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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monkeewrench by PJ Tracy

It has taken me a while to get around to reading PJ Tracy.  No particular reason why, just not on my radar.  But, thanks to a friend who loaned me this on audio, I am hooked. 

From Haunted by a series of horrifying and violent episodes in their past, Grace McBride and the oddball crew of her software company, Monkeewrench, create a computer game where the killer is always caught, where the good guys always win. But their game becomes a nightmare when someone starts duplicating the fictional murders in real life, down to the last detail.

By the time the police realize what's happening, three people are dead, and with seventeen more murder scenarios available online, there are seventeen more potential victims. While the authorities scramble to find the killer in a city paralyzed by fear, the Monkeewrench staff are playing their own game, analyzing victim profiles in a frantic attempt to discover the murderer's next target.

In a thriller populated by characters both hilarious and heartbreaking, a rural Wisconsin sheriff, two Minneapolis police detectives, and Grace's gang are caught in a web of decades-old secrets that could get them all killed.

First, I've come to the conclusion that physically reading a book when compared to listening to a book, especially when the narrator is particularly good, give the reader a completely different perspective.  The eye can pick out nuances on the page that are not so much lost in the narration as, just lost in the inflection and emotions the reader is able to impart.  I'm not saying all audiobooks are this good, I've 'read' a few that have the PBS effect - instant land of ZZzzzz.    

Monkeewrench was anything but dull.  I really enjoyed the characters and character development, I thought the plot was engaging and for once kept me guessing, and keeping the setting within the realms of reality (no fake counties here) maintained my necessary perception of reality.   That's a biggie for me and one of my main  complaints with Willliam K Kruegers books.  If you are going to base a book in "real time" don't be making up fake counties or switching towns around.  That just pisses me off.  So far PJ Tracy has not done that. 

I enjoyed Monkeewrench enough to immediately start Live Bait (#2 in the Monkeewrench series).  Though it was disappointing to hear it's a different narrator.  Darn it. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe Review from 9/18/2011

I had several recipes planned for the week, but, well, I got sidetracked.  We went out to a new-to-us restaurant on Tuesday (Clyde Iron) to use a gift certificate, was in the Cites for a Twin's Game on Thursday (they actually won!), and I went out with a friend for lunch on Saturday.   I have to say, my favorite recipe this week was the french toast below.  Yum!

Classic French Toast (Fine Cooking, Sept 2011)
Nearly everyone has a favorite french toast dish.  For me, it's either at the London Road Cafe on Superior St. in Lakeside or Sarah's Table at Chester Creek Cafe.  Though the best I had recently was in Madison WI, at the Concourse Hotel Dayton St Grill with  Vanilla Bean French toast, orange honey mascarpone, and fresh berries.  Seriously good.  Like I ate it two days in a row good. 

Fine Cooking's recipe is a strong contendor for the homemade category. Using fresh bread with an emphasis on the 'soft'.  I found some challah bread that worked perfectly.   This will probably make it's way into our Sunday' pancake day routine.  Please note, I did HALVE the recipe to serve two of us.  Three slices of challah french toast were almost too much for us!   And if I may say, I think my toast turned out better looking than Fine Cooking's picture. 

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3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more for the pan

2 cups milk, preferably whole, at room temperature
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3 Tbs. sugar
4-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Kosher salt
8 to 10 3/4-inch-thick slices challah, brioche, or hearty white sandwich bread
Maple syrup, heated, for serving

Tip: Go with fresh bread, not stale. Although stale bread may absorb somewhat more batter, fresh bread, which is softer to begin with, makes more tender French toast.

1) Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, put a baking sheet on each rack, and heat the oven to 250°F.

2) Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and 1 tsp. salt and whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish.

3) Working in batches, add 2 or 3 slices of bread (or as many as will fit in your skillet in a single layer) to the mixture and soak, turning once, until saturated but not falling apart, about 2 minutes total.

4) In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, melt about 1/2 Tbs. butter. When the foam subsides, use a slotted spatula to add the soaked bread in a single layer. Cook, turning once, until goldenbrown, 1-1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking sheet in the oven, arranging the pieces in a single layer, to keep warm.

5) Repeat with the remaining bread, briefly rewhisking the batter before soaking, and wiping out the skillet and adding fresh butter between batches.

Serve drizzled with maple syrup.

