Showing posts with label asian food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label asian food. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "How We Disappeared" by Jing-Jing Lee, Served with a Recipe for Stir-Fried Choy Sum with Garlic Sauce and Rice with Radish

It's Wednesday and the week is sliding into the home stretch and the weekend and I couldn't be more ready. I am also happy to be today's TLC Book Tour stop for How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee, a compelling World War II historical novel that is haunting and beautiful. Accompanying my review is a simple recipe for Stir-Fried Choy Sum with Garlic Sauce and Steamed Rice with Radish.
 


Publisher's Blurb: 

A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel set in World War II Singapore about a woman who survived the Japanese occupation and a man who thought he had lost everything—for fans of Pachinko and We Were the Lucky Ones.

Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only two survivors and one tiny child.
 
In a neighboring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is strapped into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel where she is forced into sexual slavery as a “comfort woman.” After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced still haunts her.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is sitting beside his ailing grandmother when he overhears a mumbled confession. He sets out to discover the truth, wherever it might lead, setting in motion a chain of events he never could have foreseen.

Weaving together two time lines and two very big secrets, this stunning debut opens a window on a little-known period of history, revealing the strength and bravery shown by numerous women in the face of terrible cruelty. Drawing in part on her family’s experiences, Jing-Jing Lee has crafted a profoundly moving, unforgettable novel about human resilience, the bonds of family and the courage it takes to confront the past.

Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publisher: Hanover Square Press; Original edition (May 7, 2019)


My Review: 

I will say that I was disappointed when How We Disappeared arrived. I was caught up by the incredibly gorgeous tropical cover and thinking of how great it would look in pics, that when the more plain black ARC arrived I was a bit sad. What I wasn't disappointed in however, was the incredibly moving and beautiful story I found within its pages. I have read several books, fiction and non-fiction about the so-called "comfort women" of the WWII era--young women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military in brothels. It is a disturbing subject and one that isn't easy to read or think about, but I try to read historical fiction from different perspectives and viewpoints and I think these women's voices are incredibly powerful and important. Author Jing-Jing Lee has incorporated some of her own family's history and experience in Singapore during WWII for the novel and has written a compelling story that while hard to classify as an enjoyable read, is certainly an engrossing one. 

The book alternates from the voices of Wang Di, a young village woman who is taken from her family and forced into sexual slavery for nearly three years during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, and Kevin, a twelve-year-old boy, living in Singapore with his parents and grandmother. Wang Di tells of the war years as well as Singapore in 2000 where Kevin's story is also set. It isn't completely clear in the beginning how these two lives will intersect but the pieces come together well and I found myself equally caught up in their stories. I liked the way Lee wove the stories, setting and times together and how the disappearing in the title applied to both characters, how they felt about themselves and how others failed to see them. I finished the book a few days ago and can't stop thinking about it and our contrasting human powers for cruelty and kindness, despair and resilience, overwhelming fear and incredible strength and courage. If you need an easy, breezy book, How We Disappeared is not it, but it is a well-written story that will touch you with its poignancy.

-----

Author Notes: Jing-Jing Lee is the author of the novel, If I Could Tell You. Her poems have been published in Ceriph, Poetry Quarterly, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Moving Words 2011: A Poetry Anthology. Jing moved to Europe in her early 20s and started to pursue writing full-time. In 2011, she gained a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. She now lives in Amsterdam with her husband and is working on her second book of fiction. When she’s not working on her novel-in-progress or reading (or taking photographs), she can be found here and on twitter.

