Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Recipe Review - Teriyaki Meatball Bowls

I've done quite a bit of cooking lately and hope to be sharing the results here soon.  Today's review is of Teriyaki Meatball Bowls from Budget Bytes.  I have to admit, I've only done meatballs once in the distant past.  Now, I'm wondering why.  These are wonderful.  I did get about 32 meatballs.  I'm also no expert at making sauces; I tend not to make them from scratch.  This one was easy and turned out great. I at first wondered if the sauce would be enough for all those meatballs, but it was plenty.  Based on five meatballs per serving, I got six servings.  The one thing I would do different in the future (there will be a future for this dish) is use low sodium soy sauce; they are a bit salty for me.  I might also try this with turkey or hamburger, or I might stick with pork.  Recipe heartily recommended.

Teriyaki meatballs in sauce
Teriyaki Meatball Bowl (w/ Jasmine rice)

Teriyaki Meatball Bowl frozen dinners
This recipe also inspired me to try my first "frozen" dinners.  I froze three of the servings in freezer bags, based on advice/directions from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.  It was pretty much what I thought I was going to do, but I wanted to make sure I didn't overlook something.  It worked great - I'll definitely be doing more of these.

Know of similar recipes?  Please share in the comments.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Book Review: Murder Past Due by Miranda James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the first book in the Cat in the Stacks mystery series by Miranda James.  The cat, Diesel, is just a cat.  No talking, no leading to clues.  Just a very big, very tuned in cat.  Something like a Therapy Cat.    I started reading this book using the Nook app on my cell phone - my book on the go.  The great thing is that even with a week or two in between, I could pick right back up where I left off...nothing was lost.  But, as I got further into the book, I took it out of the on-the-go-category and just finished it off.

This series is set in Athena, MS.  I grew up in the South and tend to gravitate toward cozy’s set in the South.  While this is set in Mississippi, it’s the small town vibe that is appealing.  That and it’s a university town.  Charlie is a widower, who rents out a room in his house to a University student, Justin.  He also works in the University archives and volunteers at the public library.  Originally from Athena, he returned after his wife passed away.  So, he knows a lot of people in town.

A well known author comes to town and winds up getting murdered.  He’s not very well liked and had affairs with various women when he would come in to town.  Charlie and Justin find the body.  Without giving too much away, Justin is a suspect as is his mother and father.  In addition to these two, Charlie learns there were several other people who could have had motive to kill him. Clues were liberally spread throughout, yet I didn’t figure out who it was until the end.  And, there were a couple of small twists that added to the story.  I figured out a couple of plot points right before they were revealed, but I never figured out who the killer was.  In fact, I was kind of sad when the killer was revealed.

While I love the cat, I thought it a little odd that a man in his 50’s toted his cat everywhere, including work.  While many libraries have a cat, most places do not allow people to bring their pets to work.  Or to the book store, etc.  Then, there was the Deputy Sheriff investigating the murder.  I liked her and think she has potential.  However, I found her attitude toward Charlie a bit off-putting and at times a bit over the top.  In the end, it wasn’t quite as antagonistic, but still not great.  I’m hoping it improves in future books.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other books in this series.  Recommended.

A little aside for another series by this author, set in the same town, the Southern Sisters series.  A preview was included in my book, however, the spellings of the names are probably enough to keep me from reading it.  One sister is name Dickse.  Really?  It’s spelled Dixie.  Why spell it like this? Especially for a book set in the South. The other sister is name An’gel.  Why?  Why write a book where I have to figure how to say a name and where I’ll probably always stumble over it?   

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Book Review: The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James

The Other Side of MidnightThe Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve read by Simone St. James and I was not disappointed.  I normally buy my print books off of the bargain table, but was drawn to this cover.  The blurb on the back closed the deal and I broke down and got the book.  Rather than put it in my to-read pile, I moved it up to the top and am glad I did.  I enjoyed the book. It’s a mystery, but not really a cozy.  It’s set in the 1920’s, when apparently the flappers were in full swing (this book made me curious about that culture) and when psychics and mediums were apparently in high demand,  the result of the war.

