Showing posts with label Appetizers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Appetizers. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Summer of Sunshine and Margot" by Susan Mallery, Served with a Recipe for Sautéed Mushroom & Chive Bruschetta

I love a short work week. Tomorrow is July 4th and I took the day after off for a rare-for-me four-day weekend. I have a delightful summery new novel to kick it off with as today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery. Accompanying my review is a tasty and elegant little appetizer for a summer night party, Sautéed Mushroom & Chive Bruschetta, inspired by the book.

Publisher's Blurb: 

The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…
As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. 

Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?
Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.
Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!

Hard Cover 368 Pages
Publisher: HQN; Original Edition (June 11, 2019)

My Review:

Whether it be due to work stresses or the warmer summer weather, I find myself drawn more to lighter reads this time of year. I gravitate to books that help me relax, tell a good story, introduce me to likable characters and despite any drama, generally end on a happy note. Susan Mallery is a great author for this kind of book, and I have reviewed a few of her novels over the years including the recent, California Girls. 

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is like California Girls in that is about sisters, although there are two in this story. Margot is a somewhat buttoned up etiquette coach who has made the mistake of loving and altering her life for one man, who just can’t seem to grow up. She is determined not to let him back in her life and is busy working with a new client, Bianca, an actress who has a reputation for unconventional behavior but is now set on marrying her true love, an ambassador who needs to keep his dignity to keep his job. The job requires her to move in with Bianca who is currently staying with her reclusive researcher son in a renovated monastery. Margot likes and is attracted to Alec and is worried about failing both him and Bianca. Sunshine is Margot’s fraternal twin and rather than putting all her eggs in one relationship basket, she has made a series of bad very choices in men, and though she loves children and being a nanny, she constantly leaves her positions to follow those bad choices. Sunshine is trying to change her life and working for a successful and widowed landscaper, caring for his young son Conner and has big plans to go back to school, get her degree and lead a better, more responsible life. Both she and Declan are tempted by each other, but don’t want to admit it and hurt Conner or each other. 

Although the sisters are very different in appearance, personality, and in how they approach life, both were deeply affected by their childhood and being raised by their great-grandmother as their grandmother left their mother and their mother left them. They are easy characters to like and to cheer on, as are the supporting characters, especially Conner, Sunshine’s young charge. Mallery writes with humor and heart and captures the bond between sisters well. There are no twists or surprises, but it is a satisfying story that is easy to curl up with and enjoy on the lanai or at the beach. The Summer of Sunshine and Margot is a good choice for your summer reading stack if you like women’s fiction, stories about sisters and family relationships, sometimes snarky humor, romance, and stories about personal growth and second chances.


Author Notes: #1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at

Connect with Susan on her website, Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

Susan Mallery's books always seem to have plenty of food mentions and there is even a recipe for a quick coq au vin in the back. Food mentions included: ice tea, lasagna roll-ups, salad, garlic knots and zucchini fries, champagne, chocolate, mixed berry pie, brownies, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, burger and a milkshake, a green drink of spinach, parsley, cucumber and kale with a little red apple tossed in for sweetness and a protein drink with almond milk, cacao, banana and vegan vanilla protein powder, martinis and margaritas, crab puffs, white and dark chocolate mousse in a pastry shell, cold avocado and cucumber soup, a chicken and pasta dish with cheese sauce, and a potato casserole. 

I decided to recreate one of the bruschetta appetizers that Margot and Alec put together for a small gathering:

"Margot stirred fresh chopped chives into softened cream cheese, then spread it on the bread and topped it with the mushroom mixture. Alec prepared the more traditional bruschetta, topping the bread with diced fresh tomatoes and feta."

I made mine a bit easier with a cream cheese spread with onions and chives, adding the fresh chives to the top. To punch up my somewhat ordinary cremini mushrooms, I used plenty of butter, thyme and some Trader Joe's Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend that a friend sent to me--a mix of kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper, mushroom powder, and mustard seed.

