30 May 2016

Convergence

I guess we should talk about the elephant in the room, which is ... what have I done to this blog? For a few years now, I’ve maintained two thematically separate blogs -- Stuff & Nonsense (books) and Savory Tart (food) -- because I thought that’s what I was "supposed to do." For years, I’d had one home-grown, home-hosted blog where I talked about everything and anything I fancied. But then I READ THINGS ABOUT BLOGGING. Which, I now know, was a silly thing for a dyed-in-the-wool hobbyist to do.

Well-meaning “better blogging” articles suggested my blog should have one unique focus or theme, that generalized lifestyle blogs were passé and no-one would ever read my (mediocre) blog if I kept going as I was going. Of course, my principle error was in believing I wanted to popularize my blog and get better stats by attracting more readers ... when I'd only ever written for my own highly personal lolz. But, still, I was very "OMG, I need two blogs" and hied myself off to BlogSpot.

I tried to do all the "right" things -- I participated in weekly memes, monthly challenges, and the like. I did product reviews, tried to maintain a regular blogging schedule, worked at making my blogs attractive. In late 2014, I took what felt like a big step and registered the domain savorytart.cooking, because "real bloggers" don't use BlogSpot. I also started a Facebook Page for Savory Tart around that time, because I thought I needed one of those.

That was, taken altogether, just too much. Too many balls to juggle. Too many plates to spin. I've felt increasingly UGH about everything blog-related over the past year and I don't want to feel UGH about blogging. So I'm paring down -- no Savory Tart and no Facebook Page. Twitter only when it's amusing. No regular memes or challenges, except when they're genuinely interesting. And only this one blog, which will remain an entirely pleasant diversion. I do enough unfun real world things as it is. Why should my hobbies include anything that does not make me wholly happy?

tl;dr ... I started out blogging about whatever interested me and that's what I'm going back to. Book talk and cooking adventures will continue, but you can also expect more cat pictures and complaints about gardening.

27 May 2016

Beans On Toast & A Poached Egg

Beans on toast. It's so quintessentially British. And, if you're a bit snobby about food, it can sound quite dreadful. Certainly, the first time I heard of it I was very "ehhhhh ... can live without trying that." And then I ate it and there was no going back. Yes, I was a college student at the time, summering in my sexy British boyfriend's flat, so hormones and a certain amount of anglophilia no doubt encouraged my initial adoration, but nineteen years have not dimmed my love of beans on toast (or The Husband, for that matter).

I poached three eggs & this was the best of the lot. #learning

Beans on toast is a simple, tasty, and deeply comforting (carbs, fat, salt ... how could it not be comforting?) dish. You want to use Heinz tomato-based baked beans (although Batchelors will suffice in a pinch) and really good white bread that's been properly toasted so it's all crunchy and golden and then liberally spread with lots of real cow butter -- get some Kerrygold or Kate's -- I know you're all "You're burying all that good buttery toast under tinned beans! How can butter make a difference?" Trust me, it does. Just like you want a good sturdy, farmhouse-type white that won't dissolve into mush under the beans). Some people top their beans on toast with brown sauce or ketchup, but that's a bit much, imho. But then, you know, I used a poached egg ...

There's definitely a learning curve to poaching eggs and, despite multiple attempts, I'm still at the wrong end of it. Most recently, I resorted to microwave-poaching -- put about a half cup of water in a mug, crack an egg in, cover the mug with a dessert plate, microwave it for 40 seconds on full power. This method works well about half the time. If the water is from the fridge, it's too cold and the egg needs to cook a little longer, but how long gets really dicey.

Also, if I'm microwave-poaching an egg in a mug I already used to poach another egg, both the water and mug are too warm and the egg will poach much more quickly, so I need to dial the timer down ... but how far down is seemingly random. I'm thinking my best bet is room temperature egg, water, and mug (and new water and mug each time) ... but that would require some planning ahead and the whole point of microwave-poaching is instant poached egg.

And let's not talk about what happens when I try to poach an egg on the stovetop!

25 May 2016

24 May 2016

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands


The problem with always having to be right is that sometimes you’re not. And so, if you’re like me, those times when you’re not, you try and save face—especially after you’ve seriously fucked up. You make one bad decision and then another, trying to fix that very first fuck-up.

