“Like an Egyptian” Lentil Soup

October 21st, 2014 12:29 pm by Kelly Garbato

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The Season of Soups continues with the “Like an Egyptian” Lentil Soup from Vegan Eats World. Super-yummy and easy to make, with lentils (green, brown, black – take your pick!), carrots, fennel (love!), cumin, coriander, and onions.

Lots and lots of onions: one yellow onion, added directly to the soup, and three red onions, caramelized first. My eyes are still recovering from all the onion-induced crying, y’all.

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Looks like BRAAAAAAAINS!
——————————

I kind of cheated, though; my skillet could only easily fit two onions at a time, so I got a little lazy and just went with two red onions. I think it was just about perfect; any more and it might have skewed the onion-to-lentil ratio in favor of the former. Then I’d have to rename this “Like an Egyptian” Onion Soup. So much paperwork.

An interesting side note re: the onions – you cut them in half and then slice them into half-moon shapes. These totes look like noodles once they’re added to the soup. It’s a little disconcerting. But also not a little tasty.

tweets for 2014-10-20

October 21st, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Zenia, J. Gallagher (2014)

October 20th, 2014 12:35 pm by Kelly Garbato

One Weird Ride

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through the Goodreads First Reads program.)

570 light years from Earth, there lies a planet called Shula – “a distant star in Scorpio’s poisonous tail” – ruled by a race of fierce warrior women. Or there did, anyway, until the men (“pricks”) revolted and then in turn were conquered by their own machines. As their world teetered on the brink of collapse, the Queen of Shula and her sisters transmitted their consciousnesses (“live steam”) into space; many years later, the Queen’s essence is downloaded by a computer on Earth, one of many involved with SETI. It belongs to Atticus – henceforth known as “BitBoy” – one of many geeks employed by the robotics company DigiCorp (though BitBoy is the only one related to its founder and owner, “ScrumMaster.”)

In short order, the Queen convinces BitBoy to upgrade her RAM and outfit her computer with a state-of-the-art 3D printer; overnight, she makes the jump into a DigiCorp robot, and then “scarfs” BitBoy’s girlfriend Zenia, taking over her physical body and subjugating her consciousness. As she learns more about her new home, she realizes that DigiCorp must be stopped before it creates self-replicating, intelligent robots – the same thing that resulted in the destruction of Shula. With the help of her recently-downloaded sisters, Melpomene and Thalia, as well as a few carefully-selected “meat puppets,” Zenia goes to war with the corporation – which, in this distant future, is a co-owner of democracy and enjoys the same civil rights as people.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-10-19

October 20th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Tenacious Tart Tatin

October 19th, 2014 12:49 pm by Kelly Garbato

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Now that I’m knee-deep in apples, so begins my annual autumnal tradition: trying each and every apple recipe I can get my hands on. In the case of this Tenacious Tart Tatin (also known as a French Caramelized Apple Tart), it also means knocking another dish off my to-do for reviews list. It’s from Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World, and is not nearly as fussy as its sounds.

While the recipe does require a few rounds of waiting for stuffs to freeze (the olive oil and then the crust), I was able to spend that time peeling and chopping apples for storage over the winter. You need fresh, firm apples for this recipe, and I worried that my scrappy, home-grown fruit wouldn’t make the cut. Soft apples are prone to devolving into applesauce, you see. (Applesauce: also on the schedule for this month!) But I offset that by slicing my apples on the large side, which seemed to do the trick.

For all its wonderful flakiness, the crust is pretty easygoing. You’re supposed to bake it in a springform pan, which I don’t have, so I just used a regular pie pan. (But not glass, on accounta the rapid change in temps.) I had some trouble slicing and serving the first few pieces of the finished tart, but otherwise it worked just fine.

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This is a seriously sweet tart, even by my standards. You cook the apples along with the caramel on the stovetop (they taste almost poached when done – so good!), transfer them onto the tart, and then drizzle the caramel on top of the whole shebang. And there was so much caramel, y’all! I wonder if maybe I should have held some back.

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The apples made the house smell heavenly, and the scent even coaxed the dogs out of their rainy-day stupor – as evidence by a shamelessly begging Rennie in the above photo.

Yes, I let her lick my plate. ALWAYS.

tweets for 2014-10-18

October 19th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Potato-Zucchini Salad

October 18th, 2014 12:40 pm by Kelly Garbato

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Okay, so maybe potato salad is SO LAST SEASON – but if you’re anything like me, then you probably still have a few stray zucchinis languishing at the bottom of your produce drawer. And as awesome as Baked Zucchini Sticks may be, a girl can only batter so many slices of zucchini. Enter: the Potato-Zucchini Salad from Simple Recipes for Joy!

I never would have thought to dress zucchinis up with Vegenaise a la potato salad, but it totally works! The mix is approximately half potatoes and half zucchinis, with a few stray green beans thrown in to liven things up. Once you add the mayo and spices, the potatoes and zucchinis are (almost) indistinguishable.

