guest post: margo sorenson on norwegian lefse (flatbread)

I’m happy to welcome dear friend and award winning author Margo Sorenson back to Alphabet Soup today. 🙂

The good news is that her middle grade historical novel, Tori and the Sleigh of Midnight Blue (first released in paperback back in 2003), is now available as an ebook!

Eleven-year-old Tori and her family are struggling with the Great Depression in North Dakota, and the death of her beloved Papa has been the severest blow of all. To aspiring writer Tori, everything is changing for the worse—her friends are acting too grown-up, and her little brother Otto invades her privacy. When a Norwegian bachelor-farmer begins courting Mama, Tori writes in her journal that her life will be ruined. What will Tori discover about forgiveness and acceptance as she tries to keep her life from changing?

I enjoyed learning about Scandinavian customs through this beautifully written novel, which reminded me of childhood favorites like All-of-a Kind Family and the Little House Books, where family ties, simple pleasures and a strong sense of community sustain the characters through difficult times.

In the chapter “Missing!”, Tori reluctantly helps her mother roll lefse for Thanksgiving. She usually loves making the traditional flatbread, but this would be their second Thanksgiving without Papa, and besides, she was angry that Mama had invited suitor Bjorn Oppestadt to dinner. How dare she? He wasn’t family!

Today, Margo talks about rolling lefse with her own family. It sounds like such delicious fun. Adopt me, please :).

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guest post: shelley rotner and sheila m. kelly on yummy!


How do you get kids involved in making healthy food choices that will set them on the right track for the rest of their lives?

Feasting on Yummy!: Good Food Makes Me Strong by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly (Holiday House, 2013), is a good place to start. 🙂

This gorgeous photo essay features an adorable, diverse group of kids reveling in the pleasures of growing, preparing and eating healthful foods. They’re shown in a variety of everyday settings (kitchen, playground, grocery store, garden) stirring oatmeal, pouring milk, devouring fruits, sandwiches, pizza, yogurt, and soup (!), picking fresh veggies, assembling tacos and green salads, making fruit shakes and freezer pops, even reading package labels in the supermarket. Just look at those happy, eager faces on the cover — who wouldn’t want to eat exactly what they’re eating?

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Of course since it’s actually parents and caregivers who buy and cook the food, Shelley and Sheila have also included helpful tips for them, all in accordance with the new USDA MyPlate Guidelines. Additional photos showing kids engaged in active play illustrates the importance of daily exercise along with a healthy diet, reinforcing the overall theme of “Good Food Makes Me Strong!”

I’m happy to welcome Shelley and Sheila, who are here today to tell us about how they created Yummy! You’ll be inspired to share this delectable book and eat some feel-good food with your favorite munchkin(s) very soon!

Note: Because of copyright restrictions, the photos used in this post are close facsimiles rather than actual photos from Yummy!.

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friday feast: a special guest post by eat this poem blogger nicole gulotta

Since I’m a big fan of Nicole Gulotta’s uncommonly delicious literary food blog, I was tickled pink when she agreed to do a guest post featuring a children’s poet. Each week at Eat This Poem, Nicole serves up delectable original recipes inspired by poems, each post an elegantly written, thought-provoking blend of insightful analysis, personal anecdotes and gorgeous photography. When I learned Nicole had decided to feature Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s “Apple Pockets,” I asked Amy to tell us a little about the poem:

“Apple Pockets” is actually in [Lee Bennett Hopkins’s] SHARING THE SEASONS, and it’s based on walks we take here on our property. We live on an old farm, and there’s a small grove of wild apple trees bordering the forest. I like imagining the people who lived here before us: what they thought about and who they loved.

I know you’ll enjoy today’s doubly delightful feast featuring one of my fave food bloggers + one of my fave poets!  Guess what I’m having for breakfast this weekend? 🙂

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♥ Guest Post by Nicole Gulotta ♥

The first time I made these apple muffins, I had just started experimenting with whole grain flours in my baking. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with buckwheat pancakes and whole grain crackers, but it was a batch of muffins that helped me ease into embracing healthier baked goods.

When I read Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem “Apple Pockets,” I remembered these muffins. Her poem is deeply reflective, a nice state of mind to be in as a new year begins. The speaker isn’t just walking around with apples in her pockets, but the apples themselves help transport her mind to an orchard where “a hundred years ago they picked these apples.”

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Apple Pockets
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

This morning I have apples in my pockets.
I feel them round and ready and remember
That every year for years (with apple pockets)
The people walk this orchard in September.