I started reading Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands two years ago, but it was a bad case of "right book, wrong time" and I never got further along than the first chapter. Still, it remained on my ever-growing "to read list" and, when I saw the audiobook, I thought "Why not? It can't be more depressing than sitting through Simon Prebble reading Isherwood's A Single Man." (And I even liked A Single Man ... it was just veryvery depressing, in a beautiful, fucked up way).

And, you know, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is an utterly harrowing story. After a nuclear disaster, Emily Shephard, through a cascading downward spiral of catastrophic choices, finally reaches bottom. She "survives" drug abuse, alcoholism, homelessness, cutting, rape, and prostitution, but can she survive herself? She really seems hellbent on failing.

But then she's a child. Yes, a teenager, but who could rationally expect a teenager to behave well and make "smart" choices in such a time? And she's so utterly alone for most of the story. I kept waiting for things to get better for her and ... I still don't know that they did, but the ending was the appropriate real-world one. It's a compelling, beautifully crafted story and I found myself continuously scanning back, to re-listen to previous passages, finding something new in them each time. And it wasn't all there in context ... there's a lot of subtext going on. Sometimes, it's what Emily didn't say that creeped me out the most.

Clearly, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a layered, emotionally complex story ... but it's just the right amount of "real life" complexity. It's easy to say that, in a hypothetical disaster like the meltdown of a nuclear power station "I would do X," but you can't truly know until you get there. Could teenage me, growing up twelve miles from a nuclear power station, have handled Emily's experiences any better than she did? Mentally? Emotionally? Physically? I think not. I think I'd be desperate to go home and find my dog, too. And I'd also make a whole bunch of terrible decision along the way.

Narrator Grace Blewer was an excellent fit for Close Your Eyes Hold Hands. Her interpretation of Emily Shepard was tone-perfect, I think. I truly loved this novel and actually listened to the last disc two and a half times just because I couldn’t let Emily Shephard go. She was as real to me as any of the troubled young people who haunt the library and a lot of that is down to Blewer's reading (yes, Bohjalian writes incredibly well, but Blewer is Emily). Anwyay, there’s an excellent interview of Blewer and Bohjalian by Random House Audio’s Kelly Gildea at the end of the audiobook which is well worth listening to.

I haven't talked about the science-y bits at all, but they're definitely worth mention. Close Your Eyes Hold Hands isn't a novel that uses a nuclear power plant melt-through as mere window dressing. It's very much the constant, unavoidable elephant in the room and Bohjalian doesn't dance around it.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands written by Chris Bohjalian & read by Grace Blewer (Random House Audio, 2014)

22 May 2016

Orange-Ginger Salmon

Came up with the salmon recipe while I was playing around with orange and ginger for May's Improv Challenge. I'd hoped the salmon would steam cook (oven poach?) with the oranges and ginger, creating a succulent salmon infused with a subtle heat and gentle aroma. Well, there's no heat to speak of, but the dish is wonderfully fragrant and tender. Melt-in-your-mouth salmon. Totally yum, even if you can't taste the ginger.


Orange-Ginger Salmon

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 6-oz portions boned & skinned salmon fillet
  • 1 navel orange, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil. Line with orange slices (you will have extra slices -- save them for something else).
  3. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place in the orange-line pie plate. If your salmon has a thin end, fold it under for even cooking.
  4. Combine coconut aminos, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and ginger. Brush salmon with mixture.
  5. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes or until fish reaches 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.
  6. Drizzle some of the pan juices over the salmon and serve.
I served the salmon over basmati rice with steamed broccoli and, really, it was just a great combination of textures and flavors. Kind-of wished I'd made enough for seconds!


19 May 2016

Improv Challenge: Orange & Ginger

May's Improv Challenge ingredients were orange and ginger. I toyed with the idea of orange and ginger nut cake, but I'm trying not to bake things The Husband won't eat because he seems ... unhappy ... that I seem to be doing more baking for other people than for him. Not that I blame him. I would be pretty cheesed off to wake up in the morning (too many mornings) to delicious smells, only to discover the source of those delicious smells is not meant for me.


So! Savory orange and ginger! Savory? A glaze? Marinade? An orange juice and ginger marinade? With ... honey? And ... red pepper? What about that unloved tin of five-spice powder? Oh! Don't forget the coconut aminos?!

