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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Private India: City on Fire by James Patterson and

Read as an audio book.

This *might* have been better read on paper, so to speak.  It wasn't that I struggled with the narrators accent, I struggled with the names and the narrators overall intonation.  His voice wasn't as succinct and clear as I like to hear on an audio book, so I had difficulty with the volume, pronunciation, and  trying to figure out who was who because most of the characters sounded so similar.

Premise of the book is Santosh, head of Private: India in Mumbai, is battling private and external demons.  His wife and child are dead after he plowed their car into a tree on a hairpin turn, leaving him injured mentally and physically.  Rupesh, head policeman (I forget his title) has been angry with him for years after the accident.   Externally, a serial killer is strangling women with yellow scarves and arranging their bodies according to the nine phases or avatars of Durga.   And much like the different faces of the Goddess Durga, nothing in India is what it seems on the surface.
There was a small ISI terrorist subplot that was woven throughout -  but this little subplot tendril would crop up at odd times until it's grand finale that felt more like the author going, oh, this sounds cool because I can add a gun fight!

Speaking of guns, the frequent mention of Nisha wearing a Glock and taking comfort in her Glock on her hip was not lost on me.  What I questioned was do Indians carry the same thoughts about guns as American's do?  Is it a prevalent part of their culture and would it be predominant part of a Indian female detective/former policewoman's wardrobe?  The men didn't seem to think about their gun as much as Nisha did, and when it came down to it, her gun didn't do her a heck of a lot of good. 

And, speaking of gun fights, nobody is going to carry a gold plated Desert Eagle in the back of their pants (or even the small of their back) and if said gun is as difficult to fire (as our fine Jack Morgan pointed out), a drugged up, underweight prostitute is NOT going to be able to smoothly pull the gun from someone's pants and fire it with any kind of reliability.  

Just sayin'. 

So, an interesting read in a fascinating city in an incredible country.  I appreciated that this wasn't the usual "India is so great!" diatribe, but a look at it's dark and seedy underbelly, the corruption that is rampant at all levels, the hypocrisy of individuals, and how money can grease a lot of wheels. 

The Tower of Silence was so intriguing I had to look it up - did you know there is a vulture shortage due to habitat loss and the birds are on the cusp of extinction due to the use of an anti-inflammatory  used in cattle that is fatal to vultures?  And this happened in the 2000's.    I also thought using the Hindu Goddess Durga and her nine avatars to correlate with the nine murdered women was well done.  It did make me wonder though,  how much of the book had been "Americanized" for the target audience? 

Ultimately, mixed reviews on the plot and execution of said plot, but I enjoyed the setting immensely. Recommended if you've read previous Private books. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Recipe Review from 12/19/2016

A bit of a mish-mash for meals and recipes this week.  We had some nice leftovers from the ham dinner from the week previous, one night both of us were out for our meetings, double office potlucks, which brought us up to the end of the week. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun  (L) leftovers  (S) Leftover ham dinner from Saturday.
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/Legion)
Tues - leftover ham dinner
Wed (work potlucks)  slow cooked chili
Thurs (yoga)  leftover chili
Fri - leftover chili

Lunches - a bit of everything...

Slow Cooker [Beef] and Sweet Potato Chili (Ckng Lght Nov, 2016)  gluten free
Only two significant substitution and that was a very mild breakfast sausage for the beef and pinto beans for the black.   This is super easy to assemble - you can chop veggies while the sausage cooks, then everything goes into the slow cooker and you walk away.  

This was an awesome chili!  Slightly sweet, little bit of heat, perfect chili flavor - I had to keep reminding myself it was sweet potatoes and not squash, so, you could substitute butnut squash for the sweet potatoes.  In hindsight, a can of hominy would have been a really good addition.   I'm thinking I need to bookmark this one and bring it to our office chili cook-off next year.  Recommended!   
1 pound 90% lean ground sirloin   (I used sausage)
photo from
4 cups (3/4-in.) cubed unpeeled sweet potato (about 1 1/4 lb.)
2 1/2 cups unsalted beef stock
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 (14.5-oz.) cans unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add beef to pan; cook, stirring often, just until crumbled and mostly browned, about 3 minutes. (Beef will not be fully cooked.) Remove from heat.
  2. Combine sweet potatoes and next 11 ingredients (through black beans) in a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in beef. Cover and cook on LOW 7 hours. Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro. Ladle chili into 8 bowls; top with cheese and remaining cilantro. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Armada by Ernest Cline

Final book group book for 2016.

Young Adult. I felt like I had read this one before, knowing full well I hadn't.

Similar to Ready Player One, this is a bit of a nostalgic walk through the 80's and 90's video game noir combined with a heavy dose of the young adult (or not so young adult) scifi books predominant in the same time frame.

Premise of the book is Zach is on the cusp of graduation from High School, a part time worker at a video game store, one of the top ranked players in the video game Armada, and wishing he could meet his long dead father. Zach's world revolves around nostalgic scifi movies, books, and classic video games. His room is a tribute to his father, killed in a sewer plant accident when he was 19 leaving young Zach and his Mom on their own. Then Zach sees an actual scout ship from Armada, and his entire world view changes.

While an interesting and fond stroll through some classic books and movies of my past, about half way through I thought the story bogged down in its own nostalgia. I really struggled to keep reading because it was too much like all those young adult scifi books - young special protagonist is the worlds only salvation because only they see what no one else can. The issue here was, I cared about Ender, I didn't care about Zack.

