Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mom's Chili

There's always a debate about chili:  with beans, without beans, with meat, without meat, spicy or mild. Everyone has "the recipe" they grew up with and prefer.  I like mine with beans AND meat.  My mom makes the best chili and I will admit that I am a tad biased, but it really is so good. After some prodding, she finally shared her recipe with me a few years ago.  It's a recipe that's been in her family for years.  She's made it this same way her entire life because it's how her dad taught her how to make it.'s delcious, but the best's easy.  You can eat it plain, with crackers, as a frito chili pie, as three-way chili, as chili-cheese fries or load it up with all kinds of good things. This chili is even better the next day as leftovers.  Plus, IF you do have leftovers, it freezes well.  I hope you enjoy my mom's famous chili recipe.

Last night I had some friends over for dinner and made a Chili Bar.  I put the chili in a slow cooker so it could stay hot and put out bowls of toppings, fritos, french fries, and hot dogs. My guests made their chili the exact way they wanted.  It's an easy way to entertain for a casual and fun evening. 

Mom's Chili
2 pounds ground beef
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 package chili seasoning mix (I use McCormick's because it is gluten-free)
1 small can tomato paste
2 cans chili beans (with juice)
3 cups water
salt & pepper

Here's how to make it:

Brown ground beef in chili pot on medium heat. After browning, drain excess grease.  Add in chili powder and garlic powder.  Combine with meat.  Add in packet of chili seasoning.  Combine with meat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add in tomato paste and combine with meat.  

Add 3 cups of water.  Add 2 cans of chili beans with juice.  Let simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  Add more water if it gets too thick.

Since I was having a crowd over for dinner, I doubled the recipe.  I put it all in my slow cooker to keep hot.

Here's my frito chili pie!  I love to top fritos with chili, cheese, and chopped onion.  Yum! Yum!
Here's one that is fully loaded with all kinds of toppings!  Wait!  Where's the chili?? Trust me, it's in there. Oh well, it tasted great!

Items for Chili Bar
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped white or red onion
  • sliced black olives
  • chopped tomatoes
  • slice jalepenos
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheese
  • hot sauces
  • fritos
  • french fries
  • hot dogs
  • mustard and ketchup for hot dogs
The Reality
And, here's the reality photo.  My friend smothered her hot dog and french fries in chili.  A smothered, delicious mess....

Another friend's chili creation....Keeping it simple!

Anyway you make it, its so good and perfect for a cold night or a get-together with family or friends.  

Here's a picture of me and the lady who taught me all about cooking...

Thanks for sharing your recipe mom.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reading Response: The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco

Since I am currently teaching my fifth grade students about the Holocaust, The Butterly by Patricia Polacco, was the perfect choice for an interactive read aloud.  If you haven't already noticed from previous posts, I happen to love ALL things Patricia Polacco.  As with most of her picture books, she draws on experiences from her own life to create beautifully illustrated children s books.  This book is great to use along with Number the Stars or the The Boy in the Striped Pajamas to build schema.  In this particular story, Polocco tells the story of her aunt, Monique, who grew up in France during World War II.  Monique discovers a Jewish girl named Sevrine who is being hidden in the basement by her mother.  The two girls become fast friends and play together a night so they can keep their friendship a secret.  Read the book to find out the rest!

There are several language arts skills you can teach after reading this book. Here are a few that I did with this lesson:

Compare & Contrast
Students can compare and contrast the characters using traits.  How are Sevrine and Monique alike?  How are they different?  Students can compile their information in a Venn diagram or by using a t-chart.  Students can compare the two girls lives.  What is Monique's life like during the Nazi invasion of France?  What is Sevrine's life like?  Students can use the information from their graphic organizers to create a paragraph.

Character Feelings & Emotions
Have students think about the feelings and emotions of Monique, Sevrine, and their mothers?  Create a list or web of descriptive words.  Encourage students to use synonyms for common words.  What are other words you can use for brave?  Scared?  etc... Have students write about why the characters feel this way and find evidence in the text to support their answer.    

Text-to-Self Connection
After thinking about how the characters were feeling, students can write about a time when they felt the same way.  

Story Elements
After you read the story, have students jot down story elements such as characters and their descriptions, setting details, problem/solution, and sequence main events from the story in their Interactive Reading Notebooks.  

In the story, the butterfly symbolizes freedom.  After reading the book, ask students to brainstorm ideas for what the butterfly might symbolize.  Discuss the significance of the butterfly and have them give examples of how it is used in the book to support the text.  

Ask students, "What is the moral message or lesson in this story?"  To determine the theme, students can ask themselves these questions:
1.  What did the characters learn?
2.  How did the characters grow or change?
3.  Why did the characters act this way?
Once students discover the theme of the story, have them provide evidence from the text to support it.

After reading The Butterfly, students competed a reading response. 

Here are some examples of student responses:

Here is a link to a list of more picture books about the Holocaust that you can share with your students:

More Picture Books

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Savory Breakfast Muffins

I am a breakfast lover.  I always have been and always will be.  These muffins are a version of a breakfast casserole that my mom used to make when I was growing up.  Instead of making it in casserole form, I changed the recipe a bit and made them into muffins for a quick and easy breakfast.  This recipe makes 24 muffins.  You can wrap the muffins in Saran wrap and foil and freeze them.  When you need a quick, hot, and hearty breakfast, just get a muffin package out of your freezer, unwrap, and pop it into the microwave for a breakfast on the go.  

Savory Breakfast Muffins

8 slices bread (any kind- I used a gluten free brand)
10 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 pound (16 ounces) sausage- you can use pork or turkey
1 package frozen seasoning vegetables (onions, green pepper, red pepper, celery)
1 bag shredded cheese (2 cups / 8 ounces)
Salt & Pepper

Makes 24 muffins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown sausage and seasoning vegetables on medium heat.  

Whisk eggs, milk, ground mustard, salt, and pepper in mixing bowl.  

Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.  Put pieces of bread into the bottoms of the muffin tins.  Divide the sausage and vegetable mixture among the muffin tins.  Press the mixture down using the back of a spoon.  Use a ladle to pour egg mixture over bread and sausage mixture.  Divide the egg mixture among the muffin tins. Sprinkle shredded cheese on the top. 

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Use a knife to separate the edges of muffin from the tin.  Gently remove muffin using a spoon.  

Muffins can be frozen.  Wrap the muffin in Saran wrap and and foil.  Put wrapped muffins in freezer bag.  

Enjoy these Savory Breakfast Muffins.  Check out my Easy Breakfast Sandwich recipe too.  See link below!

Easy Breakfast Sandwich

Here's one of my favorite cooking cheats from this recipe...

This package of Seasoning Blend vegetables is the perfect blend of veggies to add to anything that you are cooking. The best's already chopped up and ready to go!  Just look for it in your freezer section.



Mexican Dump Casserole

This is seriously easy and seriously good.  Mexican Dump Casserole is one of my mom's old stand-by recipes.  Let's just say that she loved a good casserole.  On a cold night, this casserole just hits the spot.  It is a husband and kid pleaser too.  

Mexican Dump Casserole

2 cups crushed tortilla chips
2- 28 ounce cans of tamales- remove wrappers and drain juice
2 - 16 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
1- 15 ounce can of chili- I used Amy's brand because it is gluten-free
2 cups (8 ounces/ 1 pre-shredded bag) Mexican blend cheese

Just FIVE ingredients.  You'll need 2 cans of tamales, 2 cans of  diced tomatoes,
 1 can of chili, 1 bag of shredded cheese, and 2 cups crushed tortilla chips.  
Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Layer casserole in this order:  layer tortilla chips, line pan with tamales, diced tomatoes, chili, and shredded cheese. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly.  

Here's the Mexican Dump Casserole, hot and bubbly right out of the oven.

Add sour cream and chopped green onions for a garnish.

I hope you enjoy this super easy and delicious casserole.
- Karen

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Interactive Read Alouds Focusing on World War II and the Holocaust

I'm constantly looking for great books to use for interactive read alouds.  The books listed below are ones that I have found that tie into the historical fiction unit I have planned for my 5th grade students.  As a class, we are reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and I am using the text to relate to the teaching points for our reader's workshop lessons.  Our focus is on World War II and Holocaust and I have found quite a few related books.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Irena's Jar of Secrets by Marcia Vaughn and Irene Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubins

This is the true story of a woman named Irene Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker, who helped save nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation in Poland during World War II.  These books can be used to illustrate narrative nonfiction and character traits. Both books detail Irena's heroic actions amidst dangerous circumstances.

Always Remember Me:  How One Family Survived World War II and I Will Come Back For You:  A Family in Hiding During World War II by Marisbina Russo

In this story, Always Remember Me:  How One Family Survived World War II, Rachel's Oma has two photo albums. One album holds pictures of happy times and this is the one that Rachel always gets to look at.  One album holds memories of sadder times when the Nazis were in power in Germany.  Oma never shares the second album with her granddaughter Rachel, until one special day when she feels Rachel is old enough to hear her family's story.. Oma tells Rachel about the perils her family endured during the war and how their love for one another helped them to survive.  The book is based on the author's own family history and includes some real photographs.  Another story by the same author and one that is based on her family's experiences during World War II is I Will Come Back for You:  A Family In Hiding During World War II.  The story tells of what it was like to grow up Jewish in Italy during the war. It is about a grandmother who shares a story with her granddaughter and details how she was separated from her father and had to hide from the Nazis in the mountains.  Both stories are a great way to encourage students to ask their parents and grandparents about family history.  Story telling is an excellent way to learn about history.  

The Yellow Star:  The Legend of King  Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy

This legend illustrates how Denmark's King Christian X bravely stood up for the Danish citizens when Nazi's occupied Denmark.  This is a story of bravery, heroism, and shows a country that came together to stand up to injustice.  It's a wonderful way to introduce legends to students and help students compare and contrast historical facts to legends. In the author's note, the true facts that relate to the story are detailed. Regardless of whether the story is true, or not, it is a beautifully illustrated and touching book.

Willy and Max:  A Holocaust Story by Amy Littlesugar

In the story, Max and Willy meet and become fast friends when Max's father buys a beautiful painting from the antique shop that Willy's father owns. The boys discover they have many things in common.  The only difference is one is Jewish and the other is not.  The boys are inseparable until war breaks out and the Nazis invade.  The Nazis take everything from Max's family, including the precious painting.  The boys promise to be friends forever, but are eventually separated by the circumstances of war.  The story spans many generations and Willy and Max's friendship endures because of the painting that began their friendship many years ago. A truly touching story about friendship and the effects of the Holocaust.

Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming

This is a story based on the author's mother's childhood,  The story is about a young girl from America named Rosie who made a difference in the lives of people in the Dutch town of Olst in Holland during  post World War II.  Katje, a girl from Holland, receives special packages from Rosie in America.  The packages are part of Rosie's goodwill effort to help the Dutch people who are trying to rebuild their lives after the war. Katje shares the contents of the boxes with the people of her Dutch town and sends letters of thanks to Rosie and her friends and family in Indiana.  These kind exchanges brought two communities together in friendship even though there were thousands of miles apart.  A wonderful story of how one person can make a huge difference.

Rose Blanche by Christophe Gallaz

During wartime Germany, a young, compassionate girl named Rose witnesses a young boy being taken by Nazi soldiers.  She secretly follows the truck to the concentration camp and sees many starving children.  She begins to sneak food from home to bring to the boy and the other hungry children at the concentration camp.  The story illustrates the perspective of war from a child's point of view.  Rose, an innocent child, just wanted to help the other children. Take time to linger on the moving illustrations.  I often pause on the pictures and have my student make predictions.

Benno and the Night of the Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott

A story about Kistallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust, written from the perspective of  Benno the cat.  Benno lives in an apartment building with both Jewish and non Jewish families.  They all love Benno and he loved all of his neighbors.  Benno travels from apartment to apartment for scraps of food and special attention from the occupants.  One day Benno wonders why everyone looks so sad.  And why there are men in in brown shirts strutting about?  Most importantly, he wonders what happened to the Adler family and Professor Goldfarb in his apartment building.  This book is a great introduction to the Holocaust.

The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco

The story is about a young girl named Monique who lives in a small French village.  Monique's village is occupied by Nazi soldiers.  Monique thinks she keeps seeing a "ghost", but it is really a young girl named Sevrine, who is hiding from the Nazi soldiers.  Monique discovers that her mother has been hiding Sevrine's family in their basement.  The two girls become friends and play together at night, without anyone knowing. Then one day, the girls are discovered and Sevrine's family must flee.   A great book to understand the war, friendship, and symbolism- ask students what the butterfly symbolizes in the story.

Star of Fear. Star of Hope by Jo Hoestlandt

In this story, an elderly French woman recalls the events of her childhood when the Nazis invaded France.  The story centers around her confusion about the war and when her best friend had to wear a yellow star. Her friend mysteriously disappears and she constantly hopes they will be reunited again.  It is another heart-breaking account of what many friends of Jews endured during the Holocaust. Many times they would wake up and their Jewish friends would have vanished, or they would see them get arrested.  
Erika's Story by Ruth Vander Zee

During the midst of World War II in Nazi occupied Europe, a couple make a heart wrenching decision to save their infant daughter from a the fate that most Jews suffered at this time- death in concentration camps.   A beautifully illustrated true story of a Holocaust survivor.  Take time to notice the illustrations with students and see how they reflect the mood of the story.

There are quite a few beautifully written and illustrated picture books about the Holocaust, but these are some of my favorites to share with students. Once students learn a little about this part of history, they are intrigued to learn more and will usually seek out books in the library related to this topic.  

Do you have any picture books that relate to historical fiction?  Please share the titles in the comments section.  We'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Build Excitement For Your Next Read Aloud!

I just finished up reading the novel Esperanza Rising to my 5th grade students.  They absolutely loved the book. When we wrapped things up with this novel study, students immediately began asking, "What are we reading next?"  

To build excitement and anticipation, I decided to do something a little different, rather than just TELL them what we're reading, I decided to reveal the book in a more exciting way.

I wrapped the novel in brown paper and wrote "This is our next novel."  Then, each day I added a clue.  My curious students couldn't stand it!  They came into the classroom every day and went straight to the book to read the next clue.  They had lots of guesses.

No matter how much prodding I got from students, I didn't give in and tell them the title.  I'll leave the big reveal for Monday when they return.  Have you guessed what the book is yet?  

We're beginning our Lucy Calkins' unit called "Tackling Complex Texts" in which we focus on historical fiction.  During this unit, we'll read this novel and I'll match my reading mini-lessons to the text.  Along with this novel, I am planning some great interactive read alouds- stay tuned for those!

Did you guess yet?  Here it is....

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas!  A fictional story set during World War II and written from the perspective of Bruno, an innocent young boy who doesn't understand the implications of war.  In the story, an unlikely friendship occurs between Bruno who has a father in the Nazi army and Shmuel who is Jewish and in a concentration camp.  Their friendship from two sides of a fence leads to unexpected consequences. You'll just have to read the book to find out how it turns out!  I have read this story several times to different groups of students and they are riveted by the story.  

During this historical fiction unit, our focus will be on World War II, with an emphasis on Holocaust related stories.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas fits perfectly with this unit.  My fourth grade teaching buddy is reading Number the Stars.  This will be a great connection between fourth and fifth grade. Next year, my students will come into 5th grade with some background knowledge of this era in history.  Plus, we can make connections between the 
two novels.  

I'll post more information as we work our way through the novel.  What are some fun ways you like to reveal books to your students?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sausage Balls

Man, I love sausage balls.  My mom has made them for years.  Every holiday season, my mom would always have a big bowl of these cheesy spheres of goodness and they would surely get gobbled up by everyone.  When I married my husband I had to learn how to make things gluten free for his special diet.  Luckily, Bisquick came out with a gluten-free Bisquick mix.  What a lifesaver.  I can easily whip up pancakes, waffles, AND sausage balls!

I used half of the batch to take to a Halloween party and added a special twist by putting green olives with pimentos into the sausage ball.  Instead of just plain old sausage balls (which are yummy just like they are), they are now Zombie Eyeballs!  The other half, I just made plain.  

These are so easy to make and get gobbled up at parties.  Make them for your next get-together with friends, or make them for your family and serve them with breakfast.  Here's the basic recipe:

Sausage Balls
2 pounds (2 packages) sausage
4 cups baking mix - Bisquick is the best.  I use the GF version.
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. They won't stick if you do this.  If you don't have parchment paper, then make sure you use a spatula about half way through baking and move them around on the baking sheet.

Mix ingredients together well.  Your hands are your best instrument for this.  Get in there and mix it up!  I add the cup of water because the gluten-free Bisquick Mix is very fine.  The water makes it easier to blend together and then form into the balls.  Scoop out enough of the mixture to form about a 1 inch ball and roll in your hands to form a ball.  At this point, I added the green olive, but if you aren't making Zombie Eyeballs, then you would omit the olive.  When adding the olives, just make small indention in the center of the sausage ball, then insert olive and make sure the sausage mixture covers part of the olive.  When it bakes, it will stay in place.  

Once you have your sausage balls on the baking sheets line with parchment paper, place in oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

These sausage balls freeze well.  Just put the leftovers (if you have any) in a baggie or airtight container and freeze for later. 

Zombie Eyeballs!
Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Here's a pic of  our Halloween costume- cat burglars!

Spinach Dip

There are some people that are just chip and dip people.  I am one of them.  I love a good chip and dip.  So does my entire family.  This is a recipe my mom made while I was growing up.  She still makes it to this day.  Spinach dip tastes great with chips, crackers, and veggies.  You just can't go wrong with it.  Sure, I've seen the pre-made stuff at the store and it is good, but the homemade stuff is so much better.  The original recipe my mom gave me for Spinach Dip calls for real mayo and real sour cream.  I lighten it up a bit and use the lighter versions.  Hey, sometimes you have to make sacrifices!

Spinach Dip
1 cup light mayonnaise
1 container (16 ounces) light sour cream
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 small 8 ounce can water chestnuts, roughly chopped
1 package Knorr Leek Soup Mix

Mix ingredients and let chill in refrigerator for 4-6 hours.  Serve with vegetables, crackers, or chips.

You can serve it in a regular serving dish, or use a sourdough bread bowl.  Just cut the bread bowl open at the top and scoop out the bread.  Fill it with the dip and serve with items of your choice.  It's so good, people will end up eating the bowl!

Are you a chip and dip person??  Are you my people??  Either way, enjoy!

Here's a creepy way to serve your Spinach Dip on Halloween!
Oh, and my husband wanted me to make sure I gave him proper credit for carving this pumpkin.
And here we are in our Halloween costume for the night- cat burglars!