Potato-Broccoli Soup

I asked for help with vegetarian recipes for Lent (we’re not going vegetarian all the way, but I’m trying to learn more meatless recipes that our whole family can enjoy) and got a bunch of great recipes from friends on Facebook. I wanted to share one of our favorite vegetarian recipes, and it seemed easier to type it up here and then post the link than to put the whole recipe in Facebook. The recipe is originally from the Baltimore Sun (and originally called for chicken bouillon cubes and water instead of veggie broth–I’ll use either chicken broth or vegetable broth if I don’t care that the soup is vegetarian). As you’ll see below, you can do a lot of fudging on amounts.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Tablespoons butter (or you could use olive oil)
  • ~1 cup chopped onions (Since my kids aren’t big onion fans, I put in just enough for flavor–usually about half of a medium onion.)
  • ~2 pounds diced potatoes (I don’t peel them, but you can. You can also adjust the amount of potatoes pretty easily to make a little more soup.)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth (enough that all the potatoes will be covered easily)
  • 12 oz. frozen broccoli or about 2 big heads fresh broccoli (more or less as desired)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste (grocery store broths are usually pretty salty, and there’s the cheese, but the potatoes do suck up a lot of salt, so taste before serving.)

Instructions:

  1. If the broccoli is not frozen, cut it up and cook it in the microwave or in a steamer until just done. It will get cooked a little more in the soup at the end, but you want it to be not crunchy before you put it in the soup.
  2. Melt the butter in a soup pot (non-stick is what I prefer, especially with the potatoes and cheese) over medium heat. Add onion and sauté about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the potatoes and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until potatoes are just tender, 15-20 minutes.
  4. Remove 1 to 1 1/2 cups potato cubes with a slotted spoon and set aside. Blend the rest of the soup together until smooth with an immersion blender. (You can also transfer to a regular blender or food processor, but this would not be one of my favorite soups if I had to do that regularly.)
  5. Mix in reserved potatoes and broccoli, reheat over medium-low to medium.
  6. Add cheese in and stir until cheese is completely melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Back, for one night only…

I hope it won’t actually be one night only, but it probably will be one night for a good while.

Recent life events (since March):

  • Took a family summer road trip to St. Louis, Chicago, and Holland, MI.
  • Got a job (this is kind of the main one) as a school library media specialist in Harford County
  • Learned how to return to being a two-working-parent family.

Blogging has gone by the wayside, and that’s actually been a conscious decision that I’m pretty happy with. But I don’t want to completely slam the door on it (not least because I want to find a way to incorporate more online communication tools at work), and I’ve wanted to add a post for a few days.

Here are some thoughts that have occupied me recently:

  • Discerning which tasks at work and at home are actually the most important and starting with those.
    • As an aside, I’m really happy with my laundry management system, adapted from one I heard about from Holly Dvorak at controlmyspin.com. She suggests doing one load of laundry each day from start to finish (instead of having “laundry day”). Given our schedule, I try to do a load from middle to middle (I have the kids put away clothes, fold clothes from the dryer, start another load, and get that load in the dryer before bed), and that has worked very well.
  • Worrying about violence and injustice in our state and around the world. And what a Christian response might look like.
  • Trying to keep reading (not easy).
  • Trying to keep having fun with my kids.
  • Trying to keep everyone fed.

It’s been a pretty narrow focus, but good overall. Before I go, here are some books I’ve enjoyed this summer and fall (you’ll notice fewer picture books this time around):

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED this one. It was so fast-paced, and yet Weir explained enough of the science (or at least, the possible science) to make it believable and understandable. Mark Watney is a great character; I found myself laughing out loud even while he was trying to solve life-and-death problems. And I’m excited that they are making a movie!
Last Stop on Market StreetLast Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this one. The illustration style reminds me of The Snowy Day, and it was just a nice story about a boy riding the bus with his Grandmother, and learning about why they do things the way they do…and learning to enjoy them. Plus, knitting!
Stolen Magic (Kat, Incorrigible, #3)Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved, loved, loved this last book of the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy. I did get a little tired with Kat always thinking she has everything figured out and acting before thinking, but I finally realized I couldn’t always trust her judgments and, after all, she’s only 13. Still lots of fun to see the manners-driven Regency period with magic overlaid. And I always love Kat’s interactions with her family.
Mars EvacueesMars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like sci-fi at all, this book is absolutely fabulous. In many ways, it’s pure space opera for kids, complete with explosions and interplanetary travel. But it’s definitely got parts that touch on deeper subjects, including the nature of war, understanding “others,” and what makes people into friends. I also love the many funny parts (the robot Goldfish teacher who will not be deterred from its mission is a particular favorite) and that the kids are so obviously kids, not miniature adults. I loved it.

