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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

This is book #3 of 5 (no particular order) and the last of the Novel nominees I'll read for the 2011 Hugo Awards.  I have absolutely no interest in reading two of the nominations (Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis and A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms).

From  It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.

Welcome to the world of The Dervish House; the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union; a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million; Turkey is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia.

Gas is power. But it's power at a price, and that price is emissions permits. This is the age of carbon consciousness: every individual in the EU has a card stipulating individual carbon allowance that must be produced at every CO2 generating transaction. For those who can master the game, who can make the trades between gas price and carbon trading permits, who can play the power factions against each other, there are fortunes to be made. The old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away.

The ancient power struggled between Sunni and Shia threatens like a storm: Ankara has watched the Middle East emerge from twenty-five years of sectarian conflict. So far it has stayed aloof. A populist Prime Minister has called a referendum on EU membership. Tensions run high. The army watches, hand on holster. And a Galatasary Champions' League football game against Arsenal stokes passions even higher.

The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core--the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself--that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama and a ticking clock of a thriller.

I don't know that I could call this one a 'thriller'.  It was was a bit of a slog up until about page 300, then the plot took off very nicely.  Of the six characters, I was really only interested in about three of them, so I would look forward to their next appearance, which was often farther along than I would like.  

What did grab my fancy was the different lives everyone was leading: a commodities trader, and antiquities dealer, an old retired professor, a sheltered nine year old boy, and a unemployed brother of a shaykah, and a young woman trying to get a marketing job.  Of course, there were more players than that, and names often became confusing - especially since I don't speak or read Greek or Turkish - but I managed to keep everyone relatively straight in my head.

What also grabbed my fancy was how well these six separate threads, these individual lives and groups of people became so interwoven at the end; I loved the Turkish setting -  the confluence of east meeting west; and I loved the subtle humor found throughout. 

So, if you have the patience for plot building (about 300 pages out of 400), you will be rewarded at the end with some delightful conclusions. 

And for a much more eloquent and well stated review of Dervish House, please pop over here to Andrew Wheeler's blog.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Recipe Review from 7/18/11

Several cool dishes for incredibly HOT weather.  I heard a statistic last week, that on Monday, I think it was, Duluth's temperature exceeded the temperature in Bangkok Thailand.  Our temps combined with the humidity exceeded that of a rain forest! 

Yeah. It was a little warm for us Northerner's.  And I still refuse to put in an airconditioning unit for weather that is only going to last a week or two at the most. As long I can sleep at night with a fan, I'm dandy. 

In the meantime, dishes that don't heat up the kitchen are a must:

Orecchiette with Peas, Shrimp, and Buttermilk-Herb Dressing  (Ckng Lght, June 2011)
This is a minimal fuss, minimal dishes type of pasta salad.  Toss the pasta in the water, cook.  Make dressing, slice radishes. Toss in peas and shrimp near end of pasta cooking time. Drain, rinse, cool.  Add to dressing.  That's it.  Seriously.  This could easily be made ahead of time if for a function, but don't expect the flavors to develop much.  I found this on the slightly bland side and I'm not quite sure what should be added to perk it up for my tastebuds.  It made 6 lunches for us. 

This herb-y pasta salad is perfect for a picnic or potluck gathering; double the recipe to serve a crowd. Medium shell-shaped pasta will also work in place of orecchiette.

8 ounces uncooked orecchiette pasta
1 cup shelled green peas (about 1 pound unshelled green peas) or frozen green peas
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat-free buttermilk
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced


1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add peas and shrimp during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain.

2. Combine pasta mixture and radishes in a large bowl. Combine mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Pour over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature, or cover and chill until ready to serve.
Ivy Manning, Cooking Light
JUNE 2011


Black Bean-Taco Salad with Lime Vinaigrette  (Ckng Lght, July 2000)
When I did a search on the Ckng Lght bulletin board for some salad ideas, this one popped up.  I didn't realize till I went to make it that I had already done so.  It was pre-blog world so I decided it was easy enough to post.  I grilled two chicken breasts rather than buy a rotisserie chicken and I think that was about my only modification.  The dressing is a tich on the spicy side, so if you prefer less zing reduce or omit the chili powder.  Or, substitute ancho or chipolte powder instead.  Oh, and I subbed spinach for the lettuce. 

