House of Daughters: Pain D’epice

House of Daughters is the third novel by Sarah Kate Lynch, and follows the story of three sisters who must come together and save the family’s champagne business after their father passes away. Olivier Peine dies leaving behind large debts, a cellar of his once famous champagne, and a legacy of bitterness. His lonely daughter Clementine can now use her knowledge to rebuild the family’s reputation as first class champagne makers. However, it is upon Olivier’s death that his second daughter Mathilde and a previously unmentioned third daughter, Sophie, show up for their share of what’s left behind.  The three ladies must overcome their differences, let go of their secrets, and heal some very deep wounds in order to fix the mess they were left with from a father they believed never loved them.

I have previously written about one of Lynch’s other novels, Blessed are the Cheesemakers (you can find that post here), and I enjoyed her writing and the use of food in her novels so much I decided to do another post on her work. I really liked this novel and was actually moved to tears at one point so I definitely recommend checking it out.

In a novel centered around champagne I was a little unsure if there would be any food for me to work with. Thankfully, with good champagne there comes good French breads and pastries and there were several different ones to choose from in the novel. I chose one that is mentioned quietly and only once but I felt it had great significance to the happenings of the Peine sisters and after checking it out decided it would be perfect for a winter treat: pain d’epice.

To put the pain d’epice in context; it is wintertime in the vineyard and Clementine has been tending to the vines. Mathilde is recovering from some emotional truths and sets her sights on recovering the Peine finances. It is at this time that Sophie and the aging house guest La Petite make the bread.

“Sophie, meanwhile, was busy perfecting a recipe for pain d’epice to La Petite’s exact specifications and spent much of her time with the old woman whose breaths grew shorter with every winter day.”

The significance of this goes beyond just making bread. The first important thing here is that Sophie baking the bread is symbolic of her having a home. Before coming to the house after her father died, Sophie was living on the streets of the city with no family and no home. The fact that she is baking in the kitchen of what was her father’s house alludes to the fact that Sophie has found home and family.

Second is the idea that she is “perfecting a recipe”, meaning making it over and over again until it is right. This seems symbolic of what the Peine sisters are attempting to do with each other and the business. There are many instances in the novel where they attempt to start anew after their issues with the past and with each other have gotten in the way of their goals.

Finally, the idea that Sophie is working to La Petite’s specifications is symbolic of the role that La Petite is playing in the rebuilding of the family and the champagne house. In the novel, it is La Petite who guides the girls into becoming a family and doesn’t stop until her job is complete. Guiding Sophie in how to properly make pain d’epice is representative of her other guidance duties in the novel.

Pain d’epice has been around for a long time and is traditionally known as a honey sweetened spice bread that often gets misinterpreted as gingerbread. A distinction of pain d’epices is that it is not a dessert type bread but is used as a backdrop for more savory spreadables like foie gras or a strong blue cheese. Yum.

To start, I got some honey from my local beekeeper friends; I feel like local, raw honey has a much better flavor than anything in the store. Finding the proper flour was the biggest challenge I ran into, for some reason the stores here do not stock any kind of rye flour. Since it is traditionally used in the bread I still included it in the ingredient list but I had to use whole wheat flour for this. Everything else was stuff I had in my spice cabinet. I was upraised at the use of coriander but honestly, when I smelled it and thought about it in context of the other spices in the bread it made sense.

This bread came together like a standard quick bread. I served it alongside a creamy goat cheese and ate it for breakfast, it was delicious. Overall, I was really happy with the dense texture and the warm homey spices. I can definitely understand the motivation for Sophie to make this in the novel and I definitely understand why La Petite would want her to experience it. It’s taste exudes feelings of home and family which is what House of Daughters is all about.

House of Daughers: Pain D’epices

  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 Tb Orange Zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat, rye or buckwheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon whole anise seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

2. Pour the milk and honey into a small saucepan and stir over gentle heat until the honey has dissolved. Add the zest and set aside.

3. Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl. Mix in the honey, milk and zest. The batter will be quite liquid and a little foamy.

4. Bake until the top of the cake is deeply golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.

5. Cool, slice and serve.

This entry was posted in Books.

Leap Year: Coq au Vin

I was hunting around for a feel good movie; I had been watching way too much of a creepy tv show and I really wanted a palette cleanser. Enter Leap Year, a romcom from 2012 starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. I had never heard of this film before but a lot of my friends thought it was a cute one and recommended it for easy watching, so I thought I would give it a try; at the very least it would get the creepy tv show out of my brain for a while.

Leap Year is set in Ireland where, Anna (Amy Adams) wishes to invoke an Irish tradition that a man who is proposed to on Leap Day must accept the proposal. However, flight delays, unexpected landings, and brutal storms somehow land her in the small town of Dingle where she must stay the night at the town’s only inn and beg for a ride to Dublin (where her boyfriend is staying to attend a conference), before the 29th. The bar owner/inn keeper Declan (Matthew Goode) is in a financial bind and decides that it would be somewhat easy money to take her to Dublin in order to save his pub. Funny travel antics ensue but so does flirtation and when Anna and Declan finally make it to Dublin there is a lot left unsaid. The film doesn’t end there but I don’t want to ruin the ending for those of you that plan to check this movie out. I definitely enjoyed it because at times the relationship between Declan and Anna seems very relatable-they even tease each other with their own private jokes!