Connect with Jing-Jing on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

-----

Food Inspiration:

There was so much food in How We Disappeared, even with the wartime years, when supplies were meager and the fare simpler, there was no shortage or food inspiration. I had a couple of pages of notes that included egg, water spinach, biscuits, congee--(several mentions with different toppings and additions to this simple rice gruel), pork with salted cabbage and peppercorns, chicken rice, coffee, mangosteens, roast duck and chicken, soup stock with fishcake, raw stuffed okra, silky tofu and straw mushrooms, sweet dumplings and cakes, noodle stalls, Oolong tea, boiled rice in banana leaf, fried shrimp, pickled mustard greens, tapioca, banana, chicken wings in coconut milk with freshly ground curry, root vegetables (cassava and potato,tapioca) home-pickled vegetables, curry, mangoes, silky soybean curd, cups of hot Milo, white bread with margarine and jam, a twist of radish omelet, pandas cake, oyster omelet, soft-boiled egg, pork dumplings, sweet potatoes leaves stir0fried with chili paste, sweet potato porridge, various kinds of kueh (dessert pastries, cakes usually made from gulitnous rice),  salted fish, vegetable soup, tangerines,char su rice with no cucumbers and extra chili, peanut and pigs tail soup, lotus root soup, stir-fried greens, and chocolate Hiro cake.


For my book inspired dish, I thought about making my favorite hawker dish of Singapore street noodles, and considered congee--although I made it fairly recently for a post and didn't want to repeat it. Finally I decided on something very simple--lunch that Kevin's mom left him of white rice, stir-fried choy sum, and three pieces of luncheon meet. (I left off the luncheon meat of course). ;-) I had wanted to stir-fry some water spinach (ong choy here) as it starts out the book, but it isn't as easy to find as choy sum at my local grocery store. Speaking of local, the choy sum and the radishes I put on top of the rice (I was going to pickle them but ran out of time) are local ingredients. I like my greens with garlic and looked at a few recipes online before tossing together my own.


Stir-Fried Choy Sum with Garlic Sauce
Inspired by a bunch of recipes, but tossed together by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 3 to 4 as a Side Dish)

Choy Sum:
2 bunches choy sum (about 1 & 1/4 lbs or so), chopped as desired
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil or peanut oil + 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Garlic Sauce
1 Tbsp coconut oil
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp low-sodium Tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp water
salt and black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add choy sum--blanch for about 2 minutes, drain, and pat dry. 

While water is boiling, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute for abut 2 minutes, until fragrant. Scrap cooked garlic from the pan into a small bowl, add tamari/soy sauce, oyster sauce, corn starch, sesame oil and water, whisking together until well blended. Taste and season with salt and black pepper if desired and set aside.

Heat a large wok or saute pan and add oil. When pan is hot and oil is at smoking point, add the choy sum, and saute, stirring regularly for 2 to 3 minutes. Add sauce and stir into the choy sum, cooking for about 2 minutes. 

Plate, serve with a scattering of sesame seeds if desired and enjoy!

Note: I just used some leftover white rice, topped with thin slivers of radish for crunch.   


Notes/Results: Just a simple, fairly quick to put together light lunch or dinner of garlicky greens and rice. Sauteing the garlic softens it somewhat, but it definitely plays a big flavor role, so you can reduce it if you want something milder. The sauce would be equally as good on other greens--kale, chard, spinach, bok choy... as the garlic, sesame, tamari and oyster sauce work well with the slight bitterness greens can have. You can of course add your favorite protein to round things out. I actually had some tofu poke salad that I enjoyed with my meal, and my leftovers will likely be topped with a soft-boiled egg tomorrow. I will happily make it 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 "How We Disappeared" 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.

 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easy Miso Potsticker Soup with Crispy Snap Peas & Radish for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was thinking about a carrot soup, or spring peas, or lettuce this week to celebrate Easter but I wanted something easy and I had pinned this very easy Miso Potsticker Soup with Crispy Snap Peas from Real Simple Magazine, so we can just pretend the veggie potstickers are bunny ears. ;-)


I kept the recipe mostly the same, except that I used some no-sodium non-chicken bouillon cubes in place of the water and cooked by broth before stirring in the miso so as not to boil out the nutrients.


