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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Silent Prey by John Sandford

Book #4 in the Lucas Davenport Series. Unabridged audiobook.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


From Goodreads.com: In Eyes of Prey (Book #3), Michael Bekker, an insane pathologist who experiments with his patients pain thresholds, is finally brought down by an unrelenting Lucas Davenport, who brutally maims the doctors beautiful face but leaves him alive. You should have killed me, were Bekkers parting and prophetic words.

In this sequel to Eyes of Prey, Dr. Mike Bekker, a psychotic pathologist, is back on the streets, doing what he does best—murdering one helpless victim after another. Lucas Davenport knows he should have killed Bekker when he had the chance. Now he has a second opportunity —and the time to hesitate is through.



This one was beginning to read a bit like a James Bond book. Our Hero (Lucas as Bond) always gets his woman.  The bad guy is always caught but not before our Hero (Lucas as Bond) is beaten up emotionally and physically.  The story started out fairly strong, picking up directly after book number three.  Not a bad plot device in a series - moves the story along but you don't have to create a whole new situation or characters.  However, the middle dragged.  Once again our protagonists are running around in circles trying to find our antagonist, who just somehow manages to elude darn near everybody.   Downside of said plot devise - same plot, different city.  It got tedious. 


There was a subplot, Lucas was brought to New York to find out who is the crooked cop on the force, but it felt like it was lost in the whole quest for the psycho-bad guy plot and honestly, I thought what sub-plot there was, was more interesting than the main plot.  So again, tedious that I had to slog through the rest to find out what happened here. 


Still, an enjoyable enough read on my daily commute and I'll continue with Book #5 Winter Prey in a month or so.  Meanwhile, I have Shock Wave with Virgl Flowers waiting for me.  Hooray!



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Monday, December 26, 2011

Recipe Review from 12/19/12

An odd week to be sure.  Andy's still getting twice daily dose of antibiotics for his laceration from the week before.  A daily dose of ear medicine, and we've done two ear cleanings now.  Med's must be working because this is the cleanest I've seen his ears since we adopted him in May!   Add in my book groups holiday outing, my snack day at work, and the Husband's office gift exchange (posting more on that later), it was also a long week. 

Merry Christmas!  Hope you had a decent weekend! I got to see the little nieces - Peanuts, both of them, and way to smart for their own good.  Love it!

Pork chops with Red-Eye Gravy and Grits  (Ckng Light Dec 2011)
The ingredient list looks daunting, but when prepared mise en place this truly is a snap to pull together.  I used pork cutlets because I had them in the freezer, regular cremini mushrooms (like I could find and "exotic mushroom blend" up here), and cider vinegar for the sherry vinegar.   I also used regular grits/polenta and not the quick cooking kind and just started them first.  They can easily sit while everything else comes together. I also added about 1/3 cup of Romano-Pecoricno cheese to the grits for a little flavor boost.   What can I say - I'll be making this dish again. 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (4-ounce) package sliced exotic mushroom blend
1/4 cup Madeira wine or dry sherry
1/2 cup hot strong brewed coffee, divided
1/2 cup lower-sodium tomato juice
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk, divided
1/2 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1 tablespoon butter

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle pork with 3/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add pork chops to pan, and cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove pork from pan; keep warm. Add shallots, thyme, and sliced mushrooms to pan; sauté for 4 minutes. Stir in wine, and cook 30 seconds, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 cup coffee, juice, vinegar, and red pepper. Bring to a simmer; cook for 3 minutes. Combine cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup coffee. Add cornstarch mixture to pan, stirring with a whisk; cook for 2 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring frequently.

2. Bring 2 1/4 cups milk and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in grits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently with a whisk. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons milk and butter.

Robin Bashinsky, Cooking Light
DECEMBER 2011


Barley-Spiked Winter Veggie Casserole (The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson)
The author seems to have a tendency to make dishes more complicated.  I suspect it is flavor derived, to add depth to a dish, but really, in my humble opinion, the idea behind the slow cooker or crockpot is to make dinner easier.   Pre-cooking seems contradictory.  She also had a prevalence of "cook for 3 hours".  Ah, that limits me to the weekends?  So!  I simplified the recipe by just "dumping" the ingredients into the slow cooker and letting it do what it does best.  Cook.  This dish was...different.  In a good way... I think. 

A bit reminiscent of sauerkraut with the flavor of caraway seeds and the shredded celery root.  The barley really helped thicken this up by absorbing all the great juices from the leeks and parsnips.  It made for a very decent cold weather "casserole".   This made enough for 4 lunches for two people.  Perfect for this week!

1 large celery root
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup barley (whole, pot, pearled - doesn't matter)
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1.  In a large bowl, toss celery root and lemon juice

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add leeks, carrots and parsnips and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, caraway seeds, salt and peppercorns and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Add barley and toss until coated.  Add tomatoes with juice and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

3. Transfer vegetable mixture to stoneware.  Add celery root and stir well.  Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until vegetables and barley are tender.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

OR (My version) Dump and cook.   Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until vegetables and barley are tender.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars


From Goodreads.com: Sky piracy is a bit out of Darian Frey’s league. Fate has not been kind to the captain of the airship Ketty Jay—or his motley crew. They are all running from something. Crake is a daemonist in hiding, traveling with an armored golem and burdened by guilt. Jez is the new navigator, desperate to keep her secret from the rest of the crew. Malvery is a disgraced doctor, drinking himself to death. So when an opportunity arises to steal a chest of gems from a vulnerable airship, Frey can’t pass it up. It’s an easy take—and the payoff will finally make him a rich man.

But when the attack goes horribly wrong, Frey suddenly finds himself the most wanted man in Vardia, trailed by bounty hunters, the elite Century Knights, and the dread queen of the skies, Trinica Dracken. Frey realizes that they’ve been set up to take a fall but doesn’t know the endgame. And the ultimate answer for captain and crew may lie in the legendary hidden pirate town of Retribution Falls. That’s if they can get there without getting blown out of the sky


This was a fun science fiction/pirate book reminiscent of the Firefly series, but without any love interest.  Retribution Falls is set on a world caught between having flying ships but yet power on the ground is generators,  so it comes across as a blending of subtle steam punk and space piracy.  It is also a story about finding oneself.  As our ill-lucked Captain of the Ketty Jay  finds himself a wanted man, he also begins to realize he holds the fate of his cobbled together crew in his hands.  And they find they need to learn to depend on each other as much as themselves. 




