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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lexicon by Max Barry

LexiconLexicon by Max Barry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  
Sticks and stones break bones.
Words kill.

They recruited Emily from the streets. They said it was because she's good with words.

They'll live to regret it.

Wil survived something he shouldn't have. But he doesn't remember it.

Now they're after him and he doesn't know why.

There's a word, they say. It shouldn't have got out. But it did.

And they want it back...

July's book group selection.

It's been a while since a scifi book has grabbed my attention and held it like this one did. I thought Lexicon was a really enjoyable read from the first page to the action packed conclusion.

Lexicon is not an overly complicated plot - runaway Emily is recruited into this mysterious world of words, where she learns the hard way that yes, words do have power. Will is abducted in an airport, interrogated, nearly assassinated, and is now on the run. Tom Eliot is trying to right a wrong. And everything hinges around a mysterious group call the Poets, run by Yeats.

It's how everything came together that I found to be just brilliant and delightful. It was the underlying nuances between Emily and Harry, between Eliot and Bronte that I think really cinched the whole "words are power". Emily and Harry figured it out. Alas, Eliot figured it out too late.

It was how the separate timelines and characters all came together. It felt so seamless - a merging so deftly woven the reader almost didn't know it was happening. I loved it!

Yes, there are some rather predictable aspects such as: I knew someone was going to die, and I knew who that someone was. There should be no surprise there for the astute reader. The happy ending. Also no surprise - but I sure as hell would have been pissed off if it had been any other way.

Sometimes, I just don't have much to say in my review, and this is one of those times. Overall, this is just a really enjoyable book with lots of delightful twists and turns.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 25, 2016

Recipe Reveiw from 7/18/2016

Wild and crazy week here in Duluth, where Thursday morning found 75,000 people without power and trees snapped off everywhere.  This small but intense storm cell nailed the northern/eastern side of Duluth, so many folks were unaware there was a problem until they tried to go out and about.   Talking to my friends and peeps at the gym, it's going to be a tough clean-up as temperatures bump 90* with humidity about the same.  Google Duluth News Tribune for pictures and videos.

The Meal Plan
Sat (L) Hummus sandwiches   (S) Black Bean Burgers
Sun (L) Hummus sandwiches  (S)  Chicken kebabs
Mon (Biwabic)  Leftovers
Tues (Biwabic) Leftovers
Wed (Biwabic) Leftovers
Thurs (yoga)  Fish, rice and salad
Fri - TBD

Lunches - sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, Luna bars, the usual...

Black Bean Burgers (America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook) vegetarian, gluten free*
These were really good.  The Husband noted that of the different black bean burger recipes I've tried, these were probably the best and I had to agree.  These were easy to assemble, are best made morning of or day before, and were moist and flavorful.  The recipe definitely makes six decently sized burgers, and ATK notes that these can be frozen - just thaw before cooking.

My one observation is, these are a bit "squishy" when bitten into; as in they had a tendency to ooze out the sides of the buns.  I think these would also be good over a bed of rice with some grated cheese.  I served mine with a slice of red pepper sandwich cheese, fried onions and lettuce, with mayo and bbq sauce on the side. 

2 (15oz cans) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 large eggs
2 tbsp AP Flour** (or GF mix)
4 scallions, minced (~1/4 cup)
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro  (I forgot...)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp hot sauce (optional) (I used Franks)
1 oz tortilla chips, crushed coarse (1/2 cup)
8 tsp vegetable oil
burger buns** (optional)

1.  Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a kitchen towel.  Spread rinsed and drained beans over towels and let stand 15 minutes.

2.  Whisk eggs and flour together until lumps are gone.  Add scallions through hot sauce and mix well.

3. Process corn chips in food processor until finely ground (or just smash).  Add beans and pulse until beans are roughly broken down (or mush with a potato masher).  Combine bean mixture and egg mixture and mix until well combined.  Cover and refrigerate minimum of 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
(My notes - I mixed, then formed into patties and put in fridge).

4. Divide bean mixture into 6 equal portions.  Firmly pack each portion into a tight ball and flatten to a 3/4" patty.   Patties can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap, placed in a ziploc bag and frozen for up to two weeks.  Thaw before cooking.

