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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Menominee River Century


This past weekend the husband and I headed over to Eastern Wisconsin, specifically the Wisconsin/Michigan border, for an organized bike ride called the Menominee River Century.  We orginially did this ride 19 years ago (1992 by the T-shirt logo) as poor broke college students.  The only thing I remember about that ride was a) I enjoyed it and b) the drive back to the Twin Cities at 9p at night, dreadfully tired, in the rain. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when I found the ride was still active!

We left Duluth Saturday after dropping the hounds off at Pookie Prison (ala "the Kennel"), and were on the road by 9:30am.  Now GoogleMaps put our anticipated drive across Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula in the 5 1/2 hour mark...try actual time of 7 1/2.  One hour of that was for lunch and an ice cream break, but it was still a long drive.  A beautiful drive, but one which didn't leave us anytime for sightseeing (again). 

Sunday we wanted to be at the start by 7:30a and under anticipated how long it would take us to get ready, eat breakfast, and drive to the start.  We got off about 8:00a.   As someone who is used to riding rolling hills, on rough roads, in a headwind, this ride was absolutely delightful!  It was FLAT!!!  It had ONE hill!  Almost NO WIND!  Can you tell I was thrilled?!   I loved it!  It was so awesome to be able to just...ride.  If you're a biker, you'll know what I mean. Maybe...you might not have the hills like Duluth does...

The Husband enjoyed the ride too until his butt started hurting (new seat). 

When all was said and done, we did about 51 miles, averaging 14.5 mph.  There were 5 rest stops with great food (banana bread, strawberry bread, cookies, rice krispy bars, bananas, peaches, gatorade and water), a post ride meal of sloppy joes (vegetarian and regular), police support at major intersections, and wonderful volunteers. 

We are contemplating going back next year - twenty years after our first visit!




Our first rest stop - the historic town of Peshtigo, WI (not our bikes in the background). 

Dee! They had ALL their firetrucks out!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recipe Review from 6/20/11

Lots of adventures this weekend which I'll have to post about in the next day or so.  In the meantime, a couple of good recipes.  I had a third one from Vegetarian Times, but I'll have to type it out (Yo! VT! Post your darn recipes on-line!) so I'll review it next week. 


Pad Thai  (Fine Cooking, May, 2011)
I usually avoid making oriental type meals because of the ingredients.  Hard to find in my corner of the world, I don't use them enough to warrant buying a bottle of X, and they never turn out.  This recipe however, caught my eye because this...this was doable.

Fish sauce could be obtained in a smallish bottle, agave nectar I was going to use in a different recipe this week or next, rice noodles are inexpensive and the rest I've used before.  The question was - dried shrimp. Well, after checking two stores and coming up empty handed, I opted for the fresh version. 

I also got rid of both my woks (teflon coated) a while back - I hadn't used either in over 5 years - but I thought I could make do with my cast iron pan.  It worked...okay.  I should have done things in a different order:  tofu first, egg second, shrimp third.  My noodles also got glumpy - too much fish sauce liquid, either that or I shouldn't have soaked them for 20 minutes.  Ten minutes or less or not all.  Otherwise I should have cut back on the sauce part and made everything 1/4 cup instead of 1/3.

Result - it actually turned out pretty good!  I plan to make this again soon.  Like next week because I have leftover tofu.


This classic stir-fry of rice noodles, tofu, dried shrimp, and colorful garnishes is a street-food staple in Thailand, and surprisingly easy to make at home. If you can’t find tamarind, palm sugar, Thai basil, or Thai chiles, you can still make a delicious version of this dish with the substitutions listed below.

