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Monday, September 30, 2013

Recipe Review from 9/23/13

Another whirlwind week in our house.   Bookgroup meetings, regular yoga classes, subbing yoga classes, American Legion meeting, and another organized hike up the North Shore with the Superior Hiking Trail Association.   Which kinda goofed up the menu and recipes.  So it goes ((shrug)).

We spent the weekend at Caribou Highlands, at Lutsen, MN.  The Superior Hiking Trail hike was from Lutsen to Oberg Mountain, a distance of 7 miles.  There were two optional spur trails which  we did not take due to distance and weather - another time perhaps.  As it was, the last 45 minutes of the hike was in a downpour and we ended rather soggy.  Rain aside, colors were peaking up the shore and the maple ridges were absolutely resplendent.  Sunday we decided to walk up to the Poplar River and then take the gondola up to Moose Mountain. 

View from our unit; Moose mountain to the right.

Hard part done!  At least for the first mountain.... (Photo by S.C.)

Poplar River just before sunrise

Gondola up to Moose Mountain, Lake Superior in the distance.  Wheee! 

And the recipes: 

Pasta with Eggplant and Parmesan Cheese  (Ckng Lght Oct 2013)
A good recipe for end of the summer garden produce.  We used the last of our white eggplants - didn't get a lot this summer what with the nights that kept dropping below 50*.  I skipped the garlic and parsley simply because I didn't feel like putzing with it.  I omitted the pine nuts because I didn't feel like buying them.  I grilled the eggplant and tomatoes (love grilled veggies), and proceeded as directed from there.  I did serve with extra EVOO on the side.  Fresh, bright, easy and delicious!
  • 1 (8.8-ounce) package uncooked pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta)  (I used fettuccine)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 5 large garlic cloves, crushed
    photo from
  • 1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 (10-ounce) container grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 ounces fresh pecorino Romano cheese, shaved (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions; omit salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup liquid.
  3. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, eggplant, oregano, and tomatoes on a jelly-roll pan; toss. Broil 8 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften.
  4. Combine reserved cooking liquid, 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and peppers in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pasta and eggplant mixture; toss. Sprinkle with cheese, pine nuts, and parsley.

Sausage and Rice (adapted from a Whole Foods Co-op flyer)
I changed this recipe enough that I'm posting what I did, rather than what the recipe actually called for.  Cooking and preparation time went from 1 hour to under 30 minutes.

1 pkg instant brown rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
2 polish sausage links (keilbasa would also be fine), cut into medallions
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4-1/2 cup water (from the rice is fine) 

1) Prepare rice according to directions on package.
2) Once rice is cooking, saute onion until lightly browned.  Add sausage, cook 2-5 minutes more or until lightly browned.  Add paprika and thyme, stirring.  Add rice, stir.  Add 1/4 cup water (more as needed) to thicken rice mixture slightly and distribute seasonings.
3) Makes about 2 servings.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rule 34 by Charles Stross

Rule 34Rule 34 by Charles Stross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 Jacket Blurb:  DI Liz Kavanaugh: You realise policing internet porn is your life and your career went down the pan five years ago. But when a fetishist dies on your watch, the Rule 34 Squad moves from low priority to worryingly high profile. Anwar: As an ex-con, you'd like to think your identity fraud days are over. Especially as you've landed a legit job (through a shady mate). Although now that you're Consul for a shiny new Eastern European Republic, you've no idea what comes next. The Toymaker: Your meds are wearing off and people are stalking you through Edinburgh's undergrowth. But that's ok, because as a distraction, you're project manager of a sophisticated criminal operation. But who's killing off potential recruits? So how do bizarre domestic fatalities, dodgy downloads and a European spamming network fit together? The more DI Kavanaugh learns, the less she wants to find out

This was a Arthur C. Clarke award nominee for 2012 and missed the final Hugo Nominee ballot by one vote for 2012.

Rule 34 is a fascinating blend of murder mystery and police procedural under a veneer of science fiction that was a little too close to reality to make the concepts entirely comfortable. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the purpose was to make the reader a tich uneasy.  Everyone is directly linked into the web through their glasses (Google anyone?), the police have special software they can lay over the city and pick up on who's done what and when, and surveillance is everywhere.  Sound familiar?

