Sep 102014
 

You know when you are reading a book that is so good you can’t stop reading and end up staying way too late? I both love and hate those type of books. I love them because the writing is so good it transport me into that world and I don’t want to put it down. I hate those books, too, because I end up telling myself, One more chapter, and then I stay up WAY too late and regret it in the morning!

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1. The Troop by Nick Cutter

I heard this author on the Joe Rogan podcast and he was very smart and articulate and that made me want to check out his book. I wasn’t disappointed. The story was dark and foreboding from the start–the perfect horror location, an isolated island. The concept was a fascinating twist on the zombie genre. It was kind of like a cross between the movie Cabin Fever, the book Lord of the Flies, and The Walking Dead. I give it 4 out of 5 stars because the book was VERY gross. I had to skim a few sections that were just too much for me. Other than that, the writing was really good and it read like a movie.

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2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

It definitely reads like a YA book but it’s still an enjoyable read from an adult standpoint, just keep that in mind and suspend disbelief. :)

3. Dust by Patricia Cornwell

This is part of the Kay Scarpetta series and I’ve picked up books here and there and unfortunately never really read them in order. As a result I feel like I’m out of the loop on different story lines that weave through each book. Despite that, this book was really compelling and couldn’t put it down. It was longer than I’m used to reading and I felt like I was in their world for a very long time, not in a bad way. I loved the main characters and this book was good!

4. Destroyer Angel by Nevada Barr

If you haven’t checked out Nevada Barr, I strongly encourage you to give her a try. I love her Anna Pigeon book series and have read all of them. This is the most recent. Start at the beginning of the series–you won’t be disappointed! Anna Pigeon is a park ranger and each book takes place in a different National Park. Action/adventure/mystery happens in each book. This one didn’t disappoint. It reminded me a little of that movie with Kevin Bacon–The River Wild. I stayed up WAY too late finishing this book!

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5. The Pines (Wayward Pines Trilogy 1) by Blake Crouch

This book was on my “to read” list for awhile and when I appeared on the new Amazon “unlimited” list I snatched it up. I started reading it and then got hooked. I read 65% of the book in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down and my eyelids were drooping and it was way past my bedtime and I finally stopped for the night. The book is gripping, frustrating, kept me guessing and I liked it a lot. The ending was…interesting…I don’t want to give it away and since it’s a trilogy I’m curious how it’s going to continue. But I definitely recommend this!

6. Wayward (Wayward Pines Trilogy 2) by Blake Crouch

This is the sequel to The Pines. I loved the first book and the second one was even better. It was more “meaty”, really fleshing out the characters and story. It was exciting and it didn’t take very long to read at all. My only complaint would be that books nowadays seem to always be trilogies…you know, building your brand, try and make more money with more books, make the books into TV shows or movies…but I really feel like this series could be 2 books. He should have reworked it to combine book 2 with book 1. It would just flow better in my opinion.

7. The Last Town (Wayward Pines Trilogy 3) by Blake Crouch

This was the conclusion of the trilogy and it held up against the first two books. It was exciting, kept me engaged and trying to guess the ending. The ending wasn’t predictable and I wouldn’t say it was entirely satisfying but it was good. Great series! I am super excited that this series is being made into a TV show and that it’s got some good actors in it, too.

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I’ve read some great books this summer! Hope you guys enjoy some of these. I have  a few more great ones to review, so stay tuned. And as always, you can friend me on GoodReads.com. :)

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Sep 032014
 

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I had some free time and our garden was exploding…I decided to make good use of my time and take care of all those jalapenos! We planted 18 plants this spring. I know, that sounds like a lot, right? Yeah, it kind of is a lot. Michael panicked though. Last year we had a bunch of jalapeno plants and we ate poppers and pickled the jalapenos and gave a bunch away. Mid-winter we actually ran out of our pickled jalapenos (which has never happened before). So Michael was determined not to run out this time. Hence the 18 plants (and the one random plant that turned out not to be a jalapeno).

