Monday, January 17, 2011

Baking Day

Although I promised myself not to make any New Year's Resolutions for this year, I have snuck in some things I'd like to do more of or do better. Not Resolutions, just toying with my interests.

One of these things is baking more and learning to be a good cook. I'm enjoying dreaming away cookbooks in hand. Some of them such as the older Betty Crocker Cookbook and an old Farm Journal Cookbook are a pleasure to read as well as cook from. I am also smitten by Cook's Magazine and the wonderful essays that accompany each recipe.

For today, I'm making Slow Cooker Chicken Chow Mien from my newest version of Betty. I love chow mien, but no longer enjoy the La Choy or other canned versions and thought I'd like to make my own.

What a brave new world of cooking and having to cut up chicken. I've seen my mother in law do it slick as anything.

I was supposed to use skinless boneless chicken thighs but they didn't have those, so I thought hmm, I'll just peel off the skin and remove the bone. Yoikes! It is revealed to me that I am a "supermarket carnivore". I can cook any meats that I can just cook without handling cold slippery meat and trying to de-bone it. The skin sure did not "just peel off" as I imagined.

As I worked, making faces, shuddering with revulsion and muttering "Mother of God", I came to the conclusion this process probably isn't for me.

However, once the little pieces were frying away in the pan, smelling lovely and looking tasty, I revised my thinking and thought if I like how this tastes I might be able to do the snipping part if I can truly find the skinless boneless stuff.

Also on the menu is chocolate chip cookies, just the classic Nestle's Tollhouse recipe. I got really spoiled over the holidays having baked goods at hand, and now a mere candy bar doesn't quite cut the mustard when I want chocolate or something sweet.

Lastly, since I did not make good on my hope to become a good bread baker last year, I'm diving in this year and am trying another Betty recipe for Four Grain Batter Bread.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Protector of the Small: Tamora Pierce

The heroine of this set of four novels, Keladry of Mindelan is my new favorite.

I should have started reading Pierce's books with the Lioness Quartet (because that seems to be her reader's favorite), but I was looking for something to listen to on the way home in the cold snowy slippery winter traffic. Something to take me far far away. These are perfect for that.

The books are First Test, Page, Squire and Lady Knight. They follow Keladry through eight years of hard physical and scholarly training towards becoming a knight of the realm. Though she has no personal magic, she establishes valuable relationships with sparrows, a beat up but loyal little dog, and a warhorse who has been mistreated by others.

As the first girl admitted to knight training, she faces many challenges and the hatred of some who do not think a girl should become a knight. She practices harder than everyone else, and refuses to give up.

Despite her own travails, she steps in and works to stop bullying and hazing of younger pages. She gains loyal friends and over time proves herself to be a strong leader, gaining the grudging respect of most of her former enemies.

Kel moves forward by hard work, determination and a deep commitment to seeing that the right thing is done.

The books are full of humor and drama and by the end of the series, heartrending sadness.

So many kids have come to me after reading these over the years wanting more books like this. I finally have a good idea of what this is. For me, a young person who fights heroically against nearly impossible odds is a start.

I might recommend:

The Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Visit Tamora Pierce's website, buy and read all of her books and be a better, happier person for it :)

She will be in the Twin Cities in June, 2011.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If I can't run the circus...

How about my own city? Humorously I have named my city in the new Zynga game Cityville (Farmville's civilized neighbor) Libraryville. I'm having a terrible time filling my police force so that I can get more citizens, but I do get to do things my way. That counts for something these days!