Monthly Archives: October 2010
So….part of the purpose of this blog is to give me an outlet for reviewing the books that I read, mostly for practice since it’s part of what I’m doing for class this semester. I’ve learned that I’m not very good at writing critically about fiction books because I’m much more accustomed to simply reading and enjoying and then moving on! If I want to be able to recommend books to kids/adults at work, I think it would be more beneficial to at least attempt to write brief reviews of things that I read for later reference.
The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins (2010)
Jackson Jones has no idea what he’s gotten into when he agrees to tend the Mrs. Nelson’s apple orchard, but anything has to be better than working at the scrap yard…right? Quickly realizing the futility of endeavoring alone, Jackson recruits his sisters and cousins to help him after school and on Saturdays tending to the orchard. From February through September, the kids work diligently–pruning the branches, fertilizing the soil, watering (not an easy task in dry New Mexico), spraying pesticides, thinning the apples, and eventually picking. The kids make it through the entire process and even forgive Jackson when he finally reveals to them the terms of his contract with Mrs. Nelson–that she gets $8000 of the profits and Jackson gets the orchard if he can make at least that much.
I really enjoyed this book overall. There were very, very few moments when I wanted to skim over the prose to “get on to” the next part. The main character, Jackson, is a fairly well-developed, dynamic character that the reader can easily sympathize with. Hamilton does a good job placing the story in time without ever actually coming out and saying when exactly it takes place. From pop culture references to “The A-Team” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It,” the observant reader can place the story in the 1980s. However, the story holds the same significance whether one catches onto these context clues or not. Each character has a distinct personality that adds to the story. The development of the rugged band of cousins and siblings into a team displays the value of teamwork and the role that each person plays.
I think that this is a book that middle grade boys would enjoy quite a bit. I wouldn’t discredit it as a book for girls, since there are prominent female characters, but it is not as “girly” of a story-line as many young girls might enjoy. The diagrams included by the author may seem tedious to some readers who aren’t as interested in the farming aspects of the story. I would recommend this book for age 10 and up.
My DH hates the word “casserole.” So, needless to say, he wasn’t too excited when I announced that my dish of choice for the week was “Vegetable Casserole with Herb Dumplings.” His response: “There are three words in the title of that dish that I do not like.” (Those being vegetable, casserole, and dumplings, in case you were curious. I’m fairly certain the word “with” doesn’t bother him nor does the word “herb” since he uses them quite frequently in his own cooking.)
But, really, my husband’s reaction to the dish is beside the point. The point is that I tried and almost successfully made a new dish. I got the recipe for the dish from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide. So, without further ado, here it is:
Vegetable Casserole with Herbed Dumplings
from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide
1 TSBP olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons paprika
1 large all-purpose potato, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced (we sliced up some baby carrots)
1-14oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1.5 cups vegetable stock/broth ( I just used water)
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2.5 cups broccoli florets (I used less….you know, Dan just LOVES broccoli…)
2 zucchini, thickly sliced
2 TBSP sour cream (I used light)
1 cup self-rising flour
3/4 oz cold butter chopped
2 tsp chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tsp thyme
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/3 cup milk
*I used dried herbs for all of these and cut the measurements about in half.
1. Preheat the over to 400 F. Heat olive oil in a LARGE saucepan (and deep, if possible). Saute the onion over medium for 5 minutes (or until soft). Add garlic and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
2. Add the potato, carrot, tomato, and stock. Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sweet potato, broccoli, and zucchini and simmer for a further 10 minutes (or until all veggies are tender)
3. Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and then using a floured surface, divide the dough into 8 balls. (Now, the book gives crazy details but this is basically what I did!)
4. Stir the sour cream into the casserole. Transfer to a large baking dish (8 cup) and top with the dumplings. Bake for 20 minutes or until the dumplings are golden and cooked. Serve hot!
Overall, the recipe turned out well (I thought). The veggies cooked well and were tender and not mushy. The dumplings were the big issue for me. They didn’t really cook up the way I would have liked them to. However, I think part of the problem might have been that I didn’t have self-rising flour (and didn’t want to spend the money to buy yet another kind of flour–we already have white, wheat, bread, and rye flour in the house). I read up on dumplings a little (I’ll admit–on Wikipedia) and it seems like the British version at least relies on that rising agent to give them the right texture. Live and learn, right? Dan (oddly enough) didn’t seem to have a problem with the dumplings.
So, the verdict: I would make this again but make sure that I actually buy self-rising flour.
So back in August, I took a cake decorating class at Hobby Lobby with a friend. You know…one of those “Decorating Basics” courses. Of course, it made me want to make/decorate cakes! Problem: I’m trying to lose weight and so is my DH. So…now I’m on the hunt for fun excuses to practice my skills. (lol, just pretend with me that I do in fact have said skills) So, without further ado, here is the first cake I’ve made since class.
I made this cake for a coworkers 4th wedding anniversary. It’s is a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. I used the chocolate buttercream frosting from the Wilton method book that I have and it was delicious. It’s really too bad that I don’t have any pictures of the kitchen as I was going because it made quite the mess! Disposable decorators bags filled with frosting everywhere!
Tomorrow I’m trying out a new recipe. Dan and I have decided to try to do this on the weekends so that we can try some new things from the plethora of cookbooks that we own. We’ll rotate weekends and I get to go first! I’m planning on making a vegetable casserole with herb dumplings. Dan is not all that excited, but I think it will be delicious. We’ll see, I suppose!