A Foodie Success

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About a month ago I was over at Margaret‘s and she made Moroccan Kefta Tagine.  While she and her husband were living in Portugal last year they took at trip to Morocco and learned to make it.  It easily serves four, and there were four of us that night.  Margaret made it in a tagine, but I do not have one.  So, my regular pot had to do.  She has experimented with various types of meat for the meatballs and decided that lamb was the best.  Because of a fairly recent trip to the U of M Meat Lab, I happened to have a pound of lamb in my freezer.  So all I needed to get was some parsley, cilantro, onion and paprika at the grocery store.  I already had the rest of the ingredients.  It was actually pretty easy to make.  It does take a little while because you need to let the tomato sauce thicken.

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The eggs on the top are optional.  Margaret has chickens, so we had eggs from the girls when I was there.  My eggs were the regular ones from the grocery store, so I let them cook a little longer.  You typically serve this with crusty bread and scoop up the sauce and meatballs with your bread.

I was quite pleased with myself for trying this and having it turn out so well.  I may not cook very often, but when I do, it often works out quite nicely.

Moroccan Kefta Tagine

—– For the Kefta Meatballs —–

  • 1 lb. ground beef or lamb (or a combination of the two)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped very fine
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika (or 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

—– For the Tomato Sauce —–

  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion,  finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • ¼ – ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika or 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ———————————
  • 3 or 4 eggs (optional)

Tomato Sauce:

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in the base of a tagine or in a large, deep skillet. Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (Note: If using a tagine, place a diffuser between the tagine and burner, and allow 10 to 15 minutes for the tomato sauce to reach a simmer.)

Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low, just enough heat to maintain the simmer but low enough to avoid scorching. Allow the tomatoes to cook for at least 15 to 20 minutes before adding the meatballs.

Kefta Meatballs:

Combine all of the kefta ingredients, using your hands to knead in the spices and herbs. Shape the kefta mixture into very small meatballs the size of large cherries – about 1 inch in diameter.

Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce, along with a little water – 1/4 cup is usually sufficient – and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until the sauce is thick.

Break the eggs over the top of the meatballs, and cover. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, until the egg whites are solid and the yolks are partially set. Serve immediately.

This meal is traditionally served from the same dish in which it was prepared, with each person using pieces of crusty bread for scooping up the meatballs from his own side of the dish.


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Rumor Has It

Last night was the Prom.  It usually is a dance that is easy to chaperone.  Only juniors and seniors can attend, so they are a little more mature than a regular dance crowd.  The dance went well and many kids stayed until the end.  So all in all, I think it was a success.

Friday was an early release day so we had shorter class periods.  Since I have a lot of juniors and seniors in Pre Calc we did an activity (problem and discussion) involving blood alcohol levels.  There’s an exponential equation for the risk of getting in a car accident related to your blood alcohol percentage.  It’s an appropriate topic for prom night, I think.  They can easily see how the amount consumed raises your risk exponentially and how these little tiny Hmong girls can barely tolerate a drop compared to the discus thrower and hockey player.  There’s also a chart that tells them what types of behaviors to expect at certain percentages.  For example, alcohol poisoning (and possible death) occurs between .4% and .5%.  It also stresses that the legal limit for someone under 21 is zero, not .8%.  I like this lesson because it is so applicable.

The question that came up throughout the day was whether or not they had a breathalyzer at the prom.  Why yes, they do.  During my first hour someone even asked if they have something like that, that detected if they’d been smoking weed.  I sincerely doubted that, but who am I to quash a good rumor?  “Hmm, I don’t know.” was my response to that question.

Later that night, while at the prom I was talking with one of our assistant principals.  He said that somehow a rumor got started that they would have some sort of weed-a-lyzer at the prom.  It was all over the school by 8:30 am.  We had a good laugh about how this little rumor helped out our cause.  I think I might know how it got started.  I’ll have to confirm that when I get to school next week.  But that well placed rumor certainly was a deterrent for some unwanted behavior!

