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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Twisted Prey by John Sandford (Lucas Davenport #28)

Twisted Prey (Lucas Davenport #28)Twisted Prey by John Sandford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb: Lucas Davenport confronts an old nemesis, now more powerful than ever as a U.S. senator, in the thrilling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling Prey series

Lucas Davenport had crossed paths with her before.

A rich psychopath, Taryn Grant had run successfully for the U.S. Senate, where Lucas had predicted she’d fit right in. He was also convinced that she’d been responsible for three murders, though he’d never been able to prove it. Once a psychopath had gotten that kind of rush, though, he or she often needed another fix, so he figured he might be seeing her again.

He was right. A federal marshal now, with a very wide scope of investigation, he’s heard rumors that Grant has found her seat on the Senate intelligence committee, and the contacts she’s made from it, to be very…useful. Pinning those rumors down was likely to be just as difficult as before, and considerably more dangerous.

But they had unfinished business, he and Grant. One way or the other, he was going to see it through to the end.


Read as an audio book.

I enjoyed this latest installment, which picks up a plot line form Silken Prey (Davenport #23), but a plot line I wasn't entirely thrilled with.

Premise of the book is another assassination attempt has been made on Senator Porter Smalls life, and he's convinced it's Taryn Grant. Again. A call to Lucas brings Lucas to Washington DC and Virginia. As he starts to investigate, he finds himself continuously stonewalled. With a little help from Rae and Bob, they slowly peel back the layers and the bodies start to stack up, Davenport begins to question if they will ever get to the person at the top. But then, maybe he doesn't have to.

As I've stated in other Davenport and Virgil reviews, I generally don't care for knowing what the antagonist is up to. In this installment, I found myself looking forward to hearing what the antagonists are doing or were going to do next. I thought these interludes added to the story this time, fleshed out the background, and added to the plot more so than just bringing an element of creepiness or gore.

There isn't a heck of a lot of suspense in this book and it's a matter of letting the plot spool out. Which for a commute book is actually enjoyable - I can let the miles roll by and nobody has to watch the crazy lady in the car next to them bang her head on the steering wheel in frustration.

The aspects I enjoyed in this: Davenport shopping for clothes, Davenport introducing Bob to a fitted suit, his relationship with Rae and Bob, and how Davenport uses the people and skills around him to solve a mystery. He doesn't assume he's the only one who can figure this out, but relies on others to help him put the pieces together. I really enjoy that dynamic.

Sandford does give favorite past characters a nod, Weather, Letty and Virgil and more make an appearance. I have mixed thoughts on this in books, but meh, a small thing and to be expected.

While Twisted Prey wasn't the most gripping Davenport book I've read, it was a very enjoyable read. Recommended if you've read the first 27 books, and especially if you've read Silken Prey (#23).



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Monday, June 18, 2018

Recipe Review from 6/11/2018


Rain rain, go away, come back another day...

It's been a bit dampish this past week and weekend.  

We've had a few restless night with one anxious Andy-dog and the storms rolling through.  Hopefully the pup won't pick up this anxiety like Andy did from his "brother' Ben.  

In the meantime, I made some tasty meals.  The Pasta Salad hasn't been posted yet so I'll have to come back and write that up later.

The Meal Plan from last week:
Sat: (L) Salmon Pasta Salad    (L) Slow Cook Drip Beef Sandwiches
Sun:  (L)  out                  (S)  leftovers
Mon (yoga):  leftovers
Tues: leftovers
Wed:  Warm Pasta Salad with Eggplant
Thurs (yoga)  leftovers
Fri:  leftovers if any

Lunches:  me - hummus/cheese sandwiches
                Husband - veggies and fruit


Slow Cooker Drip Beef Sandwiches  (Valeries Kitchen blog)
I will first admit, I am not a beef person.  Not my preference.  Now I will admit - this was darn tasty.  And so easy!  Toss meat in the slow cooker, walk away.  Come back later and shred.  To the shredded meat add the sauted onion, bell peppers and garlic.  I did lightly toast the hoagie rolls first, then added the beef, and popped back under the broiler until the cheese was lightly melted. 

I didn't serve anything extra on the side, but the sky's really the limit.  You can go as simple as chips, or more elaborate with tater tots, or all out with homemade potato salad, broccoli salad, coleslaw and more.

This made three meals for two of us, plus one lunch.  So about 6-ish meals with a 3.25 lb cut of meat..

