Showing posts with label quinoa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quinoa. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Welcome Home Diner" by Peggy Lampman, Served with Crispy Cornmeal Fried Fish and Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad with Herbs & Feta (and a Giveaway!)

What's a great way to get over the hump of a long week? Being a stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman, a great foodie novel--full of delectable sounding dishes. It's even better when it's paired with some book-inspired food like Crispy Cornmeal Fried Fish and a Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad with Herbs & Feta. And finally, there's a giveaway at the end of the post to enter to win a copy of the book. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.
Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.
As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 10, 2017)

My Review:

Yes, I do love a good foodie novel and I was excited to get a chance to review The Welcome Home Diner about two cousins who buy and renovate an old urban diner, hoping to transform their neighborhood and help (and benefit from) the urban renewal happening in Detroit. I have my own a cafe fantasies. When I make something delicious in my kitchen I often think, "that's totally going on my cafe menu!" Having spent some time in and around the food business, a cafe is much more work and effort than I have to give at this point in my life but I can live vicariously (at least through the good moments) through Addie and Sam in this book. Their path to success and happiness isn't an easy one between their own personal dramas, a neighborhood and neighbors that are not very welcoming, and an online troll who seems bent on making things difficult for the cousins.

I've read a couple of books recently that have written about Detroit and efforts to rehabilitate and rebuild the city and The Welcome Home Diner does it so lovingly in the way Lampman describes the city and it's surrounding communities--it made me want to go take a look. I enjoyed the main characters and although Sam and Addie are cousins, they are as close as sisters and that relationship with it's high and low points, felt realistic. I loved the supporting characters, particularly the Welcome Home's staff. They were a group of colorful personalities, most overcoming personal challenges and situations, and I enjoyed seeing how they were rebuilding their lives and themselves as much as the diner, the neighborhood and their city. 

Almost as important to the story and the characters for me in a foodie novel is the description of the food. I liked the blend of southern favorites and Polish and other ethnic traditions with farm-to-table practices and the focus on local ingredients. The Welcome Home had the kind of menu that would thrill me as a patron and I like when an author truly appreciates food and the art of cooking--it's no surprise Lampman is a popular food blogger. This quote from Addie, sums it up nicely, "Recipes are much more than instruction manuals. They're stories, rich with history, connecting the dots between past and present." This is not a book to read on an empty stomach as you'll see from my list of its food inspiration below.

The Welcome Home Diner is about more than the food--it's about relationships, friends and family--both the one you are born into and the one you create, and it's about community and reinvention. I found it to be an enjoyable read and I would happily go back and visit with these characters in another book. I'll be adding it to my collection of foodie books--I'd probably put it on my shelves for the gorgeous cover alone, but the story earns it a firm place. 

If it sounds like a book you'd enjoy, make sure to enter the giveaway for a copy below.


Author Notes: Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog

You can connect with Peggy via her website, blog, Facebook or Twitter


Food Inspiration: 

There is far too much food in The Welcome Home Diner for me to list all of it but here are the highlights—garden-grown lettuces, smoked pulled pork, biscuits, chess pie, greens (turnip, collards and mustard) and potlikker (the seasoned liquid left from boiling greens), corn pone, heirloom salad with blue cheese croutons, buttermilk pancakes with apple-maple syrup and walnuts, chocolate egg creams, lavender lime soda, spinach salad with hard boiled eggs, bacon and lemony dressing, hot sauce, kale smoothies, cornbread, sweet potato hash, giant chocolate cookies called “Heartbreakers,” asparagus salad, smoked chicken, patty pan squash, lamb burgers with beetroot salad and tzatziki, pickled carrots (and pickled eggplant, peppers, zucchini, okra and tomatoes), crispy corn trout, Heirloom tomatoes, lemonade with citrus and ginger, spicy Green Zebra Tomato Curry, eggs over easy with blue corn grits and red eye gravy, gazpacho, twice-stuffed potatoes, sponge cake, coconut pie, fennel dressing, wild mushroom pâté, sage-crusted pork chops with baked apples stuffed with orange-scented sweet potatoes, shaved Brussels sprouts salad, sugar cookies, Singapore Slings, chutney, cabbage rolls, Steak Diane with wild mushroom fettuccine, Polish Stuffed Easter Eggs (the author has a recipe on her blog), strawberry pies, spicy grilled wings, and root vegetable soup.

