Category Archives: Book Reviews

Fall Cooking with Maple by Katie Webster #weekendcooking

Just after I posted about 2017 food trends last weekend, there was an article in Sunday’s paper about how Maple may be overtaking Pumpkin Spice as the trendiest fall food flavor. Since pumpkin spice has “jumped the shark” with pumpkin-spice dog treats and pumpkin-spice ramen noodles. (Something like that…I can’t be sure because He Who Shall Not Be Named recycled the paper in a fit of tidiness only two days after we got it.)

Here’s an article from The Kitchn we can talk about instead: Forget Pumpkin Spice: This Is Fall’s Trendiest Flavor Right Now.

The Kitchn picks on CVS as a prime example of Pumpkin Spice’s jumping the shark – making fun of CVS Pumpkin-Spice Cough Drops. Honey & lemon does make you think “throat-soothing” more than cinnamon & nutmeg does, but I feel sorry for companies who come out with stuff after the bandwagon is well on its way by. Libraries do it all the time. (You are not alone, CVS R&D Department!)

This time, I’m right on trend, because I had this cookbook checked out from the library LAST MONTH:

cover of Maple cookbook
Maple by Katie Webster (Quirk, 2015)

I have always loved maple, especially after we lived in Vermont for five years, but as a flavor, it is usually celebrated in springtime instead of fall. Maple syrup isn’t allowed on a low-carb diet, but everyone needs a splurge every now and then.

Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup is an inviting cookbook, with full-page color photos of some of the recipes. It looks like this multi-talented author takes her own photos. Check out the beautiful photos, layout, and table of contents on the publisher’s Web site.

I immediately wanted to make almost all of the recipes in this book, probably because most of them had “maple” somewhere in the name, but these are the ones I’ve marked to try soon:

Maple Tahini Chicken and Broccoli
Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs
Chicken, Peanut, and Napa Cabbage Pad Thai
Maple Ginger Roasted Salmon
Sherry Orange Quinoa
Cauliflower Salad with Black Sesame
Salted Maple Penuche Fudge
Maple Apple Almond Torte with Maple Cinnamon Glaze

The index separately lists Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Vegan recipes, but is otherwise only a recipe name index. The book doesn’t have an ingredient index (so you could look up chicken and find all the recipes using chicken, for example) which I believe every cookbook should have. But that’s my only complaint!

My Mom and I decided over the summer to schedule a night to cook and eat dinner together once a month to use recipes that she has been wanting either to make again or to try for the first time. For our last one, I strong-armed her into choosing a recipe from Maple for us to try, so we could A) use her non-gluten-free kitchen, and B) use some of the brand-new jug of pure Vermont maple syrup she had been given.

We both liked the sound of all of the main-dish recipes mentioned above, but I really wanted to make Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula and Maple Drizzle. The author’s note on the recipe says:

I wish I could claim responsibility for coming up with the idea of drizzling maple on pizza. I first saw it on the menu of the local bakery of our little Vermont town. The syrup adds a lovely balance to the salty cheese. Trust me.

Mom had garden-grown arugula from my sister and Vermont maple syrup from my brother, and I brought fresh thyme from our home herb garden, so it would have been a real family affair if only we had gotten my other sister to come over to eat it!

While we were cooking and talking, I forgot the fresh thyme was supposed to go in with the caramelized onions after they finished cooking, so I had to sprinkle it onto the pizza after the fact. I forgot to put the cornmeal on the pizza pan, too, and had to lift the dough up and put it under. (I’ve decided it might be best to have the glass of wine with dinner instead of during dinner prep. )

I also didn’t add all the arugula the recipe called for (3 cups loosely packed) but I blame that on being misled by the food photography. The arugula wilted from the heat of the pizza just out of the oven, so we could have used all three cups, but the photo showed it as leafy greens atop a pizza, so I was thinking pizza would be hard to eat with all that arugula on it!

pizza
Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula and Maple Drizzle

Due to time pressures, we used store-bought dough instead of trying the author’s recipe for Maple Wheat Pizza Dough, but the pizza was still delicious. Possibly a little too sweet, because I possibly went a little heavy on the maple syrup. (The recipe called for the pizza to be made in a rectangular baking sheet with sides and we used a round pizza pan, so we used the same amount of maple syrup on a smaller area, resulting in more maple syrup per bite.)

The cheeses on this pizza are a combination of sharp cheddar and feta, so there was a nice salty-sweet flavor to it, with pepitas adding crunch and the arugula to make it good for you.

Check out the recipe for Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula and Maple Drizzle at The Splendid Table.

Oprah’s Web site has another recipe from the cookbook to try next: Slow-Cooker Chicken  Thigh Hot Pot.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking badgeLinked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click/tap image for Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-16-17 #IMWAYR #RIPXII

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Readers Imbibing Peril XII Challenge

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Slade House Readalong

Since my last update, I came to the end of Slade House by David Mitchell on audio. I hope the next book is already written, because Slade House must be the second of a planned trilogy or more (starting with The Bone Clocks). Discussion questions for the readalong were posted on Monday, so I hope eventually to do a discussion post!

audiobook cover imageBy the way, for anyone who’s worried about reading Slade House before The Bone Clocks, here’s a recommendation for reading them out of order.

