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Just as I enjoy reading paper books and ebooks, I use cookbooks from my shelf as well as online recipes. The Kitchn has been one of my favorite cooking sites for years, and many of their recipes have become favorites in my kitchen. A couple of years ago I was introduced to the idea of sheet pan suppers by Molly Gilbert, a contributor at The Kitchn who literally wrote the book on Sheet Pan Suppers, coincidentally published in 2015 when I had my 2nd kid and finally surrendered my 22 year streak of vegetarianism. I was trying to figure out how to cook and eat meat, and the idea of sheet pan suppers really appealed to me. But frankly, the idea of being a vegetarian also still appeals to me. I don’t love cooking and eating meat, I just continue to do it because it’s convenient. But what’s that on the horizon? Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian! Hurrah.

`Recipes I cooked from this book:

  • Super Creamy No-boil Mac and Cheese
  • My Go-To Rice and Beans with Pico de Gallo
  • Slab Frittata with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Ricotta Cheese
  • Roasted Strawberry Danish
  • Ginger ‘N Cinnamon Roasted Apples and Almond Butter Toast

Review:
Committing an entire cookbook to one kitchen tool sounds a bit gimmicky, but a sheet pan is something we all have in our kitchens, it’s not a funky spiralizer or super-powered blender. It’s a pan. I was very happy with all of the recipes I tried, Raquel Pelzel makes complex flavors with ingredients and techniques that are easy for a home cook. The macaroni and cheese was incredibly delicious, and cooking it in a sheet pan was super quick. Mac and cheese in a sheet pan is like just cooking muffin tops– it’s the best part of the dish, the chewy edges and the crunchy topping without a ton of filler. Definite win. The frittata was also delicious, and quite easy, even though there was some sloshing and a bit of uneven depth because my sheet pan is slightly warped.

My only complaint is with the rice dishes, which require pouring boiling water into a sheet pan and covering it completely with aluminum foil. There is no way to do this safely. I did succeed with the rice and beans because I wanted to try it, but it was pretty scary. I would recommend using a nice, deep, lidded stainless steel skillet for these recipes instead. The rice recipes are worth cooking, but the technique is too dangerous.

Pelzel is the queen of toast, having published a cookbook by the name, and her breakfast dishes really shine. I had never considered making a Danish using an English muffin, or broiling apple slices to make toast that tastes like apple pie. These were really fun techniques and the results were quickly devoured.  (Though, sadly, my kids turned down all the food I cooked from the cookbook! I don’t know what is wrong with them.)

Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian by Raquel Pelzel
Workman Publishing Company, 2017

4/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. An advance copy of this book was provided to me by Netgalley and Workman Publishing Company. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Hi there! I’m moving the blog over to a new site. Please follow me there!  http://www.shrewandsnail.com/

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Plume by Isabelle Simler is a beautifully illustrated book of birds, feathers, and a sneaky black cat. The sleek cat slips into each illustration, twirling its tail around a stork’s leg, peeking out from behind an owl, its whiskers nearly touching a parrotfinch. This is a fun seek-and-find book for little kids, and the illustrations are very pretty, but it lacks an engaging story for older kids. I would definitely buy this as a gift for a 2-4 year old.

Isabelle Simler is a French illustrator whose beautiful book The Blue Hour also includes animals from all over the world. I hope that her illustrated Journey to the Center of the Earth becomes available in English, it looks beautiful.

Plume by Isabelle Simler
Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers

3.5/5 stars


Feather by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Roger Mello

Cao Wenxuan is a Chinese author who won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016. His book Bronze and Sunflower is the only other book available in English at my library and on Amazon, but he is a prolific author who is well-known and beloved in China.

Illustrator Roger Mello has also been awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award (2014), and his illustrations use bright colors in a modern palette to depict lively birds.