5. Heat 2 tsp oil in a 10" non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Carefully lay three patties skillet and cook until bottoms are well-browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.  Flip, add 2 tsp oil and cook second sides until well-browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes.  Repeat with remaining, serve.

Broccoli and Brussels Sprout Slaw (Ckng Lght, Aug 2016) gluten free, vegetarian
I was looking for something other than chips or coleslaw to serve along side the burgers above, and this recipe came to mind.  It's easy to assemble, dressing is nice and light without saturating the broccoli or sprouts, and its subtly flavored.  This definitely serves a solid 8-10 people, so I just kept bringing it to the table until it was gone.  This would be great for a picnic or potluck. 

Photo from
12 ounces broccoli stalks (about 3 large)
8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
2 tablespoons pine nuts 
1. Thinly slice broccoli and Brussels sprouts in a food processor fitted with the slicing blade. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss to coat.

2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, oil, and next 5 ingredients (through cheese) in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add dressing, grapes, and pine nuts to broccoli mixture; toss.

Spicy Buttermilk Chicken Kebabs  (Ckng Lght, Aug 2016)  gluten free
These were fairly quick from prep to table.  The directions and the picture, however, don't agree.  The directions have the cook putting chicken on separate skewers from the veggies, but the picture shows the classic kebab assembly of veggies and meat.  I did veggies and meat on same skewer.

These are not as flavorful as the title leads you to believe.  In fact, I would recommend marinating the meat if you have time, then proceeding with the basting.  All in all, a tasty dish, good for a hot summer night. I did serve with the broccoli slaw (above).

1/4 cup fat-free buttermilk
Photo from
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon grated fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-in. pieces
1 pt. multicolored cherry tomatoes
2 large orange bell peppers, cut into 1-in. pieces
1 red onion, cut into 1-in. pieces
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1. Preheat grill to high.

2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Thread chicken onto 4 (10-inch) skewers. Thread tomatoes, bell peppers, and onion alternately onto 8 (10-inch) skewers. Brush chicken and vegetable kebabs with half of buttermilk mixture.

3. Coat grill grates with cooking spray. Place kebabs on grill; grill 5 minutes. Turn and grill 5 minutes or until chicken is done, brushing chicken and vegetables with remaining buttermilk mixture. Remove kebabs from grill. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Zero Day by David Baldacci (John Puller #1)

Zero Day (John Puller, #1)Zero Day by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  War hero John Puller is known to be the top investigator in the US Army’s CID. So when a family with military connections is brutally murdered in a remote area of West Virginia, Puller is called to investigate, and soon suspects the case has wider implications.

As the body count rises he teams up with local homicide detective Samantha Cole. As the web of deceit is revealed, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s much more to this case than they had first thought. It is an investigation where nothing is as it seems, and nothing can be taken at face value.

Read as an audio book.

I listened to this series out of order and other than knowing the obvious (no shocker there if there's a second and third book), book one and two could be read as stand alones. Though, book one does segway into book two very nicely.

Premise of the book is, our Army CID Investigator John Puller is sent to Drake, West Virginia, coal mining country, because a General and his family were found murdered. Puller isn't given the usual back up support despite repeated requests for more help. Puller finds help in the way of one Sergent Sam Cole, former state trooper who came back to her home county and became part of the police force. Together, they uncover a mystery that goes back to the 1950's which has global ramifications leading up to now.

I really enjoyed this book with some caveats: Numerous of info dumps of which I'm just not a fan. Notable loose ends such as the video of the general's interrogation was never brought up again. Puller was just a bit too much of a "super-soldier". The antagonists were just *this* side of unrealistic. Actually, the whole situation was just a smidge this side of unrealistic. I have to ask, why the antagonists thought nobody would come investigating if seven people - one of them a general - were all dead? Well, if that were the case, there wouldn't have been a book

I'm also fairly certain I heard one typo or slip of the tongue - during a shoot out, Puller shot a sniper in the arms so the man wouldn't go for his gun. A few sentences later, Cole observed the leg wounds. Umm...oops? Or did I miss-hear? I don't think I misheard.

Where the book really resonated with me was Sam Cole - yes, there was the romantic attraction, but the author nicely avoided the whole fall into bed and boink like bunnies. I can't describe how tired I get of reading that trope. Cole was an engaging character, held her own, didn't follow Puller around whining and stood her ground when she needed to. One of the best supporting female characters I've read in these myster/thrillers in ages.

I loved the twists and turns this book took to get to the end. I enjoyed how the plot just rolls out, slowly gaining momentum right up until the punch during the last ten chapters or so. When I can't completely figure out the "who done it" means it was a good book or TV show. This, was a good book, especially on audio. I commend Hachette audio for the use of a male and female narrator. I really like that touch.

Recommended if you like military based mystery thrillers.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 18, 2016

Recipe Review from 7/11/2016

Busy week work wise, which were balanced out with some super simple but awesome meals.   Some meal plan shifting was required since I ended up with more leftovers than I had initially anticipated.  

The Meal Plan:
Sat  (L) Grilled Eggplant Planks (leftovers, see previous recipe review)
       (S)  brats over a camp fire with Drunken Beans
Sun (L) leftover brats  (S)  "Family Favorite Salad" via pinterest
Mon (yoga) leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed - Black Bean burgers  Leftover drunken beans w/rice
Thurs (yoga) leftover beans and rice
Fri - Out

Lunches - Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Drunken Beans (modified America's Test Kitchen TV Show Ckbk) gluten free option**
The Husband and I just purchased a Lodge enameled cast iron pot and the inaugural recipe was this batch of baked beans.  I used navy beans instead of pinto because I had a jar on hand.   I skipped the lime and cheese because I didn't want a wedge of Cojita cheese to use up. 

By all accounts, this should have been a Mexican-flavorful dish, with nuances of smoky tequila and tangy beer, yummy bacon and the freshness of cilantro in the background.   What it was, was  bland, which surprised me to no end.  On the other hand, this was tasty when scooped up in a tortilla chip.

Would I make these again?  Probably.  This dish would be great for a potluck (made ahead and reheated) because it's not spicy.  I can also see this as part a rice and bean dish (which will happen as leftovers), or part of breakfast with some Chorizo sausage, scrambled eggs, salsa and a crisped corn tortilla.

photo from Scifi with Paprika Blog
1 lb (2 1/2 cups) dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed (I used Navy beans)
30 springs fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)
4 sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped fine
2 poblano chilies, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine (I used one large)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tequila
2 bay leaves
1 cup Mexican lager** (use extra H20 or veggie stock)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 limes, quartered
1 oz Cotija cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)

My note:  the directions below are what I did to prepare the beans, which differed from ATK's original recipe. 

1.  Place beans in a 5-6qt slow cooker.   Add (filtered) water until beans are submerged 2".   Cook on low 6-8 hours.   I went with 6 hours to slightly under cook them.  Beans were 'al dente', with just a small bit of resistance when bitten into.  

2.  (ATK)  Adjust oven rack to lower - middle position and preheat to 275* (I used my grill so I wouldn't heat up the house)Pick leaves from 20 cilantro springs, reserving stems.  Mince and refrigerate.   Using kitchen twine, tie remaining cilantro sprigs into a bundle and set aside.

3. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally until bacon is crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined bowl and set aside (I removed excess fat and left about 1-2 tbsp.  I don't like my food swimming in bacon fat, as yummy as that flavor is).  Add onion, garlic and chile, sti rring frequently, until vegetables are soft, 6-7 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add tequila and cook until evaporated, 3-4 minutes.  Return to heat.  Increase heat to high; stir in 3 1/2 cups water (I used 3 cups because I cooked beans longer at the start), 1 tsp salt, beans and cilantro bundle; and bring to a boil.  cover, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are just soft, 45-60 minutes.

4.  Remove pot from oven.  Discard bay leaves and cilantro bundle.  Stir in beer and tomato paste and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Simmer vigorously, stirring frequently, uliquid is thick and beans are fully tender, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt to taste.  Serve with minced cilantro, bacon, (lime wedges and Cotija cheese). 

 Family Favorite Salad (Gimmie Some Oven via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free
This was a really awesome salad!  After a conversation with a friend, I decided to make it a "build your own" due to the amount of wet-ish ingredients.   I'm very glad I did, because this salad could get soupy fast between the artichokes, the drained red peppers and the dressing.

Ironically, my friend made this the same weekend I did, but she *did* combine everything and she noted there was waaayyy to much dressing.  I'm always an advocate for serving dressing on the side and that's why.  Plus, by keeping the ingredients separate, this will say fresh longer in the fridge.

The flavors in this are fresh and tangy.  This would be perfect for a potluck (serve dressing on the side!).  I thought a grilled chicken breast would be a perfect compliment if you wanted something a tich more substantial or needed a protein hit.

Highly recommended!
photo from Gimme Some Oven blog

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 head red-leaf lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • half of a small red onion, peeled and thinly-sliced   (I skipped)
  • 2 (14 ounce) jars quartered artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 batch zesty red wine vinaigrette
  • optional garnish: extra freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

Zesty Red Wine Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder  (I used 1 grated garlic clove)
To Make The Salad:
Add all ingredients together in a large bowl, and toss until evenly combined.  Serve immediately, garnished with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

To Make The Vinaigrette:
Whisk all ingredients together until combined.  (Or add them together in a mason jar, and shake until combined.)  Use immediately.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad  (Gimmie Some Oven via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free option**
Double hit on the vinaigrette's this week!   This was for lunches.  Oh so tasty, tasty, tasty!   I did think a can of chopped artichoke quarters would really have put this over the top into divine.  This comes together very quickly, packed well for lunches, and was good with a side of fruit.  My two alterations were I didn't add the cucumbers because I'm just not a fan.  I packed those separate for the husband.  And I skipped the red onion because I don't like raw onion breath at work. 

Highly recommended. 
photo from Gimme Some Oven

 Salad Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces dry farfalle pasta (I used whole 16oz box)**
  • 1 English (hot house) cucumber, diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2/3 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • half of a medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • lemon-herb vinaigrette (see below)

Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or your desired sweetener)
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Whisk all ingredients together until combined.

  1. Cook the pasta al dente in a large stockpot of salted water according to package instructions.  Drain pasta, then rinse under cold water for about 20-30 seconds until no longer hot.  Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add cucumber, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and red onion to the mixing bowl, then drizzle all of the vinaigrette evenly on top.  Toss until all of the ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing.
  3. Serve immediately, garnished with extra feta and black pepper if desired.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Black Box by Michael Connelly (Bosch #21)

The Black Box (Harry Bosch, #18; Harry Bosch Universe, #21)The Black Box by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  In a case that spans 20 years, Harry Bosch links the bullet from a recent crime to a file from 1992, the killing of a young female photographer during the L.A. riots. Harry originally investigated the murder, but it was then handed off to the Riot Crimes Task Force and never solved.

Now Bosch's ballistics match indicates that her death was not random violence, but something more personal, and connected to a deeper intrigue.

Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the "black box," the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together.

Read as an audio book. Narrator changed again.

Harry has been with Detective Chu now for a couple of books - a record I think. Harry still treats Chu like an idiot, which is probably my main contention with this series: Bosch treats everyone like they are stupid and that gets old.

The thing I do like about this book is instead of being a current or active murder investigation, Bosch is working on a cold case from 20 years prior, one that he had to pass along from the '92 riots. Even after 20 years, the case carries with it political baggage, the question of why is the LA homicide department focusing on the murder of a white, Danish, woman while so many black people's murders remain unsolved. Pressure is coming down from the top to slow the investigation, and when Harry is slapped with a internal investigations order, he knows he has to work outside the box.

What I did enjoy with this installment was, Harry actually treated the gang detective and ballistics expert with something bordering on respect, as if they were equals rather than the usual everyone is stupid and hindering "his" investigation. That was a much needed character flaw improvement. I liked how the author had Harry taking vacation to finish working on the case. I really liked the twists and turns that spanned 20 years.

The ending (no spoilers!) was a bit unrealistic, as if the author got Bosch into a pinch and wasn't quite sure how to get him out. I didn't quite buy it, but hey, it worked and I could suspend my disbelief. Kinda. There was a bit of eye rolling.

