Tuesday, September 30, 2008
My first week of subbing was fairly uneventful. The school I work for has about 50-60 substitutes. Yes, that many just for one high school. Admittedly, the school has about 3000 students and very small class sizes, not more than 20, so I guess it makes sense that they need a lot of subs. Also, unlike many Utah schools, they are on a more traditional bell schedule with 40 minute periods. There are 9 periods during the day (one for lunch), and most students have at least one free period for studying or homework. Subs are required to have 6 periods. If the sub coordinator gives me less than 6, I have to make up the rest by helping in a computer lab, homework center, or library. However, during the first week, she doesn't require subs to fill all 6 periods so they can get used to the process. I was so bored with this by the second day that I filled the time anyway. Wicked Ashley. My first day, I had only three periods at the end of the day: 7, 8, and 9. For some reason I still can't fathom, I had to be there by 8 am. Oh, and that's another thing. School doesn't start most days until 8:30, and on Mondays, it doesn't start until 9 am. School gets out at 3:35. So that first day, I did a lot of sitting. When I finally taught those last three periods, and I use the word "teach" very loosely, I was surprised at how small the classes were. 7th had seven students. 8th had five, and 9th had six or so. True, these were also resource classes, which usually always have smaller numbers than core classes. I mostly supervised 7th and 8th periods and even got a little reading in when I wasn't dealing with a kid with a laser pointer and his refusal to start complete the test the teacher left.
But 9th was the kicker. If students get a pass, they can use their resource period to do other work in the building. Of the four students who showed up to 9th period, all of them got a pass to other areas. I got paid to read Breaking Dawn some more, which was nice, I suppose, but seems a terrible waste of money.
I worked again Tuesday, again in the afternoon, but had a lot more fun. I had received this assignment for two periods of English in advance and had, at Jake's prodding, emailed the teacher to tell her I was certified to teach English if she wanted to do something a little more involved than she might do otherwise on a sub day. When I spoke to her that day, she was very excited and had me observe the lesson in one of the earlier periods so I could see what was going on when I taught. These classes were really good, but one would hope so for Honors Senior English. They were reading a book called The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien about the Vietnam War. I had heard really good things about it from some of my professors in college but had never had a chance to read it. I read the first chapter for class and really enjoyed it. I may pick it up today at the library for the rest of the week's reading.... We had fun discussing the book. I do miss that kind of discussion and collaboration with a fun, intelligent group of kids. I spoke to the teacher at the end of the day (she was in an in-school workshop for the periods I took her class), and she hoped that I would sub for her again, and she hinted that she might recommend me to the other English teachers. YAY! She had already scheduled a sub for Friday and tomorrow and said she wished she could get me to teach instead. No dice, but I think she'll ask for me in the future.
I had Wednesday off, but worked again Thursday and Friday, this time for a Teacher's Assistant. I thought it odd that a TA would need a sub, but again, was grateful for the money. The first class was a double period to help students get on grade-level reading. I didn't do anything Thursday at all. I read some more of Alaska by James Michener (I had finished Breaking Dawn that morning). Friday I assisted the kids a little with some comprehension questions, but still not a lot went on for me. The other two periods I was in an English class, which could have been fun, but TAs just grade papers, and that's all I did on Thursday. What really got me was that one of the periods has two co-teachers. They still need a TA? Crazy. The best was on Friday when both the co-teachers had substitutes and then I subbed for the TA again. Three adults in a class with 15 kids? Ridiculous. The first class went well, and I didn't have anything to do. The second class was a different story. One of the teachers left, and the other sub didn't have as good of a handle on classroom management. It's also possible that this group of students was just more difficult to deal with. I'm not sure. He had kids out of their seats, talking while he was talking, and general disrespect, laziness, and mayhem. I had to assist with this class a lot. One group of boys in particular never bothered to write their journal entries and gave me grief for the entire class period, which was possibly the longest 42 minutes of my life, with the exception of some of my classes from you-know-where last year. I finally moved one belligerent boy to another seat far away from the other students, where he proceeded to sing vulgar lyrics and not do his work. I didn't want to do too much, as I wasn't the one in charge, but the guy who was didn't seem to be doing much. I'd rather have a class of my own, I think.
