Cookbooks: March – April 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, I must apologise that I didn’t bring you an update last month. I’m afraid there wasn’t really anything to update you on! Don’t get me wrong, plenty of cooking was happening but nothing new. Instead I enjoyed some old favourites and had another go at some new favourites, including: Rich Beef and Ale Casserole, Rich and Meaty Bolognaise and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (I used a jar of roasted peppers to speed things up).

Things changed this month, when I found myself craving something new for lunch, so I gave these two recipes by the Hairy Bikers a go:

Split Pea Soup with Ham
Hairy Dieters 2 – Meals on the Move – Page 133

A super-healthy reworking of a classic soup which I found to be tasty, but I expected something thicker and heartier. For some reason it turned out really thin, even though the recipe said it would be too thick and to add extra water after blending! Perhaps I did something wrong?!

*

Vegetable Frittata
Hairy Dieters 3 – Breakfast & Brunch – Page 20

While I have enjoyed eating frittatas (basically a hearty omelette) before, this was my first time cooking one for myself. I loved how versatile this recipe is on the vegetables you can use. I threw in what I had to hand: onions, peppers and tomatoes. However, as a frittata virgin, I would have preferred clearer timings. Fortunately, even with the slightly over done base this was yummy. So with a bit more practice this could be a great meal; perfect for a weekend lunch or a lighter dinner.

**


Then on Easter Sunday I had family and friends round for a large celebration with a roast leg of lamb, new potatoes, cauliflower cheese and vegetables, followed by desert and hot cross buns. However one of my guests is a vegetarian, therefore I dug out my copy of Everyday: Granny’s Favourite cookbook for this recipe:

Mixed Nut Roast
Granny’s Favourites – Festive Fare – Page 110

I’ve never eaten let alone made a nut roast before so I was a little nervous about making this. I took my time and carefully followed all the steps and it turned out a masterpiece; if I do say so myself! I would prefer meat (obviously) but this was a tasty alternative and my friend really enjoyed it.

**


Finally, just last night, I got two portions of Turkey Chilli out of the freezer and this time made the cauliflower rice to go with it:

Turkey Chilli with Cauliflower ‘Rice’
Hairy Dieters 3 – Family Favourites – Page 48

A twist on a classic chilli using turkey mince and chipotle paste, which is simple to make and makes for a delicious change. The accompany cauliflower rice was also easy to make, but while I enjoyed it my dad said “it was an acquired taste”!

Chilli *** – ‘Rice’ **


A slightly mixed result with some of these recipes – generally though I am pleased with the cooking I’ve done over the last two months. I have also now finished reading Jamie’s 30-minute Meals By Jamie Oliver. Sadly I am not as excited about this as I was about Save with Jamie. I think this is because instead of one big hearty dish, 30-minute Meals is more about a collection of dishes to go together. However I have bookmarked a fair few pasta and vegetable sides, and quick deserts I would like to try. Keep your eyes peeled for those coming up. Now I have just Plant Based Cookbook by Trish Sebben-Krupka to read.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Turn-Offs

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book

This is another topic that is new for me, but was original done back in 2013 before I started joining in. Last week, you found out my book turn-ons. Now here are my top ten book turn-offs, those things that really put me off reading something (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

Blood and Gore

I understand with my love of crime, mystery and historical fiction now and again there will be blood shed, however I really don’t like an excessive description of all the blood and gore.

~ 2 ~

Depressing Drama

Death, divorce, abuse and lost children, sort-of-drama is really not my bag – life is full of this while I generally want to escape all that in my reading.

~ 3 ~

Explicit Sex Scenes

I get it people have sex and sometimes it is appropriate to the story, but I really don’t need to be told about it in explicit, blow-by-blow detail.

~ 4 ~

Horror

Okay being honest, I am simply one big wimp! So on the whole I don’t tend to read horror unless it is diluted by another genre, i.e. gothic horror or fantasy horror.

~ 5 ~

Love Triangles

Yes, there are some very good love triangles in literature, however recently I think it has been wildly over-used particularly in young adult fiction. Let’s be realistic every teenage girl does not have two guys chasing after her.

~ 6 ~

Modern Literary Fiction

In its very definition literary fiction involves social commentary, political criticism or focus on the human condition. All well and good for me if it as an element of a book but not as its sole purpose. Again the real world is full of this and I read to escape all that.

~ 7 ~

Over-Hype

If I am bombarded with advertisements, endorsements, reviews and people telling me I must read a book, I can really be put off a book. This could be because I become annoyed or fear that the book could never live up to the high expectations.

~ 8 ~

Romance

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romantic thread to a book, but I avoid books that have romance as the sole and only thread.

~ 9 ~

Technical Science-Fiction

I love science-fiction and there is nothing wrong with technical detail except that it usually goes straight over my head!

~ 10 ~

Truly Unlikable Characters

Characters don’t have to be good and perfect, however I do need to connect or find something likable about them. Otherwise I struggle to invest my time in them or their story.

What puts you off reading a book? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Books: April 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I have to confess to something of a splurge this month adding all these goodies to my Kindle and bookshelf:

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham

Assassination at Bayou Sauvage by D.J. Donaldson

Being a fan of Chris Packham and after hearing such wonderful things about his memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, I was thrilled my request was approved on Netgalley. Also through Netgalley, I was pleased to receive a copy of Assassination at Bayou Sauvage, from Donaldson’s Broussard & Franklyn crime series, after I loved Blood on the Bayou.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

The Crystal Cave

The Hollow Hills

The Last Enchantment

by Mary Stewart

The real splurge happened on Amazon.co.uk, when I discovered that all of Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy, which were on my wish list, and Cornick’s dual time period novel were all at a discounted price for Kindle. I still have credit on a voucher I got for my birthday which meant I just had to get them all!

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Cold Fire by Dean Koontz

Then recently I had a good mooch in The Works and found these in the 3 for £5 deal. The Rose Garden is my favourite of Kearsley’s wonderful novels, good to have a physical copy now, and The Murder of Mary Russell is one of the newer instalments in the Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series, which I must get back to reading. While I picked up Cold Fire with my dad in mind, but I will probably read it myself too after enjoying Koontz’s Innocence.

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

New Read: Indiana Belle

Back in 2014, I read nostalgic romance The Mine from John A. Heldt’s Northwest Passage series. Being at the end of a long, tiring term, I was in the mood for another cosy, easy read, so I picked up Heldt’s Indiana Belle; a novel from his American Journey series.

In this book we meet a doctoral student Cameron Coelho, from Rhode Island, just as he opens a life-changing package from Indiana. Within he finds more than the private papers of society editor Candice Bell, that he hoped would help him with his dissertation on the roaring twenties, but he also finds enclosed a photograph of the beautiful Candice and clues to a century-old mystery. With the help of Geoffrey Bell, the “time-travel professor,” Cameron steps back to 1925 to the age of Prohibition, flappers, and jazz in search of love and answers.

Unlike Joel from The Mine, Cameron is an instantly likeable character as he is a kind, honest and down-to-earth chap (although he perhaps chuckles a little too much). However he is also a lonely soul. He has a few friends but no close family, after being orphaned very young and the recent deaths of his grandparents who raised him. This leaves him free of responsibility and ties to travel back in time on a mission of importance for Professor Bell, as well as a taking chance to meet the bewitching figure in the photograph. So charmed is Cameron with Candice that he desperately grapples with his conscience on whether to right a terrible wrong, when it could have dire implications for the future.

Back in 1925, Cameron travels to the rural town of Evansville, Indiana. Candice’s hometown where she is the well-known editor of the society column in the Evansville Post; she has ambitions for the crime desk though. I thought Heldt brought alive the time (one of my favourite periods) and place well – I liked the addition of the cloche hats and beaded dresses; the local drugstore selling ‘special elixirs’ and just over the river a thriving ‘speakeasy’. Under the friendly veneer though there is some tension brewing with Klan marches and an impending murder. I found myself very easily lost in it all.

Overall, I thought Indiana Belle was a highly readable, nostalgic mystery, that has nice touches of time travel and romance. In fact, I think it had all the elements I enjoyed about The Mine and none of the niggles. I look forward to reading more of Heldt’s novels. Good read.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Any recommendations of other books set in the 1920s?

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Turn-Ons

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

This topic was originally done back in 2013 way before I started taking part, so it is brand new for me. Here are my top ten turn-ons when it comes to books and my reading (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

Cosy-Crime

While now and again I do enjoy a gripping, psychological thriller on the whole in my reading I prefer a steady, cosy murder mystery. Something easy on the brain.

~ 2 ~

Dragons

From the cruel, cunning Smaug from The Hobbit to the noble, serene Saphira from Eragon…who doesn’t love a dragon?!

~ 3 ~

Fairy Tales

Since childhood I have loved fairy tales, now as an adult I love novels that are inspired by or put a twist on these classic fairy tales too.

~ 4 ~

Gothic

Some of my all-time favourite books come under the sub-genre of gothic, including: Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

~ 5 ~

Historical Setting

I absolutely love escaping in my reading to a time gone by. Whether that’s to a romantic, nostalgic time period or to a bloody, turbulent one, which you will be very pleased you weren’t born into!

~ 6 ~

Magical Creatures

I know I mentioned dragons already, but really any magical creature peeks my interest, including: fairies, elves, unicorns, goblins, centaurs, fauns, daemons, giants…and many more.
(Yes, I absolutely adored the Fantastic Beasts film!)

~ 7 ~

Mystery

As discussed before I love cosy-crime, I also love a sweeping mystery…preferably containing family secrets, history and a large, country house.

~ 8 ~

Strong Females

I love a strong female protagonist. From the witty Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, to the kick-ass Katniss Everdene from The Hunger Games. Go girl power!

~ 9 ~

Talking Animals

It could be a book, film, TV show or even an advert…but if it has a talking animal in it you’ve got me! C S Lewis’ Narnia feeds this love of mine the best.

~ 10 ~

Time Travel/Time-Slip

Susanna Kearsley, one of my favourite authors, is pretty much the queen of time-slip novels. Not only do we get to view a time gone by, but we get to vicariously experience it through a modern-day, relatable character.

What makes you want to instantly read a book? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

Come back next week, for my book turn-offs!

New Read: Celebration of Discipline

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. After an interesting discussion of The Shack by William Paul Young in our February meeting, club members were asked to read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster next.

Our vicar chose Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (first published in 1980) because it is now well established as a contemporary spiritual classic, that has helped well over a million people discover a richer spiritual life infused with joy, peace and a deeper understanding of God. By exploring the ‘classic disciplines’ of Christian faith: the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting and study; the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission and service; and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance and celebration.

Now if that seems like a lot to cover – in a book under 300 pages – then you would be right! This book is absolutely jammed packed with detailed, thoughtful and inspired discussion on what Richard Foster believes to be the basic practices for a Christian to exercise to enhance their faith and lives. Through longer chapters broken down into sub-sections for each area of discipline, Foster shares eloquently all about these practices and his experience of them, however I found it was all a little too much for me to take in, in one reading. Fortuitously our book club meeting had to be cancelled so I was able to take longer over reading this.

After finishing this, I can already see myself re-reading it and for many years to come dipping in and out of it for inspiration. I can understand how it is already being described as a classic, as it is full of universal, timeless advice for a practicing Christian. While I would currently rate this as a good read this could definitely change the more I read and the more I learn from it. As well as re-reads to look forward to, there are also many other books I could read too. As Foster is a prolific writer of theology and devotional guides, although he is primarily from a Quaker tradition his writings have appealed to a broad Christian audience. If we don’t read more of his books for my church book group I am tempted to read more for myself.

Overall, I found Celebration of Discipline to be a useful and inspirational read (I look forward to my second reading of it). I have not started a new book yet, as the book club is currently on a break for Easter. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of Richard Foster’s other books?

New Read: John F Kennedy

Earlier this year, I finally got back into Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series, when I read Richard Nixon for the What’s in a Name 2017 challenge. So I thought I would keep the US president theme going by picking up the John F Kennedy instalment next.

Before reading this, I knew J F Kennedy as the young, handsome president with his glamorous wife, who brought a wave of hope and change with them. Sadly he is also remembered for the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’, the subsequent and disastrous ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion, and his tragic assassination on the 22nd November 1963 (I always find it poignant that on the same day, C S Lewis passed away quietly at home in Oxford). With this in mind, this brief history is probably the one I have learnt the least from. However there were details about how Kennedy organised his new administration, his military service and the ill-health that plagued his younger life, which were all new and interesting to me.

In hindsight, I think I am very lucky to have managed to collect so many of these short histories, as I doubt I would have ever read about Kennedy or any other US president for that matter otherwise. Which would be a shame because it is a place and history I know very little about. This was another clear and concise history (although I spotted a few grammatical/editing mistakes in this one) that is broken down into bite-size chapters on: his early life, military service, political career, winning the presidency, his domestic and foreign policy, and finally his assassination and it’s aftermath. I warn you now though if you already know something of Kennedy or American history I doubt you will learn anything from this. I recommend to those, like me, who know little to nothing.

Overall, John F Kennedy: A Very Brief History was another quick and mostly interesting read. I have nine more editions from this series still to go – it seems appropriate to read The Cuban Missile Crisis instalment next. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or anything else about J F Kennedy?