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Monthly Archives

December 2016

book review, recipe

Making Arrangements + Caramel Cake

Expecting to die from cancer, Lang does her best to make sure her husband survives without her. She leaves notes for important moments and even prepares dessert for his next birthday. When he unexpectedly dies before she does, her life is turned upside down. In Ferris Robinson’s novel Making Arrangements, Lang has to learn how to cope when life doesn’t go exactly as she planned.

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While the story itself is an important reminder to expect the unexpected, I found most of the characters to be quite unlikeable. Even Lang herself was weak and self-defeating for most of the novel, probably due to her son Teddy’s and late husband’s attempts to keep her in the dark and stifle any ounce of gumption she may have once had. It was refreshing when she gave in to her impulses, finally forging new relationships and learning to be self-sufficient.

Baking comes effortlessly to Lang. Skilled at making cakes, it’s important to her to provide her husband with a birthday cake even after she’s gone. She lovingly makes and then freezes his favorite, a caramel cake, so it will be waiting for him.

The theme of this book makes it an appropriate read for the end of the year; likewise, this caramel cake seemed to be a perfect treat to bring along to a holiday party or New Year’s celebration. Ferris Robinson provided me with a copy of her recipe for Decadent Deep South Caramel Cake (along with a copy of the book), so I set to work making what I hoped would turn out to be a decent imitation of Lang’s own masterpiece.

I preheated the oven first, greased and floured the cake pans, and assembled all of my cake ingredients. (I also got out the 2 sticks of butter for the icing so that it would be easier to use when I was ready later.) In a large bowl, I combined the plain white cake mix, whole milk, 3 eggs, vanilla extract and another stick of butter, melted. Once blended, I used an electric mixer on medium for 2 minutes.

I split the cake batter evenly between my two cake pans and set them in the 350-degree oven for 27 minutes.

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After they were finished, I put them on a cooling rack in the pans for 10 minutes and then inverted onto the racks so that they could continue to cool.

While they fully cooled, I worked on the caramel icing. In a non-stick saucepan, I melted 2 sticks of butter and stirred in 1 pound of brown sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt, until the sugar dissolved. I added in the evaporated milk and stirred until it was fully incorporated. This mixture came up to a boil and I left it boil softly for about 4 minutes. (At one point, my boil got a little out of control, but I just turned down the heat and kept stirring until it became a little less vigorous. Just go with it – caramel can sometimes be a little intimidating but it doesn’t have to be difficult.)

I took the saucepan with the caramel mixture off the heat to allow it to cool. I used this time to sift my powdered sugar and even out the tops of the cooled cakes. I also began boiling some water in a smaller saucepan to use for my double-boiler. After cooling for about 7 minutes, I added the caramel mixture to my bowl of powdered sugar and vanilla, using the electric mixer to thoroughly combine the icing.

My bottom layer of cake on a plate, I spread a thick layer of caramel icing along the top. Once it was well-coated, I placed the second cake on top of it and poured the icing on it, allowing it to spill off the edges and coat the sides. I’m not great at cake-decorating or evenly icing cakes, so given the consistency of the frosting I thought this would be the best way. If you use this method, be careful that the icing doesn’t spill over the sides of the plate (or that you have something in place to catch the overflow). It did provide even coverage, but it made a bit of a mess. Sadly, my presentation wasn’t as great as it could’ve been, but I was hoping the taste would make up for it.

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The good news is, it absolutely did. The cake was delicious, very moist and airy. The caramel icing had great flavor and once set, it provided a nice thick and slightly hard coating on the cake. A decadent cake for sure, one that is worth making for any special occasion.

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Decadent Deep South Caramel Cake

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Print

Provided directly by Ferris Robinson. The recipe and an excerpt of the novel are also available in the free e-cookbook KP Authors Cook Their Books.

