Category Archives: Books

Finding Strength in Beauty

Lovely Pansies @ NancyC

51AAkaaspaL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_In some way I feel you here with me as I write, and I hope you feel that I’m there with you as you read, just your friend, across the table at a coffee shop, swapping stories and sharing hope,” Annie F. Downs writes at the beginning of her new book, Looking for Lovely. And as I read my review copy of the book, I really did feel that way–like I was having coffee with a good friend, sharing life…funny stories, disappointments, struggles…and most importantly, seeing together the hope beyond the difficult times.

Annie challenges us to look for the beauty around us in simple everyday moments, because it’s in those moments we see God in unique ways and we’re reminded of His love and care for us. And we draw strength from that–strength and encouragement to keep us going on our journey. Annie explains, “There is a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance….Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things everyone sees, but it is what YOU see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments God gives you to collect up and hold and draw strength from.” 

Strength for the journey–we all need that! Annie, in her very personal, honest style, shares some of her own struggles–things that so many of us can relate to. And how finding loveliness in simple things like a sunrise or time spent with friends helps her see God’s love and His truths more clearly. God blesses our lives with loveliness in so many ways and it’s all around us, like little gifts He surprises us with every day.

I found that I had a new perspective after reading this book. I realized, as Annie points out, that an everyday occurrence like a sunrise is a beautiful reminder that there’s an end to darkness–it’s the beauty God created for us that helps get us through the hard times, keeps us from quitting, and gives us hope. Annie sums it up perfectly when she says, “I’m believing what I cannot see because of what I can see.” And after reading her book, I’m inspired to do the same.

Linked to Thursday Favorite ThingsCreate With Joy.

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Surrender

41PB1RP7MAL._SX293_BO1,204,203,200_I marked a page in a book I had read several years ago and came across it the other day. A Prayer That Moves Heaven offers comfort and hope for those going through difficult times, and we all have gone through or are going through difficult, challenging times, right? As I reread the page I had marked, I thought there were some good nuggets of wisdom there, so I’m sharing a small section of it here. Hope you find it helpful…

God never intended for His kids to live under the pressure and fear and worry of life’s situations. Jesus tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

Surrendering is a good idea when you are facing dark and hopeless times. But always surrender to God, not to the circumstances.

There is a very big difference.

It’s one thing to sigh and shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do,” and it’s another thing altogether to surrender your situation to the Lord who loves you. When you surrender your life and your circumstances to God, everything changes.

Yielding to His will and His plan is step number one. Once that is done, you can begin to ask Him some questions as you pray. Perhaps you might say something like this: “God, what do You see?” In other words, “How does this situation look from Your vantage point? Please help me to find Your perspective on my situation.”

The second question you might ask is, “God, what are You going to do?”

Third, you might ask, “God, what should I be doing?”

…In other words, “God, I don’t know what’s going on here. I know what I see, but I want to look to You. So I’m asking You for wisdom to let me see these things as they truly are.” 

–From A Prayer That Moves Heaven, pp. 50–52

When we surrender everything to God, it takes the heaviness and weight off our shoulders. I’m thankful He’s always there with open arms to lighten our load.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  MATTHEW 11:28 NIV

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

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Unbroken

UnknownI just finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. A friend had given me the book a few years ago, and I had it in my stack of books to read. I never have as much time to read as I’d like, so the book sat in my stack for awhile. When I heard the story was coming out as a movie last fall, I thought, I really need to read this now! I finally had a chance to get started on it a few months ago. It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it. If you’re not familiar with the story, in a nutshell, it’s about Louie Zamperini, a boy who often got into trouble growing up. His brother Pete, hoping to help change that, suggested that Louie get involved with the school track team when he was 15. And so Louie discovered his love and gift for running–running well enough to participate in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Hoping to participate in another Olympics, plans changed when World War II began and Louie enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He miraculously survived when the bomber he was serving on crashed into the ocean. But the ill-equipped life raft he and two other men were on was not discovered for another 47 days–47 days of fighting off sharks, weathering storms, having very little to eat, and developing blistering sores from the strong sun and saltwater waves. Unfortunately for Louie and the second survivor (the third man had died), they were finally found, but by the Japanese forces–and were held as Prisoners of War, undergoing unimaginable suffering and hardship. As I was reading Louie’s story, I just couldn’t imagine going through all the suffering that he did. But he never gave up–he always had hope. And he prayed. And God answered. One particular chapter told of how Louie and the other men, lost at sea on the raft, had gone without water for 6 days:

