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Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiran (Mike Boditch #5)

The Bone Orchard (Mike Bowditch, #5)The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb: In the aftermath of a family tragedy, Mike Bowditch has left the Maine Warden Service and is working as a fishing guide in the North Woods. But when his mentor Sgt. Kathy Frost is forced to kill a troubled war veteran in an apparent case of "suicide by cop," he begins having second thoughts about his decision.

Now Kathy finds herself the target of a government inquiry and outrage from the dead soldier's platoon mates. Soon she finds herself in the sights of a sniper, as well. When the sergeant is shot outside her farmhouse, Mike joins the hunt to find the mysterious man responsible. To do so, the ex-warden must plunge into his friend's secret past—even as a beautiful woman from Mike's own past returns, throwing into jeopardy his tentative romance with wildlife biologist Stacey Stevens.

As Kathy Frost lies on the brink of death and a dangerous shooter stalks the blueberry barrens of central Maine, Bowditch is forced to confront the choices he has made and determine, once and for all, the kind of man he truly is.


Read as an audio book.

Premise of the book is, Mike's former Sergent, Kathy Frost, was nearly killed as part of a revenge shooting and now lies in a coma in Portland, Maine. Mike, resigned from the Warden's service, was on the scene when it happened. Bereft of a friend and steady employment, Mike starts asking questions. When Kurt shows up, drunk and disorderly and clueless that his sister is in the hospital, Mike begins to wonder what Kurt knows that nobody else does. But before Mike can find out, Kurt disappears.

I enjoyed this more so than previous books, but we still had some "bang head on steering wheel" moments.

Mike, Mike, Mike. You are not the brightest bulb on the bush:

Point - Your father was an abusive alcoholic. Why are you telling an alcoholic you've just met to lay off the booze and get treatment? Dumb.

Point - If said alcoholic borrows/steals his sister's car while under the influence, and you think he's going to go confront the antagonist, you call the police. You do not go chasing after him. This is an eye-rolling DUH.

Point - If you grow your hair and beard you, you are going to look like your father. It should have come as no big surprise when Kathy pointed it out. Another DUH. Saw that one coming a mile away.

Other small issues I had with this, Mike's job as a Northwoods Guide might keep him busy for a week, yet he signed a contract that stated he couldn't be gone from the cabins - behind a locked gate and under monitored security cameras - for more than four days. That really doesn't seem realistic.

I'm really not enjoying the Stacy Stevens unrequited sub-plot and the whole thread has become quite frayed. The detente between the two didn't work for me.

When Kurt disappears during the investigation of an active shooting incident and could possibly be a person of interest - I found it odd how easily the Warden Service blew his disappearance off.

And would this investigation stay in the ranks of the Warden service or would a higher authority come and take over? Just a question I have/had...

Other those points (and a few others), yeah, I did enjoy this. Mike wasn't fighting the constraints of authority and the book just flowed better for it. Old animosities didn't just disappear, new animosities arose, Mike tried to keep the Warden's in the loop and they blew him off. I enjoyed the interwoven plots in this and I thought everything clipped along at a good pace to keep me engaged and interested.

Recommended if you've read the first four in the series.



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Monday, April 16, 2018

Recipe Review from 4/9/2018

As I type this, another winter storm is bearing down on the Midwest.  Weather forcasts are all over the place: 1 to 3" of snow, 6-10" of snow, 12-18" of snow.  Can't believe any of it because we just don't know how The Lake is going to affect things.  Right now, there is a Lakeshore Flooding Advisory for Two Harbors and Ashland, as the prevailing winds will be coming hard of the Lake.  It might be enough to keep the snow to the south.  It might not.  Just don't know...

Winter.  Go. Away.



The Meal Plan from the week of 4/9/2018
Sat (L) leftover pasta   (S)  Old Chicago
Sun (L) leftover pasta  (S)  Porketta
Mon (yoga)  Porketta
Tues (yoga) Porketta
Wed  quiche
Thur (yoga)  quiche
Fri - leftovers

Lunches - Qunioa chili

Quinoa Chili (Cooking Classy Blog) vegetarian, gluten free
Found this recipe on Pinterest.  I was looking for a vegetarian slow cooker chili and this popped up.  While not a slow cooker dish, it fit the requirements for vegetarian and easy.  So so easy!  Only two things to chop: the onions and garlic. Everything else came out of a can (in a good way!).

