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Monday, July 30, 2012

Recipe Review from 7/23/12

A busy week catching up from our adventures to southwestern Wisconsin last weekend.  No cycling during the week, but we did squeeze in a 37 mile ride on Saturday evening.  We tried out a new route that had fresh pavement - a cyclists dream!  Now only if there weren't quite so many roads... 

Cycling totals for halfway through the year are 375!  Woot! 

AND we managed to make three new recipes to round out the month the month of July.  Not sure what my recipe totals are, I'll have to update you next week if I remember. 


Tortellini with Asparagus, Peas, and Mint  (Fine Cooking, Mar 2012)
First - make sure you use a BIG pot for this.  A stock pot would be good.  This does come together very quickly, which I certainly appreciate on a warm summer evening.  I used packaged tortellini as I simply don't have access to fresh and I'm not about to make my own.  Don't hesitate to up the goat cheese.  Serve with a good crusty bread and a side salad.

photo: Scott Phillips
Kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 lb. fresh cheese tortellini  (I used packaged)
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed of tough, woody stems, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (leave the tips whole)
1 cup shelled fresh peas (or thawed frozen peas)
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
2 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
Freshly ground black pepper

In a 6-quart covered pot, bring 3 quarts well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Cook the tortellini, asparagus, and peas in the boiling water until the tortellini is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and vegetables and toss with the garlic-oil mixture. Add the pine nuts, mint, and goat cheese and stir until the cheese melts into a sauce, adding cooking water as needed to moisten the pasta. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.
From Fine Cooking 116, March 1, 2012, pp. 74
Once all the chicken thighs are chopped, this comes together very quickly.  I added some asparagus as this seemed a bit short on veggies.  I mis-read the vinegar amount so it was extra tangy our first night.  Had mellowed by night number two.  Serve with some good crusty bread and sliced cheese or a side salad. 
photo from Fine Cooking
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into 4 even pieces
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained  (fire roasted add extra depth)
1 dried bay leaf
1/3 cup good-quality red wine vinegar  (or 1/4 cup.  Not 1/2 cup like I did. A bit too tangy.)
1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth
8added ~ stalks of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2" lengths
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Put the flour, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag. Close and shake to combine. Add the chicken to the bag, zip it closed, and shake vigorously to coat with flour.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet(preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more. Stir in the tomatoes and bay leaf, raise the heat to high, and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and boil vigorously until almost evaporated, about 30 seconds.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juice to the pan, along with the chicken broth, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper, stirring well to combine. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley, cover, and cook for 1 minute more.
Season to taste with salt. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Greek Yogurt Pancakes  (Ckng Lght BB)
The gal who posted this thread said the batter was good enough to eat on it's own...she was right!  These were really good.  I did have to add some milk to thin out the batter slightly.  I think you could easily drop the table spoon of sugar - if using vanilla yogurt it adds plenty of sweetness.  Or, if you prefer, add half of a ripe banana.  This did make 12 smaller pancakes, which served the two of us perfectly with no leftovers.

8 ounces Greek yogurt  (I used vanilla Chobani)
7 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar (could easily skip)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Whisk the eggs and stir into the yogurt.

2. Mix and add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir gently, just short of being totally combined.

3. Heat the griddle (a drop of water will "dance" when it is hot enough). Add 1/2 teaspoon oil.

3. For small pancakes pour 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle. Cook until breaking bubbles form in the center, then flip and cook until browned. Makes 12.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 Campbell Nominees

And, finally, the 2012 Campbell Nominees.  I fully admit I'm burnt out on reading at this point. 

Campbell Nominees (Best New Writer w/ 2 year eligibility)

E. Lily Yu "Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees", "Transfiguration of Maria Luisa Ortega", "The Lamp at the Turning" Yu is good at short stories. Each of these was engaging and interesting. I would like to see a longer work by her.

Mur Lafferty "An Argument Against Louis Pasteur"   An amusing tale of food poisoning and egos.

Brad R. Torgersen "Exanastasis"  This was...okay.  A story about second chances. 

I ran out of time and couldn't get to these two.  Redemption in Indigo in particular looks like it would be very interesting to read. 

