Top Ten Tuesday: Meal Planning 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

Well, people, I READ FOODIE BOOKS! And I didn’t realize how many until I started making this list….so many of them focus on a main character with a culinary background of some sort. I’ve already featured a TTT way back about characters who cook/bake, so I’m going with the actual meals this time. Such fun! Join me as we plan an indulgent schedule of eating and snacking.

MEAL PLANNING 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

Breakfast

Count Me INfrom Count Me In by Mikal Dawn

a Kit-Kat Latte – the perfect combination of sweet (chocolate and vanilla) and stout to caffeinate your day.

 

 

from Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnsonwhere-two-hearts-meet

3 words: Caden’s cinnamon rolls. “There was only one thing better than the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. The taste of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. “-chapter 1

 

Reservations for Twofrom Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge (but I could say ALL THE FOODS from the “Two Blue Doors” series!)

Blueberry buckwheat breakfast cake (AND there’s even a recipe for it in the book!)

Lunch

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano - mini reviewfrom Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

James’s tuna Nicoise sandwiches with new red potato salad and fresh fruit: “seared tuna, seasoned delicately with olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard, then layered with hard-boiled eggs and spring greens on an artisan roll.”

Tea… er, Coffee Time!

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillanfrom The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Turkish coffee and LEMON CURD SANDWICHES. Merinda would not be herself without her frequent Turkish coffee, and lemon curd is the way to Ray’s heart, apparently 😉

Appetizer

19320758from When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

Ahi tartar in a rice noodle cup, garnished with char orange supreme. When the characters are participating in a cooking contest, the result is pretty exotic creations!

Dinner

a-portrait-of-emily-price

from A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Chef Benito Vasallo’s Bistecca alla Pizzaiola AKA steak of the pizza maker’s wife: a thick-sauce, wintry Italian dish with “a tangy mix of tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, and something [Emily] couldn’t name….”

The Wishing Seasonfrom The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Filet steak with garlic butter, asparagus spears, and risotto. A meal fit for a food critic.

Dessert

Dare to Love Againfrom Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman

Ghrardelli chocolate bars straight from the factory at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA. This list would not be complete without Julie’s “chocolate kiss” fun!

 

Bonus! Books on my TBR shelf that promise all kinds of yummy foods:

The Romano Family Collection: A Trio of Romances Flavored with Grace by Brandy Bruce

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano (releasing Feb. 2018)

 

Which of these meals sounds the most appetizing to you?  Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you enjoy foodie fiction and have recommendations for me? Comment away!

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Review: Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

You know that moment when you FINALLY finish reading a book series and you’re perfectly happy with the way it ended, but you still want MORE??? Yep, that was me after reading Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge, the last book in the “Two Blue Doors” series.

I read it a few weeks ago with two blogger and #BookBestie friends, Cassie and Rissi. We chatted and debated and gushed via Twitter with the hashtag #TogetherAtTheTableRAL (click to see all our tweets, but warning: some are spoilery). And, Rissi created this awesome graphic for our read along.

 

Ok, by now you’re wondering what this book is about, so here’s the plot summary:

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge.jpgThree months ago, Juliette D’Alisa’s world changed.

In a bittersweet series of events, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Juliette and her brother opened their restaurant together to rave reviews, but her romance with Memphis immunologist Neil McLaren ended in anger and tears.

As autumn sweeps into the Pacific Northwest, Juliette feels that she’s finally on the cusp of equilibrium. The restaurant continues to thrive, and her family is closer than ever. She and sous-chef Adrien are seeing each other, both in and out of the kitchen. Just when she thinks her world might stop spinning, a trip to the waterfront lands a familiar face into her path.

Rather than dwell on her personal life, Juliette throws herself into work and research. After reading her grandmother’s letters from war-torn Paris, she still wants to know the full story –  and she’ll travel across countries and oceans to find it.

But even Juliette can’t outrun the man who stole her heart. As she finally uncovers the truth about her family history, what will it mean for her own chances at lasting love?

