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Monday, February 29, 2016

Recipe Review from 2/22/2016

Have I mentioned how weird the weather can be up here in Duluth?   We can easily have temperature swings of 30* and go from sunny and warm to cold and snowing in less than 12 hours.  Like this past weekend.  48* and sunny on Saturday (a record, I'm sure), to 23* and snowing on Sunday, to 45mph wind gusts and 1* by Monday.    And of course, I washed my car on Saturday because the roads were dry and clear and my doors wouldn't freeze shut while everything dried.  Well, at least the last round of road grime is off.

The Meal Plan:
Sun  (L)  leftovers   (S) Quinoa Burgers
Mon (Yoga)  leftovers
Tues (Block) Turkey meatballs
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) Tofu Soup (reviewed last week)
Fri (Block) leftovers
Sat - (L) out   (S)  Cabbage Pasta

I thought I had pictures for the dishes below, because Cooking Light hasn't been posting links to the recipes in any timely fashion, but I can't find those pictures which makes me wonder if I actually did take any?  

Quinoa Burgers  (Ckng Lght, Mar 2016)  vegetarian
These were pretty easy to assemble, most of the work can be done simultaneously such as prepping chick peas while the quinoa mixture cooks.

I also made these ahead of time - the recipe noted that these can be made up to two days in advance.  This will help with making the burgers stick together.   These are big enough that you could easily skip the buns.  First dinner I put them on half of an English muffing (the ones I buy are large enough to do so) and found it to be just too much "stuff".  And messy to eat.  So I skipped the buns the second go around and just served over a bed of lettuce, sprouts, and blue cheese crumbles.  Simple and yum!  Recommended.

Time +/- 45 minutes to make on the stove (does not including baking time)
Serves 4 (made two dinners for two of us)

7 tsp canola oil, divided
3/4 finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup panko
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used the whole can)
1 large egg
2 tbsp hot sauce (I used Siracha)

4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
4 romaine lettuce leaves   (I used a lettuce spring blend)
4 tomato slices 

1. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tsp oil; swirl to coat.  Add onion, carrot and garlic; saute 3 minutes.  A 1/4 cup water and quinoa;  bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer 18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Spoon cooked quinoa onto a large plate;  cool 5 minutes.  Combine quinoa mixture, panko, salt, pepper, chickpeas and egg in a food processor; pulse until chickpeas are slightly mashed and mixture comes together.  Shape quinoa mixture into 4 (1/2" thick) patties.

2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tbsp oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.    I baked in a 375* oven for about 20-30 minutes.  

3. Combine remaining 2 tsp oil and hot sauce in a bowl. Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top evenly with hot sauce mixture, lettuce, tomato and bun halves.   I used half of an english muffin bun, but ultimately ended up pulling muffin half out and eating burger straight.   With the leftovers, I just served over a bed of greens.  

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs  (Ckng Lght, Mar 2016)  gluten free**  
Surprisingly easy and very tasty.  I really enjoyed the sauce over the polenta - it was a nice flavor contrast to the usual Italian dishes.   I did end up substituting soy sauce for the Worcestershire sauce because I forgot I was out.

If I were to make this again, I think I would opt for baking the meatballs in the oven and just prepping the sauce on the stove.  Yes, it would add time to the cooking process (could be made ahead tho...), but I think it would make for a better meatball.  Just a thought.   Recommended.

+/- 45 minutes start to finish
Serves 4 (made two dinners for two of us)

3 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup stone-ground polenta
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 tsp 93% lean ground turkey
2 tbsp dark sesame oil

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted ketchup
2 tbsp Siriacha
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce**  watch for gluten
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce**  substitute a GF product; a GF soy sauce would work fine
Suggestion - double the sauce!

1) Bring stock ans alt to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and polenta is thickened.  Add butter, stirring until melted (OR...follow directions on polenta package.)

2) Combine turkey and sesame oil in a medium bowl.  Divide and shape turkey mixture into 20 meatballs.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add meatballs to pan, cook 6 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove meatballs from pan.  Add 1/4 cup water from pan, stirring with a whisk; bring to a boil.  Return meatballs to pan.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until meatballs are done.  Serve over polenta.