Overall, one of the more enjoyable books in the series. Recommended if you've read the first twenty.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 11, 2016

Recipe Reveiw from 7/4/2016

Since my last recipe posting, I'm glad to say we haven't lost any more chicklets to the hawk (knock on wood *knock!* *knock!*). Mama-Penny started laying eggs again, but her chicks are still too little to integrate with the chicklets.  The family will stay in the garden cruiser for the time being.  And we had our first record egg laying day - twelve eggs!  That beat the old record by two eggs.  Ten eggs aren't unusual, but twelve was definitely a surprise.

Several notable recipes this past week

The Meal Plan
Sat (L)  Leftovers   (S) Leftovers
Sun (L)  Leftovers   (S) Grilled Pork Shank, Austrian Potato Salad, corn on the cob
Mon: Happy 4th of July!  (L)   Baseball game   (S)  Leftovers
Tues:  Grilled Eggplant planks
Wed:  Meatball hoagies
Thurs (yoga)   Leftovers
Fri: out for Pizza

Lunches - pork sandwiches, fruit, veggies, luna bars, yogurt, the usual...

Buttermilk Pancakes  (by Baker by Nature blog via Pinterest)  vegetarian
Sunday is Pancake Day in our house, and I've been trying to make an effort to use different recipes rather than the same three or four.  I had this one saved on Pinterest and pulled it to the top.   Pretty basic, easy to assemble, tasty.  I added one ripe mashed banana and some fresh blueberries because I adore banana's and blueberries in my pancakes!  Yum! 

photo from Baker by Nature blog
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh) 
  • Maple syrup, for serving
  1. In a large bowl add the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg; whisk well to combine. In a separate bowl add the eggs and lightly beat them with a whisk. Add in the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until well combined. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just until everything is combined.
  2. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto a buttered hot pan or griddle, adding only a few at a time so that they do not blend together. Cook for about 2 minutes before flipping them over, or until small bubbles form on top. Cook on the second side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Repeat with all pancake batter. Serve pancakes warm, with syrup. See notes for freezing options.
To freeze: place cooled pancakes between layers of waxed paper, then place them in a freezer-safe plastic bag, squeezing out any excess air before sealing the bag and placing it in the freezer. Pancakes will keep in the freezer for 2 months. To reheat, heat your oven to 375 degrees (F). Place the pancakes in a single layer on a large baking pan; cover with tinfoil and heat in a preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, or until warm. You may also microwave 3-4 pancakes at a time for about 40 seconds, or until heated through.

Austrian-style Potato Salad  (America's Test Kitchen)  vegetarian option, gluten free
A few modifications and substitutions this go around, and end result was still darn tasty.  I had baby red potatoes on hand in the basement, I used a "bold and peppery" Miller's Blend olive oil, a shallot instead of a red onion (had one on hand), and parsley for the chives.  So, kinda a "what I had on hand" Austrian-style potato salad. 

Don't be put off by the instructions, this actually comes together very quickly and easily.   End result?
Everyone thought it was darn tasty.  Recommended! 

Serves 4-6

2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
I used baby red potatoes and didn't peel. 
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth**  (use water or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
1 cup water
salt and pepper
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar, divided
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 small red onion, chopped fine (I used 1 large shallot)
6 cornichons or kosher dill pickles, chopped fine  (2 tbsp)
2 tbsp minced fresh chives (I used parsley)
1.  Bring potatoes, broth, water, 1 tsp salt, sugar and 1 tbsp vinegar to a boil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes offer no resistance when pierced with a paring knife, 15 to 17 minutes.  Remove cover, increase hat to high (so cooking liquid will reduce), and cook 2 minutes.

2. Drain potatoes in a colander set over a large bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Set drained potatoes aside.  Pour off and discard all but 1/2 cup cooking liquid (if 1/2 cup liquid does not remain, add water to make 1/2 cup).  Whisk remaining tablespoon vinegar, mustard, and oil into cooking liquid.

3.  Add 1/2 cup cooked potatoes to bowl with cooking liquid mixture and mash with potato masher or fork until thick sauce forms (mixture will be slightly chunky).  Add reamining potatoes, onion, cornichons, and herbs, folding gently with rubber spatula to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

ATK notes: For best results, don't refrigerate the salad; it should be served within 4 hours of preparation.  

