I haven’t actually fallen off the earth, I’ve just been spending my evenings reading, rather than on my computer, so, I haven’t been posting at all.
Sorry about that.
I’ve also been busy with my new job, but in a good–dare I say, delightful?–way. It’s been lovely to enjoy going to work, to feel appreciated at my job, and to come home and not have to spend my evening wondering how I’ll find the strength to go back the next day.
As I said, it’s been lovely.
Another cause for joy is that my depression has been well-controlled, my anxiety has hardly bothered me, and even my OCD has been quieter than usual. (Of the three, my OCD never goes completely away, but when I’m anxious and/or depressed, it gets really bad. But right now, I’m beginning to remember what it feels like to be an almost normal person. It’s a strange feeling, and I’m not taking it for granted, but it’s been a tremendous relief.
I’ve also been baking, for the pleasure of it, rather than as stress relief, which is also fun, but less good for my waistline. But life is short, and I’ll take pleasure and enjoyment where I find them, and be glad that I also take enjoyment in walking and hiking and other exercise type things.
However, it’s caused posting to be light, because instead of coming home and compulsively getting on the computer, searching for escape from my day, I’m instead spending the evenings, curled up on the sofa with His Furriness, reading, because it makes me happy to do so.
But now that spring is attempting to make an appearance, I’ll probably be posting more frequently, most likely pictures, but perhaps other things.
So that’s 11 fantasy, 10 mystery, and 5 romance. And yes, that adds up to more than 16. Because few books are just one category.
I’m still reading primarily eBooks if I at all can. 9 eBooks, 4 trade paperbacks, and 3 mass market paperback. And I’d like to point out that 6 of those re-reads I have in multiple formats. I really have come to prefer eBooks that much over paper books.
Gender-wise, I read six male authors, three female authors, and 7 books co-written by a male and a female. My totals are still weighted a bit heavily towards males so far this year, but that’s mostly due to my binge re-reading of Inspector Montalbano.
I’d also like to note that these books had some of my favorite covers, as well as some I really hate.
The cover for In Camelot’s Shadow may be one of my favorite covers ever. I bought the book solely because I fell in love with the cover, and after reading, decided that maybe romance wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was.
This is a favorite of mine, adapted from the Cooks Illustrated Italian Favorites 2009.
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup good quality vodka
1/2 cup neufchatel cheese (ie “light” cream cheese), softened and cut into squares
fresh Parmesan cheese
Penne pasta, 1 lb
Heat 4 quarts of salted water, to boiling.
Heat large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, and then onion, cooking until onion is light golden. Add red pepper flakes, and then garlic, the add the tomatoes and ~1/2 tsp salt.
Once everything is well mixed, turn off flame and add vodka. Turn the flame back on, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or while pasta is cooking.
Cook pasta according to directions.
When pasta has a few minutes left to finish cooking, add cream cheese to tomato sauce. I’ve found that Philadelphia actually melts and incorporates better than the store brand, but YMMV.
Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour sauce over penne and stir.
The hospital serves a really unhealthy version of this that is INSANELY delicious. I tried to make it healthier.
There is a LOT of room for flexibility here. You can use lime or lemon here, I personally hunted down lime powder, because I really like the flavor the lime adds.
And you don’t need a wrap if you can’t find a gluten free ones. For lunch, Michael just plops everything in a bowl to eat.
1/2 onion, sliced
chicken, sliced or cubed
1 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin (or to taste)
lime juice (or lime powder) or lemon juice [When I need fresh lemon for something, I get several lemons, the put the remaining juice in ice cube trays to freeze, then store the cubes in a ziploc bag with the air sucked out. This works perfectly for me.]
hot sauce (I’m partial to Melinda’s Mango Hot Sauce)
spicy ranch dressing (this is the key ingredient to the uber deliciousness)
lettuce (or spinach) sliced/shredded
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
wraps (I’m partial to spinach wraps; I know I’ve seen gluten free wraps] Options:
rice (Mexican rice is an option, but I don’t like it. I’m actually happy with plain brown rice.)
1 can black beans
1 cup or so frozen corn
Mince the garlic into a tablespoon or so of oil, then set aside. Slice the onion (or mince it, but I think the slices work better with this recipe)
If you want the black beans and corn, heat 2 tbsp oil in a small pot. Add a clove or so of minced garlic, a tsp or so of cumin, the black beans, and the corn. Mix occasionally, until heated through, then drop the heat to low. Feel free to add other spices.
Heat your largest skillet over medium heat (a drop of water should sizzle fiercely). Add 2 or 3 tbsp of oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, saute the onion. While the onion is cooking, add the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Once the onion is soft and translucent, push it to the edge of the pan and add the chicken.
