We Made: Simple Syrup

Simple syrup always used to sound so fancy to me. My mindset used to be: Making a real Tom Collins? How in the world are we supposed to make that simple syrup stuff — it’s so complicated! And I don’t want to spend money in the store on buying sugar. Whatever, Gin and Lemonade is the same, right?

So, imagine my embarrassment when Andrew and I actually bothered to look it up and saw that you basically just boiled 1 part water to 1 part sugar and let it cool for 20 minutes. Yeah. Simple syrup is actually super, super simple. Who knew? And the difference is incredible. Everything we’ve made with the stuff tastes like restaurant/bar-made cocktail that you’d normally pay $8 for. So good! Here are my favorites so far:

Tom Collins – Gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, club soda

Fake Sprite (non-alcoholic) – Club soda, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup

Lemon Drop – Vodka, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup

I can’t wait to branch out and try more fancy cocktails. We’ll keep you updated on new favorites when we discover them!

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Alton Brown Adventures: The Beginning

 

If you know me and Andrew, you know that we love cooking. Most of our Facebook status updates these days are of food that we’ve made. Usually, after we make food, we sit down to eat it while watching a show, and for a while, that show was Good Eats, hosted by Alton Brown.Alton-Brown-Guacamole

What really got us was his show on cocktails, where literally after every recipe he brought up we looked at each other and said, “We have to make that sometime.” The more we watched, the more we wanted to cook the delicious-sounding recipes he continuously depicted in his shows. Pickles? Absolutely. Homemade Granola bars? Yes. We want it. Soup? GOD, YES!

So here we are, Julie and Julia-ing our way through Alton Brown’s recipes, except hopefully with fewer mental breakdowns and dramatic craziness. We’re not giving ourselves a deadline or anything — we’re just out to discover and cook food that we’ll enjoy.

Join us on this culinary romp, and hopefully we can all learn a few things.

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

snow flower and the secret fanTitle: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Author: Lisa See
Publisher: RandomHouse
Kindle: 288 pages
Source: Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men.

As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

This book has been on my reading list for so long, I’m not even sure why I added it in the first place. It’s available on OverDrive, which is huge for me actually getting some reading done these days, and I think I might have seen that it was a “most popular” book, and added it to my wishlist. So, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started it. I kind of hate reading descriptions, because I feel like they ruin my discovery of the story, so it’s nice that I have such a long to-read list, because it gives me time to forget the book description.

Overall, I would say that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is solidly entertaining. It’s not too complex, so it’s easy to get through, and the main character is fairly easy to relate to, even if she is a bit judgmental. See does a good job in keeping the plot moving with interesting twists and turns, and the beginning is well developed in terms of detail and the reader is gently led from one conflict to the next. I’m currently reading a book that’s incredibly choppy, where we get one huge conflict that takes a chapter to introduce, followed quickly after by a page-and-a-half resolution, and then another huge conflict again. This book is definitely not like that. The beginning and middle take their time to fully develop, which allowed me to become immersed when it was going on.

While I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, the end was lacking a little bit. Everything about the culture and way of life is incredibly detailed, and I loved learning about the different customs of these people through the eyes of Lily. However, if a book about the cultures and customs of women in the Hunan Province is what I wanted to read, I would have picked up a nonfiction book. What I really wanted from this particular novel was a good story, and the story/plot elements were lacking for me. I understand that the author spent a lot of time researching, which I appreciate in a novel like this, but she spent too much time showing off that research instead of dedicating space to plot and character development near the end. The climax wasn’t as developed as it could have been, which made the resolution fall a bit flat.

Again, that’s not to say that I disliked this book. I liked it quite a lot — the ending just wasn’t as satisfying as I would have liked. As a quick read, this is perfect. A little gruesome at times (I still can’t get over the foot binding scene. Ah!), but easy to get through and entertaining. There definitely was enough drama to keep me interested the entire time.