Alas, I wish I could have moved on. When Zach is finally recruited by the Earth Defense Alliance - who somehow built an uber secret base on the Moon and have been battling the Europans for the last 20 years - my ability to suspend my disbelief drifted off into vacuum.
  • Those thousands of amateur astronomers never saw anything?
  • A Moon-base that was built based upon 80's fictional movies (note the plural)?
  • How did they get pop to the moon?
  • Everything on the Moon is run remotely by drones via people on earth?

If this book's target audience had truly been young adult, and shelved accordingly, I could have approached this book differently (like leave it on the shelf). As it was, all these noir references spooled together in some kind of living video game ultimately fell flat for me as an adult.

Recommended for 10-16 year olds.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Recipe Review from 12/12/2016

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!  Which is what it did everywhere but here.  Here, it just got cold. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) leftover pizza from get-together  (S) leftover beef/barely stew
Mon (yoga) leftover beef barley stew
Tues - Skillet Chicken Parmesan
Wed - leftover
Thurs (yoga)
Fri (yoga) Chicken Tikka Masala
Sat (L) leftovers  (D) Dinner with Parents

(Husband) sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, luna bars, figgy bars
(Me) leftover cassoulet, leftover barley stew, potluck

One-Pan Chicken Parmesan (Pinterest via The Cookie Rookie)  gluten free option, vegetarian option!
I was craving a baked pasta dish and I remembered I had this one saved on Pinterest.  This fit what I was looking for: tubular pasta, saucy, little bit of cheese, flavorful, and EASY. 

This could easily be modified to fit a Gluten Free pasta (just don't over cook), and  can be made meat free - skip the chicken and add quartered brown mushrooms, maybe some onions and bell peppers.  \

My modifications: I used turkey tenders for the chicken, and I made my own "Italian dressing" (1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning - let stand 5 minutes)

photo from the Rookie Cookie blog
2 tablespoons Italian dressing (not the creamy kind)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes 
16 ounces small/medium sized rigatoni pasta
1 24-ounce jar of your favorite Marinara pasta sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh basil for garnish (optional)  (It's winter, I'm not paying for fresh basil)
  1. Heat chicken and Italian dressing in a large 12 inch skillet over medium high heat (If you don't own a large skillet, you can use a stock pot). Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Cook chicken until browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes depending on thickness of chicken.
  3. Add the box of pasta and the entire jar of marinara. Fill the empty marinara jar with water and add to the skillet. If using a stockpot, use 2 cups water. Lightly stir the mixture to combine.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender to your liking. ***
  5. Cover with grated parmesan and then shredded mozzarella. No need to stir. Continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes or until cheese is fully melted. You can also broil the entire skillet for about 4 minutes to make the cheese extra melty!
  6. Top with chopped basil (optional) and serve! Enjoy!
***The pasta in the middle of the skillet and underneath will be more tender than the outside pasta. It's okay if those pieces are a bit toastier and less soft. The inside will be plenty soft.

Quick Chicken Tikki Masala (Cooking Classy blog via Pinterest via Epicurious)  gluten free, vegetarian option
This would have been really good if I hadn't tired to get "creative" and use smoked paprika instead of regular.  While not inedible - far from it - it just wasn't "tikki masala" as I know and love. 
That being said, I would make this again (san's attempted modifications).  It comes together very quickly, it's flavorful, and with some boil in a bag basmati rice, makes for great homemade Indian food.

This could also be made vegetarian buy subbing two cans of chickpeas for the chicken. 
photo from Cooking Classy
1 1/2-inch knob ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 Tbsp garam masala spice blend, divided (see notes)
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used fat-free, any kind will work fine though)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Cooked jasmine or basmati rice, for serving

1. Pulse ginger and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add onion and pulse until finely chopped. Toss chicken with 1 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp salt. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, rotating halfway through cooking, until cooked through, about 6 - 7 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate.

2. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion mixture and saute until onions have softened, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, remaining 1 Tbsp garam masala, the paprika, and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes, season with salt to taste, and cook stirring occasionally until mixture is hot, about 2 minutes (you can let it simmer longer if needed if the canned tomatoes used were watery. If the canned tomatoes were thick you can add a few Tbsp of water if needed to thin the sauce mixture). Return chicken to pan and cook 1 minute longer. 

3. Remove from heat, stir in Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Serve warm over rice topped with cilantro.

Cooking Classy recipe source: loosely based off of this recipe on Epicurious

County Potatoes au Gratin  (Ckng Lght, May 2006)  vegetarian option, gluten free option
I halved this recipe because a 9x13 was too much for four people.  It halved nicely.

Mixed thoughts on this one - easy to assemble, I admit I liked the longer baking time (time to clean up, relax, and pull the rest of the meal together.  What I didn't care for was the milk mix seemed to...curdle? coagulate?  get glumpy? when all was said and done.  I even let it stand for the allotted 15 minutes.  So...presentation was less than stellar. 

The Husband commented that it wasn't very cheesy, and I had to agree.  The cheese flavor that I love and expect in au gratin just wasn't there.  Recommended with reservations.

Photo from
1 medium onion (about 5 1/2 ounces), thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup) or gluten free mix
6 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese (1 1/2 cups), divided
6 ounces diced ham (about 1 1/4 cups)
3 pounds peeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
Cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Combine milk, salt, pepper, and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan. Bring to a simmer; cook until slightly thick (about 2 minutes), stirring frequently. Add 4 ounces cheese and ham, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in potatoes.

3. Place the potato mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle potato mixture with remaining 2 ounces of cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until lightly browned and potatoes are tender. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Garlic Honey Mustard Slow Cooked Ham ( via Pinterest) 
 I wanted a slow cooked recipe for the last of our heritage ham for my Holiday dinner with the Folks.  This fit the bill perfectly!  I did have to HALVE the recipe - my ham was only 4lbs.  This makes a lot of sauce, even halved.  This had the perfect amount of sweet/tangy to compliment the rest of the dinner of potatoes, cranberry dressing, and roasted squash.  I would totally make this again.

