Monday, July 29, 2013

Eating My Way Through Literature


Books are a gift.  Books allow travel to places I'll never go.   Books transport me back to a time long before I existed, only to whisk me into a future I will probably never see, then gently release me content and coddled where I feel the safest.  Books comfort me when I am worried,  solve problems when there are questions, keep me company when I am alone, and give me council when I have taken in more than I can handle.  Books stir and blend my fantasies and my reality.

There is nothing I have asked from a book that it has not delivered.   Books are stimulants for the brain and imagination.   Recently,  I have noticed they are stimulating something else, my appetite.   Yes, I am happily reading along, minding my own business, not thinking about food, then...

"We're in his kitchen, and he's making grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, 
which I'm thinking are going to be about as close to my two-American-cheese-
singles-on-white-bread as his macaroni and cheese was to my Kraft special.

He slides his creation onto my plate:  multiple cheeses with cherry tomatoes 

and fresh basil oozing out of slabs of homemade multigrain bread.  It looks
and smells brilliant."
                                                                               The Art  Forger
                                                                         B.A. Shapiro

...and all I can think of is a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.

As much as I resisted I was helpless in the clutch of such descriptive writing.   I had a couple of different cheeses hanging out in the refrigerator, fresh farmer's market tomatoes, basil ready for picking in the garden and a loaf of rye bread.  This would be easy, I make grilled cheese sandwiches all the time.  Slice a little of this, spread a little of that, sizzle, sizzle... shades of gold... and I am back to my book deeply involved in an art heist.

It looked good, and it did smelled amazing.  Eating it was not so easy, it sort of fell apart.  To be frank, my sandwich just wasn't as sexy.  After fully analyzing the situation I decided it had to be all about the tomatoes.  Make a note, next time use cherry tomatoes.

It was only a few days latter I had the chance to spend a few days in Chicago.  We arrived just after noon and were a bit hungry.  With dinner reservations at a nearby french restaurant we decided to avoid the crowds and slip into one of the hotel's restaurants for a small snack.  We were seated and handed menus.   Looking down the selections, looking for something lite, there it was dancing, singing, flashing red arrows screaming at me,

a grilled cheese with cherry tomatoes and...
oh my, bacon jam.

I tried to resist.  I looked away.  I ask R. if he would like to split something.  Nothing worked, it was my destiny, my obligation.  Yes, I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich.  I didn't take a picture; it was beautiful, rich and tasted me, I was there.   I don't even remember what R. ordered, but I shared half of my delicious sandwich.

Now, I have two things to share with you,
my latest read and the culinary cravings it creates.

Has a book ever sent you running to the kitchen craving something you just read about?

Do you have an amazing grilled cheese recipe you are willing to share?

Yes, if I don't slow down the reading I'll be spending a lot more time here.

Happy Reading and
Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Spicy Answer to a Hot Summer's Night

“I am not a glutton - I am an explorer of food” 
                                                                                   Erma Bombeck

I love my food magazines.  In fact, I can honestly say I've never met one I didn't like and need.  If I don't have a subscription, and the cover looks appealing it usually lands in my shopping cart at the grocery store or under a stack of books at the bookstore.
I also love my cookbooks, but I read them like novels.  Magazines are more for drooling
over the pictures, creating cravings and planning my next food safari.

The July issue of bon appétit  has been following me around for weeks.   I have been wanting to make the cover recipe, Sriracha Glazed Chicken Skewers since it was delivered through my mail slot.  Doesn't it look scrumptious?

Weekends are my favorite time to try something new.  R. is usually in town, everything is less hurried, fewer errands to run and more time to plan.  This has been a busy month though with traveling here and there, weddings, meetings and dinner out with friends, giving me less time for experimenting in the kitchen.  Until this past weekend.  I kept my eye on the ball dish;  I was determined, and I wasn't disappointed. 

I've read eating spicy food when the temperatures are rising is wonderful way
to cool the body down.  The warmth from the spices cause the body to 
perspire, turning on our built in air conditioning system.  If this is 
truly fact then this flavorful and spicy dish was the perfect answer to
 a hot summer's evening.

