completely for about 10 minutes, stamped off the excess ink on scratch paper and then went about stamping my project area.

I picked up a simple canvas tote. I always have a stash of these in the car for grocery shopping or just collecting our "stuff". Yeah, a family of 5 always has more stuff than I have room for in my hands.

Through trial and error I stamped and stamped and created my tote. Not a masterpeice, but it is all mine. 

So, let me know down in the comments below what you thought of my "Berry Nice" tote as well as what you would put on your own stamped summer tote. I would love to hear how you would personalize yours!

Want to Check Out More Silhouette Projects?

I've got two great Silhouette treats for you today! First off, my Silhouette Challenge buddies and I are all sharing projects on our blogs today, so peruse the projects below for a wealth of Silhouette inspiration!

Sunshine. Sea Salt. And Ice Cream Shirt Personalized Lawn Chair DIY Summer Strawberry Tote DIY - With the Silhouette Mint! How to Use Multiple Colors of Silhouette Sketch Pens Patriotic Hand-Scripted USA Shirt Herb Garden with Personalized Tin Outdoor Pillow for Summer How to Make Huge Paper Flowers Make A Half Moon Printed Pouch DIY Nautical Pallet Sign Vertical Herb Garden Ladder Kyltit yrttipenkkiin / Labels for herbs Pineapple Cup Decal DIY Flamingo Nail Art Sunshine Straw Toppers Summer Planner Stickers 1. Sisters, What // 2. Small Stuff Counts // 3. Adventures in All Things Food // 4. Creative Ramblings // 5. Where The Smiles Have Been // 6. Curly Crafty Mom // 7. Architecture of a Mom // 8. Create & Babble // 9. HaberdasheryFun // 10. Coral + Mint Design Co. // 11. Designed Decor // 12. Tehtaiskö nyt? // 13. Tori Grant Designs // 14. Morena's Corner // 15. It Happens in a Blink // 16. unOriginal Mom   Silhouette Portrait Giveaway   And I've saved the best for last! Silhouette America has graciously sponsored our giveaway of a Silhouette Portrait! One lucky grand prize winner will receive their very own Silhouette Portrait, and two runners up will each receive a Heat Transfer Vinyl Starter Kit. (If you already own a Silhouette, just think how great a gift this would make for a friend!) To enter: just complete the entries in the Rafflecopter widget below. You have 18 potential entries, which means a lot of winning power. So, hurry up and enter! (This giveaway runs from 8:00 am on May 9 until 11:59pm on May 16, 2016, and is open to readers with a US mailing address.) a Rafflecopter giveaway  

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lemon Boysenberry Danishes

I do love a good danish!

Truly, there is nothing I have enjoyed that I have not wanted to try and make for myself - make from scratch. The flaky and yet yeasty dough surrounding a lemon danish has intimidated me. I know that flaky layers are not easy to achieve. It takes time and effort to get them right.

So what prompted me to dive head first into danish pastries this weekend? Well, I have to thank Sid from Sid's Sea Palm Cooking for giving me the recipe and nudge to make these beauties!

Yes, that would be my lead into this month's Secret Recipe Club selection. Each month I am assigned a food blog and I have the pleasure of choosing the recipe that speaks to me. Then I get to come back here and tell you all about it. This really has been a pleasure the past few years. I have tried so many new and delicious recipes. I have tried things I never heard of before, and I have tried new ways of tackling the 'same old' flavors. Be sure to check out all the recipes from my group at the bottom of this post.

Getting assigned to Sid's blog was a real treat. Of course, that also made it really hard for me to choose just one recipe.

I would really like to try her Huevos Rancheros - there just isn't a good local fix for me right now and that Chile Verde recipe is calling for me to try!  She also has a great selection of Danish recipes. I haven't tried many of those, but the Brunede Kartofler looks yummy!  I just might always be on the lookout for new potato dishes...

And if I have to be honest, I didn't actually make the final selection. I listed off some possible dishes to my husband. As I went through my list I got the usual, "Uh-huh" or "Hmm". Food just doesn't excite him like it does me. But I did get his attention when I mentioned danishes. He immediately suggested I try that recipe from her blog and he brought me a jar of seedless Boysenberry jam to use.

