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Monday, December 30, 2013

Recipe Review from 12/23/13

All the stockings were hung in the entry with care...  we don't have a chimney so the pups improvised.

With temps hanging below 0* (-18*C) and wind chills even lower this past week, it's been hearty meals.  Oh, heck, this morning was -21* (-30*C).  We call that "brisk". 

One great slow cooker dish, a good soup, and a eggy breakfast for Christmas morning.  

Crock Pot Gumbo  (The Lexingtonienne Bloggluten free option**
A co-worker brought this to a potluck and it was a MUST HAVE recipe.  Seriously good.  An so simple!  Chop meat and veggies, set aside.  Make the roux, put in slow cooker, plop meat and veggies on top. Walk away.  Come back 8 hours later and add the shrimp.  Make rice and eat!  Omit cayenne pepper if there will be little tastebuds and serve with some hot sauce along side for adults.  Just...yum. 

1/4 C canola oil  (I used rendered goose fat)
1/4 C all-purpose flour  (**or gluten free flour mix)
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb Andouille sausage, cut into bite-size pieces  (I used polish sausage)
1/2 medium to large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 C frozen cut okra (or more if you’re an okra lover)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 small can mild diced green chilies, undrained
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
black pepper to taste (but be pretty generous)
1 tsp Creole seasoning, such as Zatarain’s (If you happen to have it. If not, you’ll be fine without it.)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and cooked

The recipe author notes:  A roux is an equal mix of flour and fat (either butter or oil), and it basically thickens and helps to flavor a dish. Depending on how long you cook your roux, it can be either light, medium, or dark. If your roux begins to burn at all, there’s no saving it. You’ll need to throw it out and start over. It’s disheartening, but it’s not the end of the world. To help prevent this from happening, you will need to:
- Make sure your heat is not too high.
- Stir constantly.
- Remove from heat before you think it’s quite done. The heat from the pan will continue to cook and darken the roux.

In a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat (closer to medium than high), combine oil and flour to make your roux. Whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes, until the roux becomes fragrant and just begins to darken. Turn heat down to low and whisk constantly for several more minutes, or until the roux is about the color of peanut butter.

Pour the roux into the crock pot. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT shrimp. The mixture will seem all raw and gross at this point. Trust. Stir and cover. Cook on low for 7-9 hours. (But if you don’t quite have 7-9 hours, you can cook it on high for a shorter amount of time. Author noted she did high heat for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, then turned it down to low for a couple of hours. It’s a crock pot; you can’t go wrong.)

When you have about 20 minutes to go, add the shrimp.
Serve over rice.

Spicy Ham Soup  (Ckng Lght, April 1995)  gluten free
This turned out good, but the Husband and I were both wondering where the "Spicy" part was.  I used almost a whole jalepeno and I could not say this was "spicy".  Some siracha sauce was necessary to bump things up.  Other than that, a decent soup - hearty ham and tender beans in a tomato broth lightly seasoned with parsley and basil. 

  • 1 1/4 cups dried navy beans
  • 2 quarts water 
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (18-ounce) ham bone (from an 8 1/2-pound cooked low-sodium ham)
  • 2 cups finely chopped Maple-Glazed Ham (about 9 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  1. Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, and bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour.
  2. Drain beans, and return to pan. Add 2 quarts water and next 8 ingredients (water through ham bone). Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until beans are tender. Remove from heat; discard ham bone.
  3. Place 2 cups of bean mixture in a blender, and process until smooth. Return mixture to pan; add ham and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until heated.

Ham and [Swiss] Quiche  (The Lexingtonienne Blog, Lightly adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
**gluten free option
I made this Christmas morning, making kitchen nice and warm while temps outside were in the 3* (-16*C)  range with snow lightly falling.  A few modifications that I noted below, the most notable being I did use Swiss cheese instead of Gruyere as I didn't like the Gruyere brand the store carried. 
  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked according to package directions   **gluten free crust optional
  • 1 egg yolk  (I put egg white with rest of eggs)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Cup chopped ham
  • 1 Cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups heavy cream  (I used 1 cup goat milk)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375.
1) Brush the baked pie crust with the egg yolk. Spread the ham on the bottom of the pie crust, then top with the grated cheese.
2) In a mixing bowl, whisk together the 3 whole eggs, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour on top of the ham and cheese.
3) Bake until the filling is golden brown and set. Joy of Cooking says this will take about 25-35 minutes, but it does takes closer to 45 minutes (I baked mine for 50 minutes).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Monster Hunters International by Larry Corriea

Monster Hunter International (MHI, #1)Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a fourteenth story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer.

It turns out that monsters are real. All the things from myth, legend, and B-movies are out there, waiting in the shadows. Officially secret, some of them are evil, and some are just hungry. On the other side are the people who kill monsters for a living. Monster Hunter International is the premier eradication company in the business. And now Owen is their newest recruit.

