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Archive for November, 2012

Food Week – Breakfast

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

by Robin K. (jubead)


Breakfast!  Is there more to Life?


During the week I struggle to stop and eat breakfast.  It isn’t my favorite meal of the day and frankly, I don’t have the time when I am getting ready for work.   When I am at work, I forget that I haven’t eaten.  Then comes the weekend and it is my favorite meal of the day.  I love getting up early and meeting friends for breakfast, then heading out for a day of shopping, movies or to a coffee shop for a chatfest.   If anyone is in Southern New Hampshire or the Boston area my favorite breakfast joints are Suzie’s (Hudson, NH), Hollis Country Kitchen (Hollis, NH), Coffeeberries (Londonderry, NH) and the Doo Wop Diner (Malden, MA).  They are joints and dives, but they are clean and the food and coffee quality is consistent.

Oh you say, this is not a restaurant review site or an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (Food Channel – Guy Fieri), but a book site!  Well do I have a cookbook for you…

James McNair’s Breakfast  is my bible for cooking breakfast.  I have used this cookbook so much that I could never swap it on PBS because it no longer meets the Book Condition Criteria for “Swappability” at PBS (Help Doc).  Also someone would have to pry it from my dead cold hands before I would give it up to anyone!

It isn’t a large cookbook but it has a little of everything and the recipes are simple.  Have you ever wondered what the difference was between an espresso or café au lait?  Did you think only if you had an espresso machine would you be able to make a café latte?  Well, all you need is this cookbook, good coffee and a stove top espresso maker.   Not a coffee drinker?  Then check out the recipes for tea, hot chocolate/cocoa or hot mulled cider.  Try something stronger like a Bellini, Mimosa or Smoothie.

Whip up an apple or berry butter to go with the popovers you just made.  Instead of syrup on your pancakes or waffles, serve your family and guests a warm berry sauce.  Are you looking for something different for breakfast?  Then you can try baked or shirred eggs, a skillet cake with baked apples, a bacon and egg casserole or Grillades and Grits (just to name a few).

I want to share with you my favorite breakfast recipe and it is pictured on the cover!

Berry Refresher
4 cups fresh strawberries, hull, or raspberries or a combo.
2 cups freshly squeezed apple or orange juice (nice thought – I use store bought)
¼  cups freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
Granulated sugar
Fresh mint for garnish

Combine berries and juices in a blender and mix until very smooth.  Add sugar to taste, and strain if you wish.  Chill, or serve over a little crushed ice. Garnish each glass with a sprig of mint.

Puffed Oven-Baked Pancakes (Dutch Pancake)
I use an oven proof dish such as an individual pie plate vs a pan.  I also serve with a cup of café latte.  30 mins start to finish.

2 T unsalted butter
1 egg
¼ cup low-fat milk
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional – I have used vanilla and orange, but almond works best)
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
Toppings (Strawberries, blueberries, bananas, raspberries, warmed apple sauce or chestnuts or butter toasted chopped macadamia nuts with grated coconut
4 inch oven proof skillet, ramekin, pie plate or baking dish for each pancake

Preheat the oven to 475 F
Place the butter in a 4-inch ovenproof skillet, ramekin, or other baking dish, and heat in the oven until the butter is melted.

While the butter melts, beat the egg in a food processor, blender, or bowl with a wire whisk until light and bright yellow.  Gradually beat in the milk, then the flour, until smooth. Stir in the almond extract and lemon zest.  Pour the batter into the pan of hot butter and return the pan to the oven.  Cook until the pancake is puffed and golden, about 12 mins.  Serve at once with toppings.  Serves 1 and to increase the serving, just add the same amount of ingredients for each additional pancake.  It is approximately ¼ cup of batter per pancake.

