A Food Revolution: Inspirations from Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Journey

by: Christy

In The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, Ernest “Che” Guevara travels across South America on a broken-down motorcycle and on foot (after “La Ponderosa” (name of the motorcycle) expresses its last breath). He’s a young medical

The Young Che Guevara

The Young Che Guevara

student in search of adventure, but his quest for adventure soon turns into a journey of self-discovery. Though Guevara’s prose is heart-felt, stoic and intelligent, full of keen observations regarding the “strange” human race, it is the irreverent and hilarious descriptions of some of his comic escapades that show us a side of Guevara that differs from the romantic, political, and controversial figure we remember him to be.

We learn that while Guevara is a shrewd observer of humankind, often he “just wants to have fun” (The Guardian). And, often, that fun is inspired by the hospitality he receives from the people he meets along the way. Throughout the book, eating with others is a symbol of peace, happiness, and community. Guevara values these experiences and relishes the tastes of cultures different from his own.

He writes:

“It was close to nightfall before we left, but not before accepting an invitation to a typical Chilean meal: tripe and another similar dish, all very spicy, washed down with a delicious rough wine” (60).

Did I forget to mention the wine?

During another meal, Guevara quips, “Chilean wine is great and I was drinking it

Che and woman at Village Dance

Che, full of Chilean wine, at the village dance (image from movie)

unbelievable quickly, so much so that by the time we went on to the village dance, I felt ready to take on the world…we kept filling our bellies and our heads with wine” (61).

…Maybe it wasn’t the food alone that provided the inspiration for one of the world’s most famous revolutionaries…

In remembrance of Che Guevara, I thought I would forego the recipe and give you the scoop on where to find some amazing Chilean wine.

Food and Wine Article: What Defines a Great Chilean Wine

This article offers some brief insight into the wine growing regions and varieties of Chile. The author visits several Chilean wineries, both old and new, and tastes varieties ranging from Sauvignon Blancs to Cabernets.

The Wine News: Chile’s Statuesque Reds

This article discusses Chile’s red wines—the wine that one winery owner says will “put Chile on the global map” in winemaking. The author also provides mini-descriptions of wine characteristics and prices.

Cheap Chilean Wine’s for under $20 a bottle

Here’s where you can get the goods on some inexpensive bottles of Chilean wine. This article lists several varieties, and also provides appropriate recipes (with some great food pictures) for each type of wine.

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Posted in Beverages, Book Club Snacks and Appetizers, The Motorcycle Diaries | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How to Make Cheesy Grits: Musings from a Brooklyn Bound C Train

By: Melanie

I recently took my first trip to New York City-an obvious hub of culture, history, art and society. My sister in law Diana, who also majored in English at Oregon State, was my traveling companion, and so the literary sites that sprung from around every corner were certainly not lost on either of us. Though the Shakespeare Garden in central park was cool and I enjoyed Walden Park in Brooklyn, it was a monument of different kind that most affected me.

Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness tells the story of two New Yorks: the past and present. The modern day and turn of the century versions of the city are connected through the, often, bleak and devastating backdrop of the subway tunnels.

Though initially a bit intimidated (give us a break…we were born and raised in the epitome of suburbia), Diana and I set out to tackle the NYC subway system. The sway of the cars, the intricate tile work on the walls, the smell of piss…my initial excitement at conquering this “beast” was replaced by solemn reflections of McCann’s novel, the best I’ve read in years. I thought of NathanWalker, the “sandhog,” who devoted his life to burrowing underground during the excavation of these tunnels, and of Treefrog, a homeless man who called these tunnels home.

This Side of Brightness is not a “happy” book and the characters’ lives offer little hope. Like many of us, however, the characters all dream of returning to their happy place or time…for Walker this means escaping New York for his boyhood home down south. He recalls romanticized memories of live oaks draped with Spanish moss, running down dirt roads without shoes, and eating his mother’s home cooked food.

I’m more than happy to indulge Walker in that which would bring him joy. So while a gin cocktail may seem the obvious pairing for this novel, I’ve elected, instead, for one of my favorite quintessentially southern foods: cheesy grits. It pairs well with shrimp or a simple roast chicken and goes great with biscuits.

