Showing posts with label retro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retro. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Books & Treats: Book Reviews of Four Fun Mystery / Thrillers & "Brass Bound Trunk Candy" from "The Nancy Drew Cookbook"

In addition to the stack of review cookbooks in my living room, I have a large stack of non-cookbook review books by my bedside that is also a little out of control. Not a terrible problem to have for a book lover like me--other than the fact that I would really love to blow off all of my responsibilities and just shut myself away and read for a week or two solid. But since I can't I have been trying to get through them all, a little at a time each night--which is a bit challenging on the sleep front when one gets caught up in a good suspense novel. I just worked my way through a quartet of mystery/thrillers--each book a little bit different but all with a strong female protagonist, be she a police lieutenant, private investigator, assistant US attorney, or even a warehouse shipping manager.

Since this is a food blog, I like to accompany all book reviews with a recipe and where better to find one than by going to the original female sleuth, Nancy Drew, and "The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking" by Carolyn Keene. A fun little cookbook holding space in the vintage/retro section of my cookbook collection.

Since that brilliant idea struck on a Sunday afternoon when I didn't want to run to the store, I chose a recipe that I had all the ingredients for (including a sad little can of sweetened condensed milk that has been in my pantry for quite some time). Brass Bound Trunk Candy (named for #17 in the Nancy Drew series, "The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk"), is a super-sweet, retro-style confection that is simple to make. Cut it small--it is so sweet that just a little piece will do you, and pull up a chair while we review a few good books.

Brass Bound Trunk Candy
"The Nancy Drew Cookbook" by Carolyn Keene
(Makes about 24-30 pieces depending on size you cut)

16 oz semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup dry oatmeal
1/3 cup any kind of chopped nuts, unsalted (less than a 3 oz package)
1/4 cup flaked coconut

Put water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a slow boil. In the top of the boiler melt chocolate pieces. Then add the condensed milk, vanilla, salt, oatmeal, chopped nuts, and coconut to the melted chocolate. Stir until well blended.

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan. Spread the candy mixture in the greased pan. Put in the refrigerator to chill. When the candy is firm, cut into squares.

A fun little candy to add to a holiday candy tray, and one you can adapt (different nuts, dried, fruit, no coconut, etc.) to your tastes.

And now on to the book reviews...

"The Immortals" by J.T. Ellison is the fifth book in her Taylor Jackson series and a creepy thriller that keeps the reader engrossed, even if like me, you haven't read the first four books. On Halloween (called Samhain--the Blood Harvest by believers in the occult), eight teenagers are found dead, with symbols of pentacles carved into their chests. Homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her team have to solve the crime quickly to calm a terrified city and have to delve into the murky world of witchcraft to find the killers. There are lots of twists and turns in this book and it was hard to put down--even at night. So much so that I ordered the first four books to read more from this author and to get more in-depth on the back stories of Taylor and her team. If you like fast-paced crime fiction, you will like this book.

Keeping with a paranormal theme but moving it to romantic suspense is Darynda Jones debut, "First Grave on the Right." Charley Davidson sees dead people, something that helps her in her part-time investigator role and helps her solve murders for her uncle, a detective with the Albuquerque police department. Charley's full-time calling however, is a Grim Reaper, helping the dead cross over into the light. Her latest case involves three lawyers from the same firm that are murdered and want Charlie to find their killer. It's been a tough week for Charlie and it isn't helping that she is distracted by and having some pretty hot and sexy dreams involving a mysterious Entity that has been following her all of her life. This book is very well-written, it's funny, sexy, full of a cast of memorable characters, and since it is the first book kicking off a new series, I am eagerly awaiting the next one--I want to read more about Charley and her friends--those living, dead and supernatural. ;-)

We leave the paranormal world and enter a equally scary one--the justice system in Washington DC. Another debut novel, "The Law of Attraction" by Allison Leotta, follows Anna Curtis, a newly assigned Assistant US Attorney in the domestic violence division. As a new AUSA, Anna is assigned to "papering" duty--turning arrests into criminal case files, when she meets Laprea Jones, badly beaten yet again by her boyfriend. At trial, Laprea lies on the stand to free her boyfriend and ends up dead shortly after and Anna works to bring the murderer to justice--struggling with her own guilt abut the case, her past and her current relationship which happens to be with Laprea's boyfriend's attorney. This book gives a inside look at the criminal justice system (the author is a federal prosecutor in DC), and is a good suspenseful whodunit with lots of twists and turns.

