Heart Goes Last, Descendants

Here’s two books for you:

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings:  I loved this book!  Sad, but also extremely witty and funny.  I’ve watched half the movie and it so far looks like they sucked all the humor out and left just a tragic story.  So, don’t judge this one by the movie.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood:  Very perverse!  I felt like perhaps I was missing the larger point, but I mostly enjoyed the book.  It got pretty weird in places and would lose me now and then.

51dAy9OrUIL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Fortunes have changed for the King family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. Matthew King’s daughters—Scottie, a feisty ten-year-old, and Alex, a seventeen-year-old recovering drug addict—are out of control, and their charismatic, thrill-seeking mother, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident. She will soon be taken off life support. As Matt gathers his wife’s friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation is made worse by the sudden discovery that there’s one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair. Forced to examine what they owe not only to the living but to the dead, Matt, Scottie, and Alex take to the road to find Joanie’s lover, on a memorable journey that leads to unforeseen humor, growth, and profound revelations






UnknownStan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.

     At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.


Chipotle Chicken Soup with Corn Muffins

The recipe is actually for a chipotle chicken tortilla soup but I ditched the tortilla component and made my favorite Bob’s Red Mill Corn Muffins instead.  Oh and I also skipped over the whole first part of the recipe where you make your stock and cook a big chicken in a pot.   Granted, that’s the  most flavorful way to go, but honestly trying to deal with degreasing the result of a big chicken boiled in a pot is too much for me.    I used boxed chicken stock and a shredded rotisserie chicken and it turned out fine.  It’s a great main course recipe as it is pretty hearty : chicken, brown rice, sweet potato, and black beans are in each serving, plus I serve it up with plenty of diced avocado on top.   Warning!  If you haven’t cooked with chipotle chilis in adobo sauce before, they are very spicy.   We have a high tolerance for spice here at sophiachow, but Helen did say it was a bit much for her.  The husband was fine with it as I was.  Squeeze plenty of lime juice before serving to cool it down, that’s my advice.


Simple Indian and Flatbreads

One of my favorite quick, easy and reasonably healthy weeknight meals is to use an Indian sauce as a base to whip up a veggie laden vindaloo or tikka masala.  Here’s my method:

Sauté a thinly sliced onion with a sliced chicken breast.  Once the chicken starts to brown, add a couple of peeled and diced (small dice) carrots.  Cook for a few minutes.  Add your jar of simmer sauce.   Cook until the carrots/chicken are cooked through (10 min or so).  Add about 1/3 bag of frozen peas and a container of baby spinach (if the sauce is too thick add some water).   Once the spinach is wilted and peas are cooked (2 min), it’s ready to eat!   Serve with whole wheat flat breads or rice.


Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

Here’s how to make my version of spaghetti squash chow mien:

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half, roasted at 400 for about 40 min and shredded

1/2 rotisserie chicken removed from bone

1/2 bag broccoli slaw

1/2 bag shredded carrots


1/3 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons honey

3 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 inch of ginger shredded


Heat pan on high, add sauce, cook for 30 seconds.  Add broccoli slaw and carrots.  Cook for 2 min.  Remove and toss with spaghetti squash and chicken.  Eat and feel super healthy!



One of the highlights for me when I travel to Washington DC is to take a nice long walk by the White House, making sure to loop by all the various memorials, and maybe even sneak off to a museum for an hour.  I also have a cousin in the area I’d love to work in a visit to.  Unfortunately, none of the above happened during this trip – it was work work work with really no down time.   I didn’t get outside but did manage a 6AM workout in the world’s tiniest hotel gym on Tuesday morning.  It was packed, so I had to take some weights and wedge myself in a corner between the utility door and the water cooler.   The gym was all men except me and one other female.  She was in front of a mirror doing all kinds of boxing moves.  I was so impressed!   I am way too inhibited to launch myself into a whole shadow boxing routine in front of people I know, let alone a random assortment of DC men.   Maybe because I don’t actually have a clue how to box, but still.   Anyhoo, she was a bit of an inspiration and I’ll try to channel her next time I’m feeling self conscious.

In addition to gaining a sort of new role model,  I did get some fabulous meals – yesterday’s lunch was a sweet potato grilled cheese with goat cheese, kale pesto, caramelized onions and smoked gouda at Lincoln.  Can I tell you how superior this was to my usual lunch of freezer delight?   What a treat!   Back to cooking tonight though, and definitely back to healthy eating….

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Tabard Inn and Westin

Once again, I’m in Washington DC for work.  Even though my day started with a 4AM wake up to make a 7AM flight followed by meetings starting as soon as I stepped out of the taxi at 9:45AM straight through dinner which ended at 8PM, I’m OK with it because:

  1. The meetings were positive and productive
  2. I didn’t have to cook dinner and instead someone cooked me a scrumptious grilled trout at a funky colonial tavern , The Tabard Inn
  3. I now get to lounge in solitary splendor in a reasonably swanky room at the Westin City Center.

I love you, Washington DC.



Recipe Challenge # 2: Barley with Walnuts and Bacon

I was surprised Helen voted to make barley with walnuts and bacon for our next Food & Wine recipe challenge.  I think the bacon component was her focal point as she is rather ambivalent about barley.  Personally, I love barley and will happily tackle any barley related recipe.

But, guess what.  This one was a bit of a dud.   A little too greasy with the bacon component, not terribly flavorful and after we were halfway through with dinner, we realized we forgot to add the walnuts in at the end.  Oops.  ‘m sure this sort of thing happens all the time at Le Cirque.

Barley was served with seared salmon and roasted squash.