Stuff and Nonsense: 2015


Wordless Wednesday: Jigsaw Season

It's not Christmastide if there isn't a jigsaw puzzle taking up too much of the dining room table :)

Juice All the (Citrus-like) Things

For my birthday, The Husband gave me a citrus juicer attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer. I'm still not one hundred percent on why The Husband gave it to me. If it's because I've been buying lots of "weird vegetable" juices from the yoga place down the street and he thought I might like to make my own juices ... well, it's the wrong juicer attachment for that sort of thing. If it's because he hoped I'd start buying caseloads of citrus from the warehouse club and make him fresh orange juice ... well, that hasn't happened. Yet.

Because I forget to buy citrus when I'm at the warehouse club? Yeh. That's probably why. The warehouse club is just one giant distraction after another. Go in for vitamins and egg whites, come out with antihistamines and four kinds of butter ...

Happily, December is satsuma mandarin season and, as usual, I picked up a big case of the delicious darlings from Chaffin Family Orchards. Which meant we ate satsuma after satsuma until we were positively stuffed with citrus and didn't want to see another satsuma before next December. Unfortunately, there were still a half dozen slowly fossilizing satsumas left and I was darned if they were going to go to waste so (you guessed it) I got juicing.

The citrus juice attachment is very simple to use -- just slot the bits together and screw them into the "power hub" on the front of the stand mixer. It takes seconds to assemble and then you just juice all the things! Rather like shredding cheese with the food processor, juicing turns out to be quite an addictive thing and I really had to work hard to stop myself from juicing all our lemons and limes, too.

And what did I do with the beautiful, fragrant, sweet satsuma juice? The Husband did a shot of it ... and then I used the remainder in cookies. Followed Pillsbury's "Fresh Orange Cookies" recipe and ended up with some really yummy cookies ... that look, strangely, nothing like the one's pictured on Pillsbury's site. Mine are much flatter whereas theirs are domed. Mine are quite cake-like actually -- very much like biting into a light and fluffy orange muffin top -- and theirs looks sturdier and more scone-like. Regardless, the Husband has been eating them in quantities that suggest they're the best "biscuit" (cookie) I've baked it quite a long time. Having lots of good citrus flavor and being not particularly sweet for an American cookie (putting them more in line with a UK biscuit), they go down a treat with a big mug of black tea.


Top 10 Tuesday: Exciting New Novels Jan-June 2016

It's another Top Ten Tuesday! Huzzah! This week we're talking about the ten new books we most look forward to reading in the first half of 2016. That's January through June, you know, and it turns out two of the books I reallyREALLY want to read in 2016 -- Nisi Shawl's Everfair and Allie Brosh's Solutions and Other Problems -- aren't out until the second half! I shall just have to console myself with these ten as I count down the days ...


  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. Two old acquaintances, trying to fix the world’s problems in completely opposite ways (science v. magic), are drawn together to either save the world ... or destroy it. Could be awesome. (Could be dreadful).
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. A book about books, bookshops, letters, and friendship. Of course I want to read this.


  • These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker. 1880s England. Evelyn travels to London to find her missing sister and falls in with a mysterious, if charming, young gentleman who is also looking for her sister ... and who claims Evelyn and her sister have secret powers.


  • The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester. 1912 London, suffragettes, corset fetishists, circus freaks, and a mysterious disappearance. Yes. Yes. YES.
  • Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. I’ve been told it’s a bit like Jane Eyre if Jane had been a (wholly justified) serial murderer. People on Goodreads seem to like it but ... well, I’ll see. I entertain high hopes.
  • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. I loved Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and have been looking forward to The Summer Before the War for what feels like ages. Pretty female Latin professor arrives in Sussex during the summer of 1914. Yeah. WWI, educated female protagonist, English countryside ... it ticks most of the boxes.


  • Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. The interconnected lives of three women -- a New York socialite, a Polish teenager, and a German doctor -- during World War II. Based on the true story of Caroline Ferriday.
  • Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown. 1930 modern Jewish American girl has a one-time fling with a hot but inappropriate man and (surprise) gets pregnant. Meanwhile, her Yiddish-speaking mama who, after birthing and rearing five children yearns for a little freedom of her own, finds she’s pregnant, too.


  • Mer by Katie Schickel. Still grieving the “accidental” death of her sister two years ago, Jess gets by as a cook on a fishing boat ... until one day she is transformed into a mermaid and reborn a stronger, more confident, powerful Jess who must choose between land and sea.
  • Steeplejack by A. J. Hartley. In a 19th-century Victorian South African fantasy world, a steeplejack investigates the murder of her apprentice.


Easy Corn Chowder from Christmas Leftovers

As always, I over-estimated the amount of sides needed to feed everyone Christmas Dinner and have a fridge full of leftover mashed potatoes, braised cabbage, and corn. There's a tiny bit of tenderloin left (I'm quite good at calculating out the meaty needs of four people, so why not the vegetables?) which I knew we'd use for sandwiches and what goes so well with sandwiches? Soup!

I used all the leftover corn, but only a little leftover garlic mashed potatoes in this recipe. There's still three(ish) cups remaining and I'm probably going to take the easy route with them and make cheesy, chivey potato pancakes for supper.

Also, the corn and mashed potatoes, being Christmas leftovers, were already seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, parsley, and the like so I did not season the soup very much. Therefore, you will need to adjust the seasonings according to your own tastes!

Anyway, the soup is tasty (of course), easy, and comforting. Just the thing for the day after Christmas when we're -- or at least I'm -- hungover on sugar, cheese, wine, and too much excitement. And by too much excitement, I mean working on a jigsaw puzzle until midnight and then sitting on the couch until 2 AM, telling The Husband how he should be playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Easy Corn Chowder from Christmas Leftovers

Yield: 6


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced small
  • 1 medium celery rib, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 1 32 oz carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 oz finely diced peeled potato
  • 10 oz leftover corn
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp chopped dried rosemary
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ½-1 cup leftover garlic mashed potatoes


  • Heat olive oil in a large French/Dutch oven over medium. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until onion is tender and fragrant. Add broth, bay, and potatoes and bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  • Stir in the corn, cream, and seasonings and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the potatoes -- starting with a half cup and increasing if needed -- until the soup is thickened to your liking. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasonings as needed.

Of course, this soup makes too much for two people, thus creating leftovers of its own. However, soup is an easy leftover to deal with as it's perfect for every meal -- even breakfast -- and is always ready to go.

And, just for kicks, the puzzle it took way too long for four reasonably clever adults to complete (wine may have had something to do with it?):


Southwestern Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia

The Husband picked up burritos from Moe's earlier this week and, as always, there was half a bag of leftover tortilla chips just sitting, unloved, on the kitchen side days later. Usually, they eventually get chucked in the bin, but this time I thought "surely, I can make breading out of these?" So. I. did.

I blitzed the tortilla chips around in the food processor until they'd formed a fairly fine crumb, but you can obviously use whatever size crumb you prefer. Tilapia's just kind-of delicate, imho, and thus deserves a more delicate crumb. You could even add the seasoning blend and garlic to the food processor with the chips and avoid having to whisk them in later.

Pretty sure potato chip crumbs would be yummy, too. Or Doritos ...

Southwestern Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia

Yield: 2-4, depending on level of hungries


  • 1½ oz finely crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 tsp Southwestern seasoning blend [Penzeys Fajita]
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder [Penzeys Roasted Garlic]
  • 1 oz white whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 3.5-oz(ish) tilapia fillets
  • Garlicky salsa, as desired [Green Mountain Gringo Roasted Garlic]
  • Queso fresco, as desired [Tropical Cheese Salvadoreño]


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a half sheet pan (13"x18") with parchment.
  2. Pat fillets dry and set aside.
  3. Add tortilla chips, seasoning blend, and garlic powder to a shallow bowl. Whisk to combine. Add flour to another shallow bowl. Beat egg in yet another shallow bowl.
  4. Dip a fillet in flour. Tap to remove excess flour. Dip in egg. Allow excess to drip off. Dip into crushed tortilla chips, pressing down firmly to make sure the chips stick. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining fillets.
  5. Bake 10 minutes at 425°F or until fillets reach 145°F.
  6. Serve garnished with salsa and queso fresco, if desired.

The tilapia was flaky and sweet while the crust was very crunchy and slightly spicy. All in all, definitely something I'd make again.

I served the tilapia with cilantro rice -- literally, hot cooked brown rice with chopped cilantro stirred in -- and my own lazy attempt at elote -- microwaved corn kernels tossed with butter, lime, cilantro, black pepper, and queso fresco.

