Breakfast in Bed – Cherry Blossoms

Post by Alison Hein.

My husband and I just took a trip to Washington, DC for a big family birthday celebration. Our party was Saturday night, and we planned to return home the next day, after a quick morning detour to see the flowering Yoshino cherry trees. Upon arriving, we realized the blossoms were mere days away from opening. My heart was set on photographing the flowery pink trees, so Kevin suggested I stay in DC a few days longer.

While the blossoms slowly opened, I took many lovely close-up shots of the airy rose-colored cherry blossoms – completing a slow circle around the Tidal Basin, pausing to capture the unique color and style of every tree. I’ve been home for a week now, and still see lush, pastel blooms every time I close my eyes. And so I was inspired to create luscious cherry pastries for this week’s post. They aren’t nearly as pretty, but they taste much better than the real deal (especially considering that the DC tree blossoms are edible only for birds).

So if you can’t get away this year to visit some cherry blossoms, enjoy some instead for a flowery springtime breakfast in bed.

Ingredients

2 puff pastry sheets (generally sold as 2 in a package)
1 egg, separated
4 ounces whipped cream cheese
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup cherry preserves
½ teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting flower tops

Preparation

Thaw puff pastry sheets, per package instructions. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets and preheat oven to 350°. Lightly beat egg white and set aside. Whip together cream cheese and 2 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, flour, cherry preserves and vanilla to the cream cheese mixture and mix until smooth. Set aside.

Carefully unfold a pastry sheet onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll and trim each pastry sheet into a 16×8-inch rectangle. Cut into 8 equal 4 inch-squares. At each corner, ¼ inch from edge, cut a 1inch line in each direction, following the square edge of the corner. Repeat for the remaining three corners (see picture). Pick up each corner cut-away strip and bring to the center creating four loops. Pinch ends lightly to seal.

Spoon 1½ teaspoons of cherry cream cheese filling in the center of each pastry square. Place the pastries on the prepared baking sheet. Brush pastry crust with beaten egg white. Flip flat corners of each flower up to meet filling center and brush with more egg white to seal. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the blossoms are golden brown and filling is set. Transfer the pastries to a wire rack and let cool at least 10 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Makes 16 cherry blossoms.

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Bedtime Stories: Scaredy Squirrel

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Scaredy Squirrel by Mélane Watt.

If you have children and they haven’t introduced you to the Scaredy Squirrel series, well they probably will any minute now. It now boasts eight books in its collection, but we are here to talk about the one that started it all. Wayyyyyy back in 2006 the first of the Scaredy Squirrel books was released. We learn a lot about this utterly neurotic squirrel and his very particular routines.

As you may guess, he is the squirrel equivalent of a scaredy cat. What is he scared of? You name it! On his list are: Green Martians; killer bees; tarantulas; poison ivy; germs and sharks. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, to be sure (I can hear him now: “Icebergs! Where?! RUN“). This may be a neurotic little guy but he is not unprepared. He has four evacuation routes from his tree and contingency plans for each exit point just in case any of THOSE things are awaiting him.

Then, one day, the unthinkable happens and Scaredy Squirrel finds himself facing the things that have kept him from ever leaving his tree and the safety of his routine. What will happen? Will he be nabbed by aliens? Read it and find out! A funny book with lots of companion books for fans aged four and up!

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Movies in Bed: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Post by Mark T. Locker.

My kid has gone completely Star Wars crazy. It’s mostly my fault, though I didn’t realize just how absolutely bonkers he would go. It’s my fault because although he was aware of Star Wars and kind of liked some of it, I made the mistake of getting the LEGO Star Wars game for the Wii. Take two things lots of kids love and put them together in a video game?! Marketing genius and a surefire way to spend 5 days a week explaining that we only play it on the weekends (and then most hours of the weekend saying: not yet).

Scrolling through the Netflix collection recently, it was pointed out to me that I had just passed over some animated Star Wars show. Sure enough, I had totally skipped Star Wars: the Clone Wars, a CGI animated series which is apparently in its sixth season! It’s apparently set between the stories of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I don’t remember the Clone movie, and never saw the third one, but this show is actually pretty enjoyable, even for an adult. Sometimes I’m shocked by this mostly not violent show because suddenly someone will get run through with a light saber or something. (In our video game, this isn’t a problem: all the people are LEGO! They just fall apart!) That aside, it’s kind of funny and well-written and aside from that horrific Jar Jar Binks, not a bad show at all. If you like Star Wars and have thirty hours to kill, I recommend you check this show out. Even if you just watch it for the droids. They are remarkably hilariously dumb.

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Breakfast in Bed – Most Ridiculous Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Post by Alison Hein.

Is it breakfast? Lunch? A new meal category yet to be invented like the Hobbit’s Second Breakfast? Your guess is as good as mine, but I do know the Most Ridiculous Grilled Cheese Sandwich is an experience you’ll have to try for yourself.

Many years ago, when I was still a novice cook, my friend Sally introduced me to this addictive compilation. Sally’s family had been making this uber-rich, cheesy, gooey indulgence since she could remember. The philosophy of the sandwich is simple – the richer the better. Thus, tangy cheddar cheese is not enough until mixed with thick, creamy mayonnaise. And a grilled cheese sandwich is not enough until dipped in egg batter and fried in butter until golden brown like French Toast!

I liked the recipe immediately because it combines two of the simplest meals I had already learned to cook – French Toast and Grilled Cheese. The olives provide a necessary foil to offset the cheesy richness of the sandwich. And, it was fun to cook because no one had ever heard of such a thing.

Many years have passed. My culinary skills have greatly increased, and I’ve long since lost touch with Sally. But I still pull out my old frying pan once a year or so, and cook myself up a ridiculous (gooey, indulgent and delicious) breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2 slices soft, eggy bread
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup black olives, sliced into thin rounds
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup milk
1 egg
2 to 4 tablespoons butter

Preparation
Place bread slices on working surface. Add the cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and black olives to a small bowl and mix together. Season with salt and pepper. Spread cheese mixture on one slice of bread, then top with the second slice to form a sandwich.

In a large, shallow bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Dip the sandwich into the egg mixture, turning once to completely saturate. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in heavy skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add sandwich to pan and cover. Cook, turning once, until golden on the outsides and cheese mixture is thoroughly melted, about 6 to 8 minutes, adding more butter as needed. Serve immediately with plenty of napkins.

Makes 1 ridiculous sandwich – enough for 2 servings.

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Bedtime Stories: The Magician King

Post by Mark T. Locker.

The Magician King by Lev Grossman.

A few weeks ago I shared with you a magical novel called The Magicians, a Harry Potter-meets-Narnia-meets-something wayyy more grown-up. So intrigued was I by the ending, I had to run out and pick up the sequel, The Magician King. As far as middle books in a trilogy go, this one is pretty good. It is a fair bit darker in some ways and a bit more playful in others. SPOILER ALERT: The story picks up with Quentin and his friends Julia, Janet, and Eliot assuming the four thrones of the land of Fillory. But on an adventure to discover a magical golden key, Quentin and Julia find themselves suddenly back on Earth with no way of returning. The novel goes between the main narrative and the backstory of Julia who, unlike Quentin and his friends, was not accepted into magic school and had to find other means of developing her magical education. That is where most of the darkness of this story comes from.

I enjoyed this follow-up. Quentin has, thankfully, grown up and doesn’t make these stupid childish decisions like he did in the last book. He’s more of a protagonist I can get behind. If you read the first novel and enjoy it, I definitely recommend you pick up this one as well.

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