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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tell No One by Harlan Coben

Tell No OneTell No One by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  For Dr. David Beck, the loss was shattering. And every day for the past eight years, he has relived the horror of what happened. The gleaming lake. The pale moonlight. The piercing screams. The night his wife was taken. The last night he saw her alive.

Everyone tells him it's time to move on, to forget the past once and for all. But for David Beck, there can be no closure. A message has appeared on his computer, a phrase only he and his dead wife know. Suddenly Beck is taunted with the impossible- that somewhere, somehow, Elizabeth is alive.

Beck has been warned to tell no one. And he doesn't. Instead, he runs from the people he trusts the most, plunging headlong into a search for the shadowy figure whose messages hold out a desperate hope.

But already Beck is being hunted down. He's headed straight into the heart of a dark and deadly secret- and someone intends to stop him before he gets there.




Read as an audio book.

Intense. Holey smokes was this intense.

I managed to listen through Disk 4 when I became so thoroughly uncomfortable and irritated with the whole aspect of the widowed Dr. Beck being pursued by homicidal maniacs and FBI agents intent in their convictions that HE killed his wife, that I had to stop, put in the last disk and find out what happened.

Well. Totally didn't see THAT ending coming!

Not having my next audio book in hand, I went back and picked back up with Disk 5. MUCH more enjoyable now knowing the ending and I could just sit back and watch everything unfold. From this perspective, I could now see all the little hints being dropped along the way, that a very astute reader might pick up on. And I do mean they were little and subtle. So WELL done!

Premise of the book is 8 years previously, Dr. David Beck and his wife Elizabeth were visiting the Kissing Tree at his family's lake, when Elizabeth is kidnapped and Dr. Beck brutally attacked and left to drown. Fast forward 8 years, Dr. Beck didn't drown by some miracle but he's lived on with the still tender memories of the since deceased Elizabeth. While checking email, David receives an video email from Elizabeth and his world as he knew it ends. Now on the run from the FBI, the local police, and some unknown entities hit man, Dr. Beck must prove to everyone not only did he NOT kill his wife, but that she is very much alive.

This is the third stand-alone by Coben that I've read: Fool Me Once and Six Years being the other two. I've noticed a trend in the three books, and I don't know if this is the case for all his stand-alone's, but with these three Coben explores the Missing Spouse theme. Of these three, I would have to say Tell No One was the most...intense.

My biggest peeve - the repeated use of the phrase "I don't understand...".

Second biggest peeve - the character's Rebecca's death. While her demise pointed the FBI and police soundly in Beck's direction, and thus the impetus for Beck going on the run, I don't like pointless brutality and this fell under pointless brutality. My quirk.

If you enjoy an intense, engaging mystery thriller, read Tell No One.



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Monday, July 10, 2017

Recipe Review from 7/2/2017

The weekend had us in Ely, MN, for a Fire Ecology Seminar the Husband attended for work.  We brought the dogs to give us some extra time to hang out, so while he was at the seminar, I took them for a walk on the Trezona Trail, which encompasses a historic mining pit and old mine shaft headframe. There are at least two other mines discussed on Historical Markers along the four mile trail as well.   

This was also a "training" outing for Kepler.  He's done a three mile walk, and now we bumped it up to four miles.  He did fantastic with some new experiences like cars going by, cyclists, and walking on a leash in an unfamiliar area.  He had more pep than Andy did by the time we were done!  Tho not by much: 

Resting after his big hike!


General cuteness

The Meal Plan from week of July 2:
Sat (L) Leftovers    (S) Eggs in a Nest
Sun  (L) Eggs in a Nest  (S)
Mon (yoga)  leftover sandwiches
4th of July!  (L) Farro Bowls  (S)  Grilled Duck, Bourbon Baked Beans, Salad
Wed - leftovers Farro Bowls
Thurs (yoga) polish with leftover beans
Fri -chef salad with various leftovers
Sat - Ely for lunch   (S) chef salads with remainder of leftovers 



Eggs in a Nest (Ckng Lght, July 2017)
An interesting riff on a BLT with Avocado and Egg - the egg is fried in a little "nest" or hole made in the bread.

My most notable observation - fun, yes; messy to eat, definitely.  There's no place to "grab" the sandwich on top! 