I will chalk that up to excitement.

So, about those pastries...

This recipe is easy to follow. I have never made this pastry dough before, but I have worked with similar styles of recipes that fold the dough to create layers. It is very important to keep the butter chunks intact and the dough cold. That being said, I have a lot of room for improvement. While my dough wasn't buttery/flaky, it also didn't resemble a hockey puck. I consider that a win.

It all starts with a simple dough...

I made my dough in the food processor a couple days ahead of time. Then it went to chill in the fridge till I was ready.

The day before baking I pulled out my bowl of sticky dough and rolled it out on a lightly floured surface. I even chilled my rolling pin before rolling. Then I rolled out a big square and folded it in thirds, like a letter.

Then I rolled it out again into a rectangle about 10" by 24". Then again, folded it in thirds, turned the whole dough sheet and repeated the process. My kitchen was pretty warm, so I chilled the dough again before each roll out. This made it easy to fit around other household chores.

The folding may seem like a silly step, but it is very important for creating layers in the dough.

The morning I planned to bake these bad boys, I got up an hour earlier to soften the cream cheese and start shaping my pastries.

I rolled out the dough again and cut it into roughly 4" by 4" squares.Then I put on a little lemon cream cheese and a dollop of boysenberry jam. It was seedless and probably more than an actual dollop.

The I gave the tops a little egg wash and voila!

One tip, for the second batch I put in the fridge after shaping. The first batch was already baking. Chilling the dough before baking helped them keep their shape. The first batch came out as squares... the pinched edges were lost when the butter melted.

Ready to get baking?

Lemon Boysenberry Danishes (Spandauer)
recipe from Sid's Sea Palm Cooking

For the dough you will need:

  • 1/4 c. luke-warm water
  • 2 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1/2 c. milk  at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) cold unsalted butter, cubed

Proof the yeast by sprinkling it over the water. It should become foamy in a few minutes if still active. If not, get new yeast and start over.

Whisk in the milk, egg, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In a food processor add the flour and cubed butter and pulse until you have 1/2 inch bits. Don't over process. Fold into the wet ingredients, cover and refrigerate overnight. Or a day or two.

To doll out: On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the dough into a roughly 16" x 16" square. It doesn't have to be exact. Work quickly so you don't heat the dough. I suggest chilling your rolling pin, if possible. Then fold the dough in thirds like a letter. Return to chill for another hour or longer (overnight is fine).

On baking day, roll out again to a 10" x 24" rectangle. Again, it doesn't have to be exact. Fold in thirds and turn the dough. Repeat this folding. Then roll it out into a 20" square. Cut into 4" squares to be filled.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

For the filling you will need:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 egg yolk
Blend ingredients together till smooth. Set aside

Also you will need:

  • also 1 egg yolk + tsp. water whisked for an egg wash
  • Boysenberry seedless jam.

For the icing you will need:

  • 1 c. confectioners sugar
  • 4-5 tsp. milk, or just enough to create a thick, but pourable drizzle
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk together till smooth. Set aside while the pastries bake.

With your pastry squares, roll in the edges a little to form a cup for the filling. Put a little cream cheese in the middle and a teaspoon or so of jam.

Brush with egg wash and bake for 21 minutes, or until golden brown.


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Friday, April 29, 2016

Rainy Day Vegetable Soup - #TheBookClubCookbookCC

Spring may bring the flowers, colors and flavors that will develop into summer, but those rainy spring days can make me want to curl up with a good book, fresh baked bread and a hot bowl of soup.

This month for The Book Club CookBook Cooking Crew, Sarah from Things I Make (For Dinner) selected Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier for us to read. The accompanying recipe was for a lovely vegetable soup. I was both excited to start reading, as well as get all my groceries for a yummy pot of soup.

I was very optimistic when I went shopping...

