Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mushroom Farro

Mushroom Farro

6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups farro
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 pound cremini mushrooms or wild mushrooms (or a mixture of the two), cleaned, trimmed and sliced
2 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 to1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt if needed

Place the farro in a bowl, and pour on enough hot water to cover by an inch. Let soak while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Drain.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until they begin to soften and sweat. Add salt to taste, the garlic and rosemary. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, about five minutes. Add the farro, cook, stirring, until the grains of farro are separate and beginning to crackle, about two minutes. Stir in the wine and cook, stirring until the wine has been absorbed. Add all but about 1 cup of the stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 50 minutes or until the farro is tender; some of the grains will be beginning to splay. Remove the lid, and stir vigorously from time to time. Taste and adjust seasoning. There should be some liquid remaining in the pot but not too much. If the farro is submerged in stock, raise the heat and cook until there is just enough to moisten the grains, like a sauce. If there is not, stir in the remaining stock. If not serving right away, cover and let stand. Just before serving, bring back to a simmer, add the Parmesan, parsley and pepper, and stir together. Remove from the heat and serve.

Yield: Serves six.
Source: Modified from New York Times online

Note on Farro: if you live in Calgary, the only place I have found it is Lina's Italian Market on Centre Street North.  If anyone knows somewhere else they sell Farro, I would love to hear about it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On My Nightstand - Catching Fire

Catching Fire - By Suzanne Collins (391 pages)

On the back cover:
Against all odds, Katniss has on the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fuelled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. Was time draws hear for Katniss and Peeta to visit the district on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before ... and surprising readers at every turn.

My thoughts:
I loved, loved, loved The Hunger Games (first book in this trillogy), so I could not wait to read this book.
When I finally bought it and started reading it, I devoured it in 2 days.
I think Suzanne Collins is a great author, she has a wonderful imagination and so great at painting a picture for us about a world so different than what we know.

I would recommend this book, but you have to read the first one, otherwise you will be completly lost.

My rating: 4 1/2 out of 5.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bike Rides

 I can remember this time of year when I was little.
My siblings and I anxiously waited for the snow to melt enough so that we were allowed to bring our bikes out and go riding.

Bike rides brought freedom.
Freedom from winter.
Freedom from the yard.
It allowed me to go faster and further than I could a week ago.

Oh how I loved riding my bike in the summer.

This past weekend was that weekend.
We brought out Little Girls bike, strapped on the helmet and Daddy took her for a bike ride.

I enjoyed some time on the couch catching up on my Grey's Anatomy while Little Boy napped.

They were gone way longer than I thought she would last, only 4 years old and 45 minutes later they returned.

She had a blast!

Monday, April 11, 2011


I follow the blog Notes from a Cookie Jar all the time.  Recently she did a 4 week feature talking about her groceries and trying to budget them a bit more and also bring the costs down.
Every week she took a picture of her groceries and posted it on her blog.

I love this idea, so I am going to try, the only problem is I don't tend to do one grocery trip / week.
I did some grocery shopping on Friday and then I was back at the store on Sunday, and I am sure I will be back at least once or twice before the weekend, but here is my attempt.

I am doing this for a few reasons, first it looks like fun, second, if I can help cut down the costs of our groceries that would be fantastic.

First trip: Superstore
Money spent: $55.12

We were hosting a family brunch the next mornning - normally I do not buy 2 packages of sausage, everything else is ralativly normal (yes, even the huge box of Goldfish carckers - I have 2 small kids).

Mushroons - $5.47 / kg
Asparagus - $2.82 / kg
Cucumbers - 3 pack for $2.28
Broccoli - $0.99 / bunch
Red Pepper - $6.55 / kg

Second trip: Wal-Mart (we hardly ever shop here, but we were there for another reason so I grabbed a few things I needed to save a trip).
Money spent: $55.83

Let me first point out that the 2 bags of chips are going out to the lake, Hubby is going out soon to summerize it for us and I bought those to stock up our pantry (we honestly do not eat that many chips in a weekend).

The chicken - looked like a good price - $5.00 for 3 large chicken breast / pack (they were a flat price - so picked the biggest ones I could find).

Lemons - $0.37 / each
Yams - $2.14 / kg

Friday, April 08, 2011

On My Nightstand - A Complicated Kindness

A Complicated Kindness - By Miriam Towes

On the back cover:
A 16-year-old rebels against the conventions of her strict Mennonite community and tries to come to terms with the collapse of her family in this insightful, irreverent coming-of-age novel. In bleak rural Manitoba, Nomi longs for her older sister, Tash ("she was so earmarked for damnation it wasn't even funny"), and mother, Trudie, each of whom has recently fled fundamentalist Christianity and their town. Her gentle, uncommunicative father, Ray, isn't much of a sounding board as Nomi plunges into bittersweet memory and grapples with teenage life in a "kind of a cult with pretend connections to some normal earthly conventions." Once a "curious, hopeful child" Nomi now relies on biting humor as her life spins out of control—she stops attending school, shaves her head and wanders around in a marijuana-induced haze—while Ray sells off most of their furniture, escapes on all-night drives and increasingly withdraws into himself. Still, she and Ray are linked in a tender, if fragile, partnership as each slips into despair.
My thoughts:
This was a book club pick (translate to say, I would not have read this book otherwise).
I did not like this book at all.  I had a hard time believing any of it.  The stuff Towes talks about happening in this strict Mennonite town is ridiculous. 
Yes I believe Mennonite kids smoke, drink, party and even have pre-marital sex, but it the community is really as strict as she is telling us it is, I did not see how all the kids could get away with it all and there were no consequences nor this the adults seem to know about much of it.
I don't buy it.

