Celebrate with Babs: The TikTok Grandma’s New Cookbook

              Barbara Costello didn’t do social media when she first helped her daughter by posting a cooking video on TikTok.

              “I thought TikTok was all about dancing,” says Costello, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is known as Grandma Babs. Her first post was in April 2020 during the pandemic. Nine months later she had 200,000 followers. Now it’s closing in on two million.

              “By the time we hang up, you’ll probably have 20,000 more followers,” I tell Costello who is in the car with her daughter, Liz Ariola, on their way to a book signing.

              I’m only half joking.

Soaring Numbers

              Besides TikTok followers on her Brunch with Babs site, Costello also has 660,000 followers on Instagram. In comparison, I have 1989. Not that I’m jealous.

              Costello, who is 73, is considered a granfluencer—a growing trend of older people who are kicking it on social media. And now she has a cookbook, “Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” featuring one hundred of her tried and true handwritten recipes that she pulled from her wood recipe box.

              “I started collecting recipes before the internet,” she says. “You used to go over to someone’s house for dinner and leave with recipe cards of what was served that night.”

              The book is divided by holidays and celebrations which are a big deal in the Costello family.

              “We’re Italian and we like big noisy get-togethers,” she says. “My mom was one of nine and I have 21 first cousins. Even after Bill and I got married there were so many of us that we still sat at the children’s table when everyone got together.”

              Originally from the Chicago area, Costello taught middle school in Schaumburg before the family moved, ending up in Connecticut where they’ve lived for decades. Costello opened her own pre-school (they called them nursery schools back then) in the basement of her house. She thinks the skills she learned as a teacher and administrator are part of what connects her to her audience. And she is all about connections.

              “I still get invited to the weddings of my preschoolers,” she says. “And many of them have remained friends with their pre-school classmates and they’re at the weddings. I think that’s wonderful after all those years.”

              Costello describes herself as having gone from zero to 60 miles-per-hour.

              “I never expected this,” she says. “People ask me if I have a business plan and I say what’s that? I’m making it up along the way.”

              It was Ariola who got her mom in the business. Social media savvy, Ariola writes the popular mom blog Mrs. Nipple blog (get it—aureole/ariola) and asked her mom for help during her pregnancy. Despite morning sickness, Ariola was trying to launch a TikTok channel and got her mom to agree to film three videos while her two grandchildren were napping.

              The first video showing Costello making her grandmother’s Greek chicken recipe garnered 100,000 views. Somewhere along the line, one of her viewers was a cookbook editor. The rest, as they say, is history.

              Even though the book is divided into holidays, each section with a special memory or anecdote, Costello says they recipes are good for everyday as well.

              “Recipes are recipes,” she says. In other words, you don’t have to wait until Easter to make marinated leg of lamb, apricot glazed ham, or Grandma’s Easter Bread.

Bonding Over Meals

              Even though she was a working mom, Costello always made family meals.

              “People didn’t do fast food like they do now,” she says. “And I think it’s very important for families to eat together.”

              Indeed, one of her hopes for her cookbook and her social media popularity is that it will encourage people to cook more and enjoy dinner together. In the meantime, she’s going to keep cooking.

              “My mom is always over the top when it comes to celebrations,” says Ariola, noting her mother’s tendency to make way too much food.

              “Being raised in an Italian family,” says Costello, “ I learned that the worst thing that could happen is that there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone.”

              That certainly won’t happen on her watch.

Smash Cake

“I always look forward to our grandkids’ first birthdays,” writes Costello. “My daughter loves showering her sons with smash cakes when they have that special birthday. She strips them down and lets them go at the cake. It’s a ton of fun to see how their little personalities shine in this moment. This is not only the favorite of my one-year-old grandson Scooter, but also a hit with my toddler-aged grandkids, too. Even I love it! I’ve made this recipe as just a loaf when not celebrating a special one-year-old in the family. The cream cheese frosting and the cake are the perfect combo.”

prep time

15 minutes, plus 2 hours to cool

cook time

50 minutes

yield

1 smash cake plus 1 loaf (serves about 9)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 (4 oz containers unsweetened applesauce
  • 1¾ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz  cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Natural food coloring (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 2 (4-inch) ramekins or cake pans, and 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and applesauce. Beat until well combined.

3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the wet mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins until three-fourths full. Pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.

4. Bake the smash cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake the loaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the side of the bowl once or twice during mixing. If desired, beat in a few drops of natural food coloring of your choice.

