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Friday, July 30, 2021

Recipe Review from 7/19/21

Chaotic week! I was in the Twin Cities for a three day training while the Husband coped with the Lil' Devil and Lil' Monster. Which means not much in the way of new recipes.  .

New Bee Center at the Arboretum in Chanhassen, MN

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) (S)
Sun (L) (S)
Mon (Twin Cities)
Tues (Twin Cities)
Wed (Twin Cities) - leftovers - "taco salads"
Thurs - leftovers "taco salads"
Fri - take n bake pizza

Lunches - scrounged, Jimmy Johns

Mediterranean Farro Salad (Gimmie Some Oven) vegetarian w/vegan options
I love this kind of grain based salad. Make on Sunday, pack and eat the rest of the week for lunches. Simple, tasty, healthy, filling, good! Only one small substitution - I used white wine vinegar instead of red wind vinegar as I was out of the red. And I skipped the red onion. I did cook my farro in the instant pot, and I wished I had skipped the stock because you do end up having to drain. Seemed wasteful for the small amount of "flavor" the stock may impart into the grain. Recommended!

Made 4 servings as written

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup uncooked farro, rinsed and drained
1 large cucumber, seeded and finely-diced
2/3 cup finely-diced roasted red peppers
1/2 cup finely-diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
half of a small red onion, finely diced (about 2/3 cup)
1/4 cup finely-chopped fresh parsley
Greek vinaigrette (see ingredients below)

Greek Vinaigrette Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper

Stir together stock and farro in a medium saucepan, and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Remove from heat, and drain off any extra stock once the farro is cooked. Let farro cool for at least 10 minutes.

Transfer farro to a large mixing bowl, and add in remaining ingredients, including the vinaigrette. Toss until combined.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

To Make The Greek Vinaigrette:

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Use immediately.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Recipe Review from 7/12/21

I think I discussed the grilled veggies and tortellini salad last week. Super simple dish that's great for summer produce. Grill zucchini, red pepper, red chili (or jalapeno), and scallions. Cook up a (16oz) package of tortellini. Make a vinaigrette. Combine. Eat. Yup, that simple. Recipe can be found in The Garden of Earthly Delights cookbook.

Spokane, WA 2015

The Meal Plan
Sat (L) sandwiches (S) Grilled veggies and tortellini
Sun (L) grilled veggies and tortellini (S) Dinner with Folks
Mon (yoga) grilled veggies and tortellini
Tues (Grand Rapids) grilled veggies and tortellini
Wed (yoga) chef salads
Thurs - brats and Mexican corn
Fri - leftover brats

Lunches - sandwiches, fridge items, out

Grilled Mexican Street Corn (A Spicy Perspective) vegetarian
I did a significant modification on this one: I used a bag of frozen corn, sauted until lightly browned in a large pan, cooled slightly, then proceeded with assembly. I didn't use all my dressing - I'm not sure if it was just too much, I over estimated 1/4 cup, or I underestimated how much corn I needed.

This was super simple, had great flavor, and is a versatile side dish.
Photo from A Spicy Perspective

Served about 4-6 as a side
6-7 ears fresh corn, any color (I used 4 cups frozen corn)
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese (feta is a good substitute)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper

Preheat the grill to high heat. Shuck the corn and remove any remaining silk strands. Once the grill is hot, grill the corn for about 2 minutes per side, 8 minutes total.

Allow the corn to cool, then use a serrated knife to cut the corn off the cobs. (my tip - place corn on its side on a cutting board, with a chef's knife, cut off kernels. Flip corn to cut side and repeat.)

To a salad bowl, add the diced bell pepper, scallions, and cilantro to the grilled corn. Toss to mix.

In a smaller bowl whisk the mayonnaise, lime juice and paprika together. Toss the dressing into the salad.

Finally toss in the cheese, reserving a little to sprinkle on top. Taste, then salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle cheese over the top and serve.

Recipe notes: This salad can be made several days in advance. Cover and chill until ready to eat.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Recipe Review from 7/5/2021

This week was a meal plan emphasizing simplicity while we adjust to having a puppy and the puppy adjusts to us. The taco salad was a recipe I've had around for years, origin long forgotten. I suspect it was either a Wishbone or Hidden Valley Ranch promotional recipe. Maybe. I had recipe for tortellini with grilled vegetables on (from Garden of Earthly Delights) but the taco salad and fish dish had more leftovers than anticipated so the tortellini dish was pushed to the weekend. Lunches were sub sandwiches, something I could assemble in the morning while there were two of us watching the dogs.

