Penny for Your Plots

Let me just apologize. This post should’ve been released last week, but my blog was down for the count with an attack on my server.

Have you ever felt like this after an experience?

Have you ever felt as though what you were expecting was so far from what you received that you’re now unclear as to what color the sky is, what day it is, possibly your age, gender, and occupation?

In a word? Gobsmacked.

That’s what Happily Ever Ninja by Penny Reid did to me. Sure, I knew it would be different. It’s a romance novel wherein the MCs are already married. That right there shakes things up a bit.

I didn’t expect the Vitamix/San Andreas Fault/Jurassic Park promo of plotlines.

Because moms are superheroes, duh.

The blurb:

There are three things you need to know about Fiona Archer… I would tell you what they are, but then I’d have to kill you.

But I can tell you that Fiona’s husband—the always irrepressible and often cantankerous Greg Archer—is desperately in love with his wife. He aches for her when they are apart, and is insatiable when they are together. Yet as the years pass, Greg has begun to suspect that Fiona is a ninja. A ninja mom. A ninja wife. A ninja friend. After fourteen years of marriage, Greg is trying not to panic. Because Fiona’s talent for blending in is starting to resemble fading away.

However, when unexpected events mean Fiona must take center stage to keep her family safe, her response stuns everyone—Greg most of all. It seems like Greg’s wish has come true.

Except… not.

When all is said and done, can Greg handle this new version of his wife? Will his irrepressible cantankerousness push her away? Or can the couple find a way forward without either being forced to step back into the shadows?

What I thought:

This book is titled Happily Ever Ninja for a reason. It’s fucking sneaky, and I can’t get over how much I loved it.

It’s a romance that analyzes the ever after. What happens when the couple is established, and the day to day isn’t about wooing and winning, but about wooing and keeping? Should it still be about wooing? Is the woo even relevant? Can I use the verb woo one more time just to make it extra awkward for all reading this post? woo.

I read it in a sitting. One. I sat down, opened it, and didn’t do anything but refill my tea, get some snappea crisps, and let the tea continue its life cycle in and out of my body, and then finished the book. I closed it and felt alive. I felt vindicated. I wanted to tell everyone about this book. Married, unmarried, single, straight, gay, bi, a, demi, narcisexual. Everyone.

Happily Ever Ninja embraces the quotidian modalities of the modern family with such aplomb that it borders on the poetic. Greg and Fiona have been the face of marriage for the Knitting in the City series since book one, and when we finally get to see behind the bedroom doors, we’re surprised and intrigued. The pair have an amazing chemistry and dynamic, but they also have the same issues every married couple has. There’s a harmony in the discord that I’ve never previously encountered in my reading. Their roles have been so well-defined throughout their relationship, that when problems surface, they’re so entrenched in the capillaries of their marriage, that it’s difficult for Greg and Fiona to see that it’s slowly cutting off circulation to the limbs.

It also makes the decision to rectify the issues feel as much like a release of pressure and new life given to things past, that it makes the relief as fluid as the formation.

It’s truly a satisfying plot.

Happily Ever Ninja

But, it’s also funny as hell.

Greg and Fiona were funny characters before this installment, (knitting needle, anyone?) but in this book, their dry wit is given full operation in this book. A few of the phrases have made it into my daily conversation, but my favorite is “that sounds like something Hitler would say.” Because it works for so much. Especially at random places, like the ice cream shop or on social media. “Oh, I never get hot fudge”–“That sounds like something Hitler would say.” Or “I went to a casserole party and I had salad.”–“That sounds like something Hitler would say.” SEE? IT WORKS. I’m just waiting for someone to tell me they prefer 4 to 6 nipple clamps at a time, or something. Perfection. Or “I prefer to dress like a baby and be spoonfed canned peaches.” Unfortunately, most baby fetishists are underground about their proclivities, and I don’t think that will come up in conversation without alcohol or LSD–possibly wisdom teeth surgery.

Five huge stars. Not for Hitler.

Amazon • Barnes and Noble • Kobo

[bctt tweet=”Review of Ninja Ever After by @ReidRomance and #recipe for Ginger-Matcha Olive Oil Muffins”]

The recipe inspired by the book:

In the novel, one of the frustrating things many women deal with, Fiona deals with: messy husband antics. In one case, it’s muffins. Trust me, read it.  Also, Greg works on oil rigs. And ninjas are traditionally Japanese.

