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Monday, December 29, 2014

Recipe Review from 12/22/2014

So after the previous week of upheaval (moved offices) and social activities (sister and family in town), I was able to settle back into my cooking routine.  As we approach the New Year, I'll be doing my usual recipe, cycling, and book tallies.  It will be interesting to see how I did recipe-wise this year.  I was making about two new dishes a week, which I think is down a bit from previous years.  I had more focus on leftovers and simplicity this year, which will continue into next year as well. 

The Meal Plan (I over planned...again...)
Sun - leftovers from family gathering
Mon  (Bkgrp/Legion)
Tues - Shepards Pie leftovers
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (Christmas with my Folks)  Pork and Butternut Tagine
Fri - leftovers
Sat - leftover soup for lunch, out for supper

Lentil Soup (Slow Cooker Revolution)  vegetarian, gluten free
This was not my favorite lentil soup and I can't quite put my finger on why.  It's got lentils and they aren't over cooked.  It has my favorite veggies of celery, carrots and a bit of potato.  It has seasoning.  It has vegetable broth.  But it's lacking...something.  Not sure what.  I think I might try adding various seasonings (but not all at once!) such as: fish sauce, soy sauce, chili paste, etc, and see if it bolsters anything. 

1 2/3 cup lentils
1 onion, chopped
1 cup celery
1 cup carrots
2 qts vegetable broth
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage

4 small baby red potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces

Combine in slow cooker.  Cook 4 hours on low or 6-8 hours on high.

**I added some Sambal Oleek and really liked the touch of heat it added.  

[Pork] Tagine with Butternut Squash  (Slow Cooker Revolution) gluten free
I made this dish for Christmas dinner with my Folks.  Everyone agreed this was outstanding!  I did substitute boneless country pork ribs for the beef, and the pork nuggets were fall-apart tender.   The spice combination rather tickled the tastebuds, and there was a gentle amount of heat from the red pepper flakes.  We served this with crusty bread and a selection of cheeses, but a bowl of rice and naan would also go very well.  Recommended!

1 1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 lbs [boneless country pork ribs]  or stew meat, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 butternut squash, cut into 1/2" cubes
8 shallots, quartered (I used 4 and it was plenty)
1 lb tomatoes, diced (keep seeds and juices!)
1 cup chicken stock (not beef or pork! too flavor heavy.)

Combine pork or beef with spices in slow cooker.  Add rest of ingredients and cook on low for 8 hours.  Serve with cilantro. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Knitting Interlude

I don't post much about my knitting projects on the blog even though I keep my Ravelry site up to date.  Not sure why that is.  So I thought I would take a post here and do a recap of some finished projects.

Note:  All links go to Ravelry.  

Clockwork Scarf  v2.0     pattern by Stephan West
Malabrigo Sock Yarn "Tiziano and Pozion"
1 skein of each

First time I made this I totally used the wrong kind of yarn.  Majorly frustrating and disappointing, but a lesson learned.  Second time I used Malabrigo for it's striking colors and loved the results.  A great project for conventions and travel, as it's just a lot of knitting and purling (but ya gotta remember those increases!)

Three in One Tweed Kitchen towels
Knitpicks Cotlin DK "Celery and Coffee"
1 skein of each
 #7 circs

I enjoyed this pattern.  The alternating colors kept the project engaging.  What I didn't like was the the outside edge and how it seemed to snug up.  The recipent has noted it washes and wears really nicely. 

dishcloth behind is Thistles, pattern by Knitpicks.

Dustland Mits  Pattern by Stephan West
Malabrigo Sock Yarn "Tiziano and Pozion"
#4 circs

Another stash busting project.  I had enough leftover yarn from the Clockwork Scarf to make a pair of these.  I was hoping to give them to the recipient of the Clockwork, but alas, they turned out waaayy too small for a guys hands.  Major bummer.  Still, fun to knit - I love the alternating pattern as it keeps the project engaging.

If you enlarge the photo you can see the different patterns. 

