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.

 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Ottolenghi's Tomato and Sourdough Soup with Whipped Feta & Sumac Dip for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

It's still a bit steamy but summer is the height of tomato season so this Simple Tomato and Sourdough Soup recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, even though it's meant to be enjoyed warm, still feels like summer. I've paired with another Ottolenghi recipe for Whipped Feta and Sumac Dip since I was given some good feta cheese and wanted to put it in a recipe where it could shine.


Ottolenghi says, "My mom makes some mean tomato soups – this unassuming version is the best."


Tomato and Sourdough Soup
Slightly Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi via TheGuardian.com
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
750ml vegetable stock (about 3 cups)
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
400 ml tin chopped Italian tomatoes (14-oz can)
1 Tbsp caster sugar
1 slice sourdough bread
2 Tbsp chopped coriander, plus extra to finish
Salt and black pepper


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and sauté, stirring often, for five minutes, until translucent. Add the cumin and garlic, and fry for two minutes, then add the stock, both fresh and tinned tomatoes, sugar, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, adding the bread halfway through. Add the coriander, then pulse-blitz the soup a few times to break down the tomatoes a bit – you want them a little coarse and chunky. (This soup should be quite thick, but add a little water to thin it down if you prefer.) Serve drizzled with oil and garnished with fresh coriander. 
 

Many recipes for whipped feta recommend using a food processor to break down the cheese; I don’t bother. I find it is just as quick ​to use a bowl and whisk to whip the cheese, and creates less washing up.

Whipped Feta and Sumac Dip
From Yotam Ottolenghi via TheGuardian.com
(Serves 4 as a Dip)

200g feta cheese (about 7oz)
200g plain Greek yoghurt (about 7oz)
half a lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground sumac
pita bread and raw vegetables, to serve

Put the cheese and ​yoghurt in a mixing bowl and whisk until the cheese is completely broken up and becomes creamy. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Put the ​dip in a serving bowl and dress the surface with the olive oil and sumac. Serve with toasted pita bread and raw vegetables (such as carrots, cucumber, gem lettuce​, fennel, young parsnips with the core removed, beetroot, peppers).


Notes/Results: Simple but really delicious, the soup makes the most of the tomato flavor with the cumin seed and cilantro adding another layer of flavor. It also paired really well with the whipped feta. If you don't have sumac (I have a big jar thanks to Ottolenghi), you could easily add your favorite herb or spice to the whipped feta. I will happily make both recipes again.

Linking up this post for our Pool Party theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Soup may not scream pool party but the dip would be welcome I am sure. ;-)


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


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog brought a cooling Cucumber Melon Gazpacho and says, "You know what they say, "cold soup is hot in the summer"! This chilled cucumber melon gazpacho is a perfect hot weather soup. The combination of sweet melon blended with juicy cucumber is light, not too sweet, and refreshing. Melon and cucumbers are really not a surprising combination. They both come from the same family called Cucurbitaceae, Both cucumbers and cantaloupe have a high water content, thus helping with hydration during the hot and humid summer months. In addition, cantaloupe is a great source of Vitamin C."

Thanks Judee 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!
 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Emerald Corn Chowder with Roasted Tomatillos and Poblano from Rick Bayless for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

This week I was craving hominy and sweet corn and wanted a chowdery soup to enjoy in my cold office lunchroom. I ended up slightly adapting this Rick Bayless recipe for Emerald Corn Chowder with Roasted Tomatillos and Poblano by swapping out the chicken broth for veggie broth to make it vegan, adding canned hominy and cauliflower rice to make it more substantial. Because this soup uses jarred green salsa in it, it doesn't require a lot of effort in the kitchen making it great for a humid August Sunday.  
 


