Six Months of Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Since about June, I’ve been reading (almost exclusively) crime fiction from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark with occasional forays into Iceland, Holland, and surrounds.

In the last month, I’ve been taking a break, reading a few things for book club, some non fiction, some British novels. Then today at the library, this:


I have a list of authors I’d been working on for a friend, and I saw many of my new favorites on the display…and some new names, too! Today will be photos, tomorrow I’ll post the first part of that list.

You probably recognize Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell (best known for his Detective Wallander). My dad’s been reading Jo Nesbo…and some of the books I’ve been reading aren’t here. Hopefully, they’re currently being read and enjoyed by others.

I’ll close with a quote from one of my favorites:

“Scandinavian crime fiction has become a great success all across the world and rightfully so. Sjowall and Wahloo ushered in a whole generation of Swedish crime writers, many of whom are now available in English.”~Camilla Läckberg

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Pizza & a Movie & a Spelling Bee

For the past several years we’ve been doing family “pizza & a movie night” on Fridays. Sometimes we make our own pizza, sometimes it’s frozen, sometimes we order out…and sometimes it’s Chinese food or a burger instead. It can be a challenge to find a film that appeals to parents & kids, boys & girls, but tonight we watched a real winner:

Akeelah and the Bee

akeelah.jpgNot only does it have a stellar cast and a positive story, it’s also really gripping. We were all sitting on the edge of our seats at the end. The story line isn’t groundbreaking, but we loved the movie!

We found it through the site I often check for recommendations for our movie nights, It’s great for movie lists (best of lists including sleepover movies, football movies, change the world movies, anime, magic, anything), and they also review movies that are in the theater, games, and some books (although that part of the website isn’t as comprehensive). They include an age recommended by their reviewer, as well as the average age recommended by adult reviewers and kid reviewers.

Common Sense Media gave it 4 out of 5 stars for ages 8 and up.


I’ll close with a quote by Marianne Williamson that features prominently in the film:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

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Soup, Glorious Soup

Another delicious recipe from Soup for Syria: Roasted Beet Soup.

This was a challenge because Tim hates “beetroot.” My father actually hates beets, too, so I don’t remember ever having them as a child. I do remember feeding my younger sister pureed beet baby food (do they still make beet baby food? and liver?), but I thought beets for grownups were always pickled and disgusting.



Then when I was all grown-up–married and a homeowner and living in Albuquerque–I thought it was time to see what beets were all about. I wrapped some in foil and roasted them…and they tasted just like sweet summer corn. Since then I’ve made them from time to time (usually when Tim was out of town). The kids have had them as a side dish and diced on pasta, but this was their first beet soup as well. The flavor was similar to the pasta I make with onion and garlic and thyme and we added a dollop of plain yogurt.



Tim said, “Good soup. What it is?” which was high praise from man who loves neither soup nor beets. And I’ve saved the greens for my lunch tomorrow.



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Cheap, Easy, & Delicious

I thought Mark Bittman was a genius when I started cooking from his book, How to Cook Everything. I thought he was a visionary when I read VB8. And then I read the recipe that changed my life:

1 brown paper lunchbag + 3 T popcorn + microwave 3-4 min (listen for 2 second gap between popping) note: there is no oil, no butter, no cooking spray, no additives, nothing. And compare the cost of one brown paper bag and a handful of popcorn kernels to a single bag of prepackaged “microwave” popcorn).


Add your favorite flavors: good olive oil & salt, smoked paprika, cinnamon & brown sugar, whatever.


Toss and serve (or consume). YUM!


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I understand that the longer we live in Virginia, the less exciting we’ll find every little snowflake, but as of today we were still thrilled that snow was falling…and for quite a while.


It was my favorite kind of snow, the kind that looks pretty in the sky, but doesn’t accumulate on the ground. We did get out to walk the dog and drive to the library, but the best part of the day was definitely sitting and writing and reading this:


Not only was it an enjoyable mystery with archaeology, England, academics, real danger, and police…it’s also the first of a series! I’m starting the second one tonight.

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Chicken Soup for the World

When a virus finally catches up with you and leaves you achy  (and grumpy and dopey and sleepy and sneezy and less pleasant dwarves), chicken soup seems to be the answer around the world.

Tonight we made Chicken Soup with Freekeh (also called Ferik or frika). The recipe was contributed by Iman Sabbagh, the owner of Tayebat Iman, a small bakery in Lebanon. We found it in a book given to me by my mother for Christmas, Soup for Syria.


Order your copy here

Not only is it a fabulous cookbook containing recipes from some of my favorites–Mark Bittman, Alice Waters, Claudia Roden, Anthony Bourdain, and more–but it also contains gorgeous photos of Syrian refugees from the Bekaa Valley…and the book raises funds for help deliver food to the refugees. In the spirit of full disclosure, only a couple recipes involve chicken, but we’ll visit some of the others later.

Here’s Tim’s bowl of Chicken Soup with Freekah…low on broth:


No vegetables? I did serve roasted carrots & broccoli on the side!

The recipe was simple enough, as I made stock yesterday. Freekeh (roasted green wheat) was a new ingredient for me, but Bob’s Red Mill has bags of an organic freekeh and I found them at our local health store. That plus chicken and an onion are really the only solid ingredients after your stock. The kids ate it, my husband (not a fan of soup) ate the freekeh and the chicken, and no one complained at all about the new grain! We have plenty left, so it will definitely make another appearance in soup, or as a side dish, or a breakfast cereal.





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Starting Things on a Saturday

Today was a good day to start things. We made our first sourdough starter. I used 1 c of rye flour and 1/2 c water to start, but then had doubts about whether or not our tap water is chlorinated. pause to google this

Turns out our tap water IS chlorinated, so I will remake that starter after this post…using distilled water. Fun fact: the same process that keeps icky things from growing in your tap water will keep the good yeast from growing in your sourdough starter (or so the internet tells me).

We also put the remains of last night’s chicken in the crockpot and are cooling the resulting stock now.


And, inspired by Michael Pollan’s Cooked we picked up some cabbage, apples, and daikon from the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market and have started our first fermentation project. Because we don’t have official sauerkraut jars, we’re using mason jars and weighting the whole thing down with beans or stones in “non-reactive material”…in our case, ziploc bags and smaller glass jars.

Of course the problem with all of these project is the delayed gratification. Thankfully, Jane decided to make John Besh’s Spice Cookies from My Family Table




8 minutes to bake is pretty close to instant gratification!


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