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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brisset

ElysiumElysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: A computer program etched into the atmosphere has a story to tell, the story of two people, of a city lost to chaos, of survival and love. The program's data, however, has been corrupted. As the novel's characters struggle to survive apocalypse, they are sustained and challenged by the demands of love in a shattered world both haunted and dangerous.

Read for June book group.

NOT the book the movie was based on.

I am really undecided about what I think of this selection. On one hand, it was different from what I've read before, but yet, on the other hand, it had strong elements of other known-to-me themes.

Premise of the book is Antonine/Antonnete and Adrian/Adrianne are etched in a computer program in the atmosphere. The computer program is broken and incomplete as it spools out the story of the hero/heroine after an apocalyptic event changes and destroys humanity and the earth.

The plot unwinds in a logical fashion, though it doesn't seem like it at first, as the reader follows the characters through time and events. There are consistencies: Antonine/Antonnete, Adrian/Adrianne, Hector/Helen, and an elk. Events that happen may very well show up again. The idea of a true cloud based data storage in the atmosphere to tell this story was a neat device. All these aspects made the plot a fascinating and delightful with these small surprises.

On the other hand, the book and plot were reminiscent of several other books that I've read or movies I've seen: the whole apocalyptic/dystopian theme of those who escaped and those who remain behind, an alien presence taking over the world, the concept of two souls (in this case computer constructs) moving through space/time.

So for myself it was a balance of new, different and interesting combined with existing and popular tropes. Ultimately, I think I enjoyed this, but, I'm not entirely sure? Recommended with some reservations.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Recipe Review from 6/20/2016

This was a week in which the original meal plan didn't quite happen and some juggling was necessary.  I managed to forget one ingredient from each recipe.  Not.  Kidding.  Yes, this warrants a face-palm.

The Meal Plan as it happened not as originally planned:
Sun (L) leftovers    (S)  Cornmeal Chipolte Chedder Waffles with Chorizo
Mon (yoga)  leftover waffles
Tues - Chickpea-Spinach Masala
Wed (Husband at training) leftover masala
Thurs (yoga)  leftover masala
Fri -Cavatelli with mushrooms and asparagus
Sat/Sun (Wisconsin run)

Lunches - sandwiches, luna bars, yogurt, fruit, carrots...the usual.

Cornmeal-Cheddar-Chipolte Waffles with Chorizo and Eggs  (Fine Cooking, Issue 140)
If I recall the article correctly these were touted as "breakfast for dinner", which is what I did.   I had only one substitution, and that was to use Jarlsburg cheese for cheddar because I forgot to by the cheddar.  Much gashing of teeth.  Don't be daunted by the ingredient list.  The waffle batter comes together very quickly and can even sit a bit while prepping the chorizo.  Chorizo can cook at same time as waffles, no need to cook one thing at a time. 

These turned out darn tasty and I would love to make this again using cheddar.   Recipe calls for a Belgian waffle maker, but I used a regular waffle iron and it worked fine.  Mostly.  My first waffle stuck, causing a bit of angst, but every thing after worked fine.   Even with the Jarlsberg cheese, this is a great flavor combination.    Recommended!

For the waffles

Photo from
  • 4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (fine or medium grind)
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1-3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbs. seeded and minced canned chipotle in adobo
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced

For the eggs and chorizo

  • 12 oz. Mexican chorizo, casings removed
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced scallions for garnish (optional)
Make the waffles
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add the cheese and toss to combine, breaking up any clumps.
In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and chipotle. Gradually whisk in the butter.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and fold together with a silicone spatula until the batter is evenly moistened. The batter will be quite thick. Fold in the scallions.
Heat the oven to 200°f. Heat a waffle iron. Cook the waffles according to the waffle iron manufacturer’s directions until golden brown. Keep warm in the oven.

