Mrs. P.L. Travers

The Oscars are on tonight, and that means the last of the 12 Days of Oscar over here.  Today’s film is only nominated for one Oscar, and many agree that it should have been nominated for more.  Saving Mr. Banks is nominated for Best Original Score.  If you haven’t seen it- and you really should- Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins.  Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is reluctant to let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) turn her book into a film and in the course of her negotiations with Disney, we learn about her childhood as well.

During what becomes a series of meetings, Walt Disney’s secretary routinely wheels carts of food into the meeting rooms.  Travers objects nearly every time that this is too much food, and at one point tells Dolly (Melanie Paxson) to turn the cart full of food right back around and to not leave it in the room.  More than once we see plates full of doughnuts and other sweets:

Yes, those are Hostess Sno-Balls on that tray.  Chocolate cupcakes with a cream filling covered in marshmallow and rolled in pink coconut- it doesn’t get much more “spoonful of sugar” than this.  Sitting in the theater watching this movie, I knew this was the perfect excuse to make my own Sno Balls at home.  They are more time consuming that I previously thought, definitely more of a kitchen marathon than a sprint, but they are well worth it.

sno balls

Sno Balls


for the cupcakes:

  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 oz. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 oz. cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 oz. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for the marshmallow coating:

  • 1/2 oz. gelatin
  • 10 oz. water, divided
  • 7 oz. corn syrup
  • 18 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for cream filling:

  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream

for coconut topping:

  • 8 oz. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • red food coloring


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a cupcake pan and set it aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder for 3 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Add the egg and mix for 1 minute until fully incorporated.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour all at once, then add the cocoa powder.

Drizzle in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Continue mixing just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cavities of the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool for at least 2 hours before filling and frosting.

Make the marshmallow coating and filling by combining the gelatin with 5 oz. of the water in a small bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Stir with a fork to ensure there are no lumps of gelatin, then set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the remaining water, corn syrup, and sugar over medium heat.

Stir gently with a spatula to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, then shut off the heat and let the mixture cool to 210 degrees.

Once the mixture has cooled to 210 degrees add the sugar syrup to the gelatin mixture and whip on low speed until the gelatin has fully dissolved.

Increase the speed to medium high and whip until light, fluffy, and tripled in bulk.

With the mixer running, add in the salt and vanilla.

Using a spatula, transfer all but 4 oz. of the mixture to a pastry bag and set aside.

Return the remaining 4 oz. of fluff to the mixer and set to low speed.

Add the cream all at once and continue mixing for another minute. The fluff and cream will have a broken appearance.

Increase the speed to medium and continue whipping until they gradually become homogeneous, then increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until stiff.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and refrigerate until needed.

Release the cupcakes from the pan and place them upside-down on a parchment paper lined baking pan.

Use a paring knife to poke a small hole in the bottom of each cupcake.

Using the piping bag filled with the whipped cream mixture, insert the star tip about 1″ into the cupcake and pipe one good squeeze (about 3/4 oz.) of filling into each cupcake.

Take the bag of marshmallow fluff and hold it directly above a cupcake.

Pipe a generous amount of marshmallow onto the top of the cupcake so that it flows down the sides of the cupcake and encases it.

Repeat until all cupcakes are covered in marshmallow.

Tint the coconut by putting the coconut into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add a few drops of red food coloring and process the mixture for 30 seconds, check for color and add more food coloring if necessary, then process for another 30 seconds.

Coat each cupcake generously with coconut and let sit for 1 hour.

Use a paring knife or round cookie cutter to trim away any excess marshmallow from around the bottom of the sno ball.

Roll the newly exposed edge of the sno ball in the pink coconut.

Source: Serious Eats

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Dirty Work

We’re one day away from the Oscars and that means this is the second to last entry for the 12 Days of Oscar over here.  Today’s entry is the third in the series that is nominated for an Oscar this year.  American Hustle is nominated for ten Oscars:  Best Picture, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Directing, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Production Design.  American Hustle is only the second movie to be nominated in all four acting categories since 1981- the first being last year’s Silver Linings Playbook.  

