“You made it!”
Marin smiled hesitantly and held out the bottle of red wine. “I did. Am I late? I hope I’m not late.” She stepped into the entryway of Heather’s house and felt her heart jump at the creak in the floorboards. “Oh my.”
Her head in the hall closet, Heather called back, “The old house has a lot of noise in it. Don’t worry, you won’t break anything.” Heather was as laid back and cheerful at home as she was in the office. When she emerged from the closet, there was some spider web clinging to her dark hair. She grinned, oblivious. “Go on into the living room, I just need to tackle some of the apps in the kitchen.”
“Would you like some help?”
“Nah, I got it. Go sit.” And just like that, Heather had vanished down a dark hall.
Marin stepped into the living room. It was dark but cozily lit with candles and the lamps from the side tables and with the light bouncing off the walls, Marin could see why Heather would’ve been charmed by the ancient Victorian house at the end of the road. She moved to sit on the love seat and shivered as she felt a draft from somewhere, the air ice cold. She wondered if a window was open and glanced behind her to check.
They looked closed and locked tight. Marin heard Heather bump into something in the kitchen and when she turned back to call out to see if she was all right, there was a woman beside her on the love seat, her eyes dead, her skin as milky white as the long sheath dress she wore. Marin blinked but the figure remained. She sucked in a breath of cold air and wondered if she should scream. Or maybe she was crazy but the woman was so close and looked so real. She smelled like lavendar and it was so thick, almost cloying.
“Here we are!” Heather breezed in with a tray and slipped it onto the coffee table. Marin looked at her and when she looked back, the woman in white was gone. “We are ready for book club.” Her beaming smile fell away as she glimpsed Marin’s face. “Oh no, are you okay?”
“T-there, um, well.” Marin clawed at her throat. “There was a, a woman-” and to her amazement, Heather didn’t look shocked or scared at all but annoyed.
“Dangit.” Heather put her hands on her hips and cast an annoyed glance around the parlor. “That’s my, well, I guess you could call her my roommate. Shoot. I told her to give us some privacy. Oh well,” she said with a laugh to Marin. “You know how it goes. Craigslist.”
I love writing for this blog in October. A whole month of scary stories- witches and goblins and werewolves and things that go bump in the night. I hope you like them too.
As for the real world, it’s getting pretty scary out there. Things have gotten pretty heavy. Maybe now’s a good time for something light. Maybe it’s time for bread and cheese and fruit, all thrown together, the oven set to blister. Maybe it’s a good time to forgo dinner and things like bowls and forks and napkins (okay maybe we keep the napkins close by) and just have appetizers. These little nuggets would do nicely, working triple duty as starter, dinner and dessert too. We’ll go more substantial tomorrow maybe. Yeah. Good idea.
“It would be kinda embarrassing trying to explain what an appetizer is to someone from a starving country though. “Yeah the appetizer, that’s the food we eat before we have our food…No no you’re thinking of dessert, that’s food we eat after we have our food.” – Jim Gaffigan
Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
1 and 1/4 Cups (9 ounces) of chopped dried Mission figs
1/3 Cup of sugar
1/3 Cup of coarsely chopped orange sections
1 Teaspoon of grated orange rind
1/3 Cup of fresh orange juice (about 1 orange)
1/2 Teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 Teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
40 (1/2-inch-thick) slices of French bread baguette, toasted (about 8 ounces)
1 and 1/4 Cups (10 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
5 Teaspoons of finely chopped walnuts
1. In a small saucepan, combine first 7 ingredients and bring to a boil.
2. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until figs are tender.
3. Uncover and cook 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
4. Preheat broiler.
5. Top each bread slice with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of fig mixture and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of goat cheese. Arrange bruschetta on a baking sheet; sprinkle evenly with walnuts. Broil 2 minutes or until nuts begin to brown. Serve warm.
P.S. With everything that’s going on in the country right now, it’s way, way too easy to get swept up in political rhetoric and walk away feeling disgusted; the pull to cut yourself off from it all is very strong. Maybe that’s why this post made me stop in my tracks this morning. There are people suffering out there. There are real needs that are not being met. No matter what you believe or blame, suffering can and should be addressed. We are not helpless, we are capable. If you’re in a position to help, you should. You should set an example for your children, for your neighbors, for your friends, that goes beyond a disillusioned post on Facebook and a shake of your head.
If you can donate blood, give blood. If you can donate food, give food. If you have cash to spare, donate it. Here’s an easy one- the next time you hit the supermarket for your groceries, set aside money for a gift card from the store and drop it off to a food bank or church on your way home. It’s easy and fast and you can do it.
There is a tired that is beyond tired. Kelsie thought she had achieved that tired at 3am the night before. But apparently not. Apparently this was the most tired that a tired person could be.
With a grunt, she pulled herself out of the armchair and blinked. She must’ve fallen asleep in front of the television after dinner, she thought blearily. T had turned on the lamps on the side tables and the living room had a soft glow. Kelsie wondered what time it was. She moved through the room like it was a bowl of thick soup and she was a cracker.
She heard him then, in the baby’s room. He spoke softly. Kelsie stood in the doorway and watched T from across the room. He moved with grace, which amazed her, even in her sleep-addled state. On the football field, he was just as graceful, despite his size. She smiled to herself as he continued to speak softly to their daughter and when she heard the words “fried pickles,” she had to listen more closely.
“I love you more than milkshakes. I love you more than mozzarella sticks. I love you more than cheeseburgers with bacon. I love you more than french fries with ranch dressing on the side,” said T as he rocked back and forth.
“What are you saying to her?” Kelsie whispered, the laugh breaking on her face.