Recommended.
Photo from Valeries Kitchen blog
  • 1 3-1/2 to 4 pound boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons garlic pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small white or yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small bell peppers thinly sliced
  • 1 8 ounce package cremini (brown button) mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 to 8 hoagie rolls
  • 6 to 8 slices provolone cheese

  1. Trim roast of excess fat and cut into large 3 or 4 large chunks. Place in slow cooker. Pour beef broth and Worcestershire around roast. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, garlic pepper, and salt. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours or until beef can easily be shredded.
  2. Skim and discard fat from surface of cooking liquid (see note below for my tips). Use two forks to shred beef into the cooking liquid. Keep warm.
  3. When ready to serve, melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes or until veggies have softened slightly. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until mushrooms have softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat. Transfer cooked veggies to the slow cooker with shredded beef. Load up hoagie rolls with beef and veggies and a slice of provolone cheese and pop them under your broiler until cheese has melted and bread is lightly toasted.
Authors Recipe Notes:
Chuck roast is a fatty cut of beef so in order to remove as much of that fat from the cooking liquid as possible, I like to cook this a day in advance. After the initial cooking time and before shredding the beef, I allow it to cool and then refrigerate it overnight in the slow cooker insert. The next morning the fat will have collected on the surface of the liquid and be very easy to remove. Then I return the insert to the slow cooker and when the beef is warm, I shred it and continue with the recipe as written.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Recipe Review from 6/11/18

Slowly we are getting caught up on yard work.  I've been out in my flower beds doing some weeding, purging and moving.  One hosta was pulled out because it was crowding my clematis, and divied up into three new places.  My balloon flower which has been fighting the grass for years survived the round-up (grass and yarrow were that bad) and moved to a different flower bed.  In the newly tilled area I tossed in some garden mix seed that I found in the back hallway - it's a couple years old so we'll see if it's still viable. 

So gradually things are happening.   Now if the Pup would learn that "stay out of the garden" means, "stay out of the garden" and not "go lay down in the daylilies".   Goofball.


Yes, we all know you like rolling around in Mom's daylilies...

The Meal Plan from last week:
Sat  (L) leftover lunch from Fri   (S)  Potluck
Sun (L) leftover Broccoli mac and cheese   (S)  Chicken Caesar Salad
Mon (yoga)  Chicken Caesar salad or leftover soup
Tues - pork chops and potatoes on the grill  leftovers
Wed - Salmon  leftovers
Thurs (yoga) Salmon
Fri - salmon pasta salad
Sat (L) leftover pasta salad

Broccoli Mac and Cheese I posted about last Wednesday.  This was just as YUM as leftovers, when re-heated with a tich of milk. 

Chicken Caesar Salad is from Cooks Illustrated, grilling the chicken and assembling the salad separately.  I did coddle my egg yolk and I do use anchovy in my dressing.  Great summer salad. 

Salmon Pasta Salad is a recipe the Husband found years and years ago and became one of our favorites.

Salmon Pasta Salad (source unknown)
This has become a summer stand-bye.  I used to make this using the canned salmon, but found grilled is a perfect substitute.  I use anywhere between 2/3 and 1lb of grilled salmon, simply seasoned, then chilled.  I also tend to use way more veggies than called for. 

15oz canned salmon, drained (or the equivalent of the salmon packets, or grilled salmon)
1 16oz pkg shell pasta (or about 5 cups of cooked pasta)
1/2 cup chopped carrots (I use baby carrots)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red, green or yellow pepper (I like red)
1/3 cup chopped kalmata olives
1/4 cup chopped green onions
parmesan cheese for topping

1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I've also used white wine vinegar and cider vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano

1) Prepare pasta according to directions on package for "al dente".  Rinse under cold water and drain well.  Let pasta dry slightly.

2) Prepare and combine salmon through green onions in a large bowl.

3) Prepare vinaigrette. 

4) When pasta is mostly dry and slightly tacky, combine everything in large bowl.  Can eat immediately, but for best results, let chill at least an hour or so.  Serve with fresh grated parmesan. 



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Convergence by CJ Cherryh (Foreigner #18)

Convergence (Foreigner, #18)Convergence by C.J. Cherryh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:   Convergence is the eighteenth book in C.J. Cherryh's beloved Foreigner space opera series.

Convergence marks a new phase in the Foreigner Universe: knowledge about the dangerous situation in adjacent space rests only with Bren Cameron, the human diplomat to the alien court of the atevi, four starship captains, and the two chiefs of state—both the human and the atevi, who share the planet.

Bren is obliged to carry the just-signed treaty to the human government on an island some forty miles off the shores of the atevi-ruled megacontinent, and—without explaining the dire situation that would send the people into chaos—to arrange for the human refugees who are crowding the space station to be landed on the island, since the atevi will not grant more land to the human residents of their planet. Bren, a native of this island, is now an atevi official—trying to prepare the human inhabitants for the arrival of many more desperate human refugees from space.


