We Have a Winner: The Most Scrumdillicious Dish from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

2 04 2012

Thanks to everyone who participated in our latest Cook the Books selection, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Such wonderful dishes both sweet and savory, and excellent posts with your reviews, thoughts and feelings about reading (or rereading in many cases) this classic children’s book. If you didn’t get a chance to view the roundup and look at all the posts, here’s the link.

A very big THANK YOU! to our two fabulous judges, Natasha of 5-Star Foodie and her daughter Hannah, 5-Star Foodie Junior. It wasn’t an easy decision for them, but not only did they pick a winner,  Hannah had comments for each person on their entry. Thanks so much ladies!

Here is what they said:

Natasha said:Hannah and I just went over all the entries and I am including her comments below as well as the winner selection.  This was so much fun!”

Hannah’s Feedback:

  • Tina:   “Yes, the Buckets were poor so that had to use just the very few ingredients that were in their pantry.  They would definitely appreciate the beef roast, certainly better than the yucky cabbage soup
  • Camilla:   “This is a whole tasting menu!  The combination of nutella, pears, and Gorgonzola sounds really excellent.  I love balsamic vinegar so if you add the chocolate it must be fantastic in that glaze.
  • Rachel:   “The clickable nori wallpaper snacks look like a lot of fun!
  • Alicia:   “The chocolate roses are very pretty!”
  • Debra:  “Yum!   Cherry and chocolate combination is my favorite.
  • Claudia:   “The flavored marshmallows are colorful and sound delicious with the chocolate.
  • Heather:   “I wonder if I drink these whether I would fly up like the Oompa Loompa in the book!
  • Deb:   “Oh this was the funniest part of the book with the giant blueberry!  The truffles are very cool!
  • Jo:  “I do love cake pops!


Our Judges Verdict:

Hannah said:  “All the entries were very creative and everyone did a great job!.   I picked Camilla’s dishes as a winner because those dishes could have been on a 5 star restaurant menu!“.


Congratulations Camilla! …First time joining in CTB and walking away a winner! You can see all of the wonderful dishes Camilla made for her Wonka-inspired dinner here, at her blog Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

It’s now time to pass the Cook the Books hosting torch along to Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food and our April/May selection, The United States of Arugula by David Kamp. And, I’ll be back briefly in a few days to announce our next three CTB picks–so stay tuned. Happy reading and cooking!


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Cook the Books Roundup

29 03 2012

I love how willing all of you were to step back into childhood and embrace our February/March Cook the Books selection, the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. For some it was revisiting an old favorite, for others it was a new experience, but everyone did an amazing job at coming up with their Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket inspired dishes. Whether it was something savory to nourish poor Charlie and his family, or a fantastical scrumdillicious treat, your posts sharing your thoughts on the book and your dishes were a delicious treat to read!

Tina of Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor enjoyed rereading the book, especially the parts where the naughty children got their comeuppance, but she was concerned about “the sustenance the Bucket family was missing in the beginning of the book” and wanted to give them something filling. She says, “So…….you’d think the inspired meal or dish would be totally chocolate related, right? I decided on a Beef Roast with Vegetables and Potatoes Rice as the beginning of the book painted such a bleak portrait of the Bucket household’s pantry. They spoke of watery cabbage soup…….but I am not inclined to have severe lower abdominal pain for days on end slurping cabbage soup. Nope. You can serve with mashed potatoes and place that lovely gravy atop or (if you are married to a southerner as I am….even though he doesn’t act or sound like one) you may serve over rice.” A meal to warm and fill the belly for sure!

A new face to welcome to Cook the Books is Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camila who was inspired by seeing the play adapted from the book to cook an entire chocolate dinner. Starting with a Roasted Parsnip-White Chocolate Soup, served with Chocolate Crostini and a Chicken with Chocolate-Balsamic Vinegar Glaze and Salad. Dessert was a variety of luscious Vosges chocolate bars. Camilla did a quick re-read of the book for our Cook the Books event and says that “There are several things I like about this book. Though the plight of the Bucket grandparents is depressing – all four confined to a single bed that they never leave – I like that they all live together. Extended family, if you have that luxury, adds so much to kids’ lives.  I like the message of the story – you get what you deserve.” Welcome to Cook the Books Camilla!