Spread the chicken evenly over the bottom of the pan and then STEP BACK AND WAIT. When you saute chicken, you want to let one side cook well–you’ll notice that when one side is cooked, it will actually unstick from the pan. This is when you can then stir it around to make sure the chicken is well-cooked. So you can poke individual pieces to see if they’ve become unstuck, but you’re better off not paying attention to it.
Once the chicken is sauted, add 1 to 2 tbsp lime juice and hot sauce to taste.
Heat wraps you’re immediately going to use on a place in microwave for ~10-30 seconds. They should be warm and pliable.
Layer chicken, rice, black beans & corn, cheese, lettuce, spicy ranch and wrap as best you can. If you are me, you’ll make a huge, but delicious mess as you eat.
This is very basic, and very delicious. We serve it with turkey sausage and fresh bread and butter. Fresh ingredients are a requirement–you’re not working with a lot here, so what you have HAS to be good.
Mis en place is important here. Get everything ready to go before you begin–water in the pot, eggs cracked and ready to go, garlic minced, etc. You don’t want to be scrambling (HA!) trying to do several things at once.
This recipe is adapted from “Cook’s Illustrated Italian Favorites 2010″.
2 slices bread (When I have leftover bread, I just process it and put it in the freezer for later)
10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, total
fresh ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
spaghetti or linguini or fettuccini, 1 serving per person
Fresh grated Parmesean cheese or Parmesean & Asagio mixed
1/4 cup fresh parsley (I’ve skipped this and it’s fine. If you use dried, use only ~1 tbsp)
1 large egg per person, each egg in a separate bowl,
To make bread crumbs:
Preheat oven to 375 F
Pulse bread in the food processor till you get crumbs.
In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs, two (2) tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. It’ll start lumpy and then look like moist bread crumbs.
Toast bread crumbs for 8 to 10 minutes.
You can make a large batch of bread crumbs, store them in the freezer, and then just toast/heat them before using.
While the bread crumbs are toasting, start the pasta water boiling. Use a large pot, and salt the water well.
While the water is heating, heat a non-stick skillet on low heat. When the pan is hot, add 3 tbsp of olive oil (I actually use a little less). When the oil is hot, add the garlic, peeper, and some salt, stirring until the garlic foams, about 8 to 10 minutes. Once the garlic is cooked, put it into a small bowl.
At this point, I turn the pan down to low, to keep it warm.
When pasta is al dente, drain water and then return pasta to the pot. Add 3 tbs olive oil, garlic, parsley, and salt (I actually skip the salt here) and mix well.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in pan. Fry the eggs sunny side up.
Divide the pasta between the bowls, sprinkle with cheese, sprinkle with bread crumbs, then, when eggs are done, put a fried egg on top of the pasta in each bowl.
Serve and eat immediately.
The original recipe had you mix the Parmesan with the garlic and a 1/2 cup of pasta water, but for me, this turned into a lumpy mess. Sprinkling the cheese with the bread crumbs turned out MUCH better.
My friend NeuronDoc hates to cook, but she wants to cook more both because it’s healthier, and because she wants to sent a good example for her daughter.
So I’m going to a few recipes that I think are easy, and also very delicious.
But more importantly, some basics:
1. Use fresh ingredients, whenever possible. When you’re only using five or so ingredients, they have to taste good.
2. Most ground spices should be replaced once a year, as they lose their potency once they are oxidized (exposed to air). Whole spices keep longer, since they are ground.
3. You can do a lot of prep ahead of time–having serving sizes of pre-cut onion or chicken in the freezer makes life much easier.
4. Mis en place (French for “get your shit together before you start”) is incredibly important. Get everything laid out and ready to go, so you’re not halfway through a recipe and realize you don’t have something essential.
5. That said, there are lots of substitutions you can make, if you don’t like an ingredient, or you don’t have something on hand. Just know you’re going to be making a substitution BEFORE you start cooking.
6. Keep staples on hand. Find a recipe you like that’s really easy to make, and keep stuff for that on-hand, for nights when you want something easier. Making and freezing soups is also good for this. On our house, turkey burgers are the default fall-back position. They’re easy, they’re delicious, and you can experiment with things you put on them.
7. I am a HUGE fan of kitchen scales. Measure cups are good, but if you want to quickly measure spaghetti, taring a tall drinking glass and then measuring out 2 oz of pasta per person is really easy.
8. Almost everything I make contains garlic, because I love garlic. I always mince the garlic first, into a tablespoon or so of oil. This helps release the aromatic compounds AND the healthy compounds. Also, immediately after mincing the garlic, wash your hands with DISH soap. This should remove the oils that makes your hands stink.
