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Monday, April 29, 2013

Recipe Review from 4/22/13

We started the week with 8-12" of snow - not kidding!  Barnes and Nobles shut at 8p which messed up bookgroup plans!  And ended with temperatures hitting 60*F (15*C).   Once the grill is free of it's winter blanket and we can evict the mice, grilling will feature in my recipe reviews.

This post actually wraps up April's new recipes. Overall a pretty good month recipe wise - lots of good dishes that I hope to have again.  

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls (Ckng Lght 2007)       vegetarian
Sunday is traditionally Pancake Day in our household, but lately I've been craving something a bit different.  With temps still hovering around 20*F (-5*C), I thought this would be a good time to explore homemade cinnamon rolls.  After a quick bit of research, I found this recipe.

It actually comes together fairly quickly, and, as with most homemade breads, the wait is in the rise-time.  Where I deviated from the recipe was in the second rise, because who really wants to wait three hours for homemade cinnamon rolls in the morning?  I made the recipe as directed below, but when it came time for the second rise, I popped the whole pan, covered, into the fridge.  There it would slowly rise over night (about 15 hours).  I pulled the rolls out in the morning, let sit for about an hour to warm a bit, then baked. 

photo from
  • 1 1/2 packages dry yeast (about 3 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 large egg white 
  • 11.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups), divided
  • 7 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Cooking spray
  • Filling:
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup raisins (bleh...)
  • Glaze:
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons fat-free milk
  1. To prepare dough, dissolve yeast in warm milk and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add butter and next 5 ingredients (through egg white); stir well. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface.
  2. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; roll into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Coat surface of dough with cooking spray.
  3. To prepare filling, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; sprinkle over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle raisins over dough, pressing gently into dough. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam to seal. Cut the dough into 16 rolls. Place the rolls, cut sides up, in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size
  4. NOTE - this is where I covered and put into the fridge.  I made these at 3pm in the afternoon, let sit overnight, brought to room temp (about 1 hour), and then proceeded.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°.
  6. Uncover rolls. Bake at 375° for 22 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  7. To prepare glaze, place powdered sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Add 5 teaspoons milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring to form a thick glaze. Drizzle glaze evenly over rolls.  I skipped the glaze.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder (Virga #1)

Sun of Suns (Virga, #1)Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

 Jacket Blurb:  It is the distant future. The world known as Virga is a fullerene balloon three thousand kilometers in diameter, filled with air, water, and aimlessly floating chunks of rock. The humans who live in this vast environment must build their own fusion suns and "towns" that are in the shape of enormous wood and rope wheels that are spun for gravity.

Young, fit, bitter, and friendless, Hayden Griffin is a very dangerous man. He's come to the city of Rush in the nation of Slipstream with one thing in mind: to take murderous revenge for the deaths of his parents six years ago. His target is Admiral Chaison Fanning, head of the fleet of Slipstream, which conquered Hayden's nation of Aerie years ago. And the fact that Hayden's spent his adolescence living with pirates doesn't bode well for Fanning's chances . . .

Normally, by the time I finish a book I have an idea of what I want to say.  Or I've made a few notes along the way to help facilitate my final thoughts and opinions.  With Sun of Sun's I find I'm struggling with what to say, so I'm going to be a bit more methodical in my review. 

World setting - Virga is an absolutely fascinating setting.  A "planet" of air, with a central mechanical "sun" called Candence.  Smaller cities can build their own suns and live out in "winter", which are areas far enough away from Candence as to need their own light and power source.  There appears to be one entry and exit in and out of this self contained bubble that most people are unaware of.  People flit about via air bikes, feet fins, and larger motorized vessels.  Cities are strung together by rope and wood.  Water droplets can condense into balls the size of boulders and larger and pose a serious threat to the cities and other structures.  This whole thing is just cool.  A unique take on the steampunk genre.

My issues - There seems to be a significant amount of wood, and I was struggling to figure out how this much wood can be grown in this environment when water and air is governed by air currents.   And the air - how do they manage to keep the oxygen from being depleted?  Where does the moisture come from?  I can totally understand plants can be grown by hydroponics, but to be self sufficient when everything is just sort of floating around in this massive bubble took a leap of believability that I just couldn't manage.

