Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Round Up.

Since the minute i finished the recipe round up, I've been thinking about the book round-up, curious to see how it would turn out. So here goes:

1. Blame!by Tsutomu Nihei Volume I (Manga)
2. Psychic Power Nanaki Volume 1 by Ryo Saenagi (manga)
3.St. Lunatic High School Volume 1 by Majiko (manga)
4.The Family Trade, by Charles Stross
5.Last Call, by Tim Powers
6.Ugly Stores for Beautiful People, by James Burr
7. St. Lunatic High School , Volume 2 by Majiko (manga)
8.Paraworld Zero, by Matthew Peterson
9. The Hidden Family, by Charles Stross
10. The Clan Corporate, by Charles Stross

11. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
12. Edward: Dancing on the Edge of Infinity, by Bruce Taylor
13. Voices From The Street ,by Philip K. Dick
14. Whitechapel Gods, by S.M. Peters
15. Strangers in Paradise, Volume I by Terry Moore
16. City of Saints & Mad Men, by Jeff Vandermeer
17. Accelerando, by Charles Stross

18. The Elric Saga, part I, by Michael Moorcock
19.Halting State, by Charles Stross

20. Glory Road, by Robert Heinlien
21. Elric Saga, part II, by Michael Moorcock
22. The Book of Jhereg, by Steven Brust
23. Jumper, by Steven Gould
24. Elric: the Making of a Sorcerer, by Michael Moorcock and Walter Simonson (graphic novel)
25. Jhegaala by Steven Brust

26. Action Philosophers #1, by Fred deLente and Ryan Dunlavey

27. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
28. The Sun, The Moon and the Stars by Steven Brust
29. A Game of Thrones, by George R R Martin

30. A Clash of Kings, by George R R Martin

31. A Storm of Swords, by George R R Martin
32. The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith
33. The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
34. Someplace to be Flying by Charles deLint

35. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
36. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

37. Sundiver by David Brin
38. Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
39. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
40.Startide Rising, by David Brin
41. Between the Rivers, by Harry Turtledove
42. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
43. Deathnote volume I, by Tsugumi Ohba (manga)
44. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire

45. A Journey Long and Strange, by Tony Horwitz
46. Mindscan by Robert Sawyer
47. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
48. The Stepsister Scheme by Jim Hines

49. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
50. The Iron Dragon's Daughter, by Michael Swanwick
51. Case of a Lifetime, by Abbe Smith
52. Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
53. Mind the Gap, by Christopher GOlden and Tim Lebbon
54. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
55. Passive Agressive Notes: Painfully Polite and Hilariously Hostile Writings, by Kerry Miller
56. You Can Get Arrested for That, by Richard Smith
57. With Liberty and Justice for Some, a A Critique of the Conservative Supreme Court, by David Kairys
58. The Scar by China Mieville

The Quick Breakdown:
Manga/Comics/Graphic Novels: 9
books about manga/comics/graphic novels: 1
Non-fiction books: 7
Charles Stross books read: 6
Charles Stross books enjoyed: maybe 3-ish
Books read in the winter: too many
books read in spring/summer: not enough.

China Mieville

Do you remember the Perdido Street Station craze? everyone who was anyone was going ape-ship over 700+ pages of dreamshit, non-communicative cactus people, and freaky cocoons? authors and literary magazines were blurbing the book every which way till sunday, claiming it's earth shatteringness.

I remember the Perdido Street Station craze. the book? it was long. oh so painfully long. and it was good, but not that good.

It's too bad all those blurbers spent all their blurbs on Perdido, because it's Meiville's The Scar that really deserves that kind of praise. This was a really freakin' good book. It must have been good, as I couldn't stop biting my nails for most of it.

I've written this next paragraph about 4 times, and deleted it, trying to tell you about this book in just a few sentences. Time to bite the bullet and write a longer review. Not like I got anything else to do the next few days, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ye Olde Roundup.

mmmm.... december. vacations from work, cookies, new years party, presents, all the good (and awful) movies on tv, the sounds of the snowplow in the morning. does life get any better?

maybe it does, but not today. time to round up all the tasty stuff from the last year. and it makes a handy directory when i'm looking for stuff too! There are probably some duplicates from last year (or recipes that look like duplicates, but are either improvements, or totally different), but i'm cool wit that.

1. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
2.Ginger Snaps (scroll way down to the bottom)
3.Mexican Sweet Pork Stew
4.Caper Chicken (not caper as in 30's style crime movie)
5.Mom's Lukshen Kugel
6.Lentil Barley Stew
7. Barley Chorizo Pie
9. My favorite tuna salad
10. Forgotten Cookies
11. Marinated Mushrooms
12.Zucchini Gratin
13.Matzah Ball Soup
14. Egyptian Rice/Tasty Mud
15.Fruit Tarts
17.Carrot Salad with Olives
18. Summer Pesto Pasta
19. Chorizo Beefaroni
20. Turkish Lamb Pilaf
21.Peach Cobbler
22.Mushroom Barley Casserole
23.Green Jumbalaya
25.Corn Salsa
26.Corn Chickpea Salad
27.Vegetable Potato Soup
28.Zucchini Bread
29.Almost Awesome Focaccia
30.Mom's Apple Crisp
31.Corsican Beef Stew
32.Risotto Primavera
33. Better Mac and Cheese
34.Fettucini alla Papalina
35.Bacon Wrapped Turkey Roll Part of the Thanksgiving extravaganza!
36.Corn Pudding
37.The Best Pumpkin Pie
38.The Best Pumpkin Apple Bread
39.Chicken 'n Chickpeas (I loves me some chickpeas!)
40.Turkey Schnitzel (I loves me some fried anything!)
41.Caper Lemon Salsa

Wow, i did a lotta salsas. and a lot of chickpea stuff.

So that's ye olde yearly round up. I met my goal, which was to post more recipes than last year (only 34). Maybe next year, i'll actually rate the recipes, so you can know which ones are good, and which ones to skip because they need major improvement. In the next few days i'll do Ye Olde books Round Up, and the blog turns two years old on Jan 1st! yay!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Nerd.

my current job leaves me plenty of time to read, which is, well, fabulous! been reading a LOT, and I couldn't be happier. i'm a happy nerd.

Still on the law kick, we've got one serious book, and one not so serious book:
With Liberty and Justice for Some, a A Critique of the Conservative Supreme Court, by David Kairys could more accurately be called "I hate William Renquist", which is okay, since the guy sounds like a total jerk. This short but heavy read offers a few supreme court cases over the last hundred years on the most controversial topics, such as privacy, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and discrimination. I haven't yet got the education or vocabulary to understand everything Kairys was saying, but I enjoyed what I got out of it, and it's whetted my appetite to learn more about the Supreme Court, and how their decisions affect our futures. and i think, that was the point of the book.

You Can Get Arrested for That, by Richard Smith, is about two very bored Brits who come across one of those "dumb laws across America" books, and decide to break some laws! These two men are a far as it comes from being criminals, except if you include all of their illegal orange peeling in hotel rooms, and fishing while wearing pajamas, and whale hunting in Utah. it's a funny book, but I found myself skimming along quite a bit, waiting for them to break the next law. the book probably would have made a better blog.

and speaking of blogs that became books, check out Passive Agressive Notes: Painfully Polite and Hilariously Hostile Writings, which really is all the images from Kerry Miller's blog. Now if only the chick from Cakewrecks, or the dude from xkcd would make a book, my life would be complete. But the Passive Agressive book is very funny, i'm sure everyone either knows someone who has left a note like that, or is guilty of doing it themselves. and it's all pictures, you'll get through the entire little book in like an hour.

only one fiction book today, that's odd.

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which is simply put, about a little orphan boy who is adopted by some ghosts, and they raise him in the graveyard where they live. Not having much experience with living children, the ghosts do the best they can in raising. I vaguely recall this book getting less than stellar reviews from book snobs when it first came out, and i think that critics will no longer accept bedtime stories from Gaiman. and this is a lovely, simple, elegant bedtime story about a little boy. I really like it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Adventures in Hummus, and Fried Turkey. Also, starring hot pepper flakes.

I love chickpeas. delicious hot or cold, they are full of nutrition, easily accessible, and cheap. Right out of the can, or mashed with garlic and salt into hummus, what's not to love?

Since I almost always have a can (ok, maybe a few cans) of chickpeas on hand, this recipe is especially easy. it's saucy, so make some rice or mash potatoes to go with it.

Chicken 'n Chickpeas, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

approx two pounds chicken parts, cut up (chop a thigh in half, or a breast in thirds)
1 tbsp butte
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
one 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water or broth
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ginger
salt & pepper
heaping 1/4 tsp cinnamon
generous pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

melt butter in very large skillet (i LOVE my new dutch oven!!). over medium-high heat, brown the chicken quickly on all sides, in multiple batches if you need to. remove the chicken, and add onions and green onions to pan, adding a bit more oil if you need to. cook until onions are tender, then add chickpeas and all spices (not the parsley). stir until well mixed, and add the chicken back in, stirring to coat. bring mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer until chicken is tender, 30-40 minutes. before serving stir in the parsley, and more salt/pepper if needed. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes. Your kitchen will smell like the best North African travel channel show while you are cooking this.

Hubby and I had no idea this dish would be so saucy, so after eating all the chicken and as much chickpeas as he could stomach, we were left with about a cup of sauce. I couldn't let it go to waste, and it did have all the required ingredients for hummus - chickpeas, garlic, oil, some salt, some spice. Into the blender it went!

Lesson learned: sometimes sauces just don't taste good all by themselves. No matter how tasty the bread or crackers or whatever. . . . my improv hummus is still sitting in the fridge, and next time i look at it, it's going in the trash. the hummus disaster was a big gross.

ahh, now on to my husband's favorite food ever: Schnitzel. raise your hand if you, like me, thought that schnitzle was some kind of pastry. Such a long word with so few vowels has got to be some kind of pastry, right? well, maybe it is somewhere, but the kind i'm talking about is made of turkey, and it's breaded, egged, breaded again, and fried. and I make a funky citrus spicy salsa to go with it.

Turkey Schnitzel, adapted from Faye Levy's 1,000 Jewish Recipes
approx 1 1/4 lbs turkey slices, about 1/4" thick (feel free to pound 'em thin)
good pinch hot pepper flakes
1 cup matzoh meal (or a little more)
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil

Season turkey slices with salt, pepper, paprika and hot pepper flakes. You will need 2 large plates, and one good sized bowl. in the bowl, beat the eggs. On each plate, put about 1/2 cup matzoh meal. for each turkey slice, dip it in the first plate of matzoh meal, pressing so the meal sticks. then dip gently into egg, then dip in the second plate of matzoh meal, again pressing so the meal sticks. after all your slices are prepped, heat the oil in a very large heavy bottomed skillet. you need enough oil to cover the botton of the pan, and slosh around a little. We're not going to deep fry the turkey, but we're not shallow frying it either. somewhere in between. Get the heat cranked up, and very gently slip a few turkey slices into the pan. Fry about 2 minutes each side, or until cooked and golden brown.

While one person is frying, the other person can make this insanely easy crazy sharp relish, also inspired by a recipe from the same cookbook:

Caper Lemon salsa
1 lemon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt
3 tbsp capers, rinsed
good pinch hot pepper flakes
splash olive oil
few tbsp chopped parsley

peel the lemon, and using a sharp knife, get as much white pith off as you can. Chop the lemon flesh, removing any seeds and stringy pithy bits. Add lemon to bowl with onion. add all other ingrediends, and mix well. let sit 5 or 10 minutes before eating.

sharp as hell on it's own, this salsa went incredibly well with the turkey schnitzel. No clue as to why they played together so well, but they did, and it was awesome.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Catching up on the books.

last time i did a library run, I came up with 8 books. granted, 2 of them were comic books, and then i purchased 3 more comic books, but still, that's a lot of reading. here's the quicky, reader's digest version of what i've been devouring these last few weeks:

Mind the Gap, by Christopher GOlden and Tim Lebbon - a pulpy yet surprisingly fun ghost story. Suddenly orphaned, Jasmine flees her home from the gangster-like uncles who haunted the lives of her parents. Finding her way to an underground band of merry little theives, she becomes of the star pickpocketing pupil of their leader. Down below the tube stations, where a ghostly feeling might be a short tingle on the spine of a co-conspirator, for Jasmine it's a screaming, wailing, powerful sound beyond her comprehension. What are the ghosts trying to tell her, and how can she escape them? Part pickpocketing orphan adventure, part Neil Gaiman ghost story, this story was much funner than I expected. highly recommended.

Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan - futuristic noirish murder mystery. One part bladerunner, one part old school Asimov's "Robot's of Dawn", another part "Minority Report", Morgan's got the mystery twists and turns down to a science. As soon as indentured detective (it's work the case or head back to prison) Takeshi Kovacs thinks he's go things figured out, here comes another twist to knock him back a few days. and when you can just download your brain into the body of your choice, things can get even more confusing. The only negative thing I can say about this novel is that it is graphic. graphic violence, graphic sex, a little too graphic for my tastes. it would make a great action flick.

