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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Angels Unawares, Serial #5 and Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

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Every once in a while you just need a little pick-me-up–OK, maybe more than just every once in a while. Sometimes you have to string together a series of pick-me-ups just to make it through the day–from the wake me up snuggle with your pup (ignoring for the moment that she chewed up your favorite slippers overnight) to that cup of French-vanilla latte to your newest favorite song on the way to work to ordering those to-die-for sandals (it’ll be summer one day) during a break. Some days are journeys from pick-me-up to pick-me-up through swamps of drudgery.

But every once in a while the pick-me-up includes a surprise that maybe, just maybe, kicks you out of the doldrums and ends the endless cycle of ho-hum drudgery made barely tolerable by intermittent treats. Sometimes the pick-me-up changes your whole outlook–like the evening walk that treats you to a glorious sunset or a stop by the self-serve yogurt place where you run into that friend you haven’t seen for weeks. The pick-me-up becomes a lift-me-out, as in “lift me out of this pissy mood I’ve been in forever.”

Now I don’t want to oversell these Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies, but maybe, just maybe they’re more than a pick-me-up. Maybe they’re a lift-me-out. And the key lies in their hidden double treat–not just peanut butter (which is hardly a hidden treat since it is in the name) but the richness of cream cheese. What do you think–chocolate, peanut butter, AND cream cheese! This pick-me-up ought to lift-you-out if anything will! (OK, maybe winning the lottery or an all-expenses-paid trip–tomorrow!–to the Bahamas would be better, but these brownies will have to do for now.)

Meet Laura Jackson Earl, one of two main characters in our latest serialized novel Angels Unawares. She could use a pick-me-up, lots of them, as she struggles to care for the physical and emotional needs of her gravely ill ex-husband. As if her current demands aren’t enough, she has to deal with bridging decades of total separation from him (she knows nothing about his life since they divorced) and is tormented by a secret she must divulge but can’t imagine how. Her pick-me-ups will have to be of the spiritual sort, but at the moment she’s having trouble finding any. Check it out by clicking one of the links below the recipe.

pb swirl brownies

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Peanut butter layer:

3 Tablespoons peanut butter*

1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature**

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 egg white

Brownie layer:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

peanut butter swirl brownies

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 5×7 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients for the peanut butter layer (peanut butter through egg white). Beat these ingredients until a smooth batter is formed. (You can use an electric mixer to help speed up the process.) Set aside.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, and whisk all of the dry ingredients together. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, remove it from the heat and add the sugar. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved into the melted butter. Next, add the vanilla extract and egg to the melted butter mixture. Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined. Slowly pour the dry ingredients into the melted butter mixture and stir until an even batter is formed, careful not to over mix.

Pour the brownie batter into prepared 5×7 pan. Drop spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie mixture. Using a table knife, swirl the peanut butter mixture throughout the brownie batter. Bake brownies for 22-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the brownie cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 6 brownies.

*Do not use natural peanut butter that has the oil separated; this will be too runny for the peanut butter layer.

**If you do not have cream cheese on hand, you can use three tablespoons of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt.

peanut butter brownies

{Adapted from Bake at 350}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #5 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #5, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #5, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #4 and Scotchy Bread Pudding

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We seem to have a love-hate relationship with bread pudding–you either love it or you hate it.

But most of those who claim to “hate” it have never tried it. It’s the name that gets them. The idea of bread turned soft and mushy (as in pudding form) makes them want to run and hide in the closet. O.K., maybe that’s a little exaggerated. Maybe all they’ll do is pretend not to see the words and look for something with chocolate on the dessert menu (if they’re in a restaurant that offers bread pudding) or excuse themselves and go to the bathroom and hide there for about a half hour until dessert is finished (if they’re eating at a friend’s house where bread pudding is served).

Well, just hold on a minute. Reading and Recipes is a full service blog, and one of our services is to help breadpuddingaphobics get over their irrational fear. So take a minute and lie down on our Reading and Recipes counseling couch and take a few deep cleansing breaths and close your eyes and relax.

