JaniceHeck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Dining In: Jersey Fresh Veggies and Ratatouille

Saturday fun: going to a farmer’s produce market, then deciding what to make for dinner.

My sister reminded me about Muzzarelli’s, a family-owned farmer’s market on Oak Road in Vineland, NJ, not far from where I grew up.

Photo Credit: Muzzarelli Farms. All other photos in this post are my own.

As with most NJ markets, the “Jersey Fresh”  produce is abundant: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, beets with greens still attached, collards, Swiss chard, romaine, lettuce, okra, string beans, lima beans, corn, giant carrots, melons, potatoes, onions, leeks, endive, escarole, pickles, sweet potatoes, and so much more.

Several varieties of eggplant caught my eye, and I decided to try some of each type. By the way, did you know that eggplant, like a tomato, is really a fruit? It is.

My final purchases: eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, broad-leafed parsley. All the ingredients for a delicious summer ratatouille. Ta-dah. Dinner tonight!

A summer ratatouille uses fresh tomatoes, while a winter ratatouille uses canned tomatoes. The tomatoes on the left (below) are from the farmer’s market. The pitiful ones on the right are from my garden. Oh, well. What can I say? I did not inherit my father’s or grandfather’s green thumbs. I’ll throw these in the ratatouille anyway.

I checked Julia Child’s recipe for ratatouille in my well-worn 1961 edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The latest revised edition of this cookbook by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck (2009) is available on Amazon.com. How can you make a French dish without checking this classic cookbook?

By the way, Julia Child would have been 100-years-old on August 15, 2012. You can read “A Tribute to Julia” here at laughcooklove.wordpress.com.

You can make ratatouille in a variety of ways, but the ingredients are basically the same. Some ratatouilles feature sliced vegetables neatly layered in a casserole dish and baked with a sauce of tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Other ratatouilles have the vegetables all cooked together as a stew in a heavy pot.

But Julia Child says this.

A really good ratatouille is not one of the quicker dishes to make, as each element is cooked separately before it is arranged in the casserole to partake of a brief communal simmer.

I made a few changes to Julia’s process. I cubed the eggplant instead of slicing it, and then roasted it and the squash in the oven instead of sauteing them. I like the nice crisp edges on the roasted eggplant. In fact, I always make enough of this to eat as a snack right out of the oven. Seasoned and roasted eggplant cubes are healthier than potato chips and maybe even tastier.

And Julia’s quantities seemed small, so I increased them. Quantities do not have to be exact.

  • about 2 lbs eggplant (I used all four varieties I found at the market)
  • 3 small zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups red, yellow, and orange peppers chopped
  • two or three sprigs of rosemary
  • dried or fresh oregano
  • fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic smashed
  • one very large fresh, firm tomato (or several average size)
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • shaved Asiago or Parmesan Cheese

Roast the eggplant and squash.

  1. Spread 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on a large baking pan or cookie sheet using a pastry brush or spatula.
  2. Peel, slice, and cube the eggplant and put on the baking sheet. Lightly drizzle olive oil over eggplant.
  3. Slice the zucchini and yellow squash, coin-shape, and put on another prepared baking sheet. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the squash.
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary, and oregano.
  5. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once.

Prepare the Casserole

  1. Saute the onions and peppers in olive oil in a heavy pot for about ten minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more.
  2. Add seasonings to taste.
  3. Remove the skins from several large tomatoes. (Drop each tomato in boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove and peel.) (Optional)
  4. Cut large tomato in half (top to bottom), then slice into thin wedges. Layer tomato wedges on top of peppers and onions in the heavy casserole. Cover and simmer for five to ten minutes.
  5. Add the roasted eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash and stir in gently. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add parsley.
  6. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, covered. Stir gently every few minutes. You may need to add a little water to keep it from scorching. (This recipe does not have a thick tomato sauce like a winter ratatouille might have.)
  7. Serve with shaved Asiago or Parmesan Cheese and a fresh sprig of rosemary or parsley.

As Julia Child would say,

Bon Appetite!

YOUR TURN: Do you have a favorite eggplant or squash recipe?

With the current diversity in our schools, teachers need resources that will encourage empathy and understanding of the political issues related to immigration as well as the social and emotional aspects of it. These books present immigration issues from the childrens’ point of view. This excellent list will be useful to librarians, teachers, and parents.

