Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Eggplant Parm Ravioli
This recipe is adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine.
1 large eggplant (1 1/2 lbs), peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
4 small vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
fresh or dried basil
12 egg roll wrappers

Put on a large pot of salted water to boil. Put the eggplant in the food process and process until finely chopped. (You may have to do this in batches.) In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom (1-1 1/2 tbs) over medium high heat. Add one smashed clove of garlic and cook until golden, 1-2 minutes. Remove the clove. Add the eggplant, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until browned (about 10 minutes). Remove the eggplant to a bowl to cool for 5 minutes, then add the cheeses to the bowl and mix well. In the skillet add another 1-1 1/2 tbs of olive oil, the tomatoes, salt and pepper. If using dried basil, add it now, and cook about 4 minutes, until tomatoes are softened. (If using fresh basil, add at the end).
Fill each eggroll wrapper with about 2 tbs of the eggplant filling. Wet two sides of the wrapper and fold in half diagonally to make large triangular ravioli. Press out all of the air and seal tightly. Once the water boils, drop in the ravioli in batches. Depending upon the size of the pot, you can probably cook 4-5 at a time. Cook for 3-4 minutes per batch. Fill four bowls with 3 ravioli each and top with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parm. (You can add a little of the cooking water to the sauce, if you wish, but my tomatoes were juicy enough).

These were really delish! Please give them a try.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bookish Review: The Daughters

The Daughters tells the story of Lizzie Summers and her friends Carina and Hudson. All three girls are daughters of the rich and/or famous, and they have rules about being such a daughter. The book is about what happens when they break some of their rules. Lizzie is the daughter of a supermodel, but she unfortunately got the looks of her journalist father. She is mortified every time she has to pose with her mother for a paparazzi photo until she falls into "ugly modeling" and gets labeled the new face of beauty. In the midst of all this, the girls are starting high school and Carina is fighting with her business mogul father while Hudson struggles under her pop-star mother's creative control over Hudson's first album. Throw in a very attractive boy from Lizzie's past, who wants to be a friend...or more than a friend...or not even a friend, and it's quite an interesting story!

The friendships and angst feel real. Tweens will love these girls and be very eager for the next installment after the cliffhanger ending.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: If You Could See Me Now

If You Could See Me Now by Cecilia Ahern takes the premise "What if imaginary friends are not imaginary, just invisible to most people?" When Elizabeth's nephew begins seeing an invisible friend, she attempts to convince him the friend is not real. But soon, she begins to see and hear the friend as well, not realizing he is invisible to everything else. Ivan begins to shake up Elizabeth's perfectly controlled world, bringing out her childlike side--a side that wasn't even really present when she was a child, due to her difficult home situation.

The book was mostly a fun read, though it reinforces again why PS I Love You is Ahern's best-known work--it's simply her best. If you're only going to read one, go with that one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cookish: What's for dinner?

Quinoa and Tofu Salad
1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
8 oz extra-firm tofu
8-10 oz frozen, chopped spinach
2 medium shallots
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 shakes red pepper flakes
chopped parsley (optional)
olive or vegetable oil
zest of one orange
1 handful almonds, chopped and toasted
1 handful dried cranberries
balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Rinse quinoa under cool water. Put the chicken (or vegetable) stock and water in a pot and bring to a boil (you can use all chicken stock, if you want). When boiling, add quinoa and turn down to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, covered, or until all liquid is absorbed.

In the meantime, cut the tofu into cubes; mince your shallots, and grate the garlic. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots and garlic until soft. add red pepper flakes, tofu, orange zest, frozen spinach, salt, and pepper. When spinach defrosts and everything warms up, add cranberries, almonds, and parsley.

When Quinoa is cooked, toss with spinach and tofu mixture. Drizzle each bowl with a little balsamic. Serve hot or cold.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bookish Review: Sisters Red

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce is an updated Little Red Riding Hood for teens. Scarlett's family is attacked by a Fenris when she is just a little girl. Her grandmother is killed, but she manages to protect her little sister Rosie and kill the Fenris, though she loses an eye and gains some scars in the process. Fenris are, of course, werewolves. In the mythology of this story, they are soulless creatures that change form when overly enraged or aroused. They are all men, and prey primarily on young women. Fenris don't age, but they can be killed with a hatchet or sharp knife, which Scarlett, Rosie, and their friend Silas employ to destroy the creatures. Scarlett is a single-minded hunter, but Rosie is not so sure she doesn't want more from life, and when Silas returns from a year away and realizes Rosie is not a little girl anymore, it awakens feelings in both of them that they are unsure how to handle. In the meantime, the three of them must uncover what makes a Potential, which is the only person who can become a Fenris, and only during a certain time.

The book was a good read, scary and entertaining. I did have a slight problem with the age difference between Silas and Rosie (he's 21 and she's 16--yikes!), but their affection feels real and overall the book is good.

Full Disclosure: The publisher sent me a free pre-pub copy of this book for review. It did not affect my opinion.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bookish Review:Summer Sisters

Summer Sisters is a novel for adults by Judy Blume. As a child, I loved Judy Blume, so this, with its more adult themes, gave me mixed feelings. It tells the stories of two girls who spend summers together on the East Coast. One, Caitlin, is rich and the other, Vix, is not, but their friendship provides opportunities Vix would not otherwise have. She gets to summer on the island, leaving her dysfunctional family behind in New Mexico; she gets to go to private school; she gets a scholarship to Harvard. Both girls envy each other, for different reasons, and they love each other, in their own dysfunctional way. Caitlin gets wilder and wilder as she grows up, eventually even marrying Vix's first love. Many people question why Vix remains friends with Caitlin, but how do you turn your back on the person who changed your life?

I can't say I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed Judy Blume's books as a kid, but it was interesting to read something on this level from her.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bookish Review: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

This book is a quick read. It opens in media res--a huge Jane Austen fan finds her transported in time and it is as if she is living in a Jane Austen novel. The book is narrated by the protagonist and you are basically stuck in her head the whole time, which can be a bit taxing. She also behaves rather thoughtlessly at times, going off on rants about women's rights and nearly getting herself compromised several times. She's a bit tiresome in this regard, but the book is a quick read, fluffy and light. It's not bad if you can pick it up on the cheap, but I wouldn't recommend shelling out full price.