Four-Star Recipe: Tree-Nut Tarts

“Omigosh, wasn’t Saturday so fun? I keep thinking about that tree-nut tart. Do you think you could find a recipe for it?” All Four Stars, page 263

Why yes, Charissa–there is such a recipe!


Charissa Bentley, one of the main characters in All Four Stars, loves desserts and nuts, so it’s no surprise that this dish from Classy Cakes quickly becomes one of her favorites. A twist on pecan pie, the tree-nut tart contain a variety of nuts as well as ground almonds in the crust. (Learn more about the differences between pies and tarts.)

To get the traditional straight-sided tart shape, you’ll need a springform pan–either the standard size (for one big tart) or four smaller pans (which I used to make the tarts pictured). However, if you only have a pie pan, that should work, too.

Note: If you want to be all posh like Allison Sconestein-Alforno (pastry chef at Classy Cakes in All Four Stars), you can seek out fancy nut varieties to include in your tarts–her menu boasts a mix of black walnuts, Marcona almonds, and DuChilly hazelnuts for the filling. But regular old nuts from the grocery store will work just fine, too, as long as you have a good mix.

Classy Cakes’s Tree-Nut Tarts
(serves 8)

Almond-spiked crust:
½ cup almonds
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour, or a combination)
¼ tsp salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract (or use all vanilla extract)

Tree-nut filling:
2 cups of mixed tree nuts of your choice (such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and/or pecans)
2 large eggs
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil or melted unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

If you are a young chef, ask an adult to work with you on this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease one large springform pan (for tart version), four small springform pans (for small tarts), or a pie pan (for pie version) with oil or cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse the almonds and sugar together until they form a coarse meal. Add flour and salt and pulse to blend. With the motor running, add the butter a few pieces at a time and process until well blended.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolk and extracts until combined. With the processor motor running, add this mixture to the food processor. Process until a sand-like mixture forms (about 1 minute).

Turn the mixture out into the prepared tart (or pie) pan or pans, pressing it into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Place pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the crust is no longer raw.

Meanwhile, make the tree-nut filling. In a food processor, pulse the nuts together a few times until they are chopped to the size you prefer.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, oil or butter, salt, and vanilla extract together. Pour the nuts into the liquid mixture and stir until combined.

Remove the tart crust from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Spread the nut mixture evenly in the crust. Bake until the tart no longer jiggles in the middle when shaken, 25-30 minutes.

If using a springform pan, cool tart on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then gently remove the sides of the pan. If using a pie pan, let cool to desired temperature.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman coverThis recipe is part of a series inspired by dishes from All Four Starsmy middle-grade novel about 11-year-old restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby. It will be published by Putnam/Penguin on July 10, 2014.

Find more recipes on my four-star recipe page!

A few more reviews

Project MayhemMy fellow Baker’s Dozen Success Story Michael Gettel-Gilmartin has reviewed All Four Stars over at Project Mayhem today, calling it “classic middle grade, full of heart and humor.” Thank you, Michael! The post also features an interview with me, so if you’re dying to find out what middle-grade books influenced me as a kid or what my favorite breakfast is, check it out

Over at GoodReads, top reviewer Karen has also left All Four Stars a very nice review, which also features an adorable picture of a baby turtle. 🙂

And finally, the trade journal Booklist has chimed in with a terrific review of the book. The full text will be published soon, but here’s an excerpt:

Gladys is a lovable character with plenty of spunk and desire, and readers will happily cheer her on, while the fresh plot adds a delicious dimension to the host of stories set in sixth grade.

It’s definitely exciting to see readers starting to connect with the book I worked on for so many years. Can’t wait for publication day!

Four-Star Recipe: Bluebarb crumble

“So what’s it called?” Charissa asked.
“Bluebarb crumble.”
“It’s short for blueberry-rhubarb.”
“What’s rhubarb?”
“Well,” Gladys began, “it looks kind of like celery, but you can’t eat it raw. It tastes sour, and it grows like a weed…”
 All Four Starspage 222

Bluebarb crumble

It’s spring! Rhubarb is here, and blueberries are on their way.

