Showing posts with label Novel Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Novel Food. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Where the Forest Meets the Stars" by Glendy Vanderah, Served with a Recipe for Cheesy Cauliflower

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Where the Forest Meets the Stars, the debut novel by Glendy Vanderah. Accompanying my review is a bowl of very Cheesy Cauliflower, inspired by the book and the mysterious child, Ursa. 

Publisher's Blurb:

In this gorgeously stunning debut, a mysterious child teaches two strangers how to love and trust again.

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars.

Hardcover: 332 Pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 1, 2019)

My Review:

I signed up for this book based on the description and somewhat on the comparison to The Snow Child, a book that I want to read, but I confess, still sits on my Kindle--unread after several years. Although I can't speak to the comparison being accurate, I can tell you that I very much enjoyed Where the Forest Meets the Stars and that it is a beautifully written book that had me fully caught up in the story and characters and kept me turning the pages. 

Magical realism can be tough to write without it traveling over to the unbelievable, too much woo-woo side, and for me, Glendy Vanderah had a deft touch that had me truly wanting to believe that Ursa really comes from the stars, or at least has something magical about her. She is a special character, wise beyond her years, funny and engaging, and that makes it easy to imagine why a practical scientist would keep her hidden and why a hurting, reclusive neighbor would help her. I also liked Jo and Gabe and how they come together with Ursa, the trio forming bonds as each works through the hurts and damages that life has given them. The story had me smiling and tearing up in almost equal parts as Ursa looks for her five miracles--things that other people might overlook in the search for something bigger, but that a child (whether human or from another world), would see the beauty and magic in. Although I have not spent time in the rural areas of Southern Illinois, the author brings the settings with the rustic rented cottage, the forest and landscape surrounding it, and Jo's bird study sites to life beautifully. Where the Forest Meets the Stars is a special book, one that I found easy to curl up and get lost in, and one that I wanted to go back to after I finished, to spend more time with the characters. I can't wait to see what Glendy Vanerah writes next. 

If you would like to win a copy of Where the Forest Meets the Stars and you have a U.S. or Canada mailing address, head over to my Instagram account @DebinHawaii for a chance to win. 


Author Notes: Glendy Vanderah worked as an endangered bird specialist in Illinois before she became a writer. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in rural Florida with as many birds, butterflies, and wildflowers as she can lure to her land. Where the Forest Meets the Stars is her debut novel.

Connect with Glendy on her website or Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There was a lot of food in Where the Forest Meets the Stars, much of it cooked over the fire pit at the cabin, including marinated chicken breasts and vegetable skewers, turkey burgers, toasted marshmallows, grilled mahi basted with butter and vegetable skewers. There was also apple cider, oatmeal, tuna sandwiches, trail mix, fruit, blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs with "green stuff" (aka spinach and/or broccoli), apple pie, leftover beans, rice, and chicken, coffee, cereal, pancakes with syrup, orange juice, peach and strawberry-rhubarb pie made with farm stand fruit, potato salad from Jo's mother's recipe, burgers, pork chops, applesauce, and green beans, Raisin Bran cereal, wine, iced tea, milk and cookies, pizza, Necco rolls, turkey burgers with sweet potato fries, turkey and cheddar sandwiches, omelets with Gabe's eggs, roast chicken and packaged bread stuffing, leftover green beans and corn, beer, cheese and crackers, fried eggs, English muffins and orange slices, tomato soup, a chef's salad, dutch apple pie and vanilla ice cream, a spaghetti dinner, chili and cornbread, egg sandwiches, roast beef, and sandwiches and lemonade.

I thought about the toasted marshmallows that Ursa loved or a potato salad like Jo's mom's recipe, but decided instead on Cauliflower in Cheese Sauce because Gabe brings it over for a dinner with Ursa and Joe and I liked their exchange...

"Gabe brought leftover cauliflower in cheese sauce for dinner. 
'Not yuckyflower!' Ursa said. 'Jo made me eat it last night!' 
'This has gooey cheese on it,' he said, and gooey cheese makes anything, even dirt, taste delicious.'
'Can I eat dirt instead?'"

and later...

"'Wow, a clean plate,' Jo said to her. 'Even the cauliflower is gone.'
'The cheese made it okay.' she said. 'You should do that when you make yuckyflower.'
'Thanks,' Jo told Gabe. 'You've set the bar way too high for my simplistic cooking skills.'"