And that's pretty much the entire thought process behind this dish. Throw a bunch of flavors together, taste, adjust flavors, taste again, then add some chicken and see what happens.


Usually found in Chinese cuisine, five-spice is just like it sounds -- a blend of five spices. I used Penzeys "Chinese Five Spice" which is a mix of cinnamon, star anise, aniseed, ginger and cloves. It's probably other manufacturer's use slightly different spices in their blends, so ymmv.

Because I was feeling a bit lazy, I used Gourmet Garden's lightly dried shredded ginger in the marinade. Like five-spice, it's exactly as it sounds -- lightly dried ginger shreddies. The container says one tablespoon of the lightly dried stuff is equivalent to two tablespoons of the freshly shredded stuff, so keep that in mind if you're planning on using fresh. If you want to try the Gourmet Garden ginger, I found it in with the fresh herbs in the produce section of my local Stop & Shop. (It works really well in carrot-raisin muffins, too).

I tested this recipe with drumsticks first, but roasted the drumsticks at too high a temperature so that the connective tissue riddling the drumsticks did not have time to break down much at all, leaving me with the kind of gristly drumsticks I loathe. The flavors were good, though, and the bits of meat that weren't horribly tendinous/cartilaginous/icky were quite tasty -- deep savory soy with a slight hint of sweet and robust ginger and garlic notes -- and I vowed to try again with a different cut of chicken.


The second time around, I marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts overnight and then cooked them in an oiled grill pan. Before marinating the chicken, I scored each breast in a crisscross pattern -- many articles I'd read told me that marinades never penetrate very far below the surface so I figured scoring the chicken would at least increase the surface area the marinade would be exposed to, hopefully creating a more flavorful chicken. Also, it looked rather pretty.

Simple 5-Spice Grilled Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp runny honey
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lightly dried shredded ginger [Gourmet Garden]
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice powder [Penzeys]
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes [Penzeys]
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken breasts dry and score in a crisscross pattern with a sharp knife. Place in a food-safe storage containger
  2. Whisk together all remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Leave for 10 mins or refrigerate until needed, if making ahead. (If making ahead of time, try to shake the container occasionally during the day to redistribute the marinade).
  3. Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat. When hot, brush pan with a little neutral oil (like canola).
  4. Add chicken to pan. Cook 6 minutes per side or until meat has reached 165°F.
  5. Remove chicken from heat, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  6. While chicken is resting, pour marinade into a pot and boil, whisking often, until sauce becomes reduced and syrupy-looking.
  7. Slice chicken, drizzle with reduced marinade, and serve.


I served the boneless breasts over rice with steamed broccoli and it was very good, even if I do say so myself. The chicken was very tender and flavorful -- kind-of like teriyaki chicken but much less sweet or strongly flavored -- and the leftovers went really well on a salad.




18 May 2016

Mustard-Glazed Baked Salmon Fillet

I'm trying to serve fish for supper at least twice a week and salmon is always on the menu as it's:
  1. A fish we can agree on
  2. A great source of protein
  3. Chock-full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
But it can get a rather samey from week to week -- a little olive oil, lemon, salt-free seasoning blend, and a hot, fast bake is my default salmon "recipe" -- so I've been trying to be a little more creative. So far, I've made "Southwestern" and "Sweet & Spicy" style fillets with good results. This week, I thought I'd try a mustard glaze. I'd made "Maple Dijon Glazed Salmon" a while ago, and it was tasty, but I wanted something a little more savory/spicy than savory/sweet.


And that's pretty much what I got. It's kick isn't as strong as I'd like, but it was just the right level for heat-eschewing The Husband. And, to be fair, that might be for the best as this way the glaze doesn't overwhelm the salmon. It's moist and salmony with just a little sweet heat to warm your taste buds.

Mustard-Glazed Baked Salmon Fillet

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 6-oz portions boned & skinned salmon fillet
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard [Stonewall Kitchen's Traditional Pub Mustard]
  • 1 Tbsp runny honey
  • ½ tsp cracked dried rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Pat the salmon portions dry with a paper towel and place on the pie plate. If your salmon has a thin end, fold it under for even cooking.
  4. Combine mustard, honey, rosemary, and garlic. Brush salmon portions with mixture.
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until fish reaches 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.

