Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "What the Waves Know" by Tamara Valentine, Served with (2-ish Ingredient) Banana Panckes with Maple Syrup and Fresh Blueberries

On today's TLC Book Tour stop I am reviewing What the Waves Know by Tamara Valentine, a novel about secrets, love and family, accepting the truth, and finding your voice. Along with my review of this charming and slightly magical story is a book-inspired recipe for pancakes made from banana, eggs, baking power and flavored with vanilla and cinnamon--seems like there's something just a bit magical in pancakes made from just banana and eggs.


Publisher's Blurb:

On the sharp crags of tiny Tillings Island lies the secret of Izabella Rae Haywood’s sixth birthday. That night, her father vanished, taking her voice—and the truth of what really happened—along with him. 

In the autumn of 1974, after eight long years of unsuccessful psychiatrist visits and silence, Iz’s mother packs up the tattered remains of their life, determined to return to Tillings in one last attempt to reclaim Iz’s voice—and piece together the splintered memories of the day her words ran dry. But when the residents of Tillings greet them with a standoffish welcome, it becomes clear that they know something about Iz, and the father she adored, that she does not.

Now, as the island’s annual Yemayá festival prepares to celebrate the ties that bind mothers to children, lovers to each other, and humankind to the sea, Iz must unravel the tangled threads of her own history . . . or risk losing herself—and any chance she may have for a future—to the past.

Paperback: 352 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 9, 2016)

My Review:

What a beautiful book, with a fourteen-year-old narrator that you can't help wanting to hug. Izabella (Iz to her mom) is wounded from the night of her sixth birthday, when her father went away. Iz thinks her strong and angry words were what made him go so she hasn't spoken since. Her mother Zorrie, among the walking wounded herself, can't seem to reach her and brings Iz back to Tillings Island in Rhode Island in hopes of reaching her; getting her to remember what happened and begin to heal and speak again. Although secrets are alluded to in the description, there is not really a big mystery or huge twists in the story. It becomes clear fairly quickly to the reader what happened and we watch as Iz begins to unblock it from her mind. The beauty of the story is in the relationships--especially between the four women--Iz, her mother Zorrie, Grandma Josephine and neighbor Remy. It is the things that tie them together, the love they have for one another, and especially how the three older women work to protect Iz and help her work through her trauma that are the heart of the book. Grandma Jo was my favorite character, the loving crunchy-granola grandmother that everyone would love to have--with her humor, acceptance, and tofu macaroni and cheese--overlooking her penchant for nudity of course. She adds her wisdom and is a bright spot that both Iz and Zoe, and even Remy, desperately need in their lives. Remy is the outspoken older friend that Iz needs, blunt but caring, covering her own issues with sarcasm and bravado. Although distant at first (her own protection from the world), Zorrie grew on me too. I could happily hang out with these strong and well-drawn characters.

Sometimes books tagged as magical realism can be a little 'woo-woo' for me but the magic in What the Waves Know, is wound primarily around the mysticism of Tillings Island and Yemayá--a goddess and the patron saint of women and the ocean according to Santeria and Yoruba beliefs. In the story, the community of Tillings Island is celebrating Yemayá, the Great Mother, through an annual festival with people coming from all over to leave offerings in hopes she will help them find what is missing. Yemayá, a strong and fierce protector, fits with the characters and the island setting and is skillfully woven into the story. As a side note, my interest piqued, I had to do a little research to learn more about Yemayá. About Santeria had this to say:

"Yemaya is the great mother who lives and rules over the seas. Water is essential to life, so without Yemaya, life on earth wouldn't be possible.  Although she's maternal and nurturing, she's also fierce. Her punishments can be terrible when she's outraged, but she's fair minded and forgiving when proper remorse is shown. Yemaya is clever and brave.  When she goes to war on behalf of her children, she wields a machete with expertise and no one can defeat her." 

Image and text from AboutSanteria .com

Tamara Valentine knows how to tell a great story, poignant, hopeful, and ultimately full of love. I wanted the best for these characters, caught up in their lives and the island community. The 350+ pages were over before I knew it (or wanted). What the Waves Know is an immensely pleasurable read and a great book to curl up with. 

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Author Notes: Tamara Valentine obtained an M.A. with distinction from Middlebury College and has spent the past fourteen years as a professor in the English Department at Johnson & Wales University. Presently, she lives in Kingston, Rhode Island, with her husband and three children.
 
Find out more about Tamara at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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There is not a ton of food in What the Waves Know but there certainly is some. Grandma Joe is the adventurer and cook in the family, "borrowing" a tin bucket of sap, tapped from a sugar maple to boil down maple syrup for pancakes, braving bees for fresh honeycomb for Iz's toast, and her self-described, "mean carrot cake and cheese biscuits that melt right over your tongue." Remy is suspicious about Josephine's famous tofu macaroni and cheese (she blends Vermont Cheddar "so sharp it stings your tongue" with whole wheat pasta and tofu crumbles). On the  mainland wharf there are crab cakes, deep-fried clams, crawfish boils, and popcorn shrimp, and the Tillings Island Yemayá Festival features a variety of baked goods and is known for the curried chicken. Remy bakes apple pies for the festival with Iz, and Zorrie has Iz get the ingredients for honey chicken, and there are mentions of ice cream from the local parlor/soda shop and tea, coca-cola, and root beer to drink.


For my book-inspired dish, since I am eating wheat free for the time being, baked goods were out. I was considering a curry--maybe with tofu in honor of Grandma Joe, but it was pancakes with maple syrup that won out. With the no-wheat thing, it seemed like a great time to try the Pinterest-famed "2-Ingredient Banana Pancakes" I pinned a while back. I wanted to see how well pancakes made from a medium banana and two eggs would work.


I did add a few extra ingredients--baking powder (as I heard it makes for "fluffier" pancakes), a pinch of salt and cinnamon and a dash of vanilla extract. So I guess these are 6-ingredient pancakes. ;-)

2-ish Ingredient Banana Pancakes with Maple Syrup & Fresh Blueberries
Adapted from The Kitchn
(Makes About 8 small pancakes)

1 medium ripe banana
2 large eggs


+ optional ingredients:
1/8 teaspoon baking powder, for fluffier pancakes 
pinch of salt
dash of vanilla

large pinch of cinnamon 

coconut oil or butter to for pan
maple syrup and fresh blueberries to serve

Mash the peeled banana with a fork (or toss in blender with other ingredients) until no large lumps remain. Add any extra ingredients like baking powder, vanilla, salt, and or cinnamon. 

Whisk eggs together until whites and yolks are completely combined and mix into bananas to form a loose, liquid-y batter. 

Hit pan or griddle over medium heat and add a little butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking. When hot, drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter onto the hot pan. If it doesn't sizzle slightly, turn up heat. 

Cook until the bottom of pancake looks golden brown when you lift a side--about 1 minute or so. The edges should also be looking set but the middle will still be loose. 

Carefully lift the pancake by gently working a thin spatula about halfway underneath the pancake, and carefully turning over to the other side. If any loose batter spills when you turn the pancake, lay the pan cake on top of the spill and move any excess back under the pancake. Cook pancake for another minute or so until it is golden brown on each side--flipping back and forth as needed to get them evenly browned.

Set pancake aside (keep warm) and cook remaining batter/pancakes. 

Serve immediately while warm with maple syrup, fresh blueberries or other favorite toppings.
 

Notes/Results: Although perhaps not a true pancake, they are pancake-y enough to be pretty darn tasty, especially when covered in real maple syrup and served with fresh blueberries. I was a bit worried they would be fussy to turn with the loose batter but they actually were not that much different or more difficult to flip than a pancake if you make them small and are quick and careful when you turn them. I used the blender for mixing and found that I needed to stir the batter between batches on the griddle. Still, I got eight small decent pancakes out of the mix. I don't make pancakes often but these are really simple to mix up and quite filling. I will happily make them again.


I am sharing this book review and food pairing with Beth Fish Reads: Weekend Cooking Event, an 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 "What the Waves Know" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 Book Tour and learn what other reviewers thought about the book here on the TLC Book Tour Website.


 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ellie Krieger's Aromatic (Veggie) *Noodle* Bowl with Lime-Peanut Sauce

Sometimes I just crave a big noodle bowl, full of fresh veggies and a yummy sauce and I have been meaning to make Ellie Krieger's Aromatic Noodles with Lime-Peanut Sauce for a while now. Since I am avoiding wheat presently, I could have used a gluten-free noodle, such as a rice noodle, but I have been having fun with my recently purchased Inspiralizer and wanted to make an all-veggie bowl of goodness (covered in delectable lime-peanut sauce of course).
 

I have become a big fan of turnip noodles as they have great texture and absorb flavors really well. I was reading that carrot noodles have a whole wheat pasta vibe when lightly boiled, so I thought the two would be a nice mix as my noodle base. 


