Saturday, February 26, 2011

Molten Chocolate Cupcakes

Last week it was my turn to bring treats to a club meeting. I like to use these poor club women as guinea pigs to try out new dessert recipes, especially chocolate, since my obviously deranged husband won’t eat chocolate, and the last thing I need is a batch of cookies or fudge sitting around the house begging to be eaten.

This was the perfect opportunity to try making molten chocolate cupcakes. Most of the recipes I’ve found for molten cakes are for something larger than a cupcake, so I attempted to alter a regular recipe to create a smaller pastry. They turned out delicious, though I never quite got the interior as molten as I originally planned. Here is what I did, though I must warn you that I tend to be an eyeball cook so some of the amounts may be approximate. I had to make two batches before I got one that was pretty enough to take to a meeting. The first batch was yummy, but ugly. I had to eat it. Darn.

One 11 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Two sticks of unsalted butter (1 cup total)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
6 whole eggs
3 egg yokes
2 tsp vannila extract
2 scant cups of powdered sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 42 5 degrees
Generously butter 12-cup muffin tin. Stir the chocolate chips, butter, and spices in a heavy medium sausepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. in a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks and vanilla to blend. Whisk in the powdered sugar, then the chocolate mixture, then the flour. Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling to the top.

Bake until the batter has risen above the cups, the top edges dark brown and the center soft and runny, depending on your oven, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and et the cupcakes stand for a few minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cakes to loosen, then gently turn the batch out over a large plate or wax paper. Serve with ice cream.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Is my life a sitcom?

I'd ask if it was a Disney movie, but the zany antics have been going waaay too long for this to be anything other than a long-running series. Have you seen it? Is it called "I Love Gayle" or "Twin Peeks" or "Cooper in the House"?

You may recall that several years ago, Jim Carey starred in a movie called "The Truman Show" where his entire life was a carefully crafted show. This morning it dawned on me that maybe my life was also a show...that maybe Alan Funt or somebody will jump out, say "Gotcha!" and we'll all have a chuckle. But, if my life IS a show, I want to know why I don't have better wardrobe, hair, and makeup people.

Let me give you a look into this morning's "episode." By the time the clock went off, dear husband had already left for work. I stumbled out of bed, opened the door, and saw huge muddy pawprints all over the hall. Oh, crud.

The pawprints were also in the bathroom (even though we try to keep the door shut to keep Cooper out), and I saw that the little darling had rummaged through the bathroom trash. Oh, yay. I cleaned that mess up and came to check my mail. Cooper hurried down the hall to greet me: Surprise! Do you like what I've done with the house?

I sat down at the computer and fired off a missive to my husband. It was something along the lines of our parents are coming this weekend and how could you let the dog make such a mess and why didn't you pull up the bathroom door and he's not only been all over the floor but he's been up on the living room furniture and we're gonna have to rent a steam cleaner but before we do all that we're going to have to run him through a car wash. Did I mention Cooper is a Great Pyrenees? In the meantime, Cooper was scratching at the door.

"Oh, SURE!" I thundered. "Go on out and get NASTIER than you already are! What harm will it do NOW?!"

This made the twins peek (thus, the name suggestion of Twin Peeks) out of their rooms warily. I apologized, explained why I was so foul-tempered, and we gathered around the table for breakfast. Lately, my daughter has found it great fun to change the pets' names on a daily basis.

"What am I going to call you today, Pepper?" she asked the cat.

"You'd better call her Anne Frank," I said. "Because if she has any sense, given the mood I'm in today, she'll hide."

"Mom, that's mean!" she said.

Later, as we started to leave the house, I told the cat, "Be back in a few minutes, Anne."

My daughter looked at the dog. "Bye, Frank."

