Sunday, April 13, 2014

Leek, Zucchini & White Bean Soup for Blustery Spring Days and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It's been a blustery weekend. Grey more often than not, bursts of hard rain followed by smaller spurts and drizzles, wind gusts last night that rattled up against the slats of the jalousie windows of my house and woke me up a few times. Of course this being Hawaii, the sun keeps making an appearance between showers to remind me where I live or maybe just to tease and taunt a bit. I am not complaining--I like blustery, and I like the rainier than average days here--they are a pleasant break from the norm and they are optimal soup weather. 

I have been reading/cooking from Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney (daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney). It's full of simple, meat-free food, beautifully photographed by Mary. I loved her Coconut Rice Pudding which I made with dried cherries and pistachios. This simple soup caught my eye. Leeks always appeal to me--few ingredients smell better when they hit a pan with butter or oil. With the leeks and the zucchini, this soup warms the body and soul and seems to beckon sunnier days. 

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe--noted in red below.

Mary says, "I love the subtle blend of flavors in this soup. If I don't have any zucchini, I sometimes use green beans instead and that works really well."

Leek, Zucchini and White Bean Soup
Adapted from Food by Mary McCartney
(Makes Aprox. 4 Servings)

2 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp coconut oil)
2 medium leeks, trimmed, ashed and finely chopped
2 medium zucchini (aprox. 14 oz), finely diced
1 stalk celery, trimmed and finely chopped
15 oz can white beans (I added a second can of cannellini beans at the end)
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs (I added 1 tsp Herbes de Provence: savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon and lavender flowers)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gently fry leeks until they are soft and golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in zucchini, celery and white beans and fry another 4 minutes or so. Pour in vegetable stock and add herbs, mixing well. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Puree with a handheld blender or cool soup slightly and puree in batches in a blender. (Or serve soup chunky depending on preference.) (Because I like a mix of brothy/chunky/pureed, I blended about 2/3 of the soup and then added an additional can of beans to the mix and cooked it for another 10 minutes.) Reheat if needed, taste for seasoning and add salt or black pepper if needed. Serve.

Notes/Results: This is one of those soups that makes you feel nourished and cared for just by eating it. Thick, brothy, beany, with a savory herbal flavor. It was by accident that I added a teaspoon of the herbes de Provence instead of the 1/2 teaspoon called for but I think the soup benefited from it. I also liked the texture with deciding to blend a good portion of it, then add another can of beans to the mix after blending. It gave it a satisfying chunkiness but with enough of the broth so that it wasn't too smooth and mushy--so I would keep that change as well. In the photo in the book it looked as though Mary McCartney had stirred a touch of cream in the soup and I liked the look of it so I used a bit of coconut creamer on top of mine to keep it vegan. If you don't care about that I think some grated parmesan would also be lovely on top. I would make this again. 

Just one friend waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week, lets see what she brought.

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food made this Cordyceps Chicken Soup (cordyceps is a type of mushroom/fungi) and says, "It was the first and last time I bought cordyceps. Rather, Mom bought them...for me.Gosh. So super duper exorbitantly expensive! I was not aware of the cordyceps "market situation". It was the last time as I will not be consuming it regularly for its claimed benefits (even if what good it does to the body is indeed true). Often the classic cordyceps chicken soup is doubled-boiled with chicken, cordyceps, sometimes with red dates and gojiberries. However, I did it quite differently - without dates and gojiberries. Instead, some carrots and woodear mushrooms were added to my version (which is actually an idea inspired by a friend). Luckily, the soup turned out great without being overpowered by the sweetness of carrots and earthiness of mushrooms."  

Thanks to Tigerfish for joining in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my sidebar for all of the details. 

Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nigel Slater's Goat Cheese Bubble and Squeak--Served with Salmon & 'Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce'

British food has the best names--like bangers & mash, toad in the hole, Eton mess, spotted Dick, the list goes on and on... I am sure it is much easier to get a child to the table when you are making bubble & squeak rather than calling it fried cabbage and potato cakes. ;-) This week we are making foods that are 'Fit for a Brit!' at I Heart Cooking Clubs, finding and making Nigel Slater recipes for more traditional British fare. 

