Under the Bottle Bridge by Jessica Lawson—Recipe & Book Giveaway!

under-the-bottle-bridge-9781481448420_hrI’m so pleased today to welcome Jessica Lawson, middle-grade author extraordinaire (and good friend), to my blog. Jessica is the author of the much-acclaimed books The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, Nooks & Crannies, Waiting for Augusta, and now Under the Bottle Bridgewhich was just published this week (all with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers).

Later this month, we will be celebrating our book launches together in both NYC and Virginia (more details here). But today, Jessica is sharing a recipe inspired by her new book, and giving away a copy!

 

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Of Hearth Milk & Home—Recipe & Book Giveaway!

My good friend Tara (owner of this blog!) is a foodie. You might be able to tell from her Gladys Gatsby series, or from this Wizarding World of Harry Potter post, or from the creative foods in her most recent book, The Great Hibernation (out next week!). When I wanted to buy a cookbook for my husband’s birthday recently, Tara was the one I asked.

My latest publication, Under the Bottle Bridge, is not a foodie book. It is an autumn book—a “change of seasons” book. Still, when I think autumn, I get very nostalgic for two things: 1) the beginning of a new school year and 2) autumn comfort foods—stews and cornbread and pumpkin dishes and apples and spices. And also hearth milk.

What’s hearth milk, you ask? I created hearth milk for the book. It began as a simple line of fiction. My main character, Minna Treat, lives in an old stone house (with a large stone hearth). It’s a home that she loves. It’s a home that circumstances might cause her to soon leave. I found myself wondering what generations of Treats might keep bubbling in the cast-iron pot on nights that were cold in temperature, or cold in spirit, or both. I decided that while Minna is a woodcraft legacy (eight generations!), her family would also have a legacy of making a special drink:

Hearth milk was for special occasions. We’d fill a hanging cast-iron pot with extra-creamy, straight-from-the-cow farm milk and heat it slowly with brown sugar, vanilla, a pat of butter, nutmeg, whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick.

Minna describes hearth milk as being “better than hot chocolate. Having hearth milk was like drinking a warm bed and a soft story.”

Over months of drafts and revisions, I read the ingredients line describing this fictional drink over and over. Eventually, I came to my senses and thought…Hmm. That sounds pretty good. I should try that. So I did. And it was tasty.

The recipe is below. Leave a comment letting me know your favorite autumn treat for a chance to win a hardcover of Under the Bottle Bridge. Winner will be chosen on September 14.

 

*Minna Treat’s Hearth Milk

2 cups whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)

1 stick cinnamon

8 whole cloves

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon vanilla

 

Directions: Combine milk & cream in a saucepan on the stovetop on medium-high heat. I heat mine at 7 (out of 10). Add all other ingredients and stir on a regular basis to avoid a film forming at the bottom of the pan (or a “skin” on the top).

Within six to eight minutes, the milk should begin to simmer. At this point, turn on low for five minutes to let spices soak in. Continue to stir now and then.

Remove whole cloves with a spoon. Remove pan from stovetop and ladle into mugs. Serve with a spoon and—optionally—a thin pat of butter on top that will melt into the milk. Person who gets the cinnamon stick gets to make a wish.

Makes 6 servings, each ½ cup.

*You can substitute almond/soy milk for milk/cream if lactose-intolerant. We tried it with almond milk and my 8YO said thumbs up, 4YO said thumbs down. You can decide for yourself 😊

under-the-bottle-bridge-9781481448420_hr

About Under the Bottle Bridge:

In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?

Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.

 

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Recipe: Soto ayam, the world’s best chicken soup!

It’s fall (or just about), and I have my first cold of the season. 😦

But all is not awfulness, because at least I have an excuse to make my favorite chicken soup–which, since 2011, has been soto ayam. (Sorry, matzo ball!) With its super-flavorful, coconut-milk-thickened broth filled with chicken, rice noodles, and crunchy sprouts and scallions, it’s not just the only chicken-noodle soup I’ve ever really gotten excited about; it’s one of the best dishes, period, that I tried during my world travels.

Soto ayam, Labuan, Java

Soto ayam in Labuan, western Java

 

The way I make this soup at home is in the style of the little roadside stall in Labuan (western Java) where I first tried it. Apparently, soto ayam varies by region in Indonesia, so when I returned to the states and wanted to learn how to make it, I had to sift through many different recipes. After a few rounds of experimentation, though, I finally developed this master recipe, which is very true to my memory of the soup I had in Java. It’s a bit of a project, but completely worth the effort, in my opinion. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Soto ayam

Soto ayam made at home

Soto ayam recipe
serves 4

Broth ingredients:
1-2 bone-in chicken thighs (depending on how much meat you like in your soup)
2 lemongrass stalks (or 1.5 TBSP lemongrass powder)
1 tsp salt
6 cups water

Spice paste ingredients:
8 almonds
3 garlic cloves
1-2 TBSP chopped fresh ginger (or one knob of ginger, peeled)
1 small onion (or 2 shallots)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 TBSP coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small dried chili
1.5 tsp turmeric
1 tsp brown sugar
juice of one lime
1-2 TBSP neutral oil or coconut milk

Additional ingredients:
2 TBSP neutral oil
1 can coconut milk (or 1.5 cups)
reserved chicken broth
reserved shredded chicken
1 bunch bean sprouts, rinsed
1 bunch spring onions, sliced
7-8 oz thin rice noodles

Directions:

1) Combine broth ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes, partially covered. Remove chicken thighs and set aside to cool. Discard lemongrass stalks (if used). Reserve broth to use later in the recipe.

