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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday recount & Happy New Year!

Now that the gift giving part of the holidays is past, I can post about my endeavors. This year I went super simple and the recipients received: wild rice in the re-usable gift bags, homemade vanilla, and a variety of dishcloths. I underestimated how much vanilla was needed and only had enough for 6-4oz jars.



I’ll start with the vanilla: last January I made my “starter” and kept it super simple – just vanilla beans and vodka, no sugar. I let this sit all year and bottled it up in these lovely little 4 oz brown jars. It smelled wonderful. I think I let everyone know that I would refill it for them when they run out.

The wild rice I blogged about here. What a fun item to share! And because I brain-farted typing up cooking instructions, here they are: ½ cup rice to about 2 cups water or broth. Cook about 30 minutes or until kernels have “popped” and are nice and tender. Drain off excess water and let stand covered for a few moments. Serve or cool and freeze for a later recipe.

Dishcloths. I made everyone at least two and I tried to pick colors that would compliment kitchens or personal tastes. So that ends up being about 10 total. I used these patterns from Leisure Arts Kifty Knit Dishcloths: Simple Diamonds and Basic Cable and Leisure Arts Kitchen Bright Bee Stitch. I pretty much have the Basic Cable and Bee Stitch memorized so I can keep a little skein of Sugar and Cream and a pair of size 6 needles in a little bag that can travel with me.




Every thing was packaged up in a nice little holiday box that I found at Michael's Crafts.




As for myself, I was the happy recipient of the 2009 Cooking Light Annual (and I have all of my notes from the magazines already transferred!), Harney and Son’s Guide to Tea by Michael Harney, a beautiful skein of wool/bamboo sock yarn, a lovely selection of loose leaf teas, a couple of gift certificates, and some soy candles, confections, homemade soap and cute magnets (which are already at work).

My youngest sister and her husband made a CD with everyone's favorite songs. When we got together, we had to guess who picked what song. Much to my surprise, I won with 7 out of 12 right! She then gave everyone a copy of the CD, with pictures on the cover of notable family events from 2008. Way cool.

Thank you everyone!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recipe Review from Christmas week

I had a little splurge of baking last week – holidays can be good for the recipe tally that way. We had a family gathering on Christmas Eve, and I volunteered to bring the Vegetarian Main dish and a couple of desserts. It was just the Husband and I for Christmas Day and we had fun with the dish you will soon read about.



Soft Polenta with Wild Mushroom Saute(Ckng Lght, Nov 08, pg 125) 4.0
I was in a conundrum about what to have for the veggie main dish at Christmas Eve dinner. Because I worked Christmas Eve day and would be going directly to the folks house, I needed something that could be made ahead of time or would be super simple to make upon arrival AND the SIL would like. This seemed to be a good choice and was easily made when I got there. I don’t know what she thought of it, but I felt that it turned out very good and was a nice complement to the rest of the meal.




Cranberry Oatmeal Bars (Ckng Lght, Nov 08, pg 142) 3.5
These were easy to make, could be cut into small bars for socializing or smaller portions, and had a nice balance between tangy and sweet. Plus they made a smaller pan so there aren’t so many leftovers to worry about.




Pear Pie with Streusel Topping (Ckng Lght, Nov 08, pg 125) 5.0
Can we say fantastic? The lightness and sweetness had folks thinking it was a apple pie, but they knew something wasn’t quite right with the apple flavor. And this was super simple to make as well, almost easier than an apple. I left the leftovers at the folks place and my pie plate came back empty on Friday. I promised the Husband I would make another for New Years.



Roast Duck with Pineapple Chutney modified (Irish Pub Ckbk, pg 134) 4.5
I note modified because the recipe calls for duck breast and the only duck we are going to get our hands on up here is whole duck. So I consulted Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (if anyone is going to have directions on how to cook a duck, it will be her) and we roasted a whole duck. It turned out superb! We basted it with mixture of butter and brown sugar, baked for about 2 hours at 350*, let rest and carved. From there we picked up with the Irish Pub Ckbk and added a pineapple chutney, which was a combination of butter, brown sugar, pineapple and apples.

Our original intent was to make Irish potato cakes to go along side, but we had some leftover potato dumplings that we sliced up and fried in a bit of butter. I also had some leftover cubed butternut squash that didn’t get baked for Christmas Eve dinner so we baked that as well. Oh, the house smelled lovely! I am fairly certain we’ll be trying duck again.


And last, but hardly least, not wanting to waste said duck carcass, we made stock using a combination of similar instructions: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and The Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman. Ruhlman is adamant about making stock properly and has blogged about this on several occasions. Figuring the guy might know what he’s talking about, the Husband and I purchased our fresh veggies (carrots, celery and parsley, I had leeks and mushrooms on hand), roasted them and ever so carefully brought our duck carcass, giblets and roasted veggies to 170*. Both Julia and Michael are particular that the stock MUST NOT BOIL. This is where I’ve gone wrong in the past – boiling the hell out of my stock. Ruhlman even goes so far to say not to even simmer the stock water. So for four hours I kept an eagle eye on my temperature, and skimmed and skimmed and skimmed. I think I may be on to something...

It’s cooling on the porch right now. Next step is to remove the last of the fat after it has had time to congeal. How much did this make? Well, I have enough to last for several months, which is pretty neat.


**The three Ckng Lght recipe photos are from Cookinglight.com and I've linked to the recipes as well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfield


I really enjoyed this book and I think that was because my last couple of books have been just sort of eh. At least the last one in particular (Children of Huirn by Tolkien). I was craving a true scifi book (read space opera, space ships, aliens, and galaxies far, far, away) and The Risen Empire was exactly what I wanted.

Premise of the book is the Risen Empire is ruled by the Emperor, who is 1500 years old (give or take a bit). He discovered how to defeat death and the reason was his younger sister, known as the Empress of the Risen Empire or, The Reason. She is held in a hostage situation by the Rix, an human-alien race who infect planets with the compound minds they worship. The rescue goes very badly for Laurent Zai, and he is obligated to commit suicide, but decides not to - an action tantamount to being a traitor to the Emperor.

The book isn't divided into neat and tidy chapters per see, but each "chapter" is a characters POV. The book didn't feel choppy - with the exception of a couple-three flashbacks - but rather I felt compelled to keep reading. The author touches on nanotechnology, alien races, AI's (I particularly liked one Senator's "House Mind") and the division of humanity. The Empire is divided between the Greys, who accept eternal life as the living dead; and the Pinks, who feel the dead should stay dead because it's preventing the living from getting on with things. I'm simplifying a bit...no, quite a bit actually. Anyway, it's a very quick read and I polished it off in a couple of days.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on book II.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter's Interlude

I have been absolutely swamped with meetings at work this past week and the husband has been swamped with finals and final papers. So what do these two seemingly unrelated bits of news mean? No computer time! But I found a quiet moment here late Sunday evening (we were in town all day today with niece Lydia's baptism and a yoga staff meeting) and I am bound and determined to fit a post in!

Because of said busy schedule, no new recipes last week. The crock pot roast I posted about previously feed us most of the week. Dinner Friday night was at the folks with a lovely visit from my sister, her husband and nephew Finny.

Update on Kia-dog, her mishap with a stick seems to have healed well. After a couple days of "the cone" we gave up and stuck her in one of my old t-shirts. That worked really well and the gouged spot seems to be healing nicely. Here's a picture of the two hounds out hunting mice in a snowstorm.



