Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weekend Cooking- Taco Soup and Cheese Biscuits

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. To see who else is participating today, click on the button.

I have been following the Weekend Cooking posts and this is my first time to participate. I love all things foodie and  I am trying to cook more and cook healthier foods so this is a great way to share some of my favorites. One of my favorite soups as well as my husband's  is Taco Soup. I make it often in the fall and winter. My husband cracked his back molar a few days ago and can't get into the dentist for a few days. So, he needs to eat softer foods and I decided to make his favorite Taco Soup last night. You won't believe that this is actually a Weight Watchers recipe that has floated on the WW boards for several years and there are many versions. We like the vegetarian version but there is a version with meat which makes it more like a chili. I didn't take my own picture but this is one that I found that is the closest to what it looks like. Trust me, it's delicious!


1 Large Onion, chopped
1 Package Taco Seasoning Mix
2 Cups whole Kernel corn, frozen
1 Can Chicken Broth (or 16 oz from carton of broth)
1 Can Black Beans, undrained
1 Can White Beans, undrained
1 Can Fat-Free or Vegetarian Refried Beans
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (Mexcian Flavor...Rotel or diced tomatoes with chilies)
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (Any flavor)

Spray Pam in a soup pot and cook onion until softened over medium heat.
Dump all the cans of beans in first and mix. Then, add all of the other ingredients.
Stir until all mixed. Bring to a slow boil and then put a lid on and simmer for about an hour. Stir as needed.

*You can use whatever combination of beans that you like. I didn't have white beans so I used a can of kidney beans.  All cans are approximately 14-16 oz.

*One change is adding a package of dry Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing instead of the refried beans to help thicken the soup.

*It is supposed to make 15 cups. If you are following  the Weight Watchers Plan, 1 Cup=1 Point (you should double check this if you are uncertain, I cannot claim 100% accuracy on WW points)

I decided to serve something else with the soup as my husband could use the extra food as he's not eating much. I found this not so WW friendly Cheese biscuit recipe at allrecipes and they were great! They are supposed to be based on the Red Lobster cheese biscuits. They were quick and easy to make.

Quick Cheese Biscuits

2 cups buttermilk baking mix (I used bisquick Light)
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

In a bowl, stir in the biscuit mix, milk and cheese just until moistened. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Mix butter and garlic powder; brush over biscuits. Bake at 475 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

*Depending on how big you make your biscuits, this recipe claims 18 servings.

*Some of the reviews mentioned adding a few more tablespoons of milk so that the biscuits aren't dry and I did that. They also suggested adding a bit more cheddar cheese which I did. These biscuits were scrumptious and a perfect pair with the Taco Soup.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My New Favorite Snack : popchips!

I'm focusing on healthier eating and my friend Vickie at Vixen's Daily Reads told me about popchips. I love chips and have to be careful with them as they are a weakness and are usually fried so they aren't the healthiest choice. Popchips are not fried, they are not baked, they are popped! That means no trans fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol and no preservatives. They are also safe for my son with nut allergies as they use safflower and/or sunflower oil. They are also non-gmo (except for the parmesan garlic chips), they are vegan and no msg.  My family and I love these chips and they are a new favorite. They are so tasty and flavorful, they are really awesome! We haven't tried all of the flavors as we haven't found them all yet at the local stores. They do carry them at Target and Whole Foods and for other store locations, you can check the popchips website, here. You can also order them through Amazon, in variety packs

Disclosure: I bought my own popchips at Target and a local grocery store. I am an Amazon associate.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Challenge

I've decided to join the Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Challenge that Beth Fish Reads is hosting. This is the second challenge that I'm joining for this year. I'm careful about what challenges I am joining as they can be hard to keep up with, for me. This one caught my attention after reading the Guest post: A letter from Amy Einhorn that Beth Fish Reads posted today. It made me think about what editors goals are and what books they choose to publish. I like the selection of books that Amy Einhorn has published and her goals. The first book that she published was The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which was a book I read and reviewed and was one of my favorite books in 2009 so you know that Amy has good taste in books.

