THE OPEN BOOK

25
Jan

Vegan Haggis

The man himself: Rabbie Burns

On the 25th of January, Scottish people around the world gather to celebrate Burns Night. This is one of my favorite Scottish holidays because it is so quirky and fun. The night celebrates the birth of the great poet and musician, Robert Burns (or “Rabbie” Burns as he is known across the pond). Burns is known as the Scottish Shakespeare, and if you’ve ever sang “Auld Lang Syne,” you know at least one of his poems.

I love Robert Burns. In addition to being a fantastic poet, he was a fascinating human being: rebel teenager, serious drinker, and all-around ladies man (he had 12 kids from 4 women). Most of all, he wrote his poems in Scots (a Scottish dialect of English that has its own unique vocabulary) at a time when anything Scottish was considered barbaric and lowly. He elevated Scottish culture and language into a proud form of art, and to that we raise our haggis.

Which brings me to vegan haggis. You might be thinking, VEGAN haggis? Why?! Well, let me explain by telling you exactly what the traditional version of the Scottish national food includes: a sheep and/or cow’s heart, liver, kidney, and “lights” (aka, intestines) boiled with oatmeal in a sheep’s stomach, lung, or bladder. Yum, yum. You can’t say the Scots weren’t economical.

The problem is, Rabbie Burns LOVED haggis. He even wrote a poem about it, calling haggis the “Great Chieftain o’ the Pudding Race.” On Burns Night, it is tradition to recite that poem as the host presents the main dish with all sorts of pomp and circumstance.

Now, I have to assume that even the meat lovers out there don’t want to get that intimate with all those organ meats. If you want to celebrate Burns Night without someone else’s stomach in your stomach, try this vegan haggis recipe!

Easy to put together, full of hearty vegetables and protein from the lentils, and best of all, no intestines! What more could you ask for?

Burns Night Vegan Haggis

Recipe adapted from Emma’s Little Kitchen

½ cup green lentils

½ cup pearl barley

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 cup rolled oats

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 cups vegetable stock

2 tsp molasses

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Grease a round baking dish or bread pan (like you’re making meatloaf), and set aside.
  3. Put lentils and barley into a large pot, with enough water to generously cover everything by a few inches. Pop on the lid, and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils and barley are tender. Drain any excess water if necessary, and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium heat, Add the onion and carrot, and cook for about 5 minutes until beginning to brown. Stir in the mushrooms, and spices and cook for about 3 more minutes until the mushrooms start releasing their liquid. Next, add the oats, Worcestershire, stock, and molasses. Bring the pan to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about ten minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the mixture is thickened. Season generously with black pepper and salt, and stir in the cooked lentils and barley.
  5. Tip the mixture and pat down into the greased baking dish or bread pan, and cover the top with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more until the haggis is cooked through and firm. Carefully tip out onto a plate and cut into wedges.

Suggested Pairing

Neeps and Tatties (turnips and potatoes), and a cold pint! Also, make sure to stop by your local library before your Burns Night dinner to checkout a book of his poems to read aloud with your guests!

Happy Burns Night!

21
Jan

Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review!

Do you know what today is? Do you?!

It’s my one-year blogging anniversary (blogiversary?)!!! Happy Birthday, Open Book! Last January, I was living in Bemidji and just shot an In Focus about my upcoming novel, Seven Stones, with my friend and Lakeland News reporter Catherine Silver. It was so much fun to shoot, and I couldn’t believe how amazing it turned out!

Today, I received another great gift: a FABULOUS review from One Girl, Two Cities for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

“…could not put this book down. I felt like I went back to high school, trying to maneuver my way through body issues, boys, school work, and figuring out how to fit into two different cultures.”

“Lee’s writing will hold your attention and keep you wondering what will happen next.”

To see the whole review, click here!

Thanks to everyone who reads my ramblings, comments, occasionally giggles at my jokes, and especially to those who have read Seven Stones! I love you all! What a crazy awesome year it has been!

Happy Thursday!

 

17
Jan

Comfort Food & Cozy Nights: Baked Macaroni and Cheese

As I write this, the temperature outside is dipping 40 degrees below zero. Yup, you read that right: it is -40 with the wind chill. If I tried to go anywhere, my Tauntaun would freeze before I got to the first marker.

Luckily, I do NOT have to go outside. In fact, I am in the middle of enjoying a 3-day weekend in which I plan to write a significant deal. Keyword being PLAN. Sadly, I’ve planned on writing since the last semester ended. Then holiday travel happened, along with a funeral, New Years’, a 3-hour Minecraft party, among other big projects. For one reason or another, life has found excuses for me not to have my butt in my favorite chair and doing what I love to do best: writing.

I’m hoping that this long weekend changes all that, because I have a lot of work to do. One good thing about taking a break from a manuscript is the ability to come back to it with fresh eyes. The bad thing about that is I always find something to change. In this case, I’m going to undertake a major rewrite. Come to think of it, knowing that I have a humungous rewrite is probably one of the reasons why I haven’t started yet. It is intimidating. The sequel is so much more difficult for me to write than the original story was. Plus, I was only working part-time at Caribou back in 2011 (and not in graduate school), so I could devote hours a day to writing.

Enough excuses though, I’m going to get words to the page! Before I go and do that, I want to share one of my favorite winter staples: Baked Mac and Cheese. For those of you who do not know me well, you may not know that I have an cheese obsession rivaled only by chocolate. I’m from Wisconsin, a cheesehead through and through. So, when I tell you this is the BEST Mac and Cheese you’ll ever eat, I know what I’m talking about. Put that box down and back away from that packet of processed dehydrated cheese powder! This is the real deal.

The ingredients are super simple: macaroni, milk, cheese, and mix-ins of your choice. That’s it. If you can boil noodles, you can make this delectable dinner. Meat eater? Add chicken. Want some veggie power? I love diced tomatoes or fresh broccoli in mine. Vegan? Go ahead and break the rules. Eat the cheese. I won’t tell.

One final note: if you are scrolling through the recipe and are distressed to find there are no breadcrumbs, fear not! Feel free to sprinkle some on the top if that’s your thing. I don’t like the crunchy bits on my melty goodness, so I leave them off.

This recipe is the epitome of adjustable. The measurements I’m listing are only the loosest of guidelines, as I’ve made mac and cheese so many times that I just eyeball everything. Personalize it however you want and enjoy an ooey-gooey, homemade bowl of comfort. You’ll never reach for that boxed stuff ever again.

Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese = Happiness

Mac and Cheese = Happiness

1 lb elbow macaroni or rotini (I love to use veggie pasta, but you use whatever floats your macaroni boat)

1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated (I grate my own cheese. It is much tastier than that pre-shredded stuff)

1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated

A few handfuls of a third cheese to sprinkle on top (this is totally optional. I like to use a sweet maple cheddar or apple jack. Just think about it.)

2 cups broccoli florets, diced (optional)

1 Tbsp garlic salt

A few splashes of milk (probably 1/4 cup)

Pizza Seasoning, to taste (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prepare the noodles according to the package.

2. While the macaroni is doing its thing, mix the grated cheeses together with the garlic salt and pizza seasonings. You probably should shove a handful of this mixture in your mouth. You know, just to make sure it tastes good and all that.

3. Once the noodles are drained, slosh them into a large bowl. Mix the cheese with the noodles (saving a bit to sprinkle on later). Getting all melty? Good. Add the milk slowly, until the cheese turns into a velvety smooth glop (thicker than a sauce, but still smooth and delicious. That’s what a glop is).

4. Add the broccoli florets (or whatever other mix-ins you are adding). Mix well and transfer to a large glass baking dish.

5. Smooth the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle some extra cheese, garlic salt, and herbs on top. Pop in the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until everything is all bubbly and you just can’t wait to eat it anymore.

6. DEVOUR!

Suggested Pairing

Your favorite fuzzy socks and a good book. Right now, I’m reading Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library--a whimsical, clever book in the vein of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s giving me all kinds of ideas for future library programs… 🙂

Combines libraries and games - my two favorite things!

Combines libraries and games – my two favorite things!

Happy Sunday!

04
Jan

2015: A Year in the Life of a Writer

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

MLA 2015

With my Laurel at MLA 2015!

We are safe and sound, back from all our holiday travels. Christmas for us meant a few days to enjoy with friends, family, and too much food. It was made bittersweet this year with the passing of Shane’s grandfather, who lost his fight with pancreatic cancer a few days before Christmas. So, right after getting back from festivities, we drove to northern Wisconsin for his memorial service. More time with family, for hugs, and tears, and still lots of laughter through it all. Then, we had three days–three blissful days–off after the new year to celebrate at home together. We celebrated the new year in the nerdiest way possible: at home, with delicious homemade food, while watching Lord of the Rings and playing the card game simultaneously. Yes, we’re that cool. And I absolutely LOVED it.

Out for an autumn stroll in Mankato

Out for an autumn stroll in Mankato

And now 2016. I spent some time this weekend looking back over 2015 as I documented it here on this blog. And I must say: WHAT A YEAR!!! Last January, sitting in my tiny duplex in Bemidji, I could not have imagined the journey that has taken me to this moment in Mankato.

Remember my garden?! I miss it SO much!

Remember my garden?! I miss it SO much!

Here are some of my favorite events from 2015:

My first blog post EVER!

I’m on TV!

The book release party!

My Golden Birthday!

Going on a book tour!

Moving to Mankato!

Being a Children’s Librarian!

The Highland Games!

Nominated for the Minnesota Book Award!

That’s a lot of exclamation points. But, as you can tell, a lot of exciting things happened in 2015. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us!

Outdoor movie/game night was one of my favorite 2015 memories!

Outdoor movie/game night was one of my favorite 2015 memories!

As I mentioned in my last post, my word of the year for 2016 is GRATITUDE. If I could have chosen a word for 2015, it would have been DREAM. So many dreams came true last year, and I can’t thank everyone enough for your love, support, and constant encouragement.

I love this guy--and this book! ;)

I love this guy–and this book! 😉

And I’ve got plenty more dreams for my writing, my career as a children’s librarian, school, and ready for more adventures with the love of my life.

I’m looking at you, 2016!

Happy Monday!