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Monday, March 19, 2018

Recipe Review from 3/12/2017

Shipping season supposedly opened this week - I've seen the ice breaker out, but no ships yet.   Pup went to the groomers (I failed with my English Setter with some basic grooming, trying to do better with the Springer) and had his feathering taken off in anticipation of Mud Season (ah, the joys of living in the country).  He looks a  Still getting used to that.  And other than that, a rather uneventful week with temps moving into the 40's.  Yay!

The Meal Plan from week of 3/12
Sat (L)  out    (S)  leftovers...
Sun (L) Chili   (S)  Hawaiian shrimp
Mon (yoga)  leftover hawaiian shrimp
Tues - Curried Tofu
Wed - Curried tofu
Thurs (yoga)  Birds and Brews
Fri - Brats and a side

Sheet Pan Hawaiian Shrimp (Ckng Lght, March 2018) gluten free*
I've been intrigued by sheet pan suppers the past several months and this is a continuation of that.  These are a bit more involved than previous recipes I've posted, the theory being that ingredients don't cook at the same rate, so you want to add them in stages.  So you have the simplicity of everything cooking on one pan, but, you have to watch times and add additional ingredients. 

This wasn't oo involved when all was chopped and cooked.  I am SUPER excited that my grocery store now carries pre-cooked rice!  I thought I was going to have to pre-cook some, but lo!  There it was!  And, I made this as written, with the teeny exception that I added some mushrooms I had in the fridge. 

End result?  I would totally make this again.  This made enough for 2 of us, for 2 dinners.  Recommended.   
photo from

2 (8.8-oz.) pkg. precooked jasmine rice
3 tablespoons canola oil2 cups fresh pineapple chunks (about 8 oz.)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-in. pieces
1 1/4 pounds raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce*
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves  (I skipped)

Step 1
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven (do not remove pan while oven preheats).

Step 2
Place rice and oil in a bowl. Using your fingers, break apart rice and coat with oil. Carefully remove pan from oven; spread rice mixture in an even layer in center of pan. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes; stir. Top rice with pineapple and bell pepper; bake at 450°F for 5 minutes. Arrange shrimp over rice mixture; bake at 450°F until shrimp are done, about 6 minutes.

Step 3
Place soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high 45 seconds. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Drizzle over pan. Add black pepper; toss. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Sheet Pan Curried Tofu With Vegetables  (Ckng Lght, March 2018)  gluten free
This was the second sheet pan dish I made this past week, and my comments from above apply - a tich putzy with the staggered cooking times.  But I need to remind myself that while I'm waiting to add the next thing, I was cleaning up the kitchen, setting the table, and enjoying a glass of wine.  

I also made  this pretty much as written, omitting the cashews and pomegranate seeds - both seemed a tich unnecessary, and my store doesn't carry pomegranates right now.  I did splurge on fresh mint and I'm very glad I did - it added a flavor POP!  that really pulled the dish together.  Don't skip the fresh mint if at all possible. 

Oh, I almost forgot - The Husband doesn't like cauliflower, so I added 8oz of chopped broccoli to the dish in addition to the cauliflower.  I'm glad I did because it helped to extend the dish a bit more and we each got a veggie we liked. 


1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-in. cubes
1 (14-oz.) pkg. extra-firm water-packed tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 1 1/2-in. cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
photo from
4 teaspoons red curry powder or Madras curry powder
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Cooking spray
8 ounces fresh cauliflower florets
1/3 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup torn fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped unsalted cashews
1/4 cup pomegranate arils

Step 1
Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven (do not remove pan while oven preheats).

Step 2
Combine potatoes, tofu, 2 tablespoons oil, curry powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl; toss to coat. Carefully remove pan from oven. Coat pan with cooking spray. Arrange potato mixture in a single layer on pan; bake at 500°F for 10 minutes, stirring once after 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and cauliflower to pan; toss gently to combine. Bake at 500°F until potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from oven.

Step 3
Whisk together remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, yogurt, and juice in a small bowl. Drizzle yogurt mixture evenly over tofu mixture. Sprinkle with mint, cashews, and pomegranate arils.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Recipe Review from 3/5/2018

I just realized I never hit "publish" on this post...drat and bother!  

Uneventful week all in all.  A big snowstorm barely missed us (yay!), but we did have some very impressive sustained winds coming off the Lake.  And speaking of our Lake, the ice breaker was out mid-week doing ice breaking stuff in preparation for the shipping season re-opening.   Best sign of spring, when the first ships of the year arrive! 
The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) leftovers   (S)
Sun (L) out       (S)  Pizza
Mon (yoga) Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Tues - soup
Wed - Pork and potatoes sheet pan supper
Thurs (yoga)  leftover soup
Fri - leftover pork

Lunches - leftover Tuscan Soup, leftover Chicken wild rice soup

Chicken Wild Rice Soup (Ckng Lght, March 2018) 
I simplified this dish a bit by using shredded chicken I already had on hand in the freezer - so I completely skipped Step 1.   In doing so, this became a chop and plop recipe, where all I needed to do was chop the veggies and plop in the pot.   Once veggies are prepped, this does come together very quickly, and I had time to clean-up the counter and do dishes while everything was simmering. 

I'm still a bit undecided about the celery root and green beans - the celery root really didn't contribute much flavor once the dish was finished.   With that little admission said, if I were to make this again, I might do regular celery and green beans; the green beans do add a nice splash of color to an otherwise somewhat colorless dish. 

And yeah, I think I would make this again. 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 (8-oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
8 ounces sliced fresh cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
1 cup uncooked Minnesota wild rice
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped peeled celery root
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-in. pieces (I used a partial bag of frozen green beans)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
Step 1

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high until foamy. Add chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.

Step 2

Add mushrooms, shallots, and thyme to Dutch oven; cook, stirring often, until slightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add sherry; cook until reduced by about half, about 1 minute.

Step 3

Whisk together flour and 1 cup stock; stir into sherry mixture. Add remaining 5 cups stock, rice, carrot, celery root, and salt. Cover and increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 40 minutes. Add chicken and green beans; simmer until beans are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add cream and pepper.

Step 4

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle evenly with oil, and sprinkle with cheese.

Roasted Pork with Apples and Potatoes  (Ckng Lght, March 2018)  gluten free
First off - a meat thermometer is a must.   The recipe called for cooking to 140*, but my multi-meat thermometer recommended 175* and I'm glad I used that instead.  175* was perfectly done for my cut of meat, and that included a 10 minute rest period.

This is a hands-on dish as you add the ingredients in stages.  Pork goes in first, then the potatoes and apple, then the green beans or in my case asparagus.  I did skip the drizzle glaze at the end as I was cooking on aluminum foil and not directly on my pan for ease clean-up.  What I did do was splash everything with some cider vinegar. 

I really enjoyed this dish; a teeny bit putsy, but clean-up was a snap.  A nice melding of savory (rosemary) and sweet (apple) with the potatoes adding just the right amount of filler.  I would make this again, and I would

1 (1-lb.) pork tenderloin, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 2-in. wedges
1 large Braeburn apple, sliced (about 10 oz.)
6 ounces haricots verts (French green beans), trimmed   (I used asparagus)
3 tablespoons unsalted chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Step 1
Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven (do not remove pan while oven preheats).

Step 2
Rub pork with 1 tablespoon oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons thyme, 2 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove pan from oven; add pork, and return to oven. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 450°F. Bake pork 5 minutes.

Step 3
Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 2 teaspoons thyme, remaining 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, potatoes, and apple in a bowl; toss to coat.

Step 4
Remove pan from oven; add potato mixture to pan with pork. Bake at 450°F until a thermometer inserted in pork registers 140°F (175*), 11 to 13 minutes. Remove pork from pan; place on a cutting board. Add green beans to pan with potato mixture. Bake at 450°F until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Step 5
Place potato mixture on a platter. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stock, butter, and vinegar to hot pan. Scrape browned bits loose with a wooden spoon, and stir until butter is melted. Cut pork into 12 slices; arrange over vegetables. Drizzle stock mixture over pork.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Private: Dehli by James Patterson and" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">Private Delhi (Private, #13)
" />Private">">Private Delhi by James">">James Patterson

My rating: 2">">2 of 5 stars

Jacket blurb:
Santosh Wagh quit his job as head of Private India after harrowing events in Mumbai almost got him killed. But Jack Morgan, global head of the world’s finest investigation agency, needs him back. Jack is setting up a new office in Delhi, and Santosh is the only person he can trust.

Still battling his demons, Santosh accepts, and it’s not long before the agency takes on a case that could make or break them. Plastic barrels containing dissolved human remains have been found in the basement of a house in an upmarket area of South Delhi. But this isn’t just any house, this property belongs to the state government.

With the crime scene in lockdown and information suppressed by the authorities, delving too deep could make Santosh a target to be eliminated.

Read as an audio book.

Premise of the book is Jack Morgan agrees to help one hand of the government in New Delhi, against the advise of Santosh who feels Private should not get mixed up in politics. Jack disagrees, wanting to establish some high level contacts. Private becomes enmeshed in a bitter political feud involving organ trafficking and pedophiles, as a serial killer is methodically picking off high level .

This book gave me a bit of mental whiplash on several items:
•Setting is New Delhi, India, but there were times when a characters actions were pure American.
•The underground market for organ harvesting and transplanting felt at odds with Maya's essay for a more egalitarian healthcare system. The reader doesn't ever find out what exactly Maya's proposal is, only that it is Best Thing Ever.
•The Nisha/Maya sub-plot came across as incredibly sexist, that Nisha was not a good mother because she worked.
•Pedophile sub-plot was weird, and I think it's only purpose was to bring Maya and the Serial Killer to an intersection of sorts.

Where I enjoyed the first installment with Santosh, I felt his character was shuttled to the side to make room for a plethora of high level bureaucrats who spent the book ranting and raving about their opponents. If not ranting and raving about their opponent, they were mixed up in the organ trafficking and methodically being picked off. I felt Private was shunted off to the side to spend their time running around waving their arms over their heads.

I'm not a squeamish person, but I found the descriptions of the murders to be just...gross. Except for the one where the killer pulled the guys heart out, which made me snigger and think of Temple of Doom.

Ultimately, this was not my favorite Private installment. There were just too many characters, weird plot twists, implausible scenes, unnecessary gore, and incongruous Indian/American character that didn't mesh. I'll still read the next one in the series, because it is, after all, Private.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Recipe Review from 2/26/2018

Missed a week of reviews - was down and out with a cold after getting back from Vegas and had no energy to do anything.  Plus the Husband was off on adventures with a quick fishing trip up to Lake of the Woods.  I ate, I just don't remember what I ate. Grilled cheese probably.  Last week was better with one slow cooker dish and one quick stove-top chili.  

The Meal Plan
Sun (L) leftovers  (S) Roast Chicken
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/legion) leftovers
Tues - ??
Wed -  Hearty Bulgur Chili
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - leftovers

Slow cooked Tuscan White Bean Soup (Ckng Lght, Mar 2018)  gluten free, vegetarian option
Soup!  Soup is good for you when your sick, right? Chicken broth, hearty veggies, beans...yummy goodness in a bowl.   Except for when you don't want to eat the soup.  There was really nothing wrong with this recipe, it's simple, straight forward to assemble, flavors are bright and clean, spices maybe a tich on the bland side which also could have been my dulled taste buds from a stuffed up head.    

I did modify and omit the pancetta, I subbed spinach for the kale, and still went with chicken stock because I had that on hand in the freezer.   I did do the dried beans, so planning ahead is necessary.  You could also sub a couple 14.5oz cans of rinsed and drained beans and it would be just fine.  

1 cup dried cannellini beans
4 cups unsalted chicken stock  (or vegetable stock)
4 ounces diced pancetta (such as Boar's Head)
photo from
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14.5-oz.) can unsalted diced tomatoes
1 (2-in.) piece Parmesan cheese rind
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped kale  (I used spinach)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Step 1
Place beans in a large pot; cover with water 2 inches above beans. Soak at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans well; combine with stock in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high. Transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
Step 2
Cook pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high for 5 minutes or until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute. Place veggie mixture, rosemary, and next 5 ingredients (through bay leaf) into slow cooker. Cook on low 8 hours. Discard Parmesan rind and bay leaf.
Step 3
Add kale; cover and cook 1 hour. Stir in reserved pancetta and vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Hearty [Bulgur] Chili  (Ckng Lght, March 2018) vegetarian, gluten free option 
This really does come together quickly and would work for a weeknight dinner.  Once the onions and garlic are chopped, everything else is a plop, then step back and let simmer.  Dishes can be washed, counters tidied, table set, and wah-la!  Dinner served.

A couple of notes - I thought I had bulger in my freezer and I did not.  I substituted pearled farro and cooked accordingly.  Very tasty!  I've never heard of the tomato brand recommended, so I did my usual canned variety.   I did cut back on the chipolte a bit, so it was more flavor than heat.  And because I don't like kidney beans, I subbed black beans.   

I  would make this again!
photo from

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
5 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup uncooked bulgur (or similar - I used farro) ** quinoa would also work.
2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1 (26.46-oz.) box finely chopped tomatoes (such as Pomì brand)
(I used 1 28oz can diced tomatoes; I have no idea what this Pomi brand is...)
1 (15-oz.) can drained unsalted kidney beans  (I used black beans)
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons sour cream
6 tablespoons cilantro leaves

Step 1
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add chopped onion and minced garlic cloves; sauté 5 minutes. Add uncooked bulgur, chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, and ground cumin; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add unsalted vegetable stock, 1 box finely chopped tomatoes (such as Pomì brand), 1 can drained unsalted kidney beans, and 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 15 minutes or until bulgur is tender.
Step 2
Ladle about 1 cup chili into each of 6 bowls; top each serving with 1 Tbsp. sour cream and 1 Tbsp. cilantro leaves.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Artemis by Andy Weir" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">Artemis
" />Artemis">Artemis> by Andy">">Andy Weir

My rating: 3">">3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Read for February book group.