Between Ursa's yuckyflower comments and the fact that my friend was talking about a keto-friendy cheese sauce she made that was giving me serious cheese sauce cravings, I picked it as my book-inspired dish. I like cauliflower already, but enough gooey cheese sauce (and I put plenty of the sauce recipe below on my steamed cauliflower) would make it palatable for a child or anyone who found it "yucky." 

Easy (Keto-Friendly) Cheese Sauce
by my friend Barb
(Makes About 2 1/2 Cups)

2 Tbsp salted butter
4 oz cream cheese, cut into chunks
milk, up to 1 cup
shredded cheddar cheese, up to two cups
(I added 1 tsp ground yellow mustard)
a few dashes of Tabasco, to taste, optional 
salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted into the butter. 

Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the milk, turn heat to medium low and add about 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, stirring until melted and smooth. At this point, you can play with the consistency of your sauce, adding more milk and/or cheese as needed, until you get a smooth, creamy, pour-able sauce. Turn the heat to low whisk in the yellow mustard and Tabasco, if using, and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired.

Serve warm, with vegetables, eggs, or whatever you like. (I confess, I steamed a head of cauliflower cut into florets and just stirred it into my cheese sauce, but you can be more judicious and just drizzle or pour it over over.)
Notes/Results: OK, this cheese sauce, especially when you are lazy and use it all on a small head of cauliflower, isn't going to win low calorie or low fat health awards, but it is delicious. I'm not doing a keto or low-carb diet, but I appreciate a cheese sauce that is thick and creamy without having to use flour or cornstarch and bother with making a roux. I gobbled up a bowl for dinner the first night I made it and I have been enjoying the remainder-reheated with eggs on top and as a side dish for fish. I will happily make it again.

I'm linking up this review and recipe to Novel Food #35, hosted by my friend Simona of briciole, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word. The deadline for this round is Tuesday, March 26

I'm also 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 "Where the Forest Meets the Stars" 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, June 29, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Lost Vintage" by Ann Mah, Served with Recipe for Citron Pressé (Fresh Lemonade)

It's Friday and it's been another crazy week. I needed at least a bookish trip to the vineyards of Burgundy, France so I am happy to be a stop today on the TLC Book Tour for the new novel, The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah. Accompanying my review is (a better day-drink for me than wine) an icy cold glass of Citron Pressé, or as we know it here, fresh lemonade.

Publisher's Blurb:

Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turning novel about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy and unexpectedly uncovers a lost diary, an unknown relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since World War II.

To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife, Heather, who now oversee day-to-day management of the grapes. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love.

At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousin clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation.

As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

Hardcover: 384 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow (June 19, 2018)

My Review:

As you may know if you read this blog and my reviews, historical fiction, especially World War II historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. When you add a wine and food element to that, you get a book that hits all of my buttons and The Lost Vintage is that book. It takes historical fiction adds a foodie element and tells it, fairly seamlessly, within two stories or timelines--present day and the 1940s. In the present day we have Kate, a sommelier studying for her third and final attempt at the Master of Wine examination. On the advice of her mentor she heads to her family's vineyard in Burgundy to stay with her cousin Nico and his wife Heather (Kate's best friend from college), help with the upcoming harvest, and meet with local wine experts to improve her knowledge of the local grapes and wine. Kate and Heather start a huge project clearing out the basement filled with decades of their family's castaway items and Kate discovers a secret room with a collection of valuable wine and WWII French resistance pamphlets. Kate's family's reticence to talk about the past have she and Heather investigating and uncovering family secrets, including the existence of a young girl who would have been her Great-Aunt Helene and the fact that there are six bottles of an expensive 'lost vintage' that are missing from the secret room's cache of valuable wine. The second story is told through Helene's journal and covers the 1940s, right before the war starts and before the Nazis invade France, with Helene about to graduate high school and attend university to study chemistry. The war prevents Helene from escaping her life with her cold stepmother and she must stay home to care for her young stepbrothers. Back in the present, in addition to studying for her exam and trying to discover whether Helene and her family were collaborators with the Nazis or aiding the resistance, Kate contends with being being around her first love, Jean-Luc, Nico's friend and a neighboring winemaker (who seems to be well over Kate), as well as a possible romance with Walker, an American in the Côte-d'Or to do a 'stage' with Jean-Luc while studying for his Master Sommelier exam.  

