Friday, September 30, 2022

(Very Mock Turtle) Creamy Rice Soup with Olives for Cook the Books August/September Pick: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Sneaking in at the last possible minute with a dish for Cook the Book August/September pick, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. As usual, I am running late to the party so I will just keep this post quick.

I cannot tell you how long ago it was when I read this book, decades! So it was fun to get back into. I grabbed a pretty pink edition from Barnes & Noble and settled in for a wild ride. It's a short read at just over 100 pages and so I read Through the Looking Glass too-something I didn't do as a child. The whimsy and humor of Carroll's writing made more of an impression on me as an adult, I am sure there was much of it that went completely over my had as a child. It's both weird and wonderful, making it a fun afternoon escape. Thank you to Debra for appealing to our inner children with this round!

I covet host Debra's Dali-illustrated edition, but it was equally satisfying to look at the classic John Tenniel drawings in my copy. 

There is so much food inspiration in Wonderland, tarts and tea, marmalade and mushrooms, lobster and soup just to name a few. I originally was going to make some tea sandwiches but got to thinking about soup, beautiful soup and then  mock turtle soup--which seems to have been made of chopped or ground beef parts and sometimes eggs to offset the more expensive turtle meat in the real thing. 

Beautiful Soup so rich So green,
Waiting in a hot tureen
Who for such dainties would not stoop.

Soup of the evening
Beautiful Soup,
Soup of the evening,
Beautiful Soup

Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful Sou-oop
Soup of the evening Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful, Beautiful Soup.

Beautiful Soup, Who cares for fish,
Game or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?

Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup,
Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful Sou-oop
Soup of the evening Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful, Beautiful Soup.

I wanted a meat-free version of mock turtle soup and I was craving a creamy wild rice soup. I decided to add some green olive, sliced lengthwise to the mix thinking they looked like the back and shell of little turtles. The olives and a boil of their juice, brighten up the soup and give it a tangy vibe. It was great served with some dill pickle potato chips too.  

(Very Mock Turtle) Creamy Wild Rice Soup with Green Olives
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Yields 4-6 Servings
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 medium celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried time
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp dried tarragon
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 cup wild rice
2 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp cold water
1 cups coconut milk or half-and-half
I cup pitted green olives, sliced lengthwise 
1-2 Tbsp of the olive brine (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh dill for garnish 

In a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt the butter. Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, celery salt and tarragon and cook over moderate medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just start to soften, about 8-10 minutes. 
Add the stock and wild rice to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables and rice are tender, about 35 minutes. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and cold water and stir it into the soup. Add the coconut milk and stir in the olives and olive brine to taste then simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, garnished with chopped fresh dill and enjoy.

Today (9/30/22) is the deadline for this round of Cook the Books and Debra will be compiling all the entries on the Cook the Book site. If you missed this round and like food and books and foodie books, join us for October/November when Simona (briciole) hosts the novel Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson. 


Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of Backyard Witchcraft By Cecilia Lattari, Served with 3 Fresh and Green Salad Recipes

Happy Friday Eve! I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Backyard Witchcraft : The Complete Guide for the Green Witch, the Kitchen Witch, and the Hedge Witch by Cecilia Lattari.and illustrated by Betti Greco. Accompanying my review of this gorgeous and fun book for those interested in modern-day witchcraft or who those who just connect with nature in all of its glory, are a few "green" recipes. 

Publisher: ‎ Ixia Press (September 14, 2022) 
Paperback: 160 pages


Publisher's Blurb:

Embark on an exploration of modern-day witchcraft, embracing the green path, which connects us to nature.

Herbalist Cecilia Lattari guides readers to reawaken their inner witch by tuning in to the magic and sacred energies of their everyday lives, using the hidden powers of nature to foster positive connections between mind, body, spirit, and living spaces. Filled with colorful, compelling illustrations, this handbook introduces green, hedge, and kitchen witches. Readers will learn how to create their own witch’s tool kits, purify their homes, work with the four natural elements, build magic laboratories, and discover the path that encourages a harmonious transformation.

  • The green witch is a manifestation of Mother Earth, who nurtures, cares, and observes. She practices with herbs, flowers, plants, and remedies, and surely has volumes upon volumes of plant books on her bookshelves.
  • For the kitchen witch food is a gift from Mother Earth. The kitchen is this witch's sacred space, involving spells of tradition and creation. She works with ordinary tools and knows that cooking reveals our true nature. The kitchen witch understands the sacred aspects of everyday life as she prepares recipes for sacred foods.
  • The eclectic path of the hedge witch includes herbalism, healing, and shamanistic actions. Her focus is the home, and she knows the power of fables and preserves popular knowledge.
  • Take a guided tour of herbs, flowers, plants, poisonous plants, potions, oils, teas, tinctures, and remedies.
  • Learn the magical practices of purification using herbs, bells, candles, and incense.
  • Get in touch with nature by preparing a sacred outdoor space and centering yourself.
  • Learn to grow, harvest, and dry herbs and understand the difference between air, fire, land, and water plants.
  • Observe how the four elements of air, earth, fire, and wind carry messages from nature through various types of plants.
For the modern-day Wicca, backyard gardener, and naturalist, this indispensable guide offers an exploration of the intimate relationship between humans and Mother Earth.

My Review: 

Although I am by no means a practicing witch, I love the alchemy and connection with nature and I dabble in a few simple practices. It was this, and a glance at the gorgeous green cover that made me jump at the book tour for Backyard Witchcraft. I was not disappointed--this is a beautiful book packed full of magical information and practical ways to create harmony by increasing our connections with the natural world. 

The book is divided into ten chapters, beginning with an introduction to a Witch's Daily Practice, and an explanation of the three witches who we will meet along the path; the Green Witch, the Kitchen Witch, and the Hedge Witch. (There's a short test towards the back of the book to determine which witch you are. Yes, I align most with the Kitchen Witch). There are chapters on The Tools of a Witch, Your Home Is Your Temple, The Four Natural Elements and Their Plants with information about some of the plants for Air, Water, Fire, and Land. There is a Garden Planner and information on Planting With the Moon, and then Gathering and Drying Herbs before turning them into herbal teas and infusions, tinctures, infused oils, vinegar, and floral extracts. Finally there are 10 Magical Stores of Herbs and Witches.  

The illustrations by Betti Greco are so lovely that I would hang them as art and I found myself curling up on my couch with the book and a cup of herbal tea and losing myself in the enchantment of the words and pictures. Whether you plan a practice or just find magic and magical powers interesting, you should enjoy this one.

Which Witch Are You?



Author Notes: Cecilia Lattari is a professional actress who graduated from the School of Theater in Bologna and has a degree in Herbalist Techniques. She works in the field of relationships, stimulating people to know the most authentic part of themselves using theatrical practices and sensorial experiences in the world of plants. 


The fresh feel of the green cover and pages of Backyard Witchcraft made me think of fresh herbs and salads. Here are three recipes that would pair well with this book.

Ottolenghi's Spring Salad

 Green Couscous Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi



  Herby, Peanutty Noodly Salad from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


Note: A review copy of "Backyard Witchcraft" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

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

 Tour Dates:

Wednesday, September 14th: Instagram: @drcreadsbooks
Tuesday, September 20th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, September 21st: TikTok: @jessbeyondthepages
Friday, September 23rd: Instagram: @oddandbookish
Monday, September 26th: Stranded in Chaos
Wednesday, September 28th: Instagram: @bookedwithheather
Thursday, September 29th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, October 3rd: Instagram: @parksidereads
Tuesday, October 4th: Instagram: @webreakforbooks
Wednesday, October 5th: Instagram: @jypsylynn
Thursday, October 6th: Instagram: @just_another_mother_with_books
Friday, October 14th: Instagram: @books_bulldogs_booze
TBD: Stacy's Books
TBD: Instagram: @a_bookish_dream


Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of Cora's Kitchen by Kimberly Garrett Brown, Served with 3 Mashed Potato Recipes

Happy Friday Eve! I am pleased to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Cora's Kitchen by Kimberly Garret Brown, a historical fiction novella. Along with my review, I am including three mashed potato recipes inspired by my reading. (And OK a craving too!)

