Archive for the ‘more dessert recipes’ Category

If 19th century French chef Alexis Soyer were alive today, he’d likely have his own cooking show. His name brand sauces, cookbooks and kitchen utensils would fill store shelves, velvet berets would be all the rage, and lines of fans would snake around the block at all his public appearances.

Though he was deliciously famous during Victorian times and has been called the first celebrity chef, today Soyer is curiously the man history forgot.

I’ve been fascinated by his life and work ever since reading Ann Arnold’s beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography. You may know Ann as the illustrator of Alice Waters’s now classic Fanny at Chez Panisse, which is ‘the book’ that got me hooked on illustrated cookbooks.

In The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), Ann outlines Soyer’s life from his humble beginnings in the tiny French town of Meaux-en-Brie (1809), till his death from Crimean fever in London at the age of 48. He was quite a colorful and flamboyant character who enjoyed amusing people — not only a celebrated chef with a social conscience, but also an inventor, entrepreneur, and prolific cookbook author.


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Happy President’s Day!

Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday than by singing the praises of Maira Kalman’s brand new picture book biography about Thomas Jefferson.

I pretty much adore everything Maira does, and I’ve been fascinated by our red-haired, violin-playing, wine-guzzling, pea-loving, Renaissance Man foodie President ever since I first visited Monticello years ago.

In Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything (Paulsen/Penguin, 2014), Ms. Kalman has accomplished the seemingly impossible, capturing the genius, complexity, contributions, contradictions, and affecting humanness of our third President in just 40 glorious pages.

Her disarming conversational narrative, peppered with just the kind of offbeat detail kids love, is fueled by a contaigious enthusiasm for her subject. She begins:

Thomas Jefferson had red hair and some freckles (about 20 I think), he grew to be very tall and oh yes, he was the third President of the United States . . .

What was he interested in?


I mean it.


She mentions Jefferson’s love of books, music, flora and fauna, and that he could speak seven languages. She spotlights the ingenious design of his beloved Monticello,”a Museum of his Mind” with its famed vegetable garden, citing Jefferson’s advocacy of a mostly vegetarian diet. Though he lived a good life, “full of work and love,” it was tinged with sadness: his wife Martha died young and four of their six children didn’t live to adulthood.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

She details Jefferson’s role as a Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence, brilliantly humanizing other illustrious figures like Franklin, Adams and Washington via singular details: Ben’s crazy great hat, John’s fiery temper, George’s false teeth. Then it’s all about Jefferson’s presidency (Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark Expedition), before sensitively introducing the topic of slavery.

The man who said of slavery
was the owner of about 150 slaves.


She tells it straight and true, and does not shy away from mentioning that Jefferson likely had children with Sally Hemings, and what a sad thing it was when people felt the need to hide their background by passing for white. Her despair over these painful issues and puzzlement over Jefferson’s hypocrisy are deftly conveyed in a way that respects young readers and will likely win their trust.

I love how Maira’s hand-lettering alternates with the standard font to highlight asides, personal thoughts and select facts. These words just brim with personality, keeping things from sounding too textbook-y, ultimately strengthening the intimate bond between author and reader.

Illuminated and expanded by vibrant and whimsical gouache paintings rendered in striking jewel-tones, Kalman’s account of Jefferson as President, scholar, statesman, architect, scientist, botanist, connoisseur, author, inventor, and plantation owner is recommended for readers of all ages who appreciate spirited storytelling and creative nonfiction infused with wit, wisdom, and the excitement of discovery.

Who better to tell about the man who was interested in “everything” than a writer and artist who herself is endlessly curious and so brilliant at curating the idiosyncratic ‘everythings’ she encounters in her own life?

If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be OPTIMISTIC and COMPLEX and Tragic and Wrong and Courageous, You Need to go to Monticello.

Walk around the house and the gardens.
The linden trees might be in bloom, filling the air with their delicious perfume.
Maybe you will lie down under a tree
and fall asleep thinking about
LIFE, Liberty and the Pursuit of EVERYTHING.

Five Big Soup Spoons for this one!

*   *   *

♥ Call Me Ms. Pudding ♥


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If Thanksgiving is about pie, then Christmas is definitely about cookies. Even though I don’t bake half as many cookies each holiday season as I used to, I still like thinking about all the scrumptious possibilities: raspberry linzer, chocolate crackles, orange spritz, jam thumbprints, neopolitans, molasses spice, Russian teacakes, gingerbread teddies.

*sugar reverie*

Though I don’t mind eating a few cupcakes and more than a few slices of pie, cookies have always reigned supreme as something I most enjoy baking and sharing with friends and family throughout the year.

The other day I was trying to remember the very first cookies I ever made. This can be quite an undertaking when you have to dial back to the Dark Ages, sifting through the hundreds of batches you cranked out as a high school and college student, English teacher, newlywed, friendly neighbor, and old fogey mellowed-with-age food enthusiast. :)


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Not too long ago, I asked you to call me “Melon Head.” Would you mind changing that to “Apple Dumpling”?


Of all the foodie terms of endearment — Pumpkin, Sweetie Pie, Babycakes, Cookie, Honeybun — I think “Apple Dumpling” suits me best right about now.

Fall (my favorite season) doesn’t officially begin until Sunday, but that familiar chill is already in the air. Hooray for apple season, deep blue skies, warm cider with cinnamon sticks, stunning rustic foliage, and friendly pumpkins on porches! I am basically *ahem* a little apple-shaped, can be sweet or tart, and would like nothing better than to wrap myself in a buttery, flaky blanket of dough. Did you know this past Tuesday the 17th was National Apple Dumpling Day? :)


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Please help yourself to some homemade Blueberry Slump.

Happy Independence Day!

Funny, I hadn’t planned on slump — but this sometimes happens when your husband’s no slouch.

The other day, I jotted down a grocery list for Len. Nothing out of the ordinary:

  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • 2 mangoes

I usually don’t specify an amount for the blueberries cause it’s always the same — a pint basket for my morning cereal.

Sure, my penmanship is nothing to brag about.


I got oodles and oodles of blueberries. A big bag, nay, an avalanche of blueberries. He couldn’t understand why I’d want “6” blueberries. So he bought 6 quarts.

Maybe he thought I was planning to bake 6 giant pies for 6 starving yeti?!

Me: !!!?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*&*#@(#!!!!

He showed me the list. I’d written “blueberries,” plain as day. So what if the “b” was slightly separated from the rest of the word? I’m one of those people who writes in “print-script.” I never connect all my letters in strict cursive form. He knows this. Yet he still thought my “b” was a “6.”

6 lueberries

Me: 6 lueberries? 6 lueberries?!

Oy. (Might I add that the stem on my “b” was straight up, not curved to the right?)

He was looking more yeti-like with each passing second.

Only one thing to do: make blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins and blueberry bread and blueberry slump.

No, I’m not complaining. After all, he did fill the order. When it comes to grocery shopping, Len’s no slouch. Good thing it wasn’t watermelons. :D

* * *


(makes b 6 servings)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Blueberry Mixture

  • 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg


  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Half and half, cream, or vanilla ice cream, as desired

1. Combine blueberry mixture ingredients in 1-1/2 quart casserole. Cover and bake in hot oven (400 degrees F) for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir well.

2. While berries are heating, prepare crust. Sift together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add milk and stir only enough to moisten dry ingredients. Drop by small spoonfuls onto blueberry mixture, covering fruit completely. Drizzle butter over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

3. Return to hot oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until topping is cooked and browned. Serve warm with half and half, cream, or vanilla ice cream.

4. After you’ve had your fill, hug your resident yeti and practice your penmanship.

(Adapted from The Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan McBride Carlton, Weathervane Books, 1975.)

Ribbet collage

* * *

Time to sign off for my annual summer blog break. I plan to read, write, dawdle, eat, rest, tidy up, think, walk, organize, explore, landscape, play the piano, and (gasp!) migrate all my data from my ancient PC desktop to a new iMac (any tips?).

Have a bang-up 4th of July — partying, parading, and picnicking!!

And enjoy your summer. See you in August! :)


Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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