Friday, November 11, 2011

Hannah Fans Can Rest Easy - The Lake Eden Cookbook Is Here

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Fans of cookie baker and amateur sleuth Hannah Swenson (heroine of Joanne Fluke's popular culinary mystery series) can finally rest easy. After many requests for a cookbook made of all the delectable recipes found in her novels, Fluke complied. The result? Lake Eden Cookbook: Hannah Swenson's Recipes From The Cookie Jar, which released a little over a month ago. Just in time for holiday baking, the cookbook contains all the recipes from the books as well as a "generous sprinkling of new never-before-published" recipes. Since the majority of Fluke's/Hannah's recipes cannot be found online (at least not officially), this is a real treat for those who love Hannah and/or those who love to bake.

Since Hannah is, primarily, a cookie baker, the majority of "her" recipes are for just that. From drop cookies to bar cookies to cut-out cookies to a cookie pizza, the variety is dazzling. Hannah's specialty might be cookies, but that's not all she does - "her" cookbook includes instructions for making several different types of candy, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, pies, even soups and salads. All of the recipes look delicious, are clearly worded and seem to be doable even for newbie bakers. Oh, and did I mention the substitutions list that starts on Page 323? I've never seen the like - who knew there were substitutes for brown sugar, self-rising flour, even eggs? I didn't.

Those bakers who also love the Hannah Swenson books will enjoy the story that runs through the cookbook. It's nothing terribly exciting (no one gets killed anyway) and you won't miss any important plot developments by ignoring it, but it's kind of fun to read about Hannah's catering woes during an oncoming snowstorm. Also, on the inside book covers is a quaint, colorful map of Lake Eden - something I, at least, have never seen before. It's a fun visual that helps bring Fluke's stories to life.

My complaints about the cookbook are few. I would have liked a bigger, spiral-bound version, which would make the book much more kitchen-friendly. As is, it's formatted like another volume in the series - hardbound, with no color (except on the map). Also, it would have been really nice to see color photos of each of the finished products, since, without a picture, I'm never sure if what I baked looks like it's supposed to look. Additionally, the recipes do not include any nutritional info at all. Considering how much fat and sugar are in many of them, maybe it's better that I not know!

Despite those little annoyances, I've been really pleased with Lake Eden Cookbook: Hannah Swensen's Recipes From The Cookie Jar. I can't wait to try more of the recipes, since they all look fantastic. If you've got a Fluke fan or a baker or both on your Christmas list this year, search this one out. Seriously. Just thinking about baking more of Hannah's sweet treats makes me salivate. Mmm, mmm, mmm. I hope Fluke's coming out with a diet cookbook next - I'm definitely going to need it!

(Readalikes: All the books in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series, including Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Strawberry Shortcake Murder, Blueberry Muffin Murder and Lemon Meringue Pie Murder)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for very mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I bought The Lake Eden Cookbook from Amazon with some of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.)

I must have been really overloaded on Halloween candy when I selected the recipes I wanted to make for this blog post. Usually, I go straight for the chocolate, but the two treats I selected both involve fruit (which totally makes them healthy, right?). Enjoy!

Oh, and in the recipes, comments in parantheses are Fluke's/Swensen's, comments in brackets are mine.

FAKE ORANGE JULIUS


3 cups orange juice (you'll need 6 cups in all)


1 envelope dry Dream Whip (the kind that makes 2 cups)

1 package dry vanilla pudding mix (the kind that makes 2 cups)***

3 more cups orange juice

Pour the 3 cups of orange juice into a blender. Add the envelope of dry Dream Whip and the dry pudding mix. Blend for one minute on LOW and then for another minute on MEDIUM speed.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart pitcher. Add the remaining 3 cups of orange juice and stir well.

Yield: Makes almost 2 quarts

*** Since this recipe is not cooked, you can use sugar-free vanilla pudding mix if you wish.

My thoughts on the recipe: Yum! The drink was easy to make and tasted really good. My husband thought it was a little too tart, but I liked it a lot. I think next time I'll try blending it with crushed ice to make a more smoothie-like Julius.