With chicken, cheddar cheese, and black beans, this Southwestern-influenced salad needs nothing on the side except some iced tea. Fresh lime gives it a citrusy counterpunch.

1/4 cup chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled

8 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
1 1/2 cups chopped ready-to-eat roasted skinned, boned chicken breast (about 2 breasts)
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups fat-free baked tortilla chips (about 4 ounces)
1. To prepare vinaigrette, combine first 11 ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

2. To prepare salad, combine lettuce and remaining ingredients except chips in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette; toss well to coat. Serve with chips.

Yield: 4 servings

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blood Music by Greg Bear

This is July's SciFi book group selection.  This won a Hugo Award in 1984 for best Novelette and Nebula Award in 1986.  

From  In the tradition of the greatest cyberpunk novels, Blood Music explores the imminent destruction of mankind and the fear of mass destruction by technological advancements. Blood Music follows present-day events in which the fears concerning the nuclear annihilation of the world subsided after the Cold War and the fear of chemical warfare spilled over into the empty void of nuclear fear. An amazing breakthrough in genetic engineering made by Vergil Ulam is considered too dangerous for further research, but rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just quite how his actions will change the world. Author Greg Bear's treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is both suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us, irrevocably changing our world.

I felt this book started out strong, with some great ideas concerning what would happen if someone decided to inject themselves with their scientific experiment.  Would it just affect that person?  Could it go viral? If so, how fast? Ramifications?  I also liked the way Bear handled the change in characters and point of view.  I won't elaborate too much as it would give away too much plot, but the shift between characters was well done.  

However, I wouldn't go so far as to say this was a cyberpunk novel.  This is more along the lines of say, Andromeda Strain than Mona Lisa Overdrive.

I also thought the ending got a bit, ah, out of hand.  I felt there was some strong plausibility being developed and then it seemed like the story just warped into another dimenson comeletely.  Ha! and again, I can't say more lest I give away the plot.  Grrr. 

So, I do recommend this one.  I'm looking forward to discussing it in book group.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recipe Review from 7/11/11 and Weekend Adventures

This Saturday found the Husband and I driving up the North Shore of Lake Superior so very bright and early: 

Destination: North of Grand Marais. 

Reason:  A Lake Superior Hiking Trail Facilitated Hike as lead by friend S.

Segment: 4.9 miles. The trail follows the Brule River for over two miles and features the dramatic Devil’s Kettle Falls. After nice forests, the trail climbs to a rocky knob with a view of Lake Superior, then descends into the Flute Reed River Valley.

Last hiked: May 2008

About 15 people showed up for this organized event.  Friend S, as hike facilitator, gave his spiel on trail conditions, safety, and organized the shuttling of cars.  The Naturalist on this hike, Eric, gave his spiel on what we could expect to see on the trail today.  The great thing about these facilitated hikes is you can hike as slow (within reason, there are people waiting to make sure you get off the trail) or as quickly as you like, or you can hike with the naturalist,  and everyone gets to through-hike a segment thanks to the shuttle coordination.

We were on the trail about 10:30ish.  It was going to be a challenging hike with temperatures creeping toward 80*, extremely high humidity and high heat index.  In addition, these northern segments had experienced a wind storm earlier this year and there was significant downfall that the trail crews just hadn't gotten to yet.  (I heart the trail crews very much!) 

The Husband and I were amongst the first four off the trail - it helps that we have "Dog-assist" (aka, Ben) since he keeps us moving right along.  Because we were traveling with the hike facilitator, we had time to hang out, cool off, have a brewski, and change.  This was also Andy-dogs second hike and it proved a bit challenging for him what with the heat and distance.  He curled up in the shade with me and conked out.

Alas, I don't have any pictures from this year.  I forgot to pack the camera and even if I had, I don't think I would have taken any pictures.  Just too hot and futzy with the dogs. 

