Sunday, December 23, 2012

Recipe 17: White Lightning Chili

White Lightning Chili
For a long time, I've been craving an alternative chili.  When I got caught in a snow storm in the Berkshires a few weeks back, it was, frankly, all I could think about (besides not skidding off the road, duh).  But it took a few weeks longer to make it happen, which left a lot of time to research the multitude of recipes out there for white chili.  There are a lot of options - meat, no meat, different types of meat, certain types of beans, cornmeal, no cornmeal, etc.  

I took a few recipes that I liked the look of (The Pioneer Woman, Cooking Light), and hybridized them.  The resulting recipe is pretty good - but I'm open to suggestions.  I've never had white chili before, so I'm not sure what, if anything else I'd like to add.  Maybe adding the hot sauce directly to the soup while cooking?  Maybe some acidity in the form of lime?  Actually, next time I make this, that's happening.  Let me know what you think, and what angle you take on this white lightning flash in your Le Creuset pan. 


White Lightning Chili in a Le Creuset


White Lightning Chicken Chili
Serves 6-8

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Luxe, by Anna Godbersen: Gossip Girl goes to the Guilded Age

The Luxe
by Anna Godbersen
Harper Collins: New York, 2007
ISBN: 0061345660

Once upon a time in ye Olde NYC, before Gossip Girl took the interwebs by storm, there were the society pages, the low tech but equally reliable font of the titillating tales of the crème de la crème in NYC society.  The Luxe is set in 1890's NYC, during the Guilded Age.  Times are a changin': new money encroaches on old money society turf, and the hired help is starting to get ideas!  This is the story of Ms. Elizabeth Holland, freshly returned from Paris, and under pressure to be married off to an eligible bachelor now that the Holland family is on the verge of bankruptcy due to some shady dealings by her late father.  Her best friend is the nouveau-riche princess of NYC society, Penelope Hayes.  Both girls have secret lovers.  Penelope's lovah is the catch of the year, Henry Schoonmaker, who is forced into an engagement with Elizabeth, leaving Penelope vengeful.  But Elizabeth's not feeling so great about this, as she's taking riding lessons from the coachman down in the stables… Woahhh! Meanwhile, Henry has fallen hard for Diana, Elizabeth's little sister, and Elizabeth's personal maid has gotten some independent ideas during Elizabeth's absence.  With Penelope out for revenge, things are bound to take a turn for the dramatic, and the society pages are bound to dish on it! 

The Luxe is for YA's who like the scandal, life of excess, and drama GG provides, but maybe want a little history (and yards of silk) thrown into the mix.  While the book does provide great historical backdrops, fashion, and misc. tidbits, it often goes well beyond what would have been appropriate, acceptable, or even expected, especially in regards to sex, which could call into question just how historically accurate this work is…As a side note, this is published by the same Harper Collins imprint as GG, Alloy Entertainment. I highly recommend checking out the page for this book on Amazon, where there is the most bizzaro movie trailer for the second book…the first movie trailer I've ever seen for a book to boot.  Also, hello.  The cover had me at hello - even though I was immediately like, "Shoulders?  In ye olde timey New York?  Sluuuutttt alerttttt!  (But where can I try that dress on, for serious.)"

Book talk hook:  Peg this as Gossip Girl, with class…HIGH CLASS!  Get it?!? This is one where the cover will help sell the book as fans of historical fiction (and those who fantasize about frolicking in period clothing) may be intrigued by the girl on the cover.  I find the narrative tough to do a read aloud with, since the story is kind of all over the place.  Summarizing it like I do above will probably be enough.

Monday, December 10, 2012

To Marry An English Lord, by Gail MacColl: A Step By Step Guide for Downton Fangirls

To Marry An English Lord
by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
Workman’s Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7611-7195-9



If we hold these truths to be self-evident, it is evident that this self does not read nearly enough books that are true.   I mean…I’m rocking a one-a-year ratio.  Which is better than a none-a-year ratio, but it’s not like my brain is on a truth-avoiding diet, avec Fox News.  There’s just so many books, so little time to read them all.   Am I right or am I right, you guys?

