A Taste of Fall

9781452107035_p0_v1_s260x420Fall is finally here, and it’s my favorite time of year.  I love the cooler weather, having the windows open, the beginning of a new school year, and all things pumpkin!   A visit to the pumpkin patch, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin spice lattes!  I recently picked up Waffles: Sweet, Savory, Simple, which has a delicious pumpkin waffle recipe that I tried – and loved.  It paired nicely with a cup of coffee, crisp, thick-sliced bacon, and a cool September morning.

I’ve seen so many creative ideas with waffles lately, you can use it as a panini press, put any muffin mix in it, brownies, I’ve even put eggs on the waffle iron.  They’re all fun, and my favorites were the brownies!  In this book, along with the pumpkin waffle recipe, there are recipes for Golden Cormneal Waffles, Cornmeal waffles with cheddar, chipotle chile, and green onions, basic homemade recipes (including whole wheat).  Inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, I used the cornmeal waffle recipe (also delish), and piled chilli and a sunny-side-up egg.  Sounds wierd – but totally yummy.  My husband was a skeptic at first, and became a believer.

IMG_1233Because we’re all about books here , I wanted to share the book, but I will share the recipe too!  Enjoy!!

Spicy Pumpkin Waffles

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp chipotle powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Big pinch of ground cloves

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 large eggs, separated

3 tbsp packed dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

If you plan to hold the waffles and serve them all at once rather than one at a time hot off the waffle iron, preheat the oven to 225F and set a large wire rack on large, rimmed baking sheet.

Preheat your waffle iron.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, chipotle powder, nutmeg, and cloves until well combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, egg yolks, and brown sugar until combined.  Add the milk and whisk until the sugar dissolves.  Gradually whisk in the butter.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently just until the batter is evenly moistened.  It’s fine if some small lumps remain.

In a clean medium bowl, with a clean whisk, rotary beater, or handheld mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  Using a rubber spatula, slide the beaten whites onto the batter and gently fold them in.  The batter will be quite thick.

Pour a generous 1/2 cup of the batter into the center of the waffle iron.  Use the rubber spatula to spread the batter to about 1/4 in from the waffle’s edge.  Close the lid and bake the waffle until nicely browned.

Remove the waffle and let it cool for a minute or so on the wire rack before serving.  Or set it on the wire rack and slide the baking sheet into the oven to keep the waffle warm.  Bake the remaining batter, allowing each waffle to cool a bit before serving, or transferring each one to the rack in the oven.



More banned books

9780312626686_p0_v2_s260x420Banned books week is not over yet – and we’re not done sharing our favorite ones. In our blog’s short history we have reviewed two books that have also been banned. In November we reviewed A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girland Nickel and Dimed.  Both books we loved.  When I first read Nickel and Dimed, I had no idea it was banned.  And instead of feeling the book, or the author, should be censored – I felt it was a book everyone should be forced to read.  Especially with the recent arguments about a living wage – which is exactly what the author is promoting, even 13 years ago when the book was originally published.

9780553495096_p0_v1_s260x420I had heard about A Bad Boy in article in the newspaper, and the series of complaints launched against the book in a local school district.  Now, this wasn’t required reading for anyone, parents were fighting to get the book pulled off school library shelves.  After reading the book myself, I wasn’t shocked by anything too graphic.  Nothing I felt the teen audience couldn’t handle – or hadn’t read or seen somewhere else.

There were a few books that I didn’t put on my list earlier this week that I love.  John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors – and several of his books have been banned.  For various reasons, East of EdenThe Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men, have all been banned at some point.

Censorship is a real thing – and it goes beyond these books.  Recently, censorship in textbooks has become a heated issue.  Just this week I’ve read about censorship in Texas and Colorado, specifically in history textbooks.  This is more than censorship – this seems more like trying to rewrite history.  High school students in Colorado walked out in protest, and according to the Huffington Post the conservative school board just outside of Denver “has attracted the same kind of civil disobedience it had hoped to gloss over in the classroom”.  I’m all for censorship when it comes to putting warning labels on music with explicit lyrics or violent video games.  I will never support this type of censorship in the classroom, or the banning of books.

