Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekend Cooking; Food for Thought

I cooked routine, easy meals this week.  Leftovers, pasta with some of my frozen-from-last-summer pesto, and hamburgers nourished us this week.  Over the last few years our family meals have taken new direction.  Change is good.  I would say we've always been on the cusp of healthy eating but not over the edge. Many people consider us to be over-the-edge though.

I've eaten a vegetarian diet since I was a teenager.  Teenage boy was raised vegetarian. (Except for Gpa Dean who kept taking him to McD for chicken nuggets on their manly Saturday wash the truck days!!)  My husband, who spent time as a young boy in both Sierra Leone and Malaysia has a versatile palate and he's a runner.  He swayed easily with my vegetarian cooking.  Every once in awhile he would come home with a package of ground turkey, shape patties, and serve them for dinner.  I just ate the side dishes.

As Teenage Boy became well, a teenager, and more active he begged for meat.  I'd read Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, where she talks about making responsible meat choices.  Every foodie should read her book. After some local research I found a Gentleman Farmer who sells straight to the  consumer for a reasonable price.   Now I can purchase meat from him because he has the same ideas about animals that I do and I've introduced meat back in to our diet over the last three years.  My veg friends are shocked and a little disgusted but I've enjoyed the journey.  I like the idea of helping the farmer practice sustainable, healthy food production.  It's all about supply and demand.

We still eat vegetarian at home most of the time and when we venture out for food I always eat vegetarian.  I want restaurants to think about what they serve and how whole groups of us are left out when only  two veg menu items are offered, usually one of the items is a cheese quesadilla; not very healthy and I'm a cheese snob.  Lucky for us we have a dairy that practices sustainable and wholesome farming where we can purchase hormone-free milk and local cheeses.  Trust me there is plenty of eye-rolling going on at our table as I sweetly question wait staff on vegetarian eating options.  Nachos with cheese SAUCE always riles me up and confuses the poor wait person.

Teenage Boy is now tackling our sugar habit. He is an athlete and has decided to cut out refined sugars.  We don't eat a ton of sugar at our house but I like to bake and Teenage Boy loves to have cookies or bars on hand to eat.  He is super thin and needs multiple food choices throughout the day.   We are soda free but the kids drink healthy-ish real juice. Cereals are another area where sugar is an issue but we do have a special way of serving cereal that deserves an entire post all its own. The search is on for baking recipes that use natural sweeteners other than refined sugar.  I need to read more to understand my options.  Obviously we all know sugar isn't good for us but what kind of treats can I make that my kids will still think of as edible and not tree bark?


1. I browsed through this book, Chloe's Kitchen,  online yesterday and am completely enticed.  While we are not vegan I think this cookbook offers some great variations on everyday recipes.  Why not throw it into our already jumbled randomness of food ideas?   Has anybody experimented with this book?

2. I started watching The Future of Food on Netflix instant while Groovy Girl was in gymnastics class.  I plan to finish watching today.  Genetically modified foods scare me and we need to be wary of their existence on our grocery shelves.  I discovered this list of food documentaries on Lettuce Eat Kale. I've watched a few of them (I highly recommend King Corn) but should probably watch all.  I always feel disgusted and angry after watching but more involved as well.  Sick but smarter...

3. I get this Rodale newsletter through email and found this must-read article about the over-used word, natural.  It's crazy that we've watched this word transformed from a positive into a meaningless word.  Tragic.  Someday I hope it will come back from the dark side.   The bottom line is if you see the word natural on products-it's not because food manufacturer's have watered-down the meaning of the word-ON PURPOSE-to make more money.

With all that...
Stay positive.
What changes can you make if the future of food is important to you?

This post is connected to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click her link to see more food-related posts.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Lions of Little Rock

Our family had the pleasure of living in North Little Rock for 3 years.  I met my wonderful friend, V, there and  experienced Southern life for a short period.  One of my favorite first memories was trick-or-treating in flip flops with my children.  Growing up in Minnesota I'd spent many a Halloween bundled in winter coats and boots.

In 2007 the Little Rock Nine celebrated their 50th anniversary but before that Commemorative Civil Rights stamps were released and several events occurred that we attended, including a movie premier with Minnijean Brown Trickey.  My husband made it to the dedication of these striking statues (above photo) on the capital grounds commemorating their journey.  Anytime we walked to see these statues I always felt an overwhelming sense of fear for what these mere teenagers faced everyday.  

The Lions of Little Rock (2012) takes place the year after that difficult year of integration at Central High School, when emotions were just as high.  Integration did not go as planned; neither side had won leaving both sides bitter.  Many of the high schools closed instead of withstanding another attempt at forced integration.  

Synopsis from Penguin:

Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958  Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family. 