Ingredients

    Cake
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix [Note: A 16.25 ounce package was the largest I was able to find in the store; I used it and had no problems.]
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (not imitation)
  • Lang’s Famous Decadent Caramel Icing

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 (16 oz.) box of light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup evaporated milk (canned)
  • 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, then dust with flour.
  3. Blend cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer. When blended, beat on medium speed for about two minutes.
  4. Pour batter into greased cake pans and bake until they are golden brown and spring back when lightly to touch, about 27 to 29 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before inverting onto plate. Make sure they are completely cool before icing.
  5. While the cakes cool, prepare the Decadent Caramel Icing. Heat butter, brown sugar and salt in a saucepan, stirring until the brown sugar dissolves. Add milk and stir until blended. Bring to slow boil for about four minutes, stirring constantly. Let hot mixture cool for several minutes.
  6. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix with electric mixer until lighter in color and caramelized. Ice that cake! Work quickly, while the frosting is still warm because it will set up. If the frosting gets too hard to work with, place it over low heat for a minute, stirring constantly. [I mixed in the sugar and vanilla in a homemade double-boiler (glass bowl over gently boiling saucepan) and this helped to prevent it setting up.]

Cake can be stored covered in plastic wrap or aluminum foil at room temperature for up to 1 week, or it can be frozen, wrapped in saran and foil, for up to 6 months. Thaw the cake overnight before serving.

The icing recipe made significantly more icing than I needed. If you wanted to make an additional cake layer, so that it has 3 instead of 2, you would still likely have enough without altering the above icing recipe.

I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s celebration! Looking forward to seeing you all again in 2017!

* This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

book review, recipe

The Thornbirds + Shepherd’s Pie

My parents watched The Thornbirds miniseries in 1983. My name is Megan, the same as the main character – it also happened to be the 10th most popular name in 1985, just before I was born. Not a coincidence. Thankfully, they watched the show and didn’t read the book, in which her name is spelled Meghann. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to get around to reading this book, my namesake, for years. I finally did.

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For anyone who has seen the miniseries, The Thornbirds book (written by Colleen McCullough six years prior in 1977) is pretty similar. It tells the story of the Cleary family as they move to Drogheda, a sheep station in Australia, and live there through the years. Meghann, usually called Meggie, is the only daughter in a family of 8 brothers.

Already a regular Drogheda visitor when the family first arrives, the local priest Ralph befriends them but takes a special interest in Meggie. Her mother pays her little notice, preferring her sons, so he makes it a point to see that she doesn’t lack for attention and is given the opportunity for a good education and taught to ride a horse. As Meggie grows older, their familiarity breeds stronger feelings.

In a cruel turn of events, Ralph must make a choice that is really no choice at all for the devout priest. The family’s future is forever changed, but Drogheda remains a part of all of their lives no matter what. To honor their massive homestead, I decided to make shepherd’s pie. I found a recipe from Alton Brown and went to work.  

First, I chopped my onion and carrots, taking care to make them roughly equal in size. Then, I peeled and cut up my potatoes, putting them into a saucepan of water as I did so. I put them on stove, covered to bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and began on the meat filling. I cooked the onions and carrots for about 4 minutes, added the garlic, and then added the lamb. I seasoned with salt and pepper. Once that was cooked through, I added all of the remaining ingredients – tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme and chicken broth.

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While the sauce thickened, I mashed the potatoes with the half and half, butter, salt and pepper. I separated an egg and stirred in the yolk.  Then, I added the peas and corn (both frozen) to the filling. It went into a glass baking dish and I did my best to smooth the mashed potatoes over the top.

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It baked for about a half hour and smelled delicious the entire time. It was torture waiting for it to cool before we could enjoy it.

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Shepherd’s Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

From: Alton Brown, Food Network

Ingredients

    For the potatoes:
  • 1½ pounds russet potatoes
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • For the meat filling:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ pounds ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen English peas

Directions

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
  4. Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

book review, recipe

The House of the Spirits + Beef Empanadas

Almost all books can open your eyes to new experiences – whether it be new cultures, new points of view, or just something you didn’t know before. The same book can have different meaning from person to person, and it can have a different meaning from reading to reading. I don’t love everything I read, but I do appreciate the opportunity I have to come away with a new knowledge of the world, be it big or small.

