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Monday, June 30, 2014

Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen

Those of you who kindly follow the recipe portion of this blog have probably noticed I have "a thing" about slow cookers. I consider my slow cookers the Best. Invention. Ever.  Or at least one of the best - my immersion blender is pretty awesome too.

I was gifted this cookbook after admiring it and several successful dishes later,  I want to give the book shout-out of it's own.  I've made a half-dozen plus (or more) recipes out of it now and I have no intent of leaving this to languish on the shelf.  Clearly written directions, numerous cooking tips,  interesting product recommendations, and beautiful photographs make this book a delight to use. 

The recipes are broken down into the standard categories, soups, chicken, beef, casseroles, but America's Test Kitchen included a chapter on basic shredded meats and some recipes that will incorporate those.  For example, how to slow cook a whole chicken, a hunk of beef or a side of pork, and the seasonings, sauces and casseroles that one can use with the shredded meat.

I was a bit concerned about the...wordiness and length of some of the recipes, meaning that this could be an overly involved process for what is, in essence, supposed to be a time saver.  And yes, there are a couple of more involved recipes,
but for the most part the dishes I have made haven't really taken me much more time than the basic chop and plop.  My caveat to this is (as I've stated in my recipe reviews, I don't own a microwave oven, so I'm sauteing more on the stove.  Am I convert to this extra step?  Not 100%, because I'm not sure the general palette is going to be able to discriminate if something's been pre-cooked or not.

My one other tiny complaint (and I do mean tiny), is that most of the recipes are done in about 4-6 hours, so not really convenient for assembling pre-work and coming home to or making the night before.  A bit of pre-planning on either a weekend or making the night before is necessary. 

Otherwise, I have not had a single recipe fail me yet.  The directions are clear, the ingredients are obtainable in even my limited grocery stores, and the leftovers are just as good - if not better! - than the dish served that night.

If you like using your slow cooker, you like making things from scratch, and harbor a fondness for leftovers, then this is a cookbook for you. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher (Dresden #13)

Ghost Story (The Dresden Files,  #13)Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This MAY contain spoilers if you just started reading the series.

Seriously.  Stop now.

You have been duly warned.

Okay, then....

Jacket Blurb:  When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic..


Dresden wakes up as a ghost and finds out he cannot pass through Purgatory - Chicago Between in this case - to What Comes Next until he finds out who murdered him and he has to do so or three of his friends will suffer terrible things.  (I WARNED you!)

This was one of the few in this series that I actually read, rather than listen to as an audiobook.  I missed James Marster's voices.  What really struck me though, is just how much Dresden/Butcher tends to ramble, these rather long soliloquies of reflection and contemplation in the oddest moments.  I admit, after the umteenth one, I started skimming a bit as the eyes glazed over.

And I wish I had taken a moment to highlight a couple of the inconsistencies (darn library deadlines!) because it struck me that there were more than one "the rules of magic state X" but then not chapters later, "rule X" was being broken. 

Ultimately this was a book where Dresden is able to reflect on his life and all the choices he made that brought him to this state of non-existence.  And reflect he did, over, and over, and over (see note above about rambling).  We also observe our fine cast of characters coping with Dresden's absence in their unique ways as they strive to keep Chicago from falling to the Forces of Evil, but even then, there is a lot that is left unsaid and rather unfinished.

So while this was a much calmer and more introspective book than the frantic chaos that defined Changes (#12), there were several aspects that just seemed inconsistent with the overall story arc - such as Molly's sudden increase in magical ability and why she wasn't Ebenezer's student after Dresden's death as expressed in Dresden's will and testament is a bit odd - and many smaller nuances that were inconsistent within the story itself.

I enjoyed the tale, but was left with too many "Hmmm's....".

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Stockton, Illinios

 This past weekend found us in Stockton Illinois.  What a beautiful part of the country!  We were about 30 miles east of Galena, IL and 30 miles west of Freeport, IL. We drove down in the rain, but it was decent after that: basically mid-80's, sunny and humid the rest of the trip - which I loved.  The Husband, not so much, he's a bit of a polar bear.   

Downtown Stockton on an idyllic summer evening.

