23 October 2010

A Little Less Review, A Little More Stew - Wrap Up

We are finally finished the 4 week meal plan!  I have mixed emotions about this.  I found that it was a lot of pressure, cooking something new EVERY night, even though I didn't have to come up with the ideas myself.  I did like how organized we were (only one shopping trip per week and no impulse buys).  At or around the three-week marker, we decided (due to my stress level) that we would only choose 3 of the 5 meals per week.  This helped a lot, because we were free to have Campbell's soup or a frozen pizza once in a while.

Anyway, again - sorry about the lack of posts, but here is how the rest of the meals went down.

Okay okay - so this doesn't look super appetizing, but it was!  This is part one of the taco night - chorizo and potato sauteed together (with a little s & p).

Here is part two - black bean salsa.  It was super easy to make, even J thought so!  It's just rinsed black beans, parsley, radishes and olive oil and lime juice.

The complete tacos.  Soon to be topped with sour cream and avocados!  Yummy! PS - no one told me you had to bake taco shells before consumption - not yummy :(

Ooh this was a good one!  It's a baked chicken breast with red currant jelly glaze and spinach, sauteed with golden raisins and garlic!  It was one of the more random recipes we tried, but definitely delicious.

This was one of my favourites - especially because now that I know the basics of stratas, it will be super easy to mix them up and try a bunch of different mixins.  It was simply sauteed mushrooms, parsley and onions, then (in a big bowl) mix up eggs, milk and bread chunks.  Add these together and stuff into a casserole dish and bake away.  J wasn't a huge fan of all the parsley, but I thought it was perfect - it lightened up the heavy egg dish.

The salad was super simple; mixed greens and a olive oil / white wine vinegar dressing.  Definitely a keeper (yes, without parsley sometimes for J).

 This one was also random.  I guess I didn't read all of the recipe before I started, but as I was chopping the apple and celery, I just assumed that they would be getting heated.  Not so.  We cooked the green lentils and then cooled them.  Added chopped apple and celery as well as some parsley (take that J!).  Mixed 'em together with some lemon juice and olive oil and ta-da!  Some kind of apple/lentil salad.  I guess it makes sense as it was served alongside pork, but neither of us were big fans of the salad.

And here is the finished product.  Apple/lentil business on the left, delicious balsamic-glazed pork tenderloin on the right.  Oh if only we could eat meals of just meat ;)

Chicken encore.  This time it was supposed to be Cajun / blackened chicken, but somebody who will remain nameless forgot to pick that up.  So we just seasoned with s & p and a little garlic powder.

And this was our last meal, collard greens, black-eyed peas, garlic and red peppers.  It was super tasty and having never made collard greens, I was really impressed and surprised at how easy and delicious they were.

And now back to what I know best (debatable??) - reading.  Let's leave the cooking to the chefs!

REVIEW: Bury Your Dead by L. Penny

Author:  L. Penny
Genre / Pages:  Fiction, Mystery / 371
Publication: Sphere, 2010
Rating:  TOP shelf 
Source:  Chapters Indigo
lj's plot in one pot: After a mysterious and fatal police raid, Armand Gamache takes refuge in Quebec City during Carnaval.  He becomes involved in a murder investigation of someone looking to dig up the past (literally).  He too, wants to dig up the past and sends Inspector Beauvoir back to Three Pines to take another look at the murder of the Hermit (from book 5 in the series).

Okay, okay, so that wasn't really one sentence, but the book is so amazing, I didn't want to leave anything out.  As stated, the book takes place in the beautiful, historic Quebec City.  I have to go back there, because in my mind, it represents trying (unsuccessfully) to communicate and being charged double for a haircut.  That being said, Penny's description of the city makes a person long to see the history in person.  

I was a little disappointed that more of the story didn't take place in Three Pines (as I really come to love this fictional town), but she does such a fantastic job of describing Quebec, that I forgave her for moving to the big city.

The plot of this story was moving and tragic.  Having myself been recuperating from a collision, I found a lot of the passages dealing with pain (physical and emotional) very hard to read.  The author is so on point, so in touch with humanity, that I felt like she was writing to me - especially when Beauvoir reveals that even the most well-intentioned sympathy can often feel like pity to the injured person.
I really don't want to be giving plot away, any more than I already have, but this book is simply fantastic and even if you haven't read the others (there are 5 previous books), you must read this one, and then perhaps you too will be sucked into the world of Three Pines and Chief Inspector Gamache.
"Instead he stopped and slowly straightening he looked right at Gamache.  He stated for ten seconds or more, which, when eating a chocolate cake isn't much, but when staring, is." p.29
 "And when the Quebec sun set on a Quebec forest, monsters crawled out of the shadows.  Not the B-grade movie monsters, not zombies or mummies or space aliens.  But older, subtler wraiths.  Invisible creatures that rode in on plunging temperatures.  Death by freezing, death by exposure, death by going even a foot off the path, and getting lost.  Death, ancient and patient, waited in Quebec forests for the sun to set." p.74

Want more info?  You know you do!  Click here for the author's website.

