Stuff and Nonsense: October 2015


Seasonal Reads: Poems Bewitched & Haunted

Poems Bewitched and Haunted is a great seasonal collection, perfectly sized for carrying around and inflicting on other people around Halloween. The book is divided into eight sections covering everything from hags to humor. Poets include the obvious (Poe) and the unexpected (Homer). It’s unfortunate this collection isn’t available in audio as I found many of the poems were at their creepy best when read aloud. (Yes, I sat in my darkened living room and read poetry to my cats. Doesn't everyone?) Everyman Library also has two related works -- Poems Dead and Undead and Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem -- I will need to check out!

Poems Bewitched and Haunted (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) edited by John Hollander (Everyman’s Library, 2005)

Chicken Thighs Breaded With Flax & Almond Meal

I was craving oven-fried chicken, but breadcrumbs seemed ... boring. Nutritionally unadventurous. I'd breaded chicken with almond meal before, but was always a little disappointed in the texture. What about adding in some flax meal? Flax has a nutty flavor that should pair well with the almond meal and, maybe, give the breading a little more body?

"Breaded" Chicken Thighs

Yield: 2-4, depending on appetite


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup flax meal
  • ¼ cup almond meal
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Place a cooling rack on a half sheet pan (13"x18").
  2. Beat egg in a shallow dish like a soup bowl or pie plate.
  3. Combine meals, Parmesan, and seasonings in another shallow dish.
  4. Dip chicken in egg, allowing all excess to drip back into dish, and then thoroughly coat with the meal mixture.
  5. Place chicken on the cooling rack and bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is 165°F.

Overall, I think this was a good start. Next time, I might reduce the amount of flax by a tablespoon or two, because The Husband thought the texture was a little "weird." I liked the texture just fine, but thought the chicken was just a bit ... bland ... so lashings of cheese and seasonings next time, too!


Wordless Wednesday: Medieval Manor House

Samlesbury Hall, Preston, built in 1325.

Samlesbury Hall is purported to be one of the most haunted locations in Britain ...


Top 10 Tuesday: Haunted Houses

Halloween is almost here! Naturally, this week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about the spoooooky and strange! I focused on haunted houses for my list, because a well-written haunting can genuinely creep me out. While I do not at all accept that hauntings exist in the real world (because Science), I still delight in the fiction of them.

  • The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
  • The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender
  • An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman
  • Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie
  • The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
  • Starter House by Sonja Condit
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill


Berry & Chocolate Nibbles

I was going to post this during Choctoberfest, but decided the nibbles were too similar to the chocolate bark recipe I shared and stuffed it back in my drafts folder at the last minute. However, now that I've eaten almost all of these little chocolate nibbles, I feel they're too good not to share ... even if they're not fancy!

Basically, instead of making a sheet of bark, I made little circular splodges of melted chocolate and decorated them with dried fruits and nuts. They taste a treat, are perfectly portioned, and (imho) present a little nicer than the bark.

Berry & Chocolate Nibbles

Yield: Depends on how much you like chocolate!


  • 4 oz good quality dark chocolate morsels
  • Dried fruit and nuts, as desired


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Use a spoon to make bite-sized chocolate circular splodges on the paper. Then scatter a few dried berries across each circle.
  3. Place in the fridge to harden, about 20 minutes.

If using freeze-dried fruit, these are best eaten within a day or two as the freeze-dried fruit will "plump up" and become less crispy. Nibbles made with "regular" dried fruit keep at least a week in the fridge.


Perfect Pot Roast (It's Beer Wot Does It)

This pot roast is my easy-peasy, totally not fancy but fabulously delicious go-to recipe. I've been making it for years, but never bothered to blog about it properly because it seemed ... too easy. Too not-special-enough for the interwebs. And yet. I've made this pot roast nearly a dozen times now, which means it must be good and good is always worth sharing, right?