- Sorry about the blurry photos. My 2-year-old wouldn't stop moving. I'm pretty sure the cup didn't move an inch, so I'm not sure why it's so fuzzy. There's a distinct possibility that the photographer didn't know what she was doing. Nah, couldn't be that :)

LEIGH'S LIME BALLS

DO NOT preheat your oven - these cookies require NO BAKING

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces, 1/4 pound) salted butter, softened


1-pound box (approximately 3 and 3/4 cups) powdered (confectioner's) sugar

6-ounce tube frozen limeade concentrate (You'll find this in the frozen juice section at your market - I used Minute Maid Limeade)

1 T. key lime juice***

2 drops green food coloring (optional)

1 box (14 ounces net weight) vanilla wafers (I used Nabisco Nilla Wafers)

1 cup shredded coconut (I used Baker's Angel Flake Coconut) [I needed 2 cups.]

*** If you can't find key lime juice, you can use regular lime juice. Of course, it's best if you squeeze it yourself.

Prepare a cake pan by lining it with wax paper. You're going to use it to hold and refrigerate your lime balls once you've made them.

Hannah's 1st Note: You can use an electric mixer to make these little treats, or you can do it by hand.

Hannah's 2nd Note: Let the tube of frozen limeade concentrate thaw on the counter while you start mixing the first few ingredients.

If you don't want to wait for your cold butter to warm to room temperature, you can soften it in the microwave. Here's how you do it:

Unwrap a stick of refrigerated butter. Put it on a paper plate. Heat it for 5 seconds on HIGH in your microwave. Roll it forward so the topside is now on the side. Heat it for another 5 seconds on HIGH. Roll it forward again and heat it for another 5 seconds on HIGH. Roll it forward for the 3rd time and heat for another 5 seconds. take the plate out of the microwave and transfer the softened butter to your mixing bowl.

Hannah's 3rd Note: Check the powdered sugar to make sure it doesn't have lumps. If it does, you'll have to sift out the lumps by using a flour sifter or putting it through a fine wire-mesh strainer.

Sprinkle the powdered sugar on top of the softened butter in your bowl and mix it all up.

If the frozen limeade has thawed, add it to your mixing bowl. If it hasn't, spoon it out of the container, put it into a microwave-safe bowl, and heat in on HIGH for 20 seconds. Stir to see if it's melted. If it's not, heat it in 20-second increments, stirring after each increment, until it's melted. Add the melted limeade concentrate to your bowl and mix it in thoroughly.

Add the Tablespoon of lime juice and mix it in.

Add the green food coloring (if you decided to use it) and mix that in thoroughly.

Crush the vanilla wafers. You can do this easily with a food processor and the steel blade, or in a blender. You can also do it by putting the wafers in a two-gallon-size freezer bag, placing it on the counter, and crushing the wafers with a rolling pin. If you use the rolling pin method, crush half of the box of wafers at a time.

Add the crushed wafers to your bowl and mix them in.

Place the coconut in a medium-size bowl. You'll be coating your lime balls with it. (I like to put my coconut in the food processor and use the steel blade to chop it even finer. I've found that most people who say they don't like coconut are really not objecting to the way it tastes, but the tendency it has to stick between their teeth.)

Use your impeccably clean hands to form little balls from the mixture. (Lisa and I use a 2-teaspoon scooper at The Cookie Jar.) The balls should be about 1 inch in diameter, approximately the size of bonbons.

When you finish forming each ball, roll it in the bowl of coconut to coat it, and then place it in the cake pan.

When you've finished forming and coating all your lime balls and placing them in the cake pan, cover them with another sheet of wax paper and refrigerate them for 2 to 3 hours before serving. If you're not serving them for several days, place a sheet of foil over the cake pan and secure it tightly. keep the cake pan in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.

If you're giving these as gifts, you can place them in pretty cookie tins. You can also put them in little paper mini muffin cups and place them in a candy box. Remember to tell your lucky recipients to keep them refrigerated.

My thoughts on the recipe: Scrumptious! These have the curious tendency to be both refreshing and totally rich. My husband and I both enjoyed these, especially after the lime balls had been chilling for a day or two.

My only problems with the recipe were (1) I used the "rolling pin" method for crushing my Nilla wafers and I should have used the food processor method since mine were not fine enough. My bad on that one. I was too impatient. (2) I must have been super generous with my coconut coating because I needed at least 2 cups. (3) Not all of my lime balls fit in my 9 x 13 pan. I used an additional 8 x 8 inch one. Other than that, I made it exactly as written and the lime balls turned out pretty and very yummy.

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