The Joy of the Job

I am having one of the best semesters of my teaching career.  Why?  I love my students!  They make it fun to go to work.  We laugh, we joke around, and we learn while doing it.  They know I want them to succeed.  They can see that I care and I enjoy our class time.  It makes all the difference in the world.  When you can connect with a group of students like that, amazing things can happen.

We just finished the week where they took the high stakes test for graduation.  We spent a lot of time on strategies and doing sample problems for the test.  I made sure they all had graphing calculators to use and they said it was “easy.”  Ok… So that scares me a little.  I really hope they knew what they were doing and used the elimination techniques that I taught them to narrow down the answers.  They take the math test as juniors and I’ve got a lot of juniors.  I really hope that the preparation paid off.  It would be fantastic if they did well and our scores as a school went up.  Here’s to hoping!

A few weeks ago I was teaching my Pre Calc class about graphing rational equations.  A big part of the graphing is knowing where the asymptotes are.  I’ve described them like electric fences for dogs.  The dog learns where the electric current is and (hopefully) does not cross the line.  I was talking about the parts of the graph as if they were dogs, so I was calling them Fluffy and Spot.  We had a graph that had a 3rd part to it and I called that one Max.  That part turned out to be a parabola* shape and it opened upward.  Once I drew it, I muttered under my breath, “Maybe I should have called him Min.”  They got the joke!  I didn’t even intend to make a joke and they got it!  It was one of those teaching moments that is so precious.  We’re all laughing at my stupid math joke and having fun.  That’s what makes this job the most rewarding job in the world.  Connecting with kids in a way that everyone learns and has fun doing it!

*In a parabola that upwards, the vertex is the minimum point on the graph, if it opens downward, it’s a maximum.

Early Morning Phone Calls

They hardly ever happen.  But when they do, there is one person I like to hear from more than anyone else.  My assistant principal.

This morning, I got that call.  It was totally unexpected.  It’s April.  We’re past the point of hoping for snow days.

“There’s a power outage so school is canceled for today.”  Magical words.  Apparently the issue started overnight and it was pretty major.  The fire alarms were going off and everything.  The latest word is that the power company was getting a particular part and would be installing it tonight and maybe into the morning hours.  We’ve been told that we will know by 6am tomorrow about the status of school for the day.

I spent my day having a relaxing morning.  Then I went to REI to spend my dividend.  I ran into one of my good teacher friends from school while I was there.  We were both still amazed that we got and unexpected day off.  When I got home, I went on a 5 mile walk on a trail by a local lake.  I suppose now I’ll look at how I’m teaching partial fractions in Pre Calc for tomorrow.  All in all, a very nice day!

79 A.D.

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For 600 years there was a prospering town, south of Rome, in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius.  In 79 A.D. that all changed.

On our way back from the Amalfi Coast, we stopped at Pompeii.  If you want to visit, it’s super easy.  You get off the Circumvesuviana rail line at the Pompeii-Scavi stop.  The entrance to Pompeii is visible from the train stop.  You can store your bags for free at the gate while you explore.  For planning purposes, you’ll need a minimum of 3 hours.  We were there for about four and a half, which included a lunch stop.

You can walk for miles and miles in Pompeii.  Sometimes, you even run into construction on the roads.  Well, it’s actually excavation work.  But the same effect happens: detour.  On this day, I logged about 20,000 steps on my pedometer (10 miles).  In the entire area there are remnants of the past.  There are shelves and shelves of pottery and plaster casts of people found from that day.

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One rather far walk away from the main area is the Villa of the Mysteries.  It’s an example of a suburban villa.  The wall paintings make it unique.  According to my book, they are from the 1st century BC.

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One of the more popular buildings is the Lupanar.  Yep.  The Brothel.  Apparently there were about 25 of them in Pompeii.  This one was the largest and had 10 cubicles with beds.  The panels over the doors indicate the “menu”.  According to my book, the average price was the equivalent of 2 glasses of cheap wine.  But it could be as much as 8 or 16 glasses, depending on the circumstances.  The earnings went to the brothel-keeper  and there was a tax on the earnings.  Here’s one of the menu shots…

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There are a couple of amphitheaters in Pompeii.  This is the mid-sized one.  There is a smaller on attached to it and a larger one much further away.

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Throughout Pompeii we would see various locations with counters that hand circular holes that were openings for jugs of food or wine.  Many of the homes were too small to have kitchens.  These counters were where people came to eat.  “Fast food” is not a new invention.  It’s been around for a few thousand years.

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Pompeii is about mid-way from Naples to Sorrento.  You literally step back 2000 years in history.  It’s a very interesting place and is well worth the visit.

Who is reading?

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WordPress has this new feature that tells you where your readers are.  I usually think that people reading my blog are the few friends and family members that know of my blog.  But when you see the stats like this, you realize that it’s definitely other people.  Pretty cool, if you ask me…

Amalfi Coast

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When we planned the trip to Rome, we decided that we wanted to do a side trip.  I perused many Italy travel books and watched several videos.  Ultimately, you can’t really go wrong traveling in Italy.  Because it was March, we decided to go south.  During the summer it’s peak season and incredibly hot.  So we figured we take the opportunity to go south when the weather is milder and there are less tourists.

As the Lemon post indicates, we stayed in Sorrento.  It is the end of the Circumvesuviana rail line.  With only a few days, we wanted to make our connections as easy as possible.  We took a high-speed train to Naples and then the local one to Sorrento.  The one thing you need to be careful about is getting on the train from Naples to Sorrento.  There are 2 that start on the same track, but only one goes to Sorrento.  Guess what?  We got on the wrong train.  But lucky for us, some locals asked us where we were going and helped us make the switch. A kind woman wrote “Torre Del Greco” in my guidebook.  We got off there and waited for the next train that said “Tren Sorrento” on the front.    The tricky thing is that all of the guidebooks warn you about pickpockets and strangers pretending to be helpful and then taking advantage of you.  So it’s hard to navigate the innocent help of strangers while you’re keeping your guard up.

Our full day on the Amalfi Coast was spent taking the bus to Positano and Amalfi.  The photo above is of Positano.  The “all Amalfi” bus pass cost 7.20 euro for the day.  It was one of the most beautiful bus rides I have ever been on.  We originally were going to stop in Positano first, but we weren’t sure when to get off the bus.  So we went all the way to Amalfi first.  The road hugs the side of the mountains.  In some places the cars need to back up so the buses can get through.

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While in Amalfi we toured the church.  The Cathedral of Amalfi has the Crypt of St Andrew, Cloister of Paradise, Basilica of the Crucifix and the Cathedral itself.  Apparently the head and other bones of Saint Andrew, Jesus’ first disciple, are housed there.  Hmm…  It was a beautiful church and was well worth the visit.

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Above: a view from the outside.

Below: inside the Cathedral.

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We had a little lunch and then got on the bus and headed back to Positano.  The first photo is looking down over the town, where you get off the bus.  We decided to just follow the road and see where it led.  Positano is a beautiful town perched on the mountainside.  There are cute little shops and restaurants as you make your way down to the sea.  On our way, we stopped at a pottery shop where my sister-in-law found a beautiful bowl and plate.  I got a matching mug.  There were several stores selling various lemon-themed products.  This is where I bought some lemon candies to bring back for my students.  By the way, they were surprised that I thought of them while on vacation and did like the candy.

From the top of the town, it looks like quite a walk down to the beach.  But it actually wasn’t bad to walk in either direction.  When we got to the beach we encountered this scene:

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We walked back up to the bus stop and waited patiently in the glorious sunlight for the bus.  I think I could just ride that bus all day.  It’s just stunning scenery.  So here’s another photo.  This post has a lot of photos, but really, I’m restraining myself…

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