Finally, we move to an unlikely setting for a thriller, a shipping company in Oregon, and an unlikely heroine warehouse shipping manager Deborah Strickland. In "Shipping and Deceiving" by Tina deCoux, Deb has made her work her life, not letting many people into her confidence and her wold. The stress and pace of her job only gets worse during the holidays and Deb hires a new employee as extra help, finding herself caught in an escalating series of strange situations that culminate in the murder of a truck driver at the warehouse. Deb has to find the killer before she or one of her employees becomes the net victim. I received this book in a giveaway at GoodReads and wasn't sure I would really like it at first, but I ended up getting involved in the characters and story and ended up enjoying it. There are good characters and good twists and turns in the plot that kept me involved. This book is the second in a trilogy of warehouse mysteries, but stands on its own just fine.

So, a little candy and a few great reads. If the weather is yucky where you are or you need a break from the holiday prepping, consider curling up with one of these books. We all need a little "girl power" and a little mystery and suspense in our lives. ;-)

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: As mentioned, I received all of these books free, either as giveaways or to read and possibly review, but there was no monetary compensation and of course the opinions in the reviews are my own as a reader and lover of the written word.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Food is Good"--Vichyssoise for Cook The Books: Kitchen Confidential and Souper Sundays

Much as I love to cook, I can say with all confidence, that I will never make my career on the front lines of a restaurant kitchen; frankly, I don't have the chops for it. If only half of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential is even slightly true, I wouldn't last a day, so it is good that I can live vicariously by reading through his many adventures, and why I was happy to see Bourdain's brash culinary memoir as our third Cook The Books Foodie Book Club selection. This round of CTB is being hosted by Johanna at Food Junkie Not Junk Food, and she picked Kitchen Confidential to get a macho male perspective on food, after our two slightly more feminine choices!

This was my second time reading this book, the first was back when it first came out, before Bourdain became well known for eating beetles, testicles and all manner of bizarre foods while cursing his way all over the world. The book is fascinating, especially for those of us who have never experienced life in the "culinary underbelly". Much like Anthony Bourdain himself, most of the book is rude, crude and socially unacceptable but it (and he), are definitely entertaining and if you have ever harbored fantasies of becoming a famous chef in a top restaurant in New York, you should probably read it just so you can change your career goals. I often find the amount of disdain that Anthony Bourdain dishes out in his books and on his television shows to be a bit much, but then there are the glimmers of his appreciation and feelings for good food, cooked well by people who care about it and it is then that I find myself really warming to him. Buried inside all the bluster and the crusty, cursing exterior beats, (although sometimes faintly), the heart of a fellow food geek who truly loves the whole process and production of making and eating really good food. In my mind this is what takes the book from simply entertaining to worthy of a second reading.  

When it came down to deciding what to make to represent the book, I was a bit torn, as this book opens itself up to so many possibilities. I finally decided to pull something straight from the beginning, or "first course" of the book and the aptly titled, "Food is Good" chapter. It is here, as a child, that Bourdain first realizes that food is "something other than substance", on a family vacation to Europe on board the ocean liner, The Queen Mary. Eating his first bowl of Vichyssoise, the first food he really noticed and enjoyed, Bourdain says, "I remember everything about the experience: the way our waiter ladled it from a silver tureen into my bowl; the crunch of the tiny chopped chives he spooned on as a garnish; the rich, creamy taste of leek and potato; the pleasurable shock, the surprise that it was cold." Bourdain goes on to say that the memory of the soup stayed with him, waking up his tongue and taste buds and essentially setting the stage for things to come. (Pretty powerful for a bowl of soup!)

I remember the first time I had vichyssoise, at a little French restaurant for a friend's birthday, back in junior high. I knew what vichyssoise was, but at my house, potato soup was warm and usually came in the form of chowder with bacon and clams. Most of the others there chose the salad for dinner, but being a soup girl even then, I opted for the soup. I remember being impressed with just how much flavor there was in a simple soup and how differently it tasted than the hot soups I was use to. It might not have been the same level of epiphany that Anthony Bourdain experienced but it has stuck with me all these years. A simple, but well-prepared vichyssoise seemed like the perfect dish to make. 

My habit lately is to make things healthier, but I pity the person who would dare set a "lite" vichyssoise in front of Bourdain! This one is full-octane in all its butter, milk and cream glory. For a traditional recipe, I went with my New York Times Cookbook, edited by Craig Claiborne and published in 1961, the era of Bourdain's trip. I got this cookbook for $3.00 at a library sale and I love all the classic recipes and the little notes of them like this one on the proper pronunciation of vichyssoise below:

"Someone should start a campaign to instruct Americans that vichyssoise is not pronounced veeshy-swah! Since the creation of the late Loius Diat has become a national favorite, it seems only just that the final consonant be sounded. It is veeshee-swahze."

Vichyssoise A La Ritz
The New York Times Cookbook, edited by Craig Claiborne, 1961
(8 or more servings)

4 leeks, white part, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 cup sweet butter
5 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 quart chicken broth
1 tablespoon or less salt
3 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
Chopped chives

1. In a deep kettle, brown the leeks and onion very lightly in the butter. Add the potatoes, broth and salt and boil thirty-five minutes, or until very tender. Crush and rub through a fine sieve or puree in an electric blender.

2. Return the sieved mixture to the kettle, add the milk and one cup of the cream and bring to a boil. Cool and rub again through a fine sieve. Chill

3. Add the remaining cream. Chill thoroughly and serve garnished with chives.

Notes/Results: Crisp, cold and delicious. The flavor of the potato and leek really come through. Even with all the butter and cream, the chilled, silken soup feels light. You absolutely have to have the tiny little bits of chive on top, and for me, a bit of fresh ground pepper makes it perfect. I just made a half batch, since it isn't figure friendly and tried using the sieve method, instead of a blender, just for fun. A bit more effort but the soup was very smooth. A fun, classic soup to make and perfect for spring and summer. 

If you want to read along with us at Cook The Books, you have until April 25th to read and post for Kitchen Confidential. You can get all the details at the CTB site, here.

Let's see who made soups for Souper Sunday on this Easter Weekend:

Debby at A Feast for the Eyes is feeling spring and made a Spring Leek and Potato Soup to make good use of the beautiful leeks and garlic in her CSA box. Adapting a recipe from Emeril, made with bacon, white wine and creme fraiche, and kicked up just a bit, Emeril Style, it turned out to be the best potato and leek soup she has made so far!

Vacation didn't stop Ulrike from Küchenlatein from submitting her weekly soup, this one is a Ramson Soup. If you are not familiar with ramsons, they are wild garlic, or bear garlic and a wild cousin to chives. Ulrike has some coming up in her garden, where the picture was taken, and with some onions, potatoes and stock, they made a gorgeous soup.

A big welcome to a new face at Souper Sunday, Nurit from 1. family. friendly. food., hailing from Seattle. Nurit welcomed spring with a lovely green Peas and Tarragon Soup that she adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. Nurit says the soup is both "wonderful" and "so quick and easy to make" and we are happy to have both her and the soup with us this week!

