Monday, December 28, 2009

Capellini with Tomato and Peas

1 pound capellini or other thin spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, carrot, salt, and pepper. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water. Stir to melt the tomato paste and create a sauce. Stir in the oregano, thyme, parsley, and peas. Gently fold in the pasta and the cheeses, adding more reserved pasta water if necessary. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.


Everyday Pasta, Giada DeLaurentiis, 2007

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

Olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 pound purchased cheese tortellini
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked mozzarella (I used regular, couldn't find smoked)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8 X 8 X 2-inch baking dish or 4 individual gratin dishes.

Whisk the marinara sauce, mascarpone cheese, parley, and thyme in a large bowl to blend. Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat.

Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish or dishes. Top with the smoked mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cover the dish or dishes with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on the top melt, about 10 minutes longer.


Everyday Pasta, Giada DeLaurentiis, 2007

Fried Ravioli

This recipe is good practice for making latkas if you want a good appetizer and feel the need to fry. We used spinach tortellini in a bag instead of ravioli, but next time...
We're not big into frying, we tried this to use up buttermilk. I probably wouldn't make this a lot, but it would be good for a party.

Olive oil, for frying
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
1 box store-bought bite-size cheese ravioli (about 24 ravioli)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 cups marinara sauce, heated, for dipping

Heat 2 inches of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees.

While the oil is heating, put the buttermilk and the bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Working in batches, dip the ravioli in the buttermilk to coat completely, allowing the excess buttermilk to drip back into the bowl. Dredge the ravioli in the bread crumbs. Place the ravioli on a baking sheet, while you coat the remaining ravioli.

When the oil is hot, fry the ravioli in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried ravioli to paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle the fried ravioli with Parmesan cheese and serve with a bowl of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.


Everyday Pasta, Giada DeLaurentiis, 2007

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Read Round Up 2009

it's freezing outside and you're finalizing your New Years plans. that's means it's round up time! What did I get read in the last year? let's find out, handy dandy links included!

Books that blew my mind
1.Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg Review
2.Paradise Kiss (series) by Ai Yazawa
3.The Government vs Erotica by Philip Harvey , yes that Phil Harvey
4.Iron Council by China Mieville


fiction
5.The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
6.American Gods by Neil Gaiman
7.The Confusion by Neal Stephenson
8.Declare by Tim Powers
9.Destroyer of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward Lerner
10.Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling
11.The Eighth Day by John Case
12.Duke Elric, Vol 4 (New illustrated version), by Michael Moorcock
13.Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
14.Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
15.Hominids by Robert Sawyer
16.Hood by Stephen Lawhead
17.Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg
18.The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
19.Nightwatch by Sergie Lukyanenko
20.No Doors No Windows by Joe Schreiber
21.On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers Review
22.Orca by Steven Brust
23.Prophets, vol 1 by S. Andrew Swann
24.Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson
25.Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
26.Sackett's Land by Louis L'Amour
27.Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
28.Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe
29.Soulless by Gail Carriger
30.The Stepsister Scheme by Jim Hines
31.The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers
32.Three Days to Never by Tim Powers
33.Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg
34.Walking the Dog by Charles Davis

Comics/graphic novels/manga/lots and lots of pictures

35.Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
36.Blame by Tsutomu Nihei
37.The Escapists by Brian Vaughan
38.Girl Genius Vol 5 by Phil & Kaja Folgio
39.Fullmetal Achemist Vols 18-21 by Hiromu Arakawa
40.Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito



Non fiction
41.The Art of the Heist by Myles Connor
42.The Battle over Everything by Gordy Slack
43.Court and Constitution by Archibald Cox
44.SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
45.Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
46.Unintended consequences of Constitutional Amendments by David Kyvig


recipe round up coming soon, but I'll be you knew that already.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monster. Cookie Monster.

I try not to make cookies that often. Because when I do make them, I end up eating half the batch. usually right off the cookie sheet. And there is no such thing as enough cookie options!

Who are you?
I'm Monster. Cookie Monster.
(cue James Bond music now)

My cookie recipes

My Mother's Forgotten Cookies
Chocolate Walnut Cookies - gluten free!
Classic Oatmeal Raisin cookies
Classic Buttery sugary cookies - great for Holiday decorating!
Ginger snaps

some faves from around the interwebs
Katharine Hepburn's Brownies
50 Best Desserts from Homestyle gossip
Pumpkin cookies from BitchinCamaro (Ok, more cakey than cookie, but still really tasty)
Nine Cookies to try from The Kitchn, one of my new fave sites.

If that doesn't give you some new cookies to try, we gots issues.

what's for dinner?

"what do you want for dinner?"

"I dunno, what do you want?"

"It's already getting late, so it needs to be fast and easy"

"and I want some meat in it"

"pasta sounds good to me".

Thank you The Kitchn, my problem is solved! Specifically, this recipe, which I simplified and quick-ified even further.

Pasta with Keibasa

1 lb pasta
1 lb read-to-eat polish keibasa sausage, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
8oz sliced fresh mushrooms
1 zucchini, sliced into half moons
salt & pepper
1/2 tbsp dried basil
pinch hot pepper flakes
2 tsp garlic powder
1 jar of your favorite store bought tomato sauce
parmesan cheese

Start the water to boil for the pasta. put the sliced keibasa in a very large skillet, and let it cook for a minute or two. It should give up some grease. Add the shallots, and cook 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and stir and cook, to let the mushrooms soak up some of the grease. If you are using Turkey Keibasa, you may need to add some oil. add the zucchini and spices. try to get the zucchini peices down to the bottom of the pan. Once the zucchini is getting to a stage of done-ness, and if you have room in your skillet, add the tomato sauce right in there, and let simmer until the pasta is done. Otherwise, heat the sauce up on the stove or in the microwave.

when pasta is cooked, drain and rinse well. serve sauce & meat & veg over pasta, sprinkle parm on top.

The only things we had to buy for this was the sausage and the fresh mushrooms. Everything else we had in the house. doesn't get much easier than that!

Monday, December 14, 2009

In Johnny Depp & Tim Powers news. . . .

They've announced another Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The first one was tons of fun, the second one was cute, the third was pretty awful.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is due in 2011, starring all your favorites.

First gut reaction: As fun as these movies are, we really don't need another one.
Second gut reation: they are ripping off the novel by Tim Powers! Someone get that man a laywer so he can sue the crap out of Disney for stealing his ideas (that admittedly are based on history, myth, and pure speculation, like much dark fantasy).

Oh wait, Powers sold the rights to On Stranger Tides to Disney a few years back. So maybe they aren't ripping him off? Maybe this is just the start of his magnificently bizarre novels getting the Hollywood treatment? Personally, I think Last Call, Declare and The Anubis Gates would make great movies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hanukkah Feast!

Hanukkah oh Hanukkah come light the menorah
let's have a party we'll all. . . .


. . . eat fried food and chocolate till we don't feel so good anymore. But it's such a good not feeling so good anymore feeling!

let's see. . we had Schnitzel with caper lemon salsa, my Mom's latkes (see below), and home made Hanukkah gelt (also see below). Was fantabulous, and now I just want to eat MORE.

my Mom's awesome potatoe latkes

3 big potatoes, peeled & grated into a colander
1 onion, grated into colander w/potatoes
1/2 tbsp salt
heaping 1/4 cup matzah meal
1 egg
Canola or corn oil

grate the potatoes & onion into a colander in the sink, and as you go squeeze out as much moisture as possible. you can also press a papertowel into the potatoes & onions to absorb more moisture. Mix the other ingredients in, right in the colander, and blend well. I used my hands to mix it all up.

heat 1/4" of oil in a heavy frying pan, over medium high heat on the stove. 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, carefully drop the potato batter into the oil. My little trick was to mound the batter right on a greased spatula, then let it slide into the oil right from the spatula. the latke is ready to flip when the outer edge is browned, and most of the "pink" tinge has cooked out of the potatoes. This takes about 5 minutes. carefully flip the latke, and cook the other side. let drain on paper towels, and keep cooked latkes warm in the oven. If you latkes aren't getting dark enough, your oil isn't hot enough, or you're not letting them fry long enough.

We always had latkes with applesauce and sour cream when I was a kid. I'm not a fan of applesauce these days, and sour cream isn't so good for you. But you know what? Latkes and low fat greek yogurt is just awesome!

ready for more decadence? how 'bout some home made Hanukkah gelt? I'm trying to remember where I found this recipe, because it's just genius.