So?

Ginger-Match Olive Oil Muffins

delicious and easy Ginger-Matcha olive oil muffins

Ginger-Matcha Olive Oil Muffins

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Keywords: bake appetizer bread breakfast snack dessert

Ingredients (20 muffins)

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs or 6 tbsp aquafabas (beat aquafabas to medium peaks)
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup boiling water with 1 tbsp matcha powder whisked in, or 2 matcha teabags brewed into it.
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, measured and then chopped finely
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20 muffin liners

optional

  • powdered sugar

Instructions

preheat oven to 350F

fill a muffin tin with liners

beat together syrup, sugar, and oil until frothy

add in eggs

slowly pour in tea

sift in flour and stir slowly

stir in salt, baking soda, and baking powder

fold in ginger.

pour evenly into twenty muffins, about 2/3 full

bake 20 minutes or until puffed and a skewer inserted in the center comes out cleanly.

let cool completely

dust with powdered sugar

Powered by Recipage

Top Ten Books of 2015

top ten books of 2015

I was going to do a gift guide, but really, if you read my blog, you probably want to buy all the books for yourself and eat all the fucking cookies, alone, while reading book blogs, books, in your fuzzy slippers, sipping your gin, silently judging those who say “I don’t like reading.” (or loudly, but because you’re home, and they’re somewhere where people who don’t like to read are, {the GOP convention, obvs.}) So, instead…my top (insert arbitrary number here) books of 2015, and almond cookies, because I love you. Really. Check twitter. I’m just drunkenly sober enough to tweet out “I LOVE YOU!!!!” Although, if its deleted before you read it, I got soberer.

Also, this is not some fancy “PEN list” or some other gathering. This is from what I read, and I don’t always read those “must reads.” Sure, a few may end up on other lists, but mother of hell, I do what I want. 🙂

I’m not judging YOUR life. I’m judging the non-readers, remember? (Unless reading makes you nauseated, or you have dyslexia and it gives you headaches, in which case, check my auralgasms page for some AUDIObook recs. They’re a thing.) Also, if you’re reading this, you’re sexy. Just sayin.

This book floored me. Absolutely floored me. It’s like if Code Name: Verity and Harry Potter had a super intelligent Chinese baby NOT named “Cho Chang.” Yes, it’s middle grade/YA, but holy fucking hell, read it.

Ok, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider just adding Elizabeth Hunter’s “2015 releases” to my list. Two problems–no picture, and that would be creepy. Like, hiding in Elizabeth Hunters bushes, creepy. Not quite hiding in her bush creepy, but I am infectious. Also inappropriate and weird. You’re welcome. This book also features a story by Grace Draven, and the combo will leave you reeling. I seriously stepped back in a cold sweat from Ms Draven’s story. HOW DID SHE THINK THIS SHIT UP?!? “Gaslight Hades” is unlike anything you’ve read this year. And holy wow, Josephine…just, Josephine. My soul sister.

*don’t judge insomniac dramatic readers, we’re just DIFFERENT.

The HAPA, genderfluid ghostbuster with the heart of gold is the protagonist of this tale. The writing is quick and precise, the narrative dreamy and well-constructed. I have no idea how this isn’t on a longlist of some nature, because it should be. I loved it so freaking hard.

Read this today. If you don’t, you’ve failed at 2015. You lose the future. Check your fucking privilege at the door, and read. I know that there is no way I can truly understand the minority position. But, I can learn to empathize.

Five words: well, that was suitably terrifying. Five more, now I’ll read it again.

Oh, you’ve never read Sarah Vowell before? Well that’s a damn shame.

I’m feeling feelings about it. Big feelings.

Sexy Gandalf. Sexy twins. A life with love doesn’t mean a stationary life. Penny Reid’s gift for goof and gab, as well as fucking smart AF prose and wild, wiley romance is PERFECT in this.

 Yes, it’s another romance, but OMG READ THIS ROMANCE. MY WHOLE HEART IS OPEN. MY COAL-BLACK SOUL IS HAPPY. DO YOU KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO ILLUMINATE A COAL-BLACK SOUL?!?!

I’m still trying to recover from this book. Yes, it’s an ontological narrative, which is often a hard pill for American audiences to swallow, but it’s amazing. This may not be the narrative you want, but it’s definitely the one you need.

The Peanut and I devoured each page with a hunger bordering on obsessive. It’s beautiful, it’s enchanting. GO now. get it.

Also, do yourself a favor and get these at your local shop.

Okay, so I guess this is the Top Ten Books of 2015. NOT such an arbitrary number. Don’t say I’m completely non-traditional.

[bctt tweet=”The Top Ten Books of 2015. Also, almond cookies, because, cookies. #cookies #bookworm”]

And now? The Recipe.

Almond Cookies, because they’re delicious.

easy almond cookies easy almond cookies easy almond cookies

Easy Almond Cookies

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Keywords: bake dessert vegan vegetarian cookie

Ingredients (2 dozen cookies)

  • 1/3 cup almond paste warmed to a little warmer than body temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter or vegan alternative
  • 2 eggs or 6 tbsp aquafabas
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal

Instructions

preheat oven to 350F

whip together butter, paste, and sugar

add in remaining wet ingredients

whip for 1 minute

stir in almond meal

sift in flour

refrigerate for 10 minutes

scoop into 2 tbsp scoops 2″ apart on parchment lined sheets

bake for ten minutes or until JUST golden on the edges.

let cool completely before removing from cookie sheet.

Powered by Recipage

Pi and Pie.

My posts are WAY backed up right now. Why, you ask? First: it’s been 9348769348576 degrees in NYC, and I am not turning on my fucking oven.

Also, I’m tits-deep in a research project that’s giving me the fits. Let’s put it this way, if T-Swift is a nightmare dressed like a daydream, I’m a nightmare dressed like the community director at Shady Pines…and I forgot my bra.

But. I FINALLY made a vegan pie that I’m really happy with. (Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition, but “I finally made a pie with which I am really happy.” sounded like it had a case of the assholes.) First, I wanted to make a shoofly pie, but GAH! too hot to boil molasses. Then, I tried to veganize dreamsicle pie. Don’t do that. Just, don’t. Today’s pie is exceptional, but you just need to wait until you read my book review–as you do.

Tuesday was a GREAT release day. Why, you ask? This little gem was released.

How much do you love that cover?!?!

The Blurb:

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life. His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…
But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.
Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-headed heart is she willing to risk?

My thoughty thought thought thoughts.

To be honest, in the beginning of the book, there’s a scene. It starts the book and sets the tone. When I began to read it, I had a Revenge of the Nerds rape scene flashback, and I thought:

I was worried I was going to fall in instant hate with the protagonist because of it, and never review the book, and get really uncomfortable when friends ask me what I thought about it.

I did my duty and diligently kept reading. It turns out my foison of worry was all for naught. It was definitely not at all like the Funhouse rape scene in Revenge, however much it felt as though it was headed in that direction.

I let loose with a very large exhale, and took a deep pulling drink of my martini at that point.

crisis averted.

(Yes, I drink martinis, and yes, I’m actually a 70 year old man.)

or I’m Emma Thompson who DGAF what you think.

The rest of the story went by SO FAST. I have no idea how long it was, because I didn’t breathe, didn’t blink, switched to tea, (I have a pitcher in the fridge–easy peasy) and did not remove my body from the living room until I finished.

*reviewer’s note: Goodreads says it’s 400 pages. Since it felt like 15, I’m going to go with Goodreads is once again, full of shite.

As with many of Penny Reid’s books, it’s very funny and witty, smart too, for sure, but also, has a cooky element of suspense to it. Like a 1970s Hell’s Angel or Mob movie, but starring Emma Stone and Hermione Granger. (Yes, HERMIONE, not Emma Watson, though she could totally hang in a Penny Reid book.)

This suspense fuels the engine, and the romance pumps the pistons. (Or pumps like a piston, if you know what I mean.)

The dialogue is smart, a bit like a Gilmore Girls or perhaps something Sorkin-esque, but with 100% more women and sensitivity. It just has that fast back-and-forth feel to it. It feels as though the characters are as much the dialogue as they are their own history and story. The reader gets to know so much about them just by what they say, and not everything is left up to internal dialoguing and any sort of omniscient narration. It’s refreshing.

