That’s right, folks! Our new Book of the Month is the Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss. I fell in love with the books as a kid, and they were a big inspiration for me to start writing my own stories. Plus, Amelia’s signature composition notebooks and focus on school make September a great time to feature her books, what with everyone heading back to school for fall. So let’s get started! 😀
Today we’re kicking things off with an Amelia’s Notebook reading kit. It’s got loads of Amelia-inspired items: lunchboxes, eraser, notebooks (of course!), and a lot more. This is definitely one of those kits where I had to limit myself. I kept thinking of more things that would be perfect for the kit—I almost couldn’t stop! In the end, I included only the best of the best. I had a lot of fun putting it together, and I think you’re going to love it. 🙂
So let’s get ready to start reading Amelia’s Notebook…and don’t forget to check back on Thursday for our first Amelia-inspired recipe!
I always tend towards making a cocktail whenever I have a chance to make a bonus recipe, and my Man in the Iron Mask menu is no exception. Smoking Bishop is actually a traditional British beverage—not French, like all my other recipes for this menu—but it was just too perfect to pass up. The mulling spices (nutmeg, allspice, and cloves) along with the rich wines make it a perfect companion to our French Onion Soup and Secret Note French Bread. Plus, the name goes perfectly with the story, since Aramis (the Bishop of Vannes) is such an important character in Man in the Iron Mask.
The recipe I use here (a slight variation on one originally from PUNCH), is easy to throw together. Though roasting the orange adds to the prep time, I highly recommend it. Juice from the roasted orange adds so much flavor! The final cocktail is cozy and warm, with a lovely spiced aroma and a bit of citrus bite to offset the sweet wine. I can just imagine Aramis sipping this to calm his nerves before helping the prince break out of the Bastille!
This post is sponsored by Chef Inside the Box. I was given one free box of four meals in exchange
for an honest review of the service. The thoughts and opinions are my own.
Most of you know I’m juggling a cookbook, a blog, and a baby…which basically means my life is a crazy, wonderful mess at the moment! 🙂 Despite loving to cook, these days I don’t always get dinner on the table at a reasonable time (or at all), and when I do, it’s often a hassle.
That’s where Rachel comes in. She emailed me a couple weeks ago representing Chef Inside the Box, a brand new Chicago-based meal kit service. They send a box of 4 quick-to-make meal kits right to your door, complete with instructions…all for $27.80/meal! Since I’m a Chicago-based blogger, Rachel offered to send me a free box in exchange for an honest review. And I was instantly like:
I mean, who DOESN’T want to get a package on Monday that takes care of dinner for the rest of the week?
Plus, with a new school year starting, I figure there are a lot of people out there whose lives are in a similar state of craziness. And I’m pretty sure we could all use an easy way to take the headache out of dinner. So let’s talk meal kits! 🙂
When I first decided to make a Man in the Iron Mask menu, I fell in love with the idea of making a traditional French dessert. And when I read about Monsieur Fouquet’s famous peaches, I knew my dessert would have a peach theme. I tossed around the idea of peach madeleines, but I already made madeleines for my Hobbit menu (and adding fruit to the batter can be tricky).
Peach macarons also came to mind, but I’ll admit I was a little intimidated. I’ve never tried to make the infamously difficult macaron before, and I wasn’t confident that I’d have enough time to perfect such a temperamental recipe. Then I hit on the idea of meringues.
I’ve had great luck making meringue in the past, and I liked the idea of trying it as a cookie, something I’ve tasted but never made for myself. I used a combination of recipes to get my cookies: the proportions and prep instructions come from my baked Alaska recipe and the baking instructions come from a Taste of Home meringue cookie recipe my mom recommended.
But how to add the peaches? Since meringue can be fussy, I didn’t want to mess with the flavoring too much, but I’ve had fruit curd on the brain since I recently finished developing a blueberry curd recipe for my cookbook. So I consulted a peach curd recipe from Chocolate Moosey and made adjustments to my blueberry version to suit the differences in the fruit.
The final cookies had crisp, delicately sweet meringue with clean lines from the piping (no cracks or melting—yay!), and the peach curd was silky and fruity. Top with a sprig of mint to contrast the sweetness, and you’re in business! 🙂
The new school year is just around the corner! Now’s the time for what I consider one of the best parts of the back-to-school season: shopping for school supplies. I loved school shopping as a kid because every item was an opportunity to show my personality. I remember purple and teal composition notebooks, novelty erasers, highlighters in every color of the rainbow, and scented markers (but you wouldn’t believe how disappointed I was that my graphing calculator only came in black).
So when The Broke and The Bookish announced that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt would have an open-ended back to school theme, I knew I wanted to make a list of back to school items for book lovers. Below you’ll find everything from backpacks to study materials, all with a bookish theme. May they help you ace that classic lit exam…and maybe strike up a friendship with a fellow book lover!
P.S. Since we’re all book lovers here, I just wanted to note that your supply shopping can benefit National Novel Writing Month by shopping through Amazon Smile! (NaNoWriMo didn’t sponsor this post, I just think they’re really awesome. :))
Finding a side dish for my Man in the Iron Mask menu proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. No one dish jumped out as the obvious choice, but I noticed soup was mentioned in the long list of elaborate dishes the governor of the Bastille sups on with Aramis. It’s also mentioned in a scene with the king.
