Showing posts with label breakfast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label breakfast. 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.


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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.

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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.
 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Pickled Sweet Peppers & Pickle Juice Gravy with Biscuits for Cook the Books April/May Selection: Buttermilk Graffiti

May is wrapping up this week and so is the deadline for Cook the Books April/May book pick, Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee, a foodie memoir and journey through America's food scene hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. (See her announcement post here.)


I was already a bit of an Edward Lee fan from his season of the PBS series, The Mind of a Chef and his stint on Season 9 of Top Chef, and his battle on Iron Chef, but I had not ever read any of his writing, something I was happy to rectify with this book. Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting Pot Cuisine is Lee's second book, following Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen and his unique perspectives and passion for food and the people who cook it made it a win for me. I like his appreciation for the people he meets in his cross-country explorations and how descriptive his writing and storytelling is--it isn't surprising to read that he graduated magna cum laude from NYU with a degree in English literature before turning his skills to cooking. I really enjoy his approach to food too--with his unique combinations of cuisines and ingredients. He made me want to hang out with him in the car and in the kitchen.


As usual, I struggled with my time management these past two months and had to return my library print copy of the book. I ended up using an Audible credit and listening to half of it before finishing up with print again when a library e-book came available. I liked both reading and listening to Lee's prose, although I would have enjoyed him narrating the book (even though the narrator David Shih did a nice job). I felt like I could pick up and put down the book and appreciate each chapter as I meandered through it. The recipes included are an added treat. Buttermilk Graffiti was an enjoyable road trip and I put a library hold on Smoke and Pickles because I want to hear more from Lee.


I marked several recipes from the book to try like Amok Trey (a fish curry wrapped in banana leaf), Russian Pickled Watermelon, Mango Fries with Jalapeño-Mint Aioli, Miso Creamed Corn, and Chanterelle Hummus to name a few. It ended up being the unusual Pickle Juice Gravy that wouldn't leave my head and so I made his Pickled Sweet Peppers mainly to use the brine in the gravy. Lee partners his gravy with pork chops and the Miso Creamed Corn, but I opted to eat my gravy over biscuits (Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Mix from a box). ;-) I was not disappointed and have a new addiction. Who knew?!


Edward lee says, "The briny pickle juice livens up the traditional gravy with a surprising but delicate acidity." and If you make Pickled Sweet peppers, you will have some delicious brine. Most people discard the brine when they finish the pickles, but I never do. It is a great way to add flavor to vinaigrettes, braises, and this simple but addictive gravy."

Pickle Juice Gravy
Slightly Adapted from Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
(Makes About 2 Cups
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus 1 Tbsp cold butter to finish the gravy
5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used non-chicken bullion paste) 
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (I upped this)
1/4 cup pickle juice from Pickled Sweet Peppers (recipe below), or to taste (I ended up using about 1/3 cup)

Melt the 5 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk to combine, then cook the roux, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until a rough paste forms. While whisking, gradually add the chicken stock.

Bring the gravy to a low boil, then reduce the heat and season with the salt and pepper. Gently simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Stir the pickle juice into the gravy. Finish it by adding the remaining 1 tablespoon cold butter and swirling it into the pan until it just melts. Serve hot.


Pickled Sweet Peppers
Slightly Adapted from Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
(Makes 1/2 Quart)

10 small sweet peppers, seeded and thinly sliced, any mix of bell, cherry or Italian sweets
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 whole star anise pod
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 large strip lemon peel

Thinly slice the sweet peppers and pack them into a jar. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, star anise, and peppercorns and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the lemon peel, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Pour the pickling liquid into the jar, close the lid tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Discard any excess liquid. The peppers will keep in the fridge for up to a month.


Notes/Results: I love pickles and pickled vegetables and I love gravy, so I supposed it only stands to reason that I would love Pickle Juice Gravy and I DO! I would eat it on a stick, or really just from the ladle as it really doesn't need anything else. The acidity it adds is perfect--it keeps the gravy from being heavy and one note, and the simple pickles with their black pepper and star anise notes are tasty too. (You'll see them on shrimp tacos later this week.) I used a mock chicken broth for my gravy and it worked fine--although I needed no extra salt, but extra black pepper was a definite must and I upped the amount of brine to 1/3 cup. A runny-yolked fried egg or poached eggs would be welcome on top, but I was perfectly content with my box-mix biscuits, slices of pickled sweet peppers, and plenty of the gravy. I will definitely be making 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.


Linking up Buttermilk Graffiti to May's Foodies Read. You can check out the May Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

The deadline for this round of CTB is this Friday, May 31st and Debra be rounding up the entries on the Cook the Books site soon after. If you missed this round and like food, books, and foodie books, join us for June/July when we'll be reading Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, hosted by Simona of briciole.  

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Blueberry Lavender Tea Infused Chia Seed Pudding Parfaits {#SipBySip Tea Party}

I am very excited to be taking part in the #SipBySip Tea Party today, hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla and sponsored by The Republic of Tea to celebrate the release of their Beautifying Botanicals line.


