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Monday, November 30, 2009

Recipe Review from 11/23/09 (with adventures!)

Oh, do I have the adventure for you this week! It was my intent to make two main course dishes, but I only fit in one. But I did make a fantastic pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. The recipes weren't available on-line yet so I'll have to come back and link to them. Sadly, I don't even have any pictures. Husband has the camera at the moment.

Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew (Ckng Lght, Dec 09) 4.5
This was a great stew - chili like in its flavors but not heavy or 'saucy'. Recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs of pork, but I only had 1 lb on hand, so I added about 1 lb of cubed butternut squash. A great addition! Chicken would also be a good substitution if one doesn't eat pork.

And this is where the adventures begin - not wanting to overwhelm my fridge with a hot pot of stew, I dished out a small bowl for my lunch on Monday and put the rest outside on the porch to cool - LOVE this time of year where you can use the porch to cool things off!.

The evening grew late, I fell asleep on the porch (darn brandy old-fashioned's!) and woke up in time to go to bed. Hounds needed last piddle run so I sent them outside and decided to quick run the vacuum around. As I was putting the vacuum away I heard a strange clink clink clink out on the porch and realized with horror my STEW was still OUT THERE!!!

Flying to the door I opened in time to see two happy hounds licking their chops and one empty, very clean and shiny pot. BUT! It doesn't end there! Kia-dog was having surgery the next morning and wasn't supposed to have any food after 10p! Not only did she eat half a pot (or more) of chili, but it was almost 10:30p! Arrgghh!

I decided it would be best for all involved if said chili didn't sit on her tummy over night. She had a 7:45am vet drop-off. So we commenced barfing activities. I learned hand-down-the-throat doesn't work very well and I just ended up with a stressed out dog and a chewed up hand. So we tried the hydrogen peroxide method (after Googling to verify safety and quantities) and that worked. Poor hound didn't get to enjoy her booty very long.

So, the Ancho Pork with Hominy gets two thumbs up and two tail wags.

Spiced Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (Ckng Lght, Dec 09) 4.0
Quite frequently, come Thanksgiving, I need to try out new pumpkin pie recipes. This one caught my eye this year and after waffling about buying a pie from Cub (I was super tired and the pies were on sale for $3.00 each from the bakery) I decided to just make one.

I will say up front this was a slightly putzy recipe, but it moves along very quickly. The pie crust is baked in the oven and set aside to cool. The pumpkin, milk, spices, and egg yolk are cooked on the stove top. Meanwhile, gelatin is dissolved in orange juice and added to the pumpkin mixture. This is set aside to cool.

Next step - egg whites are beaten to soft peaks and set aside while a simple syrup mixture is brought to 250*. I didn't know if I could make this part work as it was awkward to get a good temperature reading with such a small quantity. But lo! it finally hit the magical temperature and was added to the egg whites to be beaten to stiff peaks. Then this was added to the filling and everything put in the fridge to set up.

Good? Oh yes! It was light, creamy, and full of pumpkin-y goodness. I would make this again. Sometimes the second time around with a recipe it goes more smoothly.

On deck for this week:
Parkey Stew (Kielbasa and cabbage stew) from Penzey's Dec 09 catalog
Anti-Pasto Style Penne (Ckng Lght Dec 09)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

May everyone, someday, find Freedom from Want.

(Picture by Normal Rockwell, Freedom from Want)

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Recipe Review from 11/16/09

Oh my goodness, if you are living up here in the Midwest, hasn't this been a FANTASTIC November? Temperatures up here in Duluth have been between 45 and 50* (warmer in the Twin Cities) and days filled with beautiful fall sunshine. A great reprieve from the dreary, cold and wet October we had. Though sadly, the weatherman says this warm weather is going to move out of the area come Monday and we will have closer to normal temps in the 30's.

I have been dreadfully busy of late which has affected my book reviews and knitting. I am reading two books at the moment: In the Court of the Crimson Kings by S.M.Stirling and Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark. Crimson Kings is for book group in December and Strange/Norrell is one of three Hugo winners I have left off of the novel category on the complete Hugo winner list.

Last weekend found me in the Cities for an Anusara yoga workshop. It was a good weekend, I met a great gal from Grand Marais and the weather was lovely. Session focused on a lot of technique so I'm still not sure exactly how an Anusara class is structured.

This past weekend we had an early Thanksgiving with the Brother (K3) and his family. So much fun to play with the nieces! Miss A is 3 and Miss L is 1. Miss L is on the move and getting into EVERYTHING! Both are cute as a couple of buttons!