Wordless Wednesday: Little Tree

look               the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

              -- from "little tree" by E. E. Cummings


Top 10 Tuesday: Santa, Please Bring Me

It's Christmas time! Unsurprisingly, this week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about the books we wish Santa would leave under our tree this year.

Graphic novels I would love to receive, because they sound awesome (or I already know are awesome based on previous volumes in their series):

  • Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson w/ illus. by Brooke Allen
  • Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid w/ illus. by Terry Dodson
  • Thor, Volume 2: Who Holds the Hammer by Jason Aaron w/ illus. Russell Dauterman
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel by Ryan North w/ illus. Erica Henderson

Novels I would love to receive:

  • The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith. Been told it’s a sweet and beautiful illustrated story about a Fox who goes searching for his missing Star. I love Bickford-Smith’s artwork and can’t wait to see what she’s created within the pages of The Fox and the Star.
  • A Taste of Nightshade by Martine Bailey. 1800s England, an isolated manor house, a young bride, a secretive husband, suspicious servants ... yum.
  • The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins VINTAGE CLASSICS EDITION because the cover is so delightfully atmospheric. Also, it’s Wilkie Collins so I expect a delicious blend of the mysterious, the spooooky, and the thrilling.

Nonfiction I would also love to receive (because information is power … or something like that, anyway):

  • New German Cooking: Recipes for Classics Revisited by Jeremy & Jessica Nolen. Come, let me feed you the food of (one of) my (many) people(s). Kartoffel-Gurkensalat! Pilzgulasch! Entensuppe!
  • The Everyday Rice Cooker: Soups, Sides, Grains, Mains, and More by Diane Phillips. I keep saying I’d like to do more with my rice cooker and the most adventurous I’ve been so far is to cook pearl barley in it …
  • The Calm Coloring Book, Flights Of Fancy, or Natural Wonders coloring books because COLORING BOOKS I HAVE MISSED YOU.


Improv Challenge: Cranberry & Orange

The deli near my work occasionally sells this really yummy couscous salad that's studded with cranberries, spinach, and chunks of dried apricots. It's very flavorful and I love the texture so, when I saw December's Improv Challenge ingredients were cranberry and orange, I immediately thought about cloning that deli salad. I know a salad in December might not sound quite like the thing, but we can't live on cookies and cake all month ... can we? I kinda think, given enough cups of tea, I could live on cookies and cake?

While this recipe is good either at room temperature or chilled, I think it works best at room temperature and recommend that's what you serve it at. Obviously, we're a household of two, so there was leftovers -- the following day I just left it on the side for 15 minutes or so to warm a bit while I reheated the rest of my lunch.

I used pearl (sometimes called Israeli) couscous in this recipe, because that's what the deli uses, but you could probably use another small pasta like pastina or acini di pepe. Obviously, you'll need to ignore my preparation instructions and make it according to the packet.

Cranberry-Orange Couscous Salad

Yield: 4


  • 1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 1¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 3 Tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup diced dried apricots
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • salt & pepper, to taste


  1. Put the spinach in a large serving bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a boil over high heat. Add couscous, and return to a boil. Immediately cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the couscous has absorbed all of the broth. Fluff couscous and dump over spinach so that the residual heat from the couscous wilts the spinach. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together orange juice, zest, oil, vinegar, mustard, and honey in a small bowl.
  4. Gently mix the almonds, cranberries, apricots, and spinach into the couscous. Pour dressing over couscous mixture and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately for tastiest results.


Slow Cooker Tuna Casserole

This slow cooker casserole is based on a Betty Crocker's "Easy Slow-Cooker Turkey Tetrazzini" recipe, but I've adapted it to use tuna, more vegetables, less cheese, and no wine. Also, the original was pretty high in sodium, so I tried to use lower sodium ingredients where possible here (it could easily have been even lower sodium, but I couldn't be arsed running to the store "just" for low sodium soup and tuna) and omitted the salt the original recipe called for. The finished dish certainly didn't taste bland, so don't worry about missing the salt.

Just one of those easy slow cooker dishes that creates a lot of recycling :)

Slow Cooker Tuna Casserole

Serves: 4


  • 10½ oz can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1¼ cup low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 5 oz cans solid white albacore in water, drained and flaked
  • ½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • ½ cup chopped white onion
  • 4 oz jar chopped pimientos, drained
  • 6.5 oz can no-salt-added sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 6 oz uncooked spaghetti noodles, broken in half and then half again
  • 1 cup frozen peas


  1. Lightly coat slow cooker insert with cooking spray or olive oil.
  2. To insert, add soup, broth, cream, tuna, cheese, onion, pimientos, mushrooms, dried parsley, garlic powder, thyme, and pepper. Stir well.
  3. Add broken noodles and stir until just combined. Try to poke the noodles down so they're as covered in liquid as possible.
  4. Cover and cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours until noodles are tender, stirring once about halfway through. About 15 minutes before serving, stir in the frozen peas.

I forgot to add the parsley so I stirred it in at the halfway point.

If you're not around to stir it at the halfway point, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Just be sure to give it a real good stir when you add the peas.

The original recipe just adds the peas in with everything else, but after four hours in the slow cooker I found they lost they're bright green color and had, unsurprisingly, gone pretty mushy. Popping them in at the end helps retain their color and body.

Because the original Betty Crocker recipe is so easy to modify, I'm kind-of tempted to try another variation with chicken, spinach instead of peas, and lots more peppers ... Hmm. There's always next week? No, that's Christmas week. The week after that? Hrm.

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Crackers

Counting the plates & getting down the crackers ahead of Christmas feasting.


Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Best Graphics I Read in 2015

Another Top Ten Tuesday! As the year draws to its close, we consider the top ten best books we read in 2015. Because I've read too many books and it's hard to winnow them down to ten, I narrowed my list to "just" the best graphics (mostly) published in 2015. I've kind-of cheated by putting two volumes from the same series on my ten best list, but if you've read Rat Queens then you'll understand why it's impossible not to put both on the list ... and if you haven't read Rat Queens, then you need to get yourself to the library right now. And you might as well pick up the rest of my list while you're at it.

  • Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  • Lady Killer, Vol. 1 by Joëlle Jones
  • Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
  • Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
  • Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe

  • Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe
  • Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction
  • Soppy: A Love Story by Philippa Rice
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  • The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff

Wow. Put all those covers together and ... that's a lot of pink.


Slow Cooker Beef Stew

It may have been 61°F today, but I still went ahead and made a slow cooker beef stew. It had come out pretty well when I threw it together last week so I'd stuck it on this week's menu plan (along with the fire-roasted tomato and white bean soup), completely disregarding the forecast spring-in-December weather.

Anyway, this was a good stew. Rich, hearty, and filling without being stodgy. The meat was meltingly tender, but the vegetables weren't mushy at all and had kept their own flavors, rather than becoming muddled and tasting generically stewy. You know how sometimes you make a slow cooker dish and after eight hours, all the ingredients in the pot have kind of muddled together and don't really taste like themselves anymore? "Is that squishy orange blob a carrot? Don't know. Just tastes like stew." That didn't happen here.


I served the stew in bowls I'd made from leftover Pillsbury Grands! (Why the exclamation mark? Is it not enough to simply be grand?) biscuits. I followed the instructions provided in the "Grands!® Biscuit Bowls with Chili" recipe. As a technique, it works pretty well, but I'm not sure it is superior to simply hollowing out a bakery-bought sourdough boule. Certainly, I don't think I'd go out and buy a biscuit tube just to make them ... but I had two raw biscuits leftover from the waffled grilled cheese and biscuit bowls sounded like a fun experiment.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Yield: 6


  • 1 lb stew beef, cut into small cubes
  • 12 oz chopped white potatoes (peel or don't ... the power is yours)
  • 3 oz chopped carrot (ditto about peeling)
  • 3 oz chopped celery
  • 3 oz chopped yellow onion
  • 4 oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 14½ oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 Tbsp Penzeys beef soup base
  • 1½ tsp Worcestershire
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup white whole wheat flour


  1. Layer potatoes, carrot, celery, onion, and mushrooms at bottom of slow cooker insert. Add beef. Top with fire-roasted tomatoes and garlic.
  2. Whisk together hot water, soup base, Worcestershire, pepper, and flour. Pour over tomatoes.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hrs. Stir well before serving.

I know one cup of stock doesn't seem like enough liquid but trust me -- the vegetables and meat will release a lot of liquid as they cook. Anyway, we want a thick stew and not a brothy soup, right?


Wordless Wednesday: Blossoms

Messing around, taking photos of flowers in a vase, and ended up with this. It's not exactly terrible ...


Wordless Wednesday: Fountain

Lincoln Center's iconic Revson Fountain. Of course, I had to take a photo.


Top 10 Tuesday: 2016 Debuts

Another Top Ten Tuesday! Hooray! We're talking about our most anticipated debut novels of 2016. New books by new authors. Fantastic!

  • Based on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti
  • Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
  • The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
  • Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
  • Look at Me by Sarah Duguid

  • The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
  • Noah’s Wife by Lindsay Starck
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
  • Relief Map by Rosalie Knecht
  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Huh. That's a lot of blue ...


Lemon & Garlic Chicken Thighs

Had a quantity of fresh parsley leftover even after the garlicky lemon-parsley sauce I made to jazz up some baked barramundi. While I wasn't quite sure what to do with the leftover parsley, I knew it had to be done soon as parsley just doesn't keep in my fridge (the whole "wrap it in a damp paper towel and store inside a plastic bag" technique doesn't work for me).

As there were chicken thighs in the freezer (when aren't there?) and I had lemon and garlic so I thought "Why not marinade the thighs and then whack them in the oven when I get home from work?" And that is exactly what I did.

I tend to buy boneless chicken thighs more often than not because I find them more flavorful and less expensive than boneless chicken breasts. They're definitely better suited to slow cooking than boneless breasts and even short, high-temp oven excursions suit them better than breasts. Or maybe I just still don't know how to cook boneless breasts properly!

Anyway, this dish is quite lemony so feel free to cut back on the juice and zest! When The Husband first tasted the chicken, he thought he wasn't going to like it because it was too lemony, but he ended up really liking it so ymmv.

Lemon & Garlic Chicken Thighs

Yield: Serves 3-6, depending on appetite


  • 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper


  1. Place chicken thighs in a food-safe storage container.
  2. Zest lemon. Cut lemon in half; squeeze lemon juice over chicken. Add zest, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover container and toss to coat. Refrigerate one hour or until ready to cook.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly brush a baking dish with a little olive oil.
  4. Turn the chicken out onto the baking dish. Bake 25 minutes or until chicken reaches 165°F.


Wordless Wednesday: Fallen Leaves

Autumn leaves scattered across the pavement like so much confetti

Easy Baked Lemon & Parsley Barramundi

This is any easy baked fish recipe made just a little fancy with a lemon and garlic butter sauce. I used fresh parsley, because I'd bought a bunch of it for something ... but I can't remember what that something was and have no notes to guide me. It's also possible I wasn't supposed to buy parsley at all, but thyme. Anyway, feel free to use dried parsley, but the flavor may not be the same.

I know. Everyone's "Parsley is there for garnish, right? It doesn't have a flavor?" but I beg to differ. Parsley tastes fresh and green (like spring) with a little hint of bitterness and can brighten up a dish. I only used the leaves in this recipe, saving the stems to flavor the stock I'll make from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass.

Even though I baked the fish at a high temperature, I didn't cover the barramundi, because I knew the sauce would keep it moist. As expected, the fish came out flaky and moist. Quite lemony and garlicky, obviously, but both flavors compliment rather than overwhelm the flavor of fish.

Baked Lemon & Parsley Barramundi

Yield: 2


  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 8 oz barramundi fillets
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Melt butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove. Whisk in lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Blot fillets dry and place in a baking dish or glass pie plate. Pour butter mixture over fish. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F or until fish flakes easily with a fork and has reached 145°F.
  4. Season with salt to taste, if desired, and serve.


Top 10 Tuesday: Thankful

Since it's Thanksgiving this week (in the US, anyway), Top Ten Tuesday is all about thankfulness! Just so we're clear, mine is by no means an exhaustive list of things I'm thankful for. Some are obvious (tea!), some are relevant (books!), some are random (you'll see). But I'm thankful for all of them.

