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Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”

Two-Faced March Madness Pizza

OK, I'll admit it, March Madness isn't the only sports' related item rumbling around my skull this week. It's hard to think of anything other than the Jayhawks, 'tis true, but each year at this time, one other little niggling event manages to creep in and a steal a share of the spotlight.

The Sony Ericsson Open.

Never heard of it? Shame on you! I blogged about it (sort of) back in January. (Just kidding, I know I'm not exactly in Tennis Central.)

Though it's not exactly convenient for basketball fans, the "fifth major" tennis tournament started this week, and will end the same weekend as the Final Four, as it does every year. Back in the day, when I worked in sports, this meant trying to keep one eye on tennis and one eye on basketball (Hey, I worked in Florida — which IS Tennis Central — and it wasn't weird to be a tennis fan down there).

Years later, it's the same dual-pull for me, though now my job doesn't depend on knowing every little think about both. Truth be told, while my loyalties are still a bit split, the Jayhawks trump the tennis court, every time — even if my beloved Rafa is playing.

So, I thought this week it would be fun to share a recipe with "two faces." Because, whether we want to or not, chances are most of us have more going on than KU basketball this week. Whether that other thing be work, school, family, activities or other sports (or, if you're like me, all of the above).

Thus, I introduce to you my Two-Faced March Madness Pizza.

One side is traditional and Italian. The other side is a mix of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean. Together or separate, they're yummy.

Doesn't that look gorgeous? It is. And it's incredibly tasty and easy to prepare, even on a game night.

To save even more time, make the dough ahead (or use Megan Stuke's trick, and buy some), freeze it, and then put the frozen ball of dough in a bowl to thaw before you leave for work on Friday. Come home, roll it out and make some really yummy pizza before KU's 9:17 p.m. tip-off.

Heck, use all the dough and make two pizzas — by halftime you might be starved from all the jumping up and down/screaming at the TV.

Two-Faced March Madness Pizza

1 batch pizza dough, divided (I use this recipe from Mark Bittman)*

1 jar pizza sauce (We like Muir Glen)

1 bag mozzarella or pizza-blend shredded cheese

1 tub hummus (garlic hummus is really awesome on this pizza, but pick whatever type you like)

Mix of Mediterranean toppings, including: roasted garlic, marinated mushrooms, sweet peppers, marinated giant white beans ( I just raid the Mediterranean bar for whatever looks great)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Roll out half the pizza dough on a floured pizza peel or cookie sheet (if you don't have a pizza/bread stone).

Spread your pizza sauce on one-half of the rolled-out dough, and hummus on the other half (you will probably only use a couple of tablespoons of sauce and hummus — do NOT dump the entire jar/tub on your pizza or it will be a soggy mess!).

Decorate the saucy half with as much cheese as you like. On the hummus side, top with your faves from the Mediterranean bar. If you like, put leftover Mediterranean goodness on the cheesy half.

Bake on a pizza stone or baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes. Pull out of the oven, and let cool a bit before you tear in.

*This recipe makes enough for two whole pizzas (8 small slices, each). If you want to make two pizzas, just make sure to have enough cheese and toppings, you should easily half enough pizza sauce and hummus for several pizzas.

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Rock Chalk Guac: The perfect snack for some March Madness

You know what goes about as well with basketball as that blue and red bird?

Guacamole.

It’s mean, green and perfect for dipping. Bonus: It’s super easy to make yourself, no need to buy mixes or the pre-made stuff.

In fact, it’s so easy to make it, there’s about a million different recipes. Some have add-ins like various chilis for spice, mayo (for smoothness) and even peas to keep the fat content down.

But, I like it basic (shocker). So, my two go-to guac recipes are pretty simple. I’ve used both many times and mostly, time (or lack thereof) decides which recipe I choose. One recipe requires some chopping, which doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does take a bit. The other recipe requires no chopping whatsoever and literally can be made in 30 seconds.

The combination of ease and dip-ability make either recipe a winner during March Madness. As long as your avocados are ripe, you can have a dip platter ready for munching during the games in just a few minutes. Triple bonus: avocados are packed with good fats — monounsaturated fat and omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. A small to medium Hass avocado has 227 calories, 21 grams of fat, 9 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and 20 percent of your daily vitamin C.

For extra vitamin C, and fewer overall calories, I usually chop up red bell peppers in dip-able sizes and use them as vehicles for guac, rather than chips. Or, I’ll put it on cucumber rounds. Or I’ll make homemade veggie burgers and put it on there (see above, with a mango sauce on black bean sliders).

Not planning to dip into some basketball? Make guac for St. Patrick’s day this week. It is green, after all.

