Monday, October 31, 2011

Musing Monday...Another Trip Down Memory Lane

Hey! Happy Halloween!! 

Let's head over and check out this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks…

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?

You know, I though about this one and my surprising answer is..I am not sure. lol

At first I thought "Well, I was certainly a reader then, but I read more now!"
But the more I thought about it, the less sure I became.

I was a reader as a kid.
I have written more than once about traipsing off to out local branch of the Newark Public Library with my mom, when I was too young to have my own card. The key is how excited I was, up on the second floor in the kids section. So in grammar school, I was an enthusiastic reader.

And I know I read a lot while I was in high school.
First of all, we had a fair bit of reading, mostly classics, that was required. But besides that, I was reading a lot on my own. I remember reading Tolkien..and not just Lord of The Rings, but EVERYTHING Tolkien wrote..the complete Sherlock Holmes...all the Nero Wolfe books. Amazingly (not), I was reading a lot of mysteries. It was then it seems that my desire to read everything written by an author I liked first came to fruition.
Between what was required reading during the school year, which was a lot, and our summer reading list, which was pretty long,  and what I was reading on my own, I was reading quite a bit.

And I still am.
You might not always know it by the number of books I review.
Maybe because I have dozens and dozens of unreviewed books this year.
But I would say, on average, I read 2-3 book a weeks. There are people who read more...and certain, especially if you read those surveys..a lot who read a lot less. Or none.

So bottom line, I think I have been a fairly consistent reader during my life.
I don't remember a time when I did not get great pleasure from reading and golly, golly, I hope I never do!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekend Cooking...A Review of "The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook" [68]

The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America's Most Trusted Cooking Magazine by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Cook's Illustrated, ISBN 978-1933615899
October 1, 2011, 928 pages

If I could have only one cookbook for the rest of my life, I really think this might have to be The One!

Now, if you are a regular reader here, you may already know that I am a fan both of Cook's Illustrated Magazine and their TV show, America's Test Kitchen. So, when I saw the ads for this book, I had to add it to my wish list. When it was on the newsletter for Amazon Vine this month, I was tripping over myself trying to put my request in while they still had copies.
And very happily, I got one.

Yes, 2000 recipes from 20 years of the magazine. This is a pretty big book. A pretty big, lovely book, weighing in at over 4 lbs. Yes, I weighed it.
An 80 page index, 154 Test Kitchen Tips, hundreds of ATK classic black and white drawings, a table of Contents that lists every recipe in each chapter, including the page number and 23 chapters covering everything from Curries to Quick Breads. As usual in the magazine, there are a lot of what might be considered classic American recipes, with an eye to making them a little healthier than your Grandmother might have made them. But there is also a nice mix of ethnic dishes, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Thai...a variety that many now consider everyday fare.
And what I love about these recipes it that they will be as helpful in guiding a novice cook as it will teach something new to even the most serious foodie. There is no one who cooks that could not learn a good deal from this book.

Every recipe, all 2000 of them, begins with one of my favorite ATK things, the "Why This Recipe Works" explanation. Yes, they are certainly shortly than the most extensive explanations in the magazine but still very useful. And so interesting to a Food Geek. And I love how the book, like the magazine, takes one basic recipe and then shoots off from there, with variations that will keep even the most adventurous cook happy.

Now, there is one issue that some might consider a problem.
There are NO photographs.
No lovely pics that often bears little resemblance to my finished product. I did not find that an issue since there are many drawing that, honestly, I find more helpful. And if you like food or like to cook, I assure you there will be more than enough to hold your attention once you start looking through these pages.

Another thing that fans must remember is that these are not new recipes. Certainly most, if not all have been published before in the magazine or other ATK books. So if you own all the other cookbooks or have saved every magazine from the first issue, there is going to be duplication. But I don't, and I love being able to just go to this book rather than try to search out a favorite recipe from my saved copies of the magazine. And as Mr. Kimball, founder of Cook's Illustrated, says in the introduction, this book also contains the most recent, most favorite recipe of many ones that have been improved over the years. Only the Best!

