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Sunday, August 27, 2006

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Saturday Morning Walkers - August 27, 2006

Hi all,

Sorry you couldn't be with Barb, Jan and I yesterday morning. We had a rainy walking tour of the Newlands neighborhood and up to Hawthorn, across to the Community Gardens (near my house) and south on the path back to Community Plaza. If you haven't been to Breadworks lately, you're in for a treat - they've expanded in size and in offerings - lots of breakfast possibilities as well as a simple pastry - Barb and I had frittatas (sp?) and Jan had a very unique French Toast dish.

Book Reports this week:

Jan wanted to let us know that she finished listening to Upstate (reviewed in an earlier post) and loved it but definitely recommends listening to it rather than reading it!
She is now reading (not listening!) to:

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter:

From Bookmarks MagazineJess Walter, who steps back in history for his third novel, brings back an "utterly inventive" tale of crime and politics (Washington Post). Walter, whose previous books include Land of the Blind and a non-fiction account of the Ruby Ridge massacre, Every Knee Shall Bow, seems to have found his stride as a novelist. Critics praise the author’s ability to straddle—or shatter—the conceits of the mystery novel, while offering a sincere, at times hilarious, rumination on the challenges of citizenship and the price of freedom. Except for the Seattle Times’s vote against the stream of consciousness chapters that delve into Reagan and Carter’s minds, the pundits all agree: Citizen Vince is the real deal.

Susan just finished Duplicate Keys by Jane Smiley- it is a suspense thriller murder mystery (not my usual genre) - it was pretty compelling most of the way through and then I got bored by the end - actually irritated with the characters and wishing she'd just wrap it up. Here's a review from Amazon:

Book Description"Sharp and memorable...Finely wrought."NEWSDAYThey were six friends from the Midwest who moved to New York City with high hopes of making it big in the music industry. Although the dream had faded, they had all remained friends--or so it seemed. One brilliant day, two of the group were shot in an apartment for which they all had duplicate keys. A riveting suspense story about the emotional aftermath of murder--the jealousy and hatred, the deception and rage, and the shocking secrets that lie between even the closest of friends.

Cooking and Food Reports this week:
It hasn't been much of a cooking week for me until yesterday - I made a meatloaf that was very well received, Moroccan couscous (see earlier post for recipe), plum torte (see earlier post for recipe) and I also made a Tres Leche cake - it turned out pretty well but I would make some modifications next time.

Blue Plate Special Meatloaf - - this recipe instructs you to make 2 individual loaves but I actually made 1 loaf in a regular loaf pan - it took a bit longer to cook that

Tres Leche Cake - here are the instructions that the proprietor of Aji Restaurant kindly shared with me and I pretty much followed it - I would suggest using 1 cup of each of the milks. I used a white cake mix from Whole Foods (some funky organic brand) and baked the cake in a 9 x 13 pan (don't line the pan with wax paper like I did - big mistake - just butter and flour the pan before pouring in the batter). Once the cake was finished baking I let it sit for about 10 - 15 minutes, then poked the holes and poured the milk mixture over the cake. I let it cool a bit and then stored it in the frig. I would take it out of the frig for a bit before serving so it is not ice cold. A note about the cream topping - I just whipped the cream and sugar until it just thickened. You don't need to create stiff peaks - it is more like a thick sauce on top of the cake. You can garnish with fresh fruit like strawberries and kiwis and perhaps a berry puree or chocolate syrup (guess what I used!):

"Thank you for your feedback on your experience at Aji. Some thoughts about the Tres Leches cake -- use any white cake mix you can find at any store. Poke holes in the cake. Soak that cake in equal parts whole milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Enough to completely submerge the cake. The cake needs to soak for approximately 20 minutes. The cream used to dress the cake is whipped heavy cream and sugar. For every pint of heavy cream use approximately a quarter cup of sugar. Whip cream in a blender, starting on low. Garnish with some nice fresh fruit -- we have used kiwi, mango, strawberry, etc. Thanks again, and I hope all goes well."
Gerald Manning

A request from Barb for brunch recipes, please: Do any of you have any tried and true, make ahead brunch recipes you'd like to share? Mandy, how about that French Toast you told me about?

Here's a fritatta recipe that Chris made at last year's Literary Sojourn in Steamboat - it is not make ahead but it sure was wonderful!

Steamboat Breakfast Frittata

Recipe By : Chris Rich
Serving Size : 8
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 cups frozen shredded or country style potatoes
4 large eggs or egg-substitute equivalent
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese -- shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese -- shredded
1/4 cup tomatoes -- chopped
1/4 cup steamed asparagus -- chopped
dried green chilies
breakfast sausage, ham, ground beef, turkey sausage (any of these) -- browned and drained
1/4 cup green onions -- sliced
1/4 cup artichoke hearts -- chopped
any fresh herbs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a large skillet with oven-safe handle, heat oil. Add potatoes and heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and salt. Pour over the potatoes.
Sprinkle with whatever veggies or meat you choose. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 - 7 minutes, then sprinkle with cheeses. Continue cooking until center of the frittata is set.
Heat the broiler. Broil the frittata 6 inches from the heat until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Let the frittata stand on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Two last notes, if you want to find something in one of my earlier e-mails, just go to my blog and do a keyword search.

We have another "blogger" in our group - Terri has created a blog where she shares her experiences and thoughts on being a single mom. - check it out and share it with anyone you know who might be interested.

That's it for now - have a great week! Don't forget that this Saturday, September 2, we're back at Caffe Sole for a walk and planning session for September's schedule. I'm sure we'll be hearing from Barb later in the week.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Saturday Morning Walkers - August 20, 2006

Hi everyone,

Missed being with all of you yesterday morning but I loved being with 2 of my "girls" (Jex and Mandy - we missed Libby!) and my little guy, Jacob. After the rainy morning (did you even walk?) and a leisurely "breakfast" at Allison's Cafe (they really are the best croissants but you do have to get there in the morning - they don't hold up to well after several hours!), we had a lovely afternoon at the Lafayette Peach Festival.

I just have one book to report on right now - I read a very short but powerful book called When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. It turns out that this is the next selection for "One Book, One Boulder" - this is a novel based on the Japanese internment during WWII - it is startlingly relevant to what's happening in our country right now with racial profiling. Check out this website for details on the 2006 One Book, One Boulder - - I hope to participate and invite you to do the same!

From Publishers Weekly:
This heartbreaking, bracingly unsentimental debut describes in poetic detail the travails of a Japanese family living in an internment camp during World War II, raising the specter of wartime injustice in bone-chilling fashion. After a woman whose husband was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy sees notices posted around her neighborhood in Berkeley instructing Japanese residents to evacuate, she moves with her son and daughter to an internment camp, abruptly severing her ties with her community. The next three years are spent in filthy, cramped and impersonal lodgings as the family is shuttled from one camp to another. They return to Berkeley after the war to a home that has been ravaged by vandals; it takes time for them to adjust to life outside the camps and to come to terms with the hostility they face. When the children's father re-enters the book, he is more of a symbol than a character, reduced to a husk by interrogation and abuse. The novel never strays into melodrama-Otsuka describes the family's everyday life in Berkeley and the pitiful objects that define their world in the camp with admirable restraint and modesty. Events are viewed from numerous characters' points of view, and the different perspectives are defined by distinctive, lyrically simple observations. The novel's honesty and matter-of-fact tone in the face of inconceivable injustice are the source of its power. Anger only comes to the fore during the last segment, when the father is allowed to tell his story-but even here, Otsuka keeps rage neatly bound up, luminous beneath the dazzling surface of her novel.