It took me a while to get into the book despite being trapped in a car for two days for 13 hours each day.  The second person narrative was a detraction - I found it difficult to sink my teeth into the story when the narrative kept referring to "you".  You did this and you did that and "You" are all the characters, not just one main one.   Once I could settle in and get into the cadence of the plot, I didn't want to put it down.

Each chapter is devoted to the POV of one character, the main three being the police detective Liz Cavannaugh, the Toymaker who works for the Organization, and Anwar who is a luckless chap because Lady Luck has walked out on him.  Occasionally we are given a secondary or tertiary character to get a feel for the behind the scenes action that is driving the plot. 

My main complaint with the plot was the expository explanations that seemed to go on and on.  By the end I was skimming those to get to what I considered the "meat" of the book, that being how our heroine, Liz, was going to connect the dots solve the mystery.

This is touted as being sequel to Halting State, which I read in 2008 and really enjoyed.  It might have been helpful to have remembered or recently read book one, but I don't feel it was necessary. I don't think Rule 34 was as strong as Halting State, but still a very enjoyable book and I regret not seeing this on the final Hugo ballot for 2012.  Recommended. 

View all my reviews
This was a Arthur C. Clarke award nominee for 2012 and missed the final Hugo Nominee ballot by one vote for 2012. 

Rule 34 is a fascinating blend of murder mystery and police procedural under a veneer of science fiction that was a little too close to reality to make the concepts entirely comfortable. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the purpose was to make the reader a tich uneasy.  Everyone is directly linked into the web through their glasses (Google anyone?), the police have special software they can lay over the city and pick up on who's done what and when, and surveillance is everywhere.  Sound familiar? 

It took me a while to get into the book despite being trapped in a car for two days for 13 hours each day.  The second person narrative was a detraction - I found it difficult to sink my teeth into the story when the narrative kept referring to "you".  You did this and you did that and "You" are all the characters, not just one main one.   Once I could settle in and get into the cadence of the plot, I didn't want to put it down.

Each chapter is devoted to the POV of one character, the main three being the police detective Liz Cavannaugh, the Toymaker who works for the Organization, and Anwar who is a luckless chap because Lady Luck has walked out on him.  Occasionally we are given a secondary or tertiary character to get a feel for the behind the scenes action that is driving the plot.

My main complaint with the plot was the expository explanations that seemed to go on and on.  By the end I was skimming those to get to what I considered the "meat" of the book, that being how our heroine, Liz, was going to connect the dots solve the mystery. 

This is touted as being sequel to Halting State, which I read in 2008 and really enjoyed.  It might have been helpful to have remembered or recently read book one, but I don't feel it was necessary. I don't think Rule 34 was as strong as Halting State, but still a very enjoyable book.  Recommended. 


Monday, September 23, 2013

Recipe Review from 9/16/13

Can't say it was an uneventful week as Wednesday my Ben-dog jumped a skunk at 530am.  This wouldn't have been more than the usual problem of dog-meets-skunk-dog-loses, but I had to be out the door at 545am.  Lets just say nobody was happy on Wednesday and thedog still stinks despite three baths.  And yes, I used the peroxide/baking soda/detergent mix.  I strongly suspect I missed where he got hit (on his butt of all places). 

Sunday we tackled our apples - a bumper crop this year!  I think we processed about 18lbs and that was only what I picked up off the ground.  Three apple pies (froze two), 8 1/2 jars of applesause (slightly burnt), zucchini soup and a jar of fermented pattypan.  The Husband is experimenting with lacto-fermentation - think saurkraut or kimchi, except with summer squash.  

Now that Summer has left us, this is the summer squash menu:

Summer Vegetable Quiche (Whole Foods Co-op Advert, Sept 2013)   vegetarian; gluten free option
My usual go-to quiche recipe is from the original Moosewood cookbook, but this just seemed...simpler, and had less cheese.  I didn't have a pre-baked crust so I had to add in crust baking time, which allowed me to preheat the oven and saute the veggies.  I thought this turned out very good - perhaps even a bit better than the Moosewood recipe.  Can't wait to have leftovers! 

1 10-inch prebaked pie crust (gluten free optional)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups zucchini and/or yellow squash, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, sliced or diced
2 cups loosely packed spinach  (I used swiss chard)
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites  (I used one whole egg)
3/4 cup milk   (I used goats milk)
pinch salt and pepper
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350*

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the zucchini, peppers and spinach and saute for a few minutes or until just tender.  Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, egg white, milk, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle goat cheese on the bottom of the prebaked pie crust, then evenly cover with vegetables.  Add the Parmesan cheese and then pour in the egg mixture.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until firm in the middle. 

Let quiche stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Co-op suggestion:  This basic quiche recipe can be easily adapted with your choice of in-season and local ingredients.  Try any combination of locally-made sausage or bacon crumbles, sliced or diced tomatoes, arugula, or corn kernels for an "eat local" version. 

Basil Roasted Vegetables Over Couscous  (Ckg Lght, June 1996; posted on the CkngLght BB)
Vegetarian; GF option
This was garnering rave reviews on the Ckng Lght bulletin board and I understand why now.  It is simply delicious!  Any combination of veggies will do - my substitution is below.   I was going to add eggplant and totally brain-farted it.  I grilled the vegetables on an aluminum foil covered jelly roll pan for easy clean-up.  I served some steamed green beans along side. 

The bulletin board suggested quinoa and polenta as alternatives to the couscous, and I think polenta would be just divine as a base to the balsamic vinegar. 

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch slices
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces   10 - 12 cherry tomatoes, whole
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms
3 cups hot cooked couscous  (polenta a good sub for couscous
1 (3-ounce) package basil-flavored chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled  (I used regular goat cheese)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Fresh basil sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven (or grill) to 425°.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Add zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and mushrooms; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan. Bake (or grill) at 425° for 35 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring occasionally.

Spoon roasted vegetables over couscous, and top with cheese. Sprinkle with pepper. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired.

Not summer squash! 

Whole-Wheat, Buttermilk and Orange Pancakes  (Ckng Lght Oct 2013)  vegetarian
These are OMGosh! good!  Don't skip on the "orange butter" - it really brings the orange flavor right to the forefront in a very good way.  While 15 minutes may seem like a long time to let a batter sit, it's totally worth it.  I was able to tidy up dishes and get the griddle nicely pre-heated while waiting.  This made quite a bit for two of us, but I have no problem saving the leftover 'cakes and reheating later in the week.   Recommended!
photo from
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh orange juice                 
  • 3.5 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3.4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white (I just used the whole egg)                
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup                
  1. Combine first 3 ingredients.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine buttermilk, 1/4 cup juice, oil, and 1 egg in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist; let stand 15 minutes. Place egg white in a medium bowl; beat with a whisk until medium peaks form. Gently fold egg white into batter.
  3. Preheat a griddle to medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle. Cook 3 minutes or until edges begin to bubble and bottom is browned. Turn pancakes over; cook 3 minutes or until done. Serve with orange butter and syrup.

Lacto-fermented Summer Sqaush Chips  (Whole Foods Co-op, Sept 2013)
The first batch the husband made he cut back on the basil and it was still a bit overpowering for him.  I liked it.  The second batch was made with dill and we are still waiting to see how that turns out.  You do need to make sure you "burp" your jars: made correctly, this is an active process and gasses do build up. 

3 medium zucchini (we used yellow squash and patty pans)
1 head garlic, peeled and smashed
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh thyme leaves
1.5 T sea salt
1 C filtered water (more if needed)  **city water is chlorinated; the chlorine kills the bacteria
1 Qt Mason jar
Wash all equipment in hot soapy water and let dry before using. Slice zucchini into ¼" pieces. Layer sliced zucchini, garlic, basil, and thyme in jar. Combine salt and water (or whey, if using) and pour into jar. If needed, add more water until there is 1" of space on the top of jar. Screw lid on tightly and store at room temperature for 3-4 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes 1 quart.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (Dresden #8)

Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8)Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  There's no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.

As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it's all in a day's work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob...

Short review:  Harry faces impossible odds, fights dark nasties, is beaten up repeatedly and wins.  Again. 

Long review: Harry faces impossible odds, fights numerous evil nasties that make orcs look nice, is repeatedly beaten within an inch of his life, has a lemonade with the Summer Lady and her Knight, anguishes over the morality of using his powers, goes places he never thought to see, realizes he has friends in lots of places, stands up for what he believes in and - ultimately - wins.  Again.

Seriously, I'm not spoiling anything here.  If you've read Books 1-7 you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't read books 1-7 (and you don't have to since Butcher does bring the new reader up to speed in every. single. book in almost excruciating detail) you will soon understand what I'm talking about.

That being said, I think Proven Guilty is the most cohesive Dresden book yet.  The plot mechanics were simpler allowing the characters to really shine.  Harry brought in his friends to help so it was less of a Harry vs the Universe that was prevalent in past books.  It was engaging - things happened to the characters and it mattered - I cared.  I could empathize with this one on more than a my-brain-on-sugar level. I was rooting for the good guys, booing the bad and plugging the iPod in every time I had the chance.  If this had been a paper copy, I probably would have read it straight through.

Yes, this one was that good.  Recommended. 

View all my reviews

Monday, September 16, 2013

Recipe Review from 9/9/13

First frost of the season has touched our garden.  We covered the winter squash as we want to make sure it cures correctly for storage, but nothing else.  What with the non-existant spring, the garden is really behind in produce.  We were picking peas in August.  Cherry tomatoes never really did anything other than get bushy and green.  Swiss chard and kale will do fine with a kiss of frost.   Beans...wellll, we'll get a handful and that's about it.  We'll be starting garden take-down moving into October. 

Last week was an odd week that had either myself gone in the evening or the Husband, which called for simple meals.  We pulled out a old favorite, which I first blogged about in 2007! 

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Courgette Soup (Irish Pub Ckbk, pg 58)  gluten free, vegetarian option
This has become a regular in our house every late summer and early fall, when the summer squash is at its peak.  Super simple and great for lunch or supper with some crackers and cheese.   Bacon is fried in some olive oil to flavor the oil and then the bacon is removed for garnish later. Onion and summer squash (I've used patty pan, yellow and zucchini) are nicely browned and softened to which is added potatoes and chicken stock. Everything is brought to a vigorous simmer till the potatoes are done. Bring out the immersion blender! The contents of the pot are blended till smooth, to which half and half is added and brought to temp.  Blue cheese crumbles serve as a tangy garnish. This soup was even better in the following days as the flavors really melded. He wants to make this one again.

2 tbsp olive oil
5-6 streaky rashers (Traditional Irish Bacon), diced  or in our case, regular bacon, easily omitted  
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 medium zucchini, diced or sliced  (or summer squash)
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I use baby reds, unpeeled)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2/3 cup half in half  (I used maybe 1/2 cup)
4 oz blue cheese crumbles
fresh ground pepper
fresh parsley (for garnish)

1) In a large stockpot, heat the oil and fry the bacon until nearly crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside, reserving 2 tbsp bacon drippings.

2) Stir in onions, zucchini (or summer squash) and potatoes.  Cover and cook, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are soft but not browned.  Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for12-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3) Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Add half and half and pepper. Simmer until heated through.

4) Serve, garnished with bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and parsley, if desired.

On deck for review for next week:
Orange Buttermilk Pancakes (Ckng Lght Oct, 2013)
Summer Squash Quiche  (Whole Foods Co-op Flyer)
Basil Roasted Vegetables over Israeli Couscous  (Ckng Lght BB)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (Dresden #7)

Dead Beat (The Dresden Files, #7)Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  When a killer vampire threatens to destroy head of Special Investigations Karrin Murphy's reputation unless Harry delivers the powerful Word of Kemmler to her, he has no choice. Now Harry is in a race against time to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead.
The short review:  Harry goes up against impossible odds and survives.  Again.

The long review:  Harry goes up against impossible odds, doesn't realize his friends can make their own decisions, learns the hard way that he can't save everyone (again), kisses a girl, and kicks some dark wizardry butt (again) but this time with a zombie Tyranasaurus Rex named Sue.  Now that was pretty darn cool.

Butcher used an interesting take on necromancy and zombies that I found refreshing, doubly so since I'm not big on the whole zombie fetish right now. 

But I find that our wizard Dresden still has a massively over inflated ego, that only he and he alone can protect the whole of Chicago from the nasties and that only he knows what's best for his friends.  It's the World vs Dresden.  This becomes...annoying.

My other complaint (that I will write about) with this particular book is there is so much fantastical improbability happening it is impossible to even begin to describe it.  For a series that is pushing the bounds of plausibility this one went right over the proverbial the waterfall and left me bobbing around the pool snorting in derision and shaking my head in light disgust. 

That being said, I did enjoy the book (did I mention the Tyrannosaurus Rex?).  This is a straight-up your brain-on-sugar and caffeine kind of series.  As my friend continues to remind me - don't think, enjoy.

I agree.  Go forth and enjoy.   But don't think too hard about the plot. 

View all my reviews

Monday, September 9, 2013

Recipe Review from 9/2/13

A short week for me as I was on vacation at the start and had company out to the homestead at the end.  While I was on vacay, the Husband surprised me with lights in the garage and he had wired the garage door opener in the Man-barn.  Nice!   Boat also got a couple of repairs/upgrades done:  replacement windshield (original was broken); a sun shade installed, and the speedometer fixed.   Now we just need to find some time to take it out! 

We celebrated Mom's birthday with a Southern inspired Low-Country Boil:
Frogmore Stew (Ckng Ligh Sept 2006)   gluten free**
I have been waiting for an opportunity to make this since I saw the recipe in 2006 and then went to a Low Country Boil when we visited Edisto Island.  I invited the Folks and my youngest sister and family out and needed a simple meal that was mostly gluten free (she is GF to control severe allergies).  This fit the bill perfectly.  

The seasonings were fantastic!  The corn and potatoes especially picked up the nuances of the spices without being overwhelming. I did change the order of boiling because I have never had corn on the cob cook in four minutes and be ready to eat. 

We rounded out the meal with GF cornbread and the Tangy Coleslaw (recipe follows).  GF brownies for dessert.  If you have more time, a pecan pie would have been the perfect compliment to this Southern inspired meal.
  • 3 quarts water 
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 (12-ounce) cans beer**  (skip the beer and use chicken stock if need to be 110% gluten free)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 pound low-fat smoked sausage or low-fat kielbasa (such as Hillshire Farms), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 4 ears shucked corn, halved crosswise (I cut mine in thirds - easier to serve and eat)
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, unpeeled
Bring first 10 ingredients to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot. Add red potatoes and sausage; cook for 12 minutes. Add corn, and cook for 4 minutes. Add shrimp, and cook for 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Drain and discard bay leaves.

My directions - Once water is boiling, add corn and potatoes, cook for at least 20 minutes. Add kielbasa/sausage, cook for 4 minutes.  Add shrimp, cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and serve.   

Tangy Mustard Coleslaw (Ckng Lght July 09)  vegetarian, gluten free
I love a good coleslaw.  Most of what you get eating out is not a good coleslaw and some cases, downright inedible.  I'm coming round to preferring a coleslaw that isn't swimming in mayo - a light creamy dressing that compliments the cabbage and carrots, or even a vinaigrette dressing.  

This one was excellent - minimal mayo and tangy mustard allow the bright colors and flavors of the cabbage and carrots to shine through.  It was the perfect compliment to the Frogmore Stew above. 
  • 7 cups finely shredded green cabbage - about 1/2 head.  (I used 1/4 head
  • I added about 2 cups red cabbage for color 
  • 1 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion (skipped)
  • 1 cup grated carrot 
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  1. Combine cabbage, onion, and 1 cup carrot in a large bowl. Combine white wine vinegar, sugar, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add the mustard mixture to cabbage mixture, and toss well to coat. Cover and chill for 20 minutes. Stir before serving.

