Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Return to Reading

The Reading Terminal Market that is!

Yes, if you follow my Wordless Wednesday pics, you will know that I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show again this year and no trip to the Flower Shop is complete, for me, without a trip...or the market. Which is easy because it is right across the street from the Convention Center, where the Flower Show is, and on the same block as the hotel I stayed at for the night. Yes, I live just an hour away from Philadelphia but the experience is so BIG, I need recovery time.
I also needed a bit of recovery time from my sampling at the free wine and spirit tasting they had at the Flower Show again this year. Dozens of companies, each offering several free offering.
You do the math.
But that is another story and another group of pictures, several of which are, oddly, out of focus. Hmmm.

Awww...but back to the Market, a paradise for foodies of every sort and a place I could just spend hours wandering in. The Market has two aspects. There is one, frequented mostly by locals, that is made up of butchers and fishmongers, poultry vendors and lovely produce sellers. And did I mention the bakeries, whether The Metropolitan Bakery with their wonderful looking breads or Termini's, with those lovely cakes and all manner of Italian pastries. I usually travel with my folding cooler in the back of the car, just in case.

I found one of the produce stores very interesting this year, maybe because I found some things I had never seen before, chickpeas still in their pod..or whatever it is called, and Sharon fruit, which is a persimmon. What does one do with Sharon fruit?

Then on the other hand we have a large number of stores that cater to tourists and local workers who might be looking for some sustenance, a tiny bit to eat. I will admit these is maybe my favorite reason to visit the Market. And one of my favorite choice is Dinic's, which sells sandwiches, the most popular being my personal favorite, the roast pork.
Freshly roasted, thinly sliced with sharp provolone cheese and sauteed spinach or broccoli rabe. I personally am a fan of a little horseradish on there as well, and happily Dinic's has nice little containers all along the counter along with napkins, lot and lots of napkins. Believe me, you will need them because that is one juicy sandwich.

But there are lots of other choices from Chinese to Thai, Cajun to turkey to the Downhome Diner. Then if you need a little something sweet, how about some ice cream from Bassett, which says it is America's oldest ice cream company, one of the huge..and very good...cookies from The 4th Street Cookie company, or maybe a crepe!
I can personally recommend the nutella and strawberry crepe...yum.
But by now you are full and what else can we do?
Well, another of my favorite stop is the Cook Book Stall. Cookbooks, all cookbooks, lots and lots of cookbooks. Now, if they just had a chair so I could sit awhile.
But not too long. We have the pickle store, the wine store, the honey and beeswax store, the candy stores yet to visit. Maybe we should get a bouquet of flowers to take home..or a couple of pounds of scrapple! Yes, let's go with the scrapple!! And maybe some cheese...yes, cheese..... and maybe some bread.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reviews of "The House at Sea's End" [26] and "A Room Full of Bones" [27]

The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0547506142
January 10, 2012, 384 pages

 From the publishers descriptions..
"Ruth Galloway has just returned from maternity leave and is struggling to juggle work and motherhood. When a team from the University of North Norfolk, investigating coastal erosion, finds six bodies buried at the foot of the cliff, she is immediately put on the case. DCI Nelson is investigating, but Ruth finds this more hindrance than help...Still, she remains professional and concentrates on the case at hand. Forensic tests prove that the bodies are from Southern Europe, killed sixty years ago. Police Investigations unearth records of Project Lucifer, a wartime plan to stop a German invasion....When a visiting German reporter is killed, Ruth and Nelson realize that someone is still alive who will kill to keep the secret of Broughton Sea's End's war years. Can they discover the truth in time to stop another murder?"

A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0547271200
 July 3, 2012, 352 pages

"It is Halloween night, and the local museum in King's Lynn is preparing for an unusual event - the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop. But when Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise, she finds the museum's curator lying dead beside the coffin. It is only a matter of time before she and DI Nelson cross paths once more, as he is called in to investigate. Soon the museum's wealthy owner lies dead in his stables too. These two deaths could be from natural causes but Nelson isn't convinced. When threatening letters come to light, events take an even more sinister turn. But as Ruth's friends become involved, where will her loyalties lie? As her convictions are tested, she and Nelson must discover how Aboriginal skulls, drug smuggling and the mystery of The Dreaming may hold the answer to these deaths, and their own survival."