To make more pancakes, just multiply the ingredients above with the amount of pancakes you want to use.  This is why I purchased individual pie plates and I place them all on a jelly roll or cookie sheet to cook





Food Week Author Spotlight – Julia Child

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

by Pat L. (PitterPat)




Julia Child inspired many Americans to try new cooking techniques over her many years on TV. Julia didn’t learn to cook until she was in her 30’s. She became interested in cooking after marrying Paul Child. In 1948 they moved to France, where Paul worked for the United States Information Agency. Julia fell in love with French food immediately. She attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and started teaching other American women how to cook French dishes. In the early 1950’s she started writing a cookbook with 2 friends. That book later became “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes one and two”.



Decades later she worked with her great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme to write “My Life in France”. It was published in 2006, 2 years after Julia died. This is a wonderful book told in Julia’s voice about the time the Childs spent in France. She describes in wonderful detail special meals they were served, the apartment they lived in, and the French people. Cooking and teaching became Julia’s passion and you can feel it through this book. You also get a glimpse into Julia and Paul’s marriage. They were truly partners and soul mates.




Another book that will give you more insight into Julia is “As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto” by Joan Reardon. Avis Devoto is the person who took Julia’s cookbook manuscript to publishers in the United States. Their letters reveal how much work Julia spent in perfecting each recipe that she wanted published. They also talked about politics and personal situations. Some of it I had a hard time relating to because Avis came from a life that involved hired help and lots of cocktail parties. I felt she wasn’t really in touch with the average housewife of the 1950’s. But again you see Julia’s passion in her letters about the cookbook manuscript.





If you have ever seen “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, you know that the recipes are extremely long and detailed. Julia wanted the books to teach cooks techniques not just a list of ingredients and simple cooking directions. After reading the two books about Julia, I revisited a copy of “Mastering” and had a new appreciation for how the recipes were written. I realized that Julia wanted to be in my kitchen helping me cook. She wanted everyone to enjoy the process of cooking.







Even if you don’t consider yourself a big fan of Julia Child, I highly recommend these books. You may also walk away thinking about what are you passionate about in life.

Bon Appétit!













Food Week Review – The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry:

Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School

by Kathleen Flinn


Review by Carole (craftnut)



Foodie books are a real delight for me.  I enjoy reading the stories behind the scenes, especially for places I will never go.   I particularly enjoy books that teach me something as I am reading about someone’s adventures in the food world.  I have an open book list of foodie books at http://www.paperbackswap.com/Foodie-Books/list/10074/, and I invite you to add your favorites and vote for ones you have read on the list.  New books to add to my wishlist (and maybe yours) are such fun!!


The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry is one of those great books, offering a behind the scenes view of the world famous Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris.  This story is the journey of a woman newly adrift in her 30s after losing her job, finding her passion and herself along the way as she enrolls in a school taught in a foreign language.  Throughout the book are lessons from the cooking school along with recipes so the reader can learn as well.


Even though her grasp of French is tenuous at best, it gets better over the three semesters in 2004-5 as she struggles through the intense lessons.  She learns about chickens and quiche, vegetables and sauces, knife work and more all while dealing with other students and her own self doubt.  Her chef instructors are relentless, and everyone is a critic, even the homeless man who receives one of her dishes declares it needs more salt.


The book has quite a few recipes from the school including Boeuf Bourguignonne, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chocolate Souffle, Cassoulet, Onion Soup Gratuneed with Cheese, Mushroom Crusted Steaks with Red Wine Sauce, and two dozen more.  Want to try the Beef Bourguigonnone?

The Burgundy region of France is famous for its fine wines. Dishes ‘à la Bourguignonne’ generally include a sauce made of red wine and a garnish of small onions, mushrooms and bacon lardons.

Bœuf Bourguignon – a classic in both the region and the whole of France – is the perfect example.

