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Monday, May 29, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/21/2017

We have survived week one with new puppy.  We are sleep deprived and exhausted, but we survived.  More importantly, so did puppy.  Lots of new experiences: first vet visit, a couple work visits, meet the Nephew and Niece, first time at the parents place, crate much to learn and explore for a little puppy!

Relations with his "older brother" Andy are slowly improving.  Andy isn't as skittish around Kepler as much as he was the first weekend (definitely a good thing!), he's amiable to Kepler following him a bit in the woods, and is okay with Kep eating near him.   We still make sure that Kepler doesn't surprise Andy while he's sleeping tho.  You know the adage about let sleeping dogs lie?  Yeah...pup doesn't get it.   

A nap is required....

The Meal Plan from 5/21:
Sun (L)  leftovers      (S) Black Bean Burgers
Mon (yoga/book group) leftover burgers
Tues - Taco's
Wed - Taco's
Thurs (yoga) pasty
Fri - spaghetti and salad

Kicky Black Bean Burgers (Ckng Lght, Mar 2017)  vegetarian, gluten free option**
I have a fondness for black bean burgers and love trying different recipes.  Each one has had their positives and negatives.  This recipe was about in the middle - super easy, but a bit gloppy.   So I had one major modification - I baked these instead of "frying" on the stove.  I had started some sweet potatoes steak fries in the oven and just added the burgers part way through baking the fries.  One less pan to clean up!  As everything neared completion, I added the cheese for melty goodness.

I will note, I had some trepidation with assembling these as they are a bit soggy/gloppy.  But when I went to flip them, they were solidifying nicely and held their shape completely.  

My one other modification - and I usually do this with "burgers" - is I did open faced sandwiches on a sourdough English muffin from Zenith Bread Co.  With the leftovers I skipped the half bun completely. 

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted black beans, drained
5 (1 1/4-oz.) whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted and divided
I used the equivalent of  1 1/4oz bread crumbs in lieu of the ww bun
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
photo from
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 ounces sliced pepper-Jack or Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup fresh refrigerated pico de gallo
4 lettuce leaves
  1. Place beans in a large bowl; mash with a fork. Place 1 toasted bun, torn, in a food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. Stir breadcrumbs, cumin, and next 5 ingredients (through egg white) into beans.
  2. Divide and shape bean mixture into 4 (1-inch-thick) patties. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add patties to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.
  3. Divide cheese evenly among patties; cook 1 minute or until cheese melts. Top bottom halves of remaining 4 buns evenly with patties, pico de gallo, lettuce, and top halves of buns.
**My notes - I baked on a pre-heated, aluminum foil lined cookie sheet, at 400* for about 10 minutes (5 min per side)

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells (Ckng Lght, June 2017)  vegetarian, gluten free option**
This isn't on the meal plan above, because I realized I forgot to post it last week.  Enjoy!

I am going to admit, I made these according to the directions - I know! Right?!?   And, these come together in about 45 minutes total.  Directions noted 40 minutes, but I found it to be a tich longer.   I also inadvertently made the whole box of shells, and used most of them!  So this made closer to two 2-quart dishes for myself.  We ate them as leftovers, but I could have easily frozen one pan too. 

I'm not sure if gf jumbo shells can even be found, but I don't see why this couldn't be served over gf spaghetti or even something like campanelle, ziti, or penne.  Baking the dish makes it kinda lasagna-eske (I do love baked pasta) baking it with something other than shells could be lovely. 

I really liked the flavors in this, and because it did come together so quickly, I would consider making it again.

16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells**
1 tablespoon olive oil
photo from

3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced zucchini
3/4 cup chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups low-sodium marinara sauce (such as Dell'Amore), divided
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. torn fresh basil, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cooking spray
4 ounces preshredded Italian 5-cheese blend (about 1 cup)
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add eggplant and bell pepper; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, tomato, and chickpeas; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1 cup marinara, 1/2 cup basil, black pepper, and salt.
  4. Coat a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread remaining 3/4 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Spoon about 2 tablespoons vegetable mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange filled shells in dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450°F for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons basil.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Time Salvager by Westly Chu

Time Salvager (Time Salvager #1)Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.

On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.

Read for May book group.

It took me about 100 pages to get into the plot, I was engaged for about 100 more, then I completely lost interest.

