Haggis Pie

wp-1453752092466.jpg

Tonight is Burns Night!.  A celebration of the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns, though often an excuse to eat haggis and drink whiskey.  Over the past few years my Burns Night recipes (brownies and squash) have focused on different ways to cook with scotch, rather than on making haggis, because unless you’re a butcher making haggis is just cooking it according to the instructions, make mashed potatoes, and mash up a turnip.

However, this year Burns Night snuck up on me.  So I figured I’d go with a slight take on the preparation of haggis, by turning it into a pie, like a shepherd’s pie.  wp-1453755493203.jpgI got the idea for haggis pie from British cooking maven Delia Smith, while searching for whiskey sauce recipes, even though I ended up using the sauce recipe here.  It is also a recipe that can be made with the leftovers of your haggis, neeps, and tatties.

Recipe

  • Haggis
  • Turnip
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • shredded cheese (I’d go with a smoked or mature cheddar)
  • whiskey sauce
  1. Pre heat oven to 375° F (190° C)
  2. Fully cook haggis. (Since I was going to put it into a casserole I went for the fastest method and removed the haggis from the casing and microwaved it.)  Spread haggis at the bottom of a casserole dish.
  3. Peel turnip.  Cut into chunks.  Steam. (I added a little whiskey to the water while it steamed since I was feeling festive).  Roughly mash and layer on to of the haggis.
  4. Cover with mashed potatoes and sprinkle on the cheese.
  5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.  If you have prepared the pie ahead of time and are baking from chilled, bake for 45-50 minutes.

And, because it is Burns Night, I treated myself to a dram after young sir went to bed!

wp-1453755495603.jpg

 

Posted in British, Food, Main Course, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Returning to a New Normal?

 

DSC00741Huh, it’s been quiet here on the blog.  I haven’t written anything for the past five months.  The interface on Wordpress even changed in my time away 🙂

Well, that’s all down to the fact that Baby B joined our family in early October, bringing more joy into our lives than we ever thought possible.

But, how do I account for no posts from mid August and all of September?  ‘Cause I still did a little traveling and tried new recipes?  Well…I attribute that to final baby preparations, napping, and watching reruns of MacGyver.

And while I certainly could have written this post before now; I haven’t really felt motivated until now.  The past three months have been a big adjustment and new demands on my time; from the amount of preparation it takes to just go to walk to the corner store to a new (and shorter) sleeping pattern (though that is thankfully getting longer).  Plus hours of adorable baby gazing!  We are finding a rhythm.  B likes to sit in his bouncey chair when I’m in the kitchen, which has allowed me to cook some straight forward dinners.  Though Hubs did well with cooking in the early weeks, developing a few favorites.

Now, we have gotten ‘young sir’ out into the Dales, on a historic steam train, an overnight in Cambridgeshire, and numerous pubs.  Currently we are considering a trip to France at the end of the February!

So, as I get back into blogging I’ll be sure to keep you updated on our adventures, as well as filling in some of the gaps since August.

And now (because I can’t help myself) here is another picture:

IMG_20151123_102744

Posted in Other | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Spanish Babymoon

DSC00404

Well, I guess as the title of the post suggests; I’m pregnant!  Baby is due to arrive in October, and that means that most of the low-cost European airlines will allow me to travel through mid-August.  So with that in mind, we spent a lot of time this spring thinking about where & what we wanted our ‘babymoon’ (last? big trip before baby is born).  Did we want to chill at the beach?  Stick with urban adventures?  In the end we decided to do both in Spain.  A few days up north in San Sebastian, followed by a few days in Madrid.

We flew trusty RyanAir to Madrid, and while we weren’t hit with fee to leave the country (like were in Latvia), the overall experience is a lot like taking the bus; boarding is always a hassle, other passengers are on edge.  I just keep reminding myself that this was by far the cheapest ticket around and that means that I can spend my money on something fun.  The other thing about RyanAir is that they keep their costs low by flying during cheaper time slots; so either early in the morning, or in our case later at night.

We arrived at Madrid Airport after 9pm, so I booked a hotel in the Barajas neighborhood next to the airport (Madrid Airport didn’t seem to have large hotel on the property like other major airports have).  At 9pm the temperature was still 90s F, so that did make us apprehensive for the Madrid portion of our trip (I quickly double checked that our hotel had air conditioning).