Hungarian Goulash  (Ckng Lght, Sept 2011)
Yup.  It's fall and I've leapt back into the cassroles and stews and soups and comfort dishes with gusto!  Husband's enjoying this as well - more meat and potato type dishes for him.  Though to balance things out lunches are still fairly light and tend to be vegetarian.  This didn't turn out quite like the picture, mine was more on the liquidy side even though the broth was quite reduced and thickened as listed below.  I liked the flavors but it seemed to be lacking...something.  Maybe a smoky paprika would have been better?  Not sure.  
1 garlic clove, crushed
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1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
Cooking spray
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1 bacon slice, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups water, divided
1 cup chopped seeded tomato
1 tablespoon paprika
3/4 cup beer
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 Hungarian wax chiles, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 ounces uncooked egg noodles
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons sour cream
Chopped parsley (optional)

1. Place garlic in a small bowl; mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, caraway seeds, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
2. Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and pork in a medium bowl; toss. Add pork to pan; sauté 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove pork from pan.

3. Reduce heat to medium-high; return pan to heat. Add onion and bacon; sauté 7 minutes or until bacon is done, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic mixture; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1 1/2 cups water, tomato, paprika, and beer; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in red pepper and chiles; simmer 15 minutes. Add pork to pan; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine remaining 1/4 cup water and flour in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Stir flour mixture and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt into pork mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

4. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Combine noodles and butter in a medium bowl, stirring until butter melts. Place 1 cup noodles in each of 4 shallow bowls; top with 1 cup pork mixture. Top each serving with about 2 teaspoons sour cream. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Joanne Weir, Cooking Light


Bacon-Corn Chowder with Shrimp (Ckng Lght Aug, 2011)
Every now and then again, a recipe comes together because you have nearly everything already on hand.  This was one of those recipes.  I had some frozen corn from last year's garden that I needed to use up and a partial bag of shrimp.  It's Fall and time for some soup.   What could be better than a corn chowder?  This was very easy to make, came together in about half an hour and tasted really good.  I liked the addition of the shrimp to add a bit of body, but if you don't do seafood, it would be easily omitted.  This made about 5 servings.  I might have been a bit short in the corn department - it was a ((shrug)) "this looks like enough" type of measurement.
6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup prechopped onion
1/2 cup prechopped celery
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1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3/4 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1/3 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt Preparation

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan; saute 4 minutes or until the bacon begins to brown. [I recommend draining excess bacon grease, leaving about a TBSP to saute onions in.] Remove 2 slices bacon. Drain on paper towels. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through minced garlic) to pan, and saute for 2 minutes. Add corn, and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth; bring to a boil, and cook for 4 minutes.
2. Place 2 cups of corn mixture in a blender. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape), and secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in the blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return pureed corn mixture to pan. Stir in shrimp; cook 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Stir in half-and-half, pepper, and salt. Crumble reserved bacon over soup.

My notes: I used my immersion blender rather than fart around with transfering hot liquids to a stand blender. 

David Bonom, Cooking Light

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hunter's Run by Martin, Dozois, Anderson

This selection was the SciFi Bookgroup selection for September. 

Hunter's RunHunter's Run by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Running from poverty and hopelessness, Ramón Espejo boarded one of the great starships of the mysterious, repulsive Enye. But the new life he found on the far-off planet of São Paulo was no better than the one he abandoned. Then one night his rage and too much alcohol get the better of him. Deadly violence ensues, forcing Ramón to flee into the wilderness.

Mercifully, almost happily alone—far from the loud, bustling hive of humanity that he detests with sociopathic fervor—the luckless prospector is finally free to search for the one rich strike that could make him wealthy. But what he stumbles upon instead is an advanced alien race in hiding: desperate fugitives, like him, on a world not their own. Suddenly in possession of a powerful, dangerous secret and caught up in an extraordinary manhunt on a hostile, unpredictable planet, Ramón must first escape . . . and then, somehow, survive.

And his deadliest enemy is himself.

As the description to the books states, a man’s worst enemy can be himself. In Hunter’s Run, this is doubly so when Ramon discovers he was made from the finger of his Twin, who is frantically trying to return to civilization after a prospecting run gone bad.

