16 December 2017

Weekend Cooking: 2 Salads for Your Winter Table

2 Salads for Your Winter TableIt's full-on holiday time here in central Pennsylvania. We've already been to a couple of parties and participated in a Christmas cookie exchange. It truly is a yummy time of year.

You may not equate snow days with salads, but in my house we eat salads for lunch all year round. Of course, the nature of those salads changes with the seasons: tender young lettuce, snow peas, and radishes in the spring; tomato-rich salads in the summer, and heartier salads in the cooler months.

Here are two delicious salads we had this week. One would definitely work for a main dish dinner and the other could also work for a summer picnic. The pictures come from the linked websites (I always forget to take photos!). I've included my thoughts and changes here.

2 Salads for Your Winter TableRoasted Cranberry Squash & Cauliflower Salad (from Eating Well). This salad is a definite keeper, and I know I'll make it a couple more times this winter. Because I served the salad as a side to grilled fish, I didn't include the eggs (shown in the photo), but other than that I followed the recipe exactly.

You start by roasting butternut squash and cauliflower and then add whole (fresh or frozen) cranberries to the vegetables, roasting until they burst. I was worried that the unsweetened cranberries would be too tart, but the flavors were nicely balanced.

The base is escarole, and you add toasted pecans, crumbled blue cheese, and a mustard vinaigrette. We ate the leftovers for lunch for two days. Although not quite as good as it was fresh, the salad held up. Oh, and I'm not quite sure what the eggs would add to the finished dish, but include them by all means if you're so inclined.

2 Salads for Your Winter TableMediterranean Chickpea Salad (from Dashing Dish). Bean salads generally hold up well for lunches, and this was no exception. I'm sure many of you have a similar recipe somewhere in your (virtual) files, and I bet I do too. I tried this mostly because it looked good (and it is!) and I had a printout in my stack of recipes to try.

I made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I didn't use a Roma tomato because, well, it's not tomato season. Grape tomatoes are usually pretty good year round, so that's what went into my dish. I substituted Greek olives for the common black olives shown in the photo and went for full-fat feta instead of low-fat. Finally, I'm not sure why the cucumber is listed with the dressing ingredients, but I cut it up and tossed it into the salad with the other vegetables.

The biggest change I made was to the dressing. I didn't use the yogurt because I forgot to buy it, and I didn't use the stevia because I really didn't want the sweetness. I started with the lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic called for and then whisked in olive oil to taste. I also seasoned the salad with oregano.

To find the recipes, click the links, which will take you to the Eating Well and Dashing Dish websites, or click over to my Pinterest Tried and Liked board.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.

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15 December 2017

Life as an Audiobook Junkie

How to become an audiobook junkie Hello, I'm Candace, and I'm an audiobook junkie. There, I've admitted it in public. I'm so addicted I spend about 95 hours each month listening to audiobooks.

Over the years since I discovered the joys of reading with my ears, I can't count the number of times I've been asked about how I find the time to listen to so many books. Today I'll let you in on my secrets.

First I tell you what I don't do. Next I reveal how my home and work situation gives me ample listening time. Then I walk you through a typical week of an audiobook fiend. And finally I provide a couple of tips.

How to become an audiobook junkieHow I listen. Once in a while a fellow audiobook fan will sidle up to me and whisper, "I bet you listen at 1.25 or 1.50 speed, right?" Well, no, I don't, and here's why. Although I can understand the narrator perfectly well when an audiobook is played at 1.25×, I don't like the rushed feel of the performance. I need some time to savor the author's words and think about the story. If the text goes by too quickly, I don't have the same connection to the book and characters as I do when listening at normal speed. What's more, by altering the playback, I lose the nuances of the narrator's performance, which can in turn affect my reaction to the book.

Details of my life. The time I have for audiobooks reflects my unique situation. Here are the key points: no children, supportive and self-amused husband, work from home, and self-employed. If your work or home life is very different from this, you will likely have many fewer listening hours, and this isn't a bad thing. For example, when I'm visiting family, my attention is on them, not on my audiobook.

How to become an audiobook junkieFinding 20+ hours a week for audiobooks. Despite appointments and constant work deadlines, I can usually find a decent amount of time to read with my ears and still have a good relationship with my family and friends. My trick is simple: I listen every moment I can. So what does that mean in real life?

On a typical workday, I manage to find to about an hour of audiobook time over the course of the morning, by listening while I make my coffee, when I'm getting dressed, and during my midday break. After a long afternoon of work, I'm jonesing for my story, so as soon as I turn off the computer, I grab my earbuds and listen while I walk, garden, straighten up the house, or do whatever needs to be done. I go right on listening while I make dinner, which generally gives me a couple hours of uninterrupted audiobook time after work. The total for a normal workweek = 15 hours (5 days × 3 hours)

Unless I have under a half hour left in an audiobook, I won't listen again until the next day. Once we sit down to dinner, I put my audiobook aside; I rarely even think about listening to a book in the evening (really).

How to become an audiobook junkieOn weekends, I generally have a little more than 3 hours a day for my audiobook, broken up into snatched moments, as I get dressed, do chores, engage in hobbies, run errands, go grocery shopping, do yard work, and make dinner. I'm not so far gone that I'll listen to a book instead of spending time with my husband, so my Saturday and Sunday listening usually consists of short segments spread out during the day. Total time for a normal weekend = 7 hours (2 days × 3.5 hours)

So there you have it. Because I have control over the bulk of my own time, I have no trouble devoting 20+ hours a week to audiobooks. Of course, sometimes life gets in the way, and I always put my family first. But other times I'm given a bonus, such as an entire day to myself, when I can get lost in a good story while enjoying one of my hobbies.

Tips. Even if your particular situation differs wildly from mine, you may be surprised by how easy it is to find a few minutes here and there to listen to an audiobook. For example, if you commute, you can listen in the car or train. If you drive your kids to school, you can listen after you drop them off. Other great audiobook times: when you're folding laundry, pulling weeds, waiting at the doctor's office, and working out. Try a family-friendly book on a driving trip or when helping the kids work on a jigsaw puzzle. Take advantage of your free time, and you'll soon be an audiobook addict too.

(Audiobooks shown here are all recommended.)

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13 December 2017

Wordless Wednesday 476

Happy Hanukkah!

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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11 December 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Novels to Read Right Now

3 Books to Read in DecemberEvery year I tell myself I'm going to jump right on holiday shopping and decorating so I won't have any last-minute craziness. Ask me how I'm doing this year. Ummm . . . actually, don't ask.

We are totally behind as usual. And as usual we've bought ourselves several things we saw at the stores but have bought almost nothing for family and friends. Ooops.

I didn't seem to have much time to sit down and read last week. I managed to get through two audiobooks and one eBook and made progress on another by combining audio and print.

Last week, I also posted a short round-up of audiobooks linked by their fiery titles over on the AudioFile blog.

What I Read Last Week

Reveiw: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley HayI finally got around to listening to A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay (Simon & Schuster Audio; 8 hr, 49 min). The novel takes place in Brisbane and focuses on two women and one house. Elsie's children move her out of her house of 60 years to assisted living. While trying to adjust to her new surroundings, Elsie remembers the significant moments of her life in the house she shared with her late husband. Lucy and her husband have just moved into Elsie's old house, where Lucy is adjusting to motherhood, life without a job, and living in a new city. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two women's perspectives: They are on opposite ends of family life and each has a unique relationship to the house itself. Although narrator Fiona Hardingham's performance was expressive and engaging, both the story and the audiobook were only okay for me. I didn't relate very well to Lucy, though I've never been in her situation. Elsie made me think about my mother and grandmothers, so that was a positive point. (full audiobook review to be published by AudioFile)

Review: The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter by Michael J. SullivanI couldn't wait to listen to the new Michael J. Sullivan novel, The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter (Audible Studios; 13 hr, 41 min). I have gushed over and over about this adult fantasy series featuring professional thieves Royce and Hadrian. In this outing, they are hired by a wealthy merchant who becomes worried when his daughter, who has married a duke, is reported as missing after her coach is attacked and her companion is left for dead. This new story has all the components I've come to expect from Sullivan: humor, action, battles, intrigue, complex plot, and two of my favorite characters of all time. I truly can't say enough good things about Sullivan's stories and universe. If you like epic adult fantasy you will love these books. Although I think you could possibly start with this new novel, I suggest reading the books either in order of publication or in chronological order of Royce and Hadrian's partnership. Narrator Tim Gerard Reynolds was born to read these books. He perfectly nails the personalities of the characters and the pacing of the story. (full audiobook review to be published by AudioFile)

Review: The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston I read The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston (Ecco). I just love books that are put together with fun, clever graphics, and Preston is an expert in this format. This is the story of a young woman who meets a soldier in 1943 and marries him just days later, right before he ships out for Europe. The entire story is told through diary entries, letters, postcards, photos, vintage magazine ads, and more. Although many of the challenges faced by Lila and Perry--during the war and after the homecoming--are predictable, the novel sets the mood of the 1940s and tells a universal story lived out by so many thousands of couples across the country and around the globe during World War II. If you've never read a scrapbook novel before, you're in for a treat. There is so much to look at on every page of this book, and it's fun to read a story told through a variety of printed media. The photos and period magazine clippings are wonderful--look at the clothes, the hair, the cars! Plus we see examples of V-mail and newspaper articles, telegrams and movie tickets. Don't miss this one! (review copy provided by the publisher)

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09 December 2017

Weekend Cooking: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon

Review: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam BannonI love the holiday season. I like the decorations, the parties and celebrations, and—of course—the food. But you know what happens when January rolls around? I’ve pretty much had it and am so, so ready to get back to real life.