Chunky Party Guac

3 small or 2 large avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled

1/2 white or red onion, chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

Juice of two limes

1 clove minced garlic

Mash avocado with a potato masher. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

Easy Guacamole (adapted from www.chefchloe.com)

3 small or 2 large avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled

2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

1/4 cup salsa (I like the chunky stuff the best)

In a large bowl, mash together avocado and lime juice, then fold in salsa. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Don’t panic: Spring’s about sprung — time to start thinking about your vegetable garden

It seems like yesterday that the kiddo and I were on the deck, harvesting mint before bringing our pots in for the summer.

And you know why it doesn't seem that long ago?

Because we did it during a September cold snap that was cooler than pretty much any day in the past month. Or so it seemed. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that that hoodie doesn't fit him anymore (so sad) that pic at the top of the blog could've been taken Saturday — at least weather-wise.

In fact, until Saturday, I hadn't thought about my 2012 vegetable and herb garden AT ALL. I feel late, late, late for an important date, and I totally blame the sunshine. And warm temps. And all the beautiful days we've had during this non-winter winter.

I'm pretty sure this has been the nicest winter of my life (save for the three winters I spent in West Palm Beach, Fla.) and, admittedly, the last thing I've wanted to do is sit inside. For anything. Even planning my yearly garden.

But you know what? That's absolutely fine. We've got time, people, even if you (like me) want spring greens.

Now's the time to start, and as long as you've got some greens going by April, you should be good. And if it's just tomatoes and herbs you want? Psssh, you have until May.

See, we're fine.

Though, it is true that March is the month when we should at least be thinking about are gardens, even if we're not actually planting anything.

So, with that in mind, here's a little primer on what I'm planning on doing with my garden this spring. Use it as inspiration, a template or just a kick in the pants (if, like me, you're kind of shocked winter is nearly "over").

Get your greens going: Start them inside, under a grow light (I use a basic fluorescent light, hung very low on chains), or, be brave and put them outside, with row cover or a white sheet handy for those inevitable cold snaps.

As far as greens go, I've had some real luck with spinach, chard and bok choy (as you can see below).

What I want to do better this year? Kale. I love the stuff, but I can't seem to grow it to save my life. I'm not really sure why, but I want to give it another go this year.

I also plan to start early with shelling peas, potatoes (planted alone in a single bed) and onions.

Check on last year's plants: After harvesting (above), the kiddo and I brought in several plants that should spring back once the mercury rises. Included: mint, basil (according to the interview I did with Jennifer Smith in the fall), rosemary, lavender, majoram and thyme (though my cat chewed the heck out of it, so I'm not sure it'll make it).

I plan on reintroducing these guys to the great outdoors slowly, to make sure they aren't stunned by the breeze or temperatures.

Decide what else you'll want to grow: I have three 8x4 raised beds, a small raspberry patch and a small blueberry patch (each have three plants), plus a deck on which I squeeze 15 to 20 potted plants, including everything from herbs to peppers to eggplant.

Generally, I break up the space based on what how best I can shoe-horn in a spring, summer and fall harvest. It tends to end up looking like this:

Bed No. 1: Potatoes. Gold, red and purple, all covered in the straw method. Both the hubby and the kiddo love digging for potatoes and they're pretty hard to screw up, so we tend to get a really good yield off them.

Bed No. 2: Greens, onions, beets, peas and carrots (spring and fall), peppers, herbs and greens (summer). In this bed, I'll line one end with onions, one end with climbing peas and fill in with alternating rows of beets, carrots and greens, including kale, chard, spinach and bok choy. Come may, I'll put in bell pepper transplants (orange, yellow, purple and red) and plant basil and parsley seeds. Then, I'll switch it out again in the fall for one last crop.

Bed No. 3: Garlic, greens and beans (spring and fall), tomatoes and herbs (summer). I already planted garlic in the fall in this bed, so that garlic should be getting there this spring. The rest of the early bed will be a mix of short-growth greens, bush beans and three strawberry plants (if they're still thriving). Then come May, I'll put in tomato plants — usually a pair each of Sungold and Sun Sugar, plus at least four Cherokee Purple and maybe one each of Black Krim and pink Brandywine. We love the little Sungold and Sun Sugars the best for picking, because that's the only way we can get the kiddo to eat fresh tomatoes (straight off the plant), but I have a special love of Cherokee Purples, so I like to have the majority of my tomato space go to them.

On the deck: We'll have tons of pots, including: mint (three types), pineapple sage, majoram, thyme, lavender, rosemary (two types), catnip, lemongrass, lemon balm, parsley, basil (two types), jalapeños, Japanese eggplant, dill, chives, cilantro and whatever else strikes my fancy.

All lined up like that, all this sounds like a lot of work, but I promise it's not. Set up a rain barrel, and watering isn't nearly the problem it tends to be, make sure to mulch well, and just go out there every night after work to check on things.

With a little maintenance and time spent hashing out your space before going wild at the gardening store, you'll be set — very little "inside time" needed.

