Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Weekly Recipes 16; October

A friend at school gave me a huge grocery bag full of swiss chard and I've had fun experimenting with it. I've made it only a small handful of times, mostly just wilted in a pan with lemon squeezed. It was less than exciting. But I was very willing to try again. In handing over the swiss chard Kristin gushed about a swiss chard and potato recipe she made and so that very next weekend I googled it and put it together. I found this one from the NYT; Potato and swiss chard gratin.

Mind you it was not something Groovy Girl would stick her spoon into but my husband and I loved the creamy change of pace. After that recipe I still had half a bag of chard but I had other things to cook and forgot about it. I expected to open the bag a few days later, maybe a week, and find wilted, grossness but nope it was still hanging in there. Book club was just around the corner and I felt like a crisp salad.  Googling brought this swiss chard recipe from Alexandra's Kitchen and it was so lemony and delicious. A few days later I was actually craving the crispness of the salad again. So I guess I'll look forward to the next time I find swiss chard. I'm a fan now.

This weekend we had another family over to hang out around our fire pit. The days are getting nippier and soon it will be too cold.  Hopefully this wasn't our last weekend out there but if it is we certainly had fun.  I had some very good brats in my freezer from a local locker that I simmered in two cans of beer and then roasted over the crackling fire.

My friends Marek and Erin recently shared a jar of homemade sauerkraut and we had lots of toppings; spicy mustards, diced red onion, Amy's ketchup, TJ's wasabi mayonnaise, feta cheese. We had our salsa and blue chips and a garbanzo bean recipe from BudgetByte's that I've wanted to try. I served the chickpeas over a bed of arugula from last week's farmers market run. I am a huge fan of garbanzos and I thought this one turned out great; interesting spicy and sweet flavors mixed together. Of course around the campfire we roasted some marshmallows and made s'mores for dessert.

Swiss Chard Salad
Cumin Lime Chickpeas

Even though it's October I haven't made one thing with pumpkin in it. I like to look at pumpkins-the color is so vibrant-but I'm not a pumpkin pie fan. I should maybe try a pumpkin soup. On occasion I like a pumpkin spiced latte or chai.  Maybe in the next week I can get locate a few more Fall flavors.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Books and food and so many other tidbits

Dance has taken over our life and when we are not at dance Groovy Girl is on my computer working on homework. 9th grade honors classes are pushing her and keeping her busy.

School has me super busy as I'm constantly tweaking lessons and working with our young leadership team. In between and sometimes because of school I've been reading some great books. Hansen's 6th grade book club just finished The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.  This book is underappreciated. A few libraries in our district don't even have copies!

It is a beautifully written story of a young Ojibwa girl and her family as they rotate through the seasons. The accelerated kids in my book club thought it was interesting and the book brought forth a lot of discussion.

At home I finished The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald; a fresh fun story about a young Swedish woman who travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet her bookish pen pal. By the time Sara arrives her pen pal, Amy, has died. The very small town rallies around her and the results are often strange and bittersweet. I enjoyed this tale for its quirky cast of characters and all the book trivia.

My husband and I sometimes read books to each other and we recently finished The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a psychological thriller and I've seen a lot of up and down reviews. We enjoyed it and love trying to figure out where the story is going. This one kept us guessing for a few plot twists. Next up we are going to read a classic thriller by Nancy Price-Sleeping with the Enemy.

I made the butternut squash soup, the potato and swiss chard dish and the butternut tabbouleh from my last blog post. All were delicious. Later tonight I'm going to make my stepmother's zucchini bread for my husband because I have two that are oversized from our school garden. First I'm going to relax with some friends, music, and wine. Just the way to spend a Friday night. Groovy Girl made me dinner also; a veggie wrap using gluten-free wraps from Aldi. Something she watched a YouTube video about...

I'll have to work harder to wrestle the computer away from her so I can write more before the month closes out.

Enjoy the weekend!!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Farmers Market Bounty

I spent two hours this morning standing at an information booth for our soon-to-be co-operative grocery store. Before I settled in to that job though I took a stroll through our lively and beautiful market.

I now have turnips, swiss chard, small potatoes, four bulbs of garlic, 2 butternut squash, and about an hour spent trolling the internet for recipes ideas.  Here's what I came up with:

1. Huff Post article about butternut squash with an easy peel method!

{Naturally Ella}
2. Naturally Ella-butternut squash soup

3. Cookie + Kate-butternut tabbouleh

{NYT Cooking}

4. New York Times Cooking-swiss chard and potatoes au gratin (with gruyere cheese-ohh yes!) I love my NYT teacher subscription.

{well-plated by erin}
5. Well-plated by Erin-Slow cooker butternut squash pulled pork tacos-I'd change out the pulled pork to something else we would eat.

6. A classic family recipe from a Moosewood cookbook-black bean and sweet potato burritos that could be made with butternut squash instead. Just remembered how good they are!

Now that I've made myself really hungry I'm off to eat dinner at a friend's. My recipe pull was heavy on squash but the swiss chard one is a keeper that I'm making tomorrow night for Sunday dinner. I don't want the swiss chard to go all limp on me and the squash saves for a good long time.

