Showing posts with label butter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label butter. Show all posts

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Glory Road" by Lauren K. Denton, Served with a Recipe for Quick Peach and Pear Crumble with Cinnamon-Pecan Streusel

Just one day until Friday and then the weekend and I am more than ready. I am also more than ready to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Glory Road, the new and third novel by Lauren K. Denton (a favorite of mine). Accompanying my review of this sweet Southern Alabama-set novel is a recipe for a sweet and homey Quick Peach and Pear Crumble with Cinnamon-Pecan Streusel, aka "The Dolly"--inspired by a dessert of the same name made by one of the characters.

Publisher's Blurb:

The only thing certain is change—even in a place as steady as Perry, Alabama, on a street as old as Glory Road.

Nearly a decade after her husband’s affair drove her back home to South Alabama, Jessie McBride has the stable life she wants—operating her garden shop, Twig, next door to her house on Glory Road, and keeping up with her teenage daughter and spunky mother. But the unexpected arrival of two men makes Jessie question whether she’s really happy with the status quo. When handsome, wealthy businessman Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s lavish wedding, Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. Then Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school, moves back to the red dirt road, and she feels her heart pulled in directions she never expected.
Meanwhile, Jessie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and navigating a new world of emotions—particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who’s moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie’s mother, Gus, is suffering increasingly frequent memory lapses and faces a frightening, uncertain future. 

Once again, Jessie feels her protected and predictable life shifting.
In one summer, everything will change. But for these three strong Southern women, the roots they’ve planted on Glory Road will give life to the adventures waiting just around the curve.

Hardcover: 336 Pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 19, 2019)

My Review: 

This is my third book tour with Lauren K. Denton books (see links my reviews/recipes for The Hideaway and Hurricane Road and she always draws me in with a gorgeous cover, tempts me with delicious-sounding southern food, and touches my heart with her engaging and endearing female characters. Glory Road is no exception with its three generations of strong, loving Southern women. Told from the points of view of Jessie, a single mother, back in her hometown after her husband cheats with his dental hygienist, her fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, who witnessed the ending of her parents marriage when she was six, and her mother, Gus, widowed when Jessie was a teen and facing her senior years with memory lapses. Things are about to change for all three of these characters when Jessie's first love moves back to town with his teenage son and a local golf course designer/developer wants Jessie to expand her nursery business (charmingly called 'Twig') to include flowers for his daughter's wedding and shows personal interest in her too. 

The Alabama setting is vividly drawn and I could almost feel the humid summer days and smell the earthy potting soil of Twig, mixed in with Gus's baking creations. (I want a nursery like Twig to go to where I can get a scoop of cobbler or a hand pie with a purchase.) Although romance plays a strong role, the relationship between the three women is just as important in Denton's storytelling and what kept me turning the pages. It's not a completely light read with the subject of aging parents and dementia, but it's a feel-good novel, not too heavy, and sweet, but not cloying. Denton's books are marked Christian fiction, but although they lean to the cleaner side, the faith aspect is not pushed at all. Glory Road will appeal to anyone who likes women's fiction, Southern fiction, stories about family and mothers and daughters especially. It's a good one to add to your spring and summer park picnic, porch or by-the-pool reading list 


Author Notes: Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. Her debut novel, THE HIDEAWAY, was a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon Charts bestseller. Her second novel, HURRICANE SEASON, released in spring of 2018, is a USA Today bestseller. GLORY ROAD will release in March, 2019.
Connect with Lauren on her website, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


Food Inspiration: 

Lauren's books are always full of tempting food and usually some area favorites for her southern settings. Food mentions included: peas, peach cobbler, onion burgers, milkshakes, tomatoes, slushies, biscuits, friend eggs, peas--cooked so they were brown and almost creamy, cornbread, pound cake, popcorn, cereal, peanut butter, fried catfish, pecan trees, fried chicken, cornbread, fried green tomatoes, garden crops of sweet potato, cabbage, basil, and cucumber, pork chops with butter beans and green salad with cherry tomatoes, coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon and fluffy biscuits with grape jam, sizzling chicken, simmering soup, and fresh pie. a fried fig pie with cream cheese frosting, fresh strawberry iced tea, pancakes with lavender maple syrup, sugared pecans, chicken piccata, green beans, mac and cheese ("'s a vegetable, you know..")and cornbread biscuits, apple pie, fresh apple jelly, peach galette, chocolate bourbon bread pudding, shrimp and angel hair pasta, Caesar salad, steak, thin crust pizza with mozzarella, greens and thinly sliced tomatoes, meatloaf, rice, sushi, shrimp and grits served in martini glasses or little glass jars, okra succotash, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies, "hunch punch" (grain alcohol mixed with fruit punch), root beer floats and pecan pie.

