Monday, July 27, 2015

Recipe Review from 7/20/2015

I'm totally loving this summer weather we've been having!  Warm days, cool nights, bit of rain to kick the dust out of the air, all of which has made my flowers and yard are absolutely lush with color.  

Meal-wise it's meant easy and quick recipes - items that require little assembly and don't heat up the kitchen.  The two below fit the bill perfectly.

The Meal Plan:
Sun - Salmon Pasta Salad with vinaigrette dressing
Mon (yoga) leftover pasta salad
Tues - Grilled Caprese Sandwiches
Wed - Grilled Caprese sandwiches
Thurs - pizza on the grill (local take 'n bake)
Fri - Southwestern Salad
Sat - (out and about)


 Grilled Caprese Sandwich (I Heart Naptime via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free option**
This is one of those, "why didn't I think of this!"  Use any combination of breads (sourdough, italian, whole grain, herb) with tomatoes, pesto, and mozzarella.  I did use fresh mozzarella which took a tiny bit longer to melt.   Perfect for a hot summer evening supper on the porch.
Photo from I Heart Naptime Blog
  • 2 slices sourdough bread**  (I used rustic Italian)
  • 1-2 TB butter
  • 1-2 TB pesto with basil
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese (I used fresh mozza)
Warm frying pan over medium heat. Butter both sides of your bread and then grill one side. Once it has browned, flip bread over to brown other side. Turn heat to low. Then place pesto on the grilled side and the cheese on top. Allow cheese to melt a little, then place tomatoes on top of the cheese followed by the top piece of bread. Enjoy!



Southwestern Chopped Salad (The Garden Grazer via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free 
This was so easy it was almost ridiculous - a handful of items to chop, toss everything in a big bowl, mix the dressing and toss again.  Now I did a handful of changes to bring out flavors - I sauteed the corn in a bit of olive oil while prepping the rest of the veggies.  I don't even thaw the corn, I just toss right into the hot skillet. I set aside and let cool while mixing the dressing.  I did give the garlic a quick saute to mellow the harshness you sometimes get with raw.  And I did add honey and cumin to the dressing because I love honey and cumin.    Start to table?  Maybe 30 minutes. 

Great on it's own, or serve with some corn chips and salsa.  Recommended.

Gorgeous Photo from The Garden Grazer Blog
Large head of romaine 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained  (I used  ~10oz organic baby spinach)
1 large orange bell pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 cups corn (I used frozen, thawed, lightly sauted)
5 green onions (I used 1/4 of a red onion, vertically sliced)
Optional: avocado

1 cup loosely packed cilantro, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 avocado (or 1/2 cup plain vegan yogurt)
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime), more to taste
1-2 garlic cloves  (I sauteed after the corn was done)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt
Recommended: agave/honey, cumin

Directions
Make the dressing: puree all ingredients in a food processor/blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Finely chop romaine, bell pepper, tomatoes, and green onions.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Toss with desired dressing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Remodel Update - July

Back in the beginning of June we moved back in, cabinets were installed and measured for counter tops.  Then it was a holding pattern till last week when they arrived in a flurry of activity at 730am in the morning.

Yup. 730am.  I think we're all used to the company telling us "[it] will be delivered between 8 and 10" and at Noon we're still waiting?  Opposite this time!  Luckily the contractor was bouncing up the driveway right behind the delivery guys and in a matter of 20 minutes (as I was heading out the door), the temporary sink was being pulled out, plywood coming off and that's about where I left it.

And I came home to:
Tape above sink/under light is how high my backsplash will go


Photo really doesn't do these justice.  You can't see the pretty copper colored flecks. 

We're still not quite finished.  The back splash has proven to be a bit problematic finding something that is complimentary with the counter tops.  Two cabinet fronts with flaws need to be replaced and my modified small cabinet (which I forgot to take a picture of) needs to be finished.

We are sooo close!  

Next update:  the chickens! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Recipe Review from 7/13/15

I'm loving this warm weather we're having in my corner of the world!  Temps between 75 and 80* during the day, 60's at night.  This also means being creative so as to not heat up the house unnecessarily - grilled dishes, fresh fruit, and a variety of salads are rounding out all our meals.   

I forgot to stick in my meal plan so I'll have to try and remember to come back and add it.  In the meantime, enjoy! 

