Tuesday, March 31, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

by Sara Gruen
Hardcover, 368 pages

World War Two, the Loch Ness Monster, spoiled socialites thrown out of their cocoon, a woman finding herself and learning about love. Not your average novel!

I love Sara Gruen's sense of adventure. She chooses the most interesting mix of times and places and juxtaposition of events, all while focusing on the characters to drive her plots.

The novel becomes a sentimental journey of a woman coming of age... a little later than some. One by one the blinders fall and Maddie finds her sense of self, her humanity, humility, and love. All while craziness storms around her.

Sensitive and heartwarming, strongly feminine. Romantic in the true, historic sense. A lovely read.

From the Back Flap:

In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a creature who may or may not be the hero of the story.

     After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year's Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis's father, a former army colonel who is already embarrassed by his son's inability to serve in WWII due to color-blindness. Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father's favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and, when he finds it, he will restore his father's name and return to his father's good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day, the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. Meanwhile, Maddie undergoes a social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and, finally, to love.


SARA GRUEN, the author of Ape House and Water for Elephants, moved to the United States from Canada in 1999 for a job as a technical writer. She was laid off in 2001 and decided to pursue a lifelong dream of writing fiction. She has published four novels, each involving animals as full-fledged characters. Gruen lives in North Carolina with her husband, three sons, and a menagerie of rescued animals. She donates a portion of her earnings from all her books to various animal charities.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Wake The Stone Man, a Novel by Carol McDougall

Wake The Stone Man
by Carol McDougall

Paperback, 256 pages

I am Canadian. And Canada is big. I have always lived in or near Toronto and, like many city/suburban Canadians, felt that I was somewhat lacking in true Canadian experience or knowledge.

Wake the Stone Man, apart from being a powerful coming of age novel with deeply affected characters in turbulent times, gave me a glimpse into Northern life. Rougher, tougher, sometimes dirtier, sometimes more pure. Different. And real.

This book is profoundly readable, even when it is uncomfortable. I drank in every word and was affected by every page. I learned about certain Canadian history - the good, the bad, the horrendous. From what seemed like a first person perspective. You live this book while you read it. And that is the best kind of book there is.

Who should read it? Every Canadian. Every woman. Every First Nations person. Everyone.


From the Back Flap:

Set in a small northern town, under the mythical shadow of the Sleeping Giant, Wake the Stone Man follows the complicated friendship of two girls coming of age in the 1960s. Molly meets Nakina, who is Ojibwe and a survivor of the residential school system, in high school, and they form a strong friendship. As the bond between them grows, Molly, who is not native, finds herself a silent witness to the racism and abuse her friend must face each day.

In this time of political awakening, Molly turns to her camera to try to make sense of the intolerance she sees in the world around her. Her photos become a way to freeze time and observe the complex human politics of her hometown. Her search for understanding uncovers some hard truths about Nakina’s past and leaves Molly with a growing sense of guilt over her own silence.

When personal tragedy tears them apart, Molly must travel a long hard road in search of forgiveness and friendship.


Carol McDougall is a writer and  advocate for early literacy.  She was born in Northern Ontario and has been active in the Nova Scotia writing community for many years.

In 2005 she was awarded the Mayor’s Award for her contribution to literature and literacy and in 2010 received the Progress Woman of Excellence Award for the Arts. In 2012 Carol received the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature for her novel Wake the Stone Man, which was inspired by her northern roots.

Carol's work includes writing for children, non-fiction, fiction, essays, book reviews and video scripts and her short fiction has been published in Room and presented on CBC radio.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking

Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking
by Nancie McDermott

Paperback, 208 pages

I absolutely love Thai food. It has dynamic flavours and presents well for guests. It is also delicious eaten cold from the fridge the next day. Not that I do that...

Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking offers 125 healthy, vegetarian Thai recipes to wow your taste buds and your friends. Over 100 of the recipes are vegan, and the others are easily adapted for vegan diets.

Most of us are vegetarian at least one day of the week now, and this book is a great way to expand your repertoire of veggie dishes. Thai food definitely favours veggies!

There is a section for suggested recipes for different occasions, and a full glossary of ingredients - plus a resource section for finding items online.

So liven up your Meatless Mondays. Give vegetarian Thai a try. And invite me - I'll bring the wine.

Contents Include:
Appetizers and Snacks
Salads
Soups
Curries
Stir-Fries and Other Main Dishes
Rice and Noodles 
Sweets and Drinks
Basic Recipes

Tome Yum Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu

This classic soup is a one-bowl celebration of Thailand’s sparkling cuisine. Spicy hot with Roasted Chile Paste and sharply fragrant with lemongrass, wild lime leaves and a squeeze of lime, tome yum sounds an inviting reveille to your senses. Entice your guests with a glance at its gorgeous flame-colored broth studded with brilliant green herbs and then treat them to a whiff of its exotic citrus perfume as you serve it up Thai style, along with other dishes and a plate of jasmine rice.

SERVES 4 TO 6

4 cups    vegetable stock, store-bought    1 L    
3    large stalks lemongrass    3
12    wild lime leaves, divided, optional    12
21⁄2 tbsp    freshly squeezed lime juice    37 mL
3    green onions, cut crosswise    3
    into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths   
1    fresh green jalapeño    1
8 oz    firm tofu, cut into 1-inch    250 g
    (2.5 cm) chunks   
1 cup    well-drained, canned whole    250 mL
    straw mushrooms or sliced
    fresh button mushrooms   
2 tbsp    chile paste, store-bought    30 mL   
2 tsp    granulated sugar    10 mL
1⁄2 tsp    soy sauce    2 mL
1⁄2 tsp    salt    2 mL

1.    In a large saucepan, bring vegetable stock to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, trim lemongrass stalks: Cut away and discard any hard, dried root portions, leaving a smooth, flat base just below the bulb. Trim away the tops, including any dried brown leaf portions (you should have handsome stalks about 6 inches/15 cm long, including the bulbous base). Using the blunt edge of a cleaver blade or heavy knife or the side of an unopened can, bruise each stalk, whacking it firmly at 2-inch (5 cm) intervals and rolling over to bruise on all sides. Cut into 2-inch (5 cm) lengths.

2.    When stock is boiling, add bruised lemongrass stalks and half of the lime leaves, if using, and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until stock is fragrant and lemongrass has faded from bright green to a dull khaki, about 5 minutes.

3.    While soup simmers, in a serving bowl large enough to accommodate the soup, combine lime juice, remaining lime leaves and green onions. Remove stem from jalapeño and cut crosswise into 1⁄4-inch (0.5 cm) thick rounds. Add 2 or more of the rounds to the serving bowl (the amount depends on your love of chile heat). Reserve any leftover chile for another use.

4.    Scoop out lemongrass from stock and discard. Increase heat to high and add tofu, mushrooms, chile paste, sugar, soy sauce and salt and stir well. When soup boils again, remove from heat and quickly pour into serving bowl. Stir to combine lime juice and herbs with the soup and serve at once.

Tip
This soup should be intensely and wonderfully sour, salty and spicy hot. If you like, check the seasoning just before serving and fine-tune it to your liking with a little more lime juice, chile paste, sugar and/or salt.


Courtesy of Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking by Nancie McDermott, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.


Mee Grop

In this spectacular dish, wiry rice noodles are deep-fried to a light, crisp tangle and tossed in a piquant chile sauce. The resulting dish is unique in its juxtaposition of textures and in its classic Thai explosions of flavor. Served at room temperature, it makes a grand centerpiece for a celebration meal. Thais prepare it in large quantities for the feasts that accompany weddings, Buddhist ordinations or welcoming a baby to the world.

SERVES 6 TO 8

•    Candy/deep-fry thermometer
•    Large long-handled Asian wire strainer
•    2 long-handled metal slotted spoons
•    Large tray or 2 baking sheets, lined with paper towels

8 oz    wire-thin dried rice noodles     250 g
    Vegetable oil
4 oz    firm tofu, cut into slender    125 g
    1-inch (2.5 cm) long rods  
1⁄4 cup    finely chopped garlic, divided    60 mL
8 oz    fresh button mushrooms,    250 g
    thinly sliced  
11⁄4 tsp salt, divided    6 mL
2 tbsp    coarsely chopped shallots    30 mL
1⁄2 cup    vegetable stock, store-bought    125 mL   
2 tbsp    distilled white vinegar    30 mL
1 tbsp    Asian bean sauce    15 mL
1⁄2 tsp    soy sauce    2 mL
1 tsp    hot pepper flakes    5 mL
1⁄2 cup    palm sugar or brown sugar    125 mL
1⁄4 cup    granulated sugar    60 mL
1⁄4 cup    tamarind liquid     60 mL
    (1/2 cup tamarind pulp, 1 cup water
    run through sieve until water is
    consistency of light whipped cream)
2 tbsp    freshly squeezed lime juice    30 mL
1    bunch fresh garlic chives    1
    or 9 green onions, cut into
    1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths  
1 cup    coarsely chopped fresh cilantro    250 mL

Garnishes
3 cups    bean sprouts    750 mL
5    heads Thai pickled garlic, cut    5
    crosswise into 1⁄4-inch (0.5 cm)
    thick rounds, or 24 cloves
    pickled garlic
1    red bell pepper, cut into long    1
    thin strips  
    Handful of cilantro leaves

1.    Gently pull noodles apart, breaking into small handfuls about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. Set aside in a heap (see Tip, left). Place prepared baking sheets near stove to hold the fried noodles. Have handy a large serving platter or large deep bowl and 2 long-handled spoons or pasta forks for tossing the puffed noodles with the sauce.

2.    Pour oil into a wok or large deep skillet to a depth of about 3 inches (7.5 cm). Place over medium heat and heat to 325° to 350°F (160° to 180°C). Drop a piece of rice noodle into pan. If it sinks and then floats and puffs immediately, the oil is ready.

3.    Drop a small handful of noodles into oil. Turn once and remove as soon as they swell and turn a very faint golden brown. This takes only seconds. Using the wire strainer, scoop out puffed noodles, holding them over the pan briefly to drain. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all noodles are cooked.

4.    In same hot oil, cook tofu, in small batches, turning to cook evenly, until crispy and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove as quickly as you did the noodles, draining briefly. Then transfer to prepared baking sheet and let cool.

5.    In a medium skillet, heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable over medium heat until a bit of garlic added to the pan sizzles at once. Add half of the garlic and toss until fragrant and shiny, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, for 1 minute. Add 1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) of the salt, toss well, and then cook, tossing often, until mushrooms are softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate and set aside.

6.    Add 2 tbsp (30 mL) more oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until a bit of garlic added to the pan sizzles at once. Add remaining garlic and shallots and cook, tossing often, until shiny and tender, about 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 tsp (5 mL) of salt, vegetable stock, vinegar, bean sauce, soy sauce, pepper flakes, palm and granulated sugars and tamarind and bring to a gentle boil. Stir to dissolve the sugars, mixing well. Reduce heat to medium and cook gently until sauce is a thin, shiny syrup, 5 to 7 minutes.

7.    Add lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning for a pleasing balance of sweet, salty and sour flavors.

8.    Transfer sauce to a large bowl, add noodles and mushrooms and toss gently, thoroughly, and patiently to coax apart the clumps, distributing sauce and coating noodles evenly. Add garlic chives or green onion and cilantro and toss again to mix well.

9.    Mound noodles on the serving platter. Arrange bean sprouts attractively on the plate. Garnish with pickled garlic, red pepper strips and cilantro leaves. Serve at room temperature.

Tip
You can purchase Thai pickled garlic in Asian markets. What you buy will be petite whole heads, with papery sheaths still in place, packed in their brine. These should be drained and then sliced crosswise into 1⁄4-inch (0.5 cm) thick rounds that display a pleasing mosaic of round cloves clustered into a large circle. These delicate slices are placed decoratively on the mountain of noodles just before serving.

Courtesy of Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking by Nancie McDermott, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Good Food, Good Life: 130 Simple Recipes You'll Love to Make and Eat by Curtis Stone

Good Food, Good Life
130 Simple Recipes You'll Love to Make and Eat
by Curtis Stone
Hardcover, 304 pages

This book is sunshine. You automatically feel better just by opening it. I was wondering, after seeing quite a few quick and easy and healthy cookbooks - if Curtis Stone would be able to wow me. He did.

Food is love? No. Good food is love. And shows love. And shares love.

Curtis invites us to his home and shows us his philosophy of showing and sharing love with the simple act of feeding ourselves and our families. Bringing the young ones into the process right from the beginning. And the beginning isn't the stove or the chopping board, it is the garden. Even if you only have room for a few herb pots on the balcony.

Incredibly good looking dishes. Incredibly good looking family. Incredibly inviting lifestyle. And also incredibly do-able.

Makes you want to play in the dirt, plant something and watch it grown. Select the freshest seasonal produce and make one or all of his inventive yet fairly simple recipes.

Go for it.

Chapters include:
Light Meals
Dinners
Sides
Sweets
In the Morning
Snacks
Drinks

From the Back Flap:

Popular food and television personality Curtis Stone brings ease to the kitchen by elevating everyday meals to an experience that can be enjoyed as much for the process as for the beautiful end result.

     Curtis Stone shares 120 recipes for quick, modern versions of classic dishes that will appeal to the whole family. Effortlessly, he delivers solutions to people who want to eat healthy, interesting meals that don't take all day to cook. This book shows that fast recipes don't have to feel hurried or rushed, and encourages people to take pleasure in the process of cooking at home. Recipes include Butternut Squash with Sage Brown Butter, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Alabama BBQ Sauce and Asparagus, Potato-Zucchini Enchiladas with Habanero Salsa. Curtis Stone's natural style in the kitchen inspires readers to connect with the textures, sounds, smells, and tastes that make up the culinary journey.

Curtis Stone is the host of TLC’s top-rated Take Home Chef. He trained under famous chef Marco Pierre White in London, working as head chef at three of his restaurants. He regularly appears on the Today show and was voted one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, he lives in Los Angeles.

For more information, visit www.curtisstone.com