Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nemesis Games by James SA Corey (Expanse #5)

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars







Jacket Blurb: The fifth novel in James S.A. Corey's New York Times bestselling Expanse series--now being produced for television by the SyFy Channel!

A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.


November's book group selection.

This, was a awesome book. A bit of a departure from previous sections in the series (and way better than death slugs and eye fungus from the previous book) in that our crew of the Rocinante has dispersed to the four winds while the Rocinante is undergoing repairs. Each of the crew has something from their past that needs wrapping up. Each crew member says their goodbyes, but it's left open and unsaid if they are planning on returning. James Holden is left to his own devises, bumping around a station, purposeless until the news reporter Monica disappears after telling him about ships going missing. .

When the proverbial shit hits the fan (or the stealth rocks start falling on Earth), our merry crew is scattered across the galaxy:
  • Amos is on Earth, deep underground chatting with Clarissa Mao when the lights go out.
  • Alex is with Bobbie, and they find themselves zipping around the galaxy with the Martian Prime Minister while Avasarala throws her political weight around.
  • Naomi becomes Marco's prisoner - someone she thought she had left decades ago - under the pretense that Marco wanted the mother of his child safe when the Belter's stand up and take their rightful place in the universe. 
  • Holden is left on station with the Rocinante when the last sample of the protomolecule is stolen from Fred Johnson's office. Fred and Holden begin to realize that nothing is safe and nobody can be trusted.

My least favorite story line was Naomi's - simply because it felt more like filler than the solidity the sub-plots had. I grew tired of her internal emotional tug of war regarding Marco and being shoved back into a situation she thought she had left behind. I wanted to smack her upside the head and say get over yourself already!

I loved that Avasarala and Bobbie were back in full force. Chrisjen is probably my favorite character in this series. I laughed out loud when Avasarala is bombasting the Martian Prime Minister in a message to Bobbie, knowing full well that the PM can overhear what she's saying, and when Bobbie apologies, he shrugs and admits that Avasrala didn't say anything that he hadn't already heard. Great scene.

And ultimately, the question becomes, how will all these plot lines return to the Rocinante. You know they will, so it's a matter of how. Which I won't tell you about here. Nemesis Games is just too much of a roller coaster ride to deny you the enjoyment of finding that out for yourself.



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Monday, November 28, 2016

Recipe Review from 11/21/2016

I trust everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving, and if you had to work, I hope it was quiet and uneventful!  Nothing much to report from the Northland - a couple nice days, a foggy day, and now it's raining. 

I didn't host the big meal this year, so my recipes reflect a pretty standard week.  Several good ones to recommend! 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) leftover soups (S) Spaghetti Bake
Mon (yoga) leftover spaghetti
Tue - Beans and Frizzy eggs
Wed - leftovers
Thanksgiving!
Fri -  slow cooker chicken chili
Sat (L)  out   (S)  leftover chili


Sausage and Spinach Spaghetti Bake  (Ckng Lght Oct 2016)  gluten free option
This was fairly quick to pull together and definitely hearty.  One pan makes enough for four people, which I found to be somewhat large portion sizes for a given individual (ie - me).  Could easily stretch this out by serving a green salad or some warm crusty bread along side.

I didn't have any substitutions this go around, and my only observation is this comes out on the dry side - which shouldn't be surprising since this is basically a "sauceless" pasta dish.   Perhaps don't cook as much liquid off?   End result - I would make this again. 

8 ounces uncooked whole-grain spaghetti
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
photo from cookinglight.com
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 ounces hot chicken Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cups chopped tomato
1 cup prechopped onion
1 (9-oz.) bag fresh spinach
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces preshredded reduced-fat Italian-blend cheese (about 3/4 cup), divided
Cooking spray  
  1. Place an 8-inch round cake pan in oven. Preheat oven to 500°F (leave pan in oven as it preheats).

  2. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta; cook 8 minutes or until almost done; drain. Place eggs in a large bowl. Add hot pasta; toss to coat.

  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage; cook 2 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add tomato, onion, and spinach; cook 7 minutes or until liquid has almost evaporated, stirring occasionally. Add sausage mixture to pasta mixture. Stir in pepper, salt, and 2 ounces cheese.

