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Monday, June 26, 2017

Recipe Review from 6/18/2017

"Man plans,  God laughs."  Yiddish Proverb.

Maybe that should be, "Man gets a puppy, Man plans, God laughs even harder..." 

It's mid to end of June.   I bought some squash plants last weekend and we thew them into the garden to see what'll happen.  Rutabaga's got planted.  And if we can get the tiller into a couple of beds, then we'll plant peas, swiss chard, and kale.  A much scaled back plan from what we had intended last December or even March. 

Puppies'll do that...

The Meal Plan from the week of June 18:
Sun (L)  pasty       (S)  out
Mon (yoga) brats
Tues - Salmon nicoise salad with Parsley potatoes
Wed (trap shooting class) leftover brats
Thurs (yoga) leftover salmon salad
Fri - Chickpea salad with leftover salmon

Summer Salmon Nicoise Salad  (Ckng Lght, July 2017)  gluten free
Couple of modifications here - I got a 1.25 lb salmon fillet and grilled it, then used the salmon in several dishes starting with the one below.   I don't have a microwave, so I cooked the potatoes on the stovetop, removing the potatoes then proceeded to cook the eggs, beans and corn in the same water.   I will note, 6 minutes was not long enough to fully hard boil the eggs - they were definitely soft boiled. 

End result, while my modification seem putzy, I was able to do several things at the same time and dinner was on the table in about 40 minutes.  The salmon took the longest, but that was because it was only partially thawed (bought it on the way home from work) and it took a bit longer to grill.  Not a biggie - I could start dishes while waiting.

I would make this again! 

Photo from
2 large eggs
1 (8-oz.) pkg. haricots verts (French green beans) 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 (12-oz.) salmon fillet, about 1 in. thick
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 head butter lettuce, torn (about 6 cups)
3/4 cup chopped English cucumber
1/2 cup fresh yellow corn kernels
1 1/2 ounces pitted kalamata or Niçoise olives (about 1/4 cup)
4 small radishes, cut into 1/2-in. wedges
  1. Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil. Carefully add eggs to pan; cook 6 minutes. Add green beans; cook 2 minutes. Drain; plunge bean mixture into a bowl of ice water. Let stand 3 minutes; drain. Peel eggs, and cut into quarters.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add fish, skin side down, to pan; cook 7 minutes. Turn, and cook 3 minutes. Remove fish from pan; break into large flakes with a fork.
  3. Combine remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, vinegar, parsley, and mustard in a bowl. Divide lettuce among 4 plates; top evenly with eggs, beans, cucumber, corn, olives, radishes, and fish. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
Serve with:

Parsley and Dill Potatoes  (Ckng Lght, July 2017)  gluten free
I don't have a microwave, so I modified by pre-cooking in a boiling pot of water, then finishing as directed below.  I did this while prepping everything above, then used the boiling water to blanch the green beans and cook the corn. 

1 tablespoon water
1 pound baby golden potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Place 1 tablespoon water and quartered potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 4 minutes or until tender. Place potatoes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet; let potatoes dry for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add potatoes; cook 3 minutes or until browned and crisp. Combine potato mixture, garlic, and remaining ingredients; toss.

Summery Chickpea Salad (Ckng Lght, July 2017) vegetarian, gluten free
Fast, simple, tasty.  Perfect for a warm summer night.  Only modification was I skipped the cucumbers (I'm not a fan) and I subbed some leftover flaked salmon from the recipe above.

Made enough for about two meals

Photo from
1 1/2 cups halved multicolored cherry tomatoes
1 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used the whole can)
I cup grilled salmon, flaked; preferably room temp or chilled
1 cup half-moon English cucumber slices
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup slivered red onion
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, parsley, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Toss gently to combine.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Recipe Review from 6/11/2017

The Lil Monster continues to amuse, delight and frustrate us, usually all within the span of five minutes.  We're making slow but gradual progress on Obedience Training - he understands "come" and "sit", now to make them a bit more consistent.  Leash training is NOT his favorite and he takes great umbrage to not being allowed to do his own thing.  Tough luck buttercup!  :D

