Monday, November 3, 2014

Cucumber Boats



Cucumber Boats

Makes 2 boats.

What did you say?  An appetizer that won't ruin your appetite?  Found it.
Adapted from: Bite Delite

2 cucumbers (about 1 pound each)
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/4 t. salt
1 t. fresh parsley or dill, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the cucumbers lengthwise, and remove the seeds.  Then, cut a small strip off the bottom of one side so that cucumber will set level, without falling over.

Use the other half of the cucumber to dice into 1/4" pieces.  Combine the diced cucumbers with feta cheese, dill, salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the 2 cucumber "boats," then slice into 1-1/2" pieces.

Friday, October 31, 2014

One Pot Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Alfredo



One Pot Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Alfredo

Serves 4.

Delicious.  Easy.  Impressive.  Perfect for when friends come over!
Source: Host the Toast

¾ lb Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups milk, plus ¼ cup for the sauce
1½ cups chicken broth, plus ¼ cup for the sauce
1 (16 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained and pureed (you can do this in a food processor or blender)
8 oz goat cheese
½ cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 handfuls fresh spinach
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 oz pasta of your choice


Remove the casing from the sausage and discard the casing. To do this, simply cut along the side of the sausage with a sharp knife and peel off the pierced casing with your fingers.
 
In a large pot or high-walled pan, saute the sausage meat with the garlic and olive oil over medium heat, until browned.
 
Stir in chicken broth, pureed roasted red pepper, milk and pasta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 12 minutes. If the liquid has all been absorbed, add the additional milk and chicken broth.
 
Stir in spinach, 1 handful at a time, and cook until wilted and hot.
Stir in the goat cheese and parmesan. Continue to stir until melted. Remove from heat and serve.




Thursday, October 30, 2014

Birthday Cake Batter Pancakes





Birthday Cake Batter Pancakes

Makes about 6 pancakes.

The kids loved these.  We used regular syrup instead of the glaze, but next time, I would try it, so I'm including it here.
Source: Happy Food Healthy Life

For pancakes:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cake mix
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup milk
assorted sprinkles
whipped cream and additional sprinkles for topping, optional

For glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted sprinkles

To make glaze: Mix milk, extract and powdered sugar until glaze forms. You may need to add a little more sugar or water/milk to reach desired consistency. Mix into glaze and drizzle on pancakes.

Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix. Add 1/2 cup of milk, egg and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. You want the batter to look like regular pancake batter; not too thin, not too thick. This will vary greatly on the brand of cake mix you use. Start with 1/2 cup of milk and add more if needed.

Preheat a skillet on medium heat. Fold desired amount of sprinkles into batter. Pour batter in 1/4 cup measurements onto skillet and let cook until bubbles form on top, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 minute more. Serve with vanilla glaze.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chocolate Chocolate Cake with Brownie Batter Frosting



Chocolate Chocolate Cake with Brownie Batter Frosting


Serves 16?
A rich, chocolaty cake perfect for a birthday, special occasion, or just because.  A brownie layer is sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cake, and it's all wrapped in a delicious brownie batter frosting.  And who doesn't love extra chocolate chips on the outside?

Inspired by: Baby Gizmo and Beyond Frosting

Cake:
Chocolate cake mix, any chocolate flavor
Brownie mix (13x9 family size)
5 eggs (to be used for the cake and brownie mix)
Vegetable oil
One 12-oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Two (or three) 8" round pans

Frosting:
2 tsp Pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp  Unsweetened dark cocoa powder (I used Hersey’s Special Dark)
1 cup powdered brownie mix (from a box)
2 tsp Milk
3 heaping cups Powdered sugar

Garnish:
8 oz. dark chocolate chips
 
  • Cake Layers:
  • Make the chocolate cake according to the box. Pour batter evenly into two lightly greased 9″ round pans and bake at 350 degrees for 32-37 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a plate to cool completely.
  • Brownie Layer:
    Make the brownie mix according to the package. Pour entire brownie batter into one (1) lightly greased 9″ round pan. Make sure the brownie pan is the same size as the cake pans that you used!  Bake the brownie at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Watch the brownies carefully as not to overcook them but make sure they aren’t completely doughy in the center.Cool in pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a plate to cool completely. I found it was easiest to remove the brownie carefully using a wide spatula underneath.

    Frosting
    :
    Using a stand mixer, combine the softened butter and vanilla extract, beating on a medium speed until smooth.
    In a separate bowl, sift cocoa powder and brownie mix together. Yes, you must sift this! The fine powder ensures it will properly mix into your batter. I prefer to use the special dark cocoa powder because I love how the dark chocolate flavor enhances the brownie taste. Add your butter and mix on medium speed until well combined.
    Next, add 2 tsp of milk and beat into the frosting. I added the milk because it adds a real creaminess to the frosting. The frosting will be a little grainy, which is very reminiscent of actual brownie batter. I tested this frosting will several different amounts of milk, the more milk you add, the creamier the frosting will be, but it will dilute the taste of the brownie batter.
    Continue to slowly add your powdered sugar while beating on a medium speed. Your batter will be come very thick. Once you have added all of your powdered sugar, quickly add your corn syrup and continue to beat until well combined.
    Lastly, add 2 tsp hot water and increase speed to medium-high for 30 seconds until well mixed. I like to increase the speed at the end to help make the frosting a little bit lighter.
    Frost the top of the brownie layer with about 1/6 of the frosting. Sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on that layer. Carefully place the 2nd cake layer on top of the brownie layer. Carefully frost the top and sides of the cake with the remainder of the frosting.

  • BEFORE THE FROSTING SETS, you need to apply the chocolate chips to the outside. Take a handful of chocolate chips at a time and firmly press against the side of the cake until most of the chips stick. Some chips will fall to the plate and you will use those to fill in the holes.
    Repeat this process around the entire cake. Take the fallen chips and the chips that you have left and fill in the holes and sprinkle on top.
Assembly:
Pick the plate you want the cake to be displayed on and start with one (1) cake layer. Frost the top of the cake layer with about 1/6 of the frosting . Sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on that layer. (Note: Any chopped up candy – Reese’s, M&Ms, Heath Bits etc can be substituted for the chocolate chips to add another flavor!) Carefully place the brownie layer on top of the cake layer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars



Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cookie Bars

Makes 8x8 pan.

Oh boy.  Sinfully yummy.  Excuse the poor photo and just trust me on this one.
Source: Inside BruCrew Life
For the Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
1 cup Hershey's baking melts

For the Cheesecake:
1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup peanut butter

For the topping:
1/4 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and cream again. Sift together the baking soda and flour. Slowly add to the butter mixture until incorporated. Stir in the peanut butter chips and baking melts by hand. Press half the dough into the bottom of an 8" pan. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and peanut butter and beat until smooth. Pour on top of the cookie dough.
Press small pieces of cookie dough onto the top of the cream cheese layer. Continue until all the dough has been used and the cheesecake has been covered. Bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Cut into 16 bars.
In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter chips and 1/2 teaspoon shortening. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir until melted and smooth. Spoon into a plastic bag that has one corner cut off. Drizzle over bars. Repeat with chocolate chips. Keep refrigerated. Makes 16 bars.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Banana Crumb Cake



Banana Crumb Cake

Makes (2) loaf pans, (2) 8x8's or (1) 13x9

My good friend Cheryl turned me on to this recipe.  Easily the best banana crumb cake I've ever eaten.  So flavorful and moist, and the crumb filling/topping is to die for!
Source: Southern Plate

For the crumb cake:
2 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
2 c. self-rising flour
1 stick margarine
2 eggs
3 bananas
1 t. vanilla

For the crumb topping:
1 stick (1/2 c.) margarine
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour (self-rising or plain)

Spray two loaf of 8x8 pans with cooking spray (you can also use a deep 13x9).  Place peeled bananas in mixing bowl, add sugar.  Mix until bananas are liquefied.  Add margarine, mix until creamed together with banana mixture.  Add all other ingredients and blend well.

In medium bowl, place all topping ingredients.  Cut together with a long-tined fork until well blended.  Pour 1/4 of batter into each pan, top with 1/4 crumb mixture.  Pour remaining batter over and top with remaining crumb mixture.  (If you are using a 13x9, pour 1/2 batter, than 1/2 crumb.  Then remaining batter and remaining crumb.)

Bake for 45-60 minutes for loaf pans or 8x8s.  For 13x9, bake for 50-70 minutes.
Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa



Grilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Serves 6

A deliciously fresh meal.  Easy, yet visually appealing.  A good meal for entertaining.
Sources: Avocado Salsa comes from Better Recipes 

Salsa:
3 avocados, seeded and chopped
3 medium roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
6 T. finely chopped onion
1-1/2 t. minced garlic
4-5 T. lime juice
salt and pepper

Chicken:
Grill or bake using your favorite standard seasoning. 

Cook chicken. Top with salsa.  Serve over saffron rice.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gnocchi, Sausage, and Spinach Soup




Gnocchi, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

Serves 4-5.

Delicious.  I will make this again and again!
Source: Cinnamon-Spice and Everything Nice

1 yellow onion, diced
1 roasted red pepper, diced
olive oil, for sauteing
sea or Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1 pound Italian sausage, ground or removed from casings, hot or sweet
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed between fingers
32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound potato gnocchi
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, rough chopped
3/4 cup half & half or heavy cream (light is ok)
1 heaping tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
fresh grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a large sauce pan or soup pot saute onion and red pepper in a couple of tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. In a separate, large skillet brown the sausage, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add garlic to onion mixture and saute until fragrant.
 
Drain sausage and add to onion mixture along with the basil and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper, simmer for 20 minutes.
 
Add gnocchi and spinach, bring to a simmer and cook until gnocchi puff up and start to float (check package for cooking time). Add half & half and fresh basil, bring to a simmer for three or four minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad



BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

Serves 2

A delicious, healthy, fresh option for lunch or dinner.
Source: me

romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large chicken breast, grilled and chopped
1/2 cup corn, cooked and chilled
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 avocado, chopped
6-7 cherry tomatoes, chopped
4 baby carrots, chopped

To make dressing: combine equal parts Ranch dressing and BBQ sauce

Cover lettuce with toppings, then serve with BBQ Ranch dressing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

20-Minute Applesauce Breakfast Cookies



20-Minute Applesauce Breakfast Cookies

Makes 36.

The word "cookie" is used loosely here.  Let's not get carried away and think that these taste like true cookies.  But if your toddler likes them, call them cookies as much as you'd like.  
Adapted from: Shape


3 ripe bananas
2 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. applesauce

2 T. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a fork, mash the bananas in a bowl. Stir in oats, applesauce, honey, dried cherries, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Mix batter well. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Book Thief


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Better read this before the movie is released!  Great book.

School Library Journal review from Amazon.com:

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sugar Cookie Dip



Sugar Cookie Dip

Makes about 2 cups.

Wow.  I could eat WAAYYY too much of this.
Inspired by: Cooking with Christine and My Honeys Place

1 package sugar cookie mix
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (4 oz.) butter, softened
1 T. flavored coffee creamer (I used brown sugar and vanilla flavor)

Combine all ingredients with a mixer or efficiently by hand.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve with pretzels, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Baby Spinach and Cheddar Quiche



Baby Spinach and Cheddar Quiche

Serves 8.

I used a store-bought crust... a refrigerated one, not a frozen one.  But either would work.
Source: Big Flavors Tiny Kitchen


Store-bought frozen deep dish pie shell
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
4 ounces baby spinach
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
5 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place frozen pie crust on a baking sheet and set aside.
Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet over moderate heat. Add garlic and shallot and sauté until soft. Add spinach, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach wilts down, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
While the spinach mixture is cooling, beat eggs and milk in a large bowl. Stir in cheese.
Place spinach mixture in the bottom of the pie crust, spreading it out in an even layer. Pour egg mixture on top and bake for 45-50 minutes, until eggs are set. Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes before diving in. Enjoy!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chocolate M&M Cookie Cups



Chocolate M&M Cookie Cups

Makes about 30.

Rich and chocolaty, with extra chocolate bursts from the M&Ms.
Adapted from: The Daily Dish

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. baking soda
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 12-oz. pkg. M&M’s 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In medium bowl, combine the baking soda, flour and cocoa. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet, stirring until combined. Stir in the M&M’s.
Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls into a mini muffin pan. Place baking sheet on the middle rack in oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and let cool in pan for about 10 more minutes. Remove cookies from sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Snow Child



The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The perfect read for a cold, snowy day.  This is a fantastical book that will leave you wondering for days after you close the back cover.  A great book club choice too!

Book description from Amazon:

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Overnight Egg Nog French Toast



Overnight Egg Nog French Toast

Serves 8.

Adapted from: Chef in Training


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 loaves French bread, sliced into 1" slices
  • 1 cup egg nog
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnmon
  1. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Heat the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until the mixture begins to boil; remove the mixture from heat, and pour into the prepared baking dish.
  3. Place slices of french bread on top of the sugar mixture.
  4. Combine egg nog, half and half, eggs and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk together until completely combined. Pour evenly over bread slices.
  5. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and refrigerate 8 hours to overnight.
  6. Once it has refrigerated for designated time, Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes. Then, remove foil and raise oven's temperature to 375 and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until french toast has started to brown on top.  Serve with syrup.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Egg Nog Coffee Cake



Egg Nog Coffee Cake

Serves... a lot.

A dense coffee cake with a hint of egg nog flavor... and a thick, rich, crumbly crust.  Perfect for Christmas morning!
Source: Gonna Want Seconds


For The Coffee Cake:

Instructions:

  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350. Spray a tube pan generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in eggnog, sour cream, nutmeg and vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add half of the dry ingredient into wet ingredients and blend just until mostly combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and blend just until combined.
  5. Spread batter into prepared pan. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Set aside.
  6. Meanwhile make the Crumb Topping: In a medium bowl blend sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until mixture becomes smooth. Add flour and combine thoroughly.
  7. Crumble crumb mixture into big pieces over top of unbaked coffee cake.
  8. Bake Coffee Cake for 35-45 minutes in preheated oven just until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Cool on rack for 10-15 minutes. Place a plate on top of the cake and flip the cake over onto the plate. Place a serving plate on the bottom of the cake and flip the cake over to right-side up. Cool cake completely before icing it.
  10. Make Icing: Whisk together the butter and eggnog in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring mixture to a simmer and simmer for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Cool slightly and whisk in powdered sugar until mixture is smooth with no lumps. Drizzle icing over completely cooled cake.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sweet Potato Pie



Sweet Potato Pie

Makes 1 pie.

This pie received rave reviews at Christmas dinner, so it looks like I'll be making it again and again in the future.  I adapted the crust largely from the original recipe, and that is one of the things people commented on most.  It's a primitive crust, simply pressed into the pie plate, but thick and delicious, similar to shortbread.  And even if you're tentative about sweet potatoes, you may be surprised to find you really enjoy this pie.
Adapted from: The Wall Street Journal

Crust:
2-1/4 c. flour
3/4 t. salt
2 T. sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter

Filling:
2 large sweet potatoes
2 t. water
1/2 c. granulated sugar
6 T. butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/4 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
2/3 c. whole milk

Topping:
Whipped cream


Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add sugar and stir until dissolved; remove from heat.  Stir in flour and salt until a dough forms.  Press into an ungreased pie plate.  Bake for 15 minutes, just to set the crust a bit.

Make filling:
Prick potatoes with a fork and sprinkle each with a teaspoon of water.  Wrap potatoes in aluminum foil. Place in oven and bake until tender, about 1 hour.  Remove and let cool.  Peel and puree in a food processor until smooth.  Set aside 1-1/2 cups puree for the filling.  You will not need the rest, although I use the rest since there was only about 1/4 cup leftover.

Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk the potato puree, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and ginger until smooth.  Add milk and stir to combine.  Place mixture in baked pie shell.  Bake for 60 minutes total.  After 30 minutes, rotate pie and increase temperature to 375 degrees.  Let cool completely.  Serve topped with whipped cream.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Crackers AKA "Shingles"



Chocolate Caramel Crackers AKA "Shingles"

Makes 1 cookie sheet.

A classic Christmas candy, and a traditional favorite of my husband's side of the family.  They call these "shingles," and they are addicting and delicious!
Source: The Mr.'s grandmother

~40 saltine crackers
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 11x17 baking sheet completely with foil and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper; cut to fit.

Line the bottom of the baking sheet with crackers, covering all parts.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together.  Stir over medium heat until it begins to boil.  Once it has begun boiling, let it boil for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  It will thicken a bit as it cooks.  Remove from the heat and add vanilla.  Quickly pour over crackers and spread it around to completely cover the crackers.

Bake for 15 minutes, watching carefully so that it does not burn.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips.  Let stand for 5 minutes and then spread the chocolate chips over the crackers.  Once completely cool -- speed the process up by putting the pan in the freezer -- break into pieces and store in a container.  We enjoy keeping these in the freezer and eating them straight from there!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel



Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple

This was a fast read, a funny read, an all-around enjoyable read.  

Reviews from Amazon:

"Comedy heaven.... This divinely funny, many-faceted novel...leaves convention behind. Instead, it plays to Ms. Semple's strengths as someone who can practice ventriloquism in many voices, skip over the mundane and utterly refute the notion that mixed-media fiction is bloggy, slack or lazy.... The tightly constructed WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is written in many formats-e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple's storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

You don't have to know Seattle to get Maria Semple's broadly satirical novel.... Underlying the nontraditional narrative are insights into the cost of thwarted creativity and the power of mother-daughter bonds, although a reader may be having too much fun to notice." (O, The Oprah Magazine)

"Delightfully droll.... Semple...cuts a wry slice of a life-one that's populated by private school helicopter parents, obsessively eco-conscious neighbors, and green-juice swilling, TED-talking husbands-and one that's sharp enough to make us feel slightly relieved about not having to live anywhere quite so bucolic." (Megan O'Grady, Vogue)

"The characters in Where'd You Go, Bernadette may be in real emotional pain, but Semple has the wit and perspective and imagination to make their story hilarious. I tore through this book with heedless pleasure."
(Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom)

"There's a lot to like in Semple's charming novel, including the vivacious humor and the lesson that when creative forces like Bernadette stop creating, they become 'a menace to society.' Even more appealing is the mutually adoring mother-daughter relationship at its warm heart." (Heller McAlpin, NPR)

"In her second novel...Semple pieces together a modern-day comic caper full of heart and ingenuity....a compelling composite of a woman's life-and the way she's viewed by the many people who share it. As expected from a writer who has written episodes of Arrested Development, the nuances of mundane interactions are brilliantly captured, and the overarching mystery deepens with each page, until the thoroughly satisfying dénouement." (Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review))

"A comedic delight..." (Family Circle)

"Agoraphobia and Antarctica are among the elements in Maria Semple's terrific novel." (Parade)

"Semple's affecting characters, not-necessarily-nice humor and surprising plot twists make this novel an enchanting ride." (Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times)

"Warm, dark, sad, funny-and a little bit screwball.... This is an inventive and very funny novel that gets bonus points for transcending form." (Susan Coll, The Washington Post)

"[A] cracklingly smart family dramedy.... [I was] stunned and transported by this extraordinarily powerful and intelligent novel." (Lev Grossman, Time)

"Brilliant, hilarious, endlessly inventive, and compulsively readable, WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE grabs you by the collar and never lets go. Semple is not only a masterful juggler, and an astute social critic, she is a magician!" (Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here)

"A funny, quirky and wildly entertaining read." (Ladies' Home Journal)

"WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a pure pleasure.... Semple's light touch and glittering prose keep things aloft." (Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe)

"Full of endearing moments and sublime satire, WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is 'divinely funny' literature." (The Week)

"It was only a matter of time before Maria Semple turned her hilariously wicked, razor-sharp, acid-etched humor loose on Seattle, and set her impeccable laser sights on the heart of Microsoft. At times a tears-to-your-eyes laugher that skewers my own home town (and quite possibly my own mother), WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is also a compassionate look at family dysfunction, the paralysis of genius, and good old-fashioned parental love. Cleverly constructed and brilliantly executed, Semple has driven this one home with great authority, and has proven, once again, that she ranks among contemporary literature's finest satirists." (Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain)

"Find your patron saint of fed-up-ed-ness in our fave summer read, WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE.... You'll laugh your pants off, and love the takeaway-that a life gone off the rails can propel you in a bright new direction." (Redbook)

"If you read only one book this summer about an agoraphobic mother and her broken promise to take her daughter Bee on a trip to Antarctica, make it this one.... Semple writes like an oversized plume, finding all your tickle spots with ease." (Holley Simmons, Washington Post Express)

"A smart, caperish, very contemporary novel about marriage, mores and family life by an observer who knows the cultural landscape." (Jeffrey Ann Goudie, The Kansas City Star)

"Achingly funny and perfectly timed....Semple has a big heart, and possess that rare ability to skewer, dissect and empathize with her targets, all at the same time....Read BERNADETTE, laugh loud and long, then take a good look in the mirror." (Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times)

"A delightfully funny book, that constantly catches one by surprise, WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE combines a shrewdly observed portrait of Seattle-life with, of all things, a mysterious disappearance in Antarctica. A pleasure." (Matthew Kneale, author of When We Were Romans)

"If you're not taking a vacation this summer, a dive into Semple's comedic melting pot of family dysfunction, hyperactive parenting, and mental unraveling offers a hilarious escape. You'll find yourself rooting for the runaway parent in a narrative that is dark, funny, and completely human." (Tanya Jensen, Los Angeles Confidential)

"Sharp and funny, a literary page turner..." (Susannah Cahalan, New York Post)

"Semple...has the feel for family strife of a born literary novelist, but she retains the comedic sensibility of a screen writer; which is to say that the book is actually laugh-out-loud funny, rather than "humorous." And don't let the hilarity of the first third of the book fool you into thinking that this is a light farce; by the last page, Semple, in addition to skewering helicopter-parents with satire so deft that it could pass for truth, touches on religion, class, and what we owe to those we love." (Nicholas Mancusi, The Daily Beast)

"An uproarious comedy of manners." (Mark Haddon, People)

"This brilliant satire (think Portlandia, set in Seattle) is inventive and wickedly funny." (Whole Living)

"With a sure feel for the screwball and the slapstick, Maria Semple deliciously sends up the privileged, overachieving, PC world of Emerald City. WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a crazy quilt of an epistolary novel, utterly contemporary yet pleasingly old-fashioned, and always light and witty." (Stewart O'Nan, author of The Odds)

"Semple's snappy writing and spot-on humor make this one of the funniest beach reads of the summer." (Meganne Fabrega, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"[A] high-energy, often hilarious epistolary novel." (Brangien Davis, Seattle Magazine)

"A smart, intelligent, nuanced tale whose characters will stick with you long after you finish the last page." (Karen M. Thomas, The Dallas Morning News)

"Jonathan Franzen endorsed it...and we weren't aware that he liked anything, so we felt inclined to pick it up. We now see why he enjoyed it so much." (Zoë Triska, Huffington Post)

"Semple is the novelist of the moment-a Ben Fountain for the latte set....outrageously funny and deceptively deep, [BERNADETTE] is a rewarding read." (Tucker Shaw, The Denver Post)

"With its big heart set on acceptance, BERNADETTE feels something like coming home." (Paul Constant, The Stranger)

"A shrewd yet compassionate portrait of family dysfunction and the volatility of genius in laugh-out-loud, irresistibly high-spirited prose.... WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE takes readers on an original and movingly imaginative adventure." (Catherine Straut, Elle)

"Semple's ear for satirizing this world is sharp and scathingly funny; she could probably turn her novel into a stand-up act." (Stewart Oksenhorn, The Aspen Times)

"Semple, once a writer for Arrested Development, picks apart the mundane interactions of everyday life with a hilarious hand, and you're sure to be as swept up in this witty, inventive mystery as we were." (Emily Temple,Flavorpill)

"WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is fresh and funny and accomplished, but the best thing about it was that I never had any idea what was going to happen next. It was a wild ride..." (Kate Atkinson, author of Case Historiesand Started Early, Took My Dog)

"Maria Semple dissects the gory complexities of familial dysfunction with a deft and tender hand. WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a triumph of social observation and black comedy by a skillful chronicler of moneyed malaise." (Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers)

"[An] engrossing and whip-smart modern epistolary novel..." (Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly)

"Semple paints each character with depth and tenderness while keeping the tone upbeat; no easy feat for a novel about a mother who pulls a disappearing act." (Korina Lopez, USA Today)

"[A] romp of a novel.... Semple...nail[s] Seattle's idiosyncrasies in wickedly funny send-ups." (Barbara Lloyd McMichael, The Bellingham Herald)

"Utterly delightful....Semple used to write for the revered cult hit Arrested Development, and she brings plenty of squirming comedy to the novel, which manages to be that rare good read that actually makes you feel good at the end. Her send-up of Seattle is hilarious, with its Victims Against Victimhood support groups, moms offering organic gardeners swiss chard in lieu of payment, and teachers who are so PC that fourth graders are expected to seriously debate the pros and cons of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. But the heart of the book belongs to Bee, who, as an admissions counselor puts it, tests off the charts for grit and poise; and her mother, who, for all her neuroses, did a bang-up job of turning out one terrific kid." (Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor)

"A quirky novel, laugh-out-loud funny in parts, filled with erudite cultural commentary, and teeming with life's predictable messiness, as well as its limitless potential for unexpected joy." (Kathryn Justice Leache, The Commercial Appeal)

"A touching and hilarious portrait of the anxiety producing, high powered Seattle lifestyle of a somewhat eccentric family of three (and their dog Ice Cream).... This is a great read, well written and populated by characters you care about deeply." (Ruth Freeman, The Norwalk Citizen)

"Stands to become a cult favorite.... Like Jane Austen-who set the gold standard for social satire-Semple's most ridiculous characters are convinced that they're the normal ones, and it's wonderful fun to watch as they behave abominably, believing themselves blameless.... Semple has a keen ear for the nuances of different voices, and it's a joy to get to know these people.... Bernadette is...marvelous. Her rants read like the best comedy routines.... It's the rare book that actually deserves the term "laugh-out-loud funny," but I found myself reading passages from almost every page to anyone who would listen, even as I could barely articulate the words through my own laughter." (Malena Watrous, San Francisco Chronicle)

"Intertwined with the funny stuff is the heartfelt story of a personal crisis of a creative talent who's slipped off the rails... Bernadette's journey is fresh, funny, and thought provoking." (Anne Payne, The Florida Times-Union)

"Comic lines and...fast-paced events." (Nan Willard Cappo, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

"I don't even know where to begin with how fantastic it is.... I ate up the Microsoft-obsessed setting and the fabulous, mad-but-not-really Bernadette. Go, get it, thank me later." (Megan Angelo, Glamour.com)

"If wacky, anxiety-prone geniuses are some of your favorite people, then pick up Maria Semple's WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE to add Bernadette Fox and her family to your list of hilarious companions. Bernadette and company don't mind cursing, so if you do, please be warned. But if not, then you've got a stamped passport to Semple's expertly crafted and rollicking, laugh-till-you-cry adventure that will have you tearing through the pages to find out if Bernadette is gone for good." (Dawn Andrus Paine, Daily Herald (Utah))

"Well-plotted and masterfully satirical.... WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is really, really funny, and not in the usual way that suggests the author is trying to be funny to cover up their deficiencies in plot or styling. As it turns out, Maria Semple is both a good writer and a funny writer, but she prefers to be the latter." (Janet Potter, The Millions)

"Sublime..." (Frank Bruni, on his blog for The New York Times)

"With only her second book, TV writer-turned novelist Maria Semple has won rave reviews with a withering, but ultimately affectionate satire of Seattle's privileged set." (Chris Michaud, Reuters)

"If Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl represented the dark heart of the summer literature, Maria Semple's...BERNADETTE embodies the sunnier, funnier side.... Semple has a flair for satire and screwball jinks, and she has produced a great gift to avid readers: a book that you never want to finish reading." (Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald)

"An epistolary novel for the twenty-first century.... Paced like a beach read, BERNADETTE has a scathing wit and a casual storytelling style that pulls the reader in and forces her to listen." (Capital Times' blog)

"One of the funniest stories you can read this year." (Donna Liquori, The Albany Times Union)

"A powerful mosaic of mental illness, artistic temperament, and family melodrama.... Semple's background in television and comedy... provide[s] the foundation for this subversively funny novel and its all-too-rare blend of humor and heart.... In a time when everything is a version of something else, how extraordinary-and exciting-to read a novel that subverts conventions to create an experience that feels so fresh." (Jeremy Medina, The L Magazine)

"This book is hysterical, kind of wacky, and utterly original." (Entertainment Weekly's "The Bullseye")

"One of the big burst-of-oxygen books this year.... clever and inventive but also genuine and heartfelt." (Gillian Flynn for The New York Times' "Inside the List")

"Semple's epistolary novel satirizes Seattle, Microsoft, helicopter parents, the elite, and the overeducated-while revealing truths about family, genius, ambition, and resilience." (Gillian Flynn, GQ)

[A] clever story of family dysfunction." (Dailycandy)

"Marketed as a beach read, give this to your soccer moms who have come to the realization that maybe they aren't 'all that.' With a Tiffany-blue cover, it's wrapped perfectly!" (Michelle Will, The Kitsap Sun)

"A quirky comic masterpiece...about an irresistibly precocious teen and her awesomely agoraphobic mom.... BERNADETTE is an ingenious, enjoyable, continually surprising farce." (David Hiltbrand, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

"In appearance, this may be the perfect beach read to go with your retro bikini. Inside the cover, Semple's novel is funny, suspenseful, multi-faceted, multi-media, and sad, too - spot-on social commentary..." (Jen Doll, The Atlantic Wire)

"Unputdownable!" (Sumana Ghosh-Witherspoon, Parents.com)

"A hilarious, nasty, heartfelt satire about parenting, privilege, genius, resilience and life in Seattle." (Gillian Flynn on Today)

"It's the first epistolary novel I've ever loved, and sharp as hell." (Emma Straub for Salon)

"Few novels will make you laugh aloud the way Semple's satiric take on a disintegrating Seattle family does." (The Charlotte Observer)

"Stunningly astute.... Beyond its ethnographic value as a snapshot of the underlying hypocrisies of the way the top five percent lives now, WYGB delivers at least one knowing chuckle per page in an innovative structure worthy of its own TED Talk." (Christina Spines, Word & Film)

"This funny and heartfelt novel has it all: love, mystery, infidelity, and humor. The complications of human life are on full display and examined with absurdity." (Laura Anderson, BLOGCRITICS.ORG)

"Tart [and] searingly funny." (Jessica Grose, Fast Company)

"Clever, witty and laugh-out-loud funny. And that's a rare and wonderful thing." (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"The romp that ensues throughout Semple's sophomore novel is cleverly crafted, and allows the reader to develop strong ties to the author's masterfully drawn...[and] quirky characters." (Shelly Walston, The Wichita Eagle)

"Delicious, funny, irreverent, [and] smart..." (Minnesota Reads)

"Really, really funny.... A novel of refuge if you find yourself, like Bernadette, bogged down by the peskiness of privilege." (Stacey Pavlick, Spectrum Culture)

"Fast-paced and compulsively readable...and beneath its nimble storytelling is a resonant exploration of a mother and daughter's unbreakable bond." (Elliott Holt, The Morning News Tournament of Books)

"Maria Semple brings her A game." (Chicago Now)

"A lovely story of a creative lull." (Jessa Crispin, Architect Magazine)

"Seriously funny and clever." (In Touch Weekly)

"Wildly creative." (Jennifer Haupt, Psychology Today)

"A tremendously entertaining work of social satire combined with a mystery that kept me wondering what would happen next right up to the end." (Boing Boing)

"[A] dazzling satire.... One of 2012's most hilarious books." (The Brooklyn Eagle)

"A truly inventive mother-daughter story full of offbeat characters, clever humor and drama both intrapersonal and interpersonal." (Laura Pearson, Time Out Chicago)

"Smart [and] entertaining." (Ihsan Taylor, New York Times Book Review)

"To say this book is quirky would be something of an understatement. It is also very funny, snarky, smart, occasionally confusing, and cleverly constructed." (Aspen Daily News)