Caramelized Cabbage and Pasta  (Ckgn Lght, Mar 2016)  vegetarian
This dish is very quick and has a great fresh flavor.  Don't be put off by the amount of cabbage - it will reduce slightly as it cooks.  Do be careful tho not to overcook the cabbage.   I did use regular rigatoni for this dish because I had half a box on hand.  I also used a roasted poblano for the Fresno chili because we just don't get that type of pepper up here.   Recommended. 

I decided to skip adding the cheese to the pan before serving.  It becomes a mess to clean off the pan and utensils, and makes reheating just as messy.   I just served a portion of cheese over the top.   I should add, I used a pre-shredded Asiago, Parmesan, Fontina and Provolone blend because I had it on hand for another dish.

+/- 30 minutes from start to table
Serves 4 (made two meals for two of us)

6oz uncooked whole-wheat penne (I used regular rigatoni)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage (about 1/2 cabbage)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced (I used a roasted poblano)
2 tsp grated lemon rind
3 oz aged provolone cheese, shredded and divided
1 tbsp fresh thyme

1) Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil.  Add pasta; cook 7-9 minutes or until al dente.  Drain and reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.

2) Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Add garlic to pan; saute 30 seconds or until beginning to brown.  Remove garlic from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add cabbage to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned and tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in salt, black pepper, and chili; cook 2 minutes.  Stir in pasta, reserved 1/4 cup pasta water, and reserved garlic.  Stir in rind and 1.5oz cheese.  Divide pasta mixture into four bowls and top with remaining cheese and thyme.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Recipe Review from 2/15/2016

I guess I do have a couple of new recipes to talk about from the week previous.  While I was out of town, the Husband made a couple of noteworthy dishes that got us through the end of a very busy week.

Small meal plan:
Wed - Provincial Stew
Thur (yoga) Easy Miso Soup
Fri (yoga/Block)  leftovers
Sat (L) leftovers   (S)  poached cod

Provencal [Pork] Stew  (Ckgn Lght, 2009)
The Husband made this so I can't speak to ease of assembly or what substitutions he did other than pork for the beef.  Oh, and I want to say he added potatoes and leeks as well.   I can say, the pork turned out incredibly tender, so much so I actually thought it was beef.  This has lots of flavor, its nicely filling, and is delicious with a chunk of rustic bread to mop up all the juices. 

This was lunches for the remainder of the week - I think we got about five meals for two out of it.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes  (husband used pork shoulder roast)
photo from
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 bay leaves
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups (1-inch) slices zucchini (yellow summer squash)
2 cups (1-inch) slices carrots

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; dredge in flour. Add beef to pan; sauté 2 minutes, browning on all sides. Place beef in an electric slow cooker. Add onions and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Place onion mixture in cooker. Add broth, tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme, and tomatoes to cooker; top with zucchini and carrots. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until beef is tender. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Miso Soup  (The Kitchn website)
I am a very happy camper.  The Husband noticed I had some leftover miso in the fridge and he found a recipe that was waaayyyy easier than one I had posted earlier.  Honestly, the difference between sushi bar miso soup and his homemade miso soup was so subtle as to be moot.   Bottom line?  Delicious!

The directions look daunting, but don't be put off.  VERY simple.  
photo from The Kitchn website

For the dashi 
(or substitute 2 cups water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth):
2 cups water
2-inch piece kombu (dried black kelp)
1/2 cup loosely packed dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi), optional

For the miso soup:
4 ounces (1/4 block) silken or firm tofu
1 to 2 scallions
2 tablespoons red or white miso paste (he used red miso paste)