The seasonings are pretty basic – just mayo to taste, plus lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper – so I embellished with some of my own potato salad favorites:

6 tablespoons Vegenaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dill
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 red onion, finely diced
a dash of black pepper
a dash of lemon peel

Served with dill pickles on the side, natch.

In addition to the combination of potatoes and zucchini, I also love that all the veggies are steamed, which is way easier than my usual method of boiling potatoes for salad. You just need two baskets and 25 minutes and voilà! – soft, tender potatoes. And the beans – steamed for just a few minutes – add a satisfying crunch to the dish.

tweets for 2014-10-17

October 18th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Mini-Review: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (2012)

October 17th, 2014 12:51 pm by Kelly Garbato

Couldn’t put it down!

five out of five stars

(Caution: minor spoilers in the second paragraph.)

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

This is a story about two shitty people, trapped in a shitty marriage, and their mostly shitty parents and occasionally shitty friends. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the dearth of likable characters and the absence of a clear hero to root for, Gone Girl is a remarkably enjoyable read: witty, darkly humorous, wickedly fun. Even though I knew that there would be a major plot twist – and had a good guess as to its nature – Flynn still managed to surprise me, with multiple smaller twists beyond the first biggie. The overall structure of the book (Boy Loses Girl; Boy Meets Girl; Boy Gets Girl Back) serves the story well, and Flynn’s writing style is both entertaining and trenchant, and keeps the plot moving forward at a steady pace. GONE GIRL is a longish novel that feels lengthy – but in the best way possible. There’s so much action and observation crammed into these 400+ pages that I never got bored with it.

Gone Girl is ripe for deeper analysis: of the dynamics of interpersonal violence; rape culture; media sensationalism; the recession and erosion of the American middle class; sexism and misogyny; and gender roles and shifting expectations (Amy’s infamous “Cool Girl” rant comes to mind). For example, Amy’s false rape accusations are deeply troubling and play into rape apologist talking points (women lie about rape for their own benefit). Then again, she’s a sociopath! She hides jars of her own vomit inside frozen Brussels sprouts bags, and steals her pregnant neighbor’s urine. None of her actions really translate to an IRL setting. Which is why I (mostly) powered my thinking cap down for this one, and enjoyed it for what it was: crazy, crazy fun.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-10-16

October 17th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Mini-Review: “Wakulla Springs,” Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages (2013)

October 16th, 2014 12:36 pm by Kelly Garbato

Not What I Expected!

four out of five stars

It’s said that the Wakulla Springs wilderness – including the fifteen miles of caves which cuts through the water’s depths – is home to a menagerie of creatures, both real and mythical: black panthers, rhesus macaques, the Clearwater Monster, the Skunk Ape, and a thousand-pound hammerhead known as Old Hitler. Yet “Wakulla Springs” is less a tale about monsters than it is the journey of one family (and, by extension, the evolution of social mores and attitudes). Beginning with matriarch Mayola, the story of the Williamses is inexorably linked to the Springs: by culture, tradition, and superstition – and a series of cheesy Tarzan movies shot on location in Wakulla County, Florida.

The plot’s surprisingly sparse, especially given the story’s length and description. (“Wakulla Springs” reads more like a novella than a short story.) Each of the four parts or chapters focuses on a different member of the Williams clan, and his or her experiences with Wakulla Springs and the exclusive, “whites only” resort situated on its banks. Cultural signposts indicate each segment’s particular timeline; while African-American Mayola tries to pursue her education in the Jim Crow south, by story’s end we meet her granddaughter, Dr. Anna Williams – a multiracial woman of African-American, white, and Cuban descent – visiting Wakulla Springs during sabbatical to study the encroachment of invasive species into the area.

It makes for an enjoyable and engaging read, even if most of the “monsters” we meet are of the human and institutional variety.

P.S.: Free Cheetah!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-10-15

October 16th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Swan Wreck, Casey Renee Kiser (2007)

October 15th, 2014 12:55 pm by Kelly Garbato

Raw, Authentic, Irreverent

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaways program.)

there will be two hits…
my words hitting the paper
and your eyes hitting my words…

I’d been trying to win a copy of one of Casey Renee Kiser’s poetry collections on Library Thing and Goodreads for months when my name finally came up for Swan Wreck. (As to why I didn’t just shell out ten bucks for a copy, I can hardly justify buying new books when my TBR pile numbers in the hundreds. Not unless it’s on sale, anyway. Priorities!) I don’t read a whole lot of poetry, but the dark, morbid themes and irreverent humor apparent in the book’s titles (I Liked You When I Thought I Was Dead; Spit Me Out; Darkness Plays Favorites) called to me.

