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Monday, November 28, 2011

Hilton Head SC/Savannah GA 2011

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

Sunset from the fishing docks

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

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


Spanish Moss in a Live Oak on Honey Horn plantation. 


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Tidal Marsh on Port Royal Sound

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eyes of Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #3)

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


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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


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


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


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


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


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Monday, November 21, 2011

Recipe Review from 11/14/2011

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

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

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


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

Ingredients

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

 Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

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

3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

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

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

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

Sidney Fry, MS, RD, Cooking Light
SEPTEMBER 2011


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Knitting Update

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

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

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

And now, the completions:

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




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





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


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


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

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


photo from Knitpics.com





Monday, November 14, 2011

Recipe Reveiw from 11/7/2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Wilson, Cooking Light
NOVEMBER 2011



Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Bone House by Brian Freeman

The Bone HouseThe Bone House by Brian Freeman


My rating: 2 of 5 stars


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


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

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

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


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


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


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




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Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe Review from 10/31/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eunice Munn, Cooking Light
NOVEMBER 2011



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

2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:"Better Homes and Gardens"

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


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Snow Blind by PJ Tracy

Snow BlindSnow Blind by P.J. Tracy


My rating: 2 of 5 stars


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


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


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


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


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




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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recipe Review from 10/24/11

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

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


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

Makes 25-30 whoopies

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes about 28 assembled whoopie pies.



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



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



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

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

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

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

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


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