I am a fan of this series, enough so that when I bought the third book in the series, The House at Sea's End, I went ahead and bought the fourth, A Room Full Of Bones, from The Book Depository as well. It will not be published here in the US until July and it was a very wise decision, since the third will leave us with quite the personal cliff hanger for Ruth. Worry not though, the delay will just give you time to catch up. But personally, July is so, so far away and I wanted a BIG Ruth Galloway fix.

Ruth is a big reason I like these books because, while she is a rather unlikely heroine, she is a great character. Overweight and approaching middle age, she gives little attention to her appearance. She is too busy for such matters. She lives in a tiny, lonely house on a deserted Norfolk beach, a place that most people find a bit creepy. She has an odd group of friends, with maybe the most odd and the most charming being Cathbad, who is a self proclaimed Druid, and she has a less than glamorous job as a professor of forensic archaeology at a local college. Well, it was less than glamorous until she got roped into assisting the police, in the person of DI Nelson, in the first two books, with some of the many crimes that seem to arise in the area involving finding some bones. She is becoming rather famous for some of her exploits now and her personal life took a very exciting turn at the end of book two when Ruth finds herself, as they say, with child.

Personally, I love the setting in Norfolk. Yes, it is by the sea, often wet and cold and windswept, but really, what better place for a murder...or murders? Storms, fog, dangerous tides rolling in, what could be better? And of course, with these two books we now have the added delightful character of Ruth's toddler daughter, Kate. Knowing Ruth in the first two books, you might be led to have your doubts about her fitness as a mother, as she does herself, but no worry. Ruth's growing relationship with wee Kate is lovely and we know she will excel at motherhood, if in her own way, as she excels at so many her own way.

Each of these books touches on some very real and quite serious subjects, from life in England during WWII in The House at Sea's End and secrets that some will kill to keep hidden, to the treatment of Aboriginal peoples and their remains and some major drugs deal on the English coast in A Room Full of Bones. But the author spins them with so many other little plots lines, some rather engaging, that it keeps the books from becoming too grim.
A charming series, if a series full of deaths and murder and piles of bones can be said to be charming. And these are! Four books with great characters, a great setting, good solid plots and all well written leads to a strong recommendation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday..Back to the Flower Show

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "The Darlings" [25]

The Darlings: A Novel by Cristina Alger
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, ISBN 978-0670023271
February 16, 2012, 352 pages

It is Thanksgiving week 2008 and Wall Street is still reeling from the collapse of some it's largest and most successful financial institutions. Billionaire Carter Darlings, and the hedge fund he leads, is not unaffected but life as he and his family knows it goes on. Weekends at their house in the Hamptons, doormen to help with those packages at the Manhattan apartment, live-in help to deal with preparations for the holidays, chauffeured cars and access to private planes to fly one back from Aspen. But in very short order, with one apparent suicide, things take a very sharp turn for the worse. In the course of a week, their world will be forever changed.

Paul Ross, married to Darling daughter Merrill, has already suffer in the first round of financial upheavals, losing his job as an attorney for a firm that went under. He accepts another job, with some reservations, to head the legal team at his father-in-law's company, and considered himself pretty lucky. After all, those custom made shirts he has become used to fit so much nicer that the store bought ones..and you can always count on family, can't you? But when the suicide of a man who was both a family friend and the head of a company Darling's firm was a huge investor in turns the spotlight on the billionaire, is someone going to be looking for a scapegoat? Can you still count on family?