There were a few different recipes I wanted to recreate--the lavender-lime soda, maybe a meat-free potlikker, or the Green Zebra Tomato Curry. There were also a handful of recipes in the book (the pancakes and apple-maple syrup with walnuts, the greens with turnips and potlikker, the lamb burger sliders, the crispy corn trout, the Heartbreakers, Ginger-Molasses Bundt Cake with Lemon Curd, Babcia's Golbaki (cabbage rolls), white and dark chocolate-covered strawberries, and skillet-fried chicken). Most of the savory dishes included meat which I don't eat and I wasn't feeling like baking, making pancakes or eating something sweet. 

I have been craving tabbouleh and when I read the description of Sam and Uriah eating out at a Mediterranean restaurant and Sam noting the extra herbs (oregano and thyme) that popped up in the tabbouleh they ordered, I wanted to make the salad--even though it isn't a big part of the book. The heart wants what the heart wants. I had an Ina Garten recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta bookmarked to try that used mint and parsley and decided to add oregano and thyme to it and adapt it to my needs. I make tabbouleh fairly often and have made it with quinoa before (posted here) although I don't often think to change out the grain from the usual bulgur wheat. Qunioa is great if you need to avoid gluten or just want the protein and extra nutrition it provides.

To go with the salad I decided to do a spin on Paul's Great Lakes Crispy Corn Trout from Welcome Home's menu, only as good trout is hard to get here in Hawaii, I decided to use some local Monchong which has a firm, flaky texture and a moderate, buttery flavor. I think Sam and Addie would appreciate the use of locally-sourced ingredients. Since I used fillets rather than a whole fish, I worked a little dried sage into the coating rather than in the cavity of the fish. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Herbs & Feta
Adapted from Ina Garten, via Food
(Makes 6 Servings)

1 cup quinoa (I used sprouted quinoa)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I reduced to 1 tsp here)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil (I used about 3 Tbsp)
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (5 scallions)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (2 bunches)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

(I used 3/4 cup parsley, 1/2 cup mint, 2/3 cup oregano, & 1/3 cup thyme)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved through the stem
2 cups medium-diced feta (8 oz) (I reduced to less than 4 oz)

Pour 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and 1 teaspoon of salt, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until the grains are tender and open (they'll have little curly tails). Drain, place in a bowl and immediately add the lemon juice, olive oil and salt to taste.

In a large bowl, combine the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Add the quinoa and mix well.

Carefully fold in the feta and taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold

Crispy Cornmeal Fried Fish (Machong)
Adapted from Paul's Great Lakes Crispy Corn Trout via The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman
(Serves 4)

4 whole trout, 10-12 oz each, boned
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
8 sprigs fresh sage
1/4 cup ground cornmeal 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

Rinse the trout and pat dry. Season the cavity of each fish with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Place 2 sage leaves in the cavity of each fish. Close the cavity by threading a wooden skewer or toothpick through the flaps.

In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal and flour. Dredge both sides of the trout in the mixture. 

Heat two large skillets over medium--high heat and divide the oil between them. When the fat simmers, add 2 fish to each skillet and fry until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip the fish with a large, flat spatula. Continue to cook the fish on the other side until just cooked through an golden, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the fish to a platter and serve immediately with the lemon wedges.

Notes/Results: Let's start with the salad which was really tasty. I say add all the herbs to tabbouleh--don't limit yourself to just parsley and mint. I liked being able to get a bit of the oregano, thyme, mint and parsley in each bite. I did reduce the salt in this dish--with cooking the quinoa, the dressing and the veggie mix (Ina had anywhere from 1/2 tsp to 2 teaspoons salt in each step even before the feta is added, I just don't think it needs that much. There is a note in the recipe that Ina uses Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which is very coarse and to use less if you use a finer grain salt. I say taste and use your judgment and think of your heart! ;-) Speaking of feta, 8 ounces is WAY too much. I cut it down by less than half and it was plenty. I just don't think this salad needs as much cheese as it has quinoa in it. In fact next time I would reduce the cheese again, but double the quinoa to make it more grainy. (OK, seedy, quinoa is technically a seed.) But still, I really enjoyed the salad both with the fish and on its own--I will happily make it again. For the fish, I don't usually "fry" my fish and especially monchong but it worked quite well--crispy and slightly crackly from the cornmeal on the outside and tender and juicy inside. It was delicious indulgence. An excellent dinner. 