Otherwise, pure comfort food. YUM! 
photo from cookinglight.com

8 (1-oz.) whole-wheat sourdough bread slices, lightly toasted
2 center-cut bacon slices, diced
1 medium ripe avocado
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
8 Bibb lettuce leaves (about 2 oz.)
8 tomato slices
  1. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut a hole from the center of 4 bread slices. Discard bread rounds or reserve for another use.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add bacon; cook 6 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 2 minutes or until crisp. Place bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour bacon drippings into a bowl and reserve.
  3. Combine avocado, mayonnaise, and salt in a small bowl; mash to combine. Stir in bacon.
  4. Add half of reserved bacon drippings to pan over medium-high. Place 2 cut bread slices in skillet; break 1 egg into each hole. Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon pepper on each egg. Cook 2 minutes or until eggs begin to set. Carefully turn bread; cook 2 minutes or until eggs are set. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining half of bacon drippings, cut bread slices, eggs, and pepper.
  5. Spread avocado mixture evenly over 4 uncut bread slices. Top each with 2 lettuce leaves, 2 tomato slices, and 1 egg-in-a-nest bread slice.


Part of Grill 1x - Eat 3x!  Menu
Grilled Caponata Sandwiches (Ckng Lght, July 2017)  vegetarian
I only made two of the three meals as part of the Grill 1x Eat 3x menu.  I will say, grilling that many veggies almost challenged my grill, and later, how to store everything in the fridge.  Still it all worked out and it was admittedly nice knowing all I had to do was assemble and eat.

These were darn tasty when all was said and done (which took about an hour - start this on a Sunday night).  I loved the fresh veggies, briny olive tapenade, creamy mozzarella combination.  I could see doing this on a smaller scale during hot weather.  Recommended! 

2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-in.-thick slices
2 medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/2-in.-thick slices
1 medium eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/2-in.-thick slices
photo from cookinglight.com
1 medium red onion, cut into 3/4-in. wedges
4 ounces mini bell peppers (about 8)
3 green onions
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Panini:
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 1/2 teaspoons capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (3 1/2-oz.) ciabatta rolls, halved lengthwise
3 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

  1. To prepare vegetables, preheat grill to medium-high (about 450°F). Coat first 6 ingredients with cooking spray; arrange on grill grate. Grill green onions 2 minutes; remove from grill and chop. Grill remaining vegetables 5 more minutes, turning occasionally. Remove stems and seeds from bell peppers; discard. Reserve 4 bell peppers and 4 red onion wedges; cut remaining vegetables into 2-inch pieces.
     
  2. Place chopped green onions, oil, juice, 1 tablespoon water, salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and garlic in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine grilled vegetables and green onion mixture in a bowl. Reserve 4 cups vegetable mixture for Farro Burrito Bowls and Grilled Vegetable Frittata.
  3. To prepare panini, place reserved 4 bell peppers and 4 red onion wedges in food processor with olives, capers, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and ground red pepper; process until smooth. Hollow out top and bottom halves of rolls, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread bell pepper mixture over bottom halves of rolls; top with remaining grilled vegetables, mozzarella, basil, and top halves of rolls.
  4. Coat grill grate with cooking spray. Place 2 sandwiches on grill; top with a cast-iron skillet. Grill 2 minutes on each side or until cheese melts. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 sandwiches.

Farro Burrito Bowls  (Ckng Light, July  2017)  vegetarian
First time I made this, I didn't do the "dressing".  I was tired and neglected to check the recipe.  Ya know, it was still tasty.  I did the dressing for the leftovers, and it definitely added a delightful flavor boost to the dish.  So...you could go either way and it would be good.

Farro was also a "new to me" grain.  I did do my research - you want to look for pearled farro for ease in cooking.   If you're not sure - ask!  Regular farro requires and overnight soak or it won't soften when you cook it.  The flavor is slightly nutty, almost like barley, but not.  I can see using farro in other dishes as a substitute for barley or wheat berries.

Recommended!

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
photo from cookinglight.com
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cooked farro
2 cups grilled vegetable mixture from (grilled caponata panini), coarsely chopped

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
3 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 medium avocado, sliced
Lime wedges

Combine first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro mixture. Add farro to remaining cilantro mixture; toss to coat.