I did streamline one thing, and that was to cook the quinoa IN the chili.  I added a tich extra liquid, but not much because I do like my chili thick.  I subbed pinto beans for the kidney, and navy beans for the black beans.

Recipe noted this made 6 servings - I had enough for easily 10 meals. 

2 cups cooked quinoa (from 2/3 cup dry)
1 Tbsp olive oil
photo from Cooking Classy Blog
1 large yellow onion , diced (1 3/4 cup)
4 cloves garlic , minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can vegetable broth
1 (7 oz) can diced green chiles
2 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper , more or less to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I used 2 cans pinto beans)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 can navy beans)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (bought the cilantro for another dish, forgot I had the cilantro)
1 Tbsp lime juice
 
For serving: Shredded cheddar cheese , diced avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips
  1. Heat olive oil in a large enameled cast iron pot over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot add onion and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Add in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, cooked quinoa, vegetable broth, green chiles, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, paprika, sugar, coriander, cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture just to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot and allow to simmer 30 minutes.
  2. Add in all kidney beans, black beans, corn, cilantro and lime and cook until heated through. Serve warm with optional toppings and sides (cheddar, sour cream, diced avocados and tortilla chips).  

And this was a Lydia Bastianich inspired dish from a recent episode on Create:

potatoes (I used Yukon Golds), cut into wedges
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, cut into strips
1/2 onion, cut vertical
rosemary

heat oil in a large pan until shimmering
add potatoes and cook until start to turn color
add onions and peppers, cook until just softened, but still have a bit of "bite" (al dente)
season with rosemary and extra olive oil if desired.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Red Alert by James Patterson (NYPD Red #5)

Red Alert (NYPD Red, #5)Red Alert by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb:  NYPD Red is the elite, hard charging, investigative task force called in only for New York City's most high-profile crimes. Detective Zach Jordan is the best of the best, a brilliant and tireless detective. He puts professionalism above all, ignoring his feelings for his partner Kylie MacDonald, the woman who broke his heart when they first met at the police academy. After solving a brutal string of murders during the Hollywood on Hudson film festival, the scandalous hazmat killer case, the mysterious kidnapping of a billionaire businessman's son, and a shocking jewel heist at a Manhattan movie premiere, Zach and Kylie return to face the most dangerous criminal of their careers.

3.5 stars - dropped a star for my complaint below.

Read as an audio book.

I enjoyed this latest installment with one significant issue, and I would even go as far to say this is a major complaint:

Mr. Patterson, DO move on from the whole ex-girlfriend/current girlfriend angst. It's stupid on so many levels. Zack got a gorgeous (all the women are in the Patterson books) and caring girlfriend and all he does is compare the fine Dr. to his partner and ex-girlfriend from 10 years ago, and whine about not having her. And this has been going on for FIVE books. Talk about conceited...

If it weren't for that, this would be a fantastic book. I enjoyed the plots (there are always several), I thought the antagonists were almost more interesting that our fine detectives (less whining about what girl they have/don't have), and the supporting characters a delightful counterpoint to everyone else. While some might find the Mayor's brusk and attitude of "Find the serial killer NOW..." off-putting, as someone who does work with politicians, that demanding behavior is so, so true.

Where I was left a bit perplexed was calling the bomber a serial killer when it was well known he was specifically targeting four individuals.

And as I'm writing my review, I just realized there was at least one items left hanging - the tripod marks at the abandoned hotel. Who was videoing the murder of Aubrey? Hmm....

This is a fast paced, twisty-turny book with interesting plots and great supporting characters. Recommended if you've read the first four in the series.



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Monday, April 9, 2018

Recipe Review from 4/2/2018

Winter continues to stubbornly hang on.  Grrr.  Or should that be Brrr

At least I know Spring is on its way - on my last two trips to/from the Cities before and over Easter, I saw a couple of swans and a couple of Sandhill cranes.  Two redwing blackbirds have stopped at my bird feeder, but haven't seen either since.  And the pine siskins are voracious eaters right now, easily wiping out the feeder in a day.   Fun to watch the siskin swarm in the morning before I head off to work.