Summer Chickpea Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette  (Pinterest via How Sweet It Is blog)  vegetarian, gluten free  
This assembles very quickly - there is hardly any chopping to do!  I did use frozen corn, thawed and then lightly sauted in some olive oil to caramelize the sugars and burn off some of the moisture.  I used canned chickpeas for simplicity.  It takes hardly any time to heat the vinaigrette, and given the amount of garlic, not a bad idea to give it a quick saute.  I like garlic, but not all afternoon, if you get my drift. 

This dish is absolutely fantastic!  I totally get why the author raves about it.  It is a perfect summer dish, bright flavors, light, packs well, and goes great with some fruit and pita chips.  Perfect for lunch or a picnic.  This made enough for three lunches for two of us - and I turned around and made it again.  Highly recommended!  


photo from How Sweet It Is blog
3 cups chickpeas (or 2 (15-ounce) cans, drained and rinsed)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 ears grilled corn, cut from the cob  (I used frozen, and lightly sauteed it) 
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives (I skipped)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 lime, juiced and zested


In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, onions, corn, tomatoes, basil and chives. Toss well with the salt and pepper. 

In a small saucepan, add the oil, vinegar, honey, garlic, lime juice and zest. Heat over low heat and whisk until the mixture is warm and garlic cloves are sizzling a bit.
Pour the liquid over the chickpeas and and toss well to coat. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.  It tastes better as it sits! 


Caprese Pasta Salad (Pinterest by Love and Olive Oil)  vegetarian, gluten free option
Easy peasy made easier by using an already open jar of pesto - so I skipped the fresh basil, evoo, white balsamic vinegar, and shallot completely and used 2 spoonfuls of pesto.   Please note, I also halved the recipe because I only had an 8oz box of pasta on hand.

Granted, using fresh basil would add a totally different flavor set, jarred worked fine for my purposes.  This was still a perfect hot weather, sit-on-the-porch dinner.  I served with a bottle of white wine and watermelon.  Very refreshing.   Recommended for these hot summer evenings!
Photo from Love and Olive Oil
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 pound fusilli pasta**  (gluten free option)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces small mozzarella balls (ciliegine or bocconcini), halved
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Blanche basil leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds or until they turn bright green. Transfer to an ice water bath with a slotted spoon to stop the cooking, then drain, squeezing out any excess liquid.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions until just al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine blanched basil leaves, olive oil, vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and pulse until uniform and very finely chopped. Pour dressing over pasta and stir until until evenly coated. Add mozzarella, tomatoes, and capers and toss to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Salad will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days, although the basil will start to discolor slightly after the first day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson and Marshal Karp

NYPD Red 2NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars




Jacket Blurb - When NYPD Red arrives at a crime scene, everyone takes notice. Known as the protectors of the rich, famous, and connected, NYPD Red is the elite task force called in only for New York City's most high-profile crimes. And Detective Zach Jordan is the best of the best, a brilliant and relentless pursuer of justice. He puts professionalism above all, ignoring his feelings for his partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald, the woman who broke his heart when they first met in the academy.

But even with their top-notch training, Zach and Kylie aren't prepared for what they see when they're called to a crime scene in the heart of Central Park. They arrive to find a carousel spinning round and round, its painted horses grinning eerily in the early morning dark. There is only one rider: a brutally slaughtered woman, her body tied up and dressed in a Hazmat suit, on display for the world to see.

The victim, a woman of vast wealth and even greater connections, is the fourth in a string of shocking murders that have hit the city. As the public pressure mounts, and political and personal secrets of the highest order hang in the balance, Zach and Kylie must find out what's really behind the murderer's rampage. But Kylie has been acting strange recently--and Zach knows whatever she's hiding could threaten the biggest case of their careers.


Read as an audiobook.  An engaging and interesting plot that kept me popping the next disk in.  I would have ranked this an outstanding book, but unfortunately I can't.  My main complaint with the book was a) every woman in this book is stunningly, drop dead gorgeous and b) our protagonist has a stunning drop dead gorgeous woman in his bed and he's lusting after his stunningly drop dead gorgeous partner and ex-wife. 

Seriously?  My eyeballs got lots of exercise as they kept rolling back into my head in disbelief as I was reminded over and over and over how stunningly gorgeous every woman was and his unrequited love for someone else.

The strength of this book was the plot and the character development.  The plot is well constructed, moved along and, in my opinion, simply delightful.  I loved the twists and turns everything kept taking.  The story doesn't get bogged down in the details, no long expository lumps, and just the right amount of action.  The characters are fairly well rounded (with the exception of what I noted above).  The returning characters are fleshed out a bit more, the supporting characters stay supporting,  and I like how everyone meshes together.

I'm off to reserve book number three.  Recommended.



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Monday, July 13, 2015

Recipe Review from 7/6/2015

After several years of cold wet spring and summers, we've got the real deal!  80's, humid, thunderstorms, it's been awesome!  Well, except for the thunderstorms because both my dogs get upset.  I'm fairly certain Andy-pup learned that from Ben. 

A most excellent weekend - on Saturday I fit in a 27 mile bike ride with a friend, then sat and read on the porch the rest of the afternoon.  Sunday we buzzed down to the Cities for Miss Ellie's 1st Birthday!  The Sister threw a lady-bug themed party that was just adorable.  Ladybug punch, ladybug poop (apples and raisins), kiddo's had made various finger paint ladybug decorations, black and red twizzlers, tomatoes and blueberries, very cute indeed. 

Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad   (Pinterest via Budget Bytes Blog)   vegetarian, gluten free option
The recipe below is a loose interpretation of the actual recipe linked to above.  My intent was to make the recipe as written, but then completely forgot to pick up the veggies I needed.  Doh! 

Improvise, overcome, adapt!  I used what I had on hand in the fridge and it worked just fine.  Better than that!  It was splendid!  The vinaigrette remains the same, salad ingredients were altered.  I decided to grill the veggies for depth of flavor.  I let everything cool before tossing pasta, veggies and dressing together.  This made enough for about 6 lunches. 

So, it just goes to illustrate that a recipe is truly just a guide!  Recommended. 

Salad

photo from Budget Bytes Blog
  • 8 oz.  rotini pasta (regular or gluten free)
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved and cut into ½” chunks
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced vertically
  • 1 red pepper, cut into ½” chunks
  • 1/2 cup pitted and halved kalmata olives
  • Leftover goose (chicken, turkey, duck, etc)   OPTIONAL
  • ½ bunch parsley,  stems removed and finely chopped
Vinaigrette
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • to taste fresh cracked black pepper
  •  
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and boil for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Drain in a colander.
  2. While you’re waiting for the pasta water to boil and the pasta to cook, prepare the vegetables).  My notes:  Vegetables can be grilled for more flavor or left raw for a brighter taste. 
  3. While the pasta is cooling, prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl whisk together the vegetable oil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, oregano, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
  4. Combine the cooked pasta, chopped vegetables, and vinaigrette. Stir until everything is well mixed and coated with vinaigrette. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.


Crockpot Buffalo Chicken  (Pineterst via Wannabite Blog)
 Just because it's summer doesn't mean my slow cookers are on hiatus!   I got this recipe from the SIL when we visited the Brother and fam in April.  If you are a hot-head, this is a recipe for you.  And easy - incredibly easy!  A total plop recipe - just plop, mix a bit, and cook. 

I did cut back on the hot sauce by half a jar simply because that's all I had on hand.  I realized as I type this that I forgot the garlic.  Oh well.  This can be served over Hawaiian rolls or rice, with some Ranch or Blue Cheese dressing or just plain blue cheese crumbles.  I went with Hawaiian rolls and blue cheese crumbles.   And this is one dish that get's better as it sits!  

photo from wannabite blog
  • 2 lbs raw boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 12 oz bottle of Buffalo wing sauce (I used a half bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce)
  • 1 oz packet of dry Ranch mix (I used Hidden Valley)
  • 2 tbsp light butter
  • 2 cloves garlic minced  (I forgot...)
  1. Place the chicken breasts in your slow cooker.
  2. Pour the bottle of wing sauce over the top of the chicken.
  3. Sprinkle the packet of ranch mix over the top of the wing sauce.
  4. Add your minced garlic to the slow cooker, making sure to cover it with sauce.
  5. Place the lid on your slow cooker.
  6. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until meat shreds easily.
  7. Remove meat and shred it using two forks.
  8. Return shredded meat to the sauce and add the butter.
  9. Stir to combine.
  10. Continue to cook on low for another hour so the meat can soak up the sauce.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Long Lost by Harlen Coben (Myron Bolitar #9)

Long Lost (Myron Bolitar, #9)Long Lost by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb:  It begins with an early morning phone call to Myron Bolitar. His old flame Terese Collins is in Paris, and she needs his help. In her debt, Myron makes the trip, and learns of a decade-long secret: Terese once had a daughter who died in a car accident. Now it seems as though that daughter may be alive-and tied to a sinister plot with shocking global implications.