Northern Spain

Getting Around

We rented a car and drove to where we wanted to go.  In general we found the roads to be incredibly well maintained and without much traffic.  Toll roads are fairly common throughout Spain; however, in the north they are quite high.  It cost about 22 euros to get from Burgos to Bilbao, which is only about an hour and a half of travel.  So we’re talking New Jersey turnpike costs, but in all fairness the road is in much better condition than the New Jersey turnpike.

While we didn’t use them there are trains and buses from Madrid up north to both Bilbao and San Sebastian.  Some routes may require transferring in Bilbao; and once you are up north there are local buses and trains that will take you to smaller towns.  Before we decided to rent a car I determined that we’d still be able to visit everything we did without the car; but the car gave us more flexibility, and ultimately let us see more in a shorter amount of time as we weren’t tied to specific timetables.

What we did

We drove up and spent the afternoon in Bilbao.  Bilbao is the largest city on Spain’s northern coast, and one the guidebook described as having an industrial past and a little gritty.  Now maybe it was that we had great weather, but I didn’t really find that to be the case.  I was expecting it to be like Baltimore.  A small redeveloped city center, with surrounding neighborhoods being more mixed.  The city is very well maintained, and not so big that it isn’t walkable (but there is a bus system).  The residential areas outside the business and tourist center were clean with lots of parks and playgrounds.  And very little graffiti compared to Paris or Rome.

The main attraction of the city is the Guggenheim museum along the riverfront.  We spent most of our time in that area walking along the riverfront, before heading into the old city for lunch.  We didn’t go into the museum, since the guidebooks said it didn’t have a very extensive collection, and at the time was promoting the work of Jeff Koons, whom Hubs is underwhelmed with.  [I know, quite the art expert!]  Therefore, we decided to put our 15 euros each towards lunch.

After lunch we drove to San Sebastian, which as a smaller and easier to drive in city compared to Bilbao, parking is even tighter.  One of my requirements when booking the hotel was that it have air conditioning and I be able to reserve parking, which I’m glad I did!

Even though it was only a day and a half, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in San Sebastian, there were even times when we questioned why we had to go to Madrid.  The city is very walkable, with two long sandy beaches in sheltered harbors.  Since it is on the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean; the water may not be as warm as the Mediterranean, it is not colder that the mid-Atlantic on the East Coast of the US.  We had plenty of time to walk around the city, chill on the beach, and even climbed to the top of Mont Urgull.  Had we been there longer, we could have visited 19th century ‘amusement park’ atop the other hill at San Sebastian’s harbor entrance opposite Mont Urgull (come to think of it, that one had a funicular railway).

As a did research for our trip, but after we had booked our travel & accommodation, I came across the fact that it was the San Fermin festival in Pamplona.  I didn’t pay much attention to it, but wondered if that drove up the hotel prices in San Sebastian while we were there.  When I casually mentioned this to Hubs during one of our evening walks he immediately wanted to know what it would take to go.  And in the end all it took was a six am start.

Pamplona is a little over an hour from San Sebastian and the running of the bulls takes place at eight am (much earlier than most things in Spain get started).  It celebrates the cattle ranchers moving their bulls into the city for sale and slaughter, prior to other methods of transport becoming practical.  Made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises; today the festival boasts to be one of Europe’s biggest parties (though Hubs assures me it’s got nothing on Oktoberfest).

DSC00441It appeared that those ‘doing San Fermin right’ party through the night, watch the running of the bulls, grab breakfast, and then go to bed.  As we arrived in the city, the partying certainly had died down and people were making their way to to their race locations.  There are several underground parking garages in the city and it was quite easy to park at one of them.  I’m assuming that the festival brings in a lot of money to the city, because it also brings in a lot of trash, along with the smell of urine (which I’m sure were in those ‘puddles’ of rain water I stepped in).

There are a couple of options to watch the running of the bulls.  One is to buy tickets to a residents balcony that over looks the course.  Those start around $100 per person, and usually include breakfast since you have to be at the apartments an hour before the running as road access closes.  You can also watch from the barricades along the course; but from what I read in the guide books people started lining up at 6am and it is likely that you’ll get jostled as people try to get a glimpse of the bulls – something this pregnant lady wasn’t too interested in.  So we chose to watch the running from the Plaza de Toros (bull fighting ring).

