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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell

The Man Who Smiled (Kurt Wallander #4)The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell


My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Wallander #4


Wallander, drowning in the depths of marginally treated depression after shooting a man in the line of duty in book #3, had decided to come back to work after a year and a half when he reads an acquaintance has been murdered. He finds an office that isn't any different than from when he went on sick leave, and yet, with the introduction of policewoman Anne-Britt Hoglund, everything has changed. (My apologies if I misspell names - I don't get spellings on an audiobook).


This book ate at my nerves - I found Marttenson and Svedburg to be stupid for policemen. For example, Wallander would call and say, "I need someone from the bomb squad out at Mrs. Dinears house right away!"

Marttenson would reply "Why? What's going on?"

Wallander, "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

Marttenson, "Tell me!"

"There is a bomb in her yard." Wallander would growl.

"But! But! That's impossible!" Marttenson would whine.

Then Wallander would shout, "Get me the bomb squad right now!" and hang up.


This conversation would repeat itself, well, repeatedly, with various characters and Wallander over the course of the book. Seriously? If a colleague calls and says "I need X" why did the other detectives insist on going "Why? That's impossible!" I felt like banging my head on the steering wheel. They are policemen and detectives, they should expect the unexpected.


I found Wallander's character to be an asshole and it's hard to be sympathetic to a main character when you just don't like him. He was rude to everyone, short tempered, and sexist. I found myself drifting off into other thoughts as I listened to the the book (despite the outstanding narrator's abilities) and would have to go back a tract or two to figure out what the heck just happened.


I also thought the pacing of The Man Who Smiled to be rather slow, and I think in part that is because the team was investigating a "paper crime" for the most part; that is, the murders had to be solved via a paper trail to implicate the antagonist. Paper trails are not that exciting to write about, which is why I suspect the book really didn't pick up pace until the end (disk 10, I have no idea what chapters those were).


So over all, this book felt fragmented, unrealistic and was vaguely annoying. Recommended with significant reservations (like you are reading through the Wallander series).



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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


From Goodreads:  Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond—but the stars are still out of our reach.



Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.


Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.


Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations—and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe


This was a very fun and interesting book to read as a classic space opera set around Mars and Saturn. We have friction between Earthers (those who grew up in a gravity well), Belters (those who grew up on some kind of space station) and Martians (those who grew up on Mars. The book tips its hat to the detective noir with a mystery plot. The book adds some elements of the unknown with alien zombie goo, a proto-life form that mutates a human 'host' that the evil scientists have gotten their hands on. And the book addresses morality of life from two different view points - and both are right.


An absolutely fascinating read. I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up on the Hugo Nomination List. I will be disappointed if it doesn't. Either way, I'm looking forward to the authors next book in this universe.



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Monday, March 26, 2012

Recipe Review from 3/19/12

In addition to the usual yoga classes and the husband's Bull's Eye League on Wed nights, we also did a "Guys and Yoga" social at an acquaintance's house by request.  All this activity meant I needed to have meals prepped on Sunday for the week ahead.  Lunches were a White Chili in the slow cooker, a couple dinners were Sloppy Joes (made with mushrooms and ground chicken) and a slow cooked Chicken and Brown Rice dish.  What?!? You already put your slow cooker away? Tsk! Pull it back out!  One of the best year round kitchen gadgets there is in my opinion. 


Crockpot White Chili (Crockpot 365 blog)
 A good meal doesn't get easier than this.  Add some chicken thighs for a bit of extra protein or do as written for a vegetarian meal.  I kept it vegetarian for this week because our dinners will have meat in them.   I would watch the cooking times, I think mine was done in about three hours.  I used dried pinto beans that I had cooked ahead of time.   I also found I needed to add extra liquid. I'm not sure if the beans soaked up more or what the deal was, but mine came up short.  Very good flavor overall.

--16 oz bag of frozen white corn
--2 cans of White Beans
--1 4 oz can of green chilies
--1/2 chopped white onion
--2 minced cloves garlic
--1 cup vegetable broth
--juice from one lemon
--1 1/2 t cumin
--1/2 t Italian seasoning
--salt and pepper to taste
--mozzarella cheese (optional)

The Directions.
Dump everything into crockpot.

