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Monday, January 31, 2011

Recipe Review from 1/24/11

It was a mostly uneventful week, with a quick trip across the state to visit relatives this weekend.  We've been at 0*, then up in the 20's, it's snowed, temps have dropped again, and now, snowing again.  LOVE IT!  Makes for great skiing and snowshoeing and the dogs love to run down on the lake.  Cold, snowy days call for some warm comfort type food:

Quick Black Bean Soup with Corn (Ckng Lght, June 2010)
I needed something quick for supper Sunday evening and I had the ingredients on hand for this soup.  I added onion and celery to the corn saute (a black bean soup with no onion?! tsk!).  After sauteing the corn, onion and celery, I set aside and quickly sauteed some kielbasa slices.  Then added everything back to the pot....except the tomatoes because I completely brain-farted adding those.  It would have helped make the soup a bit thinner had I remembered.  Oh well.  I think I'll be making this again and will add all the ingredients. 

Total: 27 minutes (pretty darn close!)

Yield: (with kielbasa) about 6

Cooking spray
1 cup frozen corn kernels
3 (15-ounce) cans organic black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat Greek-style plain yogurt (such as Fage)

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add corn to pan, and sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

2. Combine 2 cans of beans and broth in a blender; process until smooth. Add bean mixture, remaining can of beans, tomatoes, chile paste, and salt to corn, stirring to combine; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with yogurt.

Mexican Chicken Casserole (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2011)
First off, I halved this recipe.  I didn't need a 9x13 pan.  I like leftovers, but that's moving into the waaayyy to much for two people category.  I also omitted the feta cheese. I've been in a bit of a pantry/freezer reduction mode and I just didn't want to be buying more cheese.  Homemade salsa can easily be substituted, but it really wasn't too much work to made it as directed below.  The flavors of the dish turned out nice and bright, and tangy from the jalapeno.  Not to saucy either, which I appreciated.  I served this with some steamed green beans. 

Total: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

8 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded

picture from

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 seeded jalapeño pepper, quartered

Cooking spray
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (10-ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat broiler.

2. To prepare salsa, combine first 4 ingredients on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil 20 minutes or until charred, stirring once. Remove from oven; cool slightly. Place tomato mixture in a food processor; add cilantro, lime juice, and pepper. Process until smooth. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. To prepare casserole, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 cup onion, corn, zucchini, and bell pepper; sauté 6 minutes or until tender. Add chicken and next 5 ingredients (through green chiles); sauté 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat.

5. Spread 1/2 cup salsa over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange half of tortillas over salsa. Spoon 2 cups chicken mixture evenly over tortillas. Top with 3/4 cup salsa. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of each cheese. Repeat layers, starting with remaining tortillas and ending with remaining cheeses. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes until bubbly.

Poached [Cod] with Lemon-Herb Sauce (Ckng Lght Jan/Feb 2011)
Plans for going out for dinner fell through when the roads went snotty toward the end of the working day Friday.  Add in several errands and I was ready to call it a day and just go home.  Problem?  What to have for dinner?  I knew I had the sauce ingredients on hand for this dish - all I needed was the fish.  A quick stop at the meat market confirmed halibut is done till spring, so I picked up some cod instead.  This was the perfect dish for a snowy, late night dinner.  Quick - on the table in under 30 minutes.  Nice bright flavors that I complemented with some steamed green beans and red pepper.  Add a bottle of Pinot Grigio and the recent netflix DVD and it was better than going out.  Recommended.


picture from

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 lemon sections, finely chopped

6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 parsley sprig
1 cilantro sprig
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets [I used 1 lb cod for two people; halibut is no longer available up here]

1. Combine first 8 ingredients.

2. Combine water and next 5 ingredients (through cilantro sprig) in a large skillet; bring to a low simmer (180° to 190°). Add fish; cook 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove fish from pan with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Serve with sauce.

Sustainable Choice: Halibut is a readily available, sustainable option with mild flavor and firm flesh.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Windup Girl

In the scifi community, this is a love-it/hate-it book. I know of one person who has bounced off of this, and one person who read it and just didn't like it at all.  This also co-won the Hugo Award in the Novel category for 2010 with The City and The City by China Mieville.