For my book-inspired dish I had to go with something homey and baked in honor of Gus. She made lots of different baked goods, offering cobbler or pie with a purchase at Twig. Two desserts in particular caught my eye because they had names; The June Cobbler--peach and blueberry with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg and My Dolly--peach and pear crumble with cinnamon-pecan streusel on top. I am a sucker for crumbles and crisps--more so than the more doughy cobblers and cinnamon-pecan streusel? Yes, please. My Dolly it is. 

I am all for fresh orchard fruit when it is in season, or home-canned which is likely what Gus used, but this being the beginning of spring and Hawaii, and a weeknight on top of that, I needed something easy and available. i bought canned peach and pear slices in syrup, planning to add plenty of cinnamon to the fruit as well as the topping to liven up my canned items. 

Quick Peach and Pear Crumble with Cinnamon-Pecan Streusel
Based on Gus and her My Dolly from Glory Road by Laurel K. Denton
(Serves 5-6 with Ice Cream)

one can (about 15 oz) sliced peaches in syrup, drained with syrup reserved
one can (about 15 oz) sliced pears in syrup, drained with syrup reserved
one Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 scant tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 tiny pinch salt
1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
 6 Tbsp salted butter, cold, cut in small cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the drained fruit in a medium bow and squeeze the lemon juice over it. In a small whisk the flour into about 1/3 cup of the reserved fruit syrup until completely blended. Pour flour/juice mixture over soup and toss until well mixed. Place fruit into an even layer in a small oven dish or pan (I used a small oval casserole dish) and set aside.  

For the topping, mix flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, salt, and chopped pecans into a mixing bowl. Add the pieces of butter to the bowl and use your fingers to work them into the dry mixture until it is the texture of course meal. 

Spoon topping evening over the fruit, packing down lightly. Place in the oven and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling up through the topping and the topping is golden-brown. If topping seem to be getting too dark/done, cover with foil and continue baking. 

Let crumble sit for about 15 to 20 minutes and serve warm with ice cream or half-and-half. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I do believe that there would be fewer battles waged and less pain and strife in the world if only everyone could enjoy a bowl of warm fruit crumble with good vanilla ice cream. This one is plenty cinnamony and mighty good, even for canned fruit and you can't beat the speed and ease of being able to get this crumble quickly into the oven--making it good for unexpected guests or a long tough day at work. The topping with the bits of toasted pecan and the crumbly, oaty goodness, is delicious too. I took some leftovers to work for breakfast (fruit and oats, people!) ;-) and poured some cream from the fridge on top. Yum! I will 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 "Glory Road" 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, December 9, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Creamy Mushroom Soup, Kitchen Therapy for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

This simple soup is from Ruth Reichl's memoir Comfort Me With Apples and she mentions in the book that she made it daily to get her through hard times as it was the most soothing soup she could make. I find most soups to be a good form of therapy--both making them and eating them, and a pot of mushroom soup is the perfect comfort on a cool day.

I made a few changes to the recipe, swapping the half and half for coconut milk because I have several cans on hand and it's better than dairy on my breathing. I also swapped the beef broth for mushroom bouillon cubes and water. Because I bought some huge white mushrooms and wasn't sure how flavorful they would be. Finally, I used smoked paprika instead of nutmeg because I am just not a nutmeg fan. My changes are in red below. 

Creamy Mushroom Soup
Slightly Adapted from Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl
(Serves 4)

1/2 lb mushrooms
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 small onion, diced
4 Tbsp flour
1 cup broth (I used 2 mushroom broth bouillon cubes)
2 cups half & half (I used coconut milk)
salt & pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg (I used 1/2 tsp smoked paprika)
1 bay leaf

Thinly slice the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a heavy pan. When the foam subsides, add the onion and saute until golden. Add the mushrooms and saute until brown and softened. Stir in the flour, then slowly add the broth, stirring constantly.

