Friday, September 13, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Only Skill That Matters" by Jonathan Levi, Served with a Recipe for Baked Eggs in Avocado with Salsa

Friday the 13th and a full micromoon make this Friday a bit more unique than many. If you want to learn and remember the history and science behind it but just don't learn or remember quickly, today's TLC Book Tour of The Only Skill That Matters by Jonathan Levi is for you. It's a book about becoming a superlearner--reading faster and remembering more. To fuel your learning, there's a recipe for Baked Eggs in Avocado with Salsa paired with my review.


Publisher's  Blurb

In the next ten years, every knowledge worker on earth will become one of two things: invaluable or obsolete. No matter the industry, the pace of progress and new information is faster today than ever before in human history—and it’s accelerating exponentially.
In this new reality, how can we possibly hope to keep up? How can we learn, unlearn, and relearn fast enough to stay relevant in the world to come?

In The Only Skill That Matters, Jonathan Levi unveils a powerful, neuroscience-based approach to reading faster, remembering more, and learning more effectively. You’ll master the ancient techniques being used by world record holders and competitive memory athletes to unlock the incredible capacity of the human brain. You’ll learn to double or triple your reading speed, enhance your focus, and optimize your cognitive performance. Most importantly, you’ll be empowered to confidently approach any subject—from technical skills, to names and faces, to foreign languages, and even speeches—and learn it with ease.

Lioncrest Publishing
Paperback: 185 Pages


My Review: 

I consider myself to be a relatively fast learner and reader and pretty good about remembering what I am interested in learning about but The Only Skill That Matters  taught me a lot in under 200 pages. Jonathan Levi breaks down the science of the brain in an easy and intriguing way, teaching techniques for chunking down learning and reading in order to move through it quickly while still retaining what you've read. A few of the techniques I had heard of or used before but I was interested to read the reasons behind why they work. I found Levi's methods for remembering names particularly helpful as it normally takes me several times of hearing a person's name before I have it down. I made a point of using his highly detailed visualizations for the names of the new hires in the orientation I led this week, and found myself remembering their names more quickly and easily than ever before. Levi freely admits most of his methods take effort and practice, making them go beyond "quick hacks"--but he provides exercises and supplements them with extra information and free tools on his website including a Speed Reading Flight Checklist and a Learning Preparation Worksheet. There are also several interesting interviews about memory and learning and Superlearner Success Stories in video and podcast form. I think this book will appeal to students and younger learners as well as those of us "older dogs" who want to learn new skills and keep our retention and memory capacity at an optimum level. I am looking forward to practicing more of Levi's techniques and exploring some of the tools he mentions.

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Author Notes: JONATHAN LEVI is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, podcaster, and bestselling author of the Become a SuperLearner book and online course series. After struggling for decades as a student and “slow learner,” Jonathan discovered a powerful methodology for learning faster and remembering more. Since 2014, Jonathan has taught this methodology to over 220,000 people in 205 countries and territories. His award-winning podcast, SuperHuman Academy, has been downloaded over 3 million times. Jonathan has been featured in such media outlets as The Wall Street Journal, Inc., BusinessInsider, and LifeHacker UK. He lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, with his wife, Limmor. To learn more, visit superhumanacademy.com.

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Food Inspiration:

In a short book about learning and memory there was not much food focus, however Levi offers a chapter about good habits to get into like getting enough sleep, napping, and eating right. He recommends getting plenty of Omega 3s through things like fish and chia seeds and suggests switching out your breakfast bread and cereal for the healthy fats and protein in eggs and avocado. So for my book-inspired dish I decided to make eggs bake in an avocado and top it with salsa for extra flavor.


There are plenty of recipes for the keto-friendly avocado baked eggs online. I kept it simple with just a few ingredients and a big punch of flavor from the chunky salsa on top.


Baked Eggs in Avocado with Salsa
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 1 or 2)

1 large, ripe avocado
2 small eggs
sea salt and black pepper
1/4 cup salsa

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, F.