Wordless Wednesday: Scabiosa

Planted a few Scabiosa columbaria "Blue Note" over the weekend!

17 May 2016

Top 10 Tuesday: On a Whim


Two Top Ten Tuesdays in a row? Am I getting back in the saddle? Probably not, but this week’s theme -- “Ten Books I Picked Up On A Whim” -- seemed awfully timely as I’ve been selecting most of my reads based on whim. Some really random stuff coming into my house, lately, selected mostly on the strength of their covers. Will I read them all? Honestly, no.


  • Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate by Susan Calman
  • The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
  • The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  • Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
  • Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908-1934 by Laura Horak




  • The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel
  • Murder in the Marais by Cara Black
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman w/ trans by Henning Koch
  • The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless Her Cat by Lore Segal w/ illus by Paul O. Zelinsky
  • Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle



13 May 2016

Chipotle Chicken Bake

When it comes to canned chipotle peppers, I feel I'm doing it wrong. Many of the recipes that I've tried which use chipotles usually have instructions that read like "X tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce" but all the cans of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce I see are packed with whole chiles. Sure, I could fish a chile or two out and chop away until I have the right measurement, but what about all the sauce left in the can? And all the other chiles?

No, I pour the can into my stick blender's beaker and then process the peppers and sauce until they've formed a thick puree. I portion the puree out by tablespoons and freeze them until needed. When I later make a recipe that says "X tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce," I just throw in some frozen tablespoons. Yes, the heat and smokiness may be a little more or less than the recipe writer intended, but I've had no disasters so far.


Anyway, this chipotle chicken bake makes for a tasty weeknight supper. You could even assemble it ahead, if you wanted to save yourself some time at the end of the day. I know I sometimes frequently come home from work to find that the recipe that once seemed so doable now seems utterly exhausting. (If you are going to assemble this ahead, you'll need to adjust the cooking time to compensate for the chill of refrigeration).

Chipotle Chicken Bake

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, well trimmed
  • 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 3 oz red onion, halved and sliced very thin

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Brush a baking dish or large pie plate with a little olive oil or spritz with cooking spray. Nestle chicken in the dish.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor or stick blender, combine chile puree, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper and pulse until a chunky sauce has formed. Pour over chicken.
  4. Cover dish and bake 45-60 minutes or until the chicken has reached 165°F.


I served this over cilantro rice (literally, chopped cilantro stirred into hot rice) and sliced avocado. The Husband thought the chicken really good, which pleased me as I worried he'd find it too spicy, but we both agreed it's a very mellow, smoky heat.

Wake of Vultures


I don't read Westerns or horror and while Wake of Vultures both is and isn't either of those things, it certainly dressing up like them, and that just confused the heck out of me when I started reading it.

Ohhhh, but then ... by the time Nettie Lonesome arrived at the brothel with the other ranch hands I was hooked. Couldn't put the darn book down. Gobbled it down in three hours flat. It's a weird fantasy-Western-horror mash-up with a magickal nonwhite, mixed race, cross-dressing, bisexual protagonist. In some ways, I feel I'd waited my whole life to read Wake of Vultures and I'm thoroughly chuffed to hear Nettie's adventures will continue in Conspiracy of Ravens (also, confusingly, sometimes titled Horde of Crows) and I cannot wait for October.

I received an advance reading copy of Wake of Vultures at BookExpo America 2015 and, as an ARC, it is possible my version differs from the one currently available at your public library so caveat lector, etc.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (Orbit, 2015) [ARC]

11 May 2016

Sweet & Spicy Salmon

Looking for a quick and easy salmon supper that's a little out of the ordinary? Check out this flavorful sweet and spicy salmon fillet! Recipe serves one, but is easily doubled or tripled. And it's even pretty enough to serve company.


I brushed the salmon fillet with a simple mixture of honey, coconut aminos, red pepper flakes, and ginger and then baked it until it was delicious. If you don't have coconut aminos, low-sodium soy sauce works as well, but the flavor will be slightly different. Also, I find spritzing the measuring spoon with a little cooking spray before spooning out the honey makes the whole process a lot less messy.

