Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Well, this was not what we expected.

Before yesterday, this was exactly how much I knew about chicken tetrazzini. Which, really, was plenty, because it's been an ongoing joke in our house for no particular reason other that it's just fun to say.

Is it southern? Is it pasta? Is it a casserole? Why is it named after an opera singer? I just don't know.

But what I do know is that this is some cheesy, delicious, keep-a-man goodness. Hubby took a bite, looked at me, and said exactly what I was thinking, "Well, I had no idea what to expect, but this was not it. Thumbs up."

Chicken Tetrazzini
2 tsp butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
large pinch fresh ground pepper
1 package sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup vermouth
1/4 cup flour
1 and 1/3 cup chicken broth
1 cup grated parmesan
4 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 box vermicelli or thin spagetti noodles (8 oz)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked (375 for 25 min. or so)

Break pasta in half. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook pasta about 4-5 minutes. When done, drain. Chop the cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pot (make sure it's big...a stock pot or dutch oven will work well). Add onion, garlic, celery, salt, and pepper. After about a minute, add mushrooms and peas, and stir fry everything for about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add vermouth and cook about a minute.

Add flour a bit at a time, stirring constantly. It's going to get crazy thick and will seem impossible, but keep whisking and stirring and try and get out all the lumps. After a couple of minutes, add broth slowly, stirring constantly. It should still be really thick, so bring to a boil then reduce to low and still stir often, making sure the lumps are gone, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add in cream cheese and parm cheese, stirring gently until melted.

Rinse drained pasta, and add to mixture. Add in chicken, and stir everything until combined. It will take awhile...make sure all is coated and evenly mixed.

Coat a baking dish with cooking spray, and pour in the mixture. Cook at 350 for 30 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When I am hungry, your job is to feed me.

So I've stopped being hungry alllll the time, which is good, except that my brain is still used to eating every 2 hours and I find myself fighting myself from eating when I'm not the least bit hungry. (Because I'm not eating, say, an apple. I'm eating entire boxes of Hot Tamales. The baby likes cinnamon, damnit.)

When I AM hungry, however, it means I need to eat. And I need to eat now. (Some of my girlfriends have referred to this pregnancy side effect as 'being so hungry I would eat my own arm.')

I refer to this as pure hunger insanity. Case Study time:

Last night, around 6:30pm. At 5:30, Hubby had asked if I was ready for dinner. I replied, "yes." He laughed and replied that he had actually said, "What time will you be ready for dinner?" Either way, he got the point. Or so I thought.

Hubby: Ok, so what do you want to eat?
Pammy: I don't know. Food. I'm hungry. I told you an hour ago I was hungry. But I don't want Red Lobster. All I will eat there are the biscuits.
H: (Pouts, as he has been talking about Endless Shrimp for 3 days) Fine. I'll go with Scott...so what DO you want.
P: Siiiigh. Basque? I want bread. Somewhere with bread. Benjy's? BJ's? I'm into B words today. Pick one. Feed me.

I finish putting makeup on. Hubby goes into the bedroom, comes out in sweat shorts.

P: ...Or you could get dressed because I AM HUNGRY.
H: Whaaat. You don't look good either, what if we just get drive through?
P: ......I don't LOOK GOOD? What the...?
H: Siigh. You know what I mean.

I do. I've got a cold and am currently kind of a snot monster. Hence why I put on extra mascara and concealer, but WHATEVER.

P: What kind of drive through?
H: Leo's? (One of those awesomely ridiculous burger/greek/mexican/etc. places)
P: Whatever. Just.feed.me.
H: You want to eat there?
P: Oh, god no. They play religious music in there. Drive through takes forever, but at least I don't have to hear Jesus Effing Loves Me while I eat.
H: Fair enough.

At Leo's, which has the largest drive through menu ever, btw.

P: Ok, I want mushrooms. And taquitos. And a green salad.
H: AND mushrooms?
P: YES, AND mushrooms…oh, fuck, just get me a chicken salad.
H: You don't want taqu—

He orders, remembering, as always, that I don't want croutons or cheese. Which reminds me that I want some damn bread and therefore kind of DO want croutons, but I decide to shut up about it. We pull forward.