$14.95 pb, 300 pages
Premise of the book from In a future Thailand, calories are the greatest commodity. Anderson is a calorie-man whose true objective is to discover new food sources that his company can exploit. His secretary, Hock Seng, is a refugee from China seeking to ensure his future. Jaidee is an officer of the Environmental Ministry known for upholding regulations rather than accepting bribes. His partner, Kanya, is torn between respect for Jaidee and hatred for the agency that destroyed her childhood home. Emiko is a windup, an engineered and despised creation, discarded by her master and now subject to brutality by her patron. The actions of these characters set in motion events that could destroy the country. Bacigalupi has created a compelling, if bleak, society in which corruption, betrayal, and despair are commonplace, and more positive behavior and emotions such as hope and love are regarded with great suspicion. The complex plot and equally complex characters require a great deal of commitment from readers. Even the most sympathetic people have darker sides, and it is difficult to determine which character or faction should triumph.

I enjoyed Windup Girl immensely. I thought the setting in Thailand was exemplary and a great backdrop against the Big Seed Company's control of the world wide food source. The idea that there was a world collapse due to blight and insects and the subsequent challenge of companies to create GMO's as a seed source was a refreshing 'end of the world' scenario. Add in political unrest, karma, ghosts, illegal cloned humans and the daily struggle to survive and it becomes a fascinating read.

As a side note, I did notice this is also being advertised/sold under YA which surprised me given the circumstances in which Emiko is living and found.  I would not recommend this as a YA. 

Further, this leaves me with only one Hugo Award winner to read: The Snow Queen by Joan D Vinge (Hugo Award Winner in 1981).  Once I get around to that selection, I will have read all the award winners in the Novel category from 1953 to present.  And from about 2000 to present, I have read most of the nominees in the Novel category as well.  A couple I purposely skipped as I just couldn't stand the nominated author. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recipe review from 1/18/11

Due to party leftovers, we didn't need to make much for new recipes last week, and our salmon dishes tend to cover two nights as well.  Since I'm on the topic of salmon, I want to take a moment and rave about our salmon source:  Simple Gifts Syrup and Salmon   The Rogotzke's are a local family who make their own award winning maple syrup in April and May, then they head up to Alaska to fish for salmon and halibut.  I had the good fortune several years ago as part of work to take a tour of their maple syrup operation, which is where I discovered how awesome good maple syrup can be.  I've been exposed to real syrup from North Central Wisconsin, but it had always tasted...'tinny' to me.  Not this.  Rich, caramel-y, thick  - fabulous to cook and bake with.

At the urging of a couple of co-workers, I then tried out some of their salmon.  Delicious!  However they have it processed, the salmon is so fresh tasting with no 'fishy' after taste.  The key is to make sure not to over-cook it.  I've baked the salmon, broiled (not my favorite), and grilled it (my favorite). 

The Rogotzke's sell their fish locally, and over the internet.  We're fortunate in that we can just go pick a box up. 

Indian Spiced Salmon with Basmati Rice  (Ckng Light, June 2010) 
Oh my goodness - super quick to prepare, especially when I has some frozen rice in the freezer which just needed to be re-heated!  Flavors were definitely reminiscent of Indian food.  I think baking would be better than broiling, the fish seemed to dry out more under the broiler.   Recommended. 

2 cups water
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 teaspoons roasted salted cashew pieces

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1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Dash of kosher salt
Dash of ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
Cooking spray

1. To prepare rice, bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover, reduce heat, and cook for 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and cashews. Keep warm.

2. To prepare salmon, preheat broiler.

3. Combine ginger and the next 5 ingredients (through pepper). Rub spice mixture evenly over salmon. Place fillets on a broiler pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil; broil 7 minutes. Remove foil; broil an additional 4 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Serve salmon with rice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Defender by CJ Cherryh

Book #5 in the Foreigner Series.

Not as interesting as Book #4, but still a quick read. This was definitely a transition book; getting the characters from Point A - the Space Station - to Point B, the space ship, where they can then start to transition to Point C, the abandoned space station.

