Book Review: Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals by Dinah Fried

Fictitious Dishes:  An Album of Literatures Most Memorable Meals

I recently picked up Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals by Dinah Fried with the expectation that I’d soon be trying out some new recipes.

I was mistaken.

So my initial reaction to this book was one of disappointment.

But I was still intrigued, as I usually am with anything related to either novels or food {and this had both!} so I sat down and began to read it from the beginning.

I found the author’s description of her process to be quite entertaining, and I think I would have enjoyed hearing more about her story.  After all, she chose some books with which I was completely unfamiliar and some times she chose foods that I wasn’t able to identify or match to the descriptions.  So even though I enjoyed the tidbits of facts on each page, I would have liked a meatier {hehe} explanation.

There were a wide variety of books documented here, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Secret Garden, pictured above, to others like Moby Dick, Lolita, and American Psycho.  I liked finding so many different titles, but there are so many, many more – endless, really – options for inclusion in a book like this, that I kind of found it too short.

I want to make sure that I stress that I really did like this book.  But I also want to stress that it’s a coffee table book, not a cookbook.  Gazing at the creamy chowder and crusty bread in the rustic setting of the author/photographer’s imagining of Moby Dick left me craving a warm soup to combat the dreary, rainy weather I could hear in my memory.

Which also made me realize that the book had accomplished its goals.  The author tells us that she hopes her work will “transport [us] back into fictional worlds,” and for the books we haven’t read, that her photographs are there to “offer a little taste of the stories.”

So not a cookbook.  An art book.  A photography book.  A recipe book, but not recipes of food.  Recipes of the subconscious lingerings that great books leave behind in us.

And once I understood the purpose of the book, I was able to devour it {snicker} with relish {I could do this all day…} and find amusement in the playfulness of the props and the colorful culinary interpretations.

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Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani:  a book review by Roaming Rosie

The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, is a fast-paced fairy tale {somewhat fractured} about two girls searching for their Happily Ever Afters.

But their Happily Ever Afters and their journeys to find themselves are not at all what either girl could ever have imagined.

And it’s fun to read.

It’s a middle-grade novel, written for ages 8 to 12, with the paperback at 544 pages long.

The story begins with two very different girls:  Sophie, a gorgeous wannabe princess who spends her days preening and dreaming of princes, and Agatha, a quiet loner who lives in a graveyard and has a cat named Reaper who leaves beheaded birds in her pockets.

Sophie and Agatha only entered a relationship because Sophie was trying to demonstrate how “Good” and charitable she was by befriending the homely outcast dubbed a witch by the townspeople.  This relationship, however, grew into a real {albeit somewhat unbalanced} friendship before the story even starts.

Their story starts for us as they are kidnapped by the elusive School Master and dropped into the School for Good and Evil.  Unexpectedly, however, Agatha is dropped into the School for Good and Sophie into the School for Evil. Both girls are certain a mistake has been made.

As the book progresses, we see Agatha continually and fiercely trying to protect and help her friend, as Sophie grows more and more selfish and angry.  And even though the characters keep showing us their true natures and showing the audience that maybe, just maybe, they’re in the correct schools after all, the book isn’t that cut and dry.

In between colorful school lessons of witches learning the correct way to cook children and princesses learning how to speak to squirrels, and in between competitions where princes try to discern which magical pumpkin is actually a princess, the children face some very dangerous and quite scary situations.  Which is – actually – very in keeping with the style of fairy tales.

But the point to all of these lessons and competitions and circuses and balls is that we learn that even the baddest of the Bad students have their good points, and even the Good students are perfectly capable of evil.

I rather enjoyed the book, and I was very happy with the way it ended.  Now, when I started reading it, I didn’t even know it was part of a series, but I was relieved to find that out, because when the book ended, I did want to know more of their story, even though it still would have functioned as a stand alone novel.