Premise of the book was kinda interesting. A far future Earth has fallen into decay and environmental disaster. The only way the remnants of society can function is to send Chronmen back to select moments in the past to retrieve items to help them survive. James is a Tier 1 Chronman, reviled by many, disliked by his peers, his only friend is his Handler. He's got five years or so left on his contract and he can retire and get off the lousy planet.

Then James violates one of the main rules of Time Travel: he saves Elise from the wreckage of what he was told was a military installation, but in reality, was a scientific platform to fight an algae that was plaguing Earth's waters. Now on the run from his fellow Chronmen, the industrial company Valta, his only ally his handler, and responsible for Elise - James only has survival on his mind. But when Elise says she can cure Earth, every thing changes.

As I noted, I found this slow to start. James was not very interesting as a character. Curmudgeonly, cranky, irritable, he was hard to get a read on. When he rescued Elise, I thought I would see more of a personality change (improvement?) than I did.

While Elise's character brought some curiosity and lightness to an otherwise very dour outlook, I never felt like I got to know her. She expressed sadness at what was taken, interest in wanting to save this future world, she got along with the refugees, and once Grace came along, rather faded into the background.

Grace, the Mother of Time was the most interesting one of the bunch - pushy, bossy, snarky, admitting that when she created the Time Rules she and her co-horts were making things up, that they didn't know what they were doing. My complaint with Elise stands - once the two women meet, they both fade into the background as James and Schmidt continue to time jump to bring equipment back.

When we discussed this at book group, the question was raised: if they could go back in time to retrieve equipment, why didn't they go back and get the plans? Good point...because then we wouldn't have a plot.

Valta killing Schmidt seemed...unnecessary. Valta as Big Evil Corporation, mostly left me confused. A nebulous company that sabotaged it's own mission and is now hunting the scientist and James but not doing a very good job of it.

Yes, I realize this is book one and answers are forthcoming (maybe). But after skimming the last 80 pages, going "Huh, that was kinda cool" at the last paragraph (and it was cool!), I have no desire to read more.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/14/2017

The Big News from last week is we brought home our newest addition to our little family.  While The Husband and I are thrilled, Andy-dog not so much.  I guess he didn't listen when I told him he was getting a little brother. 

Please meet Kepler!

7 weeks, 2 days in the pictures
Springer Spaniel
Nickname: Piranha Boy 
(he has a fondness for toes and ankles)

The Meal Plan from week of 5/14/2017:
It went out the window and I honestly don't remember how I got through the week.  I did make a couple new recipes though.

Chicken Antipasto Sandwich  (Whole Foods Co-op flyer) 
I made this for Mother's Day lunch to good reviews.  I had to make a modified version for my Dad as he doesn't care for artichokes or olives.  Easily enough accommodated and it was just a matter of making sure he got the right sandwich.   I had a tossed green salad as my side.

I roasted a chicken ahead of time, but a rotisserie or leftover chicken/turkey would work perfectly as well.  This actually made more than four sandwiches, and I had the leftovers the next two days for lunch.    Highly Recommended! 

1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalmata olives
1/2 cup slivered roasted red pepper (I used jarred roasted red pepper)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups shredded Asiago cheese
1 large baguette or focaccia (I used ciabatta buns)
1/4 cup prepared pesto sauce
4 slices of ham (I used thinly sliced deli ham)

Drain the artichokes, reserving 1 tbsp of the marinade.  Place the chicken, artichoke hearts, reserved marinated, olives, peppers, parsley and cheese in a medium bowl and toss to mix.  Slice the focaccia or baguette in half lengthwise.  Spread the pest over one cut side and cover with the chicken mixture.  top with sliced ham and the remaining half of the beread.

Cut the sandwich in to four sections or wedges.  Heat a griddle or large cast iron pan over medium-high heat until hot (holding our hand an inch away will feel very hot). Lightly brush the top and bottom of the sandwich sections with olive oil and place in the hot pan, the place a second pan or heavy pot on top.  Cook for 2 minutes per side, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.  You can also use a panini grill to heat the sandwiche.

My notes:  I put the ham on one side of the bun, the filling with cheese on the other, and toasted under the broiler until lightly browned.    

