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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nexus by Ramez Naam

Nexus (Nexus, #1)Nexus by Ramez Naam

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link human together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.

From the halls of academe to the halls of power, from the headquarters of an elite US agency in Washington DC to a secret lab beneath a top university in Shanghai, from the underground parties of San Francisco to the illegal biotech markets of Bangkok, from an international neuroscience conference to a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand – Nexus is a thrill ride through a future on the brink of explosion.

This was for July bookgroup.

A bit of a slow start for me, which I think was because I was distracted with other things and couldn't settle into the story.  When I finally did start reading in earnest, I found it mentally engaging and entertaining.  Just enough to cogitate on with a bit of action thrown in. 

Ramez explores an interesting concept - if you had something that could benefit everyone, but could ultimately be used for "bad" or "evil" if in the hands of an elite few, would you keep it, sell it, or distribute it?  That is ultimately, the question posed to our antagonist, Kade.  He has something two select groups of people want, but for their own purposes.  Kade feels this should belong to all, that the good people will do will outweigh the bad. 

Further, I think the Thailand/Buddhist setting was very apropos for this question - a balancing of action, of karma. An individual morality question being asked in a country where what you do as an individual determines your path. 

My one complaint with the book was the action scenes - they came across as overkill.  One combat modified woman repeatedly standing between Kade and his potential kidnappers.  One woman fighting a half-dozen combat modified soldiers and somehow winning against all odds.  Now, not, my complaint is not that she was a woman, it was the overly excessive use of force and odds  in both instances.

Overall, recommended.  I'm looking forward to the authors next book.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Recipe Review from 7/21/14

Not much to say about the week, it was pretty uneventful.  Weather was beautiful, we got to work in the garden and yard, got out for a long bike ride, got to a baseball game, and enjoyed life sitting on the porch. 

The Meal Plan
Sun (B) Italian Sausage and Onion Quiche (S) leftover turkey
Mon (Yoga) BBQ Kielbasa (using venison polish)
Tues - leftover BBQ bolish
Wed - Chickpea and Veggie Tagine
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri (Huskies Baseball Game)

Lunches - Greek Wraps, fruit, chips, nut cups, the usual...

Barbecue [Polish]  (Taste of Home via Pinterest) gluten free**

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
photo from

1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)
1 pound Kielbasa Sausage or Polish sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices  
1 cup ketchup  (I used chili sauce)
1/3 to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar  
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce** check for gluten

In a large skillet, saute onion in butter until tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. If desired, serve over rice.  
Yield: 4 servings.

Greek Style Chicken Wraps  (Ckng Lght Aug 2014)  gluten free option**
Warm weather finally came to visit and I wanted something other than traditional sandwiches for lunch.  This fit the bill perfectly - in fact, ended up making them for dinner one night because I didn't want to heat up the kitchen.   A bit putzy on the assembly, which was probably compounded by my extra steps: I made my own hummus (which is super easy, but does add to the dishes), chopped my own olives (cheaper to by them whole/pitted), added some freshly harvested Swiss Chard,  cucumbers for the Husband and zucchini for me.

I didn't toss everything together - I kept the hummus separate and used more as a thick base paste, zucchini/cucumbers were kept as rounds so we could add what we wanted, then I tossed the chicken, feta, olives, tomatoes, and oregano together.  The gluten free option would be either gluten free wraps or eat as a salad over fresh greens.

Photo from
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 4 ounces shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast (about 1 cup)
  • 2 1 Kirby or small cucumbers, chopped  (or sub zucchini)
  • 6 tablespoons plain hummus
  • 6 (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas 
  1. (See my notes above for assembly...) Place tomatoes, olives, feta, juice, oregano, oil, pepper, chicken, and cucumber in a large bowl; toss to combine. Spread 1 tablespoon hummus over 1 side of each tortilla. Top each tortilla with about 1/2 cup chicken mixture. Roll up wraps; cut in half.

Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine (CkngLght, July 2014)  vegetarian, gluten free
Husband made this dish so I can't comment too much on assembly.  He did have it ready in about half an hour so that was pretty close to as written.  He also admitted the cinnamon got doubled, but if he hadn't said anything, I honestly wouldn't have noticed (and that was with Penzey's cinnamon - pretty potent stuff).

I loved the flavors of this dish, a bit spicy, nutty, and fresh.  Perfect for a summer dish served warm or cold.  This made enough for two of us for three meals - and I did make extra quinoa.
  • 1 cup water 
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
    photo from
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 cups Sun Gold or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring 1 cup water, quinoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to release their liquid. Add chickpeas and zucchini. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Serve zucchini mixture with quinoa.

No-Bake Peach Pie  (CkngLght, August 2014)
Not my usual dessert since I normally eschew whipped topping, but peaches have been delicious and I do love me a lightened cream cheese-y type dessert.  This was a super simple recipe that I simplified even more.  I used a pre-made pie crust because I didn't want a box of graham crackers sitting around getting stale.  I skipped the whole "peach sauce" part because I didn't want a jar of peach sauce sitting around and I'm not even certain if I have any peach schnapps in the house!

I did add one ripe peach, cut into chunks to the pie filling, and refrigerated overnight.  I ended up not adding more peaches to the top, but that would make for a nice presentation. Result was still a delightful, light, creamy summer dish, hinting at the sweetness of peaches without being cloying heavy or sweet.  I would make this again, but maybe substitute fresh raspberries, blueberries or strawberries.  Blackberries would be divine too! 
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 5 cookie sheets)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
    Photo from
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • One 9" prepared graham cracker crust
  • 5 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons seedless peach spread
  • 1 tablespoon peach schnapps
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 medium peeled peaches, 1 peach pitted and cut into chunks.  1 peach pitted and cut into wedges. 
  1. Combine crumbs and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a food processor; process until combined. Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 30 seconds, stirring until chocolate is smooth. Add to processor; pulse until combined. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Freeze 20 minutes or until set.
  2. Place cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gently fold in whipped topping. Carefully spread filling over bottom of crust. Place fruit spread in a large microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 30 seconds or until bubbly. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, schnapps, and juice. Add peach chunks; fold to combine. Arrange the peach wedges over pie. Chill for 3 hours before serving.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West by Seth McFarlane

Seth McFarlane's a Million Ways to Die in the WestSeth McFarlane's a Million Ways to Die in the West by Seth MacFarlane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  "A Million Ways to Die in the West" pays homage to the traditional Western with a modern comic spin, following a cowardly farmer who seeks the help of a gunslinger's wife to win back the woman who left him.

"Read" as an audiobook.  I didn't realize that the narrator was Johnathan Frakes, aka"Commander Riker" on Star Trek Next Gen, until I read the jacket blurb.  I also have not seen the movie by the same name.

This was enjoyable in a thoroughly twisted and bizarre way.  I don't even know if I can adequately describe the story as it bounced from insanely ridiculous, to eewwww, grosssss!!, to laugh out loud silly, and ultimately a bit heartwarming.  I didn't know if I should be sympathetic with our cynically bumbling hero or cheer him on as he lamented the Love of His Life dumping him for The Mustachio Dresser.

I suspect if you like crude bathroom/bodily function jokes, ribald sexual descriptions, and don't mind very coarse language, this might be the book for you.  Not to be taken seriously - sit back and enjoy the story.  It's short, the pain will be over soon. :)

Recommended (with caveats above)! 

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Recipe Reveiw from 7/14/14

A rather quiet week overall - didn't go anywhere notable or do anything worth blogging about.  Garden is plugging along; I'm trying to replace the woodchip paths and weed and making steady progress.  We harvested our first batch of Swiss Chard, kale and sugar peas.  Yum!

Of interest, is the Husband is thinking of taking on chickens next year.  We are in the process of researching, well, everything - what kinds of chickens would be good for our area (remember, we spent 140 days below zero last winter), coops, feed, runs, etc.   Love the internet for research!  I think he's leaning toward a coop like this:  Coop by SilkieChicken.  Now the logistics of building said coop to work for our needs.  Stay tuned...   