Top-Down Toddler Hoodie Blanket
Knipicks Pima Cotton "Sprout"
8 or 10 skeins?  we lost count...
#5 circs

This was a co-project with my sister Karen for our newest niece, Ms Ellie, who arrived back in July.  We each knit 1/2 the blanket, and both of us LOVED the Knitpicks yarn.  A dream to work with.  This project was probably the bulk of my knitting for the year, along with the cowl below.

just after being blocked

Hypatia Cowl by Knitpicks

Knitpicks City Tweed DK "Habanero"
5 skeins
#5 circs

An interesting pattern that has a different cable happening on the front and the back.  My one mistake with the cowl was I should have gone with the short version rather than the long.  I was soooo  ready to be done with this by the time I hit that fifth skein.  This took up the bulk of the knitting for the year along with the blanket. 

Birdie's Mitts
Wisdom Yarns Marathon Socks - "Boston" (discontinued)
#2 circs

A stash busting project!  I had just enough yarn to complete these adorable little mitts.  I liked the patterns simplicity with just a cable at the wrists.  I would make these again, but increase the cuff another inch or so and maybe make the finger cuff a bit longer to roll up and down.  Maybe...

Dimity Wrap  Pattern by Fiber Wild, Galena IL
Frog Tree Pima Silk  (2 skeins)
#8 circs

A lacy cowl that can be worn single or double wrapped.  I fell in love with the purple when I saw it on display and knew the perfect recipient.  Lacy pattern foiled me at first, and I frogged out one skein and started over completely.  Second go was a breeze.  Fast to knit and a delight to watch the recipients reaction (she loved it!). 

Ribby Wristers
Wisdom Yarms Marathon Socks - "Boston" (not a typo)
#2 circs

This was another stash busting project.  I had made these into socks years and years ago, ran short of yarn, couldn't find more, and they languished in the box.  Then I decided to turn them into a pair of fingerless mitts!  A quick pattern search on ravelry found me the perfect pattern and wah-la!   I had me a project!   Even better, no thumb to futz with.  I really liked the length of these, both on the arms and over the fingers. 

sorry, not the best photo

Te Ara Fingerless Mitts
Schoeller&Stahl Sockina Cotton
#3 circs

And another stash busting project!  Go me!  Part of the skein was made into socklettes years ago, and I ran out of yarn while making the second pair.  I wasn't liking them as socks anyway, so they languished with the Boston socks above.  Ravelry to the rescue, and these were turned into a pair of fingerless mitts.  I really enjoyed this pattern, and I think the twist at the wrist really does this yarn justice.  Ironically, I think the person I gave the socklettes to is getting the fingerless mitts...

So that rather sums up 2014 in one large post. While I certainly don't have a huge stash, it has grown larger than I am comfortable with and so I will continue my downsizing over the coming year.  I think about 90% of my yarns have an assigned project, which is really helpful when picking out the next thing. Now I just need the time to knit! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

This was our final book group selection for 2014, and ended up being a great book to end the year with. 

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

This was my bookgroups final selection for 2014, and  great book to finish the year on. 

I thought this was a interesting blend of 1950's genre - with the scientific observation, the breakdown on how things work and what it would take to survive - and 2010's optimism of manned flights to Mars.  The classic book that came to mind while reading The Martian was Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel.

The premise of the book is, Mark Whatley is stranded on Mars due to a freak accident during an emergency evacuation.  It will take every bit of cunning and ingenuity he has to survive long enough for the next Mission to rescue him - which is about four years.  His main concern is food and water, and if he can grow potatoes, he can improve his odds of survival.  Next is water, how to make water on a waterless planet.  Then he need to reestablish communication with Earth.  Don't forget keeping all the equipment running well after it's estimated allotted time-span - there are no spares on Mars!

The odds are stacked against him - and in fact, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.  Mark just can't get a break.  What I loved was his optimism, his sense of humor, and his "this isn't going to happen unless I make it so!" attitude.  He was a character that I cared about, and I found myself rooting along with the rest of  "Earth" for his survival.

Meanwhile, we also get Earth's point of view from Mars Mission Control.  Some good insight into "behind the scenes" action and what Earth thinks of all this.  I appreciated the author keeping these glimpses some what short and focused.  I do believe anything longer or more indepth would have detracted from the story - and Whatley.

It's by no means a 'perfect' book.  There are some questionable scenario's.   My one big question would be, would Earth really rally like it did in the book?