(It would also serve a television series quite well. Easily adaptable for screen.)

But the characters, Oh my, the characters.

There is a tenderness in the protagonist, Duane, that makes the reader fall head over teakettle for the ginger-bearded hottie within the first thirty pages. He’s had a rough go of things lately, and never really had the easiest or best life to begin with. However, he’s really made himself something into which he can be proud, and his sexy-smart-cocky-sweet attitude he has, makes the reader swoon wildly.

Jessica? The MC? She’s the type of girl everyone should have in their life. A dreamer. A wandering soul. However, she is whip smart, and doesn’t once compromise herself or her dreams. If the manic pixie dream girl and Chien-Shiung Wu were combined in an contraption not unlike that in The Fly, you’d get Jessica James.

Truth or Beard

Although, my favorite character was of the four-legged variety, and goes by the name Sir Edmund Hillary. He’s a homicidal house cat on a mission to destroy us all, and I love him for it. Cats. They’re tiny predators. If they could, they’d eat you.

evil tiki cat

That’s actually my friend Danielle’s cat, Tiki. He’s terrifying, right?

Now that I have your attention again…

Standing witness to Jessica and Duane navigating the waters of fresh, young love with all the barbs and bruises which accompany the sparks and swooning, was truly a pleasure. There was never more than 10-15 pages between those “tingle in the chest” feelings you get when you read a really touching romance, and yet, it never veered even remotely close to the territory of saccharine or complete implausibility.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

With Truth or Beard, Penny Reid has absolutely cemented herself in the Pantheon of the best and funniest romance authors of our time. Nora Roberts, Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, Rainbow Rowell, and now, Penny Reid. Truly exceptional.

Four and a half extra awesome stars.

(half star revoked for scaring the shit out of me in the first 15 pages. I’ll never recover those heartbeats.)

SO! What did I make? Obviously pie. I told you that earlier. Pay attention! 😉

Pie is all over this book. TBH, it’s all over the South in general. My wedding reception was actually a PIE reception. Southerners love their pie, and my MawMaw certainly passed that love along to me.

While this pie has thyme in it, which is a departure from tradition, it adds a warm herbaceous quality which I have come to adore.

Southern Strawberry Stone Fruit and Thyme Pie

(yes, it’s vegan. No. It doesn’t have to be. Just use real butter. I am not judging your life.)

Southern Strawberry Stone Fruit and Thyme Pie

[bctt tweet=”Pi and Pie. Southern Strawberry, Stone Fruit and Thyme Pie to go with Truth or Beard by @reidromance #vegan #books #pie #allyouneedispie “]

Southern Strawberry Stone Fruit and Thyme Pie Southern Strawberry Stone Fruit and Thyme Pie

Note: ONLY use FRESH thyme in this recipe. If you leave out the thyme, you’ll still have a DAMN GOOD PIE, if you use dried, IT WILL TASTE LIKE JAMAICAN CHUTNEY WITHOUT THE HEAT. (if you’re into that, cook the filling separate, use the dried thyme, add cayenne, and cook the fuck out of it. Use it to top chicken or SEITAN.  You know.)

Southern Strawberry Stone Fruit and Thyme Pie

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Keywords: bake dessert vegan pie

Ingredients (1 pie)

    for the crust

    • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold VEGAN BUTTER STICKS! (I use earth balance)
    • 3 cups UNBLEACHED all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening (I use organic spectrum, it’s vegan and buttery.)
    • 6 to 10 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

    for the filling

    • 3/4 lb strawberries chopped and quartered
    • 3 lb stone fruit, NOT peeled, but sliced
    • 4 tbsp flour
    • 1 tbsp corn starch
    • 4 tbsp COLD CHOPPED “BUTTER” sticks (1/2″ dice)
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1 sprig of fresh thyme. JUST the leaves

    for browning the crust

    • You can use a traditional egg wash of 1 egg and 2 tbsp water or
    • 4 tbsp vanilla soy milk and 1 tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup or HFCS
    • I like to add a bit of coarse sugar to the crust.

    Instructions

    Preheat the oven to 425F

    Honestly, I am not the best with crust, but This guy makes it look easy.