I had already decided that all my Man in the Iron Mask dishes would be classic French food (tilapia meunière, French bread, etc.), so I decided to make a well-known French soup: French Onion Soup! And since I wanted to make a truly authentic version, what better recipe to use than Julia Child’s French onion soup? I made a few small tweaks to allow for modern conveniences (like using a toaster for the croutes) and ingredients I had on hand, but apart from that I stuck to the original as closely as possible.
The base itself has a robust, beefy (and of course onion-y) flavor with plenty of texture from the grated fresh onion you add just before ladling it out. With the toasted bread and broiled cheese on top, you wind up with quite the hearty side dish.
Full Disclosure: I’d never actually eaten French onion soup before I made this. Not even in a restaurant. I guess I always thought of it as the “beginning” of a soup, the sort of base you add things to but not a soup unto itself. And maybe if the soup were just plain on its own, I’d still feel that way. But with the croutes and toasted cheese, I totally get it! 🙂
You can make my Secret Note French Bread to slice on top or just go with store bought. Bon appetit! 🙂
Truth be told, I was little stuck when it came time to create a tea for Man in the Iron Mask. There’s not a drop of tea to be seen in the book, and the only beverage Dumas mentions is wine. The idea of making a wine-themed tea was intriguing, but I knew it would take a LOT of experimentation to get right. With a cookbook in the works and the Little Mister cutting teeth, I knew I couldn’t give a wine tea the attention it deserved.
Then I remembered Fouquet’s peaches. Dumas describes them with so much care that you almost get the feeling he’s eaten a few! I had fun making peach tea in the past (like Becky’s White Peach Tea and James’ Peaches & Cream Tea), so I was eager to try again. But to increase the challenge, I set out to create a more unique blend than the previous two.
I used Adagio’s Peach Oolong as a base. Oolongs are new to me (I’ve only had them a few times in the past), but I loved how mild yet distinctive this tea was. I combined it with some apricot green tea and extra apricot pieces to lend a little complexity to the flavor. I love how it turned out, and I hope you will too! 🙂
When I first read Man in the Iron Mask, I agonized over the fact that there didn’t seem to be any distinctive entrees in the book. Sure, there was a brief mention of quail, partridge, and other fowl (but only in passing). I went back to combing through the text, worried I wouldn’t be able to find anything, when I suddenly stumbled upon an idea: the alley of limes.
Five different times in the book, Dumas mentions that Athos likes to walk with his son down a path lined with lime trees on their estate. It’s where they have important conversations about Raoul’s future, and Athos’ increasing difficulty with walking the path is used to show how his age affects him.
Limes themselves aren’t an entree, but tilapia meunière is. It’s a variation of sole meunière, a simple, classic French fish dish that is traditionally served with lemon sauce (I used tilapia instead of sole because it’s easier to get). And Bon Appetit has a great recipe for sole meunière. I just swapped the lemon for lime, and I had the perfect entree.
The butter sauce is mild and delicate, with just a hint of bite from the lime. The acidity of the citrus cuts through the fat of the fish, resulting in a delicate dish fit for a refined nobleman like Athos! 🙂
Tomorrow is National Book Lovers’ Day, so to celebrate I thought it would be fun to share a special roundup of book-themed drinks. 🙂
Why drinks, you ask? Well, I figured drink recipes are something quick and easy you can throw together on a whim, which is important for a holiday like this (one that lands on a weekday and is the sort that some people don’t hear about until the last minute). After all, just because you haven’t got time to run to the store doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to toast your love of books, right? 😉
The recipes listed here include cocktails, nonalcoholic punch, hot chocolate, and even Earl Grey lattes. So we’ve got something for everyone—whether you wanna party it up with an Edgar Allan Poe cocktail or get cozy with some of the White Witch’s hot chocolate.
Cheers, and happy Book Lovers’ Day! 🙂
Our new Book of the Month is The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas, and I can’t wait to get started! It took me forever to finish it (60 chapters, y’all. Dumas ain’t kidding around), but it was still a really fun read. It’s got everything you could ever want in a classic book: Intrigue! Adventure! Bishops on the run for trying to put the king’s displaced twin brother on the throne! Yaaay! 🙂
When I started reading, it didn’t take long for me to find my appetizer: early in the book, Aramis sneaks Prince Philippe a secret note in a loaf of bread.
“Fun!” I thought. “I can make french bread and hide a little note inside.”
In my hubris, I decided to make authentic french bread, because, y’know, historical accuracy. Then I saw that the Julia Child recipe takes seven hours. And most other “authentic” recipes take anywhere from two to four.
There are people out there who have hours and hours to devote to the refined art of traditional bread making. These people do not have 6-month-olds who are teething and mobile, which means I am not one of them. So instead we’re going a less historically accurate route and going a more fast-and-easy-but-still-french-bread-and-still-delicious route.
Enter Leigh Anne from Your Homebased Mom‘s recipe for Easy French Bread. It caught my attention because of the short rise time (40 minutes total), making the whole recipe just a little over an hour from start to finish. It’s not as porous inside as a traditional French baguette, but it’s delicious, with a beautiful crust and tender crumb.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Aramis didn’t give Philipe this EXACT loaf of bread…he probably would have eaten it all without even stopping to notice the note! 😉