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Monday, March 31, 2014

Recipe Review from 3/24/14

It snows.  I snowblow. It melts.  It snows. I snowblow. It melts.  Welcome to my so-called "spring".  Where one day we are in blizzard like conditions with awful roads, and the next day it's 50 and sunny.  At some point here we need to strike a balance...

The Meal Plan:
Sun:- make Winter Squash Stew;  make Risotto
Mon (yoga and bookgroup) (legion meeting)
Tues - leftovers
Wed - (Bullseye League) make Quiche
Thurs (yoga) leftover quiche
Fri - (Husband at Outdoor show) leftover quiche;  make quinoa dish.
Sat (Sister up) Husband leftover quiche for lunch, me with sis. 

Lunches - Winter Squash Stew; fruit, bread, luna bars, yogurt and nut cups.

Cherry Ricotta Scones  (Ckng Lght March, 2014)  vegetarian
A putsy recipe that I didn't think was worth the bowls, saucepan, and utensils I dirtied to assemble this.  I don't have a microwave so I brought the cherries and OJ to a simmer on the stove and then covered and set aside.  The "ricotta" devonshire cream mix was better than I thought it would be, but it had a granular texture that I didn't find appealing.  Upon reviewing this...I might have shorted myself on the butter, but I'm not certain.  The flavor is good (I love cherries!) and had I remembered almonds, it probably would have helped.  In hindsight, I should have tossed a bit of almond flavor into the batter.  Oh well.  Ultimately, an "okay" scone.
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice 
    photo from cookinglight.com
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese 
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fat-free buttermilk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4.5 ounces whole-grain pastry flour (about 1 cup)
  • 3.4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Combine cherries and juice in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute; let stand 5 minutes. Drain; discard liquid. Finely chop cherries.
  3. Combine ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, rind, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture. Add 1/3 cup buttermilk and canola oil to remaining ricotta mixture, stirring until smooth.
  4. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cherries and almonds; toss. Add buttermilk mixture; stir just until combined.
  5. Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls 3 inches apart onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Combine egg and remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk, stirring with a whisk. Gently brush top and sides of dough with egg mixture. Bake at 425° for 15 to 16 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan; cool slightly on a wire rack.
  6. Beat the reserved ricotta mixture at medium speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. Serve with warm scones.

Risotto with Red Peppers and Asparagus (Ckng Lght Apr 2014)  gluten free, vegetarian
I LOVE risotto!  Something about the creamy rice just appeals to me in a comfort food way.  The April issue had an article on how to simplify risotto, where you rinse the rice in the broth before hand, then you don't have to stand and stir-stir-stir; but I can't seem to find that blurb on-line.  I tried the method and it worked great

My complaint with this recipe was the veggies amounts called for were way too much!  I halved the asparagus and thought there was still too much.  One red pepper would have been plenty.  The Husband thought the dish was overly bland.  I liked it except for the excessive veggies.  Broccoli would also be a good substitute for the asparagus. 
photo from cookinglight.com
  • 2 large 1 large red bell peppers
  • 1 pound 1/2 pound (or less) asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 cups organic vegetable broth 
  • 2 cups water 
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup Champagne or sparkling wine  I used regular white wine
  • 2 ounces goat cheese (about 1/4 cup)
  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Combine asparagus and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; add to baking sheet. Broil 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from pan; set aside. Broil peppers an additional 5 minutes or until blackened. Place peppers in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and chop peppers. Combine asparagus, peppers, and rind in a medium bowl; toss to combine.
  3. Bring broth and 2 cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  4. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, shallots, black pepper, and salt; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in Champagne; cook until liquid is absorbed (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/4 cup broth mixture. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total). Stir in asparagus mixture; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup broth mixture and cheese.


Winter Squash Stew with Beans and Corn  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2000)  vegetarian, gluten free
Super easy to assemble!  Cooks in about 45 minutes.  Easily made ahead and in fact, it's one of those recipes where it's better the next day after all the flavors have had a chance to meld.   Flavors are reminiscent of a chili or the southwest.  I did find this a bit on the bland side - so some hot sauce or chili powder if you like a little extra zing.

photo from cookinglight.com
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 3 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled buttercup or butternut squash (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 cup diced onion 
  • 2 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 dried New Mexican chile, seeded
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the squash and onion, and sauté 5 minutes. Add 1 cup water and the next 4 ingredients (1 cup water through chile); cover and cook 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups water, salt, and tomatoes; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Add the corn and beans; cover and cook 15 minutes. Discard the chile.

Mushroom, Gruyere and Spinach Quiche (Ckng Light April, 2014) vegetarian, gluten free option
I do love a good quiche and while this wasn't as "spectacular" as the magazine made it out to be (hell-O! It's just quiche!) it was still really good and even better as leftovers.  Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and in this case, dinner.  I did modify the recipe greatly in that I did NOT make my own crust.  I wasn't in the mood to add an hour to my prep-time and I had a single Pillsbury crust to use up in the fridge. 
photo from cookinglight.com
  •  1 homemade crust, OR 1 pre-made crust of choice OR 1 gluten free pie crust - all baked according to pie crust directions.
  • 3 center-cut bacon slices
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half
  • 3 large eggs  (I used 4 large eggs)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 ounces cave-aged Gruyère cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven temperature to 350°.
  2. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings; crumble. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add shallots to drippings in pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Drain any excess liquid.
  3. Place milk, half-and-half, eggs, egg white, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender; process until smooth.
  4. Arrange half of cheese over bottom of crust; top with spinach mixture and remaining half of cheese. Carefully pour milk mixture over cheese. Sprinkle with bacon. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until filling is set. Let stand 10 minutes.


Quinoa Salad with Roasted Corn and Tomates (Ckng Lght)  gluten free, vegetarian, vegan option
Quinoa Salad with Oven-Roasted Corn and Tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Combine corn and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast corn at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
4. Combine juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add corn, quinoa, and tomatoes to bowl; toss to coat. Add cheese and basil; toss gently.
- See more at: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2012/05/05/salad-saturday/#sthash.OeJMmAab.dpuf
The sister and little nephew came up to visit on short notice and I needed an easy and fast lunch that was gluten free, soy free, dairy free and high protein.  Quinoa has become my go-to meal base in situations like this and this recipe popped up on the first search.  The steps below can be done pretty much at the same time - once the quinoa is started, the corn can be popped into the oven, the tomatoes chopped and dressing whisked. 

I did cook up some lightly seasoned chicken tenders and add them to the dish for the adults - little nephew got chicken and veggies.  This would be great for a picnic or lunches because it can be served hot, warm or cold.  Recommended with and without the chicken!

Quinoa Salad with Oven-Roasted Corn and Tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Combine corn and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast corn at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
4. Combine juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add corn, quinoa, and tomatoes to bowl; toss to coat. Add cheese and basil; toss gently.
- See more at: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2012/05/05/salad-saturday/#sthash.OeJMmAab.dpuf1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water or broth
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about  three ears)
Photo from cookinglight.com
I used frozen corn.
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp fresh lemon juice 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup grape tomaotes, halved
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese - I used goat cheese
1/4 chopped fresh basil

1. Rinse quinoa; drain and combine with 1 1/2 cups water or broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until water is completely evaporated.  Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 375*
3. Combine corn and 1 tbsp oil in a medium bowl;  Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray.  Roast corn at 375* for 20 minutes or until lightly brown and roasted.  Cool slightly.
4. Combine juice, remaining 1 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl stirring with a whisk.  Add corn, quinoa and tomatoes to bowl; toss to coat.  Add cheese and basil; toss gently.  Can be served warm, room temp or cold.
Combine corn and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast corn at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. - See more at: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2012/05/05/salad-saturday/#sthash.OeJMmAab.dpuf

Quinoa Salad with Oven-Roasted Corn and Tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Combine corn and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast corn at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
4. Combine juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add corn, quinoa, and tomatoes to bowl; toss to coat. Add cheese and basil; toss gently.
- See more at: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2012/05/05/salad-saturday/#sthash.OeJMmAab.dpuf
Quinoa Salad with Oven-Roasted Corn and Tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Combine corn and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast corn at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
4. Combine juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add corn, quinoa, and tomatoes to bowl; toss to coat. Add cheese and basil; toss gently.
- See more at: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2012/05/05/salad-saturday/#sthash.OeJMmAab.dpuf

