Four Books Set in Savannah GA

Four Books Set in Savannah GA

I have a dream of a Southern literary trip. A group of women traveling to New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, and other notable cities, reading books set in all of those cities with a heavy emphasis on Southern gothics. Lots of reading, brunching, shopping, and discussing favorite books.

Someday. Someday.

As it happens, I am visiting Savannah, but it’s a solo trip. A quick getaway, really, but I still did some reading in preparation. Whether you are also planning to visit the city or if you simply appreciate Southern literature, I hope you enjoy this list. Books set in Savannah tend to be on the darker side–mysteries and true crime–as it does have a reputation of being the most haunted city in the US. If you want to read about Savannah, but you really aren’t into thrillers or true crime, you could try Mary Kay Andrews, who has some lighter women’s fiction set in the city. 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (true crime)

Meet saints and sinners . . . okay, meet sinners in this story of 1980’s Savannah focused on the fatal shooting of Danny Hansford by antiques dealer, Jim Williams. The snobby yet endlessly quotable antiques dealer is, of course, is the focus of the book. He is a murky, but larger than life character who created more of a scandal for being outed as gay at his trial than he was for shooting his own employee. The supporting characters are also scene stealers. A vibrant trans woman, The Lady Chablis, who Berendt impressively does not misgender while writing in the decidedly un-PC early 1990s.  A quiet man who is rumored to have the ability to poison the entire city. A voodoo practitioner with a strong sense of justice. Conmen and debutantes. Businessmen seeking to direct the fate of Savannah. And through it all, Berendt, weaves through the town, a New Yorker turned part-time Savannahian, collecting quirky characters like baseball cards. It is, admittedly, not a book for the true crime fan who wants to get to the point. That person should turn to a podcast. It’s the story of a specific place and a specific time, of inclusion and exclusion, and the costs of gentrification.

Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green (thriller)

One night in Savannah, Matilda Stone (Stony) and Luke Kitchens go to Bo Peep’s for a drink, capturing a bit more public attention than they realize. Stony is drugged and kidnapped outside the bar, and Luke, who tries to protect his friend, is murdered. Luke’s body does not remain on the streets of Savannah. It ends up in a building belonging to Archie Guzman, infamous local slumlord, known as the Gooze, which is then set on fire. No one is surprised when the Gooze is arrested for arson and accidental murder. He is hated by the working class for his frequent evictions and by high society for tearing down historical buildings and building monstrosities in their place. The Gooze reaches out to Morgana Musgrove, a society lady who became the owner of a detective agency after her husband’s death, to clear his name. Morgana, who has no love for the man, senses he is telling the truth while her children and grandchildren are convinced of his guilt. Morgana’s agreement to take on his case creates a rift between her and her granddaughter, Jaq, who was a friend of Luke’s and one of the last people to see him alive. But in her own investigation, Jaq begins to see that the murder was not simply a case of greed for insurance money, but all about what Stony knew, a secret that went back to pre-Civil War time. Like in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah functions as a character, but while Midnight focuses mostly on the rich, Kingdoms’ gaze is on those living on the margins. Literally in this case, as much of the book takes place in the homeless encampments on the edges of the city. There is resolution, but it’s messy and full of compromise. No one truly comes out a winner. The bittersweet ending feels appropriate. Anything too tidy would feel false in Green’s Savannah. Don’t miss the author’s notes in the end, sharing what is based in fact and what is pure fiction. This would appeal to readers of literary fiction, thrillers, and Southern gothics.

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham (thriller)

This one was a bonus, as I had no idea it was set in Savannah when I started the audiobook. Isabelle Drake hasn’t been able to sleep since the night her son, Mason, was stolen from the family home while she and her husband slept. Instead she takes the dog for long night-time walks and collages newspaper clippings to work out what happened to her son. When Isabelle runs out of angles to investigate, she turns to a true crime podcaster who forces her to face the possibility that the kidnapper may have not been a stranger but someone who lived in the house. Was it her husband, who left her for another woman months after Mason’s disappearance? Or was it her and the sleepwalking that had plagued her as a child returned? Isabelle must work out what happened to Mason before her insomnia leads to psychosis. Willingham’s second novel is strong and much more original than her debut, which I reviewed here.

