Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Trying to Use Kale

Like most folks, I'm always trying to figure out ways of getting more veggies into my diet.  No insult to my mom's great cooking, but I wasn't exactly raised on a variety of veggies that could be prepared in a variety of ways.  We were a meat and potatoes family, with boiled or canned vegetables on the side.  Now I'm left trying to figure out how to cook vegetables in something other than water!  As an adult I've really tried to incorporate new vegetables into my diet and think this is one way that feels pretty decent for doing that.

Veggies before adding the pasta.
This is based on a Giada De Laurentis recipe that I've adapted...a lot.  This is my Pasta with Squash & Zucchini recipe, that I've also added Kale into.

1 box/package Orecchiette (or shape of your choosing)
1/2 lb. sausage (I like sweet Italian)
1 yellow, crook necked squash
1 small zucchini
1/2 bundle of Kale
4-5 cloves garlic
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Start by prepping all of your vegetables.  Your squash and zucchini should be cut in roughly the same size chunks (I like to stick to semi circles of each).  Slice your garlic into thin slices and set aside.  Prep your Kale by pulling the leaf away from the stem & then slicing a rough chiffonade (small ribbons) of the leafs.  Now you're ready to cook!

Begin cooking the pasta as directed.  In another pan, heat the pan on medium-high heat.  Fry the sausage until brown and remove to a plate on a paper towel.  In the drippings left behind, stir in your garlic slices and red pepper flakes and cook for a minute, followed by the squash and zucchini.  Cook until veggies are soft--about 4 minutes. Toss in the kale slices and cook an additional minute or two until the kale wilts.

When the pasta has cooked, drain it (retaining a little pasta water for the finished dish) and put it in with the vegetables.  Use a little of the pasta water to loosen up the whole mixture.  It's ready to serve!

This was really good and kept very well.  I think that the kale will take some getting used to, even though its flavor isn't really that strong.  This was still a nice way of adding it in to a recipe. 

*For more weekend cooking, go to Beth Fish Reads.  You'll find all sorts of great food-related posts and recipes!  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters. 

Annah's world stopped that day, and she's been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn't feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.  But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?"

Review:  As the final book in The Forest of Hands and Teeth series, I have to say that this one was a doozy.  Carrie Ryan has, what feels to me, like a subdued and subtle writing style that works more with character feelings sometimes than with the external descriptions.  This book still covered a lot of how our characters felt, but there was a lot of action.  So much so, that I often had to remember who I was reading about and try to picture where they were at.

If you're familiar with this series, you know that basically the entire country has been infected by zombies.  Each book followed a different, but connecting character that now comes together in this final book.  In this case, they are obviously somewhere like New York City, hopping from building to building to stay away from the zombies that surge through the streets, subways, and bridges below.

There is a lot of character interaction here that has them trying to look past their fears to connect with the people who are still "alive" and healthy as they are.  I'm not sure how hopeful I would be in their position, nor ready for love and companionship.  The romantic parts actually reminded me of those action films, where the building could be blowing up and the couple still finds time for a major make out session.  Maybe it's just me, but romance would be far from my mind if a bunch of non-communicative zombies were out to kill me.

I think the book was well written, with enough tie back to other books, for the three to feel put together.  I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about it.  I sometimes felt like the action went on and on until I was exhausted by it all.  I realize that's my own reading bias, but I started to wear out!  I also felt like the ending was kind of a cliff hanger.  Unless I missed something, I don't think another book will be following this, so I'm really wondering what happens to these characters.  Yes, even though all the running, jumping, and climbing exhausted me, I'm still wondering about the future!

Bottom line:  Carrie Ryan is a great writer, and I love her "turn of a phrase."  The zombie action exhausted me, but there is a lot here if you're ready for it.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the book.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Just Say Yes by Phillipa Ashley

Yes, it's been awhile since I posted.  Rather than go into a long explanation of where I've been, which has more to do with my level of fatigue than anything else, I thought I'd dive right back in with what I love most--BOOKS.  Nothing would be better than to tip-toe back into my blogging than by reviewing Phillipa Ashley's newest release here in the U.S., Just Say Yes.  It came out the first of June, and was such a great book to read to help me refuel my depleted engines.

