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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Happiness In Between by Grace Greene

Setting: Cub Creek, Virginia
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: January 31, 2017



Sandra Hurst gave her husband two changes. She divorced him once, but took him back in hopes that he really had changed. Sadly, this marriage has proven that he's just as emotionally abusive as before. Leaving her home in the middle of the night, Sandra doesn't know how to start over, but she's going to start over.

She learns that her aunt needs a house and dog sitter. Sandra heads to rural Virginia where she finds her family's home structurally sound but in desperate need of a good cleaning and a few repairs. Her aunt's dog is missing, so that's one of her first goals. She soon finds the dog, but it's actually her young neighbor's dog. This starts a new friendship between Sandra and the boy and his father.

It's not going to be easy, and her husband isn't quite ready to give her up, but Sandra's ready to put her feet down. It's her time to prove she's tougher than anyone knew.

Strengths and Weaknesses


One thing the author did well was to portray emotional abuse. It's harder to prove emotional abuse to others, but that doesn't mean it's not there. I have a friend who's been in emotionally abusive relationships multiple times. It's not easy watching it and certainly not easy for those trapped in it.

The Happiness In Between has a charming setting. I loved reading the chapters and watching the house become a home. I felt drawn to Sandra and others within the town. There are times it was a bit predictible, but I really didn't care. I just wanted to see how things played out.


RTR's Bottom Line


What could have been a dark, sad plot turned into an uplifting one. I love that Sandra didn't dwell on the past as much as she could have. She dove into her projects and started living life on her terms. It's an easy read, and one that proved to be different to what I was expecting.




Friday, December 8, 2017

Pantry and Palate by Simon Thibault (Excerpt and Recipe)


Excerpted from Pantry and Palate by Simon Thibault © 2017, Text by Simon Thibault. ©2017, Photographs by Noah Fecks. All rights reserved. Published by Nimbus Publishing

“Cooking from many of these old recipes wasn’t always easy. The majority of the recipes only had a basic list of ingredients, and they rarely included directions, let alone detailed ones. So not only did I have to decipher what to do and in what order, but I also had to figure out how to record that information. It was like having a stilted conversation that was decades long: You need this much of this, and that much of that. You know what to do. I was determined to gather the same strength of character and ease in the kitchen that these women had, if only in the smallest of doses. Reading through these impeccably scripted notebooks, I found myself wondering about these recipes: How hot did this oven need to be to bake this cake? (350 F, apparently.) Was it a coincidence that the blood pudding/sausage recipe was written on the same page as one for doughnuts? (Fresh pig’s blood also means fresh pig’s fat, enough for deep-frying those wonderful treats.)”

How about a tempting recipe? We have more recipes from Pantry and Palate posted on the Facebook page!



RÂPURE / RAPPIE PIE MAKES 1 L ARGE PIE, SERVES 4– 6

1 (4 pound) whole chicken, preferably a stewing hen
10 pounds potatoes, peeled
2 medium onions, minced
3−4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons oil or butter
12 cups cold water (or enough to cover chicken in the pot)
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons minced salt pork (optional)
2 tablespoons salted onions, plus additional 2 teaspoons* (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

• The first thing to do is make the chicken stock. This can be done the day
before. In a pot large enough to accommodate your chicken, sauté onions
in the butter (or oil) until translucent. Add 1 teaspoon of salted onions if
you have them. If not, add a bit of salt to onions to help them sweat.
• Add chicken and cover with cold water, about 12 cups. Add the bay laves
and carrots. Cover the pot and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to keep the
bird at a gentle simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, or until meat is almost
falling off the bone, but not quite.
• Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the stock through a sieve.
(At this point you can refrigerate your stock until you need it, or just keep
it warm if you plan on making the rappie pie at the same time.)
• Shred the chicken into small pieces, discarding the bones and skin. Set
aside.
• Grate your potatoes on a box grater or rasp. Take your time, or you’ll
end up with bloody knuckles. (Alternatively, you can use a juicer to
simultaneously pulverize your potatoes and remove much of the water.
The texture will be mildly different, but highly comparable.)
• Place portions of the rasped/grated potato into muslin or kitchen towels.
Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. You will be adding stock to it
afterwards, and you want to get out as much of the liquid as possible. (Tip:
Squeeze the potatoes into a large measuring bowl. Let’s say you squeeze
out 7 1/2 cups of potato water, you should add back in about 10 cups
of stock. This is the ratio you’re trying to achieve. Adjust accordingly.)
• Bring the stock to a roiling boil. You need it to be as hot as possible to
scald the potatoes properly. Heat your oven to 425˚F.
• Put the potatoes into a large bowl, big enough to accommodate at
least twice its volume. (If you don’t have a bowl big enough, do this in
batches, making sure to keep your stock as hot as possible for scalding
the potatoes.) Break up the potatoes using a hand mixer. Mix in half
of the hot stock using a hand mixer, and stir it all together, making
sure to moisten the potatoes as much as possible. Mix in the rest of the
hot stock and keep stirring. The mixture will thicken, but keep stirring
for about 2−3 minutes after adding the last of the stock. Taste for
seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and the salted onions as you go.
• Pour enough of the potato pulp to cover the bottom of your casserole
dish. Add roughly 1/2 of your chicken, tossing it over the potatoes. Add
enough potatoes to just cover the chicken, and then add more chicken,
finally covering that with the rest of the potatoes.
• Place the rappie pie into your oven. Bake at 425˚F for 30 minutes, and
then turn down the heat to 375˚F and bake for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Occasionally baste the top with butter (or small dice of salt pork) to
help the crust brown. The dish is ready when the crust on the top is nice
and set and golden brown.
• Serve warm with loads of butter, or possibly a little molasses on the side.