Black, White, and the Grey by Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano (memoir)

When the Greyhound Station opened up in Savannah, Georgia, it was designed for the Jim Crow South with white and colored waiting rooms and restrooms. When New York businessman, Johno Morisano, purchased it in 2013 with dreams of opening a restaurant, the abandoned building was both a tribute to art deco architecture and a reminder of institutional racism past and present. A year later, Morisano opened The Grey with a new partner, up-and-coming chef Mashama Bailey. Black, White, and the Grey is the story of how two cofounders, one a White man and the other Black woman, learned to communicate and create a restaurant family in the modern South. It is the story of the love of food, finding common ground, and the complications of unconscious bias. Reading this book last year in preparation for this blog post initially sparked my interest in both Savannah and the Grey, and was possibly the factor that led me to pick Savannah out of all the US cities I considered for my vacation.

Bonus read: Anything by Flannery O’Connor. Not really set in Savannah, but O’Connor spent her early life in Savannah, and you can see her childhood home while in town.

Shaky Ground by Traci Rhoades: Book Review (Faith)

Shaky Ground by Traci Rhoades: Book Review (Faith)

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy from the author for review purposes. This does not affect the content of my review.

“Sometimes things go off-kilter and we seek to weather those changes with confidence. Other times, what starts out small turns into a catastrophe. We need spiritual rhythms in place to help us through these situations.” (p. 59)

Shaky Ground, the second book by Grand Rapids, Michigan area author Traci Rhoades, explores how we seek out God when life brings us challenges and also when the old ways of worship no longer bring the growth that they once did. Rhoades, a spiritually and intellectually curious evangelical, looks both within her Reformed church tradition and outside it to Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions to find new ways of knowing and worshiping God. She ponders the traditions that she inherited from her mother, finds new practices that expand her knowledge and take her out of her comfort zone, and considers what she will pass down to her own daughter.

The book is divided into five parts: Solid Ground, Stability, Anchored, Foundation, and Assurance. Solid Ground examines finding God in stillness. Rhoades, who lives in the country, finds peace and reflection in quiet, while she acknowledges that less introverted and introspective Christians may struggle with it. In Stability, she writes about prayer, a practice she struggles with more than stillness. She talks of how, in learning new ways to pray, she let go of her discomfort that prayer was simply something she wasn’t good at. Anchored addresses reading Scripture. Much like stillness, this is clearly an area within the author’s comfort zone. Rhoades recounts how Bible study has changed her and helped her connect with other Christian women. Foundation looks at spiritual disciplines and liturgy. In the final section, Assurance, Rhoades focuses on communal worship. 

While much of this book examines the practices and journeys of the individual Christian, Rhoades always brings everything back to the universal church. Western Christianity can be very individualistic, but she frequently reminds us that we are not alone in our faith journey. Those around us worship with us, struggle with us, and can teach us new ways of knowing God. In some places, she acknowledges that many Christians have been harmed within church bodies and does not shame them into returning to church. Instead she reminds them of who they are in Christ, that God is so much bigger than their experiences in the church, and expresses her hope that God will bring healing and will bring them back into community when they are ready.

In a chapter titled Going Wider, Rhoades writes, “Church is about so much more than the one or two ways you’ve experienced it.  Interacting with Christians from other traditions, ethnicities, places around the world, etcetera helps us get to know one another. It reminds us Christianity isn’t American, and its roots weren’t established in the sixteenth century at the height of the European Reformation. Here’s what it is really about: getting to know more of Christ and getting to know one another. Then, when disaster strikes, we’ll have somewhere, and someone, or someones, to turn to.” (p.133)

Shaky Ground is a wise and quiet book. It’s like having a discussion with a thoughtful friend over tea. A friend who wants to know about your spiritual upbringing, how you were trained to think about God, and how you have held to that (and moved away from it) over the years. It will encourage you to try out new practices. One of Rhoades’ practices that intrigued me was that of reading the Bible chronologically (that is, chronological in terms of the events, not according to conventional Bible order). It will also make you want to discuss spiritual practices with friends and find out what they find brings them closer to God. Overall the message is that God wants to be known by us, and that He wouldn’t leave us without direction. We can find Him in stillness, in prayer, in tradition, and in community.

Asparagus Leek Quiche

Asparagus Leek Quiche

Hi to all the moms out there! Mother’s Day is coming up, and I hope that you all get pampered in a much deserved fashion. This post isn’t for you though. It’s for the sons and daughters, spouses, and grandchildren who should be spoiling you. 

