Lean shrimp is tossed with zucchini, Asian egg noodles, and a spicy Sriracha sauce to create a quick weeknight dinner.
When I left for vacation late last month, I knew my garden wouldn’t last much longer. The tomato plants were still bearing fruit but the fruit seemed to be getting eaten more quickly than it did earlier in the summer, and the plants looked wilty and sad. Even the zucchini plant looked like it was slowly dying, even as it continued to get larger and continued to flower.
My predictions weren’t far off. When I returned from vacation, I started to pull my tomato plants. The herbs were still thriving, so those got pruned back (hello, pesto and sage leaves for my freezer!) with hopes that I’ll continue to get fresh herbs for another month or two. The zucchini plant isn’t looking great, but I’m still harvesting at least one zucchini each week so it’s going to stay a little bit longer. But while I love grilled zucchini and baking with it, I badly needed a change.
Enter this lo mein dish. While spicy enough that I had to tweak the recipe a bit, it was a hit in the house. I will warn you that even after tweaking the recipe, it’s still has a bit of kick from the sriracha, so if you can’t handle the heat, don’t bother trying it. That being said that even the spicier of the two versions, my husband and I enjoyed enough to know that we’d be making the recipe again and again. Bursting with flavor, it’s a quick weeknight meal.
- 1 8-10 oz. package of lo mein or other Asian egg noodle
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 lb. large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 small to medium or 1 large zucchini, cut into pieces about 1 inch wide and 1/2 an inch thick (will half moon shaped or triangular wedges depending on the size of your zucchini)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 Tbs. brown sugar (light or dark)
- 4 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 Tbs. Sriracha hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro, divided
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh chives (or scallions), divided
- Cook egg noodles according to package, while preparing the stir fry.
- Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When melted, add red pepper flakes and eggs. Whisk eggs until cooked throughout and thoroughly scrambled. With a slotted spoon, remove eggs from skillet and put in a bowl on the side.
- Add 1 Tbs. of the olive oil to the skillet. When hot, add shrimp, cooking for 2 minutes on each side until browned on the outside and cooked throughout. Use a slotted spoon to move shrimp to the bowl with egg.
- Add remaining olive oil to skillet. When hot, add zucchini and garlic, sauteing for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is beginning to brown on the outside but isn't soft.
- While zucchini is cooking, make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, Sriracha, and ginger.
- When zucchini is browned, increase heat to medium. Add shrimp, egg, and cooked (drained) noodles to the skillet with the zucchini. Toss with prepared sauce. Saute mixture for 3-5 minutes, tossing every minute or two to ensure that everything is coated in sauce. In the last minute, stir in half of cilantro and half of chives or scallions. Saute for one more minute.
- Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and chives.
- Serve immediately.
- This recipe has been tweaked to add more shrimp and a bit more zucchini as well as to reduce the heat. I also swapped out the scallions for chives, which I had in my garden. I prefer the subtle flavor of chives to the scallion’s stronger flavors anyway, but use whichever you prefer.
- I’ve made this recipe with both lo mein noodles as well as a thinner egg noodle (seen in these photographs) and both came out well, although I preferred the thinner noodle to the lo mein noodle. The key here, however, is that both varieties are egg noodles – not rice noodles. Look for that on the package.
This recipe was adapted from Baker by Nature
The Forgotten Garden chronicles the efforts of two women to uncover pieces of their own family history.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!
The Forgotten Garden
By Kate Morton
A little girl is found alone with a small suitcase of clothes and a beautiful book of fairy tales on a dock in Australia in 1913. The little girl has no memory. The dockmaster is unable to find her family, or even figure out where to begin looking for them. He takes the little girl home and she is quickly adopted as the first child of the dockmaster and his wife. Named Nell, the little girl grows up knowing nothing of her past, the eldest child of a large family. But when Nell turns 21, her father tells her the truth of her origins – that she was not his biological daughter and that he had no idea of where she came from or who her family might be.
