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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 Hugo Awards: Novellas

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.  During June and July I've been reviewing the Short Stories, Novelettes, Novellas, Novels.    I was hoping to get to the Campbell Awards and maybe some movies, but ran out of time.  Click here for the full Worldcon 2013 Hugo Nominee list.   

In order of my preference: 

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall  by Nancy Kress
This story engaged me from the beginning.  A very different end of the world/beginning of the new world plot - for the characters at least.  The reality of Yellowstone blowing, a microorganism mutating and tusunami's taking out the world - that is very real.  I like that mix of scifi and speculative works of nature.  Add in a touch of humanism and you have one heck of a story.

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Interesting concept.  Yes.  Actually, several interesting concepts deftly woven into this plot. To manipulate by telling the truth.  To bring into existence something greater than the original.  To encourage what is to be something more that what it was. 

The Stars Do Not Lie  by Jay Lake
Unfortunately, I bounced off of this selection.  It...didn't pull me in. I couldn't relate to the characters, the steam punk setting was just that - steam punk, and I was not interested in the religion vs science storyline. 

On a Red Station, Drifting  by Aliette de Bodard
I found this selection...tedious.  Not because of the use of the Viet culture - which was extremely refreshing from the usual Nordic backdrop.  I couldn't get into the story or care about any of the characters.  It felt heavy and bogged down, full of angry self-centered people.  I like my stories to be a bit more escapist.

San Diego 2014 by Mira Grant
Completely lost interest at page one.  Personally, I didn't want to read another Newsflash story.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Recipe Review from 7/22/13

So much going on this weekend it was nearly a dizzying experience.

On Thursday, the tall ships came back to Duluth for the third time:  Tall Ship Festival.  This year nine of the beauties came to visit, and while I didn't go down to the canal or lakewalk to watch them come in this time, I snapped some pictures from the office window. 

Thursday evening the Husband picked up a new accessory for his Man-Barn: a Lund 1600 Alaskan fishing boat.  In red and white.  We took it out for a spin on Sunday afternoon and christened the propeller on the bottom of the lake.  First ding - done!

On Friday the Husband and I headed down to Minneapolis for the Skyline Music Festival at Target Field (Twin's Stadium) to see the Gear Daddies, Matthew Sweet, Soul Asylum and Big Head Todd and the Monsters.  It was dubbed the "LP Tour" because the bands were playing their best album in order the of the tracts.  It wasn't the warmest night out and it sprinkled once, but the sold out crowd of 7000, 45-50 year olds, partied like they were in their 20's.  Not kidding about the average age of this group...   Overall a great concert over looking the skyline of Minneapolis.

We stayed overnight and ran a few errands on Saturday morning, starting with breakfast at the Highland Grill in St. Paul.  Outstanding! Is all I have to say about this small, cafe style restaurant.  Then we walked across the street to the Tea Source to pick up a few more teas for this coming fall.  I was too full from breakfast to indulge in a cuppa hot chai!  Afterwards we made our way over to Grand Ave and Penzeys where I realized I had forgotten my list!  Arrgh!  Had to go by memory and picked up a couple of extra items "just in case".  I didn't do too bad - only forgot the coriander seed.  One more stop to go and that was on our way out of town at the Stillwater Olive Oil Company in White Bear Lake.  Picked up a bottle of Arbosana EVOO, a bottle of Cilantro and Roasted Onion Oil, and a bottle of White Balsamic Vinegar with Lemon.

It was 54* (12*C) and raining when we left the Cities, and it was 54* inside the house when we got home.  We turned the heat on.  Frickin' JULY and we had to turn the heat on.  NOT a happy camper.

And what with the usual work and yoga week, I still did pretty good recipe-wise.  I deem all of these winners and great for warmer weather meals outside on the patio or deck. 

Bulgur with Peaches (August 2013 Ckng Lght)    vegetarian; gluten free option
Peaches are in season right now and are fantastic!  I thought using them for a sweeter lunch dish would be a nice change from breakfast or plain.  I did add 1 can of chickpeas to the dish to up the protein and bulk out the salad a bit.  I omitted the mint (not paying $$ for mint). 

I didn't add the peaches until I dished this up for lunches.  I also added some torn Swiss Chard.  I didn't have hazelnuts and was going to substitute walnuts, but I forgot to add them.  Not surprised - I'm not entirely awake at 530am. 
  • 2 cups water
    photo from
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgur (or quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup diced peaches 
  • 2 1/2 ounces chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup small fresh mint leaves
  1. Bring 2 cups water and bulgur to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 12 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain.
  2. Combine vinegar and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add bulgur, peaches, nuts, and mint; toss.

Tomato Ravioli  (August 2013 Ckng Lght) vegetarian
This is quick, but yet still took about 45 minutes to completely pull together.  Most of that time is waiting for the tomatoes and shallots to cook.  Not wanting to warm up the kitchen, I cooked the veggies on the grill.  You do need to watch the temp so your tomatoes don't become one with the aluminum foil.   I loved the flavors of this dish - sweet shallots, tangy tomatoes, and the backdrop of balsamic vinegar.   I topped it off with a bit of grated parmesan.

photo from
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 2 shallots, cut into wedges
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces cheese ravioli
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  1. Preheat oven [or grill] to 425°.
  2. Halve half of tomatoes. Arrange cut tomatoes, whole tomatoes, and shallots on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; toss. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to pan. Bake 10 minutes.
  4. Cook ravioli according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain ravioli, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add ravioli to tomatoes; toss. Add cooking liquid, if needed. Garnish with chopped basil.

Egg Salad Sandwiches with Bacon and Siracha  (Ckng Lght Aug 2011)
Easy peasy!  With a couple of noted adjustments -  this was really good.  I boiled my eggs in the morning so they would be ready for peeling after work.  I cooked my bacon on a jelly roll pan on the grill (didn't want to heat up the kitchen).  And I significantly reduced the siracha sauce.  A little bit of that goes a long way.  It's easier to add more than to be wishing I had used less.
This was a really nice supper with some fresh watermelon along side. 

photo from
  • 2 center-cut bacon slices
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions  (I used 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1 1/2 (I used 1/2) teaspoons Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 hard-cooked large eggs, chopped
  • 2 cups arugula  (I used Swiss chard)
  • 8 whole-grain bread slices
  1. Cook bacon in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Place bacon in a large bowl. Stir in onions and next 5 ingredients (through salt). Gently stir in eggs.
  2. Arrange 1/2 cup arugula on each of 4 bread slices. Top each serving with 1/3 cup egg mixture and 1 bread slice.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blackout by Mira Grant

Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3)Blackout by Mira Grant

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Rise up while you can. -Georgia Mason

The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.

The year was 2039. The world didn't end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. They uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.

Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this:

Things can always get worse

Hugo Nominee 2013

Book three in a series that focus's on the people living in a world dominated by zombies - but it's not about the zombies themselves.  Our group of main characters continues to struggle against the Center for Disease Control's nefarious plots of corruption and conspiracy but without the edgy blogging that dominated book one and two. 

I thought this book could have been about 100 pages shorter and better for it.  The running hither and tither in great angst and anticipation, fighting suddenly amplified lab assistants, large angry animals and fast talking around nervous independent settlers had gone it's course.  The one positive was there was a bit more personal interaction and thus more character development through that interaction than in previous books.

Uff.  Trying to do this without spoilers...

The book felt like a rehashing of the previous two books, where our illustrious team is up against impossible odds: the threat of death imminent from guns, grenades, decontamination procedures that kill, zombies and imminent amplification; and yet, miraculously makes it out the other side of the building to run away and fight another day.   Very much a been there. Done that.

By the time we hit Big Revelation One and Two, instead of being thrilled and titillated, my reaction was one of sarcastic, eye rolling, "Oh, we didn't see that coming...".   It was compounded by two plot lines that should have merged immediately yet the author continued for numerous pages replaying the scene from alternating perspectives.  Once was enough.

When it comes down to it, I liked book three the least, I had a hard time finding the motivation to continue reading it, and was very glad when it was finally over.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 edited by Catherine Asaro

Nebula Awards Showcase 2013Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 by Catherine Asaro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

July 2013's bookgroup book.  We've been reading the Nebula Awards Showcase since 2002.

I had the advantage in that about half of the stories in this installment were 2012 Hugo Nominees, which I read before the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago.

The Paper Menagerie    Ken Liu                      Hugo Winner – Short Story

The Ice Owl                  Carolyn Ives Gilman  Hugo Nominee

Ado                               Connie Willis

The Migratory Pattern of Dancers  Katherine Sparrow

Peach-Creamed Honey (poetry)  Amal El-Mohtar

The Axiom of Choice   David W. Goldman

What We Found            Geoff Ryman             Hugo Nominee

Among Others (excerpt) Jo Walton                 Hugo Winner - Novel

Movement                      Nancy Fulda             Hugo Nominee

Sauerkraut Station   Ferrett Steinmetz

The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees
                                                  E. Lily Yu                 Hugo Nominee

Ray of Light                   Brad R. Torgersen     Hugo Nominee

The Freedom Maze (excerpt) Delia Sherman

The Sea King’s Second Bride (poetry)  CSE Cooney

The Man Who Bridged the Mist
                                                  Kij Johnson               Hugo Winner - Novella

I thought this was perhaps one of the best selections to date.  I enjoyed nearly all the stories with the exception of a couple:  The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees and The Ice Owl.  I was so-so about What We Found. 

My favorites include:
The Paper Menagerie
The Migratory Pattern of Dancers
Sauerkraut Station 

Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 recommended if you enjoy a variety of novel excerpts, novellas, novelettes and short stories.  

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Recipe Review from 7/15/13

What a nutso week!  Temps in the high 90's (32*C), humid - I LOVED! it.  Everyone else, not so much.  Then....then  the temps dropped.  Sunday morning it was 51* (10*C).  Granted, by mid afternoon we did get up to 72* (22*C) and it was absolutely gorgeous,  but still.  I had to pull out my jeans and a sweatshirt.  Totally not fair. 

Work was busy.  Social life was busy.  Yoga life was busy.  Yard was neglected.  Chores neglected.  Bike was neglected.  Alas. 

And with temperatures being so warm, and us not having any kind of inside cooling system (not worth it for three days of the year), meals were pretty darn simple.  Grilled corn and polish, salads, you get the idea.

One new recipe for the week:

Grilled Chicken with Honey-Chipolte BBQ Sauce  (July 2013 Ckng Lght)    gluten free
This was very simple to pull together and I would recommend doubling the "sauce".  I had all the ingredients on hand except the chicken, and I couldn't find my "organic" chicken thighs this go around at the store so I used a whole cut-up chicken.   It's not a spicy sauce, but it does have a nice "tang" to counter the sweetness of the ketchup and honey.  I think this would also go great on grilled salmon or halibut.
photo from
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 bone-in chicken leg-thigh quarters, skinned
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in ketchup, next 5 ingredients (through chile powder), and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic powder, cumin, and black pepper; sprinkle over chicken. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 15 minutes on each side or until done. Baste chicken generously with sauce; turn over, and grill 1 minute. Baste again; turn over, and grill 1 minute. Serve with remaining sauce.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

To say that this audiobook annoyed me would be like asking if a small, vocal child in a restaurant annoys me.   Which would be a firm yes!

I think it's mostly the narrator that's grating on my nerves, the inflection, intonation and delivery are too much.  An over enunciation of the words compounded by an attempt to do some kind of accent just don't work for the characters.  I've said it before and I can say it again - a narrator can make or break a book.

Catching Fire picks up right after Catniss and Peeta return home from the Hunger Games, and are about to embark upon a Grand Celebration tour.  President Snow arrives to deliver a threat to Catniss, that she has to convince him that she truly loves Peeta and not Gale.   Ah...teen romantic agnst.  Joy.

The Grand Celebration tour comes and goes. The Districts are unsettled.  The Capital is unsettled.  Catniss is unsettled.   And then the bombshell that all the past victors must return to the Arena for the Quarter-Quell Hunger Games to "remind" the Districts who is really in charge of their lives.  Catniss wants to do her own thing in the Arena.  Peeta and Hamich have other plans. Catniss is convinced she needs to keep Peeta alive, even after being told that he doesn't want to live without her.  Peeta has other plans.  

By the end of the book I was ready for someone to hold Catniss under water and put us all out of our misery.

This edition was full of all sorts of "shocking" things that, really, weren't that shocking given the direction the plot is going with a third book in the wings.  A couple instances those "shocking" revelations came across more trite than anything.  I became very tired of the internal angsty monolog, our Heroine seemed more needy this book, and her indecision on who she should love is over done. 

Recommended with reservations and if you've read Hunger Games.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Recipe Review from 7/8/13

A busy week at work, subbed additional yoga class, and a Saturday hike up the North Shore made for a week that just flew by.  The Saturday hike was a short one - a 4.8 mile trek from the Temperance River to Britton Peak, with the trail peaking at Carlton Peak at 1560 ft in elevation.  Carlton Peak has absolutely stunning views of the lake and Sawtooth Mountains - loosely termed 'mountains' here, and assuming there isn't a fog bank over the lake leaving the hiker staring at a wall of grey.  But otherwise very cool.

Not a lot of new recipes last week - several meals of leftover goose, one evening was BLT's, and one evening was the recipe below:

Shrimp, Chorizo and Corn Salad  (Ckng Lght July 2013)  Gluten Free
This salad could not have been easier to prepare and was light enough for a hot summer evening.  Don't be turned off by the Siracha sauce - it adds a subtle background flavor but is a small enough amount that the heat is dissipated.  I did substitute andouille sausage for the chorizo because I had some links in the freezer.  I also added 1/2 of a small zucchini since I had one in the fridge.

Add a rustic loaf of bread with olive oil for dipping or some warmed ciabiatta bread along side and you have the perfect summer meal.

  • 12 ounces large shrimp, peeled  (I used 16oz)
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
    photo from
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 ounces thinly sliced Spanish chorizo sausage (I used andouille)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 12 red grape tomatoes, halved and divided (+12 more for yellow)
  • 12 yellow teardrop tomatoes, halved and divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup chopped basil, 12 red tomato halves, and 12 yellow tomato halves; toss shrimp mixture gently to combine.
  2. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shrimp mixture to pan, and cook for 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink, stirring frequently. Place about 1 1/2 cups shrimp mixture in each of 4 shallow bowls, and sprinkle each serving with 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, 6 tomato halves, and 1 tablespoon chopped basil.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Captain Vopatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (Vorkosigan Saga, #15)Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Captain Vorpatril is happy with his relatively uneventful bachelor’s life as a staff officer to a Barrayaran admiral, assigned to the planet Komarr, far from the Byzantine court politics of his home system. 

This content existence is shattered when an old friend in Barrayaran intelligence asks Ivan to protect an attractive young woman, who may be on the hit list of a criminal syndicate. Ivan’s chivalrous nature takes over, and it seems danger and adventure have once more found Captain Vorpatril.

Tej Arqua and her half-sister and servant Rish are fleeing the violent overthrow of their clan on the free-for-all planet of Jackson’s Whole.  Now it seems Tej may possess a hidden secret of which even she may not be aware. It’s a secret that could corrupt the heart of a highly regarded Barayarran family and provide the final advantage to the thugs who seek to overthrow Tej’s homeworld.  But none of Tej’s formidable adversaries have counted on Ivan Vorpatril.  For behind Ivan’s facade of wry and self-effacing humor lies a true and cunning protector who will never leave a distressed lady in the lurch–up to and including making the ultimate sacrifice to keep her from harm.

2013 Hugo Novel Nominee

A light space romance that was about 100 pages too long.

Bujold's books tend to be dialog driven, with just enough description to give you an idea of how people look in their snazzy uniforms and an impression of the city or space station they are living on.  My complaint with dialog driven books is there are often not enough cues as to whom is talking and I have to go back and carefully do the he said/he said only to find out there was a she said added in.

The main cast of characters in this one seemed to alternate acting like the High-born adults they were and teenagers who were allowed off the space station for the first time in their lives.  A dichotomy of ones rank and place in the world, then behaving in a manner that was incongruous with that rank of birth.

And of course, all the Vorkosigan favorites are trotted out at one point or another.

Ultimately, not a favorite, but I enjoyed it as the light entertainment it offers, lots of fun, witty comments throughout the book.  A good book to read in an airport or at the beach as it can be easily picked up and put down, especially if you are already familiar with Bujold's Vorkosigan world. 

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Buried Prey by John Sandford (#21)

Buried Prey (Lucas Davenport, #21)Buried Prey by John Sandford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  A house demolition provides an unpleasant surprise for Minneapolis-the bodies of two girls, wrapped in plastic. It looks like they've been there a long time. Lucas Davenport knows exactly how long.  In 1985, Davenport was a young cop with a reputation for recklessness, and the girls' disappearance was a big deal. His bosses ultimately declared the case closed, but he never agreed with that. Now that he has a chance to investigate it all over again, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: It wasn't just the bodies that were buried. It was the truth.

Another book that had me from chapter one.  I loved the plot in this one, finally revisiting Davenport's early years when he transitioned from a uniformed cop to a plain clothes detective.  Using a cold case he worked on was a great way to bridge the two.  I also appreciated - again - not getting into the killer's mind until halfway through the book.  I'm guessing a bit here because I read this on audiobook and it was about disk 5 of 9.

I do reserve the right to be miffed as a major character is snuffed out, but I have to say it wasn't unexpected; it just took a lot longer to happen in the series than I would have anticipated.  Granted, it's not a "Game of Thrones" type series where everyone is getting bumped off, but for a cop series I was expecting a major secondary character to go much sooner.

And I still don't like Letty's character. I disliked her in the previous books and I disliked her role in this installment.

Even with my character complaints, which really are minor, this installment is in my top five Davenport books. Maybe even number one.  If I were to re-read one of these it would probably be this one.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Recipe Review from 7/1/13

I hope everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July respite.  Ours alternated between putsy errands, a bit of yard work, a hometown baseball game, and relaxing.  I did fit in a long bike ride with my cycling friend up to Two Harbors on what would be an absolutely perfect morning - almost no wind, modicum of traffic, and temps right about 60* along the lake.  Maybe cooler. The Husband and I also fit in a smaller ride on Sunday morning before it got too warm and humid. 

The weekend culminated in having my Folks out for grilled goose!  The weather wanted to rain on us, and the humidity was such that staying inside was too warm, so out came the screen tent.  It was a very enjoyable picnic.  We had: 

Grilled Goose
12 lb bird, cleaned, dried, and lightly seasoned
roasting pan with a rack
350* for about 2 1/2 hours

Putting the bird in a roasting pan is a MUST.  Other wise you will end up with a greasy mess in your grill, constant flare-ups, and waste a lot of fat that could be utilized. 

We drained the beautiful grease/fat rendered from the bird while it was still hot and let sit to allow any extra cruddies to settle.  While still liquid, we strained again and refrigerated.  Goose fat is supposed to be absolutely fabulous to cook with and we have about four cups of the stuff.  One website the Husband found recommended freezing the lard and scraping off shavings to cook with as needed.

The sides:
Roasted Potato Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette     (Ckng Lght July 2013)  vegetarian, GF
I made this for Fathers Day to good reviews and decided it would be perfect with the bird.  Review can be found here:  Recipe Review from 6/17/13

Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Basil   (Ckng Lght July 2013)   vegetarian, GF
Fresh tomatoes, tangy creamy goat cheese and bright basil - doesn't that just shout SUMMER!  The recipe does recommend a variety of colored tomatoes, but what with our late spring, regular tomatoes it was.  Simple, quick, tasty, and can be made ahead. 
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar  (I used red as it was on hand)

    photo from
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup small basil leaves
  • 1.5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/3 cup)
  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chopped basil and tomato wedges; toss to coat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Top with basil leaves and goat cheese.

The dessert: 
Warm Buttermilk Drop Biscuits  (Ckng Lght May 2013)
I fully admit, cooking these when it's 80* outside with about the same in humidity, is really not a good idea.  Not only does the house become excessively warm, but baked goods just don't behave like they should.  They came out a bit denser than I would like. However, I would  make these again.  Great, multi-purpose biscuits made a bit healthier with the addition of some ww flour and decreased sugar.  We served them with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb sauce.
  • 5.6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
    photo from
  • 3.6 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups very cold fat-free buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk to combine.
  3. Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute or until completely melted. Add cold buttermilk, stirring until butter forms small clumps. Add oil, stirring to combine.
  4. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated (do not overmix) and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. (Batter will be very wet.)
  5. Drop batter in mounds of 2 heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 450° for 11 minutes or until golden. Cool 3 minutes; serve warm.

Midweek suppers: 

Bean Salad with Shrimp and Yogurt Curry  (Ckng Lght July 2013)  pesce-vegetarian, GF
To say this comes together quickly is an understatement.  This is perfect for warm temps and busy evenings - you know, when you get home from work and head right out into the yard and suddenly dinner is at 8pm or later?   Quick, light, and very flavorful.  I served it with a warm ciabiatta bun to mop up the saucy goodness.  This made enough to serve two, with a tich of leftovers for lunches the next day along side the Quinoa Salad below.
photo from
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley   (I used 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon              (I used 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice 
  • 9 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine yogurt, curry, honey, and juice in a small bowl.
  2. Cook beans in boiling water 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Add beans to shallot mixture; toss to coat.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shrimp, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and thyme to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Add shrimp to green bean mixture; toss to coat. Serve with yogurt mixture.

Iowa Burger [aka Great Plains Burger] (Ckng Lght July 2013)    GF if you skip the buns
Ckng Lghts version is the Great Plains Burger because it's supposed to be made with bison.  I forgot to buy a package of bison when at the store, and not wanting to make an extra trip, I subbed some pork I had in the freezer.  Yay for freezer reduction!  The Husband re-named this the Iowa Burger - Iowa is know for it's pork.

These were really tasty, and that's saying something since this is probably the fifth burger I've eaten since 2007.  I would err on the light side with the adobo sauce as it can get spicy-hot very quickly.  I used some frozen corn from last years garden to save time and just sauted the onions and corn in a pan.

photo from
  • 1 ear shucked corn 
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise 
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (or less) adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 1/2 ounces corn chips (such as Fritos)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 pound lean ground bison
  • 4 (1 1/2-ounce) onion rolls, toasted  (I used english muffins)

  1. Preheat grill to high heat.
  2. Place corn and onion on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 9 minutes or until charred, turning corn occasionally and turning onion once. Cut kernels from ears of corn. Combine corn, mayonnaise, mustard seeds, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a mini food processor; process until smooth.
  3. Combine onion and adobo sauce.
  4. Place chips in a food processor; pulse 15 times or until coarsely chopped. Combine chips, 1/4 teaspoon salt, sage, garlic powder, pepper, and bison; mix well. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, gently shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Press a nickel-sized indentation in center of each patty. Place patties on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes. Carefully turn patties; grill 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
  5. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun. Spread 1 tablespoon corn mixture over each patty. Top with onion mixture and top halves of buns.

Lunches for part of the week were:

Colorful Quick Quinoa Grecian Salad  (Ckng Lght, March 2006)   vegetarian, GF
Quick and colorful indeed!  Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth to make this vegetarian - not sure why the magazine just doesn't do this anyway to appeal to it's vegetarian readers?   I also substituted zucchini for the cucumber because I am not a cucumber person.  I also find they make dishes watery.  I used red wine vinegar because that is what I had on hand.  This was perfect for lunches - filling, light, and flavorful.  This would also be perfect for potlucks and picnics as it can be made ahead and travels well. 
  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
    photo from
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (I used red wine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped English cucumber (I use zucchini)
  • 1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives  (I added more!)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots

  1. Place quinoa in a large bowl; cover with water. Let stand 5 minutes; rinse well, and drain.
  2. Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan; stir in quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Uncover; fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Combine olive oil and next 5 ingredients (through sea salt) in a large bowl. Add cooled quinoa, tomatoes, and the remaining ingredients; toss well.
Margee Berry, White Salmon, WA

Friday, July 5, 2013

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, #1)Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time—and struggle against their own misgivings—to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin

This is a 2013 Hugo Novel Nominee. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this story - set in an exotic land with magic, evil khalif, eastern Robin Hoods, djinns, and ghuls.   The last demon-hunter is now an old man with a young, noble hearted - but slightly misguided - warrior as an apprentice.  We meet a Badwai desert shape-changer, and feel the affection between a magic-worker and his apothecary wife.  There's love, disappointment, and promises to be honored.  We have the "great city of Dhamsawaat" that is seen from the eyes of the old and young, from the viewpoint of City dwellers and desert tribesman. 

