I'm teaming up with the Novel Bakers to introduce the best book of the summer, Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (Pamela Dorman Books). Before it even hit the shelves, the debut novel garnered praise from the publishing industry: it's an August 2015 Indie Next Pick, the July 2015 #1 Library Reads Pick, and a Summer 2015 American Book Association "Indies Introduce" Pick.
"Reminiscent in style and structure of Olive Kitteridge, J. Ryan Stradal delivers the touching and hilarious story of Eva Thorvald's triumph over a difficult childhood to become the woman with a once-in-a-generation palate behind the most sought-after dinner reservation in the country."
Foodies everywhere have waited a lifetime for this beautiful book to enter the world.
"Kitchens of the Great Midwest brings readers right to the heart of Minnesota, from Lutheran church bake sales to the opening weekend of deer season, and shares an incredible tale of how the food we eat, and the people we meet, shape the world around us.
"Each chapter tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and the way food creates community and a sense of identity."
The moment I finished reading this outstanding novel, I ran to the kitchen and made No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars. (A whole chapter in the book is devoted to bars.)
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, melted
pinch of salt
Into a mixing bowl, add crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Beat on low speed (I used my KitchenAid's paddle attachment) until the ingredients are blended, then increase the speed. When the mixture holds together, place into a greased 9 x 13" pan. (For easy removal, line the pan with parchment paper and then add the crust.) Using the back of a spoon, smooth the surface of the mixture. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove pan and set aside.
Using a double boiler (or place a saucepan over a larger pan that is filled with boiling water), melt 3 cups chocolate chips and 1/2 cup peanut butter. Add a tiny pinch of salt. Beat until smooth, then pour onto the cracker-sugar base and smooth the icing. In another saucepan, melt a few teaspoons of peanut butter (I used the double boiler method). Don't melt too long. You will want the peanut butter to have a little "body," yet be pliable enough to marbleize. Working quickly, drop quarter-sized dollops onto the chocolate icing. Drizzle the remainder over the chocolate icing. Use the dull end of a stainless dinner knife to marbleize the icing--swirl the knife through the icing in a clockwise, then counter-clockwise movement. Work fast. Resist the inpulse to go back over the swirls, as I did, or you'll make a hot mess of the icing and have to start over. Swirl the knife this way and that way--once--and stop!
Place the bars in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove and let sit about 10 minutes before slicing.
Serves: 8 Regular People or 1 Chocoholic
For more edible reviews of this book, visit The Novel Bakers
Jain ...a quiet life...
You'll find more images at the Novel Bakers' Pinterest board for Kitchens of the Great Midwest.
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