Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Cooking....The Classic Jack Rose...With Homemade Grenadine

“At five o’clock I was in the Hotel Crillon, waiting for Brett. She was not there, so I sat down and wrote some letters. They were not very good letters but I hoped their being on Crillon stationery would help them. Brett did not turn up, so about quarter to six I went down to the bar and had a Jack Rose with George the barman.” ..from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

 For some, that might be their first exposure to the classic cocktail, the Jack Rose.
Mine was when I was a little too young to be reading Hemingway.
As I have mentioned, my family owned a bar when I was a wee Caite..and a teenage Caite..and a college graduate Caite. By that time it was more of a shot and beer place, but when I was young there were actual cocktails being served sometimes.
On a Saturday night, my mother would go there in the evening, a wee Caite in hand, Lawrence "Champagne Music" Welk on the TV,  while my father, in a crispy white shirt and tie, was one of the bartenders.
My mother's drink was the Jack Rose and Caite had a Shirley Temple. "An extra cherry please!"

I think there is something so nice about a cocktail, a calm and sophisticated way to start the dining experience. And according to The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury, first published in 1948, that is the classic purpose of the cocktail a pre-dinner drink.

"Embury first outlines some basic principles for fashioning a quality cocktail:
  • It should be made from good-quality, high-proof liquors.
  • It should whet rather than dull the appetite.  Thus, it should never be sweet or syrupy, or contain too much fruit juice, egg or cream.
  • It should be dry, with sufficient alcoholic flavor, yet smooth and pleasing to the palate.
  • It should be pleasing to the eye.
  • It should be well-iced.
Embury stresses frequently that the drink will never be any better than the quality of the cheapest ingredient in it, and hence he stresses constantly the need for the highest quality spirits, liqueurs, cordials, and modifiers (fresh squeezed lemons, etc.) He also repeatedly stresses that a cocktail, in the classic sense (a before-dinner drink) should have no more than the slightest touch of sweetness to it, and deplores the use of drinks like the Brandy Alexander as pre-prandial cocktails, as they dull rather than sharpen the appetite. He does not denigrate sweet drinks per se, pointing out that they are excellent after dinner or mid-afternoon drinks "in place of a half-pound of chocolate cookies", but they are anathema as a "cocktail" before a large meal.

Embury's six basic drinks are the Martini, the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, the Daiquiri, the Sidecar, and the Jack Rose." ..from Wikipedia
There are a few theories as to where the Jack Rose got it's name. Some say it was named for the pink "Jacquemot" rose, others say for a Newark, NJ  restaurateur. Or maybe just because it is made with Applejack and is rose colored.
I am pulling for the Newark connection.
Regardless, it was a hugely poplar drink in the 20's and 30's..and I am trying to stage a comeback.
Everywhere you go, order "a Jack Rose, bartender!"

Now, on to the ingredients.
They are simple.
Applejack. The liquor, not the kid's cereal.
Lemon or/Lime juice

Once again, here we have a New Jersey connection.
Applejack is made by Laird and Co., which was established in 1780 by Robert Laird in the tiny community of Scobeyville, NJ.  It was America’s first commercial distillery, and still going strong. Applejack is traditionally made by distilling apple cider and as well as Applejack, Laird's also make several aged apple brandies. In the spirit of the finest ingredients, I would have used the better Apple brandy...they make a 100 proof, a 7 1/2 year and 12 year old aged Apple brandy...if I could have found a bottle locally.
But I could not.

So let's use the best quality with the other two ingredients.
Fresh fruit folks. Not stuff from a bottle or a plastic squeeze 'fruit'. Real fruit.
Some recipes use lime. Some recipes use lemon. What to do? Pick your favorite. Not the Laird website uses lemon, and they should know, right?
But the grenadine, that is another matter.

Many of you may have a bottle of grenadine in the frig. No doubt Rose's, by far the most common brand.
Throw it out! Go ahead!!
It is colored sugar water, nothing more. Corn sugar, water, red dye. No!! No, I say.
So we will make our own. Don't worry, it is simple.

One Part Pomegranate juice
One part super fine sugar.

Now, some recipes boil the juice to reduce it my half, take it off the heat and add the sugar, stirring to melt. Or, just use superfine sugar, which will dissolve easily in liquid, and shake.
You can keep it in the freezer, or in the frig for a month. I did...add about an ounce of vodka and it will keep longer. And a little vodka never hurt.

If using for the kid's Shirley Temples, you might not want the vodka. Or maybe you do. Who am I to judge?
Use it over ice cream..or in whipped cream...or in tea.

So, what about that promised Jack Rose?
Again, easy.