    I just pulse all the ingredients in the food pro. You could also use his recipe for crust. It’s good. It’s not my all-time fave, but it’s really good.

    the recipe I gave you is for TWO rounds of crust. (to fit a 9″ dish!)

    for the filling

    slice the stone fruit as similarly as possible. I used white peaches, nectarines, and red plums. Gorgeous and delicious.

    quarter or halve the strawberries–depending on size.

    You could also toss in any other berries hanging out in your fridge. My MawMaw would.

    toss the spices with the flour in a separate bowl

    add the thyme, toss

    toss with berries and fruit, coating all

    add sugar, toss again–LIGHTLY (or it will get all seepy!)

    AVENGERS, ASSEMBLE!

    roll one of your pie rounds into a sprayed or greased pie tin

    fill the shell with the fruit mix, spreading as evenly as possible

    sprinkle the butter cubes across the top of the fruit mix

    add the top crust (as lattice like I did, or just roll it the hell on.)

    crimp the crust (with your fingers or a fork–matters not.)

    brush with wash of choice

    bake for approximately 40 minutes. After the first 20, cover the crust LOOSELY with foil to prevent further browning.

    Powered by Recipage

    Get Series(ous). #6

    Ok, let’s open this with a .gif I love. Not because it has anything to do with anything, simply because I love it. K?

    I have no clue why I love this .gif so much. I just do.

    This week’s Get Series(ous). post is close to my heart. Why? Because I have a paperback of it in my jacket.

    Is that a carrot in your pants…?

    Also, I just really love it. I’ve re-read each of them a few times, and I keep going back for more. It’s like potato chips…or moonshine. Either one, really.  I fell in love with the first book not long after its release, and I hoard each new installment like a prized dude concubine. (this is a thing that exists somewhere, right?) A concubdude. Dudecubine? Again, either way.

    Let’s explain this notion and feeling I have with an image, shall we?

    Guitarists have nimble…minds.

     Well, hello there, sexy man servant with completely equal rights who also happens to be a feminist. The servant thing is totally a pre-agreed to situation…no dubious consent issues at all. Now, wash my back.

    The Match. 

    So, for whom is this series a good match?

    You know that college professor friend you have who holds several degrees, but also tends towards dick jokes at the party? Her/him.

    This person may also be someone who loves the show Broad City or Girls, but is perhaps looking for a book where the cast is just a hair older. Think Big Bang Theory–only funny, and without that annoying laugh track. All the dick jokes, and a mortgage. It’s a win/Let’s pretend adulthood is a win, series.

    This reader is interested in a romance that’s fresh. She’s read Sophie Kinsella and Jane Green for years, and she’s tired of certain tropes. Girls who spend too much, girls who have shit confidence, girls who go to college purely to receive their M.R.S.

    This reader wants something new. She wants to have her hero and eat him too.

    What is the series?

    The Knitting in the City Series by Penny Reid.

    If you’ve read ANY of my book posts, you know I have a serious girl crush on author Penny Reid.  Her books give me an immense amount of lady wood. Sequoia National Forest-level lady wood.

    my lady wood is fertile.

    The Blurb:

    *from the first book.

    There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 3) She doesn’t know how to knit.

    After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can’t help wondering what new torment fate has in store. To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan- aka Sir McHotpants- witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can’t afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn- the focus of her slightly, albeit harmless, stalkerish tendencies- to make her an offer she can’t refuse.

    Why I love it:

    So many reasons. The biggest reason has got to be the dialogue. Each character has a completely unique voice, but they’ve been blended in a way that makes them feel cohesive and collected. 

    The storylines are just zany enough as to work with one’s suspension of disbelief. Each book has a bit of froth, a lot of humor, and some pretty big truths. However, since those truths are ensconced within a standard of humorous storytelling, they aren’t pedantic or arrogant. It feels as though Penny Reid is layering each story with a sense of self awareness and witty self-deprecation. When one is reading a piece of this collection, one can almost hear her whispering,

    “Don’t worry, I’ve totally been there, it’s ok. Also, when I was there, I just had a terrible reaction to a drug store face cream that made my neck look like Jabba the Hut. Let’s talk about it over a Pimms Cup.”

    *this quote is totally fictional and I am certain Ms Reid’s neck has never appeared to be alien or slug-like in appearance. 