Cook the eggs and chorizo
Cook the chorizo in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
Wipe out the skillet. Put over medium heat, and add the olive oil, swirling the pan to coat evenly. Crack the eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and fry sunny side up or over easy, 2 to 4 minutes total.
Serve the waffles topped with the eggs and sprinkled with the chorizo. Garnish with the scallions, if using.

Chickpea-Spinach Masala (Fine Cooking, Issue 140)  gluten free, vegetarian
This is super easy to assemble and the fresh flavors combined with the warming spices make for a perfect mid-week meal.  For once, I have no alterations or substitutions to report.  I made this as written. Though, a thought - a half cup or so of coconut milk added toward the end of cooking could really make this a very creamy dish.  I might have to try that with leftovers.    

If you can get your hands on some fresh basmati rice or naan, go for it.  I used instant basmati rice as I was unable to get to my local Indian restaurant.   Overall, recommended.

Serves 4
Photo from
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 oz. baby spinach
  • 1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5-oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, stirred
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cumin seeds, and cook, stirring often, until the onion starts to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and 1 tsp. salt and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup water and stir. Add the spinach a couple of handfuls at a time, turning with tongs until wilted. Stir in the chickpeas and tomatoes, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Using a potato masher, mash most of the chickpeas. The mixture will thicken. Season to taste with salt, and serve dolloped with the yogurt.
[Egg noodles] with shitake mushroooms, asparagus and pesto   (Fine Cooking, Issue 140)  vegetarian
Recipe calls for a pasta called "cavatelli", which, from the pictures looks a bit like spatzel.  It was another one of those situations where "cavatelli" doesn't exist in my corner of the world and no substitutions were offered.  So, I found some frozen egg noodles and prepared according to the directions on the package.  It was an acceptable switch...not the best, but it worked.  I think a box of dried pasta would have been just as good and less expensive. 

I did like the flavor of this dish - it's bright with earthy tones from the mushrooms and a bit of bitter from the asparagus.  In hindsight, I think this dish would have been enhanced by a drizzle of olive oil.  Recommended with some caveats

photo from
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen cavatelli
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 8 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. homemade or store-bought basil pesto; more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) coarsely grated pecorino romano; more for serving
  • Torn fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Boil the cavatelli according to package directions until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season lightly with salt, and cook undisturbed until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the pesto and pasta water, and stir. Lower the heat, toss in the cavatelli and cheese, and simmer until the pasta is al dente, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional pesto. Serve topped with a little grated cheese and the basil.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Extreme Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #24)

Extreme Prey (Lucas Davenport, #26)Extreme Prey by John Sandford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  After the events in Gathering Prey, Lucas Davenport finds himself in a very unusual situation—no longer employed by the Minnesota BCA. His friend the governor is just cranking up a presidential campaign, though, and he invites Lucas to come along as part of his campaign staff. “Should be fun!” he says, and it kind of is—until they find they have a shadow: an armed man intent on killing the governor . . . and anyone who gets in the way.

Read as an audio book.

My small shout out - THANK YOU for keeping Richard Ferrone as a narrator! Love his voice and I will forever associate him as "Davenport".

A point upon which I must speak. My main issue with this latest installment - and I'll admit I'm biased - is using an Iraqi vet as the antagonist. Regional (MN, Iowa, WI) National Guard vets are having a hard enough time finding gainful employment as it is without popular media pouncing on every opportunity to show that they are all one step away from going postal. Once the deployment(s) are done, all the Yellow Ribbons have been waved, the platitudes about being veteran friendly have been said, vets aren't getting hired in the workforce. It's a real situation, it's complicated, and for the vets, its frustrating.

I'm speaking from very personal experience regarding this and it's a very two faced situation: Yay! Vets! Thank you for your service! We're not going to hire you because you've seen action and might be unbalanced. So using an Iraqi vet as an antagonist was disappointing.

Okay. That's off my chest, I can move on.
  • I liked the political tie in to an election year.
  • I liked the setting in Iowa - a very refreshing change from MN and WI. 
  • I liked that Lettie was completely out of the picture.
  • I liked how Davenport was forced to go about solving things without a badge of any kinda and had to rely on local enforcement, and his frustration in trying to do so. Granted, his way was paved by some political connections, but still, he didn't have any way to back his investigation up.
  •  I just like Davenport.

