11 February 2012

Waits - Downtown Train

It's not my favorite song by Tom Waits, but it's lovely. Sigh.

Super Bowl - German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad
Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell
Yield: 4 servings

2 pounds white new potatoes, cut in half
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 bacon slices, cut into lardons
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped 

Toss the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover generously with water and season generously with salt. Bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and reserve.
Coat a large straight-sided saute pan lightly with olive oil. Toss in the bacon and bring the pan to a medium heat. When the bacon is brown and crispy, toss in the onions and cook them until they are very soft and aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the stock and vinegar. Toss in the potatoes when they are still warm and cook until the liquid has absorbed into the potatoes. Taste and season with salt if needed. Toss in the chives and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: This was the first time I made this recipe. I used Dutch yellow baby potatoes, about 1.5 pounds. They were adorable, but kept rolling off the damn counter. I did make a few changes to the process though. I removed the bacon after making it crispy and reduced the fat to a couple of tablespoons to cook the onion. I added the bacon back in when I added the chives. The chives were garlic chives from the garden. I also added a tablespoon of vinegar at the end. The vinegar taste had kind of mellowed with cooking, so this brightened it up considerably.

Highlander's Prize - Mary Wine

Summary: Beautiful Clarrisa is sent to Scotland to marry the king, but is soon thwarted by the handsome Laird Broen MacNichols. For Broen, Clarrisa becomes far more than a kidnapped prize. Sparks fly as he enjoys sparring with the intelligent and independent-minded lady from York. Captive turns captor when Broen loses his heart and risks everything to keep Clarissa for himself. (Source: Netgalley)

Comments: The objectification of women is never more prominent than when done by the Scots, unless it's when it's done by the English. Clarrisa is just an object to be used, but even though she's raised in a fashion that makes her acutely aware of her status as a bastard only worth marrying off for money, she finally breaks free of that upbringing to become independent-minded and tough.
The story was paced nicely and the main characters were believable. My one quibble with the book was the late edition of many characters which was a bit of puzzle to keep up with. Overall, a nice story for mature audiences.

BTW - where do they get these covers - ugh. 

10 February 2012

A Waltz at Midnight by Crista McHugh

Summary: When her mistress receives an utterly unromantic letter from a potential suitor, servant Susanna Parkwell is asked to craft an appropriate response. Though hesitant to take part in the deception, Susanna agrees, never dreaming the scorned suitor will write back.
Theodore Blakely abhors being pressured by his family to marry, but he's intrigued by the witty refusal he receives from "Charlotte." After exchanging more letters, Ted believes he's found a soul mate in his thoughtful and understanding correspondent, and asks permission to formally court her.
Though racked with guilt over her lies, Susanna can't resist the opportunity to meet Ted in person. So she poses as Charlotte at a holiday ball, where she vows to tell him the truth. But when the clock strikes midnight, will Susanna have the courage to reveal her identity and risk losing the man she loves. (Source: Carina Press)

Comments: Do you ever make assumptions? I do and did with the summary above. I assumed that this would be a Regency era story, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Set in New York state in 1866, this story follows the life of a young brother and sister from the south following the Civil War. I'm pleased that it is a American story and includes Vassar College and the education of women.
This is a short story and therefore a quick read. Told largely through the letters that Susanna and Theodore share. It is a sweet story that's paced fairly well. The main characters, of which there are only four, are well sketched out and have their own reasons for doing what they are doing which is believable and the ending is happy. And therein lies the problem. Based on what you know of Theodore's father, there would still be a battle ahead. I won't say more, but it's like the one difficulty to overcome was just glossed over.
Would I read any of Ms. McHugh's other works - most certainly and I enjoyed this story a great deal, but I think she took the easy way out on this one.

To be released February  12th.
Source: Webgalley

08 February 2012

Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage - Jennifer Ashley

Summary: Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized London by leaving her husband, notorious artist Lord Mac Mackenzie, after only three turbulent years of marriage. But Mac has a few tricks to get the Lady back in his life, and more importantly, back into his bed. (Source: Amazon)

Comments: This is the second in a series of four books about the four Mackenzie brothers. Obviously, you met all four brothers in the first book (here) and they make a return, except for Hart, the Duke of Kilmorgan. Mac is desperate to get his wife back in life and to prove he's changed all his habits that made him leave her over and over, not for another woman, but just to give her some peace from his huge personality. Isabella has reasons for her resentment and her hesitation to set aside their separation and be Mac's wife again. You get a good sense of their entire marriage from it's beginning and how they ended up separated.There certainly is tension created by a stalker-like character who thinks he's Mac and Inspector Fellows, from the first book in the series, has returned to help Mac track him down.
I think the characters are well developed and again, I like the interplay between the brothers, it's not stress-free, but seems realistic. My only real problem with this book, and it's not huge, is it seems to wander a bit, like it needed to be tightened up just a bit. This is a mature audience book.  I'm looking forward to the next in the series and I understand the fourth book will be out sometime this spring.

05 February 2012

Super Bowl means a party just for the commercials

While the Boy is quite interested in the game, the MotH and I prefer to watch the commercials unless something interesting happens in the game. It's definitely the second food holiday of the year, the first being New Year's Day. Up next the Valentine's food holiday and more chocolate than you can think of - yuck.
Spicy Brazil Nuts - I'm just going to wing it on this.
Spinach Dip - for the Boy - he has been know to make sandwiches with this, yes, disgusting.
California Garlic Bread - so decadent and only for special occasions or I'd be a blimp.
Citrus Couscous - new, but have some ideas to change the recipe to incorporate an older couscous recipe I have.
German Potato Salad - new, because I like it.
Carmel Corn - new, it's a little sweet, but hopefully, not too much.
M&M Cookies - maybe, if I get to it. 
We'll just see how it goes.