From one book set in North Carolina to another, Me & Emma had its similarities to Where The Crawdads Sing but was entirely different all the same. There was something similar about the two books – there were themes of isolation and loss in both of them, but the characters themselves were wholly different.
Rated a 3.9 on goodreads the day I wrote this, I rated it a 4. Me & Emma is a story of child abuse. It is about Carrie, an 8-year-old girl and her younger sister, Emma. Carrie and Emma lost their father due to a murder that the younger sister witnessed. Their mother remarries and their stepfather horribly abuses the girls.
There is a huge twist in the book which makes very obvious the ways that young children cope with difficult situations. I didn’t see it coming and it made me cry.
This book didn’t have a ton of food references, though there were a few:
Chocolate chip cookies
Biscuits and gravy
Momma’s fried chicken and Daddy’s potato salad
Piece of corn bread
The orangeade made an appearance during a flashback scene, to when Carrie’s daddy was alive. The reason I chose it as the recipe for this book was because it had the most descriptive food scene and brought Carrie back a time of good memories. So much of the book was filled with despair. I didn’t want to remember the book by the dog food that Carrie was forced to eat. A sunny orangeade and a time when Carrie wasn’t the subject of her stepfather’s abuse was a much better food creation.
I did make a keto version of this, though it’s not really low carb because oranges are naturally sugary. But by not adding sugar and using another sweetening agent, I have cut the carbs down some. Also as a note, the reason I use two different sweeteners is because I have learned if you combine two different ones, you have less chance of an aftertaste.
4 oranges, juiced 2 tbsp lemon juice 1/2 cup xylitol 1/4 cup erythritol 3/4 cups tap water 2 1/2 cups sparkling water 1/8 tsp vanilla extract pinch of salt
I am part of an online book club and February’s pick was Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This book has extraordinarily high ratings on goodreads. On the day of this post, the goodreads rating is a 4.54. While I did really enjoy the book, I rated it a 3. I’ll explain why in just a minute.
Where The Crawdads Sing is set in the marshland of North Carolina. Kya, a young girl abandoned by everyone she loves, must learn to survive. If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be perseverance. Because as a child and as an adult, Kya must continue to persevere.
The things I enjoyed about this book were the times when Kya was alone. Her interactions with her environment were beautifully told. The reason the book gets a 3 rating comes mainly from the second portion of the book, where Kya faces criminal charges.
You don’t know this. I am a criminal defense attorney when I’m not online blogging about books I’ve read with recipes I’ve cooked. I tend to gravitate towards books that focus on criminal proceedings and then I tend to get annoyed when authors fail at describing these adequately. Besides the clunky dialogue that plagues the conversational points of this book, I can guarantee that most trials are not quite so Law and Order TV show-esque. And most lawyers know how to word much less objectionable questions.
Now, in terms of the purpose of this blog, I was surprised at how many food references were in the book:
Red beans and cornbread
Corn fritters or hoecakes
Baking bread, boiling butter beans, and bubbling fish stew
Boiled turnip greens
Roasted hot dogs, red-hot chili, and fried shrimp
Chicken pie with crust
Scrambled eggs, ripe red tomatoes slices, cornbread fritters
Picnic spreads of chicken salad and deviled eggs
Chicken and biscuits
Fried fish-coated in cornmeal and black pepper-served with grits and greens
Fried fish and hush puppies
Sausage and biscuits, boiled turnip greens, and fried chicken
Crab cakes, creamed corn, chicken thighs
Grilled flounder stuffed with shrimp served with pimento-cheese grits
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, white acre peas and biscuits
Fried shrimp, cheese grits, fried okra, and fried green tomatoes
Blackberry cobbler with ice cream
Boiled black-eyed peas with onions
Chicken fried steak, mash and gravy, turnips, coleslaw, biscuits, pecan pie with ice cream
Turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie
Coffee and hot donuts
Fried pork chops
Sausage and biscuits
Buttermilk biscuits, turnips, and pinto beans
Cold fried chicken, salt-cured ham and biscuits, and potato salad. Sweet and dill pickles. Slices of four-layer cake with half-inch thick caramel icing.