Ultimately, this was a book that pulled me along.  I don't claim to understand all the science, I admit to glossing over some of the scientific breakdown, but I still really enjoyed this.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 22, 2014

Recipe Review from 12/15/2014

Moving week at work!  Hobbit Wednesday! Full yoga schedule.  Family get-together on the weekend.  Needed quick and easy meals so fell back on some tried and true and "it's been a while" dishes.  Lunches were simply sandwiches because I suspected that microwaving soup wasn't going to be practical at work until we got settled into new space.  

The Meal Plan:
Sun - The Husband's Chili
Mon (yoga) leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed (AM yoga) - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) tacos
Fri - tacos
Sat (Family up)

Lunches - sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, luna bars, nut cups...the usual

The Husband's Slow Cooked Chili  gluten free
I don't recall if I've posted this here or not, or if I did, what I named it.  So I'm posting it again.

This isn't your typical Northern MN and WI chili.  No ground beef.  No macaroni.  Usually 2 kinds of beans (none of them kidney, but bean mixture is up to you).  This is thick, saucy, and chunky.  Awesome with some sour cream and cheddar cheese, with Frito's for scooping.  Or cornbread.  Love love love! warm cornbread slathered with butter and honey with my chili.

I'm giving a range of spices - how spicy/flavorful you like it is really up to to you.  If you're a Hot Head, use a bit more, like it flavorful but not spicy, err on the less side.  

1 lb stew meat, cut into 1" chunks (I prefer bite sized).  
*1 lb boneless country pork ribs also works very well, cut into 1" chunks.
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1" chunks
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1" chunks
1 onion, cut into 1" chunks
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 hot peppers of choice, minced (we used jalepeno and Anaheim, it all depends on whats available at the store)
1-15oz can diced tomatoes
1-15 oz can tomato sauce
1-15oz can pinto beans (or bean of choice)
1-15oz can navy beans (or bean of choice)
1-2 tbsp cumin
1-2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder

1 8oz can tomato paste

Assemble everything but tomato paste in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 4 hours.  Best if made ahead and allowed to sit one day to allow flavors to fully develop.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (part 3)

The last installment of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Franchise was released yesterday, and as has been tradition going on for 6 years (not consecutively), I went opening day.   For the Lord of the Rings series, my friend and I actually stood in line!  Yes!  But movie times, availability, and being able to purchase tickets ahead of time has taken away that necessity.  Now we can show up for a noon show, walk in, and be one of 8 people in the theater. 

But I digress.  This is about the movie.  Which we saw in 3D because on-line movie times didn't match real-world movie times and I didn't want to wait 45 minutes for the next 2D show.

Ultimately, I was underwhelmed.  It was and hour and a half battle scene bracketed by 30 minutes of getting the armies of Man, Elves, Dwarves, Orks, and Orks into place.  Then it was 30 minutes of tears.  I found the battle scenes to be overly large, improbable, and, well, boring.  We have our main characters dancing around, swinging swords and rocks and knives and wielding bows and arrows against impossible odds.   We have a shield wall that wasn't used properly.  We have ranks and ranks of archers that weren't used at all - even with a shield wall right in front of them! 

I sat in my seat, fidgeting, wishing I had my knitting. I sat there lamenting that if Peter Jackson was going to do his interpretation of the Hobbit, why couldn't the dragon have lived and smote all the armies and put everyone out of their misery right off the bat.  Poor dragon.  Always get the short stick right in the chest cavity.

I will maintain, Jackson took a fantastic adventure story and turned it into an action film. 

I don't need to say more, because if you've read the Hobbit, and seen the first two installments, you'll know what's coming.  

Recommended with reservations. 

Well, boys, this is a fine mess you've gotten yourself into...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recipe Review from 12/8/2014

A really busy week work-wise.  I've got a Big Project starting to end Phase I and move onto Phase II, right when we're moving offices.  We're getting bumped from our temp space, into a temp space down the hill in a different building.  We'll be there 6 months before we can move into our newly remodeled office.  Part of HUGE remodel of the whole county building.  Have you ever had to move office filing cabinets?  Let me tell you, packing and unpacking and repacking and unpacking filing cabinets sucks

6 more months and we'll be done!