P.S. There is a good amount of cursing (mild, in the grand scheme, but not stuff I’d want my kids saying), so I’d keep this for 4th or 5th grade and up.
Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1)Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

HILARIOUS. Also quite scary in some parts, at least for those like me who aren’t up for very scary stories. Skulduggery Pleasant is a walking skeleton (he wasn’t always like that) detective, who teams up with Irish twelve-year-old Stephanie Edgeley to prevent the end of the world. He’s got a dry sense of humor, an overinflated ego, and a strong sense of duty. Stephanie is stubborn, troublesome, and insightful. They make a cracker-jack team. The audiobook was pure pleasure to listen to.
Greenglass HouseGreenglass House by Kate Milford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is my favorite (so far) of this year’s Black-Eyed Susan crop. It has a cozy atmosphere, but there’s plenty of intrigue to keep the plot moving, and gamers will enjoy the large role that a role-playing game plays. Milo and his parents run an inn in a town known for smugglers (they have regular “runners” who stay there), but a whole host of strangers show up just as the Pine family is preparing for their usual Christmas lull. Milo and a new friend, Meddy, decide to figure out what everyone’s up to, aided by their newly created gaming personas. There’s a twist I certainly didn’t seem coming, but I’m sure many other readers will.
The Boy on the Wooden BoxThe Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Listened to this as one of our Black Eyed Susans for the year. What I felt set this particular Holocaust memoir apart was the large amount of reflection that Leyson incorporated at every step of his story. He would tell us what he felt but also what was causing that feeling, or why it might seem strange to today’s readers. He also gave a helpful accounting of why more Jews didn’t flee Europe (they were basing their actions on recollections from WWI; many of them had no resources with which to leave).
The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party (The Princess in Black, #2)The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This arrived just in time for our Halloween Princess in Black to grab it off the library shelf. We all loved it. The kids especially loved that, with more monsters to fight (poor Princess Magnolia’s monster alarm keeps going off during her birthday party), there were more princess-y fight scenes to read at the top of their lungs. I think they also liked the other princesses’ names. For those interested, Ms. Hale posted an epilogue that had to get cut from the final edit on her blog: http://oinks.squeetus.com/2015/10/bon….

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Well, that’s all for now, folks.

 

At least have some books…

I have a list of blog post topics on a Post-It note on my to-do list. Here are some things I have recently wanted to blog about:

  • Being called to the laity (instead of ordained ministry, like certain other members of the family…)
  • Ideas, or lack thereof, for Sunday school
  • Working on the YALSA Hub reading challenge
  • Life 9 months post-move
  • Thoughts about Lent this year
  • Guns and why I don’t like them

Obviously, I haven’t sat down to write any of these, and while I hope to get to at least some of them, it doesn’t seem likely in the next week, either. So here are some recent library books instead…

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary FriendThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We grabbed this from the library’s new award winner display, and I can see why it won. The pictures have a lovely bright and dark contrast, but the story is also fun and it just feels like a kid-friendly book all around. I hadn’t heard of it before it won this year’s Caldecott Medal (not surprisingly, for me), but my kids and I have all enjoyed it thoroughly, and I’ve had several reread requests.

The story follows an unnamed imaginary friend who, when he doesn’t get called up by a kid to be their friend, decides to go out into the real world and find his own friend. Sure enough, he finds both his friend and his name, and all live happily ever after.

Little OinkLittle Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From the creators of Little Pea and Little Hoot comes a story about a pig who wants to be clean. This is a cute addition to the Rosenthal and Corace’s brand of creatures wanting to doing the opposite of what they are known for, and it’s again fun as a parent to read how Little Oink disagrees with his parents.