The Meal Plan from the week of 4/2/2018
Mon (yoga) NCAA College basketball championship!   Take n bake pizza.  Michigan lost...
Tues - pasty  (with pork and rutabaga filling - my favorite!)
Wed - Sweet Potato Tacos
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers
Fri - Baked sausage and cheese rigatoni


Sweet Potato Tacos  (Smitten Kitchen Blog)  vegetarian, gluten free option**
Made as written, using avocado, slaw, and cilantro as sides.  Simple, filling, flavorful.  I loved the brightness of the sweet potato with the cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika.  This made enough for two of us for two dinners.   Recommended.

2 pounds (about 4 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 to 3/4″ cubes
Olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon kosher salt
Photo from Smitten Kitchen
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 to 3 teaspoons chili powder, to taste (see Note)
Chipotle powder, cayenne, or shakes of hot sauce, to taste (see Note)
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
12 small (6-inch) or 6 medium (8 to 9-inch) flour tortillas  (or corn tortillas)
1 15-ounce can refried black beans
1 lime, in wedges
Sliced avocado, pickled red onions, pickled jalapenos, chopped fresh cilantro, hot sauce, Lazy Taco Slaw, or your choice(s) thereof, to finish

Per Smitten Kitchen:
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss tweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add salt, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, chipotle powder, and paprika and toss to evenly coat. If you’d like to roast the vegetables (for easier cleanup) on parchment paper, line a large baking sheet with it and spread the potatoes in a single layer. If you’d like to roast them directly on your baking sheet (I find they get more crisp this way), first coat it with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil, then spread potatoes in an even layer.
 Roast potatoes for 40 to 45 minutes, tossing once or twice for even color.

To assemble, if you have a gas stove, I love running flour tortillas over an open flame to give them a little char and complexity. Otherwise, you can wrap the stack of them in foil and let them warm in the oven while the potatoes roast for 5 minutes.

Schmear some refried black beans on each tortilla. Add a big spoonful or two of roasted sweet potatoes. Squeeze a little lime juice over the potatoes and black beans (don’t skip this, please), and finish with toppings of your choice, shown here with a shake of hot sauce, sliced avocado, pickled red onions, and cilantro. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

To get ours ready for the family meal, I get the tacos as far as the black beans, sweet potatoes, lime juice, and avocado, and let everyone take it from there. They stay warm for about 15 minutes nested, as shown, in a casserole dish.


Baked Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni (Pinterest)
With temps still bouncing between 7* and 30* (at least there isn't a negative sign in front of the 7*), and a pound of Italian sausage in the freezer, this recipe popped up on a Pinterest search.  It comes together fairly quickly, since the assembly steps can happen somewhat simultaneously. 

I had a couple of substitutions:  I used hot Italian Sausage instead of regular, and cottage cheese for the ricotta (I have it on hand and I prefer the texture).  I skipped the fennel seeds since I didn't have any.  This was tasty, filling, and hit the spot on a chilly late Winter evening.   This easily made a 9x13 pan, so we'll be eating it for at least three meals, if not four.   Recommended. 

1 Olive oil, Extra virgin
1 lb ground, Sweet Italian sausage  (I used hot Italian sausage)
1 tbsp Fennel seeds

1small onion, chopped
1 25 ounce jar marinara sauce
1 12 ounce jar roasted red bell pepper, chopped
16 ounce package rigatoni
8 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley
15 oz Ricotta cheese (I used cottage cheese)
8 slices Provolone cheese

1.   Preheat oven to 375*.  Grease a 2 1/2-3 quart (I used a 9x13 glass baking dish).

2.  Cook pasta according directions on package.

3.  Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Cook sausage and fennel seeds until lightly browned and fragrant.  Add onion and cook until just softened.  Add roasted bell pepper and marinara and heat through.  Add pasta add stir until coated.

4.  Combine parmesan cheese, parsley and ricotta cheese.

5.  In prepared pan, layer pasta mixture, ricotta cheese mixture, and 4 slices of provolone.  Repeat layers.  Bake until heated through and cheese is browned and bubbly about 20-25 minutes. 



