My Emu Is Emo

I cook. I listen to music. Mayhem ensues.

  • Published: Mar 13th, 2014
  • Category: Dessert, Pop
  • Comments: 4

Cookie-Dough-Flavored Capirotada (Mexican Lenten bread pudding)

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bread puddingOne of the characters in my still-in-progress-damnit mystery novel burns off stress by cooking. He’s also desperately responsible (to the point that a minor character explains she refused to date him because she wanted something more exciting out of life than a dude who always knows how to fix the photocopier) and tends to practice skills into submission, so when he decides the female protagonist likes a Mexican bread pudding they tried at a panaderia, he works on his version over and over and over.

And over. He says at one point that he took up cooking because his family was more tolerant of eating eight batches of brownies than of putting up with other things he practiced.

Faced with the Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge for March — honey and walnuts — I decided I wanted to take a shot at my own Mexican bread pudding, and I wanted — in line with prevailing food trends — to make it “cookie dough” flavored. [LBTCDC rules, this month's yummy post, basic capirotada recipe] This is my second try because the first one turned out highly experimental. Ironically, photos from the dubious first try are all “glorious sunny kitchen,” while those from the successful second effort are blurry, dark, out-of-focus, and show that the counter needed wiping. Read the rest of this entry »

Cherry-cola red-velvet mini-cupcakes with chocolate glaze

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Cherry cola red velvet mini-cupcakeSomething almost mystical and negligibly naughty washes over otherwise calm, collected cooks when they pour a can of soda into a recipe. It doesn’t belong there, and the mere inclusion seems illicit and risque. –Tom Bayer, spokesman for Dr. Pepper, quoted in the Chicago Tribune in 1994

It’s therefore appropriate that the Valentine’s Day edition of the Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge [rules, this month's recipes] called for using cherries and Coca-Cola.

My daily reads of The Impulsive Buy and Brand Eating had alerted me that in winter 2014, all foods are required to be (a) red velvet; (b) jalapeño; (c) salted caramel; or (d) in a pretzel bun. Of these choices, only red velvet seemed relevant to the task at hand.

While both Coca-Cola cake and red velvet cake now do the rounds as “traditional” recipes, they’re both likely post-World War II inventions. The earliest known Coca-Cola cake recipe appears in the early 1950s, and the earliest red velvet cake in 1960 (though there are red devil’s food cakes from the late 1930s, using a different recipe) [Food Timeline]. In the true spirit of mid-century modern cooking, my recipe is make mostly from mixes and costs less than 5 cents per mini-cupcake.

Preheat the oven, cue up some music — hold on, I’ve got a nice single for you — and let’s do super-easy and cute baking.

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Three Sisters Stew

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3 SIsters StewMy adventures at the Pueblo Grande Museum left me curious about Native American foods in ways that could not be fully satisfied by a trip to The Fry Bread House (which does make the most amazing fry bread that was ever fried).

The first web site I tried promised easy and fun traditional cooking, in which after three days of soaking and pounding the corn, it was time to make tortillas! Grease the pan with sheep’s brains. . . okay, if I were the right kind of hipster, I’d be out on my fire escape in Brooklyn, coshing my sheep with glee. But I’m not.

I decided to take a shot at a dish called Three Sisters Stew, which is made however one likes, as long as it involves the “three sisters” of local indigenous agriculture: corn, beans, and squash.

To accompany my culinary efforts, let’s try a Tohono O’odham music form called wailaIt’s fiddle-based, and yes, it’s an adaptation of the polka. There are festivals and awards. Canyon Records will sell you more of it. I don’t know how this one stacks up, but it’s lively and cheerful, and we have to start somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Chocolate-covered gummy bears

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chocolate covered gummy bearsI will level with you: making your own chocolate-covered gummy bears is not faster and easier than stopping by the candy shop at the mall and just buying some.

It does, however, require only one bowl and maybe 20 minutes of work. If you’re sufficiently amused by playing Vlad the Impaler with gummy bears, the tedious bits go quickly.

The impetus for the gummy bear project was two-fold. First, I have a peculiar passion for chocolate-covered gummy bears, but they are le pricey, and local candy shops give me a choice of mono-flavor Kopper bears in good chocolate or splendidly fruit-flavored Albanese bears in chocolate that’s had time to get stale. Second, the 99 Cents Only had fresh Albanese bears last week.

There exists a chocolate gummy bear song — called, appropriately, “The Chocolate Gummy Bear Song” — which will make the process go faster. It is not in English, so I disclaim responsibility for any double entendres. Read the rest of this entry »

Introducing the Bronuffin: a biscuit-donut-muffin hybrid made with beer

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Bronuffin interior I present to you… the Bronuffin!