One crucial part of romancing someone, according to almost every romcom ever, is to cook/eat with the person that you fancy. This happens in Leap Year during a scene where Declan and Anna cook a meal together from scratch where they are lodgers and must pretend to be married in order to spend the night. During this scene they drink, they laugh, they stand close together and do all the flirty things that people do when romancing each other…I mean cooking together.

The dish they make in this scene is a Coq au Vin, which I thought interesting because it’s a French dish, but the film is set in Ireland; after doing some research it began to make sense. Coq au Vin is traditionally a peasant dish; created as a way to use roosters (cocks) that had no other use on the homestead. Over the course of the last century, it has become popularized by many celebrity chefs, increasing it’s status and it’s price tag in swanky restaurants. The fact that they are cooking a humble peasant dish that moonlights as a gourmet meal is symbolic of the wealthy Anna and the financially struggling Declan coming together.

Also, the fact that Anna learns how to cook this from Declan is a nod to him having the upper hand in the situation. She had been able to call the shots so far on their journey because she was financing it; he is offering her something that money isn’t able to procure. With her guard down she is able to be herself and to accept Declan more easily. They begin to like each other when their class differences aren’t getting in the way. They come closer to being equals while cooking the dish together and they are really able to see each other for the first time which sparks the attraction.

I have never made this dish before but Anna and Declan made it look like it would be fun. I  looked at several recipes ranging from simple to desperately gourmet and came up with something I feel is authentic to the film and the integrity of the dish.

First, I diced up some good bacon I got at a local market and cooked it in my new Dutch oven that I have been dying to use. I removed the bacon and used the bacon fat to brown my chicken. It doesn’t matter what parts of the chicken you use but bone in is definitely the way to go here.  Once all my chicken pieces were browned I removed those from the pot as well. I then put in the carrots and then after a minute or two, some leeks; onion is traditionally used here but in the film Declan specifically mentions the leeks and I thought this would be a good place for them to fit.

After that, everything else gets put back in the pot and it hangs out in the oven for  almost an hour. In a separate pot I cooked the cut mushrooms and chunks of onion and then added them to the stew. I served this as-is with a side of crusty bread to sop of the juices and it was great. I also tried eating leftovers over mashed potatoes which  I liked even better; I have heard of people enjoying this dish over egg noodles but never got the chance. If you try it this way, let me know how it is in the comment section! Overall, this dish was feel good comfort; I felt the same way watching Leap Year and I suggest checking out both of them!

Leap Year: Coq au Vin

Ingredients:

  •  2 cups
  •  
  •  
  •  1
  •  2
  •  1 large onion largely diced
  •  
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon from the pot.
  2.  Lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
  3. Add the carrots to the pan and cook over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, add leeks stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate back into the pot.
  4. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.
  5. Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew.
  6.  In a medium pan, add the remaining butter and cook the mushrooms and onions over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew.
  7. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot-this dish is very good served over mashed potatoes or perhaps egg noodles.

This entry was posted in Film.

Archer: Peppermint Patty

I have wanted to write about Archer for a long time but there are so many drinks to choose from I had trouble narrowing it down. It is currently winter in my part of the world, and what goes better with hot chocolate than booze? Nothing. Which reminded me of this awesome drink from the show that takes place on a snowy mountain: The Peppermint Patty.

For those of you not familiar with the show, Archer is a long running adult cartoon that centers around Sterling Archer, a narcissistic, binge drinking, womanizing, secret agent and the other completely dysfunctional members of the secret intelligence agency run by his mother. If you like dirty humor, drinking humor, sexual humor, offensive humor and general overall absurdity this show is for you. It has quick, snarky dialogue and lots of pop culture references; these characters have no filter.

The specific episode I am referencing here is “The Archer Sanction”, which is a reference to the obscure Clint Eastwood film, The Eiger Sanction from 1975. In this episode Archer, Lana, and Ray travel to Switzerland to join a mountain expedition so that they can assassinate an assassin. However, Archer has forgotten the target specifics on what he assumes is the back of his toilet at home. With no idea who the target is, they head up the mountain, hoping that they can figure it out based on Archer’s recollection of the target being from one of WWII’s Axis Powers.  They meet Crash McCaron, their guide and the rest of the expedition party: Mario Sevino (of Italy), Michiko Ishikawa (of Japan), and Hans Hessler (of Germany). Several members of the party die, Archer reveals who the target is, and causes an avalanche to end a standoff.

The drink is relevant to the episode because of it’s continual presence. We meet “Pattie” in the beginning when Lana is asking about the target. Note the fact that Archer sips on his drink instead of answering her. Later, when Archer figures out the actual target he starts calling them “Paddy”, which is a play on the word “Pattie”. And then we follow up with Archer returning to the drink in the final scene, indicating that the show has come full circle. Peppermint Pattie becomes another member of the assassination party in this episode. It is actually a clever device in this episode and sounded like a perfect drink for a snowy afternoon.

