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.

    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

    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.

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      Re-Reading the Classics.

      Today, I’m kicking it old school. I know that I said for the first edition of..

      adoring assigned reading

      that I would be doing The Picture of Dorian Gray, however, the recipe I want to do for that book takes HOURS in the oven, and since it’s hotter than the proverbial mother fucker outside, that’s a big NO.

      (aside: my use of “the proverbial” sort of bugs me. I think it’s overused. However, we do have a sort of proverbial mother fucker in Oedipus, that scallywag, so it’s ok. Also, probably a Lannister has had improper relations with their primary life-giver at some point…)

      ANYWHOOOO, I ended up making waffles. Those were first invented in 1842/43 in Belgium, and spread across Europe like wildfire. So I went with that time. (Yes, TPoDG would also be that time–semantics–hush.)

      I want to introduce you to a lovely, gripping, SHORT book you’ve probably never heard of or read. It’s FREEEEEE on Kindle and Smash and iBooks and Scribd….etc etc etc. Your library probably doesn’t have it.

       

      It’s so under-appreciated that no one has ever given it a groovy cover!

      The Haunted Chamber

      There is a reason I’m not a graphic designer, people.

      Anywhoooooo, I’m TERRIBLE AWFUL HORRIBLE at writing book summaries. But, since the author was unaware that Goodreads and blurbs would be a thing, and there isn’t a fucking blurb to be had, I’ll try it. Bear with me.

      Picture it: England, sometime in the 1870s ish. There is this Baronet, Adrian Dynecourt, and he returns home after a long journey abroad. He immediately begins to entertain guests, as you do, and welcomes first his very-favorite heiress, Miss Florence Delmaine. Unfortunately, she is chaperoned by her widow cousin Dora the backstabbing turtlelover. Even more unfortunately, Sir Adrian’s cousin, Arthur the conniving assbasket also shows up. Thankfully, Adrian is a fellow who is stout of character and can put up with many shitshows all at once.

      It is clear to every guest at Adrian’s months-long houseparty raver, that he’s way into Flo.

      Dora the explora-ho thinks this is a bad match. Flo could make it rain for centuries and lasso herself a duke, and here she is, interested in a mere Baronet, who has but decades worth of stripper-monies in his coffers. Dora is pretty sure Adrian would be far better suited to, say, a widow of reasonable fortune with an ass to grab.

      Well, wouldn’t you just know it? Arthur the alphadick, having little ability to even make a mist at a scantily-clad lady or gent, is desirous of an opportunity to to increase his worth and elevate his station. He’s a smooth talker, and convinces Dora the horror to help him split Adrian and Florence up, while leading Florence right into Artie the asscandle’s arms.

      But this isn’t as easy as say, fleecing the aristocracy, or convincing scared, racist old, white people that Fox News is actually news, because Adrian and Florence remain pulled to one another…

      The Haunted Chamber

      That doesn’t stop Arthur the Awful and Dora the Double Agent from trying….Will karma kick them in the stones?

      Probably.

      READ IT. MEOW.

      Imagine if Jane Austen had a decidedly darker personality–or a bitchy twin. That, my lovelies, is Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. Unappreciated, and mostly forgotten, she’s worth a read.

      Also, I DEMAND DAVINA PORTER NARRATE THIS AT ONCE. (pretty sure she answers to no woman.)

      So, what book could I possibly have chosen as this great tome’s contemporary companion? Hmmmm????

      Ze blurb:

      She thought the best love affairs only happened in books…

      Traumatized by the deaths of her parents three years ago, Natalie Hewitt lives an introverted life, taking college classes during the day and working as a barista in a coffee shop at night. A passionate reader, she uses the writing of the world-famous and reclusive novelist Rafael Melendez Mendón to assuage her grief. His words are her refuge, his characters better company than anyone she could meet in real life… until Julian Kovač walks into the café one summer evening. He is a handsome, quiet young man and Natalie feels an instant connection.