Fox's GardenFox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a gorgeous, wordless story about a fox finding shelter in the winter and a boy who helps her out. I can’t rave enough about the pictures–I could sit and look at them for a long, long time, except that my kids technically have dibs on the book.

Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the PageMr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This installment of the Mr. Putter and Tabby series takes the pair to the library to read for story time. They don’t know quite what to do when Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke decide to come, too, but the visit goes well for everyone except perhaps a couple of librarians who lost their food to Zeke. A sweet, fun (and librarian-pleasing) entry for the series.

Shhh!Shhh! by Valeri Gorbachev

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A sweet story about how an older brother quiets his toys down for his baby brother’s naptime–and revs them back up when the baby is awake! All three kids liked this, and it was simple but fun.

Five, Six, Seven, Nate!Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first audio book for the YALSA Hub challenge this year, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a continuation, and I haven’t read the first book (Better Nate Than Ever), but Five, Six, Seven, Nate definitely stands on its own. In it, eighth grader Nate Foster heads from a Pittsburgh suburb to Broadway as an ensemble member of “ET: The Musical” and experiences all the ups and downs of being a member of a real Broadway cast. The reader gets a real sense of the theater world and can easily sympathize with Nate’s difficulties. Although he spends a lot of time getting cut from numbers due to poor dance skills, Nate’s flair for learning lines, ability to make (and keep) friends, and passion for the theater carry him through. There’s even some romance.

Author Tim Federle also narrates, and he does a great job–I read on the back blurb that these books are based on his own experiences on Broadway, and you feel like he really identifies with Nate when he reads. He doesn’t quite do Jim Dale-style voices, but he does vary his voice enough (including some very well-done accents) that you can easily tell which character is talking. I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and the audio production of it.

The last is one of the ones I’m reading for the YALSA challenge, but the two I’m reading now (one in print, one on audio) are taking me longer to get through. In audio format, I just got extra time to listen on Five, Six, Seven, Nate because I took a solo trip down to NC. In print, I can tell that bad things are coming for the characters, and that always slows down my reading.

I did finish one of the books I’ve been wanting to read this year, and I can strongly recommend it as very funny and enjoyable (and not even geared just to knitters, like most of her other books):
The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes: Stories of Tidiness, Self-Esteem and Other Things I Gave Up OnThe Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes: Stories of Tidiness, Self-Esteem and Other Things I Gave Up On by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book took me a little while to get into. My first problem was that I bought it in Kindle format, and when the first chapter came up with the title “Thirteen,” I thought the Kindle had simply dropped me in at the wrong spot. Once I figured out that it was just the title of the first chapter, and finished it, I was hooked. While there isn’t as much knitting as in Pearl-McPhee’s other books, the humor is just as great. My personal favorite was the skunk chapter, which had me laughing so hard that I had to retell a modified version to my kids so they’d know what was so funny.

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2015 Reading Goals

Yep, I know that it is well into February. Still, it’s only the second day of the Hub Reading Challenge, so it seems like as good a time as any to share my reading goals for this year.

The first one is to complete the Hub challenge, which I didn’t do last year even when I was blogging for the Hub. This year seems like a good time to try to get some extra YA reading in, and I successfully finished the Nonfiction Challenge (which took place before the Youth Media Awards last week), so I only have to read or listen to 20 additional books to meet the challenge. Looking over the list of eligible books, I know that I want to include at least 2 or 3 audiobooks and 3 of the Alex award (adult books that appeal to teens) winners (especially since one of them is already on my nightstand, as you’ll see below).  I’ve got some others in mind, but I’m looking forward to reading a fairly broad selection between now and June.