Miso Potsticker Soup with Crispy Snap Peas
Slightly Adapted from Charlyne Mattox via  Real Simple.com
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white & green parts separated
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup white miso paste
1 lb potstickers of choice (I used veggie)
6 oz snap peas, thinly sliced
3 radishes, thinly sliced
chili oil for serving, optional

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the scallion whites, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the miso and ½ cup water. Whisk until the miso is dissolved. Add 7 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil.
 
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potstickers and cook until brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Add to the soup and cook until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve the soup topped with the snap peas, radishes, and scallion greens and drizzled with the chili oil, if desired.


Notes/Results: This simple soup really hit the spot today. The miso broth (I do recommend using a light chicken or veggie stock rather than water for maximum flavor and then stir your miso broth--whisked into a cup of the hot liquid--at the end) is lightly spiked with ginger and the potstickers take the place of noodles and their softer consistency pairs well with the crisp peas and radishes. Pretty quick and easy to put together, and light enough for a warm and sunny spring day, I will happily make it again.


My pal Tina is hanging out with me in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week, let's take a look.

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brought a tasty Shrimp Curry and says, "I am bringing a shrimp curry with loads of coconut milk for this Easter Souper Sunday. Nope, it’s not a traditional meal but we aren’t traditional folks. It’s been excellent weather the last few days so we’ve been able to enjoy this meal outside on the patio. This curry was helped along by Trader Joe’s red curry sauce and some coconut milk. Lots of veggies and over a pound of large shrimp. Since Doug can’t have wheat we didn’t have naan to sop up the juices but he can have wine....so that was the accompaniment."

 
Thanks to Tina for joining in!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

 
To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
Happy Easter and have a happy, healthy week!
 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Within These Lines" by Stephanie Morrill, Served with a Recipe for Grilled Eggplant with Orange-Miso Sauce

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, a touching and absorbing young adult World War II novel. Accompanying my review is a recipe inspired by my reading, Grilled Eggplant with Orange-Miso Sauce


Publisher's Blurb:

From Stephanie Morrill, author of The Lost Girl of Astor Street, comes Within These Lines, the love story of a girl and boy torn apart by racism during World War II.
 
Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.
 
Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. 

Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.
With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publisher: Blink (March 5, 2019)

My Review: 

I think it took me all of 30 seconds to sign up for this tour when I saw the email about it. If you ever read my reviews, you know that World War II historical fiction is a passion of mine and the mention of the Manzanar Relocation Center made me think of Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, one of my favorite young adult memoirs. Starting in junior high, I checked that book out regularly for years until I bought my own copy. Several years ago I was thinking of it again and bought myself another copy (mine long since gone) at the library bookstore. The sheer horror of the U.S. government interning Japanese Americans in internment camp with Executive Order 9066 is something that pains me and our recent political climate makes the mistakes from the past chillingly relevant today. Although Within These Lines is a novel, it is based on fact, and Taichi and the Hamasaki’s experiences in the internment camps are gripping and moving.

The heart of the story is the relationship between Evalina and Taichi, in a hidden relationship already when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7. 1941. The book starts three months after the attack, when anger at the Japanese is erupting and the government begins the process of moving families of Japanese descent to the camps. Evalina, an Italian-American and Taichi, a Japanese-American would have faced challenges even before the war, with most states having miscegenation laws prohibiting marriage between different races, but after the attack the odds seem insurmountable. Although a romance, the book is really about the characters and their personal growth—particularly Evalina, as she begins to find her voice. It is poignant and had me tearing up a few times, but there is hope in the pages too.

Within These Lines is well researched and well written, with the mostly fictional characters seamlessly blending with actual people interned at Manzanar. Stephanie Morrill wrote so vividly that I felt like I could see Manzanar and feel the intense winds and grit of the constantly blowing sand. Northern California during the WWII era comes alive too, and I could feel the desperation of the characters and the anger and bigotry against them by so many, as well as the hearts of those who tried to help them. Although written primarily for young adults, it’s a novel equally appropriate for adults. My only complaint is that the ending felt a bit rushed and I wanted to know more about the characters—main and supporting and learn more details about their lives after the war. Morrill writes in the afterword about her research and her inspiration for the book and that gave me more books to explore on this important part of our history that should be remembered and never repeated.
 
