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Friday, June 25, 2010

Recipe Review from 6/21/10

Rain, rain, go away. Come back another day. After one of the cloudiest June’s I can recall, we finally got some sun this weekend. It felt sooo good to get outside! We had a bonfire on Saturday night with brats and the fixin’s and no bugs. On Sunday I was able to finish a landscaping job I started last year and start cultivating the garden beds. I know those wiley weeds were lurking, just waiting to pop as soon as the sun warmed them up!

A couple of seasonally appropriate meals even if the weather didn’t seem like it.

Oops, no pics. I forgot to upload them, darn it all. Oh well. Click on the links provided if you would like to see the magazine picture. I'll try and get back later this week and upload mine.

Greek Yogurt Parfaits (Ckng Lght July 2010) 4.0
I didn't use grano as the recipe calls for, but subbed wheat berries. I LOVE wheat berries (as you will soon see from the other recipes). I really like how I can make up a batch, freeze them and then have the nutty nuggets of goodness whenever I want - unless I forget I have a bag frozen and make up a batch anyway...but that's another story. I also didn't use Greek yogurt, but let my regular yogurt just drain a bit in a strainer to make it nice and thick. Great refreshing breakfast. I'll be making these again over the summer.

Greek Yogurt Parfaits
Grano, which means "grain" in Italian, are the polished whole berries from durum semolina wheat. Look for them in health-food stores or Italian markets. If you can't find grano, try wheat berries, barley, or brown rice instead.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 parfait)

1 cup uncooked grano
12 cups water, divided
1/4 cup orange blossom honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups plain 2% Greek-style yogurt
2 cups fresh berries (such as blackberries, blueberries, or sliced strawberries)

1. Soak grano in 6 cups water overnight. Drain. Place in a medium saucepan with remaining 6 cups water over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until grano is just tender. Drain well. Stir in honey and salt. Cool to room temperature.

2. Spoon 1/4 cup yogurt into each of 8 parfait glasses. Top yogurt with 3 tablespoons grano and 2 tablespoons berries. Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients.

Southwestern Cobb Salad (Ckng Lght July 2010) 4.0

Loved the dressing for this salad. It really brought everything together. First time I made the salad, I didn't have the bacon thawed. The second time I made this I didn't have any turkey (I had used up some leftovers) so this became a side salad. I also tossed the black beans with the pico de gallo. Didn't make sense to me to keep them separate. I also used goat cheese instead of queso fresco, as I didn't want to buy such a large package of specialty cheese and I use A LOT of goat cheese in other dishes. Delish. Also, by keeping the ingredients separate until serving, I had a couple days of leftovers available. Can be made vegan by omitting turkey and bacon and use some lightly fried tofu, or for our vegetarians, substitue egg. Recommended.

Southwestern Cobb Salad
Total: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil

3 slices center-cut bacon
Cooking spray
8 ounces skinless, boneless turkey breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups torn romaine lettuce
1/2 cup refrigerated fresh pico de gallo
1/2 cup diced avocado
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled queso fresco (used goat cheese)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

1. To prepare vinaigrette, combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk; set aside.

2. To prepare salad, cook bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Wipe pan clean with paper towels. Increase heat to medium-high. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle turkey with salt. Add turkey to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until done.

3. Arrange 2 cups lettuce on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with about 2 teaspoons bacon, 5 tablespoons turkey, 2 tablespoons pico de gallo, 2 tablespoons avocado, 2 tablespoons queso fresco, 1 tablespoon onions, and about 1/3 cup beans. Drizzle vinaigrette evenly over salads.

Summer Barley Salad (Ckng Lght July 2010) 4.0
Weelll...I brainfarted that I was supposed to use barley and instead used wheat berries. Not that I minded the oops. This turned out absolutely fantastic and made some great lunches for the week. Such bright tangy flavors with the creamy feta or goat cheese over the top. This would make a great potluck dish as it is easily thrown together the day before. If you have non-tomato people, just substitute zucchini. Cheese can be served on the side for our vegan or non-dairy friends. Recommended.

Summer Barley Salad
Serve this colorful summer salad with buttery lemon green beans.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

1 1/2 cups uncooked pearl barley
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1 cup diced seeded plum tomato (about 2 small)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
20 kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1. Cook barley according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool completely. Combine barley, corn, and next 4 ingredients (through kalamata olives) in a bowl. Combine juice and next 4 ingredients (through garlic), stirring well with a whisk; drizzle over barley mixture. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

I have a veggie pizza and fish tacos on the menu for this week - they were supposed to be made this weekend but plans changed. Stay tuned for more summery goodness!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Movie Review: Forbidden Planet

Made in 1956, this science fiction movie starring Leslie Nielson as Commander Abrams was quite fascinating to watch from a 2010 viewpoint. With pretty decent special effects and in some cases pretty impressive special effects considering it was 1956, this was part speculative space exploration and part psychological thriller.

