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.

Napolean Dynamite: Tots

Napoleon Dynamite is a weird movie, but that is where all of its charm lives. The characters are deadpan, the plot is mildly absurd, and there is a random dance sequence; everything that geeks love. This movie was filmed for around 400k, which is change compared to most films and ended up grossing over 44M. It has developed a cult following which keeps the characters of Napoleon, Pedro and Uncle Rico in our peripheral pop culture more than ten years later.

I love this film and Jon Heeder as Napoleon, a listless and unenthusiastic teen that spends his days drawing ligers, working on his hacking skills to impress chicks, and feeding his grandma’s llama. Napoleon also lives with Kip, his brother who’s searching for love. They are being looked after by their Uncle Rico who is constantly reliving his glory days of high school football while their Grandma enjoys a trip to the dunes. Napoleon’s bizarre family life is interrupted when his best friend Pedro, decides to run for class president. Napoleon pulls out all his sweet moves to help Pedro win the presidency.

One of my favorite parts of the film and one of the most quoted is the tots scene:

(Napoleon has snuck tator tots out of the lunch room and is eating them during class out of his pants pocket)

Randy: Napoleon, give me some of your tots.

Napoleon: No, go find your own.

Randy: Come on, give me some of your tots.

Napoleon: No, I’m freakin’ starving! I didn’t get to eat *anything* today.

(Randy kicks the pocket with the tots, crushing them)

Napoleon: Ugh! Gross! Freakin’ idiot!

 

My husband was eating a hotdog and tots lunch with my girls a few days ago and I reflexively  quoted Randy’s line at him and it clicked: why not make some tater tots on my own?

The obvious use of tater tots in the film is based on setting; tots are generally associated with grade school lunches. The high school serves as the backdrop for the majority of this film so the tots make sense.

A closer look at the scene in which the tots appear gives us a deeper look into Napoleon’s personality and how he is generally regarded at his school. He sneaks the tots out of the cafeteria to eat during class even though he hasn’t eaten all day; this alludes to the fact that he is a loner. The overall conversation with Randy demonstrates that Napoleon is not only a loner but an outcast; largely ignored by the other kids but occasionally picked on. Randy demands the tots like a bully would demand lunch money; when Napoleon refuses to give them up Randy responds as a bully would, and administers an act of aggression. This whole scene is demonstrative of Napoleon’s place in the high school pecking order.

For research for this post I looked up several DIY tater tot recipes and found ones that covered a wide spectrum including spicy, savory, sweet, and everything in between. I felt I had to put these tater tots in context, so I decided to go with the most basic recipe I could think of; perfect for mimicking a mundane high school lunch.

The recipe I developed was surprising easy and probably something I will incorporate into my actual food rotation. The tater tots were simple to assemble and they can be frozen and reheated later which is a big selling point for me. To start, I chose some russet potatoes and par boiled.

Then I shredded them and mixed with flour and salt and pepper. The hardest part was shaping them into the actual tots, but with practice and patience I was able to get them to resemble the normal tot I am used to seeing.

I was very pleased with the end result. The taste was appropriately plain and the texture was exactly how I remembered them from my own high school cafeteria. They were nostalgically perfect. When I make these in the future I plan on adding spices and some other flavors to suit my current tastes. I suggest anyone making these to do the same unless you really pine for that high school cafeteria realness. Regardless of how you like your tater tots flavored they will always be a classic grade school food, just as Napoleon Dynamite has become a classic film.

 

High School Lunch Tater Tots:

2 pounds Russet Potatoes, peeled

1 Tbsp Flour

salt and pepper to taste

Shortening for frying

  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until parboiled, about 6-7 minutes; drain well and let cool.
  2. Using a box grater, finely shred potatoes.
  3. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Stir in flour; season with salt and pepper, to taste. The mixture should be workable but dry. Form potatoes into tots.
  4. Heat vegetable oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  5. Add tots to the skillet, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
This entry was posted in Film.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-Rum Ham

I apologize to any regular readers about taking the summer off but I promise I am coming back from my trip to the Jersey Shore very inspired.  I can’t get a certain episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” out of my brain. It’s the one where, you guessed it, Frank, Dennis and the rest of the gang head to the Jersey Shore. Earlier in the summer, as I sat on the beach in Atlantic City contemplating the relationship of Charlie and his waitress, I suddenly remembered the real star of this episode: Frank’s Rum Ham. Could his ridiculous creation be a real thing? I had to find out.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is about  “The Gang”, which consists of five of the most ridiculous, self centered, shameless, manipulative and stupid people ever. A lot of the episodes of this show are filled with the gang engaging in some sort of manipulative scheme or conspiring against each other for no reason. The gang runs Paddy’s Pub, a disgusting dive in Philadelphia which serves as the arena and backdrop for the gang’s shenanigans.

In “The Gang goes to the Jersey Shore” Dennis and Dee lead the gang outside of Philadelphia to revisit one of their old favorite vacation spots on the Jersey Shore. Once they arrive, Dennis and Dee realize that the shore isn’t the magical place that exists in their memories. While Dennis and Dee try (unsuccessfully) to recapture the shore experiences of their youth, Charlie spends a magical evening at the beach with his waitress.