Meanwhile - The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) Leftover soup  (S) Venison Burgundy a la Malachosky
Mon (Pike Lake/Yoga) leftovers
Tues - Leftovers
Wed (AM yoga) Baked Pasta
Thurs (Yoga) leftovers
Fri - leftovers
Sat (Husband training/me French River)

Lunches - Rice and Pea soup (me)/Sandwiches (husband)

Venison Burgundy a la Malachosky (NAHC Favorite Wild Game Cookbook)
This is by no means a new recipe for us, but a long standing favorite. This could also be made with beef or lamb.  A hearty, meaty, rustic dish, perfect for fall and winter. 

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 Burgundy wine (or other red wine)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil/olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt

1 lb boneless venison, round steak or substitute, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 tbsp butter
8 oz fresh mushrooms, cut into quarters
1/2 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth
3/4 cup Burgundy wine
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp bouquet sauce

In a large mixing bowl, combine marinade ingredients.  Add venison cubes.  Stir to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

Heat oven to 300*F.  Drain and discard marinade-high heat.  Add meat.  In 12" non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium-high.  Add meat.  Cook for 5-8 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Transfer to 3-quart casserole.  Set aside.

To same skillet, add mushrooms and onion.  Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.  Add vegetable mixture to meat.

Place flour in same skillet.  Blend in remaining ingredients.  Cooke over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until sauce thickens and bubbles, stirring constantly.  Pour sauce over meat and vegetable mixture. Stir to coat.  Cover and bake 1-1 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender, removing cover during last 15 minutes.  Serve over hot buttered noodles. 

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cheese  (Ckng Lght Oct 2003/Dec 2007) 
First off, I halved this and made an 8x8 pan.  Recipe below is for a 9x13.  I had NO problems halving.  A half pan made 2.5 meals for us (I had one meal, then the Husband and I had it for two more meals).  That was probably the most significant change I made.  I did use a bulk sausage because a) I had some in the freezer and b) I hate putzing with casings.  I used dried basil instead of fresh because I'm NOT paying $3 for a 1 oz package of fresh or whatever size those little tubs are. 

This doesn't turn out saucy, but has a nice blending of tomatoes, flavor and cheese.  This took about an hour from start to table, with half of that being oven time which gave me time to clean up the kitchen and set the table.  Recommended for a mid-week meal. 

1 (1-pound) package uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)
1 pound hot turkey Italian sausage links (I used bulk, Italian venison sausage)
1 cup chopped onion 
Photo from
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
2 (14.5-ounce) cans petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I used dried basil - not paying $3 for fresh!)
Cooking spray 
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fresh mozzarella cheese 
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese 

1) Preheat oven to 350°.

2) Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain the pasta, and set aside.

3) Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage, onion, and garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4) Combine cooked pasta, sausage mixture, and basil. Place half of the pasta mixture in a 4-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Top with half of mozzarella and half of Parmesan. Repeat layers. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Risi e Bisi  (Vegetarian Slow Cooker)  Vegetarian, Gluten Free
This is a riff between a risotto and a rice soup.  According to the recipe, Arborio rice is necessary to get the natural thickening agent from the starches.  This comes out of the slow cooker a bit on the thin side, but it did thicken quite nicely after it sat overnight in the fridge. 

I really enjoyed this soup, it was a nice change of pace from the bean/lentil soups I have been eating.  The green peas made this almost Spring-like in color and taste.  I had this for lunches, so it made enough for 6 days worth. 

1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup short grain white or brown rice (Arborio)
6 cups vegetable broth, divided
2 cups green peas, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan or vegan alternative
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp butter (optional)

1) In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for about 1 minutes.  Add rice and two cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Boil rapidly for 2 minutes, transfer to slow cooker.

2) Add remaining 4 cups of broth and stir well.  Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until rice is tender.  Stir in peas, Parmesan, parsley and butter if using.  Stir well and cook for another 15 minutes or until peas are tender.  Discard bay leaves. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Threadbare by Monica Ferris (Needlecraft #15)

Threadbare (A Needlecraft Mystery,#15)Threadbare by Monica Ferris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  When an elderly homeless woman is found dead on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, she's wearing something that holds the key to her identity but also opens up a mystery. Embroidered on her blouse is her will, in which she bequeaths everything she owns to her niece-Emily Hame, a member of the Monday Bunch at Betsy Devonshire's Crewel World needlework shop!

Emily's aunt turns out to be the second homeless woman to be found dead under mysterious circumstances. It's up to Betsy to discover the common thread between the deaths-and to determine if a murderer may strike again..

