Dinner with Edward for Cook the Books!

dinnerSuch an enjoyable book by Isabel Vincent –  It’s about love, friendship, understanding with a bonus of fantastic menus.    I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner when bookish friends were writing about it.

The first chapter is sorrowful as Edward is sitting by his wife’s bedside, listening to her sing and then telling him he may not end his life when she dies,  it would be the end of the family.  How would Edward deal with his grief? What is their backstory, this loving couple who can’t imagine a life without the other in this world?

Edward meets his daughter’s friend, Isabel Vincent, and they forge a great friendship. Both are going through an emotional time in their lives but this friendship is exactly what they both need. It was wonderful to read about their interactions and their special dinners.

Each chapter begins with a menu. It’s the meal Edward would be preparing for Isabel and each meal is exceptional. Chapter one starts us with Grilled Sirloin Steak, Sauce Bourguignonn, New Potatoes, Chocolate Souffle and Malbec.

One day Isabel is walking off the elevator to Edward’s apartment and she “immediately  inhaled cinnamon, sugar and baked apples.” She felt a rush of happiness.  What a lovely aroma to be greeted with and I would also be happy to know I could indulge in an apple galette later in the evening.  So much food and wine and cocktails!  Initially I was going to make the Apple Galette but then the lure of his crab cake dinner roped me in.

My recipe is an adaption of one from the Cheesecake Factory.  A restaurant I have never been in but have heard they serve some good crab cakes. These are loaded with chunks of crab, fresh red bell pepper and green scallions. We also enjoyed cheese grits, steamed broccoli and and a few glasses of Chardonnay.

This book is a lovely tribute, well documented by award winning investigative journalist Isabel Vincent.  Thank you to Claudia who writes at Honey from the Rock for suggesting this book.  Thanks also to Debra at Eliot’s Eats for my book 🙂

Linking up with Cook the Books and Briciole’s Novel Food and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.
cookthebooks novelFood

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor

This is an extraordinary book.


The writing is exceptional.  You are transported into Jess’s world – you can smell the aromas she describes, imagine the texture of the berries she ate while in the hospital, you can feel the frustration she expresses. Very descriptive writing.

For anyone who hasn’t read the synopsis or jacket, here is what it’s about.  A young woman has an aneurysm as she is running on a treadmill.  This is a healthy woman who is in graduate school at Harvard.  She nearly died and went through multiple surgeries.  Her skull was cut apart and deformed, she lost vision in one eye and yet with all the odds stacked against her – she persevered.  She survived and while she was recovering, she thought about the foods that made a difference in her life and above all – she remained positive.

There are 33 chapters with 26 of those followed by a recipe.  I have prepared several already and can endorse those as keepers.

In the chapter titled The All Clear,  Jessica writes about her blog Sweet Amandine.

People were reading my blog.  They were leaving comments, sending emails, asking questions about my recipes and sharing their own.  We talked about soup and scones; crisp roasted chickpeas; sesame noodles made with oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, and no peanut butter, thank you very much.  We did not talk about my brain.  they didn’t ask me about my blind eye, insist that I sit down, or place a hand on my shoulder and tear up.

I can’t imagine how wonderful that was for Jess to share and talk about something besides her brain and how she was doing.  A space on the Internet where she was just a regular person, doing regular things and the common interest was cooking. No one treated her differently.

The constant love and support from her family will blow you away.  Her husband, her parents and friends – complete and total support.  I loved the stories about them as well as reading Jess’ thoughts.

It’s an inspirational book, it’s a love story, it’s a foodie book with a slice of life.

I selected this book for two events.  Cook the Books has this featured as the December/January selection.

The other  event is a new reading challenge I joined this year.  It’s the 2017 Monthly Motif Challenge hosted at Girlxoxo.  The monthly motif for January is Diversify your ReadingKick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.

I’m not Christian or Jewish so typically, I don’t read books that are religious in nature.  This isn’t a religious book but the author is Jewish and her religion and culture figure in to the story.  I very much enjoyed the sense of community and how the family and friends came together with complete love and support.  The description of kosher foods and the process of cooking is addressed.  Eating out the kosher way can be an issue but that was addressed too. It was interesting and, more importantly, I learned something reading this book.

