Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hurry up! Hurry up! The December book club meeting is coming!

The lovely ladies and I are reading a historical romance (My absolute first time!) as December book, but I can't get my head around a tea party since it's Christmas time... 



I wish I could sit with them around a tiny table surrounded by chill air and spices scent. I wish we could meet at the Weihnachtsmarkt just after sunset, drinking Gluhwein in the typical mug and nibbing delicious Lebkuchen (I love the ones covered with milk chocolate;P) while we talk about the charming Captain... I wish... I wish... I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! :D



Monday, December 9, 2013

Amour et Chocolat - The Chocolate series by Laura Florand

"Delve into the world of Paris chocolate, and all the passion and intensity—and the extraordinary sensuality—of luxury artisan chocolatiers and pâtissiers" 
Laura Florand.



Click in the image to reach the relative Amazon page with blurbs, infos, reed a sample.... 

I have to thank Cat's review for introducing me to what has become one of my favorite contemporary romance series (I didn't read the books in order but that's not a problem, they can be read as stand alone).

The heroes in this series are charming chocolatiers or pâtissiers which nature is revealed through the detailed description of their seducing creations! Literally to die for... The chocolates... AND the guys ;)  There is the rambunctious Gabriel and his quixotic desserts, like the memorable Chocolate Rose of the title; or the somber Dominique expert in all the rich, bitter, wild dark chocolates...
The heroines are likable too. They have strong, interesting personalities and in every book Mrs. Florand found the perfect balance for the couple.
Chocolates from Jacques Genin (vincen-t)
Just a little taste about my favorite Chocolate book (So far ;P)  The Chocolate Rose:

Her father’s worst enemy...
Top chef Gabriel Delange never forgave his old nemesis Pierre Manon for all the other chef had cost him.
One stolen rose...
And he most certainly couldn’t stand the sight of his own most famous dessert, the legendary Rose, claimed as Pierre’s own on the cover of his new cookbook.
A substitute victim...
But even Gabriel could hardly go through with a lawsuit when he learned the older chef had just had a stroke. Especially not when Pierre had one very cute daughter willing to be Gabriel’s victim instead.
Jolie Manon...
As a child, Jo had seen her family torn apart by her top chef father’s obsession with his work. She had given years of her own adult life to trying to pull him out of depression, after he lost a star. Now a food writer, she might be fascinated with a chef’s work, but she knew how to guard her heart. She would never allow another chef into her life.
Unless he blackmailed her into it...
Welcome to the heat and sun of Provence, where jasmine and roses climb up old colored walls, where fountains play in ancient stone villages, and where even a beast can prove he is a prince at heart…

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Delicate Chocolate Cake

I'm always looking for the recipe of the perfect Chocolate Cake. Sometimes they're too spongy, sometimes they're too dry, sometimes too heavy. This one I'm posting below is one of my favorites. I split the cake in half and filled with Santin's whipped chocolate ganaché and then put simple whipped cream on top.



Silvia's Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
100 gr All Purpose Flour
100 gr Cornflour
100 gr Unsalted Butter (Melted)
5 eggs
100 gr 55% Dark Chocolate (Melted)
10 gr Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
150 gr Granulated White Sugar
16 gr Baking Powder
4 tablespoons Water


Preheat oven to 340 degrees °F (175 degrees °C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter and cover with flour a (26 cm) cake pan. Or line the bottoms of the pan with baking paper.
Separate whites from yolks and beat them on high until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised. Put the whites aside.


In a small pan mix sugar and water, put over medium heat and let the syrup boil for 5 minutes.

Beat the yolks for 3 minutes then add the hot syrup, beating the mix for 5 more minutes. Keep the mixer going and add the melted butter and chocolate.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter.
At this point add a third of the egg whites to the batter (using a spatula) and fold them in gently.
Finally add the remained third and continue to gently pull the whites into the batter.
Put the batter in the buttered and floured pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes.


Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then remove the cake from its pan and cool completely on a greased wire rack before frosting.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Comfy Food: Pork Ribs with Onions & Beer.

Slow and easy...  Slow and easy...  Slow and easy...

Today's recipe is very simple the only requirement is a long cooking time. And believe me, the beer rich, smooth flavor combined with the sweetness of onions and apple will repay your patience and gratify your palate.



