Showing posts with label desserts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label desserts. Show all posts

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here; A Review of "The Islanders" by Meg Mitchell Moore, Served with "Essence-of-Summer" Peach, Strawberry & Blueberry Crisps

Happy Aloha Friday! It has been a long, crazy and rainy week and I can't tell you how happy I am that the weekend has finally arrived. I'm kicking it off with a summer-perfect new book, The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore as I'm today's stop on the TLC Book Tour. I've paired it with a recipe for tasty "Essence-of-Summer" Strawberry, Peach and Blueberry Crisps inspired by the book.

Plublisher's Blurb:

J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine meets the works of Elin Hilderbrand in this delicious summer read involving three strangers, one island, and a season packed with unexpected romance, well-meaning lies, and damaging secrets.

Anthony Puckett was a rising literary star. The son of an uber-famous thriller writer, Anthony’s debut novel spent two years on the bestseller list and won the adoration of critics. But something went very wrong with his second work. Now Anthony’s borrowing an old college’s friend’s crumbling beach house on Block Island in the hopes that solitude will help him get back to the person he used to be.

Joy Sousa owns and runs Block Island’s beloved whoopie pie café. She came to this quiet space eleven years ago, newly divorced and with a young daughter, and built a life for them here. To her customers and friends, Joy is a model of independence, hard-working and happy. And mostly she is. But this summer she’s thrown off balance. A food truck from a famous New York City brand is roving around the island, selling goodies—and threatening her business.

Lu Trusdale is spending the summer on her in-laws’ dime, living on Block Island with her two young sons while her surgeon husband commutes to the mainland hospital. When Lu’s second son was born, she and her husband made a deal: he’d work and she’d quit her corporate law job to stay home with the boys. But a few years ago, Lu quietly began working on a private project that has becoming increasingly demanding on her time. Torn between her work and home, she’s beginning to question that deal she made.

Over the twelve short weeks of summer, these three strangers will meet and grow close, will share secrets and bury lies. And as the promise of June turns into the chilly nights of August, the truth will come out, forcing each of them to decide what they value most, and what they are willing to give up to keep it.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 11, 2019)

My Review:

The Islanders spoke my love language with its focus on food (a bakery owner and a blogger), writers, and a picturesque island community--it's set on the real Block Island in Rhode Island, so I went in pretty convinced that it would be a win for me and it was. Three characters have stories that the author weaves together well, building my interest in all of them and making me root for Anthony, Joy and Lu. Joy is a single mother who lives year-round on Block Island, selling her delicious whoopie pies out of her bakery/cafe and parenting a teenager. Lu, a stay-at-home-mom and her two young sons are staying on the island while her surgeon husband commutes there when his schedule allows. Lu has been keeping some pretty big secrets from her husband and the rest of the world and needs to decide what she wants to do with her popular food blog. Anthony is a talented writer and the son of a famous thriller author. While his first book won him praise from critics and fans alike, a plagiarizing accusation on his second book and his imploding marriage have him going incognito on the island. I liked each of these characters and was never disappointed when the perspectives changed with the chapter unlike other books where I gravitate to one character or story. It felt like much less than 432 pages and I was sorry to see the book end. The setting and its sights, smells, sounds, the food (of course) and the people are all vividly described and had me easily picturing it in my mind. Living on a more tropical island in the Pacific, I find myself drawn to reading about the Atlantic coastal shoreline and the little communities along it and on nearby islands. I'd love to spend time on Block Island--especially if the real-life restaurants are as good as the fictional ones the author created. ;-) 

The Islanders is my first book from Meg Mitchell Moore and I am sure it won't be my last. if you like women's fiction, coastal and small town/community settings, intertwining stories, and novels that include a foodie focus, it will make a great addition to your summer book stack and is perfect for reading at the beach or pool. 


Meg Mitchell Moore works as a non-fiction writer in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband and three young daughters.