Heat the half & half (or coconut milk) in a saucepan or in the microwave. Add it to the mushrooms along with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a bay leaf. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes; do not boil. Remove the bay leaf and serve. 

Notes/Results: Simple in ingredients and process, but a very tasty soup that is the perfect comfort food on a cool day. I imagine it would be perfect for a cold day too but we don't get those very often here so a windy cool day will have to do. I loved all of the flavor from the mushrooms, the extra mushroom bouillon cube, and the smoked paprika. The coconut milk is as creamy as half and half and with the butter, make this soup rich and satisfying. I topped my soup with crisp garlic and pepper fried onions. Yum. Although I won't make it every day, I will happily eat this soup for lunches this week and would make it again. 

Linking this soup up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where the theme is Kitchen Therapy--Ruth Reichl dishes that are therapeutic to make or eat. 

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.

Now let's take a look into the Souper Sundays kitchen:

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made Potato Soup with Carrots, Onions & Garlic and said, "Two weeks ago I posted a Potato Soup that was hearty and delicious, but not homemade. I haven't been able to duplicate that recipe exactly but I did whip up a pot of homemade soup for the cold work week. Not sure why we can't get heat at work but I can combat the chill with a hot bowl of comfort food."

Kim of Stirring the Pot made Ruth Reichl's Lentil, Sausage and Brown Rice Stew, saying "This stew lends itself perfectly to kitchen therapy as I sliced, chopped, stirred, and smelled my way to happiness. Not to mention, I was even more satisfied at the chance to use up an abundance of brown rice and lentils I found languishing about in my pantry. I always feel quite accomplished when I use up all the bits and bobs laying about. This is a soul-soothing wintry stew that comes together with humble ingredients and love. I'm convinced it holds the power to heal whatever ails you."

Thanks to Tina and Kim 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 her 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 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 (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hotel on Shadow Lake" by Daniela Tully, Served with Trout with Almonds and Butter-Parsley Fingerling Potatoes

It's Tuesday and I'm happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for a new historical mystery novel, Hotel on Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully. Accompanying my review are recipes for  tasty Trout with Almonds and Butter-Parsley Fingerling Potatoes inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

Suspenseful and compelling, Daniela Tully’s Hotel on Shadow Lake is at once an intricate mystery, an epic romance, and a Gothic family saga.
When Maya was a girl in Germany, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then, shortly after Maya’s sixteenth birthday, her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void.
Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to: the Montgomery Resort in upstate New York. How did she get there? Why had she come? Desperate for answers, Maya leaves her life in Germany behind and travels to America, where she is drawn to the powerful family that owns the hotel and seemingly the rest of the town.
Soon Maya is unraveling secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond. But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover the circumstances surrounding her grandmother’s death, she must decide whether her life and a chance at true love are worth risking for the truth.

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (April 10, 2018)

My Review: 

Although she has worked in the film industry for years, Hotel on Shadow Lake is Daniela Tully's first book, but hopefully not her last. She packed an amazing amount of history, story, stories within the story, mysteries, and well-drawn characters into just over 250 pages. There are skillful twists and layers to uncover and the book travels from Germany in 1938 to the 1990s and beyond, then to America and upstate New York in past and present day. Tully's writing is evocative and descriptive enough to have me feeling like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book (in a good way) and I think it would be fabulous adapted as a film. I am a big fan of WWII historical fiction, especially when it gives me a different look or perspective--in this case that of a young book and story-loving, free-thinking young woman in Germany during the rise of Nazi power, and her granddaughter--who is stronger than she thinks and trying to find out what happened to her grandmother decades ago. Along with the mystery there is romance and dark family drama that Tully balances well. I did have some of the secrets figured out, but other bits surprised me and I turned the pages, anxious to learn if I was correct. My only real complaint is that I would have liked more of it, I was sorry to see the book end. 

Author Notes: Daniela Tully has worked in film and television for decades, including with famed film director Uli Edel. She has been involved in projects such as the critically acclaimed Fair Game, box-office hits Contagion and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as the Oscar-winning The Help. She splits her time between Dubai and New York. Inspired by a real family letter received forty-six years late, Hotel on Shadow Lake is Daniela Tully’s first novel.

