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Monday, October 29, 2007

Recipe Review 10/29/07 and Pantry Challange!

After much waiting, the recipe reviews have started again! Now, I must apologize in advance, as next week already there won’t be very much (deer hunting trip to western MN kinda got in the way), but I have made myself and my readers the promise that I will get back on the "chuck wagon" and review some food!

I have found a new way of attacking the pantry reduction and I’m going to invite you to play along! I know you all have those items in the cupboard and pantry and freezer that you are going to get to "some day" or that you bought for one meal and didn’t use the rest of, or you bought then never got around to useing (I know you have them....). Well! It’s time to move them along!

The challenge is simply this - find one item, say...that bag of pinto beans. Now! Find a recipe to use them up! Such as...BBQ baked beans. And then come back and tell us about it.

In the mean time, before you scurry off to find that lost, forgotten, pantry item, I have these reviews to offer:

(Banana) Chocolate Chip Waffles (Ckng Lght Annual 04, pg 20) 6
I was in need of a fairly quick meal and the thought of a fried egg over a waffle sounded very appealing. A quick search through my cookbooks and I dug this recipe up. It was pretty basic, flour, sugar, baking powder, egg, milk, chocolate chips - I added the banana. What was different was in the egg. You beat the egg white into stiff peaks and fold into the batter. The end result was okay - I had trouble with the batter sticking to the iron and the banana flavor wasn’t real pronounced. Still, it made a nice batch and I had plenty to freeze for later.

Chicken and Root Vegetable Potpie (Ckng Lght, Sept 07, pg 172) 6
I am always on the lookout for a good potpie recipe and this one grabbed my attention (it helped that it was on the cover of the Sept issue). It also used a nice amount of veggies: a potato, sweet potato, celery root (new veggie for me!), and frozen veggies (it called for peas, I used what I had in the freezer). The root vegetables were boiled in chicken stock and removed, and the stock then thickened into the nice thick gravy that we associate with a good pot pie. I had pre-cooked chicken ready to go, so that didn’t need much but re-heating. Then everything was seasoned and combined into a 9x13 pan and topped with a puff pastry. Here I made a tiny mistake: I forgot to vent my puff pastry so it didn’t puff very well. This made a lot (9x13), but it’s been decent for leftovers so far.

Two notable items, 1) the chicken could easily be left out and the veggies increased, 2) if one didn’t want to buy a frozen puff pastry, a pre-made/bought pie crust such as Pillsbury can be baked ahead of time and put on top just before eating. I’ve done that for a different recipe with very satisfying results.

Multi-grain Breakfast Porridge (Ckng Lght, Oct 07, pg 131) 9
Yum yum YUM! Wheat berries are boiled till plump and tender, then rolled oats are added, and grits (I used polenta). Maple syrup and milk are stirred in (this is also where I added dried cranberries and cinnamon). This nice and warm concoction is topped with toasted chopped walnuts, and in my case, a little extra half and half. It was so tasty I had two bowls! The rest I set aside for the coming week. I’ll be making this again!

Susan Brackett’s First Prize Apple Pie (Ckng Lght, Oct 07, pg 143) 5
This was just...okay. It baked up just lovely with a beautiful crumb topping, but as the day went on, the apples really condensed and the crumb topping got very soggy. Even more disappointing was how gummy the bottom crust was. Perhaps I should have baked it right on my baking stone, or pre-baked the crust slightly, but I haven’t had that problem before. I would consider making this again, but doing something different for the bottom crust and adding pecans to the topping (and doubling the crumb mixture).

*Please note that the Ckng Lght recipes can be found at or

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Murder with Puffins by Donna Andrews

Some of my gentle readers have been lamenting my lack of recipe reviews. Believe me, I have been discouraged by my lack of new recipes as well. But! Do not despair! Next week I will get back on the foodie bandwagon (or should that be the chuck wagon?) and pick up with some new tasty morsels.

In the meantime, I offer you a mystery review:

This is a Meg Langslow mystery, set in Maine. Murder with Puffins picks up after Murder with Peacocks where Meg and her new beau Michael (who, according to her description, looks like his namesake angel with ravishing blue eyes and dark hair and could be a model for a romance get the idea...) decide they need a quiet get away from her nutsy family and plan a weekend getaway to Monhegan Island and the family cottage. Except when they arrive they find the entire family there. Oh, and there is a hurricane blowing in.