(FTC Disclosure: I received free tea from the sponsor company for the purpose of reviewing and creating recipes. All opinions are my own.)

I admit to already being a fan of The Republic of Tea and several of their tins (Ginger Peach, Hibiscus Pineapple Lychee, get some ZZZ's, Immunity Super Green...) regularly grace my panty tea shelf, so I was looking forward to sampling the new botanical line featuring: 
  • Daily Beauty Blueberry Lavender Tea (Organic green rooibos, organic hibiscus, organic lemongrass, organic rosehips, blue butterfly pea flower, apple, organic lavender, organic hibiscus extract, sweet blackberry leaves, organic lemon balm, bamboo, blueberry, schizandra extract and natural blueberry flavor) and  
  • Beauty Sleep Chamomile Rose (Organic hibiscus, biodynamic chamomile, organic rosehips, organic lemongrass, blue butterfly pea flower, sweet blackberry leaves, licorice, organic hibiscus extract, bamboo, schizandra extract, natural honey flavor and natural rose flavor).
I had a little trepidation too since anything with strong florals like lavender and rose as ingredients needs a deft hand so it isn't like drinking a bowl of rehydrated potpourri, but I needn't have worried since The Republic of Tea has done their usual excellent blending of flavors so the teas are well-balanced and the floral notes are pleasant rather than overpowering. Both teabags brew a lovely color of herbal tea or tisane (sorry I didn't take a pic when sampling) and are a treat to sip. The packaging is beautiful and perfectly matches the tea--in colors and mood. (I think a tin of these teas paired with an antique tea cup in similar colors would be a lovely Mother's Day, bridal shower, or birthday gift.


For the task of creating a tea-infused recipe, I chose Daily Beauty and wanted to make a healthier pudding that nodded to all of the healthy botanicals in the tea. I love eating chia seed puddings and they make great breakfasts or snacks as the chia seeds are filling without being heavy and provide many good nutrients like fiber, protein and Omega 3 fatty acids and are hydrating too. 

I made a simple blueberry compote to serve with the chia pudding and ended up layering the pudding and compote with fresh blueberries and topping it with dollops of coconut yogurt. Putting them in jars is fun and gives me a grab-and-go breakfast to take to work. 
 

Since the tea is not overpowering, I used 3 bags in my coconut milk and added 1/2 tsp of culinary lavender. Since these teas are really botanicals or tisanes and not actual tea, I steeped them for about 15 minutes, to maximize the flavor without fear of the tannins that occur in 'real' tea (grown from camellia sinensis bush) making it bitter. 

Note: What is a lovely purpley-blue in the cup takes on a bit of a grayish cast in coconut milk, so I added a touch of purple food coloring to my chia pudding which gave it a light lavender hue that doesn't come through well in the photos.

 
Blueberry Lavender Tea Infused Chia Seed Pudding
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 can coconut milk + extra if needed
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp culinary lavender
3 bags of Republic of Tea's Daily Beauty Blueberry Lavender Tea
1/3 cup chia seeds
purple food coloring (optional) 

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk the coconut milk, honey, vanilla and culinary lavender together. Add the tea bags and bring slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat--stirring and not letting the milk boil or scorch.  Once at a simmer, remove from heat, cover and allow tea bags to steep about 10 minutes. 

Pour the mixture through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the tea bags against the strainer with a wooden spoon in order to press out all of the liquid, then discard tea bags . Allow strained mixture to cool to room temperature. Once mixture is cool, add the chis seeds, whisking them in and then set the mixture aside for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to avoid the seeds clumping together. Add a couple of drops of purple food coloring if desired. Cover tightly and place pudding in the fridge several hours, preferably overnight.

Once pudding has set, remove it from the fridge and stir it, adding additional coconut milk if mixture is too thick or firm.

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Blueberry Compote for Parfaits
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups Compote)

3 heaping cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Place the blueberries, brown sugar, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup of water into a small saucepan and heat over medium. Bring to a simmer and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring ocassionally, until mixture has thickened. Set aside and allow to cool before making parfaits.

To Assemble: Blueberry Lavender Tea Infused Chia Seed Pudding Parfaits:

Alternate layers of the blueberry compote, the chia seed pudding, fresh blueberries and yogurt of choice (optional) in small juice glasses or jars. Garnish parfait tops with fresh blueberries and a few buds of culinary lavender. Enjoy!


Notes/Results: I really like the pudding--especially when layered with the blueberry compote and am happy how these turned out. Blueberry is the prominent flavor with the lavender as more of an after note. The fresh blueberries and yogurt are optional but add different textural elements to the parfaits. I ate one last night for a dessert/snack and took another for breakfast today and I would happily make them again.


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


Check out the #SipBySip bloggers and their recipe creations and reviews:
A big thank you to our sponsor! And mahalo to Camilla for hosting and for the packs of lavender and honey she included with our tea.

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