Saturday, January 26, 2013

Comfort food for the Winter

One of the best defenses I have against Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is making comfort food during Winter.  And while we're almost out of Winter (thank the Gods!) I'm still making comfort food.  Cuz the SAD doesn't go away until the Spring sun breaks through.  So here are some of my favorite comfort foods to get through the Winter.

Shepherd's Pie

2 medium onions, chopped (or 1 large onion)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1.5 pounds ground lamb (I sub either beef or turkey)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
1 heaped tablespoon flour
1/2 cup white wine (not cooking wine, something you would actually drink)
1/2 cup water
seasonings to taste:  parsley, thyme, salt, & pepper
1/2 teaspoon terragon
3 large potatoes, peeled (this does mean LARGE potatoes.  Use twice as many small potatoes
                                            to get the right consistency.)
1 stick butter (I use light butter to make myself feel healthier)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooked corn (I use either canned or frozen)
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
Colby/Jack shredded cheese (use however much you want to top the mashed potatoes)

Cook onions, garlic, and ground meat together until meat is browned.  Drain off fat & add tomato paste, chicken stock, & flour.  Cook for about a minute then add wine & water.  Add seasonings to your taste then simmer gently for 15 minutes (or until your potatoes are done boiling.)  Boil potatoes while the meat mixture is cooking.  Mash potatoes then add butter & milk & salt and pepper to taste.  Put meat mixture in a large greased backing dish (circular is better to get a good platform for the mashed potatoes.  I have a cast iron stock pot that I do the whole thing in.)  Spoon the corn & carrots over the meat mixture and spread mashed potatoes on top so the meat & veggies are completely covered.  Sprinkle with cheese & bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Another favorite is chili & here's an awesome recipe for Chicken Chili

Southwestern Chicken Chili

And finally, an all veggie stew you can make in your crock pot

Ratatouille Bean Stew

1 cup dried garbanzo beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5 ounce can of chicken broth
1 4.5 ounce jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large zucchini, sliced
1 medium red or green bell pepper, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (or to taste)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian style herbs, undrained

Soak beans as directed on package for 6 - 8 hours

In 3.5 to 4 quart slow cooker combine garbanzo beans, onion, garlic, broth, mushrooms, & salt.  Mix well.

Cover, cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours.  About 35 minutes before serving stir in zucchini, bell pepper, Italian seasoning, and tomatoes.  Cover, cook on high setting an additional 35 minutes or until veggies are tender.

(Because this last one is a crock pot meal you can be really versatile with the timing.  You can do the large part of the cooking overnight, put the inner part of the crock pot in your fridge, then pull it out about an hour before you want to do the last part of the cooking.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book review: Ever After 4.5 stars

Here's my review of Kim Harrison's just released Ever After (The Hollows #)

Good Reads - Ever After

Fans of The Hollows will love this installation in the series, but as always with Ms. Harrison at the helm there are no safety nets. Ever After is a more than worthy follow up to one of my faves in the series, Pale Demon and gives tons of growth in the Rachel/Trent will they/won't they saga. I read this thing in one day and now have to wait for next year for the next one to come out :-/ That's the only truly suckworthy part of the series IMHO, but it's worth the wait. <3 all the details Kim Harrison puts into this world. It's amazing the work she puts into's like the woman can actually SEE the world as she's writing it. And who knows, maybe she can ;-)

Other thoughts on the general storyline:  it does seem as if there will be a pretty significant plot line with the vampires coming up in the last two books.  It will be very interesting to see how that goes given that Kisten told Rachel that vampires don't really lose their souls.  It seems Rachel is in fair weather again with her demon brethren and may have dubbed herself protector of a new generation of daywalkers.  

Okay, SPOILERville coming up, so don't read past this if you've not read the book yet!

Highlight to see the SPOILERS ;-)

That douchebag Nick is back and I swear he better meet an untimely end by the end of the series or I will be royally pissed! (I'm sure I wasn't the only fan to smile an evil grin when he was given to Newt, but still...the prick needs to die.)

That safety net I mentioned earlier? Yeah, what happens is almost, but not quite, as bad as what happened to Kisten. The only reason it's not as bad IMO is that you don't have to read the death scenes. But it was awful. Kick in the gut want to puke awful.

It seems that Jenks is becoming more of a shoulder to lean on for Rachel as Ivy is slowly becoming less of an influence in Rachel's life. This seems to be good for both of them as they're both growing and becoming less dependent on each other, but it's also slightly painful as the ending of a close relationship can be. <3 how Jenks is keeping it together both with Rachel & his kiddos. These two I think will be close throughout the end of the series.

Okay, I never really or truly thought Al could be a romantic possibility for Rachel until I read this book. And I still think if that were to happen it would have to be tempered with another influence.....Trent. There's this whole bruhaha about Trent getting back with Ellasbeth (aka Miss Drama Queen) but I don't buy it. Unless Trent gets what he wants because the man is FINALLY beginning to realize he has the right to be happy. And I'm starting to lean toward a poly relationship between Rachel, Al, & Trent. But....we will see what the next two books bring. I'm really, REALLY hoping to avoid anymore heart break in the last two books, but with The Hollows there is never any guarantee of that.          