However, I didn't care for the overall plot and I really wanted to like the story. I found the plot was sluggish to start and I couldn't get into the politics of the group or individuals trying to murder the candidate. I couldn't get a feel for why the Purdy's disliked Boden so much they wanted her out of the picture. By CD #5 (out of 9) I was contemplating skipping any part with the protagonists just to move things along.

Fortunately, about CD #6 (sorry, downside of CD's is I don't remember chapters), the pace and excitement level picked up when the shooting started. As the proverbial clock ticks down to the candidate walk at the Iowa State Fair, and Lucas is frantically running around, it was a matter of how quickly he would figure the Purdy's plot out - while the reader already knows the details.

Overall, a slow to start plot that redeemed itself in the last quarter of the book with an almost frenetic game of cat and mouse in the middle of the Iowa State Fair. The sub-plot was just that, a minor thread underneath everything else and tidily wrapped up with a bow at the end. A satisfactory ending that has left lots of opportunity for future speculation.

Recommended if you've read the first 23 books in the series.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 20, 2016

Recipe Review from 6/13/2016

Two outstanding recipes this past week.   I highly recommend both.   Read on and enjoy!

The Meal Plan: 
Sun (L)  Tempeh Rubens  (S)  Slow Cooker Beef and Lettuce Wraps
Mon (yoga)  leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed (out at YMCA function)
Thurs (yoga)  leftovers
Fri - brats
Sat (garage sale)           (S) Out

Tempeh Rubens  (Ckng Lght, June 2016)  vegetarian
Three admissions - I have never had a ruben, this was my first time using tempeh, and my first time trying naturally fermented sauerkraut.  Being of German-Polish decent, I do love sauerkraut.  The Husband, of Irish decent, is convinced cabbage should be eaten cooked or fresh, not out of a can.

The compromise?  Naturally fermented.   It's something we've been wanting to try because we keep hearing how awesome it is.  I did go with a local store-bought variety because I didn't want to make a gallon of the stuff only to discover it didn't live up to the hype.  That, and I could be stuck eating a gallon of kraut.  Pint jar definitely was the way to go.

I found my tempeh at the co-op.  It worked fine.  Nothing notable there other than that is a very convenient morsel of food. 

Overall, these were very tasty - tangy, fresh, zingy, with a bit of melted cheese to balance everything out.  I would make them again.  Not sure I would go out of my way to order one in a restaurant tho. 

I did have leftover dressing that I put on sandwiches at the start of the week.  Tasty!  

1/3 cup 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons refrigerated sauerkraut, drained and divided
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
8 ounces tempeh
Photo from
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/4 cups water
8 (1-ounce) slices whole-grain rye bread, toasted
2 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1. Place Greek yogurt, ketchup, 2 tablespoons sauerkraut, and mustard in a mini food processor; process until smooth.

2. Cut tempeh in half horizontally; cut each half into 4 slices, forming 8 pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add vinegar, soy sauce, dill, and caraway, stirring constantly. Add tempeh; cook 1 minute on each side. Add 1 1/4 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until water evaporates, turning tempeh occasionally.

3. Preheat broiler to high. Place 4 bread slices in a single layer on a heavy baking sheet. Divide cheese evenly among bread slices. Broil 1 minute or until cheese melts. Top cheese with about 1 tablespoon yogurt mixture, 1 1/2 tablespoons onion mixture, 2 pieces tempeh, and about 3 tablespoons sauerkraut. Spread remaining yogurt mixture evenly over 1 side of remaining 4 bread slices. Place bread, yogurt side down, on top of sauerkraut.

Slow Cooker Beef and Lettuce Wraps  (Ckng Lght, June 2016)  gluten free*
Do not be put off by the ingredient list!  This comes together very quickly and then you walk away for 6-8 hours.  Final assembly goes very quickly, so definitely do the quick pickles first. 

I'm not fond of beef, but even I had to admit that this turned out fantastic.   Oh my gosh, the beef was just meltingly tender, the Asian flavors a great compliment, and I loved the sweet crunch of the pickles and carrots.  

Photo from
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1 (2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed  (I used sirloin tip roast)
1/2 cup unsalted beef stock
1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce** (watch for gluten free option)
11 tablespoons rice vinegar, divided
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon white miso (soybean paste)
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
3/4 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
3/4 cup julienne-cut carrot
1 cup water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
16 Bibb lettuce leaves
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds 
1. Coat bottom and sides of a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Layer onion slices in bottom of slow cooker; top with garlic.

2. Heat canola oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chuck roast to pan; cook 2 to 3 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Place beef on top of onions and garlic; pour any drippings from pan over top.

3. Combine stock, soy sauce, 3 tablespoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and next 4 ingredients (through red pepper) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Pour mixture over beef and onions in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.

4. Place cucumber and carrot in 2 shallow bowls 15 minutes before meat is done. Combine remaining 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; divide vinegar mixture evenly between cucumbers and carrots. Let stand until ready to serve; drain well.

5. Transfer beef from slow cooker to a large platter; shred with 2 forks. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; add shredded beef to pan, pressing into an even layer. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, without stirring. Turn off heat. Sprinkle evenly with salt and 1/4 cup cooking liquid from slow cooker; toss to coat. Discard remaining cooking liquid, onions, and garlic. Divide beef and pickles among lettuce leaves; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Coreia (MHI #4)

Monster Hunter Legion (Monster Hunter International, #4)Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:
Monster Hunter International might be the premier monster eradication company in the business, but they’ve got competition. 

When hunters from around the world gather in Las Vegas for a conference, a creature left over from a World War Two weapons experiment wakes up and goes on a rampage across the desert. A not-so-friendly wager between the rival companies turns into a race to see who can bag the mysterious creature first.

Only there is far more to this particular case than meets the eye, and as Hunters fall prey to their worst nightmares, Owen Zastava Pitt and the staff of Monster Hunter International have to stop an ancient god from turning Sin City into a literal hell on earth.

Book number four in the series.

This was an over the top action book set in Las Vegas, where everything is already over the top.

Premise of the book is Monster Hunters International is invited, along with all the other monster hunters in the world to a first ever conference set at the Last Dragon casino in Las Vegas. After a fight breaks out at the buffet between MHI and Paranoramal Tactical, things go rapidly downhill. Alternate dimensions are making their way into the hotel, people fighting things they've already fought, hidden dragons in the basement, hidden bodies in the desert. It's up to MHI, Owen, Holly, and Mosh to fix things when the entire hotel is sucked into a giant swirling vortex of doom.

This was cheesy like a good grilled cheese sandwich: amusing, fast paced, over the top action, a great cast of characters (werewolves, elves, orcs, dragons, humans and then some) with enough plot twists to knock the head off a zombie. Try not to think too hard about the plot holes, which are plenty. I can only assume these will be filled in or at least patched like a Minnesota pothole (as in not very well), in the next book.

If your expecting some kind of literary masterpiece, you're going to be disappointed. This is a straight up action book about a gun-toting accountant who hunts down and kills monsters and is The Chosen One. You need a mindless read for a while? Got a business trip coming up? Vacation? Overly long plane rides? Abandoned in the alternate dimension known as the Dr's office? This would be the perfect book to have in hand.

Be sure to read the first three books that proceed "Legion".

View all my reviews

Monday, June 13, 2016

Recipe Review from 6/6/2016

Internet was down for a bit so post is somewhat late today.    Enjoy!

