Eat & Watch: Smoked Salmon Chowder & Trading Places

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The holidays are almost over, but there’s still time left to bundle up and watch a few more seasonal movies. A great movie to watch in spirit of the new year is the 1983 comedy Trading Placesstarring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

In this movie, two successful businessmen – the Duke brothers – make a bet about whether nature or nurture plays a role in determining someone’s life. They give beggar Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) a job at their Philadelphia commodities-trading firm, and take away all that wealthy Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) has. They predict that Valentine will start acting like a successful, wealthy businessman, and that Winthorpe will become homeless, jobless, and desperate.

As predicted by the Duke brothers, Winthorpe falls to new lows in his new life of poverty. At the company holiday party, he is seen stuffing meat and salmon into his filthy and grungy Santa costume.

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Later, when Winthorpe is on the bus, he pulls out the salmon fillet from his grey Santa beard and proceeds to eat it. Winthorpe is clearly feeling defeated and has hit rock bottom. I won’t spoil what happens in the movie, but it’s definitely worth watching. It’s humorous while also having serious undertones of economic inequality and racial and cultural stereotypes.

Inspired by Santa Winthorpe and his hearty piece of salmon, Smoked Salmon Chowder felt like a delicious meal to watch with this movie. Chowder is warm – perfect for these cold winter months – and the smoked salmon gives the chowder a blast of flavor.


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In addition to the smoked salmon, the other ingredients also play a starring role in this chowder. I chose purple potatoes to give the soup some much needed color (otherwise it would have a mostly beige and yellow tone). Fresh corn on the cob gives the chowder a nice crunch, and the dill garnish gives it a clean herb taste without being overbearing.

Topped with oyster crackers or warm crusty bread, this Smoked Salmon Chowder may become a regular on the meal circuit. This recipe involves smoky bacon, fresh carrots and celery, and heavy cream – lots of goodies in every bite!

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Smoked Salmon Chowder Recipe

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P.P.S. Another great holiday movie and meal!

Food Images by Lauren Jessen // Trading Places stills from Paramount Pictures


Woven Gingerbread Cookies

woven gingerbread

Happy winter! ‘Tis officially the season to get into the spirit, and with Christmas this week, everything feels a bit more festive. I attempted these Woven Gingerbread Cookies (recipe here), and they turned out really well. Weaving the dough is so much fun, but it’s definitely a time commitment. When the dough starts to get soft after chilling, pop it back in the freezer for a short while (10 minutes) so you can roll it out again with ease. Because you’ll need strips of the gingerbread dough, the pieces are a bit more fragile. If you’re attending any holiday parties this week, these cookies will be a sure hit.

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{Photos by Lauren}

Classic Challah


Hanukkah begins tonight at sunset, and in honor of the holiday, what better way to celebrate than to make classic challah? It took two attempts to make this braided bread, but I finally got it right on the second try. What resulted was a deliciously fluffy pull-apart bread that will be perfect for French Toast. Because the dough has to rise for at about 2.5 hours, definitely plan ahead. I used this recipe, but ended up only needing about 6.5 cups of flour. Also, make sure that the water is lukewarm. For braiding, I watched this video – it was so helpful! I can’t wait to try out variations of challah – including ones with cinnamon, poppy seeds, and ham and cheese.

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{Photos by Lauren}


Holiday Cheer

xmas 2013

1. Onion Basket $30 | 2.  A Story Lately Told $17 | 3. Wishbone Bottle Opener $14 | 4. Robinson Nutcracker $95 | 5. Game of Thrones: The First Season $30

This year, give special items that are both functional and entertaining. This onion/fruit basket would be super useful and look great in any kitchen. Do your friends keep telling you they want to start watching Game of Thrones? Get them the complete first season on DVD – maybe they’ll even let you watch with them. You can never go wrong with gifting a book, especially when it’s a memoir. Anjelica Huston’s recently released A Story Told Lately is a fascinating read. You don’t have to spend too much to spread holiday cheer and make someone’s holidays even sparklier.

