Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tidbits: There YA go again, Hollywood

  • Remember how excited I was about The Perks of Being a Wallflower being adapted?  WELL.  I finally saw it.  Guys, I am pleased, delighted, relieved, and melancholy.  It was great.  You should all see it!
  •  Divergent shops for Four; I feel old because I know who none of those actors are. 
  • SO many YAdaptations dropped this week.  Okay, two.  Here are my deep, deep thoughts:
  • I firmly believe there needs to be a men of YA charity calendar.  Possibly a related movie, avec Calendars girls.  Luckily, I'm not alone...I double dog dare you not the snicker at The Dudes of YA: a "Lit-Erotic" Photospread.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dinner Train Book Club: Little Women

Well, you can revoke my license to be a lady. 

In the interest of full disclosure, this was not the first time I've tried and failed to read/finish Little Women...that's right, I did not finish this children's novel.  I did, however, read to the point where Alcott's all "Oh hey reader-guys, if you like this, TELL MY EDITOR.  You know, so I can publish the end."  I felt that was a fair place to end - especially because I spent most of the book wondering when Beth was going to die already (thanks to the Winona Rider/Christian Bale movie for that one).  I would have given a spoiler alert, but I suspect I'm the only adult woman in the country who would be reading a librarian's blog to have not read this.  For this reason, and because hello, we both know the Internets have no shortage for squeefilled reviews of this one, I'm going to refrain from sharing too many thoughts.  But I will say that this is a book FILLED with food, though kind of old timey things that there was no way I was making.  Blancmange?  Get real, Jo.  That sounds unappetizing - it actually sounds like a skin disease to me.   I totally still made a cheese plate based on it though...But more on food below.

It was so rainy, rainier
than Old Man Laurence's
eyeballs when Beth
(finally) dies.
Additionally, because I did see the movie, I'll admit that I felt really weird about picturing longtime crush Christian Bale as a 12-year-old boy, or however old he is at the start - even though who doesn't have a childhood crush on Laurie?  Get it together, Jo.  Also, Amy is still a twit.  And Beth, I'm sorry, because you do die for being good...but what. the. flip.  Grow a pair.  Also, your doll parties are kind of lame.  I think we should introduce you to Anne of Green Gables.  And Meg?  Well, being the oldest is hard, so Ima cut her some slack, but she could use a self-confidence pep-talk.   Jo?  I mean...she's really not of her time, and she did make me snicker with the crusty old aunt, but gawwwwwd.  Stop being so contrary and archetypal!  Laurie is a babe!  Get some!

Thank you to Bean, Sam, Arianna, Bailey, and Lisa (who came all the way from Philly), who all came out on a supremely rainy spring day to eat some salty strawberries!  We had a great time, and even better discussion.  Topics that I remember covering included if this is the first YA (intentionally, unintentionally, or not at all), the feminist vibes, the book being ahead of its time, the cuteness of Laurie, and why it takes forever for Beth to die (okay, that's all me).

Also...I had this book club meeting on June 2nd.  JUDGE AWAY.

Dinner Train Book Club: Little Women Recipes
  •  Lemonade
Marmee hits this stuff hard when the girls go to bed.

  • Blancmange-y Cheese and Crackers
Way less gross looking than real blancmange

Recipe 18: Salty Strawberry Crisp (AKA Dinner Train: Little Women - Jo's Salty Strawberries)

Jo March is a terrible cook.  I mean, salty strawberries? Gross. And yet she tries, so I've chosen to honor this effort with a recipe that scores a spot on the Le Creuset Challenge roster: Salty Strawberry Crisp.  Unfortunately, I didn't think it was very good.  But I also don't like baked strawberries...so I might not be the best person to rate this one.  You can be the judge! Enjoy the bonus stroke of genius I had while pondering my freshly squeezed lemons from the lemonade I made, below the recipe. 

Jo's Salty Strawberries (AKA Salty Strawberry Crisp)
Jo's Salty Strawberries (aka Salty Strawberry Crisp)
(From The Craving Chronicles)
Serves 4-6

2-3 cups diced strawberries (I used fresh, but I bet frozen will work here too)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp granulated sugar (make sure it's not salt, Jo)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
15 Ritz crackers
1 tsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp salted butter, melted
a tiny bit of Kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and coat a small Le Creuset with cooking spray.
  2. Toss the strawberries with the lemon juice, granulated sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl before pouring it into the prepared pot.
  3. In another medium bowl, crush the Ritz into small pieces (fingers are sufficient) and add the brown sugar, and butter.  Combine until just damp but pretty evenly mixed.  Top the pot with the mixture and sprinkle a tiny, tiny toss of Kosher salt over the top. 
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is browned and there's some good bubblin' going on in your pot.
  5. Remove, let cool for a few minutes, and serve with vanilla creamed ice or strawberry sorbet (bonus recipe below!)

Cold Pockets (aka Stuffed Frozen Lemons)

Got some lemons you've squeezed to make lemonade?  Got some sorbet?  You got the easiest fancy looking dessert ever.  Jo would probably still screw it up.

Take your lemon half, and cut of the very end, leaving some skin but creating a flat surface so it can stand on its own.  Scrape the inside clean with a spoon or parring knife.  Let your frozen sorbet thaw a bit for easy scooping.  When it's nice and pliable, fill the lemons, put them on a plate, and pop them back into the freezer for at least 20 minutes to get firm.  Garnish with a mint sprig, feel fancy, and gloat because it was the easiest, prettiest desert short of buying a cake.


