Tuesday, January 30, 2007

i love Stephen Lawhead

Stephen Lawhead, how do i love you? let me count the ways. . . Byzantium, The Pendragon Cycle, and now The Song of Albion trilogy! OK, Song of Albion was originally published about 15 years ago, but I just discovered it. this man is a MASTER of suspension of disbelief. i picked up The Paradise War at the library on a lark, as an escape from all the scifi i've been reading. Paradise War was supposed to be fun, it wasn't supposed to be so addictive i got sucked in and refused to put it down until i finished it a few days later, and called the library to make sure they have the other 2 books in the series (the do. phew!) Needless to say, go check out my review at Worm's Sci Fi Haven.

not quite as glowing, is my review of Jackie Kessler's Hell's Belles, at Multiverse Reviews. it was a umm. . perfectly mediocre book. funny, sexy, silly, but nothing special.

these days it seems I can't go a week without buying some kind of graphic novel or manga volume. this week's purchase was Joss Whedon's Those Left Behind, it's a prequel to the Serenity movie. and a mighty expensive prequel at that.

my other expenditures at the friends of the library bookstore all together didn't come to what i paid for that comic book, which, although flimsy, will have a special place on my bookshelf. for the whopping price of about $3, i'm now the proud owner of Greg Bear's Blood Music, Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, and Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear. i'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these.

for all the sa-weet books i've been devouring, i gots some sa-weet food to go with it. and i'm not kidding, this Chicken in Orange sauce is super sweet, like sweet n' sour, but without the sour. but i dig it, and maybe you will too.

you'll need:
1.5 - 2 lbs chicken, cut into bite size peices
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp butter + 2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/2 cups slivered almonds
1/2 white raisins
white rice

you'll also need a large skillet, and a medium sauce pan.

melt 2 tbsp butter in the skillet, then add the chicken. season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic, cook over low-medium heat. when chicken is about 1/2 cooked, remove from skillet and set aside. add the remaining butter to the skillet and the flour. Make a roux by stirring constantly for a few minutes. the flour will absorb the butter and turn brown. this is OK, but don't let it burn! Stir in the orange juice and ginger, turn up the heat a bit, and keep stirring until the mixture boils for one minute. make sure the sauce is smooth. stir in the almonds and raisins. stir in the chicken, turn the heat down to low, and let simmer for about 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and tender.

prepare white rice, and serve the chicken and orange sauce over rice.

it's very good, and very sweet. the leftovers the next day? divine!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Steampunk Apple Pie

i think i'm a little overloaded on cyberpunk. speaking of, go check out my review of Stross's Glasshouse. That book seriously scared the crap out of my. pshychological thriller on crack. nice.

time for some "steampunk". kinda scifi, but only with steam powered technologies. apparently, i've been digging steampunk for some years now, it just never dawned on me that Fullmetal Alchemist (just picked up volume 4, btw!), Tim Power's The Anubis Gates, most China Meiville, most Miyazaki stories, and plenty of other stuff i thoroughly enjoy fell under the umbrella of steampunk. It's like hard scifi, minus the headache.

and yes! I am back from the library! gots me a copy of William Gibson & Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine. Supposedly this is those two doing steampunk. It's not like Gibson or Sterling to dissapoint, so i'm excited. also nabbed a few Cowboy Bepop and Tokyo Babylon manga. that damn shojo Tokyo Babylon. . . it's dumb and cheesy, but i want to see what happens, and see if those two stupid boys hook up already. and speaking of boys with fashion sense, when is the library going to get copies of Paradise Kiss? it looks fashionably awesome. and cheeky.

i'm also into my ARC of Jackie Kessler's Hell's Belles. It's tagged as "paranormal romance". it's fun, funny, and unexpected. Not heavy, or earth shattering or magical, just very funny, and very fun. a good vacation read. Review to soon show up on Mutiverse Reviews.

i'm hungry. and i got pie crusts "resting" in the fridge, for this wine tasting party thingy we're going to tomorrow. one of them pies is gonna be filled with apples! and cinammon! and lots and lots of sugar! mmm mmm good! like porn, but way tastier. and with calories.

here's the secret apple pie filling recipe. you can use the frozen pie crusts from the grocery store. or you can wait till next time, when i give you the secret for the most incredible pie crust ever.

2 pie crusts - at room temperature, cuz your pie's gonna be covered.
6 apples - any combination of golden delicious, gala, or fuji (these seem to work the best).
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cinammon
1/8 tsp salt (a really good pinch)
a little later, you'll need:
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small peices
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinammon
1 tsp brown sugar

preheat the oven to 425F.

peel the apples, and slice into 1/4" thick slices. i've found this is quicker work with a sharp knife, than with one of those dumb apple corer thingys. in a large bowl, combine apple slices with the next 5 ingredeints. stir it up, and let it sit for 15 minutes, and stir occasionally.

take one pie crust and form it into your 9" or 10" pie plate. trim it so there's only a 1/2" or so extra all around. pour the apple mixture in, and top the mixture with the butter peices. to seal the top crust on, brush the edge of the bottom crust with ice water, and lay the top crust on it. trim the top, and seal the edge by pressing with your fingers. trim more, as needed. with a very sharp knife, cut steam vents into the top. mix together the last 3 ingredients, and sprinkle on top. put the pie in the oven for 30 minutes. slip a baking sheet under the pie and cook for another 40 minutes. once it's done, it will need to "set", so allow it to completely cool on the counter for a few hours.

it should look something like this:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

People read this?

holy shit, i have readers. and they, like, comment n' stuff. i thought i'd have to beg and plead to get people to read this blog. but wow. very nifty.

alright readers, go check out the review for Flynn's Eifelheim. I trashed it. i doubt i will ever pick up a Flynn book again.

that Tokyo Babylon manga? yeah, i had no idea it was shojo . Not that i have a problem with shojo, it's just not my thing. i should have seen it coming though, seeing as how the story was created by four female manga artists. the Cowboy Bepotp was a lot of fun though. and much funnier than the anime version.

let's see. . what's on the reading list this week? i ventured into the biography area of the library, and gots me a copy of Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain. i love this man, and the book is hilarious. i'm suddenly really scared to ever eat in a 4 star restaurant. I'll take my local greasy spoon where i know the short order cook is smoking a cig with the same hand he just cupped my burger with. i liked his show on travel channel, No Reservations, but then the owners of Travel Channel realized people were actually watching the show, and they wrecked it.

i got some other fun goodies at the library, but i'll bore you with those once i actually start reading them.

what books did i actually *gasp* buy recently? surprisingly, quite a few. thanks to Multiverse Reviews for sending me the ARC of Hell's Belles, by Jackie Kessler to read & review. Paranormal Romance? i never read anything like that before, but I expect to have a fun time with it. thanks to the Friends of the Library bookstore, i'm also the proud owner of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (i remember loving book when i was a teenager!!), Greg Bear's Blood Music, and Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear, which could either be a rip-off fanboy peice of crap, or something fun. I trust Gregory Benford. I've read him before, and I like him. when i told my husband i bought more books, he laughed his ass off, then said "great! more books! just what we need around here!"

okay, on to the food.

hot damn, have i been doing only vegetarian dishes on here so far? what?? that needs to stop! like right now!

i hope you like olives. lots and lots of really strong mediterranean olives. if not, thanks for playing, please exit stage left, I'll see you next week for something different. i got this out of a world cookbook, it was in the "north african" section.