Jexy, Mandy and I have done a fair amount of cooking this week - here are a few of the best recipes:

Moroccan Shrimp from Real Simple Magazine -

Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter from Eating Well Magazine -

Plum Torte from - also made this same recipe using peaches - I preferred the plum version,1613,150171-238195,00.html

Jexy and Jacob went back to LA this morning - it is always sad for me to see them go but it is so nice to have Mandy staying an extra day - we did the Pearl Street Mall today, enjoyed the Asian Festival and had a wonderful lunch at Aji at 16th and Pearl. - the highlight was the Tres Leche cake we shared for dessert - I'm determined to find the recipe and try that at home.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday Morning Walkers - August 12, 2006

Hi everyone!

Jan, Barb, Christie, Mary, Jexy and I had a lovely walk on the Creek Path followed by breakfast at the Dushanbe Teahouse - a few of us shopped the Farmer's Market. Jex and I bought these interesting melons called French Charentais - very sweet and juicy.

Books to note:

From Mary - Around the Next Corner by Elizabeth Wrenn, a local Boulder writer

Amazon customer review:
Around the Next Corner is filled with wonderful moments and unforgettable characters. The reader begins to care about the protagonist, Deena, on the very first page. Of course, it's hard not to love a book that involves a really cute "K-9" puppy in training (and that launched at a book signing with the author sitting on the stage surrounded by lots and lots of really cute canine dogs in their little green vests). This is the perfect summer book...funny, heartening, believable, suspenseful and intelligently crafted. My only complaint is that I hope I don't have to wait too long for the next Deena book: I really need to find out what is around that next corner for our heroine.

From Jan - Jan is listening to and audio copy of Upstate by Kalish Buckhanon -

From AudioFileUPSTATE is a rare audio find whose voices linger in the mind long after its final chapter. The novel consists of letters passing between Natasha and Antonio, young lovers separated by distance and later by time and personal growth. When Antonio is sent to an upstate prison for killing his father, he must adjust to a different kind of life, and Natasha must continue hers without her first love. The story is compelling, especially since it's told from such personal points of view. What makes the audiobook particularly outstanding is the way Chadwick Boseman and Heather Simms bring the characters to life. Listeners can hear them grow and change letter by letter, thanks to Buckhanon's words and the narrators' talented voices. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine--

From Susan - Triangle by Katherine Weber - I first heard about this book on NPR - it is a novel based on actual event in New York City - the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that occurred in 1911 - it is a fascinating piece of history and a wonderful story around it.

From Publishers Weekly:Starred Review. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed 146 workers, most of them women, and galvanized efforts to reform working conditions in sweatshops. In Esther Gottesfeld, the last remaining survivor of the Triangle fire, Weber (The Little Women) creates a believable and memorable witness to the horrors of that day. Esther managed to escape, but her fiancé, Sam, and her sister, Pauline, both perished in the blaze. In 2001, Esther is living in a New York Jewish retirement home, visited often by her beloved granddaughter Rebecca and Rebecca's longtime partner, George Botkin. Rebecca and George's story and quirky rapport take up half of the book, and descriptions of George's music provide a needed counterpoint to the harrowing accounts of the fire and its aftermath. But Ruth Zion, a humorless but perceptive feminist scholar, sees inconsistencies in Esther's story and determines to ferret them out through repeated interviews with Esther and, after her death, with Rebecca. The novel carefully, and wrenchingly, allows both the reader and Rebecca to discover the secret truth about Esther and the Triangle without spelling it out; it is a truth that brings home the real sufferings of factory life as well as the human capacity to tell the stories we want to hear. (June)
From Jacob Milo Rowland and Jexy - Akimbo and the Elephants by Alexander McCall Smith - Jacob really loves chapter books, particularly the The Magic Treehouse Series. When I asked someone in the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D. C. for a recommendation of a new series for my 4 year old grandson, this is what she recommended. Jex thought it was a bit heavy for Jacob but he really seemed to like it.

From School Library JournalGrade 2-3–The author of the adult The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency mystery series originally published these delightful children's stories in Great Britain in the early 1990s. His short, illustrated chapter-book adventures will transport American readers to the plains of Africa where Akimbo lives with his parents on a Kenyan game reserve. His father works as a park ranger, and, on occasion, Akimbo is allowed to accompany him while he works. In Elephants, the two encounter a dead elephant, killed for its tusks. When the poachers aren't found immediately, Akimbo devises a plan to catch them in the act. After several suspenseful moments, the boy's simple, yet innocent plan works. In Lions, the child accompanies his father and other rangers as they investigate news of lion attacks. The plan is to trap the marauding animal and take it to another area, but by accident, they capture its cub. The African setting, dramatic full-page pencil illustrations, and the animal facts woven into the stories are sure to capture young readers.
From Jacob Milo Rowland and Jexy - The True Story of Nickel: The Baby Buffalo Who Thought He Was A Dog - a story set in Colorado.
Book DescriptionTrue adventures of an orphaned bison calf raised by a park caretaker and his family. Learn how Nickel got his name and why he lost his horns in this hilarious, warm story about the friendly bison. Vivid watercolor illustrations and interactive website with thematic teachers guide make this book perfect for classroom or campfire.

Recipes of the Week - Jex and I have been cooking together all week.

Chicken Marbella is a wonderful dish we made last night when Rae was here for a visit. Janet Fremont has made for our book group - it is a recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook - very festive.

This is a great buffet dish. You can serve this hot or cold. 16 pieces, 10 or more portions 1 head garlic, peeled and finely pureed 1/4 c. dried oregano Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper 1/2 c. red wine vinegar 1/2 c. olive oil 1 c. pitted prunes 1/2 c. pitted Spanish green olives 1/2 c. capers with a bit of juice 6 bay leaves 1 c. brown sugar 1 c. white wine 1/4 c. parsley, chopped
In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow juice.
With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over chicken.

We're making a version of this for brunch today - using a large crusty loaf of Whole Foods Farmhouse bread instead of foccacia - will probably add some additional seasonings - I'll let you know how it turns out!

Lemon and Basil Eggs over Foccacia
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Recipe SummaryDifficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 large loaf foccacia bread 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon olive oil, or 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil combined with 1 teaspoon lemon juice 3 eggs 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut the top off the foccacia and hollow out the bread inside. Tear the top of the foccacia and the inside bread into 1-inch pieces and save for the egg mixture. Brush the inside of the foccacia with the Meyer lemon olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the basil, cheese, salt, pepper, and milk. Whisk lightly. Stir in up to 4 cups of the bread pieces.
Carefully pour the egg mixture into the toasted foccacia bottom. Return to the oven and bake until the eggs have cooked, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Cut the baked foccacia into 6 to 8 pieces and serve immediately.