P: Oh, crap, they have taco salads. I want that. Do you think we can change it?
H: Really?
P: Yes, really. I didn't SEE it before.

We pull up to the window, where we wait. And wait, way too long to change the order.

P: Gah. So much for my taco salad. This is dumb. And I still want bread.
Most Patient Husband Ever: They have toast, want me to ask for toast?
P: I don't want it toasted.
H: Just bread.
P: Just bread. Maybe they have dinner rolls?
H: Good call, they have to. I'll ask.

And then we wait some more.
Guy comes to the window, Hubby asks if they have dinner rolls.

Guy: How many do you want?
H: Babe?
P: Two.
H: Two.
Guy: Ok, I'll charge you 50 cents, cool?
H: Yep, great.

I do a happy little bread dance in my seat.
And then we wait. Some more.

Guy comes to the window with rolls, and my heart leaps.

Guy: You want these now or in the bag?
H: No, in the bag is fine.

Window closes, he disappears again.
I stare at my husband, mouth dropped. He stares back as it slowly occurs to him why I'm giving him the deathstare.

P: Are you.Fucking.KIDDING ME? Did that JUST HAPPEN??
H: What…but…seriously?

And then the tears come. I fight them off, but they are definitely there.
(He is trying SO hard not to laugh at me at this point, which reminds me that I made a good marital decision after all.)

And so we wait. I pout and make little whining comments about how close the bread is to me and I can seeeee it from my seat and what is taking soooo long and OMG if they forget to put my bread in the bag I will cut someone, and he acts like I'm not being a complete psychopath.

And then there is food.

P: Bag. Give.

The dinner roll"s", by the way, are just one small roll cut into two pieces. And toasted.

H: Those look good.
P: Do you want a bite?
H: No, babe, you eat it.
P: You can have a bite…baaaabe! Not THAT big a bite! (as I literally pull it OUT of his mouth to control his portion size.)

We pull onto the street as I finish chewing the second one.

H: Did you just…?
P: Um, yeah, they're gone. They were tiny. I told you I wanted bread, damnit.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Starbucks Homeboy, I hate you

After two days in bed with a cold, I finally got my ass up and out of bed this morning and decided to celebrate Friday (and "Fall," even though it's a hundred and effing TWO here today) with a pumpkin spice latte.

And then I had encounter #2 with judgey Starbucks guy.

If you missed encounter #1, here it is:
Pammy: Can I get a decaf skinny cinnamon dolce latte?
18 year old (overweight, btw) Vons/Starbucks employee: Why decaf?
Pammy: ...I don't think you're supposed to ask me that.
18yo: Well, it's better than asking if you're pregnant.
Pammy: (blank stare)...well. My doc told me decaf.
18yo: They actually just mean, like, soda and stuff.
Pammy: I'm pretty sure that's not true.
18yo: No, it is. Coffee's fine.
Pammy: Actually, no, fresh brewed coffee is the worst. It has the highest caffeine count. Espresso is a little better, but still.
18yo: But decaf is full of chemicals.
Pammy: And if you give me my decaf now, I can HAVE a soda later.
18yo: ok. $4.20

I haven't seen Mr. I'm A Nutritionist Dontcha Know for awhile now, so I foolishly thought I was safe. No such luck. Yet while I immediately recognized him, apparently he didn't remember me. And so here we went again.

Pammy: Can I get a nonfat decaf Pumpkin Spice?
18yo: Why are you ordering decaf?
Pammy: (stunned. STUNNED.)...Because I like decaf.
18yo: Is that the real reason?
18yo: What's the real reason?
Pammy: (through clenched teeth) Because I only have so. much. caffeine a day. And this. is. not. one. of. those. times.
18yo: (gives me an "I don't believe you" look) Mm. Most people order it when they're nursing.
Pammy: Hmm. (pays, fuming, without even looking at the smirking POS.)

Did someone tell these people to chit-chat with the customers? If so, let me educate you on idle conversation:
"Can you believe it's supposed to be in the hundreds today?"
"Happy first day of Fall!"
"Looking forward to the weekend?"

