THE OPEN BOOK

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!

21
Dec

2016 Word of the Year

Discussion posts are over. My last paper is turned in. Do you know what that means?!

Time to kick back, relax, and enjoy my winter break! A whole month of freedom. And I know just what to do with it.

So, it turns out, I won’t have the sequel to Seven Stones done by the end of the year. Nope. Not even close. Graduate classes took over my life in a BIG way this semester. I would get home from work and then…work some more. Between the projects, papers, readings, and discussion posts, my brain got a little fried. When I would get some free time, I just didn’t have the energy or drive left in me to put pen to paper the last few months. And through it all, there was Shane, making lunches for me, taking care of laundry, grocery shopping, and a million other little things so I had time to work on my homework. So, the little free time I had went to my hobbit man.

But now, I’ve got a month. A month free of any other writing except what I do on this blog and for my next novel.

Getting started TODAY!

Watch out, world! I make no promises that I’ll finish in that time, but I’m going to get as much written as I possibly can. Starting today! Let’s see how many words this girl can tackle onto a page.

And, hey, speaking of words. I like words. They’re kind of my thing. So when I saw my friend Sheila DeChantal’s Book Journey blog post earlier this week, it really struck a chord. Sheila talked about how every year, she picks a new word to symbolize what she wants out of the next 365 days. These words include embrace, emerge, and her newest one, courage. Now, as someone who really doesn’t like New Year’s Resolutions–my resolutions the past few years (and I’m not joking) have been to eat more cheese, eat more nuts, and to play more–this seemed like a fantastic and fun idea.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my 2016 word of the year is going to be. After much reflection, I’ve got the perfect one.

Gratitude.

Gratitude is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” There have been SO many things about 2015 that I’m thankful for: my book release, getting my dream job as a children’s librarian, going on a book tour. But I’m not just talking about being grateful for the big, crazy awesome, show-stopping events in my life. I want to focus on being grateful every damn day for all the wonderful people and moments I am privileged to have in my life. I want to wake up every morning, grateful for the opportunity of a new day. Even in the midst of school papers, the craziness of my first Summer Reading Program, or whatever else life throws at me. Being grateful will not always be easy–there might be moments, days, or even weeks where I will struggle to find it in me to feel gratitude. But I’m going to try. Because I don’t want to take anything in my life for granted. It is far too precious not to be grateful for. 🙂

Thanks for sharing such a great idea, Sheila! That’s my word for 2016! What’s yours?

14
Dec

Homemade Breakfast Cereal

My life for the past few weeks

Almost there. One class is completely done. Discussions are wrapped up. It is finals week, people! I have one last HUGE project to finish and I am FREE (for a whole month).

The struggle is real. The struggle I’m referring to, of course, is not allowing myself to become distracted by the internet. Like, for example, writing a blog post when you’re supposed to be working on your 20 page paper. Just a random example. But while I’m here, let’s talk about some cool stuff that’s been going on!

In between projects, papers, and finals, I’ve managed to have a lot of fun! Seven Stones was nominated for the Minnesota Book Award for Young People’s Literature–a dream come true!!! We’ll find out on January 30th if I make it to become a finalist! Keep your fingers crossed EXTRA tight!

Another great honor was being asked to be a member of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Advisory Board. HOW COOL IS THAT?! The group is currently reviewing multicultural books to promote, and Seven Stones is one of them! I can’t wait to share the review. Stay tuned!!

We’ve also decorated for the holidays (nothing gets Shane happier than decorating a tree or setting up his Christmas village. Yes. It is HIS village and he is VERY proud of it), cheered on our Packers, and I’ve had so many cool things going on at the library it is hard to pick a favorite! This Wednesday is my big, 3-hour Star Wars: The Force Awakens party for 50+ kids, so wish me luck! I’ll definitely post pictures!

Before I scurry off to do more homework, I want to share a quick recipe: Homemade Breakfast Cereal. I love breakfast. I’ve never been the biggest fan of boxed cereals, however, because I never feel like they fill me up. Often, they are way too sugary and not very nutritious. During finals week, it is more important than ever that I get a good breakfast that will keep my brain fueled throughout the whole day. Enter, buckwheat.

