Friday, October 30, 2020

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of National Geographic's "America the Beautiful" Served with a Recipe for Fluffy Apple Caramel Dip

Happy Friday!  I am excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for America the Beautiful, a gorgeous new book from National Geographic. Accompanying my review is a recipe for a tasty Fluffy Caramel Apple Dip inspired by the book and perfect for noshing on while you read it.  

Publisher's Blurb:

This glorious book of photography, featuring more than 200 magnificent National Geographic images of all 50 states, is a gift-worthy celebration of America’s unique natural and cultural treasures.

America the Beautiful showcases the stunning spaces closest to our nation’s heart–from the woods in the Great Appalachian Valley that Davy Crockett once called home to the breathtaking sweep of California’s Big Sur coast to the wilds of Alaska. It also celebrates the people who have made this country what it is, featuring a wide range of images including the Arikara Nation in the early 1900s and scientists preparing for travel to Mars on a Hawaiian island. Culled from more than 130 years of National Geographic’s vaunted archives, this provocative collection depicts the splendor of this great nation as only National Geographic can, with a dramatic combination of modern and historical imagery–from the creation of architectural icons like the Golden Gate Bridge and Lady Liberty to the last of the country’s wild places currently preserved in our national parks.

Organized by chapters focused on region (west coast and the Pacific, east coast, the south, and the Midwest) that are themselves inspired by verses of the original poem America the Beautiful, this book also features a moving introduction offering perspective on the country’s unique journey. You’ll also find behind-the-scenes commentary from the world-renowned photographers who captured this unforgettable imagery, and observations from the conservationists, activists, and historians who help keep America beautiful today. Profound and inspiring, this is a book for everyone who has ever marveled at the beauty of the United States.

Hardcover : 400 pages
Publisher : National Geographic (October 20, 2020)

My Review

National Geographic knows how to make a gorgeous coffee table book and America the Beautiful is no exception. It is visually stunning, with gorgeous photos and insights about each of the states by a famous person (Barack Obama, John Irving, Jimmy Buffet, Maya Rudolph and Robin Roberts to name a few) who loves it. I found myself paging through it and then looking through it again and again, each time caught up in the beauty of the country we live in. At a time when America doesn't always feel beautiful, it's a way to remember places visited and loved and perfect for the armchair traveler during a time when travel isn't possible or desirable for many of us. I have included a few photos below so you can see how impressive this book is. America the Beautiful would make a great gift but I am going to hang on to my copy--it's too pretty not to keep it around. 

"The Mayflower II, a reproduction of the 17th-century Mayflower ship, enters the New York Harbor after a solitary voyage across the Atlantic. Upon arrival, the captain and crew received a ticker tape parade in New York City.

Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart, 1957

"Under the light of a full moon, water cascades from rocky tidal pools at Northern Mariana Islands’s Puntan Laggua (Parrotfish Point), in the Pacific Ocean."

Photograph by Mark D. Robertson, National Geographic Image Collection

 What unites us? A new book explores Americans' love of home and country


"No place else could have provided me with the environment in which I could not only grow, but also get a sense of being loved. There is no doubt that the residue of Hawaii will always stay with me; it’s a part of my core. What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii."

---By Barack Obama, 44th U.S. president  

"A pod of spinner dolphins swims through the tropical waters off the coast of Oahu in Hawaii."

Photograph by Brian Skerry, National Geographic Image Collection  

Food Inspiration:

There's not a ton of food inspiration in the book but there was some in pictures and in the writing and picture captions such as grapes from Oregon's wine country, pineapple from Hawaii, the delicious local food in Guam, diving for clams and sea urchins in Samoa, lobsters and/or lobster rolls mentioned in Maine, Massachusetts (along with Bloody Marys), and Rhode island (also from Rhode Island there were celery-salt dogs, pickles, frozen lemonade, clam strips, jelly stick donuts, coffee, milk, clams, corn and potatoes noted), pears from Connecticut, cabbages growing in Arkansas, and sunflower fields in North Dakota.

For my bookish dish, it was a photo of a young girl eating a caramel apple in New Hampshire that I took inspiration from. Halloween is tomorrow, people are vibing on Fall, and my favorite fall flavor is apple and caramel apple. Since I didn't want to fuss, caramel apples seems like way too much hassle and then I was going to dip apple slices which also seemed like a pain. So then I thought "what about a caramel apple dip?" and found one on Taste of Home that sounded good.

Fluffy Caramel Apple Dip
Slightly adapted from
(Makes about 2 cups

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I reduced to 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup marshmallow creme
3 medium tart apples
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp water
Beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, caramel topping and vanilla together in a small bowl until smooth. Fold in marshmallow creme. Cut apple into slices.
In a small bowl combine the lemon juice and water and toss apples in the mixture and drain. 
Serve apple (and/or pear) slices with the dip and add any other toppings you like for extra fun. 

Notes/Results: I thought that this dip might be too sweet to be enjoyable so I cut the brown sugar down by half and crossed my fingers. It turned out really delicious and fairly addicting, especially with the crisp, slightly tart apple slices. I tried two new-to-me apples, a Sugar Bee (a HoneyCrisp variation) and a Green Dragon (a small sweet-tart green apple) and liked both of them. For serving the apple slices, I thought it would be fun to enjoy it with a few topping dippers--I used what I had on hand, mini vegan chocolate chips, sliced almonds, and Heath toffee bits. Sure it's a lot of sugar but it's a fun and tasty occasional indulgence. I actually liked it even before the marshmallow fluff was stirred in, so you could leave that out and still have a creamy dip. 

Since dips don't feel quite COVID-friendly for a small group and especially for kids, I thought a fun way to serve it would be in a watercolor paint palette which you can buy for a $1-$2 each at a craft store. I put the dip into the water cup in the center and put the topping dippers in each paint compartment-which holds about a teaspoon of each. Each person could use their own dip and dippers and you can vary your dippers by what you like. (I think other nuts, sunflower seeds, sprinkles, and even flavored oatmeal or puffed cereal would be fun.) I will be enjoying this dip with a Halloween movie tomorrow and I would happily make it again. 

I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event  being hosted by Marg at The Adventures of An Intrepid Reader. It's a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. Here's a link to the current post.

Note: A review copy of "America the Beautiful" 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, October 25, 2020

Thai Yellow Curry Shrimp Soup with Jasmine Rice for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was having one of my frequent Thai yellow curry cravings and had some shrimp in the freezer, yellow curry paste in the fridge, and some vegetables to use up. For my base, I used Mark Bittman's Shrimp in Yellow Curry and added the vegetables and extra liquid to make it soup. 

If you aren't a shrimp fan, just insert your favorite quick cooking protein. You can adjust the vegetables to you favorites and add as much heat as you want. I am a medium-spice person. 

Thai Yellow Curry Shrimp Soup 
Slightly Adapted from Mark Bittman via 
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger or galangal
(I added 1 lemongrass stalk, peeled & bruised)
1 tsp minced hot chili, or to taste
1 Tbsp curry powder or to taste (I used 2 heaping Tbsp)
(I added 4 cups vegetable broth)
(I added 1 cup carrots, thinly sliced)
(I added 1 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers)
(I added 1 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced if large)
2 cups fresh or canned coconut milk
2 lbs large shrimp, peeled
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp nam plan (fish sauce), or to taste
(I added the juice of 1 lime + extra to serve)
1/4 cup minced cilantro or mint

  1. Place the oil in a large soup pot and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and chilies and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and the mixture pasty. Add the curry and cook, stirring, another minute. Add the carrots and sweet pepper if using and cook another minute. 
    1. Add the broth and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until about 5 minutes until they soften slightly. Add the coconut milk, mushrooms, shrimp, a few pinches of salt and a little black pepper and cook about 10 minutes until the shrimp turn pink.
    2. Add half the nam pla and lime juice, stir, then taste and add more  if necessary. Garnish with cilantro and serve with jasmine or sticky rice.

    Notes/Results: Exactly what I wanted today and it will be perfect for lunches this week. I cooked Jasmine rice in my rice cooker and keep it separate until ready to serve. I will happily make this again.

    Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's Potluck week.

    Let's see who is here in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week! is here with a Carrot and Squash Soup saying, "The cooler weather is fast approaching and that means delicious soups to warm us up. A purchase of a 10 lb bag of carrots for $1.99 meant I had to come up with lots of ways to use them.After making carrot and sweet potato soup I decided to make some carrot and squash soup just by changing up the recipe a bit.Thank you to and Judee for joining me this week!

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog shared Greek Lemon Soup saying, "If you like lemon, you'll love this powerful Greek lemon soupImagine a simple vegetable soup in a tangy lemony broth that is easy to make and a delight to eat. This interesting ethnic recipe is one of my mother-in-law's recipes and has been in our family for years. It is simple, delicious, lemony and healthy.

Here at Kahakai Kitchen I made a Warm Barley Salad with Herb Pesto to go with a recently reviewed book. Cooked with shallots, garlic and broth, and then tossed with a pesto of dill, chives, parsley and a little rosemary and topped with feta and olives, it was a delicious lunch. 

Thank you for joining me this 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.

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, October 22, 2020

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Daughter of Black Lake" by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Served with a Recipe for Warm Barley Salad with Herb Pesto

Happy Thursday! I am so looking forward to the weekend, but first I have the pleasure of being today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Accompanying my review of this gorgeous fantasy novel is an excerpt from the book and a recipe for Warm Barley Salad with Herb Pesto, a dish inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

In a world of pagan traditions and deeply rooted love, a girl in jeopardy must save her family and community. A transporting historical novel by New York Times-bestselling author Cathy Marie Buchanan.

It’s the season of Fallow, in the era of iron. In a northern misty bog surrounded by woodlands and wheat fields, a settlement lies far beyond the reach of the Romans invading hundreds of miles to the southeast. Here, life is simple–or so it seems to the tightly knit community. Sow. Reap. Honor Mother Earth, who will provide at harvest time. A girl named Devout comes of age, sweetly flirting with the young man she’s tilled alongside all her life, and envisions a future of love and abundance. Seventeen years later, though, the settlement is a changed place. Famine has brought struggle, and outsiders, with their foreign ways and military might, have arrived at the doorstep. For Devout’s young daughter, life is more troubled than her mother ever anticipated. But this girl has an extraordinary gift. As worlds collide and peril threatens, it will be up to her to save her family and community.

Set in a time long forgotten, Daughter of Black Lake brings the ancient world to life and introduces us to an unforgettable family facing an unimaginable trial.

 Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books (October 6, 2020)


My Review:

I don't read a lot of fantasy as a rule but something about Daughter of Black Lake pretty much enthralled me from the start--actually from receiving my copy with its gorgeous cover. The author immediately had me caught up in the world of bog dwellers in first-century Britannia. I could picture life at Black Lake and    The story is told by Hobble, a young field hand, and her mother, Devout in a time and place where people often got their names from their features or their talents, qualities or work. Devout was given her name for her devotion to Mother Earth and Hobble has a limp. Her father is Smith, a blacksmith. They live a hard scrabble life in a remote settlement, very much tied to the earth with Pagan rituals and belief in magic. Roman soldiers conquered Britain seventeen years prior, and their relationship with the Druids and village communities is an uneasy one. Hobble is a Seer and her gift is what keeps her safe as ancient rituals favor the sacrificing of the runts or weak ones--both animals and people, to appease their deities. Hobble is thirteen and narrates the present day chapters of the novel while Devout tells of her girlhood fourteen years prior. 

I ended up enjoying both characters although it took me longer to warm up to Devout because I wasn't pleased with how she kept her distance from her husband, her second mate, after her first love is killed by the Romans. I felt like some of her choices were selfish and self-serving although the love and care she has for Hobble made up for that. The drama comes both from the Roman soldiers Hobble sees in a vision, and a ruthless Druid who arrives at Black Lake determined to incite the settlement into a revolution against the Romans. There is drama and magic and secrets and although the detailed world building slowed down the story in the beginning, it picked up pace and had me not wanting to put the book down. 

I don't think you need to be a fantasy fan to love this book--an appreciation for history and ancient lore is helpful, but at it's heart, Daughter of Black Lake is a story about a mother and a daughter, and a girl coming of age in a often dark and brutal time. It is evocative and atmospheric, and a great October read with Samhain and Halloween around the corner. It's a great curl up on a rainy day and lose yourself kind of book. (Check out the book excerpt below for a glimpse of the story.)


Author Notes: Cathy Marie Buchanan’s previous novels, The Painted Girls and The Day the Falls Stood Still, were both New York Times bestsellers, with The Painted Girls named a best book of the year by NPR, Good Housekeeping, and Goodreads. Buchanan’s work has been translated into nine languages. She lives in Toronto.

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

This book tour features progressive excerpts from the book. I have the last excerpt, #10 and you can find excerpt #9 at Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile. Here is the complete list of excerpts and bloggers.

  Book Excerpt:

Once he was gone, she slumped onto the trunk of a fallen beech. Had Young Smith set her reeling in quite the same way? Was that reasonable to ask when, as far back as she could remember, she had toiled in the fields with Arc? She knew she was prideful, aspiring. With the amulet on her palm, she had been uncharitable toward Reddish, jealous in truth. Was it only pride that had driven her to so recklessly want the amulet, to desire Young Smith? She sat there, stroking leaf litter and decay. She whispered to Mother Earth, promising humility and the amulet returned to Young Smith until she better understood her mind.

She turned her thoughts to the words she would speak to Young Smith and reached into the pocket of her cape, anticipating the craftsmanship, the grace. Her fingers felt only hide, the threads holding the pocket in place. She probed each corner, the emptiness. She held open the pocket and looked, but the amulet was not there. She fell to her hands and knees, hunting among leaf litter as the sun fell lower still, and then grazed the horizon. She galloped down the steep slope of Edge—feet flying, stumbling, catching herself. At the place where Young Smith had given her the amulet, she dropped again to her knees and searched until the sun was gone, until there was scarcely time to make it back to the clearing and begin the collection rounds with the other maidens—her hair dull and tangled, her skin ripe with the odor of panic and toil.

She wept, face in her hands, but only for a moment. Then she wept as she ran through the woodland and then across the clearing to her roundhouse and the fresh, sweet scent of the rushes newly laid over the earthen floor, spread there in deference to Mother Earth.

What would Devout say to Young Smith? How would she ex‑ plain the cross that did not rest against her throat, that she had not returned to him? Oh, how he would despise her, she who had lost his prize.


Food Inspiration:

There is food in the book, although the fare is mostly meager, sometimes even scarce for the blog dwellers, and somewhat primitive too--although the food gets more sophisticated in the Roman-influenced city. Food mentions included elderberry, sweet violets, sorrel for soup, venison and salted pork, seed wheat, laying hens, sheep, partridges, salted meat, hard cheese, grains, wild boar, honey beer and mead, bread still warm from the griddle, chamomile tea, a pottage of mushrooms, barley and venison, barley flavored with sorrel, butter, a stew of greens and barley, dandelion, nettles, ramsons (wild garlic) stirred into soup and mixed into hard cheese, rabbit, Hawthorne berries, lamb, dried fish, smoked venison, hazelnuts, pork, wheaten beer, a small sack of cherries, a plate of sliced bread and a fist-sized vessel of olive oil, plums, greens flavored with garlic, meat flavored with rosemary, porridge, soft cheese and bread, milk, burdock root, crab apples, berries, nuts, tubers, pheasant, duck, crayfish, squirrel, fried eggs, and broth.

So it seemed like barley needed to be a part of my bookish dish whatever I did and I had a half-package of pearled barley in my pantry. (Likely the barley mentioned in the book would have been the whole-grained whole but needs must & convenience must. ;-) Sometimes I can find locally grown sorrel, but never when I am looking for it so I decided to dress my warm barley (cooked in broth, dried shallots and garlic cloves) with a pesto of mixed herbs and plenty of olive oil (a luxury the Romans brought and a small vessel of it was smuggled into the settlement by Hobble). Since both hard and soft cheese were mentioned--sometimes flavored with herbs, I garnished my barley with a mix of marinated feta and olives that I got at Whole Foods. Not necessarily a perfect match to the food in the book, but a good nod to it and the pretty green color makes it a match for the beautiful green on the cover. 

Warm Barley Salad with Herb Pesto
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main)

about 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed & drained

2 Tbsp dried shallot or fresh will work too

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 cups broth of choice (I used non-chicken broth)

1/4 cup olive oil + more as desired

1 heaping cup chopped mixed herbs of choice (I used parsley, dill, chives, thyme and the leaves from one sprig of rosemary)

juice of one lemon

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring broth to a boil over high heat.  Add dried shallots and garlic and a large pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until barley is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain any excess liquid away and set aside, covered to keep warm.

Add the olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper to a food processor and process until a coarse pesto. Add additional olive oil as needed to make it a dressing-like consistency. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed.

Stir the pesto into the warm barley. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve warm, topped with a drizzle of oil oil and cheese cubes (I used feta) and olives or capers if desired. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I forget sometimes just how good a bowl of grains can be--epecially with all of the herbs and the lemon adding so much flavor to the mix.(Not to mention the salty feta & briny olives on top!) I really love the toothsome barley--it so good and chewy. I ate a big bowl for lunch and may make a grain bowl with the leftovers for tomorrow. This was a great way to use up random herbs my fridge and I would happily make it again. 

I'm linking up to Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen where we highlight soups, salads and sandwiches from bloggers who join in. Here's the link to this week's link up post 

I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event  being hosted by Marg at The Adventures of An Intrepid Reader. It's a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. Here's the link to this week's post.

Note: A review copy of "Daughter of Black Lake" 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.