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Happy President’s Day!

Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday than by singing the praises of Maira Kalman’s brand new picture book biography about Thomas Jefferson.

I pretty much adore everything Maira does, and I’ve been fascinated by our red-haired, violin-playing, wine-guzzling, pea-loving, Renaissance Man foodie President ever since I first visited Monticello years ago.

In Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything (Paulsen/Penguin, 2014), Ms. Kalman has accomplished the seemingly impossible, capturing the genius, complexity, contributions, contradictions, and affecting humanness of our third President in just 40 glorious pages.

Her disarming conversational narrative, peppered with just the kind of offbeat detail kids love, is fueled by a contaigious enthusiasm for her subject. She begins:

Thomas Jefferson had red hair and some freckles (about 20 I think), he grew to be very tall and oh yes, he was the third President of the United States . . .

What was he interested in?

EVERYTHING.

I mean it.

EVERYTHING.

She mentions Jefferson’s love of books, music, flora and fauna, and that he could speak seven languages. She spotlights the ingenious design of his beloved Monticello,”a Museum of his Mind” with its famed vegetable garden, citing Jefferson’s advocacy of a mostly vegetarian diet. Though he lived a good life, “full of work and love,” it was tinged with sadness: his wife Martha died young and four of their six children didn’t live to adulthood.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

She details Jefferson’s role as a Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence, brilliantly humanizing other illustrious figures like Franklin, Adams and Washington via singular details: Ben’s crazy great hat, John’s fiery temper, George’s false teeth. Then it’s all about Jefferson’s presidency (Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark Expedition), before sensitively introducing the topic of slavery.

The man who said of slavery
“This ABOMINATION MUST END”
was the owner of about 150 slaves.

The MONUMENTAL MAN had MONUMENTAL FLAWS.

She tells it straight and true, and does not shy away from mentioning that Jefferson likely had children with Sally Hemings, and what a sad thing it was when people felt the need to hide their background by passing for white. Her despair over these painful issues and puzzlement over Jefferson’s hypocrisy are deftly conveyed in a way that respects young readers and will likely win their trust.

I love how Maira’s hand-lettering alternates with the standard font to highlight asides, personal thoughts and select facts. These words just brim with personality, keeping things from sounding too textbook-y, ultimately strengthening the intimate bond between author and reader.

Illuminated and expanded by vibrant and whimsical gouache paintings rendered in striking jewel-tones, Kalman’s account of Jefferson as President, scholar, statesman, architect, scientist, botanist, connoisseur, author, inventor, and plantation owner is recommended for readers of all ages who appreciate spirited storytelling and creative nonfiction infused with wit, wisdom, and the excitement of discovery.

Who better to tell about the man who was interested in “everything” than a writer and artist who herself is endlessly curious and so brilliant at curating the idiosyncratic ‘everythings’ she encounters in her own life?

If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be OPTIMISTIC and COMPLEX and Tragic and Wrong and Courageous, You Need to go to Monticello.

Walk around the house and the gardens.
The linden trees might be in bloom, filling the air with their delicious perfume.
Maybe you will lie down under a tree
and fall asleep thinking about
LIFE, Liberty and the Pursuit of EVERYTHING.

Five Big Soup Spoons for this one!

*   *   *

♥ Call Me Ms. Pudding ♥

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HO HO HO!

If Thanksgiving is about pie, then Christmas is definitely about cookies. Even though I don’t bake half as many cookies each holiday season as I used to, I still like thinking about all the scrumptious possibilities: raspberry linzer, chocolate crackles, orange spritz, jam thumbprints, neopolitans, molasses spice, Russian teacakes, gingerbread teddies.

*sugar reverie*

Though I don’t mind eating a few cupcakes and more than a few slices of pie, cookies have always reigned supreme as something I most enjoy baking and sharing with friends and family throughout the year.

The other day I was trying to remember the very first cookies I ever made. This can be quite an undertaking when you have to dial back to the Dark Ages, sifting through the hundreds of batches you cranked out as a high school and college student, English teacher, newlywed, friendly neighbor, and old fogey mellowed-with-age food enthusiast. :)

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Not too long ago, I asked you to call me “Melon Head.” Would you mind changing that to “Apple Dumpling”?

IMG_4463

Of all the foodie terms of endearment — Pumpkin, Sweetie Pie, Babycakes, Cookie, Honeybun — I think “Apple Dumpling” suits me best right about now.

