30 September 2012

What I am Reading: September 2012

It's a weird month: I feel like I have been sleeping a lot (and I have), but reading a lot. It's amazing how much time I have when I am not taking a language class full time. I've been a bit unwell, but am feeling better and hope to be more energetic by next month. The huge number of e-books I have read make it clear that when I can bring books with me wherever I go, and start a new one whenever I want, I read a lot more. Clearly, I have also watched less TV (except the Castle season opener— va-voom! and done almost no blogging:-). Also some bunches of time spent waiting for appointments (it's interesting to see how I have become extraordinarily punctual (to far too early) whenever I don't have the dead weight of having to get the kids ready too: it's as if I lose 100 pounds and cover the distance in half the time.

  1. Making Money (2007) by Terry Pratchett: Was given a copy of this recently and (re-read) it. One of the Moist von Lipwig series, as he is recruited from the Ankh-Morpork Post Office to revitalize the financial system and the Royal Mint. Moving from the Gold Standard might be easier if he had an idea as to what the basis for his new "notes" currency might be.... Lots of fun and I need to see if I missed the foreshadowed next novel when von Lipwig fixes the tax system. This copy is a bit mildewy (and I am very sensitive to book blight) so I will be passing it on.
  2. Green Rider (1998) by Kristen Britain: I think I first picked this up when it was published and couldn't get into it. Given a free copy at Worldcon this year, I tried again. Still couldn't get through it.
  3. Invisible Pleasures (2005) by Mary Frances Zambreno: A nice collection of stories with women protagonists as the unifying theme.
  4. Stalking the Zombie (2012) by Mike Resnick: The con book for Chicon 7 collects all the John Justin Mallory shorts (and an extra for the con), starring a hard-boiled detective who falls into "another" Manhattan, where demons, leprechauns and cat people are reality. The feel is 1940's and the first of these stories appeared in 1991 (the last 2012, of course). Lots of fun.
  5. Masters of the Galaxy (2012) by Mike Resnick: Amusing to read this next to the above, as it is a collection of Resnick's short stories featuring Jake Masters, a Noir detective in the future. The last story, Real Jake, appears here for the first time (and is the weakest) but the whole collection is fun, Golden-Agey and light.
  6. A Host of Furious Fancies (pubbed in this format 9/1/12)by Mercedes Lackey and and Rosemary Edghill:  This book is comprised of Beyond World’s End and Spirits White as Lightning, originally published Jan 2001 Dec 2001. I looked those dates up on Kirkus and it was amazing how they panned the first and gave a good review to the second. In actuality, I liked them both and thought the writing level was roughly equivalent. I think there is a series related to this, but I haven't read it. These stories follow Eric Banyon as he returns, from Faerie, to Juilliard, to finish his degree and reintegrate in the human world. (Baen E-book)  
  7. Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia : The 4th book in the Monster Hunters series (I picked the other I have read, Monster Hunter Vendetta, up in a Baen bundle as well).  I found it, once again, light and amusing male-oriented fantasy. (Baen E-book)
  8. Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (2012):  This should have been listed last month, as I pre-ordered it and read it as soon as it came out (on July 31), but I didn't finish it before I posted my last book list. Although this is the 6th in the Kate Daniels series, it's actually an Andrea Nash novel, starring Kate's hyena-Were partner, formerly Order Knight , Andrea. A good story, going deeper into her motivations and character (touched upon a sshe has been present in the former books), giving us Kate and Curran as side-plot, and allowing us to explore more of the interesting world they inhabit. I liked it a lot. The Magic Gifts novella, which I had already read, is included and is a stand-alone 100+page story starring Kate and Curran and a misadventure as they attempt to have a normal date night. Also wonderful. Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors (yes, I know she is a husband/wife writing team). (E-book)
  9. Ghost Ship (Aug /1/11) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: I'm a  huge fan of the Liaden universe and this is another set in the Theo Waitley cycle. Since Theo is growing up in this series, as a Liaden and a pilot raised in a non-Liaden world by those who don't understand pilots, I assume the cycle is aimed a bit at the YA market. Here Theo starts to see how her destiny will take her into the machinations and turmoil between the Department of the Interior and Liad and why she is entangled.
  10. Dragon Ship (Sep /1/12) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: This is what e-books are all about. After picking up Ghost Ship at Worldcon and reading it, I looked up its sequel, saw I could get it at Baen, purchased a package (which included some of the other Baen books you see here) and was able to enjoy reading it immediately. Theo has finally formed a temporary partnership with the Ancient ship that has been looking for her, as they both decide whether to make the Pilot/Ship relationship permanent. She takes on crew, meets her relatives, and the Department of the Interior evinces determined interest. We also learn far more of the Uncle and there is news of Daav and Aelliana. Can't wait for the next! (The downside of getting a sequel as soon as I want it is now waiting more than a year for the one after!) (Baen E-book)