O.K. Now open your eyes so you can read the rest of this post and get cured.

We’re going to attack this fear in two ways. First, we’re going to attach a jazzy adjective–Scotchy–to the name of our dessert. So instead of hearing br— pu—– and thinking of mushy bread, just think Scotchy with all of its positive associations like Scotty (as in a loyal kind of dog or maybe a long-lost pal from grade school) and butterscotch (as in one of the best toppings to put on an ice cream sundae). Now isn’t that better? I can practically see the phobia exiting your mind from here.

And the second way we’re going to attack your fear is to give a recipe that’s so easy and out of this world delicious that you’ll not only forget your fear of br— pu—– but you’ll decide it’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten and start a fan club for Scotchy Br— Pu—– and maybe look into patenting the recipe and making a million bucks (but remember you saw it here first).

I’m serious. Give this stuff a try. It’ll cure your phobia and everything else that ails you. (And maybe then we can stop using those stupid dashes to indicate the words “bread pudding.”)

butterscotch bread pudding

Scotchy Bread Pudding

1 cup milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1/2 loaf of Italian bread, torn into bite size pieces

1/3 cup butterscotch chips

scotchy bread pudding

In a large bowl, combine the milk, brown sugar, melted butter, beaten egg, vanilla, and salt. Whisk the ingredients together until well combined. Add the torn bread and butterscotch chips and fold into the mixture. Make sure all of the bread is covered with the mixture so it can soak properly. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 5×7 inch pan with cooking spray. Pour the bread pudding into prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the bread pudding is mostly set and only the middle moves slightly when jiggled.

Let the bread pudding cool for about 20 minutes before serving warm. Store any leftover bread pudding in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

scotchy bread pudding1

{Adapted from All Recipes}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #4 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #4, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #4, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #3 and Blueberry Muffin

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So you made it–through the holidays, through the cold snap, through the work week, through the deadline, through the flu, through whatever the latest challenge in your life might’ve been. The world seems to have an endless supply of challenges to put in front of us. No sooner do we get clear of one, then here comes another.

And winter is the worse. I read somewhere that January 7th was the most depressing day of the year. How about the whole month of January? (Even if you have a birthday in it–there’s another challenge: birthdays!)

So what to do? Well, here at Reading and Recipes we have the perfect solution–curl up on the couch, pull the afghan tight, and have a quiet, restful evening or weekend.

But you don’t want to do that with nothing to eat–too hungry–and nothing to do–too boring. To solve the hunger issue, we suggest you try this old reliable blueberry muffin–comfort food for the morning, afternoon, or evening with just a hint of summertime in its flavor and fruit. And to solve the boredom issue, sample one or more of the stories on this website by either clicking the audio file to hear them read or the text file to read them on the screen or print them out. The stories are of all different lengths, so you can partake of as little or as much as you like. Just hit the stories page to get a full index of what’s available.

And enjoy a quiet, restful, peaceful evening or weekend–with a little help from Reading and Recipes.

single blueberry muffin

Blueberry Muffin

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

1 Tablespoon  + 1 teaspoon milk

5-8 fresh blueberries (a small handful)

blueberry muffin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line one muffin cup with a paper liner, and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the vanilla, oil, and milk and mix ingredients together, careful not to over mix. Lastly, fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into the muffin liner. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the muffin for 10-15 minutes before eating.

Makes one muffin.

blueberry muffin for one

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #3 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #3, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #3, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #2 and Chocolate Yogurt Truffles

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For many of us in the United States, this winter has already been WAY too long and this past week has been like something out of a horror movie–a horror movie from the North Pole, that is–with snow and ice and frozen pipes and dead car batteries and frostbitten fingers and chapped lips. I know, I know–you’re tired of living in it and even more tired of hearing about it!