Jack Rose
2 ounces Applejack (or apple brandy)
1/2 oz. Lemon juice
1/4-1/2 oz. Grenadine

Shake well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or serve over ice.

And one more drink, from the Laird's website, since you now have that bottle of Applejack on hand. It is the fittingly named the Jersey Girl. Sort of the love child of a Jack Rose and a Cosmo...

Jersey Girl
1 1/2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Fresh lime juice
2 dashes of cranberry juice

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

The classic Jack Rose

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, September 28, 2012

Review of "Jellicoe Road" [80]

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Harper Teen, ISBN 0061431850
March 9, 2010, 432 pages

"In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.
At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future."

This is one of those books I have seen mentioned again and again in BlogLand, making top 10 lists after top 10 lists among the reviewers I have read.
I read My Friend Amy's review and I read Rhapsody in Books' review and others and saw the great rating on Library Thing.
So I figured it was finally time to pick it up and to give it a go.
I don't want to miss a really good one.

And then I almost put it down again pretty fast.
But I did not, happily, because while it may take a bit of effort to get into, it paid off.
Why did I almost put it down.
Well, because as you start it, I think that you, as I, will have no idea at all what is going on. And that is a little disconcerting. All this talk of Townies and Cadets and battles and territory..did I wander into some sort of end of the world story? What in the world was this all about?

No, this one is firmly planted in the present day, at a boarding school and town in the Australian bush. Well, excepts for the parts we find out about that took place some years ago, mostly from Taylor reading the manuscript   her guardian Hannah has been writing. This is the same Hannah's whose mysterious disappearance from her house near the school is at the heart of this story. And heart is what this book, as it gradually unwinds and becomes clearer to us, is all about. Friendship and family and love..and aren't they in many ways the same thing?

I will not tell you any more about the plot. Yes, the first third or so of the book is rather confusing and I bet more than a few readers have given up. Especially in it's targeted YA audience. But stay with it and listen for the clues. I promise you it will gradually all become clear and all start to make sense. Still, it will be right until the very end that it is all spelled out and all those clues get tied together. But by then I think that I can promise that you will be enchanted.
You will spill a tear. Or two.
You will have met some great characters with a great story.

As a small aside, let me just say that while this is listed as a YA book, it is certainly a book that adults will enjoy as well. Which is why I often find putting books in categories like that, while the intention may be good, somewhat misleading. As, I think, in this case, is the cover, with that cute, crooked font, which I think might lead you to believe the book will be something other than what it is. This book isn't cute. But is it interesting and clever and touching and, in the best possible way, sweet.
People of whatever age will like what they like to read and dislike what they dislike. Except for the fact that many, but not all, of the characters are teenagers, the themes tackled in Jellicoe Road are universal and appeal to ever age.
So don't let that...or what may be a slow and confusing start...keep you from reading this one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Red Again

There is red all around. 
Sometimes you just have to look a little closer. 


Burpee Farm, PA

..On Holland America cruise

Jersey Shore..

Reading Terminal Market always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Review of "Miss Buncle's Book" [79]

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson 
Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN 978-1402270826
September 1, 2012, 304 pages.

Times are tough for Barbara Buncle. The world wide Depression of the 1920's and 30's has reach Miss Buncle's little English town of Silverstream and especially her bank balance. Her investments are not producing as they once did and she is going to have to find a way to make some money. She decides she has two choices, to keep chickens or write a book. Happily for us, she goes with the book.

But what to write? She claims she has no imagination, so she decides to write about her little village and especially the interesting cast of characters that live there. She sets to work, then packs it up and takes it to a publisher, the charming Mr. Abbott, who is intrigued with both the book and it's author. He is not sure, after reading the book, whether Miss Buncle is totally naive or a clever satirist, but either way he finds her and her story delightful. But trouble is lurking because, much to Miss Buncle's amazement, the book is a bestseller.

Isn't that a good thing? Yes, it is great for her bank balance but causes great turmoil in Silverstream. Because everyone in the village see themselves, not too well disguised, in the book's characters and some are very happy with what they see. And they set out to discover who among them is the mysterious author, Mr. John Smith.
For some the book is a chance to look at their lives and make some very positive changes. For them the book itself become like the Golden boy who appears in the latter part of Buncle's book, magically allowing people to do what they dream about. But it also, for a tiny bit of intrigue, brings out the worst in one or two. Happily for us, it takes the villagers a long time, and in fact the publication of Miss Buncle's second book, to figure out who the author is. In the meantime we get to watch what happens when someone holds up a very clear mirror and people get to see themselves as they really are.