The island is awash in birders, hoping to catch a glimpse of this rare bird or that particular bird (with a hurricane coming in). The native islanders are tolerant of these seasonal intruders, except for Victor Resnick, a local artist who hates everyone and has built a huge house of glass in prime puffin habitat. He shoots at birds because they poop on his glass house and he shoots at birders because they trespass on the path that follows the shoreline. The birders are in huff, Meg and Michael are dismayed, and her family is all bonkers. In an attempt to escape the family for a while, Meg and Michael head out for a hike around the island (with a hurricane blowing in) only to discover Victor floating face down in a tidal pool (with the tide coming in).

Who did it? Suspicion is cast on Meg’s Dad, who was missing when the hurricane hit because he stayed out overnight on the far side of the island to watch it come in. In addition, Victor and Meg’s Mom had a two year "fling" when she was 14 (over 20 years ago now) and everyone figures Meg’s Dad is highly jealous of Victor. Meanwhile, Meg is dragging Michael all over the island (in a hurricane) as she plays amateur detective.

Complete and total brain candy. The situation was so totally implausible as to be completely ridiculous. The islanders are boarding up the houses, yet everyone is out running around in a hurricane looking for birds and or murderers. I have been in a hurricane (Hugo - Sept, 1989, New Jersey) and while it was more of a tropical depression by the time it hit, I certainly didn’t want to be out in it anymore than I was ordered to. Sheets of rain, wind, generally unpleasant.

I wonder what would happen if Meg Langslow met Theodosia Browning...? How many bodies would turn up then? Would Michael get along with Perry and Drayton? Would Meg find Haley a threat as Haley seduces Michael with crabcake puffs, peach scones with clotted cream and homemade truffles? Hmmm.... stay tuned for the next episode of New Englander meets Southern Belle!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend Get-Away - Mpls/St. Paul

Currently the Hubby's in the Twin Cities training for three weeks (one week down, two to go) and he discovered he had a free weekend. A phone call later, I found myself leaving work early on Friday, dropping the Hounds off at Pookie Prison (in their minds) and heading south for a weekend getaway.

Because of the time I rolled in, we stayed close to the hotel for dinner, frequenting an old favorite - Davanni's - for dinner. Whole wheat garlic cheese bread and a traditional crusted pizza topped with pepperoni, green pepper, mushrooms and pineapple. Nothing too notable there.

For the first time in what seemed like a month, Saturday was clear, sunny, and without rain. We took advantage of this beautiful fall day and started out on Grand Ave in St. Paul. We scored a free parking spot at Victoria Crossing and walked down to Penzey's where I picked up a package of Cassia Cinnamon, Ground Allspice, and Sweet Curry Powder. Lunch was at the Wild Onion - pulled pork sandwich with fries for me, southwestern chicken sandwich with fruit for him. Afterward we made our way to Northern Brewer where he picked up some homebrew supplies.

Como Conservatory was on our loose agenda, but first we stopped at Izzy's on Marshall. The Hubby's seen the Bobby Flay episode of Throwdown at Izzy's (Izzy's won), but he's never been there. We shared a a scoop of cranberry cheesecake in a waffle cone with a chocolate almond soy "Izzy" on top. Yum!

Our timing was off to tour the somewhat recently renovated (in the last 4 years) conservatory, as they were closing at 3:00p for Zoo Boo. We were there at 2:50p. Disappointing, but we took advantage of the day and walked around Como Lake instead. Afterwards, feeling a bit tired, we found refreshment at a neat little coffee shop right off of Como called the Java Train.

We aren't fancy drink people - I had an ice tea and he had a root beer and we shared a apple scone. Afterwards, we took a drive along the Mississippi from Marshall St up to the U of MN, and back down on the Mpls side. Beautiful drive. Since we were in the my sister's neighborhood, we popped in to say hi and to see how big the nephew has gotten since I saw him in Sept.

The Hubby picked out a local brewpub for dinner: Herkimer Pub and Brewery, Lyndale Ave, Mpls. We shared a "Sky Pilot Kellerbier" and a sampler platter: crabcakes, sweet potato fries, chicken quesadillas, and buffalo wings. The beer and food were good, the ambiance amiable (modern meets working class), the waitress...umm...well, I've had warmer receptions from a vending machine. Barely perfunctory.

