Friday, March 17, 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bermis

Synopsis

Andrea Bemis, the creator of the popular farm-to-table blog Dishing Up the Dirt builds on her success with this beautiful, simple, seasonally driven cookbook, featuring more than 100 inventive and delicious whole-foods recipes and dozens of color photographs.

For Andrea Bemis, who owns and runs a six-acre organic farm with her husband outside of Portland, Oregon, dinners are inspired by what is grown in the soil and picked by hand. In Dishing Up the Dirt, Andrea offers 100 authentic farm-to-table recipes, arranged by season, including:

Spring: Honey Roasted Strawberry Muffins, Lamb Lettuce Wraps with Mint Yogurt Sauce, Spring Harvest Pizza with Mint & Pea Pesto, Kohlrabi and Chickpea Salad

Summer: Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Biscuits, Roasted Ratatouille Toast, Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce, Farmers Market Burgers with Mustard Greens Pesto

Fall: Farm Girl Veggie Bowls, Butternut Molasses Muffins, Early Autumn Moroccan Stew, Collard Green Slaw with Bacon Gremolata

Winter: Rutabaga Home Fries with Smokey Cashew Sauce, Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Country Girl Old Fashioned Cocktails, Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella

Andrea’s recipes focus on using whole, locally-sourced foods—incorporating the philosophy of eating as close to the land as possible. While many recipes are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian, many others include elemental ingredients like bread, cheese, eggs, meat, and sweeteners, which are incorporated in new and inventive ways.

In short essays throughout the book, Andrea also presents an honest glimpse of life on Tumbleweed Farm—the real life of a farmer, not the shabby-chic fantasy often portrayed—offering fascinating and frequently entertaining details about where the food on our dinner tables comes from. With stunning food photography as well as intimate portraits of farm life, Dishing Up the Dirt allows anyone to be a seasonal foodie and an armchair farmer.


Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Harper Wave
ISBN 0062492225 (ISBN13: 9780062492227)


About the Author

Andrea is the writer, recipe developer, and photographer behind the food blog DishingUp TheDirt.com. Her recipes and Tumbleweed Farm have been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Well and Good NYC, and Eating Well Magazine. She lives on her farm in Oregon with her husband and dog.

Follow the author on Instagram
Friend the author on Facebook



  

My Thoughts
I've learned many lessons in the seven years since my life took a radical turn for the dirt. I'm physically capable of doing tasks that I would never have dreamed I could do in my prefarming life. I now organize an entire calendar year between the first and last predicated frosts of the season. I know community is everything. Food is medicine. And most important, cocktail hour should never be passed up after a long and hard day of work.
Author Andrea Bermis lives with her husband Taylor on a six-acre farm named Tumbleweed Farm located outside the town of Parkdale, population 266. While living in Oregon in 2008, they made the unexpected decision to move to Taylor's family farm in Massachusetts to learn how to live the lives of farmers. After several years of hard, back-breaking but satisfying farm work, the author and her husband could deny their longing for the west coast no longer, and they moved back to Oregon to start their own farm from the ground up.

The recipes in this book utilize fresh local grown ingredients and are organized by season, so you get them at their freshest. The author begins with a brief introduction before shifting the book to seasons.

Each seasonal chapter begins with a description of life on the farm during that season. Spring is hectic and full of anxiety as they rush to get seedlings into the ground and nurse them through damaging weather and protect them from foraging wildlife, and raise and rotate chickens and harvest their eggs. This chapter leads into recipes utilizing springtime ingredients like strawberries, various lettuces and herbs, radishes and beans and eggs.

Summer on the farm is a time of teeming life and prayers for rain. Lots and lots of time is spent weeding to produce healthy plants without pesticides.
This is our life all summer long. Weed. Water. Harvest. Weed. Water. Harvest. Rinse and repeat.
And Tuesdays in the summer brings CSA boxes that must be packed and delivered to their members who love the fresh and organic produce delivered straight from the farm. And summer evenings consist of enjoying the sunset with a beer and a view of the crops, followed by dinner on the deck by candlelight. Dinner might include dishes like Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt, Corn Salad with Walnuts and Feta, or Summer Squash and Corn Pasta with Garlic Tahini Sauce.