In the first scene Archer interrupts any productive thought exclaiming about this drink. He gives a basic recipe of dark Crème de Cocao, Crème de menthe, peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate. Sounds delicious. So, I figured that all  have to do to make it is just perfect the ratios.

Hot chocolate from scratch is amazing. I started making it a couple years ago after reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris and I wrote about it here. You can use a mix for this too though; I tried it both ways and it tasted good each time. After the hot chocolate foundation was complete, I stirred in the liquor and considered it finished.

So, if your looking for something warm, minty and delicious during the coldest part of the year you should totally make this. In true Archer fashion, after I had perfected the recipe I continued to test it out over and over. Nothing like getting a job done correctly!

 

Archer: Peppermint Patty:

8oz Hot Chocolate

1/2 oz Dark Crème de Cacao

1/2 oz Crème de menthe

1/2 oz Peppermint Schnapps

** These measurements are guidelines but you can add the liquor according to your specific tastes, I am not your supervisor!

  1. Prepare hot chocolate.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingedients, stir.

 

This entry was posted in TV.

Tokyo Ghoul: Shrimp Tempura and Chicken Onigiri

Tokyo Ghoul is an anime that I had heard a lot about but took a while to sit down and watch. I am sorry I waited so long because it’s very good.  Note: this series is violent and at times gory so if those types of anime turn you off I don’t suggest watching. For those of you that don’t mind violent anime, but want a quality storyline, I highly recommend this one. Adapted from the manga back in 2014, Tokyo Ghoul finally aired in the states in 2017; the first season is available for streaming currently on Hulu.

Tokyo Ghoul is set in an alternate reality where ghouls, human-like creatures who survive by eating human flesh, live among normal humans in secret. The story follows Ken Kaneki, a sweet, naïve college student who goes on a date with a girl named Rize, who reveals herself as a ghoul and attempts to eat him. He is taken to the hospital in critical condition after they are both crushed in a freak accident.  After recovering, Kaneki discovers that he has been transformed him into a half-ghoul because in order to save him, the doctors used some of Rize’s organs.

Now, like normal ghouls, he must consume human flesh to survive.  Some of his struggles include trying to navigate the strange culture he finds himself in and how he fits in with both human and ghouls since he is now both and neither, as well as trying to reconcile the battle inside himself in terms of human/ghoul. In addition, he finds himself in the middle of the authorities ongoing mission to eradicate ghouls from existence and his friends hunted down as well as, witnessing gangs of hungry ghouls killing innocent people. Throw in some torture, face masks, and crazy weapons…this party never stops.

In a show whose characters eat human flesh I didn’t expect to find any food I would be able to make from it. However there is a scene in the episode “Captivity” that features food with a lot of meaning behind it and I thought I would share my insights and a recipe.

In this scene Nakajima, Amon and Kusaba have lunch together. Amon orders a kakiage bowl, Nakajima orders shrimp tempura and chicken onigiri, and the viewer doesn’t see Kusaba order or eat. Later, upon leaving the restaurant, Nakajima and Kusaba are caught with their guard down and Kusaba is killed by Rabbit. After Kusaba’s funeral, Amon and Nakajima go back to the restaurant for lunch. Nakajima talks about how he would always have to pay for Kusaba’s meals, but he is more upset that he will be eating alone from now on. In response to this, Amon explains that he is very hungry and cannot pay for his meal. They share a smile, knowing that this is how they plan to keep Kusaba’s memory alive.

This scene is significant to the outcome of the situation when examined more closely. We realize that the two men that order in the beginning of the scene, live; the man that isn’t shown ordering or eating, does not.  This subtly reinforces the theme of this show that in order to survive one must eat. This is a reflection of the lesson that Ken is learning as a new ghoul. He is repulsed by the idea of eating human flesh, but he must in order to survive.  The message here is that eating is the equivalent of surviving. Overall, this series maintains that food is the top most means of self preservation in this series.

It is also interesting that Kusaba’s memory will be kept alive through the consuming of food because we never see him do it.

To get back to the actual food, I have never cooked any type of Japanese food before and to be honest the idea of making this scared the hell out of me. However, I did a ton of research and read through it enough times that I felt I was ready; ultimately once I started the dishes, I had no idea what I was stressing about.

I started with the onigiri prep. I cut my chicken into tiny pieces which is better for onigiri because it’s easier to fill the rice when using smaller pieces. Then I cooked the chicken in the liquids and let sit to cool. I made the rice in my Instant pot which only takes about 5 minutes, but if you don’t have an IP, use whatever rice cooker you do have and follow directions accordingly. While I waited for my rice and chicken to cool, I made the tempura.

I prepped my shrimp, which was one of the things that stressed me out but in the end was simple. I purchased my shrimp already deveined and then proceeded to remove the shell and legs leaving the tail intact. I then made small cuts along the underside of the shrimp so I would be able to lay it out flat. Since my shrimp had been previously frozen they were really wet, which would interefere with the batter/frying so I dabbed at the end of the tail with a paper towl and wiggled it a bit to get excess water out.