Mailbox Monday-January 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail.

Here is what arrived in my mailbox last week:

The Crimson Rooms

The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon from Mothertalk for a blog tour in February The blog tour begins on Monday, February 2 and runs through February 16, look for my review during this time.

Winter Garden

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah a surprise from St. Martin's Press. Correction: This was won from LibraryThing Early Reviewers. It took awhile to get here and quite frankly, I forgot that I won a copy.

Brava, Valentine: A Novel

Brava Valentine Adriana Trigiani  from Harper Collins.

The Bride Collector

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker from Hachette Books for a blog tour, look for my review and some special promotions here on February 25th.

Love in Mid Air

Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright from Hachette Books for an Early Birds Blog Tour, look for my review on March 29th.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More Wimpy Kid is on the way: The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary By Jeff Kinney

The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary by Jeff Kinney is to be released March 16, 2010

About the book:

Go behind the scenes with Jeff Kinney and the making of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie!

If you've ever wondered how a movie gets made, you're not alone. Author and illustrator Jeff Kinney didn't know either, but when his bestselling series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was turned into a live-action movie by 20th Century Fox, he learned how a book gets adapted into a major motion picture.

Complete with photographs, script pages, storyboard sketches, costume designs, and original art by Jeff Kinney, The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary is the perfect companion to the bestselling series.

When I read in the Shelf Awareness newsletter this week that there will be a new Wimpy Kid book out in March AND a Diary of a Wimpy Kid Movie out in April...I knew my son would be over the moon! I was right, he was so excited when I told him. He even told his friends at school about the book and movie and they "couldn't believe it",according to my son! He told me that most of his fifth grade classmates have read the series and are excited for more. My son has read and re-read all of the Wimpy Kid books several times. He was so excited that he lined them up on my nightstand and told me that I had to read them and write about them on my blog! How could a mom say no to that?! Well, I did read them all and have reviewed them all here. Personally, I'm a bit tired of the series as an adult, the humor is getting old. I have to say that these books are the most searched for reviews on my blog! I get searches daily (often 5-10 a day), I haven't looked at my google stats for awhile but it's funny to see what people are searching for. Many searches are for "free online book of diary of a wimpy kid" or "diary of a wimpy kid quiz".

The first book in the series is: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you can read my review here.

The second book is: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick rules, you can read my review here.

Another book in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do- it-yourself Book(an interactive journal).

The third book is Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, you can read my review here.

The fourth book is Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, you can read my review here.

The Movie version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be in theaters April 2, 2010.

I found this great trailer for the movie:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Review: U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

U is for Undertow (Kinsey Millhone Mystery)

First of all, I must say that I've been a fan of Sue Grafton's alphabet series since the early 90's when a coworker recommended them. I caught up quickly and I enjoyed most of the books in the series. I followed the series, reading every book and even met Sue Grafton at a book signing. Let's face it, it has to be tough to write a series of books and to be consistent and keep things interesting for every reader. Some books are going to be better than others and I have found that I enjoyed the earlier books in the series more than the recent ones.

In U is for Undertow, Kinsey Milhone, the main character, is a private investigator who is investigating a cold case in 1988. The case that she is investigating relates to the death of a child that occured in the 1960's. The chapters alternate between the present and the past and it is told in different viewpoints which was confusing for me at first. It felt choppy and the story didn't flow smoothly. It was hard to follow but then as I continued to read on I adjusted to the style as I got familiar with the characters. I just didn't find the story that interesting and the ending was a bit too predictable.

There was a tie in to Kinsey's family and past history which was interesting but it took the story down another path that seemed to oversaturate the story. I just wasn't pulled into the story as I have been in past books and I wanted to be pulled into the comfort of Kinsey's world. She lives in the late 80's without the technology we have cell phones, computers, GPS, caller i.d., no electronic devices except access to a fax machine at another office. She would mainly use microfiche and reverse directories  to do research. This just isn't holding my interest as much as it has in the past. It almost seems that the series is in slow motion and I'd like to see Kinsey speed up closer to the present. I don't think that is Sue Grafton's intention so I doubt that will happen and it is the style of the series. It's just not working so well for me anymore. I hate to admit this, it's sad as I have a soft spot in my heart for this series and the author. I haven't given up, my heart just isn't into the series as it was before. I am on Sue's personal mailing list and I look forward to her Christmas photo card yearly and promotional material about the next book coming out. Sue has been very creative over the years in sending out promotional material that relates to the books in the series.  I have saved all of the cards and promotional items for each book and should post about the collection that I have..someday. Is anyone  interested?

Check out Sue Grafton's Website, here.

You can read an excerpt from U is for Undertow, here.

Disclosure: Library copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday: January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail.

Here is what arrived in my mailbox last week:

The Weight of Heaven: A Novel The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar from Harper Collins for a TLC Book Tour

Love Walked InLove Walked In by Marisa de los Santos from Paperbackswap

My Life in France (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Random House Movie Tie-In Books)My Life in France by Julia Child from Paperbackswap

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Giveaway: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

I'm SO excited to be able to give away one, brand new AUTOGRAPHED copy of one of my favorite books, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman! Many of you read my review, and my excitement about meeting Beth at a local book signing. I'm making this simple, leave a comment with your email address to be entered to win. This is only open to U.S. and Canada and ends February 5th. I'll use to choose a winner. Good Luck!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beth Hoffman Book Signing

(Hudson Library)                                               (Learned Owl Book Shop)

Last night, I went to the book signing for Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman at the Hudson Library, sponsored by the Learned Owl Book Shop, a local independent bookstore. I was thrilled to be able to meet fellow book blogger Stacy from Stacy's Books, we live fairly close to each other and are both Ohio State grads. We had a great time getting to know each other and chatting at a local coffee shop before the book signing. Stacy is adorable and sweet and as you'll see in the picture below she looks awesome in hats!  We connected right away and I look forward to getting to know her bloggers are amazing, we seem to have these great connections! We also met a group of  women who are local bloggers and writers at the book signing, Lisa and Laura Write and Write-Brained

Beth Hoffman walked into the room full of grace and gratitude and she was  happy to see so many supporters there to embrace her and CeeCee. I've connected with Beth via emails and on twitter and she has been very supportive and interactive with book bloggers. She is just as sweet and kind in person as I had expected. She is from the northeast Ohio area so she had family and friends there to see her and support her. Beth gave Stacy and I big hugs when we met her and she was so grateful that we were there. She shared how she came to write the book and encouraged the audience to follow their dreams as she is a living example that dreams do come true. She was  charming and inspiring and has a sense of humor. She had a smile on her face the whole time. To thank those who hosted her tours she gave two ladies handmade honorary Savannah Garden Club hats. They were gorgeous and whimsical, and a perfect complement to the book.  Beth gave one to a lady from the Hudson library and one to Liz Murphy from the Learned Owl, (you can see a picture below). If you have an opportunity to meet Beth on her tour, jump at the chance, you'll be glad that you did. Here is her 2010 tour schedule.

Here are some photos from last night:

(Beth Hoffman, after reading from the book)

( Me, Beth Hoffman, and Stacy)

(Liz Murphy,Learned Owl Bookshop, and a representative from the Hudson library-my apologies, I don't know her name- with their honorary Savannah Garden Club Hats)

Check out Stacy's post about the Beth Hoffman Book signing at Stacy's Books, here.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had to miss my book club as it was meeting the same night as this book signing. We were discussing The Help, and I was actually able to make it to my book club after the book signing and they were still talking about the book! So, I ended up being part of both events and even got to enjoy a delicious dessert that went along with the theme of the book. My friend made Mississippi Mud Pie and it was delicious. It was a great evening!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beth Hoffman Book Signing Tonight!