If you are looking for a cookbook to give a novice, you can't go wrong with this one.
If you have been cooking for decades but are still open to always learning something a little new, you can't go wrong either. Want to find a new pasta dish, a new way to cook those pork chops or how to make a perfect roast chicken, this is a book you will want. If you are looking for one great go-to cookbook, I would suggest you take a look at this one.
At about $26 on Amazon ($28 if ordered directly from Cook's Illustrated, $40 list) this would be money well spent. Christmas is coming you know.
And I have to say I would be intrigued to have a look at the e-book version of this one. There is a Kindle version, but sadly, not one for my Nook Color yet.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Review of "Love You More" [67]

Love You More: A Novel By Lisa Gardner
Bantam, ISBN 978-0553807257
March 8, 2011, 368 pages

In this, the fifth Lisa Gardner novel featuring Boston PD Sgt. Det. D.D. Warren, she is happy that at first the shooting she is called to seems pretty cut and dry. An off duty female Mass. state trooper, Tessa Leoni, is found in her kitchen, beaten and bloody, the apparent victim of spousal abuse. A few feet away lays her husband of three years, dead, shot three time in the chest with her duty gun, in what she claims was self defense.

D.D. could use an easy case. True, with the involvement of a state trooper, and one of the few female ones at that, it is a bit of a delicate political situation. Especially since the case will be investigated by the Boston P.D and D.D realizes there is more than one thin Blue Line. But with her friend and former partner, Det. Bobby Dodge, acting as the state police liaison, she hopes it will be quickly wrapped up. But very shortly the story starts to fall apart. By far the biggest question is where is Tessa Leoni six year old daughter? They put out an Amber Alert, question friends and neighbors but nothing can be found of the girl. And her mother is not doing much talking. They do, however, find a shovel in the garage covered with dirt and leaves and dogs find the scent of a dead body in the husband's car. With a missing child, that is not a good thing.

Soon, everything you thought you knew at first is in question. As the investigation gets under way, the facts become more and more ambiguous. Is Tessa an innocent victim or a horrible, plotting killer?

And will D.D. ever get home to tell her boyfriend that she, the most unmaternal of all women, is pregnant.

I have read several of the books in this series before but, I must say, while I enjoyed them, this one is excellent! D.D is a good character, very smart, a great cop. And her little personal 'problem' is interesting. I must say it will be fun in the next book to she how she deals with motherhood because she is not off to a great start.

But the real star of this book is Tessa Leoni, who we get to find out more and more about, gradually, in a series of chapters written in the first person. I often don't like books that switch back and forth from first to third person, but here it works perfectly. Just when you start to think you know what happened, where the plot is going, another layer is peeled back. Is she good, is she bad...don't decide either way too soon. In every chapter we find out something more about the characters involved and we are looking at the facts from a whole different angle..and still not at all sure where this is all heading.

Yep, I enjoyed this one.
It is a very entertaining book that I was sorry to see end. It is a true page turner, well written and tightly edited with enough twists and turns..and a few carefully dropped keep the reader engrossed until the very last page. There are a lot of facts put out there, a lot of seemingly loose threads, but Ms. Gardner keeps them all well in hand and ties it all up very nicely and neatly by the end.
If you are a fan of Gardner, you will love this one. If you have not read any of her books before, this one can certainly stand alone and would be a great one to start with.
I think you will be hooked!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Color Me Maine

Maine Lighthouse Museum

'Manship Toasting the Angels' by Barry Faulkner, Farnsworth Museum

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Musing Monday...I Heard It Through The Grapevine..I Mean The iPod!

Gee, what could this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading possibly be?...

Do you listen to audiobooks?
Why, or why not?

A nice direct question, that as usual, I have an indirect answer to.

My answer is sometimes.
I have a bit of love/hate relationship with audiobooks.
I want to love them, but so often do not.

Why? Well, I think there are several issues for me. First of all there is the actual physical use of them. I assume if you download a file online, from Audible or some such place, it is easy. I actually did that one, from my library, but I totally forget if there were any problems. I think not.
But almost every audio I has listened to was from CDs. So I can either listen to them on the CD player in my car or download them to my iPod. Now, either I am doing something wrong in the way I download them to iTunes or other people are more patient than I am. It is a pain. And the other option, playing them in the car, highlights my major problem with audiobooks. In my everyday life, most of my car rides are just too short. It takes me 10-15 minutes to drive to work or go to the supermarket or most of my errands and that is just too short to get into a book.

Now yes, a LONG drive is much more successful. A few weeks ago I drove to Maine, which is about 7-8 hour drive from here. Perfect. But I might do that once or twice a year which would not get many audiobooks 'read', would it.

