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Monday, March 30, 2009

Recipe Review from 3/23/09

Whew! It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks! You might have noticed a lack of recipe reviews - getting ready for a trip means clean out the fridge! But, I actually have one review from our vacation to Edisto Island, how cool is that?

I'll start with that one:

Steamed Clams and Shrimp with Vegetables (My OWN creation!) 4.0
The unit we stayed in on Edisto had close to a fully stocked kitchen utensils-wise, but nothing in the seasoning department. I didn't want to be buying anything more than absolutely necessary to make meals with so we were eating breakfast and lunches in, and going out for dinner (or lunch if we were traveling).

But we both wanted to make one meal out of the local seafood. The Husband really wanted to do soft shell crab (or any crab), but I am a northern girl, I honestly don't know how to do crab with out a recipe and a few more ingredients. So we compromised and bought some clams and shrimp. THOSE I can deal with.

I set some baby red potatoes to boil to cook, tossed in some green beans near the end then drained and set aside. I had one little pat of real butter that I stole from the previous dinner, and I set that to melt. I tossed in some onion and chopped zucchini and yellow squash to lightly brown, turned up the heat, and added the clams and shrimp. Then I dumped a partial bottle of beer (sorry, I don't remember the brand, it was local) and clamped a lid on to let everything steam.

The steaming took longer than I anticipated, and I wished I would have added the zucchini at the same time as the seafood because it got a little over cooked. End result was still fantastic tho!

Palak (Saag) Paneer (Yoga+, Spring 09) 2.5
This was a pretty labor intensive dish that turned out so-so so I'm not going to post the recipe.

First I was required to make the Paneer which required bring to a boil 1/2 gallon of milk, then adding the juice of four squished lemons, boiling for a few moments more to allow the curds and whey to separate. Once removed from the heat I dumped it into a colander lined with cheese cloth. From here it is a tedious manner to get all the liquid to drain out over the next hour or so. I consulted my Indian cookbook and they recommended leaving the cheese overnight in the fridge, but the recipe I was following said use immediately. Which was my intent.

Then I sauteed up some onion and spices, added the spinach to wilt, then tossed in the crumbled cheese. This is where we started to run into...less than acceptable recipe. I had waaayy more cheese than I did spinach mixture, and the spinach mixture wasn't nice and runny (I like mine gloppy - like they serve in an Indian restaurant). I added some extra whey and some half and half to the spinach to thin it out, but what I needed was more wilted spinach than the recipe called for. Oh well.

Still, it turned out edible and it made 4 meals when combined with brown rice. I don't think I'll be making this again. Too much work and it's more fun to go out for Indian.

Ghee (for above recipe)
Not sure I made this right either....basically you simmer all the butterfat off, carefully removing it as you go along.

Spring Asian Stir Fry (Vegetarian Times, March 09) 4.0
Now this was a good recipe! Very easy to make - I think I had it on the table in about 30 minutes total, from the time it took me to pull everything out of the fridge and slice it up to sitting down to eat.

Start a pot of water to boil for the whole wheat linguine - another thing I liked about this recipe, regular noodles. I didn't have to hunt down a bag of some Chinese noodle that I wouldn't use for the next year.

Slice up onion, red pepper, boc choy, broccoli and snow pea pods. When the water starts to boil for the noodles, add the noodles then start stir-frying the veggies. Everything should get done about the same time. Then add the siracha chili sauce and hosin sauce. Go easy on the siracha if you prefer less heat!

My only complaint with the recipe was it called for cooking the vegetables for 10 minutes! Way to much. I'm going to make this again but with tofu. Should be yummy!

Black Bean Chili Topped Sweet-Potatoes (centerpullball blog) 4.0
Be still my beating heart! Was this ever good! And EASY! Get this - you cook the sweet potato WHOLE in the SLOW-COOKER! Yes! Wash up a couple large sweet potatoes (I used red garnet because I like orange sweet potatoes), plunk them in the slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours and walk away. I did add a little water to the bottom of my slow cooker and cooked for 8 hours. Each slow cooker is different.

When you are ready for supper, slice up some onion, take a cup of salsa, a can of undrained black beans and some seasonings if you like (cumin, chili powder) and combine on the stove and let cook for 10 minutes or so. Serve over the top of the sweet potatoes.