REVIEW: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by K. Edwards

Title:  The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author:  K. Edwards
Genre / Pages:  Fiction, Realistic / 416
Publication: Penguin Books, 2006
Rating:  2nd shelf 
Source:  Chapters Indigo
lj's plot in one pot: 2 babies are born one fateful night to Dr. David Henry - he chooses to keep only the "healthy" one; this book is the story of the consequences from that choice.

I read this book MONTHS ago for a book club meeting.  Along with a friend, I actually chose it as the first book our book club would read together.  I was sorely disappointed.

Although the writing is beautiful, very descriptive and moving, I just wasn't actually moved by the story.  I don't want to give too much of the plot away, so if you want more details, feel free to email me.

In general, I felt that the book spent WAY too much time focused on David's life (with Norah) and way too little time with Phoebe.  Literally, at one point Phoebe is 10 and the next time we hear about her she's 21 or something crazy.  It mentions a fight for education, a couple of times in fact, but then all of a sudden, it's been solved, they've won and we never get to actually learn about what went on.  There were just too many gaps in the plot (especially with people / events that I was interested in) for me to give this book any higher of a rating.

The rest of the girls in the book club more or less felt the same way, but a lot didn't feel as strongly about David as I did; I wonder if that says something (less than positive) about me???

Anyway, sorry for the HUGE lapse in posts.  It got crazy busy with work and life, but I promise to be more consistent in the future.

Want more info about the book or author?  Click here.

06 October 2010

A Little Less Review, A Little More Stew - Wednesday

As I mentioned earlier, we totally bailed on Tuesday's dinner (so the plan was to cook double dinner tonight and freeze the second meal) and so we are already on Wednesday!

This meal sounded awesome, curry shrimp and rice...and I fully admit that the problem we had with this dish MAY have been nonexistent if we followed the recipe more faithfully.  We couldn't find snow peas OR bean sprouts at the grocery store on Sunday, so we decided to skip the bean sprouts and sub in edamame for snow peas.  Also, we used some precooked shrimp that we had in the freezer, instead of uncooked / deveined shrimp (as per recipe).

So I thought to myself, okay, you are making a lot of  changes, but you are aware of said changes and what they mean to things like cooking time, etc..., so self, we should be fine. 

I was wrong.  The shrimp got WAY overcooked, the edamame released a lot of liquid into the curry, so it stayed pretty runny.  The lime addition was great, as was the flavour of the curry (just not so much the texture).  We are willing to try this one again, but with the right ingredients.  
See how small the shrimp got???   J's sum up:
"Love ya...but this is a swing and a miss"

A Little Less Review, A Little More Stew - Monday

I'm already falling a little behind!  Monday's meal was deliciously Mediterranean!  We made lamb meatballs and (although it called for couscous) quinoa with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and feta.  J made the dressing (lemon juice and olive oil) which we drizzled over the whole shebang.

Neither of  us were SUPER impressed with lamb meatballs (couldn't really tell the difference from regular meatballs) but as a whole, the meal was amazing!  We both thought it could be even better if the ingredients were actually in season (the tomatoes were not at their best).  

Yesterday was a crazy day, and we ended up having leftovers from dinner at the parents, so no new meal was attempted...but my master plan for this bought of laziness is tonight, I'll cook two meals and freeze one so we can eat it for another day when we are feeling lazy (encore).

Anyway, here is a pic from our culinary attempts from Monday :)

J's comments:
"It's good, but only if you get a little of everything in your mouth at the same time"

02 October 2010


Lovely readers,

You may have noticed that I'm reading Haddix's "Among the Hidden".  Although I have heard good things, and I'm excited to read it, I thought I should mention that I am reading this along with my 6/7 class.  Feel free to share any ideas for discussion (if you've read it as well).


A Little Less Review, A Little More Stew - Friday

This recipe (unlike Thursday's meal) is definitely a keeper.

The steak was delicious, except in the future, J and I both agreed that we would substitute rib eye for the Newark or sirloin that Real Simple suggests.  I tried to be authentic, so I did as the recipe asked, but we really found the cut of meat to be a lesser quality than what we like. 

The vegetables were DELICIOUS!  Simple; roasted carrots and red onions with a little olive oil and s & p, but hot coffee were they good!  The sauce for the meat and/or veggies was also very simple, it consisted of the meat juices, dijon mustard and a little white wine as well as tarragon.  Super yummy and different for us - we rarely put anything other than s & p on our steaks, so this warm, herby, sharp sauce was amazing!  I'm having my left over steak for lunch (in t-minus 10 minutes) and I can't wait!

J's comments were few (he was too busy enjoying the meal), but they did include this little gem:

"This is definitely going to work" (meaning for lunch the next day)
"But today is Friday, you're not working tomorrow"
"Well, let's make this again on Sunday, so I can take the leftovers to work".

Mission accomplished :)