DSC00431      DSC00432

Tickets are about 10 euros and seating is general admission, so the earlier you get there the closer to ring you can sit.  The running is shown on jumbo trons in the ring, and it ends with the runners and the bulls coming into the ring, and the bulls being taken down to the paddocks.  What I didn’t realize is that after all that young bulls are brought out to run around in the crowd, just in case running with the adult bulls wasn’t risk enough.  It may have been the pregnancy hormones, but that part of the festival left me more conflicted.  I’m not opposed to bull fighting, but the chasing around of the young bulls seemed fun at first, but after a little while seemed unnecessary.  Hubs was much more optimistic pointing out that no harm came to the young bulls and they probably considered it playing.

The bulls that run through the town in the morning are the ones killed in the bull fights in that evening.  Tickets to the bullfights are controlled and the residents of the city are given first dibs on purchasing them.  So if you’re interested in attending you’ll either have to purchase them through a third-party tour operator or scalp them from a resident that day (based on what I read it is perfectly legal).  We didn’t go since it our schedule had us in Madrid that evening and we needed to return the rental car.

Eating & Drinking (*it’s just eating for me right now:)

Northern Spain has a slightly different version of tapas, known as pinchos/pintxos.  So instead of a small plate of food you are served a piece of food, about 2 or 3 bites worth).  In Spain it is still very common to for businesses and small shops to close from 2-4pm, for siesta; and restaurants to offer a three course meal.  But it also seemed equally common to have a lunch of pintxos and a beer.  Suppers out can also be equally large or just pintxos.  Pintxos are generally on the bar top like a buffet, but the etiquette of getting them on your plate can vary.  Some places you just serve yourself (occasionally when the signs say otherwise), and other places you request them from the car tender.

What Hubs and I discovered (after our first day) is that while all those meals look delicious; it is best (not surprisingly) to just have one main meal a day and make the other pintxos.  We typically had a larger supper, with pintxos at lunch time between activities, or naps.

I hadn’t done much research about places to eat in Bilbao, ahead of time since we were only planning a few hours and I didn’t know what the drive would be like.  And we did end up finding a good pintxos bar (that we really should have just stayed at) in the old city that unfortunately I can’t remember the name of.  Our lunch meal was only so so, and we found that if you don’t have reservations by 3pm many of the places that look good are packed and the wait staff over taxed to be able to deal with my mediocre Spanish, and you just end up standing around like stray kitten.  Restaurant prices are very reasonable in Bilbao, which is probably a function of it being a larger city with a working population compared to San Sebastian’s resort character with a lot of non-residents on holiday.

San Sebastian is considered by many to be Spain’s gastronomical capital, with several Michelin starred restaurants.  Plus, not much to do besides the beach and eat.  It is easy to walk through the old city and find many good pintxos restaurants for lunch or at dinner time.  It did lead to a couple of awkward encounters since the etiquette of whether or not you help yourself to food, or ask the bartender, is unclear and occasionally contradicts signs that are posted.

The restaurant that I recommend in San Sebastian is La Fabrica, which I suggest making a reservation for unless you are there in the off-season.

Madrid

Getting Around

Madrid has quite a good subway system and will take you all parts of the city that may interested you.  The airport is connected to the city by both the subway and the train.  The trains and buses can take you to several day trip options: El Escorial, Toledo, Segovia, Avila, etc.

If you take the metro to the airport, there is a service charge that you have to pay on your ticket.  I assume it is to keep the transit fee between the metro and the train comparable, but I don’t actually know.  However, what isn’t clear is that this service charge is applicable each way.  So if you buy a multi-trip ticket at the airport and pay the surcharge; if you still have trips left on your ticket when you return to the airport, you will have to add the surcharge on to your ticket again you can exit the metro at the airport.  It isn’t hard to do at the machines, but it is something to factor in to your travel time.  Again, there are plenty of signs telling people about the surcharge in both English and Spanish; it is just unclear that it applies to each way.