Premise of the book is the kyo have left the system. Tabini has sent Bren to the mainland to deliver the Kyo/Atevi/Mospherian treaty and to pave the path for the Reunioners to come to the planet. Cajeri is growing up and beginning to understand his role in his fathers court. He is sent to Uncle's estate, where he learns about associations.

'Course I'm summarizing greatly. This is the Foreigner series after all - grandiose, sweeping political drama spread out over years and years. Yeah, no easy way to summarize.

This was one of my favorite installments. The plot moved right along, with viewpoints alternating between Bren and Cajeri. Bren back on Mospheria under the auspices of Tabini-ajii. Cajeri at his Uncles learning what it means to be heir and forming associations. I really enjoyed watching Cajeri figure things out on his own.

Meanwhile, Bren is on the island convincing the Mospherian's that yes, he represents Human and Atavi interests, and trying to reassure the government that the Kyo threat has been removed while paving the way to bring the Reunioner's down.

Both plot lines were interesting, engaging and moved along.

My one concern with the book was a perceived uptick in repetition. One of the things I like about the series is how the author reminds the reader of things that happened in previous books. However, in the last couple books there was an increase in how many times Bren repeated a certain topic. In this installment, for example, it was Cajeri and Uncle discussing the Shadow guild. I understand a couple reminders, but when it's nearly every other conversation? I started skimming.

Ultimately, another solid installment in the Foreigner series, perhaps even one of the better books. Recommended if you've read the first seventeen.



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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Recipe Review from 5/28/2018 - Part III

The Lentil Soup and the Veggie Tofu Scramble wrap up the 3 Day Gut Makeover menu, which lasted a week...portion sizes a were a tich off. 

Best recipe:  Kale salad with spicy chickpeas and berries
Least favorite:  Chickpea pasta

The Meal Plan:
Sat  (L) Tabbouleh with Avocado   (S) leftover taco salad
Sun (L) leftover tabbouleh   (S) leftover tabbouleh with hummus sandwich

Mon (L)  green pea fritters and salad  (S) Chickpea pasta with peas
Tues (L) out     (S)  Kale Salad with chickpeas and berries

Wed - Summary Lentil Soup
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers       Chocolate Cake for a meeting
Fri - Broccoli mac n cheese
Sat - Veggie Tofu Scramble


One Bowl Chocolate Cake (AllRecipes.com)
Made this for a meeting - the group likes chocolate and this came up on a general search. Wasn't the best night for baking, what with high humidity and no air conditioning, but I thought I'd give it a whirl.

This was very well received. Only one short row of cake (I made the 9x13 pan) came home for the husband. I used a family recipe for the frosting, a pretty standard butter and powdered sugar frosting, with some cocoa added to the mix to make it extra chocolate-y.

I looked through the online reviews a bit and noted that several said the batter is VERY thin (and it is), and that the cake didn't release out of the 9' rounds because it is so moist (and it is). The cake is moist, crumbly, chocolate-y and good for a general gathering served right out of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease and flour 2 9" rounds or a 9x13" pan.

photo from AllRecipes.com
2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Combine above and mix well.

2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Add to above flour mixture, and mix for 2 minutes.

1 cup boiling water (I added 1 packet of instant coffee, about 1 1/2 tsp)

Add to above, mixing well. Batter will be very thin.

Add batter to prepared pan(s). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If using 9" rounds, cool 10 minutes then remove from pans. Cool completely.  (I needed almost 45-50 minutes and even then I wasn't convinced it was entirely done.)

Summery Lentil Soup (Ckng Lght, June 2018)  gluten free, vegetarian, vegan
This was one of the recipes in the 3 Day Gut Health makeover, and the only recipe where I felt the portion sizes were way off.  All the recipes in the article were for single servings, so I was doubling for two of us.  I didn't realize that a "single serving" of this soup was 3 cups!  Yes - 3 CUPS of soup for one person.

Which would explain why we ended up eating this for four meals, including using it in the tofu scramble below.

Usually a portion of soup is 1 cup, 1 1/2 cups, for us.

Serves 2 as written below, in my opinion, with enough for the tofu scramble.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
photo from cookinglight.com

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 (4-oz.) eggplant, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked dried brown lentils
2 bay leaves
1 small zucchini, chopped (about 6 oz.)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sliced scallion greens

Heat a large saucepan over medium. Add oil, and swirl to coat. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper; cook 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and eggplant; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add 2 1/2 cups water, lentils, and bay leaves. Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until lentils are almost tender, about 22 minutes.