And despite everything going on, I have two more recipes to report on. One was quick and tasty, the other a complete flop.

Shrimp Saltimbocca with Polenta (Eating Well, Nov/Dec 09) 3.0
If you buy peeled and deveined shrimp, this comes together very quickly. This dish encompassed such simplicity that I didn't even do any substitutions. As suggested, I did use chicken broth instead of clam juice. Do pay attention while broiling the proscuitto though, it will go from toasty to burned rather quickly! I had two meals out of this, with leftover polenta.

(Photo from

Shrimp Saltimbocca with Polenta
1 16- to 18-ounce tube polenta, cut into 8 rounds
1 thin slice prosciutto (about 1/2 ounce)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp (21-25 per pound)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
3/4 cup clam juice (see Note) or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 3/4 teaspoon dried rubbed

1) Position rack in center of oven; preheat broiler. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2)Place polenta rounds and prosciutto on the baking sheet. Broil on the center rack until the prosciutto is crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the prosciutto to a plate. Continue broiling the polenta, turning once, until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes per side.

3)Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shrimp just turn pink but aren’t cooked through, about 2 minutes. Pour in clam juice (or broth), bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 2 minutes more.

4)Whisk the cornstarch mixture again and add to the pan along with sage and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Top the polenta with the shrimp and sauce, crumble the prosciutto over the top and serve immediately.

Beer Battered Fish (Ckng Lght, Dec 09) 1.0
I had some whitefish fillets (a Lake Superior fish) in the freezer from when the Husband was home on leave when the December issue of Ckng Lght arrived. Lots and lots of great looking recipes in this issue! The Beer Battered Fish caught my eye, and I've had whitefish prepared so up at Angry Trout Cafe in Grand Marais so I thought I would give this a whirl.

This was a complete and total flop. Recipe recommended a dark beer so I used an Oatmeal Stout - too dark. The batter didn't puff up at all, which means I probably didn't have my oil hot enough. And I even did the drop something in test and watched the oil splatter all over! This didn't taste good in any way shape or form. I am bummed. I'm not even going to post the recipe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recipe Review from 11/9/09

Two more recipes from last week and both made waaayy more than I had anticipated! I’m still eating the soup this week for lunches - not that I’m complaining! I was gone all weekend to the Cites so having lunches already for the week was a big help. The spinach pie made a 9x13" pan and I tried my best to eat it all but just couldn't finish it before I left town.

If you click on the links provided, it will take you to the recipe with a picture.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from, Ckng Lght, Nov 09) 4.0
I made significant changes to this recipe. You can link to the original recipe above. I cubed and roasted the squash rather than bake whole, I roasted the garlic, I caramelized the onions, and I used parsnips instead of potatoes because I have a slew of them in my garden.

Results? Very good. I wish I had thought to roast the onion along with the squash but I didn’t. Next time.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
• 2 1/2-pound butternut squash
• Cooking spray
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
• Small head of garlic
• 4 cups Vegetable Stock
• 2 cups water
• 2 cups coarsely chopped peeled Yukon gold potatoes (or parsnips)
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Peel squash and discard seeds; cut into 1” cubes. Place in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 30-45 minutes or until tender. Mash pulp. Cut top off garlic to expose bulbs (do not peel or separate), place on piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, wrap and roast along with squash.

3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until nicely caramelized. Add Roasted Vegetable Stock, water, and potatoe/parsnips. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20-30 minutes or until potato/parnsips are tender, stirring occasionally. Let stand 10 minutes.

4. (IF you don’t have an immersion blender do this.) Place one-third of vegetable mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure twice with remaining squash mixture. Return pureed mixture to pan; cook over medium heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Spinach Pie with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins (Ckng Lght, Nov 09) 4.0
I didn’t change this much at all – the only thing I did differently was substitute 6 oz of queso seco cheese for 6 oz goat cheese as I didn’t have the full amount of goat cheese (I needed 12oz). I also only used four bags of spinach rather than five as cooked spinach can get a bit overpowering. As I made this the same day as the soup above, I wish I had roasted some additional garlic to go with it. I think that would have added some nice background flavor. This wasn’t as putsy as it looks. Just make sure you pick a BIG pan/pot to cook those five bags of spinach down. And having a Misto oil sprayer really makes final phyllo dough assembly a snap. I didn’t serve anything along side, but some carrots or sweet potato would have made a nice colorful side dish. I did drizzle honey over the top – yum yum!

