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Thursday, September 30, 2010

SHT Trail Maintenance Day!

This past weekend I had the good fortune to be invited to help clean up a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail from Beaver Bay to Silver Bay, MN.  I helped last year and had a splendid time:  Trail Maintenance 2009. 
 Our Crew (L-R):  Fearless Leader S, J, and D


For my readers out there in blog world who may not be familiar with the Superior Hiking Trail, this is a 260+ mile hiking and backpacking trail that runs adjacent to Lake Superior. The trail is maintained in part by a large group of volunteers who adopt segments and walk them twice a year to check for problems and clean them up.






 This segment is 5 miles long. Going from South to North, is begins by paralleling the Beaver River before meandering up the ridges to provide some great overlooks of the Beaver River gorge and Lake Superior. With the Fall colors just beginning to turn, it was very dramatic. The day itself was crisp, clear, and sunny with just some high clouds.  We had some rain recently so the Beaver River was running full and muddy.



Admiring the view.



J having technical difficulties.  Many suggestions being offered...

And if you find yourself in Duluth on Oct 9, and want to go for a hike on this marvelous trail, there is a SHTA guided hike being offered.  I've done this one twice now and it's a lovely hike for the fall. 
October 9 10:00 a.m. Sonju Lake Road to Finland Recreation Center

7.5 miles. A beautiful hike through maple forests. Hike along the east branch of the Baptism River and by Sonju Lake (with an island you can walk out to) and Egge Lake. Meet at the trailhead parking lot at the Finland Rec Center. From Hwy 61 milepost 59.3 go 6.2 miles on Hwy 1 through Finland. Turn right on Co Rd 7 and go 1.3 miles to parking lot by ball field just past Rec Center.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recipe Review from 9/20/10

...And here I thought Summer flew by!  Wow.  Fall is flying by even faster. 

Meals have been super simple these past couple of weeks, and I've only made two new things.  Actually only one new thing as the Husband made the other. 

My science fiction book group just celebrated our 11th anniversary as a group.  Last year I made this decadent chocolate-y layer cake which threatened to slide off on it's side - not visually appealing, but darn tasty!   This year I kept it simple and made:

German Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Icing  (Ckng Lght May 2006)
This assembled very quickly, which was a good thing because I was baking them at 7pm on a Sunday night.  As the recipe notes, the cupcakes do sink a bit in the center which is easily hit by the outstanding icing.  I did find these cupcakes dried out faster than other cupcakes I've made.  Not sure if it was because of the recipe or because I used bittersweet chocolate rather than sweet chocolate as called for.  I don't think the book group minded, most folks had two!  

These chocolate cupcakes tend to sink slightly in the middle as they cool, but the icing hides the dip.  The icing will harden quickly as it cools, so you;ll need to work quickly when spreading it over the cupcakes;  if it becomes too thick, whisk in an additional tablespoon of evaporated milk.  Sprinkling the top of the iced cupcakes with toasted pecans and coconut gives a bigger flavor impact than if they were stirred into the icing

Cupcakes:
6 tbsp butter
4 oz sweet baking chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c egg substitute (I used 2 whole large eggs)
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Icing: 
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used regular)
1/2 cup evaporated low-fat milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp chopped pecans  (I used walnuts)
2 tbsp flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

1) Preheat oven to 350*; line 18 muffin cups with cupcake liners.

2) Cupcakes: place 6 tbsp butter and chocolate in a large microwave bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds.  Stir until chocolate melts.  Stir in granulated sugar, water, and 2 tsp vanilla.  Add egg, stirring with a whisk.

3) Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stirring with a whisk.  Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring with a whisk until smooth.  Spoon batter evenly into lined muffin cups.  Bake at 350* for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

4) To prepare icing, melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add brown sugar; cook 3 minutes stirring constantly with a whisk.  Add milk and cook 3 minutes , stirring constantly with a whisk.  Remove from heat; stir in 2 tsp vanilla.  Gradually add powdered sugar, stirring with a whisk until smooth. 

5) Working quickly, spread each cupcake with about 1 1/2 tbsp icing, sprinkle cupcakes with nuts and coconut.  Yield: 18 cupcakes. 


