By Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters, each very different from one another but who both resist Nazi occupiers, each in their own way.
When the Nazis invade France, Vianne Mauriac‘s husband is called up to serve in the country’s army. He leaves his wife and young daughter home alone to fend for themselves, to do their best to survive. Timid Vianne tries to fly under the radar of the Nazis that occupy not only her village but those that board in her home. When French Jews begin to be deported, Vianne can no longer stay quiet and watch Nazi atrocities. When her best friend is deported, Vianne is left to care for her son, a toddler, right under the nose of the Nazis. From that moment on, Vianne embarks on a secret mission to save as many Jewish children as possible.
Ont he flip side, Vianne‘s sister, Isabelle, wants to rebel against the Nazi’s from the beginning, much to the dismay of her sister. Isabelle quickly becomes involved in underground groups to subvert the Nazis, working her way from someone who passes out anti-Nazi propaganda, to a woman who leads Allied forces to safety, crossing the Pyrenees mountains to do so.
Review/Recommendation: Another WWII-era historical fiction – Can you tell that’s a favorite time period of mine? The Nightingale largely takes place in the past – for the duration of the war – but there are a handful of short glimpses into the present day of one sister (sorry, not going to tell you which one – no spoilers!). While the jumps into present day are a bit jarring, the story is so engaging that when the novel returned to the sisters’ story, I was able to jump right back in.
I have been seeing this book all over forever, but I didn’t pick it up until a few months ago. I’m not sure why I waited so long, but I’m kicking myself for doing so. I really enjoy WWII-era historical fiction novels, and this one was no exception. As I said, the novel is very engaging and I was pretty quickly hooked. I felt great empathy for both the sisters and the struggles they faced to survive, to rebel, to stay a family despite their differences and the horrible circumstances in which they lived. I wanted both to be successful in their personal missions, but it pained me to see their differences come between them.
Despite the difficult topic of wartime occupation, for the most part, the book flew by. In the majority of the novel, while more difficult topics (i.e. rape) clearly took place, scenes ended at a point where the reader had no doubt what would happen but was not left with detailed descriptions. The end of the book changed in that manner, where wartime atrocities – like Nazi maltreatment of French citizens, prisoners, etc. – took a more prominent place in the story.
Despite the tougher ending (I had to stop reading it before bed), The Nightingale was a great book – the first I read by Kristin Hannah. I can’t wait to start the next one (which just hit my ereader this week!).
Celebrate Valentine’s Day (or the weekend) with a sweet and spicy dinner for two. Sweet pineapple salsa compliments jerk scallops full of flavor in a dinner that comes together quickly.
Like so many other couples, my husband and I rarely eat out on Valentine’s Day. And since having kids? We rarely get to go out around Valentine’s Day. Instead, we try to celebrate with a special dinner at home. Sometime’s it’s something that’s a little more expensive, something it’s something that’s more time consuming to make than usual, or something it’s just something that I know my husband will love.
This dinner meets two of those criteria. Scallops are something that my husband enjoys immensely but that I don’t make super frequently. They’re a bit pricey and since having kids, I haven’t quite been as excited about seafood as I used to be. Plus, it is one of those proteins that I’m always (inexplicably) nervous about undercooking. #Paranoia
So for this Valentine’s Day, I paired some of my husband’s favorites for a quick but killer meal. Spicy scallops are topped with a sweet pineapple salsa and a rice, flavored ever so slightly of coconut. He was in heaven.
- My husband has a big appetite, so this recipe serves two in our house. Depending on your appetites, you may want to adjust the amount of scallops.
- This pineapple salsa is mild, with no jalapeno. It was a perfectly sweet pairing for us, since the scallops have a good bit of kick, but feel free to add a jalapeno (minced, seeds included or removed per your preferences) if you’d like this dish even spicier.
- Although the recipes is for searing on the stove top, the scallops can be grilled as well.
Jerk Scallops with Pineapple Salsa over Coconut Rice
By Books n’ Cooks
Ingredients for the Pineapple Salsa:
- 1 c. pineapple, small dice
- 3 Tbs. red onion, minced
- 2 Tbs. cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
Ingredients for the Coconut Rice:
- 1 c. jasmine rice
- 3/4 c. coconut milk
- 3/4 c. water
Ingredients for the Scallops:
- 3 Tbs. jerk seasoning
- 3/4 lb. sea scallops (8 scallops)
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Make the Salsa: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until serving.
Make the Rice: Bring coconut milk and water to a boil. Add rice and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, or until rice is cooked through. Turn off stove and allow to stand for a few minutes.
While the rice is cooking, rinse scallops and pat dry.
Heat a heavy, cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, add oil.
Place jerk seasoning on a plate. Coat scallops with seasoning on top, bottom and sides. Place in hot skillet. Sear for 2 minutes per side. If needed, lower heat and continue to cook until scallops are cooked throughout.
Serve scallops hot, over rice. Top with pineapple salsa.
Looking for more recipes designed to serve two? Check out the links from my friends below, or search #RecipesForTwo on social media for a visual tour of some amazing dishes.
- Chicken Florentine for 2 by Strawberry Blondie Kitchen
- Jerk Scallops with Pineapple Salsa over Coconut Rice by Books n’ Cooks (above!)
- Pork Filet Mignon by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Banana Split Cookie Trifle for Two by Palatable Pastime
- Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie for Two (Pizookies) by House of Nash Eats
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Lava Cakes for 2 by Kate’s Recipe Box
- Do You Carrot All Cake by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Heart Cocoa for Two by Amy’s Cooking Adventures
Add a kick to your favorite protein with homemade Jerk Seasoning.
Have you ever made your own seasoning or rub mixtures? I used to prefer buying the premade seasonings at the grocery store just because it’s easier, but over the past couple of years, I pretty much stopped doing that. I’m all for convenience items (hello, prechopped onions and presliced fajita veggies!) but I found that the convenience isn’t worth it for seasonings. Not only can most seasonings and rubs be made in under 2 minutes, but homemade versions are cheaper, can usually be made with the spices and herbs I already have in my pantry, healthier (no weird preservatives or extra sodium), and are customizable to our tastes.
I’ve long been making my own taco seasoning (recipe coming soon!) and have dabbled in rubs and sauces for grilled meat (such as this Coffee-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin and this Grilled Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin). Most recently, I experimented with creating my own version of Jerk Seasoning, a seasoning mixture that packs a good bit of heat. Because of the weather, I used this seasoning mixture while cooking on the stove-top, but I’d highly recommend using it on your favorite protein next time you grill.
Not sure about how to use this seasoning mixture? It’ll give any protein a flavor kick. My husband and I loved it on Jerk Scallops with Pineapple Salsa as well as on shrimp.
- 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbs. garlic powder
- 1 Tbs. cayenne
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. dried parsley
- 2 tsp. light brown sugar
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- In a bowl or jar, mix all ingredients until combined. Store in an airtight jar or container in a cool place.
With a slight kick from fresh garlic, homemade hummus is an easy, healthy munchie for snack or entertaining. Pair it with veggies, pitas, or pretzel chips for an irresistible snack.
Ok folks. Who out there has a New Year’s resolution to eat better or lose weight? <Raises hand.> It’s soooo hard to eat well when weekdays are so busy – I walk in the door and the kids are immediately asking to eat or demanding other things…
I know that the months of January and February are crazy for us, due to some travel and houseguests, so I’m doing my best to position myself for success. Lists of healthy options to expedite planning, lots of weekend prep, and as much help from the grocery store as possible (hello pre-chopped veggies!).
One of my favorite go-to snacks for healthy eating… or even when I’m not being my best… is hummus. I love it with veggies, pretzel crisps, pita slices and pita chips. Great for easy entertaining or snacking. This homemade version only took a few minutes to make and is bright with flavor. The Tabasco and garlic give it a bit of heat, which is evened out by fresh lemon juice.
What is your favorite snack (bonus points for a recipe) for healthy eating?
- 1 14-oz. can chickpeas
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/3 c. tahini
- juice of 1 lemon
- 8 dashes Tabasco sauce
- paprika (optional)
- Drain the chickpeas and reserve liquid.
- Place chickpeas, salt, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and Tabasco in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10 times. Add 2 Tbs. of reserved liquid and continue to pulse until desired texture, adding additional liquid 1/2 tablespoon at a time if needed.
- Transfer to a serving dish and, if desired, dust with paprika (optional).
- Serve within an hour, or store in refrigerator until serving.
This recipe was adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (p. 46).
I hope you all had a wonderful New Year. 2017 felt like it flew by in the blink of an eye. There were a lot of ups and downs, with lots of downs towards the end of the year, so I’m kinda happy 2017 is over. The new year is starting off with some great excitement and a welcomed break from life (Disney this month!!!).
Before jumping into a recap of your top 10 recipes on Books n’ Cooks in 2017, I just wanted to thank each and every one of you for reading, commenting and sharing this year. Even after year of blogging, I still get giddy when you leave a comment, share your experiences making one of the dishes or pass on a recipe to a friend. So THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart.
Without further ado, the most popular recipes published in 2017 are…
- Cranberry Pistachio Bark (most popular!)
- Mom’s Apple Cake
- Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- Churro Chex Mix
- Pomegranate Grapefruit Martini
- Chicken Caprese Bites
- Christmas Sprinkle Cookies
- Mom’s Zucchini Bread
- Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup
- Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Salsa Verde
Also among the top recipe this year was Chicken Scaloppini Saltimobocca, published years ago but rephotographed this year. The updated photos really made a difference! This recipe is an old family favorite, so I was thrilled to see it get some love.
And, like last year, my top recipe of the year – although not published this year – was The Frenchy.
You guys picked some awesome recipes this year, but I do want to call out a few of my favorites, that didn’t make your list.