Dorothy Emily Stevenson Peploe
I must thank Pudgy Penguin Perusals for bringing this book to my attention because I was totally unfamiliar with Stevenson's work...and she had written over 40 books!
You know when you finish a book, turn that last page and slam the cover shut and one word just comes to mind. Well, the word here is delightful! This book is charming without being sugary sweet, very clever and often very, very funny. And oddly modern in it's feel. Ok, I missed it when I heard about this book and did not realize that this was the republication of a book that first came out in 1938. It could have been written yesterday...well, if you are a very talented writer.

I am so happy that this book has been reissued and, come November, the second in the series, Miss Buncle Married, will be reissued as well. Oh my, a! Hopefully the third and last in this series, The Two Mrs. Abbotts, will not be far behind. Not to worry when you finish that one either, because I understand many of her other books intertwine with each other and a number of your favorite characters may make an appearance in one or more of them.
Hopefully these new editions will open Stevenson's books to a whole new audience. They deserve it!

My thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for providing me with a copy for review.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Musing Monday...Color Me Capricious

Let's check out this weeks Musing Monday question, as always, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading...
This week’s musing –courtesy of– asks… Do you have any hobbies outside of reading? Or do you collect anything?

Let me answer the second question first. No, I do not collect anything. I have seen too many episodes of "Hoarders" and it strikes fear in my heart.

Now the subject of hobbies is a different matter.
In my lifetimes I have had a number of hobbies most of which that have come and gone.
And I blame the good sisters at East Orange Catholic High School, where I received my secondary education.
They had a good idea. See, at the end of every semester, exams would be given and then there were one or two additional weeks of scheduled attendance. What to do? So they offered the chance to teachers and administrators to give a little mini-class in any subject that interested them and we students could sign up for a couple. I remember I took a class in making stained glass, my first chance to use a soldering iron! And I remember another in card games. The tiny, little old nun that taught it loved Bridge and tried, pretty unsuccessfully, to pass that on to us. But Gin Rummy...and Canasta...oh, we were fans and I and several of my pals spent many hours of our free time in the following years snapping them cards.

And yet today, I never play cards. Maybe because Canasta, especially the best kind with four players, is a rather long and complicated game full of rules that no one is ever willing to learn.
But it is also that I am a fickle and capricious hobbyist. For awhile I am very interest in something...and then I lose interest.
Perhaps it is like my feeling about TV shows. I can watch a show every week, love that show..and yet after a few seasons, I have usually just had enough. It may still be a good show but I have moved on.
In the world of hobbies, I have a similar history and hobbies, there have been a few. I remember a short interest in crocheting. I had a few zig-zag afghans and pillows to show for it. No idea what happen to them! There is that very big...and I must say, very well done...dollhouse in my basement. Wood siding, cedar shake roof, all to perfect scale. But after a couple of years, my interest in miniatures waned. Even vegetable gardening, something I did for years, just does not grab me like it once did. As my sad tomato plants this year were witnesses to that.

These days I guess this wee blog is my hobby. It certainly takes enough time to be a hobby.
Will this one last longer than others have?
Actually, it has already
And then there is the fact that it ties into reading, the one hobby that has lasted my entire lifetime, more than half a century now. And it has peaked two other interests, cooking, with the Weekend Cooking meme that I take part in, and photography with Wordless Wednesday. Maybe I need the pressure to come up with something weekly to keep me on track.
Or maybe one week I will just pack it all in.

On the bad side, I recently read an article (or part of an quote that funny commercial) online that listed the top 10 most expensive hobbies. What was number one? Photography. Leave it to me!
The good news is that if I ever loose interest, there is actually a market to sell my new camera and lenses online.
Oddly, there is not one for my old crochet hooks.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Cooking ....Taiwanese Braised Pork Noodles

I love noodles.
Of all sorts.
With all sorts of sauces.
So when I saw a recipe for this dish, my interest was peaked!

Pork...a flavorful sauce...noodles!
OK, it seems this dish, which is referred to as classic, everyday dish that every Taiwanese mother has her own version of, can be served on either rice or noodles. But, as much as I like rice, yes, I went with the noodles.
You could use any sort you like. I happened to have a wide 'lo mein' dry noodle on hand, so I used that. But you could use linguine, or egg noodles or any sort of Asian noodle, udon, rice, ramen, fresh or dry. Or, yes, even rice.

For most of the recipes I saw, the sauce is fairly similar. Soy, vinegar, a little brown sugar  and the wonderful smelling five-spice powder.
Shallots or onions, garlic, ginger again, usually appear. Many recipes call for Chinese fried onions, which I admit I made no attempt to find. On the other hand, I doubled up the mushrooms when I realized I had bought both the dry and fresh. In my mind, the more mushrooms the better and it was certainly not too many in relation to the pork.
In my mind.