Makes 2 cups
  1. Make the dashi: (See step-by-step instructions: How To Make Dashi): Combine the water and kombu in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Remove the kombu just as the water starts to come to a boil. Add the bonito flakes, if using, and let the water come to a rapid simmer. Simmer for about 1 minute, then remove the pan from heat and let the bonito steep for an additional 5 minutes. Strain the bonito from the dashi. Add additional water if necessary to make 2 cups. Alternatively, substitute 2 cups water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth. 
  2. Prepare the tofu and scallions: Cut the tofu into very small cubes, 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch on each side. Slice the scallions very thinly.
  3. Bring the broth to a rapid simmer: Pour the dashi or broth back into the saucepan and bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat.
  4. Mix the miso with 1/2 cup hot broth: Place the miso in a small ramekin or measuring cup. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the broth and pour it over the miso. Whisk with a dinner fork or whisk until the miso is entirely dissolved in the water and no lumps remain.
  5. Pour the miso into the broth: Pour the dissolved miso into the simmering broth.
  6. Add the tofu: Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tofu to the miso. Simmer just enough to warm the tofu, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not boil the miso once the tofu has been added.
  7. Add the scallions: Just before serving, scatter the scallions over the top of the soup.
  8. Serve in individual bowls: Pour the miso into individual bowls and serve. Miso is best when served fresh. It will settle a bit as it sits in the broth; whisk briefly with chopsticks or a spoon to mix the soup again.

  • Recipe Notes:  Any type of miso can be used to make miso soup. Restaurants typically use red miso to make their miso soup.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Tucson, AZ 2016

No recipes to review from this past week as I was on holiday!  Or vacation for us States folks.   My travels took me to the very sunny and warm desert Southwest to visit my Folks.  A very nice break from the cold and snow we are experiencing in Duluth.  We had a very fun filled long weekend ahead of us, as you will soon see.  My last visit here was February 2015, which I reviewed here

It was -16* when The Husband dropped me off at the airport 530a Thursday morning.  It was 82* when I landed in Tucson.  Apparently it hit 85* degrees, a record high by 1*, breaking the previous record set in 1951.   All flights were on time, in fact, flight into Tucson was 30 minutes early!  Yay!  

Phoneline trail, Sabino Canyon
Friday we were up early and hiked Sabino Canyon Trail: Telephone Line  a distance about 10 miles.  We were on the trail by 830a, in the shade of the mountain for most of the hike along the ridge, and in the sun for the trek back down, which is a paved road closed to all traffic but the trams.  We did visit here in 2015, but we took the tram to the end of the paved road, and walked the three miles back to the visitor center.  This time we hiked/walked the full circuit from Visitor's Center to the top and back down.  It got a bit toasty the last two miles.

Phoneline Trail, nearing the top of the trail and, looking back at Tucson

Saturday was the Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens and Bistro and the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun art museum.  The Gardens and the Gallery are about 15 minutes apart on the north eastern side of Tucson.  We started with a walk around the gardens, then lunch at the Bistro.  This was my one repeat from last year because Tohono Chul Gardens and Bistro are totally worth it.  Highly recommended.  This is a take your time place, meant for a leisurely morning (recommended) or afternoon (bring an umbrella and slap on that sunscreen!)

The Ted DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun was new to us.  He was a very influential and prominent artist in the Tucson area and I know I've seen his work without knowing exactly who he was.   The grounds, buildings and artwork are worth a visit and complement the leisurely pace set at Tohono Chul Gardens.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun entrance - National Historical Site now

Mural inside the Mission he built

Sunday was Kitt Peak Observatory. I had no idea how influential and important this site was!   First tour was of the 2.1m telescope.  Then time for a picnic lunch (bring your own because the facilities don't offer more than chips and cookies), a quick spin around the gift shop, then second tour was of the 4.0m telescope, which included a 360* observation deck.  Everything was very impressive - the number of scopes, how Kitt Peak Observatory came to be, the views,  I picked up a book on star gazing and a star map that I can use outside.

2.1m scope in foreground, 4.0m scope in background

4m scope on the right.  U of Az operates the scope on the left.

