Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dear America: Indian Pudding

It isn't pretty, but it smells divine and tastes pretty darn good.  This, my friends, is Indian Pudding. 

But first things first.
The book we're going to talk about today is A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620 by Kathryn Lasky, which is part of the Dear America series.  Dear America, for those who are not familiar, is a series of books written as if they were diaries of young girls living at various points in American history, from the Pilgrims to the Vietnam War.  Scholastic also publishes the My Name is America series for boys; the My America series, in which characters write multiple diaries; and The Royal Diaries, which chronicle the lives of girls who would grow to be powerful (royal) women, from Cleopatra to Anastasia.  They are all written for ages 9-12.

This is my first Dear America book, and I think it's pretty good.  Out of curiosity, I read the reviews on Amazon, and while I know that's not the most authoritative source, it isn't bad for finding out what people think.  For the most part, reviews on this book are positive except for the "antiquated language" (though I don't think the language should be much of a problem for most readers) and the fact that people found out after the fact that this book is fictional.  This part confuses me.  It's a part of a series that you find in the fiction section of a bookstore or library.  But I guess not everyone knows the series or they may not get the book that way... Anyway.  If you know from the start that this is historical fiction, you should be okay.

So.  This book is the (fictional!) diary of a 12-year-old girl who sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620.  She details her life on the boat, her friendship with another girl her age, getting to shore, the expedition parties to find a good place to build a settlement (she didn't get to go, but her father did), meeting Samoset and Squanto, and the first year of living in the colony.  While the harsh truth is sugarcoated to a point, our heroine (who goes by "Mem," short for "Remember") does talk about death quite a bit - some friends or friends of the family and Mem's own mother - and of being hungry all the time, working to the point of exhaustion, crops not coming up, and the like, as well as the more mundane aspects of life, like boredom and the excitement of getting a present when you don't expect one.

My only issue with this book comes from the over-the-top political correctness.  Mem is fascinated by Native Americans, wants to see them and talk to them, even goes out to meet Samoset without consent from her parents and dreams of going swimming like the native children do (which is forbidden by her society, because too much contact with water is believed to be dangerous).  She admires the Wampanoag people with a sort of cultural respect that just wasn't there in the 1620's.  Not that this is a bad thing - it's just odd in this placement.

Anyway.  Mem talks about food mostly in the sense of growing it, but she does also mention cooking a few things, including pudding made with cornmeal and cranberries - what we today would call Indian pudding.  This she cooks for Samoset and again for Squanto, and is nicknamed by them Miss Pudding because of this.  So, in honor of the fictional Miss Remember Patience Pudding Whipple, I give you... Indian Pudding.

Mem's Indian Pudding
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins
2 large eggs
1/3 cup of light or heavy (whipping) cream

1. Position a rack in the middle of your oven and set it to preheat at 300.  Grease or cooking-spray an 8x8 or 7x11 inch pan.
2. In a large pot, whisk together the cornmeal, spices and salt until combined.  Whisk in the milk gradually until it is all blended.  Turn on the burner to medium-high heat and whisk the mixture constantly until it is boiling, being careful not to let it scorch.
3. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and stir constantly for two to three minutes, until it gets thick.  Immediately remove the pot from heat and stir in the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and cranberries, whisking until combined.
4. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork.  Very slowly - a spoonful at a time - add the cornmeal mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.  You have to do this a little bit at a time or the eggs might scramble from the heat, and that's not good.  Once it's all mixed together, pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake it for one hour.
5. After the hour is up, pour the cream over the top of the pudding and tip the pan so the cream sloshes to cover the entire dish.  It will soak in, don't worry.  Bake this for 15-20 minutes more, until the pudding comes out solid but somewhat jiggly.
6. Let the pudding rest for at least 15 minutes before spooning it out and eating it.  I topped mine with homemade whipped cream, but vanilla ice cream would be nice, too.

This is what it looks like when you first take it out of the oven:

That's right: it's not pretty (in fact, when I took it out of the oven, the pudding skin on top had set but the mixture underneath was bubbling a little, making it look like something was alive inside my dessert).  But by this point, your house will smell like gingerbread and you won't care what it looks like.  I had it for dessert tonight with homemade whipped cream (we had to buy the whipping cream for the recipe anyway -why not?), and it was delicious.  It might not replace pumpkin pie on your dessert table, but it's good enough that I will most likely be making this again at some point.

I got this recipe from the All-American Dessert Book by Nancy Baggett, published in 2005.  This book is great.

I hope you enjoy this blog post, since I've been looking forward to writing it for a while.  I know the Thanksgiving countdown isn't working like I wanted it to, but I'm going to stop apologizing because I'm doing my darndest to get everything up, and I have a few great recipes (and great books!) coming.

And lastly.  It has come to my attention that, while I've been bugging you all to email me and tell me what you think, I haven't actually told you what my email is for a while.  (This is one of those facepalm moments.)  It's

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tappleton Liverwurst

My friend Christy said, when I complained that my last post was the lamest blog post ever, "you're allowed one lame recipe."  But I'm breaking that rule and posting another lame recipe.  But it's only so I can tell you about this book!

Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' was written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler in 1992, and re-illustrated by Megan Lloyd in 2004.  In the original book, the Tappleton family is human; in the remake, they are wolves.  I like both versions, but I'm leaning toward wolves on this one.  Since this is a picture book, I'm going to spoil the entire plot, I'm warning you right now.

We meet Mrs. Tappleton and she is getting the turkey ready for the oven on Thanksgiving morning.  The milkman comes and, while she reaches for the holiday egg-nog, the turkey gets knocked off the counter and through the open door.  She chases it down the steps and away but - oh no!!! - the turkey falls into the lake and is lost forever.  Mrs. Tappleton decides that there will be enough other things for dinner, and puts the empty roasting pan in the oven.  Meanwhile, Mr. Tappleton goes down to the bakery but - oh no!!! - they're sold out of pie.  So he buys two empty boxes tied up with string, thinking that there will be enough for dinner that lack of dessert won't matter.  Similar fates befall the sister's mashed potatoes (put in the blender to be extra-smooth, and exploded all over the walls), and the brother's salad (the components of which he fed to the school's bunny rabbit the day before). 

When the rest of the guests arrive, they are as hungry as an elephant.  The roasting pan comes out of the oven but! - no turkey! Oh no! They're as hungry as two elephants!  The bowl of mashed potatoes comes out but! it's empty! Oh no! They're as hungry as three elephants!  So they pull out the salad and pull the tin foil off but! - no salad! Oh no! They're as hungry as four elephants! So they untie the strings from the baker boxes but! - no pie! Oh no! They're as hungry as FIVE elephants!

After laughing about the fates that befell the various Thanksgiving dishes, the family decides that they are thankful to all be together, and they eat a festive meal of what they have in the fridge: liverwurst and cheese sandwiches, pickles, and applesauce.

Tappleton Liverwurst
2 slices of your favorite bread. I used the end of a loaf of French bread, cut in half.
Slices of cheese
Slices of liverwurst
Various condiments, such as mayonnaise

My aunt actually made this sandwich because she likes liverwurst and I do not, but here's the procedure:

1. Find two slices of bread and spread on condiments as desired.  We put mayonnaise on both bread halves, then layered cheese on one side and liverwurst on the other.  Stack together and enjoy.

You can tell this sandwich is very happy to be included here, as he is sticking his tongue out at us all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Peanut Butter Pilgrims

First, apologies for no posts yesterday, and more for the lame recipe today.  I had a big project due this morning, and while I think (I hope!) I did well on it, I just didn't have time to make something yesterday... and today, I'm just plain tired.  But I will get to all the recipes, I promise.

Anyway.  Today's sandwich is an excuse to write about Peanut Butter Pilgrims, a Pee Wee Scouts book by Judy Delton.  As a kid, I was a huge fan of the Pee Wee Scouts.  The series (there are 40 books, written for ages 4-8) stars Molly Duff, a little girl who is a proud member of the Pee Wee Scouts, which is a co-ed scout troop akin to the Boy or Girl Scouts - they do good deeds, earn merit badges, and get through everyday life with humor.  The books are illustrated by Alan Tiegreen, who also illustrated Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, which is a great bonus.  I always loved his work.

In this particular story, Molly and the Scouts make baskets to fill with canned food for a food drive - Molly's basket is way too tight, and she has to re-do it, but she gets her Basket-Weaving Merit Badge in the end.  Then they all go to a turkey farm, and get to meet and pet turkeys; Scout Sonny falls in love with a turkey with two black tail feathers and somehow manages to get his mother to allow him to adopt the bird, who he names Tiger. Tiger, by the way, gets treated like a dog throughout the book; he's led around on a leash, and Sonny earns a merit badge by building him an enormous birdhouse.

