Monthly Archives: December 2015

Because Teachers Need To Eat #2: Big Batch Bolognese From America’s Test Kitchen


My mom-in-law is an amazing cook and when she comes to visit, I want try to make something extra-special for her to show how much I appreciate her TLC.  This time, my husband and I made Big Batch Bolognese from America’s Test Kitchen’s magnificent book, Slow Cooker Revolution.

If you aren’t familiar with America’s Test Kitchen, the company  writes


From America’s Test Kitchen website. This is their test kitchen. I heart these chefs.

“America’s Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe”

I swear  by their recipes because they are literally tested over and over in different ways to get the best results, so when I take the time time cook, I’m never disappointed. Now that a friend gave me their slow cooker book for my birthday, I’m in crock pot heaven.

The Big Batch Bolognese was a hit.  My father-in-law had at least seconds, maybe even thirds.  Don’t forget the wine – it adds noticeable flavor.  Use whole-fat cream – it’s worth the extra calories.

After dinner,  I was able to freeze four 1.5 cup portions for our Monday Night Pasta meals in January and February.

Bon appetit!

If you’re a teacher and have an easy, go-to recipe please contact me at heatherharlen at gmail dot com. It would be fun to feature your healthy, easy recipe for mealtime happiness.

Because Teachers Need To Eat: Mushroom and Kale Soup With Dill


Welcome to my new feature, Because Teachers Need To Eat. All teachers know that 30 minute lunches are never 30 minutes. That’s why I try to have something yummy and healthy to look forward to during my 23 (on a good day) minutes of peace and quiet.


Image from Real Simple, photo by Christopher Testani.

Yesterday, I made this soup from Real Simple.

I used some shiitakes; the rest were baby bellas.  I omitted the squash and doubled-down on the  greens (I used a baby kale/spinach mix).    It made four 1.5 cup servings.

I had one serving for dinner and it was delicious. I only had to add a pinch more salt and I loaded on the dill.  Even though it’s December in Pennsylvania, it’s still growing in my garden (hello, climate change), so I had plenty to chop up and sprinkle over the top. #TeamDill

Next time, I’ll use more shiitakes  for added flavor. I used 91 cents worth for this recipe, so doubling it is affordable.

Bon appetit!

If you’re a teacher and have an easy, go-to recipe please contact me at heatherharlen at gmail dot com. It would be fun to feature your healthy, easy recipe for lunchtime happiness.


September 2015: refreshed and ready to go. I wish I could bottle that energy!


Detoxing From Social Media


Over my school district’s winter break, I am taking a break from social media.  From December 24th through January 3rd, I am not checking Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  In the interest of transparency, I have logged into Facebook to check yoga class times and to see if anyone has posted anything wacky on my author page, but that’s it.

And it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be to go cold turkey.

I’m a fan of social media, largely in part because I use generally use it for the Forces of Good: keep in touch with friends and family, share information, offer a high five or virtual hug and laugh at funny videos and memes.  I also wanted to be totally present with my husband over the holiday because starting a new job and finishing a book has made me candidate for #1 Slacker Wife 2015.

I also have a very sick family member and I am reflecting a lot on the preciousness of time.  If I get a terminal disease, I am not going to miss liking people’s statues or picture of flowers.  I will miss hugging  people and walking through the woods.

But I didn’t realize how automatic it has become to click on the blue and white F on my iPhone screen.  It was totally automatic.  It freaked me out.  And made me feel ashamed of being so connected to this computer in my hand.

My thoughts so far:

Day 1 (12/24) : This is great!  It’s fun to be so disconnected and to live like it’s 2006. Please text me your photos from Christmas Eve dinner because I’m detoxing from social media.  See, I have self control. Now give me one of those cookies…

Day 2 (12/25)  I want to see people’s Christmas photos!  But it’s so nice to be out of the loop. But I want to see your kids in their Christmas outfits!

Day 3 (12/26) : Periphery, Harlen. Social media is  all periphery.  You’ll be in touch with anyone who really matters. But what’s going on???  I had to text my husband a meme I made instead of posting it on his FB page.  It was an Omar Little meme and it was about ceviche – who wouldn’t want to see that? Oh well. It was just for him.

Day 4 (12/27):  I really want to tell everyone – the entire universe – how awesome Star Wars: The Force Awakes is!  I want to tweet J.J. Abrams and tell him I have officially forgiven him for the ending of Lost.  Instead, I will rave to my husband and the friends we watched it with.  I will text my sister-in-law back because she saw it today, too.  And I am good with that.

Day 4 (12/28):  I am reading REAL news sources more now.  I am actually going to The Washington Post app instead of my friends self-selecting for me.   It’s only been four days? I’m PROUD of myself for being off social media for four days. Proud?  That’s terrible.  Shameful.  Proud.  Wow. It’s a good thing I am taking a break.  I’m wondering what the outcome will be.







#SmarterSunday: The Insidiousness of Resiliency



Raise your hand if you work for an organization that uses “resiliency” in its mission statement or philosophy.


Now take that hand and smack yourself in the forehead.

Because that’s what “resiliency” feels like to me now.

As a teacher who is surviving the high stakes testing extravaganza inspired by No Child Left Behind, no word rings more hollow than “resiliency.”  It really means do more with less and make sure you smile while doing it – and come back for more tomorrow.

This article by Parul Seghal explains a dangerous outcome of demanding resiliency:  shaming those who question the system.

It’s time those of us who are asked to be resilient to start asking more questions about the system that demands so much from us. Even rubber bands snap.