Another reason I don’t have nearly enough time to read truthy things is because I’m busy watching them.  You’ve probably heard of a show called Downton Abbey.  It is TOTALLY truthy, you guys.  Everyone got Pamuked all the time, changed outfits with the help of the help seventeen times a day, and all lived in giant Abbeys in ye olde Eduardian England, right?   Anyways, I digress from my mission of truth.  My point here?  I totally dig Downton Abbey.

Naturally, I was filled with glee when I stumbled upon the book that claims to be the inspirational reading for Downton Abbey architect creator Julian Fellowes.  I was doubly filled with glee when I realized it both is filled with history AND reads kind of like an extensive gossip column, filled with turn of the century posed celebrity photos (the more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?).  History? Fashion?  Drama? Gossip?  Lady nerd red alert!

Guys.  Let’s just say I know it’s a bad idea, but I kind of would like to spend an afternoon prancing around in Charles Worth dress as my parents sell me into a loveless marriage with a very old and very gouty British Lord/Prince/Knight for a title and drafty castle.*   I’ll even grin and let them tighten my corset!

But in all seriousness, while the book was a little chatty Cathy in regards to history, it does have a lot of interesting, historical, human stories and the upper crust social history of New York, London, and Newport.  It took me a surprisingly long time to read, given that a solid quarter is pictures or page long foot-notey anecdotes about things like indoor plumbing, King Alfred’s fashions, Newport, and home redesign (obvi, I was hooked).  I mean…this book is not hard, and it had me at hello.  And while I questioned the chatty factuality of it throughout, the doubts of my inner high school librarian were assuaged by the extensive bibliography at the end.  In short, I am a fan of this book.  And Downton Abbey.  Together as a gift (big tip here dudes), they will make a lady in your life who is a nerd very happy this holiday season.  If you're looking for YA double fan points?  Throw in the super high-brow (sarcasm, but seriously, fun) The Luxe.

 Doubleplusgood (so I just read 1984, what of it?)…Julian Fellowes is allegedly creating a Guilded Age costume drama series in America, aka Newport – which I’ve been longing for since attending a conference in Newport when Season 2 of DA was airing last year.  It’s a no brainer.  The audience for it is Vander-built.  Annnnd I’m out.


*But if Prince Harry is available…



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tidbits


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tidbits: There YA go again, Hollywood

  • Remember how excited I was about The Perks of Being a Wallflower being adapted?  WELL.  I finally saw it.  Guys, I am pleased, delighted, relieved, and melancholy.  It was great.  You should all see it!
  •  Divergent shops for Four; I feel old because I know who none of those actors are. 
  • SO many YAdaptations dropped this week.  Okay, two.  Here are my deep, deep thoughts:
  • I firmly believe there needs to be a men of YA charity calendar.  Possibly a related movie, avec Calendars girls.  Luckily, I'm not alone...I double dog dare you not the snicker at The Dudes of YA: a "Lit-Erotic" Photospread.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dinner Train Book Club: Little Women

Well, you can revoke my license to be a lady. 

In the interest of full disclosure, this was not the first time I've tried and failed to read/finish Little Women...that's right, I did not finish this children's novel.  I did, however, read to the point where Alcott's all "Oh hey reader-guys, if you like this, TELL MY EDITOR.  You know, so I can publish the end."  I felt that was a fair place to end - especially because I spent most of the book wondering when Beth was going to die already (thanks to the Winona Rider/Christian Bale movie for that one).  I would have given a spoiler alert, but I suspect I'm the only adult woman in the country who would be reading a librarian's blog to have not read this.  For this reason, and because hello, we both know the Internets have no shortage for squeefilled reviews of this one, I'm going to refrain from sharing too many thoughts.  But I will say that this is a book FILLED with food, though kind of old timey things that there was no way I was making.  Blancmange?  Get real, Jo.  That sounds unappetizing - it actually sounds like a skin disease to me.   I totally still made a cheese plate based on it though...But more on food below.

It was so rainy, rainier
than Old Man Laurence's
eyeballs when Beth
(finally) dies.
Additionally, because I did see the movie, I'll admit that I felt really weird about picturing longtime crush Christian Bale as a 12-year-old boy, or however old he is at the start - even though who doesn't have a childhood crush on Laurie?  Get it together, Jo.  Also, Amy is still a twit.  And Beth, I'm sorry, because you do die for being good...but what. the. flip.  Grow a pair.  Also, your doll parties are kind of lame.  I think we should introduce you to Anne of Green Gables.  And Meg?  Well, being the oldest is hard, so Ima cut her some slack, but she could use a self-confidence pep-talk.   Jo?  I mean...she's really not of her time, and she did make me snicker with the crusty old aunt, but gawwwwwd.  Stop being so contrary and archetypal!  Laurie is a babe!  Get some!

Thank you to Bean, Sam, Arianna, Bailey, and Lisa (who came all the way from Philly), who all came out on a supremely rainy spring day to eat some salty strawberries!  We had a great time, and even better discussion.  Topics that I remember covering included if this is the first YA (intentionally, unintentionally, or not at all), the feminist vibes, the book being ahead of its time, the cuteness of Laurie, and why it takes forever for Beth to die (okay, that's all me).

Also...I had this book club meeting on June 2nd.  JUDGE AWAY.

Dinner Train Book Club: Little Women Recipes
  •  Lemonade
Marmee hits this stuff hard when the girls go to bed.

  • Blancmange-y Cheese and Crackers
Way less gross looking than real blancmange


Recipe 18: Salty Strawberry Crisp (AKA Dinner Train: Little Women - Jo's Salty Strawberries)

Jo March is a terrible cook.  I mean, salty strawberries? Gross. And yet she tries, so I've chosen to honor this effort with a recipe that scores a spot on the Le Creuset Challenge roster: Salty Strawberry Crisp.  Unfortunately, I didn't think it was very good.  But I also don't like baked strawberries...so I might not be the best person to rate this one.  You can be the judge! Enjoy the bonus stroke of genius I had while pondering my freshly squeezed lemons from the lemonade I made, below the recipe. 

Jo's Salty Strawberries (AKA Salty Strawberry Crisp)
Jo's Salty Strawberries (aka Salty Strawberry Crisp)
(From The Craving Chronicles)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2-3 cups diced strawberries (I used fresh, but I bet frozen will work here too)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp granulated sugar (make sure it's not salt, Jo)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
15 Ritz crackers
1 tsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp salted butter, melted
a tiny bit of Kosher salt

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and coat a small Le Creuset with cooking spray.
  2. Toss the strawberries with the lemon juice, granulated sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl before pouring it into the prepared pot.
  3. In another medium bowl, crush the Ritz into small pieces (fingers are sufficient) and add the brown sugar, and butter.  Combine until just damp but pretty evenly mixed.  Top the pot with the mixture and sprinkle a tiny, tiny toss of Kosher salt over the top. 
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is browned and there's some good bubblin' going on in your pot.
  5. Remove, let cool for a few minutes, and serve with vanilla creamed ice or strawberry sorbet (bonus recipe below!)

Cold Pockets (aka Stuffed Frozen Lemons)

Got some lemons you've squeezed to make lemonade?  Got some sorbet?  You got the easiest fancy looking dessert ever.  Jo would probably still screw it up.

Take your lemon half, and cut of the very end, leaving some skin but creating a flat surface so it can stand on its own.  Scrape the inside clean with a spoon or parring knife.  Let your frozen sorbet thaw a bit for easy scooping.  When it's nice and pliable, fill the lemons, put them on a plate, and pop them back into the freezer for at least 20 minutes to get firm.  Garnish with a mint sprig, feel fancy, and gloat because it was the easiest, prettiest desert short of buying a cake.

Voila!

Dinner Train: Little Women - Sesame Asparagus Noodle Salad

Jo March does many things well.  Writing, sistering, befriending old ladies and young boys, burning off curls with a curling iron, you get the idea.  She does not, however, cook asparagus well.  Damn shame, because asparagus cooked well is a thing of beauty.  Tossed with some noodles in a sesame soy sauce?  Boom.  Delicious made easy and quick.  I know I made some adaptations, which I noted on a really crumpled and soy-stained Post-It that has been on my fridge since May...but they're a little less than detailed, so I recommend working from the original recipe.


Sesame Asparagus Noodle Salad
(Adapted from Culinate.com)
Serves MANY

Ingredients
Marinade
1/2 cup sesame oil
4 Tbsp soy (but the original says 7, so...)
3 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar
3 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili oil (or more if you're feelin' craycray)
1 garlic clove

Fixin's
2 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 package (approx 14-16 oz) rice noodles
10 scallions, finely sliced
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into small squares
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce

Directions
1.  Mix all marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and stir to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.
2.  In a large wok, heat the sesame oil and saute the tofu, stirring every minute or so for about six mintes.  Add the soy and saute two to three more minutes until it is absorbed. Remove from heat. and cool entirely.
3.  You have two options for cooking the asparagus.  You can add it to the end of the tofu cooking process (probably 4-5 minutes), or toss it in for the last three or so minutes of the noodle boiling (next step).  The goal is to let it get bright green and crisp, not firmly crunchy.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the rice noodles until done.  Drain, rise, and store in a bowl (or the original pot) with some water to prevent sticking.  Let it cool entirely. 
4.  In a very large serving vessel, toss together the asparagus, the tofu, the noodles, the sesame seed, and the scallions.  For pretty factor, save a bit of the sesame seeds and the scallions to garnish the top with.
5.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to ensure it is total cooled, and then serve with some lemonade and a quality book club discussion!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tidbits: Sloppy shuffle sorts the presidents and some adapation news

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recipe 19: Calabaza Queso Casserole (aka Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Black Beans, Kale, Tomato, and Chili)

With their powers combined, you
too can have a delicious dinner!
I'll admit it.  I'm on a pumpkin bender.  But you know what?  I'm okay with that!  You will be too be when you try all of these recipes.  

While eagerly devouring my leftover Spicy Pumpkin Chili last week, I had the genius idea to put it on my leftover macaroni and cheese.  It was a very, very delicious decision.  Which made me ponder if I could hybridize the whole recipe.  And so I did, working from the recipe I often use to make really tasty mac and cheese.  

Making an appearance with my
experimentalpumpkin banana bread.
Below is what I came up with, using black beans instead of red kidney beans, and using double the kale and none of the meat.  I'm pretty confident you can throw in anything you want here and be fine.  I'd also like to encourage you to use three instead of my two cups of pasta, since this is a weird baked mac and cheese, not just a weird baked pumpkiny cheese chili-flavored kale thing.  

Feel free to add more cheese - the pumpkin cuts it a bit, so if you're all about the queso, don't hold back, Monterrey Jack!  If you try other ingredients in the fixin's mixture, let me know how it turns out!  I have a sneaking suspicion it'll taste delicious with sausage, different beans, spinach, bacon, etc.  By all means, get crazy with this!   It tastes awfully good with some extra cheese and sriracha...



Calabaza Queso Casserole
Serves 4-6
Calabeza Queso Casserole
(aka Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Black Beans, Kale, Tomato, and Chili)
Ingredients

Fixin's
3 cups rotini pasta
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 4 oz can chopped green chilis
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less depending on taste)
1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Sauce
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups milk
16 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (save some to sprinkle on the top)
2-4 oz goat cheese (add more if you want it cheesier, duhs)
15 oz pumpkin (one can)
Salt and Pepper

1.  Cook your pasta, leaving it a weensy bit al dente and then drain it.  If you can't figure this step out, this recipe is not for you.
2.  Saute your onion in some olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan for about 6 minutes, until they begin to brown up a bit.
3.  Add the beans, tomatoes, chilis, and spices, and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring until well incorporated.
4.  Add the kale and cover.  After 4 minutes or so, remove the cover, stir to incorporate and recover.  Do this until the kale begins to wilt and lighten a bit in color, probably after 8 minutes or so.  Turn off the heat; you can stir in the pasta if you want to clear up some space on your counter.
5.  Preheat your oven to 350.
6.  In a medium to large sauce pot, melt your butter over medium heat.  When it starts to bubble, proceed to step seven.
7.  Whisk in the flour.  When the mixture begins to bubble, proceed to step eight.
8.  Warm 2 cups of your milk in the microwave, until it is warm but not hot to the touch.
9.  Begin to slowly whisk it into the sauce pan.
10.  When the milk is incorporated, lower the heat a bit and keep and eye on it.  You want it to start to simmer, but not turn into a full rolling boil that will make a mess of your stovetop!
11.  When the simmer is attained, lower the heat to maintain the temperature.
12.  Begin to whisk in the cheeses, one scoop or handful at a time.
13.  When the cheese is fully incorporated (and remember to save some for the top of the dish), add in the pumpkin one big dollop at a time, also whisking to fully incorporate before adding more.  Alternate with pours of the remaining cup of milk.
14.  Season to taste with pepper and salt if needed.
15.  Pour the sauce into the large frying pan and stir to coat the pasta and fixin's.
16.  Pour the mixture into a large Le Creuset sprayed with cooking spray or buttered.  Sprinkle with cheese and a few dashes of chili powder and cayenne.
17.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350, and then turn the oven up to a boil, baking for five more minutes or until the cheese on top gets really gooey and bubbly and maybe a bit brown.
18.  DEVOUR.  But let it cool a bit first.  The roof of your mouth will thank you.
If you close your eyes, this hot mess of Calabeza Queso Casserole
will look as good as it tastes...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recipe 20: Spicy Pumpkin Chili

Spicy Pumpkin Chili + Hocus Pocus + one hurricane - school =
One very happy librarian!
Happy hurricane eve!  Unless you live anywhere else but the East Coast of the USA...as you were, the rest of you.  Are you holed up at home, with flashlights, candles, bottled water, wine and wands at the ready too?  Bring it, Sandy.  More hurricane school and work cancellations, but no damage, that is.  Enjoying the foliage that will probably be gone tomorrow, Blue and I decided to do some experimentation with fall flavors. This recipe is based on a recipe with no measurements but a delicious looking picture I found on Bon Appetit for suggestions of what to make with a can of pumpkin.  I'm pretty sure you can do anything you want here, and could theoretically make it veg if you use some tofu and up some of the other spices.  I also debated using black beans, and added kale.  I did use a precooked diced chicken andouille sausage; I think I'd recommend using a non-cooked sausage or ground beef (again, upping the spices) for the breakdown of the sausage, but really, I did enjoy it with what I used...I'm mostly pleased to have tried this experiment with canned pumpkin - it really is quite tasty!  Have fun with this and try some ingredients of your own; let me know how it turns out! Enjoy it with some Spanish wine, cheese, avocado, a daub of sour cream or Greek yogurt, and everyone's favorite Halloween movie while the power lasts: Hocus Pocus.  SISTERS!

Spicy Pumpkin Chili
Serves 4-6
Spicy Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 package of spicy sausage (diced if precooked, if not, remove casing or finely chop)
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced 
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less to your spice preference)
1 can red kidney beans (14-16 oz), rinsed
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 can cooked pumpkin (NOT pie filling!)
2 c vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch kale, torn (about 8-10 stems)

Directions
1.  Add oil to your Le Creuset and saute your sausage over medium high.  If it is raw meat, mostly cook through, and drain the fat before adding the onions.   If not, saute for two minutes or so before doing so.  Cook until onions begin to get clear.
2.  Add peppers and spices and saute for approximately five minutes.
3.  Add beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, and broth.  Stir to combine, cover, and bring to a boil.
4.  Reduce heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer for about 20 minutes.
5.  Add the kale, stir to incorporate, and let cook five more minutes.
6.  Remove from heat, and serve with any of or none of the following: a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocado, pepitas, a spicy bread, corn bread, beer, wine, a hurricane. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recipe 21: Sweet Potato, Chorizo, Kale and Lentil Stoup


Sweet Potato, Chorizo, Kale and
Lentil Stoup
  
When life hands you lentils, a pepper, a bunch of onions, some unrecongnizable root vegetables, a bunch of what you think is kale, and a truly massive sweet potato, you don't hesitate. You make a really, really good stoup.  (And separately roast what turned out to be a celery root.)  Yes, stoup.  Stew + soup.  Because that's what this is, somewhere between a soup and a stew, due to the natural thickening properties of the sweet potato starch. 



 The recipe below is loosely based on this recipe for Kale, Sweet Potato, Lentil soup, with some hybridization with a Nigella recipe for a chorizo lentil soup.  Basically, you can take out the chorizo and use vegetable broth and make it veg, or you can leave it in and really, really enjoy your dinner.  It is so, so good.  Double the chorizo for more spicy smokiness, but otherwise, enjoy!  You'd be stoupid not to. 

Sweet Potato, Chorizo, Kale and Lentil Stoup
Sweet Potato, Chorizo, Kale and Lentil Stoup
Ingredients
1 tsp olive oil
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 medium/large onion, diced
4 oz chorizo, diced
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup lentils
4 cups broth (chicken, or use vegetable)
2 medium sweet potatoes (or one large), peeled and diced
2 + cups of water, as needed
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions
1.     In a Le Creuset over medium high, heat oil and sauté carrots, onions, pepper and celery for two minutes.
2.     Add chorizo, sauté the mixture for approximately 10 minutes on medium.  The natural oils should leach out and color the veggies, and the onions should become translucent.
3.     Add in spices, and sauté approximately one minute.
4.     Add in lentils, stirring to incorporate them into the mixture fully.
5.      Add broth and bring to a boil.  Cook ten minutes. 
6.     Add sweet potatoes and stir in to incorporate.  At this point, add at least one cup of water, upwards of two if you prefer your soup to be less of a stew (the chorizo also ups the salt level, so this will help dilute it a bit). 
7.     Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer covered with a little vent for 20-30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes and lentils are soft to your taste. 
8.     Add kale and cook 5 minutes.
9.     Season to taste!
10. Remove from heat.  Wine, crusty bread, cheese on a board, you know the drill.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rotters, by Daniel Kraus: Dig it or die (and some other Hallowinners)

Rotters by Daniel Kraus Delacorte Books: New York, 2011. ISBN: 978-0385738576

Chicago native Joey Crouch experiences a spell of rotten luck when he is sent to live with the father he has never met following the accidental death of his mother.  When Joey meets Kenneth Harnett, who lives in squalor in a cabin in small town Iowa, he realizes his life has taken a serious turn for the worse, but things are just beginning a downward spiral.  Not only is his dad a stinky social misfit who disappears for days at a stretch, but the kids in town call him the Garbageman, and immediately begin to excessively bully Joey.  Joey is understandably miserable, but curious as to where his sullen father disappears to.  He follows him one night, and to both his horror and intrigue, discovers that his father is a professional grave robber.  Strangely fascinated, Joey convinces him to take him on as an apprentice.  In doing so, he enters the weirdly scientific, gory, and engrossing world that is the secret society of the Diggers, an organization of rapidly aging grave robbers.  To his great surprise, he discovers a great deal about his own family history, and begins to grow in confidence, even as the stakes are raised and a family feud resurfaces to wreck havoc on his newfound semblance of stability.  At times both brutal and gruesome, this story is not an easy one, but like Joey, readers will be unable to tear their eyes away from the page.  It is recommended for strong stomached adult and teen readers grades 10 and up.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tidbits: One ring really could rule us all...


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater: Indiana Jones and the lost Tarot Cards

The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, 2012.
ARC Digital Copy via NetGalley

Blue Sargent comes from a family of psychic women, who have told her for years that she will kill her first love with a kiss.  Consequently, she has avoided the wealthly Raven boys of nearby Aglionby Academy, so called for the raven patch on their school uniforms.   Naturally, Blue is none too thrilled when a group of Raven boys begin to appear everywhere in her life.  These Raven boys are held together by their irresistible poised ringleader, Gansey but they are as different as they can be, ranging from the quiet Noah, the brash and angry Ronan, and the hardworking local scholarship student Adam.  Gansey is on a quest for the lost Glendower, a vanished ancient Welsh king.  Legend tells that whomever finds him will have the power of one wish.  Blue is wrapped into their friendship and the adventure, assisting the group in following the magical ley lines that may lead them to Glendower.  The quest is not without adversity, foes, secrets, and danger for each member of the group, though their friendship is strong and the adventure gripping.  The first in a series, this book is as exciting as it is mysterious.  Though child abuse, murder, and violence occur, the strong themes of friendship and family outweigh them.  This title is a strongly recommended purchase for all school and public libraries, particularly those housing other Stiefvater titles; it has appeal for all readers aged 12 and up (including adventure seeking adults!). 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron: You sort of got (steam)Punked!

Excuse me miss.
Is that Downton Abbey you are posing
in front of?The Dark Unwinding
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press: New York, 2012
ARC copy via NetGalley


Left to the mercy and care of her aunt in high-society Victorian England, Katherine Tulman has had the sense to make herself invaluable as a right-hand woman and bookkeeper.  When her aunt orders her to visit her reculsive uncle on the Tulman family estate in the country, 17-year-old Katherina has no choice but to go.  Stanwyth Keep, as she find it, is horribly unkempt, gothic, and terrifying.  Her Uncle Tully, as she finds him, is a raving lunatic, with a talent for inventing mechanical and earily life-like gadgets, and to make matters worse, the estate is inhabited by nearly 2000 villagers it employs to run it, all rescued from the workhouse.  If Aunt Tulman discovers this, she will shut the operation down and send Uncle Tully to the lunatic home.  Though she makes a poor first impression, Katherine finds the people and the estate growing on her, and agrees, against her better judgment, to the plea for more time to save the estate made by her uncles handsome apprentice.  However, as she struggles to find a way to save the estate, she begins to wonder if the estate is robbing her of her own sanity too.  Bits of steampunk and historical fiction give this title appeal to fans of the genres, though the plot is a bit overwrought at times.  It is recommended to readers aged 12-15.  

I’m a bit...so-so on this title.  I wanted to like it a lot more than I found myself actually liking it, and wonder if that disappointment has colored my whole perception and reading experience.  I’m not usually able to put down a book and come back to it a few weeks later if I like it a lot - and I did exactly that with this one.  That said, many other people have loved this book, so maybe you ought to listen to them!  Katherine rubbed me the wrong way, and aspects of the plot made me roll my eyes.  While I appreciated that Uncle Tully’s mental illness wasn’t totally vilified as it very well may have been in Victorian England, I did find it a bit cartoonish at times, and that cheapened it for me.  The whole thing was at times a little too fast-paced in a way that may leave others gasping and ripping through the pages, but really just had me feeling confused, and then annoyed with predictable plot twists.  I was also kind of bummed that this is a sequel.  Come on, YA.  PLEASE.  Give me more stand-alones!  I think some of you will love this, especially if you like costume dramas (which I do), and others will not.  It’s worth a try though!  Check it out at your local public library, and enjoy it with a cup of tea (sugar free, after you read this!).  

Finally, I have to ask.  On page 13, when Cousin Robert is in the potting shed, is this a straight up Cold Comfort Farm shout out?   If so, well played.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Recipe 22: Chiles Rellenos Enchiladas

For the record, I make this recipe a lot, in a lot of different ways.  This is the first time, however, that I have actually made it to the point where I have taken a picture.  It is also, frankly, the laziest I've been about it, as half of the ingredients are like...from a can.  Usually, I just use fresh ingredients on hand for the stuffing; this is also the first time I've used rice.  And I cheated, and used Goya Spanish rice instead of making and seasoning my own.  Whatevs!  The good news is this recipe is easily adaptable.  Use different ingredients for the filling, seasonally.  Use more cheese.  Don't use rice.  Use grits.  Use meat.  Use different beans.  Use seasonal veggies.  Use, frankly, whatever you want.  These are basically Mexican stuffed peppers.  Stuff at will, kids.   I think the secret is in keeping the lid on for most of the baking - it allows for a steaming effect to soften the peppers.  As is, this recipe is pretty easy.  What takes the longest will be your prep time.  Otherwise, it's pretty easy!

Chiles Rellenos Enchiladas

Serves 4
This is an unattractive, bad quality photo of a half eaten batch of delicious
Chiles Rellenos Enchiladas. 

Ingredients

1 box Goya Spanish rice
1 tsp/tbsp butter (depending on what you like)
1 medium/large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium/large carrot, chopped
1 can drained, rinsed black beans
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cups kale, torn into small pieces
1 jalapeno, deseeded and finely chopped
4 very large poblano peppers, cut down the side and deseeded (or something else - I have no idea what kind I used - they were red/yellow and shaped like poblanos.  Maybe banana?  Maybe something else?  This is the trouble with farmshares. If you identify them, let me know.)
1 can enchilada sauce (red or green - or mole sauce, or get crazy and use salsa)
Cheese, to taste (I use cheddar or cotija)

Directions:

1.  Prepare your box of rice as instructed on the package.
2.  Preheat oven to 400.  
3.  In a large sauce pan over medium, saute the onions and garlic for approximately five minutes
4.  Add beans and carrot.
5.  Add tomatoes and kale, stir, and cover.   Saute for 15 minutes stirring occasionally, until the kale has softened and the ingredients are incorporated.
6.  Add 1/3 of the rice to the skillet.  Stir to incorporate.
7.  Add cheese to the mixture if you'd like to.
8.  Stuff your peppers.  You should have a good deal of the vegetable mixture left over.
9.  Lightly spray your Le Creuset with cooking oil to prevent sticking, then pour in your remaining rice.  Cover this with the vegetable mixture, and place your stuffed peppers on top.  Cover the mixture with enchilada sauce.
10.  Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.
11.  Remove the cover for the last 15 minutes (total cook time 45 minutes).  If you want to add more cheese, do so now so it melts and begins to bubble.
12.  Let the pot cool five minutes, and enjoy with avocado, or a cold beer.  Or a glass of red wine.  Just enjoy. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Recipe 23: Country Style Tomato Sauce

     I made this about a month and change ago, when tomatoes were coming in something fierce, and I was getting a million in my farmshare.  It was almost necessary, after I attended my farmshare's Tomato Festival, and came home with, oh, five more pounds of heirloom tomatoes.  In my defense, how can you say no to such a pretty face?  YOU CAN'T. 

     I searched high and low through my cookbooks.  Shockingly, almost none had a recipe.  What's up with that?  Shouldn't every self respecting non-specific cookbook have a recipe for something this basic, that is this much of a staple in kitchens?  

Anydoodle, I took to the Internets, where I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, followed it to a recipe from Lidia, and then took Giada's advice to add butter when I served it.  Ultimately, what follows is rough, and a combination of the recipes I found online, and what I had in my farmshare.  I call it country style because I opted not to blend it; I like a slightly chunky sauce and thought it looked prettier that way because I'd used some colorful heirlooms.  I also did not use very many plum tomatoes - I just used what I had.  All in all?  Totally delicious.  I recommend adding some butter to make it richer; the freshness of the tomatoes makes it very bright.  You don't need to; it's pretty darn tasty on its own.


Recipe below:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Case of the Terribles: Breaking Dawn 2 poster

I'm honestly speechless.


There must have been beeritas involved, because I, noted art dunce,
could design a less ridiculous poster, blindfolded. 
With a beerita.


PS.  THIS.  (drink)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recipe 24: Lemon Ginger Applesauce

So many apples, so few ideas that
do not end in dessert...
Yesterday, I went apple picking.  Today, I had more apples than digits on my hands and feet combined.  Also, because I am a crazy person, I have decided that I will be going dessert free until October 31st.  That's right kids, one whole month without sweet treats.  Which presented a problem, since all my ideas for what to do with this plethora of apples fell firmly into the dessert family.  But then I realized the greatest way to get rid of many of them and make something that I can eat this month is so simple that babies eat it: applesauce.  Boom.  Plus, color me impressed that even though it is sweet, it has like 0.02% non-apple sugar added.  Applesauce for the win!  I also had a slightly grotty old lemon, so I decided to spice it up and make a lemon ginger applesauce.  I actually think I used too much ginger, and maybe would recommend using fresh grated ginger for more warmth than ground ginger, and would also recommend including zest (my lemon was too leathery). 

Lemon Ginger Applesauce

Adapted from The Apple Lover's Cookbook, by Amy Traverso

Lemon Ginger Applesauce, Le Creuset style

Ingredients

3-4 lbs apples, peeled, cored, chopped into large pieces (mixed types will work fine - better according to the original recipe)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar (more to taste if you want)

Directions

Nearly ready...
1.  With the heat set to medium high, add your apples, water, and lemon juice to your Le Creuset/Dutch Oven, stir, and cover. 
2. When it begins to steam heavily, turn down the heat to a low-medium setting.  Let it cook covered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The apples will begin to get very soft and break apart.
3.  When the mixture is slightly more than half sauce and the apples break apart easily under your spoon or spatula, turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. 
4.  Add sugar to the mixture, and stir to combine.
5.  If you like your applesauce chunky, stop here.  If you like it smooth, continue.
6.  Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth.
7.  Cool, and enjoy! 

Et voila!

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