Friday, December 11, 2020

Turkey and Stuffing Soup

I set out to make another use-em-up leftover soup with the final slices of now-dry turkey, some fresh celery and carrots, and some white rice left from a Chinese-food lunch today -- because what is more after-Turkey Day normal than turkey-rice soup?

At the last minute, I spotted the cup and a half of stuffing from Thanksgiving Day and decided to swap it for the rice. The result was a tasty thickened stew, perfect for a cold December night with the threat (promise) of snow in the air. The stuffing seasoning mingled well with the Better Than Bouillon broth.


3 cups Better Than Bouillon (BTB) Roasted Turkey Broth

1/2 cup carrot, diced medium

1/2 cup celery, sliced medium

1/2 to 1.5 cups leftover turkey meat, diced small

1 to 2 cups leftover bread*-based stuffing

*Cornbread-based stuffing might work, but I haven't tried it. I  leave that as an exercise for the reader.


In a slow cooker set to Low, stir the BTB Roasted Turkey into 3 cups of boiling water to create the broth. Add the chopped vegetables and meat, and cover the pot. It should cook on Low for at least 4 hours to combine the flavors and soften the carrots.

In the last 15 minutes, stir in the stuffing, and recover the pot. The goal is to soak broth into the stuffing, and warm the stuffing to the best eating temperature of the soup.

Serve as soon as the broth absorption is complete. 

I have yet to try re-heating this soup. Both times I've made it, there was nothing left over. And that's great, for a soup made of leftovers.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Easy Pork and Bean Soup


This is another slow-cooker soup that comes together easily, and takes advantage of added leftovers and the slow simmer of a crock-pot to create a soup that tastes hand-crafted. Yet, like many of my favorite recipes, it starts with "open a can of..."

This particular iteration was built on a base can of Campbell's Bean and Bacon Soup, with leftover pork from a tenderloin roast, and some additional carrot and celery.

Other *meat additions that have worked for this soup in the past are ham or bacon, even dark-meat chicken or turkey. For **vegetables, I almost always add carrot and celery, and when I have them, leftover roasted roots (although not beets). And while they don't suit my palate, I think adding fine-chopped onion or red/green/yellow peppers would also serve. For these, as well as for the raw carrot and celery I added here, you may need an extra amount of water to ensure they are cooked.

This recipe serves two with a generous bowl of soup for each. For more servings, simply increase the amounts.


1 can Campbell's Bean and Bacon Soup

Can (and a third) of water

*Four to five slices from roasted pork tenderloin, diced small, for a cup to a cup and a half of diced meat

**Carrots and celery, raw, diced/sliced, about 1 cup of extra raw vegetables 


In the slow-cooker crock, dump the contents of the soup can, then add the can of water called for by the can instructions. Since we're adding raw vegetables, we'll also add an extra 1/3 can of water.

Dice the *added meat small, add to crock.

Dice **added carrots small to medium (to taste), add to crock. Slice celery into thin crescents (across the stalk). I like the stronger-flavored darker celery stalks for this purpose.

Stir enough to break up the soup concentrate, and set the slow-cooker control to Low. 

This soup is best if cooked on Low for 4.5 to 5 hours, but you can shortcut by cooking on High for an hour, then turn to Low for another hour. (If you have added only cooked meats and vegetables, one hour on High is sufficient.)

Serve the finished soup into bowls and enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure Upon the High Seas by Tanith Lee

I bought this book to put into my Little Free Library, but wondered where it might fit on the range of age-appropriateness—especially because I intended to loan it first to a neighbor teen. The best way to determine this, of course, was to read it myself.

Surprise! It's a great book, and despite the story line, has little gore, with zero vulgarity and profanity. (Unless you're worried about exclamations like "Great shells!" or "Upon my father's coat!")

The cross-dressing teenage girl Artemisia (Art), who sets out to convert her crew of actors into real pirates, is a genuine sweetheart. The acting troupe she carries along in her wake are truly interesting characters themselves, and the young artist she robs at their first encounter, then later kidnaps to the West (or "Blue") Indies and carries onward to the Southern Indian Ocean's "Treasured Isle" (which may be Île Saint-Paul in our world), is an honestly intriguing figure who refuses to fall into the "true love" trope of any ordinary pirate romance.

The setting is global, but it is not the globe we live on. In Art's world, 1820's "Lundon" is the capital of Free Republican England (which ousted its monarch quite a while ago, erasing all hereditary titles and freeing slaves in all its colonies at the same time). The islands of the "Blue" Indies are still pirates' havens. The ocean south of the east "Africayan" coastal island "Mad-Agash Scar" is named "Capricorn Sea." Even the calendar is different; by Art's reckoning, the year in which the story's events occur is "Seventeen-Twelfty."

Some things stay the same, though. As in 1820, in the "Seventeen-Twelfty's," the same once-hereditary elites mostly remain in power, though with different titles. People are free to starve or freeze to death, though no one we meet does so. And a young woman who has the audacity to wear men's clothing and successfully captain a ship is a criminal because of that, regardless of the theft of ships and booty. It's there, though soft-peddled. For a younger reader than I am, I suspect these disturbing ideas will vanish into the tension of the tale.

I would recommend this seriously twisted plot for the reading pleasure of any advanced middle-school reader or young adult of my aquaintance, and many an adult as well. It will appeal to both girls and boys for its story; adults can enjoy the extra layer of twisted geography and history.


Monday, February 3, 2020

The Gift of the Shaman: Hearing the World

Cape Grace (A Shaman's Tale Book 2) by Nathan Lowell

“Normal doesn’t really apply to people. The statistical distribution of characteristics are sometimes useful for looking at big pictures but are totally useless when dealing with the individual.”

Book 2 of Lowell's Shaman's Tale duology introduces Sarah Krugg, Otto Krugg's daughter, born post-mortem when her mother was killed by a boxfish. The premie newborn may be tainted by the boxfish toxin herself. Thus the slightly-scary, strangely spooky Sarah Krugg comes into the world as the Shaman's Daughter.

Boxfish toxin and other near-death experiences serve as a real-world explanation for the mystical powers of those who possess the true gift (as opposed to the title) of a shaman. After all, as we learned in South Coast, Otto's father had the title, but did not have the true gift until he was stung by a boxfish and recovered. Otto's grandfather began as a rancher, 

'...a sheep farmer from up-country who survived getting gored by a goat and came out of it a changed man.”
Sarah Krugg is thus set up to be more than an ordinary girl. But the post of shaman is defined as "the son of a shaman," or someone who a conclave of other shaman can agree has the gift. And due to pressure, subtle or explicit, from corporate management, no woman, however gifted, will be confirmed as a shaman.

The company planet is unfair to women, right? Except fishing captains are more female than male, likewise plant managers, and so forth. It is only the hereditary position of shaman that is so restricted. That is the mystery to be resolved in this novel, with Sarah's tale winding through it to provide the personal flavor.

With Nathan Lowell's experitise at telling this story, there is much more here than gender inequality. There is a real stretch toward explaining what might be dismissed as "woo woo" in his other Golden Age tales, and a revealing glimpse of Sarah herself, before she signed on to the Lois McKendrick. The duology can be read stand-alone, although for best effect, I recommend reading at least the first two books of the Traders Tales From the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series, Quarter Share and Half Share.

Finally, consider this: If there is something out in the world worth listening too, that gives the gifted shaman his power, how much more might be gained to actually hearing what you are listening for?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Son of the Shaman: Listening to the World

South Coast (A Shaman's Tale Book 1) by Nathan Lowell

“Honey, everyone here fishes,” his mother said with a smile. “Even your father. It’s just some of us catch different things."

We met the slightly-scary, strangely spooky Sarah Krugg in Half Share, Book 2 of Lowell's Traders Tales From the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series. In one sense, this is the first volume of Sarah's backstory. More than that, it is the background tale for the whelkies, carved animal figures inlayed with purple-shell hearts, that play such a crucial role in those stories.

The whelkies that Ismael Wang purchases at the flea market (in Quarter Share) on the orbital above St. Cloud speak to him. At various points in the Traders Tales, each whelkie "finds" someone it will help, and Ismael makes it a gift. Shamans on St. Cloud create the whelkies—and by tradition, they are never sold, only given to those they match. The shamans walk the beaches to collect driftwood and purple whelk shells that are carved and combined to form the mystical figurines. And they "listen to the world." 

Otto Krugg is the son of such a shaman. By company rules on St. Cloud, he will be a shaman because he is the son of a shaman, and as such, he is exempt from the requirement to be working for the company by age eighteen, or he will be kicked off-planet. Only Company employees—and shamans—may reside on St. Cloud. But Otto really would rather be a fisherman, like most of his schoolmates. His father Richard, however, insists he must "go into the family business," and learn to listen to the world as he does.

When a business threat derails the fishing community's comfortable way of life, many things will change. Including Otto's future, his parent's, and indeed, that of the entire South Coast of St. Cloud.

There are multiple levels of story here. At its simplest, it is a tale of a community industry under threat, and the clever ways its members find to work together to solve their dilemma. Slightly more nuanced, it is the story of how a father can teach his son to follow in his footsteps when he himself isn't quite sure where he is going. And deeper than that, it shows how the respect of man for his environment can lead beyond mere survival to contentment.

But only if we are listening.

Friday, January 31, 2020

One Charm to Rule Them All

The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

Enna and her mentally-damaged father live far from the village, but close to the Wilds, a dangerous locale for anyone who doesn't know how to control or fend off the "mystings," ravening creatures that can come into the world from its shadowy depths.

Her father's damage came from descending into the normal world of the mystings, to retrieve a charm to help his daughter track them so she can avoid them. Now he has just sufficient memory to grow mushrooms, although he frequently mistakes Enna for her mother, who was killed by a mystings pack of "grinlings" in the Wild when Enna was younger.

Enna lives a semi-secluded life, caring for her father and their small farm, selling their mushrooms in the village, tending her herb garden, and studying the Wild and the mystings. She dreams of attending a school and sharing her knowledge with the world, but neither the money it would require nor her need to stay close with her father will allow this luxury.

All that changes when a demon-beast from the Wild charges past their protective herbal boundary, and marks Enna for destruction. Her solution is to make a bargain with a different kind of mysting, and trade a willing kiss for a pledge to destroy the pack that has targeted Enna.

And that is when things really begin to go wrong...

Charlie Holmberg's material magician novels—starting with The Paper Magician—often share this tension between gifted-yet-ignorant young women and powerful, skilled men who serve as their tutors. In The Will and the Wilds, Enna and her pledged demon Maekellus are equally ignorant of each other's worlds and abilities, and the tension comes as much from what they share with each other as it does from their battle to save both worlds from the power invested in Enna's Ring-like charm.

The tale neatly skirts the trap of fairy-tale Beauty and Beast, and goes directly to a deeper question: can a woman surrender to a man, yet retain her self? Can a man truly love a woman, yet not conquer and consume her?

The answer is worth the trip into the deep, dark Wilds.

Homeless in High School

Roam by C.H. Armstrong

Nothing breeds angst like being a teenager in a new school. 

Being new in school partway through your senior year is bad enough, but Roam's protagonist Abby Lunde has been ripped from a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle with two working parents, and a highly successful high-school life—cheerleader, member of a clique of "populars"—to land in Minnesota, in winter, her family homeless in an otherwise-wealthy community.

To add further apprehension to her social situation, Abby was badly traumatized by the way her "friends back home" reacted to her change in circumstance, and lives in fear of the day her new schoolmates will learn she is sleeping in a car with her family in the local Walmart parking lot, pretending to shop there when she needs to use the toilet, eating at the local soup kitchen, and doing her morning ablutions in the high-school restroom.

Nevertheless, she does gain friends almost immediately, from a ready-made group of Disney-nicknamed classmates to an interested young man who turns into a potential prom date. This rich-boy/poor-girl trope is a major part of the tale—along with a snobbish bully antagonist, a pre-prom "makeover," and a vocal competition straight out of High School Musical

So is this just a soap-opera teen drama with a homeless twist? Not at all.

The strongest message here is the crucial importance of family in overcoming teen angst. From her perspective, Abby's family was broken by the unforgivable choices made by her parents. In her new school, and in the homeless support community they came to Minnesota to find, she builds a wider family, and eventually learns to heal what is broken in her own heart.

And nothing could be less soap-opera than that.