My Cook the Books co-host Rachel, The Crispy Cook says, “It was a pleasure to dip in again with little Charlie Bucket and his sprightly Grandpa Joe as they explore the wonders of Willy Wonka’s amazing Chocolate Factory with a bunch of rotten kids and their equally revolting parents. I would recommend this witty book to anyone looking for a wacky, slightly sardonic romp, old and young alike.” She was inspired by Wonka’s Lickable Wallpaper for Nurseries and creatively created her own version saying, “I thought about those homemade flyers that have strips at the bottom with people’s phone numbers to rip off, and then that got me thinking about making edible wallpaper using nori, those sheets of roasted seaweed that one uses to roll sushi.”  Rachel had fun experimenting with flavors and turning out some tasty Lickable Nori Wallpaper Snacks.

Alicia of Foodycat calls the book “a classic children’s book – a wonderful fantasy with a good dollop of the macabre and some none-too-subtle moralising. Just the way I like them really. It’s a great book for the food lover. From the painfully austere, watery, cabbage soup that the Bucket family lives on, to the small, tantalising luxury of Charlie’s birthday chocolate bar and then the unimaginable abundance of the chocolate factory itself, it is all described with an acute ear for language and a beautiful sense of timing.” Foodycat focused on the art and science of making chocolate saying “I decided to do something straightforward and absolutely fundamental to making chocolate. Tempering it.I used my tempered chocolate to line two of my silicon rose moulds. Once it set, I filled the moulds with chocolate mousse and chilled them to set. They turned out beautifully! The perfect snap, the perfect smooth texture and a lovely glossy finish. Willy Wonka would be proud of me!”