Such a superfood, it should have a cape

Technically, it isn’t a cereal. Cereals are grains like oats, wheat, and barley. The main ingredient in this homemade breakfast cereal is buckwheat, which is a crazy nutritious seed that acts like a grain. It is packed full of protein and as a bonus is gluten-free! The best part of this buckwheat cereal is the taste: real maple, cinnamon, and vanilla combine to create a breakfast that is out of this world. Plus, while it is baking your entire apartment smells like Christmas! That’s what I call a win-win.

Make sure to plan ahead with this recipe, because it takes about 4 hours between the soaking and baking. I made a double-batch yesterday to last the whole week. I started baking in the morning, worked on my paper, went for a hike in the woods with Shane, and when we got back the cereal was done! Super easy, super delicious!

I got the recipe from one of my favorite food channels on YouTube called “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” The recipe below is simply a double of the original. To watch the how-to video (and for more tasty inspiration), click here!

Julia’s Favorite Cereal of POWER!

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Delicious toasted cereal imbued with holiday spirit!

4 cups buckwheat groats, soaked in water for 1 hour
1 c maple syrup
4 t cinnamon
2 t salt
1/4 t stevia

1. Soak buckwheat groats for at least one hour, then rinse (soaking will get rid of starchiness and soften those groats up a bit)
2. Combine all remaining ingredients in a medium-sized bowl an mix like you mean it!
3. Spread on two baking sheets and let bake in oven at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours, rotating the pans and mixing groats around half-way through. At 2 hours, check your groats. They dry? Yes, take out of oven and let cool. No? Stick them back in until dry.
4. Crumble apart any large chunks of cereal. Pour into bowl. Pour any type of milk over the top. DEVOUR!

Happy Finals Week!

23
Nov

Thankful Chocolate-Cranberry-Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies!

Everyone else be like:

Snow…

Me:

Snow!!!

I’m one of those obnoxious people who LOVES snow. Every year, November rolls around and I’m crossing my fingers for a white Thanksgiving. Last Friday, when the flurries started to fly, I was literally jumping up and down at work. Yes, I’m that person.

The first snow ushers in some of the best parts of the year: holidays with loved ones, sipping hot cocoa next to a crackling fire, fuzzy slippers, sledding, skating.

Finals.

I’m there anyway, right?

Yes, finals time is here again. Everyone rejoice. I’m elbow deep into TWO huge projects at the moment (and have two more just around the corner! Finals projects are truly gifts that keep on giving), but have managed to thoroughly enjoy myself this past week.

Isn’t it gorgeous?!

For one thing, I had my speaking engagement at the Red Lake Nation College on Monday! To say I was honored to present at the college during Native American Heritage Month is a drastic understatement. Being invited by the Red Lake Nation represented a humungous achievement for me as an author, and really made me thankful for all the amazing opportunities and people Seven Stones has brought to my life. I had a fantastic time talking about my novel with the Red Lake faculty and students, and hope to visit the Red Lake Nation College again! Miigwetch!

We had about 50 kids team up and create awesome duct tape outfits on Wednesday!

After a five hour drive back down to Mankato, I was off and running again on Wednesday with my Duct Tape Fashion Show. I’ve been working super hard on making the library’s Early Out events successful, and this one might just be my favorite yet! The kids’ creativity and imagination was AMAZING to see, and everyone had a fantastic time watching the teams strut their stuff on the runway.

Needless to say, after all the excitement of the week, I was ready for a break. This weekend was nothing short of perfect. Shane and I made ridiculous amounts of good food, and he did mountains of dishes as I worked hard at hashing out a final term paper. In between eating and homework, we managed to go on an hour-and-a-half hike around the Rasmussen Woods on Saturday, and a two-hour bike ride along the Red Jacket Trail on Sunday. Though the temperatures hovered around 19 degrees, it was sooooo great to get outside and MOVE! We got back from our bike ride–chilled, but happy–and treated ourselves to hot chocolate, a bubble bath, and these cookies.

Look at all that deliciousness! Aren’t you thankful for this recipe?! 😉

I’m dubbing these my “thankful” cookies, because I’m seriously thankful I get to shove them in my mouth by the handful. Based off my favorite cookie from my old Co-Op in Bemidji, these bad boys have a lot of good things in them, like oatmeal, craisins, chocolate chips, and coconut shreds. They’re like oatmeal raisin cookies on steroids. And that’s exactly what I need to get me through a week of final papers and holiday traveling.

Soft, chewy, satisfying, with just a hint of sweet and a ton of oompf, I hope these make you thankful, too!

Julia’s Oatmeal Cookies on Thanksgiving Steroids (aka, Thankful Cookies)

cookie

adapted from Love & Flour’s Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal Cookie recipe

Ingredients

1 cup white whole wheat flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1½ cups old-fashioned oats

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup sweetened coconut

½ cup dark chocolate chips

½ cup walnut pieces

½ cup Earth Balance

¾ cup Sucanat

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon and salt.
  2. Stir in the oats, cranberries, chocolate, walnuts and coconut.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix ’em all up!
  5. Roll the dough into balls (dough will be wet and sticky) and place them on a cookie sheet, flattening the balls into fat little (or, in our case, HUGE) cookies!
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. These cookies will be slightly golden brown on the edges, but still soft in the middle. PERFECT!
  7. If you have self-control, allow the cookies to cool on a rack. If not, go ahead and eat one, but you will burn your mouth. I know from experience.

 

Suggested Pairing

A table full of your favorite people and big ol’ mug of hot chocolate!

Happy Thanksgiving!

09
Nov

Crustless Pumpkin Custard Pie!

Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie

The original pie recipe from the Fat Free Kitchen

Of all my many pumpkin loves, pie is number one. I’ve always adored pumpkin pie, but I can’t admit ever really liking the crust. Last year, I came across this recipe and my life changed forever. This pie is a creamy custard whose edges brown into sweet deliciousness–no crust required!

I adapted it slightly from the original recipe, and present it now to you: my crowning pumpkin achievement! Creamy, satisfying, and wonderfully spiced. As a bonus, my pumpkin pie is healthy enough to eat for breakfast! It is the perfect way to enjoy the flavors of Thanksgiving while still eating clean and healthy.

Julia’s Crustless Pumpkin Custard Pie

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups milk

2 eggs

1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups pureed pumpkin

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup Sucanat

1/4 tsp ginger powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch deep dish pie pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together and whisk well.
  3. Pour into the pie pan and bake for about 60 minutes. The top and edges should be brown, and crispy, but the edges should not be over-done. To check if it is done, wiggle the pie pan back and forth. If there is any liquid in the center, put the pie back in for a few extra minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting. DEVOUR! 🙂

Suggested Pairing

Top with homemade coconut whipped cream for a delicious end to any meal!

I had such a fantastic time at the Waterville Public Library this past Wednesday, and am looking forward to visiting the Red Lake Tribal College next Monday! I am SO honored to be invited to speak about my book at the college, and can’t wait to tell all about it!

Have a wonderful week! Happy Monday!

 

02
Nov

Fill Your Cup

Look at that terrifying wanted witch!

This past week was wild, wonderful, and completely exhausting. Thank you to everyone who sent good thoughts my way on Wednesday–the Harry Potter party was a HIT! We had 53 kids attend Hogwarts for 3 solid hours at the library, and everyone had an amazing time. Even my volunteers! 🙂

Hogwarts Houses!

When the kids arrived, I had volunteers hand out Hogwarts acceptance letters to each one. Another volunteer stood in an empty picture frame and asked for the password. The kids used clues in their acceptance letter (and the Dewey Decimal System!) to find the password and enter the Great Hall where they were sorted into Houses.

Sorting Hat Ceremony!