My thoughts: So many feelings! Bittersweet, happy, hunger, nostalgia, the camaraderie of family and food. If you’ve followed this series from the beginning (please, start at the beginning), you know the emotional journey Juliette has already been on and the unexpected things in her path. Even after the first few chapters, I had no clue where this story would take Juliette or the *ahem* love interest she would end up with.

(Though there was not exactly a love triangle in this series, we do see her life morph and her love life change naturally within seasons of life. I didn’t exactly have a preference myself with whom she would end up with, but I am extremely happy with the end and with him. He shall remain nameless for the review because spoilers.)

Hillary knows how to use a singular POV to its advantages. With it, there was increased dramatic tension because we only knew Juliette’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. And it made us feel very close to her as a character. Most impressive, I thought, was the way the eventual hero of the story was written so well, even through Jules’ eyes, that we saw and read into his thoughts by his behavior around her and the way he treated her. This was carried out through Juliette’s observations of the other characters, as well. We saw their humor, bubbly personalities, or even jealous and pensive moods.

The historical letters and family story we experienced in previous books is carried out in the latter part of this one. This unique sub-storyline is a riveting glimpse into the WWII life in the French countryside. It even has parallels with Jules’ contemporary life with a theme of perseverance and a story of simple joy that can be found in everyday life.

Ultimately, this is a book for the foodie and the romantic. The food quotes and many recipes are a fabulous bonus. The sense of family and belonging Juliette feels when she is sharing the table with loved ones in this story are extended to you, the reader, with a sense of hospitality and invitation. It was a quite satisfactory end to the series — I was happy with where the characters ended up. Though I would happily read many more books about these characters if I could! (hint hint, Hillary 🙂 )

Thank you to WaterBrook Publishers for a complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

See my reviews of book 1, A Table By the Window, and book 2, Reservations for Two.

And this was how we felt when it was over….

 

Cookbook Review: Giada’s “Happy Cooking”

Today’s review is of the once-in-a-while kind: about a cookbook. I jumped at the chance to review Giada De Laurentiis’s latest cookbook because I generally like her recipes and ideas. I mean, who doesn’t love Italian food!?

Happy Cooking by Giada De LaurentiisThe good news is, this is not just another Italian cookbook. Giada has included a great variety of healthy and indulgent recipes combining Italian roots and modern flavors.

My favorite thing I’ve tried from this cookbook so far is the recipe for Pumpkin Ginger Chocolate Muffins. With bits of candied ginger and a bittersweet chocolate glaze, they were a perfect snack when I was craving something sweet, with the added bonus of “healthy” ginger and pumpkin.

photogrid_1454613177159.jpg

My finished Pumpkin Ginger Chocolate Muffins

 

I liked the recipe variations or possible substitutions included in some of the more complex recipes. For instance, there are 2 recipes for Chicken Parmesan: one a stuffed version, one a “skinny” version with less cheese and no breadcrumbs. Recipes that are gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan are noted with a small mark and are easy to spot.

The notes from Giada in the cookbook add a very personal touch. The layout and design has a vibrant feel with bright colors and easy-to-read text.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing for the complimentary review copy.

Review: “Reservations for Two” by Hillary Manton Lodge

Today’s review features the latest contemporary novel from author Hillary Manton Lodge, Reservations for Two. This is the second book in her “Two Blue Doors” series about character Juliette D’Alisa’s journey as she opens a new restaurant with her brother, Nico, uncovers secrets of her family heritage, maintains a long-distance romantic relationship, and remains involved in all sorts of family drama.

This book picks up right where the first one (A Table by the Window) left off, in Provence, France. While a person doesn’t have to read the books in order to enjoy the series, I think reading the first would allow a deeper understanding and appreciation for the characters.

Book Summary: A culinary concoction of taking chances and finding love in the most delectable places

Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up.

Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life?

As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?Story was fun and flowed nicely. Settings were just fabulous – the story opens in the French countryside (anyone want to visit a lavender farm with me?), then the characters travel to Paris, Italy, and back to the states.

My thoughts: Like the first book in the series, Hillary has included several fun elements that add to the story — I’m talking about several tantalizing recipes sprinkled through the chapters. They made me hungry at 1am. And, fun little quotes about food or cooking at the beginning of each chapter.

