Book Medicine, or The Two-Sentence Book Review Challenge

So I was wandering through Costco one day and I accidentally walked down the book aisle.  Well.  Accidental is relative.  I picked up a paperback called The Little Paris Bookshop and decided to give it a new home, because this was on the back cover:  “Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself…”  It was a weak moment, OK?  I am also a sucker for cheesecake samples.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I love the idea of prescribing just the right book for just the right person in just the right season.  I do it all the time, sending books for gifts, thinking long and hard about what book will speak to whom.  Now all I need is a floating bookstore in Paris, and my life will be complete.

So now I find myself in a bit of a reading funk.  I am too busy to read during the day, so all of my reading time is chunked into two big compartments:  devotional reading as I kick off my morning, and light reading as I fall asleep.  The trouble is, I keep falling asleep mid-page.  (Les Mis isn’t keeping me awake what with all of the Napoleonic history.)

So for my own amusement, here is my want-to-read page from Goodreads.  screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-5-45-46-pmSomewhere on this list is my next favorite book (I hope!)  Here’s the big fat favor I’m asking —  help me pick a new book!

I’m taking a poll.  A poll, people.  That means you have to vote.  If you have read any of the books on my list, give me a two-sentence book review in the comment section below and help me choose my next guilty purchase.

If you have a better idea, add a title (and a two-sentence review) below.  And if you should happen to have a free cheesecake sample, you can be my new best friend.

On a related note, I am realizing how awfully hard it is to get reviews for one’s book on Amazon, so if you go to all the trouble to write out a couple sentences here, you may as well copy and paste it on the book’s actual Amazon or Goodreads page, and make that author’s day.  We can be the Make-An-Author’s-Day team, and save despairing authors everywhere from eating their weight in Costco’s free samples department.

Cold Weather, Hot Food

So I’m making my grocery list and it was such a happy menu, I thought I’d share.  Lotta bowls involved this week, lotta spoons.  Lotta happy, happy kids!  Save this one for your next shopping trip and voila!  A week of suppers.  Yeah, you’re welcome.  Grocery list at the bottom of the post.

Menu:  Taco Soup, Chicken and Dumplings, Greek Feta Chicken, Turkey Clubs and Tomato Bisque, Jambalaya, Brinner: Omelets and Fruit

Taco Soup

This soup just feels dirty.  It’s a potluck standby, the kind of food your picky niece would eat with fritos.  It’s like nachos you eat with a spoon.  Guilty pleasure!

  • 1 1.2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg. ranch seasoning
  • 2 cans rotel
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can beef broth
  • small block Velveeta, cubed
  • small tub sour cream
  • tortilla chips

Brown beef and onion.  Combine all ingredients EXCEPT sour cream in a large soup pot.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook and stir occasionally until cheese has melted.  Before serving, stir in sour cream.  Cook until heated through.  Do not boil.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Chicken and Dumplings 

So this is one of those recipes I use when I have plenty of time, not because it is difficult, but because there are several steps.  It makes a lot of food, perfect for a cold and drizzly kind of day.  Winnie the Pooh would like this if he didn’t have any honey available.

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 lb. chicken (you can use whatever parts of a chicken you want)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 t. dried thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pkg. frozen egg noodles
  • 2 c. Bisquick
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 1 t. thyme

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Brown in batches, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; reserve the pot.

Add the celery, carrots, onions, thyme, and garlic to the drippings in the pot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chicken, bay leaves, and 10 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water to cook the egg noodles.  Consult the package directions for cooking times.

Make dumplings.  Stir Bisquick, 1 t. thyme, and milk until soft dough forms.  Set aside.

Return your attention to the stew.  Discard the bay leaves and transfer the chicken to a plate. Shred it and return it to the pot (discarding the skin and bones, if necessary).

Drop dumpling dough by spoonfuls onto boiling stew; reduce heat. Cook uncovered 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes.

Scoop bowlfuls of noodles and top with stew.

Greek Feta Chicken 

This is a pretty darn easy, super tasty chicken dish.  I like to serve it with hummus and pita bread on the side, preferably with a good Greek salad. 

  • 8 oz. plain yogurt
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. oregano
  • 1/2 t. rosemary
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into palm-sized pieces
  • 1/3 c. feta
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley

Combine first 6 ingredients in a heavy-duty plastic bag and shake.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Reserve marinade, and place chicken in a broiler pan coated with cooking spray.  Broil 5 1/2 inches from heat (with oven door ajar), 7 minutes.  Flip chicken pieces over and spoon the reserved marinade over the top.  Sprinkle with feta cheese.  Broil 7 more minutes or until done.  Sprinkle with parsley.

*recipe adapted from Low Fat, High Flavor Cookbook

Bubba’s Jambalaya 

I haven’t tried this one yet.  Just feeling kinda Cajun, and this one got good reviews.

  • 6 slices bacon, crumbled
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. cubed cooked ham
  • 1/2 lb. cubed cooked chicken
  • 1/2 lb. cubed smoked sausage
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 c. beef broth
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  • 2 t. Cajun seasoning
  • 2 c. uncooked white rice
  • 1/2 lb. salad shrimp

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp. Remove bacon pieces with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Add celery, bell pepper, and onion to the bacon drippings, and cook until tender.  Add the rice, stirring to coat with oil and separate the grains.

Add the ham, chicken and sausage to the pot, and pour in the tomatoes, beef broth and chicken broth. Season with thyme and Cajun seasoning.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender.

Stir in the shrimp and bacon just before serving, and heat through. If you use uncooked shrimp, let it cook for about 5 minutes before serving.

* adapted from allrecipes.com

Turkey Clubs and Tomato Basil Bisque

How about an easy soup and sandwich night?

The Bisque:

  • 2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Toppings: fresh basil leaves, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan cheese

Cook first 5 ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 6 to 8 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately with desired toppings.

The Clubs:

So this is easy-peasy.  You know how to make a sandwich, right?  A couple tips:  use the best bread you can find and the best turkey if this a main course for supper.  Pull out some good potato chips to go with.  And you can’t go wrong with fancy toothpicks and pickles!

  • 1 lb. deli smoked turkey
  • 1 loaf hearty white bread or torta rolls
  • 1/2 lb. bacon, cooked
  • 1 tomato
  • lettuce leaves

Toast the bread.  Assemble double-decker style if you wish, or just make a regular sandwich.

Brinner:  

Because brinner is always a good idea, at least once a week.  

Omelettes

You should have everything you need left over for a nice omelette — eggs, cheddar, ham, green pepper, and onion.  Or go crazy and use feta and tomatoes for a nice Greek twist.  Serve with a bowl of fruit for a complete meal.

Your Grocery List:  

Produce

  • 4 sweet onions
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 1 bag carrots
  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • lemon
  • garlic
  • fresh parsley and basil (to tell the truth, I’m just going to use dried)
  • fruit — your choice

Meat/Deli

  • 1/2 pound salad shrimp
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 pound ham
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 2 more pounds chicken parts— your choice
  • 1/2 pound smoked sausage
  • 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. deli smoked turkey

Dry (Canned/Bottled)

  • 2 cans rotel
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 jar Kalamata olives
  • 24 oz. beef broth
  • 16 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Dry (Boxes/Bags)

  • 1 box Bisquick
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg. ranch seasoning
  • Fritos or tortilla chips

Bakery

  • 1 loaf hearty white bread or torta rolls
  • pita bread (optional)

Dairy/Cold

  • small block Velveeta
  • small tub sour cream
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 lb. shredded (or not) cheddar
  • 8 oz. plain yogurt
  • 1 cup feta
  • milk
  • buttemilk
  • hummus (optional)

Frozen

  • 1 pkg. frozen egg noodles

Check Pantry:  Do you have…

  • dried spices: thyme, oregano, rosemary, pepper, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves
  • cooking spray
  • white rice
  • olive oil

When the noise is too much.

I want to work a little

to swim out

past the pea-soup fog

to get clear.

I want to look over my shoulder

and see definitively

the smog

left.

behind.

I want to head upstream

past the sad remains

of yesterday’s convenience

of accidental casualties

of tomorrow’s nightmare.

Enough.

There are still springs

cold as crystal

pure as light.

There is still beauty

fragile as fontanel

above

beyond

distant

where “ossification is incomplete”

where space exists

between thought and implacable fury

imagination and resignation.

space

Up, uphill

up ancient mountains

up forested flanks

beyond human intervention

beyond urban sprawl

past light pollution

and city shrieks

and bombast.

Uphill, upstream

where snowmelt is still clear

where streambanks are unspoiled

where shy mammals venture out

cubs and kits

vulnerable

unafraid.

Up, past treeline

past tundra

past the tiny, risky, alpine blooms.

Past tropo and meso and strato

right off the blue sphere

space

I want to look back

over my shoulder

all the angry babble fading away

that tower of Babel just a speck

a tiny blemish on that blue green jewel

that bright jewel

just a sparkle

on the vast

quiet

sacred

space

significant_1280x1024

the_earth_seen_from_apollo_17

6_large

Election Year Exiles

So Michael (my husband) is a council member over at GCL, and they’ve invited me to write for their blog time to time.  This month the focus is politics, so (PoliSci geek here), I was happy to oblige.  

When we read the New Testament in present day America, it is always with a degree of imaginative remove, like watching a period piece on PBS.  We cock our head: you don’t say!  There always seem to be sandals and dusty robes, grapes and flatbread, lots of sheep… bleating.  Peter and Paul and all those Marys — they look dirty, but somehow pristine; wisdom makes them seem to glow.  They look like Morgan Freeman, or Gandalf, and when they say curious things, it’s hard to separate what’s cultural from what’s timeless.

It’s easy to relegate Biblical themes to a Roman Empire movie set — for example, assuming that idolatry was an ancient problem, or that modesty is now outdated.

Likewise, the idea that we are all aliens and strangers is hard to grasp in our patriotic “Christian country.”  After all, the early Christians (and for that matter, the Jews) lived in enemy-occupied territory; of course Peter would talk like that.

Continue Reading HERE.