Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ghosts, Recipes and Battles Against Hunger

Reading: I have read a bit since I posted last.  Yes, I know it has been awhile.
My easy read this month was another from A. A. Milne, when I revisited the delightful poems of Now We Are Six.  I may be a dork but I found it best to read these out loud.  I like the way they sound.  There is such a sweet innocence to Mr. Milne's writing, whether it be about Pooh and the gang or a poem.  I encourage you to re-read some of your childhood favorites, try to recapture some of that joy you experienced when first reading or hearing them.

Friday dinner book club met last night for some tasty food at Brasa in Minneapolis.  This is the book club that doesn't discuss the book much.  It is a small group, 5 at the most, and we have had gatherings of just 2.  Last night there were 3 of us and we briefly discussed The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry, which we all enjoyed.  This is a first novel for Ms. McHenry and was well-written and interesting.  The main character, Ginny, who has Asperger's, is suddenly living alone after the unexpected death of her parents.  She has always taken comfort in cooking, so turns to her recipes in her grief.  As she makes one of her grandmother's recipes, the ghost of her 'Nonna' appears and delivers a message which Ginny doesn't know how to interpret.  As she battles with her sister to assert her independence and sifts through a houseful of objects and memories, she encounters other ghosts through cooking, learns about herself and her family, and about life and love.  I really enjoyed this book, and not just for the recipes that start most chapters! 

Sunday night book club started me down the Hunger Games trail.  I have been interested in the series for a few months, though, as always, hesitant to buy into the hype. As you may remember from my rant about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there are some books I don't want to read, simply because everyone else is reading them.  Well, I liked Hunger Games. You can add it to the "Harry Potter" pile for me instead of the "Twilight/Tattoo" pile.  It is well-written, interesting and made me want to keep reading.  I plan to also read the rest of the trilogy sometime.  In case you live under a rock or on another planet and have not heard of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, here's my synopsis.  In the probably not-too-distant future, in a part of the world formerly known as North America, there is a country called Panem.  Each year, one boy and one girl from each of 12 districts is chosen in a lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, a battle of survival in which only one can emerge alive.  The story is told by Katniss, a 16-year-old girl from the coal mining District 12, as she uses her already-well-developed survival knowledge to fight to stay alive.  I think there is some interesting social commentary in here, as with any good dystopian society, so it is not just the survival and the apparently obligatory love story.  It is a disturbing premise, and there is obviously some intense violence, so I can't imagine younger kids reading this or seeing the movie.  But what do I know?  I don't have kids.

Eating: Speaking of hunger, how about a recipe?  As promised in a previous post, here is a pork chop recipe.  Dinner is not always all about chicken, right?  This recipe came from my mom, who, it appears from the recipe card, got it from her friend Nancy.

Pork Chop Bake
6 pork chops
1 can cream of celery or cream of chicken soup
1/2 C milk
1/2 C sour cream
24 oz bag of frozen hash browns (the shredded ones, not "southern style" cubes)
1 C french-fried onions
4 oz shredded cheddar

Season and brown pork chops (we like the Hormel Always Tender), either in a skillet or broil.
Combine soup, milk, sour cream, hash browns and 1/2 of the french fried onions and cheese.  Spread the hash brown mixture in a 9x13 pan and arrange chops on top.  Cover.  Bake 40 mins at 350.  Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top.  Return uncovered to oven and bake another 5 mins.  Serve with your favorite veggies or salad.

To make it a little lower in fat, we trim chops of all visible fat, use skim milk, healthy-request soup, fat-free sour cream and cut the cheese and onion amounts in half and only put them on top (not stirred in with hash brown mixture).

Enjoy!  I am working on my ideas for the A to Z blog challenge, starting on April 1st.  I am planning a mix of food, authors/books, flowers/plants, and creative pursuits throughout the challenge.  Some letters are proving a bit difficult, and not necessarily the ones you would think!  If you think of topics for the letters I, N, O, R, W or X relating to reading, eating, gardening or creating, feel free to leave a comment - I may use your ideas!

Until we eat again,
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