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Friday, August 29, 2008

Knitting Project #18 1st Pair of Socks!

Here they are! It took me a while, but I got them done. The second sock went a lot faster than the first, but that was because I knew what I was doing. On the other foot, it was still slow going as I ripped out the heel flap once when I knew the pattern wasn't lining up correctly (I needed to go round two more times before starting the heel flap) and I screwed up the heel turn count somehow and ripped that out as well. Still, I finished sock number two the night before I flew out for Denver (I was bound and determined to have it off the needles) at about 11:00p. Oh, I also had to rip out the toe because I forgot to start my decrease in the same spot.

I thought they turned out decent for a first attempt. I had troubles with both toes and the kitchner stitch. Will have to either do a better job or find a different method. And I think with the next pair I make I am going to make them a tich longer.

Book: Sensational Knitted Socks
Pattern: 4 Stitch Rib Pattern
Yarn: "Chicago" by Wisdom Yarns (Wool-polymide blend)
Needles: #2 dps

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spindrift by Allen Steele

This was August's book group selection. About half the group thought it was a fun little space opera and the other half of thought, well, it had issues. I've read the Coyote series by Steele that was published in Azimov's and didn't care for it, and this just supported my opinions on the author's writing style.

Premise of the story is: a response is received back from a suddenly discovered "large object in space" by the SETI team and a mission is hastily put together and sent out to investigate the source. They find a large floating asteroid next to an alien stargate. A small exploratory team (the dissidents from the mission) are sent down to investigate the asteroid while the ship examines the stargate. The story from here follows the group on the asteroid as the captain of the ship succeeds in blowing the ship up. The small survey team is now stranded.

My issues with this story were many; the main characters, Ted and Emily were supposed be having a "quiet ship affair" but everyone knew about it. Can't be quiet if everyone knows people! Romance does not belong in SF. Jared was a convicted criminal who helped an alien race annihilate 1/3 of the earths population, but only served 10 years of a life sentence because they yanked him out of prison to go on this mission. The protagonists of the book find a “hidden” nuclear warhead on the ship and freak out. Where did it come from? Why is the captian keeping it quiet? HELLO! If I’m going to meet a potentially hostile (or peaceful, you don’t konw but want to be prepared) race I sure as heck want to have some firepower on hand. But the whole premise of keeping it secret was ludicrous and then hiding it in front of the shuttle docking area was absurd. And the "first contact" had me rolling my eyes in disbelief. So overall the plot had issues and was pretty standard - too standard for me.

I think this would be better as young adult fiction.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recipe Review from 8/18/08

Leftovers, garden goodies, company and laziness (in the form of frozen pizza) meant only a couple of new recipes were made. We had my Folks out for a Friday night "fish fry" - beer batter fish, fries, homemade coleslaw, and key lime bars (compliments of the Mother). The hope was for a bonfire, but alas, the weather was against us - cold, windy and rain.

Here's what did get made:

Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Goat Cheese and Pesto Mayo (Ckng Lght Aug 08)4.0
These were delicious. The recipe was so simple as to be a "why didn't I think of this?!". Portabella mushrooms, red peppers and thickly sliced onions are grilled until al-dente and drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar. I then sliced them to fit better into a whole wheat pita fold (I think they stand up better). The pita fold was topped with a pesto mayo - simply mayo mixed with pesto - everything sprinkled with goat cheese.

Our only complaint is how runny portabellas get (and I've experienced this before). It's a bit disconcerting to have a pool of inky black liquid forming on one's plate while trying not to drip down the front of your shirt. Still, the flavor combination of the grilled veggies and the goat cheese is just yummy. I would make these again.

(Photo from

Herbed Penne with Simple Grilled Vegetables (Ckng Lght, Aug 08) 4.0
This is part II of the Grilled Vegetable Pitas. Enough mushrooms, red pepper and onion were grilled to make a second meal the next night. 8oz of pasta is boiled and everything is tossed with a light vinaigrette. Large shavings of parmesan are thrown on top. This was good and made enough for leftovers. I must say, the grilled vegetables really added a great depth of flavor to the whole dish, especially the mushrooms. Yum!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Deadly Yarn by Maggie Sefton

A Deadly Yarn is book #3 in the Kitting Mysteries series by Maggie Sefton. It is now October and Kelly must decide if she is going to stay in Fort Connor or move back to her corporate job in Washington DC. Meanwhile, her lawyer has been notified that there are natural gas pockets under her property in Wyoming. She recruits Curt Stackhouse (whom she suspected initially of murder in book 1, but since then has become fast friends) to help decipher the legalese of the natural gas agreement.

Kelly hooks up with knitting friend Megan to help aspiring artist Allison. Allison has just had a big break and is about to head to New York to for a mentoring/apprenticeship program with a well known artist. But on the morning of her departure, Megan finds Allison dead. The cops rule it a suicide, finding huge amounts of sleeping pills in her coffee and system. It’s ruled an overdose - case closed.

But Megan and Kelly suspect otherwise. Some beautiful beads that Megan saw Allison purchase and helped to pack are missing. Megan strongly feels Allison was too excited about her future to kill herself. Megan finds Allisons diary in the boxes in her trunk (she was helping Allison get ready for the move and forgot about them in the advent of her death) and they realize that sweet Allison had some enemies - a druggie ex-boyfriend, a resentful former art teacher, and a jealous rival artist. It’s up to Kelly and Megan to prove to the cops that Allison’s death was something more.

Seftons characters are settling into place now. There are still way to many gals in the knitting shop, but they began to take smaller roles in this book. I still don’t know how in the matter of a couple of months all these people manage to knit complete shawls and sweaters (remember - this series started in April) but each time a new book starts they are on a different project. Except Kelly. She’s still plugging away on her first sweater. And I still have a beef with all these part-time jobs that allow everyone to pop into the knitting store all at the same time each day so they can knit together before dashing off to...whatever it is they do.

But the one thing I like about this series is Kelly is not confronting the suspect on her own in some secluded place. In this one (don’t worry! No spoilers!), her police contact actually brings in back up to support Kelly’s plan which she carries out at an awards ceremony. Highly unlikely in the real world, but it works here. Kelly also did a better job of bringing evidence to the police this time. Again, this was just a fun quick read. I look forward to Number 4 (which the Mother has but hasn’t read yet. Read faster! Read faster!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Glensheen Art Show, Aug 16, 2008

My friend Tess and I have been attending this art show for several years now. Sadly, we missed last year due to personal conflicts, but were able to plan ahead and meet up again for 2008. The Art Show is held on the grounds of historic Glensheen Mansion (or Congdon Mansion as the locals know it) so not only are there a plethora of vendors to admire, but you get to wander the grounds and gardens of this beautiful estate.

So far we have been super fortunate and the weather has always been cooperative. It was a bit warmish this year, about 90* and humid, and the big dark clouds seemed to pass by to drop their rain else where. This year we also noticed a significant increase in vendors and a couple of people demonstrating their craft, which makes it even more festive and fun.

The vendors range from photography, jewelry, metal working, hats (quilted, felted and knitted), handmade bags, soaps, woodworking, glass work, pottery, paintings and I can't recall what else. We spend about two two and a half hours wandering around, partaking of an ice cream cone part way through and then call it a day.

I picked up some homemade soap from one of my favorite soap vendors (from Pequot Lakes) and a new purse. Happy me!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Recipe Review from 8/16/08

I know it's been a couple of weeks since I had a recipe review, but traveling will do that. I had planned ahead for last week for mostly "leftovers" and it worked out super nice. I didn't have to do the grocery run until Friday. This weekend I was back in the kitchen - read grill - with a couple of super yummy dishes.

My plan for Friday night was going to be kabobs from my favorite butcher shop in Duluth, Old World Meats, but upon getting home, the Husband found both our tanks were empty and the backup to the backup wouldn't open. Luckily, I had a alternative meal planned, which I dubbed "Simplicity": Smoked Salmon, Gouda, Jarlsberg, brie, crackers and grapes. We opened a bottle of Gewurztraminer and dined out on the porch.

Kebabs were shuffled to Saturday night when I knew I would have a chance to get them filled.

Sunday we invited my Folks out for a picnic of sorts:

Fire Roasted Pepper Relish with Grilled Halibut (Fine Cooking, June/July 08) 4.0
This was super simple, yet a bit time consuming. The peppers are grilled until blackened and then allowed to sit in a baggie until the skins just slide right off. The slice pepper strips are then combined with capers, calmata olives, parsley, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, lemon juice, jalapeno pepper and S&P. It seemed like a lot of chopping to me, but I was making it well ahead of time so it worked out. The halibut was grilled and the relish served on top. Delicious!

I served this with homemade coleslaw and summer squash tossed with raspberry vinegar and fresh raspberries.

(Photo from Ckng Lght)
Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Grilled Tomatillo Salsa (Ckng Lght Aug 08) 5.0!!
This time, tomatillos are grilled until somewhat charred, then blended with garlic, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno, and lime juice. I made this ahead of time to let the flavors blend. The shrimp are quickly seared, then tossed with a hot sauce mixture while the corn tortillas warm on the grill. The toppings are simple - shredded cabbage and carrot and the tomatillo salsa. Fantastic! Perfect for a August evening.

And one recipe that somehow was missed before I left for Denver:
(Photo from Ckng Lght)
Chickpea Salad with Cilantro Dressing (Ckng Lght, July 08) 3.5
This one was a bit of a disappointment for me. I love chickpeas, I love cilantro, it was served over lettuce, but was just sort of eh. I think the "cilantro" dressing was just waaaayyy to runny for me and oddly enough, too much cilantro. I recall when making it that I thought there was too much liquid and regretted adding the full amount.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2008 Hugo Awards

Saturday night of my Colorado Worldcon experience concluded with the Hugo Awards Ceremony. As an attending member of Worldcon, I get to participate in the voting process. I usually read the novels, novella, novelettes and short stories, but this year being all crazy-wild and Worldcon being nearly a month sooner than usual, I only finished the novels.

Here is the whole list of winners. If you are interested in seeing the list of nominees check out this link: 2008 Hugo Nominees

Novel: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Novella: "All Seated on the Ground" by Connie Willis (Asimov's Dec. 2007)
Novelette: "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang (F&SF Sept. 2007)
Short Story: "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov's June 2007)
Non-fiction Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher
Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust
Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Doctor Who "Blink"
Professional Editor, Long Form: David Hartwell
Professional Editor, Short Form: Gordon Van Gelder (F&SF)
Professional Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Semiprozine: Locus, edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
Fanzine: File 770
Fan Writer: John Scalzi
Fan Artist: Brad Foster
Campbell Award: Mary Robinette Kowal

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Worldcon, Denver, CO, Aug 6-10 (Day 4)

Saturday, Aug 9

Gail’s cousin, a Colorado native, extended the gracious invitation over dinner on Thursday to drive us up into the mountains. Gail accepted and it was settled that he would pick Gail and I up at 6:30am on Saturday.

We headed up I70 to Mount Evans (a 14000 peak) with great anticipation. On the way out, we spied 4 cow elk out on a hillside. Very exciting. The route our guide took was popular with weekend bikers, so we passed many a folk peddling hard to their destination. Clouds were threatening, and our guide was concerned we would not have a good view. However, the weather held and while not ‘crystal clear’ spectacular, it was still awe inspiring. We huffed and puffed our way up to the very tippy-top and spent quite a bit of time marveling at the view. A treat indeed for this “flat-lander”.

On our return trip, our gracious guide decided we needed to see Red Rocks amphitheater and so took us down and around a different way than whence we came. What and incredibly cool drive. I would dearly have loved to have spent a whole day climbing around the mountains, hiking and picnicking and exploring. I will have to make a point of coming back.

Anyway, Red Rocks is a well known natural amphitheater that performers of all varieties have been visiting for decades. I would love sometime to actually hear a performance here, with the lights of Denver off in the distance in the evening. Our guide said it is quite worth it.

The afternoon was spent back at the convention (it’s what I was there for after all!) and attended:
Charles Stross Reads
He selected bits from his forthcoming book, Saturns Children. His late-period-Heinlein-tribute. That didn’t take the full time so I bipped into:

Rick Sternback’s (Artist GoH) Slideshow. I stuck around for:

Best Convention Panel Ever
Survey says if you put these people on a panel, you don’t need to do anything else. It was Connie Willis, Joe Haldeman and Mike Resnick. And one other fellow who I don’t remember. While I don’t know if it was necessarily the best panel ever, it was pretty darn good.

Choosing Religion as a Setting for a Novel
“Using religionas a defining element in world building. Integrating it into a believable belief system. Using it as a key element of a story.” I chose this panel because I thought the panel members would be interesting, however, this ended up in the room “of hard hearing”, the questions posed to the panel were bleh and I fell asleep. I was tired...

After this I met up with Gail and we had dinner at the Rialto CafĂ©. This was recommended, but I think we were disappointed (and super tired). Prices ranged from reasonable (for a BLT) to rather steep for an entre. From here we met up with Phyllis and found a seat for the Hugo awards. I’ll post those separately tomorrow.

Day 4 - exhilarating, tiring.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Worldcon, Denver, CO, Aug 6-10 (Day 3)

Friday, Aug 8

Breakfast this morning was in the hotel restaurant. Good, but service was dreadfully slow.

Gail and I took advantage of the free bus service on 16th and popped down to see the State Capitol. Beautiful architecture. I just had to snap a picture of the survey marker indicating I was one mile exactly above sea level. We then walked up to the Cathedral and took a peek inside. If it had been sunnier out the stain glass would have been dazzling.

One mile high!

Inside the Colorado State Capitol

Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Back to the convention. I bounced around several panels throughout the day, not necessarily staying in any one panel for the full hour and 15 minutes. I get antsy with such a long venue and would prefer a panel to end at fifty minutes.

I attended:
Soldiers of the Future
From Starship Troopers to Forever War, Bujolds Dendarii Mercenaries to Scalzi’s Ghost Brigades, SF writers have widely differing visions of tomorrow’s militaries. How might the real things differ? And how should it?

Looking Ahead - What to Read and Watch Before you Nominate for the 2009 Hugos.
(Self explanatory). I stayed long enough to get the novel recommendations, which were the same as 2008: Year in SF Review panel from Day 1.

A World Made of Birds: What would Earth be like if the Dinosaurs had Lived.
Speculation about life on Earth would have developed without the mas extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Lunch was at Little India, a little hole in the wall that was just hopping. The buffet, while not having a huge variety, was some of the best Indian I’ve had in a while. I focused on the Saag Paneer and the Garham Masala (with basmati rice and naan) and treated myself to seconds. Delicious!

Searching the Ruins: Archeology in SF
It’s more than Indiana Jones or The Mummy. Writers discuss archaeologists as characters and archaeology as a plot device in speculative fiction. I left and went to:

Make the People We Want: Genetic Engineering
The benefits, costs, and unanticipated consequences of genetic engineering in human beings. Would there be fashions? At what point do they stop being human?

Ages of a Writers Life: Writing to get Published, Writing for Fans, Writing for Posterity.
As writers mature and gain experience, their work may change, and their motivation may evolve. The panel explores how their focus has changed over the course of their careers. With Connie Willis, Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Robert Silverburg and Suford Lewis.

We met up with Gail’s brother, SIL, mother and her two nephews for dinner at the Denver Diner. I neglected to get my picture as rain was imminent and we were in a rush to get back to the Masquerade. However, if you close your eyes and imagine a greasy spoon diner, then you have the Denver Diner. Nothing remarkable.

We attended the Masquerade, which had only 25 entrants so it went quickly especially since they didn’t stop for intermission. The quality of entrants was pretty good, and I believe everyone who entered received some sort of award.

Day 3 - relaxing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Worldcon: Denver, CO, Aug 6-10 (Day 2)

Thursday, Aug 7

Due to the hour time difference between MN and CO, we were all up early. The convention panels don’t start until 10:00am, so we had a bit of time on our hands. We went in quest of breakfast and found this lovely little restaurant: The Corner Bakery. I had a scrambled egg and bacon croissant with cheddar cheese (a bit of a departure from my usual breakfasts of Kashi cereal).