Rick Bayless says, "The roasty flavors of this zesty soup are wonderfully enriched with the sweet corniness of masa the dough that’s used for making corn tortillas. Whether you use the easily accessible dehydrated masa harinaor the fresh dough available from tortilla factories, you’ll love the complex flavors. (No masa at all? Thicken the soup with a little cornstarch dissolved in water.) Dress up your soup with grilled shrimp or scallops to start a very special meal—even drizzle on a little Mexican crema or crème fraiche right before serving. It’s based on a classic soup from Central and Eastern Mexico that’s called chileatole"


Emerald Corn Chowder with Roasted Tomatillos and Poblano
Slightly Adapted from Salsas That Cook via RickBayless.com
(Serves 4 to 6)

1 small white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 large fresh poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
2 cups corn kernels, either freshly cut off the cobs or frozen, depending on the season (I used 4 cups)
2 cups Frontera Roasted tomatillo Salsa 
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (I subbed in 4 cups of veggie broth)
 (1 added one 29 oz can white honimy)
2 Tbsp freshly ground corn masa for tortillas or masa harina (corn flour) (I used cornmeal + cornstarch)
(I added one 10-oz package of frozen riced cauliflower)
salt, about 1/2 tsp to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
(I added diced avocado and toasted peptitas)

In a large saucepan or soup pot, cook the onion and poblano in the oil for 5 or 6 minutes until both are tender. Scrape into a blender or food processor and add half of the corn and all of the salsa. Process to a smooth puree and press through a medium-mesh strainer back into the pan or pot. Stir in the broth, partially cover and simmer over medium-low, stirring often, for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the fresh masa or masa harina with 1/4 cup water, making sure there are no lumps. Strain the mixture (you can use the same strainer) directly into the simmering pot, stirring all the while. Continue to stir until the soup thickens, then taste and season with salt. Add the remaining corn kernels, let return to a simmer, then ladle into warm bowls and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro before carrying to the table.


Notes/Results:  I like this chowder a lot--it has the great tang from the tomatillos and a kiss of heat at the end. The salsa I used it medium, you could get a spicier salsa or add some hot sauce if you like more a burn. I added extra corn (using about 4 cups total) in addition to the hominy and still found myself wanting a  bit more substance so I added a bag of riced cauliflower from my freezer. Perfect! I didn't have the masa on hand or want to drive to get some so I used cornmeal and a bit or cornstarch instead. Also, other than sieving the cornmeal mixture, I didn't want to bother with doing the same to the soup and I used my VitaMix blender and I don't think it needed to be put through a sieve first. I topped the soup toasted pepitas, diced avocado and the suggested cilantro. I would happily make this again. 


Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs for this weeks Monthly Cuisine Spotlight: Mexican.


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


Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog is here with Healthy Vegan Wraps and says, "Bright green collard greens stuffed with mixed colorful raw vegetables, a little avocado, and some flavorful hummus, make a satisfying vegan lunch and a delicious way to eat more greens! Transitioning to an all vegan diet is not easy for me. I'm not always sure what to make to eat but I'm discovering as I go! My newest idea are these healthy looking collard green wraps!"



Tina of Squirrel Head Manor enjoyed this Grilled Chicken and Black Bean Salad on a recent trip to Tampa, she says, "We ate well while being away. Next is a healthy salad of grilled chicken breast over salad greens, black beans and feta cheese. Refreshing and cool with a balsamic vinegar dressing."


Welcome back to Nancy of Colors 4 Health who shares some awesome reasons to eat celery with recipes attached. She shares a tasty Chickpea/Celery Salad on a Bed of Tossed Greens and says, "Try your hand at making a crisp, crunchy, fresh-tasting veggie salad with a rainbow of colors that's pleasing to the eye and palette. ... Top this salad with a vegan bean, garlic, and ginger salad dressing to enhance celery's subtle, but juicy flavor".
 

Here at Kahakai Kitchen I tried my hand at Welsh Rarebit this week for a book tour review. I adapted a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe to what I had on hand and ended up with a tasty, cheesy open-faced sandwich for an evening snack.

 
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!