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text 2017-03-03 14:22
Sorry about the spam!

Sorry for spamming your dashboards with so many reviews at once, but I'm finally done catching up on posting all the reviews I did while I was taking my BL break. Now I just have about 5 books that I've finished that I haven't written reviews for at all, and hopefully I'll get that done over the weekend. 

 

Now that BL seems to have addressed its problems and they are communicating regularly again, I'm ready to give it another chance. Fingers crossed!

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text 2017-02-26 15:42
Just checking in

Hey everybody! Or, those of you who are left. Just checking in to say howdy. I see BL is working fairly fast again, although it looks like they still haven't fixed the books import bug. I just tried again to import my books and reviews from GR but it seems to be doing the same thing - that is, nothing at all. I'm going to give it some time, then I guess I'll try to manually add them, if the hamsters haven't died on their wheels by then. 

 

I hope all is well with you all. I've been in a reading funk for about a month. It coincides with my growing alarm over the current political climate - it's been hard to immerse myself in the world of fiction. 

 

Meanwhile, have an emergency snoot boop:

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text 2017-01-06 15:33
Taking a BL break
All - I spent several frustrating hours last weekend, trying to catch up on my December reviews and finish up the 12 Festive Tasks posts. Even worse, I have been unable to spend the time needed to read and respond to all my friends' posts. I know the BL staff have finally started posting and responding to us again, but I have finally reached the limits of my tolerance for the slowness and bugs here. I'm going to be taking an extended break from BL. It might be permanent, I don't know. But for now, my plans are to move operations over to Goodreads and to check back in over here in a few months to see if the problems have been resolved. For those of you still on GR, I am "SheriC (Portable Magic)" over there. If we haven't already connected there, please send me a friend request. For those of you who aren't on GR, I'll miss you, but hopefully BL will get its shit together and I can catch up with you all then.
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text 2016-11-20 17:32
PM's Task the Third: The Holiday Party

Task: Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on booklikes.

 

A few years ago, my dad was reminiscing about a holiday cookie that his 1st generation Sicilian immigrant mother used to make every year in a massive baking frenzy with “the aunts”. Aspiring cookie-stealers had to run the gauntlet through this formidable group of women, but the reward was worth the risk.

 

I was able to get the family recipe from a distant cousin so I could make the cookies for him, and this has now become my own annual holiday tradition of massive baking frenzy with one of my best (and very talented) friends. We make them just before Thanksgiving, so I can bring them to my dad when I travel down for the holiday, and he can enjoy them all the way up to Christmas, just as he did when he was a boy.

 

Cuccidati are Sicilian fig cookies, traditionally made for the Christmas season, and the half-day spent together with your fellow baker(s) brings even more joy than enjoying their deliciousness. There are endless variations on the recipe, because it’s a versatile cookie that lends itself well to experimentation, and I imagine that our family recipe has evolved over time and place. For example, I’m guessing that the pecans are a regional variation that was incorporated after the family settled in Texas. Our family recipe makes a handsome, sturdy cookie with a slightly sweet, richly spiced flavor.  Susan and I started substituting brandy for the water, which just kicks the fig flavor up into overdrive. The traditional shape is a sort of crescent claw, which you can see in the bottom of the photo, but last year, we experimented with a ravioli press to make round cookie pockets, and this year we decided to try some autumn leaf shapes with a cookie cutter.

 

Cuccidati Recipe

 

Dough

9 Cups flour

2 Cups butter-flavored Crisco

1-1/2 Cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla (Mexican vanilla is the best)

2 Cups whole milk

 

Cut the shortening into the flour until it makes small pea-sized pieces. Mix milk, vanilla and sugar together in a bowl.  Make a "well" in the middle of the bowl of flour/Crisco mix.  Pour liquid mixture into the well and mix dough.  Knead until dough is smooth. We usually cover and refrigerate while we make the filling.

 

Fig Mixture

2 pounds dried figs

6-12 whole pitted dates

½ pound raisins

1 pound pecans

1 pkg candied orange peel (we also add a package of citron)

1-1/2 Cups sugar

½ Cup warm water (we substitute brandy)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground allspice

 

Cut off stems from figs, cut in quarters for ease of grinding.  Mix figs, dates, raisins, pecans, orange peel, and citron in a large bowl and grind together (I use the grinder attachment on my Kitchenaid mixer) Add spices to ground mixture.  Mix sugar with warm water (or brandy!) and add to fig mixture. Mix it up really well. Your arms will get tired, but sipping the brandy will put strength back in them.

 

The fig mixture should be dense and sticky when you’re done, but moist enough to easily shape into logs. We sometimes have to add a little more brandy if it’s too dry, or just because we like the brandy and want more. ;) Take pieces of fig mixture and roll into little logs about the diameter of your index finger for placing onto strips of rolled dough.  You may need to wet your hands slightly to make it easier to work with the sticky figs. We do an assembly line of log-making, setting them aside on baking pans for the next stage where we roll them into the cookie dough. At this point, you may be tempted to make jokes about the appearance of the fig logs, based on their size, shape, and color. We always give in to temptation, especially because at this point we’ve been sampling the brandy to make sure that it’s good enough for our cookies.

 

Roll out the cookie dough into long rectangles big enough to wrap around the fig logs. Completely cover figs with dough and cut into cookie shapes with a small knife.   Brush with eggwash for a nice brown color.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Makes about 5-6 dozen cookies, and we usually have leftover figs.

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text 2016-11-10 19:14
PM's Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah

Task: Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes. Post a picture, or tell us how they turned out!

 

This festive task was truly a challenge for me, as I am wholly unfamiliar with Jewish traditions and have minimal competency as a cook. So I just searched the Food Network for Hanukkah recipes and skimmed for one that seemed within my limited abilities. I settled on Ina Garten’s Challah French Toast, because I can make French toast, and the recipe didn’t require that I actually make the bread itself. 

 

Challah is not easily available for purchase in my neighborhood, but I found it at Central Market, whose bakery seems to have every conceivable kind of bread. As I don’t know anyone who is Jewish to ask about it, I read about the religious significance of challah online, and found out that it’s not specific to Hanukkah, but is a part of weekly Sabbath meals as well as holiday traditions. Although maybe for families like mine, who really only observe religious traditions on holidays, it’s primarily a holiday food?

 

So for the cooking part: It was easy! I substituted clementine zest for orange zest, because I had a big bag of them in the fridge, and only made enough for a single serving, but was really pleased with the result. Plus, delicious and filling. Challah is a dense and sturdy bread that really soaked up the egg mixture and formed a great base for the toast. Most french toast recipes are gaggingly sweet, but this was just sweet enough to be pleasing. Highly recommend.

 

I didn’t plan ahead enough to have any kind of garnish to improve the presentation, but I think mine looks just as good as Ina’s.

 

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