And one recipe from a couple weeks ago (pre-vacation):

Blackened Chicken Salad with Blue-Cheese Vinaigrette  (Ckng Lght Sept 2013)   gluten free
This was outstanding.  Comes together very quickly, tastes great, and is perfect for a hot summer evening.  Perfect for any evening, really.  It comes together that fast. I had just a couple small tweeks:  I grilled the chicken rather than pan fry and I used Swiss Chard instead of romaine lettuce. 
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves 
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 heads romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise 
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  1. Combine first 7 ingre­dients in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken evenly with paprika mixture. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 5 minutes; cut across the grain into thin slices.
  2. Combine oil and next 5 ingredients (through 1/8 teaspoon salt) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in cheese.
  3. Place 1 lettuce half and 1/4 cup tomatoes on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 1 sliced chicken breast half, and drizzle each with about 1 1/2 tablespoons vinaigrette.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games #3)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans - except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. she must become the rebels' Mockingjay - no matter what the personal cost.

I think my problem with the whole Hunger Games series is it's being touted as young adult, but it really leans more toward "adult" book given the themes, violence and plot.  Just because a book has 17 year old protagonists doesn't automatically make it YA in my opinion, and I know this has been brought up on panels at science fiction conventions. And it's a bit disturbing to know that there are now "Hunger Games camps" springing up.

In book one, Catniss is established as being a very self reliant, independent, young woman who does what is necessary to protect her family and friends in harsh conditions.  By book number three, she's a basket case who can't make up her mind who she loves, freaks when people lie to her (um, hello? she's been lied to her entire life...) and doesn't trust those she grew up trusting.  I've read some reviews saying oh yes, classic PSTD, all very realistic.  But this plot device has made her into a drama-queen putz who can use her trauma as an excuse for poor behavior  rather than the dominant young woman she started out being.

Yet later in the book she's suddenly in charge of a small group of soldiers as they make their way through the Captitol, hunted by mutts, which shows flashes to that book one personality.  As a reader, how am I supposed to accept these whiplash like changes in the protagonist?  From my viewpoint, it's not growth of character being demonstrated, it's the author unable to make up her mind if she wants the protagonist to be a leader or a puppet.

Her only purpose in the book, from my perspective, was to become badly injured, be nursed back to health, allowed to roam around aimlessly until freaking out and requiring sedation until the next round of being injured. 

My other issue was with the audiobooks - and I've mentioned this in a earlier reviews - is the narrator.  The Over. En.unc.ia.tion. Of. Every. Thing.  that grated on the nerves.  

But despite my numerous complaints - and I'm not going to vent about them all here - in the end, I was entertained.  Recommended with reservations.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Worldcon 2013: San Antonio

You all can go to Hell, I shall go to Texas.  David Crockett

Labor Day weekend found me on another Grand Adventure!  This time to San Antonio, TX, for the 71st World Science Fiction Convention.  My friend and I made a road trip of it, spending two days on each end driving through the heart of the states.  For myself, I got to travel close to the entire distance of Interstate 35, which starts in Duluth and ends at the Gulf of Mexico.  Didn't make to to the Gulf, but darn close in my opinion!  Very cool.

I'll leave out the very long drive and just say I saw some very interesting things like the Flint Hills of Kansas,  Arbuckle Mountains in Oklahoma, Kansas City at night, part of the Mormon trail, longhorn cattle, buffalo, nice waysides, not so good waysides, and some others that are eluding my sleep deprived brain right now.

We arrived in San Antonio late afternoon on Wednesday, checked into the hotel, got our convention information, and went in quest of dinner.  The convention center and hotel were located right on San Antonio's famous Riverwalk and I spent nearly every non-convention moment outside enjoying this great resource. 

Riverwalk in the morning before the weekend crowds.

Thursday morning before it got too warm (warm being 80*F/26*C at 930am) we did a lengthy walk around the Riverwalk in the immediate area, then went and toured the Alamo before heading off to convention panels.
The Alamo at night.