Divide farro mixture, chopped grilled vegetables, beans, cheese, and avocado among 4 shallow bowls. Drizzle with reserved 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro mixture. Serve with lime wedges.


Slow Cooked Bourbon Baked Beans (Ckng Lght July 2017)  gluten free, vegetarian option**
I made these to go with the grilled duck.  This is super easy to assemble, then walk away till it's time to eat.

Of course, I had to make it a tich more complicated.  I had some dried cannelli beans in the pantry so I bought a cup of pinto, then soaked and pre-cooked my own beans and proceeded with recipe from there (I did the pre-cook several days ahead).   I didn't have enough ketchup on hand so I used 1 cup tomato sauce and 1 tbsp tomato paste and it worked perfectly.  Brandy for the bourbon, plus a splash of vanilla extract.  I space the chili powder - quite frankly, the dish really didn't need it.

Group consensus was positive.  Slightly smoky, tich of zing, a bit saucy.   I would make these again. 


photo from cookinglight.com
3 center-cut bacon slices, chopped**  skip to make vegetarian
Cooking spray
2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted pinto beans, drained and rinsed
I used 1 cup dried (each) pinto and cannelli beans, and precooked them.
2 ripe peaches (about 1 lb.), peeled and finely diced (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 cup organic ketchup
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste 
1/2 cup bourbon  (I used brandy + 1 tsp vanilla extract). 
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add bacon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove bacon from skillet.

Coat inside of a 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add bacon, beans, and remaining ingredients. Stir well.

Cover, and cook on LOW 4 to 6 hours  (I cooked for 6+) Keep covered until beans are ready to serve.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The City of Rocks by Don Travis

The City of Rocks (A BJ Vinson Mystery, #3)The City of Rocks by Don Travis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb: Confidential Investigator B.J. Vinson thinks it’s a bad joke when Del asks him to look into the theft of a duck… a duck insured for $250,000. It ceases to be a funny when the young thief dies in a suspicious truck wreck. The search leads BJ and his lover, Paul Barton, to the sprawling Lazy M Ranch in the Boot Heel country of southwestern New Mexico bordering the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

A deadly game unfolds when BJ and Paul are trapped in a weird rock formation known as The City of Rocks—an eerie array of frozen magma that is somehow at the center of the entire scheme. But does the theft of Quacky involve a quarter million dollar duck-racing bet between the ranch’s owner and a Miami real estate developer, or someone attempting to force the sale of the Lazy M because of its proximity to an unfenced portion of the Mexican border? BJ and Paul go from the City of Rocks to the neon lights of Miami and back again in pursuit of the answer… death and danger tracking their every step.


This could be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading the first two in the series to establish the character’s backgrounds.

This is not a m/m romance – there are romantic elements - but the theme of the book is a missing duck and an insurance claim that quickly slides over into a murder mystery.

My comments from my reviews of the Bisti Business are just as applicable here:

I thought this was well executed by the author and a very welcome change of pace from most of the gay romance books in publication AND a VERY refreshing change of pace from the run of the mill mystery books where the guy sleeps with the female protagonist in nine time out of ten.

As a reader who reads a lot of mysteries, I again like to commend Mr. Travis with his portrayal of the inter-agency cooperation. Far too many mysteries have agencies butting heads or being obtuse and difficult with the private investigator or detective, refusing to cooperate, not wanting to share information, threatening the investigator – you know the books. So it was incredibly refreshing to read a story where local police are working with the Border Patrol and including the private investigator. Bravo!

Lots of little red herrings to keep me engaged and interested in the murder mystery as it slowly unfolds.

However, I’m still not entirely certain about the impetus for the whole plot – the duck napping of Quacky Quack the Second. I just can’t decide if I find it humorous because it is so unlike anything I’ve read, or a bit too “out there”. If anyone is concerned, nothing foul happens to our fine feathered friend. Even after cogitating on the matter, I’m still not certain where I sit on the issue of the duck.

I did have one quirk with an aspect of the ending that involved a massive construction project – not saying more than that. I question how a construction project as large as was discussed could be done without anyone noticing. I’m struggling a bit with that.

The rest of the book – well done! I greatly enjoy the bits of southwest and New Mexico trivia and geography. Each time I read these books I find myself Googling the area and region. Check it out – City of Rocks! But the author doesn’t stop with terrestrial things; he drops mentions of dry seasons, how cold it is, the monsoons and the electrically charged storms that sweep across the landscape. The whole narrative makes for a splendid overview of a very interesting area.

I’m looking forward to the next installment!


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



View all my reviews

Monday, July 3, 2017

Recipe Review from 6/26/2017

Well, that's a wrap for June!  The pup is now 14 weeks and starting to push his boundaries a little...no, a lot.  Hormones and teething - gotta love it!  We did our first offical non-yard walk with him on Saturday - three miles on the Lakewalk including a dip in The Big Pond (of course I left my camera in the car...).   Water didn't phase him much, the three miles pooped him out.  YAY! 


The Meal Plan from week of 6/26/2017
Super simple this week: a combination of leftovers from week previous, sloppy joes and brats.  Lunches were sandwiches (the Husband) and hummus sandwiches (Me).


Super Sloppy Joes  (Ckng Lght, Nov 2004)
These sloppy joes were really good - I wasn't certain about all the veggies (and there are a lot), but bottom line was, I liked the mix!  It was a nice change of pace from the "traditional" meat and onion variety. 

A couple of modifications - I used ground pork instead of beef.  I used 1 cup tomato sauce and cut back the water by 1/2 cup (I was out of ketchup).  I added one tablespoon of tomato paste for a flavor boost.   I'm waffling if I liked adding the 'shrooms at the end, or if I would have preferred to have sauted with the rest of the veggies and thus, steaming off some additional liquid.  A small thing.  I skipped the fennel seeds because I didn't have any. 

This made quite a bit.  I think we had three suppers for two and one lunch for one out of it.  One "joe" each. 


photo from cookinglight.com
1 pound ground round  pork
1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 1/4 cups chopped celery 1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup water   1/2 cup water
1 cup ketchup  1 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms, chopped
6 (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns, toasted


 
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add bell pepper, celery, onion, and garlic; cook 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in water and next 10 ingredients (through mushrooms); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken, stirring occasionally. Spoon 2/3 cup meat mixture onto bottom half of each roll; cover with top half of roll.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

RevengerRevenger by Alastair Reynolds

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb: A superb science fiction adventure set in the rubble of a ruined universe, this is a deep space heist story of kidnap, betrayal, alien artifacts and revenge.

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It's their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection--and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore's crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future--a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance...


Read for June's book group.

This started out engaging and interesting. A steampunk space opera, set in a far future universe, where Occupations have come and gone as civilizations rose and fell, and now Miners seek out "baubles", wait for them to open, and basically plunder what ever was left by those earlier occupations.

Two sisters embark on an adventure with the intent of signing on with a mining ship to help their father who is in financial ruin. They show aptitude as "Bone Reader's", the ability to listen to the ancient skulls on the ship and send and receive messages.

However, their father takes exception to their stealthy departure and demands their return. Before Captain Rackamore can bring them back, the ship is beset by the dread Bosa. Bosa slaughters half the crew and takes one sister to be her new Bone Reader. Fura, the second sister, hides, is eventually saved, and returned to the father.

Fura escapes a nefarious Doctor and her Father's attempt to sequester her. Joins a ship and with the help of Prozor, they plot revenge against Bosa and well...you know how it ends. Really, you do.
This was not my first foray into the pages of Alastair Reynolds. I was expecting a space opera (which I got), but I was not expecting steampunk (surprise!). You will note I said this "This started out engaging and interesting..."  I managed to read about 2/3 of it, then I set it down and wandered away. Night before book group I realized I had a DNF and quickly skimmed the last 50 pages and confirmed what I suspected the ending would be.

This is, when all is read and done, a YA book. I'm not wild about YA and I really wish publishing houses would market their books accordingly. It must makes me annoyed when I am deceived.

  • The plot is predictable. Very, very predictable.
     
  • The main character was...not quite annoying, but not very interesting either. 
  • Some in our book group were notably disgusted with terms like "lungstuff" and demanded to know, why not just call it "air".
  • I DID like the ships. Those were kinda cool with the unfolding sails.
     
  • The baubles that open and close - neat concept.
     
  • Paladin. Best part of the story.
Recommended if you like YA, recommended for a YA.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 26, 2017

Recipe Review from 6/18/2017

"Man plans,  God laughs."  Yiddish Proverb.

Maybe that should be, "Man gets a puppy, Man plans, God laughs even harder..." 

It's mid to end of June.   I bought some squash plants last weekend and we thew them into the garden to see what'll happen.  Rutabaga's got planted.  And if we can get the tiller into a couple of beds, then we'll plant peas, swiss chard, and kale.  A much scaled back plan from what we had intended last December or even March. 

Puppies'll do that...


The Meal Plan from the week of June 18:
Sun (L)  pasty       (S)  out
Mon (yoga) brats
Tues - Salmon nicoise salad with Parsley potatoes
Wed (trap shooting class) leftover brats
Thurs (yoga) leftover salmon salad
Fri - Chickpea salad with leftover salmon



Summer Salmon Nicoise Salad  (Ckng Lght, July 2017)  gluten free
Couple of modifications here - I got a 1.25 lb salmon fillet and grilled it, then used the salmon in several dishes starting with the one below.   I don't have a microwave, so I cooked the potatoes on the stovetop, removing the potatoes then proceeded to cook the eggs, beans and corn in the same water.   I will note, 6 minutes was not long enough to fully hard boil the eggs - they were definitely soft boiled. 

End result, while my modification seem putzy, I was able to do several things at the same time and dinner was on the table in about 40 minutes.  The salmon took the longest, but that was because it was only partially thawed (bought it on the way home from work) and it took a bit longer to grill.  Not a biggie - I could start dishes while waiting.

I would make this again! 

Photo from cookinglight.com
2 large eggs
1 (8-oz.) pkg. haricots verts (French green beans) 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 (12-oz.) salmon fillet, about 1 in. thick
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 head butter lettuce, torn (about 6 cups)
3/4 cup chopped English cucumber
1/2 cup fresh yellow corn kernels
1 1/2 ounces pitted kalamata or Niçoise olives (about 1/4 cup)
4 small radishes, cut into 1/2-in. wedges
  1. Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil. Carefully add eggs to pan; cook 6 minutes. Add green beans; cook 2 minutes. Drain; plunge bean mixture into a bowl of ice water. Let stand 3 minutes; drain. Peel eggs, and cut into quarters.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add fish, skin side down, to pan; cook 7 minutes. Turn, and cook 3 minutes. Remove fish from pan; break into large flakes with a fork.
  3. Combine remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, vinegar, parsley, and mustard in a bowl. Divide lettuce among 4 plates; top evenly with eggs, beans, cucumber, corn, olives, radishes, and fish. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
Serve with:

Parsley and Dill Potatoes  (Ckng Lght, July 2017)  gluten free
I don't have a microwave, so I modified by pre-cooking in a boiling pot of water, then finishing as directed below.  I did this while prepping everything above, then used the boiling water to blanch the green beans and cook the corn. 

1 tablespoon water
1 pound baby golden potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Place 1 tablespoon water and quartered potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 4 minutes or until tender. Place potatoes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet; let potatoes dry for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add potatoes; cook 3 minutes or until browned and crisp. Combine potato mixture, garlic, and remaining ingredients; toss.


Summery Chickpea Salad (Ckng Lght, July 2017) vegetarian, gluten free
Fast, simple, tasty.  Perfect for a warm summer night.  Only modification was I skipped the cucumbers (I'm not a fan) and I subbed some leftover flaked salmon from the recipe above.

Made enough for about two meals

Photo from cookinglight.com
1 1/2 cups halved multicolored cherry tomatoes
1 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used the whole can)
I cup grilled salmon, flaked; preferably room temp or chilled
1 cup half-moon English cucumber slices
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup slivered red onion
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, parsley, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Toss gently to combine.