RÂPURE
/ RAPPIE PIE
MAKES 1 L ARGE PIE, SERVES 4
6
1 (4 pound) whole chicken, preferably a stewing hen
10 pounds potatoes, peeled
2 medium onions, minced
3−4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons oil or butter
12 cups cold water (or enough to cover chicken in
the pot)
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons minced salt pork (optional)
2 tablespoons salted onions, plus additional 2 teaspoons* (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
The first thing to do is make the chicken stock. This can be done the day
before. In a pot larg
e enough to accommodate your chicken, saut
é
onions
in the butter (or oil) until translucent. Add 1 teaspoon of salted onions if
you have them. If not, add a bit of salt to onions to help them sweat.
Add chicken and cover with cold water, about 12 cups. A
dd the bay laves
and carrots. Cover the pot and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to keep the
bird at a gentle simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, or until meat is almost
falling off the bone, but not quite.
Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the stock t
hrough a sieve.
(At this point you can refrigerate your stock until you need it, or just keep
it warm if you plan on making the rappie pie at the same time.)
Shred the chicken into small pieces, discarding the bones and skin. Set
aside.
Grate your pota
toes on a box grater or rasp. Take your time, or you
ll
end up with bloody knuckles. (Alternatively, you can use a juicer to
simultaneously pulverize your potatoes and remove much of the water.
The texture will be mildly different, but highly comparable.)
Place portions of the rasped/grated potato into muslin or kitchen towels.
Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. You will be adding stock to it
afterwards, and you want to get out as much of the liquid as possible. (Tip:
Squeeze the potatoes into
a large measuring bowl. Let
s say you squeeze
out 7 1/2 cups of potato water, you should add back in about 10 cups
of stock. This is the ratio you
re trying to achieve. Adjust accordingly.)
Bring the stock to a roiling boil. You need it to be as hot as
possible to
scald the potatoes properly. Heat your oven to 425
̊
F.
Put the potatoes into a large bowl, big enough to accommodate at
least twice its volume. (If you don
t have a bowl big enough, do this in
batches, making sure to keep your stock as hot as
possible for scalding
the potatoes.) Break up the potatoes using a hand mixer. Mix in half
of the hot stock using a hand mixer, and stir it all together, making
sure to moisten the potatoes as much as possible. Mix in the rest of the
hot stock and keep sti
rring. The mixture will thicken, but keep stirring
for about 2
3 minutes after adding the last of the stock. Taste for
seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and the salted onions as you go.
Pour enough of the potato pulp to cover the bottom of your casserole
d
ish. Add roughly 1/2 of your chicken, tossing it over the potatoes. Add
enough potatoes to just cover the chicken, and then add more chicken,
finally covering that with the rest of the potatoes.
Place the rappie pie into your oven. Bake at 425
̊
F for 30 m
inutes, and
then turn down the heat to 375
̊
F and bake for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Occasionally baste the top with butter (or small dice of salt pork) to
help the crust brown. The dish is ready when the crust on the top is nice
and set and golden brown.
Serve warm with loads of butter, or possibly a little molasses on the side.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

Setting: Cambridgeshire
Genre: British Crime Novel
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: July 4, 2017



Manon Bradshaw balances her work as a detective with her pregnancy and new role as the adoptive mom of a 12-year-old boy. She's moved to Cambridgeshire with her new son, sister, and nephew. What seems like a new start is anything but.

A man dies in a stranger's arms in a local park. That man happens to be her sister's ex. Her sister was missing for a number of hours that afternoon and evening, and Manon's son is seen on camera at the scene. This case involves too many of Manon's loved ones, so she's pulled from the investigation. The last thing this pregnant mom wants, however, is to be told she's off the case.

Strengths and Weaknesses


This is my introduction to Manon. I did not read the previous novel. Maybe I needed to? I never really connected with her character. She did things that bugged me as she investigated. I don't want to go into spoilers, but I simply struggled to really like her. She's pregnant and I get the pregnancy emotions, but they often overshadowed the rest of the story, so that got tiring.

The ending left me cold. Again, no spoilers, but read it and comment. I'm curious to see if others were as bothered by one aspect of the ending as I was.

RTR's Bottom Line


The plot in Persons Unknown had merit. I wanted an edge-of-my-seat crime procedural focusing on the murder and solving it, and at times I got just that. There were just too many other characters thrown in and too much daily-routine drama that wore me down.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2018

Genre: Reference
Publisher: World Almanac Books
Release Date: December 5, 2017



The latest edition of The World Almanac and Book of Facts is out. In this book that's the perfect gift for a trivia buff, you'll learn things like:

  • How much do military members make?
  • What's the population of Aurora, Colorado?
  • What celestial events are coming up in 2018?
  • Which U.S. National Park System site received the most visitors?
  • What are the current crime rates in the biggest U.S. cities?