From there, Prefects guided each House from class to class: Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, and Quill Writing. Kids got to make projects or play games at each station. After classes, we had a feast in the Great Hall (chocolate covered wands, granola bars, and “rock cakes”) then finished the day with muggle Quidditch outside.

Potions Class!

I couldn’t have pulled off this feat without the help of all my AMAZING volunteers–especially Shane, aka, Professor Lupin. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was a bit rundown and felt a bug coming on. So, instead of going to Brainerd for a writer’s conference, I stayed home and rested. I was really sorry to miss the conference, but I just couldn’t make the 3 hour drive up there and back.

As I was checking through some of my favorite food blogs on Sunday to see what I had missed during the week, I came across this post on Back to Her Roots that made me stop in my metaphorical tracks.

Empty Coffee Cup

backtoherroots.com

In order to “pour” love, passion, and energy into your life, your cup has to be filled on a daily basis. Like Cassie (the author of Back to Her Roots), my cup feels a little dry. There are so many things I am grateful for in my life: an amazing husband, family, friends, career, home. But between moving, graduate school, and daily demands of life, my cup needs a little filling. So, here is what I’m planning to do to “fill up my cup” in the next few weeks:

Walk/Bike More

I love being outside anytime of the year, but fall is my favorite. On Saturday night, Shane and I walked around our neighborhood and took in all the Halloween trick-or-treaters and decorations. On Sunday, we woke up early and rode to the Mineopa Falls. It felt soooo good to be out in the crisp air. We are lucky enough to live in such a beautiful part of Minnesota, and have been taking advantage of the gorgeous parks around Mankato. Getting out and enjoying nature fills up my cup more than any other activity, so I’m hoping we can continue our adventures as long as the temperature stays above freezing (and in Minnesota, that might not be very long).

Yoga

I was so tired this past week that there were a few days where I just skipped doing yoga. The next day, I felt sluggish and yucky. Even if it is only for 15 or 20 minutes a day, I know that my practice will fill up my cup.

Go to Bed Earlier

As grad homework deadlines loom, my bedtime sneaks back a little later. This past week, I felt like I was waking up more tired than when I went to sleep. My goal is to be in bed by 10:30 to get enough rest to stay healthy and energized.

Write

I’m embarrassed to admit how little I’ve been writing these past few weeks. I don’t think I’ve gotten any serious amounts of writing done since the end of September. This lack of creativity drains my cup and makes me feel restless. BUT November is National Novel Writing Month, and to celebrate that I am setting a goal for myself: write every day. I don’t care if I finish the sequel now or in January. But if I write every single day, chances are I’ll see the finish line very soon.

Create Cup-Filling Moments Every Day

It could be talking to my sister on the phone, reading a book for 10 minutes, or drinking a cup of hot chocolate. Even when I’m super busy, taking that little time to enjoy the day and fill up my cup will help me appreciate all the great things that are going on in my life.

Finding a balance is always tricky, but I am excited to be taking the first steps to feeling happier, healthier, and hopefully less crazy. There will always be crazy moments and stressful times in my life, but deliberately making an effort to fill my cup will give me the energy I need to tackle it all.

What fills up your cup?

Happy Monday!

26
Oct

Halloween Pumpkin Chili

Halloween is THIS SATURDAY! For those of you who don’t know, Halloween is my FAVORITE of holidays. What is there not to love? Dressing up, delicious foods, bonfires, crunchy leaves, candy, caramel apples, pumpkins, hot apple cider, and a bit of magic–Halloween has it all.

This year, the holiday is going to be even more special because I am hosting a Harry Potter Party this Wednesday at my library. Three hours, fifty kids, Hogwarts classes, and Muggle Quidditch. Talk about magical! I have tried to plan everything so the kids literally feel like they are living the book (and, secretly, so I can feel like I’m living the book, too 🙂 ) Wish me luck, everyone!

When I haven’t been thinking about Harry Potter, I’ve been celebrating! Shane’s 28th birthday was this past week, and we had an amazing day hiking through Seven Mile Creek State Park and enjoying games and good food with people we love. Here’s to another year of love, adventures, laughter, and magic!