  1. I am thankful for books. I mean, obviously. There’s no book blog without books! But seriously I cannot imagine who I would be if I had not been introduced to books so early in life or what my life might be like, even now, without books in it.
  2. I am thankful for libraries -- most especially my library consortium and state-wide interlibrary loan system. Between the two, I can usually get just about any book my greedy bookish heart desires. This means I’m saving money! That I then spend at Amazon on the comic books and manga I can’t get through the library. The Husband would argue it’s no savings at all, but I’d argue he knows nothing about the economics of books.
  3. I am thankful for The Husband. How I got so lucky so early in adulthood, I’ll never know … especially as I was dead cert I’d never get married or, heaven help me, get sucked into some complicated intercontinental romance with a man. Silly me. He’s awesome -- kind, quirky, beautiful, brews a mean cup of tea, gives excellent hugs, and warms my soul.
  4. I am thankful for that pure thrill of pleasure that runs right through me when I see that a book I’ve really been anticipating has finally come out. The joy of it can carry me along for days.
  5. I am thankful for the quiet afternoons spent curled up with a cozy quilt, purring kitty, big “cuppa tay,” and a good book. I used to think such afternoons were pure decadence and that I should be doing “more important things,” but now I realize there’s times when nothing is more important.
  6. I am thankful for tea. Green. White. Herbal. Black. Hot. Cold. Even room temperature, half-forgotten, and possibly (probably) tainted by kitty whiskers. Thankful for it all. As the quote goes: “Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”
  7. I am thankful for my health. I know, considering all the things that have gone wrong happened lately, I might not be thankful for my health. However, while they’ve all been pretty discomforting and OHMYGODWHY, they could have been so much worse. (Yes, that’s right, universe. I’m tempting you to make my life Even.More.Eventful).
  8. I am thankful there are only 37 days left in 2015. Even though I know the year could have been so much worse, quite a lot of 2015 made me want to make rude gestures at the universe and the longer year’s gone on, the more I’ve want to pull the blankets over my head and pretend I’m just not here.
  9. I am thankful for the WQXR New York online streaming classical music wotsit. I can’t read to music, but I find I must write to it. Classical music works best and WQXR plays some great selections. I don’t know what it is, but music just gets my writerly juices flowing. Suddenly the book I’ve been avoiding talking about for two weeks becomes the things I must talk about today.
  10. I am thankful for audiobooks. There are books I’ve, time and time again, to read but ultimately had to set aside, because I simply could not find my way into them. But, with audiobooks, the most impenetrable text opens right up.


Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

I was supposed to go to attend a workshop Friday morning and then run a bunch of errands (including much-needed grocery shopping), but my car had other ideas and chose to spend the day at Firestone. Happily, The Husband found the time to pick me up from Firestone and bring me home, so I could do useful home-based things ... and not put a chair through the television in the waiting area, which was playing nonstop daytime talk shows that just ... UGH.

So. Home! No groceries! The lunch I'd planned on eating at a twee juice cafe was obviously impossible. What could I make that would feed both of us? Soup, of course. Comforting, filling, healthful soup. Without carrots or celery, because they were still at the grocery store, unbought.

But I had beans. And garlic. And tomatoes. And vegetable broth.

I pureed half the beans with my food processor to give the soup a dairy-free creaminess. Not that we're dairy-free! I just didn't see the point in "wasting" the remaining milk for The Husband's tea. (Again, no groceries). I also used vegetable broth in this soup, because it was going to be a vegetable soup so why meat it up? I know some people don't like to use vegetable broth -- claiming it tastes "sweeter" than chicken -- but I find College Inn Reduced Sodium Garden Vegetable Broth tastes quite vegetal and is definitely not "sweet."

Anyway, this turned out to be quite a yummy dairy-free vegan bean soup. Well-seasoned, creamy, and tomato-y with just a little kick from the pepper. As with many soups, it's even better the next day so try not to eat it all at once!

Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

Yield: 4


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz chopped sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 oz cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth [College Inn]
  • 14.5 oz can no-salted-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Penzeys Tuscan Sunset]
  • ½ oz dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Heat olive oil over medium in a large French/Dutch oven. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, combine one can of beans with one cup of broth in a blender or food processor and puree.
  3. Add puree, remaining beans and broth, tomatoes, seasoning blend, parsley, and pepper to pot.
  4. Bring pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about for ten minutes. Season with salt to taste, if desired.


Improv Challenge: Squash & Sage

I'm trying to make pizza more often at home (because it's cheaper and we can get all the weird custom flavors -- chicken and sweetcorn for one -- our little hearts desire) and I'd heard that naan bread makes a good crust for quick pizzas. Deciding it would be better to experiment on myself first before springing the naan pizza concept on The Husband, I decided to build myself a pizza out of what was in the fridge.

