Monday, December 31, 2007

home made pasta is suprisingly easy.

What do I do when I'm on vacation, and bored out of my bleeding mind? I make pasta. From scratch, without a pasta machine (i'm not even sure what a pasta machine is, or does).

For approximately 1 pound of pasta, blend the following in a bowl:
3 large eggs
2 cups flour
pinch of salt

when your mixture is smooth and mixed well, and has become a dough, divide it into 4 dough balls, put them back into the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. On a floured surface, roll out one ball at a time into a very, very flat rectangle. This stuff is not going to want to roll. Nope, it's elastic, and doesn't like stretching. And you want to stretch it and roll it, not crush it under the rolling pin. So, every few rolls, pick it up off the table, gently stretching it, and flip it over. Gravity will do most of the hard work for you. Get it as thin as possible (can you see the fake wood grain of your laminate kitchen table through the dough? It's thin enough), and cut into long strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips have got to dry. I dry them on my folding clothes drying rack, but you can use the backs of chairs, or lay a broomstick across two chairs and use that. Roll out at cut the rest of your dough. It's more tedious than difficult.

After your pasta has dried for about two hours (or whenever you want to eat it later), start a big pot of water boiling on the stove. Get out a big skillet, and chop up the following to go in the skillet with some olive oil or butter:

1 zucchini, cut in quarters and sliced
1 sweet pepper, diced
8 oz mushroom, sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt & pepper

saute all that up as your water is boiling. Put the pasta in the water and boil for about 5 minutes, or until it's “al dente” (flexible, but still has a little bite to it). Because I used plain old regular flour, and not that traditional semolina stuff, this pasta won't be anywhere near as starchy or sticky as store bought pasta. It also cooks much faster, because it isn't industrially dried.

Pasta done? Good. Drain it and pop it back into the empty pot. Dump in sauteed veggies. Now, here's the cheating part. Dump in one jar of your favorite store bought alfredo sauce. Stir, enjoy.

What's with the store bought sauce? I suck at making white sauces, and I made the flippin' pasta from scratch, so i'm going to use a store bought white sauce. Deal with it.

Now, wasn't that tasty? Yes, it was!

I'm about half way through Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt's memoir of growing up poor and starving in Ireland. This book is hard to read, because it's damn depressing. Frankie's dad is a drunk, and his mother is simply powerless. I'm kind of surprised there isn't more suicide. Oh yeah, they're all Catholics. But if i'm going to finish this book, I better finish it soon, because it's on loan from a friend.

For something happier, i've gotten sucked into the warped singularity of insanity that is Tim Powers Last Call. Powers has that ability to write up rediculous magical happenings that are just wrong, and it works, and the only thing you want is more. The man writes literary heroin. This book is mostly poker and tarot card stuff, which I have just about zero knowledge off, but it's still really good, and no one does body swapping like Powers. Oh, it's good stuff.

Oh yeah, happy new year! We're making cookies and chili for the party tonight. I'll only give you the cookie recipe if they come out tasty, and I can't give you the chili recipe, because it's a secret.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

come on, everyone's doing it.

posting their "lists" for the year, that is. this blog (which turns one year old next week!) has done a fabulous job of helping me keep track of books i've read and reviewed.

so, in the spirit of lists, here is the rundown of the books of the last year, linked to reviews, where available. i sure hope all those links work!

1. The Paradise War, by Stephen Lawhead
2.Hell's Belles, by Jackie Kessler
3.Serenity: Those Left Behind, by Joss Whedon
4. Blood Music, by Greg Bear
5.The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
6.Glasshouse, by Charlie Stross
7.Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn
8.Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
9.Fullmetal Alchemist, volumes 3-11, by Hiromu Arakawa
10.Tokyo Babylon, volumes 1-4, by CLAMP
11. Shriek, and Afterword, by Jeff Vandermeer
12.Timeline, by Michael Crichton
13.Dr. Futurity, by Philip K Dick
14.The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, by Mohja Kahf
15. Dream of the Dragon Pool, by Albert Dalia
16.The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
17.The Silver Hand, by Stephen Lawhead
18.King Rat, by China Mieville
19. Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville
20. Perverted Realities, by Jennifer Caress
21. Scales, by Anthony Williams
22.The Endless Knot, by Stephen Lawhead
23.Moped Army, by Paul Sizer
24.Little White Mouse, by Paul Sizer
25.Excel Saga, volume 1-3, by Rikdo Koshi
26.The Teahouse Fire, by Ellis Avery
27.The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan
28. Splinter, by Adam Roberts
29.Overclocked, by Cory Doctorow
30.The White Plague, by Frank Herbert
31.Tsubasa: Resevoir Chronicle, Vol 1-4 by CLAMP
32.XXXHolic, volume 1-5, by CLAMP
33.The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Bettor
34.The Secret City, by Carol Ermshwiller
35.Mozart's Sister, by Nancy Moser
36. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
37.Girl Genius, Vol 1-3, by Phil and Kaja Folio
38.The Clean Tech Revolution, by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder
39. Pandora's Closet, edited by Martin Greenberg and Jean Rabe
40. The Tourmaline, by Paul Park
41. Brasyl, by Ian McDonald
42.Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl
43.The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
44. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
45.The Book of Names, by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori
46. The Revenge of the Elves, by Gary Wassner
47. Blindsight, by Peter Watts
48.Dragonhead, vol 1, by Minetaro Mochizuki
49.Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
50.A Clash of Kings, by George R R Martin
51.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon
52. Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison
53. Dreamsongs, volume 1, by George R. R. Martin
54. Dreamsongs, volume 2, by George R R Martin
55.Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
56.Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
57.A Storm of Swords, by George R R Martin
58.The Alchemist's Kitchen, by Guy Ogilvy
59.Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams
60.The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
61. Cimmerian City, by Rae Lindley
62.The Future Happens Twice, by Matt Browne
63.Whitechapel Gods, by S.M Peters
64.Crashing Through, by Robert Kurson
65.A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin
66.We the Living, by Ayn Rand

not bad, i averaged more than one book a week.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


my hubby is making Panettone today, from the recipe in The Bread Winner's Cookbook. we're about 20 minutes into the first rise, and it smells delicious. a sweet bread packed with orange and lemon zest, raisins, and honey.

I'm on vacation this week (yay!!), so there is plenty of cooking on the schedule: mushroom barley soup, coq au vin, couple more loaves of bread. . . possibly some home made pasta. . we shall see!

Cimmerian City may go down in my books as one of the worst books i have ever read. this, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you watch too many Milla Jovavich movies.

Review of Cimmerian City. Hope that link works, it's not my usually review hosting site.

and the book i'm desperaly trying to finish? it's what happens when you watch too much discovery channel.

all the books i think are crap seem to be getting phenominal reviews on Amazon. creative review editing by the author or publisher? reviews written by friends of the author? i'm not sure. everyone else gives the books 3 to5 stars, and i think it's crap. what's going on here?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

glorious proportions

my "to be read" pile has loomed to glorious proportions. should keep me busy for the 11 days (yes, that's ELEVEN) days that i'm on vacation, starting this saturday!

The Future Happens Twice, by Matt Browne (currenly half way through. it's a crazy long book!)
Paraworld Zero, by Matthew Peterson
Voices from the Street, by Philip K Dick (currently about 100 pages in)
Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt (i quickly read the first 5 pages when my friend lent me this book, and i'm already hooked)
Blame! Vol 1, by Tsutomu Nihei
St. Lunatic High School, Vol 1, by Majiko
Psychic Power Nanaki Vol 1, by Ryo Saenagi

i loves me manga!

this pile of books is so beautifully tall it blocks the view of the tv if i'm lying on the couch.

i was going to create and post a lovely collage of the book covers, but i just realized, this new hard drive doesn't have photoshop on it. poop. i'll try to get something up, eventually.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

short and sweet

Shrek the III - thumbs down. it's like the scriptwriter and the joke writer were working in two different rooms, on two different continents. and how many kids want to watch a movie about learning to be comfortable with having a baby? just take them to Juno.

Feast for Crows finally finished it. now i know why everyone is so up in arms they have to wait so long for the next book. cuz we wanna know what freakin' happens with the rest of the characters, that's why. and Martin, please don't become another Robert Jordan. it's unbecoming.

We the Living - yup, i still cry at the end. this book is dangerous. i should never read it again. it makes me. . . ambitious. and rebelious. bad!!

ARC's i need to read:
The Future Happens Twice, by Matthew Browne
Paraworld Zero by Matthew Peterson.

interesting, two matthews.

If you missed them the first time, here are reviews of some M. John Harrison books: Viriconium, and his latest baby, Nova Swing.

need something quick and easy for dinner? this is quick and easy, and makes leftovers.