The Forgotten Garden is a story of Nell’s life through multiple sets of eyes during multiple time periods. First, there is Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra, who journeys from Australia to England after Nell’s death, to uncover the truth about Nell’s past (2005, the present of the book). The second set of stories is that of Nell’s own journey to England in 1975, when she attempts to identify her parents and learn about the first few years of her life. Third is set in the early 1900s, following the lives of the Mountrachet family, believed to be Nell’s family. And finally, interwoven in the above, there are short stories from Nell’s book of fairy tales written by The Authoress.
Review/Recommendation: This book was enjoyable throughout, but I really got hooked about halfway through, when I got caught up in the story and started reading at an almost feverish pace. I was thoroughly invested in all of the characters and plot lines, so the switching back and forth between characters and time periods was seamless to me. Additionally, Morton did an excellent job threading the pieces of Nell’s story through each part – showing the reader exactly what happened in the chapter from the early 1900s and then how those particular pieces of the story were brought to light for Nell and/or Cassandra. Amazingly, it felt like the story was packaged into a nice, neat bundle by the end of the book, both satisfying and slightly surprising at exactly how neatly things came together (I actually found myself rewinding the book a bit to make sure everything was covered).
The writing in the book was beautiful; the characters showed depth and evolution. In fact, after finishing the book, I couldn’t stop feeling sad for a couple of the characters. They weren’t the most likeable characters, but their life circumstances evoked such empathy for them. If their life were a bit different or a certain person did not have such a strong influence on those characters, things could have turned out so very differently for them. And no, that sadness didn’t grip me as I read the book but it was something I thought about after I finished it, as I started thinking about writing this review. It’s not often that sentiments about a book stay with me for a little while after finishing, so for that, kudos to Morton!
I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads for two reasons. First, I found the “mystery” a bit predictable – I was pretty easily able to guess the ending, both because it was a bit predictable and because Morton so clearly laid out the clues surrounding Nell’s childhood. Secondly, one piece of the novel left me slightly unsettled as I read it – I was bothered by the strong parallels in several of the fairy tales to other fairy tales and stories that I grew up knowing. I suppose that my feelings about it may be a bit irrational, because so many fairy tales and stories are based on something else, but the parallels were a bit too obvious for me to feel completely comfortable with. That being said, if the fairy tales were absent from the book, I probably would have been curious and wished that they had been included. So it may be an imperfect solution either way.
The Forgotten Garden was an enjoyable read, a great book with which to finish my summer reading.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If not, you can find this book on Amazon.
Disclaimer 1: This is a review of the third book in The Great Library Series. If you have not read the first two books in the series, you can read my review for those here.
Disclaimer 2: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!
Ash and Quill
By Rachel Caine
The third book in The Great Library series picks up where the last left off. Jess and his friends escape the clutches of the Library but end up arriving in Philadelphia where a new threat awaits, the Burners – those that would rather burn book than succumb to the Library; those that believed that a human life was more valuable than books and knowledge.
The group is immediately taken prisoner and bides their time until they can escape by performing various tasks for the Burners. But escape is no easy feat, for just outside the city walls sits one of the Library’s High Garda armies, who would surely take them captive as soon as they are seen.
Review/Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books, so the wait for this one to be released in July was a long one. After a few weeks of waiting for my library to receive and process the book, I gave up and ordered it myself. Thank goodness for credit with Amazon!
Ash and Quill did not disappoint. The story was as engaging as the first two, much to my husband’s dismay (because I would rather read it than watch Game of Thrones with him). The characters didn’t seem to evolve as much as previous books, but there was nice plot progression. The story line of this book focused on Burner life, culture and beliefs rather than that of the Library. That was something we got a glimpse of in previous books, but neither book were centered around it like this one is.
Like the second in the series, Paper and Quill, this book ends on a pretty big cliffhanger meant to bring the reader back for more. Super annoying when the next book is nowhere in sight. But that, along with the way the story is told indicates that this series is meant to be read in order, so if you haven’t read the first two, please don’t jump to this one. You’ll lose a lot pieces from the story as well as the characters.