Fresh sage from my generous coworker's garden!

And then I realized I had the ingredients for November's Improv Challenge -- squash and sage -- on hand! Hooray! For the first time in months, I wouldn't be making the Improv recipe the week it was due! Really, I always start out with the best of intentions and then time just gets away from me and suddenly I'm throwing something together at what feels like the very last minute!

Cubed butternut squash and onion tossed with garlic-infused olive oil.

The only naan I could find at my local Price Chopper was Stonefire brand in either whole grain or garlic. Obviously, I went with garlic! They're smallish naan, but there are two to a package so I figured this recipe would serve two hungry adults. As always, ymmv with serving sizes.

Since I didn't use any gooey cheeses the toppings don't properly stick to the naan making these a little messy to eat. I got around this my folding my pieces in half, making a sort of naan pizza sandwich. More civilized types might want to use a fork and knife.

This tasted all kinds of awesome. Maybe more cheese next time, though ...

Youtube has many nifty how-to videos on frying sage leaves, but I found this one simplest:

While this recipe makes two naan pizzas, you don't necessarily have to make them at the same time. The vegetables can be roasted a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge until wanted. The sage can also be fried and kept at room temperature in a sealed container for a few days. And, obviously, you could double triple the amounts for one big traditional crust pizza.

Butternut Squash & Beet Naan Pizza

Yield: 2 pizza


  • 2 naan (each about 8x7")
  • 4.5 oz butternut squash, diced small
  • 1 oz chopped red onion
  • 2 oz chopped roasted beets [Love Beets]
  • 1½ Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
  • 1.5 oz crumbled blue cheese [Salemville Amish Blue]
  • 1.5 oz crumbled goat cheese [Alouette]
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 8 fried sage leaves
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, as desired


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss squash and onions with 1 Tbsp olive oil and arrange on a quarter sheet pan (13"x9"), trying not to crowd. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove pan from oven and set aside. Do not turn off oven!
  3. Place naan on a baking sheet; brush with ½ Tbsp oil. Bake at 400°F until naan just begins to crisp and turn light golden color, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Scatter red onions, squash, beets, cheese and chopped sage leaves across naan. Bake until pizza is heated through and cheeses get all melty and yum, about 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish with fried sage leaves and fresh cracked black pepper.


Wordless Wednesday: Autumn Woods

Amidst the russet and gold, I spy a splodge of (ever)green!


Top 10 Tuesday: Quotes

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a list of quotes I've loved from books I've read in the past year or so. I used to be a great scribbler of quotes -- had notebooks dedicated to the keeping of them -- but fell out of the habit well over a decade ago now. Wow, how did it get to be so long ago?

"Some people say we shouldn't give alms to the poor, Shirley."
"They are great fools for their pains. For those who are not hungry, it is easy to palaver about the degradation of charity, and so on: but they forget the brevity of life, as well as its bitterness. We have none of us long to live. Let us help each other through seasons of want and woe as well as we can, without heeding in the least the scruples of vain philosophy."
― Charlotte Brontë, Shirley

"Doors are a classic example of that ‘I hate this – it’s fucking great!’ mantra that seems to be part of the permanent internal monologue of all cats. Cats hate doors for the opportunities doors deny them to do exactly what they please, but they love them in equal measure, due to the opportunities they present to make humans their sniveling slaves."
― Tom Cox, The Good, The Bad and The Furry

"I miss you," he whispers. It’s been six months since she died. But Ove still inspects the whole house twice a day to feel the radiators and check that she hasn’t sneakily turned up the heating.
― Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove

"As Shakespeare says, if you're going to do a thing you might as well pop right at it and get it over."
― P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!

"We often believe the truest measure of a relationship is the ability to lay ourselves bare. But there's something to be said for parading your plumage as well, finding truth as much in the silly as the severe."
― David Levithan, Two Boys Kissing

"I think love is caramel. Sweet and fragant; always welcome. It is the gentle golden colour of a setting harvest sun; the warmth of a squeezed embrace; the easy melting of two souls into one and a taste that lingers even when everything else has melted away. Once tasted it is never forgotten."
― Jenny Colgan, Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams

"She said that you always have to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That's what it means. The quick and easy way or the painful way that works."
― Rosamund Hodge, Crimson Bound

"Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say "My tooth is aching" than to say "My heart is broken."
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

