Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: Simon and the Easter Miracle by Mary Joslin

About the Book:
The gospels tell of Simon of Cyrene--"a man coming in from the country"--who was ordered to carry Jesus' cross. Over the centuries, his story has been woven into a Polish folktale. In the tradition of The Three Trees, this folk tale gives a fresh perspective on the Easter story.

When Simon the farmer brings his wares to market, little does he expect how he will be involved in the events of that very special day, nor how his items--bread, eggs, and wine--will become important symbols of Jesus' passion and resurrection, remembered throughout the ages.

About the Author:
Mary Joslin, published exclusively by Lion, is known for her children's books on belief and spirituality. Her books, which include The Story of the Cross and On That Christmas Night, have sold more than 200,000 copies.

About the Illustrator:
Anna Luraschi, has illustrated a number of books for Usborne.

Oh, how excited I was for Simon and the Easter Miracle to arrive - and oh, how disappointed I was with it. The illustrations are absolutely lovely, but the story, honestly, is terribly written.

The story starts off with Simon, a farmer of sorts, coming into the city to sell his items at the market. He is distracted by guards beating a man who is carrying a cross. (Side note: while I think it's important - when telling the Easter story to children - to make a point of telling them how Jesus was treated, I was not impressed at the presentation of his treatment, either. But, moving on...) The guards then bark at Simon for HIM to carry the man's cross. Before obliging, he asks the man (Jesus - though the story NEVER ONCE clarifies that this is who the man is) what is his crime for deserving such treatment? The man shrugs and replies "for preaching a message of peace." Really? He's being beaten and tortured and he's THAT blase about the whole situation? 'Meh - just preaching peace. No big deal.' *shrug*

At this point, we fast forward to the Crucifixion. Simon hears some people crying, others yelling, cheering, demanding Christs' death... So what does Simon do? He runs away. He runs to his food that he had come to sell at the market, and discovers that it is all ruined and that he has lost his day at the market, and any money he might have made that day.

Let me reiterate what just happened: Simon was more upset about the money he lost than the man he had just witnessed being beaten and crucified.

At this point, I'm going to let another reviewer explain what happens, because I think they hit the nail on the head:
Simon goes home, eggs break open, and doves fly around...and Simon knows doves are the symbol of peace, "And God blesses all those who work for peace." Easter is all about working for world peace? No explanation of eggs as symbols of life from the tomb? What about the spilt wine? No mention of Christ's saving blood. What about the trampled bread? No mention of the bread of life, the Body of Christ.

The other supposed miracle is "when he returned to work he noticed how quickly spring had warmed his new season's crops." I kept looking for a missed page, thinking, that's it? The other miracle is that spring comes? No mention of the symbolism of new life there either.

Exactly. No life changing realizations, no emotions, nothing. And worse? That where the book ends! Abruptly. No 'wrap-up'. Just 'spring came. The end.' When we read the last page, my 4 year old asked 'is that it?' I said it was and he asked if I'd missed a page. It felt like it, but no. He looked at me, with a very puzzled expression, said 'Oh.' and just turned around and walked away. It just wasn't a story that we could connect with at all.... which is sad.

I've only done this one other time here, and I truly hate to do it, but I don't think I'd recommend this book to anyone. The illustrations were beautiful, but the story was terrible. I think that, especially for the Easter story, there are MANY books that are far better.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, January 27, 2012

Paleo Chocolate Pudding

I'm a day late (sorry!), but here it is. Behold it... it is glorious.

Paleo Chocolate Pudding
1/4 c. coconut palm sugar
1/4 c. arrowroot starch
2 T. cocoa powder (If you dare, go with the 'Special Dark' kind)
pinch of salt
2 c. coconut milk (the stuff in the cans - not the cartons!)
4 egg yolks
2 T. coconut oil
1 t. vanilla extract (you could totally use coconut extract here - I bet it'd be awesome!)
3 oz. (by weight) chocolate chips (optional, but good)

1. Set a fine-mes sieve over a medium sized bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, starch, cocoa, and salt. Gradually whisk in the coconut milk, then the egg yolks.

2. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise, 7-8 minutes. Continue to cook, whisking, 1 minute more. Remove from heat and push through the fine-meshed sieve using a rubber spatula to help. Add the coconut oil (and chocolate chips, if using) and stir until melted and well combined. Mix in vanilla.

3. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, gently stir to loosen it.

Serve with coconut milk 'whipped cream' and/or shredded coconut.

Yummy! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh... I'm a genius.

For reals. Yes, I know it's taboo to type stuff like that when you homeschool your kids. People read it and jump to conclusions. But, seriously, I've hit on a winner here.

Tonight, I saw a recipe for 'The Best Chocolate Pudding Ever' in Real Simple Magazine. It looked good, but since I seem to have that whole can't-follow-a-recipe problem, I decided to change it and just see what happened.

I subbed almost every ingredient for something else. I'm a rebel like that. Whole Milk? Nah... coconut milk sounds better. white sugar? Nope. Coconut sugar for me. Butter? Hey, let's go with this whole coconut thing and use coconut oil for that. Cornstarch? What?! THAT's not Paleo! Gotta go with the arrowroot starch. Regular cocoa powder? Not for this chocolate lovin' girl! Dutch processed special dark would be SO much better!

Seriously guys. It's unbelievable.

I'll share the recipe tomorrow (neener-neener!)

Night! (*slurp*)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Paleo Apple Crisp... yummy.

I love apple crisp. Like, so much so that it might be a little bit unnatural. I've run across tons and tons of Gluten Free and/or Paleo recipes for various crisps over the last 2 years. Most were good, a few were not, but I never really found one that was... it. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I found the blog I Cook Free COMPLETELY by accident (Side note: FANTASTIC blog - go check it out). Then I noticed that she had a Paleo Apple Crisp Recipe that looked pretty close to what I had been going for. I gathered my ingredients and went to work...

Now, here's the thing, I'm completely incapable of actually following a recipe. No matter what recipe it is, I have this bizarre urge to change something and make it my own. Which is exactly what I did here.

It. Was. Awesome.

The filling was sweet, but not too sweet. The topping wasn't spongy and weird - it actually had a bit of crunch! And that's when I decided: it must be shared.

I apologize for my lack of food photography skills.
Paleo Apple Crisp 

6 apples, sliced (peel if you want, but I never do)
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 c. coconut sugar (you could also sub honey, agave, maple syrup or plain white sugar)
1 T. arrowroot starch (you can sub cornstarch if you aren't worried about being a Paleo purist)
1/4 c. liquid (apple juice, cider, water, lemon juice... whatever you have will be just fine)
1 t. vanilla
pinch of salt

1/4 c. coconut oil and/or butter, melted (I used a combo)
1/2 c. almond flour
1/4 c. milled flax seed (I prefer golden flax)
1 T. coconut flour
1/2 c. unsweetened dessicated coconut (feel free to just use shredded coconut for this)
1 T. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease 8 or 9" square pan with coconut oil or butter.
3. Mix together all filling ingredients and place in pan.
4. Mix together all topping ingredients and crumble on top of filling.
5. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and top is browned.