I'm SO excited to be going to the discussion and  book signing with Beth Hoffman for her debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt tonight.  Beth will be in northeast Ohio, outside of the Cleveland area at the Hudson Library at 7pm this evening. I'm also going to meet Stacy from Stacy's Books, if you're in the area, join us!

As you know from my review yesterday, I loved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and predict it will be a hit this year. It just came out yesterday so make sure to pick up a copy!

Here's a wonderful video with Beth Hoffman:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a warm and charming novel that will steal your heart. It is chock full of quirky and zany characters as well as strong and heartfelt ones and all are women. Cee Cee is a twelve year old girl struggling to care for her mentally ill mother in Ohio in the late 1960's. She has an absent father who travels with his job but just can't deal with the situation at home and barely knows what is going on. Cee Cee's mother continues to get worse and her behavior is humiliating and mortifying to Cee Cee. Cee Cee has no friends and is teased over her mothers antics. The only true friend Cee Cee has is an elderly neighbor who looks out for her and takes care of her.

Sadly, there is a tragic accident and Cee Cee loses her mother.  Cee Cee Cee is saved by her great aunt Tootie whom she has never met and takes her to live with her in Savannah, Georgia. Aunt Tootie truly is the epitome of a southern woman and lovingly immerses Cee Cee into the world of the south and  southern women. CeeCee is taken under the wing of Aunt Tooties wonderful cook and friend Oletta and learns to love and trust again. One of many favorite quotes of mine is when Oletta gives Cee Cee some wise advice:

"People is wise 'cause they get out in the world and live. Wisdom comes from experience-from knowin' each day is a gift and accepting it with gladness. You read a whole lot of books, and readin' sure has made you smart, but ain't no book in the world gonna make you wise."
(Quote from page 290, Advanced Reading Copy, this may be different in the final copy)

I absolutely loved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and I believe it will be one of my favorite books of the year. It is full to the brim with southern charm, strong and independent women, humor and heartwarming strength. I loved the sweetness and goodness in Cee Cee and she learned to protect that in herself. The women are of different races and backgrounds and so many of them were wise and outright funny. She learns from the strong women that surround her that she may have lost her mother but she has gained many more to guide her along the path of life.  I found the wisdom and quotes shared very true to life and made me want to stop and write down quite a few to remember. This novel focuses on the power of love and acceptance and how important it is to let go of the past and soar towards the future. Learning to love ourselves, believe in ourselves and trusting others can happen more easily when we let go of the things that can haunt us.

I believe that Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will be a winner this year and is a book to watch. I can't recommend it highly enough. Make sure to grab a copy as it will be out today, January 12th in bookstores. It is already garnering great raves and reviews as a debut novel by Beth Hoffman. It was chosen as the first pick for Sam's Club brand new book club. That is quite an honor and one that is well deserved.

Beth Hoffman is from northern Ohio, near where I currently live, so there is a connection to where Cee Cee comes from in Ohio. She actually refers to real names of a city and streets in the area. I was thrilled to find out that one of the first stops along her book tour will be in my area. She will be at the Hudson Library sponsored by The Learned Owl Book Shop tomorrow, Wednesday January 13th at 7pm.  If you're near the area, what a wonderful opportunity we have to meet Beth Hoffman. I had to make a decision as it is the same night as my book club and I've decided that I have to go to see Beth Hoffman. I'm so excited! I'm also hoping to finally meet a fellow blogger in the area, Stacy who blogs at Stacy's Books.

This would be an excellent book to discuss with a book club and I will be recommending it to my book club. I host in a few months and it will definitely be on my recommended list of books. There is a reading guide and interview with Beth Hoffman, here.

Make sure to check out Beth Hoffman's website, here for more information.

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to Beth Hoffman for sending me an ARC copy of the book. I am an Amazon associate.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday: January 11, 2010

~Mailbox Monday~
Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail.

Here is what arrived in my mailbox last week:

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThe Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben (Harper Collins)

Spinning ForwardSpinning Forward by Terri Dulong (won from Goodreads)

Fireworks over ToccoaFireworks over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff (St. Martin's Press )