Grilled Eggplant Planks  (Ckng Lght,  July 2016)   gluten free, vegetarian
These were touted as a side, but I made them a main dish with the addition of brown rice and a salad.  There were four sauce options, and I chose the one below because I had almost all the ingredients on hand.  I say 'almost' because I subbed balsamic vinegar for the sherry vinegar.  I also grilled these - spray each plank with olive oil or vegetable oil and toss on a preheated grill.  Proceed with recipe as directed.

These turned out very tasty and were perfect for a hot summer evening.  I brought some shredded  Parmesan cheese to the table for garnish.  One standard grocery store eggplant was plenty for two of us.  But, since I bought two eggplants, I made this twice. 

2 small eggplants (about 12 oz. each)
photo from
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used balsamic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1. Cut eggplants lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

2. Combine vinegar, olive oil, honey, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat; coat with cooking spray. Grill eggplant 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Drizzle with vinegar mixture. Sprinkle with thyme and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

Meatball Hoagies  (Ckng Lght, July 2016) 
The recipe touted these as being a 30 minute meal.  When all was said and done, this was closer to an hour.  It takes nearly 15-20 minutes alone to mix and form the meatballs!  And no, they don't cook nearly enough in 4 minutes.   A kitchen tip - prep additional meatballs and freeze for a later date.  

Still, this is a very tasty dish.  I opted to serve these in a whole hoagie bun (I had to buy a pkg of 6 so why not?) and was glad I did.  Saucy, spicy, garlicky, messy, cheesy goodness all in one hoagie roll.   YUM!  This made great leftovers for a second meal.  

Serves 4

photo from
8 ounces 99% lean ground turkey breast (I used Italian sausage I had on hand)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh marinara sauce (basically one jar)
1/2 cup water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
2 (2.5-oz.) whole-wheat hoagie rolls, halved horizontally
4 (3/4-oz.) slices reduced-fat provolone cheese

1. Preheat broiler to high.

2. Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl. Shape turkey mixture into 12 meatballs.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add meatballs to pan; cook 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Add sauce and 1/2 cup water; cook 7 minutes. Place meatball mixture in a bowl.

4. Wipe out pan with paper towels; return to medium-high heat. Add remaining oil and garlic; cook 30 seconds. Add spinach; cook 2 minutes, stirring until wilted. Place bread pieces, cut side up, on a baking sheet; top evenly with spinach, meatball mixture, and cheese. Broil 1 minute or until cheese is melted.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tracker by C.J. Cherryh (Foreigner #16)

Tracker (Foreigner, #16)Tracker by C.J. Cherryh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Tracker is the sixteenth installment of CJ Cherryh's acclaimed Foreigner series.

It’s been a year of upheaval, since Bren Cameron’s return from space—a year when he and the aiji-dowager, one of his most powerful atevi allies, returned home from their two-year interstellar mission to find the government over­thrown and their world in chaos.

Now, at last, things are calming down; the Assassins’ Guild is functioning again, working out its internal difficulties, and Bren is settling back into his routine: not as Lord of the Heavens; not—to his regret—as Lord of Najida peninsula, where his leisure estate is located; but as paidhi-aiji, an official in the atevi court.

His current ambition is to keep himself and his bodyguard out of harm’s way, and to shepherd the aiji-dowager’s daring new trade agreement through the appropriate legislative committees. Combined with Tabini-aiji’s recent appointment of his young son Cajeiri as his official heir, Bren’s workload is challenging, but at least things on the atevi world seem to be on the right track.

Something is coming, however, quietly, stealthily, just the first ominous twinkle of a new star in the heavens…

Tracker begins right where Peacemaker leaves off, with Cajeiri putting on a brave face to say good bye to his three associates from the Ship, their visit now concluded. Bren says goodbye to Jase after Jase confides in Bren that there are personnel issues on the space station that may have unfortunate ramifications for the atevi/human relations.

Bren immediately acts on Jase's warnings, and contacts both Tatsigi-aiji and the President of Mospheria, Shawn Meyers. They need to remove the problematic individual immediately. But before Bren can do anything, the Kyo arrive in the Atevi system. Bren, Cajeiri and the Dowager must go meet them. Bren has to step into station and ship politics, a highly volition situation that could imperil any contact and dialog with the Kyo before they even arrive.

