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Mugging It Up!

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By Gini Rainey

We all have them – those friends that we love to entertain, but who don’t always like the same things as everyone else.  It would so boring if we all like the same things, but sometimes that bit of individualism can throw a veritable wrench into the planning of a dinner party or get-together.  Imagine if you will, trying to please all of them at the same time!  Impossible, you say?  Well, when it comes to dessert, here is a great idea that I came up with when I got a few new cookbooks this week.  What if you had, oh, I don’t know, maybe six people with completely different tastes, sitting around your dinner table and you could serve each one of them a dessert that would please them all.  Impossible, you say?

Well, there’s a cookbook available that can help you achieve that plan!  Mug Cakes is a colorful 168 page cookbook written by Leslie Bilderback and published in 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin.  With everything from the wonderfully rich Red Velvet Mug Cake to a savory Apple-Rosemary Mug Cake or a spicy Chocolate-Pasilla Chile Mug Cake, this book will have you pouring enough batter into a mug or two and popping them into your micro-wave to please even your most picky guest.

While these cakes don’t have to be micro-waved in a mug, they do need to be baked in a micro-wave safe container.  Most of the recipes will make two mug-cakes when using the size of mug you come across in nearly every souvenir shop.  Your baking dish is only limited by your imagination. For instance, there is a recipe for Red, White, and Blueberry Mug Cake pictured in small mason jars – perfect for that Fourth of July picnic. The only cautionary is to be sure to not fill the mug/glass/container more than half full and to remember that different containers will require different cooking times and just think of the look of amazement on your guests faces when you present them with a tray full of several yummy choices of desserts!

Believe it or not, the recipe that caught my eye was for a Chocolate-Raspberry Mug Cake.  Start out by microwaving 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and ¼ cup dark chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet) for 30 to 60 seconds until melted.  Now whisk with a fork to combine, then whisk in 1 large egg.  Stir in 3 ½ tablespoons of milk, ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.  Add 2 tablespoons self-rising flour and a pinch of kosher salt and fold in ¼ cup fresh or frozen raspberries.  Divide the batter between two mugs and microwave separately for 1 ½ to 2 ½ minutes until risen and firm.  Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate whipped cream, or chocolate ganache and, of course, a couple of fresh raspberries.  OMG this sounds amazing – and so easy.

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And the Summer Fun Continues at Tyler Public Library!!


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More than 1,000 people have participated in the Tyler Public Library’s summer reading challenge and more than 4,200 people have attended various programs. The Library says, “Thanks for being a part of a super, rocking summer!”

Any year-round weekly programs, like story times, will be temporarily suspended during movies week, but will return on Monday Aug. 6. These programs include:

  • Mondays at 10:30 a.m. Léeme Un Cuento, Spanish preschool story time
  • Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Panera story time, only Aug. 7 and 14 at Panera Bread on S. Broadway
  • Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. Lap and Play time for Babies
  • Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddler Time
  • Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Read Aloud Crowd for Preschoolers

Maker Space events will continue throughout the coming months on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month.  Upcoming events can be found on the Library’s website under Maker Space.

  • Saturday Aug. 11 2 p.m. Anime and Manga Drawing
  • Saturday Aug. 21 2 p.m. Hydraulics 101

For more information on any of these programs, please contact the Library at (903) 593-7323, or find us on the web at TylerLibrary.com. The Library is located at 201 S. College Ave. in Downtown Tyler.


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Books

Wasn’t That Just Yesterday?

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By Gini Rainey

It seems like just yesterday that my daughter Beth came home from middle school and announced that one of her classes was going to put together a booklet of favorite recipes of the students’ families.  Interestingly enough, she just celebrated another year around the sun yesterday, and as her older sister reminded her, she is on the downhill slide to 50!  At least she included a laughing emoji.  

So, there I am, cooking dinner, with her sitting across the bar from me asking where the recipe for what I was making (I think it might have been pepper steak) was so she could copy it down and take it with her to school.  Imagine her dismay when I tapped my head!  I could tell she felt like that was never going to work.  But I told her get a piece of paper and a pencil and we would figure it out together.  She may not even remember that moment in time, but seeing what a good and experimental cook she has become, perhaps what she learned that afternoon stuck with her.  Things like always, always taste what you are cooking, less is better when it comes to salt/pepper, your cupped palm will hold about a teaspoon, rub dry herbs between your palms as you sprinkle them into what you are cooking, and never be afraid to try something new.  

