And a few more links

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverHappy Friday, folks!

It’s the last day of Emu’s Debuts launch week for All Four Stars, featuring a recipe for “Amazeballs” by Megan Morrison! Yum! And in case you missed them, there was also an interview with cover artist Kelly Murphy (featuring alternative cover sketches!) and a hilarious compendium of Emu kitchen disasters. Comment on any post for a chance to win a signed hardcover–winner announced on Monday!

My fabulous friend and fellow debut author Jessica Lawson (whose The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher I adore) is also giving away a copy of AFS to a lucky commenter!

Heidi Schulz (whose debut MG novel Hook’s Revenge comes out this fall!) has me at her blog with an “In the Middle” interview! Find out which dessert in AFS is my favorite.

I was also interviewed by restaurant critic John Lehndorff yesterday on Boulder KGNU’s “Radio Nibbles”! The five-minute chat starts at 25:45.

Finally, I’ve posted pictures from both my 7/10 NYC launch party at Books of Wonder and my 7/17 Boulder launch party at Boulder Book Store at my author page on Facebook.

Launching All Four Stars has been a wild, wonderful ride so far, and I’ll try to gather my thoughts on the entire process at some point in the coming weeks. But for now I’ll just say THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who has supported me and my first book in person and online over this past week. I’ve been so honored and humbled by your enthusiasm for my work. Read deliciously!

The ALL FOUR STARS blog tour – stop 4

all four stars tour buttonHappy July 4 to all who are celebrating!

Today was the fourth stop on the official All Four Stars blog tour, and a great day for recipes. Over at A Baked Creation, Sylvia has created a crème brûlée recipe inspired by the opening scene from the book! Check out her beautiful pictures. As a bonus, it’s flavored with osmanthus (which, I admit I had to look up. It’s a flower that tastes like peach or apricot–yum!).

AND, over at Spirit of Children’s Literature, Katie has concocted a recipe for “Mrs. Anderson’s Aztec Brownies with Caramel Walnut Glaze,” inspired by the experimental brownies that Mrs. Anderson bakes (and Charissa adores) in All Four Stars. These have ancho chile powder and ground ginger in them, and look absolutely amazing!

Foodie Kidlit Friday iconI can’t wait to try these recipes, and will be linking both of them from my own four-star recipes page for the future!

Hope you had a delicious day, and I’ll check back in on Monday with the next stop on the blog tour and the winner of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson!

Four-star recipe: Green tea cupcakes with sesame icing

“Their flavors will send  your taste buds on a trip around the world…the Chinese cake has green tea and sesame seeds...” All Four Stars, page 268

Classy Cakes–the fictitious “dessert bistro” that Gladys is assigned to review in All Four Stars–is famous for its delicious, internationally-inspired cakes. As for how I decided to write about such cakes…well, if you guessed I was inspired by my travels, you’d be correct!

Sesame pops up a lot in Chinese cuisine. Here I am with a giant sesame bread (kind of like a sesame bagel without the hole) in the market in Xian.Giant sesame bread in Xian

And green tea is definitely a popular flavor for sweet things. For instance, check out these green tea oreos…Green tea oreos

…and this green tea Blizzard (yes, there are Dairy Queens in China!).Green tea blizzard in Singapore

So when I wanted to create a “Chinese”-inspired cake, those were the two flavors that jumped to mind. And they’re both strong flavors, so this recipe took a few tries to get balanced. I’ll admit now that it’s probably not for every palate–but my three students (ages 9-13) who tried these swore that they really liked them, so that seems like a pretty good recommendation. (Plus, of course, Gladys and I think they’re great!)

Green tea cupcakes with sesame icing
(makes 9 large or 1 dozen small cupcakes)

Cakes
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tablespoons matcha green tea powder
1 egg
2/3 cup white sugar
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup milk
1.5 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp almond extract plus 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Icing
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp cream cheese
1 Tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk

Black sesame seeds for garnish

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

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or line it with cupcake cups.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha green tea powder in a bowl. In another bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and oil together with an electric mixer on medium speed. Beat in milk and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Pour batter into muffin wells until they are 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes (or, if you’re at high elevation, bake for 17 minutes at 365 degrees).

Let the cupcakes cool completely before removing them from the muffin tin and icing.

To make the icing: Cream the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the tahini, then gradually beat in the powdered sugar until well-incorporated, alternating with a little milk. Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes and garnish with black sesame seeds.

Voila! The finished products.

Green tea cupcakes with sesame icing

 

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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!

Four-Star Recipe: Gajar ka halwa

“What’s gajar ka halwa?”  Gladys was intrigued.
“It’s a traditional north Indian pudding made with carrots,” Parm said.

“Carrots?”
“Trust me, it’s the best dessert on earth.” All Four Stars, page 208

Parm Singh is right. Move over, carrot cake–gajar ka halwa is the tastiest sweet dish made with carrots you could possibly imagine!