Chicken & Olives:

you'll need:
2-3 pounds chicken parts, cut into peices
a large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
one 14oz can diced tomatoes
salt & pepper
8-10oz pitted olives (get the jarred kind in brine, not the mushy canned ones in water)
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped cilantro

this dish is best served with rice that's been spiced with black pepper, cardamon, and a pinch of ginger.

you will also need a large non-stick skillet.

how to make:

fry chopped onion in some oil till soft. Stir in garlic & ginger. add the chicken peices, and turn them as they begin to get some color. then add the tomatoes, some salt & pepper, and enough water to half cover everything. get it hot enough to so it begins to bubble, then turn the temp down to a low simmer. cook on low for about a half hour (if you're going to make rice, now is the time to get it started so everything is done at the same time), adding some water if it gets too dry. drain the olives of their brine and stir them in. 10 minutes later, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. serve hot, over rice.

super yummy, super olive-y, and if you put the leftover chicken n' olives in with the leftover rice, it tastes heavenly the next day.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Potatoes make Eifelheim better

so i'm struggling through Michael Flynn's Eifelheim. this book is turning into a chore. but i'm nearly done, so i might as well get through it, so i can write a cranky, snarky review and bitch and complain about how Flynn can't get through a damn page without at least one untranslated phrase in German, Latin, or French. it would be nice if knew any of those languages. which i don't. grrr. knowing my luck, i'll be the only person who didn't like this book, and everyone else who reads it will rave about it!

but there is a reward in sight!! today i learned about library reciprocal borrowing! with my local library card, i can get books from the library in the next city. how different could libraries be, you ask? VERY different. and i came home with Edelman's Infoquake, Vandermeer's Shreik, and volume 1 of Cowboy Bepop, and 1 & 2 of something called Tokyo Babylon that looks cool. now if i can only find a library that owns the entire collection of Blame and Trinity Blood, i'm all set.

speaking of Manga, i got my copy of FullMetal Alchemist volume 3 today! Thank you Amazon, and thank you M for that Amazon gift card!

so many good books, i don't know where to start. the kitchen is a good place.

this dish turned out so much better than i expected, that not only will it go hand written in my cookbook, it will make reading Eifelhiem for another 2 hours much easier.

Garlicky roasted potatoes

1 1/2 lbs new potatoes, and or small heirloom potatoes
non stick cooking spray
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely (2-3 tbsp)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp lemon juice
salt & pepper

preheat oven to 450. clean and quarter potatoes. use a baking dish no smaller than 9x9. spray baking dish with nonstick spray, and put in potatoes. sprinkle potatoes with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and salt & pepper, and put them in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

meanwile, make the garlic topping. in a saucepan, put the rest of the olive oil, and the garlic. cook over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 2-3 minutes. you might need to add a little more oil, if it begins to burn. remove from the heat, and let cool. shortly before the potatoes are ready to come out of the oven, add the parsley, rosemary, and lemon juice to the garlic mixture, and mix well.

after you've taken the potatoes out of the oven, you don't want to pour the garlicky mixture onto the hot pan (you just don't. it will stick, and burn.). either pour the potatoes & garlicky mixture into a serving bowl and mix well, or pour the potatoes into the saucepan you made the garlicky mixture in, and mix well.

i love potatoes. they are good medicine for annoying books.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Mac and Cheese & stardust

barely 24 hours since the first post, and not only has my buddy E requested i post my fave mac and cheese recipe, but i posted two book reviews yesterday. impressive!

food first, so you have something to eat while you read.

Baked Mac & Cheese

1 lb twisty or small shell pasta
3 cups grated cheese (you should have a blend of at least 2 kinds of cheese)
2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
4 green onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

optional items
can tuna fish, drained
can pre-cooked chicken, drained
6-8oz mushrooms
1-2 cups frozen veggies such as corn, carrots, broccoli, or peas.


preheat oven to 350

cook pasta in boiling water until just nearly done. drain the pasta, rinse with cold water, and it can stay in the colander in the sink. into the same pot, melt the 2 tbsp butter over med-low heat. slowing whisk in the flour, stirring constantly. the mixture will start to turn brown. this is good. slowly whisk in the milk, then add the green onions, bay leaf and maybe 1/2 tsp paprika. let this mixture simmer and thicken for about 10 minutes, stirring often, as it will form a skin otherwise. turn the heat off, and stir in 2/3 of your cheese. this is also the time to add some salt and pepper, and any optional fish, chicken, or veggies you want to add.