I also noticed something else. I think I am best with audio books without a huge number of characters or too complicated a story. The book I listened to on my recent trip was one in Louise Penny's series and I must say the narrator pronounced those French names way differently that I had in my head. I assume he had them right, but it was rather disorienting! In a real book, I can page back and reread something or check a point, something I personally can not do on an audio. I have realized I have a visual memory not an auditory one when I was in high school Spanish class and nothing has changed. I see something and I remember it. I hear something and it is usually in one ear and out the other. So with an audio book, we need to keep it a bit simple. Hey, just like me!

Ok, so say I found my perfect audiobook, not too complicated, not too many characters to remember. Why can't I listen to it other than in the car?
Well, one of two things happen. My mind wanders or I fall asleep.
If I am doing a task, I start to think about what I am doing, Something that is sometimes required, and find I have missed a hunk of the book. Rewind...
If I am sitting still, I fall asleep and I wake up to find a chapter has ended. Rewind...

I have always thought an audio book would be perfect while exercising. Walking...on that step thing at the gym...the time would fly as I burned the calories and worked toward fitness.
Sounds like a good idea, right?
Maybe I should put on the sneakers and give that a try.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Potato Candy

While traveling, I think one should sample the local foods, see what the natives are eating.

So, when I was in Maine, I made a discovery while in a local supermarket. I had gone in to restock my supply of Diet Mt. Dew, one of the finest beverage ever made and a need source of caffeine while on the road. So there I stood, the needed refrigerator pack of The Dew tucked under my arm as I waited in line, when my eye fell upon a small display near the register for Needham Candies.
The sign claimed that the product, some sort of chocolate cover square, was the favorite candy of Maine. Not just popular, not just a good seller but the Very Favorite Candy of Maine.

So I had to buy one, right, if only to report back to you, my dear readers.

I bought one, took it out to my waiting car...which is, by the way, named Betty White...because it is white...and opened the plastic. The candy was consumed and it was good. It contained coconut and reminded me very much of the Coconut Patties that, on occasion, someone would bring back from a trip to Florida when I was a wee Caite. I myself had not been to Florida at that point, so I pictured it as an exotic land covered with palm trees and coconut patties.
Which I found not to be totally true in later years, oddly enough.

But I still love coconut patties!
And this was a nice coconut patty.

OK, here comes the surprise.
A closer look at the ingredient label revealed that these Needham candies contained an unusual ingredient...POTATO. I see why those Maine folk love them, because we all know the close relationship between Mainers and potatoes. So much so that they even put potatoes in their  candy.

Later, I looked the candy up on the internet, trying to find out how the candy came to contain potato. I never did find that answer but I found something else.
What I found were recipes...many make the candy yourself at home. It seems it is a bit of a tradition to make them at Christmastime. And since every recipe was virtually the same and seemed very easy, I decided to give them a try.

Needham Bars

"Aroostook County is potato country. Even our candy has potato in it!"

  • 3/4 cup warm unseasoned mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 lbs confectioners' sugar
  • 8 ounces coconut
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Dip
  • 2 ounces paraffin wax (yes, like the stuff you seal canning jars with)
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 4 semi-sweet chocolate baking squares

Mix first six ingredients well.
Place into a 9x13 buttered pan and pat down until smooth.
Place in refrigerator until firm.
Cut into 24 squares.
Melt chocolate/wax in a double boiler.
Dip each square into melted chocolate.
Place on waxed paper to harden.
Store in airtight container.

I must say that I do not often have to go to the hardware store to buy an ingredient for my recipes, but I did have to for the wax.
I will also say that the wax makes the chocolate set up very fast and quite hard. The only change I made to the recipe was the amount of butter. Most recipes call for 1/4 cup, half a stick, but I found you need a full stick, 1/2 cup,  as a couple of recipes call for to make the mixture moist enough to stick together. It will seem quite dry at first but keep stirring and it will come together. I refrigerated overnight and they became quite firm and easy to cut. I melted the chocolate and wax in a stainless bowl over a pot of water and used a fork and skewer to put the candies in the mixture. and I will admit, I doubled dipped, because, as you can see in the picture at the top, the chocolate layer in the original was quite thick. I also dusted mine with a little ground almonds..just because.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Review of Ding Dong the Diva's Dead [66]

Camel Press, ISBN 978-1603818070
January 30, 2011, 246 pages

Sure, mezzo soprano Deborah de Lille has dreams of being a hugely successful opera singer, even as she scrapes by performing for bored local school kids. So when her friend and agent calls to tell her that he has wangled a small role for her in an Idaho opera company's production of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, she is a bit more thrilled than the minor role might call for. At least it is a start, a real profession production, financially underwritten, quite generously, by a millionaire local software mogul. She is the last minute fill in for a singer who was killed in a tragic car accident, and arrives to find that since another singer also had to very unexpectedly leave with no notice, she will actually be performing two roles.

