Cookbooks: March – April 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, as we have moved from winter into spring, I tried these new, comforting, one-pot recipes:

Four Seasons Minestrone (Winter)
Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver
Soups – Page 212

A recipe that makes use of beautiful seasonal vegetables and guarantees you will get your 5-a-day portions in just one serving of this! On top of the basic soup base, there are the wintry additions of beetroot, cavolo nero and kale, also this time I added the optional rashers of bacon. This was a delicious wintry take on this classic Italian soup and I look forward to trying the final summer twist. Great recipe.

(Actually cooked in February, but forgot to post about it!)

Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce
The Hairy Dieters (1) by Si King & Dave Myers
Pasta & Rice – Page 160

Having mastered a good Bolognese, I thought I would have a go at making my own meatballs. This recipe has been slimmed down by using pork mince and adding onion and carrot to the mixture. Once the balls are formed they are gently cooked in a simple tomato sauce. Only problem was my meatballs barely held together – I am blaming the carrot. However they tasted just fine even if they looked ‘rustic’ to say the least! Good recipe.

Sausage Casserole
The Hairy Dieters (6) Make It Easy by Si King & Dave Myers
One-Pot Wonders – Page 114

I whole heartedly agree with King & Myers when they say ‘everyone loves sausages and beans’, and this recipe sees them cooked in one big pot with lots of good veg (onion, celery, carrot and garlic) to make a hearty and comforting dish. Once the ingredients are all in the pot, put the lid on and let it gently simmer away – Easy, peasy. I served it with some fresh, steamed greens for a delicious, healthy family meal. Great recipe.

Hotdog Hotpot
The Hairy Dieters (6) Make It Easy by Si King & Dave Myers
One-Pot Wonders – Page 117

We love Frankfurter hotdogs and we always have a jar or two in the house, so this recipe looked like it would be the perfect, healthier way for us to enjoy them. It joins our favourite frankfurters with onion, potatoes, apple, sage and savoy cabbage to cook together in chicken stock. Another simple recipe, which once all the ingredients were in the pot, I could leave to simmer gently on the hob. However we seemed to lose a lot of liquid – I will try it again in a pot with a heavier lid. Good recipe.

So altogether that was four new recipes tried over the last month or so. Over that time, I also remade new favourites: Trish Sebben-Krupka’s Meaty Mushroom Stew (Plant Based Cookbook) and The Hairy Dieters’ Lean Lamb Hotpot (Book 1), and I have served my family’s firm favourite: Minty Cabbage several times.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

What cookbooks are you reading? Have you tried any new recipes?


New Read: The Death of Western Christianity

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. In February, we met to discuss The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl. Next up was non-fiction The Death of Western Christianity by Patrick Sookdheo, which the group met to discuss at the beginning of the month. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend as I was away on a school residential trip.

As the title suggests, The Death of Western Christianity is quite a stark look into how the Church in the West has gone from being the backbone of Western society, morals and laws, and being a vast missionary movement that once went out across the world, to now being in a state of terminal decline. Ironically abroad, where once Western missionaries worked, there is still a living, thriving Christian faith, but other than pockets overall the fire of Western faith is sadly growing dim. Not only that but in Western society, Christianity is increasingly despised, marginalised and coming under attack.

Fortunately, for me, I am in a warm, welcoming, multi-aged church that is growing. However in my wider community, I am in the minority with my faith and I have witnessed the deploring lack of knowledge of Christianity, with a depressingly, growing number of children that do not even know that Christmas and Easter are Christian festivals. And while I know that the church is increasingly being ignored, marginalised and mocked, thankfully my friends and myself have never been targeted or persecuted for our faith. Unlike some of the terribly sad cases that Sookhdeo shares from across Europe and the USA.

Matter-of-factly and succinctly Sookhdeo surveys in-depth the current state of Christianity in the West, looking in particular at how Western culture has influenced and weakened the Church, with the growth in materialism, different faiths and worldviews, and a change in morality. He also discusses the loss of Christian identity, which he sees as the heart of the problem. You may be thinking this sounds a depressing read and in many respects it is. On the other hand, Sookhdeo does advise and offer means to how Christians should go forward. And if the Church in the West could start to fix itself, then maybe it could be a force for good in society again in the future.

Overall The Death of Western Christianity is not the sort of book you enjoy reading, instead I think for a practising Christian in the West it is an important book to read. Sadly I wasn’t able to attend the meeting of my church’s book club to discuss this. Nevertheless this was a very relevant read for me, as my church is currently undertaking a year of exploration into what our vision should be for the next five years – There are nuggets of advice from this that will be of value for me with this in mind. Our club’s next read is Love Wins by Rob Bell. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any other books on the decline of Christianity?

The Classics Club: Spin #20

It’s time for The Classic Club’s 20th Spin! To join in simply list any 20 books that remain on your Classics Club list before Monday, 22nd April. On that day, the club will announce the winning number and then all you have to do is read the corresponding book by Friday, 31st May 2019. Here is my list:

  1. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon by Jane Austen
  3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [re-read]
  4. Persuasion by Jane Austen [re-read]
  5. The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank L Baum
  6. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  7. The Professor by Charlotte Brontë
  8. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  9. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  10. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  11. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
  12. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  13. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy [re-read]
  14. The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
  15. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. The Black Corsair by Emilio Salgari
  17. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  18. Heidi by Johann Spyri
  19. The Time Machine by H G Wells
  20. War of the Worlds by H G Wells

I have changed my list dramatically from the last spin, where I wanted to take advantage of the longer time period to tackle one of the more imposing tomes, however I made a slow start to my new list last year. So now I have replaced the tomes with all the children’s classics and other shorter classics on my list to make my life and reading a little easier.

Are you taking part in the Spin too? What book do you think would be good for me to get?

Adaptations: March 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here is what I watched in March:

Endeavour (Series 6)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

This year saw ITV air the sixth series of this well-loved crime drama, based on Colin Dexter’s characters and prequel to the Inspector Morse series. It is 1969 and with the closure of Cowley police station, Endeavour Morse and his colleagues find themselves spread across the county. Somehow though, they must try to work together to finally find justice for the murdered DC George Fancy and face the corruption that is beginning to emerge within the larger force. Another gloriously atmospheric and nostalgic series. Great watch.

Shetland (Series 5)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

At the same time, the BBC aired the fifth series of this atmospheric crime drama, based on Ann Cleeve’s characters. When human body parts begin washing up along the coast, Jimmy Perez and his team are drawn into another gripping, dark and twisting case, which sees them searching for a kidnapped young African woman and uncovering a ring of ruthless people traffickers. All of which is, of course, set against the beautiful, rugged, isolated backdrop of Shetland. Great watch.

That’s two new-to-me adaptations watched and with no re-watches, my grand total is just two adaptations for the whole month, but what great ones they were!

As for non-adaptations, I watched HBO’s long-anticipated third series of its gritty anthology crime drama True Detective (2019), which stars the brilliant partnership of Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff as detectives investigating a macabre crime involving two missing children. I also finished watching the BBC’s new, spin-off drama Baptiste (2019), which follows former French detective Julian Baptiste – from The Missing (2014 & 2016) – as his old boss persuades him to help in the search for a missing sex worker in Amsterdam.

So all in all it was a very crime packed time for me!

Have you watched any of these? What have you been watching recently?

Goodbye March, Hello April 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? March has been a super busy month for me with Shrove Tuesday, my dad’s birthday and Mothering Sunday to celebrate; a school trip to Water World; and a special evening of music and talks about dealing with anxiety and depression at my church. Even with all that going on, I have been able to set time aside to read and here is what I read:

Fiction: 3          Non-Fiction: 1

First I read Lives of Notorious Cooks by Brendan Connell, a 2012 fictionalised collection of surreal, succinct biographies of famous and legendary cooks. Not the type of book I would usually go for, however it made a nice change and it was the lighter, shorter read I was looking for. In parallel I was reading the lovely, easy-going children’s classic, Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, the 1869 sequel to the utterly charming Little Women. After a heavy first year (2018) into my new Classics Club list this was just what I needed.

Finally, I rounded off my lighter March reading fare with a fun re-read of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the last book in Collins’ bestselling, young adult trilogy: The Hunger Games. Still not my favourite instalment in the brilliant series, but I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. It has also been great refreshing my memory of the extra details of the books, after having enjoyed the highly successful film franchise.

Alongside these fictions, I also read Christian non-fiction The Death of Western Christianity by Patrick Sookdheo, a fascinating – if a little depressing – look into not only the decline of Christianity but also the growing opposition from an increasingly secular Western society. Sadly I won’t be able to attend my church’s book club meeting to discuss this, as I will be away for the night on a school residential trip.

Pick of the Month: Mockingjay

Altogether that is a perfectly respectable four books read, which is even more impressive considering how much I have been up to. During the month, I also read a little more of Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley and I started reading historical fiction The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson and the turn-of-the-century classic Howards End by E. M. Forster.

Looking forward to April, I have the school residential trip (as mentioned above) to go on and I very much look forward to the Easter break, which should hopefully afford a good rest, some wonderful celebration and plenty of time for reading.

What did you do and read in March? What are your plans for April?