T glanced up and smiled at her. “I love you more than milkshakes too, you know. More than all the milkshakes.”
So tired, Kelsie thought as she laughed and T resumed his speech to their baby. I’ve never been so tired.
Mozzarella sticks. Is there anyone on this planet who can be offered a plate of them at a chain restaurant and not feel a swell of pure joy?
Can we agree, first and foremost, that appetizers are the best? The first food you reach for when you’re starving always tastes amazing but there’s something extra special about apps, delicious apps. Give me your spinach artichoke dips, your garlic bread, your fried calamari, yearning to breathe free. Your bowls of chips and salsas, buffalo wings, BRING FORTH ALL THE APPS. If you would like to make your own dipping salsas, check this salsa recipe you can not miss.
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for mozzarella sticks. They were my favorite restaurant treat growing up, my brother’s too, and I can still remember seeing the plate being set down on the table at Friendly’s, the little sticks in a cluster, the cup of marinara, that sad little lettuce leaf tucked in between. Happiness.
Homemade Mozzarella Sticks
Note: Deep-frying ahead! Don’t have a thermometer? Here are a few tricks to try.
8 String cheese
24 Wonton wrappers
1 Tablespoon of water
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
Salt and parmesan cheese, to serve
1. Cut each string cheese into thirds.
2. Combine egg with water to create egg wash.
3. Place wonton on board. Brush with egg wash. Place piece of cheese in middle, fold edges up and roll. (Check out how Heather did it.)
4. Heat oil to 375°F and fry for 1-2 minutes, flipping halfway through until they’re golden brown.
5. Remove from oil and place on plate with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with marinara sauce.
Aidan was very excited for Super Bowl. His parents were not.
Well, that wasn’t exactly true. They were not un-excited. They were decidedly neither excited nor unexcited. What they were, on that crisp and cold February morning, and what they had been for the last ten years were a pair of nuclear physicists. From Norway.
Mik and Norma appreciated much about their lives in America (they both loved Louis Armstrong, Red Vines and the films of Sandra Bullock) but they had never really warmed to American football. Or sports of any kind, really. They were invited once to a Super Bowl party at a work colleague’s and it was, in Norma’s words, an unmitigated disaster.
So when their six-year-old son fell hode over hæler for football, they were a bit surprised. Their home was filled to the brim with books. Mik’s affection for film meant their little boy could watch whatever he desired and Norma’s proclivity for both electronics and engineering led to a flurry of inventing on the weekends (the dog food dispenser! The Red Vine dispenser! Norma enjoyed the dispensing of things) – what else could a little boy wish for?
Football, apparently. So they obliged him. Of course they did. He was their Aidan, how could they not?
So, on Sunday, when Aidan awoke, his room was filled with football-shaped balloons. He jumped out of bed and ran to the dresser and excitedly removed his jersey from the drawer (he was a football player for Halloween and for every day after Halloween until the pants disintegrated in the wash. He was bereft at the loss of them.) and put it on. He ran downstairs and spent hours upon hours, watching pre-game footage on their vast television in the sitting room, leaping over Mik’s feet as he upgraded the software on the family laptops.
And when game time came around, Norma and Mik put on jerseys as well (also from the Halloween store. They were gray and lacked markings of any particular team. Norma believed this was more fair, since they did not show true allegiance to anyone.) and they brought in the buffalo wings and the chips and salsa, the bowls of popcorn and the crock pot full of chili con carne. Norma made pretzel rolls, warm from the oven.
And when the game started, they sat on either side of Aidan and ate and cheered. And even if his parents cheered at all the wrong times, it was still the best day Aidan had ever had.
IT’S GAME TIME!
I’m not going to pretend I care that much about football (I’m more of a baseball/hockey person, personally.) but oh, man do I love game food. Chili? Yes, I will have two bowls. Chips and things to dip the chips into? OKAY. Wings? Yes, yes, and yes. Sign here, I want all the wings. Beer? Check. Brightly hued cheese products? Need I go on?
So for this year’s game day, we offer you a delectable combination of game day treats: pretzels, beer and cheese. Together. Specifically, warm, toasty, homemade pretzel rolls with beer cheese sauce.
Don’t stop here though- don’t just tear into these warm, salty morsels and dip. Think BIGGER: sandwiches! Crack open a roll, put it in a bowl, sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with a ladle of chili (it’s like a loaded baked potato but bread instead! This might be the smartest thing I’ve ever uttered. I can’t even go on. There’s nowhere to go from here but down…)
Pretzel Rolls With Beer Cheese Sauce
For the Pretzels
1 Cup of warm water
2 and 1/4 Teaspoons of active dry yeast (or one packet)
2 and 3/4 Cups of bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 TBsp of granulated sugar
1 Teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on top of the pretzels
6 Cups of water
1/4 Cup of baking soda
For the beer cheese sauce:
4 TBsp of unsalted butter
1/2 Cup of yellow onion, chopped
1 Bay Leaf
4 TBsps of all-purpose flour
2 Cups of beer
1 Cup of heavy cream
1/2 Teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1/4 Teaspoon of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
2-3 Cups of good, sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the pretzels:
1. In the bowl of your standing mixture, fitted with dough hook, combine the warm water and the yeast. Let sit until bubbling, about five minutes.
2. Meanwhile, coat a large mixing bowl with a thin layer of vegetable oil and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and one teaspoon of salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and, using the dough hook, mix the dough on low until it is just combined.
5. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and knead until elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes or so.
6. Roll the dough into a ball and lightly roll the dough in the pre-oiled bowl to completely coat. Cover with a light cloth and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, coat the paper with vegetable oil, and set aside.
8. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it on a floured, dry surface just until it becomes smooth.
9. Divide the dough into 10-12 pieces and form into oblong rolls (roundish). Place the rolls on the baking sheet and slash a diagonal X shape across the top of each.
10. Cover with a light cloth and let the dough rise again in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 15 to 20 minutes.
11. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
12. Once the rolls have risen, stir the baking soda into the boiling water (the water will foam up slightly- so be very careful.)
13. Boil two or three rolls for 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle well with salt and repeat with the remaining rolls.
14. Once all the rolls are ready, place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
For the beer cheese sauce:
15. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
16. Add the chopped onion and bay leaf and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
17. Add a pinch of salt and the flour, stirring to coat the onions completely, and cook, stirring constantly for about 3-4 minutes.
18. Slowly add the beer to the roux, whisking constantly.
19. Next, slowly add the heavy cream, again, whisking constantly and breaking up any clumps of flour that may have formed.
20. Bring the mixture to a gently simmer, and add the peppercorns, cloves, and nutmeg, and cook, whisking occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
21. Here’s the tricky part: Using a small slotted spoon, remove the peppercorns and bay leaf from the mixture. (Leave a couple of peppercorns in? Just be sure you remember this when you take a bite!)
22. Remove the sauce from the heat and slowly whisk in the grated cheese, adjusted the amount of cheese to your desired taste and thickness.
Daisy leaned back and stared up at the night sky.
The hood of the truck wasn’t as comfortable as she’d thought it would be but she didn’t mind the old windshield wiper currently jutting into her lower back. And when she felt the smudge of grease on the side of her hand, she didn’t worry about ruining the thin, silvery bracelet on her wrist, the black smudges that would grace the charms that resided there- the tiny pair of ballet shoes, the cluster of stars, the apple on its stem. She crossed her legs by the ankles and studied the way her old cowboy boots looked in the light.
Sky. Stars. Sand. She would miss Texas, more than she thought she would. Daisy felt her smile falter. An uncomfortable sort of pressure settled on her chest. It was something deeper than tears.
It was the same thing she felt when she passed her mother in the hall at home, when her arm brushed hers. Or when she caught a glimpse of her father wandering out in the yard just before dinner, checking the plants, feeling the leaves, his brown eyes squinting up into the light.
Look at us, still at work.
Would I be correct in saying that the handful of hours that stand between the working week and the first, official long weekend of summer are the LONGEST HOURS IN HISTORY. I swear, it’s been three o’clock for at least seven hours now, AT LEAST.
We’re almost there.
We’re talking salty and sweet today. Sweet, caramel apple. Salty blue cheese. If you want to be specific.
Nicole’s wedding is now less than a month away. And look at her, still arranging slices of bread and artfully crumbling cheese for us. It’s like those shots of Sarah Jessica Parker tottering around, nine months pregnant, in sky-high heels. It’s ridiculous.
It’s almost as ridiculous as the fact that it’s been three o’clock on Friday for approximately 72 days now OMG THIS DAY WILL NOT END LET’S GO HOME ALREADY.
Caramelized Apple and Blue Cheese Crostini Recipe
1/2 Cup of fresh tarragon leaves, loosely packed
2 TBsps of extra-virgin olive oil
16 Thin slices of crusty baguette
1 TBsp of unsalted butter
2 Small apples such as Pink Lady, cut into 16 slim wedges
Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Cup of blue cheese, at room temperature
Flaky or large crystal sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Set aside a handful of tarragon leaves, about 32 nice-looking leaves.
3. In a food processor, pulse the remaining tarragon with the olive oil.
4. Brush the baguette slices with the tarragon oil. Lay on a baking sheet.
5. Toast in the oven until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.
6. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.
7. Cook the apples on in a single layer, working in batches if needed, until both sides are golden brown and somewhat tender, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of cayenne pepper and several grinds of black pepper.
8. To serve, arrange two slices of cooked apple on each crostini. Top with 1/2 teaspoon of the blue cheese, two whole tarragon leaves. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Anya walked until she could no longer walk and when the walking was done, she sat. She was not picky in her choice of seat and when the old woman with the great big bag stepped aside and revealed a thin gray step at the front of a bright purple door, Anya felt her body move toward it like metal to a magnet. She sat down and tucked her own bag behind her legs. She examined her black-and-white flats, the one with the solitary red dot on the right shoe. They made her smile but they were not made for walking. It was not her intention to walk so far or for so long.
She no longer felt the graying mist that wafted around her. She had been in Paris for six days and it had rained for six days. Sometimes, the rain came down in thick sheets. Others, pellets. Yesterday and today, it was a haze of wet that covered everything and everyone. Even the vendors at the market wore the droplets on their hats like misplaced gems, resigned expressions on their old, lined faces.
Anya had cried for almost six days. The first time, it had been over a peach in the market. The second, it was when she saw, out of the corner of her eye, a man give his lady an elbow as she stepped off the curb. Every time after that, Anya needed no reason to cry.
She was tired of her own tears, almost as much as she was tired of the rain. She had started walking and did not stop until the tears did, until the ache in her soles crept louder than that of her heart, and her bag felt heavy on her shoulder and she could think only of sitting, only of stopping.
While she sat, relieved and aching, on the thin step, the sun made a brief appearance. It slipped out through the cover of clouds and flooded the street with light. Anya did not even notice at first. She heard the old woman beside her sigh.