She finds that she is stepping, quite literally, into a buzzing bee's nest. Many of the performers have some sort of previous personal relationship, friends and enemies, lovers, ex-lovers and rivals. Debbie tries to keep her head down and stay out of trouble but things start to go awry almost at one. A bike accident and smoke bombs may just be pranks, but when the brakes lines on Debbie's car are cut, fire breaks out, disco balls crash and someone ends up dead, it seems that someone may be trying to end Debbie's stage career before the curtain has even gone up. Why anyone would even bother might be the greatest mystery. Oh..did I mention the ghost?
At least ever time Debbie finds herself in peril...for some reason, usually while she is naked..that very wealthy and happily, very handsome, benefactor, always seem to be there to come to her rescue! Hmmm...just why is that?

Just as opera..and opera singers...may be a bit over the top, Ding Dong the Diva's Dead is a funny, rather over the top sort of mystery. The names of some of the characters are almost bizarre enough to make you laugh and I was quite happy to have all the 'performers' listed in the playbill at the beginning of the book to keep the large and colorful cast straight. Well, straight would be the wrong word for several of them. It is the theater after all!
"Add to the mix three preening tenors, a sexy lesbian director, a vengeful conductor, an obscenely rich and Hollywood-handsome general director, a fading Italian pop star, a trio of bitchy leading sopranos, an ambitious understudy, countless attention-starved underlings, an anti-opera terrorist group, a resident ghost, and Debbie's kooky and dysfunctional friends and family, and you have an opening night that promises to genuinely thrill and chill."
Both on stage and, off things will get wilder and wilder as the book progresses, until we will find our heroine hanging by a tread for her life and the curtain going down on a production which I doubt will be like anything you have ever seen. Or let's hope so!
Ding Dong the Diva's Dead is a fun romp of a mystery, that will probably expand your knowledge of the world of opera, including a look backstage that will be the most entertaining part of all.
To quote the author, Cat Melodia, which is "the nom de plume of a Seattle-based mezzo soprano and voice teacher"
“I don’t think the general public realizes how unglamorous the lives of opera singers can be—at least those of the 99.9 percent who don’t hit the big time,” Melodia says. “The world of operatic also-rans is a goldmine of humor, peopled as it is with larger-than-life characters whose insecurity, desperation and envy make them unusually good murder suspects. Most of what happens in my book is unlikely in the extreme, but there is more truth to it than you might suppose.”

Wow, who knew?? Well, after reading this entertaining book, we do!

My thanks to Tribute Books for sending me a copy of this book to review and if you are interested in reading some other thoughts on the book, head over and check out the BLOG TOUR. You might also take a peek at Cat Melodia's blog.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday..Maine Rocks!

All sorts of rocks that rock!


Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Review of "Long Gone" [65]

Long Gone: A Novel of Suspense by Alafair Burke
Harper, ISBN 978-0061999185
June 21, 2011, 368 pages

Alice Humphrey’s life is not turning out exactly as she once expected.

Her father is a successful movie producer, her mother a retired movie star and she herself was a bit of a famous child actor. But striking out on her own in New York City, trying to succeed without her father’s help, has been hard. Here she is, well into her 30’s and out of work for months, money running low. 

So when she is approached at a gallery opening by a man named Drew Campbell and offered a job as the manager of a new gallery that he is opening for a wealthy investor, it seems like a dream come true. You know what they say, that when things seem too good to be true, they probably are? Well, Alice should have listened. 

From the start, there are a few issues with the job, like the fact that every so often she will be required to display the photographs of an artist the investor is backing. And that those photographs are consider by some to be bordering on child pornography, bringing a religious group to picket out front of the store. But Alice is confident it can all be worked out and that things will soon quiet down. She will meet with Drew at the gallery and they will work out a plan.