What I found fascinating about this book was the story is told from copy-Ramon’s point of view, not the original. The reader gets to watch as copy-Ramon struggles with identity and survival. Who should live and who should die or should both of them live? If both of them live, who would have the rights to the bank accounts? The insurance? The woman Elena? Is this an opportunity for rebirth by breaking ties with everything and everyone or to succumb to the temptation to return to what is familiar and comfortable. The reader is drawn into the tumultuous emotions of what it means to be an individual, what it means to fight to the bitter end, and what happens when self awareness asserts itself.

Set on a planet settled by Latino’s, Portuguese and Mexicano’s (and, according to Ramon, some nortamericano’s and Jamaican’s as well), we see a society over seen by the mysterious but seemingly benevolent goober shaped Enye and dictated by customs brought from Earth and shaped by a new world. A fast paced read that doesn’t disappoint.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recipe Review 9/11/11

Well, up here in MN we went from Summer to Fall in one night.  89* to 50* in three hours.  Not kidding. Over night temps were 29* - there was no "saving" the garden this year.  I simply do not have enough old blankets and sheets to attempt this feat. I did cover the Swiss Chard and Kale as they can handle the cooler temps.   

Holy shit I made a lot this week!  Didn't realize it until now when I'm typing everything up.  I love's a great time to return to the kitchen and make some comfort food.

Okay, you wouldn't think egg sandwiches would really need a recipe, but this was a great variation on a classic.  I skipped the arugula (what is with this green lately?  Seems like every other recipe has arugula in it.) because I don't think it is worth the cost.  I also used English muffins instead of whole wheat bread as I had those on hand.  I thought the addition of the caramelized onions really ratcheted up the taste of such a simple sandwich and it really didn't take that much more time or effort.  I will be making these again.

This upscale twist on the traditional breakfast sandwich features sweet, tender caramelized onion and peppery arugula. A fresh fruit salad would be a good accompaniment.
Total: 32 Minutes

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4 slices center-cut bacon
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon Mexican hot sauce (such as Cholula) or Tabasco
1 tablespoon butter
Dash of sugar
Cooking spray
4 (1/2-ounce) slices whole-wheat bread
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup arugula
1. Cook bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp (about 8 minutes). Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings; drain on paper towels. Add onion, water, and hot sauce to drippings in pan; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in butter and sugar; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook for 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside; keep warm.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place bread in pan, and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Set aside, and keep warm.

3. Recoat pan with cooking spray. Crack eggs into pan, and cook for 2 minutes. Gently turn eggs, one at a time; cook 1 minute or until desired degree of doneness. Sprinkle evenly with salt and black pepper.

4. Place one bread slice on each of two plates; arrange onion mixture evenly over bread. Place 1 egg, 2 bacon slices, and 1/2 cup arugula over each serving; top with remaining bread slices. Serve immediately.

Cheryl Alters Jamison & Bill Jamison, Cooking Light

Stratford's Sweet Chili  (Ckng Lght BB, source unknown)
This was a great chili.  The ketchup/honey combination make it a sweeter chili than I am accustomed to, but it was a nice compliment to the heat from the chili and cayenne powder.  I also added a tbsp of cumin...just because I really like cumin.  Because I added some celery, I decreased the number of peppers going into the dish.  Three peppers seemed a bit much.  Oh, and this almost didn't fit into my slowcooker!  Great fall dish to feed a crowd and would probably please some little tastebuds too with the sweetness.
1 Can 19 oz chickpeas, drained
1 can 19 oz red kidney navy beans, drained
1 can 28 oz chopped tomatoes with herbs
1 can 10 oz corn kernels, drained
2 carrots, peeled and diced (I use a handful of diced baby carrots instead)
2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 red onion, finely chopped
2-4 celery stalks, chopped (my addition)
1 cup ketchup  (definitely organic ketchup here)
1/4 cup honey
3 T. chili powder
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1 each, green, red, yellow pepper, diced

Sour Cream
Cheddar cheese, grated

1. In slow cooker combine beans, tomatoes, corn, carrots, garlic and onion [celery and peppers]. In a bowl combine ketchup, honey, chili powder and cayenne; mix well and pour into slowcooker (I just dump all the stuff in and stir and it seems to work fine.) Mix well.

2. Cover and cool on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Add peppers and cook on high for an additional 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream and cheese. Enjoy!!

