Iraqi Girl – cookies and global perspective

Could you really ask for anything more than cookies and global perspective all wrapped up into one quick read? Have your heard of IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq? Here’s the blurb from Booklist:

“Despite all the news coverage about the war in Iraq, very little is reported
about how it affects the daily lives of ordinary citizens. A highschooler in the
city of Mosul fills in the gap with this compilation of her blog posts about
living under U.S. occupation. She writes in English because she wants to reach
Americans, and in stark specifics, she records the terrifying dangers of car
bombs on her street and American warplanes overhead, as well as her everyday
struggles to concentrate on homework when there is no water and electricity at
home. Her tone is balanced: she does not hate Americans, and although she never
supported Saddam Hussein, she wonders why he was executed… Readers will
appreciate the details about family, friends, school, and reading Harry Potter,
as well as the  ever-present big issues for which there are no simple answers.”
—Hazel Rochman, Booklist

And for a little added insight here’s her actual blog which continues through October 2012. Admittedly, I read both the book and blog which might seem redundant. But I found that the added content in both enriched both. Not everything on the blog makes it into the book. And not everything in the book is on the blog. The book has a lot of “helps” contextual references to help place comments or events. In my opinion this would be an excellent One Book or Big Read project for a high school. I think it would be particularly difficult for children with military ties to read. Us military families view our military members as heros… that’s not the perspective that will be presented in the book.

What I liked: Global perspective. I have my own opinion about many of the issues. I won’t say that I agree or support the views represented by the author. BUT I do acknowledge the great courage and apparent transparant spirit with which it was written. Let’s face it, that’s what produces a great memoir and teaches us all something.

What I didn’t love: It’s a real blog written in the beginning by a 15 year old girl, with all of the randomness and silliness that a 15 year old girl has to offer. It’s not snuggle up by the fire, easy read material. I think that’s the value in having it as a read for teens, it will give them something to identify with. As parents we can see our children in a horrible situation.

Throughout the book she talks considerably about food… now this is a girl after my own heart! The best times seem to be Eid which is a big religious celebration. She makes what I believe are Klaicha:


Here’s my recipe made with dried apricots, not dates… because, well it’s what I had on hand.

1/4 c water

8 oz dried apricots

2 T butter

2 T honey

1/2 t almond extract

1 refrigerated pie crust

1 egg beaten

Chop apricots. Place in a pan with all ingredients EXCEPT pie crust and egg. Heat, stirring occassionally until apricots puff and liquid is thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut circles from pie crust using a drinking glass. Fill each circle with a scant teaspoon of apricots and fold over into a half moon. Brush with a bit of egg and seal by crimping the edge. Brush top with egg & sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired. Bake at 400 for about 12 minutes or until golden brown.

** I should say I loved these with tea. My family didn’t think they were sweet enough… 😦


Post-Christmas Meal Planning

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Ours was blessed for certain. Here’s what I cooked up this holiday:

soapLooks good enough to eat right? I wouldn’t recommend it! It’s Chocolate Peppermint soap. I love handmade soap. In a previous life, I owned a soap making business. I used to whip up 5 to 10 pounds of soap 2 or 3 times per week. These days, maybe once or twice per year. I love to have it on hand for those last minute holiday gifts. I hope that following graduation – in oh say 17 weeks!!!! – I’ll have more time for hobbies. Remember those? Yea, me either 😉

I did find myself over indulging in sweets a bit much. Which is one reason why this…

practical paleo

was so exciting to find under the Christmas tree! Does Mr. Hero know how to make me happy or what? Have you checked out Practical Paleo yet? Well, you haven’t had the opportunity if you are a patron at my library… because I keep renewing! But good news for everyone else… I now have my own copy!!! Yay!!! **I’m actually excited enough to show you a real live picture from Christmas morning, sockmonkey pajamas and all.**

Here’s my week of recovery from holiday indulgence…

Saturday – Salmon & Gouda quiche

Sunday – Mustard Glazed Chicken Thighs, Green salad

Monday – Grilled steak w/ peppers & onions and snacks for the late night: roasted chick peas, popcorn, veggie plate for me

Tuesday – Pork & Sauerkraut for good luck!

Wednesday – Meatloaf burgers and veggies

Thursday – Fish and roasted sweet potatoes

Friday – Cheesy pizzas

Saturday – Baked chicken legs & garlic pasta with peas

Treat for the week: Banana Oatmeal Cookies

So are you in holiday recovery mode too? Or do you continue the holiday indulging all of the way through New Years? Or better yet, do you not over indulge at all?

Menu Plan 12/17/12

First – have you seen this commercial? I know it’s for HBO DVD gifts, but the titles work for book gifts as well.. HILARIOUS!!

Aside from gift giving – December is rush using by for me!!! Tell me it’s not just me in the whirlwind… we are trying to absorb and enjoy every single ounce of this Advent season. I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten a little fast and free with all of the sugar which affects my mood… so I am utilizing one of my favorite healthy food resources: Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook by Sarah Fragoso I love it so much that at some point I’ll have to actually highlight some of my favorites… anyway, I’m getting myself on track just in time… here’s the menu:

Monday: Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Bake with salad

Tuesday: (Daddy’s junk food night) hot dogs and french fries

Wednesday: Easy Pulled Pork and broccoli

Thursday: Meatloaf burgers with sweet potatoes and peas

Friday: Cheese pizzas 🙂 – hey it’s tradition!

Saturday: Out for Mr. Hero’s birthday

Sunday: Tacos corn and probably rice

I hope you all have a wonderful week leading up to Christmas!! Pop over and check out some other menus at MPM

menu plan monday

Menu Plan 12/9/12

table settingSo we’re a week into Advent, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. My advent focus is on homemaking this year. Doesn’t that sound just perfect? Preparing my home and making it warm and welcoming perfectly reflects the spirit of the season, I think. I’m using Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson as my guide. It’s one of those library books you check out but realize that it’s so amazing, you have to buy it.

Anyway, on to the menu… some of our meals ended up being big enough to do double duty last week, so you’ll see a couple that we didn’t get to on this week’s menu as well.

Sunday – Tuna noodle casserole

Monday – Spaghetti & meatballs

Tuesday – potato skins & something else like meatballs

Wednesday – Cheese & broccoli soup, grilled chicken

Thursday – Chicken and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans

Friday – Cheese pizzas

Saturday – Beef vegetable soup & biscuits

Sunday – Catfish po’boys, french fries & veggies

menu plan monday

I hope you all have a wonderful week!


seoultown bookAnd my Korean journey continues with a delightful host, Debbie Lee. She has a cookbook titled: Seoultown Kitchen: Korean Pub Grub to Share with Family and Friends. Seriously, Pub Grub… seems to fit right in after the All Woman and Springtime now doesn’t it? Now if I were just dressed in a short plaid skirt and fishnets the journey would be complete… or we’d all lose our appetites!! But back to Debbie… you might remember her from The Next Food Network Star on the Food Network. She currently operates a snack bar ahn-joo ( in Glendale, CA. Obviously snack food or “pub grub” are her specialties. I can’t get to Glendale, but good news for me – she tells us how to do it ourselves!

What I love: The pictures are amazing. The recipes mostly quick and easy. Did I mention there is a whole chapter dedicated to pork belly?

The recipe I made to share was the Curry Burger Rice in the A Round Table of Ground chapter. I’m not leading with a photo though because mine looked a little like the chunky stuff that comes back up after a pub crawl and not something that you’d voluntarily eat during… just to be honest. But it tasted like HEAVEN and it was totally easy. I made the curry up until the point that you stir in the yogurt on Sunday and refrigerated it until later in the week. That evening I came home, reheated the curry, made some rice & grilled the burgers. We had a wonderful, made from scratch meal in about 30 minutes that evening.

Ready for the pic? Don’t say I didn’t warn you… just keep thinking… It is delicious. Even the family loved it and they are not ordinarily curry eaters. I’m sharing how I made it, which might make Debbie cringe… if you want yours to look & taste better, I suggest that you check out her book and make it her way 🙂

curry burgers and rice

1 pound ground beef
sea salt & pepper to taste
4 cups rice

For the curry:

2 T sesame oil
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 c baby carrots
2 russett potatoes, 1 inch cubes
1 quart veg stock
salt & pepper
1 box Japanese or Korean curry blocks
1 c Greek yogurt
1 c frozen peas
On Sunday: Step 1: Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sesame oil and warm for 1 minute. Add the onion and brown for a few minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes and saute for another 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. I added the peas once it was warm and heated them as well.
During the week – make rice. make burgers. heat curry until warmed through and add yogurt. Tada!

No Easy Day by Mark Owen

I brought this book home from the library for Mr. Hero thinking he’d enjoy it. Boy, o boy – I wish I would have saved it for Christmas instead! If you are buying for a military man, this would be a good bet… at least according to Mr. Hero. Since I didn’t read the book, he’s offered the review.

no easy dayBut first, here’s the book summary from amazon:

For the first time anywhere, the first-person account of the planning and execution of the Bin Laden raid from a Navy Seal who confronted the terrorist mastermind and witnessed his final moments.

From the streets of Iraq to the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean, and from the mountaintops of Afghanistan to the third floor of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, operator Mark Owen of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group–commonly known as SEAL Team Six– has been a part of some of the most memorable special operations in history, as well as countless missions that never made headlines.

No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.

In No Easy Day, Owen also takes readers onto the field of battle in America’s ongoing War on Terror and details the selection and training process for one of the most elite units in the military. Owen’s story draws on his youth in Alaska and describes the SEALs’ quest to challenge themselves at the highest levels of physical and mental endurance. With boots-on-the-ground detail, Owen describes numerous previously unreported missions that illustrate the life and work of a SEAL and the evolution of the team after the events of September 11. In telling the true story of the SEALs whose talents, skills, experiences, and exceptional sacrifices led to one of the greatest victories in the War on Terror, Mark Owen honors the men who risk everything for our country, and he leaves readers with a deep understanding of the warriors who keep America safe.

Here’s Mr. Hero’s thoughts:

No easy day is a good fast paced account of life as a Navy SEAL and some of the missions that they have been on.  It shows both the seriousness of the job that these brave men do as well as the humorous boyish-pranks that they play on each other.

I really liked that he showed the lighter side of things as well as the seriousness of the training and missions.  The author explains the acronyms that he uses so it makes it easier to understand if you aren’t familiar with them.  It talks about the missions and the long hours that they spend training and on missions in support of operations, away from home, family and friends.  Mark Owens talks about how he wanted to be a Navy Seal since High School.  He also refers back to a little about growing up in Alaska and how some scenarios made him stronger to make it through his training and mission despite the weather or other adversaries.

One tidbit about the book that he also shared with me, was the SEALs thorough enjoyment of coffee as they swapped their experiences, stories and perspectives after missions. Well… I’d prefer to swap my stories over coffee cake 🙂 Here’s my favorite recipe that is often requested:

DSC09335Of course I need to give credit where credit is due: this recipe is from the 2009 edition of the Best of Taste of Home magazine.

1 cup butter

2 c sugar

2 eggs

2 c all-purpose flour

1-1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 c (8 oz) sour cream

1/2 t vanilla extract


1 c chopped pecans

2 T sugar

1 t ground cinnamon


1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 c butter, cubed

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Combine sour cream and vanilla; add to creamed mixture alternately with dry ingredients.

2. Comvine topping ingredients; sprinkle 2 tablespoons into a greased and floured 10-in. tube pan. For glaze, in a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and butter; stir until smooth. Spoon half of the batter over topping; sprinkle with half of the remaining topping. Drizzle with half of the glaze. Top with remaining batter; sprinkle with remaining topping.

3. Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Warm remaining glaze; drizzle over coffee cake. Serve warm if desired.

Menu Plan 12/2/12

See how much I love my job? I love it!

See how much I love my job? I love it!

First and foremost, I sadly do not have a video of our book cart drill team 😦 That was either the fastest moving parade I’ve ever been in, OR my book cart wasn’t built road worthy BECAUSE that parade took us to school. We had to scrap most of our routine and even revamp our walking formation!! It was wild – but hopefully it didn’t show.

Mr. Hero & Little Man walked along with us. Little Pixie had to sit it out due to her recuperating. She was disappointed. She felt like a million bucks even before we made it back from the dental surgery center. The whole experience has been very positive for her & me too, actually! The dentist actually called to make sure she was doing well and if I had any questions that afternoon. Love that kind of thoughtful care!

Anyway – on with the menu!!

Sunday – We ended up having the Italian chicken since the schedule was too packed yesterday. We went directly from the parade to go watch the school play. It was great fun seeing all of that talent in itty-bitty bodies.

Monday – Boy scout holiday carry-in. Our den is assigned dessert. We’re taking Rich Coffee Cake – **recipe later this week!**

Tuesday – Daddy’s junk food night. I think it’s really going to be pizza rolls. He does promise a veggie though.

Wednesday – Curry Burger Rice.

Thursday – St. Nicholas Feast Day!! We hope to have Lemon herb chicken braid in the shape of a crozier, broccoli & Stollen for dessert. I found this fun craft to make a felt St. Nicholas ornament out of felt as well.

Friday – Pizza night!!

Saturday – Tuna Noodle Casserole – not a kid favorite but certainly one of mine!

So here’s a little menu planning confession: I have uber picky eaters for kids. I don’t know how it happened. I’ve always served a wide variety of foods & didn’t become a short-order cook. I think I was mistaken that since they ate a balanced diet, they weren’t picky. BUT as I sit making menus and omit some of my favorites: shepard’s pie, tuna noodle casserole, chili, chicken pot pie…… I realize, HEY! These kids are picky!! So how do you handle picky kids and menu planning? Or are you blessed with foodie kids?