That's it for now - have a great week! Don't forget to check out my blog with all my past "Cook and Book Digests" posted there!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Saturday Morning Walkers - August 5, 2006

Christie, Jan and I had a very nice walk this morning and then had coffee at Caffe Sole. Each of us has volunteered for the Saturdays in the remainder of August:

August 12 - Jan
August 19 - Christie
August 26 - Susan

We talked about two books - the one that Jan is reading and likes very much is The Doctor's Wife, a first novel by Elizabeth Brundage.

From Publishers WeeklySet against the backdrop of the battle for abortion rights, this timely but stilted debut thriller features a perfect yuppie couple. Michael Knowles is a successful OB-GYN and his wife, Annie, is a popular journalism professor; they have two precious kids and a big, airy home in upstate New York. But once Michael accepts a position at the only abortion clinic in town, the already heavy strain that his doctor's schedule puts on their marriage sends Annie into the arms of a colleague, notorious painter Simon Haas. Meanwhile, Michael receives increasingly hostile threats from creepy antiabortion activists, suggesting that one, or both, of the Knowles are targets of a vicious terror campaign. The painter's childlike young wife, Lydia, as a menacing, tormented Bible-thumper scarred by a harsh, loveless upbringing, is the enigma that fuels Brundage's examination of what happens when we are drawn to the very things that promise to destroy us. But the lessons here are heavy-handed and the characterizations mechanical. The bad guys wear mirrored sunglasses as they force Michael off the road; the good guys wear jackets emblazoned with angel's wings; and the dialogue is delivered in short sound bites scripted for a TV cliffhanger. The Knowles' storybook marriage takes a number of dark, twisted turns, but the lack of character nuance and depth blunt Brundage's stab at psychological suspense.

I just finished Eat, Pray, Love, a memoir/spiritual journey by novelist Elizabeth Gilbert. I highly recommend it - she has a dry, sense of humor not unlike Anne LaMott. You may notice a theme in my reading material lately!

From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights—the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners—Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry—conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor—as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression.

I haven't done much cooking this week but I am planning to make the following recipe tonight - its one I've done before and it is quite good:

Fettucine with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Serving Size : 4

2 cups hot water 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound mixed mushrooms -- sliced 4 large garlic cloves -- chopped 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 tablespoon fresh thyme -- chopped 3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 3/ 4 pound fettucine

1. Soften porcini mushrooms for 40 minutes, drain and reserve liquid.

2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add fresh mushrooms, garlic and saute until brown, about 6 minutes. Add porcini mushrooms and saute until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add butter and thyme and stir 1 minute.

3. Add broth and 11/4 cups soaking liquid. Boil until thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Mix in 4T cheese. (Can do about 1 hour ahead and let stand at room temperature.

4. Add cooked pasta to sauce and top with Parmesan cheese.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My niece, Mandy, sent me the following recipe from a friend of hers this week - I think that Jacob and I will make it while he's here along with the blueberry cake that I'll include below (both are over the top outrageous!):


2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
3 (4 oz) bars premium semi-sweet chocolate, broken into chunks (buy Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/4 cups egg substitute (egg beaters - can not use real eggs because this does not cook all the way through and could make you sick with real eggs)
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
powdered sugar

Brush 16 muffin pans with 2 tbsp of melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with cocoa, shaking out excess. Place in refrigerator to firm butter.

Place 3/4 cup butter and chocolate in large heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat stirring often until butter and chocolate melt. Slowly whisk in cream, set aside.

Combine egg and sugar in mixing bowl, beat 5 to 7 minutes until slightly thickened. Add chocolate cream and flour, beat until blended. Pour into muffin cups to within 1/4" from the tops. Cover and chill 1 hour or up to 24 hours (you can also freeze this for up to 1 month, take out the night before and place in fridge to thaw before baking).

Bake at 450 for 10-11 minutes. Let stand 3 minutes before placing a knife around edges to loosen. Invert pan. Place one on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and raspberries!

And here's my friend Marilyn's recipe for blueberry cake that she made for a "ladie's lunch" that she hosted when I was in Maryland:

Blueberry Cake

1 Cup Sugar
3 Tablespoons Soft Butter
2 Eggs
½ Cup Milk
2 Cups Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder

1 Pint Blueberries

Beat first four ingredients and add flour and baking powder.
Mix well.
Pour into greased 9” x 13” pan and top with blueberries.

1 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Stick Melted Butter

Mix sugar & flour together and sprinkle over blueberries.
Drizzle melted butter on top.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Saturday Morning Walkers - July 25, 2006

Before I get started, I just want to remind everyone that Barb, Jackie and Mary are participating in the Susan G. Komen Tri for the Cure next Sunday the 6th at Cherry Creek State Park. Let me know if you're planning to come and cheer them on - we can carpool - I have the pompoms!

Well, it was Barb and I yesterday - we had a lovely walk, then coffee and treats at Allison's, shopping at the Farmers Market, and then finished up by performing our civic duty early voting in the primary election. We missed you all but we managed to find things to talk about - big surprise!

Since my last report, I finished the Stewart O'Nan book, A World Away - it was not my favorite of his books - even grimmer than his others - but somehow I was compelled to finish it.

I borrowed a book from Rae called Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser - I finished it in just a few days and will re-read it shortly. It is just wonderful and so timely for me.
Lesser was one of the cofounders of Omega Institute and Rae did a workshop with her a couple of years ago called Women and Power. I remember how much Rae loved that workshop.

From Publishers WeeklyCofounder of the upstate New York Omega Institute and author of The Seeker’s Guide, Lesser uses her own life story, and those of others, to explore what she calls the "Phoenix Process," or positive life change that can emerge from very difficult life events. In short, episodic chapters, Lesser cites stories of those who have gone through a divorce (as she has), lost a child or suffered a terminal illness. She brings in thinkers such as Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron, the late philosopher Joseph Campbell and her longtime friend and colleague Ram Dass to illustrate how meditation and belief in a spirit that works through people can help break through fear and hopelessness. Lesser’s own Phoenix Process began when, having previously been "betrayed" by her husband, she embarked on an adulterous affair (with a "shaman lover") that lasted a year and, in her terms, broke her open and allowed her to change. Lesser doesn’t describe her life events in enough detail for them to stand on their own as memoir; rather, she puts them in the service of an explicitly Nietzschean argument: that one needs to embrace one’s own "evil" in order to grow. Lesser’s resolve comes through in her clear, even, declarative prose, and her use of jargon is sparing and directed. But with conventional morality off the table and frequently overgeneralized musings sprinkled in ("Women still nurture and sustain me, but it is men who call me to grow, to examine my presumptions, to widen the boundaries of my heart"), the book can feel less the delineation of a process than a careful set of self-justifications. That sense is mitigated, however, by the anecdotes of other Phoenix veterans, via Omega and other parts of Lesser’s life.

I'm now reading Eat, Pray, Love, a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert - I hold off on the review until next week. Suffice it to say that Rae loved it and it took a couple of months for me to get it from the library.

Restaurant/Cafe Review:
Allison's at 1521 Pearl Street is very nice - croissants may be the best I've ever had! They bake all of their pastries on the premises. Very relaxed atmosphere.

The Laughing Goat Cafe - a bit further east on Pearl - just a little too weird and their pastries come wrapped in plastic - not a good sign.

Recipes to share:

Rae and I cooked dinner together last Friday night at her house - we made roast chicken and she made the most amazing couscous dish from the Barefoot Contessa - it is great because you serve it at room temperature - it is ideal to bring to a party:
Curried Couscousadapted from The Barefoot Contessa
1 1/2 cups couscous1 T. butter1 1/2 cups water1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt1/4 cup olive oil1 t. cider vinegar1 1/2 t. curry powder (I use hot madras curry powder)1/4 t. turmeric1/4 t. allspice1 t. Kosher saltcracked black pepper, to taste1/2 cup grated carrot1/2 cup dried cranberries2 green onions, chopped1/4 cup red onion, minced1/4 cup pine nuts
In a saucepan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to turn golden. Remove to a large bowl. In the same pan, pour in the couscous, butter, and water; bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes and turn off the heat. The water should be absorbed; cover and set aside. In the large bowl, pour the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, and spices over the pine nuts. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the carrot, cranberries, green and red onions, and toss to coat with the dressing. Dump in the couscous and toss again. Serves about 4 in main dish portions, 6-8 as a side.

Saturday Morning Walkers - July 17, 2006

We had a lovely morning in Allenspark - Christie, Mary, Barb, Jan, Chris and I drove up and met Kris, Linn and Linn's friend, Dee. We hiked along a creek trail, quite beautiful and relatively cool (at least at first). We had a great breakfast at the Meadow Mountain Cafe. The omelets looked really yummy and I loved my grilled cheese sandwich with avocado and tomato.

Not much book discussion - we did talk about our book groups.

I did notice that Jan is reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - definitely one of my favorite books.

From Publishers WeeklyHosseini's stunning debut novel starts as an eloquent Afghan version of the American immigrant experience in the late 20th century, but betrayal and redemption come to the forefront when the narrator, a writer, returns to his ravaged homeland to rescue the son of his childhood friend after the boy's parents are shot during the Taliban takeover in the mid '90s. Amir, the son of a well-to-do Kabul merchant, is the first-person narrator, who marries, moves to California and becomes a successful novelist. But he remains haunted by a childhood incident in which he betrayed the trust of his best friend, a Hazara boy named Hassan, who receives a brutal beating from some local bullies. After establishing himself in America, Amir learns that the Taliban have murdered Hassan and his wife, raising questions about the fate of his son, Sohrab. Spurred on by childhood guilt, Amir makes the difficult journey to Kabul, only to learn the boy has been enslaved by a former childhood bully who has become a prominent Taliban official. The price Amir must pay to recover the boy is just one of several brilliant, startling plot twists that make this book memorable both as a political chronicle and a deeply personal tale about how childhood choices affect our adult lives. The character studies alone would make this a noteworthy debut, from the portrait of the sensitive, insecure Amir to the multilayered development of his father, Baba, whose sacrifices and scandalous behavior are fully revealed only when Amir returns to Afghanistan and learns the true nature of his relationship to Hassan. Add an incisive, perceptive examination of recent Afghan history and its ramifications in both America and the Middle East, and the result is a complete work of literature that succeeds in exploring the culture of a previously obscure nation that has become a pivot point in the global politics of the new millennium.
Chris' and my current book group selection is A World Away by Stewart O'Nan - I just started it and it seems like a strange start - I'm hoping to get hooked soon - I have read several of his books and generally like his writing. I'll let you know if I get through it

.From Publishers WeeklyGranta-listed O'Nan (Snow Angels) fulfills his promise with this affecting and nuanced examination of family alliances tested by infidelity, illness and the pervasive impact of WWII. James Langer, repentant over an affair with one of his high-school students, tries to reconcile himself with his wife, Anne, who responds with silence, fury and a lover of her own. Some rapprochement seems less possible yet all the more necessary as the strain on the marriage increases. As the novel opens, the couple and their tepidly unhappy adolescent son, Jay, have come to the Hamptons to care for James's father, felled by a stroke. Yet the wound that runs deepest is the uncertain fate of their older son, Rennie, a former conscientious objector who became a medic and is now missing in action in the Pacific. The potential for melodrama increases as Rennie's wife, Dorothy, joins the family in the Hamptons after giving birth to their child. Yet O'Nan avoids that pitfall by focusing on the continually shifting tensions and alliances that animate the family: Anne's ambivalence about forgiving her husband; James's anxieties about the damaged family around him; and young Jay's growing confidence as he cares for his ailing grandfather. The narrative's subtle balance falters a bit with Rennie's homecoming; frustratingly, O'Nan holds the returned soldier somewhat aloof from the reader, rigorously keeping the focus on James and Ann. Still, this is a compassionate, acutely observant and deftly understated novel that evokes the longings that tug at one's heart as it unfurls in elegant prose. 30,000 first printing; author tour.
Barb recently read O'Nan's, The Good Wife, which I included in an earlier "report".

I took Giada DiLaurentiis' newest cookbook, Giada's Family Dinners out of the library - it looks just wonderful (she is definitely one of my favorites) - I'll be trying some of those recipes and will share the winners.

From Publishers WeeklyWith her second cookbook, Food TV star De Laurentiis proves she's more than just a pretty face. Although the host of Everyday Italian is not hard to look at, and photos of her and her family cooking are scattered throughout, there are many more reasons to pick up this book. If classics like Escarole and Bean Soup, Chicken Marsala, and Basic Polenta aren't strong enough incentives, then perhaps modern interpretations such as Chicken Carbonara, Roasted Red Snapper with Parsley Vinaigrette, Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Pecorino Cheese, or Espresso Brownies will be. Like De Laurentiis's first, bestselling book (named after her show), this volume presents doable dishes, though there's an emphasis here on feeding a crowd (which doesn't mean small households can't make Italian Wedding Soup and freeze some for an easy weeknight supper). There are twists on Thanksgiving classics, including Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus, Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta, and Butternut Squash Lasagna as well as recipes for traditional Italian holiday foods like Easter Pie, Pizza Rustica, and Panettone Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce. Broader and more developed than Everyday Italian, De Laurentiis's second book nicely showcases her range and depth. (Apr.)

This week's recipe offering:

A fabulous salmon recipe from my pal, Janet Fremont (not to mention the fabulous salmon she brought back from Seattle!) - if you haven't cooked with fresh fennel before, don't be put-off - although it has a strong licorice flavor when eaten raw, it really mellows out when roasted and is an outstanding complement to the salmon. Enjoy!