I will admit it, I love that HGTV show, Selling New York. It is like looking at some sort of other species, people who can afford $5..or $50..million for a 'place' in NY. You know you are hooked when you start thinking $2.5 million seems like a bargain. I mean, look at the view! And it has two bedrooms!
And that is the world that Alger gives us a glimpse into, one that it seems she and her family has some personal acquaintance with. It seems to me, that is the strength of this book. She knows that world and is able to make it, and the people who live there, real for the reader. While some of them turn out to be very bad people, who have done very bad things, they are also husbands and wives and parents and children, who motivations were not as simple as we might first think. How easy it becomes to look the other way, to deceive yourself. It is hard to make some of these people sympathetic, but to some degree almost all of them are, even if they belong in handcuffs and a jail cell. Without that, this could have just been a very sad, cynical book. Happily, we are left with just a tiny bit of hope about humanity.

And I will also admit that the glimpse behind the scenes of a billionaire's lifestyle is great fun. After this book though, you might not envy it quite as much as you did before reading it.
A good read, a timely subject and an entertaining and interesting first effort from Ms. Alger.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Musing Monday...By The Sea, By The Sea, By The Beautiful Sea

Yep, it is Monday, so let's check out this week's Musing from Miz B at  at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asks…

Have you ever found a book out of the blue, read it, and then had it be surprisingly good — one that stuck with you for years? If so, what book was it?

I think, unlike a lot of people answering this question, the book I thought of is not one that I read when I was a kid. Although I must say that The Hobbit had a lasting effect on my imagination...I still want to live in a hobbit house with those round doors.
No, when I read that question, one book, a book I read just last year, popped into my mind. It is Safe From the Sea by Peter Geye, his debut novel. I am not sure were I heard of it. It might have been another review, it could have been an ad online or a recommendation from Amazon or Library Thing. And I must say that I was encouraged to by it, as we have mused about in previous MMs, by that cover. Yes, I do love books about the sea, on the sea, about people who love the sea..

But actually, this book does not take place on the sea. Water yes, sea so. The majority of the book is set in two places, both past and present, on Lake Superior and at a cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota.
"Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since."
I liked this book a great deal.
In fact, it was actually one of my favorite books of the year.
But what about it sticks with me? I have to assume it is the way the places in the book are described. That cabin at the lake is an image that actually comes to my mind from time to time to this day. Not that it is so, it's not, but something about it just struck something in me. A really good book.

Of course, that raises a point I have discussed before, about the 'memories' from all the books we have read in our lifetime. I have read thousands and thousands of books, each adding just a bit more, a little bit or a bigger bit, to me. To my brain, to my consciousness, my unconsciousness. It is a little odd when you think of it...maybe you remember something and then it occurs to you that it might be something you once read rather than something you actually experienced. Personally, I still consider it my experience, just a slightly different sort of experience.

I must say that I am happy to see that Mr. Geye has another book coming out this year in October, called The Lighthouse Road. Golly, does that sound like a book I might like?
By the way Mr Geye, if you should happen to read this and you want someone to read your new book and help get some early reviews out there, let me just throw my hat in the ring!

And now, for a musical interlude, Mickey and his Friends with a nautical tune...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday So-So Sammy

Just so you know I have not forgotten my first love, Sammy.

Sammy loves Sundays. After his people get home from Mass, he gets an Egg McMuffin, sans muffin, and 1/2 of a hash brown. It is Hash Brown Sunday! Then he read the newspaper..

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review Of "America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution" and a Recipe [24]

Pasta Revolution by The Editors at America's Test Kitchen
Boston Commons Press, ISBN 978-1936493043
March 1, 2012, 336 pages

If you have read any of my reviews of other America's Test Kitchen cookbooks, you may already know where this one is going.
Yes, I am a big ATK fan, of the TV show, the website, the newsletter and, most of all, of the cookbooks full of their uniquely tested and tasted recipes. Pasta Revolution does not disappoint.

With more than 200 recipes in 14 categories, there is something for just about every taste. There is a whole chapter of skillet pastas, another of casseroles and one I especially loved of dishes made with whole wheat pastas. For something a little different they include a chapter of Asian Noodle and Dumpling recipes, as summer approaches a section on Fresh Pasta Salads, and for those quick weeknight dinners, a chapter of recipes with only 6 ingredients. Throw in the classics, some special dishes for entertaining, and recipes made just for two, and as I said, there really is something for anyone who like pasta.

