Recipes and google rich snippets

Bah!

I’ve been playing around with Google’s rich snippets for the past few days, and I have to say, I’m a little frustrated. Take the Sausage and Guinness casserole. It should be working without a hitch. but it isn’t. It doesn’t show up correctly in the google rich snippet testing tool.

It’s just annoying me now, as it says ‘you need at least two of these’, when I have more than 2 set. Bah I say!

Atlantis (Series) – Bob Mayer

[rating=4]

If you go looking for this book, you’ll see three author names. Not entirely sure why amazon did this, but the other two are pen names for Bob Mayer. Probably because I think he reissued them under his own name, rather than the original pen name he used.

Anyway, I got the entire series as ebooks, because, mostly, they were cheap, and good enough at the price to be worthwhile. Not sure if I’d have done it if they’d all been paper. I probably wouldn’t have even started. But with the first book being 70p, I felt I had little to lose in at least trying them. As it went, I chomped my way through the entire six novels over the course of about 4 days or so.

There’ll be a few minor spoilers in the next coupld of paragraphs, but nothing major. And yes, I’m grading the series as a whole at the rating above.

First off, there isn’t a great deal of character development. You’re not going to really know the characters. On the other hand, there are enough that it’s not so glaring. People fall into roles that seem suited for them, so it doesn’t matter that they’re relatively one-dimensional. (Warrior that fights, though he doesn’t want to. Spy/mastermind that keeps secrets by habit.) It works well enough that it kept my interest. There’s also a degree of ‘so what’s the next bad thing that’ll happen’. I guess that’s kind of inevitable when you have a series. Some manage it with a little more finesse however.

As you might expect of a book with this name (and by extension the series), there’s a lot of myths built into this. Atlantis. The Bermuda Triangle (and all the other weird triangle places), crystal skulls, time travel (kinda), psychics, inter-dimensional travel and so on. It could have been a horrible mess. It wasn’t. It was neatly blended together, with a dash of particle physics and string theory, to give a fairly consistent whole. If you’ve read many of my reviews, you’ll probably have noted that consistency is a big thing for me. I’ll forgive a fair amount, if it’s at least internally consistent.

Is it a wonder of modern literature? No. Is it worth the time to read? If you read one book a year, no. If you read several a week, yes, I’d say so. Give the first book a chance (as an eBook) and go from there.

Deadline – Mira Grant

I have one complaint. I have to wait till next year to know what happens next. Someone invent a time machine.

[rating=5]

This is the second book in the newsflesh series. The first, FEED, I reviewed a while back.

Now, I’m about to slap this behind a more tag. Because it has spoilers for the first book. As for the second, I’ll keep away from the major story points.Read More »

Rosemary and Rue – Seanan McGuire

[rating=5]

The first book I read by this author was Feed. Don’t let the name fool you, Mira Grant‘s a pen name for Seanan McGuire. In other new, woo! the second in the Newsflesh series comes out tomorrow!

Getting back on track, this is pretty classic urban fantasy, with the oddness hidden away from mortal eyes with a mix of trickery, magic, and good old fashioned common sense. That’s not to say I don’t like the style where it’s out in the open, like the Hollows series, by Kim Harrison; it’s just keeping it hidden is the more common choice.

In addition, we’re not dealing with more than one ‘type’ of supernatural. No twisted blend of mages, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons and fairies. It’s just the fairies, and their part human children (Changelings). Of course, that ‘just’ is a trifle misleading. The author has done more than cursory research here,  with many different distinct types of Fae, all brought together into a nice salad bowl of a society; In the eyes of the full blooded fae, the changelings tend to be the unappetizing limp bits at the bottom. She’s stuck with the Celtic myths, which keeps a degree of consistency, and thankfully avoids the Tinkerbell stereotype. If you have the word of a fae, you’re probably good. On the other hand, Bottom’s fate might await you.

Getting to the plot of the book, again, the tried and tested PI route has been taken. I’m not complaining, as it gives the story a degree of internal consistency, as the character has a reason to have a clue about being an investigator. Sticking to my spoiler philosophy of if it’s on the back of the book, it’s not a spoiler’, it’s a murder mystery. A high up fae’s dead, and it’s up to the main character, October ‘Toby’ Daye, to get to the bottom of it. Or die trying. And to reconnect with the Changeling life she rejected. Which is good, as it gives a good reason for things to be explained, without needing large info dumps.

