Showing posts with label paleo-friendly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paleo-friendly. Show all posts

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "When We Found Home" by Susan Mallery, Served with a Recipe for Macadamia Nut, Chia Seed & Banana Pancakes with Fruit and Coconut Syrup

Happy Aloha Friday! I'm kicking off the weekend as today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for When We Found Home, a new novel by Susan Mallery. Accompanying my review are some easy and health-ish Macadamia Nut, Chia Seed & Banana Pancakes with Fruit & Coconut Syrup. There's also a chance to enter a tour-wide giveaway for a prize pack at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

Life is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old. Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.

But starting over can be messy. Callie and Keira fit in with each other, but not with their posh new lifestyle, leaving Malcolm feeling like the odd man out in his own home. He was clever enough to turn a sleepy Seattle mail-order food catalog into an online gourmet powerhouse, yet he can’t figure out how to help his new sisters feel secure. Becoming a family will take patience, humor, a little bit of wine and a whole lot of love. But love isn’t Malcolm’s strong suit…until a beautiful barista teaches him that an open heart, like the family table, can always make room for more.

In this emotional, funny and heartfelt story, Susan Mallery masterfully explores the definition of a modern family—blended by surprise, not by choice—and how those complicated relationships can add unexpected richness to life.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: HQN Books (July 10, 2018)

My Review:

I have only read a few of Susan Mallery books (this is the last one I reviewed) and they are generally feel-good books that are perfect for summer reading. Heavier subjects are touched on, but ultimately they are about love, friendship, family, and relationships. When We Found Home follows suit with the story of three half-siblings Malcolm, Callie, and Keira who are brought together by their grandfather--each looking for love and acceptance. The trio grew up differently with Malcolm brought into the fold as a pre-teen and then Callie--who needs a fresh start after a big mistake, and Keira--a twelve-year-old in foster care, are discovered later (after their deadbeat, woman-in-every-port father passes away and Grandfather Alberto learns of their existence). 

The book is set in Seattle, where the family owns Alberto's Alfresco, a successful high-end food distribution company that Malcolm runs, along with his best friend Santiago who is the company's CFO. In the building that houses the company's headquarters is a coffee bar with an attractive part-time barista named Delaney, a former finance executive who is now pursuing a new life by becoming a Naturopath after losing her fiance. Malcolm is attracted, Keira be-friended, and Delaney's story is a big focus of the book, both her own story and her romance with Malcolm. Callie and Santiago are a second potential couple and they, Keira, Grandfather Alberto, and his housekeeper (and perhaps more) Carmen make up the rest of the main and secondary characters. The romances are fine (although Callie and Santiago seemed a bit too insta-love to me), but it is in the family dynamics, the building relationships between the siblings, and the second chances for characters that are seeking and/or hurting that When We Found Home excels. 

There is good humor--especially from Keira and poignant moments (also many from Keira) that made the book enjoyable and made me care about the characters. There are no big surprises here, but a heartwarming and uplifting story that drew me in with the Seattle and somewhat foodie setting. The 400+ pages were enjoyable from start to finish and I think anyone who likes family dynamics, romance, and second chance and start-again books will like this one. 

Author Notes: #1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at

Connect with Susan on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

Susan Mallery books never seem to have a shortage of food in them and with the family being food purveyors there were plenty of food mentions that included coffee and espresso, pasta--rotini and fusilli, marinara sauce, macrons, biscotti, cinnamon rolls, jelly donuts, and a children's party offering of PB & J sandwiches, carrot, cucumber and celery sticks, organic apple juice, punch, mac-n-cheese, mini hot dogs made into cars with tomato and cucumber wheels, There was oatmeal, poached eggs and fruit, an antipasto plate, cookies, steak, dark chocolate, expensive hot cocoa mix and mixes for minestrone soup and spicy sangria (from the food company's gift baskets), macadamia pancakes with bacon and fresh fruit, sandwiches, brownies, pizza and salad, tea with scones and tea sandwiches, wine, Dr. Pepper, chocolate cake, brandy, stuffed mushrooms, prime rib, mashed potatoes, and cheesecake, puff pastry appetizers, Cosmos, Shrimp & Crab Louie and BLT salads, mini mushroom quiches, salmon, potato casserole, martinis, egg and sausage sandwiches, chocolate croissants, Mexican food, and ice cream with chocolate sauce. 

In determining what to make for my book-inspired dish, I considered the two recipes in the back of the book--Shrimp with Lemon Linguine and Triple Chocolate Biscotti Brownies, but neither really fit my current eating habits and gluten-limiting. I decided to go with the macadamia pancakes that Carmen serves for breakfast with bacon "and a lovely little fruit garnish." I wasn't going to have the bacon and gluten-limiting seems not to fit pancakes, but then I thought of the 2-ingredient, gluten-free banana-egg pancakes I make sometimes (like here, or this peanut butter variation). A new friend (Kamala of KamalaWellness) just posted a pic of egg & banana pancakes with chia seeds on Instagram and I thought they looked delicious, and it would be easy to add chopped macadamia nuts to the banana, egg, and chia seed mix. I was going to use maple syrup with fresh fruit and chopped mac nuts to top my pancakes, but I thought I'd play around with the container of coconut sugar I had in the pantry and make a quick coconut simple syrup instead.