Angel Hair Extensions

1 lb angel hair
6 slices turkey bacon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet pepper, chopped
1/2 chopped sun dried tomatoes (buy the ones in the jar w/olive oil, and drain the oil)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
shredded parmesan cheese

get a big pot of water boiling. while it's heating up, put 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet, and cook turkey bacon till crisp. remove the turkey bacon and drain on paper towels, then chop it. put a little more olive oil in the skillet, and add sweet pepper, and garlic. cook till soft. add sun dried tomatoes, green onions, chopped bacon, and spinach, adding more oil if needed. stir, and cover. Your angel hair should be just about done by now. stir the balsamic vinegar into the skillet. if you've timed this right, your angel hair will be ready to strain right about the time the spinach has heated through and absorbed a little vinegar.

strain the pasta, toss with spinach and bacon mixture, and garnish with some parmesan cheese.

you can probably make this dish faster than you can read the recipe. enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

kentucky yakitori

contrary to popular belief, "yakitori" doesn't mean fried chicken. it means grilled.One of the most popular street foods in Japan, Yakitori is suprisingly easy to make at home, and worth every moment spent tracking down some unusual ingredients.

go to your local asian grocery store, and buy a bottle of Mirin (sweet rice wine), a small bottle of Shichimi Togarashi) Japanese 7-spice mix, and sake. the super cheap sakes are exactly that: super cheap. avoid them. you shouldn't have to spend more than $15 for a decent bottle of sake, and the stuff will keep in the your fridge for just about forever.

here is what you need, and how much you need of it:
1 to 2 lbs Chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Shichimi Togarashi
1 green onion, sliced very thinly.

in a bowl, mix the soy, mirin, sake and sugar. lay out the chicken in a shallow flat pan in a single layer. pour the marinade over, and then sprinkle on some Shichimi. cover and refridgerate for at least 2 hours (i did it for 24 hours once, and it was incredible). if you're going to grill these, skewer them on soaked skewers, and grill over hot coals. if you don't have a grill (or don't want to use one), put a little oil in a heavy, non-stick flat bottomed skillet, and saute over medium heat, 4-5 minutes each side. garnish with a few more shakes of Shichimi, and sprinkles of green onions.

this is one of my favorite dishes. i can set up the chicken in the marinade in the morning before i leave for work, and it's ready to cook when i come home! heat up some veggies, and you're all set.

* using a non-stick pan is important. the sauce starts to carmelize, and while that gives the most divine outside to your chicken bits, you don't want to be scraping it off your frying pan all night long.

we've got some major coolness on the book block today. click your fingers over to Omnivoracious, one of's neato blogs. does that banner look familiar? that same picture was posted here a few weeks ago. and you too, dear reader, could have your bookshelf posted on Omnivoraious. just follow their easy submission directions. seriously, it's easier than blowing your nose.

bookwise, i am still slogging through Martin's A Feast for Crows. I'll finish it this weekend, i'm sure. i hate that it's starting feel like a chore. it's my own fault for having insanely high expectations for a writer i love, and then no matter what, i'm going to be dissapointed. kinda like the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I had crazy high expectations for that movie, so even if it had been totally awesome (which it wasn't), i still would have been dissapointed. Also reading Ayn Rand's We The Living. last time i read this book, i was 18 years old, the same age as Kira, our protaganist. so far, i love the book as much now as i did then. And yeah, Kira is an idealistic spoiled brat, but i was too, at 18. The end won't be a suprise this time, which will be sad.

I've got The Future Happens Twice by Matt Browne sitting on my coffee table, waiting to be read. seems he's been mailing out arc's like it's going out of style. I wonder what that means?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I'm resigned to the fact that if certain characters haven't made an appearance in Feast for Crows yet, they probably aren't going to. i'll have to wait for Dance with Dragons. Sigh.

however, my review of Dreamsongs II is up over at SFRevu.

My darling other half got to open his Chanukah present to find a copy of Finding Serenity. Props to my friends at Kazoo Books for getting me that book in record time!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

To George R R Martin

Dear George R. R. Martin,

you seduced me with A Game of Thrones, and i became a true believer with the RRetrospecives (and Dreamsongs). but ser, i'm a little annoyed at you right now.

I'm half way through A Feast for Crows, and some of my favorite characters (I'm quite sure they are alive and kicking, or at least kicking) have yet to make an appearance. what gives? OK, so i understand lots of people lost heads and lives in the last few books. Must you introduce a new character for each one that dies? I was given 1,000 pages to fall in love with the Stark Family, to be with them on the first step of their individual hero quests and decide if i was interested in their destinies. I've had nearly four books to decide and redecide how i feel about the insane Lannister siblings. I've watched Daenerys grow into quite the woman, although my husband is convinced her character changed too fast (i disagree with him. she finally woke up) there are Stark children I want to track down, dragons i want to watch. I want to see who Daenerys ends up marrying (because i know she will) or at least hooking up with, and what's going ot happen to little Bran? but 300 pages+, and nary a mention of them.

can you really expect me to quickly fall in love with Asha, and Victarion, the Tyrell's, and Brienne (although Breinne is totally awesome), and others that i feel like i hardly know? I'm not sure I know these people very well yet. They came into the story fully formed, as adults. they already know the rules of the game of thrones. They were never innocents to start with. by default, their paths will be less painful, their safety less valued, their destiny less earned.

i realize there is more going on in Westeros and the Free Cities than the trials of the Stark family. Who but Jon Snow will save Westeros from winter? Who but Bran will see the path? and who but Daenarys will bind it all together? (and who the heck is Jon's mother???)

ok, I'm done whining now. just thought you should know how i feel, and what i'm thinking. thanks. i'm sure by the time i get to the end of Feast for Crows I'll love it as much as I loved the previous novels. . . but i'm a little annoyed right now. I feel like my favorite characters have abandoned me.


gotta switch gears, or i'm going to bitch and whine all afternoon, and never get anymore reading done. if you didn't come here for scifi/fantasy talk, you came here for food.

i've decided i need to learn to make more side dishes, because a hunk of meat with some sauce does not make a meal. and this dish combines onions and honey, two foods i love with a passion.

Onions and Carrots with Honey.

1/2 cup honey
1 cup water
1 package pearl onions (20-30 onions)
16 oz baby carrots, sliced length wise
pinch salt
1/2 tsp coriander

how to skin pearl onions:
boil in a few cups water for a few minutes. drain, and rinse with cold water. as soon as the onions are cool enough to handle, chop the ends off, and push the interior parts out through the end. sounds weird, works like a charm.

in a saucepan bring one cup water and honey to a boil. when it has reduced by half, add the onions and carrots and salt. bring back to a boil, then simmer until most of the remaining water has evaporated, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. stir in the coriander, and serve hot.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

gobble gobble, continued.

we just finished our last bits of leftovers. so i suppose i can give you my top secret thanksgiving recipes.

turkey with orange and garlic

you need:
a roasting turkey of any size, it must still have it's skin!
1 orange
a few cloves of garlic, sliced very thin. the bigger your turkey, the more garlic you will want.
salt & pepper
olive oil
herbs de provence

mix olive oil, salt & pepper and herbs in a small bowl. cut the orange in half. thinly slice one half, and cut the other into wedges. roll back the skin of the turkey, and brush the flesh with half of your olive oil mixture. lay orange and garlic slices on the flesh, and roll the skin back on top of all that. brush the rest of the olive oil on top of the skin, and stuff with oranges, and fresh herbs, if you have them. follow normal turkey cooking directions.

sweet potatoes and apples
this is my husbands recipe, and i hope i got it right!

3 or 4 baking apples - gala, fuji, golden delicious
1 large, and 1 small can of sweet potatoes in water
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp brown sugar

slice the apples into 1/4" thick slices. cut large chunks of sweet potatoes in half. preheat oven to 350, and use a deep, oven safe bowl (we have a glass bowl that is perfect for this!). the bottom layer should be sweet potatoes, then do a layer of apple slices. then dot with butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. keep making layers of sweet potatoes, apples, butter, cinnamon/sugar until you run out of ingredietns, or reach the top of the bowl. depending on your bowl or baking dish, you may need more or less butter, cinnamon, or brown sugar. cover with tin foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until apples are tender.

garlic roasted potatoes

3 lbs new potatoes, scrubbed and wedged
olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 tbp rosemary
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 chopped fresh parsley

preheat oven to 375. put potatoes and olive oil in a zip-lock bag, and shake to cover the potatoes with oil. put the potato wedges in a single layer on a greased baking dish, and bake for 25 minutes. while they are cooking, put some oil in a sauce pan, and sautee the garlic. as soon as the garlic starts to burn, remove from the heat. when garlic has cooled, add rosemary, lemon juice, salt and pepper and parsley. if the mixture seems to dry, add a little more olive oil. before serving, toss potatoes and garlic mixture in a big bowl. it's yummy.

snow peas sauteed with red onion, tomatoes and mint

1/3 cup olive oil
1 to 2 lbs snow peas
half a red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
salt & pepper
3 tbsp mint
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

in a large soup pot, heat the oil, then saute the onions, stirring occasionally. after a few minutes, add the garlic. then stir in the snow peas. stir in the sun dried and fresh tomatoes, and water, and bring mixture to a boil. season with some salt and pepper. cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. add mint and sugar, cook for one minute. then add vinegar.

stuffing . . . .

i cheated. i used stovetop. doctored it with sauteed celery and mushrooms. it was awesome. i think i'll make more tonight.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

gobble gobble!

the turkey has just gone in the oven, and soon it will be time to start chopping potatoes, apples, garlic, onion, etc. this is our first annual pajama thanksgiving, as in we aren't going anywhere, aren't having anyone over, and are still in our pajamas. it's been a busy few months, so it's actually really nice to do nothing for thanksgiving, for once! i recommend it to anyone who feels they've been social enough lately, damnit!

on the menu this evening:

turkey with orange and garlic (i loves me garlic!)
sweet potatoes and apples
garlic roasted potatoes (mmm! more garlic!
snow peas sauteed with red onion, tomatoes and mint

i'm all the about the stuffing. but too lazy to make it from scratch. i cheated, and bought stove top. but it's OK, since stove top won this Store Bought Stuffing Mix Showdown! and, how have i been online this long and not discovered Serious Eats? this place makes Alton Brown look like an idiot.

mmm, my hands still smell like garlic. i don't ever have to worry about vampires, that's for sure!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

beef! it's the other thanksgiving meat!