From Amazon.comMisunderstandings have led to war in the past and make human/atevi diplomacy incredibly difficult. Bren Cameron trained for decades to be the paidhi, the only human allowed to negotiate with the atevi, overseeing the slow transfer of advanced human technology to the brilliant but less advanced natives of the planet in trade for vital raw materials. Eventually, Bren changed sides, becoming the representative of Tabini, the atevi's ruler, to humanity. Now the political situation has been complicated by the return of the Phoenix, the starship whose much hated crew abandoned the colonists some two centuries earlier, and, worse yet, by the starship's report that its crew has discovered a hostile space-faring race relatively nearby. The senior captain of the Phoenix, negotiating through Bren, agrees to help Tabini build a second starship to defend the planet, but as Bren learns after the captain's mysterious death, other plots are afoot and not all the information shared by the starship can be trusted.

My main complaint with this book is the characters don't seem to have evolved or matured. Bren is still wrestling with family issues, even though he's been on the space station and out of communication for two years. Jase is still behaving like a petulant teenager rather than a mature ship-captain. The Atavi continue not to tell Bren-padhi anything, leaving him to run in circles and scream and shout. The Ship continues not to tell Jase and Bren anything, leaving them to grouse and shout. And then events force all hands and they have nothing more to do than to react, and usually, they react poorly.

However, I still enjoy this series and I am looking forward to reading the next one.

The series to date:
Triology Arc 1

Triology Arc 2Precursor

Explorer**  Next in line to be read

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Game Night and a Birthday Party

This past weekend the Husband and I did something very out of character for us: we held a PARTY!  Yes! Game night and a Birthday Party!   My Folks were kind enough to let us use their house because it is so perfect for entertaining.  A bit of prep was necessary since I wanted to host a party where we provided the food; and a bit more prep was necessary since we got 8" of new snow.  The Husband was super nice and snowblowed and shoveled while I assembled and tidied. 

The munchies:
Cranberry Meatballs
Regular Hummus
Red Pepper Hummus
Pita bread
Pickled Herring
Cheese, Sausage and Crackers
Deli meat and buns
Cheesy Souffle (brought by friend T...awesome dish btw)
Birthday Cake!

We certainly didn't go hungry... 

Rousing conversation segwayed into a variety of games: The Piggy Game, Apples to Apples, Quelf, and the NFL playoff game(s).  Yes, I let my guests watch the playoffs - a couple of the guys are not group/board game inclined which is fine.  Football is a game too! 

Okay, back the bus up...Piggy Game?  Quelf?  Apples to Apples?  The Piggy Game involves nothing more than, well, rolling a couple of little piggies.  How they land determines your points.  As long as you don't "pig out", you can keep rolling.  Once your piggies "pig out" then the next person goes.  This is a fun game. 

Apples to Apples is a popular card type game.  The group holds a set number of red apple cards, while the judge picks a green apple card.  The group then tosses a red apple card in a pile and the judge must pick one that best represents the green apple card.  If the judge picks your card, you win the green apple!  Then the next person next to be a judge. Person with the most green apples wins! 
Quelf...not sure I can even describe this one after playing it!  It's a board game and when you land on a colored square you pick a matching card.  Some cards have you asking the group a question, some cards have you do something silly (like be a helicopter or wear a pot on your head), while other cards make the group do something silly.  A good game once the rules are figured out and willingness to be a bit silly is mandatory.

My sincere thanks to all my fabulous guests!  The husband and I had a splendid time and we hope you did too! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recipe Review from 1/10/11

Kale Lasagna Diavolo (Vegetarian Times, Jan/Feb 2011)
A most excellent dish.  This came together surprisingly quickly - especially if you use the no-boil noodles.  While the water is coming to a boil to blanch the kale, I had chopped some onion (my addition) and the garlic and started them sauteing.  Quickly mashed together the goat cheese and ricotta, de-stemmed the kale and tossed in for two minutes, sprayed the casserole dish, and then assembled.  I think I had to wait a few minutes for tomato sauce to simmer a bit more.