I really enjoyed Ann Mah's storytelling and her vivid descriptions of the scenery, food and life in Burgundy in the 1940s and present day. Both the stories, and Kate and Helene were interesting and I found myself happy settling into each time period. As I've mentioned in previous reviews, I like WWII historicals that show me a new perspective, make me think, and have me Googling more information, facts, and details. I was very interested in this look at the French in the countryside, the resistance and the collaborators and I learned some interesting information. This is the first book of Mah's I've read--although I do happen to have her first novel, Kitchen Chinese, loaded on my Kindle and I will make it a point to get to it sooner now that I've experienced the quality of her writing. If you love historicals, WWII novels, books set in beautiful France, novels with a food/wine slant, dual timelines, family drama, romance  and secrets, definitely add The Lost Vintage to your summer reading list.


Author Notes: Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler,,, Washingtonian magazine, and other media outlets.
Find out more about Ann at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Food Inspiration: 

As Ann Mah is a food and travel writer, it is only natural that along with the wine, the food is plentiful in this novel--primarily French foods, although we get a bit of American food, "Thaitalian" fusion (made me chuckle) and Mexican food thrown in. I took two pages of food notes but here is just some of what was mentioned: Courgette (restaurant name), toast with cherry jam and yogurt, margaritas and tequila, lemonade, tea and shortbread, charcuterie, cheese and crudites, dark chocolate stuffed into a baguette, pork sausages, brownies, Comte and various French cheeses, pate, honey, pot-au-feu (beef stew), buttered tartine, roast pig, lentil salad, apple tarts, blanquette de veau (veal ragout), tapenade, pear frangipani tart, jam and pickles, avocado toast, quatre cake (French pound cake), rosemary lamb chops. vegetable terrine, potatoes and tripe stew, boeuf bourguignon, potted meat, calf's foot jelly, eggs, chicken vol-au-vents, individual beef Wellingtons and various appetizers, chocolate eclairs and raspberry tarts, sardines, poached eggs in meurette sauce, snails in garlic-parsley butter, steak frites, salad with sauteed chicken livers, Crème Brûlée, spaghetti, porridge, Lapsang souchong tea, Thaitalian artichoke lemongrass carpaccio and green papaya carbonara, a super-vegetarian taco, burrito, pasta with broccoli, garlic and chile, chilled crab and shaved white asparagus, and veal stew.

It's been the kind of week where I needed something simple and I needed to not be eating bread, desserts, and chocolate, so I went for lemonade as my book-inspired dish as it was mentioned a few times. I looked for traditional Citron Pressé (French lemonade) recipes, but then I saw Ina Garten's Fresh Lemonade recipe and liked the fact that it was whirled up with ice in my blender--quick, cold and refreshing--so that's what I did. Sometimes fast and simple is just what we need.

Fresh Lemonade
By Ina Garten via Barefoot Contessa at
(Yield 1 1/2 Quarts)

1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (5 to 6 lemons)
1/2 to 3/4 cup superfine sugar (I used the lesser amount)
1 cup crushed ice
4 cups very cold water

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth. Serve over ice. 

Notes/Results: A very refreshing and tasty lemonade. I used the lower amount of the sugar and a bit more of the ice-to-water ration and liked that it retained a delicious tartness, I think the blender is perfect for both pulverizing the ice and mixing in the sugar so it will be my lemonade-making tool from now on. I will make this again. (Maybe I'll add vodka the next time!) ;-) 

Linking up this Ina Garten recipe to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is Potluck week. Any recipe by our current or past IHCC chefs. 

I am sharing this book and food pairing with Novel Foods #33, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Thursday, March 23rd.

I'm also 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 Lost Vintage" 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.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hanna Who Fell from the Sky" by Christopher Meades, Served with a Recipe for (Non-Dairy) Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream (+ A Book Giveaway!)

I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, a new novel by Christopher Meades. I'm pairing my book review with a recipe for vegan Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream--perfect if it's humid and warm and not at all fall-like where you live too. There's also a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

From highly acclaimed, award-winning author Christopher Meades comes a magical, provocative tale of forbidden love and one girl’s struggle for liberation 

Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.

But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret—one that could grant Hanna the freedom she’s known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she’s ever known? Or is there another option—one too fantastical to believe?