The Chicken Caesar Salad recipe mentioned below in the Meal Plan is from Cooks Illustrated cook book and one I've made before.  It's an awesome recipe if you like Caesar salad, the only downside being the raw egg yolks.  I know there is some way to cook the yolks before using, but I can't recall where I saw the technique. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) leftovers of some kind (S) Chicken Caesar Salad
Mon (yoga)  Leftover Caesar Salad
Tues - weenie wraps and tots again  :D
Wed - Sweet Potato Taco bowl
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers
Fri - leftovers
Sat (L) more leftovers  (S) pizza

Sweet Potato Taco Bowl (My Kitchen Love blog) gluten free, vegetarian option**
This came recommended from two sources, and it was a only a matter of time before it made it to the meal plan. AWESOME!!

I posted the recipe as "written" from My Kitchen Love, but I had some rather significant modifications.  It's that kind of recipe - you can't go wrong, really:
  • I used 3 tbsp Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning, divided (2/1) instead of mixing the spices below
  • I skipped the meat and subbed instant brown rice instead
  • Because I skipped the meat, I sauted 1/2 cup onion, tossed 1 tbsp taco seasoning in to bloom the spices, then added the corn and beans to heat through. 
  • Then assembled everything. 
I did think some spinach or other lettuce would have been a nice addition, and added it to the leftovers.

This comes together in about 30-40 minutes, from pulling out the cutting board and ingredients to putting bowls on the table.  Depending on how much clean-up you want to do before sitting down. 

photo from My Kitchen Love blog
2 tbsp chili powder1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 lbs (454 grams) sweet potatoes, peeled and copped into 1-2" cubes (approx.)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lbs (454 grams) extra lean ground beef** (I skipped, subbing rice instead)
1 x 14 oz (330 ml) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn, either from can or 2 ears of corn (shucked and kernels removed from ear)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved OR 2 large tomatoes chopped
1 avocado, sliced

Optional additional garnishes, sour cream, jalapeños, sliced green onion, chopped cilantro leaves, lime slices, crumbles feta, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a small bowl mix together chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, oregano, garlic power, onion powder, and cayenne pepper (if using).
  3. Toss sweet potatoes pieces with vegetable oil and half the seasoning mixture from the small bowl, about 2 tablespoons. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender and cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, cook beef over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until cooked through. If necessary, drain any large quantities of fat from skillet, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Add beans and remaining seasoning mixture from the small bowl. Toss to fully coat beans and beef with seasoning. Continue to cook until beans are heated through.
  5. To serve either place all ingredients in separate dishes for family style serving, or make individual bowls before serving table.
  6. Serve with any desired optional garnishes.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci (Sean and Michelle #5)

The Sixth Man (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #5)The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Edgar Roy--an alleged serial killer held in a secure, fortress-like Federal Supermax facility--is awaiting trial. He faces almost certain conviction. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called in by Roy's attorney, Sean's old friend and mentor Ted Bergin, to help work the case. But their investigation is derailed before it begins--en route to their first meeting with Bergin, Sean and Michelle find him murdered.

It is now up to them to ask the questions no one seems to want answered: Is Roy a killer? Who murdered Bergin? With help from some surprising allies, they continue to pursue the case. But the more they dig into Roy's past, the more they encounter obstacles, half-truths, dead-ends, false friends, and escalating threats from every direction. Their persistence puts them on a collision course with the highest levels of the government and the darkest corners of power. In a terrifying confrontation that will push Sean and Michelle to their limits, the duo may be permanently parted.

Read as an audio book.

This was a "panic pick" - I was heading out on a road trip, the book I had put on hold was missing in the system, and I needed something NOW. Assured by the librarian that The Sixth Man could be read as a stand alone, I grabbed it.

And loved every minute! This is an enjoyable, slightly over the top (aren't they all?), political/mystery/thriller that is perfect to just zone out on - pure brain candy.

Later, a quick search on Goodreads said this is book #5 in the series. Now the plot alludes to earlier "things", but I never felt I was missing huge chunks of story line or plot arc.

As with the John Puller series on audio, there is a male and female narrator which works very well and something I quite applaud. And, as with the John Puller series, it was the same narrators - whom I ADORE - but unfortunately, in my head, using the same narrator made the book feel like a John Puller copy in some regards. Several regards, which I'll expound on below.