The Meal Plan
Sun - (L) leftover chicken and rice dish; (S) chef salads
Mon (yoga) venison chops wrapped in bacon and grilled
Tues - leftovers
Wed - Slow Cooked Cajun Turkey  BLT Pasta
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - Slow Cooked Turkey
Sat - (L) chef salads (S) leftover turkey

BLT Pasta  (Ckng Lght Aug 2014)
The Husband loves bacon.  I love BLT's.  This seemed like a win-win recipe and it was.  The Husband did the assembly on this one and I didn't hear any comments so I'm assuming all went according to recipe.  He/we did drain off several tablespoons of bacon grease - probably had maybe 1-2 tbsp remaining in pan?  This does come together in about 30 minutes so perfect for a weeknight dish.  Enough for supper for two, and leftover lunch for one.  
  • 8 ounces uncooked mezze penne pasta
  • 6 center-cut bacon slices
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ounce fresh Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup) (we used Asiago)
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add tomatoes and salt to drippings in pan; cook 3 minutes or until tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and pasta to pan; cook 1 minute or just until spinach begins to wilt, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle pasta with bacon, pepper, and cheese.

Slow Cooked Turkey Breast and Gravy (modified  Slow Cooker Revolution, ATK)  gluten free option**
So I bought a turkey breast with the intent of using it for a slow cooked bean/wild rice/turkey/sausage dish, but I didn't get the rice or beans precooked and the meat was thawed.  Change of plans...gave the Husband the option of slow cooking the breast or grilling.  He chose slow cooked, but it wasn't cooking like it should by the time I got home, so we ended up finishing it on the grill for about an hour.  The problem?  A 6-7 lb turkey breast was too big for my slow cooker.  BUT!  Slow cooking the bird for 6 hours or so then finishing it on the grill?  Fantastic.  Moist, flavorful, nicely crisped skin...I could see us utilizing this method again.

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped medium
1 carrot, peeled and chopped medium
1 celery rib, chopped medium   (skipped, didn't have celery in house)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup all-purpose flour**
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 (6-7 lb) whole bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, seasoned with salt and pepper

8-10 qt slow cooker!!

1) Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until onion is softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in flour (or equivalent substitute ) and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup broth, scraping up any brown bits and smoothing out any lumps, transfer to slow cooker.

2) Stir remaining cup broth, water, wine, thyme, and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Place turkey skin side up into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until turkey reaches 165* on instant read thermometer, 5-7 hours on low.

2a)  This is where we deviated - after 6 hours we pulled the turkey out of the slow cooker and placed on a cooking rack in an aluminum grill pan.  Place in a preheated grill (350*), and grill for one hour or until bird registers 165-175*.   Remove and let rest 10-20 minutes under a tented piece of foil.  

3) As bird rests (either method), let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then strain off fat from surface.  Strain braising liquid into a saucepan, discarding solids, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Carve bird and serve with gravy.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

The Inner CircleThe Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  There are stories no one knows. Hidden stories. I love those stories. And since I work in the National Archives, I find those stories for a living.
Beecher White, a young archivist, spends his days working with the most important documents of the U.S. government. He has always been the keeper of other people's stories, never a part of the story himself...

Until now.

When Clementine Kaye, Beecher's first childhood crush, shows up at the National Archives asking for his help tracking down her long-lost father, Beecher tries to impress her by showing her the secret vault where the President of the United States privately reviews classified documents. After they accidentally happen upon a priceless artifact - a 200 hundred-year-old dictionary that once belonged to George Washington, hidden underneath a desk chair, Beecher and Clementine find themselves suddenly entangled in a web of deception, conspiracy, and murder.

Soon a man is dead, and Beecher is on the run as he races to learn the truth behind this mysterious national treasure. His search will lead him to discover a coded and ingenious puzzle that conceals a disturbing secret from the founding of our nation. It is a secret, Beecher soon discovers, that some believe is worth killing for.