Slice avocado in half and remove pit. If the pit is small, spoon out a bit more of the avocado flesh to make room for the egg.  

Gently crack the eggs into a bowl, be careful to keep the yoke unbroken. Place the avocado halves in a small baking pan, keeping them against the edges so avocados don't tip. Spoon a yolk into the avocado half and spoon in enough egg white to fill the the rest of the hole. Repeat with the remaining avocado half. Gently place pan in oven and bake for about 15-17 minutes until egg whites are set.

Top the baked avocados with salsa and serve immediately. Enjoy.


Notes/Results: Just an easy and satisfying breakfast or dinner that takes just a few minutes to prepare. I loved the creamy avocado and runny-egg-yolk combination--the whites set just right and the slightly spicy salsa on top. I'll 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 "The Only Skill That Matters" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.

 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ottolenghi's Legume (Noodle) Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I am not sure how long ago I pinned this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from The Kitchn, but it must have been a few years ago at least. I kept getting ready to make it and then putting it off due to the number of ingredients/steps because as I frequently admit, I am a lazy cook and don't like a lot of fuss. But, finally my procrastination is over and I tackled the Legume (Noodle) Soup today with a couple of minor changes to make it easier.


Rather than separately soak and cook two kinds of beans, I bought dried garbanzo beans and frozen baby lima beans to add in with the split peas. Because I didn't want to journey to Whole Foods or a natural foods store, I swapped in split green peas for the yellow split peas called for in the recipe. And finally, because I forgot to reserve some of the onion mixture for topping, I used fried garlic-pepper onions I keep on hand. It all still worked beautifully and the soup is well worth the extra fuss.


Ottolenghi says, "The soup is directly inspired by a Persian soup called ash-e reshteh. As he says, it is the Iranian answer to minestrone. It calls for reshteh noodles, which he notes can be found at Iranian grocery stores, but it’s fine to substitute linguine. And, he notes, “as suggested by the parentheses in the recipe name, you can dispense with the noodles altogether if you like. There is plenty going on, body-wise, without them.”'

Legume (Noodle) Soup
Slightly Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi via TheKitchn.com
(Serves 8)
  
2/3 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight with 2 tablespoons baking soda
2/3 cup dried lima beans, soaked in water overnight with 1 tablespoon baking soda
5 1/2 Tbsp clarified butter
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (4 cups)
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 rounded cup yellow split peas
8 1/2 cups vegetable stock
about 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
about 2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup dill leaves, chopped
rounded 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
5 cups baby spinach leaves
3 1/2 oz reshtesh or linguini
2/3 cup sour cream, plus 1 teaspoon per portion to finish
1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
4 limes, halved
salt and black pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and lima beans and place them in 2 separate saucepans with plenty of water. Place over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until just tender. This should take anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put the butter, onions, and garlic in a large pan and place over medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown. Stir in the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and remove one-third of this mix from the pan to use later.

Add the chickpeas and lima beans to the pan, then add the split peas and stock. Simmer for about 35 minutes, skimming the froth occasionally, until the peas are tender.

Add the herbs, green onions, and spinach, stir well, and cook for another 15 minutes; add more stock or water if the soup is very thick. Add the noodles and cook for about 10 minutes, until they are just done. Stir in the sour cream and vinegar and serve at once, garnished with 1 teaspoon of sour cream per portion and the reserved cooked onion. Serve lime halves to squeeze over each portion.


Notes/Results: This soup's flavors make it work the extra effort of chopping and cooking that it takes to get it onto the table. The different textures of the beans and peas and pasta are excellent and along with the pasta make it completely satisfying without being heavy. The flavor of the herbs combined with the tang of the vinegar, lime juice and sour cream make it interesting and it is a good way to get some healthy foods into your body. I don't think my changes in using the frozen limas and green peas made a difference in taste and I look forward to bringing it to lunch in my cold office this week. I'm glad I finally tried it and would happily make it again.

 
Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where the theme is Procrastinator's Special where we make recipes we have been putting off.

 Let's look into the Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays Kitchen and see who is here.


