Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies: Whoopie Pies for Celeste

Middle school is hard.  Just ask Celeste, the main character from Erin Dionne's Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies - every day she has to deal with Lively, the oh-so-perfect pretty girl, making fun of her just because she's a little bit overweight.  Or maybe more than a little bit... but that's no reason for Lively to moo at her, is it?  And while it was really nice for her cousin to invite her to be a bridesmaid, did she have to pick an ugly peach dress that won't look right no matter how hard the seamstress tries to fix it?  But at least she has an awesome best friend, and life is pretty uneventful otherwise.

At least, it was.  But that was before her best friend Sandra started hanging out with Lively (what?!) and missing their nightly phone calls, and before her aunt signed her up to be in the Miss HuskyPeach contest.  Celeste has no desire to be "on a runway for all the world to see.  No.  No way.  Never."  But her aunt and her mother won't take no for an answer, so it seems like the only way to get out of the spotlight is to do something drastic: she's going to have to lose enough weight that she's not husky anymore, and then she'll shrink right out of the contest.  But can she make herself exercise (gross!) and eat better?  And - harder still - is she willing to give up Oreos?

This book is fantastic.  It's for older children or even younger teens; though there's nothing inappropriate in it for the younger set, talk of body image might go a bit over their heads.  It was also totally appropriate for me, and even though I picked it up because of the food in the title (okay, I admit it), I couldn't put this book down.  It had me tearing up at a few points and laughing out loud at others, and at one point, I actually cried out, "oh no!!!" so suddenly that I woke up the cat.  While I picked it up thinking, "I know some good chocolate cookie recipes," I had a better idea.  I'm completely supportive of Celeste's weight loss efforts, and I made her a low-calorie Oreo substitute: the soda cake whoopie pie.

For those not in the know, a whoopie pie is two cake rounds with a cream filling inside.  (Have you seen Oreo Cakesters?  Kinda like that.)  They're delicious.  I decided to make them out of soda cake, which is a cake made out of cake mix and a can of diet soda, which sounds really weird, but it's low-calorie (diet soda having no calories, and cake mix being nonfat as it is, this makes a very low-calorie treat), and quite tasty.  You can use any combination of cake flavor and soda flavor, so you can have an orange-soda-vanilla-cake creamsicle soda cake, or a black-cherry-soda-and-chocolate-cake black forest soda cake.  (Yes, it sounds weird, but it's so good that my boyfriend couldn't tell it wasn't real cake.)  Since oreos are chocolate, I used devil's food cake and diet Dr. Pepper, which gave it an awesome chocolatey flavor.  And since cream filling isn't exactly diet-friendly, I used Cool Whip Free in the middle. 

Whoopie Pies For Celeste
1 box cake mix (I used Devil's Food)
1 can diet soda (I used diet Dr. Pepper)
Cool Whip Free

1) Preheat your oven according to cake mix directions.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
2) Mix almost all of your can of soda and all of the cake mix until combined and the bubbles stop (I used 11 oz. of soda - take a nice big sip and you should be fine.  For whoopie pies, you want your batter to be a little thicker than regular cake batter  If you're just making regular cake or cupcakes, you can use the whole can).  Spoon out drops of batter onto your cookie sheet, keeping a couple inches between each in case of spreading.  (Mine didn't spread very much, but your mileage may vary.)
3) Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the batter stops wiggling.
4) Once the cake rounds are cool, put one round upside-down onto a piece of plastic wrap, and top with a dollop of Cool Whip.  Add a second cake round, and wrap the whole thing in plastic.  Put it in the freezer and enjoy when frozen and delicious.

Final verdict... tasty!  Not quite as good as Oreos, but they'll kill your craving.  After all, even dieters deserve dessert, right?  (Sometimes especially dieters.)

As always, I love it when people leave me comments, either here or on my Facebook fan page, or send me emails at KatCooksTheBooks@gmail.com.  As a special incentive, the first person to email me and the first person to comment on my FB page will get a special awesome recipe that I can't seem to find a place for on here, but which is awesome and delicious.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Bad Case of Stripes: Lima Beans for Camilla

A Bad Case Of Stripes by David Shannon tells the story of Camilla Cream, who loved lima beans, but never ate them, because everyone knows that lima beans are yucky, and if there's anything that Camilla wants out of life, it's to be accepted.  In fact, she tries on 42 outfits for the first day of school, just trying to find the perfect one (too bad none of them were quite right).  Lima beans, then, are definitely out.

When she looks in the mirror to judge her latest outfit, Camilla is shocked - she's come down with a case of stripes!  Oh, no!  And after the doctor clears her to go to school, stripes and all, she finds out that she's even more impressionable than she thought: the pledge of allegiance made her break out in stars!  And upon recommendations from her classmates, she's also covered in a checkerboard pattern.. and purple polka dots... and all sorts of things!

Things just keep getting worse for poor Camilla; she can't help but be influenced by 100 different things.  When specialists give her pills to clear things up, she turns into a giant capsule.  Will things ever get better for her?  Or is the real problem that she won't show her true colors because she cares so much what everyone else thinks?

I'm going to make a confession right now: like Camilla, I love lima beans.  It's not something that you tell people in polite company, but it's true.  They're probably my favorite vegetable.  And since I was making some to go with dinner anyway, I thought I'd dedicate them to Camilla.  Here's how I make mine:

Lima Beans for Camilla
Frozen lima beans
Salt and pepper

1) Pour frozen beans into a microwave safe bowl with a splash of water (about 1/4 cup per cup of beans).  Cover and cook on high for 2 minutes.  Drain.
1) Pour frozen beans into a small saucepan with a splash of water (about 1/4 cup per cup of beans) and cook on medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until heated through.  Drain.
2) Add a small pat of butter per serving of beans - just enough to coat the beans when it's melted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

That's it.  Delicious!

This book was recommended to me by a librarian friend of mine (thanks, Libby!), who told me that this book is really popular with her patrons.  So popular, in fact, that it was checked out the first time she told me about it, and I had to get it another day.  I'm going to recommend it to you, because it's a cute story and a lot of people really like it, but I'm going to add a few caveats.  Firstly, it's supposed to be for ages 4-8, but it's awfully wordy for younger kids, and I'm not sure they'd sit still through the whole thing.  Secondly... well, it's pretty creepy.  If your little one scares easily - or even if they don't - you may want to read through it first and make sure it's appropriate for their maturity level.  The illustrations (and even the concept... if you don't eat your veggies, you'll turn stripey and grow a tail?) may be a bit much for those with active imaginations.  That said, it's definitely worth a look.

In other news, I got a lovely note and a blog shout-out from the amazing Zoe Toft of Playing By The Book.  If you like my blog, you'll love hers - she and her family not only cook, but play, draw, and create with (or about) books!  This is kind of how I was hoping my blog would turn out - please check it out!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Paddington Bear's Elevenses

Oh, Paddington.  How lovable can a bear be?

According to the official website Paddington Bear was discovered by Michael Bond in 1956.  It was Christmas Eve, and there was one lonely little bear sitting alone on a shelf in a toy store.  Well, he couldn't leave him there, so he brought him home for his wife, and started writing stories about him.  Over the years, Mr. Bond has written a total of twelve books about Paddington, starting with Paddington Bear in 1958.

The stories, of course, don't feature Mr. Bond and his family; they feature Mr. and Mrs. Brown, who found the (fictional) bear in Paddington Station (hence his name) with a sign tied around his neck that said, "Please look after this bear. Thank you."  The sign, as we come to find out, was put there by his Aunt Lucy, who took care of him until she had to go into the Home for Retired Bears, and sent him on an adventure.  He traveled from his home in Darkest Peru, as a stowaway in a life boat, and ended up in London, where he met the Browns.

Paddington is a fun, lovable bear who is unfailingly polite.  He calls people Mr. and Mrs., and he never raises his voice; when angry, he simply fixes people with a hard stare, and they know that he is unhappy.  Of course, life with a bear is not always easy; he doesn't quite understand the way things are sometimes.  It might have been useful for him to know, for example, that while it is a lovely thing to go out to lunch, it is not generally acceptable to climb onto the table and get covered in cream cake and jam.  Or that, while it is fun to splash and play in the tub, it might be a better idea to pull the plug to drain the water, rather than bailing it out using your hat. 

Paddington has a great deal of adventures while living with the Browns, and makes many friends over the years, including Mr. Gruber, who owned an antique shop and doled out wise advice over a mid-morning snack.  For this snack - their "elevenses" - Paddington and Mr. Gruber often had hot cocoa and sometimes marmalade sandwiches (because, as Paddington says, "bears like marmalade").  I decided I needed to make some Elevenses, too.

Paddington Bear's Elevenses
Hot cocoa (I'm using a mix, but feel free to use the Polar Express Cocoa here for something special)

1) Toast your bread and spread it with butter.  Spread some marmalade on top.  (Alternately, you can skip the toasting and the butter and just have jelly-bread or marmalade sandwiches.)
2) Prepare your hot cocoa.
3) Sit down, relax, talk to a good friend, and enjoy.

When I think of Paddington, I can't help but be reminded of my bear Henri, who was found sitting alone in a toy wagon outside a small store, getting rained on.  Mom and I agreed - we had to take him home, and he's still having adventures with me.
"Bears like marmalade."
I have to admit, I'd never had marmalade before, but it won't be my last time.  For those not in the know (and I know you exist, because I've already had people ask me "what's marmalade?"), marmalade is a jelly made with citrus fruit juice and peel.  I'm not sure why I'd never had it, since I love oranges, but it'll go on my list of yummy things I should eat more often.

Paddington Bear is a fantastic classic book that I haven't heard enough about lately.  I'm going to try to mix the classics in with new books more often, but as a lot of them don't have any food to speak of, the recipes might be more inspired-by than based-on.  Do you have a favorite classic book that you'd like to see posted?  Let me know in the comments, on the Facebook fan page, or by dropping me an email at KatCooksTheBooks@gmail.com.

Happy reading!