1/3 cup fish sauce

1/3 cup tamarind concentrate (or substitute fresh lime juice)
1/3 cup palm sugar (or substitute agave nectar)
5 Tbs. grapeseed or vegetable oil; more as needed
1 large clove garlic, minced
Pictures from ScifiwithPaprika.blogspot.com
1/3 cup small dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
1 5-oz. cake pressed tofu, thinly sliced
4 large eggs

10 oz. medium (1/4-inch wide) rice sticks (pad thai noodles), soaked in warm water until pliable (at least 20 minutes) and drained

1-1/2 cups homemade or canned lower-salt chicken broth

1 cup mung bean sprouts, rinsed, root ends trimmed (if you like)
1/2 cup Thai basil or cilantro, freshly torn

1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

3 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and thinly sliced diagonally
3 fresh red Thai chiles (or other small hot red chiles), seeded and thinly sliced, or Sriracha to taste
1 medium lime, cut into 6 to 8 wedges

In a medium bowl, whisk the fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, and palm sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a large wok, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over high heat until shimmering hot. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 15 seconds. Add the dried shrimp and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl, leaving behind as much oil as possible, and set aside. Add the tofu to the wok and stirfry until heated through and golden in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl of shrimp and set aside.

Return the wok to high heat and add 1 Tbs.of the oil. Crack the eggs into the wok and scramble gently to break the yolks, making sure not to overmix so as to retain some yellow and white parts; cook until just set, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. If any egg residue remains in the wok, wipe it clean.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in the wok over high heat. Add the noodles, broth, and fish sauce mixture. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the noodles have completely absorbed the liquid and are sizzling, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the dried shrimp and tofu,toss a few times, and divide among plates or bowls. Garnish each serving with some scrambled egg, mung bean sprouts, basil, peanuts, scallions, and chiles. Serve hot with the lime wedges on the side for squeezing over the noodles

Variations
Substitute 36 small fresh peeled and deveined shrimp for the dried shrimp, stir-frying them until opaque, about 1 minute.




SummerSquash, Bacon, and Mozarella Quiche  (Ckng Lght July 2011)
Outstanding!  Loved the flavors! We did assembly in a couple of phases - I baked the bacon in the morning.  The husband did filling prep as I was going to be home late.  I got home, baked the crust; sauted the squash, and baked.  It only needed 30 minutes.  Anything more and it would have been waaayy over done.  I also had some leftover cheddar cheese that I tossed on top with the mozzarella.   I am looking forward to making this again when we start getting some squash from our garden. 
Pictures from ScifiwithPaprika.blogspot.com

1 Pillsbury pie crust

Filling:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups (1/8-inch-thick) slices yellow squash
2 cups (1/8-inch-thick) slices zucchini
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 slices center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 large egg whites
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place in a 9" pie plate. Fold edges under, and flute. Pierce bottom and sides of dough with fork. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


2. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

3. To prepare the filling, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add squash, zucchini, shallots, and thyme; saute for 5 minutes or until squash and zucchini are tender, stirring frequently. Cool the squash mixture slightly.

4.. Combine 1 cup reduced-fat milk and the next 5 ingredients (through eggs) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Arrange squash mixture evenly over crust, and sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Pour the egg mixture over cheese. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes [30 minutes] or until filling is set. Cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Spook Country by William Gibson

This was June's Scifi book group selection, and a delight to read.  I've always been partial to Gibson's work, having read all but two of his books - Idoru and All of Tomorrow's Parties.  I'll get to them one of the days...when I have a bit more time...(lol!)

From Goodreads.com: Tito is in his early twenties. Born in Cuba, he speaks fluent Russian, lives in one room in a NoLita warehouse, and does delicate jobs involving information transfer.


Hollis Henry is an investigative journalist, on assignment from a magazine called Node. Node doesn't exist yet, which is fine; she's used to that. But it seems to be actively blocking the kind of buzz that magazines normally cultivate before they start up. Really actively blocking it. It's odd, even a little scary, if Hollis lets herself think about it much. Which she doesn't; she can't afford to.


Milgrim is a junkie. A high-end junkie, hooked on prescription antianxiety drugs. Milgrim figures he wouldn't survive twenty-four hours if Brown, the mystery man who saved him from a misunderstanding with his dealer, ever stopped supplying those little bubble packs. What exactly Brown is up to Milgrim can't say, but it seems to be military in nature. At least, Milgrim's very nuanced Russian would seem to be a big part of it, as would breaking into locked rooms.