As much as I love this series, I confess I am getting a smidge tired of the frantic running around from crisis to crisis that only Bren can solve. I just wasn't feeling the love, so to speak, with the space station crisis and Stationmaster Tillington. The hypothetical question was, why didn't someone speak up sooner if Tillington was being problematic? But...then we wouldn't have Bren in crisis management mode and rushing to save the day at great personal angst.

Tracker is at it's essence, a transition book - a way to get Bren, the Dowager and Cajeiri from the ground to the Space Station to set up the next book. Recommended with reservations if you've been reading the series.

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Recipe Review from 6/27/16 and chicken update

Misfortune has struck this week!  Husband came home on Friday to white feathers on the porch.  Ominous.  Then he noticed white feathers on the porch roof...and the house roof.  Cue the dramatic music.  It didn't take much counting to realize he'd lost some chicklets to a hawk - 4 Chanticleer and 4 Rhode Island Reds.   Of course it had to be the expensive chicks.  Modifications are now in place over the hoop coop. 

Only two recipes to review this go around.  I went very simple in planning last week, falling back on even simpler meals. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun: leftovers from Saturday
Mon (bkgrp/Legion) packed supper
Tues: Slow cooked pulled BBQ pork, cornbread
Wed: leftovers
Thurs (yoga): leftovers
Fri:  Grilled pepper turkey sandwiches
Sat (L) leftovers grilled sandwiches  (S) Shish Tawook

Turkey and Pickled Pepper Grilled Cheese  (Fine Cooking, Issue 140)
This looked like a fun riff on grilled cheese sandwiches, and it was.  I did do several modifications/substitutions.  1) I used half the amount of cream cheese/jarlsberg cheese mixture as called for on each sandwich.  Ie, this is "supposed" to feed two, I stretched it out to feed four (well, two of us over two meals).   2) I used turkey on my sandwich, roast beef on the Husbands.  3) Honey mustard on my sandwich, spicy brown on the Husbands.  3) Banana peppers are more likely to get used in other dishes in our household, so I switched to those. 

I will note, the cream cheese/Jarlsberg cheese mixture really needs to be at room temp in order to mix it together and spread it on the bread.

Overall, a tasty sandwich perfect either alone or with a cup of soup.  Recommended!
photo from
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. Jarlsberg cheese, grated
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • 1 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
  • 3 oz. thinly sliced smoked turkey breast  (or roast beef)
  • 1/3 cup jarred sweet and hot jalapeƱo rings, drained
  • 1/3 cup jarred yellow banana peppers
In a medium bowl, mix both cheeses and the dill until blended.

Butter one side of two slices of bread, and place butter side down in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Spread the mustard on top. Divide half of the cheese mixture between the two slices of bread. Divide the turkey and then the peppers between the two, then the remaining cheese. Butter the remaining two slices of bread and top the sandwich butter side up.

Cook over medium heat, pressing lightly on the sandwich, until deep golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown and the cheese has melted, another 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool briefly before slicing and serving.

Shish Tawook  (Whole Foods Co-op Flyer)  gluten free
First and foremost!  HALF THE MARINADE.   The amount below made way too much in my opinion, especially since it gets dumped down the drain.

If your grill will let you, I would say just toss everything right over the grate.  I hate futzing with skewers, food doesn't cook at the same rate, and they can be difficult to turn.  I did try my grill pan, but this makes suck a large amount that I wasn't getting the browning I wanted.  So, I scattered around my grill.  Worked much better (don't forget to grease your grill grate!).

Overall, this was just okay.  I was disappointed at how much marinade went down the drain, it wasn't as flavorful as I thought it would be, and it was a bit putzy.  But that's me and kebabs.  

1 cup Greek yogurt, non-fat
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic (about 12 cloves)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2" cubes  (I used turkey breast)
1 red bell, seeded and cut into 2"squares
1 green bell, seeded and cut into 2"squares
1 small eggplant, [peeled] and cut into 1/4" slices
8 oz whole fresh mushrooms, rinsed and halved

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste and spices.  Add the cubed chicken to the marinade and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Heat the grill to 375*.

Remove chicken from marinade and place on skewers, alternating with cubed peppers, eggplant slices and mushrooms.

Place kebabs on the grill and cook, covered for 10-12 minutes or until chicken is done and vegetables are tender, turning occasionally.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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