Weighty Words: The Top 5 Fitness Books That Don’t Make You Want an Oreo.

When I re-branded my blog, I told myself I wouldn’t completely cut fitness out of the blog entirely, because it’s still a huge part of my life, and I love talking about it. However, it felt disingenuous to continue in the vein of “healthy fitness blogging” when I realized that a lot of the time … Read more…

Adoring Assigned Reading: Books You May Have Missed.

I woke up this morning with a total ladyboner for life. I mean, It’s NOT going to be 90+degrees fahrenheit, my kids’s fevers broke, I had JUSTENOUGH soy milk for my coffee, and I haves new audiobook to listen to. (written like a Boov, because I don’t fucking have to watch Home today, because I’m getting out of the fucking house and off the sofa like my ass is on fire.)

Frank gets my enthusiasm. My “spark.”

I will lift heavy things. I will drink iced coffee served to me by a stranger. I will smile at random passersby in the least creepy (possibly most creepy) manner, ever.

I was also excited because it is THIS DAY!!!!

adoring assigned readingYAYYAYAYA!!

In honor of the removal of my atrabilious mood, I’m doing one of my FAVORITES!!

Persuasion

OH, Wentworth. Wenty. My love. You are right on time for this blogger. Right.On.Time.

I sort of just want to write: READ AUSTEN. READ ALL OF IT. IT’S MORDANT SATIRE!! MAKING FUN OF THE 1% SINCE THE REGENCY ERA. I will not. At least again. Instead, I will tell you why you need to read…

I don’t even need to link it. Buy it anywhere. Get it from the library. Barnes and Noble. ANY BOOKSTORE EVER.

But, why, why should you read this juicy little gem of feminist awesome?

A: because, feminism.

B: Because Jane Austen wrote books nigh on 200 years ago, and she thumbed her nose at all of the things of which she was born into. She understood that the trappings of wealth and common practices surrounding the commodification of a woman’s maidenhood was an absurdity that should be skewered. She also understood that finding a connection with another person on a level beyond that of “he’ll keep me in satin dresses” is the key to actual happiness. That it is our personalities and inclinations which make us a match for someone else, not our pursestrings.

The love between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot in Persuasion is the most beautiful “second chance” romance of its kind. Here he is, a seaman in the Queen’s navy, and she, a well-bred blue blood, yet they love each other fiercely. However, Anne is young–nineteen–and impressionable, and breaks off their relationship believing she needs to make a more advantageous match when she is advised to do so.

You can see where this is going.

WENTY STILL LOVES HER. SHE STILL LOVES HIM. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS (OR WHICHEVER MONARCH APPEARED ON THE POUND IN 1817.)

Oh man.

square in the feels.

 It’s ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY A FIVE-STAR READ. Like, five-star first gear. no pages yet colored on or torn out. Brand new.

Whatever do I dare pair with this?!?!?!

It’s also regency(ish). But it’s MODERN! Just a few years old.

The Blurb:

First love is like the measles—a hot rash one is stronger for surviving. 
Good English families all have a house in the country with a deer park, a trout stream, and an army of gardeners. They should have a son and if it can be managed, he should be handsome. Cleverness isn’t important. Daughters in limited quantities are fine so long as they are pretty. Bastards are inconvenient and best ignored. It’s not a big problem, unless you are one.
Unfortunately, Sophy is.
Sick of her outcast role, she escapes her father’s house, only to fall from her horse during a spring storm. Injured, soaked, and shivering, she stumbles to a stranger’s door—Tom, a blunt edged merchant from a family of vulgar upstarts. Mistaking Sophy for the genuine article, he takes her in.
Sophy can’t resist twisting the truth. Soon she’s caught in her own snare—and it might just be a noose.

Why I loved it.

I really thought this book would just be an “ok” way to spend an afternoon. I was content to sit and read it much like one is content to watch a Full House marathon on TBS, or a t-ball tourney. That is to say–I was very “meh” about it.

Until I began reading.

All at once I was knocked sideways by the particular care taken to the dialogue, and the challenging nature of the prose. Who is this Jaima Fixen broad, and why have I never heard of her?!!? The book’s editing is flawless, the story composed delicately and precisely, and the romance is a steady, slow, growing burn. I liken it very much to Austen or Bronte, insomuch as it’s not “guy and girl or possibly two or more guys and a girl start banging it out halfway through the book, someone is an asshole, but don’t worry–they’ll get over it in time for a HEA.” It’s more “Let us slowly but confidently mark time and reason, building suspense and hope for a seemingly impossible couple to defy the odds and become a pair.”

