Thursday, April 24, 2008

Let's talk about FOOD, ba-by

Yeah, I know the song says "Let's talk about s.e.x, baby," but frankly food is more interesting. You know I'm right, even if you won't admit it. Also, my oldest daughter reads this occasionally, as does, I have recently been informed, one of her friends. So, as they are learning everything there is to know about sex from their 13-year-old peers, as is the right and proper way of the world, I will not further educate them here. Also, I should consider moving to a secret blog.

Anyway, the first order of business here is bittersweet. Not chocolate. Coffee. I love and adore some of the creamer flavors that International Delight produces. Their chocolate caramel flavored creamer is a staple in my house. But what really turns me on (still talking about food, stay with me here) is the Limited Edition flavors they come out with. A few months ago they had Vanilla Caramel Brownie. Holy moly, that was to die for. Now they have this:

In case you can't read the label, it says "White Chocolate MUDSLIDE." And the party in your mouth it provides along with your morning dose of caffeine is better than that subject we're not discussing right now. But, BUT. Those flavors are Limited Editions. So while they give great pleasure, they only do so for a short time (STILL food, people!). Thus the bittersweetness.

On to other food. I made Tamale Pie, originally brought to us by Partners in Dine, for the second time last night. The first time I didn't take pictures, so I didn't post about it. Anyway, as our good friends Brett and Caroline told us, it is EXTREMELY EASY to make. Except the part where they say to shred the cheese. SURELY THEY JEST. What they MEANT TO SAY was buy a bag of shredded cheese and use that. So being able to read their minds like that, that is what I did. Anyway, here is a photo record of the process (for the actual recipe go here):

Brown the meat:

Drain the meat and add the beans and salsa. By the way, I couldn't find ranchero beans, so I assumed that ranchero=pinto, and used pinto beans:

Pour in pan and sprinkle cheese on top:

Pour cornbread batter over top and spread out (I just used 2 8 oz. boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix because I couldn't find a 12 oz. box of cornbread mix that was called for.) Bake. I forgot to take a picture until after it had been in the oven for a couple minutes.:


Serve it up with a dollop of sour cream. If you want to be healthy about it, have a side salad as well (for this I highly recommend buying a salad in a bag for the ease factor). It's easy and delicious.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Let's go bat for the other team, Michelle!!

I made Garlic Cheddar Chicken for dinner last night. If this is representative of the things Michelle makes when she cooks, then I will divorce my husband, become a lesbian, convince her that she is also a lesbian, marry her (okay, CIVILLY COMMIT to her) and completely support her so that the only thing she has to do is cook. Holy moly!! That was some AWESOME chicken!

I served it with Creamy Parmesan Chicken Rice-a-Roni (Yeah, I kept a couple boxes. It's my fault there's no more Journeyman.) and steamed broccoli. Look how yummy:

Also, in a turn of events that had me clapping and cheering, Amy LOVED the entire meal. You may recall that my two middle kids are horribly picky, so seeing Amy eat her weight in broccoli before moving on to the rice and chicken warmed the cockles of my heart. (Also, exactly what part of your heart are the cockles? Anyone know?). Check it out and let your cockles be warmed too:

Indeed, the fork IS totally superfluous. She's working on about her 7th stalk (? - Is that what you call a piece of broccoli?) in these pics, and yes, Virginia, that IS a file cabinet in my dining room piled with a couple weeks worth of mail and a hairbrush. And plastic drawers where I keep the three school kids' recent papers that may or may not need attention. Who knows, since I rarely actually OPEN the drawers. But ignore that. Aren't your cockles all warm and tingly?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Buncha books, issue 2

Back in January, I decided that writing a review for each book I read is a lofty goal. A goal so lofty, in fact, that I would never be able to meet it what with my procrastination issues and whatnot. I knew I would just end up with a big pile of books next to the computer waiting to be reviewed, the pressure to review them would become overwhelming and so I would just continually tell myself that I would write one tomorrow, which of course would never come. We know that because there is a movie. One which I have never seen, so don't ask me if it is good.

Anyway, I decided that the only way to keep up with my reading would be to post several mini-reviews at a time. Which I did. I fully intended to keep doing this. Guess what? I now have a big pile of books (not next to the computer, but a pile nonetheless) waiting to be reviewed, the pressure to review them is starting to build and I keep telling myself that I will cover several of the books tomorrow, which, as we discussed above, never comes.

But today, yes today, that being YESTERDAY'S tomorrow, has arrived, and while it is not tomorrow EXACTLY (because tomorrow NEVER comes, since when it gets here it is no longer tomorrow but today), it will do. I've decided to cover ten novels in this post. There are at least that many more, and of course I'm still reading. Ten will at least put a good sized dent in my pending reviews. Oh, if I am totally wrong in my description of what a particular book is about, or I get an important detail wrong, please correct me in the comments. It's been a while since I've read some of these, and I read so much that I sometimes forget something or get things mixed up.

Over the last couple of months, my reading included a couple novels written by Iris Johansen. The two I read were Killer Dreams and The Ugly Duckling. Her novels are generally quick reads and I've found they all pretty much follow the same format. That format being, hot girl has someone close to her wronged and/or killed, hot girl wants revenge, enter hot bad boy with a good heart who coincidentally knew someone either wronged and/or killed by same person or group. Bad boy helps girl prepare her revenge. They start out not liking one another, but of course cannot deny the other's hotness. They begin to like each other a little, or at least enough to give in to the sexual tension, and end up in love. Oh, and in the meantime they get their revenge.