When I saw this in theaters, I knew two things were going to happen: this movie was going to be in the round-up, and I was going to make chicken piccata.  When a dish of the thinnest chicken, announced by Mayor Carmine Polito’s (Jeremy Renner) wife Dolly (Elisabeth Rohm) as “the piccata of the gods,” passes across the screen it’s hard to disagree with the assessment.  The trick to having amazing piccata, it seems, is to get the chicken as thin as possible.  This is easy to accomplish by slicing the chicken breast in half horizontally (butterfly it), and then pound it with a meat mallet until it’s as thin as it can get.

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata


  • 2 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)
  • 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1/4 C. dry white wine
  • 1/2 C. chicken stock
  • 2 small lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 C. chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed


Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, then pound them with a mallet or heavy skillet until they’re as thin as you can make them without them tearing.

Combine the flour and Parmesan in a shallow dish or pie plate.

Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and shake off the excess.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil and 1 Tbsp. of the butter.

When the butter foams, add the chicken (in batches if necessary) and cook for a few minutes on each side.

Remove chicken and keep warm.

Add the wine, chicken stock, and lemon juice to the skillet.

Stir, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet, and cook until the sauce reduces and thickens.

Add a pinch of salt, the parsley, and capers.

Stir in the remaining butter until the butter melts.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Source: adapted from Buddy Valastro, as seen on Mia Cucina

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Life of the Party

We’re oh-so-close to the Oscars on Sunday, and with just three entries left in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar we’re at our second film in the series that is nominated for an Oscar this year.  Dallas Buyer’s Club has been nominated for six Oscars.  Taking place in 1985 Dallas, the film stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodruf who is diagnosed with AIDS and told he has thirty days to live.  After driving to Mexico for AZT, he meets a doctor who prescribes him other drugs that have not yet been approved in the U.S.  With the help of Rayon (Jared Leto), an HIV positive transgender woman Ron forms the Dallas Buyer’s Club, bringing these drugs over the border and selling them to other patients.

There’s not much food actually in this movie, so instead I considered a Texas theme.  When I thought about Texas, I kept coming back to the idea of chili.  I know that Texas chili doesn’t have beans.  I know.  I like my chili with beans, and so the beans stay.  Since everything’s bigger in Texas I made a huge batch of chili, in the crockpot, with beans.  There is nothing simpler than throwing some ingredients into the crock pot and having about four meals’ worth of chili to store in the freezer.  Oh, and double points because I am over this cold weather and would rather be in Texas right now.

big batch crock pot chili

Crock Pot Big-Batch Chili


  • 4 lbs. ground chuck
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 (14.5 oz. each) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 (8 oz. each) cans tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/4 C. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 (16 oz. each) cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained


In a large skillet, brown the ground chuck over medium-high heat, working in batches.

Crumble, drain, and place the beef into a 6 quart or larger slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.

Source: Pass the Sushi, originally from Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook

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Don’t Stop the Party

Today’s second 12 Days of Oscar post is the first of this year’s nominated films.  It is also the only one of this year’s nominees with a script I know by heart.  Despicable Me 2 is nominated this year for two Oscars, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.  I was actually pretty miffed when Despicable Me got snubbed, so I was so glad to see the sequel get an Oscar nod.  Despicable Me 2 shows us what Gru’s post-supervillain life is like as he parents Edith, Margo, and Agnes and takes on a jelly making endeavor with Dr. Nefario and the minions.  He meets Lucy Wilde of the Anti-Villain League and shenanigans ensue.

As soon as I saw Despicable Me 2, I knew I had to try to recreate the tortilla chip hat full of guacamole that Gru wears at El Macho’s party.  It was easier than I thought to make the tortilla hat, and guacamole is the easiest dip to make as long as the avocados are ripe.  Everything about this guacamole from the presentation to the flavor was a huge hit at our house.




guacamole tortilla hat

Guacamole (with Optional Tortilla Chip Hat)


  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 C. finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, minced (add more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 C. chopped cilantro leaves
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • juice of one lime


Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit (carefully whack the pit with a knife then turn to easily remove the pit).