The House of the Spirits, a selection for one of my book clubs, was one such book. By Isabel Allende, and originally written in Spanish, it is the story of strong Chilean women, spanning three generations. I don’t have a strong opinion about it either way, but in the end, I’m glad I read it.

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It was not the easiest book for me to get into, and if I hadn’t been on vacation with a limited selection of reading material, I might have put it down and called it a day. As captivating as these three women were, the common thread throughout all of their narratives was Esteban, a really rather unlikeable character, who outlived all of them.

With elements of magical realism, like many Latin American stories, we follow Clara the Clairvoyant, her daughter Blanca and her granddaughter Alba as they live in Esteban’s orbit. For all of the beautiful writing and the expansive time covered, it feels as though the story slags on, with so little happening in any given chapter. Until the end, when Alba – the joy of Esteban’s life and who feels like the most important character – takes revolutionary steps that not only change her family forever but her country too.

It is in this part of the book, while stuck in the house during a curfew, that the maids decide to make empanadas as a way of entertaining themselves. I have always loved empanadas and thought making them on a very snowy day in Detroit would be a great way to entertain myself too!

I found a recipe from The New York Times for beef empanadas and went to work. In an attempt to save time, I used refrigerated dough, as suggested by a different recipe. Looking back, I wish I’d made the dough included in the original recipe (I’ll include it below). If you do decide to use refrigerated dough, you will probably need 2 packages, or 4 total pie crusts.

Since my dough was already made, I started with the filling. I used ground beef and ground chorizo, because I already had them on hand – I think they work just as well. I chopped the onion and set the beef to cooking on the stovetop.

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While the beef browned, I peeled and diced my potatoes. Once the beef was nearly cooked through, I added the onion and the chorizo to the pan, allowing them to cook for about 10 minutes. Then I added the potatoes, garlic and spices, seasoning with salt and pepper.

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After a few more minutes, I added the tomato paste, paprika, cayenne pepper (about an ⅛ teaspoon) and a cup of water. It began simmering and I let it all cook together for another 10 minutes.

While that cooked, I also chopped my scallions and made two hard-boiled eggs. Once the filling was finished, I put it in a bowl to cool and added the sliced scallions.

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I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and started making the dough rounds. Unrolling the dough was surprisingly difficult, but it did add this bright spot to my cooking.

I got about 15 total rounds out of my two sheets of dough, only enough to use half the filling. (The rest of the meat and potato mixture made a great addition to breakfast burritos as well as a quick dinner of tacos.) On each round, I added about 1 tablespoon of the meat filling, a sprinkle of chopped hard-boiled eggs, and a sprinkle of finely chopped green olives. Using more filling made them difficult to close.

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I brushed them with some melted butter and put them in the oven on a parchment lined baking sheet for 15 minutes. They didn’t come out quite as golden as they might have if I’d made my own dough, but they still tasted delicious.

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Beef Empanadas

  • Servings: makes 30-36
  • Print


From: The New York Times Cooking Section

Ingredients

    Dough Ingredients

  • 4 oz lard or butter, plus more for brushing tops
  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 750 grams all-purpose flour, about 6 cups, more as needed
  • Filling Ingredients

  • 1 pound beef chuck, in 1/8-inch dice (or very coarsely ground)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lard or olive oil, or a combination, for sautéing
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 ounces diced chorizo (or ground)
  • ½ pound potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped marjoram or 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon pimentón dulce or paprika
  • Large pinch cayenne
  • Beef or chicken broth, as necessary, or use water
  • ½ cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • ¼ cup chopped pitted green olives
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