Groovy Girl is turning into a kitchen staple. Last night, bored with my idea of leftovers, she took to a recipe site that takes your ingredient list and spits possible recipe choices back out. She found this recipe for chicken broccoli pasta and she made it all herself.  I avoided the chicken and thought the flavor of the recipe amazing.  Lemon-love lemons. Try Zakk's Lemon Broccoli Pasta.

Enjoy!  This post is linked last minute to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking post.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Racism surrounds us still...

One of my down south book BF's recommended we read Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, Between the world and me, together. I requested it from the library and once I had it in my hand I just couldn't put it down. Sorry V and A; but the good thing is we have much to talk about...

Ta-Nehisi Coates shares with us stories from his life, growing up and as an adult, sharing his experience of being black in America.  He frames it in a personal way as if we are a part of an intimate conversation between him and his son. 

As I read Coates' words I was reminded of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Both books gave me insight into what it means to be a non-white person in this country that on one hand is so great (filled with freedoms many other countries don't have) but also filled with racist problems where not all of our people feel those basic freedoms.  

While I can't compare stories I do remember in the late 80's while I worked retail in a variety of beautiful malls in Minneapolis/St Paul and suburbs. Friends that might visit me in the store dressed like musicians of the 80's while I was working were often followed into the store by mall security or mall managers. In one of these instances it was boutique mall in Victoria Crossing area of St Paul and the manager came into the store on the heals of my friend Randy.  She clearly stated in front of my friend that "she wanted to make sure I was okay." I remember feeling so indignant like of course I'm okay and I said something to that effect. Randy looked at her and said something like "I know it might surprise you but we're friends." After she walked he kidded me about how I should think about getting different friends that would be "mall-acceptable." I remember several other instances with him and other friends and yet I felt like Mpls/St Paul was more cosmopolitan than most communities and that race problems we experienced must be few and far between but we also never spoke about it much. Now I think I must have only viewed a small portion of what they dealt with on a daily basis. 

To be in an altercation today as a black person with police must be scary and could be deadly. I do know there are many good officers as well. Why does it keep happening? It seems to be getting worse and we need to find a way to make it better together. I appreciate Coates' book for allowing us an insider view of the real struggle. This should be required reading, it made me think more about white privilege, and how this shouldn't exist anymore.  We are still far away from the world Dr. King imagined we could have as humans. 

In the famous words of Dr. King we must band together:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." 

I want to read more of Ta-Nehisi's words and my husband listened to me I guess because the other night he handed me his copy of The Atlantic with an article about O.J. Simpson. I read that, agreed with his thoughts and am ready for more.  We all need our eyes opened to bring about change; it might be a case though of preaching to the choir. 

Bring it on V and A, what are we going to read next...?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

I felt compelled to order this from the public library a few weeks ago because of a Litsy post. I've heard Jessica's name and her first book, Full Frontal Feminism, before and just hadn't picked it up to read.

Sex Object; A memoir took me by surprise. I don't know why as the title is fairly explicit I just didn't fully understand that I'd be reading about Jessica's sexual escapades and yet I feel calmer having relived some of my own sexaul past through her experiences. For years I felt like there must be something wrong with me; did I have a sign taped to my back that said "abuse me/pick me"?

I've suffered through my own bits of harassment, stalkers, and leering overstimulated "manly" men (creeps). Jessica's story brought that message home; every woman has her own scary tales. Her story assured me that I was not the only one. Even sharing creeper tales with friends I always felt like I won hands down.  That we even have to share stories about this is ridiculous.

Not only do we deal with men's expectations of us but we shoulder a lot of that ourselves. Many of us never feel smart enough, sexy enough, pretty enough. Expectations on whether or not we are pretty both from our own selves and the men that surround us is a universal problem and I hear from my own daughter, which truthfully, is so hard to bear. It's like I went through this already and raised you to BE yourself, to share your opinion, to speak and you still complain that you don't look right, your hair isn't right, you feel awkward.

I feel like I made it through my own swamp of insecurities to get to a place where I have a job that I feel secure in, a husband who loves me no matter what, and children who are beginning to see that I am smarter than they thought.  It's also easier to be a feminist in my own head and heart, in my own home, about my own body.  Jessica's journey has been one of sounding the alarm and putting herself out there loudly speaking about gender and women's issue for most of her adult life. That's impressive to me. And she's been crucified through social media posts about her opinions, what she has to say. It must mean even the haters are listening.

I would love to hear Jessica speak. The book, told in a chaotic, back and forth method, relays her past and present. It's told in un-chronological order yet the last two chapters sort of sum up where she's at today, happily married and the mother of a precocious daughter.

I think to be secure in ourselves is to be complacent and it's really about just finding some bit of peace every day. You-made-it through-another-day feeling whole.  I'm glad to have had a chance to think about my own past/present as I read through Jessica's.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Groovy Girl turns 14

{G.G. and her brother}
Seriously no way. It just can't be possible that my baby born 3' 4 " is now my height and can wear my shoes if she likes them.

{G.G.and her big sis Kalila}
She is a blessing and a miracle. She is lovely and wonderful. She is also disorganized, somewhat spastic, and slightly irresponsible. Yet she keeps track of her contacts~still a mystery to me. Those are all characteristics of hers that are just part of what makes her who she is. Her college roommate will have to help her find her phone, she will probably be the girl turning cartwheels across the quad, happy that she still wears her Nike Pros underneath her dresses and I know she will find someone out there who loves her for all those quirky attributes.

What I dislike are people who make those qualities a negative for her. She had some amazing teachers in elementary school and one of them in particular clarified to me how some kids are just like that; creative, forgetful, absent-minded yet delightful.  Not a negative. I used to feel like I had to apologize a bit for her ability to stray. Her teacher's words to me after Groovy Girl had lost a school project was simply one of reassurance and I've tried to stick with that method.  She is who she is and I am grateful for her kind smile every day.

Happy 14th birthday Groovy Girl~you are an amazing child/young woman/daughter.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Weekly Recipes 15; I love September!

It's my second favorite month. School starts, the weather is amazing. I love what we've always called "Indian Summer"; warm weather with a September breeze.

I'm in my second week of school and it's been a very smooth transition. Groovy Girl is settling into her freshman year; top dog in her junior high. She's already busy with football cheer and soon dance will begin. Then we'll be a whirlwind of crazy.

{G.G. 2nd from the L.}
Today there was a little football activity happening at our kitchen table with my two favorite men. Husband and son were busy drafting their fantasy football teams and I loved listening to them banter back and forth together and with the other online football friends.  Knowing this annual event was taking place and that the 21-year-old headed to our house to draft with his dad like old times I offered to make them brunch. I know, my gifts abound...

At Early Girl in Asheville this summer my husband ordered grit cakes; it was like biscuits and gravy but with cakes made from grits. I took that as my inspiration for today's menu. I googled, looking at a variety of different recipes, and settled on one from Epicurious. It was Shrimp and Grit Cakes though and my handsome husband is allergic to shellfish.  I did have a lovely piece of good farm-raised steak from a local meat locker so I transformed the recipe just a bit.  The grit cakes were so very easy to make and delicious! I need to host a brunch for friends just so I can make this again.

I sliced the steak into bite-sized pieces and created the same sauce the recipe calls for except I didn't add the flour.  I also had three ears of sweet corn calling my name from the vegetable drawer and I cut the kernels from the cob and added that and it blended like it belonged.  On a small plate I plated two grit cakes with the steak, juices, and corn/pepper mix on top and a handful of blue chips tucked on the side. A little Parmesan over the top and it was ready to be eaten! As usual I failed to take a photo before they dug in. The plates looked award-winning and the they were licked clean so I guess I did good.

The recipe made enough that I have leftovers that we can eat for breakfast tomorrow. Tonight I will be whisked away for an anniversary dinner out on the town. Dressing up + no dishes to do = win/win

I'm working on finishing Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. I have about 6 short fiction books to read for Iowa Children's Choice that I need to finish before my final ratings.

Have a great l-o-n-g weekend.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Reading Recap

{image: the Red Fairy Project}
I am filled with gratitude that I have summers to catch up on some extra reading. As a librarian I spend my school day surrounded by books, ordering books, previewing, books, talking about books and yet I don't always have a lot of spare time to read.

This summer's reading log has far more adult choices thanks to the new app Litsy on my phone. Do you Litsy?  Mostly adult books are discussed and shared and many sound unbelievable good. Thankful I've learned to cross check with my public library to request and check out. So now I'm addicted to Litsy and love getting recommendations for more reading. Find me @Peaceful_Reader.

I do still love Goodreads because it's a great place to keep track of all my reading + my reading journal (I must have a paper copy in case the Internet goes down).

Here are stats so far for this summer and for the year to date.

Number of books: summer = 22 / y-t-d = 41
Pages read: summer = 8,000 (nice round number) / y-t-d = 12,850

I read 8 adult fiction titles, 4 YA books, and 9 elementary fiction books + 1 graphic novel

All of the elementary books I read including the graphic novel were for our Iowa Children's Choice Awards.  I have about 7 more books to read this week/weekend before I score them all and send in my ratings.

My absolute favorite book this summer is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.  I'm happy that I read it and I share the love for it with every adult reader that I know. If you haven't please do. It is pain + joy wrapped together which is just what life is. Jude will forever stay with you.

Other favorites were: Mac Barnett's The Terrible Two (funny), Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (great storytelling), Ruta Septys' Salt to the Sea (amazing historical fiction), The Guest Room by Bohjalian (fiction yet brings the horrible truth of modern day slavery to us), Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly (unique twists) and always Alice Hoffman-her books are magical.

In order I read:

  1. The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage
  2. H2O by Virginia Bergin
  3. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
  4. Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly
  5. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
  6. Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
  7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy
  8. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
  9. Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris G.
  10. The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett
  11. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  12. A little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  13. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
  14. New Kid by Tim Green
  15. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  16. Audacity Jones by Kirby Larson
  17. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
  18. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  19. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  20. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
  21. Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen
  22. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamiesen
I have two more books I am set to finish this week; Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam and Odd, Weird and Little by Patrick Jennings.  What did you read this summer?