Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stress and The City

Stress & the CityStress & the City by Stephanie Rowe
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I didn't finish this book. I'm not sure how to approach writing this review, so this might seem all over the place. First I'm all for writing having a "voice", but when both characters have monologues in their heads that read like Hammy (from The Hedge. If you haven't seen this movie, you must. Go. Now.) I have to wonder how much caffeine the author drank while writing this. Second, this book started well - I had high hopes for it. The heroine has just returned from a solo honeymoon after discovering her groom cheating on her the night before the wedding... and then it just falls apart. Or more accurately, SHE falls apart. I'm with it. What I'm not with was the obsession/stalking the heroine took up with the main guy in the story. In real life, this would have been a restraining order. Third, I was halfway through the book and the two main characters hadn't spent more than a few minutes with each other - but yet they were mooning about each other in their heads. Neh. Where's the love story? It wasn't there for me.

Synopsis: Cassie Halloway is definitely not losing it! So she sucked face with a perfect stranger to prove she was over her ex-fianc√©. So the new guy nearly made her swoon and forget anyone else was around. And so he turned out to be Ty Parker, her latest client. And, okay, so maybe he’s just a little engaged to another woman…Whatever! As a brilliant stress-management consultant, Cassie has everything perfectly under control. And soon she’ll be able to face a stress-free Ty with equal calm.

After all, there’s no problem a little chocolate therapy can’t cure…is there?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oatmeal Milky Way Brownie Bars

Consider this your warning: These are the crack cocaine of all brownies. I found this recipe at I Am Baker. I did bake mine slightly different as I thought her bars looked under-done.

2 cups old fashioned oats (I actually used quick cook and they came out fine)
2 cups flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2-1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups boxed brownie mix (I used a generic dark chocolate mix)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg

Caramel Sauce:
11 oz. bag Kraft caramel bits (I used the regular caramel cubes)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I forgot to buy and used milk + a tablespoon or so of butter)
2 (regular sized) Milky Way candy bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and butter. Either use a fork (pastry cutter) to incorporate or just use your hands. It's ok if there are some chunks of butter, but no larger than pea-sized.

Add in brownie mix, egg, and oil. Stir until just combined.

Using a prepared 9x13 baking dish, spread half of the oat mixture into the dish and press firmly to flatten. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

In a medium sauce pan, place Milky Way bars, caramels (wrappers removed if using the cubes), and heavy cream. Allow to simmer over medium to medium low heat until fully melted. Remove from heat and let cool approximately ten minutes. (Make this while first brownie layer is baking. This will allow both the brownie layer and the caramel layer to cool perfectly.)

Pour the caramel sauce over the first brownie layer, making sure to get all the way to the corners.

Top with remaining oat mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

These froze very well.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Banana Bread in ABM

This is the first banana bread in a bread machine recipe I've seen that comes out very moist. A favorite with The CofC.

1/3 cup + 1 tbsp buttermilk (I used 1/3 cup + 1tbsp water and 1-1/2 tbsp buttermilk powder)*
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks for easier mixing
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 mashed bananas
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

All ingredients should be at room temperature. Place ingredients in bread machine on quick bread or cake cycle. (I used quick bread on medium crust and it seemed to cook the bread too thoroughly in some places so a lighter crust option may get better results.)

*I have also used 1/3 cup milk + 1 tbsp vinegar.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blackened Chicken and Beans

It's been so long since I actually made this, I'm having a hard time remembering what worked and what didn't... I think this might have been too spicy for The Diva (don't you just love her photo bomb?) and when/if I make it again I'll cut the spices. It made a lot of corn and beans so I would also cut back on those amounts as well.

2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 tbsp canola oil
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup chunky salsa

Combine chili powder, salt and pepper; rub over both sides of chicken. In a large nonstick skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees F. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Add the beans, corn and salsa to skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Transfer to a serving dish; serve with chicken.

Garnish with sour cream and chips.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Todd's Best Ever Margarita

I received this recipe from a co-worker. I personally wouldn't call it the "best ever" margarita - it was a little too boozy for me. Next time I'm in the mood I will probably try it without the beer. (Or maybe without the Tequila and call it a Beergarita? Hmmmm....)

And before you even ask... when it comes to Tequila, here's the rules.

If you're drinking it straight, buy the spendy stuff.
If you're mixing it, buy the cheapest bottle you can find.

Ice to desired coldness
12 oz can 7Up (or other lemon lime soda)
12 oz beer (recommend Modelo or Dos Equis)
6 oz (1/2 can) limeade concentrate thawed
6 oz Tequila

The first time I made this, I didn't really think about it and put it in the blender... it took me a week to get it cleaned off my cabinets. Due to carbonation in the beer and soda, I strongly urge you to follow these instructions...

Use a container that will hold all the ingredients and leave approximately 1/2 the container empty for headroom and has a tight fitting lid. I fill my container halfway with ice, but use as much or little ice as you like. Pour ingredients in order into container, place lid securely on container and GENTLY shake to mix.

Pour over shaved ice or ice cubes to serve.

This makes quite a bit of drink, so make sure you're able to drink all of it or have friends to help you!

The Elephant in the Playroom

The Elephant in the Playroom: Ordinary Parents Write Intimately and Honestly About the Extraordinary Highs and Heartbreaking Lows of Raising Kids with Special NeedsThe Elephant in the Playroom: Ordinary Parents Write Intimately and Honestly About the Extraordinary Highs and Heartbreaking Lows of Raising Kids with Special Needs by Denise Brodey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a remarkable collection of essays written by the parents of special needs children. What surprised me the most was the quality of the writing - neither too professional nor too unpracticed - everything was well paced. I enjoyed the variety of the essays and the topics covered.

As the parent of a child with high-functioning Aspergers, I found the autism stories more meaningful - and also a reminder of how much worse things could be for my son.

Synopsis: Candid, passionate, personal, and heartbreakingly funny, a view from within the whirlwind of parenting a child with special needs

Three years ago, magazine editor Denise Brodey's precocious four-year-old son, Toby, was diagnosed with a combination of sensory integration dysfunction and childhood depression. As she struggled to make sense of her new, often chaotic, often lonely world, what she found comforted her most was talking with other harried, hopeful, and insightful parents of kids with special needs, learning how they coped with the feelings they encountered throughout the day.

In The Elephant in the Playroom, moms and dads from across the country write intimately and honestly about the joyful highs and disordered lows of raising children who are 'not quite normal.' Laying bare the emotional, medical, and social challenges they face, their stories address issues ranging from if and when to medicate a child, to how to get a child who is overly sensitive to the texture of food to eat lunch. Eloquent and honest, the voices in this collection will provide solace and support for the millions of parents whose kids struggle with ADD, ADHD, sensory disorders, childhood depression, Asperger's syndrome, and autism, as well as the many kids who fall between diagnoses.

Offering readers comfort, community, and much-needed perspective, The Elephant in the Playroom is sure to become essential reading for parents of special needs kids.

Recommended Reading:
Love You to Pieces by Suzanne Kamata
Road Map to Holland by Jennifer Graf Groneberg
Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid by Gina Gallagher
Being the Other One by Kate Strohm
Miles from the Sideline by Maura Weis