MMmm, Mmmm, good! This link should get you to her recipe: Centrepullball.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Savannah, Georgia - Day 3

We got a heads up that we should avoid going to Savannah on Tuesday - Savannah apparently has the second largest St. Paddy's day celebration in the States. Not sure who first is (drop a note if you know!). So we went down on Monday. It was a two hour drive or so from Edisto, minus time trying to figure out the crappy maps. After some significant wiggling, we landed at the visitors center a bit after noon. The downside of parking here was they close the lot at 6:00p!

Cotton Exchange Building on the Riverfront

We decided we didn't want to do a guided tour, so I got a map (from probably the least friendly person I met on the trip) and a recommendation on where to walk and what to see - which was everything.

We went in quest of lunch. As it was nearly St. Paddy's day, we decided a brew pub would be most appropriate and found one down on the waterfront called the Boars Head. From our window seat we could watch ships going by on the river and the bustle of activity as people were setting up for all the Irish fun.

Historic Savannah was delightful! The beautiful old homes punctuated by all these little parks and so much greenery everywhere made it so picturesque. I did a rough tally and I know we walked over two miles in our wanderings. Of course, it didn't help that I missed the park (because it was under construction) for Paula Deen's Lady and Son's Restaurant so we had to walk back there so I could get my picture!

We also found the Colonial Cemetery fascinating. They put up informative/interpretive signs of who was buried where.

And of course, Forsyth Park. The fountain was all the farther we wandered as it was time to be heading back to the car.

I would like to go back and do a couple of tours through some homes and perhaps even a guided trolley tour. I know we missed so much!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Edisto Island, SC - Day 2

If you're just tuning in, the Husband and I were on vacation last week to lovely Edisto Island, South Carolina. Day 1 (Saturday) we just hung out (isn't that what you're supposed to do on vacation?) and explored our surroundings.

Day 2 (Sunday) we got a little more adventurous and headed northward to see the only Tea Plantation in the States! Okay, I have to admit it wasn't much, but as an avid tea drinker it was neat to see up close a Camilla sinensus plant and how a mechanized tea facility does operate.

We took a little trolley tour around the grounds where the chatty driver told us tourists about the history of tea growing in the Carolina's. Afterward we got to see the drying and packaging facilities. There was complimentary fresh iced tea (sweetened and unsweetened) available and of course, the gift shop offered a plethora of tea varieties and accoutrement's for sale. We picked up three selections of tea to bring back and some to give away as gifts.

On our way back to Edisto, we stopped by a roadside attraction called the Angel Oak. This live oak tree is a sight to see - while not as tall as say a redwood or sequoia, the branches have grown everywhere. I overheard someone say it is about 1000-1400 years old.

That is me in the picture - I'm about 5'7 to give you a rough scale.

We did the Tea Plantation tour and saw the Angel Oak in the afternoon. It took us about an hour to drive from our side of the river/inter coastal waterway up and around to St. John's Island. No direct routes here! We ate dinner back at the resort complex - I'll review all our dining spots at the end other wise my posts will go on forever!

Next stop - Savannah, Georgia!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Edisto Island, S. Carolina!

The Husband and I slipped away for a quick vacation last week. We actually started planning this trip last October and it was our intent to go to Mexico but the plane tickets were outrageously prohibitive so we ended up in S. Carolina, a place neither one of us has been too. When we left Duluth it was -8*. When we arrived in SC, it was about 50* and overcast. Ahhh....

Edisto Island is about an hour south of Charleston and two hours north of Savannah, GA. Two of its sides meet the ocean, and the other two (three?) are defined by a river and an inter coastal waterway. When we picked this resort (Wyndham Ocean View) we thought we would be closer to Charleston than we were, but wiggling around those rivers made it farther out than we thought. Still, after spending a week in the "low country" we have no complaints!

After a dreadfully long day of two plane flights (at least the connecting flight was the one that was an hour late) and one car rental (we rented a Toyota Prius for you curious minds) we arrived at the resort at 9:00p on Friday. Enough time to check in, put the groceries away and chill for a while before bed.

Our unit - a one bedroom with a kitchen.

The "Village"

Part of the grounds

We ate here on our drive in: the Enterprise Pavilion. The Husband had crab cakes and I had a seafood platter with oysters, shrimp, founder and scallops. Yum!

The Husband was fighting a head cold, and with back to back trips for him (he had two weeks annual training for Nat. Guards the week before we left) combined with our long travel day, we were couch mushrooms on Saturday - venturing out only to eat dinner and to check out the dolphin beach. We were lucky! Dolphins!

