Thursday, February 28, 2013

Baked Chicken Taquitos

My step-brother's wife made these a few weeks ago.  I had to force myself not to over-indulge in these delicious and flavorful rolls.  They are so much easier to make than they look.  I was pleasantly pleased, and I practically begged for the recipe.


  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened at room temp
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 package of dry Ranch dressing (do not be tempted to use the whole thing=too rich)
  • 1/4 cup buffalo sauce
  • 2 skinless/boneless breasts of chicken, cooked and shredded  
  • 6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumpled
  • 4 Tbsp green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 20 (6 inch) flour tortillas (do not be tempted to use corn tortillas=fall apart)

  1. Mix cream cheese, sour cream, dry Ranch dressing, and buffalo sauce.
  2. Add chicken, bacon, and green onions, and stir until well coated.
  3. Put 2 Tbsp of mixture onto bottom 1/3 of flour tortilla.
  4. Sprinkle cheeses on top.
  5. Roll tortilla and place seem side down on a lightly greased baking pan.
  6. Spray tops of tortillas with oil.
  7. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.
  8. Serve with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Plain Death

"A Plain Death" by Amanda Flower opens on a country road as Chloe Humphrey hauls her entire life in a rental trailer hitched behind her small car to what may seem like an even smaller town.  If it weren't for the job she were recently offered, she would never have caught herself on such a journey.  

Along the bumpy ride, Chloe spots a young girl being harassed by two men in a green pickup truck along the side of the road.  She did what any responsible person would do.  She rescued young Becky Troyer.  Little did she know that this simple, ex-Amish young girl would be the cause of an even bumpier ride.

Before Chloe knew it, she was thrown into the middle of more excitement Appleseed Creek had ever seen.  Becky began living with Chloe, which attracted more than just her handsome older brother, Timothy, who Chloe had more than once blushed over, but most unfortunately, Becky also attracted the entire town's attention when she killed Bishop Glick who just so happened to be the father of the man she was suppose to marry had she stayed in the Amish faith.  

At first, everyone thought it was an accident, but when police Chief Rose shined light that the brake line had been cut, the realization of murder hung in the air like a bad stench.  Chloe was determined to find out who sabotaged her vehicle and why, just as much as to help her new friend.  She dove head first into the mystery as an amateur sleuth to find the answers no one else seemed to be asking.  Was her brake line cut to hurt Chloe or Becky, and if it was to hurt Becky, how did they know she would be the one to drive the car that day when she doesn't even have a license.  Something else weighed on Chloe's mind, If everyone in Appleseed Creek knew everyone and all their little secrets, how come no one was coming forward about other crime in the area that might have been linked to Bishop Glick's murder?  Chloe was going to uncover the truth even if she had to question every single person in Appleseed Creek including the resistant Amish who seemed to know more than they were letting on.

Usually I am very fond of books written about a world not open to outsiders: the world of the Amish.  The Amish have always fascinated me.  I don't particularly know why.  It could be a mixture of many things: their closeness to each other, their secrecy, their simple ways of life that teach a person to be patient, kind, understanding, and to stop and smell the roses after an honest and long day of useful work....  What ever the reason, I enjoy slipping easily into the pages of a book that involve the Amish.  I feel that for a brief moment, I have been given permission to slide past their rules and into the heart of their lives to uncover a little bit more of who they are.  

Amanda Flower's "A Plain Death" does a great job of engaging the reader.  I fell in love right away with her characters whether it was the courageous Chloe, the naive Becky, or the strong and handsome Timothy.  I enjoyed reading through their moments of friendship, love, and struggles. 

However, as much as I loved the characters and the story as a whole, I was disappointed with the ending.  I was able to forgive the grammatical errors, but it was the story losing steam that deflated my spirits.  It seemed just as the story was getting to the climax of uncovering the true antagonist-- Amanda Flower either realized the story was taking too long, or perhaps her agent told her to eliminate some of her word count--the ending cut short.  The finalization happened much too quickly.  I was hoping for a little more of suspense.  Don't get me wrong.  This book was good, which is why I gave it four stars.  Personally, however, I would have preferred a little bit more UMPH to the ending.

I received this book courtesy of Netgalley and B&H Publishing Group.  In no way has my review of this book been influenced by either of these companies.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Key Lime Cupcakes

For a party, I was asked if I would make Trishia Yearwood's Key Lime Cake into cupcakes.  I made some alterations to her recipe and thought they were a hit!  The alterations are listed below in the recipe (mainly the glaze and slightly with the icing), but you are able to search the net for the original recipe for her Key Lime Cake that was featured in her "Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood."

Cupcakes (makes 36)
  • 3 ounce box of lime gelatin
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup oil (IMHO I think that is too much though I still use it--I might try only 3/4 cup next time)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (best way to obtain this is to squeeze over a mini-strainer to avoid seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Either grease and flour muffin tins or line with cupcake liners.
  3. Mix dry ingredients.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  5. Bake 15 minutes.  (For sheet cake, 35-40 min.; For 3 round 9inch pans, 20-30 min.)
  6. Pour glaze over cupcakes immediately after removing from oven.  Glaze recipe is below.
     Ingredients (This is where Trisha and I definitely differ)
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (zest first and then put through a good juicer)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. I zested each of the limes (3) and saved the zest for sprinkling over the iced cupcakes.
  2. Put the 3 limes into a good quality juicer to get as much juice from it as possible.  It should equal 1/2 cup.
  3. Mix the lime juice with 2 cups of powdered sugar to make a glaze.
  4. WHILE THE CUPCAKES ARE STILL HOT, pour a little bit of glaze on top to allow it to soak down into the cake.
  5. Be careful to reserve between 1/4-1/2 cups of glaze to add to icing.
     Ingredients  (here I add some lime glaze for a slight bite to mellow the sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter at room temp
  • 8 oz box of cream cheese at room temp
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) of powdered sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of the reserved lime glaze
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until well blended.
  2. Slowly add powdered sugar and lime glaze until well mixed.
  3. Pipe the icing on top of cupcake and sprinkle lime zest on top for added decoration.


Mary Beth Keane paints the portrait of Mary Mallon in an amazing, heart-wrenching story that delivers her life and struggles in a graceful flow of words that will captivate your very soul and open your eyes to another side of this negatively plagued "Typhoid Mary," as she was called.  

Mary Mallon was a brave young woman when she left her home in Ireland to seek a new life in America.  New York was far from what she imagined.  It was filthy with horse manure, trash, and the stench of decay, but she was determined to make something of herself.  She started out as a laundress, but when the house cook became ill, she was given the opportunity to prove her cooking skills.  She did so with such ease because it was her passion to cook.  Mary enjoyed that cooking also furthered her advancement and pay more than the position of laundress ever would.  

From the first bite, she won the palates of many.  However, her reputation of creating wonderful food wasn't the only thing following her from one job to the next.  People around her began to contract typhoid fever; some even met their fate.  To Mary, it was simply an unfortunate coincidence--after all not all became ill, but to Dr. Soper, a "sanitary engineer," it was a medical fascination.  

Dr. Soper was determined to study Mary because she was the first asymptomatic carrier, and she was unknowingly inflicting those who ate her food.  After many failed attempts to talk with Mary and convince her to allow him to remove one of her organs he felt was creating the typhoid bacilli, he resorted to obtaining her by force.  Mary was transported to a hospital, unable to contact her friends or her boyfriend, Alfred Briehof, a German immigrant and alcoholic whom Mary had chosen to live with despite the scrutiny of others.   Still not receiving cooperation from Mary, the Department of Health quarantined her on North Brother Island from 1907-1910.   

During her time in quarantine, she yearned not only for her freedom but to be with Alfred.  Through all the uncomfortable tests and embarrassing samples she was required to give, she continued to plead for her release, stating she was healthy and had harmed no one.  

Her only companion on the island was John Cane who was the groundskeeper.  If not for him, the hope of seeing Alfred again, and the belief her lawyer, O'Neill would get her off the island, she might not have been such a strong woman through the ordeal.  

Upon her release, she learned her time on the island had come with a cost; her two passions were taken from her.  Alfred was hers no more, and she was to swear off cooking for anyone ever again.  She was thrust back into the dirty streets of New York with no money, living in a boardinghouse, and working yet again as a laundress.  Her spirit was nearly broken.

A chain of historical events continued to unfold shortly thereafter: the Triangle Waist Company tragedy; the Titanic; even the less known woes between Mary and Alfred.  Just when life started to seem as if were settling down--Mary and Alfred were living together again and Mary was offered a good paying job as a cook at the Maternity Ward in a hospital--the life of Mary Mallon would come to a sudden halt.  She was cooking again.  People began to get sick.  

In one clean sweep Mary realized she could actually be the cause of the fever, Alfred died of drug abuse, and she was taken again by Dr. Soper to North Brother Island.  She didn't put up a fight this time, not even when she was taken before properly burying Alfred.  

It was at North Brother that Mary served out the remaining twenty-three years of her life.  Though she died in 1938, her legacy of spreading typhoid fever lives on.  Mary Beth Keane's book Fever allows Mary Mallon to live beyond the whispers, judgment, and news headlines.  She looks beyond the fever to the story of a woman and pens her beautifully.

I received this book courtesy of NetGalley, but in no way has my judgment of this book been influenced.  My opinions are that of my own.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dragons in Our Midst? Bring on the Dragon Adventure!

Every now and then I find a book that my children and I can enjoy and share together.  We discuss our likes, our dislikes, and whether the book left us wanting more.  Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis is one of those books that left us wanting more.  It is an action-packed, nail-biting adventure for all ages.   

Billy Bannister was an average teenage boy, or so he thought.  His life begins to turn upside down when he has strange dreams and symptoms of scalding hot air coming from his lips.  The kids at school gave him a name, "Dragon breath," and it was closer to the truth than any would have imagined.  

When Billy accidentally sets off the fire systems at school and gets suspended, he sneaks into his own home to avoid being caught by his parents.  In doing so, he overhears their conversation that explains everything.  In one clean swoop of eavesdropping, he learns his dad is a real dragon cloaked in human skin.  That would make Billy half dragon!  He instantly feels betrayed, wondering why his father has kept such an important detail about his life from him all these years.  

If that wasn't enough information to take in, Billy learns he isn't the only child of a dragon, the secret of who they are is out, and a band of dragon slayers is after them.  The leader of the dragon slayers is evil in the worst way and will do anything necessary to achieve his goals.  Can Billy, his dad, and others survive the wrath of the slayers?  And in the heat of it all, can Billy learn to trust again?

From the very opening, I was thrown into the world of mystery, dragons, and Arthurian tales. The book kept me captivated until the very end.  Davis does it with such ease by allowing the story to continue its flow and yet still allowing for those "AHA" moments when a clue or detail is pulled to light from earlier in the reading in order to further the plot. 

The book was a fantastic read for all ages, and the best news is that the story doesn't have to end with the last page.  There are three more books in the series, Dragons in Our Midst.  The Dragon Adventure can continue.

I received this book courtesy of NetGalley, but in no way has that altered or influenced my opinions of this book.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate-Covered Baloney: Confessions of April Grace

I don't know about you, but I miss the 80s.  I miss the simple nature of not having everything at my fingertips.  Today, with the internet, cellphones, texting, emails, Google searches, nothing is left to the imagination.  I covet the days of waiting excitedly for the phone to ring and having to guess who the caller was on the other end before hearing their voice.  I miss using my imagination to figure something out or waiting to visit the library in order to rummage through the encyclopedias for information.  

One day I was writing letters to friends or family in another state, and the next, I was facebook messaging them.  What happened?  Everything changed, and it seemed to happen overnight.

I'm not a huge fan of change, and neither is April Grace Reilly, a sixth-grader from Cedar Ridge.  
April Grace's life turned upside down in such a short time, and it all started with a simple warning in church.   It was almost as if the sermon Pastor Ross gave that Sunday morning in 1987 was meant specifically for April Grace and her family.  He simply said, "Things are gonna change." (pg 1)  And boy, oh boy, things surely did change!

Simple things occurred at first.  Isabel, the Reilly's uppity neighbor from California became April Grace's gym teacher.  Isabel wasn't just any ole gym teacher; she was teaching them dance the Proper Way.  

Then, April Grace's sister, Myra Sue starts acting very sneaky.  For a dumb fourteen year old, Myra Sue was acting more dumb than usual according to April Grace.  She became suddenly interested in the mail and homework, which April Grace highly suspected was just a cover-up for something else.  After all, Myra Sue never did her homework and was too accustomed to making Cs to start studying now.  Even more peculiar, Myra Sue became overly fascinated in the phone--way more fascinated than her average teenage, soap opera-loving self.

Still trying to figure out what Myra Sue is hiding, another stick is thrown in the road when a long-lost relative suddenly appears.  April Grace has reached her limit of change, but the boulder won't stop.  What was Myra Sue hiding?  Who is this relative, and Why is this person in her home, her life, expecting to be part of the family when they haven't been before?

Problems of change come in all sizes, but the biggest comes towards the end.  I won't spoil it for you (you have to read it for yourself), but the Reilly family as a whole learns to listen and forgive right smack in the middle of a crisis.  Most of all, April Grace learns to treasure her sister, Myra Sue, and that sometimes, being a big-fat tattletale is the right thing to do.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book.  Katherine McCrite's Chocolate-Covered Baloney: Confessions of April Grace took me back to the time of phone cords being stretched as far as they'd reach for privacy, solving problems without the internet, and entertainment of days long ago.  This book is perfect for a young girl of today who needs a different perspective (after all the 80s are back in style).  It is also for us adults who as a child of the 80s can relive those moments all over again.  

Change isn't easy.  I can say I wish some things were still the same as they were in the 80s...except BIG HAIR.  That is one thing that definitely needed to change!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”