The book progresses through some other fall-time fun before it's announced that the Scouts will be presenting a Thanksgiving play.. in front of the whole town!  The mayor will be there!!  That. Is. Huge.  Molly is terrified!  She's going to forget all her lines, and everyone will laugh!  The mayor himself will laugh at her!!  This is a very big deal. 

Of course, everything works out in the end... Molly is a big hit and the mayor himself congratulates her on her fine performance.  But, because of the visit to the turkey farm, and because Tiger was in the play with her- she's spent so much time with him! - she just can't bring herself to eat turkey.  So, she has a peanut butter sandwich.  And mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and stuffing.

Peanut Butter Pilgrim Sandwich
2 slices of your favorite bread
Peanut butter of your choice

1. Spread the peanut butter evenly on one slice of bread, then cover with the other slice of bread.  Cut into pieces and enjoy.

Yes, yes.  This is easy.  But allow me to add an insight that I find to be fascinating.  Alton Brown says that "squishable spreads go on squishable breads."  I put my peanut butter on hard or soft bread, but I take it the other way around - crunchy peanut butter goes best on toasted breads.  And peanut butter sandwiches are always always always better when cut on the diagonal.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pilgrim Cat Cornbread

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Today marks the start of the Happy Fun Enjoyable Thanksgiving Food-And-Book-O-Rama!  Hooray! Every day until Thanksgiving, I will be posting a new recipe from a holiday-themed book.  I have 10 recipes ready and standing by, and 10 days in which to make them (excluding Thanksgiving itself), so I will do my best to post one each day.

There are several great Thanksgiving-y books out there that I did not pull from - of course, how could I get them all?  Many of the ones I did not choose have Thanksgiving pageants or costumes or visiting relatives as the main story, and the meal spoken of in them is usually the typical turkey-and-stuffing fare.  I chose a few books with typical dishes - like today's cornbread - but I did my best to get some of the more off-beat fare, because not everybody eats that stuff, and most of us already know how to make it, or at least where to find a recipe.  But without further ado or distraction, I give you...

Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock
Pilgrim Cat is a picture book that follows a young girl, Faith, who sets sail on the Mayflower with her family; as the boat is about to leave the dock, she sees a cat jump on board.  The cat, later named Pounce, is a welcome stowaway, as he is an excellent mouser, and Faith adopts him as her own, making sure he is safe in the rough weather and has a home when they reach Plymouth.  All is going well, despite the town's hardships, until Pounce disappears - oh no!  With the help of a friendly Wampanoag, Faith finds Pounce nested in a hollow log with kittens, and we learn that - surprise!! - Pounce is a girl cat.  The feast follows, and everyone is happy.

I really liked this book.  The story begins with an introduction where the author explains what is fact and what is fiction, and though the hardships are sugar-coated, it is historically accurate in age-appropriate way.  The illustrations, by Doris Ettlinger, are beautiful watercolor paintings.  This is one of two titles that I chose from the stacks (and at this point I will admit that I read every Thanksgiving picture book that happened to be on the shelves at BPL when I was there last Friday) where the food is traditional Thanksgiving fare.  Now, traditional feasts, I have learned, are not just turkey and stuffing - in fact, there was no turkey listed in the one eyewitness account available from the first Thanksgiving - but I was not about to make eel pie for you all (SO sorry), and I am not willing to go hunt up a deer, so you're getting cornbread.  And a very tasty cornbread it is!

Pilgrim Cat Cornbread
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Grease a 9x13 pan, or two round cake pans.  In a small bowl, mix the cornmeal with milk and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. In a larger bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Stir in the cornmeal mixture, eggs, and oil, and whisk for 5 minutes (this adds air and makes the resulting bread much lighter).
3. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the bread comes out clean.

Seriously, this cornbread is delicious.  I put some butter on it, and I ate a big slice in about 30 seconds flat, without even trying to speed-eat.  I got the recipe from the AllRecipes website, where it is listed as Homesteader Cornbread.

I hope you enjoy this one.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for another fun dish.  I'm not sure what it will be yet.

Random Things

Hello everyone!  I'll be posting the food in a minute, but I wanted to address a few things first. 