But when she turns up for the early morning meeting, she finds the gallery totally empty, the windows papered over and, worst of all a body on the floor. A very dead, very bloody, very shot body, the body of Drew Campbell. Can things get worse? Of course they can! It seems there is no record of this Drew Campbell ever having existed..except ones that point back to her.  A photo show up of her kissing Drew, something she knows never happened, Alice’s name is on the store lease, and her glove is found with gunshot residue. It seems that Alice has gone from being an unemployed woman to being police's number one murder suspect. And maybe worse of all, it soon become apparent that she is not at all sure who she can trust.
Clearly, she is being set up but by whom and why? Her father is hiding something, her brother with a severe drug problem is always in need of money. Could her on again/off again boyfriend be involved or perhaps the family lawyer who seems to know a lot more than he is saying?

This is Alafair Burke’s seventh book, but her first standalone mystery after two three book series. And quite a good mystery it is, with perhaps a few flaws.

I found the beginning of the book rather confusing with, perhaps, too many characters and two many story lines introduced all at once. If I had been reading a paper book, rather than listening to an audiobook, I would have flipped back to reread parts, but with an audio I have enough trouble figuring out where I am without trying that. And I cannot say that I totally understood the need for the two subplots, one of a missing NJ teenager and the other of a FBI agent trying to find the man who killed his sister. Yes, in time, all the treads get tied together but perhaps it was all a little more complex that it had to be.

That being said, I enjoyed the book a good deal. Alice is a good character, smart and likable and out to do what she must to prove her innocence. There are lots and twists and turns and just when you think you understand what is going on, things go down another avenue, all leading up to an ending that I did not see coming.
A good, smart, enjoyable mystery that may take a little effort to get into but will pay you back with a good ride and a great ending.

My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers and Harper for a review copy of this book.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Musing Monday...You Can Judge a Book By It's Cover!

Let's head over and check out this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks...
Do you judge a book by its cover?

I admit it.
I am a shallow person.
I do judge a book by it's cover.

Of course, it is not totally about me being a shallow person. We are meant to judge a book by it's cover to some degree, aren't we? Or why would publishers bother to put what they think is an attractive cover on the book if we weren't meant to use it to judge the book. They design a cover to attract a certain audience. Hopefully one who will like the book. But first they have to make us pick it up and take a look and the cover is a large part of making that happen.
At least for me.

However, I think it is meant to be a short, shallow period of judgement, maybe just enough to make us pick up this book rather than that book. Then we will start to read what the book is about, maybe read the first couple of page and we will be so caught up that we will run to the register with out Visa card waving in one hand, the oh-so delightful book in the other. At least, I assume that is the plan.
Sometime it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I do think a cover can catch our eye, make us pause and make us pick up one book as opposed to maybe dozens of others sitting on a table in a bookstore. But usually it will only buy the book a moment's chance. Still, a moment is better than nothing.

I wonder how many really good books, books that I may have really liked, I have passed over because of a poor choice in cover art. I am thinking of a book that was recently reviewed on another blog, Pudgy Penguin Perusals, a book called The Woman Who Heard Color. If I did not always read her blog every day, most likely I would not ever have read that review and never taken even a look at that book. The cover is one often seen on historical romance books, romance books...the oh-so popular headless woman, her dress partially undone. Not my cuppa tea. Yep, I would have not given it a second glance. But actually, reading the review, it seems like a very interesting sounding book.
Someone at that publisher made a poor choice in representing what the book is really about and targeting it's audience.

Then, you have an example of the opposite case.
I read a review on Beth Fish Reads of a book called The Taste of Salt. The minute I saw that cover, with that little stack of beautiful sea glass, I knew I would buy that book. Even if I hated the book, which I did not, I would not be unhappy to own it just for the cover. And now I have quite a hankering to get hold of some sea glass...

I don't know a great deal about the process of picking a cover, of how much input the author has, of who has the final say, but I think, especially for a writer who does not have a well established audience, it is critically important. It is not a matter of fooling the reader but just helping the target reader pick that books from all the many, many other books out there. Yes, I think a really great cover can be a very important factor in a book's success.