The story is not just about Ellie Winter, but also Gloria Sutter, who dies before we ever meet her.  We get to know her through Ellie’s reminiscences.  In fact, a good part of this story is told through Ellie’s memories (flashbacks, kind of).  Born with a true gift, passed on from her mother, her’s was not an easy life.  Almost one of isolation.  Gloria, whom she met while traveling, was pretty much her only friend and her entrĂ©e into the flapper culture.  Which went well until her mother found out and then it just ended.  I felt kind of sad for Ellie - her mother needed her help with her business as The Fantastique, but it kept Ellie from establishing her life.  Then when she passed away, Ellie was left pretty much alone.

Gloria dies, but before she does she leaves a note for her sole remaining brother, George, (the others were killed in the war), to seek Ellie Winter and have her “find” Gloria.  Ellie is hesitant, but also curious.  Nothing about Gloria’s last week or last seance make sense and apparently Gloria knew something could go wrong.  So, Ellie agrees to help George.  In the process, she reconnects with James Hawley, who works for the New Society for the Furtherance of Psychical Research, with the aim of basically debunking psychics.  Their past interactions had been hurtful to Ellie, who was attracted to him.  James is dealing with his own demons, but they join forces to follow the last steps of Gloria. I liked the relationship between Ellie and James and was glad they were brought together through this “case.”

This story had many elements that I enjoyed - psychics, ghosts (not what you think of though when you think ghosts), the culture of 1920’s London - and a mystery that I didn’t see the resolution to at all.  The story wraps up nicely, though I found myself wanting more and kind of sorry that my time with Ellie was up.  In some ways it felt incomplete, but I don’t think it was.  I think it was more like we got to be a brief part of Ellie’s life and that’s it.

In looking at other titles by this author, I realized that Inspector Merriken was introduced in another book, which explains a few comments from him that alluded to something that was never explained.  That book, An Inquiry into Love and Death, is now on my to-read list as well as her next book, Lost Among the Living, thanks to an excerpt in this book.

If you’re looking for a mystery that’s a little different, with paranormal elements, then this is the book.  Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Recipe Roundup

Well, I've been cooking. Quite a bit lately. Some of my tried and true recipes (i.e. Betty Crocker brownies) and some new ones from various blogs (thank goodness for Pinterest). Success has varied. So, here we go.

Parmesan Baked Shrimp
Parmesan Baked Shrimp from RasaMalaysia. It was good, but honestly, for one person, it's a lot of work. I also realized that I don't really care for baked parmesan and I'd rather use cracker crumbs (it's how we do it in my family) rather than panko. And, probably because I'm a southern girl, I'd just go ahead and pan fry these babies. I'd certainly recommend them as they were good, but they do require a bit of work.

Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go
Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers
Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go from Chocolate Covered Katie.  These turned out tasty, though they are basically baked oatmeal, so not really a cupcake to me.  However, they are filling, in addition to tasting good, and are preferable for a quick snack in the morning or the afternoon.  I did add a little coconut and some walnuts.  I also tried one other recipe from this site, which failed spectacularly.  I'm trying to figure out where I went wrong as I consider myself a fairly good baker.  Hopefully, I'll get up the nerve to try it again and it will work out.

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers from My Whole Food Life.  I have several versions of sweet potato veggie burgers that I want to try, but this one required fewer ingredients and I had them all on hand.  Not bad.  In the future, I might use quick oats and I'd probably just pan fry them, rather than baking them.  Give them more of a burger feel.  I also think brown rice might work in place of the oatmeal.  All in all, though, I got five, two ounce patties from this recipe (one medium sweet potato, one cup of oatmeal).  Probably could use a little more seasoning, but that's an easy remedy.  Give them a try.

Quiona Fried Rice
Quinoa Fried Rice from Peas & Crayons.  Honestly, this is super easy and not brand spanking new, but not fried rice either.  I halved the recipe, but it is now one of my favorites.  I didn't add egg this time, though I will in the future, and since I had a half of a zucchini left, that was my vegetable.  I paired it with the Sweet Potato Veggie Burger for a lovely dinner.  Future preparations of this recipe will probably include shrimp or chicken.  Her tips on preparing quinoa were awesome.  Mine didn't dry totally, but I did toast it for a bit and it was wonderful.  If you're looking for something a little different but still familiar, give this a go.