When she looked up, the activity on the street had stopped. The woman pushing the stroller across the way. The man selling lettuces and onions the size of grapefruits. The couple emerging from the Metro. For a moment, they froze and, together, watched the sun skitter over the street and drape the small corner in a yellow glow.
Just minutes, seconds really, and it was gone, slipped back into the clouds. The people took up their walks once more.
Anya grabbed the edge of her skirt in her hand and made a fist. She closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, perhaps for the first time.
Sometimes, life can take such a turn.
One day, you’re going about your business. You sit at a big desk and you type, type, type. There’s a view of the water, a sleeping pooch by your side. You worry, you wait, you wonder when things will start. You bake things. You do crunches. This is your landscape, this it will be.
And then you blink and the view of the water is different. And the pooch is the same but the people surrounding him have changed. And you’re not sitting by the water at all but on a plane. And there’s whispering flight attendants and the glow of your computer screen and a sleeping kid in the seat next to yours (not yours, don’t worry. Things haven’t changed that much. Although if I open my purple door tomorrow and find a basket with a baby in it, I wouldn’t be all that shocked, given how things have gone lately.) (Oh, god, please don’t leave a baby on my doorstep.) And soon you’ll leave the plane and head to a garage and a car that’s now yours, big and bulky and unfamiliar, and drive home, with still uncertain twists of the wheel, to your new house.
And if the universe is a merciful one, there might be soup waiting when you lug your big red bag through the door. A big vat of it with a tumble of crusted bread beside it and tiny slips of pale cheese. I’m not exactly sure how such a thing is possible but hey, anything can happen right?
Classic French Onion Soup
Source: Tyler Florence, Food Network | Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes | Servings: 4 – 6 | Print Recipe
1/2 Cup of unsalted butter
4 Onions, sliced
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
2 Bay leaves
2 Fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Cup of red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 Heaping tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 Quarts of beef broth
1 Baguette, sliced
1/2 Pound of grated Gruyere
1. Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes.
3. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
4. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir.
5. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
6. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
7. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
8. When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with grated cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to melt the cheese and then top with croutons.
* For the croutons: Cut day old french bread into cubes. Drizzle olive oil and dried herbs of your choice onto bread. Bake for 10-15 min in a 350 degree oven.
She stopped him before he could ring the doorbell. “Listen,” she said nervously.
Jerry looked at her. “Oh, God. What?”
“Nothing! It’s nothing, I swear.” Lily bit her lip. “I just- listen-“
“Oh my god, spit it out. I’m freaking out here as it is!”
Lily twisted her hands nervously and lowered her voice. “My family’s a little… they’re a little…” He stared at her. “Strange.”
Jerry was wearing a sweater that was itchy around the neck and wrists. It had a pumpkin on the front. The sweater was a mistake, Jerry knew that now. “Strange like how?”
“Uh.” Lily twisted her black hair around her finger. “Well. You know, they’re awesome. They’re just… they can be a little…”
Jerry stared up at the big white house. He pulled the collar of the sweater away from his neck. “And you’re telling me this now?”
“Lily! And you must be James!”
“James, of course!” The woman who had thrown open the door was the picture of Lily in every way except the hair. Where Lily had dark hair, her aunt was a platinum blonde. She thrust her arms around them both and all but yanked them inside. “Come in, it’s freezing, burr. Oh, my beautiful niece, aren’t you a picture? Oh, a tongue ring, that’s nice, dear. Oh, James has a nice tushy! Good job, Lily!”
Too horrified to respond, Jerry was suddenly overcome by the stench of cigarette smoke and burnt almonds. He started to sweat, wondering if he was having a stroke. Lily had disentangled herself from her mother and now clutched Jerry’s arm for dear life. “Are you okay?” she whispered as her aunt ripped his coat roughly from his shoulders and threw it into the living room. It fell in a heap on the floor. Jerry stared after her as she hollered into the kitchen to “take the nuts out, for gimme’s sake!”
He stared as a tall brunette wandered down the stairs. “Lil!”
“Ollie!” And Jerry stepped back as they hugged. Ollie leaned back and eyed them both. “You must be the boyfriend.”
“Y-yes, Jerry.” He skittered back as something in the kitchen made a wheezing noise, followed by a loud pop. They all jumped.
Ollie scratched her nose and offered them both a smile. “Happy Thanksgiving. Who wants a drink?”
Two recipes today! Because we love you. And because Thanksgiving is one week away and I can feel your stress from here. But listen! You can make these in ADVANCE. And then tumble them into a shiny bowl and let your guests peck away at them as you put the finishing touches on your feast.
I don’t know about you but I love discovering a technique that’s in hand with a recipe. It feels like you’ve just unlocked a secret passageway and the destinations are places like “Your Belly” and “Deliciousness.” Sometimes, you need to see more than one variation of a recipe to find the technique at play- a few days ago, I was watching Food Network and caught Giada making these yummy, fragrant, spiced cocktail nus. And then Nicole sent over the recipe for crunchy, sugary pecans and the old wheels started a’turnin’ (I’m listening to Bluegrass while I type this, sorry) and now here we are. Technique Town, party of what? Oh, right, your mouth. What? I don’t know.
Technique for Cocktail Nuts:
- Take your nuts.
- Take a preheated, 250 degree oven.
- Take your egg whites. Coat the nuts with frothy, whisked egg whites.
- Toss with sugar and/or spices. Pick and choose your own, I won’t be offended. Except, how can you do this to me? How?
- Bake on greased sheet for 45 minutes to an hour.
