Misfits, shadowy libraries, and enchilada sauce

Reading and eating: two of my favorite things, as you know well by now. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve been sticking my nose and my fork into, respectively.

Reading:

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I’ve been wanting to read more YA fiction ever since I read “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, which I was hooked on from the first page. I kept seeing the title “Eleanor and Park” popping up everywhere, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s a story about two teenagers, both misfits in their own ways, who fall in love despite the facts that it tarnishes the boy’s reputation and the girl is not allowed to have a boyfriend. Not too original. I kept reading to see if the conflict would deepen, but now I’m about 50 pages from the end, and I’m still reading about how much they miss each other at night, how nervous they are to touch each other, and how much the popular girls hate her. On a positive note, this book will eventually have a vibrant movie soundtrack since 80’s punk music is one force that brings Eleanor and Park together.

shadow

A friend of mine gave me this book about a year ago, and I’m finally getting around to reading it. The story is set in Barcelona in the years following the Spanish Civil War. A young boy chooses a book, “The Shadow of the Wind,” from a secret library that his father introduces him to, unaware that the book and its author have special significance to a number of people. It has elements of both a mystery and a thriller. I’m about a quarter of the way through it, and it’s holding my interest. Brevity is not the book’s strength, and the chapters can be long winded at times, but the writing is wonderful. It’s also surprisingly funny. I’m reading this one out loud with Marcus, my husband, and we’re having fun with it.

Eating:

This chipotle chicken and white bean chili was delicious with its spicy and smoky flavors, even though I cheated and used a jalapeño in place of chipotle chiles. Perfect for cold weather. I served it over rice for more “bulk.”

Technically, I didn’t really make these butternut squash black bean enchiladas because I used a combo of sweet potatoes and acorn squash in place of butternut squash and skipped the homemade enchilada sauce and used store bought BUT they inspired a really yummy dish!

I cheated again and vegan-ized these brownie cookies by replacing the butter with Earth Balance and the eggs with two bananas. I also left out the granulated sugar and additional chocolate chips, and they were still very sweet and quite a pleasure to eat. Bake at the same temp for 22-25 minutes.

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Intentions

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In less than a month, I will be a student again. Not a student of life–I’m already one of those. I’m talking about a university student. Come January, I will commute to Seattle twice a month to take editing classes at the University of Washington. For those who don’t know, I moved from Seattle in July, so it’s kind of a funny situation. Even though I know I will get tired of it month after month, I’m looking forward to my initial trek on the train, where I will have a lot of time to stare out the window and write, and eventually, work on homework.

But most of all, I’m excited to delve into these classes. I decided earlier this year that going back to school to brush up on my editing skills would be a logical step toward establishing myself as a professional editor. It’s a reputable certificate program, low cost, and only 9 months long. Plus, the program is part online/part classroom instruction which is great for my learning style and schedule. A great fit for my life, all around.

As the end of the year draws near, I can’t help but reflect on some of my hopes for the next year. 2015 was a big year with my 3 month road trip, move to Eugene, and new commitment to writing and editing (and starting this blog!), and I expect 2016 to be just as ambitious. I’ve learned after many attempts that New Years Resolutions aren’t effective for me. Instead, I like to set intentions. Rather than think of the new year as a blank slate (it’s not!), I prefer to think of it as a continuum of the past year and set my intentions accordingly. My reflections look something like this: this past year, I made a few new special friendships. I’d like to grow more of those this year. And: this past year I acted bravely and joined a choir. I want to keep practicing courage this year. Another one: this past year I tried developing my own recipes. I want to continue to create and experiment with food.

This next year I hope to dive fully into my new student role and make the most of my classes. Even before it’s over, I hope to use what I learn on actual editing projects. I already have a couple projects lined up, which I’m soo excited to get to. I’m making business cards and setting up a website like I actually believe I can do this. I’m slowly learning how this editor business is done, and I’m humbled (and at times, overwhelmed) by all there is still to learn!