Because of this format predictability, Johansen's novels can get old, but I still keep picking them up. My favorite ones by her are the ones with Eve Duncan as a recurring character. Speaking of recurring characters, most, if not all, of Johansen's good bad boys are from the same group of guys and various ones crop up from novel to novel. That group is tied in to the Eve Duncan novels as well, so it's all a very intricate web of characters. I'd say her novels are as close to the romance genre as I get. In any case, Killer Dreams is about a woman whose father kills her mother and himself after trying to kill her and her son. Of course it was due to brainwashing, and the brainwashers MUST BE ELIMINATED. The Ugly Duckling is about a woman who is attacked by a killer but manages to survive, only to find that the killer murdered her daughter. He and the person behind the hit MUST BE ELIMINATED. Enter smokin' hot bad boys with good hearts, yada, yada, yada.

Next up is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. I LOVED this book. I am fascinated by the thought processes in people with autism, particularly Asperger's Syndrome, and this novel gave a look into just that. It was stream of consciousness from a teenage boy with Asperger's. The novel begins with the killing of a neighbor's dog. The boy decides he will solve the crime, and it goes from there. I think you'll either love this book or not like it at all because of the stream of consciousness style, but I am firmly in the "love it" camp.

Another book with autism as a theme is Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach. Because the novel was supposedly about an autistic child, I thought I would really enjoy it. It was okay, but overall I was disappointed. The story revolves around the mother figuring out that something is wrong with her son, her husband not wanting to hear it, the subsequent discovery that her husband is, in fact, a prick, but the desire to still be a happy family causing emotional turmoil until she finally makes a decision. Ultimately, I found it somewhat boring, as the child's autism was used more as the catalyst for what happens (which is totally predictable) rather than the main story.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler was a quick entertaining read. It is a young adult novel about the journey of self-discovery of an overweight girl. I really enjoyed it for its insightfulness when it came to showing how other people respond to a person's appearance and how those responses affect how a person looks at him or herself. This is a book I would recommend for any teenager, but particularly girls. I've also got to say that by the end of the novel, when the main character has become sure of herself and comfortable and happy with who she is, it reminded me of our blogging buddy Jess, who has shared her feelings of being overweight as a teenager with us all and now comes across as one of the most together and happy with herself and her life individuals as anyone I've met (though I haven't met HER), and I think I actually had Jess's picture in my head as I read the book. Hope that's okay, Jess; it put a familiar face on the main character, even though the book kept screwing with my head by saying she was blonde.

I thoroughly enjoyed I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. It was just wonderful. It's about a young man whose life is going nowhere. He begins to receive playing cards in the mail with addresses written on them. When he visits the addresses, he finds that there is something that needs to be done, and that he has been chosen to do it by someone unknown. It's a great read with a surprising twist at the end. I will definitely seek out another book by this author for which I've read good reviews, and that is The Book Thief.

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz is the third novel in the Odd Thomas novels. It USED to be the Odd Thomas TRILOGY, but now there is a fourth, so it's been changed. I really like the Odd Thomas character, and this novel did nothing to change my opinion. In this book, Odd has moved into an abbey to live among monks. He is trying to give himself a breather from the trouble that follows him, but of course it follows him right into the abbey in the form of a brother that supposedly committed suicide. Odd's trusty friend Elvis also follows him to the abbey, and takes a big step forward, a step Odd has been hoping he'd take since the first novel.

Year Zero by Jeff Long was an interesting novel. It begins with tomb raiding what was possibly the tomb of Jesus's family, followed by a pandemic disease and some cloning using DNA from artifacts found in the tombs as well as a frozen Neanderthal. Throw in a clone who claims to be Jesus Himself, and you've got a fascinating tale. I read this book on Tessie's recommendation and I'm glad I took her advice.

The 5th Horseman by James Patterson is the fifth book in the Women's Murder Club series, which Patterson co-writes with other authors. This particular one was co-written by Maxine Paetro. A new woman joins the club, replacing one of the main characters who was killed in an earlier novel in the series. The new character is named Yuki something-I-don't-remember. Her mother collapses and is rushed to the hospital, where all are told she will be fine. On the day Yuki is to take her mother home, she unexpectedly dies. Yuki is convinced she was murdered and our main main character, Lieutenant (or Detective, can't remember that either) Lindsay Boxer agrees to investigate to put her friend's mind at ease. What she discovers is disturbing. This is a typical James Patterson - an easy, fast, satisfying read.

Lastly, for this issue of Buncha books, is Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman. This is one of his Alex Delaware novels, which I really enjoy. I've read all of them that are in paperback, which means all but the one that just came out (Compulsion). I enjoyed this one as well. Alex Delaware is a child psychologist who is currently working primarily as a consultant for the police. An old OCD patient of his contacts him because of something her mother said on her deathbed, leading Alex to discuss the case with his friend Milo, the gay detective. The deathbed statement leads to some old cold cases and then some present-day crimes, ultimately leading, as these novels are wont to do, to Milo and/or Alex being in mortal danger. Good solid read.

So there are 10 mini-reviews. More to follow...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

U-PICK dandelion greens

I noticed at the grocery store a few days ago (By the way, do you say "grocery store," "supermarket," "market" or something else?) that they sell dandelion greens in the produce department. What the hell?!?! I know they're edible, but I thought that was only as a last resort, like on "Survivor" or something. Or if you find yourself stranded in the middle of a giant trailer park after a nuclear bomb has eliminated every other living thing on the planet, and it's just you, cockroaches and dandelions. And you have to choose: cockroaches or dandelion greens. Hmmm... I guess I'll eat the dandelion greens.

But I guess I'm wrong. There are apparently people who PAY to eat the weeds that grow copiously throughout my yard, which I'm now thinking should be a U-PICK farm.