And a Whoops!  I somehow forgot to blog about this chili dish and this was one I want to give a shout out too:

Vegan Three Bean Quinoa Chili (Oh My Veggies Blog) vegan, vegetarian, gluten free
This was, simply, fantastic.  I loved the veggies, the chewiness of the farro (a sub for quinoa), and how this turned out thick and saucy.  I might have been short on liquid, or the farro soaked up a bit of extra liquid, which might explain the saucy.  My chili powder is Penzey's "medium-hot" so I did cut back a bit so it wouldn't overwhelm the rest of the spices. 

I will also note, this made a lot.  Seriously - I had this for lunch during the week, then at least two-three weekend meals for two.  So...roughly 10-12 servings.  This might be my entry in our office chili cook-off this year.   Highly Recommended! 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Photo from Oh My Veggies Blog
1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded, deveined, and finely minced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, deseeded, deveined, and diced
1 green bell pepper, deseeded, deveined, and diced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
1 (14 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
(I detest kidney beans and subbed navy - the author notes you can use any combo of beans you like)
2 (14 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed  (I used Farro, same amount)

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is just translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the carrot and celery and sauté 3-5 another minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the zucchini and diced peppers and sauté for another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, and salt. Stir well to ensure spices are well distributed, and sauté for about 1 minute.

Add the kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, corn kernels, vegetable broth, and quinoa (farro). Stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring the chili to a boil, then reduce to low, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes the quinoa (farro) should be fully cooked and the chili nicely thickened. Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve with diced avocado, cilantro, and tortilla chips alongside–or whatever toppings you like.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Sixth Idea by PJ Tracy (Monkeewrench #7)

The Sixth Idea (Monkeewrench, #7)The Sixth Idea by P.J. Tracy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  The peaceful Christmas season in Minneapolis is shattered when two friends, Chuck Spencer and Wally Luntz, scheduled to meet in person for the first time, are murdered on the same night, two hours and several miles apart, dramatically concluding winter vacation for homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.
           
An hour north of Minneapolis, Lydia Ascher comes home to find two dead men in her basement. When Leo and Gino discover her connection to their current cases, they suspect that she is a target, too. The same day, an elderly, terminally ill man is kidnapped from his home, an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing from his care facility, and a baffling link among all the crimes emerges.
           
This series of inexplicable events sends the detectives sixty years into the past to search for answers—and straight to Grace MacBride’s Monkeewrench, a group of eccentric computer geniuses who devote their time and resources to helping the cops solve the unsolvable. What they find is an unimaginable horror—a dormant Armageddon that might be activated at any moment unless Grace and her partners Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, along with Leo and Gino, can find a way to stop it.


Read as an audio book.

I confess, it's been several years since I've read a Monkeewrench book. I had a couple of 'meh' (two star) installments, and a couple of this was interesting enough installments (three stars), and then the next book hadn't been published yet and I forgot about the series.

Until now, when I realized I was about two books behind.

I really enjoyed this installment. I had forgotten how quirky and humorous Harley, Grace, Roadrunner, Annie and Charlie could be. I had forgotten how wry and incredibly insightful into the human psyche Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth were. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this audio book.

Now, that's not to say I didn't have a few issues with a handful of items, because I did. My main contention was with the premise of the murders - our Uber Secret Guardians killing off the creators and the descendants of the Hydrogen bomb because they "might" know something about the Sixth Idea decades after the Cold War had ended...? Especially the descendants? Umm...no. Didn't work for me At. All.

A few too many loose threads left dangling - did Lydia hook up with the Deputy? Was Lydia's and Charlies bumping into each other on the plane a massive coincidence? Did Roadrunner and Annie make it back in time for Christmas?

And, trying not to give away spoilers...did our Uber Secret Guardian's really have to kill everyone off and obliterate the Secret Headquarters? I found that especially disturbing. It was like the Uber Secret Guardians had spent so much time in the closet, that they forgot what daylight looked like (ie, just weren't with the times).