The Hero - Hayden Griffon watched his mother and the rebels of the city Aerie prematurely light a sun and blow themselves up instead of being captured by the forces of Slipstream.  Hayden has nursed his grudge against Chaning for 8 (?) years and is now within reach of killing the man who killed his mother.

My issues - I couldn't empathize with our young hero.  He is a young, ignorant, backwater plebe who finds out the world is bigger than his grudge. 

The Plot - Our young Hero is swept up into a series of events from which he manages to miraculously escape against improbable odds.

My issues -  Our young Hero is swept up into a series of events from which he manages to miraculously escape against improbable odds and in the end, well, it was mostly predictable.

So there were aspects I liked - the world setting, a touch of steampunk, pirates (oh yes! pirates!) and space battles that felt like a scene out of Master and Commander.  And aspects I didn't - the main character and his motivations. 

Recommended with reservations.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Recipe Review from 4/15/13

We ended the week with more snow.

The grill off our front steps...I guess we won't be grilling anytime soon.

4' snow drift that goes around 3 sides of the house.  Dog houses are completely buried.

No, Ben did not shove Andy into the snowbank...

Trout Chowder  (Angry Trout Cafe via Mpls Star Trib, July 2012)  Vegetarian
This was very easy to assemble.  If you have a fishmonger, you could even have them remove the bones, skin the fish and chop it into bite sized pieces.  Which brings me to the question, who actually has a fishmonger?  Anyway,  a bit of chopping, a bit of sauteing, a brief boil and then a simmer.  Add the roux to thicken and wah-la! Soup!  Very good soup too.  This made enough for 6 lunches.

4 c. vegetable stock
2 1/2 c. diced yukon gold or red potatoes (I used yukon)
1 c. diced carrots
4 tbsp butter, divided
1/4 c. chopped red onion (I used regular yellow)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 c. celery rib,diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried dill
salt and white pepper to taste
8 oz Lake Trout, scales and bones removed and cut into bite sized pieces
3 tbsp flour
3/4 c. half n half
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring vegetable stock to a boil.  Add potatoes and carrots, reduce heat to a low simmer until tender.  In a pan over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp butter. Saute onion, garlic, and celery until tender, then add to stock.  Add bay leaf, dill, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add trout and simmer until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Stir gently to avoid breaking up fragile chunks of fish.

In a pan over medium heat, melt remaining 2 tbsp butter.  Add flour and whisk about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and gradually add 1/2 n 1/2, whisking constantly until smooth. Add roux mixture to soup, stirring gently.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook until soup is just about to boil.  Remove from head, season, garnish with parsley and serve.

Stove-top Mac and Cheese  (Ckng Lght Apr 2013)   Vegetarian
Easy, incredibly quick, and tasted like a Southern Style mac-n-cheese, which to this Northern Girl is very creamy and a bit bland.  I have absolutely no complaints about this recipe.  Great, simple comfort food for a chilly evening.
  • 8 ounces large elbow macaroni 
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • 3 ounces light processed cheese, shredded (such as Velveeta Light; about 3/4 cup)
  • 2.5 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2/3 cup) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. While pasta cooks, combine milk, flour, and peppers in a large saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook for 4 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat. Add cheeses and salt; stir until smooth. Add pasta, and stir to coat. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over top; broil 2 minutes or until browned.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Second Winter

40 mph winds.  
12" of heavy, wet, snow. 
Husband got stuck in our driveway.

Welcome to the 29th Day of Spring.   

The Killing Floor by Lee Child

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, #1)Killing Floor by Lee Child

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 Book blurb: Welcome to Margrave, Georgia—but don't get too attached to the townsfolk, who are either in on a giant conspiracy, or hurtling toward violent deaths, or both.

There's not much of a welcome for Jack Reacher, a casualty of the Army's peace dividend who's drifted into town idly looking for traces of a long dead black jazzman. Not only do the local cops arrest him for murder, but the chief of police turns eyewitness to place him on the scene, even though Reacher was getting on a bus in Tampa at the time. Two surprises follow: The murdered man wasn't the only victim, and he was Reacher's brother whom he hadn't seen in seven years. So Reacher, who so far hasn't had anything personal against the crooks who set him up for a weekend in the state pen at Warburton, clicks into overdrive.