In addition to the two slow cooker dishes you liked (btw, my slow cooker has been a savior this year), one of my favorite new entrees this year was Spicy Shrimp & Zucchini Lo Mein – a filling, healthy 30-minute meal that’s bursting with flavor. Great for busy weeknights.
In addition to the Christmas Sprinkle Cookies you loved above (which we make all year round with whatever sprinkles we have on hand), Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies (your runner up at #11!) were a couple more of the stand-out desserts made this year. No fancy pies or cupcakes this year. Cookies ruled the dessert table in our house.
I’ve got a couple of new recipes already lined up for you in 2018 but I’d like to hear from you. What do you want to see on Books n’ Cooks in 2018?
I surprised myself with more time to read this year, than I did last year. Young adult/fantasy books and short stories – all series – were the most popular genre this year, but my favorite books read in 2017 are a good mix of young adult/fantasy, historical fiction, and fiction novels. This list is in the order in which I read the books, with each linked to my book review.
I’m currently putting together the first stack of books to read in 2018. If there’s a book that you loved from this past year, that you’d recommend, please leave a comment with your recommendation. I’d love to check our your most recent favorites, as well as any books you’re looking forward to being released in 2018.
And if you don’t want to wait for me to publish my book reviews or annual list of favorites, you can follow me on Goodreads to find out what I’m reading.
The Shoemakers Wife (By Adriana Trigiani) – I couldn’t put this historical fiction novel down. Set in the first half of the 1900s, the story takes place in the Italian Alps, New York City, and the Midwest. It follows the story of two Italian immigrants as they adjust to life in the United States, provide for family back home, and create a new life for themselves in the U.S. It’s a beautiful story, with beautiful writing. I may or may not have gushed a little bit in the review.
The Chronos Files (By Rysa Walker) – A young adult series of 3 novels, 3 novellas, and a handful of short stories, The Chronos Files is about a teenage girl traveling through time to save the past as she knows it, as well as the future. Walker did a great job of using the novellas and short stories to provide additional perspective and additional detail to events that were only referenced in the novels, although the novels are certainly enjoyable on their own.
The Freedom Broker (by K.J. Howe) – The debute novel for Howe, this mystery/suspense novel starred a kidnap-and-ransom expert searching for her kidnapped father. The book was fast-paced and had some unpredictable twists. It was one of the few mystery/suspense novels that I read this year, but it set the bar pretty high for what I picked up in that genre.
The Women in the Castle (by Jessica Shattuck) – A historical fiction novel set predominately during WWII and during the recovery period, this novel tells the story of 3 German resister wives and their families. Each woman has a very different history which shapes how she survives the war and rebuild her life after the war.
Sourdough (by Robin Sloan) – A cute little fictional novel about a software engineer-turned-baker, thanks to a feisty sourdough starter that she is tasked with caring for. The quirky book was a quick read that will be relate-able to anyone who finds solace in the kitchen.
Six of Crows Duology (by Leigh Bardugo) – This two-book set includes Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, two fast-paced, action-packed young adult / fantasy books that follow a group of criminals who are tasked with kidnapping a scientist whose discovery threatens they way the world works.
Six of Crows Duology
By Leigh Bardugo
A duology in the young adult genre, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are a mix of action and fantasy. It all starts when a group of thieves and criminals is hired by a wealthy merchant to kidnap a scientist, who was kidnapped and hidden away in the unbreakable Ice Court. Six of Crows starts the story, but of course, things don’t go exactly according to plan, so the story continues in Crooked Kingdom.
Review/Recommendation: This duology was enjoyable and a quick read. I bought it for vacation and couldn’t put it down. When I finished it, I promptly passed it to my husband, who read it even quicker than I did.
I realize that the above description doesn’t give you much, but I did want to avoid spoilers. So I’ll start here: Although this series was published after The Grisha Trilogy, which comes first chronologically, I actually read this series first. If you skip The Grisha Trilogy or opt to read the books out of order, you’re not missing much. It might take a little more time to grasp the gangs and nationalities of the various peoples and who/what all of the Grisha are, but that’s not a big deal. Additionally, there are a couple of characters that make a cameo, and you’ll miss some historical connections. All of that being said, I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing anything when I read it. It was only in retrospect that I realized that I missed a tiny piece of the story.
To be honest, I enjoyed the duology more than the trilogy. The two books were super fast-paced, filled with action, intrigue and mystery, emotional turmoil (but not the teenage angst you’d expect from a young adult series) and sprinkled with sarcasm and wit. The characters were all likeable and unique, with intense histories that emerged throughout the series, which make you like them even more.
Like The Grisha Trilogy, this set had vaguely Russian undertones to the people’s cultures, the locations, etc. As someone who’s always been drawn to Russian culture and history, it was slightly odd to see those connections but something I enjoyed. Those references made me reminisce a bit about the culture that I experienced through school. (Oh, how I long for blini!)
Given how much my husband and I enjoyed the books, I’m glad we bought the sets. I can see our children reading these in the future. I can even see myself rereading these in the future.
This duology is available on Amazon