The illustrious green bean casserole

casseroleI’m calling this Thanksgiving dish “illustrious” because with the recipe that I found–it’s about to be! I know, I know, green bean casserole is typically made with cream of mushroom soup that jiggles when you poke it and crunchy fried onions that come from a box, but it needn’t be. It can be delicious AND made with real food. Deb from Smitten Kitchen is showing me how with this recipe. I cooked most of it this evening in preparation for driving it (5 hours) to my parents’ house tomorrow, and the flavor already has me proud to share it with my family.

Wherever you are tomorrow, whatever you might be doing, I hope it is in the company of loving people, with food that warms and comforts and makes your heart and taste buds dance. Tomorrow and always.

Cooking meals from stories

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Have you ever made a meal that you’ve read about in a story? I haven’t, but I love the idea of it. The food in a story can reveal a lot about the characters’ social circumstances, setting, time period, culture, relationships, and more. Reproducing a meal from a story can bring you a step closer into the character’s world, connect you with their perspective in some small way. The activity just might lead to the discovery of a new favorite meal, too.

In her new book, “Voracious,” writer and cook Cara Nicoletti shares tales and recipes that have come from cooking meals from stories that she’s loved over the years. I began reading it this week, and I’m still on chapter one, but I’m already excited by it! The first chapter covers meals from children’s books such as the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m already dreaming of homemade sausage with sage and maple *yum*. Cara is not only a talented writer, but also a butcher and runs her own shop in New York city, which makes her one of my new heroes because I’ve been interested in learning how to butcher my own meat for a while now. It might be time to finally read the enormous book on meat that I bought a year ago. That, and finding a butcher shop in Eugene that offers classes or wouldn’t mind me awkwardly standing around while they cut up a pig.

Bottom line, Cara’s book has me feeling inspired and eager to try my hand at some literary meals. I’m juggling 4 books right now (typical), and I’d like to pay a little more attention to how food plays a role in the story telling. If you come across any great food scenes in what you’re reading, do let me know so we can swap recipes and book suggestions.

A micro for monday

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The Cure

There was once a man who went to the book store for self-guided therapy. He made a deal with the store owner to buy a book during every session in exchange for privacy. The man was in his forties, and the store owner assumed that he was having a mid-life crisis.

The man read horror books to scream. He read comedy to laugh. He read the romances to cry. He read the children’s books to connect with the boy inside him. He read the classics to find truth and meaning. He read the mysteries to solve the cases of his heart. He read science fiction to travel to his past and imagine his future. He read and read and bought book after book.

After weeks of these sessions, the man decided to end them, believing himself to be cured. “Cured of what?” the store owner asked. “An empty bookshelf,” the man said.

Damn good hummus

hummusHummus and lit go together like burgers and french fries. How good would it be to sit in a comfy chair, read a great book, and plunge a chip in a bowl of hummus every time you turn a page? So good.

I’ve been making this particular hummus for a while. I created it from modifying a recipe I found online, and after doing a quick search, I believe it was this one that served as my inspiration. Why reinvent the wheel, when you’ve found one that already rolls pretty well?

If you end up making this hummus, let me know, especially if you put your own delicious spins on it.

Damn good hummus

Ingredients:

1 cup dry chickpeas — or 2 ½ cups cooked

¼ cup lemon juice

½ tsp apple cider vinegar

¼ cup tahini

2 garlic cloves minced

2 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

¼ cup water plus more if needed

Paprika for topping

Steps:

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight and then cook the next day.

2. Put the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, tahini, garlic, olive oil, salt, and cumin in a food processor and give it a whirl.

3. Add the chickpeas and give it another whirl. I add one cup at a time to better combine everything.

4. Add the water and whirl some more. Add more water if the consistency is too thick. Check the flavor and add more of any of the ingredients.

5. Scrape the hummus into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, dust with paprika, and grab your chips and book!