6. To assemble the smash cake, place the bottom half on a serving plate. Spoon frosting over. Add the remaining layer. Spread frosting over the top and side of the cake. Add decorations of your choice. To serve the loaf, spread the top and sides with frosting, and cut into slices to serve.

Broccoli Salad (from the Summer Barbecue chapter)

This easy, crisp, classic vegetable salad is a must at any summer barbecue, picnic, or pool party. This is an old recipe I’ve been making for over forty years. The flavors meld beautifully, and the fresh crispness of the veggies, the creaminess of the dressing, and the ease of making it ahead, make this recipe a winner in all categories.

prep time

15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill

cook time

none

serves

8–10

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of raw broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. crisp, crumbled bacon
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup golden or brown raisins
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, bacon, nuts, and raisins.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  3. Toss the dressing with the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Book Riot: Barnes & Noble Announces Their Best Books of 2022 So Far

Book Riot: Barnes & Noble Announces Their Best Books of 2022 So Far. https://bookriot.com/barnes-noble-best-books-of-2022-so-far/

The Top Ten Books So Far

Amazon

Amazon
Amazon
Amazon
Amazon
Amazon

Big names lined up for Ireland’s Dalkey Book Festival

The Dalkey Book Festival, held in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland is hosting myriad speakers and authors this June including Sally Rooney, John Banville, Fiona Hill, Simon Schama, and Catherine Belton.

Over 100 of the world’s finest authors and sharpest intellects will descend on the beautiful and historic seaside town of Dalkey, County Dublin this summer.

Christ Church Cathedral

This year the Dalkey Book Festival are bringing you a virtual experience – Dalkey Book Festival @ The Tower presented by Zurich. Three days of dynamic programming connecting you to their community of writers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative talent as they exchange ideas, challenge the status quo, and dismantle some of today’s most pressing topics.

The festival will be streamed at approximately the following times each day; Friday 18 June 18:00 – 20:45 Saturday 19 June 13:00 – 19:45 Sunday 20 June 13:00 – 19:30.

The festival makes a welcome return live and in-person from 16 – 19 June, with a stellar line-up that includes the likes of novelists Sally Rooney, John Banville and Marian Keyes, satirist Blindboy, DJ Annie Mac and many more. See the Dalkey Book Festival program.

Over four days, writers from Turkey, America, Scotland, Australia, Sudan, England, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, France, Germany, Albania, Pakistan, China, Italy and Ireland will come together in Dalkey for a wildly varied programme of over 80 events.

In what could be one of the most pivotal years in global history, the 2022 festival brings together thinkers from the worlds of literature, politics, science, history, journalism, technology and economics.

Brian Eno on art and education – Dalkey Book Festival

In literature, festival-goers will be able to get up close to Normal People writing sensation Sally Rooney, who is making a rare public appearance. The TV adaptation of her debut novel Conversations with Friends is currently running on the BBC and Hulu in the US.

As Dublin, Ireland and the world celebrates the 100th centenary of James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses, Dalkey Book Festival will feature two related events on 16 June, which in Ireland is Bloomsday, the day all the action of Joyce’s novel takes place.

Preeminent English intellectual Simon Schama comes to Dalkey Book for a Bloomsday Gala, while Irish actor Eamonn Morrissey will perform excerpts from Joyce that celebrate the ordinary and the everyday in experience, culture and language.

In politics and world affairs, US National Security adviser and Russia specialist Fiona Hill will fly in to deliberate on understanding Russia, while Catherine Belton will discuss her bestseller, Putin’s People, which explores the world’s most dangerous mind and network.

Ireland’s most renowned immunologist Luke O’Neill will take audiences through the wonders of science in a digestible and accessible way, and there will also be comedy, podcasts, writing workshops, events for all the family, and much more.

Snippets from past speakers

The festival has established itself as a highlight of the Irish cultural calendar, not least because of the unique buzz only Dalkey can offer. With its mediaeval town centre and magnificent coastline, it is the town that makes the festival so special.

Fáilte Ireland Dublin City South

Dalkey’s rich history is front and centre, with a tenth-century church and two Norman castles right on the main street. From the town, it’s a short walk to the harbour, where you can take a boat trip to Dalkey Island, or take a walk on  Killiney Hill, one of the best walks in the whole of Dublin.