From IMDb: When an Earth mission arrives on Altair IV, they find that Dr. Edward Morbius and his beautiful daughter Altaira are the only survivors from the original expedition that had arrived some 20 years before. Morbius isn't exactly pleased to see them and would have preferred that they not even land their spaceship. He does his best to get them on their way but Commander Abrams and his men soon face an invisible force leading them to believe that Morbius and the girl are in danger. Morbius claims to know nothing of other life on the planet but does reveal there once existed a far superior race, now extinct, that left a huge subterranean industrial and scientific complex.

The drawbacks of the movie do include portraying Altaira as a weak and naive girl who falls in love with the first men she has seen outside of her father. Her main job is to pose seductively and bat her big blue eyes in a beguiling manner. The movie also portrays a starship to be much like a regular seafaring ship on earth, where even the lowliest cook seems to have way to much liberties. Discipline was very lax. Tsk.

But even with the societal norms of the times portrayed in the movie, I still felt it was fairly well executed visually and I enjoyed it for what it was: an entertaining science fiction movie. Recommended.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Recipe Reveiw from 6/14/10

Have you noticed, it's harder to fit in those summertime blog posts? With the long lazy days of summer one would think the postings would come more readily. Nope. Not happening. It's more like the frenetic energy of trying to fit in a years worth of activities before the short days of winter bring us back inside.

So this is a bit of a catch-up post covering the last two weeks. Several good recipes, IMO. Because there are quite a few recipes, I've linked to them when able. Just click on the recipe name.

Chicken Enchiladas (Ckng Lght May 2010) 3.0
This recipe fell into the putsy category and could be greatly simplified by using rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken or turkey. I did grill my chicken breasts for added flavor, then I baked the entire dish on the grill as well as I didn't want to heat up the kitchen that evening. I didn't have quite enough cream cheese so I added some leftover goat cheese I had on hand.

This recipe is one that is also written backwards. It has a person cooking the chicken first, and then letting rest, but chicken takes almost no time at all to cook and the sauce needs 30 minutes to simmer on the stove once it's going. I recommend starting the sauce, then cooking the chicken.

End result - flavor was good, not as saucy as some enchiladas and it made a nice sized pan at 11x7.

Corn and Radish Salad with Avocado-Herb Dressing(Ckng Lght May 2010) 4.0
This was good and fairly quick. One could substitute thawed frozen corn in a pinch and the salad would be just as refreshing. I also deviated from the recipe here (when don't I?) and I grilled the corn. It seemed silly to turn on the oven just to cook a couple ears of corn. The recipe makes plenty of dressing so we found ourselves eating it with salads and veggies the rest of the week. Recommended for it's simplicity. Serve by itself for a light meal or along side a grilled meat or even leftovers.

Zucchini, Cherry Tomato, and Fresh Ricotta Pasta (Ckng Lght May 2010)2.5
The low score on this recipe is due more to the cook than the recipe. I decided to skip making the fresh ricotta to 'save time' - really, there is nothing quick about bringing a quart of milk to a boil - and just use regular store-bought even though I know that the two are nothing alike. I did try and look for fresh ricotta in the store but no such luck. I even asked. So this turned out quite a bit different from what was written. But even at that, I'm not sure the flavors would have been better - over all it was quite bland and I kept adding more fresh ground pepper in an attempt to add something to the dish. This won't be a repeater.

Spinach, Feta and Tomato Quiche (Vegetarian Times, April 2009)
This was my favorite of the last couple of weeks. I had some phyllo dough in the freezer and just needed to pick up some spinach and feta cheese. And onions, but I use those for other dishes too. Very quick to assemble (especially once the dough is thawed...). Feta goes in the bottom, drained and squished spinach and onion go on top of that, nestle the tomatoes on the spinach mixture then add the egg batter. Bake. Wah-la! My only complaint concerned the egg batter - it was two eggs beaten with one cup milk. I think a ratio of three eggs and 3/4 or 2/3 cup milk would have been better. I will be making this one again.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nebula Awards Showcase 2010

This is June’s book group selection. We’ve read eight Nebula Awards books to this point – in fact, when the book is brought to the table, it is the one selection we don’t bother with the voting process. We’re going to read this one!

This year’s Nebula Awards (which is always about two years behind when they are actually awarded – I don’t recall why right off hand), took a look at the history of SFandF from the 1950’s through the 1990’s.

It was a mixed bag of stories, yet there were strands of familiarity or similarity running through the selections.