Saturday I went to yoga while Jake slept. I had another private lesson, not quite as intense as some of the others, but still good. I may have pinched something in my back, but I hope it will be mended by next Saturday.
And now book reviews:
I finished Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer on Thursday. I assume this is the last novel in the series, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Everything wrapped up pretty smoothly. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say it was excellent. Even Jake enjoyed what he read. In the last book, I was getting pretty fed up with Bella and the overprotectiveness-bordering-on-control that was Edward. They both mellowed out this book because there was more going on. I especially liked the shift to Jacob's perspective in the middle. With Bella somewhat incapacitated, it just made sence. Also, Meyer used an Orson Scott Card quote. That ratchets any book up in my opinion. :) Jake had very minimal knowledge of the previous books and still had fun, although ***spoiler*** he had hoped for a better battle at the end. I told him for that, he ought to read the end of the third book. Go check it out. This high school vampire romance grew up a lot in this last book.
I finished Alaska this morning. What is it with me and enormous books? I don't know, but I do know I'm a big fan of everything Michener wrote. Naturally, Alaska is a sweeping historical novel about the area from its formation and the first human inhabitants down to the mid-1980s, when it was published. Michener novels don't always feel as big as they look because he breaks them down into time periods and then follows family members down the generations. So really you're getting a whole series of 100-200 page novels in one big book. The other thing my parents and I have often noted about Michener novels is this: you start out not thinking you'll care about the area he's writing about, but by the end, you have a really good understanding and appreciation for the times and places he wrote about. I got a little bogged down just before the Yukon Gold Rush, but was able to pick up steam about halfway through the chapter, probably because I started subbing and having oodles of time on my hands to get paid to read. If Alaska isn't terribly interesting to you, give one of his other books a try. My favorites are The Source (about an archeological dig in the Middle East where they trace how each artifact got there and, subsequently, the history of religion), Poland (pretty self-explanatory), and The Drifters. The Drifters is unique in that it covers only three years instead of 3000 or 30,000. It traces five or six young people from all over the world in the late 1960s--how they got together, how some of them fell in love, how a couple of them died, and most of all how they lived in the turbulent times. Honorable mentions include Chesapeake and Space. I didn't love Tales of the South Pacific, which was the inspiration for the musical, South Pacific. Pick up a Michener. You won't be disappointed.
I've also made some food since last writing, but I don't have my camera with me today. I'm giving my first attempt at a pie crust today for banana cream pie (vanilla pudding with bananas mixed in). I'll let you know how it goes.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I (Jake) found myself waiting for about half an hour doing nothing. I figured it would be a good time to think, since I haven't had much time for that lately. Three thoughts came to mind:
1) There are more defensive drivers in Chicago than in Salt Lake. Despite this, I believe that I am much more likely to get in an accident in Chicago than in Salt Lake. Say we split up drivers into three categories: Defensive Drivers (concerned primarily with safety), Aggressive Drivers (concerned with time and safety), and Crazies (... yup, they're crazy). In Salt Lake I would put the distribution to be about 55% defensive, 45.5% aggressive, and .5% crazies. In Chicago I would put the distribution at 75% defensive, 20% aggressive, and 5% crazies.
The cost of aggressive time saving driving is much higher in Chicago because there is a much higher % of drivers that are just bent on getting in an accident. I am one of those people who was an aggressive driver in Salt Lake, but have given that up in Chicago because of the cost (likelihood of getting in an accident) of aggressive driving. Ashley and I are probably up to about two dozen almost accidents of people running lights, stop signs, illegal u turns into traffic, etc.
2) What are the actuarial tables of SUV's? I see two advantages and one disadvantage of driving an SUV. First, SUV's have better vision and are easier to see. Second, people are afraid of hitting something that big, so they will try harder to avoid you. Third (the disadvantage), the cost of getting in an accident is smaller because the driver of an SUV is less likely to die in a car accident. Thus, the driver is likely to drive more recklessly. What is the net effect? Positive or negative? Along these same lines, you could also ask this same quesiton about seat belts. According to studies around the world, wearing seat belts greatly increases the likelihood of getting in a car accident because it greatly lower the cost of driving (the likelihood of dying in an accident). If you wanted to drastically decrease the number of car accidents you could simply mount a spear on the steering wheel that is aimed at the heart of the driver. The point of this is that when we focus exclusively on one variable (such as accidents), our judgment becomes clouded.
