Monday, August 29, 2011

Slow Turkey with Rice

Simple weekend lazy goodness.  Made this while I was outside carting off our neigghbor's tree remains. The oven temp is so low it didn't even heat the kitchen too bady.

I make this in my coveted and lust worthy Le Creuset oval, but any cast iron or, heck, a crockpot would work with a very little adaptation.

12 oz turkey loin

½ bottle of poppy seed dressing

6 strips of cooked bacon, chopped

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 cup rice

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Empty the ½ bottle of Poppy seed dressing into the bottom of a large cast iron pot with tight fitting lid.  Fill the bottle with water, shake well, and reseve.  Plop in the turkey loin, the chopped bacon and the red pepper flakes, stir it around it bit.  Cook for an hour and a ½.  Turkey should be done, but much of the juices will remain.  Add the rice and the reserved bottle of water/dressing and stir to submerge.  Cook for another hour.  Rice should be fluffy and turkey pull apart tender.  Fluff and serve.

Accidental Asian Rice

Once upon a time there was a lot of rice in my kitchen.  These are the stories of what I did with it . . .

1 tablespoon capers

2 tablespoons flour

1 tsp lemon pepper

2 tbs olive olive

1 cup jasmati

1 cup water or broth

1 cup coconut milk

2 cups shrimp

Cracked black pepper
In a large frying pan, heat the oil on medium, careful not to overheat.  Dump the flour and lemon pepper into a small prep bowl and swirl together, then add capers and toss to coat.  Fry capers until crunchy and then remove to a napkin covered plate to cool.  Add the cup of water and cup of coconut milk to pan and bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium.  Add in the rice and cracked black pepper as well as salt to taste (I prefer to reserve the caper juice instead, but that’s totally optional.)  Once rice is fluffy and almost all of the liquid gone, add the shrimp and finish cooking until just plump and pink.  Remove from heat, fluffing the rice and top with fried capers.  Serve and smile!

BOOKS! Books on SALE!

Assuming you’ve not been vacationing under a rock, you know that Border’s is going out of business.  I’m both sad and pissy (only bookstore on my side of town, kid you not) but this post isn’t about the sad, it’s about the happy, ie Books!  ½ price!  Here’s my round up of this months’ good buys and total stinkers.  Enjoy!*
The Good:

Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett 


So, I picked up a lot of Urban Fantasy/Paranoramal Romance that I otherwise might have stayed away from, and this is one of the ones that makes me glad I did.  Stolidly written, with  decent characterization and a strong plot.  That having been said, you can see the plot coming from approximately a mile off and some of the “romance” elements are a bit off putting.  But I liked the Tiki bar angle, and the writing was really crisp and enjoyable, so overall a good first effort who’s sequel I will pick up at cover price *Note demerits for use of word *magick*

Swamplandia Karen Russell


I’m not gonna be the tipping point if you’ve decided against it, but this book really is worth the hype.  It’s odd, endearing but not cloying, and disgustingly well written. I picked it up because a few years ago I fell in love with St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and am super happy to see the author get some respect and sales.  Yea sales!

Dead on the Delta by Stacy Jay


This is a twist book that actually is a new twist.  Evil mutant pixies rewrote the south after chewing on the polluted sewage.  The pixie bites kill 99.9% of humans, so town’s barricaded themselves behind iron gates and only send out people who are immune or in iron hazmat suits.  The writing is assured and the plot moves briskly, but there are some flaws (more like mosquito bites than fairy though.)  One: the drinking problem.  Bleech.  I feel likes it’s forced too far too fast.  No! She drinks!  Becomes Whoa, she drinks like a fish! Becomes Dude, this girl has no self control.  And I worry that forthcoming books will either rug sweep this or play it up the whole 12 steps.  Yoinks.  Two:  yet again, the plot is SUPER obvious.  But why does it still get a B?  Because I like the risks of character and setting, and I like how fast it moved, and I liked that while it was close, no characters had awkward sex in a way that seemed forced or boring.  I cannot believe I am championing LESS sex.  Yeesh.

The Gates by John Connolly


This is a great book.  It isn’t Good Omens.  Well written, fast paced, and deceptively simple, I read it quickly and I felt satisfied after.  If you haven’t read Good Omens, it’s probably an A.  But I have, and despite a number of legitimate differences, every other chapter I kept thinking of Good Omens.  And Terry Prachett.  Because there are footnotes, and physics, and funny business, and demons, and small boys.  No, all British humour does not remind me of Terry Prachett, though I will often think “Would’ve been better if Terry had written this.”  People are marketing this in the kid’s section.  I would’ve loved this as a kid.  Which almost always means that small children shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it.

