Are you sick of pumpkin yet?

I’m not… I can’t help it. I’m the lunatic running around buying up all of the cans of pumpkin at this time of year. When you can’t find it in August don’t come crying to me… I’m Elaine from Seinfeld. Only a few are pumpkin worthy. And yes, I realize that you can find pumpkin in the grocery most of the year. But this one time I really wanted pumpkin squash soup and there wasn’t any to be found. I went without. Carrying that sorrow with me, I stock pile. It’s who I am.

So I have 1 can of pumpkin and it makes two fantastic desserts: Crustless microwave pumpkin pie & Pumpkin brownies

pumpkinpie in a cupCrustless microwave pumpkin pie:

1/2 c canned pumpkin

1 egg, beaten

sprinkles pumpkin pie spice

sprinkles cinnamon

1/4 t vanilla

Whipped topping

Mix all together in a microwaveable cup. Nuke 2 minutes. Top with whipped topping. Mmmm

Then you have the rest of that can left… so this is what I decided to do with it:

pumpkin based brownie

PaleOMG posted these fantastic sweet potato brownies which I LOVE! But I had 3/4 of a can of  pumpkin. And it was STILL fantastic! Best thing ever? Everyone in my family eats these brownies. They have not a care that they aren’t horrible for them. Win.

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All Woman and Springtime and Korean Beef

I’m a huge fan of literary journeys. I don’t start them on purpose but I guess I like to jump in rabbit holes… and once I’m in that hole, the experience just becomes part of me. One rabbit hole leads to another and the next thing I know I’ve taken a whole adventure that I never planned or wanted but am grateful for none-the-less. Sometimes the journeys are just short, two or three books. Sometimes they are five or more books. The only thing for certain is that the books rarely are tied together in anyway other than having some tidbit that makes sense with the other books I’ve read. I’m not even certain that others following the same journey will get the same experience – or heck even be able to identify the same thread! I’m not certain how long this next journey will last or even what the combined thread will be – BUT I’ve started it.. and it’s up to you if you’d like to journey along with me.

This is a fictional work following the journey of three North Korean women as they enter the world of human trafficking. Here’s the description from the authors website:

Before she met Il-sun in an orphanage, Gi was a hollow husk of a girl, broken from growing up in one of North Korea’s forced-labor camps. A mathematical genius, she has learned to cope with pain by retreating into a realm of numbers and calculations, an escape from both the past and present. Gi becomes enamored of the brash and radiant Il-sun, a friend she describes as “all woman and spring- time.” But Il-sun’s pursuit of a better life imperils both girls when her suitor spirits them across the Demilitarized Zone and sells them as sex workers, first in South Korea and then in the United states.

This spellbinding debut, reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha, depicts—with chilling accuracy—life behind North Korea’s iron curtain. But for Gi and Il-sun, forced into the underworld of human trafficking, their captivity outside North Korea is far crueler than the tight control of their “Dear Leader.”

Tenderhearted Gi, just on the verge of womanhood, is consigned to a fate that threatens not only her body but her mind. How she and Il-sun endure, how they find a path to healing, is what drives this absorbing and exquisite novel–from an exciting young Algonquin discovery—to its perfectly imagined conclusion.

What I liked: Resolution. While all of the loose ends didn’t tie up in the manner that I would have prefered, they did indeed end up knotted. I like a feeling of finality in emotionally charged books.

What I didn’t care for: Well, let’s face it. A book about the sex trade is going to get a bit graphic at times. I do appreciate that he wasn’t at any point gratuitous about it.

Over all, I definitely recommend it for mature audiences. When I read this book I had no idea that it was the start of a journey…. until I picked up the next one… which I think deserves it’s own post. I was tempted to serve McDonald’s cheese burgers to chat this book up based upon a scene in the book… but instead I decided to go with a more classic dish, albeit a lazy americanized version:

**Sorry about this pic – I had to bribe hubby to take it of his lunch. We were all so taken in by the smell of this fantastic beef cooking that we just gobbled it up! Didn’t even think to take a picture until too late. Thanks Mr. Hero!!!**

Korean Beef

1/2 to 1 cup beef broth

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 T sesame oil

1 T sugar

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 t pepper

1 beef blade roast 2# or more – I used 3#

Stir all ingredients except beef in crock pot. Place Beef in liquid turning a couple of times to cover all sides. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Shred with a fork and serve on rolls. Mine wasn’t on rolls but still was fantastic.

Meal Plan 11/24/12

First my newest breakfast addiction, I like to call it my ‘Breakfast of Champions’:

It’s about 1/3 of a bag of the frozen pepper & onion blend sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Add maybe 1-1/2 cups of frozen hashbrowns. Sprinkle with seasoning salt. Brown until yummy and delicious. I like to have 2 clementines and a cup of coffee 🙂 This is my little attempt to make a baby step towards a more paleo lifestyle. I realize potatoes are a matter of debate in paleo – but hey, it’s not toast or oatmeal! Baby steps, baby steps.

This weeks menu:

Sunday: Korean beef (on rolls for the rest of the family), stir-fry veggies. **Recipe and inspiration will be included in a blog post soon!**

Monday: Hamburgers (on buns for the rest of the family), broccoli

Tuesday: My late night to work so Mr. Hero hosts a junk food night 😡

Wednesday: Beef vegetable soup (crackers for everyone else)

Thursday: Asian meatball lettuce boats & cake ~ Little Pixie’s request for her last night meal. She has oral surgery in the morning. Wish us all luck, we’re all a little nuts about it.

Friday: For Little Pixie – jello, pudding, chicken soup… the rest of us – grilled fish po boys, rice & veggies

Saturday: Parade day!!! Little man will be in a morning parade & I’ll be representing my library with our on the fly book cart drill team. Hopefully Mr. Hero remembers to record us and I’ll post it for you all. Anyway – after so many parades and being in the elements, we’ll want something warm and yummy with no fuss. We’ll have super easy chicken in the crockpot with italian seasonings. When we’re ready to eat, I’ll melt a brick of cream cheese in the liquid. Serve it over noodles or potatoes.

I hope to also find the time to make a good bone broth though with surgeries and final projects, I’m not sure this will be my week. I need to find a good source for the bones. Any suggestions?

Coffee Milk & a good mystery

I love a good who-done-it. I’m not much for the blood and gore ~ or even the psychological thrillers… But I love the challenge of trying to figure out who and why.. My current favorite is Cleo Coyle’s Coffee House Mysteries.

What I like about it: Clare is a funny, nosey independent woman with all of the insecurities as the rest of us. She’s likeable as are the other characters. What I like even more is that her novels don’t follow a repetitive tried and true formula. If you’ve read one, you haven’t necessarily read them all.

What I don’t care for: I find them over all enjoyable but I have to admit sometimes I skip over the coffee history details. They are interesting to some degree but I’m not trying to write a research paper.

This series is a bit of a cheater series for my food/book combos because the recipes are included!!! But not just for coffee drinks – main dishes, desserts, you name it. I just finished the Decaffeinated Corpse so I’ve selected a recipe out of it, and added a little twist for the holidays 🙂 In the book Clare serves something called Coffee Milk which is a sweetened coffee syrup mixed with milk. I used Dunkin Donuts Gingerbread Cookie coffee to make my syrup for an extra treat.

Ingredients:

1 cup ground coffee

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

Start by brewing the coffee in your coffee maker. It doesn’t take long and creates a super strong cup or two of coffee.

Pour coffee into sauce pan and heat over medium. Slowly stir in sugar.

Simmer and stir until slightly thickened. Cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

To serve: Stir 2 T coffee syrup into a glass of milk. Adjust ratio to your taste.

It’s Nestle Quik all grown up!

Vietnamese… and includes a menu plan

This awesome lady introduced me to something Pho-n & fantastic ~ Consider yourself educated on the proper pronunciation of Pho, which is not Foe. Betcha don’t forget.

Anyway – this is The Inappropriate Homeschooler. Perhaps you’ve met? If not, stop by and see her… no food though, mostly just laughs. Perhaps one day she’ll teach us how to make Pho. It is a beef noodle soup that is more like a buffet than a one dish meal.  We put some rice noodles at the bottom of a bowl. Then some thinly sliced raw beef is layered on top. Then this amazing broth made from literally everything is ladled over the top. This cooks the beef. The broth is a bone broth with pork meatballs too. Heaven. Then top it off with cilantro, hoisin sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Yum, yum, yum. She learned to make this dish from her mother-in-law, it’s a family classic. This made me crave my favorite family classic: Cabbage Rolls… Mmm.