Debra (aka Eliot) of Eliot’s Eats was surprised that she had never read the book since she is a childhood fan of the original movie version. She says, “I love Wilder’s wild Willy Wonka from the film and as I read the book, I could see how well Wilder portrayed this eccentric confectionery genius.   In fact, I was very impressed with how all the actors nailed their characters, especially Grandpa Joe and Charlie.  They really made them come to life from the pages of Dahl’s book. ” Eliot wanted to offer a healthier option, but still have a treat and she hit the mark with her Dark Sweet Cherry Yogurt with Chocolate and Amaretto, saying, “...as I read through all the fantastical (and calorific) treats in Dahl’s book, I couldn’t help but wonder what Charlie might be doing with that factory today.    In fact, I kept reading thinking, “OMG, what about all the calories and refined sugar these kids were taking in!!!! How would Charlie “healthify” the Chocolate Factory? … Charlie would actually be an adult by now, so I added a bit of an adult twist to this treat.
Claudia of Honey From Rock, found the book to be “Not deep reading here, still inspiring for all lovers of sweets and treats.” Although she vowed not to go through all the work of making chocolate (from harvesting the cacao beans to making the bars) again, Claudia,  along with her friend Nancy, created an island chocolate factory, creating these pretty Lavender, Strawberry and Lemon Marshmallows on Chocolate Bark.  She says, “It was just partly this lightweight, but charming fairy tale’s fault for inspiring me to do the chocolate making thing once more. On Charlie’s trip through Willy Wonka’s fabulous chocolate factory, mention is made of, among the scores of fanciful treats too numerous to mention, marshmallows that taste of violets.  I wanted to make perhaps three flavors of marshmallow – lavender, lemon and strawberry.  With colors to match, and then get them stuck onto pieces of chocolate bark.”
This was the first time reading the book for Heather of girlichef  who says, “If you love the movies, you’ll love the purity of the original book even more.  And you’ll be inspired to make all sorts of fun concoctions while you read the story.  One of my favorite scenes from the original movie was when Charlie and Grandpa Joe get into the fizzy lifting drinks and  I was bummed that they didn’t do anything with them in the Tim Burton version.  So when I happened upon the fizzy lifting drinks while reading the book – I instantly knew what I’d be making in honor of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (FIZZY LIFTING DRINKS, it said on the next door. “Oh, those are fabulous!” cried Mr. Wonka.  “They fill you with bubbles, and the bubbles are full of a special kind of gas, and this gas is so terrifically lifting that it lifts you right off the ground just like a balloon, and up you go until your head hits the ceiling–and there you stay.”) Heather “got fizzy with it” and made a rainbow of Grape, Tamarind, Grapefruit and Blood Orange Fizzy Lifting Drinks.
Over at Kahakai Kitchen, I was happy to celebrate my inner child and reread this much beloved book. For my dish I wanted to pay homage to one of my favorite parts of the book– where bratty jaw-smacking Violet Beuaregarde chews a stick of the most “amazing and fabulous and sensational gum in the world!” from The Great Gum Machine, enjoys the three-course meal it contains and then swells up into a giant blueberry before being rolled off to the Juicing Room. I love lemon and I also had to toss in a little bit of fizzy from those crazy Fizzy Lifting Drinks, so when you put it all together you have Lemon-Blueberry White Chocolate Fizzy Truffles. Inside the white chocolate base is a fresh blueberry and some Pop Rocks, and the candies are topped with more Pop Rocks and candied violet pieces. They were fun to make and eat with their subtle fizzy crackle and lemony essence.
Finally, my CTB co-host Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food says, “What I love about Dahl is his dark humor and detailed character descriptions, which are never boring. He obviously hates stuck up, spoiled kids and adults, which is quite obvious in Charlie, but was so delicate when describing human relations and desperate situations like the one Charlie is in before he wins the golden ticket. I actually read that part where his family is almost starving and the little boy tries to save up his energy by walking slowly to school or staying in during recession with great agony. And although I knew that he would eventually win the ticket and his life was going to change, I still felt terrible about him. But the book is not about sorrow, it is about joy, the joy that sweet treats give to everyone especially little kids. So for this CTB I decided to make some Cake Pops or Cake Truffles.  I actually loved the idea of turning a cake into something more playful, but equally tasty, and I think that is why Cake Pops have made such a huge impression on people so far.
A fabulous job from everyone! Willy Wonka and Charlie would be proud. And now, it gives me great pleasure to announce our judges for this round of Cook the Books. I pondered long and hard to determine who would be a perfect judge. It had to be someone who loves the book, who appreciates creativity, who has a child-like sense of fun and is a foodie at heart. You would think that it would be tough to find a judge who perfectly fits that criteria, but we found two!
Please welcome Natasha of 5-Star Foodie
and her daughter Hannah, aka 5-Star Foodie Junior!
I stumbled across this post that mentioned a Wonka-themed party that was held for Hannah’s 7th Birthday last year in honor of her favorite book. I immediately shot off an email asking if the dynamic duo would be our judges and they graciously accepted. If you have not had the pleasure of reading her blog, Natasha likes to be creative and inventive in the kitchen, adding her special 5-Star Makeover twists to all kinds of sweet and savory dishes. Hannah truly is the 5-Star Foodie Junior with her sophisticated palate and developing cooking skills that are highlighted in the monthly 5-Star Junior posts that feature her in the kitchen learning how to cook. This mother-daughter judging team will be reviewing all the entries and choosing their favorite. Of course the winner will get their name on the side bar “winners section” and get the much coveted Cook the Books Winners Badge to “wear” proudly on their blog.  I’ll be back soon to announce our Charlie and the Chocolate Factory winner once our judges have decided, but in the meantime you can get started on our April/May book selection, The United States of Arugula by David Kamp, hosted by Jo.

Find Your Inner Child with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

6 02 2012

Eccentric inventor and chocolatier Willy Wonka, once opened the largest chocolate factory in the world, but spies stole his recipes, so he closed the factory to the public. The factory mysteriously started producing  again, and now Wonka is reopening it, but only to the five lucky children who find a golden ticket, hidden inside the wrappers of his Wonka bars. Charlie Bucket lives in poverty with his mother and his four elderly grandparents and there is barely enough money to buy food, let alone chocolate bars. After his birthday chocolate bar and a bar purchased with a coin his Grandpa Joe gives him do not yield the coveted golden ticket, Charlie thinks he has no chance to win a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate candy. At the last minute, with money found on the street, Charlie buys a final bar and finds the last golden ticket. Now he and Grandpa Joe are headed to visit Wonka’s factory, along with some obnoxious companions. Wonka’s wonderland is full of amazing inventions, fabulous candy treats and mysterious little workers called Oompa-Loompas–but beware–dangers lurk there for bratty. misbehaved children!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is my pick for our February-March Cook the Books round. I read and re-read this book as a child, along with Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, but I had not revisited it since reaching adulthood. I thought it would fun to find my inner child by going back to this fun classic and I hope you will join in. With all the fantastical and mouth-watering treats imagined in the book, I can’t wait to see what sort of scrumdillicious treats and dishes everyone makes!

