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Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky, #1)The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb:  Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky


Review rounded up to 3.5 stars.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One is the discovery of sentient AI’s and the birth of the generation ship. Part Two is the growth and development of the generation ship and the Cities therin, and Part Three is end/beginning of a new era. Each part advances the time line by decades, which kept the entire plot moving forward without getting bogged down in minutia.

Overall premise is Earth is on the brink of disaster – climate change has irrevocably altered the landscape, the political climate has fractured states and nations, the threat of a global war is imminent. In Part One we are introduced to the shipmind/AI Dressler aka “Lex”; Jackson Hammond, the Engineer; Dr. Ava, daughter of the man who created the biological and generation seed ships; and Colin, Captain. Dr. Ava and the Captain find a fungus coming from Hammond’s crucifix jewelry is quickly killing the shuttle and the asteroid 43 Ariadne is their only hope for rescue. Hammond has to convince Dr. Ava and the Captain to save “Lex” by combining her with the seed that will eventually create a generation ship. The melding is successful and “Lex” becomes the mind of the generation ship.

They are successful but at a cost: Dr. Ava goes off to prison for killing Jackson and Colin becomes director of Transfer Station for AmSplor, the oversight body for the growing and developing generation ship.

A decade passes, and Dr. Ava returns to Transfer Station to witness the result of her creation. Alex Hammond is on the same ship to get answers to why his father died. “Lex” takes exception to Dr. Ava’s return, confronts her, and she flees. Hammond, carrying the wetware virus his father did, is told to save her.

A decade passes, and Colin has retired from Station director and Hammond is now in charge. His daughter Andy, has inherited the same ability to talk and merge directly with the ship-mind. The situation on Earth has exploded, Transfer station is hacked and its core attacked, “Lex” and her human cargo may be all that’s left of the human race.

Whew! A lot to recap without spoilers! If you like scifi, you’ll probably like this. There’s the melding of mechanical and biological to make ships which is an interesting concept, the idea of growing a generation ship from the raw materials of an asteroid is different, as long as you don’t think too hard about certain scientific aspects and the use of three parts to move the story forward was nicely executed.

Where I struggled with the book was aspects like Jackson performing mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions on Dr. Ana after a near-fatal incident space and upon reviving, she gets up and walks around. Ah…no. Big NO. If you do chest compression's on someone you have just cracked/broke their ribs where they connect to your sternum. It’s going to hurt like a sonofabitch to move. She’s not going to be pushing anything around. I’m overlooking doing chest compression's while in a space suit…

I also found it highly unlikely that a shuttle ship captain would be given the directorate of a space station.

I grappled with Ana and Colin being so quick to accuse Jackson of putting the ship in peril, of knocking the man out and trussing him up in his bunk without even questioning the man. But when the truth comes to light and Dr. Ana confesses, Colin is all “Well…okay then.” The emotions didn’t fit the crime.

I had a bit of a Star Wars (Episode 4) moment, when Aaron Hammond goes in search of answers regarding his father, and doesn’t like what he’s told. It was a bit reminiscent of Luke Skywalkers anguished NNnnooo echoing through the chamber. After my eyes stopped rolling, all I could think was, don’t go looking for the truth IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE IT.

My final grumble with the book was the repetitive statements – I wish there was a way to track on my e-reader every time a character said “X”, only to repeat “X” three paragraphs over because it was a lot.

Overall, despite the items above, this was an interesting read. I liked the decade jumps to bring on new characters and move the timeline forward, the concept of growing a generation ship was different (as long as you don’t think too hard of the science and timelines), and the characters were interesting.

I do feel a shout out for the cover art is a must: Aaron Anderson did a fantastic job.

I’ll close with a note – while this doesn’t end on a cliffhanger (some might debate that point), this is by no means a standalone book.

Review is cross-posted on Gay Book Reviews
A copy of the book was provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!



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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Private: Syndey by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox (Private #12)

Private Sydney (Private #12)Private Sydney by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  Even for Private Investigations, the world’s top detective agency, it’s tough to find a man who doesn’t exist . . .
Craig Gisto has promised Eliza Moss that his elite team at Private Sydney will investigate the disappearance of her father. After all, as CEO of a high-profile research company, Eric Moss shouldn’t be difficult to find.

