The Monsters of Templeton: Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

The Monsters of Templeton

This month’s book club selection was the Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. I admit this was an ambitious piece of literature, family secrets, ghosts, sea monsters, a complete family lineage going back several generations, a student’s affair with her professor, a best friend dealing with a terrible disease, an unwanted pregnancy, and a girl’s search for her father. However this was just way too much information for one book. the main idea was so watered down by the enormous cast of characters that I ended up just not caring about any of  them.It made it a difficult book to read but that also made it a great book for book club. There were many things to discuss and dissect. I think the discussions are always better when everyone doesn’t love the book. (usually I am the everyone, I can be a bit critical)

Some of us even dressed as “The Running Buds, a group of friends that have run together for years and who may or may not be important characters in the book. They were just the easiest costume, headbands, running shorts etc… Unfortunately I don’t have a sea monster outfit in my costume box. The food didn’t jump right out at you in this book but there was a lot of it if you paid attention ( I didn’t really ) I chose to make my version of Tomatoes Farci, Willie mentions this is her favorite dish when her mother makes it for her. We have quite a few vegetarians so I stuffed my tomatoes with goat cheese and mushrooms instead of meat. Another great one was a Huevos Rancheros casserole, Willie’s mom also makes this during an eventful breakfast in the book.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

10 Campari Tomatoes ( or 4 large for a meal)

1 T olive oil

1 cup finely chopped mushrooms, (I used baby bellas and porcini)

2 T chopped shallot

2 cloves garlic chopped

1/4 c chopped tomato

2 T chopped parsley

1/4 c white wine ( I used Pinot Grigio)

1 T balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

1 3 1/2 oz log goat cheese

Core tomatoes and remove seeds and pulp, leaving just a shell.( if using a large tomato, cut top off and scoop out insides, leaving a bowl) In a large pan. Add oil and saute mushrooms, shallot and garlic, until mushrooms are soft and shallot is translucent. add tomato, wine, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add bread crumb, cheese and parsley. Let cool.

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Stuff tomatoes with the cheese and mushroom mixture , place in an oven safe dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until cheese slightly browns on top.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

(oops, so excited for book club I didn’t take a picture of the final product, but they looked the same with a slightly brown top)

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Chicken Frito Pie

Chicken Frito Pie

Chicken Frito Pie

As promised here is the recipe for Chicken Frito Pie that I made for Gone Girl Book Club

Chicken Frito Pie

1 T vegetable oil

2 c cooked chicken ( I used a rotisserie, one from my grocers deli)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 can cannelli beans drained (white beans)

1 can tomatoes with green chilies (rotel)

1 T chili powder

1 2 c bag shredded cheddar cheese

1 bag fritos (not scoops)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. add oil. Then add chicken, onion, and garlic, saute about 3-5 minutes or until onion is soft and garlic is browned. add beans, tomatoes, and chili powder. Continue cooking until all ingredients are heated through.

Chicken Frito Pie

Preheat oven to 350

Pour fritos into the bottom of a pie pan ( enough to cover the bottom) take the heel of your hand and slightly crush the corn chips so the lay flat. add 1 c shredded cheese, then chicken mixture, then 1 more cup cheese and then cover with fritos. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with sour cream.

Chicken Frito Pie

Gone Girl Book Club: Crepe-a-Dillas

Gone Girl

This month’s book selection was the suspenseful mystery Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was the perfect book for book club, lots to discuss, surprising twists, crazy characters and a unique writing style. I liked it a lot, but I may be biased because it was actually my pick. That also meant that book club was at my house so I had to really bring it with the food. Hmm where to start, how about the beginning, on the day Amy goes missing she is makes crepes for their 5th anniversary breakfast. Crepes are not generally a finger food though and since there is always tons of food at out book clubs, the portion size would be too big. So I thought about it and decided to make my own surprising twist on quesadillas, crepe-a-dillas. Individual triangles of crepe-y goodness, perfect for parties.

Crepe-a-dillas

Crepe-A-Dillas

Filling:

8 0z marscapone cheese

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/4 c lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

3 T honey

10 crepes (you could make your own, but I used pre made ones found in my produce section of the grocery store, flour tortillas would also work)

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce

1 pint fresh blueberries

1/4 c sugar

2 T balsamic vinegar

1/4 c water

For the filling,  mix all ingredients with a mixer  until incorporated. To make crepe-a-dillas lay one crepe flat, spread thin layer of filling on crepe, fold in half and then cut into wedges with pizza cutter of knife.

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Place on a plate and put wax paper or plastic wrap between layers to prevent sticking, place in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the sauce, add all ingredients to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Place in small bowl and cover. Cool in the refrigerator.

I also made a Chicken Frito Pie, just like the nice woman brought Nick after his wife disappeared which I will share the recipe to in my next post. We also had members bring manchego cheese, chocolate truffles, chili cheese fritos and casseroles, all thematic for the book.

For decorations I really wanted to have live lobsters in a pot (too mean), so I looked for fake ones but I couldn’t find them. I also wrapped a large box in a blue plastic table cloth from the dollar store ( I couldn’t find plain blue wrapping paper anywhere) for the centerpiece. I had a number 5 candle in my crepe-a-dillas. I also thought it would be fun to make some fun quizzes for book club like the ones Amy wrote for magazines.