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The first few times I tried this dessert, at Indian buffet restaurants in America, I had no idea what it was–I just knew that I loved it. Then, when I traveled in India, I had a chance to see some halwa-makers in action. Here’s a picture of my husband on the street in Delhi beside a large vat of the steaming pudding, which sells there for around 50 cents a portion. (And considering that you can often get a full dinner for a dollar in India, that’s quite expensive. Gajar ka halwa is a delicacy!)

Andy eating gajar ka halwa

In India, this dessert is often made with a special red variety of carrot, which doesn’t really affect the flavor, but makes the dish even prettier to look at.

In any case, when I needed to come up with an Indian dessert for All Four Stars that picky Parm would actually like and want to teach Gladys to makegajar ka halwa was the obvious choice! Here’s my version of the recipe.

Notes:
-Traditionally, one would use ghee (clarified butter) as the fat, but don’t worry if you don’t have any on hand–I’ve made it with plain old butter and it has still turned out delicious.

-Also, this recipe contains extra nuts, since Charissa loves them, but if you don’t or are allergic, they are easy to omit.

Parm Singh’s Favorite Gajar Ka Halwa
(makes 4 cups)

Nut-and-raisin topping:
1 Tbsp ghee or butter
2 Tbsp cashews
2 Tbsp almonds (sliced, slivered, or chopped)
2 Tbsp raisins

Carrot pudding:
4 Tbsp ghee or butter
11 carrots, peeled and shredded
3 cups milk (at least 1%, and the higher in fat the better)
1/2 cup sugar (plus more to taste)
1 tsp ground cardamom

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

In a large, deep skillet (preferably nonstick), melt 1 Tbsp ghee or butter over medium heat. Add the cashews and almonds and toast until the nuts are golden-brown and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Add the raisins for the last minute and cook, stirring, until they are plumped but not burnt. Remove the nuts and raisins into a bowl and set aside.

Melt the remaining 4 Tbsp ghee or butter in the skillet. Sautee the shredded carrots in the fat for 3-5 minutes. Add the milk, bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until the milk is all evaporated, about one hour.

Stir in the sugar and cardamom and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the sugar is melted and well-incorporated. Taste and add more sugar as desired. Before serving, stir in the nuts and raisins, or reserve as topping.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold in small bowls (a little goes a long way).

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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!

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!

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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

Instructions:
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.

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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!

Four-Star Recipe: Bluebarb crumble

“So what’s it called?” Charissa asked.
“Bluebarb crumble.”
“Bluebarb?”
“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

Filling:
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

Topping:
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
salt

Optional garnish:
vanilla ice cream

Instructions:

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.

Bluebarbalicious!

Bluebarbalicious!

 

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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!

Butterbeer! Pumpkin Juice! Puking Pastilles! (What I ate at Harry Potter World)

Foodie Kidlit Friday icon“I’m going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my cousin this month!” I spent most of January telling anyone who would listen.

“Oh, that’s so nice of you,” a lot of them replied. This response baffled me at first, until I realized that they thought that my cousin was a small child whom I had volunteered to chaperone around Universal Studios. Then came the awkward moment when I had to explain that no, my cousin was my age, and that we were going to Harry Potter World… well, just because we wanted to.

Hogwarts

Whatever. Harry Potter is awesome, and Merrie and I have been wanting to check out the Universal versions of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts for years. (And as a kidlit author myself with a particular penchant for writing about food, I was especially excited to do some taste-testing of Potter-inspired foods at The Three Broomsticks and Honeydukes!) So in the last week of January, off we went to Orlando.

I would like to say that we arrived via Hogwarts Express, but apparently the track-elves are still working on the Denver-Hogsmeade line. Still, we were welcomed at Hogsmede station by a conductor, who seemed to be legitimately blown away by Merrie’s impervious (i.e. rubberized) rain pants. (The weather was shockingly British for our Orlando visit–high 30s and rainy most of the week!)

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts castle was truly impressive from the outside.Hogwarts castleBut inside it was even better! There’s so much to see as you wait in line for the Forbidden Journey ride–such as the house points hourglasses filled with emeralds for Slytherin, sapphires for Ravenclaw, rubies for Gryffindor, and…what the heck is Hufflepuff’s stone, anyway?House points

You could stop off for a quick look in the pensieve in Dumbledore’s office.PensieveMerrie and I particularly enjoyed that the ride warning signs were provided by The Department of Magical Transportation. 🙂 Warning signCloser to the ride entrance are walls of talking portraits…Portraits…and right before you enter, the sorting hat recites a rhyme about how pregnant ladies and people with heart conditions shouldn’t get on the ride. It was brilliant.
Sorting HatIn retrospect, perhaps I should have paid more attention to the sorting hat’s warnings about dizziness. The Forbidden Journey is a thrilling, but also kind of sickening ride. Once was enough for me and Merrie.