 Publisher's Blurb: 

A peek into a Black woman writer’s life and experiences during the Harlem Renaissance

It is 1928 and Cora James, a 35-year-old Black librarian who works at the 135th Street library in Harlem, writes Langston Hughes a letter after identifying with one of his poems. She even reveals her secret desire to write. Langston responds, encouraging Cora to enter a writing contest sponsored by the National Urban League, and ignites her dream of being a writer. Cora is frustrated with the writing process, and her willingness to help her cousin Agnes keep her job after she is brutally beaten by her husband lands Cora in a white woman’s kitchen working as a cook.

In the Fitzgerald home, Cora discovers she has time to write and brings her notebook to work. When she comforts Mrs. Fitzgerald after an argument with Mr. Fitzgerald, a friendship forms. Mrs. Fitzgerald insists Cora call her Eleanor and gives her The Awakening by Kate Chopin to read. Cora is inspired by the conversation to write a story and sends it to Langston. Eventually she begins to question her life and marriage and starts to write another story about a woman’s sense of self. Through a series of letters, and startling developments in her dealings with the white family, Cora’s journey to becoming a writer takes her to the brink of losing everything, including her life.


“Through journal entries and letters, Cora invites us into not only her kitchen but also into her intense inner life, torn between her obligations as a wife, mother, and librarian and her urge to cook up her own stories. Though her friend Langston Hughes urges her to follow her passions, Cora’s commitment to write is challenged daily by life’s circumstances, only to find a surprising new source of encouragement. As 1928 unfolds, CORA’S KITCHEN delves deeply into what it means to be a Black woman with ambition, to make choices and keep secrets, and to have an unexpected alliance with a white woman that ultimately may save both of them. In this intimate and expansive novel, Kim Garrett Brown renders Cora with immense empathy, acknowledging and confronting Cora’s own prejudices and allegiances and the social pressures that continue to reverberate far beyond this story. Cora’s Kitchen is a poignant, compelling story in which misfortune and fortune cannot be teased apart and literature and life have everything to do with each other.”–Anna Leahy, author of What Happened Was

“It has been said, the universal is found in the specific, and in CORA’S KITCHEN all women will find their challenges and longings expressed in unflinching honesty. Kimberly Brown’s characters are faithful to a time, yet timeless, transcending the years to both painfully and beautifully illustrate the struggles women face to find and fulfill their vocations. Spellbinding.” –Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of The Invisible Woman


Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series September 20, 2022 
Paperback 176 Pages

My Review:

Cora's Kitchen is a epistolary novella, told the the main characters journal entries and letters to and from the poet and writer, Langston Hughes. I enjoy books that give me a look into a another person's life that is different from mine, and Cora James couldn't be more different. Cora is black, married to her musician husband, has two teenage children and is a librarian living in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. More than anything, she dreams of being a writer. At her library job, she befriends Hughes and strikes up a correspondence with him where he gives her advice and encourages her writing dreams. When Cora's cousin, Agnes, is severely beaten by her husband, her aunt asks Cora to take over Agnes' job as a cook for a wealthy white family so she won't lose it. This puts Cora in the orbit of Eleanor Fitzgerald and her family and she strikes up a relationship and friendship of sorts with Mrs. Fitzgerald. At least as much of a friendship as is possible between women of two races and unequal classes in the 1920s. Time in between cooking has Cora writing in her journal and crafting story ideas and getting an opportunity through Eleanor to leave her job and family responsibilities in the city and write for a few weeks in the summer. 

Seeing life as a black woman through Cora's eyes during a golden age of African American culture was interesting. Due to her and her husband's jobs, she was in the orbit of many names of the day. In Addition to Langston Hughes, prominent figures like W.E.B. Du Bois and Zora Neale Hurston were mentioned and it made me want to learn more about the period and life in Harlem. Cora has some hard realities to face with her relationship with her husband, her teenage son hanging out with a bad crowd, and the domestic troubles of her cousin, so it is easy to sympathize with her as she struggles to achieve her dreams in a world and era not very accepting of women equality in general, and especially not women of color. Not only does she struggle to be a writer, Langston Hughes chides her to be responsible to the Black community and be their voice--"the voice for a people who have been silenced for centuries." That's a lot of pressure. Although a quick read due to pages and style, Cora's Kitchen is a thought-provoking book, beautifully written and engaging. I would love to read more about Cora's journey and will keep my eye out for more from this author.  


Author Notes: Kimberly Garrett Brown is the publisher and executive editor of Minerva Rising Press, an independent women's literary press. Her publications include The Rumpus, Women Writers, Women's Books, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Black Lives Have Always Mattered, The Feminine Collective, and the Chicago Tribune. She lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

Food Inspiration:

Food is not a huge focus of Cora's Kitchen, but it is mentioned in the meals Cora makes for her own family and the Fitzgeralds. Mentions included the basics like roasted meat/pot roast and potato dinners, chocolate cake, sandwiches, peach pie, and ice cream.

At one point, one of the characters mentions that Cora's cousin makes better mashed potatoes and Cora knows that her own mashed potatoes are smoother and better. I thought the rivalry in cooking was fun so with a nod to that mention and a craving for good mashed potatoes, here a three favorite recipes:

Julia Child's Homemade Mashed Potatoes: classic buttery (of course) goodness.

Tessa Kiros's Sage and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes: these stand on their own but would be perfect for thanksgiving.

Looking for something a bit healthier?
Herb and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes from The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook by Amy Riolo are delicious and feel decadent.

I may have to break down and make some soon! 

Note: A review copy of "Cora's Kitchen" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

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

  Tour schedule:

Tuesday, September 20th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, September 21st: Wall-to-Wall Books
Thursday, September 22nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, September 23rd: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, September 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, September 27th: Laura’s Reviews
Wednesday, September 28th: Instagram: @camreviewsbooks
Thursday, September 29th: Instagram: @bookdragon217
Monday, October 3rd: Instagram: @openbookbyleila
Tuesday, October 4th: Instagram: @blackbiracialandbookish
Wednesday, October 5th: Instagram: @neverthless_she_reads
Thursday, October 6th: Instagram: @irishgirliereads
Monday, October 10th: Instagram: @karendeeandabc
Tuesday, October 11th: Instagram: @dai2daireade


Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Where Wild Peaches Grow" by Cade Bentley, Sered with Links to Five Favorite Southernesque Recipes

I can't believe September is already here! I think a good southern fiction story is a great way to ease out of summer and into the fall season. Lucky for me, I am on the TLC Book Tour for one, Where Wild Peaches Grow by Cade Bentley. Accompanying my review are five southern-inspired recipes that match the vibe of the book.

Publisher's Blurb:

In a deeply emotional novel of family, cultural heritage, and forgiveness, estranged sisters wrestle with the choices they’ve made and confront circumstances beyond their control.

Nona “Peaches” Davenport, abandoned by the man she loved and betrayed by family, left her Natchez, Mississippi, home fifteen years ago and never looked back. She’s forged a promising future in Chicago as a professor of African American Studies. Nona even finds her once-closed heart persuaded by a new love. But that’s all shaken when her father’s death forces her to return to everything she’s tried to forget.

Julia Curtis hasn’t forgiven her sister for deserting the family. Just like their mother, Nona walked away from Julia when she needed her most. And Julia doesn’t feel guilty for turning to Nona’s old flame, Marcus, for comfort. He helped Julia build a new life. She has a child, a career, and a determination to move on from old family wounds.

Upon Nona’s return to Natchez, a cautious reunion unfolds, and everything Nona and Julia thought they knew–about themselves, each other, and those they loved–will be tested. Unpacking the truth about why Nona left may finally heal their frayed bond–or tear it apart again, forever.

Lake Union Publishing (August 30, 2022)
Paperback 301 pages

 My Review:

At its soul, Where Wild Peaches Grow is about family drama and dysfunction, something I think most everyone can relate to, at least a little. In this case, although the family discord exists in a few generations, it centers around the two main characters, sisters, Nona (known as Peaches in her hometown of Natchez) and Julia. Julia is the older sister who stayed in Natchez and took care of Nona when their mother deserted them and she wears her bitterness like a shawl, holding resentment for Nona for leaving and never coming back for twenty years, and even more for her mother, who she assumes is dead. Nona has her own resentment for Julia, who she thinks betrayed her by telling their father than she was going to elope with her first love, Marcus that lead to her leaving town for Chicago where she threw herself into getting her education and is a successful professor of African American studies, but is living an unfulfilled life with an inability to write the book she wants to and mixed feelings about her somewhat controlling fiance. The sisters are brought together when their father dies, Nona returns to Natchez. and a whole host of secrets and betrayals unfolds.

