Thursday, February 17, 2011


I will be out of town visiting family for the next week, so I'm pausing my normal posting schedule. Check back late next week for an update!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cooking Light Dinner Inspiration

I was browsing through the Jan/Feb issue of the Cooking Light for some dinner inspiration and happened upon this recipe for Poached Halibut with Lemon-Herb Sauce.

This one will definitely go on our rotation. I adjusted it slightly from the original recipe but the citrus and herbs had a really wonderful flavor. There is one seeded jalapeño in the sauce, but if you like spicy foods I'd recommend adding one more.

Sauteed Mahi Mahi Steaks with Lemon-Herb Sauce (adapted from the above Cooking Light recipe) Serves 4
3 tsp. olive oil
1 chopped seeded jalapeño, seeded and cored
1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 one large lemon)
4 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
4 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
3 lemon sections, chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 parsley sprig
1 cilantro sprig
4 mahi mahi steaks

1. Mix first 8 ingredients together in a bowl.

2. In a non-stick pan, heat 2 tsp. olive oil. Add the green onions, parsley and cilantro sprigs and let them infuse the oil. Sprinkle the mahi mahi steaks with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes each side or until fish flakes easily.

3. Serve steaks with the sauce.

Friday, February 11, 2011

BB: Seer of Sevenwaters

Disclaimer: I cheated -- I've really enjoyed this series so I bought this book with some of my Christmas money.

Seer of Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier, is the fifth book in a series about the noble family of the titular location.

The Sevenwaters family lives in ancient Ireland (they say Erin) and the forest that is part of their holdings is one of the last bits of territory held by the gods of the old pagan religion. The Sevenwaters family are not only devout adherents of that religion, but advocates for it abroad. The gods also like to use the family to their own ends, which is a catalyst for much of the action in the series.

Enter Sibeal, the fourth daughter. She has traveled to Inis Eala, an island where her cousin runs a training school for warriors. Two of her sisters live there with their husbands and she is spending the summer with them before she dedicates her life to the druidic order.

Not long after she arrives, a ship is wrecked on the reef near Inis Eala and there are only three survivors. Sibeal rescues one of them herself, a young dark-haired man that she names Ardal. A breath away from death, Ardal cannot remember anything from before the wreck. It becomes clear that one of the survivors doesn't want Ardal to reveal what he knows.

When the truth is revealed, Sibeal must accompany Ardal on a dangerous journey (enter meddling gods) and then make a terrible decision: choose between her growing love for him and her calling to serve the gods.

I enjoyed the other four Sevenwaters novels very much, and I think my high expectations hurt the reading of this one. The biggest issue I have with the novel is the pacing. It feels like an eternity before the characters catch onto the weirdness of the relationships between Ardal and the other survivors. I think part of the problem is that Marillier is working to set up the next novel within this story. 

Another thing that irked me is how the characters dealt with one of the survivors, a woman named Svala. It's pretty obvious that something is really not right her. While the others think that she's just severely traumatized, it was painfully obvious to me what her true origins were.

Marillier has drawn on many Irish story traditions to shape her novels; these Irish legends are intertwined with rich characters that face similar journeys and tragedies, and I think that's what kept me interested in the series.

I won't give this one up because I like the series as a whole, and I think my opinion would approve after a second read. But in light of my criticism, I'm going to give it a new rating that reflects its potential, but you shouldn't go out of your way to purchase a copy.

Library Pick

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wishful Wednesday: Merona Sweater

I was shopping at my favorite store, Target, the other day when I discovered this sweater. At first, I didn't know if I really liked it. Maybe you can or can't tell on your browser, but this sucker is ORANGE. However, the clean white embellishments (they aren't really beads) drew me in and I tried it on.

Despite having ample room to move around in, the embellishments seemed to pull the whole thing down while my bust pulled it sideways...ah, well. It's not as though I don't already have 10 cardigans. So for this Wishful Wednesday, I not only want this sweater, but in a version that doesn't pull.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day Crafts

While I don't necessarily buy into the modern incarnation of Valentine's Day, I'm a crafts and decor addict, and I couldn't resist creating a few simple and sweet February hearts.

I've always like wood cutouts because they come in so many designs and shapes, and they're inexpensive. This project cost me about $15, including the items that I already owned. The following item list and instructions are loosely based on what I've done, and I've left them a little vague for you to change to your tastes.

You will need:
Wood cutout hearts
Pink paint (I used Americana brand, Baby Pink)
Red paint (Americana brand, Cherry Red)
White paint (Folk Art brand, Wicker White)
Small foam brush (or a flat-style brush)
Small detailing brush (round or rigger style)
Your choice of ribbon
Glue gun
Wood glue

1. Paint the hearts to your liking with the foam or flat brush. Let dry completely between layers. You will probably need to do two or three layers to achieve a rich base color. 

2. Use a detailing brush to write letters or create a decorative design. Let dry completely

3. For the layered hearts look (a la the "be mine" hearts), arrange the hearts in the shape you like. It helped me to make a light trace with a pencil on the front of each heart to show me where each should be. Fill in the traced space with wood glue and glue the hearts together. Place a couple of heavy books carefully on top of the hearts and let them dry for a couple of hours.

4. Choose your ribbon. For a reference, I cut about 15 inches of ribbon for the red hearts. It may seem like a lot but there's nothing more frustrating than working with a short piece of ribbon. 

5. Use a hot glue gun to attach the ribbon to the hearts and let cool before hanging up to enjoy! 


Sunday, February 6, 2011

FR: Carrot-Spinach Casserole

This week's Family Recipe is a delicious and rich Carrot-Spinach Casserole. Layers of rich green spinach, sweet carrots and onions, and a rich cheese sauce are topped with plain bread crumbs and baked until bubbly.

This was one of my grandma's go-to sides during the holidays, and after tasting all those layers together, I have to agree that the only time I'd serve this decadent side is Christmas. I was able to put this together in about an hour total, and this would be easy to assemble a day ahead and bake just before serving. If you do this, cover with aluminum foil, refrigerate, and uncover to bake.

Carrot-Spinach Casserole (Serves 6-8)
1 1/2 cups fresh carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 medium onion, chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen leaf spinach
3 Tbsp. margarine
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs or panko

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain well.

3. Put carrots and onions in a medium-sized pan on medium-high heat. Cover with water and cook until the veggies are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Take off heat and drain any excess water.

4. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour, tablespoon by tablespoon, whisking well after each one.

5. Slowly add milk, whisking well to avoid lumps. Whisk in salt.

6. Whisk constantly until thick, about 20 minutes.

7. Take off heat and whisk in cheddar cheese. Add black pepper to taste.

8. In a greased 1-quart casserole dish, layer half of the spinach, half the carrots and onions, and half the cheese sauce. Repeat layers and top with bread crumbs.

9. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees or until bubbly.

Friday, February 4, 2011

BB: The Glassblower of Murano

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato first caught my eye because of it's location. I traveled briefly to Venice and Murano in 2008 and I was entranced by both islands. It's humbling to explore a city as old as Venice and it's hard not to be drawn into the mystique, even when you're overwhelmed by tourist kitsch off St. Mark's Square.

When folks talk about Venetian glass, most of those products come from the island of Murano, which is a few miles north of Venice proper. There are still active fornace there today and dozens of tiny glass shops line the canals.

In ancient Venice glassmakers held a very high position in society and they were the sole practitioners of this mysterious art for centuries. Unfortunately the Venetian Republic held a monopoly over the artisans by forbidding them from leaving the Republic or sharing glassmaking methods, particularly those that involved mirror-making.

Glassblower starts with one such ancient artisan, Corradino Manin. He is one of the Republic's great glassmakers, and he has betrayed his homeland and his fellows to protect someone he loves.

The novel speeds forward to the present day where we meet Corradino's descendant, Leonora. She's come to Venice to start a new life after a difficult divorce, and to try and convince the male-dominated glassmaking industry to let her study with them.

As the book flips back and forth between the two family members, Leonora struggles with the fallout of Corradino's actions 400 years later, and in turn we learn the truth from Corradino's perspective.