It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Celebrate with James Joyce and Guinness Inspired Recipes

By: Melanie

Several years ago my husband and I traveled to Europe and the UK.  At each destination, our wanderings were influenced by my love of two things (not surprisingly), food and literature. In Florence, our trip was built around Dante and red wine. In Paris, it was Hemingway and croissants.  In London, it was Dickens, Shakespeare, Austen… and Chips (hold the fish).

Enjoying my Guinness

Enjoying my Guinness

Ireland was one of the countries on our itinerary I was most looking forward to. After all, everyone always says the countryside is nothing short of perfection, and that the people are amazingly friendly and welcoming. Sure, I was excited to see the lush, rolling hills, and, like every other American, I do love an Irish accent, but for me, this stop was about James Joyce and Guinness.

I read both Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake my sophomore year of college. Notoriously difficult, these novels served as a litmus test indented to weed out less serious students—those who had settled on an English major because they kinda liked to read. While I survived, I came away thinking that if I never read another piece of Joyce I’d be perfectly content.

Then came Modernist Lit my junior year. Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners was, not surprisingly, on the reading list.  As the title implies, the stories are all inspired by the poles of the Irish consciousness: Catholicism, Irish nationalism, and British Imperialism.  To say that I love this collection is an understatement. These stories changed the way I read, analyze, and teach literature.

Though Joyce moved from Ireland at age 22, his writing is highly influenced by his country of birth. While I was visiting, I wanted to soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible (though, obviously a lot has changed since he took up residence there). So, in an attempt to feel a greater kinship with this amazing author and the country that was so influential to him, I did what seemed natural: We drove, awestruck, through the countryside, wandered through the city, and eventually made our way to a small local pub where I happily ordered up a Guinness.

With St. Patrick’s day on the horizon, I encourage you to lift your pint to the greatest Irish novelist of all time: James Joyce.  Enjoy a Guinness (or Murphy’s, Smithwick’s, or Harp, if that’s more to your liking) and check out the following recipes, all using Guinness, that work to create your perfect St. Patty’s day meal.

Drinks: Irish Half &Half


1/2 pint Guinness
1/2  pint Harp


Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!

Appetizer: Cheese and Guinness Fondue


2 lb grated Cheddar cheese;
½ pint Guinness
6-8 tsp Worcester sauce;
salt & pepper;
cayenne pepper;
1 tbsp cornstarch


Put grated cheese into a 7-inch fondue dish or enameled iron casserole and melt gently, stirring continuously. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the fondue thickens slightly. For dipping use chunks of French bread or toast.

Special Note: If a normal 7-inch or bigger dish is used, one pint of fondue is the right quantity. For half the quantity, a smaller dish must be used.

Dinner: Guinness Corned Beef


4 pounds corned beef brisket
1 cup brown sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle Guinness

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Rinse the beef completely and pat dry.

Place the brisket on rack in a roasting pan or Dutch oven. Rub the brown sugar on the corned beef to coat entire beef, including the bottom. Pour the bottle of Guinness around, and gently over the beef to wet the sugar.

Cover, and place in preheated oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Special Note:
During the last hour, you may put vegetables in the roasting pan as well. Try a wedge of cabbage, new potatoes, onion, carrots, etc. You may need to add a little more Guinness with your vegetables.

Dessert: Chocolate Guinness Cake

Guinness chocolate cake

Guinness chocolate cake


1/4 cup cocoa powder (to dust the baking pans)
2 sticks butter
1 cup Guinness
2/3 cup Dutch process dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
vanilla frosting


Heat oven to 350. Lightly dust two greased 8 inch spring form pans with cocoa powder. In a heavy saucepan or microwave oven, heat butter, Guinness, and cocoa powder until butter melts. Let cool.

Sift dry ingredients together. Add the Guinness-cocoa mixture, and beat thoroughly for 1 minute on medium speed.

Add the eggs and sour cream and beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Place pans on a wire rack, cool for 10 minutes, remove the sides, and cool completely. Use a long serrated knife to even the tops of the cakes.

Using a flexible spatula, spread each layer with a thin coating of chocolate frosting, stack, and cover the sides with frosting.