Another trick to tempura is to keep everything cold. I sifted my flour and measured my water and placed everything inside the fridge so it would be really cold when I was ready to use it. I had also read that vegetable oil was the best oil for making this type of dish so I bought a fresh bottle and added it to my fryer and set the temperature. Once the temperature was right I mixed my batter and went to work making the shrimp.

The tempura is fairly quick to cook and once I had them all fried and laid out, I assembled my onigiri. I purchased an onigiri mold for this project because I figured I would take the easiest route possible with a food that I had no experience making however, my husband made a few with his hands that came out just as well. So, if you don’t have a mold it’s no biggie.

I have to admit that I have never been as impressed with myself for making a dish as I was with this one! I was so happy that my food looked like it was supposed to and tasted great. My husband was so impressed that he bragged on FB about my culinary skills! So, for the characters in Tokyo Ghoul this meal is one that represents life and I have to say it brought some life to my kitchen!

Shrimp Tempura:

  •  1 lb shrimp large or jumbo
  • corn starch for dusting
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Cold water
  • 1 egg
  •  vegetable oil for frying
  1. Prep the shrimp: Begin by shelling the shrimp but still leave the tail & last section of shell intact. Make 3-4 cuts along the underside of the shrimp, but be careful not to cut all the way through. You should be able to lay them flat on their bellies without the shrimp curving or rolling over. Dab at the tails with a paper towel to remove excess water.
  2. Fill the deep fryer or skillet with vegetable oil and heat to about 350 degrees. You can check if oil is ready to fry by sticking a wooden chopstick in the oil; if it boils around the wood, the oil is ready.
  3. Prepare the batter: Sift flour into a mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl (or measuring cup), add the egg to the cold water and whisk them together. Skim the foam off the surface.
  4.  Slowly pour the egg water into the flour, then slowly mix together until the flour is mostly saturated. Don’t worry about clumps in the batter – that’s totally okay.
  5. Dust the shrimp with corn starch, then dip them in the batter. Drop them in the heated oil, trying not to crowd them together. Three shrimp at a time is probably best.
  6. Let the shrimp sizzle until the batter is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the shrimp on a paper towel to cool and soak off excess oil. Serve them immediately.

 

Chicken Onigiri

  • 1 cup sushi rice or other short grain or even medium grain rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 pound​ chicken thigh meat
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons sake
  • 2 Tablespoons mirin
  • 1-2 sheets roasted seasoned seaweed (optional)
  1. Rinse the rice in cool water until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a rice cooker and follow directions according to your device. When finished, uncover, stir, and let cool. To speed up the cooling, you can spread rice on a baking sheet or tray.
  2.  While the rice cooks, chop the chicken thighs into small pieces. Put the chicken, soy sauce, sake, and mirin in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is almost completely absorbed about 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. You can speed the cooling by spreading the chicken on a baking sheet or tray in a thin layer.
  3. If using an onigiri mold: Start off by wetting your mold. Remember to re-wet the mold between  each onigiri. Add rice into the mold to just below the half-way mark.  Use the back of a rice paddle to spread the rice out evenly in the mold. Make a small indentation in the rice for the filling to go in.Place a small amount of your filling into the center of the rice – do not overstuff!  Add additional rice to fill the mold.Use the lid of the mold and press down onto the rice.  Remove the lid, invert the mold, and press down on the center ‘button’ to help the rice ball slide out.
  4. If using your hands: Fill a bowl with warm water and stir in some salt.  You will use this to dip your hands in from time to time in order to keep the rice from sticking to you.  How much salt is up to you (you can omit it altogether if you like). Dip your hands in the water, then scoop out a handful of rice (about 1/2 a cup) into one hand.  Using the other hand, make an indentation in the rice and place some filling (about a teaspoon) inside.  Use your hands to mold and press the rice around the filling. You can then shape your rice ball into a triangle, circle, or cylinder.
  5. Wrap the onigiri with strips of seaweed.

This entry was posted in TV.

Divergent: Dauntless Chocolate Cake

I have spent the last month or so reading the Divergent novels, a series of YA dystopian novels set in post apocalyptic Chicago. The series follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior as she explores her identity within a society that defines its citizens by their personality types and separates them into five factions: Amity, Candor, Erudite, Abnegation, and Dauntless. During the series the different factions attempt to control, destroy and dismantle the system. Amidst the societal chaos there is also a love story that develops between Tris and her Dauntless instructor, Four.

The series has been compared to other popular series’ such as The Hunger Games (which  haven’t written about yet), and The Maze Runner (which I have written about here). It also has elements of The Giver and a few other novels thrown in for good measure. Overall, I think Veronica Roth paints a good futuristic picture with the series and handles the YA elements like love and loss in the novels really well.