      But Julian has a secret that is both the most wonderful revelation Natalie could possibly imagine…and the very thing that could tear them apart.

      My argument for reading after Maggie’s book. (I think Ms Hungerford and I would’ve just gotten on like gangbusters, so I’ll call her Maggie. Mags, if we’re drinking.)

      Orphans with income! Intrigue! Smart ladies and gents and the people who want them TO NOT KNOCK BOOTS, EVER.

      Emma’s writing is fun and concise, and she’s not given to over-long descriptions, or crowding the main characters’s lives with nonsense. Her sense of timing in this book is impeccable, with just enough romance and suspense to keep you extremely interested without developing an ulcer.

      It has the same sort of “we REALLY need to be honest with one another in order for the shit not to hit the fan” feeling of The Haunted Chamber, and it works really well.

      The recipe?

      Vegan Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Waffles

      To de-vegan, use regular buttermilk, eggs instead of flax eggs, and melted butter in place of coconut oil.

      vegan buttermilk chocolate chip waffles

      vegan buttermilk chocolate chip waffles

      Vegan Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Waffles

      by Cat Bowen

      Prep Time: 15 minutes

      Cook Time: 30 minutes (5 min/waffle)

      Keywords: bake vegan

      Ingredients

      • 1.5 cups AP flour
      • .5 cup rolled oats
      • 1 cup vanilla soy milk plus 1 tbsp lemon juice, set aside for 10 minutes
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 2 tbsp flax meal with 6 tbsp water, set aside for ten minutes
      • 1/4 cup coconut sugar (or regular sugar)
      • 1/3 cup coconut oil
      • 1 overripe banana, mashed
      • 1 cup chocolate chips

      Instructions

      mash the banana in a large bowl with the coconut oil

      add in the flax and water, stir

      add in the milk and lemon mixture, stir

      stir in oats

      sift in flour

      add chips and baking powder

      stir in chips

      if it’s too dry, add a bit more milk

      if it’s too wet, add a bit more flour

      That’s the weird thing about vegan baking, sometimes batters act differently in different circumstances.

      pour into greased waffle iron set to high and scoop enough in to cover 2/3 of it. close and bake.

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      All That Glitters is Gibbons

      When I began blogging, I had gurlpages. Do you remember that? If you’re under 27, I guarantee you do not. It was like Angelfire, but with 100% more glitter gifs.

      por ejemplo…

      I loved my little blog there. It was super emo. I was a teen girl with severe anxiety, hardcore depression, and a fierce need to fit in…somewhere. I wrote poetry, bitched about transitioning from a fundamentalist Christian school in the most dangerous city in Ohio, to a Mennonite school in Amish Country, Ohio, where I knew no one, and hated every minute.

      (Aside: there is no help for the Fundie school. I mean, if Marilyn Manson devotes a significant portion of his autobio to its destruction of his confidence….?? It is probably still absolutely awful. However, I think, had I started at the peace-loving Mennonite school, I could’ve really enjoyed it. There were even gay students!!GASP!!)

      Later, I blogged on Typepad and Blogspot, always looking for my little place to write. Then, when I was pregnant with the Peanut, I started Breakfast to Bed. It was a mess. I had no direction. It took me years to become comfortable with focusing on my life/fitness/books all while sharing my food. In the beginning? GAH! I wish the internet would swallow those posts and take them to the internet subspace on the superhighway. Like Tron, or The Matrix or whatever that weird 90’s movie with Keanu-as-automaton was. The posts should go there.

      However, along with the time of B2B’s incunabulum, I met some really awesome bloggers. TaraStephanie and I all had babies around the same time. We met on twitter, and quickly became friends. One day, Stephanie says to me “You’ve GOT to read Brittany’s blog–you’ll love her.” So I read it. And I did. I really did.

      I ended up following her on Twitter, and GAH! She followed back! That was huge for me.

      I started reading her archives, and had her blog bookmarked in my feedburner RSS feed.