This pot roast always cooks up delicious. Sweet and tender. Beefy and rich. Quite definitely the best pot roast I have ever made and I think the mildness of the beer had a lot to do with it. Previously, I always used bottles of Heineken in this recipe because Heineken's what I had on hand. Except, this time, we were all out of Heineken and I ended up using one of the pint bottles of Bud Light Platinum one of The Husband's poker buddies left behind. It's a mild, innocuous beer which is exactly what I want in this pot roast. Combined with the meat juices and the vegetables, the beer creates a mouth-watering smell which always leaves me desperate to lick the oven door long before the roast is ready.

Perfect Pot Roast

Serves 6


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 lb beef chuck underblade pot roast
  • Garlic powder, salt, and pepper, as desired
  • 1 bottle pale lager beer
  • 8 small potatoes, halved (I used a mixture of red and yellow)
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large chunks
  • 5 carrots, cut into large chunks (peel if you're fussy)
  • 4 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
  • Penzeys Tuscan Sunset or McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning (or similar salt-free seasoning), as needed


  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Heat olive oil in bottom of French/Dutch oven. Liberally season roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Sear all sides of beef roast. Turn off burner.

  • Put carrots, celery, and potatoes around beef. Scatter onions over beef. Pour a bottle of beer over it all. Sprinkle liberally with your favorite salt-free seasoning.

  • Cover tightly and bake for 3 hours. Serve with pan juices or make a gravy from them.

Before I owned a fancy pot, I used to make this in a broiler pan tightly covered in foil, so don't worry if you don't own a French/Dutch oven. An oven-safe covered casserole would work fine, too, if you have one.


Meatballs With Flax & Almond Flour

I found this recipe for Healthy Baked Meatballs over at Stay At Home Chef ages ago, but I never remembered to buy either the wheat germ or the wheat bran so have had to keep putting off making them. But, with the change in seasons, I've been craving pasta with meatballs. So I just said to myself "Self, you can make do with what you have!" and I did. And I made some pretty nice meatballs! (Although I still fully intend to make these the proper way one day soon).

While these meatballs are firm on the outside, they're still tender on the inside and definitely not at all stodgy. You know sometimes you eat meatballs and they're so dense and heavy that they sit in your stomach like meaty boulders? These are not those balls.

Using my tablespoon-cookie scoop, I managed to get 26 meatballs from the meat mixture and we each ate five for supper the first night with mushroom gravy over buttered noodles. This quick "gravy" was made by adding canned mushrooms, garlic powder, and more salt-free Italian seasoning blend to hot beef stock and then thickening it all with (a little too much) cornstarch. The Husband did not like the gravy, by the way, as he thought it was too much like traditional brown meatloaf gravy ... which he doesn't like. I should have remembered that, right? And thawed some tomato sauce, right? Sixteen years of marriage and I still can't remember these things!

Meatballs With Flax & Almond Flour

Yield: 26 meatballs


  • ½ large red onion
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 lb 85% lean grass fed ground beef
  • ½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp almond flour [Bob's Red Mill]
  • ¼ cup + Tbsp flax meal [Bob's Red Mill]
  • 2 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Penzeys Tuscan Sunset]
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire, as desired [Bourbon Barrel Foods]
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened almond coconut milk blend


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush a half sheet pan (13"x18") with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Add garlic and onion to food processor's work bowl and process until finely chopped.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients to work bowl and process until ingredients are evenly distributed.
  1. Use a tablespoon cookie scoop to shape the meat mixture into balls and place on the baking sheet.
  1. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned, turning over after about 12 minutes of baking to ensure even browning.

Wordless Wednesday: Pumpkin Patch

Stopped at a roadside pumpkin stand to stock up on autumnal Cucurbitaceae!


Top 10 Tuesday: Dear Book Genie ...

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, we've been granted ten wishes by the Book Genie. Supposedly, "if you dream it, the Book Genie can do it" but I've kept my wishes (kinda-sorta) realistic as my almost-forty sensible self is pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy that castle in Narnia or visit to the Dyson Sphere that is the Radch as much as my fangirl self thinks I would!