So Thursday was a travel day - about 7 hours or so.  Our accommodations were an upstairs apartment in one of the original buildings on Main St. someone had converted into a "B&B/Extended Stay" kinda place - a two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, dining room and living room.  The Husband found it on  Very nice older apartment, quiet location, and I could make meals rather than having to eat out for four days in a row.  Downside - no wifi; which I didn't think that was much of a downside in all honesty.  Was nice to be "unplugged" for a while.

So what took us to Stockton of all places?  This: 

 Kraft cheese started here a looonng time ago...

Friday started out very foggy and wet so we met up with my Folks and went to the Massbach Ridge Winery for a tour and tasting, then over to Galena for some lunch and walking , and back to Stockton so the folks could do a bit more meet and greet. 

Great tour, delicious wines, beautiful area.

Oldest House in Galena
After chilling a bit, Duane and I headed over to Freeport to the Jane Adams Trail - SO COOL!  Alas, a late start had us on the trail closer to 7p than the 6p I was hoping for, which gave us time for only an hour ride (about 12 miles).  Beautiful trail. 

Trail head in Freeport, IL

Old Grainery on the abandoned RR Grade.

Saturday we had family pictures, then got to sit on a wagon in a parade, more pictures, and the rest of the day was stuff in the park.  We ducked out mid-afternoon so I could fit in a ride, and well, that ended up being a short one too.  D dropped me off and drove ahead and met up at Apple River Canyon St. Park where we got sidetracked by the rock formations and history.   And then it was time to head back for more family stuff. 

Right down mainstreet! 

Old Milk Wagon

Sunday was a travel day - we decided to try zigging up through La Crosse, WI, then to Eau Claire, but a detour for a bridge that was out pushed us back east by 23 miles.  Grrr...  Supper in Superior at our favorite pizza place (The Thirsty Pagan) while we waited for our puppy pick up time, and pulled into the driveway about 6pm.  Plenty of time to unpack and relax! I'm tired... 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Trunk Music by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #5)

Trunk Music (Harry Bosch, #5)Trunk Music by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: When B-grade L.A. movie producer Tony Aliso is found stuffed into the trunk of his Rolls Royce, all signs point to "trunk music" --a mob hit. Detective Harry Bosch, just back from an "involuntary stress leave," is not so sure. And when he finds the money trail, he follows it…all the way to Vegas.

Seems this Tony had his share of enemies, and in no time, so does Harry: Vegas thugs, LAPD's organized crime unit, a smarmy internal affairs investigator and, of course, Tony's killers. Everyone wants a piece of Harry. And somehow, they've found just the way to get it. . .

Turns out that just before his death, Tony was seen at a Vegas poker table with one Eleanor Wish?ex-FBI agent, ex-convict . . . and ex-love of Harry's life. Now it's time for Harry to keep his cards close to the table--and his enemies even closer before it's time to face the TRUNK MUSIC

Read as an audiobook; narrator is Dick Hill.

Detective Harry Bosch is back on the homicide table after his suspension and mandatory therapy sessions (for anger issues) from Last Coyote (#4).  He has now been assigned two partners due to a departmental restructuring, and has rebuilt his house on the hill from the earthquake that condemned the original.  Bosch is sans girlfriend, with Florida Artist-Chick having parted ways due to distance (or so we're eventually told) and Teacher-Gal off in Italy.

I'm going to be blunt. Harry is still an ass.  Not as bad as my rant from Last Coyote, but he still seems determined to alienate everyone around him with boorish behavior, quick to anger temper, and refusal to work as a team.  I get the whole "lone cop" thing, but the departmental homicide team setting  seems at odds with facilitating this type of character.  Harry just opens his mouth and he's growling, shouting, alienating or offending someone, which makes me wonder how in the hell anyone can think he's god's gift to the department or why they should support him. 

I also find it incredibly tedious that yet once again, not hardly back on the job a week, Harry's being investigated for planting evidence.  I can understand creating hardship for the main character, but this feels like a rehashing of past plots.  And this is accompanied by more posturing, swearing, bullying and anger issues.

Despite the annoying character faults, the plot was interesting and tangled enough to keep me engaged.  So mixed review - character needs an attitude adjustment, plots are intriguing.  Recommended with reservations.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Recipe Review from 6/9/14

I think I can safely say the garden is IN!  While to many of you folks this might seem ungodly late in the season, Duluth's frost free date (on a good year) is June 7.   So far this has been a good "spring", not too many cold wet rainy days and temps hovering right around 65*-70*F.

