2024 Reading List

Welcome to the 2024 Reading List! I read 39 books last year! Very happy with that number! This year I will keep the list more orderly, with newest acquisitions at the TOP. It got messy last year! All the books brought forward from 2023 will be at the bottom, with xmess next, and so on. Here we go!

Number of books read: 3

Xmess 2023:

The whole run of Fables, 22 graphic novels. I have read 3 as of Jan 4. This is my first read of 2024! I plan to read this whole collection. I do best with comics when they are collected. I also plan to read several Terry Moore collections that I’ve not gotten to yet.

Chasing the Boogeyman, Richard Chizmar. This guy is sort of a Stephen King protegé. He wrote the Gwendy books with King.

Magic Lessons, Alice Hoffman. Part of the Magic trilogy.

Starter Villain, John Scalzi. Just started this as my treadmill book and I LOVE IT!!

From 2023:
The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd. I liked The Secret Life of Bees, so thought I’d give this a go.

Raising the Horseman, Serena Valentino. Valentino’s take on the Headless Horseman. She also does a full series of Disney Villains books. They are in YA (young adult), but very readable.

Unwinding Anxiety, Dr Judson Brewer. Rec by Nana Visitor

The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande.

The Good Demon, Jimmy Cajoleas.

Paper Son, S.J. Rozen.

Fear, Bob Woodward. Yes, THAT Bob Woodward. Nick picked this one, but I’ll read it, it’s about T****.

On Gold Mountain, Lisa See. I always get her books.

Wake, Lisa McMann. Some creepy story about people invading your dreams.

Born Standing Up, Steve Martin. His autobiography/memoir. I’ve read some of his fiction – he’s a good writer.

The Revenant, Michael Punke. Yes, the book that the movie is based on.

Drowning Ruth, Christina Schwarz. I think I may have read this long ago? Looks interesting even if I have.

Teachings of Zen, Thomas Cleary. Just curious about Zen.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman. As I’ve said, I like her writing, so I picked this one up, too.

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To see any category (recipes, for instance), use the drop down menu to the right labeled “View Posts by Category” and select the category you’d like. Thanks for stopping by!

Musings on Life and Everything

First off, this post is about NO ONE in particular. It is about me, and Nick as well, where indicated. But mostly me. The things I bring up are things that have been bumping around in my head for a day or maybe 10 years. SO, do not assume anything – OR if you must, then assume this is about the fucking socials – which are CHOCK FULL of Teh Stoopid™. I’m trying to get back into blogging with actual content – not only recipes or the book list. This is the first really personal thing I’ve written in a very long time. This is a muscle that will need to be stretched…

First up: I am tired.

I am mentally tired of many, many things – and physically tired, too. I’m old, I’ve been there and done that. My patience for DUMB is pretty much NIL. Let’s address the things I’m tired of first – in a nice list, in no particular order.

I am tired of:
– people who cannot or will not adult and then whine about it and/or expect everyone else to accommodate their bullshit
– people who make bad decisions but refuse to change the way they do things
– people who are fucking EVIL and think that no one knows. Uh, we KNOW, darlin’. WE KNOW.
– gender discussions (sorry, y’all, but I am)
– working for a pittance (this is mostly Nick, since I cannot do SHIT)
– having my hands be too weak to ever work in a pro kitchen again (pay sucked, but I liked it)
– not being able to get above breaking even
– pulling money from the goddam TINY investment account to keep us afloat (we’ll end up with NO investments, eventually)
– just the relentless GRIND with nothing to show for it

Money is, as always, the issue. I’m tired of this, too, but we have to live, so it’s always front and center. If we just had an infusion of, say, even $100k, that would significantly get us going. I wonder if my mother re-wrote the will to leave it all to my brother? I’m betting YES, since I am noncompliant and he is her servant. If she didn’t, it is to be split between us, which means that fucking place is getting SOLD. It’s about 10-12 acres of land in an area that’s growing like crazy. The house is a big ole ill-kept monstrosity and the out buildings (garage and barn) are shit, too. No one will want that crap, but the land is perfect for expanding the subdivision. Zillow says $570k, but the description is 100% wrong – wrong house, only 1 acre lot. I think it’ll be close to a million with all that land. It would be great if I could count on that, but chances are slim June would leave anything to me. Sigh. I’ll have to make do with the vintage vinyl records, some tchochkis and an Asian secretary (desk, not an actual Asian assistant) that I have always loved. I don’t look forward to having to deal with my brother in any case – but if it’s selling that fucking place, I’m betting lawyers will be necessary.

As for physical, aside from my hands that are toast, we’ve stopped drinking during the week and that seems to be helping with sleeping, a little. I bought some herbal tinctures from Apothekary which are supposed to help you not want a glass of wine. We’ll see. It’s pricey AF, so I doubt we’ll use these constantly, but I thought it was worth a shot to get us off the wine.

We have decided to try to make more connections this year. We are on the path of establishing some good connections with old and new friends and that has us excited. I am particularly excited to be able to GO to someone else’s house rather than be the constant host. Being the constant host is exhausting and kind of expensive, too.

I love my reading list and I’m happy to have kept it up for so long! Looks like 2017 is the first full fledged list, with a gap in there for 2019/2020. Lots of books read, with short reviews. Here is the category.

I’m poking around for a p/t WFH job. There are a million listings and most are CRAP. Sigh. We need more money and I need to find something to fucking DO. Fuck.

We’re not coming into this year with a lot of enthusiasm. With the election looming, it’s more trepidation and anxiety than anything else. That fucking orange shitgibbon will run. YOU WATCH. And if he wins, we are FUCKED – ALL OF US. Not the rich as much, but still.

If we could flee, we would, but we cannot. We have no fat stax in the bank and we’re too old. Many countries have age and income requirements and we don’t meet them. We could go illegally, but then what? We don’t have money to live on for several years while we get established in a foreign country. So we are trapped here, with Gilead coming in hot. Hey, at least I can be a Martha since I can cook.

So yeah. Not a chipper post, by any means, but I guess it could be worse. We are mostly healthy and the cars mostly run. I think that’s about as good as it’ll be for us for the foreseeable future. We’re trying to get our shit straight and be more present. And pray the cars don’t die. Happy fucking new year! LOL

Indian Long Pepper Chicken

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Indian Long Pepper Chicken

I got a packet of Long Pepper for xmess, so I went on a search for recipes. I found an ancient recipe (h/t Indiaphile.info) and used it as a starting point. My recipe is significantly different, but still easy to make, homestyle and comforting. Long pepper is a delightful spice; it is lighter than black pepper and a bit floral. I highly recommend trying it! NOTE: you'll need to get it ground or have a spice grinder - the pods are VERY tough.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken, Indian long pepper, long pepper
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author misangela

Ingredients

  • 2 large, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" cubes about 1#, sub chicken tenders
  • 2/3 cup whole milk yogurt or whole milk greek yogurt, DO NOT sub low fat here, it will be cooked at the end!
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground long pepper use a spice grinder or buy ground
  • 1 Tbl ginger paste found at Indian store, frozen at grocery or microplaned fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp garlic paste found at Indian store or paste up fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric optional, I like the colour and it adds a bit of earthiness
  • 2 Tbl ghee or sub butter
  • 10 whole long pepper optional, if you have the whole ones
  • 1 tsp whole mustard seeds black ones if you have them
  • 1 lime sub lemon
  • 2 Tbl whole milk yogurt or whole milk greek yogurt
  • 2 cups basmati rice, prepared or any rice you like, or use naan

Instructions

  • Combine yogurt, salt, long pepper, ginger, garlic and turmeric in a bowl big enough for the diced chicken. Stir chicken into marinade and hold in fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.
  • In a large skillet, melt the ghee or butter over med high and add mustard seeds and long pepper pods (if using). Let them sizzle a couple of minutes.
  • With tongs, take the chicken from the marinade and tap off as much marinade as you can, then put into the skillet. Set aside the remaining marinade. You should have one layer of chicken, if there's too much chicken, cook in batches to get a little colour.
  • The yogurt marinade will melt off the chicken and create a nice cooking sauce. Cook the chicken about 4 mins on each side. If the sauce gets too dry, reduce heat a little and add a bit of water to loosen it up.
  • When the chicken is cooked, turn down the heat to medium and add in the remaining marinade. Stir until marinade melts a bit.
  • Turn off heat and add another 2 heaping Tbl of fresh yogurt and the juice of half a lime. Check seasoning.
  • Serve over rice or with naan.

Notes

This recipe was a surprise! I really enjoyed the long pepper and yogurt. It is a very simple recipe w/out too many ingredients so you can really taste the delicate flavour of the long pepper. 
This type of Indian food is my preference. It's homey and warm, but not too heavily spiced. If you like homey Indian, try my dal and kadhi recipes, too! 

Welcome to 2024

That number looks just as weird as I thought it would when I was a kid.

I’ve got a couple of posts cooking: a new year post and finishing/starting a new BookList post.

But I don’t have time right now, so this is just to remind you that I WILL have content soon.

Also: with the Substack controversy, it is on the bubble. I may or may not keep using it. We’ll see.

I will try to get a post up over the weekend.

Cooking Rules to Break at Will

As they say, rules are made to be broken! I agree! Especially when cooking.

Of course, you need to KNOW the rules in order to break them well, but there’s a LOT more wiggle room when cooking than Food Network would lead you to believe.

Today, I watched a quick cooking video by Jacques Pépin on FB [SHOUT OUT to Nick for getting me Cooking My Way SIGNED TO ME for my birthday!!!] . It was a pasta dish. As he’s cooking he mentions that he does not like pasta cooked al dente. ::angels singing:: NEITHER DO I! [Al dente means that there is a bit of raw pasta in the center when you break a piece of it and/or it is still a little stiff.] For most uses, I like my pasta just past al dente, except for mac n cheese. I’m sorry Food Network, but mac n cheese pasta should be SOFT. Ain’t nobody wanting al dente nonsense in their mac n cheese!

Another Southern rule: too much dressing. I counter that “too much” is an OPINION. I will grant that you can “overdress” really soft lettuces and spinach – they will wilt and that is gross. But sturdy lettuces and cabbage? DROWN IT. If there ain’t a puddle at the bottom, it ain’t enough. FIGHT ME.

I also stand by my use of SALTED butter. That’s right, SALTED. I’ve used it 100% of the time as long as I’ve cooked and guess what? It makes zero difference. Even in baking. [I heard that GASP. Shut it.] The old saw is that you “can’t control” the salt if you use salted butter. That is nonsense. If you use the same butter, then it should be consistent, right? It’s been my experience that all grade A salted butter has similar salt content. French or Irish butter is a different animal. Every sweet recipe on the planet will call for a tiny amount of salt. OR you can use salted butter and call it a day. I made a recipe that called for unsalted butter and after my friend got over her heart palpitations that I used salted, she said the recipe tasted the same. MY POINT EXACTLY.

The judges on these shows clutch their pearls when a cook uses a wet measure for dry ingredients or vice versa. PUHLEASE. There is very little difference between the two. If you are baking, you should be using weight rather than volume anyway, so who cares? [I weigh my pasta flours rather than use volume, but it’s not necessary.] I saw an IRON CHEF use a wet measure for flour and no one batted an eye.

The judges also whine when they see peppers being roasted on a gas stove flame. They will insist they can “taste the gas” in the roasted peppers. Bullshit. But they’ll be fine with it if a celebrity chef does the very same thing.

Judges also ding cooks for using canned tomatoes. Again: BULLSHIT. Italians use canned tomatoes ALL THE TIME. Giada Di Laurentiis uses them pretty much exclusively on her show Everyday Italian. If I hear ONE MORE JUDGE bitch about canned tomatoes, I may have a conniption. Scott Conant is THE WORST for this. He whiiiinnneeesss about the “canned taste”. OMFG. Get over yourself. Everyone uses canned tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Millions of Italians can’t be wrong. I use dried pasta for most dishes, but I do enjoy making pasta as well. They are totally different beasts and really cannot be compared. I do like fresh stuffed pastas such as ravioli or agnolotti.

Which brings me to overall bias in these Food Network cooking contests. There is a different set of judging rules for celebrity chefs over “regular” chefs and yet another for “home cooks”. I don’t mind judges being kinder to home cooks, but I DO mind when they are judging each other, and suddenly the hard and fast rules aren’t really important. I also see a lot of piling on, especially on Chopped. If one judge points out some nitpicky thing, you can be sure the others will glom on and point it out, too. The gas roasting is a favourite for this behaviour, as is the canned tomatoes. STAHP!

Cooking is as much art as science. Yes, baking is MORE science, but there is still wiggle room in some things, such as salted vs unsalted butter.

So, use that salted butter! Roast those peppers on the stove! Cook your pasta AS YOU LIKE IT! Measure with any vessel that’s handy! Drown that slaw! These are small, insignificant things that really only matter in a cooking competition – and even then, not as much as they act like it does.

Get in that kitchen and CREATE. I have failures, like any cook. Fewer than I used to, but I still have them. Even the failures are usually edible, but they have not come out as intended. Who cares? MANGIA!