My other neat news is we seem to have a female cardinal visiting our feeder. She showed up a week ago and has been back daily (I have to rely on the husband keeping an eye on the feeder for my daily report). On Saturday I observed that she visited several times. It sure would be nice if she stuck around. It was also on Saturday that we recorded 5 varieties of birds at one time: cedar waxwings, cardinal, blue jays, chickadees and evening grossbeaks. Very cool. No finches yet though, most peciliar. Here's a poor picture of our lovely rose-colored female cardinal (in a snowstorm).



I also haven't been able to post about my knitting projects - my needles have been smoking from my little projects - because not everyone has received their Holiday gifts yet. I'm looking forward to Christmas when I can finally tell you about the gifts I'm giving! (Adam - send me a picture of you in your hat please! Or even just the hat would be great...thx!) :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recipe Review from 12/8/08

...and winter has arrived with a vengeance! We were hunkered down all day on Sunday with 30mph winds and blowing snow. It was so bad over in Wisc that they shut down the main highway between Superior and Ashland! That doesn't happen very often. I wasn't certain I was going to make it out of my driveway - the Husband was snow blowing at 10:00p last night but it all blew back in. Currently it is -4* with a -26* windchill. Yup. It's a little brisk!

And poor Kia-dog! She was out playing with the Husband this weekend and somehow ran into a stick hard enough to take a serious gouge out of her tummy/chest. She's back in a cone to prevent licking and give the spot a chance to start scabbing up. Poor us because she likes to take us out at the knees with her cone.

With the Husbands help last week, we made three new recipes:

(Picture from Cookinglight.com)

Lentil and Edamame Stew (Ckng Lght, Dec 08, pg 204) 4.0
This was very tasty and easy to make. I'm departing from my usual MO and attaching the recipe. I skipped the fresh mint and used dried parsley. It made about 5 servings.

Fava beans are traditional in this stew, which we updated with edamame. You can also substitute green peas for the edamame, if you like. Scoop up the thick stew with Teff Injera Bread or pita. Halve the portion if you'd like to serve this as a hearty side dish.

Yield
4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Ingredients
1 cup dried lentils
3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups minced red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves
Preparation

1. Place lentils in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and set aside.

2. Place edamame in a small saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above edamame. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until edamame are tender. Remove from heat; drain well.

3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and tomatoes to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring often. Stir in lentils, edamame, juice, and remaining ingredients. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often.

(Picture from Cookinglight.com)

Cornmeal Crusted {Coho} with Lime Butter (Ckng Lght, Dec 08 pg 250) 4.0
Another winner. I subbed coho for tilapia because we had some in the freezer. This recipe would be great with wild salmon. We were underwhelmed with the "lime butter" and ended-up adding some mayo to the sandwiches.

4 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Ingredients
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
4 (1 1/2-ounce) French bread rolls, toasted
4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
1 cup shredded red leaf lettuce
Preparation

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a shallow dish. Coat both sides of fish with cooking spray. Dredge fish in cornmeal mixture.

3. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

4. Combine butter, rind, and juice in a small bowl; stir well.

5. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons butter mixture over cut side of each of 4 roll tops. Place 1 fillet, 1 tomato slice, and 1/4 cup lettuce on each of 4 roll bottoms. Place top halves of rolls on sandwiches.


{Roast Beef} and Veggies (Ckng Lght SlowCooker Ckbk, pg 13) 3.0
This recipe originally called for corned beef, but neither one of us are fans of that cut of meat so I subbed a basic roast. The flavors of this dish were good, but we would do one differently next time:

The potatoes, carrots and onions were overcooked and the cabbage undercooked. Recipe called for placing the veggies in the bottom of the crockpot, put the meat in the middle and the cabbage on top for the last hour. The meat and veggies ended up being overdone and the cabbage underdone. Less cooking time for the meat and veggies and add the cabbage much sooner.

Everything kinda "braises" in a mixture of water, beer and peppercorns. This made a lovely liquid that I pulled out and made gravy out of. Yum yum. This also made a lot for just two of us, but that turned out to be a good thing this past weekend!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Children of Hurin by JRR Tolkein


CONTAINS SPOILERS!

At the risk of having rotten tomatoes thrown at me, I am going to admit: I find Tolkien tedious. I have read the Hobbit and LOTR trilogy several times now, and you know, I didn't find them all that engaging. I DO think the world Tolkien created is absolutely fascinating, but his writing style leaves so very much to be desired and they are such depressing books

And so it was with Children of Hurin. This was the book groups selection for December.

First - I dislike the use of 3 names (or more) for one person. I'd have to go back and count, but I think Turin had about 10 by the end of the tale. I don't see why character's had to go around re-naming everyone and thing.
Second - I dislike the use of 3 names for one place (see same note as above).
Third - Since I can't pronounce any of the names or places, I have a very difficult time remembering what is what. Most annoying. The names all become "mush" (seriously - I think Ahnon...mush).
Forth - I had a difficult time placing where in Middle Earth all this was taking place. I only read part of the intro, perhaps they elaborated more there.

This book was depressing: Hurin was stupid. Turin was stupid. Nienor was stupid. Morewen was stupid. The ELVES were stupid. Elves to Turin, "Don't do that. It's a bad idea. You are aggravating your curse and becoming arrogant." Turin, "I'm going to do it anyway." Elves to Nienor and Morewen, "Don't go. It's a bad idea. There is a large nasty dragon. Just wait here and we'll go." Morewen to Elves, "I'm going to do it anyway." Repeat several times with Men, Dwarves and a Dragon. Honestly? I was rooting for the dragon to just put everyone out of their misery.

I'm all for a book where main characters die - it adds a sense of realism for me - but this book was just too much. I couldn't even feel sorry for the characters as they died, they were so very two dimensional and had no redeaming qualities that said "Hero".

Lastly, I couldn't help but think this was comparable to the Odyssey (Illiad? I get them confused) but set in Middle-Earth. Main character travels far from home with a grievous curse upon his head. Women are left behind to wait. Then the long journey back to find everything is changed. And it all ends very badly.

If you are an avid Tolkien fan, this might be worth reading just because it IS Tolkien. However, I was an avid Tolkien fan and I was underwhelmed. It will be interesting to see what the book group has to say.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Monday

Much to my great surprise, I didn't make any new recipes last week! Still trying to clean-out the basement freezer in anticipation of our deer.

So I'll leave you with a picture of a recent visitor to our bird feeder instead.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Re-useable Gift Bags!

(Note - pictures are up on the previous post now!)

I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I haven’t touched my sewing machine since I left the Dance Troupe in 2005. And I haven’t made a quilt in, oh, at least 8 years. But yet, there I was last Saturday, rotary cutter in hand, sewing machine humming, fabric and ribbon strewn about the kitchen as I made these nifty re-useable Gift Bags!



They measure roughly 10" tall by 5-6" wide. I didn’t do a drawstring top because I despise having to pull the ribbon through. I’ve done enough of that with elastic for dance skirts that I was in no mood to do it for a bunch of little bags. I just attached the ribbon about 2" from the top so I can tie it around the outside of what ever I put in them.

The fabric was a selection of leftover remnants I had from past quilts that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. Ribbon was from Michaels - Ooo, be careful buying ribbon from them. I THOUGHT I was buying 2 $.50 rolls, but found out one was $2.00 after I got home! And there was hardly any ribbon on it! Grrr.

It only took me a couple hours at the most from start to finish. I may look through my remnants again and see if I can’t make a couple more. I’ll need some different ribbon though.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Knitting Update!