  • Dear Book Genie, please give me a secret, tax-free and unlimited supply of cash that I may spend on books and book-related things so that The Husband may no longer make sarcastic comments about how many books I've charged to our credit card this week/month/year.
  • Dear Book Genie, please make reading a heart-healthy exercise that also burns as many calories as, say, running and improves my vision, hearing, and general coordination.
  • Dear Book Genie, please grant me a side pocket in time that I could casually pop into whenever I wanted to catch up on my reading, without actually losing any time in this current timeline.
  • Dear Book Genie, please make all books waterproof (while still feeling completely normal to the touch) so I may take them into the bath or pool without being vaguely worried I'll ruin them.
  • Dear Book Genie, please open an independent bookstore in my city that sells the kinds of books I enjoy, has hours that are convenient to me, and will never go out of business for as a long as I continue to reside here.
  • Dear Book Genie, please organize my books in such a way that I can always find the book I'm looking for even when I don't know what book that is.
  • Dear Book Genie, please stop publishers from changing jacket designs or book formats in the middle of a series, because those of us who love our shelves to be all matchy-matchy get really upset.
  • Dear Book Genie, similarly to the above, please don't let audio book publishers switch readers in the middle of a series.
  • Dear Book Genie, I'm sorry to keep going on about series, but please don't let an author die before their series is complete and published.
  • Dear Book Genie, please convince my mother-in-law (and all similarly-minded people) that graphic novels are real books.


Readathon: Mid-Event Survey

What are you reading right now?
Tea, cake, and True Blood break right now! Probably pick up one of the Oz graphic novels after -- haven't read The Road to Oz or The Emerald City of Oz, but its been so long since I read the other four I'm not sure if I can just pick the series up again.

How many books have you read so far?
I've read eight books so far! Seven were graphic novels and while I'm always telling my library patrons that graphic novels (and audiobooks and ebooks) count as "real" books, I feel like I being a little bit of a Readathon lightweight.

What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Sandi Toksvig's Valentine Grey, probably. The Boer War! Homosexuals! Cross-dressing! Empire! Injustice! Oo-de-lally.

Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Few interruptions. I usually just look balefully at The Husband until he goes away. I know he means well -- and a constant supply of tea is helpful -- but I just want to be alone with my books.

What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
    That I'm really disinterested in the social component this year. I just want to read with, yes, hourly(ish) tweets to track my reading. (Seriously, this could be just another weekend at my house).

      O-Sushi-ya-San Gumi DIY Candies

      These Meiji Nigi Nigi Osushiyasan Gumi candies from the April 2015 Okashi Connection subscription box are probably where I should have started my gummi DIY adventure as they're pre-molded in the shape of either vinegared sushi rice balls or sliced seafood -- meguro (tuna), akagai (clam), ikura (salmon roe), ebi (shrimp), ika (squid), tako (octopus), and tamago (egg) -- and require absolutely zero amounts of water droppers or magic powders. All I had to do was stick the gummi pieces together. And eat them, of course.

      Once I got the gummies out of their mold! They were surprisingly sticky, clinging to their mold (and then my fingers) for all they were worth. In addition to being sticky, the seafood gummies are quite soft and I half expected I'd destroy them as I unmolded them. However, they're supremely elastic and quickly returned to their original forms. The rice pieces were attached to each other via little gummi umbilicals and had to be cut apart. I mean, I could probably have just yanked them apart, but cutting seemed more civilized.

      For what seems like a cheap, gimmicky candy, the seafood pieces are very cleanly molded with good detail. I especially enjoyed the adorable wee-ness of the peach-flavored ebi (shrimp) and tako (octopus) pieces. The rice pieces seem more roughly formed with untrimmed excess edging most of them.

      What do these gummi candies taste like? Well, there's a preponderance of banana flavor as that's what all the "rice" gummies are flavored as, but the banana does play pretty well with the peach and lemon "seafood" gummies. Unfortunately, I don't really know how to rate the banana, because it's not a flavor I've encountered before in gummi form. It's mild? With a note of vanilla? The peach flavor is quite good, however, and tastes rather like a real peach, but the lemon is weirdly chemical and makes me think of a lemon-scented cleanser.

      Eating these reminds me of how much I do enjoy gummi candy and makes me want to go visit the pick 'n' mix!