Enjoy!

Cheesy Grits

Ingredients:

3 cups vegetable stock

3 cups milk

Kosher salt

Pepper’

1 ½ cup quick cooking grits

4 TBS butter

¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese

¼  cup shredded sharp cheese

¼ cup heavy cream

Paprika

 Directions

Place vegetable stock and milk in a large saucepan. Season stock with mixture of kosher salt and pepper. Add grits to the liquid and let sit for a about 5 minutes to begin hydration. Turn heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Once liquid simmers, reduce heat to very low and continue to cook, whisking occasionally for about 40-60 minutes or until the liquid is mostly absorbed. If the consistency gets too thick, add more milk or stock.

Stir in butter, cheeses and heavy cream. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve warm.

Posted in Easy preparation, Lowcountry, Side dishes, This Side of Brightness, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to make Butterbeer and What to be for Halloween

by Christy

It’s that time of year again… time to load up on pumpkins, enjoy the fall color change, and pull out the crock pot for a batch of simmering soup.  Soon, we’ll see ghosts, goblins, witches, superheroes, princesses and more take to the streets for a night of trick or treating. I love Halloween! I love the decorations in the stores, the comfort foods of the fall, and the (finally!) cooler temperatures. There is one issue, however, that has plagued me every year—deciding on the perfect Halloween costume. Every year that I have dressed up, I’ve struggled to come up with the perfect outfit. Should I be scary or funny? Witty or cute? There are so many choices! My favorite in the past was as a groupie for a glam rock band (not sure if I should repeat the band name here) fronted by our husbands (Yes, Melanie was a groupie too). How we didn’t win the group costume contest that year is still beyond me.

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Lena as a Chicken: Please Help! What should she be this year?

Although my personal dress-up days are in the past, I have a new dilemma. What should my 16 month old daughter be this year? Unfortunately, last year I didn’t make the decision soon enough and Lena’s aunt and uncle bought her a chicken suit at the last minute (see photo).  Let’s not let Lena be a chicken again this year.  I welcome all suggestions—please give me some ideas in the comments.

And now on to the recipe:  Butter Beer! In honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to celebrate by finding a recipe for a special Halloween drink from my favorite (and everyone else’s) wizarding series, the magical world of Harry Potter. Who wouldn’t want to join Hermione when she asks Harry, “”Why don’t we go and have a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, it’s a bit cold, isn’t it?

Is there a better way to celebrate the holiday besides a frothy mug of butter beer? I think not.  I was sure that a Harry Potter fan, like me, had already provided a recipe for this delicious beverage (which can be served hot or cold), and it didn’t take me long to narrow the recipes down to my top 3 picks. I haven’t made this yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know what I like best; you can do the same. Enjoy!

Rosmerta’s Recipes—Butter Beer by Melissa

http://www.mugglenet.com/misc/rosmertas/butterbeer.shtml

This is possibly the easiest looking recipe on the list. You only need 3 ingredients.

Harry Potter Butterbeer Recipe by NateCooks

http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/harry-potters-butterbeer-recipe/1/

This one seemed like the best one to add a little rum to (if you so choose to make it alcoholic).

Butterbeer recipe—Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, About.com

http://homecooking.about.com/od/dessertrecipes/r/bldes188.htm

This recipe involves whipped vanilla ice cream! ‘nuff said.

Posted in 5 ingredients or less, Beverages, Easy preparation, Harry Potter, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

How to Make Cheddar and Chive Biscuits: Confessions of a Recovering Book Snob

By: Melanie

It’s true, of course, that Christy and I write YA and I do love to read in that genre, but I cannot lie: my heart belongs to the classics. From Dickens to Rand, Wilde to Gogol, and Austen to Conrad…I have an undeniable history of book snobbery. As proof: for years I shunned Harry Potter because it was “popular,” and clearly, a serious reader like me couldn’t be caught with a best seller in tow. Thank goodness I learned the error of my ways; without the final three books in the Potter series, I would never have survived a month of prescribed bed rest during my pregnancy. (On a separate but related note: I am clearly not totally cured of my snobby ways. I have never and will never eat a Krispy Kreme Donut based solely on the chain’s initial popularity.)