Posted in Beverages, Cake, Desserts, Easy preparation, James Joyce, Meaty Main Dishes, Side dishes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks: Beach+Food+Perfect Man=Romance

By: Christy

With the release of Nicholas’ Sparks most recent book-turned-move, Safe Haven, I felt inspired to post about the book. Even though there are a few unique (and by unique I mean unique to Nicholas Sparks’ usual story line, not unique compared to all fiction) elements, the story offers your basic Nicholas Sparks experience: predictable outcomes, Safe Haven book cover: quaint settings,  love, heartbreak, tears, love again, and of course the most beautiful woman and the most perfect man. I knew what I was getting into when I picked up this book, and I welcomed the Sparks’ experience; however, above all of the clichéd dialogue and contrived plot lines, there was one scene where I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief. The scene that had me saying “Seriously?! This would never happen!” took place at the beach (coincidentally it’s on this single, beach date that our two romantic leads fall deeply in love) when Alex, the most perfect-caring-brave-handsome-and tragic (he lost his wife a few years before) man prepares lunch for his kids. Katie, the beautiful and mysterious newcomer to town, is invited to go to the beach with Alex and his family.

Katie watches… “As Alex began rummaging through the cooler, Katie noticed the sinewy muscles of his forearms. [Alex says] “I was thinking hot dogs for Josh, a cheeseburger for Kristen, and for you and me, steaks.”

Seriously?! What dad brings separate meats for his kids? I mean, I can understand bringing the extra food for the adults, but to bring 1 lone burger and a couple of hot dogs, and not just all burgers and all hot dogs for the kids… That doesn’t even make sense! I suppose Sparks’ has Alex do this so Katie can tell how sensitive he is, but let’s face it; it’s more than a little unbelievable. Alex then proceeds to ask Katie to “pull out the tablecloth and set the table”—Really? This guy even packed a tablecloth! If my husband ever packed a tablecloth, I’d be more than a little suspicious.  I don’t think I need to even comment on his sinewy and muscular arms; you get the picture.

Anyway, Sparks’ clearly knows what he’s doing: he’s a bestselling author with very loyal fans who eagerly await each new (and predictable) release.

To follow up, since eating burgers is a big part of this book, I thought I’d post some basic directions for making Greek Burgers.


1 lb lean ground beef (or turkey)

Flatbread or pita bread

Greek yogurt (1/2 cup)

Diced cucumber

Tomatoes, sliced or diced

Kalamata olives, sliced

Red onion, sliced or diced

feta cheese, crumbled

Dill (optional)


  1. Prepare burger patties and cook on the grill to desired doneness.
  2. In a dish, mix the Greek yogurt with the diced cucumber. If desired add dill.
  3. Fill the pita or top the flatbread with the feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and yogurt sauce.
  4. Add the burger, and enjoy.
Posted in Easy preparation, Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven, sandwiches, Summer dishes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How to Make Sweet Potato Fries: Because you CAN have your fries and bake them too

By: Melanie

If you read our blog with any degree of frequency, you may have gathered a few things about me: I prefer paperbacks to e-books and classics to the weekly best sellers. I also have a culinary habit that I just can’t seem to shake. I never follow recipes. Like ever.

Sometimes I’m convinced I can improve on what an expert chef has masterfully created. A dash of cinnamon is almost always involved.

Other times, my alterations are an attempt at making a perfectly fine dish “healthier”: less sugar, no butter, whole wheat flour. True, on occasion, this yields some epic fails. Most recently, I “tweaked” an oatmeal, cinnamon, chocolate cookie recipe by substituting applesauce for butter.  The results hung around our home for weeks; it now lives in infamy as “that cookie.” However, despite these fiascos, I’ve also stumbled upon some pretty tasty and healthy dishes.

Maybe you don’t feel any impulse to alter your recipes.  Perhaps you’ve never tried to make a brownie without chocolate…so none of this relates to you. Right? Wrong.  Why do I try to make recipes “healthier”? Simple. Because I want something that only seems like a guilty pleasure. I want to indulge without feeling bad. It’s the same reason I wait until J.Crew puts their cashmere on sale, my kids only watch “educational” television, and it’s the same reason I read YA by authors like Hillary Frank.

On the surface, Frank’s young adult novel, The View from the Top appears typical of the genre: it centers on Anabelle’s last summer home before heading off to college. Sounds cute, right? But not so fast. The characters struggle to come to grips with their changing lives; friendships and romances are forged, broken, and tested.