The featured author’s were:
The Spacetime Pool Catherine Asaro (novella) – the story of a young woman who is pulled from one timeline into a different timeline where physics and mathematical constructs are the same yet represented differently. She is part of a prophecy between two twin brothers, one who rules as a tyrant and one who could rule with a compassionate heart and whichever one she marries will rule all. I found this one tedious.

Pride and Prometheus John Kessel (novelette) A blending of Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein. Left me dissatisfied all the way round.

Trophy Wives Nina Kiriki Hoffman (short story) Well written and engaging. Two women share an unusual bond and an even stronger mission.

Powers Ursula K. LeGuin (novel excerpt) Hmm…can’t recall what this one was about. Must not have made an impression on me.

Flora’s Dare Ysabeau S. Wilce (novel excerpt) Very well written and intriguing. Usually not wild about young adult, but this one was mature enough for my tastes along with an interesting world setting that if time permits I would add this to the reading list.

There is also a inside look at the script to WALL-E, a selection of poetry (which I usually skip if it’s more than a page long), and selected introductions by several prominent authors introducing each decade and the authors that made up that decade. Some I read, others I skipped.

It will be interesting to see what the book group thinks of this selection

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Movie Review: Moon

Moon is a independent science fiction film produced in 2009 and proceeded to win a slew of awards. A couple of folks from the book group attempted to go see it at our local indie theater just after it opened, but due to misinformation, missed it. Therein lies the wonders of Netflix!

The premise of the movie is Astronaut Sam Bell is an employee contracted by the company Lunar Industries to oversee the extraction helium-3 from lunar soil for exportation back to Earth. Sam is near the end of his three year solo stint and is looking forward to going back home to his wife and child. His only companion has been the robot GERTY (think Hal here folks).

Two weeks out from the end of his contract, Sam begins to see visions and on a run out to one of the excavators he crashes himself under one of the tracts. Sam wakes up in the sick bay weak and agitated. GERTY won't let him leave the confines to go fix the extractor, noting that Lunar Industries has someone on the way to facilitate repairs. Sam, ever resourceful, tricks GERTY into opening the locks, and he heads out across the Lunar landscape.

What he finds is himself.

I thought this was an excellent film on several levels. It starts out feeling rather like a horror film, very suspenseful, and indeed it had me looking at the envelope to make sure I hadn't picked a horror film. But then it grades gradually into a psychological thriller, a what is happening and how did it come about. We see Sam struggling with a physical breakdown and the mental realizations that all is not as it seems with Lunar Industries.

I shan't tell you any more because it is really a movie that should just be watched. Recommended.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoag

I have mixed thoughts on this book. First part of the book starts out strong – the reader is introduced to Smilla, a 37 year old recluse with a Greenlander background who is living in Denmark. We find that she is a leading authority in her field on ice and snow, but yet she does not work full time and scrapes by by living off of her father. Smilla has befriended a young boy named Isaiah, who one day she finds has thrown himself off a roof and died. Something moves her to start investigating his death, and in no short amount of time Smilla finds herself enmeshed in something that goes far, far, beyond a small boys death and leads right back to the shores of Greenland.

It’s in the second part of the book where I felt Smilla took on a second personality. First half she is strong, determined, and persistent as she doggedly tried to reason her way through Isaiah seemingly senseless death. In the second half of the book we find Smilla on a ship, with the crew thinking she is part of the police, heading for destinations unknown. Which is fine, but then the reader is finding out about tonnage, steel plate thickness, draft loaded and unloaded, lengths and widths of the ship, secret rooms, and the whole story seems to turn into a poor version of a action film. Smilla is getting beat up every time she opens her door, runs around the ship in the middle of the night, and she continues to makes a bad situation worse.

Does the ending pull everything together – yes, thankfully, it does. But I was losing interest fast and almost didn’t bother. What kept me reading was Smillia’s description of snow and ice, of the different kind of sea ice, of the different kind of snow, and how ice behaves. How the author conveyed those concepts was beautifully written and I even found myself bookmarking several passages such as this one:

It’s dense field ice, and at first everything is grey. The narrow channel broken by the Kronos is like a gutter of ashes. The ice floes – most of them as long as the ship – are like huge pieces of rock, slightly swollen and cracked by the cold. It’s a world of absolute lifelessness.

Then the sun drops beneath the cloud cover, like ignited gasoline.

I recommend this book with reservations.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Superior Hiking Trail - Canadian Border to Jackson Lk Rd

As I mentioned in the previous post, over Memorial Day weekend the Husband and I hiked 8.7 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail from the Otter River Rd (near the Canadian Border) down to Jackson lake. This was an interesting segment of trail, as it doesn't really follow the shore of Lake Superior like most of the other segments do.