And, unlike parts of the West Coast, we dropped down into the 40's over night (I did hear the outskirts of Superior, WI had 37*, and Brimson, MN, just north of Duluth had 30*), and 60's during the day. A bit unusual for July but we needn't have worried - we were back to 80* by the weekend.

Boston, 2008.  Being quirky.

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) Leftover corn soup (S) taco salad
Sun (L) lefotver soup (S) taco salad
Mon (off)L sub sandwiches (S) taco salad
Tue - Aqua Pazza (fish in tomatos)
Wed (yoga) leftover fish
Thurs leftover fish
Fri - take n bake pizza

Lunches - "Fancy" sub sandwiches

Taco Salad (origin - ??)
This is your basic 1980's potluck salad. It can be made ahead, just don't add the chips until just before serving or keep on the side and let folks add separately.   Over time I've come to prefer kale and or Swiss Chard for my greens, cherry tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes because they aren't as runny, regular corn ships over Doritos, and I cut back on the Hidden Valley Ranch mixture.

1 head of lettuce (I used kale and Swiss Chard)
1 pound ground beef (can use ground pork, chicken, tempeh, or meat of choice)
1 can black beans OR pinto beans, drained
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
4 oz grated cheddar cheese
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch dip and dressing
4 oz Wishbone Italian dressing
1 pkg corn chips (Doritos was in the original recipe, I use plain corn chips now.)

**My note - I prefer to serve the corn chips on the side because I really don't like soggy chips.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground meat and onions and cook until no longer pink. Add beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Combine remainder of ingredients, add meat mixture, tossing to combine.

Seves 4-6 as a main, 6-8 as a side. Leftovers will last about 2 days in the fridge.

Aqua Pazza (Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out by Giada DeLaurentiss) This was the only recipe I was able to make out of the cookbook before I had to return it to the library. Unfortunately, I forgot to make a copy of the recipe and it was a good one! I'm still undecided about getting the cookbook, I may put my name back on the hold list and try a few more recipes. I had at least four more fish recipes flagged as "to try".

Aqua Pazza was simply fish simmered or poached in a tomato mixture. It came together fairly quickly with minimal prep and was light enough for a hot summer evening. The fennel was the perfect flavor counterpoint with a teeny bit of heat from ground chili flakes. Not quite a soup, not quite a stew, best served with some crusty bread to soak up the extra sauce at the bottom of the bowl. I would absolutely make this again.

**Below is from memory - may not be exactly as written in the cookbook

Serves 4.

1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups water
salt and pepper
4 (6 oz) filets of cod, or other firm whitefish
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Fennel and onion were sauted until just starting to soften, add chili flakes and white wine. Add the water and fish. Cover and simmer until fish is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Season to taste. Serve with fresh parsley.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Ocean Prey by John Sandford (Lucas Davenport #31, Virgil Flowers #13

Ocean Prey (Lucas Davenport #31)Ocean Prey by John Sandford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: An off-duty Coast Guardsman is fishing with his family in the Atlantic just off south Florida when he sees, and then calls in, some suspicious behavior in a nearby boat. It's a snazzy craft, slick and outfitted with extra horsepower, and is zipping along until it slows to pick up a surfaced diver . . . a diver who was apparently alone, without his own boat, in the middle of the ocean. None of it makes sense unless there's something hinky going on, and his hunch is proven correct when all three Guardsmen who come out to investigate are shot and killed. They're federal officers killed on the job, which means the case is the FBI's turf. When the FBI's investigation stalls out, Lucas Davenport of the U.S. Marshals Service gets a call. The case turns even more lethal and Davenport needs to bring in every asset he can find, including a detective with a fundamentally criminal mind: Virgil Flowers. Librarian's note: as of 2021, there are 31 volumes in John Sandford's Lucas Davenport "Prey" series and 13 in his "Virgil Flowers" series. The latest for each, "Ocean Prey," was published in April 2021. It is part of the "Prey" series but Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers share the billing; it is considered the most recent in both series. Read as an audio book.