Taiwanese Braised Pork Noodles

  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cooking oil
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound ground pork (or ground beef/chicken/turkey) 
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • One 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained and diced
  • 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • or/and 4 oz. dried shiitake, soaked in boiling water, drained and sliced. Retain soaking liquid
  • 2 stalk green onion, chopped
  • 1 pound noodles or rice of your choice

1. In a small bowl, combine the chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, five spice powder and brown sugar. Set aside.
2. Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, swirl in the cooking oil. Add in the shallots and cook about 2 minutes. Stir in the ground meat and cook until brown, breaking up large pieces. Push aside the shallots and ground beef to one side of the pan to create a small spot to fry the garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger for 1 minutes until fragrant. Add in the bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Toss everything in the pan together.
3. Pour in the broth/soy sauce mixture and pork and bring to a simmer. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Check liquid level and if it become dry add additional broth or reserved mushroom liquid. Stir in the green onions just before stirring.
4. While pork is simmering, cook the noodles or rice according to package instructions.
5. Serve the ground beef mixture over the noodles or rice, garnished with chopped cilantro if desired.

They say it freezes well, the perfect thing to have on hand for a quick dinner.
I don't know because over a few days, I ate it all.
The last day, I actually made a soup of it, with the noodles, the thick saucy meat, a bunch of shallots and some stock I had on hand. It was tummy warming yummy!!

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, September 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Just a Few Jersey Views

Just a few random photos from around the southern part of the Garden State.





 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Review of "The Last Victim" [78]

The Last Victim: A Novel by Karen Robards
Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0345535405
August 7, 2012, 336 pages

When Charlotte Stone was a teenager, she witnessed her friend and her friend's family murdered by a serial killer. She was hidden and escaped, the only victim of the Boardwalk Killer to escape. She did not see his face, could not identify him and he was never caught, although his killing stop.

Now it is 15 years later and Charlotte is now Doctor Stone, and a leading expert on the minds of serial killers. She working on a study in a prison in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, when the FBI come to request her help. It seems the Boardwalk Killer is back and she is in a unique position to assist them. She seems to have insights into crimes that are beyond her medical and psychological training and which could give her and the FBI the advantage they desperately need to try and save the life of the latest girl he has taken but they believe may still be alive.
And they are right. Charlotte has a very special 'gift', one she does not control and does not even want. She sees dead people...wooooo hooooo..people who have died violent deaths and not yet totally 'passed on' and who can sometimes give her clues into what happened to them.

But there is one more twist to the story before she heads out from the prison. As she is talking to Special Agent Tony Bartoli in her office, the inmate, convicted serial Michael Garland, who she was just interviewing for her study, get attacked. He is stabbed by another inmate and, as she goes to help, dies in her arms. And now it seems his ghost, his rather creepy, charismatic, violent ghost is 'attached' to her, popping up all the time, until he is forced to move on.

Wow, there are so many reasons why I should have hated this book. So many reasons that made me wonder why in the world I ever requested the ARC of this book. When I saw this was listed as a paranormal novel, and a romance, I was totally sure I was going to hate it. The cover is even one of the sort of book that I don't really like. When I saw the very mixed reviews on Amazon, I thought this was going to be bad. Bad.

And ya know what?
I was wrong! No, I actually though it was a very good book, totally enjoyed it and whipped right through it to it's exciting conclusion. Regarding most of those bad reviews...I think they totally missed one HUGE point that makes all the difference to their issues with this story. One huge point which I can totally not explain to you without giving away the whole story. Sorry, but if you read this book, and I do recommend that you do so, you will know what I mean. Is that confusing enough?
The paranormal was not what I expected, the romance was not what I expected and the whole book turned out quite differently than I expected with a clever little twist at the very end that I loved.
Yes, it is about a serial killer and a bit scary and dark, but parts of it, especially Charlotte's conversations with herself and her conversations with her ghostly companion are very funny at times. And the investigation, with a few clues Charlotte picks up from her own brand of witness, is smart and face paced.

Have you ever started a book, sure that you would dislike it, sure you would hate it, and then just the opposite ended up being true.
Well, The Last Victim is such a book and if there is a sequel..and I feel a sequel coming on...I will be grabbing it up.
For me, that is the best recommendation you can get.

My thanks to the publisher and Library Thing Early Reviewers for my copy of this book.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Musing Monday...How Do I Hate Thee...Let Me Count The Ways.

Let's check out this weeks Musing Monday question, as always, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing — courtesy of– asks…
What is your least favorite book? Why?

I'm sorry, I don't mean to sound whiny, but didn't we answer this recently?
I already put the name of the book out of my mind, but I do remember it had a bug on the cover. A very big bug.
Maybe a fly.

So, let's look at a few things that make me dislike a book.

I think a good book needs at least three things. Maybe four.
A good plot...a story worth telling. Which is maybe why I hate most memoirs. I am sure the author of ever memoirs think their life is a tale worth telling, but I find they are usually not. At least not to me.
Second, I want some good characters. Interesting, a bit different. Conflicted and flawed is often good.
Lastly, I want it to be well written.
Is that too much to ask?
OK, I am no writer. I am not terrible, at least semi-literate, but not great. Nevertheless, like that famous quote about porn, I know good writing when I see it. Sadly, it seems a fair number of people that call themselves writers do not have that same talent. Read it...does that sound good? If not, try again. And again...and again.
Harsh? Maybe, but true.

Now, a book can be pretty good even if they do not excel in all of these things. Some great characters will make me overlook a flawed plot. Beautiful writing can allow me to forgive a lot. But I have my limits and I am amazed by the number of books that get published..even by like real Big Name publishers...that fall far short in one or more of these.
What was my fourth thing? I hate a book that rambles on and on, that could have gained so much from a liberal use of the Big Red Pen. Cut. Cut. Then cut some more.
Oh editors, where are you?

Do you have something that really makes you dislike a book? Care to name you most hated book?

OK, on a totally unrelated subject, I was reading a New York Times review of the latest Lee Child's book, called "A Wanted Man". By the way, they liked it, which is not the point I want to make.
What upset me was reading in that review that there is shortly going to be a movie out based on Child's 9th book, "One Shot", which I read. Good book. So a movie based on it is a fine thing and we have not reached the issue yet.

The issue is that they have cast Tom Cruise as Child's famous hero, Jack Reacher. Now, if you are at all familiar with the books, you know that Reacher is described at being 6 foot 5 inches tall, and who, as the Times review mentions, looks like a "gorilla with its face smashed in." He is a presence of a man. He is a force.
Just like Tome Cruise, right. NOT! What is he, 5'2"? With lifts. Ok, maybe 5' 6".
Really what the heck are they thinking??
I am not even that much of a Reacher fan, not like some I could name (..Sandy, are you out there?) but even I find this offensive. Why, oh why do they do this sort of thing? Yes, Cruise is a big name. Made lots of big movies over the years. But this is such terrible casting!
So wrong....

OK, I am done ranting.
For this week. :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Maru or Larry?

Do you know Maru, the internet cat sensation?
If not, you must watch one of his video. There are a seemingly endless number of them on YouTube...with MILLIONS of hits.
Here is one, with some particularly annoying music that I though was perfect!

I am especially fond of his videos with boxes.
He loves boxes.
He loves sliding into them.
He loves jumping into them.
He loves sitting in them. especially if they are too small.

I tried to get Larry interested.
He says he does not want to be a star.
Then he yawned and went back to sleep.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Weekend Cooking...A Review of "The Complete Cook's Country" [77]

The Complete Cook's Country TV Show Cookbook by Editors at Cook's Country
Boston Common Press, ISBN 978-1936493005
September 1, 2012, 400 pages

Are you sick of me telling you how much I like America's Test Kitchen?
Well, tough!
Because they have a new cookbook out and I bought it and I love it and I am going to share!

This one is from the ATK spin-off, Cook's Country. Same folks, same techniques, same great recipes, slightly different emphasis....
"This is real regional American food, from the past as well as the present, and it comes from a real place where it was cooked by your grandmother or my great uncle. As they say in the art business, this food has "provenance"...seeking out lost and regional recipes..and bring them up to date and freshen them up for a new audience."
It is a very attractive book, each recipe covering a two page spread, with a full color picture, a paragraph explaining 'Why This Recipe Works, the recipe and often a B&W box with a lesson in technique, or some historical information about the dish or some buying suggestions. And it contains every recipe from the TV show, all 5 seasons.

There are 11 chapters in all, with titles like Our Sunday Best, Tex-Mex Favorites, Everyone Loves Italian, Great American Cakes and Cookies and Save Room for Pie. Everyone loves pie, right!
Each chapter begins with a charming vintage looking introduction, with some great photographs that took me back to my childhood, and that set up the recipes perfectly. Southern Style Skillet Cornbread..Baltimore Pit Beef...Gumbo..Italian Pot Roast..Monkey Bread..Maine Blueberry Grunt..I could go on and on. There is not a recipe here that does not sound and look delicious.