Happy almost Turkey day! i haven't even done my grocery shopping yet for the big day, have you?

After more than 10 years of being good, i have decided that "I don't eat read meat" is for the birds. (why no red meat you ask? as a goodie two shoes high school student i had to rebel against something. . . but it couldn't be too much of a rebellion. i was a goodie two shoes, you know) and i have discovered sweet and sour pork, and beef burgundy! while i am still trying to find the recipe for that disgusting florescent red sweet and sour sauce served at chinese restaurants, i have found the most magnificient recipe for Beef Burgundy. this is far easier than it looks. all you do is chop some stuff, and stir some stuff, and the stove does all the hard work for you.

Beef Burgundy

you'll need a heavy, very large skillet with a lid, or a dutch oven for this. before getting started, have ready near the stove two heavy plates, both lined with paper towels.

1-2 tbsp olive oil
4 sliced turkey bacon or 2 slices regular bacon
small package pearl onions (about 25 pearl onions)
8 to 12oz button mushrooms, sliced
1 to 1.5 lbs beef chuck steak, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp flour
2 cups burgundy wine
salt & pepper
2 tbsp "herbs de provence" (mix of rosemary, marjoram, basil, thyme, bay leaf, lavender)
1 bay leaf

heat the olive oil in the skillet. cook the bacon, remove it, chop it and leave it to drain on one of the paper towel lined plates. add the pearl onions to the skillet, and cook and stir occasionally, until they begin to brown. once slightly browned, remove them to the second paper towel lined plate. add the mushrooms to the skillet, and cook until they begin to brown, adding a little more oil if needed. once the mushrooms are slightly browned, remove them and add them to the paper tower lined plate with the pearl onions. put the beef in the pan, and cook over medium heat until browned all over. at this point, we're not trying to get the meat cooked all the way through. when the beef has browned a bit, put it on the same plate with the bacon.

add the onions and carrots to the pan, and cook till the onion starts turning translucent. put the bacon and beef back in the pan, and stir in garlic and and flour. stir in the burgundy wine, herbs de provence, bay leaf, and some salt & pepper. heat until simmering, then cover, and cook on very low heat for 2 hours, or until the beef is very tender. add the reserved mushrooms and pearl onions, and cook another 10 minutes to get them heated through.

serve hot, with crusty bread or wild rice. makes 4-6 servings and usually leaves enough wine in the bottle for 2-3 glasses.

mmmm.... food. and i got a 6-pack of Bell's Special Double Cream Stout. holy crap is this stuff good. you know it's a limited edition when the graphic design on the label sucks. i love Bell's!

beyond my two favorite things, food and beer, is my other favorite thing: reading books and making all sorts of snarky comments about them.

just finished Crashing Through by Robert Kurson. I can not recommend this book enough. no one told me it was non-fiction, and it's so unbelievable, it's easy to think you are reading an inspirational novel. as a young child, Mike May is blinded in a chemical explosion. having been born sighted, he is a candidate for a rare stem cell transplant that may give him his sight back, or at least parts of it. after May and his wife Jennifer weigh the fears and doubts against the possibility of the regaining of his sight, he decides to have the procedure. and it works. he can see. but May will never see like you or i do. he has no depth perception, and can not read faces. Kurson spent two years with the May family, researching Mike May's childhood, the damage to his eye (one is a prosthetic), and interviewing neural and optical surgeaons. i usually avoid non-fiction, and i can't say enough things about this book!

Cimmerian City - not as good. as i said before, it's La Femme Nikita meets Underworld, set on the movie set of The 5th Element, with some plot holes big enough for the Titanic to sail through. I'll link to the full review, once i've written it. i hate to be mean to a young, new writer, but this story did have a lot of potential, and most of it went right down the drain.

Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters. some new writers should get a day job. I want this S.M. Peters guy to quit any day job he has, and write full time. Peters gets steampunk right, and i mean superb. book doesn't come out till February, so book review won't get published till shortly before then. in paperback, this should retail for under $10, and if even I can afford to buy a copy, so can you! so go to Amazon right now, and pre-order it! because it's really good!

in DVD news, finally got to see Final Fantasy: Advent Children. i can see why so many cosplayers dress up as Cloud. all you need is a bunch of black clothing, a bucket of hair gel, and an 8 foot styrofoam sword. the movie was mostly never ending sword fights where no one ever got hurt or broke a sweat, melodramatic monologues, cool robots and explosions, and ansgst filled orphans and street people. as far as quality movies go, it was pretty bad. but kinda fun, in that stylish video game kinda way. i might watch it again before it goes back!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cimmerian somthin'

just finished Cimmerian City by Rae Lindley. beyond it being Underworld meets La Femme Nikita described by someone with the writing skills of a highschooler, stay tuned for my soon to be written review for Multiverse Reviews. Someone really needs to look into peer review. Cimmerian City is kinda funny, but i don't think it was supposed to be funny.

also reading The Ape in the Corner office, by Richard Conniff. and this is a book that's supposed to be funny! Conniff compared monkey sociology with human sociology, and they are pretty much the same. very, very funny. i'd take this book to work and read it on my lunchbreak, but if i did, i don't think i'd be able to look my boss in the face afterwards without laughing.

on to Matt Browne's The Future Happens Twice, and we'll see what else shows up in the mail this week.

In DVD news, i've been netflixing old episodes of Samurai Champloo. i think i just got to the episodes they couldn't show on american TV. Fu warms up to Mugen, because she's jealous of Jean's momentary flame. it's a good show, even better when you get to see the episodes in order. it would be so romantic if Fu hooked up with Jean, but i know it will never happen. *sigh*.

it's still cold outside. time for some easy, fragrant, citrus olive chicken. this is way easier than it looks, and damn it's good.

Lemon Chicken with Olives
2 tbsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
1 to 1.5 pounds chicken parts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 cup chicken stock
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1/2 cup brown olives, rinsed of brine
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsp chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375. mix cinnamon with some salt and pepper in a bowl, and rub this mixture into the outside of the chicken parts. heat oil in a skillet, and fry the chicken over medium heat, browning the outside (you're not trying to cook the chicken all the way through). remove chicken and put in an oven safe dish. fry the onions in the skillet till golden, add the ginger and chicken stock and bring to a boil. pour this mixture over the chicken, cover with tin foil an bake in the oven for 20 minutes. remove the chicken from the oven, mix in the lemon wedges, olives, and honey. bake uncovered for another 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. remove from the oven, stir in the chopped cilantro.

serve hot, either over rice, or with crusty bread to soak up the sauce. this is very saucy!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

soupy soup.

the leaves are falling, it's getting cold outside. time for soups, stews, stoups, and chili.

easy, simply, quick, yummy:
Mushroom Barley Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
8-12 oz mixed mushrooms (such as button, cremini, or portabello), chopped coarsley. any dried mushrooms should be re-hydrated with some hot water, then dried on paper towels.
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup dry pearl barley
salt & pepper
1 tbsp dry dill, or 3 tbsp fresh minced dill
5 cups chicken broth (or a combination of broth and water to equal 5 cups)

melt oil and butter over medium heat. add onion and garlic, and cook, stiring, until the onion starts to soften. add celery and carrots, cook 2-3 minutes. add mushrooms, barley, dill, and a little salt and pepper. Stir, to get the mushrooms and barley down the bottom of the pot. when the barley has begun to get "toasted", add the broth. turn stove up to high to bring the soup to a boil. once it is boiling, turn it down to a simmer, and cook partially covered for 30 minutes, or until barley is plump and soft.

enjoy with crusty bread, or sandwiches. this soup can stay in the fridge for 5 days. i've never tried to freeze it, but i'm sure it would freeze OK.

books in the to be read & reviewed pile:
Shadowplay, by Tad Williams
The Future Happens Twice, by Matt Browne
Cimmerian City, by Rae Lindley

Thursday, November 1, 2007

George R R Martin's Dreamsongs Review

i just realized my review for George R R Martin's Dreamsongs I got posted over on SFRevu:


go read it. probably one of the longest reviews i've written, but it's a good article.

shadowmarching the wrong way?

been travelling more. was down in Atlanta for 2 days, then back down for southern southern GA in two weeks. nothing much exciting in Atlanta. that airport is really bizarre! a super nice lady at the MARTA station helped me get a ticket to get to the airport. everyone down there talks funny and calls me "hon".

finished Tad William's Shadowmarch. it was okay. felt stilted, predictable, patterned. most paragraphs consisted of 2 run on sentences, followed by a confusing and drawn out simile, followed by a line of dialogue. Williams made a habit of listing out what the characters were doing - "He got out of bed and walked across the room. He put on his chainmail whatever and called the guard, who was standing outside. he left the room and walked down the stairs." Okay, so it isn't quite that bad, but parts of the book are close.