Banking on the help of the only two people in Margrave he can trust—a Harvard-educated chief of detectives who hasn't been on the job long enough to be on the take, and a smart, scrappy officer who's taken him to her bed— he sets out methodically in his brother's footsteps, trying to figure out why his cellmate in Warburton, a panicky banker whose cell-phone number turned up in Joe's shoe, confessed to a murder he obviously didn't commit; trying to figure out why all the out-of-towners on Joe's list of recent contacts were as dead as he was; and trying to stop the local carnage or at least direct it in more positive ways. Though the testosterone flows as freely as printer's ink, Reacher is an unobtrusively sharp detective in his quieter moments—not that there are many of them to judge by.

Despite the crude, tough-naïf narration, debut novelist Child serves up a big, rangy plot, menace as palpable as a ticking bomb, and enough battered corpses to make an undertaker grin.

Winner of the 1998 Barry Award for Best First Novel, awarded by Deadly Pleasures magazine.

Read as an audiobook.  My first comment actually has nothing to do with the book itself, but I spent disk one wondering where I had heard this particular narrator before (Dick Hill) and was delighted when I figured out it was the Wallander books by Henning Mankell.  Now the downside to this is in my head, the narrators voice “belongs” to Kurt Wallander, not Jack Reacher, so initially it was a bit of a disconnect for me.  However, Dick Hill does voices so incredibly well that it was not a problem moving into the rest of the book.

Narrator aside, I was immediately drawn in and thought the opening chapters were a unique way to start a murder-mystery.  I couldn't think of a similar book where the protagonist starts by getting thrown into jail. 

I have several complaints with the book, starting with the romance.  The basis of the attraction didn't seem plausible - the female cop finds Reacher attractive, they flirt while he's behind bars (unwashed, unshaven, in well worn travel clothes, and accused of murder) and after he is released, they tumble into bed because he had 'nice eyes'.  Alll right-y then.  Complaint number two - the implausibility that Reacher would be taken as quickly as he was into the confidence and subsequent murder investigation.  He basically had the freedom to come and go from the police station as he wished.  Next issue: Roscoe (the love interest) just happens to have a Desert Eagle pistol locked in her desk.  Major snort factor here - compensating for anything in particular are we to give the protagonist one of the largest handguns in existence?  Like a Glock or Ruger wouldn't have been just as adequate.   I did say I had several complaints....Reacher doesn't have ID.  So how the heck did he manage to fly to NY city and back to Atlanta?  Teeny little detail there.  Oh! Snort factor number two!  The perps are running around with one of the most powerful shotguns - an Ithica Mag 10.  Can we get any larger in the massive weapons category?  Ahahahaha!

Complaints aside, I liked this one.  I liked the methodical way the plot was rolled out, it was an interesting topic, not a lot of stupid action scenes, and I could deal with the predictability of the plot.  Which I can't talk about lest I spoil the whole book.


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Monday, April 15, 2013

Recipe Review from 4/8/2013

 Snowed again.  Warmer weather has got to be around the corner somewhere...

Meanwhile, we cook warm things inside, because it sure as heck isn't warm outside: 

Classic Light Bolognese Lasagna  (Ckng Lght March 2013)
Not sure why I've been on a lasagna kick, but this will probably be my last for a while.  It was a lot putzier than the previous two, even with the no-boil noodles. This does make a 9x13 pan, but I put it into two smaller pans and froze one.

I also brain-farted that it called for ground turkey and bought a 12 oz package of hot Italian sausage instead, which, in hindsight meant I really didn't need the pancetta, but I used it anyway.  I also skipped the milk because I was nearly out, and added a cup of chicken stock.  I had some leftover cottage cheese that needed to be used, so I added that with the ricotta mixture.

Ultimately, by the time everything was chopped and diced and sauted and simmered, I had time to clean up the kitchen before final assembly, then time to check e-mail while it baked.  I did bake covered, for 30 minutes, without the mozzarella; then removed, added the cheese and baked uncovered for about 10 more minutes.  Covering helps soften those no-boil noodles to the perfect al dente consistency. 