Spinach Pie with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
• 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
• 2 cups minced onion (about 1 large)
• 5 (9-ounce) packages fresh spinach
• 1/2 cup golden raisins
• 2 cups (8 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
• 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
• Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add spinach, 1 bag at a time; cook 3 minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. Simmer spinach mixture 40 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in raisins. Remove from heat; cool completely. Stir in cheese, nuts, salt, and pepper.

3. Press 1 phyllo sheet into bottom and up sides of a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray (cover remaining dough to keep from drying); lightly coat phyllo with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with 7 phyllo sheets. Spread spinach mixture in an even layer onto phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board or work surface (cover remaining dough to keep from drying); lightly brush with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Repeat procedure with the remaining 3 phyllo sheets and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Place phyllo layer over spinach mixture; tuck in sides to enclose spinach fully. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 15 minutes.

On deck for this week: Spicy Shrimp with polenta (Eating Well) and Pecan Crusted Trout (I think). It might be another soup. I forget so just stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

This selection is for November's book group. The meeting is next Monday so hopefully I'm not posting too soon. We've already read Forever War, Camouflage, and Old Twentieth.

This was an okay selection, a quick read (I finished it in a day), and definitely not one of Haldemans stronger books.

The premise is Matt Fuller is an underemployed research assistant at MIT, part time druggie and has recently been dumped by his girlfriend when he discovers a piece of equipment that "disappears". He sets up a series of experiments in his apartment that results in him eventually taking a three month trip through time. Each successive push of the button on the time machine sends him farther into the future, but he quickly finds out it's a one way trip. There is no going back...

This book reminded me of H.G. Wells Time Machine, and of another selection I've read but cannot recall. Where each stop is a snapshot in time but with the decline of humanity rather than the rise. We have the religious conversion stop, we have the dinosaurs stop we have the artificial intelligence stop, you get the idea. On the other hand, the ending has a nice twist that I appreciated - it rather made up for the rest of it. If you need something while you wait at the airport, this would be a good pick.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recipe Review from 11/2/09

I've been comfortably making about two new recipes a week for the last several months. Sunday has become my "cooking" day and then the leftovers bring me through the week. I don't think I'm going to be breaking any cooking records this year, in fact, this may be my slowest year since I started keeping track of new recipes. Oh well, so it goes.

Last week I made one so-so dish and one very good dish:

Chicken Orzo Soup (Ckng Lght, Oct 09, pg 28) 3.0
This was lunch, along side some cheese, crackers and dried fruit. This comes together very quickly, so it is also great for a weeknight. As usual, I have some substitutions: the celery and spinach were replaced with Swiss chard. My preference. I hate buying a thing of celery only to use it once where I can use most of a bunch of Swiss chard up. And the fresh herbs were replaced with dried. Again, cost savings here. I have dried on hand and can't justify spending $2.00 each or more for some fresh herbs that I'm only going to be able to use once. My only complaint with this recipe was it comes out a bit on the bland side - flavors are bright and fresh, but bland. Might be good if you have kids tho.

Chicken Orzo Soup
1 (32-ounce) container fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
2 teaspoons olive oil
2/3 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups water
3 fresh parsley sprigs
1 fresh thyme sprig
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Bring 1 3/4 cups broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add orzo; cook 10 minutes or until done. Drain.

2. While orzo cooks, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add carrot, celery, onion, and chicken; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 2 1/4 cups broth, 1 1/4 cups water, parsley, and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Discard herb sprigs. Add orzo, spinach, juice, salt, and pepper; simmer 1 minute.

Chicken-Butternut Tagine (Ckng Lght, Nov 09, pg 96) 4.5
This was for dinners, and I did cut waaayyy back on the chicken - I only used one chicken breast. And no olives. I didn't feel like figuring out a good substitute for pincholine olives. This dish also comes together very quickly and I LOVED the flavors in this. Don't let the dried plums turn you off in this dish! They were nice and tasty and added a bit of sweetness that was a good counterpoint to the spices. For a vegetarian or vegan version, use all butternut and vegetable broth. I served this over Israeli couscous. Yum yum!

Chicken-Butternut Tagine
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
8 ounces peeled cubed butternut squash
1/3 cup halved pitted picholine olives (about 3 ounces)
8 pitted dried plums, chopped
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook 8 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in cumin and next 7 ingredients (through chicken); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, squash, olives, and dried plums; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes or until squash is tender. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

(Photo's from

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

From the jacket cover: Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork — not the old fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving, but the new, fast football with pointy hats for goalposts and balls that go gloing when you drop them. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they’re in the mood for trying everything else.

The prospect of a Big Match draws in a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman, who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt, who no one knows much about. As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed forever.

Because the thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.

Where Nation was cute in a young adult sort of way, Unseen Academicals really delved back into the world of Ahnk Morpork and the quirks of Unseen University. Ventari, dictator of Ahnk Morpork has agreed, nay, subtly encouraged the Wizards to a game of football - but with the condition they use the newly "rediscovered" rules.

With typical aplomb, Pratchett weaves together multiple stories: Trevor and Juliet; Glenda and Nott; and the Wizards and their quest for a football team. And with typical Pratchett subtleties - there are multiple tags a person can pick up on: The Barber of Seville, Romeo and Juliet, I'll let the reader find the rest.

I really enjoyed this one. Nations was good, but this was story that returned to all that made - makes - the Disk world books shine.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Recipe Review from 10/26/09

After hearing Duluth (and possibly the rest of Minnesota) has experienced one of the coldest, wettest Octobers on record AND Duluth has received more rain than Seattle this month, it's no wonder my recipes have been leaning toward the hearty side. This past week was no exception.

(pic from

Acorn Squash with Swiss Chard (Eating Well, Nov 09) 4.5
When I saw this recipe I knew this was a MUST TRY NOW. I lovelovelove squash, and it can only be improved with chard and beans. It was only a shame that my Swiss Chard has long since been frozen and snowed on so I had to buy some.

However, the evening I went to make this I had made the tactical error of NOT pre-soaking my beans. Alas, no canned ones on hand either. But...I did have a ham shank leftover from the previous weeks chili (used it to add smokiness) and, yes...yes...I think the smokey flavors of the ham would go quite well with squash and chard. Besides it would be a great way to use that ham up and it would be the perfect amount. And so it came to be!

Darn tasty it was. I also halved the recipe to accommodate just two servings. Below is the recipe as posted in the magazine.

Acorn Squash with Swiss Chard and White BeansIngredients
2 medium acorn squash, halved (see Tip) and seeded
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 cups chopped chard leaves (about 1 large bunch chard)
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/3 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Note)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each squash half so it rests flat. Brush the insides with 1 teaspoon oil; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar-size) microwave-safe dish. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on High until the squash is fork-tender, about 12 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, until starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in water, tomato paste and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in chard, cover and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in white beans and olives; cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

3. Position rack in center of oven; preheat broiler.

4. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl. Fill each squash half with about 1 cup of the chard mixture. Place in a baking pan or on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Broil in the center of the oven until the breadcrumbs are browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

The other recipe was a departure from soups and stews and instead took a trip to the lovely country of Malaysia (closing my eyes here: mmmm, sun, heat, spicy food...)

(pic from

Spicy Malaysian Stirfry with Noodles (Ckng Lght, Oct 09) 4.0
Spicy? oh yes! I even cut back the siracha sauce by a full tablespoon. Super easy to make and great to warm up the system on a cold evening. I did slightly alter the directions by pan-searing my tofu ahead of everything else; I like how it tastes lightly browned. Other modifications included: skipping the sweet bean sauce (I detest buying a flavor/condiment that I may only use once) and using linguine for Asian noodles. We don't have an Asian market in Duluth anymore - just an "international" section at Cub.

Spicy Malaysian Stirfry with Noodles
This popular Southeast Asian street fare is known as mee goreng (fried noodles). Look for the sweet bean sauce and noodles (which are sometimes frozen) at Asian markets; substitute dried linguine for lo mein. You can always use less chile paste to make a milder version.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 2/3 cups)

1 (14-ounce) package water-packed extra-firm tofu, drained
1 (1-pound) package fresh Chinese lo mein egg noodles
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 heads baby bok choy, trimmed and cut crosswise into 2-inch-thick strips
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sweet bean sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1. Line a plate with a triple layer of paper towels; top with tofu. Place a triple layer of paper towels on top of tofu; top with another plate. Let stand 20 minutes. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes.

2. Cook noodles in a large pan of boiling water 3 minutes or until done; drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Wipe pan with paper towels. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add salt and bok choy; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook 4 minutes.

3. Combine sugar and remaining ingredients, stirring until combined. Add noodles, remaining 1/2 cup cooking liquid, and sugar mixture to pan; toss to combine. Cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated, tossing to coat. Add tofu; toss to combine. Serve immediately.

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