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

Friday, September 21, 2018

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

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

Publisher's Blurb:

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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


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


Food Inspiration: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: A review copy of "Yeled Tov" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

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

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

Publisher's Blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

Visit her online at or on Facebook or Twitter


Food Inspiration:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: A review copy of "The House on Harbor Hill" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Austen Escape" by Katherine Reay, Served with a Recipe for "Black Butter" (Apple-Blackberry Preserves) from The Jane Austen Cookbook

Welcome to Tuesday. A good day because it puts us one day closer to Friday. If you are feeling the need to escape, you aren't alone. Whenever I need to get away, at least in my mind, I open up a good book like this week's stop on the TLC Book Tour--The Austen Project by Katherine Reay. A fun but thoughtful novel that takes place at a Jane Austen experience in a house in Bath, England. Accompanying my review is a treat children might have enjoyed back in Austen's Day, "Black Butter"--a tasty jam-like mix of apples and blackberry on toast with butter.  

Publisher's Blurb:

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 7, 2017)

My Review:

Being a huge Jane Austen fan and quickly becoming a Kathleen Reay fan (this is the third of her books I've read), I was excited to read The Austen Escape and snagged the ARC on NetGalley and reading it before even learning about the TLC Book Tour. Since that was a couple of months ago, I reread the novel to refresh the story (and the food) in my mind and I think I liked it even better the second time around. 

I go back and forth on whether a Jane Austen 'escape'--like the one in the book (where groups of people spend time living in the Regency period and pretending to be characterless from Austen's works) is a dream vacation or my worst nightmare. I would love to visit Austen's stomping grounds and see the museums, houses and countryside where some of my favorite characters interacted but I have never been much of a costume person--Halloween makes me twitchy--so I don't know that I'd readily enjoy that part. Mary Davies, the main character of The Austen Escape has some similar feelings and wouldn't be going if her father hadn't convinced her that her friend Isabel needed her, and if Mary hadn't needed a handy escape from a failed project and a censuring new boss at work--her usual happy place. That there is some baggage with Mary and Isabel's friendship is readily apparent--and when Isabel forgets who she is and settles right into the pretending, Mary learns some hard truths about their friendship. 

I liked Mary from the start, she is smart and has some good snark--something I always appreciate. She leans to the ordered and routine side of things so the changes to her life have her feeling out of her element. Isabel was harder to like. Although I warmed to her more and sympathized with her as her story and childhood were unveiled, there is a betrayal that I don't think I would be able to get over if I were Mary--not to mention the way she treated Mary even before things are revealed. Reay does a great job of setting the atmosphere of Braithwaite House and of Bath and of what a Jane Austen-themed house party would be like. For me the descriptions added a lot to the story and from a slower start, things really took off after Mary and Isabel got to England. The supporting characters are fun and there is romance, of course--it's chick-lit--but it is clean chick-lit so things are kept light. 
An overall sweet and entertaining read that is a great escape itself--perfect to enjoy over a 'cuppa' and a few biscuits (or maybe some toast and jam or 'black butter'). If you don't enjoy or know your Austen at least a little (there is a handy Austen character overview in the front of the book to help), The Austen Escape won't have the same charm and probably isn't your book--but if like me, you are a Jane Austen lover, you will likely enjoy the fun.


Author Notes: Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries—who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. She is the author of three previous novels, and her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist, winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut, and winner of two Carol Awards for Best Debut and Best Contemporary. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, and tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago. 

Visit her on line at, or on Facebook or Twitter 


Food Inspiration:

This is not the "foodiest" of Reay's books (for that check out my review of Lizzy & Jane here) but there was food to be found in The Austen Escape. Examples include: Starbucks beverages, Chiles Rellenos, ice cream, tres leches cake, a martini with cilantro flakes, Prosecco, random casseroles, a Red Velvet cupcake, trout, takeout,warm nuts and chocolate in First Class, tea sandwiches and slices of glazed orange cake, toast spread with country pâté, cheese, cheese puffs, champagne, an dinner of endive salad, a light fish course, and beef tenderloin with lemon tart, coffee, tea, and other small desserts, burgers, popcorn, roast chicken, eggs, sausages, salsa on eggs and s'mores with burned marshmallows, a tray of cheese, cucumbers and a variety of cold meats along with a nineteenth-century version of egg mayonnaise and sticky toffee pudding for dessert, a salad of greens and pears, macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot cocoa, petit fours, soup, crumpets, scones, and ale, Celeriac Soup with Roast Hazelnuts and Hazelnut Oil, Smoked Salmon with Pommery Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise, Posh Kabob Wrap with Autumn Slaw and Yogurt, and a Maximum Burger with two patties and a fried egg, biscuits, Tamarind Jarritos, steaks, potatoes, and Caesar Salad, jars of jam, and nachos.