      Improv Challenge: Halloweeny Orange & Black Marble Cake

      October's Improv Challenge theme is orange and black so I baked a cake ... a marbled cake which is a cake I'd never attempted before because artistic swirls and flourishes are not really my thing. And by "not my thing" I mean "a thing I've never tried, because it looks fancy and I'm bound to mess it up." But what's the point of doing a challenge if it doesn't encourage me to move outside my comfort zone?

      This marbled cake is based on a classic sponge cake and is light, fluffy and totally yum (The Husband really likes it and that's no small thing) that I've tarted up with orange zest, cocoa powder, and gel colors. While my marbling isn't as awesome most of the marbled cakes you'll see on, say, Pinterest I'm still quite pleased with the results and have satisfactorily conquered my fear of marbling. Next time, though, I might try three colors and swirl the batter just a bit more vigorously.

      Orange & Black Marble Cake

      Yield: 8 slices


      • 8 oz unsalted butter, softened
      • 8 oz superfine sugar
      • 4 eggs
      • 8 oz self-rising flour
      • 3 Tbsp milk
      • ½ tsp orange extract
      • Zest of 1 orange
      • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
      • ½ tsp vanilla extract
      • Black and orange gel paste food colors


      • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and milk into the bowl of your food processor and whizz around until everything is smooth.

      • Divide the cake batter evenly between 2 bowls. Stir the cocoa powder and vanilla into one of the batter bowls. Stir orange extract and zest into the other. Slowly whisk black gel paste into cocoa batter, adding a little at a time, until the batter is blacker than a moonless night. Repeat with the orange batter and gel paste, until that batter is as orange as The Great Pumpkin.

      • Using two spoons, plop batters into the baking pan in a checkerboard(ish) pattern. Gently tap the baking pan against your counter edge to remove any air bubbles and help spread the batters up against the edge of the tin. Swirl a skewer or knife through the mixture to create a marbled effect.

      • Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake form the oven and let cool it completely on a rack. When cool, cut into 8-pieces and serve with orange or vanilla infused whipped cream.


      Wordless Wednesday: Silly Gravestones

      Today I learned the differences between a headstone, a gravestone, and a tombstone.


      Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

      The fact that someone had decided I’d be safer on Mars, where you could still only SORT OF breathe the air and SORT OF not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well.

      When the Morrors showed up and said they could cool down the overheated earth and save humanity, humanity understandably rejoiced. But the Morrors (rhymes with horrors?) really meant they were going to bring on a new ice age, making the earth inhospitable to humans, and perfectly hospitable to Morrors. And so began a long and nasty war ... and the humans have been losing ground.

      Alice, daughter of the famous fighter pilot Captain Dare, has been shipped off to a (partially) terraformed and (sorta-kinda) habitable Mars with a bunch of other kids to continue their education from a place of safety. Except, of course, it turns out Mars might not be all that safe. There's weirdness afoot. And then all the adults disappear.

      Mars Evacuees was an absolutely delightful read. Funny and smart, with lots of relatable female characters and careful, skillful world-building. And, yes, while the story was a mad romp, it also deftly handled heavy issues like war, racism, and gender.

      There was no part of this novel I did not enjoy (well, except for a few bleak bits when SPOILERS but that was perfectly understandable) and I am completely chuffed to know there is a sequel, Space Hostages, in the works. As a child, I read lots of "soft" sci-fi like This Place Has No Atmosphere, The Dancing Meteorite, and Orvis and I'm pretty darn certain eleven-year-old me would have adored this book, too. Perky talking floating robotic goldfish! Hooray!

      Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall (Harper, 2014)


      Choctoberfest: Chocolate & Berry Bark

      Choctoberfest and a household divided. Shall I throw down the olive branch cocoa nibs of peace and work with more milk chocolate for my last #Choctoberfest post? The Husband prefers milk chocolate, you see, and I very much prefer dark (and the darker the better, baby). As I am the baker and cook in this house, I tend to bake with a lot of dark chocolate and then take my creations off to work with me, because I can't (shouldn't?) eat a whole pan of cookies or whatnot on my own and my coworkers are verrrry enthusiastic eaters. The Husband clearly feels left out and tends to get a bit ... complainy. If I loved him, really properly loved him, then surely I would bake chocolatey things he liked?

      So I withheld snarky comments about unsophisticated palates and made this chocolate bark with The Husband's preferred flavors in mind -- milk chocolate, blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, and hazelnuts. Because I love him. Or I'm trying to give him diabetes. It might amount to the same thing.


      Anyway, this was my first attempt at chocolate bark and it would probably never have happened were it not for #Choctoberfest! It turns out it's dead easy to make, albeit a bit time consuming, and I really wish I'd tried it sooner. My imagination is afire with possible flavor combinations and I suspect this is something I'm going make quite often through the fall and winter. At the very least, it's a delicious way to use up those dribs and drabs of dried fruit and nuts lurking in the back of the baking cupboard!

      I'd read a little bit more about chocolate -- my library has some really helpful books, including The Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook -- by the time I decided to make this bark, so I was reasonably sure decent-quality milk chocolate morsels could be used instead of the "fancy" melting chips I used when I made the chocolate dipped glacé apricots.

      Chocolate & Berry Bark


      • 11.5 oz package milk chocolate baking chips [Ghiradelli]
      • ⅓ cup freeze-dried strawberry slices
      • ⅓ cup freeze-dried blackcurrants
      • ⅓ cup freeze-dried raspberries
      • ⅓ cup crushed salted roasted hazelnuts


      1. Line a 13x9" rimmed baking sheet (quarter sheet pan) with parchment paper.
      2. Place milk chocolate morsels in a large microwave-safe bowl; microwave on High 30 seconds; stir well and repeat until wafers are smooth.
      3. Pour chocolate out onto parchment paper and, using an offset spatula, spread to form a rectangle of even thickness.
      4. Artistically arrange berries and nuts across the melted chocolate.
      5. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes. Break or cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container in fridge.
      This bark is best eaten within a day or two of making as the dehydrated berries will soften and become more chewy as they are exposed to the moisture from the chocolate.

      Don't forget today is THE LAST DAY to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


      Choctoberfest: Barlean's Mint Chocolate Pudding

      For Choctoberfest, the super awesome folks at Barlean's sent me the most delightful box of Chocolate Silk Greens and Chocolate-Mint Essential Woman Omega Swirl Supplement.
      • Barlean’s Chocolate Silk Greens, a new product, are great to use in smoothies, for hot chocolate, in coffee, and can be added in cookies, protein bars, and puddings. It has 5 servings of vegetables and antioxidants with important vitamins and minerals and no sugar. It’s dairy and soy free and has superfoods in it. There’s different flavors to chose from too, but since this is Choctoberfest we're obviously working with the chocolate-flavored Greens!
      • Omega Swirl is a blend of Organic Evening Primrose Oil and Organic Flaxseed Oil and contains essential Omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. While it tastes all sweet and chocolaty, Chocolate-Mint Essential Woman Omega Swirl is sweetened naturally with xylitol so it's actually sugar-free and contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than regular table sugar.
      I'm already familiar with both Barlean's Flaxseed Oil and Orange Cream Total Omega Swirl 3-6-9 Supplement and unflavored Flaxseed Oil, so I was excited to try the Chocolate-Mint Omega Swirl ... but I wasn't sure about the Greens! I had zero experience with the greens and, to be honest, my "cooking" with the Omega Swirl was limited to stirring it into yoghurt, pudding, and oatmeal. How was I going to combine these ingredients with others in a way that was tasty and didn't make the folks at Barlean's regret they'd ever sent me anything?

      While I was pretty sure no-one wanted a recipe for a mint chocolate milkshake (simply because it's too obvious to need a recipe) I thought a pudding -- a mint chocolate pudding fortified with Silk Greens and flavored with Omega Swirl -- might fly with you all. There's actual cooking in pudding-making, after all, and I'd made enough puds in the past that I (probably) knew what I was doing and (probably) wouldn't create a horrible mutant pudding that would make Barlean's come to my house and repossess my container of Greens.