Sunrise, Dalkey Island, Co Dublin

On Saturday 18 June, with the shortlists already out, Dalkey Book Festival will announce the winners of its 2022 ‘Novel of the Year’ and ‘Emerging Writer’ Awards, with a prize fund of €30,000.

Up for Novel of the Year are April in Spain by John Banville, Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney, Nora by Nuala O’Connor, Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, and White City by Kevin Power.

The Emerging Writer contestants are A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion, Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding, Eat Or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick, The End of the World is a Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy and Unsettled by Rosaleen McDonagh.

Dalkey Book Festival 2022

With a step-mother who can’t help but hear and see ghosts no matter how many Alba songs she sings, no longer Nola Trenholm ends up buying a haunted home in New Orleans in Karen White’s latest book.

Author Karen White has added another page-turner to her repertoire of haunted houses and ghosts who won’t stay put in her latest book, “The Shop on Royal Street.”

White, who has written more 30 books, including the very successful haunted home Tradd Street Series, now has moved her spooky action from Charleston to New Orleans as we follow Nola Trenholm, who buys a Creole cottage that needs extensive work only to discover that some of the previous occupants are still living there — if living is the right term to apply to people who are dead.

But you can’t say Nola wasn’t warned. Her stepmother, who hears and sees ghosts like the rest of us see cars on the streets, tours the house with her before she signs the paperwork and suggests that it would be better to burn it down than then to move in.

As if that wasn’t enough of a warning, while they’re looking around there’s a sudden scream and an explosion of antique blue bottles — a seemingly spontaneous event with no possible explanation as to why it happened.

It turns out that the home was the scene of an unsolved murder, and to help her figure out what to do, Nola has to rely upon Beau Ryan, who can communicate with the spirits, something Nola unfortunately is unable to do. But Beau’s past is mysterious. His sister and parents disappeared during Hurricane Katrina and he is also connected to the murder that took place in Nola’s new home.

Nola has her own issues as well. A recent college graduate, like her parents she has addiction issues. Her father, Jack Trenholm, a best-selling novelist, has been able to overcome his demons, but her mother, a drug addict, didn’t.

White, who says she definitely believes in ghosts, has never seen one herself.

“And I’ve definitely put myself in places that are haunted,” she said.

Her grown son has and he is definitely not happy about it.

Is it hard to write about ghosts if you’ve never seen one, I ask White when we chat on the phone?

It turns out it is, since White never plans or plots her books, so what the characters say and do, whether they’re still alive or not, just flows as she writes.

Her human characters can be difficult and so can the spirits.

”I don’t use the ghosts to be scary, I use them as characters — it’s like having a neighbor,” she said. “I love how they tie in the past and the present and I love how they can be useful. Don’t we all wish we could ask for help from the other side?”

But, of course, she continues, ghosts can’t always express themselves any better than their human counterparts.

This article originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times.

Mindy Kaling announces first books for Mindy’s Book Studio

Mindy’s Book Studios is a boutique story studio created to publish stories by emerging and established diverse voices and imagine books from page to screen.

Mindy Kaling Selects Sonali Dev’s The Vibrant Years and Lauren Thoman’s I’ll Stop the World For Mindy’s Book Studio, An Imprint of Amazon Publishing

Mindy Kaling and Amazon Publishing announced the first acquisitions for Mindy’s Book Studio, a boutique story studio created to publish stories by emerging and established diverse voices and imagine books from page to screen. Selected by Kaling, best-selling author Sonali Dev’s hilarious and heartfelt novel, The Vibrant Years, will be the first to publish under Mindy’s Book Studio on December 1. The second book will be debut author Lauren Thoman’s clever coming-of-age mystery, I’ll Stop the World, set to publish in April 2023. Readers will have early access to both books a month ahead of publication through Amazon First Reads, as well as through Kindle Unlimited, print, and audio. Amazon Studios has first-look rights to adapt as feature motion pictures.

“There are so many talented women who are writing smart, juicy, funny stories, and I’m so excited that through Mindy’s Book Studio, I can help bring readers everywhere more books that reflect the diversity of our society,” said Kaling. “Sonali Dev’s The Vibrant Years and Lauren Thoman’s I’ll Stop the World capture the spirit of Mindy’s Book Studio. The Vibrant Years is a joyful and empowering read following a group of unconventional women trying to find themselves, and I’ll Stop the World is a whip-smart mystery with a vibrant cast of teenagers that gives off great ‘80s vibes.”

