Monthly Archives

January 2017

book review, recipe

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk + Oreo Cheesecake

When my Book of the Month email came a few weeks ago with the January selections, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk immediately caught my eye because the description said it was “the perfect book to start a new year of reading and of living.” When I read further and saw that the novel was about the highest paid woman in advertising, my choice was clear. (For those of you who don’t know me personally, I work in advertising too.) I made my selection and anxiously awaited my BOTM delivery.

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Kathleen Rooney takes us back to New Year’s Eve in 1984. Her novel centers around the formidable yet friendly 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish (based on the real-life copywriter Margaret Fishback who became the highest paid female in advertising in the 1930s) as she takes a walk around New York City before ringing in the new year.

An avid walker, Lillian had planned to celebrate the holiday the “same as always,” with a visit to her neighborhood Italian restaurant for veal rollatini and green noodles and then “early to bed with a book.” Her plans are spoiled, however, by her uncharacteristic and absent-minded consumption of half a package of Oreo cookies.

After only a glass of Chianti at Grimaldi’s, Lillian decides to take a walk to the legendary Delmonico’s steakhouse downtown to not only work up an appetite but to correct a mistake from many years ago. On her walk, she reminisces about her career in writing – both advertisements and poetry, her relationships and her decades of experiences in Manhattan. She has to confront some of the grittier aspects of the city but remains undeterred throughout her ambling journey.

In honor of the city Lillian so wholeheartedly loves and the package of Oreos she detests, I decided to pair this charming novel with an Oreo cheesecake. This recipe from Southern Bite claims to be the Easiest Oreo Cheesecake, which I think would suit Lillian just fine, and I have to say, it was quite less complicated than other cheesecakes I’ve made in the past.

First, I made sure my cream cheese was softened by leaving it at room temperature for a while. I find it goes a little faster if unpackaged, so I put all four blocks into my bowl and left on the countertop to soften.

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I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F, greased my springform pan, and began crushing Oreos to make my crust.

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I combined the now-softened cream cheese, vanilla and sugar with my mixer, before adding the eggs. Then I added some slightly less crushed Oreos (about a dozen) to the batter, folding them in with a rubber spatula. I poured the mixture into my pan, tapped it lightly and topped with the remaining chunks of Oreos (about six). Here is what it looked like before baking:

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And after 50 minutes and plenty of cooling time, it looked like this:

This cheesecake is meant to be easy, not perfect, as Stacey explains. Yes, it’s a little brown on the edges and, yes, you may find a few cracks on top, but it was far less fussy than other cheesecakes, and honestly, it tasted just as delicious. No need to stress, just enjoy! And if you feel like you need to work it off afterwards, just take a walk like Lillian. 🙂

Easiest Oreo Cheesecake

  • Servings: 8-12 slices
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Ingredients

  • 1 (14.3-ounce) package Oreos, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • whipped cream and chocolate sauce for topping, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place half of the Oreos (about 18) in a gallon size zip-top bag. Crush the cookies using a rolling pin. Pour the crushed Oreos into a small bowl and mix with the melted butter. Pour the mixture evenly into the bottom of the springform pan and press firmly to create a crust.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl using a hand mixer), combine the softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well-combined. Add the eggs and mix well. Roughly break up the remaining cookies and add them to the mixture, reserving some to sprinkle on top. Gently fold the cookies in and pour the batter onto the crust. Lightly tap the pan on the counter to get out any air bubbles. Sprinkle with the remaining Oreos.
  4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center in almost completely set. Cool and then refrigerate overnight to allow the cheesecake to firm up before serving (or at least 3 hours for those impatient folks). Drizzle with chocolate suace and add a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.
of interest

Food in Fiction + Recipe Inspiration

I don’t usually read books with the intention of making a specific food for the blog (with the exception of Pumpkin because I was really craving pumpkin pie!), but this list I found on Book Riot might have me re-thinking that approach.

I have already read a few of these, like The Joy Luck Club for the blog and, of course, the Harry Potter series. A few of them are on my to-read list already, including Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman. So many more of them are about to be added to my to-read list! I can’t wait to check out Idlewild (set in my own Detroit), Confused Spice, or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

Well, now that I’m starving and excited about new books, I’m off to go find some dinner. See you all later this week with another review and recipe!

 

book review, recipe

One Thousand White Women + Cornish Hens

When given the choice to remain in an eternity of solitary monotony or to move into the dangerous unknown to marry a “savage” stranger, what would you do? Having been committed to an asylum for her promiscuity, May Dodd is seemingly stuck without recourse. When President Grant agrees to provide a Cheyenne chief with 1000 white brides in a peace deal, May doesn’t hesitate to join the ranks.

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In his novel based on a proposed scenario in history, Jim Fergus explores what would’ve happened if President Grant had made a different choice. One Thousand White Women follows May Dodd and her fellow brides – nearly all of them some kind of outcast in society – as they head west on a long journey by train, each of them promised to a member of the Cheyenne tribe.  

Told primarily through the journals May Dodd kept, the experience is unlike what anyone expected – Cheyennes and brides alike. All of the women are thoroughly changed in the end. May, a rich society girl turned working class mother turned asylum inmate, marries the chief of her tribe. She is looked to as much for her bravery as for her knowledge on how to please a man. Like her husband Little Wolf, she becomes a leader among the other women.

While still trying to find her footing in the beginning, her husband takes her on a so-called honeymoon to a remote part of the prairie. Unable to communicate effectively, May does her best to get her points across and makes herself useful by cooking meals for herself and Little Wolf, using his kill of the day. For one such meal, May finds some wild onions and herbs and uses them to stuff some grouse the Chief has caught.

