Showing posts with label grains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grains. 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.


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.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "All Over the Map" by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller, Served with a Recipe for Butter-Toasted Apricot Oatmeal

It's Thursday evening and Friday is headed over the horizon. If you are going to spend the weekend thinking about holiday gift giving, check out my review of All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller for TLC Book Tours. It's a gorgeous National Geographic book that's perfect for map lovers and world-explorers. Along with my review is a fantastic recipe for my new favorite breakfast, Butter-Toasted Apricot Oatmeal by Ruth Reichl to give you the strength to go exploring.

Publisher's Blurb:

Created for map lovers by map lovers, this rich book explores the intriguing stories behind maps across history and illuminates how the art of cartography thrives today.
In this visually stunning book, award-winning journalists Betsy Mason and Greg Miller–authors of the National Geographic cartography blog “All Over the Map”–explore the intriguing stories behind maps from a wide variety of cultures, civilizations, and time periods. Based on interviews with scores of leading cartographers, curators, historians, and scholars, this is a remarkable selection of fascinating and unusual maps.
This diverse compendium includes ancient maps of dragon-filled seas, elaborate graphics picturing unseen concepts and forces from inside Earth to outer space, devious maps created by spies, and maps from pop culture such as the schematics to the Death Star and a map of Westeros from Game of Thrones. If your brain craves maps–and Mason and Miller would say it does, whether you know it or not–this eye-opening visual feast will inspire and delight.

Hardcover: 320 pages  
Publisher: National Geographic (October 30, 2018)

My Review:

I love maps--especially old maps with lots of character. I also adore books where the author includes a map--particularly if it is historical and a place that looks different today, or maps of fictional, made up worlds, so I immediately wanted to be on the TLC Book Tour for All Over the Map. It is a big, beautiful and utterly fascinating book featuring all kinds of unique maps that chart worlds both real and imagined. As it came late and I want to savor this book, I have not fully read it (yet) but I spent a pleasant few hours paging through it and finding it full of glorious pictures and interesting tidbits of history, geography, and cartography. 

The book is broken up into nine sections: Waterways, Cities, Conflict and Crisis, Landscapes, Economies, Science, Human Experiences, Worlds, and Art and Imagination. There are also sections for Further Reading (including resources and bibliographies) and a very detailed Index; both of which I appreciate. I was happy to find Parceling Out Paradise, about the ahupua'a, sections of land in Hawaii divided almost like a pie so that the owners would have a piece that stretched from the mountains through forests and farmlands to the sea. The 19th century maps (see the lower left two pictures in the collage below) are interesting and since my visitors almost always ask about the Ahupua'a signs that dot the roadways here, I can point them to this information. Maps of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake also pulled my immediate interest, as did the entire Conflict and Crisis maps of wars--especially the several WWII related maps. The fictional maps of the lands of Game of Thrones and the Death Star from Star Wars are fun, the maps made after the 2016 election showing the changed political landscape in the U.S. are telling, the maps of waterways and landscapes are stunning, and the 19th century maps showing the death toll in the U.K. from cholera are chilling. I could go on and on describing the many maps that grabbed my attention--there are just so many different kinds of cool maps in this book. 

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of All Over the Map and once I make my way through it, I plan to keep it as a reference. I'm that geeky person who likes to look things up to learn more as I read, and while Google is handy, having big color maps and detailed stories and information is even better. I predict that this book will be a hot seller for the holidays as I think anyone picking it up to page through it will want one for themselves and want to get one for a map-loving or hard-to-buy-for friend. Highly recommended.

Author Notes:

BETSY MASON is a science journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Previously she was the online science editor for Wired, where she built an award-winning science section, the highest-traffic section on the site. Mason earned a master’s degree in geology at Stanford University. Follow Betsy on Twitter, @betsymason.

GREG MILLER is a science and tech journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Previously he was a senior writer at Wired and a staff writer at Science, where he won several honors. Miller earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Stanford University. Follow Greg on Twitter, @dosmonos.

Recipe Inspiration:

OK, I will be honest. I wanted to make this Ruth Reichl oatmeal recipe this week for I Heart Cooking Clubs and decided to work it into my book inspired dish. I think maps are for explorers--whether you actually get out your maps and take off, or you are exploring a new world from the comfort of your favorite reading chair. Explorers need a good hearty breakfast like oatmeal to give them energy. Also (as my friend Barb wisely noted), you can find oatmeal and its variations in many countries all over the map. I think it works and so Butter-Toasted Apricot Oatmeal is my food pairing for this book. 

I made a couple of small changes to the recipe--noted in red below.

Butter-Toasted Apricot Oatmeal
Slightly Adapted from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
(Serves 2)

1 cup steel-cut oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
brown sugar (I used raw sugar)

Begin by melting a dollop of unsalted butter in a small pan until it becomes fragrant and slightly golden. Toss in the oats and worry them about until they're glistening , have turned slightly brown , and are very fragrant; it should take about 5 minutes.

Add 4 cups of water (I reduced the amount to 2 cups water + 1/3 cup cream for my Old Fashioned Oats) and the salt; turn up the heat and bring to a furious boil. Turn the heat down very low, cover the pot, and cook until most of the water has evaporated; this process should take about half an hour. At the last minute, stir in a handful of chopped dried apricots, heap the oatmeal into warmed bowls, and top with a few crumbles of brown sugar and a generous drizzle of cream.

Notes/Results: I am a bit hit-or-miss about oatmeal. I don't love it, but I go through phases where I eat it. That might change with Ruth's recipe. Toasting the oats in butter before cooking them gives the oatmeal another layer of flavor--toasty and more complex and the perfect foil for the bites of sweet dried apricots--it was delicious. I had old-fashioned oats in my pantry so that's what I used, plus they take less time to cook (and less water) making them perfect for a busy night or morning. I happily gobbled up a bowl for dinner and put the rest aside to take to work for breakfast tomorrow. I will make this again. 

Linking up at I Heart Cooking Clubs for Morning Glories--Ruth Reichl breakfast recipes. 

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 "All Over the Map" 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, May 23, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Because I'm Worth It" by Linda Nielsen, Served with Nepenthe's Café Krevah Granola

I'm easing over the Wednesday hump with a book review and a recipe. Kahakai Kitchen is today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Because I'm Worth It, a novel by by Linda Nielsen. Accompanying my review is a recipe for my version of Nepenthe's Café Krevah Granola, inspired in part by the book's Big Sur setting.

Publisher's Blurb: 

An impressive contract combined with lavish perks influence Skye Topple to marry the boss’ daughter, Delaney Mae Anne Covington, a self-centered and spoiled southern belle. The “perfect” wedding is threatened when an alarming secret refuses to stay hidden. With no regard for anyone other than herself and her daughter, Delaney’s alcoholic mother takes control, inserting irrational solutions that leave mother and daughter looking foolish while a baby’s life, a grandmother’s love, and a man’s career hang in the balance. 

This is certainly not a North meets South story—more like South moves North and meets West, where what works for one family may not work for another. Choices must be made. Lives will be changed. One thing is for sure… Skye is smack dab in the middle when Big Sur life meets country club values.

Paperback: 346 pages
Publisher: TouchPoint Press (March 1, 2018)

My Review:

Because I'm Worth It starts well before the description on the publisher's blurb about the "perfect" wedding being planned by Delaney, a spoiled Chicago socialite and Terri Sue Ellen, her even more spoiled, plus alcoholic and really annoying, southern belle of a mother. The book begins in Big Sur, California, with the family of Sky Topple (the groom) then darts to Atlanta, Georgia to meet the family of the bride and it isn't until about fifty pages in that we actually get to know Delaney Covington and Skye Topple--who start as fairly obnoxious teenagers and don't improve with age. I really wanted to like Because I'm Worth It, I felt like it had strong potential, and there were times I did enjoy reading it--but it just wasn't the book for me. I found myself disliking most of the characters, some fairly intensely-Delaney, Terri Sue Ellen, Skye, and even Charles Covington (Delaney's father) who were so over-the-top annoying that they were more caricatures than characters. Terri Sue Ellen's dialogue is peppered with southern dialect that made my teeth grind with all of the "ahs" and "mahs" and distracted me from the story. In fact, for me, much of the dialogue in the book didn't seem natural--even from the characters I liked. The Topple family from Big Sur, with the exception of Skye--who wanted to escape his bohemian background and family, were all enjoyable and I found myself wanting much more of Melissa (Skye's mother) and her story and much less of everyone else. 

I found the writing strongest when the author was describing Big Sur and the Topple family's unique house and the surrounding landscape. About halfway through the book, things did start to pick up for me--there is some character growth for Delaney and Skye, an interesting twist is added, and some new (and likable) characters are introduced. There were more humorous moments and some touching ones, so I am glad I stuck with it and finished the story. The book and the author's previous work have some very good reviews on Amazon, so Because I'm Worth It is the book for some people and you can read their reviews and see if it might be for you. (There's a link to the TLC tour stops and other reviewers at the end of the post.) It definitely got me thinking about the beauty and spirit of Big Sur and it inspired some delicious granola, so I still came out a winner. ;-)


Author Notes: Linda’s first book, Lasso the Stars, was published in 2011 under L.L. Nielsen. Her newest novel, Because I’m Worth It, is scheduled for release by TouchPoint Press in early 2018.
Find out more about Linda at her website, and find all her books at Author Central page.


Food Inspiration:

There was a fair amount of food and a whole lot of alcohol in Because I'm Worth It. Mentions included herbal tea, sandwiches, lemonade, vodka in orange juice, coffee with extra cream and sugar, warm pecan buns, beer, cherry snow cones, peaches, pop-tarts and peanut butter, moonshine, bourbon, champagne, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches with homemade potato chips, peach bellinis, molasses, turkey and a Thanksgiving meal, martinis, soup, pumpkin pie, turkey sandwiches, a dish with warm Indian spices and vegetables, cookies, chicken, pizza, chocolates, coca cola, caviar and toast points, pies and casseroles, popcorn, green olives, a salad with a squeeze of lemon, salt-washed three times and no dressing, steak sandwiches and French fries, sole with lemon and capers and al dente vegetables, buttered bagels,  quiche, iced tea, fruit, Sherry, Scotch, Pinot Grigio, cheese and crackers, goat cheese, pasta with shrimp, apple cinnamon rolls, ollalieberries (like a blackberry), blackberries, tomatoes, eggs and bacon, granola, French toast, quail eggs with Danish smoked ham and Chardonnay mustard with toast points, roast with braised potatoes and veggies, Bloody Marys, pigs-in-a-blanket, green peas, chicken and dumplings, and BLTs. 

I knew I wanted to go with something related to Big Sur--my favorite parts of the book and so I narrowed in on the granola. There's a scene where spoiled Delaney is offered cereal by Pete. 

"Cereal?" Delaney looked surprised. "Oh, no thank you." She moistened her lips and continued, "I have a private brand of granola that's made for me. It's expensive, but I'm worth it." 

"Come again?"

"Ahh, it's specially formulated for my dietary needs based on my metabolism and nutritional requirements achieved through scientific testing, to assure me of a healthy start in the morning."

I went to a cookbook I reviewed about 8 years ago called My Nepenthe by Romney Steel. (You can see my review here) Nepethe is a classic and famed Big Sur restaurant that Steele grew up at, the granddaughter of the restaurant's founders. When I reviewed the book I had noticed the Café Kevah Granola recipe and had always meant to try it. Café Kevah is a small casual cafe on the  restaurant's grounds. In the book, Delaney's granola was specially formulated, but this one sounded delicious with cashews, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds added to the oats. I also liked that it has orange zest, along with the usual cinnamon. I modified the recipe slightly, based on what I had on hand--leaving out the wheat flakes and the powdered milk (sometimes used as a binder and protein source) and using a mix of black and regular sesame seeds and dried cranberries.

Romney says, “Low in commercial sweetener and oil, this granola is a healthy and tasty alternative to store-bought cereal. It is easy to make and stores well in a glass jar or a resealable plastic bag in the freezer. The recipe, a variation on the one we still use at the café, can easily be doubled or tripled. Sprinkle over yogurt or serve with milk. For a sweeter granola, that has more clusters, stir in 1/4 cup honey with the maple syrup."

Café Kevah Granola
Slightly Adapted from My Nepenthe by Romney Steel
(Makes About 6 Cups)

2 cups whole oats
1 cup wheat flakes (I omitted and added extra oats)
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds (I used a mix of regular and black sesame seeds)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup oat bran (I pulsed a heaping 1/3 cup oatmeal in my blender)
1/3 cup high-quality organic powdered milk (I omitted)
zest of one orange
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
(I added a large pinch of sea salt)
1/3 cup safflower oil (I used 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup boiling water
1/3 to 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (I used 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat flakes, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oat bran, powdered milk, orange zest, cinnamon, safflower oil, boiling water, and maple syrup, mixing well. Spread out on a baking sheet. Bake slowly, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Stir in dried fruit when cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Notes/Results: I really like this granola. Every time I make homemade granola, it reinforces that you should never, ever buy it pre-made. Even the gourmet brands just don't have the same freshness and appeal as when you mix and bake it to your own preferences. The cashews add a decadent note and for some reason I have neglected to put sesame seeds in my granola and the orange zest was lovely with the cinnamon. I like my granola flakier than clumpy and so I used just the 1/3 cup of maple syrup--so it isn't overly sweet. With a handful topping the creamy Siggi's vanilla yogurt (my new favorite) and fresh blackberries, it was delicious and more like a dessert than breakfast. I have to go get more yogurt and berries and I will happily scarf down all of my granola and 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 "Because I'm Worth It" 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.