Getting back to the point…last year my dad spent months raving about a book, The Shopkeeper by James D. Best. He wanted me to read it; I was not interested. I was even less interested when he told me it was a western. I don’t do westerns.  He had somehow convinced my mom, a fellow lover of fine literature, to read it and she told me it was surprisingly excellent. I agreed to give it a shot—if only to get the two of them off my back.

It turns out, dear readers, there are problems with book snobbery. As with Harry Potter, the case of The Shopkeeper revealed a grave error in my prejudgment.  While the plot of this western may sound trite, Steve Dancy, a well educated New Yorker heads to the wild west where he faces pistol duels and a gang of outlaws, it is anything but. This novel is not only entertaining, but clever, and quite intriguing. The prose is decidedly and artfully simply, and I’d argue that the story reveals itself more like a detective novel than a typical western.

To be truthful, the narrator, Dancy, had me in Chapter 2 when he confesses to “dawdle over breakfast.” He takes his time, enjoying a large meal—eggs, biscuits, bacon, and coffee– all while reading a good novel, in this case, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a new book by Mark Twain.”  We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: food and books are a perfect combination. Steve Dancy just gets us.

Another great combo, cheddar and chives. These cheddar and chive biscuits are the perfect complement to a savory breakfast and they also make a great side dish at dinner too. Because they include a bit of dry ranch dressing mix, they definitely have a bit of western flavor. Enjoy!

Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Ingredients:

Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour

¼ cup minced fresh chives

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dry ranch mix

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

4 TBSP shortening

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk

1 cup all-purpose flour (used for shaping)

2 TBSP melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease an 8” cake pan (or spray with non-stick cooking spray)

In a large mixing bowl, combine self-rising flour, minced chives, salt, pepper, and ranch mix. Work in the shortening with a fork (or fingertips) until there are no large clumps. Stir in shredded cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard and heavy cream.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream mixture.  Add ¾ of the buttermilk. Gently stir to combine. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. If it is drier, add more buttermilk. If it is soupy, add a small additional amount of self-rising flour.

Spread the all-purpose flour on a plate. Flour your hands to make the dough easier to handle, then, one at a time, spoon evenly sized dough balls onto the plate of all-purpose flour. Sprinkle flour all over the ball of dough. Shake off any excess flour and place it in the prepared cake pan. Continue shaping the biscuits and pack them tightly against one another in the pan until all the dough is used.

Place the pan in the oven on a shelf just slightly below the center of the oven. Bake 20-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush with melted butter and invert onto a plate and then back to another so top side of biscuits is facing up. Cut between biscuits to make them easy to serve.

Posted in Books, Breads, Breakfast, Holiday dishes, Lowcountry, Side dishes, The Shopkeeper, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Survive the Flu: Easy Chicken Noodle Soup (when you don’t have a strapping, young war veteran)

How to Survive the Flu: Easy Chicken Noodle Soup (when you don't have a strapping, young war veteran).

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How to Survive the Flu: Easy Chicken Noodle Soup (when you don’t have a strapping, young war veteran)

By Christy

In 1918, The United States (and entire world) was ravaged by a deadly plague: The Spanish influenza. The pandemic took the lives of over 50 million people (by some cautious estimates), which was approximately 3% of the world’s population at that time; just under 30% of the population was said to have suffered from the illness. That’s no minor disaster. Not to mention, the strain’s deadliness was more prominent among the young and healthy, as opposed to typical flu viruses that attack the weak and elderly.  So, why, when its effects were so devastating, is this pandemic relatively unknown?

One answer might be that the virus took hold during the end of the Great War, when the world had already been suffering through the war. It was just one last blow (possibly the most destructive) after four long years of world-wide anguish and sacrifice during the war. Another possibility might be that the virus spread quickly, and then moved on. It visited towns for 2 to 3 weeks, and then after the death toll had risen to the point of no return, it would slip quietly away to the next town over to wreck its havoc again.

