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Friday, June 28, 2013

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket blurb: Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.

If she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against lov

I usually don't jump on the "bestseller" bandwagon and I don't respond well to "You HAVE to read this!" declarations because my tastes are a bit eclectic and I know what I prefer and what I don't enjoy.  So it was with a bit of reluctance that I picked up the Hunger Games. I wanted something different from my usual audiobooks and this was actually available.

I admit I was pleasantly surprised.  I did enjoy this but with some reservations, which might be due to the audiobook narrator herself and not an actual function of the story.  I've mentioned before, a narrator can make or break a story, even a good one.

My main complaint was the story felt overly dramatic to me:  dehydration on day one; a wall of fire to get the action going, but yet there are other long stretches that the 'audience' could have found boring; no less than three contestants who, at any given time, were just hiding - again, a wall of fire, then nothing?  The narrator read the action bits in this slow, breathy, undetermined accent and I found myself going "yeahhh, right..." more than once. 

For a YA book, this was a pretty violent concept - which I already knew from the movie previews - putting 24 kids ranging between the ages of 12 to 18 and have them fight to the death.  And yet, it was made into a movie?  For kids?  I'm flummoxed...

I did like how the author approached the 'love story' in this - our main character Katniss is confused about her own emotions and falls back on habits she knows will support and comfort her.  There is no starry eyed 'falling in love'.  There is no jumping into the sack.  The emotions are raw, confused, and add nicely to the overall story.

This was a good book that explored a futuristic society through the eyes of one girl and one very viscous game.  Recommended as an audiobook.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture, #10)The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  They are, truly, provably, End Days for the Gzilt civilization.  An ancient people, they helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier & were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new & almost infinitely more rich & complex existence.

Amidst preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, & she is now wanted--dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android & a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command--find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over 9000 years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago. Cossont must discover the truth before she's exiled from her people & her civilization forever--or just plain killed.

June's Bookgoup book, selected after the announcement that Mr. Banks had terminal brain cancer.  Finished in the month he passed.

This Culture book had me at page one and I had a very hard time putting it down.  The story spans an incredible history of the Culture - predates the Culture even - while focusing on a civilization that is moving into the future via the Sublime - an act of moving one's consciousness into a collective wholeness that part of an even greater wholeness, but doesn't reside in this plane of existence.

The plot has planetary and galactic intrigue, a missing person's hunt, ships running hither and tither, and more eccentric humanoids and Minds than one can throw an asteroid at.  It it wonderfully woven, the humor is both subtle and in your face, and the sarcasm witty. 

The book is aptly named, tho to describe why would take far more time than I care to type and probably more than you want to read as a review. 

Best to say to say, go read it!  By far my favorite Culture book.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Recipe Review from 6/17/13

A very short week that started with Father's Day and ended with a trip across the state to Fergus Falls.  We kept it simple for Father's Day, grilling brats at the Folks place and watching Despicable Me.  A great animated movie and I was the only one of the four of us who had seen it.  Now everyone is up to speed on Gru and the Minions and we can go see Despicable Me 2 when it come out later this summer.

The trip to Fergus was to visit the Husband's family and to do some biking on the Central Lakes Trail.  The weather cooperated enough to keep the severe stuff (high winds, deluge rain, tornadoes) to the evening and night time hours and it was sunny and breezy during the day.  We got out on Friday morning for a out-n-back segment from Fergus Falls to Dalton totaling about 25 miles.  Saturday afternoon the Husband dropped me off in Dalton and I biked down to Brandon, a distance of about 21.5 miles.  It seemed like it was uphill into the wind for most of it.  When I plugged the route into the computer, it was uphill for most of it!  And yes, I had a headwind too but that seemed to actually taper off after about 45 minutes for an overall very pleasant ride.

Only one new recipe to remark upon.  As I noted, we grilled brats for Father's Day and I made the tried and true Bourbon Baked Beans and the potato dish below as sides.  Dessert was a Coldstone Strawberry Passion ice cream cake - those cakes could easily become a habit! 

Roasted Potato Salad with Creamy Dijon Vinaigrette (Ckng Lght, July 2013)
This was super simple to make and tasted fantastic.  I simplified the recipe even more by "roasting" the potatoes and onions in an aluminum foil packet on the grill rather than heating up the oven.  My herbs were dried as I refuse to pay for fresh for such small amounts.  The dressing was bursting with tangy flavor, but not overpowering.  This is going to become a regular summer grill side dish.

photo from
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, cut into wedges
(I used large red potatoes)
3 tbsp EVOO, divided
2 tbsp sliced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, divided
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp minced shallots (I used regular onion, cut into thin wedges)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

1) Place a large heavy baking sheet in oven.  Preheat oven to 400* (keep baking sheet in oven while it preheats).

