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Friday, December 1, 2017

Pear & Baby Greens Salad w/ Spiced Maple Walnuts | The Austen Escape | #JaneAustenBites

Pear and Baby Greens Salad w/ Spiced Maple Walnuts | The Austen Escape
Welcome to the TLC Book Tours stop for The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay! I'll start by saying that I am very excited to be on this tour for a couple of reasons. First, I'm familiar with Reay by name, not (and I'm ashamed to admit this) because I've actually read any of her novels, rather because I've been meaning to read them. There's just never enough time in the day, is there?

Second, because I'm a huge fan of all things Jane Austen—and it just so happens that I am hosting Fandom Foodies this month, with my chosen theme #JaneAustenBites (recipes inspired by the works of Jane Austen, and their derivatives). Basically, The Austen Escape fits perfectly into my plan of all Austen, all December!

So let's get to it! The story is not a retelling, but rather a story all its own that celebrates, and is interwoven, with the world of Jane Austen. Best friends since they were 8 years old, Mary and Isabel are now pushing 30 (can't remember if an exact age was given, but 29ish seems right). And while best friends is the term used throughout most of the book, they are actually more like sisters, since there were many periods during their childhood when Isabel was cared for by Mary's family for long periods of time.
Pear and Baby Greens Salad w/ Spiced Maple Walnuts | The Austen Escape
Thing is, they are very different types of women, and certain things from the past have left a lingering bitterness in the buffer they both put up around themselves. Isabel is a Jane Austen scholar, and invites Mary to join her on a Jane Austen immersion experience in Bath, Somerset, England (former Austen stomping grounds). After initially declining the invitation, some issues at work...and her father...made her change her mind.

Once there, each guest assigns themselves a Jane Austen character to embody during their stay. But on just their second day, after receiving some traumatic news, Isabel wakes up with a sort of dissociative amnesia; she remembers Mary, but nobody else there that she met since she arrived. And her personality is no longer her personality, but rather that of her chosen Austen character, Emma.

Not sure how to handle the situation, she tries to make Isabel...Emma...Isabel as comfortable and happy as possible for the next few days, to see if she snaps out of it—on doctor's orders (this is not the first time it has happened).

While Isabel is not herself, Mary accidentally uncovers a heartbreaking secret. A friendship-ending secret. (I actually cried here, it broke my heart.) Without giving it away, I'll tell you that Mary holds off on confronting Isabel now, knowing it won't help...but wheels are set into motion.
Pear and Baby Greens Salad w/ Spiced Maple Walnuts | The Austen Escape
The bulk of the novel does take place in Bath...surrounded by the atmosphere, food, and Jane Austen stories...but Reay does a fantastic job combining that Austen aspect with the real life aspect. The imagery was vivid—textures, colors from rich to pale, weather, raw emotions. And there was plenty of food, both Tex-Mex and Regency style. I didn't want to put this down for even a moment.

Speaking of food, I really wanted to make a dish that came from their time spent in Bath. I was very close to making egg-mayonnaise (or as we call it over here in the States, egg salad) and cucumber finger sandwiches, but I decided to go with something else that was mentioned in passing—because not only did it sound tempting (apparently I was craving healthy), it is also very seasonally appropriate at this moment.

"I have no idea." As I walked to my seat, I noted everyone was halfway through a salad of greens and what looked like pears. "I'm late. I'm sorry."

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austen Escape

author: Katherine Reay
publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 7, 2017)
genre: Literature & Fiction > Contemporary
paperback: 320 pages

"foodie" read: No, but plenty of food on the pages as inspiration.

opening sentence: How can I help?

teaser: Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

about the author: Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries—who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. She is the author of three previous novels, and her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist, winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut, and winner of two Carol Awards for Best Debut and Best Contemporary. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, and tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago.
Katherine Reay author

connect with the author: website | facebook | twitter

recipe inspired by the book: Pear & Baby Greens Salad w/ Spiced Maple Walnuts


I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Yield: serves 6
Pear and Baby Greens Salad w/ Spiced Maple Walnuts | The Austen Escape

Pear and Baby Greens Salad w/ Spiced Maple Walnuts

prep time: 15 MINScook time: 5 MINStotal time: 20 mins
Juicy pears, bold blue cheese & spicy-sweet walnuts on a bed of baby greens make up this delightful autumn salad recipe.


for the Quick Spiced Maple Walnuts:
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable, grapeseed, or olive oil
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
for the vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon real maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
everything else:
  • 8 cups mixed baby salad greens
  • 3 medium ripe & juicy pears, cored and cut into wedges (peel if you wish)
  • 18-24 pitted dried plums, halved or quartered
  • crumbled blue cheese, to taste
  • Spiced Maple Walnuts (reserved from first step in recipe)


Make the Spiced Maple Walnuts (yield: 1 cup):
  1. Heat maple syrup, olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of water over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Once the mixture starts to bubble, add walnuts and shake quickly to coat.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over the nuts, tossing and stirring until the walnuts are completely coated and started to turn golden, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a sheet of parchment or wax paper; allow to cool completely before using.
Make the vinaigrette:
  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small jar or container with a lid and shake until combined. (Shake again before using.)
Assemble the salad:
  1. Toss the salad greens with a few drizzles of the vinaigrette. Divide among 6 plates. Place half a pear's worth of slices on each salad, then scatter remaining ingredients evenly over the greens and drizzle with more vinaigrette, to taste. Enjoy!
Created using The Recipes Generator

Fandom Foodies

This month, the Fandom Foodies theme is #JaneAustenBites, a celebration of recipes inspired by the works of Jane Austen (and their derivatives).

Be sure to visit my announcement post (I'm hosting) to check out all of the awesome recipes inspired by Jane Austen!

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