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Monday, January 30, 2012

Recipe Review from 1/23/12

Last weekend was "Staycation" weekend, followed by a busy week for the Husband.  Lunches and suppers needed to be simple and easy.  The slow cooker dish was perfect - cooking in about 6 hours; the chicken dish could only have been easier if we had done takeout.  But after a weekend of restaurant food, that was the last thing I wanted to do!  Good to have some quick and tasty dishes to turn to.

Barley and Wild Rice with Squash (The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson)
Did I mention I ended up buying this cookbook?  I've made 4 or 5 recipes out of it now and have been pleased with them.  This one was also good.  I ended up doing a "dump 'n go" because it didn't make sense to saute the leeks, carrots, celery and then bring everything to a boil when it would do it's thing in the slow cooker quite nicely and would be one less pan to clean up.  Guess what?  It did everything quite nicely in the slow cooker.  I did end up subbing acorn squash for butternut because we have some from last year's garden that needs to be used up.  I've noticed our squash lasts till about Jan/Feb and then it's compost time.  This was for lunches during the week, with fruit and carrots as sides.    

2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tsp dried time (I used a herb mix)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup wild rice, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chopped butternut squash (I used acorn)

My directions:  layer ingredients in slow cooker and  pour broth over everything.  Cook on Low 6-8 hours (6 hours was good) or High for 3 hours. 

Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara Sauce (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2012)
A slight change in meal-plans had the Husband making this since I don't get home till 7:40p on Monday nights.  Should be right up his alley - simple, with meat.  I did one small alteration to the recipe - I bought sauce that had basil in it already.  I'm just not willing to pay $4.00 for a package of fresh basil that I only have one use for. 
photos from

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
16 slices pepperoni, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (I used Barilla, tomato-basil)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat broiler to high.

2. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and pepperoni; cook 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add oregano; cook 30 seconds. Add marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil.

3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Cheesy Potato Soup  (Ckng Lght Jan/Feb 2012)
OUTSTANDING!!!   A couple of small adjustments - I used Yukon gold potatoes instead of baby red because I had some that needed to be used up, and goats milk instead of cow.   I have one suggestion - use 1/2 -2/3 lb potatoes and sub the rest with blanched broccoli or cauliflower to up the veggies.   This made about 4 substantial servings (I certainly didn't go away hungry!).   This only takes about 40 minutes total from prep to table.  Seriously. 

1 tablespoon butter
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1 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chopped red potato (about 1 pound)  (chop about the size of large dice is recommended, mine were a bit to large)
1 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk   (I used goats milk with no problems)
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped green onions  (skipped; extra expense this time of year)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender (I like to caramelize my onions for a deeper flavor). Sprinkle with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring onion mixture constantly. Add potato, milk, broth, and 1/2 cup water to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese and ground red pepper; cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Top each serving evenly with 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped green onions.

Vanessa Pruett, Cooking Light

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Movie Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Husband and I finally had an opportunity to check out the newer indie theater that opened in Duluth well over a year ago. Since we don’t live in town, and only I work in town, in addition to two nights of yoga classes a week, getting to a movie is problematic. I either have to stay in town from 730a till late, or I have to make the 25 mile round trip twice - suddenly I’m driving 100 miles in one day! I don’t think so… and we have the pups to keep in mind.

Anyway, we were in town this weekend for a “staycation” that included two nights at the Historic Fitger’s Inn, a UMD Bulldogs game, some great dining out, and! A movie at the Zinema Theater. When I found out Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was there I pretty much declared we were going.

Based off of the book by John le Carre, this is set in England in the 1970’s during the Cold War. This is a classic spy thriller about spies spying on spies within the ranks of England’s MI6 department. The Controller and Mr. Smiley have been sacked after an agent in Budapest is shot. Later, Mr. Smiley is contacted by a government official to look into the rumor of a rogue agent - now missing - regarding a mole in the upper echelon of MI6. From here Smiley follows twists and turns that all lead back to the dead agent in Hungary.

I thought this was a very cool movie. I loved the watching the tangled web being slowly unraveled with methodical intelligence gathering - not a car chase, gun fight or bomb explosion to be seen anywhere. Smiley would tug at one thread and see what happens, then pursue another thread that didn’t seem to make any sense until later. Absolutely delightful how everything comes apart. But I love movies like this - thinking movies. I’m looking forward to watching it again just to see what I pick up that I missed in the first go.

PS - I will also admit I have not read the book. Yet.  Not entirely sure I want too now that I've seen the movie and enjoyed it as much as I did.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recipe Review 1/16/12

Totally forgot to make my crockpot dish this past week, so it has been shuffled to next week.  Three good dishes to review:

Bacon and Butternut Pasta  (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2012)   **Omit the bacon and sub veggie broth to make this vegetarian. 
A time consuming recipe best saved for the weekend or a day off.   I had  changes in an attempt to cut down on dishes/prep. My alterations didn't change the length of time it took to prepare, but I think I had more time to clean-up as I went along.  

This turned out pretty darn good. The Husband gave it his nod of approval, though that might have been because I put bacon in it...(his favorite) . Didn't turn out runny at all, good flavor, some of the noodles on top had that nice baked taste (but not dry) that I really like. Was it worth all the dishes? Ummm...not so sure. Again, good for a weekend dish perhaps, but not a weeknight.   Leftovers were even better. 

The two notable changes:

  • I roasted the squash, onions and garlic all at once - tossed in olive oil and spread on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil
  • I cooked the bacon in the oven at the same time, and drizzled a little bacon fat over veggies and pasta when tossing everything together.
Cooked pasta and kale as directed.
Cooked broth and creme fraiche as directed

Picture from
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
12 ounces uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta), campanile, or other short pasta
4 cups chopped kale
2 bacon slices  (my vegetarian readers can easily omit)
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided (or veggie broth)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup crème fraîche
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine squash and oil in a large bowl; toss well. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.

3. Cook pasta 7 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Add kale to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture.

4. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

5. Bring 1 3/4 cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to broth. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in crème fraîche.

6. Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and sauce in a large bowl; toss gently. Place pasta mixture in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.

Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light

Open Faced Chicken Club Sandwiches  (Ckng Light Jan/Feb 2012)
These were simple and tasty - but messy.  There is really no good way to eat an "Open Faced" sandwich and mostly I was left wishing for a top.  And that was with skipping the tomato because I forgot to buy one.   I cooked the bacon in the oven then drizzled just a tiny bit of the bacon fat over the chicken in the frying pan.  I forgot to mash the avocado which probably contributed to the messiness.  Loved the sourdough bread flavor, but then I'm a sourdough nut.  If you're in the Duluth area, Amazing Grace or Mt. Royal have the best sourdough.   

1 tablespoon olive oil
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4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
1 ripe peeled avocado, coarsely mashed
4 (1-ounce) slices sourdough bread, toasted
4 pieces green leaf lettuce
2 plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 slices  (forgot to buy; didn't miss it)
4 slices center-cut bacon, cooked and drained

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; sauté 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Slice.

2. Combine remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, juice, mayonnaise, and avocado in a small bowl; stir until well blended. Spread about 3 tablespoons avocado mixture over each bread slice. Top each sandwich with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 chicken breast half, 3 tomato slices, and 1 bacon slice.

Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light

Plymouth Bread  (Bernard Clayton's Bread Book)
The Husband made this one.  A bit of background - last summer he grew flour corn - corn meant to be ground up and used in baking.  He's had a bit of trouble finding something to 'shell' his corn - and we did eventually find and ordered a corn sheller from Jung Seeds - but in the interm hr found he could use his thumb or a butter knife.  He did four cobs and we ground the seeds in my spice grinder (coffee grinder really, but we don't drink coffee).  It was a medium-coarse meal, and it was decided to try out a more traditional bread type recipe to see how the ground up corn works and what adjustments need to be made to use it in other recipes. 

This bread, was outstanding!  Sweet, light, flavorful, good crust and crumb; absolutely perfect in my opinion.   This is a pretty wordy recipe, so my apologies for not retyping it.   This is a great bread cookbook and has become my go-to for making bread. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shock Wave by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers #5)

Shock Wave (Virgil Flowers, #5)Shock Wave by John Sandford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From The superstore chain PyeMart has its sights set on a Minnesota river town, but two very angry groups want to stop it: local merchants, fearing for their businesses, and environmentalists, predicting ecological disaster. The protests don't seem to be slowing the project, though, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands.

The first bomb goes off on the top floor of PyeMart's headquarters. The second one explodes at the construction site itself. The blasts are meant to inflict maximum damage-and they do. Who's behind the bombs, and how far will they go? It's Virgil Flowers's job to find out . . . before more people get killed.

Oh, it was a happy day when the notice came from the library that it was my turn to get the newest Virgil Flowers book by Sandford! When I put it on request back in July, I was #5 in line. When I picked it up in December, there were about 20 people behind me. Popular indeed.

Absolutely loved this book. The humor was outstanding, the plot moved right along - if not a bit typical. We know what the antagonist is doing, we know he's one step ahead of enforcement. And while on one hand I want to be annoyed because I know what the bad guy is doing, on the other hand I'm facinated how the author manages to bring the two lines to a satsifactory conclusion. In all honesty, flashbacks annoy me more... rest assured, no flashbacks here. Only a lot of BANG!

I was also amused that I was able to figure out "who done it" fairly early on. I thought the clue(s) were fairly up front - not something I usually say about an audiobook - and the red herring rather obvious. But then, mysteries/thrillers authors tend to follow a pattern and when you read enough of an author the pattern starts to develop. Which is why I don't watch much in the way of mysteries on TV. I get annoyed when I figure out "who done it" in the first 10 minutes then have to slog through 40 minutes to have it confirmed.

But I digress. Very entertaining read, satisfactory ending, lots of humor and I'm curious to see if Sandford has set the plot for book #6 or if Virgil's and Davenport's last conversation was just a teaser with no lead in to the next book. I hate waiting....

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Recipe review from 1/2/12

Dueling crockpots this past week!  One slow cooker was a Thai style Butternut Squash Soup, the other, Spicy Lentils with Poached Eggs.   The interesting thing about crockpots is, you have to plug them in to work, see, otherwise the food doesn't cook.  A little detail, I know.   We forgot to plug in the Squash Soup pot, which while not the end of the world, was a bit annoying since it pushed final assembly back to 930p at night rather than 6p as I intended.  Oh well.

I also broke down and ordered the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson.  Oops, I just realized I've been referring to it incorrectly!  Anyway,  I've been pleased with the dishes I've made and I have several more tagged for later - but I ran out of renewals at the library.  Will have to bring it back, so I ordered it.

Spicy Lentils with Poached Eggs  (Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson)
I would hardly call this one spicy - flavorful, yes; spicy, no.  This turned out more soup-like than I thought it would, so if I were to make it again, I would increase the lentils by a good 1/2 to 1 cups.  The poached egg on top is a very nice addition and shouldn't be skipped.   If you want to bump up the spice-heat, add the chili pepper as recommended, or add a tich of Siracha sauce.  Personally, I think the Siracha sauce would be the way to go.

1 tbsp oil
2 onions finely chopped
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp minced gingerroot (skipped because I forgot to buy it)
1 tps coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cracked black pepper corns (I just used fresh ground - about 10 good turns)
1 cup red lentils (2 cups if want it more stew like and less liquid)
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 long green chili, finely chopped (optional - I skipped)

1) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Ad onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes (or until caramelized - my favorite!).  Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and pepper and cook, stirring for about 1 minute.  [Add lentils, tomatoes with juice and vegetable broth and bring to a boil - I added, but did not bring to a boil; I felt this would cook the lentils too quickly in the long run.]  Transfer to slow cooker. 

2) Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3, until lentils are tender and mixture bubbly.  Stir in coconut milk, salt to taste (I skipped the salt) and add chili pepper if using.  Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more. 

3) When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and top each serving with a poached egg. 

Thai style Butternut Squash Soup (Mpls Star Tribune, Jan....?) 
I've already said it is imperative to turn the slow cooker on if you want anything to cook.  That being said, the squash wasn't quite finished at 3 1/2 hours but since it was pushing 930p on a Sunday night and I just wanted to go to bed, I called it good enough and blended everything up after adding the final ingredients.  A quick cool down outside and it was ready for the fridge.   This was for lunches; sides included a ham sandwich, grapes, apples, and some Frito's/bugle chips. 

This was a nice change to your standard Butt-nut soup.  I did cut back on the fish sauce because the smell of fish sauce is not appealing to me.  I like the taste just fine tho.  This definitely had a sweet/sour combo going, very reminiscent of the Far East.  The addition of cilantro was a nice counter point to all the other flavors, but for my non-cilantro folks it can easily be omitted.  I will probably make this again.

Serves 8.
From Mpls Star Trib, Jan 4, 2012:  This is a take on one of my favorite Thai meals whipped up into a creamy soup. The unusual addition of butter rounds out the flavors and adds a real silkiness to the soup. Adding it at the end of the cook time, along with the brown sugar and fish sauce, keeps it from cooking into caramel. The heat of the soup releases a heady perfume from the cilantro, so don't skip the garnish. This makes an elegant meal paired with a skewer of grilled shrimp and a fresh green salad. At parties I like to serve this in cups before we all sit down to dinner. It frees up your stove and can hold for a while -- and freezes well.

• 1 large (4 lb.) or two small butternut squash, peeled seeded and roughly cubed (8 c.)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 tbsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger root
• 1 tbsp. green or red Thai curry paste
• 4 c. chicken broth
• 1 (13.5 oz.) can regular or light coconut milk
3 tbsp. 2 tbsp fish sauce
• 2 tbsp. brown sugar
• 2 tbsp. butter
• 3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

In the slow cooker toss squash, onion, garlic, ginger and curry paste. Don't worry if the paste is in a clump, it will dissolve as it cooks. Pour the broth and coconut milk over all.

Cover and cook on high 4 hours or low 8 to 10 hours.

Use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Or purée in batches in an electric blender. Note: Hot liquids expand when blended, so be careful not to fill the jar more than halfway and leave the lid ajar, covered with a dishtowel.

Stir in the fish sauce, brown sugar and butter. Soup can keep warm in the slow cooker for up to an hour at this point. Unplug cooker and let stand 15 to 30 minutes before serving (soup will thicken slightly as it cools). Top each serving with cilantro.

Chicken Piccata (Ckng Lght Jan/Feb 2012)
Outstanding!!  I've made several variations and recipes of this over the years and I have to say this one worked for some reason.  Super simple to assemble - highly recommend mise en place.  I saved some time by not banging the heck out of the chicken breasts, but rather just butterflied them.  Slice slice slice and good to go.  Less mess too.  Use the shake-n-bake method of coating the breasts in flour (a recycled gallon zippy is perfect for this, and less mess too).  Use your largest pan to sear the breasts and cook the sauce.   Bright, tangy, delicious.   I served this over some egg noodles because I had some on hand I wanted to use up. 

photo from
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

  • 2 ounces all-purpose flour, divided (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • Preparation

    1. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Place 1 teaspoon flour in a small bowl, and place remaining flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle both sides of chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour in shallow dish; shake off excess.

    2.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

    3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup broth to reserved 1 teaspoon flour; stir until smooth. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth to pan; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half (about 5 minutes). Stir in flour mixture; cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, juice, and capers. Place 1 chicken breast half on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 2 tablespoons sauce. Sprinkle each serving with about 2 teaspoons parsley.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Embroidered Truths by Monica Ferris (#9)

    Embroidered Truths (A Needlecraft Mystery, #9)Embroidered Truths by Monica Ferris 

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    From After her friend Godwin has a nasty quarrel with his significant other, John, Betsy Devonshire finds herself with a roommate. But heartbreak turns to grief when Betsy and Godwin discover John dead in his home, and Godwin is arrested for the murder. Betsy sets out to prove him innocent, and finds that John had some dishonest dealings that made him a lot of money--and a lot of enemies. Now Betsy has to untangle a cat's cradle of lies if she's going to save Godwin... before the murderer decides to cut off all the loose ends for good.

    A little more substance to this one, a bit more character development in Godwin, but yet the situation left me slightly unsatisfied. Godwin is basically in an emotionally abusive relationship, his partner is murdered and he's framed for it (of course), but I found the resolution a bit too pat. I'm also not particularly enthused about Besty butting heads with the local sheriff. Too much of an amateur sleuth cliché. It was also disturbing that a 25year old (Godwin) would be doing Botox 'to retain his youthful looks'. Umm....25 year old? Doing Botox? Righht....

    Despite my complaints, I munched through this in a couple of days and was entertained. Which is all I ask of my rocket science here. That's for my scifi books.

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    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Recipe Review 1/3/12

    Happy New Year! 

    The New Recipe Tracking starts this week!  Still continuing my efforts to use that slow cooker once a week, and I'm still pulling inspiration from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson.  

    Artichoke and Mushroom Lasagna (Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson)
    The husband assembled this one while I made cupcakes for his work potluck.  I heard a fair amount of muttering, quite a few "Oops!", and a lot of dishes ended up in the sink.  Not sure if it was because we were both trying to use the kitchen at the same time or if it was something else.  He did cook this on High for 3 hours since we were making this the evening before - I prefer to do it this way rather than let something cook overnight and then have to stick a hot dish right in the fridge in the morning.   By cooking something late afternoon/early evening, I can stick the dish outside to cool down before going in the fridge.  A tiny warning - the ricotta turns an off color.  Flavor is not affected, but the cheese does not remain creamy white. 

    2 tbsp butter
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 lb mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (I used 8oz cremini)
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    3 1/2 cups quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed (I used 3 cans)
    3/4 cup dry white wine or vegetable broth
    12 oven ready lasagna noodles (I used Barilla no-boil noodles)
    2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese  (I used one tub part-skim ricotta)
    2 cups baby spinach
    2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

    1) In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, just until mushrooms begin to lose their liquid, about 7 minutes.  Stir in artichokes and wine and bring to a boil. cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, until liquid reduces slightly.

    2) Cover bottom of slow cooker stoneware with 4 noodles, breaking to fit if necessary.  Spread with half of the ricotta, half of the mushroom mixture, half of the spinach and one-third each of the mozzarella and Parmesan.  Repeat.  Arrange final layer of noodles over cheese.  Pour any liquid remaining from mushroom  mixture over noodles and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

    3) Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours and High for 3 hours, until hot and bubbly.

    Carrot Cake Cupcakes for Husbands potluck. 

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Crewel Yule by Monica Ferris (#8)

    Crewel Yule (A Needlecraft Mystery, #8)Crewel Yule by Monica Ferris

    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    I found myself a bit between books (just finished Silent Prey by John Sandford and Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding) I needed something light, fast, and not in-depth for the weekend.  I'm also trying to read a few of the paperbacks I have lying around.  And then I remembered the Monica Ferris books - brain candy as they come AND a Christmas theme.  Very cool.

    From GoodreadsPart-time sleuth and full-time owner of the needlework shop Crewel World, Betsy Devonshire prepares for a chilling holiday season filled with mistletoe--and murder.
    I was pleased to see the Ms Ferris took her gang of sleuths on the road to Nashville for this version. The series was starting to move in the Mrs Marple direction where everyone in Excelsior, MN, seems to be in danger of getting bumped off. The downside of this book was it was too obvious "who done it" and somewhat implausible that here we have a murder at a well known hotel, but yet the police are too busy with traffic accidents (a snowstorm shut down Nashville) to come and investigate. Thus opening the door for our Heroine, her assistant and our traditionally built Swedish female cop.

    But substance wasn't what I wanted when I picked up this book. I wanted familiar characters, a moderately interesting setting, and to zone out for several hours. Objective achieved.

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    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Recipe Review 12/26/11

    The slowcooker/crockpot misson continues!  Two for last week and the end of the year: a take on Indian flavors and a classic.  These will also wrap up my new recipes for 2011 - time to start a new list. 
    Vegetable Biriyani  (Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson)
    All righty then...I actually made this one as directed, except in stages because my pan wasn't big enough to hold everything.  I sauteed the potatoes till lightly browned.  Then I lightly caramelized the onions.  And did parsnips and carrots last.  Switched over and did the rice.  It just seemed the right thing to do for this dish - to lightly roast the vegetables and enhance the seasonings.  I also made this in the evening and cooked on high for the 3 hours.  Outstanding!  This one is a keeper. 

    3 tbsp oil, divided
    1 tsp cumin seeds
    1/2 tsp ground turmeric
    2 cups cubed, peeled potatoes
    1 red or sweet onion, thinly sliced on the vertical
    2 carrots, peeled and diced
    2 cups diced fennel bulb parsnips   (because we don't like the taste of fennel...)
    1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice, rinsed and drained  (I used brown basmati)
    2 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp ground coriander
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
    2 green cardamom pods, crushed
    4 cups vegetable broth

    1. In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp of the oil  over medium-high heat.  Add cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, about 10 seconds.  Stir in turmeric.  Add potatoes and cook, stirring, until browned. About 3 minutes.  Add onion and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Add carrots and fennel parsnips and cook, stirring, until well coated with mixture.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

    2. Add remaining tbsp of oil, rice, ground cumin and coriander, salt, pepper, and cardamom pods to pan and cook, stirring until well coated.  Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Boil 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, layer half the rice mixture over bottom of prepared slow cooker.  Spread vegetables over rice. Add remaining rice plus all the liquid. Place a clean tea towel, folded in half (so you have two layers), over top of stoneware to absorb moisture.  Cover and cook on low 6 hours or on high 3 hours or until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed.

    Oyster Stew  (Ckng Lght BB)
    I came into posession of three cans of oysters.  Yes, I live by an 'Inland Sea', but said 'sea' does not contain edilble mollusks or other small seabugs.  Fish, yes.  Seafood, no.  So I went to my favorite source for foodie information - the Cooking Light bulletin board - and put in a plea for assistance.  Several great ideas came up and I started with Oyster Stew for it's simplicity. 

    It...was not good. The texture of canned oysters is awful.  Not something I do or say very often if at all, but this went in the trash.  Bleh. 

    Slow Cooked Pork Roast with Cranberry Sauce  (Friend Tess)
    One pork roast.  One can whole berry cranberrys.  Cook roast till done.  Add cranberries toward the end of the cooking if you don't want them too liquidy. 

    That's it.  Pretty simple.  Except we managed to over cook the darn roast - 3 hours and it was beyond done!  Very disappointing.  Now, in my defense, I did use my stoneware crockpot instead of my metal one and that may have been part of the problem.  Ah well.  Now I know.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    The Year in Review: 2011

    Indeed.  WTF is this shit?  Well, my lists to be precise.  My A-type personality likes to keep lists and notes and to compare one year to the next.  Here's a look at the past year(s):

    Books Finished
    2011 - 115  (29456 pages read/approx) 
    2010 – 80   (21848 pages)
    2009 – 45   (16094 pages)
    2008 – 45   (14456 pages)

    New recipes tried:
    photo from
    2011 - 95
    2010 – 82
    2009 - 92
    2008 - 129
    2007 - 120
    2006 - 103
    2005 - 137
    2004 - 143
    2003 - 154

    Team Shakti!
    My Miles Biked:
    2011 - 470  (do my 755 spin miles count?)  Rode in the Menominee River Century, 50  miles; and Mesabi Trail Ride - 50 miles
    2010 – 701 personal best!  Included the Split Rock Century – my first!
    2009- 250

    Welcome to our pack, Andy!  (the little red head) 

    Miles Skied:
    2011 -  snow?  what snow?   12 miles last Jan/Feb
    2010 – 71
    2009 – n/a

    Miles Hiked:
    2011  - 40+   
    2010  - 48

    Knitting Projects completed:
    Socks – 3
    Hats – 4
    Cowl - 1
    Cup Cozies - 9

    Hilton Head, SC
    Park Rapids, MN  Memorial Day weekend - rode the Heartland Trail
    Marionette, WI  (Menominee River Century Ride - 50 miles)
    Madison, WI  (North American Disk World Convention) 
    Reno, NV  (Worldcon) 
    Hilton Head, SC   (just for the heck of it!)


    Cody                           Kia          Ben
    In Memoriam, furry buddies all:
    Kia (my hound of 11 years)
    Cody  (friend's hound of 15 years)
    Chole  (friends cat of 3 years - adopted)

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