Directions

  1. Make the dough: Put 2 cups boiling water, 4 ounces lard and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large mixing bowl. Stir to melt lard and dissolve salt. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Gradually stir in flour with a wooden spoon until dough comes together. Knead for a minute or two on a floured board, until firm and smooth. Add more flour if sticky. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Make the filling: Season chopped beef generously with salt and pepper and set aside for 10 minutes. Melt 3 tablespoons lard in a wide heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and fry until nicely browned, stirring throughout to keep pieces separate, about 5 minutes.
  4. Turn heat down to medium and add onion and chorizo. Keep turning mixture with a spatula, as if cooking hash, until onion is softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, garlic, thyme and marjoram and stir well to incorporate. (Add a little more fat to pan if mixture seems dry.) Season again with salt and pepper and let mixture fry for 2 more minutes. Stir in tomato paste, pimentón and cayenne, then a cup of broth or water. Turn heat to simmer, stirring well to incorporate any caramelized bits.
  5. Cook for about 10 more minutes, until both meat and potatoes are tender and the sauce just coats them — juicy but not saucy is what you want. Taste and adjust seasoning for full flavor (intensity will diminish upon cooling). Stir in scallions and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. Divide chilled dough into 1-ounce pieces and form into 2-inch diameter balls. Roll each piece into a 4 1/2-inch circle. Lay circles on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour.
  7. Moisten outer edge of each round with water. Put about 2 tablespoons filling in the center of each round, adding a little chopped green olive and some hard-cooked egg to each. Wrap dough around filling to form empanada, pressing edges together. Fold edge back and finish by pinching little pleats or crimping with a fork.
  8. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place empanadas on parchment-lined or oiled baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Brush tops lightly with lard or butter and bake on top shelf of oven until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

of interest

KP Authors Cook Their Books

I’m excited to announce that one of my blog recipes is featured in a new e-cookbook! Even better news – it’s free! This cookbook is a compilation of recipes chosen/created by authors to go along with their latest books from Kindle Press. Jim Nelson, author of one of my favorite books this year – Bridge Daughter, kindly asked if he could use my recipe for Zucchini Pancakes for his entry. And look, it’s right there:

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If you have a Kindle, check out the link here to download the latest version of KP Authors Cook Their Books.

of interest, recipe

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life + Mac and Cheese in a Jalapeno-Chipotle Cream Sauce

I have been wanting to talk about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life since I watched the long-awaited last four words two weeks ago. Even though I started it a little late because of my trip, I still finished it before most of my friends. [SPOILER ALERT: Scroll down to the recipe if you’d like to avoid potential spoilers for any/all of the four new episodes.]

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Photo Credit: E-Online

I have to admit, like many, I was a little disappointed in the Netflix revival. It was certainly enjoyable to see the familiar faces around Stars Hollow and revisit the beloved characters. There were peaks where they seemed to really have their rhythm back (gotta love those fast talkers) and poignant moments that captured the essence of the show, but for me, those were few and far between.

I didn’t hate the final season or the final episode; in fact, I liked it quite a lot, and the series finale can make me tear up to this day. It was definitely a shame that it couldn’t be written and directed by the wonderful Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan, but I have to say, after hearing those last four words, I am beyond glad that Rory didn’t find out she was pregnant at the age of 22, just as she graduated Yale to conquer the world (which obviously she didn’t…).

In the context of these 4 episodes and the “circle of life” and all that, fine, I buy it and I’m okay with it. That doesn’t mean I wanted that future for Rory (and definitely not at 22). I don’t even think that she wanted it for herself. While it did not lack for nostalgia, the revival lost a lot of its small town feel and its charm, but what it really seemed to lose the feel of its most important characters – the Gilmore girls.

As Lorelai didn’t get the kids’ food she was expecting when a pregnant Sookie made mac ‘n cheese for their first foray into catering, I don’t think we exactly got what we were hoping for with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Still, it was good in its way. So, the recipe that seemed most fitting for this post (and the one Deanna and I were most excited to try) was the Macaroni & Cheese in a Jalapeno-Chipotle Cream Sauce.

First, we began preheating the oven to 350 degrees and put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.

I deseeded and coarsely chopped the jalapenos, cut the ends off of the garlic cloves, and cut 2 chipotle peppers into a few large pieces. I cooked the jalapeno peppers and the garlic with some olive oil in a large skillet until softened and then added the chipotle peppers. Fair warning: don’t forget to ventilate. If you can open a window or turn on an exhaust fan, it would be a good idea to do that before cooking the peppers. Deanna’s little apartment was so full of intense pepper fumes that we had a little trouble breathing for a while.

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Once the water was boiling, we salted it like the sea and added the noodles to cook. We chose cavatappi, but feel free to use whichever noodles you prefer – the original recipe called for farfalle.

