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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Simple Pleasure of a Good Book

I love to read. My relatives will proudly tell you that I learned to read at age 3, with the help of my grandma as well as my great-grandma, who was a teacher. After picking up the basics of reading, I couldn't be stopped. I would read just about anything. Out of curiosity and boredom, I read through encyclopedias, cover-to-cover. So much of my childhood was spent with my nose in a book, it's a miracle that I made it to adulthood without walking right off the edge of a cliff!

These days, I still enjoy a good book. In fact, I just started a new book last night. Deception Point by Dan Brown. Dan Brown is one of my favorite authors. This particular novel, published in 2001, is a sort of political conspiracy thriller with some elements of science-fiction. I can't wait to find out what happens!

An engaging, suspenseful plot is key to a good novel. I remember watching my grandfather read novels as a kid. He would come home from the library with a bag full of Westerns and stories of political intrigue. Sometimes, he would sit at the table with a new book, read about 30 pages, then put it back in the bag and pull out another book. He told me that he just couldn't "get into the plot," so he would cut his losses and move on. Later, I learned about this issue. Life is too short to read boring books. Luckily, I have not come across too many books that I couldn't finish.

A related issue is writing style. While this issue seems to mostly pop up in cheap romance novels, occasionally, one finds the words on a page to be lacking in good-quality prose. I have read some books where the wording was just too awkward to understand. One must wonder whom is sitting at the publisher's office, sending these unfortunate samples of English to print...

I typically do not purchase new books, except as gifts. I prefer to find my books at the library (whose efforts I support through my consistently earned late fees) or at a secondhand store. Used bookstores are especially good, since their staff are typically knowledgeable and can help with a recommendation. I have also come across books I really enjoyed by reading reviews in the magazines I subscribe to. Sometimes, I borrow books from friends. I once saw a quote by Abraham Lincoln, which goes something like "my best friend is someone who will give me a book I have not read." Isn't that the truth? I get book recommendations from my sisters, my mom, and my friends. Sometimes, I daydream about starting a book club with my friends. I wonder how that would turn out. We could read books and munch on snacks and drink wine. Any takers?

Tell me, readers. What makes a book great? Where do you find books? Let's talk literature!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to make your leftover rice and french fries edible again!

At my home, rice is an important dietary staple. It is very inexpensive and filling, and it goes with pretty much everything. However, I tend to make large batches of my rice dishes, then save the leftovers. Additionally, being a resident of the high desert, my rice sometimes comes out, shall we say, "crispy." So, one can imagine the disgusting crispitude of my rice after it has been sitting in the fridge for a day or two (or five).
Luckily for me, I have devised a simple but effective method of improving my leftover rice. All I do is put my leftovers in a pot with some leftovers. You may want to start with around 1/3 of a cup and go up from there to find the right amount for your rice and climate needs. Put the pot on the oven to simmer with the lid on for a few minutes, until the water is absorbed and your rice is puffy and soft again. This is a great opportunity to add other things to your rice, such as leftover meat, stew, or frozen vegetables. Just make sure to add more water if that stuff is a bit dry as well.
While we are on the topic of leftovers, let's talk about french fries. I always get way too many fries at a restaurant, and while I don't want them to go to waste, I think we can all admit that microwaved, leftover french fries are just about the most horrible, soggy things imaginable. The other day, I went out to eat and had some delicious fries with my Fish & Chips. I had a ton of fries left and wanted to save them, so I took to the Internet in search of a solution to this age-old problem. One idea I saw mentioned several times was to sort of flash-fry them in oil on the stove. Here is what I did, and it turned out really well. Much better than microwave fries.
I began heating up some cooking oil in a pan on the stove. Just use a pan big enough for your fries, since you will be tossing them around a bit and you don't want the fries flying around all over the place. Since my fries were pretty plain to start with, I added a little rosemary and minced garlic to the oil as it was heating up. Once the grease began to sizzle, I added my french fries, stirring them around to get a good coating over them. At that point, I lowered my heat. The point is to warm the fries up, not burn them. Then, I just stirred often until the fries were nice and hot. Then I let them cool on top of some napkins to drain the excess oil. They were fantastic. Definitely worth the time and extra work.
That is all I have for you folks today. Let me know your tips for leftover rice and fries!