I need to see which was written first, Shadowmarch or A Game of Thrones. In Shadowmarch, the family is in a northern province, on the borderlands of where the "fairyfolk" live. And were not talking cutesy fairies with wings here, we're talking the creepy ones who steal your kids and burn your farm. A human enemy is rising in the south, threatening the northern provinces, there is talk of an alliance through marriage. I was waiting for someone to say that famous Game of Thrones line: "They're marching the wrong way". Twin regents Briony and Barrick (and what's with there being twins in every single epic fantasy series? ok, dichotomy and balance, i get it already! who was the first person to decide every epic fantasy series needed a set of twins?) are trying to keep their northern keep of Southmarch safe and under control. these kids have been running amock through the keep for 15 years, yet none of the nobles seem to know if they can be trusted? and the kids don't seem to have a clue who to trust? they weren't stuck in a convent for the last 15 years, so maybe they are just dumb. or unaware that their dad is the king. and being held hostage down south.

maybe i'm being harsh. Maybe i'm getting jaded. maybe i've just been really spoiled reading some really good shit lately. Because if you're looking for something fantasy-ish (we do have plenty of active magic, and a pretty cool bizarre religion and culture in the way down south) with action and battles and swords and some wizardly, and crypts and secret passages, and intrigue, and the like, you'll have a good time with Shadowmarch. you just might not be all that impressed with it.

Many, many hours stuck on airplanes and in airports let me catch up with one of my perennial favorites, The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. this is one of the few books i can say lived up to all it's hype. gents beware, this is totally a girly book. told from the points of view of four daughters who travel with their parents on a mission to the Congo in the 1960s. One girl is a princess, one is a tomboy, one a learning disabled mute, the last one but a babe. This book is beautiful, and a tearjerker. I've read it before, so i know what's going to happen: who gets to come home to America, who stays in Africa, who dies. and i start tearing up about 10 pages ahead of time. ladies, if you've never read this book, get it. you will like it. you will see yourself and everyone you know in it.

let's see. . . glazed apples. like caramel apples? or like candied apples on the stove? i got a recipe for Tart Tatin, which is like an upside down apple pie made with candied apples:

Tart Tatin:

first, you gotta make the pastry part:
2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into small peices
2 or 3 tbsp milk (and not that skim stuff!)

blend sugar & flour. cut the butter in with a pastry knife, and blend till mixture look like coarse crumbs (this is like making regular pie dough!). add the milk one tbsp at a time, and blend it in till the dough holds together. depending on how humid the room is, you might not need all the milk. wrap dough tight in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge.

now you gotta make the "inside" part:
1/2 cup butter, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
3 lbs apples, peeled and wedged
2 tbsp lemon juice

with the stove turned off, spread butter on the bottom of a heavy skillet (the kind of skillet than is oven safe). pour sugar over the butter, then layer apples on top of that. sprinkle with lemon juice, and put it on the stove, over medium to high heat. you want the sugar and butter to melt together and carmelize the apples. shake pan (but don't stir up too much!!) occasionally. after 20 minutes, take it off the heat, or your apples will burn. as this mixture is cooling, roll out your dough on a floured surface. and preheat your oven to 425. you need the dough to be a little bigger than the top of the pan, it's OK if it's pretty thick, but make there aren't any holes!! lay the pastry round on top of the pan, and tuck the edges in. prick lightly with a fork (this is so the steam can escape, but you don't want gigantic fork holes). bake 20 min at 425. the top of the pastry part should be golden. have a friend help you turn (flip!) the pastry out onto a platter. the inside is really hot! be careful!

and if you just want the carmelized apples, i suppose you could skip the pastry part, and have the carmelized apples with vanilla icecream and mint sprigs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Box o Books.

it's so good to be home. travelling got old, really fast. off to NC, then MD, then i was home for 2 days, then in Indianapolis for a while. i'm happy to be home. and my review of M John Harrison's NovaSwing is online. Go check it out!

and Mom sent me a box of books! i love having a parent who works at a bookstore! now i just have to find space on my bookshelves for some of this stuff:

and speaking of bookcases, i had some film i needed to use up in my camera. my bookshelves are messy, and saggy:

i love books. too much fun. Just got Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams from the library. somepeople say his stuff is awesome, others say it's awful. i guess I'll find out!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yup, still a fangirl.

i have no excuse for not posting. i am lame. was working, was travelling. can't wait to upload pictures. still, no excuse.

recent fangirl purchases:

Fullmetal Alchemist Anime volumes 1-4
Tsubasa Anime volume 1

Fullmetal Alchemist Manga volume 11
Tsubasa manga volume 4

other purchases, not exactly fangirl related:

The Alchemist's Kitchen, by Guy Ogilvy (OK, maybe that was a little fangirl related) and The book of Jhereg, by Steven Brust.

alright, so that Steven Brust book is more for my other half, but i'm sure i'll read it too. Just finished reading George R R Martin's A Storm of Swords, and still plowing through Dreamsongs II. i love this man! my only beef with aSoIaF is everytime i say "that person is my favorite character!", they end up dead. Which means Jaime is next. So long as he takes Cersei with him. . .

Stay tuned for photos from my trip, photos of my bookcases, and more good reads! unfortunately, not much time for cooking lately. been travelling to the 'rents, and a visit to Mom means a few boxes of books are on the way. can't wait to see what she sends!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


where have i been??

plowing through really long frakken books, that's where.

Dreamsongs II, by George R R Martin
Storm of Swords, by George R R Martin
Bread Matters, by Andrew Whitley

i haven't been reading as much. my brain has needed a little break, and now that it's had one, i can feel my books, and my friends books, and the library calling to me. . . . read. . . read!!! it's like the zombie call, but instead of "brains. . .. brains. . . . must eat brains!!!", i hear "books. . . books. . . must read books. . " again. nice.

speaking of eating. . . . .

it's time for cheater's chilli!! delicious thick chilli in a quarter of the time!

cheater's chilli:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small can green chiles
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
pinch of hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp cilantro
1 can kidney beans
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 pound cooked chicken, shredded or chopped small
salt & pepper

heat oil in heavy saucepan. add onions, canned chile, and garlic. cook, stiring, till onion is soft. add everything else, and stir it in. cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened. uncover, and simmer another 10 minutes. serve hot. can be plain in a bowl, over rice, with corn chips, or rolled up in warmed torillas.

you'll never want taco bell again.

i will try not to be gone so long next time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I am Locke Lamora fangirl.

if you know who he is, enjoy this interview with his "dad". then go over here for my fangirly review.

Monday, September 3, 2007

been MIA

yes, yes, i know i've been MIA for a while. i've been, uhhh. . . . Martining. martinizing? martin-ing?

finished the first Dreamsongs book. I'm not supposed to talk about it till the review is published. suffice to say, Martin rocks my world. i think if he and I were to have dinner sometime, we would get along nicely.

finished A Clash of Kings. this i can talk about all day! my favorite characters didn't make as much of an appearance as I'd have liked: Catylen, Arya, Daenarys, and Jon Snow. I shouldn't complain too much, as those characters did get their chapters, but not enough. Tyrion is becoming a fast favorite to root for, but then i remember what happened when I was rooting for Eddard all that time. I laugh everytime the boys play at war, because i figure Daenarys is just going to show up one day and kick all their asses (as soon as she manages to get herself, 3 baby dragons, and a nomadic army who is deathly afraid of water, across a few thousand miles worth of ocean, that is). Adorable little Arya is goofing around with one of Robert's bastard boys, and Jon-boy is soon to inherit all of the North. if those kids play their cards right, they could be the start of their own little dynasty. so long as they don't get killed/poisoned/maimed/ first. don't tell me what happens. i've got too much in my too-be-read pile to go get the third book right now. but i will read it, i promise.

and when i finish all the Martin i can get my hands on, there is always this:

started Harrison's Nova Swing. another one I'm not supposed to talk about till the review is published (next month! eek! i better get my butt in gear!). lots of beautiful metaphors.

read Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. I can't believe i hadn't read this yet. Gaiman does contemporary mythology like no one else. and this book is hilarious. go find a copy. your library probably has is. i'm still deathly scared of spiders. Anansi be damned. i squish spiders when i find them inside my apartment.

i get all my books from the library, but i spend actual money on my manga. how crazy is that?

damn you, ladies of CLAMP! what heroin is in your manga that i must spend all my hard earned money on your trite plot-lines, lack of read physics, adorable yet hilarious characters who are forlorn and heartbroken, and whose vulnerability makes them all the more attractive? not to mention i totally want Yuko's wardrobe. I am now the proud owner of the first 3 volumes of Tsubasa. they make those early edition 3 volume issues so damn cheap, you can't help but get 3 volumes for the price of one. but then you are addicted, and must buy more!!! when is barnes and noble going to start mailing out those 10% off coupons, or $5 coupons, like Bed bath & beyond does??? cuz i think those store managers get mad at me when i spend three hours in the graphic novel area, reading manga but not buying any. althuogh i do make purchasing suggestions to teenagers with money.

