Friday, October 21, 2016

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Heidi Swanson's Homemade Dukkah (and Some Avocado Toast with Dukkah Too!)

What ingredients inspire you or get you excited about cooking? For me it's often spices and spice blends, both the exotic and the more familiar as they add so much to a dish. I have had an obsession with dukkah (the Egyptian blend of nuts, seeds and spices) for a while now--sprinkling it on the top of hummus or other dips, adding it to salads, dipping bread in olive oil and then the dukkah, and using it as a crust for fish. Even one of my favorite brunch places tops their avocado toast with their dukkah blend which makes it crave-worthy. I had finally used up the last of my Trader Joe's dukkah tins earlier this year and I kept meaning to make my own blend, so when I saw Heidi Swanson's Hard Cooked Eggs with Dukkah recipe from Super Natural Every Day, I knew I wanted to make it.

Eggs are a definite source of protein for me since I gave up meat and poultry a few years ago and I am always  topping dishes with them and usually have a stash of hard-boiled eggs ready to grab and go for snack or breakfast. Topping egg slices with dukkah and adding a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky salt seemed like a brilliant idea. 

Swanson's dukkah recipe includes some of my favorite spice seeds--cumin, coriander and fennel. I took the lazy girl approach to my dukkah, meaning that I didn't toast each spice separately. I toasted the hazelnuts first, then the black peppercorns, and then put the sesame, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds together in the pan and toasted them together. I also used the dry container of my Vita Mix blender to pulse everything rather than using a mortar and pestle to pound and crush. Maybe not as refined, but it's been a busy week, I wanted minimum effort, and it still tastes great! 

Hard Cooked Eggs with Dukkah
Slightly Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
(Makes 12 Eggs: 3-4 Servings)

6 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled (try my favorite egg boiling tips for easy shell removal)
1/3 cup dukkah
extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle
flaky sea salt to finish 

Cut eggs in half and arrange on a serving plate, cut side up. Sprinkle eggs generously with the dukkah. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and garnish with a pinch of flaky sea salt--adding more salt if needed/desired one you have tasted them.

Slightly Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
(Makes about 2/3 Cup

1/4 cup hazelnuts
2 Tbsp coriander seeds

2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds

scant 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp dried mint leaves
1/2 tsp fine sea salt + more if needed

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, add  hazelnuts, toast until slightly browned and fragrant, without burning them. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and cool completely. Repeat the steps with each of the seeds and the peppercorns, allowing them to cool completely. (Note: I did take the time to remove the bulk of the hazelnut skins, rubbing them off with a towel after toasting.)

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns until crushed. Add the hazelnuts and seeds with the dried mint and salt and crush into a coarse consistency. (Or, you can pulse them in a food processor or blender to a coarse consistency, but don't over-process to a paste.) Taste and add additional salt if desired. 
Heidi's Note: You can keep the dukkah in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 month. 

Notes/Results: Between the toasting hazelnuts and the spices, my kitchen was smelling deliciously exotic by the time I made my eggs. These were so good. The texture and flavor of the dukkah adds so much to the creamy eggs. This is a great little snack or appetizer--if you enjoy hard-boiled eggs and spices, you will like this recipe. Heidi's dukkah blend has good flavor, but it is pretty black pepper-forward, which I love--but if you aren't a fan, use less. Dukkah ingredients vary quite a bit so you can customize it with different quantities or kinds of nuts and seeds. A really tasty snack or appetizer. I paired mine with some salad for an early light dinner. I will definitely make this again.

The recipe makes extra so I have been enjoying it on avocado toast. Just toasted (light rye) bread, fresh ripe avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or lime and a generous sprinkle of dukkah. So good!  I also think this dukkah would be good sprinkled on top of an open face egg salad sandwich.

Linking this post up to I Heart Cooking Clubs Ingredients That Inspire theme. You can see what ingredients inspired everyone by checking out the picture links on the post. 

I'm also linking it 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.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "News of the World" by Paulette Jiles

Today I am excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for the riveting historical novel The News of the World by Paulette Giles. Not only did I find this small but mighty book difficult to put down, it has been honored as National Book Award Finalist this year. So pour yourself a cup of strong, cowboy coffee and settle in for my review.