Quinoa Salad with Oven-Roasted Corn and Tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Combine corn and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast corn at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
4. Combine juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add corn, quinoa, and tomatoes to bowl; toss to coat. Add cheese and basil; toss gently.
- See more at: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2012/05/05/salad-saturday/#sthash.OeJMmAab.dpuf
Quinoa Salad with Oven-Roasted Corn and Tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Combine corn and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread corn in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Roast corn at 375° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
4. Combine juice, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add corn, quinoa, and tomatoes to bowl; toss to coat. Add cheese and basil; toss gently.
- See more at: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2012/05/05/salad-saturday/#sthash.OeJMmAab.dpuf

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Hex and the City by Simon R. Green (Nightside #4)

Hex and the City (Nightside, #4)Hex and the City by Simon R. Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket blurb:  Lady Luck has hired John Taylor to investigate the origins of the Nightside--the dark heart of London where it's always 3 A.M. But when he starts to uncover facts about his long-vanished mother, the Nightside--and all of existence-- could be snuffed out.

I finished this on my flights from Minnesota to Texas.  Absolutely perfect for traveling...actually just perfect period!

John Taylor, our Nightside private eye, accepts a job from Lady Luck to find the origins of Nightside.  A lot of people don't want him digging around in those murky depths, including Walker from the Authorities, The Hunter, and the Horrors - the entities who want John dead.  John engages two new characters - Sinner, a fellow who's living his own purgatory because he loves a demon named Pretty Poison; and Madman, who saw reality for what it really was and hasn't been able to see things the same way ever since. In John's journeys he encounters gods from days gone by and characters that can make the skin crawl on a dead man, but the biggest surprise is Lady Luck herself. 

Green's writing is definitely progressing and solidifying - the new character 'biographies' are becoming more integrated into the story rather than coming across as info dumps.  The new characters themselves are just amazing in their creativity and uniqueness.  Green has a subtle - almost wicked - sense of humor that keeps me turning the pages just to see what he will come up with next.  I find the length of these books just perfect for the setting, something that I can enjoy over a couple of days or on a trip.

Highly recommended.



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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson

Burning ParadiseBurning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


 Jacket Blurb:  Cassie Klyne, nineteen years old, lives in the United States in the year 2015—but it’s not our United States, and it’s not our 2015.

Cassie’s world has been at peace since the Great Armistice of 1914. There was no World War II, no Great Depression. Poverty is declining, prosperity is increasing everywhere; social instability is rare. But Cassie knows the world isn’t what it seems. Her parents were part of a group who gradually discovered the awful truth: that for decades—back to the dawn of radio communications—human progress has been interfered with, made more peaceful and benign, by an extraterrestrial entity. That by interfering with our communications, this entity has tweaked history in massive and subtle ways. That humanity is, for purposes unknown, being farmed.

Cassie’s parents were killed for this knowledge, along with most of the other members of their group. Since then, the survivors have scattered and gone into hiding. Cassie and her younger brother Thomas now live with her aunt Nerissa, who shares these dangerous secrets. Others live nearby. For eight years they have attempted to lead unexceptional lives in order to escape detection. The tactic has worked.

Until now. Because the killers are back. And they’re not human.


This book has been getting positive reviews in the scifi community, so I talked the book group into reading it.  I've read a fair number of Wilson's works and more often than not, enjoyed them.

The basis of Burning Paradise explores the relationship between humanity and the radiosphere, where there exists an organism which is subtly tweaking and altering humanity's behavior.  The Correspondence Society is the remnant of a group of people attacked by this 'organism' in 2007 when it became apparent to the organism that too many people were noting its existence.  Now, members are being approached once again, but this time by 'parasites', who claim they have the same objectives as the Correspondence Society...but do they?

For myself, this had the feel of a 1950's or 60's science fiction book, where there is the feeling that We Are Not Alone, but only a select group of people have figured this out.  We have a mixed group of hero's: four teenagers, a mechanic, two researchers, the head of the Correspondence Society - an eccentric rich man with deep pockets and deeper paranoia.

The first part of the story quickly drew me in, then it bogged down about halfway through as it became a series of info dumps.  I thought the info dumps were overdone - I felt I had enough information from the first third of the book to understand what was going on, what the 'hypercolony' had done and was potentially doing. The story picked up in the last third of the book as everyone makes their way to the High Desert in South America for the almost frenetic and somewhat implausible conclusion. 

Ultimately not my favorite Robert Charles Wilson book.



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Monday, March 24, 2014

Recipe Review from 3/17/2014

Happy Spring!

We got 5" of snow on Friday.  It was 0* on Saturday morning.  It is currently -4* as I type this on Sunday morning.  Low temps for the coming week are supposed to be hovering around 0*.  I am beginning to think spring is some make believe season...

