Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weekend Cooking; The Accidental Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer

Breezed through our one and only bookstore in the Cedar Valley to get a gift card for Groovy Girl's birthday sleepover this weekend I couldn't help checking out the front shelf of sale cookbooks.  I left with a gift card and Simon Rimmer's  beautiful looking book The Accidental Vegetarian (2004).  Don't those stuffed pimento peppers look delicious on the front cover?  I thought so.

I glanced through it quickly before I purchased and several recipes caught my attention like the Black bean and eggplant chili, the eggplant tikka masala, and the Lemon grass risotta with lime leaf tapenade. I don't know if I can find lime leaves but I'm going to try.  Even though Simon is English the recipes are written with American measurements (thankfully) and most seem to have easy to find ingredients.

There are six recipe sections, dips and morsels, salads, small platefuls, big platefuls, side dishes, and desserts.  Every few pages a lovely photo illustration is included-nice up close and big so you can really see what the food looks like.  The instructions are easy to follow and numbered.  I'm going to  make the Pumpkin enchiladas with mole sauce when I get home.  I love the idea of making my own mole sauce and that I can use a really beautiful butternut squash sitting on my counter.  There are tons of eggplant recipes which I love and many ethnic-inspired dishes.  The salad section bowled me over with varieties of combinations like Coronation chickpeas and potato salad or the Santa Fe Caesar salad both sound delicious.

As College Boy starts his journey this summer, leaving us for the beautiful Colorado scene, I will be happy to return to more vegetarian cooking.  I won't lose sight of our new enjoyment of local meats but his desire for more meaty meals was what pushed me in that direction in the first place.  Groovy Girl is less about the meat and more about simple meals and she loves sweet potatoes!

I know I am going to love this slender soft cover cookbook-I'm so glad I threw caution to the wind and shelled out $7.00 for this one. Find Simon on Twitter @simonrim

In other cooking news my mom gave me a subscription to bon appetit and I wasn't so sure about it at first but I've loved looking through the last few copies.  I love that they have family friendly recipes and lots of cooking tips.  Thanks mom! This one works.  Monday night I am making a Radish and white bean salad for book club featured in the April edition.

{Handsome Husband}
As I type this I'm sitting in a mediocre hotel near the airport in Green Bay, WI while my husband goes for his two-mile pre-race run.  Tomorrow he runs the GB Marathon and I will meet up with him at certain locations to cheer him on (make sure he is still breathing...).  We've traveled to quite a few U.S. destinations based on marathon races.  Today though we are going out to explore.  We found out that Natural Ovens is not far and we loved their bread when  we lived in Chicago so we are going on a tour and buying spree.   It also sits close to Lake Michigan and I always love being around large bodies of water.  We've also heard a rumor of a local brewery we plan to check out. I also would love to find a great cheese shop.  Much to do, so little time...

 This post is linked with Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click her link to locate many other wonderful food-related posts. Happy weekend.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Museum of Thieves (great little chapter book)

I bought this one awhile ago at the Fall Scholastic Book Fair and catalogued (one of the talents I have as I have a Library Science degree) it into the library.  I read a few pages and knew it was going to be good.  Then I set it down and went about my business.

I picked it back up two years later.  None of the kiddos were reading it so I had to investigate further and I loved it.  I'm ready for the second one to come around, which upon investigation is out and so is the 3rd one!  This is the bonus of reading books before you recommend them; this morning I had a student come in looking for something "mysterious"-I handed her this one and told her to give it a try.


Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is  crime. Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life.  Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians.  She has never done anything by herself and won't be allowed out on the streets unchained until her Separation Day.

When Separation Day is cancelled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind.  In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. {back cover}

I have post-it notes littered throughout the book of quotes I just couldn't resist:

But she (Olga Ciavolga) was smiling when she turned back to Goldie.  "But there are some things, child, that you should steal, if you have enough love and courage in your heart.  You must snatch freedom from the hands of the tyrant.  You must spirit away innocent lives before they are destroyed.  You must hide secret and sacred places." {122-123}

There are different sorts of fear, she (Goldie) realized that now.  There was the fear of having a musket held to your head, or having black oily water try to snatch you into its depths.  There was nothing easy about that fear.  It made your heart nearly tear itself out of your chest, and weakened the long bones in your legs so that you could barely stand.  It made you want to vomit with fright.
But there was another sort of fear, the fear that you would never be allowed to be who you really were. The fear that you true self would have to stay squashed up, like a caged bird, for the rest of your life.  That fear was worse than any soldier.  {179}

and one more...

