Review: “Death in Paris” by Emilia Bernhard

Some books require serious commitment before you really get into them. Some require a bit of a warmup. And some start off like being dropped into someone’s cozy living-room with a cup of joe and a cookie. “Death in Paris” is definitely a coffee and cookie book!

In this utterly charming, well-paced novel, two American ex-pats in Paris find themselves suddenly entangled in a murder investigation when Rachel’s former lover ends up face first in his soup bowl. The only clue: a bottle of wine that the dead man was unlikely to have chosen to drink. When Rachel attends the reading of the will, she is presented with an entire set of possible suspects. She and her friend, Magda, decide to follow their hunches to the thrilling conclusion.

There are so many things I love about this book: the characters are well defined and thought out. The pace of the narrative feels like a comfortably brisk walk in a rainy park smelling of wet leaves (what? I for one rather enjoy rambles like that).  The events have an internal logic, something that is not a given, even in crime fiction. And there are no grammatical or spelling errors, and yes, that is so rare that it is worth mentioning. I realize that advance copies are just that and usually not yet finalized, but mistakes are distracting to me, occasionally to the point where I no longer want to finish the book.

Author Emilia Bernhard is an American living in the UK, something that accidentally spills over into the book. At one point, there is a scene describing the utter lack of decent options for a good cup of tea in Paris, something that the vast majority of my American acquaintances wouldn’t give a hoot about. Someone well familiar with the beloved British ritual of tea preparation, however, would.

All in all, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining, and suspenseful read which I do not hesitate to recommend to you, my dear readers. Hopefully, this will not be the last time we’ve heard from Ms. Bernhard.

“Death in Paris” is published by Thistle Publishing. I received a free copy in exchange for a review. As always, all opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated.

death in paris

Review: “Happily Healthy” by Lea Lou (Lea Lüdemann)

I still don’t have a start date for the new job, so while I wait, I have time to… clean the house… sleep in… run 5 miles a day… read… yeah, ok, let’s go with read! And this is why you get three days of reviews in a row. Cool!

I had waffled about this particular book for a few weeks. Checked Amazon.com and .de. Waffled some more. Then decided to download the English language Kindle version (German Amazon has so much more selection!). Got mad while previewing: there were far too many errors in the text to make it worth keeping, so I returned it. Waffled some more. Then the price for the German Kindle version dropped six euros, and we were in business. I am happy to report that there are no repeats of the errors of the English version. Text is where it’s supposed to be. The arrangement of photos and text makes sense. There are no odd italics where none should be. This one’s a keeper.

What had appealed to me in this particular book was Lea’s attitude. Having overcome an eating disorder, she now enjoys food, does not believe in punishing yourself through your diet (rather, she subscribes to the oft-quoted notion of 80/20, namely, that if you eat clean -read: fresh and unprocessed- foods 80% of the time, you get to treat yourself the other 20%), has a good attitude towards exercise, and incorporates mental wellness into the package. Her writing style is easy going, never preachy. She encourages her readers to listen to their bodies’ needs and act accordingly. Nowadays, a lot of people seem to have unlearned that essential skill.

Lea begins with a chapter about food: her pantry staples, where to shop for which ingredients, eating seasonally, how you can eat healthy on a budget. The next chapter is about fitness and includes a HIIT (high intensity interval training) session as an example of how to get started. From there, we move on to mindfulness and yoga, complete with a vinyasa sequence that even beginners without major mobility issues should be able to follow. There are tips on breathing techniques that can be quite helpful for stress reduction. The chapter on Happiness gives tips and tricks on cultivating a positive mindset, not as a cure-all but rather another pillar to build a happy, fulfilled life on. Each chapter up to this point includes a quickie checklist of things you can do right now to support your goals.

Finally, we delve into the recipe section. Lea is a pescatarian, but all recipes are vegetarian. Although she promises in the introduction to food to add ways to veganize the recipes, the only two times this happens are rather silly. I don’t need to be told to simply omit the egg or leave out the cheese! Luckily, if you have a little experience with vegan cooking, you’ll quickly find that all the recipes can modified without difficulty. Use chia or flax eggs in baking, substitute non-dairy milk and butter, or add commercial vegan cheeze or flavored tofu in other recipes. We just had the shakshuka for lunch, the husband got his with two eggs, I had mine with tofu simmered in the sauce. THAT is modification.