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L)  pasty or soup   (S)  Baked Spaghetti
Mon (Yoga)  leftovers
Tues: leftovers
Wed: Korean Rice Bowl
Thurs (yoga) leftover spaghetti
Fri: Korean Rice Bowl
Sat:  TBD

Lunches/Snacks - Quinoa Salad, carrots, fruit, yogurt, luna bars

Baked Spaghetti  (Dinner, Then Dessert blog via Pinterest)  gluten free option**
This is very similar to a baked spaghetti dish my Mom used to make years ago - except that recipe used a Kraft boxed spaghetti package and one sauted the cream cheese with butter and chopped green pepper.  OMGosh!  That combination was divine!   Kraft has long since removed that product from the shelves (to my knowledge) and I've been looking for a comparable recipe ever since.  That and I don't do boxed stuff anymore.

This came close to that long ago recipe, with the addition of some sauteed Italian sausage on top.  I did saute the cream cheese in 2 tbsp butter with some red pepper, spread as directed, then sprinkled mozzarella on top of that.   This step is NOT noted in the recipe below.

Overall, just a great comfort-food dish that would be easy enough and tasty for a group.   This makes a hearty 9x13 pan. 

Photo from Dinner, then Dessert blog
1 pound spaghetti, cooked two minutes shy of directions and drained
1 pound ground beef   (I used Italian sausage)

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
6 cups [homemade or jarred] Marinara Sauce (I used Barilla) 
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
parsley, chopped (optional as a garnish)

1) Preheat the oven to 350*
2) Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.   Combine beef or sausage, onions, garlic, salt (if using) and pepper.  Cook until meat is no longer pink.  Drain.

3) Add one cup of marinara sauce and stir to combine.

4) Add cooked spaghetti to remaining 5 cups of marinara and set aside.

5) Combine cream cheese and 2 cups of mozzarella in a bowl.

6) Place 1/2 pasta mixture in bottom of a 9x13 pan (pyrex, stoneware, ceramic preferred).  Spread cheese mixture.  Cover with remaining pasta.  Top with meat mixture.  Top with remaining cheese.

7) Bake, covered at 350* for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is browned.  
n a large skillet add the beef, onions, garlic, salt and pepper into the pan and cook on high.

Read more at: Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti

8)  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Buttermilk Pancakes  (I Bake What I Like Blog via Pinterest) 
It sounds like these pancakes are based off Alton Brown's recipe and technique, so if you want those particular details, head toward his webpage.

I suspect, but have not looked, the egg white are supposed to be whipped before adding.  The recipe does work without whipping the whites, but might be a bit lighter/fluffy 'cake if you do so.

Otherwise, I did make as written and added blueberries to the batter just before cooking.  I also like to add a tsp of vanilla extract or almond extract for more flavor.   While not a OMG recipe, these were pretty tasty and worked very nicely for Pancake Sunday.

Photo from I Bake What I Like
Dry ingredients
1/2tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp sugar
2 cup All-Purposed flour

Wet Ingredients: Mix together
a) 4 Tbls melted butter + 2 yolks ; mix together
b) 2 cups buttermilk or yoghurt at "room temperature" mix with the white. Before adding the whites, you can warm up the buttermilk in the microwave to body temperature. Body temperature is easy to tell , as you dip your finger in the buttermilk, you can barely tell whether it's hot or cold, it's just the same as your body temp, that's all.

Mix a+b together to team up the wet-team.

Combine the dry with wet ingredients, stir until "just" mixed and still lumpy.  Set aside for at least 15 minutes to let the batter do it's "thing".   Cook like any other pancake.

[Chickpea] and Quinoa Salad (Damn Delicious blog via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free
The original recipe calls for black beans, but the Husband is not real keen on those little delectable nuggets of yummy, so I subbed chickpeas.  This comes together fairly quickly - everything can be chopped and prepped while the quinoa cooks.  I did toss the frozen corn in with the quinoa while it cooked.  Do let the quinoa cool completely before mixing all ingredients, you'll have a better salad for it. 

This was lunches for the week.  This serves four, so I only prepped one batch to maintain freshness.