My tiny complaints:

This felt similar to The Escape by Baldacci (John Puller #3). Rising star/super smart guy is framed for a crime he didn't commit, elaborate high-profile prison escape, uber-secret female government agent, government really wants the prisoner back, murders, cover-ups, search for the truth...some very comparable threads woven throughout.  Perhaps too many

Many of the murders seemed over the top and unnecessary. Trying to "cover-up" the E-program by bumping off person after person when so many people already know about it? That just didn't jive with me.

The climatic conclusion was somewhat predictable given the foreshadowing earlier in the plot. 

Despite my noted quirks, as I said above, this is just fun brain candy. I enjoyed the back and forth between Sean and Michelle, Kelly Paul was an interesting gal, and the double-crossing by everyone kept me engaged by following the who's stabbing who in the back.

I greatly appreciated that Michelle and Sean didn't jump into the sack on-page - there was reference to them sleeping together previously and how it was affecting their current relationship and expectations. That kind of rapport I can get behind. I have little tolerance for the standard cookie-cutter romances found in so many of these thrillers/mysteries.

Overall, fun. I'll be going back to read the first four in the series. Recommended (even as a stand alone!)!

View all my reviews

Monday, June 12, 2017

Recipe Review from 6/6/2017

Kepler had his follow-up vet appt this week - he's now 15.5 lbs!  He was 10.5 at his first appt.  While he's still small, I can see how his legs have gotten longer.  That and he can scoot across the yard after Andy-dog like nobody's business; he can't keep up with Andy, but Kepler gives it a solid try.  Still a mouthy 'Lil Monster, he has to eat, chew, and sample everything.  Fingers and toes are a favorite.  I just keep reminding myself...this will pass.  This WILL pass. This had better pass...

Karl - if you're reading this, I think Kepler likes lemon juice.  He tries to attack the little lemon after he gets a mouthful.  Go figure.

The Meal Plan from week of June 6:
Sun  (S)  weenie wraps and tater tots (sometimes ya just gotta...)
Mon (yoga)  leftover weenie wraps
Tues - Grilled Salmon and roasted tomatoes
Wed - leftover salmon pasta salad
Thurs (yoga) - leftover pasta salad
                                                 Fri - leftover pasta salad
                                                 Sat (L) leftovers   (S) scrounged...

                                                 Lunches - bagel sandwiches

Seared Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes (Ckng Lght, June 2017)  gluten free
A super easy dish that I simplified a bit more by cooking the salmon on the grill and skipping the oven completely.  The Husband pre-heated the grill to 350*, I seasoned the fillet with a bit of salt and pepper, and grilled it for 10 minutes checking once for doneness.  While filet was cooking, I continued with sauteing the onions, tomatoes and basil.

I would make this again.  Total YUM!  Don't skip the balsamic vinegar - it really brings the whole dish together: the sweet tomatoes and onions, the bright basil, the flavorful salmon - with a hit of tart tangy balsamic. 

Cooking tip - cook extra salmon and use the leftovers in a pasta salad for the next couple nights dinners. 
photo from

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (6-oz.) salmon fillets, about 1 in. thick
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup torn basil leaves, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high. Sprinkle fillets evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add fillets to pan; cook 4 minutes on one side or until golden brown. Place fillets, seared side up, on prepared baking sheet; bake at 500°F for 4 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
  3. Return skillet to medium-high. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add shallots, and sauté 2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, tomatoes, and 1/3 cup basil; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down. Stir in vinegar, and cook 1 minute.
  4. Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates; top evenly with tomato mixture and remaining basil.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Banning St. Park/Mother's Day

This is a bit of a belated post.  Mother's Day weekend the Husband and I invited the Parents out to our place for lunch (reviewed here), and then we day tripped down to Banning State Park.  Despite living up in the Northland nearly 20 years, and having driven by the park more times than I can count, we had never been. We fixed that oversight Mother's Day weekend.  

Banning St. Park is located right off of I35 at exit #195 near Sandstone, MN.  Despite it's proximity to the highway, once you are in the park you forget how close it is.  