In fact…GASP(!!!) No one bangs anyone in this book. It’s like a professional kitchen it is so clean. But it doesn’t suffer for a lack of sexual interludes. If anything, it makes the small gestures of affection between the two MCs even more fraught with tension and fragility, like Piastro Oliv strings for a violin, the sound or feel is bright and rich, full of precious things, but it’s so tenuous at first, difficult to play, until one masters their instrument.

The conclusion is all the more satisfying for the difficulty in reaching it.

Four Stars. (one star removed because I couldn’t easily place the time until it was spelled out.)

So, what would I make to go with these books?

NOTHING. IT’S REGENCY ERA BRITTANIA. EW.

So I made toasted pasta. Austen and the like are ALWAYS EATING TOAST. But seriously, you don’t need a recipe for that. But toasted pasta? It’s one of those easy, delicious, and unexpected things–much like Fairchild. 

I implore you to make this with whole wheat pasta. The flavors are nuttier and bolder than with white flour or semolina pasta, not to mention the protein and fiber content. The recipe calls for Earth Balance buttery spread, but you know by now from reading my blog, you could use traditional butter. A good improvement on this dish, albeit an expensive one is to use truffle butter. If you do so, eliminate the red pepper flakes. You can also add grated parm, bottarga, or even feta or goat cheese atop this delight.

Toasted Pasta Aglio e Olio

Toasted Pasta Aglio e Olio


Toasted Pasta Aglio e Olio Toasted Pasta Aglio e Olio

Toasted Pasta Aglio E Oglio

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Keywords: appetizer entree side snack vegan vegetarian nut-free soy-free

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 8 oz whole wheat thin spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1 tbsp butter or earth balance buttery spread
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked red pepper
  • fresh black pepper to taste
  • vegetable or chicken stock, depending on dryness of pasta between 2 and four cups.

Instructions

in a DRY skillet on medium-high, break the DRY pasta in half and toast it until most are a rich, golden brown

reduce heat to medium

add the oil and garlic on medium heat until garlic is translucent.

toss pasta

add a cup of the stock and stir until stock is absorbed

add salt and another 1/2 cup of stock until that is absorbed

continue until pasta is al dente

finish with butter, pepper, and red pepper flake.

serve IMMEDIATELY.

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Cultivating a Love of Reading in Kids. Top 5 Ways to Raise a Reader.

and The Unintentional Nerdification of Mine.

I want to put this out there: before I ever had children, I declared they would have interests separate from mine. They could choose or not choose their own fascinations and whimsy, hobbies and daily activities. I would boldly embrace whatever they chose to love, be it sports or crochet or animal husbandry–I was ready.

Yes, that pug will make a fine husband!

However, apparently environment and eagerness and the total geeking out of the parents has more influence than one might have expected when one was 23-24.

Apparently, osmosis is totally a thing. Unlike fetch, which is still not a thing.

My son, aka “The Captain,” is a 7 year old nerd. Completely and totally, and he came by it honestly. His favorite movie–right now, because it is ever in flux–is Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. He will enthusiastically reenact entire chunks of it for you.

You may be cool, but you’ll never be “Elf riding a gigantic buck through gold helmets” cool.

His favorite book is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He loves all things comic books. He hates most sports but loves running around pretending to be a warrior dwarf from Dragon Age. *and I mean RUN. Boy is like greased lightning and pure kinetic energy. Sitting still for long is not happening.

Still pissed I was willing to sacrifice you for Dragon treasure? Guess I deserved that.

Originally, we thought my daughter was going to be much more traditional. To a point, she is. She loves Barbie and princesses and probably wants a pony for her birthday. She’s also obsessed with Wonder Woman and Supergirl and Ironman and her favorite…

She’s also REALLY into steampunk, lately. She is into SP because I am an idiot and recently read to her Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk bedtime story NOW she wants to be a steampunk iron butterfly princess for Halloween. DO I LOOK CRAFTY TO YOU?! No. No I do not. I can’t even operate a bedazzler and I was a dresser for a drag queen for years. I fail. Also, WTF is an iron butterfly princess? DOES IT TRAVEL BY AIRSHIP OR GEAR WINGS?!?! There are too many possibilities. 

In spite of the fact that I have unintentionally nerd herded the fuck out of my offspring. I am so proud of how much they both love the written word. My son has severe ADHD, so while he can read hours of comic books, he likes to “read” tons of audiobooks while, you know, acting them out–as you do. My daughter, however, can sit on my lap whilst I read to her, or listen to audiobooks for…well, until I’m really tired of doing every voice ever.

No one ever told me that having children would keep my vocal acting skills so fresh. BONUS!

I’ll admit, the voices do vivify the activity of reading, but the real joy is in the moment of togetherness.

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents

Harvard, Yale, Brown, Colgate, and Columbia Teacher’s College have all done studies about the importance of cultivating a love of reading early on in life. Children who read and are read to perform better in the classroom, on tests, and as far into the future as their professional careers. It’s essential to grow a love of reading in children, so that the joy continues when it’s not always fun. (Like when your English teacher assigns Ulysses because he hates you…and life…puppies…rainbows…happiness.)

How did I do it?

Top 5 Ways to Raise a Reader. (1)

  1. Access, Access, Access. 

    I get it. Hardcover books are $$$. Board books are $$$. I get that. But access to books is crucial. There are some GREAT resources for inexpensive or free books on the net and locally. Thriftbooks.com is probably my favorite. You can buy books in groups for pennies. Local used bookshops are also a great, and fun resource. Strangely enough, stoop sales and yard sales have rewarded me with some of the best finds I’ve read, and by authors I’d never heard of. Never discount library sales!! The books are often equipped with library binding, and that is nothing to sneeze at. *Not to mention just taking stacks out on loan.* Scribd, a monthly service, and Kindle free time also have hundreds of thousands of children’s ebooks available.

  2. Model the behavior yourself. 

    It’s hard to raise a reader if you’re not a reader. I always tell people that if you think you aren’t a reader, that just means you haven’t found the right book. I will always be grateful to my family for not only getting me to the library and bookstore, but for being readers themselves. My MawMaw had a basket of books beside her sitting chair–always. The beach is a place I remember watching my family hang out under the umbrella reading until dusk. The Plain Dealer was delivered at 5am every day. Children of readers read.

  3. Talk to your children about their books. 

    This not only reinforces the lessons learned in the books, and their comprehension of them, it also serves to stir up excitement over their next read.

  4. Take them to the library. 

    This may seem obvious, but I’m not just talking about going to check books out. Most libraries have reading groups, activities surrounding literature, movies, etc. They’re a great resource.

  5. Create a routine. 

    Which, contrary to popular belief, does not have to be at bedtime. My kids will PESTER THE EVER LOVING EFF OUT OF ME if I agree to read before bed. One book becomes eleventy. We read right before lunch or just after school. It’s a nice way to kick back, relax, get some serious snuggling, and learn. I cannot overstate the snuggling. My seven year old is growing out of it, so I have to squeeze in all the snuggles I can.

Most importantly, don’t make it stressful or punitive. It’s not “if you don’t behave, you’ll turn off YouTube and READ!!” That’s never going to work. Reading needs to be a choice and a gift.

Now, what recipe could possibly go with this?

One my kids chose, of course.

Their favorite.

Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

 

Vegan No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: freeze overnight

Keywords: vegan ice-cream

Ingredients

  • the cream from two cans of coconut cream with no additives
  • 3 cups unsweetened cashew milk
  • 4 tbsp instant espresso
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Instructions

heat the milk and cream on medium a stove until just starting to simmer

whisk in espresso and sugar until dissolved

add salt and vanilla

pour into a 2 quart container and freeze overnight.

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Magic Mushrooms.

Have you ever wanted to throw something out the window just to watch the whole thing shatter and die?

That’s how I feel about Clash of Clans right now. I want to go all Office Space on the ipad, and dance around it as I set fire to it, sing chants–possibly in costume–and cackle loudly.

kill it with fire.

Ok, so that was apropos of NOTHING, but I needed to get that off my chest. The Captain keeps hijacking my apple tv to play it on the “big screen,” and I’m about to pelt him with bananas or applesauce, or something.

moving on….

Two weeks ago, I teased The Brush of Black Wings by one of my favorite authors, Grace Draven, while reviewing its predecessor Master of Crows. We laughed, we drank, it was better than the last day of school and the first day of school all rolled into one, right? Of course right.

Well, after waiting FOREVER for one of my favorite ingredients to come in at the grocers, I can finally review the fuck out of it.

First, let me say this: Grace Draven writes fantasy romance with such skill and confidence, that I am consistently marveled by the depth of her imagination, and the quality of her prose. At times it feels as though Grace Draven is channeling her writing through some long-forgotten Chaucerian or Marie de France tale, given voice through distinctly modern language. It’s shocking in its complexity and addictive qualities.