Another cozy mystery set in Excelsior, MN, on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.  Betsy Devonshire, proprietress of Crewel World needlepoint and yarn shop is pulled into the mystery of two homeless women who were found dead mere blocks apart.  Her sleuthing takes her to Minneapolis and, by train, to Fargo, where she unravels more than just an intent to murder.

These are - to me - mindless brain candy reads, where nothing more is expected of me than to enjoy the story.  Monica Ferris has been consistent in her writing I find her mysteries fairly solid and diverse. 
I have two minor complaints - one is the rather slow character development.  Now with 15 plus books in the series, I would like to see a bit more of the main characters as people, rather than, "owner of a books store" or "former police officer" and their current state emotional state (tired, elated, exhausted, or more typically, crying).  We have been introduced to a beau of sorts, but the relationship is coming across as superficial and kinda tacked on in an unspoken promise that there "might be more".   Just write in the romance - let the reader feel what Betsy is experiencing!

I have voiced my other complaint before, and not just in this series - portraying the local police force as inept.  Now, I will give Ms Ferris credit, she at least stopped making our good Detective an utter ass and demonstrated more of a willingness to work with Betsy.  HUGE improvement right there, but I think there is still room for more of a positive give and take between the police and Betsy.

Overall, a decent weekend read, perfect for zoning out on the couch during a snowstorm, or taking on a trip. Easily picked up and put down.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 8, 2014

Recipe Review from 12/1/2014

Well, here we are moving into the last month of the year.  The Thanksgiving leftovers were all consumed at the beginning of the week and I had a crockpot dish premade so suppers were just "heat and eat".  And, par for the course, I forgot to take pictures.  I need to do a better job of that. 

So instead, a random picture of the garden from last spring.  

The [unexciting] Meal Plan:
Sun:  (L)  leftover soup from previous week (S) thanksgiving leftovers
Mon: thanksgiving leftovers
Tues: Texas Style Pork Chili
Wed: leftovers
Thurs: leftovers
Fri:  Out

Lunches:  (me) Slow cooked Hariria, crackers, apple, yogurt/granola, nut cup
(Husband) sandwiches, chips, apple, yogurt/granola, nut cup

Texas Style Pork Chili  (Slow Cooker Revolution Ckbk)  gluten free
It is my understanding that a true Texas chili has NO beans.  Nada, Zilch, Zero, beans.  So for non-bean people this is a positive thing.  I'm a bean person, so this concept is a bit foreign to me. Really?  A chili without beans?   I went for it anyway because I had a package of leftover boneless pork ribs in the freezer  and the rest of the chili was mostly pantry staples.  I did have to buy the jar of roasted red pepper.

Flavor wise and consistency, this was pretty darn good.  I did add a can of hominy (NOT beans, corn) just because it seemed the chili needed something to round it out and I wanted an extra bit of something in it.  The hominy was the perfect touch.

Note about the spices.  The original recipe called for 1/4 cup chili powder. I use Penzey's spices which are known for their freshness and potency, so I cut back to 1/8 cup.  In combination with the chipolte in adobo, this was on the spicy side.  Cut back on the chili powder and/or the chipolte if there are Norwegian or little tastebuds. 

This made enough for three meals for two of us. We do one "serving" - or one bowl - per meal.  I had fresh cornbread alongside.

2 lbs Boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2" cubes  (I used boneless pork ribs, the big meaty kind)
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 (15oz) can hominy (optional! my addition)
1 can no-salt added diced tomatoes (I used petite diced)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 small jar, roasted red pepper (I find this in the condiment aisle, I just use the whole jar)
1/8 cup chili powder (or to taste)
1 tbsp cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (canned) chipolte pepper in adobo, stemmed and minced - this is 1 (ONE) pepper, NOT one can!  

1) Toss the pork cubes with brown sugar and salt in the slow cooker until well coated.

2) Dump the tomatoes, (hominy) onion, red pepper, chili powder, cumin, minced chipolte and sauce into the slow cooker.  Stir gently until meat is good and slathered.

3) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until pork tender.  

Harira (Vegetarian Slow Cooker Ckbk)  vegetarian, vegan, gluten free
The cookbook informs us that this is a variation on a Moroccan soup, made with lamb and served during Ramadan to break fast at the end of the day.  The recipe calls for a dollop of harissa, a spicy North African sauce - which I omitted because I'm just not going to find that in Duluth.  A bit of Siracha would be an acceptable substitute for a hit of heat. 