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Lucy Gibson needs to get away. When her good-looking, popular boyfriend Nick Laurentis, winner of reality TV show Hot Shots, proposes to her on air she's stunned -- into silence. Every girl loves a romantic gesture, but she's just not ready for that kind of commitment. With the press hounding her as the one who callously broke Nick's heart, Lucy escapes her London flat to seek refuge in an isolated Cornwall cottage. But little does she realise that life down there will be far from uncomplicated!"

Review:  What is not to love about a Phillipa Ashley novel?  Honest.  Her heroes make you swoon and her plots feel familiar, have an unexpected twist, but always end up feeling satisfying.  In this novel, Lucy Gibson has a shocking situation happen with her reality-star winning boyfriend that has her feeling stunned and in need of some space to think.  We've all been there--meaning the needing space thing.  What happens when you're not given a chance to think or people jump to conclusions too soon?

Besides making me feel like I want to move to England--once again--this book made me feel a range of emotions that pulled me into the story.  The people she meets in Cornwall add more depth to Lucy's story and I wanted even more from them.  These characters were great and added that contrast to Lucy's fast-paced life back in London.  I won't lie though.  There was one scene on a topless beach that had me flipping pages back to make sure I read it right.  Perhaps my naivete with nude/topless beaches made me think I was reading it wrong, but that was one shocking moment that threw me and would have had me snorting out my beverage if I'd been drinking one at the time.  (Made you curious now, right?)  Regardless, this wasn't a gratuitous book, just filled with some interesting twists and turns. 

Beaches at Cornwall.  Anyone else bewitched by this? 
Photo Credit:
Overall, I have become a real fan of Phillipa Ashley's novels.  I like her characters and interesting stories.  Also, as a serious Anglophile, I love being introduced to parts of England I wouldn't get to go to normally.  In this case, we went from London right on down to the seaside in Cornwall.  Honestly, I have to get back to England soon.  If you're looking for a great summer read, with a bit of romance and a happy ending, then this novel and all of Phillipa Ashley's other novels will surely fit the bill.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on an advanced review copy from the publisher. 

Whew.  I did it.  My first foray back into my blog.  :)  Thankfully I had such a great book to pull me back into it all.  Thank you to everyone who has checked to see what's up.  Sorry I've been so negligent.   Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Habibi by Craig Thompson

School is out!  Believe it or not, I'm so busy that I've hardly had time to notice.  Between meetings, errands, and preparations for a presentation I'm part of next week and the start of summer school, I've been plowing forward.  Most of it has been exciting though, so I can't complain.  I already have plans for next school year, so I know I'm switching gears in a good way.  It was  good year.  Now I'm eager to get some rest after this next week!  Bring on the summer!

Did I mention that I have some amazing plants going outside in my own urban garden?  Love.  I can't wait to see how they do this year, especially since I managed to get everything in a month earlier than last year.  I'll have to post some pics soon.

As for reading, I'm terribly behind, but I now have more time for reading AND reviews!  For instance, here's one I read during the readathon, and I'm still thinking about it.  After reading and loving Blankets, how could I ever pass up Craig Thompson's newest graphic novel Habibi?

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.

At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling."

Review:   Habibi is a hard one for me to review.  I loved it, but know that it's not an easy topic or direction for many readers to take.  I love the way Thompson takes on challenging emotions and topics head on, making his characters painfully human and vulnerable.  This one was no exception.  Dodola learns early that to be a girl is a dangerous and powerful thing all in one.  Taken advantage of for her sexuality, we see a wounded character who tries to survive in a world that seems to only want her for what she can provide men physically.  Despite this, she tries to move forward in her life and to protect the little slave child Zam, who comes into her life like a child she never knew she wanted or needed.  Together, they try to piece out happiness.

There is a lot of tragedy and and edgy harshness that I didn't expect.  In that, it was haunting and and made its characters more beautifully flawed and intriguing than before.  I really felt pulled in by Habibi and have long considered its characters and themes.  Let me not kid anyone though.  This is a gritty story about two harshly treated characters.  If you're game, I highly recommend it.  The pictures were beautiful and really propelled the story.  For me, it was a story that made me think and feel, which I love.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.