Super Easy Enchiladas.
you need cooked chicken for this. a great dish the day after you bbq'd a bunch of chicken. it would probably be good with leftover thanksgiving turkey too.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small/medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 small can diced chiles (use the medium or hot ones, the mild is too mild)
1 cup chopped and seeded tomato
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
sea salt
8 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
2 cups shredded cheese (your choice of what you use)
one single sized serving container of plain yogurt
10 soft shell tortillas, 6-7" across. it's OK to use 12 if that's what's in the package.

preheat oven to 350. heat 2 tbsp oil in large skillet. cook onion and garlic till soft. add chiles, tomato, cilantro and good pinch of sea salt. stir. simmer 15 minutes till it thickens some. (you want as little tomato juice as possible in there). in a small bowl, combine 1 cup cheese, yogurt, and chicken. grease a large baking dish. fill each tortilla with an equal amount of the cheese-chicken mix, and roll up the tortillas, placing them seam side down in the baking dish.
cramming them all in the baking dish should help them stay rolled up. pour the tomato mixture over the tortillas, and put in the oven for 15 minutes or until heated through. remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and then put back in the oven for another 5 minutes. let sit a few minutes before serving.

see? super easy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I have received the holy grail, and I am bragging about it to everyone I know!


and I got the ARC of the second too! (I just didn't have it with me at work, when I took the photo). Stay tuned for reviews on SFRevu later in the fall. So far, I'm most impressed by the apparent retail of these books, less than $30 each, and about 700 pages. If you are looking for that perfect gift to keep your husband/wife/child/sibling/cousin/friend out of your hair for a good long white, this is it.

and I also got the ARC for the new M.John Harrison, Nova Swing. It's a psuedo-sequel to Light (and the covers of both books are negative opposites of each other, which is just the coolest thing. I need to post a photo of the books next to each other, so you can see it in all it's glory). He writes so. . . halucinagenically. A nice contrast to Martin, don't you think?

i'm gonna go dive in my Martin.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

i like linking to reviews.

Not much to report today. I logged onto SF Revu to find two of my reviews were published: Pandora's Closet, a fun collection of "enchanted item" short stories, and Splinter, by Adam Roberts. go check it out.

don't think i write reviews super fast, those were done a few weeks ago, just had to wait for the right SFRevu edition to see them published. The review of the adorably punny Un Lun Dun is up as well. My favorite China Mieville so far.

I just finished Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time, a story of Christopher, a teenaged autistic boy who decided to investigate the murder of his neighbor's dog. It isn't the dead dog, or the neighbor that is important. it's the story that is told through the ideas of an autistic person, how he views the world, how he views and interacts with other people and his parents. A great read. This was a "reading together" book at my local library a few months ago.

Just picked up A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin, from the library. and in fact, i think i'm going to go pop a cold one, and dig in.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Road, Un Lun Dun, etc. . .

finished McCarthy's The Road. It is beautiful, desolate, painful, transparent. Get a copy, you won't regret it. I'll get a review that's longer than 3 sentences up soon. i promise.

nearly done with China Mieville's Un Lun Dun. I'd thought it was pronounced "Ooon Loon Doone", but i think it's more like just how it looks: unlundun. Un-London. get it? A very modern, very fun Alice in Wonderland. has a nice environmental twist that might have been accidentental. Very punny as well. I need to find a use in everyday language for the word "Smombie" and "smoggler", not to mentio all the fun toys. again, i shall have a review up, eventually, that is more than a few sentences.

one of the libraries here has a monthly book sale, where they get rid of discards and donations. paperbacks were 3 for a buck, and i found books 3, 4 and 5 in the Wheel of Time series. I haven't found a library in the county that has books #3 or #4, and i just got them for 34 cents a peice. damn. Also picked up Tim Power's Last Call. his Anubis Gates is one of my favorite books, ever, so I hope this one is as good.

I'm still staring at this book with the Eagle on the cover.

we're making turkey burgers tonight. this isn't exactly a "recipe", as i don't really measure anything. but this is the mix i keep coming back to.

1 - 1.25 lbs ground turkey
half an onion, minced , or half a bunch of green onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Worcheshire sauce
sea salt
ground pepper to taste
a few ounces mushrooms, minced (optional)
2 tbsp oil

blend everything but the oil in a large bowl. let sit 5-10 minutes, stir up again to get the top bits on the bottom, and the bottom bits up top. let sit another few minutes.

pour the oil in a skillet, and heat over medium/medium-high heat. Using a large spoon, put globs of turkey in, and shape it into a patty. Sure, you could form the patties before hand, but i've found that's just a waste of time. forming the patties right in the skillet is surprisingly easy. when the bottom is cooked through, flip them over. cooking time depends on how hot your skillet is, how big your patties are, and what kind of skillet you are using.

although i think it's obvious, these should be served on warm buns. french fries and veggies on the side is nice too.

If you don't like Worcheshire sauce there is something wrong with you. but, in the case that you are weird, and you want to use something else, try any kind of bbq sauce or marinade. be careful of those with a high sugar content, as the sugar can burn in the skillet, taking away an amazing amout of tastiness with it.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Vellum, or not.

I made it 70 pages into Hal Duncan's Vellum, and decided the weird threshold was more than even I could handle. it's going back to the library, and maybe I'll give it another try next year. when i'm more mature, or something.

next on the "to be read" pile was Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Holy shit is it depressing! i've been reading a lot of action-adventury type stuff lately, so this is quite the departure. it took some getting used to. I couldn't put the book down last night. . . it's like a trainwreck, i can't look away.

just got my ARC of M.L. Bushman's Miracle, it is her first novel. small press, has an eagle on the cover. i'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Happy 7th month birthday.

tomorrow, this blog will be 7 months old. and what did i learn in 7 months of blogging about food and books?

that I read way more than I formally cook. I'm averaging just over a book a week. . . and formally cooking not that often. So I've decided to unformalize this blog. Instead of posting weekly, with a book and a recipe in each post, I will post whenever I want about what I'm reading, and you'll get a recipe . . . probably not as often. thank god books don't have calories.

alright, into the literary fray. I tried to resist Harry Potter. really, I did. But my friend managed to end up with three copies (yes, three! all from Amazon!), so she lent me one. I read it in 28 hours, my husband finished shortly after I did. And my other friend says she just mailed me her just-read copy! so, I'm going to have two. If I'm a really good friend, I'll give both copies back to their rightful owners, along with a copy of one of my favorite books. . . .

Harry Potter. will i get struck down by lightning if i say i was unimpressed? That it felt like 500 pages of mostly nothing, and 200 pages of confusing choppy, blocky, funky action? will i lose my fictionfan liscense if i say the best part for me was when Neville Longbottom got to swing that beautiful Griffyndor sword? i shan't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, suffice to say it didn't end the way I expected.

I blame really good fracking books for my nonexcitement of HP. not that Ms. Rowling is a bad author, far from it. Just these fellas are way better. Said fellows would inlcude my latest obsession, Scott Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Alliterative titles aside, this is the most fun i've had all year, and i've learned all sorts of new and exciting ways to use the word $^#&! click on the link, read the review, buy the book. suddenly I feel like changing my e-mail signature to "Captain Jack who?" I expect Lynch is hiding in the far corners of Wisconsin to get away from the storm of fangirls this series could ignite.

You heard it here first folks, I may have an internet exclusive on the first online review of Gary Wassner's fourth book in his GemQuest fantasy series, The Revenge of the Elves. I couldn't find any other reviews floating around, and i just got so sucked in, the book wouldn't let me go! Again, go read the reviews (and the reviews of the others), and get the first three books in the series. by the time you finish those, this 4th book should be on bookshelves near you.

I'm about 30 pages into Hal Duncan's Vellum. another one of those books that i kept hearing good things about, that it was surreal, that it was weird, that maybe it was right up my alley. Well, it's weird. I'll check back in another 100 pages.

catch ya later.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I'm not reading Harry Potter.

I'm not reading Harry Potter.

i will, eventually, just not right now. and holy crap it's been three weeks since i posted something. that is totally lame. i know, i'll use the "i was on vacation" excuse! it works everytime!

it's summer. too hot to turn the oven on. but i need something to take to a pot luck. and my friend is vegetarian. a ha! got the perfect thing!

Chickpea Salad

1 large can chickpeas, drained.
3 green onions, chopped
half a cucumber, seeded and chopped
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped.
half a bunch of parsley, chopped.
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp mint
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of sea salt
black pepper

blend all ingredients, and chill a few hours. taste, and add more salt or pepper as needed. Yes, this is very similar to Tabbouli, but i think it's better.

The super quick version of the last three weeks of my life:

I finished Peter Watt's Blindsight, click there for the review. I finished this book in like 3 days, because it was more addictive than heroin, and really frackin' good. (I was reading this book "under the influence", by the way) It's putting me further and further down the path of jaded, i'm afraid. take for example, The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor. I have no idea if the book was crap compared to Blindsight, or if it was just crap to begin with (i'm going towards the latter). Beddor said he was aiming for young adult, which is fine, but I just don't know how many 12 year olds these days are familiar with Lewis Carroll. I also received my ARC of Gary Wassner's The Revenge of the Elves. Hokey name, great book. The prose is getting tighter, the stakes are higher. We're in the land of Robert Jordan here, but a quicker and slightly less painful payoff.

The Book of Names by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori looked like it would be The Davinci Code for Jews. .. you know, fun and fast? It was fast. but it was also insultingly stupid with characters as deep as a dried up puddle. I want my two days back.

DragonHead is a newish manga from Minetaro Mochizuki, about a train full of kids who are in a tunnel when there is a disaster and the tunnel caves in, derailing the train and killing most of the children. It wasn't drawn very well, but the story worked well. and one of those kids is totally creepy. this is a dark psychological thriller. you know those awful made for TV SciFi Channel movies? sometimes they work pretty well in manga. I'll be looking for more of this series.

Et Cetera is a not so newish manga from Tow Nakazaki. Polar opposite of Dragonhead, this is more slapstick western. not one I'll be looking for more of. I've seen funny western done good, and this wasn't it.

what, no token mention of my obsession, Fullmetal Alchemist, and how many volumes I purchased in the last few weeks? If any of you work in a bookstore, you are sure to have seen those abnoxious teenagers who stand in the graphic novel section, reading their favorite manga, then they put it back on the shelf, and walk out of your store without spending any money. I was that kid. . .er, person. i'm actually pretty impressed with myself, that i stood in the same spot for about 3 hours, and caught up with my dear Fullmetal. He's killing humunculous left and right, he's found his dad, he's growing up, and getting into the habit of running around without his shirt on. Nice. when's the next volume come out?

I got some goodies from the library earlier today. stay tuned till next time, for updates on Hal Duncan's Vellum, China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, Cormac McCarthy's The Road (we had it first, Oprah!) and Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.

and maybe one of these days i'll give up my secret bagel recipe. or maybe not!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

fajita platter

not only has it been a while since I posted, I've also gotten back on the book reviewing bandwagon. and that means lots of clickable reviews for you! as I teased you about last time, there are now reviews up for Ian McDonald's Brasyl, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and Paul Park's The Tourmaline. Go read, and then hit the library or your favorite bookstore. tell 'em skiffy sent you. when the clerk gives you that "what??" look, quickly snap a photo with your handy dandy camera phone, and e-mail me the picture.

The clickfest continues. . . elsewhere in the book world, I've had a few run ins with Reading under the influence, and I've decided Gary Wassner's GemQuest would make an excellent anime series.

new book aquisitions include Food and Wine Magazine's cookbook of the year 2005, and a fun cute read called Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl, a reknowned food critic that I've never heard of. the book is funny, but I bought it for the 4 star restaurant cheat recipes. That cookbook will keep me happy for a long time, not to mention it's got gorgeous photos.

Library aquisitions include Peter Watt's Blindsight, which i kept hearing a lot about online. I'm about 70 pages in, and the hallucinations have begun to subside. it feels little like Charles Stross, a little like the movie Event Horizon, and just maybe a little like Sagan's Contact. The freakishly semi-lobotimized and self-mutilated crew is chatting with aliens, who know the word cocksucker. I'd love to know where aliens with a 200 word vocabulary learned that word. I'm pretty sure I read Watt's Starfish a few years ago, and didn't care for it at all. But this Blindsight things is f'ing addictive. Also in the library bag are Paul Park's The White Tyger, (no surprise there), and something called City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa, by Adam LeBor, which starts in the 1920s and follows families, via interviews, to their present day situations. I do not know yet, if this will be good or not.

I could have sworn I heard someone say Fajitas. oh wait, that was me. This is obscenely easy, and tastes almost like you're at Don Pablos.

Cilantro Lime Fajita marinade for approximately one pound of chicken or steak
2 limes
2 scallions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coriander

I highly suggest using fresh cilantro instead of dried. it's one of those herbs where it really does make a difference.

cut your meat into 1/2 inch wide strips, and lay in a dish that will hold it all in a single layer. if you want, add some sliced sweet peppers and onions. roll the limes around on the table a few times (it helps loosen up the juice). cut them in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl. mix in all the other incredients. pour the marinade over the meat, and leave in the fridge for a few hours. when ready to cook, remove meat and grill or broil till cooked to your liking. sautee the peppers and onions in as little liquid as possible in a frying pan on the stove. serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, and salsa.

sharp salsa (pico de gallo)
half a small onion, diced, or a bunch green onions, diced.
3 medium to large tomatos, seeded and chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, or 2 hot peppers with seeds, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
good pinch salt.

blend all ingredients, serve immediately.

ok readers, you got books, you got food. what are you still sitting here for?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

it's too hot to think.

it's too hot to think. it must be too hot to buy books, as well. Or maybe I just don't want to sit in the stuff car for the 15 minutes it takes to get to Barnes & Schnoble?

I managed to go 2 weeks without buying books! aren't you proud of me?? but i did hit the library. got my grubby little hands on Ian McDonald's Brasyl, and Paul Park's The Tourmaline (book 2 in his Roumania series), some Manga, and a Japanese cookbook filled with ingredients I've never heard of. I'm nearly done with Brasyl. It's good. it's really freakin good. but it's really hard to read. Props to McDonald for setting an quantum computational epic in Sau Paulo. Good for him for sprinkling the novel with all flavorings of Brazilian slang and culture. too bad only about a quarter of the Portuguese words are in the glossary in the back. Too bad even more that I don't speak a lick of Portuguese, or know jack about South American indigenous peoples and their religious pantheons. So the books is rather hard to follow. But I must be enjoying it, since I'm 50 pages from the end and can't put the stupid thing down. Stay tuned for a full length review. Same with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, I owe both of these books at least 600 words a peice. maybe more.

I'm still working through Pandora's Closet, and it's quite enjoyable. Not every story is a gem, but it's very nice that each story is short, so I can read one each night before I go to bed, even if I go to bed really late.

Should have some thoughts next time on the Paul Park book, as I haven't even cracked it yet. But i remember the first book in the series A Princess of Roumania being light, fun, and surface. and easy read. I could really use something like that right now.

it is too frackin' hot to cook. but i do it anyways. this side dish is easy, quick, cheap, and yummy hot or cold.

Potatoes & Mushroom

12oz fresh mushrooms (any kind you liked)
1.5 lbs potatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
leaves from a bunch of parsley or basil
salt & pepper
more parsley or basil, to garnish
shredded cheese (optional)

pre heat oven to 350. slice potatoes & mushrooms. in a large bowl, toss mushrooms and potatoes with herbs, garlic, salt and pepper (to taste). grease a large baking dish that will hold everything in a shallow layer. pour everything in the baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until potatoes are just nearly cooked. stir it up once or twice while it's baking (this is not a caserole type dish). sprinkle a thin layer of cheese on top, and bake another five minutes. let cool a few minutes, garnish with herbs, and enjoy!

and it's even easier to make than it looks.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

the comicbook addiction

Not sure how long this post will be, as I have limited internet time today, and bread rising in the oven. See below for easy French cooking.

ARCs recently received:
Pandora’s Closet, a book of short stories involving the Pandora’s box mythology. I’m looking forward to the Timothy Zahn entry. The Kevin J Anderson entry, not so much.
The Clean Tech Revolution, by Ron Pernick & Clint Wilder – Pernick runs a California sustainable energy investment firm, and this is his research into the sustainable energy industries: who is doing what, and where, and where is the money coming from. Being a tree hugger has nothing to do with being altruistic. I’ve read the solar and wind power chapters. Interesting in a dry, econ kind of way. But damn, I wish I’d gotten that engineering degree. Look at all the cool jobs I could have applied for!

Book purchased recently:
Note to self: when visiting fanfare, bring $22. (two $10 books, plus tax). Leave all other cash and credit cards at home. Otherwise this is what happens:
Fullmetal Alchemist volumes 6, 7 and 8. They started creation of the anime around volume 7. Which means the manga plotline and the anime plotline don't really match anymore. Ed and Al are still finding trouble, everywhere, and have gone to spend some time with their teacher, Izumi. I love Izumi, she's one of my favorite characters. Al hooks up with some Chimera, who are cool people, but they work for Greed, who is well, greedy. Marta could have been a good friend for Al. They have a longer relationship in the anime. Greed gets to bite the big one about 20 times (hey, whose that guy in the chair??), and Al gets his creepy memory back. Who needs a stupid circle now! Some brand spankin’ new characters from Xing show up. I don’t know how I feel about these new characters. Did Arakawa feel she had to completely depart from the Anime story line? I trust her. . . wait a minute, back to Izumi. . . i think she's my favorite character, but i'm not sre. Damn you Arakawa, why do you have to make it so hard for me to have a handful of favorite characters? I love them all! I think i am now caught up with all the books that aren't quite still in print. and have you seen the cover to volume 13?? it's kinda hot.
Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio – steampunk/gaslight action adventure mad scientist romance with armed guards who talk like they’re in a bad Dracula flick. Did you get all that? Phil Foglio ROCKS. You know, I was just expecting dirty humor and inside jokes. Nope. This baby’s got fun art, an adorable plot, and hilarious dialogue. And supposedly the narrator at the beginning is a self portrait of Phil himself?

One more goodie on the plate:
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke – I’d heard this was “Harry Potter” for grownups. More like Victor Hugo does Harry Potter. Stodgy Britons in the early 1800s argue over servants and carriages. Occasional magic is done to beat that dastardly Napoleon. I’m about ¾ through, and still waiting for some interesting conflict. Stay tuned for a full length review. It’s the least I can do for a 800 page+ novel.

Now, on to the real plate. I love my Provincial French cookbook. Everything is way easier than it looks, I’ve heard of most of the ingredients, and it’s all so damn good.

Burgundy Chicken – serves four

2 tbsp butter
4 chicken legs
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup white Burgundy or Chardonnay wine
1 tsp thyme
salt & pepper
8oz seedless green grapes, cut in half
¼ cup half n half
some parsley (garnish)

before starting, make sure all the chicken will fit in the pan. If you use chicken that has some skin on it, which I recommend, you’ll have some shrinkage.

melt butter in heavy skillet. Add chicken, and cook till browned all over (they don’t need to cook through). Remove chicken to a plate. Add shallots and cook till soft. Return chicken to pan, add wine, thyme, salt, pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. The chicken should be tender and nearly falling off the bone. Remove the chicken to a plate. Add the grapes to the sauce, and boil the sauce till it thickens slightly. add the half and half, and simmer for a few minutes, stirring. Pour sauce over the Chicken, garnish with fresh parsley, and enjoy!

Excellent with garlic roasted potatoes, Gratin Savoyard, and crusty french bread to soak up all that divine sauce!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I need a life.

I got a LOT of reading done in the last week or so. Work slow down? Nothin’ on TV? None of my stuff in the Netflix queue? A little bit of all of the above. So here’s a go at quickly summing up some good and not so good books that have been on the horizon.

Oh my god, I got something from the library that wasn’t scifi! Or fantasy! Gimme a break, it had a pretty picture on the cover. Mozart’s Sister, by Nancy Moser follows the life of, yup, you guessed it, Mozart’s sister Nannerl (Anna Maria). When they were children, Papa Mozart carted them around Europe as child geniuses. Nannerl was the only one who didn’t know her future didn’t involve the stage, but a husband, a house, and babies. Quite the shock. Not having met a single other female who wasn’t a wife/mother/widow, she should have seen it coming, don’t you think? The writing had a modern feel to it, which really didn’t match the Mozart families traditional cathlolic values. Nannerl seems a woman out of place. Nancy Moser gave a little blurb at the end about how she got involved in the writing the story. She made her religious views pretty clear, and they don’t match my own. How awful is it, that I allow something like that to color my thoughts on a book? I read somewhere that a story can only live if the author is dead. Because the story should be about the damn story, not the author.

Back to Scifi, I also picked up The Secret City, by Carol Ermshwiller, who has won about a bazillion awards. Aliens who look pretty much just like humans have visited Earth, as “tourists”. They can blend in pretty well, and all expect to go home soon. When they are abandoned here, the next generation is born here, and they know nothing of their homeworld. When the rescuers do arrive, the earth-born aliens don’t want to go home, because Earth has become their home. The Secret City is a character driven novel, not much action, not much sciency-ness. The back cover says it’s “New Age”. I’m thinking I aughta avoid New Age for a while, or maybe take a break from character driven novels for once, and hook up with some fun easy action. Star Wars, anyone?

In the “continued from last time” section, I blew through CLAMP’s xxxHolic, and in fact, it was so fun, I think I might read it again. The crossover snippets are almost as sweet as Yuko’s wardrobe, I’m still trying to figure where one part of her kimono ends, and the next begins. Somone’s got to be working on liscencing this for an anime, but they’d probably screw it up. The more manga I read, the more I’m finding the anime versions are usually cheap (yet sexy) imitations. I’m amazed at how much more emotion Mangaka are able to convey through a black and white comic book, than through an animated tv show or movie. Still slogging through Frank Herbert’s White Plague. you know, this started out so good. After 100 pages or so, it went to crap. I own it, so I can slowly torture myself with the pedantic writing, crappy dialogue, and annoying characters. Herbert keeps introducting new minor characters, which is cool because many of them are interesting, but our main dude, John, is just a jerk. Yes, I realize he’s been through major trauma and may be suffering from multiple personality disorder, but Herbert hasn’t convinced me to care. Maybe there’s a cool gunfight or explosion at the end.

On the horizon: The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Bettor. Starts out with some super slick marker drawings of playing card soldiers. Very slick! Luckily, I’ve got Frank’s annoying intro letting me know he’s already working on the screenplay. Little cocky, are we? The 2nd Wheel of Time book The Great Hunt has also made it into my apartment, and my other half keeps telling how awesome it is. Damnit, I might be getting sucked into that annoying series.

Books, books books! I need some cookies!

Gotta give credit where credit is due, this recipe is stolen directly from The Joy of Cooking. Makes about 30 2.5” cookies, so I usually make a double batch.

You’ll need:
2 sticks butter, room temp.
1 cup sugar (brown or white)
0.5 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
2.5 cups flour

cream butter with sugar & salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add the flour all at once, and stir until combined. It’ll be pretty heavy and a little cakey. Divide in half and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a few hours (over night is best). To make cookies, using about a tablespoon at a time, roll cold dough into a ball, and then flatten with the palm of your hand. bake on a rimmed cookie sheet at 375 for about 10-12 minutes, or until the tops dry out and the bottom edges just turn brown. Cool on wire racks, and keep in an airtight container.

This recipe is great, because you can add whatever flavorings you want. Any liquid flavorings like melted and cooled chocolate, orange zest, mint flavoring, peanut butter, nuts (nuts are oily, and are therefore liquids) should be added before you put the flour in. any dry flavorings, like spices (any spices that go in pie are great in cookies!), should be added with the flour. I usually use brown sugar, but I made a batch of mint cookies with white sugar, and they were delish! I’ll typically make four half-batches, so I can easily do four flavors. If you’re going to do a half batch, use one egg, and one egg yolk.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just Desserts

I haven’t posted enough desserts. Scratch that, I haven’t posted enough easy desserts. If you can’t make this one, you shouldn’t have a kitchen. I’ve know this recipe since I was about 8 years old.

Rice crispie treats
1 stick butter
4 cups mini-marshmallows
6 cups rice crispies.

Melt the butter in a large pot over low-med heat. Add the marshmellows and stir well. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the rice crispies. Once it is well blended, pour into a large rectangular baking dish. Using wax paper, press down on the mixture so it flattens out and filled the bottom of the dish. Refridgerate till firm, cut with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Enjoy.

See? Wasn’t that easy? Damn. . . I need to go buy some rice crispies. Cuz now I really want some rice crispie treats! I know. . . books will distract me! Until I can find some healthy snack that doesn’t involve butter and sugar.

So I went to B&N over the weekend, hoping to find Fullmetal Alchemist volume 6, which appears to be out of print. Looks like I’m going to have to hit e-bay. It does appear, however that B&N is about the double or triple the size of their graphic novel/manga area. Take that you crappy romance section! I love manga. I spend more money on this crap during the year than I spend on clothes. So no FMA, but CLAMP is putting out 3 volume omnibus editions of some of their most popular Manga, and I am now the proud parent of xxxHolic, volumes 1-3! For $14! How can you beat that??? Damn you CLAMP, and your witty snarky romances, your intense fashion sense and your fabulous artwork! You sucked me into Tokyo Babylon, and now you’re doing the same thing with xxxHolic! Although I have no idea how to pronouce xxxHolic (ex-ex-ex-Holic? Ex-holic? Triple-ex-holic?) it’s a really fun story. Yuko is a witch of sorts, and she’ll grant you any wish you want, provided you really want it granted. Her price can be all sorts of things: your time, your memories, a portion of your soul. The more you want the wish to happen, the higher the price. Did I mention she’s got a set of soul-less freaky twins who work for her, a house full of goodies, and a wicked fashion sense? What I would give to Cosplay her! The CLAMP ladies have a fun habit of overlaying their plot-lines, as in Yuko mentions things that happen in Tokyo Babylon, and there is a LOT of crossover from their new baby, Tsubasa. Ladies of CLAMP, you’re going to get me to put out tons of cash to catch up on Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa, and the rest of Tokyo Babylon and xxxHolic, aren’t you?

If you skipped that paragraph because you’re not into Manga and you have no idea what I was talking about, this paragraph is for you. I’m also reading The White Plague by Frank Herbert. I’ve never read this before. I’d heard all sorts of bad things about it, but I’m quite liking it. it started out all fast and furious, mad man tries to get his revenge on the world, especially on those IRA nuts whose bombs killed his wife and children. Herbert’s characterization is strained, I know he can do better. When he’s talking about lunatic John O’Neill, he does a great job developing him a serial killer. And I kinda of want to feel bad for O’Neill, since now he’s got this split personality thing going on. But he’s such a damn bastard. And the worldwide plague thing is interesting. What else would force governments and peoples to work together, than a global plague that only kills you if you are of a certain nationality, and has 100% mortality in females? The conversations between government officials are fascinating, as they prepare to write off entire corners of the globe, just to save pockets elsewhere. Herbert, you are a master of the big picture. White plague? Kinda like black plague, except it turns your skin white, ‘steada black.

Also the plate for the next few weeks: still digging through that Cthulhu short story book. I’m finding that as much as I enjoy short sf/horror stories from the 20s and 30s, I don’t think I enjoy 300 pages of them. Question of the day: is Cthulhu over rated? And I got more. . . manga! From the library!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cthulthu + cyberpunk. minus the punk. minus the cyber.

I’ve got no food to talk about today. If you want food tonight, go to food network, because I’m already over it. Sure, I could pour through my cookbooks to find something, but I’d rather just talk about some cool stuff I’ve been reading. Cuz it’s cooler than food.

I just finished reading Cory Doctorow’s collection of short stories Overclocked. It’s sort of cyberpunk, except without the punk. And without the cyber. Ever started reading a William Gibson or a Charlie Stross and wondered “wtf”? start with Doctorow. He’s the steps in between, the almost future, the tomorrow you can see on a horizon a few clicks before the cyberpunk. This volume has 5 short stories, most of which are prophetic and funny, and a little scary. Doctorow claims to know the future by knowing the present, and he’s right. We’re only a few steps away from his predictions of sentient computers who commit suicide, and already there with people in 3rd world countries being paid to play WoW and sell the winnings on E-bay. When you think about it, his predictions make perfect sense, because we have all the tools to make them a reality. When you think about it some more, you realize they make perfect sense because we’ve already been there before. Maybe not the same people, or the same countries, or the same technologies, but the same wars and the same bigotry. and his I Row-Boat story is just hilarious. I want the website for the Asimov Yeshiva!

it’s very sad how lacking I am in my scifi foundations. Embarrassing, in fact. You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been.
Next in the reading pile is Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, a tomb of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft (duh), and other authors who took over his legacy after his death in the 1930s, such as Clark Aston Smith, Frank Long, Robert Bloch, and August Derleth. I’m only two stories into the tomb, and I’ve already scared the crap out of myself. Most of these short stories were written between 1920 and 1940, with a few written in the last 20 years (such as that one by Stephen King). Yes, the writing style is more formal than I am used to, but I’ll get over it. it’s very sad how lacking I am in my scifi foundations. Embarrassing, in fact. You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Maybe one day I’ll have enough of a foundation of what the hell is going on to really understand what I’m reading.

I’m now signed up to be a reviewer with SFRevu, and I got my first book from them, called Splinter, by Adam Roberts. Not much on the back cover, but I’m immediately thinking Nickelodeon’s “Skyland”. SFRevu’s reviewing guidelines are on the vanilla side, but what can I say? I’m a whore for free ARCs.

What, this bookgasm isn’t enough food for thought?

Random thought for the day: the theme song to Kappa Mikey and Avril Lavigne’s new song “Girlfriend” are exactly the same. I’ve been watching Kappa Mikey just so I can sing the Avril lyrics, and everytime I hear that stupid bubblegum song on the radio, I sing the Kappa Mikey song.

I wonder what my life would be like if I watched a tv channel other than Nickelodeon?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Epic fantasy in 30 seconds, done by bunnies

I finally finished Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. Finally. Will I read the next installment? And the next? And the next? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun read. He’s a great author. A master.

My beef isn’t with Jordan. My problem, I think, is with hero-quest fantasy in general. I’ve read, maybe 10 or less traditional epic fantasy novels. Perhaps this is simply what hero-quest fantasy is, but they all seem to read the same.

Observe: a young man (or 2 or 3) are informed they have a magical power/object/anscenstor that the supreme bad guy will do anything to get his hands on. Assisted by a witch/wizard/healer said youngsters leave their village to go to the source of their magical whatever, which is not only as far as possible from where the live, but it’s probably also in the basement of the uber bad-guys house. The teenagers see their world, become men, meet girls, and find out their village really is a podunk shit-kicker pimple on the edge of the universe. They will be joined by other characters who will aid them in their quest, via hidden talents that the quest couldn’t be completed without. One of these characters must be of a race the humans think are ugly, stupid, scary, and shouldn’t be talked to, or about, but everyone will learn people of that race are normal, nice people. The band must include a healer, a master of magic, a warrior, someone who can talk to animals, a de-throned king/price, an archer, and a damsel in distress type chick who has a super awesome magical power she may not be aware of. The good guys will eventually win, and very few good guys will die. The de-throned king/prince will get the girl.

Sounds like the perfect team for any World of Warcraft quest, or whatever they call them in that game.

So whose fault are these stereotypes? Or is stereotype simply part of what fantasy (or at least hero-quest fantasy) is all about? Tolkien? Jordan? Fiest? I don’t think it’s any of their faults. A friend told me I thought hero quest fantasy all read the same because I didn’t have a good enough imagination to appreciate it. That’s fine. I didn’t argue with that, and I’m not going to, either. I do wish more fantasy authors would have a good enough imagination to get away from the stereotypes. I know some of them do it (Martin, Lovecraft, Moorcock, anyone?), why can’t more? But I guess those guys don’t really write the traditional epic hero quest fantasy, do they?

Now that I’m foaming at the mouth about fantasy, it’s time for some good french style food. Something that makes me drool at the mouth, not foam at it. The english name of this dish is “chicken chaser”, which sounds pretty uninspiring. You might know it as chicken catchettore, or the provincial french name, Poulet Chasseur. Whatever the name, how could chicken simmered in wine and butter be anything but incredible?

You’ll need:
Big skillet or large heavy saucepan
Olive oil
3 tbsp butter, divided
about 3 lbs chicken peices
3-4 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp flour
5-6 oz sliced mushrooms
1 cup white wine
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
tarragon and parsley
salt & pepper
crusty bread

heat some oil and 2 tbsp butter in the skillet. Add chicken pieces and brown them on all sizes. Remove the chicken from the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft. Stir in flour and mushrooms. Keep stirring, the flour will brown slightly. Stir in tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, and keep stirring it! Return chicken to pan, season with herbs and salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 50 minutes. Remove chicken, and bring the sauce to a boil to thicken it somewhat. Reduce heat and stir in remaining butter. Pour sauce over chicken and serve hot, with plenty of crusty bread to sop up all that amazing sauce

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jordan vs Tolkein vs the world!

I'm currently about 2/3 way through Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World. if that doesn't ring a bell to you, that is the first book in his never ending, detail laden, time-space continuum tearing "Wheel of Time" series. here are some of my thoughts as i was reading the book:

page 100: damn this guy is good!

page 200: so this is what would happen if the Bene Gesserit ran wild in Middle Earth. . .

page 300: damn, this guy is still good! not sure if i give him much points for originality, but still decent. (high king Artur? is it so bloody hard to find a name for your high king that doesn't sound like "Arthur?" come on!)

page 400: wolfman dude rocks. are we there yet?

page 500: no seriously. life is too short. are we there yet?

as soon as i come to terms with the fact that this series is something to be enjoyed over a lifetime (or five), as opposed to being enjoyed over a summer, i will start enjoying it much more. it's not like i can't wait 2-3 years between reading the next books in the series. i'm sure Jordan will fill in any and all possible details i might have forgotten from the previous installment. the biggest complaint i've heard about him is his obsession with detail - telling us what everyone ate for dinner, telling us what everyone is wearing, what their horses look like. . . but i like the way he does it. it flows smoothly. you know you're getting insane amounts of detail, but it isn't painful. you don't even know what's happening until you've read 200 pages, and only 2 hours have passed in the story.

so i shall finish this volume, i shall enjoy it, and this time next year i'll get the 2nd book. it's like Chess: it only takes a few hours to learn the rules, but it takes a lifetime to master.

for something completely different, i feel this primal urge to read my Kurt Vonnegut collection, and find more of his stuff around town. One day i will own all his books. Too bad i can't get past this fetish of having to buy them used. new books just don't smell right. they smell dead.

now for food. you didn't think i'd post without talking about food, did you? i looked through my previous entries, and it looks like i haven't yet tortured anyone with Coq au Vin. the what-what? Coq = Cock, au Vin = in wine. What did the french farmer do when the rooster stopped, roostering? slaughtered it and ate it for dinner! and the only way to get that nasty rooster meat tender enough to eat was to simmer it in wine for an hour with onions, bacon, and whatever vegetables were handy. This is the epitome of french provincial-ness, so of course, i consider it a special treat!

serves 6, usually with some leftovers for lunch the next day.

you'll need:
1 tbsp butter
olive oil
2-ish lbs chicken parts. doesn't matter if they have bones, doesn't matter if they have skin. you don't really have to eat a nasty 12 year old rooster.
2-3 slices bacon
small package pearl onions (about 16 onions)
8oz fresh button mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups red burgundy wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
mix of herbs - rosemary, thyme, savory, lavender, sage
salt & pepper
chopped fresh parsley
french bread (for serving with)

how to get the skin off pearl onions: submerge the onions in boiling water for about 5 minutes. drain them. on a cutting board, chop the bottom off, then with your other hand, push the insides out through the bottom. sounds odd, but it really works!

you will need a pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients at once. trust me, it's no fun learning half way through the cooking process that not everything will fit in your pan.

in a very large non-stick skillet or large non-stick sauce pan, melt the butter and fry the bacon. when the bacon is cooked, remove and drain it. then chop it. add a little olive oil, and the onions. fry them until they start to turn brown. remove w/slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. follow the same steps with the mushrooms. turn the heat up to medium, add a bit more oil, and add the chicken peices, turning them so they brown on all sides. they don't need to be close to cooked, but we want some brown bits. when they are at that step, remove and drain on paper towels. add chopped onion and carrot to the pan, when they start to brown a bit, add the chopped garlic. add flour, and stir continously for 2 minutes. now add the wine, and stock, and bring to a boil. allow to boil for a minute or two. this will boil off some of the alcohol, but trust, me not all of it.

return all ingredients to pan, add salt and pepper and herbs. stir well. cover and simmer on low heat for 50-60 minutes, or until chicken is tender. when done, remove all meat and vegetables, and boil the sauce to thicken. return all meat and vegetables to pan, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve in bowls with crusty french bread.

you will dirty every knife and bowl in your kitchen, and once you eat this, you won't mind.