Book Review: The Photograph

Read on to learn more about Beverly Lewis’ The Photograph! A great read to cozy up with this fall/winter! :)

Read on for a #review about the #book The Photograph by Beverly Lewis!

A description of the book from the publisher:

Eva Esch and her sisters are in a predicament. With the passing of their widowed mother, Eva’s older brother plans to move his growing family into the Eden Valley farmhouse where they all grew up, leaving little room for his three single sisters. Unless they marry within the year, the only apparent option is for two sisters to go to Indiana to live with an elderly great aunt. Eva hopes to be married, but she isn’t sure she wants to give up her sweet shop for the life of a farmer’s wife. And she can’t see how her prospects would be any better in Indiana.

When younger sister Lily disappears in the night, leaving only a brief note, Eva fears she has been wooed away from the People by an outsider. And when Jed Stutzman, a young Amish buggy maker from Ohio, shows up at Eva’s market stand in Lancaster with a photo of a Plain young woman, Eva’s world begins to tilt.

As usual, my five point review:

  • About a year ago, I received The River by Beverly Lewis to read and review… and I think that was the last Amish fiction novel I’ve read. I used to be allll over Amish fiction but somewhere along the way I started reading other genres. But this fall, when I saw that Beverly Lewis had a new release, I decided to check it out–and I am so glad I did. This was another wonderful book. Whether it’s your first Amish novel, or the latest in your favorite genre, this is a book not to miss.
  • Though the overarching plot–Lily’s disappearance, Eva’s romance options, Jed’s search to find the woman in the [forbidden] photo–has suspense and romance, it is just a pleasant and relaxing read all around. I’ll be honest; if you have read one of these types of novels you can probably predict where this book is going, but the journey to get there is just fabulous.
  • Since I do have the “predictability” element of these books down to an art, I was expecting to find something disagreeable about Jed, the [as you guessed it] main love interest here. But really… I didn’t get that vibe from him. No jerky moves, no heart-breaking decisions… just a nice, honest, hard-working guy. He was my favorite character by far! Even the female leads had their issues at times, but Jed was just great and I wish there could have been more of his presence throughout the pages.
  • My other wish for this novel was that we would have learned more about Lily–WHY she left, WHY she decided to go against her community’s teachings and have her picture taken, and so many more questions along that vein. Yes, they were answered–somewhat–in the wonderful ending pages of the book, but I thought they could have been discussed more thoroughly. But perhaps the author left that a bit vague for another book!
  • Though I haven’t read many of Lewis’ books, she is renowned as a wonderful storyteller. This book is no exception! The plot, the characters, the setting… all are so well done and just enchanting. To be honest, a lot of Christian fiction or Amish fiction is not that way so it is refreshing when you come across a book that is all-around a winner. :) I highly recommend this book!

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

Cranberry Pear Sauce #bookclubcookbookCC

My favorite Thanksgiving side dish… cranberry sauce jazzed up with pears, vanilla, and a secret ingredient that’s totally appropriate when you think about it. And, there’s a Harry Potter connection too! Crazy. :) Read on to find out more!

Jazz up your cranberry sauce with pear, vanilla, & a secret [yet totally appropriate] ingredient! YUM!

Most Thanksgiving dishes I can take or leave. Turkey, meh. I’ll eat it if it’s there, but if not, no big loss [my husband is crying in the corner right about now]. Mashed potatoes? Alright, but these are better. Stuffing, YUM. Green bean casserole, BLECH. Sweet potatoes, yes, if you hold the marshmallows. Rolls, only if they’re homemade. So, basically we’re at about two of six for my list of Thanksgiving classic necessities. I know every family has their own “necessity” and mine certainly does too–Mixed Vegetables Mornay is one of my faves. But for me? My ultimate fave is cranberry sauce! There are so many ways I like it… as long as it isn’t jellied in a log from a can. :)

So, it was to my pleasant surprise when I was brainstorming recipe ideas for this month’s edition of The Book Club Cookbook project that I remembered via reading/flipping through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that Harry’s Christmas feast at Hogwarts included all the traditional holiday fixings–turkey, potatoes, rolls… and cranberry sauce! Erin from The Spiffy Cookie is this month’s host and she selected the first Harry Potter as this month’s book selection. She made Treacle Tart [YUM] but I decided to go for another kind of sweetness, one that will be perfect on your Thanksgiving table! :) Or Christmas table, just like Harry’s.

Jazz up your cranberry sauce with pear, vanilla, & a secret [yet totally appropriate] ingredient! YUM!

In the past, I’ve enjoyed my mom’s traditional cranberry orange relish. For a long time, that’s the only way I could imagine it. But then I branched out and have made a cranberry-mint relish, a cranberry pineapple sauce, and even a gingered cranberry-apple sauce. Over the years, there have probably been some other iterations that just haven’t made it to the blog [gasp!]. Sorry, guys. I just keep dreaming up new variations every year, and this year was no different. Since I was making this for a Harry Potter event I knew I wanted to make this something special. I got into reading the Harry Potter books late, but then read them all in one summer… maybe even six weeks. It was crazy, but so fun. Someday I want to re-read them, or even listen to the audiobooks [I’ve heard they’re really good!]. But for now, I’ll just enjoy this cranberry sauce. :)

Jazz up your cranberry sauce with pear, vanilla, & a secret [yet totally appropriate] ingredient! YUM!

Lately pears have been super cheap at the grocery store [don’t you love it when they practically give away produce?], and I had the idea to add pears to my cranberry sauce when a bunch of them all ripened on the counter on the same day. Since pears are so delightfully sweet, they’re a great pairing [ha – sorry, I had to] with the beautiful, albeit tart, cranberries. You can just cook them down on the stove together with some sugar and water and watch the delicious transformation happen before your eyes! That’s the magic of making homemade cranberry sauce instead of relish–all those popping berries are just so fun to see. Or is that just me? :) But wait! This time, there’s a little extra bit of magic because in addition to the cranberries, pear, and sugar, I added PUMPKIN PIE SPICE to spice up this cranberry sauce! Yup, that’s my secret ingredient. Told you it’s seasonally appropriate! :) And appropriate for a Harry Potter-themed cranberry sauce… since Harry spices up life wherever he goes. Ha ha!

Jazz up your cranberry sauce with pear, vanilla, & a secret [yet totally appropriate] ingredient! YUM!

Pumpkin pie spice has all sorts of goodness like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and lemon peel and by adding just a little bit of your [hopefully homemade] blend, your cranberry pear sauce is fruity and scented with warm spices for an unforgettable taste. After everything has cooked down, I added some vanilla extract to mellow things out and that just made it absolutely perfect. :) Good thing cranberries freeze so well–you’ll want to pick up a few extra bags this week so you can make this cranberry sauce whenever you please… even in the middle of summer. :) I know I’ll still be thinking about it then. Ha! Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving! Be sure to scroll down to enter the giveaway to win a copy of The Book Club Cookbook–it is so great! What a fun book choice. Thanks for hosting, Erin!

one year ago: Apple Fritters
two years ago: Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
three years ago: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
four years ago: KC’s Dilled Carrots
five years ago: CranApple Stuffing

Cranberry Pear Sauce

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Print


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2-1 cup sugar, depending on preferred level of sweetness
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 Bartlett pear, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla extract


In a medium saucepan, bring water and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil. When boiling, stir in cranberries and reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook for about 10 minutes, until cranberries begin to burst. Then fold in pear and pumpkin pie spice.

Remove from heat and stir to combine, breaking up some of the whole cranberries with a wooden spoon. Cover and let rest for about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla, then taste [be careful, it’s hot!] and add more sugar if desired. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for up to one week.

This month Erin at The Spiffy Cookie, this month’s host, is giving away a copy of the book.* Enter to win a copy of the cookbook so you can join us in future months, if you wish!
One of our lucky readers – US and Canada only! – can enter to win a copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club’s Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, courtesy of Tarcher-Penguin. Giveaway runs from November 1st till November 30th at 4 o’clock PM, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below. Many thanks to Tarcher Books. You may find Tarcher: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.
*Disclosure: Erin received a complimentary copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club’s Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp as an opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are our own. We received no further compensation for our posts.

Mashed Potato Casserole

A cheesy, creamy, baked mashed potato casserole that’s perfect for ANY holiday or just a special meal with family and friends. :)

A cheesy, creamy baked mashed potato casserole... perfect for every special meal!

Sometimes it’s the simplest recipes that are the best, aren’t they? My family has long tried to find the best cheesy potato recipe because everyone loves them. My sister is pretty much the biggest cheesy potato fan I know, and my husband is pretty much the biggest mashed potato fan I know, so this is a dish to please them both!

A cheesy, creamy baked mashed potato casserole... perfect for every special meal!

Regular ‘ole mashed potatoes aren’t my favorite Thanksgiving side dish of all time, but add in a bunch of cheddar and parmesan, and you make this girl veryyy happy! All that cheese + some sour cream or greek yogurt jazz up plain mashed potatoes, but it’s the baking of them that take this dish over the edge! I don’t know what it is about baking dishes but that just adds an extra layer of deliciousness to the final product… especially when there’s cheese involved. Think about stovetop mac & cheese vs. baked mac & cheese. I’m right, aren’t I? There’s just no competition! Baked wins every single day. :)

A cheesy, creamy baked mashed potato casserole... perfect for every special meal!

I’ll admit that some may take issues with this dish because it’s not traditional enough… and there isn’t even any butter in it [gasp!]. But all the cheese and sour cream sure makes up for it. One of the best parts about this creamy ‘n cheesy side dish is that you can make it ahead AND it reheats beautifully in the microwave. Regular mashed potatoes can get kinda weird after the microwave but these absolutely do not! Have I convinced you to make them yet?!? I sure hope so, because they’re pretty much the tastiest version of mashed potatoes I’ve ever enjoyed and I bet you will too!

one year ago: Pumpkin Pie Peanut Butter Cups
two years ago: Chipotle-Cilantro Mashed Potatoes

three years ago: Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese
four years ago: Crockpot Saucy Italian Chicken
five years ago: Layered Taco Dip

Mashed Potato Casserole

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Print

from The Kitchn


  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 8 ounces sour cream or plain yogurt [regular or greek]
  • 1/2 cup half and half or milk
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 large shallots, minced – about 1/2 cup
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place potatoes in a large stock pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender, when a fork easily pierces through. Drain and return potatoes to pot.

Off heat, add sour cream and half and half to potatoes, then stir to combine. Use a potato masher to smash until desired texture is achieved. Stir in cheddar, shallots, and pepper. [If desired, shallots could be sauteed in butter or olive oil for a few minutes to soften.]

Transfer potatoes to a medium baking dish – a 10 inch round, 8×8 square, or the like, at least 2.5 quarts. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with Parmesan and extra freshly ground black pepper, and broil for about 2 minutes until golden brown.


Dish can be prepared up until the baking step up to 24 hours in advance. Let dish come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking.

If desired, shallots could be sauteed in butter or olive oil for a few minutes to soften before adding to the potatoes. The flavor was fine when raw, but even though they were minced small, we found them a little crunchy, especially the ones that were left on the top of the dish.


SRC: Tunisian Chickpea Salad

This easy Tunisian-inspired chickpea salad is wonderfully flavorful. In fall and winter, your spices and dried herbs will amaze you… and in the summer, this salad comes alive with fresh herbs. Great year-round dish!

Tunisian Chickpea Salad... an easy, delicious side dish! #secretrecipeclub #src via

For years I thought I didn’t like chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans. My dad [who admittedly isn’t the biggest fan of vegetables] would top his salad bar salads at Pizza Hut with lots of those cream-colored, round beans while I looked on with a disgusted look on my face. They looked odd, beans weren’t something I ever ate, they had a weird name, and why would you put beans on a salad anyways?!? Sometime along the way I discovered hummus, and with it… learned that chickpeas were the star of that great show so I gave the chickpeas a good ‘ole second [or fiftieth] chance. And now I can’t get enough of them.

Chickpea burgers, chickpea salad, roasted chickpeas… I love it all. So when I saw this Tunisian Chickpea Salad on, a vegetarian food blog run by the lovely Nayna, I pretty much immediately knew I was making it for the Secret Recipe Club this month. Nanya has so many great recipes on her blog though, so it was a tough decision between this chickpea salad and Pumpkin Rice, Sweet Rice, or Spicy Stuffed Tunisian Bread. Nayna’s mission with her blog is to create simple, home-cooked recipes that are sensational and mouth-watering. She even has a couple of cookbooks available, so she must be doing something right!

Tunisian Chickpea Salad... an easy, delicious side dish! #secretrecipeclub #src via

Ben and I absolutely loved this light and refreshing chickpea salad. I made it on a Saturday afternoon and we enjoyed bowls of it during football watching… a little appetizer-precursor to our homemade corndog mini muffins. :) Not exactly two foods that go side-by-side, but two delicious dishes nonetheless. This salad was incredibly flavorful–full of aromatic herbs like coriander and mint along with some staples like garlic powder [I think fresh would be too potent], crushed red pepper, green peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes. I used dried herbs because it’s November, but in the summer this would be a great way to use all the herbs I grow in the backyard! I do have to say though, part of the reason I was SO into making this salad was because this year I actually dried all my leftover herbs from my garden instead of letting them die with the first hard frost. So now I have a huge mason jar filled with dried mint. I forsee a lot of tea… and now this salad[!!!] in my future! I am so excited.

Tunisian Chickpea Salad... an easy, delicious side dish! #secretrecipeclub #src via

This awesome chickpea salad gets more enticing the longer it sits, but it doesn’t make a huge batch so I don’t think it’ll last very long anywhere! Next time I make it, you better believe I’ll make a double batch. Nayna recommends serving it with pita bread which I will DEFINITELY try too! Enjoy! Thanks, Nayna for a great recipe!

one year ago: Parmesan Butternut Squash Au Gratin
two years ago: Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls
three years ago: Pork, Apple, and Ginger Stir Fry
four years ago: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Energy Bars
five years ago: Lime-Soy Chicken

Tunisian Chickpea Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Print



  • 1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons green pepper, finely diced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped – optional
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


In a medium bowl, stir together chickpeas, tomatoes, green pepper, and shallot. Pour vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice on top, then stir again. Sprinkle with coriander, crushed red pepper, mint, and garlic and gently stir. Taste and add salt or pepper if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let flavors meld, then serve chilled.

Please check out all the other great recipes made for the SRC this month at the link below! Happy Monday! :)