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Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller #5)

The Fifth Witness (Mickey Haller, #5)The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Mickey Haller has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home.

Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too--and he's certain he's on the right trail.

Despite the danger and uncertainty, Haller mounts the best defense of his career in a trial where the last surprise comes after the verdict is in.

Read as an audio book.

The thing with the Mickey Haller books, is they are thrillers not in the sense of guns a-blazing, cars blowing up, and high speed chases, but they are courtroom thrillers or drama if you will. Granted, I'm going on the assumption that *most* lawyers don't get beat up and shot as much as Mickey does.

This book left me a bit stunned, waffling between thinking this was absolutely brilliant or totally contrived. I'm leaning toward brilliant with a touch of contrived as I cogitate this review.

Premise is Micky Haller's foreclosure client Lisa Trammel is being framed for the murder of Mitchel Bonderant, President of Westland Bank. This becomes pure courtroom drama, as Haller battles it out with the prosecutor, Andrea Freeman in front of the judge and jury. Haller's team pulls together tendrils of evidence and weaves together a convincing story how Lisa has been framed. Mickey's performance is no less than brilliant as he ripostes and parries the prosecutions evidence and witness interviews.

But it's Haller's new assistant, Jennifer, who brings a moral edge to what the defense is doing. Its almost as if she's asking the morality questions that Haller has long since forgotten or chosen to ignore. He's flippant and arrogant in his responses, until it comes to bit him in the ass. Hard.

Outside of court, Mikey continues his efforts to woo Maggie "McFierce", his ex-wife, prosecutor, and mother to his daughter Hailey. I get the strong impression Maggie is just stringing Haller along because it amuses her.

Two different battles. Three different outcomes. Go read the book.

Recommended if you've read the Bosch/Haller series.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Worldcon 2016: Kansas City, MO

No recipe review this week!

I've been off in Kansas City, MO for the 74th World Science Fiction Convention: MidAmeriCon II!

Tuesday (Travel day) - I left Duluth bright and early...okay, it was early but not so bright out - at 5am.  Arrived in Hudson at 8.  Picked up the rental car and we were on our way!  Ten hours later we arrived in Kansas City with only a modicom of rush hour traffic to contend with.  Once we checked in, we attempted to register and found there was a snafu - we weren't in the system. At all.  Not cool.   Luckily, both of us saved our registration slips and were able to show proof of payment.

Wednesday - Kansas City Zoo!   This was a pretty amazing zoo, with walking paths, a sky-gondola, pontoon boat, and train.  We spent about 3 1/2 hours wandering around.  In 95* heat and humidity.  It was...toasty.   A very late lunch at LC's Barbeque.  Folks, Kansas City BBQ doesn't get much better than this.  Smokey, moist, filling...yup.  Da bomb!   (In interest of full disclosure, my traveling companion didn't like it at all.)

Gorilla at the Kansas City Zoo - some days ya just gotta kick back and relax.

I finished the day with an Led Primary class (Ashtanga sequence) at Maya Yoga Studios.  It was, simply, awesome. 

Power and Light District

Let the convention begin!  Off to the panels:

Reviewing the Reviews  The internet makes it easy to find reviews of just about any book published.  How do you find reviews of value, that offer depth and analysis?  Which review sites are better than others?   Nuts and bolts of panel - it all depends...

The Future of Forensics Experts discuss what is current in the methods and technology of analyzing scientific evidence, and suggest where it might go next.   Nuts and bolts - life isn't CSI, and forensics in space or on a planet is going to be challenging.

As You Know, Bob...the Fine Art of Exposition  Exposition is writers giving readers information they need to understand a story.  Is it possible to convey the necessary but not at the expense of the enjoyable?  We try not to lecture.   Nuts and bolts - It's important to establish world setting, but don't bore the hell out of your readers.

The Year in Astronomy  Join us for a lively roundup of the latest research and discoveries from the final frontier.   Discussed gravitational waves, black holes, Tessa's Star, pluto, and some odds and ends.

Business Planning for Writers  You've sold your first novel (or not) and now have o figure out how to make a living as a writerBudget, incorporations, taxes.  A guide to planning the business aspect of your career.   Nuts and bolts - don't quit your day job until you have some money in the bank, pay your taxes, read the fine print on the contracts, pay your taxes, use the resources around you (accountants, agents, lawyers, etc).


