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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
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.

photo from

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.


8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat elbow pasta (I used regular cavatappi pasta)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
photo from
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.

View all my reviews

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

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
(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.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 4, 2017

Recipe Review from 8/28/2017

The Husband signed us up for a "How to plant for Pollinators" community ed class last Saturday.  We spent the morning in the pouring rain looking at three gardens - Zion Church garden and two homeowners.  The last stop, a master gardener's house, was amazing.  I can't even begin to describe how cool this property was.  She had a strong pollinator plant presence, but her whole landscaping (complete with a croquet green!) was

While not Hurricane Harvey rainfall, we still received a couple inches which meant outside stuff was curtailed.  So I made ricotta.  This was my second attempt: I followed a recipe out of the Duluth News Tribune and other than a  cheese cloth failure, I would say this was a success! 

The Meal Plan
Sat (Pollinator class)  out for lunch   (S) red beans and rice
Sun (L) leftover rice   (S) Skillet Lasagna
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/Legion mtg)  leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed  (trap shooting)  - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) - leftover curry
Fri - leftover curry

Skillet Beans and Rice (Ckgn Lght Sept 2017)  gluten free
Easy peasy!  Seriously easy.

My modifications tho - I prefer to cut my own vegetables to reduce the risk of e. coli contamination.  The magazine did give the recommended quantities for the "trinity" blend.    We don't like kidney beans, so I subbed pinto.  Precooked rice of any kind is NOT available in my area, so I used two packages of instant rice and cooked those while I was prepping everything else.  No extra time needed.

This is a fast, filling, tasty meal that comes together in about half an hour.  You will need a LARGE skillet for this.  While not big quantities, together, they fill up a pan.   This did make enough for the two of us, for two dinners with no sides. 

photo from

4 ounces chopped andouille sausage
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (8-oz.) pkg. fresh trinity blend
(make your own with 3/4 cup onion, 3/4 cup celery, and 1/2 cup bell pepper.)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (in addition to the "trinity" blend)
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained  (I used pinto beans)
2/3 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 (8.8-oz.) pkg. precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)  
I used two pkg Uncle Bens Instant brown rice, cooked according to directions on the package
1/3 cup chopped green onions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add sausage; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, trinity blend, and red bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in beans and next 4 ingredients (through ground red pepper). Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook 4 minutes. Mash half of bean mixture in pan. Stir in rice; cover, and cook 4 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.
This was my third attempt at fresh ricotta, and by far, the most successful.  I reviewed attempt #2 here from the Fit Lab cookbook.  That was a colossal failure.  
This go around, the cooking part worked as it should and I had a cheese cloth blow-out.  Note to self: next time secure the cheese cloth to the strainer with some clothes pins or metal binder clips. 
It did take significantly longer to drain than the recipe noted - I didn't mark the time but I think it was about three hours until I was satisfied it wasn't liquid goo. that I think about it, my applesauce strainer thing probably would have worked a heck of a lot better than my regular excuse to try this again!  

I got about 2 cups, or just shy of two cups of ricotta. 

2 quarts whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp lemon juice
A fine mesh strainer or sieve, and mesh cheese cloth. 

Line the sieve with a layer of cheesecloth and place it over a large (and deep) bowl. 

Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a boil in a six quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.  

Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour (I went up to three hours).  Discard the whey. Cover and chill the ricotta.  It will keep in the refrigerator 2 days. 

Skillet Vegetable Lasagna (Ckng Lght, Sept 2017)  vegetarian
This is why I made my own ricotta (above).   I keep hearing how making your own is "so much better than store bought"! Granted, it's a half day endeavor, pre-planning is a must, and I'm not convinced there's a cost savings, but...what the heck.  

I did this all in one skillet.  A VERY LARGE skillet.  This is also NOT a weeknight meal (unless you're heating up the leftovers).  This took me a solid hour from start to finish - though keep in mind that 20 minutes is just simmering on the stove so I had time to wash dishes and prep a salad.

This easily serves 6 people, or for us, three suppers with a side salad.   Prep is fairly easy, the no-boil noodles worked perfectly, and I didn't see a need to dirty two pans.