Changing topics, with a short week since my return from Madison, WI, only one recipe to review: 

Shrimp Korma and Basmati Rice    (Ckng Lght, June 2011)
This was getting positive reviews over on the Ckng Lght bulletin board, and a quick perusal of the ingredients told me all I needed was some shrimp and coconut milk.  Excellent!  This did come together fairly quickly. I didn't start the rice soon enough so I had to wait till the rice was cooking before I could do the rest.  I don't have "Madras" curry powder, only Hot and Sweet. The Husband opted for the Sweet.  My one complaint is that this turned out a bit on the runny side for my taste, but probably my fault as I didn't measure my flour precisely and I had added some leftover summer squash to use it up.  A delightful dish that I wouldn't hesitate to make again.

Whip up this spicy and flavorful Indian shrimp korma in just 30 minutes. Top the dish with a spoonful of thick, tangy Greek-style yogurt to counter the heat.
photo from


2 teaspoons butter
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 cups organic vegetable broth
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup frozen green peas
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
4 cups hot cooked basmati rice
1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt


1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add flour, ginger, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add curry powder, garam masala, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in broth and 1/3 cup water; bring to a boil. Stir in milk and tomato; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add peas, shrimp, and remaining salt; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Spoon about 2/3 cup rice into each of 6 bowls. Top each serving with about 1 cup shrimp mixture and 2 teaspoons yogurt.

Adam Hickman, Cooking Light
JUNE 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Feed by Mira Grant

This is the second book I've read in the Novel category the 2011 Hugo Nominees.

(from via In 2014, two experimental viruses—a genetically engineered flu strain designed by Dr. Alexander Kellis, intended to act as a cure for the common cold, and a cancer-killing strain of Marburg, known as "Marburg Amberlee"—escaped the lab and combined to form a single airborne pathogen that swept around the world in a matter of days. It cured cancer. It stopped a thousand cold and flu viruses in their tracks.

It raised the dead.

Millions died in the chaos that followed. The summer of 2014 was dubbed "The Rising," and only the lessons learned from a thousand zombie movies allowed mankind to survive. Even then, the world was changed forever. The mainstream media fell, Internet news acquired an undeniable new legitimacy, and the CDC rose to a new level of power.

Set twenty years after the Rising, the Newsflesh trilogy follows a team of bloggers, led by Georgia and Shaun Mason, as they search for the brutal truths behind the infection. Danger, deceit, and betrayal lurk around every corner, as does the hardest question of them all:

When will you rise?

This is the first Zombie book I have read, but I can safely say, it is only loosely tied to the zombies.  They exist, they drive what people can and cannot do, but they are NOT the impetus for this story.  Within these pages is a discussion of politics, news reporting, life with zombies, betrayal, and a brother and sisters passion for the work they do.

Much to my delight, Feed was really good. 

That's not to say it didn't have it's quirks.  But ya know, I don't feel like listing them because I would rather you read this and made up your mind. 

It's worth reading.  Even if you don't like zombies - and it's NOT about the zombies! It's worth reading.  Recommended.

2011 Hugo Nominees: Novel Category
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
Feed by Mira Grant
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms  N.K Jemison

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

North American Discworld Convention 2011; Madison WI,

This weekend my friend and I met up and headed down to Madison for the North American Discworld Convention, a four day fantasy convention that revolves solely around the world created by Sir Terry Pratchett  (or his UK link here).  Sir Terry was in attendance as Guest of Honor, and from my understanding this may be his last US appearance.  I could be wrong about that tho...I would like to be wrong about that...

This was a slightly different convention from what we usually attend; again 1)  it revolved around a single theme - Discworld. 2) lots more hall costumes 3) a younger crowd (which is great to see at a convention!) and 4) not a heck of a lot of panels that interested us so we were left to our own devises a fair amount, and usually in the mornings.