Thanksgiving proved to be a rather busy long weekend for me. We spent the whole day on Thursday at my Folks place, noshing and visiting and playing with the nieces - well, playing with Miss Amelia, Miss Lydia was just handed around for all of us to admire her cuteness. Friday was catch-up on house stuff day and Saturday I meet up with my Saturday morning yoga group then ran errands till 1:00p. Sunday, had the parents out for lunch and electrical work.

But little tykes aside, I kept my hand busy with a couple three knitting projects, so this is my Project Update Blog! Unfortunately, I forgot the camera at home this morning and will have to upload the pictures tomorrow.

Socktober Fest Socks
I haven’t forgotten about sock #2! I’ve been waiting for a quiet moment to count out the heel flap and heel turn - which I finished on Sunday, sitting in the dark, while waiting for the Husband and the Dad to figure out the electrical problem, while watching the Packers lose. I don’t recommend knitting with dark sock yarn in a dark living room with only the TV as light. I hope to be moving onto the instep stitches in the next week or so.

Dishcloths!


I picked up a new dishcloth “book” by Leisure Arts a while back and dishcloth #1 grabbed my fancy. I think it’s the Bee Stitch Cloth. Once I figured out how to keep track on whether I was on row 1 or row 2 stitches (look at the back), I whipped out two of these in a couple three days - fun, fun, pattern! And seriously, they knit up that fast.



Fashion Scarf

Sorry about the dark picture. It was the best I could do at 7:30 in the morning!

And I started a neck warmer based off of a pattern from Lolly Knitting Around for the youngest Sis. I’m hoping I have enough yarn for this - the yarn is originally from this hat and scarf set and there was a partial skein leftover that I’ve been wondering what to do with. I saw this pattern and thought it would be a elegant addition to her set. It’s a super simple pattern, but as Lauren noted, it curls rather significantly. I'll need to teach myself how to block for this one. And I LOVE how the pattern looks on both sides! I did do one modification - I did a seed stitch for 5 rows at the start for a nice border. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers I have enough to finish!


I need to knit faster...I would like to make 2 more hats before the end of the month and a couple more dishcloths. My poor sock - it might not get any attention after all!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Recipe Review week of Thanksgiving



Thanksgiving is usually my big recipe week, but not so much this year - we had Thanksgiving over at my Folks place and dishes and dessert were divvied up almost potluck style. The Mother made the turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy; I brought a root vegetable side dish, a cold broccoli salad, 2 pies and a vegetarian main dish; the SIL brought a pumpkin roll and cranberry pumpkin cake; and the SIL’s parents brought cranberry sauce. Needless to say, we didn’t go away hungry!

Here’s what I made last week:
(photo from eatingwell.com)
Glazed Root Vegetables (Eating Well, Dec 08, pg 82) 4.0
This was one of the better vegetable side dishes I’ve made for Thanksgiving, and it’s super versatile, calling for a 3 lbs of any kind of root vegetable. We used parsnips (from the garden), carrots and sweet potato. Rutabagas, turnips, beets, celeriac, any variety would work. Apple cider is mixed with brown sugar, salt and pepper and everything is tossed together in a 9x13 pan. This is covered and put in a 400* oven (I think - we modified the temp and times to accommodate le bird). Bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake, stirring every 20 minutes until the vegetables are nicely glazed and cooked through.

This was supposed to be tossed with cinnamon glazed walnuts, but in the business of final prep, they were forgotten. Isn’t that how it goes? I would make this dish again.

(photo from eatingwell.com)

Crisp Turkey Tostadas (Eating Well, Dec 08, pg 29) 4.5
Joe over on Culinary in the Country made these a while back, but I had to wait till I actually had some poultry leftovers! I made this for the Folks on Sunday, as a thanks for helping the Husband with a tricky electrical conundrum.

A can of diced tomatoes are placed in a sauce pan and brought to a boil. Thinly sliced onion is added and simmered till soft. Thinly sliced turkey is added and heated through. Meanwhile, I had the Mother mash 1 avocado and combine with sour cream, salsa (homemade!) and cilantro. 8 corn tortillas are lightly sprayed with olive oil, placed in a piping hot oven and cooked till nicely crisp (watch carefully! They go from crisp to burnt rather quickly!).

Here is where I deviated from the recipe - I slathered the avocado mixture on the tortilla (refried beans for the Dad since he doesn’t do avocado) and layered with the turkey mixture and popped back into the oven to warm up. Then everything was topped with thinly sliced lettuce and a bit of cheese.

I really liked these, though I think 2 tostadas per person is a bit much when serving refried beans and fresh corn muffins on the side. I would make these again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nation by Terry Pratchett


I am a HUGE fan of Terry Pratchett's work. If a new book is released, it’s usually in my hands within a couple of months. Nation isn’t set in the Discworld universe, which is a bit of a departure for the author.

Mau is a young boy/man, who was on his way back to his tiny island after his coming-of-age trial and discovers his Nation - everyone - has been swept away by a huge tidal wave. Daphne is a young girl on her way to meet up with her father who has become governor of some outlying colony. Her ship was caught in the same wave, deposited on Mau’s island, and she is the only survivor.

It is the story of two people who have to learn how to survive, communicate, help other survivors, govern and defend the island and people from pirates, cannibals, and colonization. It’s also a story that strongly questions religious beliefs and why God does what he does. Mau repeatedly wonders how a caring god could allow his family, his Nation, to be destroyed.

This is marketed as a young adult book, which really surprised me after reading it. It’s rather weighty in the philosophical, moral, and theological departments. But yet, it is not really an adult book either. The two main characters are both in their pre-teens who due to life’s circumstance (one very large wave) are now rulers of a small island community and what they must do to survive. A coming of age story in other words.

The ending was more mature than what I would find in most young adult books, but it certainly wasn’t your typical conclusion where they all lived happily ever after - at least not in the way most people would envision. But Pratchett does a wonderful job of addressing that as well.

So I did enjoy Nation, but it’s not one of my favorite Pratchett novels.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recipe Review from 11/17/08

As the weather outside grows frightful, the meals inside are delightful! Temperatures dipped down into the single digits last week. I don’t remember which morning it was, but when I dashed across the yard to the garage it was a measly 5*. Happily, it warmed back up into the 30's by the weekend.

But what a great excuse to make some soups and stews!

Picture from Eatingwell.com

Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup (Eating Well, Dec 08, pg 28) 4.5
I really liked the simplicity and ease of this soup. I planned ahead and bought a rotisserie chicken and divided it up for the two recipes this week (do you know how HARD it is NOT to eat a fresh rotisserie chicken?!) I had some portobelo caps on hand that needed to be used up so they were my mushrooms, and I used Swiss card for the celery and added some of the tops in for extra vitamins. Actually, I need to add here that the Husband did final assembly, I just prepped. I also cut back on the chicken and doubled the wild rice. I also used regular wild rice that I had pre-cooked and froze for just this purpose.

The onion, Swiss chard, mushrooms, and carrots were all briefly sauteed. The flour was added and warmed, and finally the broth poured in and thickened. Last, the chicken and rice. This was the perfect consistency, made about 4 or 5 servings, and had a nice creamy flavor. I would definitely make this again.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken and White Bean Stew (Ckng Lght Nov 08, pg 186) 3.0
In theory, this should have been spectacular. In reality, it came out tasty like Lemon Pledge. I place the blame firmly on the lemon grass. This used up the remainder of the rotisserie chicken, and was combined with potato and white beans (from our garden!). This was more stew-like than the previous soup, with flavors from cardamom, cloves, turmeric and lemon grass to name a few. I must give credit where credit is due, the Husband assembled this one for our lunches for the week, but I picked out the recipe. .