The Vibrant Years

Packed with humor and heart, Dev’s The Vibrant Yearsis a timely story about three generations of women who are done with being underestimated. Led by beloved rebel grandmother Bindu Desai, the three women set out on a journey of self-discovery, hilariously embracing their missteps, impulsive decisions, and cringeworthy dates that ultimately upend their lives for the better as they learn to live life on their own terms. Known for her Bollywood-style stories, Dev is an award-winning and USA Today best-selling author of eight novels, including the acclaimed Rajes series. Dev is represented by Alexandra Machinist at ICM Partners.

The Vibrant Years is a culmination of all the things I’ve always wanted to say about being a woman, and to have the immensely talented Mindy Kaling choose it as the first book for Mindy’s Book Studio is an actual dream come true,” said Dev. “The work Mindy has done over the past few decades has changed the landscape for diverse creators. Mindy’s Book Studio is another way she’s creating space for many silenced voices that need to be read, and I’m so honored and excited to be part of what she’s building.”

I’ll Stop the World

Told in alternating perspectives, Thoman’s electric debut novel, I’ll Stop the World, is a heart-pounding coming-of-age mystery. Exploring the power of friendship, forgiveness, and second chances, Thoman’s novel follows two teens from different worlds as their attempts to solve a murder leads to consequences that reverberate through multiple lifetimes. A freelance writer whose work has appeared in outlets including Parade and Vulture, Thoman is represented by Holly Root at Root Literary.

Lauren Thoman

“I love that Mindy’s Book Studio is focused on championing traditionally underrepresented voices in publishing, both for the readers who still long to see themselves in fiction and for the readers whose hearts will be expanded through engaging with new perspectives,” said Thoman. “I’ve been a fan of Mindy’s for a long time, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to work with her and the amazing team at Mindy’s Book Studio. I can’t wait to read the books Mindy selects for the imprint, and I’m honored that she picked mine to be one of them.”

Announced in February, Mindy’s Book Studio publishes fresh, vibrant, binge-worthy reads from emerging and established diverse voices. Amazon Studios has first-look rights to adapt the material as feature motion pictures, and Kaling holds first-producer option on adaptations. Coming soon, Kaling will also publish her debut novel and her next collection of personal essays with Amazon Publishing.

About Amazon Publishing

Amazon Publishing is a leading trade publisher of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books with a mission to empower outstanding storytellers and connect them with readers worldwide. We publish emerging, best-selling, and critically acclaimed authors in digital, print, and audio formats.

About Amazon Studios

Amazon Studios is the home for talent, creating and producing Original films and television series for a global audience. Original series premiere exclusively on Prime Video, which is available in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide. Amazon Studios also produces and acquires Original movies for theatrical release and exclusively for Prime Video, in addition to producing Original content for Freevee, Amazon’s premium free streaming service.

About Amazon

Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Amazon strives to be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company, Earth’s Best Employer, and Earth’s Safest Place to Work. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Career Choice, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, Alexa, Just Walk Out technology, Amazon Studios, and The Climate Pledge are some of the things pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit amazon.com/about and follow @AmazonNews.

The Book of Cold Cases

When she was nine, Shea Collins managed to outwit and escape a child predator, hiding as he searched for her before moving on to his next victim. Still traumatized two decades later, Shea keeps to herself, working as a medical receptionist during the day and at night holing up in her apartment, heating up single serve frozen lasagna in her microwave while researching unsolved true crimes for her blog, “The Book of Cold Cases.”

This self-imposed isolation is about to change when Shea recognizes Beth Greer in the doctor’s office one day. Decades ago, the beautiful, beguiling and rich Greer went to trial, accused of killing two men. She was found innocent, but like Shea, she has locked herself away from the world, albeit in a mansion in the wealthiest section of Lake Clare where she lived with her parents before their deaths.

Surprisingly, Greer agrees to let Shea interview her and invites her to the house. Located on a cliff overlooking the water, it should be a pleasant place, but instead, almost from the beginning, Shea can feel the odd vibes and happenings that are part of the home’s atmosphere. Looking out the window, she catches a glimpse of a young girl staring at the house. Who is she? And what about Greer? Is she a murderer? Or is she a woman somehow trapped in a supernatural nightmare?

Author Simone St. James went from scheduling and spreadsheets — mostly for live sports, making sure that camera crews showed up on time and that everyone got paid — to writing supernatural thrillers, including her latest, “The Book of Cold Cases.”