2) Combine potatoes, 1 1/2 tbsp oil, garlic, and thyme in a medium bowl; toss to coat.  Arrange the potatoes on preheated baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Bake at 400* for 30 minutes or until done, turning at 20 minutes.

3) Combine remaining 1 1/2 tbsp oil, remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, vinegar, shallots, Dijon mustard and tarragon in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Drizzle dressing over potatoes. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Death Masks by Jim Butcher (Dresden #5)

Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)Death Masks by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for.

A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards…

Professional hit men using Harry for target practice…

The missing Shroud of Turin…

A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified…

Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.

Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging

Again, Harry Dresden, Chicago Wizard, is put into life threatening situations (note, plural).  Again, Harry survives with a little help from his friends. 

In this volume (episode?) the Red Court vampires have sent a Warlord to engage Harry in a duel to the death.   Meanwhile, the Shroud of Turin has been stolen and is somewhere in Chicago.  The Church is rather eager to get it back, the buyer wants his goods, and the underworld plans on disrupting everyone's plans.  Harry has been give a prophecy that if he gets the Shroud back, he dies.  If he doesn't get the Shroud back, everyone else dies.  Harry doesn't think much of prophecies.

While the action continues to be a bit over the top (really, two life threatening situations in one week?), the character development and writing continues to improve in my opinion.  I could have done without the, between Harry and his ex-girlfriend-turned-vampire, and the train ride across Kansas was right out of several movies, but yet all of this somehow works.  It's Harry, it's quirky, and it's just a fun read.  If you want serious, read Tolkien.

Go forth and enjoy for enjoyment's sake.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Recipes from 6/10/13

We FINALLY got a week of beautiful weather in Duluth!  Yay!  And, wouldn't 'cha know it, most of our evenings were taken up with social activities this week.  We did get out for one nice 18 mile bike ride and got some significant yard work done on Saturday - finished planting the garden, transplanted the eggplant into their pots on the porch, worked at weed eradication in on of my overgrown flower beds, cultivated the rest of the garden beds and mowed the lawn. 

Not much in the way of new recipes this week though.  Grilled pork chops a couple nights with a side of fresh asparagus.  Yum!  Remaining nights we were eating out. 

Wheat Berry Salad with Goat Cheese  (Ckng Lght July 2009)
My very first introduction to wheat berries came from EatingWell magazine about 10 years ago.  They were very clear in that you don't need to pre-soak your berries.  So I don't.  I simmer for about an hour, hour plus.  You could also cook them in the slow cooker.  So I had the berries cooking away on the stove while I prepped and ate dinner.  After dinner was cleaned up, I started this.  It does come together fairly easily, the berries can be cooling on a cookie sheet while prep work happens.

This was outstanding.  I loved the flavors, I loved how filling it was, I loved the creamy tang of goat cheese against the nutty wheat berries and zucchini.  This will probably end up in my lunch rotation over the summer.  This would also be great for a potluck or picnic. 

Taking a cue from traditional tabbouleh, this dish uses lots of peak-season vegetables, tart lemon juice, and pungent fresh herbs. Serve with toasted pita wedges

• 1 1/4 cups wheat berries
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• 2 1/2 cups chopped English cucumber (I use a zucchini)
• 2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
• 1 1/2 cups loosely packed chopped arugula (I used baby spinach)
• 6 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
• 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled goat cheese (or feta)

1. Place wheat berries in a medium bowl; cover with water to 2 inches above wheat berries. Cover and let stand 8 hours. Drain.
2. Place wheat berries in a medium saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above wheat berries. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook, uncovered, 1 hour or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well. Place wheat berries in a large bowl; add cucumber and next 4 ingredients (through tomatoes).
3. Combine rind and next 4 ingredients (through sugar) in a bowl; gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss well to coat. Stir in cheese. Let stand at least 30 minutes; serve at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recipe Review from 6/3/13

We hit the ground running this week with me coming off a four and a half day yoga workshop over the weekend.  Groceries didn't happen until Tuesday so lunches and meals were pretty simple and involved a bit of scrounging and creativity  Which is okay because I hate wasting food and this was a good way to clean out the fridge a bit.
The week ended on a positive - it STOPPED RAINING!  After nearly two weeks of intermittent rain we were finally able to get out into the yard on Saturday.  We mowed (hayed?), moved rocks around the man-barn, tilled the garden beds again, planted flour corn, sweet corn, winter squash plants and seeds, kale, and swiss chard; applied some grass and weed control in my flower beds, planted some marigold, zinna and bachelor button seeds; and then called it a day. 
North side of the barn, the rock reallocation program

Garden 2013; fore-bed is perennials; two green beds behind are perennials and weeds.

Grilled Shrimp with Quinoa (Ckng Lght June 2013)
I had half a package of shrimp in the freezer, feta in the fridge, and quinoa in the cupboard.  I only needed to pick up some chickpeas and avocado.  You will note a fair number of ingredients crossed out on the recipe.  That is for the "Spicy" shrimp, which I didn't feel like making (it was probably raining and I also didn't want to grill).  I simplified greatly and just sauted the shrimp in some garlic and oil on the stove.

This is a fairly quick dish to pull together.  The only thing I wished I had done differently was to keep the avocado separate.  If you have leftovers it turns...bleh, in typical avocado fashion.  Otherwise, flavors are nice and bright, and the dish is perfect for a hot summer day. 
photo by
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided
  • 10 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 pound)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup canned organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I used the whole can)
  • 1/2 cup diced peeled avocado
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Preheat grill to high heat.
  2. Combine 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, black pepper, hot sauce, paprika, and 2 garlic cloves in a medium bowl. Add shrimp; toss well. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.  (I just sauted the shrimp on the stove).
  3. Rinse and drain quinoa. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add remaining 2 garlic cloves and quinoa; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Cool. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and honey in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add quinoa mixture, tomatoes, chickpeas, avocado, and cheese; toss gently.
  4. Remove shrimp from bowl; discard marinade. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Thread 3 shrimp onto each of 8 (6-inch) skewers. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 2 minutes on each side or until done.
  5. Divide quinoa mixture evenly among 4 plates. Top each serving with 2 skewers shrimp. Garnish with cilantro.

SPICED SALMON KEBABS, Bon Appetit, June 2013
The recipe calls for making kebabs, but I greatly simplified:  I sprayed some olive oil over the fish, rubbed the topping on, and then sprayed with a bit more olive oil.  We grilled at 350* for about 20-25 minutes.  Lemon on the side for spritzing.  YUM!

photo by

2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 lb skinless salmon fillet (preferably wild) cut into 1" pieces  (I used Lake Trout)
2 lemons very thinly sliced into rounds
2 Tbs olive oil

Special equipment: 16 bamboo skewers soaked in water 1 hour (I used metal skewers)

Prepare grill for medium heat. Mix oregano, sesame seeds, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes in small bowl to combine, set spice mixture aside.

Beginning and ending with salmon, thread salmon and folded lemon lemon slices onto 8 pairs of parallel skewers to make 8 kebabs total. Brush with oil and season with reserved spice mixture.

Grill, turning occasionally, until fish is opaque throughout, 5-8 minutes.

Serves 4

Saturday, June 8, 2013

2013 Hugo Nominees: Short Stories

I'm attending the World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon) in San Antonio, TX, this year.  As an attending member I am eligible to vote on the 2013 Hugo Nominees.  So over the next couple of months you see reviews for Novelettes, Novellas, Novels, and the Campbell Awards.  And maybe some movies if time permits.  Click here for the full Worldcon 2013 Hugo Nominee list

Only three Short Story Nominees for 2013, and the nominees are not surprising.  All have been consistent showings on the Hugo Ballot for several years, and all have been consistently good.  I may not have necessarily liked the stories, but so it goes.  

"Mono no Aware" by Ken Liu
Published in The Future Is Japanese ed. Hiakasoru (VIS Media, LLC)
Excellent!  Mono no aware - the sense of transience of all things in life.  Or, as young Hiroto said in the story "It is like a gentle kitten is licking the inside of my heart".  And, ultimately, "We are defined by the places we hold in the web of others’ lives." 

"Immersion" by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
Interesting layers woven into so few pages.  Not as much emotional punch as "Mono no Aware". 

"Mantis Wives" by Kij Johnson (Clarksworld, August 2012)
Similar to the short story Ponies from the 2011 Ballot...disturbing.  I suspect the author liked to fry ants with a magnifying glass as a small child. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wicked Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #19)

Wicked Prey (Lucas Davenport, #19)Wicked Prey by John Sandford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket blurb: The Republicans are coming to St. Paul for their convention. Throwing a big party is supposed to be fun, but crashing the party are a few hard cases the police would rather stayed away. Chief among them is a crew of professional stickup men who've spotted several lucrative opportunities, ranging from political moneymen with briefcases full of cash to that armored-car warehouse with the weakness in its security system. All that's headache enough for Lucas Davenport-but what's about to hit him is even worse.

A while back, a stray bullet put a pimp and petty thief named Randy Whitcomb in a wheelchair, and, ever since, the man has been nursing his grudge into a full head of psychotic steam. He blames Davenport for the bullet, but it's no fun just shooting him. That wouldn't be painful enough. Not when Davenport has a pretty fourteen-year-old adopted daughter that Whitcomb can target instead.

And then there's the young man with the .50 caliber sniper rifle and the right- wing-crazy background, roaming through a city filled with the most powerful politicians on earth. . . .

This seemed to be story about people making bad decisions.  Good guys, bad guys, kids, it didn't matter.  Bad guys decide to kill a cop in a hotel, wasn't necessary.  There were other options.  Davenport setting up a sting operation that ends up with a cop killed - cop in the operation didn't follow directions.  Letty taking matters into her own hands.  Bad decisions from top to bottom.  I can understand the occasional misjudgment as it "builds character", but to have a book built around them was just too much for me.

Compound poor judgement with a sub-plot revolving around Davenport's ward, Letty, and I was really wondering if I even wanted to read this book.  I struggled a I struggled a lot, with her actions and bald-faced manipulation. I also couldn't come to terms mentally with her job/internship as a reporter for one of the local news stations and her age.  As 'mature' as she is portrayed to be, she's still a 14 year old and the lack of adult supervision was unsettling.  Perhaps Sandford's media background gave him some insight into the tv news world which was where he got the idea to have a 14 year old running around solo during a massive political convention. I dunno.  It didn't sit right with me.

One aspect I did find satisfying was how the author portrayed Letty's and Juliette's - a young prostitute Letty befriends -  relationship, because it could have become a very cliched scenario.  Letty see's things in black and white, if you do this, that will happen, and Juliette just didn't fit into that mold no matter how much Letty tried to make her. 

Ultimately, the book left me a wanting.  Wanting what, I'm not sure...well, less Letty, would be one thing, and less stupid decisions would be another.  Not in my top five favorite Davenport books.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Recipe Review from 5/27/13

Very short week for me that ended with a four day yoga training session in the Cities. Planning ahead was pretty important so the Husband wasn't left scrounging.  Huh...ended up being "Mexican" week somehow.  Husband had chorizo tacos for the remainder week.  Oops.  Hope he didn't mind! 

Lunches consisted of:

Golden Sunshine Quinoa Salad  (from Ckng Lght BB)  gluten free, vegetarian
Show: Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffmann
Episode: Orange Crush 

I'm lovin' these quinoa salads!  So easy to make, can be served warm or cold, and a nice protein boost for lunch after the gym.  This weeks variation is Mediterranean flavored.  I swapped out the cucumber for a zucchini because I'm just not wild about the taste of raw cucumber.  

2 cups quinoa
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 scallions, light and white green part only, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped golden raisins  I used craisins
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the quinoa until it has expanded fully, about 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Place the cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Add the scallions, raisins, rice vinegar, orange juice and zest, olive oil, cumin, cucumber and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, then serve.

And suppers: 

Potato, Poblano and Chorizo Tacos  (Ckng Lght May 2013)   gluten free; vegetarian optional
This came together a lot faster than I thought it would and I really liked the flavors, even if I forgot to buy the poblano peppers and substituted a yellow bell.  I also liked how the chorizo was a background nuance - at three ounces it's really not a heck of a lot of meat which I prefer.  Enough to add some spice, not enough to overwhelm me.  This does make enough to feed four exactly, with two full taco's each.  If I'd been thinking, I would have made some cornbread to go along with.  Recommended.   
photo from
  • 2 poblano chiles or a red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cups diced white potato
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 ounces Mexican raw chorizo, casings removed
  • 3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 ounce Manchego cheese, shredded (about 1/4 cup)  I used sharp cheddar
  • 8 lime wedges

  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Cut poblanos in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place poblano halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil for 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 5 minutes. Peel; coarsely chop.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potato; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove potato; place in a large bowl. Add onion to pan; cook 3 minutes. Add poblano bell pepper, corn, red pepper, and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion mixture to potato. Add chorizo to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring to crumble. Return potato mixture to pan. Stir in stock and salt; bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes or until potato is tender, chorizo is done, and liquid almost evaporates.
  4. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, heat tortillas over medium-high heat directly on the eye of a burner for about 15 seconds on each side or until lightly charred. Arrange about 1/3 cup potato mixture in center of each tortilla; top with 1 1/2 teaspoons onions and 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese. Serve with lime wedges.