Again, I think the would have been really good if we had just skipped the lemon grass. As it is, we are picking out the lemon grass bits or eating around them. Some flavors just aren’t meant to be in a soup.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Waste Lands by Steven King


It took me a bit longer to finish the third book in the Dark Tower series - in part because I became busy and didn’t have much reading time during the week and in part it was because this one moved a bit slower.

The book begins with Roland training Eddie and Susannah to be Gunslingers. Susannah graduates when she shoots the antenna dish of a gigantic cyborg bear that is trying to eat Eddie. It is here the trio picks up the Beam, a line of energy that will take them to the center of the world and eventually to the Dark Tower.

The downside is, Roland is having problems with a split in his personal time-space continuum - part of his brain is saying one reality happened and the other half is saying it didn’t. He’s beginning to crack. Eddie is having strange dreams, dreams of the boy Jake that Roland may or may not have actually killed in book 1. Susannah is the only sane one left. Yet, in his own world, Jake is also having difficulties with a split personality, but he seems to be handling it a lot better, accepting what his brain is telling him and acting on it.

There is so much going on in this book that I don’t think even a nutshell could hold a summary. We see the birth of the key that will pave the way for Jake to enter Roland’s world and cure the split in time. Jake holds another key - a pair of books in this case - for getting them to the Dark Tower via Blaine, a psychotic monorail train. And there is little Oy, a billy bumbler (think racoon) with a great big huge heart for Jake.

So this story really isn’t about Roland. And it’s not really about Susannah. It seems to focus on Eddie and Jake and the World that has Moved On.

Did I like this one? Yes. I didn’t think it was quite as strong as book 1 and 2, but that was because I like the bits with Roland. However I did like the bit with Blaine - a train/city who’s slowly gone psycho over the last 800 years. Very creepy and futuristic. I look forward to reading book 4.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recipe Review from 11/10/08

Ahhh, a lull between the busy weekends! The weather has been fairly overcast, a bit windy and definitely on the cool side which has kept our outside activities a bit curtailed. Tonight I heard lows of 10*! Yikes! But this is a great excuse to make some chili’s, bake a chicken dinner and make a big pan of lasagna - which is exactly what we did.


Vegetarian Chili (Ckng Lght Sept 08, pg 88) 4.5
I really liked this chili. It was super simple to bring together, it doesn’t matter what beans I used and it tasted fantastic. The consistency was perfect, chunky tomatoes, lots of beans, and nice and saucy. Assembly consisted of sauteing onion, green pepper and red pepper. To this the seasonings were added and briefly toasted. Then I added the broth, tomatoes and beans. The beans I used were jacobs cattle (from the garden), black beans, and garbanzo beans. I loved the creaminess of all three. Since my Jacobs cattle needed to be cooked, I simmered this for an hour - recipe called for only 30 minutes, which is fine if using canned beans. I served this with some sweet corn muffins (Ckng Lght, Jan 2007, I think), and a bit of sour cream and cheese for toppings.



Chicken Baked over Mushroom Dressing (Eating Well, Dec 2008, pg 61) 4.0
I had Veteran’s Day off and thought this would be a splendid opportunity to make a nice dinner for my Veteran, and the idea of cooking the chicken and the stuffing at the same time intrigued me. A 4 - 4 1/2lb baking chicken is seasoned. I followed the recipe and used salt and dried thyme, but really, any herbal seasoning would work. This is placed breast down in a 9x13 baking pan and roasted for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, onions, a variety of mushrooms, and red pepper are sauteed with some salt, sage and oregano. This mixture is added to whole wheat bread cubes and everything is doused with chicken broth.

The chicken is pulled out and the nasty fat removed from the bottom of the pan. Then the stuffing is spread evenly in the bottom and the chicken added back in, to bake right side up. This actually worked pretty well. I did have to add extra broth as it baked, as my little chicken didn’t have enough juices to keep everything nice and moist. I liked how I could bake everything in one pan. I would make this again in the future with one adjustment - I would halve the stuffing. A 9x13 pan makes way too much. And some gravy would have been nice.



Parmesan and Root Vegetable Lasagna (Ckng Lght, Nov 18, pg 116) 4.0
Gripe #1: Where’s the roots?!? Recipe called for two veggies - sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Only one of those is a root vegetable so we added parsnips. Yum.

Gripe #2: Huge amount of prep with a fairly substantial baking time. 45 minutes to roast veggies. 30 minutes to bake with cover on. 20 minutes with cover off. Many thanks to the Husband for starting this one! Seriously - he prepped the veggies before I got home which was an immense help, and it still took another hour to finish prep and bake.

Order of assembly:
Cube and bake root vegetables with a cup of chopped onion. 45 minutes.

Bring 4 cups of milk to simmer with nutmeg, cloves, bay leaf and onion. Let stand 15minutes.

Grate 5 oz of Parmesan (note to self, buy pre-grated next time or have Husband grate). 10 minutes

Strain onion and bay leaf from milk; return to heat and add flour to thicken. Remove from heat and add cheese. 15 minutes.

Put no-boil noodles in the bottom of 9x13 pan (what’s this with only 3 noodles!? Use 5 at least.) Layer veggies, mozzarella cheese and white sauce. Repeat. Needed more mozzarella.

Baked covered at 400* for 30 minutes. Baked uncovered for 5.

Eat.

Despite all the putziness, this was really good. I served warm sourdough bread as the side and it was almost an ideal meal. A spinach salad would been a perfect addition. I would make this again using my modifications and buying pre-grated Parmesan.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Knitting Projects # 22 & 23; Update and Completed

For October, I was working on a pair of socks as part of Socktoberfest over on Ravelry. I got one sock finished, and a good start on sock number two. As I mentioned in Wednesdays post, we did a trip across the state to deer hunt and visit the Husbands family. The thing about visiting his family is it entails A LOT of sitting. I used to get real fidgety, but knitting really came through for me this weekend. I was able to finish the toe on the first sock (still having problems with that kitchner stitch) and get a good start on the second. I am a bit disappointed because I wasn’t able to start in the same spot color wise so the striping is off a bit. Oh well.



Pattern: Sensational Knitted Socks, Baby Cable
Needles: Guage #2, dps
Yarn: Wisdom Yarns, “Boston”

My sock needles are too small to knit with in the car, so I worked on re-doing the Husbands hat. The pattern was running rather large. I cast on 120 sts for a “large” size per the instructions, and it was HUGE, even for his noggin. Since I was so close to being done with it, I just frogged out enough to start a new hat in a “medium” with 108 sts cast on.



I finished the hat on Tuesday night. The "medium" was still a bit big, but I told the Husband we can always run it through the wash to shrink it down if he wants. I also wasn't happy with the decrease instructions, but I'm wondering if I read them incorrectly. I did what the directions said, but in hindsight, I think I translated them wrong.



Pattern: Ely Hat by Theresa Gaffey Designs
Guage: #8 cir
Yarn: Malabrogio Yarns (oh so soft and yummy!)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unfinished Business

The Husband and I did our yearly road trip to Fergus Falls for deer hunting and to visit his relatives. I don’t mind the four hour drive, I love the scenery and how it changes as you go straight across the state and now that I’ve learned how to knit, it’s a great way to get some serious stitching done. But something was niggling me on this trip: years ago, and I mean like 5 or 6 years ago (I remember this because one of the hounds was a puppy) I started a cross stitch project – a bouquet of trillium's - and I took it with me on one of these cross state trips. Two years ago I pulled it out with great intentions, but it got slid back into the bag to rest quietly, forgotten again.



When we got back, I decided it was waaayyy past time to finish it. Much to my surprise and delight, I had it done in under an hour. I don't know why I dallied so long!

Which made me think of my other languishing projects and hence, the title of this post. I rooted around in my cross-stitch storage bin and found this one:



I hesitate to tell you how long it’s been tucked away or when I started it, but I know it's been at least 20 years (I was still in high school!). It still has the old circular hoop marks on it and I switched over to the wooden frames about 10 years ago.

Then there is this one, a needlepoint project that I fell in love with. I think I stopped working on it because the side pillars weren’t looking good to me. I thought about switching floss, but I already had a quarter of it done and that was a bit much to rip out. It’s a large project too, measuring a foot and a half across the top and sides - not a good project to transport around.




And my last project here is finished, but now I wonder what the heck I’m going to do with it. It is one of six castles in a series and I haven’t made the other five. I’m not certain I want to make the other castles. What to do. What to do.




So there they are. My unfinished stash confessions.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Root Vegetable Stew with Herbed Dumplings

Small recipe review this week. The Husband was out of town at the beginning of the week and we were both out of town Friday through Monday. And I got lazy mid-week and we went out to eat one night, I was just too pooped to deal with cooking and dishes. I'm not certain what I'm going to make next week - I've been too busy running around getting ready for the weekend.



Root Vegetable Stew with Herbed Dumplings (Eating Well, Dec 08) 4.5
The Husband made this last Wednesday night with very tasty results. This is a very versatile recipe that calls for 2 lbs of assorted root vegetables so you can tailor it to your tastebuds: beets, celeriac root, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots and turnips. We used sweet potato (he doesn't like beets), with parsnips and carrots from the garden.

He noted that the recipe called for making things in two pots, but after reviewing the directions, he said it was easily done in one. He sauteed the kielbasa (our substitute for Italian or Sweet sausage) and set aside, then he sauteed the onion and added everything else. The Husband noted that he did boil the carrots and parnsips a bit longer than called for - the last time we cooked with them they weren’t quite done. For the spinach we used up some of the last of the chard greens from the garden

While the soup was simmering, he made the dumplings. The recipe calls for cake flour and whole wheat pastry flour, but he just used regular for each. Our dumplings weren't what I would call heavy, but they didn't turn out exactly light either. The consistency was very similar to bread which I thought held up well in the soup, better than other flour dumplings we've made in fact.

I would make this again - I think it would be lovely for company on a chilly day.

The Husband made this last Wednesday night with very tasty results. This is a very versatile recipe that calls for 2 lbs of assorted root vegetables so you can tailor it to your tastebuds: beets, celeriac root, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots and turnips. We used sweet potato (he doesn't like beets), with parsnips and carrots from the garden.

He noted that the recipe called for making things in two pots, but after reviewing the directions, he said it was easily done in one. He sauteed the kielbasa (our substitute for Italian or Sweet sausage) and set aside, then he sauteed the onion and added everything else. The Husband noted that he did boil the carrots and parnsips a bit longer than called for - the last time we cooked with them they weren’t quite done. For the spinach we used up some of the last of the chard greens from the garden

While the soup was simmering, he made the dumplings. The recipe calls for cake flour and whole wheat pastry flour, but he just used regular for each. Our dumplings weren't what I would call heavy, but they didn't turn out exactly light either. The consistency was very similar to bread which I thought held up well in the soup, better than other flour dumplings we've made in fact.

I would make this again - I think it would be lovely for company on a chilly day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King


Book Two of the Dark Tower series.

Book two picks up right where Gunslinger leaves off. Roland, the last Gunslinger fell asleep sitting on the beach and woke up a bit on the groggy side. Next thing he knows, a lobstrocity has munched his right hand and foot. And book two is off and running. Roland knows he going to come across three doors, and three people behind those doors, on his quest for the penultimate Dark Tower. This is that story.

Okay, so I'm really simplifying the plot here, but I simply cannot do justice to Kings prose. After reading The Gunslinger in one sitting, I was leery if book two would be as engrossing - it is. The world to me is definitely a cross between a spaghetti western, Zelazny's Amber series, and an epic fantasy.

And it's the small things that really make this story click - such as the cocaine addict Eddie who fights a gun battle buck nekked. King has Roland acknowledge this feat, in the middle of battle, which makes it that much more poignant.

I had read one review for this book, in which the reader thought book two was darker. I have not found it so - the whole series has a darkness to it, but there are dry, wry, tidbits of humor sprinkled through out.

Thank heavens Amanda lent the whole series to me, I think I'm going to be reading them straight through.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Recipe Review from 10/27/08

Oh my oh my. What an exciting week! Our local and state elections were as exciting as the national one. Still, I’m glad all the campaigning is over - we may now resume our regularly scheduled programs called life.

To play catch-up from Monday, here’s last weeks recipe review:



Ziti with Tomatoes and Spinach in Gorgonzola Sauce (Ckng Lght Sept 08, pg 148) 4.5
This was an excellent dish with great flavor that came together very quickly. I did have a couple of substitutions - campanelle pasta for the ziti, swiss chard for the spinach and some baby portobelo tossed to use them up. While the pasta is boiling, I briefly sauteed the mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic. To this was added the Gorgonzola cheese and a splash of ½ n ½ to make it nice and creamy. When the pasta was complete, it was added to the pan and coated in the sauce and vegetables.

Only one complaint about the recipe itself - the directions call to make the sauce first then boil the pasta. Very misleading because the sauce is then cooling while one is waiting for the pasta to cook. The two can be done simultaneously.



Roasted Parsnip Soup (Eating Well, Nov/Dec 08, pg 80) 3.5
The Husband made this recipe and had a few complaints about it - the directions call to clean and core the parsnips. He felt not only was this a pain in the patooie, but unnecessary as well. In past recipes, we have never cored our parsnips. Second, the roasting didn’t seem to soften the vegetables as the recipe indicated. Perhaps a longer recommended roasting period is necessary or a combination of roasting and boiling. There was supposed to be a balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled over the top, but that was more work than he/we wanted to deal with for just dinner.

So the soup ended up a bit granular - almost with a cream of wheat consistency. We liked the peppery flavor, and it was perfect for these fall nights, but we both agreed it could have been better.

Pumpkin Muffins (Ckng Lght Annual 07, pg 396) 3.5
I happened to have all the ingredients on hand so I whipped up a batch of these for a yoga book group meeting this past Sunday. Due to the addition of molasses, these were a bit stronger in the flavor department than I would have liked - the molasses being tempered by buttermilk, brown sugar, pumpkin and a heck of a lot of spices. They did bake up very moist with a nice open crumb. I did substitute craisins for raisins because many folk just do like raisins in their baked goods (me being one of them). I am waffling if I would make them again - they were good, but not really what I like in a pumpkin muffin.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones

Today is usually recipe review day, but I left my recipe list at home as I dashed out the door. And typically I have my posts all ready to go for Monday, needing only to upload the photos, but I was computerless this weekend, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I can't work ahead for the week.

So instead of recipes (which I will post for Wednesday) I will review a book about food and recipes: The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones


This was a very quick and interesting read - I finished it in a couple of days. Judith Jones is the editor who brought the world Anne Frank’s Diary and Mastering the Art of French Cooking and many other well known cookbooks in the 1950s, 60's and 70's. She was there to ride the wave of French cooking and good home cooking in general and eventually international cooking in America at a time when jello molds and cream of mushroom casserole’s were a standard.