Kim at Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet is spicing up the sweet potatoes this week with her Sweet Potato Soup with Chili Mango Salsa. Trying to lighten up her diet for spring and deciding she should enjoy the health benefits of these tubers year round, she searched her recipe box and found this soup. Kim says this soup is "thick and good but yet surprisingly light", and the spicy salsa on top adds an extra fun touch.

A new tabletop light studio from her husband and her special reserve of dried porcini mushrooms were the inspiration for Kait from Pots and Plots to make this rich, velvety Three Mushroom Soup. Made with the porcini, along with dried shitakes and some fresh creminis, she lightened it up the normal cream a bit with some fat-free half and half. Yum!

From her post about cataloguing cookbooks, I think Christine from Kits Chow has as many cookbooks as I do. She adapted this recipe for Irish Stew from one by Marion Cunningham's, The Supper Book. Christine found that this dish lived up to Marion's claims that it has the "taste of the land--natural and inviting". She says this is an excellent stew. 

Debbie from The Friday Friends says she wasn't sure whether her Seafood Soup was actually a soup, stew or chowder, so she did a little research on the subject and decided it is a soup and a delicious one at that! The recipe for this chiopino style dish came from her "oldest and dearest friend", and it is so good that it has made Debbie famous among her neighbors and fellow soup lovers!

There is nothing like a simple bowl of chicken soup to cure whatever ails you. When a bout of flu went through her house, Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies headed straight for the kitchen "medicine cabinet" to make this Easy-Peasy, Lemon-Squeezy, One Pot Chicken Noodle Soup. Made with plenty of garlic and lemon and served with homemade bread, it quickly had everyone feeling better again. 

More wonderful soups to celebrate spring with! Thanks to everyone who joined us at Souper Sunday this week. If you want to share a soup or soup-like creation, click the Souper Sunday logo on the side bar for all the details.

Have a Happy Easter!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blog Party #37 "Retro"-- (OK, Maybe A Bit Too Retro!)

Blog Party, that wonderful event started by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness, starts off its 4th year of fun this month and it's also my 4th time at the party--although I may not be invited back after I present my recipes! The theme of this month's Blog Party is Retro, meaning that the appetizers and accompanying beverages should be from the 1920s to the late 1960s. I have mentioned that I have been in a bit of a funk lately in regards to cooking--whether it is lack of time, a perpetual stuffy head, or maybe feeling just plain LAZY, I just haven't felt like making a huge effort with anything.
That being said, I do love a good party and I thought for some easy, low effort appetizers, I would look to the year 1967 and my copy of A Campbell Cookbook: Easy Ways to Delicious Meals, "465 Quick-to-Fix Recipes Using Campbell's Convenience Foods". I purchased this little gem at the Friends of Hawaii Book Sale for .50 cents and noticed that it is dedicated: "To all the modern, young thinking cooks who enjoy convenience foods in quick, easy recipes... to make family meals more tempting, party meals more exciting, and their own lives more satisfying." I mean who among us doesn't want all that?!?
Apparently cooking and entertaining in the 60's was all about "swanky" but easy food as the "modern cook" had access to all kinds of mixes, soups, frozen products, etc. to make her life easier. In fact the Campbell's Cookbook states that "You need only spend an average of 90 minutes a day in the kitchen as compared with the 5 hours your mother used, thanks to convenience foods and better packaging." It also mentioned that a study was done showing that meals made with convenience foods could save a cook an average of 10 hours a week, compared to "cook it yourself" foods and that these foods could save money as they were prepared commercially, in large quantities at the "peak of supply".
For my pupus, I went straight to the "Tasty Appetizers and Snacks" section of the book and found two recipes to try: "Pizza-Flavored Hot Cheese Dunk" and "Chicken Cheese Teaser". Apparently Campbell's wasn't much into cocktails for entertaining but believed firmly in "Refreshing Sippers", stating that "A mug of soup or "soup drink" makes refreshing sipping, hot and warming on a cold day, cool and refreshing on a hot day--sheer wizardry as a pick up, any season." I thought a "Beef Fizz" sounded intriguing but knowing there was no way I could get anyone to try all this without some alcohol, I threw in some Frozen Daiquiris too. Although the original Daiquiris, on the rocks, came from Cuba in 1905, "exotic" frozen blender drinks were hugely popular in the 60's and 70's.
Pizza-Flavored Hot Cheese Dunk
Campbell's Easy Ways to Delicious Meals
"Quick seasoning adds zesty pizza flavor ready without heating the oven"

