The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It

The Good Dream

In September, our book club met at my house to eat and talk about Donna VanLeire’s book The Good Dream.

When book club is at my house, I am a total spaz.  A bad book club meeting is a downer, and I could not live with myself if a bad meeting happened at my house.  I hadn’t had book club at my house since August of 2011.  I stressed to the max.

When my friend Amanda had book club at her house this summer, I kinda made fun of her for painting her front steps before our meeting.  What did I do before it was at my house? We sodded our yard, and I build two brand-new flowerbeds.   Not that we have bad get-togethers often, but the guilt of a terrible meeting with ugly flowerbeds and bad grass would be overwhelming.  Book club is too much fun to blow it by not being a good host.

Of course, though, I had nothing to worry about.  My book club friends are amazing people.  I believe we could have a good time and many laughs at a funeral.

Another thing, the book was great.  I loved it.  The Good Dream was one of those books that I thought about even when I wasn’t reading it.  I pondered the characters and what their fate would be.   The ending fit the book very well.

Also, the food was divine until we got to dessert. We never eat bad food anyway.  I fixed Trisha Yearwood’s Charleston Cheese Dip, and it was easy and so, so good.  I could have eaten it out of the dish with a fork.  It was cheesy, yummy, warm and good. I also made Paula Deen’s spicy tomato soup, but that was no big deal.  I make it a lot.  My friends brought beer cheese, pickled asparagus, and some neat dips.  Everything they make is out of this world good.

I also made cookies since they were well received last year.  I think I may have shared here about my cookies before.  My cookie recipe, friends, is the recipe that I shall take with me to the grave.  I kid you not, although I have been thinking about sharing with someone so my recipe could be shared with Miss Helper if something were to happen to me.  Morbid? Maybe.  But listen, these are awesome cookies.   I made chocolate vanilla pecan peanut butter cookies and chocolate oatmeal cranberry cookies.

For dessert, I made a caramel cake.  Twice.  In the book, the main character makes a caramel cake to share with a visitor.  She makes a lot of food in the book, and those dishes are all homemade, memorable foods for her.  I liked that.  When she made the cake, it explained in a little extra detail how she made it.  So, based on inspiration from the book, I decided to make a caramel cake from scratch using my “friend” Trisha Yearwood’s caramel cake recipe.

The day before book club, I made the twin round sheet cakes and the icing to cover them.   The cakes were almost crunchy.  They should have spent at least ten minutes less time in the oven.  When I realized this, I thought maybe the icing could save the day.

When I read the icing recipe, it called for sugar to be melted in a cast iron skillet.    Welp, I read and reread that part, and I had never heard of such.  The recipe included a stick of butter, and I just figured that it was a typo.  I decided that the butter should be melted with the sugar and that my “friend” Trisha had just made a mistake.

Have you seen Trisha Yearwood cook? The woman is the real deal.  She doesn’t make mistakes.  She is the Chuck Norris of the kitchen.

Nope, the mistake was all me.  My cake icing was as thick and crusty as gloop.  But, again, I thought it would all work out.  I iced that cake and took a good, hard look at it. It looked nothing like the picture in the cookbook.  Not even close.  Then, I tasted it.

It was awful.

Rather than go with it, I chunked it in the garbage.  I had a book club meeting that I could not ruin with a crunchy, gloopy cake.

Before book club and after school on the day of book club-no pressure or anything-I rushed to the store and bought a Duncan Hines caramel cake mix with a tub of  Duncan Hines caramel icing.  A cake has never been put together so fast before.

It was record-setting, I tell you.  Last minute cake making should be an olympic sport.

The second cake was fine, even if I was slightly embarrassed to admit it was a box mix.  My friends didn’t say a word.

It was a great meeting with great food, a great book, and great folks.

I was saved-until next time at least.


The Themeless Christmas: I Can’t Win ‘Em All
December 12, 2011, 2:14 am
Filed under: Food I Make, Random Foodie Thoughts | Tags: , , ,


Every year, I have a “theme” at Christmas, or at least I usually do.

Since we have several different parties to attend with different folks at each one, I like to pick a festive dish and take that one dish to each party. That dish is my food theme for the year.

It just makes things easier.  I don’t have to think or work too hard. I can buy all my ingredients once, memorize the recipe, make the dish over and over, and be done with it.

One year, I made Ollie’s Cheesecake everywhere we went. I have also made a monster cheese platter. Several years ago, I made a baked brie.  Last year, I took two things: bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese and also brie on toast with honey and walnuts.

All of my themes over the years have been different and have come from some inspirational moment somewhere somehow. 

This year? I got nothing.

Nada, I tell ya.

Last night was our first party.  This particular shindig is always fun, and I like to think that my dish always shines.

Well, almost always.

I spent all day yesterday fretting about what to take. I poured over my cookbooks, the Food Network, and my foodie magazines, but nothing looked or sounded right. I must have opened and closed the refrigerator a hundred times thinking that something would inspire me. I Googled and Pinterested. I tried, but nothing happened.

So, with no clue and no inspiration, I overcompensated with mediocre dishes.

One of our friends met me at the door with a big smile. “What did you make this year?” he asked.

I wished he hadn’t asked.

I ended up taking a boring chicken dish. I roasted some chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto. Then, I sliced them and topped them with seasoned pecans and a raspberry sauce.  Unfortunately, the dish got stirred at the party, and all of the prosciutto, pecans, and sauce fell to the bottom. So, all that was left was plain chicken.

I also made a caraffe  of salted hot chocolate.  I love this recipe, but I usually make it for just four.  Last night, I was preparing for many more.  To adjust, I used a heaping tablespoon of Kosher salt. As one friend said with a half smile on her face, “Oh, it has a kick. It’s good.” She said this right before she poured her cup down the sink.

My dessert was a crescent roll wrapped around a dollop of Nutella, a bite of cream cheese, and a sugared pecan. I topped them with another pecan.  They were actually pretty good, but a roll of crescent rolls just doesn’t go very far. It only made a dozen.

I was so sad and embarrassed.  Somebody brought a store-bought cheese ball, and it was more popular than what I brought.

I have until Saturday to figure out a theme for our next party, or mark my word-I will buy dip and chips at the grocery rather than embarrass myself again.

Better safe than sorry.

Oxtail Stew
December 8, 2011, 12:10 am
Filed under: Food I Make | Tags: , , , , , ,


The recipes I used said this dish of Oxtail Stew was a comfort food meal.

The waters around us are rising, and it has been raining for over twenty-four hours. Comfort is called for at times like this.

I don’t think I got it right, though. My husband and I didn’t quite know what to do with the meat, or at least, what we could find of it. We struggled with how to eat it-knive and fork? With our hands? Face first in the plate?

The best part of the whole meal was the buttered noodles with the gravy from the pot that I seasoned with bacon grease. Now that was comforting.

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