-->-----

Author Notes: Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. 

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

-----

Food Inspiration: 

The food in Within These Lines reflects the times, both in the San Francisco setting where Evalina’s Italian family owns a restaurant and the Hamasaki family grew produce, and in the Manzanar Relocation Center where the Hamasaki family is relocated to, and where Taichi works in the kitchen in his housing block. Mentions included jars of olives, strawberries, lettuce, asparagus, eggplant and blackberries, marinara sauce with veal and beef meatballs, onions and tomatoes, eggplant parmesan, tangerines, lemon bars and tea, mochi, chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, gnocchi, linguine with clam sauce, Vienna sausages and bologna sandwiches with a side of rice and canned peaches, chicken with brown sauce , stew, deep-fried rice balls rolled in sugar, lemonade, lasagna, meat ball sandwiches, fresh mozzarella, carrot sticks, spinach, blueberries and strawberries, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, fennel, tomatoes and lemons, fish, cranberries, and rice pudding.


I thought about making mochi as the Hamasaki family eats it for breakfast on the day they are relocated to the camp. I also considered something with blackberries—Evalina’s favorites, or rice since it is a part of both Italian and Japanese cuisines or some type of Italian-Japanese fusion dish. Ultimately I decided that I needed to include the oranges that are mentioned several times in the book. Mrs. Ling, a vendor of Chinese descent who sells produce in the farmers market along side the Hamasakis, gives one to Evalina and tells her it is for luck. She says that oranges are the perfect fruit as they are the easiest to share, and Evalina and Taichi share them a few times throughout the book. When I was Googling orange recipes I found one for a Orange-Miso Sauce from Eating Well magazine. I liked the Japanese-leaning ingredients and that it was served over eggplant—used frequently in both Japanese and Italian recipes.

When I was at the grocery store, I saw some locally-grown eggplant, not as long as a Japanese eggplant and not as round as an Italian eggplant, and labeled “hapa” –which is literally translated in Hawaiian to “part” or “mix” and refers to a person of mixed ethnic heritage. That seemed like a perfect fit for a dish for Taichi and Evalina. 
-->

Eating Well says, “Mild, nutty flaxseed oil, the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, provides the perfect base for salty miso and sweet orange juice. This sauce is delightful over grilled eggplant, fish and chicken or used as a salad dressing.

Orange-Miso Sauce
Recipe by Jim Romanoff via EatingWell.com
(Makes about 3/4 Cup)

1/2 cup sweet white miso
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup flaxseed oil or canola oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin, (optional)

Combine miso, orange zest and juice, oil, ginger, rice vinegar and mirin (if using) in a small bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended.
 

Notes/Results: The sauce's orange & miso pairing is really good, especially with the addition of the rice wine and mirin and I liked the pairing with the eggplant. I am taking the leftover eggplant with some cooked shrimp to work for lunch as I think the sauce will pair well with seafood too. Rather than whisk my sauce, I did it the cheater's way and pulsed it in my blender. You must like orange and miso for this one, as the flavors come through predominately, but it worked for me and is an easy, almost pantry sauce as I usually have everything, including an orange or two, available. I will definitely make it 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 "Within These Lines" 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.

 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Mark Bittman's Simple Miso Soup with Tofu, Mushroom, & Noodles for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

I pretty much always have miso paste in my fridge--usually more than one kind and love to stir up some easy miso soup when my body and soul is craving it. Sometimes I make a dashi stock, other times I use broth or water. Toppings and add-ins are whatever I have on hand. When Mark Bittman's email newsletter featured an article on miso and its many uses last week, he had me craving a simple Miso Soup.