Monday we went to the Reid Park Zoo!  Last year we went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Zoo where I was able to see the rare Mexican Wolf.  This time I was able to see two jaguars!  Thrilling!  I was very impressed with the Reid zoo and the habitats/enclosures.  Very well done.   Lunch was at a highly recommended hamburger joint called Lindy's on 4th.  I had my one time a year burger and I can say that yes, Lindy's knows how to do burgers. And afterwards we walked up and down the street Lindy's was on just to take in the sites.


Return trip was on Tuesday, thereby leaving the 80* and returning to something much much cooler than that.  I continue to marvel at how much there is to do in the Tucson area.  This was my second visit and again, didn't even come close to doing "everything" despite four very full days.   I look forward to coming back. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Reversal by Michael Connelly (Haller #3/Bosch #15)

The Reversal (Harry Bosch, #16; Mickey Haller, #3)The Reversal by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change stripes and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After 24 years in prison, convicted killer Jason Jessup has been exonerated by new DNA evidence. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.

Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years.

With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.

Read as an audio book.

I really enjoyed this installment. In The Reversal, Connelly brings together Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller and Maggie McGinnis, Haller's first wife and mother of his daughter, Hayley. Bosch had more of a role in this book than in the previous Haller books, but not so much that he took over the story. The author allowed us to see some of the trial from Bosch's point of view, which added a nice reprieve from the intensity of the courtroom drama. I also appreciated that Maggie was NOT the woman the male lead tumbled into bed with. She provided a solid, supporting role for both the courtroom and added family touch. Lest we get our feminist knickers in a twist, the story wasn't about Maggie and it's already established she's one of LA's top prosecutors.

So, just a couple of observations - the surveillance around the antagonist, Jason Jessup. For as much as it was built up, Jessup managed to 'slip the net' twice. Bosch was assured that SID never looses their man, yet it happened twice.

Bosch is still an arrogant ass - demanding, rather than asking. Yelling first, rather than getting the facts. And I've noticed he never apologizes. So...why is he still on the force after 35 years? Oh, that's right. Only he knows how to be a detective (insert rolling eyes sarcasm).

The ending came across a bit abrupt. One moment we grinding our way through the legal system, the next, it's as if an ant hill has been turned over by a bear and everyone is running around yelling. The ending also felt a bit like a cop-out (no pun intended), as if the author was just ready to end the darn book for whatever reason. On the other hand, and I'm trying really hard not to drop spoilers here, it could also have been a you don't always get the answers you want sort of lesson. Stuff for thought at any rate.

Overall, a solid legal thriller (is that an oxymoron?), with a well rounded cast of characters and just enough tension to keep the story moving forward and not bogged down in legalities. Despite the quirks, I really enjoyed listening to this book.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 15, 2016

Recipe Review from 2/8/2016

Only one recipe from this past week.  I had training in St. Cloud for two days then headed off on adventures.  I'll leave a clue as to where I went...there is no SNOW. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) leftover baked Ziti    (S)  Tex-Mex Chicken Chili
Mon (yoga) pasta
Tues (St. Cloud)  leftover chili
Wed (St. Cloud) leftover chili
Thurs - leftovers
Fri - leftovers
Sat - ??

Lunches - sandwiches, carrots, luna bars, yogurt

Slow Cooked Tex-Mex Chicken Chili   (Peapod via Pinterest)  gluten free option**
Mexican, Tex-Mex, Southwestern foods are all so perfectly suited for the slow cooker and that's probably why I gravitate to those recipes.  Plus the warming spices of chili powder, cumin and peppers are so apropos for cool temps be it Fall or the depths of winter. 

Several substitutions in this dish - I used fresh onion rather than a frozen bag, I used a different bean mix because my store doesn't carry what the recipe calls for, and I used frozen corn and added some diced red pepper.

