Hot Eats and Cool Reads: September 2011

Sep 30, 2011

Book Review: To Be a Slave by Julius Lester

Description from Goodreads:

To be a slave. To be owned by another person, as a car, house, or a table is owned. To live as a piece of property that could be sold...

This book is about how it felt. The words of black men and women who had themselves been slaves are here, accompanied by Julius Lester's historical commentary and Tom Feelings's powerful and muted paintings, To Be a Slave has been a touchstone in children's literature for over thirty years.

My Thoughts:

Let me start off by saying, this is a great historical children's book, and it should be required reading in schools across America. Where I grew up, we didn't learn much about slavery, the civil rights movement, or any African American history for that matter. This is such an important part of our history.

I loved that the book has different chapters based on each time frame throughout slavery, including how they made it to the slave ship, their horrible journey to America, plantation life and then the emancipation. Each section has stories from different sources and slaves. It really explains how life was for them, and the things they had to experience. Excellent book overall!

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars!!

Sep 26, 2011

Book Review: Fire & Flames by CoCo Davis

Description from Goodreads:
When their father calls the police on a local drug dealer, two little girls witness the brutal murders of their parents. Years later, the twins have spent their entire lives preparing as they ruthlessly pursue the killer. As beautiful as they are deadly, will love quench their thirst for vengeance or will it be the one thing that tears what binds them? Payback is a bitch. This time it s coming in twins.

My thoughts:
I am so glad this book was short, otherwise I might not have finished it. There were numerous grammar and spelling errors within the first few pages and the story jumped back and forth between twins to the point where it was just a mess trying to figure out who was who. There should be some sort of separation between characters.

On to the story... can we say totally unrealistic?? Not like I've ever been there before, but I can't imagine some chicks going to Cabrini Green, trying to question people to get info on a murder and beefing with some disrespectful dude when they don't even live there. You ain't going into the hood ask questions like that... period. Not to mention they just happened to run into someone everywhere they went. Yeah, there could be coincidences, but not that many. It could've been a great story, it could've worked, but it was too choppy and inconsistent.

I rate this 2 out of 5 stars.

Sep 25, 2011

Book Review: Spin the Plate by Donna Anastasi

Description from Goodreads:

Time has done nothing to heal childhood wounds inflicted more than a dozen years ago, nor fade the memories. Now as an adult, Jo has given up on the human race, men in particular, investing her energies in tattoo artistry and animal rescue. Francis meets Jo during an altercation between Jo and another passenger on the Boston subway. Francis, the brains and speech writer for Charles Davis a Boston philanthropist and billionaire, is painfully lonely as his job requires that he maintain anonymity plus have constant exposure to the shallowness, corruption, and cruelty of humankind. From the moment he lays eyes on Jo, Francis sees beyond her rough exterior to the genuine, passionate, fearless, and beautiful person Jo is and pursues her with unwavering passion.
In a compelling story on living as an incest survivor and the how-to's of love, faith, and healing, Jo discovers she is not alone in her fight to leave her past behind and move beyond sorrow into joy.

My Thoughts:

This book is a great example of why you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. To me, the cover isn't all that catchy at first glance, but when you read the story it makes more sense. Spin the Plate is a very serious and thought provoking novel. Jo is a great main character and you really get the feeling like you know her. The author did an amazing job describing her and telling her story in less than 200 pages. As a child, she suffers horrible sexual abuse at the hands of her father, and as an adult she takes out that anger on anyone who looks at her the wrong way. Meeting Francis provokes a great change in her life and their story together is nothing short of amazing. I read this book on a recommendation from a friend on Goodreads, and I am glad I had the chance to read it! 

I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars

You can find the author's website here!

Stuffed Shells Recipe

This recipe is another favorite of mine that my Mom used to make! It has great flavor and tastes great leftover! I made a few changes but thanks Mom for the great recipe!

1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 lb hamburger
1/4 lb pork sausage (you can use different amounts of each meat, this is what I had on hand)
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1- 8 oz pkg mozzarella cheese plus an additional 4 oz for topping
1/2 carton sliced white mushrooms
2-15 oz cans tomato sauce
1- 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 quart tomato juice (4 cups) 
1 Tbsp sugar
1- 12 oz pkg jumbo shells, cooked
salt and pepper to taste

Cook shells according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a pan saute half the onion, half the garlic, hamburger, sausage, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and when cooked through add mozzarella. Melt the cheese and remove from heat.

 In a separate pan saute the rest of the onions and garlic until tender. Add  tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar and salt and pepper. Simmer on low. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Add 1 cup sauce to the meat mixture.

Start stuffing cooked shells with meat and cheese mixture. You will need 1- 9x13 pan and an additional pan size depending on how much meat and noodles you have left. Cover the bottom of each pan with a small amount of sauce.

Cover with remaining sauce and last 4 oz of mozzarella cheese. Put in the 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes or until cheese is browned on top.

Serve with garlic bread or bread sticks! Enjoy!

