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Common Core

Teachers (and probably some parents of school-age kids) are all probably very aware of the national push toward use of the Common Core Standards in the classroom. It’s another well-intentioned attempt to raise our academic standards, particularly in reading and writing.

I like the idea of nationalized standards for a variety of reasons, but I find the Common Core extremely overwhelming. For our Chancellor’s Day Professional Development, I’ve been asked to lead the afternoon humanities workshop. We’re meant to analyze a Common Core-aligned task and ask ourselves about how it aligns to the standards and this new Cognitive Rigor Matrix, a re-imagining of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, which should look almost annoyingly familiar to any current-or-aspiring teachers who read this. The amount of preparation I’ve had to do for this PD is staggering; the sheer amount of reading material required just to understand these standards is overwhelming in itself. When I begin to think about teaching with these standards in mind, I almost fall into a fit. My students can barely write a complete paragraph, let alone smoothly incorporate and clearly explain text evidence (a huge part of the new ELA standards) to support their ideas.

I’m not quite sure what I hope to accomplish in posting about this.

Fellow teachers, what do you think of the Common Core? How do you think it will change your teaching? Do you think it’s an improvement on older standards?

Anyone else, please also feel free to weigh in or ask questions! I need to keep the Common Core on my mind, as I plan this PD (and work toward helping revise my district’s English curriculum).


Cleansey Recipes

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New Year, New Resolve

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I’ve been done with school for about a year now, and I have no excuse NOT to blog. I have no outlet for my writing, and I have more free time than I’ve had in years. However, though my obsession with food continues, I want to broaden my horizons a little bit… so expect more food posts, but also some posts about work and life!

I was doing this Bon Appetit detox.  For four days, I lived on vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, and beans. I really wanted to see if maybe I was lactose intolerant or gluten intolerant, since I so often suffer from stomach problems.  Then, on Friday,   I ate Cheese Doodles and Fritos and drank a lot of beer.  Eating those chips is especially ridiculous, since I almost never eat chips in my regular life anyway.

Yesterday, I resolved to do it my own way. I’m going to just make sure I avoid processed food and seriously cut back on dairy. As Chris pointed out, I don’t really want to learn that I’m intolerant to gluten or lactose. Let’s be real. I’d never totally cut them out of my diet anyway.

I did, however,  add some delicious recipes to my repertoire; I’ll post a list to follow.

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Sage, and Onion

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Tonight’s dinner came from a blogger I like. She didn’t list the amount of stock required; I used equal parts stock and wine. It was delicious, and I’m definitely going to use Keller’s technique with chicken in the future (sear until brown, bake, broil). The skin was crisp and the whole thing was super moist and flavorful. A success!

Back to work tomorrow, so don’t judge me if I take a Tylenol PM at like 9:30…

Sundried Tomato/Pea Dip and Endive Spears

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So, Giada de Laurentiis is annoying. I don’t quite know how to explain why. Maybe it’s her constant display of cleavage, or her constant display of conspicuous high class consumption. But she’s irritating. Her recipes, however, tend to be lovely. We picked up some endive to try at Trader Joe’s and made a delicious and easy dip (recipe by Giada) with frozen peas, endive, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Our food processor, as usual, came in handy.

Chris also attempted Mark Bittman’s homemade crackers today. They were good, but we still need to tinker with the recipe. So stay tuned!


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Most recipes for hummus call for a ton of olive oil which is expensive (and fattening). My friend made great hummus recently, and I was surprised to learn her secret was less olive oil. I made it for my family’s Passover seder earlier this week and, as per their requests, the easy recipe follows. It makes enough to serve a pretty hungry family of 14. The measurements below are pretty rough. I usually just add ingredients to the food processor in small amounts, pulse, and taste, adding more spice etc. as needed.

  • 2 regular-sized cans chickpeas/garbanzos, drained
  • 1-2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. paprika or cumin
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

(1) Bring a small pot of water to a boil (enough to cover both cans of beans)

(2) Boil beans for 10-15 minutes, until you see a lot of bean skins floating atop the water

(3) Drain beans, reserving a few ladle-fulls of cooking water, and rinse with cold water. Peel skins off the beans. If you miss a few skins, this is no big deal, but this tedious step is what makes the hummus creamy enough without the use of much olive oil.

(4) Pulse beans and garlic in the food processor with a splash of the water. Pulse. Add water until you reach something just a touch grainier than your desired texture, and then add olive oil to make your hummus the perfect smooth consistency.

(5) Add lemon juice and spices/herbs, pulse, and taste, adding more spices as needed. Remember: you can add more salt/pepper/herbs! You can’t remove any.

Serve with carrots, celery, and/or pita.

A partial success

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Dinner was cost effective, and kinda pretty.

We bought some frozen ahi (or yellowfin) tuna steaks at Trader Joe’s for $4.50, whole wheat couscous, basil, and feta.

I figured I’d flavor the couscous with some leftover canned diced tomato, heated quickly over a lot of sauteed garlic, crumble in some feta, and top the whole thing with basil. This side dish worked reasonably well, and was very quick. I don’t think the feta flavor really seeped into the whole dish. A meltier mozzarella or even goat’s cheese might have been a smarter choice.

I looked up strategies for cooking the tuna steaks, and decided to sear them on my non-stick griddle pan, sprayed lightly with olive oil,  for about 2-3 minutes a side. I brushed a little olive oil on the steaks (hastily defrosted, in their wrapper, under cold running water in the sink… Chris forgot to refrigerate them to thaw!) and salted and peppered them liberally.  Chris’s larger steak was fairly tasty, though the texture was  bit tough.  Mine, though, was nearly inedibly fishy and tough. I’m not sure whether this is a result of the thawing method, overcooking, or what? Thoughts?