Hanukkah Gelt
12 dried apricots
1/2 cup chocolate chips (you choice - dark, semi sweet, white, etc.)

melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. zap it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until it's well melted. This took about 2 minutes in my microwave.

for each apricot, find the seam where the pit was removed. gently pull at the seam, and the apricot will tear right into two halves.

dip each half into the melted chocolate, and lay on wax paper. refridgerate for an hour before serving.

these are like inside out gelt - chocolate on the outside, and the "gold" on the inside.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Joe Schreiber's No Doors, No Windows

I admit that I haven't read a ghost story in a really long time. This really too bad, because a good creepy psychological thriller/ ghost story is worth it's weight in gold. Joe Schreiber's No Doors, No Windows is one of those thrillers. As these types of stories usually do, it starts out normal enough. After many years away, Scott Mast has come home to small town New England for his father's funeral. It's a little awkward being home after all these years, trying to rebuild his relationship with his alcoholic brother Owen, and help take care of Owen's young son Henry. Scott's high school aquaintances are still floating around town, and he can't help but drive past the old theater that took his mother's life in a fire 15 years ago.

When Scott finds his father's unfinished novel manuscript, he becomes obsessed with finishing the story about a young couple who live in a strange old house. When Scott finds the actual building, Round House, that inspired his father's tale, he immediately moves in with high hopes. He explores the large home, and finds other artistic ventures by other family members – paintings, theater posters, other manuscripts. All unfinished, they involve horrific happenings in and around Round House, and Scott is hauntingly drawn to each of them. Can he unravel the Mast family curse before the curse unravels him?

Reading like an extra long version of your favorite Twilight Zone episode, or a better scripted and developed version of The Ring or The Grudge, No Doors, No Windows is a classic ghost story/ psychological thriller with twists and turns to spare. Even better, we're spared the blood and gory details. It's only as bloody or gory as you imagine it to be, and let me tell you have I got a imagination.

I absolutely devoured this book in two days. As the second evening came on, I only had 50 pages to go and I'd be finished. It was dark outside and I was getting ready to climb into bed. Turn off most of the lights and read the book in bed, or wait till the sun was up to reach the conclusion? As much as I hate to put down a good book, I was going to make sure I finished this book when the sun was high in the sky.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Quick and Easy.

Joy of cooking referred to this easy spaghetti sauce as "Streetwalker's Sauce". I'd love to know the story behind that! This pasta sauce is easy, quick, and freezes well. The tomatoes add sweetness, the olives add some tang, the anchovies add depth and flavor, and the hot pepper gives it some kick!

This recipe makes enough for 2 lbs of pasta. Use half now, and freeze the other half for another time.

Puttanesca Sauce, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
half a small tin of anchovies, chopped
three 28oz cans chopped, diced, and/or crushed tomatoes, with juice
1 cup chopped kalamata olives (buy the pitted ones in the jar)
small can tomato paste
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp dried red pepper flakes
2 tbsp capers (optional)
salt to taste

in large heavy pot over medium heat, heat oil, and saute onions until soft and starting to brown (5-10 minutes). Then add garlic and anchovies and stir to break up the anchovies against the bottom of the pot. when the garlic starts to change color (maybe another minute or two), add the rest of the ingredients except salt. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 45 minutes, then season to taste with salt and additional basil and red pepper flakes if you so wish.

If freezing, let cool to room temperature before freezing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

the new Larry Niven / Edward Lerner novel

Yay for more Ringworld stories! Halo, you ain't got nothing on Niven.

Destroyer of Worlds review at SFRevu.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A good heist

a) I just adore those Ocean's 11 movies. I love a good heist story. cool stuff gets stolen, but no one gets hurt

b) I'm trying to read more non fiction. Just for kicks.

Was at the library the other day, trolling the new releases, and The Art of the Heist leapt off the shelf and into my hands. Its by a dude named Myles Connor, who recently got out of prison. for stealing stuff. like Rembrant paintings.

no kidding.

So in those Ocean's 11 movies, and stories like that, stuff gets stolen, no one gets hurt, hardly anyone gets caught, and no one goes to jail, at least not much.

Myles went to jail. Like, a lot. An avid art and weapons collector, he would do anything to get certain peices for his collection, including stealing them. and there are some bank robberies too. It sounds kind of glamourous, until you realize that Connor and his buddies are packing heat, and although Myles doesn't want to hurt anyone, his cohorts aren't so chivalrous. Great parts about this book involve Connor disguising himself as an art professor to worm his way into museum's back rooms, and his detailed plans for heists. Not so great parts include how he killed time in jail, his horrible character judgement of other people, and the fact that this man is a criminal trying to glamorize what he's done.

so is he a guy who got a bad rap for loving art and weapons too much who deserves a book and a book tour? or is he a spoiled loser who never learned to respect the property of others? not sure.

I haven't read much true crime, or books of this type, so I'm not sure how to digest what I've read. It was a morbidly fascinating read, and Myles Connor is some kind of genius and magnificent actor to get away with the things he's gotten away with. but should it be glamorized? if you can't tell, I'm torn on what to think.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Baked Caprese Salad

Not sure why this antipasti is called a salad, it's not really a salad. We used the left-over ingredients to make regular sandwiches. Created a lot of crumbs, but this is very good!

1 baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thick (30 to 36 slices)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
5 Roma tomatoes, sliced
Ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh basil (used basil from a small bottle instead)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet, brush with some of the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Top each slice of bread with a slice of tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with salt. Return the baking sheet to the oven until the cheese and tomato are just warm, about 5 minutes.

Arrange the toasts on a serving platter. Top each toast with a basil leaf (or from a bottle). Using the brush, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.


Everyday Pasta, Giada DeLaurentiis, 2007

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fun recipe sites

Here are some fun and interesting recipe sites that I recently bookmarked.

The Food Librarian
http://foodlibrarian.blogspot.com/

Recipe Zaar
http://www.recipezaar.com/

101 Cookbooks: Healthy Recipe Journal
http://www.101cookbooks.com/

Jewish Recipes (Kosher)
http://www.jewishrecipes.org/

Judaism and Vegetarianism: Recipes
http://www.jewishveg.com/recipes.html

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Progressive thanksgiving

Ever been to a progressive dinner, where you go to a different person's house for each course of the meal? Well we did a sort of progressive thanksgiving. Due to illness, our travel plans got cancelled at the last minute, and suddenly we had 4 days to ourselves, and we could cook whatever we wanted.

Thursday: big pot of soup
Friday: Turkey and stuffing
Saturday: pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust
Sunday: Sweet potatoes and Apples and Corn Pudding
Monday: Pumpkin cookies

I've been in love with the Apricot Glazed Turkey from BitchinCamaro since the first time I had it, and each time i adapt it a little based on the ingredients I have on hand and how many people I need to feed. This year, it was just the two of us, so I vastly simplified the recipe.

This year's Apricot glazed turkey

two skinless turkey breast halves (or even better, one whole boneless one!)
olive oil
salt & pepper
Filling:
half an onion, diced
1/4 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4-6 oz feta cheese
3 tbsp chopped parsley
Glaze:
3/4 apricot jam

these instructions are for two breast halves. if you have a large whole breast, you'll figure it out. Mix all filling ingredient in a bowl. Season breasts all over with salt & pepper. Lay out skin side down (Yes, I know these are skinless breasts, but you know what side I'm talking about), and you'll see that one part is quite a bit larger than the other. with a very sharp knife, cut a pocket into the larger part. Stuff each pocket with as much filling. grease your baking dish with some olive oil, and lay one breast down, skin side down, pocket side up. place remaining filling on top, and very carefully lay second breast on top of this, skin side up, pocket side down. If some of the filling falls out, that's Ok, and if you have filling left over, just put it in the baking dish around the meat. Brush the Apricot jam all over the meat. Cover loosly with tin foil, and bake at 375 for about 75 minutes. Your baking time may be different depending on how much meat and filling you have. Let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie! I was curious to try a graham cracker crust, hoping maybe it would have a little bit less butter in it than a traditional one-stick-of-butter crust that I usually make. Well, it had a little less butter. Not much.

Graham cracker crust for a 9" pie
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter
pinch of salt

whisk together crackers, sugar and salt. melt butter in the microwave and let cool a bit. mix it into the crumb mixture with a fork, and blend very well. With the back of a spoon, or your fingers, press the mixture into a pie plate. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, and let cool before filling with pie filling.