2 small fennel bulbs - cut in 1/2" wedges
1 large red onion - cut in 1/2" wedges
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 t extra-virgin olive oil
(4) 6 oz. salmon fillets, skinned
1 lemon - haved

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss the fennel, onion, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper, lemon halves and the oil.

Spread evenly and roast for 20 minutes. Move the veggies to side of pan, add salmon, re-distribute veggies around salmon.

Squeeze roasted lemon haves over the salmon. Sprinkle salmon with remaining salt and pepper. Return to oven and roast until salmon is same color throughout and flakes easily, 15 - 20 minutes.

Saturday Morning Walkers - July 9, 2006

We talked about several books yesterday:

I'm currently reading The Love Wife by Gish Jen - it was a bit of a slow start for me but I'm now hooked and hope to finish it on this delicious rainy day! Gish Jen was a presenter at the last Literary Sojourn and I thoroughly enjoyed her book, Typical American.

From Publishers WeeklyA meddlesome Chinese-American mother bequeaths a Chinese nanny to her ambivalent son and his big blonde wife in this darkly comic fairy tale about cultural assimilation, biological destiny and domestic warfare. In her earlier novels (Typical American; etc.) and short stories, Jen established a sort of Asian Richter scale, registering the culture shock of new and not-so-new Chinese immigrants and their complicated, irrepressible families. Here she focuses on the racially mixed Wong family: Carnegie; his older wife, Janie (dubbed "Blondie" by Carnegie's hilariously awful mother); two adopted Asian daughters (the difficult teenager Lizzy and the hypersensitive Wendy); and a "bio" baby son who looks disturbingly non-Asian. When Carnegie's mother dies after a long bout with Alzheimer's, the Wongs are shocked to learn that she has arranged for an extended visit by a female relative from the Mainland, the unmarried, mysterious Lan. A year older than Blondie, whose "dewlap" and resemblance to an "Aeroflot" are beginning to alarm Carnegie, Lan seems quaint, "plainish" and self-effacing; soon her ambiguous status, passive-aggressiveness and blooming beauty threaten to destabilize the already rocky Wong marriage. Not only does she captivate Carnegie, who is dismayed and fascinated by his own rediscovered Chinese identity, she also preys on the Wong girls' insecurity as Blondie's nonbiological daughters. What threatens to turn into a standard evil-nanny plot takes on unexpected depth as Jen captures the not always likable Wong family with her trademark compassion, laser-like attention to detail and quirky wit. Though the shifting first-person narratives sometimes come off as awkwardly stagey (particularly Carnegie's, with comments like "I was entranced by the eternal return of villanelles—that deathless morph"), this novel has a robust, lived-in quality that makes you miss it when it's over.

Jackie recommended Saturday by Ian McEwan, the author of Atonement

From Publishers WeeklyCrossley offers a smart, measured performance of McEwan's cerebral novel about an ominous day seen through the eyes of Henry Perowne, a reflective neurosurgeon whose comfortable life is shaken following a run-in with a street thug. Crossley's polished English accent is a fine accompaniment to a story that focuses on the people of privileged London, and while most of the novel consists of Perowne's narration, Crossley easily and subtly shifts into a handful of characters, including Perowne's wife, the jumpy goon Baxter and even a hawkish American anesthesiologist. But what truly suits Crossley's approach to the text is his cool, precise, almost distant tone. Perowne is a surgeon and, aside from his frequent ruminations and flights of thought, he is nothing in his actions if not cautious and calculating. In this way, events as far flung as a squash game and lovemaking are broken down in the churn of his mind and lead to conclusions not only about his own life but life in general. The plot has its moments of tension and suspense, but Crossley does an excellent job of capturing the book's real rewards: McEwan's intriguing examination of how we view ourselves, and how even the simplest events can snowball into complex moral dilemmas.

Other books that were mentioned (both of these are among Libby's favorites!):

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

From Library Journal"I wasn't born and raised to be a Kyoto geisha....I'm a fisherman's daughter from a little town called Yoroido on the Sea of Japan." How nine-year-old Chiyo, sold with her sister into slavery by their father after their mother's death, becomes Sayuri, the beautiful geisha accomplished in the art of entertaining men, is the focus of this fascinating first novel. Narrating her life story from her elegant suite in the Waldorf Astoria, Sayuri tells of her traumatic arrival at the Nitta okiya (a geisha house), where she endures harsh treatment from Granny and Mother, the greedy owners, and from Hatsumomo, the sadistically cruel head geisha. But Sayuri's chance meeting with the Chairman, who shows her kindness, makes her determined to become a geisha. Under the tutelage of the renowned Mameha, she becomes a leading geisha of the 1930s and 1940s. After the book's compelling first half, the second half is a bit flat and overlong. Still, Golden, with degrees in Japanese art and history, has brilliantly revealed the culture and traditions of an exotic world, closed to most Westerners. Highly recommended.

Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving

Amazon.comOwen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend's mom with a baseball and believes--accurately--that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. John Irving's novel, which inspired the 1998 Jim Carrey movie Simon Birch, is his most popular book in Britain, and perhaps the oddest Christian mystic novel since Flannery O'Connor's work. Irving fans will find much that is familiar: the New England prep-school-town setting, symbolic amputations of man and beast, the Garp-like unknown father of the narrator (Owen's orphaned best friend), the rough comedy. The scene of doltish the doltish headmaster driving a trashed VW down the school's marble staircase is a marvelous set piece. So are the Christmas pageants Owen stars in. But it's all, as Highlights magazine used to put it, "fun with a purpose." When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn't cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred. The book's countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy--from Vietnam to the Contras.
The book's mystic religiosity is steeped in Robertson Davies's Deptford trilogy, and the fatal baseball relates to the fatefully misdirected snowball in the first Deptford novel, Fifth Business. Tiny, symbolic Owen echoes the hero of Irving's teacher Günter Grass's The Tin Drum--the two characters share the same initials
Chris Rich has a recommendation:

Three Weeks With My Brother, a memoir by Nicholas Sparks

From Publishers WeeklyWhen bestselling author Sparks (The Notebook; Message in a Bottle; etc.) receives a brochure offering a three-week trip around the world, it's not hard for him to persuade Micah, his older brother, to join him in touring Guatemala's Mayan ruins, Peru's Incan temples, Easter Island, the killing fields in Cambodia, the Taj Mahal and Ethiopian rock cathedrals. His account of the trip is refreshingly honest and perceptive. At each stop, the brothers, both deeply committed to their families, cover the crucial moments in a life full of familial love and tragedy: Nick's role as the middle child always feeling left out; his marriage in 1989; the loss of Nick and Micah's mother two months later after a horseback riding accident; the death of Nick's first baby and the physical problems of his second son; the death of their father in a car accident; and the passing of their younger sister from a brain tumor. As the brothers travel together through these mythical sites and share candid thoughts, they find themselves stunned by fate's turns, realizing that a peaceful moment may be shattered at any time. Weaving in vignettes of tenderness and loss with travelogue-like observations, Sparks's account shows how he and his brother both evolved on this voyage. "Somehow there was a chance we could help each other, and in that way, I began to think of the trip less as a journey around the world than a journey to rediscover who I was and how I'? developed the way I did."

