SHEET PAN by Kate McMillan

March 26, 2017

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Delicious Recipes for Hands-Off Meals

Sheet pan cooking is the latest trend I’ve noticed and there are several new cookbooks out or coming out. Recently released are 150 Recipes in a 13×9 Pan by Gooseberry Patch; One-Pan Wonders from Cook’s Country; One Pan & Done by  Molly Gilbert; and Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark (Clark is one of the food writers for the NY Times, and I’m hoping to get my hands on this one soon for review.)

Sheet Pan is a smaller, hard cover cookbook with nice, heavy paper and great photos that are perfect for inspiration. The chapters:

Easy & Delicious One-Pan Meals
Sheet-pan basics
Meat
Seafood
Vegetables

The first thing that caught my eye was “Garlicky Shrimp with Asparagus Fries and Meyer Lemon Aioli.” I didn’t have asparagus but zucchini, squash or mushrooms were suggested as substitutes. I had just gotten some zucchini in my CSA box so that was perfect.  I also had just picked up a bag of Meyer lemons at Trader Joes – when I see them, I buy them because they have a short growing season. I actually have a Meyer lemon tree in my yard but usually only get 2-3 fruit each year. It’s a baby tree, no taller than me yet so we are hopeful that as it grows it will fruit more. But I digress.

I was a little nervous about overcooking the shrimp and/or undercooking the zucchini so I put the zucchini fries in the hot oven for five minutes or so before I added the shrimp. It was a quick dinner to put together, about 10 minutes prep time and 12 minutes cooking and it was really delicious, my family loved it. And by lining the pan with parchment paper, cleanup was a breeze.

Not all the recipes are that quick. “Pork Chops with Apricots, Red Cabbage & Blue Cheese” takes about 15 minutes prep and cooks for 40 minutes or so. “Stuffed Eggplant Three Ways” takes about 25 minutes or so in the oven, “Roasted Caesar Salad with Salmon” only 15 minutes and “Vegetable Pizza Tarts” made with frozen puff pastry takes about 20 minutes.

I don’t mind if all I have to do is wait, that still seems like an easy dinner to me. And again, clean up is only one pan – and that’s why people are loving these sheet pan cookbooks. I work full time and I love to cook, but cleaning up is not fun so I really appreciate how easy it is to only have to deal with one pan.

This is a great cookbook for anyone who likes to cook but maybe doesn’t have all that much time or energy, especially after working all day. I made this tart but subbed green onion for the leeks, used creminis, and almonds for the hazelnuts. It was really good and really easy. Try it yourself — 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

MUSHROOM & GRUYÈRE TART WITH HAZELNUT HARICOTS VERTS

All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a 17.3-oz/490-g package), thawed
5 ounces (155 g) Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, white and pale parts thinly sliced
¼ lb (125 g) white mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced
4½ tablespoons (70 ml) olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg beaten with
1 tablespoon water
¾ lb (375 g) haricots verts, trimmed
¼ cup (11/4 oz/40 g)
hazelnuts, roughly chopped

SERVES 2–4

1 Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

2 On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 121/2-by-15-inch (32-by-38-cm)
rectangle. Fold into thirds, transfer to the prepared pan, and unfold, positioning the dough so there will be
room for the haricots verts on the pan. Fold over about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of each side of the dough to create a border.

3 Sprinkle the dough with the cheese, leaving the borders uncovered. In a bowl, toss together the leeks,
mushrooms, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the cheese. Brush the borders with the egg mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.

4 In a bowl, toss together the haricots verts and the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on the pan next to the tart. Continue baking until the tart is golden brown and the haricots verts are fork-tender, about 15 minutes longer. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the hazelnuts over the haricots verts.

5 Let the tart cool slightly, then cut into slices and serve the haricots verts on the side.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SHEET PAN by Kate McMillan. Weldon Owen (January 3, 2017). ISBN 978-1681881379. 112p.