Publisher's Blurb:

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Hardcover: 224 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow (October 4, 2016)

My Review:

I am a fan of historical fiction, but my tastes tend to run from the 1920s through WWII and I usually don't have much of an interest in westerns. Over the past few years however, I have tried to not get hung up on the genre or even the setting of a book, and let the description of the story draw me in. The idea of a former soldier turned news reader (someone who travels through dusty town after dusty town, reading the news for a dime a head) was intriguing, as was the idea of a young girl, kidnapped and her family killed by raiders when she was six, being raised by the Kiowa and returned to the U.S. Army at age ten. The idea of these two strangers traveling together to return the girl to her aunt and uncle, sold me on signing up for the book tour. The fact that it was 220-ish pages sealed the deal--if I didn't like it, the book would be a quick read. The reality is that I became quickly transfixed by this beautiful story and wished it could have gone on another 200 pages, just to spend more time with Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and Johanna and to absorb more of the Texas landscape in the aftermath of the Civil War.

As much as News of the World is a Western historical novel, it transcends those categories and is really about the bonds that form between people put together in an unusual situation. One would expect a gruff elderly man, used to being on his own in the world since his wife died and his daughters grown and married, not to be able to relate to a traumatized ten-year-old girl who no longer speaks English, wants to be barefoot and live outdoors, and is desperate to escape back to the tribe and the only mother and family that she remembers. Captain Kidd is a man with depth and character, who is taking Johanna back to family as much for a favor to a friend than the $50 gold piece--most of which he spends on a wagon and supplies to get Johanna through the territory as safely as possible. His gruff kindness builds trust with the girl and it is a beautiful thing to watch their relationship unfold. Johanna is an amazing character too--smart, wild and brave, older than her years because of the traumas she has endured.

There is danger and adventure--it is the Wild West they are traveling through, but that isn't the focus of the story and there is a nice balance of action, relationship, humor, and poignancy. The first dozen pages in, I had to get used to the author's style of writing as the lack of quotation marks around dialogue was a bit disconcerting. But I quickly adapted and it seemed to fit with the story and characters and added to the uniqueness of the book. News of the World is the first Paulette Jiles book that I have read, but I have a feeling it won't be the last. It's a special treasure of a novel--there was even a map included in the marketing materials outlining the Captain and Johanna's journey (with old newsprint-style reviews on the back), which I found myself pulling out to consult as I read. Highly recommended, this is a beautiful and moving story that will stay with me. 


Author Notes: Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Find out more about Paulette at her website.


Food Inspiration:

I always look for the food in books of course and there was food to be found in The News of the World--starting with coffee, corn dodger (like a small pan-fried cornmeal fritter) and bacon, ground meat, a dinner pail of smoking barbecued meat, homemade divinity candy, black beans and bacon, roasted chicken, a German dish made of noodles, ground mutton and cream sauce with preserved cauliflower, sausages and cakes and flan.

I usually make a dish inspired by the book to accompany my reviews and unfortunately, this just wasn't the week for it as I am getting over some fun bronchial stuff and needed to sleep rather than cook. Had I the energy and the cornmeal, I would pair this story with a plate of corn dodgers like these, but instead I am having a cup of strong, black coffee--just like the Captain would have.

I'm linking up this review 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 "The News of the World" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Five Favorite Soups For When You Are Under the Weather for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

I did not make a big pot of soup this week. In truth, this week got the best of me between work projects and an asthma flare up and I spent most of this weekend sleeping. I have been switching between heating up soup from the freezer and shuffling to the kitchen to heat broth and stir in miso, but I have no new recipe to share this week. Not to fear, there are more than 400 soup recipes on this blog and it's also the eighth anniversary of Souper Sundays this month, so this week I bring you a recap of my favorite restorative soups from over the years. These are the soups that I want when I feel blah, or sick, or sad, or tired. A couple are from my meat/poultry-eating days, the rest are vegan or vegetarian, and they are all perfect for whatever ails you and delicious enough to eat when you are feeling fine. 

Today would have been my mom's 85th Birthday and I miss her very much. When I think of comfort food her Chicken Barley Soup, February 2009, always comes to mind.
It's chock full of veggies, potatoes, chicken and lots of barley and it was always made with love.

Elephants' Cure Chicken Soup by Scott Weaver, executive chef, Elephants Delicatessen, January 2010. This soup from a popular Portland, Oregon deli says that it contains, "a rich and spicy broth that's loaded with ginger, garlic, lemon grass and serrano chiles, a potent blend of ingredients that have known curative powers." I will attest to it clearing out my sinuses when I made it. ;-)

Ginger-Lemongrass Miso Soup from The Candle Cafe Cookbook by Joy Pierson & Bart Potenza, March 2010. There is a simplicity of ingredients in this soup but the ginger and lemongrass add a flavor punch and a bowl leaves you feeling refreshed and renewed.

Garlic Soup with Chickpeas and Harissa, from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, July 2013. A delicious and immune-boosting soup full of alliums like shallots and garlic, with some ginger and spicy pepper paste, to clear out those sinus passages, and it's satisfying to boot.

Ginger Tofu Soup from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health, October 2012. This takes the place of chicken soup when you want a veg-friendly, no-meat restorative cure-all for a stuffed up head. There is enough powerful ginger and garlic to clear the sinuses and the rice and tofu add substance. It's also incredibly quick and easy to make, good for when the last thing you feel like doing is spending time cooking.

There you have it--five favorites from over the years. Any of these soups should have you feeling better soon. What's your favorite restorative soup to make or eat?
We have some good friends in the Souper Sundays kitchen who shared some delicious dishes last week--let's have a look!

Melynda of Our Sunday Cafe shares two dishes this week. First is her Pan Roasted Butternut Squash Collard Greens and Potato Chowder. She says, "I had not cooked with collard greens before, and their peppery flavor is a pleasant surprise. But using greens in a soup like this is such an easy way to get more vegetables on the table and into your family. Which is always a good thing! This is not a sweet butternut squash soup, as most are. Instead, it is savory, warming and very good for you."

Next Melynda shared this Red Beet Salad with Cranberry Maple Vinaigrette and said, "With autumn here and the holidays looming (in a good way!) this salad was a natural to put together, and the taste, let me tell you it is wonderful. Maple, beet, and feta might seem like a mismatched trio, but in truth, they play very well together."

Judee from Gluten free A-Z Blog made her Grandmother's Healthy Green Sorrel Soup and said, "Sorrel is a leafy green that looks similar to spinach but has a powerful lemony flavor. It can be cooked and eaten like spinach or made into a soup. Either way, sorrel is tangy and delicious. This recipe for homemade sorrel soup, or "Schav" as my Russian grandmother called it, is a simple family recipe that my grandmother made in the old country." 

Join me in Welcoming Ali of Fix Me a Little Lunch to the Souper Sundays kitchen. She joins us this week with "Magic" Chicken Orzo Soup inspired by a J.D. Robb book, saying "Peabody and Dallas stop for soup in between interviews of murder suspects and Dallas calls the soup “magic” – it’s just how good it is. ... Since soup is one of my favorite foods, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my “magic” soup is and decided it would be chicken noodle soup of some sort. ... I decided I was going to poach some chicken breasts, with both skin and bone still on and in, and magic up some stock. Combined with a lot of garlic, a little bit of green chili, and orzo, I think this soup could make even Eve Dallas come back for seconds."

Debbie of The Friday Friends shared Paella Soup and says, "It had all the ingredients of Paella, but in soup form. I have to be honest---I did not buy saffron.  I've spent a lot of money on ingredients that I only need a tsp of,  and had no qualms about doing so ...  but I just couldn't do it for the saffron.  So, I Googled it and found out there is really no substitute spice for saffron.  I did find one mixture that comes close: turmeric and paprika. ... This soup is filled with chicken and sausage and shrimp. A really good main dish soup!"

Mahalo to everyone who joined in this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional).

 Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Deliver Her" by Patricia Perry Donovan, Served with a Recipe for (Homemade) Chocolate-Cherry Energy Bars

Happy Aloha Friday! What a crazy week and a long day. The weekend needs a good book and a snack to go with it. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am reviewing the contemporary family drama, Deliver Her by Patricia Perry Donovan and pairing my review with some homemade Chocolate-Cherry Energy Bars, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb: 

On the night of Alex Carmody’s sixteenth birthday, she and her best friend, Cass, are victims of a terrible car accident. Alex survives; Cass doesn’t. Consumed by grief, Alex starts cutting school and partying, growing increasingly detached. The future she’d planned with her friend is now meaningless to her.

Meg Carmody is heartbroken for her daughter, even as she’s desperate to get Alex’s life back on track. The Birches, a boarding school in New Hampshire, promises to do just that, yet Alex refuses to go. But when Meg finds a bag of pills hidden in the house, she makes a fateful call to a transporter whose company specializes in shuttling troubled teens to places like The Birches, under strict supervision. Meg knows Alex will feel betrayed—as will her estranged husband, who knows nothing of Meg’s plans for their daughter.

When the transport goes wrong—and Alex goes missing—Meg must face the consequences of her decision and her deception. But the hunt for Alex reveals that Meg is not the only one keeping secrets.

Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing; Reprint edition (May 1, 2016)

My Review:

When I signed up for the tour for Deliver Her, I had it in my head for some reason that it was a mystery/thriller and it definitely is not. It's more of a family drama, the tension comes from the relationships and the secrets the characters are hiding from each other. At first I was disappointed (I do love my mystery/thrillers), but I found myself absorbed by the story and the characters and that made the book's 340-ish pages fly by quickly.  

I am not a parent, but I have friends and family that have struggled trying to get through to a child, trying to protect them and sometimes making decisions for how they choose to deal with a situation--decisions that they later regret. Meg Carmody is a caring person and mother, but definitely burning out with her job as a cancer nurse, an inability to escape her failed marriage as her husband is living in the basement, and especially in knowing what to do for and about her daughter Alex, who has been spiraling out of control after her best friend's death on the night of Alex's sixteenth birthday. Meg finally gets pushed over the edge by Alex's actions when she finds a bag of pills after Alex has a party and trashed the house, and she makes the fateful decision to send Alex to a boarding school for troubled teens she has been researching. She hides the decision from her husband--who refused to discuss it and arranges for Begin Again, a transport service, to take Alex there. It is a decision she quickly comes to regret when there is an accident and Alex goes missing. 

The story is told in past and present by Meg, Alex, and Carl Alden, the owner of Begin Again--each sharing their perspectives, observations and the bits and pieces that led up to where they are now. Although none of these characters are perfect, they are relatable and I found myself drawn to each of them in a different way. For me the characters were the strongest part of the book as I found that the secrets promised were pretty easy to figure out and I didn't find any big surprises in the twists. If you don't set your heart on a mystery and understand that Deliver Her is a book about family and domestic relationships and the choices we make, it is a solid and enjoyable read

Author Notes: Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband.

You can connect with Patricia Perry Donovan on her website, Facebook and Twitter


Food Inspiration: Although not full of food mentions, there were some to be found in Deliver Her such as clam chowder and a burger at a diner, hotdogs and fries at a bowling alley, a cup of hot chocolate, chocolate fountain with berries and cookies at Alex's sweet sixteen party, a workplace chicken salad, a bagel from the travel center kiosk, and a container of chili thawing on the counter.

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to go with a homemade version of a chocolate-cherry energy bar--supposedly Alex's favorite--and part of a basket of snacks that Meg prepared for her transport trip to The Birches.

I do buy energy bars for convenience, trying to get the simplest ingredients without a lot of preservatives or added sugars, but I prefer to make them when I can. It allows me to make them to my taste, control what goes into them, and they just taste fresher and better than most store-bought versions. I switch up the ingredients, depending on my mood or what I have on hand but I usually always include nut butter, nuts and seeds, and dried fruit. Often I add a few mini dark chocolate chips for a little fun and since the energy bars in the book were described as chocolate-cherry, I upped the chocolate presence with dark cocoa powder and some vegan chocolate protein powder. 

Chocolate-Cherry Energy Bars
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12-16 Bars--depending on how you cut them)

1 1/4 cups quick cooking oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 Tbsp wheat germ
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped nuts of choice
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup nut butter of choice (I used crunchy natural peanut butter) + more if needed
1/3  cup honey or maple syrup or combination + more if needed
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp protein powder of choice (I used chocolate), optional
1/4 cup good dark cocoa powder

pinch of sea salt

Lightly grease a square (8"x8") or small rectangular (9"x7") baking pan and line with parchment paper, making sure the edges hang over the sides of the pan.

In a large bowl, add oats, flax seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, sliced almonds, dried cherries and mini chips and stir to mix well. 

In a microwave safe bowl, add nut butter, honey or maple syrup. Place in the microwave and heat about 30 seconds, or until nut butter is softened but not hot. Add vanilla, protein powder, cocoa powder and sea salt and stir until combined and smooth. 

Pour the nut butter mixture into the oat mixture and stir, gently but thoroughly, until well-combined. Add additional honey, maple syrup or nut butter if need if the mixture is too dry. (You want it crumbly but moist enough to stick together.)

Slightly moisten hands and dump mixture into the prepared pan. Press the mixture with your hands, firmly and evenly into the pan. Cover the pan and place in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight until completely firm.

Once firm, carefully lift the block out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut into bars. (I used a rectangular pan and cut mine into 12 pieces.) If desired, wrap bars individually in waxed paper. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Note: Bars will not melt, but they will soften at room temp and they remain more firm and solid if stored in the fridge.

Notes/Results: I like the way these bars turned out, soft and chewy with a bit of crunchy texture from the seeds and sliced almonds and with good chocolate flavor. They are sweet, but not too sweet and the chunks of cherry go well with the chocolate and peanut butter. You can switch up the seeds, dried fruit and nuts that you use, based on your preferences and what you have on hand. Because the chocolate comes from cocoa powder and mini chips, they are not as melty as chocolate-topped bars (like these I made last month), and can spend a few hours or so, (wrapped and treated somewhat gently!) in a purse, backpack, or lunchbox with no issues or mess--but remember that a trade off for no preservatives, is a bit more fragility--so for longer term and optimum firmness, it's best to store them in the refrigerator.  

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 "Deliver Her" was provided to me by the publisher and 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, October 10, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Yesternight" by Cat Winters, Served with a Recipe for Crispy French Toast Fingers with Blueberry-Maple Sauce {#Yesternight}

Since it's Explorer's Day, let's explore a slightly spooky new October novel. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am reviewing Yesternight by Cat Winters and pairing it with a recipe for Ellie Krieger's Crispy French Toast Fingers with Blueberry-Maple Sauce. inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core.  A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 4, 2016)

My Review:

It took me about 10 seconds flat to sign up for the Yesternight book tour, the "haunting historical mystery" description and 1925 small Oregon coastal town setting drawing me right in. And how perfect is the cover? The colors, the picture and the mood it sets make it perfect for a spooky October read. Thankfully, what is inside lived up to the self-hype in my head and it delivered an atmospheric story that kept me absorbed and turning the pages. I was reading it during a particularly warm and humid week here and so I had to turn on the air conditioning, pour a cup of apple-cinnamon tea, and set the right mood. 

Speaking of mood, Yesternight definitely sets a good, creepy paranormal tone from the start when young psychologist Alice Lind steps off the train and is immediately slammed to the ground from raging storm. It's clear that Alice has some issues and baggage, more than the two suitcases she travels with and brought along as she arrives to test the children in the rural community of Gordon Bay, Oregon for their IQ and aptitude. When she learns of young Janie O'Daire and about her mathematical prowess and her strange stories of growing up in Kansas as a young woman named Violet Sunday, she is set to prove them make-believe tales from a intelligent and impressionable seven-year-old mind rather than anything paranormal, but soon she can't deny that something strange is going on and that it may be tied somehow to her own childhood issues.   

The character of Alice is interesting and the book focuses much of the story around her--especially the second half. Finding reincarnation and spooky children to be fascinating, I wanted more time spent with Janie. Staying away from any detail, so as not to spoil the story, I will say that at times it felt as though Janie was a teaser to get into Alice's past. There are plenty of twists in the story--a couple I saw coming but some I did not and while I wouldn't call it scary, it left me me with a good chill. Had I read it in a creepy old hotel in the winter, I would have jumped more, but it definitely had that nice eerie, Gothic feel to it that made it a fun pre-Halloween book. Yesternight is my first book by this author and it is her second adult novel--based on this one, I'll be looking for more of her work. 