Buffalo Chicken Thighs (Ckng Lght, Sept 2011)
This would have been a really good dish if I hadn't tried to deviate from the directions and grill the chicken thighs.  This was definitely a stove top dish.  I ended up finishing the chicken on the stove anyway.  I would also say this is not a little tastebud dish and may not be appropriate for some adult tastebuds either (those of Norwegian decent come to mind).  Yup.  Nicely spicy.   I also thought the mashed potatoes were a nice side dish with the tangy blue cheese (trying to use up the 'waxy' blue cheese I bought several weeks ago). 

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6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Shake to blend. Add half of chicken to bag; seal. Shake to coat. Remove chicken from bag, shaking to remove excess flour mixture. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add flour-coated chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer browned chicken to a jelly-roll pan. Repeat procedure with the remaining uncooked chicken, flour mixture, and oil. Discard remaining flour mixture. Bake chicken at 375° for 8 minutes or until done.

3. Combine hot sauce and butter in a microwave-safe dish; microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds or until butter melts, stirring to blend. Place chicken in a shallow dish; drizzle with butter sauce. Toss to coat.

Wendy Kalen, Cooking Light

 Side dish for Buffalo Chicken Thighs, above.
1 pound small red potatoes
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place potatoes in a saucepan; cover with cold water to 2 inches above potatoes. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return potatoes to pan. Add buttermilk, blue cheese, salt, and pepper to pan; mash with potato masher to desired consistency.

Wendy Kalen, Cooking Light

Waldorf Salad with Steel-Cut Oats (Ckng Lght, Sept 2011)
This is a Mark Bittman recipe and you really can't go wrong with one of his recipes.  Prep was simple enough, cook the oatmeal, cool the oatmeal, chop and mix.  I bought some buttermilk blue cheese crumbles for this dish (far superior to the waxy things I had in the fridge).  This made about 5 or 6 lunches. 


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1 cup steel-cut oats, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups diced Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
1 1/2 cups torn radicchio
1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1. Combine oats, 1 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 7 minutes (do not stir) or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Place oats in a medium bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Combine walnuts, honey, and red pepper in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook 4 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and honey is slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally.

3. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add dressing, apple, radicchio, and grapes to oats; toss well. Place 1 1/2 cups oat mixture on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with about 3 tablespoons walnut mixture and 2 tablespoons blue cheese.

Mark Bittman, Cooking Light

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brass Man by Neal Asher

This is book three in the Ian Cormac universe. 

Premise of the book:
From Publishers Weekly

A satisfyingly baroque plot and strong action sequences make up for a lack of character development and moral complexity in this gory space opera from British SF author Asher. Human beings have considerable freedom in Polity Space, a mostly civilized place, but enormously powerful AIs make all the important decisions. Three monstrous creatures threaten the Polity: Dragon, a gigantic being of unknown origin; Skellor, an evil, once human scientist transformed by the nanotechnology of the extinct Jain race; and Mr. Crane, the monstrous killing machine who does Skellor's bidding. Aided by several AIs, supercompetent Earth Central Security agent Ian Cormac must deal with all these dangers before civilization is plunged into chaos. Unbeknownst to him, however, several powerful AIs are plotting to gain Jain technology, even if it means the destruction of the human race. This violent, fast-moving novel is lots of fun, but makes no concessions to readers unfamiliar with Gridlinked and Line of Polity, the earlier books in the series. (Jan.)

From Booklist:

Asher's latest foray into the Polity universe--a far-future world ruled by AIs and connected by runcible technology, which allows faster-than-light travel and communication--is a hunt for Dragon, an entity abandoned by a previous civilization. Ian Cormac wants Dragon to get to Skellor, a particularly nasty kind of killer. Skellor is looking for Dragon to answer questions about Jain technology, left behind by another, long-vanished civilization. Skellor has resurrected the mysterious Mr. Crane, who has been given the personality of a serial killer but has become schizophrenic to give himself a chance of regaining his own mind. Foremost at issue is the Jain technology, used by Skellor to take over ships and human minds alike. Some believe it can be put to positive ends; others, that it's far too dangerous. No one understands what it really does or precisely how it works. All paths cross on an out-of-the-way planet on which the fight over Jain technology will finally erupt. Asher's way with space opera makes this hunt across space a spectacular adventure.