Aromatic Noodles with Lime Peanut Sauce
Adapted from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger
(Serves 6)

12 oz (3/4box) whole grain spaghetti (I used turnip and carrot spiralized noodles)
2 cups broccoli florets (I used local string beans)
2 cups snow peas, trimmed
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter (I used freshly ground, no salt, natural)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (I used 1/2 low-sodium soy sauce / 1/2 coconut aminos)
1/4 cup water (hot water works best for firm peanut butter)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped
3/4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I used 1 Tbsp coconut sugar)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse. (I spiralized one very large carrot and a medium turnip on the smallest (spaghetti noodle size) blade, then cooked them (separately) for 2-3 minutes in boiling water, drained them, gently squeezed out any excess water and patted them dry.)

While the pasta is cooking, put the broccoli in a steamer basket over a large pot of boiling water and steam for 3 minutes. Add in the snow peas and sugar snap peas and steam for 2 minutes more--until veggies are crisp-tender

Toast peanuts in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Be sure to shake the pan or stir frequently to prevent burning.  

Make the sauce by pureeing the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Right before serving, toss the noodles with 3/4 cup of the peanut sauce. Divide among bowls and top with the vegetables. Drizzle the remaining sauce or the vegetables (or serve it on the side.) the veggies and peanut sauce. Sprinkle with the toasted peanuts (you can chop them if desired). Serve.


Notes/Results: I would probably be happy just licking the Lime-Peanut Sauce from a spoon. ;-) It is a nice combination of tangy, savory and slightly sweet. I have been cooking with coconut sugar lately, so I used it (and a lesser amount) rather than the brown sugar called for. I also used coconut aminos mixed into my low sodium soy sauce--they have a similar umami flavor profile but less sodium--always a bonus. For the veggies, broccoli does not agree with me and I had some string beans in my vegetable crisper, so i added those to the pea mix. I think baby bok choy would be a nice addition as well. The carrot and turnip noodles worked well, softening nicely but still retaining texture after boiling, absorbing the flavor of the sauce, and they were just as twirlable/slurpable as pasta to me. Plus, you take out all those calories from the pasta and you can afford to have MORE SAUCE! I have been looking for a good peanut sauce and I think this one is a keeper. 


This dish is linking to Oodles of Noodles at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we are making noodle (and even veggie *noodle*) filled Ellie Krieger dishes this week. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Golden Son" by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, Served with Chai-Spiced "Golden Milk"

Today's TLC Book Tour stop has a review of The Golden Son, a beautifully-written novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. My book review is accompanied by a recipe for Chai-Spiced 'Golden Milk' that was inspired by my reading. It's my take on the popular turmeric-laced drink that is popping up everywhere on health and wellness sites. It also happens to be the beverage I want to sip while snuggling up with a engrossing and well-told story, so a perfect match for this book.


Publisher's Blurb:

The New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of Secret Daughter returns with an unforgettable story of family, responsibility, love, honor, tradition, and identity, in which two childhood friends—a young doctor and a newly married bride—must balance the expectations of their culture and their families with the desires of their own hearts.

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.

Tender and bittersweet, The Golden Son illuminates the ambivalence of people caught between past and present, tradition and modernity, duty and choice; the push and pull of living in two cultures, and the painful decisions we must make to find our true selves.

Hardcover: 408 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (January 26, 2016)

My Review:  

Having a fondness of books set in India and/or stories dealing with cultural clashes and norms of different cultures in America and having loved the author's first book The Secret Daughter, I was really looking forward to The Golden Son and it did not disappoint in any way. As with Secret Daughter, Gowda skillfully drew me into the story and firmly attached me to the main characters. Both Anil and Leena are strong at heart, but are not yet confident in that strength and both must go through challenges to find their place in the world, even more difficult due to their loyalty to family and to the awareness that every choice they make has a huge effect on those they love. Anil, the titular "golden son" of his family and village, is the eldest and the first in the family to leave home and better himself through school. There is much responsibility placed on him, especially when his father dies and he becomes the head of his family and the arbitrator of his village while in the midst of a grueling residency program thousands of miles away. His self-doubts, both from his childhood and being away from what he knows and in a completely different culture in Texas, weigh heavily. One of the quotes I marked in the book that struck me the most was Anil's: "Not only was it impossible to truly belong in America, but he didn't fit in here anymore either. He was a dweller of two lands, accepted by none." Because of the disastrous turn Leena's arranged marriage takes, she also finds herself pushed out of the comfort of her cultural expectations. If her marriage doesn't work, Leena brings shame upon her family and village and will likely be ostracized--so, although she is still in India, she in a sense doesn't belong or fit in anymore with the cultural norm. Even if you aren't tied to a strong culture or facing the obstacles of Anil and Leena, I think anyone who has ever moved to a different environment or away from their family and what is known, or not lived their lives to the expectations of others can relate to their stories.
  