Jones doesn't dwell too long on any one particular chef or author, but keeps the story lively by keeping to the highlights. We are introduced to her passion for French food (or perhaps I should say good food) as a young woman in France in the late 40's early 50's, how she came to be an editor for Knopf and her quest to cook well.

While I enjoyed the book, a couple items did manage to irritate me: at times I found the tone a bit condescending - if you didn’t aspire to cook French, then you really aren't a true cook. If you are from the Midwest, you really just don't know how to cook - after all, Midwesterners only eat out of cans and apparently this was proven on a trip to rural Iowa and Minnesota. Well excuuuusseee us Midwesterners for not living in NYC. Her writing style, while enjoyable to follow, often had small holes where some item of information was left wanting and would either be provided later or not at all.

Other than that, I found the book to be a neat look at the history of the cookbook, how influential a small group of people (Judith Jones, Alfred Knopf, Julia Child, Mariann Cunningham, James Beard and others) were in shaping the course of appetites in America. This book also dovetails very nicely with My Life in France by Julia Child, as the histories overlap. So if you are looking for a mellow yet enjoyable book to read on vacation or for a lazy day around the house, this would be a good choice.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan


This review has been a long time in the coming, as, in a most unaccustomed fashion, it took me a while to read this book. I found this was not the book to read right before bed, at 10:00 at night, as I could only manage a page or two before my lights went out. I don't know why it took me so long, because this was an amazing book. Pollan takes the reader on a food adventure that is thought provoking, disturbing while quietly challenging they way we all look at the meal in front of us - all without being obnoxious or righteous.

The book begins simply enough in an Iowa cornfield as Pollan breaks down the history of corn and the future of this simple grain. He deftly weaves this into how we eat this product and what it’s doing to us and agriculture as a whole. From Iowa we travel with him as he visits his steer (#534) in the Colorado grassfields and again in the feedlot in Kansas.

The middle portion of the books moves into sustainable agriculture at its finest as he spends a week at Polyface farm. Polyface sounds like an amazing place. Pollen starts the week on his stomach in a field examining the soil at the behest of Joe Saladin, and over the course of the week helps to move the cows from pasture to pasture, he assists in moving the chicken pens and describes they symbiotic relationship between the chickens and the cows. He talks about the rabbit and chicken house and the symbiotic relationship that exists there, he describes the cow barn in the spring and how the pigs turn 3 feet of cow muck, hay and fermented corn into black compost. And to Pollans credit, he participates in the chicken slaughter. During it all, Pollan contrasts and compares “conventional farming” with this picture of “sustainable farming” with the help of Joe.

In the third segement, Pollan has moved to California and examines what it means morally and ethically to be vegetarian while giving up meat for a month. He has also decided to make a meal completely from those items he has grown, foraged and hunted himself. We follow the author as he learns how to shoot a rifle and goes on his first hunt. I found this section not as strong as the other two, but still interesting.

This book is presented in such a down to earth matter that the reader can’t help but start to question how their food arrived on the table, and, more importantly, where it arrived from. Pollan doesn’t pontificate. He doesn’t raise his fist and pump it toward the sky and tell us we are all Bad People for Eating Meat. He doesn’t bombard us with anthropormophisism or silly sentiment. He took himself on a quest, told us what he found, and I appreciated that more than anything.

Has this changed how I look at my food? You bet it has. Even more surprising, it changed the Husband's outlook as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bangkok Royal Thai Restaurant, Duluth, MN

10/16/10 - Editing to add Bangkok Royal restaurant has regretably gone out of business.  If you want Thai food in Duluth, I strongly recommened Thai Kratong in Canal Park (S. Lake Ave). 

It was a dark and stormy day. The rain was coming down in cold sheets of stinging pellets and the clouds hung heavy in the sky. So when the lunch invite came across e-mail, there was no hesitation in saying YES! And the negotiations began...

We agreed to try the new Thai restaurant: Bangkok Royal. Not certain it was even open, we knew we could walk across the parking lot for Bridgeman’s Friday fish fry as a backup. We knew it was in the location of the former Saigon CafĂ© back behind Bridgeman’s in the Village Mall -for those of you from the area.

The interior has had a facelift and a bit of a renovation. The decor is simple: white linens, simple pictures from Thailand, long drapes in the windows, with one end of the room elevated to accommodate floor tables and cushions. Overall appearance was one of elegance. Did we make a mistake in coming for lunch?

We were given a single sheet of heavy stock paper for the lunch menu and the waitress explained that with our lunch order we would get either one fried spring roll or one fresh spring roll and we were left to figure out the menu. At first glance my apprehension grew - I knew what Phad Thai was (and it has peanut butter and peanuts in it), but it took explaining from the waitress to figure out the rest. Ahh! Not so difficult after all - for example, “With Ginger” explains the base of the dish, and you can then choose between chicken, pork, or beef.

I picked Phad Cee Eow (“pad cee oo”) with chicken - wide rice noodles stir fried with vegetables in a dark soy bean sauce. My dining companion chose “with basil - chicken”: stir fried with house roasted chili sauce, vegetables, bamboo shoots and topped with basil. Beverages were one coffee and one tea.

The spring rolls came first - piping hot, lightly fried with a tangy sauce on the side. The main dishes were delicious. The Phad Cee Eow was flavorful and saucy, perfect “comfort food” for a rainy day. The Basil Chicken was bright and crisp - the vegetables being yellow peppers, thinly sliced sweet potatoes, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts (I think....). The chicken in both dishes was thinly sliced white meat and cooked to perfection. Even with sharing dishes, there was enough to take home for lunches.

Lunch prices ranged from $9.95 to about $13.95. I grabbed a menu to take with and dinner prices start at $13.95. Would I go again? Yes.

After I got back to the office, I told another co-worker about Bangkok Royal, and it sounded like he was going to try it out later that evening. I will have to get his thoughts.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Recipe Review from 10/20/08

It seems hard to believe that we are already through October. The weather has remained, for the most part, absolutely fantastic. We've had some rain and cool nights, but I think I've counted only 4 day's where nighttime temps were 30*. Even this weekend with The Big Storm bearing down on us. What was predicted to be a snowy blustery day became a very blustery day with scattered rain showers. The Dad and the Husband fit in a trip to Menards for landscaping supplies.

But I digress. I thought I made more last week but it looks like I have only two recipes to review.

Three-cheese Mac n' Cheese (Ckng Lght, Sept 08) 4.0
The Husband helped with this one - I grated the Gruyere, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses while he chopped the onion and started the pasta. Then I prepped the flour, salt and bay leaf while he sauteed the chopped onion. So really it was a tag-team event.

I had two issues with this recipe, the first one being the directions were out of order. It takes time to get water heated up, so WHY do they put the "prepare pasta according to directions" as the second paragraph after chopping and grating and sauteing? It should be number one. The pasta will remain warm until the cheese roux mix is prepared.

My second complaint was this ended up on the dry side, not as creamy as either of us would have liked. I think this was in part because the cheesy roux was done and we were waiting for the pasta to finish. Oh well. It still had good flavor and made a comfortable amount for two people with leftovers for the coming day.

Joe over on Culinary in the Country also made this dish and you can read his review here.

Cranberry-Apple Pie (modified from Cooks Illustrated) 4.0
About a year ago, Cooks Illustrated had a recipe for a Cranberry-Apple pie. I made it, but I had to modify the recipe - it called for cooking the apple in a microwave and I don't have a microwave. The resulting pie was good, but not great, and it was way more work than I wanted to deal with when I had several other pies to make.