Oceans: The Wettest Frontiers  Although science fiction tends to focus on strange environments, there are also strange environments (with aliens) here on Earth.  Discus fiction set in oceans - on Earth and elsewhere.  Nuts and bolts - a water environment offers its own sets of challenges and strange creatures.

Yoga class - "Ashtanga Power Hour" at Maya Studios.  Whee!

Feminism in Science Fiction: When it changed  Susan Wood's "Women and Science Fiction" panel at MidAmeriCon (Big Mac) in 1976 was the first of its kind.  Women from Big Mac discuss the session, the changes that came from it and where we are today.  Nuts and bolts - Historical look at women standing up and saying "I have a Voice" in the scifi world and what it means today.

Forgotten Masterpieces of 19th Century Fantasy Art  Discover the rich and wonderful world of fantastic art from the 19th Century with award winning artists Richard Hescox.  Nuts and bolts - A look non-mainstream scifi art that depicts aspects of fantasy.

The Joy of Cookbooks  Nigella Lawson has said that if a cookbook has one amazing recipe you return to again and again, it is a keeper.  What is it about them that make cookbooks so addictive to collect and how many do you really use.  Nuts and bolts - a discussion about cooking as cultural cohesion.

Dwarf Planets and Beyond the Kuiper Belt Automated space craft have finally visited Ceres and Pluto.  What are the high points of what we've learned.  What are the implications for the settlement of the solar system and beyond?  Nuts and bolts - discussion about Pluto, Charon, Ceres, Vespa, space missions, asteroids, and technology.

Yoga class - "Led Primary Series"   Whee!  Got a bit warm and humid in the room tho...

Bogus Science in TV Shows TV procedurals like Numbers, CSI and Scorpion use fake science to solve their cases.  We discuss the implication of this and how it could be different with real science.
Nuts and bolts - that about sums it up.

This Year in Bad Science  A discussion about pseudoscience and poorly conducted research that has been doing the rounds the last year.   Nuts and bolts - combination of bad science and even worse reporting.  Ie - Study about farts preventing cancer.  Bad reporting. 

Know Your Immune System  A biology lesson for all ages.   Nuts and bolts - a discussion of what your immune system is and how it works, or doesn't.

Medical Myths and Errors in SF  Medical errors in SF.  Nuts and bolts - where the author got it wrong.  John Wayne getting stabbed/shot in the shoulder; Arya Stark getting stabbed in the gut; character walking out of Louisiana Swamp with a broken femur, then hiking to California.

And, we met up with high school friend Jeff!    He took us to The Bricks, a great little hole-in-the-wall.  Very cool to catch up after so long.

Astronaut Stan Love presenting - Mars is Hard
Two Suns in the Sky  Come learn the latest about multiple star systems, their planets and what they've taught us about the rest of the universe.  Nuts and bolts - Kepler and exoplanets.

Mars is Hard Astronaut Stan Love discusses why Mars is hard to get to, land on and build a livable space on.   Nuts and bolts - 1) Low earth orbit  2) The Moon  3) Mars is a very long way away...

Terra-forming for Climate Change  What can we do in terms of really big engineering projects to change or adapt to what looks like a hot, wet, stormy future?   Nuts and bolts - stop creating excess CO2, get rid of extra CO2, beef up vulnerable systems, reflect sunlight back into space.

The State of Feminist Fantasy  Panelists discuss whether there is a difference viewing feminism through a fantasy lens, and whether there are fantasy feminist equivalents to Russ, Tiptree and Butler.  Nuts and bolts - It is the individual who decides if a work is feminist or not.

Can Scifi be too Hard?  Is it possible  that there can be too much science in Hard Science Fiction?  Nuts and bolts - It can be too hard for some readers, and not hard enough for others. 

Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts

Restaurants we visited:
LC's Barbecue
Yard House
The Brick (I had a burger!) 
Flying Saucer

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Priavte: LA by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

Private L.A. (Private, #6)Private L.A. by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Thom and Jennifer Harlow are the perfect couple, with three perfect children. They maybe two of the biggest mega movie stars in the world, but they're also great parents, philanthropists and just all-around good people.

When they disappear without a word from their ranch, facts are hard to find. They live behind such a high wall of security and image control that even world-renowned Private Investigator Jack Morgan can't get to the truth. But as Jack keeps probing, secrets sprout thick and fast--and the world's golden couple may emerge as hiding behind a world of desperation and deception that the wildest reality show couldn't begin to unveil. Murder is only the opening scene.