This was the meal plan:
Fri - leftover sausage rice soup
Sat (B) pancakes  (L)  grilled cheese and soup  (S) leftover sausage rice soup
Sun (Yoga open house)  (L) leftover sausage rice soup  (S) Boiled Dinner
Mon (Yoga/IMA mtg)  leftover boiled dinner
Tues  Winter Squash Stew with beans and corn
Wed (retirement party, social hour only)  leftovers
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - leftovers

Alas, the flu ran though our house last week so the Irish Boiled Dinner lasted the whole week.  It's not a new recipe, but a St. Paddy's Day standard.   The Husband modified it a bit and slow cooked the roast and veggies.  Lots of variations on this dish if you Google Irish boiled dinner so you can really tailor this to your tastes. 

Boiled dinner: 
1 -3 lb pork roast (beef brisket, corned beef, or "picnic ham")
red potatoes, washed and quartered
turnips, peeled, washed and cut into same size as potatoes
cabbage cut into wedges
onion, chopped
baby carrots
1 bottle Moose Drool beer (or whatever's on hand or broth of choice)

Season pork and put in a slow cooker.  Add a  bit of water.  Add veggies.  Cook on low about 6 hours or until pork and veggies are done.  Serve with mustard. 


Friday, March 21, 2014

The Concrete Blonde by Harry Connelly (Bosch #3)

The Concrete Blonde (Harry Bosch, #3)The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars





Jacket Blurb:  In this classic from a #1 "New York Times" bestselling author, Detective Harry Bosch thought he'd stopped the serial killer known as the Dollmaker. Now the dead man's widow is suing Harry and the LAPD for shooting the wrong man--an accusation that rings true when a new victim is discovered with the Dollmaker's macabre signature.

"Read" as an audiobook. Narrated by Dick Hill. 

The mix of an on-going court trial covering the four year old shooting of a murderer known as the Dollmaker and a current investigation into a copy-cat murder was an interesting mix of dual plots.

In the court trial, Bosch is on the stand for the use of unreasonable force in his shooting of the suspected murderer known as the Dollmaker.  His city appointed lawyer is an inept buffon who has to match wits with Honey "Money" Chandler, one of the toughest prosecuting attorneys in LA.  Chandler shreds the defense on the stand and manipulates the entire trial with a deft and practiced hand.

In the secondary plot, Bosch realizes that there is a second Dollmaker murderer - a Follower, as he is dubbed, who is playing the LA Homicide department and subsequently, the trial, like a puppet show.  Everyone is dancing to his tune. 

Where I thought the plot fell apart was the romantic relationship between Bosch and Sally (whom he met in book #2).  One moment everything is going smoothly, Bosch is realizing things about himself, his past and his relationship, and then she cracks like a egg hitting the floor just when he needs her the most.  Ultimately I found her to be...pushy, whiny and annoying.  She was a cops wife, she knows what being married to cop is about, so why she thinks it would be different with Bosch is puzzling.   

My other complaint was with the "red herring".  I thought the attempt at subterfuge too obvious and blatant, to the point where it detracted from the plot rather than enhancing it because I just wanted to blast through the smoke screen and get to the actual murderer.  

Recommended, especially if you have read the first two books.



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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fade Away by Harlan Coben (Bolitar #3)

Fade Away (Myron Bolitar, #3)Fade Away by Harlan Coben




Jacket Blurb:  The home was top-notch New Jersey suburban. The living room was Martha Stewart. The basement was Legos and blood. For sports agent Myron Bolitar, the disappearance of a man he'd once competed against was bringing back memories of the sport he and Greg Downing had both played and the woman they both loved. Now, among the stars, the wanna-bes, the gamblers and groupies, Myron is unraveling the strange, violent life of a sports hero gone wrong, and coming face-to-face with a past he can't relive, and a present he may not survive. In novels that crackle with wit and suspense, Edgar Award winner Harlan Coben has created one of the most fascinating and complex heroes in suspense fiction Myron Bolitar a hotheaded, tenderhearted sports agent who grows more and more engaging and unpredictable with each page-turning appearance.

Let me tell you just how much I am enjoying this series...IMMENSELY doesn't begin to describe it! I started/finished this on 12 hours of travel from Brownsville, TX to Minneapolis, MN.

Jacket blurb is actually pretty good so I'm not going to rehash the plot summary. 