Fall (my favorite season) doesn’t officially begin until Sunday, but that familiar chill is already in the air. Hooray for apple season, deep blue skies, warm cider with cinnamon sticks, stunning rustic foliage, and friendly pumpkins on porches! I am basically *ahem* a little apple-shaped, can be sweet or tart, and would like nothing better than to wrap myself in a buttery, flaky blanket of dough. Did you know this past Tuesday the 17th was National Apple Dumpling Day? :)

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slump

Please help yourself to some homemade Blueberry Slump.

Happy Independence Day!

Funny, I hadn’t planned on slump — but this sometimes happens when your husband’s no slouch.

The other day, I jotted down a grocery list for Len. Nothing out of the ordinary:

  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • 2 mangoes

I usually don’t specify an amount for the blueberries cause it’s always the same — a pint basket for my morning cereal.

Sure, my penmanship is nothing to brag about.

Still.

I got oodles and oodles of blueberries. A big bag, nay, an avalanche of blueberries. He couldn’t understand why I’d want “6″ blueberries. So he bought 6 quarts.

Maybe he thought I was planning to bake 6 giant pies for 6 starving yeti?!

Me: !!!?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*&*#@(#!!!!

He showed me the list. I’d written “blueberries,” plain as day. So what if the “b” was slightly separated from the rest of the word? I’m one of those people who writes in “print-script.” I never connect all my letters in strict cursive form. He knows this. Yet he still thought my “b” was a “6.”

6 lueberries

Me: 6 lueberries? 6 lueberries?!

Oy. (Might I add that the stem on my “b” was straight up, not curved to the right?)

He was looking more yeti-like with each passing second.

Only one thing to do: make blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins and blueberry bread and blueberry slump.

No, I’m not complaining. After all, he did fill the order. When it comes to grocery shopping, Len’s no slouch. Good thing it wasn’t watermelons. :D

* * *

IMG_0874

NEW ENGLAND BLUEBERRY SLUMP
(makes b 6 servings)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Blueberry Mixture

  • 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Crust

  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Half and half, cream, or vanilla ice cream, as desired

1. Combine blueberry mixture ingredients in 1-1/2 quart casserole. Cover and bake in hot oven (400 degrees F) for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir well.

2. While berries are heating, prepare crust. Sift together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add milk and stir only enough to moisten dry ingredients. Drop by small spoonfuls onto blueberry mixture, covering fruit completely. Drizzle butter over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

3. Return to hot oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until topping is cooked and browned. Serve warm with half and half, cream, or vanilla ice cream.

4. After you’ve had your fill, hug your resident yeti and practice your penmanship.

(Adapted from The Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan McBride Carlton, Weathervane Books, 1975.)

Ribbet collage

* * *

Time to sign off for my annual summer blog break. I plan to read, write, dawdle, eat, rest, tidy up, think, walk, organize, explore, landscape, play the piano, and (gasp!) migrate all my data from my ancient PC desktop to a new iMac (any tips?).

Have a bang-up 4th of July — partying, parading, and picnicking!!

And enjoy your summer. See you in August! :)

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Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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 Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

I must say you’re even more good looking today than you were last week. How is that even possible?!

I see by the twinkle in your eye that you’re hungry for good words and good food. You’ve definitely come to the right place. Please help yourself to some freshly brewed Kona coffee and homemade mango bread. :)

♥ TODAY’S POEM ♥

Actually, I’m on a mango kick this week. I reviewed the breathtakingly beautiful Moon Mangoes the other day, and today I’m sharing Lesléa Newman’s mouthwatering “Mangoes” from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, compiled by poetry goddesses Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books, 2013).

Though I’m a tad extremely partial to Week 10 (Food) and Week 11 (More Food) in the anthology, I was thrilled when Lesléa’s poem appeared as a delicious surprise in Week 31 (Different Forms) for Seventh Grade (page 165).

“Mangoes” is a ghazal, an Arabic lyric poem that incorporates the repetition of the same ending word in each couplet. When it comes to mangoes, Lesléa is a poet after my own heart, for her chosen end word is “heaven.” What better way to describe that luscious golden fruit personifying the sun-drenched days of summer?

Peel it back, cutie pies, and let those juices drip down your chin.

woman-with-a-mango-1892.jpg!Blog

“Woman with a Mango” by Paul Gauguin (1892)

MANGOES
by Lesléa Newman

I’ve got to know before I go,
do mangoes grow in heaven?

Without that treat that tastes so sweet
don’t want no seat in heaven.

If there ain’t none — at least a ton –
won’t be no fun in heaven.

If they substitute another fruit
I’ll give the boot to heaven.

