Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#17)

At the time of my writing this, I’ve read eight books since my last Books and Beverages post. So it would seem as though I have been too busy reading to actually sit down and write my thoughts about what I’ve read. However, eight books seems a little daunting for me to write all at once so this post will contain only four. The remaining four will appear in #18 next week.

Books

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

25667918This was a really short read, but it packed a lot into a small package and its message is certainly relevant in this political climate. Binti is the first of her people, the Himba, to be accepted into the galaxy’s most prestigious university, Oomza Univeristy. Going there means that she will have to leave her family, culture, and everything she’s ever known behind. But on her way there, the ship carrying her and other students is attacked by an alien race called the Meduse, who hold a grudge against the university. Binti must learn to get along with the Meduse in order to make it to the university alive.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

26596236This takes place after the events in The Heroes of Olympus series. Zeus has punished Apollo for his role in the near-destruction of the world and the disappearance of the Oracle of Delphi. Apollo finds himself as a mortal teenage boy without a shred of his godly powers or good looks. A young demi god named Meg finds him and claims his service. Together, they go to Camp Half-Blood to figure out how to restore the Oracle of Delphi. Apollo soon finds out that the disappearance of the Oracle is part of an even worse problem, and Meg may be able to help him fix it. I’d recommend this book if you like anything by Rick Riordan and if you’re into Greek mythology.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

18112981This is one of those books that’s hard to read before you see the movie. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the movie follows the book pretty closely. A wealthy old man who’s fond of dinosaurs decides to open an amusement park featuring real dinosaurs brought back via genetic engineering. The park is about to open, and he calls in a mathematician and two archaeologists to critique the park. He also invites his grandchildren because the target audience of this park is children. They’ve taken precautions to ensure the dinosaurs can’t breed or survive off the island where the park is located. But they can’t plan for everything. All hell breaks loose when the park’s power shuts off and the dinosaurs are no longer contained by the electric fences. If you like dinosaurs, the movie, or suspense, then this is the book for you!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

16793Wall is a town named for its large wall separating it from Faerie. Every nine years, the town opens the gate in the wall for a festival where all manner of creatures from Faerie come to sell their goods and services. When young Tristran Thorne spots a star fall beyond the wall, he promises to retrieve it to win the heart of Victoria, the most beautiful girl in Wall. Tristran soon finds out that nothing is what he expected in Faerie, not even a fallen star. And fallen stars are coveted by more than just him. This is another pretty quick read and a coming-of-age story that I enjoyed.

Beverages

Berry Prickly Pear Frappuccino

Starbucks keeps coming out with new Frappuccinos and I keep trying them and getting disappointed. It seems I haven’t learned, or perhaps I’m just very hopeful that the next one will actually be good. Anyway, I tried the new berry prickly pear one and frankly, it just tasted like milk blended with ice and some fruity swirl added in there to give it some flavor, but not enough. If there was a better milk to fruit ratio, it’d have been much better, but then I suppose that would make it a smoothie.

Cranberry Orange Juice

When my roommate moved out, she left behind a can of orange juice concentrate and a partially used bottle of cranberry juice. So I made a fruit juice combination with them and it turned out great. It’s a good way to get your daily dose of vitamins and sugar! Or if you’re not into vitamins, you can turn it into a Madras cocktail by adding vodka. Or turn it into a punch by adding more sugar some Sprite or 7UP!

 

 

Baking

Baked Panko Chicken Nuggets

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I’ve been making this recipe for years so I can attest that it’s simple, easy, and – most of all – delicious. It’s pretty versatile too! You could pair it with rice, pasta, or even french fries. But most importantly, you can dip your nuggets in copious amounts of Chick-fil-A sauce! (Chick-fil-A sauce is probably at least half the reason I go there, so…) However you choose to serve your nuggets, they’re sure to please the palettes of young and old alike.

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It’s been so long that I actually looked at an actual recipe for this that I can’t remember where exactly I adapted it from. I do recall though that someone’s mom once brought panko chicken strips to a party in my high school Japanese class and they were so good! Back then I didn’t know what I was eating, but I asked the kid who brought it and started on my quest to learn how to make chicken taste so good.

I think the “secret” ingredient is the finely grated parmesan cheese that you mix in with the bread crumbs. It gives the chicken a wonderfully salty and sharply cheesy flavor that has you going back for seconds. The butter probably has something to do with it too, giving a nice rich flavor, but not too greasy since it soaks into the bread crumbs.

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Anyway, my method involves only one round of breading the chicken nuggets because I do not have the patience to do an egg wash or anything like that. (Nor do I have the patience to wash more dishes that the egg wash would inevitably dirty up.) The crumbs still stick to the chicken well enough, so I haven’t had any problems on that front, at least.

First I cut up the butter into little chunks, then I lay them out on a pan and stick them in the oven while it preheats. While that’s melting I usually mix up the bread crumbs in a bowl or gallon-size bag and cut the chicken into nugget-sized pieces. I take the pan out of the oven with the melted butter before it burns. Then, I start breading the chicken and laying it in the buttery pan. The nuggets go in the oven and I flip them halfway through to ensure they’re golden brown on both sides.

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Panko Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 – 2 lbs of chicken
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the butter into small chunks and spread them out on a 13 x 9-inch pan. Place the pan in the oven so the butter can melt while the oven preheats.
  2. Cut chicken into nugget-sized pieces (about 1 – 2-inch cubes.) Combine the bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl or gallon-size bag. (Check on your melting butter occasionally so that it doesn’t burn.)
  3. Take the melted butter out of the oven. Coat the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture, and place the nuggets in the pan.
  4. Place the pan back in the oven for 8-12 minutes. (If you are using a metal pan, it will be closer to 8 minutes. If you are using a glass pan, it will be closer to 12 minutes.) Flip the nuggets over and bake for another 8-12 minutes until golden brown and the meat is no longer pink on the inside.
  5. Serve with your choice of sides to make it a meal. Enjoy!
Baking

Snickerdoodles

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I was really craving some snickerdoodles the other day, and I was pleased to discover I had all but one ingredient to make them. That one ingredient was cream of tartar. At the time, I had no idea why I needed it, but it seemed like something I shouldn’t leave out. As I was munching on my freshly baked cookies, I did some research. 

I learned that cream of tartar (tartaric acid) is what separates snickerdoodles from sugar cookies. Being an acid, it reacts with another ingredient, baking soda, which is a base. You’re probably familiar with how baking soda reacts with vinegar, another type of acid, so you probably know that the two form carbon dioxide gas.

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The carbon dioxide bubbles that form from the cream of tartar and baking soda is what makes snickerdoodles so light and airy. The acidity is also what gives snickerdoodles their classic tang. Unlike sugar cookies, snickerdoodles have no vanilla since that would interfere with the tangy flavor.

I found the following recipe from Betty Crocker. I didn’t change any ingredients, but I did change some of the directions. I also cut the recipe in half and found that half makes about 20 cookies. I suspect it’s not quite two dozen because I kept eating the dough, but it was worth it.

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Snickerdoodles

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar (for the coating)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (for the coating)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon for the coating. Set aside.
  4. With an electric mixer, combine butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar until well incorporated. Add in the eggs. Once that is all combined, start slowly adding in the flour mixture until a dough just begins to form. Try not to overwork the dough.
  5. Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll balls in the cinnamon sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Allow the cookies to cool slightly before devouring.

Tip: If you overbake your cookies, they make for excellent dunkers, especially in hot chocolate.

Got leftover cinnamon sugar? Sprinkle it on toast, or use it to make cinnamon sugar popcorn!

Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#16)

Since the previous B&B, I’ve started two series, finished another, and continued another. I had a good mix of sci-fi, fantasy, mystery/thriller, and humor. I read about female computer hackers, female assassins, and teaching Neanderthals how to play Scrabble. All the while I enjoyed a secret Frappuccino and discovered a new favorite tea.

Books

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

24390078I read this as an e-book and let me begin by saying that you should definitely read a physical copy instead. This is the first book of The Illuminae Files, and by “files” that means each chapter in the book is some sort of record or email or transcribed audio file of the events. It’s quite different and rather refreshing, but some of the files have small font that my e-book could only enlarge so much. I think I missed out on some of the experience of this book, which is why I advise a physical copy.