WI state capitol and art fair
 Which we filled up by attending the Madison Art Fair on the Square. bloody huge to paraphrase our British attendees.  It's two rows of tents - or about 375 vendors -  surrounding the entire capitol square, and down one side street, with artists from across the nation.  This is also high end art. Or, to put in another perspective - expensive.  We endured the masses - and I do mean masses - of people on Saturday morning from about 9a till Noon when we pleaded Merci! and fled back to the hotel for afternoon programming.  The next morning we ventured out again at 9a - show didn't open till 10a - and found a few vendors open.  I bought a small photograph that had grabbed my attention the day before, and my friend found two small photos that she picked up for her office. 

Lunch was a selection of goodies from the much reduced Madison Farmers Market, that was wedged in on a side street.

But, convention.  I/we attended mostly afternoon programing that Sir Terry was at:

Sign says it all...
Friday - Movie Premiere "Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die"  (read the Wikipedia link) Very thought provoking.
Saturday - Talking with Terry; the Masquerade
Sunday - Good Omens Discussion; with a surprise appearance by Neil Gaiman!  Woot!  Then later we watched the Color of Magic in the movie room. 
Monday - Closing Ceremonies and reading of Where's My Cow?

This was my first visit to Madison since a family vacation oh...about 35 years ago.  We spent a great deal of time walking up and down State Street with it's varied shops and many many restaurants.  We walked around the inside of the Wisconsin State Capitol with it's beautiful marble stonework and architecture.  We wanted to go to the War Museum but alas, it was closed on Monday when it was raining.  We saw Monona Terrace (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) over looking Lake Monona.  I would have liked to have grabbed a rental bike and biked around the lake a bit but an opportunity never really came up. Another trip perhaps.

Monday really didn't have much for programming except for closing ceremonies at 3p, so off to the Madison Arboretum we went...well, after the severe weather went through that is. 

One of three turkeys on the immediate grounds

The Arboretum was sadly...disappointing.  I've been to others (including the University of Minnesota's) and this was by far the most underwhelming and least diverse.  We wandered around through the grove of tree species, watching the turkeys and getting wet feet. 

It was too early to head back to the hotel by far, so we made our way to the Zoo!  This was decent little zoo, with well maintained habitats, some closed for renovations, other looking very new. 

Who will be the lucky goat?

The long weekend ended with a trip to Taliesin, the Wisconsin home of Frank Lloyd Wright.  I've always had a fascination with Mr. Wrights work and one of my dreams is to someday tour Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.  But, this was just as great an opportunity in my opinion!  My friend and I did a two hour house tour, which encompassed the grounds around the house and part of the main house itself.  Only part because a family lives in the other section and the rest is residences for the Architectural School that is in residence.  Two hours was plenty - a person could easily spend a half day here.  Another time I'll go back and tour more.   

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recipe Review from 7/4/11

I'm off having grand adventures (which I'll blog about later this week!) so there is only one recipe of note to talk about.  Garden is puttering along now that temperatures are conducive to actually growing things and we've been getting regular rain so watering hasn't been a problem.  Our Adventures with Andy continue - we've made progress in "kenneling up" and he now associates that command with three actions (actually kenneling up outside, hopping into the back of the car, and to go lay down on his bed when he gets up at 5am).  He still thinks "sit" is optional unless a treat is involved.  Goofy pup. 

Baked Ziti with Summer Veggies (Ckng Lght, July 2011)
This may seem like an odd recipe to make when the temps are sitting in the high 80's, but it was also a great refrig reduction meal.  And for the oven?  Well, most of this is assembled on the stove, and it is baked for 15 mintues to let all the sauce and flavors combined.  I put mine on the gas grill to finish it off.  

4 ounces uncooked ziti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow squash (1 to 1 1/2 cup was plenty)
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped tomato
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup (2 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese  I used cottage cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten 


1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

2. Preheat oven to 400°.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add squash, zucchini, and onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.

4. Combine ricotta, remaining salt, and egg. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rules of Prey (Davenport #1) by John Sandford

#1 in the Lucas Davenport series.

I am, again, probably one of the last people around to start reading the Davenport series by Sandford, since he is now up to something like number 21 in the series. On the other hand, a positive is I don’t have to wait for the next one in the series to come out!   After having read all of the books featuring Virgil Flowers,  I decided to give the Davenport series a go, and because it was available right then, I tried out Storm Prey (#20)  I liked what I heard (audiobook) and enjoyed Sandford's style enough to read the Davenport series starting at number one. Happily I found it on audiobook - hooray!