Alas, I also found a mistake in this particular recipe: it calls for a red (bell) pepper cut in thin strips, but the pepper never makes an appearance again beyond the ingredient list! Add it with the onion and garlic, and be sure to read all recipes completely before getting stumped in the middle later! Oh, and how was it? Very fast, very easy, very tasty. I’ve also had a breakfast smoothie from the book, which I enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to incorporating more recipes in the meal plan in future. There are no “weird” or hard to get ingredients in these dishes; your local supermarket should be able to supply all of them.

There are plenty of photos in this book, but not every recipe has one, so bear that in mind if this is important to you. The photos for the HIIT and yoga sections are very good and helpful.

The English version is called “Happily Healthy by Lea Lou: A Guide to Food, Fitness, Health & Happiness.” It is self-published by Lea Lüdemann. In German, the book is called “Happily Healthy: Mit Rezepten, Fitness und Yoga zum gesunden und glücklichen Leben.” It is published by ZS Verlag GmbH. Lea speaks English and German and did her own translation. She grew up in Germany and now lives in London. To learn more, also visit her blog.

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Review: “The Adventures of Inspector Lestrade” by M.J. Trow

I thank my lucky stars that made me decide to pick up this excellent book, and whether you’re a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, love good crime fiction, or simply enjoy a well-written novel with a good dose of humor, do not let this pass you by.

Inspector Lestrade is probably the best known of all of Holmes’s police contacts, and like most of them, frequently bumbles his way through a case without the ability to see past his own nose. M.J. Trow decides to turn things on their head, certainly not a novel (ho-hum!) idea. After all, Sherlock Holmes wasn’t all he was made out to be in the fabulously entertaining comedy, “Without A Clue,” starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. In the movie, Dr. Watson is the actual sleuth who invents a fictional detective to allow him to solve crimes incognito. He hires Michael Caine’s character, an unemployed actor, to step in as Holmes. Inspector Lestrade, played by Jeffrey Jones, is the familiar jealous doofus.

M.J. Trow, however, not only gives his Lestrade a first name (Sholto), but also a personal life and enough smarts to successfully navigate his career in the police force. If anyone finds Sholto reminiscent of an Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, you are not mistaken. “The Adventures of Inspector Lestrade” is peppered with literary allusions harking back to the Conan Doyle canon. I won’t give any others away in order to not spoil your fun, but I’d like to say that I enjoyed finding them strewn throughout the text.

There is also an imposing cast of characters, from Conan Doyle, Holmes, and Watson as themselves, to familiar faces such as Athelney Jones and Inspector Gregson. A few real-life writers of the time make an appearance in smaller roles, like Oscar Wilde and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. They may be small details, but they imbue the story with a wonderful sense of playfulness, while at the same time betraying Mr. Trow’s background as a historian. A couple of scenes center around misadventures with surnames. I thought those were quite funny and not overdone.

Readers familiar with European children’s literature will cotton on quickly to the fact that the murder series Lestrade must investigate is apparently based on Heinrich Hoffmann’s “Struwwelpeter” (Shock-headed Peter) stories. On a side note: As someone who loves those frequently gruesome tales to this day, I am more than a little appalled at the clunky and inelegant English translations which lack a lot of the charm of the originals, but I understand that in order to preserve the rhyme, certain linguistic sacrifices had to be made.

Lestrade takes more than a few literal and proverbial beatings in the course of his investigation, as the murderer seems to remain a solid step ahead of the police, while pressure to solve the case mounts as the months drag on. Red herrings abound, and the conclusion is a well thought-out surprise (at least that’s what I felt). I feel utterly satisfied on many levels by this wonderful book – it took me less than a day to race through it!

“The Adventures of Inspector Lestrade” is published by Thistle Publishing. I snagged a free copy for review via Netgalley. All opinions are absolutely my own, unless otherwise stated.

inspector lestrade

Review: “Broken Ground” by Val McDermid

Finally, a new book! There could have been two, but I finally decided to abandon one of the two most current reads in favor of something less boring. Honestly, unless there is an actual plot or a point or at least a pointe, please don’t make me sit through endless pages of self-criticizing journaling; it’s not cute. For those of you who might get suckered in by a diary about growing up in the 60s, I highly recommend “Diary of a Beatlemaniac” which was all the things this other book was not: funny, interesting, and a great read to the end.

I’ve also been disappointed that the copy of “Vegan Yack Attack on the Go!” that I won in an online contest hasn’t arrived. Then again, there hasn’t been much forward momentum as far as giving me a start date to go to work, either. I suppose that means there is no rush on the book. Still… I was however quite tickled to find my copy of “Infinite Tuesday” in the mailbox upon our return from Cleveland, signed by author, video pioneer, songwriter and former Monkee Michael Nesmith. I realize he does that for everyone who orders the book from the Videoranch website, but I’m loving it, anyway.

I don’t know if I have made it clear that I’m a bit of a sucker for good crime fiction. No midlife-crisis-battling, rubber-boots-wearing, quirky divorcees or chicks-who-must-find-their-true-selves for me! Hm, perhaps that doesn’t quite work in this case, because “Broken Ground”‘s lead character, DCI Karen Pirie, is certainly battling a crisis of sorts in this book, and since the setting is Scotland, rubber boots do make an appearance. Early on, in fact: together with an accommodating local, a young couple set out to dig up a pair of war-era motorcycles, hidden for decades in a peat bog. Literally thrown into the bargain is a dead body, significantly younger than the motorcycles. DCI Pirie from the Historic Case Unit now has to solve this murder, while simultaneously assisting in a domestic violence incidence turned deadly.

“Broken Ground” is Ms. McDermid’s 32nd thriller, if I remember the blurb from the back correctly, and it is quite obvious why her books are so popular. I was drawn into the story immediately, the characters are fleshed out quickly and with practiced ease. The suspense is built and maintained excellently; I think it took me two days and a bit to get through this book (primarily because I do have other things to do, regrettably, or it might have been a one-day read for me). If you are a fan of gritty, rain-soaked locales, but prefer your detectives to be allowed a private life, you will love this book. I certainly highly recommend it. The only thing I did not care for so much were the final two chapters. The second-to-last chapter reads a bit like a rush job to tie up loose ends, the last chapter really adds nothing to the story, except laying out the scene of a murder as it had already been surmised by investigators earlier on. Instead of bringing closure, it just reads a bit redundant.

“Broken Ground” will be published by Grove Atlantic this December. I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated.

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What’s Coming Up

It’s going to be a little more quiet here until next week, the reason being that the husband and I are off to Cleveland for a mini vacation. I have, however, several books in the queue as we speak that I think you will find interesting, and it’s a varied lot: there is a lively biography of Queen Victoria, a fast-and-easy vegan cookbook, a novel in which Inspector Lestrade gets to go off on his own adventures, and a thriller set in the Scottish peat bogs!

But speaking of Cleveland, if there are fellow fans of The Cars in my esteemed audience, you may be tickled to learn, as I was, that this November there will be a brand new biography of Benjamin Orr, aptly named “Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars.” You can preorder it now, the official release date is November 11. That is one I’m quite excited about! Probably a bit more exciting is the fact that I’m expecting my copy of Michael Nesmith’s “Infinite Tuesday” in the mail when I return from Ohio – signed by the author. In other reviews, people have nagged that Michael doesn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about his stint as a Monkee, but considering he has on numerous occasions expressed his exasperation at first and foremost being linked to that particular group, I am not surprised. Would you be interested to have me review “Infinite Tuesday”?

I honestly don’t know how much time for reading I will have over the weekend, considering the trip is clearly dominated by music. It begins with a gig by The Fixx, goes on to a possible blues outing, makes a pit stop at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame (The Cars were inductees this April, part of the reason why I’ve wanted to go) and ends with a gig by The Psychedelic Furs. Just writing that down makes me all excited.

So now you’re in the loop. I will see you next week with fresh material!

Review: “Flamingo Lane” by Tim Applegate

For a brief moment I labored under the illusion that my to-read list was actually getting shorter. Then I took a look at the titles my Kindle app lists as “new.” Yeah… the incredible shrinking book list it ain’t! In the interest of continuing this blog, I suppose that is definitely a good thing.

Yesterday, I finished Tim Applegate’s “Flamingo Lane,” a novel in which writer William Dieter reconnects with an old friend while working on his new novel, “Flamingo Lane.” Dieter’s previous book, “Fever Tree,” was a huge success. I can’t say whether this is also true for Mr Applegate’s prior novel of the same title. If any of his other characters are so obviously inspired by actual persons is hard to tell, and not just because of the usual disclaimer that they’re not.

