These brownies with a peanut butter surprise have been a hit at more than one mother-daughter book club meeting. Be sure to have lots on hand when you serve them.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tsps. vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Place the chocolate into a double boiler with simmering water. When the chocolate is nearly melted, stir in the butter, cut into small pieces. When melted, stir the mixture until it’s smooth. Transfer the top of the double boiler to a cooling rack and let the chocolate cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a 9 x 9″ square cake pan. Dust it with flour and shake out the excess.
Combine the sugars in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and beat until well blended with an electric mixer on medium speed. Blend in the vanilla extract; add the cooled chocolate and mix until blended.
Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl, then stir into the chocolate mixture.
Make peanut butter filling by combining the following ingredients in a medium sized bowl:
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1-1/2 ounces soft cream cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup sugar
Beat with an electric mixer until evenly blended.
To assemble the muffins:
Line 18 to 20 cups of a standard muffin tin with bake cups.
Fill each muffin cup about halfway with brownie batter. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of peanut butter filling into the center, pushing it down a little into the batter. Cover the filling with another spoonful of batter. The cups should be about 3/4 full.
Bake for 15 minutes, until well risen and cracked on top. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes.
My daughter Catherine and I recently attended our book club meeting to talk about Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. It was a delightful book that got the approval even of the readers who don’t much care for fantasy. The concept of taking a known story like the fairy tale this is based on and creating a whole story-behind-the-story is very well done here.
Here are some of the discussion questions we touched on:
- How did Ani find the confidence to be the person she was supposed to be?
- Could she ever be a ruler like her mother?
- When did you start to think that Geric may not be a guard at the palace?
- How did Ani/Isi’s experience being a goose girl help her become more confident?
- If you had written this book, what would you have changed about any part of the plot?
Catherine and I enjoyed Goose Girl so much, we went to the library right away and picked up the sequel, Enna Burning. We like it a lot too, and we’re looking forward to picking up the third book, River Secrets.
It’s interesting reading the series, because one book doesn’t pick up where the one before left off. Instead they each build a new story based on a different main character, someone who may have been fairly minor in a different book.
There’s so much great historical fiction for children and young adults these days that it’s difficult to keep this list manageable.
Here are some of the favorites listed by book clubs. Check out Powells.com to purchase any of these titles.
9 and 10 Year Old Readers
- Bat 6—Virginia Euwer Wollf
- Boston Jane—Jennifer Holm
- Our Only May Amelia—Jennifer Holm
- Walk Across the Sea—Susan Fletcher
- Caddie Woodlawn—Carol Ryrie Brink
11 to 13 Year Old Readers
- A Year Down Yonder—Richard Peck
- A Long Way from Chicago—Richard Peck
- Petey—Ben Michaelson
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle—Avi
Age 14 and Older Readers
- A Lesson Before Dying—Ernest J. Gaines
- In the Time of the Butterflies—Julia Alvarez
- Night—Elie Wiesel
- The Crucible—Arthur Miller
- The Kite Runner—Khaled Hosseini
- The River Between Us—Richard Peck
- The Secret Life of Bees—Sue Monk Kidd
- To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee
- Wild Life—Molly Gloss
At last night’s mother daughter-book club meeting one of our members proved you don’t have to cook a complicated meal to make everyone happy. In fact, with two picky eaters and one vegetarian in our group of 12, this turned out to be quite a hit. The book was Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, and we had a picnic to go along with the one in the book. This meal was also great for our hostess, who arrived from picking up her daughter from piano just minutes before the first guests drove up. Obviously, this idea can be adjusted to the taste of any group.
Karen’s Picnic Fixings
Provide the following for mix and match according to taste:
- Sweet pickles, dill pickles
- Olive assortment
- Fresh carrots, broccoli, cauliflower with veggie dip
- Sauteed sweet red, green and yellow peppers
- Sauteed mushrooms
- Sliced cheese assortment
- Mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup
- Wheat bread, sourdough, rye, tortillas
Sandwiches can be grilled. This is a great meal to follow up with ice cream sundaes or banana splits for dessert.
For more ideas of meals to serve at your book club meetings, check out the recipes section under categories.
Not everything I read is for my mother-daughter book clubs, but keeping up with selections for those two makes it challenging to tackle a weighty book in the time I have left. Especially since my personal reading time is just before bed, I sometimes have a hard time keeping my eyes open long enough to read more than a few pages.
That’s why the book I’m reading now is perfect. It’s called The Grail: A Year Ambling and Shambling Through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wild World by Brian Doyle, and it’s about the author’s year-long quest to find the best pinot noir wine. Each chapter is short, no more than two or three pages long, and it tells of what’s happening in a vineyard at certain times of the year. Doyle spends his time in a particular vineyard, that of Lange winery in Dundee, Oregon, but he also sprinkles his chapters with talk about visits to other wine-growing regions in other parts of the world.
Doyle’s style is light and playful, and the only problem I have with reading it at bedtime is it makes me thirsty to taste wine. But I’m taking notes and plan to have a pinot noir tasting of my own when I’m finished with the book. It’s a fun read!
A few years ago, Madeleine and I read a Nancy Drew mystery for our mother-daughter book club. Each mother-daughter pair picked a different mystery, then we talked about the similar styles and things that seemed to hold each of the books together.
The moms remembered Nancy as the pioneering spirit she was for the time we were growing up. We saw her then as someone who wasn’t afraid to take on challenges and stand apart from the crowd. But we were surprised to find that the daughters saw her as too dependent, and they derided her for getting her boyfriend or other friends to tackle some of the more difficult challenges she faced. We had an interesting discussion on cultural changes from generation to generation.
On June 15 the Nancy Drew movie hits screens around the country, providing a great opportunity for mother-daughter book clubs to read one or more of the traditional Nancy Drew mysteries and compare it to the movie. If the trailer is any indication, this Nancy Drew is totally hip in her old-fashioned ways and very independent.
You can choose more than one Nancy Drew mystery, as my group did, or have everyone read the same novel and discuss it in relation to the movie after you’ve seen it. Then send in your comments to let others know how you think this female character has changed over time.
Favorite authors are those who inspire you to read everything they’ve written. You anxiously await new works they publish and decide you want to own their books permanently in your personal library.
Often, books we read in our book clubs don’t live up to our expectations, so finding one that inspires us to read more by the author is exciting. With that in mind, I’ve created a new list of Favorite Authors for mother daughter book clubs to explore.
And here’s an idea for your meeting: have each mother daughter team pick a different book by the same author to read and see if your discussion brings insight about the writer as well as what he’s written. Or split the group in two and read two books by the same author. Instead of focusing discussion on characters, you can talk about messages and themes in the books and delve a little more deeply into what you think the author is trying to say with his work.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite authors and books they’ve written to get you started:
- Richard Peck: A Long Way from Chicago, A Year Down Yonder, Fair Weather, The Teacher’s Funeral
- Sharon Creech: Bloomability, Chasing Redbird, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup
- Kate DiCamillo: Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux
- Frank Cottrell Boyce: Millions, Framed, Cosmic
- Cornelia Funke: The Thief Lord, Inkheart, Inkspell, Dragon Rider
- Roald Dahl: Boy, Going Solo, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox
- Paula Danziger: P.S. Longer Letter Later, Remember Me to Harold Square
- Meg Cabot: The Princess Diaries series
- Susan Fletcher: Alphabet of Dreams, Shadow Spinner, Walk Across the Sea, Dragon Chronicles series
- Jennifer Holm: Our Only May Amelia, Boston Jane
Check the reviews category here to read more about many of these books. And don’t forget to send in your comments so I can add your favorite authors to the list.
By chance, both of my book clubs with my daughters were scheduled for the same week recently. Typically I don’t like several evening events scheduled for the same week, but this provoked just the opposite reaction in me. I was really looking forward to two evenings of fun during the week without the worries of events I “had to” attend.
I think that’s because book club is about so much more than the books. Both of my groups follow a similar format. We start off with pure socializing time where the girls head off for a play room and the moms congregate in the kitchen. For the mom’s that usually means conversation time about what our daughter’s are experiencing at home or school and to get advice from the others in our group. We also talk about our work and volunteering jobs as well as family issues. Over the years we’ve supported each other when one of us has gone through breast cancer treatment, the death of a parent or other life struggles.
After social time comes dinner and more socializing. We’re still in separate groups of girls and moms, and I find this is when we start to share ideas about the book we read with our peer groups; usually it’s something the moms don’t want their daughters to hear and vice versa. It’s a way we have of taking the pulse of what others thought before we settle into our group discussion.
When the group finally gets together, we sit in a circle, but we don’t necessarily voice our opinions by taking turns. The hostesses usually lead the discussion by starting off with a question or two, and then one topic often leads into another. For instance, our recent discussion on The Crucible started with the beliefs of early American settlers, and several girls expressed amazement that people then so readily believed charges of witchcraft. But we quickly morphed into talk about how “witch hunts” can happen in general, and several people contributed fairly recent examples. When we modernized the idea, it was easier for everyone to see how a witch hunt mentality can take hold of even sensible people.
Interaction between group members is what makes this part so much fun. One idea leads to another leads to another. We usually say goodnight reluctantly, all of us aware that the alarm rings early in the morning.
Do you have things that you find work particularly well for your group or a structure you’d like to share? I’d love to see your comments about your club.
Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. Photo by David Kinder