23 May 2018

Wordless Wednesday 498

On My Porch, 2018


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22 May 2018

Today's Read: What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

What Should Be Wild by Julia FineWhat if your very touch had the ability to kill and resurrect? Could you live without directly touching any living (or once-living) thing? That is Maisie Cathey's fate, who killed her mother when still in her womb.

Deep in the wood there is a dappled clearing, a quiet space between two hills heavy with trees. A prickling bower joins the fists of land, letting through a single shaft of dusty light. Muffled birdsong can be heard, if you are quiet, carried on the whispering breeze. Old oaks cast heart-deep shadows. Alders bow their branches low.
What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine (Harper Books, 2018, p. 1; Prologue)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: 1990s; a centuries-old family estate
  • Circumstances: In the modern world, Maisie Cathey is, like other women in her family's long history, cursed. She lives an isolated life in her late-mother's mansion, never feeling the comfort of another's touch. Wearing protective clothing, she may go outside but her father forbids her to go into the woods. Some of her female ancestors who dared walked among the trees disappeared forever. Maisie copes well enough until her 16th year, when she loses both her housekeeper and her father within days of each other, leaving the girl entirely alone. With a few clues to guide her, Maisie finally steps beyond the confines of her home to search for her missing father . . . but all the while, she feels the pull of the woods behind her house.
  • Genre: feminist Gothic mystery (how do you like that for a genre?)
  • Characters: Maisie, 16 years old, cursed, and innocent of the world; Peter, her father, an anthropologist; Mrs. Blott, their housekeeper; seven of Maisie's female ancestors who entered the woods but never returned
  • More than just Maisie: For 1,300 years, women in Maisie's family tree have entered the woods to escape the burdens of their gender, never to return. We hear their voices and learn their stories.
  • The good so far: I'm not quite halfway through the novel, but I'm invested: I want to know what happened to Peter, and I want to know how the stories of the seven lost women tie into Maisie's story. I want to know if Maisie's condition is permanent. I love the fairy tale / folk tale elements and the dark, Gothic atmosphere that Julia Fine has created.
  • The not so good so far: It took me a few chapters to be pulled into What Should Be Wild, but once Maisie had a reason to leave her estate, things picked up.
  • Who would like this novel: fans of Gothic mysteries, stories with strong female characters, books with feminist themes, and/or dark fairy tales

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19 May 2018

Weekend Cooking: Multicooker Perfection from America's Test Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen's Multicooker PerfectionHave you drunk the America's Test Kitchen Kool-Aid? If you have, then you're sure to be an addict a fan. I am fully in the ATK camp and love their product reviews and their recipes.

Although I've been using a pressure cooker for years (see my stovetop pressure cooker post from 2011) and feel very comfortable with it, I'm happy to learn new tricks, especially for using the electric multicooker (Instant Pot is a popular brand), which I've owned only a couple of years.

In their new cookbook, Multicooker Perfection, ATK reviews machines, offers advice, and provides well-tested recipes. I went ahead and bought a copy, sight unseen, because I have total trust in ATK.

The focus of Multicooker Perfection is to take a single recipe and give directions for making it fast (under pressure) or slow (using the machine's slow-cook setting). Soup in under an hour in the evening or soup that cooks all day while you're at work: you choose.

If you're thinking about buying a new electric pressure cooker / multicooker, start here. ATK reviews different brands of pressure cookers (spoiler: the Instant Pot is not their top pick, though it is still a recommended brand) and explains how the machines work.

If you caved under peer pressure and bought an electric pressure cooker but have no idea what to do with it, ATK will be your hero. This book (similar to the Melissa Clark's pressure cooker book, which I reviewed last fall) highlights the tasks the electric pressure cooker does best. Because the recipes come from ATK, you know they will work, and the authors even tell you exactly why they work. The recipes demonstrate basic pressure cooker techniques, making it easier for you to adapt your family favorites.

Multicooker Perfection by America's Test KitchenYou may have noticed I've said little about the slow cooker directions included with each recipe. Frankly (and this is just my opinion), I wouldn't use my machine on the slow setting. I have slow cookers that work just fine, and none of the pressure cookers ATK reviewed received an "excellent" score for its ability to mimic a standalone slow cooker.