I really liked this.  Flavorful without being spicy (you could easily up the heat if you are a hot head), a nice depth of flavor that I look forward to tasting the day after.  Some things are just better the next day.   Very easy to assemble, lots of just plop - I added the chop because I'm weird that way.  And ARGH!  I just realized I completely forgot the cream cheese. Well. Obviously the dish really didn't need it.  :D

photo from
  • 1 12-ounce bag frozen chopped onions (I used an equivalent amount of fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 14.5-ounce can tomatoes, diced with zesty jalapenos or green chiles
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans BUSH'S® Chili Magic® Chili Starter Texas Recipe (I used Bushes White Northern Beans in a mild chili sauce)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour **or gluten free flour mix or omit
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs left whole
  • 2 well-drained 11-ounce cans corn, Mexican-style with red and green peppers (I used frozen corn and a diced red pepper)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened  (Ooops...forgot! Didn't miss it either.)
  • 1 small can jalapeno wheels, for garnish (optional)
  • sour cream, for garnish (optional)
1. Place onions, garlic, tomato paste, pepper, chili powder, brown sugar, canned tomatoes, Bush’s Chili Starter, and chicken stock in a large slow cooker. Stir to mix ingredients.
2. Mix soft butter with flour in a small bowl to form a paste and stir into slow cooker. (It will dissolve once the ingredients get hot).
3. Tuck chicken thighs down into liquid so that they are totally submerged.
4. Cover and cook on low for seven hours.
5. After seven hours, remove chicken to a plate or bowl.
6. Add corn to cooker and raise heat to high.
7. Shred chicken with two forks and add back to cooker along with cream cheese.
8. Stir and heat on high until the cream cheese has melted and all ingredients are at serving temperature.
9. Serve in bowls and garnish with the jalapeno wheels and sour cream if desired.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Protector by CJ Cherryh (Foreigner #14)

Protector (Foreigner, #14)Protector by C.J. Cherryh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  It's coming up on Cajeiri's birthday. The boy has been promised he can have the young human children he knew from his voyage sent down from the space station for a two week stay.

But there's far a darker business going on in the background--a major split compromising the Assassins' Guild, which furnishes security and law enforcement to the whole continent.  Tabini's consort's own father has been barred from court, and may be involved in a new conspiracy against him.

For safety reasons, Tabini wants Bren and Ilisidi to take charge of Cajeiri, and protect him and his young guests. They themselves are very likely targets of whatever's going on, no question of it. So is Cajeiri. But having the targets separated and contained is an advantage.

It's Bren's responsibility to entertain the guests, keep the security problem secret...and let a lonely eight-year-old prince reestablish his controversial relationship with the only other children he's ever met...inside the best security they can manage.

Protector moves the plot forward from the previous installment with Cajeiri finally getting his felicitous nine birthday party with his associates from the space station. Unfortunately for Cajeiri, the Dowager is moving atevi around like they are her personal chess pieces, and what was supposed to be an unremarkable trip to Uncles manor, turns into the threat of assassination.

I have to say for this book, I found Cajeiri's story the more interesting plot line, which is a flip from the last several books. And I also have to admit, Cajeri didn't get quite as much page time in this book as in past books and what he did get, was rather limited to him worrying about Boji (his monkey) and his guests while trying to figure out what was going on.

But we knew what was going on because Bren, Jase, Tatisigi, Banichi, and the Dowager spent pages and pages discussing the issues and history that brought them to this current state of crisis.

Book 14 is the start of the next trilogy, but yet it had the feel of a transition book - a lot of politics happening, allegiances shifting, allegiances coming into question and a history of deceit going back nearly forty years. At first I found it interesting, then my attention began to wane as it felt certain ground was being rehashed as some small bit of information or action came to light.

I hate to admit it, but at this point I'm more interested in finding out how Cajeiri's birthday party is going to happen back at the Bujavid than I am in the conspiracy theory's happening elsewhere. I'm also interested in the continued association between Cajeiri and his station friends and how that is going to play out in the future.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 8, 2016

Recipe Review from 2/1/2016

A mostly uneventful week where we did the usual errands, yoga classes, and picked up extra hours at H&R Block.  Some reading got done, some knitting happened, a couple of walks down on the lake.  It snowed, of course.  Oh, and the John Beargrease sled dog race happened, which is kinda a exciting thing.

photo from the internet

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) leftovers  (S)  Chicken Tortilla Soup
Mon (Yoga)  leftover tortilla soup
Tues (PM yoga/Block)  leftover corn soup for me
Wed - Baked Ziti  leftover tortilla soup
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri (Block)  leftovers
Sat (Block)  leftovers    (S)  Baked Ziti

Lunches - Slow Cooked Corn Chowder, chips or bread, luna bars, yogurt, fresh fruit

Treat - Rice Krispy Bars!

Best EVER Rice Krispie Treats (South Your Mouth Blog via Pinterest)
Yes!  I actually baked!   Well, if you can call rice krispy bars baking, but I made a weekday treat for us which is pretty unusual.  Now, you might be wondering, why am I posting this recipe?  Everyone knows how to make rice krispy bars.  Well, these are a smidge different.   Bigger.  Better.   I added some  mini-M&M's and mmph mmm divine!

Warning, this recipe makes a substantial 9x13 pan, so be prepared to share!

photo from South Your Mouth
10 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup (1 stick) real, salted butter
2 10-oz. bags miniature marshmallows, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
optional - 1/2 pkg mini m&m's 

Measure exactly 10 cups of rice cereal and add to a large mixing bowl; set aside.

Line a 13x9 baking pan with aluminum foil then spray lightly with cooking spray; set aside.

Melt butter over low heat in a large pot. Once butter is melted, add all but 2 cups of marshmallows, vanilla and salt. Cook and stir over low heat until marshmallows are completely melted. Once mixture is smooth, add remaining 2 cups of marshmallows and stir to incorporate. Marshmallows will mostly melt but those little lumps that are left are going to add little pockets of marshmallow awesomeness to the treats. 

Immediately pour marshmallow mixture over rice cereal and gently stir until cereal is evenly coated.

Spread mixture into prepared pan. (Author notes: I use a rubber spatula to get it nice and level then use another 13x9 pan to smoosh everything down nice and evenly. Let treats cool to room temperature uncovered. Once set, remove from pan by lifting up on the aluminum foil then cut into 24-30 squares. Store in an air-tight container.

Slow Cooked Potato and Corn Chowder   (Damn Delicious Blog via Pinterest)  vegetarian
This is super easy to pull together - the only preparation is dicing the potatoes.   This is also on the bland side, and I thought this could have benefited from more backbone in the way of sauted onion, celery and maybe some carrot.   Still, it was mostly satisfying (salt helped) and filling for lunch.  I had mine along with some leftover bread, husband had corn chips. 
photo from Damn Delicious blog
24 ounces red potato, diced
1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream  half-n-half or milk (I used goat milk)
  1. Place potatoes and corn into a slow cooker. Stir in flour and gently toss to combine. Stir in chicken stock, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.* Stir in butter and heavy cream.
  3. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup (Gimme Some Oven Blog via Pinterest)  gluten free
This was ridiculously easy to pull together.  Minimal chopping (onion), lots of plopping, cover, and walk away.   You don't even need to dice the chicken before putting it in the cooker.   It will cook up on its own and all you need is a spoon to gently shred it.

I didn't use the dried pasilla chile (wouldn't know where to even find one), so I used 1 tsp chili powder.  I could have used 2 tsp for our tastebuds, but..didn't know that ahead of time.  This has very bright flavors, everything kinda shines on it's own merit.  I did serve with Tostido's scoops and shredded cheese, because that's what we like. 

This made enough for 4 meals for two of us (about 8 servings)  Awesome as leftovers.  Recommended! 
photo from Gimme Some Oven Blog
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)  (I used chicken thighs)
4 cups good-quality chicken stock
2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (15-ounce) can whole-kernel corn, drained  (I used a partial bag of frozen mixed veggies)
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 dried pasilla (negro) chile peppers*
(I used 1 tsp chile powder)
1 white onion, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or more/less to taste
fresh lime wedges
optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, diced red onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips/chips
  1. Add all ingredients to a slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 hours on high heat or 6-8 hours on low heat, until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily. Use two forks to shred the chicken.  Remove the pasilla chile(s), and discard.
  2. Serve warm with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and topped with optional garnishes if desired.
  3. You can also refrigerate this soup in a sealed container for up to 4 days. Or freeze it for up to 3 months.
Author notes:  *If you can't find pasilla/negro chiles at the store, you can substitute in 1 ancho chile instead (which is a bit sweeter) or 1 Mulatto chile (which is a little earthier) or 2 teaspoons chile powder (feel free to add more/less to taste).  The type of chili you use will be one of the main ingredients to flavor the broth, so feel free to use whatever sounds (and smells) best to you.