Another of Roth’s strong points in the Divergent series is that she is able to describe life in the factions in a very fascinating way. She uses a common dystopian plot device and gets very specific with it. What type of clothes people wear, where they work, where they live, how they spend their time and what they eat is all determined by what faction they belong to. It is truly woven into a person’s identity.

The diets of the different factions I found particularly interesting; it’s basically  an edible manifestation of their principle values.  If one could imagine a faction as a meal or dessert, Roth does a great job of illustrating it. For example, Abnegation diet consists of things like chicken and peas with very little seasoning and no types of treats. This type of average meal parallels their beliefs in how they find things like treats to be self indulgent; something Abnegation does not support.  The food consumed in each faction is an extension of what they represent; which brings us to Dauntless Chocolate Cake.

The food that the Dauntless eat is also symbolic of their image.  Food mentioned in relation to the Dauntless are muffins, cheeseburgers and cake; items that can be viewed as indulgent, bold, and flavorful. The food consumed is done with enthusiasm and vigor, alluding to how the Dauntless do everything. They do not sit down to a meal simply for nourishment; it is an action that is meant to be experienced and enjoyed.

We find out later in the series that the cake served at the Dauntless compound is made from a mix. This seems fitting since I couldn’t picture the Dauntless engaging in creative recipe bulding. They are too efficient, not creative enough and would probably utilize any thing in order to get to the enjoyment phase of the meal faster.

So, I used a dark chocolate cake mix and mixed in two packets of dark chocolate fudge instant pudding to really boost the flavor. I rounded out the chocolate madness of this thing by adding a full cup of chocolate chips. My kids were standing next to the oven waiting for this thing to be ready!

I frosted it with a can of dark chocolate frosting. It doesn’t need frosting, but would a Dauntless only do this thing halfway? The flavor of this cake is a very intense chocolate with a moist texture. Delicious. This cake is even better the next day! If you follow me, you know I have made a couple chocolate cakes before. I enjoyed them all for obvious reasons but they all bring something special to the table. This one stands out as a rich, fudgy chocolate cake that definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously; perfect for this YA series.

 

Dauntless Chocolate Cake

1 Box of Chocolate Cake Mix

2 packages of chocolate fudge instant pudding mix

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

1 cup of chocolate chips (optional)

1 can of dark chocolate fudge frosting

 

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mixes, eggs, water and oil.
  3. Beat on low for 30 seconds, beat on medium for 2 minutes. Batter will be very thick. Fold in chocolate chips if using.
  4. Pour into 2 8inch round pans. Bake for 60-65 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely. Frost with chocolate frosting.

 

This entry was posted in Books.

Pulp Fiction: 5 Dollar Milkshake

Pulp Fiction is one of those movies that everyone has seen. Multiple times. Quentin Tarantino’s nod to the gangster film is an amazing, disjointed, violent ride. I love it because there is so much going on in this film. Every time I watch it I notice something new; the briefcase, the Band-Aid, the Bible verse and of course, that 5 dollar milkshake.

The scene with the milkshake is one of the more well known moments in the film. It is when Vincent takes Mia Wallace out for dinner as a favor to Marcellus. They end up going to Jack Rabbit Slim’s, a 50’s style diner joint, where they enjoy dinner right before performing the twist that helped make the film famous. You can watch the scene here:

This exchange between Vincent and Mia is a sort of foreshadowing of the events to follow. It can be argued that Vincent is apprehensive to use Mia’s straw because of the events surrounding Tony Rocky Horror and a rumored foot massage. Perhaps Vincent is afraid of Marcellus’ reaction to him sharing a straw with his wife (an intimate act?) and doesn’t like the idea of being thrown through a window. However, he goes against his first instinct and uses the straw because Mia (flirtatiously) challenges him. He may reason that using the straw is worth the risk.

Later in her apartment, she almost dares Vincent to make a move on her, however the apprehension is still present for him, which is why he must excuse himself to the bathroom. This time, unlike with the straw, he doesn’t get the opportunity to give in to Mia’s flirty invitation because she overdoses while he is debating with himself over what to do. During his discussion in the bathroom it becomes clear that his sexual attraction to Mia is not worth the risk of angering Mr. Wallace.

This scene also gives us a glimpse into these characters’ personalities. Mia orders an (expensive) vanilla milkshake which is symbolic of purity and plainness, but she is an undercover drug addict. The milkshake is a metaphor for Mia’s attempts to project a clean, sweet, and valuable image. This idea is reinforced by the fact that she never reveals her overdose to Marcellus. In this scene,Vincent is fooled by Mia’s vanilla milkshake image and this would explain why he is so taken aback when she OD’s on his heroin.

Vincent orders a dark drink (vanilla coke) which alludes to him never pretending to be innocent. However, during the scene he decides to taste the milkshake because he wants to know what a 5 dollar milkshake tastes like; wondering what the milkshake tastes like is because the concepts of purity, plainness, and luxury are not a part of his experiences.

Making a successful at-home milkshake is not within my experiences,  so while this may seem like a no-brainer recipe for some of you, I was a little stressed out. I decided to do a little research first.