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price


This is the second book of the series, and as always, get the first one first silly people.  I like this series.  And I’m so over necromancers, and witches and crap.  But still.  Likes it.  The writing is top notch, the characters are fun and believable and—holy crap—it actually passes the Bechdel  test.  Who knew Paranormal Romance could DO that?  This is fab poolside reading, unless you’re me and drop the first book into the pool, and read the second when it’s so hot that the glue in the spine melts and the pages spill out.  No, that’s not an exaggeration.  It was 109.  Ironically, while this series fails my sex in the first book irritation test, it passes so well in the second that it makes up for it. 

The Bad:

Dark Descendant by Jenna Black


This is a harsh grade.  Honestly, it’s maybe not that bad.  Hell, I may even pick up the next one at the used bookstore.  But.  Butbutbut.  The writing is pretty descent, the plot mostly solid.  But I am so MOTHERFUCKING tired of gratuitous violence being passed off as gritty reality.  These two concepts, while not mutually exclusive, are also not the same thing.  Yep, life can be hard and mean, whatever, some books just twist up excuses to damage side characters, walk-ons, and low level villains for the shock value.  Saw 1-1,000, I’m looking at you.  In the end, this means that I’m irritated with lead and don’t give a flying leap about the villain.  He’s evil, I’m sure, but who cares, shoot him in the face with a sniper rifle and move on already.  So, if you don’t mind gore/violence/beatings for no good purpose or the omnipresent threat of rape, this might be up your ally.

License to Ensorsell by Katharine Kerr


I’ve got . . . nothing.  I started skipping large chunks of this.  Chalk full of utterly useless acronyms, pointless faux-military jargon, and new age sounding bullshit, this book is burdened with irritating leads, silly plot twists, and extraneous villains.  Not extraneous as in extra, but as in unneeded and pretty useless.  I’m not even sure the author knows why he’s/they’re there.  An excuse to blab off more random Catholic saints and drive around San Francisco?  Who knows. And the writing is stilted, stupid, and utterly unbelievable, just like the characters.  If you want Bay area high jinx, try Seanan McQuire’s Toby Day books (which are AWESOME;)  if you want harder, more NCIS meets the supernatural try Jes Battis’s Infernal Affairs books or Harry Conolly’s Twenty Places novels.  But don’t waste your money on this.  And, insult to injury, this nowhere NEAR the author’s first book.  WTF author?

The Oddities:

The Stuff of Legend by Mike Raicht & Brian Smith


This sale has been good to my comics collection.  I picked up one of the Fables books I was missing, The Black Dossier, Tragic Home, and THIS.  I’d been putting this off because it came out right around the time as Tim Lebbon’s Theif of Broken Toys and Brom’s The Child Thief, and I was like, what the heck, it’s a deluge of creepy childhood things.  Now my only regret is that it’s the start of a darn series and I will have to buy more.  Because it’s creepy, tragic, moving and mind blowing.  It’s wonderful.  It’s also occasionally lock yourself in a closet to cry/panic worthy, but still.  I’d say better than the Lebbon and at least as good as the Brom.  (I know others didn’t love that book, but it severely eeped me out.)

James Jean’s Kindling


OMG I love James Jean.  I am now in the process of framing them.  2 for me, 1 for your Christmas gift, 2 more for me, 1 for your birthday present, 2 more for me . . . you get the idea.  They make great gifts, but I want to keep them ALL FOR ME!  Muahahaha.

*A note on Grading:  on my Scale A=I might buy the hardback; B=pay cover price; C=get it used or from the bargain bin; D=used if you’re in to self flagellation; F=what, are you stupid?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Running into the Dark

Typically, I run sometime between 10pm and midnight. Like all runners, I am a crazy person. This is a fundamental truth. But even to other runners, running that late at night is odd. I do it because I'm a night person, the genuine real deal where my biorhythms will auto-reset to staying up all night and sleeping all day the instant I let them.


But isn't running that late unsafe?

Well, sure, running in general isn't all that safe. Almost every serious runner, and more than a few joggers, I know has been tagged by a car at least once. Runners are small and cars are big. But I have never been hit. (knock-knock-knock)

But you're a girl!

Well spotted. But stranger danger, jump-out-from-the-bushes assault isn't all that common. If you're getting assaulted, statistically speaking, you're almost 80% likely to know the person. That doesn’t mean don't pay attention, it just means that what's asking the question isn't logic, but urban legend shaped fear.  That having been said, I don’t run in mini-shorts and a sports bra.  Some logic has been deployed, I swear.

The only ‘but’ I pay much care to is "But how do you stay safe?"

And it's easy. The first step is to know your route. Drive or walk it during the day. That way you know what the houses look like, where the street lights are, any places where the sidewalk inexplicably vanishes.

The second step is more fun: Get to know your neighbors. This means waving and smiling at anyone you see on your run of course, but also smiling at people when they walk by your porch and nodding at them when your cars pass each others. Weird, I know, but just tell yourself that people who can put a face on the screaming woman zooming by are more likely to open their doors or call the police.

Thirdly, don't make yourself an easy target for high school pranksters. I run the same streets almost every time, but I run them differently. Sometimes I go clockwise, or counter, or zigzag. I also vary the start time. Don't be the 10:32 runner. Mixing it up will also keep you entertained, so bonus.

+A note on encountering people instead of automobiles: Keep your head up, and concentrate on your stride. Run like you’ll never be tired and this is an easy pace for you, but DO NOT pick up your speed. Only prey scampers, so don't make yourself into that. Nod or say “hi,” but don't feel like you need to whip out your toothpaste ad smile. They can see you're busy and they know it's late, most won't think you need to stop and chat. Project confidence and never fear. 99.99% of the rest of the world simply doesn't give a shit about you one way or another. You're just a blip.  So don’t assume the worst.

But the single most important thing you can do to be safe on night runs is BE AWARE. This means turning the Ipod down a bit and keeping your eyes scanning. Stay alert to cars that are a block or two away, and look down every driveway to scout for brake lights. People leaving their homes will never see you. Even when they've waved to you from the door, they magically forget your existence as soon as they set foot in their SUV. Never ever assume that drivers see you, because they don’t.  Make yourself hard to hit by jumping up on curbs if you’re in the street or by waiting if you think there's even a small chance of the two of you sharing an intersection. Because, sure, their insurance will skyrocket, but you'll still be dead.

Night running has a lot of perks.  Stay alive to enjoy them and to mock all your scaredy cat friends.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Endless Summer Rice

To me, this dish tastes fresh, summery & bright. It's one of my favorite midsummer staples, as I can pick up the ingredients at a farmers market or a Supermarket, just as easily. If you truly despise anchovies, they can be substituted out for salt to taste, but honestly, give them a try. Their bright tang adds a lot without being noticeable let alone overwhelming. 
2 Cups Brown Rice
1 Medium Sweet Onion, chopped
3 Anchovies
1 Large Yellow Squash, chopped
Cracked Pepper
Pinch Sugar
1/2 bunch Fresh Tarragon leaves
2 Pounds Cherry Tomatoes
2 Cups Water or Broth*
1 Small Can Tomato Paste
1 tsp Dill
1/2 tsp Celery Seeds
1/2 tsp Onion Powder

In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water, a tablespoon of olive oil and a dash of salt to boil. Add the 2 cups of brown rice and cook until fluffy.
In the meantime, drain the oil from the anchovies into a large skillet or wok. Add the pinch of sugar and heat on medium. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and stir, allowing them to caramelise. When the onion has browned, add in the anchovies and pepper to taste, stirring until the anchovies dissolve.  Add in the yellow squash & cook until just barely done.  (Because not only are crispy veggies more yum and better for you, carry over cooking will soften them a bit more as well.)  Scoop the veggies into a serving bowl (or, like me, Tupperware to keep for laters) and mix in the cherry tomatoes.  Do not cook the tomatoes.  Trust me. 
In the pan, pour the water or broth and bring to a boil.  Add the tomato paste, dill, celery seed, and onion powder and boil for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken-stir often and scrape bottom & sides frequently.   The sauce should develop body, but still be thinner than typical spaghetti sauce.  Think a really good tomato soup texture. 
Toss veggies, rice and sauce all together.  Serve.  Give the recipe away when your guests demand it. 

*The people who live with me make fun, but I have developed a habit of keeping a hold of my pasta cooking water. Already enriched with starch from the boiling pasta, it's also already salted and sprinkled with a bit of olive oil. This means it imparts not only an extra kick of flavour, but that it thickens up a bit quicker than plain water. I highly recommend adopting this habit, but if you can't, plain water works almost as well.