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Wednesday Recipe Club, a la moi

January 5th, 2022

Well, it was the holidays, we ate like piggies, but who am I kidding, it’s always the holidays over here. Birthdays, New Year’s, Groundhog Day, I’m just saying. For belated New Year’s Eve, friends and I are planning to make shortribs, cornbread with honey and butter, Hummingbird Cake, and Hoppin’ John for good luck for the year… HERE, make some:

  • Black-eyed peas
  • Olive oil
  • Onion (I’ve been using a lot of shallots lately, so sharp and good)
  • Garlic
  • Salt/pepper/hot sauce

Soak, cook and partially drain black-eyed peas. Carmelize onion and garlic in olive (or vegetable) oil and add to peas; add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. I like Tiger Sauce or bento sauce the best.

I’ve never made a Hummingbird Cake, but I like a good spice cake, especially when fruit is added. But we may stick with Chocolate Volcano Cake because I like how everyone acts like it’s the first time they’ve ever seen such a concoction, whenever I make it. I mean, I make this cake a lot, and have since I was a teenager. It’s just that kind of recipe — fun, yummy and wow it’s molten chocolate. Like, if your kid needs to do a project for the school science fair, instead of building a volcano, you and the kid should make this cake instead and bribe the judges. Pretty sure they’ll earn a blue ribbon.

Also, any excuse to break out the creme fraiche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, y’know? Lol.

So I will let you know how BNYE (belated New Year’s Eve) goes.

My friend and I have been cooking for each other a lot, because it gets boring just cooking for yourself. She does a dynamite Ribollita and also makes superb breads. And jams. Fancy, individually-made salads. oh my god, her frittatas… Also a Key Lime Pie that is so exquisite it brings a tear to the eye. I start thinking crazy thoughts like, I don’t need any other foods, just this pie, more pie, please?

Only she left town For the Holidays and now I’m just eating my own cooking and I don’t make the best pies, pies are frickin’ tricky to make.

So I’m sad.

But this turned out perfectly:

ORANGE CHICKEN WHICH IS WAY BETTER THAN THE PANDA EXPRESS VERSION

I found this recipe on Facebook (?? what even is up with Facebook, with all the TikToks and recipes and help wanted ads?? It’s like they’re tailoring it specifically to me. Oh… wait…)

Where was I? Yeah. We order too much orange chicken from fast food places, and it’s always random bits and hunks of I don’t even know what kind of mystery meat.

Step up your game, Panda Express and everywhere else.

But this recipe? Easy-peasy orange squeezy.

  1. Dust off the crockpot
  2. Try not to think about the faulty crockpot that kills the dad is “This Is Us,” or as I call it, “This Is Just Manipulating My Emotions”
  3. Pour in some olive or vegetable oil (I don’t really measure thing anymore, sorry, so use your best judgment. Not too much, not too little) and turn on high to heat.
  4. Shake cornstarch in a flat dish and dredge boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used four) and add to slow cooker. Let cook for a few minutes on each side, then…
  5. Around the edges, drizzle in soy sauce. Pour in barbecue sauce (Stubb’s!). Spoon in about half of a 16-ounce jar of orange marmalade.
  6. Cook on high for a couple of hours and low for a couple more hours until the chicken pulls apart easily.
  7. Serve as sandwiches or over rice.

It’s very tasty, inexpensive and perfect for lunches/leftovers.

Next up:

Since my friends and I cook for each other, and I still cook for Steve (remember him? morehockeylesswar? He’s Chili AF!) and the kids, and the kids’ friends, when they’re around, because, well. That’s life. I’ll always cook for them until I get sick of it, which I hope I never do. They cook for me, too, so this works out nicely. Love love love.

Anyway, we do a lot of trading of casserole dishes, Tupperware, bottles of wine, six-packs of Two Town Hard Cider, and Ball and Kerr jars. I found these recipes and I’m posting them here since they sound just delicious.

OK, babies, bon appetit! Don’t forget to eat/cook/write when you can!

WM

Fiesta Salsa (courtesy of Ball Jars)

For two pints, you will need:

2 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 6 medium; will yield about 4 1/2 cups finely diced)

3 tablespoons vinegar

1/4 cup Ball Fiesta Salsa mix (mix well before measuring) or use minced white onion, jalapeno, salt, pepper, sugar and lime juice like I do; skip the vinegar if you sub lime)

Combine ingredients. Don’t go all crazy. (PS yes they included destructions for how to can the salsa, which I realized i just turned into Pico de Gallo. But I don’t can. I either make stuff fresh or I freeze (when possible — jam, for example).

Next…

Honey Orange Slices

(Yields about three half-pints)

4 large oranges, sliced, then cut in half, end pieces discarded

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups honey

Juice from one large lemon, plus zest

3 sticks cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice

Put oranges in a saucepan, add water to cover; bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer (about 30 minutes) until peel is tender; drain.

Combine sugar/honey/lemon juice; bring to boil.

Add orange slices and spices (tied in cheesecloth bag. Simmer about 40 minutes.

Pack orange slices in jars; pour liquid over. Cool, then refrigerate. Give them to your friends and see how impressed they are.

Happy Holidays… Happy Holidays… Have some happy book reviews!

December 12th, 2021

“The Welcome Chair,” illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and written by Rosemary Wells, is a brand-new release, just in time for the book-giving season. (Year-round is the book-giving season at our house.) These are two of my favorite children’s book geniuses, who have each created more than 100 titles. Isn’t that the coolest? More than one hundred books have been illustrated by Pinkney, and more than one hundred written by Wells. Amazing milestones for both of them.

This title comes from a real story from Wells’ family, about a special rocking chair built and carved by great-great-grandfather, Sam Seigbert. Her great-great-grandmother and then grandmother passed down the legend and Wells and Pinkney have brought it to life in incredible fashion. Pinkney’s illustrations are, as always, majestic. (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021, ages 4-8, $17.99.)

“Parker Shines On” is another treat from Parker Curry (age 6), her mama, Jessica Curry (blog mom who writes “Happy Mama, Happy Babies”) and illustrator Brittany Jackson. It’s a colorful (pink, of course) and delightful tale about Parker, who loves ballet, her friends, and playtime with her little sister and brother, Ava and Cash. The first book in the series was “Parker Looks Up.” Look for “Your Friend, Parker” and “Parker Dresses Up” to be released early in 2022. (Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, 2021, ages 4-8, $17.99.)

“Light for All” is a much-needed and appreciated book from writer Margarita Engle and illustrator Raul Colon. This masterpiece of a book honors the courage and resiliency of the many immigrants who have traveled to live in America, while not forgetting about the many, many indigenous people who were already here. (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021, all ages, $17.99.) Lovely, loving story.

“Beautifully Me” and other books for autumn

October 28th, 2021

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Hello, loves, do you like reading? My cats do. Especially when the weather is cold and we snuggle up on the couch. The chickens aren’t so keen on it, though. Who knows why. Here are some fun titles for kids and their grown-ups:

“Learning with Llama Llama: Numbers” and “Llama Llama: Colors,” (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2021, $6.99) the newest releases in the Llama Llama series, are sweet, colorful little board books just right for the babies and toddlers in the crowd. Llama Llama tidies up his room, counts the dishes, and hangs out with his mama llama. He learns about colors, too! It’s the little things in life. Look for the books next month when they hit the shelves.  

“Over, Bear! Under, Where?” written by Julie Hedlund, illustrated by Michael Slack (Philomel/Random House, 2021, ages 4 and older, $16.99) is another November release. This one is not only beautifully illustrated, and funny, but it’s full of word puns and compound words (including a list of compound words in the back). The kids will love it.

I’m thrilled to have received a copy of  “Beautifully Me,” by author Nabela Noor and illustrator Nabi H. Ali (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021, ages 4 and older, 40 pages, $17.99). It’s the first day of school for Zubi, who is Bangladeshi-American, and she has questions about why everyone around her is so concerned with weight? Should she be worried, too? Great, matter-of-fact way to discuss this topic. 

Sandra Boynton! of “Dog Train,” “Philadelphia Chickens,” “Pajama Time,” and many, many other titles, has a new/old one for the kiddos.

With “Good Night, Good Night” (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, 2021, ages 3 and older, $17.99), Boynton has created a larger and longer version of her classic, “The Going to Bed Book. OK, that’s enough links and enough words. Her art is whimsical, the stories are funny-funny, the characters have cute faces, and the songs (when included, and they often are) are fun to sing along with. 

Happy reading! Have a great week.

WM

Friday, Friday: This Week’s Young Adult Books

September 17th, 2021

Hello, readers! Two new ones from the Wingfeather Saga:

“Pembrick’s Creaturepedia, Skreean Edition,” by Ollister B. Pembrick, translated from the original by Andrew Peterson, illustrated by O.B.P., with assistance from Aedan Peterson, “Master of Sketchery,” tra la la! (WaterBrook, 2014/2021, 122 pages, $13.99.) Cool illustrations, the text is fun, and the cover? So pretty. (Books that are precious and just feel good to read.) Nice pairing with “Wingfeather Tales: Seven Thrilling Stories from the World of Aerwiar” (Andrew Peterson, editor, WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2016/2021, 384 pages, $13.99).

Love, love, love graphic novels, and here’s a good one: “The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast,” by Chad Sell. (Random House Children’s Books, 2021, ages 9-12, 288 pages, $12.99.)

Last but not least… “Good Dog: 4 Books in 1!” (Written by Cam Higgins, illustrated by Ariel Landy; “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” “Raised in a Barn,” “Herd You Loud and Clear” and “Fireworks Night”; Little Simon/Simon & Schuster; 2021; 491 awesome, fun-filled pages.) Great title for kids who are fans of dogs and other critters, farms and fun.

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Wednesday Book Review: “What Are… ?” The WhoHQ series

September 15th, 2021

drippy rose

(Photo by Steven Pings Rawley; use with permission only)

The WhoHQ book series has been popular since the titles first started rolling off the presses. (WhoHQ, Who? What? Where? Your Headquarters for History; Penguin Workshop; $5.99 per title.) 

With 250 titles, and more on the way, it’s a comprehensive series, with titles about historical events from earthquakes to war, science, celebrities, historical figures… the list goes on and on with something for everyone. They’re aimed at ages 8-12, but kids who are younger and older enjoy the series, too. I can see the appeal — the covers are inviting and bright; the stories are well-written, and the books include pages and pages of photos, fact boxes, lots of art, timelines and bibliographies for readers who are looking for more.

They basically implement a variety of different techniques to help students learn. Hear, hear! We should all be so creative. Lol.

Here are four recent titles and all are great additions to the collection. If you’re looking for resources on how to use the series, a good place to start is with Dr. Loftin’s Learning Emporium. 

“What Are the Paralympics Games?”

“What Are the Summer Olympics?”

“Who Was Jesse Owens?”

“Who Was Kobe Bryant?”

Enjoy! Here’s to cool autumn days, warm blankets, hot soup and tea, and lots of books.

WM

Monday Book Review: Picture Books

September 6th, 2021

Team Rawley at the beach

(Photo by Steven Pings Rawley; use with permission only)

Well, it’s Labor Day here in the States, and I’m enjoying my day off, but I’d still like to give you a fast book round-up. Happy reading and bon appetit!

WM

Reviewed today:

This new series by Cocomelon arrived and honestly — right when you think baby books can’t get any better, they do.

“The Wheels on the Bus” (Simon Spotlight, board book, $7.99) by May Nakamura is a cool little book (the wheels really work!) and exactly the right size for small hands. There’s a story to go with the classic song. I’m taking this one in to read and sing with my preschoolers tomorrow a.m. after we’re back from break. Look for it when it’s released Sept. 14, 2021.

Did I say “preschoolers”? Yes, yes I did. It’s fall, and I’m now director/lead teacher at a preschool. Love it. They’re funny and sweet and love to read. My heroes. Awww… 

Speaking of those little heroes… I brought in Anita Lobel’s newest title, “Ducks on the Road: A Counting Adventure,” and they refused to give it back. It’s a counting book and a rhyming book, and it’s funny. The mama and the papa take their 10 babies out for a walk, but the babies are more interested in making friends than sticking with their parents. Adorable, great illustrations (of course. Lobel is legendary, go read about her) and if the preschoolers won’t turn it loose, you know it’s gotta be good. (Make sure to sing “Five Little Ducks” to go along with this one.)

Oh, wait. This Cocomelon is a cartoon hit, I getcha. So if you feel like having a dance party, go check it out.

(The students were yelling something at me about blooey, blooey! And then I remembered getting a review copy of a book about Bluey, the little blue heeler. “Oh! Bluey!” “Yes, Bluey, you know him?” I’ll review it when I locate it, but here’s another link for now.)

Three more Cocomelons, and off I go…

“Yes, Yes, Vegetables!”

“Ready for School!”

and…

“Hello, New Friend!”

How apropos. Have an awesome week!!!

Sunday Book Review: Parenting Books

August 25th, 2021

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“When the Chickens Go Feral” (photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

It’s Sunday morning, and that means peace and quiet around here. At least for a minute until the gentleman farmers start zooming around on their tractors. Save it for the weekday mornings, guys. I’m zooming, too: Church. There are some adaptations we’ve made, during these pandemic times, that work pretty well, and some that don’t. For me, Zoom church works.

Especially since my church family is in Portland, Ore., and I’m not.

Monday morning now… book review time. I’ve received a few review copies recently of parenting books, and have picked up and been gifted some how-to, self-help type books. This is a good selection! Enjoy.

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” by Julia Cameron (TarcherPerigee, 245 pages). I’m looking forward to reading more of this 25th anniversary edition, which was first published in 1992. A friend sent it along and I’m so touched that she did. The author calls it a “support kit for artists” and it really is. Just a lovely book and I’m glad it’s still in print. Thank you, R, for sending it. Love you.

I’m also reading “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” by Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House, 2015, 273 pages, $24.95). It’s awesome, this book. It’s especially needed right now, as many of us are experiencing ongoing pandemic fatigue and wondering what 2021, 2022 and the next decade will hold. We will get through it, but it’s still too intense right now. So this book helps, thanks, Ms. Gilbert.

“How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes: Science-Based Strategies for Better Parenting — From Tots to Teens,” by Melinda Wenner Moyer (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021, 340 pages, $27.) Another thank you. That’s all. Just thank you.

“License to Parent: How My Career as a Spy Helped Me Raise Resourceful, Self-Sufficient Kids,” by Christina Hillsberg, with Ryan Hillsberg. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House, 2021, 275 pages, $26). These two worked for the CIA, went on to other adventures, and then wrote this parenting book. Hmm.

“Blend,” by Mashonda Tifrere, with Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz (TarcherPerigee, 2018, 244 pages, $27). My favorite of all parenting books. Read it even if you haven’t had a split in your family (and honestly, who hasn’t had to deal with some sort of separation/divorce/loss and grief in their family?). Tifrere soul-searched following her split with Beatz, and his remarriage to musician Keys. She takes on all of it: Communication, co-parenting, egos, weaknesses, strengths, the love we have for our kids, and the children in our families, healthy relationships, friendships, all of it. This is a brilliant, poignant, deep book and meant to help in the healing process. I just loved it.

“The Making of Home: The 500-Year Story of How Our Houses Became Our Homes,” by Judith Flanders (St. Martin’s Press, 2015, 346 pages, $26.99). This one is next in the stack!

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Sunday Book Review

August 1st, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

“Springtime in the Valley,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

Here’s a photo from a few months ago. I cannot believe that it’s August 1st today, it seems so fast. But it also feels like mid-September, or even early October, in spite of the heat and the wildfires, so I remain out of sorts. The birds are plucking all of the grapes, even though they’re not quite ripened. The black raspberries are gone, the roses have bloomed and wilted, and the daylilies, too. The red plums are gone, but the purple plums, and the yellow plums, are placid and on schedule. I leave the sprinklers on for the hens, the wild birds, the deer, the new fawns and the other critters. I leave out bowls of water, and cat food for the two strays, one gray and one black.

The Delta variant has many of us worried. Covid-19 continues to kick our asses and kill us. We’re ready to stop worrying, but that’s never going to happen. Worry is the human condition. Maybe, eventually, more people will agree to be vaccinated and we can move on. Maybe. So I read, I write, I call friends and write letters and cards. I garden and take care of the kids, and my friends and family, and they, in turn, take care of me.

And I review books.

Can’t wait to share these titles with you — all picture books for the littles (and for the bigs who appreciate education, art and good stories).

“Listen,” by Gabi Snyder, illustrated  by Stephanie Graegin (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2021, ages 4-8, $17.99). I highly recommend “listening” walks, they’re the best. (My kids and I often took these when they were little, and still enjoy them now.) They’re especially needed, I think, during the middle of winter, and the dog days of summer. This is a sweet picture book about a little girl who just hears NOISE in her world, until she closes her eyes and drinks in, absorbs, and feels each sound around her. 

The crow cawing. The dog yapping. The teakettle whistling. “Hello,” called across the playground. Wind. Rain.

Lovely book, and the shades of blue the illustrator used soften everything and really bring out the quietness and peace of the story. 

“Making a Baby,” written by Rachel Greener and illustrated by Clare Owen (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020, $17.99). No, no, sorry, I’m too young for this one. But the kids have questions, and books can be helpful in providing answers. This one provides answers, and, um, pictures. So now I’m blushing and have to leave. Bye.

“Different: A Great Thing to Be!” written by Heather Avis, with illustrations by Sarah Mensinga (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2021, 40 pages, $11.99). Delightful book about a young girl with special needs, and a glimpse into her life. Written in rhymes, with bright, colorful illustrations, it’s a nice introduction about the feelings of others, their abilities and challenges, and how to reach out and make sure no one is excluded.

“Chirp! Chipmunk Sings for a Friend,” written by Jamie A. Swenson, with illustrations by Scott Magoon (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2021, ages 4-8, $17.99). 

“Chipmunk lived on a rock… Sometimes Chipmunk’s songs were happy. Sometimes her songs were bittersweet. And sometimes her songs were very sad indeed.”

Chipmunk is alone, except for her rock. This is the story of how she strikes out in the world, seeking friends. Whimsical, ethereal illustrations, and a great story.

Bon appetit, everyone.

WM

Thursday Book Review (for grown-ups and big kids): What’s New on My Nightstand

July 1st, 2021

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“Big Stack” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

 

Good morning, darling ones. Have you been reading a lot? I have. There are probably three dozen books on my nightstand, coffee table, desk… other desk… dining room table. So I’d better type up some reviews! Here we go.

Let’s start with supernatural-scary, shall we? When I was a big kid kid (maybe 10 or 11) I had two favorite books. One was about an evil little girl who died young, and then came back to torture the people in her grandmother’s house. The second one was about a girl who was walking down a street in her neighborhood and suddenly… yes, suddenly… it was dusk, everything morphed and turned into Victorian times. There was her neighborhood, her street, her house, 100 years earlier.

I’m telling you, these two books were amazing. But I could never remember the titles. The second book I still haven’t found, so if you know the title? For the love of God, tell me in comments. (Even if you’ve just stopped by for a fast read, leave me a comment! Reverting to the old days of blogging, Hi are you out there?)

But the first book, about the wicked little girl, had a strange hook — she liked to pick pansies and stick them into sand, then let them die. Yeah, I thought that was weird, too. So I googled “kids’ books,” “pansy people,” “pansy faces,” something like that, and found the classic “Jane-Emily,” by Patricia Clapp and ordered a copy. It’s as trashy and good as I remember.

Sweet, dear Jane, who of course is nine and of course is an orphan and of course has a young aunt, the lovely Louisa, go to stay with Jane’s grandmother in her graceful and haunting mansion. They find a strange, alluring reflecting ball in the garden, they hear the stories about Emily, her willful, selfish nature, her destruction of pansies, they check out the goodies in the attic and off we go. 

Perfect for summer reading, or anytime reading.

The Game of Thrones series is going to keep us busy for awhile over here. My son and I just binged all 8 seasons on HBO Max, and yeah, it was awesome. Say what you will about the last two seasons, and George R.R. Martin’s reluctance or inability to finish writing the series and putting a good wrap on it… D&D taking over the reins and going feral… It was still a hell of a ride. Just ordered the five books in paperback and good to go. (Bantam Books Trade Paperback, 1996-2011, 5,216 pages total, 16 bucks on sale.)

My daughter gifted me a copy of “Wise Dogs,” a Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown Jr. and Dale C. Spartas (Hallmark, 2013, 143 pages, $12.95). Nice mini-book for the coffee table, and makes me glad the Internet was invented because dammit. Most of us do find some kind of peace/humor/grace in looking at photos of kittens/dog/cats/puppies/babies and kids. It’s the small moments that matter.  And remember: Be the first to say hello, do small tasks well, and to make a memory, get muddy.

“Ladder of Years” by Anne Tyler (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, 326 pages, $11.99) is now my favorite Tyler novel, and I’ve been with her since “The Accidental Tourist,” which I read when it was first released. Is “Ladder of Years” a summer read? Sure. It starts out with a family trip to the beach, a wife and mother’s longings, and some mysteries. Great read, and a big, well-drawn cast of characters. Comedic, poignant domestic novel by an author who consistently comes through with beautiful, well-written gems.

“That Summer” is Jennifer Weiner’s latest. I read a sample, it’s intriguing. I think I might listen to the audiobook of this one. She’s another longtime favorite of mine, and always knocks it out of the park.

“And Then They Stopped Talking to Me: Making Sense of Middle School,” by Judith Warner, is a new release (Crown Publishing, 2020, 304 pages, $17). Don’t think you’re too good for self-help and how-to books. We all need a road map, occasionally. This one is funny, bittersweet, thought-provoking and helping. I’ve always enjoyed Warner’s writing. Especially liked “Perfect Madness,” her treatise on motherhood, anxiety and cray-cray. Pick it up if you’re in the market for it, or have a friend or relative in need of some tips.

Another recent how-to release that turned up is “What Color is Your Parachute? For College: Pave Your Path from Major to Meaningful Work,” by Katharine Brooks (Penguin Random House, 2021, 272 pages, $16.99). Tips, tips and more tips.

“Be Gay! Do Comics!” is the motto of The Nib. I’ve been leafing through an issue that came out not too long ago. (Order through TheNib, $14.95.) It’s really different, creative, offbeat and interesting stuff. (She says, trying to come up with better words.) It’s good writin’ and drawin’ — political satire, journalism, non-fiction, comix. Check it out. 

“Are We There Yet?” by Kathleen West is one of the best reads I came across this spring, highly recommended. (Penguin Random House, 2021, 340 pages, $26.) I’ve always loved books about moms. Even before I became a mom, they hooked me. Moms. Are. A. Trip. (Judy Blume’s “Wifey,” Sheila Ballantyne’s “Norma Jean the Termite Queen,” anything about Princess Diana, “Give Me One Good Reason,” by Norma Klein, the list goes on and on.) Introducing Alice Sullivan, who is settling into middle age nicely, thank you, and thinks she knows everything about her family… until she realizes she doesn’t. No spoilers, not giving away more details, but I think this novel will speak to a lot of you, for different reasons.

And now, two notable Young Adult reads:

Cat Patrick’s “Paper Heart” (Putnam, 2021, 274 pages, $17.99) is a tug-on-the-heart read about 13-year-old Tess, and all the changes that follow the loss of her and her twin sister Frankie’s best friend, Colette. She’s falling apart, she’s trying to figure things out, and she’s at an art camp in Wyoming, stuck with extended relatives and far away from immediate family. And Colette. My copy included a sample from “Tornado Brain,” Patrick’s companion novel. Reading that next. “Paper Heart’ is just a fantastic book with likable, believable, real characters and lots of heart, and love.

Finished David Levithan’s “The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother” awhile back. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021, 213 pages, $16.99.) Great title. Saving the best for last, because this is the best thriller I’ve read in a long time. Aidan disappears, reappears, things get weird… Okay, no spoilers. Just read it, and buy copies to give as gifts.

Bon appetit, loves. Happy summer, happy reading.

 

WM

 

Friday Recipe Club: Summertime favorites, plus Helen’s Baked Beans + Five-Bean Chili

June 4th, 2021

2021

(“Too Damn Hot,” photo by nancy ellen row rawley)

Speaking of my late, great grannies and their genius… 

It’s been hot hot hot here this week in the Willamette Valley, where it usually rains throughout the month of June. In Portland, we always knew when Rose Festival was kicking off, with the ships arriving, the blooms and the princesses and the carnival on the waterfront, because the nice weather would go boom! buh-bye! and the rains would start.

i mean, not just any rain — dismal, grey, muddy muddy carnival grounds, depressing and you would think it would never stop. But on the day the sailors packed up, leaving pregnant girls behind in the port and sailing away out of town — the sun would reappear. Then disappear again and the rain would come back.

June used to be a lot more fun, is my point.

But not now. Last year’s fire season was bad, as well as the previous years before that — i think it’s going on our fifth summer of horrible fires up and down the west coast and throughout the West. We’re still (again) in a drought. It’s scary stuff.

So I go to what comforts me — doing what I can do. Packing a quick bag and the truck in case we need to leave. Praying. Meditating. Keeping the trees cut back, the debris (leaves, branches) picked up. Watering and keeping things as damp and green as possible. Watching the news and the internet to see where the fires are.

And I go grocery shopping and cooking.

Watermelon, blueberries, ice cream, popsicles, sorbet and cookies, of course. We had a ham in the freezer, purchased on sale, so I defrosted that and heated it in the oven, then sliced. I never bake my own hams anymore, I use pre-cooked.

My grandmothers would wake up early when the weather was hot, or they would cook things overnight on low on the stove, or in the slow cooker. Hams, turkey soup, beans and more beans. Ribs, meatloaves, all of the comfort foods. Homemade mac and cheese.

Sometimes they’d give, and we’d get KFC takeout and have a picnic. Lol.

They prepped salads ahead of time to keep in the fridge (potato or macaroni, with lots of mayo or “salad dressing,” black pepper and sweet pickles) or made up quick green salads (with fresh butter lettuce from the garden, picked in the morning before the heat started) with homemade buttermilk dressing, sliced onions, sliced Beefsteak tomatoes. Another favorite was cuke, tomato and onion salad, dressed simply with vegetable oil and vinegar. My maternal grandmother used to put a drinking glass on the table, containing a bouquet of freshly washed green onions in ice water. (My grandpa and sister loved onions. Too much. Ha.)

After I had my own family, I switched the salads up a bit with fresh mozzarella, herbs, and basil, sliced Romas and lemon cucumbers. We also discovered Panzanella made with (slightly stale, but good and hearty) bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and whatever else sounded good. I love Gabriele’s and Debi’s version. I’ve posted so many good summertime recipes over the years, go check them out under the my “Recipe Club” category. Cornbread Salad and Fried Rice, from my cousins; Black Bean Salad, Corn Casserole; Three-Bean Salad… there are just a ton of tasty dishes you can do up ahead of time, then eat at your leisure.  

I baked the ham, and for sides, heated up some corn, and made mashed potatoes with spinach stirred in. We’re good! Also found these two old faves:

AUNT HELEN’S BAKED BEANS

1 can butter beans

1 can light kidney beans

1 can B&M baked beans

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until done.

And… here’s a yummy one, too, to serve with polenta, cornbread or breadsticks.

FIVE-BEAN CHILI

One can each black-eyed peas, Great Northern beans, black beans, and kidney beans (cook your own, freeze in batches and use what you need, or use canned)

One onion, chopped

Spices and extras: Chili powder, garlic (fresh or powdered), pink salt, cumin, black pepper, spoonful of sugar, jalapenos, big spoonful of cocoa, turmeric

A can or two of Mexican stewed tomatoes or Rotel

A can or two of tomato sauce and paste

I love this recipe because you can have fun with it, cook it in the slow cooker, make it as mild or spicy as you like… serve with sour cream or plain yogurt… grated cheese or more chopped onions, chopped fresh cilantro, okay now I’m hungry.

Bon appetit, babies! Enjoy your weekend and avoid the heat.

WM

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