      She writes about topics that few bloggers dare to discuss. Masturbation, the sometimes tiresome life of a mother, money problems, self-esteem, the “bed death” that most marriages go through at some point. She makes no apologies, and must have a lady carriage made of pure brass, because that broad is BOLD.

      Then, three years ago, she gave an amazing TED talk. Things seem to have really snowballed since then. You cannot blink without seeing her mentioned, or someone quoting her, or a link to her byline.

      Most recently, she wrote a book. A very good book.

       

      I know, I know. OMGSOMANY bloggers have written books at this point. Some are awesome, some aren’t. I feel like, many times, the voice of the blogger is somehow lost in the medium. It no longer feels as if they wrote the book. Fat Girl Walking reads just like a selection of BrittanyHerself.com‘s juiciest and most incredibly intimate posts.

      It’s as if Brittany Gibbons opens her soul, and just sprays each and every page with the sparkling residue of herself. She tells stories about her grandmother, her college life, her bankruptcy, her determination to succeed afterward. It’s harrowing and uplifting.

      Fat Girl Walking

      She puts it all out there. Everything.

      She’s never afraid to tell the stories, even those of her sometimes irrational behavior. She accepts this part of her as it is just that–a part of her. It’s not what defines her, but what makes her human. Sometimes we all act like lunatics, because we are all a *little* crazy. Fat Girl Walking is told with such unabashed bravery that it compels the reader to take a step back from their own lives, and question where it is in that life they need to show a little more mettle.

      middle finger

      Brittany Gibbons is a brilliant writer with an aptitude for storytelling that will no doubt continue to evolve and flourish throughout her career. I have every confidence that Brittany Gibbons’s work will quoted and studied alongside those such as Nora Ephron, Joan Didion, and Patricia Volk.

      Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin, Every Inch of It,

      Four and a half sparkling soul stars.

      So? What recipe could possibly go with such a book? Well, Brittany Gibbons is from my land of Ohio, and as such deserves a popular Ohio “salad.” And I veganized it because I can. It has been verified by non-vegans to taste as good OR BETTER than the original.

      I give you…

      Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad. It’s a salad because we say so.

      Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad

      Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad

       

      Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad

      by Cat Bowen

      Prep Time: 10-15 minutes, more if you don

      Cook Time: 15 minutes plus 2 hours in fri

      Keywords: side appetizer dessert vegan

      Ingredients (16 bars)

        for the strawberry jel fililng

        for the whipped cream

        • You can ABSOLUTELY use 1 8oz package vegan cream cheese (tofutti), softened and and whipped with 4-6 oz coconut cream and 1 cup confectioners sugar, whipped together until smooth, however, I used coconut whipped cream.
        • the separated fat of 3 cans of full fat coconut milk
        • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
        • 2.5 ml or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

        for the pretzel bottom

        • 2 cups crushed pretzels
        • 1/4 cup melted coconut butter

        Instructions

        Preheat oven to 400F

        stir together coconut butter and pretzels and press into the bottom of a 9″ or 10″ square pan

        bake 8-10 minutes or until you can smell them toast and they’re a darker brown

        remove from oven and cool completely

        boil together the juice and water and stir in the jel.

        stir in strawberries.

        pour over crust evenly

        let cool in fridge completely

        if you are making the cream cheese topping, whip the ingredients together on high until fluffy and spreadable–may take more coconut milk. ONLY USE A SOY CREAM CHEESE. It doesn’t break like the others.

        If you are making the coconut cream whipped cream follow these instructions

        top the jel with the cream

        chill in the freezer for fifteen minutes

        slice and serve.

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        Books and Booze–Book Review and the Mexican Melon Ball aka Dragon Piss

        “Fantasy is dead.”

        “No one reads PNR anymore.”

        “Sci-Fi is a dying art.”

        “All the ‘most important’ fantasy/PNR authors have crossed genres to Contemporary or Lit Fic.”

        These are all criticisms I’ve heard in the last year. Whether it was a tweet, an article, or blog post. It’s an all-to-familiar refrain hummed by the literate elite. With the boom of series sensations like Twilight and Harry Potter, and the dearth of mega-moneymakers since, most YA critics consider the genre completely dead–not just YA, but across the span.

        Similarly, I’ve read less and less in blogs–specifically book review blogs–about fantasy novels or PNR/UF. I’ve read next to nothing about Fantasy Romance.

        However, the increasing sales of these novels, most notably the bidding war recently waged at San Diego Comic Con over the filming rights to Patrick Rothfuss’s beloved novel, In The Name of the Wind stands as a contradistinction to the claims of the dying nerd culture.

         

        These people look like they’re totally ready to write-off the genre.

        I tire of these critics who claim the deaths of cultural icons in order to beef up their own numbers. I mean, HOW MANY PEOPLE SAID “CUPCAKES ARE DEAD?” For fucking real, have they ever had a cupcake? THEY’RE AMAZING. Pie is amazing–also not dead. Same with cookies, donuts, fantasy novels, leggings as pants, vampire books, Italian ice, sex in public places and beards.

        There are a few things that were very dead, recently resurrected, that I am voting back into the beyond:

        • culottes–NO
        • The Governor of Wisconsin–NO
        • Candace Cameron–NO! also, WHY IS SHE ON THE VIEW?! JUST TO FUCK WITH ME?
        • flavored body oils–NO. That shit isn’t sanitary! Why are PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK TRYING TO SELL IT TO ME WITH JAMBERRY MANICURES?!

        me. all day, every day.

        However, in the past few years, a few intrepid readers have sought-out books which take them to places beyond this realm of reality and woe, and into the unknown. A new land of magic and smoke, mages and dragons, smoking parapets and sword-wielding giants. These readers have been richly rewarded. For the first time in decades, these readers have a fresh crop of fantasy authors spinning tales of worlds beyond the stars, which burrow deep into our imagination.

        One of my absolute favorite authors in recent years writes in arguably the most forgotten genre, fantasy romance. To be honest, this was never the most popular–or the most successful of sub-genres. PNR, certainly. Urban Fantasy where the MCs get down with the getting down, absolutely. But full-on fantasy romance? A place separated by time and reality? Where magic rules and hearts drive storylines? Not so much.

        Grace Draven seems to be as magical as the stories she creates. Her bottomless cauldron of imagination spills forth in each new narrative, potent poultices of soul-searing romance, and adventure the likes of which the reader has never before encountered.

        Recently, I was given the honor of reading an ARC of The Brush of Black Wings the sequel to Master of Crows.

        While I can’t review The Brush of Black Wings today–at least not fully, I will give you a little tease after I tell you ALL about Master of Crows. 

        The Blurb:

        What would you do to win your freedom? This is the question that sets bondwoman, Martise of Asher, on a dangerous path. In exchange for her freedom, she bargains with her masters, the mage-priests of Conclave, to spy on the renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith. The priests want Martise to expose the sorcerer’s treachery and turn him over to Conclave justice. A risky endeavor, but one she accepts without hesitation–until she falls in love with her intended target.

        Silhara of Neith, Master of Crows, is a desperate man. The god called Corruption invades his mind, seducing him with promises of limitless power if he will help it gain dominion over the world. Silhara struggles against Corruption’s influence and searches for ways to destroy the god. When Conclave sends Martise as an apprentice to help him, he knows she’s a spy. Now he fights a war on two fronts–against the god who would possess him and the apprentice who would betray him.

        Mage and spy search together for a ritual that will annihilate Corruption, but in doing so, they discover secrets about each other that may damn them both. Silhara must decide if his fate, and the fate of nations, is worth the soul of the woman he has come to love, and Martise must choose continued enslavement or freedom at the cost of a man’s life. And love.

         My thoughts:

        First thought? I want to wrap Silhara up in my sheets and comfort him. For…a protracted period of time.

        Beyond Silhara’s sexy mage-y goodness? I was absolutely gobsmacked by the explosion of creativity that is splashed across each and every page. The world isn’t as different from our own as some fantasy, but it maintains a level of other throughout the story which creates a baseline for possibility while establishing that world’s status quo.