Photo from Damn Delicious blog
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 large navel oranges, cut into segments
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 can chickpeas)
  • 1/2 cup canned corn kernels, drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • For the orange vinaigrette
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • In a large saucepan of 2 cups water, cook quinoa according to package instructions; set aside.
  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, orange zest and sugar in a small bowl; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine quinoa, oranges, bell pepper, jalapeno, black beans, corn, onion and cilantro. Pour the vinaigrette on top of the salad and gently toss to combine.
  • Serve immediately.

Korean Shrimp Bowl  (Ckng Lght, May 2016)  gluten free
This was so tasty that I made it twice!  Well, that and I had extra shrimp.  I did a flavor boost on the spinach and shrimp by sauteing each in extra garlic.  Not a lot, maybe a half clove split between the two.   I also doubled the recipe - but not the sauce - to feed two of us.  I will note, this didn't come together as quickly as I thought it would, which surprised me.  It was probably closer to 40-45 minutes from start to table. 

Was it worth it?  Totally!   Like I noted, I made this twice.  YUM! 

Photo from
2 cups fresh spinach
1 ounce shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
2/3 cup cooked brown rice (I used 1 bag of Uncle Ben's instant)
1/3 cup matchstick-cut carrot
1/3 cup shredded cabbage
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
3 ounces pan-seared large shrimp
1 fried egg (I did poached)
Spicy Aioli:
2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean chile sauce) 
I used 1 tsp siracha
1 1/2 teaspoons canola mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1. Sauté spinach and mushrooms in canola oil. Top cooked brown rice with wilted spinach mixture, carrot, cabbage, green onions, shrimp, and egg.

2. In a small bowl, combine gochujang, mayonnaise, sesame oil, and minced garlic. Drizzle over bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet add the beef, onions, garlic, salt and pepper into the pan and cook on high. Once browned, turn off the heat, drain the liquid left in the pan and mix in one cup of the marinara sauce. Add the cooked spaghetti to the remaining 5 cups of the marinara sauce and toss to combine. Mix the cream cheese and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese in a bowl. Add half the pasta/sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Add the cream cheese mixture and top with the remaining pasta/sauce mixture. Add the meat sauce mixture on top of the pasta and top with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly

Read more at: Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet add the beef, onions, garlic, salt and pepper into the pan and cook on high. Once browned, turn off the heat, drain the liquid left in the pan and mix in one cup of the marinara sauce. Add the cooked spaghetti to the remaining 5 cups of the marinara sauce and toss to combine. Mix the cream cheese and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese in a bowl. Add half the pasta/sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Add the cream cheese mixture and top with the remaining pasta/sauce mixture. Add the meat sauce mixture on top of the pasta and top with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly

Read more at: Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti

Read more at: Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti
1 pound spaghetti, cooked two minutes shy of directions and drained 1 pound ground beef 1 medium onion, chopped 2 cloves of garlic, minced Kosher salt and pepper to taste (I used ½ teaspoon Kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper) 6 cups Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese parsley, chopped (optional as a garnish)

Read more at: Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Private: London by James Patterson and Mark Pearson (Private #4)

Private London (Private #4)Private London by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


For Hannah Shapiro, a beautiful young American student, this particular nightmare began eight years ago in Los Angeles, when Jack Morgan, owner of Private - the world's most exclusive detective agency - saved her from a horrific death. She has fled her country, but can't flee her past. The terror has followed her to London, and now it is down to former Royal Military Police Sergeant Dan Carter, head of Private London, to save her all over again.

In central London, young women are being abducted off the street. When the bodies are found, some days later, they have been mutilated in a particularly mysterious way. Dan Carter's ex-wife, DI Kirsty Webb, is involved in the investigation and it looks likely that the two cases are gruesomely linked.

Dan Carter draws on the whole resources of Private International in a desperate race against the odds. But the clock is ticking... Private may be the largest and most technologically advanced detection agency in the world, but the only thing they don't have is the one thing they need - time.