Last week I went to a work-sponsored lecture on Foods that Fuel.  While the hour wasn't enough for what the presenter wanted to convey, and my objective of getting some more ideas for "foods that fuel" was left unfulfilled, I did realize that my protein intake is woefully inadequate.  Apparently it is for most women.  And, keeping in mind that "protein" is not synonymous with "meat".   Important distinction there.  So I'll be exploring "protein" in coming posts.

The Meal Plan for the week:
Sun -  Grilled cheese, bacon and spinach sandwiches
Mon (yoga/Parents out for dinner)  Kielbasa and potato packets on the grill
Tues - Turkey Salsa Burgers
Wed (Husband Brat Feed)  leftover burger
Thurs (yoga)  Chicken Salad
Fri - leftovers
Sat - (Yoga Workshop; Husband Work Fishing Contest BBQ) supper - leftovers

Lunches - Slow Cooked Squash Stew, fruit, luna bars, nut cups...the usual.

Grilled Cheese, Bacon and Spinach Sandwiches (self creation)
Okay, not really a recipe but this was really good.  Not something I'd recommend eating every week, but it was a great "throw together meal" when I needed one. 

4 slices American cheese or similar
6 slices bacon
4 slices sandwich bread of choice
handful spinach

Fry (or oven bake) 6 slices of bacon.  Set aside.  Prepare grilled cheese sandwiches as normal, but don't put on "top" - leave cheese side open-faced.  Toast second slice on other side of pan.  Once the cheese starts to nicely melt, add bacon.  Remove from pan, add spinach, and serve.   Delicious!

Ultimate Protein Pancakes  (source unknown)  gluten free option**
I'm all for protein packed pancakes and my Cottage Cheese pancake go-to recipe needs a rest.  These were super fast to assemble and cook.  I've started using Bob's Red Mill Whey Protein (unflavored) because it was less expensive than what I was buying at the co-op with less chemicals.  Because it's unflavored, you will want to add some vanilla or almond flavoring.  I used the whole egg because I hate waste.  The recipe does cook true to the directions - give the batter room to expand!  Verdict?  I have another protein pancake recipe!  Recommended.

6 oz plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg white (I used the whole egg)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour **  or gluten free option
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder (I used Bob's Red Mill, plain)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla, (1 tsp wasn't enough)

Anything else you'd like to add for flavor.  In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients (protein powder, flour, and baking soda), and mix with a fork until well combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring as you go.  The batter should become thick.  Add in any extras for flavor and keep mixing until everything is totally combined.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Drop batter by the spoonful into the pan.  Pancakes will expand as they cook, so don't put them too close together.  When little bubbles start to form all throughout the pancake, it's time to flip.  Transfer pancakes to a plate, and top with whatever you'd like.  They're plenty flavorful on their own!

Makes 6 large pancakes.
Calories: 314 | Carbs: 34g | Fat: 1g | Protein: 43g

Turkey Salsa Burgers (source unknown)  gluten free
Okay, burgers don't get any simpler or tastier than this - and I'm not a burger person! I served on a whole wheat Kaiser bun with mayo, yellow peppers and spinach.  Avocado, yellow peppers and spinach would have been even better, but I didn't have an avocado.  Homemade sweet potato fries were my side dish.  Delicious!

1 lb turkey burger
7 tbsp salsa of choice (I used Pace salsa verde with garlic and lime? I think? It was Pace and it was green)
1/4 cup-ish grated cheddar cheese (this was my addition)

Combine well.  Form into patties. Cook until juices run clear.  Serve on or off bun as desired.

 **I started these on the grill on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil because I was warned that turkey burgers can be crumbly.  I ended up sliding them onto the grill proper and had no problem finishing on the grill grate.  Broiling or pan frying would also work well. 

Butternut Squash Chowder (modified, Slow Cooker Revolution, ATK)  vegetarian and gluten free option**
The good news with the recipe is, I was able to use my LAST 2013 butternut squash.  Yes!  I had one small squash still in the basement, and it was still good!  I thought for sure I would have to compost it, but nope, into the soup it went!   