        In the beginning of the novel, the reader is given glimpses of the bleak life that Silhara has lived thus far. They see him struggle with a god set on holding dominion over him. They see him wrestle his own demons from his past by the simple act of defiantly eating breakfast. The reader is also shown the gentleness he hides from the world, and the gratitude he feels for those loyal to him. He’s this amazingly powerful mage, striking fear into the hearts of high priest-like mother fuckers (I think Cumbria actually probably did fuck his mother–just my headcanon–watch out, he’s coming for yours next! BOOM! YOUR MOMMA JOKE!), and here Silhara is, smiling and befriending his avox servant, Gurn! (sorry, had to. forgive me?)

        And Martise. Wow. Such a genuine believability to her. The way she intenerates Silhara’s personality by just her wit, her mien, and her voice. She has a courage that runs marrow-deep, and a sense of what’s needed. She is gifted not only with magic, but with such life. Martise’s character calls forth echoes of the great heroines of fantasies past: Lavinia, Mordred, Gwendolyn, Wren Ellesedil. She’s never predictable, but she’s always reliable. A wonderful combination.

        The adventure. Fantasy is not fantasy without an adventure, and this story is no exception. It is a rollicking tale of far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells! and a Prince!! Wait…

        Sometimes I have a Belle explosion in my brain. Because I actually started writing about the author’s use of latin–I stopped myself. YOU’RE WELCOME. Here’s how to use a fork…

        But really, in Master of Crows, Grace Draven takes the reader on a ride through the perils of war, the pain of loss, the struggle with choice, and the ability to love–wrapped up in a net of magic with its knots made of grace capable of every human.

        also? The sex is really good. I won’t dwell on it. But it’s really good.

        Gonna need a cigarette, and I quit 10 years ago.

        Master of Crows

         Four and a half “not a god’s” stars.

        (half star removed for frequent use of my least-favorite Latin word.–GAH! I did it anyway!)

        Now?!!?!

        A little The Brush of Black Wings teaser…

        The Brush of Black Wings

        I will tell you this. I TORE through this book. I read it so fast I gave myself a godsdamned migraine. It was EVERYTHING. I liked it more than the original, more than Radiance, more than–GASP–A Discovery of Witches. It’s taken my top spot in fantasy romance.

        The Brush of Black Wings is a perfect recrudescence for the genre of Fantasy Romance. It tiptoes the reader through the chaos of magic before flipping them into the abyss of the human–or not so human–soul.

        It takes place four years after Master of Crows, and things at Neith seem to be settling down. Until SOME AVOX DECIDED HE NEEDED FANCY MUSHROOMS. Because bitch needs chanterelles, NOT, button.

        Then? All hell breaks loose…

        Real review on release day!

        So, what recipe could possibly compliment such a book? easy.

        Dragon Piss. AKA, The Mexican Melon Ball.

        In the book, Silhara and Co. drink a liquor they lovingly refer to as “Dragon Piss.” It’s strong and green–tequila and midori! Also, the keep is a freaking orange grove, so, ORANGES.

        This little gem of a cocktail was inspired by the book, and by my liquor guy, Jeff at Tops in Bklyn. He had the Midori I needed, and a new to me tequila that I forgot to write down. CRAP. This is why it’s good to know your liquor people. They’ll remember.


        Dragon Piss

        Mexican Melon Ball

        Dragon Piss, AKA Mexican Melon Ball

        by Cat Bowen

        Prep Time: 2 minutes

        Keywords: beverage

        Ingredients (1 drink)

        • 2 oz Midori it’s a low proof liqueur
        • 1-1.5 oz GOOD tequila
        • 1.5 oz OJ
        • OPTIONAL
        • melon balls and orange slices rolled in kosher salt.

        Instructions

        shake over ice and serve.

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        YAY!!Books and Booze–Book Review and the Mexican Melon Ball