Our book club book for September was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Societyby Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This book is a series of fictional letters written by members of a Literary Society, ie a book club, during the German Occupation of the Guernsey Islands (located between the shores of England and France).
I would definitely recommend this book. It gives some historical insight to the experiences of people during WWII, in a situation that most didn't know existed. I, for one had no idea that any part of England was occupied during WWII, did you? The format is truly unique, as it is entirely letters written by different people. If you're interested, found a great review here.
Fall is in full tilt in the Pacific Northwest with it's brisk breezes and fiery colors. This really is my favorite time of year. All my senses are heightened and I feel like I can accomplish and enjoy more. Summer is always so fast with places to go and people to see; winter makes you want to hide in your cozy hole; and spring is so unpredictable. But fall... is fresh and colorful. My husband and I spent two years living in New Mexico, where the seasons were Hot and Windy, I didn't know I could miss seasons so much, especially fall. My only complaint is the days are now getting shorter, and all those six and eight legged creatures are trying to find a cozy place to wait out the winter. Ick.
I read a great article/blog post this morning. You can find it here. It is all about finding creative ways to use your brain, change your routine, and be creative. What a lot of great ideas. There isn't anything tough or weird in it, but I think it's a great start to making your life a little more satisfying. There are two of the things in that article that I am thinking about implementing into my daily happenings... but that is for another day.
On a personal note, I have some creativity simmering away right now. A sewing project that will hopefully be done by Halloween, a couple of gifts in the works, a whole slew of cards to make, and a delicious dinner on the way. I also have a few finished objects that I can't wait to share.
With that, I am off to the farmer's market. It's the last one of the season...
Raise your hands if you've ever had Shepherd's Pie before. No? Well, you should.
Shepherd's Pie is a meat (usually beef) and veg casserole topped with mashed potatoes and warmed through in the oven. With as simple a formula as that is, you can imagine the infinite possibilities. It is a great meal for leftovers since you can use ANY type of meat that is hanging out in your fridge or freezer. I've used brisket, roasted chicken, even taco meat. Add frozen veggies (or leftover cooked veggies) and top with some mashed potatoes. If everything is warm it takes just a few minutes in the oven to brown the potatoes and warm it through. Or you can leave it in the fridge for a couple of days and have a mid-week dinner done in a flash (just pop in in the oven to heat up- everything is cooked already)!
So where is this going? Smoked Turkey Shepherd's Pie, recipe #2 in Rachel Ray's 365: No Repeats cookbook. This used bacon and ground turkey as the meat; sauteed carrots, onions, celery, and bell pepper for the veg; and (of course) mashed potatoes with peas for the topping. The ''smoked" part came from smoked paprika and the smokey bacon. I added a little bit of poultry seasoning and topped the whole thing off with a bit of smoked Gouda cheese to boost the flavor even more.
The inner workings...
I then divided the ingredients into three smaller casseroles for three separate dinners (each of the three could feed 3-4 people). If I wanted to, I could have covered the casseroles well and put them in the freezer for much later, but I gave away two of them to family and saved the third for us. (By the way this recipe is written to feed four, but as you can see it really is more like eight or more, especially if you add a salad and rolls along side... Rachel has big appetite).
Last week my son was hanging out with his Grandparents while my husband and I were at a couple's book club meeting. My Mom made him a dinner of creamed peas and mashed potatoes and oven baked chicken. Sounds good right? Well, while they were eating, my Mom suggests to her darling Grandson that he eat some of his mashed potatoes and he looks at her with the most serious expression a two year old can give and says: "I don't eat vegetables."
Now, I fully realize that toddler refusal of vegetable consumption is nothing new. However his grandparents were rather shocked at the verbal conviction that this particular toddler used in his refusal. I was embarrassed, my husband thought it was hilarious (he's not much help in this particular venue of child rearing). I admit we were pretty complacent when it came to meal time. We'd offer a variety of foods (fruit, protein, whole grains, dairy, veggies, etc) and let him chose what he'd like to eat. Real meals before snacks, milk or water to drink. We though that was good enough. Apparently not. It was time for an intervention.
I plan on taking a tricky approach, hiding the goods in his favorite meals, and then gradually showing him that what he really likes is also good for him. Today I took the first step. We had vegetable soup, pureed smooth in a blender. I added some cooked macaroni noodles to entice him. And guess what? He ate it. In fact he ate around the noodles (leaving most of them behind) and polished off the broth of the soup.
Mom: one, Veggie Phobic Tot: zero.
Although in reality he wins too :)
I know this will be a long, drawn out, frustrating, and likely tearful process, but in the end I think it will be worth it.
Monday night is family dinner night and I decided that I was going to make it "Crock Pot Night"
We had Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore, which happens to be my favorite Italian meal. This variation was pretty good. It made a huge amount of food that served 5 adults with about three more servings as left-overs. Sorry there's no ''real life'' picture. We'll just say that it didn't look like the picture above, despite how tasty it was.
I happen to be a huge fan of the crock pot. Some may think that it is a bit old fashioned or confusing but they just don't understand. If you still aren't sold on the joys of slow-cooking, here are some reasons why I love it!
1- It takes about 15 minutes of prep work. Wash, chop, stir, open a can or two and that's it!
2- It can cook all day- which in turn means that all the flavors get a chance to really mingle with one another, making dinner taste like you slaved away all day. Example? Cook a pot roast while you're spending the day out picking apples this fall and come home to a hot, delicious meal!
3- It can cook in less than a day. Most slow cooker recipes give you the option of a faster cook time (ie 3-4 hours rather than the 6-7 hours for a slow cook), so even if you don't get a chance to get started until the afternoon you still have the option of having a meal ready when dinner time rolls around.
4- Clean up is a breeze! You can literally have your entire meal from a single pot, and since you did your prep hours before, chances are that stuff's already been cleaned up and put away!
5- Makes for great left overs. You can cook large portions of food that can be frozen or packed away for lunch during the week.
6- There is a plethora of information, recipes, and cookbooks available out there, so you never have to work very hard to get some good ideas or recipes.
7- You can do dessert too! No kidding! But I will save that for another day...