Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Food For Thought & Sat. Blog Showcase

The book I've chosen to read for Jain's

Food For Thought blog is

An Irish Christmas

by Melody Carlson.

Rating: *

Two of my favorite events in the blog
world fall on the

same Saturday this week!

I am joining Jain's

beautiful blog full of photos of luscious food,

elegant tablescapes and gorgeous outdoor views

Food For Thought

for the first time today

as well as participating

in the
Saturday Blog Showcase

co-hosted by Lori at

All that Splatters

and Ann at

Thibeault's Table

It is Lori's turn to host the Blog Showcase this week.
Try a new recipe each week that another blogger has shared.
Prepare the recipe during the week then link your post to Saturday Blog Showcase.

Include the recipe in the body of your post
(if it is not a copyright violation to do so)
and a link back to the recipe on the originating blog.

I chose to make fork crushed herb & roasted garlic mashed potatoes

from The Good Mood Food Blog.

Donal Skehan's photos & text are copyrighted

so I won't paste his recipe here.

Visit his blog where you'll

find it & many more

interesting recipes.

Food references were sparse in this book

but I felt compelled to use an Irish staple

from a wonderful Irishman's blog

since the book I read was titled

An Irish Christmas

by Melody Carlson.

My dear sweet friend, Bobbie, sent me this book. She knows how much I love anything to do with my Irish heritage. My mother's grandmother followed her true love over to America from County Cork during the potato famine. My mother was a true & proud Irish woman, through & through. How could she not be, with the maiden name of Peggy O'Neil?

The book arrived a few days after my husband was hospitalized with a heart attack in early December. Little did Bobbie know, it would help me pass the many hours sitting in waiting rooms while he underwent multiple tests to access the damage done to his heart. It helped me get through the quiet hours while he slept & healed, when I was afraid to leave his side. I'd curl up in the comfy chair in his hospital room & listen to him snore, while I read. I will never again complain about his snoring! I'm so grateful that it continues nightly.

This book is a story of love, deception & secret passions that centers around an American family in the 1960's. When the father passes away, it brings the son home from college. The father had expected the son to take over the family shoe business but the son has dreams of becoming a musician instead. In an effort to build bridges, the mother, Colleen, takes her son, Jamie to Ireland for a Christmas vacation. When they get there, she confesses that Jamie's dad, who died, was really not his biological father. Magically, Colleen's first true love (who is also a talented musician) meets up with Jamie, his son in Ireland & the rest is history.

I enjoyed reading this book however, the plot was very predictable & sometimes it was a struggle to get through the leisurely paced narrative. The storyline seemed less-than-compelling but perhaps it was because I was so distracted by the health issues of my husband at the time.

It is written in chapters alternating between the mother's and son's voices. The story was a fairly quick read but the writing was less than stellar. It was much like comfort food on a rainy day. Not particularly challenging but that was good in a way. I don't think I could have concentrated on a deep & complex story at the time.


Reading this book did bring back fond memories of our trip to Ireland. We loved every minute of it even with hubby driving on the left side of the road & shifting gears with his left hand! We golfed & ate our way from Dublin down to Ballybunion (an incredible golf course comparable to Pebble Beach!) & County Cork with all the breathtaking landscapes to see & delicious food to eat in between. We stayed in teeny-tiny medieval villages & actually slept in a castle one night! The Irish serve amazing fish dishes, have the best dairy in the world....especially CHEESE, as well as spuds, fresh fruits and vegetables galore. We were served potatoes at almost every meal....hubby even got a side dish of them brought to him when he ordered potato soup!

There are so many wonderful places around Ireland with lots of archeological treasures to experience.

Melody Carlson does a good job making Ireland real and the Irish characters come alive in the pages of her story. Just like many of Ireland’s beloved writers, who fueled their imaginations with the history, myths and traditions associated with the Irish people.

According to legend, Sir Walter Raleigh, British explorer and historian known for his expeditions to the Americas, first brought the potato to Ireland and planted them at his Irish estate at Myrtle Grove, Youghal, near Cork, Ireland. The photo above was taken in Cork.