I'm sharing this post several different places including:

I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's Potluck week--our chance to make any recipe from our current IHCC chef (Ina Garten) or any of the previous IHCC chefs.

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.

As my tenth entry for Foodie Reads 2017. You can check out the October Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what foodie book everyone is reading this month.

Finally there's Souper Sundays, hosted right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup


Note: A review copy of "The Welcome Home Diner" 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.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Welcome Home Diner to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) and tell me about your favorite family recipe or favorite diner meal, or tell me why you'd like to win a copy of The Welcome Home Diner

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 Peggy Lampman (@dinnerfeed). (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Friday, November 3rd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ellie Krieger's Honey Harvest Quinoa (A Healthy and Warm Breakfast!)

I am not a good breakfast eater--especially on weekdays. Typically I grab a banana and a Luna bar and call it good, or if I am feeling ambitious, I go through periodic overnight oats and smoothie phases where I have things ready to go the night before so I don't have to deal with much in the morning. Even when I am working from home I tend to get up, work for a bit, then grab something quick rather than take the time to cook something. Still, there is something about a warm and nourishing breakfast that makes the day start better, especially on a semi-lazy weekend day. Ellie Krieger's recipe for Honey Harvest Quinoa can be on the breakfast table in 20 minutes, easily setting you up for a great day. 

I eat my share of quinoa but had not tried cooking it for breakfast before. I think I was a bit biased from doing a yoga seminar and cleanse weekend a few years ago where we were served quinoa flakes (pressed quinoa that has an instant oatmeal texture) for three days. I am not a mushy and warm breakfast cereal person so I was not a fan of the flakes but figured that since I like the firmer texture of actual quinoa, I might like it better in my breakfast bowl. I made a couple of small changes to Ellie's recipe, noted in red below and I used the quinoa I had on hand which was a blend of white, red and black quinoa. Plain quinoa might have been a better contrast in the bowl with the toppings but I think this blend looks pretty for fall. ;-)

Ellie says, "I always thought of quinoa as a savory side dish until my Peruvian friend told me that there they eat it for breakfast cooked with apples and honey. So I tried it, tossing in some chewy dried cranberries and crunchy pecans for good measure, and discovered my new favorite hot breakfast cereal.

Honey Harvest Quinoa
Adapted Slightly from So Easy by Ellie Krieger
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 1/3 cups quinoa
2 2/3 cups water
1 small golden delicious apple, cored and cut into chunks
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup low-fat milk, plus more for serving (I used unsweetened vanilla coconut milk)
2 Tbsp honey, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I used 1 tsp)

4 tsp unsalted butter (optional)
Add the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under the tap; put the rinsed quinoa in a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, then decrease heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the apple chunks and cranberries and continue to cook, covered over low heat, until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. (I saved out some of my apple pieces to use as topping.)

In the meantime, toast the pecans in a dry skillet over med-high heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

When the quinoa is cooked, stir in 1/2 cup of milk, 2 tablespoons honey, and the cinnamon; cook until the milk is heated through, about 1 more minute.

Spoon the cereal into serving bowls and top with the toasted pecans and butter, if using.
Serve with additional honey and milk to taste. (I added my reserved chopped apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon to the topping)

Nutritional Info: (Per 1 1/4 cup Serving): Calories: 380, Total Fat 14g, Sat. Fat 5g, Mono Fat 6.5g, Poly Fat 5g, Protein 10g, Carb 57g, Fiber 6g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 25mg.
Excellent Source of copper, fiber, folate, magnesium, manganese, protein, thiamin.
Good Source of iron, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, zinc.  

