Quinoa and black bean salad with mole dressing

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Here’s a quick post while I’m on my phone….I’ve got a whole backlog of recipes to share but need to take time to write them up!

This quinoa and black bean salad had a really interesting mole dressing, with orange zest and cocoa powder.  I find the recipe in the may 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

It was a pretty tasty way to use up some quinoa!  I would recommend it if you like the flavors of mole.

You can find the recipe here.

Cooking for a crowd: 2 minute, 24 hour pasta (AKA the easiest baked penne you’ll ever make!)

I got a text from my friend’s boyfriend last week asking my attendance at a surprise 40th birthday party for her.   And, could I also bring a casserole for 12?  Sure, why not.  I can throw something together.  It didn’t take much Googling to find a list of casseroles on Cooking Light’s website, including this one.  It couldn’t be easier, and you don’t even have to cook the pasta!  I’ll definitely be making this again the next time I have to feed a crowd.

I followed the recipe as written but with the following changes:

1.  I had about a cup left of my edamame pesto, so I added that in with the pasta sauce.

2.  I forgot to spray the baking dish before adding the pasta.  But no worry, the pasta didn’t stick anyways, so I would say you can skip that step if you have no cooking spray around.

3.  This isn’t a change so much, but I figured that 2 jars of pasta sauce at the store would be close enough to 7.5 cups, since a quart is four cups and pasta jars are close to a quart in size.  So I didn’t bother measuring out the sauce, I just used two jars worth!

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Recipe: 2 Minute, 24 Hour Casserole

April Books

Wow, I can’t believe we’re already through April.   It feels like it went really fast, but I managed to get through a lot of reading this month!  Let’s get started:

The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld

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Here we have a solid contender for best of 2014, at minimum top five.  Set on Death Row, The Enchanted is the story of an inmate nearing his execution date, only unlike the other inmates, he claims he does  want to die.  A woman is sent to investigate his case, and as she does she learns of some dark similarities between herself and the inmate.  The story is narrated by a mute inmate, also on death row.  The material is dark but truly beautifully written.  Probably the most uplifting story about the bleakest world I can imagine.  Highly recommended.

The Night Gwen Stacy Died, Sarah Bruni

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Sheila is almost 18, living in boring Iowa and dreaming of the day she graduates and heads to Paris.  Until she meets the mysterious Peter Parker….wait, isn’t that the guy from Spider-Man?  Peter captures Sheila at gunpoint and takes her to Chicago where their adventure unfolds.  While the ending felt kind of rushed, overall this is a quick, enjoyable, emotional read.

Oxygen, Carol Cassella

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Marie is an anesthesiologist who faces pressure in her personal and professional life when a routine surgery hits crisis mode.  I found the professional side of this story to be compelling, but too much of this story revolved around Marie’s relationship with her family, which bored me.  This is decent beach or plane reading, but I wouldn’t rush to put it on your to-read list.

Tenth of December, George Saunders

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Finally got around to reading this huge hit from 2013!  It’s a collection of short stories, my favorite being The Semplica Girl Diaries.  Saunders’ ability to create such depth in so few pages per story is really amazing.  This collection made many top ten lists of 2013 and with good reason.  An excellent read.

The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud

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Is it just me or is the latest thing to have your main character be your antagonist too?  Like Walter White in Breaking Bad?  Nora, our narrator, is one miserable, unlikeable character.  She’s middle aged and feeling angry and invisible.  At times her anger feels realistic, but at other times it seems over the top.  But despite this, I found myself completely wrapped up in this story….until the ending, which left me saying “Oh, come on!”.  I felt it was pretty unrealistic…don’t want to give it away though!  Nora is a teacher who befriends the  professional artist mother of one of her students, which inspires her to become more passionate and to focus more  on her artwork.  But with a first sentence like “How angry am I?  You don’t want to know.” you know this isn’t gonna end well.  I don’t know if I’d recommend this one either.  If you like the antagonist as narrator format, then go for it.  But if you don’t have time for angst, skip this.

Strike for America, Micah Uetricht

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Finally, a non-fiction book this month!  I signed up for a six book non-fiction set through Jacobin and this is one of the first three they sent me…the other two will be reviewed later this spring (or, as my knitting group discussed, it’s not really spring in Chicago but postwinter) Here’s the story of the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012.  Informative and fast for educators, Chicagoans, and those interested in union history.