We tossed the whole mixture into the food processor to make a smooth sauce. My food processor is pretty big, so I’m not sure if that’s why we had trouble getting them to come together, but if you have the same problem, I suggest adding some milk to the mixture a little bit at a time until it becomes smoother.

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We tossed the finished noodles in the pepper sauce so that they were evenly coated and began working on the cream sauce.

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We used 6 tablespoons each of melted butter and flour to create a roux. Then, we added 4 cups of whole milk and stirred until it thickened. At that point, in went the cheese and 2 teaspoons of salt, which we stirred until it was melted and combined.

Next, we poured the whole pot of deliciousness over the pepper-coated noodles and stirred until it was all covered.

We put the foil-covered dish in the oven and let it bake for 20 minutes, then removed the foil and let it bake for another 10 minutes. It was hard to not dive right in immediately, but even after waiting 15 minutes, it burned my mouth. Look at the ooey-gooey-ness. Yum!

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That’s a wrap on Gilmore Week! Thanks for sticking with me, and if you enjoyed the recipes, I suggest you pick up a copy of the cookbook, pop in some of your favorite episodes and whip up something delicious to eat while you watch.

Macaroni & Cheese in a Jalapeno-Chipotle Cream Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • Butter, for preparing pan
  • 1 lb cavatappi pasta [original recipe recommends farfalle]
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3 large jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 2 TBS chipotle peppers, coarsely chopped [I used 2 of the canned peppers in adobo]
  • 6 TBS butter
  • 6 TBS flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot, two-thirds full of water, bring it to boil over high heat. Salt generously. Add pasta and stir. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until pasta is al dente on the edges but still uncooked in the middle. [Use directions on box as a guide, especially if using a different kind of pasta. The cavatappi took about 9 minutes.] Strain and pour into a buttered 9×13 baking pan.
  3. While the water is coming to a boil, heat olive oil, jalapenos and garlic in medium pan over high medium-high heat. [It definitely helps to ventilate your kitchen! Turn on an exhaust fan if you have one.] Stir frequently to ensure peppers are evenly coated with oil.
  4. Once the peppers are lightly browned on the edges and the garlic turns golden brown, add chipotle peppers. Cook for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.
  5. Add entire pepper mixture to blender or food processor. Use the stir or chop setting until mixture turns into a smooth sauce without lumps. [If you have trouble achieving a smooth texture, add milk about 1 TBS at a time and pulse until the sauce becomes smoother.]
  6. Once the pasta is ready, pour the pepper sauce on top, stirring gently until evenly distributed.
  7. To make the cream sauce, use a medium saucepan to melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir until a grainy, yellowish paste is created.
  8. Add milk to the roux and stir constantly for several minutes until the sauce noticeably begins to thicken. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt.
  9. Pour the cream sauce onto the pasta-peppers mixture and stir gently until it is evenly distributed.
  10. Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, of interest, recipe

Talking As Fast As I Can + Luke’s Cheeseburgers

Two months ago, I pre-ordered Lauren Graham’s collection of personal essays. Last week, it arrived! I couldn’t wait to dive in and, once I started reading, I tackled it within a few hours. She covered everything from her time on Parenthood (another enjoyable TV favorite) to her experience writing her novel Someday, Someday, Maybe and, of course, what it was like to be a part of Gilmore Girls the first time around and how lucky she felt to get to do it all again in the recent revival.

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Reading Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between is what I imagine talking with Lauren Graham to be like – funny, genuine and a little all over the place. As such, she didn’t spend too much time on any one thing and, in a few cases, I was left wanting more.

I thought it was interesting to learn that, as an actor who doesn’t particularly like watching her work, she hadn’t actually seen much of the original Gilmore Girls series. One of my favorite parts of the book was her chapter on the show as she watched it on Netflix. Another natural favorite was her chapter on the revival – don’t worry, she gives fair warning about the spoilers. After devouring the new episodes and being left with mixed feelings about it (more on that in my next post), it was above all nice to see the heart that went into making it, on Lauren’s part as well as everyone else involved.