So here’s the menu:

Sunday: Cabbage Rolls with mashed potatoes

Monday: Hoppin’ John and corn bread

Tuesday: (junk food night) Chicken nuggets, macaroni & cheese, veggie & fruit

Wednesday: on the road to hubby’s parent’s farm in Tennessee for Thanksgiving

Thursday: Delicious family togetherness… can’t wait. This year I get to contribute dressing. I like mine with apples, sausage, onions & celery. Everyone makes theirs different… what’s yours?

Friday: on the road home… I’m working the library Saturday. Hey, ya gotta read.

Saturday: Crockpot chicken, rice & veggie.

That’s our week. Since I don’t cook Thanksgiving on my own anymore, I happily cook all week-long. In years before we started heading to the in-laws, I would make cheater meals like baked potato bar, grilled cheese, or other easy peasy meals for the days leading up to Thanksgiving so I could prep the big show. How about your family? How do you spread out the work of the big meal?

Girl Scout Bake Sale Goodness

As promised, here’s the S’more Chippers that were prepared for the Sandy Relief Bake Sale. These sold out, thankfully. Who wants to have the dud item that doesn’t sell? Or is the last to go… the pity sale. People only buy it because nothing else is left and it’s a great cause… Thankfully these weren’t the case.

1 big log of refrigerated cookie dough

Big marshmallows – cut in half cross wise.

Chocolate coating

Preheat oven to 350. Drop dough by teaspoonful and bake for 9 – 11 minutes. The cookies should be slightly under cooked.

Place marshmallow on cookie with cut side down.

Replace in oven and bake about 2 more minutes or until cookie is set and marshmallow is puffed. This is the time to melt the chocolate coating so it’s ready to top the cookies. Let cool for 2 minutes. Lightly smoosh the marshmallow flat.

Top with melted chocolate coating.

Enjoy!

What are your bake sale favorites? Have you ever had a dud?

Food of the Gods

I should just be upfront from the beginning… I have a love affair with YA. Sure there are other books that I snuggle up with on cold evenings, but when I’m with YA it’s fast and furious. I’m willing to go without food and sleep just to stay there in that moment.

This is my current infatuation. I’m in Book 4, The Battle of the Labyrinth. If I’m going to fully confess, I should also point out that I’m a dealer. I got my whole family hooked on them. They were able to read them quicker because I was busy reading scholarly journal articles on the importance of family literacy. Does anyone see the irony in that?

The Percy Jackson series is part of the action/adventure genre so popular with tweens. And according to CommonSense Media – my go to for age ratings – it’s completely appropriate for ages 8 and up. I can attest to it being completely entertaining for adults as well. I’ve always loved the idea of a family book club for parents and kids to bond. It’s a great way to discuss heavy issues without actually personally talking about them. This book series would be a great place to start.

Percy is a half-blood, born of a Greek god and a mortal mother. Trouble seems to find him where ever he is. He has an inspiring cast of characters that include girls, a satyr and various other mythical characters. Did you love mythology growing up? Do you want to round out a study of mythology with something fun? This series is great for you.

What I like about it: Percy has ADHD and dyslexia. He’s great for building self-esteem in especially boys dealing with these issues. Percy also has a great relationship with his mom. I have a pet peeve of any books targeted at kids that makes every adult out to be a total idiot.

Criticism: Actually, I loved the whole thing. However, I am aware that some Christian religions have a serious problem with discussions of mythology, magic or other non-Christian topics. In this book the gods of mythology are real and are honored and prayed to for help. If reading about this in a fictional setting is contrary to your religion then this series would be a bad fit.

Throughout the book the gods eat Ambrosia – well it is the food of the gods, no? So that’s what we had!

My Quick & Easy Ambrosia:

1 Lg can fruit salad w/ cherries, drained

1 banana, sliced

1 1/2 c tropical mini marshmallows

3/4 c low-fat vanilla yogurt

1/2 c coconut shreds

Mix in a bowl. Enjoy.

Admittedly, this isn’t your foodie gourmet. But it is delicious, easy & used up some of those canned goods cluttering up my pantry!

Have you read Percy Jackson’s series? Did you love it? (Please no spoilers… I’m not through yet!)