Showing posts with label original recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label original recipes. Show all posts

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Easy Taco Soup: Vegetarian for Cinco de Mayo and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was undecided about what soup to make this week and decided that since today is Cinco de Mayo, I would throw together an easy and vegetarian Taco Soup


To make this soup, basically a deconstructed taco, I happened to have a package of Lightlife Smart Ground Mexican Crumbles in my fridge, but if you don't do soy you could certainly use any ground meat or keep it veggie by chopping up and browning mushrooms.This soup can also be made vegan by switching to vegan cheese and sour cream in the toppings. Speaking of the toppings, they of course make the soup, so pick as many of your favorite taco fixins' as you want or can fit in the bowl, and be sure to fry up some corn tortillas cut into strips for the crunch.


Easy Taco Soup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6) 

1 tbsp olive oil
1 (12 oz) package soy crumbles of choice or ground meat or chopped mushrooms
4 green onions, white and green parts divided and chopped
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning mix of choice (I use this one by Simply Organic)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried chipotle pepper or pepper of choice, to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can minced green chiles (I used mild)
4 cups low-sodium veggie broth + 2 cups water
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with juices
1 can creamed corn
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 cans low-sodium pinto beans or beans of choice 
juice of 1 lime
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Toppings: corn tortillas cut into strips and fried, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, black olives, avocado, chopped green onions, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, Tabasco or hot sauce of choice, etc. 

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add soy crumbles, white part of green onions and diced sweet onion and saute, breaking apart the soy crumbles with a wooden spoon. Cook until onions are softened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, taco seasoning, cumin, chipotle pepper, oregano and green chiles and saute for about 2 minutes. Add veggie broth and stir in tomatoes, creamed corn, nutritional yeast (if using), corn kernels and beans and bring soup to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer soup for about 15 minutes. Add lime juice, taste for seasoning and add sea salt and black pepper to taste. 

Ladle into bowls and top with your toppings of choice. Enjoy!

 
Notes/Results: Nothing fancy, nothing difficult, but a really good soup especially if you are a toppings fanatic like me. You can't see all of the toppings that well in the picture and I forgot the sour cream in the fridge but the lettuce, cheese (grated jack and cheddar mix), avocado, green onions, cilantro, black olives, extra lime juice and crispy tortilla chips was perfect. Next time I might add pickled jalapenos. I kept my soup fairly mild and added Tabasco upon serving but you can spice it up as much as you want. I added creamed corn to thicken it and the nutritional yeast to give it more depth and extra B-vitamins, but you could leave them out. The taco seasoning pack, spices in the ground crumbles and extra spices gave it plenty of flavor. Soup that satisfies my taco craving, I will happily make it again.


My pal Tina is hanging out with me in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week, let's take a look.

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared a tasty Tomato Rice Soup from her Soups & Stews Cookbook by Emily Brown saying, "This little cookbook has come in handy. Only 50 recipes but there was something in each category to interest me. The sections are divided by Creamy  Soups, Seafood Soups, Red Soups, Vegetable Soups, Meat Broth based Soups and Stews. ... The idea of mixing the rice and potatoes seemed weird but it turned out fine.  The fresh tomatoes were blitzed with my immersion blender. It's a good vegetarian soup."


At Kahakai Kitchen I shared a Tropical Fruit Salad with Lime-Honey Dressing & Toasted Coconut Chips that was inspired by a description of breakfast on the SS Lurline in my recent book tour review, The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman. (Don't forget to enter my Instagram giveaway for a copy of this great WWII historical novel.) The lime dressing added a tangy tropical punch to the salad, along with the crispy coconut chips.

 
Thanks to Tina for joining in this week!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...
 

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter  
Have a happy, healthy week!
 

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.

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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
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Beyond the Point" by Claire Gibson, Served with Hawaiian Ahi Poke and a Recipe for Avocado Salsa

Happy Wednesday! I am very excited to be today's TLC Book Tour stop for the debut novel, Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson. My review of this story of three friends brought together by their time at West Point is accompanied by a dinner inspired by one in the book of Hawaiian Ahi Poke with Avocado Salsa and Corn Tortillas and Mango.


Publisher's Blurb:

Three women are brought together in an enthralling story of friendship, heartbreak, and resilience. Set at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, this is an amazing debut novel.
 
Duty. Honor. Country. That’s West Point’s motto, and every cadet who passes through its stone gates vows to live it. But on the eve of 9/11, as Dani, Hannah and Avery face four grueling years ahead, they realize they’ll only survive if they do it together.

Everyone knows Dani is going places. With athletic talent and a brilliant mind, she navigates West Point’s predominantly male environment with wit and confidence, breaking stereotypes and embracing new friends.