Gripping, fast-paced, and filled with the fascinating historical detail for which he is famous, THE INNER CIRCLE is a thrilling novel that once again proves Brad Meltzer as a brilliant author writing at the height of his craft. 

"Read" as an audiobook.  I enjoyed the narrator - good voices, nice intonation, a pleasure to listen to.  

The story?  Meh, not so much.  The jacket blurb listed this as "gripping" and "fast paced".  Unfortunately, this read like a first novel with repetitive phrases, overly drawn out explanations that came across like info-dumps, and overdone comparisons (as in, "my legs felt like toothpicks, brittle and ready to break" or "my limbs felt like fishbones, ready to snap"). 

The main character seemed to spend most of his time rushing/dashing/running/lunging about, reacting prematurely to events rather than stepping back and thinking things through like the smart guy he was supposed to be. Nothing gripping about it and the only thing fast paced was when the main character was running down a hallway.

I have to admit, the premise of the plot was interesting enough, a secret cabal that surrounds and protects the president and has since George Washington, only now there might be two such groups - which group is the *real* one?  But the story falters with Beecher, the protagonist, and series of compounding stupid-ass mistakes for someone who was supposed to be semi-genius, that had me cursing, rolling my eyes and muttering dark things under my breath.

Ultimately, what could have been a fairly interesting mystery was lost in repetition, info dumps, and poor character development.  Recommended with significant reservations.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Recipe Review from 7/7/2014

A mid-summer head cold knocked me on my ass last week so meals were simple and uneventful.  The Husband made the Cajun Chicken and Rice dish for us late in the week - three meals worth of leftovers!  Woot!

The Meal Plan:
Mon (yoga)  Turkey Salsa Burgers
Tues - Leftovers
Wed (Husband out) Cajun Chicken and Rice
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri (Supper with Tess) leftovers

Lunches - sandwiches, fruit, chips, nuts, etc.

Cajun Chicken and Rice (Gluten Free Bible)   gluten free
This is not a new-to-me recipe, but it is the first time I've made it.  Pretty simple actually - brown chicken, chop veggies, combine in a casserole pan, bake and eat!  I love chicken and rice and this fit that craving.  Sister K4 has made this for me twice and it was this recipe that led me to go and get the above cook book.

That being said, a couple of modifications and one tiny hiccup.  I used all chicken thighs instead of thighs and drummies.  I also used brown rice instead of white rice (I was out of white) and I think that contributed to my hiccup - the dish should have been done in an hour, but it took an hour and a half.  Last half hour I bumped the heat up to 425*.  The Husband used two pieces of used aluminum foil, which perhaps didn't seal tightly enough and the rice didn't cook like it should have.  So if using brown rice, I think the temp needs to be increased to at least 400* and the aluminum foil tightly sealed.

4 chicken drummies, skin removed
4 chicken thighs, skin removed  (we used 1 20oz pkg thighs)
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
3/4 tsp salt (omit if Cajun seasoning is salted)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 can (low sodium) chicken broth
1 cup uncooked rice (I used brown - see my notes above)
1 medium green pepper (I used orange)
1 medium red pepper (I used yellow)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground tumeric

1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Lightly coat 9x13 with cooking spray.

2. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with Cajun seasoning and salt.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned on all sides.  Remove and set aside.

3.  Add broth to skillet; bring to a boil, scraping browned bits from bottom.  Stir in rice, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, thyme and turmeric.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Place chicken on top.  Cover tightly with foil.  Bake 1 hour or until chicken [rice!] is cooked through.  Serves 6.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Existance by David Brin

ExistenceExistence by David Brin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumors fill Earth’s infomesh about an “alien artifact.”

Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artifact is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity

June 2014 book group selection.  Not well received - nobody finished.  One member quit after 34 pages, one member made it about halfway and set it aside, I gamely plugged away, skipping bits...and with about 75 pages to go...I don't know that I'll finish.  Two members didn't even make it to the meeting.   The common theme from folks was: boring.

This particular book was slow to develop, with characters that weren't all that engaging, and a semi-interesting topic that got lost in a plethora of "stuff".  And, from my point of view, not very interesting stuff - it was small paragraphs of exposition that I thought intruded on the story and made everything more fragmented than it needed to be.  Though, one book group member liked the "stuff" and not the rest of the story. 

I've read many books by Brin in the past, I've listened to him on panels at scifi conventions (he's a fascinating and well articulated speaker), and I've watched the PBS series (?) he narrated on what would happen if humans disappeared from the earth.   His extensive knowledge comes through in this book, I could hear his "voice", but this book somehow fell short of his usual engaging characters and topics.

Recommended with reservations.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Recipe Review from 6/30/2014

A 700-footer coming in just before we slipped out the canal
Our household was treated to a very exciting Fourth of July.  The Husband and I were invited down to Park Point for a sailboat ride, a BBQ, and then fireworks in the Harbor.  Our Hosts let the Husband steer the sailboat out on Superior while they raised the sails, then later, back through the canal behind one of Superior's 1000 footers! Very exciting.  Dinner was a bounteous spread of grilled veggies, grilled potatoes, grilled corn, spinach and strawberry salad, and salmon, all rounded out with a absolutely divine dessert of brownies, peaches and ice cream.  That brought us back to the boat for a splendid fireworks display, then, while waiting for traffic to thin out (there is only one spot to get on/off of Park Point so things get backed up almost immediately), strawberry shortcake!   My thanks and gratitude to our hosts and their lovely family for a fabulous day.  

The 1000-footer we followed back in.

The 1000-footer waiting for the above boat to clear the canal so she could leave.

Meanwhile, in the recipe department, a couple of back to back trips had us eating tried and true recipes, keeping to uber simple meals.  As we shifted back into normalcy, the Husband took a turn at meal planning and prep.

His meal plan:
Mon:  Turkey Pitas
Tues:  leftovers
Wed: BLT Pizza  out with parents
Thurs: Slow-cooked ribs
Fri (L) leftover soup (S) BBQ
Sat (L) leftover soup  (S) leftover ribs
Sun - BLT Pizza

Lunches: Squash and veggie soup (his creation)

Turkey Pitas with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce (Ckng Lght, July 2014)   gluten free option
The Husband selected and made this dish for us. He subbed zucchini for the cucumbers ('cause he remembered I don't care for cucumber) and he subbed bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs because they were cheaper than turkey.   I thought these were very good!  We both agreed that the tahini-yogurt sauce tasted a bit 'peanuty', but it was tolerable for this anti-peanut person.  He put everything out in bowls so we could fill our own pitas.  When we ran out of pitas, we just made salads.  Could do as wraps, too. Made enough for two meals for two of us.   We had some leftover thighs that we froze for a later use. 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    photo from
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 (4-ounce) turkey cutlets  1 1lb+ package bone-in/skin-on chicken thighs 
  • 4 (6-inch) whole-wheat pitas   skip if gluten free, or sub an appropriate wrap
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cucumber baby zucchini 
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Combine cumin, paprika, salt, and turmeric in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture evenly over turkey. Add [turkey] to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove [turkey] from pan.
  2. Cut off top third of each pita; reserve for another use. Add pitas to pan; grill 30 seconds on each side or until marked. Cut pitas in half, set aside.  Cut [turkey] into slices. Divide [turkey], cucumber, and bell pepper evenly among pitas.
  3. Combine tahini and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Serve tahini mixture with sandwiches.

BLT Pizza with White Sauce (Ckng Lght, July 2014)
A bit putzy, but really good.  I made the dough in the morning and let rise in the fridge during the day.  A note: an hour and a half is NOT enough time to bring the dough up to room temp as recommended.  Even in 70* temps.  I inadvertently used up all the spinach and we didn't have any microgreens ready from the garden, so I subbed avocado.   Odd, yes, but I thought it worked. Crust cooking time need to be adjusted for your dough - I think my recipe made a 12oz crust and I should have pre-baked it 10 minutes more than called for.  A pre-bought crust (such as Bilobi) would also work just fine for this. 
photo from
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 4 (7 was better) center-cut bacon slices
  • 10 ounce fresh pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 2 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup baby arugula (baby spinach)  avocado
  1. Place a pizza stone on bottom oven rack. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Arrange tomato slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet; sprinkle with oregano and pepper. Place baking sheet directly on pizza stone. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are no longer wet. Remove tomatoes; keep stone in oven.
  3. Increase oven temperature to 500°.
  4. Combine mayonnaise, oil, chives, and garlic in a small bowl.
  5. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp; drain on paper towels. Break into pieces.
  6. Using well-floured hands, pat dough into a 10-inch circle. Place dough on a pizza peel or baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Pierce dough with a fork; transfer to preheated pizza stone. Bake at 500° for 5 minutes.
  7. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven. Brush mayonnaise mixture over crust, leaving a 1-inch border; top with tomatoes and bacon. Top with cheese; coat crust edge with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese melts and crust browns. Top with arugula. Cut into 8 slices.

Easy BBQ Ribs modified (Slow Cooker Revolution, by ATK) gluten free
The husband followed this recipe fairly closely, except I think he grilled rather than broiled.  I've modified the directions to show the grilling.  These turned out pretty good!  I think the slow cooking is a great way to get the tender-fall off the bone ribs without having to watch a grill for several hours - it can really speed up an evening meal or simplify a weekend get-together.  

3 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
6 lbs pork baby back ribs
3 cups bbq sauce (which was waaayy to much - maybe halve?)

1) Mix spices, sugar, salt and pepper together, then rub over ribs. Arrange ribs upright in slow cooker, with meaty sides facing outward (toward the slow cooker walls).  Pour BBQ sauce over ribs, cover and cook until ribs are tender, 6-8 hours on low.

2) Prepare grill. [our modification]  Transport ribs, meaty side down, to prepared baking sheet and tent with foil.  Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.

3) Strain braising liquid into a medium saucepan and simmer until thickened and measures 2 cups (unless halving) about 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

4) Brush ribs with sauce and grill until beginning to brown, about 2-4 minutes.  Flip and repeat, until ribs are well browned and sticky, 9-12 minutes longer.

5) Transfer ribs to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 10 minutes.  Serve with remaining sauce.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Final Detail by Harlan Coben (Myron Bolitar #6)

The Final Detail (Myron Bolitar, #6)The Final Detail by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 Jacket Blurb: Myron is settled in a Caribbean idyll - but all is not as well as you could rightfully expect. Myron is hiding from his own failures and friends. But then, he is forced back to face his old life, as his dearest friend is charged with murder. And the victim is one of his oldest clients.

Ironically, I just finished a Michael Coben book (Trunk Music #6) where Harry Bosch tells his team that when they solve the mystery, it will be in the details, the details that they were looking at all along, right on the front of the report. 

For The Final Detail by Coben, it was indeed in the details, but in this particular book the reader  doesn't get to see them ahead of time.  Instead, the reader is told piecemeal, usually after Myron figures out what was happening and goes to The Big Confrontation.  I'm not sure I like this method of storytelling, because then I don't have enough of the information to try and figure out the mystery for myself.

The Final Detail was perhaps less about the mystery than Myron coping with morality and the ramification of his actions.  In the last book he left the love of his life - Jessica - after realizing that maybe she wasn't the love of his life after all, he still feels responsible for the death of the woman who came between him and Jessica. Myron ran away from his friends, family, and business, and that's what took a hit in a bad, bad way.  Esperanza is being framed for the murder of his first client, the rest of MB Sportsrep clients are leaving in droves to the competition, and his father had a heart attack.  Ironically, it was this last that hit Myron the hardest.

So, what we have is a mystery about the frailty of ourselves and the ramifications of our actions.  Myron comes up with a metaphor that life is all about the foul line - we want to think we stay inside that line, but that line isn't always clearly defined. 

I enjoyed this book, I found myself sitting in the garage and my parking pace at work trying to squeeze in "just five more minutes", but it's not your standard mystery.

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