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn't matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

A Halloween quote:
"Howdy , cowpoke!"
I turned and saw a cowgirl with a leather skirt, chaps, a fringed jacket, hat and bandanna over her face.  Beside her stood a little kid dressed as a horse, with a full mask over his head.
"Wow," I said.  I recognized Liz's voice, even if I couldn't see her face.  "You look great!"
"Granny can sew," she said.  "Too bad every day isn't Halloween.  We could go anywhere we wanted."
"You're not supposed to talk to your white friend," said Tommy.
"Shhh," said Liz.  "Horses don't talk.  Besides, I told you I'd give you half my candy."  (116-117)
The friendship between Liz and Marlee springs up naturally at school and the two enjoy each other's company, fitting together like two parts of a puzzle.  Through their eyes integration is an easy choice but the world is filled with haters and Liz and Marlee run into many of them.  After being banned by both families to meet they conspire to see each other anyway at the zoo.  It's tough in the face of adversity to stick to each other but they do the best they can under their complicated circumstances.  

I appreciated feeling at home in the Little Rock setting, could picture the zoo, Philander Smith College, and the Central High School area.  The Lions of Little Rock is Kristin Levine's second historical fiction novel about race.  Her first book, The Best Bad Luck I've Ever Had is about the friendship between Harry and Emma in Alabama.  

Kristin Levine grew up in the South and now makes her home on the East Coast.  The Fourth Musketeer has a wonderful interview with Levine and Janssen's review is worth reading at Everyday Reading.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I finished this book over my Spring Break.  What a great Spring Break it was, relaxing with a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.  

Bunheads by Sophie Flack (2011) 

     The cover of this one drew me in-ballerinas with their elegant tutus and delicate arms swooshing overhead.  Hannah Ward is nineteen and been at dance academy since she was young.  She doesn't want you to call her a ballerina though as those are the stars of the show, she dances in the corps de ballet.  Hannah is a wonderful mentor for us novice wanna-be ballet anythings. We see through her eyes the difficult struggle, the competitiveness, and the thrust into adult life, Hannah is living.  One night she meets a boy though and through his eyes she sees how she just might be missing out on a thing or two.

     I like this story although there isn't any amazing triumphant crisis.  I like that Hannah was upbeat compared to some of her other dance partners and her friend, Bea, even more so.  It was very interesting peeking backstage, and listening in on dressing room gossip as Flack takes us into their personal lives as each of the corps girls struggle with weight, injuries, and Otto, the man in charge of it all.

Two interesting quotes that stood out to me:
"That's why I had to tell them, over one of my mom's hippie dinners of baked tofu and mashed yams, that this was the chance of a lifetime and that I was willing to take the risk." (6)  (sounds yummy!)
"Mai is incredibly thin, and Otto uses her as the  model for the ideal ballerina body.  I've heard that she eats only once a day, and then only white foods.  As I look at her, I can believe the rumors, even though I don't want to." (137)  (White foods like garlic mashed potatoes or vanilla ice cream?  I think maybe she eats things more like bean sprouts or jicama.)
You notice lots of focus on food and the girls do smoke and drink which is kind of hard to take as they are young and ever so thin.  This is a light read that transports you backstage and around NYC with a set of hip young friends.

Sophie Flack writes from experience as she trained at the Boston Ballet School, and at fifteen, was accepted into the American Ballet.  Her experience is what makes this book worth reading.  Find another review here at 4Dancers.  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Cookies;Cherry Oatmeal Cookies Variation

Happy Birthday to my husband, Gregory!  It's a big one and he's not all that excited about it.  I made him a special breakfast this morning of grits, Fresh Air bacon, scrambled eggs, and biscuits and peppery gravy.  He was in heaven with all his favorite breakfast foods at the table.

Last night I made these cookies for him because he loves oatmeal cookies.  They are delicious and next time I would double the recipe.  The directions say it makes 50 cookies-I beg to differ-as I even made mine nearly bite-sized as I could see the dough disappearing.

(Image Source)
Adapted from So Sweet! Cookies, Cupcakes, Whoopie Pies, and More by Sur La Table.  (This book was well worth the $11 I paid for it and I notice it is less than $10 on Amazon now)

Cherry Oatmeal Cookies
(makes about 50 cookies) (makes about 30 cookies)

1/2 cup (1 Stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 T. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 salt
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup dried sour cherries

1. Preheat oven to 350*F and position rack in the center.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.  (I used my silicone mat)
2. Place the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrape the bowl well.  Add the egg and vanilla and blend well.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add to the butter mixture all at once.  Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and blend slowly, just until there are no  more patches of flour.  Scrape down the bowl.
4. Add the oats and cherries and blend on low until just combined.  Remove the bowl from mixer and stir gently a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.
5. Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, portion tablespoon-sized mounds (I did teaspoon size) onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are golden brown at the edges and still a bit pale in the center.  Transfer to a cooking rack and let the cookies cool.

I did not have dried sour cherries in the house but I did have raisins and dried cranberries.  My husband loves oatmeal raisin cookies and I tossed caution to the wind by adding the cranberries as well.  He loved them-the cranberries add a snap.  I would like to try the dried cherries at some point but who needs a trip to the grocery store for just one ingredient??  These cookies were very quick to make-perfect for time-crunched baking.  Enjoy!

This recipe is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  See hers and the long list of other food-related posts by clicking over to her site.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Random Spring Break Thoughts and Photos

Mr. PR with Tarah
Blooming in March!

  • I've been back at work for three days now and I'm exhausted.
  • I'm so close to finishing Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.  Excellent book.
  • My next read is Mudbound by Hillary Jordan- for book club.
  • I'm trying to figure out how to use pinterest for a 5th grade project.  Any ideas?
  • I am in the mood to Spring clean and would like a blog makeover. Any ideas?
  • I "mastered" Google Music and uploaded a slew of my favorite CD's.
  • I reorganized the picture folders on my laptop.
  • I shared sweet potato black bean burritos with two friends at work and it was unanimous eating love!
  • Through a twitter conversation I enjoyed Beth F's lunch love for same burritos!  Made my day!

Spring Break Photo Journal:

Children's Museum (in flight)
dramatic like her father.

Ice skating in the mall

Teenage Boy walking the dog
(how nice was it here!)

Bike Riding in my new flirty grape skort from Athleta (it was on sale).
 I love skirts and this one is versatile.  Now I want it in black.

Spring is here and it makes me so very, very happy.
What's making you smile these days?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

the every changing role of the teacher-librarian

Our district is considering restructuring the teacher-librarian role into a more 21st Century technology specialist plus asking that IT specialist to share two schools while an assistant will care for the daily upkeep of the actual library hub.  We are working to create a better understanding of what we (if you're worth your paycheck) do everyday in our schools.

We wear many hats and I can't imagine taking my job on the road or focusing more on technology.  For me technology is one tool to use in creating authentic learning for students.  I do want my students to learn and feel I balance the old and the new at my current position.  This video was shared by someone in my district and I want to share it because it does go into detail on the importance of all our roles.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Cooking; Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos

It’s up!  It’s up!  My guest post about Joan of Arc is up at Shelf Employed.  Click over and read mine as well as others.  Jen Bryant (author of A River of Words; the story of William Carlos Williams) shares the ideas that connect Emily Dickinson and Georgia O’Keefe. 

Ah, Spring Break has been a treat of restorative time at home to heal and get some projects done.  We invited friends over for dinner on Wednesday night to socialize which gave me the first few days of break to ponder what to make.  One of their daughters eats gluten-free so I was looking for something that would be versatile without making my own kids blanch from a lack of carbs.  I also had a pile of sweet potatoes on my counter begging to be used so I went to my Pinterest board, Eat Drink and Be Merry to search for something I'd drooled over previously.  I'd pinned it from the The Novice Chef via Janssen.

Doesn't it look delicious (see photo below). Mine were served on a bed of greens as well but I didn't make the delicate creme fraiche laced on the top  All I did to make it gluten-free was to lightly toast a few corn tortillas and add the filling in.  I opted to make my own black beans by soaking them a day before and cooking them in my slow cooker the day of; they simmered with bay leaves and half a diced onion.  I made a lot and plan to freeze a batch of them in packets of 2-3 for future lunches.  I had one yesterday and it was even better than Wed.  night.  I love leftovers but my family does not; so perfect for me to take to school and reheat.

At the table I served them with my own homemade salsa from last summer (made with my mom), chopped avocado, and a spicy sour cream and green chili dip I created to take the place of the fancier (and more time consuming creme fraiche).  They were a hit and this recipe will easily become one of my favorites-it would help if I could just get Teenage Boy to like sweet potatoes.  I can imagine this as a great potluck meal.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.  Pop over and see what every one else is cooking up!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Celebrate Women's History Month

Did you know that March is women's history month!  We have a whole month to celebrate.  My son would be shocked by this as March means basketball!  Crazy.  I could put together a bracket for him with important women he should know-he might absorb the information better that way.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I will be featured at Kidlit's blog, which has featured a variety of inspiring posts about women.  I chose to write about Joan of Arc as I had been recently inspired by this movie starring Leelee Sobieski.  Joan was an amazing young women and accomplished much in her short life.  Tough having your life cut short by 44 men looking for a reason to get rid of you. Sadly women in today's world continue to be mistreated based on what we wear and how we act.

My husband, a peaceful man, says it's part of man's nature to be a conqueror and that some men just can't grasp woman as a person instead of an object.  Maybe a drug could be invented to make men more docile and thus able to work and understand women without objectifying them.  Would it work?  Please click to Kidlit and read my post and all the others who've been featured this month.  A heartfelt thank you to Margo and Lisa for all the work that goes into each post.

I recently finished up I don't know how she does it by Allison Pearson, which delves into the work force mentality because Kate spends her days working at breakneck speed as a Hedge fund manager surrounded by men who cast disparaging comments around like bait, hoping to either further their career or at least to demean the woman sitting next to them.  Look forward to my upcoming review of this still-timely book but in the meantime go read about Joan of Arc, a young woman juggling kings, priests, angels, her family and a sword.

Happy Friday!  (oh, Spring Break, where have you gone...)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday; #1

I've always wanted to play along with The Broke and the Bookish meme and today I'm avoiding another post I need to write so it seems like the perfect day to play along.  Today's topic is top ten of any genre.

Peaceful Reader's Top Ten Historical Fiction Novels for YA and elementary

1.  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

2. Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

3. The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

4. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

5. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

6. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

7. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

8. The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline B. Cooney

9. Esperanza Rising by Pamela Munoz Ryan

10. The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Honorable Mentions:

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis 
A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

So enlightening to browse back through old lists, reminding myself of all these wonderful books.  Thanks for the joy.  Now back to that other writing I need done for tomorrow!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Break Begins

Spring Break 2011-Little Rock

Oh, I am in serious need of a break to regroup and heal. Luckily we are staying home this year.  I've had a cold for what seems like 2-3 weeks and I just cannot shake it.  I finally went to the drugstore and purchased Thera-flu because I've done all my good homeopathic methods to better health and it just keeps hanging on.  I want to spend this coming week doing fun things NOT blowing my nose and smelling like vapor rub.  Bleech.

Luckily I've been to the library (with Tina) so I have a pile of good books to read.  I have a  special blog post to write about the beautiful Joan of Arc for Kidlit Celebrates Women's History! My post will be featured on March 17th but every day they have an interesting post to check out.

I finished I don't know how she does it by Allison Pearson this morning.  I skipped church to sleep and in order to get back to sleep( after helping frustrated daughter find something great to wear to church) I had to read a little.

I did cook one major meal last week-it was a veggie-filled soup from Tucker Shaw's book but the soup, advertised in the book as THE sure-fire method for getting better, did not work.  Not only that my husband who loves just about anything edible didn't even finish his bowl.  Big waste of lots of veggies.  Boo.

Any remedies I should know about, let me know...

Happy Spring Break.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weekend Cooking; Flavor of the Week

(My breakfast)

What a title.  I've been reading Flavor of the week by Tucker Shaw for a day or two and while the story is less than fetching each chapter ends with an interesting recipe.  Last night this is the recipe I ended with and as I drifted to sleep my thoughts were on breakfast already.  Tucker Shaw is the food editor for the Denver Post so it makes some sense that his recipes would be memorable.

Hot-Buttered Maple-Baked Oatmeal (my notes)

2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick)
pinch (sea) salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 cups whole milk (i used 1%)
1 (farm fresh) egg
1 T. vanilla (real)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (hefty sprinkle on top before baking)
raisins, coconut flakes or almonds for topping (all optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Position rack in the middle of the oven.
2. In a large bowl combine oats and salt.
3. In a smaller bowl mix together the maple syrup, milk, egg, and vanilla.  Pour over oats; mix well.
4. Pour the oat mixture into a glass baking dish (I used a 9 x 13). Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring once midway through.  Remove from oven.  (We stirred it at 20 minutes and only let it cook another 10-it was perfect)
5. Sprinkle the oats with brown sugar and return to the oven for 5 minutes.  The brown sugar will get all melty, which is exactly what you want.
6. Serve in warm bowls with a big hunk of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup that you've zapped in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Top with yummy toppings.  We had little bowls of brown sugar, raisins, cranberries, and walnuts at the table to sprinkle as well as a little milk pour on top.

My husband did the stirring at 20 minutes and he thought it looked done at that point.  As our 9-year-old bounced on our bed earlier he told her about this delicious idea for breakfast and she seemed at best dubious!  She was like "I like my regular oatmeal.  This sounds too baked, too dry, too crunchy!"  He didn't want it to turn out like her worst ideas and truly it was creamy and wonderful with less cooking time.  You decide.
It serves four and all of us had a big heaping bowl.  Groovy Girl's last words "This is actually good. I hope you make it again."  Made my day.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekly cooking meme, Weekend Cooking.  Click her link to check out the other foodie posts and read her thoughts on Beer Wars, the film.

Next up on my to-do list.  Cleaning the guinea pig's cage with Groovy Girl.  I know; I can feel the waves of jealousy!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Theodor Seuss Geisel!

Lorax Trailer by teasertrailer

Brain Pop Jr has a great informative little video to share.

My favorite book:  Green Eggs and Ham.  I read it
over and over to my two younger brothers as I "taught"
them to read.  Thank heavens for Dr. Seuss.