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


With the owner of a whoopie pie shop/bakery (Joy Bombs) and a secret food blogger, The Islanders was full of delicious-sounding food. Mentions included whoopie pies flavors of raspberry cream, pumpkin spice, gingerbread, apple cinnamon and double-chocolate fudge, coffee, screwdrivers, summer chili with lots of vegetables and yellow squash, tacos, salads, lemon ricotta pancakes, broken artichoke salad to go on the side of pasta puttanesca, chicken nuggets, giant blueberry muffins dusted with cinnamon sugar, a farro salad with mozzarella and tomatoes, fresh strawberry and peppermint stick ice cream, a salad with bacon and a poached egg over arugula with homemade Parmesan croutons, spaghetti with clam sauce, a french food truck with salad Nicoise, croque monsieur and madame, pommes frites and macarons, banana chocolate bread pudding with mint creme anglaise, pickles of all sorts of veggies and peaches, grilled cheese, bagels, caramel popcorn, digging for clams, summer vegetable lasagna, roasted broccoli--charred and sprinkled with sea salt, a simple caprese salad with grilled tuna, calamari, tomato and burrata salad, ginger-rubbed swordfish, Thai mango salad with peanut dressing and grilled or stir-fried tofu, shrimp or salmon, macaroni and cheese, grilled scallops, black bean tostadas, skillet cornbread with jalapeno peppers, honey and cheese, spaghetti carbonara with duck confit, grilled tenderloin, cheese souffle, friend chicken, meatloaf, chicken and lobster potpies, banana pancakes spread with homemade almond butter, milk, rosé wine, sangria and Dark 'n' Stormies, fried clams, chocolate Heath bar ice cream, Moscow Mules, salt-and-pepper calamari, a grilled fish sandwich with fries, summer shrimp salad, and strawberry and arugula salad with jalapeno, radishes and feta or goat cheese. 

Although there is a whoopie pie recipe in the back of the book, I am not a baker and even if I was, it's been too hot and too busy to bake so I decided to pick something else as my book-inspired dish. There were actually quite a lot of dishes that I considered making, especially some of the salad combinations. In the end I was drawn to Lu developing an "essence-of-summer" cobbler for her blog. The one challenge is that I much prefer the oat and brown sugar goodness of a crisp or crumble topping than a cobbler crust, so I deviated from the book and made mine an Essence-of-Summer Crisp. In the book, it just has Lu looking at a package of strawberries but I decided that combining multiple fruits says "summer" to me and used strawberries, frozen peaches and blueberries and added sliced almonds to the crust.

"Essence of Summer' Strawberry, Peach & Blueberry Crisps
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4  with Ice Cream)

about 1 lb fresh strawberries, cored and sliced
1 1/2 cups frozen peaches, thawed and chopped into thirds
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/3 cup brown sugar,or more depending on sweetness of your berries
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 heaping cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, or to taste
1/3 cup sliced almonds
 4 Tbsp salted butter, cold, cut into tiny cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a pan with parchment or foil and set aside.

Place the fruit in a medium bowl. In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch into the lemon juice with about 1/4 cup of water until completely blended, pour over fruit and toss until well mixed. Place fruit into an even layer into four (lightly buttered) small oven-safe ramekins and set aside.  

For the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, and sliced almonds into a mixing bowl. Add the pieces of butter to the mixture 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 25-30 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 the crisps sit for about 15 to 20 minutes and serve warm with ice cream or half-and-half. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I was very happy with these little crisps, especially with a scoop of Tillamook Marionberry Ice cream on top. The flat ramekins bubbled over a bit, but I was prepared with a well-lined pan underneaths o no real messes were made. Crisps are such big bang for low effort desserts, I will happily make this one 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 Islanders" 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.


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.


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.

You can find The Republic of Tea on the web, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,& Instagram

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.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tropical Pineapple Pie for Cook the Books December/January Pick: "Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers" by Sara Ackerman

Yes, I hosted this round of Cook the Books (the best virtual foodie book club going ten years strong!) and yes, I am posting (as per usual), right before the deadline. ;-) Having been on the TLC Book Tours Instagram Tour for Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman last year, I was more than excited to make it our December/January selection. Historical fiction set during World War II is my jam, and the fact that this novel is set on the Big Island of Hawaii made it an obvious pick as I have been long wanting to host a Hawaii-based book for our group. My book-inspired dish, Tropical Pineapple Pie, gave me a chance to crack open a cookbook that was given to me when I started my new job in August.

