Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other bloggers’ Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.

I don’t care what Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Whole Foods, or anyone else says, it’s apple season in New England right now, and pumpkin season doesn’t start until October. Around here, apple season means taking a naturally sweet, fairly healthful fruit…

five apples

Gala apples from the state of New York. Husband fails to earn locavore credentials once again.

and turning it into this:

close-up of apple crisp

This had to be a close-up picture, because I ate a third of it still warm straight from the dish it was baked in.

Or this…

bottle of apple wine

We bought this Putney Winery apple maple wine from Vermont when we were in New Hampshire. (Everyone knows Vermont maple syrup is better than New Hampshire’s.)  I was the only one who liked this wine.

I hope it’s not cheating, but I want to count the apple crisp my husband made yesterday (pictured above) towards Trish’s Cook It Up! challenge. She has challenged book bloggers to either use or lose older cookbooks that gather dust while we try shiny new recipes from the Internet or hanker after just-released cookbooks.

The apple crisp recipe was from Made in Vermont: Recipes from Vermont’s Favorite Inns, edited by Coleen O’Shea, which has recipes for Apple Crisp, Apple Crisp with Maple Syrup and Sarah’s Apple Crisp. (Also Apple-Nut Bread, Baked Apple Dandy and nine others with apples as the main ingredient. We were given this cookbook as a gift many years ago (I think when we still lived in Vermont.) so it has sentimental value even though we don’t use it that often, but when we’re looking for New England-y apple or pumpkin recipes, it’s a good place to start.cover image

It’s not great for gluten-free and/or low-carb dieters, but Made in Vermont has enough regional flavor to make it a keeper. The recipes are divided by season, which I like. There are no photos of the food – just little black and white photos of the inns the recipes came from on each page. There is plenty of white space if you like to pencil in notes about the recipes.

Since we don’t run an inn here, many of the entree recipes are too fussy or fancy for me to ever try (e.g. Escargots with Wild Mushrooms and Herbed Butter, p. 124, or Steamed Scallops with Saffron Beurre Blanc and American Sturgeon Caviar, p. 42) but the dessert, side dishes, and soup recipes are more enticing to a home cook. I think I’ll try the Corn, Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque from the Four Columns Inn in Newfane, Vermont soon, and then there’s all the pumpkin and squash recipes to try: Pumpkin Bisque, Maple Pumpkin Bisque, Butternut Squash and Pear Gratin, etc. The recipe for Maple Pumpkin Bisque from the West Mountain Inn in Arlington, Vermont is online here.

Happy Weekend Cooking!




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cover imageWith its many references to the Boston area, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson has been on my TBR* list since it came out last February, but once I finally opened it and read the beginning, I was hooked. I whipped through almost all of it in a single sitting on Saturday.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is a true literary thriller with references to novels and other literature here and there, and a main character, George Foss, who works in the accounting department of a struggling Boston literary magazine. The book is about the consequences of George’s running into the girl he fell head over heels in love with twenty years earlier during their first semester as freshmen at Mather College, whom he hadn’t seen or heard from since.

Author Peter Swanson is a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies. This comes through especially in the twisty pacing of the book and in several scenes during which I may have literally held my breath while reading. Boston-area readers will enjoy mentions of well-known local spots, including the Kowloon on Route 1 in Saugus, and trying to guess what actual locations the fictional locations might be (New Essex – That would probably be Essex, a seaside town north of Boston? And Mather, the New England liberal arts college George Foss attended – the author’s own alma mater, Trinity College in Connecticut?), but the characters and their motives are more interesting than the setting, so readers unfamiliar with the area won’t miss out on anything important to the story.

Although the meaning of the hard-to-remember title gets explained eventually, I assume The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is also a reference to the literary thriller The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo – another book billed as a stylish literary thriller. (The Girl with a Clock for a Heart has been optioned for film; I’ll be curious to see if a movie is given a different, easier-to-remember title.) As everyone knows, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo was the first in a trilogy. I thought the same might be true here, but Peter Swanson denies that a sequel is in the works in this interview at Coot’s Reviews.

Even with a murder, police detectives, and a private investigator, also a blurb from Dennis Lehane on the cover and elements of noir, I wouldn’t suggest this to a reader looking for realistic crime fiction, but to a literary fiction reader who maybe also likes Patricia Highsmith or Dennis Lehane. You do have to be willing to suspend disbelief a few times and go along for the “sexy, electric thrill ride,” as Dennis Lehane describes the book.

Watch out for spoilers if you read other reviews. Better just get the book yourself, and read it quick!

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
Swanson, Peter
William Morrow
Feb. 2, 2014
304 pp.

