Friday, August 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 11


Earlier this week I finished Michael Pollan's fascinating book, The Omnivore's Dilemma.  I wrote a review of it on Goodreads, check it out!  I was thinking of publishing the entire thing here (seeing as it's a book about food and all), but this post is long enough already.  You'll have to settle for a link.
And now that I've finally finished The Omnivore's Dilemma and Outlander, I'm finally able to move on to other books.  Last week I read The Help.  If you're one of the six people on the planet who still hasn't read it, let me tell you, it's fantastic.  (I want to cook something out of there but I was so absorbed in the story that I didn't take the time to bookmark and take note of the food.  A good excuse to read it again, right?)  After that I started a book called Adam and Eve After the Pill:  Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, by Mary Eberstadt.  It's a very interesting, factual analysis of how Western society has evolved over the last fifty or so years, and how our casual attitudes about sex and the widespread use of birth control has led to societal ills that most people--with the possible exception of Pope Paul VI--couldn't have foreseen.  I'm making my way through that one slowly (and carefully--I'm sure you'll hear more from me about that one, in a non-judgmental way, of course) while I devour Room by Emma Donoghue.  I started that one yesterday and I can hardly put it down.  It's written from the perspective of a five-year-old boy who has been imprisoned with his mother in a tiny room by a psychopath since the day he was born, and that little room is the only world he knows.

I have lots of other books on my to-read list.  I'd better hurry up and read them because once school starts I won't have much time for books.


For my husband's birthday recently we made coconut cake.  I had planned to devote an entire blog post to it, but I made a kind of "shortcut" version; when I finally get around to making one from scratch I'll share all the juicy details.  I'll call it "Incredibly Deadly Cake," because Lemony Snicket's The Reptile Room (one of the reptiles being The Incredibly Deadly Viper, which isn't deadly at all) inspired it.  Meanwhile, here's a plain old Coconut Cream Cake, brought to you by Duncan Hines.


1 pkg. Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic White Cake Mix
1 (3.4-oz) pkg. coconut cream instant pudding and pie filling (I couldn't find instant so I used the Cook & Serve version instead, and it worked just fine)
4 large eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1 can store-bought vanilla frosting
1 1/3 cup flaked coconut for topping

Baking Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9" round cake pans.
2.  For cake, combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, water, and oil in large bowl.  Beat at low speed with electric mixer until moistened.  Beat at medium speed for two minutes.  Stir in 1/3 cup coconut.  Divide into pans.
3.  Bake at 350 degrees for 32 to 37 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool following package directions.
4.  Fill and frost cake.  Sprinkle with remaining coconut.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

(adapted from Duncan Hines Dot Com)

So that's my "fast-food" version.  It was a huge hit.  I hope soon to make, in the spirit of The Omnivore's Dilemma, a "slow-food" version; i.e. from scratch.  And maybe I'll try a gluten free variety, too.


I know I've been deviating these last several months from the main theme of this blog; namely, Nicholas Sparks.  I'm tempted to rename it to more accurately reflect what I've been doing here lately.  Maybe I'll call it Cooking Nick's and Other People's Books Too:  A Book Lover's Food Blog, Especially Nicholas Sparks.  Hmm, that's too long.  I'll study on it a while.

I did manage to make something from The Lucky One recently; a simple and delicious ratatouille.  Check it out here.


Besides chomping through one book after another this summer (plus getting to see Gavin DeGraw AND Foreigner in concert)  I've gotten myself COMPLETELY hooked on One Tree Hill.  I know I've mentioned that before; but let me tell you, now that I'm nearing the end of Season Three, I'm not ashamed to admit that I LOVE it.  It feels kind of like being hooked on a daytime soap opera.  If you love Nicholas Sparks, One Tree Hill is right up your alley.  And the first eight seasons are streaming on Netflix; I'm sure it won't be long before the ninth and final season is available as well.  I stayed up way too late watching it last night because they killed off a major character and I was so shocked I kept on watching.  A couple of episodes later I finally switched off the iPad I've mostly been watching it on and lay awake thinking about it and when I finally got to sleep it invaded my dreams.

Maybe during the school year I'll make my way through the fourth season at a normal pace.  After all, there will be many other shows I'll be watching too--Person of Interest, Once Upon a Time, The Amazing Race, Dancing With the Stars; and maybe that new J.J. Abrams show Revolution.

For your entertainment, here are some photos from the amazing Foreigner show we attended last Friday night:

That's the Colonial Forge High School Choir on stage singing "I Wanna Know What Love Is" with the band.  An incredible moment.

Our friend Glenn took the next four pictures, with my phone through his binoculars.  He's such a talented photographer; that's why, seventeen years ago, we had him videotape our wedding.

And since I failed to get a t-shirt at the Gavin DeGraw concert, I was darn well going to get one this time.


Now for a bit of Catholicism:  Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence.  Why would I mention this in a food/cooking blog, you ask?  Well, it's kind of morbid, actually, but quite entertaining:
Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome, who along with Pope Sixtus II and other deacons, was executed in 258.
The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"
In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. Lawrence was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. "Turn me over. "I'm done on this side!" And just prior to his death, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. With that, he went to His heavenly reward. (source)
St. Lawrence is the patron of comedians, cooks, restaurants, librarians, brewers, butchers, and wine growers.  And lots of other things, too.  Fitting for a blog about food and books, don't you think?


I'm told that today is National S'mores Day.  Which reminds me, I still haven't told you about the new fire pit we bought at the beginning of the summer.  Now we can roast marshmallows and make s'mores right on our back deck!

(My gluten free version:  marshmallows and chocolate atop a Pamela's Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookie.  If I put one on top it would be too sweet.)


It's been a while since I've shared Nick's more entertaining posts on Twitter, so let me present STELLAR SPARKS TWEETS:  THE OLYMPICS EDITION!

think a lot of women would be happy if i had a movie coming out with Ryan Lochte. #Olympics

Sometimes, I think every Olympic event should have an average person competing, just for reference.

It's great when Olympic commentators say "He wants to take home the gold today" because it really helps me understand the sport.

My tweet critiquing NBC's tape-delayed Olympic coverage will be available for reading in a few hours.

And this non-Olympic one:

If I ever get taken in for questioning, I hope there's no Algebra.

Check out Nick's Twitter page for more like this, as well as updates on the filming of Safe Haven!

Have a wonderful weekend, and be sure to visit Conversion Diary for many more Quick Takes!

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