Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reading is Power!....and Offensive?

It's been a long time folks, sorry I haven't been posting. I traveled around a bit and then got caught up in a nasty cold for a few days. It's is taking it's sweet time leaving my system though....

At any rate, I found the motivation to blog about something that is near and dear to my family: Banned Books (against it, not for the banning). I don't want to toot a horn to my family, but we are pretty active lifelong learners. One of the touchy subjects among us is banning/burning books for whatever reasons people choose is their logical decision.

To celebrate banned books, we in the U.S. have a week dedicated, this year it's November 25th-Oct 2nd.

One of the big moving themes in my life the past few months in the strong importance we still place on reading.
  • With the growing technology, magazines subscriptions are still growing in households
  • Library memberships are rising with the lowering of the economy and people are choosing to borrow then buy books/movies and we can see a more fluid movement of idea exchange.
  • Some of my friends are rubbing their Kindles in my face going "neaner- neaner- neaner!"
  • As a substitute teacher and a family that works in schools, I am aware of the importance of testing reading skills among children.
  • Hard copies of the newspaper may be declining, but e-papers are on the rise
  • Blog readers and writers are growing everyday, reading and sharing
  • I feel out of place among my colleagues at school and I felt the urge to read up on various topics to keep up with the changing discoveries and theories
  • much more....
Religious, Philosophical, or Political: the three things you do not talk about at the dinner table in case you may offend someone. This censorship of ourselves has stretched and grown opinions and forced itself into other peoples lives without them even realizing. Take a look at the links to see if your favorite has made the list.

Yahoo's List of Uncomommonly known banned books
List of Banned Books A-I, with link to J-Z

The point of this blog isn't to move and shake you, to frustrate or enrage you. I just wanted you to recognize dear readers that you to already are fighting the censorship committees and easily offended people's of this world.

By reading: blogs, papers, transcripts, books, plays, novels, sermons, stories, literotica, magazines, encyclopedias, manuscripts, wills, westerns, testaments, confessions, spiritual texts, contracts, decrees, speeches, e-books, e-zines, sonnets, references, fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, biographies, auto-biographies, essays, history, love letters, memos, e-mails, and even "Big John's Bathroom Readers" you are gaining ideas and information that you didn't know before.

However offensive something may be, there is no experience that should be censored from the world. Life happens and we can learn from others. We can become life long learners as long as there is no one deciding what is best for us.

Let people decide for themselves what is offensive.

And to visit the old rebuttal: If you don't like it, don't look at it/read it/eat it....

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lime-Garlic Kabobs with Paprika Corn

Few nights ago I really wanted to make something different but easy. I had to use the chicken I had taken out the night before and some of the left over ingredients in my fridge since it's almost shopping day.

I still had some key limes left over from making a pie and cupcakes (I got a lot for only $2!). So, I decided what the hey, lets make lime kabobs (easy, different) with some garlic (to cut the tangy-ness and use the last bit that was in my fridge). 

These were a snap to make and served next to paprika-chili corn, they are delicious!

Make the Marinade

12 key limes juiced, 1/2 c lime juice
2 tbl vegetable oil (veg oil burns less then olive oil)
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp apple juice
2 tbl minced garlic

Take 2-3 chicken breasts and cut into 1" cubes the best you can. Place chicken into a seal-able plastic bag. Pour in marinade ingredients and seal. Wiggle bag around until combined and refrigerate for 30 min to 1 hour.

Prepare Kabob Sticks

While marinade is in the fridge, if you are using wooden skewers you have to soak them in water for at least 30 mins before use or they will burn. I used a cookie sheet and added just enough water to cover the sticks.

After an hour, Start with the corn.

4 ears of corn, shucked and washed
1/2 tsp paprika or smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/2 c butter, room temp
aluminum foil 

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Place butter and spices in a bowl, mix well. Take one ear of corn at a time and place on a sheet of foil, scoop up 1/4 of the butter mix and coat all over the ear. Wrap in foil. Repeat with remaining corn. Place directly on oven rack, set timer for 15 mins. Meanwhile begin making kabobs.

Spray a cookie sheet/ jelly roll pan generously with Pam OR cover with foil,  set aside.

Use two kinds of veggies with your kabobs to add color and interest as well as maximize your vitamin intake. I used easy summer veggies with my kabobs: zucchini and yellow squash.

Cut up the veggies about 1", or into 1/4 wedges so they are about the same size as the chicken (this assures even cooking on all sides). Bring out the chicken. Drain the kabob sticks water and begin skewering, start with: chicken, veggie, chicken, alternate veggie, chicken, veggie. I usually top my kabobs with a cherry tomato to add a pop of color and I love roasted tomatoes!

Skewer until all the chicken and veggies have been used, this should make approximately 12 kabobs. I drizzled the remaining marinate over the kabobs. 

This entire process should take about 15 mins, wait for your corn timer to go off.

When it does, add the kabobs to the oven and turn the corn 180 degrees.

Set the timer for 7 mins. Rotate the kabobs 1/3 of the way, set the timer again 7 mins and rotate again.

Let kabobs and corn cook for another 5 minutes. (Max time for kabobs: 20-25 mins)

Remove corn and kabobs at the same time (I love meals that finish at the same time), plate and serve!

The kabobs have (to me) an intense tang to it, but then again I don't like sour foods. Nonetheless, they were very good and the corn...OMG. I will make this corn at least once a month now. You can't see the little flakes of paprika in this pic, but it looks so yummy on the corn and contrasts beautifully.

Mr. Beautiful's opinion: he ate all the kabobs! All 9 of them!

What I like about this meal the most; Clean up: throw foil away!


Activity Board (Part One) Chalkboard Paint

I bought a table at IKEA, and it served me well. But months of putting to many heavy things on the table, dragging it around and I ended up Oops! breaking the cheap tables legs. 

I tried to fix the problems, but I had to face facts and give up on it continuing to being a table. 

BUT, that doesn't mean it can live on to be something else :)

My $20 table, farewell!

I took the table apart and kept everything. But the part I'm focusing on is the second shelf. It's solid, large piece of wood: 46"x26 1/2"

A can of chalkboard paint sprayed to one side, and a few hours later....I have a HUGE chalkboard for my son to play with.

I think he likes it.

Messy Feet!

There are a lot of options now a days when painting an activity board or message board for the house.

  • Chalkboard paint comes in different colors, you can have it made for you or buy the kits and mix it at home. I've always love the classic black. Plus the left over paint be used in other places in the house.

Check out Frugal with a Flourish's 9 Ways to Use Chalkboard Paint. I love the gardening spoons!

  • I could and (now that I think about it) SHOULD have painted magnetic paint on the board before I painted the chalkboard paint so it would have doubled as a work board.

  • There is whiteboard paint, but I don't trust anyone under the age of 10 with markers :)

I won't tell you what I'm doing on the other side of the board, but you're welcome to guess what it is.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Zebra Butter Cookies

I wanted to make a new kind of cookie the other night.

I wanted one that would be 1) eye catching, 2) one I have never made before and 3) familiar enough that people wouldn't be afraid to eat it!

I decided I wanted something rich and easy, Butter Cookies!

But with a twist, or should I say a stripe :)
These cookies looked great, although I messed up a lot making them! The stripes should have been straight etc...anyways! They taste so delicious I had to put them in the freezer so I would stop eating them!

If your willing to put in the work, they are so worth it :)

Striped Butter Cookies

1 1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
2/3 c powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c cocoa
Can you see where I marked my paper?
  1. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add in flour and salt until combined.
  2. Divide dough in half, roll one half between 2 pieces of wax paper, approx 1/4"x10"x10" and refrigerate. Add cocoa to other half and mix well. Roll between wax paper and refrigerate. Let dough chill overnight or at least half an hour. 
  3. Take both doughs out and stack on top of one another (I doubled the recipe in this pic, you should have just two doughs). Keep your wax paper!
  4. stacked dough
  5. I started with one cookie cutter, but changed my mind later so ignore the imprint. Cut your dough in half so you have two "halfs" 3 inches long. Then measure your dough, 1/2-1 inch at a time and cut so have many stripes 3"x1"
Cut dough and measured at 1/2 inch

Should look something like this
5. Lay out your wax paper again. Pick up stripes and turn onto their sides to see the stripes to be: cocoa, vanilla, cocoa, vanilla etc.., slightly press together. Cover with wax paper again and chill for another half hour. This give the dough time to firm up before cutting.
Side-by-side stripes

6. Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Remove the top portion of the wax paper and scoop out a 1/4 c of flour for dipping cutters into. Dip and cut, shapes. This would be really cute cookie if I had a horse cookie cutter to make zebras! Make the most of your space cause you can't rework the dough and have it be the same again. Get out small and large cutters, I used medium stars and small circles.
7. Left over scraps I piled up gently and placed a wax sheet on top. I rolled out the dough again with minimal movements as possible. The more you work the dough, the less vanilla color you'll have, the cocoa incorporates it. This step makes a cool marble effect, so you still get a beautiful cookie!

Don't you just love those stripes? Very cool.
7. Bake 375F for 7-9 minutes, or just until edges are lightly golden. These cookies can easily over bake so watch them carefully, you want them to be chewy yet firm. Let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then cool completely on a wire rack.

I doubled this recipe and made A LOT, so I cut it down for you. This recipe (depending on your cookie cutters) will make approximately 1 1/2 dozen medium cookies, and 1 dozen tiny cookies on top of that!
Over cooked cookies top left, perfect cookies bottom right
So there you have it, zebra striped cookies that are buttery delicious and beautiful to look at.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Best Ever (I've Made) Brownies

I just recently discovered, if you have never seen that site before, it is a great site! I make my life easier and when I want a different recipe or in the mood for _______, I go there first. They also have a great software where you can compare recipes! This is how I "invent" recipes I want to try, buy picking and choosing what I think would work best and make it all my own.

A few weeks ago I was craving outrageously, all day for brownies. I have been trying to watch what I eat, but there was no getting around it...So I made brownies! And these are the most delicious, fudgy, chewy brownies I have ever made or eaten! 

If you want brownies, this is the recipe to make. I have officially added it to my recipe cards, it is here to stay.
Best Ever Brownies
  • 5 squares of semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, cut 
  • 5 tbl cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c finely chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven 350F. Spray 8-inch square baking pan ( I only have a 11"x7" pan, brownies bake taller then normal) with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

2.  In a double boiler or microwave, melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Add in cocoa. Set aside to cool for 10 mins.

3. Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Slowly whisk chocolate into egg mixture; then stir in flour until just combined. Do not over mix. Pour into your prepared pan, spread into corners and level. (Mr. Beautiful is allergic to all nuts so I sprinkle my walnuts on half of a pan for me and leave the rest of the pan bare. I have to be very careful, but I can still eat "nom nom" walnut brownies)

4. Bake until slightly puffed and toothpick comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes.Cool until just bearable to eat, brownies are best served still warm from the oven. :)