Ingredients:
1kg Pork Ribs (2 max inch long) or 800gr Pork Chops
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
Salt
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
33cc lager beer (Try different beers in order to find the perfect bland ;P)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
 

In a pan brown the pork ribs until golden brown and set aside.  Keep the fat, add garlic, onions and the apple and saute for a few minutes until they are golden. Lower the heat and cover the pan, letting the onions become tender (15-20min.). Top with the brown pork ribs. Add beer and bring to a simmer. Cook * over low heat until the ribs are so tender that they melt in your mouth and the onions and apple are completely melted (I needed 3 hours).
Serve with mashed potatoes and/or green beans.

* I don't have a crock-pot but you can use one of them at this point of the cooking process.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Decluttering

It was time to make some decisions.

I just piled five bags full of old clothes near the door. This morning I told myself that I couldn't keep procrastinating the inevitable: my wardrobe needed to be cleaned. ASAP.

Why now? I don't know. I've six more months before my 40th birthday. I'm stuck at the same weight for more than a year. I hadn't a mid-life crisis. I don't plan to change my style in the near future. I feel the same. 
But I needed to free myself from my very old clothes. Now.

And just for the records, two years ago when we moved here I threw away lots of old stuff. Evidently I didn't a radical job, since this morning I discarded more small t-shits for the 90ties, old pants which style and color I'll never wear again, faded clothes, my last pair of Levis... But I'm still keeping two pairs of favorites jeans with holes. I know I should tell them goodbye but they are my favorites! I can't put them in the trash bin. Maybe I can patch them...
Perfect shades of Blue


Why did I keep all those things stuffed behind the white sliding door of my wardrobe? Dunno. It's beyond my comprehension. 
I didn't get sentimentally attached to them. I don't care about them as much as the outfit I was wearing when my husband saw me for the first time; the dress he gave to me for our first anniversary; the expensive, blue leather coat my dad got for me because he knew I was crazy about it; my beloved shantung suit 60s style... Those things are guarded in clean bags even if I'd never wear them again (I've to lose 20 pounds if I want to do it again and I'm not on a diet at the moment :/ )

So, today I finally get rid of useless outfits and my wardrobe is neat and orderly. I'm happy :-)





Thursday, November 21, 2013

Engineers aren't cyborgs... We have feelings and no superpowers


As I wrote before, I'm an Engineer. A Mechanical Engineer, to be more specific. So, I'm qualified to call shenanigans if my beloved author Kristan Higgins writes such a nonsense about Tom Barlow: the hottie Brit with the killer smile and the same degree as I have; the hero in her last book:

Indeed KH gave us a hero to die for.  
Awesome inside and outside ;)

But she wrote also...
"IF TOM HAD thought he was cold before he went in the pond, that had been a fucking walk on a tropical beach, hadn’t it? Stupid, stupid Honor, going out on ice after the idiot dog (Spike aka Ratty). If it hadn’t held a five-pound dog, how the hell was it going to hold a full-grown woman?
He could feel a slight current in the water, pulling at his clothes, and did a quick calculation in the water—weight, velocity, depth, momentum, resistance—and sloshed over to where he thought the idiot animal might be.
Chances were small to nil, let’s be honest."

What?

Are You serious? Because if Tom could do it, now I know why he's so perfect... 
Tom is a cyborg! 

Wait a moment! Don't go! I'm not going to explain the principles of hydrodynamics. I want to say only one little thing. That is, if you need to estimate the position of a point (Ratty) in a moving fluid you have to use:
  • complicated equations, with more than + - x / ;
  • tables or an engineer manual;
  • measurement instruments (At least a basic Pitot tube), because the human eye can't see the local velocity at a given point in the flow stream;
That's a Pitot Tube under an aircraft wing (Airplanes don't have penises!)
  • Pencil and paper;
  • AND TIME! (I'm speaking about lots of minutes, not a heartbeat ;P)

 Obviously Tom didn't get none of the above! 
 I admit that this kind of poor works (Total lack of research) frustrated me beyond measure. 
I know I'm the needle in the haystack in this situation. The other KH's gang members might complain about lack of kisses (Tom is a good kisser. No one ever gets tired of good kisses ;P) rather than about inaccuracy, right? 
But I think that her editor or one of her proof readers should have checked out those things. Knickers! They're there for that reason. 
Cheerio and God Save the Queen.

 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

HEA against all odds

HEA blurb: A dark haired, good looking (GQ level), Billionaire met a feisty Redhead  in front of the organic vegetables stand at a local farm market and BANG! They have a blond, chubby baby with blue eyes.

Q.Nr.1 - Do you know that RED HAIR occurs only on approximately in 1-2% of the human population?  So, between 70 and 140 million people around the world have red hair. Aaaand Northern European countries have a greater proportion of redheads than anywhere else in the world... 

Are you wondering why I'm ranting about RED HAIR? I'm gonna tell you.
I'm too lazy to go back and count them but believe me, I read a lot of books which heroines have STRAWBERRY BLOND, GINGER, RED, FLAMING hair.
So I wandered, is the redhead troublemaker - totally cliché - appeal or Julianne Moore sex appeal that induced so many authors to go for one of the rarest female combinations?
I've no answer. Today the engineer in me took over and I'm simply looking for numbers ;)

Q.Nr.2 - Do you know how many Billionaires are there in the world?
According to Forbes there are 1426 Billionaires (Men and women) and 2/3 live in Europe or U.S. Unfortunately Forbes didn't tell us how many are male, good looking exemplars under the age of 35. I had a look at some pictures and with an optimistic approximation I'd say we can count them on the fingers of one hand, Mark Zuckerberg included. AND, even if he is supersmart I won't define him a GQ model ;) (Mark, please! Don't get angry with me and shut down my FB page).
Poor David is a simple Millionaire
If you want  to know why authors are now writing about Billionaires and not Millionaires, well my only answer is INFLATION.


Q.Nr.3 - Do you know Gregor Mendel's peas tale? 

No? What were you doing when your Science teacher was explaining the basic principles of genetics? I'm not going to explain the principles of biologic  inheritance now (Wikipedia and Google are stuffed with data) I'm going to say that there are dominant and recessive traits in our DNA and is highly improbable that our dark Billionaire and sweet Redhead have a cherubin.

Conclusion: HEA exist! But it is more credible a story about
  •  a dark firefighter/lawyer/engineer that mets 
  • a dark blond (with highlights ;P) nurse/teacher/librarian and that 
  • the HEA couple has a chubby toddler with chestnut, curly hair and chocolate eyes ;)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The right atmosphere for a book club night


Do you want to know why a book lover dreams to find the right book club?
Here 16 good reasons about being in a book club

Now, I found my secret dream team and a few weeks ago I had a very good time dissecting our first "book of the month" with the ladies. It was so good that I'm looking forward for round two.

I don't know my pals in person or what they do for a living. Ah. I don't even know where they live (All around the globe is the best way to locate us ;p).  But we have two things in common: we love reading and we love a particular book. And that particular book bounded us.

This afternoon I was reading a food magazine when one of the ladies posted an off topic (= not related to the book of the month) message and I started dreaming of a 'book-of-the-month + only-girls-night' party.

I  wish it would be my garden

The logistic rules against us and, unless we don't  find our Scotty (You know that guy with a red shirt? "Beam me up, Scotty!" sounds a bell?), we would only meet in the WWW ^_^
Next time we're going to discuss a paranormal mystery romance (With a *touch* of humor) and drink wine. Yep. Have you read the article above? No, then go!
One of the advantage of a book club is the wine tasting. The two things are indissolubly connected. Red (our group prefer red) wine and highly witty conversation is a combination as good as raspberry and chocolate. Orgasmicntastic :D


November Mystery Paranormal Menu

 Little Bruschetta with diced tomatoes and basil
Little Bruschetta with sautéed mushrooms 

Caciotta cheese with organic Acacia Honey
Parmigiano cheese with Pear Jam
Pecoriono cheese with Tropea Red Onions confiture

 ***
My Pumpkin soup

***
Santin's Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
[Recipe will follow soon ;)]

I hope one day someone will pick up a regency romance as 'book of the month'. I never read one and I'm dreaming to organize a tea party :-)



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kickass Muffin

The Boss was playing his guitar and my little one was bouncing his head with the rhythm of The River when I put those choco muffins with a raspberry-jam heart in the oven. Their fate was signed by the music, their name carved in stone: Kickass Muffins. What else?

Follow the recipe for my Regular Muffin and add 1/2 spoon of cocoa powder to the batter for the choco taste.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Breakfast experiments

A successful breakfast experiment is this Bio*-Raspberry-Jam Muffin. 
*Aka Organic
A classic muffin with a fruity, fresh, red heart.
Muffins (12 units)
250 gr Flour
100 gr Sugar
2 Eggs
250 ml Yogurt 
80 ml Peanut oil (Sunflower oil is good as well)
1 pkg backing powder
Raspberry Jam
In a big bowl mix all dried ingredients, in an other mix the remaining things. Mix the liquid with the dry ingredients and stir energetically but briefly the batter, divide it in 12 Muffin cups and add a teaspoon of Raspberry Jam on top of each cup. The Jam will be engulfed by the rising batter in the oven. Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Green, White and Red in Friends without Benefits :D

I received an ARC of  Friends Without Benefits (Knitting in the City) from the author in exchange of a honest review and...

Friends Without Benefits can be read as a standalone, is a full length 120k word novel, and is book #2 in the Knitting in the City Series.
There are three things you need to know about Elizabeth Finney: 1) She suffers from severe sarcastic syndrome, especially when she's unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her like Nico Manganiello, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Elizabeth Finney is almost always right about everything: the musical merits of boy bands are undervalued by society, “benefits” with human Ken dolls are better without friendship, and the sun has set on her once-in-a-lifetime chance for true love. But when Elizabeth’s plans for benefits without friendship are disarmed by the irritatingly charismatic and chauvinistic Nico Manganiello- her former nemesis- she finds herself struggling to maintain the electric fence around her heart while avoiding electrocution or, worse, falling in love.

Honestly I LOVE THIS BOOK!
Yeah, yeah. I'm yelling and I'm not ashamed to tell you that it is one of those teenager hysterical cry. One of those I had reserved for Bono, Larry, Adam and The Edge 25 years ago ;) But this time it's all for NICOOOOO! (Sorry, I can't truly stop).
He's my brand new literary crush!

I know, in the past I wrote that there couldn't be anyone better, more irresistible, sexier than Quinn riding his Triumph, but Penny found one of my weaknesses... I'm a cook-food-feticist! So how was I supposed to resist this:

"Before me was the sight of Nico, shirtless and in black boxer briefs, making apple fritters. He was standing at the kitchen table spooning apple goo into a waiting dough shell. Flour speckled his chest and stomach. I noted his stomach was pooch free."  You wrote it Penny! "Watching a shirtless Nico Manganiello bake was something that belonged in Playgirl magazine"

And you know what? I love Lizzybella too! I like strong, witty, sarcastic female characters. She's that and even more!

Cherry on top: the Epilogue. I'm not a crying person, but I had moisture in my eyes when I read the last page :-)

A couple of important things you've to know directly from Penny's notes:
Two characters in this book are diagnosed with a pediatric rare disease. For the last eight years my (day) job has been focused on biomedical research; specifically, research into the (accurate) diagnosis and treatment of pediatric rare diseases. I felt it appropriate that a percentage of the profits of this book go pediatric rare diseases foundations which are dedicated to helping the children (and their families) of this underserved and underfunded population. Therefore, at least 10% of the profits from every ebook sold will go to one of these foundations.
Every month for the next year (October 2014 – October 2015) I will be highlighting a different rare disease research foundation on my blog. http://reidromance.blogspot.com/ Proceeds for that month will be sent to the highlighted research foundation.
If you’re interested in learning more about rare diseases research and the collaborative efforts currently afoot, here are some great resources:
http://rarediseasesnetwork.epi.usf.edu/ (clinical research network with sites all over the world, studies focused on rare diseases)
http://www.rarediseases.org/
http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/

And now RUN to buy it! If you still didn't have it, don't wait a second more!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oh Helen Fielding, what have you done?

I think that yesterday the news about how Helen Fielding had killed off Mr Darcy (TheGuardian)  was the most gossiped on Twitter, Facebook, telephone, and so on... I even discussed about it with my husband right this morning (Sipping my coffee during our breakfast). 
I mean, no politics, no bad economy, no wars and no dead people. This morning I had  the impending desire to vent my disappointment at one of the most cruel thing an author can do to an affectionate reader: kill the good guy :O

R.I.P. Mr Darcy
She's not the first one and not the last one to kill an universally acknowledged hero (I'm sure that when he punched Daniel defending Bridget all the female population dedicated to chick-lit and chick-flick -me included- swooned ;P) but every time I've to ask (Better said, cry out) the author "WHY? PERCHE'?"
Was it really necessary? Didn't you find a better way to create havoc in our heroine's life?

I imagine Mrs Fielding answering "Probably yes, dear." She would sip Earl Grey tea in a porcelain cup before adding, "But would I obtain the same resonance introducing a young, beautiful, unscrupulous new assistant in Mark's office? No, indeed. Bridget maybe would be suffering enough, but you readers? No way. You need an earthquake to come back to me."

Because...
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about" (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)

So, here we are my friends, mourning the death of our beloved Mr Darcy even before we've opened the book. Grief and pain will be fading soon and we'll hurry buying the book to know how did it happened and how Bridget had managed to survive the shock.
And don't worry, we'll survive. Like we did when J. K. Rowling killed Albus Dumbledore, or J. Weiner gave Peter an heart attack. It will pass, eventually.
And, please, leave a comment epitaph below for your stronger literary loss :-)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Daniela's Zwetschgenkuche aka German Plums Cake

One of my fond memories of living in Germany involved September in Stuttgart, when the hills slowly turned yellow, orange and red, the first pumpkins appeared on the farmer's market kiosks, and the bakeries took out of their ovens fragrant, juicy Zwetschgenkuche aka Plums cake. 
I love this sheet cake and Daniela's version is my favorite. Here her delicious recipe:

Ingredients:

Batter
4 eggs
1 & 1/2 cup sugar
4 cups All purpose Flour
4 teaspoons Backing powder
1 cup vegetable Oil (I prefer peanuts Oil)
1 cup milk (Kids version) or sweet sparkling wine!

Streusel
1 cup Sugar
1 cup all purpose Fluor
1 cup Butter

1 kg  Elongated Purple Plums - Cleaned and helved 
(More or less this quantity, but it depends how big they are. Consider you've to cover completely the pan surface).
www.michiganplum.com

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter and flour a large pan, or prepare a bake paper rectangle (Mine is 32cm x 24cm = 12.5 inch x 9.5inch).
 Put all the ingredients in a stand alone mixer and whisk all together for a couple of minutes.
Prepare the Streusel combining all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Alternately, you can mash the ingredients together in a bowl using a fork, or just mix everything together with your fingers (I do this way ;P).
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and evenly arrange the halved plums on top of the batter, flesh side facing up. Sprinkle with the Streusel and bake for 45 min. - 1 hour.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ta-daaa! Official Cover Reveal: Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid

Official Cover Reveal: Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid

Time to share ;)

Bad times good times. 
Definitively in the last couple of weeks I had very good moments reading and I scored three 5stars books in a row! Here my lucky strikes:

Fairy queen becomes Elves Queen, showing her claws, and Prince Charming chooses to be Prince Philip. No, it isn't a Once upon A time story! It's an amazing story about good changes and everlasting love. 
Message to the female MC: Go! Jen, go!
Message to the male MC: Hey, Mr. Sellers I'd the impulse to hit you with your caveman's club a couple of time but (As a reader I'd the privilege to have a look in your mind so I knew that your bossiness it was only a way to hide your insecurities) I would leave you walk away unharmed ;)

---------

I fall in love with the couple in this  book:
   

A rock star and his regrets.
He promised her all:
“You’re forever my girl.”   

“Hey, Jojo?” he yells.
“Yeah.” I yell back.
“I’m going to marry you someday.”

Then he run. And came back after ten years, creating havoc in her life o.O

It's an emotional second-chance love story, a boy who'd to find himself, a smart heroine, a strong group of supporting loving characters: a wonderful story, indeed.

----------

The third 5stars was the sequel of Forever my girl. And this time the 5stars are all for Harrison :) He has really the patience of a saint ;)

   

I expected a life of music.
I expected to raise my son.
It took one look to make everything change.
I never expected happiness.

I never expected to find her.
I never expected to feel desire.
I never expected I’d be a family man.
I never expected to be loved.
I never expected to fall in love.