In All Four Stars, Gladys bakes a “bluebarb” (blueberry-rhubarb) crumble for a fellow student as part of her plan to convince that student to give her a ride into New York City, where she needs to review a restaurant.

Now, I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but I’ll just say that blueberries and rhubarb taste pretty delicious together, so the crumble probably doesn’t hurt Gladys’s efforts. 🙂

The Backstory

Gladys knew that strawberry-rhubarb was a classic dessert combination, with the sweetness of the strawberries balancing the sourness of the rhubarb. But she’d never thought of using blueberries for sweetness instead, and the idea fascinated her.
– All Four Starspage 214

When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we decided to serve pies for dessert instead of having a wedding cake. We surveyed our guests to make sure that all of their favorite pie flavors would be offered, but when it came to the true “wedding pie”–the one we would cut into together–we wanted something special.

My husband’s favorite pie flavor was blueberry, and mine was rhubarb, so we asked our pie-bakers (the fantastic Kristin’s Bakery in Keene, NH) if they could put our two favorites together in a custom “bluebarb” pie. They came through with flying colors, producing an amazingly sweet and tart dessert with just the right hint of lemon in it.

Bluebarb wedding pie

Our bluebarb wedding pie

In All Four Stars, Gladys doesn’t have time to make a pie crust, but that’s okay–most of us don’t on a typical weekday night. A crumble or crisp is much easier to throw together, and with its tastily textured topping, it’s arguably even more delicious than pie.

Is there someone in your life who needs a little buttering up with the perfect sweet-and-tangy dessert? If so, start gathering ingredients.

Gladys Gatsby’s “Do Me a Favor” Bluebarb Crumble
serves 4-6

2.5 cups rhubarb, diced
3 cups blueberries, rinsed
½ cup sugar
3 Tbsp tapioca starch or cornstarch
2 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ cup walnuts
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup flour (whole wheat pastry or all-purpose)
½ tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp butter, cut into bits
1 Tbsp neutral oil, such as canola
½ cup rolled oats

Optional garnish:
vanilla ice cream


If you are a young chef, ask an adult to work with you on this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients. Toss to mix everything well, then transfer mixture to a loaf pan.

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together a few times until the walnuts have been broken into smaller pieces. Add butter bits and oil and process until the mixture has a uniform, crumbly texture. Add the rolled oats and pulse 10 times, until the oats are incorporated but are still mostly whole.

Spread the topping on top of the fruit, covering it evenly. Bake for 30 minutes.

Let cool a bit before serving either on its own, or topped with vanilla ice cream.





ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman coverThis recipe is part of a series inspired by dishes from All Four Starsmy middle-grade novel about 11-year-old restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby. It will be published by Putnam/Penguin on July 10, 2014.

Find more recipes on my four-star recipe page!

Sign-up open for the ALL FOUR STARS blog tour!

The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy HolczerHappy Thursday, folks!

First off, the winner of The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer is…

Natasha Wing!

Congrats, Natasha! I hope you love this beautiful book.

Second order of business–check out this lovely button:

all four stars tour button

And it means what it says–All Four Stars will be going on a tour! Of blogs! Hosted by the terrific blogger-reviewers at The Midnight Garden!

TMG-blog-button-219x300In case you aren’t familiar with it, The Midnight Garden is a site that evaluates young adult (and some middle grade) books with an adult reading audience in mind. As an adult who reads kidlit almost exclusively these days, I love that idea–and think that All Four Stars, with its humor and foodiness, is a perfect fit for the crossover audience. 🙂

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule


(And I also love that The Midnight Garden’s reviews are so well-thought-out and well-written! Why, just the other day they featured one of my favorite books of this year, Strange Sweet Songand I couldn’t agree more with the review.)

Anyway, the All Four Stars tour will feature interviews, guest posts with fun foodie bonus content, and reviews, and of course I’ll share links here when they’re live in July. If you are a blogger and would like to be part of this tour, check out this post. (I’ll also be doing interviews and such outside of the tour, so no worries if we’ve already set something up separately.)