Read as an audio book.

This was one of the more enjoyable Private books I've "read". In the last several audiobook reviews, I've noted I tend to skip anything with the antagonists. This time, I didn't. In this book, watching the antagonists move the LAPD, Mayor's office and Private around was like watching a chess master deploy his pieces across a board. The reader wasn't sucked into some bad guys sick and twisted mind this time, which I greatly appreciated. Instead, I got to see how sick and twisted this group was and slowly find out the whys.

More of this story was about Justine, which...I wasn't as thrilled about. She's a brilliant psychologist (psychiatrist?) trying to be come a kick-ass strong member of the Private team. But she quickly learns that Akido lessons and CrossFit will only get her so far. I really had mixed thoughts about her reactions, especially the wailing and self flagellation about "seducing" a married man - when she had no idea he was married. Gah. And the "little sister" comments to psych herself up. Seriously? "Little Sister?" (rolling my eyes here).

I'm also officially tired of this yo-yo'ing so-called relationship between Jack and Justine. They can't live together, and they can't live apart, but Jack won't open up to Justine and she can't handle not knowing his feelings and Jack can't handle Justine prying into his mind (can you blame the guy?) Whatever.

Several overlapping plots in this installment - "No Prisoners", where the city of LA is at the mercy of someone setting them up to take a lot of money. The world famous Harlow's and their children have disappeared, and there are some skeletons in locked closets. And lastly, Tommy is back with Carmen Nochia (sp?) and both men have their sights set on taking down Jack. Interestingly, not everything was resolved in this book.

Overall, a solid and entertaining book, great for traveling, a beach read, or, in my case, several days of extra driving.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Recipe Review from 8/8/2016

It's been quiet after the excitement of the storms last week and a long bike ride.  Some shuffling to the meal plan was necessary this week, and the corn chowder didn't make as much as advertised so I was left scrambling a bit for lunches at the end of the week.  To make things easy on myself, I got lo-mein take out from a "new to me" Oriental restaurant on my way back to the office - two egg rolls and a tub of lo-mein gave me enough for three lunches, which was perfect to get me through Monday of the following week.  Not sure what the Husband did. 

The Meal Plan
Sat (L) Grand Rapids  (S) chicken salad sandwiches
Sun (L) Picnic at Gooseberry  (S)  Grilled Pepper Tacos  leftover chicken salad sandwiches
Mon (yoga)  grilled pork chops
Tues  -  grilled pepper tacos  grilled pork chops
Wed -  Summer squash and Rotini   grilled pepper tacos
Thurs (yoga)  Summer squash and Rotini   grilled pepper tacos
Fri (early early am yoga)  Summer squash rotini

Lunches - Slow cooked Fresh Corn and Shrimp Chowder

Slow cooked Fresh Corn and Shrimp Chowder  (Ckng Lght, Aug 2016)  gluten free
This was the teeniest bit putsy on the front and back end.  Front end - cutting corn from the cobs is a rather messy job.  "Milking" the cob even more so.  I'm not sure how they got 4 cups of corn from 7 cobs, because I had so much extra corn I froze a quart in addition to the extra cup I put in the soup.

On the back end - sauteing the corn and shrimp.  I honestly wonder if the nuances of sauteing added any depth of flavor, or if this step could just be skipped and everything cooked all together - adding the shrimp during the last 30 minutes.  I did follow the directions and cooked the corn and shrimp.  Yay know, what could be really tasty - would be grilling a cob of corn and the shrimp. Hmm... 

Overall, this is a darn tasty soup.  I do think a person could easily substitute ham for a nice smokey flavor.  Recipe noted this served 10.  I only got 6 servings and that was with 1 cup extra water and 1 cup extra corn.   Their measurements are a bit off on this one...

photo from

7 ears yellow corn, shucked
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-in. pieces
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided 
1. Cut kernels from corn cobs to measure about 4 cups. Using the dull side of a knife blade, scrape liquid from corn cobs directly into a 6-quart slow cooker. Add cobs and 3 cups kernels. Stir in chicken stock, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and potatoes. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 hours and 30 minutes.

2. Discard cobs. Stir half-and-half and 2 tablespoons butter into corn mixture. Transfer half of corn mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in lid (to avoid splatters). Process until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining corn mixture. Stir in pepper.

