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Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

Please help yourself to a mug of coffee, tea or milk and a blueberry crumb bar — just the thing for hopping from blog to blog and reading some good poems. :)

To set you on your way, thought I’d share a poem from Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. I like the intersection between the temporal and the spiritual, the dissolution of will and ego while singing praise for the divine glory of the world. And, too, in this day and age of blatant self aggrandizement, it is humbling to contemplate Mother Nature’s largesse as well as her indifference to our inconsequential and fleeting existences, our infinitesimal obsessions.

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“Blueberries’ Great Escape” via DogwoodStudioAlaska

 

HERE, THERE ARE BLUEBERRIES
by Mary Szybist

When I see the bright clouds, a sky empty of moon and stars,
I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me.

Here there are blueberries, what should I fear?
Here there is bread in thick slices, of whom should I be afraid?

Under the swelling clouds, we spread our blankets.
Here in this meadow, we open our baskets

to unpack blueberries, whole bowls of them,
berries not by the work of our hands, berries not by the work of our fingers.

what taste the bright world has, whole fields
without wires, the blackened moss, the clouds

swelling at the edges of the meadow. And for this,
I did nothing, not even wonder.

You must live for something, they say.
People don’t live just to keep on living.

But here is the quince tree, a sky bright and empty.
Here there are blueberries, there is no need to note me.

~ from Incarnadine (Graywolf Press, 2013).

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This poem appears near the end of the book, a sort of benediction. The entire collection is luminous and deeply thought provoking, with inventive explorations of the divine in everyday life. The National Book Award judges citation reads in part: “This is a religious book for nonbelievers, or a book of necessary doubts for the faithful.” Definitely worth a look — Szybist is a poet’s poet.

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Speaking of which, Heartfelt Congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera, our new U.S. Poet Laureate, and Jacqueline Woodson, our new Young People’s Poet Laureate! Way cool! :)

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Now, please leave your links with Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to include the title of the poem you’re sharing or book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name. The links page will stay up indefinitely and can be accessed at any time for your reading convenience.

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Thanks for joining us today. If you’d like the Blueberry Crumb Bars recipe, click over to Smitten Kitchen. Cool thoroughly before slicing and enjoy with a side of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. :)

Have a wonderful weekend!
(Here there are blueberries, here there are poems.)

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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.

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BROWNIES
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

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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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You’ve got last minute guests coming for dinner and you need to whip up a quick and easy dessert.

Or maybe you’ve already made your Thanksgiving pumpkin and pecan pies, but need a little extra sweet something for holiday weekend guests.

What’s an adorable, well-intentioned host like you to do?

Ta da! Dorie Greenspan to the rescue with her Custardy Apple Squares!

You’ll likely have all the ingredients on hand already for this recipe; this baby can be eaten warm or cold, and it’s also good for breakfast. :)

This is just one of the goodies included in Dorie’s latest cookbook, Baking Chez Moi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). I just love Dorie and this book is definitely on my holiday wish list. :)

Check out the video:

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CUSTARDY APPLE SQUARES

  • 3 medium juicy, sweet apples (Gala, Fuji), peeled
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

3. Slice the apples from top to bottom using a mandoline, Benriner or a sharp knife, turning the fruit as you reach the core. The slices should be about 1/16th inch thick—elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile. Discard the cores.

4. Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.

5. Working in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs, sugar and salt together for about 2 minutes, until the sugar just about dissolves and, more important, the eggs are pale. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by the milk and melted butter.

6. Turn the flour into the bowl and stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Add the apples to the bowl, switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold the apples into the batter, turning everything around until each thin slice is coated in batter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top as evenly as you can—it will be bumpy; that’s its nature.

7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown, uniformly puffed— make sure the middle of the cake has risen—and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

8. Using a long chef’s knife, cut the cake into 8 squares in the pan (being careful not to damage the pan), or unmold the cake onto a rack, flip it onto a plate and cut into squares. Either way, give the squares a dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving, if you’d like.

~ adapted from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

BON APPETIT!

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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Extremely cool cover art by Kevin Slattery

I’m just sitting here tickling the ivories, tickled pink that author, poet, fellow blogger and online friend Barbara Etlin has just published her very first book of poetry! Hoo Hoo!

In between tending her tulips, perfecting owl calls and waiting on HRH Echo (genius good-looking-poetry-writing dog), Barb has managed to cook up 33 mostly humorous, tickle-your-fancy poems exploring “the crescendos and diminuendos of life.”

Call Antique Piano & Other Sour Notes a quirky smorgasbord, a recital of finely-tuned off key musings and amusings about everything from “broken hearts to broken appliances.” It’s fitting that she’s chosen a musical theme for this collection, since she loves to play with lyrics by parodying popular songs and referencing favorite artists like Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles.

Barb’s fave art deco vase.

Writers, especially, will appreciate the ode to an electric typewriter and the memo to Lewis Carroll from the Seven Maids’ Union. For minimalists, Barb has included four haiku; for mind-benders, a conversation between refrigerator magnets; for pet lovers, two barks and a meow; and if you’re feeling spacier than normal, check out the “Etiquette for Astronauts.” For the first time ever, we get to hear the Moon’s side of things (and it’s a little dark)!

I asked Barb to share some tips about humor writing and self publishing, and I was curious about the antique piano. Of course I also asked for a favorite recipe (yes, it’s chocolate!). And, as a special added treat especially for you animal lovers, we’re serving up a sample poem from the book by Echo himself (it’s a good thing Barb takes good dictation). Ruff!

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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?

EVERYTHING.

I mean it.

EVERYTHING.

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
“This ABOMINATION MUST END”
was the owner of about 150 slaves.

The MONUMENTAL MAN had MONUMENTAL FLAWS.

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!

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♥ Call Me Ms. Pudding ♥

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