Happy Birthday, Hobbit Man!

The other highlight of the week was going to the Spring Grove Public Library for an author talk. I had a FABULOUS time. The library itself is cozy, welcoming, and warm–but that was nothing compared to the people. I have been fortunate to meet some truly wonderful people while on the road with Seven Stones, and this trip was extra special because I was able to connect to a cousin I’ve never met before!

Shane, me, and Sue!

It was such a pleasure to meet my cousin Sue, spend time with her, and make a family connection that will last the rest of my life. Thank you to everyone who came out to meet me, support my writing, and tell me they were fans of my book! Did you hear that? I HAVE FANS! *Happy Dance!* I can’t wait to go back to Spring Grove for another event!

Reading an excerpt from SEVEN STONES

Reading an excerpt from SEVEN STONES

After such an exciting week, I was ready for a lazy Sunday afternoon cuddled on the couch with a bowl of chili with Shane and a romantic movie. Instead, we helped some friends move into their new house. But I DID get my chili! And this isn’t your ordinary bowl of chili. Oh, no. It is the best chili around: PUMPKIN CHILI!

I think I may have mentioned before that pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors. This fall, I’ve been processing pie pumpkins at a rate of about one a week. I scoop out the seeds to toast, then roast and puree the sweet pumpkin “meat” to bake into breads, muffins, and even put into main dishes like my pumpkin chili.

I love simple, delicious food. This pumpkin chili recipe delivers amazing taste, nutrition, and is comforting and warming—perfect for those chilly fall nights. To top it all off, this recipe couldn’t be simpler: just dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker and walk away! Most of the work you have to do is chopping: how easy is that? You can throw everything together on Monday and have homemade chili for the rest of the week. As a bonus, the orange of the pumpkin and black beans make a festive Halloween dinner!

Julia’s Scary Good Pumpkin Chili

Serve up a scary good Halloween feast!

Serve up a scary good Halloween feast!

Ingredients

1 can (15.9 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups diced tomatoes

2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15 oz. can)

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup lentils

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Onion, minced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp Sucanat or other granulated sweetener

Dash nutmeg

Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker. Turn on “low” and cook for 6-8 hours (if in a hurry, crank on “high” and let cook for 3-5 hours).

That’s it! Top with grated cheese (non-dairy or dairy) or any other chili toppings you like. DEVOUR!

Happy Monday!

19
Oct

Upcoming Author Events!

Mankato bison!

Mankato bison!

What a wonderful weekend! We had friends visiting as a kind of pre-birthday celebration for Shane and had SUCH an amazing time. Aside from all the food (my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe will be posted soon!), the best part was the bison reserve at the Mineopa State Park. You might remember when I posted about Shane and my picnic at Mineopa Falls. As if this park had to get any cooler, it now has a herd of about ten bison!

I hear Mankato bison love Seven Stones...

I hear Mankato bison love Seven Stones…

We found out that bison used to be found in just about every one of the lower 48 states. Because of westward expansion and the mass killings in the 1800s to make way for the railroad, these truly amazing creatures were almost wiped out. This past year, the Mineopa State Park reintroduced a herd of bison to the Mankato area. How cool is that?! They opened up the reserve for public view this month, so of course we had to go!

So close!

So close!

Seriously, this was an incredible experience. Seeing the bison up close was breathtaking! I am so grateful for the conservation efforts that brought us such a fantastic opportunity.

And of course, we stopped at the falls!

And of course, we stopped at the falls!

Speaking of fantastic opportunities, I’m going back on tour this month! If you missed out on my summer book tour, now is your chance to hear me talk about my book and go home with a signed copy of Seven Stones! Here is a list of events I have going on so far. My publicist is hard at work booking more dates, so stay tuned (and feel free to contact her if you’d like me to come to your book club/library/bookstore!)

Saturday, October 24th: 1:00-2:00pm

Saturday, October 31st: 9-3:30pm

Wednesday, November 4th: 5:30-6:30pm

Monday, November 16th: 12:00-1:00pm

 

Happy Monday!