The Husband recently requested a cranberry-apple pie, and this recipe has been floating around in the noggin. I pulled it out and decided to do it my way. I took 2 cups of cranberries, 1/4 cup oj, sugar and a splash of salt and boiled the mixture until it made a jam like consistency and set aside. While that was going on, I pre-baked my bottom crust. I let the crust cool for a bit then spread the cranberry sauce in the bottom. I peeled, cored and sliced 2 Cortland's, 2 harlesons, and 2 red barons. Tossed these with a mixture of 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp corn starch, 1/4 (1/2?)tsp cinnamon and 1/8 all spice; then layered over the top of the cranberries and tucked everything in. Baked for 1 hour.

Result? Very good. The tartness of the cranberries was offset by the sugar (I think I would do less next time) and the apple juices mingled with the jam enough so all the yummy flavors melded together. My one mistake was not using my deep-dish pie plate, so I wasn't able to fit in all the apples. I wish I had taken a picture.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Gunslinger (Dark Tower - Book I) by Steven King


I have a confession to make - this is the first time I have read a Steven King novel. Ever. Yes, I know he is reputed to be an excellent writer, but I don’t do horror. Period. But, I was talked into trying this series and after reading the afterward (I tend to do things backwards), I was intrigued enough to read the book from the beginning.

I read it in one sitting.

Then I went and begged my friend for the rest.

In this book, we are introduced to Roland, the last of the Gunslingers. The story revolves around Roland, Jake (from an alternate Earth) and the Man in Black. In a world turned upside down from some kind of climatic change, revolutions and war, Roland is the last of the Gunslingers. Jake is a young boy, found in the middle of the desert at a way station (a nod to Cllifford Simak perhaps?). The Man in Black carries knowledge of the Dark Tower that Roland wants.

I loved the setting - an eclectic cross between a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western and a fantasy novel with a tich of Victorian England thrown in (complete with Stonehenge). It’s almost Steampunk-ish, but not quite. Dark and mysterious, the story pulls the reader along as Roland revisits the past while doggedly pursuing the future.

I can’t wait to start the next book.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ledge Rock Grille - revisited

The Parents treated the Husband and myself to dinner at the Ledge Rock Grille, Larsmont Cottages - just south of Two Harbors, MN - last Friday night. I noted our first visit back in June 08 here.

Our first experience in June was outstanding, and so it was with delighted anticipation that we returned on a brisk fall evening. Unfortunately, our expectations were sadly disappointed for this return visit. The ambiance was still just as fun, with the open kitchen at one end and big windows at the other, but it was the food which, somewhere in the intervening months, took a downward slide.

The Husband ordered the Spicy Chicken Flatbread.
The Mom ordered Baked Seafood Cannelloni
The Dad had a steak off of the "Hawaiian" menu (it was Tiki party week)
I had Parmesan Crusted Stuffed Portobello with flatbread.
We shared an appetizer of fancy fried onion wedges and Dad had some rather tasteless French Onion soup.

The menu seemed to be lacking...something. There were only 4 steak items - and this includes the Hawaiian menu. The Steak Kabob appetizer, Hickory Scented Filet Mignon ($34.00!), steak and onion flatbread and the "Hawaiian" dish Dad ordered (which was a "hanger" steak, aka flank steak). Three of the "Wood-fired" specialties were, as we came to realize when the Husband ordered his dish, merely 10" pizzas. Prices ranged from reasonable to outrageous with no middle ground. I certainly do not mind a small menu, but there needs to be a reasonable range of dishes and prices.

Dad was underwhelmed with his dish. We were all shocked that the two choices of steak were either the filet mignon or a hanger steak. Talk about two ends of the spectrum. The Husbands "wood-fired" Spicy Chicken Flatbread was merely a pizza: bits of diced chicken with some melted cheese and - this is funny - 4 whole cherry tomatoes neatly spaced around it. Visually laughable.

Mom's seafood dish was good, if not a bit rich as it was smothered in a cream sauce. I did enjoy my Portobello mushroom but I didn't need 8 wedges of flatbread. Some sauteed veggies or a wild rice pilaf would have been a better side.

The best part of the visit (other than just being out with good company) was their wild rice bread with lingonberry butter. Oh my. Served warm, the sweet butter melts delightfully over the nutty bread. I could have ate a couple baskets of that alone with some cheese and wine. Mmmm...

So it is with regret I am reporting back that Ledge Rock Grille did not stand up to the quality of our spring visit. Sadly, we probably won't go back for a while now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Recipe Review week of 10/13/08

Things were "cookin" up this week, thanks in part to the Husband! Two of the recipes made last week were made by him.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Salmon (Everyday Food issue ??) 4.0
Super simple recipe - salmon, brussel sprouts, olive oil, salt, pepper. The recipe called for prepping the sprouts and slicing in half. Then toss with olive oil and seasonings. Place on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and bake at 450* for 10-13 minutes. Remove, add prepared salmon, and finish baking.

In hindsight, the recipe must assume that the salmon fillet is very thin. Because our sprouts were done waaaayy before the fillet was. And the oven temp was much to high (450*) to be cooking salmon in. In retrospect, I would start the salmon first OR do sprouts and fillet at the same time. This was nice for its simplicity of flavors and ease of prep, and we would do this again.




Cider Braised Chicken and Cabbage (Irish Cookbook) 4.0
I'm not entirely certain what the prep was like for this as the Husband assembled it before I got home. From what I can deduce from the dishes though, I think the chicken breasts were lightly breaded and briefly seared before being placed in a sturdy baking dish on top of a bed of sliced carrots and onions. Sliced cabbage was placed over the top of the chicken and a combination of broth (vegetable in this case because I had some open) and apple cider (a substitution for hard cider) and everything is allowed to bake for about an hour.

Absolutely delicious! Tender onion, firm carrots, such flavorful cabbage, juicy chicken! This would be a great dish to serve to company. We'll be making this again.



Walnut Crusted Pork Chops with Autumn Wild Rice (Ckng Lght Oct 08, pg 177) 3.5
This was my Sunday dinner dish: a finely ground walnut crust flavors a lightly seared and steamed porkchop which is served alongside a wild rice pilaf of Swiss chard, onion, carrot and mushroom. I thought the flavors of this dish were really good, but it lost points in putzyness. And it really wasn't all that complicated - I think I was sidetracked by the fact I had just overcooked my banana cake for book group.

To review: a couple of thick cut porkchops are drizzled with Worcestershire sauce and a mixture of salt, pepper, dried sage and finely chopped walnuts are pressed into the surface and allowed to chill for 30 minutes. The wild rice is then put on to cook (mine only takes about 20 minutes). Onion, carrot, swiss chard, and mushrooms are lightly sauteed and mixed with the finished rice. While this is going on, the pork chops are seared then steamed in a bit of chicken broth.

So this wasn't by any means a complicated recipe, and it had good flavor. This would also be good for company (providing no nut allergies!). I served a broccoli cranberry salad on the side for some added veggies.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Interlude



I have hit a bit of an interlude - I'm kinda between books right now. I am reading Omnivore's Delemma by Michael Pollen and the Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Eswaran, but I haven't settled on what sf&f book I want to read next. And I'm not in the mood for a mystery.

I've been plugging away at a couple of knitting projects. I'm working on a pair socks for Socktoberfest over on Ravelry. I'm doing a baby rib pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks and it is coming along very nicely. I am about to start the heel flap - I just need a moment to sit down and start.

And last night I finished another "scrappy" dishcloth then attempted to cast on a hat for the Husband. After two attempts with the yarn coming up short on a count of 120 sts, I called it quits for the night.



Garden still needs to be torn down and bedded for the winter. Hoping to do that Saturday if it doesn't rain. Yard needs one more mowing and porch trim under the eaves could use that final sand and paint. Need warm weather for that though.

I thought I was done with canning after last weekends adventures, but the applesauce turned out so good I want to make some more.

And I'm taking Friday off to take the hounds into the vet for fall shots and check-ups.

Even Ben has found himself in a bit of a interlude.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recipe Review from 10/6/08

It's the best time of year...and the busiest. I knuckled down on Sunday and got some of my apples processed: three pies (froze two, baked one), and 7 pints of applesauce. The applesauce is cooling as I write this and the burnt sugars on the bottom of my stock pot are soaking. I am fretting that it will never come off! Between the pies and the applesauce I estimate I used about 15 lbs of apples, and I still have about 1/4 of a grocery bag left. At least with it being nice and cool I can leave them out in the garage.



And I have to finish canning some salsa yet tonight as well. The Husband is somewhere out in the "back 20" deer hunting so I grabbed a moment from chopping to get this entry ready for Monday.

In the meantime, I made a couple new recipes:

Brat, Beer and Cheese Soup (Penzey's Catalog, Harvest 08) 3.0
I was underwhelmed by this recipe. It sounded good, it looked good in the pot, it smelled good...I just didn't think it was anything worth repeating. Pretty simple recipe actually: Saute onion, carrot, and celery until soft. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir till warm, then add the broth, beer, potato and spices and simmer until potato's are done. Meanwhile, the kielbasa (my sub for brats) is lightly fried and set aside. Cheddar cheese is stirred in and the sausage is added last. We didn't puree some a cup of the broth and veggies to thicken the soup, maybe we should have. I halved this recipe and it still made enough for dinner and lunches for the rest of the week for one of us.

Broccoli Salad (Ckng Lght Annual 2003, pg 157) 4.5
I FOUND IT! I FOUND IT! THIS is THE recipe! A while back I discovered a very tasty broccoli salad in the Cub deli. It was broccoli, golden raisins, and bacon (though one is hard pressed to find said bacon in their salad...) all in a very yummy creamy - but not to thick! - white sauce of some kind. Figuring I could make this simple salad at home if I only knew what the sauce was, I started searching through my cookbooks. I happened to have some left over broccoli and some toasted sunflower seeds - but no raisins, I was out - I quick made up a modified version of this.

Broccoli florets, sunflower seeds are tossed with a mayo, red wine vinegar, and sugar mixture. Let stand in fridge for one hour (I let stand for about 15 minutes - dinner was imminent and this was an afterthought). Serve. I will be making this again!

Applesauce (Ball Blue Book of Preserving) 4.0
Do you realize how many apples are in 10 1/2 lbs? A HECK of a lot! And this is after pre-making 3 apples pies. Still, pretty simple and incredibly tasty - apples are peeled, cored and sliced and put in a pot with some water to gently bake down. I added 1 1/2 cup sugar to sweeten it a tich and pureed it so it would be just a bit chunky. Delicious! Now to get the last 3 cans to seal...



Zesty Salsa (Ball Blue Book of Preserving)
10 cups of tomatoes peeled, seeded, and cored. 5 cups of green peppers. 1 lb of jalapeno peppers. 1 1/2 lb onion. Chop everything. Toss in large stock pot (hoping it all fits) with some apple cider. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Can. I have decided canning anything with tomatoes is a pain in the heiney! I/we got it done - by 8:30pm everything was in the jars and sealed. The Husband felt that it was a little on the bland side, but we can perk that up with some fresh cilantro and hot peppers when we serve it.

Total tally for Sunday "preserving":
3 pies
7 pints applesauce
9 pints salsa

Note to self: in the future, DON'T can so much on one day!!! I am exhausted....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stranger in a Strange Land by R. Heinlein


I read this one for an on-line scifi book group through Goodreads.com and because it was on my Hugo Winner list as one of the last four I need to read. The remaining are now Snow Queen by Joan De Vinge; Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke; and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein.

Now, this is not my first time reading Stranger, but it's been over 25 years since I last picked it up. I'm fairly certain that I read this in JR High if not High School so I could have made the argument that yes, I already read this and don't need to read it again (same goes for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress). But, my attitudes, opinions and experiences are not the same as they were when I was a scrawny, knockkneed geek of a girl.

Valentine Michael Smith was found on Mars by a second expedition to the Red Planet and brought back to be with his "own kind". But Michael - aka Mike - is not entirely human even though he wears the skin of humankind. Jill and Ben realize that the government is keeping Mike hidden, and after Ben disappears, Jill sneaks Mike out of the hospital and makes her way to Jubal Hershaw's domain. It is here that Mike gets his education concerning humanity - covering everything from how humans think, act, religion, sexual morals, the whole kaboodle. Mike voraciously reads several everything in Jubal's house, including the law books and encyclopedias.

But Mike is also teaching Jubal and his merry band of Amazonian women (that's a whole 'nother aspect of Heinlein which I won't get into here) what it means to be a "water brother" and "grokking". And while Michael is very naive in many ways, he's far older than those around him.

I know there are two versions of Stranger floating around: one is the uncut version which Heinlein's widow had published after his passing. I'm not sure if mine is the uncut or first edition. It doesn't matter - the uncut version has more of Heinlein's pontificating about societies ills and where we went wrong and what he felt we should do about it.

There isn't enough space on this posting to really get into everything Heinlein espoused or slammed here. Or whether or not he made women into strong characters or smart Barbie's. Or whether he uses the same 5 characters (but with different names) over and over and over in his books. I think stranger is becoming dated to some degree, but I find that is part of the charm. Was it worth re-reading? Definitely. I'm looking forward to re-reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Knitting Project #20/21: Sherbrooke Cowl

The parents gave me a gift certificate to The Fiber Works in Superior, WI, last Holiday season and before I left for Denver in August I decided to grab a few skeins of yarn for the trip. I bought this yarn for me with this pattern in mind: Sherbrooke Cowl by Lollyknitting Around.

For being such a simple pattern: Rnd 1 - K5 P5; Rnd 2 - K2 P2; I was certainly unknitting quite a bit! I frogged out the initial start probably about 4 times - the initial cast on created a rather small tube and I had grave concerns about it even fitting over my head. So I kept casting on, knitting, and ripping out. Final cast-on I think was 90sts.

And this was not a good pattern for socializing or listening to panels. I found if I wasn't keeping close track to my counting, I invariably would need to backtrack to the offending stitches and continue on. I did A LOT of backtracking.



I don't think this yarn wanted to be a cowl, or at least this particular cowl. I am not satisfied with the end results. It was way too long at the recommended 18" and I felt there were too many mistakes that show now that it is done. I will probably be frogging this one out and doing something else with the yarn.

However, I did make sister K4 this cowl with some leftover yarn from her mitten and scarf set from last spring. This one turned out perfect! It was a lovely length at about 12" or so and the pattern just clicked. I did keep the cast on at 90 stitches as the recommended cast on of 60 sts was still way to narrow. I look forward to giving this to her to add to her fashion accessories.



Pattern: Sherbrooke Cowl by LollyKnitting Around
Needles: #8 dps
Yarn: Araucania 100% Wool (www.araucaniayarns.com)

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