3) I wonder how much cigarette consumption indirectly increases GDP? A couple assumptions: First, the wealth of an economy is dependent on the productivity of each member of the society. Second, a very large majority of older people, even those who are capable, choose not to work after a certain age. Third, smoking shortens one's life span. Fourth, smoking does not inhibit one's productivity. (A counterexample to this would be alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption does inhibit productivity). Fifth, the cost of producing cigarettes is small (it doesn't make up a large part of our economy). Cigarettes are expensive because of taxes. Cigarettes, like state lotteries, are a way for the government to take money from those who make poor choices. Amazingly, this tax is highly regressive (it hits poor people the most), but it is championed by progressive taxers. I don't get it. This was a tangent, I'll return to the topic now.
I need to offer a disclaimer. I am not saying that the following is a good thing, only that it is likely that it exists.
Putting the facts above together, smoking disproportionately takes its toll on some of the least productive, or rather negatively productive, members of society. This would cause GDP to rise.
Once again, I am not saying we should have a "The Giver" style of releasing people after they hit retirement. I am just saying that this effect is likely there, and that with the decline of smoking, the general public will likely be poorer as a result.
So those are my thoughts while waiting for Godot. By the way, he eventually came. I guess the play was wrong.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
PS: Jake started reading the book about halfway through and I had to pry it out of his hands at 9 pm last night. I'll make a Twilight fan of him yet. Oh, and big thanks to Jake's cousin Elise for letting me borrow her book instead of having to wait months at the public library.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
And, don't worry. Ashley will be writing tomorrow. :)
Update: This is hilarious. Puts some perspective on AIG's situation.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The Royal Tenenbaums: Thanks to Brandt and Christina for lending us the cleanflicks version of this movie. It is a very strange movie. Very strange. However, I believe the ending was one of the best endings I have ever seen in a movie. The ending has a three-minute one camera shot "tie the loose ends" scene that is absolutely incredible. I recommend watching it just to see the ending.
Batman Begins: After seeing it for the 15th time or so, it is still the best movie of all time.
One last thing, it looks like AIG didn't die after all. The Fed bailed it out (and got a killer deal in my opinion). Speaking of the Fed, congress, and perhaps the craziest idea to come out of government in the last few years, here is a couple links on what they are doing. Here is another funny one on what the SEC is doing. I would like to take seriously what both parties' candidates are saying about this, but judging by what they've said so far, neither of them have any idea how these markets operate (I don't believe I need a link to show that, but if there is a demand for it, check out the wall street journal).
Maybe Paulson is too competent? Just a thought.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
During the semester before I student taught, I took a yoga class at SUU. I have never felt more flexible, not even during all those years when I was in dance. Since then, I have tried to keep up with yoga practice, but not very regularly. I was excited when my ward announced they would be holding yoga classes on Saturday mornings. The first time I went was great. The instructor didn't do anything too crazy hard, and I felt tired and a little sore the next day. Good sign. I had to skip the next week for the round of Illinois teacher tests, but I was back the following Saturday. It had rained and rained and rained all the night before and was still raining when I got to the church at 8:30. I worried that no one would show up or that they called everyone else who had signed up but not me. Min (the instructor and the bishop's wife) got there a few minutes later, but no one else did, so I got a private yoga lesson. It was quite possibly the best workout I've ever had in my life. I nearly died.