Caution tape by the front door would have been a nice touch but I thought of that after book club.

I kept a bowl of red jelly beans close by for our discussions so that they could be throw at people for fun if you disagreed with their thoughts about the book. By the way I am still finding red jelly beans in and under my couch. Gone Girl Book Club

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Shrimp Salad

Shrimp Salad

I guess I forgot to post this recipe, I made this for November’s Book Club for the excellent book, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. It is the tragic but funny tale of a disjointed family that comes together to sit Shiva after their father dies. It was one of the best books I have read in a really long time. It’s already slated to become a movie with Jason Bateman and Goldie Hawn, two of my favorites. Of course in the story friends and family drop by to bring deli platters and lots of bagels so I made a delicious shrimp salad and served it on bagel chips.

this is where I leave you

Shrimp Salad

1lb shrimp peeled and deveined

1 1/2 lemons sliced

1 T plus 1-2 tsp

2 T chopped arugula

1T worcestershire sauce

1/4 c chopped onion

1/4 c celery

1/2 c mayo

1 T lemon juice

I steamed my own shrimp but you can buy them pre steamed from the store. I used the steamer part of my rice cooker, I laid the sliced lemon on the bottom of the steamer and than tossed the shrimp with 1 T of Old Bay seasoning, then turned on the cooker and steamed until the shrimp were opaque and cooked through.

Shrimp Salad

Steamed Shrimp

Then chop the cooked shrimp and add them to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, including another 1-2 tsp of Old Bay. You could serve as sandwiches or as an appetizer on toasts, crackers or bagel chips.

Peanut Chocolate Chip Bars : A Carnival in Your Mouth

 

Book Club Time, and it is Halloween Book Club so that’s always twice as exciting. This month’s host picked Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

A frightening tale about a sinister carnival. A perfectly spooky book for a perfectly spooky party. Costumes were required. I took the easy route and was a Barker (ok I really looked like a ringmaster, but those are only in circuses) This was an easy costume, fake mustache, top hat, vest, bow tie, jacket, and some boots, I already had all of those in my costume box (yes I am a grown adult with a dress up box, I think all adults should have them)

 

So now I need food, I wanted to do something with a carnival feel so I thought these easy bar cookies would fit the bill since they have caramel and peanuts. They are easy to make and very portable, perfect for book clubs or parties. They were such a hit I made them again for a Halloween party the next day.

Peanut Chocolate Chip Bars

2 tubes of refrigerated sugar cookie dough

3 cups salted peanuts

2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup caramel sauce (ice cream topping)

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out sugar cookie dough onto a large sheet pan, using a rolling-pin sprinkled with four. I used a nonstick liner to make them easier to remove later. I also used a knife to cut straight edges after I rolled it out.

 

Bake dough in oven for about 12 minutes or until it is slightly golden, dough will still be soft in the middle.

 

Sprinkle the top with peanuts and chocolate chips. Then drizzle caramel sauce over the top.

 

Return them to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes longer or until cookie dough is firm and center begins to bubble. Let cool and cut into bars

Goat Cheese and Marinara Dip

I first tried this dip when my best friend made it for book club. It is a true crowd pleaser and couldn’t be any easier. It’s a perfect go to appetizer when invited to a last minute cocktail party or when unexpected guests come over.

Goat Cheese and Marinara Dip

4 oz goat cheese log

12 oz of your favorite marinara, I like to use spicy (or make your own)

1 T chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350. Pour marinara in to a small baking dish, slice goat cheese and arrange on top of sauce.

 

 

Heat for about 15-20 minutes or until goat cheese is slightly melted. Top with basil and serve with sliced Italian or French bread.

Creamy Reese’s Peanut Butter Dip

Book club time again, this month’s selection was A Visit for the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I liked some of the book, but there were too many characters and writing styles for me to keep up with.  When I got to the power point presentation, I wanted to just skip it, I was reading, why was there what  looks like math in front of me. I was however excited for the chance to pull out my Doc Martens and old 80’s new wave/punk jewelry.  Have I mentioned I am in the best book club in the world, we go all out, costumes, food, etc…

 

This month’s food was a challenge though, 80’s punk rock food….hmmm. Luckily one of the characters, Lou, eats a lot of apples in the book, that was my inspiration. I have made a cream cheese and Heath bar dip for apples in the past but I wanted to put a little spin on it. I decided to switch up the candy and use Reese Peanut Butter cups instead, I liked this dip way more than the book.

2 8oz bricks of cream cheese, softened

1 8oz carton of cool whip

1/4 c brown sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

5 full sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Candy Bars ( a total of 10 cups, 2 in each package)

Add Cream Cheese, Sugar, Vanilla and 3 candy bars (6 cups) to a food processor, pulse until candy is chopped up and ingredients are combined.

CREAMY REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER DIP

Add mixture to a large bowl and fold in cool whip until combined.

Spread mixture into a large glass pie pan or other shallow dish. Chop remaining peanut butter cups and sprinkle on top. Serve with sliced apples, pretzel chips and graham crackers.