      Anyway, I think this pudding turned out really well! Dark and rich (but not heavy) with a beautiful color, it was dead easy to make and keeps well, covered, in the fridge. If you prefer a sweeter, more mild pudding (more like the instant mix stuff), feel free to boost the sugar and/or use milk chocolate morsels.

      Barlean's Mint Chocolate Pudding

      Serves 4


      • 2 cups plain almond coconut milk blend
      • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
      • ¼ cup dark cocoa powder
      • ¼ semisweet chocolate morsels
      • 2 Tbsp granulated white sugar, such as Imperial Sugar
      • 1 tsp espresso powder
      • 2 scoops Barlean's Chocolate Silk Greens
      • 1 Tbsp Barlean's Chocolate-Mint Essential Woman Omega Swirl Supplement
      • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
      • Raspberries and fresh mint, for garnish


      1. Whisk together ½ cup milk and cornstarch in small bowl. Set aside.
      2. Add remaining 1½ cups milk, cocoa, chocolate morsels, sugar, espresso powder, and Greens in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook, whisking regularly, over medium heat until the morsels have melted.
      3. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and cook over medium-low heat, whisking regularly, until pudding thickens and begins to boil.
      4. Remove pan from heat and quickly whisk in Omega Swirl and vanilla.
      5. Divide pudding evenly between four small bowls or dessert dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Serve garnished with raspberries and mint, if desired.

      If you're feeling inspired to try cooking with Barlean's Greens, you should consider subscribing to Barlean's Better Life newsletter which is full of product information, tips, offers, and coupons!

      Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


      Read-a-Thon is Coming!

      It’s October and you know what that means! Or, maybe you don’t, since I haven’t actually blogged about Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon since 2011. Well, it’s time for Read-a-thon! Yes, commencing at 8 AM on October 17 I will read for 24 hours … or die trying.

      No. I kid. Commencing at 8 AM on Oct 17 I will make a concerted effort to read nonstop for 24 hours, fully realizing that it’s not going to happen, and I’ll actually lose a big chunk of the afternoon to napping. This is how Read-a-thon goes for me. There’s no point in fighting it. I’m also still recovering from surgery and pretty TIRED ALL THE TIME (pesky bodies and their need to rest as they heal) so I might be grossly underestimating the amount of napping I’ll be doing. Optimistically, I anticipate a day that looks a bit like this:


      But it may be more like this:


      What am I going to read? So many things! I’d love to catch up with the Victorian Bingo, Back to the Classics, and No Book Buying challenges ... but my shelves are also cluttered with a prodigious quantity of unread comics and graphic novels I should really take a crack at!

      Commonsense says to alternate between the two, but experience tells me to take the comic books as far as I can, because any one Victorian novel is likely to trigger the long nap. It’s not the Victorians fault. It’s merely that neither Mary Barton nor Great Expectations are the kind of literature I should be ingesting while staying up for 24 hours. I’m not as young as I used to be, you know.

      Books in my Read-a-thon pile:

      • Avengers Assemble: Science Bros
      • Gotham Academy, Volume 1
      • Marvel Emma
      • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
      • Marvel Sense & Sensibility
      • Ms Marvel Volume 1
      • Oz Emerald City of Oz
      • Travels of Lady Bulldog Burton
      • Rat Queens, Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth
      • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
      • She-Hulk, Volume 1: Law & Disorder
      • Texts from Jane Eyre
      • Thor, Volume 1
      • Valentine Grey

      Choctoberfest: Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

      The generous folks at Imperial Sugar sent me a case of their extra fine granulated pure cane sugar for #Choctoberfest. In case you're not impressed by that, let me point out that a case of Imperial Sugar is forty pounds of sugar. Think of all the things I can create with that amount of sugar! Think of all the cups of tea The Husband can sweeten with the bits he "borrows!" Seriously though, The Husband likes his black tea sweet and too often I have gone to bake something only to find the bottom of the sugar canister coated with the merest scraping of sugar as "someone" has drunk up the rest. That's not going to happen now. Even he can't use that much sugar in his tea!

      Astounded by Imperial Sugar's generosity, I decided to bake meringue cookies with their sugar as it's such a simple recipe -- not much more than eggs and sugar -- and I thought it would give the sugar a chance to shine. Sugar doesn't just make these meringue cookies sweetly delicious, but it binds with the egg proteins, increasing their strength and elasticity, creating the fluffiest meringue. Science!