Moscato D-Asti with raspberries! YUM!

This recipe was shared at:
Recipe Round Up at Gooseberry Patch

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Sep 22, 2011

Book Review: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim

Description from Goodreads:
For seven years, Alison Arngrim played a wretched, scheming, selfish, lying, manipulative brat on one of TV history's most beloved series. Though millions of Little House on the Prairie viewers hated Nellie Oleson and her evil antics, Arngrim grew to love her character—and the freedom and confidence Nellie inspired in her.
In Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, Arngrim describes growing up in Hollywood with her eccentric parents: Thor Arngrim, a talent manager to Liberace and others, whose appetite for publicity was insatiable, and legendary voice actress Norma MacMillan, who played both Gumby and Casper the Friendly Ghost. She recalls her most cherished and often wickedly funny moments behind the scenes of Little House: Michael Landon's "unsaintly" habit of not wearing underwear; how she and Melissa Gilbert (who played her TV nemesis, Laura Ingalls) became best friends and accidentally got drunk on rum cakes at 7-Eleven; and the only time she and Katherine MacGregor (who played Nellie's mom) appeared in public in costume, provoking a posse of elementary schoolgirls to attack them.
Arngrim relays all this and more with biting wit, but she also bravely recounts her life's challenges: her struggle to survive a history of traumatic abuse, depression, and paralyzing shyness; the "secret" her father kept from her for twenty years; and the devastating loss of her "Little House husband" and best friend, Steve Tracy, to AIDS, which inspired her second career in social and political activism. Arngrim describes how Nellie Oleson taught her to be bold, daring, and determined, and how she is eternally grateful to have had the biggest little bitch on the prairie to show her the way.  

My thoughts:

The cover of this book is totally eye-catching. If you loved Little House on the Prairie, why wouldn't you want to read a memoir from the girl who played evil little Nellie Oleson?

This book is totally hilarious. I don't think I've ever laughed this hard before reading a memoir. I really loved all of her stories about working on The Little House Set especially the one where her and Melissa Gilbert were in the wet suits in the river.... too freakin funny!!

It also has a serious aspect, her story of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her brother growing up and her parents not really being parents. How do some parents have no idea what is going on under their own roof, is beyond me. 

This book is going on my favorites list for so many different reasons. You have to read it and find out for yourself! You will not be disappointed!

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars!


Sep 18, 2011

Book Review: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

Description From Goodreads:

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.
Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.
Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.
Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.

Book Trailer:


My thoughts:
I have a huge bedbug paranoia, no joke. So glad this book didn't give me the major creepy crawlies like I thought it would.

I won a copy of this book through First Reads from the publisher, Quirk Publishing. Finding out they also published one of my favorite books Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I was very excited to read this one.

This book was a fairly quick read for me and I enjoyed it, but I felt it needed more action and more of a climax. The ending was definitely different and I didn't really see it coming.

What I really liked about this book was the subject matter. What a great idea to write about Bedbugs. It is a growing epidemic and it's a great way to catch someone's eye.

Thanks for the opportunity to read this book!!  
My rating 3 out of 5 stars!

Sep 15, 2011

Book Review: Death Before Dishonor by 50 Cent and Nikki Turner

Description from Goodreads:

Trill Johnson has five years of jail time under his belt, two women trying to get inside his pants, and one mission in his heart of hearts: Get the suckers who sold him out. And get 'em good. Sunni James will do anything for Trill. Lie, cheat, steal. Even risk losing her successful beauty salon to save him from the mean streets of Richmond.
Precious Pay will do anything for Trill, too. She cribbed his kid while he did his time, so now she wants Trill to pay for the leg she lost in a robbery gone wrong.
But when love is a lie, who do you trust? When the deals turn dirty, who do you betray? And when the guns start blazing, who's going down?

My Thoughts:

I give this book credit for one thing, great editing. I feel cheated though. This book is labeled as a novella, which I've read a few of before, and it worked. This book however, didn't work. The characters have no depth to them and neither did the story. It just ended, unexpectedly. No explanation as to what happened to anyone. (How irritating when you think there's another 20 pages left only to find out it's previews to other books ugh.) I wish there would've been more to this book, maybe another 100 pages. I wanted to see karma catch Precious and give her what she deserved with her conniving self.

I would rate this 2.5 stars but, since I can't (no half stars on GR), I will give it 3 in hopes there might be a sequel someday. 

Sep 14, 2011

Ham and Mushroom Scalloped Potatoes Recipe

Great way to use leftover ham! Pure comfort food!