I enjoy books that expose me to pieces of culture and history that I am not familiar with and Where Wild Peaches Grow is tagged as "cultural heritage fiction" and illuminated me to some of the black history of Natchez, Mississippi. I only wish it had gone a bit deeper. Both into the relationship between the sisters and with the many assorted side characters (grandma, neighbors, friends, former and new romances), and more importantly the whole Natchez history of the Devil's Punch Bowl which was in effect a concentration camp where slaves, newly freed during the Civil War were rounded up in a walled encampment of a "pit" surrounded by bluffs, and many (some estimates claim 20,000) slaves died of starvation and diseases such as smallpox because of the conditions of the camp.The title of the book refers to the wild peaches that were grown there that people weren't supposed to cook with or eat due to the atrocity that took place there. As much of American history gets "white-washed" I had heard very little, if anything, about this horrific incident. I ended up Googling information (as I am wont to due when reading historical fiction-here's a good brief article), but I think the book would have benefited from more information about it being included. At just about 300 pages, I wouldn't have minded an afterword about the history and more development of ongoing relationships with the characters. 

All in all, I enjoyed the book and Bentley's writing and will look from more from her. (Apparently she is published as Abby L. Vandiver and Abby Colette). I think this book is good for someone who wants a summer read that goes a bit deeper than other domestic/sisters fiction and is trying to read more diverse novels and books.


Author Notes: Cade Bentley is a novelist and editor who is also published as Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Abby L. Vandiver, as well as Abby Colette. When she isn’t writing, Cade enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. She resides in South Euclid, Ohio. For more information visit


 Food Inspiration:

There is plenty of southern food in the book from fried chicken to ribs, collards, mac-and-cheese, casseroles and honey dishes galore from the community for the family's bereavement with the loss of Jasper, red velvet cake, cornbread, banana pudding, deviled eggs. There was peach pie but since the rumor was that it killed the family patriarch, and the history was that the peaches were grown in the Devil's Punch Bowl (see above), that didn't seem like the best dish to make.

I decided to feature five "southernesque'  dishes that I have enjoyed on the blog for my bookish inspiration. Recipe photos and links are below:

As an appetizer, vegan soul food chef, Bryant Terry's Crispy Okra Strips with Lime-Thyme Vinaigrette from "Vegan Soul Kitchen" seem like a good match. 

I have plenty of pimento cheese recipes on my blog but these Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs are a favorite and I think the perfect party or bereavement dish.

 Also from Bryant Terry and Vegan Soul Food, these Pan-Fried Grit Cakes with Caramelized Onions, Garlic & Thyme and Spicy Smothered Green Cabbage are true comfort food.

Now I know you shouldn't mess with Sweet Tea in the southand no self-respecting southerner will find it sweet enough, but I really like my Healthier Sweet Tea with Honey and Mint.

  OK, I will sneak in a peach dessert but this Quick Peach and Pear Crumble with Cinnamon-Pecan Streusel uses canned peaches, so I feel it's OK. 


Note: A review copy of "Where Wild Peaches Grow" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

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


 Monday, August 15th: @blackbiracialandbookish

Tuesday, August 16th: @karendeeandabc

Wednesday, August 17th: @merewordsinarizona

Thursday, August 18th: @booksnbikram

Friday, August 19th: @hoardingbooks.herdingcats

Saturday, August 20th: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie

Monday, August 22nd: Lit and Life

Monday, August 22nd: @mississippimomreads

Tuesday, August 23rd: IG: @bookish_afrolatina and TT: @bookish_afrolatina 

Tuesday, August 23rd: @runhideandread

Wednesday, August 24th: @wonderousreads

Thursday, August 25th: @whatkarinareads

Friday, August 26th: @bookn.all.night

Monday, August 29th: Run Wright

Wednesday, August 31st: Eliot’s Eats

Thursday, September 1st: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, September 6th: Books and Bindings