 

Mac and Frank spend their time sitting on the beach eating the Rum Ham, but remove themselves to a dingy in the ocean because they are tired of protecting their ham from the beach’s stray dogs. Floating around in the sun, and the booze infused ham proves too much for them and they pass out. They wake up very far from shore and Frank starts to panic as soon as he realizes that the Rum Ham is floating away. They linger in the ocean for a while, are rescued by a boat full of guidos and end up partying the night away getting spray tanned and taking steroids. Mac and Frank become reunited with Rum Ham on the party boat solidifying their awesome adventure.

The ham in this episode is significant because it obtains a level of personification that food rarely achieves. Rum Ham actually becomes a member of “The Gang” in this episode. It is just like Mac and Frank; loaded with booze afloat on the ocean; it even gets rescued by the guidos! Also during this adventure, Mac and Frank talk directly to the ham, at one point Frank actually apologizes to it while it’s floating away as if it was leaving in the middle of an argument.  When reunited, Mac and Frank both exclaim “Rum Ham!” as if shouting a buddies name before hugging it.

The Rum Ham is also a good representation of how this show often crosses the line into bizarre territory. The world that “The Gang” lives in is definitely not grounded in reality and is often disgusting as well as inappropriate. Mac’s initial reaction to the ham is a bit of disbelief, which is an expected reaction, however, he quickly declares Frank a genius and begins eating Rum Ham and shoving away the stray dogs. This marks a place in the show where the expected quickly gives way to the bizarre which is what this show thrives on.

In the episode Frank describes the making of Rum Ham by stating: “This is ham soaked in rum. It is loaded with booze”. I figured that would be the best pace to start. I wanted to use a spiced rum because I felt that would taste better with ham as well as give it that beach-y vibe.  I  also figured that to cook the ham in booze wouldn’t be enough and that I should soak it first to give it a chance to really absorb the rum. So, I created a marinade for the ham to hang out in comprised of spiced rum and brown sugar. I let it sit in my fridge about 5-6 hours but the longer you let it sit the more rum-ish it will be.

I kept thinking about Rum Ham hanging out in the ocean all day and I became inspired to cook this thing in my slow cooker. Not only would it infuse the ham more with the rum/brown sugar flavor but it would also save me from turning on my oven in the summer.

I get pretty vague with the cooking instructions on this recipe for a few reasons. The first being that as a post having to do with IASIP I figured that Frank would spend little to no time with careful preparations for his rum ham and so I could afford to be a little laid back with mine too. Also, I have found that when cooking with booze it is really more a matter of taste than anything, so use as much or as little rum in this as you like. There is even a non-alcoholic rum extract out there for those of you that want to participate but are not comfortable cooking with alcohol.

The ham came out really flavorful; the salt of the ham with the sweetness of the brown sugar was quite nice. The spiced rum I used gave it a nice complexity of flavor as well. I also feel that by soaking it in the marinade and then soaking it again in the slow cooker worked really well to infuse the flavors into the meat.  I would definitely make this again for a nice summery dinner to be enjoyed along with my Jersey Shore memories, (none of which involve stray dogs or steroids).

Rum Ham

Spiral Cut Ham trimmed to fit into your slow cooker with the lid on

1/4 cup of spiced Rum plus a splash

3Tbs Brown Sugar plus more for sprinkling

1-2 Cups Water

  1. Place the ham in a freezer bag or large bowl. Combine 1/4 cup rum, brown sugar, and water and it to the ham.  Place in fridge for at least a couple hours turning every once in a while. The longer it hangs out in there the stronger the rum flavor will be.
  2. Sprinkle some brown sugar to coat the bottom of your slow cooker. Place ham in there flat side down. Sprinkle some more brown sugar on the ham and add a splash of rum into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours. Every hour or so baste the ham with the collected juices from the bottom of the slow cooker.

 

 

This entry was posted in TV.

Twin Peaks 2017: Cherry Pie Reboot

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Twin Peaks is coming back!! For those of you that are unfamiliar with this gem of a show let me catch you up. Twin Peaks is the early 90’s masterpiece created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. It centers around the murder investigation of  small town homecoming queen Laura Palmer. FBI agent Dale Cooper heads the investigation and as time goes on the focus of the show is not only to catch the killer but the other goings-on of  the strange townsfolk in Twin Peaks. The show walks the line between picturesque small town life and the sinister things that occur just below the surface. Back in the 90’s we were able to find out who killed Laura Palmer but we never found out what happened to any other the other townsfolk after the show abruptly ended.

Twin-Peaks-Return

Showtime has picked up the show and is getting ready to continue the story 25 years from where it left off. Audiences have been assured that numerous actors are returning for the reboot including  Kyle McLachlan reprising his role as  the quirky, pie loving Dale Cooper.

A few months ago I created a post for Dale Cooper’s favorite diner style cherry pie. It was delicious! However, with the revival of the show, I felt that the recipe needed a revival as well. So, this is my 2017 Double R Diner cherry pie.