Bobby Chombo is a "producer," and an enigma. In his day job, Bobby is a troubleshooter for manufacturers of military navigation equipment. He refuses to sleep in the same place twice. He meets no one. Hollis Henry has been told to find him.


Pattern Recognition was a bestseller on every list of every major newspaper in the country, reaching #4 on the New York Times list. It was also a BookSense top ten pick, a WordStock bestseller, a best book of the year for Publishers Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and the Economist, and a Washington Post "rave."


Spook Country is the perfect follow-up to Pattern Recognition.


It's been several years since I've read Pattern Recognition, so I can't really speak on if this is the 'perfect follow-up' to said book.  However, the writing style between PR and Spook Country was close enough that my thoughts did contemplate how similar the two books felt.  

I enjoyed this selection, the three plots just pulled me along and I looked forward to all of the main characters, which often is not the case in a multi-plot book. Each one had their own nuance that I didn't mind bouncing between them.  It was pointed out in book group, that all the characters had an 'ex'.  For example, we have ex-spies, ex-dj's, ex-government workers, ex-musicians.  We couldn't recall a single character that wasn't as such.  How delightful!  

It is also my opinion that the way the three plots came crashing together was fantastic.  The buildup was a lot like canoeing - it started out as a nice gentle stream, then the current picks up and you are being pulled right along with minimal effort, then all of a sudden there is a burst of excitement as a couple of tributaries come together, then whew! You are back floating along wondering slightly what the heck just happened and exhilarated by the ride.

Yeah.  It was a lot like that.  Recommended.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Recipe Review from 6/13/11

Oops!  I thought I had this set up to post automatically, but I guess not!  Spent a lovely weekend visiting my sis K2, BIL and Nephew in Menominee, where the weather was be-uuooo-tifulll!  75*F (23*C) and very lightly overcast.  Upon my return from Menominee back to the blustery shores of Lake Superior, the temps dropped 25*.  Not kidding - it was 73* (23*C) when I departed, 48* (8*C) in Superior, and 58* (14*C) at my house outside of Duluth.   YUCKO!! 

And today (and yesterday for that matter?).  50* (10*C) and rain.  Buckets and buckets and buckets of rain.  With 25mph winds.  I'm still waiting for summer....

In the meantime, I leave you with these two recipes:

White Beans and Yellow Rice (Ckng Lght, June 2011)
Good dish, but greatly modified!  If you follow the link, you will see it is actually Black Beans and Yellow Rice - however, I had white dried beans on hand and venison kielbasa, so we, ahh, changed things at bit.  Perhaps a lot.  I also see as I review this that I forgot the tomato.   Drat.  But I can safely say, it tasted pretty good without.

Modifications:
  • white beans for black.  Pre-cooked beans in slowcooker couple days before.   
  • kielbasa for chorizo.
  • sauted veggies, then added thinly sliced kielbasa to veggies, tossed in beans to re-heat.
  • so I skipped entirely the simmer for 2 1/2 hours bit and cut down cooking time considerably.   
Ingredients

4 ounces dried black beans  navy beans
Cooking spray
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, venison kielbasa, thinly sliced
6 cups water, divided   enough water to cover bean 2" in slowcooker
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chopped fresh tomato
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation

1. Sort and wash beans; place in a bowl [slowcooker]. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cook 8 hours. Drain.

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 1/2 cups onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cumin.  Add chorizo; sauté for 3 minutes. Add beans, long enough to heat.  Stir 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
3. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, rice, and turmeric. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid evaporates and rice is tender. Spoon 3/4 cup rice into each of 4 bowls, and top each serving with about 2/3 cup bean mixture, 3/4 cup tomato, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cilantro.