James Patterson's white-knuckle roller coaster has just reached London. Buckle up, it's one hell of a ride!

Read as an audio book.

I found this to be an enjoyable and mostly engaging read; neither overly spectacular nor easily figured out, with a handful of cliches and too many "endings".  Aspects of this were reminiscent of  Private: Games, especially the similarities in the head of London Private personally knowing a Detective Inspector on the police force. And, in both cases, neither man gets along with said DI (an ex-wife and a SIL), which I found to be incredibly annoying.   

Premise of the book is Dan Carter, head of London:Private, is given the responsibility of overseeing the safety of Hannah Shapiro, daughter of a very wealthy American. Dan plants a mole - his goddaughter of same age as Hannah - as someone to keep an eye on Hannah without being an obvious bodyguard. After a night of drinking and partying, Hannah is abducted. The search is on.

Unlike previous books, there weren't three or four additional mysteries being solved - the main case is Hannah, and at the same time, Dan's ex-wife, DI Webb, are looking into the murders of a couple of Jane Doe's who've had their organs removed. The question is batted around, is Hannah being held for her organs? DI Webb believes so, Dan isn't so sure, but Dan has the inside scoop.

My main issue with the book was the multiple endings ala Gotcha! twists. After a while, rather than being, "Oh, that was a neat turn of events..." it became an eye rolling, "Seriously?" muttered under my breath while checking exactly how many more CD's I had to go through to wrap things up.

If you've read any of the previous or following books in the series, you'll know that these are basically brain candy or a white mocha espresso latte with whip,chocolate drizzle and sprinkles. A quick hit of sugar and caffeine and not much in the way of substance. All the guys in the book are good looking and buff, and we know this because they work out. All the women in the book are gorgeous, and we know this because Dan describes the eyes you could get lost in, long trim legs and swaying hips. The not-so pretty and younger women blush prettily.

So if you're expecting something with substance, you're probably going to be disappointed. If you just want a fast paced, semi-mindless book to read during your commute, on the bus, the plane, over lunch or at the beach, this should work perfectly.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Recipe Review from 5/30/2016

It rained.  It was foggy.  It rained some more.  I can only say thank heaven's I don't live in Houston or Paris right now.  Egads. 

I'll leave you with a picture of the baby chicks that were delivered week before Memorial Day.  This much cuteness should be illegal.  

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L&S)  leftovers
Mon (L)  chicken salad   (S)  ham and corn chowder
Tues - leftover chowder
Wed - leftover chowder (or pasta)
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - TBD
Sat -

Lunches (Husband) Sandwiches, carrots, yogurt, fruit
               (Me) chicken salad, croissant, yogurt, fruit

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad (Life Currents Blog via Pinterest)  gluten free
I roasted two of our home grown chickens for this - two because they are a bit on the small side (2 1/2 lbs tops).  I did add a big handful of grated carrot because I had leftovers on hand from a coleslaw dish I made previously I didn't want the rest of the bag to go to waste.  Plus it added a nice dash of color and veggies.  Otherwise, pretty much made as written.  It's a chicken salad, what more can I say?

Photo from Life Currents Blog
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup chopped celery
1/2 cup grated carrot
¾ cup chopped pecans
½ cup dried, sweetened cranberries
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for an hour to allow flavors to combine. Serve chilled.

Ham and Cheddar Chowder (My Gluten Free Kitchen via Pinterest)  gluten free
This comes together moderately quickly and tastes like ham and potato gratin.  Except better 'cause it's a soup! 

I didn't make any sigificant alterations or substitutions other than baby reds for Yukon Golds.  Unpeeled because peeling is generally a waste of time, especially with soups.    The blog owner noted that this re-heats well and indeed it does!  I did have to add some extra water though, to return it soup rather than thick paste.   This is great for leftover ham.  Recommended! 

