Showing posts with label dairy-free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dairy-free. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "A Place For Us" by Fatima Farheen Mirza, Served with a Recipe for a Cold and Creamy (Vegan) Mango Lassi

I'm very excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, the first novel from SJP for Hogarth, a collaboration between Sarah Jessica Parker and the publishing group. Accompanying my review is a cold and creamy, vegan Mango Lassi that was inspired by my reading and is a delicious summer treat.

Publisher's Blurb:

The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity and belonging

As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made.

There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride.

What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?

A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children — each in their own way — tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.

A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.  

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: SJP for Hogarth (June 12, 2018)

My Review:

I was exited to jump on the tour for A Place For Us, both for the subject of the book--I love immigrant stories, especially when they involves family and the Indian and Muslim cultures. I also like Sarah Jessica Parker and I admit to being intrigued about what smart and book-loving female celebrities are reading, enjoying, and supporting--whether by including a book as a book club selection or backing it, as in this partnership between the actress and Hogarth Publishing. I hoped the story would be as good as it sounded from the description and it was--a beautifully written book that drew me in from the start, kept me engrossed throughout, and made me sorry to reach the end.

The story focuses on a Muslim-American family where the father, Rafiq, immigrated to America as a teen and entered into a marriage arrangement with Layla, who immigrates after the marriage, leaving behind everyone and everything thing she knows. They live in California where they raise three children, daughters Hadia and Huda and the youngest, their son, Amar. The parents hold strongly to their faith and and the Muslim-American community with the children being pulled between these traditions and assimilation into American culture. The story starts with adult Hadia's wedding--a love match between the eldest child (a perfectionist and doctor) to Tariq (a more modern/relaxed Indian of a different sect). We see the family at the wedding and learn that there is much drama and estrangement between Amar and the family. The history of this family drama unfolds throughout the book as the author moves back and forth in time and the tale is told from the different perspectives of the main characters. I think the great beauty in a book like this is how you can find a family that in most all aspects of background, religion, and life in general, is so completely different from your own, yet you can find so many commonalities in the characters, their personalities, roles in the family, and experiences. Hadia and Amar as the oldest daughter and youngest son, tend to get the most notice--both good and bad from their parents, while Huda, the middle child, is more of a minor character--but no less relatable. The story touches on subjects such as addiction, cultural struggles, family dysfunction, and the impact of 9/11 on a Muslim family in America (the children are teens when it happens) and the ongoing fear, distrust and bigotry many have for this religion and culture. 

There were times that the back and forth in time and perspective got confusing to me as it moves quickly and often, with no clear identifying path. I found at one point that I must have put my bookmark in the wrong section and I missed about fifty pages and didn't notice it until something really didn't make sense, then I had to go back to read what I had missed. Still, the story is well-crafted and so impressive, especially for a debut novel, that the minor frustrations of having to unwind, slow down, and find my place were well worth it for the quality of the story. The way the author uncovered the story in pieces and learning the various characters' "whys" for their actions were smartly done and had me wiping away tears at an ending, that while not wrapping things up completely, left me satisfied. 

A Place For Us is not a light, breezy summer read, it requires thought and draws at emotions, but it resonated with me and I think it will with anyone that enjoys stories with family and cultural drama, beautiful and descriptive writing, and strong characters.

Author Notes: Fatima Farheen Mirza was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.

Find out more about A Place for Us at


Food Inspiration:

Centered around an Indian wedding and family life, there is plenty of food to be found in A Place For Us. Food mentions included mango and pineapple juice and a table of Wedding appetizers--including samosas with mint sauce and tandori chicken, wedding gift pouches of almonds and chocolates, popcorn, pomegranates and mangoes, ice cream--pistachio, almond and vanilla, Peanut M&Ms, lunches of pears, grapes, Goldfish crackers, wraps of roti and fried okra, cereal with banana, kheema and fried tomatoes, dal, tawa gosht, freshly-made roti, macaroni, spinach and egg, tomatoes and basil growing in a garden, biryani/rice, a blended iced coffee drink, chaat with yogurt, blackberries, pasta salad, and baby carrots, a favorite Thai restaurant with desserts of mango sticky rice, fried roti and fried ice cream, pizza, tea, and an eggplant dish.

For my book-inspired dish I decided to go with a mango lassi--partly because it has been hot and humid here and after seeing it referenced several times in the book, I was seriously craving one, and partly because it was something that had special meaning to Hadia as it was the favorite drink of her boyhood crush. I wanted to keep it simple and dairy free, and not too sweet--so it isn't the most traditional of lassis, but it is delicious.

Vegan/Dairy-Free Mango Lassi
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2-3)

2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup non-dairy yogurt, plain or vanilla
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 tsp rosewater (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
sweetener of choice to taste if needed/desired--I didn't use any in mine
ice cubes/ice water, if needed/desired

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a little ice water or ice cubes as needed and continue to blend until smooth and pourable. Serve immediately. Any leftovers can be stored, cover in the fridge for a day or so.

Notes/Results: There is just something about a mango lassi--it's refreshing, satisfying, slightly exotic with the rosewater and cardamom and so good. With the coconut milk and coconut-based yogurt I used, this one was ultra rich and creamy and I found for me, it did not require any additional sweetener, but adapt it to your own tastes with whatever dairy or non-dairy milks and yogurts you prefer and sweeteners--honey, agave, coconut sugar, or a date or two would all work. I drank one of my lassis when I made it and saved the remaining to drink the next day, as well as stirred some of it into a vanilla chai pudding. I enjoyed it all and 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 "A Place For Us" 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.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Garden of Blue Roses" by Michael Barsa, Served with Vanilla Chia Pudding with Blueberries & Peaches

It's the day before the July 4th and your thoughts are probably turning to cookouts and fireworks, and maybe an icy cold beverage if it's hot and humid where you are. There is something else that can feel cool and refreshing on a warm day and that's a chill from a creepy, Gothic tale like The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa. I'm reviewing it today as a stop on the TLC Book Tour and accompanying my review is a cool and creamy vanilla chia pudding, topped with blueberries and peaches and inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn’t care. For the first time in his life, he’s free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.

Or so he thinks.

Milo settles into a quiet routine–constructing model Greek warships and at last building a relationship with his sister Klara, who’s home after a failed marriage and brief career as an English teacher. Then Klara hires a gardener to breathe new life into their overgrown estate. There’s something odd about him–something eerily reminiscent of their father’s most violent villain. Or is Milo imagining things? He’s not sure. That all changes the day the gardener discovers something startling in the woods. Suddenly Milo is fighting for his life, forced to confront the power of fictional identity as he uncovers the shocking truth about his own dysfunctional family–and the supposed accident that claimed his parents’ lives.

Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Underland Press (April 17, 2018)

My Review:

I'll say it flat out ...this is a strange book and a book that took me a bit to get into and make complete sense of. It's also a book that not everyone is going to like--because of that strangeness, its unreliable and fairly unlikable main character, and the fact that really, there are no truly likable characters here, just some less unlikable than others. All that being said, I liked it, I really did, and I found myself in turn fascinated with, repelled by, and oddly protective of Milo and Klara Crane--the two main characters. (For movie fans, I picture Milo in my mind as a cross between a young Anthony Perkins in Psycho and Bud Court in Harold  and Maude and young Milo as the kid who played Damien in The Omen and Klara as Jennifer Jason Leigh in Delores Claiborne.) The Garden of Blue Roses definitely has a strong Shirley Jackson Gothic, creepy sibling vibe that is reminiscent and yet very different from We Have Always Lived at the Castle--which happens to be a favorite of mine. 

I don't want to give away any more details than are already in the blurb, but lets just say that this is family dysfunction at its creepiest. The horror here is not in-your-face, it's psychological, so more dark and chilling than truly scary--a tone that starts from the first page with the shrill blast of an old clanging phone ringing in a large, spooky house and an accident on an icy road, then builds the tension, page by page until the very end with the plot, and the Crane family's secrets are cleverly unfolded with dark humor and some great twists. There were a few times when things went over my head and I had to go back and read passages again to figure out what was happening, but it was worth it. This is Barsa's first book and if you like smart Gothic and literary fiction that leans into horror, suspense, strange but well-drawn characters, and dark family secrets, you might just enjoy it As for me, I'm going to add it with its gorgeous dark blue cover to my shelves and wait for Barsa to write some more.