I did not like her writing style and I really did not like Nomi (the main character), or her parents who seems more concerned with themselves rather than the well being of their children and the family.

My rating: 1 out of 5.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

On My Nightstand - Princess

Princess - by Jean Sasson

On the back cover:
Recently named as one of the best 500 books written by women since the year 1300, Princess has been called “riveting” and “heart-wrenching.”  Most importantly, this New York Times bestseller galvanized human rights activity all over the world.  The book sold over 4 million copies worldwide and struck a chord with women of every age and nationality.  Many educators are listing Princess as required reading for their literature classes.

Jean Sasson spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia observing first-hand the hardships faced by women in the country.  In Princess, Jean Sasson vividly depicts the harsh restrictions endured by Saudi women.  Telling the true story of “Sultana,” a pseudonym that protects the identity of a modern-day princess in the royal family of Saudi Arabia, the author describes a disproportionate society where men have all the power.

“Sultana” whose real name cannot be used for fear of death for revealing these secrets to the world, asked the author to tell her story.  Together, Jean Sasson and Princess Sultana have lifted the black veil of secrecy that hides women in the fabulously wealthy land where thirteen-year-old girls are married against their will to men five times their age; where young women are stones to death for a mere indiscretion; where women cannot travel without their husband’s permission; where men rule as gods.

Princess is a testimony to a woman of indomitable spirit and great courage.  You have never read a story like the story of Sultana; you will never forget her or her Muslim sisters.

My thoughts:
I was very surprised, but I really liked this book.
First it is a true story - not a big fan of non-fiction, second it is set in a country and whole I know nothing about, so I was not all to eager to read it.  But this was a book chosen for book club, so I sat down and started to read, I am not sure I stopped until the book was done.

It is shocking, riveting and scary all at the same time.  I felt so much for these women and girls.  We have all heard about honour killings, but to hear it told knowing it is true, made me really stop and think.

I think all women, and teenage girls should read this book.  Sometimes I don't think we realize just how lucky we are to be born into the freedom and rights we have.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


If you live in Calgary, you know we got dumped on with snow this past weekend.  If you don't live in Calgary, what you might not know is because it is so dry here, we rarely get wet snow that sticks together well enough to make a snowman.

But this weekend, we had perfect snowman making snow.

I was working on Sunday, so hubby took the kids outside to make their first snowman.

They all (hubby included) had a blast!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


The preschool question has been solved.

I struggled with this one as many of you know.  Little Girl is 4 now, but she is not old enough to go to Kindergarten next year, so that leaves preschool.

I looked into A LOT of preschools. 
I looked at ones close to our house, close to my work, I looked at ones that were cheaper because they expect quite a bit of parent volunteering, I looked at more expensive ones that still expected a lot of parent volunteering.
I looked at preschools that are combined with day cares.

Seriously, if it was out there I looked into it.

I was stressed, to the point I was in physical pain, not until this was resolved did the pain go away and I realized just how stressed I was.

Here is why I was so stressed about it: Little Girl is very shy, she does not do well in large crowds, and does not do well at all with adult strangers.

We did swimming lessons over the winter - she did not make it into the water for 3 of the 7 classes - and she loves to swim.

So i knew that I needed to get her into preschool to help with the transition into Kindergarten.  I needed to get her out of her comfort zone and help her transition into being able to play sports or do things without Mommy or Daddy by her side constantly.
(Soccer this year - yeah right!)

So a very good friend of mine volunteered to pick Little Girl up from her day home, and drive her along with her son to preschool.
So Little Girl gets to go to preschool with a good friend by her side.

This is the best thing for her.  We don't have to take her out of day home, she will get to stay with her brother for one more year.
They are going to be going 4 afternoons a week, and it is not too far from my work, so I will be able to take a few hours off to come and do my part as a parent volunteer.

I can't wait to go and buy her a backpack!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Book Reviews

If you know me in real-life and possibly in blogger-life, you know I like to read.

I grew up reading, I remember spending many summer holiday afternoons in the library, searching for a great book or lets be honest, a Sweet Valley High book I had not read yet.

Reading has been hit and miss for me as an adult, I have gone through times of lots of TV watching and very little reading, but over the past few years, I have started reading more and more.

Now there is never a time I am without a book to read.  Even if I have just finished one, I will pick up a new one 5 minutes later.

Reading for me is not a private thing, I love to talk about the books I am reading, I love to share great reads and loan a book out to someone, hence why I am in 2 book clubs.

I have two lists of books.

List number 1 - Books I want to read.
This list is where I put a book that someone recommends, or a book I have stumbled across (I read book blogs) that looks good.  This is a very helpful book for making library holds.

List number 2 - Books I have read.
This is a list where I write down the book, author, number of pages and the month I read it in.
I sort this list yearly (2009 - 41 books; 2010 - 57 books; 2011 - currently reading #14) .

Both my lists are actually in one Word document since almost all books move from list number 1 to list number 2.

I hope to share with you some of my great reads this year, my not so great and I will try and go back and highlight a few of my favourites from last year.