Showing posts with label jam/preserves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jam/preserves. Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Never Look Back" by Alison Gaylin, Served with Cinnamon Raisin Toast with Cream Cheese & Strawberry (Chia Seed) Jam

Happy Aloha Friday! I am excited to be today's stop on the TLC book Tour for a new mystery/thriller, Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin. I am pairing my review with Cinnamon Raisin Toast with Cream Cheese and Strawberry Jam, a dish inspired by the book. The jam is a simple homemade chia seed jam and there's a recipe included. So pull up a chair and a napkin and join me.

 Publisher's Blurb:

From the Edgar Award-winning author of If I Die Tonight
Reminiscent of the bestsellers of Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben—with a Serial-esque podcast twist—an absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense from the author of the highly acclaimed and Edgar Award-nominated What Remains of Me and the USA Today bestselling and Shamus Award-winning Brenna Spector series.
For thirteen days in 1976, teenage murderers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy terrorized Southern California’s Inland Empire, killing a dozen victims before perishing themselves in a fire… or did they? More than 40 years later, twentysomething podcast producer Quentin 
Garrison blames his troubled upbringing on the murders. And after a shocking message from a source, he has reason to believe April Cooper may still be alive. Meanwhile, New York City film columnist Robin Diamond is coping with rising doubts about her husband and terrifying threats from internet trolls. But that’s nothing compared to the outrageous phone call she gets from Quentin… and a brutal home invasion that makes her question everything she ever believed in. Is Robin’s beloved mother a mass murderer? 

Is there anyone she can trust?
Told through the eyes of those destroyed by the Inland Empire Killings—including Robin, Quentin, and a fifteen-year-old April Cooper—Never Look Back asks the question:

How well do we really know our parents, our partners—and ourselves?

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 2, 2019)

My Review:

I love a good mystery/thriller, one that keeps me guessing and has lots of twists, turns, and misdirections that make me not want to put it down and Never Look Back delivers. Podcasts and especially true crime podcasts are popular now and the book plays well on that theme, exploring an old crime from the seventies that is resurfacing even though the perpetrators died in a fire at a desert commune. The crime is even more salacious because teenage lovers Gabriel LeRoy and April Cooper murdered twelve people, staring with her stepfather and including a police officer and a young child. Podcaster Quentin Garrison’s late mother was the older-sister of the little girl who was killed, and he blames her subsequent troubled and drug-filled life and his terrible childhood on the murder that tore his mother’s family apart and looks to his upcoming podcast aptly titled Closure, to bring some relief his anger and pain. When a seemingly credible source comes forward and states that April Cooper is still alive, Quentin begins searching for answers, disrupting the life of a film reviewer.

This is my first book by Alison Gaylin, and I am impressed with her writing. She developed interesting and multifaceted characters and skillfully moved back and forth in time, sharing their points of view, including using the pages of April’s journal written as letters to the daughter she hoped to someday have. The mystery slowly unfolds, and the tension rises with each page. Although I had parts of the mystery figured out, there were several surprises that I didn’t see coming. Although I couldn’t binge-read and finish the book in one or two reading sessions due to my schedule, I wanted to keep reading and was disappointed when I had to stop and adult. If you like podcasts, true crime and crime fiction, psychological suspense and thrillers, get Never Look Back on your #TBR list. I’m going to be seeking out Gaylin’s other books.


Author Notes: Alison Gaylin is the award-winning author of Hide Your Eyes and its sequel, You Kill Me; the standalones Trashed and Heartless; and the Brenna Spector series: And She Was, Into the Dark, and Stay with Me. A graduate of Northwestern University and of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she lives with her husband and daughter in Woodstock, New York.

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


Food Inspiration: 
There were some food mentions in the book, both from present day and the seventies time frames. mentions included lasagna, iced tea, IPA beer, wine, pizza, frozen yogurt, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and McDonald's, French press coffee, pies, grilled cheese with tomato soup and "an ice cube dropped in so you don't get hurt," chocolate ice cream, a gruyere and spinach omelet for one, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, lemonade, lemon meringue pie and a strawberry milkshake, blueberry pancakes, turkey bacon and coffee, steak and eggs, apple pie, glazed donuts, grilled tarragon chicken, mashed sweet potato, fresh asparagus, scrambled eggs and toast, salmon tarragon, pizza, Chinese food and bacon and eggs.