Kale and Mushroom Frittata  (Ckng Lght, March 2017)  vegetarian, gluten free
If you've been following me, you'll know we have chickens.  Which means we have a few eggs.  I've started looking for different ways to prepare said eggs because poached on a sourdough English muffin - while very tasty - can get a bit old. 

The thought of a frittata came to mind and The Husband was in the mood for mushrooms so I found this recipe.  The nice things about frittata's is they take a fraction of the time when compared to a quiche and they are gluten free.  The downside is, frittata's are a bit flatter and not so "fluffy" and sometimes, I just like the flavor of a baked crust. 

In a supper pinch, a change of pace for breakfast, look to the frittata. 

photo from
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed baby kale or spinach
1 tablespoon crumbled goat or feta cheese (I used crumbled goat cheese)

  1. Preheat broiler to high, and set a rack 6 inches from the heat. 
  2. Break eggs into a small bowl. Use a fork to beat them like a back-talking bass drum until completely blended and slightly frothy. Stir in half the pepper and half the salt. 
  3. Heat olive oil in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until nicely browned. Stir in kale and remaining salt and pepper; sauté 30 seconds or until kale is just wilted. Add eggs; stir slowly and tilt the skillet a few times so runny parts hit the pan. After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are lightly browned on the bottom with a few shiny spots still on top, sprinkle with cheese. 
  4. Place pan under broiler; broil 1 minute or until cheese softens and golden-brown spots appear on egg. Slide frittata onto a plate.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #21)

The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch, #21; Harry Bosch Universe, #26)The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Notable Book of 2016 --Washington Post

Detective Harry Bosch must track down someone who may never have existed in the new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly.
Harry Bosch is California's newest private investigator. He doesn't advertise, he doesn't have an office, and he's picky about who he works for, but it doesn't matter. His chops from thirty years with the LAPD speak for themselves.

Soon one of Southern California's biggest moguls comes calling. The reclusive billionaire is nearing the end of his life and is haunted by one regret. When he was young, he had a relationship with a Mexican girl, his great love. But soon after becoming pregnant, she disappeared. Did she have the baby? And if so, what happened to it?

Desperate to know whether he has an heir, the dying magnate hires Bosch, the only person he can trust. With such a vast fortune at stake, Harry realizes that his mission could be risky not only for himself but for the one he's seeking. But as he begins to uncover the haunting story--and finds uncanny links to his own past--he knows he cannot rest until he finds the truth.

At the same time, unable to leave cop work behind completely, he volunteers as an investigator for a tiny cash-strapped police department and finds himself tracking a serial rapist who is one of the most baffling and dangerous foes he has ever faced.

Read as an audio book.

I flew through this book - the story pulled me in from the opening chapters and kept my attention thereafter. Thanks to a couple of "road trips", I had the time to sit back and enjoy!

Book has two plots; plot number one revolves around the Screen Slasher case, where a serial rapist is breaking and entering through screens of his victims house in San Fernando. The rapist made a mistake at the last house, and his victim turned the tables and attacked him giving the SFPD a break in the case. Harry, with the help of Bella, begin to add up two and two...until Bella disappears.

Plot number two is a private case Harry has taken on. A Californian billionaire enlists Harry's help in finding an heir for his estate. However, before Harry can complete his mission, the man dies, leaving Harry with a gold pen and hand written Last Will and Testament.

I enjoyed the disparate plot lines, the separation of Harry's private life and his role as an active police reserve with the San Fernando police department. *I* thought it balanced out Harry's need to be a solo detective and his drive to work on unsolved crimes.

It further helped that he wasn't a complete ass-hat to everyone around him. Yes, he's still a suspicious SOB and still doesn't trust his fellow cops/detectives, but at least now he's not putting down others for not having the right "drive" and "dedication" through the entire book. Which I have to admit, was my biggest issues with previous installments. And I don't know if other's picked up on this, but he wasn't exactly trusted in the office either, as was proven by Bella when she found him 'snooping' around her desk, when he was merely looking at pictures.

I thought the resolution to the Screen Cutter case well written - a combination of Bosch figuring things out a tich late and realizing the ramifications of his actions at blowing off a case (where was his "dedication" here? Hypocritical much, eh?) when Bella goes missing. Some of the old Bosch resurfaces as he blames others, but I appreciated the apologies at the end.