Monday, June 19, 2017

Recipe Review from 6/11/2017

The Lil Monster continues to amuse, delight and frustrate us, usually all within the span of five minutes.  We're making slow but gradual progress on Obedience Training - he understands "come" and "sit", now to make them a bit more consistent.  Leash training is NOT his favorite and he takes great umbrage to not being allowed to do his own thing.  Tough luck buttercup!  :D

The Chicken Caesar Salad recipe mentioned below in the Meal Plan is from Cooks Illustrated cook book and one I've made before.  It's an awesome recipe if you like Caesar salad, the only downside being the raw egg yolks.  I know there is some way to cook the yolks before using, but I can't recall where I saw the technique. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) leftovers of some kind (S) Chicken Caesar Salad
Mon (yoga)  Leftover Caesar Salad
Tues - weenie wraps and tots again  :D
Wed - Sweet Potato Taco bowl
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers
Fri - leftovers
Sat (L) more leftovers  (S) pizza


Sweet Potato Taco Bowl (My Kitchen Love blog) gluten free, vegetarian option**
This came recommended from two sources, and it was a only a matter of time before it made it to the meal plan.  This...is AWESOME!!

I posted the recipe as "written" from My Kitchen Love, but I had some rather significant modifications.  It's that kind of recipe - you can't go wrong, really:
  • I used 3 tbsp Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning, divided (2/1) instead of mixing the spices below
  • I skipped the meat and subbed instant brown rice instead
  • Because I skipped the meat, I sauted 1/2 cup onion, tossed 1 tbsp taco seasoning in to bloom the spices, then added the corn and beans to heat through. 
  • Then assembled everything. 
I did think some spinach or other lettuce would have been a nice addition, and added it to the leftovers.

This comes together in about 30-40 minutes, from pulling out the cutting board and ingredients to putting bowls on the table.  Depending on how much clean-up you want to do before sitting down. 

photo from My Kitchen Love blog
2 tbsp chili powder1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 lbs (454 grams) sweet potatoes, peeled and copped into 1-2" cubes (approx.)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lbs (454 grams) extra lean ground beef** (I skipped, subbing rice instead)
1 x 14 oz (330 ml) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn, either from can or 2 ears of corn (shucked and kernels removed from ear)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved OR 2 large tomatoes chopped
1 avocado, sliced


Optional additional garnishes, sour cream, jalapeños, sliced green onion, chopped cilantro leaves, lime slices, crumbles feta, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a small bowl mix together chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, oregano, garlic power, onion powder, and cayenne pepper (if using).
  3. Toss sweet potatoes pieces with vegetable oil and half the seasoning mixture from the small bowl, about 2 tablespoons. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender and cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, cook beef over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until cooked through. If necessary, drain any large quantities of fat from skillet, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Add beans and remaining seasoning mixture from the small bowl. Toss to fully coat beans and beef with seasoning. Continue to cook until beans are heated through.
  5. To serve either place all ingredients in separate dishes for family style serving, or make individual bowls before serving table.
  6. Serve with any desired optional garnishes.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci (Sean and Michelle #5)

The Sixth Man (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #5)The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb: Edgar Roy--an alleged serial killer held in a secure, fortress-like Federal Supermax facility--is awaiting trial. He faces almost certain conviction. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called in by Roy's attorney, Sean's old friend and mentor Ted Bergin, to help work the case. But their investigation is derailed before it begins--en route to their first meeting with Bergin, Sean and Michelle find him murdered.

It is now up to them to ask the questions no one seems to want answered: Is Roy a killer? Who murdered Bergin? With help from some surprising allies, they continue to pursue the case. But the more they dig into Roy's past, the more they encounter obstacles, half-truths, dead-ends, false friends, and escalating threats from every direction. Their persistence puts them on a collision course with the highest levels of the government and the darkest corners of power. In a terrifying confrontation that will push Sean and Michelle to their limits, the duo may be permanently parted.


Read as an audio book.

This was a "panic pick" - I was heading out on a road trip, the book I had put on hold was missing in the system, and I needed something NOW. Assured by the librarian that The Sixth Man could be read as a stand alone, I grabbed it.

And loved every minute! This is an enjoyable, slightly over the top (aren't they all?), political/mystery/thriller that is perfect to just zone out on - pure brain candy.