What we did

It was quite warm; ok, it was hot, around 105 degrees.  Between living in a country that rarely gets above 85 degrees for the past two years; and me being pregnant, the heat definitely slowed down our normal pace of sight-seeing.  We definitely embraced the ‘siesta’ and sitting in shaded cafes for extended periods of time.  Due to the heat we didn’t take any day trips that I mentioned above as possibilities; which means that two full days is plenty of time to see Madrid.

Our first day in Madrid was a Sunday, so after a lie in we spent the morning at the Rastro; Madrid’s famous flea market.  Not to let anyone down, but it is pretty much like most other flea markets, just quite large.  It spans the length between the La Latina and Puerta de Toledo metro stations.

Following that we continued our tour of the city by heading over to the Palacio Real and Catedral Almudena, before swinging by the Plaza Mayor.  After some cafe time and a tapas lunch, we headed back to our hotel for a late siesta before dinner.

The next day was our last day in Madrid and we had a flight out around 9pm, which meant that we’d lose our afternoon siesta spot.  Therefore, we didn’t check out until the last possible moment, which fortunately in Spain isn’t until noon.  We spent the afternoon in the Retiro park; which in addition to lots a shade, houses to free art exhibitions from the Reina Sofia in two of its buildings.

Following a leisurely lunch we checked out the modern art at the Reina Sofia.  The museum is most famous as the home of Picasso’s Guernica, but it also houses most of Spain’s Republican government exhibition to the 1937 World’s Fair that Guernica was part of.

Eating and Drinking

Madrid certainly has its share of tapas bars, even if it isn’t the moveable feast that San Sebastian is.  What we did find at the tapas bars is that when you order a drink (whether or not it contains alcohol) you will get some sort of small snack.

All the sit down meals that we had in Madrid were quite good: for Madrilenan fair check out La Castela; for paella La Barraca; and for lunch between museums Murillo Cafe.

If you are just looking for a pit stop check out Casa Revuelta near the Plaza Mayor, famous for their salt cod fritters; and Fabrica Maravillas for craft beer.

The Verdict

We enjoyed our trip to Spain, though slightly preferred our time up North.  Madrid’s heat did play a role, but we also enjoyed the relaxed pace and greenery that San Sebastian offered.

 

Posted in Southern Europe, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sauerkraut

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hubs doesn’t really cook (I had to inform him that you had to add meat to a can of Manwich to make sloppy joes).  He can cook (recently when I was away for week he cooked most nights), he just doesn’t really like to.  He is good on the grill, and loves a food project; so he’s always happy to help make sushi, chocolate truffles, or fill dumplings.

The latest project he’s undertaken is making his own sauerkraut.  It is actually a very simple process of salting shredded cabbage and leaving it to ferment for a few weeks; which isn’t surprising since pickling vegetables waaaaay pre-dates even the most basic forms of refrigeration.  You can buy crocks designed for pickling, but you can also use a reasonably large pot (that you won’t mind being out of service for a few weeks) and something to weight down the cabbage to keep them submerged in the liquid they produce (thus safe from bacterial growth).  But fortunately, we had a small tub Hubs used to brew a batch of ‘bret’ beer (a process that affects the plastic and will forever sour future batches of beer, and therefore isn’t used as often as his other beer supplies) and our salad plate fit perfectly to weigh down the cabbage.

To eat the sauerkraut we simply sauteed it in some butter for a side dish.  We also made a casserole with bratwurst adapted from here (substituting the brown sugar for a peeled diced apple, and scaling the proportions down for 1 lb of sausage).

I know that sharing this recipe now, won’t get you homemade sauerkraut in time for your 4th of July celebrations (if you celebrate, some of my British readers may mourn).  But if you get started soon you’ll have plenty to close out your summer, or a little bit later on for Oktoberfest.  Pork and sauerkraut meals are common in German and German-American communities on New Year’s Eve/Day.

Here is what you need to do:

Shred (thinly slice) the cabbages, discarding the cores.  We found this much easier using the slicer attachment on the food processor.  (To be honest I don’t know that I’d go through the effort of slicing the cabbage with a knife.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Toss the shredded cabbage with salt and caraway seeds; squeezing the cabbage throughout the process.  I recommend doing this in batches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The cabbage and salt will generate a lot of water fairly quickly.  Place a plate (or some other weight) on top of the cabbage to keep it under the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It will take at least two weeks for your sauerkraut to ferment, and can be left as long as six weeks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Recipe

  • cabbage
  • salt (non iodonized – Hubs says it’s for better taste and is what I had bought not paying attention to the label)
  • caraway seeds

[Use a ratio of 1 tbsp of salt & 1 tbsp caraway seeds per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of cabbage.]

  1. Cut the cabage into chunks removing the core
  2. Thinly slice cabbage.  I highly recommend using a food processor.
  3. Massage the salt and caraway seeds into the cabbage slices.  [Cabbage will start to release water.]
  4. Use something (like a plate) to weigh down the cabbage and keep it submerged in the water it generates.
  5. Put a lid on the container and leave it in a cool place for AT LEAST two weeks, but better for around 4 weeks.
Posted in Food, Side Dish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 AP US History Exam Debrief

My 2014 AP US History Exam Debrief has gotten a lot of traction on the site.  Now, it could not even possibly be considered to have gone viral in the grand scheme of the internet; but excluding the homepage (which post the 5 most recent articles in full) that post got the most hits in 2014, and currently has the most hits for 2015.  So clearly some people found it the most interesting thing I had to say! (I think many of them are high schoolers looking for thesis statements to use in their essays) Therefore, I figured I’d follow up this year with a post for the 2015 exam that hundreds of thousands sat for last week.  However, this year the AP US History curriculum and exam format went through VERY significant changes, so I want to up front about a few things:

  1. I have not taught AP US History for the past two years.
  2. I have not been trained by the College Board (or anyone else for that matter) on the new curriculum or exam.
  3. I have not spent a large amount of time combing through the new curriculum and exam information individually.  (If you’ve browsed the blog you’ll see there is a lot of eating and traveling to be done.)

What you’ll find the paragraphs below is: my reaction to the exam questions asked this year, from a person reasonably knowledgeable in the content; my suggestions for thesis statements/topic sentences; and potential pitfalls students may have fallen into based on my experience as a teacher.  If you are a parent of a student who sat for the exam don’t worry about the pitfalls too much.  Your student’s teacher knows about them too and was prepping them all school year on how to avoid them.

New Curriculum Framework

You can read the new curriculum framework, which address the format of the exam and includes sample questions here.  Now, with the curriculum redesign the folks at the College Board haven’t changed American History; you need a Delorean for that!  But they have tried to be more explicit in the content that needs to be taught to students for a course that was one described to me at a training as a mile high and an mile deep. The new framework has focused historical instruction around four ‘Historical Skills’ and seven ‘Learning Objectives’ (or what I would call themes). AP US Skills & Objectives In order to eliminate some of the uncertainty about what topics could appear on the exam, the detailed concept outline highlights examples that teachers must teach and are fair game for exam questions, and examples where teachers can choose a topic to illustrate a concept, and therefore any exam question asked will likely be open ended allowing students to demonstrate what they know about the concept, rather than what they know about that event. AP US flexibility The curriculum has also expanded the periodization (historical time frame ) of the course to include more pre-Colombian (North America prior to Columbus) and contemporary America. AP US Periodization All these curriculum changes I think will serve a new AP teacher well, even if it is a lot to wrap your head around (balancing the skills & objectives with the topics and how long to spend).  But it will probably make the teacher whose been teaching the course for decades, and just plods through the textbook focusing on what they like frustrated (especially since some of those teachers are happy if they get up to Nixon prior to the exam).  What I do wish the College Board included when they allocated ‘Instructional Time’ (in the chart above), was time for review & prep for the exam.  Because while there is a whole industry built up around the preparing for the exam outside of class; it just isn’t always feasible or appropriate for every student due to a variety of factors, such as: learning style, time commitments, and finances.

New Exam

The bigger shift for teachers came in how the College Board assesses students on the exam.  The old AP exam consisted of: a multiple choice section (80 questions), a document based essay question (DBQ), and two traditional essays of which students get a choice of topics.  The new exam consists of: a multiple choice section (30 questions all of which a connected to some sort of prompt – a map, quotation, statistical chart, etc), four short answer questions, a DBQ essay, and one traditional essay and students still get a pick of questions.  However the rubrics for how the essays will be scored are different.

Though the College Board more than halved the number of multiple choice questions students answer and switched from 5 possible correct answers to 4; the demand on students may have increased since students will need to analyze an excerpt and then answer questions.  This particular format will stress students critical reading skills in a timed format, and require a significant amount of time and preparation my AP teachers who will need to write new test questions for their in-class assessments.

This year’s short answer questions have been released by the College Board and can be found here.  Student samples probably won’t be available until August when schools start to resume across the country.  When I taught, the addition of a short answer section was one of the proposed changes that I looked forward too as I often felt that my students were better and expressing themselves in writing than at immediate fact & analysis recall.

While I have not been trained on the new format I can tell from the exam instructions that students are limited in the amount they can write, and the Curriculum Framework specifically states that students, while must write in complete sentences, are not expected to include thesis statements or write essays.  I do wish the Curriculum Framework included a rubric for the short answer questions.

Looking at this year’s short answer questions I think they were very fair.  While students were required to answer specific prompts (not given a choice of prompts), the prompts were written so that students could demonstrate what they know about a topic, with multiple examples available to form correct answers.  Using #3 as an example; students were not asked about the significance of Shay’s Rebellion, but Shay’s Rebellion would be an appropriate example for part C (but so would the North’s gradual abolition of slavery).

I think the biggest challenge to students in the short answer section is time.  Students need to think of and analyze historical examples that fit the prompt at a rate of about 12 minutes per question.  My experience with high school students writing is that students often struggle to take a firm position, out of fear of being wrong.  With this exam students need to except that there are multiple correct answers and once they settle on one they shouldn’t look back.

As I read through the short answers prompts I was naturally brainstorming responses; I also noticed that while the short answer prompts are not essay questions, the content that students produce is very similar to an essay brainstorm for a broad (unasked) essay question.

The only part of short answer section that made me cringe a little bit was #2, about the interplay of environmental preservation v. conservation during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency.  It is a very fair question, it is just that when I got to that topic it was usually January, right before the end of the semester and I was worried about pacing (we had usually had a few snow days by then).  So I often told the students to make sure they read that section carefully on their own and read The Lorax by Dr Seuss in class.

The general spirit of the DBQ has remained the same but the rubric, found in an appendix in the Curriculum Framework has changed.  It is now much more of a specific checklist for students, rather than a holistic approach to how good of an essay students’ wrote.  There is even greater specificity in the directions left for students:

AP DBQ directions

 

The College Board has no provided specific guidance about how many documents students should use.  Previous it was just ‘a substantial number’ (I told students half plus two of the total documents).  However, using all (or all bust one) isn’t necessarily more work since they have reduced the total number of documents from around 10 to six.

The instructions also provide great specificity about the type of analysis students should include, which in general I think will help focus their writing.  I’m interested to see actual student samples, to see if student analysis focuses on one theme per document or if the document analyses include all the suggestions from the College Board.

As for the subject of the DBQ, I think it is a prime example of the College Board holding teachers accountable to the new curriculum.  The prompt was: Explain the reasons why a new conservatism rose to prominence in the United States between 1960 and 1989.  While the old exam always covered material through the 1980s and into the 1990s, there was rarely an essay question from that time period; and if there was it was in the free response section where students could choose not to write on a different topic.  Under the old curriculum many teachers got by (with decent scores) only covering up to the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s.  Now the College Board is looking to see that teachers are getting to the present day in their courses.

As for a thesis statement appropriate for the prompt?  I would go with: Between 1960 and 1989 conservative sentiment increased throughout the United States as a result of a backlash to the radicalization of social movements in the 1960s & 1970s, coupled with a weakening economy and international position.

On the new exam, students only write one ‘traditional’ (5 paragraph) essay, instead of two; though students still get a choice about the topic.  This year the college board balanced the two options nicely.  Both options were about a war (Seven Years/French & Indian v. Mexican-American) an focused on the war’s role as a turning point in American History.  By keeping the options very similar it is likely that an even number of students across the country will choose each essay.

For question #2 I would go with the following thesis statement: The French & Indian War ended Britains policy of Salutary Neglect; and while for most people living in British North America their daily lives were relatively unchanged, for an influential number of people the end of Salutary Neglect altered their perception of the British Empire, their role in it, and their desire to stay in it.

For question #3 a good working thesis would be: While the Mexican-American War did not start the US’ debate over slavery, just as the war was a violent conflict, so became the political and social conflict over slavery in it’s aftermath.

As I said at the beginning of this post (I know that seems like a while ago), I found this year’s AP US History exam to be very fair, yet very reflective of the changes made to the curriculum.  It least to this (now) outsider 🙂

Posted in History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini Meatloaves

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll probably have noticed that I like the freeze things.  Partly because it helps me deal with recipes that usually serve four, when it is just us two; but also because it helps me plan meals during busy weeks.  Just take them out of the freezer the night before and then bake for about 30 minutes when you are ready for dinner.

Therefore, when friends of ours welcomed a baby a few months ago, I popped a couple of these into their freezer for convenience.  And I’m pleased to say they are new parent approved!

I’ve adapted the recipe from Cooking Light’s recipe for mini meatloaves that my mom sent to me a few years ago, after they were a hit back home.  To write this post, I did record the measurements; but normally I don’t measure anything besides the ketchup.  So, the recipe is pretty flexible to suit your personal tastes (or what is in your pantry).  There have been times I’ve forgotten the egg (that made it crumbly but didn’t really affect the taste); and this time I’m using horseradish cream instead of regular horseradish since that is what is open in my fridge.  The cooking temp is also a little bit flexible, as long as you adjust the time.  I bake mine at 400° F because that is the temperature that I’m also cooking other vegetables for the meal.

Here is what you will need:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chop the onion and shred carrot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Saute in oil until translucent

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are going to save any of the meatloaves for later, cool the carrots and onions completely before mixing.  I put them in a bowl in the fridge to accelerate this process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Crumble the beef into the bowl and then add: garlic, oregano, parsley, egg.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loosely mix and add ketchup, bread crumbs, and cheese.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Divide meat mixture into four equal portions and shape into small loaves.  [You can get five portions if you need to.  Just lower the cooking time since they will be slightly smaller.]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are going to save some for later, wrap in cling film and then place in a resealable sandwich bag, and place in the freezer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Top loaves with 2 tbsp of ketchup and bake in 400° F (200° C) oven for 25-35 minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recipe serves 4

  • 1 lb (400 g) of lean ground (mince) beef
  • onion, chopped
  • carrot, shredded
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of ketchup, divided
  • 1 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp of horseradish
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs
  • 4 oz of cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C)
  2. Chop the onion and shred the carrot.  Saute in oil until the onion is translucent.  Put into a bowl to cool.
  3. Crumble beef into the bowl and add in: parsley, garlic, oregano, and egg.  Mix loosely.
  4. Add in 1/4 cup of ketchup, mustard, and horseradish.  Continue to mix gently.
  5. Add the breadcrumbs, mix.  Then the cheese and mix again.  If the mixture is feeling too dry you can add more bread crumbs.
  6. Divide the meat into four equal sections (you can get in a 5th portion if you need to) and shape into small loaves.
  7. Top loaves with 2 tbsp of ketchup and bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes.
Posted in Food, Main Course | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update: Tony the Tiger Bites

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Roast lamb is a traditional Easter meal.  Now I know what you are thinking, that’s not a picture of a lamb dinner up there, but there is a connection.  As a kid, my mom had a cast iron cake pans, that when put together made a three-dimensional lamb.  However, even when we were successful in getting the cake out of the pan; we still had trouble getting it to stand up.  So she solved that problem by using it as a mold for rice crispy treats; which is why I often associate the Easter with the kids treat.

Therefore, this Easter I was reminded of the Tony the Tiger Bites I shared last winter; and ways to make it more spring-like.  I can’t take full credit for this innovation, just for making it less healthy; as I’ve seen recipes on the internet of uses for spaghetti squash.

Below is what you will need and you can find the recipe here.  I usually use a little bit less frosted flakes than the recipe calls for, so just mix in the cereal until it gets to a consistency you like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once the mixture is ready (and work quickly while it is warm), spoon it into cupcake liners to form a nest and top with candy-coated chocolate eggs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even if you don’t plan on making Easter nests, I did find putting the mix into cupcake liners easier than cutting portions out of a tray.