Except it’s not just the man who’s gone missing. Despite the most advanced technology at their disposal, they find every trace of him has vanished too.
 
And they aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Powerful figures want Moss to stay ‘lost’, while others just as ruthlessly want him found.

Meanwhile, a routine background check becomes a frantic race to find a stolen baby and catch a brutal killer – a killer Private may well have sent straight to the victim’s door . . .


Read as an audio book.

Alternate title is Private: Missing. The irony here is the audio CD was actually missing from my library, then it was unavailable through inter-library loan, and after about 5 months I was able to get my hands on a copy.

Premise of the book is Craig Gisto receives a call from Jack Morgan to find Eric Moss, CEO of a research company that has international ties. Eliza and Eric are good friends with Jack, so this is high priority for Craig.

At the same time, a wealthy couple approaches Craig asking for a full-blown background check on one Louise Simpson, purported to be a nanny. Upon deeper questioning, what the Finch's actually want is a surrogate mother, which is illegal in Australia. Craig reluctantly agrees, and the next day the surrogate is found brutally murdered and her 8 month old baby is missing. Craig realizes he's been set up, and his brother-in-law Mark, detective on the Sydney police force, is only too keen to take Craig and Private down on grounds of accessory to murder.

This is a short, fast paced, well narrated story (remember, I read as an audio book). I liked the two concurrent plots, they added just enough tension to keep the story moving along but didn't clash with each other. It allowed Craig's group to work as a team, and it wasn't Craig running all over Sydney.

As with most mysteries and thrillers, there is a love interest. This time it was understated without the usual tumble in the sheets, which I greatly appreciated.

A few grumbles - the whole cloak and daggers CIA ADF business was a bit over the top. Yes, ALL the Private books are over the top, but if trying to find someone, why not just go ask, then trail and monitor phone calls. All this attacking and threatening seemed unnecessary, other than to add dramatic suspense.

The Eric Moss character and plot line just didn't seem plausible to me. Yeah, yeah...it's Private. But it had me rolling my eyes more than once.

Ultimately the end of the audio book I was pleasantly entertained, which is what I want in a book. This was better than several other Private books and I hope to see Mr. Gisto and Australia in a future book. Recommended if you've read previous Private books.




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Monday, October 9, 2017

Oregon, 2017

Another year, another visit to see the Sister and Family!

Thursday - Flight from Duluth to Mpls was a half hour late, which give me 10 minutes to run from Terminal A to the verrryyy beginning of Terminal C.  I did get there before they started boarding, and I should have immediately gotten in line at Starbucks to get some real food, but I waffled too long and ended up having time to grab a bottle of water and a piece of banana bread.  Flight from Mpls to Portland was 40 minutes early and Sister was running almost 40 minutes late, so I got to stand outside and watch the cars go by - which is actually kinda a nice way to decompress from flights and before socializing kicks in.   Lunch at an Iraqi/Middle Eastern restaurant on Albert St in Portland and we stopped at two yarn stores on our way back to Corvallis. 

Friday -  Sister and I dropped Nephew off at school, got donuts for breakfast, bought some gardening supplies and started digging out her flowerbeds.   I have to say, her so-called soil makes the Duluth clay look and feel like the softest, loamy-est dirt ever!  Uff!   Her co-worker/best friend stopped by for a couple hours to chat before he went and picked up his sisters from the airport.  Sister and I finished the one bed in preparation for her Community Garden plants. 

A mantis on her Mum's!

Saturday  Sister's friend C came over with her truck and were off to the Community Garden to pull out the perennials Sister wanted to keep.  We totally filled the back of C's Tacoma! Sister had so much fun plopping her plant babies in the ground, but after five hours we were pooped and the homeless plants were tucked into Rubbermaid containers filled with dirt until Sister could prep some more beds. 

Fishing boats in Newport, OR

Sunday - Sister planned a trip to the coast (yay!), so we bundled the Nephew into the car and away we went to Newport, a fishing/tourist town on the coast.  Supposedly it is the largest town on the Oregon coast at 10,000 people.  Got there about 11a, walked through kitchy shops, looked at sea lions, then K drove over to a lighthouse - alas, no time to tour as we were hustled back into the car and were on the road again.