This was not my favorite butternut squash recipe assembly wise or in the flavor department.  Preparation was putzy, adding things in stages at the end of the cooking process so I simplified as written below.   The recipe itself has you making a foil packet for part of the squash, that is "supposed" to just nestle in on top of everything else in the slow cooker. Well, talk about a mess and futzy.  After I had liquid overflow, I pulled out the packet and just dumped the chunks in with everything else.  This is supposed to be a chunky soup/stew, but I ended up blending it just enough to leave some larger chunks.  Not the Husband's favorite - he likes his soup pureed completely. Ultimately, a so-so recipe.

4 oz bacon (about four slices) minced**  (I used whole slices and removed from pan)
(can skip if you don't want it)
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup flour** (or thickening substitute)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups vegetable broth
3 lbs of butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" chunks
2 bay leaves
8 oz kale, stemmed and leaves sliced 1/2" thick (I used a handful of dried kale, crumbled)
1/2 cup Half n Half
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp brown sugar (I may have forgotten this...)

1) Cook bacon in a large skillet, (remove, reserve 1 tbsp bacon drippings in pan);  Stir in onion, garlic, thyme and nutmeg and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for one minute.  Slowly whisk in 2 cups of chicken broth, scraping up browned bits; transfer to slow cooker.

2) Combine rest of chicken broth, vegetaable broth, squash, and bay leaves.  Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours.

3) Discard bay leaves, add kale,  half and half, sage and brown sugar, and cook until tender, about 30 minutes on high, one hour on low.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hell to Pay by Simon R. Green (Nightside #7)

Hell to Pay (Nightside, #7)Hell to Pay by Simon R. Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  In the wake of the war that left the Nightside leaderless, Jeremiah Griffin-one of the last of the immortal human families-plans to fill the power vacuum. But his granddaughter has disappeared, and he wants John Taylor to use his special abilities to find her. Except someone-or something-is blocking Taylor's abilities.

After the somewhat chaotic and destructive Sharper than a Serpents Tooth (#6) this felt like a return to what drew me into the series to start with - an interesting urban fantasy with a solid mystery and fantastic characters.

Our protagonist, John Taylor, is unable to use his gift ("his third eye, his private eye...") to solve the task set before him, which added an interesting element to the plot.  And in a slight departure from gathering up the usual suspects to go forth and do battle, so to speak, this revolved around Taylor hitting the pavement and asking questions on his own.  With this method, we still get to see all the interesting nooks and crannies left after the near destruction of Nightside, and a plethora of fascinating things (loved the cars in this one).

The plot pulled me right along, the characters seemed more rounded than in previous books, and the mystery was solid - I didn't say it was hard to figure out, it was a solid mystery. I quite enjoyed the twists and turns, the look at post-Lilith Nightside, and Taylor on his own.  Perhaps my new favorite book in the series.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Recipe Review from 6/2/14

The lilacs, apples, honeysuckle, early iris, and lily of the valley are all in full bloom right now and the lilacs smell divine.  The mosquitoes are also in full force right now, which is less than divine.  In fact, they are downright awful.  No sitting out on the porch for us unless there is a gale force wind to blow them away.  I'm going to have more seriously consider some mosquito netting for the porch.

We also experienced a pipe blow-out under the sink early last last week - a lovely 1" hole in the bottom of a very corroded "U" pipe.  The Husband was moving laundry around and exclaimed loudly when water started coming down from above when I drained the kitchen sink.  Which...explained why we couldn't find the leak in the washer we thought we had.  Sink has been leaky for a while but we never put two and two together. 

Ah, the joys of plumbing.  Thanks to Dad for his help!

Lastly, we did our first hike of the year!  There was concern we wouldn't get out at all because it was pouring rain when we got up, but as the morning progressed we realized we had an afternoon opportunity.  Phone calls were made, bags were packed, lunches assembled and we were out the door.  We hiked the Superior Hiking Trail from the Fox Farm Rd (E) to the Sucker River (or, Fox Farm Rd to Fox Farm Rd)  GREAT hike!  5 miles through hardwood forest, some recently clearcut areas that have now been planted (talk about some amazing views!) and rolling terrain.  Mosquitoes were awful, but the hike was fantastic.

