Archive from May, 2014
May 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Saturday Morning Breakfast: Take Three

Saturday Morning Breakfast: Take Three

I’ve actually looked at this recipe for Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins several times.  I even meant to make it for dinner the other night, because I needed something really easy to feed the kids before I went to a church dinner.  It’s not a difficult recipe, but I’ve been tripped up more than once because of the time table; you have to soak the oatmeal in the buttermilk for an hour before mixing up the muffin batter and baking the muffins.  I sure forgot to do that in time Thursday night.  This morning, however, since the kiddos were up early, I made a concerted effort to get things soaking, and as a result, we finally managed to have these muffins for breakfast.

I have to say, they were pretty tasty, too.  They weren’t as similar to last week’s chocolate chip muffins as you might expect; the oatmeal and the buttermilk lend a very specific flavor and texture.  And they were VERY filling (I actually subbed in wheat flour for a quarter cup of the flour–I couldn’t even tell–and the oatmeal gives them a lot of heartiness as well).  They were a hit with everyone, and I couldn’t resist munching on them once or twice during the morning.  My only problem is that they spread instead of rising into little domes; Andrea says this is a common altitude problem, but I find it interesting that both ‘soak oats in buttermilk’ recipes that I’ve tried have the same problem.  It doesn’t affect the taste at all, so I don’t really care, but you’ve got to be careful when removing the muffins from the tin.  If you do it when they’re too hot, you’ll just pull off the tops and leave the bottoms sitting there, sad and alone.  Wait until they cool a little, and if you’re careful, you should be home free.  Enjoy!

May 29, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Favorite Movie

A Favorite Movie

I know, I know, I don’t usually review movies.  I don’t watch many anymore, I suppose.  When I was in Idaho last month, however, I watched “The Help” with my parents–pretty good, although the book is always better–and the murder of Medgar Evers played a small part in it.  I mentioned after “The Help” was over that there was a movie about bringing Medgar Evers’ killer to justice that I absolutely loved, and my mother expressed considerable interest in seeing it.  Their library system didn’t have it, and it’s not available on Netflix, so I told her we’d watch “Ghosts of Mississippi” the next time they came to visit; last night we did.  And oh, how I love that movie!

I don’t know if the critics were impressed by it overall (not that that means anything!).  “The English Patient” was the Oscar darling the year it came out, but James Woods was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  He was chilling and awful and revoltingly racist, and I think it’s a travesty that he didn’t win.  (Cuba Gooding Jr. won that year, and while I’ve seen edited versions of “Jerry Maguire,” and he was good, it is my (not so) humble opinion that James Woods was better.)  If I were from the south I’d probably have a lot to say about the various accents used by the cast, but–I’m not!  All I know is that “Ghosts of Mississippi” is a true story of justice at long last, and there is almost nothing I like better.  (It’s like the courtroom drama version of watching the Nazis lose.)  If the internet can be believed in this case, it’s fairly true to life; indeed, one of the investigators (whose father was an original investigator on the case) plays himself.  So do some of Medgar Evers’ children.  (How cool is that?)  Alec Baldwin was still in his hero days–closer to “The Hunt for Red October” than “30 Rock”–and there are some lovely character actors in smaller parts, like Bill Cobb (who plays Evers’ brother) and Margo Martindale, who (as Baldwin’s secretary) has some of the funniest lines in the film.  There are also some powerful camera shots, like the rubbed-out but still visible “White Men” on the door to the courthouse bathroom during the trial.

Anyway.  I’m waxing on.  It’s an amazing story, though, and a well done movie, and you should see it, if you haven’t already.  Heroes like Medgar Evers deserve to be remembered–and honored.

Maybe when our kids get older we’ll make it a MLK day tradition.

May 28, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Cautious Thumbs Up

A Cautious Thumbs Up

I had the last of a package of strawberries left in the refrigerator (no longer pristine enough for just eating as is), and I was looking for a dessert that looked tasty but not insanely labor-intensive–I’ve got houseguests, you understand–so I opted for this Strawberry Cobbler.  And I have to say, it was pretty good.  A little weird, maybe…hot whole strawberries and a slightly interesting texture…but it was kind of fabulous with vanilla ice cream on top.  Oh, the cream cheesy goodness!  It was pretty rich, but I think the idea of the richness bothered me more than the reality.  Knowing that my 9 by 13 pan was already holding a stick of butter and half a package of cream cheese made me feel a little guilty about using enough ice cream for the optimum hot/cold ratio.

(By the way, this isn’t just me, right?  And my brother (because I know we’ve had this conversation)?  If you are eating something hot with something cold on top–pie, brownies, cobbler, whatever–you have to have the right ratio of hot to cold.  Each bite should have hot gooey goodness and cold beautiful creaminess all mixed up together.  It’s how life should be.)

My mother wanted it to be more tart, and my son was either full from dinner or not a fan, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it.  I would probably let it cool a bit before serving; still warm but no longer at all hot would be optimal, I think.  It’s probably not for the lactose intolerant, but if you love strawberry cheesecake in all its incarnations, you should probably give this one a try!

May 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Better Late Than Never…

Better Late Than Never…

And I say that because Cranford was a book club pick for one of my book clubs in June 2013.  I’ve been putting it off for a variety of reasons–the two most pressing being other books due at the library and a concern for my concentration capabilities–but the time was now, and I have finished! (Well, almost.  I’m technically still working on the last appendix.)  And I have to say, I enjoyed it in a quiet sort of way.  It doesn’t have the sort of gripping plot that helps you stay awake when you’ve been up with the kids one too many times and shouldn’t be reading at 11:30, but I found it quietly amusing and never boring.  (As long as you enjoy that sort of thing, and I do.)  It’s a series of vignettes about the town of Cranford, which is based on a town that Elizabeth Gaskell lived in for a significant portion of her life.  Death, marriage, birth, drastic changes in fortune, lost love…all of these things are dealt with in a very English fashion.  Gaskell takes a tone of mingled affection and amusement, which was enjoyable, although possibly not distinctive.  (The only other thing of Gaskell’s I’ve looked through was her bio of Charlotte Bronte, but that was in context of a paper on Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre I wrote in college; I couldn’t begin to tell you my impression of it as an individual book.  It was, rather, one of a series of biographies I was using.)  I wouldn’t mind reading another novel by her, but I’m not led to commit to one any time soon.

Incidentally, I tried to start it months ago, only to find that I had the WRONG edition.  Don’t be seduced by Judi Dench on the cover–you need the Penguin Classic edition that has the appendices at the end.  Otherwise, you will be driven mad inside of five pages by references to appendices that aren’t there to refer to.  By the time I rectified this mistake, I’d started something else, and it (clearly) took me a while to get back to it.  It isn’t clear whether the edition linked to this post has them, so if it doesn’t, get the one with the black cover that’s just Cranford.  If nothing else, the last Cranford tale can be found there (but not in the book proper), and it was possibly my favorite.


Cranford / Cousin Phillis (Penguin Classics)

New From: $16.78 USD In Stock

May 26, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Well, THAT Was Unexpected!

Well, THAT Was Unexpected!

I have been drooling over the idea of these Snickerdoodle Pancakes for months, so when I was looking for a good holiday breakfast this morning, I was psyched that I had all the ingredients and I could try them out.  Lovely, warm, rich cinnamon goodness, right?  How could I go wrong?

And then I tried them.  And when I said to my girlies, “Huh.  I don’t actually love these,” they tried them and responded with a double dose of “I see what you mean, Mom.”  They each ate two and were done, which is unusual for pancakes.  The boy, on the other hand, went to TOWN.  I’m not sure if he was especially hungry or if he just really, really loved them, but I lost count of how many he ate.  I think he was the only fan, though, so I’m afraid it was an experience never to be repeated!

The problem, I think, was that the cream of tartar and the thickness of the sour cream–or the sour cream/plain yogurt mix, which is what I used–made them SO thick and fluffy that it was exceptionally difficult to get them completely done inside.  And of course, unless you can get that mixture completely done inside, your pancakes will taste like sour cream (or plain yogurt and sour cream combined).  I never got them done enough to taste good, and I tried.  I was further underwhelmed by the glaze…a syrup would have been so much better.  You should make your own decision, of course, but I sure won’t be making them again!

May 25, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on It Depends Upon Your Point of View…

It Depends Upon Your Point of View…

We’re coming into summer weather in Utah, and in recognition of that, I planned to have pasta salad one day last week.  After all, who wants a hot meal on a hot day, right?  (Of course, on the actual day in question, it ended up being overcast with a brisk wind all day long, but you can’t win them all.)  I found 3 contenders from my ‘Pasta Salads’ board on Pinterest–yes, I have a board dedicated exclusively to pasta salads–and picked, ironically, the least tempting of the three.  (That’s what happens when the other two would require an extra trip to the grocery store.)  I was originally going to make it quickly and serve it up that same night, but when I realized it was supposed to refrigerate overnight, well, clearly that ship had sailed.  Overnight wasn’t really going to happen, though, so I made it my number one priority after walking my oldest to school the next morning.  (And I have to say, having to do almost nothing for dinner in the late afternoon was delightful!)

Anyway, I duly brought it out at dinnertime and found that the reactions to Mom’s Macaroni Salad differed considerably.  On one end of the spectrum, of course, was my middle, who detested it on principle, since it was quite a bit outside the box of our typical dinners.  (I tend towards Italian or BBQ pasta salads, as a rule.)  On the other end we have my oldest and Daddy, who seemed to enjoy it.  That leaves the boy and me in the middle; he ate some but not all, and isn’t exactly old enough to do our thumb review, and I was underwhelmed.  The problem was that it had a creamy dressing with a very mild mustard flavor, and I like TANG.  I wish I’d used Dijon mustard; my taste buds also wished I’d tripled the amount called for (while the part of me responsible for getting my children to eat did NOT).  It made quite a bit, so I’ve been adding diced banana pepper rings to my leftovers; it ups the flavor considerably.  Bacon bits or raw onion or pickles would do the same thing; at the end of the day, it just wants something to add crunch and little bursts of strong flavor.

There you have it, folks.  I’m probably not going to make this one again, but only because the flavor profile didn’t suit me.  If you like a milder, creamier pasta salad, you should give this one a go.

May 24, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Saturday Morning Breakfast: Take Two!

Saturday Morning Breakfast: Take Two!

Remember the pleading eyes of my oldest last Saturday?  Well, she didn’t even have to break those out today.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of cereal this morning, and so I scrolled through my ‘Breads to Try’ board on Pinterest to find a more appealing option.  I rejected one that sounded good because the oatmeal was supposed to soak in the buttermilk for an hour, and THAT wasn’t going to happen, and I (reluctantly) rejected breakfast brownies because I didn’t have coconut oil.  (Andrea told me she’s got plenty and I ought to get some from her to experiment with; I just keep forgetting to actually do it.)  I ended up going with these ‘Welcome Home’ Chocolate Chip Muffins, and I have to say–they were pretty tasty.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to make them as written, though.  It’s not that I’m afraid of a certain amount of fat in breakfast–why bake at all if it isn’t going to taste the way I want it to?–but I have my limits.  Plain yogurt substitutes very nicely for sour cream WHEN YOU ARE BAKING, so I used it instead; I also switched out a half of a cup of white flour for whole wheat.  (Plain yogurt does NOT, as some tragically misguided people claim, substitute nicely for sour cream on a baked potato.  If you like plain yogurt on your baked potatoes, more power to you, but don’t claim it’s a substitute, because IT TASTES NOTHING LIKE SOUR CREAM!)

The result was a hit with everyone.  They probably tasted different than they were supposed to–you can always taste the wheat–but I liked the flavor.  The high dairy content kept them moist and rich-tasting, and the melt-y chocolate chips were heavenly.  My girlies had two apiece with a good amount of milk to wash them down, and the boy made a fantastic mess of his face, his hands, and his high chair tray while picking out the chocolate chips.  (He ate the rest of the muffin as well; he just picked out what he could of the chocolate chips first.)  Even Daddy had two or three, and he’s more of a Golden Grahams or biscuits and bacon gravy kind of breakfast man.  In fact, he finished off the last one.  I ate about one too many and my body complained about it, but oh, how I love warm baked goodness for breakfast!

May 22, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Review of Sorts, or What Not to Read

A Review of Sorts, or What Not to Read

I say ‘of sorts’ because I freely admit that I didn’t read the entire book.  I did go through enough of it, however, to know that it’s not going to be the best representative of its kind.

The book in question is Raising Gifted Kids, by Barbara Klein.  (The cover–front AND back– lists “Barbara Klein, Ph.D.,” but she didn’t impress me, so I didn’t bother.)  Let me share with you a paragraph from the introduction:

Parents can no longer take their roles lightly.  You know that what you do for your children will have an impact.  While previous generations felt comfortable following the old rules of parenting or abdicating their responsibility for parenting to others, this generation has been informed by their own education and the popular press that they must take charge of their decision making to be effective.

I’m not sure where to begin with this.  I had no idea that for centuries, parents have been taking their roles lightly and had no clue that what they did for their children would have an impact.  Silly me!  I’ve been assuming that my parents loved and worried about and prayed for and agonized over me in the same way that I do with my own children.  I had no idea that it took the ‘popular press’ to turn me into that kind of parent.  (And by the way, I’m pretty sure that “this generation” should be followed by the pronouns “its” and “it,” not “their” and “they.”)

Klein goes on to stress how parenting gifted children requires a whole different rule book than regular children, and I just kept thinking–there’s a rule book that works for all non-gifted children?  Really?  I’m certainly prepared to accept that different types of children require different strategies, and since I gave her book a shot, I’m obviously looking for additional insight into one of those types, but the “gifted parents/children vs. those other parents who don’t understand and won’t sympathize with their challenges” attitude was patronizing at best (I want to call it belittling, but it was pretty late when I started reading, so I’m willing to try for restraint).

When I flipped through to get to the specific examples in the book, hoping that those might prove informative, I found passages like this:

Common Reactions to Perfectionism

Your six-year-old son has spent two hours on his homework.  You think to yourself that your child is really obsessed.  But don’t bring this up.

“Good Enough” Reaction:

“I can see that you are disappointed that you don’t have time to complete your work perfectly.  What you have done is good enough.  You will have more time tomorrow.”

By saying this you put the entire problem with perfectionism into perspective.

Undermining Reaction:

“You are becoming a freak about completing this homework!  You are a monster!  I should have your head examined.  Your behavior is going to give me a nervous breakdown.”

This is a guilt-inducing and out-of-control reaction.  As the adult, you need to be in charge of developing your child’s self-esteem–not destroying it.

Seriously.  After pages and pages of those two types of reactions being listed as “common,” I came to the conclusion that this particular book was a waste of my time.  I’ve got four more books on gifted kids checked out; this one, however, is going straight back to the library.  My advice to anyone else looking for books on this topic is pretty simple.

Skip this one.

May 21, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on By the Way…

By the Way…

Remember how my oldest–at 7 1/2–read Charlotte’s Web and wanted to raise a pig for bacon?  (She did love the book, mind you.  It’s just that I find it a bit strange that THAT’S what she took away from it.)  Tonight I finished reading it to my middle, who is (very proudly) 4 3/4.  She was spellbound during the last two chapters, and when I asked her if she liked it, she responded, “Well, I liked parts of it,” and then cried because she didn’t want Charlotte to die.  My poor sweet girlie!

Now I’m looking at what to read to her next with a more critical eye.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins is high up there on the list, but does anyone out there have any other ideas?

May 19, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Some Substitutions are Beautiful Things…

Some Substitutions are Beautiful Things…

As a child, I hated cold cereal–hated it.  On Saturdays I would beg to make breakfast, and my parents would usually oblige.  (We were very specialized in the breakfast department, however.  Muffins and waffles were Mom’s department.  Pancakes, coffee cake, hashbrowns, and poached eggs were my Dad’s.  All of it was from scratch; I helped with both.)  Which meant that on Saturday morning, when my oldest asked me (with a pleading look in her eyes) if we could make breakfast, and then volunteered to keep her brother happy, I caved.  I could see myself looking back at me, and how can you say no?  I hopped onto Pinterest and found this recipe for Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes with Nutella Syrup and thought–hey!  We’ve got strawberries!  Why not?

Here, of course, is where those of you who know my family well are saying–hey!  We’ll tell you why not!  Nutella will kill your oldest child!

Okay, that’s true.  Which is why I only decided on the recipe after something like this inner monologue:

Hmmm, I like pancakes, and I like strawberries.  Could I make this work with peanut butter?  Naw, that doesn’t really sound that appealing. BUT, on the other hand, that cupboard with the Nutella and the peanut butter–it’s got Biscoff in it, too!  (Okay, it’s Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, but still.)  Would that be too sweet?  Nutella’s pretty sweet, though.  I bet it would work.  And it’s an easy recipe…  

And so, on Saturday morning, we had strawberry buttermilk pancakes with Cookie Butter syrup.  The kids were fans, let me tell you.  I thought the pancakes were forgettable, because cooked strawberries are never as good as you want them to be, but oh, the syrup.  The syrup!

I may or may not have contemplated–more than once–grabbing it and a spoon and going to town.

It really wasn’t too sweet, not for me, anyway, and the flavor was lovely.  You don’t need butter on the pancakes at all (which makes serving kids easier, which is always a happy thing).  I desperately wanted to bring some to my friend Andrea, who just had a baby (curse you, Celiac Disease!); since I can’t do that, you all should try it instead.

And wish me luck in the fight to resist eating it with a spoon.