It's actually a pretty sweet gig, except for one little problem. An ancient entity known as the Cursed One has returned to settle a centuries old vendetta. Should the Cursed One succeed, it means the end of the world, and MHI is the only thing standing in his way. With the clock ticking towards Armageddon, Owen finds himself trapped between legions of undead minions, belligerent federal agents, a cryptic ghost who has taken up residence inside his head, and the cursed family of the woman he loves.

Business is good . . .Welcome to Monster Hunter International

Book 1 in the series.  Read for December 2013 book group.

This was a totally implausible, rock'm sock'm, fantasy action and love story that I loved from page one.  Owen Pitt is an accountant who tosses his boss out of a fourteen story window - in Owen's defense his boss was a werewolf trying to kill him.  Owen wakes up in the hospital to find the Fed's pointing a gun at his head, he's been fired from his job and some nutcase wants to recruit him to fight monsters.   Then he meets Julie, a raven haired beauty with guns.  Owen loves guns, he loves unattainable Julie.  Owen will go to Hell and back to win her love and kick some monster ass along the way.  Lots of monster ass.

Of course I'm greatly simplifying - there is an awesome cast of supporting characters including a teacher, a stripper, a librarian, a former Navy Seal, and some very angry Feds.  The monsters are nasty, the vampires nastier, and the Feds are the nastiest of all.

I will say right up front, this is not a book to be taken seriously, it is meant to entertain and only entertain, and that it does extremely well. Recommended.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Recipe Reveiw from 12/16/13

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!  Crazy wild weather, eh?

I could have sworn I made two new recipes last week, but I guess not.  I had a pasta dish on deck but ended up not being necessary and pushed into the coming week, which, from the looks of things this snowy Monday morning, might end up getting pushed back yet again. 

This recipe is a good one! 

Slow Cooked Potato Soup  (Ckng Light Slow Cooker)  gluten free; vegetarian option
This met two requirements this week:  one was a slow cooker recipe, the other was to use up my sprouting potatoes.  Alas, a quarter of my potatoes had gone moldy so I didn't have quite 3lbs.  I did fry the bacon and saute the onions for this dish - I wanted the depth of flavor the bacon offers when combined with caramelized onion.  I did not peel my potatoes - seems silly in my opinion when everything is going to be blended anyway.

This was outstanding.  Creamy, flavorful, hearty, absolutely perfect for these chilly, snowy days that we've been having.  This made enough for lunches for the week for both of us.  Recommended!

photo from
  • 3 bacon slices**  optional
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices cubed (I used Yukon Golds)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk  (used 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 cup), divided 
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
  1. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Add onion to drippings in pan; sauté 3 minutes or until tender.
  2. Place potato slices and onion in a 5-quart electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Combine 1/2 cup water and next 3 ingredients (through pepper); stir into mixture in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.
  3. Mash mixture with a potato masher; stir in milk and 3/4 cup cheese. Increase heat to HIGH. Cover and cook on HIGH for 20 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with sour cream and remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Sprinkle with bacon and chives.

On deck for this week:
Slow Cooker Gumbo
Spicy Ham Soup

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

The Lincoln Lawyer (Mickey Haller, #1)The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Mickey Haller is a Lincoln Lawyer, a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car, traveling between the far-flung courthouses of Los Angeles to defend clients of every kind. Bikers, con artists, drunk drivers, drug dealers -- they're all on Mickey Haller's client list. For him, the law is rarely about guilt or innocence, it's about negotiation and manipulation. Sometimes it's even about justice.

A Beverly Hills playboy arrested for attacking a woman he picked up in a bar chooses Haller to defend him, and Mickey has his first high-paying client in years. It is a defense attorney's dream, what they call a franchise case. And as the evidence stacks up, Haller comes to believe this may be the easiest case of his career. Then someone close to him is murdered and Haller discovers that his search for innocence has brought him face-to-face with evil as pure as a flame. To escape without being burned, he must deploy every tactic, feint, and instinct in his arsenal -- this time to save his own life.

Read as an audiobook - really enjoyed the narrator on this one.

I found this to be a fascinating mystery-thriller, a bit more thriller than mystery.  The twists were twisted and the suspense intense. The backdrop of a courtroom trial interwoven with intrigue was refreshing - no cops blazing away in a gunfight at the end, no high speed chases across country roads, no police entry team battering down a door in a OK Corral type shoot-out.  This was a battle of wit and word and legalese and I loved it.  

While our lawyer - Mick - was jaded, egotistical and full of himself, he didn't hop into bed with the first long-legged beauty to bat her eyelashes at him.  Nor did he try and get into the pants of the female detective.  Perhaps in a later book, but for now, she did her job, he did his, and nary a sex scene to be found.  Mike has a chilly if cordial friendship with his first ex-wife and mother of his daughter, while remaining friends and co-workers with the re-bound ex-wife.  So refreshing!

I had two complaints with the book - I had the feeling of having my hand held as I was walked through the legal system.  I can see the premise necessary for establishing the background of the character, but unfortunately, several times it came across as a bit overdone.  Almost high-school lecture like.  My second complaint was with every. single. cop. hating defense lawyers unilaterally.   And they all take it out verbally on our Mikey.  The abuse became repetitive and boorish real fast.