Sugar Coated Pecans
via the delicious Carolyn at AllRecipes
Makes 1 pound of sugary, crunchy appetizer goodness
1 egg white
1 TBsp of water
1 pound (1 lb) of pecan halves
1 Cup of white sugar
3/4 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1. Preheat your oven to 250°F. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable or canola oil cooking spray.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg white and water until frothy.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt and cinnamon.
4. Add pecans to egg whites and stir to coat the nuts evenly.
5. Toss pecans into sugar mixture until coated.
6. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.
7. Bake for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes or so for even crunch.
Spiced Cocktail Nuts
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
2 egg whites
2 Cups of almonds, roasted and salted
2 Cups of cashew nuts, roasted and salted
2 Cups of walnut halves
3/4 Cup of sugar
2 TBsp of Madras curry powder
1 TBsp of ground cumin
2 and 1/2 tsp of garlic salt
1 and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of ground cardamom
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1. Place rack in center of the oven. Preheat to 250°F. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable or canola oil cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy.
3. Add the nuts and stir until coated.
4. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, curry powder, cumin, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, cardamom and cinnamon.
5. Sprinkle spice mixture over nuts until well-coated.
6. Arrange the nuts in a single layer on the prepared sheet.
7. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
8. Let cool for 1 hour. Then, use a spatula to remove the nuts from the baking sheet and break into bite-sized pieces into a bowl.
Also, can we all be impressed- all this talk about nuts and not ONE inappropriate joke! I’m growing, you guys! (Please leave an inappropriate nut comment. The most inappropriate will get a prize. This is also a test- does anyone actually read this far down in the post? Can I just say whatever I want? Are you even listening? Poop. Monkey butt.)
Melinda hefted the baby in her arms. “Little Hazel Mackay,” she cooed down to the bundle. It was awkward to cook with a week-old baby in her arms but Melinda was tired of sitting and the makeshift sling was working out okay. “Hazel Mackay’s first Thanksgiving.”
She hummed a little song as the baby slept, her tiny face smushed against Melinda’s chest, the curl of dark hair over her forehead, and Melinda felt a warmth spread through her as she thought of how her voice made a little vibration, one that made her baby feel comforted and warm and safe.
Feeling no pain or aches, Melinda chopped and scooped, stirred and sniffed. There were a lot of pots going on at once and it would be a pain to clean them all but for the moment, nothing but the meal mattered. She’d woken up knowing it was Thanksgiving Day and that there was a baby now. The tiny apartment had felt different from the instant Hazel Mackay was carried over the threshold. Everything felt different now.
There had been no food in the house when she carried the fragile baby into the galley but it was quickly rectified with a call to the market on the corner. Mrs. Chang was open and she’d been such a sweetheart about Melinda and her growing belly, pushing free fruit on her for weeks while she grew and grew. “That baby’s going to need lots of good food!” she’d say, looking cross when Melinda tried to pay her.
In short order, a box had arrived and Mrs.Chang’s own son had brought it in and removed the cans of corn, the package of warm bread, the carrots and celery sticks, the chicken breasts wrapped in paper, a few eggs and a bundle of herbs. Melinda wrote him a check and for the first time in a long time, didn’t even feel the weight of handing it over to him. She smiled and wished him a happy holiday.
Now, the kitchen was warm. The pots were bubbling and Melinda hummed as she cleaned the counters of their crumbs. She thought of the nice table she’d make and the warm meal she’d have in a few short hours, with Hazel Mackay sleeping in her arms.
People who know me well (or who have sat behind me at movies like Real Steel, no joke) know that I am a wholehearted fan of pop culture that is resplendent of both cheese and corn. Just this morning, in fact, I sat with my mother and watched the last 30 minutes of a movie on the Hallmark channel because the universe would collapse in on itself if I didn’t see how that soldier-on-leave gets together with Ed Asner’s daughter on that bridge, on Christmas day. Excuse me for enjoying the sight of people in flannel making sugar cookies and slow dancing to “Silent Night” in a log cabin, I am a human being.
No, I’m not ashamed of this. I probably should be since I have some actual, certifiably cool friends who are more likely to write a snarky ode to the ironic charm of, say, that new Footloose remake while I legitimately liked it. Cheese and corn are good for you, people. They may be packed in cholesterol and sugar in actual food form, but pop culture-wise, the occasional dose of cheese and corn are good for the heart. You’ll live longer if you remember that “I’m a bird, you’re a bird” scene from The Notebook with a smile instead of a smirk. Trust me on this. We can have our meth and our cheese, everything in moderation. (Are we the only food bloggers posting Thanksgiving recipe ideas with the word “meth” in the content? We are? Okay, then.)
Cheesy Corn Puffs
Makes: 22-24 puffs
1 Cup of canned cream-style corn
4 TBsp of unsalted butter
1 tsp of salt
1 and 3/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/2 Cup of pepper jack cheese plus some more for topping, shredded
1 TBsp of fresh chives, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Take 2 baking sheets and line with parchment paper.
3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the corn, butter and salt to a simmer.
4. Reduce the heat to low.
5. Add the flour and stir until the mixture is smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. (Should take about 2 minutes.)
6. Scrape the dough into a bowl, let cool for a bit.
7. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well between each egg. (Note: If mixture is too hot, the eggs will scramble. I would temper the eggs by adding some cooled dough to the mixture and stirring before adding to mixture, just in case.)
8. Stir in cheese and chives.
9. Put dough in fridge for about 15 minutes.
10. Scoop mounds of dough with a tablespoon or ice cream scoop onto the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart from each other and sides of pan. Sprinkle with a bit more cheese.
11. Transfer to oven and bake until puffy and golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
12. Eat warm. If eating at Thanksgiving, re-enact that old Pillsbury commercial where the dudes are fighting over the last crescent roll. Wonder to yourself if they’re still going to be showing that commercial when you’re 90, like that soup commercial where the snowman melts into a kid.
