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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Private: Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones (Private #12.5)

Private Royals (Private, #12.5)Private Royals by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: James Patterson’s BookShots. Short, fast-paced, high-impact entertainment.

Jack Morgan is visiting Peter Knight and the team in the London branch of his investigation agency, Private.

At a cocktail party the night before the Trooping the Colour parade for the Queen’s 90th birthday, Jack receives a phone call from the Duke of Aldershot saying that his daughter, Abbie, has been kidnapped. He needs Private on the case – one word to the police and Abbie will be killed.

Jack will have to find Abbie before 11:00 a.m. the next morning, or the kidnapping will turn to murder.

Read this as an audio book.

This is definitely a short, faced paced book - all of three disks.

In a nutshell, Morgan is back in London to visit Peter and perhaps catch some of the Queen's Birthday celebrations. When Peter receives a call that the Duke of Aldershot's daughter has been kidnapped and her body guard is killed, everything goes pear-shaped for Private.

This read a bit like fan fiction. I would have liked to have seen a bit more to the plot because there were some leaps the characters were taking that left me going "Huh?". Granted, at three disks (roughly 125 pages) I know I shouldn't expect a lot, but it would have helped.

Plot is pretty basic and you know who's the antagonist almost right from the start. Which had me rolling my eyes a bit when Morgan is lamenting, "We've been deceived!" You never looked for the body.

I did enjoy the dual narrators so characters and accents stayed true. That can make a big difference when a book is being listened to.

In a nutshell, this was perfect for traveling, light on substance and big on entertainment. Not the best written in the Private series, but fun to revisit previous characters and (hopefully) be introduced to some new ones. Recommended if you've been reading the Private series.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 20, 2017

Texas 2017

Last week found the Husband and I on yet another adventure:  Texas Hill Country!


The Theme:  BBQ!  Based off of this online article:   18 Texas BBQ Joints to Try Before You Die
Destinations:  Canyon Lake, San Antonio, Llano, Wemberly, Driftwood, Austin, and Lockhart.

Saturday - Departure Day!  After a bit of a rough start Saturday morning, where I woke up at 3a only to find that our flight out of Duluth was cancelled, which meant we would completely miss our connecting flight in Minneapolis, and thus our Noon arrival in San Antonio.   Argh!  It was a weather related delay, the ticket agent was most accommodating, and we (and the luggage!) did make it to San Antonio by 830p Saturday night, and the Canyon Lake Resort by 10pm.  As long as we were on the ground in Texas, WITH the luggage, I was satisfied.

Sunday - get our bearings day/hang out.  We went and got a handful of groceries and settled in to watch a bit of football.  Not very exciting, I know, but after a day like Saturday, we desperately needed it.

Monday - San Antonio was the destination.  Weather was a beautiful 78* and sunny.  We strolled around the Alamo, lunch outside on the Riverwalk, and then went and walked around the oldest of the Missions - San Juan Capistrano.  That brought us up to about 330p, where we called it a day and we headed back to Canyon Lake to miss the heaviest of rush hour.

San Juan Mission, San Antonio

Tuesday - was a scheduled "down day" and the destination was Llano.   We stopped at a great winery near Johnson called Texas Hills Vineyard where we found out the owner is originally from White Bear Lake, MN, and her brother still lives there.   Neat!   This was by and far, our favorite winery.

Anyhow, Llano has the the #3 ranked BBQ joint in Texas: Coopers BBQ Pit.   It was a true Texas BBQ joint, complete with all the pit smokers outside.  You pick your meat of choice from a guy outside, he puts it on a tray and then you go in and get your sides.  What shocked us, was for being an unassuming, rough around the edges place, how expensive it was.   I got four pork ribs, D picked beef ribs and a little piece of brisket, two small sides of mac and cheese and blackberry cobbler - $75.00.  My four ribs alone were $21.  YIKES!   Talk about a shocker!  We did bring back leftovers that became supper, which helped, but still, NOT an inexpensive place.  We also learned that while the meat looks small in the cooker, once it's on your place, it's grown exponentially and now it's HUGE, which is how we ended up with leftovers.

More wandering around Hill Country, stopped at Driftwood Estate Winery and we eventually made our way back to Canyon Lake.

Driftwoods Vineyards
Wednesday - I had Austin on the agenda, but we never made it.  We ran out of energy and scaled back our plans.  Bottom line, neither of us wanted to drive into Austin which isn't that far from where we ate lunch in Driftwood - but it still would have been 35 minutes and then several hours at the Library, and an hour drive home and we just didn't have the umph.  LBJ Library can be another trip.

So we crawled around Wemberly, we ate lunch at another fabulous BBQ joint in Driftwood called  The Salt Lick,  went to Duchman Family Winery where we enjoyed a glass of wine while playing a toss the bean bag game, stopped at a yarn store in Wemberly on the way back so I could get a skein of yarn wound (which I forgot to do before I left Duluth ARGH!) back to Canyon Lake and a soak in the hot tub.  Gotta love 75* in November!  
Boots! at Wemberly

Thursday - Lockhart and Black's BBQ was Thursday's destination!  Blacks was #1 ranked BBQ joint in Texas according to that on-line article we were working off of.  This was good, really good.  From Lockhart we went to McKinney Falls State Park just outside of Austin and crawled around the rock formations.  Feeling a bit parched in the 80* temps, we stopped at Middleton Brewing on the way back.   While their names are witty and they've one a few medals, neither one of us cared for their beer.  A bit to hoppy and bitter for our tastes. 

Lower Falls - McKinney State Park, Austin

Bouldering Rocks and evidence of El Camino Real de los Tejas

Friday - pack-up and clean-up day!  We hung around the resort until about 430p in the afternoon, then loaded up the car and headed to Gruene (pronounced "Green") and the Gristmill.  After some initial apprehension about getting into the restaurant due to the shear number of cars and people, we had no problems.  Oh my GOSH!  What a great way to wrap up a week!  Sitting outside while the sun set, enjoying a fantastic meal, was just splendid.   Unfortunately, it was too dark to get any good pictures. 
Afterwards, we slowly made our way to San Antonio in backed up traffic (accident and construction), a brief moment of tempers flaring as we attempted to navigate the whole airport interchange and poorly marked exits, we made it to the hotel.   