It is not, however, questioning my order. It is not trying to convince me to order something else. It is NOT making a face when you dislike my order. And it most definitely is not asking personal questions that are none.of.your.effing.business.

Seriously? A) I do not need to defend my orders. B) Just f&*^ing MAKE MY DRINK. and C) It's none of your goddamn business, and I am not here to educate you on the ins and outs of pregnancy and what is and is not "allowed." It's effing 7:30am. I am not in the mood or mindset to do so. I just want my coffee, which I will now enjoy a little bit less.

Oh, and Vons' Starbucks? I am through. with. you.

Oh, and the Parm won.

Shocking, I know.

But I did stuff the chicken with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves, sprinkled them with salt and Italian bread crumbs, then cooked them for 8 min a side in a bit of chicken broth and a dash of balsamic. Covered with marinara (with a dash of balsamic in there, as well) and a few more slices of cheese and basil strips, then covered and let steam over low about 5 minutes til sauce was hot and cheese was melted.

And then served, obviously, over pasta.

Lemon Basil Chicken

Well, it started off as a chicken dish.

I know the whole carb overload has been out of control lately, but I swear, it never sounds bad. (As I'm writing this I'm rethinking my dinner plan for mozzarella and basil stuffed chicken and rice-a-roni and thinking chicken parm over pasta could be better...hmmm) So I was on a search for a chicken dish that could stand alone. Of course, then I saw the photo here and decided the only thing better with a side of pasta would be to make the whole damn thing a pasta dish.

It's just pointless, I swear.But it was a good call on my end. Quite yummy and different.

Jesus Christ, a trailer for Dolphin Tale just made me bawl. BabyH is messing up more than my taste buds, let me tell you. Anybody watch the new Office? Big Pregs=me (but not so...big). I love that commercial.

Lemon Basil Chicken and Aioli with Linguini
handful chopped basil
3 green onions, chopped
zest from one lemon
juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp vermouth
good pinch fresh black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
olive oil
Chicken broth as needed

handful chopped basil
1 green onion, chopped
3 tbsp light mayo
juice from half a lemon
2 tsp dijon mustard
small pinch salt
dash olive oil

Package refrigerated linguine (Buitoni or similar)

In large bowl or dish, combine basil, green onion, zest, juice, vinegar, vermouth (or white wine) and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat.

Bring a medium large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

As water boils for pasta, heat a splash of oil over high heat in large saute pan. Add chicken (and marinade) and cook 8 minutes a side or until done. If pan gets dry, add a splash of chicken broth now and then.

In the meantime, combine remaining ingredients in small bowl to make aioli.

When chicken is cooked, remove from pan and keep warm. When pasta is cooked, remove from water with tongs and add to the saute pan the chicken was in. Add about a tbsp
of the aioli, and toss the pasta to coat. If it's really dry, add a bit more chicken broth.

Serve chicken over a bed a pasta, and top everything with a spoonful of aioli.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Musings of the Fat and Sober, Vol. 2

Cross posted today at Salt & Nectar.

Well, almost halfway through the second trimester, and things are as fun as always. Pregnancy, I've decided, is boring. At least at this point, when I still don't look pregnant (and instead just look a little "thick," as my mom so sweetly pointed out), and I don't feel any movement or any other proof that something is actually happening in there. Boring.

Plus it's football season, and the deal with Hubby has always been that I will watch football with him if I can also eat and drink. AND being the key word, here. I am not a football girl. And so I spend the game with my nose in my computer, catching up on Netflix. Sober. In other words, boring.

But there are, of course, other joys.

I've got preggo brain. Already. Words and thoughts just escape my brain without warning. I'll give my Art Director info on a project, say, about a print ad, and end up trailing off about the color of pocket folders. I don't know if it was me finally hearing myself or her utter silence on the other end of the phone, but that was a fun one to recover from. Luckily, she's a mom. Her condolence was that it'll get worse, not better...

But it's not just words—I'm calling hotels to confirm reservations and am being told I never made them. Putting milk away in cabinets. I was washing some pillowcases the other day, and when I went to go transfer them to the dryer, I noticed my half-full cup of detergent still sitting there, completely unused. Oops. (Let's keep that example between us, shall we? Hubby does the laundry because "I do it wrong." Sometimes I do it anyway to be nice and to prove otherwise. So, yeah. Shh.)

I want dessert, at all hours of the day. I ate the largest frosted cookie ever the other day. At 10:30am. I'm pretty sure it was the most sugar my body has processed at one time in the past 16 years. It was ridiculous.

And it was delicious. And I will eat the other one in my fridge in the very near future. (But not right now; I'm working on a bowl of sugar-free Pistachio pudding right now—and by bowl, I mean the one the pudding was made in. And I'm not sharing, so don't ask.) And don't get me started on ice cream. Luckily there are a million 'lower cal' varieties out there, but they are still completely unnecessary calories. And it's confusing, because I'm not a huge nut fan, I don't like the taste of butter, and I don't really care about ice cream. But get between me and some butter pecan and I will cut you.

What happened to being a horny, glowing preggo? I was kind of looking forward to that, I won't lie. But glowing? Amorous? Um, my jeans are currently being "buttoned" via rubber band. I'm exhausted, bloated, and broken out. This is not exactly prime sexy-time. I was bra-shopping the other day, and started crying in the middle of the department store because I couldn't find any bras that would fit the girls and look cute. I just needed something a little sexy (a little would have gone a long way, trust me), and instead my options were nude, thick strapped, "full-figured" boulder holders.

Eff it, I'm just going to switch to sport bras soon and call it a day. At least they come in colors.

(Whispers)"Soooo...I'm knocked up."
I find myself struggling with how to tell people, especially acquaintances. When the hostess at my usual pho restaurant asked how I was and commented that she hadn't seen me in awhile, I heard myself say, "Yeah, I know. I got myself pregnant and my tastes seem to have changed a bit..."

I got myself pregnant??
WTF does that even mean? And this is so not an isolated incident. "I'm knocked up," "Well, turns out I'm pregnant..." and other similar "excuses" have all left my mouth. I mean, we've already established that I'm not an "I can't wait until I'm pregnant!!" person, but to make it sound like it's some sort of trouble I got myself into like a derelict teenage runaway? What is that?

My husband is fantastic. Well, obviously, seeing that I married him, but he has become so...not concerned, exactly...I don't know the word. I can't EVER remember the right word, damnit. So examples, it is. Six months ago, had he walked into the room to find me sprawled on the couch and glassy eyed, his first reaction would be to reposition my half-full martini glass in order to keep me from kicking it over when I readjusted myself. Now, he walks in, kisses me on the forehead, and asks if I feel ok.


He's just been very sweet and protective while still remembering that his wife is a bullheaded Taurus who can do it her damn self. He knows I'll ask for help if I need it, and even when I won't, he understands that if a giant box of cat litter has been in the back of my car for a week straight, he should just carry it inside.

So far there's only been one serious exception to his fabulousness, which I must point out because I'm kind of a jerk. I wanted Thai food one day, and he talked me into Vietnamese instead. Seriously. I'm eventually going to get past this, but I pouted about this for a week and still want some Pad Kee Mow, damnit. Being finicky about food is really the only thing he hasn't been cutting me any slack on. (Except when I just want mac and cheese for dinner—he doesn't bitch when I'm doing the cooking-just when I want to go out) But I guess that's what I get for marrying a fellow food-lover.

But the most painful part of this whole ordeal so far has quite literally been the (knee) pain. I was born with old-lady knees...they just ache. Sometimes it's the right, less often it's just the left, and usually it's both. No, I didn't hurt them as a kid. No, physical therapy didn't help. No, it doesn't seem to matter how much I weigh. Yes, I've had them x-rayed (Nope, nothing "wrong" with them)...I was just born with bad knees. But the achiness, stiffness, and general shooting pain has just magnified over the past few months. Stairs hurt. Yoga hurts. Sitting on a toilet...O.M.G. This "chore" is usually manageable, but having my knees hurt this much means it's been pure agony...to the point where I've had to stifle yelps of pain when I sit down or stand up in order to not be the freak screaming in the bathroom.