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed Cheddar cheese soup
2 Tbsp ketchup
1/8 tsp oregano, crushed
1 small clove garlic, minced
Toast, cut in squares
Stir soup until smooth; blend in ketchup, oregano, and garlic. Heat; stir often. To serve, invite guests to spear toast squares with fork and dunk. Makes 1 & 1/4 cups dip. (I went out on a limb here and put olive oil and garlic salt on my bread before toasting in the oven for extra flavor)

Chicken Cheese Teaser
Campbell's Easy Ways to Delicious Meals

1 can Swanson Chicken Spread
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp finely chopped celery
1/4 tsp curry powder
Mix all ingredients. Chill. Thin to desired consistency with milk. Serve as dip or spread on crackers. Makes about 1 & 1/4 cups.

Beef Fizz
Campbell's Easy Ways to Delicious Meals
1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed beef broth
1/2 cup club soda
lemon twist
Pour broth over ice in 3-4 large glasses. Add soda to fill. Garnish with lemon. 3 to 4 servings.

Frozen Daiquiris
Cocktails A-Go-Go, Susan Waggoner & Robert Markel
1 1/2 ounces light rum
Juice of 1 1/2 limes (approximately 1 1/2 oz)
1 tsp sugar
1 cup cracked ice
Combine ingredients in blender and whir just until smooth. While this recipe can be multiplied to make several drinks at once, don't make more than will be served immediately, as the delight of a Frozen Daiquiri is its soft, fresh slushiness. Garnish with a thin slice of lime if you like.

Results: There are things from the past that stand the test of time. In 1967 there were the movies Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Graduate; The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Door's Strange Days albums came out, Julia Roberts and Jimmy Kimmel were born,the first home microwave from Amana came out and Gatorade was invented. Other things like the recipes above, should probably stay in the vault! The pizza dunk was fine--not sure you get the full on "pizza" experience with it, but I think the kids would like it. Chicken Spread, while certainly more palatable with cream cheese and curry mixed in it, is not going on the favorites list. Cold beef broth mixed with club soda is just WRONG even with a squeeze of lemon! The Daiquiris were delightful however.

My plan is this--duck in the door at the Blog Party, fire up the blender and start passing out glasses of tangy, frosty lime goodness and see if Stephanie will put on my 60's playlist below to get everyone in the mood. Then I'll whip out the fondue forks for the pizza dunk, pass some crackers with the chicken teasers and once everyone has a good buzz going maybe we can use the beef fizz as a dare or something! I figure I'll let the better things I have bought for my first three BPs carry me on this one and beg everyone to forgive me for my kitchsy 60's convenience indulgence. I may have to do some work to get my "Foodie Cred" back!
Thanks to Stephanie for being a wonderful hostess as usual! Here's to many more Blog Parties (I am toasting with a Daiquiri--not a Beef Fizz!)