Thirdly and lastly, Kirkus Reviews has weighed in on All Four Stars. They are notorious harsh and persnickety critics, so overall I’m very pleased with the positive things they had to say about my debut novel, like calling it an “entertaining story about the joy of following one’s bliss.” You can read the full review here.

Subscribe to my new e-mail newsletter (and win a signed ARC of ALL FOUR STARS!)

We’re now officially less than than two months away from the launch of All Four Stars, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve got great news coming soon about a blog tour, extra goodies like recipes in progress, and two (!) launch parties in the works.

I also have one last advance copy of the book left, and I am going to sign it and give it away to one lucky person who signs up for my new e-mail newsletter! This will be a very, very occasional newsletter (think two to four times/year) featuring updates on my books, and you can unsubscribe any time if you don’t like it.

I’ll send out the first newsletter announcing the winner near the end of May. The giveaway is open internationally. Good luck!

I leave you with a photo that I took out my window two days ago. Happy spring! #sighSnow in May 2014

Huzzah for THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY (and giveaway!)

On May 1, one of the loveliest books I’ve read in a while hit the shelves: The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer.

The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy HolczerTwelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she’s found it her mother says it’s time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother’s sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she’s never met. She can’t imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe itis her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

I’d been wanting to read it ever since Tracy and I were co-entrants in the 2011 Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction at Miss Snark’s First Victim. We both signed with agents shortly after the auction, and both ended up selling our books to Putnam shortly after that. (I know, what are the odds?)

The lucky thing about having the same publisher is that I was able to snag an advance copy of Secret Hum (which I’m giving away–find out how to enter below!), and it was just as incredible as I had hoped. But you don’t need to take my word for it: check out this starred review from Publishers Weekly! (It also has a star from School Library Journal, and a rave review from Kirkus.)

In addition to its beautiful writing and meditation on loss, this book has a fantastic collection of quirky characters and some very nice moments of humor, too. Here are a few of my favorite funny lines.

As they prattled on about manure and weather and other boring nonsense, I tried to think.

Fifteen minutes later, Grandma showed up with my duffel, wearing her usual prune face and lumberjack costume.

“He likes her because of her bra size…And is she decent enough to be insulted? Nope. She goes around smoothing her shirt and posing this way and that like she has something to be proud of. Plus she eats meat.”

Intrigued? Here’s where you can purchase a copy of The Secret Hum of a Daisy.
Once Upon A Time | Amazon | B&N
{For an autographed copy, order through Once Upon A Time, and don’t forget to mention in the purchase comments that you’d like it signed}

You can also enter to win my advance copy of The Secret Hum of a Daisy by leaving a comment on this blog post. Cranes play an important role in this book, so if you have a favorite bird, please share what it is and why you like it.

Thanks so much for reading this post! Tracy also has an official blog tour going, where you can learn more about this wonderful book and enter to win a Secret Hum “bag of treasure,” including a $20 Amazon gift card. Here are the stops!
May 6: Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire
May 7: Leandra Wallace
May 8: Heidi Schultz
May 9: AuthorOf
May 10: Read Now, Sleep Later
May 11: Kidlit Frenzy
May 12: Literary Rambles
May 14: Smack Dab in the Middle

Find Tracy online here:
Website  | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Smack Dab in the Middle

Good luck in the giveaways! I’ll announce a winner for the advance copy next Thursday, 5/15.

Over at Emu’s!

Hello, folks!

Today I have a new blog entry up at Emu’s Debuts called “I am not my book.” It’s about finding life and space outside of my impending book launch–feel free to check it out!

Also, another trade review has come in for All Four Stars, from Publishers Weekly. Here’s my favorite part:

Younger readers (especially those who know their way around a kitchen) will be amused by Gladys’s reviews of her parents’ horrible cooking (“The peas… arrived at the table in a soggy, mushy state fit for a baby”) and her plot to get to New York City without alerting any adults. The triumphant conclusion makes this a tasty read.

PW doesn’t always review middle-grade books, so I’m very grateful that they chose to read and recommend All Four Stars.

Make sure to pop back over here this Friday, when I’ll be talking about Tracy Holczer’s gorgeous middle-grade debut novel The Secret Hum of a Daisy and giving away an ARC!