There are still a few recipes I want to make but I will share the Pan-Roasted Salmon and the Brown Soda Bread.

The salmon was easy enough but I had a time cleaning my cast iron frying pan!  Delicious meal and I would make this again.



The Brown Soda Bread challenged me because this was one of the few times I managed to use our digital kitchen scale and – thanks to my husband’s assistance – it was measured properly.  This came out well and I will most certainly be making this again.


For the soda bread recipe head over to Squirrel Head Manor HERE.  The salmon was a breeze.  It’s on page 58 in the book.

Pan-Roasted Salmon

1 tablespoon flaked sea salt

2 pieces of salmon fillet with skin on, about a 1/3 pound each

Olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper and lemon wedges

Method:  Scatter the salt over a 10 inch dry, well-seasoned cast iron pan.  Place pan over medium heat for 3 minutes.  While the pan heats dry the fillets with a paper towel and lay them on a plate.  Brush with olive oil on both sides.

Place fish in hot pan, skin side down.  Turn heat down if the crackle sounds too sputtery. Cover with a lid.  Cook without moving fillets for 3 to 5 minutes.  Flip them and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their thickness.

Serve with pepper and lemon.  Brilliant!

Don’t forget that soda bread!



Adding my review to Goodreads and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

First book of the year

i just read about Shelia’s post at Book Journey where you may talk about your first book of the year. This is a new start for me with reading goals and this year…..it’s going to be more relaxed.

I am starting with Stir by Jessica Fechtor, a book that I meant to read last year. I have started it and I am completed engaged in the story.


I am participating in fewer challenges this year and making my goals reasonable for my schedule. Hence, I will be reading books that capture my attention and some I have put off but want to tuck into this year.

So while I’m late to the party at Book Journey I did manage to get the post done.

Happy Reading, my friends!





Scarlet Feather is the featured book at Cook the Books

scarletFeatherMaeve Binchy was a wonderful storyteller.  She could weave a plot with so many characters, all their lives intersecting with one another and yet, you wouldn’t be confused about what was going on in their lives. It was a sad day when she died.  Ireland lost a treasure.

I have read every single book Binchy has published. Scarlet Feather wasn’t my favorite of her books but I  did like the story line and the characters.  Well, most of the characters.

Cathy’s husband was certainly not a likable guy. You wondered how that marriage could work out as Neil never put Cathy first.

Now, Cathy and Tom have a natural friendship and great chemistry. From the beginning I was wondering why they weren’t a couple instead of Cathy being married to Neil and Tom living with Marcella. They support each other, work hard to make their business a success and share love and friendship with many friends. If you read Tara Road (another fat book I loved by Binchy) you’ll remember some of those characters – they have parts in this book as well.

I think one thing I love about this book (and most of her other books) is the portrayal of the average person. Who hasn’t had frustrations with their parents or disagreements with a mother-in-law (don’t get me started). It’s not a detective story or a thriller where sensational things happen. It’s a tale you can immerse yourself in as you can see some of those things happening to you. It’s everyday life.

The book is summarized on the Cook the Books site so I won’t go into details about that. Plus I won’t give spoilers.

So much food is mentioned in this book but that’s to be expected since our main characters own a catering company. We have vegetables and lamb bone for soup, Wicklow Lamb, Irish Salmon, loads of lobster and mussels, rich Chocolate Cake, fruit pavlova, vegetarian goulash and I could go on and on.

My representative dish is going to be a Landlocked Paella. Not your traditional seafood Paella because we have overloaded on salmon lately. Needed a break from the sea.


For the recipe and my I Heart Cooking linkup please visit my food blog, Squirrel Head Manor.


It’s been fun revisiting this book. This novel is the selection at Cook the Books, hosted this by Claudia this time. Thanks to Claudia who writes at Honey from the Rock for choosing a Binchy novel.

There is still time to hook up if you want to participate. The info may be found HERE.


Also linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series.