Stir in zucchini, salt, and black pepper; cook until lentils are tender and zucchini is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Ladle 3 cups soup into a large bowl, and top with sliced scallion greens. (Optional - Reserve remaining 2 cups soup for the tofu breakfast scramble.)


Veggie Bowl with Tofu Scramble  (Ckng Lght June 2018) gluten free, vegetarian, vegan   
This uses leftovers from the Summery Lentil Soup.  As I noted in the soup review, I thought the portions were way off, and I think that here as well.  This called for two cups of soup to be reduced for one person - I did a very generous two cups for two people (+/- 2 1/2 cups?) with the tofu and it was plenty

The Husband was somewhat dubious about this dish, but admitted it was surprisingly tasty.  And it was.  I had originally thought of just scrambling some of our eggs, but I had leftover tofu that needed to be used.  This does come together fairly quickly, IF you time to make breakfast before work, this would be good.  Not a putter in the kitchen in the AM kinda personality?  Save it for the weekend.  

Recommended with some adjustments to portion sizes. 

photo from cookinglight.com

2 cups Summery Lentil Soup  (recipe above)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
3/4 cup extra-firm silken tofu
(such as Mori-Nu) (6 oz.)
Dash of kosher salt
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Hot sauce (optional)


Heat Summery Lentil Soup in a small skillet over medium-high until most of the liquid evaporates, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour into a shallow bowl.

Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high. Add cumin, paprika, and, if desired, turmeric; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Crumble tofu; add to skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through and tofu looks like scrambled eggs, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt. Top soup with tofu; sprinkle with scallions and parsley. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.


Broccoli Mac n Cheese (Ckgn Lght, June 2018)  vegetarian, gluten free option
This was surprisingly easy to pull together for a weeknight meal.  I did use regular elbow macaroni, and I had to use 1 1/2 tbsp of dijon mustard in place of the dried because I forgot I was out.  This hit the spot for a chilly summer evening.  

photo from cookinglight.com
Serves 4 

8 ounces (2 1/4 cups) brown rice macaroni (such as Tinkyada)
6 cups broccoli florets  (I used 4 cups)
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk (I used 2%)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large grated garlic clove
4 ounces (about 1 cup) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Cook brown rice macaroni according to package directions. Add broccoli florets during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain.

Whisk together evaporated milk, cornstarch, dry mustard, kosher salt, and grated garlic clove in a large sauté pan over medium; cook, whisking often, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese and pasta mixture.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Recipe Review from 5/28/18 - Part II

First recipe uses the prepared bulgur from Part I of this review, the last recipe uses some of those prepared spicy chickpeas. 

The Meal Plan:
Sat  (L) Tabbouleh with Avocado   (S) leftover taco salad
Sun (L) leftover tabbouleh   (S) leftover tabbouleh with hummus sandwich

Mon (L)  green pea fritters and salad  (S) Chickpea pasta with peas
Tues (L) out     (S)  Kale Salad with chickpeas and berries

Wed - Summary Lentil Soup
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers
Fri - Broccoli mac n cheese

Green Pea Fritters with Avocado (Ckng Lght June 2018) vegetarian, vegan
This dish comes together fairly quickly, and as the recipe notes stated, the pea/tofu/bulgur mixture is very soft.  I didn't even bother to try and shape into patties - I spooned directly into the pre-heated pan and kinda mooshed into patties.

These were tasty, but with the green patties, green avocado, green kale, and green cucumber - it was a lot of green!  I did add some red cherry tomatoes for color.  I would make this dish again - super simple, under half an hour to assemble, and filling.  Recommended.

Serves 1

1/4 cup extra-firm silken tofu (2 oz.)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Pre-made Bulgur  (recipe above)
2/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/4 cup chopped scallion whites (I used a shallot)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 ripe avocado
1 small garlic clove, grated
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 1/2 cups torn stemmed lacinato kale
1/3 cup sliced English cucumber
1 thin red onion slice, halved

Process tofu and flour in a mini food processor until smooth. Add pre-made bulgur (recipe here); pulse until blended. Add peas, scallion, cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; pulse until combined.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium. Shape pea mixture into 2 patties.; (They will be very soft but will firm up as they cook.) My note - just spoon/dollup directly into the pan, mixture is too soft to form into patties.; Add patties to skillet; gently flatten to 3/4-inch thickness. Cook until browned on bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully turn fritters, and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Mash avocado, garlic, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and a dash of salt until smooth.

