Food and Fiction: Mercy’s Trouble Chocolate

Alright, it’s chocolate-centric week, because I’m most likely in Belgium right now, gallivanting about and visiting chocolate shops. However, that is something I’ll probably be blogging about much later in the week when I get back from vacation, and instead, this is more along the lines of “Oh, hey, I finally finished Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs and I want to talk about chocolate chip cookies!”

Or chocolate in general.

So just a quick summary of the book and the Mercy Thompson universe: Silence Fallen is the tenth installation of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and revolves around Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, now the mate of the Columbia Basin’s Alpha werewolf. For those who are a fan of–or who have read–the series, you’ll know at this point that Mercy is living a rather eclectic life as a mechanic and non-werewolf wife. She’s also a shape-shifting coyote, is friends with a powerful fae, is bonded to an equally powerful vampire, and has adopted a fire-generating fae spirit. Mercy can also see and command ghosts. So. Yeah. Not a normal life by any means, and things just escalate from there.

One of my favorite things about Mercy is the fact that she bakes cookies. You laugh at this minute detail, but seriously, she does a lot of baking in the books. I admire her for that, because honestly, how does she find the time between being kidnapped by vampires and having to fend for herself against the Gray Lords and coyote-hating pack members? But she does, and in the beginning of Silence Fallen legit starts with her trying to bake cookies.

Of course, everything goes horribly wrong afterwards, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, I ended up with a craving for chocolate chip cookies. So I made them.

Thankfully, I wasn’t making cookies for a pack of werewolves, so I didn’t have to worry about lack of ingredients! So no vampire-induced car accidents here!

I was, however, baking these cookies for a get-together, so I decided to add a bit of extra into it. Mmm…coffee chocolate chip cookies here we come!

I used the recipe from Cathy at Lemon Tree Dwelling. And they came out delicious, by the way!

The coffee flavor came out, and the cookies themselves were seriously disappearing pretty quickly! I’d definitely make them again.

Anyway, I’ll end it there. Gotta run and frolic!

This post counts as #3 of my Food and Fiction Challenge.

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Food and Fandom: Bioshock Infinite Cookies

Flashback Friday! I actually made these last year but realized Fourth of July was upon me and I am so, so tired that I refuse to do anything special, besides maybe eat stuff. And I think there is a barbecue over the weekend, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, going back to food and one of my favorite games of last year, Bioshock Infinite.

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I had a complete Bioshock Infinite obsession last year, as you can tell. Actually, after the Burial At Sea DLCs that came out this year, I’m still pretty obsessed with the game. It’s no surprise that I would do more than just the one food and fandom post about Bioshock Infinite. It was such a pretty and well-done story that it’s hard for me not to love it, and the tie-in to the original Bioshock was fabulous as well.

Of course, these cookies actually pre-date the Lutece cake I made for my sister, and you can probably tell from the shoddy quality of my old iTouch camera. Anyway, onward!

I can’t remember what sugar cookie recipe I used here, but there are dozens on Allrecipes. I split the dough into three portions and colored one blue, the other red. Wasn’t too hard to do, though working with the dough and food coloring could get messy. I used gloves to prevent that.

I also had new glitter-stuffs, so I sought to try that out as well! I used gold dust and bronze dust–separately–and combined each color with a wee bit of vodka (like…a drop at the most). Using a set of paint brushes (which I got cheap at the local arts store), I tested the colors out on different types of cookies. I didn’t paint on all the cookies, just enough to see how the glitter dust worked. The gold was pretty!

So yeah. Happy Fourth, Columbia U.S.A!

Sansa’s Lovely Lemon Cakes

Olenna Tyrell: “Shall we have some lemon cakes?”
Sansa Stark: “Lemon cakes are my favorite.”
Olenna Tyrell: “So we’ve been told.”

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Oh Sansa Stark. I like Sansa Stark. Not many people find her interesting, but I’m at that point in the books where I’m all “HOW IN THE–WHY ARE YOU STILL ALIVE??!!” I mean, it’s like Samwell Tarly all over again. Except Sansa’s way prettier. And a girl.

On the outside, Sansa may seem like nothing but a vapid, pretty face with unrealistic notions of Westerosi chivalry. I can tell you that underneath she’s much, much more. Underneath she’s a vapid, pretty face with unrealistic notions of Westerosi chivalry. Oh. Wait.

Well, she has one hell of a “p-p-p-poker face.” Oh, Joffrey is her one true king? Oh, you don’t believe her? Well, newsflash. You may think she’s lying, but that’s what she wants you to think. Or is it? You wouldn’t know unless you read her thoughts, which occasionally you did. If you read the books. Yeah.

But this isn’t about Sansa, it’s about the lemon cakes that she seems to love so much.