1 3/4 cups water  (I needed  two cups)
2 cups peeled, cubed Butter Gold or Yukon Gold potatoes (cubes about 1/2" to 3/4") 
Photo from My Gluten Free Kitchen Blog
(I used baby reds, unpeeled and cubed)
1/2 cup sliced carrots (I used store bought grated carrots)
2 cloves garlic, minced (Oops, I used 3 cloves)
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups milk
2 cups (8 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese (cubed or shredded)
2 cups frozen or fresh corn
1 1/2 or 2 cups cubed ham (fully cooked)
  1. In a large pot, bring water, potatoes, carrots, and garlic to a boil. Stir in salt, garlic salt, and pepper.
  2. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the ham cubes and frozen corn. Reduce heat to lowest setting.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then whisk in the cornstarch.
  4. Add the milk to the butter/cornstarch mixture and whisk together.
  5. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
  6. Add cheddar cheese cubes or shreds and stir until melted.
  7. Pour creamy contents of medium saucepan into the large pot of ham and vegetables. Heat through over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until read to serve. Taste a little to see if you would prefer additional seasonings.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Peacemaker (Foreigner #15) by C.J. Cherryh

Peacemaker (Foreigner, #15)Peacemaker by C.J. Cherryh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  At last—Cajeiri has his young guests from the starship, three young folk entranced by weather and trees and creatures with minds of their own. It’s all he dreamed of...

But now safety is foremost: Cajeiri’s grandfather has been assassinated, hostile Assassins Guild invaded Great-uncle’s house, and now Bren Cameron, paidhi-aiji, who was sent to keep the aiji’s son safe, has more than the young guests on his mind. The aiji-dowager knows who’s to blame for the attacks, and they’re going after him.

The fact that the person responsible is in the heart of Assassins’ Guild Headquarters, the most closely guarded fortress on the continent, is not going to stop her.

Bren Cameron has the pieces now, of a decades-old plot that’s been threaded through Guild actions going back before his arrival on the continent, and more—he knows the person responsible is going to find out he knows, and find out within hours.

They have no choice. If they don’t move, the other side will.

And the lives of the boy, the guests, the entire ruling family are at stake.

Peacemaker starts with Bren, Cajeiri, the Dowager, Uncle Tatiseigi, and Cajeiri's human guests leaving his Uncles estate in haste for the Bujavid. Secrecy and safety are of the utmost importance - the Dowager and her Guild guards in addition to Bren's Guild guards have discovered the identity behind the Shadow Guild, and until that individual can be either detained or eliminated, nobody is safe.

Cajeiri is fretting over yet another ruined birthday, when exactly a year to the date they were dropping from the space station in a last ditch attempt to salvage the upstart Murini regime and to find where his father and mother had hid.

Bren is pulled into Guild politics in an attempt to bring to light the illigitimate and secret doings of the Assassins Guild. He is also tasked with trying to pacify a southern alliance who feels threatened and out of the loop as it pertains to the railroad. As Tabini springs yet another surprise with a National Holiday celebrating his son's felicitous ninth birthday, it's up to Bren to molify Damiri-aiji. In short, it's up to Bren to act as the peacemaker he's been trained as.
Once again this was a non-stop book from the first page. What made this installment different was the balance between Bren and Cajeiri as separate individuals. Cajeiri - and who he represents - is pulled away from Bren's world and into that of his own. Bren and the Dowager are still movers and shakers, but we get to see the Young Gentleman come into his own. I really liked that. All those forces that brought Cajeiri to this moment in time are now starting to come to fruition.

This isn't an action book by any means; yes, there is action (fleeing Tatiseigi's estate), and an action scene, but most of the momentum is carried forward in the political maneuvering. The politics are just fascinating - and, granted, if you've made it this far in the series you obviously find the Atevi politics fascinating otherwise you would have given up long ago.

There is so much! going on in this book, yet Cherryh deftly weaves nearly everything together at the end, and what wasn't resolved, will show up in the next book.

Peacemaker is by no means a stand alone. If you haven't read this series yet, I HIGHLY recommend it, but start with book one: Foreigner.

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