Sunday, December 23, 2012

Recipe 17: White Lightning Chili

White Lightning Chili
For a long time, I've been craving an alternative chili.  When I got caught in a snow storm in the Berkshires a few weeks back, it was, frankly, all I could think about (besides not skidding off the road, duh).  But it took a few weeks longer to make it happen, which left a lot of time to research the multitude of recipes out there for white chili.  There are a lot of options - meat, no meat, different types of meat, certain types of beans, cornmeal, no cornmeal, etc.  

I took a few recipes that I liked the look of (The Pioneer Woman, Cooking Light), and hybridized them.  The resulting recipe is pretty good - but I'm open to suggestions.  I've never had white chili before, so I'm not sure what, if anything else I'd like to add.  Maybe adding the hot sauce directly to the soup while cooking?  Maybe some acidity in the form of lime?  Actually, next time I make this, that's happening.  Let me know what you think, and what angle you take on this white lightning flash in your Le Creuset pan. 

White Lightning Chili in a Le Creuset

White Lightning Chicken Chili
Serves 6-8

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Luxe, by Anna Godbersen: Gossip Girl goes to the Guilded Age

The Luxe
by Anna Godbersen
Harper Collins: New York, 2007
ISBN: 0061345660

Once upon a time in ye Olde NYC, before Gossip Girl took the interwebs by storm, there were the society pages, the low tech but equally reliable font of the titillating tales of the crème de la crème in NYC society.  The Luxe is set in 1890's NYC, during the Guilded Age.  Times are a changin': new money encroaches on old money society turf, and the hired help is starting to get ideas!  This is the story of Ms. Elizabeth Holland, freshly returned from Paris, and under pressure to be married off to an eligible bachelor now that the Holland family is on the verge of bankruptcy due to some shady dealings by her late father.  Her best friend is the nouveau-riche princess of NYC society, Penelope Hayes.  Both girls have secret lovers.  Penelope's lovah is the catch of the year, Henry Schoonmaker, who is forced into an engagement with Elizabeth, leaving Penelope vengeful.  But Elizabeth's not feeling so great about this, as she's taking riding lessons from the coachman down in the stables… Woahhh! Meanwhile, Henry has fallen hard for Diana, Elizabeth's little sister, and Elizabeth's personal maid has gotten some independent ideas during Elizabeth's absence.  With Penelope out for revenge, things are bound to take a turn for the dramatic, and the society pages are bound to dish on it! 

The Luxe is for YA's who like the scandal, life of excess, and drama GG provides, but maybe want a little history (and yards of silk) thrown into the mix.  While the book does provide great historical backdrops, fashion, and misc. tidbits, it often goes well beyond what would have been appropriate, acceptable, or even expected, especially in regards to sex, which could call into question just how historically accurate this work is…As a side note, this is published by the same Harper Collins imprint as GG, Alloy Entertainment. I highly recommend checking out the page for this book on Amazon, where there is the most bizzaro movie trailer for the second book…the first movie trailer I've ever seen for a book to boot.  Also, hello.  The cover had me at hello - even though I was immediately like, "Shoulders?  In ye olde timey New York?  Sluuuutttt alerttttt!  (But where can I try that dress on, for serious.)"

Book talk hook:  Peg this as Gossip Girl, with class…HIGH CLASS!  Get it?!? This is one where the cover will help sell the book as fans of historical fiction (and those who fantasize about frolicking in period clothing) may be intrigued by the girl on the cover.  I find the narrative tough to do a read aloud with, since the story is kind of all over the place.  Summarizing it like I do above will probably be enough.

Monday, December 10, 2012

To Marry An English Lord, by Gail MacColl: A Step By Step Guide for Downton Fangirls

To Marry An English Lord
by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
Workman’s Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7611-7195-9

If we hold these truths to be self-evident, it is evident that this self does not read nearly enough books that are true.   I mean…I’m rocking a one-a-year ratio.  Which is better than a none-a-year ratio, but it’s not like my brain is on a truth-avoiding diet, avec Fox News.  There’s just so many books, so little time to read them all.   Am I right or am I right, you guys?

Another reason I don’t have nearly enough time to read truthy things is because I’m busy watching them.  You’ve probably heard of a show called Downton Abbey.  It is TOTALLY truthy, you guys.  Everyone got Pamuked all the time, changed outfits with the help of the help seventeen times a day, and all lived in giant Abbeys in ye olde Eduardian England, right?   Anyways, I digress from my mission of truth.  My point here?  I totally dig Downton Abbey.

Naturally, I was filled with glee when I stumbled upon the book that claims to be the inspirational reading for Downton Abbey architect creator Julian Fellowes.  I was doubly filled with glee when I realized it both is filled with history AND reads kind of like an extensive gossip column, filled with turn of the century posed celebrity photos (the more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?).  History? Fashion?  Drama? Gossip?  Lady nerd red alert!

Guys.  Let’s just say I know it’s a bad idea, but I kind of would like to spend an afternoon prancing around in Charles Worth dress as my parents sell me into a loveless marriage with a very old and very gouty British Lord/Prince/Knight for a title and drafty castle.*   I’ll even grin and let them tighten my corset!

But in all seriousness, while the book was a little chatty Cathy in regards to history, it does have a lot of interesting, historical, human stories and the upper crust social history of New York, London, and Newport.  It took me a surprisingly long time to read, given that a solid quarter is pictures or page long foot-notey anecdotes about things like indoor plumbing, King Alfred’s fashions, Newport, and home redesign (obvi, I was hooked).  I mean…this book is not hard, and it had me at hello.  And while I questioned the chatty factuality of it throughout, the doubts of my inner high school librarian were assuaged by the extensive bibliography at the end.  In short, I am a fan of this book.  And Downton Abbey.  Together as a gift (big tip here dudes), they will make a lady in your life who is a nerd very happy this holiday season.  If you're looking for YA double fan points?  Throw in the super high-brow (sarcasm, but seriously, fun) The Luxe.

 Doubleplusgood (so I just read 1984, what of it?)…Julian Fellowes is allegedly creating a Guilded Age costume drama series in America, aka Newport – which I’ve been longing for since attending a conference in Newport when Season 2 of DA was airing last year.  It’s a no brainer.  The audience for it is Vander-built.  Annnnd I’m out.

*But if Prince Harry is available…

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