And it is something I have noticed, and do not like, about about e-books and audiobooks.
With a 'real' book, every time I pick the book up to read, I see that cover. If it is one that I especially like, it adds to the pleasurable experience of my reading and it part of my whole enjoyment of the book. And, in the future, just looking at the cover again as it sits on a shelf (or one of my many piles) will remind me of a book I loved.  But with an e-book, while it has a 'cover', and on some readers it may even be in color, most likely I only see it the first time I 'open' the book. In the future, the reader will just take me to where I left off and I will not see the cover again. Sad.
Same with an audio book. If I download it to my iPod, when I do so will be the only time I glance at the cover...a small, little version of the cover at that.

Yes, I admit it.
E-books do have some advantages, but like the loss of those beautiful old album covers when we went to CDs and MP3 downloads, those advantages come with a price.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sammy (and Bandit) Sunday..Where are the Toys?

Sammy, I don't think Santa needs to visit this year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Pasta with Mushrooms

Oh, it has been quite the travel year for your humble blogger. Which you may have noticed, especially if you have followed my Wordless Wednesday posts for the last few months.
Lovely places all, but at the top of the list has to be Venice. There is something about Venice that I found so appealing, almost magical. Maybe that is why I have so many happy food memories from a rather brief stay there. Maybe eating by the side of a canal, sipping some wine, watching the boats pass back and forth, that makes everything taste better than it would elsewhere.

Or maybe the food is just really good there.

One dish that stuck in my memory was a pasta with mushrooms that I had our last evening in the city. Nice mushrooms in a creamy sauce with a perfectly cooked al dente pasta. It was a first course, followed by some veal with asparagus. was a tasty night.
So since I have been back, I have looked around for a recipe to try and duplicate it, without much success. Until I happened upon this recipe from my dear friends (OK, it is a one sided friendship) at America's Test Kitchen. Not too complex, yet with interesting flavors. So, I had to give it a try and see if it would live up to Venice.

Pasta with Mushrooms, Pancetta, and Sage

Serves 4 as main course, 6 to 8 as side dish.

Why this recipe works: For a weeknight pasta and mushrooms recipe with a woodsy, full flavor, we used a combination of mushrooms—cremini for their rich, meaty nature and shiitake for their hearty flavor and chewy texture. Cooking the mushrooms with salt released their juices and enhanced browning. We finished our mushroom pasta recipe by adding garlic, shallots, and sage to round out the flavors in a simple sauce of chicken broth, heavy cream, and lemon juice. 

So that the sauce and pasta finish cooking at the same time, drop the pasta into boiling water after adding the cremini to the skillet.


   4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

   2 tablespoons olive oil

   1 pound farfalle pasta, or campanelle

   3–4 large shallots , chopped fine (about 1 cup)

   3medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)

   10 ounces shiitake mushrooms , stems discarded, caps wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick

   10 ounces cremini mushrooms , wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick

   1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves , plus 1 additional teaspoon

   1 1/4cups chicken broth

   1/2 cup heavy cream

   1 tablespoon lemon juice from one lemon

   Ground black pepper

   2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

   2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves


1.    Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil, covered, in stockpot; add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until just shy of al dente. Drain and return pasta to stockpot.

2.    Meanwhile, cook pancetta in 2 tablespoons olive oil, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper-towel lined plate. Add shallots to fat remaining in skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high; add shiitakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add cremini mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in sage and cook 30 seconds. Transfer mushrooms to bowl. Add broth to skillet and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits; off heat, stir in cream, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
        3. Add mushrooms, pancetta, broth mixture, cheese, and parsley to pasta in stockpot. Toss over                 medium-low heat until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes; serve immediately.

Was it as good? Well, it was very darn good and pretty fast and easy. Not the most inexpensive recipe because those mushrooms can be a bit expensive at my local supermarket, but I do love mushrooms!
And while the original Venice dish did not have pancetta as far as I can remember, I am of the opinion that almost every recipe can only be made better with the addition of a crispy pork product.
Also while the original pasta was fettuccine, I rather like the cute little campanelle, not a shape I was familiar with. Sage is a nice addition too, again not in the Venice dish that I noticed.

But I missed the white tablecloths, the wandering musicians and the canal with all those boats.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Review of "A Trick of the Light" [64]

A Trick of the Light: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny
Macmillian Audio, ISBN 978-1427213204
August 30, 2011

It should be a very happy time for Three Pines resident Clara Morrow. She has a solo show of her work at the Musee d'Art Contemporian in Montreal, a dream for any artist.
But it seems that her husband is more than a little jealous of her success and in fact, may have been sabotaging her for years. Then, a body is found in her garden the morning after her opening night party, a body that turns out to a former friend of Clara and a less than loved art critic.