There you have it.  Recently tried recipes.  Three from this week and one from a couple of weeks ago. I'll also add, that with the exception of the Baked Parmesan Shrimp, which used an egg, these recipes are Vegan.

Book Review - The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

The Accidental AlchemistThe Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book from the publisher while attending a conference. I’m so glad I did. It’s not a typical cozy mystery, though there is a murder and it is a who done it, of sorts. Zoe Faust is not your typical 20 something. She is in fact, hundreds of years old and carries her own baggage. She is resilient though and has found Portland, OR to be a place where she can settle for a while, rather than traveling constantly and living in her trailer. She is also an alchemist. She has bought a house, a fixer upper, which has a space for her to set up a lab once again, and hired a contractor to do the renovations. Unfortunately, he is killed on her front porch the day he is supposed to start.

Zoe can sense things, like poison, but she can’t really tell the police this. Adding a little more stress to the situation, when she goes to unpack her boxes she finds someone in the boxes. Well, something. A gargoyle. Named Dorian. Who needs help because he is dying. He knows Zoe from back in the day when she lived in France. In fact, unknown to Zoe, he helped her out of a tricky situation. He has a book that he thinks Zoe can use to help him. Only when the contractor is murdered, many of her books, including Dorian’s are stolen. Thus her interest in finding out who did it -- she wants/needs to get her books back. Throw a kid, Brixton, into the mix and others from the local tea shop (including main suspect Blue Sky, who has her own past), a cop, Max (who’s a little mysterious himself) and there is a lot going on.

The author blends it all well. I loved Dorian. Zoe and Dorian need each other. They are both unique in this world and it never hurts to have someone who shares, on some level, your experiences. Both are long lived and have seen many changes.

There were many other things I liked about this book. I liked that Zoe was almost accidental in her search for the killer - her intentions were to get her books back and to help Blue. Max seemed to push and pull a lot, so I couldn’t really get a feel for him, but it gets explained in the end. I liked the alchemy aspect of the book, but was a little lost at times as I’m not up on my alchemy. Zoe seems to strike a good balance between being on her own and reaching out to people and forming relationships.

The mystery resolved quickly at the end and I did not figure out who it was, though hints and clues were dropped along the way.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a different element, i.e. living gargoyle. I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Murder at the Brightwell (Amory Ames Mystery, #1)Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book in a new series, set in the 1930’s. It’s billed as Christie-esque (as in Agatha Christie) and it pretty much lives up to that. Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors and this book has similar elements, including a large cast that is sometimes hard to “manage.” Made a little more so by the constant reference of people as Mr or Mrs/Miss so and so. For some reason, this makes it hard for me to see them as individuals, though I know this is how people addressed one another back in the day.

The book also offers a somewhat romantic element and I couldn’t figure out who I was supposed to root for - the playboy husband (Milo) or the previous suitor (Gil). In the end, I simply chose my side and hoped it worked out. It did.

Premise - Amory Ames is invited to the seashore, Brightwell Hotel, by former suitor, Gil Trent, whose sister, Emmeline, is engaged to a scoundrel. He’d like Amory to advise Emmeline to basically dump the scoundrel. As Amory’s marriage is a little on the rocks, she’s in a position to give advice about the disadvantages of marrying a scoundrel. A couple of days into the trip, the scoundrel meets his end by tumbling over the side of a cliff. Gil is accused; Amory sets out to prove he’s innocent. In the midst of this, Milo shows up and basically becomes Amory’s partner in figuring out who done it.

The sleuthing is fairly typical, though at least there is a reason - to prove Gil innocent. There is the Inspector, but he’s a friendly sort of guy and one I liked. Amory and the Inspector do get on fairly well, which I appreciated. I thought some of her snooping was a bit over the top, but it fit the story.

Overall, I enjoyed the mystery, which had a few twists and an ending I didn’t see. Though, at times, the “romance” seemed to be a bit more than the mystery, but it didn’t really detract from the mystery. Instead, we get to learn a bit more about Amory. I’d love to say more about Amory and Milo, but that would probably spoil a little of the story.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series. If you like Agatha Chrisite’s mysteries and the 1930’s, give this book a go.

I received this as a Goodreads Give Away, but the opinion is solely mine.

View all my reviews