Really, it is a dolphin!


Dinner was at the Dockside, a local place where the waitstaff seemed to be on a first name basis with most of the customers. Also delicious! I had another seafood platter (I liked the variety) and the Husband had softshell crab. Oh my! His was super good - and a bit odd for us northern folk. To be eating the WHOLE crab was cool and weird at the same time. We'll be coming back to this particular dish later in the trip.

I'll post about the rest of our adventures in the coming days - we went to Savannah, GA, toured the States only Tea Plantation, went to Charleston, and explored Edisto Island. Lots to talk about!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Company by Max Barry

This is March's Book Group selection. We didn't even have to vote on it! It was unanimous (it helped that there were only three of us at the meeting that month...).

Max Barry also wrote Jennifer Government, which ended up on every one's top 10 list (except for Steve's, the lone dissenter, had to be different...).

From the jacket blurb: Stephen Jones is a shiny new hire at Zephyr Holdings. From the outside, Zephyr is just another bland corporate monolith, but behind its glass doors business is far from usual: the beautiful receptionist is paid twice as much as anybody else to do nothing, the sales reps use self help books as manuals, no one has seen the CEO, no one knows exactly what they are selling, and missing donuts are the cause of office intrigue. While Jones originally wanted to climb the corporate ladder, he now finds himself descending deeper into the irrational rationality of company policy. What he finds is hilarious, shocking, and utterly telling.

This book is a lot like the Dilbert cartoon put into novel form. It hits a nerve - business is a lot like this. You go to work, you are with your co-workers for over 8 hours a day yet really have no idea what they do beyond cubicle land then you go home to your alternate personality. It was also a lot like watching a National Geographic episode on the African Serengeti - where the unsuspecting but vaguely uncomfortable are gathered around the water cooler while the hyenas and lions are gathering in the boardroom.

A quick read (I finished it in a couple of days), that is indeed, humorous, shocking and utterly revealing.

PS - It's not science fiction, but it's darn close...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recipe Review from 3/9/09

It has been an absolute whirlwind of a week. It didn't help that the Husband was struggling with a head and chest cold and wasn't getting any sleep at night, then there was the "blizzard" that dumped 8" of snow on us with 40mph winds. The bright side of all this is we did make one new recipe!

Black Bean Nacho Pizza (Culinary in the Country c/o Eating Well) 4.5
This was excellent! I've been using Joe's pizza dough recipe for all my pizza's now and it just doesn't disappoint. The only trouble I have with making my own dough is making sure I have the time to assemble and let it rise for an hour.

While the dough was rising on this particular night, I pureed together a can of black beans, about 1/2 of a jar of roasted red peppers, garlic, chili powder, and cumin in the food processor and set it aside. Then I chopped up a couple of scallions, a couple of pickled jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced tomatoes, and a handful of kalmata olives (I had them on hand.) I used a package of shredded Mexican blend cheese for ease of prep.

After the dough has risen - I rolled it out and pre-baked it for about 5 minutes. Then it was a matter of spreading the black bean mixture on and topping with all the pre-chopped goodies. I baked for about 15 minutes more.

I would make this again and maybe change things a bit more and make it more like a taco pizza with lettuce and diced tomatoes and cheese sprinkled on top. Or not. I'm tellin' ya, this was really good!

You can link to the recipe up above.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Split Rock River Snowshoe Hike

Icicles along the bank

Possibly the last snowshoe hike of the season. My friend and I were contemplating doing the Superior Hiking Trails guided hike, but we decided we wanted to do our own thing and bring the hounds. And so it was we met at 9:00 at his place, loaded up the dogs and headed up the North Shore of Lake Superior.

We ended up at the Split Rock River Loop/wayside. The loop trail itself is 5.0 miles and we discussed hiking up one side then coming down the river, but in the end we did the river. With other people using the trail and three active dogs, it's best to give them room to run elsewhere.

Cody, Kia, and Ben

I think we got on the trail about 11ish - we stopped off in Two Harbors for a munchie and to look at the Harbor and orr docks. Then we got talking and missed our river and ended up in Taconite Harbor and checked out the safe harbor there. Once we realized the error of our ways, we headed back down the road and got suited up.

You couldn't have asked for a better day. The sky was an incredible bright blue, the weather started about 25* and I think it got up to about *35. Snow conditions were fantastic - the snow did "go" after about 1:00, but all that did was slow the hounds down a bit.

