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readable feast

This discussion of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver requires a light, sweet concoction. These nectarine cupcakes—with their fruity cake and light-as-air whipped topping—are a perfect solution. The touch of honey, hint of rum, and ripe nectarines create a delightful treat for your next book club discussion.

Nectarine Cupcakes

Nectarine cupcakes for Flight BehaviorModified from Martha Stewart Living, August 2010

  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 nectarines, peeled, halved, pitted, and finely chopped ( approx. 1 1/4 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add cupcake liners to a cupcake pan. Makes 18 cupcakes.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Add rum extract, honey, baking powder, and salt. Finally add flour and milk, alternating. Mix until incorporated without overmixing.

Fold in the finely chopped nectarines. Divide batter into muffin tins.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Let cool thoroughly.  Cupcakes taste best chilled.

Fresh Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon rum extract
  • 1 nectarine, halved, pitted, and very thinly sliced, for garnish

HINT: Put your bowl and/or mixer attachments in the freezer before making the topping. It will speed the process.

Beat together cream, sour cream, and sugar to medium peaks on high speed. Right before serving, top cupcakes with a dollop of cream and nectarine slices.

If you add sprinkles (as pictured), they bleed colors if left too long due to the moisture. The topping is best if added to cupcakes right before serving. You can store the whipped topping in the refrigerator for up to a day. Just stir it vigorously before using to reincorporate.

These butterfly-kissed cupcakes could also be decorated with cute butterfly cupcake toppers, edible flowers, or colored sugars. They are a charming summertime treat as well as book club treat.

May words nourish your soul.

readable feast

The Round House is Louise Erdrich’s 26th book and practice has made perfect. Riveting, paradigm-shifting, and expansive, The Round House has won the National Book Award as well as many others. It delves into race, religion, socioeconomics, truth, revenge, and justice. And it makes for a compelling discussion among your next book club meeting.

Book Synopsis

The Round House Louise Erdrich Discussion QuestionsOne Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.

-From the publisher, Harper Collins

Discussion Questions for The Round House

Louise Erdrich’s publisher, Harper Collins, offers a lengthy list of discussion questions. As always, consider these additional questions as well:

  1. Why do you think the author chose to have Joe narrate the story? How did his perspective color/influence the story?
  2. How do we struggle with reaching/helping people who are caught in the cycle of grief? Joe can’t reach his mother and force her to resume living. How do we force/or drop the ball on others who need help?
  3. Can you name an instance when you reached out to help someone struggling? Did it end well or was there an adverse reaction?
  4. Why do you think Joe’s mother wouldn’t name the place where the rape occurred? Do you think she truly didn’t know or is she keeping quiet? Considering the crime of rape is true, do you think it would be ethical of her to bend the facts on the location?
  5. Joe is 13 when his mother is raped, which is a pivotal coming of age time for boys. Do you think his actions and reactions would have been different if he had been 8 or 9? What about if he was 18?
  6. What is your definition of justice? Does perspective, relationship, time, space, etc. affect justice?
  7. Have you ever sat on a jury? Do you think you are a good judge of character?
  8. If Joe were to stand trial for the murder of his mother’s rapist, how do you think he would be found? Guilty? Not guilty? How would you vote?
  9. What’s your opinion on the balance in the universe? His friend had to die at the end, because a death equaled a death. Do you think the universe finds equilibrium?

A few related foods will be will be featured this week, including Cranberry Bread, Faux Steak Res Sandwiches, and Triple Berry Cobbler.

May words nourish your soul.

readable feast

The Le Cirque des Rêves is all about black and white, night and day. But the reveurs added a dash of scarlet red, to mark themselves to each other and to stand out. These gorgeous and soft cookies are the perfect nod to The Night Circus and its reveurs.

Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

Black and White on Red Velvet cookies - Night CircusAdapted from Rachael Ray’s recipes (March 2008)

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon red food coloring (or 1 teaspoon red food paste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. (Do not substitute foil or wax paper. Parchment paper is a must.)

Beat five tablespoons of butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, food coloring and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Mix in cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until smooth.

Alternate 1-1/2 cups of flour and ½ cup buttermilk until it is all incorporated without overmixing.

Spoon about a 1/4-cup of batter 3 inches apart on the parchment papered baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 35o degrees until the center is dry.

Let cookies cool for five minutes before removing from the parchment paper.

Black and White Frosting

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (10x sugar)
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

White Frosting

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 Tablespoon corn syrup and 2 Tablespoons hot water until smooth.

Black Frosting

In another bowl, combine the chocolate chips, remaining 3 Tablespoons butter, and 1 tablespoon corn syrup.

Microwave until melted, about 1 minute and stir vigorously. Microwave in 10 second increments until it is fully melted.

Frost the cookies with the white frosting, only covering half of the cookie, almost to the edge. Then frost with the chocolate icing, keeping a sharp edge. Cool until set. Store in an airtight container.

These classic cookies are the perfect cookie to accompany your book club discussion of Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus. Serve them on a bright red platter with milk, coffee, or tea. The al dente frosting breaks smoothly over the yielding red velvet cookie creating a great mouth feel.

May words nourish your soul.

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