Stina Leicht Blood and Honey: The Fey and the Fallen Book 1 (novel)
From Liam never knew who his father was. The town of Derry had always assumed that he was the bastard of a protestant — his mother never spoke of him, and Liam assumed he was dead. But when the war between the fallen and the fey began to heat up, Liam and his family are pulled into a conflict that they didn't know existed.

A centuries old conflict between supernatural forces seems to mirror the political divisions in 1970's era Ireland, and Liam is thrown headlong into both conflicts! Only the direct intervention of Liam's real father, and a secret catholic order dedicated to fighting "The Fallen" can save Liam... from the mundane and supernatural forces around him, and from the darkness that lurks within him.

Karen Lord Redemption in Indigo (novel)
From  Karen Lord’s debut novel is an intricately woven tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.

Bursting with humor and rich in fantastic detail, Redemption in Indigo is a clever, contemporary fairy tale that introduces readers to a dynamic new voice in Caribbean literature. Lord’s world of spider tricksters and indigo immortals is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale—but Paama’s adventures are fresh, surprising, and utterly original.

To re-cap (in no particular order) the 2012 nominees: 

Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)
Dance with Dragons  by George RR Martin  (didn't read)

 Novella Nominees:
Countdown by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2011)
“Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov's, June 2011)
“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov's, September/October 2011)
“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld / WSFA)

Novelette Nominees
 “The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov's, July 2011)
“Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
“Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog, December 2011)
“Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (
“What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September/October 2011)

Short Story Nominees
“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld, April 2011)
“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov's, April/May 2011)
“Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov's, March 2011)
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)
“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (

Did I mention I'm burnt out?  This is all I'm going to vote on.  There several other categories including Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form, Best Editor Long Form, Best Editor Short Form Best Artist, Best Graphic Novel, Bestest Fan, Bestest Fanzine,  Bestest Fan Artist, Best Semiprozine, Best Related Work, Best Alien, Best, not really  on the last two, but it sure seems that way.  Too many categories in my opinion.  They should drop  the Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form because it's always Dr. Who.  Seriously.  I swear for the last several years 3 or 4 of the nominees are Dr. Who episodes. 

But I digress. 

Watch the blog come Labor Day weekend.  I'll post the results live from Chicon 7: the 70th World Science Fiction Convention!


Monday, July 23, 2012

The 2012 5 ‘B’ Tour - Southeastern Wisconsin

The Trip Summary Short Version:

1 Baseball Game - the Beloit Snappers, a Twins Minor League division

2 Bikes - went for a total of 55.5 miles

3 Brewery’s - self explanatory…

And a Bread and Breakfast to round it all out.

The Trip Summary Long Version:
The past weekend found the Husband and I heading down to Southeastern Wisconsin, or more precisely Albany WI,  for what we dubbed the 5 ‘B’ Tour.

We headed out of town on Thursday morning, stopping in Chippewa Falls to tour the Leinenkugle Brewery. This was becoming a strange mission for us, as we had tried to get a tour 18 years ago, but hit the wrong time of year…twice. A fun - free - little tour with a chance to sample some brews afterwards.  

We hit Madison, WI, at dinner time and I just had to take the Husband to the Great Dane Brew Pub right downtown. I visited here almost a year ago exactly for the North American Discworld Convention and this was a “Must Do Again” place. We got to sit outside in the sunken garden and after 6 hours in the car, that was super refreshing. Sorry, it was too dark for pictures with the over cast sky, but imagine being surrounded on three sides by ivy covered walls, rough rock encased trees and gardens, and the back of the building looked like something out of Europe with the creamy walls and iron railings.

Our home base for all these activities was the Albany House B&B in Albany, WI, where we finally arrived after a full day of driving.

A delightful breakfast on Friday morning had us fueled up for our next adventures - the Sugar and Badger State Trails - a rails to trails system of crushed limestone that uses old railroad grades. On our first morning ride we biked from Albany to Brodhead, a round trip distance of 20.5 miles. Maybe made a bit longer by our meandering around Brodhead to look at the old homes.