Kettle River

History from the website:
In the late 1890s, the Banning Sandstone Quarry employed 500 workers who chiseled the rock into massive blocks. The strength and pink color of this sandstone made it very popular for building construction. On September 1, 1894, the great Hinckley forest fire swept through the area inflicting heavy financial losses on the company and on the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad line serving it.

Business resumed after the fire and by 1896 a village was platted on the fields above the quarry. The village was named in honor of William L. Banning, president of the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. The village grew and by the turn of the century it was incorporated with a population of approximately 300. By this time, however, contractors were beginning to use structural steel for building construction. By 1905, all work at the quarry ceased.

Fires continued to be a problem so that by 1912, the town of Banning virtually ceased to exist. Today, all that remains of the site are weathered ruins along the Kettle River. Banning State Park was established in 1963 by the Minnesota state legislature, with 5,246 acres.

In 1971, the park acreage increased to a total of 5,877 acres. In 1986, the park boundary was expanded to include the Log Creek Drive area, for a total of 6,237 acres. A 10-mile stretch of the Kettle River, designated as a state Wild and Scenic River, bisects the park. In 1995, the local community of Sandstone, the DNR and the Pollution Control Agency worked together to remove the Kettle River dam and return the river to its natural state which now showcases the Big Spring Falls and the Sandstone Rapids. The park's water resources include the Kettle River, Wolf Creek, Log Creek, six streams and three springs. The scenic Kettle River includes five spectacular rapids: Blueberry Slide, Mother's Delight, Dragon's Tooth, Little Banning and Hell's Gate. These rapids provide one of the state's most challenging whitewater experiences for canoe and kayak enthusiasts.

We did the self guided Quarry Loop trail, taking advantage of the trail extension along the river.  The weather was a sunny 85*, bugs were minimal on the regular trail and obnoxious closer to the water.  While there were other people out and about, I didn't feel overly crowded.  There is talk of going back later this summer to hike some of the other trails and enjoy a picnic lunch, but I've been warned that the mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies can get really bad - so we might have to wait until cooler Fall temps prevail.

Natural uncut stone wall
Flowers growing in the rocks

Discard piles

Monday, June 5, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/29/2017

A very hectic week coping with new pup and a three day yoga intensive that had me down in the Cities.  Meals were uber simple - including the one new one below.  Enjoy!

The Meal Plan from week of 5/29
Sun (L) baked spaghetti   (S)  Iowa chops with asparagus
Mon (L) leftovers  (S) Goat cheese stuffed portabellos
Tues - leftover Goat cheese stuffed portabellos
Wed- leftover baked spaghetti
Thurs (yoga training)
Fri (yoga training)
Sat (yoga training)

Goat Cheese Stuffed Portabellos  (Ckng Lght, June 2017)  vegetarian option**
I made this two nights in a row and really liked it.  I would totally make this again!  It's super easy to assemble, add in some quinoa/rice and a veggies and bam! dinner is on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Only one small modification - I skipped the prosciutto.  If you have some on hand, use it.  I wouldn't go out of your way to buy a package though.  I served this with instant brown rice and roasted asparagus.  I baked the asparagus at the same time as the mushrooms at 450*, not the 500* called for.   I made the toppings the first night, but only cooked two 'shrooms, then used the leftovers the next night.   I don't recommend subbing regular bread crumbs for this, stick with Panko.  


4 large portobello mushroom caps, stemmed and dark gills removed
Cooking spray
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
3/4 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1-in. pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Coat mushrooms with cooking spray; place, top sides down, on prepared pan. Top with 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake at 500°F for 4 minutes.
  3. Combine 6 tablespoons panko and oil in a small bowl. Combine remaining 6 tablespoons panko, chives, rind, juice, salt, and goat cheese in a bowl. Spoon 1/4 cup goat cheese mixture into each mushroom; top with panko mixture. Bake at 500°F for 3 minutes. Top with prosciutto and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Trespasser by Paul Dioran (Mike Boditch #2)

Trespasser (Mike Bowditch, #2)Trespasser by Paul Doiron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: In Paul Doiron’s riveting follow-up to his Edgar Award–nominated novel, The Poacher's Son, Maine game warden Mike Bowditch’s quest to find a missing woman leads him through a forest of lies in search of a killer who may have gotten away with murder once before.

