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cooking the books 01

Growing up, there are some foods that I just assumed were gross. Foods I associated with bad cafeteria fare; you know the ones. Meatloaf. Chicken Fried Steak. And, of course, Sloppy Joes. 

As an adult, I’ve come to realize that these foods are not inherently gross! In fact, ever since trying this recipe for Sloppy Joes, I’m convinced that there are tons of ways that Sloppy Joes can go right in such a way that I actually prefer them to their less messy hamburger cousins. 

When I was restocking our Used Book Store this month, I was delighted to find that the adult department has been weeding our cookbook section, which means that the nonfiction section of our book store will be full of a variety of gently used cookbooks for the next month or two. The title PARENTS NEED TO EAT TOO (by Debbie Koenig) jumped out at me, as I’ve found myself in that terrible time of parenting a toddler that has me constantly saying things like, “Chips are not real food,” and “You have to eat something other than cheese!” After these endless conversation loops, I find myself with less and less motivation to cook something real for the adults in the house that will actually eat real food. Am I willing to pay $1 for a cookbook written by someone who gets me? Why yes, yes I am! 

This book is divided into chapters that helpfully propose a variety of solutions to the lack of time/energy that new parents often face. There is a chapter on cooking with pantry staples, a chapter devoted to slow cookers, etc. This recipe comes from the chapter devoted to big batch cooking, an idea that you cook one recipe but make enough to stock your freezer with a few ready-made meals for those days when you just can’t even. 

These Sloppy Joes were nice and tangy, and the chipotle pepper adds just the right amount of smoke and spice. I was initially worried that the sauce-to-meat ratio would be off (it just didn’t look like enough sauce!), but it turned out to be just enough to coat everything nicely without being TOO sloppy. We halved the recipe, and it still made enough for us to have a generous amount of leftovers. We’ll be making these again soon! 

9.21.17 Parents need to eat

Chipotle Sloppy Joes
by Debbie Koenig





1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 pounds extra-lean ground beef or lean ground turkey 

½ cup water
½ cup ketchup
1 chipotle in adobo, minced (remove the seeds if you’d like less heat), plus 1 ½ tablespoons adobo sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Hamburger buns, for serving 


  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skilled over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, garlic, pepper, and celery, and cook until softened, 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the ground meat, raise heat to medium-high, and cook, breaking up the meat with the back of a spoon, until it’s no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until flavors meld.
  4. Serve on hamburger buns 


Koenig recommends mixing all your sauce ingredients together in a 2-cup measuring cup while your other elements are cooking. I second this recommendation. I do not necessarily recommend allowing a toddler to help you with said mixing, but we avoided major disaster and only forgot the chili powder.

kids albums

 A few months ago I got into the car and a CD started to play. I found myself singing along, enjoying myself, belting out the melodies and harmonies. Then I realized my kids were not sitting in the back of the van. They were at school and I was alone, driving to work. All. By. Myself. The CD was made for kids and here I was, an adult, with no kids in the car. I hadn’t cringed and turned it off when it came on or immediately switched the music. I actually enjoyed it enough to sing-along. 

Sometimes you have to do a little digging to find music the whole family can enjoy. I listen to a little bit of everything, so I love exposing my children to a variety of music genres. Sometimes I do end up listening to music specifically designed for children, but I am picky about making sure that parents can also enjoy the music. It becomes something we do together as a family. Here are some of our favorites . . .   

9.22 Snack TimeSNACKTIME
Barenaked Ladies
Desperation Records 

Of all the albums, this is most definitely our family favorite. Classic Barenaked Ladies with fun harmonies and rhythms. The songs are clever and often laugh-out-loud funny. In “7 8 9” six is afraid of seven because seven ate nine! “The Crazy ABC’s” uses words that are correct but don’t sound right: like “m” for mnemonic (among others).  This album has upbeat songs mixed in with some ballads—something for everyone. It‘s just plain fun.  

Jack Johnson

One of the best things that can happen when parenting small children is when one of your favorite artists comes out with a children’s album. Jack Johnson was a favorite of mine before kids and this came out just in time for my children to listen to when they were young. 

9.22 Family TimeFAMILY TIME
Ziggy Marley
Tuff Gong Worldwide 

This album is full of fun songs with Jamaican rhythms that are enjoyable and stand out from the other albums. It also includes a couple of stories at the end read by Jamie Lee Curtis.  

Lisa Loeb 

This album has more of a camp-song feel, and the kids love singing along with her. The songs are catchy, and most of the words are simple to learn. Just be careful with this one: the songs will get stuck in your head.  

9.22 Here Comes ScienceHERE COMES SCIENCE
They Might Be Giants
Walt Disney Records 

Thank you “They Might Be Giants” for putting facts to tunes! These songs have a lot of teaching involved. They are basically scientific facts woven into fun music. This band has a lot of different fun kids music albums, so if you haven’t ever tried them, you need to.       

 Readers Advisory Header

When someone becomes a librarian at the Provo City Library, they are trained to do something we call "reader's advisory." This means that we read an awful lot, and what we don't read ourselves we find out about from others (and the internet). So if you ever feel in a bind about what to read next, just ask a librarian. Chances are, we know the perfect book.

Sad dog

sad bear

shocked cat

challenge accepted


FTN FB event

You may have heard the term STEM before (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in the education world.  Right now there is an emphasis on teaching children these skills, because analysts predict that in the next decade, 80% of professions will require a deep understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math.  Educators are motivated to teach these skills so that children will have the opportunity to later pursue careers in these fields.

But is focusing solely on STEM skills a complete education? Definitely not. It's important to balance STEM activities with fun and creativity, or even better, combine the two. I believe arts education and STEM education can enrich each other. Technological advances are furthered by creativity, and artistry is enhanced by sharpening the mind, increasing our understanding of the world around us and how it works. Physics plays a role in sculpting with different materials. Exposure to art can make the technology we create more interesting, and more relevant to the human experience.  

STEM learning combined with creativity and play has been something we have been thinking about a lot here at the library. Participating in tech activities encourages youth to be curious, ask questions, and make connections with the world around them, and we can think of no better setting for these activities than with family. Even if we, as parents, don't have honed STEM skills ourselves, we can learn alongside our children, and as we do our relationships are enriched and children can see from the examples of their parents that STEM skills aren't scary or hard. When kids participate in learning play with their families, we make it more accessible to them simply with our prescence, our interest, and our attention, and we open many doors of possibility for them in the future.

I'm excited to announce that we have created a Family Tech Night series where we will explore different science, technology, engineering, and math principles with fun and creative play. Families can come and have a guided demonstration from a librarian before getting a hands-on experience with the tech themselves. Our first Family Tech Night is this coming Wednesday, September 20th at 6:30 in the Shaw Programming Room #260. We will be using littleBits, small circuits that easily snap together, to create fun inventions and learn how one type of circuit can affect the next.


We're excited to demonstrate this simple but foundational technological principle, as well as create some fun tech, and we hope to see you there!

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