I posted this recipe approximately eight million years ago, or in 2011. At the time, I wasn’t 100% happy with it, but I didn’t know why.
Last year, I started tinkering again, and found that lowering the oven temperature to let the muffins rise slightly slower and using whole-milk buttermilk did wonders. Now these are fluffy and luscious and one of my favorite muffin recipes. And they are all whole wheat, using the magic of white whole wheat flour. (Which they’ve stopped carrying at my Food City AND Walmart. GRUMP! This bag I found at Target.)
Next time you have some very ripe bananas, make these! In fact, make a double batch. Because they’re going to get gobbled up, especially if you have many small and hungry children as I do.
The 2011 Jessie would have never believed she could take a picture that good with a phone. Kind of amazing! After holding out on getting a smartphone for a long time, we caved two years ago. And about two weeks ago, I upgraded to the iPhone 7 plus. It takes pretty pictures. And you know I need those of my babies.
(Four. Have I mentioned I have four kids now? It’s been almost 10 months and it still feels surreal.)
I’m so excited to share my July reads because several of them were so good!
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert – This book is more than a decade old (2003), but I hadn’t heard of it until I became a part of a Facebook group that talks books. It got rave reviews there, and so I grabbed it somewhere (a thrift store, I think) when I saw it for cheap. I was not at all disappointed.
Moloka’i is the island to which Hawaiians with a form of leprosy are shipped in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Separated without choice from their friends and family, the “colonists” of the island form family units and unshakeable bonds. Rachel is just 7 when her sores are discovered and she is cut off from her close-knit family, including her beloved father, a merchant who sails around the world. Rachel finds her own dreams of seeing the world cut short, instead facing a lifetime of the sameness of Moloka’i.
The novel follows Rachel’s whole life. It is heartbreaking – especially because this island and the epidemic really did exist – and beautiful. I was so moved and tearful over one part that I had to chant “it’s just a book” to myself for awhile. I highly recommend you invest the time to read this 400-page novel soon if you haven’t yet.
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Dimple and Rishi are betrothed. Except Rishi knows, but Dimple doesn’t. All Dimple knows is that she’s going to her dream camp, a six-week summer program centering around designing a smartphone app. Fiercely driven and Stanford-bound, Dimple has her eyes set on the prize, not on having a relationship, and especially not finding that “Ideal Indian Husband” her mom is always talking about.
Rishi is the boy you fell in love with in high school or wanted to find: hopelessly romantic, artistic, utterly devoted to his family and culture.
Yes, the plot may have been slightly predictable, but the different cultures and people represented really livened it up. I thought the one scene of intimacy probably could have been left out, but that’s just not my thing.
I stayed up way too late finishing this one, because it swept me away in ooshi-gooshyness, as any good YA romance should.
I think the plot of this book is really interesting. Shandi, a young, single mom, is held up at a gas station with her son. William puts himself in the path between the robber and her son, and her heart is stolen. Shandi doesn’t know William has his own long and sad story, and their attraction might be just too messy.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of very graphic sex here as we find out how Shandi’s son was conceived and about William’s past relationships. It doesn’t feel entirely extraneous to the book, but it was a lot for me. I really don’t enjoy reading graphic stuff like this. Anne assured me not all her books are like that, and I’m willing to give another one a try, because I really did think the story was excellent. Just a little gritty for me.
Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy – Have I had this book in my possession forever? Yes. Have I ever read it? No. Why? I have zero idea. This is Maeve Binchy’s first novel, and I think it’s the only one of hers I had never read. I’m a huge Maeve fan, but this one was a little awkward.
The first half felt like many of her other books: comfortably settling oneself into the story of Elizabeth, an English girl, and Aisling, an Irish preteen, who are thrown together when Elizabeth’s mother sends her off to live with Aisling’s family in Ireland during World War II. After spending five years together as sisters and best friends, their bond extends throughout their lives.
Here are my two complaints: first, the last maybe 10 percent of the book feels incredibly clunky and like it was rushed. It doesn’t feel like Maeve to me. Second, my copy had what I thought I was a spoiler on the back cover. If it was really a spoiler, it would have been for the last 50 pages of the book; but I came to find out it was really juicier than what actually even happened. I was annoyed the whole time that I hadn’t reached that obviously pivotal event from the back cover, and then realized it wasn’t even accurate. Granted, this copy was probably from 1985 so I guess I can’t complain to the publishers now. Note to self: never read the back cover or flap copy. Ever.
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett – And now for something completely different … this is a new book, published in March. It’s about a 10-year-old girl but not classified as YA, but it is written in a 10-year-old voice. Elvis loves animals passionately, adores and is scared of her older sister Lizzie, and misses the rabbit cakes her mother baked. Because her mother sleepwalked herself to a river and drowned, and Elvis’s counselor has given her 18 months to complete the grieving process. Meanwhile, she’s trying to keep Lizzie from sleep-eating, her dad is wearing her mom’s robe and lipstick, and Elvis still has to stumble through fifth grade.
It’s as quirky and crazy as it sounds, and I found it absolutely charming.
So those were my reads for July! I’ve already finished one five-star read in August and am working through another which I think will also be five stars for me! (COMPLETELY different books.) You can follow me on GoodReads if you want to know what I’m currently reading and finishing!
On the way to the grocery store, I was listening to Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next? podcast. And in an ad, she mentioned a recipe for arugula salad with peaches, goat cheese, and almonds. Once I got into Publix, I couldn’t stop thinking about an arugula salad with peaches. I love both of those ingredients a lot, and it sounded so good.
(Which, if you know my kids, was most of theirs. Surprisingly, David and Libbie did actually try arugula and at least ate peaches and the bagel chips.)
As with most salads, I recommend throwing in whatever quantity of ingredients looks good to you. This recipe is an approximation of what I used, but make it to your tastes. And then enjoy the applause of those around you, because SO YUMMY.
I’m beginning to face the fact that I am probably not going to reach my reading goal for this year, which was 80 books. But the more I think about it, the more I feel totally OK with that fact. Because, maybe for the first time ever, I am reading higher-quality books, books I think will be worth the time investment.
With four kids and a home to manage, my time is valuable. I don’t want to waste it reading books I don’t enjoy or love. I put a book down today after a few chapters because I found myself thinking, “I am going to regret putting the time into this book, aren’t I?”
I only finished four books in June, and I was sort of shocked that I did not finish one book while we were at the beach; usually I can plow through 4 to 5. But I did read about half of Middlemarch there, which is an 800-page classic, so that’s nothing to sneeze at, right?
All that said, I really enjoyed all four of these books and am happy to have read them!
Pearl only remembers being with her father in their museum-like home, filled with the relics of their ancestors. She remembers her first literary obsession, Cassandra from the myths. And when she quickly loses all she’s known, Pearl takes us for a crazy joyride of emotions; the preteen brain leading us through more literary trails, assumed identities, and wild journeys.
I don’t know if Pearl’s tale is 100% believable, but it sure is interesting. Keener gracefully weaves in the Southern enchantment, faith, and Pearl’s family history. It’s a hefty book, but a lovely story. (Although it takes until the last page to “get” the title!)
Rachel provided me with the book to facilitate my review; I did not receive any other compensation and provide my truthful review here!
I gave this book five stars on GoodReads. I have read Kristen’s blog sporadically (I am honestly not much of a blog reader anymore …), but I do get e-mails about her ministry, Mercy House, which I have supported some through the years. This is the story of her marriage and family, and how she grew and changed, became a writer, traveled to Kenya, and then founded Mercy House. It’s also a challenge to Christians to look beyond the acceptable, American Christianity and into a Jesus-filled life that is terrifying but fulfilling.
I appreciated and was challenged by Kristen’s words, as I am every time I read something from her. I hope this book will continue to challenge my faith and heart as I reflect on it.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – I have heard so many good things about this middle-grade book, and it did not disappoint! I wanted something kid-friendly to listen to on the way to the beach, so we downloaded this on Overdrive. I thought the narration was excellent, and the book has a dry humor that is perfect. It is touching and sad while at the same time funny and uplifting in places.
Note: It does talk some about humans being descended from apes, so if that is going to be a huge issue for you, here’s your fair warning.
Middlemarch by George Eliot – I’ve been reading bits of this since early April, but I finally settled down and made myself read JUST it in June so I could actually finish. There were parts when I wished I had a little better understanding of English society in the early 1800s to help clarify, but in general, it’s a story that focuses on relationships. And these relationships feel much more modern – or at least truthful – than some of the ones we see in classic literature. The marriages are difficult. Friends are flighty. Families aren’t always awesome. Money makes problems.
Eliot’s famed work is really masterful, and I won’t forget these characters quickly. Classics are classics for a reason, apparently. 😉
How is your summer reading going? Read anything wonderful lately?
Well, hello! It’s been approximately eight million years since I posted a recipe. This possibly has to do with the insanity of having four children and the added bonus that right before I had Hannah in October, my real camera decided to stop working.
(I’m pretty sure it has sand in the lens and won’t retract … but it would probably cost more to fix than to replace it. Argh.)
My husband keeps telling me my iPhone will take pictures that are just as good. I don’t really think so, but they’re good enough for me, for now.
This is one of the recipes I’ve probably made the most over the last six or seven years. It’s my go-to when I want to take a meal to someone; I find that when there’s a meal train, people usually bring chicken casseroles or pasta. And that is fine and AWESOME, but I think breakfast for dinner mixes it up a little.
This Berry French Toast recipe comes from Cooking During Stolen Moments, which was one of my VERY favorite food blogs ever. Almost everything I ever made from there was a hit. Unfortunately, the site is not accessible any more. I am so glad I had this one written down in my recipe book so I didn’t lose the recipe! I’ve only adapted it slightly – mostly I just skimp on the berries because I like a lot of chewy, eggy bread. It’s delicious with fresh berries of any kind, but you could also use frozen ones – or peaches!
Serve with a side of bacon or sausage for a delicious meal any time of day.
Delicious berry-enhanced French toast casserole is taken over the top with a brown sugar drizzle.