The deadline for your entry for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is Monday, March 26. To join in the fun, simply read the book, make a dish (or dishes) inspired by it,  and post your thoughts about the book and what you cooked up. Let me know when your post goes live by leaving a comment below and/or by sending me an email at debinhawaii@gmail.com. Judging information will be forthcoming.

Happy (& delicious) reading!


The Head Outlaw Cook is Announced

29 01 2012

Thanks to everyone who grabbed hold of our latest Cook the Books selection, Outlaw Cook by John and Matt Lewis Thorne, and submitted such great posts for our roundup. We certainly covered a lot of culinary terrain in our posts.

And a hearty thank you to our Guest Judge, our featured author himself, John Thorne, for stopping by to read our submissions and select a winner. He was most gracious and in his emails to me noted that “This is going to be very hard. I’m blown away by the thoughtfulness (and generosity) of all the writing and the adventurousness of the cooking.”

He went on to say:

“It was a very interesting experience: I thought you’ve gathered together some very good readers and very good (and imaginative) cooks. Also, I don’t get much of a chance to learn about the experience readers have when they read one of my books. I found it hard to believe that OUTLAW COOK is approaching its twentieth birthday! — perhaps because the food your participants chose is essentially timeless.”

And the winner of this Cook the Books round is……………….Claudia of Honey from Rock. Claudia’s now a three-time winner of our little CTB contest and her post about backyard bread baking, Romanesco cauliflower and Lasagna Cacciatora is interesting indeed. Congratulations Claudia!

I will now pass the CTB torch to another Hawaiian buddy, my friend and co-host, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. She will be here soon to officially kick off our next book round, featuring that toothsome children’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to rereading this scrummy book.




A Posse of Outlaw Cooks Heads for the Roundup

24 01 2012

Our December/January book selection here at Cook the Books was John and Matt Lewis Thorne’s collection of essays, Outlaw Cook, a book your host has found very good reading indeed and was delighted to share with this merry band of blogging cooks. Though some of our regular book club participants found their holiday schedules were too crammed for reading (the horror!) and others found the book difficult to obtain in time for our deadline, an intrepid posse of outlaw cooks wrote up reviews of various chapters in the book and I think they were all marvelous.

First up is a new Cook the Books entrant, Julie of Cookbook Fetish, who was taken with Thorne’s review of artist Claude Monet’s cooking journals.  She enjoyed our featured authors’ “bubbling loquaciousness” and delved further into research about Monet’s culinary interests and Belle Epoque continental cuisine. She was inspired to cook up a Chicken Chasseur. As she notes, “the recipe turned out wonderful, meat sliding from the bone slathered in a buttery mushroomy tomato sauce.”  Welcome to Cook the Books, Julie!


Next we have Eliot’s Eats thoughtful post about various components of the Thorne food philosophy, (“one couldn’t have too many recipes”, and that cooking and experimenting with recipes is a way of enriching one’s life more so than the finished product). She particularly enjoyed the essay about the traditional English plowman’s lunch and incorporated three of the main ingredients, brew, onion, and cheese into a quick bread. As the English would say, Brilliant!


As an avid garlic eater and gardener,  Rachel, The Crispy Cook,  was taken with the chapter on exploration varieties of garlic soup.  I made an herb-infused garlic broth that was wonderfully restorative after a day out shoveling and battling the winter elements.


Simona of Briciole, enjoyed ruminating over the Outlaw Cook chapter on Ful Medames, the popular Egyptian fava bean dish. She made use of some lovely-looking locally grown dried favas and mixed them with green lentils, olive oil, and plenty of aromatics to create a great variation on this traditional recipe.  An Egyptian Plowman’s Lunch below?

My fellow Cook the Books founder and co-host, Deb, of Kahakai Kitchen, enjoyed discovering Thorne’s writing and described our featured book as one “to be savored, tucked into before bed, or revisited when a spark of inspiration is needed.”  She  was sparked up to whip up some Ful Medames, paired with a Cucumber, Lemon and Dill soup from the Outlaw Cook chapter “Soup without Stock”.

Our other CTB cofounder and cohost, Johanna of the Athens, Greece-based blog Food Junkie, Not Junk Food, enjoyed our featured book and was in agreement that “we should not be enslaved by recipes or food writers, but try to find our own voice in cooking”.  Johanna riffed away in the kitchen and produced a portabella mushroom pasta that was a tremendous hit with her husband. I would concur.

Our final submission is from Honey from Rock, Claudia’s Hawaiian blog. She enjoyed the book and notes that “There is so much here to inspire, encourage and challenge all of us who love to cook and to eat good food”. She loved the chapters on breadbaking, (be sure to check out a photo of her gorgeous outdoor bread oven back at her post), but ultimately settled on the chapter about Italian cooking before the tomato was introduced from the New World, entitled “Acetaria”. Thus inspired, Claudia made a sumptuous looking pan of Lasagna Cacciatora.

What a wonderful banquet of posts! I am sure that our guest judge, John Thorne, will enjoy reading our comments about the book and be interested to see what we all did as outlaws in our own kitchens. I’ll be back soon to announce the winner of this round of Cook the Books after Mr. Thorne gets back to me, but in the meantime you can all hunt down copies of Roald Dahl’s classic book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to get your juices flowing for the next installment in our book club reading.

Our 2012 Winter Reading: Outlaw Cook by John and Matt Lewis Thorne

13 01 2012

I wanted to check in and  remind everyone that the deadline for posting about our current Cook the Books selection, Outlaw Cook by John and Matt Lewis Thorne is January 23, 2012. I hope everyone is savoring this wonderful book as much I has have. As I was reading and re-reading it I found that I was bookmarking a lot of quotations for later reflection.  Here’s a few that caught my attention:

While researching and experimenting with the various ingredients of a classic plowman’s lunch (bread, cheese, onion, brew), Thorne notes:

“One of the differences between the universe of cooking as portrayed in beginner’s cookbooks and as we acquire it in real life is that the former knowledge progresses in an orderly fashion, while in real life it arrives in unique chunks of experience…and in no particular order. In this regard, it is more like doing a jigsaw puzzle: putting your hand on just the right piece can link several other unconnected-seeming pieces together into a coherent pattern.” (pp. 38-39)

That’s how I experienced learning how to cook. I had read a lot of cookbooks and jotted down a bunch of recipes when I was a teenager, but didn’t really translate all that theoretical knowledge into reliably delicious, or even edible, meals until I had to cook my own meals as a young adult.

Here’s another Thorne-y passage that really resonated with me.  Thorne notes that he does not consider himself to be a good cook, as defined by being able to whip out a range of complicated dishes with great skill.  However, he does not consider himself to be the opposite of a good cook, or a “capon”:

“…one of those armchair appetites who lovingly detail dishes they’ve conned their wives into confecting)…Why do I write about food at all if I’m not an expert in the art of good cooking, nor do I want my readers to be? Because I think you don’t have to be a good cook, or even aspire to be one, to be an interested cook.” (p. 78)


In a wonderful essay on cooking with microwave ovens and food processors, “Cuisine Mecanique”, Thorne again grabbed me by the lapels with this bit of writing:

“Imagine wanting to take a whole afternoon to leisurely prepare supper–without food processor, microwave oven, or cookbook. To live, after all, is to experience things, and every time we mince an onion, lower the flame under a simmering pot, shape the idea and substance of a meal, we actually gain rather than lose lived time. Such minutes are not only full and rich in themselves, but they brush a lasting patina of lived experience onto our memory” (p. 353)

Such thoughtful prose has really made this book such a pleasure for me and I have been waiting to share this new-found favorite author with you all. I’m looking forward to your posts and I’m sure our Guest Judge, John Thorne, will be too.

Do you have any favorite passages from this book?

Want to be an Outlaw in Your Own Kitchen?

17 12 2011

I am hereby announcing our formal kick-off  for the next round of Cook the Books.  I (Rachel, The Crispy Cook) will be your host and hope you all will enjoy reading John and Matt Lewis Thorne’s book “Outlaw Cook” as much as I have.  My friend Myra has been a fan of  Thorne’s food writing for many years and when I finally got my hands on a copy of “Outlaw Cook” last year it went right to the top of my teetering bedside pile. I have been reading and re-reading bits of this collection of food writing ever since and am so pleased to share it with you all in our online book club.

John Thorne has graciously agreed to serve as our Guest Judge for this round, which will end January 23, 2012.  From now until then, anyone is welcome to join in the fun by reading the book and then posting up your thoughts about it and any dish (or two) that you may be inspired to cook up. Let me know that your post is live by leaving a comment below or by sending me an email at oldsaratogabooks AT gmail dOTcom.

I hope that everyone finds some time to relax and read during this busy holiday season.

-Rachel, The Crispy Cook

(Extra Crispy this time of year!)