*Thing One: It has come to my attention that some people stop reading a post once they come to the recipe, and I wanted to let you know that, given my penchant for rambling on and on, there is MORE texty goodness under the recipe, and occasionally my dorkiness even shines through in the instructions themselves, if you're into that sort of thing.

*Thing Two: Why, yes!  I do take requests!  If you haven't seen what you requested here yet, please don't lose faith in me, it'll be up soon.  Also, there is a difference in my head between a request (which I will definitely make) and a suggestion (which I put on my to-make list and may eventually get around to), so if you really want me to make something please let me know and I'll get to it ASAP.

*Thing Three: I love email! And I will write you back, I promise!  And comments! I've been told that a few people have had trouble posting comments, and I don't know why that is, but I set things so you can post without logging in (it will show up as Anonymous), so please keep trying.  I love comments - it lets me know people are actually reading this.

I think that's it. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gecko Treats

I walked through the library like a hot knife through butter - smooth and easy.  Coupla books caught my eye - wouldn't ya know it?  Had a detective in 'em.  Gecko.  Say what you will about the lizard, he knows his detective work like he knows his bugs.

Okay, so I'm not all that hardboiled.

I found Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko series of books by random chance in my local library, and they are awesome.  The series, which currently has twelve books, follows Chet Gecko, hardboiled 4th grade private eye, who just so happens to be a lizard.  They are very film noir, reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler and the like.  They make me want to re-read The Maltese Falcon.  For those out there who still don't know what I'm talking about, here's a few of lines I wrote down when flipping through the books:
"I followed a lead as thin as a dragonfly wafer."
"She was as stiff as a grasshopper popsicle."
"In my time, I’ve tackled cases stickier than a spider’s handshake and harder than three-year-old boll weevil taffy."
Did that help?  If not, go on YouTube and search for "film noir."  I'm sure that even if you haven't read the books or seen the movies, you'll know the cliches.

Moving on.
The Chet Gecko titles are fun: The Malted Falcon, The Possum Always Rings Twice, Key Lardo, Farewell My Lunchbag, The Big Nap.  The only one I've had time to read through so far is Trouble is My Beeswax, but I assure you that I will be reading the entire series.  They're that good.  I love the writing style - I can hear the piano music and the Sam Spade narration in my head when I read.  The plot-lines are fun, they're not girly (which I've found to be an issue lately - too many girl books!), and the names of the characters are great stupid puns: Noah Vail? Natalie Attired? Sweet!  AND!! Chet Gecko eats pillbug crunch bars and wolf spider lasagna!

Now, author Bruce Hale has made a Detective Handbook and Cookbook that I have not yet been able to get my hands on, so I didn't want to make any of the specific things that Chet eats in the books, because I don't know what's in the cookbook.  I decided to make some generic buggy treats for Chet, in the hopes that I don't repeat what Mr. Hale has already done.  Somehow, it seems different to me than using the Anne of Green Gables cookbook for raspberry cordial.  So, I made some chocolate covered spider legs instead, and I think they'd be pretty good as an after-school snack.

Chet Gecko's Chocolate Spider Legs
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 to 2-1/2 cups chow mein noodles

1. Pour the chocolate and butterscotch chips into a microwave-safe bowl and zap on half-power for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Repeat this process until the chips are all melted.
2. If your chips are melty but not liquidy (more like a paste), you can add a tablespoon of milk and stir to integrate, repeating until smooth; I needed to do this twice to be able to get a fully-melted and not pasty bowl of chocolate.
3. Stir in 2 cups of chow mein noodles; add more noodles as necessary so there isn't excess chocolate pooling at the bottom of the bowl. 
4. Using a spoon, drop piles of the noodles onto wax paper and allow to dry.

This is a simple one, but yummy.  And versatile! Don't like butterscotch?  Use peanut butter chips, or all chocolate, or white chocolate, or Andes mints!  And you can mix in other things with the noodles, too - peanuts! Raisins! And you can swap out the noodles for other things, if you want... The possibilities are endless.  White-chocolate-cranberry-chex?  Sure!  It won't look like spider legs, but it will be tasty.