Had one heart clutching moment - my Ben likes to climb up. I don't know why, but he wants to go up things. Well, he found a way "up" and knowing he was out of my sight I whistled for him to come back. Gosh DARN if the little guy didn't come off the SIDE of the bank! I watched him fall (leap?) 16 feet! I thought my day was over right there.

He was fine. It didn't even slow him down.

We took a picture of where he came off we were so amazed. Ben came down from the splotch of snow straight above my friends head.

Waterfalls to climb up (and down!)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Recipe Review from 3/3/09

Aahhgh! Things have been just nutty! Between work meetings that take me to Bemidji and Isanti, snow storms, my yoga classes, and getting ready for a trip to Charleston, SC, I feel like I've done nothing but run hither and tither. Subsequently, I've been forced to keep my recipe selection simple and with leftovers.

I just realized, I've been distracted enough that I didn't take any pictures. Darn.

Tomato-Poached Eggs (Ckng Lght, Mar 09, pg 82)
I'm a bit of an odd duck, I like eggs poached in tomatoes. Martha Stewart has a similar recipe that I've made several times and you serve the concoction over bread. Yum! The thing that drew me to this recipe was I could easily halve it. The "music bread" is like a dal or a lavosh - I substituted toasted English muffins. I also subbed diced tomatoes to skip the whole "chop whole tomatoes in a can bit". If I'm going to be chopping them up anyway, why not start with them in little bits?

You'll find variations of this dish throughout Sardinia, but four ingredients all cooks keep on hand are pane carasau, tomatoes, pecorino Sardo (a sheep's-milk cheese), and eggs. Thin, crispy pane carasau is a staple in Sardinia, but you can substitute crisp lavosh for a similar crunch. Chop whole peeled tomatoes in the can with kitchen shears for easy cleanup.

4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 (14.5-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped (such as San Marzano)
4 large eggs
4 sheets pane carasau (Sardinian music bread), each broken into 4 wedges
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely grated aged pecorino Sardo
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until fragrant, stirring often. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Reduce heat to low. Working with one egg at a time, crack eggs over tomato mixture, about 1 inch apart in pan. Sprinkle eggs with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from heat.

3. Arrange 4 wedges pane carasau on each of 4 plates; spoon 3/4 cup sauce over each serving. Top each serving with 1 egg, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons grated cheese. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil.

Banana and Black Bean Empanadas (Vegetarian Times, Mar 09)
Be still my beating heart! Talk about combining two of my favorite foods - black beans and bananas. Oh how I LOVE baked bananas! When the Husband and I went to Cozumel several years ago I couldn't get enough of baked bananas (that and shrimp). I'm too lazy to type out the whole recipe and it's not posted on the VT website yet so I can't link to it either. If you really, really want the recipe, leave your e-mail in a note and I'll send it to you..

A whole wheat crust is assembled and formed into small rounds. The filling is onions, black beans, garlic, bananas, cumin, red pepper, coriander and cilantro. What I especially like about these is they are similar to their Indian counterparts - the Samosa; or the Northern/Eastern European pasty. LOVE IT! The Husband thought they were a bit weird. I cooked them all and froze the leftovers.

Cumin and Bean Sprout Quesadilla (Vegetarian Times, Mar 09)
Quick, healthy meals really don't get easier than this and I needed that this week. And the variations are really endless. In the summer time I love to do these on the grill for a extra flavor kick and less clean up in the kitchen. I added a thinly sliced tomato because I had one that was starting to turn.

The whole article revolves around growing your own sprouts - which sounds really cool but now is not the time for me trying this - so I just bought some basic bean sprouts. Recipe calls for Monteray Jack cheese, but I have some leftover cheddar and mozzarella in the fridge so I'm subbing those. I'm also using some of my homemade salsa for the prepared Chipolte salsa the recipe calls for.

Assemble, heat up a frying pan, cook until cheese is melted. Serve.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Nightfall by Issac Azimov and Larry Niven

On the planet Kalgash, an archaeologist, an astronomer, and a news paper reporter begin to realize that life as they know it is facing one of the most horrifying things the planet could ever know: Darkness. Kalgash knows only light, but evidence now points to a recurring event that happens every 2000 years - a solar eclipse that will plunge the world into night and the world into madness and terror.

The blurb on the back of the book reads: Isaac Asimov's short story "Nightfall" first appeared in 1941. It has since become recognized as a classic, its author a legend. But the short story isn't the whole story. Now, Dr. Asimov has teamed with multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner Robert Silverberg to explore and expand one of the most awe-inspiring concepts in the history of science fiction.