3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook 2 minutes or until foamy. Add shrimp, remaining 1 cup corn kernels, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to pan; cook 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and are done, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons chives. Divide soup among 10 shallow bowls; top evenly with shrimp mixture, and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons chives

Charred Pepper Tacos  (Whole Foods co-op flyer)  gluten free, vegetarian
I modified this recipe and my modifications are written below.  The original recipe roasted the peppers in the oven.  Which seemed silly here at the height of summer, when a grill can serve the same function and provide extra flavor.  If you think of it ahead of time - which I did not - slice the onion into rings and also toss on the grill.

I thought this came together very quickly and was very flavorful.  Some goat cheese on top would have been a tasty and tangy substitute for sour cream.   I do recommend warming up the corn tortillas - especially if you don't have access to fresh ones - they work better warm.    Recommended! 

3 bell peppers, seeded and cut in half or quarters
3 tbsp olive oil, divided  (or cooking spray)
1 small yellow onion, sliced horizontal (I used a red onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
2/3 cup vegetable broth
2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cilantro
1 lime, quartered
12 corn tortillas
salsa, sour cream, avocado optional

Heat grill to 450*.   Spray pepper halves or quarters with oil or cooking oil.  Grill for 15 minutes, flipping once, or until peppers are tender and lightly charring on the edges.  Remove.  Cool slightly and cut into thin strips. 

In a medium sized saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat.  Saute the onions until onions are lightly browned but not caramelized.  Add the garlic, saute 30 seconds.  Add the spices, tomato paste, broth and beans and stir well; simmer for 10-15 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add thin sliced red peppers, stirring to combine.  Warm tortillas.  Serve with sour cream, salsa and avocado if desired.

Serves about 6.

Basil, Squash and Tomato Pasta Toss (Ckng Lght, July 2016)  vegetarian and gluten free option**
This is a classic "whadda got in your garden" summer recipe - using that abundance of squash, tomatoes, and basil that many people plant.   I didn't have zucchini, so I just used the summer squash twice.

This does come together fairly quickly.  My first complaint with this recipe is the amount of pots and bowls - three.  One pot to boil the pasta and reduce the liquid, one dish to put the pasta in while the liquid reduces, and one pan to saute the squash.

My second complaint is combining the cheese with the liquid never works.  Adding the cheese during the cooking process, in a recipe like this never works.  I keep trying, and what I end up with is a mess of cheese sticking to my spoon, the pan, and eventually, by dish scrubbie.   Skip the whole adding the cheese to dish while it cooks, and save the goodness for the table.

3 cups unsalted chicken stock (or vegetable stock*)
Photo from
1 cup water
2 tablespoons plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces uncooked whole-grain rotini pasta
2 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup), divided
1 large yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped tomato (I used cherry tomatoes)
1 medium zucchini, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

1. Bring stock, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, and salt to a boil in a large skillet. Add pasta; cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Remove pasta to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

2. Return cooking liquid to a boil; cook 13 minutes or until reduced to about 2/3 cup. Stir in 1/3 cup of the cheese; cook 1 minute, stirring until smooth.  SKIP - makes a MESS.

3. While sauce reduces, heat another skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add yellow squash; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cooking liquid, yellow squash, tomato, zucchini, and juice to pasta; toss. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and basil.

Fish Tacos with Sweet Relish Sauce  (Ckng Lght, Aug 2016)  gluten free
These are super easy to assemble and taste great.  I used salmon because not only did I have it on hand, but because I think it stands up better to the spices used in the recipe.  I also simplified the recipe a tich by taking advantage of my grill instead of heating up/smelling up the kitchen.  If you really want to kick it up a noch, grill the avocado too.   Recommended!

photo from
4 (5-oz.) tilapia fillets (I used salmon)
1 teaspoon chili powder
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
8 (6-in.) corn tortillas
1 ripe avocado, cut into 8 wedges
1 medium tomato, cut into 16 wedges
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Coat pan with cooking spray.

2. Sprinkle fish evenly with chili powder, 3/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, red pepper, and cumin. Add fish to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Cut each fillet into slices.

3. Combine mayonnaise, pickle relish, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Heat tortillas according to package directions.