I am writing this on the assumption you've read most of the previous books in both series.
This was kinda straight up/classic John Sandford with an interesting melding of Davenport and Flowers. I greatly enjoyed this one - there's one "Aw...jeez..." moment, just enough dramatic tension to keep the plot interesting but not overly anxiety producing, and it bounces fairly equally between Davenport and Flowers.

Sanford must have hit a nerve with some folks in his previous Lucas book, because there was a fair amount of ethical discussion or explanation occurring between our sub-characters regarding what Lucas did. Not so much was Lucas right or wrong, but how Lucas handled the situation and how said sub-character would handle any future situation should they find themselves in one. Perhaps that's why this book took Davenport away from the scene of the crime (so to speak) and put Virgil in the line of fire. Pure speculation on my part.

Bottom line, I enjoyed this latest installment. Not a lot of time spent in the antagonist's heads, all my favorite characters make an appearance and the characters I don't care for didn't. In some regards, character development was minimal in this one and I was completely okay with that. The story just churns along quite nicely on it's own.

Lastly, Richard Farrone is an excellent narrator and I'm thrilled that he's been the narrator for all 31 Davenport books. What would have made this an outstanding narration, is if they had used the narrator for the Virgil books too. That would have just been the cat's meow.

Recommended if you've been reading the Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flower's series.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 5, 2021

Recipe Review from 6/28/21

This fine little fellow came home with us on Friday. English Setter, 8 weeks old. Nickname: Lil' Teufel. He's an angel when he's sleeping and a little devil when he's awake. But that's the way of a puppy.

Hi!  I'm Chet!

The Meal Plan
Sat (L)leftovers (S) Surf and turf and Potato Salad
Sun (L) Grand Rapids Brewery (S) Grilled sausage and veggies
Mon (yoga pm) leftovers sausage and veggies
Tues (donate blood) out
Wed (yoga pm) leftover sausage and potato salad
Thurs - Corn and Clam chowder
Fri - leftover chowder

Lunches - farro and feta salad bowl  (originally wheatberry, chickpea and feta salad)

Grilled Sausage with Vegetables (Eating Well, July/August 2021) gluten free
Another easy dish full of summer flavors and great for a hot summer evening. Toss on the grill, chop, eat. It's that easy. I used andouille sausage as I had some in the fridge, skipped the tarragon as I didn't have any (and it's not worth paying $3.00 for a small package for a tablespoon). This serves four, but I somehow managed to get 3 meals out of it and I was short a sausage. Not complaining tho! I like it when I can stretch meals a bit. Recommended!

Photo from
Serves 4 (equivalent of 1 sausage each)

2 large bell peppers, seeded and quartered
2 large red onions, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, grated, divided
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage links (I used andouille sausage)
1 bunch scallions, trimmed
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
Pinch of salt

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Toss peppers, onions, half the garlic and fennel seed with 1 tablespoon oil in a large bowl.

Oil the grill rack. Grill the peppers and onions, sausage and scallions, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and slightly charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the sausage registers 165°F, about 4 minutes for the scallions, 8 minutes for the sausage and 10 to 12 minutes for the peppers and onions. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Slice the vegetables and sausage into 2-inch pieces.

Whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and garlic with parsley, tarragon, vinegar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the vegetables and toss to coat. Serve the vegetables with the sausage, topped with more parsley and tarragon, if desired.

Clam and Corn Chowder (modified from Eating Well, July/August 2021)
This was fairly quick to pull together, had good flavor, and made enough for leftovers. I did do a significant modification - I skipped the whole corn cob part. I just didn't want of futz with corncobs. Which means, this might have been a bit subdued in the corn flavors and more pronounced clam flavors. Which is just fine if it saved me a bit of time. The best time savings was the coming days when I could reheat and serve. When it's 90* outside...yeah, that's about all I have energy for. I served this with slices of lightly toasted sourdough bread. Recommended.

Photo from
Serves 6

2 ears corn, husked (I used 2 cups frozen corn)
2 strips bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
⅓ cup white whole-wheat flour
3 (6.5 ounce) cans chopped clams, drained, juices reserved
2 cups clam juice
4 cups diced waxy potatoes, such as yellow or red
2 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon ground pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt  It's plenty salty from the clams

Cut kernels from corn cobs. Reserve the cobs.

