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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin

The Midnight Mayor (Matthew Swift, #2)The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars




Jacket Blurb:  It's said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, then the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall. Resurrected sorcerer Matthew Swift is about to discover that this isn't so far from the truth...

One by one, the protective magical wards that guard the city are falling: the London Wall defiled with cryptic graffiti, the ravens found dead at the Tower, the London Stone destroyed. This is not good news. This array of supernatural defenses - a mix of international tourist attractions and forgotten urban legends - formed a formidable magical shield, one that could protect London from the greatest threat it has ever known. But what could be so dangerous as to threaten an entire city?

Against his better judgment, Matthew Swift is about to find out. And if he's lucky, he might just live long enough to do something about it



Matthew is trying to keep his head down and out of trouble as London's sole surviving sorcerer.  A phone rings, they answer, and now he's a wanted man with a brand on his hand that says he's the Midnight Mayor.  He is also the only person who can save London from a fate on par with Hiroshima, Dresden, or the Blitz....if he survives. There are a lot of people who really want him dead.

I thoroughly enjoyed book two.  I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved the oh! so true! insights into human nature as seen from the eyes of the blue electric angels.  I loved them as well, watching their fascination and horror at humanity through Matthew's eyes.

My favorite part of this book was watching Matthew talk to Mr Fox, cajoling him to reveal what he saw on a fateful night, the act of leaving some kebabs for the urban animal was just wonderful.


My main complaint with the story was how I felt the plot became bogged down in wordy repetitiveness.  How to describe? The words, like the clicking of a train on the track, would convey a concept through repetition, would illustrate how the electric angels were perceiving things, humanity, life, emotions - but at a point in this book it became over done and I found myself glossing over paragraphs to get back to the meat of the story. 

Understanding that yes, this is a fantasy book through and through, a person getting shot through the abdomen leaking blood in copious amounts, probably isn't going to be running the length and width of London.  Just sayin'. 

Complaints aside, a delightful follow-up to A Madness of Angels.  Recommended.



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Monday, October 28, 2013

Recipe Review from 10/21/13

Another chilly, blustery, rainy week.  Good for comfort foods and hot apple cider and a bit of football. 


Oven Baked Chicken Wings (Cooks Country, Sept 2013)
Ever since my seasoning packet disappeared from the store shelves, I am always on the lookout for a good chicken wing recipe.  Preferably homemade.  This recipe is the closest I've come to what I consider a good wing - crispy wing, saucy sauce.  Cooks Country does wing and sauce separate, combining at the end.

I was out of molasses and hot sauce to make buffalo wings.  I did a homemade mustard bbq sauce that was actually pretty good. 

It doesn't get much simpler than this.  What I didn't take into account was the two hours baking time, so appetizers ended up being dinner. 

3 1/2 lbs wings, tips removed and separated
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 250*
Prepare wings and pat dry.  Combine in a plastic bag with baking powder and salt.
On a foil lined jelly roll pan, place wings on a wire rack.
Bake 40 minutes on lower part of oven.
Place on upper part of oven and increase temperature to 425*.  Bake 40-50 minutes more or until done.

Toss with sauce of choice.  Serve.



And wings aren't complete without some blue cheese dressing!  

Absolutely the BEST Rich and Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing (AllRecipes.com)
Okay, I don't know if this is absolutely the best, but it's pretty darn good and super simple to make.  I usually have all the ingredients on hand anyway, maybe only having to purchase the blue cheese. 
This has what I consider to be the flavors of a good blue cheese dressing - tangy, cheesy, and usually thick.  Mine got a bit thin for some reason, but no biggie.  This makes about 2/3 cup - which is perfect for a batch of wings. 

photo from AllRecipes.com
  • 2 1/2 ounces blue cheese
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper  
In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and buttermilk together with a fork until mixture resembles large-curd cottage cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Whole milk may be used in place of buttermilk for a milder flavor. Dressing may be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.  



Overnight, Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal  (The Yummy Life Blog by Monica)
Easy.  Delicious.  Great consistency and flavor.  Husband said it "tasted like apple pie".  I needed something for an earlier than usual morning (had to get a car into the dealers on the way to work) and this fit the bill.  Highly recommended.  Four adult servings.    

  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2-1/2 to 3 cups chopped)
  • 1-1/2 cups fat-free milk (or substitute non-diary alternative like almond milk)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or substitute maple syrup or other desired sweetener)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into 5-6 pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional garnishes: chopped nuts, raisins, maple syrup, additional milk or butter
Coat inside of 3-1/2 quart (or larger) slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients (except optional toppings) to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approx. 7 hours (slow cooker times can vary). Spoon oatmeal into bowls; add optional toppings, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Freezes well.

To reheat single servings: Put 1-cup cooked oatmeal in microwave proof bowl. Add 1/3 cup fat-free milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot.

Recipe can be doubled in 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Increase cooking time 1 hour.


Maque Choux  (modified from Cooks Country Aug/Sept 2013Vegetarian option**
I got a bit impatient with the recipe as written and began to deviate.  God Bless Cooks Country/Cooks Illustrated, I do dearly love what they do, but for a regional vegetable saute, I think they made this one more complicated than necessary.   And taste is such a subjective thing - the Husband and I don't taste things the same way is a well established fact.  Does this kind of recipe really need to be made 50 times to "perfect" it?  I don't think so...

So.  I sauteed and simmered veggies, and served over rice.  It was simple, it was good.  Recommended.

**Add some zucchini to up the vegetables if omitting the meat. 
  • 8 ears corn, husked and cleaned (I used fresh-frozen corn on the cob)
  • 4 strips bacon** optional
    photo from Cooks Country.com
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  •  1 celery rib, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 5oz smoked sausage, sliced lengthwise and diced (I used andoullie)** optional 
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved  
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  1. Cut corn off the cobs by thinly slicing across the tops of the kernels; place in a medium bowl. Cut across the kernels again to release milk from the corn, add milk to bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cook bacon until nicely crisp.   Set aside.  Reserve about 1 tbsp bacon grease.  Add 2 tbsp vegetable oil to grease.
  3. Add onion and green pepper, cook until onion is transparent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Combine corn, tomatoes, and milk with the onion mixture. Add sausage.  Reduce heat to medium low, and cook 20 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half.  Season with salt and cayenne pepper and reserved tomato juice.  Lower heat, cover skillet, and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer. Stir in bacon. Remove from heat and serve.

 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The New Space Opera 2 ed Garnder Dozois and Johnathan Straham

The New Space Opera 2: All-new stories of science fiction adventureThe New Space Opera 2: All-new stories of science fiction adventure by Gardner R. Dozois

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  All-new stories of science fiction adventure from some of the most beloved names in science fiction spin all-new tales of interstellar adventure and wonder.

October 2013 book group selection.   Kinda.  I didn't realize there was a New Space Opera 1 and a New Space Opera 2 with nearly the same covers.  I grabbed 2.  Oops!  In my defense,  Space Opera 2 was the only one available as an e-book. Ultimately, it all worked out.

Mixed thoughts on this selection that stemmed partly from my inability to get into the stories - I wasn't in the mood.  Some selections were better than others, and what I may like, someone else detests. Overall, recommended.

1) Utriusque Cosmi (2009) novelette by Robert Charles Wilson.  A woman goes back in time to tell her younger self to run and don't look back because the Earth is going to explode, but see's things from a different perspective.

2) The Island (2009) novelette by Peter Watts.  In space, when building a interstellar highway, nobody wins.

3) Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance (2009) novelette by John Kessel.  A monk is tasked with bringing a set of plays back to the Monestary in an attempt to stop the fighting.

4) To Go Boldly shortstory by Cory Doctorow.  Making fun of Star Trek.


5) The Lost Princess Man  (2009) novelette by John Barnes.   A conman is running the “lost princess” con with a technological twist.

6) Defect  (2009) novelette by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  An assassin refuses to carry out an assignment involving biological annihilation and is now a wanted woman.  The ship carrying her husband and young son is subject to an attack, leaving only her son alive.  For the first time, she is responsible for another person, and finds that this person is more like her than she ever realized.

7) To Raise a Mutiny Betwixt Yourselves (2009) novelette by Jay Lake.   Two “Before's” with an ancient history, one ship-mind caught between its Captains.  Mutiny on several levels, but who really wins in the end? 

8) Shell Game (2009) novelette by Neal Asher.  Interspecies revenge with a biological twist. No pun intended.

9) Punctuality  (2009) short story by Garth Nix.  A young woman finds out she is Heir to the Galactic Throne.  The Galaxy wants to bring on more Punctuality drives.  There are two people who have the right kind of training - herself and her father.  One will sublime, one will rule the Galaxy. 

10) Inevitable (2009)  novelette by Sean Williams.   Who is the actually terrorist?  A planetary terrorist is caught trying to blow an access to the “Structure” by the Ship-bound.  Captured and forced to reveal another access, Ship-bound and Terrorist alike learn more than they realize.

11) Join The Navy and See the Worlds (2009) shortstory by Bruce Sterling.  India and America are the superpowers after international nukes destroy major cities.  Kipp is a world-renown hero reduced to giving space trips to tourists and ends up on an unexpected tour of the slums of India.

12) Fearless Space Pirates of the Outer Rings (2009) novelette by Bill Willingham.  A case of mistaken identity and space pirates.

13) From the Heart (2009) novelette by John Meaney.  Lost love.  Humiliation.  Redemption.  One ship for one person.

14) Chameleons (2009) novella by Elizabeth Moon.  A bodyguard finds himself stuck on his home-world with two petulant teenagers and they all surprise each other.

15) The Tenth Muse (2009) novelette by Tad Williams. 

16) Cracklegrackle (2009) novelette by Justina Robson.

17) The Tale of the Wicked  (2009)  novelette by John Scalzi.

18) Catastrophe Baker and a Canticle for Leibowitz (2009)  short story by Mike Resnick

19) The Far End of History (2009) novelette by John C. Wright.



View all my reviews

Monday, October 21, 2013

Recipe Review from 10/14/13

Not much to say this week after our last couple of weeks with skunks and jail birds.  Weather has turned more fall-like, with rain, blustery winds, and temps in the 40's.  Well...until the weekend came, and then we had first snow (!) followed by first frost, and a bit more rain and snow.  Yeah, it was a good weekend for football and hot soup.  

The recipes reflect the season:

Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Pancakes  (Mpls Star Tribune, Oct 10, 2013)  
I love pumpkin.  These...not so much.   While the flavor was perfect - just the right amount of pumpkin and spices - the pancakes themselves were heavy and while cooked on the outside, remained undercooked on the inside.

The second strike was the addition of the oatmeal, which made for an odd texture - soft pancake and then these crunchy bits from the oats.  I would probably skip the oats in the future.

What I did like about these, in addition to the flavor, was the use of yogurt.  I would probably make again, but with some tweaking. 

Article Note: White whole-wheat flour is a great pantry staple and works as a substitute for white flour in most recipes. You can use half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat flour if you don’t have white whole-wheat on hand. From Meredith Deeds.
Makes about 8 pancakes.

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tbsp. for the pan
photo from Mpls Star Tribune by Meredith Deeds
1 c. white whole-wheat flour (see Note)
• 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
2 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
• 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 egg
• 1 c. milk
3/4 c. unsweetened canned pumpkin
1/4 c. plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt


• Maple syrup

1) In a large bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. 
2) In another bowl, mix egg, milk, pumpkin, yogurt and butter until well blended. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until evenly moistened. Don’t overmix.
3) Place a nonstick griddle or a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Lightly butter and adjust heat to maintain temperature. Spoon batter in 1/3-cup portions onto griddle and gently spread out into approximately 4-inch circles. Cook until pancakes are browned on the bottom and edges begin to look dry, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn with a wide spatula and brown the other sides, 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until cooked through. As pancakes are cooked, transfer to baking sheets and keep in a warm oven. Serve warm with maple syrup.



Slow Cooked Enchiladas (A Year of Slow Cooking Blog)  gluten free** read the labels
If you follow the link to A Year of Slow Cooking, you will get a humorous account of how it was received by her family.  I have to say, it is not the most visually appealing dish on the plate.  However, the flavor is really good, and you can't beat ease of prep.

My main comment about this dish would be to skip the tortillas.  I think that is what makes this dish visually and texturally off.  My corn tortillas (mind you, I don't have access to true "corn" tortillas) just disintegrated.  Skip the tortillas and serve this over rice, potatoes or even polenta to make it more stew-like.

--leftover cooked chicken (about 2 cups)
--28 oz can of enchilada sauce (check ingredients for possible family allergens!)
--1 orange pepper
--1 yellow pepper
--1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
--1 can olives (I wish we had sliced, I sliced the whole ones)
--6 corn tortillas
--2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
--sour cream (optional)


1) Combine chopped or shredded chicken with the enchilada sauce
2) Starting with 2 corn tortillas, layer ingredients into stoneware insert. Recommended order:
--tortillas
--chicken mixed with sauce
--chopped pepper
--black beans
--olives
--cheese
Repeat layers. Finish with a handful of cheese and 1 tablespoon of water that you swirl around in the bowl that had the enchilada sauce and chicken.

3) Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. The recipe author notes - This is a no-peeking recipe. A lot of times it's okay to peek and to stir, but for this one it's best left alone for the flavors to meld properly and for the edges to get that yummy crispy cheese texture.  Serve with a dollup of sour cream. 




Hummus Fritters  (Ckng Lght Sept 2013)  vegetarian, gluten free option**  
These are awesome!  Super easy, great flavor, filling.  My only change was I made my own hummus.  It so easy to do so that I knew I could have it done in the time it took to cook the rice.  That way I have control over the ingredients. 

I also think I'm in love with Uncle Ben's instant brown rice.  Omg!  It's like overcoming my aversion to rotisserie chicken.  I served the fritters with a Greek veggie salad I purchased, Lebanese pocket bread from the co-op (kinda was like Naan), feta, and the leftover hummus.  Recommended! 

photo from cookinglight.com
  • 1 1/2 cups precooked packaged brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)  (I used two cups because that's what the package made)
  • 1 cup prepared traditional hummus (such as Sabra Classic Hummus)
  • 3 tablespoons cake flour  (**GF substitute would work)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 large egg white (I used the whole egg)
  • 7 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup diagonally cut slices seeded peeled cucumber
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)  ( I used feta
  1. Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 4 (1/4-cup) batter mounds to pan, pressing each with the back of a spatula to flatten slightly. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden and thoroughly cooked. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with 2 teaspoons oil and remaining batter. Sprinkle fritters with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon juice, and black pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add arugula, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and onion; toss gently to coat. Arrange about 1 cup salad, 2 fritters, and 1 tablespoon goat cheese on each of 4 plates. Serve immediately.











Friday, October 18, 2013

The Honor of the Queen by David Weber (Honor Harrington #2)

This book felt like I was reading one info dump after another: summary of what happened at Basilisk, history of Greyson, history of Masada, complete breakdown of the Manticoran Fleet.  compete dissection of ship capabilities.  Info. Overload.

I kept coming across what I considered "unnecessary science"- there is the over used example in writing workshops of "the door iris-ed open" to convey that it was not a traditional door, but a futuristic setting.  While I can't find the example I want from the book ('reading' as an audiobook),  it's as if the author is trying too hard to establish the science and/or militaristic aspect of the setting.  "The door irised open with the individual wedges sliding seamlessly into the wall with a slight hydrolic hissing, fitting snugly into the metal bulkheads that gave the LAC its unique shape and structure." 

My issue with the audiobook - Honor's voice sounded like a child's, squeaky and questioning.   Not the "smooth soprano" as indicated in the book. There were several other female characters and their voice would have been perfect for Honor's.  Alas, no.  She got high pitched and childlike making commands sound questioning rather than commanding.

The whole premise of the book - religious diaspora, religious schism, religious fanatics on two worlds, a universal "superpower" stepping in to try and resolve difference that go back centuries, a third power who wants a slice of the pie - was too America/Middle East with flavors of Mormonism to even be unique or interesting. The use of "Satan's Harlot" and "Whores of Satan", "the Infidels" to refer to the Manticoran women, and in particular, Honor didn't seem to convey the right religious fervor and instead, felt antiquated and out of date. 

The whole concept of a far future religious society that "protects women" and cannot wrap their brains around the fact that the rest of the universe allows women in society - OMG!  equal rights! -  did not make for the best background story. 

I recall not being thrilled with book #2 the first time I read it (pre-Goodreads reviews) but upon a second 'reading', I remembered why.  I waffled about whether I wanted to even finish this audiobook, but since I was waiting for a book to come in at the library, I stuck it out.  Still not recommended. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Inaugral Fishing Trip!

The Husband bought a new boat this summer and what with one thing or another that evolved around schedules or weather,he  wasn't able to get out to go fishing.  This past weekend finally provided the opportunity.  We grabbed some sandwiches, picked up a tub of worms and headed to Fish Lake.


The afternoon, while sunny, was not exactly warm.  Maybe 55* with a brisk wind that was a bit raw on exposed skin.  I should add that he fished: I read and did a bit of knitting.  We had the Viking's game on and I think we picked the right choice in listening to the game rather than watching it.  He found a couple places out of the wind where we could just drift along.  






The few leaves still on the trees made for a lovely contrast against the evergreens and the cattails.





Success!  The first fish caught in the boat.   A 2oz perch.  No worries - little fish went back into the water.





Monday, October 14, 2013

Recipe Review from 10/14/2013

Mid-week adventures had me with one jailbird and a ruined kennel.  Upon pulling into the yard on Tuesday afternoon, I noticed only one doggie waiting to be released from the kennel. Odd, I thought, wondering if Andy was just tucked away in his house. Ahh...no. There was only ONE doggie in the kennel. I remember putting two in; I remember giving two carrots; I remember locking the gate on two little fuzzy pookies, but only one remained.

Hole number one - Andy tried where he got out a year ago.

And then I see it...not one, not two, but THREE! THREE escape attempts! One of the three was obviously successful. None of the holes were more than 6" off the ground. Yup. Andy set himself free. The kennel has been successfully rendered useless.

Hole number 2 (right) and 3 (left) at the back of the kennel


Andy did come immediately when I whistled so he at least stuck around the yard (thank heavens!).  He obviously decided it was waaayyy to nice of a day to be contained and set about fixing that little problem.  Ben, poor boy, could not wiggle out a 6" hole and was left behind.  Might have to have a kennel custom built now...darn little Houdini dog. 

My jailbird after a busy day. 


Pork Posole (Ckng Lght Sept 2013)    gluten free
I made this for lunches for the week.   This is a bit time consuming and best for a weekend.  Mine didn't stay nice and soupy like the picture, but became more stew-like.  Not that I'm complaining as both the Husband and I prefer our soups on the thicker side. I really liked the flavor and the pork was very tender.  I think a red pepper would have added a bit of color to this.  Made three lunches for two of us.  Recommended. 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 cup beer 
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson) 
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 1 (28-ounce) can hominy, drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 4 lime wedges
  1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add pork; sauté 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove pork from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return pork to pan; stir in cumin and pepper. Add beer; bring to a boil. Cook until liquid almost evaporates (about 9 minutes).
  2. Add chicken stock, salsa, and hominy; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour and 10 minutes or until pork is very tender, stirring occasionally. Ladle 1 1/3 cups soup into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon cilantro and 1 sliced radish. Serve with lime wedges.

 Biscuit Topped Chicken Pot Pie (Ckng Lght, Sept 2013)
First - I substituted pork for the chicken because I had leftover pork from the Quick and Easy Fried Pork (last weeks review) and the Pork Posole (above).  I substituted green beans for the peas because they were the oldest in the freezer.

That being clarified, I found this dish disappointing.  It seemed to lack flavor and the biscuits didn't turn out.  Not even close.  My only guess as to why was I used the food processor to cut the butter into the flour.  The gravy never really thickened - at least not until the next day when it was a congealed brick.  Frustrating.  Ckng Lght has had better recipes in the past: Speedy Chicken Potpie being my favorite. 

  • Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 
  • 1 cup chopped carrot 
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast 
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 (3/4-ounce) package fresh poultry blend herbs
  • Cooking spray
  • Biscuits:
  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cubed 
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. To prepare filling, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Weigh or lightly spoon 1.1 ounces (1/4 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Stir flour, salt, and pepper into vegetables; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken and peas; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove rosemary from herb package; reserve for another use. Strip leaves from stems of remaining herbs; chop leaves to measure 2 tablespoons. Stir herbs into filling. Pour filling in a 2-quart baking dish or cast-iron skillet coated with cooking spray.
  3. To prepare biscuits, weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 ounces (1 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in buttermilk. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 5 to 6 times. Roll to a 9-inch circle. Cut with a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, rerolling scraps. Arrange biscuits over filling; coat with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes or until browned.

Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese  (Ckng Lght, Sept 2013)  vegetarian option
This actually is pretty quick to make,and I was able to clean up the kitchen while it was under the broiler and resting.  I did add a heaping cup of peas to the pasta during the last couple minutes of cooking for some color and flavor.  Over all taste was on the bland side even with three cloves of garlic and stock.  The garlic flavor came through later so I know it was there!  I think a dash of paprika or cayanne pepper might have boosted my tastebud appeal. 

Adding - this was better as leftovers. It remained creamy and had more flavor.   
  • 10 ounce large elbow macaroni 
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil 
    photo from cookinglight.com
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock (or vegetable stock), divided 
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk 
  • 8 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • Cooking spray 
  • 3 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Set aside.
  2. Preheat broiler to high  (I did low - High would have burnt my cheese).
  3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently (do not brown). Stir in 1 cup stock; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups stock, milk, and flour; stir with a whisk until flour dissolves. Add milk mixture to garlic mixture, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Remove milk mixture from heat; add cream cheese, stirring until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta to milk mixture, tossing to coat. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour pasta mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cheddar evenly over pasta mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let stand 5 minutes.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blackwork by Monica Ferris (Crewel World #13)

Blackwork (A Needlecraft Mystery, #13)Blackwork by Monica Ferris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Jacket blurb:  It's Halloween-and Betsy Devonshire, owner of the Crewel World needlework shop and part-time sleuth, is haunted by murder...

In the town of Excelsior, Minnesota, Leona Cunningham, owner of a popular microbrewery, is a practitioner of Wicca, the nature-based religion often mistaken for black magic. But that doesn't bother the thirsty crowds. Then, after one too many pints, a local blames Leona for the series of "accidents" that have happened throughout town. When he ends up dead without a mark on his body, Leona's the main suspect. But Betsy's on the case, and that spells trouble for the killer.


Another light, fun, 'cozie' that I polished off in a couple of days.   This one was stronger than the previous installment, with a bit more character development and background building.  It moves along quickly, with all of the series favorite characters making at least one appearance and introducing a couple new faces. 

I liked how this one played around Halloween, incorporating a bit of Wiccanism, a fair amount of brewing information, and a Halloween parade.  Now that is kinda cool! 

My main complaint with this book is there is still the attitude that the local detective is still unable to figure out a crime, yet, by simply going around and asking all her friends repeated questions, Besty is able to reason things out in no time at all.  Now I will fully admit, my thoughts on this matter are probably driven by the police procedurals that I have taken a fancy to, and I have to remind myself, these are just brain candy books.  Read, and enjoy.

Which I did.  Recommended - not really necessary to have read the previous twelve.



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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sins and Needles by Monica Ferris (Crewel World #10)

Sins and Needles (A Needlecraft Mystery, #10)Sins and Needles by Monica Ferris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  When adoptee Lucille Jones comes to town researching her roots, Betsy notices that she bears a remarkable resemblance to local Jan Henderson. Betsy introduces the look-alikes, and they quickly hit it off. But then Jan's wealthy great-aunt is found dead in her bed, and Jan is the prime suspect. Lucille begs Betsy to help clear her new friend's name.

And while going through her aunt's effects, Jan finds an old embroidered pillow featuring a flag with 49 stars-an odd error for a woman so sharp at figures. Stranger still, the lining is stitched with a map of Lake Minnetonka. Betsy intends to follow the threads. Who knows-it could just possibly lead to buried treasure. Or, perhaps, to a secret that someone would kill to conceal
.

Another Crewel World installment, set in Minnetonka, MN.  Crewel World store owner, Betsy Devonshire is known for her amateur sluthmanship as well as her counted cross stitch and knitting.  Admired by her friends and grudgingly respected by the local detective, she helps resolve mysteries when she can. 

A local mother, Susan, and daughter Jan, are set to inherit a butt-load of money from eccentric Aunt Edyth, who didn't believe women should have to rely on men.  Edyth set up her inheritance to be distributed to various charities and down the female line of her side of the family, cutting of any male relative, including Susan's brother, Stewart.  To top the tater, Lucille and her Husband show up in town claiming to be a relation via adoption and thus, entitled to a cut of the inheritance.

When Edyth is discovered to have been murdered with a double zero knitting needle to the spinal column, this casts Susan, Jan and Lucille into the path of the local Orono police detective as well as Betsy.  Someone is guilty, and Betsy is going to find out who. 

First half of the book was setting up our cast of character - who's related to who, who is who, why Aunt Edyth was who she was, getting everyone together.  Another quarter of the book was moving our respective cast of characters around and establishing motive.  The last quarter of the book was where things became interesting. 

What I enjoy about this particular series is our heroine, Besty Devonshire, who is a down to earth, retired woman, new to running a business.  People come to Betsy, she asks questions, she listens, she puts two and two together.  Unlike a couple of other mystery cozies that I read, Betsy doesn't take off on her own across the countryside to catch the villain on her own, she doesn't go sneaking into places she doesn't belong, she doesn't set traps (that I'm aware of) to catch the thief.  Betsy seems to know when to call in help and the police.  I appreciate that touch of realism. 

My main complaint with this story was the ending was very abrupt.  The plot was moving toward climatic conclusion, I was expecting revelation and surprise...then bam! resolution.  Wrong kind of surprise.  




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Monday, October 7, 2013

Recipe Review from 9/30/13

So September has left us and we're well into October.  Tis the season for Chai Lattes, hot apple cider, slow cooked dishes and baked goodies.  The garden is winding down and on the cusp of being dismantled.  We were really lucky to have an extended fall after that miserable spring.  Lots of acorn squash, a handful of butternut squash, we enjoyed pattypans, yellow squash, Swiss chard, peas, raspberries, and apples.  We'll be enjoying apples for a while I think.

The weekend was completely and totally uneventful.  It rained Friday, Saturday, and was just sopping wet on Sunday.  I went to my friend Tess's house to watch the Gopher-Michigan game Saturday, watched the Packers on Sunday, and did the usual house-stuff, knitted, read, and cooked. 

Last weeks recipes:

One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta  (Apron Strings Blog)   vegetarian, gluten free option
My friend Tess passed this recipe along - an OMG! dish.  Seriously.  Put everything into pot, boil till liquid is gone and eat!  You can be as casual or as fancy with this dish as you like - you can add or subtract veggie goodness.  Tess made this with gluten free noodles - frequent stirring is a must. 

It did take longer than 10 minutes to boil most of the water away.  Stirring frequently is a must to prevent pasta from sticking.  I'd ease off the red pepper flakes for little tastebuds - was nicely spicy for adults, but might be too much for kiddos.  I skipped the basil because the Husband forgot to bring in some from the garden, and I used an Italian Herb mix for the oregano. 

Serves 4 to 6 as an entree
photo from Apron Strings blog
12 ounces linguine pasta (gluten free optional)
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
1 large sweet onion, cut in julienne strips
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
2 large sprigs basil, chopped
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth (regular broth and NOT low sodium)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, in a large stock pot. Pour in vegetable broth. Sprinkle on top the pepper flakes and oregano. Drizzle top with oil.

Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated – I left about an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot – but you can reduce as desired .

Season to taste with salt and pepper , stirring pasta several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Serve garnished with parmesan cheese.



Quick and Easy Pork Fried Rice  (Ckng Lght Oct 2013)  vegetarian option
This was indeed, quick and easy.  This could easily be made vegetarian by substituting extra vegetables or tofu for the pork.  I skipped the green onion and sauted some regular yellow onion with the red pepper.  I added an extra egg just because I like eggs.  If serving to little taste buds - cut back on the chili garlic sauce or make sure yours is "mild".  While perfect for us, I could see it being a bit too much 'zing!' for some. 

The Husband liked the pork, I would have preferred tofu.  I would make this again - perfect for a quick meal. 

photo from CookingLight.com
  • 2 (8.5-ounce) pouches precooked basmati rice  (I used brown rice)
  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed and thinly sliced into 1-inch pieces 
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided  (I used 1/2 cup regular onion, sauteed)
  1. Heat rice according to package directions.
  2. Combine soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, and hoisin in a bowl. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan in a single layer; cook 2 minutes, without stirring. Stir-fry pork for 4 minutes or until done. Add pork to soy sauce mixture; toss to coat.
  3. Add egg to pan; cook 45 seconds or until set. Remove egg from pan; cut into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add bell pepper, edamame, and 1/2 cup onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Add rice; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add pork and soy sauce mixture; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Top rice mixture with egg and remaining onions.

On deck for next week:
Pork Posole (Ckng Lght Oct 2013)
Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie  (Ckng Light Sept 2013)
Two Cheese Mac and Cheese (Ckng Lght Sept 2013)