THE DIME by Kathleen Kent

March 25, 2017

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It’s been just over two years since Betty and her girlfriend, Jackie, relocated from Brooklyn to Dallas. Betty, a narcotics officer with Dallas PD, has finally been given lead on a huge case: a local has been in contact with one of the big Mexican cartels and a drop has been scheduled. Betty and her team have spent hours staking out the location where it’s to take place, but an incident with a bystander throws everything off kilter. As bodies stack up, the case becomes more complicated – worse so when it becomes clear that Betty herself has become a target. But a target of exactly what is unclear.

While this is by no means Kathleen Kent’s first rodeo, it is her first crime novel. And I have to say it’s a resounding success.

Betty Rhyzyk is a tall redhead, born and bred in Brooklyn. And she’s just the latest of a string of cops in the family. Her Polish roots run deep and the narrative is peppered with pieces of translated family wisdom. By the time the meat of the story begins, however, Betty is the only surviving member of the Rhyzyk clan.

Not that she’s alone in the world by any means. Her girlfriend, Jackie, a nurse who spends much of her time worrying over Betty’s diet, is steadfast and supportive even when the story begins to take a nasty turn. And Betty is supported by her fellow police officers as well, more or less. Kent does a fantastic job portraying the difficulties of being a female cop in what is still a very male centric career.

She also does a wonderful job bringing Dallas and Texas to life in this tale, so much so that the city becomes more than just a setting. The sense of place is true to its inspiration, as I’m sure anyone in the DFW area can attest (which makes sense because it’s the place Kent calls home.), imbuing the story with a distinct flavor and characteristic.

The Dime is the kind of book that begins with a bang and still manages to become increasingly intense. And the pacing and plot never falter. It is a dark one, so do be warned, but definitely one that’s joining the ranks of my own personal favorites. No word yet on whether Betty will be a new series lead, but I for one certainly hope that will be the case.

3/17 Becky LeJeune

THE DIME by Kathleen Kent. Mulholland Books; First Edition/First Printing edition (February 14, 2017).  ISBN 978-0316311038. 352p.

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FOR THIS WE LEFT EGYPT? by Dave Barry, Alan Zweibel & Adam Mansbach

March 23, 2017

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A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them

My parents are gone, my children are adults and aren’t always home for the holiday, and we usually end up celebrating with friends. So I like to switch things up with new and different haggadahs, and there are many beyond the Maxwell House Coffee* Haggadah that I grew up on – and fell asleep during the long, long readings. (*free at many supermarkets for years.)

A few years ago I got the NEW AMERICAN HAGGADAH: A New Translation by Nathan Englander, edited by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is beautiful and different. There is a timeline created by Mia Sara Bruch and commentaries by Nathaniel Deutsch, Jeffrey Goldberg, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein and Lemony Snicket (really!) This is a beautiful book with gorgeous calligraphy and subtle contemporary artwork. This book is a thought provoking translation that, at least for my guests, inspired conversation and discussion of many things, from the actual Seder to contemporary politics.

But this year I am really mixing things up with this new Haggadah written by one of the funniest gentiles on the planet (Barry) and two of his Jewish and funny friends. It is laugh out loud funny and I love the illustrations, too, looking very much like 1960’s children’s book illustrations.

If you’re ready for a change and want to laugh instead of sleep through your seder, order as many copies as you need today from Amazon and you’ll have them in plenty of time for Passover. The first night is Monday, April 10th.

From the publisher:

The book you hold before you is no ordinary Haggadah. If you’ve ever suffered through a Seder, you’re well aware of the fact that the entire evening can last as long as the exodus from Egypt itself. There are countless stories, dozens of blessings, and far too many handwashings while the meal turns cold. Now prepare to be entertained by another version of the book that’s responsible for this interminable tradition.