Later, a quick search on Goodreads said this is book #5 in the series. Now the plot alludes to earlier "things", but I never felt I was missing huge chunks of story line or plot arc.

As with the John Puller series on audio, there is a male and female narrator which works very well and something I quite applaud. And, as with the John Puller series, it was the same narrators - whom I ADORE - but unfortunately, in my head, using the same narrator made the book feel like a John Puller copy in some regards. Several regards, which I'll expound on below.

My tiny complaints:

This felt similar to The Escape by Baldacci (John Puller #3). Rising star/super smart guy is framed for a crime he didn't commit, elaborate high-profile prison escape, uber-secret female government agent, government really wants the prisoner back, murders, cover-ups, search for the truth...some very comparable threads woven throughout.  Perhaps too many

Many of the murders seemed over the top and unnecessary. Trying to "cover-up" the E-program by bumping off person after person when so many people already know about it? That just didn't jive with me.

The climatic conclusion was somewhat predictable given the foreshadowing earlier in the plot. 

Despite my noted quirks, as I said above, this is just fun brain candy. I enjoyed the back and forth between Sean and Michelle, Kelly Paul was an interesting gal, and the double-crossing by everyone kept me engaged by following the who's stabbing who in the back.

I greatly appreciated that Michelle and Sean didn't jump into the sack on-page - there was reference to them sleeping together previously and how it was affecting their current relationship and expectations. That kind of rapport I can get behind. I have little tolerance for the standard cookie-cutter romances found in so many of these thrillers/mysteries.

Overall, fun. Just...fun. I'll be going back to read the first four in the series. Recommended (even as a stand alone!)!



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Monday, June 12, 2017

Recipe Review from 6/6/2017

Kepler had his follow-up vet appt this week - he's now 15.5 lbs!  He was 10.5 at his first appt.  While he's still small, I can see how his legs have gotten longer.  That and he can scoot across the yard after Andy-dog like nobody's business; he can't keep up with Andy, but Kepler gives it a solid try.  Still a mouthy 'Lil Monster, he has to eat, chew, and sample everything.  Fingers and toes are a favorite.  I just keep reminding myself...this will pass.  This WILL pass. This had better pass...

Karl - if you're reading this, I think Kepler likes lemon juice.  He tries to attack the little lemon after he gets a mouthful.  Go figure.

The Meal Plan from week of June 6:
Sun  (S)  weenie wraps and tater tots (sometimes ya just gotta...)
Mon (yoga)  leftover weenie wraps
Tues - Grilled Salmon and roasted tomatoes
Wed - leftover salmon pasta salad
Thurs (yoga) - leftover pasta salad
                                                 Fri - leftover pasta salad
                                                 Sat (L) leftovers   (S) scrounged...

                                                 Lunches - bagel sandwiches

Seared Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes (Ckng Lght, June 2017)  gluten free
A super easy dish that I simplified a bit more by cooking the salmon on the grill and skipping the oven completely.  The Husband pre-heated the grill to 350*, I seasoned the fillet with a bit of salt and pepper, and grilled it for 10 minutes checking once for doneness.  While filet was cooking, I continued with sauteing the onions, tomatoes and basil.

I would make this again.  Total YUM!  Don't skip the balsamic vinegar - it really brings the whole dish together: the sweet tomatoes and onions, the bright basil, the flavorful salmon - with a hit of tart tangy balsamic. 

Cooking tip - cook extra salmon and use the leftovers in a pasta salad for the next couple nights dinners. 
photo from cookinglight.com

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (6-oz.) salmon fillets, about 1 in. thick
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup torn basil leaves, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high. Sprinkle fillets evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add fillets to pan; cook 4 minutes on one side or until golden brown. Place fillets, seared side up, on prepared baking sheet; bake at 500°F for 4 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
  3. Return skillet to medium-high. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add shallots, and sauté 2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, tomatoes, and 1/3 cup basil; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down. Stir in vinegar, and cook 1 minute.
  4. Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates; top evenly with tomato mixture and remaining basil.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Banning St. Park/Mother's Day

This is a bit of a belated post.  Mother's Day weekend the Husband and I invited the Parents out to our place for lunch (reviewed here), and then we day tripped down to Banning State Park.  Despite living up in the Northland nearly 20 years, and having driven by the park more times than I can count, we had never been. We fixed that oversight Mother's Day weekend.  