Autumn channels in the beginning of the cooler weather. Autumn is about "reaping the rewards of the last several months of tireless work". This is when the root vegetables like potatoes and carrots and turnips are dug up for delivery or storage. Gone are the frenetic days of spring and summer, and this is the season to start to sit back and enjoy all of their hard work. The author and her husband host a "thank you" party at their farm for their CSA members who put their faith in the them each year that they will produce food for all of them to enjoy the following year. Then there comes the preserving of food-- pickles, jams, vegetables, pesto. Winter projects are planned, and winter recipes include ingredients like beets, peppers, carrots, mushrooms and all sorts of squash.

Winter is a time of dormancy. The fields and greenhouse are barren and hibernating for the winter, the stores and freezers are packed with food to get the couple through the winter. The biggest concerns are winter storms and warm chickens. It's a time to make plans and purchase supplies of seeds, fertilizers and soil for the coming season. And cold winter nights are spent filling up on hearty meals like Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella, Venison Stew, Spiced Winter Porridge, and Roasted Chicken Thighs with Root Vegetables.

I'll admit that the recipes in this book didn't really "grab" me. They are more rustic than I'm use finding in a lot of the cookbooks I get, or they have ingredients that are somewhat foreign to me, so I just couldn't get really excited with the flavor the recipe held in store. However I decided to try the recipe for Chicken and Chickpea Pesto Summer Salad. Yes, I know this book is organized seasonally, but I live in Florida where we have no seasons! So summer cooking is fine in the middle of winter!


And may I just say that I was pleasantly surprised with how refreshing this salad was? Full of shredded poached chicken and chickpeas, thinly-sliced cucumbers, radishes and celery, tossed with pesto and topped with parmesan, it was full of flavor! I'm sure it will be even better tonight after the flavors have had time to meld. I admit that I cheated and used jarred pesto, so it could probably be even better with homemade, but I was still duly impressed!

I also made a batch of Farmer's Candy, which are oven-dried cherry tomatoes (like sun-dried tomatoes, but better!)

The author suggests "If you can resist eating them in one sitting, try adding them to pasta and eggs, or top your morning toast with goat cheese and a small handful of these guys". I've stored a batch in the freezer for use over the next few months.


I would like to thank TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, March 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, March 15th: Just Commonly
Thursday, March 16th: Ms.Bookish.com
Friday, March 17th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, March 17th: Under My Apple Tree
Monday, March 20th: Wall-to-Wall Books
Tuesday, March 21st: #redhead.with.book
Wednesday, March 22nd: Sidewalk Shoes
Friday, March 24th: Create With Joy
Monday, March 27th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, March 28th: G. Jacks Writes
Wednesday, March 29th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, March 30th: Literary Quicksand
Friday, March 31st: Library of Clean Reads


My final word: I must admit that when I first got this book, I wasn't initially impressed from the outset. The actual structure of the book reminds me a bit of a school textbook, so it left me feeling that I was about to have to do my homework or something equally unpleasant. However once I dived in I was pleasantly surprised at how charming this book actually is. It's down-home and genuine and honest, and the recipes are rustic seasonal recipes for the way I should be cooking. The recipes, like the author, are honest and bared for all to see.

This is a really lovely cookbook. I just wish it didn't resemble a textbook so much. I fear that it could cause it to be overlooked, when it deserves to recognized for what it is: A beautiful love story about the love shared by the author and her husband, and the hard yet fulfilling farm life that they've chosen to live together.

And it reminded me that I really need to grow some radishes again.


Buy Now: 

HarperCollins
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

My Rating:







The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Drifter by Christine Lennon

Synopsis

Megan Abbott meets M.O. Walsh in Christine Lennon's compelling debut novel about a group of friends on the cusp of graduating from college when their lives are irrevocably changed by a brutal act of violence.

Present Day…

For two decades, Elizabeth has tried to escape the ghosts of her past…tried to erase the painful memories…tried to keep out the terrifying nightmares. But twenty years after graduating from the University of Florida, her carefully curated life begins to unravel, forcing her to confront the past she’s tried so hard to forget.

1990s, Gainesville, Florida…

Elizabeth and her two closest friends, Caroline and Ginny, are having the time of their lives in college—binge watching Oprah, flirting for freebies from Taco Bell, and breaking hearts along the way. But without warning, their world is suddenly shattered when a series of horrific acts of violence ravage the campus, changing their lives forever.

Sweeping readers from the exclusive corners of sorority life in the South to the frontlines of the drug-fueled, slacker culture in Manhattan in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge her role in the death of a friend in order to mend a broken friendship and save her own life, The Drifter is an unforgettable story about the complexities of friendships and the secrets that can ultimately destroy us.


Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN 0062457578 (ISBN13: 9780062457578)

About the Author
(from the back cover)

Christine Lennon is a Los Angeles-based writer. Before she moved to the West Coast and started her freelance career, she was an editor at W, Vogue, and Harper's Bazaar. Since then, she has written for publications including The New York Times Style Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Town & Country, W, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Martha Stewart Living, Sunset, California Style, Marie Claire, Self, Net-a-Porter's Porter, and The Edit online magazine-- among others. Christine lives in California with her husband, Andrew Reich, and their twins. The Drifter is her first book.


My Thoughts
From her perch on the brownstone stoop, Elizabeth lifts up her sunglasses, runs her ring finger along her lower lashes to flick away the welling tears, and glances at her phone to check the time.
Betsy is a smart girl who tries to hide her intelligence. While her friend Ginny is a charming bright light that no person can resist, Betsy seems to do all she can to go through life unnoticed and to be as unremarkable as possible. And where Ginny is a bright light, their friend Caroline is darkness-- moody, self-centered and oftentimes unkind.

These three friends are students at the University of Florida during the summer of 1990 when a serial killer sets everyone on edge. After graduation Elizabeth runs off to start a new life in New York with her boyfriend, but she can't escape the nightmares of her past.

This book came along at just the right time. I've been in a bit of a reading slump for a few months, finding it hard to get excited about reading anything, and constantly distracted. This book was a bit of fresh air to clean my reading palate and hopefully get me recommitted once again.

I enjoyed the author’s debut novel. She has an easy-to-read writing style, and good character development. I don’t know whether any of the characters were really “mysteries” to me. The author left me feeling as if I knew the them. While Betsy was likable enough, I think that her boyfriend/husband Gavin was probably my favorite. Sweet and unassuming and very accommodating and understanding, he is the ultimate mate or friend.

I liked how easy this story was to read, as my brain isn't wanting to be challenged right now. I just want to enjoy an easy read and not have to struggle with symbolism, metaphors and big vocabulary words. Plus a good portion of the story took place in my home state of Florida, so I felt at home in the story.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour, and to HarperCollins for the opportunity to read this debut novel. Check out the TLC Book Tour website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, February 21st: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, February 22nd: she treads softly
Thursday, February 23rd: Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, February 24th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Monday, February 27th: StephTheBookworm
Tuesday, February 28th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, March 1st: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, March 2nd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Monday, March 6th: G. Jacks Writes
Monday, March 6th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, March 9th: Booked on a Feeling

My final word: Sometimes I was left a little confused over what this story wanted to be: a coming-of-age story about a rootless young woman finding her place in the world, or a murder mystery "whodunit". However it didn't really bother me too much. I was engaged and it kept me wanting to read on, which is the most difficult thing with someone like me who is so easily distracted. The story could be a little light and at times "flimsy" in its structure, confused and sometimes read a bit like a young adult novel. However overall I did really enjoy it, and I would definitely read this author again. I think this would make a great summer beach read, for those dreaming of warmer days ahead!

Buy Now:
HarperCollins
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
IndieBound

My Rating:






The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

ON MY RADAR (02-10-17 edition): Books that have hit my radar...

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

The Underworld by Kevin Canty

For readers of Russell Banks and Richard Ford, a novel about loss, love, and redemption following a catastrophe in a small mining town.

In The Underworld, Kevin Canty tells a story inspired by a true incident that begins with a disastrous fire in an isolated silver mining town in Idaho in the 1970s. Everyone in town had a friend, a lover, a brother, or a husband killed in the mine. The Underworld imagines the lives of a handful of survivors and their loved ones—a young widow with twin children, a college student trying to make a life for himself in another town, a lifelong hardrock miner—as they struggle to come to terms with the loss. It’s a tough, hard-working, hard-drinking town, a town of prostitutes and priests and bar fights, but nobody’s tough enough to get through this undamaged.

A powerful and unforgettable tale about small-town lives and the healing power of love in the midst of suffering.



The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.

At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel's childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.



The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2016 Literary Review

I missed getting my "Best of 2016" done before the end of the year, but here we go.

I had a bad reading year. I read less than usual AND I didn't get reviews written on all of the books that I read, i.e. some of my book club reads. My favorite book of the year would probably have to be between All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.


All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood


As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible "adult" around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart - and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed - a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city - a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known... 





 
The other eight, in no particular order, would be:

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

Cast-Iron Cooking by Rachael Narins

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


I've had a slow start to 2017 so far. Let's hope that I can pick up the pace. Let's read!

Love of Reading