Now to anxiously await the release additional book in the series. (Goodreads indicates that there will be a total of five books in this series. As of this writing, there were no details on Rachel Caine’s website, so it probably won’t be released until 2018, at the earliest.)
Buy this book on Amazon
Packed with veggies, lean ground beef and topped with rice, Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup will quickly become a favorite meal for busy weeknights.
Can you believe that school starts up in a few weeks? Or maybe, school has already started where you live… it’s nuts! I feel like this summer flew by in the blink of an eye.
This month features lots of recipes on the blog as well as on the Books n’ Cooks Facebook page for heading back to school. In particular, this weekend, the #SundaySupper crew have come together to bring you some great Back-to-School dinners, to help deal with those crazy hectic weeknights. From slow cooker and Instant Pot meals to skillet and sheet pan dinners, the #SundaySupper tastemakers have a great set of recipes to make school nights easier. You can find the list of those recipes at the bottom of this post.
It feels a bit weird to be posting a soup recipe when it’s 90-100F out, but I’ve really been enjoying this soup for both lunch and dinner this summer. I love that it’s packed with vegetables and even thought my hubby doesn’t like any of those vegetables, he does like this soup. I also love that it makes enough for leftovers for our family, making weekday lunches a bit easier. In fact, most frequently, I make a batch of this soup on Sunday morning, let it cook throughout the day, and then package it up for lunch for the week. Can’t go wrong with that. But for dinner, with a little prep ahead, it’s a life saver. I prep everything the night (or sometimes weekend) before and let the soup simmer away in the slow cooker all day. I love coming home to a meal that’s pretty much ready to plate!
- Instead of using canned tomatoes, I have also made this with fresh tomatoes. If you have tomatoes on hand, dice 4-6 small to medium tomatoes (by weight, mine were about 18 ounces, diced). The result is a slightly sweeter soup.
- I added an extra cup of chicken broth to this recipe, in part because I do make and portion this out for a week’s worth of lunches. I find that the rice soaks up some of the liquid when it sits in my fridge and is reheated, so 3 cups is necessary, instead of the 2 cups that the recipe originally calls for.
- This recipe was written to make in the slow cooker, however, I’d imagine that it would do just fine simmering away on the stove for an hour or two if you prefer.
- Prep Ahead: I have prepped everything the night before – everything before actually turning on the slow cooker – and stuck the slow cooker pot in the fridge for the night. Then returned to the slow cooker to cook the following morning. Everything worked out great and dinner was ready when I came home from work that evening.
Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup
Adapted from SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow (p. 50)
- 1 lb. 93% lean ground beef
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2-14.5 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
- 1 3/4 c. canned tomato sauce
- 1 Tbs. dried Italian seasoning
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3 c. cooked white or brown rice (whatever you prefer)
In a large skillet set over medium heat. Stirring and breaking into small pieces every few minutes. When completely cooked, drain fat and transfer beef to a slow cooker. Return skillet to the stove and saute onions, bell peppers, and garlic until vegetables are translucent. Transfer to slow cooker. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper to slow cooker and stir to combine.
Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
Serve hot with 1/2 cup of rice.
More Back to School Dinners
Beef and Pork
- Bacon Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats by The Crumby Kitchen
- Beef and Sweet Potato Stew by What Smells So Good?
- Easy Meatloaf Meatballs by Palatable Pastime
- Mexican Lasagna with Corn Tortillas by Sunday Supper Movement
- One Dish Taco Goulash by Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Pierogi with Sausage and Peppers by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Pot Roast with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Red Wine by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Pastas, Soups, Rice and Stews
- Casimer Rice by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Dad’s Glop by My Blissful Mess
- Homemade Lasagna by Soulfully Made
- Kid-friendly Salmon Curry by Caroline’s Cooking
- Salmon with Pappardelle and a Brandy Cream Sauce by Mysavoryspoon
- Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup by Books n’ Cooks
- Chicken Enchiladas by The Freshman Cook
- Chicken Parmesan by Bottom Left of the Mitten
- Chicken with Creamy Lemon Caper Sauce & Roasted Asparagus by Gourmet Everyday
- Chicken with Sautéed Zucchini Peppers and Mushrooms by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Cornflake Chicken Tenders by Renee’s Kitchen Adventures
- Easy Instapot Roast Chicken by Our Good Life
- Easy Ranch Chicken Pasta with Bacon by Cricket’s Confections
- Perfect Scrambled Eggs by Pies and Plots
- Roasted Chicken Breasts by Life Tastes Good
- Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Chicken & Spinach by My Life Cookbook
- Whole30 Mini Turkey Meatloaf by Bites of Wellness
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.