9-10 pound precooked spiral cut ham, bone in
2 cups honey
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic (I use jarred)
  1. Combine all ingredients except ham in your blender and pulse until well blended. Reserve one cup of glaze.
  2. Place ham in crock pot, flat side down. Slowly pour glaze over ham, making sure to get some between each spiral slice. Lift ham to get glaze underneath as well.
  3. Cook on low for 2 hours. Pour remaining glaze over ham and continue cooking on low for an additional 1 to 2 hours depending on the size of your ham.
  4. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Haller #6)

The Gods of Guilt (Mickey Haller, #6)The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Mickey Haller gets the text, "Call me ASAP - 187," and the California penal code for murder immediately gets his attention. Murder cases have the highest stakes and the biggest paydays, and they always mean Haller has to be at the top of his game.

When Mickey learns that the victim was his own former client, a prostitute he thought he had rescued and put on the straight and narrow path, he knows he is on the hook for this one. He soon finds out that she was back in LA and back in the life. Far from saving her, Mickey may have been the one who put her in danger.

Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Mickey must work tirelessly and bring all his skill to bear on a case that could mean his ultimate redemption or proof of his ultimate guilt. The Gods of Guilt shows once again why "Michael Connelly excels, easily surpassing John Grisham in the building of courtroom suspense"
(Los Angeles Times).

Read as an audio book.

It is somewhat fascinating to me, how a courtroom trial - an agreeably dry and tedious process at the best of time - can be turned into a suspense/thriller novel. Which comes around to how many times can our said defense attorney Mickey Haller be physically attacked to keep him off the trail or as a warning not to continue. I'll have to remember to ask the defense attorney I know if things are really this exciting. I suspect not.

Premise of the book is Mickey is defending the online pimp (he handles online website design and escort bookings) of a former client, a professional escort who went by the name of Glory Days. Mickey thought Gloria had moved on and up in the world, moving to Hawaii under the auspicious of a patron (though if he believed that, he's not as smart as he thinks he is...). As Haller and his staff start to dig deeper into case, they discover a decade or more of cover-up involving a trio of escorts, the DEA, and a Mexican cartel member. Now it's up to Mickey to clear his client of murder and expose some dirty agents.

Overall, pretty good. First third of the book is set up, establishing the cast and characters who all played a part to bring this whole scenario to trial. I will say, the DEA and Mexican Cartel aspect was a tiny bit implausible. I'll say that and someone in internet-land will snort and say they read it in the paper.

I also felt there was a bit too much use of phrase "the Gods of Guilt" by Haller. Once or twice to establish the title and as use as a plot devise, but every chapter (it felt that way)? Egads. I don't need to be hit over the head with the concept. I get that the jury represents the "Gods "who will determine if someone is ultimately guilty or not.

There was a scene where Haller's car is forced off an embankment and takes a tumble. Mickey's driver, Earl is thrown from the car and Mickey is roughed up pretty good. Then the accident felt glossed over. The reader finds out Mickey was in hospital, but... that's it. No more mention of aching pain, chiropractic care, physical therapy, etc. Unless I missed a sequway or time jump, which is entirely possible listening to an audio book during a commute, the accident came across as filler. A way to add more guilt to Mikey's already burdened conscious.

I conclude by saying, this is one trial that takes the reader right up to the last pages of the book. There are a couple of very interesting - but not unexpected - twists before everything is wrapped up all tidy like with a big shiny bow.

Recommended if you've read the first five in the series.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 12, 2016

Recipe Review from 12/5/2016

Winter has arrived with temps reaching a balmy 10* during the day, and from what the weather reports are predicting, things are going to continue to be a mite bit chilly this coming week.  It's definitely the season for soups and stews. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) Coconut Thai Butternut Soup     (S)  Chicken Dinner with fixin's
Mon (yoga)  leftover chicken
Tues - leftover chicken
Wed -leftover soup
Thurs (yoga) - leftover soup
Fri -  Slow cooked Beef and barley stew
Sat (Craft fair/Early Christmas with the Sis)

Classic Cranberry Sauce (Ckng Lght, Nov 2008)  vegetarian, gluten free
I'm pretty sure I've variations on this "classic", and in all likely hood may have made this recipe, but there were no notes in my cookbook so I thought what the heck?

My recipe alterations included dropping the sugar down to 1 cup and adding 2 tbsp triple sec (Grand Mariner would also work).  I skipped the orange rind because I didn't have any on hand.

photo from
1 1/2 scant 1 cups sugar
3/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon grated orange rind 
1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 12 minutes or until cranberries pop. Remove from heat; stir in rind. Cool completely. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Slow Cooker Sausage Cassoulet (Ckng Lght Nov 2016)   gluten free option**
I do love me a hearty cassoulet, and I like them even more when it's more bean and veggie based than meat.  Add in the simplicity of a slow cooker and we had a winning recipe!

I only had two substitutions - I used 6 oz kielbasa for the sweet Italian chicken sausage because I had it on hand, and I used dried beans (pre-cooked) instead of canned.   And one modification - I skipped the breadcrumbs.