What's the recipe for sweet potatoes & apples? My husband guards that secret very carefully! all I know is that it has apples, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, butter and cinammon, and that it's delicious!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Freakonomics is not a gateway drug to the Twili ght series.

although I'm sure the Freakonomics boys could find some kind of connection between people who enjoy vampire fiction and something interesting and useless. Without a glance at the first freakonomics book, I finished their second book, Superfreakonomics. the book was somewhat funny, interesting, but ultimately kind of useless. The chapter on global climate change was the only area that kept my interest. as far as books go, it was nothing special, but it would be great airport/airplane reading.

and you never know, it could be a gateway drug to the Twilight series.

speaking of vampires, finished Soulless. it started out a fun little gaslight action book with a little bit of cute attemps at flirting between Miss Tarrabotti (who has no soul and is therefore immune to all supernatural creatures) and Lord Maccon (who is a werewolf). They both like each other, but are too stubborn to admit it, and too Victoriana proper to tell each other how they feel. So plenty of social faux pas humor and machinations by Maccon to get the two of them in a room alone together. There is some what of a plot - registered vampires are dissapearing and unregistered vampires are showing up out of nowhere, and it's up to Lord Maccon to figure out what's going on, possibly with Miss Tarrabotti's help. about half way through the novel, the action and mystery style plot line takes a backseat to the romance.

and i'm not really a fan of romance novels, and this got too close to that for me.

two Meringue disasters = kitchen mad science!

I attemped to make my Mom's famous Forgotten Cookies the other day, and had multiple egg disasters.

(why do you call them forgotten cookies? Cuz you put 'em in the oven and forget about them until the next morning. seriously).

Attempt one: made meringue with egg whites, waited too long to add sugar, so i added sugar fairly quickly, and it didn't all disolve, and the meringue fell. looked like the texture of frosting. air bubbles were floating to the top and popping. this is bad, but I didn't know it yet. Oh, and I wanted to make mint flavored Forgotten cookies, so i added some Peppermint Oil. If you've ever worked with peppermint oil,you know you only need a drop to flavor a weeks worth of food. well, there was only a few drops left in the bottle, so i just dumped it all in. the peppermint cloud nearly took my head off. and the oils made the meringue fall even more. But hey, I've got an electric mixer! 40 minutes later, i could smell the engine in my mixer over heating. and the texture of the fallen meringue hadn't changed one bit. not one stinkin bit!

time to try again.

two more eggs. an 1/8 tsp cream of tartar. now for the sugar. granulated or confectioners? during the last hour of holding a mixer over a bowl, I'd had plenty of opportunity to read every single article in The Joy of Cooking about eggs and meringue, and there was some mention of using superfine sugar, because it dissolves easier. Superfine sugar is confectioners sugar, right? original recipe called for 2/3 cup sugar, let's try 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar, and added it approximately one tablespoon at a time.

and baby, it was perfect. ok, nearly perfect. the texture was a little, umm, chewier than usual, but maybe that was just the differnet kind of sugar? i also added a handful of chocolate chips and a drop of red food coloring to make pink cookies. into the oven those babies went!

next morning i went to take them out, and they all stuck to the tin foil. Meringue cookies will dry out in the oven, and although there is a little peeling involved in taking them off a lined cookie sheet, they shouldn't stick at all. these stuck. i tasted one.

I'd made taffy. Thank God i don't having any fillings. I made the husband taste one. he laughed. We agreen to throw the entire batch into the garbage.

So what went wrong?

first, the granuated sugar - I added it too much at a time, and it never dissolved properly. because it didn't dissolve right, it couldn't bond to the air bubbles in the foam and keep the bubbles from moving around (like to the surface) and popping.

second, the peppermint oil - not only did i add about 10 times more than i needed, but oil = fat, and fat + meringue = doesn't work. Next time i have a craving for pepperming meringue cookies, i think i'll make unflavored cookies, and after they come out of the oven i'll spray them with a mix of water and a teensy bit of peppermint or other flavors. A bit of chocolate chips doesn't usually hurt, becuase they have very little oils/fats in the surface, and never really get hot enough in the oven to melt and release the oils.

third, the confectioners sugar - I haven't quite figured out that one yet.

for a while I was really cranky that my cookies didn't turn out, but it was some sweet kitchen chemistry. and the husband did help me with dishes after.

if you've read this far, you deserve some fun articles on the science of of meringue.

and now i know why you can buy "meringue fragrances" online. it's oil/fat free flavoring for your meringue. kitchen science rocks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

The chef who wrote this cookbook published some other books and is on the Food Network. Her books are not vegetarian, but the vegetarian dishes that I've made so far from her pasta cookbook have been very good.

This book also has some very useful pasta cooking tips and information on pasta in general.


2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

On a baking sheet, toss the bell peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onion with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and the herbs. Bake until tender, about 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure it is not completely cooked. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, fontina, mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the peas, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Gently mix using a wooden spoon until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 X 13 X 2-inch baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese and the butter pieces. Bake until the top is golden and the cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Everyday Pasta, Giada DeLaurentiis, 2007

My own mashed potatoes

I now make my own version of mashed potatoes. It comes out a little different each time, and unlike anything else I make, I don't measure anything out.

I use regular potatoes, and sometimes also sweet potatoes. This last time, I also put in a little canned pumpkin and low-fat cream. I peal the potatoes (or sometimes not), and cook them in small chunks until soft. I mash them with some milk, margarine, and a little of all my spices I have that go good with potatoes.

Even though it takes a little different each time, each version is very tasty.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lasagnette with Cauliflower and Broccoli

3/4 lb dried plain and tomato lasagnette (ruffle-edged ribbons)
dash of olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
1/2 lb small cauliflower florets
1/2 lb small broccoli florets
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese *can alternatively use Parmesan cheese
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, and add the lasagnette with a dash of olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender. Drain and set aside, covered.

Bring two saucepans of water to boil, and add the cauliflower and broccoli florets. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and saute the garlic and about 1 minutes. Add the cauliflower, broccoli, lasagnette, and about two-thirds of the Pecorino cheese, nutmeg, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well, then transfer to a warm serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino cheese. Serve immediately.


Vegetarian Pasta Cookbook, Sarah Maxwell, 1998

Cheesy Pepper Supper

2 1/4 cups dried macaroni
1/2 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1/2 yellow pepper, deseeded and finally diced
dash of olive oil

For the sauce:

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp French mustard
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, and add the macaroni with the diced peppers and a dash of olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain and transfer to a shallow, ovenproof dish. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan, then stir in the flour to make a paste. Gradually stir in the milk, a little at a time, until evenly blended, with no lumps.

Gently bring the sauce to a boil, sitrring constantly, until thickened. Stir in the mustard and cheese and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for a further 1-2 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and pepper mixture, and mix it in with a spoon. When the sauce and pasta are evenly combined, sprinkle with the topping ingredients and bake for 25-30 minutes, until crisp and golden.


Vegetarian Pasta Cookbook, Sarah Maxwell, 1998

Fusilli with Roasted Peppers

1 lb dried long fusilli
dash of olive oil
2 yellow peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
chopped, fresh parsley, to garnish

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, and add the fusilli with a dash of olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain, return to the saucepan, and set aside.

Arrange the chucks of pepper on a baking sheet, and place in a broiler for about 5 minutes, or until slightly charred. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the pepper into the pasta with the remaining ingredients, and toss together to combine. Transfer to the ovenproof dish and bake for about 15 minutes, or until heated through and cheese has melted. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve.

Note: To prevent the pasta from sticking together, wash off the starchy cooking liquid by rinsing the pasta under boiling water from the kettle. Continue as directed in the recipe.

Vegetarian Pasta Cookbook, Sarah Maxwell, 1998

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pinwheel Pasta Bake

1 1/2 lb dried rotelle (pinwheels)
dash of olive oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 lb mushrooms, quartered
1/4 lb zucchini, chopped
3 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
2/3 cup vegetable broth
2 1/4 cups grated mature Cheddar cheese

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, and add the rotelle with a dash of olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain, and set aside.

Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan, and saute the garlic for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and zucchini, and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until softened.

Stir the chopped parsley and vegetable broth into the mushroom mixture, and continue to cook, covered, for a further 10 minutes. Add the rotelle, and stir in the grated cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the pasta mixture to a deep casserole dish, and bake for about 20 minutes.

Vegetarian Pasta Cookbook, Sarah Maxwell, 1998

Tagliatelle with Mushrooms

I love making pasta dishes. Here are some of my favorites from one of my vegetarian pasta cookbooks.

1 lb tagliatelle
dash of olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
1/2 lb button or cup mushrooms, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups light cream
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Can also use spaghetti or linguini.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, and add the tagliatelle with a dash of olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan, and saute the garlic and chopped parsley for 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned.

Season the mushroom mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then stir in the cream. Cook the sauce for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the tagliatelle. Continue to cook while stirring to coat the tagliatelle in the sauce. Serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Vegetarian Pasta Cookbook, Sarah Maxwell, 1998

Cranberry Couscous

This is great for Thanksgiving, or for any time. This is an amazing couscous dish! I usually use only half an onion. A frying pan was too small for this recipe.

