Broccoli Cheese Soup

I had to get the fridge cleaned out so I could fit this week’s CSA veggies in there. Luckily, it all came together deliciously!IMG_1864

4 crowns of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
2 leeks, diced
1 5oz can evaporated milk
6ish oz Velveeta
1 brick cream cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Better than Bouillon Chicken base
4 – 5 cups water
Dash of pepper

Throw in a crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Enjoy!

Though my UP24 reports some concern over my sodium consumption. Perhaps this didn’t help!! But more on the UP24 nutritional info in another post. Out of curiosity, I logged my food diary into both my Jawbone UP24 and the Weight Watchers app to see what would come of the information. I’ll share that in the next couple of days.

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I dropped the hint

and he picked it up!! I’ve mentioned in passing on here and IRL that my hobbies of reading & eating really don’t make for a tiny waist line. I enjoy running. Though with my long commute and the short days of winter, finding the time to run is difficult. But Mr. Hero gifted me with a much desired Jawbone UP24.IMG_1856

I’ve been stalking fitness trackers for months, waffling on which would be best and what my most needed features would be. Following a bunch of research, I decided that the UP24 was my best bet. I liked that it tracks activity, not just steps. It’s compatible with my WW ~ because you know I’m a dedicated WW girl. And it also tracks sleep quality. I didn’t realize that I’d get such detailed reports:

UP24

See there where little man woke me up? Glad my kids are a bit older – the orange of wake times in there would have been a heck of a lot more a couple of years ago. I’d love to hook Mr. Hero up to one of his own. He sleeps horribly.

I also didn’t realize that it had such detailed food journal, mood tracking, and coaching. Needless to say, I’m thrilled. I can’t contain myself. So while my blog will continue to focus on books & food, when I actually have time to share, it will now contain a sprinkling of my fitness efforts too. Because life has to be about balance, right?

Cherry Tucker is my kind of girl..

Portrait of a Dead GuyPortrait of a Dead Guy. by Larissa Reinhart. Henery Press 2012. ISBN-13: 978–938383-02-1

I obtained this copy at the GaCOMO Conference. One of my favorite parts of the conference is the author reception. Of course, I love the whole conference and always return full of fresh & fantastic ideas. But I come home with a bag full of books too 🙂

This year the first author I met was Larissa. She was delightful. We chatted a bit about being from the Midwest and relocating to the South. I think she embraced it a bit more readily than I did ~ Not that I haven’t grown to LOVE it!! But I did have a bit of culture shock. I believe Larissa’s journey was Midwest to Japan to the South. I guess moving to Japan will use up all of your culture shock. Anyway, after working my way around the room, I was drawn back to her table. I’m a sucker for a light, candy read as a palate cleanser between more meaty stuff. This Cherry Tucker chick seemed to fit the bill. Spunky female solves crime with a handsome sidekick or two… that’s my recipe for a fun quick read. Seems to be Larissa’s as well. So I bought the book & lined it up next to some of my other favorite authors – yes, some of which I haven’t read their books either.

Then the other day, I was in search of a good candy read. I’d worked through the warped Chop, Chop and then a couple of business focused books, and I needed something funny, light, and above all else entertaining. You know, your basic page turner. I was hesitant to grab Portrait of a Dead Guy because what if I didn’t like it? Could I write an honest review? Well, no need to fret… It is a keeper!

Portrait of a Dead Guy introduces us to Cherry Tucker. Cherry is an artist in the small town of Halo, Georgia. Cherry’s family isn’t quite from the wrong side of the tracks, but let’s just say she has some disadvantages in small town living. As you can imagine, art doesn’t provide the most secure financial footing in a small town. Out of desperation, Cherry accepts a creepy assignment to immortalize a town misfit from a good family. From there on out, things actually find a way to go downhill.

Unlike other female mystery series, Cherry isn’t the town busy-body but she does have something to prove. Her lack of experience leaves her learning through trial and error. Like other great mysteries, there is a healthy dose of romantic tension. Cherry finds herself shuffling between Todd, her sorta ex-husband, and Luke, a past crush back in town and better than ever.

I love that I didn’t figure out the mystery prior to the big reveal. The twists and turns hit me unexpectedly, but not unbelievably. The story is well crafted and within the overall context. I never felt purposefully mislead for effect – but I did utter an ‘ah-ha!’

I would generally recommend this for new adults and up. Some of the language is ‘choice’ but never vulgar. There is sexual tension but never graphic descriptions.

Like Cherry, I can do some great thinking over beer & wings. So here’s our companion recipe:

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Chicken Wings 3 Ways: Salt & Vinegar, Garlic Parmesan, and Teriyaki

4# of wings in total. 1# was Teriyaki, 1.5# Salt & Vinegar, 1.5# Garlic Parmesan.

First, preheat to 400 & cover 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray.

For Salt & Vinegar and Garlic Parmesan:

Combine: 1 t Oregano, 1/2 t cumin, 1 t salt and toss with 3# wings Bake in a single layer for about 50 minutes, flipping half way through.

While they are baking:
Salt & Vinegar: combine 3 T white vinegar & 1/2 t salt in a plastic zippered bag. Toss 1/2 of wings in this to finish and serve.

Garlic Parmesan: combine 2T Olive Oil, 2 T fresh basil, thinly sliced, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese (the almost powdered shelf stable kind seems to work best) in a plastic zippered bag. Toss 1/2 of wings in this to finish and serve.

For Teriyaki:

Combine: 1 T olive oil, 1 t seasoning salt, 1 t onion powder, 1 t garlic powder, and pinch of black pepper and toss with wings. Bake in a single layer for about 45 minutes, flipping half way through.

While they are baking, mix 1/2 c cold water, 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/2 c soy sauce, 1 t garlic powder, 3 T cornstarch in a bowl. Microwave for 1 minute to dissolve brown sugar.

Dip wings in sauce and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Sauce will brown and become sticky. Pour remaining sauce over wings and serve.

All 3 were fantastic and super easy. My boys were in hog heaven.

On my Christmas list…

I only buy books I love. This is partly because I consider myself thrifty, my kids would say tight, whatever. It’s probably mostly because I’m really a book hoarder and any new addition is going to have to earn shelf real estate. So having said that, you won’t find many new or hot titles on my Christmas Wish-list. Instead you’ll find ones that I’ve checked out repeatedly, or have read excerpts of and they’ve proven themselves worthy. Here’s my list in no particular order:

Manual of Style

This one would definitely fall under the category of ‘something I need.’ I love, love, love editing. Unfortunately, I love it because of the challenge. It’s not something that comes to me naturally. In fact, in the library world full of English majors, I frequently feel as though I stand alone in my business background. Most of the time this is an advantage. Most of the time. Anyway, I’ve checked this book out a million times over. It’s now time that I need to buy it.

 

cake mix doctor

Here’s another one that I’ve checked out over and over and over. For a long time, I carried around the secret shame of being a from scratch cake failure. Frequently my scratch efforts felt as though they were made of lead. But then I read this blog written for home bakers. I believe them when they say that people will most frequently select a cake made from a mix instead of scratch in a blind taste test. I don’t know whether I’d say it was better, but I do believe that in general people prefer what is familiar and cake mixes are probably more the norm than scratch. So I say, embrace the cake mix. Own it. Love it. Make it special.

parenting without borders

I find myself still deep within the parenting trenches. This book offered a lot of encouragement. I loved the unique perspectives of different cultures. I find confidence in my choices when I know why I’ve made them. I generally enjoy reading parenting books but rarely feel the need to own one and return to it. Many books are preaching that the authors’ have it all figured out. If we’d only trust their wisdom, method, technique, our homes will be peaceful, productive, and successful. Which any parent with more than one child will tell you is a total crock. Every kid/family is different and there are no guarantees that what works for one will work for another. This book reaffirms that we are all just doing our best for our own reasons and sometimes it’s ok to stick with our own technique but trying out someone else’s isn’t such a bad idea either.

public library I really hope this one is in my stocking come Christmas morning. We always joke that we should have a television show. It would be a situation comedy with your standard collection of eccentric characters, and that’s just the staff!! Once you open the doors, and let in the public, well you better just hold on to your hat! There are so many bizarre instances that just aren’t taught to you in library school. For example, once a library patron wanted to use her ‘favorite’ computer in the bank. The problem was that out of the 12 or so computers, only 2 or 3 were already in use. Her favorite was one of them. A young man was working typing a report. The library patron approached and explained that she wanted to use that computer. He very politely explained that he was in the middle of something and she should use one of the open ones. She then began an exorcism as clearly the devil was at work in that young man’s body. How does one politely interrupt and redirect an exorcism? Very carefully. I’m certain that I’m not the only librarian with some stories up my sleeve. I can’t wait to read their’s.

Which books are on your wish list this year?

 

Easy as pie

Today’s efforts produced 6 Apple pies to be eaten in the future. 6 # of apples goes a heck of a lot further than one would think. Try it out if you have any apples still available where you are.
Apple pie filling from Ball Blue Book
6# apples
2 c sugar
1/4 c flour
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
2 T lemon juice

Wash, peel, core, & slice apples. Treat to prevent browning. Rinse. Drain. Combine sugar through nutmeg. Stir apples in and let sit 30 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until mixture starts to thicken. Cool no more than 2 hours and divide between 6 freezer containers.

Have I told you how much I love Ball’s Blue Book for food preservation recipes? Along with Keeping the Harvest, it’s one of my favorites. Enjoy!

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Working in the kitchen isn’t for the faint of heart!

Chop ChopMy book club recently read a book that I think we all enjoyed. It was Chop Chop by Simon Wroe. Let me just say first of all, that I am obviously a wonderful person because I’m going to give a glowing review of this book, even though the author’s publisher let us know that his entirely too busy to even be bothered to consider Skyping with our book club. Maybe since I just included that in this review, I am indeed not a bigger person. Maybe the book was just good. Yep, that’s probably it.

Anyway, it was my turn to choose the book for my book club. As a general rule, I tend toward nonfiction or YA. But the purpose of our book club is to get us all reading outside of our rut. Bunch of homeschooling/library types getting geeky over books. So I frequently find myself reading first novels. I like catching an author early in their career. If I like their work, I love recommending them to patrons. When appropriate and budget allows, I do my best to get the good ones on the library shelves. But really, I selected this book because I’d just finished a round of Anthony Bourdain books and the description of Chop, Chop as a vulgar, hilariously funny look inside a restaurant kitchen seemed like the perfect end cap to the literary journey. It was.

There are quite a few debates as to whether this book is a chronicle of life in a kitchen, family journey, or coming of age novel. I can definitely support an argument for each of those, but I loved it because it was true to all of those. I’ve worked in the kitchen where cruelty – though not to the extent described – is the method to show affection. The struggle to wade through family struggles together, no matter the personal burden rang true to me. And certainly one of the most defining moments for me was the moment that I realized that the main character, Monocle, had matured, even if he hadn’t come to the same realization.

So what is the book really about? A young man finishes college and refuses to return to his family home. The sorrow of lost dreams, a deceased brother, and personal feelings of inadequacy cause him to pursue other options for survival. At this point survival means making rent, by the end of the book the definition of survival has shifted considerably.

I enjoy this author’s descriptive style. Monocle’s father is described as a born winner who worked his way down. Is that not the best? I know people like that. Odds are you do as well. No need to get all tied up in describing all of the peaks and valleys, when it can be wrapped up with a bow in just that one sentence. Some members of the book club wished that the author had greater economy with words. Parts of the story wonder off a bit to share the main character’s background and family. For me this side venture into family is where the heart of the story lies. For some of the members of the club, the heart of the story is in the kitchen. It will be interesting to hear which it is for you, so please do let me know.

Another aspect of the story that I greatly enjoyed, especially as it relates to being a book club selection, is the conversation points. There are a variety of points within the story where a different decision would have veered completely. At one point, without giving away any spoilers, is an opportunity for the main character to remain in a safe, but soul sucking, job or return to previous employment with emotional attachment. Boy, you will learn a lot about perfect strangers as you discuss the positives and negatives of these choices.

Final aspect, I enjoyed the humor. The humor was a bit absurd.  It was frequently off color. Perhaps a bit juvenile, or at least teen age boyish. This makes it exactly my cup of tea.

For the book club discussion, we went to Buca di beppo to sit at the kitchen table. As it turns out, and I’ve forgotten after being many years removed, it’s as hot as Hades in a restaurant kitchen. You can’t drink wine and be delinquent in there either. So we moved out to the dining room. Had I hosted at home, I would have served what I fondly call ‘Pub Soup’ in honor of this book. It came to me by way of a neighbor so my apologies for not crediting some internet source.

Pub Soup

2 individual size frozen dinners – lasagna variety
1 carton beef stock
1-2 T Italian seasoning

Thaw frozen dinners in the refrigerator over night. Cut into 1 inch squares. Place in small crockpot. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Pour stock over. Turn on low for 6 – 8 hours.