A cool tomato and watermelon salad was it's perfect sidekick.

For the beverage, I chose my favorite prosecco.

Sambal Chicken Skewers
bon appétit 

1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup hot chili paste
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup Sriracha
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled ginger
1 1/2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs,
cut into 1 1/2 - 2 inch pieces

Soak bamboo skewers for at least an hour.  
The recipe says eight, I used ten.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat.  Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, 
fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl.  Add chicken and toss to coat. 
Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.

Transfer marinade to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 
until reduced to about one cup, 7 to 10 minutes.

Grill chicken, turning and basting often with marinade, until cooked through, 
8 to 10 minutes.


I pretty much followed this recipe to the "t".  There are a few things I might change up
 next time.  I found the thighs difficult to cut into nice consistent size pieces.  The thigh 
is a fatty piece of the chicken which is why they are so moist and flavorful, but hard to
manipulate for this dish.  I may try this with chicken tenders next time.   

The marinade is so delicious, I would suggest splitting the marinade into two batches
after reduction.  You really only need about a half of the cup for during grilling.
Refrigerate the other half for another recipe.  Once the marinade was
 contaminated by the basting brush I was fearful of saving it and ended up
 pouring in out.

I think this would be equally delicious on pork.

Oh look what just arrived!

Now I am all about some ice cream...
or maybe


Grab your whisk and let the exploration begin.
Did you take a food adventure this weekend?

Have fun and
Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wednesday Book Talk - Interrupted

I am interrupting my  Wednesday book report to share my morning surprise.  Now, I hear the collective sigh of disappointment, but this is so much better, promise.
 Did I mention in my last post it was my sense of humor which attracted my husband?  

This morning a mystery box was delivered and left by my front door.  Roger, returning from an early morning meeting brought it in and left it in the entry.   I first thought it was something I had ordered last week, but after a quick inspection I began thinking this was something special.

The hint was the address label which read Bonnie, no last name.
Reading the return label I smiled, suspecting this was a 
"special delivery" from Elizabeth at Pinecones and Acorns.

Upon opening I found it loaded with books and a lovely note. 

Hidden among the books were a few of my favorite chocolate bars. 
 If you follow Elizabeth you know she has a passion for chocolate, 
and shares her love and creations on her blog, Once Upon a Chocolate Life,
devoted to the goodness of chocolate.  Chocolate
makes everything good.

And, there was more,
a box of notecards with charming illustrations
 of Parisian street scenes.
 A handwritten note is one of my favorite things.

And then there were the books,

and books,

oh so many books that she has enjoyed and is
so generously is passing along.

Elizabeth, thank you for my wonderful morning treat, and
for sharing a few of your passions.  This was the best!

The book I had planned on sharing today was in fact one I found in a post at 
Pinecones and Acorns.  It can wait.....

I don't think much is going to get accomplished here today,
I have a box of books to go through.

I do hope you will visit Elizabeth at Pinecones and Acorns.
She always has something wonderful to share.

Happy Reading!
(you know where to find me)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I know a little about the brain.  When I say I know a little, that is exactly what I mean.  I haven't spent hours studying, nor is it something I am passionate about.  The knowledge I have comes from listening to the man I live with, my husband.  The brain or retraining the brain is his field of expertise; and, although I am probably a bit prejudice, he is very good at what he does.

Now with this knowledge you might be given the impression he
 might marry someone with a high functioning brain.
Someone who is an intellectual, always has something profound to say,
with the memory of an elephant.


So, many of you have ask about the book sale I was so excited about this past weekend.  You know I love spending vasts amounts of time browsing through dusty books others have read and cast aside, looking for that treasure someone mistakenly tossed in the donation pile. 

R. was exceptionally accommodating.  We are usually out of the house by 7:30, stopping for coffee before arriving with the early birds at the farmer's market.   This Saturday we postponed our departure so to time all our stops with the opening of the library book sale.  I made coffee at home, watered plants and checked emails.  Yes, I even checked my notice stating the time 
 of the library's opening.

