Jun 19, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Natural Historian First; An Author Second

A Natural Historian First; An Author Second

That pretty much sums up Allan W. Eckert, author of Incident at Hawk’s Hill (a 1972 Newbery Honor book).  It was an interesting book, to say the least; a six-year-old with an affinity for animals spends two months lost on the Canadian prairie, cared for by a badger who has recently lost her young.  According to Eckert, it’s a slightly fictionalized account of an actual incident, which is incredible but not impossible (truth being absolutely stranger than fiction).  He does a good job portraying the boy’s parents and their conflicting worries for their son, although the third person omniscient gives the whole book a certain detached feel.  (You can tell that, in writing the book, he’s simply taking his observations of nature one step further.)  He also, however, exhibits a certain tendency to give a little more information about the habits of wildlife than a true novelist would.  I was interested in the statistics on prairie dog towns, actually, and I looked up ‘spermophiles’ because I was curious–it’s a genus of ground squirrels, by the way–but I’m not so sure that the average young reader will be (interested and curious, I mean).  To be fair, the plot might still draw them, and there’s certainly action.  It also moves fairly quickly, extra details not withstanding.  (I loved Atlas Shrugged, but Ayn Rand could have taken a lesson or two from this guy.  That 50-page radio speech just rehashed everything the previous 900 pages had covered already.)  Overall, then, I’d recommend it to anyone with a decent interest in wildlife–or North American western history.

Incident at Hawk’s Hill


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Jun 18, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Taquitos

Taquitos

I know I’ve already posted one taquito recipe on here–although not a typical one–but I’ve got a few more I enjoy.  Tonight my friend and I fed 9 kids (mine and hers and two extras), and we opted to make these Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos for the crowd.  We doubled the recipe and used the breast meat from a Costco rotisserie chicken, which made it decently easy.  We also used regular Monterey Jack instead of Pepperjack, because a)I don’t like Pepperjack and b)I don’t do spicy.  The only other real change we made was using fresh cilantro instead of dried, because we had it, so why not?  (To substitute fresh herbs for dried, you use triple the amount of dried that it calls for.)  And of course, whole wheat tortillas, because slightly more filling is always better, right?  Anyway…

I do really enjoy this recipe.  I love rolling fillings into flour tortillas because they don’t crack if you, you know, BREATHE.  You don’t have to baby them in the microwave with damp paper towels, or fry them in oil and add unholy amounts of pure fat to the recipe; you just roll and set them on the pan and you’re done.  (It’s not that I don’t love homemade enchiladas, but there’s a reason why I don’t make them very often.  Corn tortillas are beastly to roll.)  I also love baking instead of frying.  It’s not that I object to eating my fair share of lovely fried goodness, mind you; it’s just that deep frying things myself focuses my mind a little too clearly on the oil involved.  It’s easier for me to deal with when I don’t have to actually look at it.  (Incidentally, I’m also still traumatized by how long my kitchen stank after the homemade onion ring experiment.)  And, yes, the healthy matters when it’s just an everyday dinner.  I try to space out the ‘you’ll die happy’ kind of recipes.

If you’re worried about rolling them, don’t be.  It gets routine after a time or two.  And don’t stress about using the exact amounts per tortilla that it calls for.  I usually end up using half as many tortillas as the recipe tells me I’ll need, and no one complains about how they taste.  I mixed salsa and ranch to dip them in, while most of the kids used plain ranch, but they were more or less enjoyed by all.

Go ahead.  Take the taquito plunge.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

Jun 17, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Apparently, June is a Crockpot Kind of Month

Apparently, June is a Crockpot Kind of Month

Seriously.  I don’t even use my crockpots as often as you’d think.  (And yes, that was plural.  I have three, of varying sizes; all three have been gifts.  I’m not complaining.  It’s nice to have the right size for a recipe.)  My oldest used to have texture issues with crockpot chicken, and, well, whatever.  The point is that while I can go months without using any of my crockpots, I’ve been really enjoying them lately.  Last night I made one of my staples, Mel’s Pineapple Salsa Chicken, which never fails to please…well, except for the middle, who doesn’t care for anything that might be construed as Mexican food.  Ah, well.  The rest of us are fans, and it’s beautifully easy.  You can make it as is, which is perfectly fine, or you can make it the way I do, which is not radically different, but here goes.

1)I don’t drain the pineapple.  The first time I made it I missed that step, decided I liked it just fine, and never bothered.  I also don’t bother draining off the liquid, but then, I like to err on the side of moist.  I have dry mouth issues.

2)I add 2 T of brown sugar to bring out the sweetness a bit.  This is optional, of course.  I’m not even sure how noticeable it is.

3)I add an extra can of black beans and only use 5 chicken breasts, unless they’re on the small side.

There you go!  I always serve it with chips, salsa, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, cheese, and olives.  The kids and I eat taco salads with crushed chips as a base.  My hubby adds his toppings to the crockpot mixture and scoops it with the chips.  Either  way, it’s a winner, and it makes enough for two dinners plus.  It also freezes beautifully.

Need I say more?

 

Jun 13, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Timing is a Lot

Timing is a Lot

Not quite everything, you understand.  All the same, I was completely looking forward to reading Patricia Reilly Giff’s latest, Winter Sky, because I LOVE her.  I was psyched.  And then I had a string of evenings with other responsibilities, which meant I was reading it in tiny little fits and starts, and that just about ruins a book.  I was so sad!  It was a good story, with an intriguing mystery, and it ended in an absolutely satisfying way; I was just never able to immerse myself in it.  I never had the time.

It is possible, of course, that it wasn’t quite as good as her best have been, but that’s a pretty high standard to meet.  I so desperately loved Pictures of Hollis Woods, All the Way Home, Willow Run, Storyteller, Nory Ryan’s Song, Maggie’s Door, A House of Tailors…you get the idea. She is able to tell stories simply without oversimplifying the context, and with an impressive level of poignancy to boot.  Winter Sky is extremely contemporary, which will probably make it more popular than some of her historical fiction among readers of today.  Siria is endearing, and her found family (which includes one actual family member) rings true.  (As a parent, I find her nighttime wanderings appalling–she follows the firetrucks to local fires so that she can watch over her fireman father–but they do make sense as part of the story.)  Read it and enjoy–and then, if you’ve never read any of the ones I listed above, go read those.

Right now.

Winter Sky


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Jun 12, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on What This Mormon Girl Has to Say

What This Mormon Girl Has to Say

I understand that the founder of the ‘Ordain Women’ group is now facing a (church) disciplinary hearing for her actions; I also understand that she “hopes to remain in the church,” according to ksl.com (our local news station).  I have two questions for her.

1)Why are you surprised?

2)Why do you hope to remain in the church?

I honestly don’t understand the thought process involved here.  Her “activist” behavior demonstrates very clearly that she no longer believes in what our faith teaches about revelation. (We believe that only the prophet can receive revelation for the entire church.  Parents can receive revelation for their immediate families, and bishops can receive revelations for their congregations, because in each case they are responsible for all of the people involved.  The prophet can receive revelation for our entire church, because he is the only one on earth responsible for our entire church.  That, we believe, is the Lord’s way of doing things, and it makes perfect sense to me.  I believe the Lord communicates to my husband and me about our family, and to Thomas S. Monson about our church.)  It also demonstrates that she does not believe our church’s doctrine about how the priesthood works.  (It is erroneous to believe that men have it and women have no part in it, by the way.  Our responsibilities and roles just happen to be different.)

Now, I have no problem with people not believing what I believe.  I have no problem with people disagreeing with points of doctrine.  One of the articles of our faith is that “We claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.”  I grew up with some devout Catholic friends, and I have the greatest respect for their convictions.  I do disagree with certain doctrines of the Catholic church, however, and that is why I CHOOSE NOT TO BE CATHOLIC.  If I had been born Catholic but came to the same conclusions about religion that I have reached in my own faith, I would have chosen to leave the Catholic church and seek a faith that matched my beliefs.  I would NOT have tried to force the Pope to change the Catholic faith for me.  Why should I?  It would be my choice not to believe.  Why would I try to force a church to change to fit my own beliefs? Why would I try to remain a part of a group with which I no longer agree?

I don’t understand why Kate Kelly is surprised that she is facing disciplinary action; she is actively teaching opposing doctrine.  How can a church not take action?  Would a principal allow a teacher in his or her school to actively preach against his or her authority?  ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’  Ultimately, the leader of a household must ask those who are acting in opposition to the rules of the household to live elsewhere.

I am further baffled by her ‘hope to remain in the church.’  Why not start her own?  Or join another?  Why fight to stay part of an organization that you no longer support?  Our country is kinder to dissidents than many.  Why choose to be one but seek not to be identified as one?

I have a real testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It is my faith, and I believe in it and choose to live it.  I am, frankly, appalled that someone completely outside the Lord’s chain of command seeks to directly change my faith and my responsibilities in it.

Why would anyone do that?  For the life of me, I can’t see that it makes any sense at all.

Jun 11, 2014 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Another Crockpot Standby

This will be quick, because it somehow got WAY later than I intended it to be, but I just realized I haven’t shared this recipe for Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken.  And I should.  Because it’s easy the way it is, and it divides by 3 beautifully, meaning, of course, that you can make 1/3 or 2/3 of the recipe if you so desire, with NO ugly math.  (I’m not saying all math is ugly.  I’m just saying that no one wants to divide, say, one egg into thirds.)  It also uses thighs, which I rather like for the crockpot.  They stay moist and tender nicely, even if they’re in for quite a while; breasts don’t always.  And the individually frozen boneless skinless thighs at Costco are fabulous, although I do always trim what visible fat I can.  You can put them on low or high, adjusting the cooking time accordingly, and they will turn out well.  (I should point out, to be fair, that my hubby has issues with baked thighs, but never minds them in the crockpot.)

So go ahead.  Stick this in your crockpot with some rice in your rice cooker, steam up some peas or broccoli on the side, and you’ve got a peach of an easy dinner.

Jun 8, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Call of the Easy Crockpot Dinner

The Call of the Easy Crockpot Dinner

Even though I didn’t finish The Call of the Wild at the Dirty Dash (who was I kidding?), I did manage to finish it last night before bed, in large part because I made such an easy crockpot dinner that there weren’t even enough dishes to run the dishwasher.  I even threw it in before we left, which was around 8:30 in the morning, and although I turned it off around 3:30 or 4 and turned it back on 20 minutes before dinner to make sure it was still hot, the timing wasn’t bad.  And would you like to know what I put in the crockpot?

It’s my sister’s creation, really.  One small bottle of alfredo sauce (I used Classico Four Cheese), one small bottle of pesto (or, you know, one of the several containers of pesto that I separated my Costco bottle into and froze, thawed in the fridge the night before), and five small-ish chicken breasts.  (I put them in frozen, but only because I used the individually frozen kind from Costco that come well-trimmed.)  Into the crockpot it all went!  If we’d been leaving later, I would have started it later, but such is life.  (I’m sure you could also put it on high for 2-3 hours, if your chicken is thawed.)  The point is, it was an insanely easy meal; all I had left to do when we got home was to cook some pasta and cut up and cook some broccoli.  Voila!  A dinner that got a thumbs up from everyone.

As for The Call of the Wild, I found it very interesting.  I read White Fang several times in elementary school, but I’d never read the other, and I had no idea how perfectly matched they are.  White Fang is about a wild thing being ultimately tamed–sort of–by love; The Call of the Wild is about a civilized dog growing wilder and wilder, until–with the loss of love–he reverts completely to his wolfish ancestors.  One ends where the other starts, right down to–if I remember correctly–the house of a judge.  I see now why they are so often published together (in fact, I made sure the version I linked to this post had them both).  London’s writing style is on the flowery side, but it’s less objectionable than it might be because his subject matter is so emphatically NOT flowery.  (I’m reminded of a documentary on the making of “Dr. Zhivago” that I saw, where the director talked about purposely shooting the love scenes in harsh cold light and the war scenes in beautiful golden light.) Flowery might not even be the right word for it.  Grandiose, maybe?  At any rate.  I still enjoy White Fang more, because I find it a more emotionally satisfying book to read, but I rather think you need to read both books at least once.  The contrast between the stories is too good to miss.

 

Jun 7, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on How Serendipitous!

How Serendipitous!

Today my hubby did his first dirty dash with people from work, and while I actually would have loved to do it with him, I didn’t feel like I could foist the boy off on someone for six hours (there was some considerable travel time involved, not to mention the BARELY MOVING shower line).  It was his first, though, and so the kiddos and I came to support and cheer him on, which left us with a couple of hours to kill while he was on the course.  We went through rather a large quantity of grapes–they tasted SO good in the heat–and while we were eating, I had a truly serendipitous idea.

Even though I knew there wasn’t much of a chance I’d be able to read, what with restless kids in a crowd and all, I did bring two books with me, because hey–it’s who I am.  I only have 25 pages left in The Call of the Wild, so I grabbed the shortest (read:  lightest and smallest) book to accompany it (it’s dreadful to finish a book and not have another on hand!) and shoved them both in my purse.  And while we were sitting and eating grapes, it occurred to me.  That short, light, and small book was Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman, and didn’t it look like something the kids would enjoy me reading aloud to them?  Yes, Neil Gaiman can be incredibly creepy, but everything about this one screamed a reasonable suitability for younger kids, and after all, I could always stop if something popped up that might give my girlies nightmares.  And so, settled with two strollers on an out-of-the-way path, and eating grapes like, um, crazy grape-eaters, we delved into it.

It was fabulous!  I loved the tone, loved the plot, and loved the illustrations.  The girlies seemed to be enjoying it as well, enough so that I finished reading it to them tonight before bedtime.  My oldest (7 1/2) said she LOVED it, and my middle, despite her tendency towards defiance and general contrariness when she’s tired, said she liked it as well.  The creepiest part wasn’t too creepy for them (partly because it didn’t last long, and the pronunciation issues of the creatures involved were kind of hilarious to an adult trying to read it out loud), and all of it was fabulously funny.  Picture Fred Savage (with a younger sister thrown in) and Peter Falk (as a dad and not a grandpa), only instead of The Princess Bride, he’s telling a story about all kinds of fantastical and science fictional creatures, in a sort of The Day Jimmy’s Boa Constrictor Ate the Wash kind of style.  Read it yourself–get it for your elementary age kiddos–enjoy it!  This one is definitely worth the money.

Fortunately, the Milk


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Jun 6, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Two Gluten-Free Recipes…Just Because

Two Gluten-Free Recipes…Just Because

I didn’t actually do it on purpose, since no one in our immediate family has gluten issues (KNOCK ON WOOD).  But my oldest wants to start baking with me again, now that she’s out of school and home during her brother’s naptime every day, and when I was browsing my ‘Brownies and Bars’ board on Pinterest, I saw these Black Bean Brownies and thought–hey!  My hubby’s a chocoholic, and he’s doing a dirty dash tomorrow.  Why not go for a higher protein treat?  I didn’t even realize they were gluten free until I was about to put them in the oven and had a sudden moment of panic, because I couldn’t remember adding any flour.  (My inner response was something like, “Yeah, well, you double-checked the ingredient list, so you’re probably good.”)  The texture was a little funny, but that’s partly because these were definitively cake brownies, and I usually go for fudge.  All in all, you couldn’t taste the beans, and while they’re a little different, my hubby liked them just fine. Victory!

The other recipe was a dinner choice that got picked because it was easy and involved rice, since I had leftover teriyaki chicken in the fridge but nothing to go with it.  This Korean Beef and Rice used ground beef and was criminally easy; the only changes I made were to reduce the quantity of red pepper flakes to a level my family can handle and to forgo the green onions on top (partly because my kids wouldn’t love them and partly out of laziness).  And it was TASTY.  I loved the sweet with the subtle heat, and the beef gives that flavor profile a different spin than chicken does.  I did wish it was a little more saucy–as in, saucy at all–but I served peas on the side and mixed mine in, which upped the moisture to an acceptable level.  I doubt it’s any kind of authentic, but I’m not in close touch with anyone who’s lived in Korea anymore, so I don’t really know.  (I did used to be, mind you, but that was in high school and college, and that’s starting to feel like a REALLY long time ago.) Authentic or not, however, I loved it, and easy recipes that I love are always keepers.  Give this one a try!

Jun 5, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Cleaning Out the Fridge

Cleaning Out the Fridge

Sometime last week I cooked up some thin spaghetti to go with some leftover Cowboy Spaghetti sauce, and while the sauce got used up, I then had a bunch of leftover cooked spaghetti with no sauce to go with it.  (And it’s not that I don’t totally appreciate the appeal of just covering it with Parmesan and going to town, but there was a rather large serving.)  Today I exercised during the morning, instead of the boy’s nap, and so I found myself with enough time during the afternoon to try a recipe that claimed to be for Lo Mein, although it doesn’t seem right to call it that with only green onions and garlic for the veggies.  (Technically, it claimed to be Lo Mien, but that’s a whole different issue.)  It was super easy, even if only a few of the ingredients had actual measurements, and when my friend Britt and I sat down to try it, we found it to be–okay.  And then, since we both figured it would be better with some sweetness, I tossed in a soup spoon full of brown sugar.  After that it was more than okay; I wouldn’t ever make it without the sugar again, especially since it seemed slightly salty even with low sodium soy sauce.  (To be fair, I did leave out the sesame seeds, since she doesn’t care for them, but I think I liked it better without.)

Anyway.  If you have leftover spaghetti noodles, give this one a try–as is, if you want the seeds and the pure saltiness, or as we made it, if you’re as fond of sweet/savory as I am.  Now the noodles are gone, the container is out of my fridge, and absolutely nothing was wasted!  I call that a win!

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