We are going traditional-ish here at Kahakai Kitchen. Nigel Slater's version of Cheese Bubble & Squeak from Tender adds a less common ingredient--goat cheese--to the potato cake mix. Nigel says that two of these patties with a spinach salad  are ample as a main course, but I was thinking they would be a happy side dish for some grilled salmon. White fish would have been more 'traditional' for a British fish dinner, and while I have cod in the freezer, I was feeling the salmon instead. To green things up a bit, I went back to the 'Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce' from Nigel that I made for his '30-Minute Fish Supper' a few years ago when we read  "Eating for England" for Cook the Books. (Note: If delving deeper into the subject of British food interests you, Slater's 'Eating for England' is an entertaining and humorous romp that you should check out.)

(From Tender) Nigel says, "Bubbles, squeaks and rumbledethumps: Colcannon, rumbledethumps, pyttipanna, biksmad, roupa velha, and stampot--the local names used throughout Europe intrigue and delight but they all describe the same thing, a stir up of potatoes and greens. In some cases, the two components are served freshly mixed; in others they are fried or baked to acquire a crust. Either way, this is good food at its most frugal. The ingredients may be cooked fresh or taken from yesterday's leftovers. Roupa velha is Portuguese for 'old clothes'.

"Bubble and squeak is generally shaped into rounds and fried in a pan, or left in one large cake, which looks splendid but is difficult to turn in the pan. Either way, the name comes from the sound it makes as it fries in the pan."   

Goat Cheese Bubble and Squeak
(Makes 4 Cakes: Enough for 2)
greens of choice (Savoy cabbage here) --7 oz (200g)
cooked potato -- 3/4 cup (200g) coarsely mashed
goat cheese -- 3 1/2 oz (100g)
nutmeg (optional), salt and pepper to taste
all-purpose flour --1 Tbsp + extra for coating patties
a little olive oil

Wash greens thoroughly, then cook in deep salted water until bright green and tender. Drain carefully and coarsely chop, discarding any tough stalks. 

Mix the mashed potatoes and greens, then cut/crumble goat cheese into small pieces and add to the potatoes and greens. Season generously with salt, black pepper, and if you wish, a very little nutmeg. Stir in the tablespoon of flour. 

Divide the mixture into fourths and shape each one into a rough patty 2 1/2 - 3 inches (6 to 7.5cm) in diameter and about 1/4-inch (6mm) thick. Put patties on a lightly floured plate, turning them once in the flour. 

Put a thin layer of olive oil in a shallow, non-stick pan. Get it hot, then lower the patties into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until golden and lightly crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve.

Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce
Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater
(Makes about 3/4 cup)
A blender salsa verde is another idea. The piquancy of the capers and the saltiness of the anchovy are singularly appropriate with the white fish. My basic recipe is to whiz all of most of the following in the blender: the leaves from a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley and a few sprigs of mint, 6 anchovy fillets, a couple of cloves of garlic, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, a couple of tablespoons of capers, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Now pour in enough olive oil to reduce it all to a lumpy slurry the color of that green stuff that floats on the pond in summer. Taste and check; you might find you want it with more mustard or lemon.

Notes/Results: Crispy, golden crust, soft and creamy within--these are some yummy little potato cakes. The bites of goat cheese add just the right amount of tangy to the mix. I'm not normally a nutmeg fan and Nigel has had me using it twice so far since it was in last week's pasta. I didn't use a lot of it in these cakes but I think it did give them a little something extra as it did in the Alfredo sauce. He may just convert me. ;-) 

I would have been happy with the potato cakes as the entree, although they paired nicely with the salmon and sauce. The verde sauce stands up well to the salmon's flavor and the whole dinner worked well. In retrospect, if serving them as a side again, I would make the patties smaller. I didn't really measure/weigh my cabbage or potato, using one small head of savoy cabbage and a fairly large russet potato and I got six good-sized patties. I think some of the extras will be crisped up for breakfast tomorrow with a runny egg on top. A great use for leftover potatoes and greens but worth cooking them up for too, I will make them again. 

You can see what Nigel Slater dishes the other IHCC participants found Fit for a Brit! by checking out the picture links on the post. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Mind of Winter" by Laura Kasischke with Coconut Rice Pudding with Dried Cherries & Pistachios

"She woke up late that morning and knew: 

Something had followed them home from Russia"

--Mind of Winter, Laura Kasischke 

So begins Mind of Winter, a riveting new novel by Laura Kasischke. It's a snowy Christmas morning and Holly and her husband wake up in a panic. Eric runs out the door, late to pick up his elderly parents and although Holly wants to find a pen and paper and capture these strange thoughts, she has a houseful of company coming--Eric's parents and siblings, his annoying co-worker and family, and Holly's friend and her partner with their little daughter. Holly is surprised her teenage daughter Tatiana didn't wake them up but 'Tatty'--adopted from a Russian orphanage as a baby, seems distant and different today. Peaceful snow soon turns into a blizzard, Eric is stuck at the hospital with his ailing parents, and it becomes apparent that no one will be making it to Christmas dinner. Holly is left in the house with an ever-changing Tatiana and the suspense builds as quickly as the storm outside.  

Publisher's Blurb:

"Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author of The Raising, returns Mind of Winter, a dark and chilling thriller that combines domestic drama with elements of psychological suspense and horror—an addictive tale of denial and guilt that is part Joyce Carol Oates and part Chris Bohjalian.

On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.

As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behavior becomes increasingly frightening . . . until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter."

When I signed up for this book tour I was looking for something scary and liked how this novel was described as a psychological thriller with elements of horror. In my mind I was picturing a creepy tale, similar to the film Orphan--probably due to the Russian orphan thing. Although weighted more on the domestic drama/psychological suspense side of things than truly horror-book-and-movie-scary, Mind of Winter is definitely eerie. The suspense is built page-by-page with a few twists and turns, and plenty of questions about what is real and what only exists in Holly's mind. The book is told from Holly's point of view going between current day and the past, both Holly's tragic life before Eric and Tatiana, and the couple's experience of adopting Baby Tatty and her childhood. Since we meet Tatiana through Holly's eyes, it is hard to form a strong connection to her but this works for the suspense as we begin to question what is driving her strange behaviors. When those behaviors are cataloged in Holly's mind along with the small odd things that have been happening over the years since they returned from Russia, she begins to question if she really knows her daughter. The ending hits with a bang and a bit unexpectedly, but in going back and thinking about the book there are subtle clues that lead up to it. The ending was a little frustrating for me--answering some of my questions but leaving me with many more. It just added to my overall angst and feeling of disquiet but that is certainly suitable for this kind of story and how it should leave the reader feeling. ;-) Mind of Winter is my first book from author Laura Kasischke and it won't be my last--her writing drew me in and made this novel hard to put down.

Author Notes: Laura Kasischke teaches in the University of Michigan MFA program and the Residential College. She has published seven collections of poetry and seven novels. She lives with her family in Chelsea, Michigan.

For my usual dish inspired by the book, I needed something comforting to soothe my angst. The food mentions in the book were mainly related to the holiday dinner Holly was preparing and nothing really caught my eye there. One of the most comforting dishes I can think of is a creamy rice pudding. At one point, Holly is looking out at her dormant roses, covered for the winter in her yard, and one of them was called Cherry Parfait. I decided to make a rice pudding with cherries and I love the pairing of cherry and pistachio.

For the base rice pudding, I used a recipe I tagged to make in a new-to-me cookbook, Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCartney--found the discount table at Barnes & Noble for $7.98. (A happy find since I had picked this one up a few times but just couldn't justify the full price in my budget.) The Coconut Rice Pudding with Chocolate Sauce caught my eye and although the chocolate sauce topping sounded great, I went with dried cherries plumped up nicely in the pudding and topped with more cherries, chopped pistachios and some additional coconut pieces. My changes to the recipe are in red below. 

