Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two weeks is a long time...

I didn't intentionally neglect this blog for two weeks. As the end of summer vacation approached my kids and I spent a lot of time seeing movies, scheduling playdates with friends, taking some day trips and preparing to go back to school. My older son started the second grade today so things should begin to slow down and I will soon return to my regular posting schedule.

In the meantime, a little of what we've been reading:



Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

My seven year old:

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1)

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) (Book & CD)
(he's currently reading this aloud for his nightly homework)

My four year old:

Toy Story 2 Read-Along Storybook and CD

Toy Story 2 Read-Along Storybook and CD
(Yes, we are still in a Toy Story phase right now.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy Belly, Happy Smile - Fried Rice

"On Fridays I have dinner with Grandpa Sam. He owns a restaurant in Chinatown." - Happy Belly, Happy Smile, Rachel Isadora

I have reviewed books about families cooking and eating together for this blog, but I don't believe I have ever reviewed a book about a family dining together in a restaurant. Enter Rachel Isadora's Happy Belly, Happy Smile, a sweet picture book told from the point of view of a little boy who is visiting his grandfather's Chinese restaurant.

Happy Belly, Happy Smile isn't just a book about food or a book about families, it's a book about the experience of visiting a restaurant and seeing how things work from a child's perspective. Every Friday Louie visits his grandfather's restaurant in Chinatown. A frequent visitor, he knows the waiters, chefs and other restaurant staff by name and he gets an insider's view of what goes down in a working restaurant. He watches the chefs roll egg rolls and chop vegetables and the waiters bustle from table to table. When it's finally time to eat Louie and Grandpa Sam enjoy an assortment of Chinese dishes: rice, dumplings, egg rolls, spare ribs, shrimp chow mein--even fish and crabs. And a fortune cookie, of course. The book's title comes from the message inside the cookie: "Happy food, happy belly, happy smile."

Isadora's collage and oil illustrations are a treat. Scraps of paper from what appear to be real Chinese restaurant menus and are incorporated into the collages, a nice touch.

Of course, this book makes me think of Chinese food. Since converting to a gluten-free diet over a year ago, I haven't had much occasion to eat Chinese takeout. Between the wheat-based sauces, noodle dishes (my favorite) and fried foods, it just isn't the best choice. If I really want plain steamed rice and vegetables I'll get them at home. That's not what most people go to Chinese restaurants for! Fortunately, we have been able to replicate some of our favorite Chinese takeout at home. It's not quite the same but I have received high praise for my fried rice. Some would say it's even better than Chinese takeout!

Fried Rice

  • 2 - 3 cups cooked rice (I prefer Calrose, or "sticky" rice, but anything will do)
  • cooked lean protein (chicken, beef strips, tofu, etc.)
  • 2 - 3 eggs
  • 3 - 4 strips of bacon (optional)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups diced fresh or frozen veggies (we use peas and carrots)
  • 1/3  - 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • sesame seeds (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • butter (optional)
Additional equipment: Large pan or wok.

1. Cook your rice. Ideally, the rice should be cold so you may want to cook it ahead of time. Or use leftover rice. I've never tried to make fried rice using the pre-cooked rice I have recently started to see in grocery stores but if you've tried it let me know!

2. If you are using bacon, cook it in the pan/wok. We started putting bacon in our fried rice because one of our favorite Japanese teppanyaki restaurants does this with their fried rice and it is unbelievably good. (I am of the opinion that bacon makes everything better.) When the bacon is cooked through, carefully remove from pan and set aside. Do not drain the pan of the bacon grease! You'll use this instead of cooking oil for the stir fry part. (Sounds gross, I know. Trust me though.)

3. Crack eggs into the pan. Stir fry the eggs with garlic and black pepper until they are no longer runny. Add your lean protein and continue to stir fry.

4. When eggs and meat are cooked through (don't worry about overcooking the egg), add the veggies; let cook another two to three minutes.

5. Now it's time to add the rice. Slowly add rice by spoonfuls. Mix well.

6. Add red pepper flakes, brown sugar, sesame seeds and splash of vinegar. Add soy sauce and a small amount of butter (the butter is optional but it does enhance the flavor--I use a tiny bit). Mix well.

7. Turn up the heat and let cook until the sauce begins to caramelize. The rice on the bottom should stick a little but it shouldn't burn or fuse to the pan.

This recipe serves the four of us and provides a lot of leftovers. (I used the same amount to serve five adults and three kids a few weeks ago.) However, if you want to go all out and make a few Chinese takeout-style dishes to serve family style, I have a few suggestions:

CrockPot Broccoli Beef and CrockPot Sweet and Sour Tofu from A Year of Slow Cooking
Szechwan Beef Stir Fry from Better Homes and Gardens
General Tso's Chicken from Tyler Florence and the Food Network

These are some other great books to get you in the mood for Chinese food:

Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin
Yum Yum Dim Sum  by Amy Wilson Sanger

*Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small percentage of the purchase price of items purchased through the links on this site. Thank you for helping to support Eat Their Words!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blueberries for Sal - Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Blueberries for Sal (Live Oak Readalong)(Book + CD)

It's August and friends of mine in other areas of the country have been enjoying blueberry picking. I know this because I see their status updates and pictures on Facebook. While my family did recently enjoy picking strawberries and blackberries, we unfortunately don't live in an area that is very conducive to blueberry growth. We have to buy ours at the store. Even so, with blueberry season in full swing we're able to find inexpensive fresh berries in our local stores.

There's only one book I can think of to pair with  blueberry picking (or eating, as the case may be): Robert McCloskey's 1948 classic Caldecott Honor winner, Blueberries for Sal. It is the story of Sal and her mother and the day they spend picking berries to can for the winter (I had to explain canning to my kids). Like many small children, Sal is more interested in wandering and eating the berries rather than paying attention to her mother. This is how she inadvertently ends up following a mama bear--whose own distracted cub has been following Sal's mother. In the end everyone gets sorted out and Sal and her mother return home with their blueberries, nobody worse for the wear. (The lovely endpapers, which show Sal and her mother canning their harvest, are a nice touch.)

My kids laughed out loud when Sal took more interest in eating the berries than in following her mother, and again when the mother bear realized she was being followed by a human child rather than her own cub. My favorite part of the book? The pen and ink illustrations, which are blue and white rather than the traditional black and white. Love that blue! It's simple and effective and, well, just pretty.

If you are looking for ways to use up some blueberries this summer, I've got just the recipe for you! This is one of our family favorites and my husband shares equal credit for creating it. I may have made the first batch of frozen yogurt in our ice cream maker years ago but he is the one who perfected and embellished it until it became...

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt with Blueberry Truffles

  • Vanilla yogurt (in a 32 ounce container--I prefer Dannon Naturals or Stonyfield Farms; we've used fat-free but low-fat tends to have a nicer texture)
  • 1 cup blueberries (I've found frozen berries work a little better but use fresh if you have them!)
  • 6 blueberry truffles OR a handful of chocolate chips
  • Splash of milk
Additional equipment: Electric ice cream maker. If you don't have one, you can make the recipe as directed and stick in the freezer for a little while to give it a "frozen" consistency.

Note on the truffles: The first several times we made this frozen yogurt we used chocolate chips. At some point we decided to chop up some See's blueberry truffles we had on hand and throw those in instead. It has become our preferred way to make this yogurt but don't worry if you don't have truffles (since See's is mostly a regional California thing)! They do give it an extra blueberry kick but it is just as good with chocolate chips.

1. Pour yogurt into a mixing bowl. I usually use 1/2 to 3/4 of the container.

2. Chop truffles into small pieces and add to yogurt. If you're using chocolate chips you can chop them finely (my husband's way) or dump them in whole (my way--I am lazy and afraid of chopping off a finger...and I also like the large chunks of chocolate in my yogurt).

3. Add blueberries

4. Stir yogurt, blueberries and chocolate together. Pour into ice cream maker. Add a small splash of milk. Let churn for a half hour, or until the yogurt has the right consistency.

Here's video of what it looks like when first put in the machine:

This video was taken about ten minutes in:

About 25 minutes after the yogurt went into the machine. Ready to eat.

This recipe is easily adapted--we've made peach frozen yogurt and we've also made our own vanilla using plain Greek-style yogurt and adding sugar and vanilla. If you're trying to cut back on sugar or prefer your yogurt with more of a "bite" try making this recipe with plain yogurt instead of vanilla flavored yogurt.  However you choose to make it, it's an easy and tasty dessert.

For additional activities to go along with Blueberries for Sal, see Scholastic's Blueberries for Sal page. Here you'll find some math activities and questions for discussion.

*Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small percentage of the purchase price of items purchased through the links on this site. Thank you for helping to support Eat Their Words!