He made a gift of the potato plant to Queen Elizabeth I. The local gentry were invited to a royal banquet featuring the potato in every course. (just like our visit!) Unfortunately, the cooks who were uneducated in the matter of potatoes, tossed out the lumpy-looking tubers and brought to the royal table a dish of boiled stems and leaves (which are supposedly poisonous). It promptly made everyone deathly ill. The potatoes were then banned from court.

With the potato being such a pivotal ingredient in the culture of the Irish people, I made the recipe for fork crushed herb & roasted garlic mashed potatoes, only I cut it in half, since there were only two of us for dinner. Other than that, I made the recipe as written, adding a small pat of butter to the top just before serving.

Since I'm trying to serve hubby more heart healthy food, I also made baked cod to go with them, in honor of the magnificent fishing along Ireland's over 3000 miles of coastal waters.


I preheated the oven to 425°F.

I julienned a wee bit of asparagus, carrot, red & yellow peppers, red onion & garlic.

I added a few snips of parsley from my sunroom window pot.

Please notice my lovely white orchid blooming its pretty little head off between 2 pots of parsley in the dead of winter!

I topped each piece of fish with the veggies as well as some freshly cracked pepper & very little salt adding just a tiny bit of cheese. Setting both fillets, with their thin ends tucked beneath, (so they didn't over-cook) onto some parchment paper, I drizzled it all with fresh lemon juice & a little olive oil. Folded it up into a steaming packet & set it on a baking sheet. I cook fish for 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness.

I prefer to err on the shorter cooking time, taking into consideration carry-over cooking. Fish will continue to cook for a minute or two off heat, especially in one of these folded packets. This means that the fish will be absolutely perfect if you stop cooking at the verge of doneness. If you cook it to complete doneness then the carry-over cooking will leave you with slightly overdone fish.

Cooking fish until it flakes is also misleading. In order to flake, the fish needs to be dry & dry fish is overdone. Instead, use the tip of a small knife to peek at the interior of the fish at the 8 minute mark. It should gently resist flaking but show signs of firming. Raw fish has a translucent appearance that turns opaque during cooking. Most types of fish are considered done when they’re just opaque throughout.

White fish such as cod, monkfish and haddock, are excellent low-calorie sources of protein (a four-ounce serving of cod provides 52.1% of the daily need for protein for only 119 calories). But because cod is a cold, deep-water fish, it is also loaded with a variety of important nutrients, most notably omega-3 fatty acids.....good for your heart!!

Hubby is not entirely happy with the new changes in his diet.

I always give him two choices:

Take it or Leave it!

Thanks for visiting & allowing me to participate in both memes.
Have a nice weekend!


  1. What a wonderful post, so glad I found you, warm and funny lady. I am so happy your hubby is now well and able to complian about his new diet lol. My mum's name is also Peggy, I enjoyed Dublin too, Ireland is such a beautiful place to visit and the people are so friendly and warmhearted. I will look out for this book, love all those Irish names and try your potato and fish dishes.. yummy. speak soon, Kathy.

  2. I so enjoyed your post it brought back fond memories of our trip to Ireland 14 years ago.
    I'm glad to hear your husband is on the mend.
    Thanks for popping over to Normandy to see me too.

  3. Rett, I woke to read your post first thing this morning. What a delight! Well, it is always a delight to visit the Gazebo House anytime of day! You did an exquisite post to review this book. The potatoes look as delicious as a bowl of ice cream to me. Didn't fool the hubby??? Glad he is doing well. Looks like it's still cold and White around the gazebo.
    Have a warm and cozy day enjoying a good book....

  4. Your photos are beautiful..I hope your husband is fully well:) What a dear friend to send you the book and her timing..was well spiritual:)

  5. I LOVED this post. It was like reading a short story (I love short stories!) Your writing is wonderful, Rett, and your photography is as well. I wanted your post to go on and on... alas, all good things must come to an end! :(

    Your food looks amazing!

  6. Oh Rett, I'm glad you chose a potato dish to highlight. I'm a carb addict and can never have too many ways of preparing potatoes. I think that your fish recipe would also work with Halibut.

    I really enjoyed reading your post.

  7. A lovely post-glad your husband is well. I'd love to go to Ireland-have been to England many times and lived there briefly. Your fish and potato dishes look very tasty.

  8. Rett-You are just a wealth of information this morning! I did not know about any of these parties! I love how you tied it all together. I'm so glad your husband is doing well. It won't be long before his new way of life and eating is a natural habit! I am making a note of the book--I'm Irish too!

  9. oh what a fantastic post, so much to enjoy! first, i hope your husband is doing better every minute, every day! and how sweet your friend sent you a book to help you reflect on your better irish days while you were in the hospital. the book may have not been so terrific, but it freed your mind to wander off so such pretty places and pics to share with us~ thats why i love reading, it allows us to dream bigger and better!

    your food is healthy and delish, you can't ask for more! i am sooo happy you joined in food for thought, its fun isn't it, i just love to see what everyone is reading and the stories we share are the best part!

  10. Hi Rett, what a wonderful post!

    I hope your dear husband is doing better, and with wonderful food like that I'm sure you're on the right track. Those potatoes look fabulous, and that cod is making my mouth water, too. I love fish and am always looking for new ways to prepare it. Very nicely done!

    How sweet of your friend to give you such a lovely and meaningful book. I trace half of my roots back to Ireland ;) ... I think I'll look into getting that one.

    Thank you for sharing with us ~ and I'm so HAPPY you've joined in with Saturday Blog Showcase! ((hugs))

  11. The potatoes and cod look delicious. Nothing like a little garlic to liven things up a bit.
    And that orchid! Yikes! I can't believe how beautiful it is! I have done nothing but kill the blasted things. I am impressed with your green thumb. Please, what is your secret?

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your edible review. I love Ireland and will definitely look up this book. I can identify with the snoring,as Dr. G has an epic roar that sometimes wakes the house. LOL Mister is a snorer, too. I'm looking forward to more edible reviews and hope you will review Frances' book, as well! Each reader develops a rapport and relationship with a book--just like fingerprints, no two reactions are the same.

  13. Loved reading your post, hearing about Ireland, dear Ern, and food. Can't beat that combo. I know you are giving Ern the absolute best care he could possibly have. He may not be crazy about his new diet but to me that fish looks fabulous.

  14. Hi Retta!I will have to get that book! I love Irish stories too.
    And what better recipe than potatoes!! I knew how to peel by the time I was 5, as all Irish girls did..:)
    I hope your husband is on the mend, what a scare!
    Thanks for visiting..and I know you will take part in my St. Patrick's Day party...The second Annual one! :)

  15. I've always thought Ireland would be such a wonderful place to visit. Your fish looks delicious. Thank you for sharing the directions. laurie

  16. What a lovely post..ur photos are beautiful..I have never been to Ireland But I do know tt its beautiful n your pictures confirmed it....ur husband is a lucky man to have u :)) tq for visiting my blog...I love yours.

  17. Hi Rett!!!!
    Love anything Irish!!!!I am a little bit Irish, but that still counts!!!!I think that book sounds so amazing, and the story is interesting. The dinner you cooked sounds divine!!! I love Potato's and love them any way they are prepared!!!! Mashed are my favorite!!!!
    Beautiful view!!!!!
    stay warm

  18. I just wanted to stop by and thank you for your comments on the ebook post.

  19. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. The book looks very interesting and I've added it to my ever growing list. BTW: I went through the same thing with my husband 12 years ago and I know all about the food complaints! My solution is to make the forbidden goodies, give him a taste, and share the rest with friends! So far it's been working...Hope your husband is making a speedy recovery...Nancy

  20. Oh man, I want to come to your house to eat. You ALWAYS have pictures of the most wonderful things. Even the fish looks marvelous and I'm not a big "fish girl". Your honey is one lucky guy to have you by his side!!!

  21. Hi Rett
    The book sounds like a good read and the food looks delicious. My hubby loves mashed potatoes so I'll have to try them.

  22. Rett~looks like you're in for a good read.
    I'm sure hubby will adapt to his new diet. Complaining is a good sign he's getting closer to feelin' himself, lol.

    I thoroughly enjoy your recipes, especially through your wonderful photos. Keep em' comin'!

    Sweet wishes,


Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I read them all & each one is so very special to me & I try really hard to return the visit!