Spicy Shrimp Kebabs and Grilled Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (Ckng Light, June 2013)
gluten free; pesce-vegetarian

Two recipes I combined - the shrimp was with a quinoa dish that I really wanted to make, but we were having quinoa for lunches all week.  What this combination was ultimately lacking was some rice.  It was still really good, but it could have used a starch to bring everything together.  The red pepper sauce was a bit putzy and time consuming for a weeknight, so save for a weekend or Friday night.

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Spicy Shirmp
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped and divided 
  • 12large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1/2 pound)
Combine 1 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, black pepper, hot sauce, paprika, and 2 garlic cloves in a medium bowl. Add shrimp; toss well. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.

Grilled Eggplant and Red Pepper Sauce
My notes - the grilling directions below assume one style of grill, which I do not have.  We made do.  This could also be done in the oven. 
photo from
  • 1 whole garlic head
  • 2 large red bell peppers 
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 pounds eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 2 large)
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat using both burners. After preheating, turn the left burner off (leave the right burner on).
  2. Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). My notes - Chop off the top of the bulb to expose the garlic and drizzle with oil. This will make squishing the pulp out so much easeir!  Wrap garlic in foil. Place garlic over left burner; grill 40 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Separate garlic cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard garlic skins.
  3. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Flatten bell peppers with hand. Lightly coat grill rack with cooking spray. Arrange bell peppers, skin sides down, over right burner, and grill for 15 minutes or until bell peppers begin to blacken. Place bell peppers in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 5 minutes, and peel.
  4. Place toasted cumin seeds in a mini food processor, and process until finely ground. Add garlic pulp, grilled bell peppers, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; process until smooth.
  5. Lightly coat eggplant slices with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Arrange eggplant slices over right burner; grill 5 minutes on each side or until tender. Serve eggplant with pepper sauce.

Huevos Rancheros Tacos  (Ckng Lght May 2013)  Vegetarian, gluten free
Good! Super simple, great fresh taste, but the one downside was they are messy messy messy to eat.   I should have left the tortillas soft and not let them get quite so crisp.  I also had a couple of substitutions:  regular salsa for the pico de gallo; I poached the eggs rather than fried (for ease of prep); I skipped the Mexican crema completely (though subbing regular sour cream or plain Greek yogurt would be fine); and I forgot the cilanto!  Darn it.  Almost forgot the avocado too but remembered that as we were sitting down. Recommended for breakfast or supper.  I had this for supper with some cornbread on the side. 
  • 4 (6-inch) corn tortillas
    photo from
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh pico de gallo
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican crema
  • 1/2 ripe peeled avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 lime wedges
  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Arrange tortillas on a baking sheet; lightly coat tortillas with cooking spray. Broil 2 minutes; remove pan from oven. Turn tortillas over. Top each tortilla with 2 tablespoons cheese and 2 tablespoons beans. Broil 1 minute or until cheese melts. Remove from oven.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Crack eggs into pan; cook 2 minutes. Cover and cook 2 minutes or until whites are set. Place 1 egg in center of each tortilla; sprinkle with pepper. Top tacos evenly with pico de gallo, crema, avocado, and cilantro. Serve with lime.

Oat Scones (Ckng Lght BB)
And one breakfast munchie!  Though I think I did something wrong because the batter was really wet and sticky and wouldn't have worked no-way no-how for the directions below.  A bit of add-libbing in that 10" pie plate was necessary.  I also added some miniature chocolate chips just because I could. 

1 cup rolled oats, quick or old-fashioned, toasted or not
1-1/2 cup flour or whole wheat flour or some of each
3 Tbs brown or dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 Tbs cold butter, cut up
1 egg
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 425 deg F.

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Beat egg with milk and vanilla; stir into flour mix just until evenly moistened. Scatter some oats or flour on counter and turn dough out. Pat into a circle about 1 inch thick. Brush with some milk or cream and sprinkle with some sugar (coarse crystalline if you have it) or oats. Cut into 8 wedges and place together on a cookie sheet or in a 9" or 10" pie plate. Bake at 425 deg F until just nicely browned, 12 to 15 minutes.

The original posters’s note: these are delicious with marmalade, jams, maple butter or honey; they’re decadent with apple butter and whipped cream for a dessert or sinful breakfast. I love them split and smothered with yogurt cheese (ie thickened yogurt, or else regular or fruit yogurt) and a spoonful of blackcurrant jam (pictured) or apple butter (or any other jam or jelly) on top for breakfast; absolutely delicious with a spoonful of ginger jam/marmalade on lemon yogurt.  These improve in flavour if you take them out of the oven and wrap them in a clean dishtowel, allowing them to slowly cool a bit before you devour them.  The original recipe said to cook them on a preheated baking stone. I only did that the first time and have not bothered ever since.

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