With this hilarious parody Haggadah from the comedic minds of Dave Barry, Alan Zweibel, and Adam Mansbach, good Jews everywhere will no longer have to sit (and sleep) through a lengthy and boring Seder. In For This We Left Egypt?, the authors will be take you through every step of the Seder, from getting rid of all the chametz in your home by setting it on fire with a kosher blowtorch to a retelling of the Passover story starring Pharaoh Schmuck and a burning bush that sounds kind of like Morgan Freeman, set against the backdrop of the Promised Land―which turned out not to be a land of milk and honey but rather one of rocks and venomous scorpions the size of Yorkshire terriers. You then eat a celebratory brisket and wrap up the whole evening by taking at least forty-five minutes to say good-bye to everyone.

So gather all the Jews in your life (even the few who don’t appear to be long-suffering) and settle in for a fun way to pass the time while waiting for Elijah to show up.

I can’t wait.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FOR THIS WE LEFT EGYPT? by Dave Barry, Alan Zweibel & Adam Mansbach. Flatiron Books (March 7, 2017). ISBN 978-1250110213. 144p.


IF NOT FOR YOU by Debbie Macomber

March 22, 2017

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Beth Prudhomme recently moved to Portland, Oregon from Chicago and landed a job as a high school music teacher. Her favorite Aunt Sunshine, a famous artist and old hippie, lives nearby. Beth’s mother is super controlling, but she’s back in Chicago and has promised not to visit for one year.

Beth makes a good friend at school, another teacher named Nichole. Nichole is married and has a baby. She invites Beth over for dinner, wanting to fix her up with her husband’s best friend, Sam.

The two clash almost immediately. Sam is a tattooed, bearded auto mechanic and thinks Beth is a stuck up priss. Sam just makes her uncomfortable, she’s never met anyone like him and can’t understand why her friend would fix them up. They both decide to duck out early, and are driving away when Sam witnesses Beth get into a terrible accident. He jumps from his car and rushes to her, holding her hand and telling her she is going to be all right, but he is really scared that this woman he just met is going to die.

He ends up visiting her at the hospital, and feels compelled to keep going back and they fall into an easy friendship as she starts down the long road to recovery. He brings his guitar and plays for her, and they realize their shared love of music and that maybe they have more in common than they thought.

Eventually, they fall in love but neither of them wants to admit it or have that sort of relationship. He’s been burned before, and burned badly, and she’s in a panic about what her parents might think – her father’s a scholar and her mother’s a snob.

Eventually they work through all the early hurdles only to find even bigger ones down the road. Nevertheless, they get their happily ever after.

It is a truly compelling read – I read it in one night. The story has real depth but still moves fast. It’s the characters that really drew me in, and I’m sure they’ll stay with me for some time to come.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

IF NOT FOR YOU by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (March 21, 2017).  ISBN 978-0553391961.  384p.

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BLUSH FOR ME by Kristen Proby

March 21, 2017
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A Fusion Novel, Book 3

Katrina Meyers manages Seattle’s hottest wine bar, Seduction. Deathly afraid of flying, nonetheless she finds herself on “a death trap with wings” with some scary turbulence to boot. Her seatmate is hot, hot, hot Ryan “Mac” MacKenzie, and he’s only too happy to help out the scared gorgeous woman in the next seat. And then he can’t stop thinking about her.

Mac runs an super-successful wine touring business and ends up at Seduction. Mac and Katrina are having quite the physical relationship but neither wants to admit there is more to it than that.

There is great chemistry here, and well developed characters that are believable, making this a terrific scorcher of a romance. Love this series!

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BLUSH FOR ME by Kristen Proby. William Morrow Paperbacks (March 21, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062434791. 304p.

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SAY NOTHING by Brad Parks

March 20, 2017

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When will I learn not to start a thriller at 11:00 at night when I have to be at work at 7:30 the next morning?! Using every ounce of self discipline I have (which isn’t very much, I’m sorry to say) I read a little more than half of this book by 2:00 a.m, when I forced myself to go to bed. Sleep was slow in coming and I found myself waking at 3:45 and again at 5 to check on my daughter. No, she’s not a young child, but she’s mine and apparently this plotline was weighing heavily on my mind.

This is a hybrid domestic/legal thriller, two of my favorites mashed up together. Judge Scott Sampson is the happily married father of young twins. Wednesday afternoons he picks up the kids and they go swimming, so he’s really disappointed when Allison, his wife, texts him and says she forgot they have a doctor’s appointment that afternoon so she would pick them up.

Except she didn’t. And he didn’t. But someone who resembles Allison and was driving a gray Honda minivan did and both kids are now missing.

The judge is told to say nothing and how to rule in a case coming before him the next day. They are both frightened and freaking out, to say the least. The judge’s first impulse is to call the courthouse cops, but Allison is adamant they follow instructions exactly. But that first instruction is only the beginning. It turns out a much bigger case is in play.

The tension is almost unbearable at times in this fast paced, emotionally riveting read. This is Park’s first standalone thriller. I loved his Carter Ross mystery series but this is a big departure and extremely well done.

Parks’ Say Nothing got the trifecta of starred reviews, an enviable feat, from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. And if I starred reviews, he’d get mine, too. Don’t miss it.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SAY NOTHING by Brad Parks. Dutton (March 7, 2017).  ISBN 978-1101985595. 448p.

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THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE by Meik Wiking

March 16, 2017

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Danish Secrets to Happy Living

I’m not much for self help type books. But all the other books that I’ve read from Danish authors have been thrillers – Sara Blædel, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Peter Hoeg – so when the publisher sent it to me, I thought it only fair to look at another aspect of life in the happiest country on Earth (according to National Geographic).

This is a short, happy read indeed. It’s also unabashedly full of pride in all things Danish, from the weather (really) to the furniture and accessories. It’s the “untranslatable quality of places, people and togetherness prized by Danes above almost all else.” (The Guardian).

It’s being comfy at home. Candles are a must. So are soft woolen socks (not so much here in South Florida). Furniture you can lounge on with your feet up. A gratitude journal works well here. Oh, and cake is a good thing. All stuff I can get live with – and maybe you can, too.

If the past couple of years have been all about purging your stuff (thanks to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo), then 2017 is all about living cozy and being happy. Much more my speed.

From the publisher:

Embrace Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and become happier with this definitive guide to the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being.

Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge. Loosely translated, Hygge—pronounced Hoo-ga—is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience,” Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.”

Hygge is the sensation you get when you’re cuddled up on a sofa, in cozy socks under a soft throw, during a storm. It’s that feeling when you’re sharing comfort food and easy conversation with loved ones at a candlelit table. It is the warmth of morning light shining just right on a crisp blue-sky day.

The Little Book of Hygge introduces you to this cornerstone of Danish life, and offers advice and ideas on incorporating it into your own life, such as:

  • Get comfy. Take a break.
  • Be here now. Turn off the phones.
  • Turn down the lights. Bring out the candles.
  • Build relationships. Spend time with your tribe.
  • Give yourself a break from the demands of healthy living. Cake is most definitely Hygge.
  • Live life today, like there is no coffee tomorrow.

From picking the right lighting to organizing a Hygge get-together to dressing hygge, Wiking shows you how to experience more joy and contentment the Danish way.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE by Meik Wiking. William Morrow (January 17, 2017). ISBN 978-0062658807. 240p.


A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT by Meredith Duran

March 11, 2017

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Rules for the Reckless, Book 5

Meredith Duran writes a smart and sexy book about a strong woman and politics in 1860’s Great Britain.

Jane Mason lost her parents and her father’s brother became her guardian. Her father was a maverick businessman who made a fortune and then turned to politics, trying to better lives in Great Britain. But he was also smart enough to leave the money in trust for his daughter. His brother takes over his seat in Parliament, but he is not the man his brother was. He is consumed by greed and is determined to get his hands on his niece’s fortune.