I love that the story is told from the first person narrative. It’s like Juliette is telling the reader her story, her thoughts.

I also really like the inclusion of old letters between Juliette’s grandmother, Mirielle, and her sister and love from pre-WWII France. This is a secondary story, really, that unfolds a little at a time with some suspense as to what will become of some of Mirielle’s family. These letters offered a unique addition to the storyline and a clever way to encourage Juliette through her challenges.

There is one small thing I want to point out about this story. While it is categorized as “Christian fiction”, it doesn’t have as strong of a spiritual message or focus unlike many books in this genre. The faith of the characters is present through the book, though not addressed in a super-direct way. I had no problem with it being presented as a background theme, however. It was clearly an important part of the characters’ lives.

Overall, this was an easy and interesting read. It’s not all fun and games, though — it deals with some real relationship issues, like sacrifice and the value of family. Excuse me for a second while I give myself some advice: in the future, wait until full series are published, that way I don’t have to wait a year for the conclusion of the story! Actually, I definitely don’t regret reading this one! But I am anxious to read the conclusion of this “Two Blue Doors” series in 2016!

Visit Hillary’s blog here for more info –  and recipes! (She’s recently posted a tiramisu recipe from this book!!!)

Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review! I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group through the Blogging for Books program for this review.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who Cook/Bake

April 28 It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who _____ (Cook/Bake)

Today’s topic is one of the fun fill-in-the-blank kinds. Anyone who knows me well knows I LOVE to eat cook or bake. So, what better thing to share some of my favorite books which feature prominent characters who bake or cook – often for a living?!? These characters’ culinary creations have made me hungry at times. But, one of them doesn’t exactly cook well…. let’s just say I won’t be caught eating at Glynna’s table (from Fired Up)

TTT Characters who Cook or Bake

In no particular order, here goes:

1. The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Quaint small house-turned-fine-restaurant/foster transition home with a sweet romance

2. A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

So many beautiful dishes – and actual RECIPES in the book! My favorite so far that I’ve tried is the French apple cake from the book.

3. When I Fall In Love by Susan May Warren

A cooking competition in Hawaii. Enough said.

4. Fired Up by Mary Connealy

This one is rather comical…. Glynna is not a very good cook. But she does have some people who help her remedy the situation 🙂

5. Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Two opposite sisters, brought together, in some ways, by food.

6. Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann

It’s been a while since I read this one – I remember character Tia Manning worked at a bakery. I think some of her muffin combinations sounded delicious!

7. While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad

Another light and fun read, with the main character stirring up trouble!

8. A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Eleanor Braddock selflessly cooked for a wonderful cause – to support war widows and orphans. (I got to feature a recipes from this story in these posts: savory quiche and shortbread)

9.-11. “The Michelli Family Series” by Kristen Heitzmann

Secrets, Unforgotten, Echoes

Romantic suspense with an Italian family who loves to cook.

How about you? Do you like to read books that feature a main character who cooks or bakes? Have you read any of these?

Review: “A Table by the Window” by Hillary Manton Lodge

The latest book I’ve read is “right up my alley” as some might say. It’s centered on a woman who has grown up in a culinary culture, her parents having owned a restaurant her entire life. (I have that in common – I’ve grown up in my family’s pizzeria.) With the additional elements of ethnic cultures, sibling relationships (rivalries and the closeness that comes with adulthood), and a little romance, this story made for a fun read that made my mouth water more than once.18209275

In A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge, character Juliette D’Alisa leads an interesting life as the baby of a restaurant and food-centered, French-Italian family. With her parents’ well-established restaurant in Portland and her siblings’ work as chefs, culinary instructors, or other foodie careers, Juliette has settled for a coveted position as a food critic and writer for a local newspaper.

When presented with the opportunity to get back in the restaurant business with her brother Nico, Juliette must work out her unsettled feelings about her career path. At the same time, she is uncovering family secrets surrounding her grandmother’s life in France and developing a long-distance romantic relationship.