Frank utilizes a shifting point of view, alternating between six characters. Most impressively, she manages to give surprising depth to each of them. The tone is witty, quirky, and realistic. I found myself eager to slow the novel’s quick pace to allow myself more time to think. The View from the Top gave me something I wasn’t expecting: a bit of literature disguised as a beach read. An indulgence the intellectual in me could feel awesome about.

My sweet potato fries are another splurge that will leave you feeling totally guilt free. We eat them at least once a week. They are baked in the oven, but taste every bit as good as if they were deep fried.


Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries


Sweet Potatoes

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper (or any other seasoning of your choice)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut raw sweet potatoes into a French fry or cube shape.

Place the pieces on a single layer on a cookie sheet, and brush both sides with a very light coating of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Flip the fries and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

Posted in Books, Easy preparation, Healthy alternatives, Side dishes, the view from the top, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Make Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries: A Book Club Treat!

By: Christy

Ah! Book club! A time for deep thought, rousing discussions, and literary analysis. However,…if your book club is anything like mine, then mixed in with the scintillating Chocolate Covered Strawberriestopics of conversation, there’s always time for laughs, socializing…and…you guessed it… food. Now, I wouldn’t say that we are as food and drink-focused as Lorna Landvik’s characters, in Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, who always linger over the food table at their book club meetings and who consider “a pitcher of strawberry daiquiris as [satisfying their] daily fruit requirement.” For the ladies on Freesia Court, chocolate is a necessity at every book club meeting. During one meeting, in which they’re discussing Dr. Faustus and what sort of bargains they’d make with the devil, Audrey said she’d “sell her soul for a chocolate éclair.”

Our book club definitely is a little more health conscious, but I know we all secretly hope the host has prepared something sweet to balance the saltiness of some of our heated discussions.

I’m not much of a baker, (my sister and I once made chocolate chip cookies and forgot to add the flour), but I had some chocolate morsels in my refrigerator I needed to use. I was hosting book club that night and wanted to make a sweet treat to go with some hummus and naan I had already prepared. Cookies weren’t happening, and as I pondered what to do with the chocolate, I spotted a fresh packet of beautiful, red strawberries on my counter! Bingo! I now present my easy, cheat method for making delicious, mouth-watering chocolate covered strawberries…prepare to be amazed at my cooking prowess.

Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries

(Time: 10 minutes)  (Serves 10)Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries


1 to 2 cups of chocolate morsels

12-16 ounces of strawberries, rinsed

**optional vanilla candy melts (for the stripes)


1. Place 1 cup of chocolate morsels in a microwave safe container (I like to use a glass measuring cup) and melt the chocolate morsels in the microwave for 30 sec on high power.

2. Remove from the microwave and stir the melty, morsely mixture.

3. Place back in the microwave and melt for another 30 sec on high power.

4. Remove from the microwave, and stir briskly until all of the chocolate has melted. (You might need to put it back in the microwave for a few more seconds).

5. Gently dip the strawberries into the mixture, turning them to coat all sides.

6. Place the dipped strawberries on waxed paper on a baking sheet and let them cool. If you want them to harden quicker, place them in the refrigerator.

Optional—Striped Design

6. After you’ve finished dipping all of the strawberries, heat the vanilla candy melts.

7. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted vanilla candy melts over the strawberries in a striped pattern.


*Be careful to heat the chocolate in stages, removing it from the microwave to stir it. It is easy to scorch it if you heat it too long. You definitely don’t want to heat it for over a minute without stirring it.

*You need to have all of the materials ready to go because when you remove the melted morsels from the microwave the chocolate will harden quickly. You need to dip the strawberries before this happens.

Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Posted in 5 ingredients or less, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, Book Club Snacks and Appetizers, Desserts, Easy preparation, summer desserts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How to Make Beet Pancakes: This Heart Day, Impress your Mark Darcy with Pink Food

By: Melanie

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and this year, there’s real reason to rejoice: news just broke that there is another installment of my favorite guilty pleasure, Bridget Jones, in the works. The third book in the series is due to hit shelves late 2013! When it comes to novels about love and romance, one’s mind might naturally wander to Nicholas Sparks. Don’t get me wrong, like any girl, I’ll rarely pass by The Notebook when the movie adaptation of this book plays on Lifetime. I love, for example, that so many of his novels acknowledge the romance of southern culture, but, to me, many of his plots often feel contrived. I’ve never fallen in love with one of his characters. And while, certainly entertaining (and always the perfect choice when I need a good cry), I’ve never laughed out loud when reading Nicholas Sparks.

Bridget Jones’s Diary, (a modern version of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice), on the other hand, offers readers romance that is funny and witty. While the plot may not offer many surprises (Bridget does, in true Austen fashion, get her happy ending after much trouble), she is such a refreshing and honest voice that all is forgiven.
Bridget is likeable despite her many, many imperfections. She is on a perpetual quest for self improvement; she vows time and time again to quit smoking, lose weight, get a respectable career, stop talking nonsense, and of course, get the guy(s). Nearly every effort fails and we love her for that. It’s relatable. If she isn’t us, she’s our friend, coworker, sister.

Not surprisingly, I’m able to find a little of myself in this protagonist. Case and point: It’s her birthday and Bridget decides (despite the lack of proof) that she possesses undiscovered culinary talent, and thus spends all day slaving in the kitchen. The result: “After all effort and expense, have served my guests: Blue soup, omelette, and marmalade. Am disastrous failure.” The effort is not in vain, however, when Mark Darcy, a guest at the dinner, is able to see the humor in the situation. Of it she writes, “Love my lovely friends. Were more than sporting about the blue soup” (237).

So while our girl Bridg has the corner on blue food, I’d like to grab a foothold on pink food. Beet pancakes are not only healthy (something Bridget would, no doubt, appreciate when she’s on one of her many diets), but they are a perfect shade of pink. Pour them in a heart shape, or use a cookie cutter, and they’re ideal for a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast.


Whole Wheat Beet Pancakes

This whole wheat beet pancake is nearly ready to flip

This whole wheat beet pancake is nearly ready to flip

• 3/4 Cup all purpose flour
• 1 Cup whole wheat flour
• 3 Tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 medium beets, roasted and pureed
• 1 1/4 cup milk
• 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Begin by roasting beets. (Wrap each beet in tin foil and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour or until you can easily pierce with a fork). The skin should peel right off. Puree in a blender or food processer. Allow to cool.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside
3. Mix all wet ingredients together (including beets) in a small bowl (or I like to use a blender for easy mixing and pouring) and whisk or mix thoroughly
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet; do not over mix.
5. Pour pancake batter onto a hot, non-stick pan or griddle. When bubbles begin to pop, it’s time to flip them.

Posted in Breakfast, Bridget Jones's Diary, Healthy alternatives, Holiday dishes, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Make Eggnog: An Easy, Scrooge Approved Recipe

By: Melanie

Though December is only half over, I’m already starting to feel that dread, that familiar letdown that can only mean one thing: Christmas is over. My husband, Brian, and I (both of us are long time lovers of Christmas) always say we’d be just fine if our home was permanently swathed in garland and Christmas lights—if our nutcrackers, nativity scenes, and village pieces were always on display. But, in truth, I know that, despite the best efforts of every retailer, the Christmas season is special because it lasts just a few short weeks.

Now, before you rush to reprimand me, I’m fully aware that Christmas is not all about decorations, Lifetime Channel movie marathons, and totally awesome Mariah Carey tunes. I know that I can keep the true spirit and meaning of Christmas in my heart all year ‘round. After all, this is the theme of the greatest holiday novel ever written: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

My love for this short book began well before my obsession for all things Dickens. When I was a little girl, I’d spend hours, curled up on our couch, with—if I was lucky— an ice cold glass of eggnog from Senn’s diary, listening to a dramatic reading of A Christmas Carol on my parent’s record player.
While I’m not usually a fan of adaptations of literary texts, or audiobooks for that matter, this prejudice does not extend to A Christmas Carol. Perhaps this is because the versions and parodies of this work are so well ingrained in our culture—let’s face it, our holiday cannon just wouldn’t be complete without these classics of film: A Klingon Christmas Carol (2006), An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998), and It’s Christmas, Carol! (2012). All kidding aside, I thank Dickens every holiday season for inspiring the genius that is Scrooged (1988).

So, before Christmas officially comes to an end, I plan to celebrate by recreating one of my favorite holiday memories (with a little twist, of course). I’ve prepped and chilled a batch of eggnog. A Christmas Carol has been downloaded as an audio book to my i-pod. And, while I’ll be missing the familiar scratch of the record player, and Brian and I will, no doubt, be adding a shot of rum to our glasses of eggnog, I’m looking forward to sharing this holiday tradition with our own boys.
Happy Holiday!




4 cups whole milk
5 tsp cloves
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract (divided)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
12 egg yolks
1 ½ cups sugar
4 cups light cream
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 ½ cups rum (optional)

1. Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Slowly bring milk mixture to a boil.
2. In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until fluffy. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs. Pour mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain and let cool for about an hour.
3. Stir in rum, cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Posted in A Christmas Carol, Beverages, Holiday dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Make Beer Bread: A Recipe to Warm your Heart from the Heart of America

By: Christy

So, a month or two ago, I got a text from my mom that read something like this:

“3 c flour, ½ c sugar, 1 beer–beer bread…grandma  mollie’s cookbook. Really good!”

I followed with a text asking how long it needed to cook, and received this response:  “25-30 minutes@ 350”.

The recipe was appealing in its simplicity, and if it really came from Great Grandma Mollie’s infamous church cookbook, I knew it had to be good. Let me give you some background on Grandma Mollie, her church and her cookbook. Grandma Mollie came to the U.S. as a German immigrant from Russia in 1911, when she was 2 years old. Her family (along with a few other German immigrant families) founded St. John’s Lutheran Church in Dowagiac, Michigan.  Over the years, the Ladies’ Aid hosted several fundraisers, and their most popular was the sale of cookbooks. They sold many over the years, and the book this bread recipe came from was called Recipes to Warm your Heart, from the Heart of America (my mom had a hard time finding the title for me—the cover is gone from her book). I couldn’t find the book for sale anywhere online, but I did find a link on, for volume 2. The book is for sale for $97! These are clearly some valuable recipes.

I decided to make it that night to go with the soup I was cooking.

Unfortunately, though the flavor was great, the bread was dense and not cooked through all the way; I had even let it cook for an extra 20 minutes.  After a few more text messages back and forth with my mom, I learned that she had sent the recipe to me as soon as she read it in the book. It hadn’t been tested yet. She made it that same night too, however, and her batch turned out.  She forgot to tell me to “beat well” and she, as an experienced bread maker, modified the cooking time to close to an hour.

When baking, you have to be so precise (I don’t even want to tell you what happened to the cookies I tried to make over thanksgiving this past weekend; they were terrible, and mind you, they also came from a pre-mixed bag (of course I had to try to doctor it up!), which is why I usually stick to cooking.

Since then, I’ve made the bread a few times, and it really is wonderful! It’s so easy to make, and has a sweet, yeasty, doughy taste—a perfect complement to a bowl of winter soup.  Below you’ll find my modified recipe.

Beer Bread (Great Grandma Mollie’s Cookbook)


beer bread


3 c. self-rising flour (if you use regular flour or bread flour you’ll need to add baking powder)

½ c. sugar

1 –12 oz beer (my mom says beer should be at room temperature, but sister Cara says it’s fine right out of the fridge)

  1. Grease and flour bread pan. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix ingredients. Beat well (I’ve been using my electric hand blender).
  3. Pour into bread pan, bake at 350 for 55 minutes (or longer. Keep an eye on it. You want the top to turn a golden brown).
  4. If desired, serve with butter to spread.
Posted in 5 ingredients or less, Breads, cook books, Easy preparation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Perfect Holiday Cocktail: A Clockwork Orange Vodka Fizz

By: Melanie

Hooray! The holidays are upon us once more. Tis the season! The season for indulging.  For chex mix, cheese logs, pecan pies, deviled eggs, and jell-o molds.  (Or not. maybe you’re looking to be sensibly abstemious this go-round. Perhaps you’re hoping to fit in your pants come 2013.) Tis the season for brandy spiked eggnog, rum spiked punch, and peppermint schnapps. (Or not. Maybe you’re Lindsay Lohan. By that I mean, totally and completely sober, of course.) Tis the season for  for large Griswold-esque family gatherings. (Or not. Maybe you prefer to spend the holidays alone. Just you and the cats.) And, of course, tis the season for blowing wads of cash on awesome and totally needed consumer goods. (Or not. Maybe like this Simpson girl, your VCR works just fine.)