Author Notes: Michael Barsa grew up in a German-speaking household in New Jersey and spoke no English until he went to school. So began an epic struggle to master the American “R” and a lifelong fascination with language. He’s lived on three continents and spent many summers in southern Germany and southern Vermont.
He’s worked as an award-winning grant writer, an English teacher, and an environmental lawyer. He now teaches environmental and natural resources law. His scholarly articles have appeared in several major law reviews, and his writing on environmental policy has appeared in The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times. His short fiction has appeared in Sequoia.
The Garden of Blue Roses is his first novel.

Connect with Michael via his Website or Facebook.


Food Inspiration:

There is not a lot of tempting food mentioned in The Garden of Blue Roses and what's mentioned sometimes has a creepy connotation, like Milo chopping carrots and they remind him of Klara's fingers or a few other more graphic relations of food to the body or blood. OK, that's appetizing--we'll move on... ;-) There was some 'normal' food present and it included coffee, hot scones and cheese, hamburgers, canned cream of mushroom soup, tea and butter cookies, soda, champagne, pork roast, potatoes and Brussels sprouts, popping corn, shrimp, icy summer drinks, wieners and sauerkraut, wine, maple syrup, freeze-dried ice cream, canned peaches, lamb chops, lettuce, cocoa, soft-boiled eggs, chocolate with marzipan centers, croissants, orange juice, pears, biscuits, gravy, wine and fine cheeses,  flavored tea bottles, and steaks.

For my book inspired dish, I decided to make a pudding. There's a reference in the book where something (you really don't want me to go into it) is compared to a child with pudding on his face. I wanted to add blueberries for the gorgeous blue color of the cover and canned peaches (or rather a cup of peaches in their juices) because Milo had a favorite brand. I decided on chia pudding because it's healthier than standard puddings--you get protein, fiber, calcium, omega 3's and other good nutrients--and chia seeds are low in carbs. Vanilla and a little maple syrup to sweeten and flavor and coconut milk to keep it dairy-free. Plus my friend Natalie just post a pic of a chia seed pudding on Instagram and I've been craving it.

Vanilla Chia Pudding 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4)

2 cups coconut milk, or milk of choice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup, or to taste
1/2 cup chia seeds
fresh blueberries and whatever other fruit or nuts you like to top

Place coconut milk. vanilla and maple syrup into a bowl and whisk until well blended. Whisk in the chia seeds until evenly blended. Pour into a jar or container and chill in the fridge overnight. If you have time, whisk the mixture--or shake it gently a few times to make sure it gels evenly.

When ready to enjoy, scoop into bowls and serve topped with fresh fruit and whatever else you like.

Notes/Results: As much as I dislike tapioca and those mushy spheres, I adore chia seed pudding. There's something about how creamy it becomes, but then the crunch of the seeds (which I like--think of poppy seed dressing or muffins) make it a little different and interesting--much like this book. This vanilla chia seed pudding was an excellent blend of vanilla flavor, sweet, but not too sweet and perfect with the blueberries and peaches. I ate it for lunch and will be having some for dessert and for breakfast--I think it counts as an all-day food. I'll happily make it again.

And once again, how gorgeous is this cover?!?

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 Garden of Blue Roses" 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, June 13, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)" by Terri-Lynne DeFino, Served with a Recipe for 3-Ingredient Pineapple-Mango "Nice" Cream

Happy Wednesday! It's a warm and humid one here so I am happy to be enjoying some cold, sweet-tart frozen goodness while reviewing The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses), a new novel by Terri-Lynne DeFino as a stop on the TLC Book Tour. That chilly goodness is a three-ingredient, all-fruit and non-dairy Pineapple-Mango 'Nice' Cream, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.
Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. 
Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.
As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

Paperback: 336 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 12, 2018)

My Review:

I have a few blogger friends who refuse to read or preemptively dislike books with long titles and subtitles so they would not even pick up The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses), which would be a shame because it is an engaging and enjoyable book. It also has a story or book inside the book so maybe it gets a pass on the long title since it's two stories in one. ;-)

The retirement home, called the "Pen" by its staff in residents was set up by Alfonse Carducci's mentor and lover, Cornelius Traeger, as a place elderly and ailing writers could find respite in their last days. In edition to its quirky collection of authors, editors, publicists and others--some very famous, some less so, there are is a staff--a doctor/director, nurses, orderlies and a groundskeeper. Cecibel Bringer is an orderly, who hides out at the Pen--from her past and from the accident that has left half of her face and her life destroyed. Cecibel is one of Alfonse Carducci's biggest fans and her admiration for him and the hurt she carries around with her, calls to Alfonse and she becomes his muse, inspiring him to pick up his pen to write again in the limited time he has left. A few close friends and more of Alfonse are living out their days at the home and soon they are adding their own passions and skills to the story the Alfonse starts. There are secrets and revelations, a possible romance for Cecibel and  of course the passed around treasure of a notebook where the authors take turns writing from different points of view.

With the story-within-a-story and the various characters--residents, staff, characters they are writing, etc., things could get confusing but DeFino manages to make it flow smoothly and wind the various bits together while secrets are unwinding. I can't decide whether I liked the chapters devoted to the present or 1999 at the Pen in Maine, or the mid-to-late 1950s where the book--a tale of star-crossed lovers take place, mostly in New Jersey. When I was reading one part I was enjoying it but found myself looking forward to getting back to the chapters in the other era. I was immediately drawn into the book and it kept me involved until the end. The characters are almost all likable and I found myself wishing the best for them and I was sorry to turn the last page although the ending satisfied. Quirky, unique, touching and engaging, The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Authors (And Their Muses) (OK, the title really is too darn long!) ;-) is a great summer read for book lovers and fans of writers and a book that's easy to escape with.


Author Notes: Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.
Find out more about Terri at her website.


Food Inspiration: 

There is some food in the book, not a lot, but certainly enough to provide inspiration.  Some of the mentions included burgers and fries, coffee, tea (chamomile, peppermint and Earl Gray specifically), a lobster bake with butter, rolls and ice cream accompanying it, hotdogs, tapioca, puddings, light cakes and sorbets, whiskey, turkey sandwiches, ice tea and chips, pancakes, Long Island Iced Teas, hors d'oeuvres, Manhattans, steak, port, pies, fried chicken, potato salad, turkey with gravy and stuffing, s'mores, malteds and egg creams, chocolate cake, cannoli, salmon properly cooked, gimlets, hot cocoa, New England clam chowder, popcorn, cookies,carrot, potatoes and beef, Russian tea cakes, champagne, chicken Parmesan and sausage and pepper sandwiches. 

With a hot day and a busy week, my thoughts went to ice cream and a sentence about the retirement home, "The Pen" and having a pattissier--"creating decadent but harmless tapiocas and puddings, light cakes and sorbets" for the elderly residents. What could be more harmless than ice cream, or "nice" cream made with frozen fruit? I had pinned a recipe for Pineapple Nice Cream from Eating Well Magazine and it sounded like a good match for the book and a perfect match for the weather.

Eating Well says, "All-fruit, dairy-free and with no added sugar—these are the hallmarks of nice cream, a healthy alternative to ice cream. This pineapple nice cream has tropical flavors, thanks to a hit of mango and lime. It takes just minutes to make this naturally sweet frozen dessert in the food processor or a blender. Enjoy it alone, or top with fresh fruit and toasted coconut." 

Pineapple Nice Cream
Carolyn Casner, Eating Well Magazine, November 2017
(6 Servings) (Let's be real--more like 3 or 4!)

1 16-ozpackage  frozen pineapple chunks
1 cup frozen mango chunks or 1 large ripe mango peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice or lemon juice 

Process pineapple, mango and lemon (or lime) juice in a food processor until smooth and creamy. (If using frozen mango, you may have to add up to 1/4 cup water.

For the best texture, serve immediately.