On to Hogsmeade! The rooftop snow is fake, but it could have been real that day–that’s how cold it was.Hogsmeade

Into The Three Broomsticks to warm up. I was really hoping for a hot tankard of butterbeer, but alas, the only options were cold or frozen. I went with cold (drink on the right), and Merrie ordered a pumpkin juice and a strawberry-peanut-butter ice cream (which I believe is the flavor Harry eats at Florian Fortescue’s parlor in book 1). Butterbeer et alCheers!Tara with Butterbeer

Okay, honesty time–we were actually pretty disappointed with everything in this first order. The pumpkin juice was refreshing at first sip, but tasted more and more fake the more we drank of it, like artificial pumpkin-pie-flavored Kool-Aid. The butterbeer tasted kind of like cream soda with a thin butterscotch-flavored foam on top, and for me, once the foam was gone, so was the novelty. And the ice cream tasted mostly like peanut butter, which isn’t a bad thing, though it was frozen so solid that we really had to dig at it with our spoons.

We finished the ice cream because…well, it’s ice cream, but couldn’t make it to the bottom of either of our drinks. Alas.

But the pub atmosphere was great, and it sure is fun to eat in a place where Butterbeer is on tap!Butterbeer on tapThere was also a giant Butterbeer truck in the street. I bet that it’s really popular on non-freezing days.Butterbeer truckOn to Honeydukes!Honeyduke'sPossibly my favorite window dressing in all of Hogsmeade: an animatronic doll continuously puking a sheet of puking pastilles into a bucket. 🙂Puking pastillesWhile I thought that the prices at The Three Broomsticks were pretty reasonable for a theme park (specialty drinks around $3 and change, full meals $8-$15), the shops are definitely where they aim to get your galleons. Almost every candy package at Honeydukes cost at least $10. Still, it was fun to see so many items from the books–like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor BeansThere were huge chocolate cauldrons filled with marshmallow…Chocolate cauldrons…and, in the bakery section, cauldron cakes, which apparently have about five different types of chocolate in them.Cauldron cakeMerrie bought a chocolate frog, which comes with a cool pentagon-shaped wizard card inside. The frog is just a massive, solid block of milk chocolate, though, and it’s pretty hard to crack apart and share. (However, packages of much smaller peppermint toads were available, and Merrie hacked the system by refilling her chocolate frog box with toads so that her kids could open it up and enjoy them without getting frustrated by the giant frog. That’s an engineering mind at work right there!) Chocolate frogMy haul from Honeydukes: Bertie Bott’s Beans and a chocolate cauldron for my students, and ton-tongue toffee for my husband. (Sadly, it did not turn his tongue into a three-yard-long purple snake–but it was sort of shaped like a giant tongue and did have a ton of calories!)Candy haulHere’s Merrie in front of Hagrid’s hut. Which, honestly, was a little nicer than I’d pictured it! Note the giant pumpkin in the yard.
Hagrid's hutHey, it’s lunchtime–back to The Three Broomsticks! I opted for the Cornish Pastie lunch, which included three hot little meat pies and an enormous iceberg lettuce salad. Lunch at the Three BroomsticksThe pies were good (mostly because they were hot). The salad was a salad. Merrie and I lamented that your meal does not magically float up through the table like it does at the Great Hall feasts in the books. That would be some good technology–er, I mean, magic.

At Harry Potter World, The Hog’s Head is actually just an extension of The Three Broomsticks, but I did appreciate the enormous head behind the bar!Hog's HeadAnd the head on the tap. I’m not sure what actually comes out of this tap, though. Anyone know?Hog's Head TapOh, look–it’s students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons! Apparently they sometimes do an acrobatic show, but the stage was too wet for them to perform. 😦TriwizardWhile there were plenty of school scarves and hats and other expected apparel you could buy, what surprised me most was that you could also get Hogwarts cheerleading uniforms. Funny, I don’t remember cheerleaders in the books (though I can only imagine the height they could get on those basket tosses with the aid of a wingardium leviosa charm!).Hogwarts cheerleaderMerrie insisted that, as a writer, I take a picture in front of the quill shop. Thanks, cuz. 🙂Scrivenshaft'sIt was still freezing that afternoon, and we were hungry again, so we decided to give The Three Broomsticks one last try. We ordered two potato side dishes: the seasoned fries and the garlicky potato wedges. Both were really tasty, and this visit got our biggest thumbs up of the day. Potatoes at The Three BroomsticksI’ll wrap things up now in a different section of Universal, outside the Dr. Seuss bookstore. A perfect place to take a picture with your cousin: note the quote!CousinsDespite the weather, and the nauseating ride, and the “meh” drinks, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter didn’t disappoint us. The level of detail put into the buildings and atmosphere was really impressive, and I’m sure that once the new section opens up this summer, it’s going to be even better. I’ll probably skip the pumpkin juice and Butterbeer next time, but I wouldn’t mind having some of those hot potato snacks right about now. Hooray for Harry Potter!

**UPDATE: I returned to Harry Potter World in 2017 to try frozen butterbeer and eat my way through Diagon Alley. Read my updates here!**

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Like this post? Then you’d probably love my middle-grade novels about tween restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby!

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