Here's a photo of one piece - I made them pretty big (unless my hands are very small... no comment).  I know they're not actually spider legs, but having told myself that I was making chocolate spider legs, I found myself a little grossed out by them toward the end.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Marilla's Raspberry Cordial

Dear friends, I had a stroke of inspiration today.  It was a beautiful day outside, much warmer than it has been lately, and I was thinking about lemonade, and how in days not even 100 years ago, lemonade on a warm day is about as refreshing and enjoyable as things could get.  And I wanted some.  But I didn't want just lemons, I wanted lemons and berries (I love berries), and that reminded me of a recipe that I read recently.  So, in honor of the beautiful weather, I give you Marilla's Raspberry Cordial, from L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley, who is a very lively 11-year old girl who has an imagination as big as the sky, and who can never be perfectly happy because "nobody could who had red hair" (which is her lifelong sorrow), but she tries her best, and sees the world as a place full of wonder and exciting things, even though she knows that she will likely never have any of these things because she is an orphan, and she speaks in very long, run-on sentences that make one understand exactly the kind of energy that she has because you end up breathless just reading them.

In the first two chapters of the book, we find out that Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a brother and sister of both around 60 years old, have sent away to adopt an orphan to help around the house - but they wanted a boy, and got Anne instead.  They decide to keep her anyway, and Anne gets into scrapes and small adventures around the town and with her "bosom friend" Diana.  In one memorable scene, Anne has gotten permission to serve Marilla's Raspberry Cordial to Diana before tea time, and serves her currant wine by mistake.  Diana goes home, drunk, and giggles all the way, ultimately getting Anne banned from Diana's house, much to Anne's dismay. 

In the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate MacDonald (granddaughter of author Lucy Maud Montgomery), the recipe for raspberry cordial is, as in the story, non-alcoholic, though in popular vernacular a cordial is an alcoholic beverage - so, look out when you go out to a restaurant and order one.

This recipe falls into the category of Deceptive.  In theory, it is quite simple.  It doesn't even look that impressive once it's done (though it is delicious).  In practice, it was one of the messiest, most frustrating things I've made in a long time.  But if you have an afternoon on your hands, it may be worth a try.

Marilla's Raspberry Cordial
1 lb., 3 oz. frozen raspberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 lemons
4 cups boiling water (or more, to taste)

1. In a saucepan or small pot, cook the raspberries and sugar over medium-low heat until all the sugar is dissolved, about 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Mash the mixture and pour it through a strainer, discarding the pulp (the pulp, once you get all the flavor out of it, will be a sickly mauve color).
3. Add the strained juice of two lemons.  Stir in the water, and allow the drink to come to room temperature.
4. Chill, serve, and enjoy.

I did my best.  I strained and stirred and discarded pulp... perhaps it's the way I did it, but it took a really long time, and I still ended up with seeds in the drink because I'm fairly clumsy.  Maybe 10 seeds instead of the 500 that would have been in there, but still.  And berry juice all over my favorite too-big-and-baggy sweatshirt.  And a seed stuck to my forehead.  Sigh.

It's funny, come to think of it.  I started this project thinking it would be the most wonderful thing in the world, and it was a lot more work than I'd bargained for.  Does this remind anyone else of some of Anne's escapades?  And in the end, it's very tasty - there's no way to get that taste without actual raspberries - a beautiful color, and smells like raspberry heaven.  I'm not sure if I'd make it again, but there is a definite possibility.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Boxcar Beef Stew

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner is another one of those classic books that everybody has heard of, but I never read as a kid.  There's a huge series of these books - according to Wikipedia, 121 of them - but only the first 19 were written by Ms. Warner.  The first book was published in 1924, but like all good classics, it doesn't seem dated much - no more than the Little House books are. 

The books follow the story of orphans Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny Alden, who run away from an orphanage and from anyone who tries to send them to their grandfather, who they believe to be cruel, though they have never met him.  I won't spoil what happens, because this really is one of those books that people should read for themselves.

 The siblings set up house in an abandoned boxcar in the woods, and Henry does some odd jobs for a local doctor, so they can get money for food.  They set up a fire pit in woods near the boxcar and, between a few handouts of too-small vegetables and some money that Henry earned, were able to cook tasty things for dinner, like stew.  I left the turnips out of my stew recipe, because I am not particularly fond of turnips, but they are specified in the story, so do what you will.

My friend Christina - the one we can all thank for the If-You-Give-A-Mouse-A-Cookies - recommended that I make a beef stew like the Boxcar Children had.  She is full of good ideas!  Thank you!!