Nutritional Info: Serving size: ½ cup Per serving: 55 calories; 0 g fat(0 g sat); 2 g fiber; 14 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 26 mcg folate; 0 cholesterol; 11 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 342 IU vitamin A; 47 mg vitamin C; 13 mg calcium; 0 mg iron; 1 mg sodium; 131 mg potassium

Notes/Results: I have made banana nice cream and homemade Dole Whip before and this is right up there. Although the pineapple is a bit more prominent, the mango comes through and sweetens and mellows the pineapple a bit--rounding out the flavor. Refreshing and a good combination of sweet and tangy, it's a tropical taste treat that goes together easily and tastes great. (Although our humidity did make it melt pretty quick while taking pictures--lucky my spoon is also a straw!) 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 "The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)" 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.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "In Every Moment We Are Still Alive" by Tom Malmquist, Served with a Recipe for Muesli with Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Banana & Strawberries

Today I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour of In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, a heart-tugging autobiographical novel by Tom Malmquist. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Muesli with Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Banana & Strawberries, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A prize-winning, bestselling debut of love, loss, and family–based on a true story–that’s winning readers around the world.

When Tom’s heavily pregnant girlfriend Karin is rushed to the hospital, doctors are able to save the baby. But they are helpless to save Karin from what turns out to be acute Leukemia. And in a cruel, fleeting moment Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate. In Every Moment We Are Alive is the story of the year that changes everything, as Tom must reconcile the fury and pain of loss with the overwhelming responsibility of raising his daughter, Livia, alone.
By turns tragic and redemptive, meditative and breathless, achingly poignant and darkly funny, this autobiographical novel has been described as ‘hypnotic’, ‘impossible to resist’ and ‘one of the most powerful books about grief ever written’.

Shortlisted for the Nordic Council Literary Award — the ‘Nordic Booker’ — the judges praised it as “one of the most powerful books about grief ever written.” Malmquist is the first novelist to ever win Sweden’s prestigious Dagens Nyheter Culture Prize.  This novel is translated from Swedish by Henning Koch (the translator of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove).

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Melville House (January 30, 2018)

My Review:

I was interested in reviewing In Every Moment We Are Alive after reading the blurb and seeing all the accolades the book was getting. It's based on the real life and experiences of the author, Tom Malmquist when his long-time girlfriend Karin, is rushed to the hospital with breathing issues. What should be a happy time for the couple, Karin is pregnant with their daughter, soon becomes tragic as Karin's health rapidly deteriorates and she is diagnosed with acute leukemia. Doctors are able to save the baby (named Livia by Karin) delivering her prematurely, but not Karin.

This book was a challenge to read for a few reasons. Having recently come out of the hospital, starting in the ICU for a acute asthma attack, the respirator and cannula descriptions (I have an interesting fading scar from one on my wrist) made me flash back a bit squeamishly and Malmquist's descriptions of his anger, frustration and grief are very raw and tug at the heart. The writing itself is free-form--which can be hard to follow as Malmquist goes back and forth in time and writes in rambling sentences where dialogue is written without quotation marks, paragraphs run long, and chapter breaks are few and far between. There are also a myriad of doctors, nurses, friends and family mixed in, most of whom just appear without an introduction, and it takes time to figure out who everyone is. But, as someone who has suffered grief and with it thoughts that run on and on with a mish-mash of past, present, and random images that flash across your mind, although In Every Moment We Are Still Alive can be difficult to read, it comes across as very real and it is worth the extra care it takes as a reader to work your way through it. 

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, won't appeal to every one--both in the subject matter and the writing style. If chaotic writing leaves you unable to focus on a story, it won't be the book for you, but if you can get into the rhythm of the author's words, there is a beautiful story of family, love, loss, and hope that unfolds from a tragedy.


Author Notes:  
Tom Malmquist is a poet and sportswriter. He has written two highly acclaimed poetry collections. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is his first novel. He lives in Sweden.


Food Inspiration:

Although not a focus in the book, there is food to be found within the pages of In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, including coffee, cheese sandwiches, a salad with prawns and Rhode Island sauce (similar to Thousand Island dressing), orange juice, a late night dinner at a kabob shop with garlic sauce on the table, a Frödinge curd cake, pickled gherkins, a seafood cocktail made prawns, lobster and mint, a dinner of beef, salad, Dauphinoise potatoes, gravy and Bearnaise sauce, coffee and Marie biscuits, yogurt, egg sandwiches and sandwiches of liver pâté and gherkins, pina coladas, cucumber salad, potatoes, lamb osso bucco, a hotdog stand with a Sausage Special with Boston gherkins, and a picnic of Swiss hard cheese, roast chicken, vine tomatoes and Chablis. 