Other than those few items. like I noted, this book pushed all my happy buttons and I found myself sitting in the car just listening to the narration. Magozzi's observations about people and relationships was just so spot on, Rolseth's small mannerisms (the ones Magozzi's kept commenting on) were just perfect, Grace and Magozzi's relationship dance was so much fun to watch, and I liked how Annie and Roadrunner were on the road, yet the reader finds out more about them too.

So, other than the premise upon which the entire plot was based, I greatly enjoyed The Sixth Idea and returning to the Monkeewrench world.



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Monday, April 2, 2018

Recipe Review from 3/26/2018

Spring is certainly taking it's sweet time getting here, tantalizing us with 40* temps one day, then frigid winds and 30* the next, with a whollup of snow on the weekend. 

It was also Minicon weekend!  So I took the annual trip to the Cities for a bit of scifi-ish R&R.  

The Meal Plan 
Sat - Cities
Sun - Cities;  Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Mon (Yoga/Bookgroup/Legion) pulled pork
Tues - Lentil Shakshuka
Wed - Leftovers lentils
Thurs - Sun - Minicon!


Curried Cocunut Lentil Shakshuka   (Food52 Blog)  vegetarian, gluten free
This came recommended through a foodie website I like to follow.  I fully admit, I LOVE just about anything with lentils and eggs.  Total comfort food for me.   This was no exception - it came together very quickly, I loved the warm spices, and add in that poached egg on top...yum. Just yum. 

My main modification to this dish was I skipped the whole baking bit.  This doesn't need to be baked, the eggs will cook quite nicely right on the stove.  In addition, I only cooked two eggs, enough for the husband and I for that supper.  I poached more eggs the next night to serve over the leftovers.

This makes enough for four, or, in my case, enough for two people for two suppers.  I did serve with naan.

3 tablespoons olive oil
Food52 Blog, photo by Julie Gartland
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder, or to taste (a salt-free mild or maharajah-style curry recommended)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (or a 26.5-ounce box of chopped tomatoes--I like the Pomi brand) 
(I used 1-28 oz can diced tomatoes )
3/4 cup dried red lentils
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, well-stirred
1/3 cup water, plus more as needed
Pinch or two of red chile flakes, optional
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
6 eggs at room temperature  4 eggs are plenty
For serving: chopped cilantro; warm naan (or flatbread or pita) 

Heat oven to 375° F. 

In a 10 to 12-inch skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then the curry powder. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, or until the curry is fragrant.

Add the tomatoes with their juice (tip: If using whole tomatoes, use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes into small pieces once they’re in the skillet), lentils, coconut milk, water, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom the pan so the sauce doesn’t stick; add a little extra water if needed. The finished sauce should be thick like a marinara sauce, with only a tablespoon or two of liquid left. Add red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, to taste. Add chile flakes if you’d like more heat.

With the back of a spoon, make six small indentations in the sauce and crack the eggs into each one. Season the eggs with salt and pepper. Transfer pan to oven. Cook for about 7 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are fully cooked and the yolks are still runny or more set, depending on preference.
Remove from oven. Sprinkle with cilantro, and serve with warm naan
 



Thursday, March 29, 2018

Daemon by David Suarez

Daemon (Daemon #1)Daemon by Daniel Suarez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket blurb: Technology controls almost everything in our modern-day world, from remote entry on our cars to access to our homes, from the flight controls of our airplanes to the movements of the entire world economy. Thousands of autonomous computer programs, or daemons, make our networked world possible, running constantly in the background of our lives, trafficking e-mail, transferring money, and monitoring power grids. For the most part, daemons are benign, but the same can't always be said for the people who design them.

Matthew Sobol was a legendary computer game designer—the architect behind half-a-dozen popular online games. His premature death depressed both gamers and his company's stock price. But Sobol's fans aren't the only ones to note his passing. When his obituary is posted online, a previously dormant daemon activates, initiating a chain of events intended to unravel the fabric of our hyper-efficient, interconnected world. With Sobol's secrets buried along with him, and as new layers of his daemon are unleashed at every turn, it's up to an unlikely alliance to decipher his intricate plans and wrest the world from the grasp of a nameless, faceless enemy—or learn to live in a society in which we are no longer in control. . . .


Read for March book group.