Case of a Lifetime, by Abbe Smith - I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this was 100% worth the read. As a law student, Abbe Smith meets Kelly Jarrett, who has been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, yet cannot prove her innocence. Jarrett is given the option to plea bargain, but doesn't take it, because that would require her to plead guilty to yet another crime that she didn't commit. Smith is involved with Jarrett's life behind bars for the next 25 years. The book is about Smith and Jarrett and it isn't. It's mostly about how our current criminal law system fails innocent people, beacuse it is designed to believe that if you are in a criminal trial, or are already serving time behind bars, you must be guilty of something, or you wouldn't be there. a powerful book, I'm looking forward to reading the works of some of the attorneys and judges that Smith talks about.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter, by Michael Swanwick - a nice mix of fantasy and contemporary fiction. a bit like Harry Potter meets Trainspotting meets Tolkien meets and standard coming of age story. Beyond that, all I can is that the story is discongruous - things just don't fit. (is that a word??). After escaping slavery in a factory, young Jane makes a life for herself in a small village and signs up for high school. A great student (because she learned so much slaving away in the factory??), college is definately in her future, and she studies industrial alchemy. A college experience rife with abusive instructors, casual sexual relationships and drugs . . . I'm three quarters of the way through the book, and I'm still not sure what the main conflict is. I don't know why I should care about Jane or what she's going through. Jane seems like a pathetic, naive idiot who is incapabale of standing up for herself or saying no to any guy who reminds her of her first lost love, and then discarding him, or passing on the hash or cocaine. Maybe the conflict is between Swanwick not being able to decide if he wants a magical fantastical story with fairy creatures, or a sad pathetic little girl who through the drugs and manipulation might just figure out what she wants to do with her life? I've seen fantasical worlds and fey creatures live happily in modern times, but in this book, they are just fighting for attention. this is supposedly an award winning author, but I just don't see it.

and, saving the best for last:
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini - It thrills me to say that this book won so many awards because it deserved them, and more. You know how when you read a non-fiction book, it has a certain weight to it, because you know it really happened? and when you read a fiction book, it has a lighter weight to it, because even though you care deeply for the characters, and don't want harm to befall them, you know it's just a story, and it's not real? While reading this book I kept having ot remind myself that it's a novel, as in fiction. it's got that weight. Not an easy book to read, Hosseini intimately visits the horror of Taliban ruled Afganistan, what you and i just saw as green and black blips on CNN. this is not a book about the Taliban, it is not a book about Afganistan, it is a book about two friends who grow up, and part ways after something terrible happens. Amir lives his entire life with the guilt of what happened, while Hassan is eventually able to get over it, and get on with his life. Haunted by the phone call of his late father's friend, is there really a way for Amir to "be good again", after so much time has passed, and so much pain pushed down into his heart? the only think harder than reading this book was putting it down.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

thanksgiving, parts III and IV

I really just don't want thanksgiving to end. It's like autumn Passover for me, except you can eat anything you want. I didn't make any desserts for our actually thanksgiving meal, but have been doing the pumpkin thing since. If i was a real foodie, I'd have gone out and bought a bunch of expensive sugar pumpkins, and roasted and pureed them myself. apparently i'm not a good foodie, since i buy canned pumpkin. it's good and available. and it's time for dessert.

a few months ago a friend brought this to a potluck, where I begged and pleaded for the recipe. Yes, it's that good. and easier than it looks to make. I lowered the sugar a little from her original recipe, and upped some of the spices.

N's Pumpkin Apple Bread
makes 2 loaves

3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1 can pumpkin puree (about 16 oz)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, lightly beated
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large baking apple (such as gala or granny smith), peeled, cored and diced

cinnamon sugar topping
4 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter, room temp
2 tsp cinnamon

for the topping combine all ingredients with a fork to form a crumbly mixture. set aside.

preheat oven to 350. grease and lightly flour two 9x5 loaf pans. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and allspice. In another large bowl, mix the pumpkin, sugar, eggs and oil. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and blend well, then fold in the apples. The batter should be very wet. Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans, and smooth the tops flat. sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. bake at 350 for about an hour. when a knife or toothpick comes out clean, it's done. let cook in pans for about 15 minutes, then finish cooling them on wire racks.

We've been using the Joy of Cooking Pumpking Pie recipe for years, and I was never quite happy with it. the custard never seemed to firm up quite right, and it was just too much pumpkin puree to not enough flour and egg binder. Martha Stewart dot com to the rescue! Again, i upped her quantities of spices, and used my brand new, totally awesome ceramic pie weights for the best crust ever.

Better Pumpkin Pie
Makes One Pie

one pie crust fitted to a 9" pie plate
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 can pumpkin (15-16 oz)
1 cup half and half

form crust to pie plate, and refridgerate for about an hour. preheat oven to 350. Line pie crust with wax paper or foil, and gently fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350. Remove crust from oven, and carefully remove lining and pie weights.

in a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt spices, and pumpkin. when well blended, add half and half, and mix again. pour into warm pie crust, and bake till set, about 1 hour. Cool on wire rack at room temperature, and do not refridgerate until fully cooled.

this recipe is simpler, faster, and better than the joy of cooking. Joy of Cooking, you make me sad!

Been getting a LOT of reading done lately, but I'll torture you with that another time.