End result - a bit runny for my tastes.  Even with sitting for 10 minutes. We'll see what the leftovers are like.

photo from
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion 
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrot 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted tomato paste
  • 1 ounce diced pancetta
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast 12 oz hot Italian sausage
  • 1/4 cup white wine 
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese  (I used the whole tub)
  • 6 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided (about 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 
  • Cooking spray 
  • 6 cooked lasagna noodles 1 pgk no-boil noodles
  1. Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor; pulse until coarsely ground. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add tomato paste and pancetta; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add turkey, and cook for 4 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add wine; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add onion mixture, salt, and next 3 ingredients (through black pepper) to pan, and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add milk and basil; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.  
  2. Preheat oven to 425°.
  3. Combine ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and egg in a small bowl.
  4. Spread 3/4 cup turkey mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9–inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over turkey mixture; top with half of remaining turkey mixture and half of ricotta mixture. Repeat layers once, ending with ricotta mixture. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella evenly over top. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes.
  5.  Preheat broiler to high. (Keep lasagna in oven.)
  6.  Broil lasagna for 2 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

It's snowing...AGAIN

Make it stop! Make it stop! Make it STOP!

This is the view out of my departments office on 6th floor.  Somewhere beyond the white stuff is Wisconsin.  The buses have been pulled. The city is advising no travel.  The wind gusts off The Lake are being clocked at 40mph and higher.  I'm getting ready to make the 25 mile drive home.

I hope I can get up the hill...


Taken 2007 from the same window.  Last ship of the season coming in early January.  This is what the view would look like without all that white stuff.

Though I am very thankful I don't live in Mississipi or Arkansas....

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 Jacket Blurb: What if someone discovers your secret dream, that one great wish you would give anything for? And what if that person makes your dream come true—before you learn the price you have to pay? Something Wicked This Way Comes is the story of two boys who encounter the sinister wonders of Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show. They will soon discover the show's awful mystery—a mystery that will change the life of every person it touches—in this stunning masterwor of dark fantasy by Ray Bradbury.

A Classic of this nature one simply does not 'review'.  I'll leave that to the Literature courses found in schools and higher education institutions.  This is more my observations and thoughts on this particular Bradbury story.   

I "read" this as an audiobook.  The narrators voice added a delightful intensity to the dark subject matter of time, the passing of innocence, aging and death. He brought to life the characters of Will and Jim, the anguish of Mr. Halloway, and the shadowy world of Mr. Dark the Illustrated Man.  A good narrator draws you into the story that you just can't get from pages in a book.

In all honesty, I really waffled between being totally blown away by Bradbury's use of the English language to describe and illuminate, and being bored by his over use of the English language to describe and illuminate. I think his penchant for simile becomes annoying in a longer story.

Additionally, are several points in the book where the characters talk at great length about the state of affairs and in Bradbury's very flowing and almost flowery language, it becomes...pontification.  And yes, I recognize that it is a reflection of the times in which Bradbury lived, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  Appreciate it, yes, enjoy as part of the story, not so much.

Acknowledging the time period in which this was written, and having just read the Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 in the last 6 months, I am amused by the behavior of small boys as portrayed in these stories.  Perpetually smart, incredibly polite, minding their Sir's and Ma'am's, but yet still managing to be 13 year old boys by sneaking out windows, running around at 3am in the morning, and doing their utmost to protect their mama's. The smartness factor had me rolling my eyes a bit, as it does in Heinlein's books, with the expectations that all children should be highly educated and perfectly behaved.

And - my personal quirk - another reason why not to like carnies...they are just creepy.  I've not seen the movie adaptation of the book.  Torn between wanting to and meh, read the book attitude. 

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Recipe Review from 4/1/13

A surprisingly busy week that had our household going in opposite directions for most of it.  I participated in my work's quarterly blood drive (I'm starting gallon #5!), the Husband was off to the credit union's annual meeting, Ben-dog was in for his yearly dental cleaning, I subbed two extra yoga classes in addition to my usual four...yeah.  Busy, busy week.

And then it SNOWED again.  Bother.