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog shared a Very Easy Gazpacho and said, "The end of summer is the perfect time to make tomato gazpacho when the local farmer's markets are overflowing with ripe fresh tomatoes, red peppers, and cucumbers! ... It's very easy to make and can be made up to 2 days in advance. It's simple enough to whip up any night of the week with dinner, or fancy enough to serve guests for brunch! It is naturally gluten free and dairy free which makes it allergy friendly."

 
Claudia of Honey From Rock brought another cold soup, a classic Perfect Cold Borscht for Hot Weather and said, "This is the time of year when cold soups come into their own, and yes, it's still hot here.  I was very happy with the way this version of Borscht turned out.  I've tried others, good too.  There are probably as many variations of this soup as there are nostalgic emigres around"


Tina of Squirrel Head Manor went the hot soup route with me this week making Fish Chowder with Cobia and Peas. She said, "We are so very luck to know someone who loves to fish. The fish he gives us is fresh from the gulf of Mexico, usually only 3 days old at the most. This past week we were given Mangrove snapper which Doug grilled, and Cobia which I tossed into a chowder. I've been fussing about losing a bit of weight so a nice chowder for lunch was a good start."

 
And here at Kahakai Kitchen, I made a simple Russian Tomato-Cucumber-Onion Salad this week to pair with a recent book review. Very simple and dressed with dill and sour cream, it went beautifully with some local opah (a mild white fish) for an easy dinner. 

 
Thanks to Judee, Claudia and Tina for joining in this week!

About Souper Sundays:

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

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


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


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

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

Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Castle of Concrete" by Katia Raina, Served with a Recipe for a Russian-Style Tomato-Cucumber-Onion Salad

Happy Thursday! For a short week it has certainly been a long one. Once again, I find myself more than ready for the weekend. But first, I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for the young-adult historical novel, Castle of Concrete by Katia Raina.
The accompanying recipe, inspired by the book is a simple Russian-Style Tomato-Cucumber-Onion Salad.



Publisher's Blurb:

Set in the final year of Soviet Russia’s collapse, this stunning debut novel tells the story of Sonya, a timid Jewish girl reuniting with her once-dissident mother and falling in love with a mysterious boy who may be an anti-Semite. All the while, Sonya’s mama is falling in love also?with shiny America, a land where differences seem to be celebrated. The place sounds amazing, but so far away. Will Sonya ever find her way there?

Paperback: 304 pages  
Publisher: Young Europe Books (June 11, 2019)


My Review:

It always seems odd to me to think of a novel set in 1990-1991 as historical fiction--I think I am in denial about my own age. ;-) Castle of Concrete takes place in Russia during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which I will confess I didn't know all that much about other than the bare bones of what was in the news at the time. The story is told from the point of view of Sonya Solovay, a fifteen-year-old Jewish/Russian girl, mostly raised by her grandmother in Siberia, placed there for safety by her dissident mother. Now in the city, living with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, Sonya is ready for her "New Life" to begin. At her local high school, two boys catch her eye, one Jewish and one who seems to be an anti-Semite and finds herself pulled in many directions. 

Castle of Concrete is a debut novel, making it all the more impressive in its vividly descriptive writing that makes Sonya's environment and the history come alive. For me, the history lesson was the strongest part of the story. I got a glimpse of life in a politically chaotic Russia as well as a piece of tragic Jewish history that I was not familiar with, the Babi Yar Massacre when over 34,000 Jewish men, women and children and others deemed undesirable were killed over two days at a ravine in Lithuania. Tragic, and a point of contention between Jewish Sonya and one of the the boys she is falling for. The book had me Googling articles on Babi Yar and learning more about this horrific event as well as more recent Russian history. While I connected with the story, I had a harder time with Sonya. Although I fully accept that she was fifteen and young for her age, her choices and actions got on my nerves. I also had issues with her mother's parenting skills and didn't really 'feel' the romance between Sonya and either of the boys she is torn between. So for me, the book worked more on the history level than the romance, but I'd definitely recommend it if you are interested in Jewish history and the history of the Soviet Union and Russia, told smartly from the young adult perspective.