Baked Ziti with Ricotta  (Yummy Addiction via Pinterest) vegetarian
For a baked pasta dish, this takes about an hour plus from start to table, assuming you have to grate your cheese.   Which I do because I don't like the stuff added to keep grated cheese "fresh".  With the exception of Parmesan.   Easier to buy that pre-grated.  I'm weird.  I know.

This is drier than other baked dishes I've prepared, not as "saucy".  I'm not sure I'm completely a fan, but it's still  tasty.  Saucy is a personal preference. 

photo from Yummy Addiction Blog
Serves: 6-8
1 (16 oz.) package ziti pasta
2 cups (16 oz.) ricotta cheese, divided
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (you can add more if you want it extra cheesy)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
⅓ cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (plus more for garnishing)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, and saute for 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, and chopped basil leaves. Let the sauce simmer on low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool (makes about 2½ cups).
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of ricotta cheese, ½ cup of mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese along with an egg. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in about 1½ cups of cooked tomato sauce. Pour the pasta into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to coat.
  5. To assemble the casserole, add half of the coated pasta to a baking dish, then dot the surface with ½ cup of ricotta cheese. Add the rest of the pasta and sauce on top and press the pasta down gently so it doesn't stick above the sauce too much. Top with dollops of the remaining ricotta cheese and sprinkle on top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling around the edges. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with additional fresh chopped basil, if desired, and serve.
You can add more mozzarella or Parmesan cheese if you want it extra cheesy.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Shelter by Harlan Coben (Mickey Bolitar #1)

Shelter (Mickey Bolitar, #1)Shelter by Harlan Coben

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

First introduced to readers in Harlan Coben's latest adult novel, Live Wire, Mickey Bolitar is as quick-witted and clever as his uncle Myron, and eager to go to any length to save the people he cares about. With this new series, Coben introduces an entirely new generation of fans to the masterful plotting and wry humor that have made him an award-winning, internationally bestselling, and beloved author.

Read as an audio book.

Shelter overlaps Live Wire (Myron #10), giving the reader a slightly different point of view on how events unfolded. Shelter is touted as a YA, but I think there's too much Myron background mixed in for this to really be a true stand alone, much less a pure YA stand alone.

I have very mixed thoughts on this book. Mickey is a mini-Myron but with a sullen, sour attitude - no surprise, he's a teenager who has just had his world upended. Mickey is coping with sophomore year in a new school, under supervision by a guardian he detests (Myron), his mother is in rehab, his father is dead, a couple of jock bullies, the Chief of Police has a hard-on for him because his uncle is Myron, uptight teachers, girls with pretty blue eyes, homework, and now, the mystery of the Bat-Lady and the butterfly.

The teenage petulant attitude grated on me. I couldn't empathize. I really didn't like high school and I really didn't want to re-read about it. When I didn't have to listen to the whining (and there seemed to be a plethora of whining), it was a decent story.

And that's where the flip side comes in, if there had been less whining and petulant, sullen, angry teenager, this would have been a four or five star read for me. It was an interesting plot, with some good twists and turns...but, damn...the teenager aspect. Yes. I KNOW this was a YA. I've read other YA. I get the point of YA. I didn't like this YA.

I think if I hadn't read the Myron series, knowing the background that brought Mickey to this point and why Myron was doing what he was doing, maybe I could have empathized with Mickey. As it was, I couldn't get beyond Myron's self-centered anger.

Lastly, a kudos to the narrator for doing a very fine job with the voices. Well done!

