Saturday, July 7, 2018

Inspired food

(Fuji Mama 1-hour bread)
Last week I offered to make a meal for a theatre set designer and old friend who traveled from St. Paul, MN to come and help put his design into action and work with my husband.  Because we haven't seen this old friend for awhile I offered to make him dinner so we could relax and talk together. I made a pasta sauce from one of my Giada cookbooks, a simple salad and this bread from Fuji Mama -Simple One Hour Homemade Bread

You see I'd forgotten to pick up a baguette to round out this Italian-inspired meal and I knew I needed bread or the meal would feel incomplete to our guest.  When I shared my concern with Groovy Girl, she said: "just make some bread!" What!? but of course, I know how to make bread and have many recipes to follow for wonderful crispy loaves yet they all take at least a couple of hours to create. I had less than 2 hours.  Her answer to this: "just Google it". So simple!

After a quick search for fast homemade bread, I found Fuji Mama's easy recipe and we loved it. It makes 2 peasant loaves that cook in 25 minutes. They were crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, the perfect combo. 

Here is Giada's Bolognese Sauce that I tossed over fettuccine noodles. The meal was delicious, the conversation lively, and ended with another mutual friend's treat of cookies. 

I'm short on time for everything I do this summer.  Two grad classes are keeping me seriously hopping.  The two books I'm reading to go along with each class are interesting, The Formative Five by Thomas R. Hoerr and Creative Schools by Ken Robinson, but the assignments cause me to think HARD for hours at a time-not my favorite summer activity.  I just want to be reading chapter books for school, hanging in my hammock, or cooking.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July

(cool image via Etsy)

I am grateful to live in this country, a country where I have the freedom to write what I want.  We still have the ability to dissent, protest, and resist although there have been recent repercussions which are reminiscent of older repercussions. We still have the opportunity to be ourselves. One can even easily "converse" or respond back to the very man who sits in the White House via his Twitter account. But don't let this fool you into thinking we live in a perfect country-we do not. Not if you are black, brown, gay, female, poor, or an immigrant...many are the downtrodden. It's not perfect but at one time I felt (under a different administration) that we were moving forward and now we are moving backwards in time and all I hope is that we are able to recover from the mess being made today.

Everything matters now; choosing a new supreme court justice is proof of how much change one person will make and the overwhelming waterfall effect that will have on our America. Destruction at the EPA, climate change/weather-related issues not being taken seriously, and Yellowstone Grizzlies removed from the endangered list and perhaps hunted once again for sport. This issues alone worry me a great deal.

For today be appreciative of this country but also be aware; if you've been lazy about politics in the past, now is the time to step it up. I have only to look to The Handmaid's Tale to know our beautiful America can look very different with a solid Christian, right-wing Supreme Court, presidency puppet, and Congress.  This November we need to vote for change once again.  We need to be "fired up and ready to go"...and go and go and go.

I think about young women like 28-yr-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from Queens elected because of her left-leaning ideas. This gives me hope.  And I need that.  Celebrate today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Cooking with L-O-V-E

On Father's Day - way back on June 16th - I made some delicious flaky biscuits to serve as the base for my husband's favorite Southern breakfast.  I cooked the whole meal in about an hour that Sunday morning so both of these recipes are worth it and they tasted delicious according to him.
(My very own flaky biscuits)
Grandma's Flaky Buttermilk Biscuit recipe came from Ann at Cooking Maniac.  She talks a lot about how wonderfully flaky these biscuits are and they did not disappoint. They were very easy to split open and serve with our favorite toppings; Groovy Girl and I had ours with vegan butter and jam; he had homemade sausage gravy. I would definitely go back to her website when looking for authentic homemade recipes. I searched and searched for a good homemade gravy recipe and I found the perfect one on the Food Network from (not a surprise) Ree Drummond.  My husband enjoyed several helpings and there was enough for leftovers for him to eat two other mornings.

(See link below)
I created another special meal for longtime friends of ours. Tim is retiring and moving to their cabin home in Maine while his wife, Lynne will remain here and teach for another year or two at UNI. We wanted to have them for dinner before the major move. I made this perfectly summery Lasagna with spinach and roasted zucchini; a recipe I found using my NYT food app.  It was light with minimal cheese and fresh sauce and it didn't feel wintery heavy.  I had a fresh pea shoot salad and fresh baguettes for everyone. I love to cook and browse recipes so much that this app is better than Instagram for me.
(See link below)
Last night we had a Cedar Falls Food Co-op potluck at 2nd State Brewery downtown and Groovy Girl and I made a really delicious pot of Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing.  This was a last minute recipe and I did not want to run to the grocery store during a perfectly good lazy summer day and after all, I had most of the ingredients. I did not have cilantro, or fresh lime, spring onions/scallions, or Asian sesame oil. I substituted fresh basil from my porch pot, Rose's Lime Juice (hey, it worked), left out onions and sesame oil.  Our dressing instead was a spicy ginger-lime with a little cayenne and curry compliments of Groovy Girl. She can't help herself with the spices - she just goes to town with our well-stocked spice cabinet. I would definitely make this recipe again and we had lots of wild rice and quinoa left over to repurpose.

Have a delicious rest of your week!

Monday, June 25, 2018

June; thank you so much.


Wow - this month has flown by.  Groovy Girl and I started the summer off with a road trip to Denver, Co.  We stayed with family and just had a lovely time. We hiked in the area and saw deer, bison + baby bison, and pronghorns. From Iowa, it is about an 11-hour drive and we did it in 2 days.

Our favorite things were Sushi Ronin, Little Man ice cream both in the Highland area of Denver and I loved the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and we both loved hiking at Chautauqua in Boulder, walking the 16th Street Mall, and dipping our feet into Boulder Creek. We also had a great afternoon hanging out in Washington Park just enjoying.

We had dinner with friends and family we have not seen for years and it felt great to reconnect.  It is very important to keep lines of communication open in friendships and family circles. If not nurtured in some way they can easily wither away. Sometimes that can even mean a place and I definitely enjoyed connecting with Denver/Boulder again and I'm happy my daughter loved our experiences as well. I wished on the trip that I'd had the foresight to take each child on a high school road trip. There are a lot of skills learned on a road trip that you don't get if you take a 4-hour flight to the same destination. Different lessons.  The talking and the navigation were the best parts; I'm trying to teach her to put down the phone as we drive so she can look out the window and daydream, think or just unwind.  Unplugging is a huge challenge for all of us with smartphones.


This trip was also a challenge to myself. I used to make this trek back and forth frequently when my son was younger and the trip was longer because I was often driving back to Minneapolis/St. Paul or Rochester area.  I wanted to prove to myself that I could still make it happen and get myself around. And I did it. Bravo to me. My life can now continue!


I've been lucky enough to call a variety of states home but Colorado will always hold a very special place in my heart. As we drove into the state and you can see your first glimpses of the mountains in the distance; my daughter said "hello mountains; its been too long". I agree. Our souls are better now.

And then I'm just as happy when my little black Prius pulls us back into our little corner of Iowa and we are home; happy to sleep in our own beds and kiss the ground with happiness for a safe trip.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Hello June

There are some people in our lovely little house making a movie, creating art. About 7 people and my husband, shooting, holding a boom mike, and going over lines. Groovy Girl and I have sequestered ourselves on the second floor, in our rooms, doing homework and reading. Not what I expected to do with my day, ALL day, but such is this life.

It is a fairly gorgeous day out and I did take the dog for a long walk. It seems like it would be a perfect hammock day but I cannot for the life of me find where I stashed them over winter. I always keep them in one particular place for safekeeping and they are not there. I think the husband must have taken them down and stored them and he needs to find them. We are missing precious hammock lazy moments.


So with lots of time on my hands, I finished Anne Tyler's A spool of blue thread, a good solid story that tells the tale of the Whitshank family of Baltimore. It doesn't have a major plot upheaval and yet generally that is how family stories often are in life. Just a straight line with many zigs and zags up and down. This was my first Anne Tyler and I would read another. With that one done I've started Tangerine; a novel by Christine Mangan plus reading more of Cleo Wade's Heart Talk, a very inspirational book of wisdom.


I love it when a friend orders a book based on my recommendation. It happened this morning; I raved about a book, News of the world, to my friend Tim at our church picnic and sent him a photo of it when I returned home. He responded back a few minutes later with "Just ordered it from Amazon!"

We have just 2 1/2 days left of school!  The year has flown by and in a few short days, it will truly be summer. Groovy Girl and I are taking to the road, headed to Denver, CO to stay with family for about a week. It's been quite a few years since I've made this road trip myself and while G.G. will keep me awake, she isn't able to drive just yet so it will be all me. Generally, my husband does most of the driving (while I read) but I used to make this trek at least once a year when I lived there before there was a husband so it's a challenge for myself. Bring on the Red Vines and blue chips, the loud music and the laughs.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Not my best week...


I tipped over last Sunday and injured myself. I didn't trip or fall, I didn't feel myself go over. One minute I was walking and the next I was picking myself up from the pavement.  It was weird. In my right hand, I was holding a glass water bottle which smashed against the pavement and into my hand. My left wrist took the brunt of my fall.  It was slightly embarrassing as it was broad daylight (4pm) and there were people around. I'd come out of a play and was saying goodbye, and walking and thinking at the same time. It made me feel a little old and at the same time resilient.

I drove home with a wad of wet wipes in my hand to stave the blood flow from my hand and I made dinner for people that were coming to my house for a cast party. Both hands were in great pain and Groovy Girl was off with friends.  As soon as she got home she bandaged my right hand and helped me clean but by that time I had the Mexican Lasagna recipe already cooking. I even whipped up my own fajita seasoning spice mix for the recipe.  The kitchen looked like hell as I could just barely open bottles and didn't have the energy to try to recap and put away. And I'm usually a-clean-as-I-go kind of cook. Everyone enjoyed the cast party and the lasagna. I had someone request the recipe; they'll have to supply their own blood drips and pain.

I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend. I have a little school work to do. I have a couple of great books to read; I'm halfway done with The Self-driven child, a fantastic life book I wish I'd had when my kids were younger, my book club read News of the world by Paulette Jiles, and from my mom A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler.

And while browsing around on Epicureous I found this great article about cast iron skillets which I use frequently in our kitchen.

Here's to a better week ahead!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Two books for you to read...

There is something magical that happens to me when a student says "You've GOT to read this book Mrs. Holt" as they clutch said book tightly in front of them and add "It is soooo good!" (eyes sparkling)


This recently happened with a new-to-Hansen 5th grader, Gabby, and she said all this about Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper, which was on our Iowa Children's Choice list this year. I always intend to start that book straight away yet that actually rarely happens.  That sweet book sat at my desk for a few weeks and finally I finished a stream of other books and picked that one up and brought it home. I am so excited to return to school tomorrow and march right up to Gabby and tell her thank you for recommending this book to me!  I loved it as much as she did so now I'm holding it out to you and telling you, my fine reader, to go find this book at a library or a bookstore and take it home, settle yourself on the sofa or outside in a hammock and be prepared to be transported to Stella's world.

Stella is living in Bumblebee, NC and she tries to write in her journal outside at night because she catches her best thoughts in the quiet.  One night she spots men in white robes and a cross on fire right across the pond from her. The Klan is active and creates terrible tension for her small community and her family. Her father joins two other men from the community to register to vote in town and Stella goes along "to be his rock". When the Klan burns down a house belonging to one of the brave men who registered to vote the town comes together, both black and white to help.  Stella is a brave, smart, kind, and enjoyable character that eventually learns to trust her own talents as a writer. 

Did not know that Miles Davis plays Stella by Starlight, check it out! I'm sure Sharon M. Draper did.


The second book I'm excited about this week is The dog, Ray by Linda Coggin.  I found this gem at the public library while browsing the shelf for a teacher request.  It just struck me and I brought it home and it traveled to dance with me for a long rehearsal and I finished it in one day. Yes.

This is the story of 12-year-old Daisy, killed in a car accident, in the first few pages. She is whisked up to some kind of job central and lands back on earth as a...yes, a dog. So sweet. The entertaining part is that she went through the wrong shoot and she can remember her "Daisy" life. She is adopted first into a neglectful, crabby kind of family which makes her take off after a kind homeless man she meets while tied to a bench at the park. Eventually, she meets a young orphaned and homeless boy, Pip. His mother recently died and he's trying to find his father who does not know he exists. What a journey. Pip is a delightful Oliver Twist-like young man determined to find a forever home and he and Ray find their way together. This story is filled with an interesting cast of characters and will have you turning pages rapidly.

I wish I had a song to go with this one but go back and listen to that fantastic Miles Davis tune!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Reading and Recipes

I made yogurt this weekend after one failed attempt. Truth: It takes the whole damn day-you've got to be prepared for that and I don't always have a full day to spend with yogurt so I try to sandwich it between things which is why every once in a while it doesn't work for me. This time I had one failed attempt-stayed milk-poured it right back into the Hansen's jug used by my husband for his morning cereal. Second time-score-creamy, happy yogurt ready for my morning breakfast.

I also made a curry dish today and soaked chickpeas for the recipe. I found the cauliflower chickpea recipe on The Wholesome Fork and read about the proper method to soak chickpeas on Inspired Taste.  I like it when I can prepare a whole meal without opening a bunch of cans. I used fresh tomatoes and some leftover coconut milk saved in a jar in my fridge. It was good and spicy and there's enough left for lunch tomorrow. While blog surfing I found this great post about my chickpea love just a few months ago.

I picked up a book, Shadow Mountain; a memoir of wolves, a woman, and the wild by Renee Askins, from one of my TBR piles that I'd purchased a few years back while visiting Yellowstone National Park. Nonfiction is not my thing but I loved Terry Tempest Williams' book Refuge and she is mentioned twice on the back cover blurbs. I'm sure that's what inspired me to purchase Renee's book at the Yellowstone gift shop. I'm more than 1/2 way through and I love her story. It makes me feel a little guilty because while I was goofing around in Denver, Co, causing trouble, going to Dead shows, Askins was living her passion, striving and working hard to reintroduce wolves back into Yellowstone. A life well-lived. My passion came later; a late bloomer as my mother loves to say. If you love being in nature, the call of the wild, I highly recommend both books!


Have a good week. We've got some changes happening here at our home/sanctuary and I feel I'm going to feel 1000 % percent better when it happens. Ciao!