Connect with Daniela on her website, Facebook and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There wasn't a lot of food in Hotel on Shadow Lake, but it's not surprising that there wasn't room for more with the amount of story packed into the page count. There were some mentions including decaf coffee, marmalade, beer, ice cream, pad thai, pretzels, Obatzda (a beer garden cheese delicacy), red wine, a few restaurants--Italian, a bagel place (with regular, pumpernickel, and blueberry bagels) and an Asian restaurant, Malbec, hamburger, martinis, oysters, foie gras, caviar, Hendl (roasted chicken), Schweinsbraten (Bavarian pork roast) with dumplings and Apfelstrudel, Kaffe and Kuchen (coffee and cake), and trout with potatoes and butter sauce.

Since the trout and potatoes were part of a dinner and the last time two of the characters were truly happy, I chose to make them for my book-inspired dish. I looked up some German recipes online and then put them together into a dish that sounded good to me.

Trout with Sliced Almonds
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serve 2

2 large trout fillets
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp almond meal or flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
extra lemon wedges for serving

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the almond meal with salt and black pepper. Drizzle the trout fillets with lemon juice and then dredge them in the almond meal, shaking off the excess. 

Cook the trout for 5 to 6 minutes on one side, then turn and cook the other side for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the fish flakes and is cooked through. Remove the fillets from the pan, add the almonds, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook he almonds for about 2 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Plate the fish and top with the toasted almonds, Serve with lemon slices and fingerling potatoes.

Butter-Parsley Fingerling Potatoes
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 to 4)

1 lb or so fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Steam or boil potatoes about 15 minutes or so, until they are just tender enough to pierce easily with a fork. 

Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium until it bubbles. Add the potatoes, cut side down in a single layer if possible (or cook in batches) and cook potatoes for 6-8 minutes, until the cut sides are nicely browned and crisp.  

Add parsley, sea salt and black pepper to the pan and toss until well combined. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: The trout was tasty--basically it's a trout almondine which I always enjoy, but give me fingerlings, rich with butter and parsley and I could be perfectly happy just eating a bowl of them. Potatoes make me happy. ;-) You could do the preparation with other fish, trout is just a popular German fish and what the characters ate. When not cooking for the book, I might use a nice local monchong (a type of promfret), when it is fresh and available. With all of the butter and richness of this dish, it would be great served with a green salad. In fact, the leftovers are accompanied me to work cold in a salad form, along with currant tomatoes, capers, and a creamy dressing. I would happily make both recipes 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 "Hotel on Shadow Lake" 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.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Atomic City Girls" by Janet Beard, Served with a Recipe for Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan's Classic Tomato Sauce

I am happy to be getting back in the swing of things and to be on the TLC Book Tour for the recently released The Atomic City Girls, a novel by Janet Beard. Accompanying my review of this interesting and engaging World War II historical fiction book is a recipe for Spaghetti with (Marcella Hazan's famous) Tomato Sauce, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.
“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”
In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.
The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.
When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2018)

My Review:

Since historical fiction, particularly when it is set in the World War II era, is a favorite of mine I was excited to sign up this book tour. I like historical fiction that gives me a unique perspective of the war and I found the setting of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a small town built by the government in order to do research and produce materials and components in order to beat Germany in building an atomic weapon, fascinating. Los Alamos, New Mexico is most well known for The Manhatten Project and I confess to being unaware of the happenings in Oak Ridge. Equally unaware are the main character of the book, June Walker, and the other hundreds of young women like her who have come to Oak Ridge for the high-paying jobs operating machines that they don't know anything about. They sit for hours every day or night (depending on their shifts) in a booth while watching and monitoring the dials of a machine, but not being able to ask questions about their work or tell anyone what they are doing. 

In addition to June, the story unfolds from the perspective of three other characters, June's roommate Cici--another machine operator like June, African-American, Joe Brewer--who leaves his wife and young children to do construction work in Oak Ridge, along with his friend, the troubled Ralph, and finally Sam Cantor--a Jewish scientist who is the only one of the four characters who knows what the purpose of Oak Ridge really is. June becomes involved with Sam and gradually learns what is happening. June is a young eighteen, naive but eager to learn and very likable. Joe is another character I rooted for--wincing every time the bigotry and discrimination of the times reared its ugly head in the story. Sam is complicated--I wanted to like him and at times I did, and then there is Cici, solely out for herself in every thought and action. 