After breakfast we parted ways: Phyllis headed out to visit her sister while Gail and I hopped on a bus and went to the Denver Botanical Gardens. This was a little bit of an adventure, not being certain of exactly where our stop was, we decided to hop off the bus early and ended up walking around the backside of the gardens which I found out later was Cheesman Park. This led to a delightful discovery of a beautiful wide open park and a view of the mountains in the background.

The Denver Botanical Gardens are worth a trip. Complete with the traditional “jungle dome” the grounds also offer a wide variety of gardens and paths to stroll through. I was delighted and pleased with the layout and variety of plants.

We returned to the convention center in time for lunch, and chose Paramount Studios (right next to Marlow’s). We split a Gyro’s sandwich and I tried a New Belgium Brewing Co Sunshine Wheat. Yummy! We sat outside in the beautiful weather and just enjoyed people watching.

After lunch we ran down to the Tattered Cover bookstore, a Denver “must see” for any bookie and found the Union Station - a still operating train depot. The architecture was original and the insides had not been gutted in favor of “modernization”. It is still an operating train station for Amtrak and a couple of lines that run up to Breckenridge. Outside we can see a brewpub in the distance and just beyond there Coors Field. I must come back for a baseball game!

Above - Tattered Cover Bookstore

Above/Below - Union Station

Back to the Convention for one panel:
Tragic Flaw to Achilles Heel - Every Hero’s Weakness
This discussed how “a hero without a flaw is an unsympathetic bore. It’s the flaws that help us identify with fictional heros. This panel discussed what, how much, and how little it takes to turn a practical paragon into a personal protagonist.”

Dinner was with Gail’s relatives at Ted’s Montana Grill (of Ted Turner fame). I had a delicious pecan crusted trout with a baked sweet potato and coleslaw. Portions were HUGE and I felt remiss that I couldn’t finish mine. The baked sweet potato was FANTASTIC and I simply must do more of these at home.

We were returned to the Convention Center, where we wandered over to the Sheraton (several blocks away) where more of the evening activities were happening. I was curious about watching a panel titled: If I Ran the Zoo, a game about running a Worldcon. As it happened, I ended up participating and had a good deal of fun. This was a little contest between two teams where cards are drawn and points awarded or deducted based on the answer chosen. I was only able to stay an hour and a half, then I needed to return back to our hotel with my companions so I don’t know which “convention” won (my team was Looney-con).

Day 2: Exciting.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Worldcon, Denver, CO, Aug 6-10 (Day 1)

Last week I attended the World Science Fiction Convention in Denver, CO. What a whirlwind of a trip! I hardly know where to start: should I discuss the convention? The restaurants? The site seeing? I think I’ll approach this on a day by-day basis, starting with our arrival on Wednesday.

Wednesday, Aug 6
I and my traveling companions, Gail and Phyllis, arrived bright and early in Denver at 11:00am. A snafu at the hotel prevented us from checking in early, so we were forced to just store our bags and head out to the convention. The Marriot was 4 blocks from the Colorado Convention Center, a bit inconvenient, but there was a slew of shopping and restaurants between the two.

Colorado Convention Center - home of the Big Blue Bear

Lunch was in order, and we found Marlow’s. Gail and I shared halibut tacos and a arugula salad with goat cheese, dates, roasted pears and spicy pecans. Fabulous. Best fish tacos I have ever had.


16th Street Pedestrian Mall

The panels I attended on Wednesday included:

2008: The Year in SF
Recommended reading:
Greg Bear City at the End of Time
Ken McCleod Night Sessions
Charles Stross Saturn’s Children
Alistair Reynolds House of Sun
Carl Schroder (4 book trilogy)
Ursula LeGuin Lavinia
Neal Stephenson Anathaum
Michael Flynn January Dancer
Gene Wolff An Evil Guest
Daniel Gregory Pandemonium
Cory Doctrow Little Brother (jv fic)

Age and Wisdom: The Older Protagonist in SF
Being young isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be! This panel discusses the pros and cons of writing older, more experience characters. Panelists were: Elizabeth Moon, Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Margaret Bonham, Robert Silverburg.

Opening Ceremonies (self explanatory) Short. Really short. Not necessarily a bad thing - the Barrayar Summerfair Regency Dance and Reception was immediately after so I think they wanted to clear out the room for it. We remained long enough to see Gails sister-in-law in her regency costume then went on our way.

Gail's SIL, in the Regency Dress

Dinner was at the hotel, where Phyllis and I shared a Club Sandwich while Gail has some spicy tomato soup. I had a Sunset Wheat Beer that was just yummy (especially after a day of traveling).

Day 1, lovely, exciting, excited to be in Denver.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

I "read" this one as an audio book. I think, because of that, that was the only reason I finished it.

"The quest begins when irascible but dedicated mineralogy Professor Hardwigg finds a centuries-old parchment inside an even older book. His nephew Henry decodes it, and discovers instructions on how to get to the center of the Earth: “Go down into the crater of Snaefells Yocul,” an extinct Icelandic volcano. As they descend, the explorers also travel backward to the past, through layers of human history and geologic time, encountering prehistoric plants and animals and ultimately coming to understand the origins of humanity itself.

Though brimming with exciting exploits, this journey is also metaphorical—a spiritual and psychological trip to the center of the human soul. While many of Verne’s scientific speculations have been proven, it is this author’s remarkable ability to fashion a rousing tale full of compelling characters, extraordinary adventures, and provocative ideas that ensures he will be read for years to come."

Well, I must say I am truly perplexed about where these "exciting exploits" resided. And if it was a metaphorical story, then Henry, the narrator and main character, is a bigger putz than I thought. I looked up some reviews on Amazon and was quite amazed at how many people thought this was just stupendous.

I felt this story had moderately interesting bits punctuated by a very tedious main character. It contained very vivid and well described visual description regarding the imaginary bowels of the earth in its fantastical variety, complete with antediluvian creatures, but the incessant whining of the main character, a grown man, really put it all at a disadvantage.

I was wholly glad for the rapidity of the books completion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton

This is book 2 in Maggie's Knitting Series.

Kelly is still in Fort Connor, CO, still undecided if she wants to go back to Washington DC and heir to several properties. One property is a 300 acre ranch in Wyoming with cattle, sheep, and alpacas.

Meanwhile, Kelly has agreed to take a group of touring knitters to her friend Vickie's alpaca ranch for a tour. However, when they arrive, Kelly finds her friend dead on the floor of her home, her throat slit. When Kelly is recruited by Vickie's daughter, Debbie, to help with the finances of her mothers estate, they find someone had a motive.

This series is still fluff-fun. The main character Kelly is still learning how to knit, though she whines a lot when introduced to a new technique. There are still way to many characters coming and going from the knitting shop who all seem to have these fabulous part-time jobs which enable them to drop in and knit at a moments notice.

My biggest complaint with this one was Kelly found direct evidence to link the murderer to the victim and instead of taking the information to the police, she grabs a friend and confronts the suspect to make them confess. If I were the police, I would be pissed as hell.

At least she's not running off to confront the killer all alone like another couple mystery series I know of.

I'm enjoying the knitting bits (except I swear that yarn shop goes through an incredible amount of yarn - they are always getting another shipment in!) and all the bits with the alpacas and sheep. Fun enough to keep reading.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Recipe Review for 7/31/08

We made 15 new recipes for the month of July! While not our record of 18 new recipes in one month, this was darn impressive for a July. Usually it's so hot out that I just make and eat a variety of salads and things on the grill. Not so this year. Evening temperatures have been dropping into the high sixty's. Very pleasant!

Mediterranean Chicken Pitas (Ckng Lght July 08, pg 178) 4.5
Its summer. Summer means light things for meal. Summer means minimal kitchen time. This, was the perfect recipe for all three of those. I grilled a package of chicken thighs, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and let cool. Meanwhile, I took my yogurt and let it strain through a paper towel (I *have* to get some coffee filters) till nice and thick to mimic the Greek yogurt the recipe called for. I didn’t have enough after straining so I added some sour cream. This is tossed with cumin, chili powder, thyme and a tich of pepper. The cooled diced chicken is combined with red pepper, scallions (I subbed green onions from the garden), black olives and chickpeas, then everything is tossed together. This is served in pitas, and I decided to go with sprouts as my green because they transport well and you can mash them inside the pita.

I liked this dish. Unlike other chicken salad recipes, this one didn’t get soggy watery. I think draining the yogurt and sour cream is key. The flavors blended well and it made a lot. I think this would be good without the pitas, served over just a bit of salad greens or on its own.

Cavatappi Nicoise Salad (CL August 08, pg 148) 5.0
This one ended up with some rather significant modifications, but that’s the beauty of recipes. Their just “guidelines” after all! First, I subbed Lake Trout for the tuna. This was marinated in 7-up with a splash of lemon and fresh grated ginger, then grilled (I don’t like the taste of Lake Trout and I am in a continual quest to make it taste better). I forgot to by Cavatappi pasta, but I had medium shells on hand and I think those worked better anyway. I blanched my green beans in my pasta water to save time and water.

I love nicoise salads, and this one was pretty darn good. It was cool to have pasta instead of potatoes. The little shells captured the capers, black olives and the vinaigrette dressing in delicious cups of flavor where if it had been cavatappi pasta, I think all those small tidbits would have sank to the bottom of the bowl. I would make this again, maybe subbing salmon as an option. Mmm, sounds good...

Cedar Planked Salmon w/BBQ Spice Rub (CL Aug 08, pg 88) 5.0
This is part one of grill once - eat twice. A simple BBQ rub is whisked together (sugar, chili powder, cumin, thyme, salt, cinnamon, and paprika) and then rubbed over two or three wild salmon filets (mine were Alaskan caught). I like to add a bit of olive oil on top - it helps the toppings stay put. The filets are then placed on a soaked and pre-heated cedar plank and grilled until done. I wish I could add a “smell” link, the aroma of lightly baking cedar and cooking salmon was delicious! One filet we ate with freshly grilled corn-on-the-cob, the other was set aside for the next dish. 

Grilled Salmon Tacos with Chipolte Sauce (CL Aug 08, pg 88) 5.0
The shredded fish from the previous night ended up in tacos! I don’t think I’ve had fish tacos more than a couple times, and these were outstanding. The toppings are “non-traditional” for us Scandahoovian and Germanic types - pickled onions (leftover from a previous dish), shredded cabbage tossed with scallions and lime juice, avocado (my addition, it needed to be used up) and the chipotle sauce. The chipolte sauce was simply mayo, one chopped chipolte pepper in adobo sauce, chili powder, and some lemon juice. I heated up the salmon on the grill in a little foil packet and lightly toasted some corn tortillas.

Result? Fantastic. And I LOVED how easy prep was! I need to do more of these “grill once, eat twice” dishes.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tall Ships!

(Photo by Amanda Hansmeyer/News Tribune)

Duluth, MN, has a very rich maritime history, and yesterday through this weekend we had a bit of that history come to us in the way three tall sailing ships. These ships are actually a bit smaller than some tall ships I've toured elsewhere in the states, but they are still impressive. I forgot my camera at home this morning so I uploaded some pictures from the Duluth News Tribune website on the event - their photographers had a better view anyway.

(Photo by Clint Austin/News Tribune)

It was so impressive to have these beautiful sailboats under full sail sitting out on the lake and then all come in in convoy. The Pride of Baltimore and the US Brig Niagara fired their cannons as they came under the lift bridge. The Madeline was a cargo vessel and did not have any cannons. The Kaboom! reverberated through the lakefront as plumes of smoke wafted upwards. As you can see, it was an absolutely splendid afternoon for this event.

(Photo by Clint Austin/News Tribune)

(Photo by Derek Montgomery/News Tribune)

It's my understanding the US Brig Niagara is a educational sailing vessel, and for a fee, you can go on board and learn how to sail. Once you've completed your training, you are then welcome to sail with the ship as long as you like. That would be so neat!

After the crowds thinned out and the ships were docked, the Husband and I wandered down to check them out. There are all sorts of activities going on with this festival as the vessels are here through the weekend. Unfortunately, my schedule won't permit me to get back down, so I'm glad I got to see them last night.

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