Since we're already on this lovely path, let's just keep going, shall we? I'm 5'10, so long legs teamed with sore knees has always made the whole public bathroom ordeal a bit...tricky. Am I not being gross clear enough? Here it is: I'm a terrible squatter. I'll spare you too much detail here, but let's just say I'm a huge fan of toilet seat covers and lots of toilet paper hand wraps.

So I will also spare you a play by play of a recent concert experience involving pregnant Pammy's overactive bladder, this female bathroom skill deficiency, and excessively disgusting porta-potties. Shudder.

Speaking of bathroom issues, apparently I now need 35g+ of fiber a day to survive. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I don't believe in "seasonal"

Well, Pumpkin Spice Lattes may be in the air, but Fall apparently is not. Did you know canned pumpkin is "seasonal?" Unacceptable. Like no one wants pumpkin flavored food any other time of the year? I call this a major grocery store fail, Vons.

I probably should have just gone to Trader Joes. But it's far. (It's not, but I'm lazy) And so I settled on pumpkin pie mix. It was still good, but it made it a bit sweeter than I would have preferred...more "gourmet" tasting than I was expecting. The sweet and spicy was a nice combo, though, if you can get past the idea of sweet and spicy pasta. Which I could. I'll be trying this again with regular pumpkin at some point to compare. Or better yet, if you can find regular pumpkin, you should try it and give me a review.

Very fall-ish. Even if this is the summer that just. won't. die.

Pumpkin Blue Cheese Pasta
One shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red chile, minced (or less, to taste)
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp thyme
1 package sliced portabella mushrooms
3/4 cup pumpkin pie mix
1/2 cup reduced fat blue cheese
Two servings corkscrew pasta, cooked al dente
parsley, parmesan and sea salt (to taste) to serve

Coat pan with cooking spray and heat to medium. Saute shallot, garlic and chile for a minute or two. Add 1/2 a cup of chicken broth, thyme and mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms are soft.

Stir in pumpkin, remaining broth and cheese, and a good pinch each of salt and pepper. Let cook down 5 minutes or so, then stir in pasta. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes or until thickened a bit. Stir again before serving. Sprinkle with parsley, cheese, and salt as desired.

875 calories total

Monday, September 12, 2011

I lied!!!

So, not only did I not lose my Pad Kee Mow recipe, I typed it up and calculated the calories for it. I don't remember doing any of this, but that must have meant I was debating how much of it I could get away with eating in one sitting.

I also don't remember how much of it I did eat, but let's pretend it was a ladylike portion, shall we?

Anyway, Pad Kee Mow is also known as Drunken Noodles, which is obviously the best. name. ever. I've never actually eaten them whilst intoxicated, but apparently that's the thing to do in Thailand, where street vendors sell these deliciously spicy noodles out of food carts at all hours of the day.

The best Drunken Noodles I've ever had are from a little place in San Diego called Saffron, which also, btw, has the best chicken and veggie egg rolls on the planet. I'm hoping to sneak away and grab some next weekend while we're down there...but we're traveling with some non-experimental eaters, so wish me luck. Hopefully I'll be able to blame the fetus-it shouldn't be that much of a stretch, because I crave noodles and Thai constantly these days, and if you add the proximity of Saffron to the mix, my poor body will be going crazy. Mmmm. Now I want egg rolls.

My version adds mushrooms and uses regular rice noodles, instead of the wide flat noodles that are damn near impossible to find.

Pad Kee Mow (Drunken Noodles)
5 oz rice noodles
Canola or peanut oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced
2 minced garlic cloves
2 green onions, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
8 oz chicken breast, sliced
About 30 basil leaves, sliced
Can straw mushrooms, drained

4 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp chili paste

Soak noodles in hot water for about 20 minutes until flexible and a little soft.

Stir fry in 2 tsp oil about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and stir fry another few minutes until just soft. Remove noodles. Heat 1 tsp oil and stir fry onions, garlic and bell pepper for about 3 minutes. Add chicken and stir fry another 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add mushrooms and basil.

Combine oyster sauce through chili paste, and add mixture to chicken. Let sauce cook down a bit while stir frying constantly. Add noodles back in, and toss well, cooking another 2 minutes or so.

Serve hot.