I was immediately caught up in the story of The Atomic City Girls and the book's close to 400 pages flew by. It is clear that Janet Beard did her research for the book and writes in a way that makes dusty, bustling Oak Ridge and the characters living there come to life. I found myself invested in these characters, wanting to know what would happen to them, especially June and Joe. I did want a bit more from the ending because after a lot of detail and build up, things actually wrap up rather quickly--although there is an epilogue that talks about what happens with the four main characters that I appreciated. The Atomic City Girls illuminated a piece of American history that I wasn't aware of and it had me googling Oak Ridge and its role in The Manhattan Project for more information. I was sorry to have the story end and recommend it especially for fans of World War II historical fiction.


Author Notes: Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard earned an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.
Find out more about Janet at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

Even during war time and with rationing, there is food to be found in The Atomic City Girls--most of it what is served in the cafeteria in Oak Ridge. There are lots of biscuits, potatoes--mashed and roasted, breakfast foods like bacon and eggs, coffee, grits, toast, sausage, pancakes, and biscuits and gravy. There are tuna sandwiches, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, potato soup, beans and rice. There were dinners mentioned including ham, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls and one with pork chops with spicy applesauce, green beans, roasted potatoes, rolls and apple pie as well as meals of beef hash and potatoes and chicken and beef stews. There were mentions of shoofly pie and fried okra and collard greens. Even though Oak Ridge was a dry town--serving only beer at the canteen, there were mentions of Johnny Walker whiskey, rum, and black market moonshine.
Spaghetti was mentioned a few times--the Oak Ridge cafeteria spaghetti got panned by a side character, an Italian from New York, but it was June's first experience with it and she "delighted in twirling the strands around her fork and slurping down the red sauce." Spaghetti and macaroni and cheese seemed to be her favorite meals to eat, so for my book-inspired dish I decided to make a good and simple spaghetti, keeping it vegetarian for since I don't eat meat. 

Since I decided on spaghetti, I wanted to finally try the late Italian chef and cookbook author, Marcella Hazan's classic recipe for tomato sauce. It uses just four ingredients--tomatoes, butter, an onion, and sea salt, but it gets huge raves from everyone who makes it. Granted in the World War II era, it is unlikely that anyone would be putting 5 tablespoons of butter into a tomato sauce but I took a little liberty in my recipe interpretation to try it and I'm glad I did. 

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce
Slightly Adapted from The New York Times
(Makes Enough Sauce for 1 lb Pasta)

2 cups tomatoes + juices (like a 28-oz can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
5 Tbsp butter
1 onion, peeled & cut in half

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. (Note: I pulsed my sauce a couple of times in the blender for a smother consistency.)

Notes/Results: This sauce deserves all of the accolades that it gets. It is simple to make, relatively hands off, can be made from pantry ingredients, and tastes fresh and amazing. I used good canned Italian tomatoes--the whole San Marzano tomatoes the recipe called for and I imagine it would only be better with fresh tomatoes. The butter adds a silkiness to the sauce and a richness, the onion and salt enhance the flavor. For such a simple recipe it was delicious when eaten with the spaghetti--I topped it with some Parmesan shavings, fresh basil, and freshly ground black pepper and I was happy and satisfied--so much so that I practically licked the bowl clean. I will definitely make the sauce again as I think it will be equally fabulous on bruschetta or on flat bread for pizza. 

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

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


Friday, November 24, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Silent Fountain" by Victoria Fox, Served with a Recipe for Mushroom & Leek "Stuffing" Risotto with Stuffing Butter Bread Crumbs (And a Giveaway!)

It's the day after Thanksgiving and whether you are a Black Friday fan or someone who hides in the house to avoid it (that would be me), it probably time for a break. On today's TLC Book Tour, we are journeying to Italy (with some jaunts back in time to 1978 Hollywood) for a review of The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox. Accompanying my review of this novel with a Gothic feel is a recipe for Mushroom & Leek "Stuffing" Risotto, topped with "Stuffing" Butter Breadcrumbs that is amazing and (loosely) inspired by my reading. There's also a Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

Hollywood, 1978 
Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti—and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister and learns that her new husband’s past holds dark secrets…

Tuscany, Present day 
Lucy Whittaker needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed. Strange sounds come from the attic. The owner of the house will never meet her in person.
The fountain in the courtyard is silent—but has never run dry.

Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa. 

And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: MIRA (October 31, 2017)

My Review:

The publisher's description of The Silent Fountain drew me in with it being primarily set in Italy, the promise of 'dark secrets' and a Gothic feel, and dual time settings and perspectives, which are are all things that I enjoy. Once I started the book, I was immediately absorbed--at one moment I was feeling all of the pleasures of the sunny Italian countryside, the next moment the menacing feel and foreboding chills of a crumbling estate with noises and odd occurrences would come sneaking in, along with a few goosebumps (called 'chicken skin' here). The writing is descriptive and the shifts in time and point of view serve to build the tension between chapters and move the story along, making it often hard to put down. Bits and pieces of the history of the two main characters, Lucy, a young British woman running to Italy from the implosion of her life, and Vivian, a faded American actress, owner of the Castillo Barbosa and Lucy's new (but mysteriously unseen) employer, unfold and their secrets are slowly revealed. 

I liked the well-executed mix of settings and stories--present day at the crumbling estate outside of Florence and the late 1970s through the mid-1980s in Hollywood and Tuscany, and I enjoyed both characters. Although Vivian is the headliner with more complexity and nuances to her story, Lucy provides a solid supporting role and her character grows throughout the book. There were some good twists that kept me guessing and although the ending wasn't quite what I was expecting, it worked with the story and left me feeling all the feels. The Silent Fountain will appeal if you like women's fiction with Gothic leanings, books set in Italy and/or romantic mysteries with a bit of depth to them. This is my first book from Victoria Fox but I will be looking into some of her other works. 

(If The Silent Fountain sounds appealing, don't forget to enter for your chance to win a copy at the bottom of the post.)


Author Notes: Victoria Fox is a bestselling author in the UK. She used to work in publishing and is now the author of six novels. The Silent Fountain is her breakout novel in North America. She divides her time between Bristol and London.

You can connect with Victoria via Facebook or Twitter


There is food in The Silent Fountain, although it is not a foodie book. I don't think you are allowed to have a novel set mostly in Italy and not have food. Some examples included herbs, lavender and tea, wine, spaghetti, pink gelato, fields of maize and barley, almonds, grapes and lemon trees, vanilla-cream muffins, soup, crackers and grapes "the color of bruises," pizza, saltimbocca, Chianti, limoncello, cheeseburgers, Bolognese sauce, iced buns, Campari and soda, chicken cacciatore, white bean salad, grappa, vodka, rabbit pappardelle, scrambled eggs, ciabatta, lobster claws, focaccia, ham, piccalilli (pickles), prosciutto, salami, tomatoes, cheese and pears, sugary pastries, chocolate tiramisu, veal, potatoes, mince pies, linguine, Sunday roast, and marinara sauce. 

Sometimes my book-inspired dished are totally from the book and other times it becomes less about the book and more about what I am craving at the moment--that I can somehow relate to the book. This is the case for The Silent Fountain. I get a lot of food related newsletter email and sometimes I read them and often I don't but the headline of one from Extra Crispy caught my attention, "Everyday is Thanksgiving When You Have Stuffing Butter." Stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving and a stuffing-flavored compound butter is a pretty genius idea. The fact that the recipe was from Stacey Ballis, (a favorite foodie fiction writer of mine) only sealed the deal. I resolved to get stuffing butter into my life. 

The stuffing butter and thoughts of stuffing led me thinking of a good Italian dish to incorporate it into and pair with The Silent Fountain and I settled on another favorite, risotto. Although it doesn't appear in the book, give me a plate or bowl of risotto and I'm happy. I love the zen of stirring a big pot of risotto on the stove, listening to an audio book, and then sitting down to enjoy the fruits of my labor. 