stir it all up really good, adjust any seasonings to your taste. pour half of it into a greases 9x9 baking dish, or casserole of similar volume. do a layer of half your remaining cheese, then do another layer of the rest of the cheesy macaroni mixture, then finish off with a layer of the rest of the cheese.

in a small microwave save bowl, melt the remaining butter in the microwave. stir in the breadcrumbs, and sprinkle this mixture over the mac & cheese. put it in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to brown, and the cheese is all bubbly. let it stand a few minutes after you take it out of the oven, so it can firm up a bit.


and what goes better with home made mac and cheese than a good book?

book reviews that went up on Sci Fi Haven the other day are A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller, Jr, and Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. i liked them both tremendously, and they are both very moving stories, albeit in incredibly different ways. they are making a movie of Stardust, by the way.

thanks to some charity (read: take these books or they will get thrown away) at work, i'm now the proud owner of "Timeline", by Michael Chricton, and "Nightmares & Dreamscapes", by Stephen King. Also just started reading "Eifelheim", by Michael Flynn, and getting through "Dr. Futurity", by Philip K Dick, for my Reading Group

Monday, January 1, 2007

Tangerine Scarves and Ratatouille

happy new year.

i tend to do better with stuff when goals are involved, so here are my goals for this blog:

make a new post at least once a week.

at least once a week, talk about a book i'm reading.

at least once a week, talk about a recipe i like, or have recently tried.

because that's most of my life folks: reading and eating. finding good things to read, and good things to eat. feel free to recommend books and recipes to me. if they look yummy, i might try 'em, and tell the whole world where i got them! i read a lot of science fiction (hence the name skiffy), some contemporary fantasy, and a little bit of every thing else. i tend to eat a lot of french, mediterranean, asian and middle eastern food, so you'll find a lot of those types of recipes here. personal preference, i eat no red meat, so you won't find any recipes for that here.

the first post starts . . . . . . . . now.

i recently finished "The girl in the tangerine scarf", by Mohja Kahf. beautiful narrative about about a Syrian born Muslim woman who is raised in the suburban midwest. Most of the book is a flashback of Khadra Samy, and she is remembering her early childhood, when she first started to wear the veil, what she calls "Muslim dating", arranged marraiges, culture clashes, etc. A veiw of Islam from the inside, from America, from a woman just trying to live her life, do her upbringing right, and be a successful American. I like learning about cultures i'm not familiar with, and Khadra is about the same age as me, so that was cool. reminded me of some Amy Tan i've read, in that my saddest moment reading it was realizing i'd never again be able to read it again for the first time. i tend to rush through a lot of books. too many books, not enough time. but not this one. i cherished my time with this book, like a fine chocolate bar, to be eaten in small peices.

recently made Ratatouille for the first time. way easier to make than it looks, and mamma mia is that peppery!!

3 small zucchini (i couldn't find the big ones this time of year), sliced thin
1 large onion sliced thinly
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 sweet orange pepper, chopped
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tspb thyme
salt & pepper
(every Ratatoullie recipe i've ever seen calls for Eggplant, which i don't like. so i don't put any in. if you like it, put some in. if you want to add more or less of something i listed, go ahead. it will still taste good.)

fry onions in about 2 tsp oil for 5 minutes. add peppers and fry another 2-3 minutes. remove onion & peppers and drain on paper towels. add a little more oil if your pan is dry. add the zucchini slices, and fry about 3 minutes, or until the slices are softened. once the zuchini is cooked, remove it and drain on paper towels. add the garlic, tomatoes (with juice from can), bay leaves, thyme, and some salt & pepper to pan, and cook until tomatoes start to get pulpy. Return all the veggies to the pan, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occassionally. season with more pepper. this is supposed to be a peppery dish!

serve with crusty bread to soak up the yummy sauces. i have no idea how many servings this, or your version, will make. leftovers are delish in an omelet the next morning.