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Previously, I used a store bought crust because pie crust intimidates me and the fact that it seemed like a more likely ingredient for a diner pie. I decided to kick the crust up a notch this time around and make my own. If you want to use store bought for this, feel free! I did some research and came up with something I thought would taste good and still be simpler than regular pastry dough-short bread crust!

This crust was very easy to make and work with. It gave me a lot of confidence in my crust making skills. A great tip for this was to roll the dough out in between two pieces of cling film, it made it much easier to get off the counter and into the pie plate!

In addition to the crust getting revamped, the filling for this pie got an overhaul. In the previous version, I did a very simple filling but with fresh ingredients; this time, I wanted to take  the same concept and make the filling a bit more fancy. I added some vanilla and almond flavor which really gives the filling a bit more depth and pairs well with the short bread crust.

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I even decorated the top of this one and drizzled some sugar on the top crust!

Overall, this pie is delicious and not very difficult. I really like the new flavors it brings as well as the different crust texture. To me, this cherry pie is not better than the previous one just different. I am hoping the same idea rings true for the restored Twin Peaks.

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Twin Peaks New Double R Diner Cherry Pie:

Crust:

2 cups Flour

1/4 tsp Salt

2/3 cup Powdered Sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, cold and cut in chunks

1 Egg

1/2 Tbsp. Water

Filling:

6 cups fresh, pitted Cherries

1/2 cup White Sugar

1/2 cup Brown Sugar

4 Tbsp Corn Starch

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp Almond Extract

Egg wash:

1 egg

1 Tbsp. Milk

*Granulated sugar

  1. Begin the crust. In a stand mixer place butter, flour, and sugar in mixing bowl and use the paddle attachment mix until crumbly (sorta like wet sand). You can also use your fingers for this.
  2. In a separate bowl blend the egg and water together.
  3. Mix the egg mixture into the dry mixture just until blended. wrap in cling film and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Assemble the filling. Mix the cherries, sugars and cornstarch and let sit for about 30 minutes to let juices flow.
  5. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken.
  6. Ladle filling (fruit first!) into pie crust and then add juice until full.
  7. Divide the dough in half. Rollout one half and fit over pie plate. Trim edges.
  8. After filling, roll out second half and fit over pie. Trim edges. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes from any excess dough and arrange on top.
  9. Cover pie with egg wash and dust with granulated sugar.
  10. Bake  at 375 for 45 minutes, wrap edges of pie with foil if they brown too fast.
  11. Let cool before cutting.

 

This entry was posted in TV.

Black Butler: Gateau au Chocolat

I am willing to admit it; I am an anime fan. I love the plot lines, the visuals, and the complexity of the characters and their relationships.  I also tend to love series’ that have an obvious food theme. Black Butler happens to have all of the things I enjoy in one series. There is an interesting plot, well developed characters and at least one delicious dish presented in every episode.

For those of you that don’t watch anime or haven’t caught this particular show it follows Ciel Phantomhive, the adolescent head of the Phantomhive family, who is tasked with solving crimes in London’s underworld. He does this with the help of his trusty butler, Sebastian. Ciel has formed a contract with Sebastian Michaelis who is really a demon that has taken on the disguise of a butler, and in exchange for his services he will eventually be allowed to consume Ciel’s soul. So, we find ourselves in this show that is a mix of  mystery, scifi and Martha Stewart.

The first dish I have attempted from this awesome show comes from episode “His Butler, Supremely Talented”, which is about betrayal and drama that happens in conjunction with a curry competition. The dish I chose has nothing to do with curry; it’s Sebastian’s  gateau au chocolat, or chocolate cake.

The Gateau au Chocolat is important because it is part of a larger theme of the series; Black Butler deals heavily in the theme of appetites. Murder, lust, power, and sweets and are just some of the appetites that belong to the characters in this series.  The food is representative of the appetites overall and Sebastian’s appetite for Ciel’s soul in particular. The cake, in addition to all the food that is served, is a subtle reminder of Sebastian’s intentions.

It is also interesting to note that Sebastian prepares all of the food for Ciel; whose soul he intends to eat.  It is almost like Sebastian is fattening a calf for slaughter. I wonder if the sweetness of the food affects the taste of the soul?

Maing this, I was a little intimidated but I was determined. I was intimidated because I have been making a lot of complicated recipes lately and I was feeling a little exhausted by another one. However, it was much more simple than I thought. The hardest part was converting the ingredients to US measurements. The final result was almost like a brownie; dense and rich with great chocolate flavor. I loved this cake and will definitely be making it again.

 

Sebastian’s Gateau au Chocolat

12 oz. Dark Chocolate

3/4 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Flour

2/3 Cup Butter

4 Eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Cut a parchment circle to fit the bottom of the pan and butter it as well.
  2. Combine the chocolate, butter and sugar in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Melt over medium heat, stirring until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Set the mixture aside.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate. Whisk in the flour.
  4. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl just until they form firm peaks; do not overbeat.
  5. Add ⅓ of the egg whites to the chocolate batter and mix vigorously. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Do this slowly and patiently. Do not over mix, but be sure that the mixture is well blended and that no streaks of white remain.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is firm and springy, 35 to 40 minutes.
  7. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before unmolding. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired

This entry was posted in TV.