Then there is what is maybe my favorite part of the book, a 50 page section at the end with two parts, Stocking Your Pantry and Shopping For Equipment. Not sure what knife to buy? Should you spend $150...$200 for one of those Famous Brands. Well no, they say. Their best chef knife is the $30 Victorinox Fibrox 8" Chef's Knife...and I can tell you it is true from personal experience. Best semi-sweet chocolate chips? Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet! I can't disagree.  From curry powder to blenders, it is full of great stuff and great information. This is just one reason this would make a great book for someone just stocking a new kitchen.
I will warn you, this book is rather oddly lacking in vegetable dishes. There are a few, especially if you include potatoes but it is veggie light. If you are looking for veggies, this may not be the best place.

So, I decided to share a recipe. But which one?
So I picked one for a dish I don't really love.
My mother made a good meatloaf, but I never learned the secret and after a few tries, with mushy, or crumbling, or tasteless ones, gave up.
Well, my no-meatloaf days are over! Because this one is good!
My sister-in-law, an actual fan of meatloaf, said it was the best meatloaf she ever had!! EVER.
I though it was pretty darn good myself.

Cook's Country Glazed Meatloaf


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers (about 17 crackers)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk 
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork or turkey
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
Whisk all the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Reserve 1/4 cup glaze mixture in a small bowl and simmer the remaining glaze over medium heat until it is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat lightly with cooking spray. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Cook the onion until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl.

Process the saltines and milk in a food processor until smooth. Add the beef and pork and pulse until well combined, about ten 1-second pulses. (You can also do this process by hand, although the beef and saltine mixture won’t be as well mixed.) Transfer the meat mixture to the bowl with the cooled onion mixture. Add the eggs and yolk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to the bowl and mix with your hands until combined.

Adjust the oven racks to the upper (about 4-inches away from broiler elements) and middle positions and heat the broiler. Transfer the meat mixture to the prepared baking sheet and shape it into a 9- by 5-inch loaf. Broil on the upper rack until well browned, about 5 minutes. Brush 2 tablespoons of the reserved, uncooked glaze over the top and sides of the loaf and then return to the oven and broil for another 2 minutes.

Transfer the meatloaf to the middle rack and brush with the remaining uncooked glaze. Change the oven temperature to bake at 350 degrees and bake the meatloaf for 40 to 45 minutes, until cooked through. Transfer the meatloaf to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Slice and serve, passing the cooked glaze at the table.

Of course, I had to make a little change. I had read another blog post, which I lost  and can not give credit to, which made a switch for the ground pork. I replaced the ground pork with Italian sausage. You could not really tell what that extra flavor was..the SIL did not guess..but I think it added a great little touch and would do it that way again. Also, I was not at my house, did not have a food processor with me, so I just used my very clean hands to mix it up.
The panade, the crackers and milk, just melted in, keeping the loaf moist.  That dash of hot sauce and the vinegar in the glaze was perfect to balance the sweetness.
With some mashed potatoes...they have some great potato recipes too...this would be a perfect everyday or Special Day dinner.

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, September 14, 2012

Review of "Sweat" [76]

Sweat: A Thriller by Mark Gilleo
Story Plant, ISBN 978-1611880519
August 28, 2012, 366 pages

It has been a rough few years for Jake Patrick, caring for his mother as she suffers from cancer.
Now that she has died, he finds himself in debt and looking for a way to get his life back on track and return to graduate school. So, even though he is not thrilled with the idea, he goes to his estranged father, a very wealthy, very successful businessman, to ask for a summer job. Yes, he is not above using a bit of his father's guilt to get back on his feet and put a few bucks away to continue toward his dream of being an English professor.

It first, things seem to be going OK. He really does not know his father that well, is not really even aware of what his father's corporation does and learning about the business and his father is appealing. The power, the money can be a bit intoxicating. But it is not long before he starts to see below the surface and it is not a pretty sight. Before he really knows what is going on, Jake finds himself in the middle of a huge conspiracy involving overseas sweatshops, hitmen, the Mob, the highest level of American politics and an international scandal that may destroy the lives and careers of many. And may leave Jake among the victims.

I must say, this was a very entertaining book, a very well written and, maybe sadly, totally believable thriller. I say sadly, because it makes you realize some of the more distasteful things in the book, the sweatshops, the wheeling dealing corrupt politicians, the corporate heads with questionable morals are all too real in our all too real world.
Mr. Gilleo is able to capture all that, and yet do it in a way that still leaves the reader with an entertaining and not too dark plot.
He creates some great characters, the good, like Jake and former CIA agent/homeless man Al and the bad, like Mountain of Shanghai...and a few I will not spoil the story by revealing. The dialogue is very realistic, the plot tight and fast paced.