I continue to thoroughly enjoy the sports setting - it's so refreshing from the run-of-the-mill depressed alcoholic cop syndrome, so refreshing from the run-of-the-mill police procedural! So far, these mysteries are solved through a group effort, ideas being bounced of a variety of people rather than held "close to the chest" ala Lone Cop/Cowboy Cop trope.  Everyone does his or her bit of research to reach the Grand Finale.

I love the cast characters: Myron is young, conflicted by his past actions, has a big heart that he wears on his sleeve and is devoted to his friends.  His right hand, front desk gal Esperanza, is a nice counterpoint to Myron in her dry sense of humor and no-nonsense personality; the mysterious Win continues to be creepy, witty, drool, and delightfully mysterious; lastly, Myron's girlfriend is a solid grounding character to the rest of the cast and especially for Myron.  The sub-characters in each book round out the story perfectly. 

Highly recommended if you like sports and mysteries with a wicked sense of humor.



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Monday, March 17, 2014

Recipe Review from 3/10/2014

It's warm (54*).  It's cold (-5*).  It snows a little (dusting).  It snows a lot (14").  Welcome to Spring in Duluth.   Only one new recipe for the week as meals were kept a bit basic.  Which is okay. 

The Meal Plan:

Mon (yoga) - leftover Rogan Josh from previous week
Tues (yoga) - leftover Rogan Josh from previous week
Wed (Husband at Bullseye) - homemade 'raman noodle soup'
Thurs (yoga) - Sausage Soup with Wild Rice and Spinach
Fri - leftover soup
Sat (L) grilled cheese and tomato soup  (s) leftover soup


Sausage Soup with Wild Rice and Spinach  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2000)  gluten free
This was simplified a bit because I already had some wild rice pre-cooked and frozen.  I also doubled the amount of rice because I couldn't just thaw "a bit".  No biggie.  I love wild rice - the more the better!  I subbed Italian venison sausage for the turkey.   This comes together pretty quick with not a lot of prep.  Most of the time is bringing the mixture to a boil and simmering.  Flavors were reminiscent of an Italian dish like lasagna or spagetti and meatballs.  I thought this was outstanding.  Recommended. 

I will note, this makes a lot.  Enough for 4 meals for two of us.  Recipe did note this does freeze well - it didn't stick around long enough for us to find out.  
  • 1 1/2 cups water 
  • 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 pound turkey Italian sausage (I used venision)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 cups water 
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 (16-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups torn spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add wild rice; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until tender. Set aside.
  2. Cook the sausage in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned; stir to crumble. Drain sausage; set aside.
  3. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the sausage, 3 cups water, and the next 5 ingredients (water through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in cooked wild rice, spinach, salt, and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls; sprinkle with cheese.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green (Nightside #3)

Nightingale's Lament (Nightside, #3)Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  In the Nightside, the hidden heart of London where it's always 3 AM, Detective John Taylor must find an elusive singer known as The Nightingale. Her silken voice has inexplicably lured many a fan to suicide--and Taylor is determined to stop her, before the whole neighborhood falls under her trance. But to catch the swift-winged Nightingale, he'll have to hear the deadly music--and survive.
 
Book number three in the Nightside series, and just as interesting and entertaining as the previous.  The author is definitely starting to hit his stride and many of my complaints with the first book (Something from the Nightside) have been resolved.

John Talyor, in the process of avoiding the Authorities for a tiny little mishap at the power plant, agrees to look in on a new local singing sensation whose voice, it's rumored, drives people to kill themselves.  Her Father just wants to know Rossignol okay and happy.  John reluctantly agrees if nothing else than to keep himself ahead of the Authority.  The rumors prove true and with a bit more digging, a bit of help from his friends, he does more than find out if Miss Rossignol is okay.  

This plot felt simpler than the first two books and I think it was stronger for that.  Less running around, more methodical sleuthing.  We were introduced to a couple of new Nightside characters, but now their biographys don't come across as "info dumps".  Our characters are more seamlessly integrated into the story and plot.  I also appreciated the new characters rather than having the regulars trotted out for their stage appearance.  This gives the whole aspect of Nightside more depth and color, which I like. 

And a nod to Mr. Green for the very subtle references to other books.  Nicely done!  Made for very engaging reading. 

Recommended.



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Monday, March 10, 2014

Recipe Review from 3/3/14

We are finally climbing out of negative temperatures and beginning to warm up, thaw out and - dare I say it - move toward spring?  We can only hope this is the case... 