Yeild: 4 servings



Spaghetti with Grilled Ratatouille  (Fine Cooking, May 2011)
This came together more quickly than I anticipated it would.  As the vegetables cooked on the grill, I got the water boiling for the spaghetti.   Hmm, it seems I deviated from the recipe again...I admit, sometimes I don't pay very close attention to the directions and kinda warp off into my own thing.  I think that happened here.  That's probably why it came together so quickly!  Still, I thought this was really good and would make it again.  This would be great for company too.  (I'll note my changes below.)
Fine Cooking Magazine
by Pamela Anderson
Serves 4

2 medium zucchini (about 12 oz.), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch rounds on a slight diagonal  in half lengthwise
2 baby eggplants (about 12 oz.), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch rounds on a slight diagonal
1 large red bell pepper (about 8 oz.), stemmed, seeded, and quartered
1 large red onion (about 1 lb.), cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 small head garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. herbes de Provence

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

12 oz. dried thin spaghetti

2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. chopped fresh marjoram

1/2 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese


Prepare a high gas or charcoal grill fire. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, onion, and garlic with 3 Tbs. of the oil, the herbes de Provence, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Put the vegetables (tomatoes cut side up) and garlic on the grill in a single layer and cover. Grill the tomatoes without turning until their skins have darkened and their flesh is soft; grill the remaining vegetables, turning once, until grill-marked and tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a medium bowl. Transfer the remaining vegetables to another medium bowl and let cool briefly.

When cool enough to handle, very coarsely chop the zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, and onion; return to the bowl and add 1/2 cup of the olives to the bowl.

Slip the garlic cloves out of their skins into a food processor. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olives, the tomatoes, and the remaining 1 Tbs. of oil; process until smooth.

Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a large pot. Cook the spaghetti in the water about 1 minute less than the package timing for al dente texture. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.

Toss 1/2 cup of the tomato-olive sauce and the basil and marjoram with the warm vegetables in the bowl. Toss the remaining sauce and the reserved cooking liquid with the pasta; stir over low heat for about 2 minutes so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.  Toss everything together.  Divide the pasta among 4 plates, top with the vegetables, sprinkle with the cheese, and serve.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cryoburn is the first of five Hugo Nominee’s for 2011 that I’ve read. While I have read the majority of L.M. Bujolds books, I have not read the last two or three in the Miles Vorkosigan series simply because I got burnt out on Miles. Those who have read the series can probably relate. So for Cryoburn there was some background info that I had to infer but being somewhat familiar with the universe already, it wasn’t too much of a detraction.



Miles, now Lord Imperial Auditor (prior novels), is sent off to Kibou-daini to investigate NewEgypt and WhiteCrys, both cryrofreezing and cryorevival corporations who have put in requests to open facilies on Barryar and Escoban. However, Miles finds himself part of a botched kidnapping attempt by the local radicals, which lands himself in the underbelly of the City – or better – the catacombs of the frozen. Once up-top again, lost, muddleheaded, he befriends a local boy and then the true nature of Kibou-daini and the corporations comes to the surface.

On one hand, the Miles Vorkosigan series - which are really just fun books to read - do not really embody what I feel is Hugo material. A totally subjective and arbitrary opinion, I completely admit it. But then, if one looks at this book from the stand point of the dead having votes, the living being held accountable for the dead and the ramifications of storing people until a cure for aging, diseases, etc., is developed and what will happen to that population when they are eventually revived – now that can get into some interesting moral discussions.


Too early to give this a ranking. I would like to see what the others are like first:

  • Feed by Mira Grant
  • All Clear by Connie Willis
  • The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
  • A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by M K Jemisin

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recipe Review from 6/6/2011

Busy weekend in our house...ha! I seem to say that a lot...  The Husband had Guards Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  That left me to my own devices; Friday evening was water the garden and take hounds for a walk.  Saturday I led a Superior Hiking Trail Doggie Hike - yes! a hike with the doggies!  Andy's first with his new forever home and he did great!  Three hounds came with and a fourth joined in later.  After lunch at the Rustic Inn (a hiking tradition), I headed back home to mow the lawn and get some flowerbeds prepped and planted with nasturtium and marigold seeds.  Sunday was a bike ride with the guys, watered the garden - we have sprouts! - planted my dianthus plants, moved some woodchips, and called it a weekend!