Notes/Results:  A nice belly and soul-warming morning bowl. The sweet cinnamon and honey flavor says breakfast and since I don't like mushy cereal, the slightly chewy texture of the quinoa is a nice change. I liked the contrast in textures of the soft apples--and the crunchy ones I left out to scatter on top, the toasted pecans and the chewy tart bites of cranberry. A very adaptable recipe--milk, toppings and flavorings (I feel a tropical version with mac nuts, coconut chips and pineapple coming soon), it's an easy warm breakfast that satisfies with plenty of protein, fiber and healthy fats. I will make this again.

It's Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs--our chance to cook any recipe from current IHCC chef Ellie Krieger, or any recipes from one of our previous twelve featured chefs. You can see what recipes everyone made and what chefs they cooked from by checking out the picture links on the post. 

 Happy Halloween!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Seared Tuna with Avocado and Wasabi Puree and Brown Rice-Quinoa Blend with Chia & Hemp Seeds {One Photo Friday}

Easy and healthy dinners that taste great are my favorite way to end the week. I have had my eye on this Diana Henry recipe from A Change of Appetite for a while now because of the simplicity and the combination of the ahi tuna and the guacamole with a punch of wasabi. I recently ate lunch at a restaurant that had what they called "Rich Rice"--a blend of quinoa, brown rice and chia seeds. It was good and added more nutrients to regular rice so I made my own version (adding hemp seeds to the mix) to serve with the tuna.

Diana says, "Ready in minutes, filling, zingy ... everything you could possibly want."

Seared Tuna with Avocado and Wasabi Puree
Adapted from A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

For the tuna:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used low-sodium soy sauce)
back pepper
4 (6 oz) tuna steaks
pickled ginger to serve

For the puree:
2 completely ripe avocados
1 tsp wasabi paste, or to taste (I used 2 tsp)
juice of 1 lime, or to taste
sea salt

Mix the olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, and black pepper. Put the tuna steaks in a dish and pour the marinade over them, turning to coat. Let marinate for 30 minutes.

To make the puree, halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Mash with the wasabi and lime juice, add salt, and taste. Add more seasoning as needed.

Heat a ridged grill pan until it's really hot. Lift the tuna out of the marinade, gently shaking off any excess. Grill tuna for about one minute per side (this gives you a moist interior that is raw in the center).

Serve the tuna with the avocado puree, with pickled ginger on the side. Offer brown rice as well, if you like.  

Recipe Note: For the brown rice-quinoa blend, I put a cup of each into the rice cooker with about 3 cups of water, crushed ginger and garlic. When it finished cooking I stirred in 1 1/2 tablespoons each of chia seeds and hemp seeds and a touch of sea salt.  

Notes/Results: Lots to love with this dinner. The ahi gets just the right amount of flavor from the soy and garlic marinade and goes well with the avocado puree. I added extra wasabi to mine--I just didn't taste enough wasabi with the one teaspoon in the recipe. When you add the pickled ginger to the mix (one of these days I am going to get around to trying Diana's recipe for pickled ginger) along with the rice blend, it made a terrific light and healthy dinner. I would make it again. 

This post is linking up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it is Potluck week. The chance to make any Diana Henry recipe or a recipe from any previous IHCC chef. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

{One-Photo Friday: Since I normally drag out my big camera and gear, take a bunch of photos of my recipes, and then spend time obsessing over them--I decided that for Fridays, I'll simplify by posting a recipe or something interesting and then just take one photo of it with my iPhone--no muss/no fuss.}

Happy Aloha Friday! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summer Corn & Zucchini Soup with Quinoa, Basil & Feta: Summer In a Bowl for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

This simple soup just screams summer--light but filling and it makes the most out of sweet local corn, zucchini and basil from the farmer's market. The quinoa gives it a protein boost and gives it a thick, almost chowder-like consistency and the feta makes it fun.  

Delicious Living says, "Soups are a terrific way to make use of corn's flavor. With quinoa added, this garden-fresh version also provides a complete protein. A portion of the cooked corn can be puréed for a thicker soup." 

Summer Corn & Zucchini Soup with Quinoa 
Adapted from Delicious Living
(Serves 6)

3-4 ears fresh corn (to make 3 cups kernels) 
Tbsp olive oil 
1 medium onion, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
4 cups vegetable broth (I used 6 cups) 
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed 
2 oz fresh basil, minced 
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced 
1 oz crumbled feta cheese

Boil ears of corn until tender. Use a knife to remove kernels; measure 3 cups kernels and set aside. (Note: I like my corn to have a crisp, juicy texture so I didn't cook my corn first, just removing the kernels and adding it to the soup to cook with the zucchini and basil.)

In a deep pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until softened. Add broth; bring to a boil. Add quinoa; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. Add fresh basil, zucchini and corn. Simmer 8-10 minutes. 

Serve hot with feta cheese sprinkled on top.  

Notes/Results: A simple bowl of soup that satisfies with flavor and texture. I had this one tagged to make for several weeks after coming across it on a Delicious Living magazine email, just waiting until the corn lady was in my neighborhood with her bags of local corn. The basil and feta add great taste to the milder tasting zucchini and quinoa and contrast well with the sweet corn. This soup goes together easily and would be perfect for a warm summer night outdoors. I might add some new potatoes if I make it again, to give it even more of a chowder feel. A keeper summer recipe.

We have some great friends and fabulous salads hanging out in the Souper Sundays kitchen today. Let's take a look. 

Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm kicks us off with this colorful Smoked Paprika Mango Jicama Salad. She says, "This is a simple and fresh summer salad, using a few of my favorite ingredients. It's super easy to put together and very flavorful. What makes this salad so delicious is the use of the smoked paprika. Smoked paprika is used a lot in Spain and it really is a whole different flavor profile than regular paprika. It has a smoky, charcoal like aroma. It adds an almost grilled flavor to the food its added to. Please go on a treasure hunt and search for smoked paprika in your city and I promise you it will be well worth the effort."

Joyce of Kitchen Flavours shares this Crunchy Salad with Miso Dressing and says, "What drawn me to this salad is the miso dressing, and also, I have all the ingredients, except for the bean sprouts, which I have omitted. Time to bring out that pack of miso dressing which I bought months ago and is still unopened!  ... A really nice and tasty salad. Yummy! Love the crunch from the carrots and cucumbers. The mint leaves and coriander adds a lovely flavour and fragrance. And the nutty sesame seeds makes this salad looks really "Asian" when scattered over. I think I prefer sesame seeds to peanuts in this, it balances off really well with the miso dressing."

My pal Kim of Stirring the Pot brings A Salad of Lettuce, Peas, and Ham with Creamy Dressing and says, "A creamy dressing of Dijon mustard, champagne vinegar, olive oil, heavy cream, salt, lots of black pepper and pretty green flecks of parsley.  Dressing with heavy know that's good stuff! Then it came time to put the salad together and we're talking lots of deliciousness.  Soft butter lettuce with warmed peas, savory bites of ham, buttery homemade croutons, and shards of really good farmhouse cheddar.  Pour that creamy dressing on and you're talking one incredible, satisfying, and totally crave-worthy salad."

Here at Kahakai Kitchen, this Salad of Fennel, Edamame, Arugula and Parmesan with Crispy Croutons and Cheesy Tarragon Dressing was so good, I had to share it at Souper Sundays. I adapted this Nigel Slater recipe to what I had on hand and loved the flavors, textures and colors. The warm crispy croutons are the perfect topping. I had to make it again yesterday. ;-)

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my sidebar for all of the details.  

Have a happy, healthy week!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Book Tour Stops Here: The Thirteen By Susie Moloney with Creamy Mushroom (Not the Magic Kind) Pasta

"Haven Woods is suburban heaven, a great place to raise a family. It’s close to the city, quiet, with great schools and its own hospital right up the road. Property values are climbing, and the crime rate is practically nonexistent.

Paula Wittmore hasn’t been back to Haven Woods since she left as a disgraced teenager. Now she’s returning to care for her suddenly ailing mother, and she’s bringing her daughter and a pile of emotional baggage. She’s also bringing, unknowingly, the last chance for her mother’s closest frenemies . . . twelve women bound together by a powerful secret that requires the sacrifice of a thirteenth.