Serves: 6

Principal ingredients
1,5 kg lean beef shoulder cut into 5 cm cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
bouquet garni
1 peppercorns
750 ml red wine
50 ml oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp flour
500 – 750 ml brown veal stock
bacon rind (from lardons), blanched
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Bacon lardons
185 g salt slab bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
Sautéed mushrooms
300 g cultivated mushrooms
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
salt, pepper
Brown-glazed onions
18 – 24 pearl onions
25 g butter
1 pinch suggar
3 slices sandwich bread
oil and butter or clarified butter
3 tsbsp chopped parsley
  1. The day before, place the meat in a bowl with the sliced vegetables. Add the crushed garlic cloves, bouquet garni, peppercorns and red wine and marinate for 24 hours.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Drain and separate the vegetables, the marinade liquid, and the meat (set aside the bouquet garni). Dry the meat and brown in a little oil in a frying pan. Drain the meat.
  4. Heat a little oil in a large ovenproof pan and brown the sliced vegetables. Add the tomato paste, the browned meat and the flour. Mix well and place the pan in the oven for a few minutes in order to cook the flour.
  5. Bring the marinade liquid to the boil, skim. Strain the liquid over the meat and mix well. Add the brown veal stock, the bouquet garni, blanched bacon rind and season. Return to the boil, cover, and cook in the oven for approximately 1¼ hours. Once the meat is cooked, remove and place in a hotel pan; cover with a damp towel.
  6. Strain the sauce and reduce to the desired consistency. Place the meat back into the sauce and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Bacon lardons: Cut the bacon into lardons and lightly brown in a lightly oiled frying pan.
  8. Sautéed mushrooms: Sauté in a frying pan with oil and butter. Season.
  9. Brown-glazed onions: Place the onions in a saucepan; add a knob of butter, pinch of sugar and salt and enough water to cover. Cook the onions over high heat to increase the speed of evaporation allowing the sugar and butter to form a caramel. Once the caramel forms, swirl the onions by shaking the saucepan to evenly color the onions.
  10. Croutons: Cut the sandwich bread slices in two diagonally then cut into heart shapes. Cook in oil and butter (or clarified butter) until lightly golden.
  11. Presentation: Add bacon lardons, sautéed mushrooms and brown-glazed onions to the beef stew. Serve in the earthenware serving dish with the croûtons. Decorate with flat-leaf parsley.


There are more recipes from Le Cordon Bleu on their website too.


Written in an easy to read, conversational style, this story is humorous and real.  Ms. Flinn takes us to Paris with all its richness and flavor.  We get to follow her life during those years while she struggles with the lessons, finds love, and realizes her dreams.  If you enjoy foodie books, you will like this one.











Food Week Review – Tender At The Bone

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

What better time to celebrate Food than the week before such a wonderful food holiday as Thanksgiving. All week here on the PaperBackSwap Blog we will share reviews of our favorite foodie books, recipes, memories and thoughts of FOOD! We hope you enjoy Food Week here on the Blog and we wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

-The PaperBackSwap Blog Team


Today we start with a review by our newest Blog Team member, Charlie M











Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl


Review by Charlie M. (bookaddicted)


Best known as the New York Times food critic and editor of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichl’s first memoir “Tender at the Bone” is funny, poignant,and in some ways eye-opening. One often imagines critics – food, movies,theater- as stodgy, humorless, sitting around with lips pursed just waiting to pounce on their subject. Reichl breaks that perception from the first page.


Growing up in New York City her discovery of the pleasures of food came not from her mother (dubbed “The Queen of Mold”) but from various sources, maids, friends’ mothers. Her real training came after living in a commune in Berkeley , California, sometimes creating meals out of food rescued from dumpsters.


Reichl worked in restaurants waiting tables, traveled the world and got an intimate look at how restaurants work. Eventually, she started writing about food and parlayed this into a lifelong career.


This book gives her surprising background and is sprinkled with some recipes.


If you love food and are looking for an enjoyable, brisk read, “Tender at the Bone” is a fine way to spend a few hours – especially with Thanksgiving looming.






Historical Fiction Review – Blood Lance

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Blood Lance by Jeri Westerson


Review by Jerelyn (I-F-Letty)


Once again Jeri Westerson takes you there, it is one of her strengths and it is one of the things I have come to respect about her writing.