So, Dieter is in Crooked River, Florida, working on his book. He has gotten back into contact with an old friend he met in Mexico years earlier, Faye Lindstrom. Back when Faye was still young and idealistic, looking to devote her life to the hippie notions of love and peace, she fell in love with a Mexican gangster. As the book starts out, she is just trying to get her life back together, having managed to escape her ex-boyfriend. Alas, unbeknownst to her, there is a paid assassin close on her heels, and he’s got a personal score to settle, as well.

“Flamingo Lane” was a super fast read for me, not because it’s super short, but because it is suspenseful and captivating. If you’re a fan of well written thrillers, don’t let this one pass you by! Having done a little research, I find that “Fever Tree,” the earlier novel, tells Dieter’s own story, from his days in Quintana Roo to his arrival in Crooked River. If ever I have time again, I may have to get my paws on that one, as well.

“Flamingo Lane” is published by Amberjack Publishing. I received a free copy in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated.

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Review: “Corkscrew” by Peter Stafford-Bow

I have a confession to make: there are no more cookbooks in the queue for a while. Some of my newer readers might be shocked to find that I also read other non-fiction. And assorted fiction. Call it brain candy – and no worries, there are no calories attached. This particular novel kept me engaged from absurd beginning to topsy-turvy end. Which is funny, because Peter Stafford-Bow is actually a pseudonym, and some of the events are based on the real person-behind-the-name’s real-life experiences.

“Corkscrew” is the perfect companion for an afternoon or an evening (or two) when you just want to sit back and unwind (pun not particularly original, but nonetheless intended). Young Felix Hart faces the daunting possibility of ending up a loser straight out of school, but fate has something better in store for him: a stellar career in the wine industry! Learning that he has a real knack for highly specialized retail, Felix embarks on the crazy journey of a lifetime, aided by a cast of colorful characters (I guarantee that you’ll remember Wodin, Wikus, and the Spott-Hythes long after you’ve finished the book) and a vast assortment of equally unlikely, yet wonderfully entertaining events.  Like a James Bond of viticulture, Felix always has time for little relaxation on the job, as well. You simply must stay for the outrageous climax that could end Felix’s spot at the top of the ladder, because luckily, there is just one more twist in store. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite bevvy, keep your tongue stuck firmly in your cheek, and see if you can pick up enough pointers to pass the Minstrel of Wine examination!

Grape Experiences has posted a funny and informative Q&A with author Peter Stafford-Bow for those who are interested in the story behind the story.

“Corkscrew” is published by Thistle Publishing. At this point, I really must send a special thank-you to David Haviland, who does his best to ensure his quirky titles get the coverage they deserve. I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a review. Needless to say, all opinions are my own, except where otherwise stated.

corkscrew

Review: “Eat Feel Fresh” by Sahara Rose Ketabi

I love food. I enjoy gorgeous photography. I practice yoga. And I feel that every day can be a good day when you learn a new thing or two. So, I was quite happy to snatch up a copy of “Eat Feel Fresh” for review. First of all, it is simply the most beautifully illustrated book I’ve had the pleasure to read this year. The colors explode off the pages and bring a smile to your face, which can only be a good thing. Secondly, it is chock-full of new spins on recipes but as always, let’s stick to the advice of the Red Queen and start at the beginning.

One thing you will likely notice right away is that Deepak Chopra is literally plastered all over this book, cover to cover and anywhere in between, having written the foreword and being quoted once or twice, as well. If you’re not a fan of Dr. Chopra’s, you won’t enjoy the close relationship he and Ms. Ketabi clearly have. Another point that didn’t take long to irritate me was the reference to an ‘alkaline diet.’ There is no evidence whatever that you can change the pH value of your body chemistry through diet, nor should you. Various parts of your body have different pH values, so what would you even be aiming at? Also, the term ‘detox’ is used, and saying something that silly even once costs you points in a review. Detoxing is done by your organs all the time, every minute of every day, and it is simply incorrect to claim that you need to change your diet to accomplish this. More correctly, you can assist your organs in their admittedly life-supporting function by avoiding to indiscriminately stuff yourself with items of questionable nutritional value. If we can agree on this, then let’s move on to the good stuff, and there is certainly plenty.

