Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Sweet Sunday's Yummy Lit Review:
Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I opted to bring in the Fall baking season a few days early this year with the leaves already turning red and the return of Vancouver's rainy season. What better way to do that than bring out the pumpkin?

Pumpkin. Some may call it a large, round, thick skinned, and dry fruit. But, put into baking terms, I think I prefer to describe it as bright orange, spicy, and moist (it definitely made some strange noises when I spooned it out of the can)... oh and yummy.

This week I have used a recipe from another blogger - Loaded with baking tips, recipes, and delicious imagery this site is certainly worth a visit!

Bakerella says I will need:

2 1/4 cup self-rising flour
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Whisk together flour and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter.
Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
Add flour/spice mixture to sugar mixture in three additions. Alternate with pumpkin in two additions, ending with flour mixture.
Stir in chopped pecans and chocolate chunks.
Drop on cookie tray lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about four dozen cookies.
Let cool.

I should note that Bakerella tops these cookies off with Maple Brown Butter Frosting. I opted to avoid this addition.

I'm going to admit that I am a bit torn about these cookies. The pumpkin and added spices make the cookie truly unforgettable - in a very good way at that. But the cookie felt too moist. I'm not sure if it wasn't in the oven long enough (I don't think is the case though - I even did the "insert toothpick - pull out dry" test to make sure). Maybe there wasn't enough flour? Too much pumpkin? Or is it just supposed to be this moist?

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chunk cookies are good but may need some added help. Have fun experimenting!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2 Months and Counting

1 coffee addict and compulsive baker.
2 blogging awards.
3 favourite quotes.
8 yummy cookie recipe analyzes.
14 literary reviews.
40 posts.
56 following readers.
60 days of writing.
Countless cups of hot, steaming caffeine.

Happy 2 months, Coffee Tale Reviews!

I have been rather neglectful of this site since the start of September. Though I love reading, writing, and creating new posts I also have a strong and steadfast loyalty to my schooling... and volunteering... and making my new car look extra spiffy. Sometime over the next month I swear I'll establish a good balance of blog vs. student life.

For starters, I have 6 non-academic books in my to-be-read pile, a stack of recipes I can't wait to try, and a visitor from halfway across the world who will be with me in less than 24 hours. I think he may even be featured in one of the upcoming Sweet Sundays!

But, what I really want to say, is thanks for reading, for following, and for leaving me wonderful and lovely comments. This blog wouldn't be half as fun without you.

Thank YOU for two great months :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sweet Sunday Yummy Lit Review:
Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week I would like to introduce, for those who have not yet had the good fortune of encountering, the Banana Chocolate Chip Cookie. This cookie is truly divine... a combination of the moist texture and delicious flavour of banana bread all rolled into a bite-size cookie!

Okay, I admit that is a grand statement... but these cookies are truly that. They are really good.

I found the recipe at Taste and Tell who, in turn, found the recipe from The Field Guide to Cookies.

Taste and Tell says I will need:

1 1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 cup rolled old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add half the flour mixture, mix, and then add the banana and mix. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoon sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

I'll start by saying that I will definitely be visiting Taste and Tell again. It is an awesome blog - very easy to navigate, a good selection of recipes, and entertaining to boot. The recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies is perfect. I didn't have to change anything from the ingredients list or have to adjust the baking time. I even ended up having exactly three and a half dozen cookies.

The downside to these cookies turning out so downright perfect... and being eaten up so quickly by passersby... is that I don't have any kind of critique to give them.

They are good. That's just it.
If you feel like something banana-ish and chocolate-y, give it a shot. You won't be disappointed.

Hope you all have a sweet Sunday!

P.S. Jack Johnson's Banana Pancakes is the perfect song to accompany this baking adventure. I swear these cookies could have inspired the lyrics... if only they were pancakes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Favourite Posts to Hop

Well, I've been contemplating my participation in this week's Book Blogger Hop by Jennifer from Crazy-For-Books. After being rather neglectful of my blog over the last week I figured a Hop may be just what I need to get back into the groove.

