Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Devil's Food Cake (Low-Fat Chocolate Cake)

Next to our mom's chocolate "crazy" cake, this is the best home-made chocolate cake recipe I have found so far!

2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon baking soda
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup coffee

Preheat oven toe 350. Spray a 3 X 9 X 2 pan, dust with flour, shake off excess flour.

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Whisk in applesauce, buttermilk, and oil. Bring coffee to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir gently into batter, will be soupy. Pour into pan. Bake 35-40 minutes.

Unknown Internet Source

Make-Ahead Party Mashed Pototoes

I clip coupons from our free local weekly newspaper. I usually ignore the recipes that come along with the coupons, but this one caught my eye. It took about a week for the two of us to finish it, but it was very tasty and easy to make. I didn't think about cutting it in half. There is also an option for chopped bacon, but I didn't add it, so I didn't include it in the recipe.

7 1/2 cups water
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine
2 teaspoons garlic salt (I just used minced garlic)
2 teaspoons onion salt (I just used minced onion)
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, cubed and softened (I get low fat)
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1 16-oz. contained sour cream (I get low fat)
1 15.3 oz package instant mashed potatoes (9 cups) (I used Hungry Jack brand)
Chopped parsley (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with no-stick cooking spray. Heat water, butter, garlic, salt and onion salt to boiling in a 6-quart Dutch oven or saucepan. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese, evaporated milk and sour cream, stirring until cream cheese is dissolved.

Stir in potato flakes, mixing until all ingredients are well combined. Spread potato mixture into prepared pan.

Sprinkle with paprika and bake 1 hour or until bubbling around edges and golden brown. Top with parsley.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

This makes a lot, but is so good and sweet!

2 cups flour
1/3 cups brown sugar
1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/8 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cups soft butter or margarine
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups canned or fresh pumpkin
1 3/4 (1 can) cup sweetened condensed milk

3 eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon and nuts until crumbly, then add butter. Reserve 1 1/4 cups for topping.

To remainder, add 2 eggs and mix until dough forms. Spread in bottom of 9 X 13 ungreased pan. Mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, cinnamon, allspice, and salt well and pour over unbaked crust. Top with reserved dry topping.

Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes until baked through.

Unknown Internet Source

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chocolate Tapioca Pudding

This is amazing!

1 quart chocolate soy milk (I just used regular chocolate milk)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup quick-cooking granulated tapioca
2/3 cup gluten-free vegan chocolate chips (I just used regular chocolate chips)

Bring soy milk and salt to a simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in tapioca, and reduce heat to low. Cook at a low summer 20-25 minutes, or until tapioca is transparent and pudding begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate chips until melted. Cool completely before serving.

Vegetarian Times, July/August 2010

Potato Knishes

This book also has a Kasha and Onion Knish recipe, but I wanted to try this basic one before going on to more ingredients. This cookbook only includes vegan and parve recipes. This recipe states that usually eggs are in the dough. I want to try other recipes.

According to the two knish recipes in this book, they come out square, but others can be different sizes. See for history and links to other cool info.

I started making them, and then my husband put them all together. They came out very good, and they are good with mustard.

This is the complete recipe, which makes about 12. I cut the complete recipe in half, and we got 7 out of the dough. We also had tons of left-over filling, which was unexpected.

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups water
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Cook potatoes in boiling water in a covered pot for 20 minutes (I had to uncover it when it boiled over). Drain.

Saute onions with oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and dash of pepper in a frying pan over medium heat under onions are soft.

Mash cooked potatoes and divide mixture in half. Stir half the mashed potatoes with sauteed onion mixture. Mix remaining potatoes with turmeric, salt, flour, and baking powder to create a dough. (We saw that adding a little water helps with creating a dough.) Knead dough for a few minutes. Then, roll dough out on floured surface until 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 4" X 4" squares (about 12). Place 1/12th of potato/onion mixture on each square. Fold corners of dough in and pinch dough tight in center.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place knishes (pinched side down) (we didn't turn them over) on lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm with mustard of sauerkraut.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, Debra Wasserman, 1994

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quinoa and Spinach Soup

This is one of the best home-made soups I've ever tasted.

1 medium red onion, diced (1 1/4 cups)
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
10 oz. spinach leaves

Coat large saucepan with cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. Add onion, and saute 5 minutes, or until soft. Stir in broth, and 4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and spinach leaves. Simmer 5 minutes, uncovered, or until spinach and quinoa are tender. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Times, January 2009

Tangy Carrot-Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

We have a subscription to the Vegetarian Times, and this recipe (and others) have come from there. It's a great resource for vegetarian and vegan dishes.

1 1/2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp)
2 cups grated carrots (I just made 1 cup)
1/2 red apple, diced (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
1 tsp agave nectar or honey
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cups baby spinach leaves

Combine cider vinegar and garlic in small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Stir together carrots, apple, green onions, parsley, and cranberries in large bowl. Whisk nectar or honey and oil into cider vinegar mixture. Add to carrot mixture; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover, and chill for 2 hours, or overnight. Serve on bed on spinach leaves. I decided to combine everything together before chilling, and it was fine.

Vegetarian Times, October 2010

Broccoli Noodle Bake

Very good, and very easy to make!

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped (I used a small yellow onion)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 or 4 ribs celery, chopped
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
8 ounces spaghetti, uncooked
10-12 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups), divided (I just bought the shredded cheese in a bag, even though I have a grater, and it worked fine)
2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/2 soup can milk
1 can (4 ounces) whole or sliced mushrooms, drained (the smallest can I could find was about 6 ounces, and it was fine)

Melt margarine in a large saucepan; saute onion, green pepper and celery. Put broccoli on top; cover and simmer 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain.

In a buttered 3-quart casserole dish, layer spaghetti, vegetable mixture and 3/4's of the cheese. In a small bowl, combine soup and milk; pour over mixture in dish. Spread mushrooms on top. Sprinkle remaining cheese on mushrooms. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 35-45 minutes, or until hot and bubbling.

Makes 10 servings (good for left-overs!)

Soups, Stews and Casseroles, various contributing editors, 1990

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

skillz? my husband haz them.

We bbq'd with some friends over the weekend. At the last minute, it turned into a kind of fancy burger party, and we were responsible for bringing burger toppings. the husband and I both decided to make some kind of relish or chutney. It wasn't a contest or anything, of course it wasn't. ;) After much consultation of cookbooks and the interwebs I made a tomato based relish, and my other half made a mango based salsa type thing.

Tomato Burger Relish
3 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced green pepper
1/2 cup white vinegar
heaping 1/4 cup sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a shallow bowl and refridgerate at least once hour. taste and add more sugar and or salt as needed.

Mango Salsa
1 Mango, peeled and diced small
about 1/4 cup minced sweet pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup pineapple, chopped small
garlic powder to taste
2 green onions, minced
1 tbsp oil
1-2 tbsp lime juice
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, refridgerate at least one hour. Taste and season with salt, garlic and red pepper flakes to taste.

In case you can't figure it out from the vinegar to sugar ratio in the tomato recipe, the tomato burger relish was an epic fail. after multiple attempts to make it taste like something that wasn't vinegar, I ended up not even taking it to the BBQ. It's still sitting in my fridge, and I am very afraid of it.

the mango salsa however, was such a success we were using it as a salad topping, and our friends kept the leftovers.

Friday, August 6, 2010

my first Robin Hobb

I just picked up Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb, and I'm about 100 pages in. I don't usually read high fantasy, and a title with the word Assassin in it? really? yuck.

anyways, the story follow Fitz, whose about 6 years old at the beginning. He's the illigimate child of the eldest prince of the realm. 20 pages in I felt the writing was just OK. After recognizing his bastard, the prince steps down and retires to the country. The king takes a liking to his grandson, and brings the boy to the castle where he is educated in reading, writing, numbers, horses, swordplay, and how to kill people. If you were a shrewd king (and he is), why would you have your illegitimate trained in the art of assassination? Unless perhaps, umm, you wanted to have someone killed? a ha! that happens around page 90, and the novel suddenly takes a turn for the fascinating.

So we shall see what happens!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

some new reviews. . .

woohoo! New reviews up!

Neal Stephenson's Zodiac - this book had me laughing, running scared, and cheering for the "terrorists" to win.

Ted Chiang's latest novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects - This could double as a parenting book.

other than that, I've been in a major cooking rut lately. Maybe it's the crazy hot weather? been doing lots of salads, lots of rice and beans, lots of fresh cold veggies chopped and thrown with some pasta.

Monday, August 2, 2010

drooling fan girl.