  4. Carefully remove cake pan from oven; coat pan with cooking spray. Add pasta mixture to cake pan; sprinkle with remaining 1 ounce cheese. Bake at 500°F for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven; cut spaghetti pie into 4 wedges.

White Bean and Veggies with Frizzled Eggs (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
I really liked this dish not only for ease of prep but for the delightful taste!  I loved how the egg yolk mixed with everything to make this delectable creamy dish.  Don't skip the vinegar - it adds a great tangy flavor burst!  Recommended!

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
photo from cookinglight.com
3/4 cup prechopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
3 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
1 cup unsalted vegetable stock
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
5 ounces baby spinach
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms to pan; cook 5 to 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occa­sionally. Add tomatoes, stock, salt, and beans to pan, and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and about half of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Add spinach; cook 2 minutes or until wilted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.

  2. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Gently break eggs into pan; cook 3 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are still runny. Divide bean mixture among 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving with 1 egg; drizzle with vinegar, and sprinkle with pepper.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
Recipe notes active prep time is 20 minutes.  HA!  It takes 20 minutes just to peel and chop the squash!  Prep time is closer to 40-45 minutes unless you are using all pre-chopped/packaged foods.  Which I was not.  This would be a prep the night before or on a weekend morning.  Not suitable for week day prep unless you have a lot of time in the morning.

My rant noted, this is a really good chili.  Classic chili flavor, creamy beans and hominy, tender chicken - absolutely delicious!  A couple of notes - I used my own dried beans (navy), pre-cooked.  I also used one of my homegrown chickens (about 3lbs whole).  The Husband was kind enough to quarter the chicken and I used the thighs, legs, and breasts, bone-in and skin off.  My homegrown chickens are very lean so I wasn't worried about excess fat from the bones.

This made about 8 servings - or enough for four meals for two of us.   Recommended!


3 (15-oz.) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 (25-oz.) can hominy, rinsed and drained
photo from cookinglight.com
3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
2 cups peeled cubed butternut squash
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 oregano sprigs
1 (5-oz.) can diced green chiles, drained and divided
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
6 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, divided

2 ounces preshredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
Lime wedges

  1. Process 1 can beans in a mini food processor until smooth. Place bean puree, remaining 2 cans beans, hominy, and next 8 ingredients (through oregano) in a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Reserve 1 tablespoon green chiles. Add remaining green chiles to cooker. Top with chicken thighs. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours.
  2. Place chicken on a cutting board; cool 5 minutes. Shred chicken; stir into chili. Cover and keep warm.
  3. Process reserved 1 tablespoon green chiles, yogurt, and 2 tablespoons cilantro in a mini food processor until smooth.    Serve.
  4. Place 1 1/2 cups chili in each of 8 bowls; top evenly with yogurt mixture, remaining cilantro, cheese, green onions, and jalapeño. Serve with lime wedges.

Cheesy Jalapeno-Sour Cream Muffins  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)
These were...okay.  I thought the texture turned out a bit odd, the cheese didn't want to evenly distribute in the batter so I ran the risk of over-mixing if I really tried to break up the clumps.  I didn't have pickled jalapenos, so I substituted yellow banana peppers (had an open jar in the fridge).  I think the substitution added a nice bright flavor.  I don't know that I would make these again.


Cooking spray
3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons light sour cream
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeños
2 ounces preshredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat 8 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Combine cornmeal and next 5 ingredients (through baking soda) in a large bowl. Combine sour cream, oil, and eggs in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add sour cream mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in jalapeños and cheese.
  3. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400°F for 12 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes.



Monday, November 21, 2016

Recipe Review from 11/14/2016

Ooo.  Winter came and smacked us upside the head on Friday - no gentle transition from 60* to snow here.  Full out rain/freezing rain/sleet/snow progression that shut down half the county by 1p in the afternoon with ice and snow covered roads and periodic white out conditions from 40 mph winds.  Jingle bells... 