If I remember, I’ll try to make an index here, for the recipes as I make them.
Despite not getting sick this January, I still managed to read a LOT of books. Most evenings after dinner I plopped down to read. Which isn’t a bad thing at all.
In case it isn’t immediately obvious, I’m re-reading Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series, which I adore. I’m somewhat surprised–some mystery series I can only read a couple books one after the other before they start to get repetitive, but not Camilleri.
I read two books that look to be the start of interesting series, ML Brennan’s Generation V is an interesting take on the almost (at this point) overdone vampire genre. The Grendel Affair is a supernatural mystery/secret agent series, and I really liked both the world building and the main character. I’ve gotten really tired of the heroine who is sexy-alluring and able to physically take down every monster she comes across. Don’t get me wrong, I still love strong heroines, but after awhile, it all starts to get unbelievable. And of course another lovely Jane Yellowrock book.
The steampunk was the book I essentially hate read. It was really horribly awful.
Stats-wise, I read 14 mysteries, mostly due to my re-reading of the Inspector Montalbano series (I’ve only got a couple more left). That binge re-read is also skewing my male-female ratio this month, at 19:2.
Format-wise, I’ve read half as many trade paperbacks this month, as I read all of last year. Thanks again to my binging on Inspector Montalbano.
And now, if you’ll excuse, me, I need to get back to my book.
First, some clarification and geographical grounding.
Here are the watersheds in the state. I live up in the corner near the only straight lines in the state outline, in Monongahela county in the Monongahela watershed. (We’ve biked into PA along the local rail trail.)
Here are the affected counties:
So you can see that despite the fact that the Monongahela river flows north, we’re nowhere near the chemical spill.
This picture shows you the location of the spill, and the affected counties:
Since Thursday afternoon, we’ve had constant updates, notification that for the nine counties, Boone, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, Roane, and Cabell, were under a state of emergency, and residents were not to use water except for flushing toilets and putting out fires.
So what did this mean to those in the affected counties? It meant that all schools, hotels and restaurants in the area had to close.
Stop for just a second, and think of all the times during the day you reach out and turn on a faucet. Can you count the number of times today you turned on the tap and water came out? All those times you went to the faucet without thinking, someone in those counties was attempting to do the same thing, and then remembering they can’t turn on the water.
In the affected areas, you can’t wash clothes, dishes, or your hands. You can’t shower or bathe. You can’t drink the water or cook with it.
All those little thing you do every day without thinking, they can’t do.
In West Virginia, most of us get our water from our rivers.
And our treated sewage goes right back into those same bodies of water.
Well, it’s treated most of the time. In Mon county we historically had problems with heavy rains overwhelming our sewage treatment plants and putting untreated sewage directly into the river. But they changed the storm drains to go directly into the streams and river, which is good, because the amount of new construction–the amount of concrete and asphalt where there used to be woods and fields–in Morgantown has led to more and more run off. Has led to flooding where before the ground would just soak up the water.
When I was growing up, most of the local creeks looked like this:
Does this help at all?
Most streams and creeks were orange from acid mine drainage. Water from mines went straight into nearby streams and creeks.
Streams and creeks that fed into the rivers from which got our water.
So, you see, water quality has always been a problem in West Virginia. Big companies, often with out-of-state owners, would come in to take our resources–our forests, our coal, our natural gas–and leave the forests and creeks and streams and rivers damaged.
Why would they care? The owners didn’t live here.
If we didn’t like it, they’d just take their jobs and leave.
So when I heard about the chemical spill into the Elk river, I didn’t imagine an isolated incident.
I was instead reminded of how what happens in West Virginia doesn’t matter, unless it gets in the way of taking our resources so they can be used in other, more important, areas of the country.
Oh, just came across this, which made me feel ALL the better.
So yeah, keep those dirty lights on.
ADDENDUM the First:
I forgot to point out that more than 300,000 people were affected by the chemical spill. That’s more than 16% of the population of West Virginia. So although it was only 9 of our 55 counties affected, it is still a large percentage of our population.
I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
I startle easily.
I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.
Hell, I’ve been teased about all those things for years. “GOD NO! Don’t let Michelle drink coffee!”
Of course, some of the things don’t fit. I don’t see myself as more sensitive to pain, but I am super bothered by some physical sensations, like itchy clothes or the seam on my socks being in the wrong place. And “I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.” is false, perhaps because I’m simply used to chaos.
Realize that you’re the one and only master over yourself, and no one can have power over you unless you let them.
Don’t take things personally.
Both of those are easier said that done, and are things I have a very hard time with, but, as with many things, it sometimes helps to know that it’s not that I’m crazy, it’s just that I react differently than many people.