My Mom’s Zucchini Bread is moist and flavorful, making it a wonderful breakfast or mid-day snack.
The year I graduated college, right before I moved out on my own, my mom gave me one of the best, most thoughtful, most frequently-used Christmas gifts ever. A set of cookbooks. Four cookbook binders, filled with all of our family recipes and interspersed with family photos. She painstakingly typed up what was probably over a hundred recipes, printed them on beautiful paper, and slide each recipe into a protective plastic sheet so that no matter how far away from home I went, I would be able to make our family classics. These cookbooks get a little fatter each year as we find new recipes we love, but they are definitely one of the best Christmas presents I have received. Ever.
When my garden started producing zucchini last month, I knew immediately that I was going to dig into those cookbooks and make one of my childhood favorites for you. Farmers Market Week with my blogger friends was the perfect excuse. If you don’t have any zucchini growing in your back yard, be sure to check your local farmers market. I’ll betcha a loaf of bread that you’ll find some beautiful zucchini there, maybe even big enough to eek out two loaves of this bread (one for now, one for the freezer? one for home, one for work? It won’t go to waste, I promise).
One recipe note: My favorite version of this bread is with a generous cup of walnuts – I just love the slight crunch to an otherwise soft and very moist bread. Include nuts or skip them (as I did this summer, since our daycare is nut-free) or even add mini chocolate chips if you’d like – whatever your family enjoys.
Thanks to Cynthia at Feeding Big and Christie at A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures for hosting Farmer’s Market Week this year. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to check out more recipes inspired by our local farmer’s markets from our blogging community.
- cooking spray
- 2 c. shredded (not peeled) zucchini
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 c. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 - 1 c. chopped walnuts or mini chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- Press shredded zucchini in a clean dishtowel to remove as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients. Add eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla into the well and stir to mix well. Fold in shredded zucchini as well as nuts or chocolate chips, if using.
- Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool before moving to a serving plate.
- Bread will keep, covered tightly with plastic wrap, for about 5 days.
#FarmersMarket Wednesday Recipes
Chicken and Summer Veggie Tostadas by The Redhead Baker
Peach-Almond Mousse by Red Cottage Chronicles
Easy Creamed Corn by Feeding Big
Easy Zucchini Refrigerator Pickles by Simple and Savory
Fresh Applesauce by Palatable Pastime
Fresh Raspberry Streusel Muffins by Family Around The Table
Grilled Garden Pizza by Jolene’s Recipe Journal
Italian Sausage and Summer Vegetable Sheet Pan Dinner by Cooking with Carlee
Lemon Curd by The Freshman Cook
Mom’s Zucchini Bread by Books n’ Cooks
Peaches & Cream Protein Smoothie by Tip Garden
Quick Pickles by Bear & Bug Eats
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Carbonara by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Roasted Eggplant with Tahini by Caroline’s Cooking
Spicy Summer Squash Refrigerator Pickles by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Salsa Verde are an easy, flavorful dinner for busy weeknights.
Welcome to Farmer’s Mark Week, hosted by Cynthia at Feeding Big and Christie at A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures! This week, a group of bloggers will be sharing recipes inspired by what we find at our local farmer’s markets, or for those with a green thumb, in our gardens. You can find recipes here on Books n’ Cooks today and Wednesday, but be sure to search social media for #FarmersMarketWeek for more great recipes!