Ham and Mushroom Scalloped Potatoes
by Sheena

Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 4 medium potatoes, finely sliced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 c. ham, chopped
  • 4 ounces fresh white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1- 10.5 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 10.5 ounce can milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of an 8x11 glass baking dish. Layer potatoes, then onion, ham, mushrooms and cheese in the baking dish.
In a bowl, whisk together the cream of mushroom soup, milk, parsley and pepper until combined. Pour over top and spread evenly. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
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This recipe is shared at: The Better Baker,

Sep 13, 2011

Book Review: The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips

Description from Goodreads:
Rozelle Quinn is so fair-skinned that she can pass for white. Her ten children are mostly light, too. Everyone in the small Georgia town in which she lives knows that they have different fathers. She favors her light children, but it is Tangy Mae, the darkest of them all, who is the brightest and the only one desperate to get an education. Even in rural Pakersfield they have heard of the Supreme Court's recent ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, though they are in no hurry to comply with it." "Rozelle wants thirteen-year-old Tangy Mae to take over her jobs: days, doing house cleaning for whites; nights, servicing men, white and black, at the "Farmhouse." And Rozelle is not a woman whose commands can lightly be ignored. She is a creature of moods, possessive of all her children, desperate for their love, demanding of utter loyalty and obedience, harshly repressive of any signs of independence. They are the only thing in her life that she can control.

My Thoughts:
The cover of this book is absolutely beautiful to me, but I wish I could say the same for the content.  Rozelle is a very evil person, called the devil's spawn by her own Mama. She is horribly abusive to her ten children and completely gets away with it. Tangy Mae is an amazing and strong girl who in my eyes, is a true hero. This book takes place during the civil rights era in the south, which makes it more real, and even harder to digest, the events that take place. This book hits a huge variety of topics and they will all leave you thinking long after you finish the last pages.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sep 11, 2011

Chicken and Barley Bake Recipe

 I found this recipe while browsing online one day. The prep is quick and it makes your kitchen smell like Thanksgiving dinner while it's baking. (One of the best smells ever IMO, makes me excited for the holidays) Anyways, this recipe is absolutely wonderful and full of flavor!! I love barley, and am excited to have another way to use other than soup. Enjoy!

What you need:
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 chicken thighs or 6 legs 
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • salt and pepper

  1. In a medium saucepan combine onion, carrots, water, barley, bouillon granules, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and garlic. Heat mixture to boiling.
  2. Pour hot mixture into a 1-1/2-quart casserole. Arrange chicken thighs atop mixture.
  3. Bake, covered, in a 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour or until barley and chicken are tender. Makes 4 servings.

This recipe was found at: Shine from Yahoo (slightly adapted)

Sep 7, 2011

Easy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas Recipe

I stumbled on this recipe while looking through the Sept issue of Better Home's and Garden's at the chiropractor's office, and I am so glad I was able to try it! This is one of the quickest enchilada recipes I have ever made and it has great flavor! It can be found here, at The Campbell's Kitchen website.

Of course, I cannot just leave a recipe the way it is, so I decided to add another 1/2 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup of salsa to the mixture. I also added 1/2 cup cooked rice to the chicken and cheese filling. Finally I sprinkled some cheese on the top!

  I would rate this recipe 4 out of 5 stars!

Sep 5, 2011

Book Review: June Bug by Chris Fabry

Description from Goodreads:
June Bug believed everything her daddy told her. That is, until she walked into Wal-Mart and saw her face on a list of missing children. The discovery begins a quest for the truth about her father, the mother he rarely speaks about, and ultimately herself. A modern interpretation of Les Miserables, the story follows a dilapidated RV rambling cross-country with June Bug and her father, a man running from a haunted past. Forces beyond their control draw them back to Dogwood, West Virginia, down a winding path that will change their lives forever.

My opinion:
I'm not usually a reader of christian fiction, but the summary of the book sounded very interesting, so I decided to read it.

June Bug is a cute character and I felt myself hoping she would eventually get more out of her life than just riding around in a RV with Johnson after she saw her face on the missing person flier. The ending to me was somewhat predictable, but left you feeling satisfied that the story was finished just as it should've been! It was an overall good read and I'm glad I picked it up!

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars!

Sep 3, 2011

Cajun Shrimp, Chicken and Rice Recipe

1 small onion, chopped
1/4 c chopped red, green, or orange pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp butter
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c tomato sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 c instant white rice
1/4 lb shrimp
salt & pepper
1 tsp cajun seasoning

Saute onion, pepper, garlic and chicken in butter and season with salt, pepper and cajun seasoning until chicken is cooked through.
Add chicken broth, tomato sauce and vinegar, bring to boil.

Add rice and cook covered for 3 minutes.

Add shrimp and cook 5 more minutes or until shrimp turns pink!

Sep 2, 2011

Mini Pizza Meatloaves Recipe

 This is my first attempt at this recipe and it turned out fabulous! What a quick and easy week night dinner!! If your kids love pizza or spaghetti, they will love this!! 

1lb ground beef (use ground chicken or turkey to make it leaner)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1- 14 oz jar pizza sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 red, green or orange pepper, chopped
3 fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp italian seasoning
salt and pepper

 Heat oven to 375. In a large bowl combine beef, bread crumbs, chopped veggies, seasonings and half of the pizza sauce.
Divide mixture evenly between 10-12 muffin cups, depending on how many veggies you add to the mix. Top with remaining sauce and cheese.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked. Serve with garlic toast!