Banning St. Park is located right off of I35 at exit #195 near Sandstone, MN.  Despite it's proximity to the highway, once you are in the park you forget how close it is.  

Kettle River


History from the website:
In the late 1890s, the Banning Sandstone Quarry employed 500 workers who chiseled the rock into massive blocks. The strength and pink color of this sandstone made it very popular for building construction. On September 1, 1894, the great Hinckley forest fire swept through the area inflicting heavy financial losses on the company and on the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad line serving it.

Business resumed after the fire and by 1896 a village was platted on the fields above the quarry. The village was named in honor of William L. Banning, president of the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. The village grew and by the turn of the century it was incorporated with a population of approximately 300. By this time, however, contractors were beginning to use structural steel for building construction. By 1905, all work at the quarry ceased.

Fires continued to be a problem so that by 1912, the town of Banning virtually ceased to exist. Today, all that remains of the site are weathered ruins along the Kettle River. Banning State Park was established in 1963 by the Minnesota state legislature, with 5,246 acres.

In 1971, the park acreage increased to a total of 5,877 acres. In 1986, the park boundary was expanded to include the Log Creek Drive area, for a total of 6,237 acres. A 10-mile stretch of the Kettle River, designated as a state Wild and Scenic River, bisects the park. In 1995, the local community of Sandstone, the DNR and the Pollution Control Agency worked together to remove the Kettle River dam and return the river to its natural state which now showcases the Big Spring Falls and the Sandstone Rapids. The park's water resources include the Kettle River, Wolf Creek, Log Creek, six streams and three springs. The scenic Kettle River includes five spectacular rapids: Blueberry Slide, Mother's Delight, Dragon's Tooth, Little Banning and Hell's Gate. These rapids provide one of the state's most challenging whitewater experiences for canoe and kayak enthusiasts.


We did the self guided Quarry Loop trail, taking advantage of the trail extension along the river.  The weather was a sunny 85*, bugs were minimal on the regular trail and obnoxious closer to the water.  While there were other people out and about, I didn't feel overly crowded.  There is talk of going back later this summer to hike some of the other trails and enjoy a picnic lunch, but I've been warned that the mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies can get really bad - so we might have to wait until cooler Fall temps prevail.



Natural uncut stone wall
Flowers growing in the rocks


Discard piles


Monday, June 5, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/29/2017

A very hectic week coping with new pup and a three day yoga intensive that had me down in the Cities.  Meals were uber simple - including the one new one below.  Enjoy!

The Meal Plan from week of 5/29
Sun (L) baked spaghetti   (S)  Iowa chops with asparagus
Mon (L) leftovers  (S) Goat cheese stuffed portabellos
Tues - leftover Goat cheese stuffed portabellos
Wed- leftover baked spaghetti
Thurs (yoga training)
Fri (yoga training)
Sat (yoga training)

Goat Cheese Stuffed Portabellos  (Ckng Lght, June 2017)  vegetarian option**
I made this two nights in a row and really liked it.  I would totally make this again!  It's super easy to assemble, add in some quinoa/rice and a veggies and bam! dinner is on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Only one small modification - I skipped the prosciutto.  If you have some on hand, use it.  I wouldn't go out of your way to buy a package though.  I served this with instant brown rice and roasted asparagus.  I baked the asparagus at the same time as the mushrooms at 450*, not the 500* called for.   I made the toppings the first night, but only cooked two 'shrooms, then used the leftovers the next night.   I don't recommend subbing regular bread crumbs for this, stick with Panko.  

Recommended! 

4 large portobello mushroom caps, stemmed and dark gills removed
Cooking spray
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
3/4 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1-in. pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Coat mushrooms with cooking spray; place, top sides down, on prepared pan. Top with 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake at 500°F for 4 minutes.
  3. Combine 6 tablespoons panko and oil in a small bowl. Combine remaining 6 tablespoons panko, chives, rind, juice, salt, and goat cheese in a bowl. Spoon 1/4 cup goat cheese mixture into each mushroom; top with panko mixture. Bake at 500°F for 3 minutes. Top with prosciutto and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

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