Saturday was a 3am start, to give us time to return the rental car, catch the shuttle, deal with the check luggage counter, airport security and EVERYTHING went absolutely smoothly.  Plan was early into Minneapolis saving us a mad mad dash across the terminals.  Flight into Duluth was smooth, our ride was waiting and we were home by Noon. 

When we left at 3a, it was 69*.  When we landed at 11a, it was 8*.  

I miss Texas already...

Wemberly, TX

Monday, November 13, 2017

Recipe Review from 11/6/2017

By the time your reading this, I'm off on new adventures!  Come back next Monday and see what fun things I'm up to now! 

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) grilled cheese and soup  (S) pizza
Sun (L) Red Beans and Rice  (S) Posole and corn bread
Mon (yoga) leftover Posole
Tues - leftover Posole
Wed (PIE training in Brooklyn Center)  leftovers
Thurs (yoga/Obedience training) - leftovers
Fri (off/furnace service) 

Red Beans and Rice (Ckng Lght, Oct 2017)  gluten free
I do love a good Cajun/Creole inspired dish...except for the kidney beans.  Not a fan of kidney beans.  But!  Lots of other good beans I can substitute.  I went with Great Northern, and made a big batch.  I admit, I over cooked them - I did the brine/pre-soak as suggested by Cooks Illustrated, then slow cooked for about 6-7 hours.  When I tasted about hour 5, they were a tich crunchy.  So I thought another hour or so would be good and whoops!  Overdone.  Oh well, still usable.  You could also sub two cans of beans instead of cooking from dried.

Everything else comes together in a jiffy.  I recommend serving with hot sauce or siracha if you like a bit more heat. 
Photo from

8 ounces andouille chicken sausage links, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 cup sliced carrot
10 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups cooked red kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and divided (see Master Dried Beans)
**I used great northern beans
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
3/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cups hot cooked brown rice

Step 1) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add sausage; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in onion, celery, bell pepper, carrot, and garlic; cook 8 minutes.

Step 2) Mash 1/2 cup beans with a fork. Add mashed beans, remaining 2 1/2 cups beans, stock, and ground red pepper to sausage mixture in pan. Bring to a simmer; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley and vinegar.

Step 3) Divide rice among 6 bowls; top evenly with bean mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parsley.

Easy Pork Posole (Ckng Lght, Nov 2017) gluten free
Easy peasy indeed!  This was super tasty, can be made and served in about 40 minutes from chopping to serving, and is great for a chilly Fall or Winter evening.  I loved the flavors in this - the ancho and oregano flavorful but not spicy.  The quinoa was a neat addition, thickening the soup quite nicely and an extra protein hit.  I LOVE hominy!  What more can I say other than...


Oh, and I served this with a side of warm cornbread slathered in butter and honey.  Mmm...

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground pork
photo from

1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5-oz.) can unsalted diced tomatoes
1 (25-oz.) can white hominy, rinsed and drained
5 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 cup uncooked tricolor quinoa
6 tablespoons queso fresco, crumbled
1/3 cup shaved radishes
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

Step 1) Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add pork; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion, garlic, oregano, ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add bay leaf, tomatoes, hominy, stock, and quinoa; increase heat to high. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, covered, until quinoa is cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes. 
Step 2) Discard bay leaf. Ladle soup into 6 bowls; top evenly with queso fresco, radishes, and cilantro.

Coming back to add...oh my gosh, this would be PERFECT for my office SOUP-er Bowl Cookoff!


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hour Game by David Baldacci (Sean and Michelle #2)

Hour Game (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #2)Hour Game by David Baldacci

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  He's copying famous serial killers.
And the HOUR GAME has just begun...

A woman is found murdered in the woods. It seems like a simple case but it soon escalates into a terrible nightmare. Someone is replicating the killing styles of the most infamous murderers of all time. No one knows this criminal's motives...or who will die next.

Two ex-Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, have been hired to defend a man's innocence in a burglary involving an aristocratic family. Then a series of secrets leads the partners right into the frantic hunt that is confounding even the FBI. Now King and Maxwell are playing the Hour Game, uncovering one horrifying revelation after another and putting their lives in danger. For the closer they get to the truth, the closer they get to the most shocking surprise of all.

Read as an audio book.

Premise of the book is Sean and Michelle are faced with two challenging mysteries. One is the serial killer who is methodically murdering people and noting the time on a watch and each victim represents another infamous serial killer. As the body count slowly grows and they closer to figuring out who's behind this, tempers begin to fray. The second mystery is who stole from Remi and Bobbly Battle's secret compartments, and where did the items go? Remi wants her things returned pronto, and has indicated she is willing to kill to get them back.

I have very mixed thoughts on this book. The two interwoven mysteries don't leave any room for guessing and supposition. You would think this would lend itself to a book that just flew by, but I confess, it was moments of excitement followed by tedium where I started to debate if I wanted to start skipping a bit. Which is a bit surprising given just how much was going on in this book.

And speaking of skipping, I've noted before *I'm* not a fan of knowing what the antagonist is doing. John Sandford is another author that does this and it's just not a technique I enjoy. I did start punching the fast forward button when "The Man" was plotting, planning, and killing. Not my cuppa tea.

The other plot devise I am not a fan of is the multiple endings - and this applies to books AND movies. One ending, thank you very much. I lost count of the endings in this one...granted, numerous plots to wrap up, but end it, don't drag things out.

I did think the FBI came across as egotistical and stuffy, and as seen through Sean's eyes, rather stupid. Which they are not, and I do get tired of law enforcement being portrayed as idiots in mystery books.

