Friday, September 28, 2012

Quick Takes with the Maple Leaf Butter Cookie Recipe


--- 1 ---



I'm going to be an aunt (again) today!  Big prayer sendoff to my brother, Ed, my sister-in-law Adaire, and baby Edwina on the way.  They don't know if their having a boy or girl, but I had a dream last night.  My dreams have been pretty prophetic at times.  We shall see...

--- 2 ---


This made me chuckle.  Actually, I have great friends and no political rants, but yes, I made pancakes this week, and more importantly I made Maple Leaf Butter Cookies.

--- 3 ---

Maple Leaf Butter Cookies are delicious morsels of butter and sugar and real maple syrup that melt in your mouth.  They are the essence of autumnal seasonal change in a baked item.   The Chef's cousin put this recipe in our family cookbook and I will now bless you with it.

Maple Leaf Butter Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup, not pancake syrup
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour

1.  With electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in maple syrup and egg yolk until combined well.  Sift together salt and flour over mixture and fold in thoroughly.  Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 2 hours, or up to four days.  I don't know what happens to your chilled dough on the fifth day.  Mine never lasts that long.

2.  Preheat oven to 350.

3.  Divide dough in half.  Keeping one half chilled, lightly flour other half and on a lightly floured surface gently pound with a rolling pin to soften.  Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness and with floured leaf and/or acorn shaped cookie cutters, cut out cookies chilling (or eating) scraps.  Arrange cookies on buttered baking sheets and if desired, with back of knife, mark cookies decoratively.  I never do that.  Takes too long and I'm hungry.  Make more cookies in same manner with remaining dough and with all the scraps pressed together.

4.  Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until edges are golden, about 12 minutes, and transfer to racks to cool. 

Cookies keep in airtight containers for one week.  Again, I wouldn't know.  They disappear awfully fast around here.

You can additionally flavor the syrup with 3 drops of maple extract, or to taste.

Makes about 40 3-inch cookies.

--- 4 ---


You kind of really need the leaf cookie cutters for that recipe.  These are the ones I have.  I think I got them at Hobby Lobby.  (Shout out to Hobby Lobby for joining my dad in suing the govt. about the HHS mandate.)
--- 5 ---

Remember my foaming soap idea?  I was going to make my refills using the liquid handsoap.  Well, I've been using Bath and Bodyworks soaps because I got hung up on matching the scents of the soaps to the labels on the bottle. 

WARNING:  Bath and Bodyworks liquid soaps have these tiny blue granules in them that will clog and ruin your foaming soap dispenser.  I know from experience.  Now, I'm going to try their shower gels to make my refills so my scents are still matchy/matchy.  I'm not a fan of anti-bacterial, so shower gels are perfect.

I'm super bummed that B and B is not carrying the Leaves scent in soaps this year.  So I ordered the giant candle instead.

This is the pretty modest size.  I ordered the three wick.  Smells sooo good.

 

--- 6 ---


We did see The Trouble with the Curve last week.  It was...nice.  Definitely a rental and not worth the $21 it cost to see a last show surrounded by drunk people talking, laughing, and texting.

Note to self:  Late shows are filled with drunk people.



I will be certain not to make that mistake when I go see The Hobbit on December 14th, or Les Miserables on or soon after December 25th.





--- 7 ---

Well, Baby J is having Cheetos for breakfast, so I must be moving on, fighting crime and filth in my personal Metropolis.  Happy Fall Y'all!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What We're Reading Now, with a different shade of gray


You might think this book, The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey as shown above, is about dragons.

It's not.

It's about squirrels.

Seriously.

David Rain is a twenty year old college student, who acts like he's eleven.  He's renting a room from Liz Pennykettle, who has an eleven year old daughter, Lucy, who acts like she's three.  Liz is a potter who makes ceramic dragons.  The dragons she crafts are in the book somewhat, but don't come to life until the very end.  The book is mostly about David and Lucy trying to capture an injured squirrel before the mean neighbor, or the nasty crow get to it first.  Many chapter are devoted to the several other squirrels who all live in the backyard or at the library gardens, their names, personalities, relationships, etc.

DISAPPOINTED.

The book is clean if super boring.  Written for maybe a third grade interest level, but waaayy toooo loonng.  Check it out.  Many of the Amazon reviewers echo my sentiments exactly.


I first heard about Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz from fellow blogger, Faith Elizabeth Hough.  You can  read her favorable review here.  I agree with pretty much everything she says, but I won't let my kids read this book.  Not even my high schoolers.

It's not just the fact that one of the villains uses tarot cards.  Betsy, Tacy and Tib use a ouija board in one novel, but I didn't ban those books.   It's because at the moment when a different villain realizes he needs a child to perform a theft for him, he says,

...For the child believes--everything!  And feels--everything!  So much life, instinct, vital force--and then the first stirrings of adult desire.  Everything is potent, volatile...!  Why do people sacrifice infants in the Black Mass?  It makes them feel wicked;  that is something of course, but what strength is there in a suckling babe?  If one wants power, there is far more power in children!
Honestly.  Infant sacrifice and satanic rituals getting mentioned in a children's book.  My dander is up.  We don't play around with that kind of talk here.

Yes, it is a beautiful story, well-written, great characters.  Yes, even one of the villains goes to confession on her deathbed.  But some things don't belong in children's books.


The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin was a fascinating read.   This biography is told in third person, and at first felt a little awkward to my fiction loving ears.  But I became engrossed in the tales of Benedict Arnold's military heroism during the Revolutionary War.  I knew he was one of our nation's most famous traitors, but I didn't know the backstory (great war hero and close personal friend of G Dub, and by G Dub, I mean George Washington), and I certainly didn't know he got away with it!

Ooops.  Just gave away the ending, didn't I?  Sorry.  Your sons will like this one.  Maybe your daughters will too, but definitely your sons.



Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is the only novel with the words "shades of gray" in the title that I'm ever reading.  My library friends tell me that this YA novel is always on the pick list for holds because people are looking for something in the smut genre.  They must be so disappointed when they start reading the account of fifteen year old Lina's deportation from World War II Lithuania to Siberia.

But I wasn't disappointed at all.  This heart-wrenching story is so captivating.  Lina, her mother, and her ten year old brother, Jonas, are all captured by Soviets and sent to work camps in the Arctic Circle, along with millions of other Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, and Finns.  Lina uses her artistic talent to send messages and hope to her father and to other prisoners on the journey. 

The content doesn't shy from the disturbing.  Lina and her mother are forced to strip and shower in front of Soviet guards, at which point Lina is groped by a soldier.  Her friend, Andrius, is alive only because his mother agrees to sleep with the Soviets.  People die, and bodies are left in the snow for the foxes.  This book is definitely for the mature reader, probably high school at least.

Throughout the novel however, Lina's mother is a constant example of love, patience, kindness, generosity and hope.  Based on the ancestors of the author, this book brings light to a little discussed chapter of history, Stalin's genocide of nearly twenty million people.

I knew this book would be awesome when I saw a quote from my all-time favorite author, Richard Peck, on the back cover.  Bet you won't find his endorsement on those other books with similar titles.

Not quite the Shades of Gray most people are looking for, but the only one worth reading.

Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes - 75th Anniversary of The Hobbit!


--- 1 ---

Raise your hand if you know what a crusty bloomer is.

Is this what you were picturing?


I was delighted to find this invite on the interwebs a few weeks ago.



Go ahead, click on it.  It takes you to Bag End where you can download a pdf of games, recipes, tea coasters, grocery list, and printable Hobbit banner to celebrate today's anniversary. 

I'd make the seedcake, but I don't cook in grams and neither do hobbits or Harry Potter.  Also, I'm too lazy to google what caster sugar is.  I'm still worn out from googling crusty bloomers, and a little disappointed too.

But like most days, I had second breakfast today.  Darn tootin'.

--- 2 ---

Quick Takes are late today because I came down with the sniffles, and am currently sipping a hot toddy in hopes of recovery.  Plus, it's cold and rainy, and I needed an excuse to try out the Kirkland brand bourbon.  Good stuff.



--- 3 ---

Want to know the secret to getting your thirteen-year-old daughter to say you are "best mom in the whole wide world?"

Reversible jeans.

Seriously.  Pockets inside and outside of the pants.  One layer of denim:  one side is polka dot, the other is solid.  They cost a little more, but they count as two pairs of jeans.  I wish I had some.  They also come in houndstooth (almost got those) and camoflage.
 
--- 4 ---

Movies I would like to see this weekend, if I didn't have kids in sports at inconvenient times and live-in babysitters with social lives:  The Trouble with the Curve.



I love Gran Torino and Enchanted.  Therefore it's a foregone conclusion that I will love Clint and Amy on screen together.  If I ever get to see it.

Plus, then I can sneak in some of my lifetime supply of candy corn to munch on WITH popcorn.  Mmmmmm.  Like pb and j, bacon and eggs, cookies and milk.  Try it.  It's ah-mazing.  The secret is one candy corn to every 5 or 6 popcorns.  This might be part of my dental problem.

--- 5 ---

Thanks to Cari, I laughed til I cried last night while reading random found grocery lists here and here.  For Christmas, I so very much want the book, Milk, Eggs, Vodka.  The Chef kept telling me it wasn't that funny, but it was.  Honestly, why would anyone's grocery list include the word "Toe?"

My grocery list writing will never again include the cryptic "bnls/sknls chkn brsts" but forevermore I can summarize with "chicken boobs."

And to the grocery list collector who stole/found my very long two column list at Costco yesterday...the one on the paper that says, "I carpool therefore I am." at the top of the page, I still needed that list.  Costco was only one column.  When I got the regular grocery store, sans list, I forgot the swiss chard for the minestrone tonight which de-railed my dinner plans, once again forcing us to get pizza.

Can you tell how disappointed we are?  Little sacrifices made with great love.  of pizzapolishing my halo

--- 6 ---

The Chef loves Eric and Kathy.  He says he doesn't.  But I just know he does.  That's why he loves it when I hide their flyers in his briefcase, underwear drawer, coffee beans, etc.


What's not to love?

I know that those are screams of delight not terror when he opens the medicine cabinet to these smiling visages.




That's how I know he's going to love QT #7.

--- 7 ---

There's a rectory I pass every day, many times a day, on the way to my own parish.  This time of year, the folks in charge of the rectory decor bust out a flag with the sentiment, "Happy Fall Y'all!"  

The Chef would really love for you to inundate his fb page with that sentiment.  He loves it so much.  Just like he adores Eric and Kathy.
 So get into the spirit of the season and spread some autumnal cheer by joining me in wishing The Chef a



For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross



--- 1 ---

Last night, a neighbor emailed me and several others on the block, asking if we wanted to do a block garage sale.  Thank goodness she didn't call, because I would have laughed in her face ear.



I did a garage sale once.  I think I spent $10 on labels and tags, 20+ hours sorting and tagging, 4-6 hrs.  sitting in the driveway feeling angry/disappointed/ripped off, and I made a total of $8.  That left me in the hole $2602 because I place a $100 per hour premium on my time.

I think I might have spent all of my $8 at my neighbors' garage sales.  I do treasure the unused boxed set of Anne of Green Gables books that I got from the neighbor to the north, but the Beethoven VHS cassettes from my neighbor to the south were not a big hit.  No, not Beethoven the composer, Beethoven the St. Bernard dog who made almost as many movies as Mary Kate and Ashley.



At the end of the day, I had to haul all that crap back into my basement because I don't have a garage.

If I needed any more confirmations that garage sales are a bad idea, my across-the-street neighbor is having one today.

Pray for her.  It's going to be a long day.  She keeps hollering at her two-year old to stay out of the street, and putting her four-year old in time out on the front steps.  Oops.  Four-year old just hit two-year old because she didn't get to put the $1 in the cash box at the lemonade stand.  Did I mention the only customer is the aunt?  It's going to be a long day for them.

--- 2 ---

Now, I just keep large boxes on the treadmill in the basement, called the "Giveway" boxes.  That's what treadmills are for, right?  Anytime someone cleans out a drawer or a closet, they can deposit in the Giveaway box.  When the pile is large enough, I make the trek to St. Vincent de Paul.  The employees come unload my car, and hand me a nice piece of paper to mark my tax deduction.  

--- 3 ---



Temps are falling here.  The weather is still gorgeous, but I did light my pumpkin-scented candle yesterday.  Last night, I made chili and tonight we are going to try this Butternut Squash, Wild Rice, Smoked Sausage Soup.  No, it's not meatless, but I'm working on that.    Why isn't the feast of the exaltation of the cross a solemnity?  grumble.  grumble.
 --- 4 ---



Now the Chef tells me that we are supposed to eat pesto tonight, because St. Helen found the remains of the true cross under a basil plant.   Apparently in the Eastern Church, they lay the cross on a bed of basil during this feast.  The Chef got his intel from Fr. Z's blogpost here.   Gotta love the term "penitential festivity."

Guess we'll be having the soup tomorrow night.