The Brush of Black Wings is no different. Decidedly shorter, and more fantasy than romance, it feels like a departure from her previous books, while remaining utterly engaged in her genre. There is quite a bit of action, with less action than Master of Crows–but it suffers not at all for the lack of it. In this installment, Silhara of Neith and Martise (now also of Neith) are married and living at the ruined keep. He’s still sexy, she still drives him into the fits with her blunt sexiness.

The Brush of Black Wings

They are living their lives as simply as The Master of Crows and his wife can possibly live, until their servant-friend, Gurn decides he wants fancy mushrooms.

Martise the ever awesome, goes to collect the mushrooms like some damned truffle sniffing pig. It’s cold, her fingers are freezing, and then SHE FALLS INTO ANOTHER DIMENSION.

All is not lost, but man alive are there some tough scrapes for her in this gray place! Silhara is properly terrified and rage-beast as fuck about this predicament, and does his magey-magic to go forth and retrieve his wife! (Go back and retrieve? Sideways? It’s a place out of time, so he basically needs a magical cross between the Wonkavator and the standing stones of Outlander.)

Silhara: “Charlie, I feel you. I just do.”

The beauty of the relationship between Silhara and Martise is that Grace Draven uses their magic as a metaphor for a strong marriage. It’s not one person doing all the heavy lifting and sacrifice. Playing up one another’s strengths, and sharing sacrifice, is the only way to create a lasting union. The communication between the magic of the pair is open and fulfilling–just as it (communication) is in ANY good marriage.

The book concludes with some foreshadowing to the next installment which I found delightfully intriguing, and the epilogue gave me the brain tingles. Not like syphilis, that would be bad brain tingling.

The Brush of Black Wings by Grace DravenTo me, this novella felt like a delicious appetizer which served to whet my appetite for the main course in a most delectable way. Like French Onion soup before a plate full of mashed potatoes. (now I want both.) I plan on re-reading this several times before the next book is released.

Five magical mushrooms.

mushroom

 Of COURSE I had to do a mushroom recipe. This one is delicious and satisfying, and LOOKS really difficult and impressive. It’s easy peasy. I swear.

Mushroom Miso Soba Noodles

It’s not a soup, but it’s reminiscent of the miso soup or miso ramen you get at Japanese restaurants. It’s the perfect summer dish because it can be served hot or cold, and you DO NOT HAVE TO TURN ON THE OVEN. Also, it calls for dried shiitake mushrooms. I prefer bulk, flat packed, dried shrooms, but really, ANY dried mushrooms will work. Also, I specify Wakame flakes, but Korean dried seaweed flakes will also work. The one thing I’m REALLY going to stress to you is to use UNSALTED stock. Miso, soy sauce, wakame, and even tofu can be heavily salted, and you don’t want to burn your tongue on the salinity of the dish.

Ready? Ready.

mushroom miso soba noodles mushroom miso soba noodles

 

mushroom miso soba noodles

Mushroom Miso Soba Noodles

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Keywords: stir-fry entree side snack vegan vegetarian

Ingredients (4-6 servings)

    for the sauce

    • 2 cups UNSALTED stock. (I used veg, you could use chicken or veg)
    • 3 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
    • 2 tbsp WHITE miso
    • 2 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp Mirin
    • 1/4 cup wakame flakes
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 tsp rayu or sriracha or ONE thai chili, stemmed, ribbed, and seeded.
    • 12 oz fresh soba noodles

    for the noodles

    • 12 oz FRESH or frozen and thawed soba noodles. (buckwheat or white–matters not.)
    • 1, 12 oz block of extra-firm tofu, cubed into 1″ cubes or 12 oz stemmed and de-veined shrimp (or combo)
    • 2 big red bell peppers, sliced into ribbons
    • 6-8 oz halved and cleaned baby bok choy or Shanghai choy, lightly steamed. (2-4 minutes) barring that–broccoli or Napa
    • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
    • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
    • 2 tbsp neutral oil
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • 1 tsp Mirin
    • 1 tsp soy sauce
    • 1/2 cup vegetable stock

    Garnish

    • chopped cilantro
    • chopped scallion
    • additional wakame flakes
    • hot sauce
    • soft-boiled egg (optional.)

