Friday, June 29, 2012

Chicken Fajitas

Here's an update on one of the first recipes featured on the blog. I used to make this in a pan, but since I bought a George Foreman wanna be grill a few years ago, I make them on there. I put the chicken and veg's on at the same time (in batches) so the flavors meld together.

Mild, kid friendly fajitas: (pictured)
Lime Chops marinade

Spicy, adult-sized fajitas:
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
dash of chili powder

3 chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
1/2 bag frozen peppers & onion mix (or 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper and 1 white onion if fresh)
soft tortillas
sour cream
taco sauce
shredded cheese

If using frozen veg's, warm through in skillet and drain onto paper towels.

For marinated chicken, follow directions as with Lime Chops.
For adult-sized flavoring, place chicken in sealable plastic bag, add spices, seal and shake until thoroughly coated.

Heat olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat, add chicken. When chicken is completely browned, add veggies. (If using fresh, I like to heat until warm but keep the "crunch".) Allow veggies to heat through, stirring often.

Serve on tortillas and garnished as desired.

It's a meal all by itself, but if you need to add more, I like to serve this with a simple fruit mix.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tacos (American Style)

This recipe isn't exotic. Or original. It's how I make tacos at my house and we like 'em. We always have our tacos with guac and chips. (Yeah, yeah, I like mine without lettuce. Sue me.) Here's the guac recipe:

1 avocado
some onion
some garlic
jalapeno (or diced green chiles)
lemon or lime juice
some tomatoes
sour cream

Okay so my guac recipe is a little lacking in the measurement department - this is a totally by taste recipe. Any measurements are guesstimates on my part and suit my (and fams) taste. Usually when I make this I omit the jalapeno because The Diva loves it when it's not spicy. I also use my little Black & Decker chopper to make this.

Place avocado (scooped out of the skin and depitted), about a quarter of a medium-sized onion, two cloves of garlic (or one nice big one or 3-4 small ones - this is why I hate measurements), if using jalapeno add it here (if using green chiles from a can, I add it with the sour cream and tomatoes), if using lemon juice I give half a lemon one nice gentle squeeze if using lime juice I give half a lime several hard squeezes, salt and pepper to taste. Blend well in food processor (or other like kitchen tool). Scoop into bowl with room for mixing, add 2 large spoonfuls sour cream and about 3 tbsp diced tomato and gently fold into bowl. Refrigerate until chilled (or tacos are done) and serve with chips, veggies, on tacos or turkey sandwiches (or eat it straight out of the bowl....).

Here's the taco recipe:
1lb. hamburger
1 small can (6 oz? It's the small one you can usually pick up 3/$1) tomato sauce
chili powder
taco fixings: tortillas, shredded cheese, lettuce, black olives, salsa and sour cream

Brown hamburger and drain fat. Stir in tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin. I probably use about 1 tbsp chili powder and 1/2 tbsp cumin. You can use however much you want, but I think that the flavor balances out the best when using a 2:1 ratio of chili powder to cumin. Heat through and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Assemble tacos and serve with chips and guac. Oh and a little note about the guac... I use mine within 24 hours. It does look a little brown after the first few hours, but tastes fine.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Coffee Concentrate To Make Iced Coffee

To say that I am excited about this post is an understatement!! Or maybe that's the caffeine talking... and I take my caffeine pretty seriously. I've wanted to make coffee concentrate for iced coffee for a long time, but honestly I was scared. Of what, I don't know. This is SO easy! And now that the sticky days of summer are finally here, I'm going to share it with you.

Here's how I do it. I based my recipe from the method used by PioneerWoman (Ree). It's pretty much the same but I cut the quantities of water and coffee. If you want to see a great pictoral step-by-step, go here.