The Thirteen by Susie Moloney is a campy. creepy contemporary horror novel. (Paperback: 336 pages Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks March, 2012) Young single mother Paula and her twelve-year-old daughter Rowan are barely scraping by in the city when she is fired at her strip club waitress job and Rowan is suspended from school. After learning that her mother Audra has taken suddenly and mysteriously ill, Paula brings Rowan back with her to her hometown of Haven Woods. To oblivious Paula, Haven Woods seems like childhood and home, to Rowan it seems pretty creepy--almost too perfect--and what's with all the cats lurking about? There are plenty of secrets beneath the quiet surface of the town, and a group of women who will do whatever it takes to keep those secrets hidden and keep their lives on their prosperous, perfect paths by keeping their coven number at thirteen.

I like horror and paranormal reads and I love books about witches and covens and the black arts. The Thirteen drops all of it into modern-day suburbia. Looking at the pretty soccer mom with the successful husband and beautiful kids who would suspect how she got her perfect life? It makes for good fun. The Thirteen is dark and sometimes graphic--plenty of evil acts, spells, human and animal sacrifices, terrible "accidents" etc., but has its darkly humorous moments too. With a coven of thirteen, plus Paula, Rowan and some side characters, there were times when it was a bit tough to keep track of everyone and I found my attention lagging about halfway through the book. The action did pick up though and at that point the story became hard to put down until the very end. The characters are interesting--the lines of evil are often blurry and I found myself sympathetic in varying degrees to even the darkest characters based on their circumstances and motivations. I found Paula to be annoying at times and wanted to smack her to wake her up to what was happening around her--or at least to actively question some of the oddities that occurred. In contrast, Rowan is precocious and quickly gets the message that something is wrong in this suburban paradise, but she isn't sure what it is and how to communicate it to her mom. Overall, this book is an entertaining diversion--a great beach book or vacation read for those who like suspense, horror, witchcraft and the paranormal.

Author Notes: Susie Moloney is the bestselling author of four books and has published in numerous countries and assorted languages. She divides her time between the wilds of Canada and the wild world of New York City.

And now for a dish inspired by the book. Food doesn't play a huge role in the story. There are a few dinners--steak, pizzas, burgers, etc., but nothing that was particularly culinarily inspiring. Since I was craving mushrooms and they were often associated with witches and the devil in the Middle Ages, a mushroom dish seemed appropriate to represent the book. (See how well I can make anything relate!) ;-) I threw together a thick and creamy vegan mushroom sauce using nutritional yeast for flavor and "cheesiness" and almond milk thickened with corn starch for the velvety texture. It was excellent over a baked potato, and even better mixed into some pasta. A little mushroom magic--the good-for-you-kind of course. ;-)

"Magic" Creamy Mushroom Pasta
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4)

8 oz dried pasta (I used Ancient Harvest Quinoa Rotelle Pasta), cooked according to the instructions on the package.

1 Tbsp vegan butter spread
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups low sodium veggie stock
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp granulated onion powder
2 cups nondairy milk (I used almond milk)
3 Tbsp cornstarch
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt vegan butter spread in a large pan over medium and add minced garlic. Saute for a few minutes until it begins to change color. Add mushrooms and thyme to pan, and stir to coat with butter spread. Stir together veggie broth, soy sauce, nutritional yeast and onion powder and pour the mixture over mushrooms, sautéing the mixture over medium heat until mushrooms begin to darken and soften.

Thoroughly mix the cornstarch into the non-dairy milk and add to the pan, stirring to combine. Bring liquid to a just at a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently, about 5-6 minutes.

Add salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir and let flavors meld together. Toss with cooked pasta and serve.

Notes/Results: Just what I wanted--creamy, savory, mushroomy pasta goodness. The magic comes from being able to enjoy a creamy dish without all the dairy, cholesterol and saturated fat of a normal cream sauce. I topped the pasta with fresh lemon thyme and leftover topping from last week's zucchini noodles and sauce for a little Parmesan-like texture. The quinoa pasta makes it gluten-free and has a similar texture to white pasta but with 4 grams of fiber instead of 2 grams. Good comfort food, I will make this again.

Note: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher through TLC Book Tours but I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quinoa Croquettes with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce (or The Sodium Saga--Can This Recipe Be Saved?!)