For my book inspired dish I had to go with the very simple cinnamon raisin toast, cream cheese  and strawberry jam as it appeared several times in the book as the comfort food for at least one of the characters and as a bit of a clue, or missing piece of the puzzle. I bought my favorite soft cinnamon-raisin loaf from my local grocery store and whipped cream cheese but decided to make up a batch of chia seed strawberry jam with some on-sale strawberries and manuka honey for a touch of sweetness. 

Most of my jams posted on this blog are made from chia seeds because I like the ease and the fact that the chia seeds do the gelling, so you don't have to add a lot of sugar like you do with pectin.

Strawberry Chia Seed Jam
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 Pints) 

3-4 cups fresh strawberries, cored and sliced
1 cinnamon stick, optional
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 Tbsp honey or maple syrup (I used Manuka honey)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chia seeds (I used white chia seeds)

Place the strawberries and cinnamon stick (if using) in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries break down and get syrupy—about 10 minutes.  Mash the softened fruit using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Leave larger chunks if you like chunky jam. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice, honey and vanilla. Taste and add more honey and/or lemon juice if needed. Add the chia seeds and stir well to combine. Let the jam stand about 15  minutes, until cooled and thickened. If you want the jam thicker, stir in more chia seeds 1 teaspoon at a time.

Transfer jam to a jar or other storage container. Once the jam has cooled to room temperature, place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. The jam will thicken further and become more set once completely chilled. The jam can be stored for 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge or also be frozen for up to 6 months; just thaw in the fridge before using. Enjoy!

Notes/Results:This is definitely a comfort food snack (or dinner if you are me) ;-) The crispy-soft toast with a little butter and a layer of the whipped cream cheese, then slathering it with the jam is very tasty and goes down well with a cup of tea. I'd happily make this combination again.

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

Note: A review copy of "Never Look Back" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Yeled Tov" by Daniel M. Jaffe, Served with a Recipe for Matzo Brei with Strawberry Jam

It's Friday and that makes me happy. It's been a crazy week at work and I am ready for the weekend. To kick it off, I have a review of Yeled Tov, a coming of age story by Daniel M. Jaffe. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Matzo Brei with Strawberry Jam, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

As he’s about to turn 16 in the mid-1970’s, Jake Stein notices a prohibition in Leviticus that never caught his eye before: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.” This discovery distresses Jake, an observant Jewish teen, because he’s recently been feeling increased attraction to other teen boys and men. He’s even been engaging in sexual exploration with his best friend. In an attempt to distract himself, Jake joins his high school’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank, but falls in love with the romantic male lead, obsessively fantasizing about him. Jake feels lonelier than ever.

The next year, while a freshman at Princeton University, Jake falls for his handsome roommate, is beset by serious temptations, and engages in a traumatic sexual encounter with a stranger. Seeking help from God, Jake tries to alter his desires, even dates a young Jewish woman in the hopes that she can change him, but to no avail.  Jake concludes that God could never love an abomination like him, so he attempts to prove his faith by ending his own life.

After he’s saved by his roommate, Jake receives unexpected support from doctors, family, and friends, some of whom have been suspecting his secret. With their help, Jake explores a different way of thinking about the rules of Torah and himself, and begins to consider that he might actually be a yeled tov, a good Jewish boy, just the way he is.

Paperback: 320 pages  
Publisher: Lethe Press (April 18, 2018)

My Review:

I was drawn to the description of Yeled Tov because I continue to look for books to diversify my reading with lives and perspectives that differ from mine. Jake Stein, the main character in Yeled Tov, couldn't be more different from me. He is a Jewish teen, becoming a man in the seventies and struggling with reconciling his sexuality with his religious beliefs in a time and environment where to be homosexual is considered an abomination to God. Jake tries to be a yeled tov--a good boy--for himself, for his family, and for his God. The pressures are enormous and Daniel Jaffe describes them well--with honesty, poignancy, and even a bit of humor. He has created a wonderful character in Jake and had me rooting for him from the beginning. Yeled Tov won't be a book for everyone--the sexuality in it is fairly graphic as Jake explores his sexual identity in thoughts and fantasies and in reality, but it isn't gratuitous and it helps illustrate the conflict in Jake's life. The book moves slowly in the beginning, but the quality of the writing, the story, and the characters engaged me and I found myself caught up in Jake's world and well satisfied with the journey.