Deanna and I chose to pair Lauren’s book with a Gilmore Girls classic, a dish that Lorelai herself ate many many times on the show – the Luke’s Cheeseburger. If you’re visiting Stars Hollow (I wish!), a stop at Luke’s for breakfast or lunch is an absolute must and, based on the quantity these ladies ate, I’d say they’re highly recommended.

If you have a man friend who can help you out by throwing on a flannel shirt, a backwards hat, and a bit of a sarcastic no-nonsense attitude, you can try to get there. Even without the Luke imitation, these burgers were quite delicious.

To start, Deanna seasoned the beef and formed the patties, while I prepped our chosen toppings of lettuce, tomato and red onion.

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If you like your buns toasty, as I do, start by heating a griddle or large skillet and lightly buttering both sides of the sesame buns. Once the griddle is hot, place them butter side down and rotate them as needed to get a nice even golden brown on them.

While the buns are toasting (they can sometimes take longer than the burgers), get another skillet going over medium-high heat. Place the burgers in the preheated pan and, making sure to leave space between them, let cook through for about 3 minutes. Flip the burgers and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes. (Be sure to cook it to your desired doneness, which can be done with a meat thermometer.) If you’re adding cheese, do so now and cover loosely to help it melt.

Place the sesame buns on the plate and arrange the garnish as desired, before adding the burger to the bottom of the bun. Top with condiments if you like. Lorelai would request that you serve with french fries.

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If you’re feeling fancy, you can eat them with pinkies up, like I made Deanna do.

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We hope you enjoy! And, remember, no cell phones.

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Luke’s Cheeseburgers

  • Servings: Makes 2 half-pound burgers, or 4 quarter-pound burgers
  • Print

Ingredients

  • Sesame seed buns
  • Butter
  • 1 lb lean beef, ground
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Cheddar cheese slices
  • Red onion, sliced thinly
  • Tomato, sliced
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Pickle chips

Directions

  1. Prepare garnishes as desired. Recommend 1 lettuce leaf in halves, 2 thin tomato slices, 3-4 rings of red onion, and 3 pickle chips per burger.
  2. To make the hamburger patties, divide the ground beef as desired into 2 or 4 portions. Roll each into a ball then flatten between palms. Season each flattened patty with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium heat. Lightly butter each half of each bun and place butter-side down on the griddle. Cook until each bun is lightly browned. Place on plates and arrange with garnish.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Place the hamburger patties onto the skillet, leaving space between them. After 3 minutes, flip the patties. Cook for an additional 2 minutes (or longer, depending on your desired doneness.) If desired, add cheese to each patty. Cover if able to help the cheese melt for approximately 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Place each patty on a bun and serve.


Additional optional garnishes, as recommended in the original recipe, are grilled onions or sauteed mushrooms.

of interest, recipe

Rory Gilmore Reading List + Salmon Puffs and Gimlets

Gilmore Girls is, without a doubt, one of my favorite TV shows. It was full of an amazing cast of characters – including, of course, some very strong and capable women, full of eating, and full of reading too.

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Photo Credit: TV Line

Since the new Netflix series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life just came out last weekend, I’m taking this opportunity to spend a whole week in Stars Hollow, so to speak. This is the first of three posts, all including recipes found in the Eat Like a Gilmore cookbook.

It is pretty well-documented that Rory Gilmore read 339 books throughout the seven seasons of the original show. For a while I’ve had the list saved in my book spreadsheet (yes, that’s a thing I have) as sort of a #bookgoals thing, but until now, I hadn’t really compared what I’d read with what she’d read. What a great way to kick off Gilmore Week.

Along with a cocktail and an appetizer, of course! But first, if you’re interested in my tally, click below. The books I’ve read are in green, and the books still hanging out on my to-be-read list are in blue.

 

Obviously I don’t love the Russians as much as Rory does. Check it out.