Pimento-cheese sandwich with potato chips
Fried slices of molasses ham, stirred redeye gravy, and sour-cream biscuits and blackberry jam
Almond-crusted North Carolina trout, wild rice, creamed spinach, and yeast rolls
“Coon balls,” a mixture of biscuit dough, hot sausage, and sharp cheddar cheese
Holy cow. That was a lot.
So the reason I made this chicken pot pie (and I made it keto so I can eat it) was because of the significance it had in this book. It made an appearance twice. Once at the very beginning and once at the very end.
As a child, Kya was not sent to school. Truancy officers tempted her with the promise of chicken pie with crust. On her only day at school in her life, Kya had the chicken pie but she was also made fun of her by her fellow classmates for not knowing how to spell dog.
The other appearance of the pie was when she first came home, after having been in jail charged with a heinous crime. Her brother makes her a chicken pie to welcome her home. The chicken pot pie acts as a bookend. It marks the beginning of her isolation, as well as the end, the acceptance by her community.
Just as a recipe note, I actually think anyone would enjoy this recipe – a keto follower not. The pastry is made with a fathead dough, which is basically cheese and basically delicious.
Keto Chicken Pot Pie
Ingredients for Filling
3 tbsp butter 1/2 onion, diced 2 celery ribs, chopped 2 carrots, chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 12 oz chicken breast, cubed 3/4 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup chicken broth 2 tbsp Dijon mustard 3/4 cup extra sharp white cheddar cheese, grated 1/2 cup frozen corn salt and pepper, to taste
Ingredients for Dough
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated 3 tbsp cream cheese 3/4 cup almond flour 1 egg 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp onion powder 1 tsp Italian seasoning 1 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Directions for Filling
Preheat oven to 375.
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook until soft.
Once soft, add the chicken and continue to cook until no longer raw.
Add heavy cream, chicken stock, and mustard. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 7 minutes.
Mix in the cheese and stir until melted.
Mix in the frozen corn. Stir together and set aside.
Directions for Dough
Melt together the mozzarella cheese and cream cheese. You can do this in the microwave. I use the air fryer, because that’s what I own. Do it in short increments and stir together until it’s melted all the way through and combined.
In a large bowl add the remainder of the dough ingredients in the with the cheese. With wet hands, mix the ingredients together. This dough gets sticky, so the wetter your hands, the easier.
Put It All Together
I used individual size baking dishes that are 5 inches by 5 inches. I would recommend something of similar size. Divide the filling between four of these baking dishes.
With wet hands, shape the dough into four squares. Place one square on top of each dish.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Allow to sit for several minutes, when no longer bubbling.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is set in my hometown of San Francisco. Though I am not Chinese-American, many of the friends I had growing up were. I spent many weekends at their houses with their parents, who prepared us delicious delicacies.
I pulled this book off of my bookshelf to read. I have a ton of books that I still need to read. This was a great random pull from the shelf.
The Joy Luck Club is about both the first generation American children of Chinese mothers and the stories of the mothers themselves, wishing that their daughters would be able to understand their histories. This book focuses around four mothers and their daughters. Each mother, having immigrated to the US from China, came from vastly different circumstances from each other: from village life and literally running for their lives to living in somewhat luxury, each woman explains the sorrow and the pain they experienced in their lives, hoping to make their daughters’ lives better than their own.
Because this book was very much about the sharing of culture, the past generation with the new, there was a lot of food reference in this book:
Red bean soup
Black sesame seed soup
Dumplings shaped like silver money ingots, long rice noodles for long life, boiled peanuts for conceiving sons
Chow mein, wonton soup, chaswei
Syaumei, a little dumpling
Mooncake in the shape of a rabbit
Zong zi – the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves
Steamed pastries and dim sum, fragrant red beans, fried sesame balls, and sweet curried chicken crescents
Sauce coated eggplant
Shrimp and snowpeas
Steamed pork and preserved vegetables
Can of chicken noodle soup
Crab dinner seasoned with ginger and scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil
Steamed dumplings, duck’s gizzards
Spicy bean-curd dish smelling of ginger, scallions, and red chili sauce
A thin pancake with an egg dropped in the middle, brushed with black bean paste, then rolled up
Ywansyau – sticky sweet dumpling
Soup steaming out of a carved winter melon, chicken wrapped in clay
Hamburger, french fries, and apple pie a la mode
This dish, the eggplant in coated in sauce, comes from the part of the book where one of the grown daughters, Waverly Jong, brings her boyfriend Rich to her parents’ house for dinner. Rich is not what Lindo Jong expected would be the type of man her daughter Waverly would marry, an American man with freckles. Rich tries very hard to impress the Jong family. Though offered a fork to eat his meal, he opted to try the chopsticks. As he went to take a bite of the eggplant, the eggplant falls from his grip onto his crisp white shirt and then onto the crotch of his pants.