Where we then drove for another hour or so down the coast to Yahutz (I'm butchering that spelling), with one stop at a glass blowing shop (such beautiful work!).  We up with her co-worker again and said hello to his two sisters and their husbands.  We did take out chowder from a local restaurant and then wandered the shore picking agates.  Back over the mountains for a quiet evening at the house.

 

Monday -  Sister had a couple of meetings from 11-1, so I had her drop me off downtown where I got to crawl through some interesting stores like Oregon Tea and Coffee Co, some shoe stores, and a couple of clothing stores.  Lunch at a restaurant I enjoy, then I walked a portion of their river walk park.  After the meeting she took me to Benton Lane winery where we did a tasting, then shared a glass, and sat and knit.  Ahhhh.   Supper was at this bizarre sushi place where the food comes around on little plates on a conveyor belt and you just pick up what you want. 



Tuesday -  I was on the 730a shuttle to Portland.  In Portland by 1000aish.  Hotel shuttle was prompt and I was at the hotel by 1030a.  Unloaded my stuff, repacked a little hiking bag, and a High School acquaintance picked me up by 11a.  We grabbed sandwiches on our way out of town to our destination:  Tillmook State Forest and Elk Peak.   8 miles, 4.5 hours, about 1900' in elevation.  First 2 hours were pretty much straight up, remainder was following a very old logging road down down down down.  It was amazing!  At one point in the hike, we could see Mt. Hood.  Dinner then back to the hotel for a very hot, very long shower.  I was a bit sore after that kind of hiking. 

Floating in the middle of the picture is Mt. Hood.



Wednesday - I admit, I cut getting to the airport a bit closer than I should have that morning.  I didn't count on the family of 6 with their all their luggage, six coolers and deep sea fishing poles on the shuttle in addition to everyone else.  And I underestimated how long security lines could be at 5 in the morning (PDX is great tho, they'll open up extra check points).  AND I scheduled my connecting flight rather too close at MSP - I *thought* I had an hour to get from point A to point B, and realized once we were on the ground...they were boarding in 5 minutes!   Mad mad run across the airport. I made it.  They were running about 20 minutes late.  Whew!  *8-| rolling eyes

On the ground in Duluth at 145p.  Home.  Unpacked.  Did laundry.  Tidied the house.  And then chilled until it was time to take Kep to Obedience School at 6p. 

Great great trip.  Looking forward to more adventures on the West Coast!  



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Split Second by David Baldacci (Sean and Michelle #1)

Split Second (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #1)Split Second by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars




Jacket Blurb:  Michelle Maxwell has just wrecked her promising career at the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she let a presidential candidate out of her sight for the briefest moment and the man whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air. Sean King knows how the younger agent feels. Eight years earlier, the hard-charging Secret Service agent allowed his attention to be diverted for a split second. And the candidate he was protecting was gunned down before his eyes. Now Michelle and Sean are about to see their destinies converge.

Drawn into a maze of lies, secrets, and deadly coincidences, the two discredited agents uncover a shocking truth: that the separate acts of violence that shattered their lives were really a long time in the making – and are a long way from over….


Read as an audio book.

First in a somewhat "new to me" series - I read and reviewed The Sixth Man (35) here. I enjoyed The Sixth Man enough to go and start from the beginning.

First book didn't disappoint.

Premise of the book was 8 years ago, while guarding a presidential candidate, Sean took his eyes off the audience and his protectee was shot. A replay of the video of the event showed that Sean was distracted by something, but he never admitted to more than a lapse of attention. His career in the Secret Service over, Sean now lives quietly as an estate attorney (for a lack of a better description).

Michelle, rising star in the service, manages to lose her presidential candidate at a funeral, in a room that only held the widow and the deceased. Remiss and chastised for leaving her protectee unguarded, her career is on the line. Michelle decides to look up Sean, and the two soon realize that the two events might be linked.

In between Sean and Michelle is Joan - prior secret service, now retired and running her own PI firm. She enlists Sean's help in finding the missing presidential candidate and hopes to re-kindle a previous relationship with Sean.

This was a bit of a whirlwind thriller and I admit, I really didn't see aspects of the conclusion coming. Which *I* really enjoy. I like being surprised.

I also GREATLY appreciate that Sean did not sleep with either female lead within the pages of the book. We know he and Joan had a relationship prior to this, but they did not renew the sexual liaisons. Sean certainly admired Michelle's body, but there was no falling into the sheets. I can't tell you how happy that made me, such a refreshing change from just about every other mystery/thriller out there. Thank you Mr. Baldacci!