I'm trying to write an updated review of one of my favorite books of all time.  It was written in the last 5 years or so, and I've probably read it half a dozen times. In an accidental fit of over-caffeination I have e-mailed the author (and got a response!), google mapped him, stalked him via livejournal and facebook. This book turned me in a drooling fan girl.  This book is theraputic.  When i'm feeling depressed, or down, or scared, or anxious, I pick it up and I feel better.  The rampant swear words make me giggle.  it is pure unadulterated FUN.

this book is full of con-jobs, thieves, violence, weapons, scary people, scarier people, revenge, manic sharks (without the lazer beams attached to their heads), and some more con jobs and scary people. And there is a sequel which has plenty more con jobs, violence, liars, thieves, and swear words.

and I find it theraputic. What the hell does that say about my psyche?  and how do I write this review without sounding like a drooling fangirl??

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reynolds vs Rothfuss

Let it be known that the first 20 pages of Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind completely and utterly blows out of the water the first 200 pages of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space.

Name of the Wind: engaging, good dialogue, good characterization, humor, the promise of more. and this is just in 20 pages.  but it does have that embarrassing cover art.

Revelation Space: clunky prose, awkward dialogue, bad attempts at humor and sarcasm, lazy characterization, and no payoff thus far.  but it does have classy SF 2010-esque cover art.

the question is, which book will I finish first?

Friday, July 16, 2010

book buying binge, part 1

we've been on a book buying binge lately:

stay tuned for part 2!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Can't beat it Rice Salad

easy? check.
great for potlucks? check.
healthy? check.
vegetarian? check.
vegan? check. brownie points for that one!
easily converted to gluten free? yes, even that.
cheap? ehh, not exactly, but you get a lot of really filling food out of this.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite food/living blogs, Apartment Therapy, and they adapted it from this Emeril recipe, and then I changed it up a bit to match what I liked and what I had available. The ingredient list is a little longer than what I usually go for, but it was worth it.

I used wild rice and bulgar:

and then all of this stuff:

I'd eated two bowls of it before I remembered to take a photo of the finished product:

This is salad is wonderful because it tastes incredible, it's healthy, and it's incredibly filling.  One bowl, and you're pretty much set for a few hours.  Great for a pot luck, you can make it the day before, and it's holds just perfectly in the fridge.

even better, I managed to make this entire thing only dirtying one sauce pan, and one bowl! 

I highly suggest preparing the rice and the bulgar the night before, as they take a while and you want them at room temperature or cold when you put the rest of the salad together.  Both the wild rice and the bulgar can just sit (covered) on the kitchen counter overnight.

Rice and Bulgar Salad

1 4oz package wild rice
1 1/2 cups bulgar
1 lime
1 orange
about 2 tbsp dried dill
a good bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
a few sprigs of fresh mint, chopped
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 cucumber, diced
about 1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup diced dried dates
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin

Cook the wild rice according to the package directions. If you have extra water left, strain it.  Put the bulgar in a bowl large enough to hold the entire salad and pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over top.  Cover, and let sit one hour.

Mix cooled, cooked rice into the bulgar.  Zest the lime and the orange, and add the zests to the rice mixture.  Juice the lime and orange into a seperate bowl, and set aside.

Add the dill, parsley, mint, sweet pepper, cucumber, almonds and dates into the rice and bulgar. To make the dressing, blend the orange and lime juice with the cumin, olive oil, and some salt & pepper. pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.  add more salt and pepper to taste.  Chill for a few hours and enjoy!

Just looking at the ingredients, I knew this salad was going to be good, but I didn't expect it to be that good!!  the dates and sweet peppers are, well, sweet, the lime juice is tart, the mint is bright and fun, and the cumin, rice and bulgar are earthy, with some crunch in the almonds.  Just a really wonderful mix of ingredients.  I took it for lunch to work a few times, and I was amazed at how filling this was. Usually my lunch is a tupperware container full of something, and a snack.  after a bowl of this, I didn't need my snack.

Monday, June 14, 2010

For the love of cucumbers.

I heart cucumbers. Really, I do. Have since I was a kid. If I was bugging my Mom for a snack before dinner, and she didn't want me to wreck my apetite, she'd give me a hunk of cucumber to munch on. And I was a happy camper!  Cukes are so versatile when it comes to salads, they play well with just about anything.

Three Sentence Cucumber Dill salad.
So easy the instructions are three sentences. Ok, maybe four.

one cucumber, peeled or not
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
A few thin slices (or more to taste) of red onion, cut into 1" peices
1/2 tbsp dried dill

cut the cucumber in half longways, and spoon out the seeds. slice into 1/4" thick slices and toss in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients until the cucumber slices are coated. Test for seasonings, and add more salt/onion/dill/lemon juice as needed. Eat right away, or chill for later.

The original recipe I referenced called for sour cream and half of a small red onion. I swapped the sour cream for greek yogurt (I'm a huge fan of greek yogurt!), and after picking out most of the red onion because it was too strong, I lowered the suggested amount.

What to do with the rest of that onion? You could make salsa, or carmelized onion for pizza or focaccia or just eat the cooled carmelized onions with some drained canned chickpeas and a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This would make a great pot luck dish. If you chill it for a few hours, it should hold at room temperature just fine for a while. Or, you could be like me and eat the entire bowl (ok, I picked out a bunch of onions) for dinner. It's not my fault, I swear, I just love cucumbers!

bread! and pictures!

behold some delicious food pr0n!

Hopefully next time I'll remember to take a picture before the food is nearly gone. This is the remaining third of some super awesome delicious fruit and nut bread I made yesterday.  I started with a basic Challah recipe, and got creative from there. You can roll just about anything you like into this stuff, just make sure it's chopped up small (my walnut peices were way too big) and that you don't have more than 1/3 cup or so of filling. You might not be able to tell from the picture, but I had way too much filling, and I didn't flatten my dough out enough before rolling. But it was still darn tasty!!  As will yours be, even if you nut chunks are too big, your filling too much, and your dough not rolled out enough.

Super Easy Fruit and Nut Stuffed Bread

makes one good sized loaf of bread
1 packet yeast
1/2 cup very warm water (warmer than body temp, but not "hot")
1 tsp honey + about 2 tbsp honey
1 egg
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 cups flour (have 3 cups ready, you might not use it all)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or dried fruit of your choice, chopped if big peices)
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (or other nuts of your choice)

dissolve the yeast in the very warm water with 1 tsp of honey. leave for 5-10 minutes so the yeast can start to froth.

In a large bowl, beat the egg, then add 2 tbsp honey, the oil, salt and mix well. now add the frothy yeast mixture, and mix again. Slowly add flour until you have a soft dough. With well floured hands, knead the dough for about 12 minutes or until it is soft and elastic. pour a little bit of oil in the bowl, turn the dough ball to coat, cover loosely, and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.

When you are ready to shape the dough, soak the dried cranberries in hot water for about 5 minutes. This plumps them up, helps to break up the sticky blobs of dried fruit, and rehydrates them a little. All good things! Drain the fruit well, it's OK if it's damp, but you don't want it to be wet when you put it in the bread.

Punch down the dough, and roll or stretch it out into a rectangle-ish shape that's about 10" by 20". Mine was not a perfect rectangle, nor was it exactly those measurements. Spread the nuts and dried fruit on top of the dough, leaving 2" or so on the edges. Starting at one of the long ends, roll it up as tight as you can. If your dough is especailly thin, try to be careful not to tear it. But if it tears, that's Ok! Really! it will still taste wonderful! However, if the outside is torn, and there is fruit or nuts right on the outside, you will want to pick them off because they will burn in the oven. Pinch the ends closed and fold them underneath.

Let rise on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for another hour. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until browned on the outside.

Let cool, and enjoy!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chocolate Chunk Sour Cream Muffins

Organized by "around the clock", starting with Breakfast & Brunch, then going into Coffee Break, Lunch, Afternoon Coffee Time, Dinner, After the Show, and ending with recipes for Midnight Snacks. Excellent pictures, with the history of coffee, the story of Maxwell House, brewing and serving tips, the lingo of coffee terms, and what to have in the kitchen.

This is the only recipe I've made from this book, so far, but I'm looking forward to trying more!

1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs instant coffee
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (4 ounces) German's sweet chocolate, chopped

Heat the oven to 375 F. Lightly butter 12 muffin pan cups (or line them with paper cups).

Stir the milk and instant coffee in a small bowl until well blended; set aside. Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Stir in the milk mixture, sour cream, butter, and vanilla until well blended. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Stir in the chocolate. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup two-thirds full.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean. Remove the plan from the oven, put on a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.

Coffee Drinkings & Desserts Cookbook, Maxwell House, 1999

Tuesday, June 8, 2010



doesn't the word just evoke something foriegn and romantic, possibly ex-pat?  ok, maybe I've been watching too much travel channel lately but you have to admit, it's a pretty cool word.  three minutes of your time for limitless satisfaction? can't beat that!

Three ingredients, a freezer and a fork, and you too can enjoy a tall glass of granitas on a hot summer evening.  Even the grapefruit isn't written in stone, this works will just about any non-sweet liquid, even coffee!

Grapefruit Granitas, serves 4-6
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
approx 3 cups grapefruit juice. If you get sugar free grapefruit juice, you will need to add more sugar.

in a shallow glass pyrex dish, blend sugar and boiling water.  stir so the sugar dissolves and the water cools a little. when the water has cooled a bit, pour in the juice to no more than 1 inch deep. Stir the juice a bit and taste it, adding more sugar to taste. It should be tart, but not super tart. After making sure the glass is no longer warm from the hot water, put it in the freezer. wait a few hours and scrape up the top layers of ice crystals with a fork. every hour or so, scrape it some more. when it is scraped and crystalized to your liking, spoon into tall glasses and serve immediately.

- don't use a "sweet" juice, such as fruit punch or grape juice. This should be a tart-ish palette cleanser, and you can always add more sugar as needed.
- want to make it an adult beverage? stir in a shot or two of flavored rum with the juice before freezing.
- fresh mint leaves make a lovely garnish.  but seriously, unless you're making Mojitos, who has fresh mint leaves sitting around?

Granitas are a great close to an summer party. take 3 minutes to make them in the morning, and you can poke at them every few hours as you get more ice out of the freezer anyways.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I heart dumplings

I mean seriously, who doesn't love dumplings? warm, round(ish), tasty, melty, what's not to love? and your grandma probably calls you her little dumpling.

Once I figured out the trick to making these babies, I can't wait to make more. and the recipe is a peice of cake to double. (said trick is to hand form the dumplings instead of "form them using two spoons". sounds harder, but it's really easier!)

Spinach dumplings
(makes about 20)

1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed
one small onion, chopped fine
1/2 tbsp butter
1/3 ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 cup flour, or maybe a little more

drain the thawed spinach in a colander. fry the onions in the butter over medium heat, till browned. while the onions are frying, run the spinach under running water to get rid of any ice chunks. squeeze as much moisture out of the spinach as you can with your hands. when the onions are cooked, turn the heat off, and stir in the spinach along w/a little salt, breaking up the chunks. the ambient heat from the burner will help soften and warm the spinach. Let cool.

in a large bowl, cream the ricotta, parm, and egg. season w/salt, pepper & nutmeg. When the spinach & onions are cool, add them to the cheese mixture and mix well. One heaped tablespoon at a time, add the flour, mixing well before each new addition. When a soft dough forms, you've added enough flour.

how do you know when a soft dough has formed? When the mixture wants to stick to itself more than it wants to stick to the bowl, mix in one more tablespoon of flour. Now you've got a soft dough. taste, and season w/more salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Yes, I know there is raw egg in there. A teeny bit won't kill you.

Preheat the oven to 350, and have a baking dish ready. bring a big pot of water to boil. with very wet hands (have a bowl of cool water sitting next to the stove, you're going to want to dip your hands into it every few dumplings), roll balls of dough between your palms to make the dumplings. This is not unlike making matzah balls, except these will only expand a teeny bit. drop the dumplings into the boiling water. once they are all made, turn the boil down to a simmer, and once the dumplings have floated for a minute or two, remove them to the baking dish. bake at 350 for about 8 minutes, this will make the outsides a little crunchy. optional - dot w/butter & parmesan cheese before baking.

Like many recipes that look complicated, but aren't, I think the trick to success with this recipe is the read the entire recipe before starting, and not to panic when you're dropping dumplings into boiling water. Because of the high flour content, it is far better for these to be a little overcooked than a little undercooked.

the last batch was so good, I'm thinking of making more this weekend, and taking them to the party we're going to on Sunday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

manga heaven

A budy of mine just loaned me all nine volumes of Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita manga!

This was one of the first manga and animes I was ever exposed to, so it's got a special place in my heart. And now I get to find out what happens at the end!!

I'm in manga heaven!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

the Seriously Easiest Bread Ever

I got this recipe off the interwebs, and I have no idea where. So if this is your recipe, please let me know so I can link to you!

This is seriously, the easiest, tastiest bread you will ever make (wait, don't I say that about every bread recipe?). Except this time I'm not lying! Active work was like 5 minutes, and that included turning the oven on and digging out the oven mitts. Why is this bread so easy? While you are sitting around eating bon bons, it's doing magical wonderful yeasty things in your fridge.

Easy Bread

makes 2 1-ish pound loaves

1 1/2 cups hot water (like around body temp)
1 packet yeast
2 tsp salt
3 1/4 flour (a combination of whole wheat & regular is fine)

optional - an ounce or two of cheese shredded or sliced thin.

blend water, yeast & salt in a 3 Qt non-metal bowl. stir the yeast in, but don't worry if it doesn't all dissolve. add the flour, and mix until the dough is just blended. There shouldn't be any flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl, and the dough should be wet and very sticky. . . don't knead it! read that again: do not knead this dough. keep your hands off! Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temp for 3 to 10 hours. Yup, you read that right. just let it sit on the kitchen table over night.

Next morning, the dough should have risen, flattened out, and look bubbly. put it in the fridge. don't knead it!! once you are ready to make a loaf, take the dough out, cut off what you want to bake, and knead it just a little. I happened to have some fancy cheddar cheese that needed to be eaten, so i sliced it thin, and folded it into the dough as I was forming my loaf. Let the loaf rise at room temp for about an hour, then score the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife. Bake at 450 in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. put a metal pan with 2 cups water into the oven at the same time, the steam will create a wonderful crust on the bread.

I still can not get over how easy this was. 5 minutes of work gets you fresh bread any day of the week.

Monday, May 3, 2010

book ADHD

It's been a few weeks of book ADHD. The weather is beautiful, my tomato seeds sprouted, the rest of the garden is calling, my hours at work have increased. And at night when I climb into bed with a book? Lately I just want to sleep.

That said, I've picked up and put down Tony Horwitz's Baghdad without a Map about three times. His fascinating travelogue goes from Cairo, to Yemen and up through the gulf to Kuwait, or at least that's how far I've gotten. A Jewish American man, following his breadwinner wife around the middle east is a situation that people Horwitz interacts with find equally confusing and hilarious. His writing style meanders, and sometimes flashes back and forward, which is a little confusing sometimes. Even so, I'm desperate to find more time to spend with this book because not only am I finding that I really enjoy travelogues, but this book was written in the early 90s, before 9/11, before the axis of evil, before pirates, before we knew how to pronounce Qatar, back when the gulf region was still exotic and romantic. A travelogue of the middle east without the word “embedded” is just wonderful thing.

The book ADHD abounds. This is also the third time I've picked up Sergei Lukyanenko's Twilight Watch, the third book in his Daywatch series. The book is great, really, it is. But I seem to be in the mood for something darker these days. I'm blaming my book ADHD on the weather.

I did recently purchase Jeff Vandermeer's City of Saints & Madmen, and China Mieville's The Scar, and both of those hold special places in my heart as super dark. And they are calling to me. Perhaps the cure for book ADHD is to pick up the book that so seductively whispers your name?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pharaoh's Wheel

This is a wonderful dish - excellent for left-overs!

1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 lb. ground meat (I used Morningstar Crumbles (vegetarian))
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp oil
3 cups spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Cook the spaghetti and drain. Combine the meat and onion in a frying pan with the hot oil. Cook, stirring, until the meat no longer shows any pink (I'm assuming it doesn't take as long with the vegetarian crumbles).

Heat the spaghetti sauce and add the contents of the frying pan. Add the raisins and nuts. Pour over the spaghetti and toss.

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Potato Salad

Once I get the timing right on cooking potatoes, this will be a very good recipe. Sometimes I under cook them, and sometimes I over cook them.

4 large potatoes, cooked
1 small onion, chopped
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 c. pimento stuffed olives, chopped
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the potatoes into cubes. Add the onion, eggs, olives, and celery. Mix together the mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add to the vegetables and mix gently.

(I put my potato salad in the fridge to cool overnight before serving).

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Danish Macaroni Salad

This makes a lot, and it is a little on the dry side (VS the creamy type), but it is very good! It was successful at my last office pot-luck.

4 cups cooked elbow macaroni
3 hard cooked eggs
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cups mayonnaise
2/3 cups sour cream
2 tbsp. diced pimento
2 tbsp. finely chopped dill

Combine the mustard, salt, mayo and sour cream. Add to the macaroni and mix. Add the pimento and gently mix again.

Heap the salad on a platter and sprinkle with the dill. Garnish with the hard cooked eggs cut into wedges. (I don't put the salad on a platter, I just mix the dill and the eggs together with the salad in the bowl. I use a very big bowl.)

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Egg Salad

This cookbook has some good vegetarian dishes. It also has the history of each dish.

8 eggs, hard cooked
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely cut
salt, to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Chop the eggs and combine them with all the other ingredients. Stir.

(It doesn't say so, but I always let my egg salad sit in the fridge overnight before serving)

Tastes and Tales: Jewish Cookery for Young People and Tales from Around the Word, Malvina W. Liebman, 1986

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

last nights dinner

Made a yummy creation last night, and here's to remembering what I did so I can repeat it!

One onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil
1/3 cup green lentils
2 cups chicken broth (1 can)
1 cup water (or more)
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup 1 cup medium salsa
1 cup frozen corn (optional)
1 can kidney beans, drained
½ lb turkey sausage, sliced

chili powder
black pepper
pinch of thyme

saute onion in oil till soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in lentils & chicken broth, bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add all other ingredients except spices, bring back to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. If it gets too dry, add a little more water. If it's too wet, simmer uncovered the last 5 minutes. During the last 5 minutes spice to taste with salt & pepper (you probably won't need salt, the broth & sausage is usually pretty salty), chili powder, coriander, and a little bit of thyme.

If you don't have any salsa, use a can of diced tomatoes, and go heavier on the spices.

The Windup Girl winds down

I got about 100 pages into Bacigalupi's Windup Girl, put the book down.. . . and never picked it back up again. I can see why it was shortlisted for a Hugo – a future where corporations and genetically modified everything is ubiquitous, artificially created people (who are people, but aren't? Maybe it's a little like being a Cylon?), the massive populations of southeast Asia and how to feed, house, and employ them all, lots of big picture effects, and story that won't be fiction if we play our cards right (or wrong). It was very William Gibson, very Ian McDonald, large scale, multiple story lines with multiple groups of characters. Massive amounts of intellectual goodies to chew on. I got no complaints there.

Maybe one day I'll pick this book up again, maybe not, but for now it will forever be listed under the too much for me category. I felt like I was being blasted with too many factions, characters, and plot lines to keep track of. Maybe they would have eventually filtered into major and minor, but since I didn't know who I was supposed to care about, I ended up not caring about anyone.

But that Emiko, she sure got my attention. I felt like I was surfing the Lifetime channel's website, grabbing sentences from each of their movie descriptions. She was like every character for every tear-jerker Lifetime movie rolled into one person. And honestly? It came off as over the top, which I'm pretty sure wasn't Bacigalupi's intention. The book is ostensibly about the will to survive, and Emiko being the posterchild for “wanting to survive”, but the over the topness that Bacigalupi painted her with was making me ill.

But you know what? First time I read Perdido Street Station it didn't do anything for me either. And I'm now a Mieville fangirl.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

shoulda woulda coulda.

don't you hate it when the day after you make a delicious dish, you realize you could have had a crazy easy side dish that would have gone so perfectly. . . if only you'd thought to make it?

made some fantastically delicious Burgundy Chicken last night. Five minutes or so of prep time, brown chicken on the stove, saute shallots, simmer chicken and shallots in white wine for about an hour, then remove chicken and stir in heavy cream & grapes. thicken the sauce, serve over the chicken. one of the tastiest easiest recipes I know.

and it gave me hour to make a side dish. so what did I do? I threw some bland freezer burned frozen veggies into the microwave. sure, there was some vitamins in there someplace, but they were bland and uninspired.

Had me some delicious burgundy chicken leftovers for lunch at work today, and it hit me. Why did I not make mashed potatoes to go with this? the pan sauce would have been sublimely perfect with mashed potatoes!!!

there's some more burgundy chicken in the fridge.  and i have two big white potatoes that need to be eaten.

Winding up with Paolo Bacigalupi

In an attempt to read not one, but two whole Hugo nominees, I got Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl from the library.  Everyone online seems to going crazy for this novel, especially now that it's got an Hugo nom. Bacigalupi's first novel length work, I've been told it builds on his short stories that take place in a future of genetically engineered everything, seed plagues, starvation, and globalization. Bacigalupi has published a handful of articles in Environmental magazines, sounds like my kind of guy!  Did I mention I haven't read any of his earlier fiction before cracking open The Windup Girl?  Maybe that's why I'm feeling a little lost.  I don't know what or who Calorie Men are, I don't who or what Yellow Card people are, I don't know jack. my own damn fault, I suppose.

70 some pages into Wind Up Girl and I'm having a tough time getting into it. this poor novel is suffering from put-down-ability for me.  between Bacigalupi's I just want to make totally f'ing sure you know you're not in Kansas anymore shock value style prose and the fact that I don't know who any of these people are, or why they care about what they are doing. .. the book is not grabbing me.
You can read Bacigalupi's short story The Fluted Girl on his website, and that was a great short story - excellent at grabbing your attention and not letting go, if a little on the shock value side for me.  So go read it, or the rest of this blog entry won't make any sense.

Suddenly I'm asking myself all sorts of philosophical questions about shock value. I've ooohed and aahhed over plenty of novels that are chock full of sex and violence, so  what makes something shock value?  Near the end of Bacigalupi's The Fluted Girl, the sisters perform a highly erotic dance for their patron and her party guests.  It is their job to dance, and the sisters aren't freaked out about it, it's just something they do.  Written well, but it felt like shock value to me.  Perhaps I missed the foreplay, so as to not be so surprised?  On the other hand, George R R Martin peppered A Game of Thrones with incest. Yucky to be sure, but it didn't read like shock value, just something these two characters do. So what's the difference between Martin's incestous characters and Bacigalupi's two sisters doing some really hot dancing and touching?

Maybe this is it.  Martin's brother/sister pair are petrified of anyone seeing them touching or kissing each other. it is their secret, and if you catch them in the act, the brother will probably try to kill you. And they truly do love each other (or at least she loves him). Bacigalupi's girls are straight up objectified.  Their patron pretty much whores them out. and that's what made me feel so weird about the whole thing.  Some authors make "courtesan-ing" sound romantic. Can you say Baz Lurhmann?  And on the other end of the spectrum some authors are saying "are you crazy? how could you possibly think that kind of life could be fun or romantic?"

So Bacigalupi and his minions are either thinking "holy crap is this woman a prude", or "sweet, she got the point", or both.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

China Mieville's The City and The City

2010 Hugo Nom The City & The City, by China Mieville

The City and The City in three days. A good thing in many ways – after day one I couldn’t put the book down, but every time I dozed on the sofa I would wake up Beszel, which started to freak me out.

How to describe Mieville’s fictitious Beszel? As far east in Europe as you can get, perhaps Azerbaijan or Georgia. Old churches mixed with cold war architecture, mohawked punks listening to pirated western music sitting next to babushka’d grannies on the bus. And then there is the other city, Ul Qoma. The Ul Qomans might not have as good a relationship with America as Beszel, but Ul Qoma has nicer cars, a modern subway system, urban renewal, better restaurants, brighter colors, and is generally more contemporary. Two sister cities with formal borders and mulititudes of paperwork for people who wish to travel to the other city. This wouldn’t be so odd, except the two cities are crosshatched – a unique invention of Mieville. Your house might be in Beszel, but your front sidewalk is in Ul Qoma, along with the northern half of your child’s elementary school. And those three blocks of Ul Qoma down the road? That one building on the corner has a Beszel mailing address. Residents learn from childhood to “unsee” and “unhear” things happening in the other city, even if it’s happening right in front of their eyes. Tourists and visiting students sit through weeks of orientation to learn how to unsee and unhear.

Read the rest Here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So Lukyanenko, Mieville and Watts walk into a bar. . . .

Finished Lukyanenko's Daywatch. . . working on a more formal review, but here's the quickie – weakish beginning, odd middle, and then  the end comes around to totally knock your head off with its awesomeness. As mentioned in a previous post, Daywatch is kind of “from the Dark Ones point of view”. That's great and all, but of the three Dark Ones we meet, Alisa, Vitaly and Edgar, only Edgar is at all interesting. Once the Nightwatch and Anton start making appearances, the book got really interesting for me. Stay tuned for full review!

Also read China Mieville's new one, The City and The City, I think it's up for a Hugo! Similar to other Mievilles, it's not the easiest book to get into. Put me in the mindset a little of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, as in relatively normal for that author. The City and The City is a murder mystery with a twist – two sister cities, and you must have have a passport, visa, and paperwork to travel between the two. But the two cities occupy the same space. Makes life difficult for the police inspector who gets in deeper than he wants. Again, stay tuned for full review!

In solidarity with Peter Watts, I got Blindsight and Starfish out of the library. I remember Starfish not really doing much for me, but Blindsight being one of those books that blew my mind. So naturally, I picked up Blindsight first. And you know what? It's still freaking awesome! Peter Watts you rock my world!

So that said, stay tuned for some book reviews and other cool stuff.

Spinach-Cheese Lasagne

My husband made this one. This is amazing! I'm tempted to make this any time of year! But definitely will make this for another Passover.

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 lb ricotta or cottage cheese (we used a combination of both)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 7-ounce bags shredded mozzarella
1 26-ounce jar marinara sauce
9 sheets of matzah
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine spinach, cheese, egg, oregano, pepper, and half of the mozzarella.
Grease 9 X 13-inch pan.

Ladle a thin layer of sauce into bottom of pan. Layer 3 matzo boards (breaking to fit), 1/2 the cheese mixture and a layer of sauce. Top with 3 more matzos, the remaining cheese mixture and layer of sauce. Add 3 more matzos and layer of sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella. Pour water around sides.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
Uncover and bake 30-40 minutes longer. Cheese will be melted and bubbly.

Passover by Design, Susie Fishbein, 2008

Monday, April 5, 2010

Zucchini Casserole (for Passover)

I made this casserole for Passover this year, but it's so tasty that I might not wait until next year to make it again!

It takes likes latkas and zucchini!

butter (I used cooking spray instead)
3 cups thinly sliced, unpeeled zucchini
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup dry Passover pancake mix
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup veggie oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 13 X 19-inch baking pan with butter. Combine everything else in large bowl. Bake for 40 minutes of until brown.

Passover by Design, Susie Fishbein, 2008

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes

Serves 4.

2 pounds Yukon gold new potatoes
3 Tbsp butter and 5 Tbsp olive oil
salt (I didn't use the salt)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut across each potato at about 1/4-inch intervals, being careful not to cut all the way through. When you've cut them all, place them in a shallow baking plan on the stove with the butter and oil and heat up till sizzling. Turn the potatoes well, putting them in upside down first, then right side up, and spoon the fat over them. Sprinkle each potato well with salt and thyme and put in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes or until tender, rotating them in the pans, to insure even browning.

Congregation Beth El Women's Seder, 2004

Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Gratin

We cut this recipe in half, since it was just for the 2 of us, and it made plenty. Below is the full recipe, which is supposed to serve 8. I also did not include the leeks.

4 10-ounce bags fresh spinach leaves
3 red bell peppers
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 large shallot
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup heavy cream (we used low-fat cream)
4 large eggs
1-cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese (we used shredded)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Heat large deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches (about 10 cups at a time), saute fresh spinach in dry skillet until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer spinach to strainer. Squeeze dry, toll in kitchen towel to remove excess water.

Char peppers directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Place in bowl and enclose with plastic wrap; let stand about 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and slice peppers into 1/4-inch wide strips.

Melt butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leaks, shallot, and garlic; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk cream and eggs in large bowl to blend. Whisk in all cheeses, salt and pepper. Stir in spinach, leek mixture, and 2/3 of roasted red peppers (reserve 1/3 of peppers for topping).

Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter 13 X 9 X 2-inch baking dish. Transfer spinach mixture to prepared dish. Bake gratin until knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Arrange remaining red pepper strips decoratively atop grain and serve.

Congregation Beth El Women's Seder, 2004

Passover Sweet Apple Kugal

2 cups matzah farfel
water to cover farfel
2 eggs, beaten
6 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. shortening
2 cups grated apples
1/4 c. chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover farfel with water and drain. In a bowl, mix farfel, eggs, sugar, salt, shortening, apples and nuts. Bake in greased dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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

Two more Passover recipes

We again made these recipes, that I posted back in November. They are both from the Congregation Beth El Sisterhood cookbook.

Matzah Cheese Kugal:
This recipe is from my in-laws, and now we also make it each year. It is very good for breakfast!

Yellow Squash Bake
This is very good, less dry then other recipes.

Passover Macaroni and Cheese

It's been fun making Passover dishes this year. They all came out tasty.

3 cups matzah farfel
1/2 lb (8 oz) cheddar cheese (cubed? shredded? I cubed a block of cheese)
6 Tbsp melted butter
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients together. Put in 2 quart casserole. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until brown.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Who doesn't love a big, baked Latke?

seriously, how can you not like this? potatoes, onion, oil, salt, matzah meal. . . baked in the oven until perfection with a crunchy outside occurs.  It was a big winner at the seder.

Latke Kugel
adapted from Faye Levy's 1,000 Jewish Recipes

2-3 lbs idaho potatoes
3 tbsp oil
2 large onions, diced
3 eggs
1/4 cup matzah meal
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350, and heavily grease an 8x8 baking dish.  Saute onions in 1-2 tbsp oil until soft, about 10 minutes. While onions are cooking, peel and shred potatoes. Put potatoes into a colander and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Mix potatoes with onions, eggs, salt & pepper & matzah meal. Pour potato mixture into hot baking dish, and drizzle w/remaining oil. Bake for 1 hour at 350. Levy suggests putting the baking dish into the oven about 5 minutes before you are ready to bake, and then pouring the potato mixture into a super hot baking dish. She says this will help create a crunchy crust. I followed her suggestions to the letter, and it was truly awesome.

I can understand that no one wants to go on stage after a baked latke. It's like going on stage after Lady Gaga. So although this next dish was incredibly good, the poor thing had to go on the Seder table right next to the awe inspiring magnificent baked latke.

from the same cookbook as above,

Passover Spinach Stuffing
4 crumbled matzahs
1 cup chicken stock, warmed in the microwave
3 tbsp oil
2 onions, chopped
salt & pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
20 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 baking dish.  In a large bowl pour the hot stock over the matzah peices. let sit 10 minutes so the matzah can soften.   saute the onions in 2 tbsp oil until soft, about 10 minutes. add the garlic, salt & pepper, and saute another minute. add onions & spinach to matzah and mix well. season with salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste. Stir in eggs, then pour into baking dish.  bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book 2 in Sergei Lukyanenko's "Nightwatch" series

Dark versus light, good vs evil. . . the story that never gets old. It's even better when sometimes the “good” guys are liars and the “bad” guys are the only ones willing to tell the truth. Throw in some vampires, magicians and shape changers, and I'm in urban dark fantasy heaven.

I'd read Sergei Lukyanenko's Nightwatch last year some time, and was also able to get my hands on the motion picture (Russian language, English subtitles, $5 budget for special effects, excellent directing!!). Everything about Nightwatch was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The main character, a light magician named Anton is a truly likeable guy. At times he's troubled, confused, scared, a little gullible, but an eminently likeable guy, which makes him the perfect target for bad things to happen to. Teamed up with Olga, a sorceress who is locked in the body of an owl, Anton wanders around Moscow keeping tabs on “dark ones”, and generally being a good boy. He saves the life of Svetlana, a new Light Sorceress, and they soon fall in love with each other. But Svetlana has a special destiny (whether she wants it or not) and she will leave Anton behind. When he realizes the Watch sees him as nothing more than the perfect pawn, he makes a fateful decision that can never be taken back.

A friend of mine loaned me her copy of Daywatch, which is the next book in the series, so of course I had to reread Nightwatch. And you know what? I liked it even more the second time around. Heavy on the dialogue and action, and light on the heavy descriptives, it's a quick and enjoyable read. Most definitely on my “highly recommended” list.

I'm about 100 pages into Daywatch, and it's hard to realize this was written by the same author. The writing is still great and the style is similar, but I'd gotten so used to a main character that I wanted to root for, sometone that I wanted good things to happen to. . . it's hard to like Alisa, the dark witch protagonist of Daywatch. So far I'm finding her to be petty, selfish, short sighted, and if her ex-lover Zabulon (who happens to be the head of the Daywatch) decided she needed to meet her end, I wouldn't mind. So much for sexy, alluring dark ones who are seducing people left and right to their cause - Alisa is a bitch.

Anton couldn't help but fall in love with Svetlana, and it changed his life for the worse. Perhaps Alisa's new found love will change her life for the better?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

But I hate Tolkien.

Been barking up the wrong tree?

I always thought I was a pure science fiction fan. I grew up reading the classics – Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and then moved into more contemporary SF masters like Greg Bear, Charles Stross, David Brin and others. The last 5-8 years my “favorite authors” list has included Charles deLint, Scott Lynch, Michael Moorcock, George R R Martin, Steven Brust, Stephen Lawhead, Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville, Cory Doctorow, and M. John Harrison, among others.

Surfing a handful of scifi forums online, I was saddened that no one was talking about my favorite authors. None of these so called SF fans read Mieville? really?

Little did I know I would find all my favorite authors and their rabid fans under “fantasy”. George R R Martin and Jeff Vandermeer are considered fantasy? Seriously? But I hate Tolkien.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fallen off the face of the earth.

Wow, it's been near forever since I posted. I'm totally blaming Neal Stephenson, but more on that in a bit.

what's happened in the last month? the snow melted, more snow fell, and that snow melted. I made awesome ravioli, i had a ravioli disaster, and then made some nearly awesome ravioli.

Ravioli lessons learned:
1. better to overflour your dough than underflour
2. a pasta machine that doesn't quite attach to your table is no help
3. wet filling is bad. really, really, disasterously bad
4. better to slightly overcook fresh ravioli than undercook
5. when using a pasta machine, there is such a thing as too thin.
6. when rolling out by hand, there is no such thing as too thin.

with Passover around the corner, I'm already looking at matzo cake flour pasta recipes. and stacks and stacks of other Passover yummies. and those five pounds that I lost? Yeah, I gained 'em all back, so I'm not real happy about that, but whatever.

I found a new (well, new to me) author, and she's old skool awesome. I recently finished Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free. Have you ever seen Mario Batali on TV? He's pretty cheesy on Iron Chef America, but if you can catch one of his cooking shows, it's worth it. I bring this up because he's always talking about how high quality, simple fresh ingredients treated without too much complication make the best food. And McMaster Bujold's writing style is like Mario's cooking: simple ingredients and not complicated, but some of the most satisfying reading I've had in a long time. Although written later, Falling Free is a prequel to McMaster Bujold's long running Miles Vorkosigan series. Suffice to say, there will be more McMaster Bujold in my future.

I am terrible at, and do not enjoy (or maybe it's the other way around), but here's a go at Falling Free, so you have some clue what it's about. 800 some years in the future, zero gee engineering expert Leo Graf arrives at corporation owned station expecting to teach engineering and welding to young recruits or colonists. What he finds are the “quaddies”, a genetically engineered and company owned new race of humans. Specifically designed for use in zero gee, the quaddies have and extra set of arms and hands instead of legs and feet. They have no parents, no home, no privacy, and no rights. The company designs them, breeds them, and controls everything they see and learn. When a new technology becomes available, the quaddies become perfectly obsolete and useless, and the corporation decides to quietly cancel the program, and dispose of the “experimental tissue cultures”.

Yes, the Quaddies are nothing more than genetically engineered creations, modern frankenstiens, if you will, but as Leo finds out, they are real people, with dreams, fears, and natural children of their own. Leo becomes their unlikely hero, and to that end, this is a fairly predictable story. About half way through, I had some idea as to who (if anyone) would survive to the end, and I was right. That's part of the “old skool” style: the white hats are white hats and the black hats are foaming at the mouth black hats, violence and death are only implied if they happen at all, and it is a damn good story well told.

Lois McMaster Bujold is to Mario Batali as Neal Stephenson is to Molecular grastronomy: Uncomplicated and good vs insanely complicated.

and that is one of the reasons i have fallen off the face of the earth lately. Damn you Neal Stephenson, you make me batshit crazy, but I can't stop reading your stuff. some of your pages bore me to tears, but others bring me to tears with their clarity and genius. Half way through The System of the World, and after this, i really, really, really need to take a break from Stephenson. maybe read something that isn't going to fry my brain. Like some McMaster Bujold!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Macaroni-cheese Layer

Serves 2.

1/2 cup macaroni pasta
1/3 cup young spinach
1/2 cup tomatoes
1 3/4 tbsp butter
1 3/4 tbsp flour
1 1/4 cup milk
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/3 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (I used shredded)
salt and pepper

Cook macaroni, drain, and set aside.

Wash the spinach and roughly chop. Place in a large saucepan and cook, stirring, until it has wilted. Drain in a colander, squeezing out as much water as you can. Finely slice the tomatoes.

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add about 1/4 of the milk, stirring well until smooth. Add the milk in this way until it has all been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce.

Stir in the cayenne pepper, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the drained macaroni. Season to taste.

In a lightly greased large, ovenproof dish, spoon half of the macaroni mixture, leveling with the back of a spoon. Cover with spinach.

Add the sliced tomatoes, followed by the remaining macaroni mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

100 Great Recipes: Vegetarian, Vicki Smallwood, 2009

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

you CAN make ravioli from scratch!

way back when, when even this blog was knee high to a grasshopper, I made pasta from scratch for the first time. And after spending hours with a rolling pin, it wasn't half bad.

a few months ago, I made some fantabulous Stuffed Mushrooms and had a metric ton (Ok, maybe 1 cup and a half) of filling left over.

pasta + yummy mixture = ravioli!

Follow the link above for regular traditional pasta, or here is a recipe that I found that claims to make "strong" pasta, for "wet fillings". I'd have to have both kinds of pasta next to each other to tell the difference, but I will say this made some super tasty ravioli.

Makes about 60 ravioli, takes about 1 1/2 cups filling.

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup white wine
about a 1/4 cup water

mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. (Traditionally, you would do this on a "floured surface", but mixing it in a big bowl makes clean up so much easier!) make a well in the center, and pour in the eggs and oil. mix slowly at first, slowly incorporating more and more flour into the eggy mixture in the center. then add the wine, and continue to mix. the dough will probably be dry and crumbly, so add a little bit of water. keep blending, and adding water a little bit at a time until you've got a soft dough that isn't wet. When it's just at the point where it will hold together, you're done. Knead for 10 minutes, like you would bread dough. It will get smooth and soft. cut into 4 parts, and roll each part into a ball. Let rest covered, for about 15 minutes.

These are directions for rolling by hand, because that's how I've done it in the past. I offered to trade home made ravioli to a friend if she lets me borrow her pasta machine!

lightly flour your kitchen table. One dough ball at a time (keep the others covered), gently roll out the dough. it will be very elastic, and the dough is not going to want to stay where you put it. I found it was easiest to get it into a long strip, and pull as I was rolling. When it is thin enough that you can see your hand though it, it's ready.

I did a vegetarian filling, basically the leftover mushroom filling mixed with some ricotta cheese. Get creative! if it's chopped up into teeny weeny peices, tastes good hot, and mixed with some cheese, it will be good! the drier your filling, the better. Wetter fillings will want to squooge out.

I did some experimenting with ravioli techniques:

the traditional method: cut dough into long strips about 4" wide. put about 1 tsp of filling every 2 inches on one side. brush around the filling w/cold water, and fold the other side over. Push down with your fingers around the filling, then cut into raviolis. I used a pizza cutter.

the Tortellini method: cut pasta into squares. put some filling in the center, and brush the edges with cold water. fold over diagonally, so you have a triangle, and seal the edges. Now bring the two 45 degree corners together and pinch with water. These ended up looking like Pope hats.

the post-modern ineffient method of making the prettiest raviolis I ended up with: cut pasta into rectangles about 2" x 5". holding the peice in your palm, brush the edges with water. put some filling onto one side, then fold over, pinching the edges shut. It took freaking forever to make these, but they looked way prettier than anything else I'd tried.

after eating about a dozen raviolis, I now have 3 freezer bags full of ravioli and Tortellini in the freezer. Nice!

Snowed in? Need something to do for 3-4 hours? Ravioli is it. All it takes is a few pantry ingredients, a little bit of imagination, and some patience.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 2.

2 large bell peppers (the picture shows red, but I might have used green and/or yellow)
1/4 cup brown rice
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 4oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Halve the bell peppers and deseed them, then place in a roasting pan. Cook the brown rice in a pan of boiling water until it is tender, then drain.

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onion and garlic until golden. Add the mushrooms and stir. Cook for 5 minutes until softened.

Add the tomatoes, paste and oregano. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, stir in the rice and parsley, and season.

Divide the rice mixture between the bell peppers. Sprinkle over the grated cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve.

100 Great Recipes: Vegetarian, Vicki Smallwood, 2009


This book has tidbits on the different types of vegetarian, and what kind of foods should in included, and what should be avoided in a vegetarian diet. Very educational. Most of the recipes are divided into 2 sections, one section is for doubling the recipe so you don't have to do the math yourself! The recipes that I made, and am including here, are for the least number of servings. This book also has wonderful pictures. A few recipes I've made from the book did not turn out as expected, so I didn't include them in the blog.

This is easy and delicious. This recipe serves 2. I used thick noodles.

1 3/4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
1 1/3 cup mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2/3 cup veggie stock
1 1/2 tbsp brandy (I've also used water as a substitute)
1/3 cup heavy cream (I've used light cream instead)
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard (any mustard will do)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a large skillet or casserole dish until melted. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring from time to time, until tender. Sprinkle over the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add about a quarter of the stock, stirring all the time until thickened. Continue adding the stock in this way until it is all incorporated, stirring all the time until thickened. Continue adding the stock in this way until it is all incorporated, stirring well to ensure that the mixture is smooth and thickened.

Simmer gently for 5 minutes, then stir in the brandy. Now add the cream and mustard, stirring to mix. Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the chopped parsley, season to taste and then serve.

100 Great Recipes: Vegetarian, Vicki Smallwood, 2009

History of food web sites

I'm in the middle of reading "Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking", by Kate Colquhoun (2007). It's a wonderful book, and there are two cool web sites at the end of her bibliography that I wanted to add to the blog. :)

Food Timeline

Cindy Renfrow: Author of books on ancient and medieval cooking and brewing

Ukrainian Kasha Varnishkes

This makes a lot!

Authors note: Kasha is cracked buckwheat and is often called buckwheat groats in the US. Varnishkes are noodles.

2 cups kasha or buckwheat groats
1 large onion, peeled and finally chopped
2 teaspoons oil
4 cups water
12-ounce package of eggless noodles (I use bow tie noodles)
10 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute kasha or buckwheat groats and onion with oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add 4 cups water and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook noodles in 10 cups water until tender. Drain noodles and add to kasha mixture along with the seasonings. Serve warm.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, Debra Wasserman, 1994

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Romanian Mushroom Paprikash

I usually wouldn't have potatoes and pasta together, but this is delicious!

1 pound button mushrooms or larger mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon unbleached white flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds white potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound elbow macaroni

Stir-fry mushrooms and onions with oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add parsley, garlic, paprika, flour, salt and pepper to taste, and potatoes. Cover the ingredients with water and simmer 15 minutes in covered pan until potatoes are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, cook macaroni in water until tender. Drain and add to the mushroom/potato mixture. Serve warm.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, Debra Wasserman, 1994

Czechoslovakian Noodles with Poppy Seeds

A good reason to add poppy seeds to my pantry!

12-ounce package eggless noodles
10 cups water
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk (or add a few drops of vanilla to plain soy milk)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook noodles in 10 cups boiling water for 8-10 minutes until done. Drain noodles.

Meanwhile, put remaining ingredients in a separate pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from heat, add cooked noodles, and serve warm.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, Debra Wasserman, 1994

Romanian Sweet Pasta

Easy to make, and so very good!

1 pound eggless pasta (I use noodles)
12 cups water
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup walnuts, ground, or 1/3 cup poppy seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon lemon rind, minced
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook pasta in boiling water until done. Drain.
Heat maple syrup and walnuts or poppy seeds in a large pot over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add lemon rind, raisins, clove powder, and cinnamon. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes. Add cooking pasta. Mix well and serve warm. You can also pour the mixture into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes before serving.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, Debra Wasserman, 1994

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Barley Stuffed Lettuce

Author recommends trying rice or couscous instead of the barley, and to try out different juices. I have only tried it this way, but next time would use a different type of lettuce.

1 1/2 cups barley
3 cups orange juice
2 cups water
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 head of romaine lettuce or other large leaf lettuce
2 cups tomato sauce

Cook barley with juice, water, cinnamon, and raisins in a large covered pot over medium-low heat for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate 12 lettuce leaves and rinse well. Stuff each leaf with about 3 tablespoons cooked barley mixture. Fold ends of leaves under. Pour tomato sauce into a baking pan. Lay stuffed leaves in pan with folded ends down. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, Debra Wasserman, 1994

Romanian Tomato Soup

This cookbook, published by the Vegetarian Resource Group in Baltimore, MD, includes a glossary and information about calculating fat in your diet. Each recipe includes specific nutrition factoids.

This is a very simple, but very delicious, tomato soup.

1 cup cooked brown rice
8 cups (or 2 quarts) vegetable broth
15-ounce can tomato sauce
4 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a large covered pot. Simmer over medium-high heat for 55 minutes. Serve warm.

The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, Debra Wasserman, 1994

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review of S. Andrew Swann's latest

read the review here.

i couldn't really say so in that review, but this book majorly pinged my jesus meter. Not sure if Swann was writing SF for the Christian inspiration crowd or what, I surfed his blog to see what kind a guy he is. The dude is an uber liberal libertarian who might be even more left than me. so what the hell is he up to? Playing around with religion just to ping some meters and freak some people out? or is he going to be pulling the rug out at the last minute?

Cory Doctorow can do no wrong.

Or at least he can write no wrong. (saying that outloud it sounds like he can't fix anything? that's not what I meant. I meant the opposite of that, in fact)

I just finished his latest novel, Makers. Similar to Doctorow's Little Brother, I couldn't put it down, the characterization was excellent, there were moments of purposefull over the topness (just to make sure we're getting the point), i was inspired to take some computer classes, I was inspired to dream and make sure those dreams come true, and I cried at the end. The two books may have all those things in common, but they are completely different.

If Little Brother was a manifesto on freedom, and the government's active war against, then Makers is a manifesto on business, and how what we think of as "business" doesn't work.

I'm not going to get into plot and characters because you can find all that on Amazon. so go do that. then go get this book. you will like it.

Getting a message/belief/philosophy out through a passionate, exciting, romantic, crazy, enlightening, impossible to put down novel? who the hell does Doctorow think he is, Ayn Rand?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I read Powers for the articles.

I recently finished re-reading Last Call by Tim Powers. Fans of this blog know I'm a Tim Powers fangirl, and Last Call is one of his best works, and sort of one of his weakest.

Lemme 'splain.

Powers writes occult/mythos/body snatchers like nobodies business. When a character realizes he is a direct descendant of a demi-god or a legendary archetype, or has found the foutain of youth but paid a terrible price, you know it's true. Because Tim Powers said so. That said, sometimes Powers gets a little ahead of himself, and characters and plots get a little mishmashed. Like when you've got a couple of bites of thanksgiving left on your plate, so you just put the half bite of mash potatoes, and a little bit of turkey, and the green beans on your fork and eat it, and it tastes really good, but you can't tell what's what? Unfortunately most of the middle of Last Call is like that.

the action is great, but I read Powers for the articles.

here's the easier to digest version:
Scott Crane thinks he's normal. He makes a fine living as a pro poker player, except things around him keep dying. Like pets. and plants. and his wife. 20 years ago, he played the strangest game of poker you can imagine - 13 players exactly, options to buy another players hand then sell it for a shared profit. The name of the game was Assumption, and it was played with hand painted Tarot cards. That fateful game so many years ago, how could Scott possibly know or understand what was bought and sold that night? This year, the game will be played again, for higher stakes.

Scott, along with his foster sister Diana, his foster father Ozzie, and friends Arky and Bernadette are fighting against the Fisher King and his minions, who have unlimited resources, guns, contacts, and bodies (Powers doesn't anything if he can't have some body snatching in there someplace!).

This isn't a poker book. But I did learn a lot about Tarot cards (you'd be amazed how that can come in handy!). The beginning of the novel is strong, and the end is phenomenol. But the middle? muddled. Everytime I read this book I'm reminded of why I love it, and why I waited so long to read it again.

So i'm not sure if Powers is the writing God that I tell my friends that he is, or if he runs hot and cold. But I still buy tons of his books, so that's gotta say something.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I dub thee Cthulhu fruit!!

it was tagged "Buddha hand fruit" at Meijers. If a lemon and Cthulhu had a baby. . . .

Wasn't much of a key

I recently finished James Rollins' Doomsday Key. Usually, these kinds of books are a guilty pleasure of mine - action, adventure, conspiracies, Indiana Jones does the Davinci Code. I devour them and then quickly sell them back to the used bookstore before anyone knows I've read such pulp. That said, Doomsday Key was a bit of a let down. My own fault, this book is in a series, and I haven't read the earlier books. But I was able to figure out pretty quickly who was who and what was what. Returning characters Peirce and Rachel Verona are the stars, with appearances by Seichan, Monk and a handful of others - and we get some nice glimpses into the shady Guild organization. I won't say too much about the plot besides what does genetically engineers crops, mushrooms, Stonehenge, the Black Madonna, Illustrated Manuscripts, and apples have in common?

The best parts of the book were the historical bits. I love that kinda stuff.

The let down part for me was that the book was both predictable and unpredictable. I'm not going to make any mention of the plot, other than it's save the world before something awful happens.

Predictable parts: it was too easy to figure out who the bad guys were, who the soon-to-be-dead red shirts were. Thank you Dan Brown, no one will ever trust the British professor again.

Unpredictable parts - why make such a big deal about a damn apple, if it has nothing to do with anything? Nice bits of mythology, religion, etymology, some wonderful writing. but it was all for nothing, and that's too bad.

Will i read more Rollins? Hell yeah. Do i recommend this particular one? eh, not so much.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Totally Fantabulous . . . . and really not as hard as it looks.

oy. we bought only what was on the shopping list!, and still spent about $100 bucks at the grocery store. Food is expensive! and I'm a sucker for fresh veggies and decent cuts of meat, and fancy schmancy cheeses. . . it adds up fast. Time for some cheapo meals that only look expensive.

Also, it's winter, which means I'm craving me some barley.

Also, I've been meaning to start cooking with squashes, because they are good for you, and not counting zucchini, I have zero experience with squash.

Ok, so this meal was cheap, pretty, and even the husband liked it!! it doesn't get much better than that!

Barley Risotto in Acorn Squash, adapted from Smitten Kitchen **.

Serves 4

2 Acorn Squash
4 slices bacon/Turkey bacon (optional)
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cups chicken stock/veggie stock/water/mix of those
1 cup pearled barley
2 big pinches of thyme
1/2 cup white wine or sake
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
2 tbsp butter at room temp
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (yes, you can cheat and use the stuff in the green canister. I did!)
couple tablespoons any kind of cheese you want, shredded.

this is much easier than in sounds.

Poke the squash all over with a fork. Cut the squash in half, top to bottom, and scrap out the membranes, seeds, and any other icky stuff thats in there. Set the halves flesh side down on a microwavable dish. put about a 1/4 cup water in the dish, and one half at a time, microwave for about 8 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash is doing its thing in the microwave, preheat the oven to 350, and start the bacon in a large heavy bottomed pot. Also, get the chicken broth simmering in another pot on the stove. when the bacon is done, remove and chop.

