Sunday, May 28, 2017

Creamy Carrot Soup with Dill and Mustard for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

So Memorial Day Weekend, especially when it is warm, hazy and pretty humid, may not seem like the time for carrot soup, but I always say that like Hawaii, soup has no real season and since this one is full of local carrots and dill, I think it works. (Especially when enjoyed in air-conditioning!) ;-)

Carrot soups can be boring, but the dill and a shot of Dijon mustard work well in this simple soup from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and give it great flavor. It's from Hugh's River Cottage site and uses a dollop of crème fraîche on top. I used a bit of non-dairy yogurt for a vegan soup but found a handful of 'Sweet & Beets' veggie chips also make a great topping for a creamy, pureed soup.

River Cottage says, "Carrot and coriander soup is a ubiquitous dish with good reason, as it s very tasty. You certainly could use coriander here. However, the clean freshness of dill is lovely with the sweetness of carrots."

Carrot Soup with Dill and Mustard
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 celery stick, sliced
500g (about 1 lb) carrots, peeled and sliced
800ml (about 4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock, or water, or a mixture
15-20g bunch of dill (about 1/2 to 3/4-ish cup)
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
2 heaped tbsp crème fraîche, optional 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and carrots. Once they start to sizzle, reduce the heat, cover the pan and sweat the veg, stirring once or twice, for 10 minutes. Add the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 12–15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.

Meanwhile, cut the top quarter off the bunch of dill and set aside for serving. Discard the stalks from the remaining dill, then roughly chop the frondy leaves. Add the chopped dill to the soup and simmer for another 2 minutes only. Add the mustard, then purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pan and season well with salt and pepper.

Reheat if necessary. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, topped with the crème fraîche (or yogurt--non-dairy or otherwise). Finish with the remaining dill and a good grinding of pepper. (And/or a handful of veggie chips!)

Notes/Results: I am not sure why I was craving carrot soup this weekend. Maybe it was the bright orange of a clump of locally-grown carrots, but this one really hit the spot. The dill and mustard give it an extra dimension of flavor that pairs well with the sweetness of the carrots and keeps it from being a one-note soup. Since there are not a lot of ingredients, I recommend a good veggie or non-chicken stock base instead of water. I would happily make this again.

I'm linking this soup up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Escape to River Cottage--recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage books or website. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

We have a few delicious dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look!

Debra of Eliot's Eats shared a salad bowl made from her Two Sheet Pan-Roasted Trifecta Vegetables and said, "Trying to get enough veggies into your diet?  Here’s a simple and easy and quick way that will keep you in healthy colorful vegetables all week.The colors of this recipe prompted the title “trifecta.”  Not only is it a beautiful dish, it’s also a win-win! ... You can toss these veggies with brown rice or quinoa and add a bit of tahini dressing for a delicious meal."

Claudia of Honey From Rock made Hugh's Warm Leek and White Bean Salad and said, "This recipe for warm leek and white bean salad with mustard dressing was delicious and a perfect first course along with some fresh baked bread. ... It looked like iceberg lettuce in the book photo, though he didn't specify, so I went looking for some organic iceberg, which is not all that easy, due to it's being out of favor at the moment.  I also added a bit of color in the form of small sweet red pepper and cherry tomato. The mustard dressing was great. A perfectly delicious combination of flavors."

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog offered up her 7 Best Memorial Day Salads for BBQs and said, "Memorial Day and BBQ's seem to go hand in hand. I've rounded up eight of my best salad suggestions for the occasion that will work for your vegetarian, vegan , and gluten free friends. Whether you are the host or the guest, you may be making a salad to serve or to bring. I love all of these whole food salads. They are easy to make, beautiful to serve, tasty and nutritious."

Mahalo to everyone who joined in this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a great Memorial Day weekend and a happy, healthy week!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Miracle Max's Wonder Pills: Dark Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Energy Bites for Food 'n Flix May: The Princess Bride

It's Food 'n Flix time again and I had the pleasure of hosting this month's film, one of my all-time favorite movies, The Princess Bride. You can see my announcement post here--it has a brief summary of the movie in case for some reason you have never seen it. Although admittedly not the foodiest of films, there is plenty of inspiration to be found in this fun, classic film that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. (Doesn't that make you feel old!?!) My Food 'n Flix fellow participants have been sending in their delicious dishes and as usual, I am impressed with their creativity and can't wait to post the roundup next week. 

For me, the film inspired some simple, healthy and miraculous Miracle Max's Wonder Pills: Dark Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Energy Bites.

I adore and have seen The Princess Bride about a bazillion times, but this time I got to watch it with my foodie hat on and here is what I saw: Cheetos behind the bed of the grandson and his lunch of a sandwich and juice, bread and tomatoes on the table in Buttercup's house, "anybody want a peanut?"--Fezzik, eels in the waters, a picnic of cheese, apples, bread, and wine set up for the battle of wits between Vizzini and the man in black (not Johnny Cash!), mention of Vizzini's Sicilian heritage, wine and what looked like some kind of sandwich or bread in The Pit of Despair, the stew Fezzik feeds Inigo, that nice MLT (mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich) "where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomatoes are ripe... They're so perky, I love that," and the tables of food for the wedding feast.

If I ate meat I might have attempted a mutton sandwich especially after seeing canned mutton on the shelves of my Indian grocery store. (OK, not really! Eww!

I actually had my dish in my head from the beginning, mainly due to my love for Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) and his wife Valerie (Carol Kane) {I'm not a witch. I'm your wife!"} and from a pamphlet in my Buttercup Edition of the DVD entitled "Fezzik's Guide to Florin." There was an ad for Miracle Max's 'Wonder Pill' that proclaims "Death is no excuse!" I knew I wanted to make an energy ball with healthy ingredients and coated in dark chocolate because, "the chocolate coating makes it go down easier."

The ad says, "Those who are mostly dead for more than a few hours should consult a physician before using and you should not swim until an hour after taking. You should not take Miracle Max's Wonder Pill if you are pregnant, nursing, or totally dead. If you have recently lost a bet , were bluffing, or are not immune to iocaine powder, you may or may not want to take the pill. Side effects include itchy or dry eyes, paranoia, finger twitches, head jiggles, and cough. Effect similar to sugar pill. Not a low calorie food due to chocolate coating."

Since Miracle Max's pill was made to bring Wesley back to life, energy balls or bites seemed like a great representation. At any given time you can find some sort of healthy energy bite or bar in my fridge, ready for a quick snack. I love making them at home as you can easily control your ingredients to make them just how you like. I have a stock of seeds, dried fruit, nut butters, and other 'goodies' to add, so it was just a point of mixing them together to create my own wonder pill.

In honor of Fezzik and his peanut rhyme, I used natural peanut butter for my base, along with dates for quick energy and sweetness, and a bevy of seeds high in Omega 3s and protein (chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, and black sesame seeds), plus a dash of cinnamon, salt and cacao nibs. I added puffed millet for a crispy bite and of course I had to coat them in dark chocolate--although I think they go down just fine and are more portable without the chocolate. I sprinkled the tops of some of them with a little flaky sea salt because I like a good sweet and salty combination.   

Miracle Max's Wonder Pills: Dark Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Energy Bites
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes About 28-30 Small Energy Bites)

8 medjool dates (or other dates-if very dry, soak in warm water for 15 min & drain well), pitted and chopped
about 1/2 cup natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice
1 Tbsp each: chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds, sesame seeds 
1/2 Tbsp cacao nibs
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
large pinch sea salt
1/3 cup puffed millet or brown rice cereal or other crispy cereal
honey or maple syrup, optional if you want it sweeter
about 4 oz dark chocolate chopped or 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 Tbsp coconut oil 
flaky sea salt to garnish, optional

In a food processor, pulse the dates and peanut butter together until they combined and start to form a ball. Add the chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds, sesame seeds, cacao nibs, cinnamon and sea salt and pulse a few more times to combine.

Remove mixture from food processor and place in mixing bowl. Add puffed millet and mix together well. (Hands work best!) Evaluate your taste and texture. For texture, mixture should be 'moldable' into small balls without crumbling and things like the texture/moistness of your nut butter and dates will effect this. If mixture is crumbly, you can stir in more nut butter or add some honey or maple syrup. You can also add honey or maple syrup if you want a sweeter mixture. I think the dates (and that chocolate coating!) make it sweet enough but you can adjust the mixture to your own tastes. 

When your mixture is the way you want it, carefully roll it into small balls. I do about a 1 1/2-inch size. You can slightly dampen your hands for easier rolling. The mixture should yield about 28 to 30 small balls. Place balls on a parchment-lined pan or tray and place in the fridge to chill for 15-20 minutes.

When ready to dip, melt your dark chocolate together with the coconut oil in the microwave or in a double-boiler on the stove, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Using a spoon, dip each ball into the chocolate--rolling it around to cover evenly. Use a fork to pull each ball out of the chocolate, allowing the excess chocolate to drip off and placing each ball back on the parchment lined pan. Once energy bites are coated, place the pan back into the fridge and allow to set for at least 15 minutes, or until the chocolate has set. 

Once chocolate has set. transfer energy bites to an airtight container. You can store them in the fridge for a week or so, if they last that long. ;-)

Notes/Results: I really loved these little energy bites--they are not too sweet and have a fun texture with the smooth peanut butter contrasting with the crackle of the seeds, puffed millet and chocolate shell. You can of course adjust them to your favorite ingredients or what you have on hand. Dried fruit would be nice, you could use oats in place of the puffed cereal, add espresso powder for caffeine, etc. Since I was coating them in the dark chocolate, I deliberately kept them less sweet so I might add a touch of honey or the dried fruit if I wasn't coating them. A couple of these are a great little snack and are sure to bring you back to life. I would happily make them again.

If you love The Princess Bride movie, I can highly recommend both the book it came from by William Golden (who wrote the screenplay from his book) and Cary Elwes's (Wesley) wonderful memoir As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride (I have both the book and the audio book) which is loads of fun and includes the memories (and voices on the audio book) of the other actors and people involved in the filming of this special movie.

If you want to join in the Food 'n Flix fun, there are still a few days left. Deadline for submission is Tuesday, May 30th (by the end of the day wherever you are.) Or if you missed this month but want to join in the food and film fun, join us for June when Evelyne of CulturEatz is hosting the Spanish film, Volver.

Happy watching and cooking and have fun storming the castle!  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, Served with a Recipe for Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon & Fried Capers

Happy Thursday! Friday and the Memorial Day holiday weekend are just around the corner--making it a very good day. Also making it a very good day is my TLC Book Tour stop and review of The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, reissued to tie in with the STARZ® Original Series that debuted last month and that I can't wait to watch, now that I have finally read the book.

Accompanying my review of this innovative, odd and somewhat magical book, is a recipe for delicious Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Capers--certainly worthy of any gods and goddesses (American or otherwise) or just those of us mortals looking for a tasty snack or pupu! 

Publisher's Blurb:

Now a STARZ® Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber | Premiering Sunday, April 30, at 9pm EST

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.
PLUS… don’t miss American Gods: The Official Coloring Book, featuring illustrations by Yvonne Gilbert, Craig Phillips, and Jon Proctor. Indulge your inner artist and revel in the stunning imagery of the gods and people, places and artifacts of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Paperback: 576 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; The Tenth Anniversary Edition, with TV Tie-in jacket art 
(March 28, 2017)

My Review:

Beyond Coraline which I have loved for ages, I confess to being a more recent convert to Neil Gaiman's writing over the past few years--but I've begun digging into his body of work, both reading and listening (Neil Gaiman's reading his work on audio book is amazing and life-changing, though I suspect Neil Gaiman reading the phone book or the back of a cereal box would have ample charm). I have worked my way through his essays in The View From the Cheap Seats, enjoyed several short story collections, and listened to The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book, and Norse Mythology over the past few months. and I had planned to tackle American Gods and its 500+ pages even before signing up for the TLC Book Tour review. Gaiman's sense of dark and weird fantasy and his often child-like whimsy speak to me and I love escaping into the different worlds he creates.  
American Gods is quite the ride--a dark, imaginative, wild ride--full of mythology and magic, the old and the new, and a bunch of eccentric characters. Most of the characters  are gods from different cultures and traditions who have ended up, by choice or not, immigrating to America over the years, and these gods are behaving pretty badly for the most part. Although I relished the bad behavior of the gods in Norse Mythology, I wasn't sure I would sustain an appreciation for them for so many pages in American Gods. I was also unsure about the main character, the very recently paroled Shadow, as most of my favorite Gaiman protagonists are children. But, by the time he headed to the warden's office in the beginning of the book to receive his early parole and some very bad news, Shadow won me over and I found myself vested in his journey and at times, actually wanting to give him a hug--taciturn demeanor and intimating size be damned. The majority of the other characters are fairly over-the-top and not quite as easy to identify with or care for with a few exceptions and there are many of them, as well as tangents and subplots galore to keep track of, but it all worked for me in the end and came together into one crazy road trip. There were a few times that I scratched my head, or went back to reread a deeper meaning in something that I thought I missed and that made me think, "I need to be smarter or maybe smarter and odder for you Neil!" Even with those moments, the book flowed and I never found myself bogged down by the story or the pacing--I looked forward to picking up the book each time I had the chance to read it. 

Speaking of reading, I did a multi-media approach with American Gods, alternating mainly between an e-book copy of the 10th Anniversary edition and the full-cast Tenth Anniversary Audio Book from Audible that I grabbed with a credit. This is the first time I went back and forth and I enjoyed the experience. The audio book and the different voice and characters brought the story to life when I was cooking or walking. I had originally thought it would be fun to use with the Official American Gods Coloring Book the publisher sent, but I never managed to get any coloring done. It was also helpful to have the print and e-book copies for those moments I wanted to go back and reread. 

I think American Gods is a book people will either strongly like, or they will (probably strongly) dislike it if they find it too strange. It definitely is weird and dark, but for me it was in the best way and it combined really good entertainment with making me think about the deeper meanings. If you are a Gaiman fan, you like fantasy, mythology, and/or enjoy epic road trip stories that are worth the sometimes crazy driving and bumps along the way, chances are you will come down on the "heavy like" side of things as I did. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the STARZ® Original Series soon.


Author Notes: Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.
Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on InstagramFacebooktumblr, Twitter, and his blog.


Food Inspiration: 

Dark, crazy road trips may not include the best food, but there was food to be food in American Gods--some mentions more appetizing than others. Food mentions included; beer, mead and other drinks and lots of coffee and hot chocolate, burgers and fries, very rare steak, pizza, some unappetizing "ferociously crimson" beet and potato borscht and leathery pot roast, greens of some kind "well on their way to becoming browns" and cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and rice. There were mochaccinos, cold gumbo, Snickers bars, milk and fruit, pasties (meat pies), wild turkey stew and applejack, spaghetti with thick read sauce and spicy meatballs, crusty garlic bread, a ham roll and a packet of potato chips, RC Cola, bananas, apple pie, milk and cookies, pickled hog's foot, strawberry daiquiri, burning bacon, salmon, buffalo, sugar cane, potatoes and corn, orange trees, lemon trees and avocados, bad Japanese food, a breakfast of pancakes, sizzling bacon and perfect eggs, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, and finally an expensive Icelandic meal of smoked puffin :-( and cloudberries and arctic char and boiled potatoes

I ended up taking inspiration for my book-inspired dish from the goddess Easter who Shadow meets in a park where she is having a picnic on a paper tablecloth with a variety of Tupperware dishes in front of her. There were deviled eggs and deviled eggs happen to be one of my very favorite things. Easter makes Shadow a plate piled high with the eggs, roast chicken, chicken curry, chicken salad, and cold rabbit. Since she plays a role later in the book and it's always a good time for deviled eggs, I decided to make them. I have been wanting to add fried capers (capers are my addiction) to deviled eggs after seeing variations here and there. Since smoked salmon pairs well with capers, I decided to do a nod to the Norse gods and and top my eggs with bits of smoked salmon, dill and few caraway seeds along with the fried capers that are also incorporated into the deviled egg mixture.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Fried Capers
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 8 Deviled Egg Halves)

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in half
1 Tbsp fried capers (see recipe below)
3 Tbsp mayo or yogurt
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp caper juice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper, as needed to taste

To Garnish/Serve: 
2 oz smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces
about 24 fried capers--about 3 per egg
fresh dill sprigs
caraway seeds 

Cut each hard boiled egg in half lengthwise and gently remove the yolks. In a small bowl, mash the yolks with a fork and add the capers, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, caper juice, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Stir until blended, smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed--you shouldn't need much salt--caper juice is briny.  

Fill eggs with equal amounts of filling--using either a small spoon or a pastry bag with a large tip. Garnish each egg with a few pieces of smoked salmon,2-3 fried capers, tiny pieces of fresh dill and a few caraway seeds. 

Fried Capers
(This will make more fried capers than you need for the eggs but that's OK, you are going to eat them while you make the eggs and/or, you can use any extras on grain bowls, salads, bagels with cream cheese, etc.)

1/4 cup capers, rinsed, drained and patted with paper towels until dry
about 1/4 canola/vegetable oil

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, Carefully add 1/2 of the capers, frying until they crisp and begin to open up like little flowers. Carefully remove the first batch from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the second half of the capers. 

Notes/Results: First off, fried capers are a necessary part of life and should be enjoyed on more than deviled eggs. ;-) Secondly, they pair amazing with deviled eggs and also with the smoked salmon and dill in this recipe. These were little bites of goodness and would be a quick and easy pupu to put together for a party or as a dinner or lunch starter--or to enjoy as a yummy snack when you are audio coloring with the American Gods audio book and the Official American Gods Coloring Book. I liked having the fried capers mixed into the egg salad and as a garnish on top--so much caper yum! ;-) In fact, as tasty as the smoked salmon was, I would have been just as happy with only the fried capers on top of the fried-caper laced eggs. I will most definitely make these again.

Quirky and really good--just like the book!

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "American Gods" and a copy of 'American Gods: The Official Coloring Book" were provided to me by the publisher Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Concepción and the Baby Brokers" by Deborah Clearman, Served with A Guatemalan Breakfast of Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Onions, Refried Black Beans, and Tortillas

Happy Tuesday! On today's TLC Book Tour we are headed to Guatemala for a short story collection set there, Concepción and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman. I'm pairing my review with a tasty classic Guatemalan breakfast of Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Onions, served with Refried Black Beans and Corn Tortillas

Publisher's Blurb:

In nine thematically linked stories set largely in Guatemala, Concepción and the Baby Brokers brings to life characters struggling with universal emotions and dilemmas in a place unfamiliar to most Americans. From the close-knit community of Todos Santos to the teeming danger of Guatemala City, to a meat-packing plant in Michigan and the gardens of Washington DC, Deborah Clearman shows us the human cost of international adoption, drug trafficking, and immigration.
A Cup of Tears, the opening novella, reveals a third-world baby farm, seen through the eyes of a desperate wet nurse, a baby broker, and an American adoptive mother. In “The Race” a young man returns to his native village to ride in a disastrous horse race. “English Lessons” tells of a Guatemalan immigrant in Washington DC who learns more than English from a public library volunteer. A teenage girl tries to trap her professor into marriage in “Saints and Sinners.”
With searing humanity, Clearman exposes the consequences of American exceptionalism, and the daily magic and peril that inform and shape ordinary lives.

Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First edition (March 15, 2017) 

My Review:

I have become a fan of short stories over the past few years and love how they give me  quick glimpses into different situations, places, and lives. Having the stories in Concepción and the Baby Brokers set mainly in Guatemala and involving Guatemalan culture and different walks of society gave me a clearer picture and better understanding of a country that I don't often get to read about. About the first 100 pages, titled A Cup of Tears, is given to the title subject and is about the illegal brokering of Guatemalan babies. This novella pulled me in quickly, told from the perspectives of the servant who sells twin baby boys, the agent/buyer and the lawyer involved in stealing them, the mother and grandfather looking for them, and the potential adoptive mother. It's a powerful and sad glimpse into an all-to-real problem. 

The remaining six stories vary in subject and although not all of them held my interest equally (common for me in short story collections) they were all well written and worthy of inclusion. These are not light or overtly humorous snippets of life as many of the characters are struggling with something, but they do ring true--life isn't easy for many of the people we meet inside the pages. The characters all live in or have ties to the Todos Santos municipality, a more rural area in the Northern Highlands of Guatemala where the people are mainly of indigenous, Mayan descent. The area is most well-known for its annual All-Saints Festival and 'drunken' horse races where many of the riders drink for days before the race--the subject of one of the stories.  

Although the author was not born in Guatemala, her descriptive writing of the scenery, food, people and culture makes it clear she has spent much time there. She has a novel called Todos Santos about an American artist and mother who travels with her son to Guatemala and heads for the remote village. After reading these stories and becoming intrigued with the country and region, I am adding the novel to my TBR pile. I would definitely recommend Concepción and the Baby Brokers to short story enthusiasts and those looking to expand their reading horizons to learn about a different country that they may not know much about.


Author Notes: Deborah Clearman is the author of a novel Todos Santos, from Black Lawrence Press. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the former Program Director for NY Writers Coalition, and she teaches creative writing in such nontraditional venues as senior centers, public housing projects, and the jail for women on Rikers Island. She lives in New York City and Guatemala.


Food Inspiration:  

For a relatively short book of stories, there was plenty of food to be found in Concepción and the Baby Brokers. Foods mentioned included corn, tortillas, chilies and miltomates (tomatillos) in a blender and made into a sauce with onions, burnt squash seeds and cinnamon, turkey in golden sauce, a sweetened maize drink, chichitos (a Guatemalan tamale), peanuts and bags of sliced mango, dishes like jocón, pepián, carne guisada, adobada, a peanut butter sandwich, soup of garlic, veggies and mashed tortilla, chila chayote, oatmeal mush, croissants and coffee, banana and papaya, huevos divorciados, fried chicken, black beans, mini bananas, orange cheese doodles, fresh rolls, armadillo soup with tomatoes, potatoes and wild greens, elotes (street corn), a pot of beans, chicken a Big Mac, sushi canapes, dips and pasta, grain and bean salads, carne asada, and margaritas at a picnic, beets, pan dulce, and hibiscus, cinnamon and chamomile tea.    

When picking my book inspired dish I wanted to go with something classic and there were a few mentions of scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes, served with tortillas and also with beans. It was supper in the mentions in the book, but when looking up recipes online it turns out that it is a classic Guatemalan breakfast as well.

I found the recipe I used online at The Antigua Guide. It said, "This recipe is as Guatemalan as corn tortillas. Try it when you’re getting tired of the same old scrambled eggs. Guatemalans modify the recipe in many ways. For example, sometimes people add corn tortilla bits or cooked chorizo instead of tomatoes and onions. Accompany the eggs with Frijoles Chapines (Guatemalan black beans any style) and Tortillas de Maíz (corn tortillas). Or serve the eggs atop a panfried corn tortilla with beans on the side. You can also modify this recipe by making the eggs sunny side up and using the onion and tomato combination." I modified the recipe just slightly--adding more tomato and onion to my eggs.

Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Onions
Adapted slightly from Amalia Moreno-Damgaard via
(Serves 2--or 1 Hungry Girl at Dinner) ;-)

2 large eggs
1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 sweet onion, diced
sea salt and black pepper

To Serve: refried black beans, corn tortillas, chopped cilantro, & lime wedges as desired

Place oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add tomato and onion and season with salt. Cook until they become saucy and thicken, about 5 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs until combined and fluffy.

Turn heat to medium-low and add eggs to the sauce, combining well. Cook until eggs are cooked through and creamy, stirring as needed. 

Serve hot, along with black beans (refried--I used Amy's brand or whole beans), corn tortillas, lime wedges and cilantro as desired. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I actually ate my breakfast for dinner because of timing and all but I would be happy to enjoy it any time of day. It's a simple preparation but the eggs has plenty of flavor--especially when paired with the black beans and scooped into the tortillas. I eat eggs with red sauce and eggs with salsa often and this is similar and quick to through together. I did want more veggies in my eggs, so I used a whole tomato and about a fourth of a large sweet onion with my two eggs. Refried beans are easy enough to make but I had a can of Amy's refried black beans in my pantry that I wanted to use. Heating the beans and warming the tortillas on stovetop burner happened while the tomatoes, onions and eggs cooked and dinner was on the table in about 15 minutes. Easy, filling, and delicious, I am sure I will make it again.

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Concepción and the Baby Brokers" was provided to me by the publisher, and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Zucchini, Cumin & Mint Soup: Silky Green Vegan Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I checked out Peace & Parsnips: Adventurous Vegan Cooking For Everyone by Lee Watson from the library several months ago but never got around cooking from it. I jotted down this soup recipe--although I checked the book out again this weekend and I may have to add it to my overgrown cookbook collection if this soup is an indication of the quality and deliciousness of the recipes. I love cumin, zucchini was on sale, and the combination of ingredients sounded too good to pass up.

Peace & Parsnips says, "This was a traditional Turkish-style soup until I got my hands on it. ... It is traditionally served with lots of yogurt, but the silken tofu steps in and adds a wonderful creaminess to the proceedings."

Zucchini, Cumin & Mint Soup 
Slightly Adapted from Peace & Parsnips by Lee Watson
(Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
4 zucchini, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 of a white cabbage, chopped
1 tsp dried mint
1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups good veggie stock or water
5 1/2 oz silken tofu or unsweetened, non-dairy yogurt
a handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
(I added 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)

To garnish: fresh mint leaves, ground cumin. fruity olive oil

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, cumin seeds, and salt and saute for 10 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic, zucchini, celery, potato and cabbage and saute for another 5 minutes or so. Add the dried mint and black pepper, stirring well.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Whisk tofu in a small bowl with a fork until smooth and add to the soup. Blend soup with an immersion blender--leaving it slightly chunky or blending until smooth--as desired. Add the chopped mint (and I added 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice) and stir. Taste and add additional salt and black pepper if desired. 

Serve in bowls, garnished with fresh mint leaves, freshly ground cumin and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy.

Notes/Results: I really like this soup--it is silky, satisfying and full of delicious flavor. I love how well the cumin comes though and the mint. With the freshness of the zucchini and mint, it fits well into warm weather eating and ends up not being too heavy. I did think it called out for some fresh lemon juice to brighten up the flavors a bit, so I added some at the end. I also like Lee Watson's call for leaving this soup a bit chunky--it adds to the enjoyment of eating it. I would happily make it again.

We have a few delicious dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look!

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared Chickpea, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad and said, "One evening I made my egg and rice stir fry and stayed up late to finish my latest Peter Robinson book. For dinner the following night I made a salad with chickpeas, tomatoes, olives and feta.  I stuffed a pita pocket with it and had a nice light dinner. There was enough salad leftover to serve as a side with a Greek Shrimp Scampi for dinner once Doug was home."

Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen said, "I made this Curly Kale and White Beans Soup over the weekend with what we had in the house as I wasn't feeling adventurous. Its nothing special, yet variations of this Curly Kale and White Beans Soup has featured on many a blog and many a cookbook, but it made for a nice change from a smoother soup with its chunky vegetable and crinkly soft greens."

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog brought Turkish Red Lentil Soup and said, "I was first introduced to this unique red lentil many years ago by my (then new to America) mother-in-law who made these lentils which she called "aatz" quite frequently to feed her family of seven on a very tight budget.I call it the never ending soup because the longer it sits, the thicker it gets and we always need to add more broth to leftovers when we heat it up the next day. It stretches and stretches!"


Mahalo to everyone who joined in this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!