Saturday, November 28, 2015

Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

I read Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy for the Amazon Vine Program that I am part of. It is the second book in the Mary Handley series, the first being Second Street Station. If you have a chance I would read the first book in this series first as the second book builds a bit on the first book. However, Brooklyn on Fire is fine as a stand alone book. I liked the book and gave it 5 stars while I noticed others were not so thrilled with it. Is this book going to go down in history as a pivotal piece of literature? Hardly. Undoubtedly within 10-15 years people may no longer even care to read the book which happens with a majority of cozy mystery books. I do think that at times you might enjoy a book more than if you had set down to read it on a different day and time. I needed a book to relax with and get absorbed in so that I would forget some of the pain I was in. I did find it interesting to read all the historical portions and how life was lived in the 1890's. I hope you enjoy the book as well.
I’ve read many books, but it is rare to find one that jars my way of thinking in the very first paragraph. This book began with an old woman talking to her friends Vicky and Albert while thinking on her life. As she reminisces she realizes that she is in her 7th decade at the age of 64. That might not mean much to some of you younger readers, but nearly a month ago I turned 60 and I never thought about the fact that I was in my 7th decade. In my mind that means you are in your 70’s and that does sound old.

Age aside, this was a rather interesting cozy mystery novel. The author took a chance that most authors don’t and that is including many historical figures in the story. And I’m not talking about someone obscure in history, but the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, and the Vanderbilts including Geoge Vanderbilt that built the Biltmore mansion in North Carolina. Even the main character in the book, Mary Handley, was a real person and worked at one time under the Chief of Police and helped bring a murderer to justice for which she earned a $1000 reward.

Needless to say this book this book was a bit different with a very different heroine for the era that she lived in. Women detectives have come a long way since the first one appeared on the scene and it is interesting to seeing authors lately that instead of having the sleuth working during the current era, they have gone back into history such as several WWII female sleuth novels and now this book goes even further back to 1890 where ‘Ladies’ apparently had weaker constitutions than they have now and all news and crime stories were kept from them as much as possible. So it is very interesting to see a book where they have no telephones or fancy cars to get around in. No internet to research from. Families that are embarrassed and shocked that their daughter would want to do so masculine a job and how would she ever get married if the eligible men found out what she was doing. But Mary Handley didn’t care about that. She was thrilled with her office that was located in a used book store and her 20 business cards that a friend had had made for her. Once the call came for her to help, she didn’t waste time and took no thought for herself physically to the point that in one scene she needed a blood transfusion. At that point only 50% of those getting them survived the process (no blood typing at the time). She also donated blood and when she later passed out for lack of fluids and food a doctor was about to do a ‘bloodletting’ procedure to help her when someone remembered she had donated some blood that day. Interesting thought, you pass out due to low fluid balance only to have a doctor try to fix the problem by cutting you and letting more blood out.

These item mentioned, not to spoil the book for you, but to let you know some of the interesting things about life over 100 years ago in the life of a young woman that was not following the normally mores of the time. And interesting book that is also a fairly quick read.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reynolds Oven Bags - Best Pork Roast I've had in Years!

When I signed up for the Amazon Vine program I assumed that I would only get books and at the beginning that is what I got. However I now get all sorts of products and my latest one was a box of Reynolds Oven Bags. Below is my Amazon review of the bags which I found to be great and gave them 5 stars.

I gave up trying to roast pork years ago since except for one roast, they all were dry and nearly impossible to chew. I got these bag in the mail right as I was about to go grocery shopping. So I read the instructions on how to use them and thinking I would try to make a roast using one I shoed up at the meat department and when I saw the prices of beef vs. pork, I decided I would give pork one more try. The only other time I had made a decent pork roast I had cooked it with a canned pineapple. So I decided to try this again except in the Oven Bag. Well I didn't realize I had no pineapple at home, but I did have all the other ingredients that I used when making sweet and sour sauce so I mixed that up and poured it into the bag with the pork. If I had it to do over, I would probably have marinated the meat in it enough ahead of time so all sides of the meat would have had the taste of the sauce. Following the instructions, I popped it in the oven and was totally surprised when I cut into the meat after letting it set for a few minutes. It was juicy. It was tender. It tasted good. It almost melted in your mouth. It was wonderful. I suspect we will be eating more pork (especially with it's lower price than beef currently). These bags truly made the difference as I had tried doing something similar with roast before long ago.

Here is what I did (for something like this I measure by eye, not by measuring cups):
~4# pork butt roast with bone it
~3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
~1/2 c. Apple Cider Vinegar
~1/2 c. Brown Sugar
Onion powder, garlic powder, red chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon flour
1 Reynolds Oven Bags (large size)
If I had one, I would have stirred in one can of crushed pineapple in it's own juice (not canning syrup)
I coated the inside of the bag with the flour as instructed on the box.

Inserted the roast in the bag and placed in a 13" x 9" glass pan.

Mixed the other ingredients in a bowl and then poured them in (next time I will let the roast have a soak on each side before putting it in the oven bag).

Stabbed 6 holes in the top of the oven bag as instructed on the box (this is why you need to coat the roast all over with the sauce before roasting as you won't be able to turn it over while cooking as the sauce would come out through the holes.

Placed in a pre-heat oven at 350 degrees using the convection setting for about 90 minutes until a thermometer registered 160 degrees at least.

Let rest for at least 5-10 minutes to let the internal juices stabilize. Carve and enjoy.

You may not like this recipe, but I hope you do. This is what I did and I enjoyed the roast very much, especially the pieces that were on the bottom that cooked in the sauce. Make a cooking sauce to please yourself or try cooking the roast with just salt and pepper and in the floured bag to see what happens.

While the price of these may seem high to some, at the price of meat these days, you waste money if your meat comes out dry and inedible. So try out these bags to reduce the possibility of that.