While enjoying the sun and warmth, meals continue to be warm and hearty.  Still lots of comfort-type foods that can be made in about 30 minutes or the slow cooker.  Without further ado,  here was last week's meal plan:

Fri - Chicken with Mushrooms, Cranberries and Rice (slow cooker dish)
Sat - (L) grilled cheese and soup  (S) Leftover anchovy pasta (from previous week)
Sun - (L) leftover chicken (S) Venison Meatball Subs
Mon (Yoga)  leftovers
Tues - Mexican Chorizo Hash modified
Wed  (L) Out with friend TESS!!  (S) Slow cooked Chicken Rogan Josh
Thurs - (Yoga) Leftovers
Fri - leftovers

Lunches - Butternut squash soup, fruit, nuts, crackers, luna bars. 

Chicken with Mushrooms, Cranberries and Rice (Great American Slow Cooker Cook Book gluten free
Initial mixed results that were entirely my fault.  I discovered the "Low" setting (1 out of 5 on my slowcooker) is too low.  The rice hadn't cooked one iota by the time I got home.  I tossed everything into a stockpot and boiled the heck out of it.   Small concerns about food poisoning...

Nobody got sick! I really liked this dish.  It was reminiscent of  a Go-To-Church Chicken that I grew up with, but much easier and perhaps a bit more flavorful?  Creamy rice with a hint of sweetness from the cranberrys and earthiness from the mushrooms.  I think this would have been even better cooked correctly rather than boiled, but that will be for next time. 

1 1/4 lb chicken (I used breasts and thighs), cubed
8 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 14oz can chicken broth
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Combine in a slow cooker, cook on low 5 hours (high about 3 or until rice is done). 


Turkey Meatball Hoagies  (Ckng Lght, Mar 2014)
This is moderately quick to assemble, and could be made easier by skipping the '"meatball" bit and just making a variation on Sloppy Joes.

One substitution - I used Italian venison sausage.  I did make the meatballs and my main complain is with the bread - a more specific quantity would have been appreciated because I think I ended up with too much crumbs.  In addition, the bread should be pulsed in a food processor because it was just too big even with finger crumbling to dissolve in the milk.   Actually, you could probably skip the bread in the meatballs completely.

Meatball assembly and cooking aside, this was a very tasty dish.  One could up the heat a bit by adding some crushed red pepper (for those adult tastebuds).  Whoops!  I see now I forgot the balsamic vinegar! Oh well.  I'd make these again - this made enough for two dinners for two adults.  
  • 4 (2 1/2-ounce) hoagie rolls with sesame seeds, split
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    photo from cookinglight.com
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces ground turkey breast 
  • 1 large egg white
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion 
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 3/4 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 5 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Place torn bread in a large bowl. Add milk, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add oregano, salt, turkey, and egg white to bread mixture, stirring just until combined. Working with damp hands, shape turkey mixture into 12 meatballs.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meatballs; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove meatballs from pan. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in marinara, basil, and vinegar; bring to a boil. Return meatballs to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until meatballs are done.
  4. Arrange rolls, cut sides up, on a baking sheet; broil 1 minute or until toasted. Top bottom half of each roll with 3 meatballs, about 1/3 cup sauce, and top half of roll. Sprinkle evenly with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Mexican Chorizo Hash  (Ckng Lght March, 2014)  gluten free
The Husband made this dish. for us for dinner  His main comment was the potatoes wouldn't brown and, after a while, were sticking to the bottom of the pan despite it being well oiled.  I have noticed this before with "hash browns" or similar - no matter what I do, they stick.  But, the point of this dish was to use those potatoes up and mission was accomplished. 

This was tasty and would be good for breakfast or dinner - I added just a touch of siracha sauce to mine to up the spice.  I would make this again.

  • 2 ounces raw Mexican chorizo
  • 1 cup prechopped onion 
    photo from cookinglight.com
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes (such as Simply Potatoes)  [I used OreIda diced frozen potatoes - which I should have thawed slightly ahead of time]
  • 4 large eggs (we used two eggs)
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chorizo to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion, bell peppers, salt, and black pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach; stir until spinach wilts. Remove sausage mixture from pan. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potatoes; cook 8 minutes or until bottom is crisp. Stir in sausage mixture. Make 4 egg-size spaces in pan with a spoon. Crack 1 egg into each space. Cover and cook 4 minutes or until egg yolks are slightly set.

Lunches:
Butternut Squash Soup (Great American Slow Cooker Cook Bookvegetarian, gluten free
I've tried three dishes out of this cookbook now and I've been happy with all.  This was a very bright flavored dish, the taste reminiscent of summer or fall with the sweetness of the carrots and squash.  It won points with me for being a "chop, plop, and walk" recipe - chop the veggies, plop them in the slow cooker, and walk away.  A quick spin with the immersion blender and it was ready for lunches for the week.  This made enough for 4 lunches for two of us - didn't quite get us to Friday. 

3 cups butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cubed  (I used 1-3lb squash)
1/4 lb carrots,chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tbsp smoked paprika (was supposed to be sweet, but I was out)
2 tbsp lemon juice (I used a splash of white wine vinegar) 
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cook on low about 8 hours, high about 4-5.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  Allow to re-heat if serving immediately. 


Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Lost Fleet: Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell (Beyond the Frontier #1)

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #1)The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb:  The Alliance woke Captain John "Black Jack" Geary from cryogenic sleep to take command of the fleet in the century-long conflict against the Syndicate Worlds. Now Fleet Admiral Geary's victory has earned him the adoration of the people-and the enmity of politicians convinced that a living hero can be a very inconvenient thing.

Geary knows that members of the military high command and the government question his loyalty to the Alliance and fear his staging a coup-so he can't help but wonder if the newly christened First Fleet is being deliberately sent to the far side of space on a suicide mission.

 
I'm not sure if my opinion of this book is colored by the thought I wasn't really in the mood to read a space opera or if is because this book was just plain dull.  Probably a combination of both. 

Our hero is now married and is sent off to the far reaches of Alien space by the Alliance as a way to get him out of the picture in a pure political move.   Admiral Geary's is given an impossible mission, which is to survey and make contact with the alien race they call the enigmas. And oh, on your way out would he please stop by Syndic space and pick up these prisoners of war, which all happen to be high ranking fleet officers.  All of our original cast is back: Captain Desjani (his new wife), Captain Duellos, ex-Co-President Rione, and several others.

This book plodded along and after a while I couldn't bring myself to really care what happened next - Rione was still being obtuse and difficult, Tanya was still questioning her honor for her feelings about Geary, the rescued officers wanted to rebel, the Fleet flew from spot to spot and fought a battle and nobody could figure out the aliens and their motives.  Ultimately, I couldn't care enough about the characters or plot to finish and ended up skimming.

I've read reviews that Beyond the Frontier #2 is better, but whoo, it's going to take a lot for me to overcome my apathy to pick it up.  Recommended with significant reservations.



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Monday, March 3, 2014

Recipe Review from 2/24/14

This is actually combining a week and a half's worth of new recipes.  The Husband was in charge of several meals after I got back from Texas, which I've included here. 

If you noticed a trend in the first two recipes, you would be quite correct - BACON!  Food Network Magazine ran a "bacon" issue, a food near and dear to The Husband's heart.  He made both of the bacon themed dishes, the kielbasa recipe, and the anchovy pasta dish.    

The extended meal plan was:
Thurs   Pasta with Bacon and Leeks
Fri  (L) sandwiches  (S) leftover pasta
Sat   (L) sandwiches  (S) out
Sun (L) Kielbasa with veggies  (S) Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
Mon (yoga/bkgrp) (Legion mtg) 
Tues- leftover Kielbasa and Veggies
Wed  (Bullseye league) leftover salad
Thurs (yoga) Anchovy and Garlic Pasta
Fri - Slow cooked Chicken with Mushrooms, Rice and Cranberries (will be on next review)
Sat - leftovers

Lunches (made on Sunday) Slow Cooked Minestrone Soup, fruit, veggies, crackers, luna bars


Pasta with Bacon and Leeks  (Food Network Magazine, Mar 2014)  gluten free option
I can't comment on how this one was to make, but it seems pretty straight forward - the recipe says a total of 30 minutes from start to finish.  This was quite tasty!  The flavor of the leeks was allowed to shine with any sharp flavors tempered by the white sauce and all balanced with a bit of bacon.  Leftovers were just as good; this made enough for two meals for two of us.

Kosher salt
photo from FoodNetworkMagazine.com
12 ounces mezzi rigatoni (or other short fat pasta **gluten free optional)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bunch leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced and rinsed well
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Chopped fresh parsley, for topping

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels; pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the skillet.