First of all, let me say I LOVE that Hillary has included several yummy recipes interspersed through the book. These recipes all make an appearance in the story, sometimes focal and sometimes simply mentioned. (I can’t wait for the chance to try some of these. My first experiment will probably be the Red Pepper Pasta.) Along with these recipes, I really enjoyed the foodie culture of the whole story. Also, fun little quotes related to food or cooking are featured at the start of each chapter. I typically enjoy the quote “element” when authors include it in a novel, and this one is no exception 🙂

This story is a little more family drama and a little less romance, but I still liked it. The drama is centered on Juliette’s work with her family and her uncertain career (though it takes a while for Juliette to see this), and the addition of family secrets and mystery is a nice side plot. Who doesn’t love some family genealogy digging? The romance is a bit unconventional (or should I say non-typical) being centered on an online relationship, but it picks up pace toward the middle of the story. Once you get to the end of the story and to Hillary’s acknowledgement section, you see similarities with her love story and the one in the book – that connection makes the story itself feel more real.

Just because I’m saying it’s a “drama” , don’t think it’s all seriousness. There are great bits of humor – especially in Juliette’s exchanges with her lively siblings. It was definitely easy to read. I was eager to see what decisions Juliette would make next (and what recipe would be at the end of that chapter).

One thing I would have liked to have seen more of was Juliette’s faith and how it actively played out in her life. You sees bits of this, but I personally prefer a little bit more from this genre. That’s my only problem with it, and it’s a minor one. This story did have strong themes of the strength of family, pursuing dreams, and wanting to be the person God intends for you to be.

At the end of the story, some things are left partially unresolved, but that’s ok with me because it’s a series! I can’t wait to see what Juliette dares to do next – and what D’Alisa family antics will unfold. I like that it’s a series following one main character. There are too few of these types in this genre. The next book in this “Table for Two” series is Reservations for Two.

Visit Hillary’s website here for more info – and some special book extras, like a quiz and recipes!

Note: Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy in exchange for a review! I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group through the Blogging for Books program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread Recipe -Another Extra from “A Beauty So Rare”!

Ok, ya’ll. Here’s another fabulous recipe from the oh-so-delightful Tamera Alexander, featured in her novel A Beauty So Rare!

Today, it’s character Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread recipe. I’ve already shared her recipe for a Savory Custard (Ham & Cheese Quiche), and told you about how this book made my mouth water. I’m so glad to be sharing this recipe today. Can we all just take a moment to imagine how this shortbread must smell, warm and buttery, hot out of the oven?

While you’re snacking on this shortbread, you should also have the best reading material – so go find A Beauty So Rare!  Trust me, it’s awesome.

From Tamera:

 

Hey friends,

Is there anything that smells as good as homemade shortbread baking in your oven? Oh so scrumptious, and a time-honored recipe. Shortbread is just one of the many recipes included in A Beauty So Rare, the second stand-alone novel in the Belmont Mansion series.

Since Eleanor Braddock (the heroine in A Beauty So Rare) is practical to a fault, she makes her shortbread in a cast-iron skillet, so I did the same. Gives you the best crunchy edges and buttery middles! Wish I could share some with you. But I’ll do the next best thing––share the recipe!

Have you ever made shortbread? It’s so easy.Eleanor Braddock's Shortbread

 

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread

(from A Beauty So Rare)

 

3/4 cup butter at room temp (1 1/2 sticks)

1/2 cup powdered sugar*

1/3 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, then spray a smaller (8-9 inch) cast-iron skillet very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. You don’t need that much spray. Trust me, the butter in the recipe will take care of that.

 

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Next, work in the flour. You can either mix the flour in with an electric mixer, or you can get into the 1860s way of doing things and knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s nice and smooth.

 

Press the dough into the iron skillet (or you can use a pretty shortbread pan too). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes then flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. Cut the shortbread into pieces while still warm. It “sets up” as it cools. Or serve it warm. Serves 10-12. And it really does. This stuff is rich and delicious. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

And just for fun, a bit of history:

*Did you know that in 1851, Oliver Chase (of NECCO Wafer fame) developed a mill for powdering sugar which he used in his candy making process? But if a cook wanted powdered sugar back then, refined loaf sugar was pounded into a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. So much easier today, huh?

 

 

For more recipes and to watch the novel trailer

for A Beauty So Rare, visit www.TameraAlexander.com