What, did I have no issues?
Well, there were a couple that almost had me throwing the book down about halfway through.
You may remember my recent rant against preaching in books. Yes, no doubt the author wants to express a certain opinion, but whether I agree or disagree with it, a long, long paragraph with a speech, just drives me mad. In this case (p.255) it is about exploiting foreign workers, but it does not really matter what the subject is. What matter is that it always takes me out of the book, breaks that little book trance the reader should be in.
Following on a scene with a Catholic priest that just about had me think that interchange between Jake and his, or really his mother's, priest is something that would actually take place is more about expressing the author's own opinion on the matter at hand that the Church's. Again, it just felt so false. Maybe I just want authors to be a little more subtle about appearing in their own creation and don't hit us over the head.

But I didn't throw the book against the wall and I was happy I did not, because this is a good book, one, with those few reservations, I would certainly recommend. And if I had, I would have missed a very good ending!
It is a good thriller, fast paced, well written with a very timely story to tell and one I think the reader will enjoy.

I received a copy of this book as part of the Partner's in Crime Virtual Book Tour. Stop by and check out a few of the other stops, read some more review, some excerpts and author interviews.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

...awaiting the soon to arrive fall migration...


 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Review of "1222" [75]

1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel by Anne Holt
Scribner, ISBN 978-1451634716
December 27, 2011, 336 pages

A TRAIN ON ITS WAY to the northern reaches of Norway derails during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers abandon the train for a nearby hotel, centuries-old and practically empty, except for the staff. With plenty of food and shelter from the storm, the passengers think they are safe, until one of them is found dead the next morning.

With no sign of rescue, and the storm continuing to rage, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. Paralyzed by a bullet lodged in her spine, Hanne has no desire to get involved. But she is slowly coaxed back into her old habits as her curiosity and natural talent for observation force her to take an interest in the passengers and their secrets. When another body turns up, Hanne realizes that time is running out, and she must act fast before panic takes over. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious guest, who had traveled in a private rail car at the end of the train and was evacuated first to the top floor of the hotel. No one knows who the guest is, or why armed guards are needed, but it is making everyone uneasy. Hanne has her suspicions, but she keeps them to herself.

Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne must fit the pieces of the puzzle together before the killer strikes again.

Without question, this book is, at least in part, a homage to the queen of mysteries, Ms. Christie, a classic locked door murder as Hanne herself comments on.
"Twenty-four hours ago, there were 269 people on board a train. Then we became 196. When two men died, we were 194. Now there were only 118 of us left. I thought about Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I immediately tried to dismiss the thought. And Then There Were None is a story that doesn't exactly have a happy ending."
I say in part, because it is also, in no small part, a character study of Hanne Wilhelmsen herself. While you may not like her..she admits she is not very likable these days..she is always interesting. And smart and clever and not half as unlikable as you may think at first. Not that she is the only interesting character in this book either. No, the book is full of quite the unusual bunch, each more clearly painted than the next, with many excellent suspects as a killer. There is a church group who have two of their group taken as the murder victims, a teenage sports team on it'd way to a game and a group of bad boys on the way to a concert, a runaway youth,  a few locals and happily for the injured, is a group of doctors on their way to a conference. Let us not forget too that group that was riding in the mysterious last car, a little secondary mystery for us, and Hanne, to figure out.

Then there is perhaps the best character of all in this book, the Storm. The way the author describes the constant deafening wind, threatening to pull the old buildings apart, the snow that builds up and up, covering the windows, slowly blocking all exits, temperatures that will kill, at times it seems like the most dangerous character in the book. Would you rather face a killer with a gun or someone who can freeze you to death in minutes? Not a great choice.

I first heard of this book in a review of the book by Jill at Rhapsody in Books. She liked parts of the book but ultimately was disappointed by what she saw as an ending that left too much hanging.
I will not disagree that some things are left unresolved...why did the hotel have food for a hundred people for days on hand?..other than the murders, but I can't really say it bothered me. I assume some things may be wrapped up in Holt's next book..and some may not. Certainly, the Hanne Wilhelmsen on the last page is a different person than the bitter, angry ex-cop we first meet. She realizes some things about her self and what she wants for her future..and I can not wait to see where that leads her.

This is the eight book in the series, but so far, only this and the first have been translated into English, with the second book coming soon. If you are afraid that will be a problem, I can assure you it is not  really, although some careful reading will reveal a few spoilers. Well, I will have to just read them all as they become available and see it all fleshed out! Not a problem!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Musing Monday...and a Subject of Note

Let's check out this weeks Musing Monday question, as always, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing — courtesy of – asks…
Do you take notes while you read?

See, they even start with the first letter, so it must be the right answer!