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Author Notes: When she was a child, Katia Raina played at construction sites and believed in magic mirrors. She emigrated from Russia at the age of almost sixteen. A former journalist and currently a middle school English teacher in Washington, D.C., she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family just outside of D.C., and still believes in magic.


Find out more about Katia at her website, and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Food Inspiration:

There was a fair amount of food described in Castle of Concrete that included canned sardines, sausage, vodka, cognac, sunflower seeds, sour cream, soup, burnt potatoes, pickles, McDonald's menu items like a hamburger, fries, strawberry shake, and apple pie, Russian flat pancakes with homemade strawberry jam, fresh rye bread with spiced sprats (small Baltic Sea fish), birch tree juice, pickled tomatoes, pelmeni (small dumplings), herring salad, tomato onion salad, Mars bars, Mentos, Georgian wine, pork, chicken soup, imported yogurt, fried onions, free coffee and hot buckwheat, beef stew with prunes, bread, Jasmine tea, bread, ginger cookies, ring-shaped bubliki (Russian bagels), Turkish tea, porozhki (Georgian meat pies/buns), chocolate-covered ice cream Eskimo Pie, and a macaroni and ground chicken casserole.


I decided to pick something simple for my book-inspired dish and looked up Russian tomato salads online. I found several choices but the tomato-cucumber-onion version seemed the most classic/popular. I found a few different recipes and finally decided to slightly adapt the one from the Girl and the Kitchen blog.
 

Russian Tomato-Cucumber-Onion Salad
Slightly Adapted from Girl and the Kitchen
(Serves 2 to 4)

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 small Persian cucumbers, sliced or 1/2 English cucumber, halved and sliced
2 green onions, chopped finely, white and green parts
1 1/2 tsp dill, or to taste
2 Tbsp sour cream 
1/2 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp water
salt and black pepper to taste

Combine the sliced tomatoes, cucumber, onions and dill in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with enough water to slightly thin it out--enough to easily cover salad ingredients. 

Gently toss the salad ingredients with the sour cream mixture. Taste and add additional seasoning if necessary.


Notes/Results: Just a tasty little salad--fresh and sweet from the cherry tomatoes and Persian cucumbers. Try to use local, fresh and good produce with this one because of its simplicity, so the flavors shine. I enjoyed mine as a side salad for some local opah (mild white fish), pan-fried in the "chicken fry" mix that my coworker gave me to try (we sell giant bags at the cash & carry store the food distributor I work at operates). I like how the dressing isn't gloppy and the salad is light and refreshing. I will happily make it again.


Linking my salad up to Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays, hosted weekly here at Kahakai Kitchen. See this week's linkup with details for joining in, here.
 

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 "Castle of Concrete" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.

 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Mark Bittman's Corn-And-Cheddar Chowder for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I could eat chowder every week and as its Labor Day Weekend and summer is ending, I wanted to get another summery chowder in. I checked out Mark Bittman's Dinner for Everyone: 100 Iconic Dishes Made 3 Ways--Easy, Vegan, or Perfect for Company to give it a trial run. One of the things that I like best about Bittman is the variations he gives to change up recipes and I like that this book has a lot of vegan and vegetarian options. There are a handful of soups that quickly fought for my attention but the Corn-And-Cheddar Chowder quickly made the top of my to-make list.


Mark Bittman says,"Always hearty and filling, chowder usually starts with a bechamel-like combination of flour, fat, and milk, Since you are chopping a lot for the Corn-And-Cheddar Chowder, take a shortcut, skip the roux, and use the thickening power of potatoes for the same effect in a fraction of the time."


Corn-And-Cheddar Chowder
Slightly Adapted from Dinner for Everyone by Mark Bittman
(Makes 4 Servings)

12 oz russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch chunks (I used baby golds)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
6 cups milk, plus more as needed (I used coconut milk)
salt and pepper
(I added 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning) 
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
2 celery stalks, chopped 
3 Tbsp flour
6 oz grated white or yellow sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp fresh chives for garnish 

Put the potatoes and garlic in a large pot with the milk over medium heat; sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the liquid begins to boil, adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles gently and add the bay leaves. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scalding, until the potatoes are tender but not yet breaking apart, 10 to 15 minutes. 