Oh heaven's. I had a hard time putting this down. This just hit all my happy buttons - a splash of speculative near-future science fiction, a healthy perception of being a mystery, solid characters fighting against the ghost in the machine, all leaving a person with the feeling that yeah, this could happen.

That being said, aspects of this were…gross. Motorcycle guy clutching his neck as he bleeds out, the club scene was just flat out disturbing (not saying it doesn’t happen…), and guys getting fried to a crisp, and other graphic scenes rather squicked me out and detracted from an otherwise very engaging story.

Since this book has been out for a while, I’m probably going to repeat what others have said:

I thought this had a strong and engrossing plot. I liked how there was one main thread, and then other characters were slowly interwoven in to show the reader just how pervasive the Deamon had become.

I felt the characters were all interesting, each playing to some unique strength that really pulled the story line together.

The gaming tie-in felt reminiscent of Neal Stephenson, Earnest Cline, or William Gibson.

I liked how this made me think about how something of this nature could happen and would your average person even realize the world was being run by a computer program, a bunch of carefully constructed algorithms (not an AI, big difference here)? Would your average person even care? As long as they still had Wifi access and could play games and music, probably not.

An observation and this is only because I feel I’ve been overly inundated with young females fighting against some futuristic dystopian government entity, of warrior women standing behind their king or fighting the Nazis, that there was an interesting lack of females in this book - the disturbing club scene, the FBI computer agent, the wife and the mistress.  Not complaining, just something I noticed.  
My biggest complaint was the ending – a serious W.T.F?

Recommended if you like speculative science fiction.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Recipe Review from 3/19/2018

Spring is here!  I saw the first ship of the 2018 Shipping Season leaving on Wednesday.  I did find out later it got stuck in the ice out in front of the canal until 9p at night, when the tugs and ice breaker were finally able to get it free. 
 
 
The Meal Plan for week of 3/19:
Sat (L) leftovers   (S) homemade pizza
Sun (L) leftover chili  (S) Chicken Moussaka
Mon (yoga)  leftover moussaka
Tues (yoga) leftover moussaka
Wed - chaos
Thurs (yoga) Chickpea and bulgur burgers
Fri (yoga) leftover burgers


Lunches - leftover chili and stew, sandwiches, fruit, nuts and luna bars
 
 
Baked Chicken Moussaka (Ckng Lght, March 2018)  gluten free
The magazine claimed this was a "32 minute" dish from start to finish.  HA!  I say, HA! Hardly.  This easily took me closer to 45 minutes.  It takes nearly 30 minutes just to dig everything out of the fridge and prep.

Despite the very inaccurate time, this was surprisingly tasty.  Chicken definitely takes a back seat to the veggies, but it really adds a flavor punch.   I did have a couple of tweaks:  I didn't add chopped tomato, I added some leftover artichoke hearts, and 8 oz of cleaned and sliced mushrooms (using up some veggies in the fridge.  Don't skip the yogurt/egg topping unless you have to - that was a perfect compliment to the rest of the dish. 

This made three suppers for two of us.  Recommended.

Photo from cookinglight.com
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces ground chicken
2 cups cubed eggplant
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup canned unsalted white beans, rinsed, drained, and slightly mashed
(I used 1-14.5 oz can)
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup unsalted tomato sauce (such as Muir Glen)
1/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
 
 
Step 1

Preheat oven to 400°F.


Step 2

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until browned. Add eggplant, bell pepper, onion, thyme, and garlic; cook 6 minutes. Add mashed beans, tomato, tomato sauce, stock, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon vegetable mixture into a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish.

Step 3

Combine yogurt and eggs in a bowl. Pour yogurt mixture over dish. Bake at 400°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until bubbly and yogurt mixture is set. Sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts.
 


Chickpea Burgers with Garlic-y Avocado Mash  (Ckng Light, March 2018)  vegetarian, gluten free
The Husband made this dish as I was tied up with class.   I forgot to ask him about assembly, but I do know when I walked in, the "burgers" were more "mush" than "patty".  We did note that the leftover mix firmed up by the time we were done with

We skipped the buns and didn't miss them (at least I didn't).  Given how soft the patties were, buns would have just made mush of eating the burgers.  I did add a couple leaves of butternut lettuce and some tomato slices.  These were surprisingly flavorful and I would make them again, tweaking the cooking the bulger part a bit.