Since Jack Rabbit Slim’s is a 50’s style place I feel like the food is made more authentically with less processed ingredients hence the big price tag. I found several milkshake recipes from the 50’s and I just played around with the amounts until I had created one I really enjoyed in both taste and texture.

I used a vanilla bean ice cream because it has more depth of flavor than regular vanilla ice cream. I used pure vanilla extract that I made myself but even if it hadn’t been mine I do not advise using imitation in this. As a rule, I would never use imitation anything when it’s the main flavor in the dish. I used whole milk  and plain heavy whipping cream to round out my ingredients. I used both the milk and the cream to achieve good flavor and the right milkshake consistency.

After blending I became paranoid that the drink was too thick and was tempted to add more milk but once my husband reminded me that I have a habit of turning milkshakes into milky messes, I left it alone. I am glad I did because the texture was actually perfect when poured into a glass; not too thick and not too runny with a well developed vanilla taste. Yum.

 

5 Dollar Milkshake:

5 Scoops Vanilla Bean Ice cream

1/2 cup Milk

1/2 Heavy Cream

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

whipped cream and maraschino cherry for garnish

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Garnish with whipped cream and cherry.

This entry was posted in Film.

The Maze Runner: Tomato Soup and Biscuits

The Maze Runner is the first book in the popular series of the same name by James Dashner. The series centers around Thomas, who wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a place called The Glade with about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies from below. A new boy arrives every 30 days. The original group has been in The Glade for two years, trying to find a way to escape through a maze that surrounds their living space. This book is amazing and I highly recommend this series!

In this first installment of the series the reader is introduced to the characters, life in the Glade, and how the kids have adapted to being there. Of course I paid special attention to how they were eating in The Glade. All of their food is prepared with what they have managed to farm themselves and apparently everything is cooked by a kid aptly called Frypan.

The food that Frypan makes is not always the best but The Gladers still look forward to it after running the maze all day. “I should go back out there, but screw it. I’m gonna go eat some of Frypan’s nasty casserole.”-Minho

However, amidst all the food that Frypan makes in this novel there is at least one good sounding meal in there: tomato soup and biscuits.

First, this meal is significant because it is made with what’s available. It lends to the credibility of the author and the situation. It also is an indication that the boys are able to be independent and self sufficient; they can produce good quality food by themselves. This is just a small, descriptive reinforcement of how well the Gladers have been able to take care of themselves alone.

Second, tomato soup and biscuits are comfort food; comfort is something they are lacking in their environment so it is compensated for in their food. The particular scene where the food is mentioned is a point where Thomas is incredibly scared and the food seems to comfort him:

…he was psyching himself up for what he had planned for that evening, convincing himself it was the right thing to do.  The only thing to do. Plus, he was absolutely terrified and he didn’t want the others to notice…He barely noticed that he’d been hungry until he started eating Frypan’s hastily prepared meal of biscuits and tomato soup. -James Dashner, The Maze Runner

The food seems to ground Thomas and take his mind off what he has decided to do.

Finally, this meal is significant because it is so simplistic; it is a plain and basic meal. This meal provides the contrast to the surreal chaos they are enveloped in living in The Glade. For the reader, the “everyday” meal reminds us that a place with giant mazes, Grievers, and WICKED is chaotic and strange. It gives the reader a feeling of uneasiness which is part of what makes this book such a great read.

I was able to pull this meal together very easily since it is made with stuff that I keep on hand. I used some of the tomatoes that I canned myself last summer; I would have used fresh but it is the middle of winter here!

The biscuits are a favorite in my house. We serve them frequently because they have no sugar, super easy to make, and really delicious.

The result is a nutrious and delicious dinner that made me feel all warm and fuzzy on this cold winters night. I am going to curl up with the third installment of this series (The Death Cure) so that I can be ready for when the movie comes out!

Tomato Soup:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

a few drops of Worcestershire sauce to taste

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 drops hot pepper sauce

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until onion is tender.
  2. Add carrot and celery; cook 7 to 9 minutes until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes, broth, Worcestershire sauce, salt, thyme, pepper and hot pepper sauce. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. You can also keep in pot and use an immersion blender to achieve a smooth consistency.

Biscuits:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon honey or white sugar

1/3 cup butter

1 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and honey. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead 15 to 20 times. Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used. Brush off the excess flour, and place biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges begin to brown.

 

This entry was posted in Books.

TURN: Washington’s Spies: Secret Eggs

TURN: Washington’s Spies is currently winding up its final season and I had heard great things about it, so I thought I would give it a watch and find out what the buzz is all about. Even though I enjoy historical pieces I didn’t have any prior  TV watching experience with the Revolutionary War time period but I found TURN to be really interesting. It takes place during the Revolutionary War, and follows the Culper spy network on the American side.

There are several major characters in this show, but the shows hero (or maybe anti-hero) would have to be Abe Woodhull; an unsuspecting farmer that is recruited to be a spy for the resistance. He gets into some pretty close calls including landing himself in jail. However he always keeps the independence of America his top priority and even chooses to stay in confinement for the sake of the cause.