Scrape the flesh out of the avocado with a spoon, into a mixing bowl or a mortar and pestle.

Mash the avocado slightly.

Add the onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and salt and stir gently to combine.

Add the lime juice and stir gently again to combine.

To make the chip hat, heat the oven to 400 degrees.  For the rim of the hat drape a 10″ or larger tortilla over an inverted pie plate.  Make the center of the hat by draping a tortilla over a small bowl or custard cup and trimming the excess.  Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until browned and crisp.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before filling with guacamole.

Source: guacamole recipe, The Kitchn

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Wazoo Junction

So . . . can we count today as day seven and day eight of the 12 Days of Oscar?  For the first time in 12 Days of Oscar history, I skipped a day.  I swear I had my assignment done, but a few reeeeeaaaaaalllly long work days got the better of me and I needed a night off.  To get back on track, today we have the last of Oscar winners past and then we’ll discuss this year’s Oscar nominees.

The final previous Oscar winner in this year’s series is the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny.  Marisa Tomei won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Mona Lisa Vito, the girlfriend of loudmouth New York lawyer Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci).  The pair find themselves in rural Alabama when Vinny’s cousin is put on trial for murder on his way back to college.  This is a classic fish-out-of-water story with some of my all-time favorite one-liners.

There are few lines as good as the ones Gambino delivers when he is served grits for the first time in a diner.  That is, unless you count his dialogue about grits while he’s in court.  Grits actually factor into this movie more than you think grits could ever factor into anything.  I didn’t eat grits until I was thirty, true story.  Grits aren’t something that you encounter very often as a lifelong New Englander.  Then, like a lot of things, I learned to make grits well and the rest is history.  My favorite method is this one, which results in creamy, cheesy, delicious grits.  Oh, and grits are totally not just a breakfast thing.  Cheese grits with shrimp is an amazing dinner.

cheese grits

Cheese Grits


  • 4 C. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 C. old-fashioned grits
  • 4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • salt and pepper


Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Add the garlic and slowly stir the grits.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, for 20 minutes, until the grits are tender.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cheese, butter, and cream.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Source:  Food and Wine

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Back in Time

We’re seven days into the 12 Days of Oscar, and today’s film is a personal favorite of mine.  The 1985 movie Back to the Future was nominated for four Oscars: Best Music- Original Song, Best Writing- Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Sound, and Best Effects- Sound Effects Editing.  Back to the Future won the Oscar for Best Effects, and went on to be quoted in Ronald Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union Address.  If you haven’t seen it already (what are you waiting for?!), Back to the Future stars Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, who travels back in time to 1955 in a DeLorean and must repair the ensuing damage this causes to history with the help of Doc Martin (Christopher Lloyd).

There are so many memorable moments in this film, and among them is a scene where Marty has dinner in 1955 with his mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), and her family.  Of course they don’t know that he’s come from the future and so when Marty comments that he’s seen an episode of Honeymooners as a rerun, everyone pauses from eating their meatloaf.

It’s not impossible that any family eating meatloaf in 1955 was eating meatloaf made from a 1950 Life magazine recipe.  When I found this recipe, it became my go-to meatloaf recipe.  Typically I don’t make a whole meatloaf, despite owning a meatloaf pan, and instead make individual portions because they cook a little more quickly and I can freeze extras for another day.  Then, I make this and remember how awesome it is when you put a leftover slice into a skillet to get both sides a little crispy before you make it into a sandwich.

1950 life magazine meatloaf

1950 Life Magazine Meatloaf


  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 1/4 C. diced yellow onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 C. bread crumbs
  • 2 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 C. ketchup, divided


Preheat 300 degrees.

Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl except for the ketchup.

Using clean hands (or a wooden spoon if you must), combine the ingredients, then add 3/4 C. of the ketchup and combine thoroughly.

Place the mixture into a meatloaf pan (a regular loaf pan is fine as well, but the fat won’t drain out of the meatloaf so keep an eye on it while it’s in the oven).

Spread the remaining ketchup over the meatloaf.

Bake for 1 hour.

Source: MacGregor Ale House, NC (who claim this is the recipe from 1950 Life magazine, which I was unable to confirm)

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