Boxcar Beef Stew
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lbs. stew beef, cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups water
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
2 bullion cubes, crushed
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. corn starch
4 medium potatoes
3 whole carrots or a small bag of baby carrots
Other veggies as desired, like peas or green beans

1. In a 6-quart saucepan or pot, heat the oil.  Coat the beef in flour (I put the beef and the flour into a lunch-bag-sized paper bag and shook it to coat it) and brown it in the pan.  You may have to work in batches, but it'll be worth it, since this is the only time to get that nice brown texture on the outside of the beef.
2. Once the meat is all browned, add the water and spices (through corn starch, above), and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour and a half, until the meat is tender.  NOTE: If you don't want to bother with all the spices, use a beef stew spice pouch that you get in the grocery store.  It's about 50 cents and tastes pretty similar.
3. Peel the potatoes and cut into fork-sized pieces; my potatoes were cut into 8 pieces each.  Cut the carrots into one-inch pieces; baby carrots can be cut in half.  Once the meat is tender, add the potatoes and veggies and cover.  Let this simmer 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

This recipe is easy, but time consuming.  But, let me tell you, this was so worth the time, I can't even tell you.  I had this for dinner, and it's supposed to make 8 one-cup servings, but maybe because I was hungry, or maybe because it was tasty, I ate at least two cups of it.

Here's a better view of my dinner, because I know you're all so curious.  It was so good!  And I re-read the book while I ate, making it all the better. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alice's Eat Me Cakes

Oh, Alice.  How many mishaps will you get into?  Won't you ever learn that eating something that has been sitting around in a strange place may be a bad idea?

I love love love the way that Ms. Alice, of In Wonderland fame, gets to eat and drink her way through the fantabulous place in which she finds herself.  I love that she finds a jar of marmalade when she's falling down the rabbit hole - even if it was empty - and the chocolates as prizes in the caucus race, and don't get me started on the Mad Tea Party.  But my favorite thing of all was the Eat Me cakes and Drink Me bottles.

One of the most fun things about Alice in Wonderland, I think, is that there is very little description given, but we get amazing mental pictures, anyway.  You know, there is no physical description of the Mad Hatter or the March Hare at all?  Or, for that matter, of Alice - the blond girl in the blue dress and pinafore that we associate with Alice are partly due to the illustrations of Sir John Tenniel, the original illustrator, and partly Disney's fault.  Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the title character, actually had dark brown hair.

So, because the cakes have no description, excepting that they have Eat Me "beautifully marked in currants," I've decided that I could do pretty much whatever I wanted with them.  And since it's Wonderland, how about something a little different?  It could be anything!  What sounds good today? Hmm... chocolate, always.  And how about, oh, I don't know.... orange frosting?  Why not?!
Also - because I don't have currants, and am not particularly fond of them anyway, I'm going to use craisins.  They're pretty, and tasty, and go well with orange, both in color and in flavor.  One last note: I'm aware that "cakes" in the time that this book was written may very well refer to "tea cakes" which are actually scones or cookies, rather than cupcakes, but... it's Wonderland!  My apologies for the not-the-best photo, but my penmanship in craisin-form leaves much to be desired.  I'll practice for next time.

Alice's Eat Me Cakes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour milk (or, milk with 1 tsp. white vinegar mixed in, and left to sit for 10 minutes)

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Put cupcake papers into muffin tins - this recipe made me 31 cupcakes.
2. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate, butter and water in 30-second bursts, stirring after each time, until chocolate is smooth.  Allow this mixture to come to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and soda.  Pour in the sour milk and soda and mix.  Mix in the chocolate mixture, and pour into the muffin cups.
4. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Frost with the frosting of your choice - I prefer Orange Buttercream - and decorate!

Orange Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
Pinch salt
2 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange extract
Food coloring

1. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter, 3 cups of the sugar and the salt until smooth.  Add the orange juice, corn syrup, and the extracts, and beat until well mixed.  Add food coloring as needed to make it whatever color you like - even with the juice, it's a pale, creamy color without coloring.

You can use a stand-mixer for this, but it's hard to get everything all the way on the bottom of the bowl that way.  I like to use a hand mixer, because it's quick and easy, and fresh-made frosting tastes so much better than the stuff you buy in a can!

 So, today's recipe blog is a two-fer, and I really like this one.  I'd make it again... maybe with polka dots, next time.  Because it makes so many cupcakes, I thought I'd show you roughly what size one cupcake is.  And - double bonus!! - you get to see my hand, too!