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I picked a bunch of peppers and a few of the ripe tomatoes. I learned my lesson from last time I cut up the peppers. I used latex gloves this time! I ended up using the following recipe as just a guide. I think I tripled it because I had over 2 pounds of peppers. And that’s not even all the peppers! There are still tons out on the plants. Here is the recipe:

Pickled Jalapenos
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
From: http://www.simplyscratch.com/2013/05/easy-homemade-pickled-jalapenos.html
Ingredients
  • 15 large Jalapenos, stems trimmed {discarded} and sliced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 cup Distilled White Vinegar
  • 1 cup Filtered Water
  • 4 tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan combine the garlic, water, vinegar, sugar and salt.
  2. Heat to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Once at a boil; add the sliced jalapenos pressing them so they are submerged under the pickling liquids. Remove the pot off of the heat and let them sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Use tongs to transfer the jalapenos into a clean jar. Ladle the pickling juices over top until you've reached the top of the jar. Let cool at room temperature before securing a lid and popping them into the fridge.
  4. I personally, would treat these as I would any opened jar of jalapenos. They should last a long while if kept refrigerated in the airtight jar.
  5. Enjoy!

I’m excited to try these jalapenos because I think doing it this way (instead of just putting them in a jar with vinegar in the fridge for months) is much faster. I imagine these babies will be ready to eat soon! Look at these–the color was already different than the way we usually pickle them. I used a ladle to get the liquid and pepper rings into a big jar.

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In the jars with the liquid and peppers are some peppercorns and crushed garlic cloves. I tried to put as many of the jalapeno seeds in there as I could. I let the jar cool before sealing it and putting it in our spare fridge. I planned on testing them every week or so until I know they are ready to eat. Who knows, maybe they will be ready right away. We’ll see!

The peppers didn’t take much time so I decided to try my hand at pickling some other things. Next up: red onion. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. I absolutely LOVE pickled things. No matter what it is, if it’s pickled, I’ll like it.

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The recipe I found was for quick pickled red onion–which was perfect because I didn’t want to pickle it and can it for real, I just wanted a quick version that could go in the fridge and be ready soon. This recipe claims to be ready within a few hours of making them. I doubled the recipe for the onions because when I weighed them on my food scale it was closer to 12 ounces instead of 5 ounces like the recipe says.

Quick Pickled Red Onion

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

From: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-quickpickled-red-onions-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-193247

Ingredients

  • 1 firm red onion, about 5 ounces
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar, white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Flavorings (optional):
  • 1 small clove of garlic, halved
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 3 small springs of thyme
  • 1 small dried chili
  • Equipment
  • Kettle for boiling water
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Sieve or colander
  • Clean jar or container

Instructions

  1. Slice the onions: Start 2 or 3 cups of water on to boil in a kettle. Peel and thinly slice the onion into approximately 1/4" moons. Peel and cut the garlic clove in half.
  2. Dissolve the sugar and salt: In the container you will be using to store the onions, add the sugar, salt, vinegar and flavorings. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Par-blanch the onions: Place the onions in the sieve and place the sieve in the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions and let them drain.
  4. Add the onions to the jar: Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings.
  5. Store: The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but are better after a few hours. Store in the refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks but are best in the first week.
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I’ve never par-blanched something before but it was super easy and I could tell the difference in the onions immediately after pouring the boiling water over it. After it cooled, I put the lid on tight and then shook it up a little to mix the peppercorns and garlic slices around in the liquid. I also added a little bit of red pepper flakes, but not tons.

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For dinner that night I made bratwursts with some sauerkraut (from Trader Joe’s–which is awesome) and I tried some of my pickled onions! I also roasted some zucchini in the oven with a little grapeseed oil, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.

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My pickled onions were AMAZING. They were so good I couldn’t stop eating them! I even had some with a snack of crackers, cheese and tomatoes the next day at work. Love love love these onions. I will definitely be making more and will can them so I can make a bunch of store it in the pantry. Seriously, make this recipe!

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