My one complaint comes back to how  the book reminded me of Firefly - a crew on the lam, living on the fringes of society, sneaking into and out of places they can't be found, having done dubious things that they don't want anyone else to know about.  The book at one point even had this societies version of Reavers (remember them?  Big nasty teeth?  Fly around in space looking for people to munch on? Yup. Got them here too.). 




This is by no means a in depth book on the ideology and morality of space pirates, but a fun beach read or even airport read.  Sit back and just enjoy.





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Monday, December 19, 2011

Recipe Review from 12/12/11

A typical week: the usual work and yoga classes; a work Holiday Party on Tuesdaynight, an emergency run to the Vet on Wednesday, errands on Thursday, and was exhausted by the weekend. 

...wait, what was that bit about the vet?  Yup. Wednesday morning I found a severe puncture wound on one of Andy-pup's back legs.  He was in no immediate danger as the wound looked a couple days old - but it looked bad.  After thinking it over during my Wednesday meeting, I decided I wanted it checked for infection or embedded objects.  So, Wednesday night  I got to my vet a little before 5pm, and walked out at 6:18pm. Finally home by 7p. Thank god I brought a book (bkgrp book in fact!)   

It was a severe laceration and not a puncture wound. Dr said it was the second one they saw that day and it was already starting to heal nicely. They cleaned it up and he's on antibiotics for the next 10 days. AND, he has a severe yeast infection in BOTH ears.  Like major yucko. Lucky me - daily ear cleanings for the next week, daily ear meds, then going to weekly ear cleanings, then bi-monthly. I really don't like cleaning ears...grosses me out. ((sigh)) It is imperative to clear this up so we can ascertain if the little guy has allergies. We go back in two weeks to check ears. A positive about getting him when I did! That and I liked the Dr. - new to me - he was really positive and thorough for being so late at night and short notice. 

I won't even describe the "cone" debacle.  Andy does not do the head cone (if you've had pets, you know what I'm talking about). Abject failure. 


Any way, I managed to make one new recipe last week, and a slow cooker one at that so my weekly goal of one slowcooked meal continues.

White Bean and Hominy Chili  (Ckng Lght, Dec 2011)
This was just okay.  I love a good bean chili, but this just didn't quite meet my standards.  Husband was also less than thrilled with it.  It was more like a soup than a chili, was kind of bland, and seemed to lack flavor.  The Husband felt the beans had an odd texture - soft yet a bit crunchy.  Now, be advised that I did use my own dried beans for this and may not have cooked them enough.  Though I didn't notice that particular ailment.

I also skipped the whole "meatless Mexican chipotle sausage", because honestly, it was not to be found in two co-ops and one large supermarket in my corner of the world.  Decided not to substitute and omitted completely.   I won't be repeating this recipe.

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (4-ounce) meatless Mexican chipotle sausage (such as Field Roast), finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can white hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 lime wedges

  • 1. Mash 2/3 cup beans with a fork.

    2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sausage, and sauté for 4 minutes. Add onion, garlic, and poblanos; sauté 6 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add mashed beans, whole beans, 1 1/2 cups water, and the next 4 ingredients (through hominy). Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in green onions and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Shoot To Thrill by P.J. Tracy (Monkeewrench #5)

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5967294-shoot-to-thrill" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1275835585m/5967294.jpg" />Shoot'>http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5967294-shoot-to-thrill">Shoot to Thrill by P.J'>http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/25108.P_J_Tracy">P.J. Tracy

    My rating: 3'>http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/236268107">3 of 5 stars


    From Goodreads.com:  It begins with a floater.

    When Minneapolis homicide cops Gino Rolseth and Leo Magozzi are called to a derelict stretch of the Mississippi River, they see the bride, facedown, dead in the water. And when the Monkeewrench crew-computer geeks who made a fortune on games, now assisting the cops with special anticrime soft-ware-are invited by the FBI to investigate a series of murder videos posted to the Web, it's not long before the group dis- covers the frightening link between the unlucky bride and the latest, most horrific use of the Internet yet. Using their skills to scour the Net to prevent more killings, the team must race against the clock . . . before it's too late.


    Read as an audiobook.



    This book has been more sedate and grounded than the last couple of Monkeewrench book - a return to the feel of Book 1 (Monkeewrench) and Book 2 (Live Bait)  No one is running around the countryside in the dark trying to escape terrorists, no one is driving around the state in a week long blizzard; we have our characters knuckling down and working the crimes in their hometown of Minneapolis and St. Paul. 


    I can't decide if I felt there was a de-emphasis on the romantic interests that were developing but not really progressing in books 1-4.  Detective Leo Magozzi and Grace McBride continue their strange relationship, while unintended outside influences make them reconsider their lack of a relationship.  The epilogue makes me wonder if I was missing more in the relationship dance or if I just ceased to care.  Much like TV shows, when the unrequited love/sex interests drags on long enough, I loose interest.  And in the case of Grace McBride, I've lost interest. 


    I also particularly enjoyed the twists at the end - somewhat expected if you are paying attention, but delightful anyway.    Whole series is recommended.




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    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Recipe Review 12/5/11

    A fairly uneventful week food wise.  Sunday the Husband and I made a double batch of Chicken Wild Rice soup.  Half was for our lunches, half was for a "Frozen Food Santa Basket" for a gal at the Husband's workplace who is having some family medical issues.  I've made this recipe for years, and I need to remember to change the amount served - recipe says serves 6-8 and it's closer to four.

    I did use my slowcooker facilitate cooking the chicken - a method I like more and more each time I use it.   Take chicken, put in slow cooker, cook on high 6-8 hours, low 4-5 hours.  You will need a tongs to extract the chicken because it will just fall apart when done.   This is a great method for an easy dinner or if you need shredded chicken for another dish.  Highly recommended.

    The one noteable recipe was a surprise:

    Chip-Crusted Fish Filets (Ckng Lght Dec 2011)
    This was was surprisingly good!  I used a mondo huge filet of halibut (my favorite fish next to salmon) and had to cook it for about 45 minutes (did I mention this was a huge filet? Seriously, it was.).  The chips didn't burn or turn soggy.  We used Kettle brand chips which are a bit thicker than some national brands and that may  have made a difference.  So for ease of prep and great taste, this recipe is going into my 'regular' rotation. 

    4 (6-ounce) cod fillets (or other firm white fish)
  • 2 teaspoons canola mayonnaise
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (2-ounce) package salt and vinegar kettle-style potato chips, crushed
  • 1/2 cup light ranch dressing   I made my own tarter sauce

  • 1. Preheat oven to 400°.
    2. Arrange fillets on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise over top of each fillet; sprinkle evenly with salt. Gently press about 2 tablespoons crushed chips evenly on top of each fillet. Cook fish at 400° for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with ranch dressing.