My only problem was picking just one recipe to test, so many of them looked so good. Speaking of looking good, this is a very attractive book, with very nice full page photographs of a lot, if not all, of the dishes. And for those with an eye on their waists, there is a nice list in the back, near the index, giving the nutritional breakdown of about 50 of the recipes that have less than 600 calories, many under 400.

Happily the book, like all of ATK's books, includes a huge amount of additional information, which so appeals to my inner cooking geek. Each recipes starts with a discussion of why the recipe works, which I find really interesting and very helpful in learning more about cooking, in why some thing work and others don't. There are many Smart Shopping Tips and Quick Prep Tips as well as a whole introductory chapter out pasta; how to buy it, how to cook it and the best tools to use. The best frozen peas, the best reasonably priced skillet, how to toast your garlic to take the bite out...novice or accomplished cook, every reader will find things to learn in this book.

OK, so what recipe did I pick to make?
Well, again it was Friday, so we were looking for something meatless. Would it be Penne with Butternut Squash and Sage..or Spinach Lasagna..or Fusilli with Asparagus, Peas and Argula. Well, they will have to wait for another day, because I choose...

Garlicky Tortellini with Shrimp and Arugula
  • 1 lb. extra large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 11 garlic cloves, 9 minced and 2 minced to a paste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 12 oz. bag dried cheese tortellini
  • 5 oz. baby arugula
  • 2 tbs. minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest and 2 tbs. lemon juice

1. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and leave in bowl, covered, in frig. until needed.
In separate bowl combine garlic paste and 2 tbs. olive oil.
2. Cook remaining oil, minced garlic and pepper flakes in dutch oven, stirring constantly, until garlic is stick and golden, about 4 minutes. Add wine, increase heat and simmer until wine is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
3. Stir in water, broth, tortellini and cook at vigorous simmer, stirring gently, until tortellini are tender and sauce is thicken, 6 to 9 minutes.
4. Fold in shrimp and cook until shrimp are  cooked through, about 3 minutes. Take off heat and stir in garlic-oil, arugula, parley, lemon zest and lemon juice.

All made in one pot, pretty fast and easy. A little spicy, lemony and a bit garlicky.
It may sound like a lot of garlic, but it really was not. The majority gets very mellow and a bit sweet from the long cooking at the start and the uncooked garlic-oil at the end just adds a nice zip. The peppery arugula and the zest and lemon juice adds a nice fresh ending.
I used Barilla Tortellini, the brand ATK recommends, but as they say, you could use frozen or fresh tortellini, about a 20 oz package, increasing the broth to 1 1/2 cups and cutting the water to 1 cup. And if you can't find or do not like arugula, they suggest elsewhere in the book to replace it with baby spinach. I used an 11 oz. can of College Inn chicken broth, saving the rest that was in the can after taking out a cup, to add a dash more of liquid at the end to get the sauce to the right consistency.

And I finished my plate off with a dusting of grated cheese, because..well, I love cheese!


My thanks to Amazon Vine for providing a copy of this book for review.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Drum Roll Please! Introducing....

I think the world can be divided into two sorts of people.
Cat people and dog people.
OK, there are some who claim to be bi-species, but honestly, I think they are fooling themselves.
Or lying.

Dog people, I think, are more needy or just want more for their money. They want interaction. They want to be needed. They want adoration, total adoration.
Cat people, on the other hand, want a creature with more independence, a creature who is just doing you the favor of hanging around and allowing you to feed them and admire their beauty.

I will admit, I have always considered myself a dog person.
We had a dog when I grew up and as an adult I have owned two dogs, Clancy (after the Clancy Brothers) and Maggie (after my mom). And, of course, these days, I have my doggie nephews, the ever adorable Bandit and Sammy. Oh, they are so cute!
But, as I have mentioned, my work schedule requires me to work 12 1/4 hour shifts. Add in travel and I am gone 13 hours, something a dog can not deal with.
I have considered alternatives, like a cat, buy my sister in law is allergic, so I never considered it very seriously.