I hope I can be as in shape and flexible as Min is after I have four kids (or however many we have). She said to me as our hearts were beating fast, "I'm not really into the meditation stuff with yoga. My practice is more of a cardio workout." I never thought I would sweat so much during a church yoga class. She had me do ab work, arm work, leg work, hip work, back work, and just about everything else. And she blew me out of the water too! I'm sure many of you have done the ab workout known as the bicycle, where you lie on your back, lift your head up, and bring one knee up to your chest while the other leg goes forward and then switches. She did 50 sets of both legs without missing a beat. Three times I had to lie on the floor panting and letting my stomach rest. "Come on!" she'd say. "Keep going!" When I woke up the next morning, every inch of my body was sore. Good sore, but still sore. You'd think that getting up early on a Saturday and hurting and sweating would drive me away from exercising, but there's something so satisfying about knowing that you've done something difficult with your body and knowing that you've also done something so beneficial too. I can't wait for the next class!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
So, I had this crazy dream. I was in an Ender's game style battle school except it was present day, and I joined a group that tried to break out because it was run by a tyrannical faculty. We were caught after blowing up a good chunk of the school trying to escape. I was then hauled into a courtroom (I think Mccain was the judge, except he wasn't a public official, he was a supreme court justice. Weird.) where I had to argue against the faculty and explain why a unionized faculty with tenure is a terrible idea because they can torture us all day and enslave us without negative repercussions. Unfortunately, I could only argue with words that were made up of letters that I drew (like scrabble). The faculty argued (they didn't have to keep the scrabble letters rule, but I did) that without tenure and unions they wouldn't be free to discuss their ideas and implement them.
And then I woke up...
Yeah. Weird. Especially since I never remember dreams. Although, that is a great depiction of my feeling toward teachers unions (one of the best ways to predict poor performance in schools is to simply take the number of unionized teachers, and divide it by the number of total teachers. A higher % of teachers in the union in the school strangely coincides with a higher % of dropouts and low test scores. Here is a random article from slate on the subject.) I know somebody out there will say, "Hey! My ____ belongs to a teacher union, and he/she is a great person!" Yes. Nazi Germany had loads of great people in it too, but it doesn't mean the country's quest for world domination was a good thing. Perhaps that is a drastic example, but it still makes the point clear.
Oil is down to $92. ... And none of you believed me when I said it would be in double digits by October. Good thing it dropped before congress did something stupid and meddled with the futures markets. Since "price gouging" supposedly caused the increase in price, it must be benevolence that caused the price to fall. It's a good thing that all those evil people repented of their misdeeds.
Well, have a splendid day (unless you're AIG, then I would recommmend death bed repentance).
Friday, September 12, 2008
Raspberry Peach Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting (makes 24 cupcakes)
1 c. white chocolate chips
6 T. butter, cubed
1 pkg. white cake mix
1 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 c. raspberries (about one of those small containers)
1 c. chopped, peeled fresh or frozen unsweetened peaches (thaw if frozen, a little more than one fresh peach)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in cupcake pans. Set aside.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chips and butter. Microwave at 70% power until chips melt. Stir until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted chips. Beat on low speed 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more. Fold in fruit carefully.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely before frosting.
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 T. lemon juice
3 c. powdered sugar
Fresh raspberries or peaches for garnish
Beat butter, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Frost cupcakes. Top with fruit, if desired.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
As many of you know, I've been extremely frustrated with the process of getting my Utah teaching license switched over to an Illinois license. Lots of paperwork, lots of bureaucracy, but that's what made Illinois famous (and you thought it was just Abraham Lincoln and the Sears Tower). I spent $90 extra to take two state tests last Saturday because I registered 3 weeks before it instead of 2 months. I spent all day at a testing facility with moronic rules, viz. I could not have my red--label-less, I might add--water bottle on the floor next to me while I took the test simply because it was tinted and not clear. You could see all the way through it. It's not as though I'm carrying cola or beer or whatever it is they're trying to keep out of the facility. So they made me put it outside the room until I finished. Other test-takers were similarly disgruntled. They also require your driver's license to be out on the front of the desk during the entire test. As if someone, once he puts his DL back in his wallet, will rip off his mask and outer layer of clothing and REALLY be someone else, only the proctors can't do anything now because his fingerprint is on the test and he refuses to pull out the license. It's all so silly.
Both the tests had 125 questions and allowed five hours to complete them. This isn't rocket science, people! The first test was called the Basic Skills test, and it had questions of similar difficulty to the ACT, but without the Science Reasoning section. And actually, the math section was easier, as it had no trigonometry. Someone mentioned that this was her fourth time taking it. Seriously, if it requires you four times to complete easier questions than the ACT in less than five hours, what exactly are you doing OUT of high school, let alone trying to teach it? But I'm a moron too. I found out that there is a third test that no one told me about, called the APT. I have no idea what that stands for. I also took the English test, which, for you Utah teaching folks, was basically the Praxis PLT and the content test combined. The other irritating part of all of this is the amount of time I wasted on Saturday. The first set of tests started at 8 am (reporting time 7:15, Ashley left her house at 6:15 on a Saturday...grrr) and took me until about 10:20 to finish. I would have loved to do my other test at that time, but I had to wait until 1:30 to be able just to go into the building again. I made OK use of the interim; I read James Michener's Alaska (not the whole thing--have you seen any of his books?), talked to my brother on the phone, and chatted with a lady also waiting for the next test. It's just not where I wanted to be for that long on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
One perk of the Illinois tests compared to the Utah Praxis: you can go once you finish the test. Yes, I know, it's an amazing concept. That was the thing that killed me when I took the Praxis in college. I finished with over an hour to spare, and they'd only let me out to go to the bathroom. I couldn't read or turn in my answer sheet, so I wrote a long note that no one would ever read about how idiotic it is to make people who finish early stay and waste time blah blah blah. I was not amused.
So I was happy when I finished the English test in 70 minutes and could walk out the door and go home. Fantastic.
I called Jake on my way home to tell him about the third test I didn't know about. We decided that it just wasn't worth it to wait for my provisional license if it was going to take at least another month. I need to sub now. I could just get my substitute license for $50, and that would be almost immediate. So Monday morning after procuring a money order (they don't take personal checks or cards or cash), I took the train downtown and made the trek up to the 14th floor of one of many government buildings in Chicago. When I told the woman at the desk about my situation, she looked up my file and said, "You've already got your license. They were supposed to send it out on September 4. You don't need a sub license. You need to pay twenty dollars to register your license and take these tests withing nine months, but that's it." Cool! I was so excited that it wasn't going to take until October to sub. And now I have a $50 money order in my purse. What should I do with that? I was thinking groceries. Downside: I didn't have to take the English test, and I still have to take the APT test. But less awful than it could have been.
I walked to the Chicago Public Schools building a few blocks down as it began to sprinkle. I got another couple of papers and directions to go to another CPS building (nowhere near the building I was already in, I might add) to get my background check and fingerprinting. Do you have any idea how many times I've been fingerprinted in the last 18 months? It's ridiculous. By the time I got out the CPS building downtown, it had really started to pour. And I had forgotten my umbrella, so after trying desperately to find the nearest Red Line station (compared to London's transit system, Chicago's is crap), I found a station that would get me to the Red Line. I need to remember my routes a little better, yes? Wandering around in the rain with no umbrella and no idea how to get to the other building didn't sound like a good idea. By the time I got home, I looked something like a drowned cat. Showering has rarely felt so good.
I finished the journey yesterday after realizing that Chicago foolishly names more than one station WITH THE SAME NAME! Happily, I realized this before I left home, but it did require a little more bus time and foot time than I had originally planned. It also required me to cross train tracks and walk past slaughterhouses. A fine place to put school offices, I'm sure. They got my fingerprints and told me to come back when they got the results and had filled out all the paperwork. I hope that I'll be able to start within two weeks. And I hope the students in Chicago Public Schools don't eat me alive.
After my adventures with CPS, I walked down to Michigan Avenue, as my aunt told me the shopping is amazing. I apparently turned right when I should have turned left and saw very little shopping as I headed south from Wacker Drive. I'll try again next week.
I am SO excited that I don't have to wait for months to teach. That also means I don't have to work retail. THAT means I can more easily be in Utah for Christmas. While we have no set plans, we hope we can make it for a week or so. Strange to be thinking about Christmas already.
I also found raspberries on sale at the local Food 4 Less, which means I can now make raspberry peach cupcakes with lemon frosting. I'll post recipe and pictures when I finish them.
Finally, I'm thinking about being Sarah Palin for Halloween. Your thoughts? And how can I make Jake look more like John McCain?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
A) "Peace" - Who doesn't like peace?
B) "Land" - The American dream...
C) "and Bread" - I believe I may lose the anorexic vote with this one, but I believe it's worth it.
2- Continuing on the same theme as 1-C): "Work and Bread" Because there ain't no such thing as a free lunch (taanstafl), but I will give you a great government job.
3- "The Trains will Run on Time." I am rethinking this one. Fewer people care about trains now than 100 years ago.
4- "Change" - Any will do. I'm sure this will take care of itself in any industrialized society.
5- "Leadership" - I grew up sending peasants into battle in Warcraft II. Now that's leadership.
6- "Experience" - Everything that Ashley has done, it is just like I've done it too. That's 48 years already. Although, that does confine me to arithmetic growth.... However, with kids I can then add up my posterity's experience. That will give my experience exponential growth. Grandma Andersen already has over 6,000 years!
7- "Room For Growth" - Your mother always told you this growing up when you were buying shoes at Payless or Sears, and mom is always right.
8- "Extinguish America and Britain and Make a Bright World Map." - I don't know how well the Cayman Islands would accept that one. They are a British colony after all.
What can you add to this?
FWIW: I already thought of "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." But, Herbert Hoover is considered by economic historians to be a pretty good president. A few little known facts: the hugely popular Smoot-Hawley tariff and terrible Federal Reserve policy (which was created by Woodrow Wilson... see Milton Friedman's Nobel Prize work) caused the Depression. Hoover's worst mistake was caving to FDR's political pressure to "raise taxes on the rich" shortly before being voted out. Taxes went up sharply after FDR took over anyway, so you can pin that one on FDR.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Tuesday: Group bonding activities during the day. At night, Kellogg pays for unlimited beers at a local bar. Most kids stay out until 2 AM.
Wednesday: Class starts at 8 AM. Mixed classes with group bonding activities. At night, Kellogg pays for unlimited beers at a local bar. Most kids stay out until at least 2 AM.
Thursday: Class and service activities during the day, including "diversity training." This lasts until 11:30 PM. Luckily, after 5 PM a few kegs were brought into our classroom. About half the students went to a bar afterward. However, because of intoxication, many were not able to make it to the bar.
Friday: Classes all day. At 9:30 PM the school sent everyone (but me and a few others) on buses to downtown Chicago to go clubbing. The buses come back at midnight, but most stay out until 3 AM or later.
Saturday: Two hours of activities, lunch, and then the afternoon off. However, bars were still scheduled for the evening.
Sunday: More mandatory group bonding. Next on our schedule was Sunday afternoon football and beer.
Monday: ... what could today bring? Although, Monday night football has already been scheduled.
Needless to say I am fully exploiting my comparative advantage. I skip out on the activities that nobody can remember clearly. I am already very far ahead in my classes (about a week's worth of reading in every class). I am not sleep deprived. I am not ill. I can remember everything I have done in the last week. And, I still have no idea what "flip cup" is. I'd say it's a list of pretty stellar accomplishments.
Two interesting economics links if you are interested. The first is an article by Greg Mankiw (very easy reading). The second is a paper by Arnold Kling (more scholarly, but still interesting). I agree with Arnold Kling. One last comment in this post on the GSE takeover that happened yesterday. I always think it's a little funny when a government intervenes in a market and forces a non-natural market outcome and then complain that free markets don't work. This results in more meddling and worse outcomes. The perfect examples is the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac problems and the sub-prime ordeal. For years the government has pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy crappy mortgages to "help" minorities into houses (or chain minorities into houses, whichever you prefer). Now they are wondering why it has blown up in their faces. Well, it must be the markets fault. Here is Kling's "chapter of a good book" on why Freddie Mac was stupid and what he saw while he was working there.
Have a fantastic evening.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Chicken Tikka Masala (Serves 4)
1 c. plain yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 to 1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. black pepper
1 T. minced fresh garlic
4 t. salt, or to taste
Mix marinade ingredients together and add 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut up into bite-size pieces. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat grill for high heat and lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about five minutes on each side. I don’t have a grill, so I just lightly spray my broiler pan with oil and throw the chicken on there and turn once.