The farmer's market was crowded; though late we found what we wanted, the first really pretty summer tomatoes, and peaches smelling of the sun.   We left the market with plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast.  We sat outside enjoying an unseasonably pleasant summer morning chatting with a few passing friends and acquaintances also out enjoying a beautiful Saturday morning.
Time moved slowly though.

The traffic was awful getting to the library.  We drove around a few minutes before deciding to give up finding a spot on the street and entered a parking garage.  We only needed to walk a few blocks before entering the front door of the Main Library.   The person at the information desk ask if she could help.  I knew where I was going, but out of courtesy ask if the book sale was again in the basement.

She let out a deep breath and handed me a postcard.  "The book sale is actually next week-end."
I am sure I said something, though I can't remember what, probably something original like "you're kidding me".  She was very nice, and assured me I was not the only one to show up early.  She said she was, in fact,  a little concerned that possibly some incorrect information had been posted.  

Well, upon reflection, I am sure the mistake was mine.  
I haven't ask yet, but I'm suspecting if I go to the sale this weekend 
I will be going solo.  So much for the memory of an elephant.

I'll blame it on summer's sorcery. 

I do hope you are having a good week thus far.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Weekend Plans

This morning was one of the first in a while I haven't followed Willie downstairs with book in hand hoping to indulge in a few more pages before starting my day .   I became so involved with my last book, I stayed up late to finish it.   I've felt a little lost not having a book waiting for me.  Well that's a another post isn't it?  Today is Friday, and I am ready for a quiet few days.

We were out of town two weekends in a row.  Now, it is time to be at home.
There are a few things on the calendar: the farmer's market, a library book sale, and a wedding.   Mostly, I want to spend some time in the garden and possibly relaxing with a new book.

Enjoy your weekend!

Go for a walk...

Eat something delicious...

Spend some time napping...

Look toward the sky...

And don't forget to smile.


Whatever you do...enjoy! 

Life is short...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday Book Notes

"Boston, MA -- In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed as police officers bound and gagged two guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million."

The stage is set.  
Using the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist as the inspiration and backdrop
 for her novel,  The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro takes her reader into the underbelly of the
art world where all things are not as they seem.

"Markel clears his throat, takes another sip.  'Claire, I've just been given the opportunity of a lifetime.  A chance to do good, real good for lots of people.  And I hope you'll feel the same way about the one I'm about to give you.'  He pauses.  'Although I suppose yours is really more like making a deal with the devil?'

'...And are you the devil?' "

Claire Roth is no stranger to copying.  She has studied the art of masterpiece forgery, is an expert on Degas, and semployed with, a company whose sole business is built on selling copies of masterpieces.  This would not be the first time she has found herself in the role
of the forger.

With the promise of a one-woman show at a prominent gallery, Claire accepts the job.   As she studies the brushstrokes of Degas's After the Bath, she begins to suspect it is a forgery, sending her in search of the painting's history and its forger.  

Ms. Shapiro delivers a multi-layered tale of greed and deception, while taking us through the backdoor into the world of collecting and curating.  I'm not for sure I will ever stand in front of one the great works without wondering...

Did I enjoy this book?

I will be honest, I picked up "The Art Forger" several times and placed it back on the shelf.   I'm not certain why I actually came home with it.   I almost set it down several times.  I read Ulrich Boser's The Gardner Heist a few years ago, and became confused as I began reading the description of the stolen Degas.   After a little research I had my "aha" moment.  While the details of the robbery are accurate, the painting that is the subject is a fabrication of Ms. Shapiro's imagination.  Once I let go of the "fictitious" Degas (this being, after all, a work of fiction) I found myself drawn into the story and unable to put it down.

Yes, this was another good summer read.
                                                              yes I do recommend it.

If you are interested in the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum heist, check out


And enjoy your summer reading!

I have a few weeks left before my thoughts return to the classroom;
I'm still collecting titles...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Finding the Rhythm

Do you enjoy a good fireworks display?

It is one of my favorite things to do to celebrate America's Independence Day.
I enjoy arriving early, staking out my territory and settling in for a bit of people watching.

As the skies darken I am like a young child anxiously awaiting the first big explosion.

It occurred to me as I was photographing the fireworks, capturing the perfect
image is a lot like living ones life.  