Multicooker Perfection is divided into four main recipe chapters, covering what I consider the stars of the pressure cooker:

  • Soups, Stews, and Chilis
  • Easy Suppers
  • Roasts and Ribs
  • Simple Sides
A fifth chapter collects "Ten Unexpected Things to Make in Your Multicooker." The recipes are all easy and cover a wide range of flavors: Asian, African, European, New World, and down-home. I appreciate the good balance of meat/fish recipes to vegetarian/vegan; there are dishes to meet almost every dietary style.

Two of the chapters are self-explanatory, the others, not so much. In "Easy Suppers" you'll find mac and cheese, poached salmon, pasta dishes, and several recipes that call for braising. "Simple Sides" includes mostly vegetables but also risotto and bean dishes. Among the recipes in the final chapter are homemade almond milk, mulled cider, and Boston brown bread.

As I mentioned earlier, Multicooker Perfection is best suited to new users or those who haven't yet developed the confidence to use their pressure cooker several times a week. I don't make all the dishes ATK suggests for the pressure cooker (I think it's just as easy and fast to make mashed potatoes on the stove as it is to use the pressure cooker, for example), but that's just me.

Experienced multicooker users will want to borrow a copy of Multicooker Perfection from the library; the rest of you can just go ahead and buy the cookbook. You won't be sorry. I'm not, and I've been using a pressure cooker for more than 20 years.

Here's a scan with a recipe for a vegetarian curry. The recipe below and the photo of the pulled pork tacos above are from America's Test Kitchen's Multicooker Perfection (all rights remain with the original copyright holders). Click the image to enlarge it, so you can read the recipe.

Multicooker Perfection by America's Test Kitchen
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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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18 May 2018

6 Novels Written by Women to Read in May

May is always blessed with an abundance of must-read books, just in time for better weather and long evenings of reading on the porch or by the pool. Today’s roundup of woman-authored fiction has an underlying theme of family; the books featured here explore marriage, siblings, secrets, forgiveness, and second chances. Which novels are calling to you?

Jess Kidd, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Catherine Isaac
  • Mr. Flood’s Last Resort by Jess Kidd (Atria, May 1): It’s always hard for me to say no to a novel with Irish characters (though the book is set in London). Kidd's newest centers around the relationship between Maud, a caregiver, and elderly Mr. Flood, who’s determined to live out his days in his dark mansion, over his son’s objections. Both of them have dark pasts and secrets, giving the book a Gothic feel.
  • Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (Grand Central Publishing, May 8): The mother-daughter and twin relationships and the mid-20th-century time period caught my attention. This story of three women (twins and their mother) explores broken family bonds, racism, the Japanese American experience, and the hope for redemption and forgiveness.
  • You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (Pamela Dorman Books, May 1): I couldn’t resist an uplifting story set in the French countryside. Jess decides to spend the summer in France so her son can get to know his father, who has never been part of their lives. At the same time, Jess can’t help but dream of a romantic reunion, despite her ex-boyfriend’s own future plans.
Margaret Bradham Thornton, Emmanuelle de Villepin, Katherine Center
  • A Theory of Love by Margaret Bradham Thornton (Ecco, May 8): I’ll read pretty much anything Ecco publishes. When a cutting-edge British journalist meets a French American financier, sparks fly. But is their relationship and eventual marriage based on intimacy and partnership or on a lifestyle that takes them around the world and feeds their individual ambitions?
  • The Devil’s Reward by Emmanuelle de Villepin (Other Press, May 1): I like the way books in translation broaden my perspective. Three generations of tense mother–daughter relationships in a French family may find resolution as stories and secrets of the past come to light in a Paris apartment. Other themes include marriage, fidelity, and personal freedom.
  • How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (St. Martin’s Press, May 15): One of my favorite plot lines is how life can utterly change in a single moment. Margaret’s future is bright, complete with a dream job and fiancĂ©, until it suddenly isn’t. Reviewers promise that this book about the struggle to find a silver lining even under the worst circumstances is neither sappy nor depressing.

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16 May 2018

Wordless Wednesday 497

After the Rain, 2018


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