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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Recipe Review for 4/21/08

Our recipe count is going much better this month. We've had a bit more downtime to not only think a week ahead, but time to make some great dishes as well. I also need to report back from my "messes and successes" post a week ago that the homemade yogurt did not turn out and down the drain it went. I'll make a new batch this weekend and pay more attention to what I am doing!

Halibut Sandwiches with Tartar Sauce (Ckng Lght Apr 08, pg182) 4.0
These were similar to the Oven-fried Catfish sandwiches I made the week before. The difference was the halibut had no coating and I grilled it. Have you tried grilled halibut yet? Oh my, delicious. Absolutely delicious. I did lightly season the halibut with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. The tartar sauce was mayo, sweet relish, and chopped capers. I lightly toasted a baguette loaf I had cut into fish-sized buns, slathered the mayo on and topped with fish and lettuce. I forgot the tomato, but it was still delicious. I served with sea salt and vinegar chips. I would make these again because they were so yummy and quick.

Creamy Tomato Sauce with Penne (Cooks Illustrated, May/June 08, pg14) 4.5
This was excellent! And extra points were awarded for ease of assembly and preparation. Finely diced onion, pancetta and a bay leaf were sauteed til golden in a couple tablespoons of butter. Minced garlic was added and quick seared. Tomato paste and a half cup of wine was added for a quick reduction and then a partial can of crushed tomatoes added to that. The spices were salt and crushed hot pepper. Then this was set aside to simmer, which was plenty of time to bring a pot of water to boil and cook the penne. I served this with a salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a bit of warmed baguette (leftover from the halibut). This was me: mmmmmmm...

Trout Pasties with Dill Pesto (Mpls Star Tribune, April 10, 2008) 4.0
This was the Hubbies dish for the week in another attempt to use up some of the lake trout in our freezer and to find another dish where I’ll find said lake trout palatable. For those of you who might just be tuning in, about the only fish I’m not exactly thrilled to eat is Lake Superior Lake Trout.

And we had a winner! A pre-made piecrust is rolled out and cut into little pieces. The trout is cubed and set on each piece and is topped with a dollup of dill pesto. I believe the “pesto” consisted of mayo, garlic, lemon juice and dill, all pureed together which is then placed on each piece of pie and trout. This is all enclosed in a nice little packet. These are popped into the oven and cooked for about 20-25 minutes or until the little packets turn golden brown. Served with a side of the leftover dill pesto and sprinkled with grated Parmesan, these were just the right thing for the rich trout. We have more trout in the freezer and an extra pie crust...the hubby will have to make these again! Lucky me!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I checked the calendar. It says it's April...nearly May. This is a shot of my poor crocus's this morning.

To cheer myself up, I went and checked in on our seeds. It looks like the brussel sprouts are up! I told them, "Don't be in a hurry snowed yesterday."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

My draft of this post got lost in the scheme of things, but we'll fix that today. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn was March’s book group selection that nobody finished, but we all wanted to. The group collectively just ran out of time. It happens. Eifelheim was also a Hugo Nominee in 2007 that didn’t come out in paperback until the end of the year so I didn’t have a chance to read it before the Hugo Awards were announced.

Eifelheim is set in Southern Germany in the late 1300's. The Black Plague has begun it’s death march farther north, but to the small village of Oppenheim it is a distant threat. The main character, Dietrich is the spiritual leader of the village and friend to Manfred, the Herr of the lands. It is Dietrich who discovers the Krencken, a strange group of men which resemble large grasshoppers, who have taken up illegal residence in the Herr’s forest. The Herr wants them expelled and it’s Dietrich who persuades him that they have no place to go. It is through Dietrich’s eyes that we watch the metamorphosis of the village attitudes towards these strange men from afar.

There is a second storyline surrounding Tom and Sharon, an historian and a, well, I’m going to call her an astrophysist. Tom has taken an interest in why a small German village named Eifelheim was never repopulated when according to all his charts and modules it should have been. Sharon is exploring the space between space. This second story line wasn’t nearly as interesting as the one with Dietrich, but it had it’s place.

I really enjoyed this book. The nuances of medieval village life that Flynn incorporated added a subtle depth to not only the characters but the world they lived in. It made the appearance of the aliens and the villages acceptance (or not in some instances) plausible and believable. Flynn also hinted at a richer past to Dietrich, an almost “Brother Cadfael” background if you will, which elevated his character from that of a bumbling village priest to someone you wanted to sit down and get to know over a cup of mead.

