30 June 2012

Supper, Assemble!

Clearing out our fridge at the end of the work week, I turned up thawed chicken breasts, wrinkly green beans and cherry tomatoes, and half an improperly stored red onion. I also found a baking potato that had been left in the bread bin for who-knows-how-long but was starting to sprout eyes. From these questionable ingredients, supper just seemed to assemble itself.

Tomato Chicken & Oven Fries

Tomato "Jam" Chicken

Ingredients
2 3 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp Penzeys Sunny Spain salt-free seasoning blend
1 shallot, minced
½ cup chopped red onion
4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes

Directions
Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Season chicken with seasoning blend. Sauté in hot pan until cooked through. Remove from pan, cover with foil, and let sit.

To hot pan, add shallots, onions, and garlic. Cook until onions and shallots are tender. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occassionally, until tomatoes have cooked down to a "jammy" consistency. Stir in any juices released by the resting chicken.

Plate chicken and top with sauce. Serve with garlicky green beans and oven fries.
Oh, the chicken was good but the oven fries stole the show. I'd never made oven fries before so I was really impressed with how easy they were to make and how well they turned out -- crispy-crunchy outside with tender, pillowy potato inside and just the right amount of seasoning.
Easy Oven Fries

Ingredients
1 large baking potato
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp Penzeys Sunny Spain salt-free seasoning blend
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease jellyroll pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Cut potato in half lengthwise, then widthwise. Quarter each piece.

Toss potatoes with olive oil and seasoning blend to coat. Spread potatoes out across jellyroll pan (be careful not to crowd) and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove potatoes from oven; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip potatoes and repeat.

Return pan to oven; bake until potatoes are golden and crispy along the edges (about 15 minutes).
(I don't usually store potatoes in my bread bin -- too warm -- but I'd stuffed it there in a mad dash of tidying before company came and then forgotten about it)

28 June 2012

Graphic Novel: Thessaly, Witch For Hire

Thessaly, Witch For Hire by Bill Willingham with illus. by Shawn McManus (Vertigo, 2005)
Go home, woman. Make a very short list of the final things you with to do with your life and then do them. Because your sure and certain destruction is finally and irrevocably written in Destiny's terrible pages.
Thessaly is a very old and solitary witch who finds herself battling more monsters than usual. At the end of her most recent battle, she is visited by the fetch - -a ghost composed of all those Thessaly has killed over the millennia --who admits to having sent all the monsters to her. Without her knowledge or permission, he has hired them both out as monster killers extraordinaire. The fetch finds the clients and takes the money, then sends the monsters on to unsuspecting Thessaly ... who is, understandably, quite displeased to learn of the arrangement. Turns out one of the monsters the fetch has contracted them to kill is something no-one and nothing can kill. Oh, the merry hijinks that ensue!

It's been a decade or more since I first encountered Thessaly in the fifth Sandman collection, A Game of You, and I don't remember the fetch at all, so it was hard for me to accept their relationship -- whatever it was supposed to be. I think he was really supposed to like Thessaly and, possibly, Thessaly was supposed to like him but he seemed creep most of the time and she just another put-upon-woman stuck in the company of a guy she could easily live without. But, again, maybe if I knew their back story, their situation would have seemed more believable and the fetch's noble sacrifice more moving.

Also, the ending was extremely anticlimactic and there was just too much talky-talky, overall. Less talking and more doing! And the illustrations didn't help. The cover art was very attractive (Thessaly with the dead frog helmet was just cute) but the internal illustrations just seemed generically comic book-ish. There's nothing about them that particularly stood out or improved the story. Isn't that what comic book illustrations are for, anyway? The illustrations support and enhance the text by showing us the story?

27 June 2012

Beautiful Blue Buffalo Chicken Salad

Buffalo Chicken Salad

See that salad? Isn't it beautiful? Tasted pretty darn good, too. To me, at least. The Husband was less keen as his delicate palate could not tolerate the funky strong blue cheese and the vinegary sauce. So sad for him ... more salad for me! (He did say that, excepting the chicken and cheese, it was a really nice salad. Yes, damned with faint praise).
Blue Buffalo Chicken Salad

Ingredients
2 3 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
½ cup + 2 Tbsp Ken’s® Buffalo Wing Sauce
1 head Romaine lettuce
2 Tbsp buttermilk ranch dressing
¼ cup diced red onion
4 Campari tomatoes, quartered
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
1 cup diced cucumber
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped

Directions
Marinate chicken breasts overnight in ½ cup wing sauce. Remove from sauce and broil until cooked through (approx. 10 minutes). Dice chicken and toss with remaining wing sauce.

Chop romaine lettuce and toss with ranch dressing. Divide between two plates and top with remaining ingredients. Top with chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
But what did The Husband eat? I didn't let the poor dear starve, did I? No, I made him egg salad sandwiches on leftover dinner rolls and he was very happy.

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Wordless Wednesday: Among the Lupines

lupines with axle

Long after we are gone,
This ridge will shape the night,
Lifting the wine-streaked west,
Shouldering the stars. And always here
Lovers will walk under the summer skies
Through flowers the color of your eyes.
                     -- excerpt from "Lupine Ridge" by Peggy Simson Curry

25 June 2012

Manga: Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Volume 4

Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Volume 4 by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press, 2010)
Hello, Sohrem. Nice of you to finally show.
Ronee and Alex manage to open Ye Ancient Gate of Unknowable Runes, are captured by those who would free the Sohrem, their possession by the Sohrem strengthens, the Hunters arrived with Mariana, and the bad guy talks too much.

 Then the Nereshai (Mme. Chen & Co) show up and it’s Sohrem smack down/world-saving time.

Aaaand so these Nereshai, these Night Lords, cast the Reave, “a highly sophisticated and powerful reality-shaping spell … a re-arranging of reality’s sinew and bone to change the shape of it. Shifting some key events, removing others and such.” Yes, it’s a flippin’ reset button. *Poof* Everything's fixed. For now.

Gah. I understand that, if the Nereshai hadn’t cast the Reave, the realm would have been destroyed and everyone would have died, but it felt like such a copout. Sometimes, we can’t have happy endings. Sometimes, wickedness wins. Sometimes, characters have to die. Instead, I’m left expecting a second series in which the Sohrem reappear at a more convenient time and are properly dispatched by The Forces of Good and everyone gets a great big Happy Ever After.

I feel cheated. The ending was so completely unsatisfactory that I now regret recommending this series to others.

23 June 2012

Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs

I went a little mad a few weeks ago and bought not one, but three Weight Watchers cookbooks -- Fruits & Veggies A-Z, Tastier Than Takeout, and Best Darn Food Ever! While I've filled them with sticky notes, I've not actually made anything from them yet. Planned to, certainly. We were supposed to have "Oven-Fried Chicken" from Best Darn Food Ever! tonight, but I must have been standing in someone else's kitchen when I wrote last week's menu plan, because when it came time to make supper,  it was clear I did not have the right ingredients.

We did eat oven-fried chicken and it was good.  It just wasn't Weight Watchers' chicken.

Oven Fried Chicken Thighs

Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs

Ingredients
¾ cup Butterworks Farm Organic nonfat buttermilk (my buttermilk BFF, yo)
½ tsp sriracha
2 tsp Penzeys salt-free Sunny Spain seasoning blend (black pepper, lemon peel, garlic, and onion)
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup seasoned salt-free whole wheat bread crumbs
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
Whisk buttermilk, seasoning blend, and sriracha together. Pour over thighs. Toss to coat. Marinate overnight in fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a baking rack on a jelly roll pan and spray rack with nonstick spray.

Whisk together bread crumbs and cheese. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and coat chicken, one piece at a time, in bread crumb mixture. Place chicken pieces on prepared rack and bake 30 minutes.

Oven Fried Chicken Thighs

Set oven to broil. Spray tops of thighs with nonstick spray and broil until golden, about 5 minutes longer.
I used a baking rack to elevate the chicken, hoping that would keep the bottoms from getting soggy. The alternative was to flip the chicken halfway through and I couldn't be arsed to fiddle with chicken-flipping on a weeknight.

We ate this chicken with potato salad and parslied corn and it was very good. The bottoms still weren't as crispy as I'd like, but I'm not sure it's possible to get uniformly crispy oven-fried chicken without fiddling with them more than I'd like.

22 June 2012

Manga: Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Volume 3

Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Volume 3 by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press, 2010)
Word spread of seven children walking the realm and leaving charred cities, blood, and bones in their wake. No creature spared, human or other, no stone left standing – it was all rather apocalyptic.
Betrayed from within and driven from their safe house, the Hunters end up at Mr Roi’s. You remember Mr. Roi, right? The mysterious, sexy teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts advanced magics? He helpfully provides a lot of back-story and the plot starts to make more sense.

Meanwhile, back at school, Alex teams up with some people who also remember her sister and they discover Ye Ancient Gate of Unknowable Runes. Also, it turns out Sarah isn’t the only person to go missing from the Nightschool …

Really, there’s a lot going on in this volume -- almost too much back-story for one volume, considering how little there was in the previous two -- and it can feel overwhelming at times. Of course, I gobbled Volume 3 down in one sitting and I’m sure that didn’t help, but I really needed to know what was going to happen next!

21 June 2012

Improv Challenge: Almonds & Cherries

For June’s Improv Challenge, I decided to go simple and easy with salad. Oh, I’d had plans to bake something sweet and splendid -- cherry Bakewell tartlets or King Arthur Flours’s cherry frangipane tarts, maybe -- but when it came down to it, I found myself craving something fresh and savory. Something very much like this salad:

Cherry Almond Chicken Salad

Isn't it pretty? And delicious, too. Crunchy almonds, sweet cherries, tart blue cheese ... I could eat it all week.

There are two steps (and two meals) to making this recipe -- first, you make oven-fried chicken tenders in almond meal. Then you make this salad with the leftover chicken. Obviously, you could use any old leftover chicken, but the almond flour crusted chicken tenders give this salad a certain je ne sais quoi. Also, they are pretty yummy.
Almond Flour-Crusted Chicken Tenders

Ingredients

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp Penzeys salt-free Sunny Spain seasoning blend (black pepper, lemon peel, garlic, and onion)
1 cup almond flour
1 cup panko


Instructions

Whisk buttermilk and seasoning blend together. Pour over chicken strips. Toss to coat. Marinate overnight in fridge.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking rack on a jelly roll pan and spray rack with nonstick spray.

Whisk together almond flour and panko.

Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and coat chicken, one piece at a time, in bread crumb mixture.

Place chicken pieces on prepared rack and bake 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Chicken Caesar

Serve your chicken with oven-roasted corn on the cob and potato salad. Or use it to top a caesar salad. Or what have you. Just make sure to set some aside for later ...
Cherry Almond Chicken Salad

Ingredients

Diced leftover chicken tenders
Chopped garden lettuce
Blue cheese crumbles
Fresh cherries, halved and pitted
Flaked almonds
Lucini Italia Cherry Balsamic & Rosemary Vinaigrette
Salt and pepper


Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I know, I know. I haven't listed any amounts. How much chicken? How many cherries? As much or as little as you like, my darlings. It's salad. It's forgiving.

I dressed this salad with some of the Lucini Italia Cherry Balsamic & Rosemary Vinaigrette that I was lucky enough to find at Whole Foods. I'd actually gone to Whole Foods for a jar of sour cherry preserves to make my own vinaigrette using Panera's recipe, but this was easier. And probably just as delicious.

I am trying my hand at homemade cherry vinegar using Signature Dish's recipe for "Spicy Cherry Vinegar," because I happen to have all the ingredients on hand and making my own flavored vinegar feels just pioneer girl-ish enough to tempt me.

Spicy Cherry Vinegar


20 June 2012

More Chard Goodness

Turns out sriracha does make my chard scramble recipe even better. I added a half teaspoon sriracha and two diced seeded tomatoes and, wow, it was delicious! (And two servings of vegetables at breakfast time is a pretty neat feat).

Spicy Chard Scramble

If you don't have chard, I'm pretty sure this recipe would work just as well with spinach.

Thanks to all the scrambles I've been making, I've finally amassed enough chard stems to make Bon Appetit’s easy "Sriracha Fridge Pickles" today. Based on the amount of chard I had and my general taste preferences, I tweaked the ingredient amounts somewhat.

Chard Stems

I chopped my stems into bite-sized pieces and dumped them in a glass storage container with a small, thinly sliced, onion.

Making Sriracha Chard Pickles

I mixed together 2 cups vinegar, 1 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons sriracha, and 1 tsp celery seed. Poured that over the vegetables, snapped the lid on the container, and gave everything a good shake.

Sriracha Chard Pickles

Then I put the container in the fridge and told myself to leave it alone for a few days rather than do what I usually do with fridge pickles -- obsessively check the container, wondering if pickle-ization is happening.

They should be ready for taste-testing on Friday ...

17 June 2012

Chard for Breakfast!

Last year, I made scrambled eggs with chard and, while it was good, I knew I could do better. And I have! Oh, dear gods of egg and leaf, yes.

Scrambled Eggs w/ Chard & Cheddar

Scrambled Eggs with Chard & Cheese

Ingredients
5 large-leafed stalks of chard (each leaf was the size of my hand or bigger)
1 large shallot, minced
1 tsp olive oil
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp whole milk
1 .75 oz Cabot 50% light cheddar snack bar, diced small
Salt & pepper, to taste
Sriracha, if desired

Instructions
Gently wash chard to remove any soil. Remove stems and set aside for another day. Roll leaves up into a cigar and slice thinly. Set aside.

Whisk eggs with milk and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat until fragrant. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they go translucent. (The olive oil is here more for flavor than for it's lubricative powers so use a "tasty" one -- right now, I'm loving Lucero Arbequina Three Star Blend Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil).

Add chard and cook, stirring, until chard is wilted. Pour in eggs and cook, stirring gently, until eggs begin to set.

Top not-quite-cooked eggs with diced cheese. Cover pan with a tight-fitting lid and remove from heat. Let sit until the cheese is melted.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Add a little sriracha if you like your mornings spicy).
I’m thinking this will be nice topped with some fresh chopped garden tomatoes when they’re in season. Or, instead of using scrambled eggs and cheese, I bet this would be good with a nice soft-poached egg nestled in the chard. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to master poached eggs so I’ll stick with scrambled.

Seriously, this is yum. I would happily eat it every day until the chard gave out. I’m wondering, though, if I could cook the shallots and chard ahead of time and then reheat them, adding the eggs and cheese, the next morning?

And what do you do with chard stems? I’m using mine in Bon Appetit’s easy "Sriracha Fridge Pickles." Mmm. My spicy, crunchy, pickle-love.

15 June 2012

Manga: Amazing Agent Jennifer, Volume 2

Amazing Agent Jennifer, Volume 2 by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir with illus. by Kriss Sison (Seven Seas, 2012)

Volume 2 is considerably darker. Jennifer's first field mission does not go as planned and she finds herself on the run in an enemy state. Jennifer is betrayed by those she trusts most and it drives her from The Agency, but a brief reunion with her old college roommate eventually sends her back for justice. She comes out on top in the end, of course, and you know she's bound for great things.

I did feel a little bad that Dan died, but mostly not. While their romance was awfully sweet in Volume 1, it was so new and tentative that the presumptions Dan made about their future together seemed a little creepy. It was as if he hadn't heard any of the things Jennifer actually said about the future. Then he betrays her and The Agency? For this imagined life together? Yes, Dan really didn't have the right to say "I love you."

Eating the Alphabet: J is for Jerusalem Artichokes

I've been enamored with Jerusalem artichokes (aka "sunchokes") since I saw them listed in a seed catalog a few years ago. I thought this sunflower-like plant with its potato-like tubers was quite pretty and the old-fashioned sound of its name, coupled with the fact it's an indigenous vegetable, made it seem like something I might like to grow. But ...

I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to growing tubers -- even potatoes fill me with trepidation. And I didn't know anyone who'd ever grown or eaten Jerusalem artichokes. So they've lurked at the bottom of my list of vegetables to try for some time now, never moving nearer to the top ...

And then I signed on for the Eating the Alphabet Challenge and Jerusalem artichokes seemed like the perfect "J" vegetable! I would finally cook Jerusalem artichokes and know whether they were worth growing or no. But where to buy them? Turned out the local Whole Foods had a whole bin of them and they weren't particularly expensive. What to do with them? Well, that was easy -- I'd had Eat Drink Better's "Jerusalem Artichoke Recipe: Creamy No-Dairy Vegetable Soup" bookmarked since February so I knew exactly how I wanted to prepare these tubers.

Jerusalem Artichokes for Soup

My Jerusalem artichokes were, maybe, a little on the small side but I tried to buy similarly-sized tubers. Several recipes I consulted said cleaning these tubers would be time-consuming, but mine looked as if they had been pretty well cleaned before they hit the produce shelf and I didn't have to scrub them long to make sure they were grit-free.

Jerusalem Artichokes for Soup

I loved that this recipe didn't need me to peel the tubers as there's nothing more boring than peeling vegetables. No, I just scrubbed them and sliced them thickly. (Don't they look like sliced waxy potatoes?)

Jerusalem Artichokes for Soup

Cooked diced onion and garlic in olive oil (I used red onion and doubled the garlic) until the onion was translucent.

Jerusalem Artichokes for Soup

Chucked in the Jerusalem artichokes, sliced carrots (I used baby carrots), and 3 cups (vegetable) broth so that the vegetables were just covered and simmered with the lid on for about 35 minutes (until the Jerusalem artichokes were tender when I stuck them with a knife).

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Seasoned the soup with salt, pepper, and curry powder (1 tsp Penzeys salt-free Maharajah Style Curry Powder) to taste. Using an immersion blender, I pureed the soup until was reasonably smooth.

This soup kept well in the fridge -- which was good thing, because while I thought this soup was phenomenal, The Husband did not agree and I ended up taking it to work all week. Silly man with his resistance to new vegetables! This soup is nutty and creamy and rich and so very yum.

Will I grow Jerusalem artichokes next year? I think so!

13 June 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Protective Coloration

Owl Butterfly (Caligo)

Owl butterfly @ the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. Not classically pretty, but compelling.

Too Much Wine? Make Sangria. Obviously.

While we were in Niagara Falls, we spent a day with a friend, visiting several wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Visiting led to tasting which led to buying and I came home with a ridiculous amount of wine. So much wine I should have paid a duty. So much wine I had to buy a wine rack ...

Wine Rack
60% ice wine!

It's not the best wine rack in the world, but it holds all my new Canadian wines and "good" old wines. It does not hold any Arbor Mist. No, the Arbor Mist is safely tucked in a cabinet where no one can see it to judge me. I own an embarrassing number and variety of Arbor Mist bottles. It's something I used to drink a lot of in my twenties and, even now, I like a chilled bottle of the peach or strawberry chardonnay in the summer. Still, I own far more bottles than I'm likely to drink. (In fact, I'm pretty sure at least one bottle followed us from our old house five years ago!)

If I were a more sociable person, I'd invite all my friends to a picnic and get everyone blotto on Arbor Mist. As I'm not sociable ... I'm just going to get quietly drunk on the back porch with the cats and some chunky paperbacks.

Happily, I found a delicious peach sangria recipe at Two Roses to help me along, so that's one bottle down.

Lazy "White Sangria"

In a pitcher, combine 1 bottle of Arbor Mist peach chardonnay, 1 cup peach schnapps, 1 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, and sliced oranges and peaches. Allow to sit overnight (this is important -- I assure you 3 hours in the fridge may seem "good enough," but 12 is way better-licious).

The best part? Eating the drunken orange and peach segments when the sangria was all gone.

12 June 2012

Manga: Amazing Agent Jennifer, Volume 1

Amazing Agent Jennifer, Volume 1 by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir with illus. by Kriss Sison (Seven Seas, 2011)

Jennifer is ridiculously gifted college freshman saddled with a rather insufferable father. Dear old dad wants Jennifer to study economics and business so she can take over the family business, regardless of where her true interests may lie. And, as he's paying tuition, it looks like he'll get his way. Enter the Agency, an ultra-secret government organization that would be more than happy to pay Jennifer's fees to study whatever she likes ... as long as she spends her weekends enrolled in their spy school.

Amazing Agent Jennifer is a light-hearted and comic spy story. This volume followed her progress from freshman through senior year and it was quite fun to see how she develops as a character, becoming stronger and more sure of herself regardless of family and social drama. Her tentative "romance" with Trainee L. was quite sweet and I look forward to seeing where it goes in the second volume.

This is the first in a two-volume prequel to the Amazing Agent Luna manga series, but you needn't have read Luna to enjoy Jennifer. Everything makes sense in itself and I never felt I was missing vital bits of plot because I didn't know the backstory.

10 June 2012

Clean Out the Fridge With Enchiladas

Rummaging around the kitchen, thinking about the coming week's menu plan, I realized there was a lot of random food hanging around. Thawed ground lamb that never became shepherd's pie. Sliced pepper jack cheese. An unopened package of white corn tortillas. Slightly manky scallions. And an open container of plain, low-fat Greek yoghurt.

Enchiladas just seemed obvious.

Except, I had no enchilada sauce. So I made some. Sort-of. It was red. It went on things I called enchiladas. Therefore, it was enchilada sauce.
Easy Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
1 cup water
14.5 oz can Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies
Garlic powder and ground cumin, to taste

Instructions
Using an immersion blender or whathaveyou, puree tomatoes.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in all-purpose flour. Slowly pour in water, whisking constantly, so that flour-butter-water combination makes a thick slurry. Stir into slurry. Heat until thickened. Season to taste. Set aside until needed.
Sauce made, the enchiladas went together all easy-peasy.

Lamb Enchiladas
Lamb Enchiladas
 

Ingredients
1 lb ground lamb
1 cup chopped red onions
1 recipe enchilada sauce, divided
6 slices pepper jack cheese
8 white corn tortillas

Directions
Cook lamb and onions in a nonstick skillet until lamb is cooked through and onions are tender. Drain well. Stir in about a cup of enchilada sauce and set aside.

Warm tortillas by wrapping 4 in a damp paper towel and microwaving for about 40 seconds. Repeat.

Spread ½ cup of enchilada sauce onto bottom of 13x9 baking dish.

Spoon about ¼ cup meat mixture onto a tortilla. Roll up and place, seam-side down, in prepared dish. Repeat until no tortillas remain. If there is leftover meat, scatter it across the top of the enchiladas.



Lamb Enchiladas

Top enchiladas with remaining sauce. Lay cheese slices across the top. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden and edges of enchiladas haven gone brown and crispy.

Serve topped with a dollop of fat-free Greek yoghurt and sprinkle of sliced scallions.

Graphic Novel: Irredeemable, Volume 1

Irredeemable, Volume 1 by Mark Waid with illus. by Peter Krause & John Cassaday (BOOM! Studios, 2009)
"You do astonishing things for them a hundred times a day. You bring wonder to the lives of ordinary people. And in the end, you realize it's like doing magic tricks for a dog."
What could make a superhero turn bad? And not just bad, but Bad, so that he takes what can only be seen as an angry (seriously, this is one pissed off anti-hero) pleasure in leveling cities, destroying families, and killing as many superheroes/villains as he can find.

Unfortunately, Volume 1 doesn’t actually tell us why The Plutonian, once the greatest superhero the world has ever known, goes bad. We are witness to a lot of destruction, though, and get to see his former friends, The Paradigm, desperately search for a way to stop him. Their horror and desperation is clearly palpable as they sift through the known details of Plutonian’s past, trying to find an exploitable weakness.

However, The Plutonian is so ridiculously powerful that it seems impossible The Paradigm will manage to stop him.  Taken individually, there isn't a superhero amongst the lot of them that could stand against him and, as a group, they still don't seem strong enough. I also suspect that The Paradigm is doing exactly what The Plutonian wanted.  That his actions aren’t driven merely by wickedness for wickedness’s sake, but that he has some unspeakable master plan ...

08 June 2012

Graphic Novel: The Cape

The Cape by Joe Hill & Jason Ciaramella with illus. by Zach Howard & Nelson Daniel (IDW, 2012)
Sometimes it seemed like I was still falling out of that tree. Like I was going to fall forever.
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Eric who had a blue cape. He was mostly happy. One day, while playing superheroes with his older brother, Eric fell out of a tree ... and in falling, something happened ... and then he was badly injured. Recovering, Eric asked for his cape back, but his mother said she has enough to deal with without  it ("You almost got yourself killed because of that silly thing. I have enough to worry about -- I don't need to add a crippled kid to the list") and threw it away. Time passes and Eric grows into a not-very-nice, whiny man who feels he never got a fair shot at life. Then he and the cape are reunited. And all hell breaks loose.


From the very first page, I thought Eric was an unbearable asshole and I read the book quickly, waiting for him to get his comeuppance. Which he did, but not fast enough to stop Eric from committing a whole range of atrocities. I admit I cheered at the end and was relieved to see Hill did not leave an opening for a sequel (although I understand a prequel is in the works which ... well ... I dunno).

The story telling was excellent, the illustrations so well done with careful use of color and just enough funkiness (?) to give us a taste of Eric's skewed reality. Unfortunately, I was so thoroughly creeped out by Eric that I’m not sure I actually enjoyed The Cape. Even the horrifically funny bear-as-murder-weapon scene and the poignant flashbacks to his childhood, didn’t make me feel better about this book.  It's one of those books I give other people to read, just to know if they'll find it as fucked up as I did.

07 June 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Fruit Smoothies/Shakes

Photobucket

Too many late nights this week, up too long reading novels, took a toll on my body. By Thursday morning, I felt like grim death and could not begin to guess how I'd get through the remaining work day. Lots of Red Bull and Earl Grey tea. And prayer.

Irregular sleep patterns and a metric ton of caffeinated sugar ... neither of these meet my good health goals. Surely, I could at least eat some fruit today? Staring at my wrinkly peaches, clutching my can of Red Bull, I wondered if anyone had every made a Red Bull Smoothie.

Apparently, yes. Crafty Girl Squared's recipe for "Redbull Smoothie" was one of the simplest I found during my lazy search and I decided to give it a go. (Best decision I've made this week).

Red Bull Smoothie

Take a can of Red Bull, frozen mango chunks, and peaches. Crafty Girl Squared uses frozen peaches, but I only had fresh. I didn't peel the peaches -- just cut them in half, pulled out the pit, and scooped their flesh out with a spoon.

Red Bull Smoothie

Red Bull Smoothie

Puree everything until it is smooth. I started with the fruit and half the Red Bull, then drizzled in the rest of the Red Bull as everything smoothie-fied.

Red Bull Smoothie

Decorate with a strawberry, if you're feeling swanky. Drink. Feel more human.

It's good stuff, really. Not very sweet with lots of mango flavor, a whiff of peach, and that Red Bull tang. Pretty sure I could drink one every morning!






06 June 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Peonies

Peony

Peony

Peony

Peony

@ Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens & School of Horticulture, Ontario, Canada

05 June 2012

Easy White Bean & Basil Salad

My herb pots and raised vegetable beds experienced a tremendous growth spurt the week we were away and, among other things, the basil already needs pinching back. Harvesting basil in the first week of June? Amazing. And delicious.

As I also suffered a surfeit of tomatoes, red onions, and white beans, I thought I'd make a bean salad to go with pan-seared tuna steaks I'd planned on making for supper. I hadn't really had a clear idea what I was going to serve with the tuna, anyway, and white bean salad seemed more exciting than my usual parslied rice and garlicky green beans.

Basil & Friends

Put chopped seeded (slice off an end and squeeze out the seeds) Campari tomatoes, red onion, capers, and fresh basil in a bowl.

Beans & Such

Add drained, rinsed white beans and your vinaigrette of choice (I used Marie's Greek vinaigrette leftover from May's Alphabet Challenge).

White Bean Salad

Give everything a good stir. Leave on the kitchen side for an hour or so to let the flavors mingle. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James


I am weary from all the carnal exertions of the last day and from the complete and utter dilemma that I'm faced with. I sit on my bed and gingerly extract the manila envelope from my bag, turning it over and over with my hands. Do I really want to know the extent of Christian's depravity? It's so daunting. I take a deep breath, and with my heart in my throat, I rip open the envelope.

Awkward virginal girl meets an extremely wealthy and powerful man. Said man becomes fixated with her and offers to make her his Submissive. Girl agrees. Light BDSM ensues. Etc.

Clearly, I've read too much erotica, because Fifty Shades of Grey is just not salacious or kinky enough for me. Here's a man, a powerful dominant man, with a room devoted to the pleasure of pain and the best he can do is whip his new girlfriend with a belt? FFS.

The sexytimes are always about Ana being naive and not knowing what to expect while Christian's all masterful and I get it, already. Now let's have some proper Kink. None of this spanking or whathaveyou and then the foil packets and the vanilla penis-vagina sex.

But, I suspect, the sex isn't actually the point. The point is that Ana's fallen in love with Christian and maybe he's falling in love with her and her Magical Love Vagina will heal his 50 Shades of Fucked Up and make him whole and they'll live happy ever after. Huzzah?

Also, am I the only one expecting Ana to end up pregnant at some point soon, because that girl cannot remember to take her contraceptive pill. Why is she on the pill, anyway? Wouldn't an IUD or implant make more sense?

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (Vintage Books, 2011)

03 June 2012

Post Vacational Cookery: Chicken & Veggie Skillet

Now that we've been back from Niagara Falls for a few days, it's time to face the hard truth -- if I don't cook, we're not going to eat. Yes, we could keep eating out, but that's not healthful. Also, we left all our money in Canada as Niagara Falls was much more expensive than we'd anticipated. O, you wily Canadians with your wines and restaurants!

So time to be thrifty and healthful and responsible and make some darn supper.

Saturday Supper

Ingredients: boneless skinless chicken breasts, Italian dressing, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, red onion, grated Parmesan.

That, my dears, is Kraft's "Sizzling Chicken & Veggie Skillet" on a bed of basmati rice. The recipe is low calorie, low fat, and low sodium so there's healthful and responsible checked off. It's also pretty inexpensive as about half the ingredients were purchased on sale.

The recipe is very easy, too. Cook chicken, chop vegetables, cook vegetables, serve.

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Cook chicken in a hot skillet over medium-high heat until nicely browned and cooked through. Transfer to shallow bowl (don't want to lose any juices!) and pop into a warm oven to rest until needed.

Zucchini & Red Onion

Add dressing (I used Greek vinaigrette with feta), zucchini, and onions to pan; cook until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Cherry Tomatoes & Snow Peas

Stir in tomatoes and snow peas; cook until heated through. Stir in any accumulated chicken juices. Serve chicken topped with vegetables on a bed of rice or farro or what have you. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

While the recipe doesn't call for it, I strongly recommend marinating the chicken in a little Italian dressing for extra flavor.

The Husband recommends more tomatoes and fewer snow peas!