$9.99 PB; $9.99 Nook
~496 pgs
From  John Sandford a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has taken a stock suspense plot--a dedicated cop pursuing an ingenious serial killer--and dressed it up into the kind of pulse-quickening, irresistibly readable thriller that many of the genre's best-known authors would be proud to call their own. A killer who calls himself the "maddog" has been murdering Minneapolis women, seemingly without pattern or motive. The crimes are linked only by their brutality and by the slayer's "signature": at each scene, he leaves a written rule of crime, such as "Never kill anyone you know," or "Never carry a weapon after it has been used." Into the case comes Lucas Davenport, a policeman with five kills in the line of duty, a surefire sense of how to handle the thirsty media and strong instincts about the killer's psyche. Sandford offers no mystery here; the killer's identity is revealed in the first pages, and the suspense comes in waiting for him or Davenport to slip up. Despite one or two beginner's mistakes (an overly obvious red herring, a character inconsistency), the author knows his territory well; the result is a police procedural as effective as it is brutal.

Red herrings don’t bother me so much.  Kit and parcel in the mystery genre.  What bothers me more are scenarios where I am seriously questioning the intelligence of the police force as portrayed in the book.   But I can’t describe the particular scene(s)  without dropping some major plot bombs, and in case I’m not the last person to read this, I won’t do that to the reader, but perhaps I can summerize enough to give a feeling of my issue:  if you are doing a mulitcop stake-out, and the perp is walking down the street with the intent (we know this because the author said so) of breaking into the victim's house, wouldn't you wait till he was inside rather than trying to nab the perp outside?  Get him on breaking and entering?  Where he can't run away?  Think about this.  Get the guy inside, then surround the house.  He has no place to run. 
There were also some eerie similarities between the ending of Rules of Prey (#1) and Storm Prey (#20) which I read a while back. I sincerely hope this isn’t going to be the case in the next 18 books.  That would be...tiresome. 

Still, recommended. Especially as an audiobook.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In Memoriam: Cody 1996-2011


Cody was my friends golden retriever. I met her – and him – when I first started working in my current job. She was so sweet, good natured, and a fun pup to be around. Cody was my first close-up exposure to a dog and dog training and my friend had to endure all sorts of dog training and etiquette questions.

Mostly what I learned was that we, as dog owners, can talk the talk and walk the walk, but when it comes to our four legged furry friends, they really train us.

Over the years Cody enjoyed pheasant hunting in South Dakota, camping on Kabetogema, boating, swimming, hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail, chasing balls and sticks, traveling, the two E2's company, greeting her extended pack (also known as the nutjobs Ben and Kia) and endured many comments about how “she was not Rose”.  No Cody, you were never Rose, but a wonderful sweet soul unto yourself!

Kia and Cody

May your rebirth be fortunate.  Heck, you had to put up with T;  your rebirth can only be fortunate!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Recipe Review from 6/27/11

Happy Fourth of July! 

This week I can only recap from a couple of recipes from last week.  The first one I made a second time, doing it "my way" rather than the directed way, and the second one I had to type in.  Both are winners!  Later this week I also plan on posting a garden and hound update. 

In the mean time, enjoy!  

Pad Thai (Fine Cooking, May 2011 - modified)
As I noted before, I really liked the flavors and simplicity of this dish, but I didn't care for how mushy the noodles turned out, the tofu 'strips' just crumbled, and since I don't have a wok I was using my cast iron pan and the order in which I was to prep things was problematic.

So, I had enough ingredients left to make this way.  Result - outstanding!  Seriously good.  I could eat this every week. 

1) Combine 1/4 cup each of fish sauce, agave nectar, and lime juice.  1/3 cup of each was too much.

2) Use only 2/3 cup broth.

3) Soak noodles in warm water no more than 10 minutes.  Drain well.