That is it.

Seriously---you need to chop the veggies, but the rest of the stuff can just go in. You don't need to drain and rinse the beans, or drain the chilies.

Cook on low for 8-9 hours, or high for 4-6. I cooked this for 6 hours on low, and the onions were still too crunchy, so I flipped it to high for another hour.

Serve with shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)



Sloppy Joes with Mushrooms  (Ckng Lght Annual 2012)
My non-mushroom eating readers might go eeewwww at this one, but seriously, even the most discriminating non-shroom consumer would have a hard time actually tasting the fungi in this one.  Texture and taste are spot on to your traditional sloppy joes, and I'm saying that even after substituting ground chicken (couldn't find the ground turkey and I was out of my organic pork).   These have the same texture and taste to what I consider traditional sloppy joes and I would make them again.   This made 3 dinners for us, two sandwiches apiece. 
photo from cookinglight.com

1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces ground sirloin  ground chicken
2 (8-ounce) packages presliced cremini mushrooms (save $$ and slice yourself.  they just go in the foodprocessor anyway.)
1 cup prechopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup no-salt-added tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce 
4 (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns, toasted  (I used smaller dinner rolls, ended up using 6)
1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add beef; cook for 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

2. While beef cooks, place mushrooms in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic to pan; cook for 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to pan; cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and liquid evaporates. Stir in pepper and hot sauce. Spoon about 1 cup beef mixture on bottom half of each bun; top with top halves of buns.

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, Cooking Light
JUNE 2011




Chicken and Rice Casserole  (Crockpot 365 blog)
Sorry, had trouble with the font when I copied and pasted.   This started out being a winner and ended up in the meh department.  I would recommend chicken thighs for this one as they tend to do better in the slowcooker than breasts.  Mine chicken breasts ended up being dried hockey pucks - not appetising at all.  I also ended up with way more rice mixture than meat,  even having one meal vegetarian (rice with some veggies on the side) so I recommend using a full package of chicken thighs.  I did like the idea of home made 'cream of mushroom' soup, but I think the flour content was way to high because it made my rice gummy.  Yet there were little bits that were under cooked.  Couldn't figure that one out.  Anyway, I think this has potential, but it needs a bit of tweeking. 

--1 1/2 cups of brown rice
--1 1/2 cups chicken broth
--1 1/2 cups milk, divided (stick with 2% or lower in fat content. I used soy.)
--3/4 cup flour (I used
Pamela's)
--1 small yellow onion, diced
--8 oz sliced mushrooms
--3-4 chicken breast halves or equivalent parts (use 1 pkg of thighs)

--1/2 tsp onion powder
--1/4 tsp black pepper
--1/4 tsp paprika

The Directions.
Use a 4-quart slow cooker.
You need to use the stove top for one part.
Combine all of the chicken broth (1 1/2 cups) and 1/2 cup of milk in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat on the stove. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup of milk with 3/4 cup flour.


When the broth and milk have begun to boil, reduce heat, and slowly stir in the milk and flour mixture. When everything is fully incorporated, set the pot aside to cool.



When you take the lid off of the crockpot, stir the rice. If the rice is fully cooked and you have extra liquid, keep the lid off for about 15 minutes. The liquid will absorb quickly.
Add the rice and seasonings to your crock. Chop up the onion, and add it with the mushrooms. Stir in your broth, flour, and milk mixture. The rice will turn a bit red from the paprika.

Lay the chicken pieces on top.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for about 8.  (My notes - I cooked on low overnight) 
Spray the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is book two in the Ketty Jay series.  Book one was Retribution Falls.

From Goodreads.comDeep in the heart of the Kurg rainforest lies a long-forgotten wreck. On board, behind a magically protected door, an elusive treasure awaits. Good thing Darian Frey, captain of the airship Ketty Jay, has the daemonist Crake on board. Crake is their best chance of getting that door open—if they can sober him up. For a prize this enticing, Frey is willing to brave the legendary monsters of the forbidding island and to ally himself with a partner who’s even less trustworthy than he is.