To those who desperately want to be moms but aren’t yet. Biggest hugs to you, and I wish you had a day for yourself, whether you are waiting to meet the one you want to start a family with or whether you are the woman who cries with disappointment every time her period starts. (Been there. Done that. It’s the worst.) Take care of yourself this Sunday. Whether you ever have a child to call your own or not, you are worthy exactly as you are. Take care of yourself, whether that means skipping an awkward Mother’s Day church service or getting together with friends who are in a similar situation and celebrating each other.

To the stepmoms out there. I see you. I am you. It’s a strange day, full of mixed emotions. Is it your day? Is it not? Personally, I focus heavily on celebrating my mom who deserves celebration so I don’t have to think about how this holiday makes me feel personally. Take care of yourself, unsung heroine. It’s one thing to care for a child because you have to do so. It’s another to choose to do so, with little or no glory.

To those who have no desire to become a mom, in spite of what random friends, family, and members of society think is best for you. I see and respect you. Being a mother is holy work. So is not overpopulating the earth. Stand firm. It is your decision and yours alone.

To those who have lost a mom, I don’t know what you are going through; I won’t pretend. Take care of yourself on this very emotional day. Your mom would want you to have a good day, so feel no guilt in enjoying the little things.

To those left reading: hiiiiii!!!! You have prepared for Mother’s Day festivities, right? I’ll give you a checklist, whether you are shopping for your mom or your spouse.

To do:

  • A card where you write a heartfelt message. She needs acknowledgement as moms do so much unrecognized work.
  • A little luxury that she would want but probably wouldn’t pay for herself. This could be a spa treatment, or that hydrangea she’s always wanted for the front yard, or that cardigan she’s been eyeing at Ann Taylor. Don’t know what she’d want? Ask her sister or best friend.
  • Food she loves with no clean up required from her. (If she loves brunch, try my quiche recipe!) Live far away? Give the gift of DoorDash (with cooperation from your dad or siblings who may have competing plans).
  • Do one thing that makes things easier for her. It can be simple. Early riser mom? Start brewing coffee 10 minutes before her normal wake up time, so she goes downstairs to the promise of already brewed coffee. It can be bigger. Does mom hate taking her car in for an oil change? Take care of it for her this weekend.
  • The gift of your time, whether it is in person, over the phone, or on Zoom.


  • Give her Peloton (or any other fitness item) unless she specifically asked for one. Yes, there are some moms that want a Peloton more than anything. It’s a status symbol and health aid, all in one. If your mom or spouse has (positively) mentioned a Peloton in casual conversation three or more times, she is that mom. But if you decided that your postnatal spouse should be over the moon to receive an expensive piece of gym equipment to get rid of that lingering baby fat, NO. It is not for her. It is for you. She doesn’t have the time for it, sir. It will mock her everyday BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T HAVE TIME FOR IT. Pay for housekeeping services. That would actually give her the time to exercise. Or address her mental health. She’ll need to know which one needs to be addressed first.
  • As for any household or kitchen appliances, the same rules that apply to the Peloton apply here. Some moms would be delighted to receive an air fryer. Others will have to quiet the urge to toss it at your head. Know which mom is your mom and respect that.
  • Anything that creates work for her. 

I believe this was supposed to be about quiche. So off topic! So sorry!

Brunch is a great choice for Mother’s Day, as it feels more extravagant than it is. Admittedly, this quiche is not what I’m making for my own mom, as my mom isn’t a brunching mom, so I’m doing something geared towards her tastes and preferences, but I think this would go over well with many women.

I’d recommend rounding out your menu with a side (salad or fruit), coffee, a cocktail or mocktail (mimosas are always a good idea), and a sweet (strawberry shortcakes, perhaps?).

Asparagus and Leek Quiche

Asparagus and Leek Quiche

To make or buy your pie crust, that is the question. If you have any questions about your skill in pie crust making (or the time you’ll have to do so), please buy a premade crust. I promise it’s not cheating. The end goal is a delicious quiche, regardless of time or effort. If you know you have the time and effort to make your own crust there is a recipe for you below this one. Recipe modified from Kristine’s Kichen.


  • Pie crust, homemade (recipe below) or premade
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, washed well and chopped
  • 1 pound asparagus, chopped
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (I use a swiss/gruyere blend)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Press the pie crust into the pie dish and make it pretty.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring frequently, for about five to eight minutes. Increase the heat to medium, add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, shredded cheese, salt and pepper.
  4. In the pie dish, begin with adding the leek and asparagus as a bottom layer, and then add a layer of goat cheese crumbles. Finally, pour the egg mixture over it all.
  5. Bake the quiche for 35-45 minutes, checking on the quiche starting at 25 minutes. If the crust has browned too much at the 25 minute point, add some foil to the top to prevent burning. The quiche is done when the eggs are set.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Butter Pie Crust

Butter Pie Crust

This recipe is for a single crust pie.


  • ¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water


Mix pastry flour, all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Mix the butter into the flour mixture, using either your hands or a food processor until your butter cubes are butter flakes. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is evenly moist (but not wet) and is just starting to clump together. Do not overmix. Pat the dough into a 5-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Tuck the overhang under and crimp the edge with a fork or flute it between your thumb and index finger. Pour the filling into the crust.
Elderflower Margaritas

Elderflower Margaritas

elderflower margarita, st-germain

Are you familiar with elderflower liqueur? 

I had no idea what it was until I tried a French 77. Once I tried it, I was hooked. I became richer in experience but poorer in, well, finances because I had to pay for the St-Germain. While I 100% recommend that you try the French 77 if you aren’t already familiar (Mother’s Day would be the perfect opportunity), I have a different cocktail for you today.

As a taco lover, my favorite pseudo-holiday is coming up: Cinco de Mayo. I’m not sure who sponsors Cinco de Mayo, Taco Bell or the tequila industry, but I’m a big fan. Tacos? Always. Margaritas? Sure, especially if there is elderflower liqueur involved.

So I must introduce you to the elderflower margarita. In full disclosure, I have had two tonight: one while cooking my lentil tacos and the second one while eating my lentil tacos. What does this mean? It means I’ll be checking over my spelling and grammar tomorrow.

Don’t judge. The margaritas made me do it.

You might be asking what the margaritas want you to do? I have no idea, friend, but I encourage you to make them and find out. (Just don’t operate any machinery, please and thank you.) (Don’t text your ex either.)

Elderflower Margaritas

The ingredients below are per margarita, so double or triple as needed.


  • coarse salt (optional, for the rim)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1.5 oz tequila
  • 1.5 oz elderflower liqueur (St-Germain or similar)
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup


  1. If you want a salt rim, rub the glass rim with a lime half and then dip the glasses into the coarse salt.
  2. In a cocktail shaker full of ice, combine all remaining ingredients and shake vigorously.
  3. Add ice to your glass and add the margarita mixture and serve.
Plant + Planet: A Cookbook Review

Plant + Planet: A Cookbook Review

Lately I have been interested in eating a more sustainable diet. I’m not as informed as I’d like to be on this topic. I don’t know much about the carbon footprint of my food, or which types of fish are sustainable and which are not, and I’ve always liked the idea of joining a CSA (community supported agriculture, click here if you have not heard of them) but have always hesitated to do so because I tend to be whimsical with what I choose to cook. So I decided to look into cookbooks that focus on sustainable food. Finding one that intrigued me, I reserved it at the library, with the idea that I would buy it if I liked it after testing the recipes.

What to Expect:

This is a vegetarian cookbook and most of the recipes have instructions on how to make them vegan. The recipes are good, but this isn’t merely about the recipes. It’s about looking at how you prep your meals and how to minimize waste in the kitchen. It tells you how to eat in season and do package free shopping. There are meal prepping tips that encourage you to cook up a pot of grains and a pot of beans each week to create a simple base for your meals. One section encourages you to use parts of the fruit or vegetable you would normally discard: pie recipe that uses the citrus peel along with the fruit, a beet hummus that uses the greens and stems. There are even recipes devoted to cooking with your scraps: making baked potato chips with your potato peelings or making vegetable stock with veggie scraps (with a table that shows which scraps are/are not usable). The sections are as follows:

  • Work Smarter, Not Harder: a chapter on meal prep
  • A Lot with a Little: 5-ingredient recipes
  • 10 Under 10: meals that can be made in less than 10 minutes
  • Waste Not, Want Not: zero waste recipes
  • Clear Out: making use of your pantry and freezer ingredients
  • Live a Little: healthyish treats
  • Let’s Raise a Glass: plant based drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic
  • The Preservation Society: pickles, jams, nut butters, and more
  • Bread and Butter: lots of breads and two butters

As for the recipes, these are simple everyday recipes with short ingredient lists. This isn’t dinner party food. It’s the food you cook on a random Tuesday when work runs late and you have 20 minutes to get dinner on the table. Approximately half of the recipes have accompanying photographs.

Recipes Tested:

Cacio e Pepe Socca: From the Bread and Butter section. Socca is a pancake or flatbread made with chickpea flour. Made as written, this socca was too salty but showed promise. On a whim, I made it again with less than half the salt recommended, and it was amazing. In full disclosure, I was out of parmesan when I made it the second time so I used what I had in my kitchen, which was goat cheese. Perhaps not a proper “cacio e pepe” when using goat cheese, but delicious.

Verdict: Would make again with reduced salt.

Miso Ramen Noodles: From the A Lot with a Little section. I made this one because the ramen, miso, butter, and kimchi combo sounded delightfully weird, like something that might so weird that it’s surprisingly perfect. I expected it to be a lot funkier than it is, given that it contains a cup of kimchi in it. Instead it’s mellow, rich, and creamy due to the miso/butter combination. It’s delicious, but not what I expected.

Verdict: Would probably make again, but I’m thinking of reducing the butter and using sauteed mushrooms in place of the kimchi.

Vegan Cream of Tomato Soup: From the 10 Under 10 section. Once I saw that this vegan tomato soup contained hummus, I knew that it would be good. Several years ago, I learned from the Oh She Glows blog that adding hummus to marinara adds a creamy flavor as well as protein, but I’d never thought to add it to tomato soup. This is an extremely easy recipe, as you blend up everything in a food processor and then heat it. After the cacio e pepe socca fiasco, I reduced the salt in half, but I really shouldn’t have. This one is perfect as written (or I assume, having added more salt after cooking). Since I am not a virtuous vegan, I had this with a swiss and cheddar grilled cheese. It’s possible that this recipe might be slightly too tangy if you are not eating it with something cheesy. If that’s the case, a bit of either sweetener or a pinch of baking soda should fix it.

Verdict: Would definitely make again. Since this has the option of using canned or fresh tomatoes, I’ll definitely try it in the summer with garden fresh tomatoes.

Baked Oatmeal: From the Clear Out section. I’ve been making baked oatmeal ever since Heidi Swanson started the baked oatmeal craze with her cookbook Super Natural Everyday. This is pretty similar to Heidi’s original recipe except it uses a mashed banana in place of a sliced one (a definite improvement in texture) and whatever fruit you have in your freezer. As I am the type of person who makes a smoothie for breakfast every day for a month, only to forget that smoothies exist for the next four months, I always have random odds and ends of fruit in the freezer. I used a peach and blueberry combo for this one, and I was slightly concerned as my peach looked somewhat frostbitten, but it turned out delicious with just the right amount of sweetness.

Verdict: Will definitely make again.

Whole Beet Dip: From Waste Not, Want Not. I skipped the seedy crackers that you were supposed to make it, as that was too granola even for me. This dip is essentially a beet hummus, only it uses the full beet with the leaves in a pesto topping and the beet and stems in the hummus. The hummus was a fairly basic beet hummus but the beet green pesto added freshness and acidity that elevated it.

Verdict: Not sure if I’ll make this again. I liked it but I hate how beets turn your kitchen pink. I’m a person who buys precooked baby beets at Trader Joe’s to fuel her Greek salad obsession.

Verdict on Overall Book:

While I haven’t purchased this yet, having cooked from a library copy, I am planning to do so. I am particularly intrigued with some of the recipes I didn’t try, as they weren’t in season.

I would recommend Plant + Planet to home cooks who:

  • Are looking to eat more plant-based foods
  • Are concerned about sustainability
  • Like simple recipes with minimal fuss
  • Prefer to eat seasonally
Earth Day Considerations: Transitioning to a More Plant Based Diet

Earth Day Considerations: Transitioning to a More Plant Based Diet

Photo by Viktoria Slowikowska on

Earth Day is Saturday, April 22nd. We all know Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but we don’t always consider the relationship between nutrition and the environment. 

There are many ways to make your diet more sustainable: eliminate food waste, eat local and in season, and buy foods from farms with sustainable practices. One of the important ways is to reduce consumption of animal products. The EPA estimates that 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US are from livestock.1  One study estimates that if the population were to transition toward more plant-based diets aligned with standard dietary guidelines, global mortality could be reduced by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 29–70% by 2050.2

My intention is not to promote any specific diet–vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, flexitarian, etc.–on anyone here. Everyone’s body is different, we all have different energy needs, and different diets are sustainable for different people. What’s easy and healthy for me might be a nightmare for you and vice versa. What I am encouraging people to mindfully consider is to:

  1. Eat more plants.
  2. Reduce meat and animal products.

That is it.

I won’t ask you to put on your Birkenstocks and hoof it to your nearest food coop or to make homemade granola religiously every weekend. Hippie lifestyle 100% optional.

I feel I should offer one disclaimer: I am not an RD, and this should not be considered to be anything but an anecdotal account of how I learned to balance my diet when I was a vegetarian. I am writing this partly for myself, as my diet has been less than healthy the last couple of years, and I would like to return to how I used to eat. If you are able to work with an RD, I would encourage you to take advantage of that.

Where is your protein?

Everyone who has been vegetarian has some story about how everyone around them becomes an expert on protein once you say that you don’t eat meat.

I must admit one of the biggest adjustments in moving to a more plant-based diet is how you incorporate your protein. This is true whether you are going full vegetarian or simply reducing your meat intake for health, ethical, or environmental reasons. A regular combination found in omnivore meals is protein, starch, and veggie. A turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato. A chicken breast with broccoli and a potato. A soup with chicken, noodles, and veggies. A casserole with animal protein, rice, vegetables, and a cream sauce.

When I went vegetarian cold turkey fifteen or so years ago, my initial impulse was to either leave out the protein altogether or replace it with a faux meat alternative because that was the only way I knew how to eat a vegetarian meal. I’m sure it will surprise no one that I gained weight on my new mac & cheese and veggie burger diet. To find a healthier balance, I had to do two things: 1. Learn to cook, which was something I was illogically terrified of in my late twenties. 2. Learn to microdose protein throughout the day because sitting down to a giant block of tofu at dinner is neither exciting nor appetizing.

Here are some examples of what it might look like to add small amounts of protein throughout the day (includes dairy and eggs):

General Tips:

  • Your carb consumption will inevitably go up a little when you eat less meat, so experimenting with whole grain choices will keep you from eating too many simple carbs. 
  • Use Greek yogurt in place of mayo or sour cream whenever it makes sense to do so.
  • Keep trying new recipes and new ingredients. This will keep you from being bored with your diet. I love Pinterest for finding new meal ideas and I make heavy use of my library card to try out cookbooks before I buy them.
  • Don’t over rely on any one protein source like nuts or eggs. Mix it up and your diet will be healthier.
  • If you have small amounts of random vegetables in your fridge at the end of the week, odds and ends of various recipes, repurpose them in a mixed salad or a stir fry or a soup to eliminate food waste.

The Real Question: Where is Your Iron?

Yes, everyone talks about protein, but honestly, iron intake can be even trickier, especially if one menstruates.

Aim to eat the following:

Slow Is Fine

For those of us who live in the US, we culturally have an issue with all-or-nothing approaches to food (and a lot of other areas of life). We like dramatic transformations and diets that promise that you will drop pounds quickly. And, for this reason, it’s really easy to both be obese and have an eating disorder at the exact same time.

So please don’t go vegan cold turkey. Or do anything cold turkey. The key to a healthy and sustainable diet is to make changes slowly and develop good habits. If you don’t know how to cook a meatless meal that is filling and delicious, commit first to a Meatless Monday. Try that for a month, then make another small change. Every bit helps. And if you never completely give up bacon or burgers, that’s fine. Simply reducing your meat intake will have a positive effect on the environment, even if you keep it strictly to Meatless Monday. Be kind to the earth and be kind to yourself.


Blogs worth checking out include:

Honorary mention: Skinnytaste is not a vegetarian blog, but Gina has many vegetarian recipes

Favorite cookbooks:



1 EPA. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. (Accessed April 18.)

2 Springman M, Godfray HCJ, Rayner M, and Scarborough P. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. PNAS. 113(14)4146-51.

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai: Book Review

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai: Book Review

Bodie Kane is a successful podcaster and a part time film professor, but once upon a time, she was a foster kid who got into the elite Granby School due to her foster father’s connections. When she is invited back to Granby to teach an accelerated course on podcasting in 2018, she can’t stop thinking about Thalia Keith, who was murdered in 1995, when Thalia and Bodie were both seniors. The two girls weren’t close friends, but they were roommates the previous school year and got along well for two teenage girls in separate social spheres. While Thalia’s murder is solved in the eyes of the law, the true crime fandom has never accepted the verdict that Omar Evans, the only black staff member at Granby School, was the murderer, even if primitive DNA evidence linked him to the murder. Two of Bodie’s students opt to create their podcast on the mishandling of Thalia’s murder case, and upon seeing the case through the lens of the Gen Z generation, Bodie begins to question everything she has believed about the case through a more modern interpretation of privilege, class, race, and gender roles. And for the first time, she begins to suspect a person she always trusted.