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and celery and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery softens and the corn is heated through, 5 to 8 minutes, Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture darkens slightly and smells toasted, another 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the corn mixture to the potatoes along with the cheese. Cook, stirring frequently, until the soup is steaming and has thickened a bit, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the bay leaves, then garnish with more black pepper, cheese, and the chives, and serve.


Notes/Results: Just a good simple chowder, super creamy and tasty. I used coconut milk t cut down on the dairy and the cloggy lungs it brings me since the cheese and butter were definitely staying. For the cheese, I bought extra-sharp white cheddar and love the way the sharpness cuts into the richness. I also added some Old Bay Seasoning--my favorite flavor addition for a great chowder. This one is thick and rich and while not the healthiest soup out there, certainly is a welcome addition to my chowder collection. I would happily make it again.


Linking up to I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's Potluck theme.

 
Let's look into the Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays Kitchen 


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog shared Russian Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup and said, "Are you looking for a delicious soup recipe that the entire family will love?  This sweet and sour cabbage soup is like a tangy vegetable soup. My husband who is a lemon lover thought it was exceptional. It is naturally gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and soy free- ideal for a group with diverse eating needs."

 
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made a soup-ish Sausage with Red Beans and Rice and said, "A can of red beans and a sausage in the fridge made the inspiration for this soupy lunch. This is the sort of easy prep meal we will make if Hurricane Dorian makes our life miserable. I feel for the folks on the east coast of Florida as they are going to be hit hard. Who knows which path it may take after it makes landfall. #herewegoagain" Please stay safe in the storm Tina!

 
Thanks Judee and Tina for joining in this week!

About Souper Sundays:

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

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


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

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

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

Have a happy, healthy week!
 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of The Oysterville Sewing Circle, Served with a Recipe for Homey Tuna Casserole

Happy Thursday! It's a crazy work week, I have half of a cold left and I'm in need of the serious comfort of a great book like The Oysterville Sewing Circle a new novel by Susan Wiggs. The best accompaniment to a comforting book is a classic comfort food like Tuna Casserole, inspired by my reading. 


The #1 New York Times bestselling author brings us her most ambitious and provocative work yet—a searing and timely novel that explores the most volatile issue of our time—domestic violence.

At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.

Hardcover: 384 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (August 13, 2019)

My Review:

Although she is a prolific writer, The Oysterville Sewing Circle is only the second Wiggs book that I have read and blogged about (I reviewed her Family Tree a few years ago) and I am sorry it took me so long to pick up another of her books. She writes engaging stories about likable characters, often looking for a second chance or new purpose in their lives and both books have had some tasty sounding food worked into the story. I was drawn to her coastal Washington setting, having lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years and loved the town of Oysterville and the charming houses, shops and restaurants she described. Caroline is a great character, suffering the loss of her career while taking responsibility and custody of her friend's two young children when she overdoses. Caroline noticed signs that her friend was in an abusive relationship but wasn't sure and didn't act on them beyond taking her and her children in. Regretting that she couldn't help Angelique, Caroline and her friend and sisters start the titular group, not to sew but to help and support women going through abusive situations and survivors. Wiggs tackles the difficult subject of domestic abuse in this book but she does it in a way that focuses on the strength of these women and although not a completely light read, it is a hopeful tone. Caroline's family is there to support her and she also finds herself back in the orbit of her first crush, now married to her best friend. None of the characters are perfect but I enjoyed all of them, particularly the children, Flick and Addie. I liked the flow of the story--swinging from past to present and found myself caught up in Caroline's journey with the nearly 400 pages flying by. I found The Oysterville Sewing Circle enjoyable and it is a  good transitional read, working both for an end-of-summer book bag or a curl-up-and-get lost-in-fall book to have waiting for cooler weather and a cup of tea.