  11. How to Drive a Dragon Crazy (2012) by G.A. Aiken: I find Aiken (aka S. laurenston) extremely amusing. Under her other name, she writes about animal shifters (wolf, dog, bear, hyenas etc, and their clans); under this name she writes about Dragon shifters and the fantasy world of magic and gods that they live in. This is the story of Éibhear the Blue and Izzy, about ten years after we last saw them. They are both war hardened and finally ready for each other. Always fun series. (E-book)
  12. A Beautiful Friendship (Oct 2011) by David Weber:  Weber returns to his Honorverse, but centuries before Honor Harrington's time, to the original colonization of  Sphinx. Stephanie Harrington is a teen taken away from her friends and now on a far more dangerous planet, with her normal freedoms curtailed. But she is smart, has great parents and is always curious. That curiosity leads herto discover what seems to be nabbing the "celery" that the colonists are growing and the answer turns out to be a hitherto undiscovered native species. I thought this was a great book and I expect it should be great for my older daughter somewhere around 6th grade (although for SF&F reading children, maybe even earlier). I expect I will pick the sequel up next month. (Baen E-book)
  13. Opal Fire (A Reluctant Witch Mystery) (March 2, 2011)by Barbra Annino:  I picked this up when it was offered free and I really enjoyed it (not always the case). Stacey Justice is a reporter, but she is also the daughter and niece of witches and has a role to play: a role she has been rebelling against. In this debut novel, her cousin's bar goes up in flames and she needs to use both her reporter's intelligence and her witch connections to understand why and prevent her cousin from being jailed for arson. I liked it and bought the next one (showing the success of the free book program at getting readers to try new authors. (Free Amazon E-book)
  14. Ring of Fire II (ed. Eric Flint)(1/27/09): I forget how much I enjoy Flints' shared universe (from his 1632 series) until I read something else in it again. He does a very good job of editing in this collection and I am glad that it was included in a Baen bundle- to my non-professional eye, all the historical bits are reasonable (in a sideways world) and it seems the authors do some research. I like the novella by Flint at the end best, but enjoyed all the stories.(Baen E-book) 
  15. 1634: The Baltic War by Eric Flint and David Weber (10/28/08): It's actually really hard to say anything about this inter-linked series based on the concept that an unknown alien force called the "Ring of Fire" has brought a small West Virginian mining town back to the Germanies in 1632 (the starting book). The history as it starts (and then starts to change as the world reacts to the history in the libraries)is so well-researched and so interestingly moved sideways (as the world that was will never be the world that will now be, but people do things like murder individuals who would have been party to events in the future) that I just find it fascinating to read. Partly because I like the time period, partly because it is set in the Germanies not far from where I live. For instance, here  France, Spain, England, and Denmark— in the League of Ostend —are besieging the German city of Lübeck, a seaside area not far from me and a base of American naval strength. (Baen E-book)
  16. 1635: The Dreeson Incident  by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce (8/31/10):  In this, a significant event takes place that allows the up-timers to used the CoCs to create a Krystalnacht that tries to remove the taint from the word. (Baen E-book)
  17. 1635: The Eastern Front  by Eric Flint (11/29/11):  This really leads directly into the following book and since I read them one after the other, it's hard to separate which part is in which. Here Stearns loses the presidency to Wilhelm Wettin and Gustavus Adolphus brings him in as a general into the army, leading the USE (United States of Europe) brigades. There is more development of Princess Kristina of Sweden and Prince Ulrik of Denmark.(Baen E-book)
  18. 1636: The Saxon Uprising by Eric Flint (3/27/12): Oxenstern pulls an Alexander Haig (I am in Charge) when Adolphus is injured and attempts to destroy the political compacts binding the Empire. Rebecca Abrabenal shows her stuff and there is both a Polish incursion and a siege of Dresden (which I have visited several times). Waiting for the sequel:-).(Baen E-book)
  19. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning:  This was another free Amazon book (and even more successful at pulling me in than the above, as I wound up buying the rest of the series and reading through it in just a few days.) (book 1)(free Amazon E-book)
  20. Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning:  (book 2)(E-book)
  21. Faefever by Karen Marie Moning:(book 3)  (E-book)
  22. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning:(book 4) (E-book)
  23. Shadowfever, A MaccKayla Lane Novel by Karen Marie Moning: (book 5 and last) I very much enjoyed this series, which became far more intense (and triggering with a graphic and violent rape) than I had expected. Some serious end of the world activity. I very much enjoyed the growth of the characters, the description of what would happen as the Fae impinge on humanity (spoiler- humanity doesn't have much of a chance) and the writing. I read these so quickly, just to find out what would happen next, that I expect I will read them again to enjoy the story at a slower pace. But definitely not for children!(E-book)

