Tag Archives: dinner and a movie

Dinner and a Movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I would be entirely remiss if I did not include the king of all dessert movies in this series, and early on.  Mel Stuart’s 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may not be quite as true to Roald Dahl’s classic book as its 2005 adaptation, but if the chocolate river and gumdrop trees don’t leave you hungry for dessert I don’t know what will.  Gene Wilder’s Wonka can be mildly terrifying, but aside from the psychedelic trips the movie actually manages to impart messages about the downfalls of greed.  If turning into a giant blueberry or falling in with the bad eggs wasn’t enough to scare you out of gluttony, charming Charlie’s reward demonstrates without a doubt that good guys finish first.

Sappy messages aside, let’s get down to the only thing about Willy Wonka that really matters—the chocolate.  I half expect to find a golden ticket anytime I unwrap a Hershey’s bar; so far, I’ve been unlucky.  With no chocolate factory tour in sight, I’ve resorted to making my own chocolate.  This recipe doesn’t involve much work but sort of looks like it does, which is pretty much a win-win situation.  The amounts listed below are very rough estimates, and I’d encourage budding chocolatiers to try out their own unique flavors and additions!

Simple Chocolate Truffles


10 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

5 tbs. heavy cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract



Add chocolate and cream to a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir continually until the chocolate is melted.  Remove from heat and pour in vanilla (or any other flavoring).  Spoon the chocolate into a silicon ice cube tray, or ball it up and place them on a cooking sheet.  Refrigerate for two hours or until set.  Enjoy!


Waitress and Pie

In this adorable dramedy, Keri Russell plays Jenna, a pregnant waitress in an abusive marriage with little hope for the future.  Not the most cheery premise.  But Jenna finds hope in her baking—if she wins an upcoming pie contest, she’ll have enough money to leave her husband.  Thankfully, pies are her specialty.  Not only does she innovatively mix unexpected flavors, she also has a knack for aptly naming the pies.  For instance:

  • I Hate My Husband Pie
  • I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong and I Don’t Want Earl to Kill Me Pie
  • Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie
  • Fallin’ In Love Chocolate Mousse Pie

See?  That last one shows you there’s some hope.

As “Waitress” shows, there is no limit to types and flavors of pie, so you can imagine that picking a pie for this occasion was tricky.  I settled, as I find it is usually best to do, on chocolate.  This chocolate chess pie is rich and dense, nearing the consistency of a cake.  The pecans break up the smoothness with just the right amount of crunch.   I filled my pie crust to the brim with the gooey chocolate mixture and was sure that it would overflow in the oven and I’d be left with a hardened brown mess.  Thankfully, there was no such catastrophe, and I opened the oven to rich, warm bliss.


Chocolate Chess Pie or When All Else Fails Chocolate Is Always Right Pie


2 cups sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon cornmeal (I left this out and added extra flour)

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

4 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup milk

½ cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans



  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cocoa power, cornmeal, flour, and salt.  In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, butter and vanilla.  Pour the second mixture into the first and stir until smooth.  Then add in the pecans.
  3. Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake for about one hour.  Allow pie to cool on wire rack.


Adapted from recipe.com

Dinner and a Movie: Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me prizes at the pier

I have a minor obsession with minions.  I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of “Despicable Me 2” since this gem was released over a year ago.  Let’s face it, Gru’s minions are the best part of his villain universe. Their rendition of an ode to bananas and potatoes is just wonderful (and may or may not be my ringtone).  The second installment in the Despicable Me franchise finds villain-turned-father Gru (Steve Carell) attempting to use his dark past to help him save the world, all the while coming into his role as father to his three adopted daughters.  Carell, by the way, opened two summer movies in one weekend, the other being indie hit “The Way Way Back.”

It seems that like so many of us, Gru has a soft spot in his heart for guacamole.  At a Cinco de Mayo party, a lovelorn Gru assures his host Eduardo that he is doing alright.  “Nothing is wrong,” he asserts, “I’m just chilling…with the guac…from my chip hat.”  That’s right.  He wears a tortilla chip sombrero, the brim of which is filled with guacamole.  If that doesn’t say fiesta I don’t know what does.  Eduardo attempts to comfort him, telling him that he, too, “has spent many night trying to drown my sorrows in guacamole.”  And who hasn’t, really? Of course, as any Culinarian would, I spent a good chuck of the rest of the movie wondering how and where to get a chip hat.








Homemade Chips & Guac

Making a chip hat quite large enough to fit a human head and heavy enough to hold guacamole in its rim is a feat I unfortunately have no accomplished.  But I can help you make a mini chip hat—perhaps you can adorn your favorite minion with it (mine is Stuart).  Mine isn’t quite as sophisticated as the one in the movie.  To keep it super simple (and healthy) I made a microwave tostada bowl.  Simply place a tortilla atop an overturned microwave-safe bowl.  You may want to spray your bowl with non-stick spray or oil so that the chip comes off more easily.  Microwave it on a paper towel for about 1 minute.  Check to see how hard it is—depending on the size of your tortilla you may need to adjust the time.  Once your shell is crispy enough, gingerly remove it from its bowl, and voila—you have a tostada shell!  Just be careful not to heat it for too long, or it will break as you try to get it off the bowl.

As far as the guacamole itself goes, I leave that largely up to personal preference.  Play around with avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, chili, lemon, lime, and salt until you get the perfect mixture.  Trader Joe’s actually carries a guacamole kit—all you have to do is chop and mix!  This guacamole is fairly smooth and consists mostly of avocado—but you can leave it chunkier, or add more ingredients until yours is just right.  This super easy dish is perfect for a summer gathering.  Or, if you have little tortillas like I do, you can make yourself a fancy-looking snack!

Dinner and a Movie: This is the End

At midnight during the summer I am usually tucked into my bed, nodding off to the next episode of “Game of Thrones” on HBO to Go.  There are those, however, who are still out at the movies at that ungodly hour, which means that I now often find myself at work along with them.  The night that “This is the End” came out was one of those nights.  Much to my mother’s chagrin, I stayed at the movie theater after my shift ended to catch the midnight show.  Still dressed up in my collarless, navy, button-up uniform shirt, I bought myself some caffeine and settled in for the ride.  All I can say is if you have not seen it yet, get up and go.

The apocalyptic comedy stars…well, everyone, but namely Seth Rogen, Jay Burachel, James France, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson.  (Seth, Jay, and Danny actually stopped by my theater on opening day to hand out candy and popcorn to unsuspecting moviegoers; I was an entirely unhelpful employee as I stood off to the side and stared at them walking in.)  The stars, who all play hilariously obnoxious versions of themselves, find themselves stuck in James Franco’s mansion to hide out while the rest of the world burns down around them.  Unfortunately for them, Franco’s pantry contains just “12 bottles of water, 56 beers, Nutella, C.T. Crunch…and a milky way bar.”  Naturally, a fight ensues over who should get some of that Milky Way:


Jonah Hill:  Can I have that Milky Way?
James Franco:  No you can’t have the Milky Way, cause it’s my special food, I like it.
Seth Rogen:  I want some of the Milky Way.
Craig Robinson:  I’ll be pretty bummed if I don’t at least get a bite of the Milky Way.


I get it, Craig.  I would be pretty bummed too.  It is also good to know that Milky Ways are James Franco’s “special food.”  I understand where he’s coming from, too.  But if the world is coming to an end you better believe I will be stuffing my face with every kind of chocolate available.  Frankly I’m surprised that no one was fighting over the Nutella.  Thankfully, though, it is not the end of the world, and there are still plenty of Milky Way bars to go around, a fact which was quite helpful when I made Milky Way cookies.  These surprisingly simple cookies are gooey and delicious.  If Milky Ways aren’t your thing, most other types of chocolate candy should work just as well.


Milky Way Cookies 

Adapted from iheartnaptime.com



2 sticks softened butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 ¾ cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

35 mini Milky Ways, coarsely chopped (I cut them in quarters)



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda.  Slowly add this mixture to the other bowl.
  4. Pour in the chopped candy bars, and mix well so you don’t get all the candy in a few of the cookies.
  5. Roll dough into small balls and place on the baking sheet.  They expand, so leave a bit of room in between each ball.  I would also recommend coating your hands in flour so that you can get nice, even balls without them sticking to you (it’s a pretty sticky dough).
  6. Bake for approximately 8 minutes.  Let cool about 2 minutes on baking sheet.

Dinner and a Movie: Before Midnight

Spending a summer working at movie theater in Hollywood has its perks.  I get to bask in the glamour of serving popcorn to and cleaning up after stars who pop by the sneak peaks of their new openings; I am comforted by the scent of freshly made kettle corn while I scrub the lenses of the 3-D glasses clean.  It is actually a fun gig, and so far I’ve learned some useful lessons:

Me introducing a movie to an eager audience

1)    Popcorn is extremely messy and difficult to sweep up off of a carpeted floor.

2)    It is more difficult than it looks to create the perfect condiment design on a hot dog.  My apologies to all the patrons whose hot dog buns came with a glob of mustard on one end that slowly trailed into a squiggle.

3)    People who are given free food are much messier than those who pay for their concessions.  People who see “The Purge” and “Fast & Furious 6” are much messier than people who see “Francis Ha” and “Before Midnight.”

I have not seen the first two, but I have seen those last two (though my cleanliness may be more related to the fact that I now know the people picking up my trash than my movie choices).  I’ve never been a fan of action-packed summer blockbusters.  So when “Before Midnight” opened in a sea of adrenaline pumpers, I was more than ready to settle into the cool, nearly empty movie theater.  Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, focuses on a single day in Jesse and Celine’s relationship.  The two are approaching the end of their summer Greek getaway and a possible breaking point.

While the ladies prepare their final Greek feast, the camera zooms in on the chopped juicy, bright red tomatoes right down the center, and focuses on the women as they tenderly fold marinated rice into succulent grape leaves.  I of course developed a hankering for Greek food.  This recipe for homemade tzatziki is simple yet refreshing.  If you are not summering at a Greek villa, don’t fret—this dip will make you think you are.


Tzatziki Recipe

Adapted from Serious Eats and Chobani



½ pound cucumbers

1 cup Greek yogurt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 handful of dill, minced

1 tsp. lemon juice



  1. Seed the cucumbers.  To do this, cut it lengthwise.  Take a spoon to the middle and scoop out the mushy center part.  You’ll be left with a little cucumber boat.
  2. Shred the cucumbers in a food processor.  If you don’t have one you can just chop the cucumbers thin.
  3. Mix in all the ingredients.  You may want to play around with the amount of lemon juice you use, depending on your taste.

Enjoy with pita, veggies, or a spoon!