And it’s all done in a very entertaining way through a story that moves along at a good pace:  fast enough to keep kids and young adults entertained, but not so quickly that things get overwhelming or confused.  The language is intelligent, the imagery is vivid, and the story was creative.  I laughed … I cried … and I totally think everyone who is even remotely and mildly interested in fantasy and fairy tales should read it.  There isn’t anything in there that’s inappropriate for young kids, but I feel that adults will rather enjoy the tongue-in-cheek fairy tale references.  I absolutely plan to read the sequels.

You can see a preview of The School for Good and Evil on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

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Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

These Lemon Cake Mix Cookies are super, super amazing!

Seriously delicious.

It has something to do with the softness you already get from the using the cake mix to make the cookies, PLUS it’s even more amazing when you use cake mix that has pudding in the mix.

Dude.

You gotta try these.  Even if you only kinda, sorta like lemon at all.  If you love lemon – well – these will blow you away!  {Trust me:  my coworkers didn’t leave a crumb behind!}

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

These are also an easy dessert that you can throw together at the last minute when guests show up for a surprise visit, or you’re just suddenly craving something sweet and lemony.

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

Stir together the cake mix and a bit of sugar, then stir in some eggs and oil.

Easy peasy.  And smells amazing!

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

I used teaspoonfuls to make mine.

You could make them a little bigger if you wanted, but I find this to be a perfect size.

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

And the icing is another easy step.

Just mix it all up in a little bowl or cup and drizzle it over the cookies.

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

It only takes a minute to mix the icing and another minute or two to drizzle it over the cookies with a fork.

Totally worth it.

It really makes the cookies extra special.

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

Doesn’t that gooey-ness look ah-mazing??

I love these things!

Please share your own pics when you make them here or on my Facebook page!!

{Scroll down to print the recipe.}

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

Ingredients:

1 box (15 oz.) lemon cake mix
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

Icing:
1 cup confectionery sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and sugar. Stir in the eggs and vegetable oil until fully combined and smooth.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the cookies are set on top and just barely starting to brown around the edges.

Cool on baking pans for two minutes, then transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Using a fork, mix all ingredients for icing in a small bowl or measuring cup, starting with 1 tablespoon of water, and adding about a 1/4 tablespoon of water at a time until you reach the desired consistency. It should still be a little thick, but drip easily from your fork.

Drizzle the icing over the cooled cookies, making sure your working space beneath the cookies is lined with waxed or parchment paper for easy cleanup.

Allow icing to set. Store covered. Makes 3 dozen.

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Print the free PDF copy of the recipe:  Easy Iced Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

Enjoy!

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Easter Bunny Spiced Sandwich Cookies {take two}

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

These Easter Bunny Spiced Sandwich Cookies were a lot of fun to hand out on Easter!

They were HUGE, though.

I totally didn’t realize how big the Wilton Comfort-Grip Bunny Cookie Cutter was when I bought it.

Still cute.  Just huge.

And since I used the same recipe I made last year, you can see how I also used a smaller cookie cutter the last time I made these Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

There are only a few ingredients, and you’re really just mixing everything together in a big bowl, so you wind up with something that looks like you spent a TON of time in the kitchen even though it’s easy to put together.

And I looooooooove making these with the spice cake mix.

Makes the finished cookie taste kind of like gingerbread men.  But not exactly.  More cinnamon-y.

Which is also why I add cinnamon to the cream cheese icing that goes in the middle of the cookies.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

Here is the butter and cream cheese all mixed together {above}.

It’s best if these are at room temperature before you start mixing them, to ensure creaminess.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

The cookie dough will be a little soft, so you need to form it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and keep it in the fridge for at least a half hour before rolling it out.

You could keep it in the fridge overnight, but it may need to sit on a counter for a few minutes before rolling, if that’s the case.

And you need plenty of flour on your prep space and on the rolling pin.  So the dough doesn’t stick.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

The cookies should be baked on parchment paper.

I use textured aluminum pans that cookies don’t stick to, so I don’t always bother with the paper if I’m feeling lazy.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

I usually mix the icing while the cookies are cooling.  But you could do it earlier if you wanted to.

The important part is to make sure the cookies are fully cooled before you add the icing.

Otherwise it’ll melt.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

You’ll want to add plenty of icing to the inside of the cookies.