This week we have been asked to post a link to our favourite post or book review that we have written in the past three months.

Seeing as Coffee Tale Reviews is allllllmost 2 months old, my entire archive is being exposed in this question.

Problem is I can't chose just one. My favourite post would be An American Fugitive - which discusses my intense real-life adventure in Washington a few weeks ago. On the book review front, I would have to chose Hitler's Private Library - this review created some pretty philosophical questions for book lovers such as ourselves.

Happy Hopping!

Sarah's Key

Is it important to remember the past?

Should horrific details of our heritage be submerged under notions of an idealized present?

Is it better to know or to forget the most gruesome aspects of our lives... and of our nation?

Tatiana De Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key, grapples with these questions. Sarah's Key describes the story of a young French Jewish girl who was detained by French Forces during the Vel' d' Hiv' roundup but was able to escape before being sent to Auschwitz in the 1940s.

De Rosnay creates a story centered on the notion of remembrance. After her escape, Sarah must live the rest of her life with memories of the roundup, losing her Mother and Father upon arrival at the detainment camp, and the dire consequences of hiding her brother in a small cupboard before leaving for Vel' d' Hiv'. De Rosnay expertly links Sarah's story to that of Julia Jarmond, a contemporary journalist researching the French state during the Holocaust.

De Rosnay shows how countries try to avoid discussions on negative aspects of their past, how a family's history impacts one's self-identity, and that repercussions of the Holocaust remain prominent even in the 21st century.

I found it very interesting to see a portrayal of France's remembrance of the Holocaust due to my own extensive university studies on Germany's remembrance of World War II from the 1940s to present day. Books alike to Sarah's Key attest to the symbolic importance of having historical events formally recognized by the state. Recognition creates the ability to further establish one's own identity and to once again feel a sense of community.

Thank You

I would like to thank Laura Ashlee, the creator of Ramblings of a (Future) Librarian, for kindly awarding me with the One Lovely Blog award. She has a great eclectic book review blog of her own - definitely worth a check out!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I love...

Freshly made cinnamon buns... even if they take five hours to make from scratch.
My university.
Strong, dark coffee.
The smell of new books.
Making notes throughout my books... a book well-loved is one that appears destroyed.
Apples in September.
Coffee-ring stains.

I guess it's a good thing I started university this week. Class attending, homework completing, volunteering at the archives, baking, and of course, reading with a strong cup of coffee on hand has now become part of my schedule. Though they're not as thrilling as my regular books, I do have around $300 worth of texts to add to my bookshelf as of yesterday. At least I'll have that new-book smell, a potential muse for blogging, and a whole new selection of material to tattoo with coffee-ring stains.

Oh, and my earlier goal... the 'finish reading Tatiana De Rosnay's Sarah's Key by Tuesday, 7 September 2010' goal... failed miserably. But I am almost done! Probably by the time I finish writing this I could be done reading the book, but a lady has her priorities. Writing before reading, right?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints

Sweet Sunday's Yummy Lit Review:
Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints

I have a confession.
I have never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It has never sounded, or for that matter looked, appetizing to me. The colour and consistency have put me off countless times - brown paste with something red and sticky? No thank you.

Never having eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (a staple of most children's diets) combined with my intense dislike for meat products means that I spent most of my childhood eating cheese sandwiches. To this day I can't look at cheddar/American cheese between two pieces of untoasted bread without having flashbacks of lunch hours spent in my school's cafeteria room.

Flash-forward a handful of years, and here you have a 20-something year old woman who has never experienced the combined flavours of peanut butter and jelly... until she read about it in a cookie book, that is. I figured there was no time like the present to lose my peanut butter and jelly virginity.

The Cookie Bible (2004, p 260) tells me that to do so I'll need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon milk
Any flavour jelly

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add peanut butter and butter; mix until crumbly. Stir in honey and milk. Shae into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Press thumb into center of each ball; place 1/2 teaspoon jelly into each thumbprint. Bake at 375*F for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute before removing to wire racks. Store in airtight container.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.

I'll admit that I did change the recipe around a little. Instead of creamy peanut butter I used the chunky kind... which gave the cookie a more nutty, yet crumbly, texture. I also forfeited jelly for natural, wholesome strawberry jam from Krause Farms. I don't know if any of you live in or close to BC, but be sure to check out Krause Farms if you do. I swear it's the homeplace of some of the best fruits and vegetables I've ever tasted. They have these apples that taste better than candy, and that's saying something coming from me... but I digress...

So how did my first time with peanut butter and jelly (well jam) go?

Great! The recipe is super easy to follow... no weird steps, no faulty directions, no need to drastically change anything. Making Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints is quite rewarding really - spend a short amount of time at an easy task and boom - 1o minutes later really yummy and quite aesthetically pleasing cookies come out of your oven.

I was even pleasantly surprised by the flavour combination. Peanut butter and jelly is good! Who would have thought... well besides all those kids who have spent decades happily munching down on those sandwiches. Maybe they're onto something.

I'll admit though - I am still not ready to try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The combination of their colour and consistency between two slices of untoasted bread still doesn't look too appetizing to me.

Are there any 'normal' food combinations that you just can't bring yourself to try?

Happy Sweet Sunday!

Fresh Face

Coffee Tale Reviews has gone through yet another face lift.

I remember constantly changing my blog's appearance when I first started blogging in July. With the summer almost over, my new-found familiarity with the blogging world, and boredom with images of coffee beans, I figured it was high time for another change... something a bit more classier, a bit more grown-up, and a bit more versatile.

In the past few weeks I have found some truly creative looking blogs and it has made me eager to change around my own blog's appearance. I've used a template from The Cutest Blog on the Block. There may come a time when I miss my old coffee bean outlay, but right now I'm in love with the pink.

Also - as a heads up - with the new (and my very last!) semester at university, new volunteering positions, and potentially a new job, Coffee Tale Reviews may have a few more changes in store...

I'm not sure exactly how things will turn out, but I promise it will be good reading.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blog Hop

I feel like I haven't been reading enough.
Could you say I feel guilty for not making the most of my last week of summer holidays?

Perhaps... just a smidgen. But then again, it's not every day you get stuck in a foreign country because a fugitive is on the run (you can read the story in my An American Fugitive post below).

I really wanted to start reading a book that was frivolous and fun after finishing How Fantasy Becomes Reality a few days ago. I wanted a novel that would let me escape to a place where summer wasn't ending in just under a week. Instead, I looked at the cover of Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay.

Yes, I admit, I saw the cover and became pulled into this harrowing tale. The cover of Sarah's Key depicts a rather well-dressed young girl and boy running in a Parisian landscape. The Eiffel Tower and French architecture can be seen in the background. This book doesn't look like it is about the Holocaust.

Reading the first page of Tatiana's work got me hooked. I find that while I can't put it down during the day, I don't want to pick it up at night. I'm a scholar of the Holocaust, so why I can't seem to read Sarah's Key at night doesn't make any sense. I have made it a personal goal to finish the novel before heading to university on Tuesday. Fingers crossed a book review will be up shortly!

With all this said, when I saw that this week's Hop question from Crazy-for-Books was 'do you judge a book by its cover?' I had to laugh.

Yes, I do judge a book by its cover. It's not something I'm proud of... but I do. I learnt my lesson earlier this summer that a bad cover can, in fact, be associated with a bad storyline. My second review at Coffee Tale Reviews for the romantic comedy Hero at Large is ample proof.

Happy reading, blogging, and Labour Day! I hope you all have a great long weekend :)

Film to Paper?

This week's Booking Through Thursday, a weekly meme, asks us:

Even though it's usually a mistake... do movies made out of books ever make you want to read the original?

I'm a lady with a schedule. Sure, I'll watch the movie but afterward I usually won't go searching for the book. When I read fiction I prefer to not know the ending. I'm more prone to read a book before watching it's corresponding movie. In fact, there are very few works of fiction I have read after viewing its film version... only Harry Potter comes to mind. If I were to watch a Potter film today I know I would acquire the urge to pull out one of J.K. Rowling's books. There's just something about that story that pulls me in every time.