    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

    I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld, #38)I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars


    This is book four in the Tiffany Aching Series. Recommend to be read in order.

    Pratchett’s books are a delight to read. Granted, there are some that grab my fancy more than others, but the witticism, the insight into the quirky parts of the human psyche, and the dry (and not so dry) sense of humor is just outstanding.


    However, this was one that I thought got a bit…long. Once again, our young heroine seems to be at the center of Big Nasty Things. A Big Nasty Thing is turning people against witches, against the help they give the small communities, all the little wrongs they right, old people they care for, young people they bring into the world…you get the idea. Intolerance is blooming again in Discworld and despite knowing Miss Aching for 16 years, she’s now A Person of Dubious Character because she is a witch.


    And Miss Aching, for her part, spends a goodly portion of the book running around not getting enough sleep, not eating properly and wondering how she is going to take care of the most current problem.


    About half way through I was ready to skip to the end to find out. But then I might miss something cool that the Mac Nac Feegles did. So I doggedly kept going.




    Not my favorite Pratchett, but not my least favorite either.





    Gail’s review on Disorganized, As Usual


    Andrew Wheeler's review




    View all my reviews





    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Recipe Reveiw from 11/28/11

    Back into the swing of things upon return from South Carolina!  We got our first sticking-snow this past week too - only an inch, but made roads trecherous enough that my usual 25 minute drive home took twice as long.  Not complainin' though!  Was listening to Shoot to Thrill by PJ Tracy.  Listening to a book on tape is a great way to spend time on a commute. 

    I actually did some pre-planning before we went on vacation and had several meals frozen and waiting for our return.  Simple things like pork cutlets (served with stuffing and acorn squash), pork chalupas over rice, and the Stratford 'sweet' chili.  I didn't want to have to stress over doing a grocery run immediately upon return.  Worked out pretty well except for being out of milk and apples. 

    And my goal to use my crockpot once a week continues with this recipe:

    Slow Cooker Lasagna  (Ckng Lght Bulletin Board)
    Oh my goodness! Was this quick, easy and good!  I think assembly took me maybe 30 minutes, and part of that was to caramelize the onions before adding the sausage.  I also used fresh mushrooms prefering the way they stay firm in the end product.  If you don't like you 'shrooms quite so robust in a dish, toss them in with the onion and before the sausage.   What I especially liked about this dish is that it is NOT a 9x13" pan.  This was the perfect size for two of us for about 3 lunches each and one supper. 

    Serving Size : 6-8
    1 lb ground round  mild bulk Italian sausage
    2 tsps minced garlic  (because I just didn't feel like dicing it...)
    [2/3 cup diced onion]
    1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
    26 ozs jar chunky garden-style pasta sauce
    1/4 - 1/3 c water
    8 lasagna noodles -- uncooked   (I used Barilla no-boil noodles)
    4 1/2 ozs jar sliced mushrooms -- undrained
    8oz sliced fresh mushrooms (I used crimini)
    15 ozs part-skim ricotta cheese
    1 1/2 c shredded lowfat mozzarella cheese  (I just used the whole 2cup bag of mozarrella...)

    Cook beef, garlic, [onion] and seasoning in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain and set aside. Combine pasta sauce and water in a small bowl and set aside. Place 4 uncooked noodles in a 4-quart slow cooker coated wit cooking spray, breaking noodles to fit. Layer with half of beef mixture, pasta sauce mixture, and mushrooms. Spread ricotta over mushrooms. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella. Layer with remaining noodles, meat, pasta sauce mixture, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook 4-5 hours.



    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Use of Weapons by Iain Banks


    My rating:  4 of 5 stars

    An interesting story that smacks the reader upside the head with its conclusion.  I love it when a book does that. 

    From Goodreads:  The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought. The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.
            

     Ferociously intelligent, both witty and horrific, USE OF WEAPONS is a masterpiece of science fiction.


    My main complaint with the book is the flashbacks.  I'm not a fan of flashbacks and find they pull me out of the enjoyment of the main story line more often than not.  Even with Bank's, I get annoyed to be reading in the present and the past and my inclination (nay, knee jerk reaction) is to skip the historical trips down memory lane. 


    But I know better with the Culture books. Don't do it! The payoff is so worth it.  


    The favorite part of any Banks book? The ship names. They delight me every time. I used to keep track but have since lost those posty-notes.  Just awesome.


    I'd love to say more, but I can't. Go read it and find out why.
        



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    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Hilton Head SC/Savannah GA 2011

    No recipe review this week!  We were off on Grand Adventures last week - a trip to sunny South Carolina!

    Sunset from the fishing docks

    Departed Duluth on a less than balmy Saturday morning and arrived in Savannah at about 3p in the afternoon.  Once we had rental car keys in hand, we made the 30 minute drive to Hilton Head and checked into our resort and room.  Dinner shortly followed at Roast Fish and Cornbread - which I can safely say was probably the best meal of the week - which is why I'm mentioning it.  Absolutely fabulous!  I need to find a recipe to mimic the spiced sweet potato cornbread.  Yum yum yum.

    Sunday we treat as a 'down day' and hang around the area.  It took us three attempts to find the beach  what with all the multitude of little twisty windy roads.  Lots of lounging and leisurely walks.  Huh...I didn't take any pictures of the beach! 


    Spanish Moss in a Live Oak on Honey Horn plantation. 


    Monday we branched out to explore the whole island and we ended at Honey Horn plantation for  a guided tour, which ended up being just us.  I just love these kinds of tours, so much more personal than just walking around reading signs.  Honey Horn was also showing an outside art exhibit - what a neat contrast with the historical plantation and modern art. 


    Winner of the judged exhibit. Titled "The Family" (there is a third horse
    not in the picture).  Will go on permanent display in the main city on Hilton Head.

    Tuesday we headed back to Savannah to wander the historic district.  We were here in April of 2008 and hadn't alloted enough time to really explore all the parks and streets.  With a tip from my folks - who had also been here previously - we had an early dinner at the Griffon Tea house.  Absolutely lovely...except when I realized on the way back to Hilton Head I left my visor there.  Drat and bother...


    So hard to pick just one picture.  A house off of one of the famous garden squares.

    Wednesday was more lounging and we rented a bike for the coming Holiday weekend.  First we went to Harbor City and checked out the lighthouse and marina.  Then we went back, rented a tandem and did a lovely 5 miles.  Whee!  The Husband got to do the drivin'...little did he know that could just put my feet up on the supports and coast along....hehehe...

    Oops! Someone let all the water out! 
    8' between low tide and high tide. 


    Thursday (Bird Day!) we signed up for a Southern Style Thanksgiving Buffet on the BEACH!  How awesome is that!  Well, pretty awesome for these Yankee's.  70*, slight breeze, I lucked out and got by the heater (70* with a breeze of the  Atlantic is really not all that warm.)  Ooo, so stuffed.  A ambling walk along the beach after helped those digestive juices,  then we finished watching the Packers beat the Lions before a bike ride on the BEACH!  How cool is that?!?  We were biking on the beach on Thanksgiving day.  Whee!!!  (Remember that comment about no beach pics....?)  >:(

    Friday we thought about going up to Beauford, but opted to bike around Hilton Head Island instead.  The Husband wanted to find the remains of a Revolutionary fortification, but the best we could do was a Civil War era bunker.  And in the process we kinda circumnavigated the island on bike, ending at a putt-putt place.  


    Tidal Marsh on Port Royal Sound

    Saturday was departure day, and our flight didn't leave until 6p at night (which turned out to be 7p due to a weather delay in Chicago).  A lovely breakfast out, a round of putt-putt at a different mini-golf place, and then back to Savannah where I was able to retrieve my lost visor!  Hooray!  (This particular visor is from a trip to the Quad Cities to see the then River City Bandits, one of the MN Twin's minor league teams.  Logo doesn't exist any more.)

    So it was with much regret we came home to  30* and a very blustery 25mph wind.  Bleh.  Good to be home again though. 

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Eyes of Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #3)

    Eyes of Prey (Lucas Davenport, #3)Eyes of Prey by John Sandford


    My rating: 4 of 5 stars


    From Goodreads: Lieutenant Davenport's sanity was nearly shattered by two murder investigations. Now he faces something worse...Two killers. One hideously scarred. The other strikingly handsome, a master manipulator fascinated with all aspects of death. The dark mirror of Davenport's soul...This is the case that will bring Davenport back to life. Or push him over the edge.


    This was a very long audiobook, something like 14+ hours? 12 disks at any rate. The reader has a very methodical - almost slow - delivery so I fully admit it was hard to just let the story unfold when I wanted to know what happens NOW. I'm impatient that way.


    I read this one to tide me over until the new Virgil Flowers (#5) becomes available at the library. And because I'm slowly working my way through the Davenport series.


    I love the twists and turns all the characters took in this one. Lucas is climbing back from a bout of depression, trying to find his old footholds. The antagonist Becker is just purely messed up, a pathologist on drugs can't ever be a good combination. Drews, sucked into murdering Becker's wife, is just a very misunderstood downtrodden guy (not that he doesn't have his own dark closet) and pulled into Becker's self destructive orbit.


    My only complaint is I'm already seeing the pattern these books tend to take - all psychological/mystery/thrillers TV or books have a predictable pattern - and it's only book three. But, I supposed Sandford wouldn't be up to 20+ Davenport books and 5 Flowers books if he didn't know what he was doing. I'll definitly keep reading.


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    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Recipe Review from 11/14/2011

    Been a bit of a busy week with some unusual for me late nights, like 11p late nights:  a late season campfire on Sunday night and the weather cooperated quite nicely with just a hint of a breeze and decent temps for November; and watched the abysmal Viking/Packer football game...not entirely certain that it was the Vikings who showed up.... 

    Had the car in for it's 3000 mile oil change and needed new wiper blades, a new headlight, a new battery for my car door opener, new rear brakes and something broke in my emergency brakes too.  Kinda need the emergency brakes when you work in a city like Duluth.   Good to have all this done with winter on the doorstep, but still, Ouch...

    Couple new recipes for the week.  It would have been more but the Mac-n-Cheese made way more than I had anticipated so several recipes got the bump to a future week.


    Creamy, Light Mac-n-Cheese  (Ckng Lght, Nov 2011)
    Sure this was creamy when it came off the stove top...but after 25 minutes in the oven to finish it, it wasn't so creamy.  A bit clumpy if anything.  The one thing I did like the addition of the butternut squash, a great way to slip in some veggies.  And a small brain-fart on my part, this does make a 9x13 pan, which is A LOT for two people.  I think this would have been better with the noodles halved and the sauce kept the same. 

    Ingredients

    3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
    1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
    1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
    2 garlic cloves 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons fat-free Greek yogurt
    1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
    1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
    1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
    1 pound uncooked cavatappi
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

     Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 375°.

    2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

    3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the 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. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

    4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

    5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.

    6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

    Sidney Fry, MS, RD, Cooking Light
    SEPTEMBER 2011


    Black Bean Soup  (Ckng Lght BB)
    I love a good black bean soup and since this was made in the slow cooker it met my weekly challenge of one recipe/week ala crock pot.  I'm not real thrilled about ham so it was only a half hearted search for a ham bone.  What I ended up doing was frying two strips of bacon and tossing the partially cooked bacon into the slow cooker, then frying the onion and garlic in the bacon grease.  So I got my 'smokey' flavor but no meat.  This was super tasty and is great with a bit of cheddar cheese sprinkled over the top. 


    Source: Slow Cooker Revolution
    Yield: 11 1-cup servings

    3 whole onions -- minced
    6 whole garlic cloves -- minced
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    3 cups chicken broth
    3 cups water
    1 pound dried black beans
    3 stalks celery -- minced
    2 whole carrots -- minced
    2 whole bay leaves
    1 whole ham bones   2 strips of bacon
    2 tablespoons fresh cilantro


    Microwave  Fry bacon till mostly cook and fat has been rendered.  Remove bacon and put in slow cooker.  Add onions, garlic, oil and chili powder in a bowl, to frying pan, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

    Stir water, broth, beans, celery, carrots and bay leaves into slow cooker. Nestle ham bone in. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

    Transfer ham bone to cutting board, let cool slightly and shred meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding bone. Let soup settle for 5 minutes and then remove fat from the surface using a slotted spoon. Discard bay leaves.

    Transfer 1 cup of beans to a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Stir shredded ham and mashed beans back into soup and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Knitting Update

    This post is like way, way overdue.  I admit it's been a very slow year for knitting. I suspect it had a lot to do with adopting Andy and his training, my two work companions changed their schedules so we didn't knit on Friday's this summer (having knitting companions is very inspiring for getting projects done). There was the usual yard work and it was easier to read in the evening than to concentrate on a project.

    Let's not forget two trips (Madison, WI and Reno, NV), even though I knit during both.  But now that the weather has turned much cooler and being outside is less attractive, and it's bloody dark at 530pm, I've picked up the needles again.

    Most notable this year is I taught myself how to do a toe-up sock.  LOVE IT!  I'm still experimenting with casting on the toe and what I prefer, but for some reason it is so much fun to do a sock from bottom up rather than cuff down that I'm not sure I could go back.  It'll depend on the pattern I suppose.

    And now, the completions:

    Basic Cable Sock (but toe up!)
    Pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch
    Yarn:  "Four Season Grundl" Merinetta (a German yarn) in olive green
    #1 circulars




    Lacy Cotton Socks
    Pattern: forgot from where!!  Probably Ravelry
    Yarn: Scholler/Stahl  Sockina Cotton 
    #1 circulars
    I bought this yar like 5 years ago from the Yarnery in St. Paul when I was first learning how to knit and didn't know any better...an impulse buy and a good argument why not to do impulse buys. Lovely to work with, but I'm now not a fan of cotton yarn. I  had some technical difficulties with the pattern - a brainfart if you will - that I didn't discover until I was well into sock #2. I just went with it rather than frogg both out.  Didn't care for this particular toe either - very boxy and not tapered as I prefer.





    Temple Cat Hat
    Pattern: Temple Cat Hat from KnitPicks
    Yarn: City Tweed DK in Obsidian and Snowshoe
    #5 circulars
    It had been a while since I worked with two strands (see Moose Hat below) but I needed a project for the drive to/from the Viking game and this fit.  The braided brim takes forever.  I estimate at least 4 1/2 hours.  It's a 3 hour drive to the Cities and 3 hours back home.  In about 4 1/2 of those hours I didn't get it done!  Slow, but worth it.  The rest of the hat was fun fun fun and I quickly finished it in a couple weekends.


    Orange Hat for the Nephew.
    Pattern: based off of the Ely hat by....???
    Yarn: KnitPicks
    #4 circulars.
    Sister called and said the nephew had finally outgrown his little pumpkin hat I made him when he was one.  This is a small crisis in their family as the little guy wears the hat all. year. long.  Knitpicks has such a great selection of yarns that it was no trouble finding orange (I'm talking pumpkin orange here) and whipping up a hat. 


    And on the needles, as a do-over:
    Moose Hat
    Pattern by Knitpicks
    #6 circulars

    I started this wayyyy back in March or April, then Kia-dog had her troubles and passed away. Introduce new doggie, say good bye to free time until a couple weeks ago.  Really wasn't wild about how it looked so I ripped it back to the brim and began again.  Pleased with progress. 


    photo from Knitpics.com





    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Recipe Reveiw from 11/7/2011

    I wish the weather would make up it's mind! Either be nice, warm, and sunny, or stick with the cold bluster that usually exemplifies Fall.  Enough of this 52* one day, 30* the next business. 

    This week Andy-dog has taken a hankering to flossing his teeth on my rugs.  One rug in particular - it used to be my cotton yoga mat, but I never used it as such and decided to put it to better use as a throw rug.  First was the corner.  Bad Dog!  Then he decided he liked chewing holes in it instead.   BAD dog!  THEN! he decided that well, if he couldn't floss on the nice yoga rug, he would pick a different one.  Arrgh!

    Once I correct him of this undesirable habit, I have a friend who thought she might be able to sew me a new edge. 

    But enough of my adorable pup.   Recipe for the week:

    Pork and Butternut Squash Chili (Ckng Light, Nov 2011)
    If you were to click on the link, you would find that this recipe calls for beef.  I've lost my taste for beef so I subbed a pork roast.  Another recipe that could be simplified - like tossing the whole thing into the crockpot and walking away.  You could do about 4 hours on high, or 6-8 on low.  And why buy whole tomatoes when everything is just going to dissolve anyway - use diced in my opinion.  This was tasty enough if not a bit on the bland side for us - even with a while jalapeno tossed in.  I liked all the veggies in it and if a person wanted to make it complete vegetarian, skip the meat all together and use a comparable amount of butternut squash. 

    This also made a lot.  I'll be freezing a couple servings for sure. 

    Cooking spray
    1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
    1 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast, [pork roast] trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    photo from CookingLight.com
    1 1/2 cups chopped onion
    1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
    2 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
    2 teaspoons diced jalapeño pepper
    2/3 cup dry red wine white wine
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chile pepper
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 (28-ounce) can whole   [diced] tomatoes, undrained and chopped
    1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
    1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
    [1 cup coarsely chopped celery]  my addition

    6 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
    2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
    1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon oil; swirl. Sprinkle beef with salt. Add beef to pan; sauté 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove beef.

    2. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, garlic, and jalapeño; sauté 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; bring to a boil, scraping pan. Cook 2 minutes. Return beef to pan.

    3. Stir in ancho chile pepper and the next 7 ingredients (through kidney beans), and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer gently for 1 hour. Add butternut squash and 1 cup carrot, and simmer for 1 hour or until beef is tender. Ladle 1 1/3 cups chili into each of 6 bowls, and top each with 1 tablespoon sour cream and 1 teaspoon cilantro.

    Mike Wilson, Cooking Light
    NOVEMBER 2011



    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    The Bone House by Brian Freeman

    The Bone HouseThe Bone House by Brian Freeman


    My rating: 2 of 5 stars


    Premise of the book from Goodreads.com: Hilary and Mark Bradley are trapped in a web of suspicion. Last year, accusations of a torrid affair with a student cost Mark his teaching job and made the young couple into outcasts in their remote island town off the Lake Michigan coast. Now another teenage girl is found dead on a deserted beach. . . and once again, Mark faces a hostile town convinced of his guilt.


    Hilary Bradley is determined to prove that Mark is innocent, but she’s on a lonely, dangerous quest. Even when she discovers that the murdered girl was witness to a horrific crime years earlier, the police are certain she’s throwing up a smoke screen to protect her husband. Only a quirky detective named Cab Bolton seems willing to believe Hilary’s story.

    Hilary and Cab soon find that people in this community are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden—and to make sure Mark doesn’t get away with murder. And with each shocking revelation, even Hilary begins to wonder whether her husband is truly innocent. Freeman’s first stand-alone thriller since his Stride novels is a knockout.

    I wanted to like this book ('read' it on audio). I really did. It started out strong; the plot pulls a person in...and then I completely lost interest in 2/3 of the characters. I couldn't empathize/care/give a shit about any of them. I got tired of the flashbacks. I grew annoyed with the chronic stupidity - it was a lot like watching the proverbial horror flick and shouting at the screen "NO! Don't open THAT door!".


    So, on one hand, Freeman does a very good job of hooking your emotions and pulling you into a very tumultuous story line. We have a dashing high school teacher who has been accused of taking advantage of an underage girl who had befriended him and his wife. We have an insular community hiding dark secrets and feeling that The Outsider is to blame for all of their woes. The community's Little Darling - who can do no wrong - is murdered on an empty nighttime beach in Florida. It's good. Seriously good.


    On the other hand, I kept getting yanked out of the plot by little things, little implausibilies, in my humble opinion. A community who doesn't seem to believe the girl with no mention ever of a medical exam. Uh huh. After all, a young person simply cannot write anything that realistic. Bullshit. We have a dead girl floating in the water; the sea has seemingly destroyed any evidence of sexual activity, but not the skin under the fingers? The action of the hand in the sand in the water didn't act as a nail cleaner? Riiigght. What was this 16 year old doing in Florida without a parent anyway? Who in the hell lets their 16 year old drive to Florida from Wisconsin with their boyfriend? We have a community who has judged, tried and condemned to death an individual and his wife all because they - the community - deemed themselves judge, jury and executioner. A sheriff who's duty is to protect the innocent - until proven guilty - who's as bad as the rest of them. Trite and annoying. An out of town inspector who is trying to get to the bottom and never questions why an entire community keeps pointing him at one individual. I'm no detective, but if I were, I'd be digging into that towns past because it screams "cover-up".


    I have no idea where Disk 6 compares to in the physical book. But that's where I said to hell with it. I'll try and find some spoilers or check out the book from the library, read the last couple of chapters and call it finished. Maybe. Might still say to hell with it.




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    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Recipe Review from 10/31/11

    Deer opener was this past weekend - which meant that Saturday I needed to be creative on how I was going to get two bouncy hounds some exercise that did  NOT involve running around our yard/property. While the Husband went out back to hunt, I headed into town for yoga with the gang, brunch afterwards, then a great walk with a friend and her dog around a local golf course that had finally closed for the year.  GREAT place to let the hounds run.

    Downside was I nearly lost Andy-dog twice.  He seems to have a hard time hearing where I'm whistling from.  First time he took off in the opposite direction, second time, he got turned around on an adjacent trail.  We got him back both times, but I need to figure out a way to teach Andy to listen to the whistle direction. 

    A couple of good recipes last week.  I'm doing really well at finding at least one slow cooker recipe to either start the week or to have mid-week.  So far it's working out great!  What a time saver. 

    Indian-Spiced Squash Soup (Ckng Lght, Nov 2011)
    Super fast to pull together once all the squash is chopped.  I loved how everything was tossed into the oven - onions, garlic, squash - and roasted, then final assembly is on the stove.  I did say Poo! to some of the directions at the end for simplicity and just did a dump and blend, then simmer for 30 minutes.   I swear, sometimes people try and make recipes harder than they need to be.   Heads up on this one, it has some ZING! when made as written.  Omit chili powder for more of a curry taste. 

    Total: 1 Hour+
    Pic from CookingLight.com
    Ingredients
    1 cup chopped yellow onion
    8 ounces carrot, chopped
    4 garlic cloves, peeled
    1 (1-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
    1 (8-ounce) acorn squash, quartered
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    2 cups water 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon garam masala
    1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
    2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
     6 teaspoons honey
    1. Preheat oven to 500°.

    2. Arrange the first 5 ingredients on a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with pepper. Toss. Roast at 500° for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning once. Cool for 10 minutes. Peel acorn squash; discard skin.

    3. Combine vegetable mixture, 2 cups water, curry powder, garam masala, and red pepper in a food processor; pulse to desired consistency. Scrape mixture into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and stir in salt. Combine yogurt and honey, stirring well. Serve with soup.

    Eunice Munn, Cooking Light
    NOVEMBER 2011



    Balsamic Vinegar BBQ Pork Sliders   (Ckng Lght BB)
    I was dubious about the amount of Balsamic Vinegar in this, but oh my goodness, I shouldn't have been.  These were delish! 
    Very very easy to make - cook the pork roast in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours.  Assemble BBQ sauce (which can be done ahead of time).  Shred pork, add sauce, and eat!  I used warmed whole grain cibiatta buns.  Fantastic.  My only complaint with this recipe was I thought I should get three meals out of it and we got two.    Please note - I also halved the BBQ sauce quantities per a suggestion below.

    2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast

    1 large onion -- chopped
    1 medium sweet green pepper -- chopped
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
    1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

    1 cup balsamic vinegar
    3/4 cup ketchup
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1/4 cup honey
    1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
    1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
    pinch red chili pepper
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    15 slider buns -- or small dinner rolls, split
    coleslaw, pickles, etc.

    Trim fat from meat. If necessary, cut meat to fit into a 3 1/2 - 4 quart slow cooker. In the cooker, combine onion and green pepper. Add meat; sprinkle with thyme and rosemary. Pour broth over meat. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours.

    Meanwhile, make the barbeque sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chili pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Let simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

    Transfer meat to a cutting board. Using two forks, pull meat apart into shreds, discarding fat. Strain vegetable mixture, discarding liquid. Return meat and strained vegetables to the slow cooker. Stir in barbeque sauce. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes.

    Source:"Better Homes and Gardens"

    NOTES from the BB : I used Boston Butt and only added about half of the bbq sauce. It was really good!


    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Snow Blind by PJ Tracy

    Snow BlindSnow Blind by P.J. Tracy


    My rating: 2 of 5 stars


    In book number four, we return to Minneapolis and a winter wonderland that doesn't want to quit. I've lived in Minnesota for 35 years - Mpls for 20 of those and Duluth the remainder. If you get a snowfall as described, you won't be driving all over the state. Major highways will be difficult to navigate. Minor highways probably impassable. County roads...best to stay home. City streets will not be plowed yet (snow emergency first day, then secondary streets, and the rest the third. Be prepared to spend a lot of time shoveling out your car.)


    Yet, we find our good homicide detectives making repeated trips to this northern county because everything keeps pointing them to a secluded business that is more than it appears. What is a corporation on the outside, hides a refuge for 400 battered women behind its fences. A small enclave kept secret from the wider populace, designed to protect and shelter, has now been thrust into the limelight of a murder investigation.