In this novel, you will witness Nightfall—and much more.

You will learn what happens at Daybreak.

What I learned was this would have been better kept as a short story than a novel. By the time "Nightfall" came, I was seriously wishing the characters would do themselves in and just end the story.

This was also a lot like Lucifer's Hammer by Niven. The exception 1/3 of Nightfall is build up to Doom's day, 1/3 IS Doomsday, and 1/3 is post-civilization downfall. It was all tedious. I couldn't sympathise with any of the characters - they were just too two dimensional. No empathy. I also found there was just too much exposition. After a while my eyes just glossed over and I found myself skimming.

An interesting premise, but should have stayed a short story.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

I read His Majesty's Dragon a year or so ago and found it interesting and disappointing at the same time. The concept of the English fighting Napoleon with an aerial armada of dragons was different, but I struggled with some of what seemed like anachronisms within the setting.

In book two, I felt those anachronisms were fixed - mind you, they were subtle - but as a whole the setting and place seemed more solid and plausible to me.

Premise of the book is Temeraire has become a pawn between the Chinese and England. The Chinese are appalled that this highly regarded and very rare Celestial Dragon is being used for combat purposes. The English want to keep China as a trading partner and preferably either an ally or a neutral force in their fight against Napoleon.

Temeraire and Laurence are put on a ship to China with the hope that Temeraire will stay behind in his proper place as a dragon for the Chinese Emperor.

This was a very fast read, with some good action. I'll be reading the third book (in part because I already own it).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Recipe Review from 2/23/09

With the Husband off at annual training for a couple of weeks, I get to make more vegetarian dishes. Not that he doesn't like the vegetarian choices, he just prefers a bit more meat in his diet whereas I could go just about meatless and not even notice (I do like my seafood tho!).

The downside with him being gone is I don't get to make as much - it's only me eating those leftovers!

Ramadan Soup (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 09)
Preparation just doesn't get any simpler. Saffron threads are not integral to the dish so if you don't have them, don't worry about it. I don't do lima beans so I subbed peas. Edamame would work great too. The lemon wedges are to "brighten" the dish just before serving, and can be omitted as well, or just add a splash to the whole pot before serving. This became my lunch for the week.

From Ckng Lght magazine:
Traditionally, this satisfying soup includes meat and is offered to break the sunrise-to-dusk fasting period during the month of Ramadan, the Muslim holiday. Harira's hearty, rich flavors, abundant protein, and sultry seasonings translate well into a vegetarian interpretation with chickpeas and lima beans. Serve with Moroccan Country Bread, a salad, and fresh dates for dessert.

8 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup soup and 1 lemon wedge)

2 cups water
2 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Emeril's)
1 3/4 cups diced yellow onion
1/2 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup organic no-salt-added tomato puree (such as Muir Glen)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen lima beans, thawed
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
8 lemon wedges

1. Place first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in beans and next 5 ingredients (through chickpeas); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve with lemon wedges.

Banana Flax Muffins (Vegetarian Times, Feb 09) 3.0
I tried finding the recipe on the website, but it either wasn't posted yet or my search prompt was off by a dash or something. Either way, it doesn't matter, I found these to be just so-so. They are a combination of bran cereal, ground flaxseed, buttermilk, eggs bananas, flour (I used AP and WW), and sugar. Pretty simple really.

They were easy to make, which is usually the case with muffins, but for a "vegetarian" recipe, I was quite shocked at the amount of sugar it called for - a cup! for 12 muffins! I scaled back to 3/4 cup and thought I should have done 2/3.

The recipe also called for 4 bananas - three to be mashed into the batter, and one to be sliced and baked on top of the muffins. That seemed to be a bit of over kill, so I skipped 'naner number four and sprinkled the top with walnuts for extra omega-3's.

I also found it odd they didn't incorporate any WW flour. Come on! How easy is that? I did one cup AP and 1/2 cup WW.

And last (though first in the recipe), it called to soak bran cereal in buttermilk for 30 minutes. We had a box of bran cereal on hand (Fiber One - looks like worm poop) from a different bread recipe so I used that. Well, I don't think I soaked long enough because much of the cereal maintained its shape through the rest of the baking process. I've got worm poop in my muffins! Tastes fine, looks odd.

I think there are better, healthier, recipes out there.

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