Place kale in a bowl; drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Massage until lightly wilted. Add cucumber, onion, remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and remaining dash of salt; toss to combine. Serve salad and fritters with mashed avocado.


Chickpea Pasta with Green peas (Ckng Lght, June 2018); vegan, vegetarian, gluten free
This was my least favorite dish due to the "pasta".  What a gummy mess that turned out to be.  You must have to stir the pasta constantly and/or keep it at a vigorous boil (like its about to boil over boil),  or do something special after you drain it.  I was not privy to these tips beforehand.

On the positive side, I have extra pasta so I get to try again.

Otherwise, a decent dish, good for summer or one of those evenings where you need something with minimal fuss.  

Serves 1

2 ounces uncooked chickpea spaghetti (such as Banza)
1/4 cup frozen green peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon plus a dash of kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted almonds
1 teaspoon lemon zest


Cook pasta in boiling water until almost al dente, about 5 minutes. Add green peas; cook until peas are warmed through and pasta is tender, about 1 minute. Drain pasta mixture, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Cover pasta mixture to keep warm.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low. Add garlic; cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add pasta mixture, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine. If necessary, add up to 1/4 cup additional cooking liquid to reach desired consistency.

Make the gremolata: Stir together parsley, almonds, lemon zest, and remaining dash of salt. Sprinkle over the pasta and serve immediately.


Kale and Spiced Chickpeas with Berries Salad (Ckng Lght, June 2018) gluten free, vegetarian, vegan
This was perhaps, our favorite recipe in the bunch.  So much so we brought it to a potluck later in the week.  This is light, refreshing, filling with a nice balance of tangy and sweet with neither being overpowering. 


photo from cookinglight.com
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups torn stemmed lacinato kale (about 2 oz.)
1/2 cup half-moon English cucumber slices
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 cup Smoky Roasted Chickpeas
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted roasted almonds
Whisk together olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Add kale, and massage gently until kale is lightly wilted. Add cucumber, raspberries, strawberries, and bell pepper; toss well to coat. Arrange salad on a plate; top with Smoky Roasted Chickpeas and almonds.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Recipe Review from 5/28/2018 Part I

Memorial Day weekend gave me the opportunity to explore a "3 Day Gut Health Makeover" menu by Cooking Light.  Gist of the menu is, to give the bacteria in your digestive system a re-boot or boost, by eating a combination of high fiber and high pro-biotic foods.  I just thought the recipes sounded good, I had the time, and the menu was perfect for the long weekend.   I didn't follow the menu exactly - we went out for lunch once, and the portion sizes were a bit all over the place so there were leftovers that needed to be eaten.  Which meant, a three day menu stretched out to a week plus.

Because this is rather recipe intensive review, I broke this up into three parts over three separate reviews.  Actually four reviews - part of this slid over into next weeks meal plan. 

The Meal Plan:
Sat  (L) Tabbouleh with Avocado   (S) leftover taco salad
Sun (L) leftover tabbouleh   (S) leftover tabbouleh with hummus sandwich

Mon (L)  green pea fritters and salad  (S) Chickpea pasta with peas
Tues (L) out     (S)  Kale Salad with chickpeas and berries

Wed - Summary Lentil Soup
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers
Fri - Broccoli mac n cheese


Smokey Roasted Chickpeas  (Ckng Lght June, 2018)  gluten free, vegetarian
Easy, tasty, interesting as a topping in several recipes. 
 
photo from cookinglight.com
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Spread chickpeas on several layers of paper towels, and pat dry. Spread in an even layer on a small rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with oil, and shake pan to coat. Bake at 400°F 30 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. Sprinkle chickpeas evenly with paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper; stir well. Return to oven, and bake at 400°F until chickpeas are very crisp and crunchy (but not burned), 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool completely; store in an airtight container up to 1 week.


Simply Seasoned Bulgur (Ckng Lght, June 2018) gluten free, vegetarian
This dish is for the Bulgur Breakfast Bowls and Tabbouleh with Avocado below; Wasn't as "fluffy" as some other variations I've tried, but still easy enough.

photo from cookinglight.com
Makes 4 - 1/2 cup portions

1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup uncooked bulgur
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Bring 1 1/3 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Stir in bulgur; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Uncover. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Fluff with a fork to combine.


Strawberry Bulgur Bowl  (Ckng Lght, June 2018)  gluten free, vegetarian
This dish is from a 3-day Gut Health Makeover from the June issue of Cooking Light.  The recipes intrigued me, plus I had a long weekend what with Memorial Day, so this seemed like something to try.   One note - I skipped the almond milk and used regular.  I'm not a fan of "fake milk" for myself. 

This was a nice change from oatmeal.  I added a splash of almond extract to boost the almond flavor.  You can easily substitute another berry for strawberries in this.  I liked how the dates provided the sweetness - something I might explore with our oatmeal.   Recommended.

photo from cookinglight.com
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk  (I used regular milk)
2 dates, pitted and finely chopped 
3/4 cup Simply Seasoned Bulgur
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup halved small strawberries  (or fresh berries of choice)
2 tablespoons unsalted roasted almonds, chopped

Place almond milk and dates in a small saucepan; mash dates with a fork to break them up and incorporate them into milk. Add Simply Seasoned Bulgur. Cook over medium, stirring often, until mixture just comes to a simmer. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.
Spoon bulgur mixture into a bowl. Top with strawberries and almonds.


Tabbouleh with Avocado  (Ckng Lght, June 2018)  gluten free, vegan
This uses the bulgur made in the recipe above. 

I didn't measure the ingredients exactly, plus I had doubled to serve two of us, and somehow I ended up with enough to make three meals.  I really liked this variation on tabbouleh, but then I really like avocado.  The chickpeas were a nice addition, adding a bit of spicy crunchiness.    Recommended. 

photo from cookinglight.com
2/3 cup chopped English cucumber
1 medium tomato, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup Simply Seasoned Bulgur
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley  (I forgot the parsley)
1/4 cup finely chopped lacinato kale
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion   (I omitted)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
1/3 cup Smoky Roasted Chickpeas


Combine cucumber, tomato, Simply Seasoned Bulgur, parsley, kale, and onion in a medium bowl. Drizzle with lemon juice and oil, and sprinkle with salt; toss well to combine. Gently fold in avocado. Arrange tabbouleh in a serving bowl or on a plate; sprinkle evenly with Smoky Roasted Chickpeas.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Fallen by David Baldacci (Amos Decker #4)

The Fallen (Amos Decker, #4)The Fallen by David Baldacci

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb: Amos Decker and his journalist friend Alex Jamison are visiting the home of Alex's sister in Barronville, a small town in western Pennsylvania that has been hit hard economically. When Decker is out on the rear deck of the house talking with Alex's niece, a precocious eight-year-old, he notices flickering lights and then a spark of flame in the window of the house across the way. When he goes to investigate he finds two dead bodies inside and it's not clear how either man died. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There's something going on in Barronville that might be the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country.

Faced with a stonewalling local police force, and roadblocks put up by unseen forces, Decker and Jamison must pull out all the stops to solve the case. And even Decker's infallible memory may not be enough to save them
.


Read as an audio book.

Premise of the book is Amos and Alex are on vacation visiting Alex's family in Barronville, PA, when Amos stumbles across a murder. Against Alex's wishes, Amos starts to investigate. What he finds is Barronville is a complex mix of decades old resentments, an out of control opiod epidemic, and a new sorting facility that isn't quite what it seems. When Alex's sister's husband dies from a factory accident, and he and Alex are nearly killed in a trailer explosion, Amos knows he's on the right path.

I enjoyed this latest installment with some exceptions.

Alex persuades Amos into coming on vacation with her to visit Alex's family. Amos really didn't want to go and is bored (duh, it's not his family). Amos finds a murder to investigate and Alex is mad because "they" should be spending time with "her" family. After the sister's husband is murdered, Alex expects Amos (a stranger to the family) to help with funeral stuff, then gets mad when he doesn't. This whole Alex dynamic annoyed me. I would have much preferred if she had just let Amos go investigate while she hung out with her sister.

Over use of the term "bereaved" - maybe this doesn't come across in the print version, but on audio it was readily apparent. After Alex's sister's husband died, Amos kept referring to the "bereaved" (sister, daughter, Alex, extended family).

Twice in the novel the characters performed CPR - the author noted the vomiting correctly, however, Amos and Alex's sister wouldn't be moving all that fast due to cracked ribs. If CPR is performed correctly there will be cracked ribs from the chest compression's. Folks are gonna be sore. Real sore. As in you won't be sneezing or laughing for a while sore.

Zoe. I know five/six year olds are bright and precocious, but she did not talk like a five/six year old. Granted, part of this could be the narration, but I did question some of the child's sentence structures.

The animosity toward John Barron came across as almost implausible. Coming from a small down, and currently living in an economically depressed area, I can understand the resentment toward the "have's" from the "have not's", but in this case, the anger toward the Barron's and specifically John Barron felt over the top.

Those are a handful of items that detracted from the overall story. Overall, I did enjoy this, I thought the overreaching plot was engaging, I liked how Amos just keeps plugging away and putting pieces together until everything clicks into place, and I liked how this was done outside of the FBI Task Force. I figured at some point in the series Decker would have to address his memory and synesthesia and it's impermanence and he does so here.

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



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Monday, May 28, 2018

Recipe Review from 5/21/2018

Well, I got a little loosey-goosey with the meal plan this past week and don't remember what exactly I planned - or made - a couple of days so below is kind a guess.  Except the recipe, I definitely made that.


The Meal Plan:
Sat - leftover Mushroom burgers
Sun - leftover Mini Pizza's
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/legion) out
Tues - Black Bean Taco Salad
Wed - Brats
Thurs - leftover brats
Fri - Fish Fry
Sat - leftover salad

Lunches - hummus and fruit

Black Bean Taco Salad  (CrunchyCreamySweet Blog)  vegetarian, gluten free
Super simple to assemble, tastes great, perfect for a potluck, lunches, or for company on a hot summer evening.  I used frozen corn, thawed, in place of the canned corn and I didn't toss the salad with the dressing ahead of time because I knew I would have leftover and I don't like how the lettuce gets "soggy". 

I served with some leftover cornbread muffins I had in the freezer, but corn chips and salsa would be good too.  This would also be good with a grilled chicken breast for added protein. 

Photo from CrunchyCreamySweet blog
Recommended!

For the salad:
  • 3 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
  • 1 15 oz can black beans rinsed and drained well
  • 1 15 oz can whole kernel sweet corn rinsed and drained well  (I used 2 cups frozen corn, thawed)
  • 3 mini sweet red and orange peppers chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion chopped  (skipped, not a fan of onion breath...)
For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup sour cream  ( used drained greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
Place lettuce, black beans, sweet corn, peppers and onion in a large mixing bowl. Toss gently together.

In a mini blender, combine sour cream, salsa and cumin. Blend until smooth. Pour dressing over salad. Toss gently to coat.  (I mixed well with a whisk, then set aside until serving.  I didn't dress the salad ahead of time because I don't like everything getting soggy.)

Serve immediately or refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1)The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb: The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe by the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Redshirts and Old Man's War.

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible -- until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war -- and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal -- but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency -- are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.


Read for May scifi book group.

Classic Scalzi. Classic Space Opera. A fun and fast read.

Premise of the book is humanity is spread across the galaxy and is connected via the Interdependency and the Flow, a space travel concept that allows ships to move great distances in a relatively short period of time as compared to conventional travel. All planets, habitats and space stations fall under the rule of the Emperox and the Church, located at the Hub. The Interdependency has a new Emperox, one of the ruling Houses is making a bid to take over as Ruling house, and the Flow is about to collapse, stranding humanity again.

As I noted above, classic space opera. It's political intrigue and drama set across vast expanses of space. There is the Emperox, the Church, ruling families, the guild families, merchants, universities and everyone else. The beginning of this series (and it will be a series) has everything in flux - from the ascendancy of a new Emperox, the fall of the Flow, to the political maneuvers of a major ruling house and the counter moves from a major Guild house.

It's total brain candy. I loved it! And it's ok if you don't. That's the great thing about books - none of us are reading the same book.

The characters are varied, interesting, and kept me engaged. The back stabbing and political maneuvering was quite a lot of fun and helped to keep characters on their toes and the plot moving forward with alacrity.

I didn't worry about the "science" of the Flow. This is where the "fiction" part comes it. Not any different than say, trying to explain Warp Drive. It exists in this universe, except when it doesn't, and that's good enough for me.

As noted by the author, this is a Book One, so no surprise at the end when there is no overall resolution and threads are left floating in space. Thankfully, no obnoxious cliffhanger.

And with that I will say...recommended. If you enjoyed Old Man's War, you will probably enjoy this.



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Monday, May 21, 2018

Recipe Review from 5/14/2018

An uneventful week all around, so I'll hop right into recipe review!

The Meal Plan from the previous week:
Sat (L)  leftover tostadas    (S)  NE Smokehouse in Cloquet
Sun (B) Sausage Taquitos    (L) burgers   (S)  Mini pizzas
Mon  (yoga) leftover burgers
Tues - leftover pizzas
Wed - Grilled Vegetable salad with Tortellini
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri  Leftovers

Lunches - fruit and hummus sandwiches

Egg and Sausage Breakfast Taquitos (Special Cuisine Recipe blog via Pinterest) gluten free
Moved a bit away from my usual lunch and supper recipes and tried something different this weekend - a breakfast wrap.  Yeah, yeah, it seems kinda silly to need a recipe for something as ridiculously simple as this, but I'm a recipe kinda gal and sometimes I just don't want to think about ratios.