    I had some difficulty with the plausibility of book number four between the snowstorm and this secret enclave called Bitterroot. 400 people living, working, raising kids, doing day to day activities - in a county not all that far north of a major metropolitan area – simply could not be kept under wraps. That’s a fair sized community. Kids talk. Increased traffic of both commuters and supply trucks. Planes that fly over. Just didn’t quite make the bell ring true for me.


    The blurb also describes this as being a Monkeewrench novel:  When the corpses of three police officers are discovered entombed in snowmen, Grace MacBride and her team of crime-busting computer jocks at the Monkeewrench firm are called in to assist. What they discover is a terrifying link among the victims that reaches beyond the badge and crosses the line between hard justice and stone cold vengeance.  I found their roll in this book to be pretty minimal; it’s not about Grace McBride and the gang, it’s about Bitterroot and what hides behind those fences.


    So. Why am I still reading? Darn it if I don’t like the characters and the humor. Some of the one liners and observations are just brilliant. I also give points for the unconventional ending; which I won’t describe because that would be a major spoiler.




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    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Recipe Review from 10/24/11

    Bit of a baking and cooking spree this past week: two different work potlucks, on bookgroup meeting, and the usual for lunches and suppers.  I simply love this time of year - perfect for slow cooked hearty meals, soups, stews, and! I can cool off the leftovers out on the porch (as long as I remember to keep a lid on the dish AND out of reach of the dogs...).  Just sayin'....

    Lots of good main dishes.  I haven't linked to them all since the post was getting mighty long.  If you are interested in something I didn't post, let me know!   Sorry, been uber poor about posting pics.  Will try and do better...once I remember to empty the full memory card on my camera! 


    Wickedly Good Whoopie Pies (Woman's Day mag, 2004)
    I'm fairly certain I've made these before, I just don't recall when.  I also strongly suspect I over beat the batter because my 'cookies' ended up rather flat rather than nice little cake-like blobs.  Still tasted good, just flat.  I also just used a butter frosting from the recipe below so I didn't have to make two frostings on an already rather long baking day.

    Makes 25-30 whoopies

    BATTER
    1 stick (1/2 c) butter, softened
    1 c. granulated sugar
    1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. each baking powder & salt
    1 large egg
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 c. 1% lowfat milk
    2 c. all-purpose flour

    FILLING - Used filling recipe from Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
    3/4 stick (6 Tbs) butter, melted
    1 c. plus 2 Tbs. confectioners' sugar
    1 c. plus 2 Tbs. marshmallow cream/fluff
    1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1. Heat oven to 375. Coat baking sheet(s) w/nonstick spray.

    2. Batter: Beat butter, sugar, baking soda, baking powder & salt in large bowl w/mixer on medium speed til fluffy. Beat in egg & vanilla, then cocoa til blended. With mixer on low speed, slowly eat in milk til blended. By hand, stir in flour. Drop level tablespoons 2" apart on prepared baking sheet(s).

    3. Bake 8 minutes or til tops spring back when lightly pressed. Cool on sheet l minute before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat w/remaining batter.

    4. Filling: With a wooden spoon, vigorously mix all ingredients til blended and smooth.

    5. Spread 2 tsp. onto flat side of half of the cakes; top each with another cake, pressing to adhere.
    Planning tip--refrigerate airtight w/wax paper between layers up to 1 wk. or freeze up to 1 month.



    Pumpkin Whoopie Pies  (Culinary in the Country Blog)
    I'm also not certain if I made these before, so I'm treating this one as a new recipe.  Good, dense, pumpkin-y;  makes the amount listed if you use a small cookie dough/meatball scoop for uniformity.  I would make these again - fun treats! 

    For the batter:
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tablespoons cinnamon
    1 tablespoon ground ginger
    2 teaspoons ground cloves
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 cups packed dark brown sugar
    1 cup canola oil
    3 cups chilled mashed or pureed pumpkin
    2 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    For the filling
    8 tablespoons (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    8 ounces cream cheese, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    3 cups confectioners' sugar
    To prepare the batter:
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

    In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until combined. Whisk in pumpkin. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, beating until combined before adding the next. Mix in vanilla. Add dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and whisk just until the ingredients are combined.

    Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop heaping scoops of the batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Place sheets into the oven and bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the cookies spring back when lightly pressed in the center or a toothpick placed in the center comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs attached, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the sheets before transferring them to a wire rack.

    To prepare the filling:
    In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Beat in cream cheese and vanilla until combined. Sift confectioners' sugar into the mixing bowl and beat just until smooth.

    Scoop filling into a pastry bag and pipe a large dollop on the flat side of half of the cookies. Place an unfilled cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling to create a sandwich. Place assembled whoopie pies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover lightly with saran wrap. Place into the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

    Makes about 28 assembled whoopie pies.



    Butternut Squash Risotto  (Ckng Lght Oct 2011)
    This ended up getting made in two parts - I was cubing and boiling the squash the week previous and got hit with a bout of vertigo.  Supper was aborted while I slept it off for four hours, then went to bed.  The Husband completed the squash puree mixture, so when I was able to get back to this, it was just a matter of heating the puree, sauteing the rice and then combining.  This risotto was super easy - and incredibly bland.  Just no flavor to it at all.  Some caramelized onions would have made a world of difference in my opinion.



    Quinoa and Black Bean Salad  (allrecipes.com) 
    It's a good thing this one was quick to assemble because I ended up making it the morning of the potluck.  Just ran out of time on Sunday and Monday I had yoga class and bookgroup so I don't get home till late.  It also would have helped on Tuesday morning if I had actually remembered  to have bought the black beans ahead of time...a quick swing through Cub on the way to work, remember to bring the strainer to rinse and drain the beans at the office.  Oy.  Anyway, this was outstanding!  Forget the chilli, I much preferred this!



    Pork Chalupa's (Ckng Lght BB, source unknown)
    This. Was. Outstanding!  So simple to throw together in the morning and all I had to do to "shred" was stick a fork in the meat and stir it around.  Definitely add the salt, chilies and picante sauce after shredding the meat, otherwise your beans may not soften.  I found that four cups of water was plenty, since the pork and onions also give off liquid.   

    Serve on tortillas, over rice or with corn chips! You can make it spicier by using jalapenos instead of green chilies and use whichever level salsa you like. It is much better the next day or even a few days later. It makes a lot!!