4. Divide fish, avocado, and tomato evenly among tortillas. Drizzle tacos evenly with mayonnaise mixture; sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Recipe notes:  The creamy sauce offers a cool counterpoint to the bold blackening spices. Not in the mood for tilapia? The recipe is also great with chicken, sliced flank steak, or shrimp. Toss some avocado, tomato, and cilantro into the mix, and you're ready to knock Taco Tuesday out of the park.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

People of Darkness by Tony Hillerman (Leaphorn and Chee #4)

People of Darkness (Leaphorn & Chee, #4)People of Darkness by Tony Hillerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Who would murder a dying man? Why would someone steal a box of rocks? And why would a rich man's wife pay $3,000 to get them back? These questions haunt Sgt. Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police as he journeys into the scorching Southwest. But there, out in the Bad Country, a lone assassin waits for Chee to come seeking answers, waits ready and willing to protect a vision of death that for thirty years has been fed by greed and washed in blood.

Read as an audio book.

I started this series back on audio about 2008, but the library only had 1-3 at the time and there I stopped. Looking for new material recently, I noticed more were available and jumped at the opportunity. I wasn't disappointed.

This book starts with Jimmy Chee, new-ish to the job and area, contemplating if he wants to continue life in law enforcement, become a Navajo Singer like his uncle, or pursue a career with the FBI. When he is called to investigate the theft of a box of keepsakes, he uncovers a mystery that spans decades.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. I thought the narrators voice was absolutely perfect for the setting and characters. The story itself grabbed my attention and the way the plot just spooled out, kept it. This is one time where I didn't mind knowing what the antagonist was doing, and I think it was because Hillerman focus on the antagonists actions more so than his motivations. That I could handle, rather than delving into the dark recesses of some warped and twisted mind.

The romance between Jimmy and Mary was subtle, a tentative exploration of possibility rather than the usual hot attraction, which I also greatly appreciated. Chee makes the statement/assumption that she's just another white woman who's curious about Indian's, while at the same time subconsciously (or maybe not so subconsciously) acknowledges that he's curious about white women.

I liked Mary's character. She was blunt, challenging, and I thought she didn't fit the typical mold of 'helpless', constantly questioning, and ignoring directions.

Overall, this was an engaging and delightful plot, well executed and beautifully narrated. I didn't see the full resolution coming (other than the obvious, what the killer was going to do was really no secret) and I enjoyed the twists and turns to bring Chee and Landon to the end.


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Monday, August 8, 2016

Recipe Review from 8/1/2016

Thursday morning we woke up to this.  Well...not exactly when we woke up, but when I was going to head out for work.  SURPRISE!  The Husband wielded the chainsaw as I hauled branches aside and he had the driveway open in a very short time. 

It's been a rather exiting summer for storms here in the Northland...

Saturday I went for a little bike ride:  Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Ride 2016.  I rode from Chisholm, MN to Grand Rapids, MN.  48 miles according to their map, 50 miles according to my bike speedometer and Track feature on my phone.  I believe my speedometer and phone...  It was a fabulous day for a fantastic ride and I can't wait to do it again next year! 

love this site;
photo from the web,

Sunday found us the other direction: Northeast to Gooseberry Falls State Park, where we met up with the Husband's sister who was up visiting from the Cities.  We did a picnic lunch, walked around the Lakeshore, then up to the Lower Falls.  After parting, the Husband and I proceeded to sit in perhaps the worst traffic we have ever encountered going south (west) through Two Harbors.  I knew it was going to be bad - it's weekend traffic heading back south to the Cities - but a three mile back-up was unprecedented for us. 

Note to selves, don't do that again...

Lakeshore (photo from the internet...I left the phone/camera in the car)
Lower Falls (photo from the internet...I left the phone/camera in the car)

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L)  out    (S) grilled wienie wraps  (my guilty pleasure
Sun (L) Shrimp Cobb Salad   (S) Goo Goo Dolls and Collective Soul Concert
Mon (yoga)  leftover salad
Tues - Grilled Vegetable Tortellini Salad
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) Chef Salad
Fri - leftovers  Pizza

Lunches - bagel sandwiches and wraps, fruit, etc.

Shrimp Cobb Salad (Damn Delicious via Pinterest)  gluten free
The recipe above is what I intended to make.  Final dish was a wee bit different (see below).  I forgot the bacon, I forgot the goat cheese, the avocado's weren't ripe, and I ended up skipping the corn and using summer squash instead. Now, mind, this was still a really good salad, but still not what I had in mind.  So you might see a repeat of this down the road.