    Reading this series, one absolutely feels as though the characters within their volumes could absolutely be their friends in real life. They are easy to cheer on, laugh with, cry with, and feel a strange and completely inappropriate reaction in the nether regions when their husbands are near.

    I could totally be the jam in a Quinn/Drew sandwich. Read the books and you’ll get that. 

    Also, the books made me want to learn to knit; which is weird, because the last time I was crafty was that hot minute in eighth grade when I played “light as a feather” with a bunch of girls at an “occult” bookstore. (How occult can you be if you also sell houseplants and Billy Joel albums? “She’s Got A Way About Her”…don’t know what it is, but I think it’s those love candles….)

    This was the expected result. This was not what occurred.

    There are currently four books in the series, with a few more planned. She’s also penning a spin-off series based on the characters in Beauty and the Mustache. *the book tied with #1 for my favorite.

    Now I’m going to do something sickly personal that may make me want to puke later. Beauty and the Mustache is one of my favorite books–possibly ever, and the book HIT me. I mean, it HIT me. Not because of any personal commiseration with the characters–if anything, Neanderthal Marries Human hits close to home with that one. However, it just clicked for me, and while I was reading it, I was HEAVILY reminded of one of my favorite songs by one of my FAVORITE singer/songwriters, and it just felt like Drew. So, before the recipe inspired by the book. (Which there will be another one as well, because I couldn’t choose, but may be reserved for when I review the next book in the series.) Here’s the song.

    ok, and this one.

    The recipe inspired by the books:

    These books take place mostly in Chicago, and we know I don’t deep dish. There are a few things I like deep…water, dark chocolate…other things…but not pizza. I like it as shallow as a Kardashian, and just as over-done.

    However!!! Beauty and the Mustache takes place in TENNESSEE. I know the mid-south. I know it and love it. My family hails from West ByGod, and the food of the region is like a warm hug and sunlight on my skin.

    And it is overly-criticized as pedestrian and greasy! F THAT! A: My MawMaw always made sure I had vegetables, and she no more FRIED everything than I would. Also, Tennessee, Kentucky, Huntington, they’re ALL experiencing a renaissance in the culinary world! So, I figured, why not update one of my favorite childhood foods?

    Deviled Eggs. OH YEAH! Any good Southern family knows that a party isn’t a party until some poor asshole has to peel 948y3948y6398x∏r² eggs.

    Oddly, it ended up being paleo. Totally unintentional, but completely delicious.

    Bacon-Avocado Cracklins Deviled Eggs

    Yes, cracklins. Pork rinds. I swear, they’re delicious.

    Bacon-Avocado Cracklins Deviled Eggs

    [bctt tweet=”Get Series(ous). Your next great read, and #PALEO deviled eggs. #FitFluential #jerf”]

    Bacon-Avocado Cracklins Deviled Eggs Bacon-Avocado Cracklins Deviled Eggs

     

    Bacon-Avocado Cracklins Deviled Eggs

    by Cat Bowen

    Prep Time: 1 hour

    Cook Time: 15 minutes-1 hour

    Keywords: appetizer breakfast side snack low-carb paleo nut-free soy-free

    Ingredients (2 dozen deviled eggs)

    • 12 large eggs, hard boiled
    • 5 slices of bacon, cooked, crumbled, and with the fat set aside
    • 1/2-1 large ripe avocado (to taste/texture)
    • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp melted butter
    • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • large pinch salt
    • pepper
    • dash of cayenne pepper
    • 1 snack sized bag of PLAIN cracklins, crushed

    Instructions

    halve eggs, place yolks in a bowl

    mash eggs with a fork,

    add rendered bacon fat, mustard, butter, vinegar, salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic

    mash avocado and add to mix

    stir until mostly smooth or mix with a blender to achieve completely smooth texture

    pipe into egg whites

    top with crushed cracklins

    CONSUME WITH YOUR FACE

    Powered by Recipage

    *Scrum*tious.

    Ok, I know this is out of order, but today is a book review post, and Friday will be Get Series(ous). Why? I need better pictures of the food made for the post. Which means I’ll have to make it again. le sigh. (snicker)

    Before I get to the meat of the post…RUNNING UPDATE!