19 September 2012

Rosh HaShonah: Potato Kugel and Honey Cake

And the salad we had.
Trying out some new recipes:

Potato Kugel- Trying this one from the Serious Eats website.

Note from Arthur Schwartz: All the old recipes for potato kugel come out sort of heavy and gluey, which is not at all the kugel taste of today in New York City. These days, the kugel sold in the take-out shops and delicatessens, not to mention those made at home by modern balabustas, are still full of good onion flavor but they are high and light.
What may seem like an inordinate number of eggs is the secret. Some recipes call for baking powder, too, but I've found the baking powder does absolutely nothing and lots of eggs are definitely the ticket to lightness. It also helps to use Russet potatoes, baking potatoes, which were not nearly as available in grandma's day as they are today. Drier Russets produce a fluffier kugel.
  • 3 pounds Russet (baking) potatoes (about 14 smaller)
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 medium onions (12 ounces), peeled
  • 2/3 cup matzoh meal
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (for a parve pudding) or schmaltz
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
  2. Peel the potatoes. Keep in a bowl of cold water until ready, but don't leave them there longer than a few hours.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, until well mixed.
  4. Grate the onions. Add into the bowl with the eggs and stir them in. Stir in the matzoh meal.
  5. Drain the potatoes. Grate in three batches.
  6. As each batch of potatoes is grated, add to a strainer placed over a bowl. With a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, press out the moisture. Immediately, put potatoes in the onion and egg mixture.  Season the batter with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour 2 tablespoons of  oil into a 13 by 9-inch baking pan, preferably glass. Turn the pan to coat the bottom and half way up the sides with the oil. Place the empty pan in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.

  8. Remove the oiled pan from the oven and pour the potato batter into the pan. The oil will come up the sides of the pan, especially in the corners. Press the batter down near the corners to lightly to fill them with potato batter. It's a good thing when the oil comes over the top of the batter. It adds crispness. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil on the surface of the batter.

  9. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

  10. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving, preferably somewhat longer. Serve hot or warm, freshly baked or reheated.

  11. The kugel reheats extremely well in a 350°F oven, uncovered so the top can crisp up additionally. Reheating time depends on the size of the piece being reheated, and at what temperature the kugel is when going into the oven. It can be kept in the refrigerator for at least four days, and for several months in the freezer. It is best to defrost before reheating.
--- Review: The husband loved it. For me, it was too egg-y and not potatoe-ey enough, although the overall taste was good. Next time, I will replace the matza meal with flour, increase the onions and perhaps dice rather than grate (to give more texture), and cut the eggs by three to see how that tastes.-- we ate it for the next few days and it was still fine, perhaps even better re-heated, but I will reduce eggs next time.

Honey Cake- the last I tried was too thick, so this time I am trying Smitten Kitchen's version. (I am adding my changes/deletions directly to the recipe above, some of them taken from the advice given in updates and in the comments on the recipe.)

Majestic and Moist Honey Cake
Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1  1/4 cup warm coffee
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Fits in three loaf pans, two 9-inch square or round cake pans, one 9 or 10 inch tube or bundt cake pan, a 9 by 13 inch sheet cake or two full-size loaf pans plus two miniature ones.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175C). Generously grease pan(s). For tube or angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee and orange juice. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out- very true!)

Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.
Spoon batter into prepared pan(s).
Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top)- did not work with my German pans- they can't stack.

Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan. 

---Review: We all thought it was great and very moist. Next time, I will make the coffee extra-strong (perhaps 3x strength) because I caught just a hint of coffee in there and would have liked more. I hear it's even better the next day and we are looking forward to checking that out.-- It is even better and more moist for the next (several) days. A great recipe.