A feel-good book destination

Apparently these places exist all over, but I’ve only just discovered one: GoodBooks Cafe. Georgia has two of these charming bookstores. The bookstores are a component of Goodwill Industries.

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They serve a dual purpose. While selling books to support the Goodwill mission, they provide an outlet for the culinary job training as well. Did I just say culinary, why yes I did! I’m talking coffee & baked goods 🙂 I saw that they also have salads & paninis but to be honest, I was blinded by cookies as big as my face!

Good Books Cafe

Sure, there’s fantastic food. Free WiFi. There’s cozy places to sit and read. But the real pull of this store is the books. Walls and walls of books. And CHEAP books! We’re talking Goodwill prices… $1, $2, $3. On best sellers, childhood favorites, even homeschooling curriculum. I’m in love.

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We all know and love the indy bookstore. It makes us feel good to support a person and not a corporation. I consider Goodbooks Bookstore & Cafe my feel good times ten. There are 2 in Georgia, but a quick google search shows them popping up throughout the United States. I highly encourage you to seek one out. It’s worth the trip.

Lazy Woman’s Candy

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And so it continues… my French moment has led me to a once quiet French town with a sordid past, and present for that matter. The people are for the most part endearing. What doesn’t appear at the surface, is the epic power struggle taking place within the town and also within each of the inhabitants.   Vianne Rocher is a chocolatier who blows into town on Ash Wednesday. Her decadence is in stark contrast to the spirit of penance for Catholic Lent. This automatically places her at odds with the fanatical Catholic priest. While Vianne wrestles her urges to meddle and potentially establish a place that she can remain, the priest wrestles his desires and self-loathing. But it’s not all epic power struggle… it’s also love, and decadence, and redemption. We meet an entertaining cast of characters. Armande is old enough to had been around to witness events of the past. She doesn’t allow any one to forget who they are at their core, much to some of their dismay. It’s often unclear whether she will be the voice of reason or just stir the pot. Muscat and his wife, Josephine, encounter their marital difficulties. Their marriage, as well as all other town business, keeps the gossips tongues wagging!

Who knows the book? It’s certainly not a new one…  but it was a perfect accompaniment to my French moment. Chocolat by Joanne Harris is the first in her Vianne Rocher series. This series also includes The Girl With No Shadow and Peaches For Father Francis, which just came out in 2012. You might also be familiar with the movie based upon the book. Like most movies, I didn’t find it much like the book. Though I did see the movie years ago, so I might have just forgotten all of the ways that it was the same. I loved the movie & the book. That probably has to do with the fact that I watched the movie first. But enough about this… here’s something that I know we can all enjoy!

I’m calling this Lazy Woman’s Candy because it’s so easy, even the laziest (or busiest) of us can find the time to make it.

1/2 c butter + extra for buttering the pan
1 package of Nestles peanut butter & chocolate chip morsels
1 c peanut butter
1 c mini marshmallows
1 c pretzels, crushed
1/2 c caramel sundae topping

Butter the 9 in square pan; set aside. Combine butter, morsels & peanut butter in a microwaveable safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals until melted smooth. Cool 20 minutes. Stir in mini marshmallows just until combined. They should be coated but not melt. Pour into prepared pan. Top with crushed pretzels. Drizzle with caramel. Refrigerate overnight. Store in the refrigerator. Then hide… because it is addictive. Your jeans might not fit.

A Favorite Make-a-head Breakfast

Summer is blueberry season. So every which way I turned big juicy blueberries were staring at me! You just gotta do something with that. I decided to incorporate them into my weekly cook-a-thon. On Sundays, I try to cram as much of the weekly cooking into one hour. It sets us up for success. This recipe was a fantastic addition. Just store it in the fridge, nuke a small square in the microwave & top with milk. It’s a little batch of home-baked goodness on a busy weekday morning. And don’t fret if your blueberry season is spent… I’ve done this with peaches, apples… any combo of in season fruit.

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Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

3 c quick-cooking oats
1 c brown sugar (I don’t pack it to slightly lessen sugar usage)
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
3/4 t cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 c milk
1/2 c butter, melted
1-1/2 c fresh blueberries

Grease an 8 in square baking pan. Combine oats through cinnamon in a large bowl. Add beaten eggs, milk & butter one at a time, mixing thoroughly between. Stir in berries. Bake, uncovered, at 350º for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

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Massive declutter leads to re-org…

In an attempt to make the blog more browsing friendly, I’ve reorganized a bit. I’ve changed Categories to reflect book genre and used tags to reflect food. I realize I’ve probably thrown the intended use of tags right out of the window and have crippled the use of tags to drive traffic to my blog. BUT my intent is to make your life easier, not my own success. Ever self-less, I am.  So let me know what you think… is it helpful to you?

French Moment… part deux

While reading French Kids Eat Everything I happened upon French Women Don’t Get Fat. I don’t think that most Americans can duplicate the core reasons behind French women’s slimness. Their lifestyles and culture is just different. The emphasis upon not snacking and eating a wide variety of fresh foods all while living in a walk-able society. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we can learn!

I enjoyed this book as an informational text, not so much as a diet aid. As full disclosure, I’ll reiterate again that I’m a Weight Watcher gal. Therefore the recommendation of eating only Leek Soup, no matter how fantastic it is, for a full weekend is just not something I can get behind. But I’m in full support of Guiliano’s recommendation to maintain a food journal. And truly despite these recommendations the book really reminds me how important balance and moderation are for a healthy lifestyle.

The basis for the book is that Mireille Guiliano came to the United States and adopted some horrendous eating habits. She then promptly ballooned to an uncomfortable size. Upon returning to France she met with a physician and relearned some basic French lifestyle lessons. She is kind enough to share this experience with all of us. Like French Kids Eat Everything, she talks about not going overboard on snacks and junk food. Some key differences are her ideas on eating “French” in North America and exercise. I enjoy this optimism that we can recreate the strengths of the culture.

I’m thrilled to find the French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook as I’ve found all of her recipes in French Women Don’t Get Fat to be doable for a working woman with a busy family.

Here’s my recipe: French Toast of course 🙂 Mine is a Peanut Butter French Toast.

2 pieces of scrumptious french toast, golden brown

Yummy!

Start with homemade peanut butter bread (I make mine in the bread machine):

1 c + 3 T milk
1/3 c peanut butter
1 egg
3 c flour
2 T sugar
3/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t active dry yeast

Add ingredients to your machine per its instructions. This recipe makes 1-1/2 pound loaf. Absolutely fantastic with Nutella for a sandwich. So eat one of those first. Then slice the rest up for french toast:

2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c milk
1 T brown sugar

Combine all ingredients well. Turn bread slices in mix to coat evenly. Add to medium high skillet coated with melted butter. Brown on one side, flip and cook through. I served mine with a bit of peanut butter smeared between with sliced bananas & topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. Fantastic!

Make A List Monday: 5 More Parenting Must Reads

When you read a great book, you don’t just scratch one book off of your to-be-read list, instead you receive enough recommendations or references to add many more… Following Parenting Without Borders my to-be-read list just got longer. Here are some of those that have been added:

Free Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety by Donna B. Pincus

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel Ph.D.

The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development by Richard Weissbound

Though to be honest, I’m completely indulging in a French moment so these will have to wait. I hope my kids aren’t in college by the time I get there 😉 What are your fave parenting books?

Pardon Moi! I’m having a French moment…

So this book really did start a fantastic literary journey for me, but I didn’t anticipate the food journey too! I’ll do my best to actually start at the beginning. One of the many books mentioned in the Parenting Without Boarders by Christine Gross-Loh was French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon.

Back cover of 'French Kids...' courtesy of amazon

Back cover of ‘French Kids…’ courtesy of amazon

I’ve shared that some of the people in this house, mainly those under 5 foot tall, can lean towards the picky side. Actually, it’s been quite challenging. I’ve tried everything from bribing and whining to demanding. Sometimes I’ve even tried that sneaky chef stuff. Last year I threw my hands up and asked her to write a list of items that she actually likes and would eat regularly. It was a sad list. I think it included pizza, spaghetti, black olives, cheese, carrots, broccoli & something we call spicy beans that comes from a can. Ugh! We can’t live off of that!!!

I’ve seen the book in the past but have been resistant. My impressions of it were all wrong. I really enjoyed this contrasting of the North American & French food cultures. A few things really rang true to me. Le Billon reminds her children, and us, that it’s ok to be hungry when it’s time for your next meal. If nothing else, it gives me a quip for when my children are whining for a snack as I’m making dinner. I can easily say, “Good, I’m glad you are hungry. You are really going to enjoy this meal I’m putting out on the table in 10 minutes!”

Which brings me to another fantastic concept: eating in courses!!! We are completely sold. Admittedly, my courses are NOT as fancy-shmancy as many. Tonight we had a tray of raw cauliflower & ranch dip. Other nights we’ve had a green salad or other raw vegetables. And guess what? Since they are already hungry (see earlier tip) they are eating their veggies!!! The crowd goes wild…. But we don’t stop there! Heck no, we have dessert every night too! And can you believe it, a couple nights a week that dessert is…. FRUIT! Seriously, they actually believe me that fruit is a dessert. Now if I tried that every night there would probably by mutiny. But I am very proud of the progress we’ve made. And I love sitting down to a meal and have my kiddos ask, “How many courses tonight?”

Final self serving concept that we are completely rockin’ at my house? The late dinner. Public Library hours run late, at least my hours do. I don’t get home until well after our old dinner hour of 5:30. But the French, they are all about the late & leisurely meal. The courses really helps the logistics of this. I can typically have the salad pre-prepped. So when I come in the door either my dear hubby, Mr. Hero, already has dinner started or I get it cooking. Then we all sit down to the salad or what have you. After a brief chat about our day and a full serving of veggies, the kiddos clear the table and tend to that batch of dishes. This gives me an opportunity to dish up our meal. We repeat for dessert. Granted, it takes us more time now but it’s time well spent. I have my kids full attention and they have ours. Tonight we told really bad jokes. It was fantastic!

So what are we eating?

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I made baguettes which started in my bread machine and turned out fantastic.

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I also made roasted veggies to eat with some grilled chicken. I used a flavor blend that I really thought came recommended on The Splendid Table but I can’t find the reference now. I might have made it up. Just in case, I want to make sure they get credit! I mixed 1/2 T Sea Salt, 1 T Garlic, 1 T Rubbed Sage, 1 T Rosemary & 1 T Lavender. I found it fantastic and my family loved it! So I encourage you to shake it up with your taters & serve it in a course! 🙂

My original intent was to cover the whole literary journey thus far in this one blog post… what was I thinking!!! So you’ll just have to stay tuned.