Read as an audio book.

In my humble opinion, this book didn't so much as wade into the realm of implausibility as it leapt in with both feet ala "cannonball" style with a big SPLOOSH!

So our loveable protagonist Myron receives a phone call from the delectable Teresa whom he hasn't seen or heard from in 8 years - she's in Paris and would he please come?  Ah! A beautiful damsel in distress - of course Myron is going to go.  And that's were the SPLOOSH comes in - once his feet hit the ground in France, he's detained at customs, arrested by the police, attacked by terrorists on the street,  rescued by Win, attacked again, customary Big Gun Fight!, kidnapped...

Oh yeah.  Plot had me rolling my eyes and I haven't even covered all of it.  Need to leave something for you to discover without spoilers. 

Yet, because the book totally shifted over into the fantasy realm, I was able to just sit back and enjoy the ebb and flow of the characters interactions.  We know Myron is a softie and will get his heart broken (again); we know Win is fiercely protective and loyal, Esperanza is a tough nut with a heart of gold, and Big Cindy is Big Cindy. 

The reader will get the customary glimpse of Myron's devotion to his parents and his angst and their getting old, the book is peppered with those fabulous humorous quips that nicely balance out the darker aspects of the plot, and a couple new characters to add some wonderful color.

If you've read the first eight books, recommended.  If you're just starting this series, strongly suggest you start with number one.



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Monday, July 6, 2015

Recipe Review from 6/29/2015

Chaos continues to manifest as I attempt to unpack a house I already live in!  I swear, I had no idea moving back into the house would be this difficult.  It's like a treasure hunt trying to find where I stashed an entire kitchen and living room.   I'm sure I'll be unearthing things for years to come, marveling at each hiding spot.

And in all this moving I had two days of Internal Auditor training in St. Louis, and four days of yoga training in Mpls.  Yeah...unpacking has been moving at a glacial pace.

The good news is I had a three day weekend over the Forth!  I made huge progress in getting the house put back together so I can move on to other things.  Like cycling.  In fact, the Husband and I got out (finally!) for our first ride of the year.  A nice 13 mile spin on the Munger Trail on the 4th. 

In the interm, meals have been super simple.  Grilled meats, salads, and sandwiches for lunch.  I did make a couple new recipes that were well received and quick.


Grilled Kielbasa, Pineapple, and Onion  (source friend Tess)  gluten free
A satisfying and simple meal doesn't get any easier than this.  Cut, grill, eat.  This can be served over rice, along side a Ceaser salad, with coleslaw, or a broccoli salad of some kind.  Quick and satisfying.  Love the taste of grilled kielbasa and pineapple!

1 lb kielbasa (regular or turkey)
1 can pineapple (chunks or rings), drained  {fresh also works great}
1/2 onion, cubed
1 green or red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2" chunks

Either thread onto skewers, or combine in a grill pan.  Grill until done.  Serve.


Warm Potato Salad with Beer and Mustard Dressing (Ckng Lght Oct 2006)  vegetarian
We grilled a goose Forth of July weekend and this was my side along with a salad. While very easy to make ahead of time, this was not my favorite recipe.  There was way to much dressing - the Husband made an executive decision and didn't put all of it on.  I'm  very glad he didn't.  And we all found it bland, which was surprising given the onion, celery, parsley, beer, pickles and mustard.  We all added a splash of salt and pepper to our plates.  Perhaps a spicy mustard would work better than dijon. 

Salad:
3 pounds red potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet pickles
2 tablespoons beer 
2 tablespoons cider vinegar 
 
Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion 
3/4 cup beer 
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
 
To prepare salad, place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool. Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Combine potatoes, red onion, and next 6 ingredients (through 2 tablespoons vinegar); toss gently.

To prepare dressing, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup yellow onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add 3/4 cup beer and next 4 ingredients (through pepper); bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 6 minutes). Place mixture in a food processor. Add mustard to food processor; process until smooth. With processor on, slowly pour remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil through food chute, processing until smooth. Pour dressing over potato mixture; toss gently. Serve immediately.