In this, the seventh Inspector Gamache mystery, solving the murder is at the center of the story, but the true heart of the book may be the residents of Three Pines and Gamache and his colleagues and an interesting group they all are. Will Clara and Peter's marriage survive? Will bistro owner Oliver forgive Gamache for a terrible wrong done to him previously in The Brutal Telling? Will Gamache and his second in command Beauvior be able to deal with the physical and emotional scars that linger from a police raid that almost cost them both their lives? The strength of this series is that while be care about the murder, it is the backstory, the quirky, interesting residents of Three Pines and Penny's beautiful, descriptive writing that keeps us coming back.

So, must we read the previous six books before we start this one?
Well, perhaps not, but I would suggest you read the previous two books, The Brutal Telling (which I had read) and Bury Your Dead (which I did not)  before you read this one. I think the fact that I had not read the book right before this one left me not fully appreciating at first what happen in that deadly raid, but I was shortly up to speed.
Another problem I had was how the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous, which plays a key role in the story, is dealt with. I think most people, whether through books or movies or personal experience know a bit about how AA and other 12 step programs work. Like the whole 12 step part. But we are expected to believe that Gamache had no basic knowledge of the group, the steps, the role of sponsors, the anonymity..which really tested the story's credibility. For me that was the one weakness of this book, a book that otherwise was quite good and a must read for fans of the series.

I am happy, on the other hand, to say this joins my short list of successful audiobooks. Nothing like an 8 hours drive to Maine to give  some great flow to an audiobook! I see more of them in my roadtrip future.

My thanks to the publisher and Amazon Vine for a copy of this book.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Casco Bay Mail Boat

Chebeague Island always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Musing Monday..."Just the Facts Ma'am..Just the Facts."

So, let's head over and check out this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks...
What types of nonfiction do you read? Can do multiple choices.

Ok, prove you are as old as I am by getting that TV reference in the title. If you do, you are old. Or watch a lot of reruns.

Ok, on to the work at hand, the question of the day.
I read..or rather look at...very little non-fiction.
No self sports or financial books.
No, my reading is firmly in the land of make believe...glorious fiction.

And what non-fiction that crosses my eyes..pun can certainly be considered more examined that actually read.

For example, when I am going on a trip, I like to look at some of the travel books, Fodor or Frommer's or DK Travel, to get an idea of what I am about to visit and make some loose plans. But even then, I tend to skip around to the relevant parts rather than read it cover to cover. And take cookbooks, of which I own a fair number. Again, I peruse rather than read. I know there are people who actually read cookbooks as you would any other book, but I do not quite get that. I guess if it was more of a food memoir than a true cookbook I could see that, but as I mention from time to time, I have pretty much sworn or memoirs.
They pretty much all sound whiny to me.

But again, back to the topic.
I also have a fair number of DIY and gardening books, used as references and referenced a lot less since that thing called the Internet came along. Also have a fair number of lighthouses books, referenced and perused...actually, I like the pictures.
So, with all these categories, the use non-fiction books for reference on topics I like,  has largely been overtaken by the use of the Internet. Except for subject that relies on photographs which, for me, are much nicer in books, one first stop is the Internet. And travel books that I can take along and consult, because I understand there are places in the world without the Internet..or a cell phone signal! Really!

The other big topic, number wise, of non-fiction books that I own or have "read" since I started keeping track, are books about religion and philosophy. Now, by no means do I read as much on that subject as I did when I was younger, but I still do read some from time to time...and these I actually read, front cover to back cover.
It just seems to take me a lot, lot longer to read them than it used to.
It can't be me...the books must be getting harder. ;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sammy and Bandit Sunday...and the Laptop Saga

Why does Bandit look so sad?

Well, he knows my laptop bit the dust.
It has been limping along, with more and more problems, for quite awhile. A day did not go by that I did not curse Vista.

But Friday, it informed me my battery was dead and could no longer charge. Sure, I could buy a new one and pour more money into this piece of...trash.
Then, when I tried to update my virus software, which it insisted I do or suffer dire consequences, the problems mounted. The outcome, after lots of wasted time? No working virus software.
I had had it, trying to work around all the problems and issues.
So, first thing this Saturday, off I went to Best Buy. After reading one article about Top 10 Laptops on PCMag, I bought one. It's a ASUS, and I also bought a new router...which is another story.

