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Cooking the Books — Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments by Victoria Grace Elliot

Welcome to Cooking the Books, where we try recipes found in, well, books! This month, Children’s Assistant & STEM Specialist Ms. Meghan tried out a recipe from one of her recent favs: Back in September, I reviewed Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott. Now, food sprites Peri, Fee, and Fada are back (along with their new friend water sprite Naia) for Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments. This middle grade nonfiction graphic novel (once again suited for readers of all ages) traces the history of cheese, pizza, pickles, soda, easy food (like canned soup and processed cheese), and gelatin. The format for Tasty is the same as Yummy: the sprites introduce us to the story of a food through a combination of history lessons, scientific explanations (the mold in blue cheese is in the same family as penicillin!), interviews with historical figures, and recipes! There is a Read more »

Spooky Season Selections

Halloween is almost here, m’dears! I recently had the chance to do some traveling and get caught up on four horror/Gothic/spooky adjacent books from my TBR (To Be Read) list/mountain, and I want to share the bounty with you. We’ve got YA, we’ve got adult, we’ve got vampires, tree creatures, parasites, and more! So grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and a blanket and settle in for some spooky reads. Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas From the publisher: Vampires and vaqueros face off on the Texas-Mexico border in this supernatural western from the author of The Hacienda.  I loved The Hacienda. I reviewed it for this blog back in 2021. And once again, Isabel is teaching me Mexican history via horror novels. This time the setting is 1840s Mexico near the Texas border. While The Hacienda was full of Gothic elements, VoEN is much more character Read more »

Cooking the Books — Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott

Welcome to Cooking the Books, where we try recipes found in, well, books! This month, Children’s Assistant & STEM Specialist Ms. Meghan tried out a recipe from one of her recent favs:

Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott has been on my TBR (To Be Read) list/mountain for over a year now, so I was excited to have a chance to finally get around to it.

This is a nonfiction graphic novel for kids (but readable and enjoyable at any age!) about the history of desserts from around the world. Specifically, it focuses on ice cream, cake, brownies, pie, gummies, and cookies. These tales are introduced to us by Peri, a food sprite, and her sprite friends Fee and Fada. The history of each broad category of delectable dessert is told through a combination of history lessons, story times, science labs, interview corners with famous foodie figures, and recipes! The pages are jam (ha) packed with information and colors, and can at times be a bit difficult to follow. But overall I really enjoyed this book and learned all kinds of fascinating facts, like how in the mid 1800s street vendors used to sell ice cream by the ‘lick’ (exactly as hygienic as it sounds), and the science of how the butter in pastry dough leads to those lovely flaky layers.

I chose to make the Funfetti Cake recipe in cupcake form, as opposed to an 8×8 inch baking pan, since that would be the easiest way to share it with my discerning critics/co-workers. This recipe produces a very wet batter. It was quite messy spooning it into the cupcake liners. I also filled them completely full; this was a change from my usual ‘fill ⅔ full’ method of baking, but hey, I’m following the recipe! Fortunately for my oven, they didn’t overflow during baking like I feared. I did need to add two minutes to the upper range of the baking time listed by the recipe to get them to cook through. Upon removal from the cupcake tray, the paper liners were soaked through with oil.

The cupcakes are incredibly dense and moist. There’s a good flavor, with a hint of tang from the sour cream (which was a new cupcake ingredient for me). If I make these again, I’ll do a frosting from scratch, as I found the canned Pillsbury vanilla to be too sweet for my taste. While my husband and I found this recipe to be a bit too dense and moist, my coworkers disagreed. These traits were mentioned in every review, and almost always positively. ‘Much more flavor than a box mix’, ‘would happily eat again’, and ‘festive and fun for kids!’ were highlights of the reviews. While I found the recipe less than stellar, I really did enjoy the book and look forward to the companion Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments, which comes out in December.

Cupcakes: 8/10 stars (based on all reviews)

Book: 4/5  stars (based on my own opinion)

The Recipe:

Funfetti Cake

Ingredients:
1 c sugar
½ c butter
¼ c sour cream
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c milk
½ tsp salt
½ sprinkles
1 can of your favorite frosting!
(and more sprinkles)

Requirements:
8×8 – inch cake pan or 1 cupcake tin
Mixer with beater attachment
Whisk and spatula
2 large mixing bowls

 

Instructions:

  1. Make sure the butter, eggs, sour cream, and milk are all room temperature!
  2. And before you start, preheat your oven to 350 F. Prepare your pan! If you’re using the cake pan, grease with butter. If you’re making cupcakes, line the cupcake pan with liners
  3. NEXT, cream the softened butter and sour cream with the sugar! Make sure you beat the mixture until it’s light and fluffy.
  4. THEN, beat in one of the eggs until the mixture is fluffy. Then, beat in the other egg until fluffy! Add them one at a time to keep the batter light!
  5. ONCE MIXED, stir in the vanilla.
  6. IN A DIFFERENT BOWL, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  7. FOR THE NEXT STEP, you’ll be taking turns between adding the flour mixture and the milk. Always make sure to mix it in completely before adding more! Add half the flour and mix in with the spatula.
  8. THEN add all the milk and mix.
  9. FINALLY, add the rest of the flour and mix!
  10. NOW’S THE FUN PART! Add the sprinkles! Gently mix until they’re evenly spread, but not for too long.
  11. FINALLY! The batter is ready! Pour into the cake pan and smooth the surface. Or, if you’re making cupcakes, spoon carefully into the liners.
  12. NEXT, bake at 350! The cake will need 30-35 minutes. The cupcakes will need 20-25 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when you stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean!
  13. WHEN IT’S DONE, let it cool COMPLETELY! If you have a cooling rack, use that! If you frost it while it’s still warm, the frosting will melt and get EVERYWHERE!
  14. WHEN IT’S COOLED, DECORATE IT!