We concluded our evening somewhere on Bryant between 35th and 36th street at Gigi's, where we shared a very bright key lime torte and a couple of fresh fruit, hand made, spritzers. This was a neat little restaurant/cafe, made all the more delightful by being able to sit outside after a absolutely fantastic fall day.

Sunday found us with a little bit of time before I needed to depart so we popped up to Minnehaha Parkway (not the falls) and took a walk along an absolutely love stretch of the creek. Huge cottonwoods, silver maples and oaks lined the creek, all decked out in their fall colors, with the gorgeous large homes as a backdrop. Sadly, by mid afternoon I was on my way North again to retrieve the pups from their "vacation" and to run a few mundane errands before the new week started.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dragonwell Dead by Laura Childs (Tea Shop #8)

Once again we return to the world of Theodosia Browning and her Indigo Tea Shop, located in the historic district in Charleston, SC. Theo and her merry band of friends: Drayton, master tea mixer extraordinaire; Hayley, tea shop chef and business student; Delaine Dish, social lite and others are the beverage caterers at a Historic Society function at one of the old plantations in the area, when a friend suddenly falls dead of a heart attack. Theo, never one to let dead people lie, asks some discrete questions of the investigating authorities and find out her friend was poisoned by a "nonspecific toxin".

This time Theodosia doesn't purposely embroil herself in the mystery, in fact, compared to past books, she pretty much stays out of it. However, her curious mind doesn't rest and she picks up on odd little clues that come to her over the course of the story and she does unwittingly land herself in a heap of trouble.

The Tea Shop books are just fun, brain candy stories, totally implausible (really, how many people can fall dead around one person?), but enjoyable nonetheless. Child's fills the books with scrumptious sounding food, interesting tea combinations and little tidbits about S. Carolina. This was book 8 in the series, but they could easily be read out of order.
(My apologies with the odd photo - I took the picture of just the dust jacket and well, it didn't photograph very well!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Recipe Review 10/15/07

Last week was a good new recipe week. This week isn't going to see so many again - I found I needed to do a bit more in the freezer reduction department plus I have a couple of social engagements that are going to take me out of the kitchen.

Salsa de Jitomate Del Norte - Northern Tomato Sauce (The Cuisines of Mexico, pg 301) 7
We borrowed this cookbook from a co-worker who spoke very highly of the recipes therein. The Hubby picked out a salsa recipe for our Sunday Football Feed (homemade nacho’s and buffalo wings) and it was up to him to make it.

This was amazingly similar to the salsa we have at a local Mexican restaurant. It is more saucy and not chunky thick like say a Pace or Old Dutch brand. I really liked the flavors and we both agreed it could have been a tich thicker. He was hesitant to add any tomato paste as it might impart an off taste. So we left it and enjoyed it!

Arroz a la Mexicana - Mexican Rice (The Cuisines of Mexico, pg 288) 6
I was planning on making the black bean burritos below, and decided I wanted to have some Mexican rice to go along with it. That same co-worker talked about this recipe (plus it was book marked) and what better way to try out a potential cookbook than to make something! This was a neat recipe - rice is soaked and drained, then sauteed in oil for about 10 minutes to make it a lovely golden brown (except mine didn’t turn golden brown). Chicken broth, peas and carrots are added and let it simmer again. When it starts to shoot steam through little vents, cover with a paper towel and a cover and set aside. Wah-la! Mexican rice!

Tomato Soup (Classic Vegetable Ckbk, pg 315) 6
This was another Hubby pick. He’s had this vegetable cookbook for years and we often refer to it when looking for something different to do with veggies. He picked a homemade tomato soup and had it assembled in probably 45 minutes - most of that cooking time. Here again, pretty basic - saute tomatoes, add some garlic, simmer with vegetable broth, puree. Wah-la! Soup! He thought with the initial tastings it was a bit bland, but I thought it tasted pretty good and the flavors would develop in the next day or so - as we were making this ahead anyway. I made up some homemade bread to make grilled cheese. Yum! Yum!

Spicy Black Bean and Cheese Burritos (Every Day with RR) 5
This is the recipe I made the rice to accompany. Saute garlic in some oil (I use regular olive oil, not "EVOO"), and add a can of black beans and a can of diced chilies. Moosh and saute. Add a can of corn and a can of diced tomatoes. Saute. Wrap in a burrito and serve. I think the concept behind this was good, however, a regular diced tomato would have worked fine, as would have frozen corn. Still, for ease of prep, the canned was okay. Recipe said this serves 4 and that is indeed what we got. The Hubby liked this mixture, I wasn't all that wild about it. I have fixin's to make this again, but it would be for the Hubby for lunches.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan

A while back, I happened to watch a couple episodes of the Dog Whisperer for the first time. I have to admit, I was fascinated - Cesar would enter the realm of the "troubled dog(s)" and if one was watching the dog, you could see the dog knew Cesar was in charge. Cesar wouldn’t speak to the dog, look at the dog, touch the dog, he wouldn’t acknowledge the dog in anyway until he was ready to do so. And the dog knew what Cesar was doing. There was no if, ands, or buts about it. This happened in every scenario (of which there was about 4 or 5 if I remember correctly).

But Cesar’s shows weren’t about training the dog, so much as training people. He readily admits this. Now I have two furry 4-legged children myself, so I was much intrigued by his "training" methods and set about to find one of his books. Cesar’s Way is currently on the bestseller list and just came out in paperback so I ordered one off of Amazon.

It was...okay. It covered his background, how he came to the States and became a nationally known dog psychologist. Note: not a dog trainer, a dog psychologist. He explains his theory on dog behavior and what we as humans can do to improve our relationship with our canine companions. He strongly believes in pack dynamics, and what people need to do to make their hound a happy member of the family "pack", but not the dominant member.

I liked what he had to say, but I found the book a bit simplistic for my needs. He gave so many examples of poorly behaved dogs and what their owners did to create the little monsters, and then he would reiterate that the humans need to be pack leader. Perhaps this was supposed to be more of an introduction to "Cesar’s Way" and less of a "how-to".

In a nutshell, what I came away with was: dogs require exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order. Cesar is a big proponent on well exercised dogs and giving them upwards of two hours daily. He also expounds on the human being calm-assertive, that a persons hound will respond better knowing you are always in charge. Dogs need structure, boundaries and focus in their lives.

What I would have liked more of was how-to achieve some of this structure and disciplinary techniques and when to do it. But perhaps he discusses this more in another book. I also don’t think that hunting breeds were quite taken into account as he works predominantly with rottweilers, pit bulls, German shepherds and other large or "aggressive" breeds. So all in all, I think this book is best suited to someone who is thinking about getting a dog for the first time or a family who might be thinking about bringing a pet into the house. Or if you want a autobiography of Cesar’s philosophy.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Recipe Review 10/8/07

Last week was an okay week recipe wise. The cooking menu morphed a bit due to this and that: the parents invited us for dinner one night and we were in town late another so we ate out (Indian! my favorite!). Unfortunately, this means my chicken pot pie recipe keeps getting pushed back. I think I’ve had it on the menu for about three weeks now and it’s not going to happen this week either! Oh well, I’ll get to it eventually - I’ve got all the ingredients and I just need the time.

Paddy Burks Pepper Soup (Irish Pub Ckbk, pg 51) 7
This was another Hubby recipe. Two yellow bell peppers, an orange bell pepper and a red bell pepper are combined with some vegetable broth and seasonings (onion and garlic) and simmered till nice and soft. I believe a bit of half and half is added and then everything pureed (he LOVES the immersion blender too!). This turned out really good. The recipe calls for the addition of fresh creme fraiche and this simple "soured cream" really made the soup. It was sweet and tangy all at once. Perfect with some cheese and crackers on these cool rainy days!

Baked Ziti Casserole (Ckng Lght, Oct 07, pg 170) 7
This was a winner! So incredibly simple and not a ton of leftovers. I did make two significant substitutions: I subbed 6oz baby ‘bella’s for the 6oz ground turkey and I used jarred marinara. Boil 6oz tubular pasta (ziti, penne, etc) according to directions. Meanwhile, fry meat or saute mushrooms in a bit of butter. Here I added 2 cups sauce to the mushrooms and let it warm up. Drain pasta, add to sauce, add ½ cup mozzarella and 1/4 grated asiago (or Parmesan) and stir. Put in an 8x8 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with ½ cup mozzarella and some grated Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serves 2-4. (4 people if you’re having salad and garlic bread). I think this dish has a lot of potential because you can really change it around to suite your tastes.

