Birthday Burgers Invited.

Just keep running, just keep running.  Ok, so as I mentioned on Monday, I’m running the Boston Marathon, which happens to fall on my birthday! (feel free to meet me at the finish line with a cheeseburger and fries…just put the candle in the bun.) I find myself desirous of as much running-related media as … Read more…

More Caffeine and More Words on Pages

Happy Wednesday!

It’s official. It’s the holiday season. I was really into it for about two weeks. Now? Now I’m just DONE. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m in a particular place in my scholarship that saps me of time, energy, and generally my will to live.

A note to my college-going readers. Please be nice to your professors during the holiday season (ok, all the time, but ESPECIALLY this time of year). We know you have finals as well, and we do our best. But JESUSMARYMOTHERHELL, we’re swamped as deeply as you are. Anddddd, if your professor is an adjunct? He or she probably has six other jobs as well.  Also, you should seriously consider supporting National Adjunct Walkout Day by walking out of class on February 25. Because, if adjuncts do it, they’ll just get fired.

Ok, moving on. No more diatribes for today. Just me doing all of the smiling and all of the coffee drinking and all of the putting of the happy thoughts on the interwebs.

Ok, so I got MOAR ARCS from Elizabeth Hunter. Both novellas unsurprisingly, rocked my socks.

The first was this beauty…

click it. you know you want to. just click it. it’ll feel so good.

The next one was this ball of awesome…

 

add it. “want to….read.”

FIRST….Elizabeth Hunter’s Christmas/Holiday/Festivus (duh, they’re vampires, feats of strength are kinda their bag) novella!!! All The Stars Look Down features one of my all-time favorite couples in all of Christendom, Gio and Beatrice! (you’ll hear more about those two in my book gift post to follow on Friday.) But it’s really the story of Fina and Zeno, a former monk and a librarian. You see, because of Beatrice’s obsession with letters, she’s tasked Fina into looking into a specific set of letters. Because of her part in the investigation, and Zeno’s knowledge of obscure epistles, Fina began her own correspondence with the enigmatic Zeno. It’s a love story in a love story with a love story on the side. It is full of intrigue, and keeps you guessing.

It has intertwining narratives dealing with the aspects of filial responsibility, what makes a man, and what it means to be human. As with all of Elizabeth Hunter’s books, this one is well thought out, fully actualized, and so much more than just the general alterity of the premise.

For fans of the series, I want to give you a veiled spoiler of why you should PICK THIS UP RIGHT MEOW. There is a tangible shift in expectations vs reality that manifests in a name. That’s all I’m going to say about that, but literally, at the end of the book, I was kind of choked up about the progress. It was great.

next up….

BENZIN.

Right off the bat I will tell you that you don’t need to read Hunter’s Elemental Mysteries series to appreciate this novella beginning of a series, but the books are great, so you should. 

What happens when you take an unpredictable, semi-batshit wind vampire and send her to China with a droll, no-nonsense 21 year old mortal man, who is far beyond his 21 years? Action, tension, and hijinks, That’s what!

The blurb…

Failing grades. Misleading wind vampires. And a fortune in forgotten gold.
Traveling to the most remote region of China certainly wasn’t what Ben Vecchio had in mind for his summer vacation, but when Tenzin suggested a quick trip, he could hardly turn down a chance to keep her out of trouble and practice the Mandarin he still struggled with in class.

Of course, Tenzin might not have been clear about everything travel entailed.

Driving a truck full of rotting vegetables and twenty million in gold from Kashgar to Shanghai was only the start. If Ben can keep the treasure away from grasping immortals, the reward will be more than worth the effort. But when has travel with a five-thousand-year-old wind vampire ever been simple?

It should be noted that Tenzin’s fangs can no longer retract. Not sure why it should be noted, I simply like that she’s just hanging out like the saber-toothed woman of the steppes.

This is an intense start to a new series. Hunter published it chapter-by-chapter on her blog, and it has a near-serial quality; in that each chapter has a bit of its own intrigue. What it really does well is to give the readers a strong framework for the upcoming books, as well as giving the readers a better idea of the inner motivations of Ben and Tenzin.

As I was turning the pages, I felt transported. Hunter’s descriptions of the people, as well as the locations in China are truly spectacular–especially given that it’s done so succinctly. Hunter’s style does not tend toward extraneous flourish, but there’s just enough “awe” in her voice that I could feel that sort of breathless anticipation that accompanies the connection of wanderlust and destination.

Shadows and Gold  never slows enough to make one desirous of social media, but just long enough to give backstory and provide a bit of respite for the reader’s cardiac system.

At its core, Shadows and Gold is an enchanting stand-alone novella that will no doubt metamorphose beautifully into the first of a dazzling new series from Elizabeth Hunter.

and now….

The food.

The Captain (my 6 year old son) has a pretty severe dairy allergy. Lately, it’s been even worse than normal. When you take into account that the poor boy also has a tree allergy that oddly does not extend to nuts, but does extend to palm oil, it can be a pretty big pain in the ass for him. He often misses out on foods considered an essential treat of childhood because they make his eyes swell shut. Not pretty.

So, every chance I get, I tweak recipes of my own or of others to retain their delicious quality, while keeping them safe for the Captain.

Today’s recipe is no different. I give you….

Vegan Chocolate Almond Muffins.

Vegan Chocolate Almond Muffins Vegan Chocolate Almond Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Almond Muffins

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Keywords: bake appetizer bread breakfast dessert snack

Ingredients (18 muffins)

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup nut or soy milk–vanilla
  • 1/2 cup creamy natural almond butter
  • 1/2 cup slightly warm coconut butter (in its liquid state)
  • 2 chia eggs (1 tbsp chia seeds to 3 tbsp water for each egg, combine and let sit 10 mins)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F

grease two muffin tins

combine dry ingredients including chips and set aside

whip together sugar, oil, and nut butter

add in eggs and vanilla

slowly stir in milk

fold in dry ingredients until just together

scoop 3 tbsp into each muffin impression

bake 12-15 minutes or until just browned at the edges.

cool and turn out.

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Bruce, Books, Butternut Squash

BOOK POST! BOOK POST!

But first, I’m going to admit my dirty little secret. It’s the Seventh of November. I’m already dragging out my holiday decor, listening to “Classically Christmas Radio” on Pandora, and reading Christmas themed novels/watching Christmas movies….like Love, Actually, and Die Hard. 

Also, let’s just take a moment to think about the fact that this lovable ball of unrequited sad….

Is also THIS KICK-ASS MOFO!!

And that he’s actually BRITISH!! He talks like THIS.

Mind boggling, right? I feel like Rick would be a really good Christmas dinner guest. I mean, when was the last time he had honeybaked ham, amirite?

Back to the point.

BOOK POST!

Honestly, I finished the book I’m about to review over a month ago, and I’ve put off reviewing it. I simply couldn’t put into words all of the ways this book affected me. I needed to marinate inside of my own feelings for a bit. I needed to flesh out that spark of insight gifted to me from its pages, and work it into something cohesive and readable.

The book?

The blurb:

In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

I’ll admit, before reading this book, I knew little-to-nothing about Afghanistan and its history. My knowledge of their history was limited to small mentions in World History texts, and modern day news outlets. This leaves one with an incredibly biased perspective.

Honestly, the last thing I would’ve ever equated with Afghanistan would be feminism or an upwardly-mobile female population. All that I was ever exposed to was the burqa-wearing women of Kabul under the fist of Karzai.

Yes, this book is absolutely honest about the completely domineering nature of their highly patriarchal society. However, this book also highlights the ability of the human spirit to rise up from underneath the heavy wool of forced submission to manumit itself and find a better existence.

In a country where women are subjugated as, at worst, slaves, and at best, brood mares, we learn of ways that women are defying the status quo to better the lives of their families and themselves.

These are women who are told from their birth that they are less. They aren’t as valuable, aren’t as important, aren’t as loved as their male counterparts. They are raised to believe that the world they’re coming into expects nothing more from them than their ability to cook and make sons. They are routinely the victims of a sort of shocking and disturbing passive rape, forced to couple with their often much older husbands, because they are told this is their duty.

I found myself so swept up in the story that I was alternately weeping and whooping as the characters were able to find respite and rescue in their own ingenuity, and with the aid and mentorship of other like-minded women.

Hashimi’s prose is nigh magical with its graceful nod to the cadence of the natural language of the speakers. She manages to transport the reader to the war-torn region, gripping the imagination and overwhelming the senses. You can almost smell the cumin toasting with onions and oil, and the feel of hard-packed sand beneath you, as you learn about Shekiba and Rahima.

As a woman, I found it impossible to read this book from a completely objective perspective. I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to wake every morning knowing that I’d need to subject myself to such inhumane treatment as Shekiba and Rahima. I went to bed worrying over their futures.

When I completed the novel, I felt as though a piece of my memory, the one formed by the angry words of men, had been tipped on its side to reveal the truth behind the curtain of Western thought and misogyny.

Nadia Hashimi’s The Pearl That Broke its Shell is a transportive, enlightening novel that will open your eyes to an empathy within yourself you never knew was possible.

Simply put,

Read this book.

The Pearl That Broke its Shell

five stars.

And now? A recipe inspired by the book.

Smoky Squash Fritters with Fried Sage and Chives

These may not be a traditional Afghani food, but I’ve imbued the recipe with the scents and flavors described in the novel, creating a sort of fusion food.

The fried sage and chives are optional, but they really do impart a lovely flavor to the oil, as well as serving as a delicious and crispy topping with the coarse salt.

These are a shallow, pan-fried fritter, so if the batter seems a bit wet, that’s completely acceptable.

smoky squash fritters smoky squash fritters smoky squash fritters

 

Smoky Squash Fritters with Fried Sage and Chives

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Keywords: fry appetizer side snack

Ingredients (20 fritters)

  • 1 pint of peanut or regular olive oil (for frying)
  • 4 tbsp of butter (to add to the oil for flavor)
  • 4 sage leaves
  • a bunch of chives
  • coarse salt for finishing (I used smoked Himalayan sea salt)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • traditional kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 cups butternut puree (fresh is best, but any will do)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 medium onion, shredded
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp toasted cumin, ground
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE BEGINNING

combine flour, spices, squash, eggs, honey, baking soda, salt and pepper in a bowl until a cohesive batter forms.

in a large, cast iron skillet, heat two tbsp butter and 1/4 cup of the oil on medium

when the oil begins to ripple quickly flash fry (less than 45 seconds) the chives and sage, remove and set on paper towels, then chop.

chop or shred onion until pieces are quite small

saute onion and garlic in oil until soft and translucent.

remove onions from oil with a strainer or spoon and add onion to squash mixture and stir.

add remaining oil and butter to skillet.

when oil is once again rippling, use a cookie scoop to scoop dough into the oil and flatten a bit.

fry on each side for about 3 minutes

drain to paper towels on a rack

top with coarse salt and fried herbs.

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Tri-ing To Read, Here.

Ok. This is another book review post, but I felt as though I’ve been neglecting telling you about my workouts as of late, so I’m going to do a quick re-cap with where I’ve been in this arena recently. Right now I’m taking it a bit easy, mostly playing with my kids, and chasing them … Read more…

Let’s Pretend It Isn’t Over…

This post is best introduced with a gif. Why is that? Because last Tuesday, the final book in my favorite series since Nancy fucking Drew was released. It was….Well, I thought the waiting would be the hardest part. Two years between releases for someone like me–someone who needs schedules and immediacy like congress needs Viagra–it’s … Read more…