...the reality was I couldn't find some of the vegetables described in the beginning of the book. When we first meet Griet, she is preparing a soup for her family. After her father's accident, they had fallen on hard times. The soup contained only vegetables...cabbages, turnips, leeks... Griet had laid out all the vegetables, not in the order they would go into the pot, but as wedges of a pie - divided by their colors.

My soup did not end up containing the turnips, we changed it up a bit to fit our tastes. Small red potatoes are always a hit in our soups! 

You can see Sarah's invitation for the month, and even read along with us when you have the time. Be sure to jump in this next month (where did April go?) for another fabulous book and more mouth-watering recipes from the group.

Here are all the other fabulous bloggers cooking with us this year:

Cheese Curd In Paradise               
Life on Food       

The Pajama Chef              
The Spiffy Cookie             
Things I Make (for Dinner)           
Tortillas and Honey         

And the book? I didn't have a chance to read it when it came out, I did watch the movie with Scarlett Johanson. The description in the book is so good, it really is worth reading. It would make a great read for our next wet and gloomy spring weekend. Perfectly paired with a bowl of our vegetable soup!

I did try to lay out my vegetables by color, but gave up because it had so much green in it! Oh, well. I would have loved to see Griet's presentation as she created her soup.

Rainy Day Vegetable Soup

You Will Need:

  • 1Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced
  • 1/2 savoy cabbage head, sliced
  • 2 c. baby red potatoes, halved
  • 8 c. chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Slice and put leeks in a medium bowl full of water. Set aside.

In a large pan, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in oil. Strain out the leeks and add them to the pot. Saute till all are tender. Add the remaining ingredients and bring up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

This month Sarah at Thing I Make (for Dinner), this month's host, is giving away a copy of the book.* Enter to win a copy of the cookbook so you can join us in future months, if you wish!

One of our lucky readers - US and Canada only! - can enter to win a copy ofThe Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, courtesy of Tarcher-Penguin. Giveaway runs from April 1st till April 30th at 6 o'clock PM, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below. Many thanks to Tarcher Books. You may find Tarcher: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

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*Disclosure: Sarah received a complimentary copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp as an opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are our own. We received no further compensation for our posts.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Boston Cream Bundt #BundtBakers

Ready to dive into a retro dessert? This month I really wanted to show some admiration for the oddly named, Boston Cream Pie.

Okay, we all know it is a cake... rich butter cake, with a layer of pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze. Mmm.... Something about layers just seems more decadent, doesn't it? Luckily this "pie" is easy to make from scratch.

This month's bundt inspiration comes from our April host, Felice from All That’s Left Are The Crumbs. She threw down the challenge to bring a retro dessert of our choice into bundt form.

And if you have been following my little egg recipe saga, it is another fabulous way to use up all those extra spring eggs. From the cake to the pastry cream, it is an egg-rich treat.

This time of year I enjoy have a little treat to enjoy in the evening. Spring brings longer hours on the farm and my husband gets really hungry. He does a great job polishing off dinner, but it is nice to enjoy a little something special before bed.

I am a big fan of letting bundt cakes rest overnight, so I will often bake one day and serve my bundt cake the next evening. Wrap it in saran wrap and it will be ready to slice and serve the following day.

My toddler though is not a fan of waiting. Once he smells a cake baking, he is ready to devour it. He is glad to help me polish off the slices I use for photos. I guess that is his reward for waiting patiently.

This 'pie' begins with a simple almond butter cake...

I went with a simple bundt pan so slicing and drizzling would be easy. The top will be covered with chocolate ganache anyway.

The next thing to make before assembly is the pastry cream. I used a standard recipe for pastry cream with vanilla bean to be extra special.

The cake is sliced in half and the custard is spread as thick as you dare. Then I drizzled a basic chocolate ganache over the top. I love how shiny and yummy it looks.

Ready to get baking? I hope you enjoy this fun bundt cake as much as we did.

Boston Cream Bundt

You Will Need:


  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. milk

Pastry Cream

  • 3 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, and seeds scraped
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 3/4 c. semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Grease and flour your bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat together the sugar, butter, salt, and extract. Then mix in the oil, and add one egg at a time, incorporating and scraping down the bowl before each new addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Add this to the butter and egg mixture, alternating with the milk. Make sure it is all well incorporated.

Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting. Cool completely before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and letting the cake sit overnight.

The following day before serving, make the pastry cream and chocolate glaze.

For the pastry cream, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture up to a boil over medium heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup milk. Temper the egg mixture with a few ladle-fulls of hot milk, whisking continuously to prevent the egg from scrambling. Then pour the egg mixture into the pan and while still whisking, bring it up to a simmer to cook for about 30 seconds. It will thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the cubed butter. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the custard. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Before spreading on your cake, whip the cream into whipped cream and fold into the chilled pastry cream.

For the chocolate glaze, bring the cream and corn syrup up to a bowl. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate till melted and smooth. Stir in the salt and vanilla, then set aside to assemble the cake.

Cut the cake in half horizontally. Remove the top half and spread a thick layer of pastry cream over the cake. Replace the top and drizzle with glaze. Refrigerate until ready to serve.



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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Greek Baked Eggs

Spring has sprung here in the valley.

Oddly enough, it brought with it 80-degree weather, an itch to start this year's garden and has turned my little backyard brood into egg-making machines!

If you don't raise your own chickens you might not realize that winter brings an egg-lull. I try my best not to buy eggs each winter, but usually I need a carton or two to get by. It is always a low point. I supplement my hens, keep them warm and look forward to when the eggs are plentiful again. Mmm... custards, rich egg breads, omeletts, etc.

But the warmer weather and longer days have my hens busy! When not picking off bugs in the yard, they can usually be found guarding their nest boxes. My two young hens below really want to hatch some chicks. The older girls above are just happy to lay and run.

Of course, the downside to high production is that I am always in search of a great new egg recipe! I promise, there are only so many eggs you can give away.

Which brings me to Amanda from Dancing Veggies. This month she unknowingly came to my aid with her delicious Greek Baked Eggs recipe. It was the perfect choice for April's Secret Recipe Club creation and to help me use some of the fresh eggs I am amassing.

Amanda is an ovo-lacto-vegetarian, so she utilizes a wide variety of veggies and grains, as well as the occasional egg and some dairy products. Her blog is full of delicious recipes! Some other recipes of hers that I would love to make for my family include her Sweet Potato Latkes - my kids are on such a sweet potato kick right now,  and her Ricotta Kugel because it just sounds amazing! 

But ultimately her Greek Baked Eggs spoke to me this month.

She mentioned being inspired by a new set of oven-to-table dishes when trying this recipe. I have my own fondness for my mixed ramekins and cocottes in white, dark blue and Carribean Blue. I own a set of each, but prefer to mix them up. They are as varied as the eggs my hens lay.

This recipe was the perfect choice for lazy Sunday. Paired with toasted bread for dipping, it was amazing.

The only changes I made to Amanda's recipe was omitting the mushrooms and adding kalamata olives and a bit of roughly chopped kale. Overall I tried to stay with her original intent and only omitted the mushrooms because I didn't happen to have any more on hand.  Another current favorite of my kids!

When I think Greek food, I always yearn for a salty kalamata olive to cut through the other flavors and kale happens to be my garnish of choice at the moment. I have been using it in everything that calls for Italian parsley.

But the eggs remain delicious, full of flavor (yay! for Feta cheese!) and simple for either a breakfast, brunch or easy supper.

Ready to get cooking?

Greek Baked Eggs
recipe adapted from Amanda at Dancing Veggies

You Will Need:

  • 2 tsp. butter + more for greasing the dishes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 c. bell peppers
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/4 c. feta cheese
  • 6 Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 - 2 kale leaves, roughly chopped
  • Greek seasoning blend *optional
  • salt & pepper to taste

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 4 ramekins, cocottes or oven safe dishes. Set aside.

    Start by heating the 2 teaspoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and begin to sweat them down. Once they start to soften, add the garlic and bell peppers. Continue till they are all softened and fragrant. Remove from the heat.