Coconut Rice Pudding with Dried Cherries & Pistachios
Adapted from Food by Mary McCartney
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup aborio or short-grain rice
1 (14.5 oz) can coconut milk (+ extra if needed/desired)
2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup raw superfine sugar (I used 2 Tbsp agave)
1 tsp vanilla extract
(I added 1 tsp almond extract)
2 Tbsp dessicated coconut (optional)
(1/3 cup dried cherries + a few extra to garnish)
(2 Tbsp each chopped pistachio & coconut 'chips' to garnish)

In a large-ish, heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the rice and coconut milk, rinsing out the empty coconut milk can with 2 tablespoons of water and adding it to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Stir well, then add the sugar (agave) vanilla extract, almond extract and coconut if using. 

Simmer gently, stirring often for 15-20 minutes or until rice is cooked through and liquid absorbed. (Add dried cherries for last 5 minutes of cooking time. Note: If needed or you like a 'wetter' rice pudding, add additional coconut milk or water to get your desired consistency.)

Serve in bowls with a few additional dried cherries, chopped pistachio and toasted coconut 'chips' on top.

Notes/Results: Creamy comfort-food goodness, sure to soothe any angst or calm those book-shattered nerves. I have used coconut milk often in my rice puddings--I prefer the sweetness it lends to the dish. Adding the dessicated coconut gave it another layer texture that was nice with the creamy rice and juicy pieces of the plumped up dried cherries. With the pistachio and the crunchy larger 'chips' of toasted coconut on top, this rice pudding was quite tasty. I do plan to try the chocolate sauce-drizzled version but I was very happy with my changes and would make it again. 

Note: A review copy of "Mind of Winter" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own. 

You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other readers thought here


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tortilla Soup from "Real Food Daily's": It's What I'm Craving for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was all set to make the Creamy Broccoli Soup with Red Pepper Crème from The Real Food Daily Cookbook: Really Fresh, Really Good, Really Vegetarian. Then, when doing a final check of the ingredients for my shopping list, the Tortilla Soup caught my eye. The heart and stomach want what the heart and stomach want and mine wanted tortilla soup. The broccoli soup will wait. ;-) I've made a half-dozen tortilla soups on the blog. This one is thick and flavorful and quite tasty topped with thin fried tortilla chips, chunks of avocado, thinly-sliced radish and cilantro.  

Ann Gentry says, "There are two basic types of tortilla soup: one is brothy, and the other is a heartier soup thickened with corn tortillas. I really love love the second kind. Many of the folks working in my kitchens bragged about their hometown or family versions, so I set up a little contest to come up with the best tortilla soup. This hearty version came out the big winner. If you like a thinner soup, use fewer tortillas. And if you'd like to make this soup less spicy, cut away the veins and seeds from the jalapeño chile.

Tortilla Soup
The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry
(Makes 6 to 8 Servings)

1 Tbsp canola oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jalapeño chile, finely chopped
2 Tbsp tamari
2 tsp ground cumin (I used double)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano (I used double)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 cups vegetable stock or water
1 lb tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used canned fire-roasted)
1/3 cup tomato paste
8 corm tortillas, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
crispy tortilla strips & avocado to garnish (+ fresh lime wedges & sliced radish)

Heat oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the jalapeño chile, tamari, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper and saute 1 minute longer. Stir in stock, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender. Add the tortillas and simmer 10 minutes longer, or until the tortillas are falling apart. 

Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the soup in the pot until smooth. Alternatively, working in batches puree in a regular blender. Stir in the cilantro.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with tortilla strips and avocado and serve with a lime wedge or too.
Note: The soup will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Notes/Results: Thick and satisfying with plenty of flavor and a subtle kick from the jalapeño. I did add extra amounts of cumin and oregano, and since the local fresh tomatoes were not looking particularly red and perky this week, I used canned fire-roasted tomatoes. Besides the usual avocado and tortilla strips, I used some leftover radishes, thinly-sliced for crunch. I also prefer a bit of lime juice to brighten things up. If you didn't care if the soup is vegan, some crumbled Mexican cheese is always nice too. I would make this again. 