1 gallon cold water - I use cold water from the tap
1-1/3 cups ground dark roast coffee - I like the generic Wal-Mart brand, but use the roast and brand that you prefer. You may need to increase the amount of coffee for lighter roasts. Everyone's taste is different, I found my quantities by doing the math. 'Cuz I'm nerdy like that.
A few other things that come in handy:
     two one gallon pitchers with a little extra room at the top and lids
     plastic colander or fine mesh sieve
     medium sized pyrex bowl
     paper towels or coffee filters or cheese cloth

Five minutes before going to bed, place the coffee grounds into a container that will hold a little more than a gallon. Gently stir to moisten all of the coffee. Cover and let sit for 8-10 hours. (In other words, go to bed and we'll finish this in the morning).

In the morning, if you're really patient, place a fine mesh sieve over a second one gallon container. Place a single coffee filter in the sieve. Ree uses cheesecloth, but filters work fine too. Slowly pour coffee mixture through the filtered sieve, allowing to drain into the new container. This will take a bit of time and several "pours" to get all of the coffee grounds strained from the concentrate. Occasionally change the filter for a fresh one at least once during the process to help speed things up.


If you're not so patient in the morning like me, grab a medium sized pyrex bowl, your favorite plastic colander and two or three Viva paper towels. Line colander with paper towels and place over pyrex bowl (colander should fit on outside bowl rim, just slightly off the bottom). Slowly pour about half the coffee mixture into filtered colander, allowing to drain into bowl. Empty bowl into second pitcher as needed.

After the first time you do this, you should have a feel for how much to strain at a time so that you can go off and do other stuff - like wake up your kids, get ready for work, pack lunches... check FaceBook...

After concentrate is filtered from the grounds, cover and place in fridge. I recommend allowing it to chill completely before serving. This keeps well for about 3 weeks in the fridge. After 4 weeks it gets a little bitter and at 5 weeks it went a little "spotty" (which is my-speak for "might have been moldy but couldn't really tell so I tossed it just to be safe"). And if you're wondering why this hung around so long in my fridge: it was my first batch that I made this spring and it was too durn cold to drink iced coffee. Poor timing on my part.

To serve: Fill glass with ice. Fill half full with coffee concentrate. Fill remainder of glass with milk, sweetener and stir. [I use 2% milk and a splash of flavored creamer.] Enjoy!

Natural Blonde Instincts

Natural Blond InstinctsNatural Blond Instincts by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good read. Both characters were interesting. The plot was weak - more introspective than actual action. There was a side story romance that added a bit of humor.

Synopsis: Kenna Mallory is giving up "making it on her own" — aka puddle groomer and accounts payable clerk, jobs that haven't used all her natural abilities — to join the family biz and prove she's got what it takes to be VP of the newest Mallory Hotel. Okay, so maybe she has way more hair and cleavage than it takes, but that should be an asset around co-VP Weston Roth.

Wrong. Wes is hot, as Ivy League as the hotel's elite guests, and isn't buying the blond routine. Time to change tactics and start working the numbers. Good thing math is Kenna's other natural asset. And when it comes to getting the guy, if it isn't hair that grabs him . . . it's, uh, figures.

One True Love?

One True Love? (Harlequin Flipside, #2)One True Love? by Stephanie Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a chick-lit type romance that I really enjoyed. The characters were over the top. The situations were a tad bit ridiculous with just enough realism to not throw the book out the window. It was a fun and fast read.

Synopsis: Corinne Weatherby believes everyone on this planet has one true love. Just one. Okay, so the one she's picked is a shallow, inconsiderate womanizer -- nothing a good breakup scene can't fix. Corinne comes from a legendary acting family, and there's a drama queen lurking just below her financial-controller surface. Her "I'm leaving you!" -- which really means she's going on a two-week vacation -- is bound to turn the boy around by the time she gets back.

But her office buddy Matthew overhears her performance and goes after her, determined to prove he is her real one and only. So Matthew, the unadulterated accountant, reveals his alter ego: Superstud.