Like the Soul Patch Larry!
Until Larry.
See, Larry had a problem.
A serious problem.
It's a long story, but basically his future was dire. Either he was going to find a new home or he was going to be put to sleep. So, sucker that I am, after a day of texts from The Niece, and with approval from the SIL, Larry came to live at Casa da Caite.

He arrived in a pet carrier, fresh from a vet visit. So he was already very upset. The door of said carrier was open, I saw a flash of black and white, and that was the last I saw of Larry.
For two days.
He was here.
I saw his eyes, glowing under the couch.
I went online and read about bringing a cat into a new home and they said hiding was normal. For as long as a week!
But on the third day, finally, he came out to eat and drink and use his litter box.
While I was gone.

Then on the fourth day he appeared. Yes, I actually saw him. For about 15 seconds.
He stood in the doorway and meowed at me. Twice.
And then disappeared.
But last night, we had a breakthrough.

I was reading in my family room and he appeared at the doorway.
Seems he like doorways and grand entrances.
He meowed and I said, "Larry, how are you? Why don't you come in for awhile."
And he did!
He looked out the patio door, he rubbed his back on the rug. He jumped in my lap!
OK, I guess I have a cat.

Welcome home Larry!

P.S. Wait. Maybe I spoke too soon, since he disappeared again today. Maybe our relationship is developing....

Yes, at night cats turn their glow-in-the dark eyes on!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Philadelphia Flower Show

If it's March, it's Flower Show time. So it will be flowers for the next few weeks!
This years theme..Hawaii!





  always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "The Starboard Sea" [23]

The Starboard Sea: A Novel by Amber Dermont
St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0312642808
February 28, 2012, 320 pages

It is apparent from the first pages, when we first meet Jason Prosper on his way from his New Your City home to his senior year in prep school in Massachusetts, that something is wrong. Not the least of because he realized that the only person he will miss will not he his successful businessman father, or his ever perfect looking mother, or his brother, a senior at Princeton, soon to join the family business. No, it will be the doorman at his building, Max. I think that may sum up something about Jason's family life.

But then the school his father is driving to is not just any prep school. It is the school of last resort for the offspring of the rich and famous, the place you go when every other school has throw you out.
"Bellingham offered us sanctuary, minimal regulations, and a valuable lesson: Breaking rules could lead to more freedom. Because the school catered to thieves, sluts, and dope fiends, it was understood that additional transgressions would be overlooked. If you could pay, you could stay. I comforted myself knowing that I'd all future expectations."
So how did Jason find himself here?
Well, it seems that after the suicide dead of his best friend Cal at their previous school, Jason went just a little crazy, acting out in ways that are never really detailed. But we know it must have been pretty bad. The death still haunts him but at Bellingham "acting out" will not matter. Jason and Cal had been friends since they were toddlers, their families living just blocks away from each other in NYC. And they were an extraordinary talented sailing team, spending summers together in Maine, and sailing very successful together on their prep school's team. Now all that is over for Jason.
But not to worry. His father promises a new building for Bellingham and he has a new school, and one with a sailing team.

However, when Jason almost accidentally drowns his teammate on the team's first sail out, Jason gives up the one lone thing he still loves, sailing, and the future is looking very bleak indeed.
Who would think that his chance of salvation would come in the form of fellow student Aidan, a girl with her own troubled history. But will it be enough to save either of them? From the book's description...
"Set against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market collapse, The Starboard Sea is an examination of the abuses of class privilege, the mutability of sexual desire, the thrill and risk of competitive sailing, and the adult cost of teenage recklessness. It is a powerful and provocative novel about a young man finding his moral center, trying to forgive himself, and accepting the gift of love."
This is, I think, an excellent book, beautifully written, and while quite clever and often amusing, it is at it's heart very dark and disturbing, especially in the view of the world it paints. There will be no neat and tidy happy ending, no shining hero that will rise above it all. While Jason is a very appealing character, and for all his flaws, still likable, he is far from perfect, as will become more and more clear as we find out his full story. Still we will hope he can rise above it all, we will care what happens to him.