Overall, recommended.    

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Recipe Review from 12/9/13

It's been a cooold week!  As I type this, the high is -7* (-21*C) with a windchill of some kind.  At least the sun is shining and the coming week is supposed to be in the 20's (-6*C).  Heat wave!

And as we were mooching around the house this weekend, this little fellow came to visit the feeder.

Slow Cooked Chicken and Sweet Potatoes  (Eat at Home Blog)    gluten free
My friend Tess found this recipe and raved about it.  Now it's my turn to rave about it to the greater world in general.  This was an OMG! dish in it's simplicity and taste.  Don't be turned off by the 1/4 cup brown sugar, it combines with all the great potato and chicken juices and makes the dish just lightly and delightfully  sweet.  I kept going back to the crockpot to scoop out some more juice.   The chicken turned out fork tender - I did keep a closer eye on the cooking time as I think it would be easy to overcook this.

I thought this dish would be perfect for company - go out in the afternoon, come back, wah-la! dinner is served.  Could easily be doubled.  This made enough for two of us for dinner and leftovers for one (my package of chicken breast only had three pieces and was 1 1/2 lbs). 

  • 2 lbs. boneless chicken breast
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 5 Tbs. butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put the chicken and sweet potatoes in the crockpot. (author notes - added the chicken still frozen.  My notes - I used fresh chicken)
  2. Stir the brown sugar into the melted butter. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Pour over chicken and sweet potatoes.
  4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours.  (My notes: I cooked on high for 3 hours.  Perfect, absolutely perfect.)

Slow Cooked Sausage and Lentil Stew   (A Year of Slow Cooking Blog)  gluten free
Another very easy, flavorful dish for a very cold weekend.  I assembled this mid-afternoon on Sunday and it was ready to go by dinner time.  Just a couple tweeks to the recipe to accommodate my tastes - I used chicken broth instead of beef broth, and "organic" polish sausage instead of chicken/turkey sausage.  15-20 minutes is about perfect to wilt the spinach.  This made enough for three dinners for two of us, with cornbread.  This would be great for lunches. 

1 cup lentils 
2 cups beef broth (I used chicken broth)
1 (12-ounce) package smoked chicken or turkey sausage, sliced.  (I used polish sausage)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
9 ounces (or so) fresh spinach; to add at the very end

Use a 6-quart slow cooker (My 4-quart worked fine). Rinse your lentils under cold water, and place them into an empty slow cooker. Add beef broth, and sliced sausage. Add the entire can of tomatoes and a cup of chopped carrots. The broth and the seasoning from the sausage is enough to flavor this dish-- there is no need for additional spices.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, then stir in fresh spinach. It'll look like a lot at first, but the spinach will wilt and [the author] promises it will all fit. Cover again and let the spinach soften for about 15 minutes. 

Author recommends serving with cornbread and I concur!  Was the perfect accompaniment.  

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry  (Ckng Lght, Nov 2009)    gluten free
I made this as written except for the cooking time.  It was with a tiny bit of dismay when I realized partway through assembly that this required an hour and a half of simmering. I don't think so.  My changes are noted below and I brought it down to about 30 minutes.  Long enough for the sweet potato to soften and the flavors to meld. 

This was very good but turned out spicier than expected.  Drop the red pepper if you are not a 'heat' person.  This made enough for four meals, with rice. 

photo from
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces 
  • 1 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained 
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Combine curry powder, coriander, turmeric, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and bay leaf in a small bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high; return chicken to pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add curry powder mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and tomatoes [and potato]; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour.   Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes [or until potato is soft]. Add [chickpeas] and peas; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice. Discard bay leaf.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie: The Hobbit - the Desolation of Smaug

Friday the Hobbit part 2 was released.  And while I am no longer standing in line at 8am for the opening movie, which is now at Midnight rather than 11am, I still like to go opening day.

My review:  a moderately entertaining three hour movie that is nothing like the book.

Why?  The Hobbit book is an adventure. It's about a Hobbit who decides to leave his Shire and go on perhaps the grandest adventure of all.  He meets fantastical peoples in the elves and the shape shifter, saves the dwarves from more than one mishap and somewhere along the way find his courage.  It's lighthearted, whimsical, and the prose brings to life a wonderful world.

The Hobbit movie is about a vendetta between the deposed King of the Dwarves, the Necromancer and his White Orc, and one very ill tempered dragon.  We have"RUN! You Fools!", grandiose chase scenes, kung-fu like fight scenes, Gandalf holding off the necromancer on a tiny bridge while holding his staff aloft, and a love interest.  It's like watching a Dungeons and Dragons video game.  It's dark, fast paced and creepy (you can't watch this and not think the spiders are creepy...).

The movie is nothing like the book.  Except for the ill-tempered dragon, who I don't blame for being so cranky at such a deviation from adventure to action.  

Indeed, Mr. Peter Jackson, what have you done?