Premise of the book is small-time smuggler Jazz wants to move up on the Moon and when offered an opportunity to do so, grabs at it. When the job goes sideways and pear-shaped at the same time, she finds she has to finish what she started or face deportation back to Saudi Arabia. Someplace she hasn't been since she was a toddler. With a little reluctant help from her friends and Father, Jazz sets out to save herself, and finds herself saving the Moon.

I have to admit, I went into this not knowing what to expect. I saw it was Weir's next book, that's all I needed to know. Bottom line - I was mildly entertained with some caveats: I was so-so on the main character, the plot was odd, and the science seemed "plugged in" like little bitty info dumps. There was a lot of welding, which really didn't interest me at all.

Main character - Jazz Bashara. She kinda annoyed me and from the few reviews I read, her character annoyed a great many people. A tom-boy, rough around the edges, defiant, inventive, cocky, mouthy, and yet somewhat insecure. She screws up, she fixed it.

Plot - smuggling, gangs, drug running all with the overlying threat that some cartel is about to take over the Moon.

Science - as I noted, I felt the science was a bit like those little hard candy root beer barrels thrown out at parades. I don't like root beer barrels. And the welding...oh my gosh, what was with all the welding? I never thought I would be reading about making a perfect bead in vacuum...

The secondary characters were just that, secondary. Some I would have liked to have gotten to know better, but they all stayed safely tucked back in the story, holding on to their supporting roles.

I will note one item - I liked the setting on the Moon and how the permanent habitats were set up in relation to the Landing Site, and there was this thriving tourism economy. The big inflatable hamster balls for walking on the surface were pretty cool, as was the train ride to the Landing Site. I enjoyed that aspect of the world building.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book, it wasn't my favorite, but I would read another by Weir if he wrote it.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Simple Genius by David Baldacci (Sean and Michelle #4)

Simple Genius (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #3)Simple Genius by David Baldacci

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  In a world of secrets, human genius is power.
And sometimes it is simply deadly...
A three-hour drive from Washington, D.C., two clandestine institutions face each other across a heavily guarded river. One is the world's most unusual laboratory, whose goals and funding are a mystery. The other is an elite CIA training camp shrouded in secrecy. Now a man and a woman are about to run a gauntlet between these two puzzle factories, straight into a furious struggle to exploit a potentially world-shattering discovery--and keep some other secrets underwraps forever...
Former secret service agents turned private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have seen their lives splinter around them. Michelle lies unconscious ina hospital bed after a night of suicidal violence. And Sean is forced to take on a thankless investigation into the mutder of a scientist just inside the CIA's razor-wire fence near Williamsburg, Virginia.
Soon he is uncovering layer after layer of disinformation that shields a stunning world filled with elite mathematics, physicists, war heroes, spies, and deadly field agents. Amid more murder, a seemingly autistic girl's extraordinary genius, and a powerful breakthrough in the realm of classified codes, Sean soon learns enough to put his life at risk. Now more than ever, he needs Michelle--at her best--to help stop a conspiracy of traitors operating in the shadow of the White House itself.
From Michelle's courageous struggle to defeat her long-buried personal demons to a centuries-old secret that surfaces in the heat of action, SIMPLE GENIUS pulses with stunning, high-intensity suspense. The heroes of Split Second and Hour Game, David Baldacci's #1 New York Times bestsellers, are back--as you've never seen them before.

Read as an audio book.

Premise of the book was convoluted and pretty darn implausible - yes, yes, they all are implausible, but this more so than the rest. Sean and Michelle are short on work and funds. Michelle had a mental breakdown following the activities in book #2, and Sean drains the last of his finances to get her into counseling. While in the psych ward, she solves a mystery, declares herself cured and leaves to meet up with Sean. Sean begs work of his former lover, Joan, and in the process of investigating a murder ends up angering the CIA, FBI and DEA and uncovering a plot that reaches all the way to the White House.

I bounced off this installment in so many ways:

>>Michelle - a woman - having the mental breakdown rubbed me the wrong way. Why the woman? Why not Sean?

>>I became increasingly annoyed with Sean's need to protect Michelle. Hello, damsel in distress trope.

>>The Turing tie-in seemed far fetched.

>>The plot (plots?) was so overly convoluted from WWII POW's to CIA secret flights to people randomly firing shots across a river to "Codes and Blood!" to lets just randomly kill people and electronic spies that after a while my ability to suspend my disbelief...sank. Like a lead balloon.

>>The torture scene/chapter was just ludicrous and added nothing to the plot other than to injure our main characters.

>>And it felt like there were loose ends left dangling all over the place.

Ugh. This was a total mash-up of conflicting plots, weird connections, save the damsel, government conspiracy, espionage, gun fights and boat chases. The only reason I finished was because it was the only audio book I had at the moment...though a podcast might have been a better option.

Not my favorite in the series. I'll still read #4, but with some reservations.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 19, 2018

Las Vegas 2018

We went on a little trip!  We visited family!  We saw some cool stuff!

This was not my/our first trip out:
2007 - Sister and I came out to scope out wedding venues for her wedding
2008 - Sister's wedding
2015 - General vacation and to visit family
2018 - Specifically to visit family

We flew out on Wednesday because flights were a tich cheaper.   Then I realized it was Valentines Day and I didn't want to impose on any plans my Brother and his wife might have had, plus we can always use a day to decompress a bit, so I found a good deal for the Luxor on the Strip, so we could take advantage of nearby restaurants without having to get a cab.

Thursday the Brother picked us up mid-afternoon and we enjoyed family time!

Friday we went and check out the Nevada/Las Vegas Veteran's Memorial, tried to checkout a distillery (they were open...but closed) and at at Phat Phranks, and awesome Mexican place the brother and his wife frequent.   Veteran's Memorial was very impressive. 

Saturday we went to Hoover Dam!  When we were here in 2008 they were building the by-pass bridge, so this was an opportunity to go see what the finished bridge looks like.  It was really impressive being able to walk the entire span of the bridge and look down 800+ feet into the Gorge below.  Then the Brother took us by an incredibly ugly "art" exhibit out in the desert that perplexes us all (someone painted large rocks and stacked them).  I didn't bother taking a picture.  Lunch was at a really good BBQ restaurant named Lucille's.

Sunday was a trip out to the Mt. Charleston area, to see the Cold War Memorial.  It's part of a new (2015) Forest Service complex, welcome center.  I, personally, thought there would have been more informational boards on it, but it was a bit sparse in that regards - as in one board.  Still, it was neat to see both memorial and visitor center.   Lunch plans kept changing due to restaurants being closed (a common thing out here with family-owned restaurants on a Sunday) and we ended up at Chicago brew pub. 

And that, was our trip!  Good family time, got to see some sites, and got away from the snow and cold for a while.

The Strip from afar.  What you don't see in the pic, is the wind blowing about 30mph and trying to dislodge us from the tiny hill.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Recipe Review from 2/5/2018

Several recipes this week, but I have to admit, I was winging most of these.  I had leftovers that needed to be used up, I was a bit short on time, so I got creative.  Go me!  Downside, I forgot to take any pictures...  boo!    Oh well. 

Meal plan from week of 2/5:
Sat (L) leftover quinoa  (S) leftover curry
Sun  (L) Enchiladas    (S) homemade pizza
Mon (yoga) enchiladas
Tues - enchiladas
Wed - pasty
Thurs (yoga) homemade pizza
Fri (yoga) - homemade soup

Enchiladas (modified from ATK Slow Cooker Revolution)  gluten free  
Moving into the weekend, I had a significant amount of shredded chicken and sauce leftover from the Chicken Mole Tacos (reviewed last week).  I pulled a page from ATK's book, and turned the leftovers into a pan of enchiladas.  I will note, I thought the enchilada's were better than the original dish.

I took the mole sauce, strained it, and re-heated.  Then I proceeded with part of ATK's recipe below for the enchiladas.

2+ cups of mole sauce from Slow cooked Chicken Mole, Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2018, strained.

2 cups shredded chicken
2 cups shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese
**I used cohita cheese
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1 (4oz) can pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas

1) Preheat oven to 350*.  Lightly oil a 9x13" pan and set aside.

2) Finely shred leftover chicken if not already shredded.  Add chopped pickles and cilantro and mix well.  Add 1 cup of sauce if necessary.   **Recipe added 1 cup of shredded cheese here - I skipped.

3) Using warmed tortillas (either on the stove, in the microwave, or grill), quickly fill each tortilla and roll to close.  Place each tortillla in a prepared pan until filling is gone, stacking tortillas if necessary.

4) Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, and sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese (I sprinkled with cohita cheese).  Cover and bake until heated through 10-20 minutes.   Serve with your favorite toppings! 

Homemade Bean and Ham Soup  (my kitchen!)  gluten free
This was a result of having a bunch of stuff in the fridge and pantry that needed to be used up.   I will admit, Husband assembled, I ate.  Yum!

3 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
3 cups pre-cooked great northern beans
1 cup chopped previously cooked and shredded ham hock
1 onion, chopped
1 cup baby carrots (roughly), diced into small disks
1 tbsp tomato paste

(keeping in mind, I have no idea how the Husband cooked this, but this is how I would have assembled...)
1) saute onion, carrots, oregano and tomato paste 
2) add broth and water, beans and ham hock
3) bring everything to a simmer.  Adjust seasonings and serve. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Recipe Review from 1/29/2018

Temps continue to fluctuate between 20* and -20*.   Just don't know what to wear dashing out the door in the morning - looks like it'll be nice, but then the windchill comes and smacks ya upside the cheeks and Brrrrr! 

Still good weather for slow cooked meals! 

The Meal Plan from week of 1/29/18:
Sat - out and about in the AM, dinner and hockey game in the PM
Sun (L) leftovers   (S)  Chicken Curry and naan
Mon (yoga/book group)  Sweet potato bowl
Tues - leftover curry
Wed - Chicken Mole Tacos w/cornbread
Thurs (yoga)
Fri (off!)

Zesty Kale and Sweet Potato Salad (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2018)  gluten free, vegetarian
This was easy to pull together, very versatile (swap out ingredients, add different veggies, or toss in some beans), and flavorful without being overly spicy.  You can serve this warm, room temp or cold.  I made this for my lunches for the week, so I was eating it cold and enjoyed every bite.

I actually made this as written, only subbing spinach for the kale.  I didn't find this "zesty", expecting a bit more heat from the spices, but it wasn't lacking for flavor.  I would make this again.


photo from
1 pound diced peeled sweet potatoes (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 large red bell pepper, quartered
1/2 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
2 teaspoons grated lime rind, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups hot cooked quinoa
4 ounces baby kale, chopped (about 4 cups)
(I used baby spinach instead of kale)
1 ounce Cotija cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
1 ripe avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine sweet potatoes, 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl; toss. Arrange sweet potato mixture on one side of an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Place bell pepper on other side of pan; drizzle with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, and toss to coat. Bake until potatoes are tender and peppers are lightly charred, about 30 minutes, stirring potatoes once halfway through. Remove pan from oven. Cut bell pepper into strips.

Cook almonds in a small skillet over medium until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon rind, and sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.
Whisk together remaining 5 teaspoons oil, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, remaining 1 teaspoon rind, juice, and cilantro in a bowl. Divide quinoa among 4 bowls; top evenly with kale, sweet potatoes, and bell pepper. Drizzle with juice mixture; top evenly with coated almonds, Cotija, and avocado. Serve with lime wedges.

Slow Cooker Chicken Mole Tacos (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2018)  gluten free
Don't be put off by the long ingredient list - this comes together very quickly.  Once the ancho's have soaked and been seeded, everything is plopped into a blender, given a good puree, and poured over the chicken in the slow cooker.  Cook until chicken is tender, shred, and serve.  Yup. That simple. 

Now, I did use a quartered chicken for this dish - because I have something like 20 hand processed chickens in my freezer - and it worked out "okay".  Little bones and gristle from ribs and knuckles kept cropping up in the finished product which detracted a bit.

Do save the sauce - I used leftover chicken and the sauce to make a pan of enchiladas that I will review next week.  I will say, I thought the enchiladas were better than the tacos.  So, recommended because I got two tasty weeks out of one dish.

Slow Cooker Curried Chicken and Rice (modified from ATK Slow Cooker Revolution)  gluten free option**
I liked the flavor of this dish, I liked the rice and cauliflower ( so much.  Not a fan of cauliflower), I like the ease of prep. 

I didn't like how the chicken turned out and this was entirely on me.  I used a quartered chicken - one of our hand raised, home processed - and I don't know if it was the slow cooker, the coconut milk or the chicken, but it turned out tough.  I did have to add some shredded chicken I had on hand in the freezer (whew!) because I also ran significantly short. 

I would make this dish again, but I would use the chicken thighs as recommended.  I was also trying to think of a way to skip the chicken and make this vegetarian, but other than doubling the cauliflower, I'm drawing a blank.  If you have any suggestions, send them my way!   

2 cups onion, minced
1 jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger

1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp AP flour (or your GF substitute**)

1 (14 oz can) light coconut milk

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs  (I used a quartered chicken)

2 cups instant rice  (DO NOT use regular rice, or regular basmati rice, it needs to be instant)
1/2 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
1 cup frozen peas
3 tbsp sliced almonds
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro

1) Heat 2 tbsp oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions through garam masala and cook until vegetables are soft and slightly browned (8-10 minutes).  (My notes - ghee would be a good substitute for the oil here.)  Stir in flour or flour substitute and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly stir in coconut milk , scrapig up any browned bits, and smoothing out flour lumps.  Add to slow cooker.

2) Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to slow cookers.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4-6 hours.

3)  Break up  or shred chicken with a wooden spoon or a couple of forks (or, if using a quartered chicken, remove, let cool, bone, shred the meat, and add back in after the rice is cooked.) . Stir in rice, cover and cook on high until rice is tender, 20-30 minutes.

4) Cook cauliflower either in the microwave or on the stovetop (I roasted in the oven), until softened.  Stir in cauliflower and peas and let sit until heated through.  Serve with almonds and cilantro (I served with Naan).  

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dark Orbit by Carol Ives Gilman

Dark OrbitDark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate. Thora was once a member of the interplanetary elite, but since her prophetic delusions helped mobilize a revolt on Orem, she’s been banished to the farthest reaches of space, because of the risk that her very presence could revive unrest.

Upon arrival, the team finds an extraordinary crystalline planet, laden with dark matter. Then a crew member is murdered and Thora mysteriously disappears. Thought to be uninhabited, the planet is in fact home to a blind, sentient species whose members navigate their world with a bizarre vocabulary and extrasensory perceptions.

Lost in the deep crevasses of the planet among these people, Thora must battle her demons and learn to comprehend the native inhabitants in order to find her crewmates and warn them of an impending danger. But her most difficult task may lie in persuading the crew that some powers lie beyond the boundaries of science

Read for January book group.

Even after discussing for book group, I'm still waffling on what I think of this selection. Even as I sit here writing my review, I'm having difficulties in trying to sum up the premise of the book: was it about the different ways to travel through space? Was it about our ability to see or not see and how we perceive what "sight" is? Was it about trust? Was it ultimately, just a story?

Instead of summarizing the book, I'll look at a handful of predominant characters:

Sara. Exoethnologist. Travels through space using what I came to think of as a souped up transporter. Her last job was a bust, she's a disgrace to the university she was working for and her mentor asked her to participate in a mission to a distant planet as an observer.

Thora. Emissary in exile after she incites a revolt on Orem. Now a sensory scientist. Thora is cool, reserved and distant, and perplexed when Sara tries to befriend her. Then Thora finds herself lost and blind among the indigenous peoples of the strange planet and everything changes again.

Atbatlow. Security officer. A very uninspiring character who stands around looking imposing, threatening, and serves the function of telling the scientists "no". It was his characters job to make things as difficult as possible.

The Doctor, who's name I've already forgotten. He's in charge of a ship full of people and seems to only have rudimentary supplies. We found the weird in book group.

Moth and Hanna - our two natives who interact with Thora and Sara. Each are serve the same function but in different places. On the ship, Sara and Moth explore what it is to see. On the planet, Hanna and Thora explore what it means to be able to see. "Sight" means completely different things to each.

And this is where I started having some issues with the book. For a far future space faring, space traveling society, to automatically assume giving someone "sight" is a good and righteous thing was as far off base as Thora's situation on Orem. I found the ship of people to be arrogant in their assumptions "sight" was a good thing for Moth. This bit bugged me a lot.

Conversely, Thora - as someone who studies the senses - spent quite a bit of time whining about her lack of visual sight, even as Hanna was pointing out everything around her. Yes, I understand it's one thing to study the senses when you have all of yours in tact, and thus, finding oneself sightless in a cave is going to be very traumatic. But the incongruity struck me as a bit odd.

However, I did find Sara's attempts to teach Moth how to see, and trying to describe to Moth what she was seeing, fascinating. (Aside - again, for a space faring society, wouldn't there be protocol in place for this situation? Seems like a bit of a lag in the science research...). Things that sighted people take for granted: depth perception, perception of color, dimensions, and more. Looking at it from Moth's viewpoint was probably one of the better parts of the book.

Ultimately, I found the book to be rather disjointed, hopping from one concept to the next, with thin threads loosely connecting everything together and even after writing this review, I'm still not exactly sure what the book was driving at. Still, I was entertained and I can't complain about that.

Recommended with some reservations.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 22, 2018

Recipe Review from 1/14/18

Slow cookers were out in full force this past week!  I made a batch of stock for the Chicken Ramen Soup and because I'm not vegetarian - I just like to eat less meat - I also used it in the chili.  Chili was for us and only us.  

I have decided though, that I do need to get a second large slow cooker.  My small one just isn't big enough for most dishes I'm making these days.  And since I've started making stock in the slow cooker, that's occupying the large one.  Stay tuned for slow cooker updates!

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L)  leftovers  (S)  Asian Ribs
Sun (L) pasty  (S)  leftover Ribs
Mon (yoga) (L) Me - out  (S)  Asian Chicken Soup
Tues (yoga) soup
Wed (yoga) soup
Thurs (yoga) soup
Fri (??)

Lunches - Vegetarian Chili

Asian Ribs (ATK Slow Cook Revolution)
If you haven't figured out by now...I really like this cookbook.   I've had reasonably success with just about everything I've made and I love the variety.  This cook book contains a handful of recipes that I've made more than once.

This dish falls in the middle of the spectrum right now, and that could be because the ribs I used weren't quite right for this dish.  But I had them in the freezer and I wanted something other than ribs in basic BBQ sauce.

Front end assembly was decent - chop and plot.  Back end is where it got putzy:  pull ribs out of liquid and set aside, separate fat and reduce liquid mixture, glaze ribs and broil (and this is where my fire alarms go off...), keep glazing and flipping ribs until "brown and sticky" (with windows open and husband standing under alarm waving a towel), and serve with extra sauce.

Tasty?  Oh, yes.  Definitely tasty, wonderful Asian flavors.  But I admit the extra 45 minutes of "prep" at the end was...annoying.   So NOT a weeknight meal unless you have some extra time once you get home.

Recipe is a bit long to type out, so you'll have to check out the book from the library.

Chinese Chicken and Ramen Soup  (modified from ATK Slow Cook Revolution)  gluten free option
I've had my eye on this recipe for a while and decided to finally make it - I had nearly everything on hand anyway, I made a fresh pot of stock the day before, and substituted some Udon noodles I had in the pantry for the ramen.  Just a few things (like the star anise pods) to grab from the store.

Husband had some hiccups with this one though - I used my smaller slow cooker, which did NOT fit 8 cups of broth, two cups of onion, carrots and a quartered chicken.  Husband improvised and cooked the meat separately that didn't fit, then we shredded and added to the soup.   He noted the meat did not cook in four hours, so that was also finished separately and added back in.  We cooked the Udon noodles separately as well (sense a theme?).

And on top of all that...I forgot the napa cabbage.  Oy.

Yet, this was pretty darn tasty.  I admit to being a bit put off by the smell of the Star Anise, it made the soup smell very 'black licorice-y' which I can't stand the taste of.  But the soup itself didn't taste like black licorice.  If anything it was very chicken-soup like, with notes of Asian flavor, and a bit on the bland side.  I found a squirt of Siracha helped.

I would make this again, using my large slow cooker and remembering to add the cabbage...

2 cups onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp ginger, grated and divided
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup carrots, sliced 1/4" thick
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 star anise pods  (use one if you don't like black licorice)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
(I used a home-grown chicken, quartered, wings and back removed)
2 (3 oz pkg) ramen, flavor packets discarded (I used 1-6oz pkg Udon noodles, cooked separately)** gluten free noodles can be substituted, but cook according to direction on package.
1/2 medium head Nappa cabbage, sliced
optional  2 scallions, sliced thin  (I skipped)

1) Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, 1 tbsp ginger and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato paste, red pepper flakes and cook until tomato paste is fragrant. Add to slow cooker.

2) Combine broth, carrots, soy sauce, sugar, star anise and bay leaves in slow cooker.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to broth mixture.  Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours.

3) Remove chicken to a platter or cutting board, let cool slightly and shred meat.   Let soup settle and remove fat with a large spoon.  Remove bay leaves and star anise pods. 

4).  IF using noodles other than raman, cook noodles according to direction on pan, until al dente, add to soup with cabbage.  IF using raman, add to slow cooker with cabbage, cover and cook on high 3-8 minutes.

5)  Return meat to slow cooker, add remaining ginger, season and serve with additional soy sauce or siracha if desired.  

Vegetarian Chili (modified from ATK Slow Cooker Revolution)  gluten free
The title in the cookbook is Vegetarian Black Bean Chili, but the Husband isn't wild about black beans.  First modification was to substitute pinto beans.  Second modification was to cut back on the chili and chipolte - I have Penzey's "medium-hot" chili in my pantry and it can pack a punch. Chipolte can go either way and be super spicy or just flavorful.   Third modification was to brine the beans ahead of time. I have calcium rich well water and sometimes, the beans just don't cook all the way.  Soaking the beans ahead of time in a salt water solution has helped significantly. 

End result - this was pretty tasty and...a bit bland.  Go figure!  I would make this again though, super easy to prep and I enjoyed the chili flavors and consistency.  Perfect for these cold and snowy days.

2 cups onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 jalepeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
9 garlic cloves, minced (I grate mine)
3 tbsp chili powder (I used 1 tbsp Penzey's "medium-hot" and I should have done 1 1/2 tbsp)
4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
2 1/2 cups water
1 pound (2 1/2 cups) black beans (I used pinto)
10 oz white mushrooms, trimmed and halved if small, quartered if large
1 tbsp minced canned chipolte chili in adobo sauce  (I used just the sauce)
2 bay leaves
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and cut  (I used 1 28oz can diced tomatoes, drained)
2 tsp minced fresh cilantro  (drat!  I forgot! And I even had some in the fridge...)

1) Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, garlic, chili powder, mustard seeds, cumin and oregano and cook until vegetables are softened and slightly browned (8-10 minutes).  Stir in 1 cup broth to release any browned bits and transfer to a large slow cooker.

2) Stir water, beans, mushrooms, remaining broth, chipoltes and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beans are tender 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.

3) Remove bay leaves.  You can at this point remove 1 cup of beans, mash and return to slow cooker, but I thought it was perfectly thick the way it was.  Add drained tomatoes and let heat through.  Stir in cilantro if desired, and serve.

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