The thing with Neal's books are, they bounce along in this fantastic universe with really cool concepts, ships, worlds, aliens, then the plot comes and smacks you upside the head leaving one a bit breathless as the reader realizes that "da-yum, now I have to read the next book."

The downside of Neal's books, in my humble opinion, is I have a dreadful time keeping the characters straight.  Just as I get comfortable with one set, we've switched to someone from about twenty-five action filled pages ago and it always takes me a few moments to recall, "oh, yeah, that's who you are!".  Then it switches again.  Repeat.  I find that I get annoyed being pulled out of the story so many times, but... see my former statement.

I also found myself thinking that Brass Man had  flavors reminiscent of Excession by Ian McDonald, particularly with the AI ships.  In Brass Man we have - to name a couple - Grim Reaper, King of Hearts, and Jack Ketch, who has a fondness for ancient methods of execution, hence the name.  Ship personalities amuse me to no end and I find myself rooting for them more so than some of the main human characters. 

And, as noted in one of the blurbs above, you do have to read the previous books to fully understand what is evolving in book three.  Not a stand alone book.  Meanwhile, off to find book four...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Recipe Review from 8/29 and 9/5/2011

Being gone for a week in Reno and then coming home to an empty fridge was not conducive to making new recipes.  I settled for quick and easy...don't remember what those dishes were but they were, well, quick and easy.  Pasta probably.  Grilled something with fresh corn on the cob.  That kinda thing. 

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However, back on track again with some good ones from the September issue of Cooking Light and a couple from the Ckng Lght BB:

Chicken Tabbouleh with Tahini Drizzle (Ckng Lght, Sept 2011)
This was super easy to assemble and tasted great.  To make assembly easier, buy a rotisserie chicken.  I just cooked up some chicken as I was making a basic dinner.  Though, to my dismay, I didn't have any plain yogurt on hand for the dressing, so I substituted olive oil - not the best substitution I've come up with, but it seemed to work well.  The Husband enjoyed the flavors so all was well in the world.

Veggies and Blue Cheese Polenta (Ckng Lght, Sept 2011)
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Recipe called for quick cooking polenta, but regular worked just fine and I just accounted for the little bit of extra time I would need.  Recipe also called for 3 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of water to 2/3 cup polenta and I felt that was over doing the liquids.  I cut back to 2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup water and it worked just fine.  My grocery store does not carry and 'exotic' mushroom blend, so I just used one 8 oz package of cremini mushrooms.  I also added a thinly sliced pattypan squash to the veggie mix. Oh, almost forgot, I did add in one chicken breast because I needed to use it up, otherwise this is a good vegetarian, gluten-free dish.  Easy to assemble, tasted great.  The only thing I didn't care for was the brand of blue cheese crumbles I picked up on sale - I usually buy the "Amblau" brand from Fairmont, MN, and this was Bel diGornio or some such.  Rather waxy.  Bleh.  Won't be buying that again.

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Classic Fudge-Walnut Brownies (Ckng Lght, Sept 2011)
Oh my oh my.  The Husband requested a dessert for Labor Day weekend.  We usually forgo such goodies in our house since they disappear waaayy to fast.  But hey, summer was winding down and seemed like a fun way to celebrate the weekend.  Gooey. Chocolaty.  The top bakes up into that fractured crust I love so much.  These were definitely decadent.  Recipe called to bake these 19 minutes, mine took nearly 40 minutes total.  Maybe it was the glass pan?  Dunno.  Totally awesome.

Argentinean Pork (Ckng Lght, Sept 2011)
Husband was so very happy I did a more traditional "meat and potatoes" dish.  Recipe called for a 1lb pork tenderloin and the smallest I could find was 2lbs.  No prob.  Leftovers!  Dish calls to marinate the meat for one hour - for this one I would say assemble in the morning to save time at night.  We did serve this over some Yukon gold potatoes with fresh corn on the cob. Yum. 

And two recipes from the Ckng Lght BB:

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
I made this one pretty much as written, using the suggestion to decrease the water to 7 cups instead of 10.  10 cups plus the ingredients wouldn't have fit in my slow cooker anyway.  I really liked the flavors of this one.  The 1lb of kielbasa was perfect - not overwhelming in the meat dept.  I would perhaps forgo the suggestion to cut the potatoes really small, some of the peas disintegrated on their own and made the dish more stew-like, which I preferred. I also only cooked this for about 4-5 hours on medium.  I think longer would have been too much. 