The past couple of weeks have been absolutely horrible at work. For the past two weeks, I came home with stress headaches every day and was just absolutely exhausted. I’d come home almost every day craving quiet and wine and the ability to zone out from the world. I wanted to forget about the people who thought it was ok to send insulting and counterproductive emails to me, when in fact, they were struggling to do their own job. And we won’t talk about how I’m to blame for them not having not any common sense or basic communication skills.
I’d come home with so little energy that several nights, I couldn’t even bother to season meat and veggies for my hubby to grill. Pathetic, right?
After one week of that, I finally got my act together to make life a little easier for myself, at least at home. This slow cooker beef tacos was a life saver last week. I’ve made it several times before. It truly requires minimal effort. Slice those onions and peppers from your farmers market or garden (or grocery store – for the really crazy weeks, buy two packages of presliced fajita veggies and skip the slicing all together), dump into the slow cooker and walk out the door for work. Shredding the beef only takes a minute when you get home before you can serve, and likely have some for leftovers. The salsa verde gives the beef and vegetables a bright, slightly sweet flavor and has just a hint of a bite. (If you like things spicier, I bet you could throw a few sliced jalapenos in here as well).
The other reason I really like this meal is that it’s so easy to customize to what’s in season and to individual tastes. I’ve made this with all colors of bell peppers as well as both red and white onions. You can even do all onions or peppers, if someone in your house has an aversion to one or the other. Same goes for toppings. I favor a little more fresh produce, the tomato and avocado (or guacamole) that you see above but my hubby adds more salsa, cheese, and even a bit of sour cream to his tacos. The options are endless.
Enjoy this dish now while farmers markets and gardens are producing tons of produce, or bookmark it for a busy weeknight for later. And don’t forget to check out the other recipes featuring farmers market produce at the bottom of this post! Bon appetit!
Prep Ahead: Slice onions and peppers the night before (or even a couple nights before), and store in an airtight container for easy prep the morning you want to make this.
Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Peppers, Onions & Salsa Verde
By Books n’ Cooks
- 2 medium to large onions, white, red, or a combination of the two, cut into thin strips.
- 2 large bell peppers, any color, cut into thin strips
- 1.5-2 lb. lean flank steak, trimmed of fat if necessary
- 16-20 oz. salsa verde
- Toppings of choice: additional salsa, diced tomato, cheese, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, etc.
Place sliced peppers and onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place flank steak on top of vegetables. Top with salsa.
Cook on low for for 10 hours.
Shred beef and return to slow cooker.
Serve hot with the onions and peppers in salsa verde, in a tortilla with toppings of your choice.
Looking for a side dish to accompany these tacos? Try my Cilantro Lime Rice.
#FarmersMarketWeek Monday Recipes
Aunt Mary’s Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles by Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
BBQ Corn on the Cob with dilled butter by Red Cottage Chronicles
Beef Tacos with Peppers, Onions & Salsa Verde by Books n’ Cooks
Blistered Tomato Dutch Baby by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Blueberry Crisp for Two by Family Around The Table
Blueberry Scones by The Freshman Cook
Cherry Stout Jam by The Redhead Baker
Farmer’s Market Breakfast Casserole by New South Charm
Freshly Dug Potato Salad by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Intro post by Bear & Bug Eats
Israeli Salad by Caroline’s Cooking
Marinated Mozzarella and Tomato Appetizers by Jolene’s Recipe Journal
Peach and Blueberry Overnight Oats by Simple and Savory
Peach Bourbon Jam by Feeding Big
Peaches and Cream Overnight Oats by Cooking with Carlee
Strawberry Mango Jam by Palatable Pastime
Summer Veggies & Kielbasa Sheet Pan Dinner by Tip Garden
Despite 10 years of blogging, there are some dishes that I make that I’ve never considered blogging about. They’re family classics that I make on auto-pilot, that feel a bit like cheater recipes. No or very minimal recipe, sometimes using store-bought ingredients. This recipe is one of them.
My grandmother has made this Italian Green Bean Salad for as long as I can remember. I remember – back when I was in elementary school – picking the green beans from her huge backyard garden, sitting on the steps trimming the ends, and then watching her make it for family dinner that night. It’s a quick and easy recipe, perfect for weeknight dinners but also summer BBQs and potlucks, as it can be served at room temperature. It’s also easy to adjust the recipe for a dinner for two or to feed a crowd.
- This salad can be served warm (room temperature) or cold, straight from the fridge. If making ahead and storing in the fridge, be sure to check before serving, to make sure that it doesn’t need a little extra salad dressing.
- Asiago cheese can be exchanged for Parmesan, if you have that on hand.
Italian Green Bean Salad
By Books n’ Cooks
Serves 4 as a side
- 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
- Italian Salad Dressing (I use Good Seasonings Italian, made with balsamic vinegar)
- Asiago cheese, finely grated (about 1 oz. Asiago, grated)
Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add green beans and blanch, cooking for 3-5 minutes until still crunchy. With a slotted spoon or tongs, move green beans to bowl of ice, to prevent beans from cooking any longer. When beans have cooled to room temperature (or cooler), drain and transfer to a serving dish.
Toss green beans with Italian dressing. Top with finely grated Asiago cheese just before serving.
Serve green beans at room temperature or cold.
Store covered tightly in plastic wrap in the fridge, if not serving immediately.
Ok, so I’m a few weeks late on this post… but it was a monster to write up and I’m badly in need of a new computer, so I’ve been avoiding anything that needs to be done on my computer, like photo editing.
In the Kitchen & Beyond!
This spring saw heavy comfort foods get kicked to the curb in favor of lighter options. We grill out at least twice a week. I usually keep it simple with a salt and pepper rub or a store-brought marinate, but this Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin from Eazy Peazy Mealz has been a favorite for the past couple of years. I also revamped an old standby – Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca – with new photos and some post revisions, as the post was super old and badly needed a face lift.
I’ve also enjoyed making several summery beverages at home. I could drink this super light Strawberry Basil Darjeeling Iced Tea all summer. And this Pomegranate Grapefruit Vodka Martini – a twist on the classic cosmo – is so good that I can’t keep the ingredients on hand, otherwise I might enjoy a cocktail every night.
Food-related but beyond the kitchen, if you follow me on Instagram, you know that I attended the Food and Wine Conference in Orlando, FL last month (a few photos from the weekend above). It was my first time attending but it was the conference’s 5th year (congrats to Isabel and the #SundaySupper Movement on this milestone!). I had a blast and could seriously write several posts on the amazing bloggers I met, the wonderful food, the inspiring stories, and the important lessons learned. Instead of that, I’ll give you some highlights and references.
- Food and Wine Conference official website – so that you can watch for next year’s event.
- Representatives from Certified Angus Beef, Florida Strawberries, and Florida Dairy Association participated in panels where I gained insight into the families that support U.S. agriculture and produce. The passion that these representatives showed was amazing. It makes me realize how much I still have to learn about how this portion of the economy works, to include sustainability. It also made me appreciate those that support these businesses even more, as family businesses, with every member of the family participating.
- On a more business front, today really is the digital age, where microinfluencers (bloggers like yours truly) and social media rockstars bring as much to the table for brands and big name companies – if not more – than formal advertising. Stay true to yourself but recognize the power you have.
- I have pages of notes on how to shoot videos, which is starting to overtake traditional still photography as critical aspects of food blogging. I’ve always found the prospect super intimidating but a couple of helpful talks and lots of Q&A have helped get me over the hurdle. After the conference, I even made and published my first video!
- Look for opportunities to not just improve, but to pivot. Where can expertise gained from blogging, recipe development, photography, etc. be used to change your direction in the future?