We also talked about books by Tom Robbins, a favorite of both Mary's, Jackie's and Barb's - I've taken out Even Cowgirls Get the Blues from the library.

Recipe suggestions:,,FOOD_9936_33028,00.html - Zuppa di Polpettini - meatball and pasta soup - great for a rainy Sunday! - Butterflied Roast Chicken with Chile Cinnamon Rub - great technique for roasting chicken.

Restaurant news:

Sad news about the recently opened Dish Restaurant I mentioned in an earlier e-mail - they were flooded out by a burst pipe in the condo above the store - may take awhile to re-open but that is their plan - meanwhile, David Query (Zolos, Rhumba and others) is lending his kitchen space so they can continue to make sandwiches for Amante's Cafes - one in NoBo (ha!) and one on Walnut, just west of 11th.

I went to Primi's, new Italian restaurant by Kevin Taylor (former owner of Dandelion) - service seemed a bit stiff and pretentious for Boulder (literally just opened on the 5th!) but the food turned out to be spectacular! I had Roasted Sea Bass on a bed of corn and mussels and topped with paper-thin fried zucchini. It is located at the corner of Walnut and 13th in the space originally occupied by Acqua Pazza. Hope they have better luck surviving there. I would definitely try it again - maybe for lunch.

Looking forward to our big outing next Saturday with Linn (and hopefully Kris?!) up in Allenspark. E-mail from Linn to follow and e-mail from Barb re the rest of the month's schedule to follow.

Saturday Morning Walker - June 25, 2006

Hi everyone,
Our walk yesterday morning was lovely until, as Barb predicted, mosquitoes joined us - definitely made us walk faster!
Book reports for the week:
From Mary:
Janet Evanovich's series of Stephanie Plum mystery novels - she just read the latest in the series, Twelve Sharp - apparently you must start with the beginning of the series, One for the Money
From Jan:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Amazon.comIn this first of five volumes of autobiography, poet Maya Angelou recounts a youth filled with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally hard-won independence. Sent at a young age to live with her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou learned a great deal from this exceptional woman and the tightly knit black community there. These very lessons carried her throughout the hardships she endured later in life, including a tragic occurrence while visiting her mother in St. Louis and her formative years spent in California--where an unwanted pregnancy changed her life forever. Marvelously told, with Angelou's "gift for language and observation," this "remarkable autobiography by an equally remarkable black woman from Arkansas captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Barb:
Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies - a children's book that was reviewed this morning on NPR - I just went out to get it for Jacob and its a wonderful story with great illustrations - I'll let you know Jacob's review after we read it next weekend!
From School Library JournalPreSchool-Grade 3–This is the quintessential book about going to the beach complete with overflowing picnic baskets, kite flying, singing around the campfire, and scratchy sand in places where no sand should be. Kids will certainly identify with the exuberant and familiar fun, but what will get them howling is the fact that the characters are bats that are visiting the beach in the moonlight. The rhyming text is grounded in reality with many inventive twists to keep the imagination rolling. There is moon-tan lotion, salted 'skeeters, and bat kites. Where the book truly soars is in the dark yet luminescent art where bat wings glow in the light of the full moon and the sky is a steely blue. The faces on the bats are furry and friendly. These creatures use cocktail umbrellas for beach umbrellas; they hold wing-boat races in red-and-white checked food containers; and when it's time for a late-night snack, they enter the ice-cream shack where a lit light bulb attracts a multitude of succulent bugs. Readers may not be tempted to try marshmallows with bug legs and gossamer wings but that won't keep them from reveling in this grand adventure.–Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved
From Susan:
Still working on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (on tape) - I'm just not in the car enough!
Am about to start on a book:
Katerina by Aharon Appelfeld
From Publishers WeeklyWith piercing clarity, Israeli novelist Appelfeld tells the profoundly moving story of Katerina, a Polish housekeeper who works for a succession of Jewish families in the years before WW II. Raised in a culture permeated with virulent anti-Semitism, she must constantly try to overcome the prejudice instilled by her bitter mother, who beat her, and her callous father, who attempted to rape her. One by one, Jewish people who are good to Katerina die: an employer murdered by thugs on Passover; a moody, perfectionistic female pianist. Then her own baby, whom she has raised as a Jew, is snatched from her arms and killed. For knifing her son's murderer, Katerina spends more than 40 years in prison. Other inmates cheer as freight trains take Jews to concentration camps. Released from prison, Katerina lives in a hut on her deceased family's deserted farm and, at age 79, narrates her life story, lamenting that "there are no more victims in the world, only murderers." A theme that might be didactic in the hands of a lesser novelist is here conveyed with moving, unpreachy simplicity. This masterful novel is a powerful study of the poison of prejudice, a poignant meditation on life's horrors, beauty and God's inscrutable ways. Appelfeld imbues every scene with deep humanity in a riveting tale of universal appeal.
Recipe for the week - my oldie but goodie - Noodle Kugel - I made it the other night for Friday night services at Scott Carpenter Park.
8 ounces medium width noodles, cooked
8 ounces fruit cocktail, drained
1 cup sugar
1 large can evaporated milk
8 ounces cottage cheese, small curd
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus additional to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup butter, melted

Mix all of the above ingredients. Put into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon to taste. Bake for approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Yield: 1 pan
Notes: 12/7/01 I have successfully substituted lite fruit cocktail and non-fat evaporated milk, and liquid egg substitute with no noticeable difference.
Serving Ideas: Works as a side dish or dessert - good warm or at room temperature!

Restaurant find: Dish at 1918 Pearl Street - fabulous gourmet shop with wonderful sandwiches - limited seating.
Here's the review from the Daily Camera:
Stellar sandwiches
Boulder's Dish Gourmet does Dagwood proud
By Catherine Christiansen, Camera Restaurant CriticJune 9, 2006
The pickle summed it up: clean, crisp flavors of cucumber and brine, spices enhancing rather than knocking you over the head. It tasted like Grandma's homemade — if Grandma lived on East Pearl, that is. And had a groovy condo and wore yoga pants. With Grandpa in his feed store cap and some big white sunglasses.
A few friends and I did a little drooling over the wholesome menu at Dish Gourmet deli one Friday afternoon while settling in to watch the action. Aside from a Liberace light fixture, it's a cool, simple space in shades of avocado, tomato and creamy mustard. Sausages line the bright display case filled with salads, prepared foods and good selection of farmstead cheeses.