Jane was brought up educated and to speak her mind, but her uncle hides her away in the country and tries to will it out of her. Jane is smart enough to know that she is treading on thin ice, and pretends to become the “brown mouse” that her uncle wants. When she is informed that she will be marrying her cousin, she is determined to find a way out of that marriage and out on her own. She arranges a “marriage” but her uncle finds out and stops it. She learns this from Crispin Burke, a very good looking but evil politician in cahoots with her uncle. He offers her a way out if she will spy on her uncle for him and she agrees.

When Crispin is attacked and left for dead, Jane manages to “marry” him, finding her way out of the arranged marriage and into independence. Except Crispin doesn’t die. Instead he awakens with amnesia, believing Jane to be his wife and forgetting all the bad politics he’s been involved in. Together they form a strong alliance for good, but Jane is afraid once he gets his memory back he will get rid of her – and she has fallen in love with him.

Lots of political intrigue permeates this story but it is the romance that is the most intriguing. A very entertaining and enthralling read.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A LADY’S CODE OF MISCONDUCT by Meredith Duran. Pocket Books (February 28, 2017). ISBN 978-1501139024. 400p.


PERFECT FOR YOU by Candis Terry

March 9, 2017
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A Sunshine Creek Vineyard Novel, Book 2

 

I loved the first book in this new series so I was very happy to get the second. Set in a vineyard in the small town of Sunshine Creek, (near Vancouver, I think?) this book focuses on another of the gorgeous Kinkaide brothers, Declan.

Jordan was the focus of the first book in the series, A Better Man, and his twin Declan is the focus here. The twins are fraternal and as different as night and day. Declan is the serious one. As a child he had learning disabilities which weren’t diagnosed for years, so he always struggled. That made him determined to excel at something, and that something became financial management.

His long time assistant, Brooke, works with him in his California office. After his parents death, things are upended at the family vineyard and Dec needs to get home, and that’s where this story starts.

With no flights available for a few days, Brooke suggests driving the 15 hours to Sunshine Creek and reluctantly Dec agrees. Little does he know how life-changing that drive will be. His super efficient assistant turns out to be a fearless, fun loving girl, and Dec is at a loss how to handle it. Slowly it dawns on him that he is enjoying himself, something his very serious self hasn’t experienced in a long time. And Brooke finally admits to herself that she is in love with her boss, but wonders how she will get through the wall he has built around himself.

Lots of ups and downs along the way, but the path leads directly to romance. This was a one nighter for me, I couldn’t put it down. Do read this series in order though, it will be more enjoyable to get all the back story before moving to this new book.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

PERFECT FOR YOU by Candis Terry. Avon (February 28, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062471840.  368p.

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WHY WE MARCH

March 7, 2017
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Signs of Protest and Hope–Voices from the Women’s March

There will be no denying the size and scope of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March – not with this historical record.

This is the second book to come out recording this event. See WHY I MARCH for another look.

From the publisher:

Celebrate the Women’s March with this inspiring collection of 500 images of the most powerful, uplifting, clever, and creative protest signs carried by marchers across the United States and around the world. Organized thematically, the photographs in Why We March–featuring messages about reproductive rights and immigration, cabinet picks and police violence, climate change and feminism–together paint a striking portrait of the hope, defiance, anger, and passion that sent more than 5 million people into the streets to protest.

“Women’s Rights = Human Rights.” “Love Trumps Hate.” “Nasty Women Unite.” “Build Bridges, Not Walls.” These messages are a rallying cry for this burgeoning movement, and this collection will serve as both a valuable encapsulation of this unprecedented moment in political history and a powerful reminder of why we march.

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All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to Planned Parenthood.

3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHY WE MARCH by Artisan. Artisan (March 7, 2017). ISBN 978-1579658281. 264p.