On the sixth day without water, the men recognized that they weren’t going to last much longer. Mac was failing especially quickly. They bowed their heads together as Louie prayed. If God would quench their thirst, he vowed, he’d dedicate his life to Him. The next day, by divine intervention or the fickle humors of the tropics, the sky broke open and rain poured down. Twice more the water ran out, twice more they prayed, and twice more the rain came. The showers gave them just enough water to last a short while longer. From Unbroken, end of Chapter 14

Louie would suffer many more hardships before the war finally ended. And even after the war ended. But with God’s help, he was able to endure and overcome them. You could say he ran his race well-very, very well. Louie died on July 2, 2014, several months before the movie came out, at age 97. I still haven’t seen the movie. Have you seen it or read the book?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

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Stylish, Thrifty Decorating Tips from Simple Sustainable Style

51dzdLt93oL._SL500_If you’re wanting to do some redecorating in your home, you may want to check out Simple Sustainable Stylea Country Living Book by designer Randy Florke. It’s filled with lots of wonderful ideas and tips. The author shows you how to “decorate with style and thrift, transforming the ordinary room into into a place of extraordinary personal charm.” Florke mixes in fabulous finds from flea markets and thrift stores in his decorating. The book is wonderfully written and filled with beautiful full-color photos as well. It’s a book you’ll really want to sit down with!

Here are just some of Florke’s many helpful tips found throughout the book:

For the Kitchen:

  • Liberate cabinets of doors to expose china collections.
  • Display humble foodstuffs…if they have colorful or retro labels.
  • Choose an accent color for a white kitchen and display it in seat cushions, throw rugs, pottery, or flowers.

For the Living Room:

  • Resist buying pieces from all one period or the room will appear either “store bought” or fussy. Mixing pieces you love, of varying periods, will put a stamp of originality–YOURS– on the room.
  • Use furniture where you need it, not where it’s “supposed” to be. Place a hutch, sideboard, or dresser in the living room if the look works for you.
  • Splurge, if you can, on one truly great piece for the living room. It might be that dreamed-of sofa or amazing pedestal table; live with special things.
  • Look for interesting lamp bases at thrift stores and flea markets, where many are for sale. Take the base along with you to purchase its shade, which should cover the hardware but not the decorative base.

For the Dining Room:

  • Even if you don’t have a room relegated to dining, create a dining niche in the living room corner or in an entryway alcove.
  • Home Comforts for a Dining Room: The biggest table possible. comfortable chairs aplenty, loads of fresh flowers, a sideboard (of any make) to display crystal and silver, candles and flattering light,  pale walls and important art, some aromatic, homemade dish, lovingly served.
  • Resist the urge to place flowers in an ordinary vase. Think enameled coffeepots, colorfully labeled cans, old milk bottles, or even olive oil tins. Place glass jars inside tin or metal containers to keep the rust away.
  • Chandeliers were made for dining rooms. Don’t be afraid to mix ornate fixtures with simple surroundings or vice versa.

For the Bedroom:

  • Home Comforts for a Bedroom: A comfortable bed, fresh bedclothes of natural fibers, calm, restful art, good reading light, handy bedside table, ample storage.
  • One of the little things that make a room memorable is a bed lavished in wonderful linens. Layers of color and texture, and natural fibers create a beautiful, luxurious bed.
  • Mix lightly used fabrics with contemporary purchases and layer interesting textures of chenille, linen, wool, felt, and lace.
  • A decorative bedstead anchors a room and imparts a sense of timelessness and stability.
  • The accompanying (bedside) table should be almost as tall as the top of the mattress.

For the Porch:

  • Choose wrought-iron tables with glass surfaces, three-legged side tables, and plenty of Adirondack-style chairs. A porch is not a porch without a rocking chair…
  • Metal furnishings work well on a porch, be they 1940s lawn chairs, more industrial-type stools, or even medical cabinets acting as storage or side tables.
  • Try not to crowd too many pieces on the porch…
  • Line up cast–concrete flower boxes along the perimeter of the porch and fill them seasonally with peonies, daisies, or swaths of evergreen.

There are also decorating ideas for the bathroom, entry way, staircase, and other transitional spaces, along with tips on decorating the exterior of the home and making smart flea market purchases.