I’m a fan. I’ll admit this now. The only reason I’ve not read my way through the entire series (yet) is that they’re not available as eBooks (at least in the UK). So I had to wait for delivery. There are, so far, three other books in the series, with more on the way. I’ve read three, and the fourth is waiting. I may or may not review them, but so far? Damn good. Classic Urban fantasy, with a strong female lead. If you like the Dresden files, you’ll probably like these. So give the first book a chance 🙂

Sausage and Guinness casserole

Sausage and Guinness casserole
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This is another recipe that stems from me having things I need to use up before they go out of date. I dislike wasting things, especially booze 😀 For a 3.5ltr slow cooker.
Ingredients
  • 16 Beef sausages. This is around 900g-1kg. I used beef and black pepper sausages.
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1kg small potatoes, peeled/scrubbed. I used a bag of Jersey Royals, as they were on special offer.
  • 2 large carrots. Peeled and chopped into batons or slices.
  • 3 sticks Celery.
  • 1ltr Guinness. I used 2 cans.
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • 3tbsp plain flour
  • 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Cook the sausages according to their instructions. Mine called for grilling for 16 minutes. While this is happening, you can move onto the rest.
  2. Put the Guinness into slow cooker to let the head dissipate. Stick it on high to preheat.
  3. Chop the onion. stick in the slow cooker. Or be lazy and use prechopped frozen onion. I'm lazy
  4. Peel or scrub the potatoes. Chop, if needed, into around 2 inch pieces. Stick into the slow cooker as you do so.
  5. Wash and chop the carrots. Stick in the slow cooker
  6. Wash and chop the celery. Stick in the slow cooker.
  7. Add the flour and the thyme to the slow cooker. Mix well. Avoid lumps of flour if you can.
  8. Add the Worcestershire sauce
  9. Once the sausages are done, stick in the slow cooker. Poke at it and add a little water if you need to, to make sure it's mostly covered. Make sure the potatoes are covered.
  10. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours
Notes
Baby new potatoes would do just as well, or a waxy potato that you've chopped up into similar sized pieces. You could substitute beef stock for half the Guinness. Run a peeler over the length of the celery to remove the strandy bits that get stuck in your teeth. If you want to make sure you don't get lumps of flour, get a little warm butter (not melted, but malleable), and rub the flour into it, before melting that into the liquid.

Sausage and guinness casserole

Sausage and Cider Casserole

Sausage and Cider Casserole
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A slow cooked dish, using up some sausages and some cider I had. Just needed to buy the apples.
Ingredients
  • Pork sausages - I used Lincolnshire sausages. 1 bag of frozen ones. about 600g or so.
  • 2 eating apples. I used pink ladies.
  • 500ml cider. I used a can of strongbow, as I had it to use up.
  • 1 onion. I used frozen chopped onion, because I'm lazy.
  • 1tsp thyme.
  • 1 tablespoon flour
Instructions
  1. Cook the sausages. I oven baked mine on a baking tray, for about 25 minutes, from frozen. Following the instructions that come with them is a good idea. Pan frying or grilling would also work. Oven baking was just easy
  2. While they're cooking, chop the onion, then stick it and the cider in the slow cooker, stuck on high. Don't just switch the slowcooker on with nothing in it.
  3. Peel then thinly slice the apple. I didn't core it or anything, just sliced it till the core was left, and binned that. dust the apple with the flour, then stick it in the slow cooker. mix it round.
  4. Add the thyme to the slow cooker as well.
  5. Once the sausages are done, transfer them to the slow cooker. if they're dripping fat, shake it mostly off before adding them. You don't want it swimming.
  6. Cook on high for 4 hours. Mostly, this is to break down the apple, and infuse the flavor into the sausages.
Notes
Serve with mashed potato, and something else. I used green beans, with a light coating of tomato and paprika. The beans didn't work out quite right, so I'm still honing that. I'd recommend getting a ricer for the potato, as it makes life a lot easier, with a smooth mash at the end. And means if you don't get all the potato cooked fully, the hard bits tend not to go through, so can be discarded. A little butter (salted) and a little pepper goes well with it, add the butter at the ricing stage, the pepper when you then mix it together with a spoon.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4

 

Honest Hearts

[rating=4]

Not the longest of DLC, but you’ll get a few hours of enjoyment out of it. And you can only complain so much, if, say, you ever go to the cinema. It’s not like it’s that expensive. Probably possible to blitz through it in under 4 hours. But that’s missing stuff. Like the story of the Father. Trust me. Go looking in the caves for hidden doors (Well, kinda hidden. behind brushwood).