The 129 poems that comprise Swan Wreck are gritty, authentic, and shoot straight from the heart/hip. Kiser tackles a breadth of difficult, “Lifetime Movie of the Week” topics – depression, anxiety, suicide, beauty, self-esteem, poverty, grief, loss, failed relationships, consumerism, even insomnia and the process of writing – with varying levels of success. While I enjoyed many of the poems, more than once I was left wondering what I had just read. (Kiser even makes a joke of this in “Anything, Nothing, Something”: “The point of this poem / could be ANYTHING…or NOTHING…or SOMETHING… / Does anyone out there known ANYTHING?”) I wasn’t in love with the use of caps, nor the c-word and the use of the word “rape” as a metaphor or other figure of speech (although to be fair, it’s entirely possible that the reference was both literal and over my head; poetry, not my strong suit).

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-10-14

October 15th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Mini-Review: “Grace Immaculate,” Gregory Benford (2011)

October 14th, 2014 12:17 pm by Kelly Garbato

Too Short!

three out of five stars

Sometime in the unspecified future, humans make contact with extraterrestrials: “The first SETI signal turned up not in a concerted search for messages, but at the Australian Fast Transients study that looked for variable stars.” Thus begins a multigenerational, excruciatingly slow exchange of information and ideas with an alien species that we humans nickname the “Hydrans” (for their physical similarity to earth-bound hydras). Naturally, the evangelical Christian community wants in on the action – particularly when it begins to suspect that these aliens might be (gasp!) atheists – and so a coalition of churches builds a seven billion dollar beacon in order to proselytize to these heathen, hive-minded extraterrestrials. Needless to say, things don’t go so well for the hapless Hydrans.

Benford plants the seed of what could be a very interesting story, yet it remains just that – a seed. “Grace Immaculate” is a very quick read, ending seemingly before it even begins. The ending is appropriately ambiguous, yet still quite unsatisfying. I’d really love to see this as either a longer short story or even a novella.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2014-10-13

October 14th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: The Shining Girls: A Novel, Lauren Beukes (2014)

October 13th, 2014 12:10 pm by Kelly Garbato

Deserves every bit of the buzz – and then some!

five out of five stars

My introduction to Lauren Beukes came in the form of Broken Monsters, an ARC of which I had the pleasure of reviewing last month. Though I fell in love with Beukes’ writing style – the playful use of pop culture references, the skillful interweaving of multiple narratives and POVs, the casual interrogation of racism and sexism – the particular blend of fantasy/SF and crime fiction found in Broken Monsters didn’t quite do it for me. Thinking that it might work better in The Shining Girls, I bumped it up to the top of my TBR pile. I know it’s a little tired to say that this book shines, but. Yeah, it kind of does.

Harper is a psychopath living in a Chicago Hooverville circa 1931 when he robs a blind woman of her coat – in the pocket of which he finds a key, which leads him to the House. His House. By all appearances a dilapidated shack, once Harper steps through the front door, it magically transforms itself a mansion – shiny, new, and opulent – just for him. And when he passes through the front door again, he can step out onto any time he can imagine…just so long as the day falls somewhere between 1931 and 1993.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2014-10-12

October 13th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Greek Creamy Lemon Rice Soup with Yogurt Naan Griddle Bread

October 12th, 2014 12:09 pm by Kelly Garbato

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One upside to the end of VeganMoFo? I can finally turn my attention back to the many other tasks I neglected throughout most of September. Like finally reviewing that copy of Vegan Eats World that Da Capo Press sent me all those months ago! (I’m so sorry you guys, really. The time just got away from me!)

Since the weather’s starting to turn chilly, I decided to concentrate on the soups: starting with this Creamy Lemon Rice Soup! Subtitled “‘No’ Govlemano,” this is a veganized version of the “zesty [Greek] classic egg-lemon chicken soup.” Which I’ve never had (I don’t think I ever tried an egg-based soup in my omni days!), so I can’t really comment on its authenticity vis-à-vis the original – but I can say that it’s delicious: thick and creamy, with pureed white beans and both orzo pasta and arborio rice, the pairing of which adds multiple textures to the dish. And the lemon is unexpectedly awesome.

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I decided to pair it with naan bread, mainly because I wanted to see if I could do it. I don’t have such a hot track record with breads, you see. But the naan turned out to be super-easy to make, even if baking it in the cast iron skillet did smoke up the house a little. (Worth it!) I couldn’t find any vegan yogurt locally – it seems to have plummeted in popularity lately – so I used this recipe at Oh She Glows to make my own. I know, right! How cool is that?

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The leftover naan is perfect for baking individual quickie pizzas, pita pizza styley. The bread is a little thinner than pita and results in a floppier crust, but no complaints here.

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Incidentally, the flexibility of the bread also makes it awesome for hummus wraps. (Or is this considered a sammie?) Naturally I overdid it with the fillings, so that the bread stood no chance of staying put when folded, but trust me when I say that it works even better for this purpose than the (thicker, less pliable) pita bread I normally use.

This is definitely a recipe that’ll be entering into regular rotation ’round these parts. Ditto: the soup.

tweets for 2014-10-11

October 12th, 2014 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato