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I love reading challenges. Not that I need any, but I like how they tend to shuffle my reading pile. Still, after feeling overwhelmed in 2010 I decided to be very careful with challenges in 2011. So I accepted only five! #goodgrrl :)

What’s the status now that December is around the corner? Am I getting stressed like last year? Do I feel accomplished? Need to get my act together and READ?

Completed 2011 reading challenges

Before I go any further I humbly bow my head and confess that even though I’ve read all the books I commited to for the following three challenges, I reviewed hardly any. 2011 has not been a great year of blogging for me. But as we’re talking reading challenges, I’ll consider my missions accomplished!

HARUKI MURAKAMI READING CHALLENGE

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover button

For the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge I chose level TORU (named after our dear friend from The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the first Murakami novel I ever laid my hands on). That means reading 5 books by the master (here’s my admission post). So far I’ve read 6 (!) and I plan to read one more before the year has ended — ask Elsje if you don’t believe me. ;) If I live up to my promiss that collection of short stories will lift me to the level of Nakata (from Kafka on the Shore).

Books read:

Hear the Wind Sing
Pinball, 1973
Underground
1q84 Boek 1
1q84 Boek 2
1q84 Boek 3

And yes, the Dutch translation of 1Q84 was published in three seperate volumes, coming out in June 2010 and April 2011. Also, the title is deliberately written with a lower case ‘Q’ because it much resembles a ‘9’. I like that and have no idea why it should be different in the Japanese original and English version. Us Dutchies are pedantic. ;)

Last week Elsje and I went to a lecture about Haruki Murakami by translator Luc Van Haute in Leiden’s Sieboldhuis. He explained to us how the often stated opinion that Murakami’s novels are not typically Japanese is just plain wrong. It was fun — I have a huge reading list of Japanese authors to follow up ;) — and we also got to see the Hello Kitty exhibition and meet ennazussuzanne and Seraphine, who surprised us with the gift of an origami bookmark! Aw, that’ll come to good use when reading… JLit!

JAPANESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE #5

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

The fifth Japanese Literature Challenge only started in June and runs to February, but on October 1st I had already finished the 6 books I commited to. That day I turned over the last page of 1Q84 Book 3. As I still plan to read Sōseki’s Kokoro for the Japanese Literature Book Group (I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!), and Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes together with Elsje, I’ll probably up my level by the end of January 2012.

Books read:

The Woman in the Dunes ~ Kobo Abe
Underground ~ Haruki Murakami
Thousand Cranes ~ Yasunari Kawabata
1q84 Boek 1 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 2 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 3 ~ Haruki Murakami

FOODIES READING CHALLENGE

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button

In the Foodies reading Challenge I cowardly safely labeled myself a NIBBLER, going for 1 to 3 books (admission post). So far I’ve read 5, and –YAY– even reviewed two!

Books read:

World Food Café
La Dolce Vegan!
Bento Box in the Heartland
Verraad, verleiding en verzoening
Vegan Family Meals

I hope I can find the time and energy to write some more reviews!

Unfinished business

But I’m not there yet. With only five weeks to go I need to finish two more challenges… Will I be able to do it???

CHINESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I was half a year late in joining the Chinese Literature Challenge and I full-heartedly use that as an excuse for why I haven’t reached my goal of 1 book yet. ;) Here’s what I plan to read. Cheer me on and maybe I’ll be able to cross of this challenge before the year has passed!

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #4

What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011)

The What’s in a name challenge is always one of my favourites. It’s a thrill to pick your next book just based on a random word in the title. Call me crazy. ;) Alas, this year I’m having trouble finishing: even though I read several more than one fitting titles for four of the six categories, two are still open!

Books read:

Categorie NUMBERS
Pinball, 1973 ~ Haruki Murakami
2666 ~ Roberto Bolaño
1q84 ~ Haruki Murakami

Categorie TRAVEL/MOVEMENT
Travels in the Scriptorium ~ Paul Auster
I’ll Steal You Away ~ Niccolò Ammaniti
Model Flying ~ Marcel Möring

Categorie EVIL
Poelie the Terrible ~ Frans Pointl
Crime School ~ Carol O’Connell

Categorie LIFE STAGE
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America ~ Linda Furiya

Still hoping to get around to:

Categorie JEWEL/GEM
The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

Categorie SIZE
Vernon God Little ~ DBC Pierre

BTW you can always follow my progress on the special Challenge page on Graasland!

What’s new for 2012?

2012 is more than a month away but I have already lined up some reading plans. Wanna know what they are?

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #5

What's in a name challenge #5 button

Of course I can’t resist participating in the new What’s in a name challenge. I must say that I never buy or borrow books specifically for this challenge — picking titles that are already on Mt TBR, or have been on my wishlist for quite some time, is part of the fun. So what are the categories for 2012 and which books fit the bill?

  • A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title
    Choosing from: Last Night in Twisted River, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title
    Choosing from: The Moonstone, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, A Ride in the Neon Sun, Noorderzon (sun), Dead Air, Star of the Sea
  • A book with a creepy crawly in the title
    Choosing from: Little Bee, Een tafel vol vlinders (‘A table loaded with butterflies‘)
  • A book with a type of house in the title
    Choosing from: The Graveyard Book, Black Box, Het huis op de plantage (‘House on the plantation‘)
  • A book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title
    Choosing from: Dreaming Water, Water for ElephantsMet bonzend hart : brieven aan Hella S. Haasse (‘With a throbbing heart: letters to Hella S. Haasse‘) [open to suggestions]
  • A book with a something you’d find on a calendar in the title
    Choosing from: The Eigth Day, Silence in October, Nocturnes

Don’t you think I have a whole lot of books available just to pick from? :))

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES GROUP READ

Let me state first that I haven’t commited to the following task yet. I’m only considering it! Caravana de Recuerdos hosts a Roberto Bolaño The Savage Detectives readalong in January. I have the book on my shelf — it was a recommendation by the great author Kazuo Ishiguro — and I guess now is as good as ever. Especially since I didn’t much appreciate Bolaño’s 2666, which I read together with Leeswammes & Co. earlier this year. I’d better say it’s now.. or never!

Are you making plans for 2012 yet?
Looking back on your accomplishments for 2011?
I’d love to know!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Vegan Cookbooks
It’s been a long time since I posted a Sunday Salon. But today I wanted to share my growing pile of vegan cookbooks for VeganMoFo.

When I started ExtraVeganza! in January I didn’t have a vegan cookbook worth mentioning. That wasn’t a problem since I managed quite well with my vegetarian cookery books and the Web. I hadn’t used my World Food Cookbook as intensively before and was very content with the amount of vegan recipes! The Vegetarian Table: Japan turned out a faithful companion to my journey as well.

Still, it’s no fun picking a recipe and having to think if, and how, it can be veganised. Especially when you have to conclude it’s no use trying… Remember I am just a beginner!

Cover La Dolce Vegan: Vegan Livin' Made Easy (Sarah Kramer)Also, even though much of your regular cooking can easily be made animal-free, there are some basics that make life as a vegan easier. My silent wish for a completely plant-based reference book was quickly granted by my sister-in-law, who gave me Sarah Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan!

It was an instant success (which I’ve raved about but still need to expand upon) but while looking for another appropriate handbook something else hit me: the difference in American and European cooking, especially concerning ingredient availability.

So today I own no less than 3 Dutch vegan cookbooks! Antoinette Herzenberg & Jacinta Bokma’s Puur Plantaardig, Lisette Kreischer’s Lisette in Luilekkerland and Non*fish*a*li*cious (admittedly the latter contains 1 non-vegan recipe which uses a vegetarian tuna-substitute).

Cover Ecofabulous, Lisette KreischerI haven’t really cooked from these yet, but that’s because I thoroughly had to explore my library copy of Ecofabulous first.

This 2009 publication is out of print already and I wanted to find out whether I should preorder the 2nd edition, coming out in December. Hell yes! :) Even if it’s only for Veggie in Pumps‘ AMAZING pumpkin-ginger cupcakes… :)

One of the Ecofabulous pumpkin cupcakes I baked

I’m eagerly awaiting the ‘ecofabulous’ *drop* into my mailbox and from that moment I guess I’ll own about all the Dutch vegan cookbooks existing on the planet. But as Puur Plantaardig was only published last month (!) and Non*fish*a*li*cious in June this year, it’s safe to conclude that green living & vegan eating is gaining popularity!

Cover The Art of Tofu (Akasha Richmond)
Two other vegan (cook)books that I actually did own already before ExtraVeganza! are Akasha Richmond’s The Art of Tofu and Living Among Meat Eaters by Carol J. Adams.

The first is a kind of promotional publication for Mori-Nu tofu, the latter a nonfiction book about how to handle aggressive questions about your strict vegetarian (= vegan) lifestyle. Cover Living Among Meat Eaters (Carol J. Adams)I bought ‘Meat Eaters’ years ago but didn’t really get around to reading and certainly didn’t try any of the recipes at the end of the volume since they all contained one or more ingredients not commonplace as far as my kitchen cupboards are concerned. Now they are. ;) The same goes for The Art of Tofu. So I’ll probably be checking their indexes out again in the near future. I’m specifically interested in Akasha’s baking blend that works as an egg-replacer. There are several easier egg-substitutes around so I’m curious if this one’s better than the others.

Let’s hope I’ll manage to review all of these vegan cookbooks in the near future!

Do you have any recommendations on books I should add to this collection?
It goes without saying that they don’t need to be Dutch!

Currently reading

Tinkers (Paul Harding)Of course there’s other bookish news as well. I’m currently reading Tinkers by Paul Harding; a recommendation on Books on the Nightstand (a podcast I like to listen to). I first started reading about 2 months ago but couldn’t get into it, even though the starting point is pretty interesting. The first line of the book:

George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.

After finishing all 3 volumes of Haruki Murakami’s 1q84 last week I decided to give Tinkers another try. It’s a quick read and didn’t win last year’s Pulitzer Prize for nothing, right?!

I’m about a third in and this time I actually like it! :) That just goes to show you the moment or emotional state in which you read a work of fiction does influence your appreciation. At least it does with me. :)

24 hour readathon

And yay, it’s that time of year again! Dewey’s semi-annual 24 hour readathon runs on Saturday October 22nd. I usually just join the fall edition and I’m a bit sad that I can only partly participate this time because of an important birthday party I’m going to.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

  • The official starting time in my area is 2pm (GMT+1). That would hardly leave me any time to read so I’ll be beginning my readathon at 8am.
  • As I will be staying over after the party I’ll stop the readathon at the beginning of the evening (before or during our trip) and write a wrap-up post on Sunday afternoon when I’m back home.
  • Due to this I don’t think I’ll be participating in (m)any mini-challenges…

Next Sunday I’ll show you the books I plan to pick from! Are you joining in as well? Reading rules!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

This post is also submitted to Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking.

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

My experience with Ann Gentry’s Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone kind of resembled a sugar-crash.

Know what that is? When you’re taking in big amounts of refined sugars at a time (like having a Mars bar or a donut), blood sugar levels spike, releasing insulin into your body which then causes your blood sugar levels to plummet. Some of you may call it an afternoon dip. ;) You experience a roller-coaster ride as the body works hard to stabilize its blood sugar levels.

Cover Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone (Ann Gentry)Reading the introduction to Vegan Family Meals got me extremely enthusiastic. Ann Gentry is the busy chef of Los Angeles’ popular vegan restaurant Real Food Daily. She wants to make plant-based cooking accessible for the time-strapped cook who craves delicious meals that are easy to prepare. By showing that the vegan cooking process isn’t so different from vegetarian cooking she specifically means to help omnivores wanting to reduce their intake of animal products, newbie vegetarians-turned-vegan like myself or even die-hard vegans. If you eat (strict) vegetarian for just one day a week, it will have a positive impact on your health and the environment. That’s why Meatless Mondays are getting more popular every day!

“If you’re intimidated by the thought of preparing plant-based foods, don’t be. A standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich is vegan. Most of the easy vegan recipes that follow have fewer than a dozen ingredients – and they’re much more delicious than a PB&J.”

YAY!

“The dishes in this books are designed for family meals. They are simple vegan recipes with approachable ingredients lists and techniques, relatively short preparation time, and, of course, wide appeal.”

Hear hear!

“For help with ingredients that might be new to you, simply turn to the Real Food Pantry listings throughout the book for extra information that will demystify the likes of spelt and umeboshi, and more plant-based staples.”

YES!

Can it get any better? Simple but yummy meals with less than twelve ingredients that do not rely heavily on unfamiliar ingredients or which components can easily be substituted. And Ann Gentry promises to do all this on an affordable budget.

So. You may understand I got a little discouraged when I discovered that the first recipe of Vegan Family Meals — Super Hippie Granola — contains 15 ingredients, among which dried Hunza mulberries (never heard of), goji berries (not in stock) and melted unrefined coconut oil (erm…). Thankfully the author suggests common substitutes like coconut flakes, cranberries or or other dried tropical fruits. And it’s a breakfast dish that you are meant to prepare in advance so maybe I should not worry too much about the long ingredients list.

On to the next breakfast recipe: Acai Granola Bowl. It consists of only 8 ingredients, but alas: one of those is the previously mentioned Super Hippie Granola and the main element is frozen acai berry bars… Can’t get those in in The Netherlands! The same goes for the following breakfast recipes: they either contain products that are ‘strange’, hard to get or need to be prepared well in advance. Also, vegan cheese substitutes are needed for several of them.

I couldn’t help feeling disappointed by this time. I guess the Vegan Family Meals cookbook isn’t really meant for the European market – and things are certainly different over here in The Netherlands. There are less vegan products and options. For example there are no vegan ‘cheeses’ that can be considered real alternatives for dairy cheese, as was recently confirmed by a test panel of Vegatopia (article in Dutch). The on the internet much appraised Daiya is not available in my country.

Still, there’s hope: on most things we’re supposed to be 5 years behind on the UK and 10 on the US. If I think back to when I stopped eating meat, there were much fewer vegetarian options as well. Ann Gentry herself writes that most products were only available in natural food stores when she started her alternative food journey. Now they’re sold in mainstream supermarkets – and being vegan is hip. :)

I was happy to find that further on in the book there were several recipes I felt I could try.

I ended up making 5 of them:

  • Ginger Miso Soup (p.98)
    Just a good miso soup recipe, flavourful but not really anything special.
  • Kombu Dashi (p.99)
    Needed for the Ginger Miso Soup.
  • Sweet Mustard Tempeh (p.116)
    Tasty. I had some of it on a sandwich and with the rest I plan to make a salad with the saffron-orange tahini dressing that accompanies this recipe in the cookbook (p.115).
  • Orange-Basil Tempeh (p.129; recipe below)
    Very flavourful: will definitely be making this again!
  • Watercress and Butter Lettuce Salad with Israeli Couscous, Orange Basil-Tempeh and Sweet Miso Dressing (p.128)
    This is a really good salad recipe, although I found that the many flavours pushed the orange-basil tempeh to the background. I will be making it again, especially for pot-lucks or a picnic, but probably without the tempeh – and with the Roasted Pistachios (p.55) that I forgot to add this time.

Still on the menu plan with pak choi from this week’s batch of organic vegetables: Szechuan Noodles with Spicy Hot Peanut Sauce (p.147).

Another positive aspect of Vegan Family meals is that it’s an easy and interesting read. It’s well-stocked with appetizing photo’s, cutting techniques, info on so-called exoctic superfoods, non-dairy milks, sweeteners, food history et cetera. Each of the sections (Breakfasts, Snacks & Sandwiches, Soups, Family-Style Salads, Simple Meals, Grains and Vegetables, Desserts) is introduced by a one page article that educates us a little more about the topic as well as the author’s life. So after plummeting from euphoric to frustrated, my end verdict for Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone is a positive one.

Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing I was given the opportunity to preview the e-book version of Vegan Family Meals through Netgalley. The key question is now: will I buy a paper copy when it is published on June 14th? I’m afraid not. The dishes take a little more time to prepare than expected and often times another component needs to be made first. I also felt I had to ‘tweak’ too many of the recipes because of lacking ingredients. But maybe this will change in few years from now, when we’re up to speed with the US here in The Netherlands?! ;)

To get a taste of the book yourself I’ll share the recipe for Orange-Basil Tempeh. Since Mr Gnoe and I are a family of two I just made half of it.

Salad with couscous, orang-basil tempeh and sweet miso dressing

Recipe for Orange-Basil Tempeh (salad condiment)

Ingredients
Serves 4.

  • 225 g tempeh, halved horizontally and then cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 120 ml fresh orange juice
  • zest of 1 organic orange
  • 3 tbs finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbs agave syrup
  • 2 tbs tamari
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

  1. I immediately moved away from the recipe by steaming the tempeh for 10 minutes. I’ve read elsewhere that it improves absorbency (and alleviates the slightly bitter taste some people dislike). It’s your choice whether you do this or not.
  2. Whisk the orange juice, basil, agave nectar, tamari, garlic, olive oil and zest (= everything except tempeh ;) together in a bowl.
  3. Add the tempeh (either raw or steamed) and turn to coat.
  4. Arrange the tempeh in a single layer so it’s (partly) submerged in the marinade.
  5. Set aside to marinade for at least an hour or refrigerate overnight. I did the latter.
  6. Put in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until tempeh is hot and the marinade has reduced.
  7. Serve the tempeh warm or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

Hop over to She Likes Bento for another review of Vegan Family Meals including the recipe for Sweet Potato Fries!

The recipe for a Spring to Summer Vegetable Dish can be found on the Real Food Daily website.

You want to have a look at the cookbook yourself? Go to the publisher’s page and check out the Google preview.

This is my first submission to Cookbook Sundays, a meme from Mom’s Sunday Café!

Button Cookbook Sundays

Post also submitted to…

Vegan Mondays button Button Whip Up Something New! Challenge Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button

If you’re from my generation, this song will probably bring up some memories.

It’ll be my birthday next week so when Leeswammes announced she was hosting a literary giveaway blog hop, I figured that would be a nice opportunity to share a book of my all-time favourite author: David Mitchell. And which novel would be more appropriate for a forty-something birthday than Black Swan Green? You’re only turning 41 once. ;)

Do not set foot in my office. That’s dad’s rule. But the phone’d rung twenty-five times. Normal people give up after ten or eleven, unless it’s a matter of life and death. Don’t they? Dad’s got an answering machine like James Garner’s in The Rockford Files with big reels of tape. But he’s stopped leaving it switched on recently. Thirty rings, the phone got to. Julia couldn’t hear it up in her converted attic ‘cause ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ by Human League was thumping out dead loud. Forty rings. Mum couldn’t hear ‘cause the washing machine was on berserk cycle and she was hoovering the living room. Fifty rings. That’s just not normal. S’pose Dad’d been mangled by a juggernaut on the M5 and the police only had this office number ‘cause all his other ID’d got incinerated? We could lose our final chance to see our charred father in the terminal ward.
[Black Swan Green, p.1]

Cover Black Swan Green (David Mitchell)Black Swan Green is Mitchell’s fourth novel and can be considered a semi-autobiographical ‘coming of age story’. The book’s thirteen chapters each represent one month—from January 1982 through January 1983—in the life of 13-year-old Worcestershire boy Jason Taylor.* The story is written from his perspective and contains teen speech and popular-culture references from early-1980s England.

Although the novel was published in 2006, the first chapter, January Man, appeared as a short story in Granta 2003 Best of Young British Writers. At a reading I attended Mitchell confessed he had not felt ready to write (t)his story, that is so close to home, before.

Needless to say that Black Swan Green is a nostalgic trip. Not everything is familiar to me as a Dutch person (like the Rockford Files from the first paragraph), but it’s a feast of recognition anyway. All the 1982 hits passing by are a party treat in itself! Mr Gnoe has been busying himself with tracking down the songs in this novel (as ‘children’ of the eighties we just love lists ;) Through this he found out that what seems like random stage setting at first actually gives the story depth. Jason assumes for example that his elder sister Julia is having ‘a ball’ now that she’s old enough to leave home. But from the songs Jason says she’s playing — we, who have been there and know the lyrics by heart ;) — understand Julia is having her own troubles.

I definitely need to reread this book! Now how about you? Would you like to get to know Jason Tyler? Don’t you want to discover which characters from Mitchell’s universe reappear in this story?? Here’s your chance! I have a brand new copy of Black Swan Green to give away. Just leave a comment and tell me what is your favourite 80’s song. But you can only participate if you’re 35+.
LOL Just kidding!!! Open to all ages of course — and worldwide. Make sure I know how to contact you! If I have no way of contacting you, you can’t win.

[* For those of you too lazy to do the maths, in 1982 I was just a year younger: 12.]

* Stay tuned for your very own Black Swan Green Disco Party! *

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. A WINNER WILL BE SELECTED SHORTLY.
This giveaway ends on February 23rd, 23:59 GMT+1 (=Amsterdam/Berlin time zone). A winner will be randomly selected at the end of the week.

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop Button

Now go and have a look at all the other fabulous books that you can win!
(Note: the Literary Blog Hop has ended.)

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

– – – –

This is my first Sunday Salon of 2011 and I’m going to talk about a cookbook. As you may have noticed, food has been on my mind a lot lately! ;) For my 10-day ExtraVeganza! project I relied heavily on the World Food Café: Global Vegetarian Cooking cookbook. It is a feast for the eye — and your tummy!

Cover World Food Cafe cookbook, Chris & Carolyn CaldicottThe book was put together by Chris & Carolyn Caldicott. It contains recipes they collected, or got inspired, on the many journeys they’ve made across the globe. They did so with the aim to open their own restaurant: the World Food Café in London.

Chris Caldicott is an awesome photographer and the cookbook is littered with beautiful full-colour photos — at least one on each double page. So even if you don’t like to cook, you could display this treasure on your coffee table. ;) But that is certainly not what it’s meant for.

It really is a great collection of recipes, many dairy-free! Rather unique for a vegetarian cookbook these days… Still, it is vegetarian and not all-vegan. Especially the section on The Americas ‘regularly’ contains dairy or eggs: 5 of the 23 (disregarding butter). Now that’s not too bad, is it? Unfortunately the only dessert of the book is among those — a mouthwatering chocolate cake. I wouldn’t know how to substitute the 6 eggs needed for that, but in many cases it’s possible to omit or replace the non-vegan ingredient.

As you may have understood from the previous paragraph, the book is divided in different global regions:

  • The Middle East & Africa (p.10-57)
  • India, Nepal & Sri Lanka (p.58-111)
  • Southeast Asia & China (p.112-145)
  • The Americas (p. 146-185)

Each continent starts with a two-page photograph, followed by an introduction. And most of the recipes also have short description of where they came from. The book concludes with a short glossary of ingredients and an index.

I’m sure I made 10 dishes from this book, of which 7 got a BIG thumbs up. The other 3 were either okay or so-so and I need to stipulate that in two of the cases I didn’t use the proper ingredients… I mostly cooked from the Indian section and am still dying to try the potato bondas (fritters) from North India that seem perfect for a bento. But so far my expeditions in search for the essential ingredient ‘asefetida‘ (a.k.a. hing) were in vain.

List of recipes tried

Middle East:

  • Hummus (p.35)

India, Nepal & Sri Lanka:

Southeast Asia & China:

This book comes highly recommended! And I would like to express a huge THANK YOU to the globetrotter in-laws that gave it to me as a birthday present.

Here’s a recipe we’ve made several times. You’ll find a variation of it in tomorrow’s bento!

Spicy Bean Curd & Bean Sprout Salad from Thailand

Ingredients
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cucumber; grated
  • 1 red bell pepper; seeded, deribbed and cut into fine strips
  • 8 ounces / 225 grams of bean sprouts (I grow them myself!)
  • 1 tbs sunflower oil
  • 10 ounces / 275 grams of tofu; cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices and ready to fry
  • 1 garlic clove; crushed
  • 1-2 green Thai or serrano chilies; thinly sliced (red chili is fine)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbs light soy sauce
  • 2 ts packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (150 grams) skinned peanuts; toasted and crushed
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves; chopped

Preparation

  1. Combine grated cucumber, bell pepper and bean sprouts in a salad bowl.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry the tofu slices until brown and crunchy. Set aside en let cool.
  3. Using the same pan, sauté garlic and chilies for a few seconds, then add the lime juice, soy sauce and brown sugar. Stir until all ingredients are combined.
  4. Arrange tofu slices on top of the salad and sprinkle with crushed peanuts.
  5. Pour on the hot dressing and garnish with lots of cilantro.

ENJOY!

This review is my first post for the Foodie’s Reading Challenge!

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button– – – – –

Join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of my Secret Santa and what she gave me for Christmas 2010!

2010 Book Blogger Holiday Swap present from Zee

Thank you so much Zee (a.k.a. @zommie) from Notes from the North!

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods was one of the first books on my Bookdepository wishlist so it’s awesome to finally get my hands on it! :)) Zee’s twitter alter ego @zommie wrote she had no trouble deciding at all since it was one of her favourite books of 2009! Knowing that makes this gift even more special.

I haven’t seen a note about Zee’s Secret Santa yet… I hope she got something nice herself too! :) I guess anything Scandinavian will do, since she’s hosting a 2011 Nordic Reading Challenge! ;)
Book Blogger Holiday Swap button
Of course I was allowed to play Secret Santa too (that’s part of the deal ;) and I thoroughly enjoyed finding the right gifts for my Santee: Iris from Iris on Books, whom I’ve known and liked for quite some time now. She did a very nice blogpost about her Persephone & Book Blogger Holiday Swap presents.

Now, this is the Last Sunday Salon of 2010 and I’ve got some other bookish news to share.

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover buttonAnother week, another update, another challenge. That’s how you can tell it’s December LOL!

I told you before I plan to read all books by Haruki Murakami. I am lucky enough to live in The Netherlands, where the first two volumes of his new novel 1Q84 came out in June this year, earlier than in other parts of the world. We got this treasure right away but the weird thing is… I still haven’t read it! Good thing tanabata from In Spring it is the Dawn decided to host a Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge in 2011. :) She made two awesome buttons which I can’t seem to choose from and will alternate between.

The level of participation I’m choosing is ‘Toru’: read 5 of Murakami’s works. That seems appropriate since Toru is the main character of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is how I came to know this fabulous author. It also really constitutes a challenge for me because that comprises almost 25% of the amount of books I can currently read in a year! But who knows, I might even upgrade later this year if I feel like finishing the rest of his oeuvre as well. ;)

The books I plan on reading:

  1. Murakami Challenge 2011 cat-tail-buttonHear the Wind Sing
  2. Pinball, 1973
  3. The Elephant Vanishes (buddy-read with Elsje, just like we did with Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman)
  4. 1Q84 – part I
  5. 1Q84 – part II

The list is not in any particular order, except that I wish to read Hear the Wind Sing before ‘Pinball‘, and part 1 of 1Q84 before the second. ;)

Books read and to-be-read

I finished reading Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil — which will probably end up real high on this year’s list of Best Reads — and Thomas J. Davies’ The Christmas Quilt (a warm blanket of a cozy x-mas story), just like I planned.
*pats herself on the shoulder*

Today I’ll start in my online book group’s December read: Kalme chaos (Caos calmo), by Sandro Veronesi. It’s quite a chunker and I don’t think I’ll be able to manage all of it this month, but I might at least get the ball rolling, so to say. I’ve heard raving reviews as well as people getting bored and/or annoyed, so I have no idea what to expect! Don’t you like it when that happens? :)

Cover The Wasted Vigil (Nadeem Aslam)Cover The Christmas Quilt, Thomas J. DaviesCover Kalme Chaos, Sandro Veronesi

Are you free to read this week? What books are on your stack?

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

You've got mail: Book Blogger Holiday Swap 2010

The Day After I received my Canadian loot in the Great Grocery Bag Exchange, again a mysterious package fell into my mailbox. Hooray, a present from my Secret Santa! Of course I knew Santa lives somewhere in the Nordic hemisphere, but I never would have guessed (s)he actually lives in Sweden..! I should have know that when I visited the country in 2002! Eh, not that I have any plans about what to do with that knowledge ;)

Anyway, my present is wrapped in some cool helper-trolls paper. And I’m keeping it that way for a short while longer! Our rental Christmas tree won’t arrive until December 18th and I want it to lie under the tree like a proper x-mas gift. Even if it’s just for one day LOL! So you’ll have to be patient too. Nothing you can do about it! :)

Book Blogger Holiday Swap present 2010 (wrapped)

Thanks to helper-troll my Secret Santa ‘Zee’ from  ..?

Other bookish news

I’ve finished reading The (Temple of the) Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima and am about to start in Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil. Just like I promised last week ;)

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 buttonI’ve also been a baaaad grrl — again — and joined yet another challenge :\

But.. it-was-made-for-me! It’s the Foodie’s Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot of Joyfully Retired. If you’ve participated in Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking meme you’re bound to have met her! She challenges us to explore the world of good food writing; taking the form of cookbooks, biographies or even novels centered around food.

Now look at Graasland and tell me honestly: could I really have resisted this challenge??? :)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Today I wasn’t supposed to sit at my desk and type up a Sunday Salon. I should have been cheering Mr Gnoe, doing his 15k run across the ‘7 Hills’ in Nijmegen — along with 31.000 other people. Alas, he took up a fever yesterday and needs to stay in bed. I feel really sorry for him: he has been training for quite some time and today’s weather is awesome! To make things worse: it’s his sisters birthday and we were going to have cake with her at the finish line (my brother-in-law is in the race as well). Bummer.

Cover Geketende Democratie (Japan), Hans van der LugtAnyway, I had also hoped to start a new book on the train to Nijmegen — I haven’t picked up a novel since I closed the cover of Soulless on October 14th! :-o That’s almost 6 weeks ago!

True, I was able to finish the Pillow Book read-along in the meantime and have been continuing Geketende democratie: Japan achter de schermen (‘Democracy in Chains: Behind the Scenes of Japan‘), which is more non-fiction. But I couldn’t decide on a new novel.

I really miss curling up in my reading chair with a good story :( Please help?

Below you’ll find a selection of 8 books from Mount TBR. I would be so happy if you could tick one or two (yes, you may choose 2!) that you want me to dust of! The reason for your recommendation can be explained in the comments. Thank you so much!

Cover The Woman in the Dunes (Kobo Abe)Cover The Wasted Vigil (Nadeem Aslam)Cover Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)Cover The Savage Detectives (Roberto Bolano)
Cover Dromen van China / The China Lover (Ian Buruma)Cover We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)Cover The Accidental, by Ali SmithCover Snow Country (Yasunari Kawabata)

More exciting news: I received the name of my Secret Santee in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap and got my present ready right the next day! Well, it still needs a finishing touch, but I’m really happy with what I got so far :)

Putting my package together for Carin’s Great Grocery Bag Exchange on A Little Bookish is turning out to be more of a ‘problem’ proving to be more of a challenge. Bags galore to choose from, but postage needs to stay in an acceptable range… Now I can’t decide on whether to send the two bags I decided on and just a tiny Dutch treat, or to throw out one of my choices and upgrade the goodies. *SIGH*

Life is hard ;)

Just 10 days ago I checked whether there was going to be another Book Blogger Holiday Swap this year, because I’d had so much fun last time! There was no new post up yet on Secret Santa’s website and my question on Twitter didn’t bring any results either.

So you can imagine my shock when I suddenly saw today is the final day to enter! OMG — just in time! Phew.

I know I’ve been a BAD book blogger in the last few months… I hope Santa won’t punish me — or at least not too hard for that ;) The good news is that I have been working on a post about Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea this weekend; with luck it will go up this week.

Other book talk high on my to-do list:

  • Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Pillow Book, Sei Shōnagon
  • Wrap-up post What’s in a name challenge 3

Inspirational vibes are always welcome ;)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

24 Hour Read-a-thonFifteen minutes is not enough to start a new book in the 24 hour Readathon. So I’m taking a sneak preview on the End of the Event Meme questions by copying those of last April! The weather is unusually great here so as soon as the readathon finishes at 1400 hrs, I want to go outside and enjoy it! Exercise!

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    Hour 15 (5am in the morning here). I threw in the towel and went to sleep for a few hours. I could have read on but decided not to make myself go grumpy ;)
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    Haven’t read it this readathon, but I’d like to recommend Trespass by Valerie Martin.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    Nope.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    Everything went particularly well, didn’t it? For me, I’m glad I made it easy for myself this time by picking books in my native language.
  5. How many books did you read?
    Four. Or actually 3 and my complete backlog of entries in the Pillow Book read-along.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    The Following Story by Cees Nooteboom (buddy-read), The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon, Adèle and the Beast & Monsters All! from the series Les Avontures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec by Tardi.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    The Following Story by Cees Nooteboom. I hadn’t expected to like this much! And I feel really accomplished by having caught up in the Pillow Book, since we’re only a few weeks from the end of the read-along. But most of all, I’m *so* happy that the readathon helped me out of my reading slump of the last weeks! Yay!
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    Nothing really; I really enjoyed everything I’ve read!
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    I wasn’t a cheerleader but I’m very grateful to those who were! Kudos to all, not just the cheerleaders but everyone behind the scenes!
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    This was my 3rd 24 hour read-a-thon, can’t you tell I’m addicted? ;) So yes, I would like to participate again in April, although I’ve noticed the spring RaT is harder than the one in fall! Even though the days are longer then…

I’ve spent 8 hours and 40 minutes actually reading (counting really strictly). Double that for the time I could be found in the bloggosphere and on twitter — all readathon related!

So, have you all enjoyed it as much as I did? What did you like best?

Have a nice Sunday!

Read from Readathon Stack Fall 2010

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

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