Barley Hoppin' John (Eating Well, Sept/Oct  2010)
We had several days of cold rainy weather and we weren't inclined to be throwing something on the grill.  In addition, I recall Dee from Tangled up in Sticks and Strings reviewing this a while back and the idea of using barley and black eyed peas stuck with me.   The Husband was the one to make this though, and some modifications were necessary - we had regular pearl barley on hand, not quick cooking, and had to start the barley before the rest of the veggies were added.  We also used Swiss chard stems instead of celery; a standard substitution for us during the summer. 

Ours turned out rich and creamy, with a bit of zing from our chopped dried red pepper.  I think this was good as a main dish, and would be great as a side.  I would make this again.

Barley Hoppin' John
4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped


2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-ounce can vegetable broth
1 cup quick-cooking barley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed


Preparation
1.Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Cook until the vegetables soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add broth, barley, thyme, lemon juice, crushed red pepper and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the barley is done, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in black-eyed peas. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy Anniversary D!

The Husband thinks I forgot our Anniversary (which I did...kinda sorta...but not really).  We're not into big celebrations, exchanging gifts, or throwing parties.  We're simple people and we do things simply.   Here's a few of his favorite things: 





Friday, September 24, 2010

Eon by Greg Bear

This was September’s book group selection. We’ve read one Greg Bear previously – Slant, which received mixed reviews.


Per Goodreads.com: The 21st century was on the brink of nuclear confrontation when the 300 kilometer-long stone flashed out of nothingness and into Earth's orbit. NASA, NATO, and the UN sent explorers to the asteroid's surface and discovered marvels and mysteries to drive researchers mad. For the Stone was from space--but perhaps not our space; it came from the future--but perhaps not our future; and within the hollowed asteroid was Thistledown. The remains of a vanished civilization. A human-English, Russian and Chinese-speaking--civilization. Seven vast chambers containing forests, lakes, rivers, hanging cities and museums describing the Death; the catastrophic war that was about to occur; the horror and the long winter that would follow. But while scientists and politicians bickered about how to use the information to stop the Death, the Stone yielded a secret that made even Earth's survival pale into insignificance.

This book was published in 1985 and current events of the time were reflected in this: we were at the height of the Cold War with Russia and political tensions around the globe were significant. And I think that’s where my issues with the plot came into being. I was old enough at the time to be aware of the political climate, but not old enough to really care. So now, looking at this through the lens of history, I found the futuristic antagonism between the US and Russia almost unrealistic. Or, phrased this way: our enemies today are not going to be our enemies of tomorrow.

Setting that aside, I felt this was a fairly interesting book up till the Nuclear Holocaust on Earth. Here is this asteroid that has an unlimited inside – a seventh chamber that goes on seemingly to infinity. We have advanced cities and libraries full of accessible information. We have mystery, intrigue and good science. We have mostly interesting characters.

I don’t want to give away too much here, but I started to lose interest with the arrival of the future humans. It was as if the main characters underwent a personality change. Still, we all agreed – for different reasons – in book group that this is worth finishing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010 Hugo Awards!

Whoo boy.  This year's Hugo's just blew right by me!  I only read three of the six nominees in the Novel category, then completely forgot about the World Science Fiction Convention dates.  Which is doubly odd as my friend and I were just talking about going to Reno for the convention next year. 

Well, without further ado (and more information can be obtained here: Aussiecon) -  
BEST NOVEL

Tie:
The City & The City by China MiƩville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)


BEST NOVELLA
"Palimpsest" by Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace; Orbit) - Read Online


BEST NOVELETTE
"The Island" by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos) - Read Online (PDF)


BEST SHORT STORY
"Bridesicle" by Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09) - Read Online (PDF)


BEST RELATED WORK
This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is "I") by Jack Vance (Subterranean)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY
Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)


BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION - LONG FORM
Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)


BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION - SHORT FORM (282 nominating ballots)
Doctor Who: "The Waters of Mars" Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)


BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM
Patrick Nielsen Hayden


BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM
Ellen Datlow


BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
Shaun Tan


BEST SEMIPROZINE
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan

BEST FAN WRITER
Frederik Pohl

BEST FANZINE
StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith

BEST FAN ARTIST
Brad W. Foster

THE JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER
Seanan McGuire

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Kia-dog!