Nerdy Book Club

Like any school librarian, I’m always looking for books that will connect with my students. There’s nothing like reading a new book and thinking, “Yes! I know just the child who will love this book…”

But at the elementary school where I teach outside of Washington, DC, matching books with kids isn’t always easy.  Eighty-eight percent of my students speak a language other than English, most read below grade level as they acquire English as a second or third language, and the vast majority are immigrants or children of immigrants. Finding books that reflect my students’ realities isn’t easy, which is partly why I chose to write about a boy who emigrates from Japan to the US in my middle grade novel Flying the Dragon.

Below is a list of ten books whose characters are recent immigrants to the US. For each title, I’ve added one common immigrant issue…

View original post 1,425 more words

Blogger Friends, Blogger Awards, and Childhood Pictures

Blogging brings new friends. We read about each other’s worlds in posts and connect.

Bloggers encourage each other. Getting over the hurdles of setting up a blog and then posting regularly is time consuming and more than occasionally frustrating. Bloggers know how discouraging it can be when photos don’t fall into place the way you want them to, widgets fight with you over their placement, links don’t link, picture captions disappear, or sneaky typos infiltrate your newly pressed post.

If you have a problem, you only need to ask another blogger for help. Some bloggers get special notice for their techie skills, and Laird Sapir, blogger-techie-advisor-friend, is one of those bloggers who’s always willing to help a newbie.

Bloggers know the way it is, and they support each other with comments… and…*tah dah*…*drum roll*… awards.

My blogger friend, Jacqui Talbot, recently passed on the Very Inspiring Blooger Award to me.  Thanks, Jacqui. Your posts inspire me, too.

Jacqui, a teller of tales of the Choctaw Nation, is a gifted story weaver.

Jacqui also passed on the rules for this award:

  1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you. Here’s the link to Jacqui Talbot’s blog. Go read it. Not only does she retell Choctaw Tales, she writes about things she has learned the hard way. She has lessons for all of us.
  2. Post the blog award on your page. Done. It’s posted on my blog page (after a tussle with the widget control master, but hahaha, I won!)
  3. Tell 7 facts about yourself, nominate 15 other blogs for the award, and let the nominees know they have been chosen.

Okay, here goes. Seven Facts…. I thought I would share some (undated) childhood photos.

1. This is the only baby picture of me that I have.  William Asbury Cooper, son of Rev. Edward Cooper of West Baptist Church of Vineland, NJ, holds me when I am only a few months old. I don’t know the backstory on this picture since our family attended the Presbyterian Church for as long as I can remember.

2. My nickname as a child was “Nan,” although I never knew how I got this name. My brothers teased me by calling me Nannygoat. I hated that, but I got even with at least one member of the family. I called my brother Bill, “Billygoat.” Here’s a picture of Billygoat and his ukelele.

Christmas, circa 1950 (?)

3. I loved playing with dollies when I was little. Here is my newest dolly at Christmas, 1950 (?)

Bill, Bobby, Janice (front)
Judie, Charles (back)

4. Here is a picture of me with Thomas-soo-lo, the family cat, when I was a little tyke. Thomas-soo-lo loved napping on Daddy’s lap as he read the newspaper after dinner. He condescended to cuddle up on other laps when Daddy was not around, and he tolerated me carrying him around the house and yard. Other times, Thomas-soo-lo wandered the farm looking for tasty, four-legged tidbits to snack on.

  • Thomas-soo-lo, the family cat, with Janice

    5. I went to Spring Road School, a two-room schoolhouse, through the fourth grade.

    Spring Road School, Vineland, NJ

    Our classroom desks looked like those below. Mom snagged a desk when Spring Road School finally closed down, and all of us country farm kids had to ride the bus to bigger schools in town.

    Photo: Share the Memories. Old classroom in Milwaukee with desks similar to those at Spring Road School. These students are practicing an air raid drill.

    6. As a girl scout, I wore my hand-me-down scout uniform, while all the other girls had the newer style. Poor me. Being the youngest female sibling of six, hand-me-downs made up the bulk of my wardrobe.

