Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I like trying new recipes. But I find one particular kind of cuisine more challenging than most. Asian. I know that’s a broad category, but, mostly I mean Chineses and Thai food. I have found that more than with any other kind of cuisine, Asian food is an exact science. The kind/brand of sesame oil, or rice vinegar, or soy sauce makes a difference. The blend of ingredients has to be just right, or it tastes “off”. Or it doesn’t taste like anything, just horribly bland. I have made “bad” pad thai, chow mein, lemon chicken and more. I suppose I could blame the cook (me), but I choose to believe that the recipes have been at fault. Or the quality of the ingredients. Anyway. Today, I tested a recipe for Spicy Sesame Noodle Salad (from Chatelaine magazine). I plan to tweak it next time with some chicken and maybe some extra veggies, but even as is, following the recipe exactly, it was a keeper. Here it is:
- 1 head broccoli
- 1/2 (500 g) pkg spaghetti or fettuccine
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) dark sesame oil
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce, preferably light
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) each hot chili flakes, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup (250 mL) coarsely chopped cilantro
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped unsalted peanuts
· To cook pasta, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and boil until al dente, 8 to 10 min. Meanwhile, slice florets from broccoli, then cut into small pieces. Add broccoli to boiling pasta water for last 2 min of cooking. Drain pasta and broccoli, then return both to saucepan.
· Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) sesame oil in a small frying pan, preferably non-stick, set over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg, then pour into pan. Tilt pan to make a thin omelette. Cook just until egg is set and light brown, about 30 sec to 1 min per side. Turn onto a cutting board. When cool, roll up and thinly slice into strips. Set aside.
· In a small bowl, stir olive oil with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, chili flakes, salt and pepper. In a small frying pan, set over medium-low heat, add remaining 2 tbsp (30 mL) sesame oil. Add garlic and red pepper. Stir often until pepper begins to soften, 2 to 3 min. Turn over noodles and stir in olive oil mixture. Add cilantro, green onions and peanuts. Toss to mix. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I am an avid reader. Anyone who knows me knows that I find time to read no matter how busy my life is. As an avid reader, I really hope that my kids also become avid readers because I think that reading is so strongly connected to good literacy skills.
So far, so good. I often find the boys lying down on the living room floor reading to themselves, or to each other. They also love the library and have had their own cards (almost) since birth. They approach one of us many times a day with books under their arms and ask us to read aloud to them. I love that they love books.
That's why I found the latest article in the NY Times about parents forbidding the reading of picture books so appalling. Apparently parents are feeling pressure for "little Johnny" to get ahead. In order for that to happen, they think that picture books should be discouraged after kindergarten. What?? I love picture books. In fact, I read them to grade 3s. Picture books can have a lot of thought-provoking ideas. Plus they are usually beautifully illustrated and not too long. But whether the vocabulary is simple or sophisticated, I think that the number one most important thing to get kids reading is to capture their interest and imagination. Reading should be fun. And entertaining. You should WANT to do it.
I have not met too many kids who are such voracious readers by grade one that a chapter book would maintain their interest. In fact, quite frankly, a lot of the early chapter books are quite boring; the text needs to be very simplistic for an early reader to be able to decipher it.
So, I would rather see Matias reading picture books all through his primary years than to see him turned off of reading completely.
(If you're interested, here is the link to the NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me )
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I recently had a conversation with someone who scoffed at the idea that safety has become the number one priority in schools. I think he was mainly thinking of safety in terms of school violence (knives, guns etc). Granted, real physical violence is important and probably a much greater problem than say 20 years ago. However, I think that safety takes on a much broader context within schools today and really is of primary importance.
Schools today focus much more on the student as a whole being. It isn’t just about whether you can memorize your timestables or name all the planets. Or even about whether you can read and add/subtract. Learning cannot take place in a meaningful way if your needs as a whole person are not being met. If you are starving. Or if you are uncomfortable and fear ridicule and scorn from your classmates (or teacher). If you are being bullied. If you have been made to believe that you are stupid.
In an ideal world, children come to school from stable loving homes. The schools they come to are welcoming. Everyone is friendly and courteous and helpful. Teachers are caring and inspirational. Everybody’s opinion is valued and they know it; there is no risk involved in voicing your opinion.
However, if a student feels ashamed, or not good enough. If he is scared to have an opinion in case he is laughed at or worse. If he feels alone, without any friends. If he is taunted. If he is…(the list goes on) Then, in all of these cases, I would say that the bottom line is that he doesn’t feel safe. And if he doesn’t feel safe, then he is not ready, or perhaps even able, to learn. At best, he is distracted and unfocused because of all these other worries that fill up most of his mind.
So yes, to me, safety is important. With students, it is especially true that “if you don’t care about them, they don’t care about your ideas”.