Friday, June 27, 2014

My latest summer reads

They've been less than thrilling but I like having them off my to-read list.  I like making check marks on my lists be they real or imagined.  I've had three books on my reading pile and now they are finished.

Reached by Allie Condie (2012);  This is the third and final installment in the Matched trilogy.  The first one was interesting with an unusual look at a future ordered society.  The second one was about pushing the limits outside of said ordered society.  Reached was an insider's look at rebellion and how it felt a lot like trading in one list of rules for other nicer rules.  The Rising is what everyone's been waiting for to bring about major change but when it happens we quickly see that no matter who you follow or who is in charge there will be rules and problems.  I do enjoy the triangle between Cassia, Ky, and Xander.  I thought the most important lesson from Reached was follow your own pilot...

Ashfall by Mike Mullins (2011);  I heard a buzz about this book when it was first published.  I ordered it from Amazon and then let it sit on my pile.  I picked it up again when I knew we were headed to Yellowstone for a summer trip.  I had forgotten that part of the buzz I'd heard was that the setting is Iowa and specifically my town, Cedar Falls.  Even though the writing was aimed more at middle/high school I enjoyed Alex's adventure after the super Volcano erupts and leaves the Midwest covered in ash.  I plan to read the second in the series sometime soon.   I planned to take this copy to my nephew, Jasper, as he is a big reader and I think he would like the thrill and adventure of it.  I can't bring it to him now though as I've lost the book somewhere in my house.  Really.  I've cleaned several times now and it is just missing!  

If I have a wicked stepmother, Where's my prince? by Melissa Kantor (2005); I've had this book on my desk at Highland for a few years.  The cover is adorable and I love a good fairy tale.  This one is a light but good read with of course many comparisons to Cinderella.  Lucy Norton's mother died when she was little and her life has revolved around hanging out with her dad in San Francisco.  He remarries (Mara) and they move to the other side of the country (New York) her world is turned upside down and her father isn't there for her at all.  He stays for most of the week back in CA to finish up some big court case leaving Lucy to fend for herself at a new school with a new family.  The plot seems a bit farfetched but it works with the idea that magic is in the air and I'm happy that the conclusion pushes Lucy in a new direction. She also reasons with her father about his absence and it is positive to see her state her opinion to her father and Mara.  

And now we are off on our own summer adventure to Yellowstone.  Our summer art camp is done and we are ready to relax.  I've packed clothes, bug spray, and food boxes.  I have margarita and rhubarb cocktail ingredients and my cowboy boots (no I did not pay THAT price for them).  I hope to post photos along the way.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weekend Cooking; Cooking for a crowd


Now that summer vacation if finally here the weekends and the weeks begin to run gloriously together except that last week I've been assisting my husband with his Arts Camp.  My husband (I have my bragging hat on) is a pretty talented director and he does an amazing job of connecting with children of all ages.  This art camp is in its seventh year and it is a lot of fun.  Kids are paired up according to age and rotate through 4 different classes of art, music, drama and dance.  We feed all 70 + kids a snack, my job,  half way through their time together.  It is a two-week camp and as soon as we finish up next week we are headed out to Yellowstone and Big Sky, MT for a family gathering.

I've been working hard mentally trying to think of easy meals I can put together while there.  I volunteered to cook the first night and planned to  make Katie Workman's enchiladas I've made about 100 times this past year because they are easy and my kids love them.  I've made them for friends and family and church but not for my brothers, wives, and children so I thought it would be the perfect recipe until I talked to my mother yesterday.  After our chat I'm not going to make that recipe but am going to turn it into tacos with all ingredients out on the table so everyone can make their own.  I'm also going to serve these margaritas that I love and hopefully my family will also.  If they don't; more for me I guess!

The margarita recipe:

12 oz can frozen limeade
12 ounces of tequila
12 ounces of water
8 ounces of triple sec (2/3 can)
1 can domestic beer
Ice and Limes as desired

Use the frozen limeade can to measure ingredients.  Mix well in a gallon pitcher.  If you would like to blend them; don't add the water and blend.  Either way serve in a small glass, with limes and salt.  Perfect.

I'm going to bring the ingredients to make sushi. Groovy Girl and I have been making these easy rolls for lunch and we love them.  All you need are one package of nori, sushi rice, a packet or can of wild caught Alaskan Salmon, a couple of thinly sliced carrots, maybe a few sprigs of parsley or leaves of spinach will work and you can roll up a healthy lunch. Beats a PB and J for sure.

It's hard to believe when we return from our trip it will be July already and my short summer respite will be more than half over.  My new school district starts school mid-August.

Stay cool and out of the rain.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Weekend Cooking; Kale, Oh so much Kale

Last week when I had dinner with my mother we did another vegetable exchange.  She'd understood from my last post that I wanted more rhubarb. I don't know what gave her that idea?? Luckily she can read so she transferred over a large bag of rhubarb as well as a garbage-sized bag of kale, and smaller bags of spinach, basil, and several dozen eggs!  It is worth the 40 minute drive I tell you.

Kale is very high in beta carotene, Vitamin K, Vitamin C and calcium.  A lot like spinach even though it is closer to the cabbage family.  I love both of these green leafy plants but can only have them in small doses. The Vitamin K interacts with the blood thinner I am required to take forever.  Because I had 4 large bundles (and I gave two away to my friend Patty for juicing purposes) I had to find some way to preserve mine.

Did you know you can freeze kale?  Yes, yes you can. How perfect to freeze medium-sized bags of these and then whip them out in the middle of winter to create a yummy soup or a smoothie.  Whatever your heart desires!  I froze two bundles and made pesto out of the other two.  Kale and I are friends again.  I'm going to try the same with spinach.

Julie A. Martens shares her tips on freezing kale in this helpful HGTV article.  She sounds very smart and garden-happy.  I found this kale pesto recipe here at Bon Appetite.  It was easy to through together and tasted good. I made two batches and we ate one last night with gluten-free pasta and the rest I'm going to use for a book club recipe. Book club meets at my house on Monday.  I should be cleaning ALL weekend long to get my house in shape but I'm not. I'm racing off to Indiana to help my friend Barb out at her bakery for Strawberry Madness.

Post Note: I just finished reading Ashfall by Mike Mullins (good not fantastic) which kale plays a part in so if you want to survive a terrible disaster in the future learn to eat your kale or better yet plant some in your backyard.

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Weekend Cooking; Salt Sugar Fat

Those are definitely three ingredients you use in cooking but I want to discuss the book by Michael Moss.  I listen to this book back and forth from school on my phone.  I often make faces in my car as I listen and I'm sure that I crack up my fellow drivers.  The information in the book really disgusts me.  I generally think that food has been ravaged more recently but the book relays how long this "manufacturing" of food has been going on.

I've heard all the big hitter names, Kellogg's, General Mills, Post, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Unilever, and Cargill have all been mentioned and I'm only half finished with the book. Let me preface this with I know they are just trying to make money because they are a company but my answer back is do they have to make money on the backs of others (that would be us the guinea pigs). How much is too much money for CEOs and this goes for many businesses today.

I'm amazed at how all these food companies play with our food, adding more sugar, salt, and fat to appeal and pull us to buy their products repeatedly. It comes down to manufacturing the tastes that our body has adapted to crave because they've made you crave it.  (crazy, yes)  I've long been a consumer of a more organic and homegrown options and I don't buy much processed food.  My kids have long been taught how advertising works and to avoid believing even the most ordinary claims.  They even know that the word "natural" does not really mean that anymore AT ALL.

But there is so much more to tell and it has a lot to do with psychology and how how our brain and our tastebuds work together.  Food manufactured to taste like food.  Makes you wonder why we don't just let it be food.  You know the fresh stuff that grows out of the ground and that we raise on farms.  All in the name of progress; so women could work and get a meal on the table fast.  The biggie food companies hired chemists to turn food into fast food.  Jell-O, pudding, TV dinners, boxed mashed potatoes, anything that could be  created anew and made quick.  Progress.

I wish I knew how we could turn this back because we definitely have a problem with obesity in this country.  Right about the time video games and other techno toys pulled kids to the sofa or bean bag chairs and grabbing quick and easy food from the kitchen  to fuel their play they stopped playing outside and burning those calories.

My mom was a pretty healthy cook and we ate mostly homemade and homegrown.  Going to McDonald's was a huge treat and it did not happen very often.  We had Kool-aid and popsicles in the summer time but we didn't live on the stuff.  Our evenings were spent playing kick-the-can, football, baseball, or other running around games.  My mom even kicked us outside in the wintertime to "blow the stink" off us.

It's a good book and I'm going to finish it as I begin my summer cleaning.  I think we foodies have to band together to work toward change in this area.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts and recipes unlike this one which is really just a infomercial about the hazards of processed food.  Stay tuned for fresh spring pesto, freezing leafy green veggies, and the rabbit that ate my garden.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rhubarb, glorious rhubarb

{my cover}

My mom stocked me up with an armful of rhubarb.  I can't seem to get a plant to grow in my yard which is unfortunate because I love the stuff.  Did you know it is a vegetable by the way?  Yep.

Yesterday I washed and chopped up about 6 cups of the reddish stalks and made 3 containers of rhubarb sauce and used the last 2 cups to make a rhubarb ice tea.  I then used the iced tea to create a delicious cocktail after googling basil and rhubarb together.

Both the tea recipe and the sauce recipe are pulled from a lovely little book I pulled from a shelf in a gas station and while I don't usually buy my books from such convenience stores this one was too good to pass up.  The Joy of Rhubarb; the versatile summer delight by Theresa Millang (Adventure Publishing) is packed full of wonderful recipes.

{New and improved cover}

Rhubarb Sauce
(A versatile sauce...good over ice cream or chicken)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
1 T water
1 T finely shredded orange peel
6 cups fresh rhubarb slices 1/4-in thick
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Mix sugar, water and orange peel in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Add rhubarb and stir.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until rhubarb is tender and mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.  Cool.  Spoon into glass jars; cover and refrigerate for no more than 1 week, or place in plastic containers and freeze.  

I used a mixture of stevia and organic sugar as I'm experimenting with stevia.  I let mine simmer for more than 8 minutes as I want it to be mush.  I generally use mine as a jam but since I'm trying to be  more gluten-free I plan to stir a teaspoonful into my greek yogurt for breakfast.  I saved one container out to use and stashed the other two in the freezer to use later.  I tried a few spoonfuls and the stevia held up just fine.

Rhubarb Ice Tea
For flavor variation, add a cinnamon stick when cooking, and stir in fresh lemon juice when serving.

8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 3-inch pieces
8 cups water
1/3 cup sugar

Bring rhubarb and water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Reduce heat; simmer 1 hour.  Strain; discard the pulp.  Stir sugar into the hot liquid until dissolved.  Cool.  Serve over ice.  Garnish with mint, Lavender sprigs, or lemon slices.  Makes 6 servings.

Again I used stevia and the flavor was great.  I poured it over ice and made this rhubarb basil cocktail from Elizabeth at The Kitchn. It was refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day.  I took several photos of my rhubarb cooking but have to resort to using her beautiful picture as my husband left the house with our camera this morning. Probably for the best as my picture couldn't do it justice.  Yum!

{The Kitchn}

(Note to mom:  I need more rhubarb)

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts.