31 March 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: To Be Read (Someday. Somewhere. Somehow)


For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, we're talking about the ten books we've most recently added to our To-Be-Read list. In this case, I'm using books I most recently added to my library hold list ... and then "froze" because, while I want to read them, I already have too many checked out to keep track of. (I told myself I'd come to grips with my library piles before I went on vacation and here it is the end of March and I still have piles all over the house).

  • Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs


  • I was Here by Gayle Forman
  • The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses
  • Low, Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender et al.
  • Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick
  • A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert (A novel about Rose Wilder Lane!)

30 March 2015

Easy One-Pan Salmon & Asparagus

This is an easy way to cook salmon and frozen asparagus that only takes minimal ingredients and time. And the pan is lined in parchment, so clean up is a breeze! A great lazy day supper that looks like you tried harder than you did.


Roasting frozen vegetables like asparagus and brussels sprouts gives them a much texture than steaming frozen vegetables as they retain some firmness and the oven's heat crisps their edges. I like crispy edges!

One-Pan Roasted Salmon & Asparagus

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • ½ lb wild-caught Alaskan salmon
  • 10 oz frozen organic asparagus (DO NOT THAW)
  • olive oil, as needed
  • zest of one lemon
  • Herbes de Provence, as desired [Penzeys]
  • salt and pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Place the salmon fillet on the pan with the frozen asparagus stalks. Drizzle everything lightly with olive oil and season with lemon zest and Herbes de Provence.
  3. Bake 12-15 minutes or until fish has reached 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.

My recipe calls for half a pound of salmon, but I cooked a full pound this time so that I would have leftovers to top tossed salads later in the week. Therefore, I roasted the salmon for 10, added the asparagus, and continued roasting for another 10.

27 March 2015

Homemade Spudulike: Tuna & Sweet Corn Stuffed Baked Potatoes

While I've made baked potatoes stuffed with Tuna Sweetcorn Mayonnaise before as a homage to the Spudulike jacket potatoes I can't buy stateside, it's been a while. Happily, while I'm still not 100%, baked potatoes are definitely something I can handle and everything I needed to make them was already in the house.


Tuna & Sweetcorn Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 baking potatoes
  • olive oil, as needed
  • sea salt, as needed
  • oz can solid white albacore tuna, well drained
  • 1 oz thawed frozen corn, well drained
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
  • Dried parsley flakes, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, if desired
  • 1 oz shard cheddar, shredded [Cabot Seriously Sharp]

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Clean potatoes, pat dry, rub with olive oil, sprinkle all over with sea salt, place on a small baking tray and bake for 1 hr.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients (except cheese!) in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. When potatoes are done, remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or until the are easily handled.
  4. Split potatoes, spread with butter, stuff with tuna mixture, top with cheese, and pop under the broiler for 5 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Rocket Girl, Volume 1: Times Squared


Teen cop from a corporation-controlled future travels back to 1986 New York City to stop the group that will eventually become that corporation, Quintum Mechanics, from obtaining the technologically-advanced device that kickstarted their control of the future. Or something like that. And, along the way, she maybe discovers that her future was never supposed to exist. And that she's actually brought the device along with her. Oops.

Call me old and cynical, but DaYoung's future-present never seemed that bad and so it was difficult for me to believe in her desperate mission to stop Quintum Mechanics. Yes, dudes were certainly after her and there clearly was some kind of game afoot at Quintum Mechanics, but it didn't seem desperately important. Not enough to lose oneself in the past for, anyway.

And the cut scenes that were supposed to show me the shenanigans going on in DaYoung's future-present (and, perhaps, hammer home how awful everything was) while she crashed about in 1986 were just confusing. At one point, during a fight scene, it looked as if an entire building disappeared, but I still have no idea if that's what really happened. More exposition and deeper world building would have been welcome.

I don't know ... I find the concept interesting, but the execution was unimpressive. Not terrible, but I doubt I'll read later volumes.

Rocket Girl, Volume 1: Times Squared by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder (Image Comics, 2014)

25 March 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The Wave

Part of Lucy Glendinning's art installation "The Wave." The swimmers' details were lost in shadow
in my original shot so mad/bad photo editing decisions were made
to make the details more obvious. It's dystopian, now?

24 March 2015

Sautéed Baby Greens & Eggs

I had some surgery last week and haven't been up to cooking or even standing up until the past day or two. And now I'm suddenly at that very restless stage of recovery, where I'm tired of being housebound, but also don't really have the energy necessary to function outside the house. Yesterday, I needed to get a prescription filled so I thought I'd pick up some groceries at the same time, but I didn't even get through the produce section before my body told me I needed to go back to the car and sit down or it was going to lay me down on the floor next to the sweet potatoes and wouldn't that be embarrassing?

Good times!


But, then I made this earlier today so I feel a bit better about myself. Granted, it probably took me way longer than it would you healthy folks, but I made food. Hurrah.

Sautéed Baby Greens & Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup diced onions
  • 2 oz baby kale, spinach, & chard medley [Earthbound Farm Organic Power blend]
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz sharp cheddar, diced small [Cabot Seriously Sharp]

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat until fragrant. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to brown a bit.
  2. Add baby greens and cook, stirring, until wilted. Crack eggs over greens, sprinkle with cheese, and cover. Cook until eggs are set and cheese is melted.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 1 serving

You could use whatever greens or cheese you have on hand, really, as this is a very forgiving recipe. The only thing you really need to pay attention to is the eggs as mine seemed to go from too runny to too firm in the blink of an eye! Still delicious, though.

Top 10 Tuesday: Fave Childhood Books


For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, we're looking at the top ten books from our childhood or teen years that we'd love to revisit. I tried to pick books I haven't harped on too much about before, because me talking about Anne of Green Gables for the umpty-umpth time is kind of boring ... even for me! Instead, I've (mostly) listed books I flat out adored Way Back When, but haven't returned to since.

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Bunnicula by James Howe
  • The Spanish Smile by Scott O’Dell
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss


  • Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
  • Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
  • The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts
  • This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger



For kicks, I've featured the covers of the editions I read as a kid! Some of them are really terrible and I wonder what drew me to pick the book up to begin with. I mean, look at Good Night, Mr. Tom. That cover gives absolutely nothing away.

17 March 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List


Yes! It's that very special time of year when I tell you about the ten books I really want to read this season and then ... don't read any of them, because I am weird like that. Also, there are a lot of books in the world and I am easily distracted.

  • ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times by Andrew MacLean (June)
  • At the end of the world, a girl and her cat, Jelly Beans, search for a powerful artifact.
  • A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall (April)
  • In this epic fantasy, a retired general rallies her troops to battle against an unknown enemy. On my list because I've been told the novel doesn't take itself seriously. Also, obviously, a female general is not a character I see a lot of in fantasy.
  • Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham by Emily Bingham (June)
  • Recounts the true adventures of a Jazz Age seductress who loved a great many ladies. The Kirkus review talks a lot about daddy issues, so I'm not really 100% on this selection.
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson w/ Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, & Shannon Watters (April)
  • Strange happenings at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. Jinkies!
  • Ms. Marvel, Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson w/ Adrian Alphona & Jacob Wyatt (April)
  • I love Kamala Khan, awkward nerdy girl that she is, and can't wait to see what she gets up to next.


  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (May)
  • Yes, I know it's a web comic. I've read the web comic. And now I want the book. Is that rational? No, it's love.
  • Rat Queens, Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe w/ Roc Upchurch & Stjepan Sejic (May)
  • Volume 1 was just ridiculously good fun.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (May)
  • A new spin on the dragon-devourer-of-maidens story.
  • The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi (May)
  • Sounds like a blood-splattered noir about water rights.
  • The Well by Catherine Chanter (May)
  • In a drought-ridden England, a prisoner is sent home to finish her sentence ... and it rains for the first time in yonks. But only over her home/prison. Spooky.


11 March 2015

Fruitcake Season: Plum Ginger

Although the calendar may say Spring is "only" weeks away, it's still very much winter here on Death Mountain. So much so that I'm half-tempted to put the Christmas tree back up and break out the eggnog. Except no-one is selling eggnog now. No, it's all chocolate bunnies and Easter grass.

Yeah, that's one biiiig fruitcake.

To heck with it all. I baked a fruitcake. Yes, finally got around to baking up the Paula Deen fruitcake I'd most be longing to try -- the "Plum Ginger" with green tea and Chinese 5-spice powder infused batter. It just sounded as interesting as all get out. So not the traditional fruitcake flavors. And yet still using the trappings of a traditional fruitcake -- citron, orange, and lemon peel, etc.

Delicious, fragrant batter.

The other Paula Deen fruitcakes I've made all used similar preparation methods and the "Plum Ginger" cake was not very different. Yes, I had to brew a strong cup of green tea and there was no alcohol bath at the end of the baking cycle, but those were really the only differences. As with the others, the batter went together easily and tasted ridiculously delicious even unbaked. (Yes, I know, raw batter is not a thing anyone should eat and yet how can I help it if, in stirring the batter, I accidentally got some on my fingers and then my fingers accidentally wandered into my mouth).

Paula Deen's "Plum Ginger" Fruitcake" from Cooking With Paula Deen, Nov/Dec 2008. Also available on the DVD Cooking with Paula Deen, The Complete Collection (2005-2012). Can't locate a copy on your own? See if your friendly local library can help you out.

10 March 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Books For Readers Who Like ...


For people who like cat stories! Yes, I'm taking the easy way out this week by playing to my own strength. I have four cats, you know, and am a certified cat lady who has read a lot of books about cats.

  • The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George (rev)
  • Catwings series by Ursula Le Guin
  • Chi's Sweet Home series by Kanata Konami (rev)
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
  • Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper


  • The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
  • Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
  • Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul & Wendy MacNaughton
  • On Cats by Doris Lessing
  • The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett

06 March 2015

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf


The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is set hundreds of years in the future, on an Earth that bears little resemblance to this one. Ashala is an Illegal, a human with superhuman abilities which place her outside her society. Rather than be put in detention or try for an Exempt tattoo, she runs off to the Firstwood and founds the Tribe, a collection of young Illegals who dream of changing the world. At first, life is pretty okay in the woods and the Tribe seems to experience some success with its message of tolerance and change ... and then Chief Administrator Neville Rose builds a new detention center nearby (coincidence? methinks not) and Ashala hears rumors of a terrible Machine ...

I liked that the story wasn't sprung on me in full (x is bad, y has betrayed, z will save us all), but slowly spun out over the course of the book as Ashala regained her memories. Kwaymullina has created an interesting, functional world that's easy to accept without being particularly familiar (unless you're already with familiar with Australian Aboriginal mythology). There's also a lot to be said for the novel's environmental and inclusionary messages as well as the quiet preponderance of female characters.

While I avoid series when I can and The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is the first book in a quadrilogy, the novel stands comfortably on its own with a satisfactory ending that wraps up most of the story lines.

3 out of 5 towering tuarts

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Candlewick Press, 2014)

03 March 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: All-Time Favorites


This week, for Top Ten Tuesday, we're talking about our all-time favorites out of all the books we've read in the past three years. Duuuude. That's hard! How am I to limit it to only ten?

Sigh.

  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. No, I haven't blogged about this book yet. I love it too much to blog about it. Just clasp it to my chest and squee like the enthusiastic fangirl I am.
  • A Cousinly Connexion by Sheila Simonson (rev)
  • Dawn of the Arcana, Volume 1 by Rei Toma (rev)
  • Her Smoke Rose Up Forever: The Great Years of James Tiptree, Jr (rev)
  • Keeping the Castle: A Tale of Romances, Riches, and Real Estate by Patrice Kindl (rev)


  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe. Yes, I haven't written about this book yet either. I will. In the meantime, you'll just have to believe me when I say this is the best fantasy graphic I've read in ages.
  • Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney (rev)
  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (rev)
  • The Wall by Marlen Haushofer w/ trans. by Shaun Whiteside (rev)
  • Yotsuba&! 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma (rev)

01 March 2015

Curried Cauliflower & Carrot Soup

This unending, bitterly cold winter has left me starved for color -- leading me to run amok in the produce and florist departments of the local grocery stores. Apparently, I was fixated on orange and red this week as I returned home one day with an armful of sunset-orange roses, garnet-red vegetable smoothies, and an orange cauliflower.


Seriously, why eat a plain ol' white cauliflower when you can have an orange one? Also, its label said orange cauliflower has 25% more beta-carotene than the white variety and, as eating fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene may reduce risk of heart disease, I'm all for orange cauliflower.


And then I thought, well, since it's freakin' cold outside and I'm doubtlessly going to turn the cauliflower into soup, why don't I combine it with that other beta-carotene power house, carrots? And what's extra warming on a day spent digging out Death Mountain for the umpty-umpth time? Curry.

So, "Curried Cauliflower & Carrot Soup" was born. It's really good, even if I do say so myself, and will definitely warm up your frozen insides. I use Penzeys Maharajah Style Curry Powder, which is wonderfully fragrant "sweet" mix that adds lots of rich flavor, but not a lot of heat. I figure, if I need more heat, then I'll stir in a little sriracha as the mood moves me at serving time. I frequently eat soup for breakfast, after all, and find flavorful but mild soups work best first thing in the morning. Bring on the heat at lunch time and supper!

I used plain unsweetened almond milk for this recipe, since the folks at the cardiovascular life-style modification clinic are quite keen on non-dairy milks like almond or soy. Obviously, you may use whatever kind of milk you like best.

Curried Cauliflower & Carrot Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped small
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped small
  • 1 tsp curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 large head orange cauliflower, cut into chunks
  • 5 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 6 cups low sodium, low fat chicken broth [Pacific Foods Organic]
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk [Almond Breeze]

Instructions

  1. In a large French/Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent. Add curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, until it is very fragrant.
  2. Add cauliflower and carrots. Stir to scrape up any browned-to-the-bottom bits and. Add broth. Broil pan to a boil. Reduced to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Using an immersion ("stick") blender, puree until as smooth as you like. Stir in 1 cup of almond milk and cook for an additional minute or until hot. Season as needed with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder.

I say this recipe serves six, but I really mean it serves one hangry woman for two days. What that translates to regular folk is probably six cups.