Posted in Baked Goods, Food | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guinness Braised Corned Beef

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Ok, ok, with the exception of the Guinness, this dish isn’t really consumed in Ireland.  Corned beef became popular with Irish-Americans in the late 19th century when it was available from Jewish butchers and seen as … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tartiflette

This gallery contains 18 photos.

Tartiflette.  This recipe is inspired by our ski trips to France, where we always have a ‘cheese meal.’  This particular gooey cheese dish is common fare in Alpine ski towns and a great meal to have after a day on the … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Courchevel – Update

This gallery contains 1 photo.

As I mentioned in my La Tania post that we were so impressed with Courchevel that we made arrangements to return.  Well, we’ve just returned from another ski week; and we like it even more than the first! As this … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Realistic Riga

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Back in the states we shared seasons tickets to the Washington Capitals; and attending those games is one of the things we miss most of home.  So on our ‘bucket list’ of things to do while in England was to … Continue reading

Gallery | Leave a comment

La Tania/Courchevel/3 Vallees

This gallery contains 9 photos.

We spent a week skiing the expansive Les Trois Vallees ski area (hence the long blog title).  And all in all we were thoroughly impressed with the place! Les Trois Vallees is made up of three distinct resorts: Courchevel, Meribel, … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Short Skiing History

This gallery contains 1 photo.

This week we’re back on the slopes, and a I’ll have a post recapping our trip when we return.  But until then I’ve put together a short post chronicling the development of recreational skiing. The earliest historical evidence of skiing are … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Scotch Squash

This gallery contains 9 photos.

It’s that time of year again!  Burns Night is approaching!  A night to celebrate the works of Scottish poet Robert Burns; but for most of the people I know, it is a night for drinking. Last year I made a … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oven Pulled Pork

This gallery contains 19 photos.

When we lived in Fairfax we’d often visit family about two hours south in Richmond, VA.  We always tried to plan our trips for Saturdays so that we could stop off at our favorite BBQ joint, Allmans, in Fredericksburg (the halfway … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

White Christmas (barely)

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Happy New Year!!!! I hope you all had a fun night and are enjoying a relaxing day! As much as we had fun in Rome last Christmas.  We did find that there were several chunks of time that we were … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

This gallery contains 11 photos.

At Christmas, dessert is always a cookie tray that my Mom puts together.  (Oh yeah, we still had cake, and there were brownies; but the main focus of dessert were the cookies.)  The selection varies each year with a mix … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Story of Finn McCool

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Giant’s Causeway in Bushmills, Northern Ireland is one of the world’s natural wonders.  It was formed around 60 million years ago, when volcanic lava protruded through the earth’s chalk beds creating liquid basalt ‘ponds.’  As the lava cooled the new … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nifty Northern Ireland

This gallery contains 12 photos.

In the past year and a half, I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to traveling.  Not just the ability to do it; but also the ease.  Well, all that karma came back to me this past weekend.  The plan was … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Balanced Budapest

This gallery contains 9 photos.

We booked a last minute trip to Budapest for a long weekend.  Since the package included both airfare & hotel, the process was pretty quick and just left use to check out some travel books from the library.  And of … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bonfire Night

This gallery contains 2 photos.

  Photo Credit: Marianne While many communities hold their celebrations on the weekend before or after (for logistical purposes); the 5th of November (today) is Bonfire Night in the UK.  Remember, remember the 5th of November… [By the way that … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bonfire Bites

This gallery contains 21 photos.

The 5th of November is Bonfire Night.  Where communities across the UK light old furniture on fire because they’re too lazy to take it to the tip (or dump), and set off fireworks.  Well, that’s an over-simplification and an explanation … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Camping in Cornwall

This gallery contains 6 photos.

The blog’s been pretty quiet the last two months, huh.  Well, don’t fret it isn’t that I haven’t been out there traveling at my usual rate (though my travels have been within the UK). But, up until last week I was in … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

S’more Brownie

This gallery contains 14 photos.

Oooops! I went the entire month of August with out a blog post.  Well, I guess that is an indication of how busy August was for us.  So, while the astronomical summer has not yet ended.  Too many of us, … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheez-It Crusted Chicken

This gallery contains 12 photos.

This recipe (like my Fails!: Ranch Potato Crisps) is also based on the Let’s Dish meal we used to get when we lived back in Virginia; except this one turned out successfully when I made it without their instructions.  While, … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment