All posts by Clio

Review: Masculinity in Breaking Bad

Masculinity in Breaking Bad edited by Bridget R. Cowlishaw
Masculinity in Breaking Bad
edited by Bridget R. Cowlishaw

Title: Masculinity in Breaking Bad
Author: edited by Bridget R. Cowlishaw
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0-7864-9721-8
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers

Watching Breaking Bad was one of the most entertaining times in my life.  Such fantastic story-telling about a wimpy high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and needs to find a way to support his family after his death.

Walter White goes from chem teacher to badass drug kingpin in the course of the series.  There are no truly likable characters in Breaking Bad, but there are sympathetic characters.  Characters with which we can identify in some way because of their circumstances.  Sympathizing does not mean liking, it’s the simple recognition of, “Yep, been there.  Understand what you’re doing bro.  My choice was different, but you be you.”

Masculinity in Breaking Bad is what happens when a bunch of liberal arts Ph. D.s, each with a particularly granular specialty, look deeply at the male characters.  It can be a dense read.

This is not to say it’s not an interesting read.  There are multiple ways of exploring the themes of Breaking Bad, and masculinity is an obvious one since the story is male-driven, and centers on one man who is forced to redefine himself because of his diagnosis.

Eight essays, and two round table discussions, cover the topics from Walt’s fatherhood, manhood, business acumen, and legacy to my favorite, “Men in Control:  Panopticism and Performance.”  Basically, Jeffrey Reid Pettis uses French Philosopher Michel Foucault‘s theory of panopticism (in Discipline and Punishment) to the use of surveillance, and reactions to surveillance, in Breaking Bad.

Panopticism is a fascinating concept in which a prison is built in such a way that everyone (including staff) can be under surveillance at any time.  When there is no way to know when an individual is being watched, he begins to perform as though being watched.  Here, Pettis delves into the performance art which comes out of the knowledge each character has that he may be watched.

It is a rich essay, dense and chewy.  But the concept of always being watched is one of which none of us is completely unaware.  How does Walt react to knowing this?  What lengths does he go to show those he imagines watching that he is “the one who knocks?”

While I did find Masculinity in Breaking Bad interesting in many ways, I can only recommend this book to those truly interested in this type of close reading  and, who don’t mind working for their read.

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Food: Menu October 17 – 23, 2016

Menu: October 17 – October 23, 2016
  • (New recipe) Tangy Pulled Chicken
  • Roasted Onions: white, yellow, purple, cippoline (Italian) with red wine & white wine vinegars (no oil)
  • Roasted Cabbage: purple & green with red wine vinegar
  • (New recipe) Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • (New recipe) Roasted Garlicky Mushrooms
  • Fruit: mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples
  • Veggies: cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar,
  • Pumpkin Energy Balls
  • 1/2 cup 2% lowfat cottage cheese

Menu Commentary
Tangy Pulled Chicken
I didn’t exactly botch this so much as put in a pan far too big.  This came out dry, and extra crispy on the bottom.  No harm done.  The solution is to make sure there’s a smaller pan clean and ready.  Worth trying again.  (Probably next week)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
I’m not keen on the honey/savory combination.  This recipe calls for 2T of honey, which overpowered the tangy bits of the sauce.  Next time, no honey.

Roasted Garlicky Mushrooms
This recipe was meant for putting whole mushrooms on kebabs and cooking them on the barbecue grill.  First thing to go, parsley.  1/2 cup of olive oil?  I don’t think so.  1T brushed on the top is enough.  2 garlic cloves became 10 roasted garlic cloves.  Not bad at all, could have used just a pinch of salt.

General menu commentary
I continue to enjoy the roasted onions and cabbage with vinegar.  There’s no added oil on the onions, and 1T brushed on each head of cabbage.  Add my favorite vinegar, happy mouth and tummy.

The biggest challenge I face is how to make sense of the nutrition information based on the ingredients for any given recipe.  The uncooked serving sizes don’t come close to the reality of cooked food.  I know I will never have these calculations down perfectly, but I’m still working on figuring out a more accurate solution.