2) Combine spice paste ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 5 minutes, or until a thick paste has formed.

3) Once chicken thighs are cool, remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Discard the bones.

4) Heat 2 TBSP oil in your large pot on medium-high heat, and add spice paste. Fry spice paste for 5 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Add coconut milk, reserved chicken broth, and shredded chicken; bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add bean sprouts and cook 5 more minutes. Add spring onions and cook 1 minute. Turn off heat.

5) Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook rice noodles according to package directions. When ready, drain, rinse with cold water, and mix in a little oil to keep noodles from clumping.

6) To serve: divide rice noodles among four bowls and ladle soup over them, making sure to get a good mix of solids and broth. Serve with a spoon and either chopsticks or a fork. Enjoy!

(Note: In Indonesia, this soup would be served with a bowl of white rice on the side–but for me, the rice noodles are starch enough so I don’t bother. It might also be served with fried shallots sprinkled on top, which are delicious. I’m just too lazy to make them most of the time.)

 

ALL FOUR STARS is out in paperback today!

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverHip, hip, hooray!

Happy April 7–otherwise known as the paperback release date for my first novel, All Four StarsI’m incredibly excited about this for several reasons.

1) More affordable price point. Hardcovers are gorgeous and durable, but can be too expensive for some families to afford. When I was growing up, my appetite for books was insatiable, and parents only ever bought me paperbacks. So the feel of a paperback in my hand is really the quintessential reading experience for me. I’m excited that the lower price point of a paperback will help All Four Stars make the leap into more young readers’ hands

2) Bonus content. The paperback of All Four Stars contains recipes for two dishes mentioned in the book! Of course, I’ve had recipes from the book available here on my website since the book was first released, but it’ll be extra nice for young readers to see them right there in the pages. Who knows how many budding chefs they might inspire? 🙂

I am Puffin, hear me roar!!

I am Puffin, hear me roar!!

3) That Puffin logo! Thinking back again to all those paperbacks I read as a kid, the Puffin logo was a stamp of the highest quality, since it graced the covers of my Judy Blume and Roald Dahl volumes. Of course, I had no idea about publishers and imprints back then–but now I know that Puffin publishes the paperback editions for Penguin Young Readers books. Which means that it appears on the All Four Stars paperback! I seriously could not be more delighted about that.

So, many thanks to Puffin editor Jennifer Bonnell for making the transition from hardcover to paperback so smooth, and many thanks to all of you readers, without whom Penguin would not have decided to release a paperback at all (not every book gets one) and continue the All Four Stars series.

If you spot an AFS paperback in the wild, feel free to snap a pic and tweet or send it to me–I’d love to see it out there!

And a one, and a two, and a one, two, THREE!

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverThe_Stars_of_Summer_CVR_LIB1000px-Vraagteken.svg

Exciting news to share this morning: There will be a THIRD Gladys Gatsby book, coming out in 2016! Here’s the announcement from my agency.

I’m so excited that the foodie adventures of Ms. Gatsby and her friends will be continuing, and that I’ll get to work with my wonderful editor Shauna Rossano and her team at Putnam on another project.

2016 is a ways off, but All Four Stars is out now, and The Stars of Summer is coming your way very soon, on May 5! You can find order/preorder links for both books here, and I’ll be updating my events page soon with details about launch parties in Colorado, New York, and hopefully a couple of other east coast cities.

Meanwhile, feel free to whip up some bluebarb crumble today to celebrate Gladys’s new lease on life. She’d definitely approve! 🙂

The ALL FOUR STARS blog tour – stop 6

all four stars tour buttonAnd the tour keeps rolling!

Today you can read another excerpt from All Four Stars at For the Love of Words–it’s the scene where Gladys cookes apam balik, or Malaysian peanut pancake. Yum.

I am also at Word Spelunking (isn’t that the best name for a blog?), where Aeicha has both reviewed the book and interviewed me. We talk a good deal about food. 🙂

And yesterday, this piece went live on the parenting blog Babble: “Delicious Debut: This Book Might Turn Your Kid Into a Foodie. I love that title, and I loved doing the interview with the hilarious Alice Gomstyn. Plus she gave me a chance to shout out some other terrific foodie middle-grade books, including my fellow 2014 debut author Kate Hannigan’s lovely Cupcake Cousins.

There’s also a new review of AFS up by Dre at Sporadic Reads, and plenty more on the way!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to prepping these mini tree-nut tarts for Thursday’s launch party at Books of Wonder in NYC. See you there? 🙂

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!