The sea and sailing, are his touchstone and the author makes frequent and quite lovely use of sea related imagery. OK, I love the sea and I was sold! In fact, that is where the title comes from, a phrase his friend Cal coined. It means "the right sea, the true sea, or like finding the best path in life." And when you come to the last paragraph, it will be what you hope for Jason, that perhaps, finally, he will be able to find and sail his own Starboard Sea.
A very appealing, very powerful first novel from Amber Dermont and I will certainly be watching for what she turns out in the future.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Musing Monday...Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover.

Wow, another Monday already, the start of another week and time to head over and check out this week's Musing from Miz B at  at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asks…
Would you choose to review a book if its description sounded interesting but the cover was terrible?

You know, my first instinct is to say that yes, I am a shallow person and yes, covers are very important to me. As if that were a bad thing. After all, don't we say, don't judge a book by it's cover?
But that is wrong, isn't it?

Covers are meant to grab our attention, to help sell the book. Otherwise, publishers would just put books out with plain solid covers, just the title and the author's name. So there is nothing to be ashamed of, saying that covers effect us.
And sure a really nice cover may make me pick up a book and a really bad cover may make me walk by it. So many book...
If you walk into a book store..or even are just looking at ads for book online, something has to grabs us, make us pause for a minute. Maybe the title or the author is familiar. Maybe we have read a review. Maybe there is a blurb from another author we know. Or maybe there is a really striking cover. It is just the first step, to get our attention. But it is important. I think a bad cover can really hurt a book and perhaps, a really striking cover helps a book..a bit.

As far as books I review though, maybe not so much.
If I see a book that is being offered for review, I think the description, maybe an excerpt, is WAY more important. Unlike a bookstore, or even the library, there are a lot fewer choices being considered and probably every book get consideration. I would probably check out just about any book that sounds interesting, even if they showed no cover at all..Not that I think that happens, does it? I Google it, read descriptions, really try to see if this is something that would interest me. And honestly, for better or worse, the cover on a review copy is often not the final cover. Sometimes there is no cover art at all.

So, for buying, yes, a cover plays a slightly bigger role, at least in those very first minutes. In deciding whether to review a book, no, not so much.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Caite's St. Patrick's Day

I am working this St.Patrick's Day, so no lovely Irish dinner for me it seems. So, I decided to make a little something to remind me of Ireland. And nothing, absolutely nothing reminds me of Irish food more that some brown bread and vegetable soup!

Stop in any pub, any restaurant, and there is always brown bread and vegetable soup. As I have written about before, it is always a pureed vegetable soup, but the color will change, depending on what veggie played the major role. Maybe white, maybe green, maybe orange, like the one I am going to make. And nothing is better on a cool, damp day (of which Ireland has a few) than a bowl of this easy, versatile, filling and pretty healthy soup.

a yogurt shamrock and my Turkish spice grinder

And then we have the brown bread, with some lovely, high butter fat Irish butter, fresh and chewy and delicious. I have given this recipe before, most likely last St.Patrick's Day, but if I do say so myself it is an excellent recipe. Not happy with any recipe that I found, I made this one up and worked on it until I got it right. Ideally, you need Irish-style whole wheat flour. I get mine from King Arthur's these days, "a lovely “soft” flour, coarsely ground, a really nice match for the flour used in Ireland for their whole-grain breads". There is a big difference from our whole wheat, which is a hard wheat. I add the yogurt because our buttermilk is sorely lacking and I think it adds a nice tang.