But first, let's talk about the book. Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is a touching and engaging story about Violet, a teacher in the small community of Honoka'a, Hawaii (north of Hilodealing with the effects of the war on her community and the disappearance of her husband the year prior. Violet is especially worried about her daughter, Ella, who is withdrawn and suffering and seems to know something about what happened to her father. Violet and her friends (roommate and fellow teacher Jean and Japanese Setsuko, whose husband has been taken away to a internment holding area on the island) band together to make and sell pies to the soldiers who are stationed on the island as they prepare to be shipped out to battle.

Author Sara Ackerman was born and raised in Hawaii and she paints a vivid picture of wartime life and the impact on the islands. The story is told from both Violet's and Ella's points of view and mother and daughter are likable characters that are easy to root for, as are their friends and the supporting characters of soldiers and townspeople. The book has secrets, drama, romance and friendship, not to mention a pet lion named Roscoe and lots of pie. Since I read a lot of World War II-set novels, I loved this glimpse of Hawaii at war that isn't centered around Oahu and Pearl Harbor (although I am very much looking forward to Ackerman's second book, The Lieutenant's Nurse, due out in March that is set on Oahu and on the attack and its aftermath).

Although the pies that Violet and her friends bake and sell to the soldiers (especially the chocolate honeycomb pies and coconut sweet potato pies) are a focus of the food in the book, there was plenty of other food to be found including coconuts, vanilla ice cream, corn, pineapple, Okinawan sweet potatoes, coffee, banana pancakes, cornflakes, rice balls, mint, sweet potato soup, okolehao (Hawaiian moonshine), rice cakes, poi, chocolate pudding, kale, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, cucumber, meatloaf with sauce and sage, sushi made with canned sardines, Spam casserole, passion-orange juice, peanuts, Saloon pilot crackers with chunks of salted codfish, creamed corn, beef stew and white rice, Spanish casserole, roasted fall vegetables, hamburgers, manapua, chop suey, porridge, malasadas (Portuguese donuts), steak fry, tomatoes, musabi, ginger, guava, chicken hekka, honey, sugarcane lemonade, Coca Cola, chili and rice, ham sandwich with pickles, tomato, lettuce and onion, Spam sandwiches, red potato salad, apples, papio (fish), taro, and watercress (slightly steamed and sprinkled with sea salt), opihi (shellfish) ohelo berry pie, mashed potatoes, roast pig,cornbread stuffing casserole, pumpkin pie, frosted gingerbread men, champagne, roasting marshmallows, toast with grape jelly, lemon baked ahi, steak and eggs, and lilikoi (passion fruit).

I'm not much of a baker or a pie maker, but it was what was calling me for this book so I popped open a few of my Hawaii cookbooks and looked for easy, no-bake pies. My team had three cookbooks at my desk when I started my job in August and I found a couple of likely recipes that had the right vibe in Celebrating in Hawai'i: Favorite Recipes for Holidays and Special Occasions by Muriel Miura and the Star Advertiser. I went back and forth between a Guava Chiffon Pie and the Tropical Pineapple Pie which finally won out because of Mr. Macadangdang's trucks full of coconuts and the mentions of pineapples in the book. The pie had a bit of a retro feel to it and I liked the idea of the toasted coconut crust.

Tropical Pineapple Pie
Slightly Adapted from Celebrating in Hawaii by Muriel Miura
(Makes 8-10 Servings)

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 can (7 oz) flaked coconut (I used 7 oz packed dry coconut + 2 Tbsp coconut condensed milk)
1 can (13 1/2 oz) pineapple tidbits, undrained
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar 
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1 package (3 oz) lemon-flavored gelatin
2 egg whites
2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup water

Brown coconut in butter, stirring constantly over moderate heat. Reserve 2 tablespoons for topping. Press remaining mixture onto bottom and sides of 10-inch pie pan, Set aside to cool.

Drain pineapple and pour syrup and lemon juice into a small saucepan. Set pineapple aside. Beat together sugar, eggs, and salt. Stir egg mixture into pineapple syrup until well-blended. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in pineapple and chill until mixture begins to thicken.