So, I enjoyed the book because I really like Sean and Michelle's characters. Even in book two, I'm still not getting any overt sexual tension of a future romance to come (even though I know what eventually happens because I did read book #5 first...). They work well together, their characters balance each other out, they fight and bicker, and they have unequivocally have each other's backs. I really like that balance and partnership. Very refreshing.

Ultimately, when everything was said and done and all threads were played it, it was a decent book. I'll read the next one.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 6, 2017

Recipe Review from 10/30/2017

Another couple of slow weeks.  Previously, the Husband "smoked"/cooked an 8lb pork roast with a side of mashed rutabegas, which for two people is a lot.  So it was pork leftovers for the duration of the week, and he finished off the remainder in sandwiches this past week.

Then winter came and slapped us upside the head with a very blustery snow and wind storm a week ago Friday.  The winds started somewhere up in Ontario, came rip-snorting across Lake Superior, and washed out the portions of the Lakewalk, the road on Brighton Beach, flooded businesses and homes in Canal Parkand Park Point, dumped 9-10" of snow in the higher elevations of Duluth and rain in Superior.  Yes, snow in MN, rain in WI, right across the border.  Gotta love what that Lake can do!

And I made a few new dishes. 

Sat (L) leftover pork  (S)  pizza
Sun (L) leftover pizza  (S) Quick Texas Chili
Mon (yoga) leftover chili
Tues (Chili Cook-off at work)  Tumeric Chicken and Chickpea Soup
Wed (Obedience class) leftover soup
Thurs (yoga) leftovers soup
Fri (yoga)

Slow cooked 15 Bean Soup (modified from ATK Slow Cooker Revolution). First reviewed the recipe here.    gluten free, vegetarian option**

I made this back in March and really enjoyed it.  Though the first time around I forgot to add the Swiss Chard and tomatoes.  Says something about a dish when you can miss two ingredients and it still turns out great!   This time I omitted the bacon and added kale and the tomatoes.  DELISH!

This is so easy to make - chop, plop, and walk away for 9 hour or so.  IF you have time in the morning, it would be perfect for after work or weekend activities.  I made this for lunches for the week and it just kept getting better each day.  Recommended!

1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces cremini mushroom2, de-stemmed, cleaned and quartered
8 oz 15-bean soup mix, flavoring packet discarded, beans picked over, and salt soaked
4 oz bacon (about 4 slices)**
1 oz dried shitake mushrooms, chopped (recipe called for porcini, my stores don't carry porcini so I subbed and used the whole package)
2 bay leaves
8 oz Swiss Chard lactino kale, stemmed and leaves sliced
1 (14.5 Oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped  diced tomatoes

1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat with cooking spray/oil of choice.  Add onion, garlic, and thyme and cook until onion is just softened.  Transfer to slow cooker.

2. Stir broth, mushrooms, soaked beans bacon, dried mushrooms and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beans are tender 9-11 hours on low, or 5-7 hours on high.

3.  Let soup settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.  Remove bacon and bay leaves.

4. Stir in Chard and tomatoes, cover and cook on high until chard is tender, 20-30 minutes more.  Season to taste and serve. 

Quick Texas Chili  (Ckng Lght, Sept 2017)  gluten free option**
Don't be put off by the ingredient list, it's mostly spices and seasonings.  The only chopping is the steak.   I did add a can of chickpeas because my steak was smaller than the 12oz called for, and the chili was a bit soupy without something added.  And chickpeas because that's what I had on hand.

This can be flavorful without being "hot" if you need to adjust for little or sensitive tastebuds.  Just use a milder chili powder and omit or reduce the ground red pepper.

And this is one time where yes, this actually came together in about 30 minutes.  Good for a weeknight dinner!  

photo from
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
12 ounces flank steak, cut into 3/4-in. pieces
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour** 
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon molasses
2 cups unsalted beef stock
1/2 cup dark beer
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium Worcestershire sauce
**I added 1 can of chickpeas

2 cups hot cooked brown rice
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup sliced radishes
4 lime wedges

Step 1 - Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at high 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds.

Step 2 - Sprinkle steak with 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss with flour. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add steak; cook 6 minutes. Add spice mixture; cook 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and molasses; cook 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stock, beer, and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Step 3 - Divide rice and chili among 4 bowls. Top evenly with sour cream, onions, and radishes; serve with lime wedges.

Tumeric Chicken and Chickpea Soup  (Ckng Lght, Nov 2017)  gluten free
Another easy peasy soup, that can be simplified even more if you have some leftover rotisserie or baked chicken on hand!  Which I did!  If you have some shredded chicken ready to go, just skip to Step 2.  

I actually didn't make any alterations to this dish (other than the pre-cooked shredded chicken).  While this was flavorful, it seemed to be lacking something.  Maybe some cilantro instead of basil?  More basil?  Cumin?  I dunno.  

Anyhoo, recipe notes about 50 minutes to make this dish as written, 30 minutes if you have cooked chicken on hand.   Great for these chilly Fall evenings we've been having up here.  Recommended.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
photo from

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned light coconut milk
1/2 cup torn fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Step 1 - Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Season chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer to a plate.
Step 2 - Reduce heat to medium. Add bell pepper and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add turmeric, ginger, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 1 minute. Add stock and chickpeas. Return chicken to pot; increase heat to high. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Step 3 - Place chicken on a cutting board, and use two forks to shred; return to pot. Stir in coconut milk, basil, and lime juice; cook 5 minutes.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Zero World by Jason M. Hough

Zero WorldZero World by Jason M. Hough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Published in rapid succession, Jason M. Hough’s first three novels, The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge, earned mountains of praise and comparisons to such authors as James S. A. Corey and John Scalzi. Now Hough returns with a riveting near-future spy thriller that combines the adrenaline of a high-octane James Bond adventure with mind-blowing sci-fi speculations worthy of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.

Peter discovers that this mirrored world is indeed different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But he’s unprepared for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.

October's book group book.

