January 30, 2010

Moss is green and so is croach

If you live in Oregon, particularly in the valley or forested regions, you're familiar with moss.
We've got moss on the roof, on the sidewalk, in the lawn, on the trees, on the street, in between the patio pavers. It's everywhere.

Kinda reminds me of the croach in Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series. 

But the croach is kinda creepy as you would learn if you read the series. Check it out.

January 28, 2010

If only....

If only I lived in Europe....(deep sigh) then it would be so much easier to travel to foreign lands.

Can you tell I'm a tad envious of.... Alice from Quaint Living?

Check out her stories and snaps from the numerous trips I live vicariously through. (Poor sentence structure, I know)


January 26, 2010

Book Reviews: Hound of Rowan and The Second Siege by Henry Neff

Another book review by ~S

Have I mentioned that I also read a lot of YA/kid's sci-fi and fantasy??? Well if not - surprise - I do. After finishing off Harry Potter and being stuck between books of my newest favorite series (Fablehaven by Brandon Mull - go find it if you haven't started reading this series yet), I needed something else. I read a snippet from somewhere heralding The Hound of Rowan: Book One of the Tapestry by Henry Neff as the next Harry Potter. So, I read it and was somewhat disappointed. Sure, there was a school for gifted children in the States, magic appeared to be physical or mental but not necessarily both, there was Euclidean soccer, each child bonded with a magical creature, and the objective of the school was to train agents to protect the world from evil. Mostly it seemed a bit like a knockoff of Harry Potter and reminded me too much of the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I found The Hound of Rowan slow and just not that interesting. That being said, I just finished The Second Siege: Book Two of the Tapestry, and I am very happy that I forged ahead in this series.

So, why is The Second Siege better??? Well, the first reason has to be that Max McDaniels and David Menlo finally seemed real to me. I actually liked them. Maybe that's because they were away from the student woes of the first book or maybe they were depicted as more mature. Who knows? All I do know is that I finally cared what happened to them. Second, the pacing of this book was much better. Things actually happened. Astaroth, the demon villain, was on the move, and his actions broke down societies and caused apocalyptic conditions the world over. Since I kept trying to push this book into a storyline I was more familiar with, I spent a lot of my reading time wondering how there would/could be a happy ending. I hate to break it to you but there was not a happy ending (although that made me happy so I guess I got a happy ending). Finally, I think I liked The Second Siege because it finally found its own voice. I stopped seeing reflections of other books and-while the comparisons are still valid-I finally stopped feeling like I knew what was coming. Intertextuality is one thing, but without some spark of the unknown, a book is soooo not worth it.

Since it's me, I have to mention my big complaint in The Second Siege. I feel that Neff used some shortcuts to avoid things he didn't feel like describing or possibly to shorten the text. For example, there's a missing month or so where Max trains in the land of the Sidh. I would like some details about what the "break him" training entailed and possibly about how training in a different culture helped/hurt Max. Also, what about some of the gaps in information about Max's fighting? The machine producing the scenario wouldn't reveal what happened? How is that possible and why wasn't anyone more concerned? I am willing to speculate that these shortcuts may be fleshed out in the following books, so I'm not counting them against the author. . . yet. I'll just have to see how it goes in book three.

After disliking The Hound of Rowan, I am surprised but happy to say I would recommend The Second Siege. Of course, this means I am recommending the whole series since the background from The Hound of Rowan is needed to fully delight in the action of The Second Siege. I am looking forward to The Fiend and the Forge: Book Three of the Tapestry which is coming out September 28, 2010.  However, I am not putting the hardback on my "must have" list since I have to admit the descriptions I've read of the plot make me a little nervous that it's going to be a "filler" book (you know, the ones in the middle of a series which meander around and are just an excuse to show new characters and locales without really doing much for the story arc). I will be waiting for the paperback though.

Here's to hoping the gap between hardback and paperback isn't a long one!

January 25, 2010

Oven Fries....are good.

I love french fries.

No, seriously, I really love french fries.

I remember as a child munching on Bob's Burgers fries and double dipping in ketchup. This was before I understand that double dipping is not allowed. (So now I just turn the fry over to dunk the other side if I'm sharing the dip.)

Anyway, I digress. Back to my love of fries.

I recently saw a reference to oven fries somewhere and it mentioned par-cooking in some manner. I've looked and looked and couldn't figure out where I had seen that reference.

Since I couldn't find the recipe I decided to wing it.


5-6 russet potatoes
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp of assorted spices

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and scrub the potatoes.

2. Slice the potatoes in half. Slice the halves into 1/4 inch pieces. Depending on the size of the potatoes you will end up with 8-12 fries per potato.

3. Place the sliced potatoes in a gallon sized ziploc bag (if the potatoes are no longer damp add about 1 tsp of water.) Microwave for 2 minutes.

4. Add the vegetable oil, salt, sugar and the assorted spices of your choice. I added dried parsley, a French herb mix, black pepper and some red pepper flakes. Shake. Shake. Shake.

5. Place the spiced potatoes onto a baking sheet covered in parchment and place in the preheated 450 degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes.

6. Enjoy!

They should be slightly crisp and delicious. Add a few more minutes to the cooking time if you want your fries a bit more like chips.

I like to dip mine in mayo with a touch of ketchup and vinegar.

January 24, 2010

Christo's Pizza Pie

See that pizza on the right?

I love that pie.

It's the Napoli; a thin crust bianca pie with San Marzona tomatoes and prosciutto.

Oh. My. The creme brulee is tasty too.

Christo's Pizzeria
1108 Broadway St NE
SalemOR 97301
(503) 371-2892

January 22, 2010

DIY Cheesemakers

A friend and I traveled to Portland earlier this week to attend a DIY Cheesemakers meeting at Foster and Dobbs in NE Portland. We knew we had to get there early as this was a free event with limited seating. I was feeling lackadaisical and would have been content just to enjoy a quiet evening at home. But, I went and I must say it was time well spent.

We arrived early and secured our seats. David Bleckmann was setting up his demonstration area and chatting with the incoming guests. We browsed the store and all of it's delightful goodies - Chocolate, preserves, olives, nuts, olive oils, vinegars, mustards, pasta, wines, and of course, the cheese.

Oh, the cheese.

Desiree and I shared a meat and cheese tray with savory additions... WONDERFUL!.

Part of the fun was sampling and picking the three cheeses to accompany our "savory" accompaniments - crusty bread, a variety of olives and marcona almonds. We chose Fromage Brebis, Strathdone Blue and one of my now favorite cheeses, Midnight Moon. We also had a wonderful salame that Luan, the proprietor suggested when she noted they were out of soppresatta.

While we were enjoying our spread the crowd continued to build. I would say the event was a hit. It was standing room only and no one seemed to mind.

David Bleckmann demonstrated making a simple Feta and discussed home cheesemaking tips and techniques. He was knowledgeable and had a good rapport with the crowd. He demystified what some could consider a very complex process. Gayle Starbuck was also present and contributed to the presentation.

As I mentioned above it was a wonderful evening and well worth the time and travel to head up to Portland mid week. I have signed on to the DIY Cheesemakers group and hope to make the trip up for future events.

If you love cheese like I love cheese, check out these books for an introduction to the craft.

Also, make the trip to Portland and visit Luan at Foster and Dobbs for some of their delightful cheeses and to begin your very own cheesemaking adventure as she stocks some of the basic supplies.

And because she's wonderful.

January 19, 2010

Lime Lemon Marmalade

I've mentioned it before, but I'm excited to be part of what looks to be an amazing array of bloggers involved in a fabulous project.

A group of 130 140 bloggers are participating in the Tigress' Can Jam. This is a year long event in which the Tigress picks a themed ingredient each month which is to be canned or pickled. We post our individual results on our individual blogs and the Tigress links everything together for a fabulous array of tasty goodness.

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

January's ingredient: CITRUS

Now, I originally thought I would make a blood orange marmalade but those plans were dashed when I woke up one morning to discover my blood orange supply had been decimated during the night. My kids had had a bloody feast.

I then found some lovely tangelos at my nearby natural food store, Lifesource. But, due to the fact that I bought my fruit early and my kids can't seem to stay away from the stuff I let them have at those too.

I wondered how I was going to accomplish this project if I couldn't keep my key ingredient around. Well, of course my solution was right before my eyes. In addition to the blood oranges and the tangelos I had also been buying various limes and lemons. Just because.