In a world where hybrid breakfast pastries such as the duffin, the cronut, the cragel, and the doughscuit have replaced mere pancakes among hip and trendy people who like spending their early mornings in a queue, the bronuffin was waiting to happen.

The bronuffin is a biscuit-donut-muffin hybrid that is named for the moment when one wants to make exciting breakfast pastries but has neither milk nor eggs in the house, so one says, “Bro, I got nuffin’.” It requires beer and jam. If your refrigerator is down to the point of containing nothing but retro-style pop and sriracha, make substitutions at your own risk.

Preheat the oven to 400 because 400 is a nice, round number. For music, I focused my eyes on Spotify’s recommendations and noticed an indie pop act calling itself Brandon & Leah. As it happens, their music is influenced by pop. soul, hip-hop, and reggae, making it a fitting hybrid soundtrack for the bronuffin. The result in “Life Happens” is relentlessly perky.

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Arizona’s Mysterious Canal Builders

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Hohokam ballcourtHere is the stadium where I spent portions of Super Bowl Sunday.

It is a fine specimen of a Hohokam ballcourt, located at the Pueblo Grande Museum, which is an archeological site and interpretive center run by the city of Phoenix.

The motivator for this trip–other than “there’s a museum on the light rail, wheeeee!”–was tooth-gnashing rage at how Neal Shusterman’s novella “Unstrung” (sporked here by the estimable Farla) had gone to town on the Magical Native American trope, in defiance of geography, history, and common sense.

The Hohokam are about as far as it’s possible to get from the romanticized view of native peoples as walking lightly on the earth with their brothers the buffalo and the eagle, whilst eschewing all technology. They didn’t have iron, which puts a severe limitation on technological development, but they were a culture that valued (and figured out) engineering. The Hohokam built the largest canal system in North America, and did it so well that some canals were reused, hundreds of years later, to make the site of Phoenix livable. It’s accepted that the first purpose-built late 19th century canals were inferior to the ones left by the Hohokam.

Nobody knows what game was played on the Hohokam ballcourts, other than that: Read the rest of this entry »

Oatmeal cookies get into a dark-chocolate coconut groove

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Oatmeal cookies with dark chocolate and coconutThe one man I can face at 7:15 in the morning plays jazz-funk guitar.

He’s the bus driver on what I consider to be the “early” bus, but if you can’t sneak up on a guitar-funk album with a double-entendre or two, what’s the joy in living? (You wonder why I’m not that into American Idol-style rags-to-riches stories? Because hardworking aspiring musicians can be found right in your hometown. Appreciate ‘em.)

Meet Sneed Leed, the project of Charles Sneed. I was originally going to write about Not What It Appears, since I have the CD right here, and the only reason I hadn’t written about it three weeks ago was a severe lack of being in the mood to cook. Never hesitate, never delay: while I was dithering, Sneed Leed released a new album, My Hummingbird Hums So Loud (buy at iTunes), which I think now qualifies as the higher priority. The overall sound is guitar-oriented R&B/funk with psychedelic influences.

Culinary inspiration hit in the baking aisle of Target when I discovered Nestle morsels had hopped on the dark-chocolate bandwagon. I can’t stand semi-sweet chocolate chips, but dark chocolate… now there’s something to experiment with. My recipe is loosely based on the famous Washington Post salted oatmeal cookie recipe (though at this point, it’s more a tribute than a cover).

Both the album and the cookies are excellent distractions for a slow Sunday morning, not least because you can then have cookies for brunch. Find yourself a couple sticks of butter — no that is not a double-entendre! — and let’s get down with what’s up here.

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  • Published: Oct 12th, 2013
  • Category: Folk, Rock
  • Comments: 1

A Guy with a Guitar in a Scottsdale Bar

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Lee DeWyze poster October 10 2013 Pub Rock Scottsdale ArizonaYou’re sitting in a hipster dive bar in a strip mall so obscure that its stores haven’t been Yelped, where the anchor tenant is offering eternal life through Jesus. In the parking lot, when you got here, a tow truck was hauling away a white pickup: the BMWs don’t come this far south in Scottsdale. There’s a drink in front of you on the table, the perfume of beer in the air, and a pale light on the minimal stage.