Since my review falls so close to the Thanksgiving holidays, I resolved to introduce my beloved stuffing flavors to a vegetarian risotto of mushroom and leeks and to incorporate the stuffing butter into some crisp panko bread crumbs to top it. And, since Vivian is an American in Italy and wasn't allowed to celebrate holidays growing up, a combination of an American holiday dish with an Italian classic seems to fit. 

There are a few steps to this recipe but the Stuffing Butter can be made ahead of time and the breadcrumbs cooked in the same pan as the mushrooms, so it's not too arduous.

Mushroom & Leek "Stuffing" Risotto 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4 as a Main, More as a Side Dish)

Stuffing Butter (see recipe below)
8-10 oz crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 
5 cups good chicken-flavored and/or mushroom stock (I used a combination of both)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large ribs celery, chopped
2 to 3 leeks, white and green parts, cleaned well, halved and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp sage leaves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
1 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tsp celery salt 
1 1/2 cups arborio rice 
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs (see recipe below) 

Prepare Stuffing Butter using recipe below. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium-large saucepan and keep simmering on the stove.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp of the Stuffing Butter into a large frying pan and add mushrooms. Cook mushrooms over medium heat until they are tender--about 5 to 6minutes. Scrape mushroom and juices out of pan and onto a plate and set them aside. Use pan to prepare Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs (recipe below) and set aside.

In a large, high-sided, heavy-bottomed pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high and add the celery and leeks. Cook about 7 minutes, until vegetables are almost tender. Add garlic, sage, thyme, dried parsley, rosemary, and celery celery salt and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until herbs are fragrant. 

Add the aborio rice and stir to coat it in the oil and herbs. Toast the rice until it crackles and starts to turn opaque. Add the white wine and stir until it is almost all absorbed (about 5 minutes). 

Reduce heat to medium and place a ladle of the simmering stock into the rice, stirring  until it is absorbed. Repeat, adding 1 ladle of the stock at a time and stirring constantly, (making sure the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle) until rice is tender but still has a bit of a firm "bite"--about 25 minutes.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms and fresh parsley and add any leftover stock as needed if you need to loosen up the risotto a bit. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as needed. You can stir in some Stuffing Butter if you want any additional stuffing flavor (just remember you'll be topping it with the Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs).

Serve immediately on warmed plates, sprinkled generously with the Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs and additional chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy.

Stuffing Butter 
Very Slightly Adapted from Stacey Ballis via

Top of F11/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp low-sodium chicken base, preferable Better Than Bouillon brand (if you can’t find low-sodium, cut back to 1/2 Tbsp or it will be too salty) (Note: I used their no-chicken paste and reduced to about 3/4 Tbsp.)
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves, chopped fine
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp rubbed sage (I used 1 tsp dried sage)
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp granulated garlic (I used 1/2 tsp roasted garlic powder)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
11/2 tsp dried chopped onion (from the spice aisle), re-hydrated in 1/4 cup warm water for 30 minutes
Bottom of Form

Drain the re-hydrated onion flakes and press dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, mix the butter and bouillon paste until well incorporated with no streaks. Add all of the spices and the onion and mix well. 

Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to six months.

Slather on any available bread, top your baked potato with it, melt it down and drizzle it on your popcorn. If you want something to taste like stuffing, this is your new best friend.


Stuffing Butter Breadcrumbs
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

3 Tbsp Stuffing Butter (recipe above)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

In a large frying pan (I use the one I cooked the mushrooms in), heat the Stuffing Butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and saute them until they are crisp and golden brown--stirring consistently to ensure they do not burn. Set aside until ready to use.

Notes/Results: Stuffing Butter is a great big LOVE, thank you Stacey Ballis! I adjusted it slightly to make it fit my stuffing memories and it certainly did. The Mushroom and Leek "Stuffing" Risotto was also amazing--it definitely has the flavors of dressing or stuffing and hits all of the comfort food buttons. The contrast of the creamy risotto and the crisp stuffing-buttery panko breadcrumbs is wonderful. Rich, delicious, and definitely more-ish (just like my favorite Thanksgiving side dish), I would happily make it again. (And I'm trying the Stuffing Butter on popcorn this weekend.)

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 Silent Fountain" 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 The Silent Fountain to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) and tell me about your favorite Thanksgiving dish or favorite Italian dish, or tell me why you'd like to win a copy of The Silent Fountain

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

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Saturday, December 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!