Alas!  I just realized I made a new Scottish Soda Bread recipe and I neglected to post it.  I'll try to make sure its on next weeks review. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L)  sausage, crackers, fruit  during football  (S)  One Pot Jambalaya
Mon (Yoga)  leftover jambalaya
Tues - Black Bean burgers
Wed (Husband lunch Soup Day)  leftover burgers
Thurs (yoga)   leftover soup
Fri (yoga) leftover soup
Sat (Nebagamon) 


Slow Cooker Chicken Soup  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
The interesting thing about this dish, is there are no noodles or dumplings in it which is perfect for our gluten free peeps.

No much in the way of changes - I cooked the bacon in the over and just used a bit of rendered bacon fat to cook the chicken and veggies in.  I did forget to add the bacon to the dish later.  Oh well.  I also substituted turnips for potatoes because I was out of potatoes, and Swiss Chard for the spinach.

The chicken turns out melting tender; I didn't have to pull the chicken out to de-bone it, just grab the bone, give a little shake and the meat falls right off.  Recommended for it's simplicity.

photo from cookinglight.com
4 center-cut bacon slices, diced
1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skinned 2 teaspoons salt-free garlic-and-herb seasoning blend 
2 cups thinly sliced leek (from 2 large leeks)
1 cup sliced carrot (from 2 large carrots)
1 cup sliced celery (from 2 large stalks)
4 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 thyme sprigs
12 ounces baby potatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped baby spinach (I used Swiss Chard)

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan. Set bacon aside.

Sprinkle chicken with seasoning blend. Add chicken to bacon drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes, browning on all sides. Transfer chicken using a slotted spoon to a 6-quart electric slow cooker, reserving any drippings in pan. Add leek, carrot, and celery to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup stock, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add leek mixture, bacon, remaining 3 cups stock, salt, pepper, and thyme sprigs to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 hours. Add potatoes; cover and cook on LOW for 2 more hours or until potatoes are tender.

Remove chicken from slow cooker with a slotted spoon; discard thyme sprigs. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces; discard bones. Return chicken to slow cooker; add spinach, stirring until spinach wilt.


One Pan Jambalaya  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
Just a couple of notations on this dish - I have access to andoullie sausage in kielbasa type links, so I used 1- 6oz link and sliced it into medallions.   I have NO idea what this pre-cooked brown rice that Cooking Light insists on recommended, and I can safely say, it's NOT the boil in a bag mix.  However, that's what I used (Uncle Bens, brown rice, 2 - 2 cup pkgs boil in a bag rice).  I did have to add something between 1/4 and 2/3 cup of extra liquid beyond what was called for.   I do recommend letting the whole dish sit, covered for about 10 minutes to let the rice really absorb any remaining liquid if using the above.

This was fairly quick  - more than the 20 minutes they called for, however.  Maybe 30-40 minutes between start and table?  I did have time to do the dishes before serving, which is always a plus.  I found this to be pleasantly flavorful, a hint of zing (will depend on your Cajun seasoning), and filling.  We did add hot sauce/siracha at serving.  Recommended. 

Photo from CookingLight.com

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (8-oz.) package frozen chopped onion and green bell pepper, thawed
3 ounces andouille sausage, finely chopped  (I used 6 oz so I wouldn't have a partial link floating around)
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 (10-oz.) cans unsalted diced tomatoes and green chiles
2 teaspoons salt-free Cajun seasoning (I used Penzey's)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (8.8-oz.) pouches precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
4 green onions, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Hot sauce (optional)

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion mixture and sausage; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
Strain tomatoes in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Add strained tomato mixture, 1/4 cup reserved tomato liquid, Cajun seasoning, salt, and rice to pan, scraping pan with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; sprinkle with green onions. Divide rice mixture evenly among 4 bowls. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce, if desired.

Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; sprinkle with green onions. Divide rice mixture evenly among 4 bowls. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce, if desired


20 Minute Black Bean Burgers (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  vegetarian
These were darn tasty!  I can't speak to them being 20 minutes because I was also prepping the sweet potato fries to accompany them.  The Husband was also prepping a soup for Soup Day at work so there was a lot going on in one tiny space. 

My notes: I toasted the bread in the oven while it preheated for the fries (400*).  Assembly as written, formed into patties, and put on the same baking sheet as the fries (fries tossed with olive oil and salt, placed on an aluminum covered jelly roll pan, I sprayed the end of the pan with oil before putting the burgers on).  Fries and patties finished baking together.   Maybe 15-20 minutes?   I tossed a slice of cheddar cheese on right before pulling everything out. and served open faced on a sourdough English muffin.  Recommended! 