Toasted Chickpea and Apricot Salad (Ckng Light, June 2011)
Another winner!  Weather warmed up suddenly (for us) and this was on the menu.  Quick to assemble, love the slightly spicy beans with the tangy feta and the fruity apricots.  A couple substitutions were made:  I used canned apricots (in 100% pear juice) instead of fresh.  Fresh is not reliably in the stores up here.  I toasted them briefly under the broiler to bring out their flavors.  I subbed spinach for the arugula because I usually have a big bucket of it on hand.  One modification - I didn't toss all the ingredients together because I would be using this for a couple of meals and I didn't want things to get soggy.  So the beans were tossed with the apricots, then everything 'layered' in salad fashion.  Delicious! I would make this again.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups salad and 2 tablespoons cheese)

photo from Cookinglight.com
3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
4 large apricots, pitted and sliced
4 cups baby arugula leaves  spinach
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese (or goat)

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a roasting pan, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, shaking pan to coat beans. Roast at 450° for 20 minutes, stirring once.

3. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, rind, vinegar, juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in onion and apricots, tossing gently to coat. Add warm beans and arugula, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with cheese.



And the weather cooled down just as quickly...

photo from Cookinglight.com
These are super easy to assemble - which I simplified even more.  I also noted that my store does not carry 1-1/2 lbs packages of chicken thighs.  They only carry 1-1/4 lbs pkgs.  I did not bother to buy a second package since this was just for the Husband and myself.  If feeding a group, bump it up. The recipe also noted this as "kid friendly".  Ahhh, no. Only if you omit the ground red pepper altogether.  These had some zing and I like zing.  A tyke?  Not so much.  Fresh apricots are very hit or miss in my corner of the world, so I bought canned apricots in pear juice.  This way I didn't have to worry about the fruit going bad before I could use it, I knew it would be ripe, and it just gets blended anyway so really?  You can easily make these outside of apricot season.   

The husband commented almost immediately about shredding the thighs after they cooked (on the grill in our case).  Really, the thighs are small enough that they fit quite nicely on the little buns I found.  And it far less messy.  So, optional in my opinion to shred. 

Yeild: 4 servings (serving size: 2 sliders)
Ingredients

3/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray

3 apricots, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 (1.3-ounce) mini sandwich buns

Preparation

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with pepper mixture. Place a large grill pan over medium-high heat; coat pan with cooking spray. Heat grill to 350*.  Add chicken to pan; cook [chicken] 5 minutes on each side or until done. Cool slightly; shred meat [optional in my opinion].

2. Recoat pan with cooking spray.  [Cooked apricots on the grill as well for same time as noted.  Thread through a couple of skewers for easy turning] Place apricots, cut sides down, on pan; cook 6 minutes on medium-high heat or until tender and lightly browned, turning after 4 minutes. Place apricots and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor; process until smooth.

3. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon apricot chutney over cut side of each sandwich bun half. Place about 1/3 cup chicken on bottom bun; cover with top half of bun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stripped by Brian Freeman

This is book #2 in the Johnathan Stride mysteries by Brian Freeman, read on audiobook. 


The Barnes & Noble Review (from Goodreads.com) When it comes to Brian Freeman's second thriller, Stripped (sequel to 2005's Edgar Award–nominated Immoral), the slogan "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" couldn't be more fitting. Set amid the innumerable depravities of Sin City -- sex, drugs, gambling, organized crime, etc. -- the novel's very first line gives readers a pretty good indication of the debauchery to come: "She slipped the robe off her shoulders, and the white silk gathered in a pool of accordion folds at her feet..."