1128 total calories
4 servings: 282
3 servings: 377
2 servings: 564

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Digging in the Thai pantry

I know I mentioned I was going to post a recipe for the Pad Kee Mow I made last week, but somebody threw away somehow lost the piece of paper I wrote it down on.

By somebody, yes, I mean me. Preggo brain. I blame the fetus.

I also blame it for my laziness—I wanted to make Pad Thai, but I would have had to drive an extra block and a half to the grocery store for lime, tofu, cilantro and bean sprouts. So instead, I went the easy route and just used what I had with a Pad Thai-esque sauce.

Makes two big servings, even for a preggo home alone and willing to eat all of everything in front of her. (I didn't even eat half, and trust me, I tried. Had I not eaten half a box of Wheat Thins earlier, I may have succeeded.)

Easy Thai Noodles
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp peanut oil
one shallot, minced
red chile, minced
8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly
one egg
two servings rice noodles
green onion, sliced

Soak rice noodles in hot water until flexible but not completely soft (10-25 minutes, depending on the brand). Drain.

Mix fish sauce, sugar and vinegar in small bowl.

Heat oil in wok over high. Add shallots and chile and stir fry about 2 minutes. Add chicken and stir fry until completely white. Push chicken aside and crack in the egg. Let cook and then scramble until cooked completely. Stir into chicken. Add noodles and sauce.

Push mixture around until combined. Let sauce cook down until no longer wet, tossing fairly frequently.

Sprinkle with green onion and peanuts. Serve with Sriracha to taste.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's only right to labor for Labor Day.

Wasn't I just talking about dishes? It's only 10:45 in the morning, and I have already done dishes three times. Which can only mean that we're about to do some eating today. (Well, and that we didn't finish them from dinner last night-but that was only the first round.)

Luckily, Ramona was there to help.
That's where she has to be when dishes are being done. It's really convenient and helpful, as you can imagine.

But while she wasn't underfoot, I chopped and stirred and cooked and boiled. And with quite the results, I'm hoping.

Hubby asked for muffins, which means I need to stop baking...it's giving him ideas.
But add in some scrambled eggs (with red onion, tomato and jack cheese), and you've got quite a Sunday morning breakfast.
I also have a BBQ this afternoon, so I offered to bring potato salad-I'm supposed to avoid mayo-based salads that aren't 100% refrigerated (blah, blah salmonella), so I made my mayo-free version (just added a bit of dried thyme this time, which was a good call).
Plus, I love the rainbow of veggies in this one. A lot of chopping, yes, but so pretty and so good.
And with that, I'm getting out of the kitchen and into the pool.

Happy long weekend! Eat well!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Seriously Literate-Summer '11.1

Ok, time for me to take some more recommendations...what are your book clubs reading these days? Sobriety means more time for books, (and better reading comprehension) so keep them coming! Here's what I've knocked out in the past month or so...

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
Ok, FINALLY a series that everyone and their grandma raves about that's actually worth reading. Because, see, I fell for that crap with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I refuse (REFUSE) to read most popular "young adult fiction." (Twilight, anyone?) But I loved these books…I seriously gobbled up the first one, careened through the second (which admittedly was my least favorite of the three), and couldn't read the third book fast enough. If they pull this off well, The Hunger Games will make for some breathtaking movies. I would kill to work on the production/costume design team. Pun not intended...

Basically, in the future, our mostly poverty-stricken nation has been divided into 12 districts, and each year, a girl and boy are drawn by lottery to represent their district in what is known as the Hunger Games...the winner—the last one of the 24 still alive after a battle to the death—is guaranteed a safe, well-fed future for their family. At least, that's whats supposed to happen, but what happens at the end of this years' Hunger Games changes all that, and the winner ends up an unwilling symbol-then unwilling soldier-for the country's unrest and resulting mutiny. I hate books about war and all that crap, so it's really not that kind of story, if that's how I'm making it sound.

It's really hard to give a summation of a multiple book series without throwing out too many spoilers, so I'm just going to leave it at that. Truly disturbing concept, completely surprising, and massively engrossing. The main character is so layered and real...I loved her. Read it.