16 ounces dried split peas  [I used yellow split peas]
10 cups water  [7 cups to start]
1 pound turkey kielbasa -- or smoked sausage
5 cubes chicken bouillon
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
1 cup celery -- chopped
2 potatoes -- peeled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 onion -- chopped

In a 5 quart slow cooker combine the peas, water, sausage, bouillon, carrot, celery, potatoes, garlic powder, oregano, bay leaves and onion. Allow to cook on high setting for 4 to 5 hours.

Note: If you do not have a slow cooker, combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer over low heat for 2 to 3 hours, stirring often.

Turkey Enchilada Casserole
I was so-so on this dish.  I like that it made plenty for leftover lunches, but the consistency of the ground chicken (in my case) was meh and even with upping the spices and adding a can of green chilies it was bland bland bland.  Even the brand of enchilada sauce I bought was bland.  For the vegetarians out there, ground turkey can easily be substituted with your preferred soy product. 

Notes: If desired, serve with reduced-fat sour cream.

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salad oil
1 can (29 oz.) red enchilada sauce
12 corn tortillas (6 in. wide)
2 cups shredded reduced-fat jack cheese (8 oz.)
Chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, stir turkey, onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin in oil until turkey is crumbly and no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup enchilada sauce. Add salt to taste.

2. Meanwhile, cut tortillas in half. Arrange a fourth of the halves evenly over the bottom of a shallow 3-quart casserole, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle a fourth of the cheese evenly over the tortillas, then top with a third of the turkey mixture and a fourth of the remaining enchilada sauce, spreading each level. Repeat to make two more layers of tortillas, cheese, turkey mixture, and sauce; top with another layer of tortillas and sauce, then cheese.

3. Bake in a 425* regular or convection oven until cheese is melted and casserole is hot in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Recommendations from the BB: I covered the dish with foil for 15 minutes, then removed the foil for the last 5 minutes. This made for a moist casserole. Since I was using a glass dish, I used 400 degrees (and 20 minutes was just right).

I used 1 lb ground turkey and added corn cut from a cob of leftover grilled corn and a drained, rinsed can of pinto beans to the meat mixture.

I added a can of green chiles.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Copper River by William Kent Krueger

After my less than glowing review of Mercy Falls by WKK (book #5), and a need to be ‘reading’ something on my drive to and from work, I sucked it up and started Copper River (book #6) simply because I had it loaded on the iPod.

Book 6 at least, did not incite me to throw my iPod across the car in disgust. This is not to say I didn’t roll my eyes in disbelief more than once, or mutter the occasional, “You’ve got to be kidding me…”.

Premise of the book, from Desperately avoiding the clutches of professional hit men who have already put a bullet in his leg, Cork finds sanctuary outside the small Michigan town of Bodine. But while he's hiding out in an old resort owned by his cousin Jewell DuBois, a bitter widow with a fourteen-year-old son named Ren, the body of a young girl surfaces along the banks of the Copper River — and then another teenager vanishes. Instead of thwarting his assassins, Cork focuses on tracking a ring of killers who prey on innocent children — before anyone else falls victim. But as his deadly followers close in, Cork realizes he's made an error any good man might make — and it may be his last.

We have a widow in mourning. A young boy and his close friend who have free rein to run about the town (typical small town kids) and are the ones who trigger the murder investigation. Cork who’s in hiding from hit men with a hole in his leg but nobody bothered to hide the car with the bullet holes in and everybody and their second cousins seem to walk in from the woods to check it out. There is a cougar prowling the woods and more loose ends than a piece of my fraying knitting yarn.

This is, really, the sequel to book 5 and a most unsatisfactory sequel at that. The ending left me going, “Huh… Well. What about loose end XYZ?”

So while I’m not entirely thrilled with the setting, I often find the plots lacking, the characters make me roll my eyes, and don’t even get me started on our ‘fictional’ Aurora, MN in "Tamarack County", I keep reading the damn series. I suspect if I could get John Sanford’s early Prey books on audio I wouldn’t be. But I can’t. So I’m stuck.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

MN State Fair 2011

I do have quite a few recipes to review, but Cooking Light is being a bit slow about getting September's recipes on-line so I'm holding off until I can post the directions.  In the meantime, I shall regal you with Monday's trip to the Minnesota State Fair!