Mark Bittman says, "With all due respect to packaged ramen, this is probably the best “instant” soup there is. At its simplest (which it is here), miso soup is basically tea: miso whisked with water. Add on if you like. Tofu and scallions are traditional, but do what you want: carrots, peas, beans, greens, sea greens, and so on, or soaked Asian noodles, chopped leftover cooked meat or seafood, or a couple cooked scrambled eggs stirred in right before serving.


I made a few small changes--adding a light non-chicken bouillon paste for flavor and whirring my miso paste and hot water into the blender instead of whisking, and adding fresh yaki soba noodles and mushrooms to the tofu to make it more of a meal  

Miso Soup
Slightly Adapted from How to Cook Everything: The Basics, via MarkBittman.com
(Serves 4)

1/3 cup any miso (I used mellow white miso)
1/2 lb any tofu, cut into small cubes
4 scallions, chopped
I added 1 Tbsp low-sodium non-chicken bouillon paste, fresh yaki-soba noodles and sauteed Bunashimeji (Beech Mushrooms) mushrooms

Put 6 cups water in a large pot over medium heat. When steam rises from the surface of the liquid and small bubbles appear along the edges of the pot, ladle 1 ⁄ 2 cup of the water into a small bowl with the miso and whisk until smooth.

Lower the heat under the pot to medium-low and add the miso slurry; stir once or twice, then add the tofu if you’re using it. Do not let the mixture boil; let it sit for a minute or two to heat the tofu through. Stir in the scallions and serve.
 

Notes/Results: Nourishing, delicious, satisfying--it's comforting chicken soup for the non-chicken eater. It's even better with a light drizzle of toasted sesame oil. I'll be eating it thins week, changing in the add-ins and toppings with egg, rice, and other veggies--really anything goes. Quick and easy, I'll definitely keep making miso soup.


Linking up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's March Potluck! --our chance to cook any recipe from any of our 19 featured chefs. Speaking of featured chefs, we finish cooking with Ruth Reichl at the end of the month and rather than picking a new chef to cook with for six months, we will be cooking with all nineteen chefs to celebrate our ten year anniversary. Hope you join in the fun! 

 
 Let's take a look into the Souper Sunday kitchen...


A big Souper Sundays welcome to Angela of Mean Green Chef who joins us for the first time with a classic, Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup. She says, "Our authentic Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup is a favorite in our kitchen. It’s easy, bright and totally satisfying! ... Use any of your favorite Mexican toppings, the only component that is an absolute must are the crispy tortilla strips. Trust me, they’re so much better than store-bought chips, really making this Mexican Soup pop with flavor and originality! They come with one caveat though, they’re extremely addicting! We use a blend of white and yellow corn tortillas, fry them up till golden and then hit them with a pop of Pink Himalayan sea salt."

 
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor has me craving a fish sammie with her Panko Baked Cod Sandwiches. She says, "Flipping through my notebook of saved recipes I came across this Panko baked fish. It's easy and we like it for a filling no fuss meal. This of course inspired me to make it again. There were a few pieces leftover....but not enough for a dinner.  Simple solution and zero waste; have fish sandwiches for a hot healthy lunch. ...
Pop that fillet on a bun with sliced tomato and lettuce and you have yourself a filling lunch. We baked a sweet potato too."  


Thanks to Tina and Angela for joining me this week!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

 
To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).



 Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "California Girls" by Susan Mallery, Served with a Recipe for Easy Weeknight Veggie Lo Mein

It's Wednesday and with a busy week already, I am in the mood for a little break to get me over the hump and into the weekend. A Susan Mallery novel, like her newest, California Girls, works beautifully as a little escape and I'm happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour. Accompanying my review is a quick and simple Veggie Lo Mein recipe, perfect for a weeknight dinner. 


Publisher's Blurb:

The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week…

Finola, a popular LA morning show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (February 26, 2019)

My Review:

Susan Mallery is an author I turn to when I want a good book to escape with. Her books are easy reads, pages fly by as I immerse myself into the different storylines she weaves together. In California Girls, the story follows three very different sisters, Finola, Zennie, and Ali. They might be different in looks, personality, and lifestyle, but they share a similar problem when they are all dumped by the men in their lives. Finola and Ali tie for the worst dumping with Finola's husband blurting out that he's leaving right before she goes on air with her morning talk show, and her first guest is the young country-pop star he is sleeping with. In Ali's case, her fiance doesn't bother telling her he doesn't want to marry her, so his more responsible brother has to do it. By comparison, Zennie's breakup seems anticlimactic as it is a guy she has had a few dates with, but she isn't interested in being coupled up. There is plenty of drama as each sister tries to navigate her life and find happiness. I found myself liking Ali the most--my heart went out to her first, but Zennie and eventually Finola grew on me too. 

There are no big surprises in the story, but I enjoyed the journey. Mallery's novels are easy to enjoy--from the characters she writes to the food she peppers her stories with. If you like women's fiction, stories about sisters and families, romance and friendships, and you'll enjoy this one.
 
-----

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 SusanMallery.com, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


-----

Food Inspiration: 

Susan Mallery never has a shortage of food in her books and in fact there is even a recipe for California Girls Stuffed Scones in the back of this one. Food mentions included bacon, potato salad-five ways, espresso, protein-packed smoothies, salad and rotisserie chicken instead of tortilla chips and macaroni salad, all-meat pizza and garlic bread, Cherry Garcia ice cream, chocolate bundt cake, red wine, tequila, a hangover cure smoothie with coconut water, red ginseng, prickly pear and ginger, mushrooms, eggs, cucumbers, hotdogs, peanuts and bear at a baseball game, Chinese takeouts of lo mein, kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef and honey shrimp, fried rice, crab wontons, BBQ spare ribs and crispy green beans, Cheetos, potato chips with ranch dip, instant mashed potatoes, brownies, wedding cake, greens, a pastrami sandwich, kale and other green vegetables, chocolate-covered graham crackers, grilled ahi with salad and a side of broccoli, seafood dinner for two, pickles and chocolate chip ice cream, curried chicken sandwiches and a salad with basil ranch dressing, CPK's avocado egg rolls, sushi, pulled pork tacos with homemade tortillas, extra avocado and salsa, beer, quiche, sandwiches, Brie, a hot fudge sundae, donuts, chicken marsala, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans, frosted cookies, and an In-N-Out burger and a chocolate milkshake.


There were two mentions of Chinese takeout dinners and both included the noodle dish lo mein. The Chinese food was comfort food to Ali after her fiance dumps her and later to Zennie, in the midst of the pregnancy blues. The lo mein caught my eye as I have been craving noodles and it seemed like an easy weeknight dinner. 


These noodles are not all that authentic, but by making them at home which only takes about 20 minutes, you can control the sodium and oil and have fresh tasting noodles. If you have leftovers, they taste great reheated (because lo mein doesn't dry out like fried rice), as Ali declares in the book.

Weeknight Veggie Lo Mein
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2-3)

1 package lo mein noodles or other thin noodle
1 1/2 Tbsp cooking oil (I use a mix of sesame and canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, sliced, green and white parts separated
1 pint cremini mushrooms, sliced
5-6 mini bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups snow peas, trimmed and sliced into thirds
Lo Mein Sauce, recipe below
toasted sesame seeds
 
Lo Mein Sauce:
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp brown sugar or maple syrup  
2 tsp rice wine vinegar

Cook lo mein noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside. 

While spaghetti is cooking, whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet and add whites of green onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, snow peas and carrots and saute 5 to 6 minutes--until veggies are just tender. Add noodles and sauce and warm through. Serve garnished with green onion tops and sesame seeds and enjoy!


Notes/Results: What's not to like here? Noodles, tasty sauce and lots of fresh veggies. The only effort is the chopping and you have a delicious dinner ready in about 20 minutes. You can use whatever veggies you like in this--cabbage or Chinese greens would be nice. I may add some roasted peanuts to the leftovers for crunch and protein. I would happily make this 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 "California Girls" 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.