How are you going to spread holiday cheer?

Eat & Watch: Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes & the Nutcracker


Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing the Nutcracker, a stunning ballet that is perfect for the holidays. In honor of the show, I made Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes in an adorable Nutcracker Cupcake Set (on sale!). I wanted to do a nut recipe for obvious reasons, and these cupcakes (which are more like brownies in a cup) have a great flavor and texture due to the brownie mix and walnuts. Instead of the cream cheese frosting, I made my own chocolate frosting and sprinkled mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and finely chopped walnuts on top.

If you don’t want to brave the cold to see the Nutcracker this season, add the movie-version, Nutcracker (1986), to your list of ‘Christmas Movies to Watch.’ While it might not compare to seeing the show live, you can watch it while wearing your pajamas and stuffing your face with cupcakes. Whether you see the live show or movie, you can’t go wrong!

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Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes

(Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis)

• 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
• 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
• 1 (21-ounce) box brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge)
• 2 eggs, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1/4 cup water


* Special equipment: 12 paper cupcake liners, a 12-cup muffin pan.
* For the cupcakes: Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

1. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, 1 cup mini chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of the brownie mix. Toss until all the ingredients are coated. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl mix together the remaining brownie mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and water. Stir for 20 seconds until blended.

3. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan (cupcake liners will be full). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the cupcakes comes out with moist fudgy crumbs.

5. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting, about 30 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting:
(Recipe courtesy Cathy Lowe)
• 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
• 1 stick butter, softened
• 3 – 4 tablespoons heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Sift sugar and cocoa together into a large bowl.
2. In another bowl combine 1 cup of sugar mixture with butter and 1 tablespoon cream, beating until smooth.
3. Add another cup of sugar and another tablespoon of cream, beating well.
4. Continue until all ingredients are combined and frosting is fluffy. Beat in vanilla.
5. Spread frosting on cupcakes when cool.


{Photos by Lauren}

Holiday Movie Soundtrack Favorites

holiday playlist

As promised, here is my ‘Holiday Movie Soundtrack Favorites’ playlist! These are all songs from some of my favorite holiday movies, and every time I hear them I am brought back to a particular scene or moment. These are also the movies I will be watching this winter – one every night in an eager countdown to Christmas. There are a lot of amazing holiday songs available, but these are the ones that are getting the most repeats as of late.

A Dash of Cinema’s Holiday Movie Soundtrack Favorites:

1. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee {The Holiday}
2. This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) – Natalie Cole {While You Were Sleeping}
3. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt {Mixed Nuts}
4. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Zooey Deschanel {Elf}
5. Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald {Elf}
6. White Christmas – Otis Redding {Love Actually}
7. Silver Bells – Kate Smith {The Polar Express}
8. Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers {Four Christmases}
9. Right Back Where We Started From – Maxine Nightingale {The Family Stone}
10. A Kiss to Build a Dream On – Louis Armstrong {Sleepless in Seattle}
11. A Wink and A Smile – Harry Connick, Jr. {Sleepless in Seattle}

What songs are you listening to this holiday season?

For another playlist, check out the ‘Fall Movie Soundtrack Favorites!’


Flavor of the Month: Peppermint

Peppermint FOM

1. Candy Cane Cocktail | 2. Homemade Peppermint Patties | 3. Creamy Dark Chocolate Peppermint Sorbet | 4. White Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Mocha Biscotti 
5.  Peppermint Hot Chocolate

‘Tis the season to enjoy all things peppermint, hence why it is December’s Flavor of the Month. During the holidays, peppermint candy seems to be everywhere. Even though the mint might seem like an overload at times, now is the time of year to really embrace it. These peppermint recipes are too good to miss out on, especially during December. Who can resist peppermint hot chocolate or homemade peppermint patties? Get creative with this beloved candy, and maybe try to incorporate it as much as you can into your holiday meals this winter – it really is quite a treat!