The case of finding an heir was almost more interesting than the Screen Cutter. Where Bosch tugging at various threads leads to multiple resolutions that were very satisfying. What added to the interest, was the Vietnam tie-in. Up until this point, we know of Bosch's involvement in the Vietnam War was as a tunnel rat. We find out more as Maddy presses Bosch on some of his attitudes, Maddy not realizing that she doesn't know anything about what he did over there. I like how the author pulled that tidbit out through Maddy.

One of the best Bosch books yet, in my humble opinion. Recommended if you've read the rest in the series.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/7/2017

I've been baking a bit more than I usually do.  Partly it's because I'm holding enough meetings/trainings that I have become thoroughly sick of purchasing store-bought donuts and cookies, and partly because I'm enjoying cooking tasty things for people.  I've made the Chocolate Oatmeal Cake twice with rave reviews, I did the Banana Chocolate Cake several weeks ago, and made a couple batches of Nestle's Toll House chocolate chip cookies.   The cookies are super fast (assuming I have everything on hand) with a stand mixer, and I can whip out a batch in an hour or so.

It was a chilly but sunny Sunday morning that had me making the Raspberry Scones.  I adore a decent scone and these hit my happy spot with a cuppa hot tea.  Best part - I didn't have to drive in to Starbucks to get one! 

The Meal Plan from the week of 5/7:
Sun (L) leftover soup and grilled cheese  (S) leftover brats
Mon (PM yoga)  Creamy Corn and Shrimp chowder
Tues (PM yoga)  leftover chowder
Wed (PM work)  leftover chowder
Thurs (PM yoga) freezer - leftover pulled pork
Fri (PM yoga) freezer - leftover pulled pork
Sat - leftover paella and pulled pork

Lunches - (Me) vegetarian paella   (D) Egg salad pitas

Raspberry Cream Scones  (Whole Foods Co-op flyer)
These assemble very quickly, and by the time you have the dishes washed or in the dishwasher, they are ready to come out of the oven.  Now, if you're able to plan ahead, some Devonshire cream would be the perfect accompaniment.  If not, grab a cuppa your favorite and kick back.

These are the perfect balance of sweetness countered by tangy berries.  This will make perfect sized wedges.  I think this recipe could also be tinked with a bit - add some almond extract and toasted slivered almonds on top for a bit of decadence.  Change up the berries.  Maybe roll in a bit of orange marmalade with some cranberries.

Bottom line - I liked these.  Recommended! 

2/3 cup AP flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cold butter cut or grated into small pieces
6 tbsp heavy cream (I used 1/2 n 1/2)
1 egg, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (I used some blueberries too)

1. Preheat oven to 400*.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream, egg yolk, and vanilla extract.

3. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, blend the cold butter with the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Gently toss the raspberries with the flour and butter mixture and slowly add the cream and egg yolk mixture.  Gently blend until the dough just holds together.

4. Prepare a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.  Place dough on pan and form into a circle roughly 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into 8 equal triangles, separating slightly for baking.   Brush tops of scones with beaten egg white, and bake for 10-14 minutes or until just starting to brown.  (Mine took about 18 minutes, I was using frozen berries.)    

Vegetarian Paella (Whole Foods Co-op Flyer)  vegetarian, gluten free
Despite a fairly long ingredient list, this comes together fairly quickly.  It did help  to have everything chopped, opened and drained before I even turned on the burner - as things cooked I had time to do dishes, put stuff away, and tidy the counter.  Where the ingredients call for cups of tomatoes, artichoke hearts, or beans, I just used one 14.5 oz can for simplicity. 

I will admit, I waffled about putting the dish under the broiler, but decided I wanted that slightly crispy  baked "crust".   End result, I would make this again.  I liked the combination of veggies, chickpeas, and rice.  A splash of siracha on top added a little heat.  I also like how this made enough for several days of leftovers.   A definitely lifesaver on a busy week. 

This made about 6 servings. 

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups (1- 14.5 oz can) diced tomatoes, un-drained
5-10 saffron strands
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes  (I was out of pepper flakes)

1 1/2 cups rice, medium or short grained
(I used Uncle Ben's instant brown rice)
3 cups vegetable stock, room temp
1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and lightly chopped
2 cups (1-14.5 oz can) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

In a large oven proof stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and bell pepper and saute for 10 minutes or until softened.  Add the garlic, zucchini, diced tomatoes with juice saffron, paprika, and chili flakes and saute for 5-10 minutes.  Add the rice and stock; stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to slow and simmer for 10 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

Add the rice, garbanzo beans, salt and pepper.  Cover the pot and simmer for 10-15 more minutes.  When the liquid is mostly absorbed and the rice is tender, uncover the pot and transfer to the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes until the edge of the rice begin to brown and get a bit crispy.  Remove and serve. 

Cajun Shrimp and Corn Chowder (modified from ATK Slow Cooker Revolution 2)  gluten free
I modified this for simplicity's sake.  My taste buds are not so refined as to be able to tell the difference if my potatoes, garlic and Cajun seasoning were "bloomed" before plopping in the slow cooker.   I processed the corn and broth as directed in Step 1, plopped all of Step 2 into the slow cooker, walked away for about 6 hours (I was cooking on LOW), came back and proceeded with Step 3. 

Now, that being said, I did notice it took a long time for my potatoes to cook, and they were diced fairly small.  So...there might be something to kick starting the potatoes be it on the stove or in the microwave.

When all was cooked and done, this was really good.  I'm glad I cut back on the Cajun seasoning - more and it would have been too much.  As it was, this had a nice zing! to it that complimented the sweetness of the corn.  This would be awesome made with fresh corn on the cob.  Recommended!  

6 cups frozen corn, thawed
3 cups chicken stock
12 oz red potatoes, cut into 1/2" pieces (I used yukon golds)
8 oz andouille sausage, cut into 1/4" pieces
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning (I used 1 tsp Penzey's Cajun Very Hot Seasoning)
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped (I used 3 stalks celery)
1 1b small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup heavy cream

1.  Process 4 cups corn and 2 cups broth in  a blender until smooth, about 1 minute.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Set 2 cups of corn aside until the end.

2. Place potatoes, andouille, garlic, Cajun seasoning and [celery] into slow cooker.  Add remaining cup of broth.  Stir.  Cover and cook until potatoes are soft, about 4-5 hours on low.

3.  Stir in remaining corn and shrimp.  Cover and cook until shrimp are opaque, about 20-30 minutes.  Add in cream and let heat about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Private: Rio by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan (Private #11)

Private Rio (Private, #11)Private Rio by James Patterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Two years ago Jack Morgan – the head of the renowned worldwide investigation firm Private – was in charge of security for the World Cup in Brazil. During the championship final, the action nearly spilled from the field into the stands. Fortunately, Jack and his team averted disaster on football's biggest stage.

Now he has returned to Rio to secure the Olympics. But before the torch is lit, the threats come fast and furious as Jack discovers that someone is trying to sabotage the games. A lethal plan put in motion during the World Cup is set to decimate Rio, and turn the Olympics from a worldwide celebration into a horrifying spectacle.

Read as an audio book.

This book picks up on the heels of Private: Paris, where Jack receives a call from the LA officewith directions to fly directly to Rio. Rio is hosting the World Cup, then, later the Summer Olympics and the security concerns are already starting.

This was another installment of the Private series that I enjoyed. The "mystery"/suspense was interesting and engaging and it was kept to two plot lines: The doctor seeking revenge and the Wise girl's abductions. Both plots had some interesting twists that had me going, "Oh! Cool!". There was a third, more subtle sub-plot that came as no surprise, and that would be Jack's personal life. Let me note now, that none of the plots were without their holes, but since I look at these books for pure entertainment, I can deal with the quirks.

The Wise girl's abduction. Natalie and Ashley (if I'm remembering names correctly) are doing charity/mission work in Rio right before the games. The are kidnapped at gunpoint under Private's surveillance. Mr. and Mrs Wise are furious with Jack. Jack is humiliated that his company failed so badly and assures the Wise's that he will do everything in his power to return the girls to safety. And he does, but it comes at the price.

As the kidnapping plot unfolds, I liked the twists and turns the authors threw in. The fight against Rio's poverty, the government corruption, business's making a profit on the backs of Rio's poor was a thought provoking battle cry. Though there is some question in my mind just how much the kidnappers had intended to use ransom monies for the people of Rio. However, I didn't like certain aspects of the full kidnapping plot resolution, chief being the impact to Jack's personal life. The only thing I will say, dating Jack Morgan is detrimental to a woman's health.

The Doctor seeking revenge. Where this fell short was the references to his deceased wife - I never really caught the connection between her death and why such drive far sweeping revenge. I could see the anger at the death of two children at the hands of Hydra, but this is Rio we are talking about - where poverty, orphans, homelessness run rampant. Yes yes, that was the point you say... but the overall impetus for the Doctor's anger never quite jelled for me.

What did work, was the two different aspects both fighting for the downtrodden: the injustice the kidnappers saw in the Olympic contracts, and the plight of the poor seeking any kind of medical help. The irony, when all was said and done, the Wise family was reunited and the Olympics were saved from a biological weapon, nothing changes for Rio. Everything changed for Jack.

And I still don't like Justine.

Recommended if you've read the previous books in the series.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Recipe Review from 5/1/2017

All the chicklets arrived this past week!  Black Orpingtons, Jaerhon (Norwegian chicken), Welsummers, Barred Rocks, and Leghorns are making a noisy racket out in the Man Barn.   Priya also hatched five Easter Egger/Pryia mix (we don't know what she is) and her and her brood were transferred out to the garden cruiser on Saturday.   I'm not sure what The Husband is sitting at for final numbers, but it's about 30ish. 

Dog crates were pulled out of storage and scrubbed down, hinges oiled and insides sanitized in anticipation of new puppy arrival. 

Next up - puppy-proof the downstairs. 

The Meal Plan and house schedule from week of 5/1:
Sun (L) grilled cheese   (S)  Chicken Bouillabaisse 
Mon (yoga) leftover soup
Tues (make cookies)  leftover soup
Wed (training in Cook/Virginia) - Pan Roasted Pork Chops and cabbage
Thurs (yoga) leftover soup
Fri - leftover pork chops
Sat (L)  out        (S)  brats and coleslaw

Lunches - hummus sandwiches

Chicken Bouillabaisse  (ATK Slow Cooker Revolution) gluten free option**
Okay, this recipe is way to long to type out, but I will say it was pretty awesome.  If you haven't gotten your hands on this cook book yet - DO IT!  I just saw this on the clearance rack at B&N for $9, so you don't even have that excuse. 

ATK took a well known fish stew and turned into a chicken stew that is just perfect.  Garlic, fennel, leek combined with a bit of orange peel and saffron make for a really flavorful dish. 

Even with the long ingredient list, it comes together fairly quickly (even more so if you aren't quartering a chicken like we did).  The garlic, leeks and fennel are sauted, the aromatics added, a roux made in the pot with some flour**,  stir in some broth and wine to make the "gravy", then everything goes into the slow cooker.  Come back, shred your chicken, and served! 


Pan Roasted Pork Chops and Cabbage (Ckng Lght March, 2017)  gluten free
This recipe does actually come together in about 30 minutes from start to finish, with a bit of time left to tidy dishes and set the table.  The flavors in this all come together just beautifully, a combination of the caraway, sweetness of the cabbage and jelly, and a subtle tang from the vinegar.  Nothing dominates and it all plays together nicely.  This could also be quite tasty with some chicken breast or thighs.   Recommended!

photo from
4 (6-oz.) bone-in, center-cut pork chops 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups chopped green and red cabbage
1 1/2 cups diagonally sliced carrot (I used baby carrots, sliced)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/3 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons apple jelly (I used some apple garlic glaze that was open)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle pork chops evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Melt butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops; cook 4 minutes per side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan; cover to keep warm.

Add cabbage, carrot, caraway seeds, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper to pan. Stir in stock, scraping bottom of pan to loosen browned bits. Cover and place pan in oven. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Remove cabbage mixture from pan; cover to keep warm. Add vinegar, apple jelly, and oil to pan; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook 3 minutes or until slightly reduced and smooth, stirring with a whisk. Divide pork chops and cabbage mixture among 4 plates. Drizzle evenly with vinegar mixture.

Tangy Mustard Coleslaw (Ckng Lght, June 2008)  gluten free, vegetarian
I bought some cabbage intending to make coleslaw, then ran out of energy.  Cabbage sat in fridge until this week when I was inspired by the pork chop recipe (above) and needed a side for brats.  Home made coleslaw has infinite varieties and flavors, can be made with/without mayo, and be creamy or more like a vinaigrette. This dish just made it into my "must do" again - it's a bit of a cross between creamy and vinaigrette, it's tangy, and whipped up super fast.   Recommended

Photo from
7 cups finely shredded green cabbage (about 1/2 head) 
1 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard (I used a spicy horseradish mustard)
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (oops! forgot!)

Combine cabbage, onion, and 1 cup carrot in a large bowl. Combine white wine vinegar, sugar, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add the mustard mixture to cabbage mixture, and toss well to coat. Cover and chill for 20 minutes. Stir before serving.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Home by Harlan Coben (Myron Bolitar #11)

HomeHome by Harlan Coben

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Ten years after the high-profile kidnapping of two young boys, only one returns home.

A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend?

Harlan Coben delivers a thriller about friendship, family, and the meaning of home.

Read as an audio book.

I greatly enjoyed the narrator on this selection. He so captured Myron's wit and humility and Win's haughtiness and self analysis. A perfect match.

Too quote Myron: Wow.

Premise of the book is two six year old boys were kidnapped from under the nose of their nanny and have been missing for 10 years. Win, being absent for nearly a year, calls Myron from London - he's located one of the boys, but things went wrong and he needs Myron's help. The boys are in the hands of a prostitution ring run by Fat Gandhi and Myron manages to save one. When young Patrick is reunited with his family, the anger, animosity and desire to find Reese becomes relentless. But the more Myron and Win dig, the more they realize something doesn't make sense. Boy, were they right.

Talk about explosive.

After the last two books in this series, I felt that there was a return to the humor, self observation and witty repartee that drew me into the series. The plot drew me in and kept me engaged right up to the very end. I still have chills from the ending.


Did I mention this book is explosive? The reader might suspect they know what's going on, and to some degree are right, but when the words are spoken on page - Holy smokes.

I LOVED how more of the book was from Win's point of view. We've gotten to know Myron over the last 10 books, now we delve into Win's thoughts and feelings. Coben stayed true to character, Win is NOT necessarily a nice person - Win admits as much - but, gosh darn it if you don't like him anyway.

This almost felt like a final book, and if it is, I am truly content. I don't know how the author could follow with anything near as thrilling, provoking and engaging in this series without doing irreparable harm to the characters.

Bravo Mr. Coben, BRAVO!

Recommended if you've read the rest in the Myron Bolitar series.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 1, 2017

Recipe Review from 4/24/2017

We are at the three week "Puppy count down!"  A name for the little tyke is still undecided.

In the interim, weather is nice, then it snows.  Weather is nice, then it snows.  It's giving me a bit of whiplash because I just don't know what I should be wearing/bringing when I head out the door in the morning - winter coat and splashy boots?  Light jacket?  All the above?

Soon, soon it will be nice.  Or so I keep telling myself. 

The Meal Plan from week of 4/24
Sun (L)  leftover wild rice dish  (S)  Slow cooked baked Ziti
Mon (yoga, bookgroup, legion mtgs)
Tues (yoga PM)  leftover baked Ziti
Wed - Shrimp Paella
Thurs (Ruffed Grouse Banquet) leftovers
Fri (yoga AM)  leftovers
Sat (Memorial Service in Cambridge)

Slow Cooked Baked Ziti (modified from ATK Slow Cooker Revolution)
The recipe title is actually Baked Ziti with Pepperoni, Mushrooms and Ricotta, but I subbed italian sausage for the pepperoni, and cottage cheese for the ricotta.  The Italian sausage was intentional, the cottage cheese a last minute "oops".  I think I had intended to make my own ricotta, but forgot to buy the milk.

I really enjoyed this dish.  This could be done in the oven just as easily as the slow cooker, but the slow cooker had its advantages like being able to walk away for three hours.  I have written the recipe to include my modifications, so you could make it either way.   My one take heed!  would be WATCH THE COOKING TIME.  I didn't do a full three hours, and that was even with cooking on the "Low" setting.

End result?  A hearty, easy baked pasta.  Serve with a salad or some crusty bread.  Recommended. 

2 onions, minced
10 oz white mushrooms (I used cremini), trimmed and sliced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used a red pepper)
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used 1/2 n 1/2)
8 oz ziti (I used penne)
6 oz sliced pepperoni  (I used 8 oz ground Italian sausage)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 (15-oz) can tomato suace
1 cup (8 oz) ricotta cheese  (I used cottage cheese)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1.  Line slow cooker with an aluminum foil collar and coat with vegetable spray.

1a.  IF using Italian sausage, heat oil in a medium saute skillet over medium high heat.  Add sausage, crumbling and cook until just lightly browned.  Remove from pan and set aside to drain on a paper towel.  

1b. Heat oil in a medium saute skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, garlic, and oregano and cook until vegetables are just softened.

2. Stir in tomatoes and cream (or half n half), scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in ziti [pepperoni if using] salt and pepper.

3. Transfer mixture to prepared sow cooker and spread tomato sauce evenly over pasta.  Cover and cook until pasta is tender, about 3 hours on high [low] (I used low heat and it was perfectly done).

4. Remove foil collar.  Gently stir pasta, adding hot water as needed to loosen sauce consistency.   (I didn't do this bit, pasta was almost over cooked at this point and I didn't want to turn it into mush).  Dollop spoonfuls of ricotta (cottage cheese) over casserole, then sprinkle with mozzarella.  Cover and let sit until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with basil.

Shrimp Paella (Ckng Lght, May 2015)   vegetarian option
This comes together rather quickly BUT, I do have some notes on assembly:  I have no idea what pre-cooked brown rice is (and I'm not the only person to question Cooking Light on this).  I use the 10 minute instant and make four servings.   I make the rice ahead of time (day before is best) because it seems to cook better once I start adding it to the pan.  I used a pea and carrot mix because that's what I had on hand - peas, mixed veggies, whatever you have in the freezer

For a weeknight dish, this was just about perfect - keeping in mind I had to cook my rice, but that allowed me to prep everything else.  This makes enough for four servings, and would freeze nicely.  For a vegetarian dish, omit the shrimp and add extra veggies. 

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup frozen green peas (I used carrots and peas)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 (8.8-oz.) pkg. precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
(I used the equivalent of 4 servings of instant rice, cooked)
3 tablespoons unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)  (I used water)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces frozen medium shrimp, thawed, peeled, and deveined** to make vegetarian, skip shrimp, add some blanched cauliflower or broccoli)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice  (oops!  Forgot!)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add turmeric; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add bell pepper, peas, and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in rice; spread in an even layer. Cook, without stirring, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in stock, salt, and pepper. Spread rice mixture in an even layer in pan. Cook, without stirring, 7 minutes. 
Arrange shrimp on top of rice mixture; cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp are done. Drizzle lemon juice over pan. Serve immediately.

Banana Chocolate Chip Brunch Cake (Ckng Lght May 2005)
I wanted something a bit different for my March Operations Meeting - I've been making the Chocolate Oatmeal cake which the guys love, but I had some banana's in the freezer and a hankering for banana bread or cake with chocolate chips.

This recipe came up on a last minute search (I forgot to look ahead of time and was sitting in the parking lot trying to find a chocolate cake recipe, I love smartphones...) and fit my mood perfectly.

This came together very quickly and I only altered slightly - I added about 1/8 tsp ground cloves and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.  Like I noted above, my banana's were frozen and very ripe - they ended up being mush, which I personally think makes a better banana bread.  I did measure, and four banana's gave me 1 1/2 cup mashed (very runny). 

Baking time was almost 45 minutes for my oven and humidity.

Mixed results?  This is more dense than I had anticipated.  The guys in the meeting came back for seconds so I didn't sense any disappointment there, but they could have just been polite.  I think the husband found it too dense and a tich dry for his preference.  I'm...mixed thoughts?  I would probably make this again tho.   

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups mashed banana (about 3 large)
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided  (I used 10oz Ghiridelli bittersweet chips, 60% cacao; 4 oz in the cake)
Cooking spray
8 teaspoons hot water
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Combine banana, milk, and egg, stirring until well blended. Add banana mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Gently fold in half of chocolate. Spoon batter into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely.
  4. Combine remaining chocolate and hot water in a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave at high 30 seconds or until almost melted. Stir until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake.

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