Premise of the book is Peter Caswell is a secret agent who never remembers his missions. He knows he assassinates people, he has a body count, but the specific missions are wiped from his memory shortly after completion. Memory wipes are painful and disorientating. After Peter's most recent assignment, his handler contacts him with a Priority job and he's shuttled off into space to investigate a salvage crew who stumbles upon something much, much bigger than mere junk: a weapons research vessel. Next breath Peter finds himself elimiating the salvage crew and being shunted down some kind of worm hole to a Earth-like planet. His mission - kill the only survivor of the research vessel. Easy for someone like Peter, except when it's not...

This was a fun read. That being said, there were some parts that just flew by, and a couple spots were the plot kinda dragged. When we discussed this at book group, all of us had some concern with the shear number of day's Peter went without eating or drinking. We liked how the different earths had different bacteria's that prevented Peter consuming food, but for the amount of activity he was doing we all questioned the biology of it. And that was taking his implants ability into account.

Melni was an interesting character and refreshingly, NOT a love interest. She could stand her own ground and did with gusto. She was a great way to visualize and show how the two planets were different: language, customs, politics, geography and more.

The little twists and turns, which I shan't elaborate upon here to avoid spoilers, were, in my humble opinion, quite delightful. A couple things I didn't see coming which made the plot all that much more enjoyable.

Ultimately, a solid scifi story that had a couple of questionable aspects but not enough to detract from the overall fun.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Massacre Pond by Paul Dioran (Mike Bowditch #5)

Massacre Pond (Mike Bowditch, #4)Massacre Pond by Paul Doiron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: On an unseasonably hot October morning, Bowditch is called to the scene of a bizarre crime: the corpses of seven moose have been found senselessly butchered on the estate of Elizabeth Morse, a wealthy animal rights activist who is buying up huge parcels of timber land to create a new national park.

What at first seems like mindless slaughter—retribution by locals for the job losses Morse's plan is already causing in the region—becomes far more sinister when a shocking murder is discovered and Mike's investigation becomes a hunt to find a ruthless killer. In order to solve the controversial case, Bowditch risks losing everything he holds dear: his best friends, his career as a law enforcement officer, and the love of his life.

The beauty and magnificence of the Maine woods is the setting for a story of suspense and violence when one powerful woman’s missionary zeal comes face to face with ruthless cruelty.

Read as an audio book.

I enjoyed this one a great deal more than the first four.

Premise of the book is eight moose are found slaughtered on "Queen Elizabeth's" extensive property in Northern Maine which sets off an investigation the likes of which nobody has seen before. Mike, still under a cloud from his previous actions (earlier books) is shunted to the side and given "make-work" jobs, like picking bullets from gravel pits and acting as a liason between the investigation and Elizabeth. Mike, feeling the sting of rebuttal but understanding why, does his duties as assigned. Yet, it's through talking to people and his persistence in being a part of the case that leads him to a startling conclusion.

As I noted, I enjoyed this installment much more than the previous books. Mike a degree. I did become increasingly annoyed with his infatuation with Stacy, when there was nothing more than looks to fuel his interest. She has not been a nice person to Mike. Brier Morse, Elizabeth's daughter, flirts shamelessly with Mike, and he doesn't look away. He doesn't do anything about it, other than try and protect Brier when she feels threatened. But he's admitted he has "a thing" about protecting women.

I will also confess to figuring out the "who done it" very early on in the book. I distinctly remember turning to The Husband while we were driving around and saying "X did it". I was right. Still, it didn't detract from my enjoying the plot - it was well executed, it was interesting watching certain individuals bumble about and it was

So other than a constant pining for a woman who detests the ground he walks on, and an internal monologue whining about the lack of Stacy's interest in him, this was probably the best book yet in the series. Solid and engaging mystery, interesting cast of characters and dynamics, and good emotional rapport between characters.

Recommended if you've read the first four.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 23, 2017

Recipe Review from 10/16/2017

I took a bit of a hiatus from cooking new recipes the last couple of weeks.  It's just been crazy busy between work, yoga, and obedience classes and I just needed to simplify a bit.  Okay...a lot.   I'll confess to doing take-n-bake pizza and Indian take-out and enjoying every bite!

I did make the new recipe below, and will say I now have a new favorite tomato soup!   And it's NOT from a can!

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup (Ckng Lght, Sept 2017)  gluten free, vegetarian
Good soup is a must for chilly Fall afternoons and evenings.  This is a great soup, perfect for anytime the hankering for tomato soup and grilled cheese hits.  The onion and garlic are the only thing that needs chopping, everything else is plop and saute.   It comes together in about 30 minutes, and while the soup is simmering on the stove, clean-up is a cinch and you can start to assemble the grilled cheese.   If you have an immersion blender - prep is even faster.   Highly recommended! 

1) Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, crushed red pepper, and garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute. Add stock, torn basil leaves, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 8 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, sugar, and freshly ground black pepper.

2) Place tomato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece from blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening (to avoid splatters); blend until smooth.   My notes - use an immersion blender and blend to desired thickness.   Place 1/4 cup soup and yogurt in a small bowl; stir until smooth. Stir yogurt mixture into remaining soup. Divide soup among 4 bowls; top evenly with chopped basil.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky, #1)The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Review rounded up to 3.5 stars.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One is the discovery of sentient AI’s and the birth of the generation ship. Part Two is the growth and development of the generation ship and the Cities therin, and Part Three is end/beginning of a new era. Each part advances the time line by decades, which kept the entire plot moving forward without getting bogged down in minutia.

Overall premise is Earth is on the brink of disaster – climate change has irrevocably altered the landscape, the political climate has fractured states and nations, the threat of a global war is imminent. In Part One we are introduced to the shipmind/AI Dressler aka “Lex”; Jackson Hammond, the Engineer; Dr. Ava, daughter of the man who created the biological and generation seed ships; and Colin, Captain. Dr. Ava and the Captain find a fungus coming from Hammond’s crucifix jewelry is quickly killing the shuttle and the asteroid 43 Ariadne is their only hope for rescue. Hammond has to convince Dr. Ava and the Captain to save “Lex” by combining her with the seed that will eventually create a generation ship. The melding is successful and “Lex” becomes the mind of the generation ship.

They are successful but at a cost: Dr. Ava goes off to prison for killing Jackson and Colin becomes director of Transfer Station for AmSplor, the oversight body for the growing and developing generation ship.

A decade passes, and Dr. Ava returns to Transfer Station to witness the result of her creation. Alex Hammond is on the same ship to get answers to why his father died. “Lex” takes exception to Dr. Ava’s return, confronts her, and she flees. Hammond, carrying the wetware virus his father did, is told to save her.

A decade passes, and Colin has retired from Station director and Hammond is now in charge. His daughter Andy, has inherited the same ability to talk and merge directly with the ship-mind. The situation on Earth has exploded, Transfer station is hacked and its core attacked, “Lex” and her human cargo may be all that’s left of the human race.

Whew! A lot to recap without spoilers! If you like scifi, you’ll probably like this. There’s the melding of mechanical and biological to make ships which is an interesting concept, the idea of growing a generation ship from the raw materials of an asteroid is different, as long as you don’t think too hard about certain scientific aspects and the use of three parts to move the story forward was nicely executed.

Where I struggled with the book was aspects like Jackson performing mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions on Dr. Ana after a near-fatal incident space and upon reviving, she gets up and walks around. Ah…no. Big NO. If you do chest compression's on someone you have just cracked/broke their ribs where they connect to your sternum. It’s going to hurt like a sonofabitch to move. She’s not going to be pushing anything around. I’m overlooking doing chest compression's while in a space suit…

I also found it highly unlikely that a shuttle ship captain would be given the directorate of a space station.

I grappled with Ana and Colin being so quick to accuse Jackson of putting the ship in peril, of knocking the man out and trussing him up in his bunk without even questioning the man. But when the truth comes to light and Dr. Ana confesses, Colin is all “Well…okay then.” The emotions didn’t fit the crime.

I had a bit of a Star Wars (Episode 4) moment, when Aaron Hammond goes in search of answers regarding his father, and doesn’t like what he’s told. It was a bit reminiscent of Luke Skywalkers anguished NNnnooo echoing through the chamber. After my eyes stopped rolling, all I could think was, don’t go looking for the truth IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE IT.

My final grumble with the book was the repetitive statements – I wish there was a way to track on my e-reader every time a character said “X”, only to repeat “X” three paragraphs over because it was a lot.

Overall, despite the items above, this was an interesting read. I liked the decade jumps to bring on new characters and move the timeline forward, the concept of growing a generation ship was different (as long as you don’t think too hard of the science and timelines), and the characters were interesting.

I do feel a shout out for the cover art is a must: Aaron Anderson did a fantastic job.

I’ll close with a note – while this doesn’t end on a cliffhanger (some might debate that point), this is by no means a standalone book.

Review is cross-posted on Gay Book Reviews
A copy of the book was provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Private: Syndey by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox (Private #12)

Private Sydney (Private #12)Private Sydney by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Even for Private Investigations, the world’s top detective agency, it’s tough to find a man who doesn’t exist . . .
Craig Gisto has promised Eliza Moss that his elite team at Private Sydney will investigate the disappearance of her father. After all, as CEO of a high-profile research company, Eric Moss shouldn’t be difficult to find.

Except it’s not just the man who’s gone missing. Despite the most advanced technology at their disposal, they find every trace of him has vanished too.
And they aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Powerful figures want Moss to stay ‘lost’, while others just as ruthlessly want him found.

Meanwhile, a routine background check becomes a frantic race to find a stolen baby and catch a brutal killer – a killer Private may well have sent straight to the victim’s door . . .

Read as an audio book.

Alternate title is Private: Missing. The irony here is the audio CD was actually missing from my library, then it was unavailable through inter-library loan, and after about 5 months I was able to get my hands on a copy.

Premise of the book is Craig Gisto receives a call from Jack Morgan to find Eric Moss, CEO of a research company that has international ties. Eliza and Eric are good friends with Jack, so this is high priority for Craig.

At the same time, a wealthy couple approaches Craig asking for a full-blown background check on one Louise Simpson, purported to be a nanny. Upon deeper questioning, what the Finch's actually want is a surrogate mother, which is illegal in Australia. Craig reluctantly agrees, and the next day the surrogate is found brutally murdered and her 8 month old baby is missing. Craig realizes he's been set up, and his brother-in-law Mark, detective on the Sydney police force, is only too keen to take Craig and Private down on grounds of accessory to murder.

This is a short, fast paced, well narrated story (remember, I read as an audio book). I liked the two concurrent plots, they added just enough tension to keep the story moving along but didn't clash with each other. It allowed Craig's group to work as a team, and it wasn't Craig running all over Sydney.

As with most mysteries and thrillers, there is a love interest. This time it was understated without the usual tumble in the sheets, which I greatly appreciated.

A few grumbles - the whole cloak and daggers CIA ADF business was a bit over the top. Yes, ALL the Private books are over the top, but if trying to find someone, why not just go ask, then trail and monitor phone calls. All this attacking and threatening seemed unnecessary, other than to add dramatic suspense.

The Eric Moss character and plot line just didn't seem plausible to me. Yeah,'s Private. But it had me rolling my eyes more than once.

Ultimately the end of the audio book I was pleasantly entertained, which is what I want in a book. This was better than several other Private books and I hope to see Mr. Gisto and Australia in a future book. Recommended if you've read previous Private books.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Oregon, 2017

Another year, another visit to see the Sister and Family!