Whether it's revenge or the thrill of seeing Matthew suit-and-tie-less, Corinne is suddenly ready to play his Lois Lane.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stick Shift

Stick ShiftStick Shift by Mary Leo
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Awful. I hate to say that about any book, but really, I was gagging 10 pages into this book. I can't really pinpoint what I didn't like... the writing style, the creepy leacherous hero, the repetitive language... it was just bad. I gave up a few chapters in and won't regret not finishing it at all.

Synopsis: Lucy Mastronardo is heading in the right direction - good job, good apartment, good fiance - until a detour to Naples throws her off the map! Sure, she's just days away from tying the knot, but her next big promotion hits a roadblock and Lucy can't steer away from the last-minute business trip. With reassurances to everyone, including her vanilla-pudding-cup fiane, she vows to return before she has to say, "I do."

Lucy's certain she'll have everything sorted out in no time. But then her drop-dead due dates are laid to waste by wacky staff and the tempting restaurant owner next door. The one who makes her think there's more to life than deadlines and rules.

Do Over

Do OverDo Over by Dorien Kelly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book wasn't horrible, but wasn't really likeable either. The story starts out meeting the heroine and I was ready to throw in the towel. Then we meet the hero, and he kept me interested in the story. He was the only character with personality - the heroine fell way flat. The storyline itself was inconsistent and lacked suspense. The romance was really subpar. For a quick read though, it wasn't a bad way to spend time.

Synopsis: If the gods decided to grant Cara Adams one "do-over," the choice would be a no-brainer--she wouldn't have been sucked in by Mark "the Shark" Morgan. Back in law school, Cara had "dumbed down" to catch Mark's eye. Thanks to her stunt, she lost a plum job at a Wall Street firm, and the Shark is enjoying life in the Big Apple. Now Cara's thirty and doing just fine, thank you very much. Positive she's a shoo-in for a partnership at her prestigious Michigan law firm, Cara's bought herself a new loft, paid off her student loans and is ready for the success she deserves. But the gods are laughing now. Her ally in the law firm bolts in the middle of the night, her secretary gets fired for using the file room as her own boudoir, and...Mark the Shark has come home. Really, the gods must be crazy.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Phantom of Pemberley

The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder MysteryThe Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery by Regina Jeffers
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If I hadn't recently read Pride and Prejudice, I might have given this book more of a chance. I loved P&P and when I realized that these books were connected, I was kind of excited. Excited until I started reading the book, that is. Pick something - anything - and that's what was wrong with the book. Bad dialogue, bad characterizations, unrealistic behavior in a period setting... I was about 25% through the book when I quit and I still hadn't figured out what the plot was. Very disappointing.

Synopsis: HAPPILY MARRIED for over a year and more in love than ever, Darcy and Elizabeth can’t imagine anything interrupting their bliss-filled days. Then an intense snowstorm strands a group of travelers at Pemberley, and terrifying accidents and mysterious deaths begin to plague the manor. Everyone seems convinced that it is the work of a phan-tom—a Shadow Man who is haunting the Darcy family’s grand estate.

Darcy and Elizabeth believe the truth is much more menacing and that someone is trying to murder them. But Pem-berley is filled with family guests as well as the unexpected travelers—any one of whom could be the culprit—so unraveling the mystery of the murderer’s identity forces the newlyweds to trust each other’s strengths and work together.

Written in the style of the era and including Austen’s romantic playfulness and sardonic humor, this suspense-packed sequel to Pride and Prejudice recasts Darcy and Elizabeth as a husband-and-wife detective team who must solve the mystery at Pemberley and catch the murderer—before it’s too late.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to wait a few weeks to gather my thoughts on this book. There is just so.much. to process, I'm a little overwhelmed. So, first of all this book is about a kid whose father was killed in 9/11. This is probably the first book I have read about a significant historical event that has happened in my life time. 9/11 was a crazy period in time for me, but I remember very clearly the horror I felt about what happened and the fear (I had just found out DAYS, literally, before that I was pregnant with The Spawn) of what was going to happen next. Second, the book never says what's really up with this kid, but I suspect he's Autistic. So many of the conversations didn't make sense in a normal context, but once I realized how eerily similar it was talking to The Spawn (who has high functioning Aspergers), it was so much easier for me to understand the character and get into the story. I struggled a bit with the plot line that involved the grandparents - there was just some of it that I felt was unnecessary and really turned me off from the book. I found the use of pictures interesting, but not an integral part of the book for me. Overall, this was an okay book but I hardly think it deserves the big attention that it seems to be getting.