Macadamia Nut, Chia Seed & Banana Pancakes with Fruit & Coconut Syrup
Adapted & added to from The Kitchn
(Makes About 6 pancakes)

2 medium-ish ripe bananas
2 large eggs

1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp chopped macadamia nuts (I used roasted)
dash of vanilla

large pinch of cinnamon
coconut oil for pan
coconut syrup (recipe below) and chopped mac nuts, fresh blueberries and other fruit as desired to serve

Mash the peeled banana with a fork until no large lumps remain and stir in egg until well-combined. Add chia seeds, mac nuts, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk until it forms a slightly loose, liquid-y batter. Let sit for about 10 minutes so chia seeds gel a little which helps hold the pancakes together.

When ready to cook, heat pan or griddle over medium heat and add a small amount of coconut oil to prevent sticking. When pan is hot, drop about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the  pan--if it doesn't sizzle slightly, turn up heat. 

Cook until the bottom of the pancake looks golden brown when you lift a side--about 1 minute or so. The edges should also be looking set but the middle will still be a bit loose. 

Carefully lift the pancake by gently working a thin spatula about halfway underneath the pancake, and carefully turning over to the other side. If any loose batter spills when you turn the pancake, lay the pan cake on top of the spill and move any excess back under the pancake. Cook the pancake for another minute or so until it is golden brown on each side--flipping back and forth as needed to get them evenly browned.

Set pancake aside (keep warm) and cook remaining batter/pancakes. 

Serve immediately while warm with coconut syrup, fresh blueberries or other favorite toppings.


Coconut Simple Syrup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1/2 cup)

1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place the coconut sugar and water into a small sauce pan and bring to a light boil, stirring continuously for about 5 minutes--until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture starts to thicken. 

Remove pan from heat and allow to cool and thicken. Use warm, or store in a glass jar in the fridge. 

Notes/Results: I was happy with both the pancakes and the syrup. The pancakes have a nice texture with the addition of the chia seeds (which also some extra protein, fiber and Omega 3-s) and the macadamia nuts. The chia seeds give the pancakes a poppy seed-like texture which I like and they, along with keeping the pancakes on the smaller size, hold things together pretty well. I know not everyone likes bananas, but if you do and you are looking for a paleo-friendly or gluten-free pancake option, these are winners. The syrup has a toasty coconut and molasses-like flavor that worked well with the pancakes and fresh fruit--I used blueberries, raspberries and diced pineapple, as well as the dry roasted mac nuts on top. Eat them for breakfast or for a satisfying dinner, as I did. I will happily make both the pancakes and the syrup 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.

When We Found Home is my Sixth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the July 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   


The publisher is doing a fun tour-wide giveaway for this book with a great foodie prize pack:
This Taste of Seattle Gift Bag includes:
  • An “I [Heart] Happy Books” tote bag
  • Starbucks Pike’s Place ground coffee
  • Seattle Chocolates gift set (3 truffle bars)
  • Cucina Fresca marinara sauce
  • Sahale Snacks (6 packs)
  • Maury Island Farms jam (2 jars)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: A review copy of "When We Found Home" 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.


Monday, May 30, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "He Will Be My Ruin" by K.A. Tucker, Served with a Recipe for Dark Chocolate-Topped No-Bake Shortbread Bars

Today's TLC Book Tour stop includes a review of the mystery-thriller He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Dark Chocolate-Topped No-Bake Shortbread Bars, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A woman who almost had it all . . .
On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?
A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .
Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.
Until he became her ruin.
On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Atria Books (February 2, 2016)

My Review: 

Coming off of a couple of books that were good but slower moving and required more thought and attention in reading, I was happy to open up an exciting thriller that pulled me right into the action and the story. He Will Be My Ruin is a compelling and dark psychological thriller that kept me guessing throughout the book. The prologue starts off with a bang with Maggie, the main character, bound and apparently in the trunk of a car at potentially at the mercy of the person that killed her best friend. The rest of the book leads up to how she got in that predicament, with plenty of dark and twisty turns along the journey. Maggie has come to New York to pack up the apartment of her best friend Celine, who committed suicide--something that Maggie is having a hard time reconciling with the Celine she knew and grew up with. Although once she begins going through Celine's personal items and journals, Maggie realizes that there is much she didn't know about her friend and her life the past few years. Instead of suicide or even an accidental death, Maggie becomes convinced that Celine was murdered and sets out to determine who did it and why.

This is the first book I have read from K.A. Tucker and I wasn't disappointed. She has crafted an absorbing mystery that had just enough plot twists to keep me guessing. I like mystery-thrillers that I don't have completely figured out by the end and although I thought I had this one nailed (and frankly was a bit smug about it), I found that I only had part of the solution correct. Wanting to find out exactly what happened made me not want to put this one down, making the 350-ish pages fly by. There is some romance in the book, but the focus is on the mystery and the friendship and relationship between Maggie and Celine. I liked Maggie, even her stubbornness and sometimes not-so-great decisions, and I adored the elderly neighbor Ruby who was a friend to Celine and became a friend and helper to Maggie. I also enjoyed Doug, the PI Maggie hires and his tech expert (hacker) Zac--and Maggie's somewhat snarky relationship with both of them. He Will Be My Ruin will appeal if you like a good mystery-thriller that has its dark moments and ratchets up the action with each turn of the page.

Author Notes: K.A. Tucker is the author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and the Burying Water series. She currently resides outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures. 

Connect with K.A. Tucker on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.


Food Inspiration:  

There is not a ton of food presence in the novel, but there are mentions of food and drink like bottles of Ketel One, Maker's Mark, and Jägermeister on a polished brass bar cart, a mention of Rosa's breakfast enchiladas, coffee, tea and shortbread, a New York foot-long hotdog with hot peppers and mayo, popcorn, cold pizza, ramen noodles, canned tuna, toast and eggs at a diner, wine, chestnuts roasted over the fire, eggnog cheesecake, Cristal and duck confit, parsnips, roasted squash and steak, and a tall caramel latte from Starbucks. 

There were two things that called out to be made, the first a "Cold-Blooded Ginger"--a cocktail that Maggie orders at her family's charity ball and appears to be made from Southern Comfort and ginger ale with a cherry garnish. The second was the buttery shortbread that Celine's elderly neighbor Ruby is known for. "I grab one and take a bite. And moan just like Grady, as the buttery cookie melts in my mouth, hints of curry and parmesan sparking my taste buds." I went with Ruby's shortbread for my inspiration.

As delectable as shortbread and especially curry and parmesan-spiked shortbread sounded, I am not much of a baker and I really didn't think I needed the all of the butter and sugar in a normal shortbread recipe, so instead, I googled "healthy, no-bake shortbread" and believe it or not, I got quite a few different examples. 

This No-Bake Chocolate Shortbread from Food 52 caught my eye and so I made a few adjustments to the recipe--based on what I had on hand. Depending on the chocolate and sweetener that you use, they are easily adaptable to be vegan or paleo-friendly. Sure it's not authentic shortbread, but it is easy to make, is topped with dark chocolate, is a healthier indulgent treat, and it has a  surprisingly buttery taste and texture. I paired it with some of my favorite coconut Oolong tea.

No-Bake Chocolate Shortbread 
Adapted from Paleo with Mrs P via Food 52
(Makes 8-12)

1 cup ground almonds (I used 2/3 cups slivered almonds + 1/3 cup chopped mac nuts)  
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp cashew nut butter (I used tahini)
1 Tbsp sweetener (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup)
1 pinch sea salt
1 cup dark chocolate (if paleo use 100% cacao + sweetener)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp raw honey or other sweetener if desired

Place ground almonds, coconut, nut butter, sweetener, and sea salt into the bowl of a food processor. Blend until it reaches a bound consistency (about 1 to 2 minutes), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  

Press mixture evenly into a greased pan (8"x 8" or similar size), lined with parchment for easier removal. Make the base about 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Place pan in freezer for about 30 minutes or until solid. 

Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in the microwave or using a double-boiler. Once melted, add in the sweetener if using and stir until it's fully dissolved. 

Pour melted chocolate evenly over the shortbread base, smoothing it out with a spatula to the edges. Place in freezer for about an hour, until set.  

Remove from the freezer and let stand about 15 minutes before cutting into squares with a sharp knife. 

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes/Results: These are surprisingly good. Maybe not surprisingly because they do have a layer of deep, rich dark chocolate and it's hard not to love that, but the bottom layer is buttery, delicious, and definitely has a shortbread vibe. They are super easy to make--I didn't pre-grind my almonds and macadamia nuts and I used large chip-like pieces of unsweetened coconut, so I think a finer texture could have been achieved by putting the nuts and coconut in my Vita-Mix dry blender container first and grinding them before putting into the food processor, however, I really didn't mind the grainier texture at all. I think these are really adaptable bars, based on whatever nuts and nut butters you have on hand to use. They are very rich so I cut mine into 12 pieces and found one makes for a satisfying treat. Much better for me than a piece of shortbread but still fills the craving for a "buttery" treat, I will definitely make them again. 

I'm linking up this review and recipe to 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 "He Will Be My Ruin" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.