Dinner Train: Little Women - Sesame Asparagus Noodle Salad

Jo March does many things well.  Writing, sistering, befriending old ladies and young boys, burning off curls with a curling iron, you get the idea.  She does not, however, cook asparagus well.  Damn shame, because asparagus cooked well is a thing of beauty.  Tossed with some noodles in a sesame soy sauce?  Boom.  Delicious made easy and quick.  I know I made some adaptations, which I noted on a really crumpled and soy-stained Post-It that has been on my fridge since May...but they're a little less than detailed, so I recommend working from the original recipe.

Sesame Asparagus Noodle Salad
(Adapted from Culinate.com)
Serves MANY

1/2 cup sesame oil
4 Tbsp soy (but the original says 7, so...)
3 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar
3 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili oil (or more if you're feelin' craycray)
1 garlic clove

2 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 package (approx 14-16 oz) rice noodles
10 scallions, finely sliced
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into small squares
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce

1.  Mix all marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and stir to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.
2.  In a large wok, heat the sesame oil and saute the tofu, stirring every minute or so for about six mintes.  Add the soy and saute two to three more minutes until it is absorbed. Remove from heat. and cool entirely.
3.  You have two options for cooking the asparagus.  You can add it to the end of the tofu cooking process (probably 4-5 minutes), or toss it in for the last three or so minutes of the noodle boiling (next step).  The goal is to let it get bright green and crisp, not firmly crunchy.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the rice noodles until done.  Drain, rise, and store in a bowl (or the original pot) with some water to prevent sticking.  Let it cool entirely. 
4.  In a very large serving vessel, toss together the asparagus, the tofu, the noodles, the sesame seed, and the scallions.  For pretty factor, save a bit of the sesame seeds and the scallions to garnish the top with.
5.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to ensure it is total cooled, and then serve with some lemonade and a quality book club discussion!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tidbits: Sloppy shuffle sorts the presidents and some adapation news

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recipe 19: Calabaza Queso Casserole (aka Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Black Beans, Kale, Tomato, and Chili)

With their powers combined, you
too can have a delicious dinner!
I'll admit it.  I'm on a pumpkin bender.  But you know what?  I'm okay with that!  You will be too be when you try all of these recipes.  

While eagerly devouring my leftover Spicy Pumpkin Chili last week, I had the genius idea to put it on my leftover macaroni and cheese.  It was a very, very delicious decision.  Which made me ponder if I could hybridize the whole recipe.  And so I did, working from the recipe I often use to make really tasty mac and cheese.  

Making an appearance with my
experimentalpumpkin banana bread.
Below is what I came up with, using black beans instead of red kidney beans, and using double the kale and none of the meat.  I'm pretty confident you can throw in anything you want here and be fine.  I'd also like to encourage you to use three instead of my two cups of pasta, since this is a weird baked mac and cheese, not just a weird baked pumpkiny cheese chili-flavored kale thing.  

Feel free to add more cheese - the pumpkin cuts it a bit, so if you're all about the queso, don't hold back, Monterrey Jack!  If you try other ingredients in the fixin's mixture, let me know how it turns out!  I have a sneaking suspicion it'll taste delicious with sausage, different beans, spinach, bacon, etc.  By all means, get crazy with this!   It tastes awfully good with some extra cheese and sriracha...

Calabaza Queso Casserole
Serves 4-6
Calabeza Queso Casserole
(aka Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Black Beans, Kale, Tomato, and Chili)

3 cups rotini pasta
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 4 oz can chopped green chilis
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less depending on taste)
1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups milk
16 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (save some to sprinkle on the top)
2-4 oz goat cheese (add more if you want it cheesier, duhs)
15 oz pumpkin (one can)
Salt and Pepper

1.  Cook your pasta, leaving it a weensy bit al dente and then drain it.  If you can't figure this step out, this recipe is not for you.
2.  Saute your onion in some olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan for about 6 minutes, until they begin to brown up a bit.
3.  Add the beans, tomatoes, chilis, and spices, and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring until well incorporated.
4.  Add the kale and cover.  After 4 minutes or so, remove the cover, stir to incorporate and recover.  Do this until the kale begins to wilt and lighten a bit in color, probably after 8 minutes or so.  Turn off the heat; you can stir in the pasta if you want to clear up some space on your counter.
5.  Preheat your oven to 350.
6.  In a medium to large sauce pot, melt your butter over medium heat.  When it starts to bubble, proceed to step seven.
7.  Whisk in the flour.  When the mixture begins to bubble, proceed to step eight.
8.  Warm 2 cups of your milk in the microwave, until it is warm but not hot to the touch.
9.  Begin to slowly whisk it into the sauce pan.
10.  When the milk is incorporated, lower the heat a bit and keep and eye on it.  You want it to start to simmer, but not turn into a full rolling boil that will make a mess of your stovetop!
11.  When the simmer is attained, lower the heat to maintain the temperature.
12.  Begin to whisk in the cheeses, one scoop or handful at a time.
13.  When the cheese is fully incorporated (and remember to save some for the top of the dish), add in the pumpkin one big dollop at a time, also whisking to fully incorporate before adding more.  Alternate with pours of the remaining cup of milk.
14.  Season to taste with pepper and salt if needed.
15.  Pour the sauce into the large frying pan and stir to coat the pasta and fixin's.
16.  Pour the mixture into a large Le Creuset sprayed with cooking spray or buttered.  Sprinkle with cheese and a few dashes of chili powder and cayenne.
17.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350, and then turn the oven up to a boil, baking for five more minutes or until the cheese on top gets really gooey and bubbly and maybe a bit brown.
18.  DEVOUR.  But let it cool a bit first.  The roof of your mouth will thank you.
If you close your eyes, this hot mess of Calabeza Queso Casserole
will look as good as it tastes...

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