Stuff and Nonsense: February 2018


Sick Day Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Various winter-time illnesses have been rampaging through work and it is no surprise that I have finally succumbed to one of them. I blame my compromised immune system on a dip in my generally high stress/anxiety level -- my body took a risk and unbent a little from its constant state of vigilance against everything that could go wrong and **BAM** sickness came upon me.

So I made soup. Nothing as comforting as a bowl of chicken noodle soup when I'm feeling sick, after all. While I had no energy for anything fancy, I've made soups similar to this before -- they're very dump and go (in this case, "go" meant back to bed) and do the job of filling my tummy with something hot and nourishing.

I used boneless thighs in this soup, because they were already in the fridge and it was either shift them to the freezer or cook them. You could use boneless breasts, although I don't find them as flavorful as thighs and they tend to be more expensive, anyway. Also, obviously, you could use fresh aromatics -- using dried simply saved me time and energy.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Yield:4 generous bowlfuls


  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 Tbsp onion flakes
  • 2 Tbsp celery flakes
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated garlic
  • 2 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 wax carton)
  • 6 oz egg noodles
  • Sea salt & coarsely ground pepper, as desird


  1. Add the chicken, carrots, onion, celery, seasonings, broth, salt, and pepper to slow cooker insert. Cover.
  2. Cook on Low heat setting 4 to 5 hours or until chicken is tender.
  3. Shred chicken. Add egg noodles to slow cooker and stir well.
    Cook 1 hour longer.
  4. Stir well. Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve.


#WordlessWednesday: Pay Attention to Me, Human

Little enjoys wrapping himself around my writing hand, thereby monopolizing my attention.


Cookbook Club: Sweet & Savory Pies

February's cookbook club theme was all things pie -- berry, cream, whoopie, hand, slab, cottage, you name it. I didn't doubt my club members would bring a fabulous assortment of sweet pies to our meeting, so I decided to go savory with "Slow-Cooked Shepherd's Pie" (let us not get into the cottage vs shepherd or gravy vs tomato sauce debates) from Taste of Home Casseroles, Slow Cooker, & Soups.

It's a very straight forward recipe and I followed it exactly as written both times I made it. Yes, both. First I tried it out on The Husband last weekend -- being British, he thinks he knows a thing or two about shepherd's pie -- and we both enjoyed it very much. I'll definitely be adding this cozy and comforting dish to my cold weather slow cooker repertoire.

The second time I made this shepherd's pie, I treated it as a make ahead dish. I prepared it through Step 3 the day before cookbook club, assembled the meat and potato layers in the slow cooker insert and refrigerated it overnight, then took it to work and plugged it in the next afternoon. And, as expected, the pie worked out really well as a make ahead dish.

Assembled through Step 3 & ready to go, with parsley and cheese for the finishing touch.

Luckily, my 3½ quart Cuisinart slow cooker fits perfectly in my old canvas tote bag.

I will revisit Taste of Home Casseroles, Slower Cooker, & Soups in April when I make the slow cooker "Chili & Cheese Crustless Quiche." (April's cookbook club theme is brinner and chili quiche seems very brinner-ish).


Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume 1: Aphra by Kieron Gillen

Doctor Aphra has been scavenging ("recovering") artifacts from the Outer Rim and using her Archaeological Association accreditation to verify them (a kind of ethical whitewashing, it would seem) in order to sell them legally. Aphra's latest find could make her very rich except her father turns up, blackmailing her into going on a wacky adventure to find the Ordu Aspectu -- a Jedi splinter group thought to have been wiped out by the good/orthodox/winning Jedi waaay long time ago. Dads, amirite?

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume 1: Aphra collects issues 1-6 and appears to be set sometime between the films A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This is Aphra's first standalone -- I understand she had been significant character in the Star Wars: Darth Vader series. I can certainly see why Aphra now has her own series -- she's saucy, space-faring Indiana Jones who shines too brightly to be anyone's sidekick. Less of a womanizer than Jones, true, but with even more unethical behavior. And Aphra has sarcastic murder-y droids. And a sexy space ship. And a Wookie copilot. Volume 1 was a rollicking adventure and I'm looking forward to Volume 2 ... in which, I hope, we will meet Captain Tolvan again! Phoawr.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume 1: Aphra by Kieron Gillen, Kev Walker, et al. Marvel, 2017.