What is the Fatal Foodies part of this post, you may ask? It's that given the mood I'm in, I've eaten two fun-sized Kit Kats, two cookies, and one Ferrero Rocher. If that ain't fatal to my diet, I don't know what is. :\ (Cue theme music....)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Something Sweet

For fun, thought I'd share some miniature items from my collection... Nothing better than some old-fashioned candy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Bake Graham Cracker Applesauce Cake

Yesterday, a friend was describing a cake that her mother used to make. It was a no-bake cake made from graham crackers, applesauce and frosted with whipped topping.
A search yielded several recipes that sound like what my friend described. They all include graham crackers, applesauce, gelatin and whipped cream.
I cannot wait to make this for my next covered dish event. Some nuts on top of the whipped cream sounds really good to me as does a drizzle of caramel toppping!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Different Winter's Bone

I go to my mother's nearly every day, where we share a book or a television show or a movie, a treat and a mug of tea. In the summer, we sometimes have egg cream instead, but winter is definitely tea time.

We have our tea out of very pretty mugs but neither of us like tea or coffee out of those thick "diner" mugs. You know the kind I mean--you have to jack your jaws open just to get your lips around the rim.

So we got to talking about the other end of the spectrum: china cups. She said the best cup of coffee she ever had was served in a china cup. I told her that I had heard people say tea is better out of china cups.

You know me, or you should by now. I looked it up.

China began in--duh--China, but bone China began in England, with Josiah Spode in the 1700s. Well, it really began with Thomas Frye in the mid 1700s, but he used animal bones and bits, but Spode left out the bits. Bone china, I regret to tell my vegetarian friends, is 50% bone ash. Ick.

This article is illustrated with a china cup of mine, but it isn't bone china, because it isn't translucent. It's some kinda China, though. Not bone. It isn't bone.

However, if you were a porcelain manufacturer with a body to get rid of.... I'm just sayin'.

Speaking of mysteries, mystery author Geraldine Evans is guesting at my site today, posting about making video book trailers. Come join us there! Only if you want to, of course.

Marian Allen

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Comfort Food and a chilly night

Vicki here. I wrote last time about using the foods I had prepared and/or frozen in the fall over the winter. And how nice it is to be able to take foods you’ve grown yourself or bought directly from the farmer and still have those flavours in the bleak mid-winter.

But sometimes, you just gotta have comfort food.

The other night I got a craving for spaghetti and meat sauce the way my mom used to make it, and the way I used to make it for my three children when they were young.

Real 1960s stuff using the can opener.

I made up a big batch – and it was as good as I remember.

Last night I came home from two days away for a book singing, and a nice roast beef dinner at Mom’s, to find my house a mite cold, shall we say. The furnace had stopped working (it is about 2 (TWO) years old). Fortunately I have a propane fireplace that kicks in when the temperature in the house drops to 10 degrees C (about 50 F). Because I live in the country I have a wood stove also. So I started up the stove and the fireplace and spent the night in comfort.

The picture shown is my garden shed in winter, so you get the drift.

Right now (Sunday morning) and it’s -11 ( 12 F) so I have a feeling that tonight I’ll be needing another dose of comfort food for dinner.

Vicki’s Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 onion
1 clove garlic
Splash of olive oil
1 can tomato soup
1 can tomato sauce (small can – 7 oz??)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

Heat oil. Add sliced onion and garlic and cook until golden. Add beef and cook until done (no red colour remains). Break up beef into small pieces as it cooks. You may then want to scoop out as much of the melted fat as you can.
Add can tomato soup, then fill can with water and add that as well. Add tomato sauce and paste and herbs etc.

Bring to boil and lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve over spaghetti.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's for Lunch?

I've been writing all morning. Time has gotten completely away from me. It's already past lunch time, and suddenly I'm famished. I haven't spared a single thought for what to eat. In fact, I don't even know what food in the house, but I don't want to take the time go out and get something.

Be still, my grumbling stomach, I'll find something to calm you. But what is this I find in the refrigerator? English muffins? Perhaps if I toast these up, smear on a bit of mayo, some thin slivers of sweet onion, and... look here! A jar of pickled capers in the fridge door.

Good beginning.

Now, clean a bit of this fresh basil and slice up the hothouse tomato I picked up at the farmer's market yesterday, some salt, grind on some pepper, and I've got the beginnings of a nice looking little sandwich.

I think this may be a perfect opportunity to open the package of lox I've been saving. One slice on each muffin half, and...oh, what the heck. Three or four slices on each half. And zippety zap, I've got lunch.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Do you suffer from food paranoia?

I do. If I hear a rumor about a restaurant, it takes a lot for me to be able to eat there again. For example, the recent Taco Bell controversy over whether or not the beef in their tacos is only 35% ground beef has me shuddering whenever I drive by their restaurants even though Taco Bell has vehemently denied the claim.

I haven't eaten at a local restaurant EVER because several years ago one of my son's friends had a brother who worked there. This friend told my son he saw his brother picking his nose while making a milkshake! The boy doesn't work there anymore, but I still can't bring myself to visit that restaurant. Was management waaaay lax in its hygiene standards; did no one else notice it; or did the boy lie to my son about his brother because he thought it would be funny? Who knows? It's just that once the implication is there, I can't seem to get past it. I could probably get very skinny if I knew everything I don't want to know about food packaging and preparation--both in and out of the restaurant industry.

How about you? Do you suffer from food paranoia? Or are you able to shrug off the rumors and eat, drink, and be merry? :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PlayWRITING is how one Becomes a PlayWRIGHT, Right?

A few summers ago, I took a playwriting class. This course taught us to write a one-act play, including descriptions of scenery and stage directions. So, the playwriting class was to teach those of us who like to WRITE to be playWRIGHTS, right?
I became so confused about why someone who does "playwriting" is a "playwright". A quick bit of research revealed that "wright" is a term used to describe a craftsman who builds or creates. For those of you who WRITE and would like to WRIGHT, here is a link to Barter Theatre (pictured above).
On their site is a link for the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights. Submission deadline is March 31, 2011.
If a writer writes a play would it be right for their business card to say "John Doe....Writer/Wrighter"?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pitch-In FTW

I went to a church pitch-in the other evening. As always, everything there was scrumptious. We had baked mixed beans (butter beans and black beans and I forget what else kind of beans, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar and a touch of curry!), turkey tetrazzini (noodles, turkey, mushrooms, cream and white cheeses), jasmine rice and some kind of chicken in tomato and bell pepper sauce. And four desserts. Um-yum!

Me? I took corn pudding. It looked very homely among all that wonderfulness but you know what? --Yeah, you're way ahead of me. I only brought home the scrapings of the casserole.

It's the old fairy tale syndrome, you know? All the princesses are beautiful, but the prince is strangely drawn to the plain one, and she turns out to be the most beautiful one of all. Stuff like that.

Anyway, here is my recipe, which I got from a World Wide Recipes PLUS Edition.

Corn Pudding (or Casserole)
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 can regular corn, undrained (use fiesta corn, if you want fancy)
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
Combine well. Pour into rectangular casserole or cake pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Peeps, this is mighty tasty, and it's comfort food even if you've never had it before. Guaranteed to boost those endorphins or whatever.

Oh, and the "fatal" thing, other than it's so good it's to die for: The wonderful Jane E. Jones wrote a short story about a fatal pitch-in called "Everybody Knows I Can't Cook" for the Southern Indiana Writers Group's cookbook/fiction anthology NOVEL INGREDIENTS, in which each story is followed by a related recipe (spiral-bound for use as a cookbook as well as reading material). Click here to read excerpts, including one from Jane's story.

Marian Allen

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fight Anxiety. Make Something Pretty to Eat

I'm in the midst of the book promotion cycle. I tend to become anxious when I'm going from one event to another for weeks at a time. I get that old "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" feeling, even if I'm enjoying the gigs.

The worst part of the whole thing is that my sleep is often disturbed for a couple of days before a big event comes up. I'll wake up in the morning with a start, knowing that I've had a disturbing dream but not quite remembering what it was.

That happened to me earlier this week. I awoke too early, feeling upset without knowing why. I tried to go back to sleep, but only was able to achieve that state of half-sleep, half-wake, and my mind was still going ninety to nothing.

This isn't good, says I to myself, still half dreaming. Try to think lovely thoughts. Suddenly I was dreaming of cooking a beautiful meal. Literally beautiful, made with all kinds of colorful ingredients and an aroma like heaven. I woke a few hours later, feeling good and determined to make something pretty for supper.

I picked out two beautiful bell peppers, chopped them up with a baby bok choy, onion, mushrooms, a couple of garlic cloves, a fresh tomato, stir-fried all together in olive oil with some strips of chicken breast. Then I whisked together a sauce of 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil, 2 tbsp. tamari, 2 tbsp. raw honey, the juice of half a lime, and about a teaspoon of water, and poured it over the dish after removing it from the fire but still hot in the skillet. I served it up with fresh cilantro, hot mustard, and lime slices on the side. It was as delicious as it was pretty. A perfect way to restore calm and balance to the universe.

disclosure : I used Quorn brand vegetarian "chicken" strips

Friday, February 11, 2011

God bless America - let's eat!

Here in the land of the free, home of the Braves--or the Sox, if you prefer--we embrace food from all nations. We may be a bit tentative at first, but maybe because America is a "melting pot," we're willing to try just about any type of cuisine.

Thank goodness we're not in Iran! This headline caught my eye because my son loves chicken alfredo.

Can Chicken Alfredo Cause a Revolution?

by Tanya Steel
on 02/09/11 at 11:30 AM

In a word, yes, according to Ali Darabi, deputy head of Iran's state broadcasting company.

"From now on, teaching how to cook non-Iranian dishes is banned," proclaimed Darabi to Aftabnews, a state-owned news web site, and effective immediately, all non-Iranian cooking shows are gone from the country's 30 television channels. The Associated Press reports that despite the fact that Chinese, Indian, and Italian cuisine are very popular throughout Iran, the government has decided that showcasing the glories of other cuisines could cook up trouble, or at the very least, result in a generation making mediocre lamb kababs. Given what's going on in Egypt, it seems autocratic governments would want to appease their populace with more food shows, not less.

Read More

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine Dessert Buffet

If you want to do something fun for co-workers, friends, neighbors, etc.; how about a dessert buffet? This is a sweet way to celebrate without having to spend lots of time or money. I will test-drive this idea on Friday when I have my first Valentine Open House.
I have invited ladies from my Girls' Night Out group to drop in after work for something sweet. The selection of desserts will be simple. I'm making brownie bites (brownies baked in a mini-muffin pan), strawberry cupcakes with pink strawberry icing and raspberrry bars made from a mix. I chose these desserts because they include something pink, something red and something chocolate.
My decorations will also be simple. I plan to line serving dishes with red cellophane, then scatter conversation hearts candies all round the desserts.
If you would like to do your own Valentine dessert event, there's still plenty of time. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Writer's Tools, Cooking, Illustrated

Yesterday, on my blog, I wrote about how I use food history books in my writing. (I know I'm not the only contributor to this blog who does! ~grin~) Today, I'd like to illustrate.

I read about how some peoples had a brick or stone oven in the center of the room, and that, in cold areas, the oldest or weakest or, of course, strongest and most selfish would sleep there. So, in "Child of Ice, Child of Flame", published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's SWORD AND SORCERESS XXII, I threw this description in of the house to which the victorious warrior woman was led:
In the center of the room, a mud-brick charcoal-burning oven, the same general size and shape of the chests, was the bed of honor at this chilly altitude.

At this time of day, just before lattermeal, the oven fires were stoked and the bricks shimmered with heat.
Water is heated for the warrior's bath on that oven, and a quick meal for her journey is cooked (sketched in one line).

So my bit of research served to indicate a setting and a culture and a cuisine and, through ending the first line of the oven's description with "chilly altitude" and the second with "heat", echoed the story title and mirrored the juxtaposition of emotional coldness and emotional warmth central to the story as the oven is central to the room.


Marian Allen

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Eat Up!

I had a wonderful launch party last Saturday for my latest book. It turned out to be a big party, and part of the fun was the fact that my editor provided cake and champagne. In last week's entry, I wrote about another book event I attended where one of the authors brought cupcakes, and it was such a hit that I determined that it would be a good move to provide food at every author event I do from now on.

This coming Thursday, I'll be doing a Valentine's Day tea at Tempe Public Library, along with author Lauren Willig. The library will be providing chocolate, pastry, tea and coffee, as well as entertainment in the form of the two of us authors. So tell me, would you be more inclined to attend an event if you knew that there would be eats?

And if you are an author, have you provided treats at your signings or talks, and did you think that made for a more successful or more enjoyable event? I've been thinking a lot lately about what an author can do to make her appearances more memorable. Are treats part of the answer? What do you think?

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Great Cake Bake

Imagination Library in East Tennessee is holding its 2nd annual Great Cake Bake on Saturday, March 26, 2011. All local bakers and cake makers are invited to participate. Am I planning to participate? No.... But I would love to go check out the fantastic cakes. The event will take place at the Tennessee Terrace in UT's Neyland Stadium, and funds raised will be used to support Imagination Library. The library sends free books to Knox County children through the mail until they are five years of age.

Entries will be accepted for:

All Occasion Cake

Wedding Cake

Single Cupcake

(New this year, the All Occasion and Wedding cakes will be separated into different groups: buttercream frosting only and fondant/gum paste/mixed sugar art.)

Entry divisions include junior decorator, beginner, intermediate, and professional. The entry fee is $10, and the entry must be received by March 14.

Complete rules and photographs of last years' cakes may be seen at the event's website.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another Reason to Buy Valentine's Candy

(Image: DIY Blog) Just saw this and thought, what a great idea!

While I and other miniature collectors like to use that big Valentine's candy box to hold a miniature scene, here's a great idea for you non-collectors: make a picture frame!

Cute idea for recycling your Valentine's candy box.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Shall Never Miss Another Girl Scout Cookie Season!

Thin mints, Samoas, Trefoils.....who can tell me what these are? If you say they are varieties of Girl Scout cookies you are correct. Chances are, I had you at Thin Mints. It is probably a difficult task to find someone who cannot name at least one type of Girl Scout cookie.
This is my daughter's first year as a Girl Scout. I am thrilled that she is participating in such an upstanding organization for young ladies. My thrill is doubled by the fact that her being a Girl Scout provides me with a reliable source for my yearly Girl Scout cookie order.
In years past, I had to literally seek out Girl Scouts in order to get my hands on some cookies. I would look for little tables set up at my local WalMart, or try and get an order to a little girl at my church who is a Girl Scout.
There have been Girl Scout cookie seasons that completely passed me by. One time I saw a young lady at church unloading several boxes of cookies from her parents' car. My husband and I stopped her to see if we could buy some of her cookies, only to find that they had already been purchased. All of the local Girl Scouts had already taken their orders. It seemed there was not one box to spare. Sadly, we got no cookies that year.
If I had put forth a bit more effort, I am sure that I could have contacted a local Girl Scout Council to obtain cookies, but that would not compare to the experience of looking at that big fold-out poster that has pictures and descriptions of all the cookies.
Now, as long as my Calli's a Girl Scout, I will always have a source for my Girl Scout cookies. Might I add, I have a good excuse to buy multiple boxes. They give rewards to girls who sell lots of cookies.
Calli asked if she can stay in Girl Scouts forever. Sounds like a good idea to me. Can you say "cookies for life"?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Call For Submissions With Recipes

Ramsfield Press has an anthology coming, and wants short stories featuring cooking and recipes. The deadline is April, so get cracking!

I plan to enter, but maybe not with a recipe about rutabagas. Or maybe with rutabagas, why not? Or turnips! Yeah, turnips!

Marian Allen