Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Quick Chicken Stir-fry


¼ cup soy
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp sweet hot mustard
½ tsp chili garlic sauce
½ tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic
1 tsp honey

1 chicken breast
2 carrots
2 cups cabbage (I used the pain ol' green stuff, but napa would be good, too)
1/2 cup peas
¼ cup water
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs oyster sauce
Sesame seeds, optional
Chop up your chicken into small pieces. Stir together the marinade ingredients.
Toss the chicken with the cornstarch and add to the marinade.Slice up carrots and shred cabbage (Not on the same cutting board as the chicken. But you knew that, right?)

Put enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken & marinade. Cook chicken, remove from pan. Add veggies and ¼ cup water. Cook until most of the water has evaporated and the veggies are crisp-tender. Add the chicken back to the pan, along with 1 tbs sesame oil and 1 tbs oyster sauce.

Serve over Jasmine Rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Notes: This was pretty tasty, but a little salty. Next time I will try adding hoisin instead of oyster sauce at the end.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bookish Review: Curse of the Spellmans

Another great story from Lisa Lutz. We rejoin the crazy Spellman gang for another adventure. Again, family members are trying to keep secrets from one another, but in a family of private investigators, the truth always comes out. Rae has befriended the detective who investigated her disappearance in the last book, but when she runs him over with his own car, the relationship is strained. Izzy is busy investigating the new neighbor, whom she suspects of having a dark secret. Her investigation lands her in jail--more than once. Luckily, she has an octogenarian lawyer friend who may be able to help her out.
Meanwhile, David's marriage is falling apart, mom and dad keep going on "disappearances" that they both secretly hate, and Izzy is falling hard for Detective Henry Stone, whose goal in life is to keep Rae from turning out like her sister.
The humor and mystery are still there, with the added romantic possibility that you just have to cheer for. An awesome second installment--Revenge of the Spellmans is next on my list.

Bookish Review: Vampire Diaries: The Return: Nightfall


It is with a very heavy heart that I write this review. Let me start by saying that I was a HUGE LJ Smith fan as a teen--I read them all. And, I loved the Vampire Diaries quartet. As anyone who read Smith's work probably knows, her final series came down to the book that was supposed to be the finale, and then she just...stopped writing. No new book, year after year. Fans all over were heartbroken.

Then came 2009. And a new LJ Smith book! Hear the choirs of angels rejoicing! But, is it the much-awaited finale to the unfinished series? No. It is a new book in a series that was finished. But we liked the characters, so let's jump in!

Or not. If you are a true and loyal LJ Smith fan, let me suggest never picking up this book and forgetting it was ever written. Reread the original books instead; you'll thank me.

This book seems to ignore the original mythology of the series, is not true to the characters, and has several plot points that just don't make sense. I have heard from other readers that they suspected a ghost writer, it was so unlike her original work. I understand publishers wanting to cash in on the Twilight phase--and I loved these books long before Twilight was even dreamed of--but rushing to print an unneccessary sequel that doesn't even make sense is not the way to do it.

I am now unsure if I even want her to finish the other series, if it is going to be like this.

I will now forget that I ever read this book.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cookish: What's for Dinner?

Turkey Empanadas

I was inspired by Thursday Night Smackdown (Warning: The language on this blog is rated R. But it is funny.) I even used her empanada dough:

For the dough:
3 c. AP flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (note: I used salted butter and left out the pinch of salt. Next time, I will use salted butter and add a little extra salt. I like salt, ok?)
1 egg
1 tbsp. white vinegar
up to 1/3 c. ice water (I believe that I used about 7 tbs, but I lost my notes, so who knows?)
pinch of salt

Put the flour, butter, egg and salt into the FoodProcessor and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is pea-sized.

Looky! I actually took pictures for you. Don't make fun of my ancient Cuisinart.

Add the vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of water, pulse a few more times. Keep adding ice water and pulsing until the dough just starts to pull together - you don’t want so much water that you end up with one big, wet dough ball. Dump the dough out onto your work surface and briefly knead/mush it around until it comes together. Flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

While refrigerating, you can get to work on the filling.