My Kia-pup turns 11 today. I don't have any digital pictures of her as a puppy because 11 years ago I didn't even own a digital camera!  She was from an "accidental" litter of 13 pups and came home with us after we came back from our honeymoon up the North Shore.  She's still spunky and fun, though I think her hearing is going...hard to tell with a lab...she might just be ignoring me. 


2004

2006

Buddies for the moment


Summer 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Door County, WI (Part II)


The impetus for this trip was simply this:  The Door County CenturyI can't speak highly enough about the excellent organization of this event.  It attracted over 2000 riders, and honestly, I never felt as if there were that many people present. 

After Saturday's rain, Sunday dawned with clear blue skies and a brisk wind.  We biked from our B&B to the Fairgrounds, joined the steady stream of bikers heading out, and started our way up the west side of the Peninsula.  We had decided in advance to ride just the 30 miles for several reasons, though the Husband did briefly entertain doing the 50.  Prudence was the vote of the day and we kept to our plan. 

This was a delightful route: rolling along the shore of the bay, resorts and nice homes with glimpses of water in between, little to no car traffic, fields and woods.  The first rest stop only offered muffins, Gatorade and water.  I would have preferred fruit, but I found out later they really under-estimated the number of "day of" registrations and ran short.   The ride back involved one significant hill which I noted many 30 milers opted to skip by riding the same way back.  Their loss.  Once at the top the ride went through cherry and apple orchards, open fields, and though the countryside of Door County.   We went back the Fairgrounds, rode under the Finish Line, then turned around and rode back to the B&B to make our total ride 33 miles. 



A shower and change of clothes before going back out for our lunch.  Again, excellent! Two types of pulled pork, fresh kaiser rolls, hot grilled corn on the cob, potato salad, chips, beverages,  Fat Tire beer and best of all, cherry pie!  Lots of room for people to sit, no long lines to get your food (and the food was hot!), and it was pleasantly noisy in the large pole barn without being overwhelming.   

Happy bikers - the Green Bay game was on the widescreen TV!

Mmm, doesn't dinner look just tasty?

Alas, I left my camera at the B&B so I don't have any pics of the first rest stop right on the bay.  I highly recommend this ride and hope to do it again in the future. 


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Door County, WI (Part I)

The Husband and I had a Grand Adventure this weekend - a trip to Door County, WI, to ride in the Door County Century!  Though I will say right off the bat, that we did not do the whole Century for reasons soon to be explained.  

We left early Friday morning, dropping the Hounds off at the Parents place, and headed out across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Just a lovely drive - the sky was clear, traffic not so bad, and the leaves were just hinting at turning color.  We had lunch in Iron Mountain, MI, before dropping down the eastern side of Wisconsin to Green Bay and then looping up to Sturgeon Bay, WI. 


The Barbican Inn, Sturgeon Bay, WI

We arrived in Sturgeon Bay about 5:30 - an 8 hour drive going the way we did - and checked into The Barbican Bread and Breakfast in downtown Sturgeon Bay.  A walk was needed to shake off car butt, which gave us the opportunity to select a restaurant.  We chose The Inn at Cedar Crossing (of course I forgot to take a picture!) and sat down to a fabulous meal.  The Husband had elk and I chose the broiled whitefish.  Delish!

We woke Saturday morning to the sound of rain pouring down on the side of the house.  Yikes!  Breakfast was delivered at 8am - this was the one odd thing about this particular B&B; no community breakfast room.  Meals were delivered to one's door, which was nice in a way to sit and have breakfast in your jammies, but it was more like a picnic breakfast than anything.  With the misty rainy weather, we were limited to mostly inside activities and headed out to check out a local winery. 


The Simon Creek winery was just north of Sturgeon Bay on 120 acres.  They only had 22 acres planted to grapes, and had plans to expand further.  Tours (if looking at the metal tanks could be called a tour) happened only 2x a day.  I got the feeling that this was a "crank 'em through" place:  sample the wine, buy the wine, and get the next group in.  We bought four bottles and headed out to find a lighthouse.  





Tis a long way down!  You can see the waves breaking on the reef. 

Cana Island north of Bailey's Harbor ended up being our next destination.  We lucked out with the rain lifting long enough to allow us to go up top.  Loved the wind coming off Lake Michigan.  It smells different than Lake Superior - warmer I suppose.  As we ended our tour of the light keepers house and grounds  the rain began again and we headed to the upper most point of the peninsula (nothing there but the ferry) before dropping back down the western side of the peninsula to Sister Bay. 