What I did observe - this could use some red pepper flakes for a tich of flavor and heat (mushrooms, zucchini and ricotta are really bland on their own), some fresh basil added to the crushed tomatoes would be tasty, and this is runny when it first comes out from under the broiler,

So, while not a weeknight dish, a bit short on flavor, this was still good.  If you don't want to putz with the traditional lasagna, I'd say give this a try.

photo from

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-in.-thick slices, divided
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
1 (8-oz.) pkg. presliced cremini mushrooms (I prefer to slice my own - cleaner that way)
4 cups baby spinach
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 (28-oz.) can unsalted crushed tomatoes, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 1/2 no-boil lasagna noodles
4 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces preshredded low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)
1) Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add half of zucchini; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining zucchini. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add onion and mushrooms; cook 6 minutes. Stir in spinach and garlic; cook 1 minute. Remove pan from heat.
2) Spread mushroom mixture in bottom of pan; top with cooked zucchini. Pour 2 cups tomatoes over zucchini; top with salt. Arrange noodles over top, breaking ends as needed to fit in pan. Spread remaining tomatoes over pan; top with ricotta. Cover, and simmer 20 minutes over medium-low or until noodles are soft. 
3) Remove pan from heat. Preheat broiler with oven rack in top position.
4) Sprinkle mozzarella over pan; broil 3 minutes or until melted and lightly browned.

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad (Duluth News Tribune, Wed, 8/23/2017vegetarian, gluten free
I LOVE a good soft goat's cheese!   This salad is simple, refreshing, and uses ingredients that most of us have on hand or can easily grab from the store.   I didn't "measure" anything, just assembled enough for a bowl each for the husband and I.  Recommended! 

4 ounces herbed goat's milk cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts  (I toasted mine)
1/4 cup craisins
4 strawberries sliced
1 cup mixed greens
2 ounces red wine vinaigrette  (I used EVOO and red wine vinegar)

Toss mixed greens in dressing and top with cheese, walnuts, craisins and berries.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (Food Lab Cookbook)  vegetarian
With my successful attempt at making ricotta AND getting nearly two cups, I found I needed a way to use that second cup in a short period of time.  I remembered this recipe from the Food Lab Ckbk and whipped up the dry mix the night before then threw every thing together in the morning.

I did have two adjustments:  I forgot I was out of buttermilk so I used plain Greek yogurt.  A fine substitute, but it did make the mix overly thick.  And I forgot I had already zested my one lemon, so I tossed in a tsp of regular lemon juice.  Not the best, but it was what I could think of on short notice.  I could have skipped the lemon and did almond or extra vanilla too.

I also tossed in a bit handful of blueberries. YUM!

These cooked up thick, fluffy and so flavorful!  Plenty for two of us with leftovers for one later this week.  Even the puppies got a little pancake.


1/2 cup buttermilk (I used plain yogurt 'cause I was out of buttermilk)
1 cup fresh ricotta (from above)
2 eggs
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup Dry Pancake Mix (here)
1 tsp lemon zest

Combine buttermilk, ricotta, eggs, butter and vanilla.

Combine pancake mix and lemon zest.

Combine liquids and dry mix together, stirring until flour is just moistened - do not overstir!

Heat a griddle and cook.  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacket blurb: God is dead. Meet the kids.

Fat Charlie Nancy's normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn't know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother.

Now brother Spider's on his doorstep -- about to make Fat Charlie's life more interesting... and a lot more dangerous.

August's book group book.

I read and reviewed this book back in 2010 (before I found Goodreads - SciFi with Paprika ), although I "read" this as an audio book the first time.

This was just as enjoyable the second go around, Neil Gaiman's books are like that. Just enjoyable.

Premise of the book is Fat Charlie Nancy is just your average bloke, living in an average flat, working an average job at the Graham Coates Insurance Agency, and is engaged to the lovely Rosie. While planning the guest list for his forthcoming nuptials, Rosie makes him call his Father who lives in Florida. Fat Charlie is stunned to discover he died and the funeral is the next day. Everything begins in Florida.

Of course I'm over simplifying the plot. A mere paragraph would not do this book justice. It's a delightfully woven tale of the beginning, of Spider and Tiger, of stories and of revenge, written only like Neil can write.

Go read it.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 28, 2017

Recipe Review from 8/20/2017

This week was a blur of work stuff for both the Husband and I, which meant getting home late a few more nights than usual.   He had a regional team meeting where the group rented an AirBnB house and prepped their own meals.  Because he was the only one who didn't have to travel the group gave him their leftovers.  Meal plan was easily tweaked to account for this, and it means only one recipe to review. 

The Meal Plan from last week:
Sat (L) fish tacos   (S)  regular tacos
Sun (L)  regular tacos (S) Sweet Pot and Red Lentil curry
Mon (yoga) leftovers
Tues (CISMA mtg) leftovers
Wed - unexpected leftovers
Thurs (yoga) - the unexpected leftovers
Fri - last of the unexpected leftovers

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Curry  (Ckgn Lght, Sept 2017)  vegetarian, gluten free
Oh my gosh!  A great tasting Indian inspired meal doesn't get any easier than this!  Don't let the ingredient list put you off,  it's mostly spices, very little chopping, and letting the slow cooker work it's magic.  

I will note, I had to make the onion "relish" on the stove since I don't have a microwave.   Don't skip this or the cilantro if you can help it!  Those two flavors really brought the whole dish together and were surprisingly tasty!