"The museum should never have become so full of wild and dangerous things," said Sinew.  "But the people of Jewel are like Guardian Hope, with her planks and hammers.  They tried to nail life down.  they wanted to be completely safe and happy at all times.  The trouble is, the world just isn't like that.  You can't have high mountains without deep valleys.  You can't have great happiness without great sadness.  The world is never still.  It moves from one thing to another, back and forth, back and forth, like a butterfly opening and closing it's wings."  {197}

Goldie is a brave young girl who listens to her inner voice which takes her places she'd have never thought to venture otherwise.  Her and Toadspit try to think through how to solve the problems they face.  They are surrounded by interesting adults who guide them.  What's not to love??

Lian Tanner's Website-with games for the museum!
Random House fun website for this series.

Happy Friday!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Exhausting Mother's Day events

What a day we've had.  It began with my beautiful Groovy Girl sobbing because I woke up before her and she wanted to wake me up with breakfast in bed.  She did not read my blog post from yesterday (or ever) but I did get that menu exactly sans orange juice as there was none in the refrigerator.  She only made me breakfast once I convinced her that I would fall back to sleep, which I did {wink} until she left and then I read under the covers until I heard her creeping back up with the tray.

It was youth Sunday at church so both my children read and or sang and after church we headed to a rabbit show.  Yes, we have one little dwarf bunny but that is a post for another day.  We went just looking for ideas to build a bunny hutch for outside.

Driving home we decided to ride our bikes to a local restaurant for lunch which was so relaxing and enjoyable as we can watch the bike path traffic in a very green area. It was cool but sunny as we pedaled to and fro. We had a delicious lunch and I enjoyed a spicy Bloody Mary with my fish tacos.  Perfecto.

I seriously planned on taking a little nap once we made it back up our driveway but my front garden needed weeding and my husband needed help with the mower which wouldn't start.  So I slipped on my garden shoes and it was like they had wings.  For the next three hours we got a lot of yard work done.  We weeded the front garden which has been a project for the last two years after we pulled up three huge {ugly} evergreen bushes.  Everything I've planted in this front part is a perennial and are mostly flowering bushes or herbs.  Last year I transplanted a rhubarb plant from the back yard to the front and it looks great.

We then rolled our compost ball over to the far side of our rectangle garden plot and my husband dug down in three feet wide trenches so we could deposit compost under good top soil.  It was back-bending work as he piled the dirt back and I scooped and deposited the compost.  We got the entire garden turned and our compost ball is fairly empty.  Starting over fresh.

We took a small break from turning dirt to linseed oil the small free library my step-father made and gave me for Christmas.  It's been living on the floor of our living room since then and now is the time to get it outside.  My husband and son have a hole already dug for it and a post ready to go in the ground. Stay tuned for more of the project later.

We've had a small pool awaiting us for another backyard project and we just weren't tired out enough yet so we {all three of us} dug the hole for the plastic pool.  We still need a pump to make it lively but the first step of the project is complete.  Amazing how a little sunshine and fresh air will motivate us!

Enjoy the photos to prove all we accomplished.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Mother's Day menu

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and many mothers will be taken out to brunch, lunch, or dinner to be celebrated.  Yahoo.  It is a wonderful day to show our mother's how much we appreciate all that they do.

Now that I have a family of my own I don't always get to spend the day with my own mother.  I did send her a pretty e-card, my way of saving a tree.  I know in my childhood my brothers and I gave her our fair share of handmade cards,  bright floral arrangements (dandelions), and burnt breakfast foods all arranged on a tray.  I know my mother appreciated what we pulled together for her as I appreciate what my kids have done for me on this sacred Sunday but what I think matters most is the everyday celebrations that we can share together.

I often call my mother in the morning as I'm driving to work.  I have a peaceful drive to work with no chaos or traffic.  I love how her voice reflects joy in my simple phone call.  "How are you?'  What are you doing today?'  and we chat about the day ahead of us.  When I'm making dinner I often call my mother with cooking questions especially as I get used to cooking meat which I did not do for years.  "At what temperature is the chicken done at?"

Mother's Day can even be celebrated at the end of summer as my mom and I put together our salsa using all her late harvest tomatoes.  We cook and talk and reminisce about my grandmother, her mother.  She loved to cook also, her specialty was jam and pies.  Mother's Day can be a year round celebration as we toast those who raised us and did their best.  Whether you take them out for a meal, buy them a fancy bouquet, or just spend time with them the important element is thoughtfulness   Think about what your mother truly wants; does she need another knick-knack from the drugstore or would she prefer just your time?  Could you bake her muffins?  Could you take her for a walk?

If my mom were coming to town I would make her this big crumb coffee cake if I had rhubarb in my freezer.  If I could fly us both somewhere for breakfast I would fly us to La Jolla to eat at The Cottage~we've both always wanted to try it. I might also take her for pie at this little joint right here in Iowa.  There are so many great ideas out there that go beyond-try and find one that includes food and time.  Enjoy your mother.  Seek her out on a regular basis though; not just on the second Sunday in May.

I predict my daughter will serve this to me come Sunday morning:

Mother's Day Menu:

1 bowl of cereal light on the milk
1 piece of sourdough toast
1 glass of orange juice
with a flower or plant of some sort on the side

all brought to me in bed on a bamboo tray.
Sounds yummy, I know.  Lucky me.

She has not yet mastered cleaning the kitchen up after this cooking extravaganza.

Here are a few sites to learn more about the origins of Mother's Day as a holiday.

Mother's Day History
Wiki article

This year my husband and Groovy Girl already gave me one surprise; an manicure and a pedicure so my toes would be sandal ready for the wedding we are attending this evening in Iowa City.

{my toes in purple}

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click her link to find more recipes and food-related posts.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Will the real meat please stand up...

Last night as I made this recipe pulled from the pages of the May 2013 Food Network Magazine I pondered the life cycle of meat in recent history.   My mom is a major carnivore and like many moms of the 70's most of her meals centered around meat.  As I gently folded the onions, celery, eggs, and breadcrumbs into the ground meat I contemplated the meat we ate growing up, which made me ponder how the industry has changed and morphed it into something dirty.  Raising cattle on a farm is no longer how we get the meat that sits in the grocery store case for purchase.

I paid $5.00 a pound for the meat I was now kneading; organic local farm raised beef  but I know back in the day organic wasn't available and my mom probably bought it straight from the meat counter at our local Piggly Wiggly.  I believe it was real meat back then; no feedlot, no pink slime, no ammonia baths, no canibal cows, just happy bovines out there in the field. Cows were given antibiotics when they were sick not to combat every day life in the feedlot. Yes, they still went to a slaughter house (horrible in itself) but we didn't "cleanse" the meat of E-coli or salmonella because it wasn't dirty.  We dirtied the meat when fast food needed massive pounds of meat to be sold at super low prices.  Since then all they've done is continue to dirty it to make more money for our faster lifestyle like this "miracle decision" by BPI owner Eldon N. Roth to use previously unusable beef drippings, clean them using ammonia gas, and add them in as a filler to hamburger all over the country:

"The company says its processed beef, a mashlike substance frozen into blocks or chips, is used in a majority of the hamburger sold nationwide. But it has remained little known outside industry and government circles. Federal officials agreed to the company’s request that the ammonia be classified as a “processing agent” and not an ingredient that would be listed on labels." (NY Times) 

It is time for everyone to understand more about your food.  It is worth it to buy from a local farmer to get real meat, to find real food.  Our long term health and well-being is at risk if we don't pay attention.

Ways to get informed:

NY Times article about ammonia gassed meat from Beef Products Inc. (BPI).
Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa
Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution video about ammonia washing
The Truth about Food by Robert Kenner video on Lip

Okay now that I've scared the crap out of you or informed you, however you want to look at it I have a recipe to share.  This meatloaf recipe comes from the Fun Cooking; Kids' Meal

Turkey Meatloaf TV Dinner

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup organic ketchup
1 T chopped fresh parsley
kosher salt and ground pepper
2 tsp soy sauce/tamari sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1. Make the meatloaf; preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray (I make my own from a mister).  Put the turkey, onion, breadcrumbs, celery, egg, 2 T ketchup, parsley, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste in bowl.  Mix with your hands until just combined, then transfer to loaf pan.  

2. Combine remaining ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce in a small bowl; spread two T. of this mixture over the meatloaf.  Bake until the top begins to brown, about 30 minutes, then spread the remaining mixture over the top again and continue to bake for 15-20  more minutes.  Thermometer will register 165 degrees when finished.  

The article pairs this with mashed potatoes and peas; I did a scalloped potato recipe and broccoli.  It was all good.  Also I cannot find good turkey meat so I used ground beef but it was good quality.  Use what you have, love what you make.  Be present.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking from Beth Fish Reads.  Click her link to find many other joyful posts about the wonders of food.