Sautéed Mushroom & Chive Bruschetta
Inspired by The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery
(Yields about Six Servings)

1 small sourdough baguette, sliced
olive oil
3 Tbsp butter

1 shallot, diced
2 to 3 sprigs worth of fresh time leaves
1 lb mushrooms of choice (I used cremini), chopped
2 tsp Trader Joe's Umami Seasoning or your favorite multi-purpose seasoning mix
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup Philadelphia Chive and Onion Cream Cheese Spread (or make your own)
chopped fresh chives to garnish

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. brush both sides of each bread slice lightly with olive oil. cook them in a single layer until warmed through and grill marks form. Set aside.

Heat butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and sauté for a few minutes. Add the thyme, mushrooms, Umami Seasoning, a dash of salt and pepper and sauté for about 10-12  minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms are tender and glossy. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. if mushrooms seem too dry, add a little more olive oil.

Spread each slice of grilled baguette with a layer of cream cheese spread and place a spoonful of mushrooms on top. Top with a sprinkle of fresh chives and serve warm. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: Such an easy and tasty little appetizer to make. I loved the cream cheese and chive spread with the rich and buttery warm seasoned mushrooms. They were definitely moreish and a nice change from the usual tomato bruschetta. they would be perfect with a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc. I will happily make them again.

Linking up my review with Simona at briciole for her Novel Meals #36 event, where culinary inspiration comes from published literary works. 

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Summer of Sunshine and Margot" was provided to me by the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 

You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Impossible Girl" by Lydia Kang, Served Up with a Recipe for Smoked Oyster Pâté {Plus a Book Giveaway!}

Happy Wednesday! Here's to getting over the hump of this week and sliding closer to the weekend. Today I am very excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for The Impossible Girl, the new historical mystery novel by Lydia Y. Kang. Accompanying my review is an easy recipe for a Smoked Oyster Pâté, inspired by the many oysters in the mid 19th-century New York City setting. There's also a Rafflecopter giveaway for an opportunity to win a copy of The Impossible Girl at the bottom of the post. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. 

As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 18, 2018)
Publication Date: September 18, 2018

My Review:

OK, to get it out of the way and get on to the book review ... I LOVE the cover of this book! The color, the design, the way it fits the slightly macabre mystery vibe--Lydia Kang has some very cool book covers. I am also fascinated by early medical practices and oddities and as in her previous historical thriller, A Beautiful Poison (reviewed here), the author makes good use of her medical degree and detailed research in The Impossible Girl. Cora Lee has a very big secret, she is the whispered about medical oddity, a girl born with two hearts--something that both physicians and side shows would pay a large amount of money to display. This makes Cora's job as ironic as it is unusual--she is the city's best and only female grave digger or ressurectionist, with her gang she digs up the bodies of wealthy, deceased New Yorkers with medical abnormalities, from a young woman with a four-inch tail and an unusually tall gentleman with "abnormally long limbs and fingers," to a woman with a neck tumor that has hair and teeth. Cora has a list of these potential finds and waits for word of their passings, but it seems like the bidders for these bodies are impatient as mysterious deaths are claiming Cora's list and rumors about the "impossible" two-hearted girl are growing. 

There is history, science, mystery and romance in The Impossible Girl. Cora is a great character and I happily followed her story, looking for clues as to who in Cora's circle might be betraying her. I had some parts figured out, but there were surprises and Lydia Kang had me fully engaged and entertained by Cora's world. Her research is detailed and her vivid descriptions and writing bring the history and certainly the science to life. If you like mysteries that lean to the dark side and explore both the underbelly and the higher societies of New York, and you don't mind a bit of murder, medical details, and creepy grave robbing thrown in, you will enjoy this one--it's a fun ride and a great book for a dark October night. (Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a copy for your shelves below!)