    1 lb. dry pinto beans/navy beans/or other preferred bean
    3 lbs. boneless pork (we used country style boneless pork ribs - highly recommended!)
    6 4 cups water
    1/2 1 cup onion, sliced into rings or half rings
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 Tablespoons chili powder
    1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
    1 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 Tablespoon salt
    1- 4 oz. can of diced jalapenos (if you like a little heat) or 1- 6 oz. can of diced green chilies
    1/2 – 1 cup Pace Picante sauce (I have used a Trader Joe's tortilla sauce-- well a different one each time)

    Put all ingredients up to oregano in crock pot. Cover and cook on low about 8-9 hours or on high 5 or more hours, until roast is falling apart and the beans are soft. Remove the meat, shred and return to the pot. Add salt, jalapenos or green chili's and picante sauce. 
     
    If possible, check after 5 hours to make sure the beans haven’t absorbed all the liquid. Add 1 cup water at a time if you need to. Enjoy this meat with corn or flour tortillas and with toppings of your choice.


    Leek and Barley Soup (Victory Garden CkBk by Marion Morash)
    Sorry, I completely forgot to type this one in this weekend.  I also admit, I had my doubts about this particular soup: 6 cups of sliced leeks?  Really? and only 2oz of barley?  Well, by default the leeks were only 4 cups (it was all we had left from the garden) and I have to say it was about perfect.  Next time I would definitely up the barley to 4oz.   With some carrots, onion, celery and stock, this turned out really good and would be outstanding with some rustic bread, cheese and fruit.

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Zero History by William Gibson

    Zero History (Bigend, #3)Zero History by William Gibson


    My rating: 4 of 5 stars


    Premise of the book from Goodreads.com:  Hollis Henry worked for the global marketing magnate Hubertus Bigend once before. She never meant to repeat the experience. But she's broke, and Bigend never feels it's beneath him to use whatever power comes his way -- in this case, the power of money to bring Hollis onto his team again. Not that she knows what the "team" is up to, not at first.



    Milgrim is even more thoroughly owned by Bigend. He's worth owning for his useful gift of seeming to disappear in almost any setting, and his Russian is perfectly idiomatic - so much so that he spoke Russian with his therapist, in the secret Swiss clinic where Bigend paid for him to be cured of the addiction that would have killed him.


    Garreth has a passion for extreme sports. Most recently he jumped off the highest building in the world, opening his chute at the last moment, and he has a new thighbone made of rattan baked into bone, entirely experimental, to show for it. Garreth isn't owned by Bigend at all. Garreth has friends from whom he can call in the kinds of favors that a man like Bigend will find he needs, when things go unexpectedly sideways, in a world a man like Bigend is accustomed to controlling.


    As when a Department of Defense contract for combat-wear turns out to be the gateway drug for arms dealers so shadowy that even Bigend, whose subtlety and power in the private sector would be hard to overstate, finds himself outmaneuvered and adrift in a seriously dangerous world.


    I really enjoyed book number three in the Bigend series. There is just something about the way Gibson weaves the characters and plot together that is just a delight to read. I read Pattern Recognition in March of 2006, Spook Country in June of 2011 and now Zero History and everyone of the books left me wanting to read another.


    I also find Gibson's books, at least these, to be a nice blend of description and dialog. I loved the setting at the hotel, the stuffed critters, the wallpaper with the vaguely pornographic scene, the narwhale tusks and the shower. Really, he described a shower! It’s little things like that that really made the book come alive. I enjoyed the dialog for similar reasons, it felt like people actually talking to each other; short clipped sentences that only make sense if you're part of the conversation.


    With Zero History I was especially delighted when Gibson pulled from Pattern Recognition - even though it's been five years since I read that first book, I still recalled enough to make the connection.


    Lastly, this is not science fiction per-se even though it is published as such, but near future perhaps might be a better way to describe it? Hardly detraction in my opinion. Delightful series of books. Recommended.




    View all my reviews

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Recipe Review from 10/16/11


    Whew! Busy weekend - Saturday morning I co-taught a Yin/Yang yoga class; 1 hour of vinyasa, followed by 1 hour of restorative.  Plan was the Husband and I were going to go to brunch then up to the UM-Duluth homecoming football game, but massive brain fart, we forgot our tickets and had to drive All. The. Way. Back. Home.  Grrr.   Absolutely gorgeous day to be outside though!  Was probably about 50*F (10*C), but in the stands it was easily 60*F (15*C).  Record number of attendees - 6044! Thankfully we did get reserved seat tickets but still, we were packed in there like sardines.  UMD won 37 to 6. 

    Then it was a quick swing through Yarn Harbor for a skein of yarn for myself and we made our way down to the Lakewalk to see if Portland Malt Shoppe was still open.  Hooray! It was!  Probably the last Portland Malt of the year as they will be closed till spring next time we're down in that neighborhood.  And we ended the day with dinner at India Palace. Yum! 
    Only one new recipe from last week. This made more than I hand anticipated and then we had a strange mid-week.  Not sure why, just the way it was.  


    Slow Cooker Chicken Curry  (Ckng Lght BB/Women's Day Magazine)
    First dish in my attempt to use my slow-cooker weekly.  I had planned on assembling this Monday morning, but realized Sunday afternoon it would make more sense to just do it then and have the Husband re-heat before I got home from class.  I ended up using 2 packages of chicken thighs; it was a bit of a conundrum one package is 1.25 lbs, but only has 6 pieces.  And what was I going to do with four leftover chicken thighs?  Decided use two packages and cook it all up.  Downside was I couldn't double the sauce as I ran out of curry powder AND ginger.   Result?  Chicken turned out super tender, lots of juices (almost too much so) and short in the spice department.  Which might be okay for some folks but I like a little more oompf to my 'curry'. 

    Serves: 4
    4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 1-in. piece fresh ginger, grated
    2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
    2 tsp curry powder
    1 tsp ground cumin
    Kosher salt and pepper
    8 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb total)
    2 small onions, cut into 1/2-in. wedges
    1 cup long-grain white rice
    2 plum or other tomatoes, diced
    Nonfat Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro, for serving


    1. In a 5- to 6-qt slow cooker, whisk together the garlic, ginger, vinegar, curry powder, cumin, 2 Tbsp water, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.

    2. Add the chicken and onions and toss to coat. Cook, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and very tender, 6 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high.

    3. When the chicken has 25 minutes left to cook, cook the rice according to package directions.

    4. Gently fold the tomatoes into the chicken mixture and serve over the rice. Top with the yogurt and cilantro, if desired.

    5. Instead of chicken, try lamb stew meat or beef chuck (cut into 2-in. pieces).

    Source: Woman's Day mag. September 2011

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