All you need is a half pint of Guinness or Murphys and we will call it lunch or dinner.
Now I am going to have some smoked salmon as well, with some capers and a splash of lemon because the thing that goes best with that bread, besides my soup and some Irish butter is some lovely smoked salmon.
Oh, it will be lovely...lovely and grand.
Carrot and Parsnip Soup
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and sliced 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced  
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 2-3 large parsnips, about 1 lb., peeled and cut into pieces 
  • 1 lb. carrots, cut into pieces
  • 3 large red potatoes, peeled and cut into  pieces 
  • 48 oz. container chicken broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 can skim evaporated milk..or 8 oz. 1/2 and 1/2 ...or cream
In a large pot, heat oil and then add onions and garlic, cooking for a few minutes. Add all the spices and let cook for a minute or two, then add remaining vegetables, stirring well.
Pour in the chicken stock, bring up to a boil, then reduce and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Puree in a blender or using a stick blender.
Test for salt and pepper.
Add cream, stir well and bring back to heat.
Lovely topped with a little sour cream, or a spoon of yogurt, and a bit of sliced scallions.
Brown Bread
  • 3 cups Irish Style whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup Irish steel cut oatmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking power
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbs. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus enough to moisten
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Spray a round casserole baking dish with oil and dust with a little whole wheat flour.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix egg, yogurt and 1 cup buttermilk. Add the wet to the dry and mix with your favorite wooden spoon. Add additional buttermilk until all the dry ingredients are mixed in and it forms a quite wet, sticky dough.
NOTE: do not fool with it. No attempt at kneading. Just mix, put it is the baking dish and in the oven. The less you handle it, the better, like scones.
Put into prepared casserole, loosely covering with foil to keep it from burning.
Bake at 450 for 15 minutes then reduce to 400 for remaining 45 minutes, uncovering for the last 15 minutes.
When you remove it from the baking dish, wrap in a tea towel and let stand, on it's side, until cool.


This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Review of "Shore Excursion" [22]

Shore Excursion: A Sidney Marsh Murder Mystery
by Marie Moore

Camel Press, ISBN 978-1603818742
April 1, 2012, 230 pages

Sidney's mom was not happy when she quit college to move to New York City, or with her career in a dying profession as a travel agent. So Sidney will not mention that a scary looking homeless man seems to be stalking her as she is about to start her cruise as the travel leader of a group of senior citizens..and a few others who may have chosen the wrong group. Or that as the cruise has barely started, one of the High Steppers has been found strangled in her cabin.

Perhaps just as upsetting for Sidney is the fact that everyone on the ship seems determined to say it was not a murder, including the very handsome Captain Vargos and the on-board medical doctor. But when a second body, another High Stepper is found naked and very dead in one of the ship's freezers, no one is going to be able to deny that something very bad is going on..and that Sidney herself may be the next intended victim.
"Look, Sidney, you are not a detective, or a trained investigator, or any of that stuff. You are a travel agent, not a cop, and you could get yourself in a whole lot of trouble messing around in all this..."
Well, yes!
Why has no one thought of this before, an amateur sleuth who is a travel agent and the leader of travel group? Well, if anyone has, I has not read it and now, ex-travel agent Ms. Moore has done a very nice job at using this very good idea. I can hardly wait to see where future adventures will take us..not that this one, to London and a cruise through Scandinavia to Russia, is not good enough because it is. In fact, it is a trip that I would love to take myself in real life! Which is at least one reason that I enjoyed this book. But not the only one.

Ms. Moore has put together a nice case of characters, including Sidney, but also joined by her friend and co-worker Jay Wilson, a young man who is gay in every sense of the word and an interesting group in the High Steppers. By the way, if you read my rant recently about introducing too large a cast of characters all at once, thank you Ms. Moore for that sweet list Sidney made, early in the book, describing them all. Life saver! OK, maybe the dashing Captain Vargos is just a bit too good to be true, but I guess poor Sidney deserves a little fun after all the goings on this time around.

Throw in some great settings and more than a little bit of real travel advice and all together Shore Excursion is a very nice and very promising start to a new cozy mystery series, a fast, fun read. I know that I will be traveling along on the next adventure!

It you would like to check out some more reviews of Shore Excursion  or find out some more about the author,  Marie Moore, head over to the Tribute Book Blog Tour site. We are just about halfway through the tour, so there are links to lots more reviews there and a link to Ms. Moore's website.
Maybe she will give us a hint where the next book will take us!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Montauk Lighthouse

In honor of it recently being named a  National Historic Landmark...
"Welcome to the Montauk Point Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in New York State. The Lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress, under President George Washington, in 1792. Construction began on June 7, 1796 and was completed on November 5, 1796. This historic landmark has been part of Long Island's land and seascape for over 200 years and still serves as an active aid to navigation."

Montauk Fisherman Memorial
 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.