    Instructions

    the base sauce

    In a saucepan, combine the sesame oil, mirin, miso, sriracha, and stock and bring it to a simmer, stirring slowly

    add wakame and mushrooms, turn to low, let simmer 30 minutes

    pull out mushrooms and slice.

    the noodles

    in a WOK or really big fecking skillet, heat the oils until rippling

    add ginger and garlic

    stir in bell pepper and tofu/shrimp–toss and cook until either warmed or cooked through

    add in noodles, stock, Mirin, and soy sauce and toss

    add in remaining ingredients, toss

    add mushrooms back to stock and pour over noodle mix.

    again, toss.

    cook until tender

    plate.

    If serving cold, you may wish to add a bit of soy sauce or Yuzu to the noodles as you eat them,

    garnish and eat

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    Camping Out

    Scamps. SCAMPS. I am beside myself right meow. We are THREE DAYS AWAY from THIS.

    I mean, really. REALLY.

    I have been waiting for this ever since Netflix announced they were doing it. Kristin Wiig, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Jon Hamm, EVERYONE ELSE ON EARTH THAT I LOVE AND ADORE. SFW, I blog for Netflix. I don’t freaking blog about shit I don’t like, (unless I truly hate it like that one book that one time.) Everyone and their stepbrother, (who may also be a bear and a billionaire, and possibly the head of a motorcycle gang intent on saving some chit) has been waiting for this release. (TWSS)

    It couldn’t come at a better time because,

    and I’m not going outside for ANYTHING. I’ve even taken to working out at home–mostly. ME! WORKING.OUT.AT.HOME. With my kids and my dog, and the insanity…Just leaving the house feels like a burden that carries the weight of my underboob sweat. It just does. Thankfully, I live in the land of Amazon Fresh and Peapod and Fresh Direct and Thrive Market, and Urban Organic, and most importantly–delivery liquor because,

    I mean, dammmmmnnn, I’m even sending my laundry out. Even my delicates. IT’S QUITE POSSIBLE THAT SOMEONE, RIGHT NOW, IS HANDLING MY PANTIES. And guess what?

    So, even though I am nowhere close to a personal trainer, (unless we’re training to how to bribe preschoolers with candy corn, or possibly training for a rousing game of flip cup) I still came up with an At-Home workout for everyone. Completed entirely with .gifs from the cast of Wet, Hot, American Summer: First Day of Camp.

    EXHIBITION

    First, you’re going to need to limber up.

    Michael Ian Black is perhaps a bit robot-y, but who GAF? not me?

    Now? Power walk like you fucking mean it. Ten minutes, or however long it takes you to look amazing.

    Please, don’t neglect your wig.

    Swing those legs, scamps! Those man pebbles and ladyflowers aren’t going to fan themselves!

    Feel those feelings. It burns like, an easy 6 calories.

    COMBO TIME!!

    Thrust it like you’re making babies.

    It’s best to wear cut-off jorts at all times. Natural fibers only.

    Now things get really hot…

    So, time to refuel.

    repeat, like, enough for eight episodes.

    Now, you know I don’t eat McDonald’s. I’m pretty sure the only vegan item on their menu is the apple slices. So, that’s not my refueling option of choice after my nightly makeout sesh with Bradley Cooper.

    So I made something that goes really well with beer, because, don’t tell me you’re not going to drink a few while watching this wondrous extravaganza. They’re vegan, but once again, I gave non-vegan options.

    Faux-ritos and Creamy Cilantro Dip


    Faux-ritos and creamy cilantro dip

    Faux-ritos

    by Cat Bowen

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook Time: 8 minutes

    Keywords: bake

    Ingredients (4 servings)

      dusting for baked tortilla chips

      • 2 tsp nutritional yeast or 2 tbsp crumbled parmesan cheese
      • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
      • 1/4 tsp celery salt
      • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
      • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
      • 1/2 tsp cumin

      for the chips

      • 8-10 small flour tortillas
      • cooking spray (all-natural)

      for the dip

      • 1/3 cup vegan mayo I use JUST MAYO, or regular mayo
      • 2 tbsp frozen recaito
      • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
      • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

      Instructions

      preheat oven (or toaster oven, like I used) to 400F)

      slice tortillas into strips

      arrange strips in a single layer on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet

      spray with cooking spray

      bake for 8 minutes or until crisp

      while baking, whisk together toppings for chips

      remove strips from oven and spray again

      toss in a bowl with the dust

      for the dip

      thaw the recaito overnight in a separate bowl in the fridge

      stir with mayo and red wine vinegar

      DIP

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      Though Netflix sponsored these posts, all opinions and recipes are my own.
      Though Netflix sponsored these posts, all opinions and recipes are my own.