With lush, evocative prose, Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world—and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Park Row Books (September 26, 2017)

My Review:

Hanna Who Fell from the Sky drew me in with its subject matter--a young girl who has spent her life in a polygamous sect, who is about to turn eighteen and will be the fifth wife of her father's friend who is more than twice her age. I am fascinated by cults and Hanna's community of Clearhaven has all of the markings of one. The families are all polygamists, the community is remote, insulated and lead by Brother Paul, a prophet who "The Creator" speaks to/through. Young girls are married off to much older men, and young men are winnowed out and sent away in order to make the numbers work for the older men to have multiple wives. There are nineteen in Hanna's family and she's the eldest and the caretaker of her siblings--especially her younger sister who has a twisted spine. Hanna is a great character--smart, strong, beautiful, and loving so the "creep" factor is pretty high with all men in the community who would like to have her as one of their wives. When her Brother Paul blessed pairing is announced ten days before the wedding will take place, Hanna is resigned to her fate and role but then she meets Daniel, nineteen, and back in the Clearhaven community with his family, and she begins to question what she has been led to believe.

The book is unique as it's not just a coming-of-age story, but it has a strong core of magical realism woven in. I like magical realism, unless it gets to be too much "woo-woo" and I have mixed feelings about it here. In much of the book it seemed more of a background element--part of a story or secret about Hanna's past and with the author's  descriptive writing, I felt that it enhanced the storytelling and made the book different and special. Towards the end of the book, it leaned more into the woo-woo side and I felt it overtook the story briefly and thus took away a bit from it. Still, I was very much into Hanna's fate and that of the other characters, and the book kept me absorbed in finding out what would happen. Just know that if you aren't a fan of magical realism, you may struggle with it at times here. Christopher Meades's notes at the end of the book tell the tale of how he took a short story he created on a whim and then years later slowly re-wrote it after suffering a traumatic brain injury and three years of terrible concussion symptoms. He spent an hour a day (all he could bear) reworking the novella into this book and feels that Hanna's story helped him stay sane and get well again. His afterward touched me much like Hanna Who Fell from the Sky did and I look forward to reading more from him. 

(If you have a U.S. mailing address, stop enter for a chance to win a copy of this book at the end of the post.)


Author Notes: Christopher Meades is the author of three previous novels, including The Last Hiccup, which won the 2013 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction. In addition, Meades’s work has appeared in several literary journals including The Potomac Review and The Fiddlehead. He lives in British Columbia, Canada, with his family.

Connect with Christopher via his website, Facebook & Twitter 


Food Inspiration:

Hanna's family is quite poor so there is not a lot of great food inspiration in Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, but there is food and drink mentioned including  moonshine, stew, barley and string beans, a birthday cake that was more like pumpkin bread or a date loaf with frosting, the smell of tea leaves and oranges, a salad made of spinach, strawberries, almonds, and cucumbers, wild berries, homemade wine from grapes, sandwiches, orange juice, bread rolls and fruit, a soup/stew of tomatoes and lentils, sweet bread and the town marketplace that's full of fruit, vegetables, spices and grains. There were meat shanks, taffy, oats, honey, homemade puddings and yogurt, roast, turkey, juice, tea and an assortment of cookies after church, porridge, ice pops, cabbage, bread, milk, a bakery window full of pastries and cakes and a restaurant dinner with chicken in sauce, assorted green vegetables, and potato triangles with herbs. 

Since most of the food was basic and usually lacking for a large family of nineteen, I decided to go with the ice cream that Hanna and her mother Kara have at the village marketplace since it is a treat they rarely get. In the scene, Kara chooses vanilla with toffee flakes and Hanna picks strawberry--both in a cup. I decided to make a strawberry ice cream, going with a vegan recipe I had pinned from The Kitchn that is made with coconut milk and has strawberry sauce streamed in as it is processing in the ice cream maker. I don't usually add corn starch to my vegan ice creams (or in my homemade ice creams in general) but since it is supposed to make it creamier, I wanted to give it a try. 

I kept the recipe pretty much as written--other than adding vanilla paste instead of a vanilla bean and at the recipe author's suggestion, saving out some of the fresh strawberry sauce to swirl in once the ice cream is finished, right before freezing to make it more vibrant.  

Vegan Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream
From The
(Serves 4)

2 (15-oz) cans full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup agave nectar or sweetener of choice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, split (I used vanilla paste)
1 pint (2 cups) strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup natural cane sugar 

Shake the cans of coconut milk thoroughly before opening to combine the liquid and solids.Reserve 1/2 cup of the coconut milk and set it aside. Combine the remaining coconut milk, agave, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat until all of the ingredients are combined smoothly and the mixture is uniformly warmed, about 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the reserved 1/2 cup coconut milk with the cornstarch until smooth and well-combined. Stir it into the warm coconut milk base. Scrape the vanilla bean into the mixture and slip in the pod as well--or add vanilla extract or paste. Cook mixture over medium heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 6 to 8 minutes. Do not to allow the mixture to boil.