Downside - this did use a fair amount of dishes.  Upside - once in the oven, I could wash everything and still have time to set the table.  I didn't think the sauce was a 'spicy' as the recipe led me to believe, but that could have been because I just used the full 28oz can rather than measure out 2 cups.  I like my Italian saucy and I had no idea what I was going to do with leftover puree.  I should have upped the garlic and pepper flakes.

Oil for pan and pot
1 8oz bunch kale, stems removed
1 15 oz pkg fat free ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)
4 oz chevere or soft goat cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup onion (my addition)
2 cups prepared tomato puree
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6-8 lasagna noodles cooked and drained OR
      no-boil lasagna noodles (I used 8 no-boil)
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

1) Preheat over to 400*; Coat 8" square baking pan with cooking spray.

2) Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water until cool to touch.  Thoroughly wring out kale then chop.  Season with salt and pepper if desired and set aside.  (I skipped seasoning.)

3) Mash together ricotta and chevere in bowl; set aside.

4) Heat oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat; add garlic (and onion).  Cook until [softened] and fragrant.  Add tomato puree and red pepper flakes; simmer 5 minutes or until thickened.

5) Spread 1/4 cup sauce in prepared dish.  Place 2-3 lasagna noodles on top of sauce.  Top with half of cheese mixture, half of kale, and 1/3 cup sauce.  Top with 2-3 more noodles, remaining cheese and kale.  Top with remaining noodles and cover with sauce. **  Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake 40 minutes or until cheese has melted and lasagna is bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving

**If using no-boil noodles, don't add Parmesan but cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove aluminum foil, top with cheese, and bake remaining 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce bubbly.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving

Pork and Wild Rice Soup  (Ckng Lght Dec 2010)
photo from
This turned out just...okay.  I think it was too brothy for our tastes - we like our soups on the creamier side.  It certainly wasn't hard to assemble - chop pork, saute until lightly browned.  Set aside. Saute veggies (I added some yellow pepper that was in need of being used up) and rice,  add water, broth and pork and simmer until rice is cooked.  I think if I had added some flour when sauteing the veggies it would have made a big difference - more creamy, less broth.  Flavor was good; with 2 Serrano chilies it definitely had some zing. 

I also skipped the avocado and cheese.  The flavors and texture just seemed out of place on a broth soup. 

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups soup)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound pork tenderloin sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces  (tenderloin is too expensive for soup, IMO) 
1/3 cup brown and wild rice blend
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 of yellow pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Serrano chiles, seeded and minced
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 (32-ounce) carton fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can black beans  navy beans,  rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco
1 sliced peeled avocado
24 baked tortilla chips

1. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown pork on all sides. Remove from pan.

2. Heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add rice, onion, garlic, and chiles; sauté 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add pork, 1 cup water, oregano, broth, and beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in cilantro, juice, salt, and pepper; simmer 2 minutes. Top each serving with cheese, avocado, and chips.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger

$7.99 Paperback
544 pages

 This is book four in the Cork O’Connor mysteries. I’ve been listening to these on Audiobook.

Premise of the book from When the corpse of a beautiful high school student is discovered on a hillside four months after her disappearance on New Year's Eve, all evidence points to her boyfriend, local bad boy Solemn Winter Moon. Despite Solemn's self-incriminating decision to go into hiding, Cork O'Connor, Aurora, Minnesota's former sheriff, isn't about to hang the crime on a kid he's convinced is innocent. In an uphill battle to clear Solemn's name, Cork encounters no shortage of adversity. Some — like bigotry and bureaucracy — he knows all too well. What Cork isn't prepared for is the emergence of a long-held resentment from his own childhood. And when Solemn reappears, claiming to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ in Blood Hollow, the mystery becomes thornier than Cork could ever have anticipated. And that's when the miracles start happening...

In this “episode” we have Cork butting heads with the new sheriff of Tamarack County, Arnie Soderberg, and Fletcher Cane, father of the murdered girl; while trying to defend Solemn’s innocence. Cork’s lawyer wife , Jo, agrees to defend Solemn and she set’s Cork loose to investigate. I did find it rather fascinating, that Cork pretty much blithely runs around interviewing who he wants when he wants and nobody from the sheriff’s department stops him. I found that rather suspicious, but the author did try and give the impression that the sheriff’s department had stopped investigating when they accused Solemn.