Protagonist Jonathan Stride -- a former Duluth police lieutenant who followed his girlfriend to Vegas and is now working as an LVPD homicide investigator -- is finding it hard to adapt to his neon-lit, surgically enhanced, completely superficial surroundings. The culture shock even extends to his partner on the job, Amanda Gillen, a non-operative transsexual (who is arguably the most grounded character in the novel!). While Stride's cop girlfriend, Serena Dial, investigates the hit-and-run death of a young boy, he struggles to unravel the bizarre murder of a rich socialite named M. J. Lane -- whose claim to fame, besides being the son of a billionaire producer, is starring in his own homemade porn flick. As they dig deeper, they begin to realize that the two cases have tenuous connections to the Scheherazade casino in 1967 -- specifically the brutal murder of an ambitious starlet that was never fully resolved. Meanwhile, a cunning serial killer is loose on the Strip.


I enjoyed this book immensely. I have been to Las Vegas twice and I could feel from the pages the scorching heat, the dry air, the sun beating mercilessly down, the hot dry nights where the air conditioning only seems to make noise and loudly at that.  As a Minnesotan I can relate to what it's like to be standing on the pavement at noon when the temp is 106* (which, just for the record, this particular Minnesota loved). 

However, I came across a few "issues" with this book.  Not in any particular order:  

As the plot progresses, Stride and Dial find that they need to protect a key witness.  Serena is put in charge of Claire's protection.   What ends up happening is Serena locks herself into her town home.  There is no backup for Serena guarding Claire.  No cop outside, no cop hiding across the street, no additional security force IN the house.  Piss poor planning IMO.  You, smart reader, can guess what happens...

Additionally, wouldn't it have made more sense to get Claire out of town?  Put her up in a hotel with a security team?  Probably, but then we wouldn't have had every man's wet dream happen....


Again,  Boney (Claire's very rich Daddy) claims earlier in the story to have Claire trailed with his own security team.  So, where the hell are they when she is nabbed in the Casino?  When Claire and Dial are at her town home, "hiding", without police back up? You, smart reader, can guess what happens...

At one point in the book we have our good hero climbing down a rusty ladder with gun in hand.  If you don't see what's going to happen you aren't reading closely enough...  IF you climb down a 30 year old rusty ladder with a gun in your hand - you will drop the gun.  And OMG! Stride dropped the frikkin' gun climbing down a rusty ladder!  Duh.


At another point in the book we have the entire police force gathered (except Serena, who's guarding Claire without any backup) and Stride figures out the bad guy is going for Serena and Claire and runs for his truck.  With no back up.  Why didn't Stride grab Corty (Serena's partner) for help?   Even a backup of one would have been a good idea.  And nobody questioned Stride just bolting from the rest of the force?  Right....


And one of my main beefs - more endings than Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.  Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But not much.  LOTR:RotK had something like seven.  This wasn't far off and I detest it when the author keeps dragging things out. 

So, I do recommend this book, but I wonder why some of the above items weren't caught in earlier proofing.  Now granted, perhaps they were and dismissed in favor of moving the plot along, but they jarred me out of the story with the inconsistencies.  Meanwhile, Stalked, book number three, is in the iTunes!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recipe Review and Adventures with Andy

I can't believe Andy's been with us for almost three weeks now!  Every one seems to be adjusting and adapting and his personality is starting to shine through.  He is such a puppy!  Name recognition is coming right along and basic command recognition is starting to sink in though we've got a ways to go yet for good obedience. 

Several days after getting used to the house, he found Kia's toys.  He has a particular fondness for the nylabone and the ball on the rope.  Jumping on the furniture habit is mostly broken, but he forgets every once in a great while.  We took him camping Memorial Day weekend and discovered he doesn't like his kibble "straight".  Nope.  NosirreeBob.  Won't touch the dry stuff  - he must have some wet food mixed in.  Little guy can be stubborn when he want to be! 

Andy also let it be known that he wants nothing to do with being crated at night.  Not even gated in the closet (No worries! We don't have closet doors! It's an open closet.).  He wants to be near his people.  Crate is going back to Petco because his inside manners have been very good and we'll keep reinforcing those.

This weekend though he hurt his paw and is favoring it now.    