1 (1-oz.) slice whole-grain bread, toasted and torn into pieces
Photo from CookingLight.com
1/4 cup grated onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons olive oil 
  1. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 5 times. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Combine onion, garlic, juice, cumin, salt, rind, and beans in processor; pulse 4 to 5 times. Add bean mixture, walnuts, hot sauce, and egg to crumbs; stir well. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a 3/4-inch-thick patty.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; reduce heat to medium, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Crossing by Michael Connelly (Bosch #20, Haller #7)

The Crossing (Harry Bosch, #20; Mickey Haller, #7; Harry Bosch Universe, #23)The Crossing by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars





Jacket Blurb:  Six months ago, Harry Bosch left the LAPD before they could fire him, and then hired maverick Defense Attorney Mickey Haller to sue the department for forcing him out. Although it wasn't the way he wanted to go, Harry has to admit that being out of the game has its benefits. Until Mickey asks him to help on one of his cases, and suddenly Harry is back where he belongs, right in the centre of a particularly puzzling murder mystery. The difference is, this time Harry is working for the defense, aiming to prevent the accused, Leland Foster, from being convicted. And not only does the prosecution seem to have a cast-iron case, but having crossed over to 'the dark side' as his former colleagues would put it, Harry is in danger of betraying the very principles he's lived by his whole career.

Read as an audio book.

Overall, I enjoyed this latest installment for multiple reasons - it's a joint book between Micky Haller and Harry, though the story is predominantly Harry's. Harry is off the LAPD so he's no longer fighting "the system". He can't "go rouge" because there is nothing to "go rouge" against. He no longer has a partner to demean or to try and mentor. There is no one to hold to the same extremely high and unattainable standards he holds himself to. There is a mystery to solve and once Bosch wraps his head around the concept that an innocent man might be in jail, then the story starts to unfold.

However! As much as I enjoyed this one, it left me with a few qualms:

The impression that all cops are black and white - the bad guy is in jail, ergo murder is solved, end of story, door is closed, let's all move on. THIS the reason why we have defense attorneys. Thank heavens our system allows for someone to stand up and defend the accused. Thus the whole "innocent until proven guilty", not "guilty until proven innocent".

Bosch's daughter, Maddie, age 17/18, is also brooking no room for error in Bosch's reasoning why he's taking on Mickey's case ala Crossing the Aisle or whatever the term was. Her anger at Bosch, even after he explains the accused might be innocent, is unreasonable and unjustified. In all honesty, I just don't care for Maddie.

Ironically, this was the second book I read in a week that had crooked cops. First book left me extremely uncomfortable and I had to skim. This one wasn't as bad, but I was still very disturbed at the depth of the corruption. Yes, I know it happens, but what with current climate against cops on the news, it added a new level of discomfort to the story. I still have to believe in the overall inherent belief of "protect and serve".

And I was a bit disappointed in the second "climatic" ending - I saw what was coming chapters ahead and I would have preferred something unconventional, surprising, different. Still, everything was wrapped up with a bright shiny bow and that works too.

Recommended if you've read the previous nineteen books.



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Monday, November 14, 2016

Recipe Review from 11/7/2016

I survived daylight savings time - been a bit off kilter all week like waking up at 430a and then wanting to hit the hay at 8p - but meh, go with the flow.  It's just going to change again in 6 months.

Weather continues to be gorgeous.  Got the garage all tidied, swept and stuff put up in anticipation of slushy snow melt.  And we continue to enjoy our Swiss chard and kale - I know we've never enjoyed garden produce this long into the Fall.  

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L)   Butnut Squash Chili   (S)  Roasted Chicken and veggies
Mon (yoga)  leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri (Veterans Day) leftovers Easy Jambalaya
Sat (L) - leftovers   (S)   Hockey game!

Lunches - Cauliflower soup (me), sandwiches (Husband);  yogurt, carrots, fruit and granola bars

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili (MyRecipes via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free
This was pretty simple to prepare - most of the prep involving chopping the veggies.  I did skip sauteing the onion, garlic, peppers and jalepenos this go around.  I'm still not 100% convinced that is a necessary step giving a 4 - 6 hour cooking time.  You WILL need your larger slow cooker for this.  