    While on patrol one foggy March evening, Bowditch receives a call for help. A woman has reportedly struck a deer on a lonely coast road. When the game warden arrives on the scene, he finds blood in the road—but both the driver and the deer have vanished. And the state trooper assigned to the accident appears strangely unconcerned.

    The details of the disappearance seem eerily familiar. Seven years earlier, a jury convicted lobsterman Erland Jefferts of the rape and murder of a wealthy college student and sentenced him to life in prison. For all but his most fanatical defenders, justice was served. But when the missing woman is found brutalized in a manner that suggests Jefferts may have been framed, Bowditch receives an ominous warning from state prosecutors to stop asking questions.

    For Bowditch, whose own life was recently shattered by a horrific act of violence, doing nothing is not an option. His clandestine investigation reopens old wounds between Maine locals and rich summer residents and puts both his own life and that of the woman he loves in jeopardy. As he closes in on his quarry, he suddenly discovers how dangerous his opponents are, and how far they will go to prevent him from bringing a killer to justice.

Read as an audio book.

Narrator changed from book one to book two. I'm never thrilled when that happens, but I think the narrator for book two was more character appropriate.

Premise of the book is, Mike is called to the scene of an deer/car collision at the end of his shift. He's tired and cranky from dealing with a local and several ATV trespassers who cut down some of his trees. Mike finds a crunched car on a very deserted stretch of road, a missing deer, and the owner of the vehicle absent. When the state trooper arrives, Mike expresses his concern about the absent woman and is told to mind his own business and go home. Mike does, where his girlfriend Sarah lays into him for being late again. Mike can't shake the feeling that something's amiss, and when his friend Charlie arrives for dinner, the two head out to look into matters further. Mike finds the missing woman - brutally murdered and defaced. From there it's a matter of asking the right questions until everything cracks open.

I enjoyed this second book. I thought Bowdich's insistence in following up on the missing woman a nice character reveal - Mike cares about people. As was his tenacity to keep asking questions in his, albeit limited capacity as a game warden.

However, I did have a few issues with a handful of items:

Sarah (spelling?); the girl should get a clue that Mike does NOT have a 8-4 job, that he's going to be late and his schedule is going to be erratic. I do not like Sarah. I find her whiny, condescending attitude inappropriate for a girlfriend of a young guy who's just starting out in a career of his dreams. Unless that's what the author is going for and she will eventually just go away? I can only hope. Sarah's my biggest detraction in this series so far.

I don't think how Mike handled the ATV trespassers was very professional and I think it would have been prurient to have called in for some help and advise. Granted, it did add some drama! to the whole situation, but, seriously...taking on two individuals on ATV's in the dark solo, in an ice storm, was something I'd expect to see in a cozy mystery. Stupid, just stupid. And if sliding and rolling an ATV into a tree broke it? Yeah...not a very well built ATV.

Why didn't Mike hand over the box of Jefferts "evidence" to the authorities when it was given to him? He was convinced the guy was a bad egg, he repeated said he didn't believe anything they said about him, Mike was admonished not to have contact - so just hand over the box already.

Ultimately, as I noted above, I did enjoy this book. The pacing was perfect, the little twists and turns the plot took kept me engaged, and the ending was nicely written. I'll be looking for book three in the series.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 29, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/21/2017

We have survived week one with new puppy.  We are sleep deprived and exhausted, but we survived.  More importantly, so did puppy.  Lots of new experiences: first vet visit, a couple work visits, meet the Nephew and Niece, first time at the parents place, crate much to learn and explore for a little puppy!

Relations with his "older brother" Andy are slowly improving.  Andy isn't as skittish around Kepler as much as he was the first weekend (definitely a good thing!), he's amiable to Kepler following him a bit in the woods, and is okay with Kep eating near him.   We still make sure that Kepler doesn't surprise Andy while he's sleeping tho.  You know the adage about let sleeping dogs lie?  Yeah...pup doesn't get it.   

A nap is required....