My other chosen reads for the year are here:       IMG_2273

The are arranged into roughly three categories:

Books I’ve Had Sitting Around that I Want to Finally Read (or finish):

  1. Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles by Katherine Pancol (with English translation by it to check phrases I just don’t get). I’ve just discovered that this one has a movie adaptation (also in French), so that gives me added incentive to finish it.
  2. Becoming Human by Jean Vanier. One I’ve thought I should read for awhile and just haven’t.
  3. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. YA fiction that I just haven’t gotten to, and also one that gives me a chance to read a non-white perspective.
  4. The Dirty Life by Kristen Kimball. An interesting memoir by a farmer who doesn’t start working in agriculture until her marriage–I bought this last year to read because it looked interesting, so I need to sit down and read it.
  5. Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity by Paul Griffiths. My “theology read” for the year–I started it at some point last year, and it was surprisingly easy to read, and it interests me.
  6. Wish You Were Here by Elizabeth Hudson. This is a collection of essays by the editor of Our State, which is the NC state magazine. I’ve been reading them in stolen moments, and I think they will be easy to finish in the same way.
  7. Incarnadine by Mary Szybist. Another purchase from last year, this one is poetry. I’ve liked some of the ones I’ve read, but I find this harder than some poetry books to read in snatches of time. I need to just sit down and finish the whole thing.

New Books or Books Recommended to Me:

  1. In this Mountain by Jan Karon. I’ve had several friends recommend the Jan Karon books to me over the years (I’m sure there’s no connection to my husband studying to be, and then becoming a pastor), and since a relative lent me this one, I figure I should go ahead and give them a try.
  2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is the one that’s on the Alex award list, and it was also one that a good friend, English teacher, and librarian said was the best book she read last year. I got it for my mom at Christmas, who nicely finished it quickly so I could borrow it back. All’s fair in book acquisition.
  3. Olive Kittridge by Elizabeth Strout. Recommended by a friend at a library booksale last year. Who am I to say no?
  4. Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire. This is one I bought new this year. I’ve never read Wicked or any of his other works, but the ideas behind them interest me. Egg and Spoon is a retelling of Baba Yaga stories, which I don’t know real well, received several good reviews, and fits in with my wintertime interest in reading stories related to Russia.
  5. 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl. Not knowing anything about today’s theater world, I did not know that Sarah Ruhl was a famous playwright until I read some reviews of this book. But I’ve already started it, and it’s fabulous.
  6. The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking by Kate Payne. A Christmas gift that has so far been both fun and useful.

Kindle Books That Have Just Been Sitting There:

There are a bunch of these, but I decided to limit the list to five:

  1. The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. This is the one book I knew I would buy with Christmas gift cards before Christmas. The Yarn Harlot writes about more than yarn. It’s hilarious so far, as expected.
  2. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson. I’ve had several false starts of this one. It seems like it’s good (and I’ve heard rave reviews), but I keep getting pulled away to other things. No more!
  3. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Recommended by friends living in China.
  4. Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I added this to my “to read” list years back, never picked it up, bought it at a great Kindle sale, and still have never picked it up. Now I want to pick it up.
  5. Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict Over Gay Relationships. I’ve gotten pretty far in this one, and I like it a lot, and I just need to finish it.

Finally, there’s Harry Potter #5 on there. I am still working on rereading that series, and I have also been rereading (or re-listening to) several of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, and I’m sure I’ll still reread a bunch of books over the course of the year.

Still, I think this list will keep me busy but is doable if I give it enough attention. It’s always exciting to have a reading project ahead!

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Update 2/17/15: I forgot one book on my Kindle list: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, which I have an e-arc of to read. I’ve received several recommendations and definitely want to get to this one!

Library Books Enjoyed, 1/19/15

Still catching up from the end of 2014, this one includes some Christmas stories we enjoyed this year:

Awesome DawsonAwesome Dawson by Chris Gall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Chris Gall has pretty well sewn up being our six-year-old’s current “favorite author.” He specifically requested I get this from the library, because he’d seen it on the book jackets of other Chris Gall books, then spent most of the time we had it poring over it, and basically memorized it. His two younger sisters also thought it was great and deserved multiple rereads. I can’t say it’s my favorite, but I do think Mr. Gall knows his audience!

Dawson is an inventor, but he has to learn to harness his inventing powers for good…Dawson’s best friend, Mooey (a talking cow toy), was especially popular around here.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Jon Agee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one is awesome. It’s similar to another book we’ve loved, where different illustrators offer knock-knock jokes (and I need to check whether the two are from the same publisher), but in this one, each illustrator offers his or her own take on the age-old question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Because it relies so heavily on the illustrations, all three of my kids could soon read it to themselves, and they did–over and over.