It was boring.

Now, in the Fair's defense, we actually went down for the last concert of the year: Train, Maroon 5 and Matt Nathenson.  We got the Fair area at 3p in the afternoon, found one of two open spots in a park-in-walk (yeah, it's park-n-ride, but we don't have the patience to wait for the bus on either end, so we walk.  Saves us $12) and made our way to the fair where we saved another $24 because some really nice lady just gave us her tickets.  Sweet!

With absolutely beautiful weather the fair was simply bursting at the seams, but things were definitely wrapping up.  Our favorite venue, the barns, were closed and the last of the critters were being bundled up for the trip home.  A lot of the radio talk show places had finished or were in the process of finishing. We wandered around for about 2 1/2 hours, noshing on our favorite fair food: deep fried cheese curds, pronto pup, corn dog, frozen banana, and, Martha's Bucket of Cookies.  I had to ask that they don't top it off so tall so I could put the darn lid on after we ate a few. 

Cookies safely stowed, wandering satisfied, we meandered over to the Grandstands and sat for 45 minutes till the gates opened.  Much to our dismay, our seats were obstructed view.  Not kidding.  Big ass I-beam right in the middle of the stage.  Grumble grumble.  Nice to advertise that one shmucks.  The mother with her two teens was also thinking the same - LOL! I noticed she didn't give up her unobstructed seat for her kids!

Matt Nathenson from San Francisco was on first.  Good band.  Some original and some re-makes.

Maroon5 was up next.  I fully admit I live under a rock because the sold-out crowd, which seem to be comprised of about 50% young screaming teens and college girls, elicited such a collective outpouring of delight by using said young lungs that we quickly realized this was no mere "opening" band, but one in their own right.  How 'bout that?  A double concert.  Really good show. 

Train closed the concert and the 2011 MN State Fair.  Which is who we came to see.  Happily, the ladies next to us let the hubby and I know that the folks next to them had departed and unobstructed seats were open.  Hooray!  Train did a good show, lots of interaction with the audience, lots of talky-talky, and wow, does the lead singer have a set of pipes.  I wonder how many mic's he burns out?  Personally, I thought Maroon 5 had the better stage show.  Probably because I've listened to the Train CD so much I had some preconceived notions.

So, boring Fair.  Great concert.  Uneventful 2 1/2 hour drive home and hit the hay at 2a.  Now to go fetch my hounds from Pookie Camp. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nebula Awards 2011 edited by Kevin Anderson

Whoops! I’m a bit behind in my book reviews. This past Monday my scifi bookgroup met to discuss our August selection: Nebula Awards 2011 ed by Kevin Anderson. We started reading these collections10 years ago and it’s a given when the new book comes out, we read it. No voting required.

This year the book had a new format. I have to say I liked it. I never cared for the oft rambling essays the earlier editions inserted. And, as with most story collections, there are more than a few duds, several that are interesting, and a couple that I can honestly say, “yeah, I liked that.” And, as with most story collections, different stories appeal to different people. It’s such a subjective thing.


With this inaugural volume at Tor, the annual Nebula Award collection is reborn as a fiction-only anthology. This collection of nominees for 2010’s Nebula Awards includes all of the prior year’s most celebrated stories, and will be published in time for the 2011 Nebula Awards in May, 2011.

2009’s award winners, announced in May 2010, include Kage Baker’s novella “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s,” Eugie Foster’s novelette “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Kij Johnson’s short story “Spar,” plus Paolo Bacigalupi’s novelette, “The Gambler.”

Other authors in this collection include (and for my savvy scifi folks, you will see a couple names from the Hugo Nominee list):  Saladin Ahmed (Contributor), Michael Bishop (Contributor), Richard Bowes (Contributor), Ted Kosmatka (Contributor), Rachel Swirsky (Contributor), Eugie Foster (Contributor), Joe Haldeman (Contributor) , Kage Baker (Contributor), Amal El-Mohtar (Contributor), Geoffrey A. Landis (Contributor), Michael A. Burstein (Contributor), N.K. Jemisin (Contributor), James Patrick Kelly (Contributor), Will McIntosh (Contributor), Kij Johnson (Contributor), Joe R. Lansdale (Contributor), Neal Barrett, Jr (Contributor), Paolo Bacigalupi (Contributor)

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