The Meal Plan from 5/21:
Sun (L)  leftovers      (S) Black Bean Burgers
Mon (yoga/book group) leftover burgers
Tues - Taco's
Wed - Taco's
Thurs (yoga) pasty
Fri - spaghetti and salad

Kicky Black Bean Burgers (Ckng Lght, Mar 2017)  vegetarian, gluten free option**
I have a fondness for black bean burgers and love trying different recipes.  Each one has had their positives and negatives.  This recipe was about in the middle - super easy, but a bit gloppy.   So I had one major modification - I baked these instead of "frying" on the stove.  I had started some sweet potatoes steak fries in the oven and just added the burgers part way through baking the fries.  One less pan to clean up!  As everything neared completion, I added the cheese for melty goodness.

I will note, I had some trepidation with assembling these as they are a bit soggy/gloppy.  But when I went to flip them, they were solidifying nicely and held their shape completely.  

My one other modification - and I usually do this with "burgers" - is I did open faced sandwiches on a sourdough English muffin from Zenith Bread Co.  With the leftovers I skipped the half bun completely. 

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, drained
5 (1 1/4-oz.) whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted and divided
I used the equivalent of  1 1/4oz bread crumbs in lieu of the ww bun
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
photo from
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 ounces sliced pepper-Jack or Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup fresh refrigerated pico de gallo
4 lettuce leaves
  1. Place beans in a large bowl; mash with a fork. Place 1 toasted bun, torn, in a food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. Stir breadcrumbs, cumin, and next 5 ingredients (through egg white) into beans.
  2. Divide and shape bean mixture into 4 (1-inch-thick) patties. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add patties to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.
  3. Divide cheese evenly among patties; cook 1 minute or until cheese melts. Top bottom halves of remaining 4 buns evenly with patties, pico de gallo, lettuce, and top halves of buns.
**My notes - I baked on a pre-heated, aluminum foil lined cookie sheet, at 400* for about 10 minutes (5 min per side)

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells (Ckng Lght, June 2017)  vegetarian, gluten free option**
This isn't on the meal plan above, because I realized I forgot to post it last week.  Enjoy!

I am going to admit, I made these according to the directions - I know! Right?!?   And, these come together in about 45 minutes total.  Directions noted 40 minutes, but I found it to be a tich longer.   I also inadvertently made the whole box of shells, and used most of them!  So this made closer to two 2-quart dishes for myself.  We ate them as leftovers, but I could have easily frozen one pan too. 

I'm not sure if gf jumbo shells can even be found, but I don't see why this couldn't be served over gf spaghetti or even something like campanelle, ziti, or penne.  Baking the dish makes it kinda lasagna-eske (I do love baked pasta) baking it with something other than shells could be lovely. 

I really liked the flavors in this, and because it did come together so quickly, I would consider making it again.

16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells**
1 tablespoon olive oil
photo from

3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced zucchini
3/4 cup chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups low-sodium marinara sauce (such as Dell'Amore), divided
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. torn fresh basil, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cooking spray
4 ounces preshredded Italian 5-cheese blend (about 1 cup)
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add eggplant and bell pepper; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, tomato, and chickpeas; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1 cup marinara, 1/2 cup basil, black pepper, and salt.
  4. Coat a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread remaining 3/4 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Spoon about 2 tablespoons vegetable mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange filled shells in dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450°F for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons basil.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Time Salvager by Westly Chu

Time Salvager (Time Salvager #1)Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.

On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.

Read for May book group.

It took me about 100 pages to get into the plot, I was engaged for about 100 more, then I completely lost interest.

Premise of the book was kinda interesting. A far future Earth has fallen into decay and environmental disaster. The only way the remnants of society can function is to send Chronmen back to select moments in the past to retrieve items to help them survive. James is a Tier 1 Chronman, reviled by many, disliked by his peers, his only friend is his Handler. He's got five years or so left on his contract and he can retire and get off the lousy planet.

Then James violates one of the main rules of Time Travel: he saves Elise from the wreckage of what he was told was a military installation, but in reality, was a scientific platform to fight an algae that was plaguing Earth's waters. Now on the run from his fellow Chronmen, the industrial company Valta, his only ally his handler, and responsible for Elise - James only has survival on his mind. But when Elise says she can cure Earth, every thing changes.