*To Be Read

Book on CD cover imageAfter listening to Alan Lightman’s recent book about cosmology, The Accidental Universe, narrated by Bronson Pinchot, I immediately requested and listened to another astronomy-related book narrated by Bronson Pinchot: Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System, by astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana. (Strange New Worlds is a 2014 release from Blackstone Audio of a 2011 book.) Although I listened to it right away and found it fascinating, I’m just getting around to writing the review now, several months later.

On the whole, Strange New Worlds is drier, less philosophical, and more technical than The Accidental Universe – not as accessible to humanists and English majors as The Accidental Universe is. (Author Alan Lightman writes literary fiction as well as being a renowned theoretical physicist.)

But even though Strange New Worlds goes pretty deep into the science and technology of looking for habitable planets or signs of life beyond our solar system, it is intended to provide an overview to the layperson. Having at least a basic scientific vocabulary would probably help, but audiobook narrator Bronson Pinchot reads complex passages so smoothly that they, at least, seem understandable. Most of the book is comprehensible to a reader with an average amount of Star Trek-watching under her belt.

In each chapter, readers meet various astronomers and astrophysicists whose work Jayawardhana describes and explains. I especially enjoyed hearing these mini bios of the people behind the science. (It looks as though the author also uses this writing technique in his 2013 book Neutrino Hunters, also available from Blackstone Audio and read by Bronson Pinchot.)

Bronson Pinchot’s excellent narration of The Accidental Universe is the main reason I requested Strange New Worlds, and his narration here is also excellent. If you’re looking for a educational audiobook and have any interest in the search for planets able to sustain life, Strange New Worlds could be a good choice. (No actual aliens make an appearance, so if that’s what you’re hoping for, you’ll have to stick to science fiction.)

Strange New Worlds shows readers the real research and work that’s going on, and demonstrates that the idea that there may be other planets capable of sustaining life somewhere out there isn’t crazy. Strange New Worlds isn’t as exciting or entertaining as an episode of Star Trek, but is a lot more believable.

Strange New Worlds
Jayawardhana, Ray (author)
Pinchot, Bronson (narrator)
Blackstone Audio, 2014
978-1-4829-8667-9, MP3-CD
6 hrs.

Disclosure: I received an MP3 download of this title for review through Audiobook Jukebox. Check out Audiobook Jukebox for links to hundreds of audiobook reviews.



Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other bloggers’ Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.

My last Weekend Cooking post was about the Riverside Inn Bed & Breakfast in Intervale, New Hampshire (near North Conway), where all the food is prepared in a 100% gluten-free kitchen and served in a 100% gluten-safe dining room. Here’s the other Weekend Cooking post I promised on the North Conway area in the White Mountains of New Hampshire because it seemed so hospitable to people on a strict gluten -free diet. (Click on any photos to see larger view.)

Driving from place to place during our three-day visit, we noticed many signs advertising gluten-free menu items, etc. and with an advance call, many restaurants in the area seemed familiar with the question and were able to give a clear answer on whether they could provide a safe gluten-free meal for someone with celiac disease.

It wouldn’t be vacation without fried food, but after the first night, we had all had enough fried food for the whole trip! We ate at Rafferty’s Restaurant & Pub. The food was delicious. Rafferty’s offers regular celiac disease information sessions for the public, and had a very well-versed staff.

The second night we ate at the Shalimar of India, which Ken, the innkeeper at the Riverside Inn B&B suggested as a good gluten-free dining option, especially with many of the restaurants in the area closed on Tuesdays to give staff a day off. We ate on the outdoor patio because the air conditioning was turned down low in the dining room. The food pictures didn’t come out well enough to post, but visit the Shalimar Web site to see the food. (You might want to turn the sound off.) We tried two vegetarian dishes and one meat dish. (No bread, but if you can order the bread, I’m sure that would be delicious too.) The food was excellent – as good as at our favorite Indian restaurant.

We went Italian the third night and tried Vito Marcello’s Italian Bistro, another restaurant that was known to be gluten-free-friendly. There were several menu selections that could be prepared gluten-free, including vegetarian choices, and we all ordered from them. The pasta turned out to be the same in all our meals, regardless of the menu description of the original dish, but it was the best gluten-free pasta I’ve tasted so far, and we all were served a g/f roll, which we wolfed down. (Hiking in the mountains takes a lot out of you!) I think the waiter said that the g/f rolls were baked on the premises in a separate g/f oven.

For lunches, we purchased food from local stores and had picnics. The Local Grocer (pictured in one of the North Conway shots at the beginning) had an amazing selection of gluten-free sandwiches and salads, prepared to order in a separate gluten-free area in the back.

The Lucy Brook Farm had a wonderful little farm store that we stopped at one day, where we bought handcrafted items for gifts to take home, and lots of fresh fruit and veggies to eat by the river back at the Riverside Inn.

Happy Weekend Cooking!




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