Author Notes: Cat Winters’s debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was released to widespread critical acclaim. The novel has been named a finalist for the 2014 Morris Award, a School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, and a Booklist 2013 Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth. Winters lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children.
Find out more about Cat at her website, and follow her on tumblr, Pinterest, InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.


Food Inspiration: 

There was some food to be found in Yesternight such as lots of ham and ham sandwiches with pretzels, a breakfast of hard-boiled egg, sausage patties, fruit, and coffee, almond drops candies, soft drinks like root beer, Orange Quench and LimeTone, clam chowder with a slice of thick sourdough bread, a dinner of chicken, potatoes, and boiled carrots and peas, gin, a bowl of snap peas, coffee tea and cinnamon rolls, cheese, crackers and roast beef, a hotel restaurant breakfast of grapefruit, French toast,and bacon, apple hot toddies, oyster cocktails and ham and egg balls, a dinner of venison, mutton chops and assorted vegetables that no one would eat.

I don't eat meat and Alice had "an infantile aversion to vegetables" according to her mother. With all manner of vegetables--even pickles, making her feel ill. For example; "Peapods always reminded me of plump green fingers that had wiggled their way out of cold garden dirt." So with meat and vegetables off the table (pun intended), I decided to go with the French toast Alice ate for breakfast. 

Hoping for a healthier option and multi-tasking or multi-posting with my weekly I Heart Cooking Clubs post, I found an Ellie Krieger recipe for Crispy French Toast Fingers that sounded tasty and since the peadpod "fingers" mention stuck with me, I thought French toast fingers would be fun. The Blueberry-Maple Sauce for dipping sounded delicious too. 

Crispy French Toast Fingers
Adapted from Ellie
(Serves 4)

1 cup sliced almonds
3 cups cornflakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup low-fat (1%) milk (I used coconut milk)
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
nonstick cooking spray

4 large slices firm whole-grain bread, each piece cut crosswise to make 5 fingers each.
1 recipe Blueberry Maple Sauce (recipe follows) or maple syrup for serving, optional

In a food processor, pulse the almonds until coarsely ground. Add the cornflakes, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pulse until the cornflakes resemble the texture of oats. Transfer the cornflakes mixture to a shallow bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla until well combined.  

Spray a large nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray and preheat over medium heat. Working with one piece at a time, dip the bread into the egg mixture until completely moistened and coated but not falling apart, about 30 seconds each. Coat each slice of bread in the cornflakes mixture gently pressing it onto the bread. Place each slice of bread in the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, turning once, until the outside is golden brown and the center is warm, about 6 minutes total.

Serve with Blueberry Maple Sauce or pure maple syrup on the side for dipping, if desired.


Blueberry-Maple Sauce
Adapted from Ellie
(Serves 4)

2 cups fresh or frozen (unsweetened) blueberries, (10-oz)
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
1 Tbsp orange juice

In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, maple syrup, and orange juice. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender, or use an immersion blender, and blend until almost smooth. Add more maple syrup to taste depending on the sweetness of the fruit. 

The sauce may be made up to 4 days ahead of using and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Notes/Results: Crispy, nutty on the outside and soft in the center French toast--sweet and cinnamony--there is plenty to like about Ellie Krieger's recipe. The fact that it adds some fiber and protein with the whole-grain bread is a bonus and it is sweet enough to make your favorite kid or big kid happy. You could of course just leave it whole rather than cutting it into fingers, but the whole dipping it into the tangy-sweet blueberry sauce wouldn't be as fun. I don't crave French toast often, but when I do, this is a tasty one that isn't too terrible on the nutrition front. I would happily make it again.

I'm linking this French toast at I Heart Cooking Clubs where the Monthly Featured Chef theme this week is celebrating Ellie Krieger. You can see my roundup of favorite recipes from when we cooked with Ellie at IHCC here and you can see what dishes everyone chose to make by checking out the picture links on the post.
I'm also 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 "Yesternight" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins and 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.