Recommended with reservations.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

The President's Vampire (Nathaniel Cade, #2)The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  For 140 years, Nathaniel Cade has been the President's Vampire, sworn to protect and serve his country. Cade's existence is the most closely guarded of White House secrets: a superhuman covert agent who is the last line of defense against nightmare scenarios that ordinary citizens only dream of.

When a new outbreak of an ancient evil-one that he has seen before- comes to light, Cade and his human handler, Zach Barrows, must track down its source. To "protect and serve" often means settling old scores and confronting new betrayals . . . as only a centuries-old predator can.

Book number two in the series. 

This one had difficulty in keeping my attention.  In fact, I set it aside for nearly a month before picking it back up again.  My main contention was how fragmented the story was - it was like reading a series of tweets.  Just about the time I could settle into the current POV, the plot was on to something else.  Add in the "history" blurbs at the beginning of each chapter tweet and I became annoyed enough to lose interest. 

It wasn't until nearly halfway through the book when everything started to coalesce enough to engage my interest to finish the book. A 2 hour plane flight also played a role.  Our vampire Cade is still nasty, his "girlfriend" Tania is an interesting counterpoint, and Jake grows some balls.  The political setting is as ugly - if not worse - as the monsters Cade and Jake are fighting.  There are layers to the political bureaucracy and secrecy enough to make the CIA's head spin. 

Ultimately, I think this book could have been as strong as the first one if the tweet-like chapters had been condensed into something longer than a paragraph and the "historical" blurbs at the chapter heads shorter or fewer of them.  Recommended with reservations.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Recipe Review from 11/18/13 and 12/2/13

We came through last week with upwards of 30" of snow followed by sub-zero temperatures.  I am happy to say the Husband and I both made it safely to work on time every day - took us each upwards of 50 minutes, but we managed.   I did leave an hour early Wednesday as road conditions were deteriorating enough that I didn't want to do the drive in the dark.  We are plowed out and bundled up.

Jingle Bells!  It's a balmy -14* (-25*C). 

I had two recipes from two weeks ago that I forgot to post about with trip planning and execution.  The Parsnip Apple soup was picked to use up the last of our garden parsnips and some of our apples.  I made the parsnip soup pre-trip and froze so I would have lunches ready upon our return.  The Husband also made his chili in advance for suppers, so we were set for meals for the week.  I can't say how nice it is to be able to come home from vacation, pull a couple dishes out of the freezer, and not have to make a trip to the grocery store first thing Monday.  It's a bit more work on the front end,  a bit of extra grocery planning and meal execution, but SO worth it! 

Slowcooked Moroccan Butternut Squash with Quinoa...Gosh darn it!  I forgot to type it in again!  I'll do it later this week.  Grr...  This was really good and easy and worth a review.  

Slow Cooker Pesto Spinach Lasagna  (Year of Slow Cooking Blog)  Vegetarian, Gluten free option
A few differences between recipe as written and what I ended up doing.  My notes are in italics.  This was very good!  I cooked this on a weekend.  Classic lasagna taste, not over-y saucy, not sloppy-gooey.  Leftovers were even better.   My friend Tess made this with GF noodles and she said they did turn a bit gummy.  I didn't think to ask if she skipped the extra water.  I did, spinach has plenty of liquid to hydrate the noodles.  Recommended! 

1 (24-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
1 (8-ounce) box lasagna noodles (I used Cremette No-boil)
1 (11-ounce) container pesto (I used 6.5 oz)

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces mozzarella cheese (I used 10oz, grated)

1/4 cup water  (I skipped - spinach is full of liquid already)

Use a 4 quart slow cooker. 

Put a spoonful of pasta sauce (about 1/4 cup) into the bottom of your cooker and swirl it around. Add a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (you're going to have to break them to make a layer). Smear ricotta cheese and pesto onto the noodles. Add a handful or two of baby spinach, and top with a layer of Parmesan and slice mozzarella cheeses. Repeat layers until you've run out of ingredients. The spinach is fluffy, so you're going to have to squish it down to make it all fit.

Before closing the pot, put 1/4 cup of water into the empty pasta sauce jar and close and shake. Pour this saucy water over the top of everything.

Now cover up and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for about 3 to 4. You'll know it's done when the top layer begins to brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. It will also pull a bit away from the sides. 

Taste-test a noodle to check texture.

