Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mango Ice Cream with Sumac-Spiced Fruit & Maple Granola, Inspired by 'Unearthed' By Alexandra Risen & a Giveaway! {#UnearthedParty}

I got the opportunity to join some fabulous bloggers for an Unearthed Blog Party hosted by The Book Club Cookbook to celebrate the publication of Unearthed: Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons From an Abandoned Garden by Alexandra Risen, a food, garden, and family relationship-centered memoir. 

Accompanying my review is a recipe for Creamy Mango Ice Cream with Sumac-Spiced Fruit and Unearthed Maple Granola and there is a giveaway at the end of this post to win your own copy of this beautiful and touching book.  

Publisher's Blurb:
In this moving memoir, a woman digs into a garden and into the past and finds secrets, beauty, and acceptance. 

Alex’s father dies just as she and her husband buy a nondescript house set atop an acre of wilderness that extends into a natural gorge in the middle of the city. Choked with weeds and crumbling antique structures, the abandoned garden turned wild jungle stirs cherished memories of Alex’s childhood: when her home life became unbearable, she would escape to the forest. In her new home, Alex can feel the power of the majestic trees that nurtured her in her youth. 

She begins to beat back the bushes to unveil the garden’s mysteries. At the same time, her mother has a stroke and develops dementia and Alex discovers an envelope of yellowed documents while sorting through her father’s junk pile. The papers hold clues to her Ukrainian-born parents’ mysterious past. She reluctantly musters the courage to uncover their secrets, while discovering the plants hidden in the garden — from primroses and maple syrup–producing sugar maples to her mother's favorite, lily of the valley. As every passionate gardener knows, to spend time with the soil is the opposite of escapism — it is to embrace our own circle of life and hold it close. 

My Review:  

I love to look at plants, I love to eat them, I don't love to work in the yard or garden other than sometimes puttering around the clay pots of herbs on my lanai, but there is something that pulled me into this book where a couple buys a house with a large overgrown garden in terrible disrepair and spend 10 years and much time, effort and financial outlay to restore it. Unearthed is a beautifully written memoir that not only documents Alexandra Risen's experiences reclaiming her abandoned garden, but also documents her thoughts and feelings as she strives to understand the past of the parents that she felt so distanced from. Each of the 20 chapters features something (sour cherries, maple, cattails, periwinkle, mulberries, clay...) found in her garden and includes her memories related to it, what is happening in the restoration project and her current life, and a recipe for food, drink, or a craft project featuring or related to that item. Even though we are geographically far apart--my Hawaii to her Toronto, many of the plants are ones that I am familiar with from growing up in the Pacific Northwest and I very much enjoyed reading her unique ideas and recipes using them. 

The parts not about the garden were difficult for me to get through, not because they are not well-written, but because they are. Having lost my mom in May of last year, reading about Risen's mother and her decline in health was extremely painful and had me putting down the book and reading something else until I could handle it again. Although our relationships with our parents were very different and the circumstances and length of her mother's illness differed, there were enough similarities that triggered me and frankly, hurt my heart. Risen captured many of my thoughts and feelings--like the mix of guilt and sorrow battling with an unwelcome relief that I lived away, while my siblings were there dealing with everything in the day-to-day. ("I'm either angry with her or sad for her. I feel guilty for being far away, but not guilty enough to move back.") I believe it has a lot to do with the timing--the death of Risen's father that kicked off the book touched me, but since I have over 20 years of distance from losing my dad, it wasn't as painful to read about. So, between my pleasure in the garden restoration parts and my needing to take breaks from the parts that were triggers, I read Unearthed in a somewhat spotty fashion. 

Despite my personal issues and although it has its poignant moments, I promise that it isn't a downer book. I admired Risen's spunk and tenacity to restoring the garden, as well as her sense of humor. I definitely would have loved some pictures of what sounded like a truly amazing garden included in the book to go along with Risen's words. There's a lovely drawing in the front featuring some of the landmarks and plants, but pictures of the beginning of the project as well as the progress along the way would be welcome. I did feel like I could picture it from the author's vivid descriptions, but I am a visual girl. I think that anyone who enjoys memoirs, plants and gardening, books about finding yourself within your past, and food and ingredient-focused books will enjoy Unearthed. If that's you--take a minute to enter to win a copy at the end of this post  


Author Notes: Alexandra Risen has lived her life as a gradual migration from the northwestern prairies to the hilly southeast, all the while enjoying nature and increasingly warmer Plant Hardiness Zones. Unearthed is her first meditation on love, forgiveness, and our interconnectedness with nature. She lives and gardens with her husband, son, and rescued dog in Ontario.