Deb's Gimme Some Magic Mushrooms and Another Beef Fizz 1967 Playlist
Light My Fire, The Doors
Happy Together, The Turtles
Gimme Some Lovin, Spencer Davis Group
Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison
Respect, Aretha Franklin
People Are Strange, The Doors
Somebody to Love, Jefferson Airplane
Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
I'm a Believer, The Monkees
All You Need is Love, The Beatles
That's Life, Frank Sinatra

Uh oh, Max had one too many magic mushrooms and Beef Fizzes!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Mystery Cake" for Retro Recipe Challenge #11

With my first recipe "Challenge" (Weekend Cookbook Challenge#27) under my belt, I decided I should go for #2 this weekend; Retro Recipe Challenge #11: Your Mother Should Know, hosted by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness. It was similar to the first challenge in that it asked for a retro recipe but this one had to be from a year before your Mother was born. I thought I was set because I have several vintage cookbooks but it turns out my earliest one was published in 1933 and my Mom was born in 1931. Luckily I found an excellent resource at, called Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads by Sylvia Lovegren. (This is a fun book, very interesting to read and I plan to cook a few more retro recipes from it). Looking through the recipes and information on the 20's and 30's I had several contenders in my mind but it finally came down to two choices, both cakes, because this is supposed to be a challenge and once again (with feeling), I AM NOT A BAKER! I do admire bakers more than I can say and occasionally aspire to be one but frankly I am much better at "tinkering" with recipes and measurements than sticking to them to the letter which means I usually end up with about a 60% success record when baking. But enough about my issues and on to the finalists...

I was torn between two cakes; a Pineapple Upside Down Cake and a Mystery Cake by Campbell's Soup; basically a spice cake with a can of tomato soup as the secret ingredient. The Pineapple Cake sounded better, I love a good upside down cake and it provided a nice connection to my home in Hawaii but I have made similar cakes before. Although not being either a spice cake or tomato soup fan, I still could not resist the weirdness and kitschy appeal of the Mystery Cake, frosted with Philly-Vanilly Frosting so that was the winner.

Sylvia Lovegren writes about the Mystery Cake: "One of the newest and most popular cakes was a mystery or surprise cake--not surprising because everyone in the Thirties seemed to love "clever" cooking. This cake was a 1925 culinary contribution from Campbell's Soup and tasted surprisingly good. "But," said Joy of Cooking (1964) "why shouldn't it? The deep secret is tomato, which after all is a fruit." Mystery Cake was most often frosted with another brand named product--frosting made from Philadelphia brand cream cheese."

Mystery Cake
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon or mace
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup seedless raisins, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, well beaten
1 (15oz) can condensed soup
Philly-Vanilly Frosting (below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices together in a medium sized bowl. Toss the raisins to coat with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture. Cream the shortening in a large bowl. Add the sugar gradually to the shortening, creaming until light. Beat in the eggs until thoroughly mixed. Add the flour mixture alternately with the soup to the egg mixture. Stir until smooth. Fold in the raisins. Pour into two greased, floured 8" layer pans. Bake until cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Frost with Philly-Vanilly Frosting.

Philly-Vanilly Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package Philadelphia brand (of course) cream cheese
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the cheese until soft in a large bowl. Work in the sugar, then beat in the melted butter and vanilla. Continue beating until very light.

Both the cake and frosting were very easy to put together. The cake batter was an interesting orange color from the soup--for some reason I was expecting red?! I used golden raisins as I thought it would look better in the cake. I also checked my cake at 25 minutes and it was done--so watch cooking time. I baked the cake last night and frosted it this morning. The cream cheese frosting is good but the cake looked a little "blah". Trying to imagine what I might do if I were a typical "house-wife in a hurry" in the 20's-30's, I decided to "jazz it up" simply by zesting an orange, mixing in a bit of sugar and sprinkling it on the top of the cake, then sort of "swirling it with my knife into the frosting. I think it gave the cake a bit more visual interest and the hint of orange in the frosting complimented the flavor of the cake well and looked nice against the orange color of the cake when it was sliced.
The cake was pretty darn good actually! There was no discernible tomato flavor, just a mildly spiced cake, very moist. I don't think anyone would guess the mystery ingredient if you didn't tell them it was in there. Since I have only made and frosted one or two other layer cakes in my life, due to a traumatic cake making incident in my early teens (I'll cover that another time), I was very pleased with the results. A success for my second challenge entry!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #27 Vintage Cookbooks--The Nancy Drew Cookbook