Me and my bike on the Sugar State Trail.
There is a restored covered bridge to the right that we had just passed through.

The funeral home in Brodhead

Albany, being smaller than most rural towns didn’t offer much…okay, didn’t offer anything in the way of places to eat so we were forced to head out. We picked Monroe, WI, as a more likely candidate for a lunch plus it was kinda on the way to Beloit where we planned to catch a baseball game.
Monroe was a delight! A beautifully restored town square with some great lunch options. The town was doing Pirates on the Square for 2012 so there were all these pirate statues, a pirate ship and even the stores got into the theme. Some fellows were chatting in the shade and informed us of a brewery tour being offered just a couple blocks away. Much to our surprise and delight it was the Huber Brewery! We slid in just in time for the 3p tour. Sweeet!

Make Huber beer, Blumers Soda Pop and soon to add Spirits

Then it was off to Beloit to catch a baseball game. The Beloit Snappers are a Minor League affiliate of the Twins organization. It was Twin’s weekend and TC the Bear was there, Al Neuman - husband got his autograph - and fireworks. I was just happy to finally be sitting down.

Beloit Snapperr game

Saturday morning had us biking to Monticello on the Sugar and Badger State Trails and up to the railroad tunnel. This tunnel has a curve in it so you can’t see either end. Flashlights/headlamps of some kind are encouraged and you have to walk your bikes. We stopped for lunch on the way back in Monticello at a little café and had some really good BLT’s and peach pie. By the time we got back to Albany we had logged 35.3 miles. Time to rest!

Looks kinda dark in there...

Sunday on our way back we went through New Glarus, WI, to visit the New Glarus Brewing Co. This brewery was reminiscent of visiting a winery - it was a brand spankin’ new complex (built about 2008 I think), where you just wander around on your own looking at miles of shiny pipe, huge tanks, glowing copper drums all while kinda wondering what the heck was what (though after visiting two other breweries we kinda knew what was what, even if the water tanks threw us off). The tasting room was set up like a winery, and you could go outside to sit and sip while overlooking the New Glarus valley. All very wine-country like.

New Glarus Brewery, built about 2008. 

Fat Squirrel Ale on the left, Moon Man on the right

Lunch was at a Swiss place in New Glarus and then it was homeward bound… 7 hours later we had the hounds back and were unloading the car while trying to cool down a closed up house. Nothin’ like trying to sleep when the bedroom is sitting at a balmy 82*!

The "Souvenir's"  from Minhus Brewery and New Glarus. 
We can get Leinie's anywhere up here so we didn't purchase any on the road.

Great trip, lots we didn’t get to see or do, and enjoyed what we did get to. I think both of us would like to do this again.

Friday, July 20, 2012

2012 Novella Hugo Nominees

This was a difficult group to rank due to the diversity of the novellas and the world and character building in each.  For myself, it came down to personal preference and what *I* like to read in a shorter work.   As of typing this out (middle of July) I only have the Cambell Award Nominees yet to read.  Making progress and looking forward to just being done with them all. 

In order of my preference:

“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov's, September/October 2011)
I knew this one was going to be good. Kij's short story "Ponies" from 2011 Hugo Nominees elicited a very strong Ewww response. If a writer can pull an emotion out of the reader like that, they know how to write. Kij had demonstrated she knows how to write well.  Man/Bridged had a fascinating world setting and was an interesting look at how a large scale project can be looked at in so many different ways. Well done.

Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov's, June 2011)
Rather interesting futuristic world with different 'levels' of Artificial Intelligence.  Metta, our police AI, has found herself kidnapped and her Beta must help Detective Huang figure out where her Prime is.  Nicely convoluted with good concepts. Could have been fleshed out just a bit more in my opinion.  My main complaint was the endless May West quotes.  Not a fan.

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
A historical-fictional look at atrocities committed against the Chinese in WWII. Interesting from a historical perspective, had the science and physics with the time machine, add those together and the whole story came across as heavy handed. Personally, I like my history and fiction kept separate, so I was less than thrilled with this selection. However, you could tell the author was very passionate about the topic and that I could appreciate.

The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2011)
A young girl learns that responsibility for ones actions has ramifications across time and space.  Despite an interesting world/universe setting and a solid plot, I thought the ending was lacking.

Countdown by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The background story for how the Zombie virus came into existence for the Feed and Deadline books.  Interesting enough if you are into Mira's books, but overall sort of just "Meh, that was nice."  

Silently and Very Fast" by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld / WSFA)
I could not get into this selection.  In my opinion, which really means nothing in the grand scheme of things, I found this to be a very tedious read.  How to describe?  Here is the blurb from  Neva is dreaming. But she is not alone. A mysterious machine entity called Elefsis haunts her and the members of her family, back through the generations to her great-great-grandmother -- a gifted computer programmer who changed the world. Together Neva and Elefsis navigate their history and their future, an uneasy, unwilling symbiote.   But what they discover in their dreamworld might change them forever...

Honestly, I couldn't bring myself to care at the  halfway point.  I tried to keep going, but ultimately said to heck with it.  And that was while I was stuck waiting in the Doctor's office.  You know the wait...when they shut the door and disappear for like half an hour?  Yeah, like that. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Novelette Hugo Nominee's

Best Novelette (7500 - 17500 words)
I'm slowly making progress on the 2012 Hugo Nominees.  What I like about the Short Stories and Novelette is I can fit them in when I have a few moments of quiet.  As of this posting, I still have the Novellas and Campbell Nominees to read. 

Again, hard to sumaraize when the story is already so short to begin with.  These are in order of my preference.   I really wasn't impressed with any of the  novelette selections this year; nothing lept out at me,  none of them seemed overly stellar.  Obviously somebody thought these were worthy, but it makes me wonder about the quality of what didn't get voted on.

What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy &; Science Fiction, September/October 2011)   Set in Africa.  Science and a family's past; can the future be changed?

Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (  Two people who can read the future, but in different ways, share six months and three days.  A story about complacency and action.

Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog, December 2011)    Reminiscent of Spin by Robert Charles Wilson; Aliens change the world and we retreat under the sea.  One scientists daughter chaleanges the status quo by going to the surface.

Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)   Being dead, doing over, you can go back.

The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov's, July 2011)    Not really sure what the heck this was about...I found it confusing and incomplete.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recipe Review from 7/9/12

Where is my summer going!  Egads.

Spent one weekend recently up in Grand Marias for a couple of days of hiking.  As part of the Superior Hiking Trail facilitated hikes, we did the stretch from Judge Magney State Park to Kadunce River Wayside. About 10 miles.  I had forgotten how nice this stretch was, from high river gorges, to young aspen stands, ridges that peek out over Lake Superior, and the 1 1/2 mile "Lake Walk" which is right on the lake.  

The next day a smaller group of us (not part of the SHT organized hike) did just a couple miles along the Kadunce River.  An amazing little river that starts out like many a creek, then plunges several hundred feet down to the lake through some spectacular cut rock formations.

The following weekend we did a long ride on Saturday morning, where the Husband discovered his bike seat doesn't fit the best.  Ow for him.  Sunday was another trip down to the Cities to watch the Twins.  Can we say "hot" and in temperature hot?  Yeah...was sweating again in places I forgot  could sweat.

All this bike riding and hiking and baseball add up to very simple meals.  Suppers this week were a combination of the Black Bean burgers I reviewed about a month ago (still awesome), and a new vegetarian burger from the Co-op flyer.

Jamacian Bean Burgers  (Whole Foods Co-op flyer)
Other than forgetting that I needed to make the rice ahead of time, these were very quick to assemble and had really good flavor.  Make the rice ahead of time to save on prep.  For my non-mushroom peeps out there, I diced the shrooms very fine so ultimately, they could not be discerned or tasted from the other ingredients in the burger.  I omitted the jalepeno  because I forgot to buy one.  Leftovers were just as good if  not better than fresh.   I served on ciabiatta rolls for a couple of meals and then some hard rolls that I needed to use up.   I think these would freeze and re-heat very nicely.

1 cup cooked brown rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 diced yellow onion
1 cup chopped button mushrooms (I used cremini)
2 tbsp minced jalepeno
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 15oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp freshly minced and peeled ginger
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs (I used regular and some homemade that I had on hand; probably was only 1 cup)

1) Heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; add the diced onions and saute for 2 minutes.   Add the garlic and the chopped mushrooms and satue 3-4 minutes, until onions begin to lightly brown.  Add the jalepeno pepper, allspice, nutmeg, ground ginger and chili powder and saute one minute more.

2) Remove the mixture to a large bowl, add the beans, fresh ginger, breadcrumbs and rice.  Using your hands, squish, mash and mix all the ingredients together; the mixture should be slightly chunky and somewhat sticky.

3) Heat a tbsp of oil in a wide skillet and gently pan-fry each burger over medium-high heat, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side until browned and crispy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

2012 Short Story Hugo Nominees

The 2012 Hugo Nominee Short Stories, ranked in order of my preference. Problem with a short story is too much of a summary and I’ve given the plot away. Instead, I’ve settled on just a couple words to try and convey my impressions.

The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu ( The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)   A Chinese-American child grows to resent his mother and the understanding and forgiveness that comes too late.

Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov's, March 2011) Autism from the autistic’s persons point of view.

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld, April 2011).     Reminiscent of the fable of the Grasshopper and the Ants but different.

The Homecoming”  by Mike Resnick (Asimov's, April/May 2011)      A young man follows his dream to the stars, but his father resents him for leaving  him and his mother and ultimately, understanding and forgiveness.

Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (   Contrived fantasy. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deadline by Mira Grant

Deadline (Newsflesh Trilogy, #2)Deadline by Mira Grant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Deadline follows 2010’s book Feed, which was also nominated for a Hugo Award. I can assuredly say Deadline is my second ‘zombie’ book, but I must also strongly stress that these books are NOT about the zombies. They just provide the world setting. Feed and Deadline seem to illicit a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ response and I find myself straddling the line with ‘enjoyed it’, I can't gush about the book, nor did I absolutely hate it.

Is it Hugo worthy? Good question, as that would entail defining what a “Hugo” worthy book is at any given point in time. Which I’m not going to get into here.

Deadline picks up about a year after Feed. The world hasn’t changed. The virus is still running rampant. Outbreaks continue to happen. Blood tests remain the norm. And with it all, the newsfeeds are still going strong.

Our cast of characters finds themselves investigating the Center for Disease Control after one of their Doctors shows up on the groups Oakland, California, doorstep and then they are off and running for their lives. Each step along the way brings them one step closer to the truth, and one step closer to imminent death from something other than a zombie virus.

As I said above, while I enjoyed it, I did grow a bit weary at the continual “Run for your lives!”. Perhaps it is because I read police procedurals where so much is reasoned out rather than blundered upon and running happens at the Big Conclusion. In Deadline, our Group travels to point A. Whoops! Gotta run. Retreat. Group travels to point B. Whoops! Gotta run! Retreat. Well, let’s watch our group travel to point C. Whoops! Gotta run.! Now drive really fast while you retreat! Repeat a few more times.

I did like the character development in this one - our lovely Becks (Rebecca) has to throw herself at Shaun to get him to see that desires him, and then it blows up in both their faces. Nice touch that. Shaun is not coping well with the loss of his sister, and he talks to her - and she talks back. The gang is learning their strong points and the weak ones, that loss happens and meanwhile, trust nothing.

So ultimately, yes, I had fun reading Deadline, but I just don’t consider this to be strong Hugo material.

My initial Hugo Novel Nominiee ranking:

Leviathan Wakes
Among Others
Dance with Dragons

View all my reviews

Monday, July 9, 2012

Recipe Review from 7/2/12

Did everyone have a good 4th of July? 

We did mellow...kind of.  We started the morning off with what was supposed to be a pleasant 30 mile bike ride, which ended up being a 39 mile ride that was predominantly uphill into the wind.  I kid you not.  Still, it was good for us to challenge ourselves even unintentionally.  We're getting ready to ride this: The Great River Energy Ride  at the 64 mile route, in a month.   We needed some hard miles. 

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, reading, in my case - a little knitting, and listening to the Twin's game.  Nope, no fireworks for us this year. 

Only one new recipe to review.  The rest of the week was leftover tacos...which I managed to screw up.  I wanted to do a shredded beef taco, but I bought the wrong kind of cut.  No way no how was that hunk of meat going to shred.  So it was sliced.  Worked okay, but not what I wanted.  Frustrating.

German New Potato Salad  (Whole Foods Co-op Flyer)
I made this to go with grilled pork ribs for 4th of July.  Very tasty!  A nice change from the 'usual' mayo-based potato salad. 

2 lbs small red-skinned potatoes
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, minced
1/4 lb uncooked bacon, diced OR 1/4 soy-based vegetarian bac'un bits
1 tbsp vegetable oil (if using bac'un bits)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, boil the potatoes in salted water 14-15 minutes, until just tender.  Drain, and when cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices or 1 inch cubes and place into a mixing bowl.

If using bacon, satue the bacon in a large skillet for 4-5 minutes while the potatoes are cooking, drain off most of the fat, and return the pan to the stove.  Add the onions and saute another 7-8 minutes.  Add the stock vinegar and mustard and simmer a few more minutes.

For a vegetarian potato salad, saute the onion in 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil for 7-8 minutes.  Add the stock, vinegar, and mustard and simmer for a few more minutes

Toss the hot dressing with the sliced/diced potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the fresh parsley (and vegetarian bacon bits for meatless version) before serving.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Fith Woman by Henning Mankell

The Fifth Woman (Wallander, #6)The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #6 in the Wallander Series.
  From  In an African convent, four nuns and a unidentified fifth woman are brutally murdered--the death of the unknown woman covered up by the local police. A year later in Sweden, Inspector Kurt Wallander is baffled and appalled by two murders. Holger Eriksson, a retired car dealer and bird watcher, is impaled on sharpened bamboo poles in a ditch behind his secluded home, and the body of a missing florist is discovered--strangled and tied to a tree. The only clues Wallander has to go on are a skull, a diary, and a photo of three men. What ensues is a case that will test Wallander’s strength and patience, because in order to discover the reason behind these murders, he will also need to uncover the elusive connection between these deaths and the earlier unsolved murder in Africa of the fifth woman.

I have conflicting thoughts on this book: is this a somewhat accurate picture of Sweden in the mid-1990's? Where we have a society that heretofore was decent, law abiding and not prone to violence, but is now moving toward a high crime rate, violence and serial murders (like the United States)?

Or is this a book on women, and how it is inconceivable that a Swedish woman could be a murderer? Because women do not commit crimes? A society where women do not become policemen even though one of the main characters is a female police officer who's always taking off work to care for her two young children? Perhaps this a book on the authors view that a woman's place is in the home, as a nurse, secretary, waitress or other gender-specific roles and is attempting to show the decline of Swedish society by the breakdown of a woman's place in society?

I'm not certain about either point.

I also grew "annoyed and irritated" by the authors continual use of the words "annoyed and irritated" to describe Wallander's mood at any given time. I read this as an audiobook, and I swear, at one point near the end as the Ysted police force was running hither and tither at 1:00am trying to track the murderer down - a time at which anyone would easily get "annoyed and irritated" - that the author used "annoyed and irritated" no less that 3 times in five minutes to describe Wallander's mood. Further more, I felt Wallander really didn't have a leg to stand on for being "annoyed and irritated" and he wouldn't have to bully people if he didn't come across as an ass. I think you get the drift...

And, as in previous books I've reviewed in the series, I didn't understand why Wallander's fellow policemen kept asking "Why? Why do you need this, that or the other thing?" I would think a fellow detective wouldn't need to continuously ask why the lead detective wanted them to track something down. Just do it already!

So I'm left feeling vaguely perplexed if this book is a commentary on the decline of morals in current (for 1993) Swedish society or a slightly sexist book regarding Swedish women, or perhaps a third issue? Is this just the opposite, a book on how the Swedish police and welfare system do not understand or handle women's issues (assault, rape, abuse) as they conceivably should?

You tell me what you think...

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Birthday Ben!

My puppy turns the big 1-0 today!  
Happy Birthday Ben




Ben and Kia-dog  ~2009


Ben and Andy 2011


Monday, July 2, 2012

Recipe Review from 6/24/12

A good week all in all, concluding with a fast trip to the Twin Cities to catch a noon Twin's game on Saturday.  Whoo-ee!  Can we say HOT?  We lasted about two innings in our seats before I said, "We're moving!  I'd rather eat a hot dog than be a hot dog!"  We found some empty seats way up high, in the shade, just off of home plate on the first base line. Things were much better after that, especially when the Twin's won. 

Had a couple good recipes from last week too: 
Pasta Fagioli  (Ckng Lght Bulletin Board) 
This is what I called "adult" macaroni and tomatoes, which might be a regional thing - elbow macaroni mixed with a can of diced or stewed tomatoes.  This calls for sauteing some onion and garlic, adding a bit of crushed red pepper, then cooking the noodles (your choice) in the subsequent broth.  And toss in a can of chickpeas for protien.  You can make it soup-like or pasta-like; I chose pasta-like.   Fast, tasty, and made enough for about 4 meals for two of us (both supper and lunches).
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cans peeled tomatoes      (I used 2 15oz cans diced tomatoes)
1 (15oz) can cici beans, drained  (also known as chickpeas or garbanzo beans)
3 cans low sodium chicken broth   (I used two cans to make it more like a pasta dish)
½ lb small pasta  (or more if you want it more as a pasta than a soup)  I found 1/2lb elbo mac was about perfect
salt to taste
grated parmesan cheese

1. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil, saute garlic and crushed red pepper over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 10 minutes or until onion is soft.  (I like to caramelize slightly).
2. Add tomatoes breaking them upwith your hand. Cook the tomatoes for 10 minutes and add salt if desired.
3. Add beans and heat for three minutes.
4. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
5. Add the pasta and cook for about 12-15 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.
7. Serve with grated cheese.

Curried Chicken with Cashews (CI, May/June 2012)
For many years I had a subscription to Cooks Illustrated, which in our house we fondly called "Cooking for Engineers" (if you live with and Engineer or a Scientist, you will understand).  I saw an issue on the newstand recently that grabbed my fancy and this recipe was a result.  You poach the chicken first in water brought to a simmer, then  remove ehat and let stand.  The nice thing about this sou vide is that I can do other prep while the chicken poaches and I don't have to worry about it overcooking.  Will use this method exclusively now?  Probably not, because sometimes I just like the taste of grilled chicken in a salad a bit more than the neutral flavors from poaching. 
Serves 4 to 6
To ensure that the chicken cooks through, start with cold water in step 1 and don’t use breasts that weigh more than 8 ounces or are thicker than 1 inch. This salad can be served in a sandwich or spooned over leafy greens.

·         4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts,no more than 1 inch thick, trimmed
·         1 teaspoon vegetable oil
·         1 teaspoon curry powder
·         1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
·         1/2 cup mayonnaise
·         2 tablespoons lime juice
·         1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
·         2 celery ribs, minced  (I used carrots)
·         1 shallot, minced (forgot)
·         1/2 cup raw cashews, toasted and chopped coarse   (I used toasted almonds)
·         1/3 cup golden raisins  (I used cranberries)
·         2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1. Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 6 cups cold water in Dutch oven. Submerge chicken in water. Heat pot over medium heat until water registers 170 degrees. Turn off heat, cover pot, and let stand until chicken registers 165 degrees, 15 to 17 minutes.

2. Transfer chicken to paper towel–lined tray. Refrigerate until chicken is cool, about 30 minutes. While chicken cools, microwave vegetable oil, curry powder, and cayenne, uncovered, until oil is hot, about 30 seconds. Whisk mayonnaise, lime juice, ginger, and curry mixture together in large bowl.

3. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and cut into ½-inch pieces. Transfer chicken to bowl with mayonnaise mixture. Add celery, shallot, cashews, raisins, and cilantro; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. (Salad can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

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