      While I've made meringue with regular ol' granulated sugar, it can give the meringue a grainy texture which is not terrible in something like Eton Mess, where the meringue is smashed up and mixed with many other ingredients, but I didn't want gritty cookies. Imperial Sugar doesn't seem to make a superfine sugar, so I just whirred the Imperial Sugar granulated white around in my food processor until it resembled fine beach sand. This doesn't take long to do and allows me to feel even more smug about my kitchen skills.

      These cookies are a trifle on the large size -- I like a generous cookie -- so you might want to use teaspoonfuls instead of tablespoons if you prefer a more delicate and ladylike cookie. Also, you could mix some cocoa powder in with the chips and raspberries for a more chocolaty meringue.

      Also, feel free to use semisweet or bittersweet (yessss) chocolate in these cookies. The Husband does not enjoy dark chocolate and I love The Husband and want him to be happy, so I stuck with milk.

      Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

      Yield: Approximately 2 dozen cookies


      • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
      • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
      • pinch salt
      • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
      • 4 oz white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
      • 1 oz freeze-dried raspberries
      • 5 oz milk chocolate morsels


      1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
      2. Using your fingers, gently break the raspberries so none remain whole, being careful not to crush them into dust. Set aside.
      3. Pour white sugar into your food processor and whir around until it resembles fine beach sand. Set aside.
      4. In the scrupulously clean and dry bowl of your stand mixer, use the wire whisk attachment to whip egg whites with cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla until the whites form soft peaks.
      5. Slowly add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and mixture becomes very white and glossy.
      6. Gently fold in the crushed raspberries and chocolate chips, taking care not to deflate the batter.
      7. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls on to the parchment paper.
      8. Bake for 1½ hours, rotating the pans from top-to-bottom and front-to-back halfway through baking.
      9. Turn off the heat and let the meringues cool completely in oven, about 2 hours.

      If the cookies stick to the paper when you try to remove them then they are not baked properly. Reheat the oven to 200°F, put the cookies back in, and then turn off oven. Leave for about 2 hours and they should be fine.

      These cookies will keep well in an airtight container on your kitchen counter for several weeks ... if they last that long!

      Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


      Choctoberfest: Dark Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

      For today’s #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar recipe, I’ve used dried tart cherries, toasted slivered almonds, and bittersweet chocolate morsels in a scrumptious crisp-yet-slightly-chewy oatmeal cookie. Warm, crispy-on-the-outside-with-slightly-chewy-inside oatmeal cookie are my weakness. Freshly baked chocolate chip? Peanut butter? Snickerdoodle? Sugar? They’re all fine, but I don’t feel I NEED to eat them. But a warm oatmeal cookie? I go full Cookie Monster.

      These cookies use a combination of brown sugar and white granulated Imperial Sugar. Brown sugar tends to make baked goods more moist and white makes them crisp so I thought using the two I might give me the combination of crisp-yet-chewy combo I craved. In this, I think I was quite successful and may try combining brown and white sugars in other chewy cookie recipes.

      If you’ve not toasted almonds before, fear not for it is quite easy! Just heat your oven to 350°F. Lay the nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and golden. You do need to keep an eye on them, because they will burn, but stirring every few minutes seems to help with that. You can also toast almonds in a skillet, but I tend to burn them when I try the skillet method!

      If you don't have access to white whole wheat flour, all-purpose is a fine substitute. I use white whole wheat simply because it makes me feel more virtuous and no-one I bake for can tell the difference between cookies baked with white whole wheat and all-purpose. They can spot "regular" whole wheat recipes from a mile away, though, and turn their noses up every time. Ugh. Picky people.

      Anyway, to the cookies!