4) After the tofu was pressed, drained and blotted dry, I cubed it rather than cut into strips.  Heat cast-iron pan over med-high heat, no oil.  Fry tofu until nicely browned on the outside and set aside.

5) Add oil to hot pan.  Cook shrimp, then add garlic and continue cooking until shrimp is almost done.  Remove and add to tofu.

6) Add thin layer of oil to pan.  Heat.  Add eggs and lightly scramble. Remove and add to tofu and shrimp.

7) Add oil to pan.  Add drained noodles and sear for about 2 minutes, turning frequently to lightly brown.  Add fish sauce and broth and cook until liquid is absorbed.  Add back in tofu, shrimp and egg.  Toss lightly.


Waldorf Blue Cheese Cascadian Couscous Salad  (Vegetarian Times, July/August 2011)
This caught my eye for it's simplicity.  I did think there was some incongruity between the description of the recipe creator and the ingredient list - not sure about the whole "fresh produce" bit when the only produce is granny smith apples and celery.  Still, this was quick to pull together and tasted really good.  I would like to experiment with wheat berries - the dressing and blue cheese would lend themselves well to the nutty taste of wheat berries. 

Mary Berry, of White Salmon, Wash, created this colorful Waldorf salad after being inspired by the abundant fresh produce and other ingredients at her local farmers market.

1 cup couscous (I used Israeli)
1/4 cup toasted hazelnut oil (I used olive oil)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp honey Dijon mustard (I used regular Dijon)
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup diced granny smith apples, peeled and cored (I used Fuji, just cored and diced)
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup dried tart cherries or cranberries
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts (I used walnuts)
3 tbsp crumbled blue cheese

1) cook couscous according to directions on package.  Fluff with fork and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

2) Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

3) Stir apples, celery, cherries, nuts, and dressing into couscous. Top with blue cheese.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman (Navajo Mysteries #1)

The Blessing Way (Navajo Mysteries, #1)The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the first book in Tony Hillerman’s Navaho mysteries, and the first of three with Joe Leaphorn. I’ve already reviewed Listening Woman and Dance Hall of the Dead. What I appreciated was I didn’t find that the books had to be read in order. And I’m almost glad I read them out of order since the first book featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn was definitely not the strongest of the three. I also “read” this on audio book.

Premise of the book revolves around a body found out in the canyon country on the reservation. First thought it was a drunk who had the misfortune to keel over dead, but upon closer inspection, was purposely placed in such a way to hide a murder. The question becomes why and immediately Navaho witch-craft comes to mind. Lt. Joe Leaphorn makes his way to an Enemy Blessing to ask questions. Meanwhile, Professor McKee and Professor Crawford are heading out into the Mesa. McKee is an Ethnologist and is looking for witch-craft stories to back his studies. Crawford has his own studies to pursue.

The story then departs from Lt. Leaphorn’s almost clinical assessment of the Navaho Enemy Blessing ceremony being performed to Prof. McKee running for his life with a young graduate student in tow. This part came across as cliché’d. The young female grad student unbelieving about the danger they were in, petulant, and weak. The antagonists trying to cover up some great secret deed and killing people who are out in the same area as them. McKee, behaving more like McGyver, somehow thwarts the antagonists long enough for Lt. Leaphorn to reason his way through the problem and meet him at the end.

I did have a few issues with this first book, but I also needed to remind myself that crime technology and medical accuracy in mystery books – while sometimes still wildly off base – has improved in the subsequent years since 1970. For example, the young woman is basically shot in the face. Our hero puts a bandage on it, puts her in a cave for safe keeping with some food. She is rescued because she makes a smoke fire. Uh huh.

Next issue was we never really see how our good Lt. Leaphorn solves the mystery. First he’s asking questions at a ceremony, then he’s riding around the high mesas, then he’s looking at tire tracts and then we don’t see Lt. Leaphorn until the end when he’s putting the bow on the package so to speak.

My final issue was the whole Navaho Witch-craft culture presented in the book. It seemed to just revolve around ‘witch-craft is scary business, don’t mess with it’, but that was about it. A bit disappointing.

I’ll keep reading the series though, until I either run out of audio books or I get tired of Hillerman.

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