“I loved what I was doing, but as time went on I loved writing even more,” said St. James, who has written five novels, including bestseller “The Sun Down Motel.”

St. James says the cases in her book are entirely imaginary.

“But the germ of the idea came from the Zodiac case, in which a man killed random people in the San Francisco area in the late 60s and early 70s,” said St. James, noting that Stephen King was the first writer to influence her and that she read and re-read her copy of “Firestarter” so much that it fell apart.

“The killer in the Zodiac case was never caught,” St. James said. “And I wondered, what if you had a Zodiac-type case, but the suspect was a woman? It changes everything about the story — who the suspect is, why they do what they do, how it’s investigated, how it’s written about in the media. Literally everything about it is different. So I made up a fictional case and went down that rabbit hole because I thought it was interesting.”

Though her books have an eerie ambiance, St. James said she’s never encountered the supernatural herself.

“But I believe it’s possible. I think most things are possible,” she said. “In my books I’m more interested in the human side of the supernatural, if that makes sense. Why one person would refuse to leave, and how the remaining people react. Haunting stories are all about grief and fear and trauma and letting go or refusing to. Those themes are fascinating to me and I always go back to them.”

This story originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times.

The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavors

Chef/owner Deborah VanTrece takes the flavors and foods of her heritage and her travels to create the dishes served at her award winning restaurant and now shares them in her cookbook, The Twisted Soul Cookbook.

“My cuisine has always been at the intersection of food and culture,” said Chef Deborah VanTrece, owner of the Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta, Georgia. “Having traveled the world as a flight attendant, I experienced how different cultures have their own versions of what we would call ‘soul food.’ My approach to cooking revolves around taking a modern, global approach to soul food, combined with the food I grew up eating with my family. THE TWISTED SOUL COOKBOOK will take you on a journey around the world right from your kitchen.”

Across chapters filled with vibrant photography, her book offers 100 recipes for dishes ranging from fresh salads and sides, generous entrees, exciting seafood, rich desserts, and brilliant as well as practical pantry staples to amplifying everyday cooking, including dressings, relishes, preserves, and sauces. An engaging teacher and storyteller, VanTrece shows home cooks the way to use techniques both simple and sophisticated to ensure a delicious outcome every time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chef Deborah VanTrece opened the acclaimed Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in 2014, and since then, the award-winning soul food restaurant has appeared on numerous Best Of lists, including features in the New York Times, Bon Appetit, NPR, Eater, Essence, Thrillist, Buzzfeed, Kitchn, and Food & Wine, winning acclaim for her mastery of imported cooking techniques and delicious globally informed cuisine.

She is included in 2020’s Tasty Pride: Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community; this is her first cookbook.

RECIPES

Grandma Lue’s Spinach Rice

  • 3 cups cooked white rice, chilled
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 4 lbs fresh baby spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup chopped marinated artichokes
  • 12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously grease a deep casserole or 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the cold rice and beaten eggs.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, peppers, onions and spinach and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spinach is wilted.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and garlic. Cool for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese has melted and all of the ingredients are well combined.

Add the spinach-cheese mixture to the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir in the black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and salt.

Spoon into prepared baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Bacon-Praline Macaroni and Cheese

  • 6 cups elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
  • 1 tbsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tbsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups milk, warmed
  • 6 oz cream cheese, diced
  • 12 oz. American cheese, diced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 8 oz applewood-smoked bacon (8 to 10 slices), cooked and crumbled

Praline topping:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or pecan pieces
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Transfer the cooked macaroni to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together the seasoned salt, white pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Sprinkle half of this seasoning mixture and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese over the macaroni and toss to combine.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk for 3 to 5 minutes, until it makes a light roux. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the sauce reaches a simmer. Add the diced cream cheese and American cheese in batches, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and turn off the heat. Add the remaining seasoning mixture and stir well. Quickly whisk in the eggs until they are incorporated.

Country Captain Chicken Stew

This classic dish shows the influence of the Indian spice trade throughout the ports of the old South,’ says VanTrece about her recipe for a dish that dates back centuries.

  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp duck fat or unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (3 to 4 medium)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (13.5-oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Peanut rice noodles:
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 (8.8-oz package rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, tossed in a little vegetable oil to prevent clumping, and chilled for 30 minutes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts, plus more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces with the seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder and white pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours to marinate.