--- 5 ---

Sweet and sour Grace linked up to this post at Ain't No Mom Jeans regarding Lands' End new colored pants.  I had already vociferously voiced my opposition to this fad before I read the review of the LE new colored chinos and fits.


Well, yesterday a friend called and said, "Why are you hating on the colored pants and then I see you in them?!"

I was intrigued by the rave review, and Susan and I went to our local inlet to do a test drive.  She got the slim ankle cords in Raisin, and I came home with slim ankle chino pants in Light Raspberry Wine and Umber as shown above, minus the leopard print heels.  Still looking for those.  I'm saving up to get the Mazarine
Blue ones too.  Because when I find pants that fit, I stockpile.  I love them.  And they feel like autumn.

And if someday Lands' End wants to send me free pairs to review online, all the better.


--- 6 ---

 Same with See Kai Run, Baby J's favorite shoe brand.  She currently wears a 6.



The Chef painted Baby J's toenails this week.  Then it cooled off, plus she has new shoes, so they have not been visible to the public.  The Chef accused me of conspiring to keep her lime green piggies covered up.  As if.



--- 7 ---
  

Currently, Baby J is done playing with the Bananagrams I dumped out for her and demands eye contact.  
The garage sale across the street is accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It's going to be a beautiful weekend.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What We're Reading Wednesday: YA and Board Books




The Chef's college RA, and published author, Jason Henderson has been using UD names in his teen vampire series featuring fourteen-year-old, Alex Van Helsing.  First, I caught a cameo of former UD Student Government president, Fred Schunk, and then Vienna Cazorla showed up.  Could she be a distant relation to Profesora Hazel Cazorla (ca-thor-la) of UD Spanish Dept. fame?  Who will be next?



I like these fast-paced adventure novels.  Vampires are shown to be evil, soulless, demon-like beings, that must be destroyed.  No romantic view of these predators.  Alex Van Helsing is a lot like the Alex Rider of James Patterson's books for kids, capable, intelligent, mature. 

In the second book, Voice of the Undead, Van Helsing's mother makes an appearance, and she happens to be a witch.  More witches are introduced in the third book, The Triumph of Death, and they all appear to be "good,"  fighting for the downfall of vampires, protecting humans, healing Alex when he is injured.  Alex teams up with Astrid, a young "adept," and together they save mankind once again. 

If paranormal beings don't bother you, Alex Van Helsing's adventures are fine for middle school and up.



I finished the second book in the Century series, Star of Stone, by Pierdomenico Baccalario.  I read and reviewed the first book a few years ago and liked it.  But Star of Stone includes little to no background information, no recap of the Roman adventure in Ring of Fire. I may have liked this book if I had just finished Ring of Fire, or remembered any of it, but I doubt it because Star of Stone seems to be all action and little plot development.  I am reminded of seasons of Lost that told good adventure stories, but failed to reveal any clues as to why there were there in the first place.

Also, an elderly woman describes her life with a character from the first book, emphasizing that she was not his wife.  Maybe their relationship was purely platonic, but she lived in his house.  Suspicious minds....


Baby J is in that phase where she wants you to read her a book an infinite number of times in one sitting, until I hide the book.  Some books that I can read three times without going insane are:



Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett.  I love this book.  I love the square shape and the super thick pages.  The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and the text is downright genius.  Now, I must find everything Emily Gravett ever published and see if all of her books are so lovely and clever.


See what I mean?

I went on Amazon and order some of the other titles from the Little Simon Classic Board Book label.  Nancy Tafuri's Five Little Chicks and Blue Goose are also good.



Baby J is also in a huge animal phase.  I swear she knows more animal sounds than words in English.  She calls any books with animals in it, "Moo."  She loves Margaret Wise Brown's Big Red Barn.  After the first read, we just flip pages and make noises.  I try to emphasize the ending where all the animals go to sleep.  She's not getting it, though.



Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton is the other barnyard classic getting lots of mileage these days.  It's short and it's sweet.  What more could you ask for in a board book for the under two crowd?



Friday, September 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes


--- 1 ---

A few of the wonderful things about St. Louis can be seen in this excellent vimeo.  Watch it, if not for great shots of St. Louis, at least to hear a cool song about my other home away from home, Rome.



I, being from the North side, would not have included Ted Drewe's, but rather Fritz's Frozen Custard, because it's better.  I also would have included the other cathedral, the oldest church west of the Mississippi, the Old Cathedral.  I'm sure they had to make some cuts or the video would need a way longer song, like Let It Be, Bye, Bye Miss American Pie, or all 7 verses of Home on the Range.  


I'm so happy they included the Basilica, which has the largest collection of mosaics outside of Byzantium.  I met Mother Teresa there.  She kissed me on the forehead.  I was waiting in this super long line to use the bathroom and a limo pulled up.  She got out and kissed me.  I wish there were pictures of this event.  I was just a kid at the time.  So, when she gets canonized, I'll be a third class relic, sort of. 


--- 2 ---

If you missed my seven nonsensical quick takes last week, it was because we went to the Lou for two birthdays and a baptism, and a showing of the Lion King at the Fabulous Fox, also not in the vid. 

Oh, btw, I'm on Instagram now.  You know my handle.
--- 3 ---

Also not featured in the video is Cafe Ventana, a coffee shop that sells fresh beignets out of a very old building near St. Louis U.
 
My bro, Frank Third, my godson, Frank Fourth, The Chef (he thinks he looks way cooler in this pic than the one above), Baby J and my pumpkin spiced chai latte, cause you know how I feel about coffee.  blech.

If you don't know what a beignet is, I feel so bad for you.  If you can't get to Cafe Ventana to have one, try the original awesomeness in the French Quarter, NOLA, at Cafe DuMonde.

I had some very artsy photos of the buildings that house Cafe Ventana and the neat alley between them, but my camera and my computer are in a fight.  My kids said the place reminded them of Diagon Alley.  Maybe you can see the pics next week on Housewifespice's Facebook page.  What?  You are not familiar with the FB page for Housewifespice?  You should "like" it.  More on this later.

--- 4 ---

I gifted my brother, pictured above, father of my newest godson, a copy of this literary gem.  Yes, it's crude.  Yes, I find it very funny.  Yes, I am a low-class, horrible person.  Go ahead and judge.

Yes.  After derision and judgement, I'm still finding it funny.  Cause I've been there. 




You can listen to the dulcet tones of Samuel L. Jackson reading this bedtime classic below, but make sure the kids can't hear it.



--- 5 ---

Cari's virtual 5K is coming up and I'm still sweating away at booty camp.

What do you wear when you sweat?  What do you wear when you sweat and you do jumping jacks and you've delivered five children?

No, I'm asking for a friend, not me.  That kind of thing never happens to me.  

I am so sorry for that visual.  
 
--- 6 ---

I did a real book review this week, for a book that someone sent me in the mail.  You may have missed it because I only linked to it via the Housewifespice facebook page, not my personal page.  If you haven't liked the Housewifespice page on facebook, you should, so I don't have to bombard all the regular people on facebook who don't want to see when I post.

--- 7 ---

Speaking of posts and blogging, the Chef keeps quoting this YouTube video to me.  I think he's mocking me, and I don't think it's that funny.  Hmmph.

 
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Great Lunch Makeover Part 2

Remember this post from last school year?  The one where I share my wheat germ toast story and whine about square sandwiches?

I have resolved to do better this year.  And so far, so good. 


I got every recipe that follows from Pioneer Woman's newer cookbook, Food from My Frontier, or my collection of Cook's Country magazines (all of their recipes are available on their website for a fee or a free two week trial), or the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, henceforth referred to as ATKFC


Week One:

I made PW's Chicken Salad, which I served in some Flat Out wraps.  Unlike her, I started with boneless, skinless chicken breast that got baked in the oven.  Also, I omitted the sugar.  Some of my kids liked it, some didn't.  Most picked out the almonds.  But they all ate it and that's the most important thing.

Because I had baked so many chicken breasts, I also made PW's Curried Chicken Pasta Salad to change things up a bit.  The girls loved this, the boys, not so much.  Something to do with raisins.  It still went pretty fast.  I served it in pyrex or snapware, or recycled Hillshire Farm plastic boxes.  No bread, just pasta.

Week Two:

Muffaletta.



I discovered this treasure when we were on vacay in Michigan.  Make one giant sandwich on a round loaf of bread, and cut it into wedges like a pizza.  Voila!  Many sandwiches!

In MI, we made our own olive salad.  It was expensive and time consuming.  Back home, I found that Costco carries jars of muffaletta olive salad.  They are also expensive, but not time consuming.

Traditional muffaletta uses salami, provolone, and mortadella, which is an high-end Italian bologna (both of which are carried by my Costco).  But we have found that ham, or any nice deli meats and cheese will work.  Whatever is in the fridge and will be outdated soonest is always my first pick.

Everyone is loving the muffaletta.  Triangular sandwiches are big winners.





This is a Cook's Country recipe.  To. Die. For.  You can see it here at Epicurious:  Steak Quesadillas with Roasted Red Peppers and Boursin.  I heart Boursin. 



I accidentally bought these pain-in-the-keister tortillas that are raw when you buy them, but excellent when you cook them for a few seconds on each side in a nonstick skillet. 

Please don't feel like you have to use strip steaks.  Any steak will do.  When I ran out of steak, I used thinly slice pork loin.  Still awesome.

Week Three:

No, I didn't send Heinekens to school.  Yet.


I made PW's Drip Beef, which is a Lazy Man's Italian Beef.  And I made it in the slow cooker, which is even lazier, but it's cooler on these hot, muggy days.  It's pretty darn good too. 

Pioneer Woman classed up her recipe for the cookbook.  No nasty Campbell's Beef Consomme, but rather Swanson's Beef Broth was pictured.  Also, instead of generic dried Italian seasoning, she uses a couple tablespoons of fresh rosemary.  The Drip Beef recipe from the cookbook is the hot and spicy version from her website.  "Don't worry.  It's not that hot," said the girl addicted to giardinera from Chicago.

Throw some of those leftovers in a nice bun.  Microwave for a minute.  Wrap in clingwrap.  Throw in a napkin, cause it's gonna be messy, and you have Edmund's favorite lunch ever.

And The Vegetarian Option for Meatless Fridays:



Tortellini Salad.  Yes, I bought the cheese-filled tortellini at Costco, but I imagine some people shop other places that might sell it.  I asked the Chef to throw together the recipe that's in my battered ATKFC. This salad includes such culinary delights as blanched asparagus and fresh grape tomatoes.  He made it on a Thursday night and it fed everyone on a Friday and me all weekend long.  Very delicious.

What will the future bring?

I've discovered the bread and the spread are what makes the sandwich dull.  In addition to pretzel buns (which I discovered last year), I'm going to try these torta rolls. 


And this Mezzetta Sandwich Spread, which comes in many varieties.  I bought the Chimichurri flavor.


Ooooh.  The Mezzetta website has some good-looking recipes too.

Also, I found a page in that ATKFC with all kinds of great sandwich ideas including a chipotle mayo, baby dill pickles, tapenade, apples and chutney. 

We're gonna get funky...funky...funky...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What We're Reading Wednesday

John Torres kindly sent me a copy of his book, The Plentiful Harvest to review. 



And then he waited very patiently for me to get my $tuff together and actually read it.

It was difficult for me to read this book, because I made the mistake of reading the back cover first.  It said, "blah, blah, blah, travels to Jabra in southern Sudan, blah, blah, blah, meets Jenelle, blah, blah, blah, Their happy time together is cut short when an army from the north invades the area, ruthlessly killing men, women, and children, and Jack is thrust into the role of saving what remains of the world that Jenelle revealed to him."

Ooooh.  A serious book, about serious things, for grown ups.  Not usually my thing.  But I persevered, determined not to let John down.

Despite some initial frustration with the lack of commas on the first page, I fell for Jack, who I think would be cast by either the late Chris Farley, or the late John Candy in the movie version of this book.  Jack is overweight and unemployed in Brooklyn, 1983.  His girlfriend dumps him in chapter one.  He's about to get cut off from his unemployment benefits, when he decides to answer an ad in The Economist for an airport directorship in south Sudan. 

A series of well described mishaps cause Jack to actually get hired for the position on the very day he gets evicted from his apartment.

He moves to Jabra, takes over the airport, meets the lovely Jenelle, rediscovers his Catholic faith, is about to propose to the girl and live happily ever after when BAM!  Sharia law is passed and a murderous army systematically tears through the country destroying villages and everything in their way.

Long story short:  no graphic descriptions of horrific violence.  Scary scenes:  yes, but not nearly as scary as that book by Immaculee Ilibagiza, Left to Tell. Of course Immaculee's book is the true story of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and The Plentiful Harvest is historical fiction set during the Sudanese civil war of 1983.  Both are actual events that I sadly knew little about.

The Plentiful Harvest is an inspiring tale of sweetness and courage, appropriate for teens and older.  I'm really glad I read it.  And I wouldn't mind reading more about Jack.  Thanks, John.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Quick Takes with the Maple Leaf Butter Cookie Recipe


--- 1 ---



I'm going to be an aunt (again) today!  Big prayer sendoff to my brother, Ed, my sister-in-law Adaire, and baby Edwina on the way.  They don't know if their having a boy or girl, but I had a dream last night.  My dreams have been pretty prophetic at times.  We shall see...

--- 2 ---


This made me chuckle.  Actually, I have great friends and no political rants, but yes, I made pancakes this week, and more importantly I made Maple Leaf Butter Cookies.

--- 3 ---

Maple Leaf Butter Cookies are delicious morsels of butter and sugar and real maple syrup that melt in your mouth.  They are the essence of autumnal seasonal change in a baked item.   The Chef's cousin put this recipe in our family cookbook and I will now bless you with it.

Maple Leaf Butter Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup, not pancake syrup
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour

1.  With electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in maple syrup and egg yolk until combined well.  Sift together salt and flour over mixture and fold in thoroughly.  Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 2 hours, or up to four days.  I don't know what happens to your chilled dough on the fifth day.  Mine never lasts that long.

2.  Preheat oven to 350.

3.  Divide dough in half.  Keeping one half chilled, lightly flour other half and on a lightly floured surface gently pound with a rolling pin to soften.  Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness and with floured leaf and/or acorn shaped cookie cutters, cut out cookies chilling (or eating) scraps.  Arrange cookies on buttered baking sheets and if desired, with back of knife, mark cookies decoratively.  I never do that.  Takes too long and I'm hungry.  Make more cookies in same manner with remaining dough and with all the scraps pressed together.

4.  Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until edges are golden, about 12 minutes, and transfer to racks to cool. 

Cookies keep in airtight containers for one week.  Again, I wouldn't know.  They disappear awfully fast around here.

You can additionally flavor the syrup with 3 drops of maple extract, or to taste.

Makes about 40 3-inch cookies.

--- 4 ---


You kind of really need the leaf cookie cutters for that recipe.  These are the ones I have.  I think I got them at Hobby Lobby.  (Shout out to Hobby Lobby for joining my dad in suing the govt. about the HHS mandate.)
--- 5 ---

Remember my foaming soap idea?  I was going to make my refills using the liquid handsoap.  Well, I've been using Bath and Bodyworks soaps because I got hung up on matching the scents of the soaps to the labels on the bottle. 

WARNING:  Bath and Bodyworks liquid soaps have these tiny blue granules in them that will clog and ruin your foaming soap dispenser.  I know from experience.  Now, I'm going to try their shower gels to make my refills so my scents are still matchy/matchy.  I'm not a fan of anti-bacterial, so shower gels are perfect.

I'm super bummed that B and B is not carrying the Leaves scent in soaps this year.  So I ordered the giant candle instead.

This is the pretty modest size.  I ordered the three wick.  Smells sooo good.

 

--- 6 ---


We did see The Trouble with the Curve last week.  It was...nice.  Definitely a rental and not worth the $21 it cost to see a last show surrounded by drunk people talking, laughing, and texting.

Note to self:  Late shows are filled with drunk people.



I will be certain not to make that mistake when I go see The Hobbit on December 14th, or Les Miserables on or soon after December 25th.





--- 7 ---

Well, Baby J is having Cheetos for breakfast, so I must be moving on, fighting crime and filth in my personal Metropolis.  Happy Fall Y'all!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What We're Reading Now, with a different shade of gray


You might think this book, The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey as shown above, is about dragons.

It's not.

It's about squirrels.

Seriously.

David Rain is a twenty year old college student, who acts like he's eleven.  He's renting a room from Liz Pennykettle, who has an eleven year old daughter, Lucy, who acts like she's three.  Liz is a potter who makes ceramic dragons.  The dragons she crafts are in the book somewhat, but don't come to life until the very end.  The book is mostly about David and Lucy trying to capture an injured squirrel before the mean neighbor, or the nasty crow get to it first.  Many chapter are devoted to the several other squirrels who all live in the backyard or at the library gardens, their names, personalities, relationships, etc.

DISAPPOINTED.

The book is clean if super boring.  Written for maybe a third grade interest level, but waaayy toooo loonng.  Check it out.  Many of the Amazon reviewers echo my sentiments exactly.


I first heard about Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz from fellow blogger, Faith Elizabeth Hough.  You can  read her favorable review here.  I agree with pretty much everything she says, but I won't let my kids read this book.  Not even my high schoolers.

It's not just the fact that one of the villains uses tarot cards.  Betsy, Tacy and Tib use a ouija board in one novel, but I didn't ban those books.   It's because at the moment when a different villain realizes he needs a child to perform a theft for him, he says,

...For the child believes--everything!  And feels--everything!  So much life, instinct, vital force--and then the first stirrings of adult desire.  Everything is potent, volatile...!  Why do people sacrifice infants in the Black Mass?  It makes them feel wicked;  that is something of course, but what strength is there in a suckling babe?  If one wants power, there is far more power in children!
Honestly.  Infant sacrifice and satanic rituals getting mentioned in a children's book.  My dander is up.  We don't play around with that kind of talk here.

Yes, it is a beautiful story, well-written, great characters.  Yes, even one of the villains goes to confession on her deathbed.  But some things don't belong in children's books.


The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin was a fascinating read.   This biography is told in third person, and at first felt a little awkward to my fiction loving ears.  But I became engrossed in the tales of Benedict Arnold's military heroism during the Revolutionary War.  I knew he was one of our nation's most famous traitors, but I didn't know the backstory (great war hero and close personal friend of G Dub, and by G Dub, I mean George Washington), and I certainly didn't know he got away with it!

Ooops.  Just gave away the ending, didn't I?  Sorry.  Your sons will like this one.  Maybe your daughters will too, but definitely your sons.



Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is the only novel with the words "shades of gray" in the title that I'm ever reading.  My library friends tell me that this YA novel is always on the pick list for holds because people are looking for something in the smut genre.  They must be so disappointed when they start reading the account of fifteen year old Lina's deportation from World War II Lithuania to Siberia.

But I wasn't disappointed at all.  This heart-wrenching story is so captivating.  Lina, her mother, and her ten year old brother, Jonas, are all captured by Soviets and sent to work camps in the Arctic Circle, along with millions of other Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, and Finns.  Lina uses her artistic talent to send messages and hope to her father and to other prisoners on the journey. 

The content doesn't shy from the disturbing.  Lina and her mother are forced to strip and shower in front of Soviet guards, at which point Lina is groped by a soldier.  Her friend, Andrius, is alive only because his mother agrees to sleep with the Soviets.  People die, and bodies are left in the snow for the foxes.  This book is definitely for the mature reader, probably high school at least.

Throughout the novel however, Lina's mother is a constant example of love, patience, kindness, generosity and hope.  Based on the ancestors of the author, this book brings light to a little discussed chapter of history, Stalin's genocide of nearly twenty million people.

I knew this book would be awesome when I saw a quote from my all-time favorite author, Richard Peck, on the back cover.  Bet you won't find his endorsement on those other books with similar titles.

Not quite the Shades of Gray most people are looking for, but the only one worth reading.

Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes - 75th Anniversary of The Hobbit!


--- 1 ---

Raise your hand if you know what a crusty bloomer is.

Is this what you were picturing?


I was delighted to find this invite on the interwebs a few weeks ago.



Go ahead, click on it.  It takes you to Bag End where you can download a pdf of games, recipes, tea coasters, grocery list, and printable Hobbit banner to celebrate today's anniversary. 

I'd make the seedcake, but I don't cook in grams and neither do hobbits or Harry Potter.  Also, I'm too lazy to google what caster sugar is.  I'm still worn out from googling crusty bloomers, and a little disappointed too.

But like most days, I had second breakfast today.  Darn tootin'.

--- 2 ---

Quick Takes are late today because I came down with the sniffles, and am currently sipping a hot toddy in hopes of recovery.  Plus, it's cold and rainy, and I needed an excuse to try out the Kirkland brand bourbon.  Good stuff.



--- 3 ---

Want to know the secret to getting your thirteen-year-old daughter to say you are "best mom in the whole wide world?"

Reversible jeans.

Seriously.  Pockets inside and outside of the pants.  One layer of denim:  one side is polka dot, the other is solid.  They cost a little more, but they count as two pairs of jeans.  I wish I had some.  They also come in houndstooth (almost got those) and camoflage.
 
--- 4 ---

Movies I would like to see this weekend, if I didn't have kids in sports at inconvenient times and live-in babysitters with social lives:  The Trouble with the Curve.



I love Gran Torino and Enchanted.  Therefore it's a foregone conclusion that I will love Clint and Amy on screen together.  If I ever get to see it.

Plus, then I can sneak in some of my lifetime supply of candy corn to munch on WITH popcorn.  Mmmmmm.  Like pb and j, bacon and eggs, cookies and milk.  Try it.  It's ah-mazing.  The secret is one candy corn to every 5 or 6 popcorns.  This might be part of my dental problem.

--- 5 ---

Thanks to Cari, I laughed til I cried last night while reading random found grocery lists here and here.  For Christmas, I so very much want the book, Milk, Eggs, Vodka.  The Chef kept telling me it wasn't that funny, but it was.  Honestly, why would anyone's grocery list include the word "Toe?"

My grocery list writing will never again include the cryptic "bnls/sknls chkn brsts" but forevermore I can summarize with "chicken boobs."

And to the grocery list collector who stole/found my very long two column list at Costco yesterday...the one on the paper that says, "I carpool therefore I am." at the top of the page, I still needed that list.  Costco was only one column.  When I got the regular grocery store, sans list, I forgot the swiss chard for the minestrone tonight which de-railed my dinner plans, once again forcing us to get pizza.

Can you tell how disappointed we are?  Little sacrifices made with great love.  of pizzapolishing my halo

--- 6 ---

The Chef loves Eric and Kathy.  He says he doesn't.  But I just know he does.  That's why he loves it when I hide their flyers in his briefcase, underwear drawer, coffee beans, etc.


What's not to love?

I know that those are screams of delight not terror when he opens the medicine cabinet to these smiling visages.




That's how I know he's going to love QT #7.

--- 7 ---

There's a rectory I pass every day, many times a day, on the way to my own parish.  This time of year, the folks in charge of the rectory decor bust out a flag with the sentiment, "Happy Fall Y'all!"  

The Chef would really love for you to inundate his fb page with that sentiment.  He loves it so much.  Just like he adores Eric and Kathy.
 So get into the spirit of the season and spread some autumnal cheer by joining me in wishing The Chef a



For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross



--- 1 ---

Last night, a neighbor emailed me and several others on the block, asking if we wanted to do a block garage sale.  Thank goodness she didn't call, because I would have laughed in her face ear.



I did a garage sale once.  I think I spent $10 on labels and tags, 20+ hours sorting and tagging, 4-6 hrs.  sitting in the driveway feeling angry/disappointed/ripped off, and I made a total of $8.  That left me in the hole $2602 because I place a $100 per hour premium on my time.

I think I might have spent all of my $8 at my neighbors' garage sales.  I do treasure the unused boxed set of Anne of Green Gables books that I got from the neighbor to the north, but the Beethoven VHS cassettes from my neighbor to the south were not a big hit.  No, not Beethoven the composer, Beethoven the St. Bernard dog who made almost as many movies as Mary Kate and Ashley.



At the end of the day, I had to haul all that crap back into my basement because I don't have a garage.

If I needed any more confirmations that garage sales are a bad idea, my across-the-street neighbor is having one today.

Pray for her.  It's going to be a long day.  She keeps hollering at her two-year old to stay out of the street, and putting her four-year old in time out on the front steps.  Oops.  Four-year old just hit two-year old because she didn't get to put the $1 in the cash box at the lemonade stand.  Did I mention the only customer is the aunt?  It's going to be a long day for them.

--- 2 ---

Now, I just keep large boxes on the treadmill in the basement, called the "Giveway" boxes.  That's what treadmills are for, right?  Anytime someone cleans out a drawer or a closet, they can deposit in the Giveaway box.  When the pile is large enough, I make the trek to St. Vincent de Paul.  The employees come unload my car, and hand me a nice piece of paper to mark my tax deduction.  

--- 3 ---



Temps are falling here.  The weather is still gorgeous, but I did light my pumpkin-scented candle yesterday.  Last night, I made chili and tonight we are going to try this Butternut Squash, Wild Rice, Smoked Sausage Soup.  No, it's not meatless, but I'm working on that.    Why isn't the feast of the exaltation of the cross a solemnity?  grumble.  grumble.
 --- 4 ---



Now the Chef tells me that we are supposed to eat pesto tonight, because St. Helen found the remains of the true cross under a basil plant.   Apparently in the Eastern Church, they lay the cross on a bed of basil during this feast.  The Chef got his intel from Fr. Z's blogpost here.   Gotta love the term "penitential festivity."

Guess we'll be having the soup tomorrow night.

--- 5 ---

Sweet and sour Grace linked up to this post at Ain't No Mom Jeans regarding Lands' End new colored pants.  I had already vociferously voiced my opposition to this fad before I read the review of the LE new colored chinos and fits.


Well, yesterday a friend called and said, "Why are you hating on the colored pants and then I see you in them?!"

I was intrigued by the rave review, and Susan and I went to our local inlet to do a test drive.  She got the slim ankle cords in Raisin, and I came home with slim ankle chino pants in Light Raspberry Wine and Umber as shown above, minus the leopard print heels.  Still looking for those.  I'm saving up to get the Mazarine
Blue ones too.  Because when I find pants that fit, I stockpile.  I love them.  And they feel like autumn.

And if someday Lands' End wants to send me free pairs to review online, all the better.


--- 6 ---

 Same with See Kai Run, Baby J's favorite shoe brand.  She currently wears a 6.



The Chef painted Baby J's toenails this week.  Then it cooled off, plus she has new shoes, so they have not been visible to the public.  The Chef accused me of conspiring to keep her lime green piggies covered up.  As if.



--- 7 ---
  

Currently, Baby J is done playing with the Bananagrams I dumped out for her and demands eye contact.  
The garage sale across the street is accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It's going to be a beautiful weekend.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What We're Reading Wednesday: YA and Board Books




The Chef's college RA, and published author, Jason Henderson has been using UD names in his teen vampire series featuring fourteen-year-old, Alex Van Helsing.  First, I caught a cameo of former UD Student Government president, Fred Schunk, and then Vienna Cazorla showed up.  Could she be a distant relation to Profesora Hazel Cazorla (ca-thor-la) of UD Spanish Dept. fame?  Who will be next?



I like these fast-paced adventure novels.  Vampires are shown to be evil, soulless, demon-like beings, that must be destroyed.  No romantic view of these predators.  Alex Van Helsing is a lot like the Alex Rider of James Patterson's books for kids, capable, intelligent, mature. 

In the second book, Voice of the Undead, Van Helsing's mother makes an appearance, and she happens to be a witch.  More witches are introduced in the third book, The Triumph of Death, and they all appear to be "good,"  fighting for the downfall of vampires, protecting humans, healing Alex when he is injured.  Alex teams up with Astrid, a young "adept," and together they save mankind once again. 

If paranormal beings don't bother you, Alex Van Helsing's adventures are fine for middle school and up.



I finished the second book in the Century series, Star of Stone, by Pierdomenico Baccalario.  I read and reviewed the first book a few years ago and liked it.  But Star of Stone includes little to no background information, no recap of the Roman adventure in Ring of Fire. I may have liked this book if I had just finished Ring of Fire, or remembered any of it, but I doubt it because Star of Stone seems to be all action and little plot development.  I am reminded of seasons of Lost that told good adventure stories, but failed to reveal any clues as to why there were there in the first place.

Also, an elderly woman describes her life with a character from the first book, emphasizing that she was not his wife.  Maybe their relationship was purely platonic, but she lived in his house.  Suspicious minds....


Baby J is in that phase where she wants you to read her a book an infinite number of times in one sitting, until I hide the book.  Some books that I can read three times without going insane are:



Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett.  I love this book.  I love the square shape and the super thick pages.  The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and the text is downright genius.  Now, I must find everything Emily Gravett ever published and see if all of her books are so lovely and clever.


See what I mean?

I went on Amazon and order some of the other titles from the Little Simon Classic Board Book label.  Nancy Tafuri's Five Little Chicks and Blue Goose are also good.



Baby J is also in a huge animal phase.  I swear she knows more animal sounds than words in English.  She calls any books with animals in it, "Moo."  She loves Margaret Wise Brown's Big Red Barn.  After the first read, we just flip pages and make noises.  I try to emphasize the ending where all the animals go to sleep.  She's not getting it, though.



Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton is the other barnyard classic getting lots of mileage these days.  It's short and it's sweet.  What more could you ask for in a board book for the under two crowd?



Friday, September 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes


--- 1 ---

A few of the wonderful things about St. Louis can be seen in this excellent vimeo.  Watch it, if not for great shots of St. Louis, at least to hear a cool song about my other home away from home, Rome.



I, being from the North side, would not have included Ted Drewe's, but rather Fritz's Frozen Custard, because it's better.  I also would have included the other cathedral, the oldest church west of the Mississippi, the Old Cathedral.  I'm sure they had to make some cuts or the video would need a way longer song, like Let It Be, Bye, Bye Miss American Pie, or all 7 verses of Home on the Range.  


I'm so happy they included the Basilica, which has the largest collection of mosaics outside of Byzantium.  I met Mother Teresa there.  She kissed me on the forehead.  I was waiting in this super long line to use the bathroom and a limo pulled up.  She got out and kissed me.  I wish there were pictures of this event.  I was just a kid at the time.  So, when she gets canonized, I'll be a third class relic, sort of. 


--- 2 ---

If you missed my seven nonsensical quick takes last week, it was because we went to the Lou for two birthdays and a baptism, and a showing of the Lion King at the Fabulous Fox, also not in the vid. 

Oh, btw, I'm on Instagram now.  You know my handle.
--- 3 ---

Also not featured in the video is Cafe Ventana, a coffee shop that sells fresh beignets out of a very old building near St. Louis U.
 
My bro, Frank Third, my godson, Frank Fourth, The Chef (he thinks he looks way cooler in this pic than the one above), Baby J and my pumpkin spiced chai latte, cause you know how I feel about coffee.  blech.

If you don't know what a beignet is, I feel so bad for you.  If you can't get to Cafe Ventana to have one, try the original awesomeness in the French Quarter, NOLA, at Cafe DuMonde.

I had some very artsy photos of the buildings that house Cafe Ventana and the neat alley between them, but my camera and my computer are in a fight.  My kids said the place reminded them of Diagon Alley.  Maybe you can see the pics next week on Housewifespice's Facebook page.  What?  You are not familiar with the FB page for Housewifespice?  You should "like" it.  More on this later.

--- 4 ---

I gifted my brother, pictured above, father of my newest godson, a copy of this literary gem.  Yes, it's crude.  Yes, I find it very funny.  Yes, I am a low-class, horrible person.  Go ahead and judge.

Yes.  After derision and judgement, I'm still finding it funny.  Cause I've been there. 




You can listen to the dulcet tones of Samuel L. Jackson reading this bedtime classic below, but make sure the kids can't hear it.



--- 5 ---

Cari's virtual 5K is coming up and I'm still sweating away at booty camp.

What do you wear when you sweat?  What do you wear when you sweat and you do jumping jacks and you've delivered five children?

No, I'm asking for a friend, not me.  That kind of thing never happens to me.  

I am so sorry for that visual.  
 
--- 6 ---

I did a real book review this week, for a book that someone sent me in the mail.  You may have missed it because I only linked to it via the Housewifespice facebook page, not my personal page.  If you haven't liked the Housewifespice page on facebook, you should, so I don't have to bombard all the regular people on facebook who don't want to see when I post.

--- 7 ---

Speaking of posts and blogging, the Chef keeps quoting this YouTube video to me.  I think he's mocking me, and I don't think it's that funny.  Hmmph.

 
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Great Lunch Makeover Part 2

Remember this post from last school year?  The one where I share my wheat germ toast story and whine about square sandwiches?

I have resolved to do better this year.  And so far, so good. 


I got every recipe that follows from Pioneer Woman's newer cookbook, Food from My Frontier, or my collection of Cook's Country magazines (all of their recipes are available on their website for a fee or a free two week trial), or the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, henceforth referred to as ATKFC


Week One:

I made PW's Chicken Salad, which I served in some Flat Out wraps.  Unlike her, I started with boneless, skinless chicken breast that got baked in the oven.  Also, I omitted the sugar.  Some of my kids liked it, some didn't.  Most picked out the almonds.  But they all ate it and that's the most important thing.

Because I had baked so many chicken breasts, I also made PW's Curried Chicken Pasta Salad to change things up a bit.  The girls loved this, the boys, not so much.  Something to do with raisins.  It still went pretty fast.  I served it in pyrex or snapware, or recycled Hillshire Farm plastic boxes.  No bread, just pasta.

Week Two:

Muffaletta.



I discovered this treasure when we were on vacay in Michigan.  Make one giant sandwich on a round loaf of bread, and cut it into wedges like a pizza.  Voila!  Many sandwiches!

In MI, we made our own olive salad.  It was expensive and time consuming.  Back home, I found that Costco carries jars of muffaletta olive salad.  They are also expensive, but not time consuming.

Traditional muffaletta uses salami, provolone, and mortadella, which is an high-end Italian bologna (both of which are carried by my Costco).  But we have found that ham, or any nice deli meats and cheese will work.  Whatever is in the fridge and will be outdated soonest is always my first pick.

Everyone is loving the muffaletta.  Triangular sandwiches are big winners.





This is a Cook's Country recipe.  To. Die. For.  You can see it here at Epicurious:  Steak Quesadillas with Roasted Red Peppers and Boursin.  I heart Boursin. 



I accidentally bought these pain-in-the-keister tortillas that are raw when you buy them, but excellent when you cook them for a few seconds on each side in a nonstick skillet. 

Please don't feel like you have to use strip steaks.  Any steak will do.  When I ran out of steak, I used thinly slice pork loin.  Still awesome.

Week Three:

No, I didn't send Heinekens to school.  Yet.


I made PW's Drip Beef, which is a Lazy Man's Italian Beef.  And I made it in the slow cooker, which is even lazier, but it's cooler on these hot, muggy days.  It's pretty darn good too. 

Pioneer Woman classed up her recipe for the cookbook.  No nasty Campbell's Beef Consomme, but rather Swanson's Beef Broth was pictured.  Also, instead of generic dried Italian seasoning, she uses a couple tablespoons of fresh rosemary.  The Drip Beef recipe from the cookbook is the hot and spicy version from her website.  "Don't worry.  It's not that hot," said the girl addicted to giardinera from Chicago.

Throw some of those leftovers in a nice bun.  Microwave for a minute.  Wrap in clingwrap.  Throw in a napkin, cause it's gonna be messy, and you have Edmund's favorite lunch ever.

And The Vegetarian Option for Meatless Fridays:



Tortellini Salad.  Yes, I bought the cheese-filled tortellini at Costco, but I imagine some people shop other places that might sell it.  I asked the Chef to throw together the recipe that's in my battered ATKFC. This salad includes such culinary delights as blanched asparagus and fresh grape tomatoes.  He made it on a Thursday night and it fed everyone on a Friday and me all weekend long.  Very delicious.

What will the future bring?

I've discovered the bread and the spread are what makes the sandwich dull.  In addition to pretzel buns (which I discovered last year), I'm going to try these torta rolls. 


And this Mezzetta Sandwich Spread, which comes in many varieties.  I bought the Chimichurri flavor.


Ooooh.  The Mezzetta website has some good-looking recipes too.

Also, I found a page in that ATKFC with all kinds of great sandwich ideas including a chipotle mayo, baby dill pickles, tapenade, apples and chutney. 

We're gonna get funky...funky...funky...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What We're Reading Wednesday

John Torres kindly sent me a copy of his book, The Plentiful Harvest to review. 



And then he waited very patiently for me to get my $tuff together and actually read it.

It was difficult for me to read this book, because I made the mistake of reading the back cover first.  It said, "blah, blah, blah, travels to Jabra in southern Sudan, blah, blah, blah, meets Jenelle, blah, blah, blah, Their happy time together is cut short when an army from the north invades the area, ruthlessly killing men, women, and children, and Jack is thrust into the role of saving what remains of the world that Jenelle revealed to him."

Ooooh.  A serious book, about serious things, for grown ups.  Not usually my thing.  But I persevered, determined not to let John down.

Despite some initial frustration with the lack of commas on the first page, I fell for Jack, who I think would be cast by either the late Chris Farley, or the late John Candy in the movie version of this book.  Jack is overweight and unemployed in Brooklyn, 1983.  His girlfriend dumps him in chapter one.  He's about to get cut off from his unemployment benefits, when he decides to answer an ad in The Economist for an airport directorship in south Sudan. 

A series of well described mishaps cause Jack to actually get hired for the position on the very day he gets evicted from his apartment.

He moves to Jabra, takes over the airport, meets the lovely Jenelle, rediscovers his Catholic faith, is about to propose to the girl and live happily ever after when BAM!  Sharia law is passed and a murderous army systematically tears through the country destroying villages and everything in their way.

Long story short:  no graphic descriptions of horrific violence.  Scary scenes:  yes, but not nearly as scary as that book by Immaculee Ilibagiza, Left to Tell. Of course Immaculee's book is the true story of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and The Plentiful Harvest is historical fiction set during the Sudanese civil war of 1983.  Both are actual events that I sadly knew little about.

The Plentiful Harvest is an inspiring tale of sweetness and courage, appropriate for teens and older.  I'm really glad I read it.  And I wouldn't mind reading more about Jack.  Thanks, John.