Thursday I attended:
Fantastic LondonLondon has inspired many fantasy writers and continues to do so.  What is it that intrigues us?
What Makes a Review Great?  Many of us rely on reviews to point us at new authors and new and interesting work from people whose work we know. What makes a review useful, entertaining, or great?  Who is reviewing different from criticism, and where should be go to find the the best of each? 
Self Promotion: Everything You Know About It is Wrong. Done properly, self-promotion is an important part of building a career.  Poorly excecuted, self promotion can do more harm than good.  How is the conventional wisdom wrong?  What are the more advisable but underrated neglected approaches. 

AND!  Best of all!  A GHOST TOUR!  Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours of San Antonio do a walking tour of the historic and haunted buildings of downtown San Antonio.  While the group was rather large (upwards of 50 people), it was still well done and interesting.

San Fernando Cathedral.  Haunted! 

Friday I attended:
Knitters GroupSelf explanatory. 
The History of TexasAn overview of the history of the great state of Texas. We learn what makes it unique within the history of the US, Mexico and the world at large.  
Klingon Language LectureDr. Lawrence Schoen may be a Hugo and Nebula nominated author, but he's also the founder and director of the Klingon Language Institute, where for more than 20 years he's been promoting the warrior's tongue around the globe.  
Ravelry MeetupMore knitting. 
The Romance of Military SF. What draws and attracts readers to military SF?  Is it the romance? The sound of laser blasting?  We hear discussion from several purveyors and enthusiasts of the subgenre. 

Friday we discovered the very under utilized indoor/outdoor pool on the seventh floor of the hotel.  Nice way to unwind after a busy day.

Saturday I attended:
History of San AntonioA general overview of the history of San Antonio, including it's most famous landmark, The Alamo. 

Then I went for a walk and browsed the craft vendors set up along the Riverwalk. 

SFF South of the (US) Border:  Mexican SF and Fantastic Fiction.  Bruce Sterling wrote "Mexican SF is intensely fantastic, but it's not very sci-fi.   It's a New World science fiction without the stabilizing presence of engineers and American gadget magazines.  Explore what's going on south of the Rio Grande and see how it lines up with this assessment. 
Novels You Should Have Read since Chicon 7 (Chicago Worldcon).
Famous Last Stands: The Alamo, Masada and Thermopylae. The Alamo is one of the most famous historic memorials in the US. How does the battle here compare with similar past events.  How did these events change history?  Could it have been avoided?  Should it have been avoided?
Space Opera: More than Mind Candy?  After our panelists finish defining Space Opera and their favorites, we get down to the brass tacks:  is it just entertainment?  Can it have predictive value?  Discuss socially relevant issues?  What gems are often overlooked?  What about this subgenre is so inspiring or even aspirational? 

I was going to participate in a "Walk with the Authors" to the Alamo, but upon finding another group of 50+, I bailed and did the San Antonio Trolly Tour.  Wish I had done that earlier.

One of four Missions found in the San Antonio area.

But is it Science Fiction?  Why do some reviewers, authors and academics seem to confuse the sub-genre of space opera with the entire field of SF?  What do mainstream authors miss when the write SF without being aware of what's already been written? How can SF authors gain credibility in winder literary circles, or is it even important to do so?
Space is Really the Old West. Wagon train to the stars is a familiar trope in SF.  Immense distances of space form obstacles and difficulties analogous to those encountered by settlers as they crossed and colonized the continent.  Is space any different? 
Consider Iain M. Banks.  Writer or SF and especially space opera.  Did he build a utopia you'd want to live in?  He set out to "reclaim space opera". Did he succeed?  
Almost Nominated.  We all know who made the Hugo Nominee list this eyar.  But what about those who were just a few points shy of the list?  

 Then I went for another walk about the Riverwalk.  Hard to stay inside when it's 90*/28* and sunny!

We skipped sitting through the Hugo Awards this year and opted for a swim instead.  We chose wisely.  

And Monday we were on the road again by 7am for the return journey home.  First nights destination was North of Kansas City.  Tuesday I was back in Duluth by 700pm.  Lotta miles in those two days!

Great trip, would love to go back to San Antonio as a tourist.  The next Worldcon will be Spokane in 2015! 

Ya'll come back now! 

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