This scene shows a ton of cultural etiquette clashes. Besides dropping his eggplant on himself, he takes far more food than appropriate for what the Jong’s expect, he refuses seconds, and then proceeds to pour soy sauce all over Lindo’s famous steamed pork and preserved vegetables. This scene seemed like an appropriate one to capture, so enjoy some eggplant!
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was the first book I’ve read in 2019. My stepdaughter bought it for me for Christmas this year and it’s a book that’s been on my list of to-reads.
The Night Circus is very much a love story. It is also a story of magic. Celia and Marco, both magicians (or illusionists) in their own right, fall deeply and madly in love with each other. But unlike a love story with kissing at the end, this has a more magical Shakespearan Romeo and Juliet outcome.
Morgenstern writes her story to let you see the circus. You can see the magic shows, the tarot readings, the tent of bottles full of scents which invoke memories and stories.
There is a lot of food throughout this book, from the dinners hosted to the circus food. Just before reading this book I had went to Cirque du Soleil with my family and saw the show Volta. I love Cirque shows and Volta was no exception. As I read this book I remembered sitting under the tent as I watched the amazing acts these performers did from acrobats to BMX biking. The lobby had the standard circus food, including churros. I decided for this blog to make a twist (a literal twist) on a churro, because anything in The Night Circus circus would have some different take on it. Other foods mentioned in the book included:
Vermouth poached oysters
Creations flavored with vanilla and honey, chocolate and cinnamon
Layers of pastry and cinnamon and sugar all rolled into a twist and covered in icing
Strawberries coated in looping patterns of dark and white chocolate
With all the mentions of chocolate, cinnamon, and sugar, churros seemed to be the right call. Though I have promised not all of the foods I post here will be keto, I’m not cheating today so I wanted to make something I could actually eat. And keto treats and keto breads really fascinate me, so I’m still playing around with that.
Sift together the almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk, and xanthum gum. Set aside.
In a small pot mix together water, 2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp erythritol, and salt. Once the liquid starts simmering, add the flour mixture. Mix together over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until the dough creates a ball and pulls away from the sides. Let cool for 5 minutes.
In a stand mixture combine the dough with the egg. After the egg has been mixed in, mix in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Place the mixture into a piping bag. Pipe the dough into swirls on a baking sheet covered with a silpat mat.
Bake for 20 minutes.
While the churro swirls are baking, melt 1 tbsp of butter. Melt the hazelnut spread. Combine the remaining erythritol and cinnamon in a bowl.
Immediately after the churros come out of the oven, brush with the melted button. Sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture. Drizzle with the hazelnut spread.
I’m actually behind in sharing my book reviews and recipes with you. Life has been busy. Work has been stressful. But I have been reading a lot and I have two more recipes I need to make and photograph, with a third one coming soon with as fast as I’ve been reading.
This isn’t the second book I’ve read this year, but it is the second book I’m sharing with you. I first read Toni Morrison in high school when we read Song of Solomon. I have since read Beloved. I decided to tackle Sula. While Morrison’s writing isn’t difficult to read or to understand, there is something very difficult and raw about the stories she tells.
Set in Ohio, Sula is the story of the friendship of Sula and Nel. But to understand Sula and Nel and their relationship with each other, Morrison explains the dynamics of both of their families. Nel’s family follows the rules; Sula’s family is the exact opposite. Though best friends for many years, Sula betrays Nel in the worst of ways cementing Sula’s disfavored view by the residents of their community.
Though not a food book by any means, there were some references to food that gave me some ideas of what to make.