Which can be disappointing if you want "Lake Views". But since the Husband and I are foresters, we certainly didn't mind the woodsy transitions. The trail starts out in a 3-5 year old aspen clearcut. And at 70*, ground temp feels much warmer. Ben-dog was thrilled with this bit as he was allowed to run off leash. At about the twp mile mark, the cut transitioned to a 'natural plantation' that looked to be about two growing seasons old. The pine regeneration was already putting on its first growth spurt and if they get some rain up there, it should really take off this year.

After three miles you leave the forest management and move into sugar maple forest. I really liked this part of the trail - up up up! we climbed to the highest point on the Superior Hiking Trail at 1800' above sea level. This part of the trail is definitely up and down as it moves through sugar maple, aspen-balsam-spruce and back to sugar maple. This would be an amazing fall hike with the golden glow of maple leaves surrounding you.

The last bit of the trail comes off the ridges and makes its way around a drainage and cedar-spruce bog before climbing gently upward into a 20 year old aspen regeneration stand and back to the road. This part of the trail was nicely shaded and a welcome respite from the heat.

The white blob in the middle of the pond is a Tundra Swan. I think.

Two of us did this in about 4 - 4.5 hours; miles 1-5 were without Ben-assist, after mile five (the highest point) we put Ben on the leash again as I was concerned the goofy dog would give himself heat stroke with all the running he was doing. Thus the term - "Ben-assist" (or as the Husband calls it Ben-joring after the term ski-joring). Kia-dog knew to pace herself and was in quite fine form.

I think I have only one more trail segment north of Grand Marais to finish. For anyone in the area who might be interested in picking up some of these northern segments, the Superior Hiking Trail Association is doing two back to back day hikes on the upper two segments September 18 and 19. Accomodations can be found in Grand Marais.

I thought this was a good segment for dogs, and pack additional water (for humans and dogs) if hiking during dry conditions.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Recipe Review from 6/1/10

I was in Bemidji, MN, for a work symposium on Black Ash and the Emerald Ash Borer for three days and then went to Grand Marais, MN, for four days, so no new recipes were made. But while I was up in Grand Marais lounging around and trying to stay warm, I brought my recent food magazines with and pulled out this recipes:

(Photo from

Spring Vegetable Carbonara (Ckng Lght, May 2010) 4.0
This was a bit more putzy to make than I anticipated, but in part that was because of the bacon. I have found I much prefer to bake my bacon than fry it (it turns out so much better folks!) and that takes a good 1/2 hour between getting the oven up to temp and then crisping the bacon. And I do like my bacon crisp. If it doesn't shatter when if dropped on the floor it tain't done! If you skip the bacon bit, this will assemble super fast.

While the bacon is cooking, everything else can be done as directed - with the exception of frying the red pepper - I just tossed it in the bottom of the bacon pan toward the end of the "frying" process to pick up the bacon flavors.

I also think my cheese was a bit on the old side as it didn't melt nicely and left glumps of cheese on my dish. Otherwise it turned out just like the picture! I would make this again - it is a great way to use up veggies in the fridge.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grand Marais 2010

For the past 7 years the Folks and I have made a yearly trip up the North Shore of Lake Superior on Memorial Day weekend. The objective (beyond a bit of R&R) was - and still is - to hike the northern segments of the Superior Hiking Trail that aren't accessible by day tripping. The first two years we hiked around Silver Bay and Beaver Bay, the last five years have been Grand Marais.

This year, for the first time, the Husband was able to join us in our adventures. The weekend goes rather like this:

Drive up on Friday. Hang out, walk downtown, shop, meander back to camper, eat and have a campfire. Decided 58* was cold and didn't bring enough cool weather clothes.

Saturday: D and I hiked the northern most segment of the Superior Hiking Trail (9 miles) from the Canadian border south which I will post about separately. Took us about 4 hours. 70* up on the ridge. 58* at campground. Ate at the Gunflint Tavern and decided that Saturday at 7p was NOT the time to go. Long wait for food. Had the same experience last year - you'd think I would learn.

Sunday: more lounging. Walked downtown for fresh donuts at the Worlds Best Donut shop. Napped. Went up to Naniboujou Lodge (above) for afternoon tea where it conveniently rained while we were inside. Thought about eating there but decided we had plenty of food back at trailer so we had brats instead. That and the two boys running through the dining room unattended was not conducive to a quiet meal.

Monday: D and I packed up and headed back to tend to the more mundane aspects of life like watering the garden, laundry, swapping tires out on D's bicycle, and catching up on e-mails.

Most interesting - I ran into two people I knew from Duluth up in Grand Marais this weekend. Pretty cool.

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