Posts by Amanda Stephens

Basil Summer

IStock Basil

Sun streaming through the window, the sound of laughter can be heard outside over the classical music filtering through the pine-scented air. A typical experience of my childhood was spending time in the kitchen of my Grandmother’s cabin as family floated about concocting dishes of exemplary flavor. My younger brother and I would hang around the fringes of all this activity, hoping to catch a morsel before it went out the door to waiting guests, but most times we would just get underfoot and be sent outside to create our own chaos.

However, the memory is still clear from that one hot summer when my uncle took both of us under his wing and gave us our first real instruction in cooking. continue reading >>

Cooking with Literature

IStock Cooking

Literature has sculpted and influenced many lives. As a true foodie I have often wondered what many of my favorite literary characters would recommend eating. I would love to sit down to dinner with Nick Carraway and discuss the finer points of Gatsby’s thrilling and lively parties. And did Alice like the Mad Hatter’s tea party, or was the tea a bit on the strong side? Finally, what was so amazing about Wonka’s chocolate—I mean I’m sure it was good, but what made it phenomenal? In some cases these questions are answered for us when they jump off the pages to convenience store shelves for our benefit and pleasure, as in the above-mentioned Wonka bars. However, luck is generally not on our side in this regard; we’re left to imagine the tasty delicacies. 

I love authors who turn the desires of food and literature into a really amazing collaboration. Just check out some of these titles to see what I mean.

Fifty Shades of Chicken By: FL Fowler

Fifty Shades of ChickenTo go with the popular craze of Fifty Shades of Grey this cleverly written cookbook takes cooking chicken to a new and sexy level. Normally chicken creeps me out and I find it slightly scary to handle but, in this instance, the fear and hesitation can be just a touch intriguing. Like the Shades of Grey trilogy, this cookbook is divided into three sections: The Novice Bird, Falling to Pieces, and Birds Gone Wild. [...]
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Super Bowl Party Ideas from the Guru of Snack Foods

Super Bowl Party Ideas from the Guru of Snack Foods

This past football season has led to some spectacular victories and some upsets that have resulted in tears of frustration. Through it all we worriedly nibbled on nachos, cheered happy exclamations while clinging to our beers, and worked up a general appetite watching our favorite teams battle it out on the gridiron. From tailgating to our at home parties, food has been a prevalent aspect of our sporting experience.  Now with football season winding down, the Super Bowl is almost here and it’s time to share some of our favorite snacks.

I don’t like to brag, but I just happen to be the guru of snack foods. I have hosted my own Super Bowl parties a time or two, and delicious lip-smacking tastiness always abounds. I own my own deep fryer, so of course epic snack food is coming from my kitchen. A crowd pleaser that has become a staple is my miniature pigs in a blanket. The recipe is simple and easy. You will need a tube of crescent rolls and a package of miniature hotdogs. I prefer the ones stuffed with cheese; they offer just a little extra flavor. The rolls are going to be bigger than the hot dogs so cutting them down to size is not only economical but it evens out the pastry to meat ratio. Once you have your dogs in their blankets all you have to do is bake and then serve up. I taught my roommate how to make these and they became a nightly tradition for [...]
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Relationships Suck

Relationships Suck

Have you ever heard the lines, “You really are better without him/her,” or “He/she just isn’t worth the tears”? I definitely have. Dating is a dangerous mine field, as we all know. I usually think, “Hey that guy seems nice,” and then before I know it, the crazy blows up in my face. Sometimes I can catch it before it gets too out of hand. Like the guy who removed his teeth during our dinner date or the great catch who wanted to share the drink he purchased on my behalf. But for the good ones that got away, instead of weeping uncontrollably into a pint of ice cream—well, maybe I did that for a little bit—I rerouted my energy to more useful endeavors, thanks to the help of these amazing reads.