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A big, fat puzzle: School lunch, budgets, calories and our kids — what you can do

Eudora High School culinary arts students, from left, Kaylyne Perkins, Claudia Moody and Alexandra Bock, prepare homemade tater tots. The students, all sophomores, hand-formed tater tots from homemade dough before baking the majority and frying a few to see the difference.

Eudora High School culinary arts students, from left, Kaylyne Perkins, Claudia Moody and Alexandra Bock, prepare homemade tater tots. The students, all sophomores, hand-formed tater tots from homemade dough before baking the majority and frying a few to see the difference. by Mike Yoder

Last week, I wrote a story about the puzzle that is school lunch.

What's so puzzling about lunch?

How about everything.

It needs to be cheap. It needs to be USDA-approved healthy. It needs to be something kids actually eat.

About eight ways to Sunday, those things DO NOT go together in mass quantities.

In both Lawrence and Eudora alone, thousands of students at all grade levels are eating school-prepared meals daily. Some, for both breakfast and lunch. And, in case you hadn't noticed, funding for schools (and their lunches) is a bit contentious right now in the state of Kansas. So, no more money is probably coming for school lunches right now ... which isn't helping out our school nutritionists at all.

Each week, those charged with making sure school lunches comply nutritionally are also having to factor in not only more strict dietary guidelines, but rising food and labor costs and the sheer reality that kids won't eat everything under the sun. Not to mention, many kids are bringing their lunches to school because either they or their parents aren't too pleased with what's going on their kids' plates.

And, believe me, parents who are upset about school food, the schools hear you — and so does Jamie Oliver. The Lawrence schools trashed their fryers years ago. In Eudora, the only fryers in the entire school system reside in the high school's very cool culinary arts kitchen, where they're used sparingly. Many schools in both towns have school gardens that add to their students' plates through a loophole in the government system. The Lawrence schools even have a pilot program going to see how economically (and practically) viable a local farm-to-school program really is.

So, school lunches are getting there. They're getting healthier, they're getting more attention, they're getting less prepackaged. But it's not perfect and everyone involved knows it — the kids, the parents, the teachers, the administrators. If one thing became clear to me while talking to them about school lunch it's that everyone is trying to improve upon and even end the days of "tater tot casserole." (Yes, that's something that's served.)

As a parent, my first reaction to the idea of my son eating a school lunch wasn't a good one. I still remember being literally the only kid in my class who didn't like the hexagonal mishmash of cheese and hamburger known as "fiestada pizza" in elementary school. But, I also remember fishing quarters out of my dad's change bowl to grab a plate-sized chocolate chip cookie from the a la carte line in middle school. And, sure, my high school had a salad bar, but the only thing I ever got from it was four dinner rolls for a dollar to store in my backpack as pre-track practice fuel.

Um, yeah, I was about as imperfect as school lunch as a kid, and I don't expect my kid, or anyone else's to be any different.

So, what can we do to make the puzzle easier to solve? To make things healthier, more locally sourced and full of good, REAL food?

We can let our kids go through the school lunch line.

This is a hard one for me, because, since motherhood, I always figured I'd be the hippy dippy parent sending my son to school with kale salad and a kombucha chaser. But, in talking with local food advocates, educators and administrators, it became clear to me that this thinking won't do the schools one iota of good.

Rather, the more students who participate in the school lunch program, the more funding the schools will get to improve what goes on their plates. More funding equals more made-from-scratch items, more money to buy locally grown fruits and veggies, and more chances to make improvement.

My son still has a few years to go before he's grabbing a lunch tray five days per week. I'm hoping that by then, the farm-to-school program and school gardens will be in full effect at every Lawrence school and he'll have some much better choices than fiestada pizza or tater tot casserole.

And even if things don't improve quite so rapidly, that's OK, I'll feed him the best I can at home. Because all we can do is the best we can, especially when solving a big, ol' fat puzzle.

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A week-long life-saver: Sunday night roasted veggies with easy balsamic dressing

Want a Sunday activity that will save you gobs of time on your lunches and dinners the rest of the week?

Roast a couple of pans of veggies.

You can serve the finished product over brown rice or quinoa for a hearty dinner. Spoon them over salad greens for lunch. Stuff them in a pita pocket for a hand-held meal. Or simply eat them with a fork while standing in your kitchen minutes before going to bed.

It takes a bit of time and prep work to do this (two hours, with about 45 minutes of that time hands-on), but it's totally worth it for the added veggie goodness you'll have for DAYS.

The way this works in our house is that I roast probably 10 to 12 pounds of root veggies at a time. A squash, a few sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, an onion, beets and Swiss chard.

All that fits nicely into three 2-quart lasagna dishes that can sit flush side-by-side in the oven while you do other Sunday night activities, like folding laundry and writing your blog (wink, wink).

I roast them in a balsamic vinaigrette I threw together one night while playing. It's become a major favorite because, really, I'm not sure there's any better accompaniment to any roasted veggie than fruity, tart, lovely balsamic.

This past Sunday, we had friends over for dinner. They brought that beautiful salad you see pictured above, which we served our roasted veggies on top of some plain quinoa. It was Sunday night dining at its finest: Good conversation, the kids playing (nicely!) with each other, Trade Joe's cheapo chocolate red wine and mounds of veggies and protein-heavy quinoa.

A fabulous end to the week? I think so.

A fabulous start to the week? Yes, that too.

Even with four adults munching on the veggies I prepared, we still had enough servings to get us through Wednesday and possibly Thursday with little problem. Sunday night "planning" FTW!

Roasted Veggies in Balsamic Dressing

3 large beets, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 medium to large yams, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium squash (I used an unpeeled kabocha, but you could swap a peeled butternut), or more yams, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 parsnips or turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 red or sweet yellow onion, cut into 1/2 moons

1 bunch rainbow chard (optional), sliced into 1-inch ribbons, bottoms of stems removed

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Juice of 3 lemons, or about 3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Pinch sea salt

Pinch black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray three 2-quart or two 3-quart Pyrex lasagna pans with olive oil. Set aside.

Place all veggies except for chard in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small Pyrex glass measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the veggies and stir to coat. Portion the veggies across the lasagna pans, spreading the mixture of veggies as flat as possible. Put the pans in the oven. Set your timer for one hour, 15 minutes. Stir your veggies every 15 minutes.

If using chard, place it in the empty bowl you used when coating the other veggies and spoon the leftover dressing over your chard. If not a lot of your dressing is left in the bowl, cover with balsamic and let it marinate while the heartier veggies cook.

After an hour has elapsed, pull out your pans and layer the chard on top to cook down for the final 15 minutes. Make sure to stir once with the chard before pulling your veggies out of the oven.

Serve warm or cold over salad greens, quinoa or alone. Top with more balsamic if you love your vinegar like me. Serves eight to 10. Enjoy!

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A Valentine’s Day dinner with sugar and spice and everything nice

Happy Valentine's Day!

If you're like me, your Valentine's will be a day full of chocolate. Honestly, I eat healthy probably 90 percent of the time, but I've got a special place in my heart for chocolate. The darker, the better these days. And there's no better excuse than Valentine's Day to have a bar of the good stuff, that's for sure.

My faves? The Lawrence-connected Madecasse and the Lawrence-made Sleepy Jean's, of course.

But a woman cannot live on chocolate alone. Amazing, yet true.

Thus, if you're having dinner at home tonight with your chocolate and maybe some wine, I have a few suggestions for you.

First, check out what Megan Stuke and I came up with for this month's Delicious/Nutritious. There's a wine element, you won't be sorry.

Secondly, let me suggest a simple, hearty meal that will balance your blood sugar after a day filled with the highs and lows of cocoa love: Easy Green Quinoa and Chipotle-Glazed Butternut Squash.

Sound good? It is. Amazingly good. And super healthy.

The Easy Green Quinoa has both kale and sea veggies in it, plus, it's extra good topped with avocado (as above). Find the recipe on Gena's excellent site. (Note: If you don't have kelp seasoning or don't want to use it, you're probably going to have to salt and pepper the quinoa to taste, as it'll be bland without it).

The Chipotle-Glazed Butternut Squash is a twist on a recipe by Mark Bittman. It is a really different way to have squash — perfect if you're a bit sick of it after having it all winter. Bonus: It goes really well with the quinoa. And it's spicy enough to, um, well get your blood flowing.

Chipotle-Glazed Butternut Squash

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into half-moon shapes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 canned chipotle chile, chopped, with 2 tablespoons adobo sauce

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon honey

Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the squash pieces on the lined baking sheet.

Combine the olive oil, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, garlic, honey and some salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Brush the glaze evenly over the squash and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, turning once or twice and basting with any pan juices. When the squash is tender and deeply colored, remove the squash from the oven. Serve hot or cooled. Careful, they're spicy!

Hope you have a wonderful day!

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Pachamama’s pastry chef nominated in “Food and Wine Magazine” contest

Juan Carlos Tovar-Ballagh is the pastry chef at Pachamamas.

Juan Carlos Tovar-Ballagh is the pastry chef at Pachamamas. by Kevin Anderson

Think Molten Brown Sugar Cake with Cranberries and Pecans sounds tasty? How about Fresh Ginger Cake or Caramelized Mango Rum Pie?

Major YUM, right?

Those desserts are all currently on the menu at Pachamama's, 800 N.H. And they're also Juan Carlos "Jay" Tovar-Ballagh's ticket to a bit of culinary stardom — but he needs your help.

He's been nominated for Food and Wine Magazine's Best New Pastry Chef. He's competing against 50 other top-notch sweet cooks for the honor. But here's the thing — it's a people's choice competition. In the Central Region division, he's up against folks from large cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, Nashville and Austin, Texas.

So, want to show Tovar-Ballagh, Pachamama's AND Lawrence some love? Vote for the man behind the Molten Brown Sugar Cake with Cranberries and Pecans here.

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Come in from the cold: Visit the Kaw Valley Seeds Project Fair this weekend

Seed fair participants had the chance to exchange seeds as well as find new seeds to try in their gardens.

Seed fair participants had the chance to exchange seeds as well as find new seeds to try in their gardens. by Kevin Anderson

For the third time in as many years, gardeners novice and mature and in between can pick up, exchange and discuss seeds at the Kaw Valley Seeds Project Fair.

The fair, which was visited by more than 1,200 folks last year, runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Building 21 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

I've been to the past two fairs and let me just say that it's absolutely a blast to discuss the spoils of summer in the dead of winter. It's fun to think of all the things you can grow — Rainbow chard! Black Krim tomatoes! Dwarf curly kale! — once the weather finally takes a turn.

Obviously, this winter is a bit different — local growers are still selling at Cottin's Farmers' Market — but that doesn't mean it's any less thrilling to find some great seeds and get excited for garden preparation.

Don't have a garden? It's still a fun and free event — with music, activities, exhibits, food and education.

Who knows? You might just find you learn enough to try your hand at a pot of herbs or peppers.

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Bummer: Eudora’s Jason “Wolf” Hamlin out in first day of “American Idol” Hollywood Week

Eudora's Jason "Wolf" Hamlin made it to the Hollywood round of "American Idol."

Eudora's Jason "Wolf" Hamlin made it to the Hollywood round of "American Idol."

Well, that was quick.

Eudora's Jason "Wolf" Hamlin, who so impressed the judges and won so many fans with his San Diego audition, barely made it to Hollywood before he was sent packing Wednesday night with half the other contestants during the first phase of the "American Idol" Hollywood Week.

But the music hasn't died out yet for Hamlin, who is performing in and around California and working in the studio, according to his Facebook page. Who knows, maybe Wolf Hamlin and the Drifters will make a visit to our neck of the woods sometime soon.

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Make Valentine’s Day extra grand by helping out two local organizations

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2008/feb/14/140891/

Remember the days when the student council raised money with your heart's fickle desires — delivering Valentine's Day roses for a $1 a pop to the boy or girl of your teenage dream(s)?

Wasn't that grand? (And embarrassing, and awesome, and insulting and totally romantic?)

These days you can do similar romantic/sweeping/mortifying gestures, whether you've graduated or not.

Both Lawrence High and KJHK have Valentine's Day expression doosies for those of you who want to send more than flowers:

  • Lawrence High's orchestra is raising funds with its annual "Serenade Your Sweetheart" drive. For $25, you can have your own personal string ensemble play a love song at home or work on Feb. 14. Your lucky valentine also gets a rose with the song. For more information, contact Rachel Dirks, LHS orchestra director at 330-1890.
  • KJHK will share personal Valentine's Day messages all day Feb. 14 on air. For $5 your message will be read, twice for $9 or three times for $12. Bonus: All you have to do is fill out a form and pay by noon Feb. 13 and that's that.
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Don’t forget: Wolf Hamlin’s “Hollywood Week” starts tonight on “American Idol”

Eudora's Jason "Wolf" Hamlin made it to the Hollywood round of "American Idol."

Eudora's Jason "Wolf" Hamlin made it to the Hollywood round of "American Idol."

The time is here to be on the hunt for a wolf — Jason "Wolf" Hamlin, that is.

The Eudora native made a splash a few weeks ago on the famous musical reality show "American Idol," wowing the judges and making it to the next round. That round, dubbed "Hollywood Week" starts tonight, meaning we get our first chance to see how Hamlin fares against much stiffer competition at 7 p.m. on FOX.

It's unknown if we'll actually see Hamlin tonight or tomorrow night (in which Hollywood Week performances continue at 7 p.m.), but chances are he'll get a bit of airtime, based on the amount of time they spent on his story during his original audition.

For more on Hamlin's life growing up in Eudora, check out what his friends and family have to say about him. Also, see Hamlin's original audition — and what I mean when I say he got plenty of airtime — on our recap blog here.

We'll keep tabs on Idol tonight and Thursday and keep you updated on Hamlin's status.

Werewolves in Hollywood!

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Homemade pita chips: The perfect snack from the Super Bowl through March Madness

On Sunday, I imagine chances are you dipped a chip into something, be it salsa, bean dip, melted cheese or even hummus. The Super Bowl is one of those times when it's nearly impossible not to put out some sort of dip and dipper combination.

My house is no exception. But, as you may have noticed, I like to make things myself (if possible). I've made some homemade tortilla chips before, but for the Super Bowl, we were in a hummus-y sort of mood. So, we bought a pack of pita bread and decided to try to make our own pita chips while watching the Giants beat the Patriots.

The results, as you can see from the pic above, look pretty much exactly like the kind you can buy pre-made in bags at the store. I'm not necessarily sure if they're cheaper to make at home, but it does feel nice to be able to control the amount of oil and salt used to ensure these chips are as healthy as possible.

Bonus: They were super easy!

Homemade Pita Chips

2 pita pockets (I used Jerusalem Cafe and Bakery's)

Olive oil

Sea Salt

Garlic powder

Cumin (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each pita in half. Next, carefully tease apart each pita pocket with a serrated knife.

Slice into little wedge shapes. Place wedges on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops of each wedge with olive oil. Once all your wedges are oiled, sprinkle on salt, garlic powder and cumin (if using) to taste.

Place in oven for 7 to 8 minutes (watch them carefully, they burn easily!). Remove and enjoy! Serves 2 to 4.

We served our pita chips with red lentils, roasted onions and basmati rice (and the requisite hummus). The dish was a bit bland, so the saltiness of the chips most definitely helped.

An unusual Super Bowl meal? Yeah, probably, but the chips are definitely a keeper through March Madness.

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I know where you can get the perfect party bowl for Super Bowl Sunday: Souper Bowl Saturday

Bowls and cups of many sizes were available for sale Saturday at the annual Souper Bowl fundraiser for the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

Bowls and cups of many sizes were available for sale Saturday at the annual Souper Bowl fundraiser for the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. by Kevin Anderson

I used to love the Super Bowl just for the big game nature of it. You know: the excitement, the sportsmanship, the FOOD.

Now, I love it because it reminds me of a great fundraiser put on each year by the Lawrence Arts Center.

If you've never been, the Souper Bowl is awesome. It's the Saturday before each Super Bowl (In this case: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday) and it's a shopping trip, lunch and a philanthropic experience rolled into one.

Basically, center students have created over 500 bowls that will be available for sale. Prices vary, but start at $10. With each bowl purchased, the buyer gets complimentary soup, bread and a drink.

For more information about the event, which is in its 15th year, go here.

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Got a cranberry recipe? Share it to win a chance to be a VIP at NPR personality Susan Stamberg’s library benefit

A frog floats with cranberries awaiting harvest in a cranberry bog Wednesday in Wareham, Mass.

A frog floats with cranberries awaiting harvest in a cranberry bog Wednesday in Wareham, Mass.

National Public Radio's Susan Stamberg is famous as much for her on-point reporting as for a little story she first told in 1972.

The story? One about her mother-in-law’s cranberry relish — Pepto-Bismol pink and described succinctly as “sounds terrible, but tastes terrific.”

Now the folks at the Lawrence Public Library want you to have some cranberry celebrity all your own. The library has teamed up with the Cranberry Marketing Committee and others to present what they’re calling the “Cranberry Creations Recipe Contest.”

Held in advance of “An Evening with Susan Stamberg” (which is 7 p.m., March 13 at the Lied Center), a benefit for the library, the contest calls for dessert recipes made with fresh, frozen, dried or juiced cranberries. Participants have until Feb. 22 to enter up to three recipes.

“Susan’s cranberry relish story is legendary,” says Kathleen Morgan, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library Foundation. “We want to have a little fun in advance of her visit and encourage members of the community to share their own cranberry recipes.”

The contest’s grand prize winner will win two VIP tickets to Stamberg’s show, pick up a special prize-studded “Susan Stambag” and have his or her cranberry dessert prepared and served by famed Lawrence chefs Molly and Robert Krause at a VIP party following the presentation. Four runners-up will receive two tickets each to the program.

The Krauses will narrow down the initial entrants and determine five finalists who will be notified by Feb. 27. The finalists must bring samples of their creations to the library auditorium March 4 for a final judging by a panel of celebrity judges.

Entry forms and more information can be found under the “Cranberry Creations” tab at www.lawrencepubliclibraryfoundation.org.

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“American Idol”: Eudora’s Jason “Wolf” Hamlin makes it to Hollywood!

America is waking up with a song in its heart this morning for Jason "Wolf" Hamlin.

The 2005 Eudora High School grad made it to the Hollywood round of "American Idol" last night with his rendition of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

If you missed it, take a look at Jason above, sharing his story with the judges and host Ryan Seacrest before wowing with his voice and use of the "git-fiddle" made for him by his late father.

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A reason to watch American Idol Sunday: Eudora singer will appear

Eudora High School students Jason Hamlin, left, and Caleb Pettengill will be attending their prom as pirates.

Eudora High School students Jason Hamlin, left, and Caleb Pettengill will be attending their prom as pirates. by Jared Soares/Journal-World Photo

According to sources at Eudora High School, 2005 grad Jason Hamlin (left, dressed as a pirate for prom back in his high school days in 2005) will be on American Idol this Sunday on FOX.

Hamlin auditioned for the annual singing competition in San Diego and apparently gets air time in a special episode, to appear after the NFC Championship game. The episode will start around 9 p.m., though the timing depends on the game.

The show, which is its 12th season, debuted last Wednesday and showed its second episode on Thursday. The current episodes are showcasing the audition process, in which amateur singers try to make it to Hollywood.

Kansas City native David Cook won the show's seventh season in 2008. Check back at Lawrence.com next week to see if Hamlin made it to Hollywood.

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Fun (and scary) food facts for your Friday

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2008/aug/28/154130/

The other day, I downloaded "25 Amazing Facts about Food" by Mike Adams and David Guiterrez of NaturalNews.com. It's a fun and free guide and the reporting looks pretty sound to me.

Most of the 25 facts I already knew, like No. 8: peach pits are the basis for an anti-cancer medicine known as "laetrile." (This was in a story I wrote awhile ago.) But some of the facts were new, and totally interesting:

No. 1: The most expensive cup of coffee in the world will cost you $80 a mug and is made from "beans partially digested and defecated by the Asian palm civet." The coffee? Kopi luwak.

No. 4: L-cysteine, an ingredient often found in commercial breads, is "derived from human hair." Why is it in there? It is an amino acid that works as a dough conditioner. I could make a joke about "pillowy bread" right now, but I won't.

No. 9: That confectioner's glaze ingredient you see in candies is actually the same thing as "shellac" ... which is sold at hardware stores for use as a wood varnish and seal. No matter what it's called and how it's used, it comes from "a chemical secreted by female lac bugs."

No. 20: Oregano, so good dried and put on pizza, apparently has a higher antioxidant content than the antioxidant superstar to the masses, the blueberry. It has four times the antioxidants of the little berries. Plus, it's got "12 times that of oranges and 42 times that of apples."

No. 23: The reason you're probably more likely to eat rice than quinoa? The Spanish banned quinoa and amaranth in the New World because the conquistadores were "scornful of their use in native religious ceremonies." Maybe if they'd known about the foods' high amounts of amino acids, they would've reconsidered. And, I'm pretty sure paella made with quinoa would be super tasty!

So, there's a bit of education for your Friday. If you want more, check out the full excellent report here. Have a fabulous weekend!

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Paula Deen cooks up disappointment with diabetes drug announcement

Usually, when I see Paula Deen's thousand-watt smile and Kewpie doll eyes I think of one thing: Butter.

In an amazingly memorable episode of "Iron Chef America" the Southern cook teamed up with Cat Cora to take on Tyler Florence and Robert Irvine in "Battle: Sugar!" In the episode, Paula plays to the audience, cackling with deep-fried energy and one-liners, making the other three chefs and a sous chef in elf gear look like scenery. All the while, she's putting on a show within a show with made-for-TV moves such as grabbing a pound of butter, dumping it in a pan with a half-melted loaf of processed cheese and chirping for the camera, "My favorite ingredient, butter!"

So, naturally, my association with Paula Deen and butter, is normal. And, I imagine, many of you also have the very same direction association. Makes sense, right? Right.

But ever since Tuesday morning, when I see those impossibly blue eyes and wide grin of Southern hospitality, all I can think is: What a waste.

In case you missed it, the queen of Southern cooking confirmed Tuesday morning on the "Today" show that she has Type-II diabetes. Like many Americans, she had no clue until she went to her doctor for a routine physical ... three years ago.

Never mind that she's been whipping up sweet potato praline crunch pie and other heart-stopping delights for three years since finding out that she'd need watch her blood glucose levels. That's untruthful and severely reckless behavior, to be sure, but what was really disappointing came next.

Next, rather than launching a new line of diabetic-friendly recipes or talking about how she's overhauled her diet in the name of health, Deen instead batted her eyelashes, put that grin in place and announced to the world she was to be a paid spokeswoman for a diabetes drug company.

Of course, because the hot glare of the "Today" show lights doesn't come without a probing question or two, Al Roker (yes, they had the giggly weatherman interview Paula) tried his best to do an impression of a hard-hitting journalist and asked her directly if her rich recipes had anything and everything to do with her diagnosis. After a great deal of hokey-pokeying around like an experienced politician, her collective answer on the subject seemed to amount to this: "I'm not a doctor, I'm a chef. Here, take this drug."

Now, I know Paula Deen didn't sign up to be a moral compass when she burst onto the cooking scene in the mid-1990s, all personality and butter pats. Anyone who becomes a celebrity doesn't automatically lose the chance for independent thought, going against the grain or making unpopular decisions. Celebrities are people too, and they aren't perfect, as we've seen time and time again.

But, and it's a voluminous but, celebrities do have to think a bit harder about their actions because their influence is at a premium. I suppose that is why I was so disappointed with Paula on Tuesday. She missed out on a fabulous chance to reach out to the masses and promote healthy eating.

Because of her personality and power and history, if she had said, "Hey, I have diabetes and though I still like rich foods, I am learning to cook in a healthful way and I want to share my healthier recipes with you," that would've been incredible. We all know where she's been (fried mac and cheese, Krispy Kreme bread pudding) and if a lifestyle change were where she was going, it would mean much to many Americans who are struggling with diabetes or pre-diabetes. There would be a certain, "If Paula can change, I can too" oomph attached to such a decision that could light a fire for someone who can relate to her right down to a diabetes diagnosis.

But she didn't do that. Instead, she told us rich foods were merely a puzzle piece in the diabetes epidemic. True, yes, genetics do play a role, as does exercise and weight, to be sure. But diet is a puzzle piece so massive, it would basically play the role of Brazil if diabetes happened to look like South America.

To be fair, Paula's sons have just launched a show that includes healthier recipes called, ironically or not, "Not My Mama's Meals." But you know what? That's not enough.

That show isn't Paula's baby, and it doesn't come with the weight of her word. We could watch her health-minded son, Bobby, make "Bobby's Lighter Gooey Butter Cake," for the masses but, for all his good intentions, an entire season's worth of recipes from Bobby Deen isn't worth an iota of what his mother could've done with a single statement and some personal responsibility.

Instead, her announcement smacks of greed as much as mutual disappointment and it's certainly a bitter taste.

With the backlash she's gotten since her announcement, I hope that Paula decides to use her powers for the greater good, and gets into the kitchen to whip up healthier, diabetes-friendly fare that tastes good — and has the potential to help millions of sick Americans find the road to better health, butter be darned.

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Immunity help in a glass (I hope)

For this week's food page, I wrote about smoothies — a drink for which my fandom never seems to wane. Which, of course you already know if you read this blog regularly.

My story included a bunch of possibilities for great smoothies, depending on your health goals in the new year.

I have my own health goals in the new year, too, of course, but right now my most immediate health goal is not getting the snotty, goopy cold my kiddo has contracted from his school friends. Though, as the other parents out there know (and non-parents, too, probably), avoiding a child's cold can be like trying not to get damp in a hurricane.

When kids aren't feeling well, they want to cling and be comforted and wipe their little noses on something nearby, and it's probably not going to be on the tissue you handed them five seconds earlier. Rather, your pant leg, sleeve, shoulder or whatever appendage is nearest to that little face is probably what they're going to go for, especially while feeling all achy and in the mood to cuddle.

Therefore, since last Friday, I've been washing my hands constantly, reminding myself NOT to touch my face and trying to combat the kiddo's cold with my best weapon — a smoothie. The kiddo will drink nearly anything if you call it a smoothie. So, I've been working on his immunity and mine with greens in blended form.

A recent favorite has been this one, which involves greens in two forms: spinach and a green powder, which is made up of a plethora of healthy plants from the land and the sea.

I don't know if it'll keep this cold at bay (or heal the kiddo any faster), but it can't hurt.

Double Green Smoothie

1 banana

1 handful spinach

1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder

1 teaspoon Vitamineral Green or any other green powder (spirulina, chlorella, a mix)

1 to 1-1/2 cups water

Blend all in a blender. Serves 1 to 2.

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Easy winter salad — no lettuce or tomato in sight

We had a great conversation yesterday about being meatless in the Midwest. Please, keep it up! I'd love to hear more suggestions on where to eat as a vegetarian in Lawrence.

And, while you're munching on that, let's talk briefly about eating meatless at home, shall we?

Salad is a staple in our house, and that's no different in the winter. Though, I do know vegetarians and omnivores alike who have a hard time embracing salads when temperatures dip below freezing. Suddenly, lettuce seems a bit too, well, cold. And because tomatoes and many other basic salad ingredients aren't in season, it can be hard to keep a healthy salad habit going.

So, I encourage you to branch out. A salad is really just a random conglomeration of things, and it doesn't necessarily need to involve lettuce and tomato. It's no secret I'm a huge kale salad fan, and I've even written an entire story on winter salads. There really are a ton of options, including one I came up with on a whim last night.

Said salad (above) really is the perfect definition of "a random conglomeration of things." And it was soooo good.

I started with the last of my leftover squash and then took a look in the fridge to see what would go with it. I had a few wilty kale leaves, an about-to-turn avocado, a huge vat of kalamata olives from Costco and a jar of kimchi I'd bought this weekend in an effort to increase my intake of probiotics beyond just my (out-of-control) kombucha addiction.

The result was a healthy late-in-the-week dinner that I'm so glad I found.

Kimchi Squash Kale Salad

1/2 bunch green kale

1 to 2 cups chopped cooked squash (I used 1.5 roasted sweet dumpling squash)

1/2 cup kimchi (or more)

1/2 avocado, chopped

Kalamata olives

Tear the kale leaves into small pieces and discard the stems. Put the pieces in a bowl and top with avocado, massaging it gently into the kale pieces. Top with squash, kimchi and olives. Enjoy! Serves 1 as a dinner salad or 2 as a side salad.

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