The opener’s just finished playing. His name’s Lee Perreira (site, Reverbnation, Facebook). His deal sounds like acoustic psychedelic funk, though he describes it as a jazz-rock fusion. He has a pedigree with an indie band that toured with bigger names, and thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, he has a new EP out. At one point, his acoustic guitar stops cooperating and his backing track goes right on without him, no real musical difference. He wears a plaid shirt and a newsboy cap, which — after the photo on his web site where he’s shirtless in a tuke — seems like a good thing. If you can’t live without his music, he’ll be the last-before-the-headliner act on a four-band bill at a different bar on Tuesday.

Then the headliner comes out: it’s two guys in white shirts and vests, one with a guitar, the other with a small arsenal of gear, including a banjo. They’re singing folk-rock. You expected that on a Friday night in an earnest hipster dive bar. The singer stands there with his guitar and sings with his eyes closed — no hand-slapping, no hip-swiveling, no jumping around — and though it’s not supposed to work that way and you’ve said many times that it doesn’t work that way, he is riveting on the sheer power of his joy and confidence in his music.

He loves the music that much. Also, it’s good music.

This is Lee DeWyze (site) at Pub Rock in Scottsdale on Friday night. I was positively not a fan until my first listen to his new album, Frames (track-by-track, with carrot caramel brownies), and I’m still a bit startled that he toured this far afield from his home turf. Come with me, and I’ll tell you about this show. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Pumpkin Is Ready for Its Close-Up

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pumpkin pie barsMy hipster cred probably slips slowly south on my well-hidden weakness for Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” (though damn it, I learned in high school physics that it’s centripetal force!). This comes from Faith Hill’s late-1990s “yeah, I started in country, but the money in pop. . . booyah!” phase. It’s the musical expression of that cliché shot: the one where the romantic leads kiss and the camera does a 360-degree rotation around them.

Faith Hill popped into my head to say “hi!” on my first listen to Frame by Frame, the post-Voice solo country debut  album of Cassadee Pope, formerly of Hey Monday! (buy at iTunes, buy on Amazon, buy Target deluxe edition). Frame by Frame shares some of that sweetness in pop-country instrumentation, along with a sense of cinematic metaphor.

If you’re born in 1989, as Pope was, Faith Hill is part of the “country music” you heard on the radio as a kid. The country-pop movement that was controversial back in the day, to the point that George Strait spearheaded a neo-traditionalist backlash, is long enough ago to be childhood nostalgia for new artists.

Childhood nostalgia brings up another hit on my hipster cred, which is a nostalgic weakness for Krusteaz bar mixes. My mom made them, after she outgrew her zucchini bread phase, and they came in orange and tangerine back in the day! While formulated a little sweet for my tastes, the fruit flavor is more reliably fruity than the pricey hipster bars at the coffeehouse (and my homemade ones tend to have a bitter undertone on the second day), so when I saw that Krusteaz makes pumpkin pie bars. . . you know where this is going, right?

Pop a box top, preheat the oven to 350, pull up a chair, and let’s go track-by-track through Frame by Frame. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Published: Oct 2nd, 2013
  • Category: Travel
  • Comments: None

Making sure the Grand Canyon State has a Grand Canyon

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SedonaHipster cred may survive my taking a bus tour of the Grand Canyon, but it is unlikely to survive my forgetting to photograph my lunch.

In the first throes of euphoria after going car-free (a story in itself, which I helpfully haven’t told), I developed a fascination with where it is possible to go on buses other than (a) work, (b) the really excellent Value Village way up on Bell Road, and (c) $10 beer brunch!

Ohhhhh. It is possible to go to the Grand Canyon by way of Sedona.

(That is Sedona to the left. We know this because the reddish rocks stick up, whereas in the Grand Canyon, the reddish rocks go down, unless you’re at the bottom, which we weren’t.)

If you are up for photos of reddish rocks, interspersed with the occasional tree, this is the place to get your rocks off. Read the rest of this entry »

Carrot Caramel Brownies fill your Frames

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Carrot Caramel Brownie“Previously skeptical, even hostile, listener hears the band’s latest track and is utterly blown away” is a common scene in fiction about musicians (and probably in musicians’ livelier fantasies), to the point that coming across it is my signal to throw the novel at the wall and go on to something else.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you. . . Lee DeWyze. Frames (buy deluxe at iTunes, buy at Amazon, official site). DeWyze is putting his stint as the butt monkey of American Idol culture behind him (note those long strides on the album cover!) with a new album on the indie label Vanguard — in which he returns to his folk-rock roots and shows that he means business.

This calls for carrot-caramel brownies to accompany track-by-track consideration. The brownies have their roots in Caramel Apple brownies from Lemons for Lulu. Frames has its roots in Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles.

Preheat your oven to 350, grease your 9×9 pan, fire up your headphones, and let’s do this thing.
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  • Published: Apr 11th, 2013
  • Category: Dessert
  • Comments: 5

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding

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Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread PuddingA pretzel is what I tied myself into, trying to come up with something original for this month’s Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge (here), with the theme ingredients of pretzels and caramel. My bacon — which doesn’t appear in this recipe, but could! — was saved by the discovery at the 99 Cents Only of frozen soft pretzels.

A soft pretzel is a bread-like substance. From bread-like substances, it’s a short step to bread pudding.

To get ourselves in the proper festive mood, let’s try the very first live performance of a song from Cassadee Pope’s upcoming album. “Good Times” is the kind of party song I usually avoid, but there’s something about sounding as if Avril Lavigne took up the kind of 1970s rock that was influenced by country’s Bakersfield Sound… it just amuses me. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Published: Apr 3rd, 2013
  • Category: Movies
  • Comments: None

The Wizard of Oz Visits the Land of the Plot Holes

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official posterIn Oz the Great and Powerful, carnival magician Oscar Diggs visits the Land of the Plot Holes.

Faced with an incomprehensible quest, Diggs musters his power of suspending disbelief, which enables him to float over dark bottomless pits of implausibility, held aloft by only a wink, a smirk, and determination to hold onto his top hat. His reward is wealth, power, redemption, kisses with the one hot chick who doesn’t hate him yet, and the opprobrium of people who got as far as the second volume of Frank L. Baum’s classic series.

Come with me into the spoiler-filled Land of the Plot Holes… but first, learn the magic phrase that will get you from point to point over this rough terrain.

No, it’s not “there’s no place like home.” It’s “wait, what?” Say it with me. “Wait, what?” (If no children are present, “WTF?” will also work.)

Here come the credits, delightfully in black-and-white turn-of-the-century clip art, so try your utmost to disassociate this look from Monty Python’s Flying Circus… Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet Pea Cupcakes with Candied Carrot Filling

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Sweet pea cupcakes with candied carrot fillingNot only is it possible to construct a dessert using peas and carrots, it’s a downright good idea, and the result will go beautifully with a few cucumber sandwiches and petit fours for an elegant afternoon tea.

While peas and carrots actually were random ingredients hanging out in my kitchen, they’re also the March challenge ingredients for Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.
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Rustic Rye Coffee Cake with Almond-Lavender and Blueberry Filling dares you to eat it

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Rye coffee cake with almond-lavender and blueberry filling.This is the very first time I’ve tried to make pastry from scratch, for which I can thank — with a rueful, flour-coated smile — the Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge for March. [Spoiler: despite being fluffy rather than flaky, the results tasted good. So there's hope.]

The key ingredients were almond paste and pastry. For two entire months of planning, I swore I was going to make a sort of tart with prefab pie crust, prefab almond paste, and jelly in a nice jar. Then I found myself standing in the baking aisle of Transitional Neighborhood Kroger with nary a tube of almond paste to be seen… but sliced almonds marked 40% off.

It’s not that I dare mightily: it’s that I’m both lazy and cheap. So this coffee cake is entirely made from scratch, and would probably have still been pretty easy if I were better at it.

For no really clear reason, this coffee cake got me listening to the stream of Megan Hilty’s new album, It Happens All the Time (buy at Amazon, buy at iTunes), so don’t hesitate to check it out, particularly her cover of “Dare You to Move” (which is not quite the same as “dare you to make pastry,” but it’ll do).
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Tasting the Reality of Fiction: Seafood Quesadillas

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shrimp quesadillasJessica Fletcher joins the Golden Girls in the Fresh-Baked Mystery series by Livia J. Washburn (official site). In Killer Crab Cakes, retired schoolteacher Phyllis Newsom is housesitting her cousin’s B&B on the Texas Gulf Coast, and she’s managed to haul along her boarders from her hometown: Carolyn (the bitchy one), Eve (the mantrap), and Sam (the boyfriend). Mayhem ensues.

The book moves at a leisurely pace, leaving the reader time to ponder which recipe to try (or to think about booking tickets to the Gulf Coast, as the descriptions are seductive). I should probably make the cookies that Phyllis enters in the baking contest, but I cook so many sweets, and I’ve  often vaguely wondered whether seafood Mexican involves cream cheese or cream or what… so the seafood quesadillas, it is.

As a reminder that today’s grandparents and retirees are children of the 1960s, not the 1930s, here’s a little Donovan cover about a crab. I went with a cover because there doesn’t seem to be a clear live tubie of the original — and also because this Sou’sideLiam is a nice listen. (He has a Youtube channel of covers of music of this era.)

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  • Published: Feb 21st, 2013
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Comments: 11

Lavender-filled Croissants Heart You

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lavender-filled croissantsThis month’s Improv Cooking Challenge at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker involved “hearts and flours.” Of course, I wrote this down as “hearts and flowers,” which is slightly different. The result is these lavender-filled, lemon-glazed croissants, which are meant to be both quick and easy. The flour, however, is already mixed into the pre-fab croissant dough. Or you could make your own croissant dough.

The natural accompaniment is Ontario’s SayWeCanFly, whose song “Hearts and Flowers” is not the usual romantic piffle or anti-piffle. SayWeCanFly (last seen here, with cucumber cake) is Brandon Barrie’s moody, introspective, yet ultimately cheerful acoustic project. It bespeaks weathered barns and… well… fields of lavender under cloudy skies.

So let’s preheat the oven to 375 (or whatever the dough says on the package) and make a little something for afternoon tea.

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  • Published: Feb 14th, 2013
  • Category: Dessert, Rock
  • Comments: 3

Black Forest Brownies are your easy lover

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black forest browniesBlack Forest Brownies are so easy to make that, if right now on the morning of Valentine’s Day, you haven’t whipped up a sweet dessert to share, you can get this done and still have plenty of time to sprinkle rose petals, whip through your tax returns, or negotiate peace in the Middle East.

This month’s Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge ingredients were chocolate and cherry. Play your cards right at the dollar store, and these brownies are also a bargain! Plus, they can be varied in numerous ways that I’ll describe at the end of the recipe.

Valentine’s Day calls for a dopey love song, and handily, Tegan and Sara’s new album Hearthrob (buy at iTunes, buy at Amazon) has that song. It’s called “Love They Say,” and it’s reputedly constructed from every cliché in the love-song biz. Billboard‘s right in saying it cries out to be in the soundtrack to a teen movie.

Preheat your oven to 325, and let’s embrace the chocolate. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Reality of Fiction: Sam’s Breakfast Pizza

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breakfast pizzaIf Martha Stewart were a 40-ish widow in rural Ohio, the result would be Suzanne Dietz, heroine of Bedeviled Eggs by Laura Childs (official site). Suzanne is one of three partners in The Cackleberry Club, an adorable breakfast/lunch/tea restaurant with an adorable bookstore nook, an adorable knitting supplies nook, and a slew of adorable community activities. Her partners and best friends are Petra, who does the actual cooking, and Toni, who seems to be the town wild child.

In this book, third in the series, an adorable community event (“read dating”) turns sour when a mayoral candidate is murdered. Some of the murder-related scenes (and their aftermaths) are so grim that the extreme coziness starts to read like Dietz’s deliberate pushback against a harsh small-town reality, though the character’s not self-aware on that level.

What this book supplied, along with so much adorability that I feel a lingering guilt at not decorating for minor holidays, is a slew of tempting egg dishes. One is a breakfast pizza that sounds remarkably like the famous Kum & Go breakfast pizza but turns out to be made with biscuit dough. This was a must-try. And it just calls for a little swing, with Hilary Lester and Mick the Knife covering Dean Martin.

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Orange muffins with strawberry filling see the light

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orange muffin with strawberry fillingColton Dixon blinded me with science.

While I wasn’t overwhelmed by his stint as a reality-TV personality on American Idol, his launch into Christian Contemporary Music coincided with my seizing on the research question of whether Idol alumni would have an easier time building sustainable careers if they started in a niche genre, rather than being hurled at pop music. It’s hard to get more “niche” than CCM while still singing in English — no, as far as I know, no group sings in tongues — unless one dedicates one’s life to smooth jazz.

So I started reading Dixon’s interviews, generally enjoyed how he talked about music, and figured, with the release of his debut album, A Messenger (buy at iTunes, buy at Amazon), that thoroughness required giving it a listen to see if he delivers on his promises to do musically exciting things.

There is no logical or theological reason this should be paired with orange muffins that are secretly filled with strawberry jam. Dixon does not, for instance, have a jam band (that would be Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips). His style is unsurprisingly alt-rock, spurring (fair) comparisons to genre-mates MercyMe and Casting Crowns. Let’s preheat the oven to 350, find an orange, and contemplate this album track-by-track. (If you use Spotify, you can follow along without committing.)

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