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Once again, I took a trip down to A Feast of Ice and Fire to pluck out another recipe to try. As the recipe of the medieval lemon cake stands, it’s not so much a cake as a cookie, though compared to the modern lemon cake, I preferred the lighter medieval one, so I opted for cookies after all! (Plus, I mean, come on. Lemon cookies with tea. Yes please!)

They put the recipe with their changes here (though I used the book version, so that differed somewhat).

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The cookies/cakes: Of course I also made my changes, because I’m not a big fan of using lemon zest for, well, anything. I know it has its uses, but there is still that bitterness that drives me crazy, and the texture isn’t my favorite thing in the world. So, in this case, I used a teaspoon of lemon extract, a bit of lemon juice, and lessened the sugar content by one cup. The whole thing ended up being too dry, so I did add some more water and a bit more lemon juice just until the dough was, you know, actual dough, but not too sticky.

The iced drizzle: The cookbook actually suggests a bit of a confectioner’s sugar and milk drizzle on the top, which, I suppose, makes sense especially with my cutting the sugar content already. While the lemon cakes themselves are pretty darn good without the drizzle, I thought it added a bit of gumption onto it. Especially when I also put a wee bit of lemon extract into the icing. Omnomnom.

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And did I mention tea? Partaking in a Sansa-inspired lemon cake snack is not complete without tea! Tea with lemon and honey! Yes, that’s a lot of acid, but since I currently have a sore throat, this works wonders, I tell ya.

Verdict: It’s no wonder these are Sansa’s favorite treats. Lemon cakes or cookies or, well, almost every lemon-anything has just the right amount of sweet, soury, refreshyness that makes it appropriate for any season, occasion, or location. Heck, King’s Landing nobility might revel in tea and lemon cakes, but let’s not forget that Dorne is probably Westeros’ main lemon-producing import partner (suuucks for King’s Landing if you sever all ties with Dorne!), so you can count on the Dornish to make as much lemon cake as they like. Even the Sand Snakes and their whore-mothers probably get them.

But now I’m digressing. Lemon cakes are delicious.

25 Reads: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

When I think of circuses, my mind automatically goes to a mixture of Cirque du Soleil and Mommy Fortuna’s dark and twisty carnival in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. Yeah. It’s a weird mixture. No clowns, though.

I’d heard about Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus more as a Storynexus game extension that my friend got me addicted to. Well, actually, it’s all her fault for getting me addicted to a lot of the Failbetter Games text adventures (Fallen London being the best and most comprehensive of the lot). What I did find I loved about the Night Circus when I played it was that it was ridiculously pretty and it seemed worth delving into, book-wise.

And here I am.

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Just the cover illustration itself would have compelled me to pick up the novel for reading pleasure. I mean, come on, how pretty is that illustration?

Anyway, it’s kind of hard to describe what The Night Circus is all about. I mean, I suppose it’s about les Cirque des Reves (there’s an accent there somewhere…), the Circus of Dreams. I suppose it’s about the people working in the circus and/or attuned to it. I suppose it’s about a “deadly” competition. And I supposed it’s about a love story. It gets confusing what it tries to be, and reading the latter part of the Goodreads summary didn’t really help me in the long-run, since it sounds overhyped. Suffice to say that The Night Circus is about a circus that opens at night, with a set of magical and non-magical characters who put on a good show whilst dealing with their 99 problems.

I wasn’t really feeling the “fierce competition,” which seemed to have dragged on for almost two decades, and perhaps this was due to my having read the audiobook instead of the print version. It also didn’t help that I wasn’t able to keep track of the dates, without having to rewind portions of the audio to the beginning (and let’s be honest, that was cumbersome, so I didn’t bother at all). Still, Jim Dale’s voice narration didn’t detract from the story, in fact, I think he made it even more fantastical (thankfully similar to his distinct Pushing Daisies narration), and when he voiced over the second point-of-view sections? Phenomenal (and this is saying much, because I tend to hate second POVs for stories). Audio performance aside, I thought the book itself was styled and written well. I could imagine myself inside the circus, walking through the Ice Garden and stepping inside a tent to watch the illusionist perform her “magic”.

So writing and description and aesthetics-wise, I thought The Night Circus hit the mark. I’m not sure I can say the same for the focus characters, the story, and the pacing. But I think I mentioned that heftily in my Goodreads review already.

THERE IS AN UPSIDE.

And I’m talking about black and white pumpkin cookies!

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One distinct take-away I had from The Night Circus was the color (or, well, shade/tint) theme of the Circus of Dreams. The circus performers and motif were described to be decked in black and white, with no hint of color save the red scarves people wore to distinguish themselves as reveurs (again, there’s an accent there somewhere). I really liked that image in my head, and I was certainly capable of relaying that to my baking!

My cookies didn’t come out as perfectly as the recipe I used for it, but that was mostly my fault for doing a lot of substitutions, since I didn’t have every ingredient handy. I also went with a dark chocolate as opposed to unsweetened, but again, that was mostly because I ran out of confectionery sugar at some point and ended up having to use straight-up melted chocolate.

I’m not sure if this counts as a Food and Fandom addition as well, because while I am a fan of the aesthetic nature of The Night Circus, I wouldn’t say I was a big fan of the story. But eh, why the heck not, I’ll count it!

Food and Fandom: Doctor Who

This was clearly a review being put up, regardless of how many Doctor Who reviews there are in the World of Reviews. But to ease the humdrum of yet another person gushing over the 50th Anniversary Special (because clearly I am in the process of doing that), I decided to add a bit of what I did the week I got caught up in the Whovian madness.

Oh, and yeah, spoilers.

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Doctor Who cookies! I found the recipe online somewhere, and the royal icing recipe, too. Note to self: I need to water down my royal icing a bit more, because it was damn hard to pipe it onto the cookie in a flatter, smoother shape.

First of all, the amount of freakouts on the leadup to the 50th anniversary special go leaps and bounds the usual norm of freakouts I have over this fabulous TV show. But I can’t say that it could be constricted to just “The Day of the Doctor,” and it really started with the kicker ending to the series, “The Name of the Doctor”:

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Cue the shouts of “MOFFAT WHAT ARE YOU DOING”

Since then I’m pretty sure every Whovian had been contemplating what this would mean to the very order of Doctors there have already been. Was John Hurt going to be an official Doctor? A stand-in? The next regeneration? Or some hidden one we had no idea about? Whispers flew through the interwebs, theories and analyses and a myriad marketing ploys later, we’ve got mini-episodes and sub-specials leading up to one of the episodes everyone had been waiting for (the next one is coming up during Christmas, so I hear…):

vlcsnap-2013-11-26-17h35m43s124The Day of the Doctor. Aptly titled, because it is his day, and Moffat had done well enough to remember that by paying homage to all of the Doctors and the work that had been put to keep this show alive. I didn’t start watching the show until Eccleston’s 9 (or is it 10 now?), but I do have a deep-seated respect to the older version, and I can’t say I’ve ignored the Easter eggs that were thrown into the special relating to the older episodes.

There were a lot of things I did love about the special. One of them was Gallifrey, whether it was the scenes of destruction, the overhead shots, and the 3D stop-motion graphics of the Doctors standing there watching their world burn. I loved the tie-ins of past Doctor Who episodes, from Bad Wolf to Queen Lizzie, to that point in time where the Time Lords had been kept at a lock, just out of reach, but so very there.

I loved that the special was almost purely a character analysis of the most mysterious man in the universe: the Doctor himself. I say almost because obviously there was action that moved the plot along, though thankfully the focus remained on the character interaction between three very different regenerations. John Hurt, David Tennant, and Matt Smith played off so well with each other, and the Tennant/Smith duo were so uncannily in sync it was scary. Tennant also reminded me why he’s still by far my favorite of those I’ve seen, and for once, I actually liked Clara (and I loved Rose…or, well, the Moment’s conscience interface…).

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I love characters, so obviously I had to make my favorites! From top to bottom, left to right: River Song and Smith, Rory the Roman and Amy Pond, and the triplicate awesomeness of Donna Noble, Tennant, and Jack “Hotness” Harkness.

I could also go on and on about the snazzy dialog as well, and if I could quote you my favorite parts, I would. Unfortunately, when I started transcribing my favorite quotes right after a repeat viewing of the special, I realized I had way too many I liked and this post would get even longer than it already is. But I think we get the gist.

I did freak out again at this point, though:

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THIRTEEN? Yes. Yes it is.

The entire scene at the end was just mind-numbingly phenomenal. To me, at least. I love it when they bring the old Doctor faces back in the screen, and it was a pleasant surprise to see it happen. I admit I squeed when I heard and then saw Eccleston’s cameo…and the squeeing continued further to outright flailing when they said “Thirteen!”.

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Some of my favorite things on the show! From top to bottom, left to right: a fez, the DW logo, bow ties are cool, an adipose, the TARDIS (which gets fixed later on, I swear!), a Dalek, Bad Wolf, K-9, the weeping angel (I loved how that one came out), my depiction of “wibby wobbly timey wimey”, and of course, the catch-phrases for the three Doctors.

So yes. I loved the special, was not disappointed (though I did slightly object to the casting of Queen Elizabeth I…I just didn’t believe it). I also want to say I loved the Mark Gatiss special as well, “An Adventure in Space and Time,” which stars David Bradley as William Hartnell. That brought a wee bit of feels, not gonna lie. And the Paul McGann mini-episode, as well as the Five(ish) Doctors mini were great.

And now back to my TARDIS, because I’m going to go watch a couple of my favorite episodes while I await the Christmas special and the sad, SAD regeneration of Smith to Capaldi. But that’s okay. I can think of the comfort I have with my cookies.

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