Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Review: Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Life After Yes: A Novel

One of the authors I read recommended Life After Yes: A Novel by Aidan Donnelley Rowley on her Twitter feed so I decided to check it out. I was pleased.

Life After Yes follows a young corporate lawyer through her post-engagement freak out. Rowley does a great job creating complex characters. We learn about their relationships with their parents, her drinking problem and the complexities of their relationships from side comments or nuanced references. Reading this novel felt like peeling back an onion layer by layer.  It's a great read to cozy up to on the plane or by the fire. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Chicken Adobo with Bok Choy

The February 2011 edition of Real Simple featured Chicken Adobo with Bok Choy. We had all the ingrediants in our fridge and it uses one of my favorite appliances: the slow cooker. I set everything up mid-morning on Sunday so it would be ready by halftime of the 4:00 pm game. It was great being able to just chill out and enjoy the game while everything cooked.


2 medium onions, sliced

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 bay leaf

black pepper

8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 3⁄4 pounds)

2 teaspoons paprika

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 large head bok choy, cut into 1-inch strips

2 scallions, thinly sliced


1.In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onions, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle with the paprika.

2.Cook, covered, until the chicken and onions are tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).

3.Twenty minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.

4.Ten minutes before serving, if the slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high. Gently fold the bok choy into the chicken and cook, covered, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with the rice and sprinkle with the scallions.

The Verdict - The chicken turned out very tender and moist, but this recipe does need dark meat to work. The sauce had good flavor, but was overly acidic. Next time I make it, I will lower the amount of vinegar and add red wine or stock.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

I was very excited to hear that Steve Martin had a new novel coming out. I loved ShopGirl so I jumped at this one.

An Object of Beauty: A Novel

An Object of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin is a fantastic novel. The story is set in New York City in the art auction community. One of my favorite things about the novel is that it features reproductions of the art pieces to highlight the nuances of the story for those of us art novices. Martin does a great job crafting complex female characters. He tells a story that manages to feel sweet and harsh - all at the same time. I definitely recommend picking this one up.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Spiced Peanut Butter Cookies

I just couldn't resist trying this recipe: Wicked Good Peanut Butter Spiced Cookies from Tasty Kitchen. I was intrigued due to the minimal amount of flour and no butter. It was really easy to put together.

•1 cup Peanut Butter

•¾ cups Granulated Sugar Plus Extra For Sprinkling

•¼ cups Dark Brown Sugar (I used light brown sugar)

•1 whole Egg

•2 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour

•½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract

•¼ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

•⅛ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg

•⅛ teaspoons Salt

•1 dash Coarse Sea Salt, For Sprinkling

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
Using your mixer, mix on low for a few seconds then turn it up to medium until well blended. I used my hand mixer because I really wanted to try it out. If you don't feel like getting yours out, you could pretty easily combine all the ingrediants by hand.

Roll dough into balls with your hands. I use a big heaping tablespoon, because I’m too poor to buy a proper cookie scoop. I used the trusty melon baller and ended up with 18 cookies.

Place cookie balls on a parchment lined baking sheet. If you have a silicon baking mat, that works just dandy too. I used silicon.

Use a fork to flatten the balls slightly.

Lightly sprinkle the cookies with a little extra granulated sugar and sea salt. All the ridges you added with fork will help adhere the sugar and salt to the cookies. It also makes them look sparkly and pretty. Now this sea salt and sugar step - I don't think I accomplished. The cookies were not sparkly or pretty. The sea salt did not melt so I basically ended up with a large crystal of sea salt on top of the cookie.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and let stand on baking sheet for a minute or two, then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

The Verdict - These turned out very well. I ended up adding a little more salt to the top. The favors were well balanced. The lack of flour made for a rich dense cookie. We'll add this to the cookie line up.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp

I found this recipe on the Pioneer Woman's website


•2 pounds Raw Shrimp, Deveined, Shells On

•2 sticks Cold Unsalted Butter Cut Into Pieces

•1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

•4 cloves Garlic, Peeled

•¼ cups Fresh Parsley

•½ teaspoons Crushed Red Pepper

•1 whole Lemon, Juiced

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse frozen shrimp to separate, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

In the bowl of a food processor, add cold butter, garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and red pepper. Pulse until combined. Sprinkle cold butter crumbles over the shrimp.

Bake until shrimp is opaque and butter is hot and bubbly.

Serve with hot crusty bread. Peel and eat the shrimp, then dip the bread into the butter in the bottom of the pan.

The reason I was attracted to this recipe is that the recipe is designed to use frozen shrimp. I am very good at having a stocked pantry and freezer. I am not so good at remembering to dethaw. The other great piece is that it uses peel-on, uncooked frozen shrimp. These are much cheaper than peeled, cooked shrimp and I can easily stock up when it is on sale.

I adjusted the recipe to use up the 1 pound of frozen shrimp we had left. I didn't have hot pepper flakes so it didn't end up spicy, but both my husband and I found it to be very good. Instead of crusty bread, I used whole wheat pasta to soak up the extra sauce. This made it more of an entree.

Overall - a very good, simple recipe that I will definitely make again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My 2011 Resolutions

So I definitely have some carry-over from 2010:

Be healthy - Continue the morning gym habit and focus on including more fruits and veggies in my diet.

2011 Cookbook Challenge - Once a week, try a new recipe from a cookbook or blog and post it on this website.

Finances - Get that retirement plan in shape

New this year, I want to:

Continue to blog at least three days a week - I am going to try to keep up the six days a week habit, but giving myself a break makes that a lot easier.

Focus on being home - 2010 felt like a year where most of my time was spent travelling across the country and a couple oceans. It was fun and exciting. I am really feeling a pull this year to scale back on travel - at least cross country travel and spend more time exploring what the Tampa Bay area and Florida has to offer. We are even considering buying a tent to check out some of the nearby campsites. I also want to scale back on the scheduling. I tend to schedule our weekends to be pretty full. I want to keep more time open for opportunities that just pop up.

Check out a couple new ball parks - Even with the focus on staying home, I can't wait to see at least a couple more ball parks.

Capture history - One project that has been on my mind is how to capture our family stories. As we get older, I don't want that to get lost. I got a new video camera for my birthday so I am going to try to get my family members to cooperate in telling their stories in front of it at family gatherings this year.

Write another novel - This year I participated National Novel Writing Month and it was fantastic. As you have read here, I actually finished a novel. I would like to write the sequel to that month in 2011.

What about you? Do you have any resolutions this year?