 

Gone GirlGone Girl

By: Gillian Flynn

Nothing says rot in hell like a little revenge. This is one of those reads where you are convinced that it does get better… kind of like your love life. Once you drop off the cliff of an “oh, crap” moment, all holds are gone. Amy does what every angry woman wishes she could do to her jerk of a husband; she makes him suffer.  The complete stupidity of Nick, the husband, makes you feel like you are watching a car accident in progress, except this accident is at a monster truck rally and you are completely beside yourself with anticipation and excitement. This work of fiction captures [...]
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Thanksgiving Dinner: A How-To

Thanksgiving Dinner: A How-To

When confronted with the prospect of selecting a Thanksgiving cookbook to review, I felt like I was assigned an utterly hopeless task. How could I possibly find a book that carried all the goodness of that epic day? Thanksgiving is about experiencing a home cooked meal with friends and family. It’s about comfort foods that bring forth feelings of warmth and home. How can one single cookbook do all that?

In the spirit of tradition, I pulled a few recipes from my arsenal. Here is my take on what I consider the most important meal of the year. Enjoy.

Let’s talk turkey. While flipping through recipes I found multiple ways to cook a turkey. By the time I got to the section on brining, my head was swirling in a million different directions and don’t even get me started on stuffing the poor bird. I’m going to fall back on the simplest way to cook poultry—either a turkey or any other type of fowl.

First sanitize the carcass by rubbing a lemon all over its bumpy flesh. This removes any bacteria that might still be residing on our formerly feathered friend.

Secondly, remove the giblets and neck from the cavity of the bird. Cook them separately. I have to admit, a couple of times I’ve forgotten to remove them. Take it from me; you don’t want your end result to taste like plastic or an otherwise disgusting flavor. Double check!

I don’t like to stuff my bird with the traditional breadcrumb stuffing. Instead, I fill [...]
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The College Cookbook

The College Cookbook

The winds of change are advancing upon us once again. Parents are sending their children off to school, some tearfully saying good-bye to their babies, while others are gleefully planning on what they’ll be doing with that extra bedroom. No matter how your parents seem to be expressing themselves, as a student you can feel the perpetual hum of excitement in the air. It is saying, “Welcome to freedom. Now, let’s eat!”

As classes resume across the country, I have recognized an increase in college cookbooks peeking out from bookshelves. It seems to be every parent’s prerogative to purchase one of these numerous said cookbooks, to ensure their precious child doesn’t gain the dreaded “Freshmen 15″ or the “Senior 70.” Unfortunately, most of the entrees aren’t any better than what you can stand in line to purchase at a fast food chain, with instructions that tell you to microwave your food until heated. Two things come to mind: “Not healthy” and “Ew.”

On the other hand, the book that I have used frequently through out my university adventure has been The College Cookbook: An Alternative to the Meal Plan, by Geri Harrington. This book not only has nutritious recipes that are incredibly easy to make, but offers cheap ingredient ideas to substitute and fortify your meals. My favorite part of this cookbook is the fact that the recipes come from different college campuses across the country. Even the University or Oregon [...]
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Ode to Summer Paletas

Ode to Summer Paletas

On hot summer days, when the glare of the overly bright sun causes your surroundings to resemble the heat of an unregulated oven, nothing is more delightful then a sweet icy treat. Summer is truly the time to partake in cold delights to escape the unrelenting elements and to enjoy a tasty pastime that can relate so closely to childhood. Inhibitions can be cast away to reveal more youthful qualities.

Popsicles, in my opinion, are the ultimate means of finding your inner child. Have you ever seen someone eat a Popsicle? My coworkers can be a pretty serious bunch, but when I made paletas, there were giggles, Popsicle smiles of joy and amusing good cheer before we slogged back to work.

Based on the vast amount of popsicle makers I found in my pursuit to locate molds for my icy treats this summer, ice pops must be incredibly popular. One amazing book that delves into the art of creating these perfect summer treats is Fany Gerson’s book, Paletas. Inside you will find descriptions and recipes on how to make paletas (Mexican ice pops), shaved ice and an assortment of other delicious icy treats. The paletas I choose were watermelon, avocado and spicy pineapple.

The recipes were incredibly easy to make. Each one started out with making simple syrup; essentially sugar and water brought to a boil, removed from the heat and allowed to cool to room temperature. You can add the simple syrup to [...]
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Oregon Flavors

Oregon Flavors

To commemorate the reawakening of Oregon beauty here in Eugene, The Duck Store is hosting Proudly Oregon, an event where vendors and authors will gather to celebrate our great state. This event will take place on April 26 and will launch a weekend of activity beginning with the Spring Football Game and concluding with the Eugene Marathon.

With all the activity I really had to ask myself, where’s the food? I mean with all these spectacular Oregon events taking place, shouldn’t we get down with our inner foodie and ingest the flavors of Oregon?

I’m not a native Oregonian so before embarking on this Pacific Northwest quest, I asked some very knowledgeable sources (true Oregonians) what foods epitomized the tastes and flavors of Oregon. Marionberries, they told me, and apples, hazelnuts, clams, blackberries, crab and beer. It certainly was a lot of tastes and flavors to go on and the possibilities were endless. However, I was able to find a collection of delicious treats that I believe any Oregonian can relate to.

When I think of Portland or the coast, seafood instantaneously comes to mind. Recently in Portland I just could not get enough crab cakes and decided to try the dish myself. The recipe I found in The Lighthouse Breakfast Cookbook, by Michelle Bursey and Carol Korgan, was beyond belief. The crabmeat was mixed with sole—a delicious whitefish—and scallions, which I believe created a fresh spring flavor. The r�moulade was my [...]
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An American Tea Party

An American Tea Party

As a young child I would gather Mr. Bear, Rufus the dog and any Barbie dolls that hadn’t met unfortunate ends at the hands of my younger sibling, and we would convene around a delectable meal of sugar cubes and crackers. My childhood tea parties were like any other child’s tea party, with the exception that no one seemed to trust me with actual tea—although, strangely, they were more then willing to fill me up with sugar.

The traditional tea party was primarily a feature in the great Victorian houses of England. Here people would gather and discuss life and all its intricacies. (I really think it was just an excuse for people to gossip without restraint.) The tea party as a social gathering continued until WWII.

Now, however, the idea of the tea party has been refashioned to fit into American political practices, debutant lunches and, most traditionally, into children’s fantastical imaginings that include stuffed animal tea-goers.

I recently decided to create a tea party menu even the Mad Hatter would agree with. In Marguerite Marceau Henderson’s book, Small Sweet Treats, I was able to find a wonderland (much like Alice) of tasty delights. Henderson’s book speaks like a fairy tale of sweet delectable recipes.

All tea parties revolve around one thing…the cookie. The Pistachio-Lemon-Lavender Shortbread cookies I chose were just delightful. The lavender let off a subtle perfume that tickled your nose, while the lemon complimented the full body flavor of [...]
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National Soup Month

National Soup Month

When I was a freshman in college, my roommate introduced me to tomato soup. While it was just Campbell’s tomato soup in a to-go can, I thought I had discovered the best thing since someone packaged crackers and cheese together in those cute containers. For three months I had tomato soup every day, for almost every meal. I was on a meal plan, which allowed me a wide selection of other foods, but there was something about that soup that made me warm and fuzzy during the dead of winter. No wonder the month of January is national soup month. I can’t think of a better time to make a huge pot of steaming hot soup to warm you up on a cold winter’s night.

For delicious soup recipes that are sure to delight, try Madge Baird’s cookbook, 200 Soups. In this small book, Baird has created an encyclopedic catalogue of soups ranging from the texture of the soup to fundamental dietary ingredients. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, earning any soup connoisseur a chef’s applause at the end of the meal.

I chose three different soups to commemorate the month and to wow the palate. The first was in honor of my old favorite, tomato soup, but by adding oranges, this classic soup now had a zing. Growing up, I savored my mother’s beef stew, so to commemorate the cold months of my childhood [...]
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