Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscars and Food.

As we get ready to watch the Oscars I wanted to share this interesting animated Short nominee.  We've had a busy weekend with lots of cooking and fun.  Friday night Groovy Girl had a friend sleep over and I cooked a simple pasta dish with red sauce-you just never know what other people's children are going to eat so this was an easy choice.  I took a chance though and whipped up these broccoli bites I found on Maria Rodale's website.  They were a huge hit and it made a full pan so we had enough for two dinners.  Now I'd like to change the veggie and see if still entices them in. 

{Broccoli Cheese Puffs}
 For a sleep over treat we made snow ice cream since we had plenty of  fresh snow Thursday and Friday and been graced with a snow day on Friday.  The girls went out and scooped up two big bowls of fresh powder and we added sweet and condensed milk (half a can), some vanilla, and we stirred in a  little salted caramel sauce for fun.  The flavor was good but it had huge ice chunks that we couldn't stir out.  I think the best part was in the making!

We do watch the Oscars at our house even though the are an example of over-indulgence (not peaceful or green) but my husband loves the movies as he is an actor and a director.  We've watched almost all of the Best Picture nominees including my favorites: Beast of the Southern Wild and Silver Lining Playbook.  I also loved Ben Afleck's Argo. Today we watched Moonrise Kingdom which was quirky and should have been nominated for best cinematography.  Denzel Washington and Jennifer Laurence are my choices for individual awards.  Do you watch the Oscars? What movies are you rooting for?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

(February, 2013)

I don't know if I'm a fan of Steampunk but I took a chance on this title (great cover, right!) even though my husband read the back and deemed it too silly for my time.  After reading it I can't say he's too far from the truth although something kept pulling me back night after night to finish it.  I don't give up easily.

Sophronia doesn't either-she is a headstrong main character and that was definitely a huge plus.  In the beginning I kept reading because I was interested in what the finishing school would be like.  You know going into it that there is something unusual about Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality and the idea that someone impersonates Mademoiselle Geraldine when they come for Sophronia makes for an exciting idea until the impostor, Monique, doesn't know how to get them back to school.  Sophronia steps in a saves the day when the flywaymen attack their coach and figures out a way to get them back to school.  This after Sophronia's already spent her morning falling out of the dumbwaiter back home.

The professors and Mademoiselle Geraldine are not your usual finishing school teachers but the most fun is to be had below deck-the whole school travels around in a blimp-like airship.  Sophronia adopts a mechanical dog and needs coal to feed him so she climbs down to the coal room where she meets Soap.  A young coal shoveler and a flirt, Soap leads the pack of sooties and finds time to help Sophronia out on several adventures.  Their coy relationship probably would be reason enough to read the second book as Soap definetely piqued my interest.

Monique also plays a worthy adversary to Sophronia, her friends Dimity, Sidheag, and the cross dressing Genevieve.  There is a fair amount of girl drama throughout the story as the all-girl student body pull together and apart as they try to solve the prototype mystery aboard the airship.  Now that I've rehashed it I think I may have liked it after all.  I did do a little research on steampunk which helped yet the one thing I didn't get are all the odd names.  Carriger's names do not roll off your tongue; they are unique and creative.  Mrs. Barnaclegoose, Sophronia Temminnick, Lady Kingair, Captain Niall (the werewolf), and Professor Braithwope are all examples of the comical names Carrigan chooses.

Random quote:

"Sidheag slapped Sophronia on the back, hard enough to cause her to lurch forward and cough.  "Good on you! If you had to make an enemy of anyone, Monique is certainly a high-end choice.  Top-quality bit on that one.  And many thanks-now we're all stuck with her." (90)  

Thank you to Little, Brown, and Co. for this review copy but that in no way influenced my thoughts on Etiquette & Espionage; Finishing School, Book the first.  Now that I'm of the mind to read the second I wonder how soon Ms. Carriger will have it done and what comical new names will she invent for me to wonder about?  Steampunk fan or not this is an easy book to enjoy (except for the names of course).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Savoring Chicken

(fabulous enchiladas)

Last Sunday I cooked a whole chicken in the oven, a very traditional Sunday meal for my family. When I talk about chicken here I only mean a local farmer's chicken-you can use what ever kind of chicken you like but mine always come from a farm.  We had plenty left over and instead of just turning the whole thing into chicken soup like I usually do  I picked off several large chunks, shredded it and turned it into chicken enchiladas.  I looked through several recipes to make it and I realized with an odd clarity that I'd never, ever made enchiladas before.  I love Mexican food and make tostados, tacos, and burritos but enchiladas just seemed so overly cheesy.  So why did I change my mind?  I don't know.  I guess it was the large can of enchilada sauce staring at me from the back of the cupboard.  The chicken and the enchilada sauce just came together.

My kids were leary at first but took a few tentative bites.  Shockingly enough they both loved them and had second helpings.  Groovy Girl usually does a lot of scraping and picking of my recipes, separating the what she is willing to eat and what will remain on the plate scrapped to the edges or on her napkin.  Teenage Boy eats whatever because he's well, a teenage boy, but his look can range from sullen to less-sullen depending on the meal.  He ate his entire plates-worth and asked greedily for more. Dad wasn't home to beat him to second helpings and we managed to eat the whole dish after I set aside the last two enchiladas so he could eat between meetings.  This will definetely be added to my regular rotation as they were super easy-it helped that the chicken was already cooked) and every once in awhile my mind drifts off as I think about other combinations for another round of enchiladas.  If you have a favorite please leave me a link. 

Yesterday I started cold water bubbling with the remaining chicken and half a dozen bay leaves before I left for school.  Stopping at the co-op on my way home I bought fresh celery, two large carrots, and noodles for the pot.  The house smelled wonderful as I stepped in the back door after a long day at work.  Homemade chicken soup is truly a God-send and yesterday was one of them.  Even though I felt a bit under the weather it was easy to stand in the kitchen and chop carrots, onion, celery, garlic to toss in the pot with coconut oil slightly simmering at the bottom of the pan.  I picked at the chicken bones  (hot, hot, hot) extracting as much meat as possible and dumped the meat in the soup pot and added 6 cups of the savory broth.

I crawled into bed after that and just let the soup blend together without my watchful eye.  By the time my husband walked in the door he added the noodles, waited, and served.  Breaking from tradition I ate mine in bed.  I feel so much better today, warding off what ever was trying to take hold of my body yesterday.  Lack of sleep is a major problem as I struggle through insomnia.  A good night's sleep and a bowl of chicken noodle soup did the trick though and today things look much brighter. 

What did you cook up this week?

Recipes used throughout the week:

Chicken Enchilda from Home-based Mom
(we had a good email chat about plastic wrap in the microwave)

(next time I will make my own sauce)

(I looked at Kevin's recipe before I left work for inspiration
but just followed my own instincts at home)

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking weekly meme. 
Click her link to find many other food related posts.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fifty Cents and a Dream; Young Booker T. Washington

I love books. Most books. This biography of Booker T. Washington is informative and beautifull. I'm so happy we have such a variety of biographies available to us now like Doreen Rappaport's series. Strangely many low end readers though will still choose classic style biographies over picture book choices. Older versions are less complex, they have time lines in the back that give easy information so don't get rid of the old; just make room for the new.

Picture book style biographies thrill me though. I love reading them outloud to a class. The words vibrate and the phenomenal illustrations bring this person's life!

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim; illustrated by the amazing Bryan Collier is a a well-told tale of Washington's early life as he went from slavery to a college-educated young man.  I've read other versions about him and this one gave me more details about Washington's life.  I had no idea he walked 500 miles from where his family lived to get to Hampton Institute where he was able to study as a young man. 


"His money had run out
by the time he reached Richmond,
about eighty-two miles from Hampton.
He was so tired and hungry
that he could barely take another step.
The big city seemed scary and confusing.
So many shadows, and not a friend in sight! (21)

He keeps moving forward by getting a job to earn enough to eat and continue his journey. This book conveys Washington's strong desire for education and his willingness to push himself to learn the alphabet, read, and go to school. He envisioned more for his life than what his parents had. It is hard to teach that willingness to throw yourself into education and I wish somehow I could time travel with (quite) a few select students back in time so they could see the reality of how special their public education is. No matter your color education is a priveledge previously only afforded to the wealthy and then mostly only males. While there is much reform that could be done to our educational system it is still a blessing to live in a world that educates all children.

Bryan Collier's illustrations are explained in the back as images on watercolor and collage on paper.  He added many fine details like as he begins his journey Washington wears a shirt made of  map paper and bubbles float on many pages detailing Washington's dreams. 

Thankfully we have books like this to allow for deeper understanding of a great man's life.  We should know more than just the bare facts.  Thank you to Little, Brown and Company for my review copy.  While they provided me with a copy of the book; this review shares my own thoughts and I was in no way paid for my words.  The book stands on it's own and I highly recommend it for all readers and collections.

Click to CBC Diversity for an excellent review and
Publisher's Weekly review.
Reading Rockets has a wonderful video of Bryan Collier to watch.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Meditation

I discovered this quick 3-minute meditation from Deepak Chopra and it centered me just as I needed.  I had a terrible night of sleep and I think it might have been the English tea I drank while watching Downton Abbey.  I didn't realize it was going to be a 2-hour show and it went way past my bedtime so now I have to finish watching it tonight.  I liked some of the events that occurred last night though like Bates coming home and Thomas trying to kiss James.  Oooh.  I knew that was going to be his undoing.  Doesn't he know not to listen to that woman O'Brien!

Now that I got myself all worked up again...Try this meditative exercise to begin your day anew.  No stress.  Calm.  Nice to children all day.  Be.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Carrots


I made this dish, going for something healthy, for a church potluck.  I wanted something different as our potlucks are known for their incredible outlay of food; a ridiculous amount of food {not all of it healthy]. While writing last weekend's post I spent a large amount of time slowly browsing through The Grit Cookbook. The recipe introduction says "This is one of those dishes that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Such gigantic flavor from so few ingredients! But look closely-one of them is Grit Vinaigrette.  That it explains it all!"  I'd thought I'd cut corners and just use a Newman's Own vinaigrette from my own fridge.  Until I read that sentence a few times.  

Perfect description for this amazing carrot yumminess.  Give it a try.  Really.  It is so delicious.

Pecan Pesto Carrot Salad (28)

1 small fistful of fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups finely shredded carrots
1/4 cup Grit Vinaigrette
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Combine basil, pecans, cheese, and sugar in a food processor.  Slowly add enough olive oil to make a pesto and blend until smooth.  Combine pesto with remaining ingredients, stir together well.  Cover and refrigerate. Serve well chilled or over salad greens.  

Grit Vinaigrette (12)

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T balsamic vinegar
6 T finely minced red onion
2 small garlic cloves, chopped
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Large pinch fresh parsley
Larch pinch fresh basil
Large pinch fresh or dried oregano
Large pinch fresh or dried thyme
1 cup soybean oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender or food processor and mix well.  Continue blending while adding oil in a slow, steady stream until smooth and thick.  Use immediately or store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Yields 2 cups

I didn't have soybean oil so I used olive oil. The recipe serves six, I doubled it and the bowl was empty. I will definitely make this again.  It would also be perfect for a picnic or as part of a fantastic veggie sandwich.
This post is my contribution to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Click her link to find many other food related posts including her review of a teen vegetarian cookbook,  

Now I'm off to the public library's annual book sale where I'm going to stuff a bag full of books.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

January Recap {I know it's February already}

Okay I know it is February 7th-my how time flies, right?  I read several good books during January and wanted to give them each a quick little shout-out.

 I am J by Cris Beam:  A truly amazing book that chronicles the life of a young boy trapped in a girl's body.  The struggled portrayed is heart-wrenching as Jeni tries desperately to shed any part of her person to be just "J".  He hates his thin frame and anything to do with becoming more female.  His best friend writes him off as gay and his parents are confused and angry.  Spending a few days on the streets, escaping from his parents, he discovers that there are others who feel like him and they are able to take testosterone to persuade the body to become more manly.  All J wants is for his body to match what is going on in his head.  This was so well-written by Bean that I can't imagine anyone reading it and not understanding the complexity of how a trans-gender child feels as they struggle against family and friends in order to feel right and happy.  (ARC-Little, Brown) Highly recommend.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: Can't believe I'd never read this through all my library classes, etc.  I did recommend it to my son a few years back and he read it, loved it and tossed it back to me with this to say "best book I ever read, to date, mom.  Thanks."  Well, okay then.  I promised myself I wouldn't go another year without reading it as next year he'll be off doing his own thing.  It read pretty quickly as it is a riveting tale of a future world.  Ender is ostracized, bullied, and confused at school and at home and then the government chooses him to be part of a special group of space warriors.  It reminded me a little of I am the cheese by Robert Cormier in that both have characters that are mentally  messed with by the government.  I was excited to see a movie is being made of this book, which will be fantastic if it is done well.  Highly recommend.

The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamont:  One of the first adult books I read after finishing my master's program in L.S. was The Red Tent, which my mother-in-law gave me.  I still own the book and plan to go back and read it one of these days.  I picked up this title at a used book sale precisely because her name was on it.  This one was good and had a very interesting cast of characters, and it did keep me reading but it was not as amazing as The Red Tent.  Many of the Dogtown characters have stayed with me though and their resilience in the face of such odd diversity was wonderfully hopeful.  Recommend.

Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret:  Groovy Girl came home from school one day extremely excited about this book she was reading and when she finished it she said "I really loved this book and I think you will too.  Will you read it, Mom?"  How can one possibly say no to that?  I could  not.  I read it in a day.  It was not literary genius but on the other hand it didn't suck.  Now that I've read it I can recommend it to students here as well.  Groovy Girl is taking her own sweet path to reading and I'm always delighted when she reads a chapter book from start to finish.  Bravo!  Thank you Peg Kehret.

Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings:  I loved, loved We Can't All be Rattlesnakes by Jennings but this one let me down in a droopy dog sort of way.  Maybe my expectations were too high.  I thought Rufus was a fine character with odd parents.  His mom substitutes a guinea pig when Rufus really, really wants a dog for a pet.  While Rattlesnakes was filled with magical realism in that the book is told from the animals point-of-view this one has just one element...the guinea pig (Fido) is the closest one can come to a dog without actually having a dog-he barks, he follows, he catches frisbees-that is one monster guinea pig!  Rufus's mom is never able to locate the mysterious pet shop where she purchases Fido in the first place. Kids wishing for their own pet might love it.

Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta: As I put books away in the library one day I noticed quite a few baseball fiction titles not getting checked out.  Baseball is not the cool thing it once was much to my dismay so I selected a few and plopped them up in a new location and hoped they  might get scooped up.  They did not but I took a chance and read this one.  The young narrator, Roy, has lived in Moundville all of his life and it's been raining that long as well.  The town is cursed  through a weird idea that a baseball game jinxed them years ago.  Out of the blue (literally) one day the rain just stops and Roy and his dad set out to re-build the old baseball field.  I love baseball but this one left me with a lot of questions unanswered which means it would be way confusing for my elementary students.

For me this was a great beginning to 2013.  I stuck with my own goals of reading one of my ARC's from L & B plus reading one off my pile-I read two off the pile and two Highland library books as well.  {pat on the back} Now I can breathe and move into February with ease.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Chef Love.

I've made several interesting recipes in the midst of our busy week.  I had my heart set on re-making these amazing sweet potato black bean burritos and had even prebaked the sweet potatoes one night while I had the oven on for something else (green idea not to have to reheat the oven)  and then my husband used those cooked sweet potatoes as a side for one of his meals.  He makes dinner just ONE night a week of which I AM grateful for but he often uses something for his dinner that he thinks I am letting "waste away" in our fridge or cupboard, etc.  He's forgiven though because it is a joy to come home Thursday night and have dinner ready for me no matter what it is. 

I easily rebought and rebaked those sweet potatoes and made the burritos the very next week.  I also created the Mexican Casserole from Katie Workman's The Mom 100 Cookbook., which was a huge hit at dinner.

My actual weekend cooking post is about this stack of cookbooks: like a great love affair I can't live without them.

From  top to bottom: 

1. Deborah Madison is a queen and one of my first cooking crushes.  Some people fell for Paula Deen or Rachel Ray-me it was all about Deborah.  It stands to reason that my mother-in-law gave the book to me for a Christmas present about 10 years ago.  The book now has a few food smudged pages showing my love.  Love.

2. Giada D.L. my second crush  helped  me take pasta to a new level for my family.  I learned to make pesto and a popping cherry tomato sauce through her tutelage.  I've never watched her show but I'm sure it's lovely.  For me Everyday Italian will be my go-to for fun pasta.

3. Katie Workman is my latest crush.  I picked her up at my Scholastic book fair and kept going back for more.  Now her book The Mom 100 Cookbook is a staple for what I need.  The Mexican Casserole I made this week will become a staple in my menu rotation. 

4. The Grit (Athens, GA) Cookbook-okay I know this is a place not a person but if I could go work in one kitchen in the United States it would be at The Grit. Every time I open this book I find a great quote, a perfect recipe, or an idea I can use.  I've never had the pleasure to eat there but it is on my food adventure bucket list. My mom gave me this one.  (Truth: she bought it for herself and I talked her out of it.) Very crush-worthy.  Anybody been there?

5. So Sweet!  by Sur la Table. Again I know not a chef but just like #4 so worth the help this book gives me.  My desserts leaped to new levels after I purchased this book for Groovy Girl.  I've made many recipes from this tiny book and especially love the whoopie pie section.  Yep, I'm crushing on the staff that put this little one together.

If you are looking for a new chef to follow or a new cookbook to love you would not be disappointed with any of these choices.  This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme. 

Be peaceful~