#ImprovCooking: Steak & Potatoes

I don’t know about you, but I love all types of roasted vegetables. I feel quite strongly that roasting vegetables is one of the tastiest and easiest ways to prepare them and it's very much my go-to for weeknight cooking. Roasted potatoes are The Husband's favorite, but mushrooms, peppers, and onions are pretty popular with him, too.

When I set about drafting February's Improv Cooking recipe, I thought it best to stick to a combination of flavors I knew we would both like, because I'd also be cooking steak and -- while I believe in packing really nice work lunches for myself -- making steak just for myself seemed pretty mean.

Roasting green beans is a pretty new experience for me and I've found the haricot verts work best as they are thinner and more tender to start with. If you can't find haricot verts, you can use regular string beans but you'll probably want to blanch them first or bump up the overall roasting time if you don't want crunchy beans.

Obviously, YMMV as cooking times will vary depending upon the temperature of the steaks before grilling, the kind and thickness of the steaks, and the cooking temperature of the pan. Just keep an eye on your steaks and have your meat thermometer handy.

Steak With Roasted Vegetables

Yield: 2-4, depending on how famished you are


  • 8 oz small fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
  • 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz haricot verts (thin young green beans)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 2 1-inch thick 10 oz boneless rib eye steaks
  • Sea salt, as desired
  • Penzeys salt-free California Style Seasoned Pepper or similar, as desired


  1. Allow steaks sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 400°F. Line a half-sheet pan with foil.
  3. Place the potatoes, peppers, and mushrooms on the foil-lined half sheet pan, drizzle with oil, season as needed, toss, then roast for 20 mins.
  4. Add the beans and garlic, toss, then roast for another 10 mins.
  5. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season generously.
  6. Heat a nonstick grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Add steaks and grill 5 mins on one side.
  7. Turn steaks over and cook for 5 minutes more or until the steaks are between 130°F and 135°F for medium rare, or until done to your liking.
  8. Remove the steaks from the pan, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the roasted vegetables.

The #ImprovCookingChallenge is a monthly blogging event where two ingredients are assigned to a month. Bloggers can make any recipe they like as long as it features the two ingredients. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, please visit our Facebook page.You can also read more about the event on our our home page.

If you’d like to see previous creations, check out our Pinterest board.


#WordlessWednesday: Saint Urban of Langres

Polychrome wood statue of Saint Urban of Langres on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum.


All Systems Red by Martha Wells

When All Systems Red begins, a SecUnit (a weaponized Imitative Human Bot Unit specializing in security, not combat), is assigned to a survey team exploring a planet sparsely populated by seemingly harmless fauna. The SecUnit, who refers to itself as Murderbot, thinks the team seems okay as far as humans go, but the assignment doesn’t ask much of it, so it spends a lot of time watching serials (soap operas) and ignoring commands from its governor module.

Prior to this assignment, you see, Murderbot had a really bad work experience, so it secretly hacked its governor module to become autonomous. That's probably a good thing, in the long run, as the greedy company that owns Murderbot is a great one for cutting corners, buying the cheapest components, and not concerning itself much with the safety of the people on the ground.

Unsurprisingly, everything goes to shit and Murderbot has to save the day while attempting to keep its autonomy secret.

At 149 pages, this novella is an absolute romp. I could not put All Systems Red down and chortled my way though most of it. There's a lot of action, some mystery, and a great deal of dry, dark humor packed between its covers. While the story movies quickly, the characters are well-rounded and interesting and the principle plot-line wraps up neatly and satisfyingly.

That said, All Systems Red is the first novella in The Murderbot Diaries, so if you need more MurderBot in your life, rejoice. And I am. Must. Have. More. Murderbot. And it's not just me loving these books. I shared All Systems Red with The Husband and he enjoyed it very much. He doesn't have a lot of time to read and reads more slowly than I, so short snarky books with immediately absorbing stories are a definite win.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Tor, 2017.