The Meal Plan:
Sun - leftovers; Slow Cooked Tex Mex Chicken Stew
Mon - (yoga/Northland K-9 Fundraiser)  leftovers
Tues - Salsa Turkey Burgers   Mom's leftover pork and noodle dish
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) grilled polish and potato packets   leftovers
Fri - leftovers

Lunches - Barley, Black Bean and Corn wraps, chips, fruit, luna bars, nut cups

Slow Cooked Tex Mex Chicken Stew  (modified; Slow Cooker Revolution by ATK)  gluten free
This lasted longer than I had anticipated or planned in part because it makes a bunch (will freeze nicely) and in part because we added some brown rice when serving.  There was something about the dish that asked for the addition of the rice, and since I had a box of quick cooking brown rice packets, easy enough!  Yum.

This was very good - the flavors are bright, definitely southwest-ish, but not too spicy.  I did add some cumin (because I can't do a Tex-Mex and not add cumin), and cut back the chili powder a bit (because Penzey's can be a bit potent).  And, as with most of the recipes from Slow Cooker Revolution, I saute on the stove rather than microwave (don't own one) - ironically, I've actually been consistent in this step.  It hasn't been as time consuming as I thought it would be.

This made 5 meals for us - remember I added rice just before serving! 

2 onions, minced (I use one)
2 jalapeno chiles, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chili powder (I used ~1/2 tbsp Penzey's brand chili powder)
1 tsp cumin
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup Minute tapioca
1 tbsp light brown sugar
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
2 cups frozen corn
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained
(1) minced canned chipolte chile in adobo sauce (NOT the whole can - just one chili and maybe a bit of sauce; freeze the rest in 1 tbsp piles or 1 chili per pile, and save for next recipe)

1) Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat.  Saute onions, jalapeno, garlic, tomato paste, and chili powder (and cumin) until onions are softened.  Add to slow cooker.

2) Stir broth, tomatoes, tapioca, and sugar into slow cooker.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4-6 hours on low.

3) Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite sized pieces (it just falls apart).  Let stew settle for 5 minutes and skim fat from surface using large spoon (easier said than done, so I skipped).

4)  Stir in corn and beans, cover and cook on high about 10 minutes.  Add back in chicken and chipolte chile and let sit until heated through.  About 5 minutes.  (Really? Let's not make this overly complicated.  I just plopped everything in and let warm for about 30 min more, maybe a bit longer.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Short Victorious War by David Weber (Honor Harrington #3)

The Short Victorious War (Honor Harrington, #3)The Short Victorious War by David Weber

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  The proles are revolting. The families who rule the People's Republic of Haven are in trouble. The treasury's empty, the Proles are restless, and civil war is imminent.

But the ruling class knows what they need to keep in power; another short, victorious war to unite the people and fill the treasury once more. It's a card they've played often in the last half-century, always successfully, and all that stands in their way is the Star Kingdom of Manticore and its threadbare allies.

Only this time the Peeps face something different. This time they're up against Captain Honor Harrington and a Royal Manticoran Navy that's prepared to give them a war that's far from short...and anything but victorious

This is the second time I've read this book, but I wasn't posting reviews at the time of the first reading.  I also "read" this as an audiobook.  As I've mentioned before, a narrator can make or break a book for a reader, and I'm bouncing off this narrator.  The voices and accents just aren't working for me. 

I recall detesting this book the first time I read it (I'm guessing it was about 15 years ago?), but not having anything to review, I couldn't recall exactly why.  Well, time didn't make this book better - I still loathed it and contemplated returning it unfinished to the library.
What didn't work for me? 
  • The over-the-top minor antagonist of Pavel Young.  The sexual innuendo and outright blantant language didn't fit the book.  Yes, we find out the details of Honor's sexual assult while at Saganami Island, but having to listen to Pavel talk about "another notch in his headboard" when he is an officer of HMS didn't seem congruent.

  • So Admiral Parks doesn't like his assigned Flag Officer (Honor) and so he doesn't invite her to The Meetings.  Didn't make sense given the military hierarchy Weber has established; so an officer doesn't like another, you still act and behave in accordance with RMN protocol - as Admiral Parks told Honor to do at the end of the book when instructed to bring Pavel Young back for a military court marshal. 