1 large onion
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. butter
salt as needed
3 3/4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups couscous

Peel the onion, cut it lengthwise into 8 wedges, then slice the wedges very thinly crosswise. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large non-stick saute pan and saute the onion, with a little salt, until it is lightly browned.

Add the vegetable broth and the dried cranberries and bring the broth to a boil. Lower the heat to a mere simmer, add the couscous, cover the pan, and leave it to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave covered for another 2-3 minutes, then fluff up the couscous with a fork and serve.

The New Vegetarian Epicure, Anna Thomas, 2007

Honey-Sweetened Buttermilk Cornbread

A really good cornbread.

1 c. white flour
1 1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1 1/3 c. buttermilk
3 Tbs honey
2 Tbs melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, honey, and melted butter. Combine the wet and the dry mixtures, stirring gently just until the lumps are gone.

Pour the batter into a buttered 12-by-15-inch baking dish and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Cut into squares and serve hot or warm.

The New Vegetarian Epicure, Anna Thomas, 2007

Friday, November 13, 2009

Harira!

according to Wikipedia, Harira is the national traditional food of Morocco, and is a traditional break-the-fast food for Ramadan. I've found recipes for Harira in my Jewish cookbooks, and my Mediterannean cookbooks. Somewhat of a hodgepodge stew of chicken, beef, or lamb, it includes north african spices, tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils, noodles, and sometimes hard boiled eggs. We skipped the eggs, but i can't wait to make this again. A super easy one pot dish, you'll wish you had doubled the recipe.

Moroccan Harira
adapted from Mediterranean:a taste of the sun, by Jaqueline Clark

1 lb Chunked chicken, beef, or lamb (we used chicken sausages)
1/2 tsp ground cinamon
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup green or brown lentils
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
small package pearl onions (usually has 12-20 onions in package)
1/2 cup vermicelli or soup noodles
salt & pepper
lemon slices

put meal, cinnamon, butter, coridander, parsley and onions into a large heavy bottomed pan, and cook over medium heat until meat is browned and onions are soft, 5-10 minutes. add the tomatoes, cook another 50 minutes. rinse the lentils under running water, then add them to the pot along with the chickpeas and 3 cups water. bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 45 min or until meat is cooked (if using beef or lamb, you will need to simmer longer).
near the end of this cooking time, prepare the pearl onions - bring a small pot of water to a boil, add onions. let them boil for 2-3 minutes, then remove and put the onions in a bowl of cold water. with a very sharp knife, cut the end off the onion, and push out the insides, and throw away the outer skins.
add the onions to the pot, and simmer uncovered for another 20 min. add noodles, and continue simmering until noodles are cooked, maybe 10 more minutes. season to taste with salt & peper. serve hot, and garnish with lemon slices.

You can control how "stewy" or how "soupy" this is by changing the amount of water added. stewy is nice, but soupy is nice too, because you get more leftovers. with the above recipe, we got about about 6 large servings.

in the last few years, I have truly learned that cinammon and meat is a match made in heaven.

Soulless, but very witty.

For how much I struggled through Quicksilver, I'm surprised at how quick I'm getting through The Confusion. As I mentioned before, perhaps it's easier because I know what I'm getting myself into, and I know what to expect. Or maybe it's just plain a better book? Stephenson can skip all the character, location, and political introductions, and get right to the action. Talk about action! So far Jack and his crew of ex-slave pirates have stolen a ship full of silver pigs, with the hopes of making a profit in Cairo. When they check the holds, they find absolutely zero silver, but nearly a metric ton of gold. Nice. Too bad their investor is expecting the pigs and has no legitimate use for gold. When Jack learns the investor is none other than Duc d'Archacon, he comes up with some specific plans of his own. Meanwhile, Eliza and her baby are trying to avoid intrugue, blackmail and poverty, and failing miserably at all three. Being blackmailed into a marriage with Etienne d'Archacon might not be the worst thing that ever happened, after all, he believes he is the father of Eliza's child, and it will keep them alive and out of the poor house. Provided she can keep Etienne alive, that is.

And major big plus, the book has maps in the front. I loves me a good map.

On a lighter side, we picked up Soulless, by Gail Carriger. It's a lovely, amusing, witty vampire novel with a twist. Carriger implies this is just the beginning of a casual series, and that is just fine by me. Alexia Tarabotti is under no danger of being bitten by a vampire, as she was born without a soul. When supernatural creatures touch her, they lose all their supernatural powers – fangs recess, werewolves are no longer hungry, things like that. I've only read a few chapters, and the gaslight environs and Alexia's obsession with her wardrobe is entertaining. A nice light read, perhaps this will be my gateway drug to Twilight? Was talking with a friend a work who is nuts over the Twilight books. . . sounds like things easy to read while you're babysitting a counter.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Soup & Stephenson

Ever bought a cookbook for one specific recipe? I do it all the time, especially at garage sales. I'm always on the look out for the "HP The Book of" series of cookbooks, they are these little skinny things, with simple recipes, easy instruction, and good photos. When I saw "The Book of Regional American Cooking Heartland" cookbook at a garage sale for 50 cents, I tell you it was love at first sight. especially since it had a Corn Chowder recipe in it. I've been making little changes to my Mom's old fashioned corn chowder over the years, and this one looked good. and the cookbook has tons of wild rice recipes, yummy stuff!

I tried to find a link on Amazon for this cookbook. The title didn't bring anything up, but the Author, BEatrice Ojakangas? She's got pages of Finnish and Norwegian and bread cookbooks. That's pretty cool!

I made a few modifications to her recipe, as I was trying to blend it with my Mom's recipe, which is my favorite corn soup ever, but really simple.

Corn Chowder, improved.
(adapted from The Book of Regional American Cooking Heartland, by Beatrice Ojakangas)
4 slices turkey bacon
one onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrot
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp paprika
4-5 cups chicken broth
5-6 red potatoes diced
1 cup milk (I had some cream in the fridge, so i used that up, and the rest was milk)
1 lb bag frozen corn, thawed
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 tbsp chopped cilantro


cook bacon in some oil in a large non-stick pot. when cooked, remove and dice. cook onion and carrot in grease, till soft, about 10 minutes. stir in flour, and cook, stiring, another few minutes. don't stop stiring, you don't want the flour to burn! stir in paprika and potatoes. stir well, then pour in chicken stock. simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender. add chopped bacon, milk, corn, and green onions, and cook another 10 minutes or until all is hot. season with salt and pepper, garnish with cilantro.

This was the first corn soup that my husband finished. Usually he has a bowl or two, and I pig out on the rest, but this time he kept beating me to the leftovers!

vegetarian/kosher version? Omit meat, use vegetable broth. I don't suggest using straight water, it would be too bland.

so onto Neal Stephenson, who I'm sure you're sick of hearing me bitch about.

Which means of course when I saw The Confusion, the sequel to Quicksilver, I had to buy it. come on, it was on the clearance rack! And you know what? It's better than Quicksilver. A Lot better. Or maybe it's an easier read because I know who these characters are, and I'm kind of expecting the wild goose chases? regardless, it should keep me busy for a while.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Makes that Mediocre stuff so hard to enjoy.

I finally finished Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, and I'm happy to add it to the “Books I want to read again the moment I finish them” list. For an Eco, it's surprisingly readable, and layered in such a way that readers of any interest level will get a lot out of it.

At its most basic level, this is a murder mystery. In Eco's afterward, he mentions the idea of the novel was born when he played with the idea of poisoning a monk. He also mentions that he wrote the prose in a specifically open manner to encourage readers to form their own interpretation of events and conversations. Is that person being sarcastic? Is there some kind of secrecy going on? If you interpret it that way, then he is, and there is.

Brother William and novice Adso are traveling to a Benedictine Monastery in Italy, for the purpose of meeting up with other monks in the area. They are hoping to devise a plan of attack for an upcoming meeting between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, at which heresy will be the main topic. When William and Adso arrive, they are informed of the recent death of a young monk, and asked to investigate. To protect the reputation of his monastery, the Abbot wishes for William to find out what's going on before the other Catholic representatives arrive.

And, as this is a murder mystery, the bodies start piling up. As a friend of Sir Francis Bacon and William of Occam, brother William goes about his investigation in a very scientific way. Ask questions, find out where people were at the times of death, look for people with fishy alibies, look for footprints in the snow by the bodies. Piece by piece, Williams puts together his hypotheses, with minimal help from the secretive monks. He even sneaks into their famous labyrinth library after the abbot forbids him from doing so. There is something in that library that people are dying for. Like myself, William is a lover of books and knowledge – no learning is heretical, it is all important. Libraries of that time were literally banks of information, scrolls and books that existed no where else in the world. The philosophical idea of a library that exists to keep knowledge away from people and keep secrets was beyond fascinating for me.


The days go by, there are more deaths, the other Catholic representatives arrive, along with the Inquisition. Eco says he put the Inquisition in the story because you can't have a 14th century story take place in a monastery without them. And yes, that chapter made me queasy, had me biting my nails, and nearly gave me an anxiety attack.

There is so much more I could say about this novel, so I'll say just one more thing: read it. Make sure you get a copy with Eco's afterword (because that's the best part), and read it. Eco hits everything just right: style of prose, action, descriptions, dialogue, I can't find a single thing to complain about. Because this is Eco we're talking about, of course the novel has a handful of untranslated German, Latin, and Spanish. So of course I'm waiting for my Spanish-English dictionary to show up in the mail (Mom, I'm looking at you!), am pulling my Latin books down from the shelf (Mom, if you're looking for your Latin books, I'm holding them hostage), and contemplating getting a German English dictionary. The beauty of transliterations, and mistransliterations is that two people will often come up with three differnt ways to translate something. There's another level for you.

It's books like this that make those mediocre novels so hard to enjoy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sandman Slim Review

first things first, check out all those awesome super easy recipes from the other redhead in the kitchen! Rockin!

on a slighty darker note, i wasn't a fan of Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim:

Sandman Slim isn't so much a novel as it is a revenge genre graphic novel with no pictures – plenty of action, violence, some flirtation, and not much else. A bastard child ofThe Crow, Constantine, Spawn and Sin City, it's all the grit and action of a first person shooter adventure video game, with a less intelligent script.

When James Stark was 19 years old, he was a talented magician, in love with the beautiful Alice, and running with the wrong crowd. After a ritual gone horribly wrong (or right?) he ends up in hell. Alive and kicking, but in hell. An obvious novelty, Stark spends the next eleven years as a slave pit warrior, killing monsters left and right, and generally becoming a hellion himself. He eventually finds the magic key that gets him out of hell and back to earth. None of this is really explained, the reader learns of it through Stark's scattered flashbacks.

He's missed eleven years of current events, but is thrilled to be back on earth to track down Mason, Parker, and the rest of the guys who sent him to hell and then killed Alice. Kasabian is easy to find – the dumbest of the lot, he's been holing up in a junky video store, which while in a bad area of Los Angeles is of course surrounded by Beamers, Lexusi, and other fancy cars for Stark to steal whenever he needs to get somewhere. The manager of the video store is the beautiful Allegra, who offers to help Stark merge back into society because she thinks he's right out of prison. She helps him buy a cell phone, he tells her magic is real. Next thing we know, Allegra is apprenticing with the mysterious Dr. Kinski, alchemist extraordinaire. Stark's only goal in life is to avenge Alice's death by killing Mason very slowly.

Like leveling up in an MMORPG, as the novel progresses, the bad guys get tougher, but Stark gets stronger. Convenient how that works. Kadrey should have hired an artist and an inker, because this would have made a decent graphic novel.

Stark spends most of the next few hundred pages getting the crap beaten out of him while trying to find Mason and rest of his minions. Did I mention Angels get involved? And the Department of Homeland Security? And a brothel? And lots of porno dvds? It's not that this book is over the top, it's that this book is so over the top it that it starts to come off as rediculous. Kadrey seems to be competing with himself to see which he can do more often – remind us that Stark is beyond stronger than the strongest person ever, or that everything MacGuyer could ever need is found in the porn section of Kasabian's video store.

This is where the “revenge novel and nothing else” got most annoying for me. Stark was sent to hell during a magical ritual gone horribly wrong. What were they trying to do? Maybe it didn't go wrong, maybe Mason had planned to send him to hell? What did Mason get out of the whole thing? I want to know more about Alice. I want to know more about Kinski, I want to know more about the Jades and all the other creatures in this dark fantasy world. I want to know how Stark managed to trick and kill the Devil's generals and I want to know how he got the key to the Room of Thirteen Doors and embed it in his own body. Kadrey had every opportunity to flesh out his characters, story, and universe by giving the reader some information about how this whole disaster started, but all he could was give Stark some weapons and start him running. Makes me wonder if this is the second book in a series, and I missed the first one?

I probably shouldn't have finished this book. The more I read it, the angrier it made me. It made me angry that Kadrey would make Stark so naïve and stupid. It made me angry that the most interesting character, Kinski, got minimal screen time, and that other characters were so undeveloped as to be embarrasing. It made me angry that reading this made me feel like a prude, as I'd reached my limit of violence, carjacking, blow job jokes and video store porn by page 75. It made me angry that everytime I put the book down I felt the need to bath in Clorox.

All that said, I'm sure this novel has some redeeming points. I picked up a ton of great insults that I hope never to have the opportunity to use. Change the names and place, and you'd have a great novel adaptation of your favorite first person shooter video game. I hope when they make the movie Kinski is played by Peter Stormare and Aelita is played by Tinda Swinton.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yellow Squash Bake

Another simple, good recipe for Passover.

4 lbs. yellow squash
3 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. orange juice
1 c. matzah meal
1/2 stick margarine
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and slice the squash. Steam it with the salt until it is tender. Drain well and mash in food processor or by hand. Add the eggs, sugar, orange juice, matzah meal and melted margarine. Place the mixture in a greased Pyrex pan and bake for an hour in the preheated oven.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Matzah Cheese Kugal

We have made this each year as a Passover tradition. This recipe comes from my in-laws. We have it either at dinner, or for breakfast! From the Second Redhead in the Kitchen.

5 eggs
1 c. milk
1 lb cottage cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 T. margarine
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 c. nondairy creamer
1/2 c. raisins
6 sheets matzah

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, milk, cottage cheese, sugar, cinnamon, margarine, vanilla extract, lemon juice, nondairy creamer and raisins in large bowl and mix well. Layer matzah in a large casserole dish, pouring liquid mixture on the matzah between each layer. Some matzah may be broken into smaller pieces and used to fill in gaps. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Serves 8.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Baked Squash Casserole

I made this with the matzah meal for Passover. From the Second Redhead in the Kitchen.

3 lbs. yellow squash
1 T. sugar
1/2 c .matzah meal or cornflakes crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 stick margarine
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 c. chopped onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook squash until tender. Drain. Mash squash. Add margarine, sugar, salt, pepper, onions and matzah meal or cornflakes crumbs. Add eggs and pour into a small, deep glass casserole dish. Sprinkle a few more crumbs or matzah meal on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 3/4 hour or until lightly brown. Serves 8.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cranberry-Walnut Pareve Pasta

Excellent side dish for the fall season. From the Second Redhead in the Kitchen.

1 lb. angel hair pasta
2 T. olive oil
1 lg. sweet onion, sliced thin
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 c. chopped cranberry sauce (soft cranberries with a little liquid)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add sliced onions. Saute onions in the olive oil on medium heat until soft. Add garlic and stir for a minute. Add walnuts and allow to saute until hot before adding cranberry sauce. Stir the sauce into the mixture. Continue stirring occasionally until hot. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Mix angel hair pasta with sauce.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Quinoa Pilaf

A nice recipe so Quinoa isn't so bland. From the Second Redhead in the Kitchen.

1/2 c. carrots
1/2 c. green onions
1/4 c. celery
1/4 c. green pepper
1/4 c. sweet red pepper
1/2 c. oil
6 c. quinoa, cooked
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 c. almonds, sliced
1/4 tsp. oregano (optional)
Salt to taste

Dice carrots, green onion, celery and peppers. Saute vegetables in oil until clear, yet crisp. Sit sauteed vegetables into cooked hot quinoa. Saute almonds in skillet until lightly golden. Add almonds, garlic and oregano to mixture. Salt to taste

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Sweet and Buttery Noodle Kugel

Another kugal from the Second Redhead in the Kitchen. There are more kugals that I've made, but this is probably enough for this blog.

7 c. (12-oz. pkg) med. egg noodles, uncooked
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
3 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. sour cream
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
6 eggs
1 c. raisins (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 X 13-inch glass baking dish. Cook noodles according to package directions and drain. In large bowl, stir together butter or margarine, ricotta cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Stir in cooked noodles and raisins. Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into squares. Serve 10 to 12.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Apricot Dairy Kugel

From the Second Redhead in the Kitchen. This is unusual, but very tasty.

1 (12-oz) pkg. egg noodles, cooked and drained
4 eggs
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 cup)
4 oz. melted butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. apricot jam
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz. sour cream

Topping:

1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. crushed cornflakes
4 oz. butter

Put cooked noodles in a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients and mix with the noodles. Mix the cinnamon, sugar and cornflakes and spread on the top, dotting the top with the butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serves 12-15.

Notes: You can use Eggbeaters, light cream cheese and fat-free sour cream and it is still great.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Reduced-Fat Potato-Zucchini Kugel

Another Kugel recipe from the Second Redhead in the Kitchen. I used a good grater.

6 c. potatoes and zucchini (4 c. potatoes to 2 c. zucchini works well)
1 tsp canola oil
3 egg whites
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c. matzah meal
Paprika to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor or with a grater, grate 6 cups of potato/zucchini. Add egg white and oil and mix. Mix together the garlic, salt, pepper and baking powder. Sprinkle into potato/zucchini mixture and mix well by hand. Add matzah meal and mix well. Place in a non-stick 9 X 14-inch baking dish (or if not non-stick, oil lightly and dust with matzah meal). Sprinkle top with paprika and bake for 1 hour.

Notes from recipe (paraphrased): Use 3 whole eggs if want not no-fat. You can use on Passover if you eliminate the baking powder or find Kosher for Passover baking product.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Broccoli and Mushroom Noodle Kugel

Here's another kugal recipe from Second Redhead in the Kitchen. This takes some prep work, but it is very good.

2 stalks fresh broccoli, chopped
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 T. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. white wine
3 eggs
3 c. ricotta or cottage cheese
1 c. sour cream
3 c. wide noodles
2 T wheat germ or breadcrumbs
1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute broccoli, mushrooms and onions in butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add wine. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and whisk in ricotta or cottage cheese and sour cream. Cook noodles until just underdone, and drain well. Mix noodles, vegetables and cheese mixture together. Put in greased 9 X 13-inch pan and top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes.

I didn't add the wine (since I just didn't have any), and it still came out very good.

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Applesauce Kugel

This is my first post. I'm Redhead in the Kitchen's sister, and I'm guest blogging my own recipes here. I'm the Second Redhead in the Kitchen. We keep vegetarian at home (no fish, no meat), so all the recipes that I post will have no meat and no fish.

This kugal is easy to make and is very good! More kugals are coming!

1 lb. wide noodles
4 eggs
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. melted margarine
1/2 c. raisins or dried cranberries
2 c. applesauce (unsweetened)
Cinnamon and sugar to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles until nearly tender and drain. Beat eggs and add the sugar, vanilla, margarine, raisins (or dried cranberries), applesauce and noodles, mixing well. Pour into a large greased baking dish. Combine some cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on top. Bake 1 hour until the top is browned.
(Top with small spoonfuls of orange marmalade - optional)

Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook (2003), Bethesda, MD

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sandman Slim

Just finished this little quickie, working hard on a formal-ish review. i thought i got a recommendation for this book off boingboing. Cory Doctorow, was that you? if yes, shame on you young man. after a spell of reading this book, I don't know which i want more - a trip to my happy place that's full of rainbows and unicorns, or nice a bath in bleach. review to come.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

telling?

well, i must have liked something about Stephenson's Quicksilver, since I just bought The Confusion, the second book in the series. but i will admit, it was on the clearance rack at Books a Million. How telling is that?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When did autumn get here???

I've been terrible with timely posts this fall, I know. Been busy, been travelling, been playing Fable 2. I'm over it.

The summer of one bowl big salads has morphed into the autumn of one pot hearty stews. We've already had one chili and a pasta/tomato/peas/salami thing. I'd give you the recipe, but the chili is a family secret, and the other I don't know what all I put in there. Incidentally, I read that cayenne is good for staving off colds, so I made sure it was a super hot chili. My throat was burning off, and it's a good thing!

Newsflash! I did finally finish Stephenson's Quicksilver! it was both one of the best and one of the worst books I've read recently. If that makes no sense, scroll down for further discussion of what I was going through while I was reading it.

On a better note, Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose is both eminently readable and subtly satirecle, two of my favorite things. Even funnier, I just watched the “Monk” episode of Terry Jones's Medieval Lives, and while watching it I could say “those people are in my book!” it was delicious nerdy fun that even Yomiko Readman would be proud of.

Been reading buckets of Steven Brust lately, just can't get enough. Bought Orca (part of the Vlad Taltos series) and The Phoenix Guards (sorta kinda a prequel series to the Vlad books), and zipped through Orca in about 2 days. Vlad Taltos is becoming one of my favorite fictional characters. Smart, sarcastic, scrawny and a smart-ass, sometimes he beats people up, sometimes he pays people to beat other people up, and sometimes he gets the shit kicked out of him. When I first met Vlad many volumes ago, he was young, brash, and an assassin for hire, mostly working for the corrupt Jhereg, a royal house in the Draegeran Empire. Always the misfit, he's too human to ever truly fit in in the Empire, and too Draegeran to ever fit in back in the east, where the humans live. These days, he's semi retired, semi forcefully. Having done something horribly wrong (if someone knows what book this occurs in, and what happens, please tell me the book!), he is now on the run form the Jhereg, who would love to give him an unrevivafiable death sandwich. Hiding out in the east, and venturing back into the Empire when duty calls and to sneak a visit with his ex-wife and son, Vlad spends his days as part muckraker, part witch for hire, and part punching bag. Having a telepathic familiar and being on a first name basis with the Empress doesn't hurt either.

These books are filled with action, sarcasm, wit, sarcasm, intruigue, action, and a little more sarcasm, and a surprising amount of romanticism. Not romance, with kissy stuff, but romanticism. Think of it what you will.

Some fans have voiced some angst about Brust never giving a real physical description of the Draegerans, other than that they are tall and live a really, really, really long time. Humans call them Elves, in a derogatory fashion. But not having a physical description of them? It's never bothered me. To me, the Draegerans are just tall humans who seem not to age. They seem to accept Vlad and his family pretty readily, allowing humans to live in the vicinity, and even meet with the body politic. So not knowing everything there is to know about the Draegerans? Not a problem, not one bit.

Friday, September 25, 2009

yet more decadence

I don't know why Chicken Salad always looks and tastes decadent, it's easy to make, and a great way to get rid of leftovers.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
marjoram
salt & pepper

about 1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, cut in half
2 green onions, minced
half an apple, cubed
3 tbsp mayonaise
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
a little bit of fresh minced tarragon
salt & pepper
optional: few tbsp chopped pecans


spice the chicken breasts with salt, pepper & a little marjoram, and bake, covered, at 350 for 20 minutes, or until done. cool the chicken.

when cool, chop or shred, and mix in bowl with all other ingredients. let chill for at least one hour and adjust seasonings before serving.

I know alot of people like celery in this dish for the crunch factor, but I didn't have any celery in the house, and wasn't in the mood for it anyways. the apples give a really nice crunch, but we'll have to see how they survive in the fridge overnight. Here's hoping i don't have a bowl of mush tomorrow morning.


the husband's guess is that Chicken Salad has a reputation for decadence because once upon a time it was considered "hotel food" - a luxury. well, I bet hotels and restaurants love the stuff, because it lets you use up a bunch of stuff that would go bad otherwise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

my very decadent lunch

i just had to brag. Made this for lunch today out of mostly random bits and peices in the fridge that needed to be used up.


a grilled cheese sandwich made with Edam, Summer Sausage rolled in herbs de provence, and roasted red peppers. and yeah, you can call it a grilled cheese sandwich, but i call it luxury.

eat that!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rosh Hashanah Feast

Passover is my favorite holiday, followed by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I'm usually planning a weeks worth of Passover food upwards of a month in advance, but Rosh Hashanah is just one feast meal, so the planning might begin a week ahead, maybe a few days again. I gotta say, sometimes the planning and the cooking is more fun than the eating.

Traditional Rosh Hashanah food is based on the phrase "May you have a sweet year. May God inscribe you in the book of life". So lots of sweet foods (for a sweet year), hand shaped foods (for the Hand of God that inscribes you in the book of life), round foods (for the never ending circle of life), lots of apple and honey, sweetened bread, fruit filled meats and sweet sauces. Having had apples and honey and apples and honey and bread and honey as the "Rosh Hashanah snack" my entire childhood, it was time for apples and honey and bread, just not in the same bite.

For any Jewish Holiday involving food, you gotta have Challah. Just a few minor changes to a regular Challah make it extra sweet and pretty for Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah Challah (makes One Challah)

1 pkg dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg + 1 egg white for later
1/8 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 oil
2 - 3 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in warm water for half hour, then drained

dissolve yeast in the water, with a little bit of honey. let sit 10 minutes or until frothy. beat one egg in a large bowl, then add honey, salt & oil and beat again. now add yeast mixture, and mix well. Add the flour, a little at a time, you shouldn't need all of it, until a soft dough forms. flour your hands, and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if it gets too sticky to handle. put a few drops oil in the bowl, and turn dough to coat. cover, and let rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours. after first rise, punch down, and knead the raisins into the dough.