Soups and a salad await in the Souper Sundays kitchen, let's take a look.

Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm is here with Pork & Lamb Thupka. She says, "Thupka is a dish of eastern Nepalese origin that is very popular throughout Nepal and Tibet. Additionally, it has become popular in Bhutan and the Indian states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh along the Chinese border as well as the Ladakh region of Kashmir. It's basically a noodle soup. Although vegetarian and chicken versions exist, it is most often made with yak, lamb, beef or pork. The varieties are endless as it can be made with any variety of vegetables and meat.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes says, "So, is it spring by your house?  Even though I stubbornly changed out my winter clothes and replaced them with spring and summer clothes, and attempted to wear them, Mother Nature did not cooperate. Which means, it’s still soup weather. I still have a zillion pounds of beans from year of beans from Rancho Gordo, so I knew I wanted something with beans. When I found Sausage and White Bean Chili from Fine Cooking, it sounded like a winner and it was!  It had the flavors of sausage and white beans which I love and then gave it the whole chili flare. I finally found some of the queso fresco cheese that I’ve been looking for. What an interesting cheese. I love how it doesn’t melt. It adds a nice creaminess to this soup."

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a dairy-free Creamy Miso Butternut Squash Soup using soft tofu and red miso. She says, "Sometimes, a dish can be "discovered" in unexpected ways: when the fridge is almost cleared of perishables such as milk and leafy greens before going on a short vacation; then just after you have returned and have not even get the time to stock up on some fresh produce/groceries to replenish the fridge, you suddenly realized you need to start cooking!"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brings hearty White Bean and Ham Soup and says, "Let us say goodbye and good riddance to the cold and dreary days of winter. It's finally Spring weather and yes, I know my buddies in the southern hemisphere are having different weather conditions, but here...I am celebrating the last of the chilly weather with a hearty soup. I surely won't have this one once it's hot and humid. Inspiration is from my friend in Carlucet France who, along with her lovely daughter, sent me a French care package."

And one hearty salad from Janet of The Taste Space, this pretty, healthy and green, almond-topped Asparagus and Edamame Salad with Lime-Miso Dressing. Janet says, "I crafted a fun twist with spring’s new bounty of asparagus. I paired it with edamame for some additional protein and toasted almonds for crunch and drizzled it with a miso-lime vinaigrette."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nigel Slater's 'Needs Must' Fettuccine Alfredo

It's our first week cooking along with Nigel Slater at I Heart Cooking Clubs and we are making any of his recipes to welcome him and kick things off for the next six months. I have been a Nigel Slater fan for awhile now, have several of his cookbooks and have made several of his recipe over the years (check out his label on my side bar if you want to see them). 

I had narrowed down my welcome dish choices to a handful of recipes but then I was paging through my newest Nigel book, the gorgeous Notes From the Larder: A Kitchen Diary With Recipes, and came across his April 23 entry titled, "Needs must." I was caught by his description of a simple fettuccine Alfredo and his need for it. 

"Tonight I have a fancy--or more truthfully, a need--for a plate of creamy pasta. I am not one of the world's greatest pasta eaters, and rarely marry the ribbons, shells, or twists of dough with a cream-based dressing, but right now this is what is called for. A pot of cream aside, there is very little in the kitchen with which to dress a pasta, so I make a version of fettuccine Alfredo, the creamiest pasta dish of all.
-Nigel Slater, Notes From the Larder

Like Nigel, I am not much of a creamy pasta sauce eater but he made it sound so enticing and since I had about a cup of leftover heavy cream in the fridge, I decided to make it. I totally get having an intense need for a certain food at a certain time, and, a plate of indulgent comfort is good for the soul now and then.

'Needs Must' Fettuccine Alfredo
Notes From the Larder by Nigel Slater
(Enough for 2)

fettuccine: 9 oz (250g)
heavy cream: 1 cup (250ml)
butter: a thick slice
grated Parmesan 3 1/2 oz, about 3/4 cup (100g)

Boil the fettuccine in deep, heavily salted water till al dente. Put the cream in a saucepan with the butter and warm over gentle heat. Grate in a little nutmeg. Stir in most of the grated Parmesan and a generous amount of black pepper, then toss in the lightly drained pasta. Toss gently and serve with the remaining Parmesan 

Notes/Results: Simple but luxe. The creamy sauce is just cheesy enough and the nutmeg and pepper add a little spark of extra flavor. I used fresh pasta and a local butter that has a touch of Hawaiian sea salt. A very fast and easy dish to make--especially with the fresh pasta, it takes just minutes to get it to the table. Although not a healthy dish to be enjoyed often, it certainly hits the spot when you have a fancy, or a serious need for something and satisfying. I would happily make it again.

Check out the IHCC site where we are having "A Welcome Toast to Nigel Slater" this week and see what dishes everyone made to kick off our 6-months of cooking with Nigel.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Making the World a Better Place Through Cookies (and Other Goodies)... The Food 'N Flix March Roundup: Stranger Than Fiction

It's always fun to host a Food 'n Flix event--getting to share a favorite movie and seeing what deliciousness the participants were inspired to make. Or in this case mostly bake. 

We certainly had a lot of baking going on for our March film, Stranger Than Fiction--starring Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah. (Check out my announcement post here for more details about the film.) For some this was a new-to-them movie and for others an old favorite--but it seemed that everyone enjoyed their viewing, the cast, and seeing Will Ferrell exercise his dramatic acting 'chops.'

Although not the foodiest of films, this quirky 2006 quirky comedy-drama-romance-fantasy film brought much of its inspiration from Ana's (Gyllenhaal) bakery and the famous 'cookie scene' where she explains to IRS Auditor Harold (Ferrell) how she quit law school to become a baker.

"I was barely accepted. I mean, barely. The only reason they let me come was because of my essay: "How I was going to make the world a better place with my degree."

And anyway, we would have to participate in these study sessions, my classmates and I, sometimes all night long. And so I baked so no one would go hungry while we worked. Sometimes I'd bake all afternoon in the kitchen, in the dorm, and then I'd bring my little treats to the study groups and people loved them.

I made oatmeal cookies... peanut butter bars...dark chocolate macadamia nut wedges, and everyone would eat and stay happy and study harder and do better on the test and more and more people started coming to the study groups and I'd bring more snacks and I was always looking for better and better recipes until soon it was ricotta cheese and apricot croissants and mocha bars with a almond glaze and lemon chiffon cake with zesty peach icing.

And at the end of the semester I had twenty seven study partners, eight Mead journals filled with recipes and a D average. So I dropped out. I just figured if I was going to make the world a better place I would do it with cookies."

I think the world is definitely a much better place with all of the cookies, cake, muffins, puddings and other treats created by the bloggers who took part in Food 'N Flix this month! 

For Cakelaw from Laws of the Kitchen, (joining in with Food 'N Flix for the first time this month!) it was a cake Ana created that inspired her. She says, "Lemon Chiffon Cake with Zesty Peach Icing stuck in my head.  How wonderful does that sound!  Accordingly, I hit the books to look for recipes for lemon chiffon cake and zesty peach icing. ... The resulting cake is like an enormous sponge, which tastes only faintly lemony.  For me, the highlight was the frosting, which lifted the flavour of the cake and had a distinct yet subtle peach flavour."  

Ana's Dark Chocolate Macadamia Wedges proved to be very inspiring with three of the group recreating this mouthwatering treat. It was fun to see three different takes on what this recipe might look like brought to life. 

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla says, "Making the world a better place with cookies? Sounds like a plan. Everyone always smiles when they eat a homemade cookie, right?!? I watched that scene half a dozen times - making sure that I got all the cookies she named written down. Then I looked at the list and tried to figure out what I wanted to make. In the end, I picked her dark chocolate macadamia wedges. Mainly because I'd never make anything like them before.

Debra of Eliot's Eats made her Chocolate Macadamia Nut Wedges with semi-sweet chocolate and a shortbread crust. She says, "Well, I have to say that after watching Will Ferrell (in his first dramatic role), Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (whom I all adore), I have a new favorite FnF movie." ... “Oatmeal cookies, peanut butter bars, dark chocolate macadamia nut wedges….ricotta cheese and apricot croissants, mocha bars with an almond glaze, lemon chiffon cake with with zesty peach icing.” Ana’s sultry sweet words inspired me."

Julie of White Lights on Wednesday joins the Food 'N Flix family for the first time this month. She says, "One scene I love in this movie is when Miss Pascal bakes cookies for Harold.  How a grow man has never had a home baked cookie is beyond me and makes me want to bake chocolate chip cookies for the world.  But I love the way she talks about how she baked for everyone in law school, and then she starts listing some of the goodies she would bring. And there it was – Dark Chocolate Macadamia Wedges. I had to make them. ... These cookies are crumbly and chewy and so decadent with little melted pockets of dark chocolate and just a little crunch from the nuts.  They’re heaven. Just be sure to grab a glass of milk.  It will make the experience that much better".

Food 'N Flix founder and my pal Heather of girlichef made these irresistible Sweet & Salty Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies. Heather says she toyed with making one of the sweet treats from Ana's list, "But in the end, I couldn't resist a good old comforting chocolate chip cookie, like Ana makes for Harold after a rough day (she made sure of it) of auditing. This is a great scene; one of my favorites of the film. It's the scene that really starts to soften Harold, and perhaps help him to look at things in a different light. And really, who can resist warm gooey cookies fresh out of the oven, with a glass of cold milk? Not I."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brings two different baked goods to the party, Peach Jam Bars and Chocolate Chip Cookies. She says, "Maggie Gyllanhaal plays Ana Pascal, a baker who changes Crick’s life. One of my favorite scenes…Harold brings Ana flours....The movie is peculiar and strange yet you want to know what will happen to Harold and Ana and the other characters. There is also a good scene where Ana makes cookies for Harold...but he doesn't want to accept them. "How can anyone not like cookies?!"

Caroline of Caroline Makes says, "I love the idea of making the world a better place through baking, and I guess in some ways that's why I like taking cakes into work - it brightens everyone's day a little! Based on this exchange in the film I knew I had to make cookies for this month's Food 'n' Flix. ... The original recipe was called "peanut crunch cookies" as it uses crunchy peanut butter, but I used the smooth kind so I can't really keep that name! Instead I call these: Peanut Coconut Cookies. ... My favourite cookies were the ones with the Reece's Pieces peanut butter cups, as they add a little chocolate as well as the peanut butter and coconut flavour, though I also like the fact that these can also be vegan if you leave the candy out."

Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz says, "My inspiration for this month was off the menu board in the bakery the movie takes partly place in, I made Blueberry Banana Muffins. ... The food part in the movie is minor but they all take place in a bakery where Crick is auditing the owner and future girlfriend. I went with a couple of items that were on the menu board of the bakery. Actually I combined 2 muffin recipes into one. Hands down best muffins I have had in a long time.  I grossly mashed my bananas so you could still taste full pieces of the fruit when eating the muffins. he blueberries were unusually large too and this helped, they seemed to explode in the mouth."

Finally, here at Kahakai Kitchen, I was inspired by the green apples that appeared in the film, as when Harold carries one in his mouth on his daily run for the bus. Although I looked for an apple treat to bake, I ended up finding these Lemon Puddings with Granny Smith Apple Compote instead. Puddings, lemon, apple and caramel are some of my favorite foodie things, and the fact that they were all in this dessert made me happy. ;-) I also served these tangy and sweet puddings with cups of the "twig" tea that Ana offers up at the bakery.

Mahalo to everyone who joined in this month's Food 'N Flix: Stranger Than Fiction round! I drooled through this entire roundup. ;-) 

If you missed this month, join us for April when Heather of girlichef will be hosting your choice of the animated films Kung Fu Panda 1 and/or Kung Fu Panda 2.