On My Bookshelf
I read quite a bit in early spring, with my pace slowing down as the weather grew nicer. However, most of what I read this spring were knock-outs that I loved. As usual, you can follow what I’m reading in real time on Goodreads, but if you’re not on Goodreads, here are some of my favorites from this spring:
- The Freedom Broker (by K.J. Howe) – Howe’s debute novel, this mystery/suspense novel starred a kidnap-and-ransom expert searching for her kidnapped father
- The Great Library Series (by Rachel Caine) – a young adult series with lots of action, it is based on an alternate version of history.
- The Women in the Castle (by Jessica Shattuck) – a historical fiction novel set in Nazi Germany, about three widows surviving the way and rebuilding their lives
I’m now anxiously awaiting the third book in The Great Library series, which was released a few days ago. I should get it as soon as the book arrives at and gets processed into my local library.
Ever since we moved into this house (almost 5 years ago), I’ve wanted my own garden. I did small boxes of herbs a year or two, but this year, I finally got the garden I’ve wanted. I owe my hubby big time for building the raised bed.
We planted a couple varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, jalapeno, serrano peppers, baby bell peppers, and an assortment of herbs. I’m honestly amazing at how well the garden is doing. I’ve had to restake the tomato plant that were toppling under the weight of the green tomatoes. I’ve had to relocate some herbs that were overtaken by the zucchini. I’ve already harvested a couple of baby bell peppers, a half dozen tomatoes, and two zucchini. Not to mention the sage leaves I froze and the two batches of both cilantro and basil pesto I made and stashed in my freezer.
But the best part of the garden is how much my little ones love it. I have daily helpers watering, weeding, and looking for ripe vegetables to pick. My daughter – the World’s Pickiest Eater – took pleasure in picking the first baby bell pepper and taking a huge bite out of it. And then a second and a third bite! Definitely a win in my book.
Crafting has slowed this spring, as travel, time outside, and other stuff have picked up. I did finish and gift a baby blanket to my dear sister-in-law, who had her second son this spring. (Two boys, under 15 months apart – she’s like Superwoman!)
I’m in the middle of what feels like a zillion projects – a crochet blanket, a knit pillow case, a knit poncho, a knit shawl, a couple of counted cross stitch Christmas stockings, a couple of digital and paper scrapbooks… I either haven’t been able to focus on anything for very long due to attention span or to travel (I try to bring small projects with me, if any) or have just been too busy to pick any up. A couple projects are near completion or are just super easy, so I’m hoping to finish a few this summer, but we’ll see if that happens. It’s shaping up to be a busy summer with either travel or house guests almost every other week.
I hope you all had a wonderful spring and have a great summer lined up!
All the Best!
The Women in the Castle
By Jessica Shattuck
On the eve of WWII, a small group from Germany’s high society were planning Hitler’s assassination. Marianne von Lingenfels was the sole woman present. She not only supported the plot, recognizing the monster that Germany’s leader was, but was charged by the men with protecting and caring for their wives and families, should the plot go awry.
Unsurprisingly, the plot fails and the men, the resisters, are sentenced to death. Marianne survives the war and returns to the castle owned by her husband’s ancestors. It is from that home base that Marianne searches Germany for the women and children she promised to protect. She successfully recovers two fellow resister wives and their children. Together, the three women and their children spend their days at the castle recovering from the war and searching for a way forward in life.
Review/Recommendation: I read a lot of WWII-era historical fiction books but not very many from a German perspective. This book was super interesting and hard to put down. It was a fantastic story with engaging characters.
I thought it Shattuck did well showing the different perspectives of a German woman during Hitler’s reign. The three widows each brought their own perspective of WWII-era Germany – one [former] Nazi supporter, one adamant resister, and one just slightly the indifferent and a bit oblivious to the politics of the time. Each woman had a history that helped them make it through the years immediately following the war, when they were recovering and attempting to restart their lives. Each had a history that crafted their paths forward after the recovery period.
The Women in the Castle flipped back and forth between different dates (mostly prewar and postwar, the “present” of the novel) and between each of the different characters, giving the reader insight into the women’s history and life. The format worked well for the book and for the story Shattuck crafted.
I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to any fans of historical fiction.
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