3/4 cup water
Photo from cookinglight.com
1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
1 (15-oz.) can drained unsalted chickpeas
2/3 cup chopped scallions onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 large egg  (used 2 small eggs)
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ripe avocado
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 grated garlic clove
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns


Step 1

Bring water and uncooked bulgur to a boil in a small saucepan; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Cool slightly.


Step 2

Place drained unsalted chickpeas in a large bowl; mash until almost smooth. Stir in chopped scallions, ground cumin, 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, smoked paprika, 1 large egg, and 1 large egg white. Stir in bulgur. Shape into 4 (3/4-in.-thick) patties.

Step 3

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add patties to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until browned and done.

Step 4

Mash 1 ripe avocado; stir in 1/8 tsp. kosher salt and 1 grated garlic clove. Divide patties and avocado mixture among 4 whole-wheat hamburger buns



Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Fix by David Baldacci (Amos Decker #3)

The Fix (Amos Decker, #3)The Fix by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb: Amos Decker witnesses a murder just outside FBI headquarters. A man shoots a woman execution style on a crowded sidewalk, then turns the gun on himself.

Even with Decker's extraordinary powers of observation and deduction, the killing is baffling. Decker and his team can find absolutely no connection between the shooter - a family man with a successful consulting business - and his victim, a schoolteacher. Nor is there a hint of any possible motive for the attack.

Enter Harper Brown. An agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, she orders Decker to back off the case. The murder is part of an open DIA investigation, one so classified that Decker and his team aren't cleared for it.

But they learn that the DIA believes solving the murder is now a matter of urgent national security. Critical information may have been leaked to a hostile government - or, worse, an international terrorist group - and an attack may be imminent.

Decker's never been one to follow the rules, especially with the stakes so high. Forced into an uneasy alliance with Agent Brown, Decker remains laser focused on only one goal: solving the case before it's too late.


Read as an audio book.

Premise of the book is the newly formed FBI task force of agents and citizens has been re-located from Quantico to Washington DC, and Decker is not exactly thrilled about this. Alex has taken the liberty of securing housing for her and Amos, neglecting to tell Decker that this was a project in conjunction with Melvin Mars (book #2). Meanwhile, the Task Force has been shifted away from cold cases and was put on a murder that, ironically, Decker witnessed. As the team investigates, they begin to realize what seemed to be a straight-up murder-suicide was a lot more complicated involving international espionage.

I enjoyed this installment with a couple of caveats:

I swear, the next time someone in any mystery whines "I don't understand!" I am going to toss the book out the window.

I did not care for Alex in this installment. It seemed like every time a page turned, she was irritated at Decker for this, that or the other thing. I found her protectiveness of Melvin as he starts to date Harper to be unrealistic - while the group got to know each other in book 2, I didn't feel the relationship had developed to the point where she should be telling Melvin's prospective dates to back off.

I also didn't think it was realistic in how quickly Melvin was brought into the group and the case, when all along Harper is preaching "Top! Secret! Clearance!".

The bit with the tenant being caught up in some Mexican cartel activity was wrapped up a bit to quickly, almost as if the author realized it was getting in the way of the main story.

And the Dabney (spelling?) girls/women were annoying as all get out - but this could be attributed to the narrator, who, kudos, at least made them sound like spoiled rich women.

My minor quirks taken care of, I will say really liked this installment: I enjoyed the group dynamics and how the team acted like a team, how Decker was feeling pressure to solve a case because he had the perfect recall, and the twists and turns the mystery took were quite enjoyable. And yes, at the end it's Decker who puts all the pieces together to save the day because that's what Decker does.

Recommended - but definitely start with book #1 if you haven't done so already.




View all my reviews

Monday, March 19, 2018

Recipe Review from 3/12/2017

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Recommended! 

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Recipe Review from 3/5/2018

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

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

Lunches - leftover Tuscan Soup, leftover Chicken wild rice soup

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

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


And yeah, I think I would make this again. 

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

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Step 4

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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