Ninja Listening

YAY!! Today is

I know I’m positively giddy, because the last time I wrote one, it was the night before the landmark SCOTUS decision in favor of gay marriage, and WOOT! Now, I’m riding that high like everyone ever that was ever written by Lorelei James. (explanation of that joke to come…no pun intended.)

Get three more dudes and a lady in ropes, and you have a Lorelei James novel.

Today’s narrator is

Yes, he’s been featured on B2B before, hence the .gifliness, but never in his own post. So, why is it, that if he’s been discussed previously would I feature him? Honestly, because, even though I’m not a “genre” reader–meaning I don’t just read ONE genre all the time–I am genre-leaning, and with the past few months–leaning heavily on one genre, I end up repeating narrators as they tend toward one or two genres. And he’s one of the best.

While Luke Daniels has a resume that spans the width of any audio library, his narrations tend to mirror my own readings. Fantasies and romance, mysteries and thrillers.

I tend to listen to some genres and read the others, words on pages style. I listen to a fuckton of fantasy and romance. Even though I read pretty much everything. I am actually reading the hardcopy of Barefoot to Avalon right now. It’s crushing my soul.

Luke Daniels’s narration is terrifyingly smooth. It’s not just that he either is or has a great producer/director, because that couldn’t explain all of it. There is no hiccup of narration between one character and the next, and there’s no non-justifiable alteration in the character’s voice and intonation from the first minute to the last.

Think of it this way. ESPECIALLY in character-heavy novels such as The Iron Druid Chronicles or Magic 2.othe narrator is juggling between 3-4 main characters, and 10 or more secondary and tertiary characters. Each hour the listener hears takes between 2 and 2.5 hours to record, and several hours per hour of listening time to edit. So, if Off To Be The Wizard is 10 hours long, that’s 20 hours (at least) of narrating. Somehow, Luke Daniels manages each character with an exacting precision of a godsdamned acting ninja. (You never see their reactions coming.)

Yes, as a series goes on, the character voice alter slightly and mature–but so do people. However….

I have no idea how old Luke Daniels is. Based on the pictures on his twitter account–this must be him.

points removed for the bathroom selfie.

So, he could be anywhere from 7-97, and I have no idea–which is exactly the point. For the most part, when you hear someone’s voice, you can guess a range for their age. Tone and volume plus accents and phonics can give you a pretty good handle on a decade. I’ve probably listened to 19 of Luke Daniels’s narrated books, according to my audible app, and I just couldn’t fucking tell you. Each character has his or her own vocal image, and it’s completely heterogenous.

I am baffled by this ability. Luke Daniels narration is always a seamless and head spinning example of what the human voice is capable when combined with a surfeit of talent and instinct.

However, I did recently listen/read (because, whispersync) to Last Night at the Viper Room, which is all about River Phoenix, (aka the love of my childhood) and I would put him at about my age. (I’m obviously 25, even though River Phoenix died 20 years ago. I was an early bloomer, mother trucker.)

His narration is a head first, rock out with your cock out, fearless feat of vocal acting. He doesn’t pull back, and he doesn’t tone it down to make himself more comfortable.

I know, I’ve written over 600 words with no samples. Ok. Ok.

First things first: a small anecdote related to the first joke made.

Luke Daniels narrated a few Lorelei James novels. ON A WHIM, I downloaded these to my kindle for a research project, thinking I should include some erotica in the sample group. It’s not my typical genre. I don’t really live in that arena too much.

I was super pressed for time. A few new books were releasing soon, and I had a stack of ARCs needing read. So I downloaded the audio. Because, whispersync.  I was mostly through the first book, and I honestly had to turn it off occasionally because I thought my face had actually caught fire. I know I make SOMANYDIRTYJOKES here on B2B, but this book was something.else.entirely.

The

and I, when reading something surprising, often text one another with phrases like: “surprise public sex,” or “surprise anal,” or “surprise Jesus,” *sometimes all three in one book. But these books–yes, they’re a series–led to a whole new lexicon of “surprise” texts. LET’S BULLET POINT THEM.

  • surprise ladyflower lassoing
  • surprise prostate massage
  • surprise amateur porn
  • surprise preachers
  • I don’t think that was its intended use!!! NO NOT THERE!!!
  • surprise ninja sex.

And because the PSM and I have both had “accidentally caught listening to Lorelei James OUT LOUD AND IN PUBLIC–FUCKING FAULTY HEADPHONE PLUGS–incidents, I really wanted to put a sample of THAT in here. Because we should all be uncomfortable together. But after searching for one filthy clip in all of internetdom and coming up dry–pun intended–I decided to go with another.

A teaser clip from a book in the Iron Druid Chronicles. Because I love Oberon like I love vodka.

(He’s a lot less blond in that picture. Weird.)

The recipe for this narrator? GREAT LAKES FAVORITES TWISTS. I tweeted him, and he lives in Michigan, and being from the superior Great Lakes state of Ohio, I had a few ideas, and asked him what he thought about flavors. Yes to bacon and blue cheese.

Goooood, I can work with this. Even though I’m a vegan, my family isn’t, and nor is B2B.

But it is pasture-raised bacon and butter, as well as humane dairy blue cheese, and Frank’s Red Hot, because that shit is delicious.

You’re going to want to make this twist Great Lakes favorite, the pierogi, and probably sooner than later, but you can make-ahead and freeze for this year’s OSU-MICH game.

Buffalo and Bacon Pierogi.

buffalo and bacon pierogi

 

buffalo and bacon pierogi buffalo and bacon pierogi

Buffalo and Bacon Pierogi

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 1 hour of cooking and prep 20

Keywords: appetizer salad entree side snack

Ingredients (36 pierogi)

  • 45 wonton skins
  • 10 oz bacon
  • 3 lb peeled russet potatoes
  • 4 oz blue cheese plus more to crumble atop
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 tsp salt plus more for potato water
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 3 tbsp finely grated onion
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

for assembly and topping

  • one egg
  • as much Frank’s Red Hot as you like. I like lots. and lots.
  • scallions or chives
  • sour cream
  • onion

Instructions

boil potatoes to fork tender in salted water

add to mixing bowl

on medium, blend in salt, pepper, garlic, onion, butter, and 4 oz blue cheese

this should not be runny, it should be able to be piped onto the wonton skins, so it needs to be a little stiff

when it’s well mixed, let it come to room temp

meanwhile, bring a LARGE pot of water to boil

fry the bacon, and leave the grease in the pan.

AVENGERS, ASSEMBLE

scramble the egg and set aside

lay out a TON of skins on a counter

transfer potatoes from the bowl into a ziptop bag or piping bag

cut off tip 1″ from corner

pipe about 2 tbsp mix onto the CENTER of each skin

brush the egg around half of the edge of each skin and fold over into a crescent.

crimp the edges tightly. feel free to crimp over each crimp again, folding it onto itself.

place in the boiling water at least five at a time

heat the bacon fat on medium

remove pierogi CAREFULLY from boiling water and place in the bacon fat.

fry 2 minutes per side

top with Franks and dip in sour cream–or more blue cheese dressing if that’s your thing.

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Breaking Badass.

Honesty time.

Lately, I’ve been struggling. A few weeks ago, one of my closest friends succumbed to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She was truly a beautiful soul, and losing her sort of sent my brain into a tailspin of doubts. She was very young–in her early thirties–and beyond simply mourning her passing, it also slapped me upside the head.

Here I am, healthy and hale, (for the most part) and I am wasting my life.

Yes, I have beautiful children, family, and friends, etc, but I avoid doing so, so much, because I am terrified to do so. I am an extroverted introvert–meaning–I can work a room. I can chat and mingle and make small talk with whomever, rather gregariously so, but really, I just want to be at home, away from everyone, where I only need to talk to those in my most inner of inner circles, and keep my interactions with others completely under my control.

I’m great on social media because it doesn’t require a bra or people.

I’m great with the vague notion of interaction.

I can live in my headspace of dirty jokes and words on pages and not be bothered with reality.

That doesn’t sustain me. It’s not making me happy. I am incomplete.

We are all of us, incomplete, but I feel like the marionette unfinished by the toymaker, and placed on a shelf. I’ve got all of the working parts, but nothing guiding the strings.

Right now, I have six–SIX–completed novels which I’m terrified to finish the edits on and publish. (I have decided to self-publish, as I’ve dealt with the big houses in academia, and it’s a lot of rigamarole I wish not to deal with in my creative life.) I can’t even gather the ovaries to send it to my

or The Professor to read it. My cousin is a freaking NYT Bestselling author, and has basically begged to read another–(because, nepotism, and I make a killer martini) and I just haven’t been able to stomach the idea. Read my scholarship? Fine. My book reviews? Great. These little memoir-y bits on B2B? Acceptable. But sweet fuck. Read my fiction? You may as well open my brain and read the gray matter like tea leaves.

And I’ve fallen woefully behind on pimping my blog. I suppose I’ve always viewed this little space on the internets as a happy destination for me to share my love of food, books, and fitness, not caring about traffic or who read it. That just doesn’t seem good enough anymore. I’m not content with letting this blog drip slowly into complete anonymity. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, hundreds of recipes, featured a MILLION .GIFS THAT THE MASSES NEED TO SEE RIGHT MEOW.

I cracked. I splintered. I needed and need help.

I’ve done the UNTHINKABLE for me. I picked up a–gasp–self-help book. Because books, unlike my shrink, don’t expect me to talk about my feelings with anyone else but myself.

Also, like social media, no bra required.

it’s groping Lucy and Ethyl all damned day.

I started and stopped a bunch of them. Tony Robbins, while he may be everyone’s guru, is not for me. Same with Stephen Covey, Wayne Dyer, and Deepak Chopra. I am unmotivated by rich, middle-aged men, it would seem. Though, I understand how many find solace and inspiration in their words.

I am, Tom! Gah! Didn’t we talk about this last night? 😉

Apparently, I am only swayed by self-help books which are laced with profanity, don’t take themselves too seriously, and may read a bit like being thrown in a room with a bunch of ninjas, slicing you with their “improvement” swords.

Apparently, my self-help needs violence.

Walter White as me, talking to, well, me.

What’s the book?

 

Jen Sincero’s approach is at once funny and insightful, bawdy, and beautifully, beautifully, brazen. She doesn’t mince words or expurgate that which may be uncomfortable from her pages. It’s a raw and real self-help book that reads like a conversation with a friend.

To me, You’re a Badass felt foundational. It digs into why it is the reader isn’t where they want to be, and provides a reasonable approach to breaking down the cage holding them in place, while not just offering their idea of a skeleton key for the lock.

Deciding means jumping in all the way, doing

 

It was a kick in the ass.

I needed that kick in the ass.

Now it’s time for an action plan. I still have NO idea what that looks like, but I have a better grip–I think–on the why of it. Why I stand in my own way, why I am terrified to let people read my stories, why I don’t SEO/Pimp/share B2B with more readers.

I was an insecure child. I was an even more insecure teen. I am an incredibly insecure adult. I don’t trust much of my own work aside from my scholarship. Not my writing, not my acting, and not my living, to be completely honest. I trust my Hobbit hole in *The Library, and my research. I trust my palate and my taste in books. I even trust my teaching. Somewhere along the way, I began to distrust my creativity, and unfortunately, that has always been the muscle that pumps my heart the hardest. (Ok, research may be on-par with creativity.)

I’m really and truly grateful that I found this book when I did. I needed it.

Four stars.

(one star removed for referencing “The Laws of Attraction,” which, however valid, reminds me too much of The Secret, and a dude who kept hitting on me at a bar in the Village telling me all about it. He actually said “Good things are coming for me. Can I make you come for me?” WHAT THE FUCK?!?! Thanks, creepy guy at NYU bar, for giving me fodder for a lifetime over one pickup line.)

*blogger’s note: “The Library” is capitalized because, Libraries, mother truckers.

What recipe goes with self-help books?

Obviously a carrot cake, because you’re just deluding yourself when you say “it’s healthy.” Just admit you like carrot cake for fuckssake.

It’s vegan, but really, even if it wasn’t, I’d have made it vegan anyway. Sometimes eggs and carrots get gummy, whereas banana and carrots do not. Also, I used olive oil because I think it gives a sharp depth to the carrots that butter does not. It’s floral and herbaceous. It just works.

Vegan Carrot Cake

Vegan Carrot Cake vegan carrot cake

vegan carrot cake

Vegan Carrot Cake

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Keywords: bake side snack dessert vegan vegetarian cake

Ingredients (1 bundt cake)

    for the cake

    • 7 oz by weight shredded carrot
    • 1 mashed large banana
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup non-dairy milk of your choice. I like vanilla cashew milk in this.
    • 1 cup brown or coconut sugar or half coconut sugar half maple syrup
    • 2 cups AP flour
    • 1 cup chopped nuts–I like black walnuts in this, toasted.
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • 1 tbsp baking powder

    for the glaze

    • 2 cups icing sugar
    • 4 tbsp vanilla soy milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • shredded coconut for topping.

    Instructions

    preheat the oven to 350F

    in a large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients (including carrots)

    stir well

    set aside 1/4 cup flour

    sift in flour, powder, and spices

    toss walnuts in the flour and stir lightly into batter.

    pour into a greased bundt pan

    place on the center of the center rack

    bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

    let cool completely.

    for the glaze

    whisk together ingredients and drizzle over cooled cake

    top with coconut.

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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.

        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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