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Monday, December 30, 2013

Recipe Review from 12/23/13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Monster Hunters International by Larry Corriea

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

Business is good . . .Welcome to Monster Hunter International

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

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

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

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

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Recipe Reveiw from 12/16/13

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

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

This recipe is a good one! 

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, recommended.    

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Recipe Review from 12/9/13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie: The Hobbit - the Desolation of Smaug

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended with reservations.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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

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

Book number two in the series. 

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

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

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

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Monday, December 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use a 4 quart slow cooker. 

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

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

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

Taste-test a noodle to check texture.

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

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

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Deal Breaker by Harlen Coben

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Monday, December 2, 2013

Edisto Island. South Carolina, 2013

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

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

View from our unit at Wyndham "The Marshes".

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nary a snowflake to be seen! 

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

Classic Carriage Company, Charleston, SC

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

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

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