I found myself caught up in the book and pulled along, wanting to see what would happen and hoping for the best for the characters and their families. Gowda does a wonderful job of painting a picture of traditional Indian culture--both the good and the ugly, especially in how women are often devalued and treated. There are some tough-to-read parts with some graphic violence and abuse, but there is a hopeful tone overall. I especially liked that the ending had some twists that differed from my expectations, but which fit the story and characters and left me satisfied. I really enjoyed The Golden Son and if you like smart fiction about love, family, friendship, tradition, and culture, I'm sure you will too. 

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Author Notes: Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto to parents who migrated there from Mumbai. She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage. She has lived in New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and currently makes her home in California with her husband and children.
 
Find out more about Shilpi at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Food Inspiration: 

There is actually quite a bit of food inspiration to be found in The Golden Son. Anil's mother warns him about trying food (and especially staying away from meat and alcohol) in America but he quickly falls for things like Tex-Mex, Pad Thai, Chinese food, ice cream, bean and cheese burritos and enchiladas, salsa, vegetable lasagna, pizza, sushi, grilled cheese, margaritas and beer. From India there are plenty of mentions of food and drink such as dals, curries, kulfi, chapatis, paranthas, chutney, sweet paan, laddoo, fresh mangoes (and mango pickle and lassi), chai, and other local dishes.  


I actually had my book-inspired recipe figured out almost as soon I set down to read the book with a cup of golden milk in my hand one night--liking the play of the title of the book with the drink's title. Lately I have been on an almost nightly ritual of golden milk, drawn to the anti-inflammatory properties of the turmeric for my asthma and allergy issues, as well as the delicious taste. 

It only solidified my decision to read how Anil's mother sends him off to America with a tin of turmeric, telling him, "The turmeric will keep you well, if you take it every day. Cough, cold, stomach problems, headaches, joint pain--turmeric cures all of it." Unfortunately, the tin spilled, ruining half of his clothes with turmeric stains. (That would totally happen to me!)  

Later in the book, Anil returns to Texas after a visit back home with a prescription bottle filled with chai masala powder his mother sent back with him, bringing comfort and memories. "On this visit, he'd followed her into the kitchen, watching how she crushed a nub of gingerroot and tore fresh mint leaves into the simmering milky liquid, sometimes adding lemongrass or cloves." So, the turmeric and chai spices became my inspiration to change up my golden milk. 


I make a simple vegan version of "golden milk" at night--usually turmeric spice powder, plenty of cinnamon, coconut milk, and lots of honey, and sometimes ginger or other spices. For this Chai-Spiced Golden Milk, I used fresh turmeric root and worked in some of my favorite chai spices, as well as fresh mint and ginger as Anil's mother did. Since I drink my golden milk before bed, I didn't add tea, but you could certainly steep a chai teabag in the coconut milk and turmeric mixture for an easy variation.


Chai-Spiced Golden Milk
From Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 1-2)

2 cups lite coconut milk (or milk of choice)
*1 1/2 Tbsp fresh turmeric, peeled and grated, or 1-2 tsp ground turmeric
fresh ginger, 2-3 peeled and thinly sliced pieces
1 cinnamon stick + 1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cloves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds 
3 cardamom pods, crushed slightly
3-4 black peppercorns 
2-3 sprigs of fresh mint
1 Tbsp honey--or to taste

Heat the coconut milk, spices, ginger and mint in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes--being careful not to over boil or scorch the milk. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. 

Carefully (turmeric is a bright yellow stain waiting to happen on everything it comes in contact with!) strain the golden milk to remove the sediment and fresh ingredients. Stir in honey to taste. Serve warm.  

*Note: If you have not learned to love turmeric or have not used it much before, you may want to start with a smaller amount like 1 Tbsp. 


Notes/Results: A little more effort than my normal nightly golden milk but well worth it. I loved the addition of more spices and the fresh mint--so many layers of flavor. It also takes some of the bitter edge that turmeric can have. The fresh turmeric (I buy it local at farmers markets or Whole Foods here) has a brighter flavor than the dried and although it is a danger to me staining every item in my kitchen--including myself, I find the flavor far superior. If you find the turmeric too bitter, you can reduce the amount as noted above, but I find honey and cinnamon make the flavor personally enjoyable. A big mug of golden milk is a perfect after dinner and before bed beverage--it's become one of my favorite ways to end the day and relax with a book or catching up with television. 


I am linking this book review and food pairing up at the Beth Fish Reads: Weekend Cooking Event, an 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 "The Golden Son" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.