I recommend this book. Well written and interesting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Knitting Project #13 - K4's Scarf, Hat, and Mittens

I have been working on this project in stages since December. She bought a new coat in November and requested new accessories to go with it. I did warn her there were other projects in front of her but that I would try my best to get them done. We settled on an antique rose pink to compliment the the deep maroon in her jacket.

The hat and scarf came together very quickly and so it was with great optimism I started the mittens. Mitten #1 went okay. There were a couple new techniques involved but I felt I did alright. Upon binding off the mitten proper with only the thumb remaining, I decided that my first attempt warranted re-doing. The instructions given for increasing the stitches left little ladder holes which I did not particularly care for. Since this was also a first attempt at working in the round completely with DPS I had loose rows where the stitch changed needles. I didn’t like that either. The pattern had been easy enough to do so I resolved to make a second mitten then redo the first.

Well, I ripped apart mitten #2 no less than five - count them! 5 times! It was little things: I counted wrong, I increased in the wrong spot, I somehow added additional rows, etc. On the positive side, I did learn how to keep a nice snug stitch and not get those little ladders between needles, and I found a way to increase that makes a nice tight seam. Still, I was left very frustrated as I wanted to give her the whole set while we still had snow on the ground. Oh well, that's how projects go sometimes.

Hat Pattern: Ann Norling "Head Huggers" by Gail Tanquary
Yarn: Cascade Yarns, Color #2449, Lot #5629
Gauge: #7

Scarf Pattern: Theresa Gaffey Designs #52 "Basic Beginner Scarves"
Yarn: Cascade Yarns, Color #2449, Lot #5629
Gauge: #8

Mitten Pattern: Fittin' Mittens, Mitts that Fit by Nancy Lindberg
Yarn: Cascade Yarns, Color #2440, Lot 5629
Guage: #8 and #6 DPS

I will have to have her send a picture of the project with the coat.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Messes and Successes - Recipe Review for 4/14/08

After a dearth of no new recipes, we're back in the kitchen again! I achieved 5 new recipes for March and my goal had been 15. However, now that the yoga workshops (2 of 'em) are done, the Science Fiction convention is past, the little Sis is married and Vegas is but a pleasant memory and the Minnesota wedding reception is concluded (and you wonder why I wasn't cooking...), I was able to make four new recipes last week.

photo from

Chile-Garlic Shrimp (Ckng Lght, April 08, pg 202) 3.5
This is a simple dish of shrimp sauteed with olive oil, crushed red pepper, garlic, white wine and lemons. The bright flavors were perfect for a chilly April evening and the shrimp and sauce were served over orzo pasta (my substitution for rice). I liked the simplicity of the dish and that it came together in less than half an hour. However, I felt something was lacking in the overall flavor department and I'm not sure what.

photo from

Oven-fried Catfish Sandwiches (Ckng Lght, April 08, pg 190) 4.0
This was one excellent sandwich! I will say right up front, that any firm white fish could be substituted in this dish, but I like catfish and used it. Another super simple dish: the catfish is rinsed and patted dry, dipped in a flour mixture of flour, salt and pepper, then dipped in egg, then dipped in cornmeal that has been seasoned. The fish are placed on a baking sheet and lightly sprayed with oil. Bake, flip, spray again, and bake some more till finished.

The "tartar sauce" was part of the recipe, comprised of mayo, chopped capers, sweet relish and hot pepper sauce (to taste). Everything was combined on a sliced baguette with lettuce, red onion and tomato. Super easy and while the fish was baking I had time to set the table and clean up the counter. The fish came out flaky with a nice crisp coating. Seriously - I would make these again.

photo from Pinterest
Peas and Cheese Tortellini (Every Day w/Rachel Ray, May 08) 4.0
Another quick and delicious recipe! Peas are sauteed in a bit of butter with green onions to which flour is added and toasted. Milk is stirred in and brought to a boil and allowed to thicken. Meanwhile, cheese tortellini are bubbling away in a pot of their own, drained and then everything is added together with a handful of freshly grated Parmesan. I served with some some leftover baguette that I turned into garlic toasts. Made enough for 4 people so we had lunches ready for the next day.

photo from
Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese (Ckng Lght, April 08, pg 200) 4.0
Honestly? I had this on the table in less than 30 minutes and that included grilling the chicken tenderloins! Cook up the orzo pasta. While that is cooking, toss together arugula, sliced grape tomatoes, red pepper, red onion, fresh basil and oregano. I had to quick grill my chicken, then that was added as well. This is all topped with a vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese. Now I love goat cheese so I just stirred 2 ounces right into the pasta dish and let it get all gooey and then crumbled the rest over the top. This dish is best served a bit warm or cold. It didn't taste as good reheated.

Now you might be wondering about the title to the post. I have some *ahem* "messes" to confess to as well. See, I have a tendency to rush around bit (those who know me are nodding their heads right now) and this past Sunday morning I was buzzing around the kitchen trying to do my usual no less than 5 things at once.

I thought I was being so productive! I had a batch of homemade yogurt started; I had the waffle iron heating up; I was cleaning dishes; I was setting the table for breakfast…and that’s about where things started to unravel a bit.

First, I realized I had melted the little bit of foam plastic that I kept in my waffle iron when I keep it in storage in its box. Yes, I plugged in the waffle iron and a) didn’t open it to oil it down which led to b) melted plastic. What ever that light foamy stuff is made of melted quite so I think I can save the waffle iron. We made pancakes instead.

Next, as I was making my batch of yogurt and had heated the milk and mixed in the yogurt and tossed it into the fridge and everything was going so well…except that I wasn’t supposed to add the yogurt until AFTER the milk cooled down in the fridge. I’m hoping I can salvage this disaster by adding a package of freeze-dried starter at the appropriate time. We’ll see how things turned out in the morning.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Arkaska "Arkady" Renko is one of Moscow’s best investigators. Son of a military general, his name is known throughout the KGB and the Party Elite. Three mutilated bodies have turned up in Moscow’s well known Gorsky Park and Arkady is assigned the daunting task of solving the crime. His hunch is a KGB rival who he tried to convict of murder several years ago, but as the clues begin to unravel, so does his life.

Arkady’s gymnast wife leaves him for a fellow teacher. His mentor and superior, Iamskoy, seems reluctant to reassign the case to the KGB where it should be. Doggedly, Arkady plugs on, gradually figuring out the identities of the 3 corpses which leads him to Irina. She doesn’t want to talk to him, she refuses to cooperate and next thing Arkady knows is he has fallen in love with this potential witness/suspect and Russian dissident.

The frozen waters of Moscows rivers become murkier as Renko reluctantly sides with detective Kirwell from New York City. Kirwell is nothing but condescending about Arkady’s efforts in the investigation. Eventually, Renko finds himself in New York City with Irina, Kirwell, Osborne and the FBI and things are messier than when he began with three dead bodies in the snow.

I don’t know how to sum up what I thought about this book. I generally liked the character of Arkady Renko. I liked the grittiness of the Russian setting - this was timed after Stalin and before Peristroika. I enjoyed the feeling of Russia in the winter time (cold and snowy) which gave the book a dark ambiance overall. I liked the twistedness of the whole Russian bureaucracy, how everyone is drinking vodka all the time and talking Party talk.

What I didn’t like was the three endings. It seemed to drag on excessively long when the last 150 pages could have been made more succinct and tighter. I thought (all things being my humble opinion) that Arkady started out as this strong, determined, sarcastic character and ended up being a wuss. That was a bit disappointing. Irina was a twit and the whole romance thing was just silly, but I suppose it made the Renko character more human somehow. I think Smith tried to make the American characters more "American" to the Russian characters but it ended up being more of a cliche than anything.

So, I liked bits and pieces of this book enough that I’m going to find Polar Star just to see what happens to Arkady. Best place to read Gorky Park? Waiting for a plane...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Knitting Project #12 - More dishcloths for K2

In between trying to get March’s book group selection completed (didn’t finish in time), a weekend intensive yoga workshop that took me to the Cities, a return trip for K4's bridal shower and Minicon, a Vegas wedding and Minnesota reception, plus my regular yoga classes with some additional subbing, I have been plugging away at several knitting projects.

K2 put in a request for six dishcloths in earth-tone colors after I gave her three as part of a late Holiday present. I told her she would have to wait as I had several projects in line in front of hers, (the London Beanies, and K4's hat/scarf/mittens) but an opportunity presented itself in the manner and mein of an early Birthday gift so I quick knit up three.

In her early Birthday basket she received a copy of Better Basics for the Home (which I reviewed here), Essential oils of lavender and tea tree, a squirt bottle, liquid castille soap and a bar of castille soap and the three dishcloths.

This was a fun pattern that creates these cool little cables that spiral up the cloth. It knits up fairly quickly once the basic rhythm is set. As I’ve grown into my knitting skills this past year, I’ve noticed each project has its own "feel"or "rhythm" that dictates how the project will go. A smooth rhythm and it’s a quick project. Can’t find the rhythm, well, it’s going to take a while. I’m having problems finding the feel of K4's mittens and may have to put them aside for a while or rip them apart and start completely over.

Pattern: Nifty Knit Dishcloths by Leisure Arts, "Mini Cables"
Guage: #7
Yarn: Sugar and Cream in Summer Twists, Green Twists, and Taupe Twists
Approx time: 3.5 hours.

The next 3 she recieved as an acutal birthday gift.
The pattern: Nifty Knit Dishcloths by Leisure Arts, "Raised Diamonds"
Yarn: Sugar and Cream in Ecru, Green and Brown
Approx time: 3.5 hours (Almost finished during "Return of the King")
Guage: #7

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dzur by Steven Brust

It's been a while since Brust has had anything published and I had forgotten this was finally out in paperback. Vlad Taltos is back in Adrilanka and is back in trouble - this time on the behalf of his ex-wife Cawti. When Vlad and Cawti divorsed, she was left in charge of certain "groups" in Adrilanka, and in the intern things have spun out of control. Vlad offered to help sort things out at great risk to his life and limb.

I enjoy Brust's books, and this one was witty and fun. Brust writes fast moving dialog and little in the way of description - a *very* nice change from certain scifi and fantasy tomes I know of. What I particularily liked were the "interludes" of Vlad describing a 7 course meal from his favorite restaurant. What I didn't care for was Vlad wandering around Adrilanka in disguise, wondering what to do about his predicament between the 7 coarse dinner interludes. It became tiresome. And I've never quite been able to believe is familiar would call him "Boss". It's the one thing about the series that drives me nuts. A dragon call his companion "Boss"...

Still, I look forward to the next book (due out this year sometime??). I always do.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Viva a Las Vegas Wedding!

The Husband and I have just spent a delightful week in Las Vegas, including a Vegas wedding. My youngest Sis (K4) and her guy organized a Las Vegas wedding with 30 guests.

But I'm jumping ahead of myself. First, we left on a Sunday from Minnesota were the sun was shining and the temps were a lovely 45*. For everyone else who left on Monday and Tuesday, they had to contend with 6" of snow and late flights. As I was sitting on my balcony at Summer Bay Resort, in 75* temps, over looking the back side of the strip and watching planes take off from afar, I really, really wondered why I live in northern MN.

What a week! We wandered up and down the strip (got blisters even with my sturdy shoes). Ate ate many fine places - Cheesecake Factory, The Lux (also Cheesecake Factory), Penazzi (Oyster Bar), Trattoria Del Lupa (Wolfgang Puck), MiCasa (Silverton Casino), Nine Fine Irishmen (New York, New York), Rumjungle (Mandalay Bay), and Diego (MGM) and Mesa Grill (Ceasars Palace). We didn't have a bad meal in the lot.

Shows included Spamalot (Monty Python) and Ka (Cique de Solil). I saw Spamalot when I was out here last year, but Ka was new. Absolutely incredible. The stage turned into a wall that the characters scampered up and down. Amazing.

Touristy things included a trip out to Hoover Dam and a return trip to Red Rock Canyon. I could really grow to like this area. Almost forgot, the bro took us to the Bass Pro Shops.

And in all of this was a bachlorette party (I joined them for just dinner at Rumjungle) and the wedding at the Bellagio. Fun fun fun. For those of you that know my family, you can google Bellagio and watch her wedding on-line through Friday.

Believe it or not, we also had time to just hang out at our resort. Our room included a small kitchen and after a trip to the grocery store we were set for breakfasts and two lunches in-room. I had time to knit 3 dishcloths and finish a book. Duane quite happily watched hours of baseball and our last night here (after a full day of hiking) we nestled in to watch the Two Towers on TV.

Our return to the midwest was hearlded by 3" of snow. We were fortunate and missed the 27" that fell to the North of us. Gotta love April in Minnesota.

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