Food Inspiration:

I have to admit I am not much of a forager. I have tried a time or two and there is a local Slow Food sponsored guided foraging hike that I want to go on, but I can't seem to work out my timing with when it has been offered. I once went on a geocaching hike with a group of co-workers (think Pokémon GO, only old-school) and ended up carrying home a small bag of wild guava--but they were a major pain to do much with because of all the seeds for such a tiny-sized fruit. I do try to at least grow herbs on my lanai, but this year I didn't get around to re-planting much and only a few hardy plants from last year are looking good. But, there is a mango tree that is in my neighbor's yard that overreaches into mine, and although I don't forage from it myself (I'm not tall enough and don't have the handy fruit-picker basket), I will come home periodically during mango season to find a plastic bag with a mango or two hung on my door knob. (The lazy girl's favorite way of passive foraging--thanks neighbor!) ;-) 

The mangoes are usually a bit stringy in texture, but the flavor is good--making them better for the blender than just eating. Since I had a giant one on my doorstop last week, I wanted to use it in my book-inspired dish and decided to make mango ice cream as I have been craving it. Of course the hard thing became waiting for it to ripen! I finally ended up putting it into a paper bag with a couple bananas in order to release the ethylene gas and speed up the process. Waiting did give me time to think about my dish and decide that I wanted to work sumac into the mix. 

There was a chapter on sumac in the book and when the author found that she had fresh sumac berries, she made tea and there is a recipe for a Homemade Za'atar Spice Blend. I don't have fresh sumac here, but I got introduced to the powdered spice and its tart lemony flavor through the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi and have a very large jar in my pantry. I wanted to use my sumac in a sweet dish instead of my usual savory. I first thought about mixing the sumac into the ice cream, thinking of it almost like li hing mui powder (a powder with a sour/salty flavor made from salty dried plums that is popular locally and finds it way onto everything from gummy candies, to the rim of margarita glasses, to salad dressings, and beyond...), but I am such a mango ice cream fan and purist, that I didn't want to take the chance that I wouldn't like it in the ice cream. (I have a firm rule--DON'T WASTE MANGOES!) So, after reading a few online suggested sweet uses for sumac, including sprinkling it on melon--I decided to use it in a fruit salad of sorts to serve with the ice cream.  

To add another texture, I decided to top the ice cream with granola--more specifically, the author's own Unearthed Maple Granola since we received a little care package as a thank you for reviewing the book. So ice cream, fruit salad, and granola--it all comes together in kind of a fruit-filled sundae

I have made a lot of ice cream over the years, most recently I have been concentrating on non-dairy or vegan versions, which I love--but I like them ultra creamy. I had pinned an piece on How to Make Dreamy Dairy-Free Vegan Ice Cream on The Kitchn as used it as the starting point for my mango ice cream base. The recipe used cornstarch and I have read quite a few different things lately about how using cornstarch instead of eggs makes ice cream richer, creamier, and even less icy. I decided to give it a try, but to make half of my ice cream mixture the base and the other half a mango puree--mixing it together for a mangoes and cream style.

Creamy Vegan Mango Ice Cream
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen, based on this recipe by Emma Christensen at The Kitchn
(Makes about 1 Quart)

Coconut Ice Cream Base:
1 (13.5 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tbsp  cornstarch (or 3/4 Tbsp arrowroot starch)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Mango Puree:
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh (or frozen) mango chunks
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water, or as needed 

Prepare ahead: Place the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer 24 hours before you are ready to make the ice cream so that it frozen solid. Prepare and chill the coconut milk base at least 4 hours before making the ice cream. (I did it the night before, then added the mango puree later.)

To Make Coconut Base: Gently shake can of coconut milk to ensure that any separated layers are mixed together before opening the can. Pour coconut milk into a small saucepan, setting aside one half cup to mix with cornstarch. Add maple syrup and salt to pan with coconut milk and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally until warm and sweetener has thoroughly dissolved

Meanwhile, thoroughly whisk the cornstarch into the 1/2 cup of reserved coconut milk until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the pan of warm coconut milk and gently whisk until combined. Increase heat to medium and stirring occasionally, cook the base until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 6 to 8 minutes). Do not let the mixture boil!