Pumpkin Waffles (Culinary in the Desert c/o Ckng Lght) 6
I had some leftover pumpkin in the freezer from a previous recipe and saw a pumpkin waffle recipe in Ckng Lght. Unfortunately, I've lost the recipe since then, but Joe over on Culinary posted the recipe after he made them.

These were just...okay. They seemed to go from underdone to over-cooked in my waffle maker in the blink of an eye. Still, they did bake to a very nice dark brown (a bit disconcerting when used to lighter waffles) and the pumpkin flavor was more of a background element than up front on the taste buds. We tried them with pure maple syrup, homemade raspberry sauce and apple butter. I was partial to the maple syrup myself. I would probably make these again, because it was a nice way to use up that odd bit of leftover pumpkin and I can freeze leftovers for later.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Recipe Review 10/1/07

I thought I had this all typed out and ready to go for Monday, but lo! when I fired up blogger and my posts, there was. no. recipe review. Friday was super hectic and I think what happened was I typed it up in word perfect but never cut and pasted it over into Blogger. How disappointing to have to type it all out again.

On the upside, we are doing great in the new recipe count. Last week the Hubby and I made 5 new recipes. Which brings September’s count to about 12. I am hoping to make at least 120 new recipes total for 2007 so I really need to start baking! Plus fall is here and it is time to start indulging in some fresh baked bread.

For last week:
Cavatappi with Prosciuto and Parmesan (Ckng Lght Sept 07, pg 177) 8
This was very good: while the pasta boils, Prosciuto is thinly sliced, garlic minced and Parmesan grated. A bit of pasta water is reserved, and while the pasta drains, the garlic is sauteed in olive oil. Then the water and pasta is returned to the pan and everything melds for a couple of minutes. The Prosciuto and Parmesan are added last, to allow the Prosciuto to gently cook from the residual heat of the pasta. I liked this ease of this dish so much I made it twice, and I plan on making it again alternating ingredients.

Apple Butter (Ckng Lght Annual 04, pg 417/Duluth News Tribune, Taste, ‘05) 7
I added the recipe title here as a reference, but the final product was really a mish-mash of two recipes. To the Ckng Lght recipe I: doubled the recipe from 4 lbs apples to 8 lbs; added 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp cloves and 2/3 cup cider vinegar. I also boiled it for closer to 3 hours rather than the 1 called for. I liked how this came out, but would have preferred it to be a bit thicker. This made about 10 pints for the freezer.

Autumn Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette (Ckng Lght Oct, pg 134) 8
My new favorite salad! This was very fresh and tasty: red wine, olive oil, paprika, chili powder and a bit of garlic make the dressing. Fresh greens (I used a baby green mix), red onion, Asian pear and apple, and chevere are tossed together. I loved this and have made it several time since.

Moroccan Chickpea Chili (Ckng Lght Sept 07, pg 218) 8
Fresh and delicious dishes really don’t get much simpler than this. Saute onion, carrots, celery and garlic till soft. Add seasonings and toast. Add veggie broth (my addition, recipe called for water), diced tomatoes, chickpeas and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and simmer. That’s it. I think what I liked about this one was the depth of flavoring: cumin, chili powder, cinnamon. It was the cinnamon that really made this dish I think. Not spicy, just very flavorful.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Knitting Project #5 - The London Beanie

I’m bouncing a bit between my topics recently, trying to balance the fun little knitting projects with the recipe reviews and the books that I’ve been reading. This week is another knitting project that I actually finished about two months ago, took the picture, then completely forgot to post about it!

This is the Regia London Beanie, as modeled by the Hubby and gifted to the Dad. Regia is a self striping yarn, and this hat was super simple and fun to do. I have promised the Mother and the Hubby their own hats, so now I must go back and purchase more yarn. Oh darn!

Yarn: Regia, self striping, 50 gr
Store: Playing with Yarn, Knife River, MN
Size: #6 circular

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