24 March 2018

Weekend Cooking: 4 Easy Dinners & a Snack

4 easy dinnersIf you're not in the publishing business, you might not realize that late winter into spring is the busy time for copyeditors--at least it has been for me my entire freelance career.

From mid-February to mid-April, I work 10-hour days, 7 days a week. I'm okay with working hard at something I love, but it really does cut into my kitchen time. Regardless, I do my best to put a nutritious home-made dinner on the table every night.

This past week, I relied heavily on Cooking Light recipes, which are always reliable and easy to pull together on a busy weeknight. I also took some time to explore a new cookbook I received from the Abrams Dinner Party program.

sweet, spicy pecansFirst We Eat by Eva Kosmas Flores (Abrams, March 20) is a beautiful cookbook that focuses on seasonal, fresh foods that are perfect for casual entertaining. Once my days return to normal, I plan to dive deep into the recipes, starting with the summer dishes. After our farmer's markets open in May, I'll be turning to this cookbook for new ideas for cooking farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. In the meantime, I made the spicy, sweet pecans pictured to the left. They were perfect for pre- and post-dinner snacking with a glass of wine or a cocktail. I'm sharing the recipe (at the bottom of this post) and can attest to how tasty these are. I cut the recipe in half because I don't do much entertaining this time of year (for obvious reasons), and there are only two of us in the house. I plan to make a full batch of these nuts this summer; they'll perfect for a long evening on the deck with friends.

Here's what else I made this week (all recipes come from Cooking Light as does the photo). I've pinned them to my Recipes Tried and Liked Pinterest board, or you can click the links to find the recipes on Cooking Light.

  • 4 easy dinnersSmoky Farro and Chickpea Soup: Swiss Chard, chickpeas, farro, tomatoes, paprika, and garlic made for a hearty and warming soup. The recipe calls for vegetable broth, but I used chicken. Just what we needed to on a snowy March night. I had this on the table in about 40 minutes, and it made enough to last us two dinners.
  • Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole with Peas and Breadcrumbs: This was another great comfort food recipe and was so amazingly quick to make. I made a couple of minor changes: I used whole wheat no-yolk egg noodles, whole wheat panko, and almond milk instead of cow's milk. We ate the leftovers for lunch the next day. Next time I might add some diced mushrooms, but it was really good just as it was.
  • Whole-Grain Mini Meat Loaves: These were my husband's favorite of the week. I did make one change because I forgot to cook the quinoa ahead of time. I substituted oatmeal for the cooked grain, which is mixed into the ground beef. These took a little more time to get on the table, but the results were worth it. Garlic, carrots, mushrooms, thyme, and goat cheese make these mini loaves really special.
  • Quick Chicken Piccata: This recipe took under a half hour and calls for chicken thighs instead of breasts. The only change I made was to use 6 thighs instead of 8. The flavors are classic: lemon, capers, butter, and parsley. This is one of those dishes that is so easy, I have to wonder why I don't make it more often.
If you're looking for healthy, quick, reliable recipes for weeknight cooking, Cooking Light (magazine, website, cookbooks) has your back.

And now for the promised pecan recipe from First We Eat (thanks Abrams for the review copy):

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Skillet Pecans
5 cups
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons kosher flake salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar-based hot sauce (Tabasco)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and stir. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture starts bubbling. Add the pecans and stir to coat.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until the pecans are lightly browned and smell toasted, 10-15 minutes, taking care not to allow the nuts or sugar to burn.

Turn the pecans out onto the baking sheet and spread them evenly using a spatula. Immediately sprinkle with the salt, chile powder, and cayenne, and drizzle with the hot sauce. Allow to cook to room temperature.

Once cooled, break apart any large chunks and serve as a snack or a topping.
Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.

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23 March 2018

8 Audiobooks for Early Spring

My favorite part of spring is that the days are getting longer, which leaves me plenty of evening daylight for walking, yardwork, and (eventually) gardening. Of course, all that outdoor activity is prime time for listening to an audiobook. Despite this week’s snow, I’m optimistic that good weather is just days away. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for a good audiobook. Here are 8 books for late-March listening.

  • 8 audiobooks for MarchI’m looking forward to listening to Laura Thompson’s Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life (Brilliance Audio; 20 hr, 46 min), read by Pearl Hewitt. This biography of the maven of mysteries is written by an experienced biographer (The Six) and read by an experienced narrator. I think Hewitt’s light British accent and clear diction will pull me in.
  • Although I tend to like Anna Quindlen’s nonfiction more than her fiction, it’s hard to resist her new novel, Alternate Side (Brilliance Audio; 7 hr, 40 min), because it’s read by Ellen Archer. Archer’s wide range of voices and engaging delivery is sure to enliven to this story of a family coping with a neighborhood tragedy.
  • Kate Rorick’s The Baby Plan (Harper Audio; 11 hr, 18 min) explores three different kinds of twenty-first-century pregnancies. Eva Kaminsky’s fun, expressive narration should bring out both the humor of the story and the frustrations of the women as they face the realities of their upcoming little miracles.
  • It’s hard to believe that the Maisie Dobbs series is up to number 14! Narrator Orlagh Cassidy is back to perform To Die but Once by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper Audio; 10 hr, 29 min). Cassidy took over the series at audiobook 3, and fans say she is the voice of Maisie. I love her accents and engaging performances.
  • 8 audiobooks for MarchDennis Boutsikaris and Dagmara Dominczyk team up to perform the heartbreaking Every Note Played by Lisa Genova (Simon & Schuster Audio; 8 hr, 2 min). Boutsikaris and Dominczyk are known for rendering lively dialogue and impactful narrative, skills that should shine in this story of two pianists, a marriage, and a devastating illness.
  • I’m a Scott Westerfeld fan and can't wait to listen to his new book, Peeps (Listening Library; 8 hr, 10 min), read by Joshua Swanson. Swason’s youthful voice and good comedic timing will be perfect for this story of a college student who becomes an unwitting vampire maker after encountering a strange woman.
  • Women’s relationships, family, and cooking come together in The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman (Macmillan Audio; 10 hr, 18 min), read by Susan Bennett. Bennett is well able to create believable voices for characters of all ages and personalities, which makes it easy for listeners to make strong connections to the story.
  • Set in Morocco, Christine Mangan’s Tangerine (Harper Audio; 9 hr, 28 min) is about a marriage, a friendship, life in a strange world, and the deep secrets we all keep. I have faith that veteran narrators Barrie Kreinik and Erin Mallon will build the appropriate unsettling mood for this atmospheric historical novel.

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21 March 2018

Wordless Wednesday 489

Waiting for Summer, 2018

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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19 March 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Good Books

My eye is on the start of spring, which is coming up in a few days. I'm going to ignore the temperatures and the snow flurries and pretend that deck season is right around the corner.

My busy work time is slowing down, and I plan to take advantage of my break by getting in some long walks and reading more in the evenings.

Other than that, nothing much going on around here. We're catching up with Homeland on Showtime and the new David Letterman show (My Next Guest Needs No Introduction) on Netflix.

What I read last week

Review: Only Killers and Thieves by Paul HowarthOnly Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth (Harper, Feb. 6): Put this book on your must-read or must-listen list right now. Set in rural Australia in the 1880s, this is the story of two brothers caught up in something they are too young and too unprepared to understand. Tommy (15 years old) and Billy (16) turn to their unscrupulous neighbor for help in the aftermath of a family tragedy; he gives the boys help but not without a price. From the haunting descriptions of the stark Australian landscape to the fully realized characters and heartbreaking, horrifying action, this book took over my life right from the first sentences:

They stalked the ruined scrubland, searching for something to kill. Two boys, not quite men, tiny in a landscape withered by drought and drenched in unbroken sun.
I know the novel has been described as a kind of western, which might throw some of you off. It’s really a coming-of-age story, and although there is plenty of action, it’s a very character-driven story. My heart went out to the boys, especially Tommy, and I understood their different reactions to what they witnessed and what they did. The unfolding of Only Killers and Thieves will be stronger if you go into the book blind. Try to avoid reading the summary or spoilery reviews. The unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 11 hr, 29 min) read by David Linski is so, so good. Linski embodied the characters and helped bring them alive for me. His varied pacing and volume matched the text perfectly, and I was completely won over by his performance. In print (which was my husband’s choice) or in audio, this book will be on many best-of 2018 list. Don’t miss out.

Review: Conspiracy in Death by J. D. RobbConspiracy in Death by J. D. Robb (Brilliance Audio; 12 hr, 27 min) read by Susan Ericksen. Seeing as this is the 8th entry in the long series (I think Robb’s up to book 46 now), I don’t have much new to say about these futuristic sci-fi, police procedural, romance mashups except that I really like them. In this outing our homicide detective hero, Eve Dallas, is searching for who or what is behind a series of murders involving organ harvesting. The technology of Dallas’s world is always fascinating, and this book focuses on medical issues as well as a unique lie-detector test. Although the In Death books are gritty, Robb always manages to keep Dallas’s marriage steamy, and the main characters continue to grow and change. The audiobooks are always a treat and are short enough to squeeze in between more recently published books.

Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Disney Hyperion; March 27): If you’re a Rick Riordan fan, you’ll love this new Pandava series, published under his imprint, Rick Riordan Presents. The style of Aru Shah is very much in line with the Percy Jackson books, but this time the story is set in the Hindu universe: the tales, the ancient books, and the gods are Indian and so is our heroine. Twelve-year-old Aru Shah lives on the grounds of a cultural museum in Atlanta, Georgia, where her archaeologist mother is the curator. Aru has free run of the museum, but is told never, ever to light the Lamp of Bharata—if she does, the world will end. Of course, on a dare from snotty classmates, Aru lights the lamp. The world doesn’t end right away, but time freezes. This is when Aru learns who she really is: a reincarnated Pandava warrior and thus a demi-god. With help of Mini (a sister Pandava) and a talking pigeon sidekick, Aru must solve riddles, find the keys to the land of death, fight off demons, and save the world. Humor, fast action, great characters, and tricky puzzles make this a lot of fun to read. Aru and Mini are flawed and sometimes scared; they bicker a little but are ultimately loyal. In the end, they find their inner strengths. Highly recommended for middle grade readers and for diversifying your reading list. I really loved meeting Aru and can’t wait for her next adventures.

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17 March 2018

Weekend Cooking: Nailed It! (on Netflix)

Nailed It! on NetflixConfession: I totally stole the idea for this post from my long-time blogging friend Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. On Facebook this week, she mentioned she had watched a funny new baking series on Netflix, and I knew I had to watch it too.

Nailed It! is hosted by Nicole Byer, with Jacques Torres as star judge. This, however, is not your mother's bake-off show. The premise seems tame enough: three home bakers try to win $10,000 by re-creating beautifully decorated desserts designed by a guest judge. Much hilarity ensues.

If you don't laugh out loud in the first show, you can safely bag the rest; Nailed It! won't be for you. But if you have a good sense of humor, you'll have almost as much fun as the judges and contestants--except you won't have to taste the cakes or get food dye all over your hands and face.

Season 1 consists of 6 half-hour episodes, and I bet you'll end up watching them all in one go, like I did. My husband hates baking contest shows, but he was laughing right along with me. Thank you, Marg, for brightening up my week; I'm passing along the joy.

Here's the trailer for Nailed It!, which really doesn't do the series justice. Just trust me on this one.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.

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