Archive for the ‘weekend cooking’ Category

Guess who’s having a birthday?

You may remember this pretty-in-pink frosted cutie from Terry Border’s delightful debut picture book, Peanut Butter and Cupcake (Philomel, 2014), where she boinged on a pogo stick and bedecked a castle with colorful sprinkles.

This time it’s Cupcake’s birthday, and she’s planning the perfect themed party with the help of her best friend Muffin. But for every one of Cupcake’s bright ideas (beach party! boat party! makeover session! musical chairs! getting down with the limbo!), Muffin counters with reasons why they wouldn’t work (drippy guests! sick soup! disgruntled burger! squished guest of honor! decapitation . . . gulp).

Talk about a party pooper.

What’s a birthday girl to do? Well, she could follow Muffin through the garden gate. Won’t tell you what happens, but let’s just say it turns out to be the happiest, sweetest, tastiest celebration ever (I wanted to devour all the party guests). Looks like Muffin has topped himself. :)


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“I like you very much . . . just as you are.” (Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones’s Diary)


Colin: Is it true about Poldark?

Me: Whaaa?

Colin: Has he replaced me in your affections?

Me: Never.

Colin: Haven’t I told you (endlessly) how ardently I admire and love you?

Me: Yes.

Colin: Didn’t I plunge into a mucky lake on your behalf?

Me: Uh-huh.

Colin: And say I like you “just the way you are” despite your blue soup?!

Me: Yes, yes.

Colin: Of all your Eye Candies, don’t I still TAKE THE CAKE??!!

Me: Of course!

Colin: Well then, what’s all this talk of Cornwall this and Aidan Turner that, topless scything, and windswept hair?


Colin: I thought so. You’ve gone all Irish on me, haven’t you? To think that an inadequately bathed whippersnapper on horseback could have stolen your heart! What is the world coming to?!

Me: But Colin, I made crème brûlée.

Colin: Oh well in that case :) . . .



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1. Ooh-la-la! There’s a new Crêpes by Suzette picture book app! I’d featured Monica Wellington’s charming story set in Paris back in 2010, so I was happy to learn it’s now been transformed into a fully interactive multimedia experience:

Take your children on a trip to Paris: meet Suzette, the crêpe maker, and her artistic customers in this fun, educational, interactive picture-book app.

As Suzette sells her delicacies over the course of a day, you will be treated to the sights and sounds of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, from Nôtre-Dame to the Eiffel Tower. Suzette’s customers along the way are inspired by works of art, such as da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Degas’s Little Dancer. You will learn to speak key French words and phrases—with a perfect accent, bien sûr! You can also listen to the narration in five additional languages: French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Japanese. And at the end of the day, a crêpe recipe and DIY cooking lesson await you! As delicious as Suzette’s crêpes, this book app will captivate children—and parents— who will want to make the trip to Paris themselves. Bon voyage!

Immerse yourselves in French culture, with language, food, music and art:

– Interactive Paris map, with fun extras

– Videos of Paris and pictures of its landmarks

– Great introduction to famous paintings and sculptures

– Crêpe recipe and video cooking demos
– English narration read to you by the author

– Interactive hotspots for practicing French

I played with the app and enjoyed all the delightful features, especially being able to tap any of the human or animal characters on the screen to hear them say the French key words. The videos take you right to the places mentioned in the story, and it’s fun seeing how crêpes are made. A great armchair-traveling introduction to this beautiful city featuring sights, street sounds and music that’s designed for Apple and Android devices. Visit Monica’s website for purchase links.


2. Love this SLJ Roundup: “Read It, Make It, Eat It: Great Picture Books with Recipes.” Joy Fleishhacker features eleven tasty titles with great hands-on activities to expand the literary experience. We’ve featured most of the titles here at Alphabet Soup, most recently Baking Day at Grandma’s, Gingerbread for Liberty!, Salsa, A Fine Dessert, and Rainbow Stew. Yum!


3. Do you like to knit? How can you resist this adorable Yoda Tea Cosy? The pattern is available for instant download via TeaCosyFolk on Etsy. I imagine any tea warmed by this cosy will make you a wise person indeed. :)


4. How about “51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature”? BuzzFeed compiled this list awhile ago, but it’s certainly worth rereading to be reminded of great novels or poems you’re familiar with or some you might want to read because of the excerpts. A couple faves: “I would always rather be happy than dignified” (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre), and “Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” (Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).


5. I’m a sucker for food art and like the idea of New Jersey artist Jae Yong Kim serving up donuts that never get stale. His are made out of ceramic and sprinkled with Swarovski crystals, white gold and gold luster. Delicious colors and designs!



6. Ever wonder about the bone china the Crawleys use in “Downton Abbey?” I like to watch the episodes multiple times particularly to study the tableware. I’ve finally identified the china used for library tea times as well as formal meals in the dining room. It’s Spode Stafford White, a beautiful Georgian design with scalloped rims and 22-carat gold accents. It would be lovely to own a cup and saucer in this pattern as a memento of the series, which will end with Season 6 airing in the U.S. January 2016. Next I want to identify Dowager Countess Violet’s tea time china pattern — so pretty! I suspect it’s a Spode design as well.


7. Check out UK author Christopher William Hill’s “Top 10 Fictional Feasts.” The grandson of a baker who claims to have grown up obsessed with food, he shares excerpts along with his personal thoughts about the books. I’ve only read about half of the titles, the usual ones by Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter, J.K. Rowling, and Lewis Carroll, and must admit he’s piqued my appetite for a serving or two of Enid Blyton, whom he calls the Nigella Lawson of children’s authors.


8. Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky . . . As a panacea for those restless nights in cheap hotels and saw-dust restaurants with oyster shells, treat yourself to a set of J. Alfred Prufrock Coffee and Tea notecards from CS Literary Jewelry. Just curious: have you measured out your life with coffee spoons?


9. For the woman who has everything, consider this handcrafted taco-shaped clutch by Charlotte Olympia. Made of raffia and suede, it is lined with satin and embellished with Swarovski crystals and embroidered silk organza. Stash your bills in this cute little number and at 50% off, it will only take a small bite out of your budget (*cough*).


10. Are you familiar with Sweet Ambs Cookie Art? Amber does exquisite work and her decorating tutorials are fabulous. Click here to see all her tutorials, including Rainbow Cookies, Emoji Cookies, Tie-Dye, Pansies, and Marbled Royal Icing. Here’s a fun sample video — “How to Decorate Cupcake Cookies”:

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11. Finally, check out this “How to Make Gummy Lego Candy” video by Grant Thompson, The King of Random. He’d been experimenting on and off for a few years and came up with a recipe using corn syrup, gelatin, water, and Jello. Have fun making these stackable snackables with your kids!

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wkendcookingiconThis post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!


Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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via Food Socialist

Sometimes there’s more to a brownie than meets the eye.

A really good brownie could become your identity, your touchstone, your raison d’être.

A dark chocolate fountain of creativity, the right brownie is your heart of hearts and knows where you live.

Just ask Judyth Hill.


by Judyth Hill

I got famous for them, brownies,
adding nuts and all my attention,
9 years of my life, to the batter.
The recipe reads:
Stir with all your desire to be a poet.
Break 27 thoughts about God, children,
and postgraduate degrees.
Beat till thick with ambition.
Fold in longing and chocolate, hot as the tar roof
on 101st & West End.
Mix just till you remember all the words to Mac the Knife,
Add nuts and the words Jonathan wrote on the boxing gloves
I got for Christmas:
Words from Catallus, Odi et Amo:

I hate and I love.
You ask how that can be.
I know not, but I feel the agony.

He gave me sporting equipment a lot,
though I don’t do sports.
He always remembered to add the words.
I do words.
I do brownies.
I do variations on brownies, cantatas of brownies
sonatas of brownies, quintets of fudge.
And short compositions featuring chocolate
as if it were a bassoon.

Perhaps I am the Picasso of brownies.
My blue period, the year I cried over every batch.
The way the one eyed woman can eat a brownie
and still be in my painting — a trick I discovered
and it became a genre.

Perhaps I am the Seurat of brownies,
dots of primary flavor
deep, sweet, salt,
an illusion adding up to the spectrum of dessert.

I am the Einstein of brownies,
discovering how the more chocolate you eat,
the later it gets.
Discovering how Poem x the Speed of Light² = Brownies.
Discovering that mass, brownies, and time are infinite.
Discovering that the energy of the universe
will go into each pan,
and it’s still brownies.

Maybe I’m the Martin Buber of brownies.
Climbing 10 chocolate rungs to grace.
Or the Albert Schweitzer of brownies,
giving brownies to everyone,
whether they need them or not.

What if I’m the Donald Trump of brownies,
building a cocoa empire.
Blocks of fudge, whole towers of semisweet,
bittersweet and Swiss, bullions of brownies,
chips of profit and loss. Or Lenny Bruce.
Hilarious and obscenely chocolate.
Chocolate so good it’s dirty,
and we can’t talk about it here.

Perhaps I am the Chanel of brownies,
designing a brownie for every outfit,
accessorizing brownies with shoes and bags,
a suit, a rich dark color that goes with everything.

~ from Written with a Spoon: A Poet’s Cookbook, edited by Nancy Fay & Judith Rafaela (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2002). Posted by permission of the author.

Chocolate Chanel Purse Cake via Certified Foodies


Judyth says, “At the time I wrote ‘Brownies’, I owned and ran the famous Chocolate Maven Bakery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am the original Maven! The bakery has gone on to be a huge success, and I sold her to pursue my career as a Poet/Author.”


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Several years ago, Anamaria at Books Together tipped me off to this charming picture book about Fannie Farmer by Deborah Hopkinson and Nancy Carpenter. Happy to say I’m finally getting around to featuring it here at Alphabet Soup and I even rewarded myself by making Fannie’s Famous Griddle Cakes using the recipe provided in the book. :)

These days, most of us don’t think twice about reaching for our measuring cups, spoons, or kitchen scales when we’re ready to cook or bake. Especially with baking, when precise measurements can mean the difference between a cake that rises nicely or sinks like a stone, it’s always about starting out with a good, reliable recipe.

Boston native Fannie Farmer is often credited with inventing the modern recipe. She was one of the first to write down exact instructions for measuring and cooking. But what inspired her to do that, and to eventually publish a cookbook that’s been popular for over 100 years?


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