    Ok, I just finished (we’re in a blog time machine) my extra-super-long-run. Like, just this side of a marathon, long. It’s actually the longest distance I run pre-mary. 20 miles. It was a bitch, and I struggled. I felt good, and strong, but my headspace was all effed up. It was like one of those times when one is having sex, and enjoying everything, but they can’t help but remember that they missed that one spot while shaving on the back of their thigh, and DON’T TOUCH THERE. (here…I have boobs…you like boobs! DAMMIT, MEN WHO MARRY 6′ TALL WOMEN ARE LEG MEN! SHIT!) That was how my running headspace was going.

    I wanted to just focus on the run and talking to my run partner, but NO. I couldn’t. I kept looking at my Garmin, and could not stop watching my speed. GAH! Here I was, running a score of miles with one of my very best good pals who has run a few sub-3 marathons, and I kept looking at my freaking GPS as though he wasn’t pacing me. He flat out TOLD ME he’d pace me. That we’d set up our splits in 5 sets of 4 miles, and I only had to worry about running.

    I was tripping over my own brain.

    However, with his excellent pacing, I set out (mostly) what I’d wanted to accomplish. Our average was no greater than 8 min/mi, with some miles significantly faster, including 3 sub 7s. Oddly, our fastest miles were the miles I felt best. Let’s face it, the shin-crushing, side-stitching, mucus-running miles are only the best miles when my head is shoveling out darkness. Thankfully, the pain and endorphins are a pretty good plow.

    This.

    book cover is link.

    Now, you scamps know I love me some LH Cosway and Penny Reid. I was over the moon when I received an ARC of this book. I received it with no expectation of a review, and I already pre-ordered it. Therefore, it was like a pretty little gift in my inbox with a pink bow.

    The Blurb:

    THE HERMIT

    Annie Catrel, social media expert extraordinaire at Davidson & Croft Media and clandestine celebrity blogger, can make anyone shine in the court of public opinion. She is the Socialmedialite, anonymous creator of New York’s Finest and the internet’s darling. Virtual reality is Annie’s forte, but actual reality? Not so much.

    THE HOOKER

    Ronan Fitzpatrick, aka the best hooker the world of rugby has seen in decades, despises the media—social or otherwise. The press has spun a web of lies depicting him as rugby’s wild and reckless bad boy. Suspended from his team, Ronan has come to Manhattan to escape the drama, lay low, fly under the radar. Only, Ronan isn’t easy to overlook, and he can’t escape the notice of the Socialmedialite…

    THE PLAN

    When Ronan is sent to Davidson & Croft Media to reshape his public image, he never expects to cross paths with shy but beautiful Annie, nor does he expect his fierce attraction to her. He couldn’t be happier when her boss suggests pairing them together.
    What lengths will Annie take to keep her virtual identity concealed? And what happens when the hooker discovers who the hermit really is?

    This book reminds me a lot of the confections featured throughout its pages, light, sweet, and too quickly gone.

    When the book opens, it is immediately apparent that the tone of it is the quick-witted snarky humor that readers have come to expect from both LH Cosway and Penny Reid. Told in first-person, the story begins fast and that pace is held for the duration of the majority of the text.

    What I loved. 

    The dialogue, both spoken and internal, was by far my favorite part of the book. Here’s a snippet.

    Roses are red, violets are blue. I’m using my hand, but thinking of you. 

    How could I not love that, right? The banter between Annie and Ronan, or Annie writing as Socialmedialite, was spot-on hilarious. LH Cosway didn’t shy away from using UK sayings in her parts of the text to water it down for American audiences, and Penny Reid spouted ‘Merica fearlessly. Ok, I don’t know if she was writing this book while flying an American flag behind her head and drinking Coca Cola while humming “The Star Spangled Banner,” but that’s how I picture it happening.

    Strike that, I picture her humming this:

    I love that the characters were each strong and extremely well-suited to their occupations. In their professional lives, they take no prisoners. They are educated, intelligent, leaders in their field.

    I love that two authors who depend quite a bit of the good word of bloggers did not pull any punches when it comes to the sort of banal trivialities that afflict social media and blogging. Because, let’s face it, the internet provides a great deal of anonymity for people hide behind. This, in turn, allows a great many a person to switch off their “good person” button, and become epic steaming shitpiles of douchebaggery.