A hundred years ago they picked these apples
Small children skipping on their way to school
Young families coming home from Sunday church
Old lovers holding warm hands in the cool.

And when I walk alone I sometimes see them
With apples in their pockets and their skirts.
And when I’m quiet sometimes I can hear them
With merry laughs and boot-scuffs in the dirt.

I reach up for an apple and I twist it.
I bite into the white and taste September.
This morning I have apples in my pockets.
I feel them round and ready and remember.

~ Copyright © 2010 by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. First published in Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, published Margaret K. McElderry Books. All Rights Reserved.

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I’m sure you can relate to the experience of standing in a place that so many others have before you, either while traveling, visiting a historic landmark, or even thinking about the families that may have lived in your home before you. My favorite phrase in the poem, “I bite into the white and taste September,” articulates how strongly scent and flavor can be tied to our memories. Like the speaker tasting a bright autumn day, I remembered these apple muffins, and how they have sustained me through many car rides and flights across the country, rushed mornings headed to work, or a leisurely weekend afternoon, which is perhaps the best time to enjoy them.

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 Apple Crumb Muffins

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Makes 12-14 muffins

3/4 cup plus two tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 cup organic applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a 12-capacity muffin pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the pecans, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Mix in the applesauce and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Blend until just combined, then gently stir in the apple chunks with a wooden spoon.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle evenly with the topping. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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nicole bio1Nicole Gulotta is a grantmaker by day and gourmet home cook by night. She received an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2011, she founded The Giving Table, a website that helps people change the food system through personal philanthropy. She is based in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and French bulldog.

Visit Eat This Poem and sign up for The Right Brains Society newsletter, which features musings on topics like reading, writing, poetry, blogging, living a creative life, how not to hate your day job and other inspiration.

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♥ Poetry Friday regulars may also be interested in seeing Nicole’s post featuring Charles Ghigna’s poem, “Hunting the Cotaco Creek,” which she paired with Butternut-Leek Soup.

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poetryfriday180The always welcoming and lovely Tabatha Yeatts is hosting today’s Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Sashay on over to check out the full menu of tantalizing poetic offerings on this week’s menu. Have a good weekend!

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weekend cooking button (2)180This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bib and join the tasty fun!


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

a sweet memory with children’s author terri hoover dunham


Terri_Dunham_headshotI’m happier than a gator in a gumbo swamp to welcome guest blogger Terri Hoover Dunham to Alphabet Soup today. Some of you may know Terri from her delightful picture book illustrated by Laura Knorr, The Legend of Papa Noel: A Cajun Christmas Story (Sleeping Bear Press, 2006), which tells how Santa delivers his presents to all the “childrens” on Christmas Eve down in the deepest, darkest swamps of Southern Louisiana.

As he’s known in Cajun country, Papa Noel rides in a pirogue (canoe) pulled by nine gators named Étienne, Émille, Remmy, Renee, AlcĂ©e, Alphonse, François, Fabienne and Nicollette (I love how some of them are named after Terri’s ancestors).

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On this particular Christmas Eve, there’s fog “thicker than gravy on rice,” making it really hard for Papa Noel to make all his deliveries — they keep bumping into stumps and logs and the poor gators’ bellies are getting all scratched up. But they push on and get the job done with a little help from the Cajuns. Of course Papa Noel doesn’t forget to nosh on goodies at every stop.

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guest post: candice ransom and her mama’s southern pies

Speaking of pie, I hope you saved your forks, because today we’re serving up an extra delicious portion of Southern goodness thanks to the kindness and generosity of multi-talented, award-winning children’s author Candice Ransom!

I call Candice a human dynamo, because I’m in perpetual awe of just how much and how fast she writes. In a career spanning 25+ years, she’s published well over a hundred books in multiple genres — board book, picture book, easy reader, chapter book series, tween and middle grade fiction, biographies and nonfiction.

She has not one, but two graduate degrees: an MFA in children’s writing from Vermont College and an MA in children’s literature from Hollins University. She currently teaches in the MA/MFA children’s literature program at Hollins, is a widely sought after speaker at conferences and workshops, and can polish off a Red Velvet cupcake, blackberry bruchetta, or Devonshire cream scone with the best of them.

Impressive credentials aside, what I admire most about Candice is how completely she immerses herself in the time and place of her stories. She’s a diehard antique junkie who will travel to the ends of the earth to locate a cool artifact which might “belong” to a particular character, or a bit of ephemera that might inform a certain scene or illuminate an overriding theme. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more astute observer of human nature; Candice wholeheartedly loves and appreciates her Virginia roots, and conveys her enthusiasm in crackling prose brimming with telling detail.

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