A mango a day like the good doctor say
and I’ll make my way to heaven.

Will a mango slide through my fingers and glide
down my throat as I float up to heaven?

Now say for real, are there mangoes to steal
and peel on the way up to heaven?

If you say no, Lesléa won’t go –
no mangoes isn’t heaven!

“Mangoes” copyright © 2013 by Lesléa Newman. Reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

mango slices

via Doodle Lounge

* * *

♥ THE ROUNDUP ♥

Please leave your links with the fun-loving Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to include the title of your poem or the book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name. I will add your links manually to this post throughout the day.

 

* * *

- – - Today’s Poetry Friday Platter – - -

1. Steven Withrow (“First Saddle Sonnet”)

2. Cathy Ballou Mealey (Fernalicious Forest Fun)

3. Matt Forrest Esenwine @ Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme (“Book Report”)

4. Bridget Magee (Driving Mom Crazy)

5. Margaret Simon (“What If?” – Saying Goodbye to a Special Student)

6. Jeff @ NC Teacher Stuff (“The Song of the Ungirt Runners”)

7. Robyn Hood Black (Early 19th Century Limericks for Children)

8. Michelle @ Today’s Little Ditty (Losing my keys — and my marbles)

9. Iphigene @ Gathering Books (“You Are a Writer”)

10. Amy LV @ Poem Farm (New Puppies and Third Grade Poets)

11. No Water River (Poetry Comics Poe’s “Annabel Lee” Poetry Video)

12. Tara @ A Teaching Life (Monsoon Season and Mary Oliver)

13. Colette Marie Bennett (“Here Bullet”)

14. Charles Ghigna/Father Goose (“Peach Dreams”)

15. Karin Fisher-Golton (“Butterfly”)

16. Samuel Kent (“Last Day of Second Grade”)

17. Tabatha (Yahia Lababidi)

18. Catherine @ Reading to the Core (“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”)

19. Mary Lee (Think for Yourself)

20. Laura Purdie Salas (“You’d Better Be Scared” – with audio poem starter)

21. Heidi Mordhorst (Circular thoughts on time travel)

22. Penny Klostermann (two fiddlehead fern poems)

23. Diane Mayr (“Cultivation”)

24. Kurious Kitty (It’s International Tiara Day!)

25. Carol @ Carol’s Corner (Something Fishy)

26. Donna @ Mainely Write (Double Take)

27. Doraine Bennett (Words with Madeleine L’Engle)

28. Tamera Will Wissinger (Marion Dane Bauer essay on Resonance in Verse Novels)

29. MotherReader (Follow, Follow).

30. Liz Steinglass (A poetry retreat and a question)

31. Anastasia Suen (“Not What We Want”)

32. Little Willow (“Locations and Times” by Walt Whitman)

33. Jeannine Atkins (Tugs That Carry Writers Through)

34. Ed DeCaria (MMPoetry authlete Cheryl Lawton Malone in the Boston Globe)

35. Lorie Ann Grover (“Wedding White”)

36. Joy Acey (“Wheels on the Road”)

37. Janet Squires (Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant)

38. Dia Calhoun (“Hammock Queen”)

39. Iza Trapani (“Saving Pennies”)

40. Betsy H. (“Silent Thunder” and new poetry blog!)

41. Jone @ Check It Out (“Library Books”)

42. M. M. Socks (“Teacher”)

43. Karen Edmisten (Linda Pastan)

* * *

♥ THE RECIPE ♥

Trust me, you need to make this mango bread sometime soon. It’s super moist, not overly sweet (golden raisins!), and is even better the next day.

The recipe calls for diced mango, but I put mine in the food processor because I like even distribution of fruit in my bread. Since my mangoes were medium ripe, the consistency was sort of like grated carrots. Choice of nuts is up to you — unsalted macadamias are divine and add a nice Hawaiian flavor. :)

mango bread macro one

Mmmm Good Mango Bread
(makes one loaf)

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 cups diced mango
1/4 cup flaked coconut (optional)

1. Grease a one pound loaf pan or a bundt pan.

2. Sift flour, soda, salt and cinnamon into large mixing bowl. Make a well and add the remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

3. Pour into pan and let stand for 20 minutes.

4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.

(adapted from A TASTE OF ALOHA by the Junior League of Honolulu, 1983)

* * *

P.S. Happy 72nd Birthday to my man Bob Dylan! He’s knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door — probably checking for mangoes.

Have a fabulous holiday weekend, and thanks for poetry-ing with us. Hello, Summer!

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Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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