One not insignificant "oops" was noticed by the husband - during the Grande Finale, Sean was given a gun. The magazine was welded shut so theoretically he couldn't check to see if he had live ammo or blanks. Sean agonized over what the antagonist loaded the gun with and what he would do when the scenario played out. The Husband pointed out Sean could have checked his ammo when he racked the slide and jacked a round into the chamber.

Overall an engaging story, interesting characters, author avoided some much overused tropes and the ubiquitous sexual tension, and some surprising twists at the end. I'll be reading the next in the series.



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Monday, October 2, 2017

Recipe Review from 9/25/2017

By the time this is posted, I'll be off on An Adventure!  Stay tuned for where! 

Here's a little hint...
 
Meanwhile, I had my first Obedience Class this past week.  First session is sans pup - a meet and greet, class expectations and how-to.    Six more sessions with pup to follow, we'll miss the last one due to a scheduling conflict.   While I've trained all my dogs in the past - two previous puppies and one adult rescue dog (Andy) -  it's been almost 15 years since I've had a puppy and the intent is to hunt with Kepler, so I decided I should step up my game.  Stay tuned for more exciting Adventures With Kep!

Only one new dish to report on this past week.  

The Meal Plan for week of Sept 25:
Sat (L)  RGS Class Potluck  (S)  leftovers
Sun (L)  leftovers  (S)  "Hunter's Stew"
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/legion) leftovers
Tues - Black Bean Burgers
Wed - left burgers or stew
Thurs - The Husband's Choice
Fri -The Husband's Choice


Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers (Ckng Lght, Oct 2017)  vegetarian
This was easy enough to assemble, but I wasn't pleased with how gloopy it turned out even after letting the mixture stand for 15-20 minutes.  I was able to form patties, but I baked them rather than pan-frying. 

I also didn't do the avocado/red cabbage topping.  I had planned this recipe for a couple weeks ago, then procceded to eat the avocado with a different dish and completely forgot this one.   So I topped this with some chopped cilantro and white cheddar, and served open faced on a sourdough english muffin.

Overall, tasty enough, but not my favorite black bean burger recipe.

photo from cookinglight.com
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/3 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon water
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted
1/2 cup finely shredded red cabbage

1) Place flaxseed, Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, cumin, pepper, mushrooms, half of the beans, egg, and garlic in a food processor; process 1 minute or until almost smooth. Place bean mixture in a bowl; stir in remaining half of beans and panko.
 
2) Heat oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high. Fill a 1/2-cup measure with bean mixture; add to pan. Repeat procedure 3 times to form 4 patties. Flatten patties slightly with the back of a spatula. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until browned.
 
3) Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, juice, and avocado in a bowl, mashing with a fork. Stir in yogurt and 1 tablespoon water. Divide patties among bottom halves of buns; top evenly with avocado mixture, cabbage, and top halves of buns.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovskey

Children of TimeChildren of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  A race for survival among the stars... Humanity's last survivors escaped earth's ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers?

WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?


September's book group selection.

DNF

Book started out with an interesting premise - the nanovirus meant to uplift monkey's on Kern's World didn't take into account invertebrates, and when the monkeys never made it to the surface of the terraformed world, the nanovirus went to work on the spiders and ants. Centuries pass and the spiders and ants evolve moving through the various phases of societal development.

I found that aspect very interesting - a failure to take into account on exactly what what the nanovirus would and wouldn't affect. The question begs to be asked, if the monkeys had made it to the planet, would the monkeys and spiders have evolved simultaneously?

Meanwhile, after centuries of traveling through space, arc ship Gligamesh is desperately looking for a place to call home. The green planet approaching has all the set criteria...except for the crazy AI in the satellite that's destroying all of Gligamesh probes and is threatening to blow the Gligamesh out of the sky. There's a ship mutiny which goes badly, and the Gligamesh moves on. They find a grey planet, covered in some kind of fungus,

It's a story about evolution on a planet and de-evolution on a generation ship.