Don’t be stingy!  ;)

And press down the top cookie over the icing, firmly but gently, to be sure it will stick.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

Don’t those look gorgeous?

I drew on some whiskers with melted white chocolate and added a pink M&M for a nose.

I guess I could have gone further and done eyes and ears, too, but what I was looking for was simplicity.

You don’t even really need to add the extra decoration if you don’t want to.

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

And in case you missed where I posted it earlier, here’s the link to my recipe:

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

Spiced Easter Bunny Sandwich Cookies

Enjoy!

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Elsa’s FROZEN Cracked Ice Easter Eggs

Elsa's FROZEN Cracked Ice Easter Eggs

We had actually purchased a regular FROZEN Easter egg dye kit from the supermarket, and we did use it.

We used the egg wraps and cardboard Olaf egg stands and Elsa and Anna stickers….

But we made our own version of FROZEN Easter eggs, too.

We’ve made these cracked eggs before, and called them dinosaur eggs, but this year we called them Elsa’s Cracked Ice Easter Eggs.

Because we can never have too much Disney in our lives.  :)

Elsa's FROZEN Cracked Ice Easter Eggs

The process is surprisingly easy:

1.  Make hard-boiled eggs.  Cool completely.

2.  Crack egg shell all around by gently rolling the egg on the counter with just enough pressure to cause cracking without causing the shell to detach or the egg inside to break or split.  (Admittedly, the eggs my 3yo did definitely split through – but don’t worry, they’re still totally edible.)

3.  Put the eggs with their cracked shells into a plastic baggie.  Generously add food coloring in your color choice (blue is best for “ice”) until the shell is covered in the food coloring.

4.  Allow to sit for a few minutes.

5.  Dump the colored eggs, along with their still-attached shells, into a mesh colander and rinse with cool water in the sink until the excess food coloring is washed off and the water runs clear.

6.  Splash the eggs in the colander with a little white vinegar (optional) to help the color set.

7.  Gently peel the eggs.

You’re done!  Except that I usually rinse them again, just to make sure I’ve actually removed all of the little shell pieces.

Store them in the refrigerator and eat them within 4 or 5 days for the best freshness.

Elsa's FROZEN Cracked Ice Easter Eggs

Peeling off the shell and revealing the cracked pattern underneath is really fun for kids.

My 3yo didn’t want to touch the eggs, but watched with great interest as her 5yo sister and I peeled them.

Even the inside of the removed shell looks amazing!

And they taste just like regular hard boiled eggs.  The food coloring doesn’t change the taste or anything.  I’ve eaten them just like that, with a little salt, for breakfast, and also made them into deviled eggs.

Elsa's FROZEN Cracked Ice Easter Eggs

Have fun!

And check out some of my other Easter crafts and recipes:

Easter Empty Tomb Resurrection Rolls

Top 50 Non Candy Easter Basket Gift Ideas

50 Easter Things to Make and Do

Easter Resurrection Garden

Easter Bunny Spiced Sandwich Cookies

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Easter Resurrection Rolls Recipe

How to Make Easter Resurrection Rolls

I’ve seen Easter Resurrection Rolls done a lot of different ways.

They’ve been made out of cookies, biscuits, crescent rolls…

And when I decided to make some with my girls this year, I went with crescent rolls for a couple of reasons.  For one, I like the taste.  They also pair well with cinnamon.  And I felt they were a better representation of the cloth that Christ was wrapped in.

The point of the resurrection rolls is to demonstrate to kids how Jesus was buried in the tomb, but when they opened the tomb, it was empty because He had risen.  And the marshmallow melts while it bakes, but not until it gives the rolls support so the dough doesn’t flatten.  Then the rolls are empty inside.

So, the marshmallow represents Jesus, rolling it in the butter and the cinnamon sugar mixture represents the oils and spices that were used to preserve dead bodies back in His day, and the roll represents the tomb.

Though, I kinda explained it as the rolls representing the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.  Before we baked it.  Then the cooked rolls were the tomb which was empty.

It’s not an exact science.

But it is an incredibly delicious way to incorporate Jesus’ story into some Easter baking!

How to Make Easter Resurrection Rolls

There are only a few ingredients, so it’s an easy baking project to throw together in between other activities.

How to Make Easter Resurrection Rolls

Rolling the marshmallow in melted butter and spices and wrapping it in dough CAN be a tad messy – but that’s what makes it interesting and fun.

I used a fork to turn it in the butter and scoop it into the cinnamon, but you still gotta get in there with your fingers to wrap it in the dough.

How to Make Easter Resurrection Rolls

Try pinching shut all the openings as best you can, but don’t worry if you miss a few.

Even if the rolls deflate a little, they’re still all hollow inside once baked.

Oh, and I sprinkled our extra cinnamon sugar over the rolls before baking.  It adds a nice touch.

How to Make Easter Resurrection Rolls

Technically, I should have used two pans.

I didn’t feel like it.

Some of our rolls stuck together, but that really wasn’t a big deal.

A few leaked melted marshmallow all over.

Again:  not a big deal.

But you know what WAS a big deal?  The awesome taste.

Seriously.  These things did not hang around long.

How to Make Easter Resurrection Rolls

And, of course, to go along with this project, we also read a book about the Easter Story.

Here’s one more fun graphic, which shows all the steps together:

How to Make Easter Resurrection Rolls

Easter Resurrection Rolls

Ingredients:

2 cans (8 rolls each) crescent rolls
16 large marshmallows
4 tablespoons butter, melted but cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To assemble the resurrection rolls, lay out the crescent rolls and separate them.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.

Dip a marshmallow in the melted butter, rolling it around to cover it completely. (The butter can be warm but not very hot. You don’t want to melt the marshmallow.)

Then roll the buttered marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar mix.

Place the cinnamon marshmallow in the center of a roll and wrap the dough around it, sealing any openings.

Put the rolls on a baking pan with raised sides, sprinkle with any extra cinnamon and sugar if desired, and bake according to package directions for the rolls.

Allow the rolls to cool on a wire rack before serving to children. Remember that the melted marshmallow inside will be very hot when they first emerge from the oven.

**********

To print the PDF of the recipe, click here:

Easter Resurrection Rolls

Enjoy!

And check out our Resurrection Garden, too:

Easter Resurrection Garden

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Top 50+ Non-Candy Easter Basket Gift Ideas

Top 50+ Non-Candy Easter Basket Gift Ideas from RoamingRosie.com

I was about to say that I’ve got everything listed here from toddler to teen… but that’s too narrow a description. Really, if you’re looking for Easter basket gifts for anyone – whether they’re a newborn or about to leave for college – you’ll find something here.

You might even find something for yourself. :)

But what you WON’T find here is this: candy. Chocolate. Marshmallows. Sugar.

My kids will each get a chocolate Easter bunny, sure. (They’re even in the pic above.)  And probably a few jelly beans, too. But they last thing they need is a gigantic basket filled to the brim with sweets and sugar.

I also, however, don’t want to fill it with a bunch of junky toys that will break and get thrown out soon afterwards.

So I’ve compiled a list of gift ideas that all fit in an Easter basket, that aren’t made of sugar, and that are quality gifts your kids will enjoy.

If you’ve got any ideas to add to the list, please tell us in the comment section!

Happy Browsing!

Here are my Top 50+ Non-Candy Easter Basket Gift Ideas

1. If you read my blog regularly, you can probably guess what #1 will be: BOOKS. I give books for every holiday, and I certainly give Easter-themed books at Easter, BUT there are a ton of other ways you can incorporate books into gift giving. Some of my favorite interactive books to stick in an Easter basket include:

Sticker Books
Doodling Books
Wipe-Clean Books
Activity Cards
“That’s Not My…” Touchy-Feely Baby Books
There’s a Mouse About the House
Muddle and Match Imagine and Adventure
Kid Kits

2. DVD of their latest favorite movie or television show.  My girls are getting some 2-for-1 movies (2 in one case).
3. That Video Game they’ve been asking for
4. A CD or an iTunes Gift Card
5. Gift Card to their favorite clothing store
6. Gift Card to the local movie theatre
7. Disney Phone Case
8. Monogrammed iPad Case
9. Pocket Journal
10. Personalized Night Light
11. Personalized Flash Drive
12. Wooden Craft Set. Like the kind you get at Michaels or the Dollar Tree that comes with paint and markers (and is pictured above).
13. Foam Craft Set. Like #12, you can find these things at craft stores with all the pieces to make your finished product included in the set.
14. Sun Catchers and Sun Catcher Paint
15. Colored Pencils
16. Markers
17. Crayons
18. Gel Pens
19. Scarves
20. Socks. My favorites are the colorful character ones that you find in the Target bargain section.
21. Sunglasses
22. Jewelry (necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc.)
23. Press on Nails
24. Make Up. Blush, eye shadow… seriously, there are soooo many sparkly and fancy (yet affordable) make up sets out there.
25. Lip Gloss. (My 3yo looooooves lip gloss!)
26. Nail Polish
27. Small LEGO sets. Also LEGO Minifigures.
28. Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars. We have a whole drawer dedicated to cars at my house. Receiving new ones as presents never gets old.
29. Erasers. These things are even great for hiding in Easter eggs. And they come in sooooo many designs – both girl and boy specific and gender neutral. I get most of mine from the Dollar Tree.
30. Puzzles. For smaller versions of puzzles, the dollar store has some really nice options.  Like the two in the photo.
31. Glow Sticks / Glow Bracelets / Glow Necklaces
32. Bubbles
33. Bookmarks
34. Stickers
35. Schleich Figurines. From dinosaurs to fairies and from jungle animals to giant castles, these things are not only versatile, they’re classic.
36. Punch Balloons. You know – those balloons on a string that you bounce all around. Keeps kids busy forever.
37. Sidewalk Chalk. Egg-shaped Sidewalk Chalk is more widely available around this time of year, too.
38. Travel Games
39. Pool Toys
40. Backyard Safari Adventure Sets. Or just a net or a bug house. I only let my kids keep their bugs or worms in their habitats for a couple of hours – max – but what they really love anyway is the hunt. And the longer they spend chasing no-see-ums around the backyard with a butterfly net – the better they’ll sleep that night.
41. Instruments. Kind of like these B. Jungle Animal Instruments Set. I’ve also seen some of those pieces for sale individually at Target.
42. P’Kolino Mess Eaters Artist Journal. My girls just received this as a birthday present and we LOVE it. Great for my little artists – and great for car rides, too. Available in Pink and Green and Blue.
43.  Budding Baker? Get them some cool Cookie Cutters.
44.  Budding Eater? Get them a cool Utensil Set.
45.  A Kid’s Water Bottle  or Personalized Sports Bottle for Teens and Tweens
46.  One of those character party cups found in the party section.  Like the Frozen ones pictured here.
47. Stuffed Animals. Could be a bunny or a chick, but don’t forget about other favorites, like that 20” Elsa doll that’s become my daughter’s new favorite or that Minecraft Plush Enderman your kid spotted at Walmart the last time you were there.
48. Card Games. Like Uno, Phase 10, Spot It and even regular playing cards. Did you know they made Princess Bride Playing Cards??? Because I just may have to make an Easter basket for myself to sneak some of these in there…
49. Flip Flops. Especially ones with cool designs or gemstones.
50. Gardening tools, gloves, and packets of seeds.
51.  A flower pot that comes with its own seeds, like these Grass Heads my kids really like.
52. Rosary Beads. If your kids don’t already have their own beads, now is a good time to gift them some.

I hope you enjoyed the list!  Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions to add!

If you’re wondering about the specific books pictured above, they are the Zoo Sticker Book, Animal Sticker Book, Magic Painting Book, 50 Easter Things to Make and Do (also reviewed here), and the Easter Bunny Flap Book (also reviewed here).

And be sure to check out my Resurrection Garden:

Easter Resurrection Garden

and Easter Bunny Spiced Sandwich Cookies:

Easter Bunny Spiced Sandwich Cookies

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