So, why am I interested in this infectious plague? For two reasons (1) Bound, the young adult novel I co-authored with my fellow blogger Melanie, features its own deadly plague, and (2) I recently downloaded and read Dunaway’s Crossing by Nancy Brandon, on my kindle app for iPad.  Dunaway’s Crossing is set in 1918 rural Georgia.  Dunaway's Crossing Book

Here’s the blurb:

          Nineteen year-old Bea Dot Ferguson leaves her wealthy Savannah home and travels to rural Pineview, Georgia where her pregnant cousin lives. Her purpose: to escape her abusive husband, who knows her shameful secret. Immediately Bea Dot realizes she’s left one perilous situation and landed in another as Pineview has been infected with deadly influenza. Only with the help of war veteran Will Dunaway can Bea Dot escape contagion. But can he also help her escape her husband’s wrath?

I have the pleasure of working with Nancy, and it’s been great to talk to her lately about her novel and its promotion. Not to mention all I’ve learned about this plague!

If you are familiar with the book, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I won’t be providing a recipe for Bobcat stew, the thought of which disgusts Bea Dot after Will Dunaway tells her he’s giving the carcass of the animal (he had just killed it after it had attacked Bea Dot) to his neighbors to prepare as food. Fortunately for Bea Dot, Will was just teasing and fortunately for you, I won’t be discussing it. I will, however, give you a family recipe for the all-time best cure for the flu: Chicken Noodle Soup. I call it “Polish Chicken Noodle Soup” because it is a family recipe, and because there is no chicken in the soup (you eat it on the side with deli mustard. I know, it sounds strange, but it’s really quite delicious!). Also, let me just preface this recipe with this: for those of you who need exact measurements—you might want to wait and check out my “Jewish Chicken Noodle Soup” recipe (to be posted in a few weeks). The Polish Soup recipe is old country—no exact measurements—but if you’re good in the kitchen, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Ingredients

1 whole, uncooked chicken, preferably organic (it has more flavor)

1 16 oz box elbow macaroni noodles, cooked just before al dente.

3 or 4 carrots (depending on size), sliced into ¼ inch disks

3 celery sticks, chopped (stalk and all)

Chicken bouillon (to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Remove insides from Chicken (gizzards, organs). Put the chicken in a stock pot and add water to the pot until the chicken is just covered.

Boil for 45 minutes, or until Chicken is cooked (depends on size of the bird). When it’s cooked, remove the chicken and set aside.

In a separate pot, sauté the carrots and celery. Add the chicken water.

Add bouillon to taste (maybe 3 to 4 tablespoons, or cubes). (Ocassionally, I boil the chicken in broth and water mix instead of using bouillon).

Add cooked elbow macaroni. (Sometimes I make homemade noodles for this, but we won’t go there this time.)

Let simmer for a few minutes.

How to Serve

Ladle soup into bowls, and serve with S&P (I like to add a lot of extra pepper).

Place cooked chicken in a large bowl; serve with deli mustard. Allow guests to take a piece of chicken and dollop their own mustard on a second plate. The chicken should be falling off the bone.

Also, I usually like to prepare a platter of “Boss Hogs” (what we call quartered, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) to be eaten with the soup and chicken.

You’ll love the combination of flavors: the simple soup broth, chicken and mustard, and PB&Js!

Posted in 5 ingredients or less, Dunaway's Crossing, Easy preparation, Soup | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

How to Make Pecan Praline Angel Food Cake: No Dumpster Diving Required

ImageBy: Melanie

They say everything changes when you have a baby. In some ways, this is true. Since the birth of my twins last year, I’ve discovered a few things. For one, there is no such thing as a “quick trip” to Publix. And two, I no longer have any expectation of privacy. (What? You mean I used to be able to go to the bathroom by myself? That seems like a foggy memory of days long since passed.)

Despite all this, not everything has changed. With time at a premium, my true passions have come into greater focus:  running, travel, food, writing, and of course…books.

These things have not changed and I assume never will.