    I love that the “mean girl” trope was used, but not in the completely typical manner. Usually, I sort of hate the “mean girl” trope. It’s overdone, and to be honest, even though those women truly exist in real life, I feel like writing about them over and over again just perpetuates it. I’m way too feminist not to say “Hey, why must it always be the girl who is the asscandle?” This book featured an asshole *couple.* For some reason, that made the manipulative bitch pill easier to swallow.

    I 100% realize that hating this specific trope is completely my own feminist hangup.

     

    I loved the HEA. Of COURSE I did. *SPOILER ALERT* I won’t call a book a “romance” if there’s no HEA. It’s a romaybenot, or a bummermance, or you know, fiction.

    The Hooker and the Hermit has plenty of chest–and other area–tingly bits throughout the text. I dare say this book is a bit more “in the sack” than Penny Reid’s other novels, but about on-par from what I’ve read of LH Cosway. (I’ve read four, and I think I’ll binge this weekend.)

    I adored the chemistry between the two MCs. I thought the verbal tug of war was believable without being overly realistic. Because, duh. It’s a fucking romance. No one writes about how that one time your boyfriend once admitted to the fact he touched himself to images of his fourth grade gym teacher.

    *that was a thing that happened.

    I love that there’s enough rugby players on Ronan’s team from which to choose for sequels.

    I love that the entire time I was reading, this is who I had in my head as Ronan:

    Stuart Reardon…a real, live, just-look-at-that, rugby player.

    This is him again…for comparison. Obviously.

    I would not kick him out of my house for wearing boots indoors. I hear they’re good for knocking.

    What I maybe didn’t love as much. 

    I really hate saying anything remotely negative about this book, because I truly believe you should read it. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and sessssy as hay-ell.

    However, just a few, tiny things. GAH! I feel like dreck.

    I thought the first 1/3 of the book was unevenly paced. It goes right into the action, great, hook us! Yes! But the romance felt less-genuine, a teeny bit rushed. The chemistry was there, all the fizzle and spark, but I had trouble connecting the two MCs and the reasons for their deeper attraction.

    I felt as though the MC, Annie’s excuses and behavior in the final quarter of the book were in opposition to her inner dialogue, especially given how she purported to feel about Ronan. But! It does come to a satisfactory conclusion.

    This last bit is again, 100% my own hangup…

    The book was set in NYC. I happen to know a bit about NYC. I feel like the setting was very inconsequential, which saddens me, because NYC in and of itself can add so much to a story.

    Again, that’s my New Yorker’s bias.

    The Hooker and The Hermit 4, ball-kicking stars.

    And guess what???

    This book has a theme near and dear to my heart. If fact, I would argue it’s actually a bit of a motif–symbolism if you will. Annie loves herself some tea and desserts. The first thing we see of Annie, she’s having a bit at Tom’s Southern Kitchen. Then, we see her eating an eclair in the office, Ronan feeds her dessert, and even has one himself later in the book. Here’s the thing, only when she is dealing with inner turmoil does she turn to the sugary support beam. I don’t get the sense she’s eating her feelings as much as I do she’s using it as a substitute for stability. These things are always the same, even when I’m in upheaval. In the end, when she’s settled, there is no mention of cookies or donuts or eclairs or wine–anything. Just she and Ronan.

    The Hooker and the Hermit by LH Cosway and Penny Reid

    Obviously, I had to make eclairs for today’s post. It was that, or treacle tart, and eclairs won.

    I also could not possibly be expected to make typical eclairs. Yes, I use the same Alton Brown pate a choux recipe everyone else does for the shell. Yes, I use the same epicurious recipe for pastry cream everyone else does. I make ganache exactly the same way everyone else does. HOWEVER, I folded peanut butter into the pastry cream. Because I could.

    Peanut Butter Eclairs Peanut Butter Eclairs Peanut Butter Eclairs

    This is a process, not a recipe. Use THIS recipe for the eclairs, and pipe them into logs instead of dots. Same cooking time. Make THIS pastry cream and fold in 1/2 cup of Jif Natural PB. NOT the all-natural whole foods pb. This is not the time for that. Ganache is just 1:1 chocolate to heavy cream. I suggest dark or semi-sweet chocolate. Melt them together in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring between, and stir until smooth. Cut open the sides of the FRESH eclair and pipe in the peanut butter pastry cream. Dip in ganache. Either eat immediately or freeze immediately.