Sabbath Challah is braided, and Rosh Hashanah Challah is round. Grease a cookie sheet, and pull the dough into a long rope, one end being fatter than the other. put the fat end in the middle of the cookie sheet, and wrap the rope around it. If it resembles a cinamon roll when you're done, you did it right. cover, and let rise for one more hour. half hour before your going to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 400. right before baking, brush the top of the loaf with egg white. bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until top is browned.

Let cool completely before eating. Eat hot bread and you'll get a tummyache!

CousCous Stuffing
I wanted to do a stuffed turkey, but i didn't want to go the normal route of stuffing, and i wanted some sweet and filling in there. I also have an unholy love for fried onions.

1 onion
pinch sugar
2 cups prepared CousCous (make it with broth, not water)
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
5 or 6 chopped dried dates
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried cardamom
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
salt & pepper

Slice the onion, and fry in a little oil over medium heat. add the sugar if you want, it will help the onion color faster. after onion is fried and browned to your satisfaction, blend all ingredients and refridgerate at least one hour. after an hour, taste and add more spices as needed.

that's gonna go great in this delicious fruity
Apricot glazed Turkey
Whole Turkey
Apricot preserves- how much you need depends on how big the bird is
salt & pepper
tarragon
olive oil

A little like the famous Bacon Wrapped Turkey Roll, but i didn't feel like deboning the Turkey. make sure the Turkey is completely thawed! put cotton stuffing bag in the cavity, and gently stuff with cooled stuffing. close bag, use toothpicks to keep the opening closed. flip the bird breast up, and gently pull the skin away from the flesh, pulling towards the spine. If your able to pull the skin away from the legs as well, that's even better. Don't completely pull the skin off, it's going to be the "blanket" to keep all the moisting and flavors in. rub the flesh with oil, and season with salt and pepper. brush with apricot preserves and tarragon. now fold the skin back over, and secure down with toothpicks. rub oil over the skin, and season with more salt & pepper. cover with foil, and bake at 350 approx 15 minutes per pound. check with a meat thermometer before you eat it! Not sure how long to cook your turkey, or how to know when it's done? call your Mom or Grandma, they'll know. And they'll be really proud of you for cooking a whole turkey!

Sides:
Sweet Potatoes w/Honey soy glaze
I got this out of a Japanese Cookbook from the library a few years ago. and you just can't go wrong with sweet potatoes.

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 olive oil
salt
3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dried ginger

toss potato peices in a bowl with oil and some salt. pour onto a greased rimmed cookie sheet, and roast at 350 for 30 minutes, or until edges are browning. drizzle sauce over, and broil for a minute or two (beware of smoke!! Our smoke alarm almost went off!).

Green Beans with breadcrumbs
Had this at a friends house, and it was love at first bite. Cuz ya'll know I love greenbeans!

1 lb green beans
oil
1 tbsp italian breadcrumbs

saute green beans in oil over medium heat. you want to get a little browning on 'em. when they are bright green with bits of charring, they're done. takes about 8 minutes. combine in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, serve immediately.


Dessert was the deliciously magnificient Cardamom Apple Cake. Again, what a pain in the nect to make, but so delicous it's worth it. we had it with strawberries on the side.

So that was the Rosh Hashanah feast, and it was beyond delicious. Can't wait till Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 11, 2009

i want this.

i love the idea of math, but math hates me back.

i want this.

The Math Book, by Clifford Pickover.

A few more thoughts on Stephenson's Quicksilver

And no, I haven't finished it yet. Not even close.

If you pick up this book thinking it is going to be just another novel, you will not like it. If you pick it up thinking I surived Robert Jordan, I can survive this!!, you probably will not like it.

Quicksilver isn't so much a novel as it is a discussion and an observation. If all my history of math (which I hope to re-read this winter) and history of science had a plot line, they would read like Quicksilver. If I can survive reading this, I'm pretty sure i'll be inspired to pick up the husband's histories of econ in Europe books. Although they look obscenely boring.

Read a novel, learn something, get inspired to learn more about a subject you had always thought was obscenely boring. Now that my friends, is a sign of a good author. Ok, and author who really, really, really for the love of anything you believe in needs a better editor, but a good author nonetheless.

That said, if someone were to ask me “is is a good book? Did you like it?” my response would have to be something along the lines of “describe the last sunset you saw”. Because the person's response could easily define if they will like Quicksilver or not. Was the sunset just ok? Did they not even notice it? Were they too busy texting at the time? Or were they fascinating by the shape and colors of the clouds? Did they stand and watch for a few minutes as they could observe the height of the sun just by seeing what colors the clouds were, and how tall the clouds were based on if there was any daytime sunlight on the tops of them? Do you see what I mean?

On that note, I believe this saturday will be spent away from distractions attempting to read more of Quicksilver. Those distractions being the 2nd cutest video game ever, Eternal Sonata, (the cutest video game ever would be Katamari Damacy) and a fun actiony gamey thing called Devil may Cry. Damn you xbox 360, and your distracting box of fun!

Friday, September 4, 2009

I require FUN books.

I'm finding in my old age, that fun is a requirement while reading for pleasure. Call me unliterary, call me immature, call me uneducated, just so long as you call me.


Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson – informative, humorous, beautifully detailed, a palatable history lesson, but fun? Not so much. I'm about a third (400 pages + )of the way through, and I just don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. Like this is going to be 900 pages of set up, for something that's going to take another 2500 pages to come to fruition. Have I ever mentioned I hated reading Robert Jordan? The one thing this book really has going for it is it's damn educational. I feel like I'm taking a political / financial history class, and for once, this is a good thing. Stephenson's got so much going for him, would it kill him to get a damn editor? If/When I write a review for this book, it's going to read like a dissertation, because it will take me 10 pages just to set the scene. Even worse, the stupid book is addicting. I can't put it down because the characterization is great, and I'm getting a great history lesson, but other books sitting around the apartment are just so much more fun and entertaining. Sigh.
And will someone please tell me what the hell Enoch Root is doing in Massechussetts in 1713? Shall I just assume he's immortal?

Hood, by Stephen Lawhead – again informative, somewhat humorous, detailed, somewhat of a history lesson, a little slow. Many of the same things I complained about regarding Stephenson's Quicksilver, but with Lawhead, it's not such a big deal. Then again, in my book, Stephen Lawhead can do no wrong. He may write some cheap endings (Endless Knot!), but I still adore him. Hood is his take on the Robin Hood legends, except in Wales, during the Norman conquest of England. Bran ap Brynchan may be the heir of Elfael, but he wants to live his life as differently as his warlord father as possible. When his father is killed by invaders, Bran can run away from the burning villages of his people, or he can stay and fight. More apathetic than afraid, Bran simply does not want the life of a leader. He saw what that life did to his parents, and he wants anything but for himself. Finding safety in the forest, and help from a forest “witch”, it takes time for Bran to decide to do the right thing. The middle of the book is fairly slow, but it needs to be, as Bran is fighting his transformation into the leader he didn't know was inside him. Lawhead makes this into a perfectly acceptable Robin Hood myth. Where's friar Tuck? Where's king Richard? Don't worry, they are in there, just in slightly different incarnations. I am looking forward to the rest of the books in the trilogy – Scarlet and Tuck. Another thing I respect about Lawhead – he doesn't string me along. A trilogy is a trilogy, a stand alone book is a stand alone book. Lawhead tells me ahead of time how much of my attention he wants, and I like that.


Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch – This is the second or third time I've read this book, which is the 2nd book in Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series. Sure, It's not as good as the first book, but damn, it is just so funny, and I can't help but giggle at all the swear words. Like the first one, Red Seas is pure, unadulterated FUN. It's taken me a long time at admin to my friends that I am a Scott Lynch fan girl, as his stuff just strikes me as so immature. But when I want something fun, he is my go to author. Don't be surprised in a group of rabid fangirls descends on Lynch's home in Wisconsin, demanding the next book in the series.

Adventures in cooking, take three. Been looking for a tasty jerk chicken recipe, and finally found the secret is to just cheat, and buy some citrusy kicky jerk sauce, then doctor it up at home. This recipe looks complicated, but like everything else I make, it's really pretty easy.

Jerk Chicken with rice & beans
1 cup uncooked rice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can diced pineapple (don't drain it!)
2 green onions, sliced thin
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ cup orange juice
2 tbsp jerk sauce (we used Lawry's, and it was really good)
1 tbsp ground ginger
3 or 4 skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin and seasoned with salt & pepper
olive oil


Cook the rice on the stove like you normally would. While it's cooking, we'll prepare the sauce, the garnish (oooh, fancy, it's got a garnish!) and saute the chicken.

Make the garnish – pour pineapple and all juices in the can in a bowl over the green onions. The pineapple juice will mellow the onions.