1 T. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (I discard the seeds and ribs so it’s not so spicy)
2 t. ground cumin
2 t. paprika
3 t. salt, or to taste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic and jalapeño for 1 minute. Season with 2 t. cumin, paprika, and 3 t. salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with rice or naan and plain yogurt.
Naan Bread (makes 8 pieces)
4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 egg, beaten
6 T. plain yogurt at room temperature
3 T. butter, melted
About 1 c. lukewarm milk
1 T. poppy seeds
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. Stir in the beaten egg, yogurt, and 2 T. butter. Gradually stir in enough milk to make a soft dough. Knead well. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Knead dough on floured surface for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then into ovals about 6-8 inches long. Grease a baking sheet with oil. Brush both sides of the rolled out naan with oil or butter. Sprinkle one side with poppy seeds. Place naan poppy seed side up on the baking sheet.
Bake for 6-10 minutes until puffy and golden brown on both sides. Enjoy it hot—plain or with your favorite Indian food.
Shirley’s Frog Eye Salad
1 c. sugar
2 T. flour
2 1/2 t. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 T. lemon juice
1 9 oz. carton Cool Whip
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple
2 20 oz. cans pineapple chunks or tidbits
3 11 oz. cans mandarin oranges
1 3/4 c. pineapple juice (from drained fruit)
1 16 oz. box acini de pepe
1 c. coconut
1 c. mini marshmallows
Combine sugar, flour, and 1/2 t. salt. Gradually add pineapple juice and eggs. Whisk until smooth. Cook over moderate heat until thickened. Add lemon juice. Cool to room temperature. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cool water and drain well. Add to cooled sauce. Mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix lightly but thoroughly. May be refrigerated for a week or frozen.
Jake also remembers his mom adding melons and other fruit in season to their frog eye salad. My mom’s recipe is similar, but she omits the coconut and marshmallows in favor of maraschino cherries. She also uses double the Cool Whip and 2 cups of pineapple juice. Improvise, people!
Carrot Cupcakes (from Great Food Fast by Everyday Food)
The book recommends using the large holes of a box grater or the shredding disk of a food processor to shred the carrots. I use the little holes on my grater for baby carrots and it turns out fine, but it takes a really long time. Use your best judgment.
1 1/4 c. shredded coconut
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 T. fresh orange juice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground allspice (but I didn’t have any, so I used cinnamon)
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. plus 2 T. flour
1 1/2 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
Cream Cheese Icing (see below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1 cup of the coconut out on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the coconut to a small bowl and set aside to cool
In a bowl, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. oil, orange juice, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in the baking powder, soda, allspice, and salt. Add the flour; mix. Stir in the shredded carrots, walnuts, and the remaining 1/4 c. shredded coconut.
Oil a standard muffin tin or line with paper muffin liners; distribute the batter evenly (about 3/4 full). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool before frosting with cream cheese icing. Garnish with reserved toasted coconut.
I always have leftover coconut, so you can either be really generous on the cupcakes, save the extra for later (great ice cream topping), or cut the amount you toast in half or by a fourth.
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp.
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 (or more) vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, whisk the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Let me know how your culinary experiments go!
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Jake and I have the pleasure of having our birthdays only five days apart. His is August 26, and mine is August 31. He says I'll never catch up to the five days of wisdom he has acquired. He's sorry, but there's nothing I can do about it. So we have about a week of food and fun and presents and phone calls we enjoy very much. As Jake's is first, I get to set the standard of awesomeness for the year. After some kind of breakfast in bed (I don't remember what I fixed), we did much of our usual thing: email, library, reading, etc. I was in the kitchen most of the afternoon frosting the cake and making dinner. See below.