I made it halfway through the book and lost interest. Book group was really split on this selection; half enjoyed the book but did agree that it was a bit long. Half of us did not finish, citing it was too long and boring. The half that finished happily supplied the ending for those of us who gave up. I should also note - two of us really didn't like reading about giant spiders. ((shudder))

So, from a personal pov, I can't recommend this one, BUT...others did like it so this is one you might have to read and decide for yourself.





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Monday, September 25, 2017

Recipe Review from 9/18/2017

A passing in the family had us taking an unexpected trip to north central WI for a funeral at the end of the week so everything was thrown a bit out of kilter.  I froze the ingredients for a Quick Texan Chili for a later date.

So it was a crazy busy week and next weeks going to be more of the same.

The Meal Plan from the week of 9/18/2017
Sat (L) leftovers  (S) out
Sun (L) leftovers  (S) Pork Chili Verde
Mon (yoga) leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed - Quick Texan chili
Thurs (yoga) leftovers   Out of town
Fri - leftovers  Out of town



Pork Chili Verde  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2017)  gluten free
Folks, a rockin' fall meal doesn't get much easier or tastier than this.  Chop, plop, walk away, serve and eat. And eat.  And eat...  This made a lot.  I think I ended up with enough for five meals for two of us, and that was with only 1 lb, maybe 1.5 lb of meat in the dish.  I did use 1 lb of dried beans, which I think is a bit more than two cups, so quantities might have been about the same.

A note on the beans - because I have hard water, I did do a "quick soak" before hand.  I was going to  brine them the night before but I forgot.  I did the pre-cook to make sure that the beans would soften while in the slow cooker.  My chicken stock was also salt free - I make my own and don't any and salt.  Was pre-cooking necessary?  Maybe not, but I wasn't going to take any chances. 

I really liked the simplicity of this dish.  From the ease of assembly to the bare bones ingredients: beans, meat, background flavors - very tasty!   I did skip the green onions and radishes and didn't miss them.  I had some extra cilantro in the fridge, so I added that just before serving.   I

Recommended!

photo from CookingLight.com
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 cups dried Great Northern beans (unsoaked)
2 cups chopped white onion (about 8 oz.)
1 1/3 cups tomatillo salsa (such as Frontera)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-in. cubes (about 2 1/2 lb. purchase weight)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes (optional)

Combine chicken stock, beans, white onion, salsa, 1/2 cup water, cumin, oregano, salt, garlic, and pork in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low 7 hours and 30 minutes to 8 hours. Sprinkle with green onions and radishes, if desired, before serving.   I skipped.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Recipe Review from 9/11/2017

Woot!  What a week!  Weather was fantastic Monday through Thursday, with temps easily hitting 80* - unusual for us!  Tho alas, weather turned cool and wet on Friday.  Went to a Gin Blossoms and Soul Asylum concert on Friday night.  Did a the Beer Train on Saturday. Watched some college and NFL football.  Made a few dishes. Welcome to Fall!



The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) leftover Chinese   (S) Bacon and White Cheddar Risotto
Sun (L) leftovers  (S) Slow cooker Santa Fe Meatloaf
Mon (yoga) leftover meatloaf
Tues (trap shooting) leftovers
Wed - Skillet mushroom mac n cheese
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - (Soul Asylum and Goo Goo Dolls concert)

Lunches - butternut squash soup and sandwiches

White Cheddar and Bacon Risotto  (Ckng Lght Sept 2017) vegetarian option, gluten free
This was tasty enough - I like risotto, I make an acceptable risotto, so I was happy.  I think this would have been a tich better if I could have found a sharp white cheddar, so this was a bit on the bland side for me.  Not that there is anything wrong with bland, I just like a bit more flavor.

This could be converted to a vegetarian dish very easily by swapping out the chicken broth for vegetable and skipping the bacon.  Bacon really didn't add anything so...((shrugg)).

Oh, I did use a frozen pea and carrot mix because I like the added color. 

4 cups unsalted chicken stock (or vegetable)
2 fresh thyme sprigs
photo from cookinglight.com
2 bacon slices (skip if vegetarian)
1 1/4 cups diced onion
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
3 ounces white cheddar cheese,shredded (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1) Bring stock and thyme sprigs to a simmer in a saucepan over medium; keep warm over low.
2) Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium for 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove from pan; crumble. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 1/2 cups stock; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring frequently. Add 2 1/4 cups stock, 3/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion is absorbed before adding more. Reserve remaining 1/4 cup stock; discard thyme sprigs. Stir in salt and pepper.
3) Stir in peas, chopped thyme, and cheese; cook 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup stock. Divide rice mixture among 4 bowls; top with green onions and bacon.