And wow - we found the tourist hot spots!  The western side is where the resorts, shops, restaurants are to be found.   Not that we like touristy spots, but they can be fun.  But again, it was raining and tummy's were demanding lunch so we just walked the street of Sister Bay and selected Mission Grille.  Absolutely outstanding!  It was an old church converted into a restaurant and my only regret was we couldn't sit outside on their lovely patio.  The meal was delicious and with such a nice presentation I had to take a picture.  Needless to say, we left stuffed and happy. 



After lunch we continued our drive back down shore, stopping at one Orchard market to pick up some cherry pie and cherry turnovers for later.  As we came back into town, we found some live jazz, shared a polish sausage and just sat for a while.  Such as traveling is, we called it a day and headed back to the B&B to just chill out and relax. 

Tomorrow:  The Door County Century! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recipe Review from 9/6/10

I thought I made more recipes last week, but it appears I didn't.  Only one to speak of and I really liked it.  If you follow the link, it will lead to a better picture than what mine turned out being. 

Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew  (Ckng Lght, May 2010)
I've had my eye on this recipe since it came out in May, but for some reason it kept getting pushed back in the recipe rotation and then with the summer heat, dropped altogether.  Well, when the temps dropped last week back down to the high 60's, I thought of this recipe and dug it out.  It was super easy to throw together with only one modification - the Berbere spice.  I ended up just mixing together the recommended spices as listed below.  I used more coriander than cloves and allspice, as those two can easily overwhelm a dish.  This does end up rather thick, which makes it perfect to serve over rice.  I do recommend using the basmati rice for it's flavor, but regular brown or white rice will work nicely.


Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew
Look for Ethiopian Berbere spice—a mixture of dried chiles, cloves, ginger, coriander, and allspice—at gourmet markets and specialty stores, or order it from americanspice.com.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup lentils and 1 cup rice)


Ingredients
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cups chopped red onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons Berbere spice
3 cups organic vegetable broth
1 cup dried small red lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
4 cups hot cooked basmati rice


Preparation
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add ginger and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in tomato paste and Berbere spice; cook 1 minute, stirring to combine. Gradually add broth, stirring with a whisk until blended. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a simmer.


2. Rinse lentils until cold water; drain. Add lentils to broth mixture; simmer, partially covered, 35 minutes or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve over rice.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Recipe Review from 8/30/10

Weather has been a bit odd lately, a couple days in the 80's, then dropping down into the 60's with very cool winds.  Hard to plan meals when you don't know if it's going to be hot or cold.  That and we've been eating a fair amount out of the garden, like the tomato soup recipe - it used 3 lbs of fresh veggies!

Tomato Bread Soup (Everyday Food Mag, Sept 2010) 2.0
This came as a high recommendation, so I don't know if it was something I did, or if my referral had significantly different tastes.  The flavor of this soup was good - excellent even -  but the chunks of bread were off-putting.  Which is in part why I think it was something I did, that my bread wasn't crusty enough or I didn't tear into small enough pieces.  Anyway, neither the husband nor I cared for this one and needless to say, it was almost a competition to see who could avoid eating it for lunches.  


Tomato Bread Soup
1/4 cup EVOO
2 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes (optional)
salt
pepper
3 lbs very ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
3 cups water
6 oz day-old crusty bread, thick crusts removed, torn into pieces
1/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

In a large pan/dutch oven, heat oil over med-high heat.  Add onion, season with salt and pepper, cook stirring often until soft about 10 minutes. 

Add garlic and pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant about 1 minute. 

Add tomatoes, cook, stirring often until they begin to break down and release their liquid, about 5 minutes.  Add three cups of water, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. add bread, stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until bread is soft and soup thickens, about 15 minutes.  Season to taste.  Serve with drizzle of olive oil and basil.  

Curried Quinoa Salad (Ckng Lght, Sept 2010)
This was supposed to be part of lunches, but ended up being supper with modifications.  I used Swiss Chard for the celery, yellow raisins for the currants, and frozen mango instead of fresh.  While the mango was still frozen, I diced it a bit smaller.   I have no idea what Madras curry is, so I used my Penzey's Sweet Curry with 1/4 tsp of Hot Curry to bring up the heat.  I was going to skip the raita, but decided at the last minute to go for it.  I also served it warm, but not over spinach as recommended. 