The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2018 is broken into nine sections:


  • Special Features: Year in Review
  • Economy/Business/Energy
  • Health and Vital Statistics
  • Personalities/Arts/Awards
  • Science and Technology
  • Consumer Information
  • U.S. History/Government/Population
  • World History and Culture
  • Nations of the World
  • Sports


You don't have to spend a lot to get this comprehensive book of facts that are ideal for forming questions for a friendly trivia battle, looking up statistics for an article you're writing, or simply learning more about the world around you.

I have little to complain about, but I do try to look at all the pros and cons. One thing I will say is that the print is very small. You may need to pull out the magnifiers to read this book.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ramen at Home by Brian MacDuckston

Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Rockridge Press
Release Date: November 21, 2017



Are you craving a steaming bowl of ramen on a cold winter's day? Brian MacDuckston's guide into all things ramen can help you make the popular dish whenever you're craving it.

Ramen at Home contains many recipes. The cookbook is broken down into the following chapters:


  • Soups and Tares
  • Noodles
  • Toppings
  • Shio Ramen
  • Shoyu Ramen
  • Miso Ramen
  • Tonkotsu Ramen
  • Others
  • Side Dishes


As you read the book, you'll learn the differences between these ramen dishes and master how to make them. There are plenty of recipes to help you on your journey. As I'm waiting on some of the harder-to-find ingredients to arrive, right now the recipe for the broth I'm using is very simple and contains dried kombu (kelp), dried shiitake mushrooms, water, chicken, apple, ginger, and garlic. I have the Power Pressure Cooker XL, so I can set it up and let it slow cook all day with ease.

Making noodles from scratch is on my list of things to do as soon as I have the time. Once I can master that, I'll be on my way to creating some amazing ramen recipes. For now, I'm using dried noodles sold in the grocery store. Even using these, the ramen I've made is far superior to anything I've had locally. The recipes are easy to follow and taste fantastic.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Ramen at Home takes the reader on a culinary journey into one of Japan's beloved dishes - ramen. This cookbook is packed with recipes and information. My early childhood involved a few years living near San Francisco. My love for Japanese food started there. I'm very content with a bowl of ramen, some sushi, and a sampling of seaweed salad. It's also very hard to find authentic Japanese in my area.

Let's start with the author's background. Brian MacDuckston is the host of a YouTube channel dedicated to ramen. Ramen Adventures is worth a closer look if you haven't heard of it. He lives in Japan and shares his knowledge of all things ramen. His book showcases that beautifully. I've reviewed and read other Japanese cookbooks but few actually start with recipes for homemade noodles. To me, that's the most important part of a qualify ramen. You want those noodles made from scratch.

What amazes me is just how in-depth Ramen at Home really is given the book's smaller size. It's only 200 pages and that's counting the index and glossary. He covers everything in this book. He talks about the equipment you need. The ingredients. The stocks and toppings. the assembly, other uses for the noodles, and other recipes for things like gyoza and Karaage, one of my favorite dishes.

RTR's Bottom Line

Buy this book. Ramen at Home is a must-have for anyone who loves Japanese cuisine. The stories are worth reading, but the recipes are exceptional. We have a Japanese-born, British citizen staying with us for a month. He looked over the recipes and said they are pretty authentic to the foods he's grown up with.

If you need help finding ingredients and lack an Asian food store like me, I find that you can find them on Amazon.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

Setting: New York
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martins Paperbacks
Release Date: December 5, 2017



Belfast McGrath keeps busy handling the kitchen at her parents' Irish inn. She's discussing the possibility of catering another couple's wedding when she spies a picture that brings her back in time. Almost two decades earlier, her best friend disappeared without a trace. People in the town always suspected Belfast knew more than she would admit to. Seeing her friend's picture in the paper is the proof she needs to know that Amy is still alive.

With the picture in hand, Belfast sets off in her spare time to uncover the truth. Why did Amy leave, and why has she never contacted anyone to at least let them know she's okay?

Strengths and Weaknesses


Humor is a driving force in Bel, Book, and Scandal. Belfast isn't one to back down from a challenge. I loved her honesty and some of her and her siblings' antics. I found myself eager to remain in their world. It provided an escape from everyday life. Once I started, I found it hard to put the story down. I always enjoy finding a book that's lighthearted and gripping at the same time.

This was my foray into Belfast's world. I am sad it took so long, but I'm also delighted I found her. The book is a quick read, but one that kept me entertained from start to finish.

RTR's Bottom Line


I loved Bel, Book, and Scandal. As I eagerly read every page, I tried to solve the mystery. Part of the reason for Amy's disappearance was easily figured out. The other part did surprise me.

I'm a fan of cozy mysteries and Maggie McConnon's book hit all the marks. I haven't read the other books in the series, but I didn't feel I was missing any vital details. I'll be catching up on Belfast's other adventures soon!