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Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)On Basilisk Station by David Weber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  Honor Harrington in trouble: Having made him look the fool, she's been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin by a superior who hates her. Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship's humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station. The aborigines of the system's only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens. Parliament isn't sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling, the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called "Republic" of Haven is Up to Something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn't work to police the entire star system. But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They've made her mad.

This was July's bookgroup selection and my second time reading it.

The question that begs to be asked is, Did Star Trek ruin "battle" scenes?  Can one have a scifi battle scene on a ship that does not involve the Captain calling the engine room and asking for a status on the failing engines and having the person in said engine room, respond back, "She's giving everything she's got!"  and the Captian demanding "Dammit! I need more power!" and the poor engineer going, "Okay! I'll do what I can!"  as the ship lurches and shakes from the impact of being hit?

Okay, rant aside, this was a decent "intro" book.  By intro book I am referring to a book that sets up the universe and as I have recently learned, this has become a very established .  As I noted, this was my second time reading this and I might be looking at this a bit more critically than I would a first read.

I felt the character building was pretty good.  Our heroine, Honor, is slowly climbing the ranks in the Navy, has a back bone, and yet you see glimpses of doubt and fear.  We are given to understand she is not one of the "privileged" lord-lings automatically given rank.

I thought the premise of the book, the point that instigated the plot, was rather weak.  Honor is assigned to the HMS Fearless, a ship that has been refitted with some alternate weaponry not appropriate to the size and class of ship, and then participates in battle training exercises.  Her ship fails miserably and she is banished to the outskirts of the system with a crew that now despises her for their when they all knew it was the new weaponry.

Right.  A bit implausible that the Captain would be thrown under the proverbial train for a weapon's system that everyone knew would fail anyway.

My other criticism of the book was the overly long expository explanations.  The "world building" aspect so to speak.  If the author knew at the time that this was more than a single book, he could have spread out the descriptive narrative.  I found my self skipping pages to get back to the meat of the book.

Overall, a well written military science fiction book.  Recommended.





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Monday, August 26, 2013

Recipe Review from 8/26/13

Not much to report on the home front this week.  It's been hot (for us) and it hasn't rained in four weeks or more.  Garden is green, but it's going to be a so-so year produce-wise.  Items coming on are: peas, Swiss Chard, kale, summer squash, acorn squash (which wasn't what we wanted) and berries.  Maybe's are the cherry tomatoes and corn.  Probably not gonna happen are the dried beans and green beans.  Poo. 

We discovered that the butternut squash plants that we bought were indeed not butternut squash but acorn squash.  I do like acorn squash, but for versatility in cooking and winter storage, nothing beats butternut.  We won't be patronizing that particular green house next year.  Not only did we get the wrong plant, but every single seed packet we bought from them did not germinate, my hanging basket died after two weeks, and my folks had problems with some soil they bought.  Disappointing. 

Lots of really good recipes this week though, which will make up for no review Labor Day.  I'm off on a Grand Adventure of which I will blog about instead of recipes.  Cryptic enough for you?  Great!  That means you'll come back and see what I was up to.   I'll give you a hint - it will involve BBQ! 

Meanwhile, some great summer salads and a sandwich that will use either the garden produce or farmer's market haul and fish tacos that were easy and tasty. 


Chicken Salad with Olive Vinaigrette  (Ckng Lght July 2003)
I had a couple of chicken breasts in the freezer and grilled them in lieu of pre-packaged.  This does come together very quickly and can be made ahead.  Great for a hot summer evening - which it finally was!  Remember to rinse your capers before use otherwise they will taste wrong. 

I served this with some GF crackers, mild brick cheese, and a bottle of Barefoot Red Moscato wine.   We sat out on the porch and just watched the evening go by, bee's in the bachelor buttons and a juvenile hummingbird in the lilies. 

  • 1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous  (sub Qunioa or similar for GF)
    photo from cookinglight.com
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped capers
  • 2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 (7-ounce) packages 98% fat-free chicken breast in water
  1. Cook couscous according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Combine olives and next 7 ingredients (olives through garlic) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add couscous to olive mixture; toss gently to coat. Stir in chicken just before serving.

Warm Eggplant Sandwiches with Goat Cheese  (Ckng Lght, Mar 2004)     vegetarian
Our first eggplant of the season was ready.  I had goat cheese in the fridge.  I had some whole grain bread in the freezer.  And Swiss Chard a plenty in the garden.  I had the fixin's for this sandwich!  Except I forgot the tomato... The only thing that would have made this better was if I had peeled the eggplant before cooking - the skin was rather tough even after cooking.
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    photo from cookinglight.com
  • 2 (1/4-inch) vertical slices small eggplant  (I recommend peeling)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, softened
  • 2 (1 1/2-ounce) rustic sandwich rolls  (I used whole grain loaf bread)
  • 2 (1/4-inch) slices tomato 
  • 1 cup arugula  (I used Swiss Chard)
  1. Preheat oven to 275°.   I grilled at 350*
  2. Brush oil over eggplant.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add eggplant [to grill] ; cook 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread about 1 tablespoon of goat cheese over cut side of each roll half. Place rolls on a baking sheet, cheese sides up; bake at 275°  [Grill]  for 8 to 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
  5. Remove from oven; top bottom half of each roll with 1 eggplant slice, 1 tomato slice, and 1/2 cup arugula. Top sandwiches with top halves of rolls.

Wheat Berry, Kale and Cranberry Salad  (Ckng Lght, Sept 2013)    vegetarian
This was lunches for the first half of the week.  I doubled the recipe since it only served 2 (really?  2?) so it would last a couple of days.  I prepped this on Sunday so I would have time to cook the wheat berries while relaxing and set aside until later.  My dish looked quite a bit different than the recipes, more berries, less kale.  But that's ok.  Berries are more filling than greens. 


photo from cookinglight.com
  • 1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
  • 2 cups shredded baby kale
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion  (no onion breath after lunch!)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place wheat berries in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above wheat berries; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 50 minutes or until chewy-tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain.
  2. Place wheat berries and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently.

Halibut Tacos with Yogurt-Lime Sauce  (Ckng Lght, Apr 2007)   gluten free
The only change I made to this recipe was to grill the halibut.  Grilled halibut is simply outstanding!  Love it!  And then the house doesn't smell like fish either.   I do think that some red cabbage with the green would be a great addition - I bought a small green cabbage head and shredded it myself instead of bagged.

I liked the freshness of this whole dish, how fast it came together, and it's perfect for a summer evening.  I served it with some corn chips and fresh guacamole. 
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless halibut fillets
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • Cooking spray 
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas 
  • 1 10-ounce package shredded cabbage (about 2 cups)  
  • 1 peeled avocado, cut into 16 slices
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Place fish in a shallow bowl, and cover with 3 tablespoons juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes.
  2. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon juice, yogurt, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and chili powder. Cover and chill.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish and marinade to pan. Cover and cook 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Cut fish into 8 equal pieces.
  4. Warm the corn tortillas according to package directions. Top each tortilla with about 2 ounces fish, 1/4 cup shredded cabbage, 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, 2 avocado slices, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cilantro.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blood Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #22)

Stolen Prey (Lucas Davenport, #22)Stolen Prey by John Sandford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  Lucas Davenport has seen many terrible murder scenes. This is one of the worst. In the small Minnesota town of Wayzata, an entire family has been killed—husband, wife, two daughters, dogs.

There’s something about the scene that pokes at Lucas’s cop instincts—it looks an awful lot like the kind of scorched-earth retribution he’s seen in drug killings sometimes. But this is a seriously upscale town, and the husband was an executive vice president at a big bank. It just doesn’t seem to fit.

Until it does. And where it leads Lucas will take him into the darkest nightmare of his life.



Davenport is robbed while jogging.  A family is brutally murdered.  Suspicious activity at a bank.  Davenport pulls in the usual suspects and solves all.

I'm not really sure what I want to say about Davenport #22.  It was refreshing not to have to listen to a psychotic killer and his thoughts.  Instead, we have a link to a Mexican drug cartel that was rather predictable, the computer hackers didn't really seem believable, and the most interesting plot was Virgil Flowers going after horse shit thieves.

One negative to the book was - and this could have been a result of me zoning out a few times while listening  - the bank/money theft and the drug cartel link seemed fragmented and tenuous to me. I never really could put my finger down on something and say "Yes, this is why the drug cartel was going after all these people."  That connection seemed rather ambiguous when all was said and done.

Another detraction was the big shoot out.  Is Davenports house that easy to find that everyone who has a grudge against him can just walk up to his door, knock, and start firing away?  It rather seems like it. 

Ultimately, an engaging read on my daily commute, but overall seemed to lack substance and cohesion with the multiple plots.



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Monday, August 19, 2013

Recipe Review from 8/12/13

I had four new recipes on the meal plan for this week and only two got made -  things were a bit busier than I had anticipated.  After the trenching went in from the electrical line, holes needed to be filled (didn't want any broken puppy legs) and we had some catch-up gardening to do.  One evening was spent doing a bit of pre-hiking for a Superior Hiking Trail guided hike we led on Saturday.  And then the hike itself.


Duluth Harbor and Lake Superior

About 30 people hiked from Getchell/Skyline to Enger Park/Twin Ponds, a distance of 7.4 miles.  There are some absolutely outstanding overlooks of the Superior and St. Louis River basin on this route.  The downside is the south-eastern exposure in the summertime: it was 90* on the ridges and 82* in the shade and most of this is on the ridges.  This segment is as challenging as any found up the Shore with the short steep descents and ascents and clambering over bedrock on top.  The fastest hikers were done in about 2.75 hours and the last people were off the trail in 4.5 hours.

I think the best time to hike this would be during the hawk migration, when thousands of hawks are coming through, the leaves are turning colors, and it's not quite so HOT.



Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto and Sausage  (Ckng Lght Aug 2013)  
Despite the wordy instructions, this comes together pretty quickly.  While the water comes to a boil and the spaghetti cooks, every thing else can be prepped.  The pasta was still cooking while I sauted the sausage, and I just scooped out pasta water for the garlic.

The most notable change was I halved the amount of parsley in the pesto.  5 cups seemed to be waaayy to much for 8 oz of pasta.  I also had about 6 oz of sausage (or about two links worth).  When the butcher weighed out 3 oz, I was like, that's nothing!  Bumped it up a bit.  This was great for a late dinner - comes together quickly, tastes great, and not overwhelmingly heavy.   
photo from cookinglight.com
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 3 ounces spicy pork Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 4 garlic 2 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (about 1/4 cup)
  • 5 cups 2-3 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add pasta to pan, and cook 8 minutes or until almost al dente. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Discard the remaining cooking liquid.
  2. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add Italian sausage to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan, reserving drippings; drain on paper towels. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add pasta to pan; cook 1 minute, tossing to combine. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine about 2 tablespoons cheese and 4 3/4 cups parsley leaves in a food processor; process until finely ground. With motor running, add remaining 1/4 cup cooking liquid and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; process until smooth. Add parsley mixture and salt to pasta; toss well to coat. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 shallow bowls; top evenly with sausage, remaining 2 tablespoons cheese, and remaining 1/4 cup parsley leaves

Muffin Tin Frittata  (Cooks Country,  Aug/Sept 2013)  gluten free
I've read about frittata's but haven't gotten around to making one.  They are, in my opinion, a crustless quiche.  This article broke down the "science" behind what makes a frittata work and made them single serving sized.  The key to these little delectable morsels is to keep the fat content (cheese, sausage, etc) up so the eggs don't stick. 

I used the base recipe (below), halved it, and used some ingredients I had hanging out in my fridge:  red pepper, provolone and mozzarella cheese and tomatoes.   They come together very quickly.  They bake in about 10 minutes, and the rest of brunch can be assembled while cooling.  I must not have had enough cheese or other ingredients as my "muffins" did stick.  Poo.  I also halved the recipe to make 6.   

For 12 muffins: 
8 large eggs
1/4 cup half and half  (I used goats milk)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Generously spray 12-cup nonstick muffin tin with vegetable oil spray. Whisk eggs, half-and-half, pepper, and salt together in large bowl.
2. Divide frittata filling evenly among muffin cups. Using ladle, evenly distribute egg mixture over filling in muffin cups. Bake until frittata are lightly puffed and just set in center, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Run plastic knife around edges of frittata, if necessary, to loosen from muffin tin, then gently, remove and serve.


I've included one recipe from the article to provide a reference for ingredient quantities. 

Chorizo, Parsley and Pepper Jack Filling  (Cooks Country, Aug/Sept 2013)
Makes enough for 12 muffin tin frittatas

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled. quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large onion. chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces pepper Jack cheese. shredded (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1) Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
2)  Add chorizo, potatoes, onion, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
3) Stir in garlic and coak until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl and let cool for 15 minutes. Stir in pepper Jack and parsley.

  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

A Madness of Angels (Matthew Swift #1)A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Jacket Blurb:  For Matthew Swift, today is not like any other day. It is the day on which he returns to life.

Two years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home.

Except that it's no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable...despite his body never being found.

He doesn't have long to mull over his resurrection though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back



This was a recommendation from the Writer and The Critic podcast and the review intrigued me - I wasn't disappointed.  A dark urban fantasy that steps away from the fluff and silliness of the usual run-of-the-mill trope. 

Set in London, magic has evolved into modern times for practitioners to be able to use the Cities life-force.  The country has its own that can be used by some, but all cities hum with a magic unique to each place. The underground, the electricity, the beggars, the motorway, and the telephone. Totally fascinating world building.

This was full of subtle humor, dry British wit, great charm and nary a vampire to be seen.  I loved the London backdrop, I loved the tension between the various magic workers, I was thrilled with the little nuances that made this particular urban fantasy so vivid.

The reader will know the ending - you are told the ending - but what the story starts out as is not quite how it ends.  I'm an odd duck in that I quite enjoy knowing how it's going to end, and being able to just watch the story unfold is infinitely relaxing for me.

Recommended!



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Monday, August 12, 2013

Recipe Review from 8/5/13

photo from: scifiwithpaprika.blogspot.com
This weekend found us trenching the yard for an electrician to run wire to the Man-barn and the garage.  Hard to believe that in another month or so I might have an electric garage door opener and lights on the buildings!  The first nine years we lived here, we didn't even have a garage, so going electric seems pretty 'fancy'!

The orange flagging is for the dogs.  I'm dreadfully afraid they'll go running through the yard, step into an 18" trench and break a leg.   You would think they would see this hole in the ground, but you'd be surprised at how oblivious these hounds can be. 

For a point of reference, you can see the power pole in each pic on the right hand side

photo from: scifiwithpaprika.blogspot.com
 

Electrician comes on Monday to put in the wires!

Sunday we headed to west-central Wisconsin (Baldwin) to celebrate my relatives 50th wedding anniversary.  Six plus hours in the car made for some good knitting time. Got to see some folks I haven't seen in 5 years or more, but it really wasn't conducive  to just kick back and talk.  I also admit that a three hour drive back didn't help either. 


Not a lot of recipes to review this week.  One mis-fire (bad flour); and two recommendations. 

Poblano Sopes (Ckng Lght Aug 13)    vegetarian, gluten free
I think these would have been really good if my masa harina hadn't been rancid.  I thought the flour might have just picked up the tupperware flavor, but even after cooking and baking, they tasted distinctly off.  So this isn't a fair review as I couldn't finish mine and I pitched the leftovers.

But for simplicity of assembly - easy easy!  I did use the grill for charring the poblano and baking the sopes.  No reason to heat up the oven.  I had my doubts about the quinoa being crunchy, but I couldn't taste anything discernible.  As I noted, I would try these again, but with fresh masa.
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
    photo from: scifiwithpaprika.blogspot.com
  • 5 ounces masa harina (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup warm water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar 
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
  • 2 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Cut chile in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place chile halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 6 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 5 minutes. Peel and chop chile.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°.
  4. Combine chile, uncooked quinoa, masa harina, 1 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl; stir until a soft dough forms. Divide mixture into 4 equal pieces; shape each piece into a 4-inch patty. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sopes to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn sopes over; place pan in oven. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until browned and heated through.
  5. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, olive oil, juice, and sugar in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add arugula and remaining ingredients; toss gently to coat. Serve over sopes.

Chicken Caprese Salad  (Food and Wine)  gluten free
This was a recipe the Brother found and passed along.  THUMBS UP, BRO!

The chicken could be cut back to two breasts (I used three and it seemed like a lot), I skipped the pounding flat and just grilled them outside with the veggies from the recipe below.  I didn't have a variety of tomatoes, but I will say, 1 pint wasn't quite enough. 

In hindsight, some fresh basil tossed it would have made this even better. 

1/2 pound spicy marinated bocconcini (mozzarella balls), plus the oil from the container
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded 1/2 inch thick
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 pint heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil, for grilling

1. Pick the bocconcini out of the marinade. Transfer half of the marinade to a medium baking dish. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate for 4 hours.
2. Quarter the bocconcini and transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining marinade and the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan and oil the grate. Grill the chicken over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add to the bocconcini. Toss and serve.


Grilled Zucchini Quinoa Pilaf (Ckng Light August 2013)  vegetarian, gluten free
I served this with the recipe above.  Super quick to pull together and very versatile.  I didn't have enough bulgur, so I used quinoa instead.  

I skipped the celery (didn't want to buy a bunch though I could have used my Swiss chard) and I added some grilled red pepper for color and flavor.  My zucchini needed more than 5 minutes, which worked fine since I was grilling them with some chicken.   Great summer dish!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery 
  • 2 cups water 
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgur (or quinoa)
  • 1 zucchini 
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, onion, and celery; sauté 3 minutes. Add water and bulgur; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 11 minutes.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat; coat with cooking spray. Quarter zucchini. Grill zucchini 5 minutes; dice. Combine bulgur, zucchini, parsley, salt, and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (Dresden #6)

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket blurb: Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, takes on a case as a favor to his friend Thomas-a vampire of dubious integrity-only to become the prime suspect in a series of ghastly murders.

Purple primates, puppies, and porn.  I was laughing and gripping the my steering wheel in baited anticipation from chapter one.  Subsequent chapters found me sitting in my car over lunch, eking out extra minutes before yoga class, and even listening in the garage.

This Dresden #6 in the series and was the first Dresden I've done as an audiobook. James Marsters is a fantastic narrator and added so much to the book.

This book was a bit of a roller coaster.  Harry isn't running around like a chicken with his head cut off, we don't find Harry nekkid out in the street, but we do find our good wizard acting like a Hypocritical Ass.

For example, in this book, Harry is employed by Thomas, a vampire of the White Court, to help an associate of Thomas's.  Harry knows Thomas is a vampire and thus, not to be wholly trusted and kills people to feed - but then Harry goes all moral and "I'm more righteous than thou" on Thomas when Harry realizes Thomas's girlfriend is food.  Hell-O!  Vampire we're talking about here!

My biggest complaint with the series is how Butcher must explain the history of everything in each book.  By book 6 in the series this has become...tiresome.  If someone is picking up the series in the middle, make them go back to the beginning to get the background information. 

I also confess to being constantly worried about the health and well being of one small puppy...

This book was full of surprises and I haven't had an OMG! moment like I did in this one in a long time.

Recommended if you like the Dresden series.



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Monday, August 5, 2013

Recipe Review from 7/29/13

This weekend found us back on the Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Ride which runs from Grand Rapids to Virginia with multiple routes.  We did the 48 mile option (Marble to Virginia) which I clocked at 52 miles.   This was my forth time riding this and the Husbands third.  I absolutely love the scenery, the trail, and how well organized this ride is. 

Saturday we were on the first bus to Marble and gentleman in the seat next to engages us in conversation.  Come to find out we saw his crash on the Big Hill with the 90* left turn last year!  He was being carried out on a backboard to an ambulance parked on 169 when we came through.   Wild.  Anyway, no severe injuries and he was back for another go this year.

Our overall stats were: 52 miles, 3:40, for avg 14 mph.  Respectable, I think, given the trail dynamics and wind.

Longest ride of the year for both the Husband and I - a nice milestone.  And I hit 303 miles for the year.  Perhaps 500 will be attainable yet if I can keep consistent with my mid-week 20 mile rides. 

And, not to be lost in gushing about the bike ride, I made several notable meals for the week:


Quinoa Salad  (MyRecipes.com/Ckng Lght 2012)   vegetarian, gluten free
I shortened the prep time on this significantly because I made it at 530am in the morning for lunches.  To hasten cooling time, I spread the quinoa out in a large bowl.   Granted, it was still warmish when I added the rest of the ingredients, but it was all going into the fridge or lunchboxes and then a fridge.   I did my usual cucumber/zucchini substitution and ended up skipping the fresh herbs (ran out of time for the oregano and I didn't want to buy mint).  About 4-5 servings. 

photo from CookingLight.com
  • 1 cup uncooked red quinoa (or regular)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) diced seeded tomato 
  • 1/2 cup (1/2-inch) diced seeded cucumber  zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 lemon wedges
  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and place in a large bowl. Let cool 1 hour.
  2. While quinoa cools, combine oil and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Let stand 20 minutes.
  3. Add dressing, tomato, and next 4 ingredients (through chickpeas) to quinoa; toss well. Add cheese, and toss gently. Serve with lemon wedges.


[Halibut] with Bacony Corn Saute  (Ckng Lght, Aug 2013)    gluten free
This was quick to pull together and I loved the corn saute!  I grilled the fish instead of pan frying - which never works for me anyway.  I also subbed Lake Trout for the halibut because I had a package in the freezer and it goes great on the grill.  You could easily use frozen corn for this if fresh is out of season or not available.

Actually, I could easily make just the corn saute and eat that as a dish!  But it would go good with just about anything:  polish sausage, grilled pork or chicken, steak.  Very versatile.  
photo from CookingLight.com
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless halibut fillets (I used Lake Trout)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 center-cut applewood-smoked bacon slice
  • 2 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter 
  • 3/4 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions 
  • 4 lime wedges
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add fish to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked to desired degree of doneness. Remove fish from pan; keep warm.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add bacon to pan; cook 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add corn to drippings in pan; cook 3 minutes or until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in butter; cook 1 minute or until butter melts. Stir in crumbled bacon and green onions. Serve with lime wedges.


Fresh Mozarella, Tomato and Basil Pizza  (Ckng Lght, Aug 2012)  Vegetarian
I used some frozen pizza dough I had in the freezer, putting it in the fridge 24 hours before I wanted to use it.  It was supposed to sit for an hour on the counter, but I rushed that cause it was my hope to fit in a bike ride that evening (ha!).  When rolling it out I put it between parchment paper and wax paper and it stuck to the wax paper like gum to the the pavement on a 90* day.  Arrgh!   Then I brain farted having bought a tomato and I used cherry tomatoes instead.  Found my tomato while eating dinner. 

This is good, a store-bought crust would probably have worked just fine and simplified things greatly. 

And I didn't get out for my bike ride....

photo from CookingLight.com
  • 12 ounces refrigerated fresh pizza dough
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 (6-ounce) heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 500° (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in oven as it preheats).
  2.  Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Place basil, garlic, and 2 tablespoons oil in a mini food processor; pulse 3 times to form a paste. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; pulse until smooth.
  4. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle on a floured surface; pierce entire surface liberally with a fork. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven. Arrange dough on pizza stone. Spread about 2 1/2 tablespoons basil mixture over dough. Top evenly with cheese, tomatoes, and pepper. Bake at 500° for 12 minutes or until crust is browned and crisp. Top with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons basil mixture; sprinkle evenly with salt. Cut into 12 slices.