Slow Cooker Santa Fe Meatloaf (Ckng Lght Sept 2017)
I'm not a huge meatloaf fan, but I know the Husband likes the dish every once in a while.  This dish was a winner.  This is a mix, plop and walk away from meal - do NOT skip the parchment sling in the slow cooker as this will make final assembly so much easier!

I had one "oops!" - I inadvertently grabbed diced jalepeno's instead of diced green chilies, so this had a bit of zing to it, which was totally fine with us.  Usually I'm commenting on how bland something is.  Stick with mild diced green chilies for little taste buds.   I also used some of the leftover white cheddar from the risotto dish instead of a Mexican shredded cheese blend.

This is something I would make again - the Tex-Mex flavor was a nice change of pace from traditional ketchup or BBQ sauce.  I made some fried potatoes to go along side, but some cornbread, green beans or even a corn and black bean salad would also be tasty.

Recommended!
photo from cookinglight.com

1 1/2 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
(I ended up using 2lbs)
2/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. mild red enchilada sauce, divided
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. fresh or frozen corn kernels, divided
5 tablespoons canned unsalted black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 (4-oz.) can mild chopped green chiles, drained well
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
1 1/2 ounces preshredded Mexican cheese blend (about 1/3 cup)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
Cilantro leaves (optional)

1) Cut parchment paper to about 15 x 9 1/2 inches to form a sling to allow you to easily insert and remove the meatloaf from your slow cooker.

2) Combine turkey, 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce, oats, onions, 1/3 cup corn, 1/4 cup black beans, chopped cilantro, cumin, salt, onion powder, chiles, egg, and garlic. Mix everything well using clean hands, and then shape into a 9- x 5-inch oval loaf flattened slightly on top. Place loaf onto prepared parchment paper; while holding edges of paper, carefully insert into a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker (make sure lid closes well without the paper getting in the way). Cover, and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.

3) Pull loaf out of slow cooker using parchment sling; set aside. Wipe parchment clean; drain liquid from bottom of slow cooker. Return loaf to slow cooker using parchment sling. Cover loaf with remaining 2/3 cup enchilada sauce, cheese, jalapeño (if using), remaining 1 tablespoon corn, and remaining 1 tablespoon black beans. 

4) Cover and cook on high until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired. Pull loaf out of slow cooker; cut into 12 slices.


Skillet Mushroom Mac n Cheese (Ckng Lght Sept 2017)  vegetarian
For once, a dish that was actually assembled in the time the magazine allotted!  Recipe said 40 minutes, this was ready in 40 minutes if not a bit less.

Tasty?  Oh my goodness YES!  I didn't even do any notable substitutions or changes!  This is just darn good and would be worthy of company - serve with a side salad and some artisanal bread and olive oil.

Recommended!

8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat elbow pasta (I used regular cavatappi pasta)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
photo from cookinglight.com
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
4 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, cut into halves
5 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
2 ounces low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided (about 1/2 cup)
3 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1) Preheat oven to 375°F.
2) Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

3)Heat oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in 1 tablespoon thyme and salt; cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over pan; cook 1 minute. Add milk; bring to a simmer. Add pasta, Gruyère cheese, and 1 ounce mozzarella cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in spinach. Spread pasta mixture in an even layer in pan; sprinkle with remaining 1 ounce mozzarella cheese and panko.

4) Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Carefully remove pan from oven; sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons thyme.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bad Little Falls by Paul Dioran (Mike Bowditch #3)

Bad Little Falls (Mike Bowditch, #3)Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron

My rating: 2 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb:  Maine game warden Mike Bowditch has been sent into exile, transferred by his superiors to a remote outpost on the Canadian border. When a blizzard descends on the coast, Bowditch is called to the rustic cabin of a terrified couple. A raving and half-frozen man has appeared at their door, claiming his friend is lost in the storm.