The kid's weren't going to eat those sour orbs so I decided to track down a recipe for lemon lime marmalade.

I perused my canning books...
The Glass Pantry
.... as well as the internet, but eventually zeroed in on Linda Ziedrich's tome (The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves) and her recipe for Lemon Ginger Marmalade.

Of course, I adapted the recipe because that is my way and because I had only two beautiful Meyer lemons. (Yes, David Lebovitz, I now know they're likely not REAL Meyer lemons.) I did have a bunch o' limes, so Eureka, lemon lime lemon marmalade.

The recipe:
1 1/2 pounds limes and lemons (I only had two Meyer lemons)
6 cups water
4 1/2 cups sugar

1. Rinse under very hot water to remove any wax. Scrub, scrub, scrub.

2. Remove the zest of the citrus in thin shreds. Place into a small saucepan with 1 cup of the water. Simmer, covered, for about an hour, or at least until soft. (This was interesting. I ended up removing the zest with a knife then slicing finely.)

3. While the zest is simmering, chop the fruit, reserving all the juice. Place the fruit, with seeds, pith and juice, into a nonreactive kettle. Add the remaining 5 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for an hour. (The house began to smell all citrusy near the end of the hour. Also, this is a good time to prep your mason cars, lids and rings. I use the dishwasher.)

4. Drain the zest, reserving both the zest and its cooking liquid.

5. Pour the fruit mixture into a colander set over a bowl. Apply gentle pressure to the fruit mixture to extract as much juice as possible. Strain the resulting fruit juice and reserved cooking liquid, through a jelly bag, into the preserving pan. Add the sugar and zest to the preserving pan to combine with the strained liquid. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to medium-high and boil the marmalade until it passes a spoon test or reaches 220 degrees on a jelly thermometer. (I use the spoon test, which involves dipping a spoon into the mixture, lifting it out and watching the drips develop. When the drips are no longer single forms but rather more like a sheet the mixture should be ready.)

6. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately ladle the marmalade into your prepared mason jars. Add lids and rings, and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.


Now, my marmalade isn't really this dark. My photography skills (along with my canning skills) are still in the developmental stage.

The real test comes next. How does it taste?

I like it

Now, do I like it because I made it? Sure, but, I think if I had a choice I would go back for more. The marmalade is nice when paired with a creamy cheese. I also think this would work wonderfully as a glaze for grilled chicken or pork. As I'm partial to toasted bagels and cream cheese, this is the perfect topper for a touch of sweet and sour. Ding. Ding. Ding. I don't think this marmalade is for everyone though. It's really quite tart.

If you find yourself with a mess o' limes, this is a pretty quick project due to the one day processing and you end up with some delectable delights. 

Check back next month, sometime during the third week, for my next installment of the Tigress' Can Jam. Follow along on twitter with the hashtag - #tigresscanjam

Here are the peeps involved:
jane at all types of cooking, and a whole lot of canning here!
heather & collette at backyard farms
lory at better gardens than home
michelle at big black dog
mimi at bigger than a breadbox
kristen at bklynforager
cathy at breadmaking with the bread experience
libby at cafe libby
manny at cafe del manolo
carma at carma's cafe
toni at christian county 4-h happenings
jj at citivolus sus
diana at cooking is like science
dawn at dawnabelles
jenelle at delicious potager
willi at diggin food
doris & jilly at doris and jilly cook
catalina at dust bath
jennifer at eat local challenge
andrea at family & food
renee at flamingo musings
jennie at food and books and stuff. fun
marisa at food in jars
lis at food snobbery is my hobbery
kristi at for better of worsted
maureen at fotos by meg
joanne at good food. eat here
holly at green anthropology
meg at grow and resist
kate at hip girl's guide to homemaking
kim at homestead acres
barry at hypenotic
talia at inn brooklyn
charrington at intellectual relish
kathleen at just the right size
rose at keeping up with k
kim at kim's quilting adventure
kate at kitchen fundamentalist
pat at kitchen jam
terri at knit and nosh
gloria at laundry etc.
amy at le jardin de ma vie
leena at leena eats this blog
theresa at living homegrown fresh
kaela at local kitchen
sarah at locally preserved
alicia at low sodium adventures in cooking
rebecca at market life sf
anita & cameron at married ...with dinner
michelle at michelle in colorado springs
kevin at mock paper scissors
mk at mother's kitchen
kimberly at music and cats
christina at my caffeine diary
chloe at naturally frugal
angela at notes from a county girl living in the city
lisa at notes from zone 4
briggs at oh...briggsy!
denise at oh yes i can
megan & mason at on a little land
kristina at on my way to gluten free
betsy at orangebloss
elizabeth at outpost 505
eve at planet eve
melanie at plot 22
carol at post-industrial eating
karen at prospect: the pantry
elle at put-a-lid-on-it
nina at put up or shut up!
jennifer at putting by
barbara at robbing peter
nikki at rufus and clementine
katie at runaway october
marisa at seasonal menus
cathy at showfood chef
melanie at simply loving home
valarie at sisyphus acres
ashley at small measure
christian at stephen's recipes
megan at stetted
sarah at sticks rocks and dirt
andrea at sticks spoons spokes
nickie at strange affinity
tracy at sugarcrafter
annette at sustainable eats
alexa at sustainable pantry
elizabeth at sweet and sour preserve company
tea at tea and cookies
alison at the artisanry of acorn cottage
stephanie at the cosmic cowgirl
colleen at the full fridge
carter at the kitchenette
wendy at the local cook
jamie at the ongoing debacle
angela at the pagan mom blog
blaine & tory at the preservery
the raven at the purloined letter
kate at the reclusive housewife
jessie, patrick & kerry at the 3 canners
melissa at the wynk
woodman & daisy driver at thinking out loud
tigress in a jam or pickle
sara at three clever sisters
sarah at toronto tasting notes
zoey at vegedible
courtney at vivacious eating
joel & dana at well preserved
julia at what julia ate
abc at wine book girl

and various non-bloggers ... adam, andrea, betsy, cary, crystal, daisy mae, diane, elizabeth, hadley, jan, jm, josephine, judy, julianna, kathy, kim lea, lisa, lynn, mary & julie, mary ann, melanie, melissa, oz, ruth, sadie, sandra, shana, shannon, tricia, and val.

January 18, 2010

Eggs are Beautiful

I love how the filters change up this simple picture.

Who knew eggs could be so beautiful?

They're fresh too.

Thanks go to my supplier, Theresa. (The goat cheese was good too Mike, as always.)

Fresh and beautiful. What a combo.

January 17, 2010

Oatmeal Craisin Scones

I had a hankering.

I had a hankering for a nummy, crumbly scone. A currant scone. Like the ones I used to eat back in my days as a barista for The Beanery.

I discovered the iphone app for Epicurious and surfed in bed. (Thank you Patrice for inspiration. Now I just need someone to bring me coffee. Oh, thanks Joe. )

Of the numberous scone recipes on the site, I zeroed in on the Oatmeal Currant Scone recipe. It dates back to a 2001 - Gourmet magazine.

I made my list. I shopped. I substituted.

I couldn't find currants. Since it was raining and I didn't want to travel to another store I made do with craisins. I like them.

I began assembling the ingredients and realized it called for a food processor. Now, I live in a small (very small) house and space is limited. I have never had a food processer as it seems a bulky, expensive appliance that I wouldn't have room to store anyway. I usually avoid recipes that call for it's use or make do with a different appliance or tool.

Today was no different. In this situation, I used my pastry blenderto chop the oatmeal into smaller pieces as well as cut in the butter. It worked just fine!

Also,  I forgot the buttermilk. DOH! Milk with a touch of vinegar will have to do. (I was naughty and used 1/2 and 1/2.)

Oatmeal Craisin Scones
adapted from the 2001 Gourmet Magazine recipe as found on the epicurious website

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
Finely grated zest from 1 large navel orange
2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk plus additional for brushing
1/2 cup craisins

2 1/4 inch round cookie cutter

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Use your pastry blender to cut up the oatmeal (5 minutes should do it.) (Or, if you have a food processor do this as I'm sure it's easier on the arm.) Add butter and cut (or pulse) until the mixture resembles coarse meal with small (pea-size) lumps, and transfer to a bowl if using the food processor.

3. Stir together zest and buttermilk. Toss currants with oat mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 6 times.