Uncover, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Parsnip and Apple Soup (Ckng Lght Nov 2012)  gluten free, vegetarian option
We made this before our Charleston, SC, trip, and froze for lunches upon our return.  After a week of eating out, coming home to a meal already prepared is a bit of a relief.   I skipped the bacon and used toasted pumpkin seeds. 

photo from
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 cups chopped peeled parsnip (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 cups chopped peeled Fuji apple (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups no-salt-added chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled  (optional - I recommend toasted pumpkin seeds)
  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add parsnip and next 8 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 8 minutes. Add stock, 2 cups water, and vinegar; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until parsnips are tender. Remove from heat; uncover. Let mixture stand 10 minutes.
  2. Place half of the parsnip mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters).   OR Use your immersion blender and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, and discard solids.   Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining parsnip mixture. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt. Sprinkle evenly with parsley and bacon.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Deal Breaker by Harlen Coben

Deal Breaker (Myron Bolitar, #1)Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Sports agent Myron Bolitar is poised on the edge of the big time. So is Christian Steele, a rookie quarterback and Myron's prized client. But when Christian gets a phone call from a former girlfriend, a woman who everyone, including the police, believes is dead, the deal starts to go sour. Trying to unravel the truth about a family's tragedy, a woman's secret, and a man's lies, Myron is up against the dark side of his business--where image and talent make you rich, but the truth can get you killed. 

In novels that crackle with wit and suspense, Edgar Award winner Harlan Coben has created one of the most fascinating and complex heroes in suspense fiction--Myron Bolitar--a hotheaded, tenderhearted sports agent who grows more and more engaging and unpredictable with each page-turning appearance.

A new to me mystery series which I found absolutely delightful.  Interesting and engaging characters, the background of sports refreshingly different from the typical police procedural, and the humor hilarious.  I "read" this as an audio book and loved the narrator.  His inflection and nuances added so much to the narration.  

First book in the series, we are introduced to Myron Bolitar, a 31 year old sports agent, former NCAA basketball star, and private investigator on the side.  He has his own office on Park Avenue, a former women's pro-wrestler is his secretary, and his co-hort and muscle - Win - is an independently wealthy financial adviser.  Hardly a chain smoking, womanizing, alcoholic, depressed cop to be found.  Lots of other colorful characters round out the cast.

Myron's age kept throwing me for a loop.  It's as if his walks a line between being the "seasoned veteran" and, well, a 31 year old.  He makes mistakes, he gets beat up, he keeps going.  Myron hates his name, loves his ex-girlfriend Jessica, lives with his parents and he didn't sleep with the hottie when she threw herself at him.  Score one for the author. 

The mystery itself was convoluted almost to the point of being overly complicated.  Almost.  The twists and turns kept me engaged and guessing.  I appreciated not getting any glimpse into the killers mind, that the entire who-done-it was from the point of view of Myron.

I'm sure I have some complaints about this book...must be pretty minor if I can't even think of what they are.


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Monday, December 2, 2013

Edisto Island. South Carolina, 2013

Last week found us on our annual Thanksgiving Week Get-Away to Edisto Island, South Carolina.  We last visited Edisto in March of 2009, and Hilton Head in 2011, and enjoyed the area enough to want to return yet.  Weather wasn't as cooperative this go around, but the trip was still enjoyable and relaxing.

Flew out fairly early Sunday morning from Duluth and after only one mechanical delay in Chicago, we were on the ground in Charleston, SC by 1130am.  After getting probably the stinkiest and dirtiest car National had in the parking lot, we were on the road to Edisto Island, just an hour's drive away.

View from our unit at Wyndham "The Marshes".

Monday was a hang out and decompress day:  reading, knitting, a walk on the beach - the weather was starting to turn as winter storm "Boreas" bore down on the East Coast.

Tuesday ended up being another hang out day - a brief morning walk before the rain and wind hit.

View from our unit during Low Tide as winter storm Boreas rolled in.

Wednesday, as the storm worked it way north and east, we decided to head down to Beaufort and Port Royal.  Temperatures started out about 50* and by the time the day ended, we were a balmy 35* with a wind sharp enough to chill your very bones.  I was regretting leaving my mittens in Duluth...

Given it was the day before Thanksgiving, and the weather was less than optimal, we did a van tour around the historic area, a bit of walking, and that was the day.

Civil War history in Beaufort, SC
Thursday the sun was back even if the temperature stubbornly stayed in the 40's.  We enjoyed a tastefully simple buffet at Grover's Bar and Grill, watched the National Dog Show, watched the Packers get roundly trounced, and fit in a late afternoon walk.  Mitten's required!

Nary a snowflake to be seen! 

Friday we traveled up to Charleston!  Started the day with a carriage ride, had a lovely lunch at the 82 Queen Restaurant, visited the Nathanial-Russel Mansion with it's free standing cantilevered elliptical staircase (wow!), walked around the historical district, Battery Park and the Waterfront before finishing with a teeny bit of Christmas shopping.

Classic Carriage Company, Charleston, SC

Nathanial-Russel House
Historical District by Battery Park
Saturday we took a leisurely drive up to the Irwin House Vinyards to partake in "Sippin' Saturday's" which includes wine tasting, catered food (gumbo!) and live bluegrass music.  We then swung by the Charleston Tea Plantation to pick up some tea before heading back to Edisto for one more beach walk before laundry and packing.

Sunday we were out the door by 5am and at the airport by 630a for the Charleston/Atlanta/Minneapolis/Duluth trek home. Yeah, a couple of layovers, but it put us at home base by 2:30p in the afternoon.  A nice way to decompress and relax before hitting the ground running Monday morning.  All in all, despite the cool temps and blustery winds, an enjoyable trip to a great part of the country. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Saga Vol 1 and 2

I'm reviewing two graphic novels at once here.  Volume 1 I read this past summer as part of the Hugo Nominee packet (it won in its category! Yay!). Volume 2 finally showed up at the library this past week. YAY! 

Jacket Blurb Volume 1 (Saga issues #1-6) -
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.


Jacket Blurb Volume 2 (Saga issues #7-11)
The smash-hit ongoing epic continues! Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and alien monstrosities, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters something truly frightening: her grandparents!

LOVING these!  The concept is refreshing, the artwork a combination of bold/subtle/grotesque/imaginative/colorful, the humor and wit delightful.  I love how the artist can convey so much in just a look from one of the characters.  The story is being told from the point of the baby, who is speaking from a future self.  Several readings are a must just to capture everything going on.  Definitely adult themes in these, which had the Husband wondering just what the heck I was reading.  I offered to let him read Vol 1 but the bit he saw maxed out his Weird-o-Meter.   

If you like the strange and humorous, this might be for you. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is Thank You, it would suffice.   
Meister Eckart

Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

White Night by Jim Butcher (Dresden #9)

White Night (The Dresden Files, #9)White Night by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  A sensational addition to the "Dresden Files" adventures-from a "USA Today" bestselling author. Professional wizard Harry Dresden is investigating a series of deaths in Chicago. Someone is killing practitioners of magic, those incapable of becoming full-fledged wizards. Shockingly, all the evidence points to Harry's half-brother, Thomas, as the murderer. Determined to clear his sibling's name, Harry uncovers a conspiracy within the White Council of Wizards that threatens not only him, but his nearest and dearest, too...

This installment had me sitting in my car, holding on to the steering wheel, not moving: in my work parking spot, in the parking lot of the local grocery store, and in my garage.   Happiness reading this one was extra time in the car driving to/from errands.  Yes.  I thought it was that good.

Butcher seems to have hit his stride.  The plots are becoming more solid and defined.  The characters are being fleshed out and we are starting to see some personality layers not before revealed.  And we still get some kick ass fighting.

That being said, the book still has some quirks that bug the heck out of me - Molly's overt sexuality as Harry's 17 year old apprentice, combined with Bob the skull's comments, comes across as a male wet dream.  Yo, Butcher! Women are reading your books too!  Next, the whole "gotta protect the womin folk" chivalry bit has got to go.  It's demeaning and overdone.   I also realized that at some climatic battle point, Harry starts to wax philosophical about something, or goes into a long soliloquy about how a particular piece of magic works, or enters into a flashback.  Every. Single. Momentous. Climatic. Battle Scene.  Gah!

And yet, I'm going to read the next one.  As my friend repeatedly tells me...turn off brain. Enjoy. 

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

I read The Windup Girl several years ago and was entranced with the world and characters Bacigalupi created.  Ship Breaker was just as interesting and I had a hard time putting the book down.

Set in the Gulf of Mexico, somewhere along the the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, a small group of people struggle to survive by disassembling old oil tankers and ocean going ships for scrap and, if they are lucky, oil.  They live in fear of hurricanes, specifically "City Killers",  a new category of storm that destroys everything in its path. 

Life is a struggle for the folks on the Beach.  Laboring on the ships is hard work and your size and ability dictate what you can and cannot do.  Survival depends up on meeting quotas, and in Nailer's case, also avoiding his abusive father.  A storm changes everything when it washes a "Swanks" clipper ship onto the shoals of a submerged city.  Nailer and his friend Pima rescue "Lucky Girl" and the subsequent journey to reunite her with her father shows Nailer that there is more to family than blood.

Written as a YA book, I couldn't help but reflect that our young protagonist grew up long before the story even started, so less a coming of age story than a journey of self discovery.  I would have like more back ground on the half-men, the genetically modified laborers; I think "Lucky Girl" could have had more depth to her character - she felt very superficial to me; and more information on the power struggle in Lucky Girls life to justify reuniting her with her father.  

But, overall, minor complaints.  This really was a well written story and I highly recommended it.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Recipe Review from 11/11/13

A balmy 12* (-11*C) started the week and by Friday we were back up in the 40*'s (5*C).  I love the crisp mornings...loved the warmer temps too!  I filled the birdfeeder for the first time this fall and the chickadee-dee-dee's were lined up waiting for the buffet.  Love watching my little black-capped feathered friends.

The big news of the week is the Husband bagged a spike deer on Sunday.  We haven't had venison in our freezer since 2006, when I used the last bit up.  Three years of deployments, a couple years of not seriously hunting, and a couple years of sucky weather contributed to our lack of deer, so we are looking forward to some of our favorite venison dishes this coming winter.

Meanwhile, some good dishes this past week: 

Spanish Chicken with Saffron Cream Sauce (Ckng Lght, Nov 2013)  gluten free option**
I did this as a two-pot dish rather than as directed and wrote my changes below.  Follow the link if you want to see the recipe as written.  Mostly I just simplified the number of dishes being used. 

This was a really good meal!  It's like a creamy paella.  The saffron came through more the following days, but the night of, the dish was creamier being fresh out of the oven.  I loved the creaminess, the chicken was incredibly tender, and the flavors were just perfect - neither spicy nor bland.  I do think that brown rice could easily be substituted for the white to up the nutrients a bit.  The Husband doesn't like green olives so I skipped those.  Recommended. 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces 
    photo from
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 ounces cured Spanish chorizo sausage, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cups hot cooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 16 pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour  (**or alternative thickener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sour cream  (I used Chobani plain yogurt) 
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Heat a LARGE oven safe - nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (If don't have an oven safe skillet, proceed as directed and put in a 11x7 baking dish at end). Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of chicken (all of it if it will fit); cook 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; place in a large bowl. Repeat procedure with 1 teaspoon oil and remaining chicken. Add to bowl. Place remaining 1 teaspoon oil, onion, and chorizo in pan; cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender and golden, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and bell pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chorizo mixture, peas, and olives to chicken and set aside. 
  3. Combine milk and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) stir well with a whisk. Add to large saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; cook 1 minute or until thick and bubbly. Remove pan from heat; stir in sour cream. Add chicken mixture and cooked rice to sour cream mixture, stirring to combine. (IF don't have oven safe skillet - spoon the chicken mixture into an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.) Cover pan with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is done.

Quick Quinoa and Pork Meatballs  (Ckng Lght Oct 2013)  gluten free
I made these to accompany spaghetti squash with sauce.  I had measured everything out, made the meatballs, put in the oven and saw my little ramikin of spices still sitting on the counter.  Argh!  Everything came out of the oven, recombined, re-shaped and put back in.  I realized upon typing this out that I still managed to forget the cayenne pepper, darn it all!  Oh well.  These are quick, I like the use of quinoa as a binder, and they were flavorful.  I had more pork than called for (1.2 lbs) so I had something close to 30 meatballs.  Plenty for supper and leftovers. 
photo from
  • 1/2 cup washed quinoa
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup diced shallot
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Put the quinoa and 1 cup water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once you have strong bubble action, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. Check occasionally and stir to make sure no quinoa is burning at the bottom of the pan. Take the saucepan off the heat, transfer the quinoa to a medium mixing bowl, and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. While the quinoa is cooling, add all of the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Using your hands or a spoon, mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and well combined.
  4. Shape the meat mixture into balls that are a little smaller than a golf ball. Place them in even rows on the lined baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and cook the meatballs until they're slightly browned and crispy on top, 12 to 15 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, the safe internal temperature for pork is 165°.
Moroccan Lentil Soup (A Year of Slow Cooking Blog)  gluten free, vegetarian
Suppers and lunches toward the end of the week and into the weekend.  This is a wonderfully 'bean-y' dish, tho, since I did use my own beans in place of the canned pinto beans, I probably had more than 15oz.  I liked the subtle flavors in this one, that just kinda hint at 'exotic' but don't come right out and shout it at your tastebuds.  I cooked overnight, let cool while prepping lunches and breakfast, then into the fridge it went.  I think this helped enhance the flavors.  I served with crackers, sausage and cheese.   Recommended.  

--1 cup dried lentils
--1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
--1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
--1 onion, chopped
--2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
--1/2 cup chopped celery
--1/2 cup chopped carrots
--28 oz can of diced tomatoes (and juice)
--4 cups vegetable broth
--1 1/2 tsp garam masala
--1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
--1/2 tsp cumin
--1/4 tsp nutmeg
--1/4 tsp cinnamon
--1 inch ginger, peeled and grated

Author notes: Use at least a 5 quart crockpot for this. It makes a lot.  My notes - I agree! 

Chop up all of your vegetables and add them to the crockpot. If you are rushed in the morning, consider chopping the vegetables at night---it took me longer than I wanted it to. Drain and rinse off the beans, add to the pot. Add the dried lentils. Grate your ginger, and add it along with the dried spices. Stir in the vegetable broth and tomatoes.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Soup tastes best the longer you cook it, and it is even better the next day.

Before serving, use an immersible blender and pulse to blend some of the vegetables and beans together. This isn't necessary, but it really improves the texture of the soup and melds the flavors nicely.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Silken Prey by John Sandford

Silken Prey (Lucas Davenport, #23)Silken Prey by John Sandford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Very early one morning, a Minnesota political fixer answers his doorbell. The next thing he knows, he’s waking up on the floor of a moving car, lying on a plastic sheet, his body wet with blood. When the car stops, a voice says, "Hey, I think he’s breathing,” and another voice says, "Yeah? Give me the bat.” And that’s the last thing he knows.  

Davenport is investigating another case when the trail leads to the man’s disappearance, then—very troublingly—to the Minneapolis police department, then—most troublingly of all—to a woman who could give Machiavelli lessons. She has very definite ideas about the way the world should work, and the money, ruthlessness, and sheer will to make it happen.  No matter who gets in the way.

This selection didn't seem to have the grittiness driving the crimes as in previous books, and maybe because of that, the plot seemed to move rather slowly.  It was rather like watching a Nascar race: you know the wreck is coming, you're anticipating the wreck - it's just a matter of when - but it's. taking. forever.

Ultimately, Silken Prey just didn't do anything for me.  Rather than finding myself sitting in the car listening to "just one more tract", I had a hard time even turning the book on.  I didn't care for the political plot in part because it felt like something out of the paper rather than fiction, the sub-plot felt a bit tacked on (and was actually more interesting than the main plot), the regular characters were trotted out for their on page appearance but didn't really contribute to the overall story, and several key points just seemed implausible.

I did thoroughly enjoy the witty dialog, the snarky comments, and the trips around the Twin Cities.  I love finding out what snazzy outfit Davenport is wearing and which car he's driving.   I love the other characters comments about his clothes.  I do like watching the guys ogle the gals, and the gals ogle right back - a nice balance of ogling.  But I don't like reading about rich people not getting their comeuppance.  There's enough of that in the papers already and it's not even fiction! 

Recommended with reservations.  It is a Davenport book after all! 

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Recipe Review from 11/4/13

Started the week with daylight savings...after 7 days, still not used to it!  8pm rolls around and I'm contemplating if it's too early to go to bed.  Saturday had me in town all day - I subbed a morning yoga class, then went to a hot yoga class, then met a friend and we took our hounds for a long run around a local golf course.  For my fair weather readers, our golf courses are pretty much closed now and the locals take advantage of that as a place to run pups.  In addition, it was deer opener this weekend and I like to take the dogs in to town to exercise.  I could have done without the 30mph winds coming off the Lake, but at least it wasn't raining like a couple years ago. 

Several really good recipes rounded out the week: 

Chicken and Pierogi Dumplings  (Ckng Lght Sept 2013)
This....was good.  Very good.  Easy to make, hearty enough for lunch on a blustery Fall day, and just tasty.  Creamy, flavorful, with the Pierogi's adding an improved riff on flour dumplings.  The only thing I did different was I attempted to "fry" the dumplings before adding to the stew just to up the flavor and speed final cooking.  Otherwise made as written.  Mine came out creamier than the picture below, which the Husband really liked.    Recommended!
  • 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces 
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    Photo from
  • Cooking spray 
  • 3/4 cup diced onion 
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson) 
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk 
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 20 frozen potato and cheddar mini pierogies (such as Mrs. T's) (I could only find the large ones in a box of 12; I used one box)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
  2. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and thyme to pan. Cook 6 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, stirring frequently. Combine stock, milk, and flour in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually add stock mixture to pan, stirring constantly; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in chicken and pierogies, and cook 4 minutes or until chicken is done and pierogies are warm. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches  (Ckng Lght June 2006/Oct 2013)    Gluten Free if omit buns. 
Awesome!  Okay, so I changed up the order of prep by starting with the sauce and setting it aside until the chicken was ready.  Then I pan cooked rather than grilled (it's dark outside, in October, at 6pm at night!)  I LOVED how these cooked up in the pan, the sugar caramelizing slightly while the meat juices bring out the flavor of the seasonings.   I had more chicken than called for, so these weren't as saucy as I like, but no complaints!  I served with baked sweet potato fries below.   Recommended. 

  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
    Photo from
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Cooking spray  
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Remaining ingredients:
  • 8 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns, toasted 
  • 16 hamburger dill chips
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  2. To prepare chicken, combine first 6 ingredients; rub evenly over chicken. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; cover and grill 15 minutes or until a thermometer registers 180°, turning occasionally. Let stand for 5 minutes. Shred with 2 forks.
  3. To prepare sauce, while chicken grills, heat canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar and next 5 ingredients (through ground red pepper); cook 30 seconds. Stir in ketchup and vinegar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken; cook 2 minutes.
  4. Place 1/3 cup chicken mixture on bottom half of each bun; top each with 2 pickle chips and top of bun.

Recipe Note: The chicken and sauce can be made up to two days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries  (October co-op flyer, modified)    Vegetarian, Gluten Free
These have are currently in my High Five Favorites.  I have made them three times in the last week.  I'd make them more but I think the Husband would plead for sweet potato merci!   Easy, filling, nutritious, serve them plain or topped with seasonings of choice.  I went for flavored olive oil with a touch of salt and pepper.  I like a bit of real mayo on the side for my "fries".  Honestly, I could eat these as a meal unto themselves.  Recommended! 

1 large sweet potato  (for two people)
olive oil (I used Cilantro and Roasted Onion)

Preheat oven to 400*.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray or olive oil.

Cut sweet potato into thick wedges or "fingers".  About 1/2" thick or so.   Toss with olive oil and seasonings in a bowl.  Arrange in single layer on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 20 minutes.  Turn.  Bake 20 more minutes or until done. 

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