Author Notes: Daniel M. Jaffe is an award-winning, internationally published fiction and essay writer.  His novel-in-stories, THE GENEALOGY OF UNDERSTANDING, was a finalist and honorable mention for the Rainbow Awards; and his novel, THE LIMITS OF PLEASURE, was a finalist for a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award.  He is author of JEWISH GENTLE AND OTHER STORIES OF GAY JEWISH LIVING, and compiler/editor of WITH SIGNS AND WONDERS: AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY OF JEWISH FABULIST FICTION.  Also, Daniel translated the Russian-Israeli novel, HERE COMES THE MESSIAH! by Dina Rubina.


Food Inspiration: 

There was a lot of food to be found in Yeled Tov and plenty of Jewish dishes. Food mentions included kosher food, rye bread, brisket with garlic and onions and green beans, Jake favorite "k" foods--knishes, kishka, kasha, kreplach, and potato kugel. There was parve apple pie and chocolate cake (made with no milk or butter), chicken soup, bagels and lox, whitefish salad, noodle kugel, gefilte fih and eggs, blintzes, knockwurst, and chicken schnitzel. There were mentions of tuna and egg salad, sandwiches with chips, tuna noodle casserole, popcorn, split pea soup, Beefaroni, mac 'n cheese, spaghetti in tomato sauce, hot dogs, hamburgers and fries, pot roast, roast beef, liver and onions, fried fillet of sole, pigs-in-blanket, turkey tetrazzini, chocolate chip cake, white sheet cake, and ice cream, pizza pancakes and French toast, brownies and PB & J, and red Hawaiian Punch with orange sherbet.      

With the crazy week, I really needed something simple to make which is what drew me to matzo brei. It's simple Jewish comfort food of eggs with matzo crackers that I have made before (see Ruth Reichl's version here). This time I wanted a sweeter profile and had some strawberry preserves and fresh strawberries that I thought would pair nicely with it. I found a basic recipe for Grandma's Matzo Brei on Jalie Geller's Joy of Kosher that I adapted. 

Joy of Kosher's Grandma's Matzo Brei
Slightly Adapted from Joy of 
(Serves 1 to 2)

2 sheets matzo
2 large eggs
(I added 1/2 Tsp ground cinnamon)
(I added 1 tsp maple syrup)
kosher salt & freshly-ground black pepper to taste
enough butter or oil to cover the bottom of a heavy skillet
strawberry jam and sliced fresh strawberries for serving, if desired

Break the matzo up into bite-sized pieces and place it in a small colander set in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the matzo pieces and carefully stir to moisten all of the pieces. Once matzo has softened, remove the colander from the bowl and drain the matzo crackers. 

Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Beat the eggs well with the cinnamon, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Add the matzo crackers and gently mix together so all pieces are coasted with egg. 

Add the matzo and egg mixture to the pan in an even layer. Cook it undisturbed for 5 to 6 minutes, until the bottom is nicely browned. Using a long spatula and a plate, gently lift up the matzo brei and slide it onto a plate. Gently flip the plate back over the pan to cook the other side. Continue cooking for another 4 to 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and gently transfer the cooked matzo brei to a serving plate. Lightly pat off the extra oil with a paper towel. Top matzo brei with strawberry jam and sliced strawberries and eat immediately. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: This matzo brei topped with jam and fresh strawberries really hit the spot for my Friday night dinner. If eggs and jam seem peculiar, think French toast or a Monte Cristo sandwich--only made here with the matzo crackers. I wanted enough to fill the plate for the picture so I used 2 matzos and 2 eggs, but eating-wise, half the amount would have been fine. Tasty comfort food whether sweet or savory, 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 "Yeled Tov" 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, April 3, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The House on Harbor Hill" by Shelly Stratton, Served with Toast and Cara Cara Orange Marmalade {+ a Book Giveaway!}

Happy Tuesday! I'm brightening up the day by reviewing The House on Harbor Hill, a novel by Shelly Stratton as a stop on the TLC Book Tour. I'm pairing my review with a recipe for sunny and delicious Cara Cara Orange Marmalade inspired by the book, and there's also a giveaway with a chance to win a copy of your own.

Publisher's Blurb:

Set in the past and present, The House on Harbor Hill is a murder mystery that tackles the issues of racial prejudice and spousal abuse in the lives of two very different women…

She’s generous, kind, and compassionate–yet Delilah Grey will forever be an outcast in the small seaside town of Camden Beach, Maryland. She takes in women shattered by abuse, poverty, illness, or events beyond their control. But no matter how far she’s come or how many she’s helped find their way back, there is no safe place for Delilah. Acquitted of her rich husband’s mysterious death decades ago, she lives in her beautiful mansion consumed by secrets–and mistakes she feels she can never atone for. . . . Until she takes in desperate mother Tracey Walters and her two young children.

Tracey won’t say where she’s from or what sent her into hiding. But her determination and refusal to give up reminds Delilah of the spirited, hopeful girl she once was–and the dreams she still cherishes. As Tracey takes tentative steps to rebuild her life, her unexpected attraction to Delilah’s handsome, troubled caretaker inadvertently brings Delilah face to face with the past. And when Tracey’s worst fears come brutally calling, both women must find even more strength to confront truths they can no longer ignore–and at last learn how to truly be free . . .

Resonant, moving, and unforgettable, The House on Harbor Hill paints an unforgettable portrait of two women struggling to forgive themselves, take a chance on change, and challenge each other to finally live.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Dafina (March 27, 2018)

My Review:

I think I fell a bit in love with Delilah and The House on Harbor Hill. It's the story of a friendship, of a brave woman helping other women and has some historical fiction aspects and a touch of romance. It also hits on some tough issues--domestic violence, racism and bigotry, and it successfully combines two eras--the late 1960s and present day. Shelly Stratton manages to weave it all together into a story that crawls into your heart and stays there.

Delilah Grey grew up wanting more than what the other black women she knew in Camden Beach, Maryland had--but unfortunately that desire to escape the boundaries of her world led her into an abusive relationship with the wealthy brother of her employer. When she becomes pregnant, he marries her (to the dismay of his high-society family for the shame of a biracial relationship in that era) and when he dies shortly after, she is blamed. Although she's eventually acquitted, Delilah spends decades enduring the gossip and notoriety that life in a small town brings. She spends her time taking in women in need and giving them shelter in Harbor Hill, the house her husband left for her--both trying to make up for the past and to experience the family life she never had. Tracey Walters is on the run from her abusive husband and struggling to make a better life for her two young children when Delilah offers her sanctuary. Both Delilah and Tracey are great characters--although Delilah is the one I most wanted to spend time with, both to uncover the mysteries that surround her and to bask in her care.

The story is told from both characters' points of view with Tracey's in the present day and Delilah's going back and forth through past and present. Rather than chapter-by-chapter, the switch in time is separated in five parts with several chapters in each section, and I liked how this made the story flow and avoided the choppiness that alternating times and POVs can often cause. The supporting characters are well-written, although the villains are pretty clear and some of what happens is fairly easy to predict. But, even guessing part of the outcome didn't take away from the beauty of the story. If you like women's fiction with strong female characters, growth, and friendships, add The House on Harbor Hill to your Spring TBR stack. (U.S.-based readers can enter to win a copy below!)

Author Notes: Shelly Stratton is an award-winning journalist who earned her degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Another Woman’s Man, her novel written under the pseudonym Shelly Ellis, was nominated for a 2014 NAACP Image Award. A film buff and amateur painter, she lives with her husband not far from Washington, D.C. 

Visit her online at or on Facebook or Twitter


Food Inspiration:

Although not a lot of them, there were some food mentions in The House on Harbor Hill, including: frozen scallops and over-cooked lobster, fresh tuna, lemonade, Snowballs and Twinkies, grapes, squash, carrots, ice tea, Red Velvet cupcakes, wine and cheese, fried clams, crab legs, shrimp po'boys and curly fries with Old Bay Seasoning, oranges, lemons and grapefruit, cantaloupes and apples, gelato, ice cream and hot fudge sundaes, sweet potato pie, roast beef sandwich and soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, panini and iced coffee, blackberry jam, cranberry preserves and marmalade, deviled eggs and champagne, collards, grits, canned pineapple, a burger and fries, steak, wheatgrass, Acai berry smoothies, glazed and frosted donuts, quiche, breakfast foods, apple pie, meatloaf, pork chops, and macaroni and cheese. 

There wasn't one food that I felt stood out as representative of the book, but I found myself caught up by Delilah's description of a morning free of her abusive husband and her peace for that small slice of time:

"Today is one of the rare days that Cee is away from Harbor Hill, and I am enjoying my freedom. This morning, I sat at the kitchen table in my nightgown and bare feet, eating toast smothered in marmalade without a plate, which he hates. I turned up the volume on the radio--something else he doesn't like--so I can hear the Hit Parade in every room. I made hot cocoa for myself and gave a mug to our groundskeeper, Tobias,..."

I decided to make marmalade on toast and serve it (without a plate) with a cup of hot cocoa. It isn't made clear what flavor of marmalade Delilah's was, but I had a small hoard of my favorite cara cara oranges, so I decided on orange marmalade with a touch of vanilla. 

I looked at several orange marmalade recipes on line. Many of them had the oranges peeled and then the pith scraped off the rind and them the rind sliced into pieces. It removes some bitterness but it seemed like WAY too much hassle to me for a busy week and when I saw that several people, including Alton Brown, left the rinds on their oranges, that's what I did. Usually I try to reduce sugar and use honey in my preserves and I often use chia seeds for thickening things up, but I was craving something old-school-ish, so I used regular sugar and kept the chia seeds in the pantry for another jam. Even though the oranges are sweet, I think with the peel you need a bit more sugar--although not as much as Alton used--and if you cook it long enough, the gelling will happen. Although I looked to Alton and a few other recipes for inspiration, I ended up doing my own thing. 

Cara Cara Orange Marmalade
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 3 Cups)

1 lb oranges (I used Cara Cara oranges ), about 4 medium
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tiny pinch sea salt
juice and zest of one lemon
2 tsp vanilla extract

Wash the oranges thoroughly, halve them and cut them thinly--into about 1/8-inch slices. (Pick out any seeds you may find.) Stack the orange slices and cut them in half.  

Place the orange slices into a large pot with the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 45 to 50 minutes, or until fruit is very soft, stirring frequently. Add sea salt, lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract and stir into the jam mixture. Continue to simmer another 10 minutes or so. Marmalade should have thickened and slightly darkened in color. 

(Alton Brown suggests testing the readiness of marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto a small chilled plate and letting it it for 30 seconds. Wen you tilt the plate, the jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly--if it's thin and runs easily, it's not ready, so continue to cook until it has thickened enough.)

Allow to cool and transfer marmalade to jars or an airtight container and place in the fridge. It will last about two weeks kept airtight in the refrigerator, or freeze it for up to six months.  

Notes/Results: I really like this marmalade. It captures the flavor of the cara cara oranges (and the color is gorgeous!) and the vanilla rounds out the flavor and gives it a creamsicle vibe. The slight bitterness of the rinds and pith is welcome to me and keeps it from being too sweet--although from an aesthetics standpoint, next time I might add an extra orange or two, peeling a few of the oranges and discarding their peels--just to have a little less rind in the mix. But, since I love chunky jams or preserves anyway, this still works. I thought it was terrific on toasted bread, drizzled with melted (salted) butter and paired with the hot chocolate and I think it will be aces, stirred into some plain Greek yogurt. I would definitely 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.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The House on Harbor Hill to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) The book is set in a small seaside town in Maryland, so tell me about your favorite beach OR tell me why you'd like to win a copy of this book. 

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

Deadline for entry is midnight on Tuesday, April 10th. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: A review copy of "The House on Harbor Hill" 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.