What is amazing?
Within 30 minutes of getting home I had the router and laptop up and running.
Wow, how easy these things are now, compared to the years ago when we all first got computers.

I restored my pictures and music and documents from my back up [you have a back up, right?] and I am good to go!! Yes Sammy, you can play with it next!
I love shiny new electronic toys.
I love finally being able to access the wifi on my Nook and iTouch. I love that the battery life on this laptop is more than 7 hours and it has a huge hard drive.
I love that all my photos [approx 18,000] are safe and that, once again, I have protection from the evils out there in cyber land.

By the way, I stole these two pictures of the wee puppies from my niece.
Specially from her blog, the world from down here. Finally after a year, she has again posted. A YEAR! So I figured she might not notice.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Lobster Roll...The food of the gods

For many people, Maine is synonymous with one food....Lobster Roll. And in my quest to provide you, my dear readers, with the very best in objective food knowledge, I undertook a quest during my Maine visit to study this subject. This oh so delicious subject.
That is, assuming you like lobster. If you do not, then this will hold little interest for you. Yes, there are people who do not like lobster, and in fact, the SIL is one of them. I do not understand it, but I will accept that it is a fact.

So, the lobster roll.
Two things are required, lobster..and a roll. With rare exception, the roll will be a toasted or grilled "New England" roll. For those who have not been to the far northeast, a New England roll is a hot dog bun that is open on the top and only brown on that top. So really it is rather like a piece of bread that you form into a "U", if that makes sense, Yes, I have been served lobster rolls on other sorts of roll, but most will stick with tradition.

From there, as far as I can determine, things go one of two ways.

You can make some sort of chilled lobster salad, with mayo, celery, lemon juice, scallions, pepper, tarragon, dash of kitchen sink... and serve it cold on the toasted bun. Not bad. But lobster is a delicate taste and it can get overwhelmed. I will admit to even having a lobster roll at McDonald's once, a McLobster, up there and it was not too bad, especially for the price. Because lobster rolls, while on hot dog buns are not hot dog priced. The more lobster, the higher the price. But as is often true, you get what you pay for.

Next, there is option two.
Lobster on toasted roll, mayo or melted butter on the side.

Now, neither is bad.
I mean, it is lobster after all. But if given a choice, I will go with option two. You will see two examples of option two in the photos. The first, in the picture above, was from the Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth and was very nice. I foolishly did not request butter, so I was given the roll with the standard dollop of mayo on the side and a pickle on top. Nice fries, good chowder and a priceless view. Quite nice.

But, without question, the best example of that variety, option two, that I found on this trip was at Red's Eat, a roadside stand on Rt.1 (and I mean feet from the road) in Wiscasset, ME.

I have passed the place several times. You can not help but see it if you drive up Rt.1, especially with the long, very slow line of people snaking down the side of the road and the traffic slowing as people cross the road. But when I passed it this trip it was softly raining and while there was still a line, it was much shorter than usual. You wait...and wait..and wait and then give your order, pay and wait a bit more while you order is made and put in a paper bag to take to an outside table..or in this case, somewhere out of the wet. There was that one little table under the overhang but those folks showed little sign of moving on, so back I walked with my bag and umbrella

Was it worth the wait? Was it worth sitting in my car, eating? YES! A huge amount of big chunks of chilled lobster, a tail, several claws, certainly more than a full lobster worth of meat. Sweet and tender, with a side of hot butter to dip it in and then that nice toasted roll to eat separately. Some decent onion rings on the side. Think of it as the lazy man's lobster with a roll on the side. OMG.

Now, I understand that there is, in fact, a third variety, available only in Connecticut. The lobster is warmed in butter and then placed on the roll. I must say, this sounds idea and I must plan a road trip to CT. next season to report on this! For some reason, it seems this warmed variety was invented in CT and has not spread beyond the Nutmeg State's border.
A stop at Mystic Seaport...and that Book Barn...yes. Yes, I will do it!

Just for you, my dear readers, just for you.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...In and Around Portland, Maine

Portland Head and Ram Island Ledge Lights

Sailing students..and a cruise ship always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.