1 loaf French or Italian bread
2 to 3 c. berries
1 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
4 T butter
1 c. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Start with day-old bread, or cut bread into large cubes a few hours before you want to start making this and let them sit out to get slightly stale. Slice strawberries into quarters. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries can be left whole.
Place a layer of bread cubes in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add most of the berries, reserving about 1/2 cup. Top with the rest of the bread cubes.
Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Pour evenly over the bread. Top with remaining berries, then dot with cream cheese pieces. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375F. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk together until the sugar begins to melt and the mixture is smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon. Drizzle sugar topping over the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, covered, until egg is set.
Let sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving.
To make dairy-free, use almond milk instead of dairy milk and leave out the cream cheese. If you are taking to a new mom who is breastfeeding, you might ask if she is avoiding dairy. (I usually am.)
Hi, bookish friends. Life has been nutso. We are moving this coming weekend to another space on campus (a house!), the kids are home for the summer, and, well, I have a 7-month-old baby who is crawling, pulling up, and being a baby. I wanted to stop in and share some quick reviews for what I read the last two months, though!
It’s one I came across on Overdrive, looked interesting, and when I checked I saw it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Sleeping on Jupiter is the intertwined stories of three older women and a young documentary filmmaker. Their paths cross as they ride the train to Jarmuli in India, an ocean town with a famous temple. The three friends have come on a long-anticipated vacation; the young woman, Nomi, has come back to make a movie and research her own past.
It was a heavy read. I appreciated the excellent writing, but I felt like it tackled a lot of hard-hitting topics all at once and just left me deeply sad.
Can’t Let You Go by Jenny B. Jones – My love for Jenny B. Jones is well-documented here, and I am surprised I waited as long as I did to read this extra book in the Katie Parker series, given how much I LOVED the original trilogy. I did enjoy delving back into Katie’s world and seeing her as a grown woman; I just felt like this one was less believable, more romance and less personal growth. Jenny is still funny, her characters vivid, but something in it didn’t quite work for me.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – The buzz about this book was so interesting I felt like I had to try and read it! What I found was that it is more of a screenplay instead of a novel: a cast of lively ghosts narrate the action going on in the graveyard (bardo is a Tibetan word for the space in between death and afterlife). We go back and forth between action in the graveyard and what happened before, leading up to and through Willie (Lincoln’s son) dying and the mourning. Those parts are told in series of quotes from different sources. (I heard someone say some of these were made up. I am not sure. The New York Times calls them “facts and semi-facts.”)
On one hand, I really like to read something that is different. And this sure is. The pages of quotes that all deal with the same event from different eyes are so interesting, pointing out that you can pretty much make history whatever you want depending on what sources you find. The action in the graveyard is so creative. The ghosts take forms of their stories – some are big or small, performing certain motions, or joined together. And nearly two months later, I can picture all of what happened very vividly in my head, which is not my norm for reading.
On the other hand, though, I felt like it was inventive just to be different. It seemed more screenplay than actual novel. And I thought Saunders included some crass stuff just for shock value. So do I recommend it? It totally depends on the person. I think those who have studied history would be especially interested in this.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – I picked this book up at a consignment sale and decided to read it before I passed it on to my kids. It’s a middle grade novel, and I think a little beyond what my daughter would enjoy at the moment (she’s 8 1/2 and doesn’t love books that are difficult for her). I loved the story of Calpurnia, who is 11 in the year 1899. She loves science and begins studying the land and species around her plantation home with her grandfather. It’s a great story of a girl who doesn’t feel like she fits into the right mold; Callie Vee doesn’t want to learn cooking, piano, or cleaning – she wants to dig in the mud. A great view into the turn of the twentieth century.
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker – I think Jen Hatmaker’s mix of truth-telling with flat-out funny is a breath of fresh air in “religious” writing. I love her heart, and I enjoyed listening to this on audio. (Except the recipes. It’s impossible to enjoy recipes read aloud.)
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederick Backman – I’m not sure I have the right words for this book. I love Backman as a writer; here, he nails a precocious 7-year-old instead of an elderly humbug. But the element in this story of relating fairy tales Elsa’s grandma used to tell her with the real people she lives around lost me a little bit. I kind of wish the entire fairy tale had been told at the beginning and then Backman had dealt with the rest of the novel. It felt a little disjointed to me. I still don’t think I completely got where he was going there, although that might be a cultural/language issue.
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout – This is the third book Anne Bogel recommended to me when I was on her podcast, What Should I Read Next? It didn’t come out until April, though, and I managed to get it from the library in late May. I’ve been bogged down in Middlemarch for most of May, but I took a break to read AIP, and I am so glad I did! It’s a collection of stories taking place in Lucy Barton‘s small Midwestern hometown. Lucy is mentioned in many of the stories but only appears for one. Strout spins such beautiful tales, and these stories utterly captured me. I give it 4.5 stars, only because I didn’t feel like this will be an all-time favorite or be life-changing, but I did race through it in two sittings. It is great writing, and an excellent read.
What have you been reading lately? Anything you would recommend?