The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman: Honey Fig and Brie Ice Cream

Currently rated 4.12 stars on goodreads, I received a digital copy of this book (hence no picture of my food with the book) from firsttoread, which sadly will be defunct in July. I was asked to give an honest review of this book, which comes out in July 2019. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

This book was a light read and quite humorous and enjoyable. Nina Hill is a bookworm. She loves to read, she loves trivia, and she loves her cat. Her very predictable life is tossed about when she meets family she never knew existed and begins a relationship with a man she had no intention of dating initially. Nina has to learn to break away from her books a bit and push herself into sometimes uncomfortable dealings for the sake of making these new relationships work.

Food mentioned in this book included:

  • Pickles
  • Prickly pear soda
  • Popcorn and hot chocolate with mini marshmallows
  • Gluten-free bran muffins and chocolate croissants
  • Cake pops
  • Pesto panini
  • Lattes and chocolate eclairs
  • Croque madame
  • Broccoli
  • Juice
  • Hot dogs
  • Pistachios
  • Moons over my hammy and chicken and waffles
  • A salad from Chipotle
  • Lamb burgers with fresh mint
  • Pomegranate salad dressing
  • Chicken and canapes
  • Pocky
  • Picnic baskets of bread rolls and cheese and enormous bars of chocolate
  • Salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks ice cream
  • Blackberry crisp ice cream
  • Cotton candy, sno-cones, hot dog on a stick
  • Soup
  • Cinnamon raisin bagels
  • Banana bread
  • Cardamom, fig, and brie ice cream

I chose to make the last food that made its way into the story line. A massive food fight erupts over the closing of the beloved bookstore that Nina works at. A protester throws a ball of cardamom, fig, and brie ice cream and hits someone. Lemon juice and cayenne is sprayed about. More ice cream is thrown. Cupcakes are thrown. And then the cops shut the food fight down.

Justin wasn’t thrilled by me putting cheese in the ice cream. But it did add a nice savory dimension to a sweet treat. I really liked the addition, though I promised him I wouldn’t always add cheese to ice cream.

Honey Fig and Brie Ice Cream


2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey
3 oz brie, cut into cubes
1/2 cup fig jam


  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, stir together the heavy cream, milk, and honey. Heat until the liquid is steaming, but do not let it boil.
  2. Remove from heat and add the cheese. Mix together and press the cheese pieces on the sides of the sauce pan to help it melt.
  3. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Follow your ice cream maker instructions to churn the ice cream. In the KitchenAid I mixed it on setting 1 for 20 minutes.
  5. 30 seconds before your ice cream is complete, add the fig jam to the mixture.
  6. Remove from the ice cream mixture and freeze until firm.

This post is being shared with Foodies Read


The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker: Collard Greens

I haven’t updated in awhile. This month was busy – I had my parents in town last weekend for early Easter festivities. And things are going to get busier with a wedding to attend next month, my bachelorette party next month, a trip home in June, and then all moving towards my October wedding.

But I have been doing some reading, I just hadn’t found time to do the cooking for the blog. I read The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker. I’ve read Alice Walker before, specifically The Color Purple. Alice Walker is a prolific American novelist. She is an African American woman who writes extraordinarily deep novels about the African American culture and struggle.

The Third Life of Grange Copeland is about a man and the following generations of his family. Grange is a bad father to his son Brownfield. And Brownfield becomes a bad father to his daughters. But Grange does try to turn it around and be a good role model and support for his granddaughter. The book has a lot of discussion of race and discusses racial tensions and racism as well as patriarchy.

The food that I noted in this book includes:

  • Mint julep
  • Old biscuits
  • Grits and eggs
  • Chitlins, pig’s feet, and collard greens
  • Stew
  • Peas and hamhocks
  • Cornbread
  • Shortbread
  • Peach pie
  • Peach wine, corncob wine, blackberry wine, muscadine wine, and plum wine
  • Rabbit with potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Root tea, sassafras tea
  • Watermelon

Though I could have made a full meal out of chitlins, pig’s feet, and collard greens, I focused just on the collard greens and served it with some breaded chicken. These greens hit the spot for great comfort food.

