Showing posts with label bread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bread. Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Never Look Back" by Alison Gaylin, Served with Cinnamon Raisin Toast with Cream Cheese & Strawberry (Chia Seed) Jam

Happy Aloha Friday! I am excited to be today's stop on the TLC book Tour for a new mystery/thriller, Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin. I am pairing my review with Cinnamon Raisin Toast with Cream Cheese and Strawberry Jam, a dish inspired by the book. The jam is a simple homemade chia seed jam and there's a recipe included. So pull up a chair and a napkin and join me.

 Publisher's Blurb:

From the Edgar Award-winning author of If I Die Tonight
Reminiscent of the bestsellers of Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben—with a Serial-esque podcast twist—an absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense from the author of the highly acclaimed and Edgar Award-nominated What Remains of Me and the USA Today bestselling and Shamus Award-winning Brenna Spector series.
For thirteen days in 1976, teenage murderers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy terrorized Southern California’s Inland Empire, killing a dozen victims before perishing themselves in a fire… or did they? More than 40 years later, twentysomething podcast producer Quentin 
Garrison blames his troubled upbringing on the murders. And after a shocking message from a source, he has reason to believe April Cooper may still be alive. Meanwhile, New York City film columnist Robin Diamond is coping with rising doubts about her husband and terrifying threats from internet trolls. But that’s nothing compared to the outrageous phone call she gets from Quentin… and a brutal home invasion that makes her question everything she ever believed in. Is Robin’s beloved mother a mass murderer? 

Is there anyone she can trust?
Told through the eyes of those destroyed by the Inland Empire Killings—including Robin, Quentin, and a fifteen-year-old April Cooper—Never Look Back asks the question:

How well do we really know our parents, our partners—and ourselves?

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 2, 2019)

My Review:

I love a good mystery/thriller, one that keeps me guessing and has lots of twists, turns, and misdirections that make me not want to put it down and Never Look Back delivers. Podcasts and especially true crime podcasts are popular now and the book plays well on that theme, exploring an old crime from the seventies that is resurfacing even though the perpetrators died in a fire at a desert commune. The crime is even more salacious because teenage lovers Gabriel LeRoy and April Cooper murdered twelve people, staring with her stepfather and including a police officer and a young child. Podcaster Quentin Garrison’s late mother was the older-sister of the little girl who was killed, and he blames her subsequent troubled and drug-filled life and his terrible childhood on the murder that tore his mother’s family apart and looks to his upcoming podcast aptly titled Closure, to bring some relief his anger and pain. When a seemingly credible source comes forward and states that April Cooper is still alive, Quentin begins searching for answers, disrupting the life of a film reviewer.

This is my first book by Alison Gaylin, and I am impressed with her writing. She developed interesting and multifaceted characters and skillfully moved back and forth in time, sharing their points of view, including using the pages of April’s journal written as letters to the daughter she hoped to someday have. The mystery slowly unfolds, and the tension rises with each page. Although I had parts of the mystery figured out, there were several surprises that I didn’t see coming. Although I couldn’t binge-read and finish the book in one or two reading sessions due to my schedule, I wanted to keep reading and was disappointed when I had to stop and adult. If you like podcasts, true crime and crime fiction, psychological suspense and thrillers, get Never Look Back on your #TBR list. I’m going to be seeking out Gaylin’s other books.


Author Notes: Alison Gaylin is the award-winning author of Hide Your Eyes and its sequel, You Kill Me; the standalones Trashed and Heartless; and the Brenna Spector series: And She Was, Into the Dark, and Stay with Me. A graduate of Northwestern University and of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she lives with her husband and daughter in Woodstock, New York.

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


Food Inspiration: 
There were some food mentions in the book, both from present day and the seventies time frames. mentions included lasagna, iced tea, IPA beer, wine, pizza, frozen yogurt, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and McDonald's, French press coffee, pies, grilled cheese with tomato soup and "an ice cube dropped in so you don't get hurt," chocolate ice cream, a gruyere and spinach omelet for one, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, lemonade, lemon meringue pie and a strawberry milkshake, blueberry pancakes, turkey bacon and coffee, steak and eggs, apple pie, glazed donuts, grilled tarragon chicken, mashed sweet potato, fresh asparagus, scrambled eggs and toast, salmon tarragon, pizza, Chinese food and bacon and eggs.


For my book inspired dish I had to go with the very simple cinnamon raisin toast, cream cheese  and strawberry jam as it appeared several times in the book as the comfort food for at least one of the characters and as a bit of a clue, or missing piece of the puzzle. I bought my favorite soft cinnamon-raisin loaf from my local grocery store and whipped cream cheese but decided to make up a batch of chia seed strawberry jam with some on-sale strawberries and manuka honey for a touch of sweetness. 

Most of my jams posted on this blog are made from chia seeds because I like the ease and the fact that the chia seeds do the gelling, so you don't have to add a lot of sugar like you do with pectin.

Strawberry Chia Seed Jam
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 Pints) 

3-4 cups fresh strawberries, cored and sliced
1 cinnamon stick, optional
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 Tbsp honey or maple syrup (I used Manuka honey)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chia seeds (I used white chia seeds)

Place the strawberries and cinnamon stick (if using) in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries break down and get syrupy—about 10 minutes.  Mash the softened fruit using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Leave larger chunks if you like chunky jam. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice, honey and vanilla. Taste and add more honey and/or lemon juice if needed. Add the chia seeds and stir well to combine. Let the jam stand about 15  minutes, until cooled and thickened. If you want the jam thicker, stir in more chia seeds 1 teaspoon at a time.

Transfer jam to a jar or other storage container. Once the jam has cooled to room temperature, place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. The jam will thicken further and become more set once completely chilled. The jam can be stored for 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge or also be frozen for up to 6 months; just thaw in the fridge before using. Enjoy!

Notes/Results:This is definitely a comfort food snack (or dinner if you are me) ;-) The crispy-soft toast with a little butter and a layer of the whipped cream cheese, then slathering it with the jam is very tasty and goes down well with a cup of tea. I'd happily make this combination 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 "Never Look Back" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins 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, 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.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Orange-Scented Chilled Tomato Soup & a Tomato Sandwich with Basil Mayo for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It has been so muggy and hot this week that although I eat hot soup year-round, it was time to roll out the first cold soup of the summer. I wanted something tomato-based but not gazpacho and thought I would give this Orange-Scented Chilled Tomato Soup from Giada a try, liking the unusual combination of the orange and tomato. Since the soup seemed like it needed an accompaniment and I had tomatoes, bread and fresh basil, I paired it with Ina's Tomato Sandwich with Basil Mayonnaise.

I did make a few changes to the soup recipe--mainly quantity changes to fit my tastes and lessen the sweetness of the soup just a bit.

Orange-Scented Chilled Tomato Soup
Slightly Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via
(About 4 Servings)

For Soup:
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (I reduced to 1 1/2 Tbsp)
2 medium carrots, diced (I used 2 large carrots)
2 large shallot, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups low-sodium broth (I used veggie non-chicken broth)
2 cups orange juice (I used 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 Tbsp maple syrup (I used 1/2 Tbsp)
2 tsp tomato paste (I used 1 Tbsp sun-dried tomato paste)
1 (28 oz) canned chopped tomatoes

For Topping:
1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tsp maple syrup (I omitted)
zest of 1/2 orange

For the soup: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, shallots, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chicken broth, orange juice, basil, maple syrup, tomato paste and the tomatoes (with juice). Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. 

Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth. (do in batches carefully if using a blender) Cool the soup to room temperature until ready to serve, about 1 hour. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

For the yogurt topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, maple syrup and orange zest until smooth.

To serve: Ladle the soup into chilled bowls and top with a dollop of the yogurt mixture.

Tomato Sandwich with Basil Mayonnaise
From Ina Garten via
(Yield 1 Serving + Plenty Extra Basil Mayo)

1 cup good mayonnaise
10-15 basil leaves, chopped sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 slices country white bread
1 tomato, sliced

Whisk together the mayonnaise, basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Spread the mayonnaise mixture on the top of 2 slices of bread. Place the sliced tomato on top of one bread slice. Place the remaining slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, on top of the tomato. Cut the sandwich in half and serve.

Notes/Results: This soup and salad combo made for a perfect lunch on a warm and humid Sunday. I scoffed initially at the "orange-scented" part of the recipe name thinking that with that much orange juice it would be a stronger part of the flavor and maybe overpower the tomato but it doesn't. I did lessen the orange juice by 1/2 cup--mainly because I had a 12-oz bottle and although the orange is there, the citrus notes really complement the tomatoes and make for a good tasting soup. I tried it both hot and chilled and I like it both ways so I think if you aren't a cold soup fan, it's worth making to eat warm. It also paired really well with the tasty tomato sandwich. Basil mayonnaise is a good thing and you get a cup of it so you will have plenty left over even if you lavish it over the bread. The best looking local tomatoes at my grocery were Roma tomatoes and they were very good. I think in a few weeks when heirlooms are more out and about it will be even tastier. Giada and Ina made a good pairing--I will happily make both of these recipes again.

Linking up this chilly soup with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this coming week is our June Potluck. Any recipe from any of our IHCC chefs. 

Now let's have a look in the into the Souper Sundays kitchen.

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog brought Healthy Vegan Sandwich Spread and said, "This spread is one of my favorites. It's high in protein and fiber, low in bad fats, tasty, and Weight Watcher friendly. In addition, it's naturally gluten free and dairy free. It all adds up to one word- HEALTHY! Spreads can be enjoyed in so many ways. Enjoy this easy to make spread on gluten free crackers, in gluten free wraps, on gluten free bread, with lettuce leaves or just enjoy it alone. I love it with a bowl of soup of my quick and easy Italian Spinach Garlic Soup."

Thanks to Judee 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.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and add a 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 this post or my blog 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

Have a happy, healthy week!