One thing I found to be really interesting in TURN is the methods that the spies use to pass information to each other. Living in a digital world, it is such a foreign concept of passing information without using technology and to watch these different methods was probably my favorite part of the show.

At one point messages are conveyed through the use of writing on hard boiled eggs that the person can see once they’ve cracked and opened the egg.  Other than being an historical accuracy from the war, the egg is a perfect metaphor for Abe. On the surface he is just like all the other people in Setauket. however underneath, once the shell is ripped away it becomes revealed that there is more than meets the eye.  Both the egg and Abe are also literally carry messages vital to the war effort. The unassuming is carrying a secret.

I knew that this magic had to be attempted. I looked all over the internet on how this was done back then and decided to try it for myself.

First I hard boiled eggs in my usual manner. I was curious how this would work out using store bought versus farm fresh eggs so I used a couple of both to see if there was a difference.

Then I dissolved the alum into the vinegar and used one of my kid’s paintbrushes to “paint” the mixture onto the egg. I could still see it but it was difficult to keep track of on the egg’s surface. I suggest doing this experiment in a very well lit place.

Then I let the eggs sit and dry for about an hour. I peeled them and…viola! I am using a stock photo here because although my message came out, my accuracy was not good.

My theory is that it works because the vinegar softens the shell and allows the dye to work its magic on the egg. This was a super fun experiment and one that kids would love to do too. I can definitely see the correlation between the eggs and Abe’s character but I also really appreciate the historical ingenuity behind using the eggs to send messages.

 

 

Secret Eggs:

Eggs

2 Cups of White Vinegar

1 tablespoon of Alum Powder

  1. Place the desired amount of eggs in a single layer in a small saucepan.
  2.  Fill the saucepan with water and cover it with a lid. There should be at least one inch of water over the egg.
  3. Place the saucepan on the stove and turn the heat on high and bring water to a high rolling boil.
  4. Let the egg boil for a minute or two. and the turn off heat. Let sit in water 10-12 minutes.
  5. Drain the water out carefully. Run cold water over the eggs until it cooled. This will allow you to touch it without being burned.
  6. Place the alum and vinegar in a small bowl and stir with a spoon. Make sure the alum is completely dissolved into the vinegar.
  7. Dip the paint brush into the solution and write a secret message on the egg’s shell. It might be difficult to see what you are writing, so try to be as accurate as possible.
  8. Let the solution permeate onto the inside of the egg by letting it dry. You can speed this process up by placing the egg under a bright light for 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the shell from the egg and you will see your secret message written on the egg

This entry was posted in TV.

The Walking Dead: Carol’s Tuna Casserole

This time of year it is almost impossible not to think about ghosts, ghouls, and zombies. It is also almost impossible to have zombies on the brain and not think about The Walking Dead. If you have never caught this show it is about a group of people in a zombie apocalypse, led by ex-sheriff Rick Grimes, and their journey of survival amongst the dead and the living.

One of the main characters of this show is Carol. She is tough and clever and it has been really interesting to watch her personality develop over the course of the show.  She starts the show as a battered wife and metamorphoses into a warrior. She defends and protects her group with a fierceness that makes fans of the show love her.  She is not afraid to manipulate or kill in order to survive the new world, and strangely, she is also the most…domestic of Rick’s group. Her previous life as a wife and mother shine through in some of the most unexpected moments of the show, for instance, in the episode “Try” from Season 5.

The plot of this episode is framed by the recent death of Deanna’s son Aiden, and amongst other things going on in the town, Carol reacts by making Deanna a casserole and leaving it for her with a comforting note.  This gesture is significant (and the reason why I decided to write about it) for several reasons.

The first is because it marks the group’s efforts to stay in the town. In a time when death is the norm and often goes by without acknowledgment Carol’s attempt at comforting Deanna is noticeable. It is a gesture that is symbolic of the group’s desire to have the permission to stay; to live in a civilized place amidst the chaos of the world.

The second point about this is that it gives the viewer a reminder of Carol’s old life. At this point in the show she has completely transformed from an abused housewife and mother to a warrior and survivor; this display of domesticity gives a nod to Carol’s former self and shows us how far she has come from when we first met her. And just as she previously performed domestic duties to balance out the chaos of her life with her abusive husband she is now trying to balance out living in the apocalypse with living in the town.

Finally, it is also significant because Carol is observing the social construct of grief that no longer exists in the world. Deanna is dealing with loss and the food here is symbolic of the comfort that people give one another after death.  The fact that it is a tuna casserole is believable because it can be made with what’s available but also because it is a grief food cliché.

To research this dish I watched the clip from the episode to get a good idea of the ingredients that Carol used. I filled in the blanks with other items likely to be on hand in a post apocalyptic world. I knew that this casserole would be pretty basic but the overall recipe is really versatile, so feel free to jazz it up with stuff you like as you go along.

First, I cooked the egg noodles, drained them and set them aside. We see Carol do this part of the recipe in the show. Next, I mixed some cream of celery soup and canned milk together. I used cream of celery soup to gave the casserole a hint of celery flavor which wouldn’t otherwise be possible in this scenario. I used canned milk for the probability factor too, but you can totally use fresh milk or soy milk or whatever you have on hand.

