Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why I Have This Blog

So, I've been doing this dinner blog for a couple of years now. And the idea came from a conversation with friends over dinner (Them: "We hate deciding what to cook." Me: "It's my favorite thing to think about!" Them: "Then just tell us what you're making!").

But the bigger idea of blogging in the first place? The willingness to put my too-full-of-dashes writing out there for anyone to see? That came from someplace else.

Four years ago, I joined the National Writing Project by taking part in Oakland Writing Project's summer institute. And everyone said it would change my life. And I pooh-poohed that, because, really, most life-altering events don't seem to take place in a conference room between the hours of 9 and 3.

But the thing about Writing Project is that it has a way of affirming the fact that the best kind of professional development is teachers learning from other teachers. That even though we haven't published books or spent time on the national speaking circuit, we still have lots and lots of valid and important things to say. And the whole process works in such a way that it's kind of this snowball effect: you're learning more about the world around you, and you're learning to express your thinking about it through stronger writing, and that pushes you to learn more and think differently and seek out new resources and better practices.

And it changes your life.

And so, while most of my Writing Project-related personality flourishes show up in my day job at school, I also came to embrace the idea that if I'm writing about LOTS of things I'm truly interested in, I'm going to be a stronger writing teacher. So this blog is my little non-education-related outlet for that.

So I'm sharing this, instead of this week's menu, because this weekend the National Writing Project is holding a Blog for NWP weekend. At first I wasn't going to participate -- most of the blogs are about smart things going on in classrooms. But when I thought about it, I realized that this silly dinner blog is here because of NWP too.

See, despite the evidence that NWP is a program that works, a program that raises achievement of students in classrooms of NWP teachers, funding has been eliminated at the federal level. And I understand the need to cut back and save money -- I do. But it makes no sense to me to remove funding for this program that offers such a HUGE bang for the buck simply for the sake of bragging about cutting earmarks. Doesn't it make more sense to invest in programs that have the best return on that investment? Huh...

So, anyway, this is my contribution to the weekend of blogs. I'll return to my regularly-scheduled dinner commentaries and recipes soon (trying a pad thai recipe tonight I'm excited about). But I wanted to get this out there. If you want to know more, is a good resource. And it wouldn't hurt to let your legislators know your thoughts, either.

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wishing for Spring...

We're sort of tired of winter food around here. At the same time, I'm feeling a need to do some spring cleaning, and when I went through the freezer, there was a LOT I had forgotten about. So the theme this week is "Getting rid of stuff that's been in the freezer for a while." So when the spring weather really DOES show up, we won't still be trying to use up soup bones and stuff like that.

Chili. It's snowy, and blowy, and cold. This is our favorite chili recipe:
and we'll have some kind of bread for dipping.

Fried rice with veggies: Yummy, and per-er-er-er-fect for using up lots of odds and ends:

Saute veggies, one at a time (cook one, then add the next) in a bit of oil: onions, celery, mushroom, garlic, red pepper -- and whatever sort of makes sense from all those bags of frozen veggies hiding out (you know -- the ones with about a half cup of veggies left in the bottom). Add pre-cooked brown rice. Add some soy sauce and chili paste or sriracha. If we're feeling sassy, we'll scramble an egg right at the end and add it in.

Sort of inventing a recipe here, but it's based on pretty basic stuff:

Lamb and lentil soup

I'm thinking:
Brown lamb bones in a bit of oil, add to slow cooker. Add chopped carrots, celery, parsnip, onion, garlic. A jar of tomatoes, some water, some lentils. A few bay leaves. A bit of salt and pepper.

Cook all day.

That evening, pull the bones out, chop any lamb that needs chopping, and mix it all together. Season if necessary, and eat. I'm thinking it will be good.

Spaghetti squash with pesto and veggies and maybe scallops: saute veggies (whatever's around, but I'm sure onion and tomato and mushroom will be involved), add pre-cooked spaghetti squash (another thing from the freezer: cooked a bunch in the fall and froze it in 2-serving packages), some scallops, some pesto (again, from the freezer... starting to think I might have a hoarding issue) and mix it all together. Top with a bit of parmesan cheese.

Grilled salmon with barbecue sauce
Roasted sweet potatoes
Sauteed green beans

And next weekend? Admire all the open space in our freezer...

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