Thursday - Flight from Duluth to Mpls was a half hour late, which give me 10 minutes to run from Terminal A to the verrryyy beginning of Terminal C.  I did get there before they started boarding, and I should have immediately gotten in line at Starbucks to get some real food, but I waffled too long and ended up having time to grab a bottle of water and a piece of banana bread.  Flight from Mpls to Portland was 40 minutes early and Sister was running almost 40 minutes late, so I got to stand outside and watch the cars go by - which is actually kinda a nice way to decompress from flights and before socializing kicks in.   Lunch at an Iraqi/Middle Eastern restaurant on Albert St in Portland and we stopped at two yarn stores on our way back to Corvallis. 

Friday -  Sister and I dropped Nephew off at school, got donuts for breakfast, bought some gardening supplies and started digging out her flowerbeds.   I have to say, her so-called soil makes the Duluth clay look and feel like the softest, loamy-est dirt ever!  Uff!   Her co-worker/best friend stopped by for a couple hours to chat before he went and picked up his sisters from the airport.  Sister and I finished the one bed in preparation for her Community Garden plants. 

A mantis on her Mum's!

Saturday  Sister's friend C came over with her truck and were off to the Community Garden to pull out the perennials Sister wanted to keep.  We totally filled the back of C's Tacoma! Sister had so much fun plopping her plant babies in the ground, but after five hours we were pooped and the homeless plants were tucked into Rubbermaid containers filled with dirt until Sister could prep some more beds. 

Fishing boats in Newport, OR

Sunday - Sister planned a trip to the coast (yay!), so we bundled the Nephew into the car and away we went to Newport, a fishing/tourist town on the coast.  Supposedly it is the largest town on the Oregon coast at 10,000 people.  Got there about 11a, walked through kitchy shops, looked at sea lions, then K drove over to a lighthouse - alas, no time to tour as we were hustled back into the car and were on the road again.

Where we then drove for another hour or so down the coast to Yahutz (I'm butchering that spelling), with one stop at a glass blowing shop (such beautiful work!).  We up with her co-worker again and said hello to his two sisters and their husbands.  We did take out chowder from a local restaurant and then wandered the shore picking agates.  Back over the mountains for a quiet evening at the house.


Monday -  Sister had a couple of meetings from 11-1, so I had her drop me off downtown where I got to crawl through some interesting stores like Oregon Tea and Coffee Co, some shoe stores, and a couple of clothing stores.  Lunch at a restaurant I enjoy, then I walked a portion of their river walk park.  After the meeting she took me to Benton Lane winery where we did a tasting, then shared a glass, and sat and knit.  Ahhhh.   Supper was at this bizarre sushi place where the food comes around on little plates on a conveyor belt and you just pick up what you want. 

Tuesday -  I was on the 730a shuttle to Portland.  In Portland by 1000aish.  Hotel shuttle was prompt and I was at the hotel by 1030a.  Unloaded my stuff, repacked a little hiking bag, and a High School acquaintance picked me up by 11a.  We grabbed sandwiches on our way out of town to our destination:  Tillmook State Forest and Elk Peak.   8 miles, 4.5 hours, about 1900' in elevation.  First 2 hours were pretty much straight up, remainder was following a very old logging road down down down down.  It was amazing!  At one point in the hike, we could see Mt. Hood.  Dinner then back to the hotel for a very hot, very long shower.  I was a bit sore after that kind of hiking. 

Floating in the middle of the picture is Mt. Hood.

Wednesday - I admit, I cut getting to the airport a bit closer than I should have that morning.  I didn't count on the family of 6 with their all their luggage, six coolers and deep sea fishing poles on the shuttle in addition to everyone else.  And I underestimated how long security lines could be at 5 in the morning (PDX is great tho, they'll open up extra check points).  AND I scheduled my connecting flight rather too close at MSP - I *thought* I had an hour to get from point A to point B, and realized once we were on the ground...they were boarding in 5 minutes!   Mad mad run across the airport. I made it.  They were running about 20 minutes late.  Whew!  *8-| rolling eyes

On the ground in Duluth at 145p.  Home.  Unpacked.  Did laundry.  Tidied the house.  And then chilled until it was time to take Kep to Obedience School at 6p. 

Great great trip.  Looking forward to more adventures on the West Coast!  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Split Second by David Baldacci (Sean and Michelle #1)

Split Second (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #1)Split Second by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Michelle Maxwell has just wrecked her promising career at the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she let a presidential candidate out of her sight for the briefest moment and the man whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air. Sean King knows how the younger agent feels. Eight years earlier, the hard-charging Secret Service agent allowed his attention to be diverted for a split second. And the candidate he was protecting was gunned down before his eyes. Now Michelle and Sean are about to see their destinies converge.

Drawn into a maze of lies, secrets, and deadly coincidences, the two discredited agents uncover a shocking truth: that the separate acts of violence that shattered their lives were really a long time in the making – and are a long way from over….

Read as an audio book.

First in a somewhat "new to me" series - I read and reviewed The Sixth Man (35) here. I enjoyed The Sixth Man enough to go and start from the beginning.

First book didn't disappoint.

Premise of the book was 8 years ago, while guarding a presidential candidate, Sean took his eyes off the audience and his protectee was shot. A replay of the video of the event showed that Sean was distracted by something, but he never admitted to more than a lapse of attention. His career in the Secret Service over, Sean now lives quietly as an estate attorney (for a lack of a better description).

Michelle, rising star in the service, manages to lose her presidential candidate at a funeral, in a room that only held the widow and the deceased. Remiss and chastised for leaving her protectee unguarded, her career is on the line. Michelle decides to look up Sean, and the two soon realize that the two events might be linked.

In between Sean and Michelle is Joan - prior secret service, now retired and running her own PI firm. She enlists Sean's help in finding the missing presidential candidate and hopes to re-kindle a previous relationship with Sean.

This was a bit of a whirlwind thriller and I admit, I really didn't see aspects of the conclusion coming. Which *I* really enjoy. I like being surprised.

I also GREATLY appreciate that Sean did not sleep with either female lead within the pages of the book. We know he and Joan had a relationship prior to this, but they did not renew the sexual liaisons. Sean certainly admired Michelle's body, but there was no falling into the sheets. I can't tell you how happy that made me, such a refreshing change from just about every other mystery/thriller out there. Thank you Mr. Baldacci!

One not insignificant "oops" was noticed by the husband - during the Grande Finale, Sean was given a gun. The magazine was welded shut so theoretically he couldn't check to see if he had live ammo or blanks. Sean agonized over what the antagonist loaded the gun with and what he would do when the scenario played out. The Husband pointed out Sean could have checked his ammo when he racked the slide and jacked a round into the chamber.

Overall an engaging story, interesting characters, author avoided some much overused tropes and the ubiquitous sexual tension, and some surprising twists at the end. I'll be reading the next in the series.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Recipe Review from 9/25/2017

By the time this is posted, I'll be off on An Adventure!  Stay tuned for where! 

Here's a little hint...
Meanwhile, I had my first Obedience Class this past week.  First session is sans pup - a meet and greet, class expectations and how-to.    Six more sessions with pup to follow, we'll miss the last one due to a scheduling conflict.   While I've trained all my dogs in the past - two previous puppies and one adult rescue dog (Andy) -  it's been almost 15 years since I've had a puppy and the intent is to hunt with Kepler, so I decided I should step up my game.  Stay tuned for more exciting Adventures With Kep!

Only one new dish to report on this past week.  

The Meal Plan for week of Sept 25:
Sat (L)  RGS Class Potluck  (S)  leftovers
Sun (L)  leftovers  (S)  "Hunter's Stew"
Mon (yoga/bkgrp/legion) leftovers
Tues - Black Bean Burgers
Wed - left burgers or stew
Thurs - The Husband's Choice
Fri -The Husband's Choice

Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers (Ckng Lght, Oct 2017)  vegetarian
This was easy enough to assemble, but I wasn't pleased with how gloopy it turned out even after letting the mixture stand for 15-20 minutes.  I was able to form patties, but I baked them rather than pan-frying. 

I also didn't do the avocado/red cabbage topping.  I had planned this recipe for a couple weeks ago, then procceded to eat the avocado with a different dish and completely forgot this one.   So I topped this with some chopped cilantro and white cheddar, and served open faced on a sourdough english muffin.

Overall, tasty enough, but not my favorite black bean burger recipe.

photo from
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/3 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon water
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted
1/2 cup finely shredded red cabbage

1) Place flaxseed, Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, cumin, pepper, mushrooms, half of the beans, egg, and garlic in a food processor; process 1 minute or until almost smooth. Place bean mixture in a bowl; stir in remaining half of beans and panko.
2) Heat oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high. Fill a 1/2-cup measure with bean mixture; add to pan. Repeat procedure 3 times to form 4 patties. Flatten patties slightly with the back of a spatula. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until browned.
3) Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, juice, and avocado in a bowl, mashing with a fork. Stir in yogurt and 1 tablespoon water. Divide patties among bottom halves of buns; top evenly with avocado mixture, cabbage, and top halves of buns.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovskey

Children of TimeChildren of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  A race for survival among the stars... Humanity's last survivors escaped earth's ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers?


The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

September's book group selection.


Book started out with an interesting premise - the nanovirus meant to uplift monkey's on Kern's World didn't take into account invertebrates, and when the monkeys never made it to the surface of the terraformed world, the nanovirus went to work on the spiders and ants. Centuries pass and the spiders and ants evolve moving through the various phases of societal development.

I found that aspect very interesting - a failure to take into account on exactly what what the nanovirus would and wouldn't affect. The question begs to be asked, if the monkeys had made it to the planet, would the monkeys and spiders have evolved simultaneously?

Meanwhile, after centuries of traveling through space, arc ship Gligamesh is desperately looking for a place to call home. The green planet approaching has all the set criteria...except for the crazy AI in the satellite that's destroying all of Gligamesh probes and is threatening to blow the Gligamesh out of the sky. There's a ship mutiny which goes badly, and the Gligamesh moves on. They find a grey planet, covered in some kind of fungus,

It's a story about evolution on a planet and de-evolution on a generation ship.

I made it halfway through the book and lost interest. Book group was really split on this selection; half enjoyed the book but did agree that it was a bit long. Half of us did not finish, citing it was too long and boring. The half that finished happily supplied the ending for those of us who gave up. I should also note - two of us really didn't like reading about giant spiders. ((shudder))

So, from a personal pov, I can't recommend this one, BUT...others did like it so this is one you might have to read and decide for yourself.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Recipe Review from 9/18/2017

A passing in the family had us taking an unexpected trip to north central WI for a funeral at the end of the week so everything was thrown a bit out of kilter.  I froze the ingredients for a Quick Texan Chili for a later date.

So it was a crazy busy week and next weeks going to be more of the same.

The Meal Plan from the week of 9/18/2017
Sat (L) leftovers  (S) out
Sun (L) leftovers  (S) Pork Chili Verde
Mon (yoga) leftovers
Tues - leftovers
Wed - Quick Texan chili
Thurs (yoga) leftovers   Out of town
Fri - leftovers  Out of town

Pork Chili Verde  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2017)  gluten free
Folks, a rockin' fall meal doesn't get much easier or tastier than this.  Chop, plop, walk away, serve and eat. And eat.  And eat...  This made a lot.  I think I ended up with enough for five meals for two of us, and that was with only 1 lb, maybe 1.5 lb of meat in the dish.  I did use 1 lb of dried beans, which I think is a bit more than two cups, so quantities might have been about the same.

A note on the beans - because I have hard water, I did do a "quick soak" before hand.  I was going to  brine them the night before but I forgot.  I did the pre-cook to make sure that the beans would soften while in the slow cooker.  My chicken stock was also salt free - I make my own and don't any and salt.  Was pre-cooking necessary?  Maybe not, but I wasn't going to take any chances. 

I really liked the simplicity of this dish.  From the ease of assembly to the bare bones ingredients: beans, meat, background flavors - very tasty!   I did skip the green onions and radishes and didn't miss them.  I had some extra cilantro in the fridge, so I added that just before serving.   I


photo from
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 cups dried Great Northern beans (unsoaked)
2 cups chopped white onion (about 8 oz.)
1 1/3 cups tomatillo salsa (such as Frontera)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-in. cubes (about 2 1/2 lb. purchase weight)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes (optional)

Combine chicken stock, beans, white onion, salsa, 1/2 cup water, cumin, oregano, salt, garlic, and pork in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low 7 hours and 30 minutes to 8 hours. Sprinkle with green onions and radishes, if desired, before serving.   I skipped.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Recipe Review from 9/11/2017

Woot!  What a week!  Weather was fantastic Monday through Thursday, with temps easily hitting 80* - unusual for us!  Tho alas, weather turned cool and wet on Friday.  Went to a Gin Blossoms and Soul Asylum concert on Friday night.  Did a the Beer Train on Saturday. Watched some college and NFL football.  Made a few dishes. Welcome to Fall!

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) leftover Chinese   (S) Bacon and White Cheddar Risotto
Sun (L) leftovers  (S) Slow cooker Santa Fe Meatloaf
Mon (yoga) leftover meatloaf
Tues (trap shooting) leftovers
Wed - Skillet mushroom mac n cheese
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - (Soul Asylum and Goo Goo Dolls concert)

Lunches - butternut squash soup and sandwiches

White Cheddar and Bacon Risotto  (Ckng Lght Sept 2017) vegetarian option, gluten free
This was tasty enough - I like risotto, I make an acceptable risotto, so I was happy.  I think this would have been a tich better if I could have found a sharp white cheddar, so this was a bit on the bland side for me.  Not that there is anything wrong with bland, I just like a bit more flavor.

This could be converted to a vegetarian dish very easily by swapping out the chicken broth for vegetable and skipping the bacon.  Bacon really didn't add anything so...((shrugg)).

Oh, I did use a frozen pea and carrot mix because I like the added color. 

4 cups unsalted chicken stock (or vegetable)
2 fresh thyme sprigs
photo from
2 bacon slices (skip if vegetarian)
1 1/4 cups diced onion
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
3 ounces white cheddar cheese,shredded (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1) Bring stock and thyme sprigs to a simmer in a saucepan over medium; keep warm over low.
2) Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium for 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove from pan; crumble. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 1/2 cups stock; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring frequently. Add 2 1/4 cups stock, 3/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion is absorbed before adding more. Reserve remaining 1/4 cup stock; discard thyme sprigs. Stir in salt and pepper.
3) Stir in peas, chopped thyme, and cheese; cook 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup stock. Divide rice mixture among 4 bowls; top with green onions and bacon.

Slow Cooker Santa Fe Meatloaf (Ckng Lght Sept 2017)
I'm not a huge meatloaf fan, but I know the Husband likes the dish every once in a while.  This dish was a winner.  This is a mix, plop and walk away from meal - do NOT skip the parchment sling in the slow cooker as this will make final assembly so much easier!

I had one "oops!" - I inadvertently grabbed diced jalepeno's instead of diced green chilies, so this had a bit of zing to it, which was totally fine with us.  Usually I'm commenting on how bland something is.  Stick with mild diced green chilies for little taste buds.   I also used some of the leftover white cheddar from the risotto dish instead of a Mexican shredded cheese blend.

This is something I would make again - the Tex-Mex flavor was a nice change of pace from traditional ketchup or BBQ sauce.  I made some fried potatoes to go along side, but some cornbread, green beans or even a corn and black bean salad would also be tasty.

photo from

1 1/2 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
(I ended up using 2lbs)
2/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. mild red enchilada sauce, divided
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. fresh or frozen corn kernels, divided
5 tablespoons canned unsalted black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 (4-oz.) can mild chopped green chiles, drained well
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
1 1/2 ounces preshredded Mexican cheese blend (about 1/3 cup)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
Cilantro leaves (optional)

1) Cut parchment paper to about 15 x 9 1/2 inches to form a sling to allow you to easily insert and remove the meatloaf from your slow cooker.

2) Combine turkey, 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce, oats, onions, 1/3 cup corn, 1/4 cup black beans, chopped cilantro, cumin, salt, onion powder, chiles, egg, and garlic. Mix everything well using clean hands, and then shape into a 9- x 5-inch oval loaf flattened slightly on top. Place loaf onto prepared parchment paper; while holding edges of paper, carefully insert into a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker (make sure lid closes well without the paper getting in the way). Cover, and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.

3) Pull loaf out of slow cooker using parchment sling; set aside. Wipe parchment clean; drain liquid from bottom of slow cooker. Return loaf to slow cooker using parchment sling. Cover loaf with remaining 2/3 cup enchilada sauce, cheese, jalapeño (if using), remaining 1 tablespoon corn, and remaining 1 tablespoon black beans. 

4) Cover and cook on high until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired. Pull loaf out of slow cooker; cut into 12 slices.

Skillet Mushroom Mac n Cheese (Ckng Lght Sept 2017)  vegetarian
For once, a dish that was actually assembled in the time the magazine allotted!  Recipe said 40 minutes, this was ready in 40 minutes if not a bit less.

Tasty?  Oh my goodness YES!  I didn't even do any notable substitutions or changes!  This is just darn good and would be worthy of company - serve with a side salad and some artisanal bread and olive oil.


8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat elbow pasta (I used regular cavatappi pasta)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
photo from
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
4 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, cut into halves
5 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
2 ounces low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided (about 1/2 cup)
3 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1) Preheat oven to 375°F.
2) Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

3)Heat oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in 1 tablespoon thyme and salt; cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over pan; cook 1 minute. Add milk; bring to a simmer. Add pasta, Gruyère cheese, and 1 ounce mozzarella cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in spinach. Spread pasta mixture in an even layer in pan; sprinkle with remaining 1 ounce mozzarella cheese and panko.

4) Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Carefully remove pan from oven; sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons thyme.

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