Donut cake, Broken Monsters, and what you should pay attention to this weekend

Folks, it is officially fall in Chicago. I will pause here for your appreciative applause.

And now, I present you with the ultimate guide for the first fall weekend in the Windy City, where just 48 hours ago, it was something like 85 degrees. I don’t know; I just live here.

First up: make a donut cake that pairs perfectly with spiked, warm cider, hot coffee, or some other warm and likely alcoholic beverage. It’s baked in a bundt tin, which I am usually strongly opposed to, but in this case, I’m really okay with. It’s full of nutmeg and cinnamon and buttermilk, and you’ll probably have no interest in leftovers, but just in case you do, they’re amazing and even more donut-y than I thought was possible. Y. u. m.

Second: read a spooky book about a supernatural murder mystery. Wow, you say, that sounds so specific. However will I find a book that fulfills those criteria? Oh, honey. I got you. Click here to read the review of Broken Monsters, and then realize that it’s the perfect book for this weekend.

Donut Cake and Broken Monsters

Lastly: pay attention to at least two things this weekend. One is, appropriately, also donut (or, in this case, doughnut) content. My friend from my high school journalism days has started a doughnut bakery in Pittsburgh called Fight Sized Doughnuts. If you live in Pittsburgh, as I know some of you do, run, don’t walk, to his website and give him a follow on Instagram. Tasty things await you.

You should also pay attention to Samin Nosrat (aka my girl Samin, my goddess of cooking, my imaginary best friend who I chat with even though she’s not there in the kitchen) and her brand-new Netflix show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which is based on her most illustrious cookbook that has been reviewed right here on Page & Plate. I started the first episode last night, and honestly, I had to stop because it was just way too exciting and wonderful and I started crying when she made pesto with a nonna.

Cake Pops, Ready Player One, and Good Things from Good Things

Today's theme is how good things that come from other good things. Does that make sense? In other words, when you start with something good (like this cake) and then you make something out of it, it is also good (cake pops).

I am one of those people who staunchly believes that you should read the book before you see the movie. With the exception of The Princess Diaries and Game of Thrones (unpopular but certain opinion), I've never seen a movie adaptation of the book that was so much better than the book that it blew me away. And this post isn't going to change that, so if you're looking for an opportunity to tell me you told me so, head somewhere else. 

Ready Player One and Cake Pops

Colin and I saw Ready Player One the weekend we got back from Ireland at the tremendously charming Brew & View in the Vic Theater. I had not read the book, despite his numerous suggestions that I read the book, and I wasn't expecting much from the movie, but I ended up getting super into it. Then I read the book, and I was like "wow, no wonder that movie was so good! It came from such a good book! This will make a great blog post, and also the colors of the cake pops match perfectly with the cover! Fate!"

The end.

Harry Potter + Granola Bars = Modern Classics

We are not living in the age of Jane Austen and seven-course dinners on Wednesday. We know that. We are ok with that. In fact, we are great with that. Because what we are living with here is a set of modern classics that mean just as much to us: Harry Potter and granola bars.

harry potter and granola bars.jpg

I'm not going to say much more about these things because I think they speak for themselves. Go forth and enjoy some modern classics.

Cauliflower & Chicken Curry, Arcadia, and Adding Spice

 The haul from San Francisco's book stores.

The haul from San Francisco's book stores.

Here are my November resolutions: use more spices in food and read more fantasy books. When I was in SF a few weeks ago, my friend Brian took me to a bookstore called Borderlands Books, a bookstore focused ENTIRELY on science fiction and fantasy. And it's huge. It's HUGE. When we walked in, I was floored by how many shelves and stories and sections there were in a store for a genre that's usually delegated to a just few quiet shelves in the back of a bookstore that I, yes, I'll admit it, usually avoid.

While I stood in the adjacent coffee shop waiting for a turn in the bathroom, I tried to estimate how many books were in the store. I quickly realized I couldn't, but it really got me thinking about how many books are out there to read and how silly it is that I have so many misconceptions about this one genre specifically. So I picked a book off the shelf (Arcadia, which has been on my list for a while) and gave it a read. There are so many cool stories and books and authors out there to try, and it's going to be my mission from now on to make an effort to include more science fiction and fantasy in my reading list. Suggestions are welcome! And yes, Brandon Sanderson is on the list. I'll get to it; I promise!

Back in Chicago, I realized that the same goes for spices. Fun fact: I am never more than 0.2 miles away from a boutique spice store between work and home in Chicago. How cool is that? I've got to take advantage of it. Instead of using the same seasonings and flavors in my cooking (looking at you, smoked paprika), I'm going to cook with unusual spices and herbs that may involve some trial runs. Keep a look out, but in the meantime, check out today's recipe, Cauliflower & Chicken Curry, which at least forced me to finally purchase turmeric, which I still haven't figured out how to pronounce.


The Easy Way

 Just in case you thought I was kidding about my progress here.

Just in case you thought I was kidding about my progress here.

If you're like me, it isn't always easy to sit back, relax, and take the easy way out. Even the tiny things get me: microwaving that frozen pizza I bought months ago because it was on sale for dinner instead of cooking (wait, should that go in the oven?). Choosing to watch yet another episode of The Office, a show I have seen probably 20 times through, instead of reading a chapter of Infinite Jest, a book I have yet to finish despite starting it literally five years ago. It feels like the bad guys of the universe score a point when I admit what I often already know: I'm just too tired. So I stubbornly attempt to resist until I burn out, not unlike a dying star.

Lucky for me, I have people in my life who remind me that it's okay not to overachieve or die trying. A few days ago, on my return from a whirlwind trip home to Pittsburgh, Colin offered to make dinner -- a new recipe for étouffée, a dish we'd only ever had out, specifically at Louella's Southern Kitchen (a must have if you're ever in Chicago's Lincoln Square). When I walked in the door that afternoon, having planed, trained, and automobiled my way back home, the whole apartment smelled like all things good in the world. Dinner was delicious, and I hadn't done a thing besides take the path of least resistance and say yes when Colin offered. (See Monday's post for more proof that he always knows best or get the recipe here if you're tired of reading me gush about the man.)


During my trip, I had a couple of books loaded on my Kindle that I knew I needed to read. But sure enough, as soon as I walked into Midway Airport, I went straight to the Hudson Booksellers and bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Did I feel sheepish walking out of the store? Sure thing (and not just because of the price). Did I feel like I was somehow cheating at life by choosing to read a short, easy book instead of a long, complicated one? You bet.

But did I maybe just maybe tear up when I found myself back in that world and then finish it way too quickly (much like that étouffée)? Absolutely. And I loved it. Because sometimes, it's okay to take the easy way.