I used to take some notes for my reviews but, as you can see if you read the recent ones, I gave that up.
Seriously, I used to write a few things on post-it notes, but not much. An idea here, a name of a character there. And arrow pointing to a few lines from the book that I might want to quote. Now, I gave up on the writing handwriting is so bad I often couldn't read them..and just use the little arrow post-its to mark a line. Assuming I have the post-its with me. On e-books, I sometimes use the "highlight" feature, but usually forget to look back at the ones I highlighted.
So no, I am not really a note taker.
And NEVER in the book.
That is a mortal sin.
OK, on a totally different subject, I just wanted to vent for a minute about a book related subject that has been in the news recently.
Bad enough was the article in recent week about a company that would sell you a review. Are you an author who wants 5 or 20 or 50 reviews posted to Amazon? NO problem, just buy the package you want. Was there a promise that they would all be 5 star? Well, they were!

I have written about this before.
Go to Amazon and look at a book that is not hugely popular. OK, a book you never heard of.
If it has a 4 1/2 or 5 star average, you are on the right trail. Read the reviews. It is easy to pick out the ringers.
"This is the best book that I have ever read. I laughed, I cried. It should win the Noble Prize. The author is a genius!"
You get the idea.
Then go look at the reviewer's other reviews.
There won't be any. Maybe one.
I assume they create a new account for each review.
That is the number one..or two..giveaway.

And then there is the disturbing "sock monkey reviews" episode you may have been reading about.
An author, an actual bestselling author, created fake identities online and went out, praising his own books and running down the ones of other authors. Posting bad reviews for their books, writing glowing ones under his fake names for his own.

And sad.
As someone who writes reviews and read reviews I find it all very sad. Should I even bother to post my reviews on places like Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes and Noble? Do readers now assume any good review may be a fake and any bad one might just be trying to undermine the author? And can I believe the reviews I read? I will tell you from, often you can not. I have read a book that got good reviews (yes, maybe TOO good) and found the book almost unreadable. On second look, those glowing words started to look a bit tarnished.
As someone wrote about this..the Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away. Buyer Beware!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Crabby Crab Cakes

Ok, the crabcakes are not really crabby.
But I have a Crabby Crab tee shirt that the Bro and Sil brought back for me from a trip to Maryland once and crabcakes always make me think of that shirt.
In fact, these are delicious crabcakes, that held together in their pan frying and developed a nice crispy exterior and were moist and so delightfully crab filled inside.

You know, I thought I had posted a crab cake recipe here before, but it seems not.
So when I went to the supermarket and saw that lovely fresh crabmeat, on sale, I knew I had to have it but did not foresee a Weekend Cooking post in their crabby future. But when I got home and went looking for my post!
So I consulted my recipe file.
And found I have 3 or 4 different recipes!
What to do?

Well, I have one, from Cook's Illustrated, their newest "Best Crab Cake" recipe. But it involves making a shrimp mousseline as a binder..and honestly that seemed like a little too much trouble that day. No, we were going a little more basic.
OK, it was another Cook's Illustrated recipe...but I made a couple of small changes.
I always add a bit of Worcestershire sauce...just because. The egg addition was not something I usually make, but it worked like a charm. As did the refrigerating, which I think is KEY to getting them stay together nicely.And they did.

Maryland Crab Cakes
makes 4 cakes

"The amount of bread crumbs you add will depend on the moistness of the crabmeat. Start with the smallest amount, adjust the seasonings, then add the egg. If the cakes won't bind at this point, add more bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time. If you can't find fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, pasteurized crabmeat, though not as good, is a decent substitute."

  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab
  • 4 scallions, green parts only, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 2-4 tablespoons dry fine bread crumbs (I used Panko crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour, for dredging
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying


1. Gently mix the crabmeat, scallions, herb, Old Bay, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, Worcestershire and mayonnaise in a medium bowl, being careful not to break up the lumps of crab. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Carefully fold in the egg with a rubber spatula until the mixture just clings together. Add more crumbs if necessary.

2. Divide the crab mixture into four portions and shape each into a fat, round cake, about 3 inches across and 1½ inches high. Arrange the cakes on a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (The crab cakes can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.)

3. Put the flour on a plate or in a pie tin. Lightly dredge the crab cakes in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Gently place chilled crab cakes in the skillet; pan-fry until the outsides are crisp and browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges or dipping sauce.

Ok, these are very good crabcakes, but what really put these over the top was this sauce, which I just loved! Really, really good, in my humble opinion. GOOD!


Creamy Dipping Sauce
makes 1/2 cup

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons minced chipolte chiles
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice (I used lemon and added the zest of 1 lemon as well)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
 Oh, I loved this sauce! A little spicy, the lemon, the garlic...Way, way better in my mind than tartar sauce, although my SIL, the world's biggest tartar sauce fan would, no doubt disagree. But she is wrong!

    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.