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

Recommended Reading:
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Demon From the Dark

Demon from the Dark (Immortals After Dark, #10)Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this book. I knew how it would start and end (having just read the last IAD book that ran in the same timeline as this) but I really didn't know the who and how. I eagerly jumped into this book, probably more than the last two, and was rewarded with a great story. There was a definite Me-Tarzan-You-Jane plot, which I loved. Both characters motives were true and remained constant through the story. The eroticism became a little repetitive - in fact I'm pretty sure I read the same scene separated by 100 pages - but the strong story and characters made up for it.

Synopsis: Malkom Slaine: tormented by his sordid past and racked by vampiric hungers, he’s pushed to the brink by the green-eyed beauty under his guard. Carrow Graie: hiding her own sorrows, she lives only for the next party or prank. Until she meets a tortured warrior worth saving. In order for Malkom and Carrow to survive, he must unleash both the demon and vampire inside him. When Malkom becomes the nightmare his own people feared, will he lose the woman he craves body and soul?

Recommended Reading:
Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole
Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole
Born to Bite by Lynsay Sands
Midnight Crystal by Jayne Castle
Sin Undone by Larissa Ione
Taken by Midnight by Lara Adrian

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dreams of a Dark Warrior

Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark, #11)Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was hard to read - even though I finished it in a few days. My main problem was that I don't like the heroine. Regin is one of my least favorite characters in this series. I'm not sure what it is I don't like - maybe the teenage smartassed attitude? - and getting inside her head was a challenge. This story had some very graphic gore scenes. The kind of stuff that gives me nightmares. The erotic storyline wasn't a key part of the story as it has been in the past books. So why did I truck through this book? The hero really held this story together for me. I have a fascination for stories about past lives, and the hero was a reincarnation. He was also seriously flawed, less than perfect, so REAL. And also, what is that vampire Lothaire up to?

Synopsis: Murdered before he could wed Regin the Radiant, warlord Aidan the Fierce seeks his beloved through eternity, reborn again and again into new identities, yet with no memory of his past lives. Murdered before he could wed Regin the Radiant, warlord Aidan the Fierce seeks his beloved through eternity, reborn again and again into new identities, yet with no memory of his past lives. Yet every reincarnation comes with a price, for Aidan is doomed to die when he remembers his past. To save herself from Declan’s torments, will Regin rekindle memories of the passion they once shared—even if it means once again losing the only man she could ever love?

Recommended Reading:
Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole
The Darkest Secret by Gena Showalter
Eternal Rider by Larissa Lone
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper
This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
On the Hunt by Gena Showalter
Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mid-Year Review

Yay! It's summer! We have a busy summer planned around here - baseball, swimming lessons, VBS, camp, plus the usual assortment of weddings and birthdays... I just hope I have enough time to sleep!

Over the course of the year I have revamped the 2012 book challenge a bit. The month to month time frame wasn't working for me (too much pressure? I dunno.) So here's the genres, the number I've read and the goal to read:

Old Books 3 of 10 (30% complete)
Favorite Books 1 of 6 (17% complete)
Self-Help Books 2 of 8 (25% complete)
Trashy Romance Novels 1 of 12 (8% complete)
Oddo 5 of 8 (63% complete)
Writing 0 of 3 (0% complete)

There are a few books that I read for Book Club that don't count in these numbers. Also a few books that I simply haven't posted the reviews for. But still... Oddo (Nook Books) are kicking butt.