"I believe in some blending of hope and sunshine sweetening the worst lots. I believe that this life is not all; neither the beginning nor the end. I believe while I tremble; I trust while I weep."
― Charlotte Brontë, Villette

"We sleepwalk through our lives, because how could we live if we were always this awake?"
― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men


Wordless Wednesday: The Glass House, New Canaan

View of the Glass House and swimming pool from the hillside

View of Pavilion in the Pond and Monument to Lincoln Kirstein from the Glass House


Top 10 Tuesday: Books to Film

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about film adaptations we're looking forward to watching. I'm going to risk your censure here and confess that sometimes I don't read the book before I watch the movie and I don't automatically think all film adaptations are inferior to their literary parent. So there goes all my bookish street cred!

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)

The Jungle Book (2016)

Lady Chatterley's Lover (2015 BBC series)

Madame Bovary (2015)

Partners In Crime (2015 BBC series based on Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence characters)

Poldark (2015 BBC series)

Carol (The Price of Salt)

A Walk the Woods

I'm also looking forward to watching MaddAddam (TBA HBO series adaptation of Margaret Atwood's speculative fiction Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam) and A Monster Calls (probably out sometime in 2016).


Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

My coworker asked me for my dairy-free butternut squash soup recipe and ... I couldn't find evidence I'd ever made one! Yet it seemed like the kind of thing I would have made one winter? Soup's my thing, after all, and butternut squash is the Squash of Squashes as far as I'm concerned. So I concocted this soup which uses coconut milk and vegetable broth, making it not only dairy-free but vegan. Hurrah.

I used Penzeys Maharajah-style curry powder in this soup as I wanted a richly aromatic, but not necessarily hot, soup. Yes, then I added two teaspoons of sriracha. It's a different kind of heat, I tell you. Feel free to use a hot curry powder and omit the sriracha. Or use both and cheerfully weep whilst eating this soup. It's all up to you.

Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

Yield: 4 generous bowlfuls


  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 20 oz package chopped butternut squash
  • 6 oz peeled chopped apple
  • 9 oz carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat-free vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp sweet curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sriracha


  • Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook onion and garlic until both are fragrant and golden.
  • Add all ingredients to slow cooker insert and cook on High for 4 hours or until squash is falling apart.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree soup until desired smoothness is reached (I like mine a little chunky). Season with salt and pepper, if needed.


Wordless Wednesday: Time for Tea!

There is much to be said for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.


Farfalle with Swiss Chard & Kielbasa

I was full of good intentions when I picked up a bunch of beautiful looking Swiss chard at the Newington Farmers Market last week ... but then days passed and the chard was still in my fridge and I knew something had to be done asap before the stuff started to compost in the crisper drawer.

I've made a dish similar to this with spinach and chicken sausage, so I knew my idea would work, but I forgot how much the red chard stems can bleed when cooking and so it's not as pretty as it could be. Maybe? I kind-of like the muddied ruby red.

Unfortunately, while I carefully wrote down all the ingredient amounts as I made this dish, I've lost my notes -- probably recycled them in a mad fit of tidying on garbage day -- so what follows is my best guess!

Farfalle with Swiss Chard & Kielbasa

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and rinsed
  • 2 smoked sausage links
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 servings mini farfalle
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan, if desired


  1. De-stem the chard. Chop the stems into very small pieces. Sliced the leaves into ribbons. Set aside.
  2. Chop the kielbasa, onion, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the chard stems and sun-dried tomatoes.
  5. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the stems begin to soften. Add the chard leaves and kielbasa and cook until the sausage begins to brown and the chard leaves have wilted.
  6. Add the pasta to the chard and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with shredded Parmesan.


Seasonal Reads: Poems Bewitched & Haunted

Poems Bewitched and Haunted is a great seasonal collection, perfectly sized for carrying around and inflicting on other people around Halloween. The book is divided into eight sections covering everything from hags to humor. Poets include the obvious (Poe) and the unexpected (Homer). It’s unfortunate this collection isn’t available in audio as I found many of the poems were at their creepy best when read aloud. (Yes, I sat in my darkened living room and read poetry to my cats. Doesn't everyone?) Everyman Library also has two related works -- Poems Dead and Undead and Killer Verse: Poems of Murder and Mayhem -- I will need to check out!

Poems Bewitched and Haunted (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) edited by John Hollander (Everyman’s Library, 2005)