      Dark Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

      Yield: 2 dozen cookies


      • ⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
      • ¾ cup white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
      • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
      • 1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
      • 1 large egg
      • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
      • 1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
      • 1 tsp espresso powder
      • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
      • ¾ tsp baking powder
      • ½ tsp baking soda
      • ½ tsp salt
      • ⅓ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
      • ⅓ cup dried tart cherries
      • ⅓ cup toasted slivered almonds


      • Preheat oven to 350°F.
      • Beat butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugars, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating until blended.
      • Whisk together flour, cocoa, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in chips, cherries, and nuts.

      • Drop dough by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto parchment paper-line baking sheets.

      • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool completely.

      Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


      Choctoberfest: Chocolate Dipped Apricots

      Munson's Chocolates, a Connecticut chocolate company that's been around since 1946, makes the most decadently delicious chocolates and chocolate-based confections. Their stores are a kind of dangerous paradise for chocolate lovers, I tell you, because it's so very easy to leave with so much more than you intended. During the bitter give-me-all-your-comfort-foods-now winter months, I like to nibble my way through a box of chocolate brickle -- a delectable blend of brown sugar toffee, almonds, pecans, and walnuts drizzled with milk, dark, and white chocolate -- but the chocolate covered apricots are my hands down favorite year-round. Plump, juicy glacé ‎apricots enrobed in rich dark chocolate ... yum!

      Chocolate + glace apricots = superdelicousyumwithknobson

      It should be no surprise then that I thought #Choctoberfest would be the perfect time to try my hand at chocolate covered apricots! I knew I didn't want to use the regular ol' dried apricots you find at the grocery store, but the posher (and more correct) glacé ‎apricots. I found a tin at Williams-Sonoma, but the price just about made me cry, so I ended up purchasing them online from for a much more reasonable price. The apricots are beautiful -- plump, luscious fruit -- and taste just lovely all on their own. Obviously, as they're preserved in a sugar syrup (that makes them glacé), they're a bit more like eating apricot candy than, say, a health food and you might not want to eat more than one at a time lest you find yourself buzzing around like a hummingbird.

      Superduper awesome glacé apricot on the left & boring ol' regular dried apricot on the right

      I'm just saying glacé apricots are a bit sweet. But totally crave-worthy. It's like some cunning soul took a regular ol' apricot and infused it with a mixture of honey and liquid sunlight. It's the kind of thing you need to eat in the darkest, bitterest heart of winter.

      Delicious chocolate of melting ... and nibbling!

      For chocolate, I used Ghiradelli's dark chocolate melting wafers. I considered using bittersweet chips, but worried the chocolate would be too brittle when it set. I'd never made chocolate dipped fruit before, you know, and I didn't want to mess it up. The melting wafers are advertised as the "trusty recipe go-to for consistent baking and candy-making results" and that sounded pretty good to me! Maybe one day, when I'm all into home chocolate-making, I'll splash out for some couverture chocolate, but melting wafers are just fine for this pessimistic noob. (I mean, I'm not sure where I thought I could go wrong with this recipe -- maybe, blow up the microwave? -- but I was all full of trepidation the first time through!)

      Dark Chocolate Dipped Apricots


      • 5 oz dark chocolate melting wafers
      • 12 oz glacé ‎apricots


      1. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
      2. Melt chocolate chips in a microwave-safe glass bowl on High 30 seconds; stir well and repeat until wafers are smooth.
      3. Working one at a time, dip about ¾ of an apricot into the melted chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Place on baking sheet.
      4. Repeat with remaining apricots and chocolate.
      5. Place in refrigerator until set, at least 20 minutes.
      6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

      You will note that some of my apricots are ¾-dipped and some are wholly enrobed in chocolate. This is because, as I came to the bottom of the chocolate bowl, it became harder to dip the apricots so I ended up laying them in the bowl and spooning chocolate over them before moving them to the tray.

      Ignore my Christmas cupcake papers ... but these would make a nice Christmas gift ...

      While I am mostly pleased with my endeavor, I must say that the chocolate wasn't dark enough for me the first time 'round -- especially considering the sweetness of the glacé apricots -- so, the second time, I used 4 oz dark chocolate melting wafers and 1 oz bittersweet chips. This was a definitely closer to what I had in mind!

      I can imagine doing this with other glacé fruits like pineapple or peaches. Or figs! Mmm ... glacé figs!

      Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!