    Divide the onion mixture between the 4 dishes. Top with a little feta cheese, kale and kalamata olives, reserving half of each to garnish the top. Sprinkle with a little Greek seasoning, if desired. Then add one egg to each dish, season with salt and pepper and top with reserve ingredients. *At this point you could leave the yolks intact, or scramble them, as desired. 

    Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the egg is cooked to your preferred doneness. I like to have a slightly runny yolk for dipping my bread in, but that is just me.

    I suggest serving this up with some nice, crusty bread and coffee. That pretty much made my morning complete.

    For more great recipes, check out Amanda's full recipe list at Dancing Veggies.

    Ready for some more delicious meal ideas? Check out The Secret Recipe Club recipe linky below:

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    Sunday, March 20, 2016

    Katsudon (Fried Pork cutlet, egg, rice bowl) #SundaySupper

    I think people often get nervous when I start talking about Japanese recipes. They imagine raw fish (sashimi) or exotic ingredients. Okay, sushi is always a hit when dining out, but in truth, some of my favorite Japanese dishes are the more humble, comfort food staples that you don't often eat at a fancy restaurant.

    One dish I fell in love with during my time in Japan was the humble donburi. These rice bowls were lunch staples, but also were a perfect meal for an expat living alone. One donburi that I really enjoyed was the Katsudon. It was a fried pork cutlet, tonkatsu, cooked with eggs, simmered onions and set on top of a warm bed of rice. The sauce is both sweet and savory and the whole dish is warm and filling.

    It had been a while since my husband or I had enjoyed a Katsudon, but once we dug in, my husband admitted this dish is his favorite.

    I like to enjoy mine with a simple bowl of miso soup, but it is also great as a stand alone dish.

    This dish begins with the fried pork cutlet. I use the very thin cut, boneless pork chops so they cook quickly. They are breaded in a typical dredge of flour, egg and bread crumbs. To get the signature crunch, Japanese panko is suggested. Luckily they are readily available in most grocery stores or on amazon.

    Then I softened half a yellow onion with just a little oil.

    Low and slow helps to really bring out the sugars in a yellow onion.

    While the onions are sauteeing, stir up the sauce... a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and dashi. This is really what adds all the flavor to the dish.

    Once the sauce is added to the onions, make a little room and put the pork cutlets back into the skillet. Flip the cutlet slices so both sides can soak up some of the sauce. Then Pour the egg around the sides and top with green onions.

    Cook the egg till set. I like to cover with a lid to help steam the egg. Remove from the heat a little underdone and place over a steaming bowl of rice. The eggs will continue to cook and set up from the steam of the rice.

    Then enjoy!


    You Will Need:

    • 2 thin cut pork cutlets
    • 1 egg scrambled
    • 1/4 c. flour
    • 1/2 c. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
    • oil for frying (enough to cover the pork cutlets)
    • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp. mirin
    • 2/3 c. dashi
    • 3 egg, partially scrambled
    • 2 green onions, sliced
    • 2 bowls of Japanese rice (short grain), prepared

    Heat up your oil and pan for frying.

    While the oil is heating up, bread the pork cutlets. Set up a dredging station with flour, egg wash and panko in 3 seperate containers. Dredge both pork cutlets and fry till golden brown as soon as the oil has reached temperature.

    Set the cooked pork cutlets aside on a paper town to drain.

    Put a teaspoon of oil back into the skillet and add the sliced onion. Cook over medium low till softened and translucent.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mirin and dashi. Set aside.

    Whisk together the 3 eggs gently, leaving some of the whites and yolks still separated.

    Cut the pork cutlets into slices and make a place for each cutlet in the onions. Pour the sauce around over the onions and let cook for about 1 minute. Flip the pork cutlets and pour the egg over the onions and cutlet, sprinkle with green onions. Cover with a lid. Cook until set to desired consistency.

    I leave my eggs a little soft as they will continue cooking when placed over the steaming rice.

    Divide the cutlet, eggs, onions and sauce between two bowls of rice. Enjoy!

    Appetizers & Sides
    Main Dishes (Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Brinner and Dinner!)
    Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday!

    We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

    Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.
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