    Here are the six Kroey girls. (L to R, back row: Joyce, Joanne, Shirley. L to R front row: Beverley, Judie, Janice) See that littlest one with the knobby knees? That’s me.

7. The first car I could claim was an old black Chevy. It was passed down through the sibling ranks over the years, and it was as old as the hills. It even has a song written about it. I have been blamed for writing that song, but I’ll never tell. You may soon read about this family relic car  in an upcoming post.

So there it is. My childhood. Did it bring back any memories for you?

The last requirement for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award is a bit tricky. I read so many good blogs that it is hard to narrow the list down. But I’ll give it a shot. (Note: taglines written as bloggers show them. Some prefer capital letters; some do not.)

1. Shannon Messenger: books, ramblings, and plenty of shenanigans

2. Rhonda Hopkins: Where Reality and Fiction Collide

3. Barbara Forte Abate: Scribbling Outside the Lines

4. Sara Walpert Foster: Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

5. Myndi Shafer: Blogging Barefoot. one stray sock away from insanity

6. Cora Ramos: Drinking the eclectric cool-aid

7. Ellen Gregory: to beyond and back

8. Fabio Bueno: Diamonds and Rust

9. Elizabeth Fais: Where the awesome begins. . .

10. Shay Fabbro: Fun, Family, and Time Travel Accessories

11.Karen Pullen: Cubicle Escapee

12. Siri Paulson: everyday enchantments

13. Rabia Gale: writers at play

14. Nikki McCormack: Dancing on the Treetops in the Forest of My Mind

15. Susi M. Nonnemacher: Barefoot Bliss

And here’s one bonus blog!

16. Laird Sapir: Shabby Chic Sarcasm

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do.

Saturday Sampling: Meandering through the Blogosphere

As I meander through the blogosphere, I copy and paste blog post titles that appeal to me into a blank post. At the end of the week, I sort through these titles and choose my favorites. Here is this week’s sampling.

Books:

Anita Ferreri at the Nerdy Book Club, Retro Review: Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

Anita Ferreri, literary specialist in Winchester County, NY, reminds us of the excellent qualities in the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Milne’s books are classics that teachers can read to children in the early grades. His lovable characters (Christopher Robin, Pooh, Tigger, Owl, and Eeyore) express wisdom that stays long in the hearts and minds of children and adults.

Grammar:

Sharifah Z. Williams, Dems da Rules: Adverbs

Williams, writer and and self-proclaimed word-eater, reminds us that unneeded adverbs, the “most sinister of writing faux pas,” don’t necessarily interfere with a good story line. In fact, if you are engrossed in the story, you will not notice the adverbs. Still, it is wise for good writers to use adverbs with care.

Spelling

Judythe Morgan, Spellcheckers and Pullet Surprise Work

Judythe Morgan reminds us that our spelling system is not perfect by quoting a 1992 poem by Dr. Jerrold H. Zar. Our spellcheckers are not perfect either; they do not check for context when doing their thing. Here’s a clip to prove the point.

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Hashtags

Tom Whitby, How Does #Edchat Connect Educators?

The #edchat hashtag connects teachers for Twitter chats on Tuesdays at noon and 7 p.m. each week. Interested Tweeters carry on a running conversation on pre-selected education topics. What a neat way to keep up with changes and trends in education.

I have used the #edchat hashtag on Twitter a number of times to pass on articles/posts worthy of an educator’s notice. This post tells more about this useful tag and how it came to be.

Health:

Michael King, A Cancer Story: Thoughts of Death

Cancer has hit my family hard, and it may have hit yours, too. The emotional impact of this horrible disease is deep but not always talked about openly. Michael King shares his physical and emotional pain in dealing with his own cancer. This is a good blog for cancer fighters and cancer care-givers to follow. Michael is fighting back at cancer by writing about it. My family fights back through Relay for Life.

Recipes:

Anderson Cooper, 7 Recipes for $7 (Charles Mattacks, The Poor Chef)

I love food blogs so I follow a number of them and look for recipes to try out. This post features Charles Mattacks (The Poor Chef) who shares recipes that cost about $7.00 each. I am going to try out this featured “Granny’s Chicken Curry” sometime soon.

Cats:

And now…*drum roll*… two cat posts for the week. You didn’t think I would skip the cats, did you?