As I noted, I found this slow to start. James was not very interesting as a character. Curmudgeonly, cranky, irritable, he was hard to get a read on. When he rescued Elise, I thought I would see more of a personality change (improvement?) than I did.

While Elise's character brought some curiosity and lightness to an otherwise very dour outlook, I never felt like I got to know her. She expressed sadness at what was taken, interest in wanting to save this future world, she got along with the refugees, and once Grace came along, rather faded into the background.

Grace, the Mother of Time was the most interesting one of the bunch - pushy, bossy, snarky, admitting that when she created the Time Rules she and her co-horts were making things up, that they didn't know what they were doing. My complaint with Elise stands - once the two women meet, they both fade into the background as James and Schmidt continue to time jump to bring equipment back.

When we discussed this at book group, the question was raised: if they could go back in time to retrieve equipment, why didn't they go back and get the plans? Good point...because then we wouldn't have a plot.

Valta killing Schmidt seemed...unnecessary. Valta as Big Evil Corporation, mostly left me confused. A nebulous company that sabotaged it's own mission and is now hunting the scientist and James but not doing a very good job of it.

Yes, I realize this is book one and answers are forthcoming (maybe). But after skimming the last 80 pages, going "Huh, that was kinda cool" at the last paragraph (and it was cool!), I have no desire to read more.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/14/2017

The Big News from last week is we brought home our newest addition to our little family.  While The Husband and I are thrilled, Andy-dog not so much.  I guess he didn't listen when I told him he was getting a little brother. 

Please meet Kepler!

7 weeks, 2 days in the pictures
Springer Spaniel
Nickname: Piranha Boy 
(he has a fondness for toes and ankles)

The Meal Plan from week of 5/14/2017:
It went out the window and I honestly don't remember how I got through the week.  I did make a couple new recipes though.

Chicken Antipasto Sandwich  (Whole Foods Co-op flyer) 
I made this for Mother's Day lunch to good reviews.  I had to make a modified version for my Dad as he doesn't care for artichokes or olives.  Easily enough accommodated and it was just a matter of making sure he got the right sandwich.   I had a tossed green salad as my side.

I roasted a chicken ahead of time, but a rotisserie or leftover chicken/turkey would work perfectly as well.  This actually made more than four sandwiches, and I had the leftovers the next two days for lunch.    Highly Recommended! 

1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalmata olives
1/2 cup slivered roasted red pepper (I used jarred roasted red pepper)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups shredded Asiago cheese
1 large baguette or focaccia (I used ciabatta buns)
1/4 cup prepared pesto sauce
4 slices of ham (I used thinly sliced deli ham)

Drain the artichokes, reserving 1 tbsp of the marinade.  Place the chicken, artichoke hearts, reserved marinated, olives, peppers, parsley and cheese in a medium bowl and toss to mix.  Slice the focaccia or baguette in half lengthwise.  Spread the pest over one cut side and cover with the chicken mixture.  top with sliced ham and the remaining half of the beread.

Cut the sandwich in to four sections or wedges.  Heat a griddle or large cast iron pan over medium-high heat until hot (holding our hand an inch away will feel very hot). Lightly brush the top and bottom of the sandwich sections with olive oil and place in the hot pan, the place a second pan or heavy pot on top.  Cook for 2 minutes per side, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.  You can also use a panini grill to heat the sandwiche.

My notes:  I put the ham on one side of the bun, the filling with cheese on the other, and toasted under the broiler until lightly browned.    

Kale and Mushroom Frittata  (Ckng Lght, March 2017)  vegetarian, gluten free
If you've been following me, you'll know we have chickens.  Which means we have a few eggs.  I've started looking for different ways to prepare said eggs because poached on a sourdough English muffin - while very tasty - can get a bit old. 

The thought of a frittata came to mind and The Husband was in the mood for mushrooms so I found this recipe.  The nice things about frittata's is they take a fraction of the time when compared to a quiche and they are gluten free.  The downside is, frittata's are a bit flatter and not so "fluffy" and sometimes, I just like the flavor of a baked crust. 