I had never heard of Ms. Ketabi before, but apparently, she is an expert in the field of ayurveda, the ancient Indian ‘science of life,’ a system of medicine that encompasses far more than simply treating symptoms of illness. “Eat Feel Fresh” gives you a semi-thorough introduction into ayurveda and the three doshas, or elements, that form a person’s body type and personality, frequently in a unique combination. The way you eat can help balance the doshas, leading to increased wellness. I find Ms. Ketabi’s writing personality quite accessible.  “Eat Feel Fresh” aims to bring a new, modern approach to ayurvedic principles so that they can be more easily integrated into the Western lifestyle. There is a spiritual component to this approach, as ayurveda is a holistic system. Some may find this esoteric, others refreshing and insightful.

Once you have determined your dosha, head right into the recipe part of the book which offers tridoshic meals, meaning there is a base recipe with variations, according to what you have learned in part one. All recipes are gluten-free and plant-based, and the number of recipes containing what some might consider exotic ingredients is very, very small. We love experimenting with food and frequently cook Indian dishes, so our kitchen is well stocked in that regard. If you are only starting to branch out into international cooking, the initial investment could possibly seem daunting, but you will use most spices and staples over and over.

There is good basic information about stocking your pantry, meal planning and prepping, what to do with leftovers, and how to prepare basic staples, like grains and legumes. The recipe section ecompasses everything, from breakfasts, bowls, dinners, snacks and sides, to desserts and potions (which actually means teas, mylks, and juices). You won’t be eating endless varieties of curry, either: there are colorful soups, burgers, pizza, shepherd’s pie, tacos, grain-free chapatis and naan, creative variations on hummus, delicious Indian sweets like kheer, and intriguing twists on American favorites, like Raw Rose and Pistachio Cheesecake, Chickpea Chocolate Crunch Bark, and several versions of brownies.

As is common these days, there is no nutritional information given for any of the dishes. Would I get a copy for myself? Likely. I am intrigued by the idea of maximizing my personal health and wellness, based on ayurvedic ideas, and most certainly fascinated by a lot of the recipes (I’ve bookmarked a couple to try but have not had the chance yet). I did find some of the information on balancing your doshas a bit confusing, though, and on days when I’m more skeptical than spiritual, the ‘esoteric babble’ would likely bug me to a point.

“Eat Feel Fresh” will be published by DK, a publisher with a huge catalog of informational and educational titles. I received a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for a review. It should be fairly obvious that all opinions are my own.

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Review: “The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast Book” by Nadine Horn and Jörg Mayer

Another review already! I must be on a roll… or maybe I’m just trying to knock out the remaining titles on the review list before I start my new job in August. Could be, could be. Anyway, this translates into more reading fun for you, dear readers. Incidentally, you could add some reading fun for me by leaving a comment below. Tell me if you found a review helpful, if your opinion differs from mine and why, or if you have any books you’d like me to take a look at. You know, that kind of thing. Variety is the spice of life.

Which brings me to today’s book, which, as the title reveals, is a cookbook with recipes for vegan breakfasts. Astute readers will have noticed that the authors are German; in fact, Nadine Horn and Jörg Mayer run an enormously successful food blog, Eat This! and have co-authored several books, two of which (including this one) have been translated into English.

I love breakfast. I am also notoriously unawake in the morning, so I greatly appreciate people writing down instructions to make tasty dishes with, so that I don’t have to crank up the still woozy brain cells too early just to come up with new smoothie ideas myself. Apart from the fact that any cover photo featuring a huge stack of syrup-drizzled pancakes is extremely appealing to me, I also quickly discovered several intriguing recipe ideas inside the book. Of course, that is not how things begin, because it never is, is it.

There is a lovely table of contents all the way up front to help you get your snoozy self geared up for your first meal of the day. Also helpful is the plethora of gorgeous photographs, and there are plenty. ‘A Perfect Start to the Day’ offers some ideas how to make the best of your morning, followed by some foods that will help you with that (no recipes yet). Next up are two excursions into everyone’s favorite brekkie drinks, coffee and tea. You’ll learn how to choose great tea (or coffee), how to store it, prepare it, and generally get the most bang for your buck. Personally, I disagree with Jörg on cold brew; I find it overrated and overpriced, be it store-bought or home-made. But I used the term ‘personally’ on purpose; you may love your cold brew for a variety of reasons. It is said to be easier on the stomach. The coffee and tea sections are the only ones that mention kitchen tools, and that’s a bit sad, because it requires me to place the usual caveat here: be sure to read all recipes and instructions before beginning. Some require a blender and/or a juicer, and unfortunately, no allowance is made for those who do not own either (but fear not, I do have a couple of tips for you… read on). Before moving on to the recipe section, you’ll find a page on Tips and Tricks, which is not particularly abundant, but does explain in a side bar why Nadine and Jörg have opted to leave out nutritional information.

The recipe section starts with easy smoothies, juices, and other refreshing drinks. We have tried the ‘Tropical Energy with Grapefruit and Coconut’, the ‘Super Antioxidant Shake with Blueberries and Goji Berries”, the ‘Pear Oat Shake’, and the ‘Strawberry Chia Smoothie’. The juice was a tad on that tart side for my better half, be sure to adjust the sweetener to your personal taste and to not use a very large lemon. I don’t have a juicer, so I used a simple hand juicer/fruit squeezer and mixed everything together afterwards. If you like pulp, leave it in! If you don’t, strain through a sieve or some cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag. For the blueberry shake, I tossed all the ingredients in the blender because I find the taste of goji berries somewhat unfortunate otherwise. I did the same for chia smoothie since I hate waiting for breakfast. The method worked well for both. The pear oat shake was sadly overpowered by the ground cardamom. One entire teaspoon is a bit much, so tone it down a bit, unless you’re a cardamom freak. If like me you enjoy beets, the ‘Beets and Berries’ smoothie is tasty and easy.

Next up are ideas for breakfast to go, containing mostly sandwiches, muffins, and similar handhelds, but also an interesting recipe for two varieties of ‘Wake-Up Popsicles’ which I might test before the review copy goes bye-bye. We did try the ‘Overnight Buckwheat Porridge’ and enjoyed it. You’ll also find an ‘”Egg-Salad” Sandwich’ and a ‘Swedish Bagel’ among the wonderfully unusual ideas, most of which would also make great additions to a lunchbox.

From here, we wander into bowl territory. Whether you prefer a sweet or a savory breakfast, you are sure to find something here. The ‘Quinoa Porridge’ was delicious, even if it didn’t exactly look like the photo. The ‘Miso Oatmeal’ sounds intriguing, but I usually lean towards the fruitier side early in the morning, so I dig the variations of porridge and smoothie bowls, especially. There is even a chocolate porridge for those soul food emergencies.

Following this, we finally arrive at the delicious ‘Poppy Seed Pancakes’ from the cover. You prefer omelets? Waffles? Crepes? A good scramble? This section has you covered! If your morning doesn’t get off the ground without a lot of coffee and something sticky-sweet, you’ll enjoy the treats from ‘The Sweeter Side of Mornings’, like donuts, cupcakes, or carrot cake (yes, please!). For those leisurely weekend brunches, check out ‘Weekend Brunch’ where you can find delicacies like ‘Earl Gray’s Poached Pears’ next to brunch staples like frittata and a full English breakfast.

Closing this merry collection of recipes are hot drinks. I am especially intrigued by the Kamilli Vanilli, which is based on chamomile tea. This will have to make an appearance of a morning soon, I think! For you cold brew fans, there are instructions on how to get your cold brew base on, as well.

My special appreciation, however, must go to the very last section, pantry staples. Many German ex-pats bemoan the fact that our American brethren are hopelessly lost when it comes to good (or even decent) bread. If you’ve ever wondered what all the moaning is about, you get the chance to make German-style bread and rolls at home now! Rounding out the pantry section are some sweet and savory spreads, a quick granola, a couple of plant-based milks, and some ideas for plant-based breakfast ‘meats.’

Most recipes make two servings, unless otherwise indicated. These servings are smaller (read: more reasonable) than some other cookbooks’ offerings, so either plan in a snack for later in the morning or opt not to share. Every single recipe comes with a glorious, mouthwatering photograph. I must strongly reiterate the fact that you should read the recipe you’re planning to make ahead of time, because a few require more time than others. Obviously, it will take longer to make a cake than a scramble or be quicker to fix a smoothie bowl than a full English brekkie.

Would I get this? Erm, yes! In yesterday’s review, the author advised us to personalize as needed, and even in my extensive collection there are only a tiny handful of cookbooks I trust to deliver 100% every time, no matter what I opt to make. I love the variety offered in the “Ultimate Vegan Breakfast Book” and can see myself going back to it frequently.

“The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast Book” is published by The Experiment, which is funny because I did not realize that until I had posted yesterday’s post. I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated.

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Review: “Clean Enough” by Katzie Guy-Hamilton

Let’s go back to what I love doing best: dissecting cookbooks. I chose this particular one because I found both the title and the cover photo appealing, and because ‘katzie’ in German is a pet name for a cat (sympathy points!). The beautiful photography continues inside the book and really gets you revved up for cooking… unless you’re a beginner. One recurring problem with cookbooks authored by professional chefs is that they love to be very specific with ingredients and, unlike most normal people, think nothing of a twenty-five-ingredient spice list. Ok, I slightly exaggerated that number, but you get my drift.

But let us start at the beginning: Ms. Guy-Hamilton’s introduction to “Clean Enough”, alongside her story, pretty much makes it clear that this book is yours to customize, which is a very important point to bear in mind later. I like her holistic approach to food and life, and her relaxed attitude about occasional indulgences. After all, eating clean enough should be good enough, and sweets can play a stress-free part in one’s diet, as well. Please note that when I say ‘diet,’ I use the word in its original meaning of ‘way of eating,’ not in the sense of ‘trying your darndest to make your body comply to shed those x number of pounds you keep trying to lose whenever you come back from vacation.’

The reader receives an invitation to examine his or her own lifestyle to maximize wellness with some helpful pointers, then it’s on to the recipe section…

…and we’ve circled back to the beginning where now some people will start crying at terms like “oat flaker,” “Sicilian pistachios,” “pine pollen,” and “raw licorice powder” (I did at that last one, primarily because I find licorice disgusting and would never want to ruin a perfectly good breakfast with it). Ignore all those terms and skip straight to the various recipe notes that tell you that you can SUBSTITUTE whatever you have on hand or simply leave things out that you don’t have/don’t want to use. Phew. Ok, deep breath and on with it…

I’m not sure if anyone really needs a recipe for hot lemon water, which contains, gasp!, hot water and lemon. Or instructions to cook a runny, five-minute egg (cook egg for five minutes, plus some extraneous stuff that’s not really necessary). But if you’ve never made eggs before and feel a bit lost, there is a section on preparing eggs in a variety of ways that will assist you in becoming more kitchen confident. You may have guessed from my lingering on this particular part of the book that this is a vegetarian cookbook. Ms. Guy-Hamilton enjoys eggs and cheeses, and that is one reason why I personally would not get a copy but still recommend it to anyone wishing to go meat-free more often or looking for new spins on cooking for their veggie lifestyle.

I notice that, as most other hip chefs these days, Ms. Guy-Hamilton is a huge proponent of Himalayan Pink salt, to which I will repeat my remark from an earlier review: salt mining is not environmentally friendly, nor is salt a sustainable resource, and nobody should go digging around in sensitive areas like the Himalayas just so people can use pink salt that nobody will be able to see in the finished dish later, anyway. As a second concern, unless you eat a lot of seafood or sea vegetables, reliance on “raw” salts will leave you with low levels of iodine. This is why regular table salt has iodine added to it, and as much as it is en vogue to poo-poo anything labeled ‘processed’, you need iodine in your diet. Eat it, hipster!

In the second recipe section, Enough, you are immediately reminded that the author is a trained pastry chef. If your mind wasn’t boggled before, it will be now as you peruse the rather extensive list of recommended equipment. A bit less scary and possibly more useful are the explanations of various preparation techniques. The treats themselves are as simple or extravagant as you choose, from cookie varieties to tortes, tarts, cakes, pies, and an assortment of small baked goods like muffins, scones, brioche, and even hot cross buns. Merengue lovers will find a fine selection here, but the good old chocolate pudding makes an appearance, as well, as do custards, sorbets, and ice creams. A selection of sweet pantry staples rounds out the book.

Please note that it is absolutely essential to read every recipe through before you spontaneously discover that it will take fourteen days to prepare certain parts in advance and that your pantry is lacking a key ingredient, because I make fun of people like you who leave angry ranting reviews like that. I repeat, some recipes do require you to make parts of it in advance, then assemble the whole later, like the Israeli breakfast.

In short, if you can get over your fear of long lists and feel comfortable enough to make substitutions to accommodate your cooking style, this is a lovely book to add to your shelf.

“Clean Enough” is published by The Experiment, whom I love for their variety of titles. I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

clean enough