Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Queen of the Kitchen: Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli & Rice

I have been reading rave reviews of the Instant Pot (IP) for quite a while.  Last week I finally broke down and ordered the Instant Pot Ultra from Amazon and it arrived on Friday.

After taking it out of the box and performing the mandatory water test, I was ready for my first recipe.  I had some chicken in the fridge and found this Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Recipe on I Don't Have Time For That's site. (You can click on the link for the recipe and step by step instructions and pictures).

The recipe was VERY easy to follow and I had a delicious meal on the table in about 10 minutes with minimal effort or mess in my kitchen.  The most time consuming part of this recipe was cutting the chicken into cubes, which only took a few minutes.

The only other food prep was chopping some broccoli.  I used my Pampered Chef food chopper, so that was also a breeze.

During the five minutes the Instant Pot was cooking I was able to clean up the kitchen and I only had a couple of measuring cups and the IP to tend to once we were finished with dinner.

My husband and I gave it two thumbs up and I've already added it to my recipe collection for future use.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

Until the Beginning (After the End, #2)

Until the Beginning is the conclusion of the After the End duology.  It picks up pretty much where the first book left off.  Miles and Juneau are running from Mr. Blackwell, who is the owner of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company....and is also Miles's dad.  Juneau and her clan developed a drug that prevents aging and cures most known diseases which Mr. Blackwell is desperate to get his hands on.  

Mr. Avery is also interested in the drug and has kidnapped Juneau's clan.  The majority of the book is spent finding and trying to rescue her clan.  Along the way Juneau discovers the Elders in her clan have been lying to them for generations.  She begins to question everything she has known and accepted her entire life.  

Overall this book was a little better than okay for me. Most of the magical elements were so far fetched it made the story unbelievable at times.  I couldn't quite comprehend how a medication could cause side effects that can't be explained by any form of science, which is exactly how Miles felt when he first met Juneau.  She sticks to her beliefs and eventually convinces him by showing and teaching him.

Now...I know you can argue that I have loved books and series involving ghosts, vampires, and other mythical creatures, but the authors of those series were able to convince me the events could really happen.  In this case, I enjoyed the characters and their developing relationship, but I just couldn't believe everything that was happening.  It isn't a bad story, just a little too much science fiction for me.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Cruel & Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

Cruel & Unusual (Kay Scarpetta, #4)

Cruel and Unusual is the fourth book in the Kay Scarpetta series.  Kay is the Chief Medical Examiner in Virginia and assists the police and FBI with solving murders that make their way through her office.  In this case, the killer sets Kay up to take the fall.  She needs to work to clear her professional reputation as well as prove her innocence in all of the crimes.  

The story begins with the execution of a death row inmate named Ronnie Waddell.  Kay completes the autopsy while her assistant Susan has to excuse herself for some strange reason.  Susan's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, which she blames on her pregnancy.  

When Waddell's fingerprints turn up at a number of crime scenes after his murder Kay is at a complete loss.  She tries to find Waddell's fingerprints within her files, but discovers they are nowhere to be found. Someone hacked into her computer system and even her administrative and HR files have been tampered with.  

Kay calls in her niece Lucy, who is a 17-year-old college student with a genius level IQ in computer science.  She sets out to find out who logged into Kay's computer and what was altered.  I obviously have no idea what will happen later in this series, but I have a feeling Lucy will eventually work for the FBI and help Kay solve future cases.  

Overall this was an excellent murder mystery.  I started this series at least 15 years ago and really enjoyed the first couple of books.  I think I lost some of my motivation because there are so many books in the series.  As of this post there are 24 novels, so I still have 20 to read if I'm going to catch up.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

This was one of the choices for my son's 7th grade summer reading, so we both read it.  The book is about a boy name Toby who lives in Antler, TX, which is a small town where "nothing ever happens."  The story takes place during the summer of 1971.  His best friend Cal's older brother is currently serving in the Vietnam war and has been writing each week, so we learn that war is nothing like how they used to play soldiers in the lawn.

The biggest thing to happen in Antler is the day Zachary Beaver's trailer pulls into town.  He is supposedly the world's fattest boy and is put on display like a circus act.  People can pay $2 to see him in person.  This would have been a novelty, but Zachary's legal guardian leaves town without him and nobody knows when he will return for Zachary.  The town sort of adopts him and the boys soon realize they have more in common with Zachary than they ever imagined.

Another theme in the story is abandonment.  Not only was Zachary abandoned, but Toby's mother leaves for Nashville to try out in a singing competition.  Toby eventually realizes his mother's dreams of becoming a country music superstar were not being fulfilled in Antler and she wasn't happy here.  He begins to wonder when or if she is really coming back.

This was a pretty fast read with a number of thought provoking topics for young readers.  My son and I both remained engaged throughout the book and enjoyed the characters and their stories.  I would definitely recommend it for middle school children.  There was a lot more substance to this story than your typical middle grade book and it allowed my son to read something a bit different from his typical reading selections.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: In Too Deep by Jude Watson

Image result for In too deep 39 clues

In Too Deep is the 6th book in the 39 Clues series.  This time around Amy and Dan are off to Sydney, Australia.  This was the last destination their parents visited while on their quest.  Amy and Dan visit their Dad's cousin Shep who is a pilot and surf bum in Sydney, to see if he has any clues as to what their parents discovered or where they may have visited.  He helps them trace some of their parents steps, which of course puts them in great danger at the hands of the other Cahill family members.  

Irina informs Amy that the only person who can tell her who killed her parents is herself.  She begins having increasing flashbacks and starts piecing the events of that night together.  She is afraid to tell Dad what she remembers, which causes some tension between them.

Our history lesson in this book is about Amelia Earhart.  Her final journey involved stops in several of the areas Amy and Dan visit and of course they discover Amelia was a Cahill.  

The stakes are getting higher and the violence continues to escalate.  One of the Cahill family members even dies in this book, which was a bit of a shock.  Amy and Dan have been told from the very beginning that they shouldn't trust anyone.  They are now even questioning if their au pair, Nellie, is working for someone involved in the quest. 

This was another entertaining story.  My son and I have enjoyed learning some history while following the Cahill children on their quest.  Once he finishes his assigned summer reading for school I'm sure we will start the next book in the series.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: United We Spy by Ally Carter

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls, #6)

United We Spy is the 6th and final book in the Gallagher Girls series.  The Circle members have been after Cammie for the majority of the series, but their identities and motive have always been a mystery.  Now they are on the verge of starting another world war, so time is running out.

The Gallagher Girls and Zach can't rely on the CIA, MI6, or any other government agencies because someone is leaking information to the Circle from the highest levels.  Fortunately, they have the unlimited resources of Macey McHenry's family.  Their private jet comes in handy on more than one occasion and Macey has a few other tricks up her sleeve.  With a genius like Liz on her team and some of the best trained spies in the world as her best friends, Cammie sets out to complete a mission that has been escalating for generations.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the conclusion of this series and my time at the Gallagher Academy.  From the castle like stone building to all of the secrets it contained, this was a very unique setting for an action packed and highly entertaining series.  With the girls graduating from high school and moving on with their careers, we can only hope their most dangerous mission is now behind them.