New ingredients:
None

New Tools:
None

Resources:
Clean Food Crush – Chicken
Bon Appetit
Martha Stewart
Clean Food Crush – Pumpkin Energy Balls
One Green Planet
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

Personal Log: October 9 – October 16, 2016

She's done For.
She’s done For.

This week was a doozy.  Back pain kept me home on Tuesday.  Thursday, I was in an accident.  The result of which means it’s now cheaper to find another car than have mine fixed.  (Both drivers are fine, )

This idea has terrified me for a couple of years now.  How would I pay for it?  Where would I find one?  Who could I trust?  I knew it would come.  Car is, after all, a 1995 model with over 226K miles on her.  She is old, and just plain worn out.

She’s also been a workhorse for me since 2000.  I kept praying, “Please don’t break down, I don’t know how to replace you.”  And yet.  Two breakdowns, a couple of fender benders, and the accident.  In ten months, she’s suffered these indignities, as gracefully as I could let her.

The universe told me in no uncertain terms, now was the time to let go.  Panicked and anxious, I took comfort in my friend’s expertise.  This is twice in two weeks he’s literally ridden to my rescue.  I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to have him in my life.

We got my car to a body shop which gave me a heart stopping quote for repair.  And then, “oh by the way, one of the managers here has a Honda Civic he’s selling for [almost half the price of repairs].”  Deep breath.

The next morning, we went back to test-drive the car.  I was in love with this 1997 Honda Civic two-door before I turned the corner in the parking lot.  The real test was on the streets when my friend put it through its paces.  I’m so happy to say New Car passed with flying colors.  Now, all that’s left is the financial details.  I have no choice but to leave it up to the universe, and have faith it has me covered.

My journey with food is becoming one of exploration.  New recipes, new techniques, new ingredients and tools.  Food is no longer about just eating to stuff my feelings down, to survive, and keep me sane.  Food is now nourishment for my body; brilliant tastes, spices, and deep caring.  I have mostly let go of  everything I learned from watching all those cooking shows with Don so many years ago,  My knife skills suck.  My knowledge of spices and what ingredients work together is next to nil.  I no longer care about any of that.

Chopping food has become a quiet time for me to ponder my creative world.  I’m processing a lot of information right now.  Ideas churn in my brain like a mixer gone berserk.  The quiet rote of chopping produce keeps my body busy while my mind has a field day like a bubble machine thinking about what comes next.  How do I get to the end I have in mind?  The chopping keeps me occupied enough that I forget to panic and be anxious about my ideas, my work.

Last week I walked around an unfamiliar neighborhood in search of sustenance and supplies.  This week, after my monthly beauty pampering, I walked with purpose.

I hadn’t intended to walk at all.  Me?  Walk someplace that isn’t next door?  What are you thinking?  Yet, there I was striding along.  Down the parking lot, across the broad street, down half the length of a large strip mall. Walking to the sushi restaurant, where I stationed myself as far away from the sushi boats as possible, because talk about triggers and temptation. I waited for my order. And then I walked back. Backpack slung over my shoulder, chirashi order and water bottle in hand. Walked the same route back to my car, without giving it much thought. As though walking was something I had done every day. I walked without pain, without hesitation, with the understanding that this is now a mode of transportation I can use; easily and comfortably.

I give gratitude for the guardian angels, the co-guardian angels, co-workers and friends who helped me this week.  There is so much to be grateful for in this life I’m creating, so much to be happy about.  The changes are becoming apparent, aside from the weight loss and my jammy pants falling off as I work in the kitchen.  I am mindful of my food, and of my life.  Calmer, more patient, more … me.  The emotional undertones of anxiety still exist, but they are merely undertones now, instead of the prevailing emotional mind-set.  This life is the one I create for myself, and I am grateful for that.

Menu: October 11 – October 16, 2016

Menu:  October 11 – October 16, 2016
  • (New recipe) Tandoori-Spiced Chicken (thighs)
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms
  • Roasted Onions:  white, yellow, purple, cippoline (Italian) with red wine & white wine vinegars (no oil)
  • Roasted Cabbage:  purple & green with red wine vinegar
  • Fruit:  mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in basalmic vinegar,
  • Pumpkin Energy Balls

Menu Commentary
Tandoori-Spiced Chicken (thighs)
I really enjoy this recipe. So easy to make.  Chicken is moist and mild.  Delicious!

Roasted Cabbage:  purple & green with red wine vinegar
If it weren’t for that  pesky necessity known as protein, I’m sure I could just eat these and roasted onions with vinegar all week.   Both are easy to cook.

New ingredients:
None

New Tools:
None

Resources:
Cooking Light
Bon Appetit
Martha Stewart
Clean Food Crush
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

Review: minor characters

Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson
Minor Characters
by Joyce Johnson

Title: Minor Characters
Author: Joyce Johnson
Published: 1983
ISBN-10:  0-671-72790-7
Publisher: Washington Square Books

The women didn’t mind, or, if they did, they never said – not until years later.  (p. 218)

To be a woman is difficult in any era, but to be an independent, creative, curious woman is especially difficult.  In the 1950’s, after World War II, gender roles were supposed to be fairly well established.  But things were starting to rumble a little.  Change was stirring.

Really, the story of the Beat Generation begins in the late 1940s, when a confluence of personalities and talents converged at Columbia University in New York City.  It was there the big names began to meet and discuss a new way of writing, and of being.

A teenaged girl named Joyce Johnson lived in a “respectable” neighborhood with her “respectable” parents.  And, around the age of thirteen, this “respectable” girl rebelled.  She went to places young girls shouldn’t go, and met people who opened her mind.  These people led to the Beats; Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac among them

Minor Characters is Johnson’ memoir centered around the years 1957-58, when she was Kerouac’s sometime girlfriend.  She tells a story many can relate to, being attracted to someone who can’t reciprocate at the same level.

Much has been written about the Beat Generation writers.  The men, that is.  Not so much has been written about the women.  Especially not much about the way women were treated.  Johnson’s story about being in the middle of that maelstrom is fascinating.

She relates how women were discounted by the men.  The usual story; taken for granted, belittled, not taken seriously, etc. etc.  Her story could be the story of so many women, but what makes it stand out is that it happened with a group of men who are revered for their open-minded views about all sorts of things.  They were especially interested in changing the rules of writing, and literature.  But women were only for amusement, or housekeeping.

And as Joyce Johnson, reiterates, the women stood for it.  Because as many generations of women will say, “we thought that’s what we had to do.”  To find love, to find a life partner, meant a woman had to put up with the meanness of her beau’s foibles.

Here is a book in which the woman, after two years of evasion and half-truths, said, “No.  Go away” to Jack Kerouac.  Joyce Johnson told Jack Kerouac, she was tired of his crap and to leave her alone.  Brava!  and Well Done!

The pain of this decision is clear, as is the need for something healthier, something more equitable, more loving.  To be sure, the most famous names were men who were hard to love, under any circumstances.  Kerouac, Burroughs, Cassady; all charismatic and difficult.  Horrible in their actions, negligent in their search for self-awareness.  Of them all, Ginsberg is the one who consistently appears to exert a great deal of effort to become familiar with himself.

While the Beats were changing the way America read and wrote, literature, Joyce Johnson was changing the way women looked at the men with whom they were in relationships.  Her story is well-told, and a fascinating look at the minor characters who also played a part in the Beat Generation.

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Personal Log: September 27 – October 8, 2016

Spiralizer

Six month stats:  50 pounds lost, down two sizes, blood pressure 132/75.

Absurdly baggy snuck up on me.  In July, when  a wardrobe upgrade came due, I hadn’t realized how big my old clothes were.  I joked the next wardrobe upgrade would have to wait until my clothes were absurdly baggy again.

In general, I wear my clothes until they fall to pieces.    Three months is the shortest time between wardrobe upgrades ever.  Yet, there I was, hitching up my jeans, and looking down in astonishment to see how baggy they were.  I won’t lie and say I don’t love the new edition of me.  In my mind, I still weigh 300 pounds, but in the real world where there are mirrors, I look fabulous!  And I’m so grateful to be able to do the work which got me here.

Truly, it’s about having a healthier body, really not about the weight,   But those two go hand in hand.  Losing weight has made my body healthier, and easier to maneuver.  I can walk longer distances with little to no pain, and I can do it without losing my breath.  Huge!

The past week or so has been filled with creative energy, I thought I was going to jump right out my skin.

San Jose Museum of Art Photography Workshop - October 2016
San Jose Museum of Art Photography Workshop October 2016

In no uncertain terms, the universe told me I needed to go to the San Jose Museum of Art for a photography workshop.  My introverted nature was shocked and appalled that I would be willing to give up three hours of perfectly good alone time on a Saturday afternoon to be in a room with 15 people I didn’t know.

San Jose Museum of Art Emilio Banuelos
San Jose Museum of Art Emilio Banuelos

 

 

The reason I was meant to be there was to meet street photographer/instructor Emilio Banuelos, who treated me as a peer.  It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like my work was taken seriously by someone in a position to offer guidance and encouragement.

Emilio was someone I could nerd out with about photography, and processes.  Specifically, my process.  He stayed after the workshop and offered insight when I explained the project I’m working on, and the purpose behind it.   “Nice,” doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to be taken seriously.  My greater fortune was finding out that Emilio teaches privately, at a rate I can easily save up for.

Spiralized Apples
Spiralized Apples

Meanwhile, on the food front, I’m committed to prepping and eating seasonally fresh produce.  Which means learning how to change my fixed ideas about the weekly menu.

I am process oriented and making sudden changes drives me right ’round a very short bend.  I am learning to pay attention to the food available, and think about my menu before shopping.  It’s really easy to fall into a routine and stop paying attention.

I managed to botch the curried chicken.  Again.  The recipe gets set aside for a few weeks while I move on to something else.  In the past, I would have given up.  Being willing to simply set it aside and come back to it later is new behavior for me.

As my relationship with food changes, so too does my attitude towards life.  I find myself more willing to try new stuff and am able to accept, from the outset, that there may be disappointment ahead.

This new attitude really showed itself when my car broke down.  It happened as I was driving to meet a friend who, quite literally, rode to my rescue.  Having someone text those three words, “on my way,” was the most comforting thing I’ve ever experienced.  It gave me such a boost.  Which made it easier to spend most of Monday in an unfamiliar neighborhood and take care of myself.

The results of this change were evident when I was able to calmly walk short distances with almost no back pain.  Listen to me.  I walked.  I walked willingly.  And nothing dread happened.

Which brings me to this:  size 22 y’all.  The jeans I bought in July are now too baggy for me.  I don’t like when my pants are baggy anymore.  No really.  Me.  I love my jeans from Torrid, and I love the way they fit.  So I ordered two pair in the next size down.

Speaking of which, exercise.  Finally!  With my wonky knee, it’s been difficult to do any kind of exercise without stressing the knee and the leg.  The resistance bands have arrived!  Me. Actually wanting to exercise.

And all because I changed my relationship with food, and began eating healthier.  I wanted a stronger body, and it’s on the way.

I must remind myself, give myself permission, to be human and make mistakes.  Even though I’ve made the commitment to exercise with my resistance bands six days a week, I know there are going to be times when I just don’t.  This doesn’t make me a bad person, it just makes me a person who every once in a while just can’t with the exercising.  Time was, if I missed a day, I just gave up.  Now I know if I miss a day, I’ll be back.

This is how I reached six months of better eating.  A plan executed one day, one meal, at a time.  The burgers still call my name.  Chocolate wants to know when we’re getting back together.  Today I make the choice not to listen.  I make the choice to eat what’s healthy and waiting for me in my refrigerator.  I did this.  No one else did.  Me.  And I like the results.

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Menu: October 2 – October 8, 2016

All prepped and ready for the week
All prepped and ready for the week

Menu:  October 2 – October 8, 2016

  • (Newish recipe) Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, onions, Penzeys Garlic Shoots, mushrooms, orange bell pepper, asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spiralized zucchini
  • Fruit:  red and green grapes, mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar,
  • (New recipe) Roasted Onions with Vinegar
  • (New recipe) Pumpkin Energy Balls

Menu Commentary
Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
I botched it again this week. The only thing I can think is that I prepped the sauce a few days ahead, and that did something to the balance of the ingredients. 2% Greek yogurt helped some. Burying it in veggies again. Time to set the recipe aside and came back to it in a few weeks.

Pumpkin Energy Balls
I did NOT botch this recipe.  It’s basically the peanut butter energy balls I’ve been making for six months now.  To meet my dietary requirements, I removed the chocolate chips and used coconut in place of the walnuts.  But dear Hera, this is a “want to put my face in the bowl” recipe.

New ingredients:
Red Grapes
Red Wine Vinegar
Mandarin Oranges
Pureed Pumpkin

New ingredient commentary:
Why has no one told me that pumpkin is so yummy outside of pies?

It’s so good without all the spices in it.  Wow.  Yup, gonna be cookin’ with this again.

New Tools:
Roasting pan

New tool commentary:
The roasting pan isn’t really a new tool, it’s just been packed away in a box for a while. It’s a deep and big enough to set a rack and a smallish turkey in.

Resources:
Real Simple
Bon Appetit
Clean Food Crush
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board

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Review: Butcher Bird

Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey
Butcher Bird
Richard Kadrey

Title: Butcher Bird
Author: Richard Kadrey
Published: 2007
ISBN-13:  978-1-59780-086-0
Publisher:   Night Shade Books

Be quiet.  It’s not necessary to fill every moment with your own voice.  Silence terrifies you.  You see your own existence as so tenuous that you’re afraid you’ll pop like a bubble if, at every opportunity, you don’t remind the world that you’re alive.  But wisdom begins in silence.  In learning to listen.  To words and to the world.  Trust me.  You won’t disappear.  And, in time, you might find that you’re grown into something unexpected.  (p. 126)

In Butcher Bird I read many of the themes which make the Sandman Slim series so interesting.

It’s more than “what is real”.  It’s about what happens when reality shifts and the way through is to accept things are scary different from our expectations.

One of the things I consistently enjoy in Kadrey’s work is the way he reconfigures religious myths.

in Butcher Bird, tattoo artist Spyder Lee lives a life he enjoys.  He hangs out with his best friend and tattoo partner at their favorite bar, getting drunk and being raucous.  He has a solid reputation for his tattoos and shop.  But one night, Spyder steps outside to relieve himself and a demon tries to bite his head off.

Yes, literally bite his head off.  And then a blind woman steps in and saves his life.  Now Spyder can see the demons and monsters humans aren’t supposed to notice.

The key to this particular fight is one of Spyder’s tattoos.  It’s a symbol he thought looked cool and didn’t know the meaning of, which calls the demon to him.

Then Spyder discovers that his best friend, Lulu, isn’t what she appears to be and he is really screwed.  And in order to put everything back into some semblance of order, Spyder goes on a quest with Shrike, the woman who saved him.

I love a good quest story, and this one has great payoffs.  Quests, on the surface, are about going from here to there in order to solve a problem, usually saving the world.  Quests are also about confronting ourselves, our beliefs and what we thought we knew about everything.

Butcher Bird has everything a good quest story should have; unexpected blessings and obstacles, fights (sword play or something similar), evil (in this case in the shape of demons and monsters), tricksters, love, and a drive to put things right.

Reading Butcher Bird while in the midst of the Sandman Slim series, gave me a richer experience, because I already knew what Kadrey was up to.  That appeals to the historian in me.

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It Takes a Village: The Journey Begins

painted-daisiesMy mind has been a big jumble for several weeks, ever since I got the idea to share my journey with food in public. How do I start? Where do I start? What gets put in? Which details do I leave out?

“They” say that any journey starts with a step. So, here’s my first step. Haltingly and imperfectly, here is where I am in my life, and how I’m becoming the person I always dreamed of being. (Yes, I know that sounds like hyperbole. Trust me, it’s not.) As you get to know me, I hope you will find the compassion for yourself to reset your life, and reach for the things you don’t know you wanted.

On April 6, 2016, a confluence of events led me to change the way I thought about food.  To this point, food had been a survival mechanism.  Now, I want more.  The main motivation for this lifestyle change is this, I want to be a better steward to the members of the museum at which I work.    A healthier body means having the ability to stand, or walk, for longer periods of time mingling at events with our members, without chronic back pain.

This has almost always been about wanting a healthier, stronger body.  It’s never really been about losing weight. Although I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I do succumb to the numbers game on occasion. I need to remind myself daily that it’s about being healthier, not thinner. Because, I’ve been thinner, and I was miserable.

On April 6, 2016, I weighed 300 pounds and while I knew I was a gorgeous creature inside, I did not particularly believe I was beautiful outside. At 56, I had surrendered to my past. The past whose experiences told me I was worth less than just about anybody else in the world. That I was unlovable, and unworthy. Yet, the universe saw fit to put me in situations, and bring people into my life, who showed me the exact opposite, if only I would pay attention.

Nearly six months later, I am so happy. The happiest I have ever been at any size. And I know, deep where it’s important to really know things like this, that I am lovable, I am worthwhile and I am worth more than I ever thought possible. Ever.  And I have just begun.

Many people have asked what my “secret” is.  I giggle and tell them there is no secret.  Then, I tell them there are spreadsheets involved.  Most roll their eyes when they hear that.  Everyone wants someone, to tell them how to “fix” their lives.   I can’t, I don’t know how.

What I can do is share my journey.  All of it.  Food, emotions, getting physical.  The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.  We all have the power to heal ourselves and become the people we want to be.

But, it is work. It is hard.  Sometimes, it’s downright tedious.  Are the results worth the work?  Oh HELL to the yes.  There are paths to potential opening all around me. Some go places I never would have thought of. Some paths are to things I gave up on.  So, yes it is worth the time and effort.

None of this is possible if I’m not willing to do the work.  I do the work, the universe provides the results.  I’m learning to let go of the “how,” and just take the steps I know, the universe provides guidance every step of the way.

It’s the same for you who are reading this.  YOU do the work. You can’t just wish for change, and do nothing to make it happen. You, and only you, can do this work and make your life better. And, once you begin, you are the only one who can make you falter. You are in charge, and no one but you, not even the deity itself has the power to take this away from you.

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Food: September 25 – October 1, 2016

Menu:  September 25 – October 1, 2016

  • (New recipe) Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
  • Roasted Veggies: eggplant, onions, Penzeys Garlic Shoots, mushrooms, orange bell pepper, asparagus
  • Fruit: watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
  • Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers peeled and soaked in balsamic vinegar, broccoli
  • (New recipe) Spiralized Cinnamon Apples

Menu Commentary
Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
The habit of removing all salt and fat from a recipe finally caught up with me. Without the salt, and at least a little bit of the fat in the yogurt, this was spicy, yet bland at the same time. A little reparative salt made it much better. The next batch I make will use at least 2% fat Greek yogurt.

Overall, this was not a bad first attempt. And it goes really well with the roasted veggies.

Spiralized Cinnamon Apples
There’s a recipe I’m going to try. It involves a skillet and heat, and other yummy things. But since I was running out of time, and because the weather was hot, I didn’t do the cooking part.

What I did instead was spiral cut the apples, sprinkle fresh lemon juice and cinnamon over them, and add a tablespoon of roasted walnut pieces. Microwave for 60 seconds, and yummy!

New ingredients:
Penzeys Now Curry
Fresh Ginger

New Tools:
Box Grater
Spiralizer attachment for stand mixer

New tool commentary:
The new attachment wasn’t a complete success. I couldn’t figure out how to attach the peeler blade. After a couple of YouTube videos and many tries, I threw my hands up. Spiralizer cutting blade not so great on cucumbers.

However, I did figure out how to spiral cut three pounds of Granny Smith apples. So much fun!

Notes on preparation:
Fresh ginger is a PITA to peel and shred. But it is worth the effort.

Resources:
Real Simple
Cooking Light
Penzeys
7 Stillwell Pinterest Food board