She named herself Amy.
She was between 9th and 10th grade when “Rehab” came out. First “Rehab” and then “You Know I’m No Good” and by then, KellyAnn Montrose was sunk. There was something about that voice. It spoke to her in the dark. For a long time, it was the only voice she heard.
She crawled under her heaviest blanket and listened to the album until it ended. Then, her favorite songs in order. Then, again. Then, it was time for dinner but still she stayed, until the last possible second. She sat in the dark and traced Amy’s voice over the walls. The only time she really emerged that year was when the newspaper said Amy was coming to town. She went and she stood in the dark and she swayed but she liked her room better. She made her mother call her Amy.
Four years later, Kelly was standing in line at the supermarket when she heard. It was late and her roommate was in the frozen foods section, getting waffles. Kelly stood and stared at the screen that was suspended over the gum as the news played out in a line at the bottom. A woman was making a salad. She smiled over a jar of mustard.
Kelly stood and watched, aware that she was still in the dark, still in the dark.
It’s hard not to feel a little melancholy when it’s been raining endlessly and the gray skies coincide with you giving up bread for a few days. And then you write a post about delicious, mustardy, puffy breadsticks. If she were a clairvoyant and malicious person, which she is distinctly neither, I would suspect Nicole is punishing me for leaving Chicago. J’CUSE!
From Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry (thawed)
All purpose flour (for rolling out pastry)
½ Cup of Dijon Mustard
1 large egg
Coarsely ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place racks to cut oven into even thirds. Place parchment paper over baking sheets.
It’s important to keep the pastry cold until you roll it out. So take the first sheet out and leave the second in the fridge until you need it. Roll out the first on a lightly floured surface. The dough should roughly measure out to 12 x 16. The short end should face you.
Find the middle and score it lightly. On the lower half, spread a 1/4 cup of mustard stopping at 1/8 of an inch from the side and bottom edges. Fold the blank half of the dough over the mustard half. Cut into strips with a knife or a pizza cutter.
Transfer to baking sheet, keeping about 2 inches apart.
Place in fridge to keep cool (or wrap and freeze- they’ll hold up to 2 months) while you repeat with the second sheet.
When ready to bake, beat egg and brush over sticks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (that’s a tip from lovely Susan at Savoring).
Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate sheets and bake for another 7-8 minutes more. Let cool before serving.
“Gawd, what crawled up your butt and made a nest?”
“Seriously, why are you so crabby?”
“Well, you should relax.”
“Maybe you should get out of my face!”
“Maybe you should get out of your OWN FACE.”
“That doesn’t even make any sense, Sasha. How could I get out of my own face? It’s MY face.”
“You shouldn’t say that- it’s an insult to your FACE.”
“Ok, you are not making sense. I’m leaving.”
“Your FACE is leaving. Oh, you’re really leaving. Ok, see you next week! Next! Welcome to Bank of America, how can I help you today?”
When we worked together, crab rangoons were Nicole’s happy place. On the very few occasions she’d eat lunch at the office, I’d find her with a batch of them from the local Chinese food place. When we started the blog, this recipe was her first suggestion. So naturally I ignored her until our last day cooking together (which is weird because when she was eating them for lunch, I was usually found hovering over her waiting for her to offer me one).
These are insanely quick and easy and the perfect dainty appetizer for your next cocktail party. Or when you just need to go to your happy place. (Note: I do not recommend eating them at the same time as these, like we did. Separately delicious but an unholy combination.)
Via Jamie at My Baking Addiction
Made 12 Cups
Ingredients1 can of 6 oz. white crab meat (drained and chopped) 4 oz of room temperature cream cheese 2 TBsp of light mayo 1/2 tsp. of Siriacha (we used Co-op hot sauce) 2 tsp. of chives (use scissors!) Ground pepper to taste Wonton wrappers
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine first six ingredients in a bowl, reserving some chives to sprinkle on later.
Spray muffin tin with a little canola oil. Tuck wrappers into muffin tins, make a well in the center and spoon in some of the crab/cream cheese mixture.
Place in oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until the edges of the cups are nicely golden. When you eat one, try to stop yourself from being eternally grateful for things like bright blue nail polish, slumbering and snoring dogs and an excuse to eat warm cream cheese.
Sylvia Mathers awoke to the sound of music.
It was tinkling and light, just as she preferred all of life’s things, so why did it seem to stab her in the brain stem? Sylvia groaned and when she rolled over, silk sheets crinkling around her, she remembered all too clearly why she felt like death.
Her party. So much fabulousness. She grimaced. Too much champagne. She fumbled for her phone and squinted at the screen, not comprehending why it was black for a good, long minute. With a sigh, she ripped the eye mask off her head. Every damn morning.
The restaurant. Sylvia scowled. What disaster could possibly warrant her attention at such an ungodly hour.
They could wait. With tremendous effort, Sylvia sat up and jabbed her impeccably manicured nails into the keys of her phone, hit send. Collapsed back into her eight pillows with a sigh.
In her opinion, it took Aggie far too long to grace the door of her suite. “You called, mistress?” Aggie was painfully short, with a shock of curly dark hair and bead-like eyes. She called her things like “mistress” and “madame” when she was in a snit about something.
“I texted. Yes.” Sylvia let out a rumbling sigh and tapped her fingers against her slim stomach. “Help me,” she whimpered. The pain. Insufferable.
“There are pills on the dresser.”
Her head shot up so fast that one of her false eyelashes fluttered off her face. “Ah.” Sylvia grabbed at the aspirin and unscrewed the bottle of sparkling water, guzzling both fast and remembering, in a flash, the way she’d tipped back that last flute.
Feeling at last like she was on the way to feeling at least a little more human, she slid back on her bed and leaned up against the pillows. When she arched one slim eyebrow at Aggie, the response was instant- the small woman tottered over and adjusted the pillows until they cupped her thin frame perfectly. Sylvia eyed her maid. “What’s wrong with your face?”
Aggie looked affronted. “I beg your pardon-“
Sylvia waved a hand. “Oh, you know what I mean. You look irritated. Why? Bring me my mirror please.”
Aggie shook her head. “You might want to stay up here for a while. It’s going to take some time to get the house right again after last night.”
“Well, forgive me for having a party. I didn’t realize it would give you actual work to do, how inconsiderate of me.” She brightened as Aggie handed her the antique mirror. It had belonged to her mother, who was perfect in every way and so the mirror was too. Her expression faded slightly as she took in her appearance.
Without a stitch of makeup and that godforsaken light that was slipping through her heavy curtains, she was looking quite… ragged. There was no other way to put it. Sylvia frowned at the graying curls of reddish hair that were sticking out in all directions. Her creamy white skin, always her strongest feature as her nose lacked “character” and her thin lips were indistinct, was dreadfully lined. She would need another session with Seamus immediately, she thought. A few herbal remedies and one of his little rituals and she’d be tight and fit in no time.
She wasn’t going to inject her face with those ridiculous chemical concoctions. Only aging, desperate women did such things. But a few Eastern remedies always righted the wrongs.
Aggie sighed. “You should eat something. Here. I brought it from downstairs.”
Sylvia glanced down at the plate of limp appetizers and blanched. “You’re joking.”
“There’s nothing left in the house!” Aggie replied, exasperated. “That French friend of yours thought it would be funny to cook with everything in the refrigerator. So here. Some of his ‘Summer Mix.'” She nudged the little corn and tomato concoction closer to her. It, at least, looked faintly appetizing. Sylvia’s stomach rumbled. She ignored it. “Oh, and someone from the diner called for you,” Aggie added.
“It’s a restaurant,” Sylvia mumbled. “Why are they calling? What’s happening?” She scowled past the plate and at her own phone, the voicemail light blinking red.
Aggie eyed her. “What?” Sylvia asked. She narrowed her eyes. “Out with it, Aggie. What did they want?”
“Someone’s at the diner asking for you. Pet-pet something.”
“Pet something?” Sylvia didn’t bother trying to hide her horror. “Pet what? What?”
“Her name. It was something with Pet. And her last name was like yours, mistress.”Aggie’s eyes were sharp, judging. It was the same expression she’d had when Sylvia had sat on Monsieur Ralphio’s lap the night before.
“What? That’s-” Sylvia stopped. “You’re certain? That’s what they said?” She had no family. No parents, no relatives at all. Just an ex-husband who was dead, of which he deserved nothing less, the bastard. There was no one.
Except. But no. It couldn’t be. Could it?
Sylvia swallowed, her mouth dry. The pain wasn’t gone, not by a longshot, but for the time being she ignored that too and swung out of bed. “Get my clothes. Get my things. Now, Aggie.”
She needed a drink.
Why are simple things so good? The mind, it boggles.
To make this simple salsa, boil some ears of corn until tender and then shave them off the cob into a giant bowl. Chop up some ripe cherry tomatoes, some red onion, an avocado. Mix together some olive oil and lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Tear some cilantro and chop, sprinkle over the lot. Stir.
Grab some chips or toast up a sliced baguette in the oven and let guests (or a starving pair of writer & photographer) scoop fresh, summery, buttery corn salsa on top. Eat. Sounds simple but sometimes these things need to be said.
To our new friends: Hello! Welcome. We’re happy to have you here. We’ve noticed you seem to enjoy odd little baked concoctions like Craptastic S’more Cookies and Spinster Chocolate Cake– tell us what else you’d like us to make by joining our Some Kitchen Stories Facebook Group. Share links, tell us what we should make, suggest character names and genres for our stories, talk to like-minded people about the joy of a handful of sugary, butter-dripped popcorn and salsa that sings. Nobody knows your heart like we do.
Julia looked at her new friend doubtfully. “And where am I supposed to sleep?”
The little shell gave her a look as if he was trying to shrug his shoulders. He couldn’t, of course. He was a shell.
Because the girl looked at him so expectantly and made no moves to finding a solution on her own, he sighed and puttered across the table. Julia watched as he skittered onto a plate and disappeared over the rim. A moment later, a golden mound emerged, like a salt-encrusted sun rising up on a new day. It tumbled over the edge of the plate and dropped onto the tabletop with a thud. The shell followed, huffing and looking quite put out.
Together, they stared at the mound and the shell finally nudged it toward her with his tiny shoe. “At least now you have a pillow,” he said.
Pretzel Bites Recipe– This plate of joy comes from Whats Gaby Cooking– a site I enjoy looking at when the day has gone completely haywire and I just want to look at something clean and neatly arranged and filled with glorious pictures of food. These bites were a big hit in the office, though some got a little too dark for my liking (our fault, not Gaby’s). You can customize them plenty, and make them your own. There’s even Gluten Free Soft Pretzel Baking Mix you can get for those that might need it, so there’s no reason not to give it a try. We all agreed that they’re an unstoppable force when they’re still warm.
Honey Mustard Recipe– Nicole doesn’t like mayo and I’m on Weight Watchers (surprise!) so this no-mayo honey mustard was the obvious choice. We used honey that came from Nicole’s grandmother’s bees, which is the single foodiest sentence I’ve ever written, which is probably why it was so, so good.
“Is there anything else I can get you, miss?”
She winced. “Uh. No. I’m fine.” She kept her eyes down on the table until he’d wandered away and tried to ignore the burning in her chest as she felt, or imagined, who cared about the difference, the couple at the table beside her watching. Listening.
She knew what they were thinking because if she was them, sitting a breath away and listening to the same tinkling music, hands poised over tiny bowls of soy sauce, she’d be thinking it too. Girl at table, all dressed up, table set for two. Poor girl, she thought as the heat inside her intensified and spread.
Spring Rolls Recipe
Green onions or scallions, chopped
Spring roll wrappers (We got ours from a tiny Asian market. Whole Foods should have them too or buy them online)
Directions: Plunge rice noodles in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes and then drain. For the spring roll wrappers, you’ll need to submerge them in water and then work fast to pile your filling in a neat little row in the center, wrapping and tucking at the corners. The wrapper will stick to your fingers and you may curse a few times. This video tutorial should help.
This is a True Story
It’s a Tuesday night, around 8pm. It’s warm, warm enough for Chicago anyway, and I’m waiting outside that nice Italian restaurant by the movie theater in my neighborhood. A few friends are in town from Los Angeles and they’re supposed to be meeting me. It’s spring or summer, I honestly don’t remember, but it’s definitely still light outside. I remember remarking to myself how early it felt because the group of guys next to me were very, very drunk.
It was a bachelor party, I found out thanks to my superior eavesdropping skills and Sherlock Holmes-like ability to zero in on minute clues such as 1) they were really drunk, 2) there were no girls around anywhere and 3) one of the guys who was sitting on the bench outside the restaurant said to me blearily, “This is a bachelor party.”
What I’ll always remember from that night though (apart from the springtime risotto which was truly delicious- oh! It was definitely spring. Wow, I am nailing all the mysteries today) is just how drunk the soon-to-be-groom was- resplendent in his visor, his hair plastered to his forehead with sweat, doubled over on the curb and hurling onto the sidewalk. One of his friends patted him sloppily on the back while an older gentleman hailed a cab. As the older man stepped away from the scene, the friend thrust a white bag back at him. “Hold the focaccia, bro. He’s going again.”
I laughed about that as another cab swung up and deposited my friends. “Hold the focaccia, bro.” Hold it indeed.
via The Culinary Chronicles. One of the things that I love about Nam’s site is how bright her recipes seem. It might be the light touch of her photography that makes everything look so sunny or maybe it’s just the sweetness of the author, maybe both, but rest assured that everything on this site is lovely and truly munchable.
She was far too pretty.
He kept losing track of what she was saying and finally just had to interrupt her, before she asked him a question about benign tumors or lake fishing or whatever it was she was talking about. “Ok, this is going to sound really stupid and I don’t mean to interrupt but I just- you look really beautiful tonight.”
He immediately wanted to fall into a hole, wanted the party to split right down the middle of the floor like that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life but she surprised him by blushing. She was more embarrassed by the statement than he was, if possible. “I, um-“
He started to smile. “What’s your name anyway? I didn’t catch it before.”
The flush deepened. She let out a breath and said on almost a wince, “Isolde.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Someone already told you about me. Who was it? Was it Caro?” He glanced around, glaring at his idiot friends. Caro was stuffing her stupid face with these miniature spinach cup things and waved cheerfully from the corner.
The girl sighed and pulled her wallet out of her minuscule bag. It was an automatic gesture and she thrust it into his hand.
He stared at her picture, her long blond hair, her green eyes, the curl of her signature beside the photo. When he saw the first name, he kept his eyes trained on it and reached his hand into his back pocket to pull out his own wallet, slipping the license to the top of the folds so she could grab it and take a look.
She stared at it and blinked. And then she started to laugh. “Seriously?”
“Yup.” He grinned at her. “James Tristan. Just as my mother named me.” The grin had spread. He could just imagine how stupid he looked. He did not care.
“Hey, babe.” The girl glanced up, cheeks reddening as an arm was slung over her shoulder and tugged her close.
“Hi.” She cleared her throat. “J-James, this is my boyfriend, Mark.”
Mark was tall. He towered over both of them. But his smile was friendly and he extended a big, beefy hand. “Hey, man. What’s up? Mind if I steal her away?” He gave him the once over, seemingly casual, but one that said, in no uncertain terms, ‘I know exactly what you’re after, dude.’
James was still forming his response when Mark pulled her away.
|Spinach Cups Ingredients
10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed
|1 medium onion(s)|
|1 clove(s) (medium) garlic clove(s), minced, 1/2 tsp|
|3 oz feta cheese, crumbled|
|1/2 cup(s) fat-free cottage cheese, drained|
|1/2 tsp dried oregano|
|Storebought phyllo cupsInstructions
Squeeze excess liquid from the spinach and set aside.
Coat an unheated large skillet with cooking spray. Add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach.
In a large bowl, combine the feta cheese, cottage cheese and oregano. Stir in the spinach mixture.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (175°C). Put phyllo cups in mini-cupcake tray. Fill with mixture and bake for 10 minutes.
[*Note: This header would’ve worked so much better if these had actually turned out to be Spinach Triangles, which they were supposed to be but I couldn’t find phyllo dough in time so we used these phyllo cups Nicole had on hand. I clearly had to keep the title regardless. Also, my friend Habs picked the names for this story. Hi, Habby! – Judi]