Feather is a beautifully illustrated book with a simple plot: a feather is searching for the bird it belongs to. It asks every bird it comes across, “Am I yours?” Like Webster J. Duck, he is searching for his place in the world, and he asks many birds if he belongs to them–a kingfisher, a goose. One sweet skylark kindly takes him up into the sky so that the feather can experience flight, and is summarily EATEN BY A HAWK right in front of the sentient feather. Nothing gory is shown but this jolting event feels very violent. Blood is shed, and the only friendly and helpful character in the book is the victim. The feather is in shock, and feels withdrawn in its fall to the ground. It lies on the ground for several days, then finds its place on a hen with a joyful family, and the feather thinks, “Ah, to walk upon the earth instead of flying up in the sky can also be wonderful!” What is the lesson here?

This book will scare the pants off of American picture book readers. My children are aware of the predator-prey relationship, they know where their food comes from, and they have seen animals eat other animals in books, but I would not even attempt to read this to them.  The feather grieves and finds hope again, which is uplifting, but it does not make up for the shock of witnessing a gory death. The New York Times headline for their profile of this author was “Little Sugarcoating in Cao Wenxuan’s Children’s Books,” and they were not kidding. Despite the beautiful illustrations, I would not recommend this book. The story is not appropriate for a picture book.

Feather by Cao Wenxuan

Archipelago Books

2/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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I’ve lived in Texas for my whole life, and I love the landscape, the diversity, the food, and the art.  I also appreciate our literary legacy.  I am very proud of our amazing annual Texas Book Festival, which brings authors from around the world, and we have some fantastic local book stores. Book People, Book Woman, Brazos Books, and Murder by the Book spring to mind. There are also some fantastic books set in Texas that are top reads.  Some are by our own Texas authors and some are not, but they are all Texas books just the same.

  1. Lonesome Dove. Obviously. Larry McMurtry’s masterpiece is enthralling. Gus and Call are two of the best characters out there. It’s a long book, and I can only say I’m thankful for that because it is so good. Larry McMurtry owns a bookstore in his home town of Archer City, which is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Appropriate. Bonus factoid: His son James McMurtry is a country singer who lives here in Austin.
  2. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain is an intelligent, incredulous, satirical look at soldiers returning from war to a hero’s welcome, with stadium appearances and cheerleaders. It feels very realistic, like you are in the heads of the men who have come home from war only to have to deal with jerkwad behavior in the U.S. If you loved Catch 22 or The Things They Carried, this book will appeal to you.
  3. Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. These are set in remote parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. I love McCarthy but sometimes I hate having my heart ripped out, so read at your own risk.  There is a Cormac McCarthy Society with its own journal if you are a serious scholar. I find this sort of amazing, but then again I’ve been interested in attending squirrel biology conferences.
  4. The Midnight Assassin examines the first serial killer, who murdered women in Austin in the 19th century. This true crime book is a history of Austin as much as a gruesome and chilling mystery.  There is speculation that the murderer, who was never caught, continued his spree in London and was known as Jack the Ripper. Skip Hollandsworth is a Texas Monthly writer who is known for his long-form journalism.
  5. Rick Riordan’s Tres Navarre books are based in Texas– starting with Big Red Tequila.  It’s like Carl Hiaasen and Larry McMurtry got together and wrote some crazy Texas detective novels, which yes does appeal to me. A lot of goodreads readers complain about liberal use of the F word, but I am assuming that they are Percy Jackson fans taken by surprise.

Some more Texas authors and books that might be of interest:

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: This post contains “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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She’s here!

Jaybird got here in February, and needless to say I’m quite busy. She’s wonderful and very time-consuming!

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Volunteering

This week I interviewed for a new job. Not the paying kind, but the volunteer kind. Since I have settled in to my job, I realized that I often spend weekend sitting in my house recovering from the week. That’s no fun! I need to get out and do something. I volunteer a few different places, mostly on an intermittent basis, and I really love that time. So I thought and thought of where I would like to volunteer, and I decided on Big Brothers Big Sisters. The interview was in-depth, and I am hoping I get a good match. I was surprised to find out that the match can be a boy or a girl; Big Brothers are apparently harder to find, so boys can be matched faster if they are open to a Big Sister. I am so excited! I already have lots of activities planned in my head. Now I just have to wait patiently, it’s the hardest part!

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Over the cube walls

Today at work I overheard a conversation about an athlete who was so badly injured that he was in a hyperbolic chamber.  Indeed.

No bloom day here, folks!  Nary a poinsettia to be found, even.

Happy holidays!

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