Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I know I’m not the only obsessive reader out there so once a week I’m going to share a list of ebooks on sale for under $3. What I really mean is: I will try to do this once a week. Association Brain Food comes first but if I can spare the time, I’ll make this a regular thing too. This post will include classics, critically acclaimed books, and other books that look to me like good reads, but that’s not all.

First, let’s go in the kitchen. Every week (at least that’s the plan), I’ll tell you about especially delicious dishes I made in the past week and recipes I’m tempted to make in the near future.

In the Kitchen

Sweet Potato Noodles with Linguica and Veggies

I never jumped on the spiralizer bandwagon because I’m in the Alton Brown camp of not buying a unitasker unless it’s the best tool for the purpose and it’s something I’d use all the time, like a citrus reamer. But, when my parents asked me for Christmas present ideas, I relented and added an Oxo spiralizer to my wish list.

Sweet potatoes were at the top of my spiralizing list. I found a recipe that included linguica and adapted it to my taste. There’s nothing like linguica, I have five pounds more in my freezer. I added red bell pepper, broccoli, and thyme to the recipe. I was amazed how fast it was to spiralize three sweet potatoes. The flavor and texture combination was a knock out. It’s a keeper.

Chicken Shawarma

This one was even better. I’ve made this chicken shawarma recipe before but forgot how good it was. Just remember you need time to marinate the chicken. We had the leftovers again last night.

I served the chicken with some fried eggplant—hunt for Sam Sifton’s comment about that—and a side salad made with grape tomatoes, cucumber, sweet onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, flat leaf parsley, juice from half a lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I made a white sauce for me from Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice and garlic, and a red sauce for Jim from ketchup, red wine vinegar and red chili flakes.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Chop the squash into inch-sized pieces and toss with olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon and salt. If you have smoked paprika use that instead of regular paprika—I ran out (eek!) and hopefully will get a box of spices from The Spice House today. Or use whatever spices appeal to you, I mix it up all the time.

Winter Fruit Salad

Something possessed me in the store yesterday—ok, it was a sale—and I bought strawberries and blackberries from Mexico and blueberries from Chile. So much for seasonal eating. I roasted the strawberries because I was thinking they’d need the help. Then I combined them with the other berries and halved segments of a blood orange—that’s the winter part of this fruit salad. I squeezed out the juice in the orange carcass and tossed it all with some vanilla extract and maple sugar. And, of course, I whipped up some heavy whipping cream—no sugar needed there, the salad was sweet enough. Mmm mm.

winter fruit salad

On the Menu

Barramundi with Fennel, Leeks and Tomatoes

Tonight I’m making this dish but using barramundi instead of bass or mahi. I have some fennel in the refrigerator so I looked for a fish recipe to use it. I don’t always use the dill and I always add red or orange bell pepper. The sauce is like a vegetable ragout. I’ll serve it with zucchini pesto—pesto from the freezer and some roasted root vegetables I need to use (turnips, sweet and red-skinned potatoes).

Garlic Parmesan Croutons

I’ve got a drying out leftover loaf of Anadama Bread in my refrigerator. I made two loaves quite a while back so this one is perfect now for Garlic Parmesan Croutons. No recipe, just ingredients: butter and olive oil; garlic; dried basil, parsley, and oregano; salt, pepper, and Parmesan.

Cinnamon Rolls

This may not happen but if I’m in the mood on Saturday I’m going to make cinnamon rolls. I’ll store them overnight in the refrigerator and bake them on Sunday morning. Maybe. It’s not like we need the calories but the aroma will be worth the extra pounds.

Spaghetti Bolognese

It’s going to be chilly again on Sunday so it could be a perfect Spaghetti Bolognese night. The New York Times (NYT) adapted Marcella Hazan’s recipe and it looks pretty darn good to me, especially since I bought a few pounds of grass-fed ground beef at a deep discount this week. Maybe I’ll make a double batch.

More menu ideas

I can use up my other blood oranges on this recipe: Honey & Chili Chicken Thighs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce.

Two recipes from the Washington Post caught my eye:

Love the looks of these Cumin-Spiced Cauliflower Steaks.

I’ll report back next week on what turned out well.

cauliflower steaks

On the Bookshelf

As of Friday morning, these ebooks were marked down but act quickly if you want a bargain.


First, check out the prices on these excellent cookbooks by two celebrated chefs.


  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ($2.99) – 2014 National Book Award finalist, “an audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.”
  • The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak ($1.99) – I’m a historical fiction junkie: “the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.”
  • The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch ($1.99) – A photo of an Eastern European war orphan taken by an American photographer sets off a campaign to rescue her in a novel that “explores the treacherous, often violent borders between war and sex, love and art.”
  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry ($1.99) – A classic I haven’t read yet about “a fatal Day of the Dead in a small Mexican town and one man’s struggle against the forces threatening to destroy him.”
  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong ($2.99) – An iconic book I’ve never read: “the blockbuster novel of female freedom and empowerment that launched a sexual revolution.”
  • The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie ($1.99) – “An exuberant one-of-a-kind novel about love and family, war and nature, new money and old values.”
  • The Purchase by Linda Spalding ($2.99) – “A Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs are sorely tested.”

In the future, I’d like to tell you about the good books I’ve read but I’m not much of a book critic. Maybe I can develop that skill. In the meantime, you can see (I think) how I rated books on a scale of one to five on my Goodreads “Read” shelf.

Amazon book links are affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission on any sales that result from clicking. Thank you!

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