Author Notes: Lydia Kang is a physician and the author of A Beautiful Poison. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine. She currently lives in the Midwest with her family, where she continues to practice internal medicine. Visit her at

Connect with Lydia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Food Inspiration:

There is a lot of food in The Impossible Girl--a good portion of it oyster-related (see note below). Mentions included pork joint, pastries, flour, boiling soup, meat pies, pudding, blueberries and blackberries, coddled eggs, currant buns, moldy bread, a dinner of pork roast, boiled potatoes and flour biscuits, bread and cheese, peppermint candy, roast goose, roast beef, clam soup with extra bread and butter, mutton and taters, "fine Croton water" (The Old Croton Aqueduct was a large and complex water distribution system constructed for New York City between 1837 and 1842), malt liquor, brandy and German lager, cakes, raspberry cordial, coffee, a warm, sweet loaf speckled with raisins, and sweet buns, punch, baked eggs, tiny pies--both savory and sweet including oyster, egg and ham pies, treacle, cheese and crabapple jelly, beef tea (broth), jam, buttery gruel, gin, wine, baked eggs, tea, slices of roast ham and bread, apples, chicken, whiskey, rum, iced cake, and plain buns from the bakery. Oyster mentions from the various saloons included a plate of raw oysters and oysters fried, baked, stewed, roasted, stuffed in a fowl, oyster pie, and duck in oyster sauce, and a steaming plate of oysters, dotted with black pepper.

Sometimes a book calls for a certain dish or ingredient. In this case it was definitely oysters as their consumption at seedy oyster cellars and bars were a key setting in the book. Here's a fun article from the New York Times on the abundance and popularity of oysters in the mid 19th-century: City Lore: When the Oyster Was Their World by Mark Kurlansky. I knew I wanted my dish to center around oysters and since good, fresh or fresh-frozen oysters are not that easy to get reasonably here, I wanted to make something with canned oysters. Other criteria was it had to be fast-to-make and something I would eat (oysters and I are a bit tentative in our relationship--we hang out very occasionally if we must, but don't gravitate to each other). My mom used to make oyster stew, but it's just too humid for that and so I decided to forgo any historical accuracy of recipe and go for a more modern and easy dip. There were plenty of recipes to be found but I liked the sound and ingredient list of the Smoked Oyster Pâté recipe I found at Food52. I made two tiny changes--noted in red below.

Smoked Oyster Pâté 
Very Slightly Adapted from Waverly via
(Serves 4-6)

1 8 oz tub cream cheese
3 Tbsp milk (+ more if needed)
4 Tbsp green onions, finely chopped white and some green parts
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
2 tsp Tabasco sauce, or to taste (I used about 3 tsp)
(I added 1 tsp lemon juice, or to taste)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 (4 oz) can smoked oysters, drained and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, pour the cream cheese, milk, green onions, Worcestershire, Tabasco, garlic, and parsley. Stir to combine. If the mixture seems too thick, thin it with a teaspoon or two more milk. (It should be thick but everything should be evenly blended.) Fold in the oysters. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes/Results: I found this to be a tasty little spread. I realize that oysters are not everyone's 'thing' and if you detest them or can't eat them this is likely not the recipe to win you over but, if you are lukewarm or on the fence it could move you into the oyster appreciation camp. It's hard to argue with cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco and what they do with the smoky oysters. I did add extra Tabasco as well as a bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten things up and liked it it with the hint of lemon. The flavors on this one do get better after it sits, so make it ahead. Food52 recommends buttered and toasted baguette slices which would be nice but I also liked the crunch of the poppy seed & black pepper crackers and crisp cucumber.   

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Impossible Girl" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



The publisher is generously providing a copy of "The Impossible Girl" to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me a period of history you enjoy reading about OR a food you like that others don't AND/OR why you'd like to win a copy of "The Impossible Girl."

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii)
and/or author Lydia Kang (@LydiaYKang). (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Wednesday, October 3rd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Good Luck!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Between the Lies" by Cynthia A. Graham, Served with Fried Okra with Spicy Sriracha-Caper Sauce

It's Monday and for the first time in nine years I headed off to work at a 'regular' job. I've been freelancing as an HR and training consultant and working from home, clients' offices, and my satellite office in my neighborhood coffee shop, but I decided I wanted to work with a team again and work for a regular paycheck. I just took a position in training and development for a local company and I am excited about it, but I will miss the loss of freedom in scheduling and I know it will take some adjusting. Things, like book reviews and blog posts may not happen on time or as regularly, so please bear with me as I adjust. 

Speaking of book reviews, I am excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for Between the Lies by Cynthia A. Graham, the third book in the Hick Blackburn series, a historical mystery series set in Arkansas in 1954. Accompanying my review is some tasty Fried Okra with Spicy Sriracha-Caper Sauce, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

When the corrupt sheriff of Broken Creek, Arkansas detains a young black boy on charges of accidental homicide, his sister asks Hick Blackburn, Sheriff of Cherokee Crossing, to investigate. Hick is reluctant at first. Not only is Broken Creek out of his jurisdiction, but Hick and Sheriff Brewster have a history, and Hick knows Brewster won’t look kindly on his interference. But Hick quickly realizes the boy couldn’t have committed the crime. With the aid of a New York attorney trying to make a name for herself and a shy new deputy who knows the boy’s family, Hick uncovers a conspiracy that goes to the heart of local corruption, nepotism, and racism. But while Hick is working to free an innocent child in Broken Creek, his beloved Maggie, pregnant with their third child, faces challenges of her own back home. This time, will Hick’s dedication to justice extract too high a price?

Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Blank Slate Press (March 27, 2018)

My Review:

I am always amazed at the amount of story that Cynthia Graham fits into these short (220-ish pages) books, that satisfies but leaves me wanting more. Hick Blackburn is such a great character, a good, but not perfect man--sheriff, husband, father, friend, and WWII veteran, still troubled by the damages of war. Hick tries his best to do the right thing--even when it means sticking his nose into the policing going on in the next rural town when a corrupt sheriff (who Hick has dealt with before) is railroading a young black boy into a guilty plea for a murder he did not commit. I like Hick so much that I do want to knock the cigarettes he is constantly smoking out of his hands. ;-) The mystery in this third installment is as good as the first two books--there are twists and turns in the story and some tough issues--like racism, sexism, greed, and corruption that hit awfully close to today's headlines and had me shaking my head at how far we have not come. I did not love the ending and I won't say why for fear of spoilers--although there was enough foreshadowing that I had an idea what was coming and I so wanted to be wrong. I am interested to see what transpires in the next book and how it impacts the story and especially Hick's character. If you love good mysteries with well-drawn characters, southern-set books, and historical fiction and mysteries, do give this series a try and start with the first book, Beneath Still Waters (my review is here), you won't be disappointed.


Author Notes: Cynthia A. Graham was born in St. Louis, Missouri. As a child she spent every weekend and vacation in the cotton belt of Missouri where she grew to love the mystery and beauty of the stark, Delta Plain. Cynthia graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Missouri – St. Louis with a B.A. in English. She has won several awards for her short stories and has been published in a number of anthologies. Between the Lies follows the first two books in her historical mystery series featuring Sheriff Hick Blackburn, Beneath Still Water and Behind Every Door, which both won IPPY and MIPA awards.

Connect with Cynthia via her website or on Twitter


Food Inspiration:

These are short books that revolve around the solving of a crime so there isn't what I would call a lot of food in them. Still, I was able to find some food and beverage mentions including a chicken leg, oatmeal, pork and beans, barbecued pork, diner coffee, moonshine, fried eggs and bacon, watermelon, potatoes, iced tea, fried chicken, fried okra, a tomato juice-based hangover cure, pork chops, cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs and Cornflakes.

Since I don't eat meat or poultry, most of the food mentioned isn't something I wanted to make but the fried okra, served at a Sunday family dinner at Hick's was something I could get behind. I have made fried okra before (check out this vegan version here) but I didn't have any wheat flour and cornmeal in my pantry. I was going to buy some when I saw McCormick's Cajun Seafood Fry Mix that I have used before and it was cheaper and faster than restocking my pantry with items I don't use a lot. I added some Old Bay Seasoning and cayenne to the mix and dredged the okra pieces in beaten egg before frying them in canola oil until light brown and crispy. I did make the dipping sauce myself. It's not southern or traditional, but it is delicious.

Spicy Sriracha-Caper Sauce
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup mayonaise, yogurt or a combination of the two
1 1/2 Tbsp Sriracha, or to taste
1 Tbsp capers, drained + 2 tsp caper brine
1 tsp garlic powder (I use roasted garlic powder)
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning 
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Use as a dip for okra.

Notes/Results: I confess that I find okra's sliminess to be a bit off-putting but I do like it fried or pickled as both preparations temper the sliminess. This okra had a great blend of flavor and just enough heat with the cayenne and Old Bay I added to the fry mix. The dipping sauce adds both flavor and an extra kick that makes popping these little fried morsels a pleasure. I will happily make both the sauce and the okra again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Between the Lies" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Friday, August 10, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Daisy Children" by Sofia Grant, Served with a Recipe for (Addicting) Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs

It's Friday and if that isn't reason enough to be happy, I have a book review and a tasty appetizer/snack to share with you. I'm today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant. Accompanying my review is a recipe for some tasty Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs that were inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb: 

Inspired by true events, in Sofia Grant’s powerfully moving new novel a young woman peels back the layers of her family’s history, discovering a tragedy in the past that explains so much of the present. This unforgettable story is one of hope, healing, and the discovery of truth.

Sometimes the untold stories of the past are the ones we need to hear…

When Katie Garrett gets the unexpected news that she’s received an inheritance from the grandmother she hardly knew, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She flees Boston—and her increasingly estranged husband—and travels to rural Texas.

There, she’s greeted by her distant cousin Scarlett. Friendly, flamboyant, eternally optimistic, Scarlett couldn’t be more different from sensible Katie. And as they begin the task of sorting through their grandmother’s possessions, they discover letters and photographs that uncover the hidden truths about their shared history, and the long-forgotten tragedy of the New London school explosion of 1937 that binds them.

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 7, 2018)

My Review:

I had not heard of the the New London School explosion, the incident that sparked Sofia Grant to write this book and real life incident that occurred in 1937 when a gas leak caused an explosion in a school in New London, Texas where more than 295 children and teachers died. The explosion serves as a backdrop to The Daisy Children, told from primarily two points of view--Margaret Pierson, born after the explosion and one of the "Daisy Children" (a group of children conceived after their parents lost a child--or lost children--in the school explosion and assuaged their grief by having more children) and Katie Garrett, Margaret's granddaughter. Margaret's chapters start in 1948 and continue throughout her life and Katie's chapters are set in present day, after she learns Margaret has left her something in her will and ventures from Boston to Texas to find out about her inheritance. Katie is facing challenges in her personal life--trying to have a child, losing her job, and growing apart from her husband, Liam. Surprised at receiving something from a grandmother she met only once, Katie plans to find out what Margaret left her and then spend some time with her mother, Caroline. Instead, big bumps in her travel plans have her looking up a cousin she has never met on Facebook and Scarlett (sort of) comes to her rescue. Katie and Scarlett start building a family relationship while sorting the contents of Margaret's house and finding some long-buried family secrets. 

This is my first book by Sofia Grant, although her first novel The Dress in the Window is on my TBR list. I enjoyed how she wove a lessor known/remembered and tragic part of American history into a story about family--mother and daughters, secrets, drama, estrangement and relationships. Margaret has a contentious relationship with her mother, Caroline and then an even worse one with her daughter Georgina, (Katie's mom) and Georgina and Katie's relationship is often tense. Katie and Scarlett are likable, thankfully because Margaret, Caroline, and Georgina are mostly...not...although as the stories unfold, I gained some understanding and sympathy towards them. Imagine being Margaret and feeling like you will never be loved as much as the sister who was killed and that you replaced. In addition to the family drama there is some romance--which seemed a bit quick to me given the circumstances--but did have its charms. Although I preferred Katie and Scarlett as characters, Margaret's story and the story of the explosion and the aftermath were interesting and absorbing and kept me turning the pages--as well as had me searching online for more about the history of the tragic event. To lose so many people, especially children, in what is the deadliest school disaster in American history is unimaginable--but even though it is a key part of the book, it doesn't bring down the ultimately hopeful tone of The Daisy Children. I found the book enjoyable and engaging and if you like historical fiction, women's fiction, and books about family drama and secrets, you will likely enjoy it too.


Author Notes: Sofia Grant has the heart of a homemaker, the curiosity of a cat, and the keen eye of a scout. She works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.
Find out more about Sofia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Food Inspiration: 

There was a fair amount of food to be found in The Daisy Children including Thai food (mee krob--crisp noodles), sizzling rice soup, shortbread, bourbon, Gorgonzola mini quiches, shrimp, deviled eggs, onions rings, whiskey and mulled wine, potato salad, casserole, sheet cake, lemonade, sandwiches and cookies, chiffon cake, Texas Punch in a bottle, Starbucks, salad, a chicken sandwich, stew, orange blossom tea, a junk food assortment of Men's Health Nuts, Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Cheese and Peanut Butter Crackers, Lays Chips, and rainbow sherbet, Big Red Soda, iced tea, American cheese, apples, Cliff Bars and fried chicken, buttermilk cake, beans and cornbread, omelets, breakfast quesadillas of sausage and bacon and egg, chestnut dressing, roast, taffy apples, ribs and hamburgers, vodka, brisket, fish sticks and frozen mixed vegetables, Chicken Divan with Mornay sauce, ginger ale, Burmese food, beer, olives and Triscuits, gruel, a cocktail called a "Bend Over Shirley" (raspberry vodka, Sprite and Grenadine), bacon, lobster, a martini, pimento cheese sandwiches with the crusts not cut off, iced petits fours, broccoli and cheese quiches, a dish called Thrifty Tetrazzini, pimentos, chips, pizza, Sloppy Joes, salad and brownies, cinnamon rolls and fruit, and all you can eat crawdads.

For my book-inspired dish I thought about trying to create the Bend Over Shirley cocktail for fun, but instead I started thinking about the deviled eggs, mentioned as being popular at a party and pimento cheese (mentioned in sandwiches at another party). I didn't want sandwiches and started thinking about putting pimento cheese in deviled eggs. Apparently I am not the first as I Googled it and several recipes came up. I blended one from Good Housekeeping magazine with a pimento cheese recipe from Quick Fix Southern that is simple and I like to use it when I want pimento cheese for things like this and this and added a few of my own touches. I just made six eggs worth although I put the recipe for 12 eggs below.

Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs
Inspired by Good Housekeeping 
(Yields 12)

12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in half, length-wise, yolks removed
2 heaping tablespoons pimentos, drained well and coarsely chopped
1 green onion, white & green parts finely chopped (reserve some to garnish)
1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup mayonnaise or drained yogurt
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco, or to taste
1/4 tsp smoked paprika or Old Bay Seasoning + more to garnish
sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium mixing bowl, mash egg yolks and add pimentos, green onion, cheese,  mayonnaise, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and paprika and gently mix together. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. 

Spoon into egg whites and garnish with a little green onion and a sprinkling of smoked paprika or Old Bay seasoning. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: OK, pimento cheese is one of those guilty pleasure things that you think you should not like (cheese & mayo with pimento?!) but in practice is delicious and only gets better when it fills a deviled egg. I made a half batch of these which was probably a good thing because all I wanted to do was eat them. I think they would be easily addicting. I used a smoked sharp cheddar and that made them even better with the smoky edge. I am all for a classic deviled egg, but experimenting is fun--so if you like to shake up your deviled egg game too, definitely try these. I will happily make them  again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Daisy Children" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

  Happy Aloha Friday!

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Dead Girls" by Alice Bolin, Served with a Recipe for Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

Why do the shorter weeks with holidays in the middle usually seem like much longer weeks? It's a mystery--as is why I am pairing Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon with my review of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin. I'll attempt to explain how eggs fit with these essays that explore American pop culture by looking at our obsession with dead women on today's Aloha Friday TLC Book Tour stop. 

Publisher's Blurb:

In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.
Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.
Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture.

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 26, 2018)

My Review:

Dead Girls centers around essays about pop culture and books and the trope of how we as a culture, have a fascination with the female victim--the dead woman (or dead girl as is the current habit in book titles) and how so much of what we watch, read, and listen to focuses on the violence against young, often vulnerable women. Woven into mentions of everything from Twin Peaks to Brittney Spears are stories about Alice Bolin's own adolescence and young adulthood, particularly after her move to Los Angeles and Hollywood, the mecca of the dead girl. Bolin explores her family relationships, boyfriends, her best female friend, and the rotation of somewhat random roommates she lived with eking out a food service living in expensive LA. For me some essays worked better than others--I found many of them a fascinating look at popular culture through feminist glasses and wanted them to continue while a few felt bogged down and wandered about, and I pushed through those. Although many of Bolin's references lean to what was popular in the 1990s-2000s when she was coming of age, she also pulls in more obscure and older references--books and movies from the 1960s and 1970s, Joan Didion and the Swedish Martin Beck book series, and she also riffs on more recent fare like Law and Order, the Serial podcast, the Lisbeth Salander books, Gone Girl and True Detective--so there's probably something in here that any pop culture fan can respond too. Bolin is smart, witty, and often darkly humorous and although Dead Girls is a bit of a mixed bag, it is an impressive non-fiction debut that I enjoyed and made me feel just a little bit smarter after reading. ;-) Take it to your favorite indie coffee shop and settle in with it and your brew of choice.


Author Notes: Alice Bolin’s nonfiction has appeared in many publications including ELLE, the Awl, the LA Review of Books, Salon, VICE’s Broadly, The Paris Review Daily, and The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis.

Find out more about Alice at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.


Food Inspiration: 

There's not a lot of good food in Dead Girls, although there is an essay that focuses on food obsession. Food mentions did include things like a plate of chicken (sadly, used to describe how a male comedian looked at a female rapper), pizza delivery, a raspberry bramble, grilled cheese and tomato soup, junk food, Thai noodles, sarsaparilla, expensive sandwiches, In-and-Out, roasted marshmallows, hot sauce-flavored potato chips, white wine, spaghetti, canned ravioli, Starbucks, peanut butter, peaches, a side of broccoli at a steakhouse, jars of preserved fruits and vegetables, "six dried apricots cut in quarters and mixed with a half cup of plain yogurt," angel food bundt cake with strawberries and sauce, Ginger Snaps (the movie but it could also be the cookie), a tea party, breakfast, Bud Lite with lime, the best Oaxacan food, Intelligentsia coffee beans, Pad Thai, a burrito, Diet Coke, chocolate and cookies, flash frozen ice cream, kimchi and pickles, chicken strips, root beer and dumplings.

So why deviled eggs? I like to tell you it's a because of the eggs symbolism of life, birth and fertility, immortality--womanhood and all that that fits into the feminist vibe of the book. Truthfully, the list of food mentions are either things I don't eat, junk food, gluten and excess carbs that I am currently avoiding, or things I just don't like. I had a busy week and had one book review post already and I was planning on making these eggs for I Heart Cooking Clubs--so I combined them with my review in one post. But, let's pretend it was because of the whole egg-feminist symbolism thing, OK? ;-)

Regardless of the whys, these are pretty yummy deviled eggs from Eric Ripert, made with a bit of luxury with the crème fraiche (spoiler alert--I used some Tofutti vegan sour cream I had on hand) and smoked salmon.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Slightly Adapted by Eric Ripert via
(Serves 4)

6 eggs
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp crème fraiche (I subbed in vegan sour cream)
2 oz smoked salmon, diced
1 Tbsp sliced chives
cayenne pepper (I used Aleppo pepper)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, cut in half
smoked paprika to garnish (I added a few capers to garnish & and a bit of extra smoked salmon & chive)

Place the eggs in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let the eggs sit, covered for 12-15 minutes; drain the hot water and run cold water over the boiled eggs until cool.

Peel the eggs and cut each egg in half lengthwise. Gently remove the yolks from the center into a small mixing bowl. Set aside the egg white halves.

Add the mustard, crème fraiche, shallot, smoked salmon and chives to the egg yolks and stir to combine. Season to taste with cayenne, salt, pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Spoon the mixture back into the egg whites. Garnish with paprika.

Notes/Results: I am a deviled egg lover (Seriously, invite me to a party and if there are deviled eggs I will hover obnoxiously over the platter...) and a smoked salmon fan and I adore the two together. These have the perfect amount of flavor--nothing overpowers and they have a good, silky texture. Rather than stand over a tray of these eggs at a party, I would carry it to the couch and snarl at anyone who tried to take one. (There go my invites!) I would happily make them again.

Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is From the Starter Menu, Eric Ripert recipes for appetizers and small plates.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Dead Girls" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.