Throne of the Crescent Moon is as rich as any middle eastern tapestry - deftly woven, delightful colors, intricate in it's design.  For some, it might be a bit...flat; others will delight in the nuances offered.

I've heard it touted as reminiscent of Arabian Nights, but I thought the only similarity was it's Far Eastern setting.  And while not marketed as YA, it's definitely straddles that line. 

Recommended if you don't mind YA.  

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2013 Hugo Nominees: Novelettes

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.  During June and July you'll 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.  

This posting will cover the Novelettes.  In order of my preference.

The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
I thought this selection was incredible. How his concepts of being 'different' were portrayed through two young boys - one who cast no shadow and one made of glass was amazing and moving.  

The Girl-Thing Who Went out for Sushi by Pat Cadigan
Refreshingly different.  Earth people have moved out beyond Jupiter, and beyond Earth norms.  Adapting to life in space may also mean becoming an alternate form such as an octopus, puffer, and Nautilus - or "sushi".  Which brings about a whole new set of terminology and fear and loathing about the perceptions of what people do to themselves.  

Rat-Catcher by Seanan McGuire
A jaunt through time, back to the fae in England before the burning of London.  We have our Court of Cats, a young foolish Prince and his sisters, and ultimately, responsibility.  Who is responsible to whom?  Does a person have a choice in their decisions or is their path predetermined?  Whatever one thinks of Seanan McGuire, I honestly thought this was her strongest story yet. 

In Sea-Salt Tears by Seanan McGuire
A different look at the fae.  Instead of being based in England, the background is set in California.  A story about choices - that the call of the sea can come from different places.  That the choices made have ramifications that will cross generations. 

Interesting how both of McGuires stories started with a quote from Shakespeare.  Are they meant to be read as a pair? If so, should one be read before the other? Are they part of something more to come or some other story that wasn't nominated?   I have no idea.

Fade to White by Catherynne M. Valente
Alternative Cold-war history.  I was underwhelmed or uninspired by this one.  For myself, it was a bit cold and sterile, which I believe was rather the point. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Recipe Review from 6/24/13

A mixed week weather wise, bouncing temps make it a bit hard to meal plan.  Bouncing temps make it hard to know what to wear out the door in the morning!  What to cook or wear when one morning it's 55* and the next starts out at 75*?  Luckily I chose meals that could be served either warm or cool.  Since we live in Duluth, we already know to always bring a wrap and leave a jacket in the car. Mittens and hats stay accessible year round. Might be 80* "over the hill" and 50* down by the Lake.    

Several great recipes rounded out the week:

20-Minute Chicken Enchiladas (Ckng Lght July 2013)  GF if use a flour substitute
These really did take about 20 minutes to assemble. I didn't roll the individual tortillas as that seemed just overly putsy (and I don't have a microwave), so I layered some on the bottom, put the filling down, and put another layer of tortillas on top.  Wah-la!  Done!  I baked the dish in the oven rather than broiled so I added an additional 20 minutes, but that just gave me time to clean up the kitchen and set the table for a very relaxed dinner. 

For being a "quick" enchilada dish, these were really tasty.  Almost the perfect consistency - neither too saucy nor saucy enough, not too spicy, just the right amount of filling.  I might have had a bit more chicken than the recipe called for but so it goes. 

These made 3 meals for us.  A 9x13 was NOT too much for two people. 
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock 
    photo from
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (or substitute)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce
  • 3 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast (about 15 ounces)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 3 ounces preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup chopped tomato  I forgot...
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream 
  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Combine first 9 ingredients in a medium saucepan; stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil over high heat; cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Reserve 1 1/2 cups sauce mixture. Add chicken and beans to pan; cook 2 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly heated.
  3. Stack tortillas; wrap stack in damp paper towels and microwave at HIGH for 25 seconds. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture in center of each tortilla; roll up. Arrange tortillas, seam sides down, in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with reserved sauce and cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbly. Top with tomato and cilantro. Serve with sour cream.
Adam Hickman,

Quinoa Salad with Moroccan Pesto (Ckng Lght July 2009)  vegetarian, gluten free
I loved the flavors of this one, with it's citrus background, a bit of tang  from the cilantro, and the briny olives. I did not broil the red pepper as I didn't want to heat up the oven for one thing on a 85* day.  I didn't even want to heat up the grill!  Easier to just chop and toss it in.  This was great for lunches and would be perfect for a picnic. 
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 12 oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Cut red bell pepper 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 zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand for 10 minutes. Peel and chop.
  3. Skipping the broiling bit, I just chopped the red pepper and tossed it in the dish. 
  4. Place quinoa, broth, 1/2 cup water, and juice in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  5. Place cilantro and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine bell pepper, quinoa mixture, cilantro mixture, and olives in a large bowl. Sprinkle with nuts.
Diane Morgan,

Cuban Rice and Beans (from Real Simple website, Kan Kanbayashi)  vegetarian, vegan, gluten free
A quick, simple, very tasty dish.  I substituted black eyed peas for the black beans as the Husband is not a fan.  I added a couple links of polish sausage (sliced) because the flavors of the dish seemed to call for some spicy polish - but certainly not necessary.  This is a great dish for a group of varied tastes: your meat eater, your vegetarian, and your gluten free person.  I'm looking forward to the leftovers! 

• 1 cup long-grain white rice
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I used red bell)
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• kosher salt and black pepper
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 2 15.5-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• 4 radishes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
Optional - two polish links, sliced on the diagonal. 

1. Cook the rice according to the package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
3a. If adding links, saute till lightly browned, remove from pan and set aside.  Wipe out pan.
3. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the beans, oregano, and 1 cup water. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
6. Add the vinegar. Smash some of the beans with the back of a fork to thicken. Serve over the rice. Top with the radishes and cilantro (and optional polish).

Magazine Tip:
To pack this hearty dish for lunch, simply scoop the beans and rice into large tortillas or pitas.

Grilled Pepper and Onion Calzones  (Ckng Lght, July 2009)   vegetarian option
This ended up being three new recipes.  I will link to the uber-quick homemade pizza sauce and the homemade pizza dough - both of which can be made ahead.  I made this on a Saturday and accounted for the prep time as part of my afternoon.  I also skipped the sausage and used black olives instead to make this a meatless dish.  Baking was done on the grill because I didn't want to heat up the house.  I used a metal cookie sheet, heated, and followed directions as if for the oven. 
photo from
  • 1 portion Homemade Pizza Dough
  • 1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 14 ounces)
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered 
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, quartered 
  • Cooking spray 
  • 1 pound hot Italian turkey sausage links
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons New York-Style Pizza Sauce, divided
  • 113/ cup (about 5 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 
  1. Remove Homemade Pizza Dough from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
  3. Coat onion slices and bell pepper pieces with cooking spray. Place vegetables and sausages on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill vegetables 4 minutes on each side or until browned; grill sausages 8 minutes or until done, turning occasionally to brown on all sides. Remove vegetables and sausages from grill; cool slightly. Cut onion slices in half; cut bell pepper pieces into 1/2-inch strips. Cut sausages diagonally into thin slices.
  4. Preheat oven to 500°
  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface; divide dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 9 x 5-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup New York-Style Pizza Sauce evenly over each rectangle, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Arrange sausage evenly over half of each rectangle; top evenly with onion and bell peppers. Sprinkle each calzone with 1/3 cup cheese. Fold other half of dough over filling; press edges together with a fork to seal.
  6. Place calzones on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat calzones with cooking spray. Bake at 500° for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut each calzone in half; serve with remaining New York-Style Pizza Sauce.

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