Make the sauce – combine the vinegar, orange juice, and jerk sauce. That was easy.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides, in two batches if you have to. When chicken is mostly cooked, make sure it is all in the pan, and pour the vinegar sauce over. Simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through, and sauce has thickened a little.

The rice should be done by now, mix the black beans into the rice.

To serve: put down some rice and beans on your plate, put a piece of chicken on top, put some pineappley green onions on top of that. Looks lovely, has a nice kick, and might even be good for you!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Missing in Action

It's been near a month since I posted, and that's just plain sad. what could have caused this you might ask? a mixture of weather that's so beautiful i couldn't bear to sit inside, weather so hot and disgusting my brain couldn't do anything but attempt to stay cool, a growing video game addiction, an overwhelming pile of library books, and a bit of burn out.

Hopefully all that's passed. what's most unfortunate is that overwhelming pile of library books? not a lot of winners. sigh. Just like last summer, all I wanted to do was read favorites that I already own. so i did.

and cooking? sure, been doing plenty of that when the mercury isn't boiling out of the thermometer, but not much in the way of recipes: whirl up some pesto in the food processesor, toss it with some pasta and grilled chicken or shrimp. my Basil plant is out of control, I've made pesto 3 times already! and next week I'll be swimming in ripened tomatoes. Can you say Caprese?

I don't enjoy saying that books weren't winners, and maybe they just weren't winners for me. so many losers in a row however, got me mighty discouraged. Lessons learned: don't keep saying "add that to my ILL list" in conversation with the nice librarian, and what your buddies at the library like you might not like.

Declare, by Tim Powers - a cold war spy story with some occult thrown in. Powers does occult far better than he does spy. The book takes place in 1941, when Andrew Hale is a British Agent who infiltrates the ComIntern in Paris, meets up with Kim Philby, and all sorts of strange things start the happen, and in the 1960s, when Andrew is reactivated to find out exactly what happened to Philby. A metal ankh Andrew wears saves his life more than once, a strange half human creatures he meets around Mt Ararat begin to expose the truth to him. If you know your biblical mythology, you know where this is going. and it is, but it isn't. Powers has the gift for turning pockets of forgotten time into the best story you ever heard. unfortunatly, Declare is not the best example thereof. The beginning of the book was great, the end was excellent, but the middle was muddled and suffered from putdownableness.

The Stress of her Regard, by Tim Powers - far better than Declare, and the enjoyment faults were all mine. Taking place in the early 1800's, we start with Michael Crawford who is about to marry the beautiful Julia. Julia is thrilled to leave behind her provincial family and her clingy yet antisocial twin sister. The couple is married, and in the morning, Crawford is horrified to find bloody Julia, brutally murdered, lying beside him in bed. Knowing he will be found guilty of murder, Crawford runs. Meanwhile, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron are up to their regular shenanigans, wooing women then leaving them, enjoying themselves in Europe, and getting involved in secret societies. Crawford eventually hooks up with them only to learn that Julia was killed by a lamia, or vampire, and who now sees Crawford as her legal husband. And she is very jealous, and will kill anyone who shows loves for Crawford. Already involved with Shelly and Byron, the Lamia is slowing killing their families and loved ones. The only way to kill the lamia is to do so while the Graie (remember them from Mythology? three old hags who shared one eye?) are awake, but blind. I wish I had paid more attention to literature class in high school, so i could have known more about the livse of Shelley and Byron before reading this. Sure, i know Mary Shelley, who doesn't, but I never read her husband. The Stress of her Regard is a great book for students of literature and mythology, and a good book for everyone else.

Hominids, by Robert Sawyer - the easiest, quickest, and least cerebral read of the group. It's not an insult to Sawyer when I say this book isn't cerebral, it's just that unlike Powers, Sawyer connects all the dots for the reader. All you have to do is read, he'll do all the thinking for you. THe premise of Hominids is great - through a quantum computing experiment gone wrong, a portal is opened to a parallel universe in which Neanderthals are the primary hominid, and homo sapiens were wiped out generations ago. The Neanderthals lean towards hunting gathering rather than agriculture, which along with a strictly maintained population size, makes their world very much in peace with nature and the earth. The Neanderthal earth is Sawyer's ideal world: everyone is happy, everyone is safe, no one is unemployed or hungry, no one is cruel or greedy, there is very little crime, there is culture, but no religion. A perfect vehicle for Sawyer to preach about all that is wrong with homo sapiens and our society. This is where no thinking is required on the place of the reader, because Sawyer will bash you over the head with his "Neanderthals are the perfect peaceful creature, and you horrible disgusting humans killed them all and did a million other horrible things!" again and again and again, until you are blue in the face. All that said, this was a good, easy read, which was much appreciated after those two Powers novels that made my brain nearly melt. This series has three books, and I might just read the next one, just to see the damage Sawyer can do. Not the best reason to read a book, but hey.

speaking of my brain melting, I borrowed a copy of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver from a friend, and I'm already running into familiar names: Enoch Root, the Waterhouse family. . . not to mention a 10 year old Ben Franklin. This book is going to kick my ass, and I verily think I'm going to enjoy it. Having survived his Cryptonomicon, at least now I know what to expect with a Stephenson style brain melting ass kicking.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I knew it would happen sooner or later

It was bound to happen eventually. I knew i couldn't live in book bliss forever. I knew one day the other shoe was going to drop.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's happened. I have discovered the true meaning of the phrase "I got too many books from the library". but it wasn't my fault, i swear! i was chatting with one of the librarians, and he was putting a book or two on my interlibrary loan account, and i lost track of my tab, and I'd already gotten some stuff at the other library and browsed around before I even remembered to check my interlibrary loan at the desk!!

the husband has promised to keep me away from libraries (except to return stuff!!) for the next 3 weeks at least. that's a tall order, this is me we're talkin' about.

Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
Forever Peace, by Joe Haldeman
Declare by Tim Powers
The Stress of Her REgard, by Tim Powers
Hart & Boot, by Tim Pratt
Looking for Jake, by China Mieville
Hominids, by Robert Sawyer
Sword & Citadel, by Gene Wolfe

that's a lotta reading. at to top it off, I got an advanced reading copy of a new Larry Niven, and since i didn't feel like i had enough to read to begin with, I felt the need to pull down one of my Mom's old books on biblical commentary. go figure.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

catching up on books

you know, if i posted more often, i wouldn't have so many of these catch up posts.

Review for Gene Wolfe's Shadow & Claw (first two books of the Book of the New Sun series: Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator) is on ARWZ.

What cracked me up was I was reading Wolfe's slow paced Shadow & Claw at the same time that i was reading Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine, which is nothing but fast paced action. Wow do those two books not go together!

Accidental Time Machine - my first Joe Haldeman, and i wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped. It was a fun, fast, well paced book, but I was hoping for something deeper from this award winning author. Story follows physics student Matt Fuller, who literally, accidentally creates something that works as a future-only time machine. rigging the machine to an old car, Matt is able to hop about a decade into the future where he finds his girlfriend has left him for a rival, his physics professor has stolen his research, and everything he thought he knew about physics has changed. When Matt gets in trouble, or bored, he can always hop into the time machine and jump into the future, where he eventually hopes to find the technology to send him back to his own time (Dr. Who? Quantum Leap? "hoping to get back to their own time" - that's gotta be it's own subgenre by now.) This is where the narrative falters: the time machine is nothing more than a plot device for when Haldeman isn't sure what to do. It was a distraction, as in I knew the moment Matt (or Haldeman) got bored, frustrated, or curious, he was just going to hop into that machine and hit a button. The little twist at the end was nice, but still, i was a little dissapointed in the book as a whole.

Speaking of Joe Haldeman, Hugo and Nebula award winning author, i just started his Forever War. This is the novel he's famous for, and my expectations are high.

If you've been following this blog, you've know I've been throwing a ton of manga at the wall lately, to see what will stick, and I've come to the conclusion that Ai Yazawa can do no wrong. I'm still pretty obsessed with the five volume series Paradise Kiss, and now i've moved onto one of her older series: Nana.

Nana Komatsu is trying to start over in Tokyo - after a few years of falling in love with every guy she meets, she's trying to "be friends first", and maybe have a meaningful relationship. oh yeah, and keep a job, find an affordable apartment, and keep her relationship with Shoji afloat.

Nana Osaki is brokenhearted after her bandmate Ren is invited to join a famous band in Tokyo. trying to make it on her own as a rock musician, she moves to Tokyo and starts a new band while she is still pining for Ren.

the "Nana's" become unlikely best friends, and help each other through their hard times.

Nana in Japanese is another word for the number seven, and can also be used as a girl's first name. Four volumes into Nana, and it's got humor, sex, relationhips gone bad and good, unrequited love, rock music, and more humor and sexual situations. This is my kinda Shoji (girl's romantic stories)!