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dealing with the Holidays

I think enough time has passed now that I can write about my holiday experience this year.  I'm going to preface this by saying I was finishing up my master's degree (which meant unpaid hours for internship & LOADS of paperwork at the end) as well as doing all the normal holiday crap that drives me batty (baking cookies, designing Holiday cards, addressing & mailing Holiday cards, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, mailing packages, & not sleeping enough.)  So it's not an exaggeration to say my stress level was maxxed out, my SAD was thoroughly ingrained, and I was pretty miserable overall.

Donald has been doing a great job with his counselor on trying to understand how growing up in a dysfunctional family affected him.  He even did a homework assignment to figure out what boundaries he wanted to set for the Borg Queen while she was out.  With all this positive stuff going on I thought surely the visit couldn't be terrible.  Yeah.  That was a mistake.

When the BQ got here Donald was at work during the daytime for the first couple of days.  Not that big a deal really because BQ took the kidlets with her to her hotel room.  We did the normal talking just long enough to make it look like we didn't despise each other and I mentioned to BQ that we would really appreciate it if she could watch the kids for the afternoon of the next day so Donald & I could actually have a date.  She said that would be fine.  That night I reminded Donald that he had wanted me to talk to his mother about the date thing for the next day.  Everything should have been fine.  However, in dysfunctional families old habits are hard to break.  VERY hard to break.

The next day Donald comes downstairs (he was still working nights during all this, so he slept later in the morning than I did) and sees the BQ is already here.  So he walks up to her and says "What are our plans today?"  I was in the kitchen & at first thought he was talking to me.  Then it hit me that he was asking his mother.  This is when I started seeing red.  It got worse when she replied "Oh I'd like to take the kids to get pictures with Santa."  (It was a week before Christmas, so this was going to be an all day thing.)  So...apparently the conversations I'd had with the both of them had never happened.  Only...they did.  But as in the past, any plans I made with Donald got put on the back burner so he could make his mother happy.

I went upstairs to get away from them (mainly because I didn't want to have an argument with Donald in front of the kids) and a few minutes later Donald comes upstairs.  He's completely oblivious and asks if I'm ready to go.  When I informed him I wasn't going with them because we had previous plans that just got cancelled he got the "deer in the headlights" look.  Then he tried to make it my fault.  "You want mom to have to take all 3 kids by herself to get pictures with Santa?" he demands in an outraged voice.  "Nope", I replied, "you should definitely go with your mother.  I'm going to spend some me time today since our plans got derailed."  He walked off in a huff after that.

About 20 minutes later he calls and asks if we can still do our date later that day.  His mother volunteered to take the kids to a movie so we could have some alone time together.  I agreed and we did go out later that day and had a fairly good time.  So date day wasn't a total disaster, but Donald never followed through with anything he had talked to his counselor about the entire time the BQ was out.  It's like watching an addict relapse and it's heartbreaking to see.

We shall see what the future holds.  I've talked to Donald about how he can't follow through with his mother and he may be beginning to see what I'm talking about.  But I also don't want to deal with this for another ten or even another five years.  The holidays are stressful enough without the added addition of the Borg Queen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book review: The Taker 4.5 stars

Since the last book review I posted went over so well, I'm posting another one.  This is a fairly short book review because the book was very complex and writing about it was....complicated.  Here's a link to the book, and the review ;-)

Goodreads: The Taker

The Taker gets 4.5 stars and I don't know what you've heard about it, but it isn't anything you're going to expect. I spent 3/4 of the book trying to figure out what it was actually about...because this thing really makes you think while you're reading it. I finally decided the best description I can give without totally giving the complex story away (if that's even possible) is: this is a tale about yearning to be accepted. It will take you places you never expected to go and is not a book to take up lightly. It may even make you re-evaluate decisions you've made in your own life. Nicely done, Alma Katsu.          

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book review: The Hero & The Crown

I've debated for awhile on adding book reviews to my blog and figured...well why not?  Books have been my means for sanity at many points in my life, and they are old friends to be cherished.  Going to start my very first book review with a favorite from childhood ;-)

The Hero & The Crown from Goodreads

I was in sixth grade the first time I read this book. My English teacher had a copy of it on her bookshelf of lending...I must have read it at least four times that year. I read it again when I was working on my undergraduate degree, and now ten years or so later am writing my first review on it. Did I mention I named my daughter after the main character? Yes, it really is that good.

Some of the following may be considered spoilery, so proceed with warning...

I love the worlds Robin McKinley creates. This time around I read The Blue Sword first The Blue Sword and got that taste of Damar. That book was also rated 4 stars, but while I liked Harry, I genuinely love Aerin. Aerin is that girl that you always know who was teased because she was awkward, different, and unrepentant for being so. I see so much of myself in her from my youth, and now that I've read the book again I was able to see her from a completely different perspective. As a youth I could never understand how she was able to leave Luthe and go back to Damar. As an adult, I cherish the way she and Luthe handled their relationship....because it never really ended. And I see so many parallels between this book and The Last Unicorn that I never would have seen as a youth. There is love, loss, heroism, and true greatness in the characters of both The Last Unicorn and The Hero and the Crown. I really can't describe how glad I am to have found a copy of this book in the sixth grade as it truly made an impact on my life.        

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The FLU that keeps on giving

I was unlucky enough to catch this year's version of the FLU last week....this thing is STILL kicking my ass. It's been a week since I got sick, but with the gift that just keeps beating the crap out of me, I've been nauseous, dizzy, and coughing crap up.  If you get the FLU this year PLEASE take the time you need to recover from it.  This is not a silly version...this is a beat you bloody and take names version.  Take your sick days, drink plenty of fluids, and sleep.  A Lot.