Next I mixed the noodles, the soup mixture, some canned peas, and two cans of tuna into a casserole dish. I covered and baked for 20 minutes, meanwhile I mixed some breadcrumbs and some parmesan cheese with some melted butter. After the 20 minutes in the oven  I gave the casserole a good stir, sprinkled it with the breadcrumb mixture and put it back in the oven  for 5 more minutes.

The result was a simple but comforting casserole. My husband who does not normally care for tuna-noodle anything said it was good. I felt compelled to write about the casserole because in addition to the spooky business of Halloween, I was looking for some classic comfort food for fall. I was able to find both in this dish, it’s a shame that Deanna rejected Carol’s attempt at comfort by leaving hers on the porch.

Carol’s Tuna Noodle Casserole:

1 Can Cream of Celery Soup

1/2 cup milk (Canned or fresh)

1 cup canned green peas

2 cans (about 5 ounces each) tuna in water, drained

2 cups medium egg noodles, cooked and drained

2 tbsp. plain dry bread crumbs

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

2tbsp. melted butter

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F.  Stir the soup and milk together.
  2. Mix peas, tuna and noodles in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Gently stir in soup/milk mixture.
  3. Bake the tuna mixture for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Meanwhile, stir the bread crumbs, cheese and butter in a small bowl.
  4. Stir the tuna mixture and sprinkle with bread crumb/cheese mixture
  5. Bake for 5 minutes or until the bread crumb mixture is golden brown.
This entry was posted in TV.

My Little Pony: Apple Fritters

 

Okay, I have kids, it’s Fall, and I have apples. What better way to process all that than by doing an apple related, My Little Pony post? Exactly. So I scoured some episodes of MLP and found a cameo for Apple Fritters. In an episode, “Apple Family Reunion”, apple fritters are the snack of choice for the Apple family at their annual family gathering. After watching the episode 20 times (if you have kids you can relate to this), I decided to be proactive and head to the kitchen.

In this episode, Applejack takes on the task of planning and organizing the annual Apple family reunion. Granny Smith tells Applejack all about the annual activities that happen at the reunion such as games, quilting and making and eating apple fritters. Determined to do the best job possible, Applejack micro manages and over programs everyone in efforts to make the event better, but instead robs the reunion of what really matters; the time the Apples get to spend together. This could totally be a metaphor for motherhood itself but I don’t want to get too deep here.

The apple fritters are a feature at the reunions not because they are yummy to eat (although I am sure that helps), but because making and eating them inspired great memories for Granny Smith and the rest of the family. When Applejack gets after the ponies cooking the fritters, telling them how to be more efficient she is missing the point of making them.  Although Applejack is being more efficient in her fritter making she is taking away the socializing the ponies get to do while making the fritters-“catching up”  is what the ponies are all really there for. The fritters are just a symbol how the Apple’s value their time together.

I started with a basic doughnut recipe because the foundation of a fritter is, basically, a yeast doughnut. So I mixed up a basic yeast dough and let it hang out for a little over an hour so it could get puffy.

 

While I was waiting for the dough to rise I took my apples, some butter, sugar, cinnamon and a bit of salt and heated them up. I let the apples soften a bit and the mixture create a syrupy glaze. I let it cool.  It made my kitchen smell wonderful!

Once the dough had time to rise and the apples cooled I was able to assemble my fritters. I broke off pieces of dough and rolled them out. You can do them as large or small as you would like but I opted for a smaller size because they more closely resemble the ones in the episode and also so that it would be easier for my kids to pick them up and eat them!

Once rolled out and filled, I followed Applejack’s efficient instructions to,  “roll, fold, crimp and slide to the left”. They made the process very streamlined but I ran into the same problem the Apple family did; I wanted to take my time and have fun with my girls on this project. So, I let them help me and we made ugly fritters but great conversation.

Then I fried the fritters until nice and brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. I then dipped them in a delicious maple glaze and let them sit for a few.

Some of them were shaped weird and not exactly pretty but they tasted fantastic.

In the episode Applejack realizes that the important thing about the reunion is the quality of the time spent with other members of the family and not on the activities themselves. I have to agree that spending the time making and eating these fritters with my little ones made up for their imperfect looks and time spent in the kitchen!

Apple Fritters:

For the dough:

  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon  salt
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 sweet-tart baking apples, such as Honeycrisp or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Flour, for dusting

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, also known as confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Warm water, as needed

**Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Make the dough-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt. Add the warm milk, vanilla, and egg yolks. Mix until smooth. Add the remaining flour and the butter and mix until incorporated. Continue to mix on medium speed until the dough is soft and smooth (it will be slightly sticky). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit and rise in a draft free place for about an hour.
  2. While dough is rising begin making the filing by melting the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples to the pan and sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender and the liquid becomes a syrupy glaze, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. Break off a piece of dough and roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Place some apple mixture on the dough and fold to close and crimp.

 

This entry was posted in TV.