This was perfect for a week of dropping temperatures -  it made enough for about 6 meals total (four lunches and supper for two).  It's hearty, warming, and flavorful.  Recommended. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
photo from
1 1/2 cups (3/4-in.-thick) diagonally cut carrot
1 cup chopped peeled turnip
1/2 cup diced celery
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 (4-oz.) links fully cooked sweet Italian chicken sausage, chopped
1 (28-oz.) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsalted butter **
1/2 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, turnip, celery, and garlic; cook 5 minutes or until just tender.
  2. Place vegetable mixture in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add cannellini beans, sausage, tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium. Add breadcrumbs; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in cheese. Stir half of breadcrumb mixture into cassoulet in slow cooker; sprinkle remaining breadcrumb mixture and parsley evenly over each serving.
 Thai Coconut [Squash] Soup (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016) vegetarian
This is fairly quick to pull together, though best done on a weekend if planning for a week night meal.   I found this to be incredibly liquidy - we prefer our squash soup to be nice and thick.  As in stand up a spoon thick.  So I basically doubled the squash.  Probably should have doubled the seasonings.... oh well.
photo from
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups (1/2-in.) cubed peeled fresh pumpkin or butternut squash (about 1 lb. 2 oz.)
1 large Granny Smith apple, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups unsalted vegetable stock (such as Swanson)
3/4 cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons cilantro
Lime wedges
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add pumpkin, apples, curry paste, ginger, and salt; cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Add stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 25 minutes or until pumpkin and apples are tender.
  2. Place half of pumpkin mixture in a blender, remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape). Secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters); blend until smooth. Place soup in a bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining pumpkin mixture. Pour in coconut milk and lime juice, and reheat in pan if needed. Divide soup evenly among 8 bowls; sprinkle evenly with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Slow cooker [Pork] and Barley Stew (Ckng Lght, Nov 2016)
This recipe received positive reviews in the magazine. less than positive about my results.  I followed the recipe with one exception - I subbed pork for the beef.  OH! Wait, two exceptions.  I ended up using 2 tbsp dried onion flakes for the onion because I ran out of onion.  WHO the heck runs out of onion!?!   Everything else is as directed.

By the time this was done and cooked - this was more casserole like in its consistency than stew like.  Thick...very thick.  I have to add extra water when re-heating to get it stir-able.   It also turned out incredibly bland which surprised me.  I expected a nice heartiness from the beef broth, thyme and tomato paste.  What I got was almost tasteless - I'm adding siracha sauce for a little extra kick.

So, not my favorite by any means.  Not a colossal fail, just not what I anticipated.  Recommended with reservations.
photo from

4 cups unsalted beef stock
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup uncooked hulled (whole-grain) barley
1 cup water
1 cup sliced celery
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 large thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds beef stew meat, divided
2 1/2 cups (1-in.) pieces carrot
  1. Stir together first 8 ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves; dollop tomato paste on top.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add half of beef; cook until well browned, about 6 minutes, turning once. Add beef to slow cooker. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and beef. Scatter carrots over beef. Cover and cook on LOW until meat and grains are tender, about 8 hours. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Ladle stew into 8 bowls; sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Movie: Dr. Strange

I haven't done a movie review in a while...simply because I just haven't been to the theater.  Fall was too beautiful to waste indoors.

The Husband and I caught an early showing of Dr. Strange last Saturday.  I LOVE that I can catch a 915am movie!!  Grab some lunch afterwards, run an errand, and I can still enjoy my afternoons. 

Dr. Strange is set in the Marvel Comic universe, of which I only have a passing knowledge.  I've seen the first two Ironman movies and that's about it. The great thing is, you don't need to really understand the Marvel world or comics to enjoy this movie. 

Premise of the movie is Dr. Strange is a brilliant and egotistical surgeon.  He's callous, self-centered, and, from hints dropped in the movie, spending money hand over fist.  On his way to a speaking engagement, he fires his car off the side of a hill (texting and driving!) and crushes his hands.  Without his hands, he becomes nothing.  After a last ditch surgery fails, he spends the last of his money on a trip to Nepal to seek the help of the mystics. He gets more than he bargained for when the Ancient One shows him a world he doesn't believe exists - it's outside the realm of science.

The Ancient One has a student who went rogue and has stolen a spell from one of the sacred books. This spell is to bring to power the Eater of Worlds.  Dr. Strange, his understanding of his powers not yet manifest or understood, is forced to take on a the Ancient One's adversary and a God. 

Fun, fun movie!  The plot was engaging.  The special effects were AWESOME.  The acting was good - we are dealing with a lot of CGI Green Screen here - and the humor was, humorous.  I thought the movie was a balanced blending of action, character development, humor, special effects all while advancing the plot.

This can be watched as a stand-alone movie.  That being said, the observant movie goer will have observed how they set up a sequel.  Dr. Strange was engaging enough that I would go see the next one.   Recommended. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Recipe Review from 11/28/2016

It continues to be dreary and overcast - I think we're going on two weeks now of continuious cloud cover?  Might have had some sun last Saturday afternoon, but it was brief.  Snowed a bit Saturday into Sunday so at least it's not dreary brown any more. 

Pretty basic menu this week, nothing too exciting. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) Leftover chili  (S)  Slow cooked corn chowder
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/legion mtgs)  out
Tues (field day)  tofu lomein
Wed - Pumpkin soup  pancakes
Thurs (yoga)  leftover lomein
Fri - leftovers
Sat (L)  out   (S)  leftover corn chowder and popovers.

Honey Whole Wheat Pull-apart buns (Ckng Lght Nov 2016)
These are definitely a plan ahead baked good, which I did not do and I kinda slammed these through at the last minute.  Which does not work in our cooler house.  Now there might have been some extenuating circumstances to the less than stellar performance of the dough:
  • My flour is old.  I hadn't realized how long it had been in the freezer and didn't think it would matter. 
  • My milk/butter were too warm even though I checked the temp and it was within an acceptable range.  
  • My house is just too cool for a traditional counter top rise even though I put the bread by a warm oven and a warm crockpot.  
First rise was less than stellar, but I went with it.  Second rise wasn't much better, but dough was rising.  Bread did poof more in the oven and actually made buns.  Overall flavor was good, texture and crumb were good, and I liked being able to use my spring-form pan for something other than the periodic cheesecake.  But there was something off with the dough itself.

I plan on making these again, but trying the orange/sage variation. 

photo from
1 pkg. dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp.)
3 tablespoons warm 1% low-fat milk (100°F to 110°F)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 tablespoons honey 2 large eggs
4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
4 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons water
1 large egg yolk
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; let stand 5 minutes. Add butter, honey, and 2 eggs to milk mixture; beat at low speed 1 minute or until combined. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and salt in a bowl. Add half of flour mixture to milk mixture; beat at low speed until combined, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula as needed. Remove paddle attachment; insert dough hook. Add remaining half of flour mixture; beat at medium-low speed 4 minutes or until combined.

  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead 5 minutes or until smooth. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°F), free from drafts, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press 2 fingers into dough. If indentation remains, it has risen enough).

  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 12 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining pieces to avoid drying), gently roll into a smooth ball. Place rolls in a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, leaving space between rolls. Cover and let rise 1 hour and 15 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  5. Combine 2 teaspoons water and egg yolk in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Brush rolls with egg mixture; discard remaining egg mixture. Bake 13 minutes or until golden. Place pan on a wire rack; cool 5 minutes. Remove sides from pan; cool completely.

Corn Chowder  (Slow Cooker Revolution)  gluten free, vegetarian option
I didn't see a previous post of this after a quick search on the blog, and I didn't have any notes in the cookbook indicating I've made this before.  I'm going on the assumption this is new, even though I have a feeling I've done it before.   I'm also going from memory as I type this, so I may have to come back and tweak the ingredients. 

This is pretty basic in taste, best with fresh corn but frozen works just dandy.  You can up the flavor factor by adding some shrimp toward the end of cooking and make it a shrimp-corn chowder.  This made enough for 4 lunches for one, and dinner for 2 so...roughly 6 servings. 

4 cups corn
1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped 
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp thyme  
1/2 - 1 cup half n half 

1) Put everything in the slow cooker, cook on low 8 hour or high 4 hours (or to your slow cookers time/temps, they're all a bit different).   Using and immersion blender, puree to desired thickness.  You can skip blending if you like, it's entirely optional.  Add half and half to desired taste.  Serve.

Tofu and Vegetable LoMein  (Ckng Lght, Nov 2016)  vegetarian option**
Couple of items right of the top:  I cannot find "fresh linguine or Chinese egg noodles" where I live.  Does. Not. Exist.  This is not the first recipe I have gone in quest of said noodles, and I keep hoping someday they will miraculously appear, but in the mean time I continue to experiment with noodle substitutions.  This time it was udon noodles, cooked according to directions on the package.  They worked okay.

I have a love/hate relationship with tofu.  I like eating it, and the versitility it offers in dishes, but trying to get it to "brown"?  HA!  I've tried a dry pan, I've tried a lightly oiled pan, I've pressed the water out of the brick, nothing seems to work and I end up with tofu burnt to the bottom of my pan.  

I will also admit, I goofed up the recipe.  I forgot to add the stock and cornstarch mix.  I was getting ready to serve, I looked behind me on the counter and lo! there was my measuring cup with this lone ingredient.  So I tossed it on top and gave everything a good stir.  Cornstarch didn't have time to completely dissolve so the noodles were a bit...grainy.

By the time we had this as leftovers, it tasted much better.

photo from
8 cups water
6 ounces refrigerated fresh linguine or fresh Chinese egg noodles
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock or vegetable stock**
2 teaspoons cornstarch 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
6 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
10 ounce shiitake mushroom caps, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage (from 1 cabbage)
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

  1. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add noodles; cook 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain; rinse under cold water. Drain.

  2. Combine stock and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add tofu; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Remove tofu from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, mushrooms, and bell pepper to pan; cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cabbage and soy sauce; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add stock mixture and edamame to pan; cook 3 minutes. Add noodles and tofu; toss to combine. Divide tofu mixture among 4 shallow bowls.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nemesis Games by James SA Corey (Expanse #5)

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: The fifth novel in James S.A. Corey's New York Times bestselling Expanse series--now being produced for television by the SyFy Channel!

A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.

November's book group selection.

This, was a awesome book. A bit of a departure from previous sections in the series (and way better than death slugs and eye fungus from the previous book) in that our crew of the Rocinante has dispersed to the four winds while the Rocinante is undergoing repairs. Each of the crew has something from their past that needs wrapping up. Each crew member says their goodbyes, but it's left open and unsaid if they are planning on returning. James Holden is left to his own devises, bumping around a station, purposeless until the news reporter Monica disappears after telling him about ships going missing. .

When the proverbial shit hits the fan (or the stealth rocks start falling on Earth), our merry crew is scattered across the galaxy:
  • Amos is on Earth, deep underground chatting with Clarissa Mao when the lights go out.
  • Alex is with Bobbie, and they find themselves zipping around the galaxy with the Martian Prime Minister while Avasarala throws her political weight around.
  • Naomi becomes Marco's prisoner - someone she thought she had left decades ago - under the pretense that Marco wanted the mother of his child safe when the Belter's stand up and take their rightful place in the universe. 
  • Holden is left on station with the Rocinante when the last sample of the protomolecule is stolen from Fred Johnson's office. Fred and Holden begin to realize that nothing is safe and nobody can be trusted.

My least favorite story line was Naomi's - simply because it felt more like filler than the solidity the sub-plots had. I grew tired of her internal emotional tug of war regarding Marco and being shoved back into a situation she thought she had left behind. I wanted to smack her upside the head and say get over yourself already!

I loved that Avasarala and Bobbie were back in full force. Chrisjen is probably my favorite character in this series. I laughed out loud when Avasarala is bombasting the Martian Prime Minister in a message to Bobbie, knowing full well that the PM can overhear what she's saying, and when Bobbie apologies, he shrugs and admits that Avasrala didn't say anything that he hadn't already heard. Great scene.

And ultimately, the question becomes, how will all these plot lines return to the Rocinante. You know they will, so it's a matter of how. Which I won't tell you about here. Nemesis Games is just too much of a roller coaster ride to deny you the enjoyment of finding that out for yourself.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Recipe Review from 11/21/2016

I trust everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving, and if you had to work, I hope it was quiet and uneventful!  Nothing much to report from the Northland - a couple nice days, a foggy day, and now it's raining. 

I didn't host the big meal this year, so my recipes reflect a pretty standard week.  Several good ones to recommend! 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) leftover soups (S) Spaghetti Bake
Mon (yoga) leftover spaghetti
Tue - Beans and Frizzy eggs
Wed - leftovers
Fri -  slow cooker chicken chili
Sat (L)  out   (S)  leftover chili

Sausage and Spinach Spaghetti Bake  (Ckng Lght Oct 2016)  gluten free option
This was fairly quick to pull together and definitely hearty.  One pan makes enough for four people, which I found to be somewhat large portion sizes for a given individual (ie - me).  Could easily stretch this out by serving a green salad or some warm crusty bread along side.

I didn't have any substitutions this go around, and my only observation is this comes out on the dry side - which shouldn't be surprising since this is basically a "sauceless" pasta dish.   Perhaps don't cook as much liquid off?   End result - I would make this again. 

8 ounces uncooked whole-grain spaghetti
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
photo from
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 ounces hot chicken Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cups chopped tomato
1 cup prechopped onion
1 (9-oz.) bag fresh spinach
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces preshredded reduced-fat Italian-blend cheese (about 3/4 cup), divided
Cooking spray  
  1. Place an 8-inch round cake pan in oven. Preheat oven to 500°F (leave pan in oven as it preheats).

  2. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta; cook 8 minutes or until almost done; drain. Place eggs in a large bowl. Add hot pasta; toss to coat.

  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage; cook 2 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add tomato, onion, and spinach; cook 7 minutes or until liquid has almost evaporated, stirring occasionally. Add sausage mixture to pasta mixture. Stir in pepper, salt, and 2 ounces cheese.

  4. Carefully remove cake pan from oven; coat pan with cooking spray. Add pasta mixture to cake pan; sprinkle with remaining 1 ounce cheese. Bake at 500°F for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven; cut spaghetti pie into 4 wedges.

White Bean and Veggies with Frizzled Eggs (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
I really liked this dish not only for ease of prep but for the delightful taste!  I loved how the egg yolk mixed with everything to make this delectable creamy dish.  Don't skip the vinegar - it adds a great tangy flavor burst!  Recommended!

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
photo from
3/4 cup prechopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
3 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
1 cup unsalted vegetable stock
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
5 ounces baby spinach
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms to pan; cook 5 to 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occa­sionally. Add tomatoes, stock, salt, and beans to pan, and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and about half of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Add spinach; cook 2 minutes or until wilted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.

  2. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Gently break eggs into pan; cook 3 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are still runny. Divide bean mixture among 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving with 1 egg; drizzle with vinegar, and sprinkle with pepper.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
Recipe notes active prep time is 20 minutes.  HA!  It takes 20 minutes just to peel and chop the squash!  Prep time is closer to 40-45 minutes unless you are using all pre-chopped/packaged foods.  Which I was not.  This would be a prep the night before or on a weekend morning.  Not suitable for week day prep unless you have a lot of time in the morning.

My rant noted, this is a really good chili.  Classic chili flavor, creamy beans and hominy, tender chicken - absolutely delicious!  A couple of notes - I used my own dried beans (navy), pre-cooked.  I also used one of my homegrown chickens (about 3lbs whole).  The Husband was kind enough to quarter the chicken and I used the thighs, legs, and breasts, bone-in and skin off.  My homegrown chickens are very lean so I wasn't worried about excess fat from the bones.

This made about 8 servings - or enough for four meals for two of us.   Recommended!

3 (15-oz.) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 (25-oz.) can hominy, rinsed and drained
photo from
3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
2 cups peeled cubed butternut squash
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 oregano sprigs
1 (5-oz.) can diced green chiles, drained and divided
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
6 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, divided

2 ounces preshredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
Lime wedges

  1. Process 1 can beans in a mini food processor until smooth. Place bean puree, remaining 2 cans beans, hominy, and next 8 ingredients (through oregano) in a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Reserve 1 tablespoon green chiles. Add remaining green chiles to cooker. Top with chicken thighs. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours.
  2. Place chicken on a cutting board; cool 5 minutes. Shred chicken; stir into chili. Cover and keep warm.
  3. Process reserved 1 tablespoon green chiles, yogurt, and 2 tablespoons cilantro in a mini food processor until smooth.    Serve.
  4. Place 1 1/2 cups chili in each of 8 bowls; top evenly with yogurt mixture, remaining cilantro, cheese, green onions, and jalapeño. Serve with lime wedges.

Cheesy Jalapeno-Sour Cream Muffins  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)
These were...okay.  I thought the texture turned out a bit odd, the cheese didn't want to evenly distribute in the batter so I ran the risk of over-mixing if I really tried to break up the clumps.  I didn't have pickled jalapenos, so I substituted yellow banana peppers (had an open jar in the fridge).  I think the substitution added a nice bright flavor.  I don't know that I would make these again.

Cooking spray
3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons light sour cream
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeños
2 ounces preshredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat 8 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Combine cornmeal and next 5 ingredients (through baking soda) in a large bowl. Combine sour cream, oil, and eggs in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add sour cream mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in jalapeños and cheese.
  3. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400°F for 12 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Recipe Review from 11/14/2016

Ooo.  Winter came and smacked us upside the head on Friday - no gentle transition from 60* to snow here.  Full out rain/freezing rain/sleet/snow progression that shut down half the county by 1p in the afternoon with ice and snow covered roads and periodic white out conditions from 40 mph winds.  Jingle bells... 

Alas!  I just realized I made a new Scottish Soda Bread recipe and I neglected to post it.  I'll try to make sure its on next weeks review. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L)  sausage, crackers, fruit  during football  (S)  One Pot Jambalaya
Mon (Yoga)  leftover jambalaya
Tues - Black Bean burgers
Wed (Husband lunch Soup Day)  leftover burgers
Thurs (yoga)   leftover soup
Fri (yoga) leftover soup
Sat (Nebagamon) 

Slow Cooker Chicken Soup  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
The interesting thing about this dish, is there are no noodles or dumplings in it which is perfect for our gluten free peeps.

No much in the way of changes - I cooked the bacon in the over and just used a bit of rendered bacon fat to cook the chicken and veggies in.  I did forget to add the bacon to the dish later.  Oh well.  I also substituted turnips for potatoes because I was out of potatoes, and Swiss Chard for the spinach.

The chicken turns out melting tender; I didn't have to pull the chicken out to de-bone it, just grab the bone, give a little shake and the meat falls right off.  Recommended for it's simplicity.

photo from
4 center-cut bacon slices, diced
1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skinned 2 teaspoons salt-free garlic-and-herb seasoning blend 
2 cups thinly sliced leek (from 2 large leeks)
1 cup sliced carrot (from 2 large carrots)
1 cup sliced celery (from 2 large stalks)
4 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 thyme sprigs
12 ounces baby potatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped baby spinach (I used Swiss Chard)

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan. Set bacon aside.

Sprinkle chicken with seasoning blend. Add chicken to bacon drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes, browning on all sides. Transfer chicken using a slotted spoon to a 6-quart electric slow cooker, reserving any drippings in pan. Add leek, carrot, and celery to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup stock, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add leek mixture, bacon, remaining 3 cups stock, salt, pepper, and thyme sprigs to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 hours. Add potatoes; cover and cook on LOW for 2 more hours or until potatoes are tender.

Remove chicken from slow cooker with a slotted spoon; discard thyme sprigs. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces; discard bones. Return chicken to slow cooker; add spinach, stirring until spinach wilt.

One Pan Jambalaya  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  gluten free
Just a couple of notations on this dish - I have access to andoullie sausage in kielbasa type links, so I used 1- 6oz link and sliced it into medallions.   I have NO idea what this pre-cooked brown rice that Cooking Light insists on recommended, and I can safely say, it's NOT the boil in a bag mix.  However, that's what I used (Uncle Bens, brown rice, 2 - 2 cup pkgs boil in a bag rice).  I did have to add something between 1/4 and 2/3 cup of extra liquid beyond what was called for.   I do recommend letting the whole dish sit, covered for about 10 minutes to let the rice really absorb any remaining liquid if using the above.

This was fairly quick  - more than the 20 minutes they called for, however.  Maybe 30-40 minutes between start and table?  I did have time to do the dishes before serving, which is always a plus.  I found this to be pleasantly flavorful, a hint of zing (will depend on your Cajun seasoning), and filling.  We did add hot sauce/siracha at serving.  Recommended. 

Photo from

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (8-oz.) package frozen chopped onion and green bell pepper, thawed
3 ounces andouille sausage, finely chopped  (I used 6 oz so I wouldn't have a partial link floating around)
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 (10-oz.) cans unsalted diced tomatoes and green chiles
2 teaspoons salt-free Cajun seasoning (I used Penzey's)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (8.8-oz.) pouches precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
4 green onions, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Hot sauce (optional)

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion mixture and sausage; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
Strain tomatoes in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Add strained tomato mixture, 1/4 cup reserved tomato liquid, Cajun seasoning, salt, and rice to pan, scraping pan with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; sprinkle with green onions. Divide rice mixture evenly among 4 bowls. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce, if desired.

Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; sprinkle with green onions. Divide rice mixture evenly among 4 bowls. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce, if desired

20 Minute Black Bean Burgers (Ckng Lght, Oct 2016)  vegetarian
These were darn tasty!  I can't speak to them being 20 minutes because I was also prepping the sweet potato fries to accompany them.  The Husband was also prepping a soup for Soup Day at work so there was a lot going on in one tiny space. 

My notes: I toasted the bread in the oven while it preheated for the fries (400*).  Assembly as written, formed into patties, and put on the same baking sheet as the fries (fries tossed with olive oil and salt, placed on an aluminum covered jelly roll pan, I sprayed the end of the pan with oil before putting the burgers on).  Fries and patties finished baking together.   Maybe 15-20 minutes?   I tossed a slice of cheddar cheese on right before pulling everything out. and served open faced on a sourdough English muffin.  Recommended! 

1 (1-oz.) slice whole-grain bread, toasted and torn into pieces
Photo from
1/4 cup grated onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons olive oil 
  1. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 5 times. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Combine onion, garlic, juice, cumin, salt, rind, and beans in processor; pulse 4 to 5 times. Add bean mixture, walnuts, hot sauce, and egg to crumbs; stir well. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a 3/4-inch-thick patty.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; reduce heat to medium, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Crossing by Michael Connelly (Bosch #20, Haller #7)

The Crossing (Harry Bosch, #20; Mickey Haller, #7; Harry Bosch Universe, #23)The Crossing by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Six months ago, Harry Bosch left the LAPD before they could fire him, and then hired maverick Defense Attorney Mickey Haller to sue the department for forcing him out. Although it wasn't the way he wanted to go, Harry has to admit that being out of the game has its benefits. Until Mickey asks him to help on one of his cases, and suddenly Harry is back where he belongs, right in the centre of a particularly puzzling murder mystery. The difference is, this time Harry is working for the defense, aiming to prevent the accused, Leland Foster, from being convicted. And not only does the prosecution seem to have a cast-iron case, but having crossed over to 'the dark side' as his former colleagues would put it, Harry is in danger of betraying the very principles he's lived by his whole career.

Read as an audio book.

Overall, I enjoyed this latest installment for multiple reasons - it's a joint book between Micky Haller and Harry, though the story is predominantly Harry's. Harry is off the LAPD so he's no longer fighting "the system". He can't "go rouge" because there is nothing to "go rouge" against. He no longer has a partner to demean or to try and mentor. There is no one to hold to the same extremely high and unattainable standards he holds himself to. There is a mystery to solve and once Bosch wraps his head around the concept that an innocent man might be in jail, then the story starts to unfold.

However! As much as I enjoyed this one, it left me with a few qualms:

The impression that all cops are black and white - the bad guy is in jail, ergo murder is solved, end of story, door is closed, let's all move on. THIS the reason why we have defense attorneys. Thank heavens our system allows for someone to stand up and defend the accused. Thus the whole "innocent until proven guilty", not "guilty until proven innocent".

Bosch's daughter, Maddie, age 17/18, is also brooking no room for error in Bosch's reasoning why he's taking on Mickey's case ala Crossing the Aisle or whatever the term was. Her anger at Bosch, even after he explains the accused might be innocent, is unreasonable and unjustified. In all honesty, I just don't care for Maddie.

Ironically, this was the second book I read in a week that had crooked cops. First book left me extremely uncomfortable and I had to skim. This one wasn't as bad, but I was still very disturbed at the depth of the corruption. Yes, I know it happens, but what with current climate against cops on the news, it added a new level of discomfort to the story. I still have to believe in the overall inherent belief of "protect and serve".

And I was a bit disappointed in the second "climatic" ending - I saw what was coming chapters ahead and I would have preferred something unconventional, surprising, different. Still, everything was wrapped up with a bright shiny bow and that works too.

Recommended if you've read the previous nineteen books.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Recipe Review from 11/7/2016

I survived daylight savings time - been a bit off kilter all week like waking up at 430a and then wanting to hit the hay at 8p - but meh, go with the flow.  It's just going to change again in 6 months.

Weather continues to be gorgeous.  Got the garage all tidied, swept and stuff put up in anticipation of slushy snow melt.  And we continue to enjoy our Swiss chard and kale - I know we've never enjoyed garden produce this long into the Fall.  

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L)   Butnut Squash Chili   (S)  Roasted Chicken and veggies
Mon (yoga)  leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri (Veterans Day) leftovers Easy Jambalaya
Sat (L) - leftovers   (S)   Hockey game!

Lunches - Cauliflower soup (me), sandwiches (Husband);  yogurt, carrots, fruit and granola bars

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili (MyRecipes via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free
This was pretty simple to prepare - most of the prep involving chopping the veggies.  I did skip sauteing the onion, garlic, peppers and jalepenos this go around.  I'm still not 100% convinced that is a necessary step giving a 4 - 6 hour cooking time.  You WILL need your larger slow cooker for this.  

Only a couple substitutions/alterations - I did two cans of black beans and two cans of pinto.  Husband isn't wild about black beans and four cans would be a bit much.  I only did 2 tbsp chili powder and added 1/2 tbsp ground ancho chili.

My only issue with this when all was mixed and made was this turned out bland, which surprised me given the amount of cumin, chili powder and ancho chili powder.   This makes a LOT - about 12 servings?  6 meals for two of us.   I was seriously contemplating freezing some but we managed to eat it all. 

1/4 cup olive oil
3 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
4 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 14.5-oz. cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 cups butternut squash (about 2 lb.), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and pepper 
1. Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add bell peppers and jalapeños; sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.

2. Transfer pepper mixture to slow cooker. Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Arrange squash on top. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

3. Season chili with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, salsa and other accompaniments, if desired.

Creamy Cauliflower Chowder (Two Peas and Their Pod via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free option
I was in the middle of making several meals (chili above, cornbread, and Ben-dog's food) so I wasn't paying full attention the directions below and kinda ended up doing my own thing.  Ingredients stayed the same but assembly altered. 

I really like how this turned out - tender cauliflower (but not mushy!), sweet carrots, celery all in a nice creamy saucy mix.  My only complaint is it turned out a bit bland.  I think a sharp cheddar, or a Gruyere, Swiss, or Jarlsberg would have been more flavorful.

This made 6 lunches for one.  Amount will depend on how "large" your cauliflower is.

1 large head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (**gluten free option)
2 (15 ounce) cans vegetable broth (I used chicken stock)
1 1/4 cups milk of choice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I recommend sharp cheddar )
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chopped cauliflower and garlic cloves on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until well coated. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Place pan in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until cauliflower is tender, stirring once. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Finely chop the roasted garlic cloves. Add the garlic, roasted cauliflower, bay leaf, and dried thyme to the pot. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir. Cook until flour disappears.
  4. Pour in the vegetable broth and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the milk and shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and chowder is creamy. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

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