This made a huge quantity - enough for me for lunches for the week and then for lunches on the weekend.  I suspect this dish would freeze nicely, since there is no dairy to worry about.  Early on I found the lemon to be the predominant flavor, but as the week went on, the flavors melded to a more harmonious combination. The red lentils won't retain their shape in this dish, but disintegrate to nicely thicken the sauce. 

2 cups chickpeas (1 can = 2 cups...I might have used 2 cans)
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp tumeric
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes with juice (I used petite diced)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried red lentils (I had to add some brown because I was short)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1) Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and celery and saute, stirring, until lightly softened. About 5 minutes.  Add garlic, tumeric, lemon zest and pepper and cook about 1 minute to let flavors bloom.  Add tomatoes with juice and heat through.  Transfer to slow cooker and stir in broth.

2)  Add chickpeas and lentils, stir to combine.  Cover and cook on Low 6-8 hours or High 3-4 hours, until mixture is hot and bubbly and lentils are tender (my note: the red lentils will actually lose shape and thicken the broth)Stir in parsley if using.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Skin Games by Jim Butcher (Dresden #15)

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)Skin Game by Jim Butcher

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

Chapters 1-8, I was wondering if I had stepped into some male wet dream.  The first four female characters were pretty much Barbie-doll copies: long legged, big chested (as in they filled out their sweaters quite nicely, or so I was informed), long hair of all shades, and quite fuckable.  Then we morphed right into a 20 minute (on audiobook) dream sex scene.   Gack.  I seriously contemplated pitching the whole audiobook right out the window right there and paying the library the fine for not returning it.

But I kept going.

And listed to Harry wallow in self pity.  Poor Harry.  Everybody Loves Harry but Harry thinks nobody loves him.   I am beginning to wonder why anyone likes Harry because he's a major git.

But I digress.

And I listened to Harry wallow in self flagellation on how he killed Susan.  Again.  And again. And yet again.

And I listened to Harry's soliloquy on how he's brought all this harm to his friends because he's been freezing his ass off on Deamonreach trying to protect everyone. 

And I listened to Harry pontificate on his terror of raising Maggie.

And I listened to Harry's tough guy exterior snarkiness.

And somewhere in all of this I *think* there was a plot.  Something about raiding Hades for the Holy Grail, but not really, because it wasn't about the Grail, but it wasn't about Harry, and it wasn't about the money, but maybe it was?  Too many loose ends left floating around like bits of sticky ectoplasm.

Not my favorite Dresden book.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 1, 2014

Recipe Review from 11/24/2014

The Husband and I stayed home this Thanksgiving instead of venturing to Puerto Vallarta or S. Carolina like we have for the past five years or so.  We kept our Thursday meal super simple, opting to roast a duck I've had stashed in the freezer, use one of the butternut squash from our garden, the usual stuffing, and took advantage of the bumper crop of Wisconsin cranberries, and - I can't believe I'm admitting this - we made a no-bake cream cheese pumpkin pie. But in our defense, it's really good pie.

Two words for the duck - baking. bag.  Wow!  Perfectly done duck.  No fat splattered oven.  Go me! 

The Meal Plan for the week (also super simple):

Sun (L) leftover soup    (S)  leftover pasta
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/Legion mtgs)  out
Tues - pasty and gravy
Wed (AM Yoga)  frozen pizza  (had one Sammy's left in the freezer)
Thurs - Roast duck, stuffing, butternut squash gratin, cranberry chutney, pumpkin pie
Fri (L) Leftovers  (S) out
Sat (L) Leftover soup  (S) Leftover duck

Lunches - Barley, Lentil and Mushroom soup (me) Sandwiches (D)  and the usual nut cups, luna bars, yogurt, chips/crackers

Barley, Lentil and Mushroom Soup (America's Slow Cooker Revolution)  vegetarian
The recipe said this was a riff on a beef and barely soup, but uses lentils instead of meat for a great vegetarian option.  Super simple to prepare, a quick saute for the onions and mushrooms which is key so recipe doesn't become too runny.  I did do a quick deglazing of the pan to release the mushroomy goodness and added that to the slow cooker as the extra 1 cup of broth.  Mine turned out super thick - almost stew like, so if you like yours a bit broth-ier, add extra liquid.

Made enough for 3 lunches for me, then three meals for two of us.  So about 6 servings or so. 

1 medium onion, diced
1 lb cremini mushrooms, washed, and quartered
2/3 cup carrots, diced
2 stalks, celery, diced
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup green or brown lentils
1 quart plus 1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1) Saute onions until soft, add mushrooms.  Cook mushrooms until liquid is released and reduced.  About 10 minutes.  Put in prepared slow cooker.

2)  Add to slow cooker carrots, celery, diced tomatoes, barley, lentils, broth, rosemary and thyme.

3) Cook on low 6-8 hours, or on high 4 hours, or until barley is plump and soft.  Serve.

The Thanksgiving Meal 

The Duck:  cleaned and seasoned the bird the night before.  Day of,  roasted 1 hour in a 400* oven (in a Reynolds baking bag), turned down to 300* for second hour, back up to 400* for 15 minutes or so while stuffing and butternut squash cook. Drain off fat and juices, and let separate.  Let stand 15-20 minutes while everything else finishes.

The Stuffing:
1 bag of dried bread cubes (unseasoned)
1 1/2 cup broth and 1 stick of butter combined and warmed till butter is completely melted
8oz mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 apple, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tsp sage
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter and broth together.  Combine bread cubes and rest of ingredients.  Add broth/butter mixture and stir till bread is softened. Placed in a greased 9x13" pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake about 30 minutes at 400* or until steaming hot and mushrooms are well cooked.  Some people like more broth - so feel to add extra to taste.

The Butternut Gratin (from The Farm on PBS by Ian Knauervegetarian, gluten free
 I do love my PBS cooking shows when I can get a quiet Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon to sit and watch them.  It so happened that Ian was doing his "Thanksgiving" meal for this particular episode.  I had to try this dish!

It turned out pretty good...but not a nice as his looked.

Serves 8

3 lbs butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I subbed 1/2 n 1/2 - that might have been a boo boo)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces grated white cheddar cheese  (I used sharp cheddar, maybe not the best option)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Thinly slice the squash and the onion using a slicer. Drizzle a small amount of the cream over the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish. Using half of the squash and onion, make layers, seasoning each layer with a pinch each of salt and pepper and a drizzle of cream until the dish is half full. Scatter half the cheese over the squash layers.

Continue making layers with the cream, squash and onion, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. Drizzle the remaining cream over the gratin, then spread the remaining cheese evenly over the top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to bake until the gratin is golden on top, 15 to 20 minutes more.

The Cranberry Relish (from  vegetarian, gluten free
I am a bit of a Food Geek (if you haven't figured that out already).  Not infrequently, I will be standing in the kitchen, mentally running through my cupboards, fridge and freezer, while the Husband has his laptop up and running searching for "the recipe".  I don't know what "the recipe" is, until the a recipe matches what I have envisioned in my head.

This was one of those recipes.  It turned out great...with some modifications of course. 

  • 2 cups 1 to 1 1/4 cups sugar is plenty 
  • 1 orange, juice and zest of, grated
  • 1 lime, juiced and zest of, grated
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger (I used crystallized ginger)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2 inches long
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (I used a 12oz bag)
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (I used triple sec)

Combine sugar, zests, juices and next 5 ingredients in a heavy pot.  Cook until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and let boil for about 3 minutes.

Fold in the fresh cranberries& liqueur.

Simmer, stirring occasionally until most of the cranberries pop open, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool.   Can serve immediately, or put in fridge until ready to use. 

The Pie, or what's left of it...

AND!  The Duck Stock!
We took advantage of a lovely carcass to make a batch of stock.

Break duck in half after completely removing all salvageable meat and put in large stock pot.  Fill with water till carcass is submerged to a depth of 1-2".  Add onion (can be large chunks), carrots (we used baby), and celery.  Bring to a simmer.  DO NOT BOIL.  Let simmer gently for 4-8 hours, occasionally skimming yucky foam off the top. Let cool slightly.   Drain through a strainer lined with cheese cloth, a cotton cloth for this purpose, or a good quality paper towel.   Cool further and put into ziplock bags or Ziplock plastic "canning" jars.  We froze these for ease of storage (love those -7* temps!). 

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