Monday, October 29, 2012

It's a Potato Soup Kind of Day

Even though we aren't anywhere near the coast where Sandy is currently creating a mess, we are experience some of the effects of the storm with dropped temperatures and high winds.  It is just one of those days where you want to stay in, crawl under a blanket, and eat something warm.  It is a potato soup kind of day.

I thought I'd share my favorite potato soup recipe for Homeschool Mosaics' Recipe Carnival.

Best-Ever Potato Soup

6 bacon strips, diced
3 cups cubed peeled potatoes
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 T dried parsley flakes
1/2 t each celery seed, salt, and pepper
3 T all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
8 ounces precess American cheese, cubed
2 green onions, thinly sliced, optional

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp; drain.  Add potatoes, broth, carrot, cnion, parsley, celery seed, salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Combine flour and milk until smooth; add to soup. Bring to a boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes.  Add cheese and stir under melted and the soup is heated through.  Garnish with green onion.

  • I tried skipping the celery seed once because I was out.  Don't!  It really is a critical ingredient in my opinion. 
  • I like this recipe even better with ham instead of bacon.  When I make a large ham, I always chop some up and put it in the freezer just for this soup.
  • I often use extra broth if I have it and just add a few more potatoes and seasonings.  I find the recipe very forgiving.
  • Usually I use Velvetta in this recipe, as much as it pains me!  I made it tonight with real cheddar cheese.  It still tasted great, but I find the Velvetta tastes better.
  • Sometimes I take a masher to the potatoes, but I often leave them in chucks.  It seems heartier that way.
Tonight I happened to have some leftover bacon crumbles from a salad and sprinkled those on top.  I paired this with a fresh loaf of bread make in the bread maker.  Very filling - and perfect for a cold evening.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Wild Ink (Prufrock Press)

When my review copy of the updated and expanded Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley arrived in the mail, I was excited to dig in as soon as I had some free reading time.
Wild Ink is a guide for those wanting to break into getting published in the Young Adult market.  While I do not exactly fit the profile, I do enjoy writing and have a teen daughter who dreams of having a novel published.  I am always looking for constructive ways to guide her writing and move that dream a little closer to reality.  With that in mind, I approached Hanley’s book both as an adult writer and a parent of an aspiring writer.

In the first chapter the reader is introduced to an overview of the Young Adult genre, including target age range, approximate length, use of vocabulary, themes, and subgenres. Chapters two through six discuss novel development. Plots and settings, character development, and how to overcome obstacles specific to the genre are all covered.  The author even includes an exercise on how to find your “inner teen” for proper perspective and point of view when writing your novel. In addition, a complete chapter is devoted to writing teen nonfiction and another entirely to writer resources.

I really enjoyed the following section consisting of four chapters explaining how to get your finished novel published and marketed, whether you are seeking and agent or want to do the self-publishing route.  My shelves already contain several how-to books on writing novels, but the instruction stops there. As someone who has never published a book, I found this section on what to do once your novel is completed very helpful in understanding the process, what to watch out for, and the pros and cons of various options.

The last 80 pages or so of the book are interviews with Young Adult authors, both fiction and nonfiction. Hearing the background and experiences of these 33 authors is very inspirational and encouraging to the aspiring writer.

As I was reading through Wild Ink, I realized how appropriate this title would be for my teen daughter, even though the intended audience is for adults.  After finishing, I handed it over to her for her opinion.  She found Wild Ink helpful and commented that her original expectations of it being a “dry read” were unfounded. Since she is currently working on a YA novel, she was able to relate the concepts to her current work while reading, jotting notes along the margins.  I can see how this title would be a great resource and reference for older teens both prior and during developing a novel.  As for me, even through I have never attempted writing a novel, Wild Ink gave me the tools to make the idea a little less intimidating and obtainable.

Whether you are just beginning or an experienced writer trying to break into a new genre, Wild Ink is an excellent resource to guide you along the way. Available at Prufrock Press and other online and local retailers, Wild Ink retails for $17.95 and is available both in soft cover and digital versions.

Disclaimer/Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the book mentioned above from Prufrock Press for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own. 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.