Hannah’s grandfather, a legendary Army general, offers a stark warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but she moves forward anyway, letting faith guide her path. When she meets her soul mate at West Point, the future looks perfect, just as planned.
 
Wild child Avery moves fast and doesn’t mind breaking a few rules (and hearts) along the way. But she can’t outpace her self-doubt, and the harder she tries, the further it leads her down a treacherous path.

The world—of business, of love, and of war—awaits Dani, Hannah, and Avery beyond the gates of West Point. These three women know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But soon, that adage no longer rings true—for their future, or their friendship. As they’re pulled in different directions, will their hard-forged bond prevail or shatter?

Beyond the Point is a heartfelt look at how our closest friends can become our fiercest battle buddies. After all, the greatest battles we fight rarely require a uniform.

Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 2, 2019)

My Review:

I jumped on this tour because having spent time at a local university and community college, I am always intrigued by books with more revered university settings, and then when you add that the three women, Dani, Avery, and Hannah, meet as plebes at the West Point just added to the appeal. My dad was in the Navy well before I was born and my nephew is in the Navy now, but military life is a world I know little about. Although Beyond the Point covers those subjects well, it is friendship that is at the heart of this novel. Dani, Avery and Hannah all play basketball, but otherwise don't seem to have much in common and each has her own reason for attending West Point and joining the Army. The book is told from their alternating perspectives and covers their final year in high school as they apply to the Point in 2000, through their four years there as their friendship forms and strengthens, then through 2007 as their lives take different paths. 

The characters are well written, not perfect, but easy to root for and the depiction of their friendship and how they come together feels realistic, as does their friendship after graduation as their lives separate and that closeness is put to the test. I found myself caught up in their stories and that the 500+ pages went by quickly, in fact I wanted more time with Hannah, Avery and Dani. There is heartache and heartbreak in their stories, but there is also humor and hope. 

This is the author's debut novel and she paints a vivid portrait of military life and the sacrifices it requires of soldiers and their families. The afterword tells of Gibson's inspiration--she grew up at West Point with her father, a lieutenant colonel, on the faculty. Her passion for the subject and appreciation for the cadets, particularly the women, shine through and there are excerpts and photos of her interviews with three Women of West Point. I found myself as engaged by the afterward as I was with the book. If you like novels with strong female characters, stories about friendship, and books with a military setting, add Beyond the Point to your reading list.  

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Author Notes: Claire Gibson is a writer and journalist based in Nashville, Tennessee. Born and raised at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, she grew up captivated by cadets and always dreamed of writing a story that honored her childhood home and the women that inspired her there. Her stories have been featured in The Washington PostThe Christian Science MonitorThe Tennessean and Entrepreneur Magazine, among many other publications.

Find out more about Claire at her website, and connect with her Twitter and Instagram.

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Food Inspiration:

There was plenty of food in Beyond the Point, mostly meals eaten at West Point or shared with family and friends. Food mentions included pie (like strawberry-rhubarb, pumpkin and chicken pot pie), barbecued ribs, a salad of spinach and chard with lemon-garlic dressing, crusty homemade baguettes with soft salted butter, cake, three kinds of cheese on a platter, homemade cinnamon rolls, pierogies, lemon-pepper chicken, pancakes and eggs, homemade chili, brownies and ice cream, vegetable lasagna, roast chicken with tabbouleh, grilled salmon with mango slaw, and cookie dough ice cream, pizza, Cheez-Its, spaghetti, French toast and coffee, gin and tonic, oatmeal, green juice, lemonade, cereal, Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream, filets mignons in butter, roasted broccoli, salmon, Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, roasted corn, fresh broccoli, creamed spinach, and acorn squash stuffed with mushrooms and rice, a Middle Eastern dinner of lamb with sauces, tandori bread, yogurt sauce, chopped mint and preserved lemon, falafel, rice and steamed greens, meatloaf with red sauce, fish and chips, an undressed Caesar salad with chicken, a Nutella crepe, fettuccine noodles with butter, fried chicken, apple fritters, eggs over easy, a smoothie and Subway sandwiches. 


For my book-inspired dish, I ended up recreating an island meal shared by Dani, Hannah, and Avery and put together some local Hawaii favorites. I liked the fact that the three women were together and when poke comes up in a book, you know I am going to feed my addiction.

"Dinner's ready."

"Avery came to the patio holding a bowl of ahi tuna poke that she'd purchased from a shop on the way home from the beach. She placed it at the center of the patio table. Dani emerged from the kitchen, her hair back to a large, natural Afro. She added a bowl of mango, corn tortillas, and her famous avocado salsa to the assortment. With her strange restrictive diet, Dani had become quite the chef. Avery put a pitcher of margaritas on the table, and suddenly, a memory came to Hannah's mind."