Add the corn kernels and bacon to a large pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and the corn starts to brown, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon and corn to a small bowl.

Add butter, onion, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in juices from the cans, clam juice and the reserved corncobs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Discard the corncobs, thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Stir in clams, milk, pepper and salt. Add half of the reserved bacon and corn. Cook, stirring, until hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve topped with the remaining bacon and corn.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out by Giada De Laurentiis

Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and OutEat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out by Giada De Laurentiis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: This book is the culmination of a ten-year journey. . . . I've made a conscious effort to take control of my health because it had finally become impossible to ignore the fact that the choices (or lack thereof ) I'd been making for the past twenty years just weren't working for me anymore.

In Giada's most personal book yet, she gives you an inside look at her path to wellness and how she maintains a balanced life. Giada walks you through how to select food that can actually make you feel better and curate a personalized wellness routine to support a healthy mind and body. She shows you her own process of reconfiguring her diet to control inflammation--and how you can use the same steps to turn your life around. Giada also includes information on how to use complementary wellness tactics like intermittent fasting, meditation, and other self-care routines to optimize your well-being.

Giada devotes an entire chapter to her 3-day reboot--which she follows several times a year--and offers more than two dozen dairy-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free recipes to accompany the plan, as well as a 21-day menu outline that makes good, healthy cooking easy to implement at home. Even though it's so much more than a cookbook, Eat Better, Feel Better also offers 100 new recipes, ​from Italian-influenced ones like Fusilli with Chicken and Broccoli Rabe and Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Cherry and Red Wine Sauce to her everyday healthy favorites including Quinoa Pancakes; Sheet Pan Parmesan Shrimp and Veggies; Roasted Cauliflower and Baby Kale Salad; and Chocolate and Orange Brown Rice Treats.

Eat Better, Feel Better is the perfect jumpstart to wellness.

I have very loosely followed Giada since she appeared on Food Network, oh, so many many years ago. I have a handful of her early cookbooks that, I admit, are under utilized. And, as it happens when life becomes busy and one doesn't have cable, she slid off my radar. Then I heard an interview with her on Milk Street (it might have been Splendid Table...but I'm pretty sure it was Milk Street) highlighting her career and new book. I was intrigued. I requested the book from the library.

This is part autobiography, part wellness, part cookbook.

Let me say that again: this is part autobiography, part wellness, part cookbook.

This is not a diet book, this is not how to loose weight, and Giada states this numerous times, this is what worked for HER but the audience may find aspects that work for them. This is Giada describing her journey on how eating affects one's digestive and immune system and ultimately, ones health.

The issue Giada is going to face with this book is, she has inherited skinny genes and people are going to scoff and mock her for publishing a "diet" book. However, our digestive and immunity systems don't care if you are skinny, round, an athlete, a concert pianist, tall, short, average, brown eyed, green haired, whatever. We all have a digestive system.

I picked up the book from the library and settled in for a quiet read. First several chapters are her autobiography journaling how she had digestive issues as a child, to launching her food show, and the resulting health issues she was experiencing over the ensuing years. The autobiography is inter-mixed with suggestions on how to get started on a lifestyle change: recommended foods to eat, suggested foods to avoid, and what to stock the pantry with. There is emphasis through-out that this is not a diet, this is a long-term wellness goal for improved digestive health AND, noting, while is what worked for HER, something else may work better for an individual. Also emphasized, this isn't about denying any food - enjoy your favorites, in moderation or on special occasions.

The first third of the book felt very familiar to me. I have read similar suggestions in my Ayurvedic studies and other supporting documentation on digestive health. The second aspect I noted was the ingredients being recommended were predominantly Mediterranean. The Ayurvedic connection I was seeing was confirmed in the latter part of the book. This is definitely a melding of a Mediterranean style of eating with Ayurvedic components.

Reiterating again that this is what worked for Giada, there are a handful of observations I have:

She presents a variety of recipes that could be family friendly without making a Big Deal it's [vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, minimal meat].

There are a wide a variety of gluten free recipes. A person would need access to a co-op or well stocked grocery store (or online) if opting for all-in. Bob's Red Mill might be your best option. I say this from the perspective of living in the North Central part of the States where I have difficulty finding ingredients. I have yet to find a store that carries pomegranate molasses...

While this is not a vegetarian or vegan cookbook, there are meat and dairy free recipes or the recipes have a small meat component. Some may need to swap meat or meat substitute, or increase protein for your dietary needs.

I have flagged several recipes to try, but I may have to return the book to the library before I have a chance to make them. There's a wait list so it's non-renewable. If I'm able, I'll pop back and report on the recipes.

Overall, an interesting book that brings attention to a very overlooked and dismissed aspect of our well being - out gut. It's one person's journey that they choose to share, and perhaps it will help to bring awareness to digestive issues people deal with. Is this for everyone? No. Is it a one-size-fits-all solution? No. Is it a perfect solution for everyone? No. But it starts the dialog, which is pretty cool and long overdue.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 28, 2021

Recipe Review from 6/21/21

For Father's Day weekend the Husband and I took the Folks to Sapsucker Farms, Mora, MN. The Husband had been previously, the rest of us had not. The weather was perfect for sitting outside on the patio (puppy friendly), we enjoyed a flight of cider (Classic, Ginger, Lemon-Basil, Rhubarb, Barrel Aged, Cranberry, Cayanne, Wildflower, and Apple Pie). The group of us really liked the barrel aged and rhubarb. Though they were all good. We enjoyed some delicious BBQ from the food truck and then a lovely walk around the trails on the farm. A most excellent adventure!

Oregon, 2018

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L) Sapsucker Farms (S) Bread Salad
Sun (L) Salmon (S) Bread Salad
Mon (yoga/bkgrp) leftover salmon
Tues - leftover salmon
Wed (yoga) bread salad
Thurs - eggs in sauce
Fri - leftover eggs in sauce

Lunches - lentil and bulger salad (Moosewood cookbook) for me; sandwiches for the Husband

Sweet Heat Salmon (Eating Well, April 2021)
This is another easy to assemble dish that does give the option of grilling or broiling. As the broiler never really works for me, and it stinks up the house, I went with grilling. I did use red raspberry preserves, but unfortunately forgot to look at the label and found I had picked a jar predominantly "high fructose corn syrup". Argh. Oh well. No time to return, went with it anyway.

This was tasty, definitely more "sweet" than "heat", so I was glad for the extra sliced jalepenos. Don't skip the arugula salad - the tangy greens helped balanced out that sweetness and added a nice crisp crunch. There was plenty of sauce for 2lbs of salmon, so you could make more fish, or cut the jam concoction in half. If you do make more fish and plan on having as leftovers, don't dress with the glaze until serving.
Photo from

Serves 6 (I got two meals for two, plus one meal for one)

¾ cup fruit preserves, such as blackberry or peach, pureed
6 tablespoons water
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup white-wine or cider vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce (see Tip)
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, divided
1 ½ pounds skin-on salmon fillet
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups packed arugula
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
¼ cup fresh mint or chervil leaves, torn
Lemon wedges for garnish

Combine pureed preserves, water, jalapeño and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar and tamari (or soy sauce) and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 4 to 8 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon (or lime) juice.

Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium-high or broiler to high. Brush salmon with oil and sprinkle with salt.

Oil the grill rack or place the salmon on a rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Grill or broil the salmon, skin-side down, until it flakes easily with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness. Using 2 large spatulas, carefully transfer the salmon to a platter. Top with the warm glaze.

Bread Salad with Kale, Beets and Blue Cheese (modified from Milk Street Tuesday Nights)
Kale! Beets! Bacon! Blue cheese! A delightful combination that is perfect for a light supper when it's 80* outside. This does have bacon in it, and the bacon could easily be omitted. There will be a bit of loss of flavor - maybe mushrooms would be a good umami substitute? Don't care for blue cheese? Substitute feta or even crumbled goat cheese. Either would be deliscious.

I did deviate from the original recipe a tich - I sauted the bread cubes in the bacon fat rather than the olive oil. Seemed a shame to waste that bacon-y flavor. And I served the blue cheese and bacon on top of the salads rather than tossing as those little crumbles just fall to the bottom of the bowl.

I really liked this, I liked the simplicity, I loved the flavors. Recommended!

Serves 4 (I got two meals for two out of this)
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tbsp sherry, cider or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 oz rustic bread (I used a ww sourdough) cut into 1" pieces (about 4 cups)
6 oz lacinato kale (I bought two bunches since you lose weight pulling the stems off)
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
8-oz package cooked beets, cut into 6 or 8 wedges
1 tbsp honey
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled

Stir together the shallots and vinegar, set aside.

In a 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel and set aside (reserving 1 tbsp of the bacon fat).

In the same skillet, add the bread and cook, tossing ferquently and lower the heat slightly if the pan begins to smoke. Cook until bread is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the kale with 1/4 tsp salt and massage gently with your hands. Add the bread and beets, toss to combine.

To the shallot mixture, whisk in the 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and honey. Add to the kale mixture and toss. Divide salad amongst four bowls or plates, top with blue cheese and bacon. Serve.

Eggs with Sausage and Peas (modified from Milk Street Tuesday Nights)
PUT AN EGG ON IT!! And this simple dish does! A saucy tomato mixture, with a poached egg on top and sprinkled with feta. This diffrence between this and the Middle Eastern dish (whose name I'm completely blanking) is this isn't served over bread. Bread is along side for dipping. Yum yum yum.

Serves 4 (I got two meals for two out of this)

I'm going to have to point you in the direction of your library for this one - check out Milk Street Tuesday Nights.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (The Carls, #1)An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: The Carls just appeared.

Roaming through New York City at three AM, twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

June 2021 book group selection.

I have very mixed thoughts on this book. On one hand, I quite enjoyed the cast of characters, the premise was interesting, and Carl was intriguing. The sub-text or sub-message of what social media can do to a person/society is both facinating and terrifying.

On the other hand, I did not enjoy April May and I somewhat bored with her plot line and found the pacing...slow. I thought more than once of setting the book aside but, (see first hand) there were a handful of items that kept me turning the page.

Mostly, I wanted to know more about Carl. And Andy. And Robin. And all the rest.

April, not so much.

Which I hear is the case in book two.

So I'll be reading book two because there is just enough curiosity to find out more.

This is one book you'll have to read and decide if it's worthwhile.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 21, 2021

Recipe Review from 6/14/2021

This week I picked out simple, quick and easy recipes that would provide at least two meals each which meant lots of variety - smoked brats, creamy fish, spicy burgers, and crisp greens. If you haven't already, pop over to your library and check out Milk Street Tuesday Nights.

Oregon, 2016

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L)leftovers (S)brats and leftover beans
Sun (L) brats and beans (S) cod
Mon (yoga)cod
Tues - Cuban burgers
Wed (yoga/Legion mtg)- burgers
Thurs - Greens with walnuts and Parmesan
Fri - Greens with walnuts and an Parmesan

Lunches - Salmon pasta salad

Pan-Seared Fish with Basil Oil & Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette (Eating Well, April 2021) gluten free I've been on a bit of a fish-kick lately and we try (and mostly don't succeed) to have fish once a week. I think I'm doing pretty good when its once a month. Part of the issue is, not the best selection of fish in my corner of the world. We do have whitefish and lake trout, and I enjoy a good whitefish. Lake trout can be very hit or miss - if it's out of Lake Superior, it can be too strongly flavored for my taste buds.

But I digress. I made a fish dish, I used cod (I LOVE cod), and managed to stink up the house. The dish was outstanding. It's easy, it comes together very quickly, and I love the combination of basil and tomatoes. In the recipe notes below it suggests to double the basil oil if you have extra basil. Do it! I've been enjoying the basil infused oil over lightly toasted sourdough bread. Highly recommend this dish!

Recipe as written serves 6, I used less fish (but not less tomatoes) for 4 servings.
Photo from

¾ cup fresh basil stems and leaves, divided
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
2 pounds skin-on halibut or salmon, cut into 6 pieces
(I used 1 1/2 lbs cod)

Separate basil leaves from stems. Chop the leaves and set aside. Heat the stems, garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat just until you start to see bubbles form around the stems and garlic. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a small bowl (discard the stems and garlic).

Cut half the cherry tomatoes in half. Heat 1 tablespoon of the basil oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the halved and whole cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skins blister and the tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in 1/4 cup chopped basil, 1/4 cup basil oil, vinegar, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; gently stir to combine.

Wipe the pan clean. Gently pat fish dry and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the basil oil in the pan over medium heat. Add half the fish, skinned-side down. Cook until a little more than halfway cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the flesh is opaque, 2 to 4 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining fish and 1 tablespoon basil oil. Serve the fish with the cherry tomato vinaigrette and sprinkled with the remaining chopped basil.

Recipe Note: If you have a lot of basil, double the oil for this pan-seared fish recipe. It doesn’t take any more time to make and it’s delicious whisked into dressings, drizzled over grilled vegetables and used to make garlic bread. The same technique works well for lots of other herbs, too—think: tarragon, parsley, chives.

Cuban Burgers (Milk Street Tuesday Nights) Regular burgers are kicked up a notch with the addition of smoked paprika, cumin, and a spicy mayo made from mayonnaise, hot sauce, mustard and cayenne pepper. Recipe was a tich putzy with some "hands off" burger care - freezing the meat for 20 minutes and folding in the spices before forming into patties. I was using bear meat and followed the directions out of curiosity. Mmm, putzy. I think if care is taken to not over squish the meat, burgers will be just fine.

I served these on large English muffins with a sprinkling of cotija Mexican cheese. Recipe made four patties, which was two meals for two of us without any sides I would make these again, except maybe skip the freezing bit.

Greens with Walnuts and Parmesan (Milk Street Tuesday Nights) vegetarian option
Tuesday Nights has been languishing on my shelf. With busy weekday schedules combined with overly warm temps, I decided I needed to pull out this under utilized resource.

This was the first one that caught my eye. I could use some local, hydroponically raised greens (Superior Fresh or Ravol), fried pancetta is delicious (and could be skipped for a vegetarian option), and I had everything else. Well, except for the sherry vinegar. It seems everything is calling for sherry vinegar these days and well, I just don't have it. I subbed either cider, red wine or white wine. I forget which.

Anyhow, since this was going to be two meals for us, I made half a recipe. I did learn that pancetta is really smokey when frying and I literally - smoked up the house. Thankfully it doesn't stink like fish does, but still, not desirable. You do need to have everything mise e place as assembly is very quick. I took the recipes suggestion and put a poached egg on top for a little extra protein. I prefer the clean taste of poaching over a fried egg. I used arugula the first supper, and a mixed spicy greens for the second supper. I also cooked the pancetta in a cast iron pan on the grill for the second round.

This was fantastic and I can see returning to this later this summer. Highly recommended.

Serves 6

12 oz mixed bitter greens (12 cups) torn, at room temp (I used 2 "clam shells")
2 tbsp cider, red wine, white wine or sherry vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
6 oz thinly sliced pancetta (chopped) (I skipped the chopping and left in strips)
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/2 cup)
optional - fried or poached egg

Recipe Notes: Don't let the dressing cool before adding to the greens. It's consistency is best when warm and the heat slightly softens the sturdy greens. In addition, make sure the greens are not cold when adding the dressing or the dressing will firm up.
Place the greens in a large bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, which together the vinegar, mustard and salt.

Prepare egg, if including.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet, then return to medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the oil and vinegar mixture, whisking to combine. Let sit 30 seconds to warm through.

Combine the warm dressing, walnuts, and greens. Season with pepper and toss. Divide amongst plates and top each portion with the crispy pancetta, Parmesan and egg (if adding.)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou by Melissa M. Martin

Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing BayouMosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou by Melissa M. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: Every hour of the day, Louisiana loses a football field’s worth of land to the Gulf. And so before her hometown disappears entirely, chef Melissa Martin wants to document the recipes, ingredients, and customs of the Cajun people. Cocoderie, Louisiana, may soon no longer be listed on maps, but the incredible traditions of the region should remain. In the same way Zora Neale Hurston documented and shared oral histories of the South before its keepers passed on, Martin will tell the stories of her people. She has organized the book into 12 chapters highlighting the key ingredients of this cuisine—from shrimp and oysters to poultry and sugarcane—and the recipe and customs that surround each. The 100 recipes are for accessible home-cooked meals that readers can make on a weeknight or for a celebration—with stories to be savored along with the food. Each chapter is punctuated with an essay explaining the context for the ingredient, whether it’s picking and putting up blackberries each February to shrimping every August or celebrating Fat Tuesday with a king cake. This is a cookbook, but the underlying messages of heeding environmental warnings and highlighting the Cajun woman’s authority in the kitchen showcase the book’s compelling media hooks. Martin also documents the region’s traditions, from the Blessing of the Boats at the beginning of every fishing season to Mardi Gras and the many dozens of ways to make a Cajun gumbo.

I can't recall the last time I posted about a cook book, and I've been "reading" quite a few lately. This was one I checked out from the library back in April? I think? Then I realized that hey, why not blog about a cook book! It'll fit right in.

This Northern Girl adores Southern food and this cookbook was quite enjoyable to read. Like many cookbooks today, there is a story behind the recipes. This one captures a slice of Southern history, life on the bayou, and touches on the fragile ecosystem and environmentalism of Coastal activities.

I thought *most* of the recipes were fairly approachable, well written and flexible with ingredients and "how to". If you live in a coastal area, you will have better access to seafood options than say, someone who lives near the Canadian border in the middle of the continent (like me). For the non-seafood recipes, I noticed could get the majority of the ingredients at my local grocery store (I don't live in a major metropolitan area) and substitute what I couldn't.

I also noted the chef used both volume and weights (ie, cups and ounces). I really like that approach to cooking these days.

I was able to make the poached fish dish before I had to return the book to the library (could only check it out for two weeks - new release). It was probably the best poached fish I have ever made. So simple, so flavorful, so easy.

Bottom line - I am still on the fence about purchasing a copy. I would LOVE to try several more recipes, it's a gorgeous book, but the inability to get the recommended seafood, or even a close substitute, has me holding off. Might be a good option for a Holiday gift or Birthday idea tho.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 14, 2021

Recipe Review from 6/7/2021

With temps hitting 95*F, I went simple and pulled out the instant pot. While the beans and meatballs were easy and relatively quick to make (each taking about an hour respectively), the house didn't stay as cool as I would have liked or hoped for. In hindsight, the IP puts out a fair amount of heat in the way of steam. And no, we don't have air conditioning. Usually we don't need AC and we don't need it in June. Toasty! Toasty!

San Miguel Mission, CA.  Artwork inside the church.

I'm going to refer you to the Milk Street cookbook for the two instant pot recipes below; unfortunately, they are a bit too long to type out here.   Sorry - no pictures. 

The Meal Plan:
Sat (L)Forestry project, lunch provided (S) pizza
Sun (L)leftover pizza (S) Grilled chicken and beans
Mon (yoga)leftover chicken
Tues - IP Meatball hoagies
Wed (yoga) leftover meatballs
Thurs (Husband out)- leftover meatballs
Fri - leftover chicken

Lunches - sandwiches, fruit, chips

Meatball Hoagies (Milk Street Fast and Slow) Instant Pot
Meat and sauce are cooked together in one pot for a nicely spicy saucy dish. While this was served over hoagies, I was thinking it would also be good over polenta, penne, spaghetti, on a pizza or even as a fun variation with garlic bread. I used 1 1/4 lb bear meat (recipe calls for 1 lb ground beef), and got about 15 golf ball sized meatballs with plenty of leftover sauce. I did freeze the sauce for a later date (thinking pizza or pasta). Recommended!

Recipe states serves 4, I got 2 1/2 meals plus sauce for later.

Beans with Quick Pickled Tomatoes (Milk Street Fast and Slow) Instant Pot
This is not your standard smokey baked beans. Using carrots, onion, and tomato paste to flavor the beans while they cook, the tomatoes are "quick pickled" (tossed with some vinegar and salt), and stirred in after everything is done cooking. If used to Bushes Baked Beans or VanCamps, this dish is going to be sweeter. I served it with grilled chicken and brats. Recommended!

Recipe states serves 4-6. I had it as a side for five meals (about 2/3 cup portions).

Pumpkin Waffles (AllRecipes) I had a partial leftover can of pumpkin from waffles I made the previous weekend. Not wanting to make waffles again, a Google search pulled up this recipe.

And this is a winner!

Thick, soft, fluffy pumpkin-y pancakes with the essence of cinnamon and spices. Served with a poached egg on top - this hit the spot for a weekend breakfast. I have two more cans of pumpkin in the pantry...I can see these happening again quite soon. Recommended!

Probably serves 4; 6 if serving with eggs and bacon or sausage.

1 ½ cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup AP and 1 cup WW)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

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