It also seems odd to me that everybody (with the exception of Fletcher) seems pretty willing to tell the ‘former’ Sheriff of Tamarack County what they know. Doesn’t anyone ask to have an actual officer present? A lawyer? How in the world could Cork or Jo prove that these people said anything in a court of law?

Still, book four was pretty good. My main complaint was the reader – they switched readers between book three and four, and this new reader just seemed…bored with not much change in intonation between the different characters. However, reading quality aside, the plot kept moving along, there were interesting twists and turns, a few scenes were set up to be ‘predictable’ and surprisingly they weren’t. I found it interesting, for a small town where everybody knows everybody else, there is a lot of dirty laundry being aired.

Recommended if you’ve read book three which does a good job of establishing the setting of Tamarack County and the characters.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recipe Review from 1/1/11

A new year - a new recipe tally.  My count has slipped the last couple of years - I've become more comfortable making good meals without recipes, I've been repeating recipes more, and I just needed a break. 

2010 - 85
2009 - 92

2008 - 129
2007 - 120
2006 - 103
2005 - 137
2004 - 143
2003 - 154
2002 - 129

Our household is settling into a new routine this year so I'm going to be looking at more soups and stews for lunches because they can be made on Sundays.  These will be predominantly our vegetarian meals.  I'll be searching for more dinners that will stretched for couple three days and when spring and summer roll around, we'll be grilling out and doing more salads. 

So to start of the year, the Husband and I made this:

Chicken Stew with Hominy  (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2010)

Picture from
 This is outstanding!  I decided I didn't want to putz with peeling 1 1/2 lbs of tomatillo husks so I bought canned, drained them, then just roasted with the anaheim peppers.  They weren't completely blackened, but bubbly warmed and nicely roasted.  Perfect!  While the pepper and tomatillos were under the broiler, veggies chopped, and the Husband had those cooking in no time while I finished prepping the chicken.  I had my doubts about using chicken thighs - they can make things greasy, but this was not the case.  The chicken turned out tender and flavorful, the sauce is not brothy, but not thick either and the whole dish was reminiscent of chicken enchiladas in a green sauce.

Total: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

2 Anaheim chiles
Cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos (I used 3-11 oz cans tomatillos, drained and roasted with the chilies)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 (29-ounce) can golden hominy, rinsed and drained
6 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
Cilantro leaves (optional)

1. Preheat broiler to high.

2. Halve, stem, and seed chiles. Place chiles, skin side up, [and tomatillos], on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; broil for 5 minutes or until charred. Place chiles in a paper bag; seal. Let stand for 15 minutes. Peel and discard skins. Arrange tomatillos on prepared baking sheet, and broil 14 minutes or until blackened, turning once. Combine the chiles, tomatillos, 1/4 cup cilantro, cumin, and oregano in a blender. Add 1 cup broth; process until smooth.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper; sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour; sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Place onion mixture in a large bowl.

4. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of chicken; sauté 3 minutes. Add browned chicken to onion mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and 2 teaspoons oil. Combine remaining 1 cup broth, tomatillo mixture, onion mixture, and hominy in pan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Ladle 1 2/3 cups stew into each of 6 bowls, and top each with 1 tablespoon sour cream. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Tuna Noodle Casserole (Ckng Light Annual 2011)
This is not your grandma's church hotdish.  Made with frozen peas, carrots and a bit of celery (my addition) vacuum packed tuna, egg noodles and a mixture of a milk based sauce and mustard, this tasted fresh and bright.  It was just as good reheated - which was good since it did make three meals for two people.  This does come together very quickly, which I appreciated on a weeknight. 

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)

8 ounces wide egg noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup chopped carrot
(1/3 cup chopped celery)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 3/4 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
2 (5-ounce) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked  (just buy the kind in the vacuum packs)

Cooking spray


1. Preheat broiler.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot (and celery); cook 6 minutes or until carrot is almost tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in milk; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until slightly thick. Stir in cream cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Remove pan from heat. Stir in noodles, peas, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and tuna. Spoon mixture into a (see note below) shallow broiler-safe 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

**I used an oven safe skillet and just slid under the broiler.  One less dish to wash.

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca (Ckng Lght Jan/Feb 2011)
This was the cover recipe for the Jan/Feb issue and and I must say it tasted as good as it looked.  It was also super easy to prepare - I did slice the chicken breasts in half to make them thinner, sprinkled with salt, pepper and a bit of ground sage (a sage leaf seemed like too much flavor and I didn't want to buy a whole package for a handful of leaves), and wrapped in proscuitto.  A visit to a hot pan, a wait under a lo broiler and drizzled with the lemony sauce.  Result?  It was reminicient of breakfast sausage but for dinner.  Quick and deliscious.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cutlet and 2 tablespoons sauce)

4 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 fresh sage leaves
2 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 8 thin strips
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Lemon wedges (optional)


1. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Place 3 sage leaves on each cutlet; wrap 2 prosciutto slices around each cutlet, securing sage leaves in place.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

3. Combine broth, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

 Ppbk - $16.00, 320 pgs
Warning: This book is not for the faint of heart or stomach.  Contents contain raunchy language, diatribes against perceived and actual sins committed, admissions of the darkest kind, confessions enough to make a chef blush, and talk about lots and lots of food - some of it even illegal.

The book is laid out in an essay format, each chapter receiving it's own particular topic.  Each topic flows in a somewhat linear fashion, but not infrequently is the reader bounced back to the past, to days when Bourdain was a line cook, or running Les Halles, or globetrotting for A Cooks Tour or No Reservations.  The reader is also treated to flash forwards, to insights and tidbits on how life changing it can be to suddenly have a daughter. 

One chapter may be a rant against McDonalds and the brilliance of marketing the corporations have latched onto in using children to part parents from their money.  The next chapter may be a look at Bourdains "Hero's" (Jamie Oliver) and "Villain's (St. Alice).  He may pontificate on how it was a huge disservice to all kids (and thus future adults) when administrations took away home ec in schools. The next chapter may be talking about Korean hot-pot, eating sushi in Japan, or Thai food. 

Yet somehow it all flows together.

My complaints with the book lie in the continual confessions of his past life.  Yes, yes, the reader understands that you are recovering druggie in the first 5 chapters.  By chapter 10, the reader doesn't need to be reminded of it yet again.   Then Bourdain goes on to describe a weekend of debauchery on some rich island in the Caribbean or some such place and oh, how awful it was.  Cry me a river.  The shock value has grown numb.  The writing style, the wit and the acid tongue can carry the story alone with out the continual pulpit confessions.

A few references may not entirely make sense if you haven't read at least one of his other books (A Cooks Tour, Kitchen Confidential, The Nasty Bits, No Reservations), or are otherwise familiar with his history at Food Network and the Travel Channel.  And, in case you think I am...exaggerating a bit, about any of what I've written above, please go read the warning again.  

Recommended if you want to hear about the food industry as it is, not how it's presented through the Food Network.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Year in Review - 2010

I’m a bit of an A-type personality. I like to keep lists and notes and just compare one year to the next. Here's a look at the past year:

Books Finished:
2010 – 80
2009 – 45
2008 – 45

New recipes tried:
2010 – 82
2009 - 92
2008 - 129
2007 - 120
2006 - 103
2005 - 137
2004 - 143
2003 - 154

Team Shakti

Miles Biked:
2010 – 701 (personal best!)
Included the Split Rock Century – my first!
2009- 250

Miles Skied:
2010 – 71
2009 – n/a

Miles Hiked:
2010 – 48

Knitting Projects completed:
Socks – 3
Hats – 6
Mittens – 8 pairs
Scarves - 2
Childs Top - 1 for Miss A

Grand Marais, MN
Independence, MO; Twins vs Royals
Door County, WI; Door County Century Ride
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

In Memoriam:
Audrey C. F.   April, 1933- April, 2010

Very Notable!
The Husband returned home from Deployment #2, Kuwait, in March.
After 3 years of being deployed, and two years of going to school, the Husband graduated in December AND started working at a local credit union in the accounts dept.  CONGRATULATIONS!  That's the best news of the year! 

Happy New Year!

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