Book Review: Beyond All Dreams

Elizabeth Camden is a librarian in Florida and she’s also the author of some great books. Her latest, Beyond All Dreams, is up for review today. I received a review copy and am excited to share it with you!

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden - a book review on thepajamachef.com #reading #fiction #bookreview

Here is a description of the book from the publisher:

Anna O’Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation’s most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation’s finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they’ve ever dreamed for their futures?

As usual, my five point review:

  • Anna, like the author [AND ME! :)], is a librarian. She’s a librarian at the Library of Congress [LOC] in 1897, as the new [read: current] LOC building was being completed. How cool would that have been?!? Anna’s dream was to work as a map librarian at the LOC and she achieved it! I’ve never dreamed of working at the LOC but now I think that’d be pretty darn sweet, though I do love my job. So naturally, Anna and I have become pals. She’s a sweet woman and as the book goes along, she becomes spunky and energetic which is awesome. Way to defy the passive librarian stereotype!
  • Luke, her romantic counterpart, is an equally compelling character. He’s passionate about peace and family, and as the novel progresses, his tendencies are explained in more detail. Result? He’s a total heartbreaker. And I mean that in so many ways! #nospoilerhere He’s a GREAT character to get to know and I loved him.
  • The historical and physical setting of this book, aside from the LOC, is perfect. The author makes turn of the century DC truly come alive–political intrigue, military drama, and historical details are spot on. If you’ve been to DC, this will give you a glimpse at the city’s past. If you know your history, this will make some events more real to you–and provide more detail for historical events such as the US/Cuba relations and the Spanish-American War. I will mention that the author does share at the end that the main ship in question in this book was not real, but loosely based on another historical ship. So you can’t exactly view current events through the lens of this book, but it does offer a good perspective for the historical relationship between the US, Spain, and Cuba. Interesting stuff!
  • I really liked the message of this novel and the themes of trust, vulnerability, and dedication. The characters had a lot to overcome and they did it without “magic” because they were Christians. The faith themes are toned down, genuine, and there’s some roughness around the edge of the plot [in comparison to most Christian fiction, not in terms of how developed the plot is]. That’s A-OK with me! The mystery element was thrilling too.
  • Lastly, as a librarian, I found Elizabeth Camden’s librarian-related lines hilarious. I mean really–does this not make you chuckle? “”This is a library,” she said, trying to calm her heart to a normal rate. “We generally try to avoid howling like banshees.”” (page 95) I will say that if a non-librarian said some of these things I would take offense to them, but coming from her [and she even went to Indiana University just like me!] it’s super funny! There was one incident on page 56 where Anna and Luke were squabbling about writing in a book [that turned out not to be a library book]. I LOL’d at that. And with that, I’ll leave you with one quote I loved, from page 183: “She wasn’t built for this kind of stress. That was why she’d become a librarian, so she could live a quiet life surrounded by books and maps and not worry about political enemies coming out of the woodwork to arrest you or demote you or turn you into a national laughingstock.” There are many more funny quotes but you’ll have to crack open the book to read them on your own! :) Enjoy!!

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!

Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles

Ramen noodles can be classy too! They aren’t just college student food. These ramen noodles feature shrimp–REAL sesame ginger seasoned shrimp–and lots of yummy vegetables, all cooked in a delightful ginger-chili broth.

Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDish #HealthySolutionsBloggerRecipeChallenge

This dish is genius, if I do say so myself. I’ve made a fancified ramen dish before [check it out!] and ever since then, I’ve been dreaming about ramen noodles… but not the uber salty college kind. Ramen noodles with real food. Mmm!

Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDish #HealthySolutionsBloggerRecipeChallenge

But it wasn’t until this month’s Mystery Dish [hosted by Mary Frances of The Sweet {Tooth} Life] when one of our challenge ingredients included RAMEN NOODLES! Woot! Other ingredients we had to choose from included clams, blueberries, heavy whipping cream, chocolate chunks, potato chips, kale, almond butter, chiles, and orange juice. I used chili pepper paste and kale in this recipe too. Originally, I planned to make this a pretty simple kale ramen noodle dish with a chili pepper sauce. But then when cooking, I saw shrimp in the fridge… shrimp that I had been planning to use for the 2015 Healthy Solutions Spice Blends Blogger Recipe Challenge. Then I wondered… what would shrimp ramen taste like? Turns out, it’s pretty fabulous and I’m so proud to enter it in this awesome recipe contest as well as use it for Mystery Dish. :) I didn’t intend to make one recipe for two events but it worked out really well!

Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDish #HealthySolutionsBloggerRecipeChallenge

Before the recipe, let’s talk about how flavorful these ramen noodles really are. Ramen noodles usually just have some sauce on them. Not mine! These ramen noodles begin with a flavorful ginger-chili broth, made with lots of fresh Asian/Thai ingredients like ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and chili pepper. Add in some fresh veggies [I used kale, mushrooms, and bell peppers] and some flavorful shrimp and you are set for one classy meal! Ben and I both agreed that the shrimp were the best part of the dish… right next to those slurpy ginger noodles, that is. :)

Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDish #HealthySolutionsBloggerRecipeChallenge

To make the shrimp so fabulous, I started with a quick marinade/rub. I used some of the usual suspects–soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fresh ginger, lemongrass, chili pepper–as well as the star seasoning blend from Healthy Solutions… Sesame Ginger Tuna. This seasoning blend is super flavorful and zesty; it’s hard to believe it doesn’t contain sugar or salt.

Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDish #HealthySolutionsBloggerRecipeChallenge

I rubbed all this on some large shrimp and let it hang out while I whipped together the broth, then I sauteed up all the veggies and shrimp. There’s a lot going on in this dish, but with the common flavors–ginger, garlic, lemongrass, chili pepper… everything goes together SO well. And bonus! This dish comes together in about 30 minutes so it’s perfect for a weeknight family dinner. If you’re super organized, you could put the rub on the shrimp earlier in the day to infuse more flavor into them but that’s totally not necessary. I’m so excited with how well this dish turned out and I hope you love it too! Thanks to Healthy Solutions and Mystery Dish for the inspiration behind this dish. Enjoy! :)
Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles | thepajamachef.com #MysteryDish #HealthySolutionsBloggerRecipeChallenge

one year ago: Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole
two years ago: Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream
three years ago: Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken
four years ago: Whole Wheat Apple Pancakes

Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodles

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

for shrimp 

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Healthy Solutions Sesame Ginger Tuna seasoning blend
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemongrass paste [I used Garden Gourmet brand]
  • 1 tablespoon chili pepper paste [I used Garden Gourmet brand]
  • 1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and devined [mine still had the tails on though]

for ginger-chili broth

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated [from about 1-2 inches fresh peeled ginger]
  • 2 scallions, chopped – green and white parts separated
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili pepper paste [I used Garden Gourmet brand]
  • 4 cups chicken broth

for ramen

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup bell peppers, thinly sliced [I used the mini red, yellow, and orange peppers]
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated [from about 1/2-1 inch fresh peeled ginger]
  • 1 teaspoon lemongrass paste [I used Garden Gourmet brand]
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper paste [I used Garden Gourmet brand]
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 – 8 ounce packages ramen noodles, uncooked [any flavor – flavor packets are NOT used]
  • 1 cup kale, thinly sliced into ribbons and firmly packed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce, to taste
  • additional broken ramen noodles, for garnish
  • chopped cilantro, for serving

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together Healthy Solutions Sesame Ginger Tuna seasoning blend, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, lemongrass, and chili pepper. Add shrimp and toss together to coat. Set aside.

Next, prepare ginger-chili broth. In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and the white part of the scallions. Cook, stirring constantly, for about one minute. Add chili pepper paste and chicken broth, and stir until it comes together. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil for another minute. Reduce heat to low and simmer while the rest of the dish comes together.