Beat egg whites, dry milk, and water until soft peaks foam. Fold into chilled mixture and pour into coconut crust. Garnish top with reserved coconut flakes; chill until set, about 4 hours. 

Notes/Results: I was drawn to the recipe because of its old-fashioned feel and I love the way it looks, but flavor-wise, it was only okay for me. I wanted a stronger pineapple taste. The toasted coconut crust was my favorite part although I had to improvise a bit when I couldn't find canned coconut at my grocery store. Without canned, in order to get the toasted dried coconut to stick together enough to form the crust I added sweetened condensed coconut milk to it, pressed it into the pie pan and broiled it for a couple of minutes to get it to hold together. It made for a chewy, toasty crust that went well with the filling and that I would use 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.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is my first foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2019 event. You can check out the January 2019 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 Thursday, January 31st and I'll 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 February/March when we'll be reading Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, hosted by Claudia of Honey From Rock.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Widows" by Jess Montgomery, Served with a Recipe for Spicy Cinnamon Fried Apples on Toast {and a Book Giveaway!}

Happy Thursday! It's been a few weeks since I did a book review and so I am very happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Widows, a historical mystery novel by Jess Montgomery. Paired with my review are some tasty Spicy Cinnamon Fried Apples on Toast inspired by my reading, and there is a chance to win a copy of The Widows at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

Kinship, Ohio, 1924: When Lily Ross learns that her husband, Daniel Ross, the town’s widely respected sheriff, is killed while transporting a prisoner, she is devastated and vows to avenge his death.

Hours after his funeral, a stranger appears at her door. Marvena Whitcomb, a coal miner’s widow, is unaware that Daniel has died, and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter.

From miles away but worlds apart, Lily and Marvena’s lives collide as they realize that Daniel was not the man that either of them believed him to be–and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined.

Inspired by the true story of Ohio’s first female sheriff, this is a powerful debut about two women’s search for justice as they take on the corruption at the heart of their community.

Hardcover: 336 Pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (January 8, 2019)

My Review:

As you can probably tell by the number of historical novels I review on this blog, historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, especially when it takes me into the past and to aspects of history that I am not familiar with. In the case of The Widows, I was transported to the Appalachians and rural Ohio coal mines in 1925 where I learned about the attempts to unionize the mines and provide the workers with fair employment practices and safer working conditions, all why trying to solve a murder and a disappearance in a book with two strong female leads, based on real-life women. The character of Lily Ross is loosely based on Ohio’s first female sheriff, Maude Collins, appointed after her husband was killed during a traffic stop. Jess Montgomery had her character face a similar circumstance but made the question of who killed Lily’s husband Daniel the main mystery the book is centered around. As she investigates his death, Lily discovers aspects of Daniel’s life hidden from her including Marvena Whitcomb, also a widow, with a past that intersects with Daniel’s. Marvena is leading the local miners and their families in battling Daniel’s half-brother and his mining company against their unsafe work practices, all too real to both woman as Lily’s father and  Marvena’s husband died in the mines while trying to rescue miners after a cave-in. Marvena’s character is also loosely based a real person, Mary Harris (Mother) Jones, the labor activist who co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. Both lead characters are strong and doing what they need to do to take care of their families and communities. Lily steps into Daniel’s role of Sheriff while Marvena sells moonshine to support her daughter, Frankie. Marvena also spent time as a ‘working girl’ at the local boarding house, something her older daughter, Eula was doing when she turned up missing and Daniel was looking into her disappearance when he was killed, purportedly by Marvena’s brother Tom. Despite their dissimilar backgrounds, both women loved Daniel and find themselves working together and forging a relationship despite their differing backgrounds and economic levels.

I enjoyed the setting of the book and the way Montgomery wove the stories together, although The Widows isn’t a fast-moving mystery, it was absorbing and kept me engaged throughout. The mysteries—Tom’s death and Eula’s disappearance, were compelling, and while I guessed correctly about most of what happened, there were still some good twists to the story. I was interested in both Lily and Marvena’s characters and the fact it is a debut novel and is so well researched and written is impressive. I am happy to hear that The Widows is the first book in The Kinship Series and look forward to spending more time in the town of Kinship and its surrounding community. If you enjoy historical fiction, books set in rural Ohio and the surrounding area, stories with strong empowered female characters, mysteries, and learning more about American history, add The Widows to your TBR list. (You can enter a giveaway of a copy at the bottom of this post.) 

Author Notes: Jess Montgomery is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

You can connect with Jess on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There is food to be found in The Widows, and often it helps to illustrate the difference in lifestyle for Lily and Marvena. While Lily's table is more bountiful--even what she cooks for the people in the jail's holding cells, Marvena is making due with less and its often food she gathers from the nearby woodlands--berries, greens, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, pokeweed, black raspberries, and the vegetables she grows in her small garden. Montgomery speaks in the afterward about the research she did to capture the experience of the Appalachians in Ohio in the 1920s from the scenes in the mines, life in rural communities, and of course the food. Lily's mother's Dried Apple Stack Cake is based on her family recipe. (Looking online for examples, the cake looked delicious but far too work-intensive for me to attempt to make this week.) ;-) My list of some of the food mentioned in the book included tinned milk, cheese, chopped steak, ice cream, coffee, biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, potato and onion, bologna sandwiches, an after funeral buffet of fried chicken, deviled eggs, ham salad, corn relish, and apple and peach pies, roasted chestnuts, peppermint and butterscotch button candies, good salt ham, fresh-baked bread, green beans and corn, black raspberry jam and apple butter, corn pone with sorghum syrup, buttermilk pie, broth and foot vegetables, muffins, tea--chamomile and sassafras (a favorite character Nana says, "Life is hard. Have tea."--something I agree with), squirrel stew with root vegetables, beets and spring peas, soup beans made with dried pinto beans, onion, bacon fat and water, taffy, cornbread, buttermilk, beef stew, deer jerky, carrots and green onions, fritters, a fried apple stack cake, canned peaches, pickles, and jams.

I ended up taking my inspiration for my book-inspired dish from a mention of apples fried up with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon that Lily serves to Marvena in the jail cell: 

"Marvena snatches the plate through the food slot, carries it back to the cot, sits. She eats a bite of good salted ham. She has to keep herself from moaning with pleasure and relief. Next she takes a bite of apples, fried up with brown sugar and butter and cinnamon. Fancy, rich food. Marvena hates to admit it, but Lily's a good cook. She clears the plate quickly."

Although I kept the brown sugar, cinnamon and butter of the many recipes I looked at, I decided to add a pinch of salt and some (Aleppo) chile pepper to my apples, just to make them more interesting, and to serve them on thick slices of toast.

Spicy Cinnamon Fried Apples
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2)

2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp of your favorite chile pepper or cayenne (I used Aleppo pepper), or to taste 
tiny pinch of salt
2 apples of choice (I used Gala), cored and sliced
bread and butter, if desired, to serve 
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it is melted and begins to bubble; stir the sugar, cinnamon, chile pepper and salt into the hot butter. Add the apples and cook until apples begin to break down and soften. (This can take anywhere from about 8 to 12 minutes depending on how thick you sliced them and how soft you want them--I like my apples to be tender but not mushy so mine took about 10 minutes.

Toast bread and butter if desired. Serve with the apples and their juices spooned on top. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I love apples just about any way they can be served and this simple preparation didn't disappoint. I liked the combination of the sweet and slightly spicy sauce with a touch of tartness from the apples. The Aleppo pepper was present and give a little kick and warmth, but wasn't too spicy--just the way I like it (though the fried apples would still be perfectly delicious without it). Spooned over the toasted bread these apples made for a tasty after dinner snack. I made enough apples for another serving and will probably top my morning oatmeal with them. I will definitely 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.

***Book Giveaway!***

The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Widows to give away to a lucky reader (U.S./Canada addresses, please) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment please (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite era(s) in history to read about and/or why you would like to win a copy of the book

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: Tweet about this giveaway or follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii), and/or author Jess Montgomery (@JessM_Author), and/or Minotaur Books (@MinotaurBooks) on Twitter
(Note: You can still get the extra entries even if you already follow me, Jess Montgomery, and/or Minotaur Books on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is Monday, January 21st.

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: A review copy of "The Widows" 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.