  • The Peoples Republic of Haven "revolution" - the reader really doesn't have enough background information to be able to tell if this whole subplot works - and in my opinion, it didn't. 

  • Too much tactical information.  A peeve of mine.  I really don't care to know how fast a missle is going in deep space, nor the logistics of trying to turn a Reliant Class dreadnought in the heat of battle and which nodes are exploding.  

  • Romance in scifi/space opera rarely works. 

Ultimately, this wasn't the book for me.  If you like in depth and detailed space tactics thinly disguised under the guise of a military engagement, this would be a book for you.   

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Recipe Review from 5/26/2014

An absolutely lovely week temperature-wise, which got me out into the garden.  I weeded and tilled 7 garden beds, ripped out and re-did one flower bed, weeded another, planted a few veggie and flower seeds, mulched and mowed.  The plan was to have all that done so I could go for a Saturday morning bike ride before the rain came. HA!  Woke up to rain at 5am.

The flower beds; iris bed in front still needs to be redone.

The whole garden; Husband is fixing the fence.

Updating blog instead with a cuppa tea at hand.

The Meal Plan:
Was tossed out the window this week...

Grilled Turkey, Apple and Cheddar Sandwiches (modified, Ckng Lght May 2014)
This is one of those doh! "Why didn't I think of this?!"  recipes.  Simple and tasty, great for lunch or dinner during the summer.  I did modifiy it - I dropped the parsely and the mango chutney.  That seems like a lot of parsley for a couple of sandwiches and I didn't want to have a jar of mango languishing in my fridge.  I used a blue-cheese mustard instead for a nice tangy counterpoint to the sweetness of the apple.  In hindsight, some spinach would also have been a nice addition.  I really liked this sandwich.  

  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, grated (about 1 cup)
    photo from
  • 8 (1-ounce) slices multigrain bread
  • 8 teaspoons mango chutney (such as Major Grey's)
  • 4 (1-ounce) slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces sliced lower-sodium turkey (such as Boar's Head)
  • Cooking spray
  1. Combine parsley and apple in a bowl. Spread each of 4 bread slices with 2 teaspoons chutney. Top evenly with cheese, turkey, apple mixture, and remaining 4 bread slices. Coat sandwiches with cooking spray.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sandwiches to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn sandwiches; cover and cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Lentil Soup (modified; Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen)  
vegetarian option**; gluten free
This was a combination of suppers and lunches.  Because this can cook for 9 hours (or a bit more) on low, this makes it an ideal recipe to assemble in the morning and eat when we get home.  I made this pretty much as recommended, except I forgot the greens at the end.  I also think this would be fabulous with about 1/2 cup barley added.  The mushroom flavor in this dish called out for the nutty barley grain.   

1 onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chicken broth**(optional - use another 4 cups veggie broth)

4 oz bacon (about 4 slices)**  don't chop! keep whole (bacon is optional)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
12 oz portobello caps, gills removed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup brown lentils
2 bay leaves
8oz Swiss Chard, stemmed and leaves sliced (I forgot any kind of green)

1)  [In a medium sized pan over medium high heat, in 1 tbsp oil] Saute onions, garlic, tomato paste, porcini mushrooms and thyme, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened. Add to slow cooker.

2) Stir chicken broth, vegetable broth, bacon, carrots, portobello mushrooms, lentils and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until lentils are tender, 9 to11 hours on low, or 5 to 7 hours on high.

3) Stir in chard (or other dark leafy green) and cook on high until tender.  For chard, about 20-30 minutes.  Discard bacon and bay leaves.

And one recipe I forgot from Memorial Day weekend:

Shredded Cabbage Slaw (Ckng Lght, May 2014)  vegetarian, gluten free
I modified this a bit - I used one pkg pre-shredded cabbage slaw mix (with red and green cabbage and carrots).  Not only was it cheaper than buying two heads of cabbage, but I wasn't left with leftover cabbage.  Another bonus is that simplified prep.  This recipe would be good on the side (as I served it) or on a po-boy sandwich or BBQ sandwich for a little extra tang and crunch.     
  • 1/2 head red cabbage
  • 1/2 head green cabbage
  • 1 pkg shredded cabbage mix
  • 1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Shred red cabbage and green cabbage. Combine yogurt, tarragon, Dijon mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Toss with cabbage.

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