Food from the last week:
Lasagna soup. One of my absolute favorite recipes. I use beef stock, a full small can of tomato paste (recipe calls for 2 Tbl), regular diced tomatoes, and chicken Italian sausage (often combined with a pound of ground turkey), and I mix the shredded mozzarella in with the ricotta and other goodness to make the cheesy yum for the bottom, but none of my changes matter because you can't mess up this soup and it is DELICIOUS. So, so hearty and satisfying and good. Go make it. The cheesy goodness at the bottom makes my soul happy.
Chicken noodle soup. Traditional classic and the first thing I made when our downpour began. I minimize the celery, maximize the carrot, use chicken breasts in lieu of a whole chicken because bones scare me, and sometimes make a roux to add in at the end if I'm craving something a little thicker and creamier, but almost any standard chicken soup will do. Thursday night seemed to call for crackers and cheese on the side, but we often to a big loaf of crusty bread or grilled cheese sandwiches. James needs a lot of carbs.
Spaghetti sauce in crock pot. New discovery! Super delicious. The recipe calls for you to cook the noodles in the crockpot too, but the risk of coming home to find them turned to mush seemed to high and I wouldn't have been able to bear it. I used 2 jars of Trader Joe's tomato and basil sauce, the pound of ground beef browned with onions and garlic, 4 oz. cream cheese, with the second can of spaghetti sauce on top. It all came together way better than it had any business tasting and this will be a go to recipe when we want something heartier than our usual tomato cream sauce but lighter than my mom's awesome but work/flavor intensive meat sauce.
Quinoa Enchilada Bake. A forever favorite, I change up this recipe too (no adobe chiles, double the tomato sauce, add chili powder, double the black beans, omit the green chilies; why do I even pretend I'm following these as written?), but I don't think you can go wrong. We serve it with tortilla chips and diced tomato and avocado on top. The whole family loves it.
I have other soups and stews that I love, but I'm always looking for more! Hearty, crock-pottable recipes preferred, but there's not much soup-related I don't enjoy.
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And now to the important part, new books!
As I mentioned a time or three, I finally followed my friend's recommendation and downloaded the first Kate Daniels book by Ilona Andrews and O.M.G. I read 8 books in 12 days. I didn't sleep. I didn't go to barre. I was addicted and I LOVED it. I've read tons of paranormal romance, but urban fantasy is a new genre for me. Kate is one of the best heroines I've ever read- emotionally strong, physically capable, super skilled (and not just because she was born special, but because she trained her ass off), but also kind and human. I love her. She is proof you can have a character who is not whiny or full of constant and seemingly baseless self-doubt (ahem, Rachel Morgan in the Holllows) or just annoying inner monologues that go on forever, retread the same ground, and lead to no action at all ever (MACAYLA LANE, Fever series)
Anyway, the Kate Daniels series is incredible (though admittedly the first book starts off a little hard to read and remains my least favorite in the whole series; just keep going, trust me) and I need 10,000% more of it. I saw on the authors' website that two more books are under contract and I need them to come out right now. But in the meantime, I'm looking for more.
First, here are my recs:
The Tranche of Excellence:
Kresley Cole- my gold standard. Love all of her books and I start reading anything new of hers at midnight when it comes out.
- Immortals After Dark: paranormal romance. LOVE. We're on book 14 or so and they continue to be awesome and fun and all the storylines are beautifully woven together.
- Game Maker series: Book 1 (The Professional) was full erotica and it was good (apparetly she wrote it forever ago but didn't think she could release it until 50 Shades of Grey came out and her publisher encouraged her to), but Book 2 (The Master) added in more of her awesome storytelling and I ADORED it. I think I've re-read it a dozen times. Looking forward to book 3.
- The Arcana Chronicles: Young adult fiction. LOVE SO MUCH. Books 1-3 are out and I have a countdown in my phone until book 4. Apparently book 1 just got optioned to be a movie. Love, love, love this series and its novelty (it involves teens who are the living Major Arcana from the Tarot cards) and characters.
- MacCarrick Brothers Trilogy: one of her earlier works and the books that started me down my "download everything Kresley Cole writes" path. I still re-read these books all the time.
Larissa Ione- Demonica & Lords of Deliverance. Gold standard #2. Start with her Demonica series, but her spin-off Lords of Deliverance books are even better. She ended up writing about 9 of those and they are all SO good. Dark, but sexy and funny and action packed. I think she's finished the series up fully now and I'm very sad about it.
- Moonbound Clan series- a new one for her, totally separate from Demonica, but honestly not as good. I'll still read them all, but they're a step below (to be fair, I'm not sure how you'd go a step above).
Ilona Andrews- Kate Daniels series. My first addition to my upper echelon of authors in about 5 years. It gives me hope there's more out there I could love as much that I haven't discovered yet.
The Tranche of the Very Good:
Patricia Briggs- Mercy Thompson series. A reader recommended these after I glowed about Kate Daniels and they are quite good. Mercy is great, the stories are great, and I recommend them all. I do wish they spent a little more time with Adam (and with Mercy & Adam), but that's more of a comment than a criticism.
Karen Marie Moning- Fever series. Also very good. Her world building is simply amazing and her characters are so intriguing I will read anything she writes instantly even though I can't stand Mac (female lead) about 50% of the time. Mac spends A LOT of time in her head telling you stories about the old south that have literally no relevance in modern day fae-infested Dublin and even more time making grand statements in her mind that very rarely result in any actual action on her part. But it doesn't matter, the fever world is so good I'm looking forward to Feverborn's release in January more than anything else on my to be released countdowns.
Kim Harrison- The Hollows series. Frequently recommended and highly rated on Amazon, I enjoyed the first several books very much, but ultimately got too annoyed with Rachel's constant self-doubt (she spent like 7 books kicking ass and then the last book whining about how she's dragging down her boyfriend and doesn't deserve him and ohmygod you saved the world like a million times, you're pretty great) and Ivy's moodiness (I never understood why I was supposed to care about her at all).
Jeaniene Frost- Nighthuntress (Cat and Bones) series. LOVE these. The last book was my least favorite, but the first few are wonderful. They're a great couple and Cat is one of my favorite heroines. The spin-off books are also great.
Darynda Jones- Charley Davidson series. LOVED the first few of these, then got annoyed as the Charley character, who started out super smart and quirky but awesome, seemed to devolve into just being annoying and super quirky. I'll read the last one when the library has it for free.
I googled around last night and found two more series people who liked Kate Daniels recommended (Street Magic/Black London by Caitlin Kittredge and Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep), so let me know if you've read them and I'd love to hear about more!