Once thickened, remove the base from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour base into a shallow container and allow to cool to room temp on the counter. Press a piece of plastic wrap on top of cooled mixture so a 'skin' doesn't form, cover and place in fridge until thoroughly chilled (at least 4 hours, up to 3 days). Base should become thicker and pudding-like as it chills. 

To Make Mango Puree: Place mango chucks, lemon juice and 1/4 cup water into the blender or food processor. (If using frozen mango, allow to thaw before blending.) Blend or process mango until any fiber are broken down and puree is thick and very smooth. Refrigerate until cold.

To Make Mango Ice Cream: Fold the mango puree into the coconut base until thoroughly mixed, then pour it into your ice cream maker. Churn according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Churning times will vary but you will want the ice cream to be thick and to start to pull away from the sides of the ice cream maker (usually 20-25 minutes). Once it is the right consistency, scrape it into a freezer safe container, cover the top with wax paper resting against the surface to prevent ice from forming and freeze for 3 to 4 hours or until solid. 

Before serving--if ice cream is too hard, allow it to thaw for 5 minutes or so on the counter or until it is soft enough to scoop, before serving. Enjoy as-is, or serve with fruit salad and granola.


Sumac-Spiced Fruit Salad:
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 3 cups)

3 cups assorted fruit such as strawberries, stone fruit, blueberries, kiwi, mango
1/4 cup mint leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
2 Tbsp lime juice 
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground sumac, or to taste

Wash, peel, and pit fruit as necessary. Chop into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl with the mint. Add the lime juice and ample syrup and sprinkle with ground sumac. Stir gently to combine. 


Easy, Scrumptious Maple Granola
Printed with Permission from Alexandra Risen from her blog: Foraged Love

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup pecans
1 cup blanched hazelnuts
1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup raisins or dried fruit (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C). Cover two large cookie sheets (with sides) with parchment paper or foil.

Mix together maple syrup, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and salt in small bowl. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except raisins or dried fruit) together in large bowl and stir in the liquid mixture. Spread on sheets and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in raisins or dried fruit.

Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

Notes/Results: Like a party in a bowl! ;-) I wanted mango ice cream so much and it turned out to be good, not great, but good. The flavor was excellent, but the texture was off just a bit. I am not going to blame the recipe or the cornstarch because I changed things up a lot by adding the mango puree and need to experiment a bit more with the coconut base. (I think the texture of this vegan Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream was better.) But that's how we learn and don't get me wrong--I have no problem eating and enjoying it. It still went marvelously well with the fruit salad and the granola--making a dessert that's cold, sweet, and slightly tart with the crunch of the oats and nuts on top. I need to talk about the Sumac-Spiced Fruit Salad--it was fabulous! To the point that I wished I made more than 3 cups worth. The sumac's lemony tang went so well with the sweet fruit, mint, maple syrup and lime juice. My big bottle of sumac (you can see the edge peaking thru in the fruit salad pic up above) just found a new use in the sweet arena. It just brightens up fruit and gives it a bit of personality. I will definitely be making it again. The author's granola with its sweet and nutty crunch is really tasty too. Overall, I think this kitchen experiment was a success!

Do be sure to stop by and check out the Unearthed Blog Party here to see all of the reviews and book-inspired creations!

You can find:
Alexandra Risen on Facebook and Instagram
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest & Instagram
Book Club Cookbook on Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest 

Unearthed is my eleventh foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the July Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month. 

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.

***Book Giveaway!***

The Book Club Cookbook and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (the publisher) have generously offered a copy of Unearthed to one of my readers as part of the Unearthed Blog Party Event. (Open to US/Canada addresses)

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment please (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me either a favorite ingredient that you have foraged or grown (or at least bought locally!) or tell me why you would like to win a copy of Unearthed.

There are a couple of other optional ways to get entries: 1) Tweet about this giveaway  or 2) follow me (@DebinHawaii), Book Club Cookbook (@bookclubcookboo) and/or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (@HMHbooks)
on Twitter. (Note: You can still get the extra entries even if you already follow any of us on Twitter.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway runs until 8/4/16. Good Luck!   

Note: A review copy of "Unearthed" was provided to me by the publisher and The Book Club Cookbook in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.  


  1. Another excellent review with stunning recipes. This blog is fast becoming my favourite to go to each day to see what's new. This one certainly looks interesting and the cover is simple and stunning, I love it. Until next time, :-)

    1. Thanks Sharon! I really appreciate the sweet feedback. ;-)

  2. You are so creative. The granola sounds good and I would never have thought about mixing it with ice cream, vegan style or not. Pretty dish too - all the colors pop out.
    The garden exploration is very interesting to me but I am not so industrious. The idea of it is great to read but, lazy ol' me, I'm afraid it would have stayed a jungle. Perhaps it was a healing process for her to work on it.

    Losing a parent is one of the toughest things you can go through. Honestly, I don't think you ever fully heal but the intense grief fades. A novel like this brings it back to the surface though, like grief is only loosely scabbed over and a powerful memory or reminder tears you up again. Sounds like a very moving novel and I don't think I can read it.

    1. Thanks Tina! The gardening parts were so fascinating to me but they made me realize how lazy I am. The author definitely seemed to use it as a way to connect with her memories and heal. The book is really good--moving but at times humorous. It is not gloomy through out, I really do think it was simply timing and circumstances that made parts hard to read for me but I wanted to call it out in the review as I wasn't expecting those parts to hit me as hard as they did. Still, you know you and that has to be the decider on whether you think it would be too much for you to read. Hugs to you.

  3. I'm sorry the book was so hard to read for you. I think I'll hug my mom and dad a little tighter tonight and be grateful they're here with me. I remember coming to Hawaii during the summers when I was a kid and picking fruits everywhere we hiked and picking seaweed off Ewa Beach with my grandmother. We didn't call it foraging back then, it was just snacking!

    1. Thanks Camilla--it was just certain parts of the book that hit too close to home at times. I am still glad I read it. Do hug your parents tight.

      Hah! I have snacked several times while hiking too--here and on the mainland. I just didn't count it as foraging when I didn't "harvest" and do something with what I munched on. ;-)

  4. I love "foraging" anything that's ready in the garden. I mow 6 of 10 acres of grass and as I go by, I grab anything that's ripe (and right now it's mulberries!)

  5. Unusual spice combinations like yours make some interesting possibilities. I'm with you on the motto "Don't waste mangos"! Especially as they don't grow anywhere near me.

    best... mae at

  6. I haven't made ice cream in ages -- I really like the idea of dairy-free, since my husband is lactose intolerant. I make all our own granola and yours is very similar to mine. Yummmm!!

  7. The book sounds good, but I'm sorry it was at times hard for you to read.

    My husband's favorite fruit was mango so I know he would have loved that ice cream. I would try the ice cream to see if I liked it, but I know I'd love the granola, and want to eat it every day.

  8. Very honest review, Deb. I would love to read this book. I have foraged dandelion flowers (and made jelly), wild onions, and purslane. I WISH I could find "wild" mangoes on my front doorstep. :)

  9. Comparing geocaching to Pokemon Go had me laughing. Great comparison! This sounds delicious and I love the mix of flavors. The books sounds like a tough read but a beautiful one. I can see where it would have hit far too close to home for you.

  10. This is for sure the weather for that lovely ice cream. We've got so many lillikoi dropping here I made a sorbet/ice cream last week. And, thanks to Ottolenghi I've also got one of those large sumac jars, which needs to get some use.

    I don't garden nearly enough, but do enjoy pottering around a bit, and especially like perennials, and lots of mulch to help.

  11. I just love fresh mango! Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  12. Mmmmmm!! I had the most delicious mango daiquiris this weekend but think that this simple mango puree would be something the entire family could enjoy. LOL! Definitely going to pick up some mangoes next time I'm at the store.

  13. I think Alexandra's book touched all of us who have recently lost a mother. I know that I had the same reaction as you Deb. I think your mango ice cream sounds lovely. PS...I felt the same way about the photos. Alexandra told me that while the copies we received did not have photos, they are included in the final copies that are being raffled off and sold.

  14. I love that technique for the vegan ice cream base. I'm going to have to try that.


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