Weekend Cooking: Easy Weeknight Meals by My Food Bag and Nadia Lim

 

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads a semi-regular post at Book’d Out.

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Title: Easy Weeknight Meals: Simple, healthy, delicious recipes

Author: My Food Bag and Nadia Lim

Published: Allen & Unwin April 2015

My Thoughts:

Founded in March 2013, My Food Bag is a service that aims to provide simple and healthy recipes, along with the all of the ingredients to create them, to families in New Zealand and Australia. Firm believers in the real (or whole) food philosophy, My Food Bag recipes rely on ‘farm-gate to plate’ ingredients which are ethically sourced and delivered fresh to subscriber’s doorsteps.

Easy Weeknight Meals is the company’s first cookbook. While all of the recipes have been developed by professional chef’s, a team led by Nadia Lim, My Food Bag claims all of the recipes have been tried and tested by home cooks.

The cookbook is organised seasonally, taking advantage of in-season produce in line with the company’s whole food policy. The recipes are well set out with a bolded list of ingredients (metric measurements), and have clear instructions for prepping, cooking, and serving the dish. Prep and cook times are included as well as the nutritional information for each recipe.

Each recipe is a complete main meal often including vegetable or salad sides, as well as sauces. Almost all claim a serving size of 4-5 persons (2 adults and three young children or 2 adults and two teenagers). All of the meals can be prepared and served within an hour, most within 30 minutes.

There is a strong Asian influence amongst the recipes in the cookbook with dishes like Asian Pesto Fish with Sesame Spring Toss and Coconut Rice, Korean Beef and Shitake Mushroom Bibimbap, Sticky Hoisin and Ginger Pork with Rice and Bok Choy and Chicken Katsu Skewers with Cabbage and Sugar Snap Soba Noodles.

Middle Eastern inspired dishes are also popular including recipes such as Baked Lamb Kofta with Tomato Pilaf and Yoghurt Dressing, Harissa Chicken with Fennel, Orange, Baby Beet and Feta Tabouleh, and Hummus, Grilled Haloumi with Israeli Couscous, Yams and Herb Vinaigrette.

SNAG-0046

© Allen and Unwin 2015

Traditional recipes are ‘upgraded’ with meals like Fish and Crispy Potatoes with Apple and Rocket Salad and Lemon Caper Aioli, Giant Pork, Pumpkin and Sage Sausage Rolls with Coleslaw, Venison Burgers with Roast Pepper and Blue Cheese, and Pizzettes with Olives, Feta, Oregano Oil and Greek Salad.

SNAG-0045

© Allen and Unwin 2015

If I’m honest most of the recipes in Easy Weeknight Meals are too ‘gourmet’ for my family’s taste, but for parents whose children are adventurous eaters, this cookbook could be a great resource for weekly meals. I also think Easy Weeknight Meals would be a useful reference for busy professional couples.

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU

and all good bookstores.

Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

 

Title: Cold Burn of Magic {Black Blade #1}

Author: Jennifer Estep

Published: Kensington Books April 2015

Status: Read on April 26, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in a new series by Jennifer Estep, author of Mythos Academy and the Elemental Assassin series.

The world building is interesting. Cloudburst Falls is a small town in West Virginia with the reputation of being ‘the most magical place in America’, drawing plenty of curious tourists eager to experience the fun. But there is a dark underbelly to the town that is divided among four wealthy magical ‘Families’ who are constantly vying for territory and power.

Lila Merriweather has existed on the fringes of the town, avoiding the conflict between the Families, since her mother was murdered by the head of the Draconis. Using her wits and Talent she makes her living as a thief (while still attending high school), but an impulsive decision to help defend a group of teens under attack results in her being recruited as a bodyguard to the Sinclair Family heir apparent, Devon.

There is a hint of romance in Cold Burn of Magic, with sparks flaring between Lila and Devon, but the focus of the story is on the developing political intrigue with the brewing war between the Families. There is plenty of action as assassins make repeated attempts on Devon’s life and Lila is forced to defend him, hand to hand combat and sword fights are made more interesting by the dueling of magical abilities and the occasional interference of monsters.

I thought Cold Burn of Magic was an entertaining urban fantasy novel, even though it’s aimed at a young adult audience. The second book of the ‘Black Blade’ series, Dark Heart of Magic, is due for release in October.

Available to Purchase From

Kensington Books I Amazon US I BookDepository  I IndieBound

Amazon AU I Via Booko

Review & Giveaway: The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Chocolate Promise

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: Allen & Unwin April 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read on April 09, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A sweet tale about love, friendship, family and chocolate, The Chocolate Promise is Josephine Moon’s second novel.

Christmas Livingstone is doing what she loves, making and selling gourmet chocolate treats in her very own store, The Chocolate Apothecary, and spreading joy, helping those in need in her community. She has ten simple rules for happiness, all of which have helped her rebuild her life after fleeing heartbreak three years previously and she is determined to stick with them, even when Lincoln van Luc, a botanist, wanders into her shop and threatens the most important rule of all… ‘Absolutely no romantic relationships’.

“The rules, she reminded herself. The rules were there for her protection. The rules had served her well and kept her steady for the past three years. Now was not the time to abandon the rules.”

Christmas is happy with the life she has made for herself and the plans she has for the future but the rules that have allowed her to rebuild her life begin to chafe when first wins a place on a week-long course with a world-renowned French chocolatier, and then she meets Lincoln. Christmas (a ridiculous name btw) is creative, intelligent and kind but she is also emotionally closed off due to a dysfunctional childhood and a recent trauma. Moon gently guides her character into dealing with her past and opening up her heart as the story unfolds.

The romantic relationship between Christmas and Lincoln is complicated by Christmas’s ‘rules’ and Lincoln’s wunderlust. Lincoln, a botanist, has spent most of his life traveling the world and doesn’t plan to stay in Tasmania long. He has returned to help his Nan, a wonderful character, and work on his book, but falling in love with Christmas forces him to reassess his future.

I delighted in the settings, a small town in Tasmania with ‘period’ tourist appeal, the Chocolate Apothecary sounds like a pretty store and I could easily imagine the tempting treats gracing the shelves and the rich smell of molten chocolate. Francophiles will enjoy Christmas’s sojourn in France touring the countryside exploring lavender farms in Provence, and whipping up treats like a champagne and vodka chocolate ganache to coat fresh rasberries in Aix.

This novel, with its appealing characters and feel good storyline, is a lovely way to treat yourself on a lazy afternoon, but be warned, you will be craving chocolate before you are through, so make sure you have your favourite on hand.

The Chocolate Promise is available to purchase from

Allen and Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Allen & Unwin, I have

5 print editions of

The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon

to giveaway

to five lucky Australian residents.

Leave a comment on this post and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Entries close May 3rd,  2015

 

Review: The Liar by Nora Roberts

 

Title: The Liar

Author: Nora Roberts

Published: Piatkus: Little Brown and Co UK April 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from April 16 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy    {Courtesy of the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Liar is Nora Roberts latest novel of romantic suspense.

When her husband is declared missing at sea, Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth is stunned to discover that she has been living a lie. Richard was not the successful businessman she believed him to be but instead a thief and a swindler who has left her millions of dollars in debt. With a young daughter to provide for, Shelby seeks the comfort of her family in Tennessee, determined to rebuild a future on her own terms. But escaping Richard’s legacy of lies will not be so simple.

With any other author, I would likely be unforgiving of the weaknesses in the plot of this novel. The storyline is predictable, the facts are unrealistic (for example Richard would not have been declared dead after a few months), and the suspense is weak until the last few pages. The thing is while I’m in the midst of reading I just don’t care, because I find Roberts to be such a convincing storyteller.

Part of that is the way in which Roberts sucks me in is by developing characters I quickly learn to care about. Shelby, newly widowed and rocked by Richard’s betrayal, is immediately sympathetic and her strength in dealing with the aftermath is admirable. Callie, Shelby’s daughter, is delightful and I found the dynamics of Shelby’s close knit southern family particularly appealing. Griffin is an attractive romantic lead – kind, sure and strong.

Despite being over 500 pages in length, The Liar is a quick read and regardless of its flaws, largely satisfying.

Available to Purchase From

Little Brown and Co UK I Amazon UK I BookDepository

Amazon US I IndieBound

Hachette I Via Booko

Also on Book’d Out

Review: Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler

Title: Pretty Ugly

Author: Kirker Butler

Published: Thomas Dunne March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 27 to 29, 2015  – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A funny though often also tasteless satire featuring a dysfunctional family, Pretty Ugly is a quick read. There is no real plot to speak of but the heavily stereotyped characters including an overbearing mother obsessed with beauty pageants, an adulterous, pill popping husband, a teenage nymphet, and a grandmother who takes orders directly from Jesus, and their various woes are entertaining. Reality TV in print.

Available to Purchase From

Thomas Dunne I Amazon US I BookDepository I IndieBound

Via Booko

Review: The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

 

Title: The Shut Eye

Author: Belinda Bauer

Published: Bantam Press UK March 2015

Status: Read from March 16 to 18, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Belinda Bauer’s backlist, including Rubbernecker, has been on my ‘must read’ list for quite some time but as it happens The Shut Eye is the first of her six published books I have read.

DCI John Marvel is haunted by the case of missing schoolgirl, Edie Evans, and resents being distracted from his investigation when he is tasked by his boss to find his wife’s poodle. Marvel couldn’t care less about the fate of Mitzi but when he is approached by Anna Buck, a young mother grieving for her own missing son, with information that seems to link Mitzi, Edie and Richard Latham, a local self-proclaimed psychic, his interest in the case is assured.

The Shut Eye is solid crime fiction with unexpected flashes of dark humour, unfolding from the perspectives of Marvel, Anna, and her husband James.

DCI John Marvel is a dogged and driven detective, but not a particularly nice man. He is brutally dismissive of his colleagues, his de facto partner, and suspicious of humanity in general. He is also a skeptic, and detests Latham’s ‘psychic’ claims, so he is challenged by the inexplicable elements of the case even though he is willing to do anything to solve it.

James is shamed by the depth of his wife’s grief, and feels guilty for the role he plays in it, but is at a loss as to how to help her. A mechanic, he works in the garage next door to their flat with a motley assortment of illegal colleagues, doing little else than putting one foot in front of the other every day.

Five months after her four year old son slipped out of the front door of their home, accidentally left ajar by her husband, and vanished without a trace, Anna Buck is still crazed with grief. Bauer’s portrayal of Anna’s emotional agony is raw and affecting, she is teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown when she reaches out to Latham.

The paranormal element of the story comes into play when Anna visits Latham’s ‘church’ in search of answers. Though he refuses to help her, soon after Anna believes she is either experiencing visions, or has finally gone mad.

The Shut Eye is a good read, but I thought the characters were more convincing than the plot. I enjoyed the uncertainty Bauer created by blurring the line between proof and visions, and offering multiple suspects. The ending didn’t quite sit right for me though, feeling a little rushed and aspects of it unlikely.

Available to Purchase From

Bantam I Amazon UK I BookDepository

Amazon US I via Booko

Review: Resistance by John Birmingham

 

Title: Resistance {Dave Hooper #2}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: Pan Macmillan AU March 2015

Status: Read from March 12 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The second novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Resistance is another darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.

Dave is enjoying his celebrity, in a typical Dave-like manner, after the defeat of the Hunn but the breach in New Orleans was just the start and now the Hunn are boiling up from the underworld realm all over the globe, eager to reclaim their dominion.

There is no getting away from the fact that Dave is a dick, and his basic nature is unchanged despite becoming a superhero. In Resistance he is confronted with his new responsibilities as the only man able to translate the intentions of the Hunn but he manages to alienate almost everyone when he makes the wrong choices.

Like Emergence, Resistance is a fast paced, entertaining read, hilarious, action – packed and unfailingly politically incorrect.

I’m looking forward to Dave’s final adventure in Ascendance

 

Resistance is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Also available: Book 1

Review: Nothing Sacred by David Thorne

 

Title: Nothing Sacred {Daniel Connell #2}

Author: David Thorne

Published: Corvus : Allen & Unwin March 2015

Status: Read from March 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

A gritty crime thriller Nothing Sacred is the second book from David Thorne to feature disgraced lawyer, Daniel Connell, following East of Innocence.

In Nothing Sacred, Daniel is reluctantly drawn into the underworld of Essex by the tearful pleas of his ex girlfriend Victoria who is being tormented by an unseen force and has lost custody of her young children. Meanwhile, Daniel’s childhood best friend Gabe, a veteran whose military career was cut short when he lost his leg, is mixed up in something deadly that has followed him from the battlefield of Afghanistan.

Nothing Sacred was a little too brutal and bleak for my tastes, but the action is fast-paced and the plot is well thought out. There are several twists and Thorne brings it all together well.
The characters are convincing, if somewhat stereotypical for the genre. Daniel’s sense of justice overrides his confidence in the law and he has no problem crossing the line when he feels justified in doing so.

A quick, solid read with a noir-ish feel, Nothing Sacred should appeal to crime fiction fans with a hard edge.

Nothing Sacred is available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US I Amazon UK I Book Depository

and all good bookstores.

 

Review: Witch Upon a Star by Jennifer Harlow

 

Title: Witch Upon a Star {A Midnight Magic Mystery #3}

Author: Jennifer Harlow

Published: Midnight Ink March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 05 to 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The events in Witch Upon a Star take place twenty years before Mind Over Monsters and twenty one years before the events in What’s a Witch to Do?.

Anna Olmstead is just nine when she meets Asher, a dashing, centuries old vampire who rescues her from her father pimping both his daughter’s magical talent and more to any one with a few dollars. Asher is her saviour, he provides her a life of wealth and privilege, love and protection and as Anna grows she is determined to always be at his side. At fourteen she becomes Asher’s legal consort and later his lover, believing all of her dreams have come true. Eventually however the relationship begins to sour as Asher’s true nature asserts itself, and things begin to spiral out of control. Still she can’t let go, and Asher refuses to free her, until one murderous, bloody night.
Almost a decade later Anna is happily married and the mother of two young sons, her life with Asher behind her, when an attempt is made to kidnap her and Anna has no choice except to confront the man she once loved with all her heart.

Witch Upon a Star is not what I expected, it has none of the lightness found in What’s a Witch to Do? and is much darker than Werewolf Sings the Blues though is still billed as A Midnight Magic Mystery.

Witch Upon a Star is actually a story of corrupted innocence and dark obsession. There is little humour, and the themes are confronting touching on child abuse, drug addiction and exploitation. Don’t get me wrong, the novel is well written and the story is quite affecting but I was thrown by the unexpected seriousness.

To be fair the synopsis hints at the seriousness of the story but the whimsical title, cutesy cover and the reputation of the author for snarky humour, contradicts it. As long as the reader is aware of what they are getting into, Witch Upon A Star is a good read.

Available to Purchase From

Midnight Ink I Amazon US I BookDepository I Indiebound

via Booko

  Also by Jennifer Harlow

Blog Tour Review: Rose River by Margareta Osborn

 

Title: Rose River

Author: Margareta Osborn

Published: Random House March 2015

Status: Read from March 04 to 05, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Rose River is a lighthearted contemporary rural romance from Margareta Osborn, expanded from her 2012 novella, A Bush Christmas.

Jamie Hanrahan can’t see any reason to celebrate Christmas, a year ago her beloved father suddenly passed away and now she has been unceremoniously retrenched from her high-paying executive PR job. Eager to escape the festive season in Melbourne, Jamie impulsively accepts an offer to housesit in Burdekin’s Gap, high up in the East Gippsland Mountains. Jamie is looking forward to peace and quiet, but then Polly Plains House manager, Stirling McEvoy roars into her life on his gleaming Yamaha and suddenly Jamie may be able to find a few reasons to celebrate the season after all.

It took me a little while to warm up to Jamie but she surprised me when she willingly helped Stirling draft cattle, despite being clueless, and quickly, if a touch reluctantly, involved herself in the Burdekin’s Gap community. Emotionally Jamie is a bit of a mess, still grieving for her father and angry at her mother for her quick remarriage, but Burdekin’s Gap, and the friends she makes, reveals a strength she never knew she had.

Stirling isn’t terribly happy to make Jamie’s acquaintance, he had been expecting a housesitter who could help around the station, not a Sass and Bide, Jimmy Choo wearing city slicker ‘Princess’. I liked Stirling, whom Jamie nicknames ‘Marble Man’ due in part to his impressive physique, though I felt there were some inconsistencies in what I expected of his character in the second half of the novel, after his ex girlfriend shows up.

Complications between Stirling and Jamie arise in the form of Stirling’s bitchy ex-girlfriend, Tiffany, who is reluctant to let go, and Jamie’s stepfather’s nephew, Marty, who seems determined to win Jamie’s affection despite her oft repeated disinterest. With their relationship so new and undefined, neither Stirling nor Jamie are willing to declare themselves and misunderstandings abound.

I really enjoyed Osborn’s portrayal of the Burdekin’s Gap community, from Stirling’s immediate family to pub owners Bluey and Jean, and the fundraising events, including Buck (naked) Cricket, and Cow (poo) Lotto, that unites the residents. The setting is also wonderfully drawn from the town itself, to the surrounding country landscape.

Those that read A Bush Christmas should enjoy the continuation of Jamie and Stirling’s romance, though it should be noted that novella is reproduced almost verbatim within the story. I found Rose River to be a straight forward, high spirited romance, that should appeal to fans of the genre.

Rose River is available to purchase from

Random House Au Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Also by Margareta Osborn


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