Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One Dish Dinner: Southwest Heaven

We're leaving for a three week vacation in about 30 hours.  This means that this entire week I have avoided the grocery store in efforts to avoid leaving a full fridge to spoil.   This does not mean that it's been peanut butter and eating out, however.  I have managed to assemble some hodge-podgey, yet tasty meals.   This was one was a success for sure:

Southwest Heaven

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil
    • 2 cups uncooked long grain rice (or brown or white)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt (?)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • dash paprika
  • dash chili powder
    • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can chili beans, undrained
  • 1 cup of corn 
  • juice of one lime

1. In medium pot, boil chicken in water til cooked through.  Meanwhile, chop onions, pepper and garlic.
2. Remove cooked chicken for shredding.  Add 2 cups rice to chicken broth water.  Cook rice.  Shred chicken with forks. 
3. In a large nonstick skillet, saute the green pepper, onion and garlic in oil for 3 minutes. 
4. Stir in cooked rice and spices.  Add beans, tomatoes and corn; heat through.  Squeeze lime over entree before serving.  

**If you feel like making this more "tex-mex", than "southwest", stir in a mix of cheddar & jack cheese to your bowl.  Mmmm.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Recent Reads

I have been reading quite a few books these past few months.  This is partially due to terrible, awful morning sickness in the late Spring, partially due to summer vacation and road trips, partially due to my love of reading, and partially due to personal determination to read what is already on my shelves, and therefore, hopefully condensing my number of books by chucking all but the keepers.  

So here we go.  My journey of books the past three months:

I finally finished the Harry Potter books this past spring...  I went hard core on the first five, then got a little burnt out.  I took a six month hiatus to rekindle my Potter love.  I am glad to say, however, that these last two were VERY good and ended the series strong.  They both get 4 stars.
Next up, "Let the Great World Spin", by Colum McCann.  Ehh, good character development, well written and interesting.  But, I was not that excited about the actual content of the story.  I can handle reading about the depravity of mankind, however, I need some redemption or some hope or SOME sort of saving quality at the close.  And I was left lacking when I read the last page.  This author reminds me of another, Frank McCourt, who is also Irish; both writers tend to be melancholy and borderline depressing.  I gave it 3 stars. 

Ahhh, sweet little "Anne, with an "e", of Green Gables."  I would just like to know how in the world I missed this book growing up?!  It's such a classic and such a delight to read.  I give it 4 stars.

{And then, the best part, was that I wanted Jarod to watch ALL the movies with me.  He easily agreed, stating that he had watched the movies as a kid and liked them.  About 30 minutes into the first movie, Jarod said, "Wow, I must have been a real loser of kid to like these."  Haha.}

"The Bridges of Madison County" is a short book and a very fast read.  I think I read it in one setting, maybe two.  It's a captivating love story that quickly swallows the reader into the throngs of hidden and forbidden love.  (Perhaps why I read it one setting).  While I was totally engrossed in the story, I kept wondering, why is all steamy, passionate love always taking place OUTSIDE of the husband and wife's relationship?  Shame.  No hope for us ol' married people.  Anyway, it's a sappy love story, and a well written one nonetheless.  3 1/2 stars.

"Stones from the River", BLEH.  I gave it a good, hard run.. honest, I did.  But finally at page 138, I couldn't handle it anymore.  Midgets?! Nazi's?! Psychotic, institutionalized mothers?!  It was too much.  And it started making me wonder if I was going to have a midget baby.  It's in my give-away pile.  2 stars.

"The Soloist".  Well, I thought it was the book that spawned the movie (with the same title) starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx... WRONG.  A totally different book, however, creepily similar to the movie.  The book I read was also based in LA, also had a famous cello player and also involved a schizophrenic.  Hmm, makes me wonder if this book had a "borrowed plot", which was tossed in the blender and called his own.  Anyway, a decent book, but, not all that life changing.  3 stars.

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  "Belly Laughs" is absolutely hysterical if you are, or recently were, pregnant.  Jarod and I read it out loud to each other on our recent road trip to Colorado.  We were crying, we were laughing SO hard.  Now, keep in mind, it's Jenny McCarthy.  SOOO, if you're offended by foul language or body fluids or vulgarity and indecent topics... then this book is not for you.  Clearly, I'm not too bothered by those things and found this book 100% accurate of my personal pregnancy experience.  4 stars.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  This book was AMAZING.  "The Glass Castle" was the best book I have read this year.  I could NOT put it down, therefore finishing it in two days.  It is a jaw-dropping autobiography (as in TRUE STORY) of a girl's growing up in a transient, dysfunctional, bizarre family.  I loved this book and just heard the author recently wrote her grandmother's story, titled "Brokeback Horses".  I will purchase that book. But, sigh, I loved this book.  And I find myself thinking about it all the time.  5 stars!!!

"The Joy Luck Club",  hmm.   It was good.  It was insightful.  It was well written.  Yet, I was not engaged.  All I could think about was Jeanette and her crazy family!!!  (See entry above).  Some books you get at just the right time, and it makes the read.  And others, well...  you get the point.  I really do think this is a good book, but it just came at an unfortunate moment.  Perhaps I'll give it another chance, another day.  Honestly, it was an interesting book about the clashes of cultures amongst Chinese mothers and their American born, Chinese daughters; really, it was interesting.  I promise.  3 1/2 stars.

And here is what I am currently reading, "The Life and Times of Michael K."  Ahhh, can't go wrong with a South African story set during Apartheid.  I am about a third of the way into it, and it's wonderfully written.  So far, there has yet to be a book about South Africa that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed.  Well, maybe I'm biased.  Stars TBA.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Banana Cake with Banana Butter Frosting

So what to do with my fruit bowl full of bananas that are starting to round up fruit flies like a herd of cows?  Make Banana Cake!  Then peel and freeze the rest for morning smoothies.

I was thoroughly, THOROUGHLY impressed with this recipe.  Ultra moist, so banana-y, and a 4th of July hit!
Banana Cake with Banana Butter Frosting

3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup turbinado sugar (or white)
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk ---> just add 1 1/2 Tbs lemon juice to milk, mix and set for 5 min
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium)

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 275 (YES, NOT a typo!!)  Grease 9x13 pan. 
2. Mash bananas with lemon juice in small bowl, set aside.  In medium bowl, mix flours, soda and salt.  
3. In large bowl, cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Stir.  
4. Add dry mixture alternately with buttermilk to the large bowl of butter/sugar mix and combine well.  Finally, stir in mashed bananas.  
5. Bake for 60 min or until toothpick comes out clean, (mine took close 80 min).
6. Immediately place in freezer for 45 min or longer, after removing from oven (!) (Makes for one amazing moist cake)

1. Cream butter until fluffy.  Use hand mixer to combine banana, lemon juice and vanilla to butter.  
2. Slowly add sugar.  (This frosting is almost like a banana glaze)
3. Frost cooled cake.  

Serve immediately with hot coffee.  Or as in my case, it was for a post-fireworks gathering with friends on the patio at 10pm, so we had banana cake and ice water.  :)