On audio, I’m listening to two books that fit into the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. On my iPod: The Likeness by Tana French, read by Grainne Gillis – the second book in her Dublin Murder Squad crime fiction novels. (This one is from the point of view of Cassie, instead of Rob, who was the narrator of In the Woods.) On CD, I just started listening to Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and son Owen King. I’m waiting for the downloadable version to come in from the library, but sometimes it’s more comforting to listen aloud to a scary story instead of having it go directly, privately, into your ear with no one else hearing what you’re hearing!

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This week I finally finished reading The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder. I almost didn’t, because I felt so sorry for the insecure characters – snarky as they mostly were – and their self-destructive behavior leading up to the wedding made me anxious.

If you liked The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney, Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford, or (going way back) Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, you will probably like The People We Hate at the Wedding. I sympathized most with the weed-addicted, well-meaning mother, but her adult children,  half-siblings – one successful and getting married, two floundering, career-wise, and in unhealthy relationships – are the main characters.

Recommended for anyone who likes to read about dysfunctional families and is prepared for some truly loathsome and regrettable behavior by people who can’t seem to stop themselves. If you prefer main characters to be not completely self-absorbed and have redeeming qualities that are somewhat obvious, best to go for something else!

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This past week, I started and put aside –for the second time – George & Lizzie, by retired librarian and reader’s advisory guru Nancy Pearl. It’s the author’s first novel and it struck me as a lot of “telling” and not enough “showing”, which would be a common writing mistake for a first-time novelist, but Nancy Pearl is an experienced book reviewer and writer of nonfiction, so I thought it must be a stylistic choice, a way to bring out the quirky, off-beat nature of the characters – young Lizzie and George. The narrative style didn’t work for me, however, and I got bored being told everything all at once.

Has anyone read it and can tell me to keep going with it? I’m a big Nancy Pearl fan and expected to love George & Lizzie. Maybe I should try it on audio?

Currently Reading

Something from the Nightside by Simon Green is a genre-blend of dark urban fantasy and noir crime fiction, which makes it ideal for October reading and the RIPXII challenge; it’s the first in a series I’ve been meaning to try for a while. (The series is up to eleven books now, I believe. Damn!)

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Taylor is the name, John Taylor. My card says I’m a detective, but what I really am is an expert on finding lost things. It’s part of the gift I was born with as a child of the Nightside.

I left there a long time ago, with my skin and sanity barely intact. Now I make my living in the sunlit streets of London. But business has been slow lately, so when Joanna Barrett showed up at my door, reeking of wealth, asking me to find her runaway teenage daughter, I didn’t say no.

Then I found out exactly where the girl had gone.

The Nightside. That square mile of Hell in the middle of the city, where it’s always three A.M. Where you can walk beside myths and drink with monsters. Where nothing is what it seems and everything is possible.

I swore I’d never return. But there’s a kid in danger and a woman depending on me. So I have no choice—I’m going home.


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are, and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile!
This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-9-17 #IMWAYR

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This weekly update has turned into more of a monthly update…

Recently Finished Books

The Widow of Wall Street
Meyers, Randy Susan
Simon & Schuster, 2017

The Widow of Wall Street is the best of several novels I’ve read recently that deal with the families and fallout from the financial crisis of 2008. The main character is Phoebe, the wife of a man whose dealings on Wall Street go beyond shady. The chapters that are written from Jake’s point of view are the weakest, but give readers an idea of how people justify criminal acts even to themselves. The novel’s slow build-up made me a little impatient as the readers know what’s going on from the beginning, long before clueless Phoebe, but the book’s long time span realistically conveys how a spouse can be oblivious or in denial about the other spouse’s activities, even over a lifetime.

Read The Widow of Wall Street if you like novels about marriages and families dealing with the fallout from a crisis or that delve deeply into one person’s life, mining it for meaning. It was not a favorite of mine, but is worth reading and would make a good book club choice.

Recently Finished Audiobooks

Gwendy’s Button Box
King, Stephen and Chizmar, Richard
Read by Maggie Siff
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017

audiobook cover imageGwendy’s Button Box is an old-school horror novella that fit right in with the Reading in Peril challenge (#RIPXII) I started this month, so I’ll review it in a separate post. Recommended for anyone who wants to dip a toe into horror or has been afraid to try a full-length Stephen King book.

The Late Show
Connelly, Michael
Hachette Audio, 2017

audiobook cover imageThe Late Show introduces a new detective character,  a young woman, Renee Ballard, who works the overnight shift on the LAPD. (Don’t worry, there’s still a new Harry Bosch book coming out later this year, too.) Male author Michael Connelly has created a tough female detective, extremely capable of handling herself in a predominantly male world, but the book did disappoint me at one point by having Renee placed in a scene with a criminal that made her appear vulnerable in a way that a male detective character rarely, if ever, is.

A Fatal Winter
Malliet, G.M.
Dreamscape, 2012
audiobook cover imageMax Tudor, parish vicar and former MI5 agent, is invited to the local castle to solve a locked-room murder mystery puzzle.

Currently Reading

Slade House by David Mitchell (audiobook)

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The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder

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Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (for book club)

book cover imageFor book club this week, we’re also going to watch Practical Magic, and compare book to movie.

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Did you know Alice Hoffman has a prequel to Practical Magic coming out tomorrow from Simon & Schuster? It’s called The Rules of Magic.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are, and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

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