Hey, I get it: it’s easy to go overboard during the holidays. It’s easy to eat, drink, and spend too much, despite vowing that this year will be different.

The holiday season provides us an awesome opportunity to either tightly control or splurge our appetites, in all their varied forms. I can think of no better novel to symbolize this struggle than one of my absolute favorites: A Clockwork Orange by the immortal genius, Anthony Burgess.

A Clockwork Orange is a tough read (and no: having seen the movie, as much as I love Kubric’s adaptation, doesn’t count.) If you were able to work through the invented slang in which Burgess writes (a prose which perfectly renders the social pathology of the characters) then you’ll remember this novel is centered on fifteen year old droog, Alex, and is set in a nightmarish vision of the future.  Alex is a murderer, and once caught, he is sentenced to a new experimental method of reform.

It’s true that on the surface, few books may seem less likely paired with the joyful festivities of Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, it thematically represents the thesis of this blog: the dichotomy  of indulgence.  The state attempts to reform Alex from a boy who readily indulges in every pleasure, sin, and crime of the flesh, into a prudent man who feels physical pain at the mere thought of such acts.

As you would expect, A Clockwork Orange raises profound questions about human freedom. Luckily for us we are free to chose as we’d like: Have an extra slice of cake? Splurge on the Kindle Fire? Mix your Orange Vodka Fizz with an extra shot? Indulge or abstain as you wish this holiday season.

Orange Vodka Fizz is favorite holiday drink at the Simpson house. It’s also, by the way, a

Enjoying a vodka fizz last Christmas morning

total misnomer—it’s not fizzy at all, but rather like a smoothie. Regardless, this is the perfect holiday cocktail, one we enjoy in the mornings on Thanksgiving and Christmas day. This recipe can be prepared with or without alcohol.

Orange Vodka Fizz


6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate

6 oz half and half

6 oz vodka

3 oz Galliano


Add all ingredients to a blender. Fill with ice. Mix and serve immedietly.

Posted in 5 ingredients or less, A Clockwork Orange, Beverages, Breakfast, Easy preparation, Holiday dishes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

House of Mirth: When you’re “living like pigs” you might as well eat bacon (Salmon BLTs)

By: Christy

I can’t say I’m a convert yet, but I have to admit—Reading on my iPad is pretty damn convenient.  Two weeks ago, I finished my second full book on the electronic device, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, and I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t love the (a) backlighting (no more flimsy book light when reading in bed, which so happens to be the only time and place I get to read anymore), and (b) being able to look up historical references and foreign words instantly with a tap of the finger.  No, it’s definitely not the same as the feel of a real book, but now that I’m back into reading a real book (currently trying to finish Crime and Punishment—almost there Melanie!), I’m missing the quick ability to research and engage with the text so easily.

One word that I researched, on page 69 of 768 with 19 pages left to go in the chapter (yes, this is the footnote on the bottom of the screen), described the meal Lily was eating the day after the cloud had broken the year after her “dazzling debut fringed by a thunder-cloud of bills” (you have to love Wharton’s thick descriptions. ) Lily remembers this “day on which the blow fell. She had been seated at the luncheon-table over chaufroix and cold salmon of the previous night’s dinner.”

I gently tapped the word chaufroix to get my definition, and unfortunately no results. However, my dear iPad asked me if I wanted to “search web” or “search Wikipedia”. Well…of course! After one more click I had my answer. Some say that the word comes from the combination of two French words for “hot” and “cold”; most agree that it is a dish served cold; some argue that it is the original leftovers while others say just because it’s prepared in advance doesn’t mean it was meant to be thought of as leftovers. Yet, another explanation says the dish takes its name from the old French name for the spice lavender. So, I still had no real answer, but in a matter of minutes, look at what I learned!