The cake was pretty good. I needed just a touch more powdered sugar to get it stiff enough to stay on the cake better, but it was definitely delicious. Jake's one food request was frog eye salad. I did my best, but it's hard when you can't find acini de pepe ANYWHERE within a ten-mile radius. I improvised by cooking angel hair pasta and then chopping it as fine as I could. This did not produce the desired effect. However, it did produce a mostly delicious, enormous amount of frog eye salad (frog toe salad?) that is still sitting in our fridge, slowly being eaten. I also made chicken Tikka Masala, one of my favorite Indian dishes. It's orange and spicy and tastes so good with naan, an Indian bread. I think I wrote the recipe wrong, as I'm pretty sure 4 tablespoons of salt is too much for anything ever. I'll need to revise. While I was making food and heating up our apartment with our gas oven, the missionaries came over and shared in our cake. We also received the package from Jake's family, and Jake got to open it that evening. Good timing! He also opened the movie I gave him, which was wrapped in pages from the Wall Street Journal, as I had no wrapping paper.
My birthday was also lots of fun. Jake woke me up with breakfast in bed (the carrot cupcakes I had made the night before) and a backrub. Heaven! We went to church and when we got home, I opened a fantastic puzzle from Jake's family, as well as all the cards various relatives sent me. My mom's package still hasn't arrived yet, but that just means that I get to extend my birthday out even more. Because my birthday was on a Sunday, Jake postponed the second part of my present, and we will be going out to dinner later this week.
On a completely different note, Jake started school at Kellogg yesterday. He sent me a text at lunch that said, "I think we all just sold our souls for two weeks :(" Well, that's encouraging. This first two weeks are an immersion program to get all the students ready for actual classes, which start September 22. Maybe birthday dinner might be postponed even further.... Here's a picture of my boy as a sent him to his first day of school. Isn't he cute?When I picked him up yesterday evening, he looked like this and was wearing a shirt that looked like this:
Note the lovely orange war paint on his face. All the students are divided into one of these groups, and Jake's is Moose. I got to meet a bunch of the Moosen last night when they and their significant others were all invited to a nice bar in Evanston. They seem like a pretty cool bunch of people. I'll let Jake tell you all about it sometime.
And finally, my husband is a genius. About two weeks ago (and I can't believe it took us this long to figure it out), Jake stumbled upon a partial solution to our shower woes. He noticed the wording on the shower that said "Anystream" and thought maybe some fiddling would help. And it did. Our actual pressure is the same, but we don't have to be pressed up against the shower wall. Yay for Jake!
Oh, this is really the last thing. I don't have the recipes with me for all the food posted, but I'll post them as a comment on this blog in the next couple days or so.
Monday, September 1, 2008
I'm sure this is way more information than anyone wants, but I'm still going to blog about it. The following are pictures of our apartment the way it sometimes looks when we have people coming to dinner (as we did last week when I took them). The kitchen. There really is no counter space, so I have to get pretty creative sometimes.
Our bedroom. The quilt my mom made looks fantastic, as always.
My happy Spongebob bathroom. Note also the lack of counter space.
I love how light and open our house is. This will be especially great in the winter when we can get the southern sun coming in.
I've been doing a lot of cooking the past two weeks, and I would love to share with you a couple of recipes. This is one of Jake's new favorites, and it involves no meat.
It's from the newest edition of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which I am loving more and more as I use it. Here's the recipe for Spicy Black Beans and Rice:
- 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 14-1/2-ounce can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 2 cups hot cooked brown or long grain rice
- 1/4 cup chopped onion (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan cook 1/2 cup onion and garlic in hot oil until tender but not brown. Carefully stir in the drained beans, undrained tomatoes, and ground red pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
2. To serve, mound rice on individual plates; make a well in the centers. Spoon black bean mixture into centers. If desired, sprinkle with chopped onion. Makes 4 servings.
I like throwing sour cream and cheese on top for some added goodness. I also use white rice because I haven't bothered to buy brown yet. I like this recipe because it's fast, easy, cheap, and really healthy. I never use 2 T. of oil. We're making it tonight for the missionaries. The way those boys eat, beans and rice (read inexpensive but filling) is the way to go.
I won't be able to actually sub for at least a couple weeks, as my license is still not up yet. But on the bright side, I did get my first tutoring assignment, which I will start tomorrow. I also have an interview with a retail store on Thursday, and may end up with an interview for a dance company in their education department. That last one is very improbable, but a girl can dream, right?
Well, this blog is long enough. I'll be writing soon about Jake's and my respective birthdays. And the food I made for them.