Collard Greens


1 lb collard greens, ripped into pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
6 slices of bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch crushed red chili pepper


  1. In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove and cut into pieces.
  2. Return the bacon to the pot along with the onion and garlic. Cook until the onions have softened.
  3. Add the collard greens to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
  4. Pour in the chicken broth, lemon juice salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
  5. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Serves 4.

I’m sharing this post with Foodies Read & Weekend Cooking.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo: Pork Chops Smothered in Mushroom Sauce

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher via a giveaway on goodreads. At the time of this blog post the book is rated 4.45 stars on goodreads. I rated it 4 stars.

I read The Most Fun We Ever Had after I finished reading The Altruists. Truth be told, I was a little worried about getting into this book. Like The Altruists, it’s a long story about many members of a family and the dysfunctions of each character. But unlike The Altruists, Lombardo’s characters were much more relate-able.

The story doesn’t really center on one main character, but it is the story of the Sorenson family: David, Marilyn and their four daughters (Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace.) Each character has significant character flaws. Each character makes a series of decisions and a series of mistakes and face a series of consequences that shape their lives. Lombardo weaves their stories together masterfully to tell the story of the Sorenson family.

The food mentioned included:

  • Macaroni
  • Chardonnay and string cheese
  • Cappuccino
  • Delicate grilled fish and spring risotto
  • Toast
  • Ice cream sandwich and a bottle of pinot noir
  • Blueberry pancakes
  • Graham crackers
  • Chocolate croissant
  • Omelets
  • Waffles
  • Hamburgers
  • Overcooked chicken
  • Apple pie with salted caramel
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Brown rice
  • Half-caf cappuccino
  • Turkey thigh and pumpkin pie
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Chocolate milk
  • Swordfish and a salad
  • Strawberry jam, peanuts, grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Granola bars with chocolate, chips, fresh pineapple , non-gluten free pretzels, Little Debbies oatmeal creme pies, chocolate covered wafers with peanut butter
  • Sesame sticks
  • Penna alla vodka
  • Fontina risotto cakes
  • Bunny shaped pasta
  • Sprinkle doused ice cream
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Olives and pita and hummus and some soft cheeses and ceviche
  • Chinese food
  • Pork chops
  • Pad thai
  • Potatoes
  • Kung pao chicken from Panda Express
  • A fancy and heart-healthy Mediterranean spread

Because the story is very much about family, making a family meal for this book seemed appropriate. I went with pork chops mentioned twice in the book. Marilyn is described at one point as “an exhausted mother of four trying not to burn the pork chops.”

This recipe may not be the most beautiful, but it sure is delicious.

Pork Chops Smothered in Mushroom Sauce


4 pork chops
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh sage
1 tbsp oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp almond flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter with the sage, oregano, garlic, and mushrooms. Once the butter is melted add the pork chops and brown for 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Place the entire skillet in the oven for 35 minutes.
  4. Once the pork chops are cooked, remove from the oven. Remove the pork chops from the skillet. Over medium heat, whisk in the heavy cream, almond flour, and cornstarch. Cook for about 3 minutes and serve over the pork chops.

Serves 4.

This entry is being shared with Foodies Read & Novel Food.

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa: Sticky Rice Cakes Filled With Red Bean Paste

A River In Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea is a memoir written originally in Japanese and translated to English. Though at this point 19 years old, the book is still very poignant today. When published in 2000, Ishikawa was forced to use a pseudonym. In 2018 the book was republished with his true name on the cover.

Currently rated 4.26 stars on goodreads, I rated this book 5 stars. This book is incredibly raw. I cried multiple times throughout the story of Ishikawa’s life.

Born in Japan to a Japanese woman and a Korean father, life was already stacked against Ishikawa. Since he was half-Korean he wasn’t entirely accepted by Japanese society. His father wanted to return to Korea very badly. After the Korean War, North Korea began advertising to foreign-living Koreans of the utopia that North Korea had to offer, Ishikawa’s father relocated the family from Japan to North Korea. They left everything they knew and moved to a land they did not, where people spoke a language they did not, and lived in abject poverty.

This book details the struggles that Ishikawa faced during his life in North Korea and how he was able to escape, though it took leaving his family behind. I don’t really feel like I’m spoiling the book by telling too much – this is a story of truth about the inhumane treatment that is still occurring in walled off North Korea. There is no happy ending to the book. My guess is that even 19 years after its original publication, there still is no happy ending.

Because North Korea continues to remain walled off from the rest of the world, we obviously don’t hear many stories of people who live there. This book is an exception to that rule and is one that I highly encourage people to read.

I had a hard time when I was reading this book about the food. I didn’t want to make light of the lack of food situation in North Korea and I wanted to be respectful of both the story and of the people who live everyday in how I presented this book. Food mentioned in this book included:

  • Corn husks and kernels
  • Rice and Korean pickles
  • Dog meat
  • Rice balls with sweetened red beans
  • Rice cakes, meat, fish, and sake
  • Chinese cabbage boiled in water and thickened with cornstarch
  • Corn rice
  • Glutinous rice, sesame seeds, azuki beans, and regular rice
  • Daikon radishes
  • Thumb-size peaches, apples, and potatoes
  • Seaweed, pork, eggs, and daikon radish leaves
  • Soybean paste

Much of the food referenced in the book is either from times where there were celebrations (births and weddings) or memories and dreams of desires. When Ishikawa talks about the food eaten on a regular basis it was something like the rice gruel he explained: “Chop up the radish, including the leaves. Mix it all with a few grains of rice you’ve scrounged up. Add a lot of water to make a rice gruel.”

The recipe I made for this book is one that was mentioned several times throughout. He writes of his mother announcing that she wanted a rice ball coated with sweetened red beans. His father knew this would be impossible because of the cost of the rice, sugar, and beans. Mom responded, “‘Don’t worry! . . . I couldn’t eat a rice ball even if I tried. I don’t have enough teeth. My rice-ball-eating days are over.’ And then she just laughed.”

These are for Ishikawa’s mom who tried to keep up her spirit even in the face of impossible hardship. These are for Ishikawa’s mom who could not work in North Korea because she was not Korean, but who tried to help keep her family afloat by picking weeds to cook. These are for Ishikawa’s mom.

Sticky Rice Cakes filled with Red Bean Paste


4.5 oz glutinous rice flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red bean paste
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil


  1. In a large bowl add the glutinous rice flour. Slowly add the water to the flour, mixing together with a fork. Once the water is all added, the dough should come together like a soft play-dough feel.
  2. Dust a work spot with rice flour. Divide the dough into six even size balls.
  3. Flatten each of the balls into a circle approximately 1/4 inch thick and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
  4. Scoop a little more than 1 tbsp of the red bean paste and form it into a ball. Place one on the middle of each disk. Form the dough around the red bean paste and then flatten each side with your palms.
  5. Place the sesame seeds on a flat plate. Press each cake into the sesame seeds on each side.
  6. In a non-stick pan heat the vegetable oil. Once hot fry the cakes for approximately 3 minutes per side.

Makes 6 rice cakes.

This recipe and book recommendation are being shared with Foodies Read, Novel Food, Weekend Cooking, & Year of the Asian Reading Challenge.

As to the #YARC2019 challenge, March’s theme is challenge. Though we don’t have to read books that fit the theme and truthfully, I didn’t go out searching for one that did, I think A River In Darkness is the epitome of the challenge theme.

And I’m still on track for the Philippine tarsier badge.


The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: Keto Chai Walnut Cupcakes

I read this book for an online book club I am part of. Though I am not a part of the Book of the Month club (despite the markings on this book, I bought it used on mercari,) this book makes me very tempted to sign up for it. I had seen reference to this book all over the #bookstagrammer-verse and was intrigued. When it was chosen for the book for my club, I was thrilled! I love reading thrillers and this one hit it out of the ballpark.

At the time of me writing this entry, The Silent Patient is rated 4.11 stars on goodreads. I rated it a 5. This book is about a psychotherapist, Theo. His patient, Alicia, is selectively mute. Theo begins a job in a mental hospital where Alicia is housed due to her conviction for the murder of her husband. Theo takes it upon himself to try to open Alicia up and get her to begin speaking, to try to help unleash the truth about her husband’s death.

I can’t go into this book too much, because I don’t want to give away the massive twist that I absolutely did not see coming. But it got me!

This book did not have a lot of food presence. The foods that I noted included:

  • Iced coffee
  • Italian restaurant
  • Sugared almonds
  • Chewy, nutty, and sweet walnut cake
  • Frying onions
  • Sherry
  • Barbecue
  • Salad
  • Champagne, small sweet tomatoes, smoked salmon, and slivers of bread
  • Whiskey
  • Fish and chips and chicken curry
  • Sushi
  • Prawn cocktail crips

I decided to go with the walnut cake, though as you can see, I made a keto version because today is not a cheat day and I wanted to get something made for this book. And I had a sweet tooth that these cupcakes cured. I had intended to make a swiss meringue frosting to go on these, but the recipe I tried did not work and by that point I was over it. So we got unfrosted walnut cupcakes. The texture is much more like a muffin because of the almond flour.

The scene that the walnut cake appeared in the book was close to the beginning. Indira, one of the employees at the hospital, gives Theo a slice of walnut cake. She tells him that she finds a piece of cake helps with difficult clients and difficult staff, though she reassures him that he is neither. “A little sugar is a great mood enhancer.” I won’t disagree with that sentiment, though there is no sugar in these.

Keto Chai Walnut Cupcakes


2 cups almond flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup xylitol
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a cupcake tin with liners.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the almond flour, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, xylitol, and baking soda.
  3. Once well combined, pulse in the almond milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and butter.
  4. Add the eggs and process until smooth.
  5. Pulse in the walnuts, but do not over-process. You want some nut chunks.
  6. Divide the batter between the 12 cupcake liners.
  7. Bake for 18 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Makes 12 cupcakes.

This recipe is being shared with Foodies Read, Novel Food, & Weekend Cooking.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman: Cardamom Ice Cream

I am very out of order in how I’m making recipes and posting blogs based on the books I’ve read. This was actually the third book I read this year and is the book that Santa brought me for Christmas. I started a tradition this year for myself, my 11-year-old stepdaughter, and my fiance – Santa is putting a book in our stockings. I think reading is paramount.

At the time of this entry, Us Against You has 4.36 stars on goodreads. I rated it a 3 at the time of my review. When I first read this book I hadn’t realized it was a sequel to Beartown. I think the first part of the book would have been more enjoyable to me had I known that. It’s too bad the front cover of the book only mentions A Man Called Ove(which I loved) and not Beartown(which I hadn’t read,) because I would have read the books in order had I realized. The 3 stars was based on the difficulty I had at the beginning of the book feigning interest.

But Backman is a delightful author. This book was originally written in Swedish and translated to English by Neil Smith. The story is set in Sweden and about a hockey club and the hockey team. The community is very much centered around the support for the hockey team. When the team and the club start falling apart, the community reacts in some of the worst and some of the best ways. Of all the books I’ve read so far, this one has had the least amount of references to food:

  • Salad.
  • Meat, potatoes, and sauce.
  • Toasted sandwich.
  • Nuts.

So.. what do you do with that? I had to dig somewhere in the depths of my brain and actually impart a little creativity into this. Other notes I have written down include: ice cream (snow, ice) and shaving cream in shoes.

I decided to make something related to a repeated scene in the book. The hockey players would fill the shoes of the new players that they respected with shaving cream, as a way to haze the new players. And since the book is based in an ice rink and it’s cold, ice cream seemed suitable. White, creamy ice cream! I googled “Swedish ice cream recipes,” since the book is set in Sweden and written by a Swedish author and found mentions to Kardamummaglass, or cardamom flavored ice cream. The flavor sounded divine, so cardamom ice cream it was!

This ice cream does not use a custard base and has a raw egg in it. Usually when I’ve made ice creams in the past, there’s a cooked custard base. I didn’t know how this would turn out, but it’s perfectly creamy!

Kardamummaglass (Cardamom Ice Cream)


4 cardamom pods
1 large egg
3 oz sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup full fat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the cardamom pods and remove the seeds from the pod shell. Throw the shells away and grind the seeds with the mortar and pestle.
  2. Whisk the egg for two minutes.
  3. Slowly add the sugar and whisk for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla extract.
  5. Prepare your ice cream maker and add the cream mixture. Follow the instructions of your mixer. Using my Kitchen Aid, I set to stir and let it go for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from your ice cream maker and put into a freezer friendly container. Freeze for several hours.

Makes 1 pint.

This recipe is being shared with Foodies Read & Weekend Cooking.

The Altruists by Andrew Ridker: St. Louis Ribs

Rated a 3.79 on goodreads, I received a digital copy of The Altruists from Penguin Random House’s First to Read program. Since the book was in digital form and not on my kindle or in hardback, I don’t have any pictures of the book next to the recipe I ended up making like I usually have. I unfortunately only rated it a 2 out of 5 stars myself, which I feel bad about giving a new author a non-great rating, but perhaps the critiques will help the next book be much better.

The Altruists is about the Alter family – four individuals who are entirely insufferable. After Francine (the mother) dies and Arthur (her husband) has an affair, their family is ripped at the seams. Ethan and Maggie (their children) are young adults trying to find their footing in the world. But they are all so unlikable that it made it hard to get through the story.

I’m reading a similar book right now, but there are redeemable qualities about them that make me feel connected to them and care about their outcomes. In The Altruists, I just disliked all of the characters. There was nothing that made me empathize with any of them. I just wanted to get through the book. The other unfortunate part of the book was that Ridker used such highly elevated language choices, that it felt like he was trying too hard. I shouldn’t need to get a dictionary out to make sense of the sentence.

There was some food mentions in the book:

  • Carrot cake.
  • Tortilla chips.
  • Taquitos and pizza rolls.
  • Mini calzone pizzas.
  • Enchiladas.
  • Capri sun.
  • Salad and sweet rice.
  • Toasted-ravioli.
  • Pizza.
  • Waffle batter.
  • Pierogi.
  • Baked-salmon with garlic.
  • Coq au vin and Ore Ida fries.
  • Shiva casserole and shiva kugel.
  • Exotic and pungent olives.
  • Large quantities of greens and seafood.
  • Smoked fish and cornmeal cakes.
  • Bota.
  • Shrimp cocktails, roasted guinea fowls, and springbok fillets.
  • Fresh bread and garlic sausage.
  • Croissants.
  • Memphis-style barbecue.
  • Frito pies.
  • Pork, corn, and slaw.
  • Ribs with potato salads and green beans.
  • Double cheeseburger.
  • Chocolate donettes and grapefruit juice.
  • Grilled salmon, salad, asparagus, and bread baskets.
  • Rice pilaf.
  • Crunchy mandelbrot.
  • Sausage links, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and eggs over easy.
  • Burnt puff pastries.
  • Vegetarian white bean chili.
  • Frozen custard.
  • Sushi.
  • French fries.

The dish I chose to make from this book were the pork ribs. The scene where the pork ribs made their appearance was during a meal that Arthur had with his two children, not remembering that his daughter didn’t eat meat. Because that’s the kind of person Arthur was and frankly all of them were, super self-involved without much regard for anyone else.

St. Louis Pork Ribs


1 slab of St. Louis pork ribs, about 3 lbs
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp erythritol
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 oz dijon mustard


  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
  2. Using a sharp knife remove any membrane from the backside of the ribs.
  3. Mix together the spices in a small bowl.
  4. Rub the ribs with the mustard on both sides and then rub the seasoning evenly over.
  5. Cover a baking sheet with aluminium foil and place the ribs on the sheet. Bake for 1 hour uncovered.
  6. After an hour, tent the meat with aluminum foil. Bake for 3 1/2 hours, turning after 2 hours.
  7. Uncover and broil on high for 5 minutes.
  8. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into the meat.
  • serves 4, with about 2 ribs each

This recipe is being shared with Foodies Read & Weekend Cooking.