It’s a sci-fi novel which takes place in the year 2575. The main characters, Kady and Ezra, have recently broken off their relationship and are not on the best of terms when a megacorporation attacks their planet. They flee with the other survivors on ships, but soon a deadly virus begins mutating and turning passengers into zombie-like creatures. Then the AI controlling the ship starts to go haywire. Kady starts hacking through the ships’ databases to figure out what’s going on and realizes that Ezra might be able to shed some light on things.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

6892870This is the final book of Millenium, and it starts off pretty much immediately after the events of the previous book, The Girl Who Played With Fire. It’s hard to say much without spoiling anything, so I’ll stick mostly to what’s on the book jacket. This novel delves more into the government conspiracy as journalist Mikael Blomkvist continues to dig into Lisbeth Salander’s past. As soon as Lisbeth gets released from the hospital, she’ll be expected to go on trial for three murders she didn’t commit. And she’ll also need to go on trial as a witness for the things Mikael discovered. We learn more about this mysterious man Zala and the conspiracy surrounding him. There is plenty of suspense that will keep you flipping pages.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

23599075It had been awhile since I’d read fantasy, and so I went out in search of a fantasy novel on my to-read list. Several weren’t available to check out on e-book from the library, but Throne of Glass was. It definitely satisfied my fantasy craving. Celaena Sardothien is slaving away in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes when the Crown Prince Dorian comes to fetch her. He offers her freedom, but she must come with him to participate in a competition to become the king’s royal assassin. If she wins, she’ll serve a few years of service after which she will be freed. During the months-long competition, the prince starts showing an interest in her and so does her trainer, Chaol, who is captain of the royal guard and Dorian’s best friend. But soon, Celaena has other problems – competitors start showing up dead. Celaena starts investigating, trying to figure out who the killer is, only to learn a dark secret and realize her true destiny.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

6064941This semester has been really tough, and a bit of humor helped to lift my spirits. This is the second book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it was just as absurd and full of improbable events as the first. Zaphod Beeblebrox, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Trillian, and Marvin the depressed android are on their way to Milliways, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, when they’re attacked by the Vogons. They escape and Zaphod finds himself on a search for a man named Zarniwoop, who insists they must find the ruler of the universe. Well, Zaphod isn’t interested in the ruler of the universe, but rather in finding something to eat, and so they escape from Zarniwoop and go to the nearest restaurant. After their meal, Zaphod decides he wants a new spaceship, so they steal one from the parking lot. You can bet that some more absurd adventures ensue after that, but I think that’s all I can say without giving too much away.

Beverages

Twix Frappuccino

While everyone freaks out about the Unicorn Frappuccino, I decided to try a secret menu item – the Twix Frappuccino. You probably guessed it’s inspired by the candy bar. It’s a caramel Frappuccino with hazelnut syrup, java chips, caramel drizzle down the sides and topped with whipped cream and more caramel sauce and mocha sauce on top. It’s not too sweet, nor does it taste like sour milk. (And the best part is you don’t have to worry if it’s made with unicorn blood!)

Good Earth Sweet and Spicy Tea

This is some good tea, man. It reminds me a lot of the Pike Place Market Spice tea, but the Good Earth tea is caffeine free. And every tea bag tag has a little inspirational quote on it, which is cute! Basically, it tastes just as its name suggests, it’s sweet, not bitter, and it’s got some spice in it that smells wonderful!

Baking

Panko Baked Cod

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Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb that is coarser than traditional breadcrumbs. In Japanese, it is written as パン粉, which can be broken down into パン (pan) meaning bread, and 粉 (ko) meaning flour or powder. The proper pronunciation is PAWN-koh, unlike the “PAIN-koh” I hear a lot of celebrity chefs say. Just remember, panko is painless.

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This is a picture of PAWN-koh.

(If you went around Japan saying “PAIN-koh,” you could be mistaken for saying ペン子, which is broken down into ペン (pen) meaning pen, like the writing utensil, and 子 (ko) which means child and is also a common suffix for girls’ names. Basically, you’d be nicknaming your pen when you want to be talking about breadcrumbs. You probably don’t want to do that.)

 

 

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This is a picture of PAIN-koh.

Panko is widely available at most supermarkets and grocery stores, either in the baking aisle or Asian foods aisle.

 

Regardless of how you pronounce it, however, this panko baked cod recipe is really simple with only a few ingredients. I don’t dredge or do anything fancy (or messy), but I’m sure it’d taste great if you did. I like to keep things simple and make as little mess in the kitchen as possible.

 

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Mmm… Flaky and delicious.

 

There are undoubtedly countless ways to dress this up a little if you were going to serve it to guests, but this recipe is just the bare basics for a nice dinner at home with just a little effort! It makes two servings, so feel free to scale it up if necessary.

 

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I made this along with some pasta mix from a box and some sauteed zucchini and yellow squash. Really yummy and simple!

 

 

(Painless) Panko Baked Cod

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb of cod (or other mild-flavored fish such as pollock)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and prepare a 13″ x 9″ baking pan with cooking spray. Rinse your fish in cold water to get rid of any scales or pieces of skin that may be hanging around. Set aside.
  2. In a gallon-size bag, combine the panko and lemon pepper. Add fish to bag and shake until coated.
  3. Place breaded fish in the baking pan and cover with any remaining bread crumbs.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fish is flaky.
  5. Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!