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt the duck fat. When hot, add the chicken pieces and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer to a platter and set aside.

Spring Pea, Bacon, and Radish Salad

“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” write VanTrece in the recipe’s introduction. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen peas (thawed, if frozen), blanched and drained, then chilled
  • 6 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus additional leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and ground white pepper

In a large bowl, combine the peas, bacon, radishes, red onion, chopped fresh mint, and lemon zest, toss gently with the mayonnaise and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with whole mint leaves. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 195 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 8 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 12 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 324 milligrams sodium.

Buttermilk Dressing

“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” writes VanTrece. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”

Buttermilk Dressing

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and pepper and process until smooth. Pulse in the fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, and chives until just combined. The dressing should be creamy but with a pleasing texture from the herbs.

Makes about 4 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 23 calories (percent of calories from fat, 70), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 75 milligrams sodium.

Aunt Lucille’s 7UP Pound Cake

About this recipe, VanTrece writes, “This is a pound cake, and the only cake I can ever remember my Aunt Lucille ever making. For me, it will always carry cherished memories of celebrations and good times. This is the kind of recipe that reminds you how good old-fashioned cakes were (and can be). Definitely use 7UP for this recipe because it has a high level of carbonation that helps the cake to rise, and gives it a brighter, fresher lemon-lime flavor than other sodas.”

For the pound cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted, divided
  • 3/4 cup 7UP, divided
  • For the 7UP glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons 7UP
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray (see note above).

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar for 5 to 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour one-third at a time and mix on low speed, alternating with 1/4-cup portions of the 7UP, mixing well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and lift the pan off of the cake. Let the cake cool on the rack.

While the cake cools, make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, 7UP, and lime zest until smooth.

Using a 6-inch wooden skewer or toothpick, poke holes in the top of the cooled cake. Slowly spoon the glaze over the cake, letting it run into the holes and over the surface.

Set the cake aside for 10 minutes before serving to let the glaze absorb into the cake and give it a lightly lacquered finish.

The cake can be made well in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic, and frozen for up to 4 months. It will keep moist and can be pulled out to thaw several hours before serving. It’s great served alone or with ice cream or fresh fruit compote. Serves 12 to 16.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 12: 598 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 6 grams protein, 89 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 25 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 138 milligrams cholesterol, 36 milligrams sodium.

All the above recipes and images are excerpted from The Twisted Soul Cookbook by Deborah VanTrece. Copyright © 2021 Deborah VanTrece. Photography by Noah Fecks. Published by Rizzoli. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved

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2022 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Books and Drama

This year’s Pulitzer Prize winners.

It’s the 106th year honoring excellence in journalism and the arts. http://Pulitzer.org. #Pulitzer

Fiction

The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family, by Joshua Cohen (New York Review Books)

A mordant, linguistically deft historical novel about the ambiguities of the Jewish-American experience, presenting ideas and disputes as volatile as its tightly-wound plot.

Finalists

Monkey Boy, by Francisco Goldman (Grove Press)

Palmares, by Gayl Jones (Beacon Press)

Drama

Fat Ham, by James Ijames

A funny, poignant play that deftly transposes “Hamlet” to a family barbecue in the American South to grapple with questions of identity, kinship, responsibility, and honesty.

Finalists

Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, by Kristina Wong

Selling Kabul, by Sylvia Khoury

History

Covered with Night, by Nicole Eustace (Liveright/Norton)

A gripping account of Indigenous justice in early America, and how the aftermath of a settler’s murder of a Native American man led to the oldest continuously recognized treaty in the United States.

Cuba: An American History, by Ada Ferrer (Scribner)

An original and compelling history, spanning five centuries, of the island that became an obsession for many presidents and policy makers, transforming how we think about the U.S. in Latin America, and Cuba in American society.

Finalists:

Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction, by Kate Masur (W. W. Norton & Company)

Biography

Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South, by the late Winfred Rembert as told to Erin I. Kelly (Bloomsbury)

A searing first-person illustrated account of an artist’s life during the 1950s and 1960s in an unreconstructed corner of the deep South–an account of abuse, endurance, imagination, and aesthetic transformation.

Finalists

Pessoa: A Biography, by Richard Zenith (Liveright/Norton)

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine, by Janice P. Nimura (W. W. Norton & Company)

Poetry

frank: sonnets, by Diane Seuss (Graywolf Press)

A virtuosic collection that inventively expands the sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America, including the beauty and the difficulty of working-class life in the Rust Belt.

