Book Club Cuisine: The Light Between Oceans


September is that great turning point between an Indian Summer and fall. I like to tuck away my brainless beach books and add something a little more challenging to the top of my book stack. Our choice for this month’s Book Club was also a good transition between light reading and thought-provoking reading… it was right the right amount of “serious” and “interesting.” A Light Between Oceans is about a former soldier who seeks solitude as the lightkeeper on an isolated island. He’s forced to make a tough internal and life changing decision when a baby washes up in a boat on his island. Months later, when he returns to the mainland, he begins to realize the consequences of his decision. Like an episode of ABC’s “What Would You Do?” I found myself asking myself the same question reading this book. Funny thing is, I found myself making a case for either choice… internal dilemma. A good read!

Chorizo Corn Chowder

For the “cuisine” side of our book club, I made a warm, hearty and spicy Chorizo Corn Chowder.
It felt appropriate given the slight chill returning to the air in the Pacific Northwest. It also matched the subject of the book: an isolated island that needs to be warmed up with a bit of love you can only find in a steaming bowl of soup.

Pumpkin Ricotta White Chocolate Cookies

For dessert, I had to show a little more love to my favorite fall culinary accessory… the pumpkin, of course. My pantry is stocked with cans of pumpkin… no problem there… and I had some ricotta left over from a previous recipe. Thus was born the Pumpkin Ricotta White Chocolate Cookies. The pumpkin and ricotta keeps these cookies so moist and gooey, they will surely melt in your mouth!

If you’re interested in the book, Amazon has some good deals for your Kindle. You can also get a good deal if you like “turning the pages” of a traditional book!

Until next time…

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Chorizo Corn Chowder

Chorizo Corn Chowder

I love SOUP! If there’s one reason to wish for the temperatures to drop, it’s to have an excuse to make soup every night of the week. This was my first soup of the end of summer/fall season, and if the steamy, creamy broth doesn’t warm your insides… the kick from the chorizo certainly will! I made a big batch of this soup for our September Book Club Cuisine. Our book this month was “The Light Between Oceans,”  a novel about a lighthouse keeper who has to make a difficult decision when a baby and the body of a man wash up on his island.


The idea of  a solitary, isolated lighthouse made me crave something hearty and warm. I love corn chowder with cilantro, so I decided to spice it up even more with some leftover chorizo I had from a previous post: Pumpkin Chorizo Cannelloni.

Something to keep in mind as you’re making this soup, chorizo is very greasy. I know I said I wanted something body-warming, but heartburn is a little extreme!

TIP: I used a paper towel to blot as much of the grease off the meat as I could before I added it to the soup. As it was heating in the soup, more  grease will rise to the top. I used a huge, silver spoon to skim the top of  soup about 3 or 4 times to get the rest of it. Afterward, I was left with a nice creamy, spicy soup.

INGREDIENTS
Adapted from Bon Appetit
4 cups frozen corn, divided
1 large potato chopped, divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
8 oz ground chorizo
2 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 big handful of cilantro chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

PREP
1. Saute garlic in olive oil in a big soup pot.
2. Add onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes until they start to soften.
3. Add 2 cups of corn, half of your chopped potatoes, thyme, canyenne and 1 can of chicken broth. Boil until potatoes start to soften.
4. Use a hand mixer or hand blender to coarsely puree the base of the soup.
5. Once pureed, add the remaining 2 cups of corn and remaining potatoes on medium to medium-high heat until potatoes begin to soften. Stir often!
6. While your soup is cooking, in a separate pan, brown your chorizo. Once it’s browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer to another plate where you can blot the meat well with paper towel.
7. Once your potatoes are cooked through, add your blotted chorizo and half and half to the soup pot. Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Stir the soup several times while it’s simmering. If chorizo grease rises to the top of the soup, use a big spoon to skim it out. You may need to do this 3-5 times.
8. Once the soup is close to done, add your chopped cilantro and stir to warm.
9. Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Book Club Cuisine: Salvage the Bones/Tilikum Place Cafe

Where do I start, where do I start? I have a lot to say about this month’s book club selection and our field trip for brunch. Let’s begin with the book, shall we?
I’ll start by saying, this is in no way going to win “feel good novel of the year.” I have never been so disturbed and depressed by a book that I literally could not read the words on the pages. An entire chapter… skipped!
“Salvage the Bones” is about a black family living in rural, poverty-stricken Louisiana just days before Hurricane Katrina hits. One of the teenagers in the family is involved in dog fighting – a subject that breaks my heart – the 12 or 13-year-old girl learns she is pregnant, they have no food to eat, and all the while a massive hurricane is looming for which the family is ill-prepared. Depressed yet?
I won’t poo-poo this book completely. I have to say I’m glad I read it for the simple fact that this is reality. This is the world real people are living in, and for once I didn’t want to turn a blind eye and pretend as if it’s not there.

Click this picture for a link to the website

Ok, on to the ray of light in this experience. We decided to break the mold and have our  book club at a restaurant this month, so this post is pulling double duty in my “You Can’t Make ‘Em All” category!
Tilikum Place Cafe is a boutiquey, contemporary restaurant in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. Lets just say it was nice to get a cappuccino delivered in an actual ceramic cup instead of the cardboard cups I’ve grown accustomed to from Starbucks.

Quiche and Wilted Greens

This place had some really inventive selections.
For brunch, I had baked eggs with wilted onions topped with herb bread crumbs. Another popular item are the dutch babies: a baked pancake stuffed with either sweet or savory fillings. They also have daily specials on quiches and eggs benedict. It felt a little bit like a Paris cafe, so if you’re craving a 6-egg omelette or a greasy pile of eggs and bacon, better find another place.


It’s probably not somewhere I would take my husband. While the food was very good, it’s just not his style. But it was a great location for a bunch of girlfriends to get together and have a special, “fresh squeezed orange juice” breakfast.

Book Club Cuisine: Unholy Night

It’s time to crack the books on the old summer reading list. That means ditching the heavy literature and losing yourself in some mindless, guilt-free entertainment. This month’s book club selection satisfies all of your ‘sit on the beach and drink a diet coke’ summer reading requirements: “Unholy Night”, by Seth Grahame-Smith.

If you’re like me and you hate vampire/zombie books, I know what you’re thinking: Ugh, there is no way I’m picking up a book from the same guy who wrote “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” or “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” But hold on, before you turn up your nose, this book isn’t nearly as outrageous. I’ll try to refrain from inserting any high and mighty opinions (mostly because I get annoyed by book reviewers who think their opinion is the only one that counts). In a nutshell, the book is a re-imagining of the birth of Jesus and the three kings who come bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. For what it’s worth, I think the author did a great job of creating a fictional story of three crooks, instead of three kings, and weaving their story with the facts of Jesus’ birth and some of the key players.

Now that we’ve fed our minds… time to feed the bellies!

Quiche Lorraine

I’ll be honest with you. I was feeling a little overwhelmed this month between work and the weather. The deadline for dinner was approaching and I had very little motivation and even fewer ideas for what to make. So, I cheated… and I’m giving you permission to do the same! Picture this: I’m in Whole Foods, it’s 7 hours to dinner, and my mind is blank. I stumble across the ready-made food section, and temptation took over. I made a deal with myself: cheat on the main course and hand-make the side dish and dessert. Done! In the end, the Quiche Lorraine was calling and I answered the phone!

Whole Foods Quiche Lorraine

This is actually a genius idea for any book club. Quiches are so cute. You can fill them up with almost anything to accommodate any allergies or tastes. And they can be used for breakfast or dinner. Check out this Whole Foods recipe for Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche:

INGREDIENTS
1 (9-inch) frozen pie crust (in pie pan), thawed 10 minutes
2 leeks (about 1 pound), trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 eggs
1/2 cup (2-percent) milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or chives
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

PREP
1.Preheat oven to 400°F. Prick crust all over with a fork. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until just golden, about 15 minutes. Set crust aside and reduce oven temperature to 375°F.
2.Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add leeks and simmer until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
3.In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, tarragon, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spread leeks in bottom of crust and dot with goat cheese. Pour egg mixture over the top and bake until puffed in the center and lightly browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Set aside to let cool until warm or serve at room temperature.


With the biggest obstacle out of the way, it was time to roll up the sleeves and put some effort into the dinner. For dessert: Creamy Lime Bars. I found a great recipe on Pinterest from a blogger over at Eat, Live, Run.
I didn’t add the green food coloring like she did, but it still had that awesome and unmistakable lime taste. Lime Bar Recipe Here. These bars scream “Summerrrrrr!”

Creamy Lime Bars

For my side, I decided just to stick with a  simple Strawberry, Tomato and Feta Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette. No reinventing the wheel on this one, it’s more an oldie-but-goodie salad that can still pull out the stops when you need an idea in a pinch. Plus, it’s even better now that strawberries are so fresh, juicy and in-season right now. Hooray for summer fruit!

This menu worked in a pinch. I can’t take full credit for being a domestic diva and making it all from scratch, but hey, you can’t make ’em all!

Book Club Cuisine: Love in the Time of Cholera

Chicken Tamale Casserole

Epic love, Latin vibes and one HOT tamale (casserole). We took it there for our May book club: Cinqo de Mayo style.

I’m so happy to share this one with you. Everything tied in so beautifully… from the book, to the meal, right down to the Red Wine Sangria. (By the way, I wanted seconds, and thirds and leftovers of everything.) Our book selection was the epic love story “Love in the Time of Cholera.” It tells the story of a Latin man’s lifelong desire and journey to be with the woman he’s loved since he was young. Years turn into decades, yet he holds on to the idea that love will always connect us no matter how much time passes or how much you deny it.

Amazing does not begin to describe our book club meal. There is one thing you need to know about me: I love tamales. I always have since I had my first “real” tamale along the river walk in San Antonio. Problem is, they are so darn hard to make. Who is really gonna buy corn husks to make them at home? Your only options are to buy them sub-par in the store, or find an authentic Mexican restaurant, right? Hold the train. Our friend Erin found a casserole recipe that will completely fool you in to thinking you’re eating a real tamale. The same flavors, but no complicated tamale-making process! Wrap me up in a corn husk… I’m in LOVE! It’s also a great recipe for your Cinqo de Mayo parties this weekend.


Chicken Tamale Pie

Courtesy, Erin Johnson
INGREDIENTS
⅓ cup of milk
1 egg
1 ½ tablespoons of taco seasoning
¼ teaspoon of ground cumin
1 14 ¾ ounce can of cream style corn
1 box of Jiffy cornbread muffin mix
1 4 ounce can chopped green chiles
1 10 ounce can of red enchilada sauce
2 cups of shredded cooked chicken breast
¾ cup of shredded cheese (white cheese)
cilantro and crumbled Cotija cheese for topping
PREP
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine the first 7 ingredients (milk through green chiles) using only ½ tablespoon of taco seasoning, in a large bowl stirring until just moist. Pour into a round pie plate coated with cooking spray.
3. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. While corn is baking toss the chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning.
4. When corn is done baking it will be just barely set and golden brown. Liberally piece the entire top with a fork. Pour enchilada sauce over the top, layer on the chicken and sprinkle the top with the cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let it set for 5 minutes. Sprinkle top with cilantro and Cotija cheese. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.If you want to check out the book you can buy it through Amazon here:

Book Club Cuisine: The Tempest

A classic book deserves a classic book club cuisine pairing.

How to pair wine and cheese: Link To Better Homes and Gardens

This month we challenged our minds, and our palates. Our literary selection was the classic Shakespeare play The Tempest, and we were treated to an array of cheese… from the fancy case! It was another fun conversation starter. Not only can you share your feelings about the book, you can compare the cheeses and talk about which ones you like and why.

Among our choices… a gouda, a red pepper infused cheese, and a ‘recommended’ cheese from Whole Foods. Taking their word for it turned out to be an awesome decision. It was my favorite. I just wish I could remember the name! Don’t be afraid to ask employees for their recommendation. They typically know what they’re talking about!

As for the book, I haven’t read Shakespeare since high school, so I was somewhat apprehensive about tackling The Tempest. Would I be able to follow it? Would I understand the language? Would I feel downright stupid? But it was actually fun! You can breeze through the entire thing in an hour and a half. It had magic, drunks, and scheming. Sounds like a party to me! My book had annotations explaining what different words and phrases meant, but I found it more distracting than anything. I actually understood more by just reading through it (then checking out the overview on Wikipedia to make sure I was on the right track). 🙂

I’ll have to check out the movie next.

Until next month…

Book Club Cuisine: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Black Bean Soup

It’s time for another chapter of “Book Club Cuisine”. This month’s book selection was extremely emotional and incredibly heart- wrenching.  Our menu selection was extremely comforting and incredibly delicious. I’m sure you’ve figured out that it all ties in to “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” – the post-9/11 story of a family desperate to connect after the devastating loss of a loved one in the twin towers. The conversation was heavy, as you might imagine, but the meal brought a great balance to our discussion, brightening up our plates and our spirits a bit – Black Bean Soup with Spinach Salad and Warm Bread.

Mason Jar For A Wine Glass

Our host Kate did a great job with the meal and had some great dinner party ideas. First of all, her soup bowls are so cute. Also, she set out mason jars for wine glasses. TIP: You can pick them up in the baking aisle of your super market! Very country-chic! I don’t have the exact recipe for the soup (it’s pretty much an “everyone in the pool to simmer soup”, which I love). Here are the general ingredients:

Couple drizzles of olive oil for sautéing onion and carrots
2 cans black beans
1 can yellow and white corn
1 can black eyed peas
1 can diced tomatoes
Chopped Carrots
Chopped Onion

Toppings:
Green onions chopped
shredded cheese
sour cream

I haven’t seen the movie “Extremely Loud”, but one of the other readers had and said it was very similar to the book. Having said that, the story was told through a series of flashbacks and letters. There were also several pictures in the book to help put the most striking images in your mind – including some pretty intense pictures from 9/11. If you are interested in the book, here’s the link:

Book Club Cuisine: The Night Circus

A mysterious circus where the illusions are not merely tricks, they are true magic. A towering black and white striped big top. Tents that appear from out of nowhere. Patrons who wear a secret on their clothing in touches of crimson. Tents filled with ice gardens, a cloud maze, and a pool of tears. An aroma of caramel and cinnamon drifting through the air. The imagery from our latest book selection was so vivid and descriptive, it screamed of a “theme menu” for our book club.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

The decor was easy: Black placemats, white bowls, and red wine. This was right up my alley! I’m kind of a freak about black, white and red: My wedding colors!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

The love story between dueling illusionists inspired me to make something a little spicy for my main course. I chose a Chicken Tortilla Soup.
Tortilla Strips.
And all the fixings: Limes, avocado, and sour cream.

Dessert was a no brainer: the cinnamon treats in the book made my mouth water as I read the words. I have been craving

Cinnamon "Elephant Ears"

cinnamon ever since. So, I stuck with the circus theme and made Elephant Ears. Now, don’t be let down when I tell you I bypassed making those deep-fried elephant ears that are oh so finger-licking good. (I’m very much still craving those!) I went the more visual route and made puff pastry cinnamon treats that resemble actual elephant ears. Cute, right?!

The sommelier at my local grocery store recommended a Spanish Rioja to pair with dinner. I’m no expert, but to me it was a great pairing. I’m often intimidated by wine: so many brands, prices, and options. Dry or Sweet? What goes with what? I usually feel dumb, staring blankly at the endless bottles. Sometimes I shrug off clerks who offer to help, pretending I know what I’m doing. But when it comes to pairings, I’m clueless. Sommeliers are extremely knowledgeable, and in my experience they are always willing to made a recommendation. That’s what they’re there for! You’re paying good money for a bottle, so ask lots of questions to make sure you get a wine you will be happy with.


Our book got 5 stars, and I can only hope my dish lived up to the raves we gave “The Night Circus”… it’s a MUST-READ!
Check it out: Here’s the link on Amazon.

If you like this post, you might also like: Tortilla Strip Recipe.

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe.

Book Club Cuisine: The Night Circus

A mysterious circus where the illusions are not merely tricks, they are true magic. A towering black and white striped big top. Tents that appear from out of nowhere. Patrons who wear a secret on their clothing in touches of crimson. Tents filled with ice gardens, a cloud maze, and a pool of tears. An aroma of caramel and cinnamon drifting through the air. The imagery from our latest book selection was so vivid and descriptive, it screamed of a “theme menu” for our book club.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

The decor was easy: Black placemats, white bowls, and red wine. This was right up my alley! I’m kind of a freak about black, white and red: My wedding colors!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

The love story between dueling illusionists inspired me to make something a little spicy for my main course. I chose a Chicken Tortilla Soup.
Tortilla Strips.
And all the fixings: Limes, avocado, and sour cream.

Dessert was a no brainer: the cinnamon treats in the book made my mouth water as I read the words. I have been craving

Cinnamon "Elephant Ears"

cinnamon ever since. So, I stuck with the circus theme and made Elephant Ears. Now, don’t be let down when I tell you I bypassed making those deep-fried elephant ears that are oh so finger-licking good. (I’m very much still craving those!) I went the more visual route and made puff pastry cinnamon treats that resemble actual elephant ears. Cute, right?!

The sommelier at my local grocery store recommended a Spanish Rioja to pair with dinner. I’m no expert, but to me it was a great pairing. I’m often intimidated by wine: so many brands, prices, and options. Dry or Sweet? What goes with what? I usually feel dumb, staring blankly at the endless bottles. Sometimes I shrug off clerks who offer to help, pretending I know what I’m doing. But when it comes to pairings, I’m clueless. Sommeliers are extremely knowledgeable, and in my experience they are always willing to made a recommendation. That’s what they’re there for! You’re paying good money for a bottle, so ask lots of questions to make sure you get a wine you will be happy with.


Our book got 5 stars, and I can only hope my dish lived up to the raves we gave “The Night Circus”… it’s a MUST-READ!
Check it out: Here’s the link on Amazon.

If you like this post, you might also like: Tortilla Strip Recipe.

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe.

Irish Lamb Stew

It’s been a wild week weather-wise! Snow, ice, nearly 24-hour-a-day news coverage, and all I could think about in the newsroom was having a big bowl of warm, hearty, comfort food. Today I finally got the chance to quench that craving.

I won’t lie, I also wanted to make something my husband would enjoy. So far, my precious carnivore has been less than impressed with my all-vegetarian cuisine choices. Time to mix it up! Stew satisfies both of our appetites: Meat, potatoes and BEER for the man, a hearty helping of vegetables for the lady. Plus, it’s something we could enjoy making together in the kitchen.

My original vision was a beef stew… boring, I know! As luck would have it, we found some amazing lamb pieces in the meat section… and BAM… we took it there! If you can’t find lamb, beef will suffice, but let me tell you, you’re missing out! And the best part is, it requires no extra effort.

My Job

2 pounds cubed lamb  – we used 2 packages

1 1/2 ounces of butter

2 cups of beef stock (or lamb stock if you can find it!)

best part: 1 bottle of Irish Red Ale (we used Smithwicks)

3 Carrots

2 Hearty Potatoes

1/2 an Onion

2 green onions

Small Handfull of Chopped Parsley

Flour

The Husband

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat butter and brown the lamb. Drain off excessive fat, deglaze with ale and simmer 3 minutes. Add beef stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for  1 hour 15 minutes or until lamb is tender. Make a roux of 2 ounces butter and 2 ounces flour. Stir into stew and simmer 5-8 minutes stirring continuously. Add vegetables except green onion and parsley and simmer 20 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Serve it up and garnish with parsley and green onion.

A hearty bread was heaven. You’ll want to sop up all the juices!

And since you bought the beer for the stew, why not crack a cold one for yourself!

Comfort Food Coma!

Premeditated Leftovers.