 

Anyway, Honest Hearts, the continuing story of Joshua Graham, the Burned Man. This is, like Dead Money, a story driven DLC. While you can bumble round Zion National Park,  it’s not that large. You’re there for the story. It’s not like, say, Point Lookout. If you don’t know who the Burned Man is, go back and play through New Vegas again. Ask around at the Legion camp. This DLC is fairly linear, though most of the quests have a few ways through them. Probably fits an altruistic character better.

 

I can’t wait for the next installment. Thankfully, it looks like it’s not that far away.

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean 4

[rating=5]

As I said with my review of Fast 5, this isn’t a general rating. This is a rating within its genre. To put it in simple terms, if you liked the first film, you should like this one.

If you’ve not seen any of the preceding films, I guess you could watch it and still enjoy it. It doesn’t have too many dependencies. You won’t know any of the major films, and the compass will make no sense. Other than that, it’ll work. It doesn’t depend on the plot of any of the preceding films. Which is good, really. Thankfully, Sparrow’s , sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow’s ‘weirdness’ hasn’t been played up as much as it was in what I remember of the third film. He’s still a bit fey, but it’s not being played for laughs in the same way. Still, it’s a ham and cheese sandwich. But it works. The characters are meant to be larger than life, and that’s the way they’re being portrayed. McShane was really chewing the scenery. And it worked perfectly.

I saw it in 3D, at my local cinema. And to be fair to it, it was good. No headache, no bits that seemed out of focus. There were a few ‘stick something in your face’ moments, but they worked. Not like the yo-yo in Journey to the center of the earth. If you’ve seen the trailer, there’s a bit where a blade is stuck through a door. That’s in your face. Which is fine.

Slow cooked Pork and Cider stew

I thought I’d try something a little different, and this is the result. It owes its existence to a few recipes seen on the net, along with what ingredients I had to hand.

Slow cooked Pork and Cider stew
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 800g pork rib steak. Just about any pork should do, as long as it's not sausages 😉
  • 500ml of cider. For Americans, this is the alcoholic version. We don't call cloudy apple juice cider.
  • 1 cooking apple.
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour.
  • 1 300g tub of Philadelphia (it's a cream cheese). I used the light one with garlic and herbs.
  • ½ teaspoon of thyme
  • ½ teaspoon of english mustard powder. If you don't have it in powder form, I guess you could use the premixed one. Maybe a teaspoon full.
Instructions
  1. Pour the cider out into a jug. I was using a can, so handily pre-measured. Pouring it out is to release the gas in it. Stick the slow cooker on high to heat it up. stick a little cider in it, so it's not dry.
  2. Cut the pork into ½ inch wide strips, across the grain of the meat. Trim it if you want, but as you're slow cooking it, you really only want to get rid of gristle. Brown it off in a hot frying pan. You don't need to cook it completely, you're just looking to get the Maillard reaction. It'll improve the flavour. Once this is done, dump it in the slow cooker.
  3. Peel and core the apple. Then cut it up roughly and stick it in the slow cooker.
  4. Fry the onion in the same pan as you did the pork in. once it's gone soft, add the flour, mix round, then add the cider. Mix well. Add the philly. Mix well again. You don't want any significant lumps of cheese in there. Add the mustard and thyme. Stick the lot in the slow cooker, and mix well.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Mix well afterwards, as it won't look that good until after cooking. Mixing it will bend it all back together.
Notes
Serve with mashed potatoes, or whatever else you think it'd go with.

 

Review: Embedded – Dan Abnett

[rating=4]

While I know Dan Abnett’s work primarily through his Warhammer 40K novels, published through the Black Library (Other people might know him from 2000AD),  I found this one through Amazon’s  recommendation system. It’s nothing to do with Warhammer, so just put that from your mind.

Lex Falk is an award-winning  journalist, having gone from planet to planet, looking for a story. Now he’s on Eighty-Six, burnt out and just passing time.  An experimental procedure sticks him in the head of a soldier, just an embedded observer, along for the ride. When the shit hits the fan, and the soldier is injured, Falk has to take over, and get them out of there.

It’s a very careworn feeling universe, many of the characters either raging against what they see, or already smashed down, resigned to the way things are. It works well, not the grimdark of 40K, but a definite feeling of ‘one man can’t make a difference’. Once Falk’s in the soldier’s head, there’s a strong feeling of him being out of his depth, which is nice to see.

While it’s definitely military sci-fi, that aspect isn’t the primary one. The thriller aspect is. There’s something going on, where the character has to survive to discover the end of it.

 

It’s not what I was expecting, but I don’t regret buying it at all. I enjoyed it a lot.