I ended up taking my inspiration from Tom cleaning out the kitchen cabinets in the flat he shared with Karin, "I throw most of the contents of the kitchen cabinets into black bags: pumpkin seeds, black quinoa, apple and cinnamon muesli, raisins, tins of tomato pulp and white beans, cocoa, vanilla sugar, cartons of green tea, toasted linseed, spelt flour, walnuts, dried apricots, some of the expiry dates go back as far as 2003."

I decided it was a good time to make some homemade muesli, and decided to put a few of the ingredients that mentioned in the book and that I had in my pantry (pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cinnamon, apples, and dried fruit) into it.

Muesli, is a breakfast dish based on raw oats, grains, seeds, nuts, and dried and fresh fruit that was usually mixed with milk or yogurt and left overnight for the oats to soften, then eaten cold. Muesli was developed in the early 1900s by Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital. The original Bircher muesli was soaked overnight with water and lemon juice and then mixed with yogurt to eat the next day.  Muesli comes in many different styles and forms now pre-packaged and fresh. I am not a big hot oatmeal fan but like muesli and it's modern application into overnight oats.
This is a recipe I use often, (I've posted it here and here) based on Jamie Oliver's Pukkolla from The Naked Chef Takes Off. I have adapted it to my tastes over the years (including making a smaller batch here) and I vary the ingredients based on what I have in the pantry and what strikes my mood.

Muesli with Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Banana & Strawberries
Adapted from Jamie Oliver

Muesli Dry Mix:
4 large handfuls of organic rolled oats
1 handfuls of chopped dried fruits of choice (I used pineapple & papaya)

1 handful of crumbled or chopped walnuts or nuts of choice 
1 handful of pumpkin seeds 
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Add your oats to an airtight container along with the dried fruit, nuts and cinnamon. Place the lid on and shake well to mix. This dry mixture will keep for a good couple of months in the airtight container

The Night before: 
non-dairy milk to cover (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1/2 crunchy apple per serving, washed and unpeeled

You can make this anytime, but letting it sit overnight (or for about 8 hours), gives it a better texture. Place the amount of dry muesli you want to eat in a bowl or small, lidded container. (Remember the dry muesli will almost double in volume so an average serving is about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of dry mix.)

Grate in about 1/2 an apple per person, cover with the milk and stir immediately to keep the apple from discoloring. Place in the fridge overnight. 

To Eat:
1/2 banana per person, peeled and sliced or mashed 

1/2 cup sliced strawberries or other fruit
honey or maple syrup to taste

Remove the container/bowl from the fridge. You will find that the muesli has softened and thickened, so loosen with a little additional milk. Add your banana, sliced or mashed or blueberries. You will find that a lot of natural sweetness has come out of the dried fruit, so add honey or maple syrup to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: Muesli makes for a satisfying breakfast and it is one of those recipes that you can adapt to your tastes and available ingredients, adding more or less of any ingredient too. if you want less sugar, use less dried fruit and bump up the nuts and seeds if you want more protein--it all works. Don't leave out the grated apple (I like HoneyCrisp) as it adds a nice sweet-tart flavor to the oats and a great texture to the mix. Although I only made a half-batch, since you only use a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the oat mixture per serving, I'll be enjoying it for breakfast a lot. ;-)

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 "In Every Moment We Are Still Alive" 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 10, 2017

Vegan Cheesy Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Tempeh "Bacon" Crumbles for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was craving a baked potato soup, fully loaded of course with those all-important toppings, but I wanted a healthier and preferably vegan version so I put this one together. I used both russet and Yukon gold potatoes and leeks and combined frozen cauliflower, coconut milk and nutritional yeast--blended up with some of the soup to thicken it and to give it a cheesy vibe. 

For toppings, I went with non-dairy sour cream, Diaya cheese-style shreds, green onions, and bacon, or rather 'fake-on' crumbles. I have been wanting to experiment with making my own vegan bacon crumbles and was torn between tempeh (a fermented soy product) and coconut flakes, but tempeh won out in the end.

Cheesy Loaded Baked Potato Soup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6)

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and green parts only, cleaned and sliced
1 small bunch green onions, white parts separated from green
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1  tsp celery salt
1 bay leaf
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 to 3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth of choice (I used Better Than Bouillon non-chicken paste)
1 package frozen cauliflower, cooked
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp lemon juice
sea salt and black pepper to taste

To Serve: sliced green onion tops, vegan sour cream, vegan cheese, tempeh bacon crumbles (recipe below)

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks and saute for about 10 minutes--until leeks are soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the dried parsley, celery salt, bay leaf, potatoes and broth. Bring the mixture to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 15 to 20 or until the potatoes are tender. Remove the bay leaf. 

Take two ladles of the soup and puree in a blender with the cooked cauliflower, coconut milk, nutritional yeast and coconut milk until smooth. Add the blended mixture back to the soup and cook on medium-low for 5 minutes until heated through. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Serve garnished with the non-dairy cheese, non-dairy sour cream, green onions and tempeh bacon crumbles. Enjoy!

Tempeh Bacon Crumbles
Inspiration from from this recipe and this recipe

1 (8 oz) package plain organic tempeh (I used Lightlife brand)
1/3 cup low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp roasted garlic powder
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 scant Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp black pepper

Slice the block of tempeh in half lengthwise, then into thin strips and then into small cubes, crumbling slightly with your fingers and them place in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Mix the other ingredients together and pour into the bag. Gently shake and 'massage" the bag so the tempeh is evenly coated with the marinade.  Allow the tempeh to marinate for several hours.

When ready to cook, drain the tempeh with a colander and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a large skillet over medium high, add crumbles and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes until the pieces get crispy around the edges. 

Use warm or allow to cool and keep stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Notes/Results: I liked this soup--thick and velvety with a definitely cheesy vibe going on. I liked the different textures of the two kinds of potatoes and using the cauliflower to add nutrients, flavor and thickening. I think it has good flavor on its own, but add those toppings and we are in business. I need to experiment a bit more with the tempeh bacon. Flavor-wise I thought it was fairly spot on but I would have liked a crisper texture. I actually fried it a second time and that helped a bit but I may try to get the tempeh a bit drier the next time (why I recommend draining and patting it dry in the recipe notes.) I plan to play around with it and also try a coconut flake version to see if I like the texture better. But overall a success and it definitely hit the spot for my baked potato craving. 

Obviously I liked it! ;-)

We have some great people and dishes awaiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look.

The Bearded Hiker joins us at Souper Sundays this week with Chili Cheese Dog Chili and said, "My wife was on Pinterest, looking at food. Typical. She spots this slow cooker chili cheese dog chili from Hot dogs are not her number one food. Not even her #1000 food, but she knows how I love hot dogs. She shows it to me, reads the ingredients, and I’m so down. Let’s do this. So yeah, the original recipe is done in the slow cooker. Perfect! Just not for me, not on this day. I wanted it and I wanted it now!“No worries,” she says. “I’m gonna throw it in the pressure cooker and see what happens.” Rock on, so that’s what we did."

Kim of Stirring the Pot tried Ina's 16 Bean Pasta e Fagioli but didn't have a great result. She said, "This soup takes forethought, quite a bit of work, and results in lots of dirty dishes. No problem, right? After all, I love all the ingredients and this soup is definitely going to be great. Wrong. So wrong. I wish I didn't have to say this, but my soup was really mild. Way too mild. In fact, my husband's comment was "this has no flavor at all." I had to agree with him. ...this recipe is a no go for us. Don't be afraid to give it a try though because I know a few others who have really enjoyed it! But, do me a favor, soak your beans overnight!"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made Eggplant Sliders and said, "The lunch was meant to be eggplant sliders but I didn't' get to the grocery store for Hawaiian rolls. Those little things are so good. (Putting it on the list to look for a copycat recipe) We usually take our lunch as it's preferable to fighting lunch time crowds and also it's cost effective. Plus there are crazy holiday shoppers out there now and the traffic is maddening. Our workplace break rooms are blissfully quiet and empty this time of year."

Mahalo to everyone who joined me at Souper Sundays this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches 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 the post you link up to be included.

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 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!