In Blood Lance, Crispin is his usual self, a sucker for a pretty face and honorable to a fault.  A armourer  has taken a header off London Bridge.  While some say it is suicide, Crispin as a witness to the man’s fall has his doubts. In the early stages of the investigation, an old friend has come home deeply troubled by years of warfare, I don’t think I will be spoiling too much since Ms. Westerson has blogged about exploring PTSD within this story line, and I think she did a marvelous job showing that this could not have been a phenomenon of modern warfare.  Did Sir Thomas kill Master Grey, what is it that Thomas seeks and that is now missing?

I have always been fascinated by the community that lived on the bridge. Jack is back as Crispin’s mother hen, and side kick.  I truly love their relationship. There are great twists and turns, and I thought I had everything figured out, but as usual the final twist proved me wrong.  There is a great jousting sequence and I think it was very well imagined and written.  Chaucer is back, and we get to meet young Henry Bolingbroke, who will become Henry IV, I think we will see a lot more of him in the upcoming books.  4.5 stars


What else I love about Jeri Westerson is that she had been an active participant in the historical fiction forum, and a real friend to PBS blog.


She has once again agreed to do a Q and A in our forum November 14th.  So if you have a question about the books or about anything, come on by.


Thank you Jeri and Jerelyn!

Click here to join the discussion LINK






Medieval London – A Guest Blog by Jeri Westerson

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012







Jeri Westerson is one of our very favorite authors here on the PBS Blog. She writes medieval mysteries with an enigmatic, flawed, sexy, and very different protagonist. His name is Crispin Guest and he’s a disgraced knight turned detective on the mean streets of fourteenth century London. Her latest book, Blood Lance was released in October.


Blood Lance is the read along book this month in the Historical Fiction Discussion Forum here at PaperBackSwap. She will be joining us there for a Q&A session tomorrow, 11/14. Come join us! Here is a direct link to the Forum LINK



Fog, a constant drizzle, gray. The miserable cold and dank of London conjures in our minds shadowy figures of Jack the Ripper or the scurrilous deeds of Mr. Hyde. But go back further before street lamps, before the Victorians cast their gloomy sway over the city. A hundred, two hundred, six hundred years before London and Westminster melded together, and you have descended into the shadowy realm of fourteenth century London where my medieval detective dwells.


Some cities are made for crime. Chicago, Los Angeles, New York. But I would add London. There’s too much atmosphere, too much history to leave it out. Add in the violence of the medieval mindset and you’ve really got something.


Of course, the streets and narrow lanes of the medieval mayhem I love so well are long gone. London was devastated by fires and simply by the whims of Newer, Better, Bigger as time marched on. The medieval London of my darkest imaginings no longer exists. A few foundations, a few churches, but the rest is lost to the name of Progress. Maps serve to give me the claustrophobic feel of constricted alleys and a puzzle of lanes. In fact, one can lay these maps on the Google Earth version of the present day London and nearly match some of it exactly. Even some of the names remain the same. My fictional detective, Crispin Guest, a disgraced knight turned detective and down on his luck, frequents a tavern to forget his troubles, which is located on Gutter Lane…a street that still exists by that name. I love that!



But there are still a few locations that can renew your sense of time and place. One obvious structure is the Tower of London. The outer walls and the White Tower within are relatively the same, sans the murky moat that used to surround it, and walking under the arches and sharp teeth of the portcullises you can get a true sense of its medieval origins, if you can ignore the gift shop signs and colorfully dressed tourists. It began life as the castle of William the Conqueror and as a residence of each monarch after him until digs in Westminster were built. Only later did it become the dreaded place of imprisonment for London’s elite.


I could name so many places that no longer exist or have been changed so radically from its Victorian counterpart that it is almost not worth the mention. London’s city walls, for instance—the square mile that delineated ancient London—have been obliterated by “new” buildings from the Georgian and Victorian periods and our modern time, and it is only with a helpful handheld guide that you can find its remnants. But a walk into a few structures might bring the medieval back to mind. The Temple Church of the Knights Templar, St. Bartholomew the Great, the Guildhall. Then there is the wonderfully intact Westminster Hall, the great hall that was part of the medieval Westminster Palace, whose footprint is now covered by the Parliament buildings. And, of course, Westminster Abbey, which got a brush up of remodeling in Crispin’s day in the fourteenth century. But remember, those are in what was the city of Westminster, not the London of old.


It’s a good thing I can visit medieval London in my imagination. I can well see the crooked, narrow lanes, the towering two and three-story shops and houses precariously leaning into the street. Running gutters wending their way down muddy avenues. Smoke from countless hearths curling along slate and tile roofs. Geese and sheep being herded down from the countryside to the markets. Horses pulling carts. Merchants calling their wares with their carved wordless signs hanging above their heads. The sights, the smells, the sounds.



And then, deep in the shadows, a dagger flashes and a body falls to the mud. That’s my kind of place.







Jeri Westerson writes the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series. Her latest is BLOOD LANCE, set in London and on London Bridge. Find book discussion guides and an exciting series book trailer on her website www.JeriWesterson.com.




Thank you Jeri! You are the Best!








Mystery Monday – The Rainbird Pattern

Monday, November 12th, 2012

The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning


Review By Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


The English police can’t catch the Trader, who has kidnapped two high government officials and traded them back for a small number of uncut diamonds. Working out of an agency whose members have a  license to kill, Inspector Bush and his superior Grandison are convinced the Trader will kidnap a third official – perhaps the highest in the land –  demand a huge number of diamonds and then retire with his female accomplice to live on his extorted gains.

Meanwhile, the elderly, rich, lonely Miss Rainbird hires psychic Blanche Tyler to canvas the spirit world for her long dead sister Harriet. Miss R. desperately wants find out why Harriet is disturbing her dreams. Harriet, it seems, wants Miss Rainbird to locate Harriet’s illegitimate son, adopted out to a humble family 40 years before, and do right by him with the wealth of the family. Wanting information to back up her spirit guide Henry and locate the nephew, Blanche sends her boyfriend George Lumley out to scout around. George collects background from people who are charmed by his happy go lucky nature and willingness to buy drinks.

The astute mystery reader will gladly anticipate how the search for the Trader and the search for the nephew will converge. The less said about the plot twists in this review, the better lest I spoil the surprises. Suffice to say, the ending is so messy and ominous that I found myself haunted for a couple of days.  Canning’s view of malum naturæ  (metaphysical evil) will bring to mind Graham Greene and Chesterton. In fact, in a review of this book the Catholic Herald approved, “The touch of the master becomes more apparent with each new Canning….””

The characters are excellently drawn. With his monocle and hard-won experience, Grandison persuasively argues that prayer and luck will lend a hand in catching the Trader.  The unmetaphysical Bush is inexorable and ruthless, fearing failure will stymie his career and hating the Trader for his cool audacity. Madame Blanche is earthy and shrewd at the same time, while harmless George is believable as the amateur detective. All the Rainbirds – even the dead ones – have plausible roles. The Trader turns out to be gloomy and cold, bent on using the proceeds from precious stones to retreat to a fortress while overpopulation and pollution cause the rest of us to drown in own crap.

Those readers into cognitive psychology will enjoy Canning’s portrayal of the relationship between the spirit medium and her clients. Knowing Miss Rainbird is self-centered, Madame Blanche depends on her client to try to make sense out of whatever vague information she channels from Henry. Canning emphasizes that even the skeptical – and Miss Rainbird is determined never to be fooled – can be manipulated into connecting ambiguous dots because we humans are pattern-seeking beings that search for meaning. Everywhere. With random data. Blanche, however much she fishes for details and sends George to gather intelligence, is sincere: she believes she has The Power.

When this published in 1972, it sold quite well and Alfred Hitchcock made a fair movie version, Family Plot (worth a look for William Devane). It was awarded the CWA Silver Dagger and nominated for the Edgar awards.  Since the Seventies, critics and serious mystery fans have come to regard this one as Canning’s best novel. Speaking of thriller and mystery writers in the Sixties and Seventies, as good as Eric Ambler, Hammond Innes, Andrew Garve and Geoffrey Household, sorry to say, Victor Canning seems to be joining them in the ranks of Forgotten Thriller Writers.