Author Archives: Sarah

About Sarah

Librarian. Runner. Wife. Jesus follower. Loves reading, Indiana basketball, trying new recipes, coffee, cuddling with my kitties, cozy scarves, and cardigans.

Book Review: Where Courage Calls

Have you guys ever heard of Janette Oke? She has written a TON of Christian women’s fiction, and I can’t say I’ve read very much of her stuff. But recently I learned that she’s like the great aunt of one of my sister’s college friends, so when I saw the book she co-wrote with Laurel Oke Logan, Where Courage Calls, offered as a book to review I decided to go for it. I was sent a free copy of this novel as part of  Bethany House Publishers‘ book review program.

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan | reviewed on thepajamachef.com

Here is a description of the book from the publisher:

Her courage and her heart will be tested in ways she never expected…

Beth Thatcher has spent her entire life in the safe, comfortable world of her family, her friends, and the social outings her father’s wealth provides. But Beth is about to leave it all behind to accept a teaching position in the rugged foothills of western Canada. Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, who went west to teach school several years ago, and gently encouraged by her father, Beth resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way. 

But the conditions in Coal Valley are even worse than she’d feared. A recent mining accident has left the town grieving and at the mercy of the mining company. The children have had very little prior education, and many of the locals don’t even speak English. There isn’t even a proper schoolhouse. In addition, Beth’s heart is torn between two young men–both Mounties, one a lifelong friend and the other a kind, quiet man who comes to her aid more than once.

Despite the many challenges, Beth is determined to make a difference in the rustic frontier town. But when her sister visits from the East, reminding her of all the luxuries she’s had to give up, will Beth decide to return to her privileged life as soon as the school year is over?

A special companion story to Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart TV series.

And as usual, my five point review:

  • Well, most [all?] of Janette Oke’s books are set in the West. As a whole, I don’t find these types of books exciting. But this one? I couldn’t put it down. Beth wasn’t as boring as the stereotype of a 1800s schoolteacher [schoolmarm?] generally suggests.
  • I liked that this book felt timeless. The themes of family, privilege, and trust are experienced by people in all times. Understanding the differences of the past is also timeless. Definitely a book that can be read over and over again.
  • The book as a whole was very well written. Janette Oke is a thorough writer that makes every character feel like family, feel important. But sometimes when books are written in tandem, the flow is lost. Not so with this book. I was quite impressed!
  • Beth was such a likeable character. Her struggles were real and her crisis of faith was so genuine…. not something that an author fixes with a Bible verse or three. Beth finds strength through God, and by doing the right thing with the families in her town. It’s so fun watching her find her way.
  • All in all, this book was a wonderful light read. It makes me want to read more of Janette Oke’s books, and I hope you will too!

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!

About these ads

Zin-Zen Chicken

I don’t even want to tell you when I made this stir fry originally. It’s too embarrassing. But it is what it is, and even though time has gone by since this dish graced our table, its goodness hasn’t gone away. [Did that make any sense to anyone but me?] ANYWAYS…. Ben, especially, loves stir fry. I can’t say that it was my favorite dinner as a kid, but I’m starting to appreciate it more and more these days since it’s quick, healthy, and flavorful.

Zin Zen Chicken | thepajamachef.com

What makes this stir fry SO good is the combination of the orange-flavored rice with the gingery and garlicky chicken and vegetables. Ya know, the zin/zen thing. Rachael Ray was up to something with her recipe title, I do believe. :) Another good thing about this dish? It uses up some of that Chinese five spice powder that’s probably languishing in your cupboard. Please tell me I’m not alone in that. Mmmmkay, thanks. As always, enjoy! :)

one year ago: Guacamole Salsa
two years ago: Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars
three years ago: Oreo Truffles

Zin-Zen Chicken [from Rachael Ray]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
  • cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups chopped bell peppers [I used red, orange, and yellow]
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch grated gingerroot [or 1 teaspoon ground]
  • 1 red or yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup Zinfandel wine or chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
  • 4 scallions, sliced on the bias

Directions:

Combine rice, chicken broth, and orange zest in a medium pan. Set to high heat, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is absorbed.

In a separate large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute chicken, seasoned with black pepper, until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Place bell peppers, garlic, ginger, and onion in the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the veggies to the chicken, then melt butter in skillet. Whisk in flour and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the wine/chicken broth, soy sauce, and five spice powder and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low. Put the chicken and veggies back in the skillet and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes.

After the rice is cooked, add scallions and orange juice and fluff with a fork. Serve the chicken and vegetables over the rice.

Time: 30 minutes.
Yield: 4-6 servings.
Note: For four, this amount of rice is perfect. For six, doubling it would be best.

Bunny Bait, or White Chocolate Snack Mix You Can Make All Year

I feel so lame calling this snack mix “Bunny Bait.” What I REALLY want to call it, despite those springtime Easter M&Ms, is Ho Ho Ho Cheerio Mix. Because that’s its real name [for Christmastime]. My mom was given this recipe back in the day with her friend Kim, and it’s been a family favorite ever since. The sweet and salty snack mix is super addictive, so I don’t suggest making a batch unless you have lots of friends and family to share with.

Bunny Bait, or White Chocolate Snack Mix You Can Make All Year Long | thepajamachef.com

Though I want to tell you that the ingredients in this snack mix–Crispix, Cheerios, pretzels, peanuts, and M&Ms are sacred, they really aren’t. Case in point: when I was shopping for ingredients to make this batch, I accidentally grabbed Chex cereal instead of Crispix. I don’t know what I was thinking! But it worked just fine. So feel free to substitute ingredients with what ya got or what you want to use. Cause really, when you pair M&Ms with crunchy cereal and salty pretzels and peanuts [that I left out this time because this batch was a gift for student workers in the library, and I wanted to be sensitive to possible peanut allergies], and top everything with white chocolate, you can’t go wrong. This Bunny Bait or Ho Ho Ho Cheerio Mix or White Chocolate Snack Mix is just divine. It’s perfect for Easter or any holiday, just use the seasonal M&Ms to make it extra festive. Enjoy! :) Happy Easter!

Bunny Bait, or White Chocolate Snack Mix You Can Make All Year| thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange
two years ago: Best Burrito Bowls Ever
three years ago: Sausage Egg Apple Strata

Bunny Bait, or White Chocolate Snack Mix You Can Make All Year [from my mom's friend Kim]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups Crispix or Chex Cereal
  • 6 cups Cheerios
  • 2 cups pretzels
  • 2 cups peanuts, optional
  • 2 cups M&Ms [I usually use the smallest "large" bag they sell, about 12 or 13 ounces]
  • 12 ounces white chocolate chips, or 1 package vanilla almond/candy coating
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, optional

Directions:

In the largest bowl or roaster you own, stir together cereals, pretzels, peanuts, and M&Ms. Then melt white chocolate chips or candy coating  in the microwave, heating in 30 second bursts and stirring well in between until melted. This usually takes me about 90 seconds.

Stir oil into white chocolate to help with pouring if you like, then pour white chocolate over cereal mix. Stir together to coat, then spread on wax paper to set.

Time: 10 minutes, plus time to set.
Yield: 12 cups.

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

Grapefruit Arugula Salad

Once I tasted a bite of this awesome Grapefruit Arugula Salad, I knew I had to photograph and share it, even though it was late and I was making this salad when all the natural light had already bid Nashville farewell. [translation=indoor photography :(] My sister and brother-in-law were visiting, and this salad was the perfect accompaniment to our roasted chicken and vegetable dinner.

Grapefruit Arugula Salad | thepajamachef.com

I know there are a million variations of grapefruit arugula salad out there, and this is the first version I’ve ever had, so I can’t say it’s the best, but I can say it’s MY best. :) How’s that? Well, it’s just so much yumminess in one bowl! You’ve got your juicy citrus, your tangy feta, and your peppery arugula all dressed in a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Basically an explosion of flavors. I totally wish I had made bigger salads so don’t make the same mistake I did. This is one salad I know I’ll be coming back to time and time again. Enjoy, friends!

one year ago: Herb, Tomato, and Cheese Crackers
two years ago: Smoky Fried Chickpeas
three years ago: Pantry Pasta for Two

Grapefruit Arugula Salad
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 3 ounces arugula
  • 1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • lemon pepper
  • salt

Directions:

Using a sharp paring knife, section the grapefruit into segments. I tried to do this without a tutorial and it didn’t go so well, so check out this tutorial and your grapefruit will look better than mine. :)

Divide arugula between four bowls, then divide grapefruit between the bowls as well. Top with feta cheese.

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, and balsamic for the dressing. Add lemon pepper and salt to taste, then drizzle over salad immediately before eating.

Time: 5 minutes.
Yield: 4 servings.