There is a rhythm one needs to get it right.  
Sometimes you try too hard
and end up shooting to early.

Sometimes, you wait to long,
and catch only the remnants of what might have been.

Sometimes you spend so much time on perfection
you miss the enjoyment of the show.

Every so often the camera has to come down, 

perfection forgotten

and just find the awe of the moment
before it fades away.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday Book Talk

“Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate.   It is not a hobby.  Those who do it must do it. Those who do not do it, think of it as a cousin of stamp collecting, a sister of the trophy cabinet, bastard of a sound bank account and a weak mind."
                                                                                                                                                          Jeanette Winterson

You had me at the title.  
Add the subtitle... A Novel of Obsession?

What would you do if you thought you had possession of the one original work, Robert Greene's pastorial romance Pandosto,  thought to be the material William Shakespeare based  A Winter's Tale?  This is every bibliophile, every antiquarian book collector's  dream.

"Wouldn't it be something, Peter, to discover a page of manuscript written by
 the Stratford Shakespeare?  Or a letter to Anne Hathaway where he complains
 about what trouble the third act of Hamlet is giving him?"

"The Holy Grail", said Peter reverently.  He was surprised 
to hear the words coming from his mouth.  The comparison had been instinctual."

Peter Byerly, an antiquarian bookseller, enters a rare bookshop, opens a book  and out flutters  a watercolor portrait of his deceased wife.   The painting is Victorian and can't possibly be of Amanda, yet the resemblance is haunting.  Grief stricken he slips the picture into another book he later purchases beginning his obsession with finding the portrait's origin.  Navigating a maze of secrets and deception, Peter discovers what he believes to be "the holy grail".  It is possible he has gained possession of the evidence needed to seal Shakespeare's reputation as the great poet and playwright many believe him to be.

To solve the mystery Peter must revisit his and Amanda's relationship and follow the Pandosto's path to being hidden on a shelf  in an obscure English manor house.  

"...Peter felt as if he had entered a Jane Austen novel." 

Charlie Lovett carries us on an ambitious journey where the unraveling of secrets festering for centuries is the only map to finding the truth.  Mystery, murder, and romance.  
And I loved it! 

Does Peter find the mysterious painter of the Victorian watercolor?  Is he able to authenticate the Pandosto?   Was Shakespeare a genius or a fake? And finally, does Peter survive to find the connection of the portrait and the writing?

Being a lover of both books and of Shakespeare this was most definitely a perfect summer discovery. While reading I was sent to research Robert Greene's Pandosto, and to become reacquainted with  A Winter's Tale.  

You understand I share the obsessive behavior.

I love reading books about books, people reading books, finding books...
One of my favorites is People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

Do you enjoy reading about other book lovers?

As we approach America's birthday
may you have a fun filled and safe holiday.

Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Weekend Away...

"Laparisienne is not in fashion,
she is fashion"
                                    Arsene Houssaye

I had the chance to disappear this weekend.
We caught an early flight Friday morning and
arrived in a city celebrating.

Streets were closed for a parade; fans
crowded the shops and restaurants up and down
Michigan Avenue.
Thankfully we had a street savvy cabbie who
transported us to our hotel with minimal detours.

The question of the day...
"Are you here to celebrate the Blackhawks?"

"Ummm...not really."

Art, fashion and food are more to my liking.
Chicago didn't disappoint.

As the sun fell past the Chicago skyline we were  off to the
Art Institue for an evening of art and fashion.

Impression, Fashion, & Modernity.

"Were the Impressionists fashionistas?
And what role did fashion play in their goal to 
paint modern life with a "modern" style?"

"She could be pushed but never swayed  into wearing fewer bows."
This is an amazing exhibit mixing both the paintings by
the artist from the impression movement, and
many examples of similar dresses and accessories.

Photography was not allowed in the visiting
exhibit gallery, but we were allowed to take
photographs of the lovely models showing off the
contemporary and eclectic designs by ikram.
(iphone photography)

Every moment, an enjoyable treat. 

Are you are a fan of the Impressionist, Renoir, Monet,
Degas, Manet or my new favorite, James Tissot?

Take a tour.
And enjoy!