In an attempt to recreate that meal, I got some Cornish hens (a modern-day city substitute) and, using other more ingredient-heavy recipes like this one as a guide, put together something a bit simpler that I hoped better aligned with what May might have made. I served them with simply roasted carrots (salt, pepper and oil) and corn.     

I was only able to find frozen Cornish hens at my grocery stores, so if that’s the case for you as well, make sure they’re thoroughly thawed. Then, I trimmed off some excess skin, removed anything left in the cavity, rinsed them off and patted them dry. Next I stuffed each hen with half of an onion, chopped into 3 large chunks, and 2 garlic cloves.

I rubbed the outside of them with some olive oil (you could also use melted butter) and covered then generously in fresh chopped sage and tarragon. I placed them on a foil-covered baking sheet and placed them in a 375-degree preheated oven for an hour.

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Once I checked the temperature to ensure they were cooked through, I removed them from the oven, loosely covered with foil and allowed them to rest for 10 minutes. They tasted just as good as they smelled!

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Cornish Hens

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish hens
  • 1 sprig of tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of sage, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, halved and cut into 3 smaller pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • olive oil or melted butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Ensure your hens are fully thawed. Remove any access skin, particularly around the opening, and anything that may be in the open cavity. Rinse them with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.
  3. Stuff each hen with a half of the onion and 2 garlic cloves.
  4. Rub each hen with olive oil and cover with the fresh herbs, making sure to cover both sides of each hen.
  5. Place seasoned and stuffed hens on a foil lined baking sheet with edges, breast side up.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer shows the hens are cooked to 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh or breast.
  7. Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables.

of interest

Lemony Snicket on Netflix + Unfortunate Recipes

The movie in 2004 was my first exposure to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I still haven’t read the books, but after this latest article from NPR about all of the delicious food to be found throughout the series – “often [as] a supporting character,” I may just be tempted to give them a try too! At the very least, these recipes for pasta puttanesca, chilled  cucumber soup and coconut cream cake are worth a taste.

book review, recipe

Today Will Be Different + Breakfast Casserole

Based on the title alone, Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different seemed like a novel with an uplifting outlook. At the same time, I was also reading The Happiness Project, a nonfiction book with a similar self-improvement theme that one of my book clubs had chosen for January to kick off the New Year. Goodbye, 2016! Hello, 2017! Let’s start fresh.

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I had loved Maria Semple’s last novel Where’d You Go Bernadette? It was laugh-out-loud funny with a surprising format, and I still recommend it to people constantly. Naturally, I was looking forward to her follow-up. As the title suggests, Today Will Be Different takes a peek at a day in the life of our main character Eleanor. She wakes up with the intention to be a better person than yesterday.

On a day that’s anything but ordinary, Eleanor certainly does her best to follow through with her resolutions. As the day unfolds, she is greeted with several surprises, including an adventure down memory lane. It definitely had some chuckle-worthy moments and relatable insights, but even for a novel about just one day, it felt rushed, incomplete, and in the end, a bit too contrived.

Still, it wasn’t a bad read – certainly enjoyable, and I took it as a bit of an inspiration to do a little better every day than the day before.

Best to start with breakfast, I think. I found an easy recipe for a breakfast casserole that’s greatest appeal was that most of the work could be done the night before. It ended up being a perfect dish to make between Christmas and New Year’s, when everything feels a little lazier and there are heaps of leftovers – especially, in our case, of spiral sliced ham. All I really had to buy was the frozen hash browns.

My parents came over for brunch late one morning, so the night before I did all of the prep, knowing tomorrow would be better. Easy satisfying breakfast is always a great way to start the day!

I chopped up what we had left of the Christmas ham, which ended up being just shy of 2 cups, but was still plenty for the recipe.

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I poured the shredded frozen hash browns into the bottom of a greased 9×13 casserole dish and whipped up a dozen eggs.

Next, I added the cheese (a little more cheddar and a little less pepper jack, since my mom isn’t a huge fan of spiciness), the chopped ham, seasoning salt and whole milk (which I used instead of half-and-half because we had it on hand). I stirred it all together and then poured it on top of the potatoes. My prep was complete, so I covered the dish in foil and set it in the fridge, ready to relax for the rest of the night.

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The next morning, about an hour and half before my parents arrived, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and then placed the foil-covered casserole into the hot oven. Towards the last 20 minutes, it started bubbling over, so I placed a cookie sheet underneath the dish – I suggest doing this as a precaution when you first put it in the oven.

After the first 90 minutes, I removed the foil and baked it for an additional 5 minutes uncovered. The casserole looked finished, but the top was a little wet because the moisture had nowhere to go underneath the foil. This last 5 minutes helped the cheese become a little more golden and got rid of all the excess moisture, without overcooking the casserole. It was still fluffy and delightful for brunch.

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I made my parents and Scott wait while I took some photographs (sorry, guys!), but luckily this recipe had a 10-minute anticipation time built right in.

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Everyone loved it, and I look forward to making this for special occasions and everyday weekends alike in the coming year.

The Best Breakfast Casserole

  • Servings: 8-12
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From: Alyssa, The Recipe Critic

Ingredients

  • 24 oz frozen shredded potatoes
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cup half and half [or whole milk]
  • 1 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1½ cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1½ cups pepper jack cheese, grated
  • 2 cups chopped ham (or your preferred meat, sausage would also be great)

Directions

  1. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Add the frozen and shredded potatoes to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together. Then add half and half, seasoning salt, cheeses and chopped ham or meat.
  3. Pour over the top of the frozen potatoes. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Bake covered in foil at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.