Hope you find these tips helpful! Are you decorating any rooms in your home now?

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My Pink Pumpkin

In mid-October, I finally got around to buying a pumpkin for my porch. I was at Wal-Mart, and I saw a display that said “Pink Pumpkins.” When I went over to look, I found that these pumpkins benefited breast cancer research. Then I remembered that October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (see NBCAM.org). So of course I bought a pink pumpkin–not only did it benefit a good cause, but I also loved their uniqueness.

Cancer had also been on my mind just the month before, in September, when I had to have a biopsy myself. My lump was in a different area and it turned out to be benign, but for a short time I faced the possibility of having cancer. And that makes you look at life a little differently. Priorities change. Things that seemed important before suddenly don’t matter. One thing that struck me when I went to the huge medical complex to have my biopsy done was how packed the parking garages and parking lots were. That meant there were a lot of people dealing with cancer and other serious illnesses. Thankfully, there continue to be more and more cancer survivors as time goes on and hopefully we’re much closer to finding a cure soon.

Around this same time in September, when I was cleaning out a cabinet filled with books in my living room, I came across one I had read several years ago, One Month to Live. The book (a New York Times bestseller) challenges you to live life fully, with passion and purpose, making the most of your time here on earth. And living life with an eternal perspective–focusing on what really is important and leaving a meaningful legacy.

I noticed I had marked a page with a sticky note, so I went to that page and reread it. It included the story of a young wife and mother who was losing her battle with cancer. And then I thought about all those cancer patients at the medical complex. Even though there are more survivors and better treatments, some patients will make it through, and some, like this brave woman, will not. But she had an eternal perspective–she had the hope of heaven because of Jesus and knew she would see her family in heaven again. Here is the passage:

Jess Moody was a young pastor in Owensborough, Kentucky, when he became good friends with a young couple in his church. One day the husband came to Pastor Moody’s office clearly distraught and said, “Jess, I’ve just heard the most awful news. My wife has terminal cancer, and it has spread all over her body. The doctors have just told us she has only weeks, not even months, and Jess, she’s at the hospital, and she’s asking for you. We don’t know how to handle it. We don’t know what to do.”

Jess immediately went to the hospital. There the young wife and mother said to him, “I remember in one of your sermons you said a thousand years is like a day to God and a day is unto a thousand years. Is that true? Is a thousand years like a day to God?” The pastor said, “Yes, it’s in the Bible.” She said, “Good, because I’ve been doing the math, and I figure if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like one hour. I’ll be leaving my husband and the children soon. He may live another forty years, but that will be just like an hour to me in heaven. When he gets to heaven, I’ll greet him and say, ‘Where have you been for an hour? Did you just go to the office, or were you running errands? I’ve missed you.’ My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that will be like two hours to me. When they get to heaven, I’ll greet them and say, ‘How was school today? Mom misses you when you’re gone for a couple of hours. I wonder how you are doing, because mommies don’t like to be away from their children long.’ “

Jess Moody said two weeks later she went to be with the Lord, and the last thing she said to her husband was “I love you. Take care of my children. I’ll see you in an hour.” 

From ONE MONTH TO LIVE, by Kerry and Chris Shook

What an inspiring example of having an eternal perspective! I was so touched when I read this. Because it was a tragic situation. But this woman’s story shows that even through tragedy, there is hope.

There is always hope.

You can find out more information about cancer, support, and treatments at Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society.
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Carrot and Orange Sorbet from The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream (and a Giveaway!)

If you enjoy making your own ice cream, or would like to start, you’d probably love the recently-published book The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream: Over 300 Gelatos, Sorbets, Cakes, & More. Written by master chef Jan Hedh, this hardcover book includes an amazing variety of recipes for ice cream, gelatos, sorbets, ice cream cakes, parfaits, and other delicious ice cream treats, along with great photos. I’m giving a copy of this book away, compliments of Skyhorse Publishing, so see the end of this post for details!

Chef Hedh is from Sweden, one of the top ice cream-consuming countries in the world, and some of the unique recipes he has developed include Basil Yogurt Ice Cream, Avocado Ice Cream, White Mocha Ice Cream, Pumpkin Sorbet, Blueberry Sorbet, Espresso Granite, and decadent desserts like Chocolate Meringue Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Meringue Pavlov with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Fresh Fruit.

