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Could We

Today marks our last installment of this year’s 12 Days of Oscar.  This is the last film in this year’s lineup and the fourth film nominated for an Oscar this year.  Boyhood  was shot intermittently over twelve years with the same cast.  The film shows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) growing from grade school to college, living in Houston with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his sister Samantha (Lorelai Linkleter).  Eventually both Mason and Samantha deal with their parents divorce, remarriage, blended families, and the general rites of passage growing up.  Boyhood in nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hawke), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Arquette), Best Directing, Best Writing- Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.

There are a few food moments in this film but my favorite is when Mason and his girlfriend Sheena (Zoe Graham) go to an all-night diner at 3 a.m. and have queso dip until the sun comes up.  Maybe this is because queso dip is my weakness.  I love the stuff, and I would love to sit at a diner with an endless supply of it.  I have avoided making white queso dip at home for a variety of reasons (mainly, that I know I risk eating about ten pounds of tortilla chips drenched in queso until I am in a cheese coma).  Armed with some basic cheese knowledge and all of the self-control I possess, I finally made white queso dip, and it was awesome.  This came out so well that it really was hard to stick to one serving.

queso dip

White Queso Dip


  • 1/4 lb. white American cheese
  • 1/8 lb. pepper jack cheese
  • 1/4 C. finely diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1/8 – 1/4 C. milk
  • 1/8 C. amber or dark beer (optional)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil


Heat a small non-stick sauce pan over medium heat.

Saute the onion in the pan until the onion starts to brown.

Stir in the jalapeno and cook for a few more minutes.

Tear or cut the American cheese into fourths (roughly 1 inch pieces) and add to the sauce pan.

Cut the pepper jack cheese into small pieces (roughly 1/2 inch) or shred it and add to the sauce pan.

Slowly pour in a small amount of milk and whisk it into the melting cheese.

Whisk in the beer if using.

Slowly whisk in additional milk until desired consistency is reached.  If you thin out the cheese too much you can add more cheese to thicken the dip but keep in mind the cheese will thicken as it cools.

Stir in the cumin and the olive oil.

Source: Side of Sneakers


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Today’s installment of 12 Days of Oscar is another of this year’s Oscar nominees.  Based on a comic book, Big Hero 6 is about Hiro Hamada who spends his time participating in back-alley robot fights until his older brother Tadashi brings him to the robotics lab at his college.  There, he meets Tadashi’s friends including Baymax, a personal healthcare robot created by Tadashi. This is the first animated Disney movie to feature Marvel characters.  Big Hero 6 is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and since The Lego Movie didn’t make it into the category, this is the one I hope will win.  Lane and I were lucky to see this onboard the Disney Fantasy on our honeymoon.

Hiro’s Aunt Cass makes  him special “melt your face off” wings to celebrate his first day at college.  These won’t quite melt your face off, but they have a nice spiciness to them.  These chicken wings are baked instead of fried but baking them on a wire rack makes them just as crispy as their fried counterpart.  I used Frank’s Red Hot for these but you can use any wing sauce you like.

baked buffalo wings

Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings


  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/4 Tsp. cayenne pepper (you can omit this if you want less spicy wings)
  • 1 /4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 C. hot pepper sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 2 1/2 lbs. (about 30) chicken wings, tips removed, drumettes and flats separated)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper


Mix the melted butter, cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp. of ground black pepper and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt in a medium bowl.

Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes and then whisk in the hot sauce.  Keep the mixture warm.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and place a wire rack onto the lined baking sheet.

Put the wings in a large bowl and add the vegetable oil, remaining kosher salt and remaining black pepper and toss to coat.

Divide the wings between the prepared baking sheets and spread them out in a single layer.

Bake the wings for 45-50 minutes until they are cooked through and the skin is crispy.

Put the baked wings into a large bowl and add the prepared sauce.  Toss to coat evenly.

Serve immediately.

Makes 30 wings.

Source: slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

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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 (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

guacamole tortilla hat

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The Games That We Deserved

On the final day of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Canadian men’s ice hockey team defeated Sweden 3-0 to win gold.  Host country Russia topped the medal standings at these games, with 33 total medals- 13 of them gold.  The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Today’s recipe is more Georgian than Russian per se, but it did top many lists of must-try foods for visitors to Sochi.  Like many of the recipes in this series, there are plenty of variations.  This one is essentially a loaf of bread baked with a cheese center, while others are a kind of bread boat filled with cheese and topped with an egg.  While a cheese boat seemed pretty interesting, this recipe appealed to me because of its inclusion of coriander and paprika.  I wasn’t disappointed.




for the dough:

  • 1 C. milk, scalded
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 C. unbleached flour

for the filling:

  • 2 C. Muenster cheese (or Monterrey Jack)
  • 1 C. ricotta, cottage cheese, or goat cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, if needed
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika


Heat the butter and milk together in a small saucepan until the butter has melts.

Combine the sugar, coriander, and salt in a medium-sized bowl then pour the hot milk over the mixture.

Stir to combine and to dissolve the sugar, then set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flour to the milk mixture and stir until a rough dough forms.

Set aside for 30 minutes.

Knead the dough until it’s smooth, about 6-8 minutes by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, turn the dough to coat, and then cover the bowl.

Let the dough rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it increases in size by at least 1/3.

To make the filling, cube the Muenster and place it into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add the ricotta and process until well-combined but some chunks remain.

Add the eggs, flour, salt (if needed- taste to check as cheese can be salty enough already), pepper and paprika then pulse to mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

Divide the dough in half and cut a roughly 1 oz. piece of dough from each half.

Shape all 4 pieces into round balls and let them rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Roll out each of the large pieces into a 10-12 inch circle.

Place one circle into a lightly greased pie tin or 8-9 inch round cake pan.