Day 16 of Spring in Northern MN

The Husband is making progress on getting the ice and construction debris cleaned out of the man barn. As temps warm up, the ice on the floor is melting, and he's trying to prevent the nails and sawdust from going down the drain.

The Husband was in charge of lunches and meals last week and he made TWO new recipes.

Bell Pepper Corn Soup (Eating Richly Blog)  Vegan and GF
The Husband picked this recipe and made it for our lunches.  I was unable to talk him into guest blogging, but will quote him as saying: "Aahhh...I cooked it and [the Wife] said it was good."

It was really good actually.  Flavors reminiscent of creamed corn, a bit of tang from the peppers, and just a hint of sweetness from the celery.  I had some leftover basmati rice in the fridge which I tossed on top of my lunch and I thought that was really outstanding.

2 TBS olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cups finely chopped bell peppers
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery (our addition)
2 cups frozen corn
4 cups vegetable stock
4 sprigs thyme (additional to garnish)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium high.  When it shimmers, add red onion, bell peppers and garlic.  Stir to coat and cook 3-5 minutes until softened.  Add frozen corn and stir again, let cook another 3 minutes.
Add vegetable stock and leaves from four thyme sprigs and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer 10 minutes.  Remove 2 cups of the soup and puree with an immersion blender.  Add red pepper flakes, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to the puree.

Return puree to the soup pot and stir.  Serve garnished with fresh thyme

Honey Bacon Mustard Chicken Strips  (   Gluten free (watch the mustard ingred.)
Husband selected and made this dish as well.  He didn't have any comments so I'll fill in:  this came together very quickly.  He served it over pasta, so he started the pasta (campanelle) before cooking the chicken.  This turned out awesome.  I loved the tangy-sweetness of the honey-mustard sauce over the chicken and noodles.  This could easily be served over rice, or oven roasted veggies like carrots, zucchini, and sweet potatoes.  Definitely thicken the honey-mustard sauce, but our chicken never did get to the 'blacken and sticky stage'...actually that sounds a bit unappealing.  Our sauce was gravy thick and nothing blackened.

Photo by ScifiwithPaprika.

2 lbs chicken breast (we used one package of three)
2 teaspoons bacon fat (we have some rendered in a jar in the fridge for things like this)
3 tablespoons mustard (Husband used Honey-Dijon mustard)
2 tablespoons honey (Husband cut back to 1 tbsp because of the honey already in the mustard)
1 teaspoon salt 
pepper, to taste

1) Cut thawed chicken breast into strips 2 inches thick.
2) Melt bacon fat into pan. (recipe author noted: I usually grill up some bacon to garnish the chicken with. That amount of fat will do.)
3) Add chicken to pan while hot and fry for 2 minutes.
4) After two minutes, add the mustard and honey sauce. If you need more, add more. Sprinkle salt over chicken.
5) Continue cooking until the chicken is done. A great aroma will start to come from the chicken and it will start to blacken and get sticky on some parts.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Private detective/wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden is suckered into tangling in the affairs of Faerie, where the fate of the entire world-and his soul-are at stake.

Rather than our overworked wizard, Harry Dresden, getting into trouble over his head, he starts out in trouble - right from the first toad falling from the sky and things just go splat from there.  The White Council is predisposed to handing his skinny ass over to the vampires in retribution for starting a war and to rid themselves of a troublemaker.  The Faires expect him to stop a war.  The werewolves want to help him - I think I've noted in one of my past reviews (Grave Peril maybe?) that this series is starting to skirt the line with being overly dramatic.  Again I ask, really, how much can one wizard take physically and emotionally?  Well, apparently he has super-human coping abilities as well as super wizard abilities.

My other issue (well...I have more than one issue, but we are not talking High Fantasy here) with this installment resides with the brief appearance of Karrin Murphy, our mortal cop and detective.  He brings her into his confidence, manages to get her knee broken while fighting the baddies, and now she's out of the picture.  We won't get to find out how she fares until the next book.  Annoying.  On the positive side of character development, the author brings back the Alpha's a young pack of werewolves that have matured.  They help Harry as much as Harry helps them and I liked that kind of character growth.

Anyway, coping gripes and characters aside, I loved the quips in this one.  One favorite:  Bob the Skull to Harry, “Here's where I ask why don't you spend your time doing something safer and more boring. Like maybe administering suppositories to rabid gorillas.” 

Great comments combined with a fast pace had me whipping through this in a couple of days and wanting book #5 right now

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Recipe Review from 3/25/13

I fit in a couple new recipes this past week before I headed down to the Cities for my yearly SciFi convention.   I was able to find time to visit with the youngest Sis's family and this little guy!  He's all bundled up 'cause he's fighting an ear infection.

Easter 2013

[Turkey] Sausage and Spinach Lasagna (Ckng Lght Mar, 2013)  Can be vegetarian if substitute tempeh for sausage; Can be GF if substitute noodles and alternative thickener for the flour. 

My only substitute in this recipe was the Italian sausage - I can buy just 2 links in regular sausage whereas I have to buy a package of 6 in turkey.  I don't want 4 leftover sausages languishing in the freezer.  Otherwise, this does come together rather quickly.  While the white sauce is thickening, I got the spinach started (an aside - I do think a package of frozen spinach, thawed,  would work just as well in this dish as fresh), then just sauteed the sausage with the shallots and garlic rather than separately.  Seemed stupid to do otherwise.  I used 9 no-boil noodles as they weren't long enough to cover the end of the pan, so I just shortened three noodles for full coverage.

I really liked the flavors of this one. Not overwhelmingly 'sausagey' or cheesy, but a nice compliment of flavors.  Kitchen was cleaned up by the time we sat down to eat.  This will make about three meals for us - again, love the 7x11 size! 
photo by
  • 1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh spinach
  • 2 (4-ounce) links hot turkey Italian sausage  (I used 2 links regular sausage)
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 6 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 ounce shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through bay leaf) in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook 8 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in salt and pepper. Spread 1 cup milk mixture in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons water and spinach to pan; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain spinach, pressing until barely moist. Increase heat to medium-high. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan. Add shallots and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in remaining milk mixture, spinach, and cooked sausage. Remove pan from heat.
  4. Arrange 2 noodles over milk mixture in baking dish; top with 1/2 cup ricotta and one-third spinach mixture. Repeat layers twice. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 40 minutes. Remove foil.
  5. Preheat broiler to high.
  6. Broil 4 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes.
Krista Ackerbloom Montgomery,

South Indian Squash Curry (Penzey's Spring 2013 catalog)   GF, Vegetarian
I used squash instead of sweet potatoes because I had some in the freezer.  I halved the recipe because I was serving over rice and this was going to make a lot (full recipe listed below).  Besides, I don't think they meant one of my "large" squashes at 6lbs...

Anyway, this was a winner - it comes together so fast it's almost silly and there is even time to clean up the kitchen before sitting down for dinner.  I made some basmati rice ahead of time so it was waiting for the main dish.  My cilantro went compost-y so that was omitted.  The leftover can of coconut milk went into the next morning's smoothies.  A half recipe made enough for two meals for two of us. 

1 large butternut squash (or 4 medium sweet potatoes)  About 4 heaping cups squash.
1 TB. flaked almonds 
2 TB. oil (Jordan uses sunflower oil) 
2 medium onions, chopped 
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced (or 1/2 tsp. CRUSHED RED PEPPERS) 
3/4 Cup coconut milk (about 1/2 of a standard 14.5 oz. can) 
1-11/2 Cups baby spinach, roughly chopped  
2 TB. fresh cilantro, chopped

1) Peel the squash or sweet potatoes. Discard the seeds and cut the flesh into 1-inch pieces. Toast the almonds in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes and set aside. 

2) Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions until lightly browned, stirring regularly, 12-15 minutes. 

3) Add the GARLIC, GINGER, chili, CORIANDER, CUMIN, MUSTARD SEEDS and TURMERIC. Reduce heat to low and cook until fragrant, 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly.

4) Add the squash or sweet potatoes and coconut milk. Stir and cover, simmer for 20 minutes until just tender. 

5) Add the spinach and cilantro, and stir until the spinach is just wilted. Serve with rice, topped with almonds. Naan bread and a yogurt/cucumber/tomato raita salad are nice on the side.

Prep. time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Serves: 6

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