Finalists

Refractive Africa: Ballet of the Forgotten, by Will Alexander (New Directions)

Yellow Rain, by Mai Der Vang (Graywolf Press)

General Nonfiction

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City, by Andrea Elliott (Random House)

An affecting, deeply reported account of a girl who comes of age during New York City’s homeless crisis–a portrait of resilience amid institutional failure that successfully merges literary narrative with policy analysis.

Finalists

Home, Land, Security: Deradicalization and the Journey Back from Extremism, by Carla Power (One World/Random House)

The Family Roe: An American Story, by Joshua Prager (W. W. Norton & Company)

The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants

With their perfumed fragrance and lovely colors, pitcher plants beckon, inviting insects to partake of what promises to be the most delicious nectar nestled in the depths of their beguiling wide open red and green lined mouth. But the slope is slippery and tiny plant tentacles pull the insect down into dark depths making escape impossible.

The devious bladderwort works in an equivalent way. Floating on the water, it looks like a pile of seaweed or swamp muck with small yellow flowers. What could be less threatening? Au contraire, when an unsuspecting insect hits the tentacles on the plant’s bladder, it gets sucked in, the trap snaps shut and begins emitting secretions to dissolve its prey.

And don’t even get us started on Venus fly traps–those pretty little devils.

If it all sounds like a horror movie, there’s good reason. Movie makers have long seen carnivorous plants as evil aggressors.

“I have a list of over 100 films and TV shows that featured real carnivorous plants as well as monster plants,” said Peter D’Amato, founder and owner of California Carnivores in Sebastopol, California, one of the largest purveyors of carnivorous plants in the world. “The most famous are Little Shop of Horrors, Day of the Triffids, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Regular films have also had guest appearances of carnivorous plants like Katherine Hepburn feeding ‘Lady’ live bugs in Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer.”

But relax. These plants may be deadly for insects, but according to D’Amato, no people-eating plants discovered – at least not yet. Though there was a scare in Europe in the 1870s when rumors ran rampant about the Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar which was fed young female sacrifices.

D’Amato has been a carnivorous plant devotee (he calls them CPs) since he was a kid in the 1960s living in New Jersey and ordered Venus flytraps through a magazine called “Famous Monsters”.

“They promptly died,” he recalls. “Then a classmate told me he knew where CPs grew in the Pine Barrens and showed me pitcher plants and sundews, and I became addicted.”

So addicted in fact that D’Amato opened California Carnivores in 1989 and almost immediately, despite the skepticism of old time growers, the nursery was a success. He is also the author of “The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants” (Ten Speed Press), about the cultivation of carnivores.

The book garnered awards from the American Horticultural Society and the Garden Writers Association of America, has long been the go-to for those interested in growing carnivorous plants. The latest edition (there have been ten so far) was fully revised to include the latest developments and discoveries in the carnivorous plant world, making it the most accurate and up to date book of its kind. Besides that D’Amato is also writing a horror novel called “From a Crevice in Hell”, a botanical thriller about the mythological Lucifer Plant from Hell.

“While folks are attracted to CP at first because they don’t just sit there and actively lure, catch, kill and eat insects and other little animals,” said D’Amato, “ultimately it’s their unusual beauty that wins growers over.”

“Since CP grow around the world they require different climates, but most CP come from temperate areas and the North America has more varieties than any place else in the world, especially the southeast,” said D’Amato. “So they require warm summers with a lot of sun and chilly to frosty winter dormancy. Some are native to the Great Lakes area and can be grown outdoors especially in bog gardens.

“Plants like Venus flytraps do best in sunny places during spring, summer and autumn and then must be placed someplace cool and even frosty for winter dormancy when they rest. Purified water or rainwater is best for them. Tropical CPs thrive in tanks as potted plants under grow lights and a few are able to adjust to sunny windowsills.”

But even bad plants can do good. Besides beauty, carnivores may have a healthy side effect.

“Carnivora is an herbal product used to fight tumors and other growths–Ronald Reagan was on it–and it’s produced from Venus flytraps, and tropical pitcher plants that grow in Southeast Asia,” said D’Amato, noting that it’s been used to treat various ailments from menstruation discomfort to antiseptic use.”

Above carnovire photos are courtesy of California Carnivores. and Peter D’Amato’s photo is courtesy of Ten Speed Press.

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