From the Children’s Room — December 2022

Hi-ho! Ms. Meghan here to talk to you about Animal Explorers!

Before joining the awesome Galesburg Public Library team, I was an animal keeper for over 15 years, and one of the things I loved best about the job was the opportunity to educate visitors about incredible animals. Animal Explorers is a monthly club geared for kids in grades K-3 held in the Children’s Room where I do just that! Every month kids check out a couple pre-selected animal books before the meeting.

 

We focus on a different animal or group of animals each month. One month might be cats big and small, and the next may be primates. Then on the first Thursday of each month we get together to talk about the books and what we learned. We usually watch a couple fun videos of the animals in action, and sometimes I bring in something cool from my zoo days, or borrow some biofacts from a local nature center. I’ll also use my contacts in the zoo world to get neat materials for events like World Lemur Day and World Penguin Day. Then we’ll finish up with a craft or activity. Over the past several months, we’ve made colorful peacock spiders out of paper plates and pipe cleaners, covered up bare polar bears with cotton balls (while learning about their heat absorbing black skin), and made geckos and ‘Christmas lizards’ out of cardboard tubes. There’s also a different button to collect from each meeting.

 

So come join us for a wild time at Animal Explorers the first Thursday of each month at 4 pm. Registration is required.

Book Review | Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

From the publisher: Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists.

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company. It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart. And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

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From the Children’s Room — May 2022

So, let’s talk about the birds and the bees. And the butterflies. And the bats. And the…lemurs? It’s time to talk about pollinators!

These animals are incredibly important. By transferring pollen from one flower to another, they keep the natural world in good working order, and help us grow our crops. About every third bite of food we eat is thanks to pollinators. Plants that rely on insects and other animals include bat-pollinated agave (where tequila comes from), alfalfa (what cows eat), bananas, chocolate, grapes, pumpkins, tomatoes, vanilla, and so many more! Many of us are familiar with butterflies and European honey bees (who also provide us with honey and wax), but what about other bees?

North America has over 4,000 species of native bees! As a whole, they’re better…

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Book Review | Harley Quinn: Reckoning by Rachael Allen

From the publisher: When Harleen Quinzel scores an internship in a psych lab at Gotham University, she’s more than ecstatic; she’s desperate to make a Big Scientific Discovery that will land her a full-ride college scholarship and get her away from her abusive father. But when Harleen witnesses the way women are treated across STEM departments–and experiences harassment herself–she decides that revenge and justice are more important than her own dreams.

In this refreshingly feminist spin on the story of our favorite villainess, Harley Quinn: Reckoning traces Harleen’s journey from precocious, revenge-obsessed teenage girl to a hardcore justice-seeker on her way to becoming the most captivating Super Villain of all time. Vibrating with youthful energy and rage, this is one story that you won’t be able to…

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From the Children’s Room — March 2022

Spring is in sight, so that must mean it’s time for March Mammal Madness!

Inspired by (but not associated with) the college basketball tournament, MMM is a tournament of simulated combat encounters run by Dr. Katie Hinde at Arizona State University. Now in its tenth year, MMM is a fantastically fun learning opportunity, and is reaching almost half a million learners in classrooms and libraries across the country. Participants learn about zoology, ecology, and conservation, in addition to getting those sweet, sweet bragging rights if their contestant wins…

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Staff Picks — Meghan B.

Hi ho! Ms. Meghan the Children’s Assistant here to share with you some of the best books I’ve read recently. We’ve got two fantastic children’s books, one historical fiction novel, one murder mystery, and one YA fantasy novel. So let’s get to it! EXCEPT ANTARCTICA by Todd Sturgell An Attenborough-esque narrator begins by explaining that turtles are found on every continent except Antarctica. One turtle takes exception to this and begins the trek to the South Pole, joined along the way by other animals that are found everywhere ‘except Antarctica’. The flustered narrator (who is not getting paid enough for this) chronicles their journey. Additional back matter provides more learning opportunities. Childrens, Picture Books THE GODMOTHERS by Camille Aubray This novel follows four sisters and sisters-in-law in an Italian-American family in Greenwich Village through the decades surrounding WWII. The author deftly handles the shifting POVs as Filomena, Amie, Lucy, and Petrina handle Read more »

Our Favorite Recipes

The holiday season has us in a cooking mood, and we’re taking to the blog to share some of our staff’s favorite recipes. Have a favorite family recipe? Share it with us! Send to reference@galesburglibrary.org and your recipe will be featured in a future blog post!

Spinach Casserole

4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 (24 oz.) small curd cottage cheese
3 (10 oz.) packages frozen chopped spinach
10 strips bacon, cooked crisp
1 stick butter
6 eggs, beaten until smooth
5 tbsp flour
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice …

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