The idea behind these is you can make them ahead and freeze for later.  I thought this might be worth a try, though I would either have to bring to work and microwave or thaw in the oven at home (I don't have microwave).  So we'll see how that works, if they get eaten or if they end up languishing a bit.

Now I will add, fresh out of the oven with some salsa on top, these were quite tasty.  I ended up with 10 taquitos, which if you are looking to feed a group would be easy to make and have sitting out.   If you have any vegetarians in the group, skip the sausage and add extra eggs.  Recommended!

I made 10 taquitos.

7 oz box Jones Dairy Farm sausage links  (I used a 16oz pkg locally sourced breakfast sausage)
5  large eggs  (ha!  I used closer to 10 eggs; 5 just wasn't enough)
salt and pepper
1 1/2  cups shredded cheese , cheddar, pepper jack or Monterey jack
1 cup baby spinach , chopped (optional)  I used cilantro
10  white corn tortillas , or use 6'' flour tortillas
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Add the frozen sausage links to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until warmed through.
  3. Remove to a plate, leaving a little bit of the sausage grease in the pan.
  4. Crack eggs into a bowl and add a splash of water or milk. Whisk well with a fork and then add to the pan.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, tossing and scrambling as they cook. (If using spinach, add it to the pan about 2 minutes before the eggs are done cooking.) Remove from heat.
  6. Warm the tortillas inside of a damp paper towel for 10-15 seconds in the microwave.
  7. Divide the scrambled eggs among the tortillas and top with shredded cheese.
  8. Place a sausage link on top. Roll up and place, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
  9. Spray lightly with cooking spray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with salsa for dipping.
Recipe Notes
To Freeze: Prepare and bake the taquitos as directed. Allow to cool completely and then place in a freezer ziplock bag. When ready to eat, microwave them until warm.




Grilled Beef-Mushroom Burgers (Ckgn Lght June 2018)  gluten free
A bit of a departure for me, making beef burgers, but the recipe intrigued me so I thought what the heck?  I also thought about subbing buffalo for the burger, but it was nearly twice as much in price so I opted to go with grass-fed beef instead.

These were pretty tasty - if you are not a mushroom fan, or know someone who is not a mushroom fan, they won't even notice the 'shrooms.  I liked how these weren't on a bun, which I am finding are just filler (for me).  The taziki sauce had a bit of zing by the second day, so either cut back on the garlic or skip for those little or sensitive tastebuds. 

Made four burgers - two meals for two of us with a side.

4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
photo from cookinglight.com
1 pound 90% lean ground sirloin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/3 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons minced roasted garlic (about 4 large cloves)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 large butter lettuce leaves
4 heirloom tomato slices  (I used a red bell pepper, cut into rings, because I had some on hand)
4 red onion slices

Preheat grill or a grill pan to medium-high (about 450°F). Place mushrooms in a food processor, and process until minced, about 1 minute.

Combine mushrooms, ground sirloin, oil, pepper, and 3/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; gently shape into 4 (4-inch) patties, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Stir together cucumber, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Place burgers on grill grate, and grill, uncovered, to desired degree of doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium.

Place 2 lettuce leaves on each plate; top each with a burger patty, tomato slice, red onion slice, and 1 heaping tablespoon yogurt mixture.


Mini Pizzas (Ckng Lght, June 2018) lots o' options
This recipe caught my eye for it's simplicity.  There are lots of variations on this floating around, and, because it's "pizza", you can do what ever you want for toppings and crusts.  I used a lavash bread I bought at the co-op for the crust and combined it with co-op pizza sauce and shredded cheese mix (which I purchase to make a regular homemade pizza).   Toppings were red pepper, pepperoni and mushroom.   Then I tossed the pizzas on the grill - which worked only so-so.  I  was concerned about the crust burning and ended up finishing under the broiler. 

So, base recipe below.  I greatly modified.  This is a good way to use up leftovers. 

4 whole-wheat pita rounds
1 (4-oz.) link sweet Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
1/2 cup lower-sodium marinara sauce
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced
1 (2 1/4-oz.) can sliced black olives, drained

Preheat broiler to high with oven rack in top position.
 
Place pitas on a baking sheet. Broil until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove baking sheet from oven; turn pitas over. Do not turn off oven.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add sausage, and cook, stirring to crumble, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes.

Spread 2 tablespoons marinara over each pita. Top evenly with cheese, sausage, tomato, and olives. Broil until cheese melts and browns in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

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