Here's where things get fun. THe barley is going to be much more forgiving than arborio rice, but you still have to pay a lot of attention to it. Don't expect to leave the kitchen for the next 30 minutes. Add the chopped onion to the pot you cooked the bacon in, adding more oil if needed. Stir in some thyme, and let the onion cook about 5 minutes over medium heat. When the onion is cooked, stir in the barley, and keep stiring! you want it to toast a little, but not burn. after a minute or two, add the wine. watch it sizzle! keep stiring! When the wine is nearly absorbed, add a ladlefull of chicken broth. and yes, keeping stiring. This is the general gist of risotto: keep stirring. When the liquid is nearly absorbed, add a little more. So you're gonna do that for the next 30 minutes or so.

Somewhere in there, your squash halves will have cooled a bit, and you can scrape a lot of the flesh out, to leave a 1/2" shell.

When it looks like you have one ladle's worth of broth left yet to add, mix the beans, bacon, Squash flesh and chard into the barley. Break the squash up with a spoon, and push the chard down under the barley so it wilts. Along with the last of the broth, add the butter, and the parmesan cheese. Stir it all up, let some of that broth bubble away, season with black pepper (I found mine didn't need any salt, but yours might), and you're nearly done.

Spoon the risotto into the squash halves, top with shredded cheese, and bake for about 30 minutes at 350.

Wow, now that I read all that, it sure looks hard and involved! but it really wasn't. Sure, you stand there and stir, and stir, and stir, and then you dump some other stuff in and stir and stir and stir, but that's really all you half to do. I was watching my husband play Assassin's Creed II while I was stiring. and then I read comics while it was in the oven. Couldn't have been easier!

And barley is so much more forgiving than Arborio! don't get me wrong, I adore Arborio, but barley is so easy, so chilled, so mellow. If you weren't so keen on the whole risotto thing, I don't see why you couldn't bake the barley in the oven with all the other stuff, like a casserole, then spoon it into the squash half and toss it back in the oven for a bit. the possibilities are endless!

** Phew! I checked! the lady from Smitten Kitchen isn't going to kill me for reposting my version of one of her recipes! I'm suddenly really worried about that kind of thing. . . .

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Citrus Sorbet Pie

This was an interesting had to frozen a lot longer for 4 hours, I froze it overnight. I had left-over filling.

2/3 cup boiling water
1 package (4-serving size) Jello Orange flavor gelatin
1 cup orange sherbet
2 cups thawed Cool Whip whipped topping
2 cups jet-puffed miniature marshmallows
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1 graham cracker pie crust (6 ounces)

Stir boiling water into dry gelatin mix in large bowl at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Add sherbet; stir until sherbet is completely melted and mixture is slightly thickened. Add whipped topping, marshmallows and pineapple; stir gently with wire whisk until well blended. Refrigerate 10 minutes or until mixture is very thick and will mound.

Pour into crust. Freeze 4 hours or until firm. Store leftover pie in freezer.

Variation: Prepare as directed, using Jello Lime flavor gelatin and lemon sherbet.

Jello & CookWhip: Favorite Desserts, 2007

Key Lime Margarita Pie

I cheated, and bought a pre-made crust. Below is the original recipe. This was an amazing desert, and so easy!

1 1/4 cups crushed pretzels
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice
1 envelope Kool-Aid Lemon Lime Unsweetened Soft Drink Mix
1 tub (8 ounces) cool whip whipped topping, thawed, divided

Mix crushed pretzels, sugar and butter. Press firmly onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate until ready to fill.

Combine condensed milk, lime juice and drink mix in large bowl until well blended. Remove 1/2 cup whipped topping; refrigerate until ready to use. Gently stir in remaining whipped topping. pour into crust.

Freeze 6 hours or overnight. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes or until pie can be cut easily. Garnish with reserved whipped topping. Store leftover pie in freezer.

Jello & CookWhip: Favorite Desserts, 2007

Caribbean Banana & Coconut Loaf

I didn't add the coconut, but will do the next time around. The loaf was very good, even without the coconut.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons honey
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup dried coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line and grease a 2-pound loaf pan. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract until they are pale and thick.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the flour mixture alternately with the whisked eggs, milk, and honey, then gently fold in the mashed bananas and coconut.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

The Farmers' Market Guide to Fruit, Jenni Fleetwood, 2001

Lemon & Lime Love Cake

This book is organized by type of fruit. Each chapter gives a small history of the fruit, and preparation, cooking, and nutrition information.

The mixture on top of the cake was too sweet for our taste, will use less sugar next time. The cake itself was very good! I didn't put the cake on a wire rack, so just poured the mixture on top of the cake in the loaf pan, and it worked out fine.

1 lemon
1 lime
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk

Preheat over to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf tin. Grate the zest from the lemon and lime and set it aside. Cut both fruits in half and squeeze one lemon half and all the lime. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Put the butter in a mixing bowl and add 3/4 cup of sugar. Beat the mixture until it is pale and creamy, then gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little of the flour if the mixture shows signs of curdling. Gradually add the remaining flour mixture, alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon and lime zest.

Spoon the mixture in the prepared loaf pan and level the surface. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Mix the citrus juice with the remaining sugar. Invert the loaf onto a wire rack, then turn it right way up again.

Put a tray underneath the rack. Immediately spoon the sugar mixture over the top of the loaf, letting it run down the sides slightly. Leave to cool before slicing.


Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans with the lemon zest.
Instead of using both lemon and lime, use the grated zest and juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes.

The Farmers' Market Guide to Fruit, Jenni Fleetwood, 2001

Fusilli with Spinach and Ricotta Sauce

I use the left-over sauce to use with pasta for another time, and used low-fat ricotta cheese. I got away with using our small food processor.

2 bunches spinach (to yield 3/4 pound trimmed leaves)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 pound dried fusilli

Separate spinach leaves from stems. Wash and drain. Weigh out 3/4 pound leaves.

Put the spinach leaves in a 12-inch skillet with just the water clinging to them. Cover and cook over moderate heat until leaves are just wilted, about 3 minutes, tossing once or twice with tongs so leaves wilt evenly.

Transfer wilted leaves to a sieve and place under cold running water until cool. Drain well and squeeze between your hands to remove excess water. The spinach does not need to be thoroughly dry.

Melt butter in a small skillet over low heat. Add garlic and saute 1 minute to release its fragrance. Put spinach, garlic and butter in food processor and process to chop. Add ricotta and process until smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides of bowl once or twice. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup water. Transfer to a large warm bowl. Add as much of the sauce as you like and toss to coat, adding reserved water as necessary to thin the sauce. Refrigerate any remaining sauce.

Pasta Harvest, Janet Flecther, 1995

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I heart Vlad Taltos

click Here for my review of Iorich, the latest novel from Steven Brust.

And can I just say THANK YOU for putting a chart of the families of the empire in the front! That would have come in handy 5 or 6 novels ago.

This is what Manga Heaven looks like

what i would give to own a digital camera right now!! then i could show my you nearly sky high stack of manga that I've purchased in the last week.

What's the one good thing about all the comic/gaming/bookstores getting way in over their heads in the manga craze? Now it's all on sale. People keep asking me why I don't go to B&N to buy all this stuff, because "of course" they have it:

1. B&N isn't so good about carrying early issues in long running series. With 87 issues of Fruit's Basket, Naruto, and Negima, that there isn't much room left for more interesting stuff.

2. I'd rather give my $$ to independently run businesses. Even if I have to drive further.

and now, for the list of new goodies:

Read or Die volumes 2 & 3, by Shutaro Yamada. They had some Read or Dream (the sisters) too, but no one seems to have volume one of that series.
Fullmetal Alchemist Vol 22 by Hiromu Arakawa. Wow she's coming out with these later issues fast! Good, because I'm kinda ready for a final showdown.
Nana, vol 3 by Ai Yazawa. I just can't get enough of Ms Yazawa. Why her earlier stuff hasn't been translated into English, I'll never know. We were about to check out at the store when husband says "look at all the Nana they have, that you don't have!" jerk.
Blade of the Immortal, vol 1, by Hiroaki Samura. I've heard good things about this series, but other than that, don't know a thing about it. The artwork is less cartoony, more artsy, which is very refreshing.
Basilisk, vol 1, by Futaro Yamada & Masaki Segawa. They ran the anime on TV a few years ago, and since I kept missing episodes, It was impossible to keep track of all the characters in the Fuedal love story. Kind of Fuedal Japan meets Romeo & Juliet? The really nice thing about Manga vs Anima - if you forget who someone is, you can always go back a few pages!
Ludwig II, by You Higuri. It has two very handsome gentlemen on the cover, and the blurb on the back promises a historic backdrop for the story of King Ludwig II of Bavaria's trials and tribulations with love and loss. After I read it, husband asks "It's got a lot of history, right?" Sure. sure it does. Rated M for Mature.

I need another manga shelf. in fact, I need an entire bookcase for just my comics.