New Read: Little Men

After quite a heavy first year (2018) into my new Classics Club list, with some long and/or difficult classics tackled, I thought I needed to go easier on myself this year by reading some more of the children’s classics I have on my list. And, first up, I decided to read Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, the 1869 sequel to Alcott’s utterly charming Little Women.

Set several, unspecified years after the original, Little Men begins with the arrival of ‘Nat’ Blake – an orphaned street musician discovered by Mr Laurence in a cellar – to Jo and her husband’s school, which they have set up at Plumfield after inheriting the estate off Jo’s Aunt March. As one would imagine of Jo, it is an unconventional school, where children have their own gardens and pets; are encouraged to start their own businesses and follow their passions; and pillow fights are permitted on Saturdays, subject to a time limit, of course.

Through Nat’s eyes we are introduced to the other boys at the school, which includes: Jo’s sweet, innocent nephew ‘Demi’ Brooke; the well-meaning but troublesome ‘Tommy’ Bangs; the over-indulged ‘Stuffy’ Cole; the mentally challenged Billy Ward; and Mr Bhaer’s strapping nephews, Emil and Franz Hoffman. Later they are joined by ‘Nan’ Harding, a wild tomboy, brought in as a companion for Demi’s twin sister Daisy and Nat’s troubled, free-spirited friend ‘Dan’ Kean, who struggles to settle in.

Each and every one of them is welcomed to Plumfield with warmth and affection, and is treated as an individual. However boys (and girls) have a habit of getting into scrapes, and so what follows is a charming series of troubles and adventures that the children get themselves into. I particularly enjoyed their berry picking trip, which ends with two children missing into the night; Daisy and Nan’s rather disastrous dinner party; the creation of their own natural history museum; and Dan’s terrible struggles and redemption. There is also the surprising and poignant death of a beloved character from Little Women.

If you weren’t a fan of the slow, steady pace or the moralistic tone of Little Women, then you won’t be a big fan of this either, as they are just replicated here. However if you loved the original and in particular loved the wilful tomboy Jo March in it, then you may still not love this because Jo has now grown-up into a sensible, caring mother of two small boys. There is no remnant of her former self really, except for the almost imperceptible twinkle in her eye when she deals with young Nan’s antics. This wasn’t really an issue for me though, as Jo wasn’t my favourite March sister, especially after she broke lovely Laurie’s heart.

So overall, I thought Little Men was a lovely, easy-going read, with a delightful collection of characters and adventures. Its only downfall – which is probably why it is unfairly overlooked – is that, well, it’s just not Little Women! I look forward to reading its sequel Jo’s Boys in the near future. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read Little Women or Jo’s Boys?

This is book 7/50 for my Classics Club II reading challenge.

New Books: February & March 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, here are the new books I have got my hands on over the last two months:

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien

First in February, I spotted on my Amazon wish list, that the time slip romance A Desperate Fortune by, one of my favourite authors, Susanna Kearsley was down to just 99p. So I treated myself to a copy using part of the remaining balance of my gift card from Christmas. Having not long enjoyed Kearsley’s Bellewether, I look forward to reading more by her this year.

Also in February,  I was very lucky to receive, via Netgalley, a review copy of Anne O’Brien’s newest historical fiction, A Tapestry of Treason, which is about Constance of York, Lady Despenser. I have enjoyed many of O’Brien’s novels, the most recent of which was The Shadow Queen. Now I have Queen of the North and this to look forward to reading.

Council by Snorri Kristjansson

The Dragon’s Blade: The Last Guardian by Michael R. Miller

Then at the start of March, I was very lucky again, receiving, via Netgalley, a review copy of Snorri Kristjansson’s second Helga Finnsdottir book, Council. I loved the first book Kin, so I am excited to find out what happens to Helga next. In addition, the author Michael R. Miller was kind enough to send me a review copy of the final book in his Dragon’s Blade trilogy, The Last Guardian, after I enjoyed the previous two books, The Reborn King and Veiled Intentions. Can’t wait to find out how it all ends.

Love Wins by Rob Bell

Into The Blue by Robert Goddard

Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Finally, near the end of the month, I picked up three more books from Amazon using part of the remaining balance of my gift card from Christmas. First Rob Bell’s controversial Christian non-fiction, Love Wins, which is an upcoming read for my church’s book club. Second Robert Goddard’s thriller Into The Blue, which came highly recommended by a member of my book club and was down to just 99p. Last but not least, I spotted on my wish list, that Rachel Held Evans’ highly recommended Christian non-fiction, Searching for Sunday was also reduced to just 99p. Such great bargains, I still have money leftover on my gift card.

Do you fancy any of these? What new books have you got recently?