So, when my sister-in-law, Diana (a recent graduate of Oregon State University) got me a present a few months ago I couldn’t have been more excited to see that it was a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, I’ll Take you There. She lucked out…it was one I hadn’t read. But this was no ordinary copy. Diana had Ms. Oates personally sign it for me, a fact that literally thrilled me beyond words!

The unnamed protagonist in I’ll Take you There, though a bibliophile in her own rite, sadly, never experiences the type of joy that I did at the receipt of this gift. She is “too smart for her own good” and the outcast of her college sorority (and family, too, for that matter). Her passion for philosophy culminates into an obsessive relationship with a fellow student, named Vernor, a Black man (of course, this is taboo for upstate New York in the 1960s) to whom she’s drawn based on his remarks in a lecture hall. Though she doesn’t know it initially, but Vernor spotted her some weeks prior during her ritual of scrounging for food out of the trash cans: “it was the caterers’ cartons that caught my eye in the trash, the aftermath of Saturday night parties, leftover canapés, caviar jars where always some caviar remained, even deviled eggs, or parts of eggs, bread sticks, even, once, a sizeable portion of an angel’s food wedding cake” (60).

While I, of course, cannot condone the practice of eating garbage—you have to admit—the girl clearly has a refined palate. If you’re going to do something, do it well, I always say. With that said, why eat a regular old angel’s food cake (bor-ring!) when you could have a delectable, sumptuous pecan praline angel food cake? This cake is rich and delicious and so worth digging through the garbage for.

Pecan Praline Angel Food Cake

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Pecan Praline Angel Food Cake

10 egg whites, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp salt

1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

2 cups brown sugar, packed and divided

1 ¼ cups cake flour

Glaze Ingredients:

½ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup butter

¼ cup whipped cream

½ cup pecans, finely chopped

Cake Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350

Place egg whites and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt and beat until soft peaks form. Break up 1 cup of brown sugar and sprinkle into the mixture. Whip until stiff peaks form.

Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar, pecans, and flour in a separate bowl and mix well.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg whites a little at a time. Pour into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan. Back at 350 for 50 minutes or until cake is springy.

Invert pan and cool completely. Loosen cake from the sides with a thin knife and then turn cooled cake upright on a serving platter. Pour glaze over the top, spreading to even out. Allow it to run down the sides of the cake.

Glaze Instructions:

Combine brown sugar, sugar, butter, and whipping cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until just boiling. Cook and stir until mixtures researches the soft ball stage (238 degrees). Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Pour over cake.

Posted in Cake, Desserts, Holiday dishes, Lowcountry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Make Tostones: Brief prep, Wondrous taste

By: Melanie

I have a bit of a confession to make, and I hope this won’t come as a total shock to all the loyal readers[1] out there:  I haven’t always been this cool. I know…take a minute. Wrap your brain around it. It’s hard to believe that someone as awesome as I am now[2] is the same girl who couldn’t snag a date to her high school prom[3].  This is why I love[4] The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

Our protagonist Oscar[5] is disastrously uncool; a “ghetto nerd,” he’s overweight, obsessed with D & D, cursed by the Fuku[6], and worst of all, can’t get a girl.

 While Oscar Wao is not, ultimately, a comedy, it is an undeniably funny book[7]. I think what makes the novel so funny, yet so touching, is that Oscar is real.  His flaws render him instantly recognizable, relatable, and likable[8].

 I’ve never understood a writer who crafts a “perfect” character.  Personally, I don’t know any Edward Cullens[9].  Who wants to read that? It’s not funny. It’s certainly not realistic. And moreover, it makes the reader feel like crap for not measuring up.

So, this one’s for you, Oscar. It’s super easy to prep, it’s fried[10], and it’s a true taste of the D.R.[11]  Eat up!

 
 

 

Plantains: banana's ugly cousin

Ingredients:

 

2 unripe plantains

½ tsp garlic salt

½ tsp salt

Vegetable Oil

Directions:

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan

Meanwhile, peel the plantains and cut into 1” thick slices. Then fry until they are golden brown and float to the surface.

While they are cooking, mix the salt and garlic salt together in a small bowl.