Last note - I subbed basmati rice for brown rice.   With the rice, this easily made enough for 8 servings.  I did end up freezing half for another time.

Highly recommended! 

4 cups peeled, cubed sweet potato (about 2 medium)
3 1/2 cups water, divided
photo from
2 cups dried red lentils
2 cups low-sodium fat-free vegetable broth
3/4 cup finely chopped white onion
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (such as Thai Kitchen)  this is not spicy!
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric 
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
1 cup canned light coconut milk
Onion "relish"
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup very thinly sliced red onion

4 cups hot cooked brown rice
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1) Place sweet potato, 3 cups water, and next 7 ingredients (through turmeric) in a 5- to 6-quart electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, salt, garlic, and tomato paste; stir well to combine. Cover and cook on low 8 hours. Turn off heat; stir in coconut milk. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

2) Combine remaining 1/2 cup water, remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, and vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at high 2 minutes or until boiling. Add onion to vinegar mixture; let stand 20 minutes at room temperature. Drain. 
3) Place 1/2 cup rice in each of 8 shallow bowls. Top each serving with 1 1/4 cups lentil mixture, 2 tablespoons red onion mixture, and 2 tablespoons cilantro. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

No Second ChanceNo Second Chance by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read as an audio book.

One thing I've learned about Coben's stand alone books is, while they are somewhat formulaic, *I* still have to read/listen to the last disk first in order to enjoy the book. Only then can I get through the CD's without throwing them out the window in sheer agitation. Kudo's to the author for being able to illicit that kind of response. Not the kind of response *I* particularly enjoy, but, there it is.

To greatly simplify: Dr. Mark Schneider awakes in the hospital. Last thing he remembers is eating a granola bar over the sink. He finds out he was shot, left for dead, and saved by the paramedics. But this comes at a price: his daughter is missing, his wife is dead, and his drug-addict sister is wanted and missing.

Larry, his best friend and a respected lawyer, warns him not to talk to the police. Mark doesn't heed that advise and finds himself suspect number one despite his assertion of innocence. A kidnapping ransom finally appears at the father-in-laws house, and from there, everything spirals out of control.

Convoluted? Completely. This plot spans nearly two years. Believable? Mmmm.... yeah. For the most part.

A few items popped out at me as I was listening:
  • The phrase "I don't understand" is overused to the point of redundancy.  I would dearly love to see a phrase count for "I don't understand" in one of Coben's books.  Makes me cringe to even hear it now.  
  • At one point in the book, someone was explaining DNA testing to Mark.  He made a comment about not understanding DNA - he's a DOCTOR.  How could he not understand at least the rudimentary aspects of DNA? 
  • I really disliked Reagan and Tickner (Bob and Lloyd).  It felt to me as if they latched on to one theory and refused to acknowledge anything else (perhaps that's what agents/detectives do IRL?  To be a bit snarky, Harry Bosch doesn't, Davenport doesn't...).   Then they latched on to a different theory to the exclusion anything else, except for the possibility of theory one.  I think this was intended to add to the dramatic tension the book; it only added to my annoyance.  
Overall an engaging read, one that pulls the listener in and kept me happily occupied (especially once I knew the ending) during my commute. I find Mr. Coben's observations on society fascinating: he's always dropping these very insightful little nuggets about people's habits and outlooks.

Recommended if you like Coben. Not a bad book to start with if you haven't yet dabbled in his stand alone books.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Recipe Review from 8/14/2017

 And the pictures I was going to post last week!

Temperance River
Carlton Peak from below

View of the North Shore

This weekend we went to the Carlton County Fair.  I was trying to remember the last time I went to any county fair and I came up with 19 or 20 years ago, shortly after we moved up here.  We've been trying to get to the Carlton Co. Fair for a while now, and we actually had the weekend free (that and I was home and not at Worldcon).

What was surprising was this find:

Seriously, how many county fairs have a STEAM TRAIN on display!  How cool is that?!

And I made a couple of notable meals last week.  Enjoy!

The Meal Plan for the week:
Sat (L) Hiking!  (S) Fried chicken
Sun (L)  Folks place     (S) leftover chicken
Mon (yoga)  Shawarma Bowls
Tues -  Kale and Sausage pasta
Wed (Trap shooting)  leftover shawarma bowls
Thurs (yoga) pasta
Fri - tacos with leftover pork from pasta

Lunches - hummus sandwiches, carrots, cherries

Chicken Shawara Bowls  (Ckng Lght, Sept 2017)  gluten free
AWESOME!   I really liked this, especially the sauce.   Now, I did prep my chicken and farro the day before to save some time, especially since I wasn't using a rotisserie chicken but one of my own.  The flavors are great, this would make the perfect lunch or picnic meal with some pita bread, kalmata olives and feta. 

My changes: 
  • I swapped zucchini for cucumber because I don't like cucumber
  • I used smoked paprika because I was out of regular
  • I didn't bother cutting the cherry tomatoes 
  • I used pearled farro that I had cooked the day before (I would have NO idea where to get prepared farro)  it only took about 20 minutes to cook up a batch.  It was about 1 1/4 cup dried farro. 

photo from
12 ounces skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon cumin, divided
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon minced garlic   (skipped)
1 (8.5-oz.) pkg. precooked farro  
(I used 1 cup regular pearled farro, and pre-cooked night before)
2 cups chopped English cucumber  (I subbed zucchini)
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (skipped)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place chicken and oil in a large bowl; toss to coat. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and paprika in a bowl. Add spice mixture to chicken mixture; toss to coat.
2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, yogurt, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside. 
3. Heat farro according to package directions. Place 1/2 cup farro in each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with about 3/4 cup chicken mixture, 1/2 cup cucumber, 1/2 cup tomatoes, about 1/3 cup chickpeas, and 2 1/2 tablespoons Greek yogurt mixture. Top with parsley and black pepper.

Kale, Sausage and Tomato Pasta (Ckng Lght, Sept 2017)  
Simple, expedient, tasty.  Flavors are well balanced, this uses fall produce, and the ww spaghetti adds a nice nutty background note to the dish. The only thing I would recommend is gently "popping" the tomatoes while cooking.  I smooshed some on my plate and ended up wearing tomato seeds.

Recommended if you need a quick weeknight meal.
photo from

8 ounces whole-wheat or multigrain spaghetti
6 ounces mild pork Italian sausage
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups coarsely chopped stemmed curly kale
1 pint small cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

3. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pepper and garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in kale and tomatoes; cover, and cook 6 minutes or until tomatoes soften and wilt, stirring occasionally. Push kale and tomatoes to outer edges of pan. Add tomato paste to center of pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add reserved 1 cup pasta cooking liquid, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage and salt. Add pasta to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring to coat. Top with cheese.
From Ckng Lght:  3 Ways to Speed Up Pasta Sauce 1. Skip canned tomatoes and use fresh. They'll burst and break down in minutes, and you won't have to wait for excess liquid to reduce.
2. Cook the tomato paste in the pan for a full minute before adding liquid to caramelize and concentrate the tomato flavor in the sauce.
3. Add the starchy pasta water to the pan, and stir vigorously to emulsify with the oil and tomato paste for a thickened sauce that clings.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross (Laundry Files #4)

The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files, #4)The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: For outstanding heroism in the field (despite himself), computational demonologist Bob Howard is on the fast track for promotion to management within the Laundry, the supersecret British government agency tasked with defending the realm from occult threats. Assigned to External Assets, Bob discovers the company (unofficially) employs freelance agents to deal with sensitive situations that may embarrass Queen and Country.

So when Ray Schiller—an American televangelist with the uncanny ability to miraculously heal the ill—becomes uncomfortably close to the Prime Minister, External Assets dispatches the brilliant, beautiful, and entirely unpredictable Persephone Hazard to infiltrate the Golden Promise Ministries and discover why the preacher is so interested in British politics. And it’s Bob’s job to make sure Persephone doesn’t cause an international incident.

But it’s a supernatural incident that Bob needs to worry about—a global threat even the Laundry may be unable to clean up…

Premise of the book is after a regular mundane management training session, Bob has been temporarily assigned to External Assets department as a test of his abilities, though he doesn't know that. Bob is assigned to oversee two outside contractors in Denver, Colorado (USA) while they investigate one Raymond Shiller and the Golden Promise Ministries. Something is quite fishy about Mr. Shiller but nobody can quite put their finger on what. Once on the ground in the States, it's only a matter of days before everything goes absolutely pear shaped and Bob's worst nightmare becomes a reality.

I'll say upfront, you have to read the first three in the series. Not a stand alone book.

And I'll also say upfront, this was so much better than the Fuller Memorandum. I almost walked away from this series after Fuller Memorandum, but a couple of friends indirectly managed to talk me into continuing the series (they just finished The Delirium Brief, #8).

I enjoyed this book - it's classic Bob being Bob and managing to scrap through despite a lack of resources and support. The story clips along, it kept me engaged, and I really liked the supporting characters of Persephone and Johnny.

It was also an interesting look at how another country [via the author] views Evangelical Christianity. I don't know how true this is, but I've heard at panels at various science fiction conventions, that Sci Fi is one of the few genre's that explores the concepts of religion. Apocalypse Codex takes that exploration a step beyond, perhaps, but still, an interesting thought.

Ultimately, when all was said and read, I enjoyed the book enough that my faith was restored in the series and I'll go get the next.

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