Result?  This was very tasty!  After having it cold the next day for lunch, I think I actually preferred it warmed up.  The raita sauce was a nice touch, adding a bit of creamy-cucumber-y tang to it.  I recommend this dish. 

Curried Quinoa Salad
This Indian-inspired dish features quinoa, a high-protein grain that cooks relatively quickly. We like the heat that Madras curry powder brings, but use regular curry powder if you prefer.



Yield: 6 servings


Ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 diced peeled ripe mango
1/2 cup diced celery  (I used Swiss Chard)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons currants  (I used yellow raisins)

1/4 cup finely diced peeled English cucumber
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1 (6-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt
1 (5-ounce) package fresh baby spinach


Preparation
1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add curry and garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add quinoa and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 16 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; stir in salt. Cool completely.


2. Add mango, diced celery, thinly sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, and currants to cooled quinoa; toss gently.


3. Combine 1/4 cup cucumber, 2 teaspoons mint, and yogurt in a small bowl, and stir well.

( I omitted this part - Divide spinach evenly among 6 plates, and top each serving with about 3/4 cup quinoa mixture and about 2 tablespoons raita.)




Oatmeal Pancakes  (Ckng Lght, Sept 2010)
As par for the course lately, I didn't take any pictures of these delectable pancakes.  The husband and I have found that, on Sunday mornings, we enjoy a breakfast of pancakes or waffles.  We make extra and freeze them for the coming week or to have on hand when we need a quick breakfast.  These were a snap to pull together and very tasty.  I recommend these.   

Oatmeal Pancakes
Yield: 3 servings (serving size: 4 pancakes)


Ingredients
1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (1/4 cup)
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
Cooking spray

Preparation


2. Combine buttermilk, butter, and egg in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons batter per pancake onto griddle. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles; cook until bottoms are lightly browned.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Minnesota State Fair and Wild Ricing 2010!

or Weekend Rewind! 

This was a whirlwind of a weekend!  It began on a very blustery Friday when the Husband and I decided at 8 in the morning to head down to the Minnesota State Fair.  Of course, I neglected to bring the camera so I don't have any pic's of the Masses of people (155,185 to be exact) or the food booths (we shared a corn dog, a pulled pork sandwich, a thing of cheese curds, a monstrous hunk of Irish soda bread glazed with cinnamon, and a bucket of Martha Sweet's Chocolate Chip Cookies).  We bought that last and it was heaped so high I had to carefully carry it all the way back to the park-n-ride lot.

And, being the sort of people we are, we didn't actually take the park-n-ride bus.  Noooo, not us!  We walked both ways figuring a mile and a half would be better than waiting.  The cookies made it intact! 

But the fun didn't end there!  Saturday I was up bright and early to meet my friend for a day of wild ricing.  And again...I left the camera in the car.  Darn it!  It was a glorious day out on the water, a far cry from the pack streets of the fair ground.  The little sora birds would occasionally flush, the wind didn't pick up until about noon and it was sunny but cool. 

My two little bags of rice at the end of the day.

The downside was the rice harvest is not very good this year.  I was only able to harvest 35lbs (not processed weight), as compared to 50lbs my first year and 80lbs my second.  High water levels combined with days of significant wind have taken their toll on the wild rice harvest for 2010.  I am waiting to see what my freind and his wife were able to harvest, and all of us are waiting to hear from a third couple - we are pooling our rice together so we can get it processed.  Hopefully we'll have enough. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Teaberry Strangler

This is book #11 in the Tea Shop Mysteries. These are my 'brain candy' books - a fast, usually entertaining read. What I enjoy about these books are the setting in the historic district of Charleston (which I have visited), some of the tidbits of history and the tea trivia.


What I am becoming annoyed with is the unrealistic daily operations of the Tea Shop itself seriously, the amount and type of food coming out of "that tiny kitchen" is just not realistic or plausible for just one chef in addition to the number of catering jobs they do), the heroine and her hair, and how the characters involved are all going, "Theo, don't do that!" and she does it anyway. Doh. 


