Category Archives: Roundups

Five Ways: Great Northern Beans

If you were inspired by my post about cooking beans from scratch, you’re probably all set to dig out the slow cooker this weekend. But once you cook those beans, what are you doing to do with all of them?

Here are five ways we keep some variety in our meals when we’re eating the same type of beans for a few days. Feel free to add your own variations and work with what you have on hand! Being able to mix it up keeps your food interesting and helps reduce waste. (#5 is pictured.)


#1 – With brown rice and Creole seasoning

Creole seasoning is a mix of spices that adds a kick to whatever you’re preparing. I was first inspired to use it when I fell in love with red beans and rice in New Orleans, but it’s proved to be a versatile addition to our kitchen. This meal works great with leftover rice and heated in the microwave or on the stovetop

Add a side of your favorite veggie (usually green beans, when we’re in a hurry), a piece of fruit, and a slice of bread with butter (Earth Balance, in our case), and you’ve got a hearty but simple meal.

#2 – On bread as a sandwich

Sandwiches are easy, quick, and they pack well when you’re on the go. My husband can attest that these sandwiches are extra tasty after a busy morning. On your favorite type of bread, spread a layer of mayo (we use Nasoya), add Dijon mustard, and for added delectability, throw on a slice or two of avocado. This is another place that Creole seasoning makes an appearance — add a sprinkle onto your mayo before you add the beans. The beans like to move around a bit, so feel free to wrap it extra tight to keep everything in place. You can toast the bread too, which can help everything stay together.

These would also be excellent with a slice of tomato, but I haven’t had a chance to make it happen. I love to have a big juicy salad as a side with these sandwiches.

#3 – With pasta and sauce

If you’re vegetarian, you’d probably like to add some heartiness to your pasta. Cook up your pasta, and when you’re heating your sauce (marinara, alfredo, pesto, homemade, from a jar — whatever works for you!), add a healthy scoop of beans to the sauce. It gives some added texture, not to mention more fiber and protein. Add a side of veggies and fruit, and you’re done!

#4 – Tex-Mex style

Grab a tortilla and add a spread of sour cream (we use the Tofutti brand substitute) and some salsa. Cook up some strips of bell pepper (frozen or fresh are equally delicious), add avocado and rice, and then top it off with beans. Season with your favorite Southwestern or Mexican style spices — we like cumin and fresh cilantro (although dried will do in a pinch).

#5 – With fried rice and Italian seasonings

Is that an odd mix? You won’t think so once you try it — this is my latest favorite (pictured at the top of the post)! Add some vegetable oil to your skillet, on medium heat. Add the beans and some rice to your pan, then throw in some mixed vegetables (again, frozen, fresh, or canned can work equally well). Season with sage, basil, and oregano. I found this was best with a side of fruit and a slice of buttered bread. If you want to get extra fancy, you can top your fried rice with some Panko bread crumbs.


She likes it, and let’s be honest — if she’s happy, everybody’s happy.

Do you have a go-to favorite for Great Northern beans? Is Italian fried rice a thing?



Loving lately: Backpack edition

Lately I’ve been carrying my favorite Eddie Bauer backpack from college and grad school to work. It holds everything I might possibly need during the day — wallet, phone, sunglasses, iPad, whatever book I’m currently reading, and my camera. Could I travel more lightly? Sure, and I want to do that more often, but until then … I carry a backpack.

My criteria for a backpack are pretty simple — must be large enough to carry everything listed above, but must not be too big so that it is bulky and unwieldy. It must also make me look like a hip adult going to work, not a teenager going to school on field trip day. Too much to ask? I think not.

I’ve been coveting a few nice backpacks lately. Here’s the rundown:


1. Timbuk2 Candybar – $85.00

I think this one is my favorite out of all of these. However, each time I look at them I seem to choose a new favorite. Fun colors, but still work-appropriate, and the reviews are great – it holds a lot but is not too bulky.

2. Mossimo Solid Backpack – $29.99

Easily the cheapest of the bunch. Target offers solid colors or prints, which can be fun. The drawstring seems secure, but the bag itself is still a little bulky.

3. Quick Trip Backpack – $59.99

I love these colors, although the eggshell fabric would probably dirty easily. The double latches are nice, and the shape is trendy.

4. Electra Commuter Backpack – $62

Gray and green work beautifully together, and the fact that this bag is made by the Electra bicycle company gives it bonus points. This one would stay secure even on my bike.

5. Ranger Small Laptop Backpack – $119.95

This is the priciest, but that mustard color is hard to resist. It comes with a rain cover (I can only hope that there would even be a reason to need that here in Kansas), and the reviews are fantastic — this is a bag that works well for petite frames.

6. Contrast Zip Backpack – $33

My favorite color combo for this bag is the red and blue, which of course is out of stock. If it were in stock, I probably would have already ordered this bag, in spite of the questionable reviews about the website itself. I love the shape, the double zip, and the size. *Sigh* … light blue isn’t bad, either, I suppose.

What kind of bag do you carry? Should an almost-30-year-old woman give up the idea that she is some sort of hipster academic and just ditch the backpack? 

Roundup: Great Books for Parents

I’m a librarian, so it follows that I do a fair amount of reading. I’m also a parent, so I tend to do a fair amount of parenting as well. I love reading books that help guide me on the crazy journey my family is undertaking and (let’s be honest) that validate what I’m doing at the same time.


Here’s a roundup of some of the best books I’ve read lately (and a few on my to-read shelf) on the topic of parenting:

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman – This was the first parenting book I read, while I was still pregnant. Druckerman, an American living in France with her family, noticed that parents acted differently with their children there rather than here. So many of those differences made sense to me, and I took lots of notes while I was reading. Of course, not everything included is a home-run, and that’s the beauty of it – take one of the ideas you like and try it with your child. If it is beneficial, stick with it. If not, try something else. There is no one right way to raise a child, and when reading this book I learned that there is some freedom and lee-way there.

Bebe Day by Day by Pamela Druckerman – Druckerman followed up the previous title with this one, which features a lot of the same information in a more bite-size package. She states that she wrote “Day by Day” to create a handy guide without the backstory, something you can hand to the grandparents or the sitter. This book definitely fits the bill there, and if you need a refresher after reading Bringing Up Bebe, this can help.

The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson – This book gives you the tools to get on your age 0-12 child’s level to help them deal with life. These techniques, in turn, fill your child’s toolbox so that they learn better coping strategies and can be happier and calmer. Read my review!

Minimalist Parenting by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest – Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices, information, and stuff that goes along with parenting? You’re not alone. This book aims to help you manage all of that, making you more available for your children (and making your children happier). I enjoy the Parent Hacks blog, from the authors, and I expected to like this book more than I did. There is a lot of pretty common-sense information included here, but at the same time, sometimes it’s just nice to have someone tell you something that you already know or are already doing and that it’s ok.

I’m currently reading Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules, by the Supernanny, as most people know her. Jo discusses discipline and how that word does not refer to punishment – instead, it means being consistent with your routine and with consequences for actions. She touches on five aspects: eating, sleeping, social time, early learning, and good behavior, and then goes above and beyond by including a section on tantrums. (Edit: Finished the book and posted my review! The book is simple and straightforward, but I still got a lot out of it.)

On my to-read shelf:

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior – Recently on the New York Times bestseller list, this book investigates how having children radically changes people. If you feel like you’ve added a child to your family only to lose some undefinable part of yourself, this book might be able to help.

How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah P. Klein – It seems like research from this book has been popping up in a lot of parenting magazines and on websites lately, so I’m excited to see what all the fuss is about. This one promises to tell you how to plant “the seeds of success” for adult life while your little one is still in diapers.

And my post must be very timely if the New Yorker has a humor piece about there being just too darn many things to read about parenting.