But back to the poor Lily Bart. Has there ever been a character who has consistently made so many bad choices? Wharton’s rendering of the upper class of New York, “America’s royalty,” presents us with a cast of characters extremely constrained by social conventions; the slightest err can lead to exile.  Early in the novel, Lily refers to her rich, but non-high society members of her family as “living like pigs.” She can’t help her world view; she was raised to be an ornament. As I was reading, I also couldn’t help but relate villain Bertha Dorset with Hilly Holbrook from The Help. Though living in different eras, both are society women and both use insidious tactics to thwart the heroines of each novel.  While Hilly gets her just desserts (yes, pun intended), our villain Bertha in House of Mirth doesn’t get hers—it’s  Lily Bart who literally has to get used to eating cold leftovers.

Below is a favorite way my husband and I dress up leftover salmon or smoked salmon. How can you go wrong when you add bacon?

Salmon BLTs


8-10 oz leftover cooked cold salmon, or pre-packaged smoked salmon

6 strips of bacon

Sliced Tomato

Romaine lettuce leaves

Mayonnaise (you can also mix in a little dill  if you like)

Sliced bread

  1. Fry the bacon (I prefer it to be crispy) on medium to high heat.
  2. Remove the bacon from a pan, blot with paper towel. (you don’t want it dripping with grease).
  3. Toast the bread.
  4. Build a sandwich: spread the mayo, layer the tomato, lettuce, bacon and salmon.

So delicious!

Posted in 5 ingredients or less, Easy preparation, House of Mirth, sandwiches, Seafood, The Help | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How to Make Baked Butternut Squash Risotto: An Unexpected Favorite of the Picky Toddler

By: Melanie

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I was truly a devourer of literature. I mean, really, I practically ate books for breakfast. Though I still make time to do plenty of reading for me, I can’t lie: with 1 1/2 year old twins, much of my reading now fits in to one of two genres: parenting or children’s books.

Just as you would expect, my strange rules (strange, but totally grounded in reason and the soundest of logic) about what books I read with adoration and what books I refute, most certainly extends to these genres. (And just a few blogs ago I attempted to argue that I had overcome my snobby ways!)

For example, while pregnant, I refused to so much as crack a copy of What to Expect While you’re Expecting. Why? Because isn’t that handbook…well…all too expected? It just seemed a bit cliché for the first-time mother. This doesn’t, of course, mean that I haven’t read What to Expect the First Year cover to cover. Because I have!

As I am also midway through What to Expect: The Toddler Years, I’m relieved to learn that my boys’ pickiness in all things, especially food, is totally normal given their age. The book suggests it’s a way for toddlers to assert their new sense of independence and something they should outgrow with time.

While my twins, Owen and Dylan, may be expressing their individuality by refusing to eat what I serve, I am also willing to admit that it’s possible they have inherited their pickiness from me (though my husband is notoriously stubborn as well, so we’ll call it a draw).  Dinnertime is always the worst; nearly everything I serve is quickly flung to the floor (or passed back and forth between their trays until it inevitably falls).

It seems there is no pleasing these kids. We’ve tried all the classic techniques to get them to eat: “Don’t you boys know there are starving orphans who would kill for this food!” Fail.

“Look Owen, your fork is plane!” *insert totally realistic engine noises here* Fail.

“Okay, Dylan, show me how the piggies eat!” Okay, not a total fail, but definitely not a long term solution.

I finally came to the conclusion that if they were really and truly hungry, they’d eat. And with this liberating new mindset, I’ve stopped stressing cold turkey. I mean it. No, really. Sure, my children may never eat, but at least my dog’s happier than ever. And, in the meantime, I’ve actually found a couple of healthy meals that the boys will actually eat (they will not only chew these foods, but swallow them too! A true victory in the Simpson house!)

Their most recent favorite is butternut squash risotto.  Owen and Dylan gobbled it down for dinner, and even ate it left over for lunch the next day. That never happens. Not only does this dish meet the approval of our toddlers’ discerning pallets…I think it’s incredibly delicious as well. We served it with homemade bread and green beans for a perfect fall meal.


Baked Butternut Squash Risotto


  •  2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and pureed (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. . Heat olive oil in a large skillet or oven-proof Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté 5 minutes or until tender.
  3. Stir in rice and wine; cook for 2 minutes or until wine evaporates, stirring constantly. Add broth and squash to pan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
  4.  Remove rice mixture from heat; stir in cheese and remaining ingredients.
  5. Transfer to a casserole dish or bake directly in dutch oven. Cover and bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Stir gently before serving.
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