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 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

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)

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
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

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 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. 


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)


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)
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