I thought it was a cute book, but my favorite part was my six year old identifying all the illustrators and reciting the different books he knew them from–it warmed this librarian-mom’s heart!

I definitely recommend this to anyone with kids who are into jokes, and also anyone who is a fan of children’s book illustrations.

Captain Sky BlueCaptain Sky Blue by Richard Egielski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This unexpected Christmas adventure follows a favorite toy, Captain Sky Blue, when his plane suffers a weather run-in. It’s a little hard to describe, but it has lots of pilot talk (with a glossary at the front, thankfully!), lots of adventure, and a chance to save Christmas. We’ve enjoyed it a lot.

When Christmas CameWhen Christmas Came by Eileen Spinelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute book about who shows up for a Christmas Eve service during a snowstorm. We especially liked the prominent place that the organist was given, although I wish there had been a choir rather than a “soloist.” Will be most enjoyed by other church-goers.

A Season of Gifts (A Long Way from Chicago, #3)A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can never resist Grandma Dowdel. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a couple years now, but I didn’t want to read it except near Christmas, and it always seemed to be checked out. Finally got a copy of the audio book this year, and at a nice, short 3 CD length, finished it quickly. As in A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, Grandma Dowdel (who’s getting quite old–it’s now 1958) continues to live her life without regard for what anyone else thinks, and usually so that everything is arranged to her satisfaction (whether strictly legal or not).

In this installment, though, it’s not one of her grandkids that she’s surprising and leaving speechless, but a neighbor kid, Bob Barnhart and his family. Bob’s dad is the new Methodist minister in town (another reason that I especially enjoyed the book), and the family has not exactly been warmly welcomed. But with some help from Mrs. Dowdel, they are able to settle in and deal with bullies, low church attendance, and a teenage older sister. Bob’s younger sister Ruth Ann’s attachment to Mrs. Dowdel is especially fun to watch.

An excellent quick read (or fun read-aloud) for Christmastime.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 1/5/15

It’s been a good two and half months since I posted some library books, so the next few book posts will be catching up with favorites from that time period…

Goatilocks and the Three BearsGoatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was awesome!! As expected, it’s a retelling of Goldilocks, but I wouldn’t have thought how brilliant a retelling with a goat could be.

What does Goatilocks do with the porridge that’s just right? She eats it! Of course, that’s how the story goes. But what does Goatilocks do with the chair that’s just right? She eats it! Because she’s a goat!

The story goes on, and it’s just as fun throughout…and we had repeated rereadings in our house.

Secret Pizza PartySecret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dragons Love Tacos still remains my favorite book from this author and illustrator duo, but I liked Secret Pizza Party a lot, too, and so did my kids. They especially like the part where you first whisper, and then yell “Secret Pizza Party!!” Anyone who feels affection toward raccoons should also read this (those with personal vendettas against the critters may want to skip it).

Little Owl LostLittle Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We LOVED this one. I had to read it over and over, and I didn’t even mind too much–and eventually the kids memorized it and read it over and over themselves.

Little Owl falls out of his nest, and a squirrel enthusiastically tries to help Little Owl find his mother, based on the owlet’s descriptions of his mother. Squirrel’s enthusiasm outweighs his competence, and he finds several other animals, but no Mother Owl. Luckily, the Frog that Squirrel finds when Little Owl mentions that his mother has big eyes has a bit more sense, and the family is reunited.

The pictures remind me a little of prints or wood cuts, and the colors are darker, but beautiful.

My kids especially liked telling me what animal Squirrel had found on each attempt.

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think I liked steampunk, and then I read Leviathan. I liked Leviathan, but thought I probably didn’t need to finish the trilogy, and then I picked up Behemoth. And Goliath has been just as fun and satisfying a read. I loved the continued adventures of the Leviathan’s crew, and particularly the intertwined stories of Deryn and Alek, but my favorite part in this case may be the dedication: “To everyone who loves a long-secret romance, revealed at last.”

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