The abbreviated/alternate salad came together very quickly, with the eggs taking the longest.  I do recommend pre-hard boiling your eggs so you can just cook the shrimp, assemble and eat.  This also demonstrates how versatile this salad is.  Check out the original, then have some fun with ingredients!

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp Penzey's Northwoods Seasoning
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup summer squash, cut into bit sized rounds
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • Vinaigrette dressing of choice 
  • To make vinaigrette if using.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Cover eggs with a tight-fitting lid and remove from heat; set aside for 8-10 minutes. Drain well and let cool before peeling and dicing. 
  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and seasoning.  Cook until done. 
  • To assemble the salad, place romaine lettuce in a large bowls; top with above ingredients.   Serve

Grilled Vegetables and Tortellini Salad  (Garden of Earthly Delights by Shea McKenzie)  vegetarian
I bought this cook book years ago and made a handful of things out of it over the years.  This salad is perhaps a favorite of mine, and one I don't make nearly enough during the height of summer.  This takes advantage of fresh vegetables from the garden or farmers market.   Veggies are grilled, pasta boiled, everything tossed together.  Option to serve with a side salad or some crusty bread.

1 16oz pkg tortellini (cheese for vegetarian, other options for our carnivores)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red pepper, seeded and cut in half
1 green pepper, seeded and cut in half
3 small-medium summer squash, cut in half length wise
6 green onions, trimmed (but left whole)

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 tbsp wine vinegar (I used red)
3 tbsp dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh, minced basil
salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat grill to 350*.
2) Prepare tortellini according to directions on package.  Rinse under cool water and set aside.
2) Place cut vegetables into a glass bowl. 
3) Prepare vinaigrette, stirring to combine.  Pour 1/2 of the vinaigrette over vegetables and toss to combine.  Place vegetables on prepared grill (set bowl aside).  Cook 6 minutes, turn, baste with vinaigrette left in bowl, cook another 6 minutes.  My notes - you may want to remove scallions at this point to prevent burning).
4) Cut cooked vegetables into bit sized pieces and combine with pasta.  Toss with remaining vinaigrette.  Serve with grated Parmesan


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Private: Berlin by James Patterson and... (Private #5)

Private Berlin (Private #5)Private Berlin by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read as an audio book.


Chris Schneider is a superstar agent at Private Berlin, Germany headquarters for the world's most powerful investigation firm. He keeps his methods secret as he tackles Private's most high-profile cases-and when Chris suddenly disappears, he becomes Private Berlin's most dangerous investigation yet.


Mattie Engel is another top agent at Private Berlin, gorgeous and ruthlessly determined-and she's also Chris's ex. Mattie throws herself headfirst into finding Chris, following leads to the three people Chris was investigating when he vanished: a billionaire suspected of cheating on his wife, a soccer star accused of throwing games, and a nightclub owner with ties to the Russian mob. Any one of them would surely want Chris gone-and one of them is evil enough to want him dead.


Mattie's chase takes her into Berlin's most guarded, hidden, and treacherous places, revealing secrets from Chris's past that she'd never dreamed of in the time they were lovers. On the brink of a terrifying discovery, Mattie holds on to her belief in Chris-in the face of a horror that could force all of Europe to the edge of destruction and chaos.

Jacket blurb is a bit overly dramatic....
 In this installment, the plot's focus is in Berlin, a city 20 years from the fall of The Wall, but still keenly feeling the dark hand of communism. Mattie's ex-fiance and co-worker, Chris, is missing. When Private activates his locator chip, they find it in the teeth of a rat in an abandoned slaughterhouse. Further investigation reveals a bone yard along with the more recent remains of Chris and another person. Before more can be done, the slaughterhouse is blown up. As Mattie and Private start to dig into Chris's past they find out there are more secrets than answers.

I enjoyed this with some caveats: I stopped listening to the antagonist Faulk (not sure about spelling) about 1/3 of the way through. Once I got the gist of the depths of his warped and twisted being and knew where he was going, I had enough. Since the chapters are so short, it wasn't a problem to skip and I never really felt that I missed anything. Faulk was cleaning up loose ends, not hard to figure out who was next in line.

Being an audio book, some of the acronyms were difficult to remember simply because I couldn't go back to look them up or see them for a visual reference.