An American Fugitive

Remember the lyrics, "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that"?
Good. I'm sure by now you can hear the song playing along in your mind.
Now, replace the word 'love' with 'books.'

I would do anything for literature, for the written word, to get my hands on a really good book... but I won't do that. Okay, right there we have an accurate description of my day yesterday.

Something happened yesterday that cannot go without being mentioned on CTR. As some of you know from past posts, I am good friends with CurlyJ of Running From Cupcakes (you can find a link to her on my Muses page).

Yesterday CurlyJ and I decided to head south into Washington for shopping. We had grand plans. Our day, which we dubbed Miss J & Ms. C's Day of Adventure, began with a drive down to Lynnwood to visit 1/2 Price Books and Alderwood Mall, followed by travelling further to the Burlington Outlets and Trader Joes.

A lot happened yesterday morning. You know those days when nothing goes right? Well 1 September 2010 was that kind of day. It began with me somehow thinking I had my passport when it was actually another person's in my family. Along the way to retrieve my real passport we almost get into a car crash because a semi truck driver decides to text on his cell phone whilst driving. I'm not exaggerating either - there was definitely some swerving, increased heart rates, and unpleasant exchanges. Oh, and we're in a little car. If the driver hadn't of looked up from that cell phone screen just in time we would have been squished to oblivion.

Once we're finally across the border we both realize Lynnwood is actually pretty far into Washington. We begin to see signs saying we're on the verge of Seattle.

1/2 Price Books was awesome though... it's a relatively small store crammed to the brim with books on every subject imaginable. I easily could have spent many hours browsing the shelves. Oh and not to mention super cheap... I ended up leaving with two books for just under $7.

Alderwood Mall was also worth the long drive down south. This mall is HUGE and has tons of selection. It was so big that as we drove away we saw a segment of the mall that we had failed to visit. Obviously, as the shopaholics that we are, we pulled over and parked again. More stores? More shopping time, please!

Then, at 630PM on the way to Burlington and Trader Joes it happens... the icing on the cake of our crazy adventure. Flashing across highway signs is warnings of an incident. We're told the I5 is closed.

You know those movies where a city needs to be evacuated and the roads become mayhem? That's what the I5 turned into in just a few minutes. There was complete gridlock spanning the I5's five lanes. And to complete matters, we had 1/3 of a tank of gas.

Thankfully we hit the incident shortly after the highway was closed. We managed to file out of the highway with the other drivers and make our way into another part of Washington.

I still don't know where we ended up, but by this time we had very little gas, no map, were isolated by a thick forest of trees, and the only building nearby was called Exotic Tools. No people. No cars. Nothing but Exotic Tools and two lost Canadian girls.

After awhile of driving we ended up at a gas station, which as luck would have it, didn't sell maps. Troy, a friendly gasman, tells us we're in Everett. He also tells us there is a fugitive on the loose in his city and the only way to get home is to drive deeper into the mayhem.

We buy a dinner of champions from Troy after realizing Trader Joes is out of the question. Who said Pringles and iced tea is bad for you?

And then we travel into the heart of Everett. As we drive we see countless cop cars speeding throughout the streets with their sirens and flashers on. We see helicopters flying low above us. We see telephone poles knocked over with their wires cascading down onto the pavement.

The traffic was bumper to bumper in Everett
but calm enough to start taking pictures again.

We make it back onto the I5 shortly after 9PM. We manage to get home just in time for the Late Night News... and it's then that our fugitive comes on the television. All that mayhem occurred because a man didn't insure his car, had a handgun, shot a cop car, fought through a car chase on the I5, and then ran on foot... or something like that, my mind is kind of hazy.

I love America and look forward to my next trip down... but right now I feel like I've been chewed up and spat out by Washington.

I hope those books are worth the trouble we went through to get them!

PS - we had a baking extravaganza the night before all this happened. I got some pretty yummy pictures of the final products but unfortunately no recipes on hand to share. Here's a look at our chocolate chip cookies and peach muffins!

Oh, and the real, impartial story of the fugitive can be found here.
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