Zorro, Isabel Allende
This book is really, really long. If you read it, don't make my mistake and start it after the first two Hunger Games books, because you will be in agony trying to finish it so you can zip through the rest of that series. (I don't do the whole two books at once thing, and I don't stop books halfway through, as frustrated as I may be with them. It's rude.)

It took me a little bit to settle into it, but once I did, I was hooked, even when it started careening left and right and continent to continent and going on and ON about whatever events Zorro was participating in at the time. None of it is boring, and it's not really unnecessary, it was just really detailed...I was kind of surprised it didn't detail him sleeping more often. (Though I'm sure that would have been told well, too)

I didn't know going into this that Zorro is like Robin Hood..one of those characters that authors have taken over history and invented their own stories about. I should have, I guess, but whatever. This particular version tells of his youth and how he eventually begins developing his legendary persona. It's really good...just really long, like I said.

BossyPants, Tina Fey
Oh, Tina, Tina. I want you to adopt me and let me live with you. She's so smart and sarcastic and weird...kind of like my little sister, who is also fantastically entertaining.

I had this idea that she would be focusing more on parenting, so I was surprised that that subject only came up in the last few chapters. Instead, it was more of an autobiography, taking us through how she got where she is, but strewn throughout with completely ridiculous anecdotes and hopefully totally made up side stories.

If you like Tina Fey, and you think 30 Rock is a completely under-appreciated, brilliant half hour of television, you'll of course love this book. If you don't...we're probably not that close anyway. Maybe you'll like the next one...

Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese
This is the story of twin boys (told by one of their POVs) raised by a gynecologist and a surgeon at a missionary hospital in Ethiopia. Their genetics and surroundings pretty much ensure their career paths, not surprisingly, but most of the book is really about the heartbreaking/heartwarming aspects of life that happen to their extended, makeshift family in the meantime.

Verghese was actually a physician before he began (also) writing, which means you get a lot of technical details (one of my girlfriends commented that this novel had her reaching for the dictionary more than any other book in recent memory), but with every procedure or screening he discusses, the focus is on the doctor-patient relationship, not the clinical aspect (which meant I skipped over a lot of those scary medical words). I wish he were my physician. If his bedside manner is similar to the way he writes it should be, I'm sure he's extraordinary.

The Taken, Inger Ash Wolfe
This is the second in the Hazel Micallef series…I read the first one a couple months ago and loved it, and this was no different. Detective Inspector Micallef is an awesome character, and this novel is peppered with great supporting characters, which helps makes this generally fast paced mystery super engrossing.

Since this is (hopefully) going to be an ongoing series, I'm not going to review them as I read them—I'll just say that if you're into crime/thrillers/CSI-type stuff, but want more than what you'd normally get from, say, Patterson or Koontz, I say go for it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sandwich of the day: Chicken Salad

When I was a kid, I loved when we had baked chicken for dinner; it always meant I was getting a chicken salad sandwich for lunch the next day.

I looooove me some chicken salad. I have definitely been known to eat it straight out of the bowl, sans bread, especially when I was anti-sandwich for so long. (Even besides/before the whole gluten thing, I went a long time without eating them. They're weird. I can't explain this one. I was fine with them as a kid...I must have had some sort of traumatic sandwich experience that I've blocked out.)

But it is also damn good on some wheat bread. Things have changed, and it is completely out of my control. I want sandwiches. And I want them all the time. So tonight we're going back to school, so to speak, and doing it mom-style (with just a little twist).

Chicken Salad Sandwiches
(Makes several sandwiches, plus enough for leftovers)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 medium celery stalks, trimmed and diced
1 green apple, cored and diced
About 1/4 a red onion, diced
About 3-4 tbsp light mayo
Dash of garam masala or curry powder
Splash of lemon juice
Wheat bread
Whole leaf Romaine lettuce

Cook chicken at 375 for 30 minutes. Chop into bite sized pieces and let cool. Mix in celery, apple, onion and mayo. Stir in lemon and curry, if using. If it seems dry, add a bit of mayo (I don't like a lot of mayo, so you may need more).

Make a sandwich. I just used a tiny spread of mayo and a big piece of romaine, but Hubby also toasted his bread and added tomato slices.