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Author Notes:  Susan Wiggs’s life is all about family, friends…and fiction. She lives at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and in good weather, she commutes to her writers’ group in a 21-foot motorboat. She’s been featured in the national media, including NPR, PRI, and USA Today, has given programs for the US Embassies in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and is a popular speaker locally, nationally, internationally, and on the high seas.
 
From the very start, her writings have illuminated the everyday dramas of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. Her books celebrate the power of love, the timeless bonds of family and the fascinating nuances of human nature. Today, she is an international best-selling, award-winning author, with millions of copies of her books in print in numerous countries and languages. According to Publishers Weekly, Wiggs writes with “refreshingly honest emotion,” and the Salem Statesman Journal adds that she is “one of our best observers of stories of the heart [who] knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book.” Booklist characterizes her books as “real and true and unforgettable.
 
Her novels have appeared in the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List, and have captured readers’ hearts around the globe with translations into more than 20 languages and 30 countries. She is a three-time winner of the RITA Award,. Her recent novel, The Apple Orchard, is currently being made into a film, and The Lakeshore Chronicles has been optioned for adaptation into a series.
 
The author is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. She lives on an island in Puget Sound, where she divides her time between sleeping and waking.
 
Visit her website at www.SusanWiggs.com, and connect with Susan on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Food Inspiration:

Caroline's family owns a popular seafood restaurant known for their fresh seafood and breakfasts among other things so there was plenty of food inspiration to be found including marshmallows for s'mores, Willlapa Bay oyster breading and fish fry, kettle corn, blueberry pancakes with real syrup, sustainable seafood, IPA beer and claret, cranberry scones with brown butter, buckwheat griddle cakes with bourbon-barrel--aged maple syrup, fried green tomato Benedict, hot chocolate, strawberry-rhubarb jam, lemonade and pecan sandies, black and whites and oatmeal cranberry cookies with white chocolate chips, yearling oysters, Otter Pops, iced raisin bars, lemon squares and espresso brownies, razor clams, egg salad sandwiched, burgers, deviled eggs, root beer, cranberry crunch and sea salt caramel fudge ice cream, fruity drinks, pupu platters and platters of grilled fish and vegetables.


Although the baked goods and that fried green tomato Benedict were very tempting, I wanted something simple and quick. Caroline described the tuna casserole at the restaurant as tuna casserole with her uncle's fresh catch and little English peas and I was sold. I made a tuna casserole not too long ago that I didn't blog and was craving it again. I didn't want to go to the grocery store so I put one together from my fridge and pantry using jarred Alfredo sauce in place of the Campbell's cream soup of my childhood.


Tuna Casserole 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen 
(Serves 4)

8 oz dried pasta of choice (I used farfalle)
salt
1 (15 oz)  jar Alfredo pasta sauce (I used Bertolli Mushroom Alfredo)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 (7oz) can of oil packed tuna, drained and chunked into large pieces
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tsp Trader Joe’s Umami Seasoning Powder (optional)
1 tsp roasted garlic powder
1/2 tsp celery seed
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used herb-seasoned panko breadcrumbs)
1 1/2 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions.

Mix sauce, yogurt/sour cream, tuna capers, frozen peas and all seasoning in a large bowl. Drain pasta and stir together until mixed. Pour the mixture into a small casserole dish. Bake the tuna mixture or about 20 minutes or until it’s hot and bubbling.

Stir breadcrumbs and butter in a small bowl until well mixed. Sprinkle evenly on top of the tuna mixture and bake another 5-6 minutes until golden brown.



Notes/Results: This tuna casserole made me happy as it has lots of great flavor and really hit the spot. The jarred mushroom Alfredo is the perfect substitute and with some added Greek yogurt, made the casserole rich and creamy, In addition to the peas in the casserole in the book, I added capers, canned Italian tuna in oil, and some extra spices to my casserole and was very pleased with the results and wished I made a bigger recipe. ;-) 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 "The Oysterville Sewing Circle" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.