There was a mix of Austin Texas and Bath, England foods and some things that would have been enjoyed back in Jane Austen's day to pick from and I decided to pull out The Jane Austen Cookbook and see if anything called to me. I have cooked from this book before, making versions of the Raspberry 'Vinegar' (Cordial) and Marmalett of Aprecoks to pair with the film version of The Jane Austen Book Club so it seemed a good place to start. I am a bit limited in what I can make from this book as I don't eat meat (and too bad because don't Forcemeat Balls sound delicious?!) ;-) so I perused the fruit and dessert sections and decided on Black Butter--which basically turned out to be a preserve of apples (for their natural pectin) and assorted fruits and berries with the authors suggesting the black in the black butter may have come from a pairing of blackberries with the apples. Online it is called "a somewhat dark fruit conserve" which may also be how it gets its name. I happened to have some Honeycrisp (my favorite) apples on the counter and a bag of frozen blackberries, and with the mention of jam in the book (and given my love for the stuff), it seemed like a good pairing.

"My old piano teacher sent me three jars of jam every August. The day they arrived always felt like my birthday, and I practically licked each jar clean--all the while pushing aside, and yet cosseting, that little nudge, that pinprick, of the something lost that they evoked."

It was always the music. I could now name it and enjoy it. After my dinner with Dad I'd driven home and pulled my Lanvin shoebox from the top of my closet. I had also pulled the last jam jar from the fridge, sat on the floor, and thrashed a spoon around its farthest edges. It was delicious."

From The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black & Deidre Le Faye

The book notes that: "In one of Jane's letters we find references to "black butter" (perhaps blackberry and apple) being eaten by her family as a treat. We do not have a printed source for that recipe, but we do have one written only twelve years after Jane died for a children's dish. It comes from Meg Dodd's cookbook, originally published in 1829, and is given below

Black Butter
(For Children, a Cheap Preserve)
Pick currents, gooseberries, strawberries, or whatever fruit you have: to every two pounds of fruit, put one of sugar and boil till a good deal reduced. 
(M.D. 1829 edn, fac. 1988, page 435.)


For a modern recipe a mixture of some or all of the above fruits can be used. For each 2lb/1kg fruit, allow 1lb/450g white sugar. De-stalk and rinse the fruits, making sure none is mouldy. Mix them and heat gently in a pan until the juices start to run. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, and boil until very thick. Pour into small ht jars and cover as for jam. 

Note: This is a lovely old country preserve, almost unaltered, but shaped by the wise hand of Mary Norwalk. She says it is ideal for using up the odd bits and pieces in the freezer.

Deb's Notes: I made a couple of small changes--first I used about 1 lb (4 large) honey crisp apples and a 1 lb bag of frozen blackberries, which I defrosted and heated until juicy, added one large cinnamon stick and 1 Tbsp lemon juice and cooked over low for about 30 minutes to soften the fruit and release the juices. I broke up some of the larger pieces with a spoon, then brought the mixture to a boil and stirred in about 1/2 cup of sugar. (I didn't want it over sweet), boiled until the sugar was dissolved, then simmered for about 90 minutes until the mixture was reduced and quite thick. I scooped in into a small jar and allowed it to cool before serving on toast, spread with butter.

Notes/Results: A sweet and slightly tart jam with a pretty black-purple color. Even reducing to 1/2 cup sugar, it's a bit sweet for me. Thankfully the lemon juice and cinnamon stick help curb it slightly. I imagine a child would be in high-heaven with the sweetness, although they may object to the seeds from the blackberries. This definitely is more the texture of jam or preserves than butter, but you could blend it with an immersion blender if you wanted it smoother. I tend to prefer my jams and preserves to be chunky. I suppose in Jane's day they would have sieved it if they wanted a smoother consistency but that is far too much work for my laziness. It was quite delicious on a sourdough-style bread with a bit of (salted) butter and a cup of English Breakfast tea. I would make it again--although probably less sweet for me. 

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

Note: A review copy of "The Austen Escape" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Crows of Beara" By Julie Christine Johnson, Served with A Toasted Cheese and Apple Jam Sandwich

I'm excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson, a novel set on a remote peninsula in Ireland and featuring romance, a fight to save the environment and endangered birds, and a bit of local lore and magical realism thrown in. I'm pairing my review with a delectable Toasted Grilled Cheese and Apple Jam Sandwich inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb: 
Along the windswept coast of Ireland, a woman discovers the landscape of her own heart.

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice–a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.

Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: Ashland Creek Press (September 1, 2017)

My Review:

The more books I read about Ireland--especially the ones featuring remote locations and quaint villages--the more I want to travel there. The Crows of Beara made that urge all the stronger with its setting on the Beara Peninsula. It is described so well and with such appreciative detail by the author that I could picture the rugged and rocky coastline and verdant green hills in my mind. Annie is recently out of rehab (not much of a spoiler as we find out that information pretty quickly). Her alcoholism and her actions have made her job and marriage suffer and neither seems repairable. Wanting to escape her life in Seattle, she convinces her boss to give her a key project in Ireland spinning the building of a copper mine along the lush peninsula and promoting the jobs and income it will bring to the community to pave the way for the client to move forward. Annie hopes this opportunity will give her back her edge, but once she is back in Ireland and learns what the mine will do to the environment--especially the endangered Red-billed Chough that call the peninsula home, she begins to doubt her choices. Meanwhile she meets Daniel, a local hiking guide and metal sculptor who has his own past and mistakes to get beyond. Annie and Daniel are attracted to each other and they both hear a mystical, seemingly ancient Irish voice that calls to them. The voice seems to be related to the local legend of The Hag of Beara and it's the mystical realism portion of the book. The author has managed to weave the voice and the legend into the story in a way that fits the mood and setting and leans toward believability versus being too "woo-woo.

When I read the description of the book I wondered if all of the different aspects--the magical realism, the romance, the environmental issues, the battle over the mine, and overcoming bad choices and tragic pasts, would be too much for the 300-ish pages, but the writing is skillfully done and overall it all works together well. It also inspired me to go online to look and learn more about Beara and the Red-billed Chough. (Image from Wikipedia) Both Annie and Daniel are well-drawn characters and it is easy to wish the best for them. I did want to shake Annie several times, not for her past choices and mistakes, but for the ones she continued to make. For me the end of the book came a bit too quickly and I would have liked more information about the resolution on a couple of the plot points, but I really enjoyed my time in Beara and didn't want to leave.

Author Notes: Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in journals including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; and River Poets Journal. Her work has also appeared in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and psychology and a master’s in international affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services.
Named a “standout debut” by Library Journal, “very highly recommended” by Historical Novels Review, and “delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical” by bestselling author Greer Macallister, Julie’s debut novel In Another Life (Sourcebooks) went into a second printing three days after its February 2016 release. A hiker, yogi, and swimmer, Julie makes her home in northwest Washington state.
Find out more about Julie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.


Food Inspiration: 

Although not the most food-centric of books, there was food included in The Crows of Beara including, Greek yogurt, deli takeout, "the lingering scent of onions sauteed in butter," fruit, beer and ale, shortbread, cream biscuits, coffee, fried onions, boiled potatoes in butter, asparagus and buttered carrots, lentil stew, Cadbury chocolates, cherry and pear trees, shallots, tea, Club Orange soda, fish and chips, oatmeal biscuits, fruitcake with candied cherries, a toasted cheese sandwich, an apple, deep-fried chips in vinegar, a Vietnamese noodle joint, apple pie, tea--black and chamomile, vodka in cranberry juice, energy chews and bars, a golden beet salad with bleu cheese and seared plaice (flatfish), sourdough rolls, wine, pan-fried trout and creamed potatoes, toast, honey and raspberry jam, muesli, a scone "with a thick slab of Irish white cheddar tucked into its sliced middle," wrapped chocolates, Irish stew, an ice cream cone, smoked salmon, a full Irish breakfast, a banana, and whiskey.

For my book-inspired recipe, I was called to the toasted cheese sandwich that Daniel makes for his niece--probably because I've been craving a grilled cheese. I also decided to work in the apple (from a bowl on the counter) and the jam that was mentioned to go with toast in the book. I've made grilled cheese sandwiches with apple slices before and love the pairing, but I really wanted to make one using this delicious Caramel-Apple Jam (recipe here) that I made last week for my Cook the Books (virtual foodie book club) submission for Farmer Boy. For that post I served it on soft sourdough bread with cheddar cheese slices and it was phenomenal, but it was also begging to be put into a grilled cheese sandwich.

For my sandwich I used American cheese to get the right melty-ness, and Muenster because it's another favorite--but cheddar would of course be delicious--as would a smoked mozzarella or Gouda or even a brie. The jam recipe is linked above and for the sandwich I just spread two pieces of sourdough bread with butter on one side, layered American cheese, apple jam and Muenster in between them and fried the sandwich over medium heat until the bread was golden brown and crisp and the cheese nice and melted. I ate it for a late lunch, accompanied by a cup of chamomile tea.

Notes/Results: Oh yeah, this was REALLY good. Say what you will about American cheese and how processed it is and how it really isn't cheese and I'll totally agree with you but it really does add that ooey-gooey edge a good grilled cheese sandwich needs, and the flavor (this was a sharp yellow cheese), combined with the more mellow muenster, pairs well with the sweet/tart apple jam. I took pictures as quickly as I could so I could get it in my belly while it was still warm--enjoying every bite. ;-) I will definitely be making more of the jam in order to make more of these grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum!  

I'm linking this post up 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.

I am also linking this sandwich up to 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 Crows of Beara" 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.