Add the leeks to the drippings in the skillet. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook until it begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the skillet along with the parmesan, half of the bacon and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat, adding enough of the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen. To serve, top with the remaining bacon, more parmesan and parsley.


Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing  (Food Network Magazine, Mar 2014) gluten free
This was perfect for a mid-winter salad pick-me-up: a warm bacon-y vinaigrette dressing served over a big bowl of greens, all topped off with sweet grapes and tangy blue cheese.  What's there not to like?  This can easily be halved. 
photo from FoodNetworkMagazine.com

5 slices bacon, roughly chopped
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spinach (not baby), tough stems removed
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
Croutons, for topping

Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 9 to 11 minutes. Remove to paper towels; reserve the drippings in the skillet.

Whisk the vinegar, sugar, mustard and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper into the drippings. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.

Place the spinach in a large bowl and pour the warm dressing on top; add the grapes, blue cheese and the reserved bacon and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Top with croutons.


One-Pot Keilbasa with Veggies (Dutch Oven Experiments Blog) gluten free
Another dish the Husband made, modified for the oven.  Result - outstanding!  A perfect balance of veggies and, in our case, polish sausage.  I loved the flavors of this dish - creamy, veggie, spicy all in one pot.  The Husband thought the veggies were a bit overcooked, I thought they were about right for this dish, so adjust our noted cooking times to your preference.  We also halved the recipe as there are only two of us eating this.  It made enough for two meals for two of us - perfect!


Camper's One Pot Meal
1 packages pre-cooked kielbasa (or polish), sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
1 red onion, cut into large chunks
photo from SciFi with Paprika blog.

1 bell peppers (he used green), cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2-pound package baby carrots
2 large potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/8 cup oil
2 tablespoons garlic salt
Freshly ground black pepper- to taste

Preheat oven to 400*

Combine all ingredients in a 6" deep dutch oven. 
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Perhaps giving everything a quick stir halfway through. 


Anchovy and Garlic Pasta (Cooks.com)
When the Husband's Dad, Bill, passed away a couple of years ago, his Dad's wife cleaned out some of Bill's food-stuff that she knew she wouldn't eat.  This was mostly cans of anchovies and sardines.  The Husband was creative and found a way to use up a can of anchovies that didn't involve a traditional Caesar Salad. This is a very simple, quick and flavorful pasta dish.  The Husband thought it was delicious, I found it a tad 'fishy', but some fresh grated parmesan and coarse ground salt helped ameliorate that taste. 

The Husband did comment that his little anchovy fillets didn't 'melt' as noted below. 

1/2 lb spaghetti (Husband used rotini pasta)
2 garlic cloves
1 (10 oz can) anchovies
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 spoonfuls pasta water

Cook pasta as directed. Drain, putting aside 2 spoonfuls of pasta water. Keep warm.In a skillet, sauté garlic in oil until golden. Add anchovies and 2 spoonfuls of pasta water. Let melt. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve sauce over pasta.
Very simple, but delicious supper.



Lunches:
Minestrone Soup (The Great American Slow Cooker Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough)
Vegetarian option, gluten free
This is a new cookbook that was being promoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about a month ago.  I made the Squash and Quinoa Soup and decided this might be worth buying.  I'll do a more thorough review later.

This is a non-pasta minestrone, which makes it a good choice for my gluten free peeps.  A very simple dish that comes together quite quickly.   The recipe does promote the use of dried beans, but canned would also work.  The cookbook offers directions for three sizes of slow cookers.  Mine is a 4-5 1/2 quart cooker so that's what this recipe represents. 

3/4 lbs dried white beans
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth**  (**vegetarian option)
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes  (no salt preferred)
2 medium diced yellow potatoes (like Yukon Golds)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped carrot
2 tsp fresh oregano (I used 1 tsp fresh parsley)
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary (I used 1/2 tsp dried)
1 clove minced garlic
bay leaves
White balsamic vinegar
salt

Pour the beans into a large bowl, then douse them with water until bowl is about 2/3 full.  Set aside to soak overnight.

Drain the beans in a colander set in the sink, and pour them into the slow cooker.  Stir in the broth, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, celery carrot, oregano, rosemary, garlic and bay leaves.  Cover and cook on low for 10 hours, or until the bean are quite tender.

Remove and discard the bay leaves.  Stir in the vinegar and salt before serving.