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add mushrooms, peppers, ginger, lemongrass, and chili pepper. Saute for three to four minutes, then add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds.

Next, cook the noodles. Break the noodles up and add them to the ginger-chili broth. Turn heat to medium-high, keeping just below a boil. Cook for 3 minutes then remove from heat.

While noodles are cooking, add shrimp to the veggies in the wok. Stir regularly for about three minutes or until shrimp are no longer pink. Next, reduce heat to low and pour ramen and broth in the pan. Add kale, lime juice, fish sauce, and most of the reserved green scallions from the broth. Stir then let rest for about a minute. Serve topped with additional broken ramen noodles, chopped cilantro, and green scallions. Enjoy!

2015 Blogger Recipe Challenge for Healthy Solution Spice Blends | thepajamachef.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary packet of Sesame Ginger Tuna Spice Blend by Healthy Solutions Spice Blends for participating in this recipe contest. You can use any sesame ginger seasoning blend for this recipe. I received no additional compensation for this post; all comments are 100% accurate and 100% my own. I was not paid or required to publish positive comments but I happen to love Healthy Solutions Spice Blends… check out my review of them here.

Check out other Mystery Dish recipes below:

Flourless Almond Butter Chocolate Chunk Sandwich Cookies from Flavor the Moments
Blueberry Frozen Custard Pops from Simply Gloria
Sesame Ginger Shrimp Ramen Noodlesfrom The Pajama Chef
Potato Chip Chocolate Chunk Cookies from I Dig Pinterest
Almond Butter Chocolate Chunk Potato Chip Cookies from Chez Catey Lou
Blueberry French Toast Casserole from Yummy Healthy Easy
Spicy Clam & Kale Appetizer by Inspiration Kitchen
Chocolate Covered Potato Chip Rice Krispie Treats from The Sweet {Tooth} Life

SRC: French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole is a great treat to wake up to! 

French Toast Casserole | thepajamachef.com #src #breakfast

Yay SRC! This is my second month participating in SRC group C and once again I had a blast! This month I was assigned to Jess’ blog, Pumpkins and Peonies. Two things I love! :) Jess’ blog is beautiful and her love of life, pretty things, and delicious baked goods is SO apparent. Her wedding pictures are gorgeous too! I was tempted by many of Jess’ recipes including these Deep Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins, S’mores Cookies, and Popovers. In the end though, I decide to go with French Toast Casserole, because when is french toast wrong?!? Mmm!

French Toast Casserole | thepajamachef.com #src #breakfast

Jess made me fall in love with this French Toast Casserole when she said it was perfect… not too wet, not too dry, not too sweet. I’m sure you’ve had french toast that falls into any [or all] of those three categories, and this recipe does NOT disappoint! It’s practically foolproof too. I love simple recipes. :)

French Toast Casserole | thepajamachef.com #src #breakfast

The original recipe suggested using brioche or challah, but I used Texas toast and am happy to report that was an awesome choice. I just felt like it so I went with it. It’s still a soft, white bread so it works well, but use whatever you please.

French Toast Casserole4

This french toast bakes up nice and soft, with a sugary crust on the bottom and a nice crisp topping. Jess used pecans to top her french toast, but I just left them off. And this may go without saying, but this french toast makes weekend mornings even BETTER than they usually are. You can assemble the casserole the night before, and wake up and have breakfast on the table in less than an hour. Perfect-o! Enjoy! And thanks, Jess, for the great recipe!

one year ago: Tasty Mexican Lentils
two years ago: Quick Chocolate Pudding
three years ago: Alice’s Vanilla Tea-Infused Granola
four years ago: Roasted Tomato & Black Bean Soup

French Toast Casserole

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 1 hour + overnight
  • Print

from Pumpkins and Peonies

Ingredinets:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 loaf brioche or challah, sliced [or I used Texas toast!]
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped [I left these out]
  • maple syrup, for topping
  • powdered sugar, for topping
  • fresh fruit, for serving

Directions:

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together butter and brown sugar. Pour mixture into bottom of baking dish.

Arrange bread on top of brown sugar mixture, overlapping as needed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger. Pour over bread slices, then sprinkle on pecans if using. Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, remove pan from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes, covering with foil partway through if the top starts browning too much. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving with maple syrup, powdered sugar, or fruit.

Be sure to check out what else my SRC pals made this month:

Mujaddara: Mediterranean Lentils and Rice with Carrot Slaw

Lentils are the new black beans. :) This easy vegetarian meal is our new staple weeknight dinner! The carrot slaw elevates the classic Mujaddara dish into something extra special.

Mediterranean Lentils and Rice with Carrot Slaw | thepajamachef.com

I used to not know what to do with lentils. They seemed mushy and weird. But then Ben and I started frequenting this fabulous Turkish restaurant in Indiana and I fell in love with their red lentil soup. So I bought lentils to recreate it at home… and they sat in my pantry for like two years. And moved to Nashville with us. Once here, I started making red lentil soup, but that’s all I did with lentils. Until I found this recipe in an old issue of Food Network Magazine. [True story.] Though the recipe didn’t say this was Mujaddara, aka the beans and rice of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and beyond, it clearly is. 

Mediterranean Lentils and Rice with Carrot Slaw | thepajamachef.comI had a hard time making lentils and rice look pretty but there you have it. Since the fall, we’ve had this for dinner almost every other week and it’s so simple I can practically make it in my sleep! Since I can’t leave recipes alone, I have simplified the dish a weeee little bit from the original. Namely, the traditional dish calls for caramelizing the onions. I’m sure that’s great, but for a quick weeknight dinner? Not gonna happen, sorry. The traditional dish also serves the onions on top of the lentils and rice. But there’s no way Ben would like that, so I just dice ’em up like usual and saute them until they’re really soft and call it a day. Or a night. Or a dinner, whatever. I’ve also noted this in the recipe itself but you can use ANY rice and ANY lentils to make this fabulous meal. My most used combo is brown lentils with jasmine rice, but any combo will do. Just know that the amount of time it takes to prepare this dish is related to what type of rice and lentils you choose. Red lentils are quick, brown rice is slow, etc. And don’t forget the carrot slaw. It’s tangy and earthy and uses just three ingredients to make its magic! Carrots, lemon juice, and cumin. You can season with salt and pepper too. It’s divine! I really should always make a double batch of this stuff because Ben and I are ADDICTED to it, and I usually make more later in the week for leftovers. The contrast of the hearty lentil and rice mixture with the fresh slaw and yogurt is just fabulous. Enjoy!

one year ago: Apple Rubies in Coconut Milk
two years ago: Double Blueberry Walnut Muffins
three years ago: Quinoa Pancakes
four years ago: Lemon Blueberry Bread

Mediterranean Lentils and Rice with Carrot Slaw

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Print

from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups rice – I’ve used basmati, jasmine, brown, and white so use what you like/what you have!
  • 3 cups water or broth
  • 3 cups shredded carrots – about 6 medium carrots
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons cumin, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup lentils – any kind you like… red, green, or brown
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • freshly ground black pepper + salt
  • plain greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving [or tzatziki!]
  • fresh cilantro, for serving

Directions:

Begin by preparing rice according to package directions.

In a medium bowl, combine carrots, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and a little freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 6-7 minutes. Stir often and when almost done, add garlic, cinnamon, cayenne, and remaining cumin and cook until fragrant. Add lentils and water/broth to the pan and stir well to combine. Raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, and allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes or until lentils are tender. When rice and lentils are done, add rice to the lentil pan and stir to combine.

Serve rice and lentils topped with carrot slaw, yogurt, and cilantro.