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

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I read this book while on my NY vacation–J’s sister has lots of books around her place and so when I visit I know there will be something interesting for me to pick up.  I found this book to start off slow but it became more and more interesting–it’s about the tragedy that unfolds around a family in India when the ex-wife and daughter of the family’s son come to visit.  It’s a really interesting read about what life is like in India, about feeling inferior to a person with white skin, about the caste system, child abuse, worker’s struggles.  It’s one of those books you could read a second time and realize how much you missed the first.  Roy has a new nonfiction book out which is going into the queue now!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time , Mark Haddon

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Christopher is a 15 year old autistic boy who decides to investigate the murder of his neighbor’s dog.  But he ends up learning a whole lot more than he bargained for.  The narrator is also a math genius, and the story is peppered with lots of interesting math and logic puzzles.  It’s an extremely fast read, written for young adults, also one of those good summer mindless reading days.

Night, Elie Wiesel

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I was thinking I should add some classics into my reading as I generally stick to more contemporary things.  At only 100 pages, Night definitely gets a full, detailed account of Wiesel’s life in the concentration camps across.  I had never read this in school like many people do, but I learned quite a bit.

Total books read in 2014: 22

Cooking from my Cookbooks: Edamame pesto with Asparagus

I confess, I have been slacking on my “Cooking from my Cookbooks” series, but I’m here to rectify that.  While I was on my vacation, I browsed my kindle cookbooks (I have quite a few now…at least six) for four recipes–two to catch up on for March, where I did not cook anything from my cookbooks, and two for April, to get me back on track.

This recipe comes from the 30-Minute Suppers e-book put out by America’s Test Kitchen.  At such a low price point, it’s a  pretty short cookbook, but there’s enough interesting and fast ideas in there that I found a few things that piqued my interest.  I chose this Edamame pesto with Asparagus because I have had this bag of frozen edamame in my freezer since….well, at least 2013 and possibly even 2012!  Why I bought it, I don’t know.  I bought it with nothing in mind other than “Edamame! fun!” and then never came up with a use.  Also this leads me into admitting for the past two weeks I’ve actually planned out my dinners in advance, and made shopping lists based off them.  I’ve saved myself money by not buying excess stuff, and planned things that used up stuff that’s been in the freezer or pantry for a while.  It’s also made dinner prep go much faster, because I already know exactly what the game plan is every night.  Why haven’t I done this before!?

This pesto is FANTASTIC.  I’ll be buying frozen edamame again….and this time it’ll get used up fast.  It doesn’t change the flavor IMO, but it makes for a creamier, thicker pesto than usual.

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8 oz frozen edamame, thawed

1 cup each of: parsley, basil, cilantro

1/2 C pine nuts

1/3 C grated parmesan (but you should add more!  I’m going to note that I got Parmigiano Reggiano aka the “real stuff” at Mariano’s for $15 a pound, which is unheard-of cheap for Chicago)

1 garlic clove

2 T lemon juice

1/4 C olive oil

1 lb asparagus

1 package fresh pasta

Blend the edamame through olive oil in a food processor.

Boil water, add the asparagus, then when that’s almost done, add the pasta to finish both at the same time.  Making sure to reserve the cooking water, strain the pasta over a bowl.

Put the pesto in a saucepan, and stir in the reserved cooking water til you reach your desired consistency.  Then add back your pasta/asparagus and toss to coat.

Enjoy!!

Southampton and Eastern Long Island

Here’s some pictures of my vacation…they’re sized kind of small here cause that’s what wordpress does, but you can click to enlarge.  I don’t know how to get them to embed larger!

This is the beach and some ridiculously expensive homes at Mecox Bay.  It was pretty chilly, unfortunately!

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This is Scallop Pond, a wildlife preserve:

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These pictures are of Shelter Island.  I really liked this area the most.  You have to drive your car onto a ferry boat to get across the water, but the ferry trip takes all of three minutes.  We went there to check out the public library’s book sale and just to explore.

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Here’s J. trying to get a good shot.

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Finally a few shots of Central Park.  The cherry blossoms were in bloom!

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Fun with SkyMall

Heather over at Heather Homefaker did this awesome post about the insanity that is SkyMall.  I loved that post–I feel like no one else I know adores SkyMall the way I do.  Every time J. and I fly I try to get him to laugh at it and he just looks at what I show him and goes “huh.” with a shrug.  Gah!  How do you not see this stuff is hilarious!

Anyways, seeing how I was just on a plane for my vacation last week, I thought I would add to her idea and post some of my favorites from this trip:

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Like this flying yard pooch!  SUPER WEINER.

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I’m sure you all wanted the ability to strap a small child to your neck.  Am I right?  Seriously though this looks like one hell of an accident waiting to happen.

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Supposedly this is a litter box but I prefer to think of it as a Cat Spaceship.

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And for the wealthier customer with $2,250 burning a hole in your pocket, you can pick up a life size bigfoot statue for your yard.  The classiest in 1% decorating!

Do you also love SkyMall?  Please tell me I am not alone in this.