Remove mixture from the heat, discard the vanilla bean pod, and pour the coconut base into a separate bowl. Cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 to 5 hours as you need the base to be very cold before you process it in the ice cream machine.

While the base is cooling, make the strawberry sauce: Mash the quartered strawberries down in a medium saucepan and sprinkle in the sugar. Bring it to a low boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the berries start to lose their shape and become juicy. Remove berries from the heat, transfer to a bowl, and cool on the counter for 30 minutes. Once slightly cool, blend in a food processor or blender, or with an immersion blender, for just a few seconds until a thick sauce forms. Set aside or place in fridge to finish cooling.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, churn the coconut ice cream base in your ice cream machine. When it has thickened to a soft-serve ice cream consistency, slowly ladle all but about 1/4 cup of the strawberry sauce into the ice cream maker as it runs so the sauce gets incorporated into the ice cream base. Spread the ice cream into a large loaf pan, drizzle on the reserved strawberry sauce and swirl it into the ice cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and and freeze for a few hours (or overnight) until the ice cream has firmed up completely. Serve and enjoy!

Notes/Results:  Creamy and full of fresh strawberry flavor, this is a tasty strawberry ice cream. I will say that the coconut flavor does come through--which I like because I think it pairs well with the strawberries, but my coconut-hating brother would probably not like it at all. So be warned you likely can't sneak this one without someone figuring out it's coconut milk. Texture-wise it's a bit more dense than my normal dairy-free ice cream but there was not that much of a difference. I may try it without the cornstarch next time. I also need to work on my swirling technique and do it in between the layers of ice cream in the loaf pan instead of on top because when I scooped, my swirls ended up more inside the scoops than outside--so not as visually dynamic. I had about 2 1/2 cups of fresh strawberries so I kept some out of the ice cream and served it on top which I think looks pretty and it tasted great too. Very refreshing on a humid day, I would make this again.

I am sharing this book and food pairing with Novel Foods #31, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Thursday, March 23rd.

I'm also linking this post up to 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 "Hanna Who Fell From the Sky" 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.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of Hanna Who Fell From the Sky 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 your favorite flavor of ice cream or telling me why you'd like to win a copy of "Hanna Who Fell From the Sky."

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 Publisher Park Row Books/Harlequin Books (@HarlequinBooks)
and/or ChristopherMeades (@ChrisMeades). (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Friday, October 6th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Mermaid's Daughter" by Ann Claycomb, Served with a Recipe for Shrimp Salad Sandwiches

On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am happy to be reviewing the unique and magical novel, The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb. Accompanying my review is a recipe for a tasty Shrimp Salad Sandwich inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A modern-day expansion of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, this unforgettable debut novel weaves a spellbinding tale of magic and the power of love as a descendant of the original mermaid fights the terrible price of saving herself from a curse that has affected generations of women in her family.
Kathleen has always been dramatic. She suffers from the bizarre malady of experiencing stabbing pain in her feet. On her sixteenth birthday, she woke screaming from the sensation that her tongue had been cut out. No doctor can find a medical explanation for her pain, and even the most powerful drugs have proven useless. Only the touch of seawater can ease her pain, and just temporarily at that.
Now Kathleen is a twenty-five-year-old opera student in Boston and shows immense promise as a soprano. Her girlfriend Harry, a mezzo in the same program, worries endlessly about Kathleen’s phantom pain and obsession with the sea. Kathleen’s mother and grandmother both committed suicide as young women, and Harry worries they suffered from the same symptoms. When Kathleen suffers yet another dangerous breakdown, Harry convinces Kathleen to visit her hometown in Ireland to learn more about her family history.
In Ireland, they discover that the mystery—and the tragedy—of Kathleen’s family history is far older and stranger than they could have imagined.  Kathleen’s fate seems sealed, and the only way out is a terrible choice between a mermaid’s two sirens—the sea, and her lover. But both choices mean death…

Haunting and lyrical, The Mermaid’s Daughter asks—how far we will go for those we love? And can the transformative power of music overcome a magic that has prevailed for generations?
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 7, 2017)

My Review:

The Mermaid's Daughter is such a unique book that it is hard to explain and do it justice.  As mentioned in the blurb, it is a modern update of the fairy tale, The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It is as dark, actually probably even darker, than the fairy tale and set in the world of music and opera--giving it a different and interesting spin. The story is told by Kathleen, a young opera singer and student, her girlfriend Harry (Harriet) a fellow student in the music program, her father, Robin, a composer currently commissioned to turn The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne into an opera, and finally a chorus of witch-like voices who tell the dark stories of the generations of women in Kathleen's family. Kathleen suffers from pains in her feet and mouth and has been hospitalized multiple times for breakdowns with no medical explanation for her symptoms. Her family has a tragic history of the women committing suicide, usually in their early twenties, and Harry and Robin are determined that Kathleen not share their fate. This takes Kathleen and Harry to Ireland where they uncover the secrets behind the tragedies. In keeping with its operatic setting, the story is divided into three acts and the book includes an after story called The Mermaid at the Opera about Hans Christian Andersen and the origins of The Little Mermaid. Although I have enjoyed an opera or two, I wouldn't consider myself an opera lover, but this book had me wanting to listen to operas and fascinated about how they are composed and staged. I would definitely buy tickets to operas based on The Scarlet Letter or The Little Mermaid

I did struggle a bit in the beginning to find my rhythm with this book--the magical aspects combined with the dark fairy tale feel and the changing perspectives of the narrators--but once I did, I had a hard time putting it down and the 430-ish pages seemed to fly by. Kathleen is an interesting character and you can't help but feel for her pain and her uncertainty about it. The love that Harry has for her is strong and true and when combined with Robin's fatherly love, the lengths they go through to save Kathleen from herself are admirable. The elements of the fantastical about the story are crafted well--it's a fairy tale that had me caught up in the magic while believing in its plausibility. The Mermaid's Daughter is beautiful, otherworldly, dark, and imaginative. It is intense, sad but still hopeful, and I have a feeling I will be thinking about it for some time to come.


Author Notes: Ann Claycomb’s fiction has been published in American Short Fiction, Zahir, Fiction Weekly, Brevity, Hot Metal Bridge, The Evansville Review, Title Goes Here, and other publications. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University.


Food Inspiration:

There were some food mentions in The Mermaids Daughter, including: champagne (Veuve Clicquot), coffee, granola and cereal, sea salt caramels, seafood, a hamburger, steak salad, clam chowder, salad, fish and chips, a breakfast of melon, grainy Irish sausage, and toast, soup and brown bread with butter and honey, a dinner of shrimp with rice and a salad, a mention of spicy scallops with orange peel, breaded zucchini and and coconut fried shrimp, sea scallops, Turkish coffee, linguine, pad Thai, and orange gelato with chocolate sauce. 

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to go with Shrimp Salad from a meal Kathleen and Harry have on their last full day in Ireland. "The restaurant was as beautiful inside as out, all blond wood and sheer white curtains, no colors to distract from the food or the view. We ate celery root soup and shrimp salad on crusty white bread and drank a bottle of Riesling."

I decided to serve my shrimp salad as an open-faced sandwich on crusty baguette slices. I just did my own recipe, a take on a simple shrimp or lobster roll, with cooked shrimp, celery and green onions dressed with mayonnaise (in this case vegan mayo), lemon juice, Old Bay Seasoning, celery salt and black pepper. For some green color and texture, I added a layer of butter lettuce and thin slices of cucumber to my grilled baguette slice before piling on the shrimp salad. I served my sandwich with my favorite salt and pepper kettle chips. 

Shrimp Salad 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2)

1/2 lb cooked large shrimp, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 green onions--green parts only,  finely chopped
2 Tbsp mayonnaise of choice (I used Just Mayo vegan mayonnaise)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp celery salt
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl mix together all ingredients. Taste for seasoning adding freshly-ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt if needed. Chill and serve on lettuce leaves or on bread as a sandwich.
For Sandwich: 2 thick slices French bread, grilled,  green or butter lettuce leaves, thinly-sliced cucumbers. 

Notes/Results: Super simple but really delicious. The slight sweetness of the shrimp is complimented by the tangy lemon and the slight kick of the Old Bay Seasoning and celery salt and the vegan mayo isn't too heavy, allowing the shrimp and crunchy celery to shine throw. I wanted an open-faced sandwich and piled the shrimp salad on a thick slice of baguette for the photos. Next time, I would probably cut the baguette slices in half to make it a bit easier to eat. But, even a tad messy, it was well worth it--especially when served with the salt and pepper kettle chips. I enjoyed the leftover shrimp salad the next day for lunch, served on top of lettuce. I would happily make this again.  

I'm linking this post up to 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

I am also sharing it with Novel Foods #29, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Thursday, March 23rd.

Finally, I'm linking up this tasty sandwich to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup 
Note: A review copy of the "The Mermaid's Daughter" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins, and 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.