The recipes have both European and U.S. measurements, which is handy for everyone. One of the ingredients used in many of the recipes is gelatin leaves, a common ingredient in European recipes. It’s the same substance as granulated gelatin, just in a different form. Four gelatin leaves are equivalent to a standard 1/4-ounce packet of granulated gelatin (or one teaspoon). So for the recipes that call for 2 gelatin leaves, you just need to substitute 1/2 teaspoon of granulated gelatin. I just thought that information would be handy to know, since I hadn’t heard of gelatin leaves before!

The recipe I’m sharing here, Carrot and Orange Sorbet, needs to be frozen in an ice cream maker after mixing the ingredients, like most of the recipes. I currently don’t have one, so I haven’t made this recipe myself yet. But I thought it sounded like a good and easy recipe that some of you might want to try out!

CARROT AND ORANGE SORBET from The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream

  • 2 gelatin leaves (4 g) or 1/2 teaspoon of granulated gelatin
  • 125 g (3/5 cup) sugar
  • 75 g (1/3 cup) water
  • 60 g (1/5 cup) orange blossom honey
  • 250 g (1 cup) fresh carrot juice
  • 250 g (1 cup) fresh orange juice

Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for at least 10 minutes (if you’re using granulated gelatin, you don’t need to do this).

Put sugar, water, and honey in a pot, and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat, add the gelatin (if using gelatin leaves soaked in water, you’ll need to drain them), and stir until dissolved. Cool the sugar solution to 95˚F. Add carrot juice and orange juice and freeze the sorbet in an ice cream machine.

Now for the Giveaway! Here’s how you can enter to win The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream:

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED-And the winner is…

Thanks to all of you who participated in the giveaway! There were a total of 21 entries, and the True Random Number Generator at Random.org chose Commentor #8, who is Carol! Congratulations, Carol, and I’ll be getting in touch with you to send the book to you!

Leave a comment on this blog post between now and Thursday, August 23, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced the following day. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing).

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite ice cream flavor.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment, telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

The giveaway is open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada.

So what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots is dedicated to “…foodies, food bloggers, home cooks, and chefs…and to anyone who craves a delicious meal, chases beauty, and wants to make people hungry with their photographs.” That certainly includes me!🙂 So I was glad to have the chance to review this very helpful, comprehensive guide to taking better food photos. Author Nicole S. Young specializes in commercial photography and is an accredited Adobe Certified Expert, so she has lots of expert advice and tips to share!

This book has seven chapters…

  1. Photography Fundamentals
  2. Photography Equipment
  3. Lighting
  4. Styling and Props
  5. Framing and Composition
  6. Processing Images with Adobe® Photoshop®
  7. Behind the Scenes

The chapters cover everything from getting the right camera equipment, using the right camera settings, creating the best lighting and composition, helpful food styling tips, and photo editing techniques with Photoshop. The last chapter, Behind the Scenes, is especially interesting because it goes into detail about how some great food photos were created.

Throughout the book, there are also photo tips and how-tos highlighted on various pictures…

I thought these pages were really helpful!

Overall, I think this is a great book to have if you’re wanting to improve your food photography skills. Don’t worry about having to get the newest, most expensive equipment…Nicole recommends working with what you have while you’re learning before you run out and buy anything new. My own camera is about 7 years old (it’s a Canon Rebel XT), but I’m still going to be using this for awhile!

I feel like I still have a lot to learn when it comes to photography and I’m really excited about trying out what I’m learning from this book!

What about you–do you enjoy photography?  Do you know a lot about it, or are you more of a beginner?

Butterscotch Cashew Blondies from Baking Basics and Beyond

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If you’re a beginning baker or just wanting to improve your baking skills and learn helpful baking tips, you’ll have to check out the new cookbook, Baking Basics and Beyond (Second Edition, softcover) by food consultant Pat Sinclair. I received a copy of this book to review, and it’s filled with great photos and recipes!

At the beginning of the book, you’ll find tips and information on baking equipment, ingredients, measuring, and some helpful “how-tos” (How to Dissolve Yeast, How to Melt Chocolate, etc.). Each of the 12 chapters in the book focus on a different kind of baked good, such as Biscuits and Scones, Coffee Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Tarts, Yeast Breads and Rolls…just about anything you’d want to bake! The beginning of each chapter has several pages of helpful baking tips and there are additional notes and tips included in each recipe. Baking Basics and Beyond focuses on simple baking techniques and directions, so it’s great for beginning bakers, but has great recipes that any baker would love to make.

There are over 120 recipes in the book and I decided to try something from the Brownies and Bars chapter. Since I love cashews, I couldn’t resist trying the Butterscotch Cashew Blondies. They are really yummy–thick and chewy, with lots of buttery, butterscotch flavor. Very rich. These are great just as they are, but if you want to make them into a fancier dessert, you could top a blondie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle some butterscotch sauce over it…maybe even sprinkle on a few more chopped cashews…yum!

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This is a great, easy recipe and makes a 9×13″ pan of blondies. You can cut them into 36 bars, but I cut mine larger, so I didn’t end up with quite so many.🙂 Here’s how you make them…

BUTTERSCOTCH CASHEW BLONDIES (from Baking Basics and Beyond)

The opposite of a brownie is a blondie–the colors are different but the texture of the bars is similar. It is much easier to determine doneness in the blondies than in the brownies. If the blondies are not done, you can see the batter move under the top crust when you shake the pan. Because of the high amount of sugar in these bars, the edges rise and get dark and chewy–I think this is the best part!

Makes 36 bars

  • 2 cups (242 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 2 cups (456 g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (227 g) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup (168 g) butterscotch chips (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup (150 g) cashew halves and pieces, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350˚F (180˚C) with oven rack in middle. Line bottom of a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 22.5-cm) baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil about 2 inches (5 cm) beyond pan on each long side. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl and stir slowly to mix. Add eggs and mix with a wire whisk until well blended. Slowly stir in flour mixture until it is moistened. Beat with wire whisk 30 seconds until smooth.

Add butterscotch chips and cashews. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until center seems set when touched lightly with a finger. The blondies will also start to pull away from pan edges. When set in the center, the batter won’t jiggle. A toothpick will come out dry. Cool in pan on wire cooling rack.

Remove blondies intact from pan by loosening ends with a metal spatula and lifting out, using the aluminum foil. Cut into bars. Make sure foil is not stuck on bottom of any blondies.

BAKER’S NOTE: When you combine the brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla, mix until smooth, crushing any lumps of brown sugar.

That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Enjoy making these chewy treats!🙂

Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes from Vegan Holiday Kitchen

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It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is coming up so soon! And who doesn’t look forward to eating all that special holiday food? It’s always great when you can find delicious and healthy holiday recipes, which is why I was so interested in reviewing the new cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen.

I’m not a vegan myself, but I do like to eat healthy and enjoy making vegan dishes. Author Nava Atlas has put together a collection of more than 200 tasty-sounding recipes you can whip up for different holidays year-round: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Jewish Holidays, Easter, and Independence Day/Summer Entertaining. There’s also a chapter devoted to Brunches, Appetizers, and Potluck Dinners.

This hardcover book is beautifully designed and has lots of great photography. It would make a wonderful holiday gift–or you may want to add it to your own “wish” list!🙂

There are so many unique, great-sounding recipes in Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Here’s a few to give you an idea:  Coconut Butternut Squash Soup, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Green Chili Cornbread, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tortilla Casserole,  Smashed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, Cranberry-Carrot Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting…and these are just from the Thanksgiving recipe section! There’s so much more, you’ll have plenty of delicious recipes to choose from and make throughout the year!

I decided to try the Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes, because I love the flavor of pure maple syrup and the maple-sweet potato combination just sounded wonderful to me! You may want to try this yourself at Thanksgiving. It’s a great side dish, both yummy and healthy. I love the natural sweetness of the maple syrup baked into those tender sweet potatoes! The recipe says to make this in a shallow 2-quart casserole, but the closest thing I had on hand was my glass pie plate. That worked fine, although I couldn’t quite fit all the potato slices in.

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Here’s the recipe…hope you get a chance to try it over the holidays!

MAPLE-PECAN SWEET POTATOES (Gluten-Free, from Vegan Holiday Kitchen)

  • 4 large or 6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance or other non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Leaves from 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Arrange the sweet potato slices in overlapping rows in an oiled shallow 2-quart casserole. In a small bowl, combine the syrup, margarine, juice, cinnamon, and salt. Pour evenly over the potatoes.

3. Cover with lid or foil and bake, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until readily pierced with a fork but still firm.

4. Scatter the pecans and rosemary leaves over the surface of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, uncovered, or until glazed and golden around the edges. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

What yummy side dishes are you making for Thanksgiving this year?

A Savory Focaccia from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day

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There’s a brand-new book that has just come out by the bestselling authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Have you seen it?

It’s called Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day, and I had the opportunity to review and try a recipe from it! Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois have created 100 new easy-to-make recipes for not only pizzas and flatbreads, but also soups, salads, sauces, and spreads, which make great meals with all those pizzas and flatbreads! And for a special finishing touch to your meal, you’ll find some recipes for dessert pizzas and hand pies. The Banana Cream Hand Pie sounds really good and I’m intrigued by the recipe for Chocolate Dough, being the chocolate-lover that I am. I will definitely need to try that out!🙂

When I received the book in the mail, I immediately started flipping through it to look at the full-color photos of many of the recipes. I decided to try a focaccia recipe because I really love focaccia and have never made it. It was kind of a challenge for me. Not being an experienced bread-maker, I was wondering if I could really make a delicious focaccia flatbread. Well I’m happy to tell you, “Yes!” I thought the recipe was easy to make and tasted as good or better than any I have ever bought. And it was fun making it!

I definitely will be trying out the pizza recipes, too, especially after watching a pizza-making video on Zoe’s site, Zoe Bakes, and seeing this photo of incredibly tasty-looking pizzas taken by her friends.

Photo by Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple

As you can see, there are plenty of delicious pizza options to choose from!🙂

And so I chose to make focaccia, specifically the Leek, Herbes de Provence, and Garlic Focaccia. It was delicious! You can choose from a variety of dough recipes in the book, and I chose the 100% Whole Wheat Dough, making it with white whole wheat flour. That was another first for me, using white whole wheat flour (which has a less “wheaty” taste than regular whole wheat). This is such a good recipe…I hope you get a chance to try it soon!

LEEK, HERBES DE PROVENCE, AND GARLIC FOCACCIA from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day

100% Whole Wheat Dough:

Makes enough dough for at least eight flatbreads. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. This dough can be used for pizzas, too!

  • 3 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated yeast
  • 1  to 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar, honey, malt powder, or agave syrup (I used honey)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 7 cups white whole wheat flour (or traditional whole wheat flour)

Mixing and Storing the Dough…

  1. Mix the yeast, salt, sweetener, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle. If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  3. Cover (not airtight), and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use for flatbread (or pizza) over the next 7 days. Or store the dough for up to 3 weeks in the freezer in 1/2 pound portions. When using frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before use.

The Focaccia Recipe (makes one 10-inch focaccia):

  • 3/4 pound (large orange-size portion) of your homemade dough (refrigerate beforehand for easier handling if desired)
  • 5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise, well rinsed, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used white cooking wine)

Prepare the  leeks: In a skilled over medium low heat, add 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, leeks, herbs, garlic, capers, salt, pepper, and white wine. Cook slowly until the leeks are soft, but not brown. Allow to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in the bottom of a pie tin and set aside (I just had a glass pie plate, so I used that and it worked fine). Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a 3/4-pound (large orange-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go (the pizza-making video on Zoe’s site that I mentioned earlier illustrates this technique).

Stretch the focaccia dough: Flatten the dough with your hands and/or a rolling pin on a work surface to produce a 1/2-inch-thick round. Dust with flour to keep the dough from adhering to the surface. Use a dough scraper to unstick the dough as needed, and transfer to the prepared pie plate. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and dimple the surface so the oil won’t run off the top.

Add the toppings: Spread the leek mixture over the dough and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Just before baking, press your fingers into the dough to dimple it throughout; this prevents the toppings from popping off when baking.

Here’s what my focaccia looked like before I put it in the oven:

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Place the pie plate in the oven on the middle rack: Check for doneness in 15 minutes, then turn the focaccia around in the oven if one side is browning faster than the other. It may take up to 5 minutes more in the oven (my total baking time was about 18 minutes).

Remove the focaccia from the pan and allow to cool slightly, preferably on a wire cooling rack. Cut into wedges and serve.

Recipe reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Here’s the fresh-baked focaccia…

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I tasted it while it was still a little warm. Here’s a picture of the first slice…

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All the topping ingredients are so good together. The leek, the herbs, and the garlic cooked in the olive oil and white wine make a wonderful savory topping for this bread!

Have you made focaccia? What do you like to put on yours?

Linked to Foodie Friday.