Derek Perry, On the Subject of Cats and Poets, at WORD SALAD: Stories from the Savage Pen. Cat owners will love this post! Nuff said.

B.F. Kazmarski, The Creative Cat, Daily Sketch: On The Edge. Check this site for a delightful charcoal pencil sketch of Mimi and Jelly Bean.

YOUR TURN:

What was your favorite post this week?

Dining Out: Pizza at Home and Pizza in Italy

Finding good pizza on the Ocean City, NJ, Boardwalk is easy because the competition is fierce.

But many of us have our favorite place: Manco & Manco.

My niece, Lori, who now lives in Sedona, Arizona, managing the Alma de Sedona Inn, asked me to post a picture of Manco & Manco on Facebook. I guess she was a little nostalgic for the ocean breeze, the surf and sand, and the pizzzzzaaaaahhhhh!

Manco & Manco Pizza on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ. Yes, that is a line to get in and sit down. Best bet: buy it by the slice and sit on a Boardwalk bench to eat it.  No waiting.

Next, Lori asked me to post a picture of an M & M pizza that she could put on her refrigerator at work.

Cheese pizza at Manco & Manco

All this talk of pizza reminded me of the wonderful pizza I had in Rome.

Walking near Campo de’ Fiori on a beautiful, sunny, May day, we came to a pizza shop…actually a doorway entrance to a bakery with two standing-only tables outside.

Down this way, around the corner, down an alley…

Come on. We’re getting close. I can smell something delicious. Ah, it must be coming from this doorway…

Marco Forno Roscioli

Antico Forno Marco Roscioli, 34 Via dei Chiavari, Rome, Italy. (Forno means oven.)

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You buy pizza by the inch (al tagio, by the slice) at forno Roscioli. I ordered “this much,” and the attendant cut off four inches of the margherita pizza, cut it in half, folded it over to make it sandwich-like, placed it in on brown waxed paper, and handed it to me. Delicious. Crispy. Flavorful. Hint of basil. Stringy cheese. Outstanding.

Tutto molto buono!

Wait, here comes another pizza hot out of the oven: pizza with tomatoes, ricotta, and fresh basil. Unfortunately, my four inches of margherita pizza had filled me up, and I couldn’t eat any more.

Here comes another: zucchini and cheese pizza. I think we’d better leave this pizza place! It is all too tempting.

Pizza. Now I’m hungry. Maybe I can sweet talk my dear, darling husband into running out for some now while I plan my next trip to Italy.

Saturday Silliness: Basset Hound Doo Dah Parade

Small cities have big imaginations, and Ocean City, NJ (OCNJ) is no exception.

To launch its summer season, OCNJ holds its Annual Doo Dah Parade the first Saturday after Tax Day in April.  It’s a ridiculous fun event not to be missed. We celebrate because taxes have been paid, and summer is just around the corner. “Hallelujah” from us beach lovers.

Doo Dah Parades have a history in other areas of our country (Pasadena, Columbus), but they don’t quite measure up to the Ocean City parade.

The Ocean City spectacle parade always has several lowpoints highlights. The first is the appearance of a nationally known celebrity as Grand Parade Marshall. In past years, Carol Channing, Mickey Rooney, Larry Storch, Captain Kangaroo, and Soupy Sales have been our esteemed parade leaders. This year, Chuck McCann, TV and stage actor and vocal artist, did the honors.

Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Jack Benny, and Lucille Ball regularly appear in the parades. Okay, so they are impersonators, but who knows the difference?

The second, but most important feature, basset hounds, garbed in their tax season finery, strut their stuff.  Well over 400 of these floppy-eared, waddling doggies entertain the crowds as they meander huff and puff wobble down Asbury Avenue and the Boardwalk. Some bassets sport humiliating outrageous costumes that make them want to run and hide their owners think are cute. Others, rigged up in more sartorial splendor, reign with an air of pomp and cirumstance, all the while looking down their snouts at those lesser-dressed, riff-raff, tag-a-longs.  Take a look.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

“Here comes the bride. See how she waddles from side to side.”

I don’t know about you guys, but I just wanna play around with da chicks. (Chick magnet, get it?)

Honest now. Would you wanna waddle in a parade wearing this ridiculous hat? I wouldn’t wear this even for a high-falutin’ society wedding.