Rice, meats, stewed tomatoes with a cup of whitish liquid
Warm bowl of peas with cold bread
Store-bought cherry pie
Fresh corn, tomatoes, string beans, and melon rinds
Peach and cherry jelly and preserves
Cornish hens in a nest of rice
Meal fried porgies
Ice cream sundaes
Tough birds, heavy pork cakes, and pithy sweet potatoes
Lemonade comes into the story when Eva (Sula’s grandmother) learns that her ex was coming into town. Eva wasn’t sure whether she would yearn for him while he was there or whether she would kill him. She makes some lemonade which she serves him when she arrives. It isn’t until he leaves that Eva sees him leave with another woman. It is then she decides she hates him. These relationships shape Sula, including her perceptions on relationships and men, ultimately leading to the downfall of her friendship with Nel.
I bought some beautiful lemons at the farmer’s market today. It’s why Sula jumped the line of books to share.
Keto Pink Lemonade
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup raspberries
2 liters sparkling water
1/4 cup erythritol
1 tsp swerve sweetener
Mix together the lemon and lime juice, raspberries, water, and sweeteners in a pitcher.
Today, January 14, this blog actually begins. Like I said in my welcome post, which I recognize has had no viewers because why would anyone stop at my little hovel on the internet that had literally nothing on it, I will be reading and eating this year. What do I mean? I am going to create meals, treats, or other food related items for every book I read this year. Part book review, part recipe blog, this is my fusion.
The first book to make its appearance this year is Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers. Ranked a 3.58 on goodreads at the time of this review, I gave it 5 stars. Moriarty tends to be one of my favorite authors as of late. I have read many of her books including the all-famous Big Little Lies,What Alice Forgot, and The Husband’s Secret.
Nine Perfect Strangers is a story of a nine individuals who spend 10 days at a health retreat. The plan is to eat healthy, do yoga, and reconnect with themselves – to leave feeling more fulfilled and more complete. And perhaps they do leave that way, though there is much drama along the way. I don’t want to give away too much about what that drama is, because it is one of the reasons the book was so gripping.
Moriarty is wonderful at her character development. Many times when I read books filled to the brim with characters, I have a hard time keeping them straight. I can’t remember their names. I can’t always remember their backgrounds. But with the characters Moriarty focuses, I really felt like I got to know them. I felt I knew Frances, the romance author. I felt I knew Zoe, the young woman on this retreat with her parents. I felt I knew Lars, the divorce attorney. The only character I didn’t really feel like I knew or could understand was Masha, but once you read the book, it makes sense why Moriarty wrote that character as she did.
As for the food stuff, there were many food references throughout this story. My list of foods include:
Smoothies (mango, coconut berry flavored and apple, honeydew, and pear flavored)
Steak with baked potatoes
Giant bowl of green salad
Chicken and vegetables
Vegetable curry – “The curry, of which she savored . . . had a hint of saffron.”
Stir-fry with noodles
Poached eggs and steamed spinach
Most of the food references surrounded one specific meal, where each client at the retreat was served a meal that suited their needs. The salad was for the big indulgent guy, the fish for the woman who thought herself too fat – each meal was supposed to suit the guest it was made for. So I thought to myself – if I were in a health retreat, what would they feed me?
I have been on a keto journey for half a year now. I have made considerable changes in my health by cutting out the vast majority of carbs. I decided I needed something very green for my dish. They would make me something stuffed with vitamins, packed with flavor despite the lack of carbs, but something light so I could go do some yoga after lunch.
Kale and Pine Nut Salad
1/2 cup chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled
McCormick’s Citrus Chili and Garlic with Chia spice, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 355. Toss kale pieces and broccoli with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes. During last 5 minutes, add the pine nuts.
Toss together the kale, broccoli, and pine nuts with the lettuce and alfalfa sprouts in a bowl. Top with avocado slices and goat cheese and sprinkle with the chili seasoning.
Welcome to Literature and Limes, a book review and food blog all rolled into one. I have challenged myself in 2019 to read 30 books. And I have doubly challenged myself. For every book I read, I will write a book review and share a recipe based on the book in this blog.
Will it last for more than a year? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
2019 is just days a way. Maybe you just want to stop in and say hi. Maybe you have a book recommendation for me. Let me know!