But here’s the thing–we’ve got a cold treat that’ll make you forget the cold. These Chocolate Yogurt Truffles are so easy you can get your preschooler to help make them (come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea!) but so decadent you’ll smuggle them out to the car (where it is of course COLD as a refrigerator) so you can hog them for yourself. And when the little booger says “Mommy, Mommy,” or “Daddy, Daddy,” “where are my yummy chocolate truffles?” you can make up a white lie like “I gave them all to the soup kitchen” and hand the rugrat a banana while sneaking out later (“to check on the car battery”) and snarfing down a couple of these babies. But be sure to wipe the cocoa powder off your lip before coming back into the house.

O.K., maybe that’s a bit extreme. I mean, the kid did help make them, right? So cut one in half and give the little angel half tonight and the other half tomorrow night and keep the rest for yourself. But be sure to hide them, so no one else comes along and steals your stash.

And chalk all this extreme behavior up to self-preservation–cuz these Chocolate Yogurt Truffles will make you forget how long and cold this winter already has been. (And only seventy-two days till spring. Sorry for the grim reminder but what can I say–I’m a realist. Just get the kid to roll a few more batches of truffles. That’ll get you through to spring with a smile on your face!)


Chocolate Yogurt Truffles

4 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

1/3 cup Greek fruit yogurt (I used Chobani Blueberry yogurt)*

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder


In a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate pieces. Microwave these pieces in 15 second intervals, stirring after each time. Remove the chocolate once it is almost melted and continue to stir until all of the pieces have melted and a smooth mixture forms. (Be careful not to overheat the chocolate or it will sieze!) Mix in the yogurt, and stir until it is well incorporated into the chocolate. Place the bowl in the freezer and chill for 30 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the freezer. Scoop tablespoon size balls of chocolate mixture and roll in hands to form a uniform ball, working quickly so your hands do not melt the truffle. Roll each ball in the cocoa powder. Place truffles on a plate and return to the freezer for another 20 minutes.

Serve truffles chilled. Store any leftover truffles in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Makes 6-8 truffles.

*You must use Greek yogurt in this recipe because of its texture and thickness; regular yogurt will not produce the same results.


{Adapted from Desserts for Two}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #2 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #2, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #2, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #1 and Southern Cherry Cobbler

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A new year, a new post on Reading and Recipes (2014–here we come!), a new serialized novel (Angels Unawares)–there’s so much new around here you’d think we were running a nursery.

But one thing hasn’t changed. We’re still posting easy to make, yummy to eat, down home desserts, the kind that “make you see your grandmammy” as a dear friend used to say (and probably still is, as he watches from the other side).

And what better place to go for our first down home recipe of 2014 than the South (of the U.S., that is)–home to the best cookin’ and best eatin’ in this whole wide world. O.K., O.K.–we might not get 100% agreement on that statement, but you got to admit the southern part of the U.S. has produced some mighty fine recipes over the centuries, with many of them now enjoyed all around the world.

And what better way to start off the new year than with a Southern Cobbler–cherry in this rendition but feel free to use whatever fruit you have on hand or pick up at the store. The key to this recipe is the simple to make, fool-proof biscuit-type crust/dough. It’s the perfect complement to the fruit–just soft enough to absorb some of the fruit juices and flavor, just firm enough to provide its own taste and texture and body to offset the sweet and syrupy fruit.

So kick off the new year with a taste from the old South. And while you’re enjoying that deelish cobbler, give this new novel, Angels Unawares, a listen or a read by clicking on the links below. Got to try out something new in this new year!

cherry cobbler

 Southern Cherry Cobbler

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

6 Tablespoons milk

1 cup frozen sweet cherries

cherry cobbler1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add the butter to a 5X7 inch pan and place in oven; allow butter to melt.

While butter is melting, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk to a small mixing bowl. Whisk these ingredients together until it forms a smooth batter.

Once butter is melted, remove the pan from the oven. Pour the batter into the pan. Scatter the frozen cherries on top of the batter. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until batter is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.

Serve the cobbler warm, unadorned or a la mode.

Serves 2-3.

cherry cobbler2

{Adapted from All Recipes}

Click the cover below for a link to the entire novel Angels Unawares.

Click the links below the cover to listen to or read Angels Unawares, Serial #1.


Angels Unawares, Serial #1, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #1, text © Jeffrey Anderson