Put half of the cheese mixture into the middle of the circle.

Pull the dough up around the cheese mixture, pleating and pinching into a topknot.

Leave a hole in the center of the topknot and place the small round ball of dough into this hole.

Repeat the process using the other two pieces of dough.

Cover and let rise for 45 minutes- they will be puffy but won’t double in size.

If the pleats open, pinch them shut.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes.  If you find that the bread is browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Slice the bread into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Winter Flame

In Sochi yesterday, U.S. skier David Wise won the gold medal in men’s halfpipe, an event that is making its debut as an Olympic sport at these Winter Games.  Tina Maze of Slovenia won her second gold medal of the 2014 Olympics in the women’s giant slalom.  For the first time in seventy-eight years, Norway won silver and gold medals in the men’s Nordic combined event.

The 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics are the next in the Winter Olympics series.  This year, NHL players were allowed to play on the men’s ice hockey team due to a three-week suspension of the NHL season.  Women’s ice hockey was an Olympic event for the first time in Nagano, along with curling and snowboarding.

Oyaki are a popular street food in Nagano.  These dumplings start out with a simple dough that can be stuffed with just about any filling imaginable.  They are then fried, or steamed, or baked (or some combination of the three).  Red bean paste is one popular filling, as is a seasoned ground meat.  I also saw a pumpkin and a sweet potato variation that look fantastic.  I should have plenty of opportunity to try them all because we are hooked on these things.  I made these with a simple apple filling because Nagano is also famous for its apple crops and it was like wrapping the best apple pie you’ve ever had in a soft fried dough.  I can easily see why these things are so popular- as soon as you have one, you want another.

apple oyaki

Apple Oyaki


for the dough:

  • 200 g. all-purpose flour (1 1/2 C. to 1 3/4 C.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 C. water
  • oil, for cooking

for the filling:

  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla


To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, and water in a mixing bowl.

Knead with your hands until a soft dough forms, adding more flour as necessary.  The dough will have a consistency similar to pizza dough when it is right.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest refrigerated or at room temperature for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine all of the filling ingredients in a small saucepan.

Stir to combine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved, and the apple has softened.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten the ball into a circle 3-4″ in diameter.

Divide the apple filling evenly among the 8 dough circles.

Stretch the dough to wrap it around the filling and pinch to seal up the dumpling.

Pour enough oil (canola is suggested) into a skillet to just cover the bottom, and heat over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, place the dumplings into the skillet, seam-side down.

Cook for 1-2 minutes until the bottom browns, then flip over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to brown the other side.

Pour 1/4 C. water into the skillet and place a lid over the top, allowing the water to steam the dumplings.

If the dough isn’t cooked through by the time the water has evaporated, add more water and continue to steam until cooked through.

Remove the dumplings from the skillet and serve warm.

Makes 8 dumplings.

Source: dough adapted from Macrobiotic Kitchen

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Fire in Your Heart

In Olympics news yesterday, Steven Holcomb and Steven Langston won the U.S. its first two-man bobsleigh medal since 1952, a bronze.  Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first-ever U.S. gold medal in Olympic ice dancing.  The U.S. women’s ice hockey team beat Sweden 6-1 and will face Canada for the gold medal.

Day twelve of the Sochi Olympics brings us to the thirteenth installment of our Winter Olympics feature.  Today we look at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.  These Winter Games were the first to not be held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, and the first to be held just two years after the previous Winter Olympics.  U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won a silver medal in the ladies single skate, just seven weeks after an incident in which she was clubbed in the knee by an associate of her rival Tonya Harding (who finished eighth in the event).

Today, to celebrate Norway, we have skoleboller.  Skoleboller are a bun, filled with vanilla custard, then frosted and sprinkled with coconut.  Apparently, you can find skoleboller (or “school buns”) at school cafeterias, coffee hours, grocery stores, and birthday parties all over Norway.  You can also find them at Disney’s Epcot park and they’re a popular treat there.  After making them, it’s not hard to see why.  These are as fun to eat as it is to say “school-ah-bowl-air.”




for the buns:

  • 2 C. milk (preferably whole), lukewarm
  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast.
  • 1/2 C. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 6-7 C. all-purpose flour

for the custard:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 3/4 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

to finish:

  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 C. shredded coconut for topping


In a large bowl, or the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk.

Add the melted cooled butter, sugar, cardamom, and 5 C. of the flour to the milk and mix well.

Slowly add more of the flour until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes until a smooth soft dough is formed.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, make the custard.

To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly.

Whisk in the vanilla.

While the custard mixture is at a simmer, add the cornstarch a little at a time, whisking briskly as you add it.

Allow the cornstarch to dissolve and for the custard to thicken, stirring constantly.

Let the mixture simmer and thicken for 3-5 minutes.

Pour the custard mixture into a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice water bath to cool completely.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide into 12-14 evenly sized balls of dough.

Form each dough ball into an evenly round and flat bun.

Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking sheet with at least 1 inch of space between them.

Cover the buns with a clean dish towel and allow them to rise again for 20 minutes.

While the buns are rising, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the final rise, use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the center of each bun.  A soup spoon is a good size, and press down almost all the way to the bottom of the bun but do not press all the way through.

Place a generous spoonful of the custard into the center of each indentation.

Bake the buns for 10-12 minutes until they are slightly brown on the top and the egg custard is just starting to set.

Allow the buns to cool on a wire rack.  The custard will set as the buns cool.

Once the buns are cool, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar and water together.  The glaze should be white and should drizzle on but not be runny.  Add more sugar or water as needed to reach the correct consistency.

Spoon glaze around the bun, avoiding the custard center.

Sprinkle on or dip the bun into the coconut, being careful not to ruin the custard center.

Source:  The Transplanted Baker

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