I left out the margaritas--I rarely drink on "school" nights, and I grabbed poke from the grocery store and frozen mango (none of the fresh ones were ripe). All I needed to do was chop the ingredients for the salsa, open a bag of cabbage mix and toast some tortillas on my gas stove, and dinner was served. 


Avocado Salsa
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 to 4)

1/2 red onion, diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ripe avocado, chopped
the juice of two limes
a generous glug of olive oil
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss until well mixed. Serve and enjoy.


Notes/Results: I topped the grilled tortillas with the cabbage mix, the avocado salsa and the poke for poke tostadas which were delicious. I am not that big on fruit and fish combined, so I ate the mango on the side. Everything was fresh and vibrant and it was a very low effort meal--perfect for a busy week. My leftovers came together in a salad for lunch today as both the poke and the avocado in the salsa are best as fresh as possible.


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 "Beyond the Point" 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.

 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Creamy Tomato & Gnocchi Soup with Spinach: Easy Comfort for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I have house guests and wanted a soup that was tasty without a lot of time and effort. Gnocchi was on sale this week in the import section of my local grocery store and since I made a gnocchi soup a while back with beans and vegetables and love it, I thought I'd try another version.  I decided to keep this one simple and use tomatoes and spinach. A jar of vodka pasta sauce and a bit of sour cream help keep it rich and creamy.  


This soup was just tossed together from my head and what I had in my pantry so you can adapt it to your preferences--add more sour cream, use vegan dairy products, add more liquid/broth, etc.-it's all good.


Creamy Tomato & Gnocchi Soup with Spinach
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 6 to 8 Servings)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile pepper or chile of choice (if desired)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 (14 oz) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes and their juices
1 jar good pasta sauce (I used creamy vodka sauce)
4 cups vegetable broth
pinch of sugar
1/2 cup sour cream if desired 
sea salt and pepper to taste
5 oz baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 (16 oz packages) potato gnocchi
shaved Parmesan and basil leaves for garnish

In a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 7-8 minutes, until onion is softened and golden. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Add dried basil, dried oregano, Aleppo chile, and cinnamon and saute another minute, until fragrant. 

Add the tomatoes and their juices, pasta sauce, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and puree the soup in batches in the blender. (I pureed about 3/4 of it.) Taste and add a pinch of sugar if desired. Stir in sour cream until completely blended. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. 

Bring soup to a simmer and add the baby spinach and gnocchi and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until greens are wilted and gnocchi rise to the top. 

Serve hot, topped with shaved Parmesan and fresh basil. Enjoy!


Notes/Results: Creamy and satisfying this is an easy and tasty soup to throw together when you don't want to do a lot of chopping or fuss. The gnocchi pillows and spinach are delicious in the creamy soup. Great comfort food, I am looking forward to taking it for lunches this week. I would happily make it again.


Let's look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here:


A big welcome (or welcome back?) to Elizabeth, now blogging at Literature and Limes and here with a healthy Kale and Pine Nut Salad she paired with a recently read novel. She says, "I have been on a keto journey for half a year now. I have made considerable changes in my health by cutting out the vast majority of carbs. I decided I needed something very green for my dish. They would make me something stuffed with vitamins, packed with flavor despite the lack of carbs, but something light so I could go do some yoga after lunch."

Debra of Eliot's Eats paired her Turning Over a New Leaf Salad with recently read non-fiction, What To Eat When. She says, "There is a bit of playfulness throughout the book. Again, the information here wasn’t revolutionary but it did cause me to re-plan menus. Besides just exercising our brains by jump-starting our neurons, the best food to eat is salmon, ocean trout, leafy greens, walnuts, coffee, olive oil, and blueberries. CUT OUT THE SUGAR!" This salad has several of those healthy ingredients.


Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared a hearty Shepherd's Pie Stew and we are twins with the gnocchi. She says, "This gnocchi was found in the refrigerated section of the market.  Chop and measure your ingredients ahead of time and it's a quick meal to prepare.  This is the first time we have had a soupy/stew version of Shepherd's Pie. Usually we have beef or lamb or chicken with the massive amount of veggies and cover it all with mashed potatoes.

Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen brought Spelt Beetroot Salad with Spinach and said, "Other than it being a dish to eat mindfully, by that I mean slowly because of the chewy nature of the grains, I actually quite enjoyed it. In fact I decided to make another recipe with grains the following week."  

Thank you to all who joined this week! 
 
About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays (going since 2008) now has a format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches at any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
 
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...


To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up her in order to be included in the weekly round-up.
and 

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to it on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

 
Have a happy, healthy week!

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.) 
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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.

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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

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Deadline for entry is Monday, January 21st.

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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.