But what’s behind that door is not what any of the fortune hunters expect, any more than they anticipate their fiercest competitor for the treasure—a woman from Frey’s past who also happens to be the most feared pirate in the skies.


I enjoyed this book because it was just a fun scifi space pirate story.  This book delves more into characters that make up the crew of the Ketty Jay and what is driving them.  We have Frey and his odd obsession with Trinica; Harkins and his fear of Slag the cat; Jez finds out what it means to be half-Mane and the choice she will have to make; Crake can put his deamons to rest; and Pinn and Malvery kinda rotate around the periphery.  The crew gets into trouble, and sometimes they manage to get into more trouble getting out of the first batch of trouble. 

A fun escapism space opera meant to entertain, and I was.
 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Recipe Reveiw from 3/12/12

Uneventful week that ended nicely with my first ride outside.  A friend and I met up on Friday and biked 23 miles.  It never got as warm as "they" said it would (67*), but even at 57*, it was a very comfortable day. 

Vegetable "Meat" Loaf (Ckng Lght, Mar 2012)
Mine. Did NOT. Turn out like the picture.  It had good flavor, but let's just say that if this were being judged on Iron Chef, it would have gotten negative points in the Appearance category.   The problem?  You have to reduce the liquid completely.  There can be absolutely NO liquid left in the mushroom reduction.  None.  We had a bit of liquid left.  We didn't think that tiny amount would be a problem.  Well, it was.  We ended up with semi-glop than a nice loaf.  Glop is not visually appealing no matter how good it actually tastes.

This is also a very time and labor intensive dish - 2 hours from start to finish.  Washing 2lbs of mushrooms in a pain in the patooie as my Husband will report.  We also only have a 3 cup food processor so chopping 2lbs of mushrooms is a pain in the patooie.  Reducing 2lbs of chopped mushrooms so NO liquid remains takes MUCH longer than 15 minutes. 
Picture from CookingLight.com


  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch asparagus pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion 1
  • 1cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray
  • Topping:  [Double]
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon vodka or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard


  • 1. Preheat broiler to high.

    2. To prepare meat loaf, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 12 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand for 10 minutes. Peel and finely chop. Place bell peppers in a large bowl.

    3. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

    4. Place about one-fourth of mushrooms in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped. Transfer chopped mushrooms to a bowl. Repeat procedure 3 times with remaining mushrooms.

    5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms to pan; sauté 15 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms to bell peppers. Wipe pan with paper towels. Add asparagus and onion to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until just tender, stirring occasionally. Add onion mixture to mushroom mixture.

    6. Arrange breadcrumbs in an even layer on a baking sheet; bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until golden. Add breadcrumbs and the next 8 ingredients (through eggs) to mushroom mixture, stirring well. Spoon mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; press gently to pack. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°.

    7. To prepare topping, combine 2 tablespoons ketchup and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; brush ketchup mixture over meat loaf. Bake an additional 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes; cut into 6 slices.


    Cheddar Mashed Potatoes   (Ckng Lght, Mar 2012)
    Was supposed to be topped with bacon, but that was still frozen and it was just for sprinkling anyway.  So while yes, this counts as a new recipe, do you really need a recipe for cheddar mashed potatoes?  I thought not, but here it is anyway.

    2 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or baking potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
    1/2 cup fat-free milk
    1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
    1/2 cup fat-free sour cream  I subbed buttermilk
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/3 cup sliced green onions
    2 applewood-smoked bacon slices, cooked and finely chopped

    Place potato in a large saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well; return potato to pan over medium-low heat. Add milk; mash potato mixture with a potato masher to desired consistency. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cheese, and stir until cheese melts. Stir in sour cream, pepper, and salt. Top with green onions and bacon.

    Julianna Grimes,
    MARCH 2012

    Cheesy Pasta Bake (Ckng Lght, Mar 2012)
    This, was the redeeming recipe for the week.  Easy, quick, and made a 9x13" pan so good for a crowd or lunches for the week.  I subbed ground pork for the turkey and turkey sausage because I had some in the freezer.  And who the heck only uses 14oz of a 16oz box of pasta?  What am I supposed to do with 2oz of pasta?!  That's like 20 noodles.  I say just use the whole box of pasta.  Could have used a tiny bit more kick (which would have been from the turkey sausage had I used it); but still a good "feed a crowd" dish.  I also read over on the Ckng Lght BB that this halve very nicely and freezes well.

    14 ounces uncooked ziti or mostaccioli
    Picture from CookingLight.com
    12 ounces ground turkey breast
    8 ounces sweet turkey Italian sausage, casings removed

    1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 cups chopped onion
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    6 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 cup red wine
    5 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (I used 2 jars of Barilla brand)
    1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
    6 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (I used grated)
    2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided (about 1/2 cup packed)
    2 tablespoons small basil leaves or torn basil

    1. Preheat oven to 350°.

    2. Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain and set aside.

    3. Place turkey and sausage in a medium bowl, and mix well with hands to combine. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add turkey mixture to pan; cook 8 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan.

    4. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and pepper; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add wine, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits, and cook for 4 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in pasta, turkey mixture, marinara sauce, and 1/2 cup basil. Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9–inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese melts and begins to brown. Remove from oven; sprinkle with basil leaves and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Night Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #6)

    Night Prey (Lucas Davenport, #6)Night Prey by John Sandford


    My rating: 3 of 5 stars


    I read this as an audiobook.


    From Publishers Weekly: In this sixth entry in his Prey series, streetwise Minneapolis deputy police chief Lucas Davenport is beleaguered by perplexing females. Charged with saving the political life of Rose Marie Roux, the ambitious police chief who has her eye on a Senate seat, he's given the assignment of tracking to ground the sex-crazed perpetrator of a series of murders of young women. Davenport's unwelcome colleague in this case is feminist Meagan Connell, an abrasive State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator who's obsessed with catching the killer before she dies of cancer. Also bedeviled by the ill-timed assignment of a new partner, a yuppie who was formerly assigned to the grade schools as ``Officer Friendly'' and who happens to be the husband of the mayor's niece, Davenport is additionally saddled with the mystifying death of an elderly woman who died rather conveniently, freeing some local hoods to profit from a real-estate scam. Juxtaposing the dark consciousness of the sex-fixated murderer against the narrative perspective of Davenport, Sandford builds a compelling counter-rhythm of suspense. The narrative is sensitively embued with Davenport's humaneness as, in awe, he watches Connell courageously fight to postpone her impending death. Yet, credibly flawed, the cop also displays a roving eye when he's momentarily distracted from his deep commitment to the lovely physician Weather Karkinnen by a beautiful and seductive TV anchor.


    My thoughts: I lost patience with the antagonist - Ray Coup - about half way into the book. About two thirds of the way through, after spending a night with Coup on a rooftop as he spied on "His woman" with another man, agonizing over this horrible development and then go just totally nutzo, I started skipping the bits with Coup. Yes, he's psycho. We've established that. The rest just became filler and rather dull filler at that.


    We already know Davenport's a womanizer. It should come as no surprise to anyone when he starts to make eyes at a sexy reporter after having moved in with Weather. I wasn't entirely convinced his State counterpart - Megan Connell - was plausible as a character. I don't want to reveal more as her bit is someone integral to Davenports character development in this book.


    Lastly, we start out with several sub-plots in addition to the main, then they just...dropped off. Plop! Like that. I think less psycho/stalker driving around aimlessly in his car and more sub-plot carry through would have made this a stronger book.


    However, lest you think this one might be a 'skipper' - I liked the ending. It was getting there that was problematic for me.



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    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Recipe Review from 3/5/12

    A bit belated, but may we welcome my new nephew, Maximus!  Born 3/4/12. 


    I bought him the little Viking's onesie....aren't I a good Aunt?


    A very busy week at work left me rather brain fried in the evenings and disinclined to get on the computer, but gave me more time to pull together several good meals before I crashed with a couple of books. 

    Cheesy Rice Graitin with Zucchini and Eggplant  (Ckng Lght Mar, 2012)
    This earned a very good rating from me not only for ease of prep (made easier by making the rice several days in advance) but also because of flavor and quantity.  This had the perfect melding of seasonings and cheese.  Now, I don't have an 11x7 pyrex pan as called for and had to use my 9x13 so it ended up a bit drier than I suspect it was supposed to.  Not a problem!  This still reheated perfectly and was even better the next day.   To make this GF, omit the crumb topping and sprinkle liberally with parmesan and chopped walnuts. 

    3/4 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice**
    1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
    Photo from CookingLight.com
    1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    Cooking spray
    1 cup chopped onion
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (1 cup)
     1/4 cup half-and-half Click to see savings
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    2 ounces French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley Preparation

    1. Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

    2. Preheat oven to 400°.

    3. Combine eggplant, zucchini, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl; toss to combine. Place eggplant mixture evenly on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Place vegetables in a large bowl.

    4. Reduce oven temperature to 375°.

    5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 12 minutes or until tender. Add onion mixture to eggplant mixture. Add cooked rice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup cheese, and the next 3 ingredients (through eggs), and stir well to combine. Spoon rice mixture into an 11 x 7–inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil, and bake at 375° for 15 minutes.

    6. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 cup. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add breadcrumbs, and cook for 3 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, walnuts, and parsley.

    7. Remove foil from rice mixture. Top evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and topping is browned.

    Wine Match: Pick a smooth, midweight red like Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne, Piedmont, Italy, 2009 ($16). With its vibrant fruit and acidity, this soft-tannin wine stands up to the rich cheese without overpowering the tender veggies. --Scott Jones

    Sidney Fry, MS, RD, Cooking Light
    MARCH 2012


    **My preferred method for cooking brown rice:
    1 1/2 cups brown rice   (works with basmati too)
    2 1/2 cups boiling water
    vegetable oil or butter
    seasonings if preferred (I don't prefer unless it's saffron)

    Preheat oven to 350*
    Bring water to a boil. 
    Spray 9x9 glass pan with oil or butter. 
    Dump in rice.  Pour boiling water over rice.
    Cover very tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil.
    Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let stand.  Fluff with fork before serving or storing. 


    Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce  (Ckng Lght March 2012)
    This was another pleasant surprise.  The sauce turns out surprisingly sweet which is highlighted quite nicely with caramelizing the onions slightly and picking red, orange or yellow peppers instead of green (which I find bitter).  I made the full amount of sauce but only two eggs.  Toast didn't seem right so I subbed some flax-seed English Muffins.  Yum!   I used the leftover sauce with some pork cultets later in the week for variety, but eggs again would have been just as good. 

    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    2 cups sliced red bell pepper
    Photo from CookingLight.com
    1 cup sliced green orange bell pepper
    1 cup sliced onion
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (I used Barilla brand)
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    4 large eggs  (or however many you need)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    4 (1 1/2-ounce) slices 100% whole-wheat bread, toasted English muffins
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    4 teaspoons shaved fresh Parmesan cheese


    1. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add bell peppers and onion; cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in marinara sauce and oregano; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    2. Form 4 (3-inch) indentations in vegetable mixture using back of a spoon. Break 1 egg into each indentation; sprinkle salt and black pepper evenly over eggs. Cover and cook 6 minutes or until eggs are desired degree of doneness.

    3. Arrange 1 toast slice on each of 4 plates. Top each slice with 1/2 cup sauce and 1 egg. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons parsley and 1 teaspoon cheese.

    David Bonom, Cooking Light
    MARCH 2012

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Game of Cages by Harry Connolly

    Game of Cages (Twenty Palaces, #2)Game of Cages by Harry Connolly


    My rating: 4 of 5 stars


    Book two in the Twenty Palaces Society featuring Raymond Lilly.

    From Goodreads.com: As a wealthy few gather to bid on a predator capable of destroying all life on earth, the sorcerers of the Twenty Palace Society mobilize to stop them. Caught up in the scramble is Ray Lilly, the lowest of the low in the society—an ex–car thief and the expendable assistant of a powerful sorcerer. Ray possesses exactly one spell to his name, along with a strong left hook. But when he arrives in the small town in the North Cascades where the bidding is to take place, the predator has escaped and the society’s most powerful enemies are desperate to recapture it. All Ray has to do is survive until help arrives.



    My thoughts on this book are similar to book one: read a bit like an action movie, lots of running around in panic, people chasing the protagonists, attempted kidnappings, getting shot at and over coming impossible odds. And yet, I enjoyed it because the protagonist struggles with himself. Is he doing the right thing? Is this what he really wants to be doing? Is he actually helping the Twenty Palaces Society or is he causing more harm than good? Do the means justify the end? I like to see a main character who struggles with morality questions why doggedly trying to do the best he can under Not Very Nice circumstances.


    Recommended if you've read Book 1: Child of Fire.



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    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Winter Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #5)

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars
    From Goodreads.com: It's the dead of winter, and a killer like no other is turning a small Wisconsin town into a death trap-one that's closing in on Lucas Davenport.
    This one felt a bit reminiscent of Eyes of Prey (#3) and Silent Prey (#4) in regards to the antagonist - Iceman - thinking in terms of himself and “the Beast inside”. As in “the Beast wanted to go kill them now”. The antagonist in the previous books thought of himself in terms of ‘Beauty’. Too similar for my taste and maybe when the books were first published, it wasn’t so bad given the lag in publishing dates, but since I’m reading them almost back to back, it popped out at me.

    I was also disappointed in how quickly I figured this mystery out, and maybe it was Sandford’s intent that the antagonist be readily recognized by the reader. The red herrings being thrown about at the beginning were too obvious in my opinion and the set up all but screamed “I’m the bad guy!”. I won’t say who in case you haven’t read these yet.  So, I knew who the bad guy was about chapter 5ish and had to wait till chapter 21ish for confirmation.  ((sigh))

    I am also curious if this one - I hate to use the term “inspired” - influenced would be a better word, Bad Blood in the Virgil Flowers series. Both touch on child molestation; murder can be unsettling enough, but toss in child abuse and the book can give a person the hebejebe’s in no time at all.

    Yet it was good to finally see a different sort of mating dance from Lucas - the find the attractive woman, bed her, and find her dead was becoming tedious even after four books and I never did like the whole entrapment by child from the Jennifer character.  Nice change of pace introducing Weather.













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    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Recipe Review from 2/27/12

    What's the saying for March? In like a Lion out like a Lamb?  Well, the lion roared on March 1st as he shook his mane and dumped something like a foot or more of snow along with 60mph winds.  It was best to just stay put and avoid any travel.  But the Lion spoke again on Saturday...sort of.  Duluth and suburbs got another 9" of the fluffy white stuff.  We, living 20+ miles outside of Duluth, got 1/2".   A localized phenomenon called "Lake Effect" where when weather conditions are just right along the great lakes, we get snow and lots of it.  Not uncommon in the Upper Peninsula of MI and over in NY to get 2' in a episode. 

    We got to take advantage of this new bounty of snow at a work social for the Husband.  A trip to Mont Du Lac ski and tubing hills. After a social hour and dinner, the group went tubing!  I can't even recall the last time I went sledding and I don't think I've ever been tubing.  Oh my gosh! Loads of fun.  Can go down in singles, doubles, or groups.  With conifer covered in fresh snow, everything lit up by the lights, it was really awesome. 

    However, to wrap up February:  busy busy busy.  Two weekends on the road put a kabosh on new recipes and I had to rely on pantry items.  Not a bad thing, really, I'm all for the occasional pantry reduction (actually, I encourage it! Good to rotate through the staples), but a bummer for new recipe count. 

    Two notables from the last week of February, winners both:

    Chicken with White BBQ Potatoes  (Ckng Lght, Mar 2012)
    This was good good good!  And fairly quick too.  I had some leftover rotisserie chicken in the freezer so it was just a matter of remembering to take it out to thaw.  I started the potatoes right when I got home from work, and turned down the oven to 400* so I could have enough time to take hounds for a walk out back.  Then it was a matter of slightly shredding the chicken and mixing the sauce.  My one complaint is - no direction on whether or not one should warm the chicken up a bit.  I opted not to, but it was a bit odd having piping hot potato, and somewhat cold chicken and sauce. 

    I also found that your basic 6oz potato was just a bit too large for my tastes.  I suggest smaller potatoes and serve a colorful veggie on the side.  Gluten free.

    Photo from CookingLight.com
    4 (6-ounce) Yukon gold or baking potatoes   (I used Yukons, err on the smaller side - 4-5 oz.  6 oz too big!)2/3 cup canola mayonnaise
    3 tablespoons white vinegar

    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

    1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 1/2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
    3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
    1/4 cup sliced green onions

    1. Preheat oven to 450°.


    2. Pierce potatoes with a fork, and coat lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 50 minutes or until tender. Remove potatoes from oven, and cool slightly. Cut a lengthwise slit in each potato that goes to, but not through, the other side, and squeeze the ends to loosen potato flesh.


    3. Combine mayonnaise and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl. Stir in chicken and relish. Divide the chicken mixture evenly among potatoes. Top each potato with 1 tablespoon onions.


    Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light
    MARCH 2012


    Camp Amnicon Dal over Rice  (via Yoga North studio)
    This was just lovely - I enjoyed the flavors and the versatility.  Add some extra veggies like diced carrots for a bit of a nutritional boost.  Or omit if want this more soup-like.  This makes quite a bit - enough to feed the husband and I for four lunches.  Probably would freeze well if you only want to eat half and then save half for a later date.  I served it over wild rice because that's what I had in my pantry.  Not sure what to do with the leftover coconut milk?  Add it to your next smoothie!    Gluten and soy free. 

    1/2 tsp tumeric
    1 tsp garam masala
    1 tsp cumin
    1/4 tsp chili powder
    1 onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, diced
    2 - 14.9 oz (or 1- 29 oz can)  can's diced tomatoes (fire roasted recommended)
    2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
    1 1/2 cup coconut milk
    1 cup red or brown lentils
    **optional - veggies (like diced carrot, celery, etc)
    Rice - brown, basmati, white, or wild is fine.   

    Saute onion in oil or butter until soft (I like to caramelize slightly).  Add carrot and garlic and saute 3 minutes.  Add spices and saute 30 seconds.  Add broth, tomatoes, coconut milk and lentils.  Bring to a boil and simmer 25 minute or until lentils are soft.  Serve over rice. 





     



    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick

    Stations of the TideStations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick


    My rating: 4 of 5 stars


    From Goodreads: From author Michael Swanwick—one of the most brilliantly assured and darkly inventive writers of contemporary fiction—comes a masterwork of radically altered realities and world-shattering seductions.

    The Jubilee Tides will drown the continents of the planet Miranda beneath the weight of her own oceans. But as the once-in-two-centuries cataclysm approaches, an even greater catastrophe threatens this dark and dangerous planet of tale-spinners, conjurers, and shapechangers.

    A man from the Bureau of Proscribed Technologies has been sent to investigate. For Gregorian has come, a genius renegade scientist and charismatic bush wizard. With magic and forbidden technology, he plans to remake the rotting, dying world in his own evil image—and to force whom or whatever remains on its diminishing surface toward a terrifying and astonishing confrontation with death and transcendence.


    I found Stations of the Tide a facinating read that walked the line between fantastical and an MC Escher painting. The world setting on Ocean is simply fabulous - loved the idea that there are periodic tides that turn an lowland area into an ocean for a long period of time before eventually receding. We have the Puzzle Palace - the Escher painting - in which nothing is what it was a moment ago. We have a universe in which people can impose thier personality on a "surrogate" and send that body out to do work that they otherwise cannot get to, or go places they can't realistically travel to. The last time I recall reading a book where a person could extend thier personality into a "surrogate" to use the term from this book, was Kiln People by David Brin. He used clay golums.


    But what happens when the surrogate takes on a life of it's own? What happens when the answer you seek is standing behind you? A facinating world, good characters and a convoluted plot. Recommended.


    (This won the Nebula Award in 1992.)




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