I. Will. Not. Go. One. More. Step. And. You. Can’t. Make. Me!

This parade is just so much excitement. I just can’t handle it all. Lucky I have a slave owner to carry me when I get tuckered out.

Here’s the deal. If you flop down and refuse to walk, someone will come along and give you a lift. Got it?

Here’s another possibility. Kiss up to the Grand Marshall and get to ride in comfort and style in the limosine parade golf cart.

Of course, any parade with 400 to 500 dogs is bound to be a bit chaotic at points, and this fiasco procession does not disappoint.

And, don’t forget. There are awards: “The Golden Hot Dog” award for local tri-state (NJ/PA/NY) participants and The “Double Doggy Doo Dah Glutton-for-Punishment Award.” How do you get the 4DGPA? Participate in another Doo Dah Day Parade somewhere in the country, and the honor is all yours besides, no one else wants it.

And there’s more. People Furry fellows and felines of all shapes and disguises flounce in this parade, too. Every year Sir Rapid T. Rabbit sponsors the annual furry (and a few feathers) critter consortium in the parade.

Rapid. T. Rabbit of Delaware’s (The Furst State) Furry Forum, leads frolicking furry freaks friends down the OC Boardwalk

Marching bands and vocalists Riding bands and musical groups roll up the Boardwalk throwing out sounds and love to the crowd. Sometimes they throw Schriver’s, Fralinger’s, and Steele’s Ocean City Salt Water Taffy to the sticky-fingers eager hands of candy-eaters  freeloaders parade guests.

Here’s Jan’s sister trying to horn in on a classy musical performance

If you can’t afford wheels, you just have to do it the old-fashioned way and walk.

And when the parade’s all over, you get to have pizza at Manco & Manco. Okay, so there’s a line. What did you expect? It’s a warm, sunny Saturday in April. There’s been a parade on the Boardwalk. And people are out on the beach sticking their toes in the water. Of course, there’s a crowd…and a line. The wait is worth it.

What kind of pizza do you want?

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. Dogs are not allowed on the Boardwalk.

Oh well, I guess that once you’ve paid your taxes, anything goes! Besides, for those lovable basset hounds, OCNJ will just look the other way.

Want to read more posts about Ocean City? Click here, here, and here.

YOUR TURN:

What’s your favorite kind of parade?

Dining In: Peasant Chicken from San Gimignano, Italy

A recipe for Chicken with Herb Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce posted by Epicurious (recipe here) reminded me of a delicious Peasant Chicken dinner that I had in San Gimignano, Italy this past May.

Peasant Chicken is similar to Hunter Chicken (a cacciatore), but the unique feature of this dish is that it includes green olives.

Here is my photo of the dish as served in San Gimignano.

I searched the Internet as well as my own vast collection of cookbooks for recipes for peasant chicken and came up with several possibilities.

Epicurean.com has a recipe for Chicken with Green Olives that sounds like the dish that I had. That recipe is here.

I checked The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes and found Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes. Mayes’ recipe uses both black and green olives. I am sure that the recipe varies with regional preferences.

I will try the Frances Mayes’ recipe today and see how my rendition compares to the original in San Gimignano.

Grocery list: Chicken, wine from the Chianti region of Italy, Jersey Fresh cherry tomatoes, broad leaf parsley, black  olives, and green olives. I already have extra-virgin olive oil. Consult the cookbook for exact quantities for these ingredients.

First, oven roast the cherry tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half, season with salt and pepper, and toss in garlic and herbs. Roast for a few hours on low oven heat. Here’s a peek at a bowl of the tomatoes (half the batch).

Now brown the chicken in olive oil and add a bit of chianti. Move the chicken and wine to a baking dish. Cover with a mix of the olives, parsley, and roasted tomatoes. Bake for thirty minutes.

Serve over nests of angel hair pasta or your own favorite pasta.

This is how my dish turned out. It smells so good, and it is delicious. It looks similar to the San Gimignano version, but I think the San Gimignano recipe uses white wine and more olive oil. Regardless, this recipe is definitely a keeper.

Next week, I will try the Epicurean.com recipe and see which dish comes closer to the one Mama made in Italy.

YOUR TURN: Have you tried to duplicate a dish from another country or another area of our country?

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