Okay, so I just really like children’s books. So sue me.
I would probably post more blog posts about legit literature if I ever read it, but I don’t. So today you get a sampling of one of my favorite children’s series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan.
I discovered Percy Jackson about a year ago, and I was rolling with laughter as I read each book. Rick Riordan is hilarious! For instance, here are some chapter titles from The Lightning Thief (book 1 of the series).
Chapter 1: I accidentally vaporize my pre-algebra teacher
Chapter 2: Three old ladies knit the socks of death
Chapter 6: I become supreme lord of the bathroom
Chapter 10: I ruin a perfectly good bus
Chapter 12: We get advice from a poodle
Just reading these chapter titles made it one of my new favorite books. Reading the hilarious, action-packed stories with all sorts of history lessons about ancient Greece hidden in awkward encounters with modern Olympian gods just solidified my love for them. This series is second only to Harry Potter in my mind. And that is saying something.
Okay, so you get the point that Percy Jackson is awesome. So here’s the how it relates to food.
Percy is a demigod: his dad’s a Greek god and his mom’s a mortal. Because he’s a demigod he gets a lot more interaction with the gods than mortals. One of the perks of being a demigod is that he can eat the food of the gods – ambrosia – which has healing properties. That is, unless he were to eat too much – then it would burn him from the inside out. Anyway, Percy describes ambrosia not as fruit salad, but as little squares. In The Last Olympian (book 5), Percy narrates, “I took out a square of ambrosia – part of the emergency god-food I always kept with me. It was a little bashed up, but Nico chewed it” (Riordan 254).
The books don’t give us much more description of ambrosia than this, so I got to get creative in my interpretation. I had always pictured ambrosia squares as kind of like lemon squares, only less cakey, sweeter, and more creamy. They had to be able to travel well on hero quests, without getting much worse than “a little bashed up.” So I searched high and low for a recipe to fit those criteria. That’s when I discovered a recipe for Cream Cheese Bars on AllRecipes.com. I altered it only slightly, adding a little flour and lemon to the mix. Here’s my adaption, to make it into ambrosia.
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ tbps lemon juice
1 tbsp flour
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 15 x 10 inch sheet pan.
- Mix together cake mix, butter or margarine, and 1 egg. Press mixture into pan. (It should look like play-doh.)
- In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese, 2 eggs, lemon juice, flour, and confectioners' sugar. Pour mixture on top of cake mixture.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Sift about ½ cup powdered sugar on top. Cool completely and cut into squares.
These things are AMAZING! And very simple to make. The cake mix layer has the consistency of a soft sugar cookie with a yellow cake flavor. The cream cheese layer is like creamy lemon cheesecake. What could be better?
You can adapt it to however you might imagine the ambrosia squares by adding different ingredients to the cream cheese. Maybe add marshmallow cream, or chocolate, or raspberries, or vanilla extract. Whatever you feel would qualify as “god-food,” you can add. I highly recommend these addictive little treats. But be careful not to eat too much! You may not burn to a crisp, but you will definitely have to burn off a lot of calories!