Saturday Morning Walkers - June 21, 2006

Here's what I'm reading this week:

The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc by Loraine Despres - actually a recommendation from Linn Green - I'm loving it - a great summer read!
From Library JournalWhile most readers may not immediately recognize the author's name, many will be familiar with her TV work. She's written for Dynasty, The Waltons, Love Boat, and Knots Landing and is probably best known for the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas. Her television background serves her well in this debut novel. Her timing is excellent and the plot twists are both delightful and surprising. Sissy LeBlanc lives by a code she calls "The Southern Belle's Handbook." When a pithy idea pops into her head, she instinctively knows how that code applies to her life. Sissy understands her role as granddaughter of a suffragette, daughter of a newspaper editor, wife of PeeWee, and mother of three, but lately she's been feeling restless. When her high school sweetheart comes back to Gentry, LA, after a 14-year absence, Sissy decides that it is time to make some changes in her life if they cause a little scandal, so be it. Readers may be reminded of the movies Fried Green Tomatoes and Something To Talk About. Despres's heroine has spunk, her villains get their comeuppance, and her ending is psychologically satisfying. Recommended for public libraries with large collections of women's fiction. Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Another strong recommendation from Linn which I haven't read yet:

An Unreasonable Woman by Diane Wilson
From Publishers WeeklyWith the discovery that her "piddlin' little county on the Gulf Coast" led the nation in toxic emissions, shrimper Wilson, a mother of five, found herself embarking on a voyage of discovery and activism that would strain her marriage and stretch her horizons. A David up against big-time chemical Goliaths, Wilson is a gifted storyteller, rendering dialogue and pacing plot turns as a novelist might. Anonymous informants, uncomfortable whistleblowers, unanticipated opposition from civic powers and seductive offers of cash bribes pepper this first-person account of Wilson's attempts to save her hometown. Although there are moments when the trail of meetings, memos and petitions seems drawn out, the tell-everything approach reveals how a woman awed to discover "they can lie on TV news! And it is all right!" can learn to master the media. Wilson's hunger-striking, boat-sinking and pole-climbing—combined with the help of a pro bono lawyer and a Greenpeace activist—ultimately wring a "zero tolerance" agreement out of Formosa Plastics and Dow/Union Carbide. Wilson's book is longer than it needs to be, but her Texas twang is catchy, and often spellbinding, as she goes about her mission, sometimes with a child "by one hand and a handful of documents in the other." (Sept.)
Here's a recipe for Skewered Tortellini - a great easy appetizer - tortellini is best served warm but ok at room temperature - refrigerate dip if not using right away:

Skewered Tortellini with Parmesan Lemon Dip Makes approximately 40 skewers 1 cup Crème Fraiche½ cup grated Parmesan cheeseJuice of 1 lemonGrated zest of 1 lemon3 large cloves Roasted Garlic, peeled and crushed (see directions below)1 ½ pounds tortelliniOlive oilTo Roast Garlic: Wrap #3 large cloves of garlic (unpeeled) in aluminum foil. Roast in 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, until soft. Cool. Peel the garlic and crush.Combine the roasted garlic, Crème Fraiche, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice and zest in a small mixing bowl. Set aside until ready to use.Boil tortellini according to package instructions until just tender. Drain the pasta and sprinkle with some olive oil to prevent sticking.Put 2-3 tortellini (depending on size) on wooden skewers. Serve with the Parmesan Lemon Dip.

Saturday Morning Walkers - June 11, 2006

We had a lovely walk yesterday at Boulder Valley Ranch - perfect weather and delightful company, although we did miss those of you who couldn't join us.

Jackie's pick this week:

Around the Next Corner by Elizabeth Wrenn - she is a local Boulder writer!
Book DescriptionFor Deena Munger, the transformation to underappreciated housewife was subtle and gradual. Not that she didn't love her family dearly, but Deena was starting to wonder: When did I disappear? And how come I never even noticed? Then one day she stuns her family by volunteering to raise a puppy for K-9 Eyes for the Blind. Suddenly, Deena's once-stable life is turned upside down. And, it turns out, this rambunctious, impulsive ball of fur could actually be the damage control she needs to save her family, her marriage, and her self.

Susan's picks this week: you may note that I've been a bit "hyper" in my reading recently - probably juggling too many at once!

My Fathers' Houses - a memoir by Steve Roberts (husband of Cokie Roberts and NPR commentator) - okay but got a bit boring after a while
From Publishers WeeklyThis memoir tells "a story of a town and a time and a boy who grew up there." The town is the New York suburb of Bayonne, N.J.; the time is the 1940s and '50s; and the boy is Roberts, syndicated columnist and coauthor (with his wife, Cokie Roberts) of From This Day Forward. Growing up, Roberts's Old World ties were strong. His Jewish family had their roots in Eastern Europe, and he proudly relates the story of how they came to America (his maternal grandfather, Abraham Rogowsky, is particularly fascinating: born in Bialystok, he stole money to become a Zionist pioneer in Palestine in 1907). Roberts also recounts how his parents met in the mid-'30s in New Jersey-"two shy and sensitive souls, sophisticated about books and innocent about life"-but the book doesn't really hit its stride until the author begins describing his own experiences. He paints a reflective portrait of his childhood and young adulthood, when he played and fought with his twin brother, Marc, and when he attended Harvard University, where he met Cokie Boggs, his future wife. "All families have their own folklore, stories they tell and axioms they use," Roberts writes. Thankfully, the stories told here have widespread appeal. As the author's family name changes from Rogowsky to Rogow to Roberts, a universal story of the American experience of immigrant conversion emerges from all the carefully limned details. Photos. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The Circus Fire by Stewart O'Nan - non-fiction book about a tragic fire at Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus in Hartford, CT in 1944 - am in the midst of reading it right now and is very compelling.
From Publishers WeeklyOn July 6, 1944, the big top of the Ringling Bros. circus caught fire during an afternoon performance in Hartford, Conn., and quickly burned to the ground. One hundred and sixty-seven people were killedDmost of them women and childrenDand hundreds more wounded. When acclaimed novelist O'Nan (A Prayer for the Dying, etc.) moved to Hartford 50 years later, he discovered that the town was still haunted by the tragedy. His history of the event is lyrical, gruesome and heartbreaking. At the heart of the narrative is O'Nan's harrowing, minute-by-minute account of the actual burning, during which nearly 9,000 people scrambled to escape through just seven exits. One boy saved himself (and hundreds of others) by cutting a hole in the tent wall with his fishing knife. Another man literally threw children to safety before losing his footing and perishing in the blaze. Above them, the tent canvas, which had been waterproofed with gasoline andn paraffin, "rained down like napalm" on the necks and shoulders of the fleeing crowd. By the end, O'Nan reports, the heat was so intense that people died not from smoke inhalation, as in most fires, but by being cooked alive. O'Nan goes on to describe the bleak days after the disaster, when local families set about the morbid task of identifying loved ones, often possible only by using dental records. He also chronicles the four decades of detective work that led to the identification (in error, O'Nan believes) of a little girl whose body originally went unclaimed. This moving elegy does tribute both to the terrible tragedy and to O'Nan's talent as a writer. B&w photos. (June)
The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein - non-fiction, interesting topic to me - am in the midst of reading right now
From Publishers WeeklyHaving regular family meals can eliminate teen eating disorders; improve children's grades; reduce the incidence of drug abuse, teen pregnancy and smoking; and even expand toddlers' vocabulary. So says Weinstein (Yiddish: A Nation of Words), a documentary filmmaker and mother of two. "No one is asking for rocket science here," she writes, "only shared mac-and-cheese and a bunch of chairs pulled up around the table." Her points, drawn from the fields of psychology, anthropology, religion and education, are valid and logical; in fact, it seems obvious that eating together will improve children's manners, provide family intimacy and create a secure environment for teenagers. Occasionally, however, Weinstein's arguments are spotty: "Of course there is no guarantee that if you maintain regular meals, you will eradicate eating disorders. But... the absence of regular meals makes it easier for all sorts of disordered eating to thrive." Weinstein has tried to create a full-length book from what could've sufficed as a compelling magazine article. Still, her case studies are stimulating, and her writing style is persuasive enough to convince readers to make a point of enjoying an evening meal with their families. (On sale Sept. 6) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - a classic that I'm listening to in the car - may take a while!
Amazon.comFrancie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur, and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother, and an aunt who gives her love too freely--to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny. She is her father's child--romantic and hungry for beauty. But she is her mother's child, too--deeply practical and in constant need of truth. Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement or through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. Betty Smith's poignant, honest novel created a big stir when it was first published over 50 years ago. Her frank writing about life's squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society, but the book's humor and pathos ensured its place in the realm of classics--and in the hearts of readers, young and old. (Ages 10 and older) --Emilie Coulter