But what starts as a rescue mission in the wilderness soon becomes a baffling murder investigation. The dead man is a notorious drug dealer, and state police detectives suspect it was his own friend who killed him. Bowditch isn’t so sure, but his vow not to interfere in the case is tested when he finds himself powerfully attracted to a beautiful woman with a dark past and a troubled young son. The boy seems to know something about what really happened in the blizzard, but he is keeping his secrets locked in a cryptic notebook, and Mike fears for the safety of the strange child.

Meanwhile, an anonymous tormentor has decided to make the new warden’s life a living hell. Alone and outgunned, Bowditch turns for assistance to his old friend, the legendary bush pilot Charley Stevens. But in this snowbound landscape -— where smugglers wage blood feuds by night -— help seems very far away indeed. If Bowditch is going to catch a killer, he must survive on his own wits and discover strength he never knew he possessed.


Read as an audio book.

Goodreads asks above the review box, "what do you think?" I think...this felt like a romance disguised as a mystery. It seemed like Mike spent more time pining after, driving around, bedding, and judging the flawed but highly attractive Jamie Suel (spelling?) than actually doing his job. YO! Authors! If I want romance I'll read a romance book!

What small mystery there was, was lost in the romance and really didn't come to the forefront until the final disk.  

Ah, Mike, Mike, Mike. How many bad decisions can you make in one book? A lot apparently. I would have hoped by book three in the series that I'd start to see some character development beyond rookie mistakes that lands him in trouble. That I would see something beyond "Oh woe is me" comments regarding his previous girlfriend Sarah (so glad she's gone), his current state of affairs (being stuck in backwater Maine), that he's friendless (because he has the personality of a wet dishcloth), and his boss and the sheriff's deputies despise him (he's a know it all who doesn't follow orders).

So why did I keep reading? Because the writing is solid, the setting is interesting and some of the secondary characters were more interesting than Mike. Like Lucas and the Veterinarian. Lucas was a bit of an enigma, a little boy stuck in some really tough circumstances. The Veterinarian...I don't know exactly why I liked him, I just did.

Overall, mixed thoughts on this installment - Mike is a bit of an idiot and it's hard to feel empathy for a character who repeatedly acknowledges what he's doing is wrong but does it anyway. The secondary characters were more interesting and I enjoyed the travelogue of the Machais area. The little twist at the end was kinda cool, the next love interest was not. 

Recommended with reservations - start with book one for sure.


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Monday, September 11, 2017

Recipe Review from 8/4/2017

Labor Day weekend the Husband, myself, and the pups were invited to my friends family cabin in the Hayward, WI, area.  Saturday was a very cool, overcast and rainy day, Sunday was absolutely fabulous, and Monday a mixture of both.   It was, simply,  a very enjoyable relaxing weekend and the best part was the Pup behaved himself fabulously!  It was a New Experience for him and I really didn't know how he would react; he did great.  Absolutely great.  

Docks are the BEST! 

The rest of the week - fuggly busy.  Nuff said on that. 

The Meal Plan from the week of 9/4
Sat (Hayward)   Fog City Chicken Salad from the Co-op;  Brats and broccoli salad
Sun (Hayward)  Fog City Chicken Salad from the Co-op;  Brats and broccoli salad
Mon (Hayward)  Thirsty Pagan for pizza on the way through Superior;  Farro, green beans and
Tues - leftover Red Lentil and Sweet Potato curry
Wed - Quick Chicken Chili
Thurs - leftover chili
Fri - Chinese take out

Farro, Green Bean and Kale Salad  (Ckng Light Sept 2017) vegetarian
OMGosh!  This was excellent!  My only substitution was goat cheese for the feta.  There is something about warmed goat cheese that pushes my happy buttons.  As I noted in italics below, I cooked my own farro because I have no idea where I could find pre-cooked.  And it's not like farro is hard to cook as long as you get the pearled kind.   Roughly twenty minutes?

This says it serves two, but those two servings were on the hearty side.  This could make enough for three or four lunches.  

Highly recommended! 
photo from cookinglight.com

4 cups water
1 cup halved haricots verts or green beans
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8.5-oz.) pkg. precooked farro (2 cups)
2 cups thinly sliced lacinato kale
1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup) (I used goat cheese - recommended!!)


1) Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add green beans; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain, and rinse well with cold water; drain.

Note:  I cooked the beans and the farro in the same water.  I have NO idea where Ckng Lght is finding pre-cooked farro.  I use pearled farro and cook at a ratio of 1 cup farro to 2 cups water.  Bring water to a boil, add farro and cook until al dente (it has a bit of resistance when you bite on the kernels) and drain any remaining water.  I let stand a few minutes, covered, after draining. 

2) Combine vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Heat farro according to package directions. Add farro, kale, tomatoes, and green beans to dressing; toss well. Sprinkle with cheese.


Quick Chicken Chili (Ckng Light Sept 2017) gluten free option
This was quick, easy, and perfect for a mid-week cold weather meal.  I had some shredded chicken on hand in the freezer and I subbed pinto beans for the great northern.  So, basically, I made as written!  Oh, wait, I did add a cup of diced red pepper - had one in the fridge that needed to be used.  I served this with some homemade corn chips: I had a partial package of corn tortillas, cut into 6ths, sprayed with olive oil and baked until crispy and brown.  Yum!

For a simple, warming, easy Fall chili, I recommend this.


1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted Great Northern beans, rinsed, drained, and divided 
photo from cookinglight.com
(I used pinto beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 (4-oz.) cans mild chopped green chiles, drained
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces boneless, skinless rotisserie chicken breast, shredded (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sliced radishes
2 tablespoons light sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 ripe avocado, sliced

 1) Place 1/2 cup stock and 1 can beans in a blender, and blend until smooth. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in cumin and chiles; cook 1 minute. Add bean mixture, remaining 1 cup stock, remaining 1 can beans, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and salt; bring to a boil.
2) Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes. Stir in juice. Divide chili among 4 bowls; top evenly with radishes, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Memory Man by David Baldacci (Amos Decker #1)

Memory Man (Amos Decker, #1)Memory Man by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb: Amos Decker's life changed forever--twice.

The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect--he can never forget anything.

The second time was at home nearly two decades later. Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare--his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.

His family destroyed, their killer's identity as mysterious as the motive behind the crime, and unable to forget a single detail from that horrible night, Decker finds his world collapsing around him. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking piecemeal jobs as a private investigator when he can.

But over a year later, a man turns himself in to the police and confesses to the murders. At the same time a horrific event nearly brings Burlington to its knees, and Decker is called back in to help with this investigation. Decker also seizes his chance to learn what really happened to his family that night. To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them. He must endure the memories he would much rather forget. And he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.


Read as an audio book.

I greatly enjoyed this book. This is a "new to me" series I've read the author before) and it hit everything that *I* like to see in a mystery: solid writing, interesting and flawed characters, an engaging plot, and no romance. Yup. No romance. I am SO tired of authors/screen writers sticking in a romance for romance sake. Most mysteries/thrillers that I read stick in some kind of love interest (guy beds gal, gal is gone by next book, guy is sad, repeat...), the latest batch of super hero movies all have love interests (even Wonder Woman wasn't immune), and I see it in many of the current batch of scifi books.

But I greatly digress. This had no romance and for that I was very grateful and I enjoyed the book all that much more for it.

Amos Decker. Victim of a freak football accident that forever altered his memory and recall leaving him with hyperthymesia and synesthesia, his family brutally murdered, he's barely scraping by as a PI after climbing out of being jobless, homeless and broken. Decker now finds himself pulled into helping the local police department solve a mass shooting at the local high school, and the more Amos uncovers, the more he realizes this is personal.

Amos is a rather refreshing character in many ways: he is tragically flawed, he's out of shape, his social skills are all but gone, he has a bitter past, and can't forget a single thing. That memory flaw (as Amos would see it) was one tiny complaint, and I do mean tiny complaint with the book. It was almost as if the author took Robert Puller (from the John Puller series #1-4) and said, "What would happen if I took everything that made Robert great, but made the character tragic?" I have to admit, when I heard the setting was adjacent to a military base, I thought of the John Puller series.

The synesthesia was rather interesting, but I felt it got lost in the rest of the story. Amos mentioned several times about seeing marching "threes" bristling with knives, but then nothing came of it and there was no further mention or resolution to these threatening colored numbers.

My other objection was with the lady journalist (whose name has slipped my mind). I really wasn't seeing what she was providing to the overall plot, other than to have someone for Decker to talk to. I also got the feeling that her part in the conclusion was to set her and Decker up for future books.

Overall, I was thoroughly engaged during my morning and evening commute. I'll be looking for the next in the series.



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