A recent trend in thrillers is novels about cold cases or cases where the wrong person is imprisoned. Many of these are well done--The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James and All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers come to mind–balancing the complex world of survivors with a compassion for those who dwell on the morbid to make sense of the complexities of life. I Have Some Questions for You is a bit unusual in that Rebecca Makkai is not a traditional thriller writer, but a literary one. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer with her previous novel, The Great Believers (mini review can be found here). The end result is a smart literary novel with all of the twists of genre fiction.

While the divide between genre fiction and literary fiction is, in many cases, a matter of marketing, as well as gatekeeping from the literary elite, there is no shortage of complexity in Makkai’s latest novel. Makkai explores the #MeToo movement and how women are complicit in maintaining the status quo. She also examines the differences between Gen X (the class of 1995) and Gen Z (the current Granby students). While Bodie is an active player in the investigation, it is really the current Gen Z students of Granby that reopen the case. Mostly she focuses on the normalization of violence against women. In describing how Bodie would discuss the Thalia Keith cases with strangers and attempt to untangle it from all of the other murder cases involving young women, Makkai writes:

Wasn’t that the one where she was stabbed—no. The one where she got in a cab with–different girl. The one where she went to the frat party, the one where he used a stick, the one where he used a hammer, the one where she picked him up from rehab and he–no. The one where he’d been watching her job every day? The one where she made the mistake of telling him her period was late? The one with the uncle? Wait, the other one with the uncle?

Falling in the younger end of Gen X like Bodie (class of ‘96 in my case), I enjoyed the trip back to the mid-nineties in Bodie’s flashback scenes, as well as sharing in Bodie’s bemused admiration of Gen Z’s sensitivity and activism. As a stepmom to Gen Zers, I have respect for this politically minded generation that has survived school shootings and a pandemic and feel they would have been (properly) appalled at the apathy and group think that characterized Gen X. I enjoyed working out the mystery (no, I didn’t correctly guess whodunit) and questioning my own assumptions about crime as I worked it out. On the negative side, Bodie is occasionally exasperating, as far as narrators go. “I didn’t tell them to make their podcasts about Thalia!” she insists after giving her class a list of ideas, including the murder of Thalia Keith. But on the whole, I root for Bodie and for her students, as well as justice for Thalia. 

I think this book will be enjoyed by fans of mysteries, dark academia, true crime, and just well written fiction. Highly recommended.

Rye Chai Cocktail

Rye Chai Cocktail

How crappy is your weather right now? As a Michigander, my weather is unfortunate, but not shockingly so. We are a resilient people, accustomed to bouncing between winter and spring weather for months.

I’m also very lucky. Many of the surrounding areas have had power outages for days due to a recent ice storm, but I only had my power flicker, which means my oven and microwave have been blinking the wrong time for days, as I am deeply lazy and probably won’t fix it for a month.

If you are currently reluctant to brave the outside and its moody temperatures, may I suggest you pour yourself a cocktail (this one in particular) and open a good book. A book you have been looking forward to reading or a book that you have read a dozen times, it doesn’t matter. Just escape. You deserve it.

Rye Chai

Chai concentrate is sold in cartons in the tea aisle. Tazo is probably the easiest to find, but there are dozens of store brands out there. If you prefer not to buy a carton of chai, just brew a very strong chai tea with several bags of chai and add some sweetener. As for the whiskey and amaretto, I used Bulleit rye and Disaronno, but use whatever you like.


  • 2 oz chai concentrate
  • ¾ oz half and half
  • 1 oz rye whiskey
  • ½ oz amaretto


In a cocktail shaker full of ice, combine all ingredients and shake vigorously. Pour into a cocktail glass with ice and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams: Book Review & Book Club Menu

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams: Book Review & Book Club Menu

2004: Genevieve Mercier lives a nomadic existence due to her free spirited mother, changing schools every time her mother changes boyfriends. Shane Hall has bounced around the foster care system his entire childhood and is on the verge of aging out. Shane and Genevieve meet as high school seniors on Genevieve’s first day at school. When they team up against a bully, it is the start of an intense week where the two teens fall in love.

2019: Genevieve is now Eva Mercy, bestselling author of paranormal erotica, and a single mom, while Shane is the darling of the literary world. When Eva and Shane meet at an event for Black authors, it is the first time they have seen each other since high school. Eva initially wants nothing to do with the man who broke her heart 15 years ago, but soon they are spending seven days together in June for the second time.

This has been on my shelf for nearly two years. I’m not sure why it took me so long to read it.  Loss of faith in the Reese Book Club after reading The Sanatorium, perhaps? I don’t know, but the wait wasn’t my best decision. I loved Eva and Shane. I loved them as angsty, self destructive teens who deserved better than what life handed to them. I loved them as adults who had battled their demons and become successful and kind people. Eva and Shane have complicated histories and deeply rooted trauma, but they are likable throughout.

Seven Days in June has some of the best characters I have read in a long time. I loved Eva’s best friend, Cece, editor and queen bee of the literary world. I adored Eva’s daughter, Audre, who believes herself to be a celebrity therapist in the making. Even Lizette, Eva’s dramatic and slightly villainous mother, is a fabulous character. At the end of the book, I was reluctant to leave this world and its characters.

I strongly recommend Seven Days in June and feel it would be a perfect selection for a book club. It’s a love story, but not a saccharine one. Is it a romance? A pitch perfect satire? A story about mothers and daughters? Yes to all of the above. There may have been a subplot that broke my heart, but overall it is an optimistic book.

Book Club Menu

Eva and Audre love brunch and have an annual girls-only brunch before Audre goes to visit her father in California every summer. In honor of the mother/daughter duo, host a brunch for your book club meeting. The dress code is “fabulous,” and a smoky eye is essential.


Avocado Toast with Smoked Salmon

Avocado Toast with Smoked Salmon


  • 4 slices of bread
  • 1 avocado, either mashed or sliced
  • Lemon juice
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • ½ English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 radishes thinly sliced
  • Black sesame seeds


  1. Toast your bread slices.
  2. When the toast is ready, spread the avocado on the bread and add a small amount of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Be careful not to oversalt, as smoked salmon is very salty.
  3. On each avocado toast, layer smoked salmon, cucumber slices, and radish slices. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
  4. Cut into halves and serve.
Argentine Red Shrimp with Sauteed Mushrooms and Cheesy Polenta

Argentine Red Shrimp with Sauteed Mushrooms and Cheesy Polenta

cheesy polenta with shrimp, polenta with mushrooms

Are you a dine in or dine out type of person on Valentine’s Day? Or Galentine’s, for that matter.

I can go either way. I like creating a not-so-everyday meal at home, but I also love to go out. It feels so extravagant, having a fancy meal in the middle of the work week.

I don’t have a Valentine this year, but I have a suggestion for those of you who do: Both. An elaborate dinner out on Sunday and an indulgent meal at home on the actual holiday, complete with wine and candles. Best of both worlds. Valentine’s calories don’t count, after all.

I have a second suggestion. This polenta with cheese, mushrooms, and Argentine red shrimp. If either you or your partner is not a seafood fan, a flank steak could replace the shrimp. Or both for surf and turf.

If you are asking what Argentine red shrimp is, I don’t really know aside from it being shrimp native to Argentina, but it is known for having a similar flavor to lobster. The middle class man’s lobster, if you will, because there is no such thing as a poor man’s lobster in this economy. You can buy it in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. It cooks similarly to regular shrimp, except for one thing. It looks cooked when it’s still raw, so timing is everything.

Can’t find red shrimp? No worries. Just use the regular kind. Absolutely no one is policing this.

Argentine Red Shrimp with Sauteed Mushrooms and Cheesy Polenta

Suggested wine pairing: Chardonnay


  • 1 cup polenta (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I use a gruyere/swiss blend)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 16 oz red Argentine shrimp
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lemon wedges and parsley, for garnish


  1. Cook polenta according to package instructions. When nearly done, add in cheese, a bit at a time to avoid clumping.
  2. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet. When hot, add mushrooms and cook on medium high heat until browned, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add butter, shrimp, salt, pepper, and garlic to the skillet. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, flipping the shrimp halfway. Add the wine when you flip the shrimp.
  4. Serve the mushrooms and shrimp on a bed of cheesy polenta with lemon wedges and parsley. Enjoy!