The first thing I do once we’ve finished the leftovers from our annual New Year’s Eve dinner party is take hold of our diet. I don’t make resolutions; instead I simply return to sane, healthy eating.

One new cookbook that has me already looking forward to January is Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon’s Healthy Meal Prep (DK, Dec. 12). You may know the pair as the hosts of YouTube’s Fit Couple Cooks.

The couple's goal is to show everyone how easy it is to eat healthfully if you take the time to plan and prep your meals. Totnatore and Bannon should know, they themselves lost weight and improved their fitness by eating the types of meals they share with their many fans.

For Tornatore and Bannon, the trick is all planning ahead, which saves time and money and guarantees they eat well. Healthy Meal Prep compiles all their best tips and tricks plus provides twelve weeks of meal plans. Each plan takes two to three hours to prep and provides a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a single person. Have more mouths to feed? The authors suggest that you “scale up the recipes as needed or meal prep . . . every few days instead of once a week.”

Review: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam BannonEach meal plan includes an equipment list, shopping list, recipes, step-by-step directions for once-a-week cooking, tips, serving instructions, snack suggestions, vegetarian and/or vegan options, and more. There’s a full-color photo of each week’s completed meals, and each four-serving recipe is easy to follow and includes nutrition information.

The meals themselves are nutritionally balanced, are devoid of processed foods, and require no last-minute additions. Many of the dishes are also low carb, vegetarian, and low sugar. What's more, the couple's nutritious tricks are very easy to incorporate into your daily life; for example, their quick-to-make homemade ketchup is sweetened by a couple of dates instead of white sugar.

So what about the meals? Each meal plan provides six breakfasts (all the same) plus four servings each of three main meals (that’s twelve meals), which can be used for lunches or dinners. Breakfasts include make-ahead oatmeal, frittatas, yogurt cups, and pancakes. The main-meal recipes call for common, everyday ingredients to make dishes such as Mediterranean chicken with vegetables and rice, pesto salmon with roasted peppers and quinoa, black bean and lentil nachos with chips and lime, and turkey meatballs with broccoli and polenta (click the image just above to see more).

Each meal comes with assembly instructions and serving tips. So you cook one day and have twelve meals packaged and ready to eat all week. The portion sizes are satisfying for the average person, though you can, of course, adjust as needed for your own tastes.

Who will love this book? Healthy Meal Prep is geared specifically to people who are willing to cook but feel they just don’t have time during the week to put together a nutritious lunch to take to work or to get dinner going once they get home. It would also be perfect for a young person in his or her first apartment and for families with staggered eating times. People who are watching their diet for weight loss or general health can safely eat Tornatore and Bannon's meals. And, finally, I plan to use the book specifically for make-ahead lunches.

Review: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam BannonAlthough I encourage motivated cooks to work their way through all twelve weeks of meals, I also strongly encourage people to mix and match the meals according their own situation. Remember, each meal makes four servings, and you can use those meals in a variety of ways.

Are Wednesday nights always a grind? Cook one meal ahead and save it for that midweek madness. Is everyone in your family on a different dinner schedule thanks to meetings, practice, and other activities? No worries; cooking ahead means there will always be a nutritious dinner ready and waiting in the refrigerator.

Cooking for a shut-in, new father, or elderly parents? With the recipes in Healthy Meal Prep and a couple hours of your time, you can be a godsend to a person in need.

Okay, what don't I like? Honestly, I don’t find much to complain about. My only real issue is this: although almost all of the meals can be eaten cold, I think the majority would be tastier heated up. That should be no problem for most workers and for at-home dining, but not everyone has access to a microwave during the day. In addition, experienced cooks may want to borrow Healthy Meal Prep from the library, reading through the tips and types of recipes so they can adapt their own family favorites to once-a-week cooking.

Watch the video to see how much fun Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon have in the kitchen and to get an idea of the types of recipes you’ll find in Healthy Meal Prep.

(Note: all images in this post are from Healthy Meal Prep and are used in the context of this review (any blurriness is totally my fault). All rights remain with the original copyright holder: DK Publishing. Thanks to the publicist for a review copy; all thoughts are my honest opinion.)
Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.

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