I appreciated how our female protagonist did not run around like so many cozy mystery heroines tend to do, rushing headlong into situations without back-up, being a self-selected investigator, and generally unrealistic. Mattie behaved like the cop she was, pushed when pushing needed, agreeing to hold back when advised to do so, and using the resources at her disposal. Except for one instance of a car chase in Frankfurt, she was a solid, realistic character.

Overall, a good installment in the Private series. I still don't like knowing what the antagonist is doing, but those chapters are at least short and easily skipped without affecting the story. Recommended if you like quick suspense mysteries.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Recipe Review from 7/23/2016

Oops!  Forgot to hit "publish!".

A busy work week and a relaxing Saturday which found us here, at DJ's Dayliles.  I came home with  five new lilies. 
DJ's "farm".  A veritable field of color.

Four of the five I came home with. 

And on Sunday evening we found ourselves down at Bayfront enjoying a Goo Goo Dolls and Collective Soul concert.  Opening band was Tribal Society, and I have to say, other than the Moody Blues's I've never seen a band rock with a flute player.  Pretty awesome.  We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather.  Concerts by The Lake can be so unpredictable. 

Only one new recipe, the rest were simple, summer repeats.

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) Greek Fest!  (S) Out?
Sun (L) leftovers  (S) Nicoise Salad
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/Legion)  leftover Nicoise salad
Tues - leftover Nicoise salad
Wed - BLT with avocado and egg
Thurs (yoga) BLT's
Fri - Shrimp Cobb Salad  (or out?)  weenie wraps!  (my guilty foodie pleasure...)

Lunches - Pasta salad, fruit, yogurt, luna bars...the usual.

Nicoise Salad  (modified from Simply Recipes via Pinterest) gluten free
This was not as quick as I had anticipated, and that might have been in part due to making two dishes at the same time.  However, this was darn tasty and very refreshing in hot weather.  The original recipe called for tuna, but I subbed cooked (grilled) salmon.  A more accessible and sustainable option in my corner of the world.  My other tweaks and substitutions noted below.

You really can't go wrong with this salad. Recommended. 

photo from Simply Recipes blog
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme (I skipped)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano or tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb cooked salmon (or tuna)
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 pounds small young red potatoes or fingerling potatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium heads Boston lettuce or butter lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced  (I used the remainder of the shallot)
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup ni├žoise olives  (I used kalmata)
  • 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and/or several anchovies (optional)  (I skipped, was out of capers)

1. In a jar, place the oil, lemon juice or vinegar, shallots, herbs, and mustard. Cover with a lid and shake until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Place onion slices in a small bowl and sprinkle with 3 Tbsp of the vinaigrette. (The onions soaking in the vinaigrette will help take some of the bite out of them.)

3. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water.  Add 1 Tbsp of salt. Heat on high to bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fork tender.  Just before potatoes are done, add green beans.  Cook 3-5 minutes.  Remove green beans and run under cold water.  Drain potatoes. Set green beans and potatoes aside.

4. Cook salmon.  I grilled 10 minutes at 350*.   Remove any skin.

5. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter or individual plates.  Place 1/4 of the salmon on the lettuce.  Arrange tomatoes, onions, potatoes,  green beans, olives and egg around edge of the plate or however it grabs your fancy.

6. Drizzle everything with the remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle with capers if using.

Serve immediately. Should be served slightly warm or at room temperature.

Farmer's Market Pasta Salad  (Lisa from Side Lake, MN c/o Lake Country Power Newsletter) gluten free option**

This was lunches for the week and this makes enough for two people for 5 lunches.   Not much to say about it, a basic summer pasta salad with vinaigrette dressing.   I didn't use the dressing noted below because I had some leftover from a previous dish and decided to us that up.  Thus, your favorite vinaigrette dressing would work just fine with this.

This would be great for a picnic or potluck.  Omit the chicken and add some extra veggies to make this vegetarian. 

1 16oz package penne**
2 cups halved baby heirloom tomatoes
2 small zucchini, cut into thin strips
1 small red bell pepper
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup diced basil
2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 clove garlic, minced or grated
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

1) Prepare pasta according to directions on package, drain, cool and set aside

2)  Prepare tomatoes through chicken, add to pasta and toss.

3) Prepare dressing, mixing well.  Add to pasta, vegetables and chicken, tossing to coat.  Serve warm or cold. 

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