With everything that's been going on the past couple of weeks, new recipes have been super simple:

Cedar Planked Salmon with Herbs (Fine Cooking, May 2011)
Super simple, tasted great. I find the hard part is getting my planked soaked enough. It's and odd shape and doesn't fit in any bucket well. I served with some fresh veggies and some homemade tartar sauce.

1 Tbs. grated lemon zest, minced
1 1/2tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
Picture from FineCooking.com
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 2-lb. boneless, skin-on salmon fillets (preferably wild and no longer than 15 inches), pin bones removed
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, thyme, sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 Tbs. pepper. Rub the mixture together with your fingers until the zest is distributed throughout. Rub the salmon fillets on both sides with the olive oil and then set each fillet skin side down on a plank. Sprinkle the fillets with the lemon-pepper mixture, dividing it evenly. Gently rub the seasoning into the fillets. Let stand at room temperature while the grill heats.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking with high heat: On a gas grill, heat all burners on high; then turn off all but one burner just before cooking the salmon; on a charcoal grill, bank the coals to two opposite sides of the grill. Arrange the planks over the cooler part of the grill, positioning them so that the thickest part of the fish is closest to the heat source. Cover the grill and cook until the thickest part of each fillet registers about 135°F on an instant-read thermometer, 20 to 35 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. The planks may smoke a bit (this is fine) and will become very aromatic. Let the fillets rest on the planks for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Cut the salmon fillets crosswise into serving portions and transfer to individual plates. Serve with the sauce.

Open Faced Blackened Catfish Sandwiches (Ckng Lght, June 2011)
We really liked these. The spicy fish is tempered with the creamy and crisp cabbage-carrot slaw. Use less ground red pepper if you don’t like things spicy. My only complaint was my ‘sourdough bread’ wasn’t very sourdough-y. I really like the tang of a good sourdough and , well, my store bought version was sorely lacking.

1 3/4 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) catfish fillets

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups packaged cabbage-carrot coleslaw
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 (1-ounce) slices sourdough bread, toasted


1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of fish with paprika mixture. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add fish; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

2. Combine yogurt, juice, and honey in a medium bowl. Add cabbage and cilantro; toss well to coat. Top each bread slice with about 1/2 cup slaw and 1 fillet. Top each fillet with remaining slaw

Friday, June 3, 2011

Compulsion by Johnathan Kellerman

This is book #22 in the Alex Delaware series.  Read on Audiobook and no, I have not read the first 21 books in the series...

From Goodreads.com: A tipsy young woman seeking aid on a desolate highway disappears into the inky black night. A retired schoolteacher is stabbed to death in broad daylight. Two women are butchered after closing time in a small-town beauty parlor. These and other bizarre acts of cruelty and psychopathology are linked only by the killer's use of luxury vehicles and a baffling lack of motive. The ultimate whodunits, these crimes demand the attention of LAPD detective Milo Sturgis and his collaborator on the crime beat, psychologist Alex Delaware.


What begins with a solitary bloodstain in a stolen sedan quickly spirals outward in odd and unexpected directions, leading Delaware and Sturgis from the well-heeled center of L.A. society to its desperate edges; across the paths of commodities brokers and transvestite hookers; and as far away as New York City, where the search thaws out a long-cold case and exposes a grotesque homicidal crusade. The killer proves to be a fleeting shape-shifter, defying identification, leaving behind dazed witnesses and death -- and compelling Alex and Milo to confront the true face of murderous madness.

This is my first introduction to Johnathon Kellerman and the world of Alex Delaware.  There are quite possibly nuaces to the characters that I am not aware of, a history so to speak, that may flesh out some of the lingering background questions I have to their personalities.  With that being said, this book was written well enough to be read as a stand alone. 

While the book is promoted as an Alex Delaware book, I found that Milo was the stronger of the two characters and more dynamic.  This could be explained in that the story is written from Alex's POV so one really doesn't get a look into his psyche or character - and this is where coming in at book #22 is a detriment.   Alex just seemed to go along for the ride, doing a bit of investigating here and there to ultimately report back to Milo where the pieces to the puzzle kept filling out.  