In a supper pinch, a change of pace for breakfast, look to the frittata. 

photo from
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed baby kale or spinach
1 tablespoon crumbled goat or feta cheese (I used crumbled goat cheese)

  1. Preheat broiler to high, and set a rack 6 inches from the heat. 
  2. Break eggs into a small bowl. Use a fork to beat them like a back-talking bass drum until completely blended and slightly frothy. Stir in half the pepper and half the salt. 
  3. Heat olive oil in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until nicely browned. Stir in kale and remaining salt and pepper; sauté 30 seconds or until kale is just wilted. Add eggs; stir slowly and tilt the skillet a few times so runny parts hit the pan. After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are lightly browned on the bottom with a few shiny spots still on top, sprinkle with cheese. 
  4. Place pan under broiler; broil 1 minute or until cheese softens and golden-brown spots appear on egg. Slide frittata onto a plate.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #21)

The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch, #21; Harry Bosch Universe, #26)The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Notable Book of 2016 --Washington Post

Detective Harry Bosch must track down someone who may never have existed in the new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly.
Harry Bosch is California's newest private investigator. He doesn't advertise, he doesn't have an office, and he's picky about who he works for, but it doesn't matter. His chops from thirty years with the LAPD speak for themselves.

Soon one of Southern California's biggest moguls comes calling. The reclusive billionaire is nearing the end of his life and is haunted by one regret. When he was young, he had a relationship with a Mexican girl, his great love. But soon after becoming pregnant, she disappeared. Did she have the baby? And if so, what happened to it?

Desperate to know whether he has an heir, the dying magnate hires Bosch, the only person he can trust. With such a vast fortune at stake, Harry realizes that his mission could be risky not only for himself but for the one he's seeking. But as he begins to uncover the haunting story--and finds uncanny links to his own past--he knows he cannot rest until he finds the truth.

At the same time, unable to leave cop work behind completely, he volunteers as an investigator for a tiny cash-strapped police department and finds himself tracking a serial rapist who is one of the most baffling and dangerous foes he has ever faced.

Read as an audio book.

I flew through this book - the story pulled me in from the opening chapters and kept my attention thereafter. Thanks to a couple of "road trips", I had the time to sit back and enjoy!

Book has two plots; plot number one revolves around the Screen Slasher case, where a serial rapist is breaking and entering through screens of his victims house in San Fernando. The rapist made a mistake at the last house, and his victim turned the tables and attacked him giving the SFPD a break in the case. Harry, with the help of Bella, begin to add up two and two...until Bella disappears.

Plot number two is a private case Harry has taken on. A Californian billionaire enlists Harry's help in finding an heir for his estate. However, before Harry can complete his mission, the man dies, leaving Harry with a gold pen and hand written Last Will and Testament.

I enjoyed the disparate plot lines, the separation of Harry's private life and his role as an active police reserve with the San Fernando police department. *I* thought it balanced out Harry's need to be a solo detective and his drive to work on unsolved crimes.

It further helped that he wasn't a complete ass-hat to everyone around him. Yes, he's still a suspicious SOB and still doesn't trust his fellow cops/detectives, but at least now he's not putting down others for not having the right "drive" and "dedication" through the entire book. Which I have to admit, was my biggest issues with previous installments. And I don't know if other's picked up on this, but he wasn't exactly trusted in the office either, as was proven by Bella when she found him 'snooping' around her desk, when he was merely looking at pictures.

I thought the resolution to the Screen Cutter case well written - a combination of Bosch figuring things out a tich late and realizing the ramifications of his actions at blowing off a case (where was his "dedication" here? Hypocritical much, eh?) when Bella goes missing. Some of the old Bosch resurfaces as he blames others, but I appreciated the apologies at the end.

The case of finding an heir was almost more interesting than the Screen Cutter. Where Bosch tugging at various threads leads to multiple resolutions that were very satisfying. What added to the interest, was the Vietnam tie-in. Up until this point, we know of Bosch's involvement in the Vietnam War was as a tunnel rat. We find out more as Maddy presses Bosch on some of his attitudes, Maddy not realizing that she doesn't know anything about what he did over there. I like how the author pulled that tidbit out through Maddy.

One of the best Bosch books yet, in my humble opinion. Recommended if you've read the rest in the series.

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