1/4 onion
3 garlic cloves
1 carrot
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 lb ground turkey
1 can canellini beans
1 cup tomatillo salsa
chili powder
cheese (optional)

Dice your onion. Saute in a skillet with a little olive oil

While onion is cooking, dice your carrot and chop or grate your garlic. Add to the onion, along with cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add and brown your ground turkey. When turkey is browned, stir in beans and add 1 cup of salsa.

Pre-heat your over to 425.
When 30 minutes have passed, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick and cut out rounds the size of your choice. I don't actually have a biscuit cutter or anything, so I just traced a small plate with a paring knife. Add a spoonful of stuffing to the center of each round. I also sprinkled some mozarella cheese (because it was what I had) before sealing. It didn't add too much. I think I'd use a stronger cheese next time and maybe stir it into the filling rather than sprinkling on top. Moisten the edges with water and fold the rounds in half. Crimp the edges closed with a fork to seal. I also cut small steam vents in the top.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Let rest for a few minutes before biting in so you don't burn your tongue off! Serve with a salad. Sour cream would be good, too.

Cookish: What's for Dessert?

Spring Berry Crisp

I wish I had a picture of this for you, but I baked it at my parents' house for Easter and did not bring my camera. Mia culpa.

This was a thrown-together experiment, so there are caveats you should heed at the end.

Berry Mixture

1 pint fresh strawberries (frozen would work, but fresh were available and on sale, so why not?)
1 bag frozen blackberries (or berries of your choice)
3 tbs sugar
3 tbs flour (I might use cornstarch nxt time)
Pinch salt

1 stick butter (salted), softened
½ c oats
½ c flour
Pinch salt
¼ c white sugar
¼ c brown sugar

I used a 9 1/2 in pie plate to make this in. I tossed in the frozen blackberries, cut the strawberries into quarters and threw them in, sprinkled over the other ingredients and sprinkled them on top. I tasted my strawberries and they were pretty sweet. If yours aren't, you may want some more sugar. Toss, toss, spread evenly in dish. Mix together the topping ingredients into a crumbly mixture and sprinkle on top. I wasn't sure of the temperature, so I baked at 350 for about 20-25 minutes,determined that was not hot enough, and raised it to 400 for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Notice that there is not a lot of sugar in this. The crumble has a good amount of salt flavor and the sweet-savory balance is nice. This is perfect served with vanilla ice cream. I have made a strawberry-rhubarb crumble in the past that had quite a bit more sugar in it, but it was a little too sweet for my taste. You could go as high as 1/2 c of each white and brown sugar in the topping if you like a little more sweetness.

I was also unsure that the flour was enough of a thickening agent; it was still a little runny, so I might do cornstarch next time. It was delicious, though.

Bookish Review: An Irish Country Christmas

An Irish Country Christmas is the third novel in the Irish Country Series by Patrick Taylor. I have not read the other books in the series, but picked up an ARC of this one for a small donation* at the adorable Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island in Washington on a recent vacation. The books feature Doctor Barry Laverty and his mentor, Doctor Fingal Flaherty O'Reilly in the Ulster village of Ballybucklebo. (The village is fictional. In case you didn't know, Ulster = Northern Ireland. And the books are set in the 1960s.)

The book covers country life in Northern Ireland and all of the little dramas that the preparation for the Christmas season creates. This is not a fast-paced or exciting book. It is a leisurely stroll through small-town life. I think the book is better to understand if you have ever been to Ireland or Northern Ireland. The Irish move at their own pace, which most Americans would consider slow. There's no rush there, and the book moves at that pace. So, it took me back a little.

My complaints mainly stem from the fact that the book rather reads like it was written by a retired doctor rather than a professional author; never is the reader's memory counted on. Facts that are presented earlier in the novel are brought up with detail again and again. There is also no subtlety in judging emotion or motive--everything is expressly stated. It's not really the style I prefer. I also have to note that most of the medical problems in the book are minor, but there is one very explicit breech birth scene involving an episiotomy. Consider yourself warned.

SO, the book is not bad, but you have to be in the mood for what it is. It was a little slow for me at the time I read it.

*ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) are giveaways; they are not labeled for sale and recipients are not supposed to resell them. But as a thank you gift for a donation to help literacy...well, they're just perfect, aren't they?