4. Pat dough into a 3/4-inch-thick round, dusting surface with more flour if necessary. Cut out as many scones as possible with cutter, dipping it in flour before each cut, and transfer scones to a baking sheet covered with parchment. Gather scraps into a ball, then pat into a round and cut out more scones in same manner. (The recipe called for a 2 1/4 inch round cutter but I did not have one so I used a pint glass. Classy.)

5. Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 15-18 minutes, and transfer to a rack.

6. Eat. They're tasty.

Gotta go. I have to make another batch.

January 16, 2010

Book Review: Must Love Hellhounds by Ilona Andrews, Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh and Meljean Brook

Another book review.... by ~S

Ri-i-i-ght, so I've been told that I might need to provide a little more introduction to my fabulous (adjective added by me) meanderings about books. While I am really a character driven reader and could-in some ways-care less about the plot (yes, we're back to my need for witty banter), I am willing to try and give the people what they want. So this week's book is Must Love Hellhounds, a compilation including novellas by Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook, and Ilona Andrews. Except for Harris' offering, these stories are all Urban Romantasy and based in the worlds already established by the authors as far as I can tell. Harris' story is fantasy and had the weakest connection to her other novels. My overall opinion is favorable, and I am not sorry I spent some of my book budget to purchase this book.

Now let's be serious. . . I bought this collection for the story by Andrews, Magic Mourns, as I love-love-love her stories. I was unsure what to expect but was very happy to have a story that came in after Magic Strikes and was about Raphael and Andrea taking care of a supernatural problem while Kate is recovering. While the story felt somewhat contrived, I enjoyed learning a bit more about both Raphael and Andrea. Was it mind blowing? Would I have cared so much if I weren't a fan of the Kate Daniels books? No. Was I far more interested in Kate's recuperative reading choices and who could dispose of Persephone's apples? Was I okay with using this as a quick fix until Magic Bleeds comes out? Oh yes and I was even grateful. It's just too bad that Andrews couldn't have written an Edge story and this story and then connected with maybe Mark Del Franco and Linnea Sinclair rather than Harris and Singh to round this compilation out. 

My second choice was Brook's Blind Spot where the leads attempt to solve a kidnapping. In the past I had avoided her books since they keep being described as erotic. I have to admit I am opposed to books considered erotic. Don't get me wrong. . . I don't prudishly care that they're on bookshelves. I just know I don't care to find the leads using the "c" word or discussing their love interest's rosebud of an asshole (authors-you know who you are). Nor do I need multiple pages of thrusting, completion, and descriptions (often fruit based) of nipples. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised. The sexual situations didn't overtake the story, the characters, or act as the major motivation for the action. Plus, in this story, I (finally) developed a deep affection for Sir Pup, the actual hellhound. I'll also point out that I enjoyed this story enough that I am considering trying one of Brook's Guardian novels - even though I am usually opposed to angel/vampire/demon stories (sorry Singh). 

Now to discuss the remaining stories... 

I wasn't too excited to read them, but hey, they were in the book, and it was on my book stack conveniently located next to my bed. I started with Harris' story, The Britlingens Go to Hell, because the description on the back cover appealed to me more than the remaining story. The good news for me was that this was not a story propelled by the success of Sookie Stackhouse (Surprise, surprise—I strongly dislike the books and the TV series although I do like Harris' Harper Connelly books). It was also nice that the story focused on the problems of traveling in hell to retrieve a stolen object. The romance was limited to learning who Clovache is "knocking helmets" with and learning Batanya connects with their supernaturally endowed client, Crick. The bad news: it was kind of boring, Lucifer wasn't exactly the Prince of Evil, and hell could have been anywhere - perhaps some bad S&M club? I was simply unmoved. 

This stayed the case as I read Singh's story, Angel's Judgment. I had never read her novels and was pretty sure I wasn't interested in a story about angels and vampires. Yeah for me, I was right. I didn't care. Now, I'm not saying it was a bad story or that the search for the mysterious killer was poorly thought out. Mostly, I just didn't like any of the characters enough to care how the story resolved. The story could have been any story about a rogue vampire and sexy hunters. The hunky hero gets together with the spunky heroine.  What a shock.

So, my overall judgment?

A 50% love of hellhounds is not half bad.

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0425229599
ISBN-13: 978-0425229590
Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches

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