So, believe it or not, this memory was jogged by a cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked, written by Todd Wilbur and published in 2009 by Plume Books/Penguin Books.  As I was flipping through it, it occurred to me that even though there are some pretty good recipes in it, I found it interesting that it also included recipes for Jimmy Dean® Breakfast Sausage, Kraft® Miracle Whip, Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing, Fritos® Hot Bean Dip, and Lipton® Brisk® Iced Tea.  Just reading the Dressing recipe made me hyper-ventilate over the list of ingredients it called for.  I mean, if I‘m going to the store to pick up all of that, why not just grab a packet of the mix? 

But, I will say the recipes included for things like Panera Bread® Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Popeyes® Red Beans & Rice, Boston Market® Butternut Squash, and Carnegie Deli® Classic New York Cheesecake sound pretty darn yummy and the ingredient lists aren’t terribly daunting.  The cool thing about this book, and the others out there that have copycat recipes, is someone took the time to taste – really taste – the original foods and experiment in their kitchen to come up with the end product that is a pretty darn good second to the original.  That’s turning cooking and your kitchen into a food lab – and I’m for that! 

One of the recipes that Beth and I saved for posterity was for my version of Pepper Steak.  First trim about 1 ½ pounds of round steak and slice paper thin (this is easier to do if the meat is slighty frozen) making the strips about 3 inches in length.  Dredge the strips in flour and brown in hot oil in a Dutch oven or a 4 quart pan. Mix 1 ½ teaspoon of garlic powder with 4 tablespoons of corn starch and blend with ½ cup soy sauce (I prefer Kikoman®) and 3 ½ cups water and pour over the beef strips.  Stir until well mixed and beginning to thicken.  Cover and reduce heat. Cut 1 large, white onion and 2 large bell peppers into eighths and add to the beef mixture.  You can also add a small can of drained sliced mushrooms and a small can of sliced water chestnuts.  Continue to simmer until the onions and peppers are cooked, but still a bit crunchy.  Serve over steamed rice.  This is some might good eating and so relatively easy to make, you might want to have the kids help cook it. 

 

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Jump Into Something Interesting

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By Gini Rainey 

“Checking Out of The Hotel Euthanasia” by Gerard Graham 

Here is a very interesting read that reveals a lot about human nature in a very satirical format.  Graham proves he is a wizard at subtlety and irony as he spins a tale about a fictitious hotel in the fictitious kingdom of Villadedino that had pretty much fallen to ruin when Zeca, a hotel manager, was appointed to the most prestigious hotel management spot in the world by King Eugene III.  Because of Zeca’s capable management, the once decaying hotel, rose from the ashes to become a mecca for those seeking assisted dying. 

On the other side of this coin is Rab and a small group of cohorts who are on a Pope-funded mission to destroy the hotel because of the Catholic anti-assisted death platform.  Rab, who once supported assisted-suicide with a great passion, now has turned those passions against the Hotel Euthanasia and all that it represents and assumes his leadership role with great vigor. 

Along the way, we are introduced to a group of people from various walks of like who are guests at the Hotel and are seeking release from their earthly bodies in one of the various ways offered by the Hotel.  The back stories of these people could be novels in and of themselves but, bound together they comprise a very interesting read filled with different ways to look at euthanasia.  And while some readers might find the whole concept exceptionally macabre, the idea behind it certainly carries merit for those facing a lifetime of pain (however long) and an eventual death. 

 5 of 5 – Copyright 2017 – Ringwood Publishing  

 “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn 

Told from various character’s points of view, this book is Gillian Flynn’s (Gone Girl and Sharp Objects) second novel that was published in 2009 and made into a movie in 2015 and starring Charlize Theron.  Based on the fictious satanic murder of a family in Kinnakee, Kansas, “Dark Places” follows the investigation that Libby Day, who was 7 at the time her family was murdered, undertakes to find out who actually killed 3 members of her family.  If she can find the real murderer, her brother Ben will be freed from prison where he has been held for 25 years, mostly because of her coached testimony during his trial. 

Funded and aided by the Kill Club members who believe in her brother’s innocence, Libby finally opens the boxes that hold a lot of family secrets and provide her with leads to the various people who wandered in and out of the Day’s lives 25 ago, prior to their grizzly murders. 

As usual, Gillian Flynn has written a page-turning, spell-binder that keeps you guessing till the very end about “who dun it!”  Flynn has filled this novel with characters as raw and real as possible, so real that you will find yourself drawn into their hard lives and perhaps even develop compassion for what they have face.  As with Flynn’s other books, this one is definitely worth the read and will keep you turning the pages until the very end. 

5 of 5 – Copyright 2009 – Broadway Books 

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