And I was okay with that.  I've read enough mysteries where the detective is running hither and tither and getting shot at that having a consulting psychologist who helps by being a sounding board was rather a literary relief.  A very nice change of pace.

So while I found the mystery to be intricate enough and well executed to keep my attention (I certainly didn't figure out the whodoneit a quarter of the way in), I think I need to see if there are any earlier books on audio format to really get a good feel for the Alex Delaware character.  For now: recommended.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Murderous Yarn, Hanging by a Thread and Cutwork by Monica Ferris

I decided to put these all on one posting.  I didn't read them back to back, but they are such quick reads that it made more sense to put my comments on one spot rather than spread out over several weeks. 

A Murderous Yarn: Book #5 in the Needlecraft Mystery series.

From Goodreads.comAt this year's antique car race, one of the drivers never makes it to the finish line. His car is found in flames, and Betsy and her friends must pin down a suspect.

This is my other fluff mystery series that I like to read in addition to the Tea Shop series.  Betsy Devonshire is a more practical amateur sleuth, she knows when to involve the police, she doesn't run around confronting the murderer in dark houses all alone, and she tells her friends where she is going and what she is doing so someone can check up on her.  Besty is also struggling with juggling being a widower in a new town (Excelsior, MN - hmm, I do like my 'local mysteries don't I?), keeping a needlepoint/craft store afloat, and now, being a landlord.  As a reader, I appreciate the practicality.  The author keeps Besty grounded in the here and now and not always running hither and tither. 

Did I mention this is a fluff series?  Brain candy, fun to read in a weekend, while waiting in the airport, or on a shuttle bus between the Cities and Duluth.


Hanging by a Thread: Book #6 in the Needlecraft Mystery series.

Christmas is right around the corner and managing Crewel World is keeping Besty is busy with Holiday demands.  Her group of freinds find out Besty hired John Foster, local contractor to handle the new roof on the building Besty now owns.  Shunned for five years for a double murder he claims he didn't commit, the town of Excelcior has snubbed and slandered the man and his business.  Desperate, Foster asks Besty to look into the old case in a last attempt to clear his name once and for all.

This was a nice departure from the rest of the series as once again, Besty was dealing with a past murder and not a live new one (see Framed in Lace, Book #2).  Because, really, just how many people can realistically die of murder in one small City?  Though I really did wonder just how incompetent the police investigators were in this situation if an amature sleuth five years later can puzzle it out yet they couldn't when the evidence was still fresh?  

But so it goes.  Another quick read - was coping with a headcold that left me sniffly-sneezy and just wanted to read some fluff. 


Cutwork: Book #7 in the Needlcraft Mysteries

From Gooreads.com: Truth seems hopelessly entangled with deception...When a talented sculptor is murdered at a craft fair, Betsy Devonshire, owner of the Crewel Word needlework shop, is busy working at the fair's information booth, practically on the scene yet completely out of the loop. But Betsy's reputation for choosing all the right threads to pull in an investigation soon puts her in the center of the crime's unexpectedly complex pattern. One valued customer asks for Betsy's help in proving that the troubled youth accused of the crime is innocent, despite all the evidence to the contrary, while another insists on entrusting her with scraps of information the authorities seem too eager to dismiss. Discovering the truth means piecing together clues gathered from the dead man's family and friends and interweaving them with confidences from a friend on the police force who's troubled by the possibility that this crime is not as simple as the detective in charge of the case wants to believe.

I thought this was not as strong as the previous two books.  The point of view really jumped from character to character in this book - and while that can be an interesting literary device when done well, it becomes mostly annoying when poorly executed.  More than once I had trouble deciphering exactly who was talking.  I also had the 'who done it' figured out as soon as the character was introduced.  It was much too obvious.  The budding 'romance' being developed in Hanging by a Thread between Betsy and Morris was almost non-existent here.  

As with any prolonged series of books, some will be stronger than others.  I like the characters and setting enough to keep reading these for the moment.