Remove the plantains from the oil and flatten using the bottom of a glass.

Fry them again for approximately 30 seconds

Remove them from the oil and sprinkle each with the salt mixture.

Serve immediately.


[1]A big shout out to our number one fan, my dad, who Christy aptly refers to as “Danny Tanner.” Though, I think my dad has a leg up. Danny Tanner would never fashion a plate or a napkin out of his shirt as my dad will do in a time of need. So, thank you, Dad, for teaching me practical life skills. 

[2]  What is awesome? Having a couple vodka sodas and rereading A Clockwork Orange for the tenth time. That, my friends, is what I mean by awesome.

[3] I was in a “punk” phase in high school. I redesigned my clothes with safety pins, chalk, and sharpies. To me, prom was a cliché. I refused to go because it was a trite, outdated, sophomoric ritual. Then again, I was never asked. 

[4] I know, I say I love a lot of books, but I really love this book. Immediately after finishing it, I gushed to Christy about it,  probably using the words “brilliant” and “amazing” as much as Tomcat in their early years. She selected it for our book club and I was thrilled to read it a second time.

[5] This novel is, of course, not wholly Oscar’s story. It’s the story of his family and of the Dominican Republic

[6] Allegedly

[7] I can’t tell you the number of times I read Brian passages that had me laughing out loud.

[8] Literary lesson for the day: Aristotle explained that a perfect tragic hero must be flawed (thus, the “tragic flaw”) because if he is too perfect, the audience wouldn’t care about his demise.

[9] Well, except for that dude who bartends at The Bohemian and is also friends with the guy who looks like Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But he only THINKS he looks like Edward Cullen. He doesn’t really. Basically, he’s just pale. 

[10] Edward Cullens of the world, beware. This means fried in oil, and thus, will not build or maintain a six pack. Oh…nevermind. Edward Cullen doesn’t eat. Scratch that.

[11] Dominican Republic

Posted in 5 ingredients or less, Book Club Snacks and Appetizers, Easy preparation, Side dishes, Summer dishes, The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Make Chocolate Cream Pie: Confession Time

By: Melanie

I’m guessing if you’ve read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help,  (or, I guess, seen the movie) there’s one scene in particular you’ll never forget: The Pie.  THE pie.  Ugh.  I’m not gonna lie, our book club spent more time than any so-called sophisticated women would like to admit dissecting the intricacies of Minny’s infamous Chocolate Cream Pie.  The taste. The texture. The aroma. We debated the…*ahem* techniques that rendered such a pie possible. (Wait…who am I kidding…obviously all sophistication went right out the window with this conversation.)  If you’ve read the book, chances are, you’ve at least thought about this stuff too. In all seriousness, I’ll never look at a Chocolate Cream Pie quite the same way again.

Unfortunately for me, chocolate cream pie just happens to be my husband’s favorite. And, confession time: despite many rather sloppy attempts, it’s also the one pie that has always eluded me. No matter what I do, it never turns out right. This would probably bother me less if not for the fact that my non-cooking husband randomly whipped one up several years ago. The result: perfection. And yes, he loves to taunt me with this. “What’s the problem? I made one just fine,” he’ll remark smugly every time I’m scraping another failed attempted into the trash. “It’s not that hard. Just follow the recipe. Do you need me to help you?”

Help? Help?! I’m beyond Help. Allow me to explain:

I follow the family recipe to the letter. The same my husband had used. My crust is always buttery and flaky. My sugar and melted chocolate is always creamy and smooth.

Then the crap hits the fan. I pour the boiling chocolate slowly into a bowl of egg yolks while stirring rapidly. My result? Scrambled eggs. Every. Single. Time. Without fail.

FYI: This does not taste good with chocolate

The first time this happened about seven years ago—my first attempt to tackle this beast—I thought it was normal. (Sophisticated, right?) So I poured the chunky chocolate slop into the pie shell, refrigerated and served.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten what can only be described as chocolate pudding fried rice quiche…but it’s not such a tasty combo.

Then, a couple years ago on Christmas, another attempt, and again scrambled eggs. I thought I could salvage it by sifting the chocolate mixture through a colander, filtering out the egg chunks. In a desperate attempt to save this pie at all costs, most of the egg-free filling I shoveled into the pie-shell had actually been retrieved from the bottom of the sink where it had fallen during this messy process. (Yep…sophisticated and sanitary!)  As it turns out though, the egg yolks actually do serve a purpose. This chocolate cream pie was more like chocolate soup pie. Another disgusting attempt.

I’d like to ignore the fact that my husband has used this same family recipe successfully. I’d like to declare the chocolate cream pie a pie cursed. But unfortunately, I’m a realist: I’m defective.

So, here’s the recipe. May it bring you more than it’s brought me: a wealth of bitterness and self-doubt.

Clearly, this pie was not made by me.

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

1 ½ cups sugar

1/3 cup corn starch

½ tsp salt

3 cups milk

2 Tbsp butter softened

2 tsp vanilla

2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, cut up.

Directions:

Bake (or procure) one pie crust

Separate egg yolks and beat slightly. Set aside.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a sauce pan. Slowly stir in milk, then add cut up baking chocolate.

Cook over medium heat, and stir constantly, until chocolate melts and milk thickens. Allow the mixture to boil, be sure to stir the entire time so milk does not burn. Boil and stir one minute.

Pour a little of the hot mixture into the egg yolks. Beat rapidly to avoid scrambling the eggs (good luck!)

Stir the warm (hopefully not scrambled) yolk mixture back into the pan. Boil and stir for one minute. 

Remove from heat and stir in softened butter and vanilla.

Pour into pie crust, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Top with whipped cream when ready to serve.

Posted in Desserts, Holiday dishes, Pies, summer desserts, The Help | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lamb Stew and Dried Plums from The Hunger Games

 

By: Christy

Katniss Everdeen is a teenage girl, drafted to compete in The Hunger Games, a televised, fight-to-the-death bloodbath in the country of Panem. The Hunger Games are the epitome of reality television in this world where the oppressed are many and the The Hunger Gamesprivileged are few. In case you haven’t caught on yet, I’m referring to The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, possibly the hottest and most controversial young adult series being read today.

The story features real teens living in a dystopian United States of America who don’t have supernatural powers, but who do rely on exceptional skills to help them survive the arena. The winner of the Hunger Games gets to live a life of ease. And the losers?…Well, they die. The tributes kill each other off until the last man or woman is standing.

How does this relate to food? Actually, the food references are one of the strongest motifs in the text. When Katniss first visits the Capital (where they prepare tributes for battle), she is astounded by the exquisite flavors and un-ending quantities of food. In her district, she’s lucky if she gets squirrel meat with burnt bread, so she takes advantage of gorging herself on the elaborate meals every chance she gets. When she’s interviewed by Caesar Flickerman, the Ryan Seacrest of the games, she tells him her favorite thing about the Capital is the lamb stew. She’s embarrassed by her quick response, but her response is believable because we know she’s never had much to eat.

This recipe for Lamb Stew with Dried Plums is directly inspired by Katniss’ favorite dish. Her stew also featured dried plums (prunes).

Lamb Stew with Dried Plums

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 lbs lamb stew meat or lamb shoulder on the bone

1 onion, sliced

1 can, 14 oz, chopped or diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups dry red wine

1 cup stock

1 1/2 cups pitted prunes

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 strip of orange zest (optional)

1 third cup of toasted almond slivers (optional)

How to Prepare:

Heat the olive oil on high in a dutch oven or non-stick saucepan with a lid. When it’s heated (after a minute or two), add the meat and sizzle until it’s browned all over.

Remove the meat and set aside.

Add the onions to the pot and cook them until they are soft (3-5 minutes).

Return the meat to the pot, and add the wine, stock and diced tomatoes.

Bring everything to a boil

After it begins to boil, reduce the heat (low), and cover the pot. Let simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the prunes and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and prunes are soft.  When ready to serve, stir in the vinegar, and heat through 15-20 minutes.

Serve over wild rice.

Posted in Books, Hunger Games, Meaty Main Dishes, one-dish meals | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments