Happy October, Wonderlanders! Our new book of the month, in honor of Halloween, is The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux! I remember reading it in college and loving all the drama, intrigue, and interesting themes. Plus, the spooky nature of the Phantom makes this book a perfect choice for October.
One of my favorite themes in the book (and maybe the most common) is the concept of angels and demons. I’ve always thought of the Phantom and Raoul’s battle for Christine as symbolic of the battle between Heaven and Hell over the human soul. I’m not sure if this is the intended interpretation or not, but either way I wanted to include an homage to this theme in my menu. Which brings me to Devils on Horseback!
I heard the recipe name tossed around several years ago and looked it up out of curiosity. As it turns out, Devils on Horseback is a fancy name for a dish many of us know and love: BACON. WRAPPED. DATES.
* resists the urge to squeal *
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m CRAZY about bacon wrapped dates The Mister and I once spent a whole party hanging out by the oven as we waited for tray after tray of bacon wrapped dates to come out, snagging as many as we could before the hostess (my sister) took them away to serve to other, less obsessed guests. So when I saw that I had an opportunity to make them for this menu, I was like UM YES THIS IS HAPPENING.
Halloween is peeking it’s head around the corner, so in the spirit of the season, our new Book of the Month has a spooky vibe: The Phantom of the Opera!
There are so many iconic items from Phantom: masks, roses, pipe organs, chandeliers, sheet music, magical lassos—the list goes on! So naturally, it was pure fun to put this reading kit together. It features cozy Phantom throw pillows, perfectly themed snacks, and even fancy abstract sunglasses made to look like the famous Phantom mask.
Read on, Wonderlanders…and be sure to keep your hand at the level of your eyes! 😉 Read More
In Amelia Writes Again, Amelia tells the story of how her sister Cleo invented a marshmallow game when they were little. The rules: squish a jumbo marshmallow until it’s sticky, then throw it on the ceiling. See how long it sticks and catch it in your mouth when it falls!
I would be lying if I said I didn’t try to play this once as a kid (Mom, if you’re wondering what that weird gray streak on my bedroom ceiling was, now you know). Reading about this game is one of my fondest memories from the Amelia books, so I decided to try my hand at homemade marshmallows for our dessert this month!
This recipe comes from the America’s Test Kitchen youtube channel. The steps are simple, reliable, and easy to follow. I wound up with great marshmallows on my first try, and I’m planning on tweaking the recipe to make chocolate marshmallows for Christmas!
NOTE: This recipe needs to set overnight.
I know what you’re thinking: there’s no tea in the Amelia’s Notebook series! True fact, but there IS hot chocolate. In Amelia’s Are-We-There-Yet Longest Ever Car Trip Notebook, she mentions that Mel’s Diner has thick mugs of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. Throughout the series, it’s clear that Amelia has a soft spot for diner food, and I could totally see her relishing a steaming cup of Mel’s hot chocolate.
Before now, I never tried to make a tea blend inspired by hot chocolate, so I really enjoyed the challenge. My goal was to create a sweet dessert tea with the creamy, rich flavor you’d expect from a mug of hot chocolate.
I started with a Honeybush Chocolate base (it’s a little lighter and more complex than regular chocolate black tea, allowing other flavors to shine through). Then I added a little Chocolate Chai to deepen the flavor with cinnamon and ginger. The final addition was cream tea to replicate the flavor of whipped cream. Throw in some cocoa nibs for some extra intensity and sprinkles for fun, and you’ve got a cup of tea just like the hot chocolate at Mel’s!
In Amelia’s Notebook, Amelia complains about the terrible cafeteria food at her school, citing the fact that the brownies seem “fossilized” and the mystery mush looks like it’s made of dog food. I think we all have memories of gross cafeteria food (I can recall some particularly slimy sliced turkey), so I thought it would be fun to redeem a tired cafeteria standby: tater tots.
Amelia’s school tater tots are called “tater gems,” but she thinks they taste more like cardboard. To make some delicious, Amelia-worthy tots, I started with a simple recipe for tender, healthy baked tater tots from Wishful Chef and amped it up a bit with garlic powder, minced onion, and snipped parsley. I even made some honey sriracha ketchup to serve on the side! These tater tots are super easy and ultra flavorful. If Amelia’s school served them, they’d be a hit! 🙂
The complete manuscript for my cookbook is due mid October, so it’s currently crunch time at my house. Husband and baby have been very understanding of how much time I currently spend tapping away at my laptop as I make final edits to my manuscript, but I’ll admit I’m SO READY to be done with this stage of the process. I’m a rather detail-oriented person who I often likes editing, but I’ve been applying the correct abbreviation of “tablespoon” and rewriting ingredients in order of use for almost two months now. Needless to say, I’m ready to get back in the kitchen.
Even though editing process can be tough and tedious, I’ve been motivating myself with the promise that I can do some fun reading once it’s complete. Here’s my post-cookbook TBR, which I plan to dive into as soon as I submit my manuscript:
In the first installment of the Amelia’s Notebook series, Amelia and her family move from California to Oregon. The trip takes 3 days, and Amelia’s sister Cleo orders the same thing at every restaurant: a burger and fries. Amelia thinks it’s gross to order the same thing all the time, but it got me thinking…what kind of burger would be good enough to inspire someone to order it for EVERY MEAL FOR 3 DAYS? It sounded like an exciting challenge, so I set to work.
I started from the assumption that Amelia’s family probably wasn’t stopping at fine dining establishments all along the way to Oregon. Fast food joints and diners were probably more likely, so I stuck to materials you could easily find at any chain restaurant.
I started with a basic, smooshy burger bun but toasted it to get that perfect seal to keep any moisture from soaking in. Then I whipped up copycat In-N-Out Burger sauce using a slight variation on a recipe from Cherry Kitchen. It added just the right mix of creamy and tangy with a touch of sweetness, and it’s made with stuff any fast food restaurant would have on hand. Next came the burger patty itself—100% beef with butter mixed right into the meat and smashed onto a hot iron skillet for crispy edges (I used a smash burger technique from Bon Appetit). Add lettuce, tomato, and onion, and you’ve got yourself an awesome diner-style burger that takes basic ingredients to a whole new level.
I think if Amelia gave it a taste, she’d want to order it for every meal too! 🙂
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt was a freebie, so I decided to cover a topic I’ve had on the brain for a while. When I made astronaut pudding for my Amelia’s Notebook menu, I loved how kid-friendly it was, and I got to thinking about how tough it can be to find fiction-inspired recipes for kids. Dishes like Turkish Delight or Deeper ‘N Ever Pie are fun recipes, but they can be intimidating for kiddos who are just starting to get curious about cooking.
I decided to do a roundup of quick, easy literary recipes for kids here on the blog, so here are ten of my favorites! These recipes require minimal cooking or cutting, and several of them are well known foods from history (sugar plums, hardtack, johnny cake, etc.) that kids are likely to come across in classic books. You can incorporate them into a homeschooling lesson, use them to satisfy your children’s curiosity about foods they’ve read about, or just whip them up for fun. The choice is yours! 🙂
Our new Book of the Month is here, and it’s the Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss!
When I was a kid, Amelia’s Notebook was my JAM. After reading the books, I insisted on buying wild colored composition notebooks for school. I dressed as her for Halloween. I even had My Notebook (with Help from Amelia) and brought it to school with me. She was seriously my hero. So how could I NOT make a menu of all the awesome foods from the series?
In Amelia Takes Command, she gets to go to Space Camp. She spends the night before daydreaming about what it will be like, and one of the things she hopes for is the chance to eat astronaut food. Although she has a great time at camp, she’s disappointed that they had to eat “gross cafeteria food three times a day.” So I decided to restore Amelia’s dashed hopes by making astronaut pudding for our appetizer!
The recipe I use here is a slight variation on one from Feels Like Home. You’d think astronaut pudding would be super complicated or require special tools, but it’s actually really easy (and all you need is a ziplock bag!). It’s a great dish to make with kids and tastes great alongside freeze-dried fruit. So let’s get cooking! 🙂
That’s right, folks! Our new Book of the Month is the Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss. I fell in love with the books as a kid, and they were a big inspiration for me to start writing my own stories. Plus, Amelia’s signature composition notebooks and focus on school make September a great time to feature her books, what with everyone heading back to school for fall. So let’s get started! 😀
Today we’re kicking things off with an Amelia’s Notebook reading kit. It’s got loads of Amelia-inspired items: lunchboxes, eraser, notebooks (of course!), and a lot more. This is definitely one of those kits where I had to limit myself. I kept thinking of more things that would be perfect for the kit—I almost couldn’t stop! In the end, I included only the best of the best. I had a lot of fun putting it together, and I think you’re going to love it. 🙂
So let’s get ready to start reading Amelia’s Notebook…and don’t forget to check back on Thursday for our first Amelia-inspired recipe!