Part of my desire to start a blog was to be able to take part in events like the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. When I saw this this month's, hosted by Carla at Chocolate Moosey, I knew the exact cookbook I wanted to choose: The Nancy Drew Cookbook, Clues to Good Cooking, originally published in 1973. Growing up, I loved Nancy Drew and so wanted to be a girl detective just like Nancy. This was until I realized that Nancy was constantly investigating scary places, being tied up by bad guys and just generally getting herself in bad situations. At heart I am basically a big chicken and wouldn't want to be in those situations at all, thus I decided I needed a new career goal but never lost my admiration for smart and spunky Nancy! My older sister had most of the Nancy Drew books in our house and I coveted and borrowed most of them. She also had the Nancy Drew Cookbook which I also coveted for years until seeing a copy in a used book store a few years ago, I bought my own. The cookbook has recipes named after characters and places from the Nancy Drew books and notes and tips "from Nancy" at the bottom of each recipe which are fun to read. I had never cooked from it before but quickly settled on two recipes: Ivory Charm Shrimp Curry and Fire Dragon Spiced Fruit. I could see Nancy inviting her friends Bess and George over for a "girls night" of exotic, sophisticated (for the times) food and conversation and serving these two dishes with a simple green salad.
Ivory Charm Shrimp Curry
2 cups cooked rice
1 10-ounce package of frozen cooked shrimp
1 can frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup*
1 cup sour cream
1 large onion
1 tbs butter or margarine
1/2 tsp curry powder
Parsley flakes

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Thaw shrimp as directed on the package. Spread cooked rice in the bottom of a baking dish. Chop onion into small pieces, melt butter in skillet and cook onion over low heat until tender but not brown. Stir in the soup until smooth. Add sour cream and curry powder until ingredients are blended and add shrimp. Pour this mixture over the rice, sprinkle with paprika and parsley flakes. Bake for 20 minutes. Serves 4.
Nancy's notes: "Foreign Flavor: For Far Eastern intrigue, serve small bowls of crushed salted peanuts, chopped hard-boiled eggs and chutney for guest to sprinkle over the shrimp dish."

*I am not sure I have ever seen frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup in Hawaii or any where, so I asked myself "WWNDD?" (what would Nancy Drew do?). I think that if Nancy discovered that Hannah Gruen, her beloved housekeeper, had not restocked the freezer with the condensed soup, and being the resourceful girl she was, she would have headed over to her cupboard and used a can of Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup as a suitable replacement.
Fire Dragon Spiced Fruit
2 cups peach halves
2 cups pear halves
1 small jar maraschino cherries
2 1/2 cups pineapple chunks
1/3 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Drain all fruit and dry on paper towels. Arrange fruit in a 2 quart casserole, mixing the pieces. Melt butter in a skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar and curry powder and stir until smooth. Pour over the fruit and bake uncovered for 1 hour. Serve with meat or salad.
"Nancy's Helpful Tip: This fruit dish becomes even tastier if it is left covered in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving, reheat it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees."

The Results: Not too bad! Very kitschy and 70's I think but kind of fun. The friend I bribed with cupcakes from my favorite place to come and try it said, "Pretty Good! It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be!" This is not the normal reaction I like to hear when I cook but in this situation, I'll take it! We both wanted more curry flavor--it was a small amount and a little subtle but I wanted to keep as true to the recipes as possible. Having the chopped egg, chutney and chopped cashews (I was out of peanuts) helped add some "Far Eastern Intrigue" as promised by Nancy, The dishes were pretty rich and filling and if I were Nancy, I would feel more like taking a nap after eating them than solving a mystery, (OK that might have been the cupcakes talking!). I liked the curry in the brown sugar on the fruit and since I like to serve ice cream with grilled fresh pineapple as dessert, I might try playing around with the brown sugar, butter, curry as a dessert topping. Overall a fun experience for my very first blog event!