1984 by George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
Bitch: in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
Christine by Stephen King
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Cujo by Stephen King
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daisy Miller by Henry James
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Don Quijote by Cervantes
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen
Empire Falls by Richard Russo – I remember picking this up and starting this back in high school… Not sure if I finished it, so for now it will remain on my TBR list
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (#4) by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (#1) by J. K. Rowling – She must’ve read them all, right? 
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende – Recently finished! Blog coming next week
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan + Pork Dumplings
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Love Story by Erich Segal
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
Moby Dick by Herman Melville – This one I half-read in high school, but I won’t count it here because I have no interest in ever picking it up again.
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Old School by Tobias Wolff
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare – the only Shakespeare play I actually enjoyed in school
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi + Cream Puffs
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings (Book 3) by J. R. R. Tolkien
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Fever by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Shane by Jack Shaefer
The Shining by Stephen King
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy – tried and couldn’t finish (assigned reading for my study abroad in London during college)
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Stuart Little by E. B. White
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Grand total: I’ve read 59, with another 28 on my TBR list.

How many have you read? Let me know in the comments!

 

My friend and fellow Gilmore Girls fan, Deanna, was just as excited as I for the recent revival, so when I proposed a day full of Gilmore-inspired cooking and eating, she was totally on board. We made something from every section of the cookbook, but we will start in true Emily Gilmore fashion – with a cocktail and an appetizer.

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For our old-fashioned gimlet, we needed simple syrup, limes, ice, and gin. Don’t forget the shaker!

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To make a simple syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan, heating over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar. Once it thickens and becomes syrup-y, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool (for at least 5 minutes). To make 2 gimlets, you’ll need 4 tablespoons of each.

While that cooked, I juiced some limes and cut them into slices for garnish.

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Then we could really get down to business – mixing the drinks. To the shaker, already half full of ice, Deanna added 6 ounces of gin, 3 ounces of lime juice and the simple syrup. She shook it for two minutes (or a little longer, while I snapped pictures), and then the drinks were ready!

Drinks in hand, we began making the Salmon Puffs, one of Emily Gilmore’s most highly sought-after hors d’oeuvres. See how we exude confidence?

First, we prepared the salmon filling. Deanna removed the skin and then I cut the salmon into smaller chunks before adding into the food processor. We also added the lemon juice, cayenne pepper and dill. Once it formed a coarse paste, we added the mustard and maybe a little bit extra cheese. After just a bit more processing, the salmon filling was ready.

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If you don’t have a pastry cutter (I left mine at home), hopefully you have a dixie cup lying around. At exactly 2” in diameter, it makes an excellent substitute once you cut out the bottom. We were excited at our ingenuity. (Cheers! Take a sip of your classy gimlet.)

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We were easily able to eek out 9 additional rounds from our pastry dough, perhaps you can get 10! The goal is to end up with at least 30 puff pastry circles, but no more than 40 as you won’t have enough filling. Place them in your mini-muffin pan and push them down to form small cups.

Once the pastry cups are complete, use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of each. Then, using a pastry bag with a wide tip or a small kitchen spoon, fill them with the salmon mixture.

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Make sure your oven rack is in the center before placing the pans in the preheated oven. After 12 minutes (or possibly a few more – ours took 15), the salmon puffs should be ready. If the salmon pops off of any of them, simply push it back down into the newly puffed cup.

Using a skewer or toothpicks, form a hole in the center of each to ready for the garnish. Place 3 pieces of chive into each hole so that they are sticking straight up.

Put on a platter and serve. Hopefully people at your fancy cocktail party won’t be able to get enough! We sure couldn’t!

Gimlets

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 TBS water
  • 4 TBS granulated sugar
  • Ice
  • 6 oz gin
  • 3 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 lime slices, for garnish

Directions

  1. Make Simple Syrup: Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is fully dissolved and a syrup-like liquid forms. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix Cocktail: Half-fill a shaker with ice. Add the simple syrup, gin and lime juice. Shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes. Strain into glass. Attach lime slices to edge of glasses. Serve.

Salmon Puffs

  • Servings: Makes 30-40 puffs
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ½ – ⅔ cup fresh salmon, skin removed (you probably only need a 4-5 oz fillet)
  • ¾ tsp fresh dill
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp grainy deli-style mustard
  • 4 tsp Port Salut cheese, rind removed (can substitute Muenster)
  • 2 puff pastry sheets
  • Chives, for garnish, cut into approx. 90 1-inch pieces (3 per puff)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Move rack to center position.
  2. In a food processor, add salmon, dill, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Process until a coarse paste forms. Add mustard and cheese. Process until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Lay out a sheet of thawed puff pastry (follow directions on package) on a lightly floured work surface. Use a round 2-inch in diameter cutter [in a pinch, the bottom of a dixie cup works] to cut circles from each sheet. [Original recipe calls for 30. We were able to cut 39 circles from our sheets and had enough filling to create 39 finished puffs.]
  4. Using a mini muffin pan or tart pan, press a round of dough into each cup. Use a small form to poke 10-15 holes into the bottom of the dough.
  5. Using a spoon, fill each cup with about 1 teaspoon of the salmon mixture. [Original recipe recommends using a pastry bag with a wide tip and piping in the filling.]
  6. Bake puffs for 12 minutes.
  7. Salmon may have popped up during baking. If so, press back down into pastry.
  8. Remove puffs to a plate or serving platter. Use a skewer or two toothpicks to make a hole in the center of each puff. Place 3 pieces of chive into each hole, so they are sticking straight up. Serve.

book review, recipe

Lily and the Octopus + Dog Treats

I hope you all had a Happy (and food-filled) Thanksgiving! I’m pretty sure it marked my first Thanksgiving ever without turkey and all of the fixings, which I definitely missed more than I expected. As it was, Scott and I were spending our last day in Cambodia (and shortly before that, Thailand).

Obviously the trip was amazing – worth missing one Thanksgiving for – and thanks to the long plane rides, an overnight train trip and a few days on the beach, I had plenty of time for reading! I finished nearly five books, including what I thought would be a light and whimsical read about a man and his dog: Lily and the Octopus.

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Perhaps I should’ve paid more attention to the description of Lily as an “aging companion.” Not exactly what I bargained for – particularly when this trip was separating us from our own dog for two weeks, or what basically felt like forever. Sad book + missing my dog = Yes, I cried on the plane.

It’s not a spoiler to say that Lily dies. It’s very obvious from the beginning that the octopus is coming for her. The octopus, in fact, is a tumor that has Lily’s friend and owner Ted in denial before he is able to get down to the business of defeating it. This cleverly-written story is a journey of acceptance more than anything else. Every dog owner will relate (I especially loved the chapter of Lily’s nicknames, many of which Beta shares), but everyone will be touched.

To go with this book, and to make up our extended absence to Beta, I whipped up some homemade dog treats shortly after we got back home. Since the cupboard was bare, I found an easy recipe with only three ingredients – oats, peanut butter and (previously frozen ripe) bananas.

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First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees while I processed the oats into a powder. I did not grind them up as finely as she did in the original recipe, resulting in a less smooth final treat. (Beta didn’t seem to mind.)

I mashed up the banana, mixed it in with the peanut butter and then added in the oat powder. I rolled it out onto the powdered counter top and used my bone-shaped cookie cutter to make the treats. Feel free to use any shapes you have handy.

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I ended up with 22 total treats and, with the little bit of “dough” that was left, I stuffed an empty Kong for a snack later.

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Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Mine ended up a little soft, but they end up being less crumbly and messy that way. And, of course, I had to let Beta taste-test right away!

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Homemade Peanut Butter Banana Dog Treats

  • Servings: makes approx. 24 treats
  • Print


From: Munchkins and the Military Blog

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
  • 1 large banana
  • ½ cup peanut butter

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a food processor or blender, grind your oats until they’re powder.
  3. In a bowl, beat together the banana and peanut butter until smooth. A few small chunks of banana here and there is ok. The dough should stick together, but shouldn’t be sticky.
  4. Reserve about a tablespoon of ground oatmeal and pour the rest into the banana peanut butter mixture and mix until combined.
  5. Dust your surface with the reserved ground oatmeal and roll your dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness.
  6. Cut into desired shapes and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake treats for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.
  8. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to a week.

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