Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Alice's Mad Hatter
We were invited to a neighborhood party for Halloween-not quite our neighborhood but darn close.  Everyone gathers together and eats first (soup, salad, and bread with a few delicious Halloween desserts tossed in).  I tried to two soups and they were both good and Groovy Girl polished off most of a bowl of chicken noodle soup.  It was fun to do something different in such a nice event.

Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting.

Groovy Girl decided she wanted to make cupcakes to bring to the party.  We searched online last night and found a perfect recipe and by that I mean a recipe she swooned over.  We made the cake and frosting from Erica's Sweet Tooth.  Instead of the peanut butter cup on top she added one candy corn.  She's become quite an expert froster and the tiny cakes were a hit. 

SuperGirl and the Mad Hatter

 We've sorted the candy and have two large zip locks full, one of chocolate and one "other" and this year she even made a small bag of mom and dad candy-that includes Heath and Snickers  bars.  She truly has enough candy to last her a year. I hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mexican Meal made easy...

This enchilada recipe was a huge hit this week!

I adapted the enchiladas from The Accidental Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer (2004) which I wrote about in this post.  While recipe searching through my own cookbooks to find something interesting to make for my old friends Barb, Robert, and their son Tracy and their exchange student from Guatemala I came upon this one that I wanted to try.  I happened upon this recipe before I knew about the exchange student and figured I would stick with it.  Maybe he would like America even more because of the mole sauce I whipped up!

It was fairly easy because I divided the tasks up into two different day's worth of work.  I planned on serving it Monday night-a busy night as Groovy Girl had rehearsal for her play and Barb, Robert, my husband and I were heading to a Bonnie Raitt concert.  Saturday I made the mole sauce and Sunday afternoon I roasted the squash. Yes, the name was misleading to me as it is not pumpkin but butternut squash that headlines but i got over it.  You will too.

Pumpkin Enchiladas with mole sauce
(feeds 6)

vegetable oil for roasting
2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1-in cubes
15 oz can refried beans
freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 red chili, chopped
12 soft flour or corn tortillas  (I used corn)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sour cream, lime wedges and fresh cilantro to serve

For the sauce:

10 red chilis
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 T slivered almonds
5 black peppercorns
2-3 cloves
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T cocoa powder
vegetable oil for frying
15 oz can chopped tomatoes (I used last fresh ones from the garden instead)
pinch of cinnamon
sugar to taste
2.3 cup stock
3 1/2 best-quality dark chocolate (not unsweetened), grated

1. To make the sauce, put the chilies, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, peppercorns, and cloves in a mortar and pestle and crush. (This was fun!).  Tip into a skillet and dry-fry for a minute or so until lightly charred.
2. In a separate pan, fry the onion, garlic, and cocoa in a little oil for 2 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then add all the dry-fried spices, the cinnamon, sugar, and stock, and cook for 25 minutes.  Transfer to a blender and whiz until smooth.  Turn out and fold in chocolate shavings.
4. Preheat the oven to 400*.  Put some oil in a roasting pan and put in the oven to heat up.  Tip the squash into the roasting pan, season well and roast for 40 minutes until soft.
5. Put the squash in a bowl, add the refried beans, cilantro, and red chile and stir well to mix.
6. Divide the mixture between the tortillas, roll up and cut the ends straight.  Put in a baking dish, cover, and cook in the oven for about 12 minutes, until heated through.
7. To serve, put two tortillas on each plate and spoon over some of the sauce (it is heady so not too much).  Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, and cilantro.

Having prepped the mole sauce and the squash mixture previously made this recipe very easy to throw together after work and before our concert.

This is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking meme.  Click there to find many other food-related posts.
Have a peaceful week!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Deep thinking about food.

Last night my husband and I went to an unusual play at our local university.  The play based on the book, The American Way of Eating, by the same title by Tracie McMillan.  The book was chosen as the school's in-depth everyone reads book choice and the theatre department head decided that in celebration of that; they should workshop it into a play.  From a very unorthodox beginning the play came together and was an amazing display of team work and artistic talent plus the audience members learned a lot of interesting facts.

Even though I haven't read the book which is about Tracie's journey to uncover what happens to produce from field to store to restaurant I get it.  I'm the proverbial choir.  I shop at the farmer's market, I don't shop at Wal-Mart or eat at chain restaurants or fast food.  I did however not know enough or think about it enough what happens in the farm fields where undocumented or immigrants work.  In Iowa I am familiar with disgusting meat plants that pluck workers from other countries in order to create an "affordable" work force.  It is criminal how little they are paid for a long day's work; back-breaking work and they are afraid to stand up for better conditions for fear of losing the little income they get.  The play also touched on women's rights and how easily those in charge take advantage of them.

I don't know how to solve it beyond talking about it, writing about it, and encouraging folks to read her book and many others with similar themes about our broken food system.   We want cheap food but at what cost and on who's back are we stepping on to get garlic at a "rock-bottom price".

Be aware.  Be thoughtful.  Investigate a lot.  Question more.

This post is loosely linked to Weekend Cooking hosted by Candace at Beth Fish Reads.  There you will find other foodies who love exploring recipes.

Other food-related news:

I created this delicious zucchini soup this past week for a quiet dinner for my husband and I.  I plan to make this soup this week to use up swiss chard and zucchini.  I made a mole sauce yesterday for a pumpkin enchilada dish I'm making this week for friends that I'm going to hear Bonnie Raitt with in concert.  I made mini raspberry muffins for my book club kids-they asked for seconds.

Overall it has been a good food week here at our house.

And in preparation for winter I've been cleaning out the gardens by making two more batches of pesto with basil from my mother's garden; it is beginning to freeze here at night and neither one of us wants to lose any basil.  I think I'm also going to freeze mint leaves in cubes.  I'm watching my zucchini and butternut squash plants carefully as I have several there to bring in.

Have a bountiful week!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Interesting YA titles

I finished both of these in September and what ties them together is love and the power of acceptance; something most humans desire. One uses that power and the other makes it into a curable disease.

The List by Siobhan Vivian:

Filled with the craziness of high school it brought back memories of how BAD it can be.  I thought it said a lot though for all that high school student’s experience-being popular is weird and being unpopular is just as weird.  If only all high school students could learn to be themselves;  a very difficult concept because most teens have yet to truly find themselves as it often takes years to figure it all out. 

Mount Washington H.S. has this tradition of a published list plastered all over the walls right before homecoming.  The list shares the prettiest and the ugliest female student in each class.  At any level it is difficult to appear on either side of the list; yet both sides display negative behavior because they are on the list.

Siobhan Vivian relays the stories of all eight young women affected by the list and we learn just how being a member of this small group changes them.  In order to ignore the list you’d have to be a very mighty girl!  I was not a brave soul in high school and would have found it heart-breaking to be even mentioned.  Even the young women chosen for the pretties side struggle with how to keep up with the image they think every one expects.  My first thoughts were that the list must be written by a guy or a group of guys. The ending left me shaking my head and praying for a second women’s movement!   

A quote:

She lifts her chin a few degrees.  ‘I’ve decided not to take a shower for a whole week.’
‘For real?’
‘Yup,’ she says, making the p pop.  ‘I’m not showering, I’m not brushing my teeth, putting on deodorant, anything.  I’m wearing these same clothes, not just the shirt, but the jeans, the socks, the underwear, the bra. My last shower was on Sunday night, before I went over to your house.’  She folds her arms.  ‘I won’t participate in any kind of hygiene until Saturday night.’ It feels good to say her plan out loud.  Now there can be no backing out.
‘What’s on Saturday night?’
‘The homecoming dance.’ It sounds so utterly ridiculous, but she keeps a straight face.  ‘I’m going as smelly and disgusting as I can possibly make myself, dressed in these clothes.’
Milo laughs and laughs, but when Sarah doesn’t join, he stops.  “Wait.  You’re not serious.’
‘I am.’
‘Why are you letting that stupid list get to you? You hate the girls at this school, obviously for good reason.  And now you want to show up at their dumb dance? This isn’t like you at all.’ (101)

Even the young women chosen for the pretties side struggle with how to keep up with the image they think every one expects.  The ending left me baffled and praying for a second women’s movement! 

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (2011):

This is a glorious look at a future world where love has been deemed a disease.  Can you imagine?  They make a good case for why love could be perceived as a sickness.  Lena is an orphan living in her aunt’s household waiting for her treatment that will prevent her from getting the disease. Many good plans fail to work out though and Lena meets someone that makes her feel all the effects of love which confuses her.  Does she feel this way because she is now sick or are the people protecting her lying to her?  As love often does her life becomes complicated as she balances her quiet life at home with her new desire to break the rules and see Alex as much as she can.  

I enjoyed the relationship between Lena and her best friend Hana.  They are good to each other but have a few struggles and conflicts throughout the story but in the end they find they can count on each other.  

A quote:

I was named after Mary Magdalene, who was nearly killed from love: “So infected with deliria and in violation of the pacts of society, she fell in love with men who would not have her or could not keep her.” (Book of Lamentations, Mary 13:1).
We learned all about it in Biblical Science.  First there was John, then Matthew, then Jeremiah and Peter and Judas, and many other nameless men in-between. 
Her last love, they say, was the greatest: a man named Joseph, a bachelor all of his life, who found her on the street, bruised and broken and half-crazy from deliria.  There’s some debate about what kind of man Joseph was-whether he was righteous or not, whether he ever succumbed to the disease-but in any case, he took good care of her.  He nursed her to health and tried to bring her peace. (87-88)

I enjoyed how Oliver twisted our own biblical stories to create and re-enforce this new history and makes a convincing argument against love.

Both books were borrowed from my local library.

I'm reading Maggie's Stiefvater's sequel to The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, and love it.  I downloaded it to my kindle to encourage myself to finish a book on this device.  I love using it as a mini-computer and as a game device but have yet to finish a book on it.  Dream Thieves will be my first and I'm proud to say I'm half way through or in Kindle-speak 48%.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Guests!

If you're having guests you need to plan a menu and that is one of my favorite chores.  My in-laws arrived on Thursday and are staying through Tuesday.  My husband directed a play in town, The Good Doctor by Neil Simon, and they've come to see it.

Making life easier for me my mom prepared lasagna at her house then brought it to my house and baked it so we could enjoy dinner before we all headed to the dress rehearsal of the show. We came back to the house after the play and had raspberry pie made by mother as well. I did make the fresh whipped cream for the top yet the truth is the women in my life really take care of me!  Last night we ate at our new local Ginger Thai restaurant making Friday night's meal easy on me again.  Whew. And the taste sensation that is Ginger Thai doubled the food joy.

This morning, though, we shopped at our downtown Farmer's Market-always beautiful, making preparations for a few meals we will cook together.  We found two fat pumpkins, a bunch of kale, an eggplant, and a big head of broccoli to use. Our next stop was Cup of Joe's, one of our favorite hangouts.  We had a warm drink and played a quick game of Candyland.

Tonight we are having a roast chicken adapted from this Ree Drummond recipe.  With the chicken I am serving this Israeli Couscous recipe I made this week.  It is marinating into a perfect dish and I love that I will just have to toss it and serve it!  My mother-in-law shared with me several new recipes that we are also going to try.  She loves to cook as much as I do!  One is a recipe for baked broccoli which looks simple yet delicious.

My mother-in-law makes amazing pies which prompted me to ask her if she would walk me through making a pie crust-I suck at making crusts but love pie.  We turned that crust into a ground cherry apple pie using this recipe from a Minnesota blogger.  Groovy Girl helped weave the lattice pie top.  My grandmother had a patch of ground cherries and was an expert pie baker.  I cannot wait to eat dinner tonight.  The house smells like pie and soon the farm-fresh chicken will be roasting away stuffed with lemon, rosemary and butter.  Hmmm.  

{Wee baker with perfect pie!}
This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click to her link for more food-related posts.