 

Baking

Crockpot Stuffed Peppers

What’s better than coming home after a long day to the smell of stuffed peppers in the crockpot? And then knowing that dinner’s already done? I’ve been making this recipe a lot this school year because it’s easy, inexpensive, and super delicious. (I confess that I sometimes lick my plate clean.)

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This recipe is for two stuffed peppers in a small crockpot. If you want more, simply get a larger crockpot and double (or even triple) the recipe. Another great thing about this recipe is that you can customize it however you like. For example, you could add some sauteed onions and garlic to your stuffing, or use ground turkey instead of beef.

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You start out by cooking some rice, and while that’s going, you can cut the top off your peppers and take the seeds out. This would also be when you sautee whatever additional things you want to put in your peppers. (Although the following recipe doesn’t include it, use about half an onion and a clove of garlic, diced, per two peppers.)

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Once the rice is done and cooled off slightly, you’ll mix it up with the beef and seasonings. Then you stuff it in the peppers, pour some tomato sauce on top, and set your crockpot on low for about 6 hours. Then you’ll enjoy your peppers and feel like the King of New York!

 

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The leaning tower of pepper.

 

Crockpot Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup rice, dry
  • 2 large bell peppers
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)

Directions

  1. Cook the rice in whatever manner you prefer. While it’s cooking, prepare the peppers by taking their tops off and removing the seeds. Place them in the crockpot and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cooked rice with the beef, salt, black pepper, oregano, and basil. Stuff your peppers with it. (It’s okay if the stuffing comes up over the top of the peppers.)
  3. Pour the tomato sauce over the top of the stuffed peppers. Stick the lid on your crockpot and turn it on. Let it cook for about 6 hours on low.
  4. Enjoy!

 

Jewelry

My Favorite 2017 Oscar Jewelry

I love the Oscars. I don’t really know why, but it’s especially fun to look at all the gorgeous jewels and gems and dresses. And then to cheer on your favorite actors, directors, screenwriters, songwriters, and movies. Anyway, since I have a jewelry blog, I like to blog about my favorite jewelry looks. Without further ado, here are my winners in no particular order:

Taraji P. Henson

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What a statement necklace of over 100 carats of diamonds! And a gorgeous emerald ring to top it all off. Both are made by NIRAV MODI. Taraji stars in Hidden Figures, which is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Janelle Monae

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She wore a stunning choker necklace by Ellie Saab and Forevermark Diamonds earrings, ring, and headband. She really went all-out and she looks fantastic in her dress! She’s Taraji’s co-star in Hidden Figures and also starred in Moonlight.

Pharrell Williams

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Also a part of Hidden Figures, Pharrell wore some eye-catching bling with his bowtie and a Chanel brooch. (Yes, men can wear statement jewelry, too!)

Kirsten Dunst

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I love the shape of her necklace. Very simple and elegant and diamonds! Her necklace and earrings are by Niwaka. Kirsten also stars in Hidden Figures.

Chrissy Teigen

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Such beautiful long tassel earrings by Lorraine Schwartz. And you know what? When you gotta take a nap during the Oscars, you gotta take a nap during the Oscars.

Auli’i Cravalho

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I haven’t seen Moana yet, but Auli’i’s performance was fantastic, and her dress is gorgeous! I noticed her bracelet (Maxior) and she’s also wearing some Maxior earrings and a Kotiar ring.

Luz Towns-Miranda

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I’m gonna be honest – it was weird to see Lin without his hair pulled back. (He doesn’t normally dress as Hamilton?) His mom came to support him, and I noticed her Gemfields earrings, which appear to be large flowers. She’s also wearing a stunning emerald bracelet over her gloves.

Ruth Negga

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Well, I knew her as Raina from Agents of SHIELD, and now she’s an Oscar-nominated actress for Loving! She was adorned in rubies in her headband, earrings, and ring which were responsibly sourced from Gemfields and designed by Irene Neuwirth.

Charlize Theron

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If you remember last year’s Oscar’s, Charlize wore a stunning diamond necklace, and this year she wore stunning diamond earrings by Chopard.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few celebrities, but these stood out to me. If you watched the Oscars this year, who do you think wore the most stunning jewelry?

(PS: I’m still confused about this whole Best Picture bit.)

2015 Oscars
2016 Oscars