This one seemed to push the boundaries of believability more than some of the others. For example - Theo is trying to buy a house in the historic district. She has made an offer that has been accepted. Except now, for unexplained reasons, the seller is dinking around and she can only go over and walk through the house and plan on where she is going to put her furniture. Riiigght...she doesn't own the house, she shouldn't have free access to the house, amongst other things.


Then her dog digs up a *gasp!* human bone in her yard that JUST happened to be on the surface of the lawn. Not that there hasn't been extensive landscaping in the last oh, 100 years. Now suddenly there is an archaeological dig occurring in the yard. Not plausible in my book.


In another instance, Theo is run off the road in her Jeep, nearly injuring her dog. Yet, she doesn't call the police - she just drives out of the ditch and goes home. Nearly a day later she tells the investigating detective what happened. Now, if enough damage was done to her car, then there should be a damaged car somewhere in Charleston in the group she is investigating, correct? But no, she only looks at one suspects car. Again, not a plausible scenario.


There were other small tangents that seemed to clutter the story more so than add to it, and it's as if she's trying to fit in all the quirky characters of the Historic district so there are these people popping in and out of the plot, which really is too bad because this book could have been stronger than it was.

Recommended only if you've read some of the first ten books in this series.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recipe Review from 8/23/10

Apple-Cinnamon Fruit Bars (Eating Well, Sept/Oct 2010)
On a whim, I decided to try these as I knew I had all the ingredients on hand. I had to do the crust in two batches as my food processor is a tiny one, but it still came together very quickly.  I used walnuts and pecans as my nut base - used up some frozen pecans and the last of my pastry flour, hooray!   My filling was apples and raspberries.  The apples were from one of our early producing trees and the raspberries were from last years garden. 

I liked how easily this came together and the overall simplicity of the dessert.  It is a very versatile recipe, and the link above leads to some alternate fruit variations.  What surprised the Husband and I was it was not as flavorful as we thought it would be.  Could have been because the early apples were not as sweet or the fall raspberries not as tart.  Still, I would make this again. 
Apple-Cinnamon Fruit Bars
Crust

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) or old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Fruit Filling
6 cups diced peeled apples, divided
1/2 cup apple cider or orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation
1.To prepare crust: Combine 3/4 cup nuts (or oats), whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter; pulse until well incorporated.

2.Whisk egg, oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. With the motor running, add the mixture to the food processor. Process, then pulse, scraping down the sides, if necessary, until the mixture begins to clump, 30 to 45 seconds (it will look crumbly). Measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and combine in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped nuts (or oats). Set aside for the topping.

3.Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

4.To prepare fruit filling & assemble bars: Combine 4 cups apples, cider (or orange juice), sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 cups apples, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

5.Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Spread the fruit filling over the crust.. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the filling.

6.Bake the bars for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake until the crust and topping are lightly brown, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool completely before cutting into bars, at least 1 1/2 hours.

Tips & Notes from Eating Well

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate the crust and topping (Steps 1-2) for up to 1 day. Cover or individually wrap and refrigerate the cooled bars for up to 5 days.

Tip: Lower in protein than regular whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat and has less gluten-forming potential, making it a better choice for tender baked goods. You can find it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Store in the freezer.

Caprese Salad (Everyday Italian by Giada DeLaurentiis)
Bro!  This recipe is for you! 
I had the Folks out for a campfire and dinner and I wanted to keep things super simple and use some stuff from our garden.  A plethora of small tomatoes said "Italian Salad!" and combined with a little basil, mozzarella balls, olive oil and salt, it just doesn't get any better. 

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1//4 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 lbs assorted tomatoes
6 oz fresh mozzarella drained and sliced (if using small balls, slice in half)
2 tbsp thinly sliced basil

Make dressing with first 4 ingredients
Slice tomatoes or cut small tomatoes in half, arrange on plate or toss in a bowl
Drizzle with dressing and serve


Mock Apple Pie with Crumb Topping 
I screwed this one up so badly that I didn't even take a picture.  I've made a zucchini "apple" pie before with great results, but for the life of me couldn't find the recipe I used.  So I googled one, subbed a crumb topping, sliced, diced, measured and popped 'er in the oven.

But...I missed one vital step

                                                        ...I was supposed to cook it on the stovetop first...

Into the compost it went.