Only a couple substitutions/alterations - I did two cans of black beans and two cans of pinto.  Husband isn't wild about black beans and four cans would be a bit much.  I only did 2 tbsp chili powder and added 1/2 tbsp ground ancho chili.

My only issue with this when all was mixed and made was this turned out bland, which surprised me given the amount of cumin, chili powder and ancho chili powder.   This makes a LOT - about 12 servings?  6 meals for two of us.   I was seriously contemplating freezing some but we managed to eat it all. 

1/4 cup olive oil
3 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
4 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 14.5-oz. cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 cups butternut squash (about 2 lb.), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and pepper 
 
1. Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add bell peppers and jalapeños; sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.

2. Transfer pepper mixture to slow cooker. Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Arrange squash on top. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

3. Season chili with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, salsa and other accompaniments, if desired.


Creamy Cauliflower Chowder (Two Peas and Their Pod via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free option
I was in the middle of making several meals (chili above, cornbread, and Ben-dog's food) so I wasn't paying full attention the directions below and kinda ended up doing my own thing.  Ingredients stayed the same but assembly altered. 

I really like how this turned out - tender cauliflower (but not mushy!), sweet carrots, celery all in a nice creamy saucy mix.  My only complaint is it turned out a bit bland.  I think a sharp cheddar, or a Gruyere, Swiss, or Jarlsberg would have been more flavorful.

This made 6 lunches for one.  Amount will depend on how "large" your cauliflower is.

1 large head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (**gluten free option)
2 (15 ounce) cans vegetable broth (I used chicken stock)
1 1/4 cups milk of choice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I recommend sharp cheddar )
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chopped cauliflower and garlic cloves on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until well coated. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Place pan in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until cauliflower is tender, stirring once. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Finely chop the roasted garlic cloves. Add the garlic, roasted cauliflower, bay leaf, and dried thyme to the pot. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir. Cook until flour disappears.
  4. Pour in the vegetable broth and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the milk and shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and chowder is creamy. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman (Chee #5)

The Ghostway (Leaphorn & Chee, #6)The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb: Old Joseph Joe sees it all. Two strangers spill blood at the Shiprock Wash-O-Mat. One dies. The other drives off into the dry lands of the Big Reservation, but not before he shows the old Navajo a photo of the man he seeks.

This is all Tribal Policeman Jim Chee needs to set him off on an odyssey that moves from a trapped ghost in an Indian hogan to the seedy underbelly of L.A. to an ancient healing ceremony where death is the cure, and into the dark heart of murder and revenge.


Read as an audio book.

I really enjoyed this installment. These books just flow for me - they aren't action packed, there aren't high speed car chases, there aren't any gun battles with glass exploding everywhere, there aren't any huge explosions hurling cars and people topsy-turvy. These are thoughtful "thinking" mysteries, where our protagonist, Jim Chee, has to reason out what happened, why it happened, and who might have done it.

In The Ghostway, Chee is struggling with Mary Landon, his girlfriend, after she expressed disappointment that he didn't apply for a position with the FBI and a possible relocation off the reservation. Which called into question his expectations of the relationship; if he hands in the FBI application, he walks the path of the white man. If he doesn't hand in the FBI application, he continues his studies to become a Navajo Singer and stays a Navajo - but without Mary.

Meanwhile, an elderly Navajo witnesses the murder of Albert Gorman, and the death is linked to an FBI investigation stemming from Los Angeles. Chee is asked to help in the investigation, which leads to a missing girl and her missing Grandfather. The search for both lead the reader through an exploration of white culture as seen through the eyes of a Navajo - specifically, Chee's eyes as he struggles to decide to stay Navajo or become white.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Navajo concept of the Ghostway and death rituals: how a hogon is abandoned upon the death of a person because the chindi is trapped inside, the burial rituals of a Navajo, and the Ghostway cleansing ritual to rid a person of the Ghost Sickness. All of this was so well interwoven into the story that it was a pleasure to read. I thought it added so much to Chee's dilemma about which path he should walk.

My only tiny complaint with the book was all the driving, and, upon reflection, perhaps even that contributes to the over all feel of how large and remote the southwest is. Still, a bit too much car time for the main character. But, my quirk.

So far, I highly recommend this series.



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Monday, November 7, 2016

Recipe review from 10/31/2016

LOVIN' the weather we've been enjoying up here!  Crisp mornings and absolutely gorgeous afternoons - highs sitting about 50, though as I'm typing this it's closer to 60*.  While I would say this is unusual for my corner of the world, this is becoming more the norm than not. 

A busy week for both the Husband and I, late home pretty much every night.  Having leftovers ready in the fridge was a huge time saver! 

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) leftover burritos   (S) Shepherds Pie
Sun (L) leftovers soup and burritos (S) leftover Shepherds Pie
Mon (yoga) leftover Shepherds Pie
Tues (PM yoga)  leftover Shepherds Pie
Wed (Husband in Madison)  soup
Thurs (yoga)  pasty
Fri - pasty

A Perfect Pot of Lentils (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)
NOTE:  I halved this recipe when I made for the Lentil Shepherd's Pie.  I didn't want 5 cups of lentils - I only needed 2 1/2 cups.  Halving worked fine.  I had to laugh as I was typing this blog; I completely forgot the soy sauce and Dijon mustard!  Still turned out just fine. 

Ckng Lght notes:  Make a big perfect pot of lentils to start your week off on the right food. You can add them to salads, serve them as sides, or top with rotisserie chicken for an easy lunch. Start tasting for doneness at the 28-minute mark. They'll continue to soften as they sit, so be sure to stop the cooking process before they turn to mush. Red and yellow lentils do not work well here, as they tend to cook much faster and will fall apart. You want to maintain a bit of a bite, making these lentils better candidates for salads, soups, and stews.
photo from cookinglight.com
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrot
  • 3/4 cup chopped shallot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
  • 2 cups green or brown lentils
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Heat a medium saucepan over medium. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add carrot, shallot, garlic, and tomato paste; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add lentils, thyme, and 4 cups water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Lentil Shepherds Pie (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  vegetarian, gluten free
This makes a full 9x13 pan.  This made enough for four meals for two of us.  They were rather large-ish portions...    Both the Husband and I thought this was quite tasty - the lentils retain their shape, so this doesn't turn into mush, it's flavorful, hearty, and re-heated beautifully on the stove. 

One item I would consider changing if/when I make this again (and I would make this again!):  sub a more hearty cheese for the Parmesan, such as a sharp cheddar, Gruyere, or Gorgonzola.   I would also consider subbing buttermilk for the regular milk.  Both would really add a flavor punch to the potatoes, and thus, the overall dish.  Of course, this depends if there are any little taste buds being served.  
photo from cookinglight.com
  • 2 pounds medium red potatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (from A Perfect Pot of Lentils recipe above)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 3/4 cup unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas (I used edamame)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Place potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain.

  3. Return potatoes to saucepan. Add milk, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cheese; mash to desired consistency.

  4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and thyme, sauté 10 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add lentils, bulgur, stock, wine, soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or until thickened. Stir in green peas.

  5. Spoon lentil mixture into a 13- x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with mashed potato mixture. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle evenly with chives.
 Easy Split Pea Soup  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  vegetarian option, gluten free
This is easy. This is good.  This can be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and use vegetable stock in lieu of chicken stock.  If you have some leftover ham, use that for flavoring instead of bacon. 

I did skip the bacon in this this go around, but used chicken stock because I had was using for several recipes this week and didn't want to buy two different stocks.  This does require a bit of planning ahead - it will take about an hour, hour and a half from start to finish.  This stored well and made four or five? lunches for the week.  I admit I forgot how many servings exactly.  And it will depend the size of your bowls.   Recommended! 
photo from cookinglight.com
  • 5 center-cut bacon slices**
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (soybean paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound green split peas
  • 6 cups unsalted chicken stock*
  • 1 bay leaf 
  1. Place bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; cook 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon; crumble. [Omit if vegetarian]
  2. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes or until slightly tender. Add miso, salt, pepper, and peas to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock and bay leaf; bring to a boil over medium-high. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour or until peas are tender. Discard bay leaf. Stir in bacon (optional).