Having some leftover cooked mixed red and regular quinoa, I saw this recipe for Quinoa Croquettes with Cilantro Sauce in June's Natural Solutions magazine and thought it sounded like a good healthy recipe to try. When I went to make the sauce, which "rests" in the fridge before serving, I happened to glance down at the nutrition info at the bottom and noticed the sodium number and then nearly had a heart attack. Although no exact serving amount is given other than "Serves 6" the sodium was listed at 1483 mg per serving! When you consider that the recommended sodium for the average person per day is no more than 2300 mg, one serving of this dish was well over half that amount. A closer look at the sauce recipe revealed the culprits--one I was aware of and planning on cutting down anyway--soy sauce, which even in it's low sodium form is about 700 mg per tablespoon. The second culprit and a bit of a surprise to me was the ume plum vinegar that I had purchased for another recipe and never looked at the label. This condiment comes in at 1050 mg of sodium per teaspoon! Holy salt lick people! With a 1/4 cup of each in the sauce it was enough to make what should be a healthy, vegetarian dish a cardiologist's nightmare. Could this recipe be saved?

I don't know about you but if I am going to indulge in a dish that gives me that much of a sodium wallop, it isn't going to be quinoa cakes. (It will most likely include large amounts of sausage or bacon.) ;-) I decided to change it up and bring the sodium way down. I started by reducing the bad and just putting in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of the ume vinegar. Next, to keep some of the flavor complexity and the sweet/sour taste the ume brings to the party, I added garlic, the juice of 1 lime and some mirin, or rice wine vinegar. Since I didn't make the original recipe, I can't tell you whether my revised dressing is as good as the original but it tasted great to me and at about 397 mg of sodium per serving (I just added up my sauce numbers, added in the teaspoon of sea salt I put in the quinoa croquettes and divided by 12 since the recipe says it makes double the sauce for the servings), I was able to come in at about 27% of the sodium in the original recipe. Mission accomplished! Moral of the story--if the recipe has nutritional counts, read them and especially read the labels of your condiments so you don't have any hidden surprises. I'll use up my ume vinegar but it will be a teaspoon at a time. ;-)

Quinoa Croquettes with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
Adapted From "Easy Green Organic" by Anna Getty via Natural Solutions, June 2010
(Serves 6)

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce:
1 large bunch cilantro, stemmed
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (reduced to 1 Tbsp)
1/4 cup ume plum vinegar (reduced to 2 tsp)
(added 1 Tbsp mirin (rice wine vinegar)
(added 2 cloves garlic)
(added juice of 1 lime)
1 small white onion, quartered
2 cups plain yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil

Quinoa Croquettes:
1 cup quinoa, washed thoroughly
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
6 sprigs parsely, minced
1 large egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
grapeseed oil

Pulse cilantro, soy sauce, vinegar, and onion in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stop the motor and add yogurt and olive oil. Blend until creamy. Transfer to a lidded container, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Recipe makes double the amount of sauce per serving.

Combine quinoa with 2 cups water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until water is completely absorbed. Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl to cool.

When cool, add carrot, zucchini, scallion, garlic powder, salt parsley, egg, and flour. Mix well. Using your hands, form mixture into patties about 1/2-inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, lay 5 to 6 quinoa cakes in the pan, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. When golden, turn over and cook until the second side is golden. (Check by lifting up a side with a spatula.) Add additional oil as needed, and remove any brown bits that accumulate in the pan.

Remove cakes from pan and place on a plate lined with a clean, recycled brown paper bag. Serve hot, drizzled with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce.

Nutritional Analysis: 248 calories; 11g fat; 2g saturated fat; 38mg cholesterol; 10g protein; 30g carbohydrates; 3g fiber; 1483 mg sodium. (Revised with above changes 397 mg sodium)

Notes/Results: The quinoa croquettes were excellent--crispy on the outside and that nice little quinoa "crunch" and chewiness within. They are substantial without being heavy and paired really nicely with the yogurt sauce (with my changes of course!) ;-) I thought that the quinoa mixture seemed fairly wet and I was worried that it might not hold together but it did perfectly. I ended up with about 12 cakes total, and although they taste best hot, they reheat well. They are tasty but fairly mild in flavor, so some kind of sauce or pesto works well with them--they were also quite tasty with some leftover spinach coulis from Sunday's soup. I will make the croquettes again, but will continue to play with the sauces to top them.