Recipe for the week: Creamy Artichoke Soup from Giada De Laurentiis - The Everyday Italian on the Food Network:,,FOOD_9936_33446,00.html


Restaurant notes:- a must-have dessert at Turley's - I don't remember what it was called but I'll call it "molten chocolate cake" - I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! Also, the croissant at Spruce Confections North was delectable filled with egg, carmelized onions, cheese and the croissant itself was outstanding - so flaky! I had dinner last week at the Magnolia Restaurant in Lafayette and the
Andouille Sausage and Rock Shrimp Linguine was terrific.

Saturday Morning Walkers - June 6, 2006

A catch-up book list from the Saturday morning walkers:

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - Susan finished last week - an absolutely beautiful story that celebrates the special friendships among women.
From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames") Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women—here between Lily and Snow Flower—that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see"). As both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle, this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group favorite as well. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See - Susan just finished - Lisa See chronicles her Chinese American family over the course of 100 years - reads like a novel with fascinating tales and a rich family history - I loved it and learned so much about the history of Chinese immigrants.
From Publishers WeeklyThis account of a Chinese family's adventures in America over the course of a century offers a tapestry of immigrant life.

A list of books on tape from Jan - good summer road trip "listening":

Kill Me by Steven White
From Publishers WeeklyBestseller White (Missing Persons) takes an endlessly debatable question—at what point would a decline in your quality of life cause you to want to end your life?—and leverages it into a clever, absorbing thriller. The anonymous narrator is in his prime, a happily married father of a young girl given to high-risk sports. An assortment of grim fates and a near-escape of his own make him consider the question. A shadowy group called Death Angel Inc. contracts to guarantee that if the life of the "insured" should reach a certain agreed-upon level, they will terminate that life. Fascinated and impressed by the Death Angels' knowledge and reach, he eventually negotiates terms with them. This Faustian bargain doesn't take long to reveal its dark side, and White pays almost equal attention to the philosophical and the physical as his hero has to both approach the conditions that would trigger his contract's death clause yet remain healthy enough to fight back. Some finely scripted action scenes build to a telegraphed ending that weakens the book only slightly

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (great series) - this may have been Terri's pick (not sure)
From Publishers WeeklyThe African-born author of more than 50 books, from children's stories (The Perfect Hamburger) to scholarly works (Forensic Aspects of Sleep), turns his talents to detection in this artful, pleasing novel about Mma (aka Precious) Ramotswe, Botswana's one and only lady private detective. A series of vignettes linked to the establishment and growth of Mma Ramotswe's "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" serve not only to entertain but to explore conditions in Botswana in a way that is both penetrating and light thanks to Smith's deft touch. Mma Ramotswe's cases come slowly and hesitantly at first: women who suspect their husbands are cheating on them; a father worried that his daughter is sneaking off to see a boy; a missing child who may have been killed by witchdoctors to make medicine; a doctor who sometimes seems highly competent and sometimes seems to know almost nothing about medicine. The desultory pace is fine, since she has only a detective manual, the frequently cited example of Agatha Christie and her instincts to guide her. Mma Ramotswe's love of Africa, her wisdom and humor, shine through these pages as she shines her own light on the problems that vex her clients. Images of this large woman driving her tiny white van or sharing a cup of bush tea with a friend or client while working a case linger pleasantly. General audiences will welcome this little gem of a book just as much if not more than mystery readers.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling Audiobook ReviewThe amazing popularity of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone means that now even Muggles know about the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Whether or not you've read about Harry, this unabridged audiobook brings his world to life. Reader Jim Dale brings an excellent range of voices to the characters, from well-meaning Hermione's soft, earnest voice to Malfoy's nasal droning; from Professor McGonagall's crisp brogue to Hagrid's broad Somerset accent; and from snarling Mr. Filch to p-p-poor, st-tuttering P-Professor Quirrel. Some of the characterizations are peculiar--why do the centaurs have Welsh accents?--but that's a small price to pay to hear one of the myriad ways to sing the Hogwarts School song. Harry Potter fans of all ages--Muggle or not--will enjoy curling up with a few chocolate frogs, a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans ("Alas! Ear wax!"), and this marvelous, magical audiobook. (Running time: 8 hours, 6 cassettes) --
Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
Amazon.comWhen her parents are killed by an earthquake, 5-year-old Ayla wanders through the forest completely alone. Cold, hungry, and badly injured by a cave lion, the little girl is as good as gone until she is discovered by a group who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. This clan, left homeless by the same disaster, have little interest in the helpless girl who comes from the tribe they refer to as the "Others." Only their medicine woman sees in Ayla a fellow human, worthy of care. She painstakingly nurses her back to health--a decision that will forever alter the physical and emotional structure of the clan. Although this story takes place roughly 35,000 years ago, its cast of characters could easily slide into any modern tale. The members of the Neanderthal clan, ruled by traditions and taboos, find themselves challenged by this outsider, who represents the physically modern Cro-Magnons. And as Ayla begins to grow and mature, her natural tendencies emerge, putting her in the middle of a brutal and dangerous power struggle.
Although Jean Auel obviously takes certain liberties with the actions and motivations of all our ancestors, her extensive research into the Ice Age does shine through--especially in the detailed knowledge of plants and natural remedies used by the medicine woman and passed down to Ayla. Mostly, though, this first in the series of four is a wonderful story of survival. Ayla's personal evolution is a compelling and relevant tale. --Sara Nickerson
That's it for now!
I'm also attaching a couple of "winner recipes" that I've recently made - enjoy! - good vegetarian dish but I might try add shredded chicken next time - great magazine and website! - I substituted the Boursin cheese and sun-dried tomatoes with roasted red peppers and blue cheese, per their suggestion. Served it with Caesar Salad and roasted baby red potatoes, tossed in olive oil and herbs de Provence - yummy!