View all my reviews

Monday, February 1, 2016

Recipe Review from 1/25/2015

Warmer temps brought snow early in the week, and even warmer temps (37*F) brought slushy melting.  Which is a good thing since it helps clear the roads off, especially after a spate of rain (yes rain! In February!) coated cars and roads in a little layer of ice.  But that too, melted and we reveled in sun and warmth. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches   (S)  Spiced Chicken Stew
Mon (yoga/Legion/Bkgrp)  out
Tues (H&R)  leftover Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches
Wed - leftover Spiced Chicken Stew
Thurs (yoga)  salmon
Fri - leftovers
Sat (L) out   (S) poached cod with rice and green salad

Lunches - Ham and bean soup, bread, fruit, luna bars, yogurt...the usual

Spiced Chicken Stew  (Martha Stewart)  gluten free
My meal planning buddy pointed me in the direction of this recipe.   I have to say, a slow cooked dish doesn't get any easier than this.  If you use baby carrots, there isn't even any chopping!  It's all plopping!  This is a bit reminiscent of a Moroccan tagine, with the flavors of cinnamon and cumin infusing everything.  The flavors are mild to mellow, more of a hint than "in your face".  I served this over Israeli couscous, but basmati rice or brown rice would be just as tasty.  

photo from
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths (I used 1 1/2 lb baby carrots)
8 skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted if desired
Couscous, for serving (optional)

Slow-Cooker Method:
  1. Place carrots in slow cooker. In a bowl, toss together chicken, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; add to slow cooker. Cover, and cook on high, 4 hours (or on low, 8 hours), adding raisins 15 minutes before cooking is done.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and carrots to a dish (remove cinnamon stick); top with cilantro and almonds. Season cooking liquid with salt and pepper; spoon over chicken. Serve with couscous, if desired.

Oven Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In step 1, use a 5-quart Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid, adding 1 cup water. Cover, and bake until chicken is tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Proceed with step 2.

 Slow Cooker Ham and White Bean Soup (Damn Delicious Blog via Pinterest)  gluten free
I've made several dishes from the blog noted above, and I have yet to be disappointed in any of them.  This was no exception. 

I bought a smoked ham bone for this dish, so I skipped the diced leftover ham because I could use what was on the bone.   What I don't like about using a smoked ham bone is the meat tends to be a bit fatty and gristly.  But, it's cheap so that's why I use it.  The other substitution was I used dried beans and pre-cooked them instead of canned beans.  We just purchased a bag of fresh northern beans and I'm looking for ways to use them. And really?  Nothing beats the taste of fresh beans - oh so creamy!  Yum!

What I liked about this ham and bean soup was the added veggies.  I have noted several variations that are basically just beans and ham, but I like a bit more flavor and color in my soup.  This assembles quickly - no need to saute anything - and smells divine while cooking.   

photo from damn delicious blog
1 leftover hambone
2 cups leftover diced ham*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

  1. Place hambone, ham, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, beans, oregano, rosemary and bay leaves into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in 6 cups water until well combined; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours. Remove and discard hambone.
  3. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches  (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2016)
Well, I don't know what the heck has gotten into Cooking Light, but since about last October, they stopped posting the magazine recipes to their website.  Very annoying - I can't pin them to Pinterest for reference, and I have to type it in for review here.

This is pretty tasty,  more like a panini than a "grilled cheese sandwich".   I plan on making this dish at least one more time during the week because I have the ingredients on hand, it's simple, and comes together very quickly.

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
8 slices multi-grail country bread (or whatever you have handy)
2 oz (~1/2 cup) shredded Gruyere cheese
2 oz very thinly sliced prosciutto (I used pancetta)
1 1/3 cups shredded skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp fresh thyme

Simplified directions:
Mix sour cream and Dijon mustard together. 

Butter both sides of the bread. 

Make a sandwich out of the above ingredients and lightly grill on the stove like a fancy grilled cheese sandwich or panini.   If you have a George Foreman grill or panini maker, even better!  Use that.  Eat! 

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