Thursday, March 23, 2017

Murder on the Ballarat Train; A Phrynie Fisher Mystery (Book Review)


Image result for murder on the ballarat trainThis is the 3rd book in a series by Kerry Greenwood starring Phrynie Fisher as an Australian rags to riches success story who finds herself working as a detective.  It takes place during the 1920's and it is a fun little series.  Perfect when you just want to relax and spend an enjoyable few hours cuddled up with a book.

You can't help but love Phrynie, who takes no guff from anyone and has a heart as big as an ocean.  Having come from a poor background, Phrynie is very empathetic and generous with those she deems worthy. Having been treated badly during her early years, Phrynie has no energy or compassion to waste on those who treat others shabbily and/or victimize others.  

She is high spirited and adventurous.  She knows exactly what she wants out of life and she is not going to allow anyone to stand in her way.

In this 3rd book, Phrynie and her companion, Dot, are traveling on the Ballarat train when they are suddenly overtaken by the smell of chloroform while in their sleeping car.  Phrynie is able to shoot out a window and clear her head enough to save the other passengers of the sleeping car discovering that one of the passengers, an elderly woman, is missing. 

Thus begins another fun adventure with Phrynie who is hired by the woman's daughter to find the killer.  I had taken a copy of a book that I had borrowed from my friend Kirsten, containing the first 3 stories of this series, with me to Dominica.  I had read the first two books and was planning on finishing the third while on vacation.  My friend, Linda, was out of reading material and since I had my Nook with me, I loaned her this series.  She LOVED it and has continued on to read the next 3 in the series as well.  She likens the books to "Nancy Drew for adults".

The book was returned to me last week and I finished up this story last night.  Linda is now traveling in Asia but when she gets home I am going to borrow the next three stories so stay tuned folks.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sweet and Sour Chicken #FoodnFlix

I am hosting FoodnFlix this month and I chose the movie "The Martian" starring Matt Damon.  If you have seen the movie and loved it as I did, please join us.  If you saw the movie and hated it, please join us.  If you haven't seen the movie....what the heck are you waiting for??  Get it, watch it and please join us.



FoodnFlix is a fun little group started by Heather of All Roads Lead to the Kitchen.  You can find out more about it here.  Once you watch the movie and get inspired to run to the kitchen and start cooking you can go over to my Invitation Post and learn how to have your blog included in this month's event.

I took my inspiration right from the very beginning of this movie.  Mark Watney has returned to his work station on Mars to find that he has been presumed dead and left behind.  He begins going through his supplies to list what he has so he knows what he needs to do to survive alone on Mars for the next 4 years until a rescue mission can reach him.  One of the packages that he sorts through is marked Sweet and Sour Chicken.



For those who haven't seen this movie yet.....Watney, is a botanist who was part of a team assigned to Mars.  When he is left behind he is determined to survive.  All he has to do is figure out how to make water and grow food.  Luckily for Watney, he is the smartest botanist on Mars.

The movie volleys back and forth between Watney on Mars, NASA on Earth and his team in space heading back to Earth.  The interaction between them is at times funny, at times serious and at times tragic and sad.  Damon does a great job portraying Watney's determination amidst his fear and anger. You find yourself cheering on his successes and reeling along with him on his setbacks.  It is a great film and you owe it to yourself to watch it.

I am currently trying to maintain the Fast Metabolism Diet as part of my Lenten Journey.  The FMD restricts sugars, fried foods and soy sauce.  Not very Sweet and Sour Chicken friendly.  I got to work and found a recipe from Eating Well, that while not FMD friendly, was pretty close and still very darn healthy.


I adapted the recipe a bit.  Most noticeably was the swap from apricot preserves to a Mango/Raspberry jam that our son, Anthony, had made.  Feel free to use apricot or your favorite flavor preserves.  I also used sesame oil instead of canola and substituted mandarin orange slices for the water chestnuts.  


I served this up over steamed brown rice and while not 100% FMD friendly it was close enough that I didn't feel like I cheated.  Now, I just need to justify those almond M&M's I ate yesterday......

Sweet and Sour Chicken
adapted from Eating Well

2 c. cooked brown rice
1/4 c. seasoned rice vinegar
2 T. reduced sodium soy sauce 
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. Mango/Raspberry preserves (or flavor of choice)
2 T. sesame oil
1 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
2 t. garlic paste
2 t. ginger paste
1 c. chicken broth
6 c. bite size pieces of vegetables, I used mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers and celery
1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained

Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch and preserves.  Set aside.

Place wok over medium high heat.  Add 1 T. oil.  When oil starts to shimmer, add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally until no longer pink and starting to brown in spots, 4-5 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan along with the garlic and ginger.  Stir together for a few minutes and add the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the vegetables, reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are crisp tender, 5 minutes or so. Stir in the chicken and the reserved sauce. Simmer, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through. This should only take a minute or two. Stir in the mandarin sections.

Place 1/2 c. rice into 4 shallow bowls.  Top each with 1/4 of the Sweet and Sour Chicken. Print Recipe







Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday, Monday...so good to me

We had a very busy weekend so I didn't get the weekly menu figured out and posted.  We ate out both Saturday and Sunday so I'm not really behind.

Nothing much out of the ordinary happening this week.  I have a meeting at church tonight.  We have Mel Tuesday morning through Wednesday evening after Aunt Irene's shower.  Choir on Thursday.

So here is a shortened weekly menu.....until next time......

Image result for Let's eat

Meatless Monday
Peanut Stew over Brown Rice (Moved from last Friday)

Tuesday
Swiss Steak over Brown Rice Noodles

Wednesday
Crockpot Chicken
Spinach Salad

Thursday
Out to dinner before choir

Fish Friday
Gingered Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry


Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Pear Chutney #CrazyIngredientChallenge

Folks, let me tell you....I am so happy that I joined in with the Crazy Ingredient Challenge this month. Our challenge was to combine Pears and Red Pepper Flakes.  I never, ever would have created this recipe without being involved in this group and now?  Well, now it is going to be making a regular appearance in this household.  I can't wait to invite friends over to try this meal.  That is how excited I am about this dish.


I used two different kinds of pears, a Bartlett and a Bosc. I felt that this would lend the chutney some texture and interest.
  

This is the easiest chutney recipe ever.  I adapted it from this recipe found at Food Network website. A few minutes in the microwave, set it aside to cool and start on the chops.


I used boneless pork loin chops.  A quick sear on one side, flip them over and finish them off in the oven. 



Since I had the oven on anyway, I put some diced butternut squash in to roast as well.  It was the perfect side for this dish.


Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Easy Pear Chutney

2 pears of your choice
3 scallions, white and light greens, roughly chopped
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. butter
1/4 t. ginger paste
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of crushed red pepper 
2 boneless, loin chops
2 t. olive oil

Peel, core and dice the pears. Place in a microwave safe bowl along with the scallions, vinegar, brown sugar, butter, ginger, cinnamon, salt and red pepper flakes.  Cover and microwave for 1 minute on high heat.  Stir and return, covered to microwave for another 10 minutes.  Take from oven, remove lid, stir and set aside.

Place the olive oil in an oven safe skillet over high heat.  Season the chops liberally with salt and pepper.  When the oil is shimmering, add the chops and sear for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip the chops over and place the pan into a preheated 400* oven for 15-20 minutes until an internal temperature of 145* is reached.  Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Plate and top with the Pear Chutney. Print Recipe

More Pear and Red Pepper Creations


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Shaved Asparagus Salad for #SundaySupper

Our host for this edition of Sunday Supper is Anne of Simple and Savory.  Anne chose a theme of Easy Spring recipes.  Perfect, if you ask me.  I get so excited when Spring begins to spring.  I love all the fresh, bright flavors that we have been denied all winter while trying to eat locally and seasonally.

Asparagus is one of my all time favorite veggies.  We eat it at least once or twice a week while it is in season.  Frank is not as huge a fan as I.  He will eat a few stalks but the rest? Mine, all mine....I live in Asparagus heaven during the Spring.


I got the idea for this recipe from the cookbook by Kurt Beecher Dammier called Pure Food.  I adapted pretty much the entire recipe but wanted to acknowledge him as I wouldn't have thought to make this salad without drooling over the photo of his while thumbing through the cookbook.


I used a base of baby spinach to showcase the shaved asparagus.  Leaving the asparagus raw lends a touch of sweetness to the salad that is a pleasant surprise.  The carrot lends a touch of color and Macadamia nuts add richness and crunch.


This salad is perfect for your Easter Brunch or Dinner.

Shaved Asparagus Salad
inspired by Pure Food

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs. asparagus
2 c. baby spinach leaves
2 green onions, white and light greens
1 small carrot, peeled
1 oz. Macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Place the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small jar with a lid.  Shake vigorously to combine. 

Snap off the tough end of the asparagus and discard.  Hold the asparagus by the tips and, using a peeler, shave into long strips.  Reserve the tips.

Slice the green onions in half lengthwise and roughly chop.  Using the peeler shave the carrot into strips.

Place the spinach, asparagus, carrot, green onions and nuts into a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over the greens and toss to coat.  Arrange on a platter and serve.  Print Recipe

More Healthy Spring Recipes


Breakfast

Cakes, Pies, and Sweets

Cookies and Bars

Main Courses

Pastas

Seafood

Veggies and Sides


Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sopa Ranchera #SoupSaturdaySwappers

Somebody please tell me that I am not the only one who writes posts in their minds and thinks they have really written it. I cannot tell you how many times I go to my drafts looking for a post that only exists in my mind.  I could've sworn that I wrote this post out and was only awaiting the photos but, alas, such was not the case.

This post is part of the Soup Saturday Swappers group I began in January.  It has been fun and it is getting better each month.  I hosted the first month with Healthy Soup Options and posted the elegant Fennel Crab Bisque.  Last month, our friend Kathy of A Spoonful of Thyme, invited us to Go International and I shared an Italian Stracciattella.

We are going International this month as well, but to a specific country.  Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories has sent us all to Mexico asking that we make a Mexican Soup or a Soup inspired by Mexican Flavors.  Put me in coach!!  I absolutely adore Mexican food.


The soup I am sharing today is from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.  I love Rick Bayless and I cannot wait for another opportunity to go to his restaurant in Chicago the next time I am there.

This soup is easy, comforting and delicious. It is also FMD friendly during Phase 3, if you are following that eating plan. I made it up and served it to friends for lunch along with a salad and some easy peasy nachos that I will be sharing with you later this month.


Are you a blogger interested in joining our group?  We would love to have you.  Next month's theme is Root Vegetables.  Just leave a comment on this post with your blog name and email and I will send you an invitation.  Meanwhile, check out our Facebook page and Pinterest board.

Make sure you stop by and see all the other fabulous Mexican soups being shared today following my recipe.

Sopa Ranchera
adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen

3 qts. chicken stock
1 lg. head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced in lengthwise strips
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 lg. ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 c. coarsely shredded cooked chicken 
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced

Place stock into a large soup pot along with the garlic. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for an hour or so, until reduced to about 7 cups.  Remove the garlic and discard.

While broth is simmering, add the onions and jalapenos.  Partially cover and cook for 7-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro and chicken.  Cook until heated through 3-5 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. 

Ladle into bowls and garnish with the avocado.  Print Recipe



Mas Sopas