Sweet & Spicy Salmon Fillet

Yield: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 6-oz piece boned & skinned salmon fillet
  • 1 Tbsp runny honey
  • ½ Tbsp coconut aminos
  • ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp sliced scallion greens

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place on the pie plate. If your salmon has a thin end, fold it under for even cooking.
  4. Combine honey, coconut aminos, red pepper flakes, and ginger. Brush salmon with mixture.
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until fish reaches 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.
  6. Drizzle some of the pan juices over the salmon and garnish with sliced scallions. Serve.

Wordless Wednesday: Muscari

Grape hyacinth blooms in the front flower bed. I did not plant them. Where did they come from?

10 May 2016

Top 10 Tuesday: Ten Webcomics I Love


It’s been a rather long time since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but this week’s topic -- “Ten Websites I Love That Aren't About Books” -- caught my eye. I’ve gone with web comics I love and want you to love, too. Where possible I’ve noted how long the webcomic has been running to make it easier for you to guesstimate how much time you might need to to set aside to do a weekend blitzread.

Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis. “Shortly after starting their first year at Silvermount University, five young women discover they've each been chosen to protect our world and its newly discovered sister dimension. Volume 1 begins at the start of their first year of college as they learn about this new responsibility and try to find out exactly what’s going on.” Running since March 2014. Louis ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for Agents of the Realm, Volume 1 earlier this year.

Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski. Set on distant planets far into the future, Ava’s Demon follows the adventures of a 15 year old girl named Ava Ire who has the misfortune of being haunted by a demon who takes great joy in making Ava's life as miserable as possible. Running since May 2012.

Bad Machinery by John Allison. “Bad Machinery consists of cases running around 100 pages, where six child, then teen, detectives solve mysteries. Each case takes place over a school term. The kids were 11 when the comic started, and are now nearly 16 - the tenor of comic seems to change a little with each passing term.” Bad Machinery has run since 2009, but is currently on hiatus. John Allison is also the author of the popular new(ish) print comic, Giant Days.

Blindsprings by Kadi Fedoruk. “A lost princess named Tamaura survives a revolution by making a deal with the Spirits of the forest. Pledged to them for three hundred years, the princess is about to fulfill her pact when a young man finds her and decides for himself that she is meant to be saved, whether she likes it or not. His ‘rescue’ pulls Tamaura out of her timeless sanctuary and into a world that advanced hundreds of years without her...where a civil war is brewing over the same magic that flows through her veins.” Running since October 2013. Fedoruk just completed an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign for Blindsprings: Volume 1.

Cut Time by Judy. “Cut Time is a fantasy adventure comic about Rel, a tiny nomadic protagonist who carries a bird on her head. The comic will span her journey past and present, including her relationships with her friends and enemies. It focuses on the character interactions to tell the overarching plot, but there’s going to be action, too!” Running since October 2013.

Daughter of the Lilies by Meg Syverud. “What happens when a man who kills monsters falls in love with a girl who thinks she is one? Brent, a brutish, freelancing adventurer, realizes that he's fallen for his coworker, Thistle: a shy, talented Mage who considers herself a monster, and who is relentlessly pursued by a tyrannical dictator.” Running since October 2013.

Far to the North by Allison Gregory. “Check back every Sunday and Wednesday to see Kelu run, see Kelu jump, and see Kelu save her captive family (with maybe a little help from a scaly, fire-breathing neighbor or two.)” Running since February 2015.

Love Not Found by Gina Biggs. “Love Not Found is a story about a young woman living in a time where touching has become outdated. She has recently moved to a new planet and finds that touching might not be such a bad idea. Now she is on a quest to find someone who wants to do things the old fashioned way!” Running since June 2014.

Oglaf by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne. “This comic started as an attempt to make pornography. It degenerated into sex comedy pretty much immediately. Even so, there are some things depicted that are best kept away from children and work.” NSFW.

Oh Joy Sex Toy by Erika Moen. “From toys to workshops to birth control and much more, no stone will be left unturned, no vibrator left unused, no nipple left unpinched. With the aid of guest reviewers, this comic will cover products for ALL the different anatomies people possess, from vulvas to penises and beyond. OJST strives to be relevant to all different genders, body types, and sexualities.” NSFW. Running since April 2013. Moen is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of Oh Joy Sex Toy, Volume 3. Hooray.

06 May 2016

Taco Rice Bowls

I kinda promised The Husband taco salad for lunch, but I never managed to leave the house to grab lettuce (it was raining, I had a good book to read, the oldest cat needed a lap and much petting ... you know how it goes) so we had taco rice bowls, instead.


What's in them? Birdseye Steamfresh Southwestern Style Rice, leftover slow cooker turkey taco meat, shredded taco cheese blend, sour cream, tomato, avocado, and lashings of freshly cracked black pepper.

I usually make the slow cooker taco meat by browning lean ground beef or turkey in a pan with lots of onion and garlic, then throw it in the slow cooker with black beans, corn, salsa, and any one of Penzeys taco seasoning blends and let it all cook away on Low for 4 hours or so, but I'd made this batch of turkey taco meat for work (Taco Thursday!) so omitted the beans and corn (and used less seasoning blend) because I wasn't sure what everyone liked.

I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After


I Hate Fairyland is a horrifically, hilariously violent take on the usual “ordinary child has marvelous adventures in fairy land” story. Gert may begin her quest a sweet, innocent girl, but twenty-seven years trapped in Fairyland -- growing up mentally, but never physically -- searching for a muffin huggin' key that will open a muffin huggin' door and get her home, have warped her into something monstrous. And very, very funny -- in a dark, twisted, inappropriate-for-younger-readers way. If you get a kick out of darkly cute things like Chibi Deadpool, you’ll probably appreciate I Hate Fairyland.

Young’s wonderfully distinct illustrative style, which I fell in love with while reading Eric Shanower’s Oz adaptations, sings with an almost manic energy here. His Fairyland is an absolutely wild, darkly cartoonish mirror 'verse Disney. So appealing, really, that there are a few scenes I wouldn’t mind owning framed prints of ... although where I could appropriately display them, I don’t know!


I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young (Image Comics, 2016).

04 May 2016

Easy Southwestern Salmon

My local grocery stores are now selling salmon in precut portions at the fish counter, which I find very convenient. They're usually about 6 oz each, which is twice what a serving should be, but we happen to love salmon so I'm not complaining. The stores frequently sell the salmon soaked in various marinades, but so far I've stuck to the purchasing salmon and just tart them up however I like later.


In this case, I went "Southwestern" with a little fajita seasoning, guacamole, and salsa. Olive oil, avocado, salmon ... it's an extravaganza of healthy fats! And also a convenient way to use up party leftovers. Recipe serves one, but is easily doubled, etc as needed.

Easy Southwestern Salmon

Yield: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 6 oz portion boned & skinned salmon fillet
  • 1 tsp fajita seasoning [Penzeys]
  • 2 Tbsp guacamole
  • 1 Tbsp salsa

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place on the pie plate. If your salmon has a thin end, fold it under for even cooking.
  4. Rub salmon with fajita seasoning blend.
  5. Bake salmon, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily and has reached 145°F.
  6. Serve salmon topped with guacamole and salsa over rice or whathaveyou.


Wordless Wednesday: Flutterby Friend

Blue Morpho butterfly (Morpho menelaus) getting all friendly.

Eventually, I stood up ... and walked around with it still clinging to my jeans.

03 May 2016

The White Cat & The Monk: A Retelling of the Poem "Pangur Bán"

I first encountered Pangur Bán as a character in the animated film The Secret of Kells (just a lovely, lovely work more people should see), ended up googling a madly about the actual Book of Kells, Irish monasteries, illuminated manuscripts, and ... oh, just all sorts of things.

Eventually, this wandering about the internet led me to a sweet piece of marginalia called “Pangur Bán,” a lovely poem written by an Irish monk about his cat. There’s a whole Wikipedia entry for it, if you’re interested. So, when I saw Bogart and Smith’s The White Cat and The Monk on display in Children’s, it should come as no surprise that I immediately made away with it.

The White Cat and The Monk is a quiet and yet joyous little story suitable for readers of all ages. Smith’s serene watercolor and ink illustrations, in gentle shades of grey and brown with splashes of the palest, softest candlelight yellow (artfully broken up by a bold yet judicious use of gem colors on the manuscript pages), are well worth a second, third, even forth glance. It’s the kind of book I’d give both my (cat-loving) mother and my (cat-loving) college roommate’s (equally cat-loving) six-year-old son.

The White Cat & The Monk: A Retelling of the Poem "Pangur Bán" w/ text adapted by Jo Ellen Bogart & illus by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2016)