Banned Books Week

What makes a banned book? Something that challenges our beliefs or religious ideals, maybe something with sexual content or offensive language. There are a variety of reasons why a book gets banned – some are somewhat understandable, others are downright ridiculous.  Even books I’ve read to my daughter, that seem harmless, have been banned.  Getting a book banned from a school or a library, is a way of censorship.  In the case of schools – and certain books – I can see the need for censorship.

Banned Books Week officially begain in 1982, since then, the list of banned books has only grown.  The American Library Association “promotes awareness of challenges to library materials and celebrates freedom of speech during Banned Books Week”.  Let’s celebrate our freedom to choose what to read.  It doesn’t have to be a banned book, but today we’re sharing our favorite banned books.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Harry Potter

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

This year, some of the most frequently challenged or banned books include some of our favorites (they might be your favorites, too).  According to the American Library Association (ALA), these include The Hunger Games, and the Captain Underpants series.  What are your favorite banned books?



9781400069620_p0_v4_s260x420Earlier this week we shared our review of Delancey, a book about a husband and wife team opening up their own pizzeria.  We loved that book, written by Molly Wizenberg, who is also a food writer.  Today we’re continuing the theme and sharing our review of Delicious, which we also really enjoyed.  Like Wizenberg, Ruth Reichl is also a foodie, who once worked as a restaurant critic for both the New York Times and the L.A. Times.  She also worked as an editor in chief at Gourmet Magazine, before the magazine closed in 2009.  That’s quite a career – and even though I never read Gourmet, I have enjoyed her writing.  This is not her first book, but it is her first works of fiction.

Writing, like cooking, is a labor of love.  Delicious is the name of a fictional magazine, that the main character works at.  She’s from California, and fresh out of college leaves her home, to take this job in NYC.   The city, like her home in California is a foodie’s paradise, and though it takes her a while to adjust to life away from home – she falls in love with the city, it’s people, and its food.  The main character’s name is Billie, and there seems to be quite a bit of Ruth in the character.  I think that’s okay – it makes Billie much more real, and her work at the magazine so much more familiar.  She struggles at first at the magazine, she landed this great job at a food magazine – yet doesn’t even cook (yet is forced to cook something for the editor at the job interview)!

She turns out to be a pretty good cook, and thrives at the magazine.  There is a bit of history in the story, which I really loved.  She’s connected to the magazine’s past when she discovers a series of letters written to a famous chef from a young girl named Lulu.  These two exchanged letters during WWII, and Billie finds the letters just behind the magazine’s library.  This was quite an experience for her, and seems to lift her out of her fog, since moving so far away from home – and the sister she very close to.

At the end of the book there’s a great recipe for gingerbread that I can’t wait to try.  Even though I consider tmyself to be an experienced baker, this will be a challenge!  Having just finished this book, I’m now going to find some of her other books.  Before writing this book, she had published a few memoirs – about food, life, and her mother.  Those will now be on my TBR list!

Next week we’ll be all about banned books – so stay tuned!  Enjoy, and keep reading!


9781451655094_p0_v4_s260x420This week I’m featuring two recent reads, both were written by food writers, and both of them made me incredibly hungry!  Delicious was written by Ruth Reichl, who also is known for writing restaurant reviews.  Delancey was written by Molly Wizenberg, who is also the woman behind the foodie blog Orangette.  Wizenberg tells the story of her and her husband opening their own pizza place.  This won’t be any pizza place though, her husband is a pizza conniseur and travels the country tasting some of the best pizza with the best ingredients available, and studying pizza-making techniques.  In a way, he’s trying to duplicate the best pizza he’s ever had, from a place in New York.  It’s a labor of love, her husband was committed to creating the best pizza, and she was committed to supporting him in his dream.

Her story begins with the the beginning of their relationship, she actually met her husband through her blog, apparently he was a fan. They were both passionate about food.  He seemed to be really passionate about a lot of things.  Before deciding to open his own pizza place, he had a few other “passions” that turned out to be short-lived.  She describes these passions more like obsessions.  When he mentioned to her his idea to create this restaurant she was skeptical, as she has been with his previous projects.  What I love about this book, and what I love about Molly, is her support of his dream to open his own restaurant.  It was a crazy idea – running a restaurant is such hard work, and building one from scratch is only for those who are really committed.

