Movies in Bed: Scrooged

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Well, it’s the day after Thanksgiving. We all know what THAT means: Four weeks of in-your-face Christmas fun! The least I can do is make a meager contribution by sharing some of those good old-fashioned holiday movies. Not that any of these will be a new discovery for you. Nevertheless: Happy Holidays! Let the fun begin!

We will start off with the 1988 Bill Murray reinterpretation of the classic Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol”. I’m talking about Scrooged. Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross. As befits the tale, he is successful and a terrible human being. As befits Bill Murray, he does it all in the most hilariously awful way. Stapling tiny antlers onto a little mouse? Ha ha! and No.

We all know how these stories play out: visits from the ghosts, a vision of what lies ahead if he continues to be a total jerk and then, of course, the possibility for redemption. I wonder which he’ll choose? Watch it this season and marvel at the fact that this is the 25th anniversary of the film. Yup. It’s one quarter of a century old.

Classic holiday fun for all!

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Breakfast in Bed: Indian Pudding

Post by Alison Hein.

Here’s an oldie but goodie – just in time for Thanksgiving. If you’re from New England, this may be familiar, old-fashioned holiday fare for you. If not, read on.

The first known recipe for Indian pudding appeared in what is considered America’s first cookbook – Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery,” published in 1796. Amelia kindly provided three variants: one very eggy version with raisins which required less baking time, one simple and sweet, and one to be boiled in cloth for 12 hours! I used her sweet and simple version for inspiration:

A Nice Indian Pudding
3 pints scalded milk to one pint meal salted; cool, add 2 eggs, 4 ounces butter, sugar or molasses and spice q. f. it will require two and half hours baking.

Typically fuzzy food history opines that this dish was based on traditional English pudding, which is either baked or boiled, sweet or savory, and usually bread-like and custardy. Fine flour was not so easy to come by in the New World, so our ever inventive forefathers replaced it with “Indian” maize, or cornmeal, obtained from Native Americans. Sweetened simply, usually with molasses, this new “pudding” must have been a rare treat back in the day. Rumor has it that colonists contributed this dish to some of our earliest Thanksgiving celebrations with Native Americans.

I baked my Indian pudding slowly at a low temperature, and found it to be an inviting blend of custard, corn bread, and pudding. A subtle treat, and an old-fashioned and familiar breakfast in bed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ingredients
3 cups whole milk
4 ounces butter
1 cup corn meal
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup (or substitute molasses)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Preparation
Preheat oven to 325°, and spray an 8×8-inch pan with cooking spray. Scald milk by heating in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, without stirring, until tiny ripples begin to form on the surface. Add butter and remove from heat. When butter is melted, slowly add corn meal, stirring rapidly to ensure no lumps form. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Stir eggs into corn meal mixture. Add sugar, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, ginger, mace and nutmeg and stir until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours until pudding is set and a toothpick in center comes out clean.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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Bedtime Stories: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Post by Mark T. Locker.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Maybe it’s the darkening of the days that draws me towards darker reading. Maybe I’m just beginning to discover Holly Black who is, by and large, fairly dark in content. Black, who is probably best known for co-authoring The Spiderwick Chronicles, has aimed this at an older audience. This is a grown-up or teenage bedtime story, to be sure. But a very good read.

This is a vampire book. If you aren’t into vampires, then this book would probably annoy you. It’s also a love story, of sorts. An action/adventure story. A revenge story. I like it because it’s not like other vampire stories. In this story a whole unique culture has popped up due to the unchecked spread of vampirism. This new cultures is centered around Coldtowns. When you are bitten, you turn Cold. After which, you will probably become a vampire. If you are, you are sent to live in the closest Coldtown. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of humans who are obsessed with vampires and dream of becoming one. These people go to Coldtown, which is a one-way ticket, in the hopes of becoming vampires.

Tana doesn’t want to be a vampire but she may be infected. Her ex is definitely infected. And the guy in the trunk, tied in chains is a vampire. So, it looks like they’re off to Coldtown! Holly Black writes in an engaging and entertaining manner. It’s at times a little gory, but not so bad as to make it unbearable. Good read for Goth teens or ex-goth adults.

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Things We Like: Weekend Getaways

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

A weekend getaway, wherever it may be, can be just what you need to rejuvenate your mind and body. Going somewhere new does wonders for the spirit. New sights, new foods, new people, and a break from the mundane are all selling points in my book. Don’t take my word for it though; there have been a number of studies that all show that people who go on vacations live healthier and happier lives. Vacationers are more resilient to stress, and are more productive at work. Sound like something you could benefit from? It does to me.

A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to partake in a weekend trip to Napa Valley, and I definitely feel like my life is a little better for having done so.

For wine lovers, a trip to Napa is somewhat of a pilgrimage. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a concentration of vineyards. While I definitely have a lot to learn about wine (and the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know), driving along Highway 29 is truly awe-inspiring. You’re sure to pass by wineries that you’re familiar with, or have at least heard of. It’s very cool to see where so many grapes are born, raised, and transformed into wines that are enjoyed throughout the world.

Even if you are not very interested in wine, the beauty of Napa is that is has something to offer just about everyone. The area is home to some of the most renowned restaurants, luxurious spas, and wide open spaces — which is a luxury in itself for those of us looking to get away from the congestion of city life.

I don’t know what it is, but I always sleep better on vacation. Usually exhausted from a day of adventure, I wake up looking forward to everything a new day offers. Good sleep also seems to follow me home, which is probably a symptom of recovering from all the excitement. With the end of 2013 quickly coming to a close, don’t let your vacation days go to waste this year. Instead, use them to go somewhere new to recharge your batteries and get a fresh perspective. You’re sure to feel better for it.

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Breakfast in Bed: Buttermilk Pancakes

Post by Alison Hein

Traditional buttermilk is liquid that remains after churning butter. (You can read about butter-making in a prior post.) It has a high lactic acid content that makes it tart and thick. When acidic buttermilk is mixed with baking powder it produces carbon dioxide, which facilitates rising and produces a light, airy dough in biscuits, breads and baked goods.

While I often create a “faux” buttermilk using regular milk and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, the real deal has a unique character and flavor that produces classic, fluffy pancakes. These griddled delights have a pure, simple taste that doesn’t require a lot of adornment – you can start to nibble on them straight from the pan.

And if you think a quart of buttermilk is more than you want to buy just to make pancakes, try making homemade salad dressing. Ranch dressing is easy and fresh. Use about a cup of buttermilk, a touch of sour cream and mayonnaise, fresh chopped herbs, and a smidgen of garlic and mustard. Shake it all together. Now you’ve got a tastier product than store-bought, and your friends and family will be impressed with your creativity.

But I got sidetracked from our pancakes. Just take my word for it. Buttermilk is the new / old product of the day. Pick some up and start cooking. Start with these Buttermilk Pancakes for a classic, fluffy breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
4 ounces (one half stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus additional for cooking

Preparation
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Gradually whisk in buttermilk, then the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add melted butter to batter. The batter should be thick, smooth and creamy.

Place a pan or griddle on the stove over medium to medium high heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan for the first pancake. Ladle batter into pan and cook until small bubbles appear throughout pancake, about 1 minute. Flip once with spatula and continue cooking until golden brown, another minute or so. Serve hot with real maple syrup.

Makes 8 to 10 4-inch pancakes.

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