From the beginning, she had been balancing work at the restaurant and her writing.  She also had been in the process of finsihing her first boo.  Fresh off a book tour, she returns to Seattle, their home city – the location for their restaurant, Delancey.  From the opening day, after having been involved in the restaurant’s location, menu, name, design, she worked as a prep cook.  I now have a newfound respect for those in the restaurant business – I had no idea the kind of work it takes to run a restaurant, especially one this good!  It was round the clock work, and she worked just as hard as he did.

“The whole restaurant has surprised me, and maybe the people in it most of all.  Sometimes I come in late at night, just before closing, and Brandon and I sit at the bar and share a pizza and a couple of beers.  We watch the kitchen’s final hustle, the servers clearing tables and filling the mop bucket, and I think, Hey whoa, we did it…The staff and many of the regulars, they’re now the people we spend our time with – not because we have to, but because we do.  It was a community that we fell into and then one that we chose”.

Hungry for pizza yet??  This goes beyond food, beyond the restaurant, and as the subtitle suggests it’s also about their relationship.  They were so committed to their project restaurant, and still so committed to each other.  It’s that committment that makes this such a great book.  I loved this book – and was really surprised that a book about a restaurant had me so absorbed.  It was hard to put this book down, and when I reached the end I quickly looked up her blog, and her previous book, A Homemade Life.

Getting Kids To Read

IMG_3108As parents, we’re always trying to get our kids to do what’s best for them: eat their vegetables, drink their milk, wear their helmets while riding their bikes, and do their homework (and this of course is only the beginning).  Getting kids to read is so important – and can also be …  During the summer there are a variety of programs to get kids reading over the break, some of which we featured in our Summer Reading Programs post.  When kids go back to school, how can we keep them going?  Here are just a few ideas we wanted to share to encourage kids to read more.

Set a good example!  Your kids will probably be more encouraged to read if they see you reading.  I don’t always have time in the middle of the afternoon to sit down and read a book, but there area always plenty of my books laying around.  When we go to the library or bookstore together, we both pick out books.  I still spend way more time reading books to my daughter than I spend reading for myself – but that’s ok with me!

Make a schedule While at school, students may have a designated time to read, or may have the opportunity to read if they finish classwork early.  Establishing a schedule at home can also encourage kids to read, one of the best times is right before bed.  While I was growing up, during the school year my Mom would only allow me to watch TV if I had read for the same ammount of time.  Getting me to read was never hard for her, but this did help.

Offer and encourage books they will like We make weekly trips to the library, and while there we both pick up some new reads.  I don’t mind what we read, as long as we’re reading.  So far, my daughter is pretty open minded to new books.  I do have most of the Fancy Nancy books memorized, but she’ll also listen to stories about dinosaurs, dragons, and trucks.  Take a trip to the library – or a bookstore, let them pick what they want to read.  They’re more likely to read more if they find something they’re really interested in!

Get involved in a rewards program There are a variety of rewards programs to consider.  Schools usually offer rewards programs as well.  One of the first programs that was introduced when I was younger was Pizza Hut’s Book It program, which offers kids free pizza.  Since then, there are quite a bit more.  Chuck E Cheese has something similar.  Reading Rewards offers printable charts and logs that kids can use and while filling them out they can rack up points that can be used for a variety of fun rewards.

Have any other ideas to share?  We’d love to hear them!  Enjoy, and keep reading!

Celebrating International Literacy Day

By celebrating International Literacy Day, I read part of the book I’ve been working on, Busted by Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Baker (which is great, by the way!).  I also read several books to my daughter last night before I tucked her in.  This is all made possible by the access we have to really great libraries and book stores, and of course education.  I try remain conscious of these opportunities that we enjoy, that not everyone has access to.  

Our local newspaper had a feature in the front page section of the newspaper yesterday on International Literacy Day.  In this article there were several statistics, illustrating just how lucky we are as Americans, compared to those living in the developing world.  Our literacy rates are higher, as is our access to books and greater education.  One shocking statistic from this article mentions that 14% of Americans (that’s 32 million adults) can’t read.  Possibly the most shocking thing in this article: “As late as 2011, America was the only major free-market country where the current generation was considered less well-educated than the previous”.  

This blog may be small and insignificant, but in my life I love promoting literacy – and some really great books.  As a parent, I love reading to my daughter, and sharing my love of reading.  As a teacher, I’m constantly urging my students to read.  I do this because I know reading is a gateway to learning.  

PIck up a book to celebrate with me!